Friday, July 31, 2009

Looking at 3 Year Trends

The Truth About Returning Minutes
Returning minutes is not an especially effective predictor of a team's finish in the conference. After compiling the returning percentages from 2008 and comparing them to the winning percentages (overall and conference) from 2009, I was a little disappointed (but not surprised) to see that teams with higher returning minutes did not necessarily finish consistently at/near the top of the conference, or even higher than those with smaller percentage of returning minutes. True Villanova's 2009 finish (#4 in the Big East) was better than it's 2008 finish (#8), but with the highest percentage of returning players (all classes) why didn't the Wildcats finish higher? Returning minutes it turns out, is not an especially reliable when trying to predict where a team will rank relative to other teams in the conference, but it does have some value as a predictor -- for some teams (about ½ of the teams in the conference) -- for whether a team will improve it's win percentage from one season to the next. Plotting returning minutes and winning percentages over the three seasons after the Big East expanded, indicated that Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown, Providence, Syracuse (loosely), Villanova and West Virginia there appeared, from the data of 2007, 2008 and 2009, that the winning percentages for those seasons moved in the same direction (and fairly close in some cases) and same rate as returning minutes. Villanova operates a relatively complicated defensive system that takes freshmen time to master. The same may well be true for Georgetown and (John Beilein's) West Virginia, both of whom implement multiple-option offensive systems. West Virginia under Beilein was notorious for routinely red shirting freshmen to given the recruits a season to practice within Beilein's framwork. For DePaul the relationship reveals an uncomfortable truth, that as Coach Wainwright works through his legacy players, and the returning minutes decline (as he fails to replace those players with good recruits of his own), so too does the winning percentage decline. For Syracuse, the relationship may be tied to the rising and falling numbers of players who leave early for the NBA. If the trend holds through next season, the declin of returning minutes for Connecticut, Providence, Syracuse and Villanova mean bad news for each team's fortunes next season. For DePaul, Georgetown and West Virginia the news is good, as each should see their returning minutes increase, and so their prospects.

Contrary Trends?
For three teams, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and St. John's, the two rates seem to move in opposite directions. For St. John's & Notre Dame fans, this trend, if it holds, will spell another "down year" for the Johnnies and the Fighting Irish. While for the Panther Nation, a stronger season, coming even as quality point guard and stud paint player DaJuan Blair move on, would enhance Coach Jamie Dixon's reputation as a recruiter (...talent evaluator) and program manager. And especially frustrating for Big East analysts who uniformly tab St. John's and Notre Dame as teams who should improve their standing in 2010, even as Pittsburgh takes a step back.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Reggie Redding Arrested

At this time in the off season, if it were not for bad news there would be no news at all. Rising senior guard Reggie Redding was arrested for possession of an undisclosed (but according to the Daily News account, "...a small...") amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia early this morning. Villanova Public Safety officers noted a damaged sign on campus and notified Radnor Township Police. A search of dorm parking lots turned up a damaged car that was traced to Redding.

The Villanova University Student Handbook indicates students caught using or possessing marijuana face punishments ranging from "...disciplinary probation plus an automatic fine of $750.00, up to and including suspension or expulsion from the University...". The Villanovan Sports Blog published a statement issued by Coach Jay Wright and Villanova University.

Redding, coming off a very productive Big East and post season run, was poised to contribute substantially to next season's teams.

2009 Puerto Rico Tip Off -- An Early Look

Reviewing the Field
The field for the O'Rielly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip Off was announced in May via a press release, relatively early compared to the 2008 Philly Classic, which did not announce all eight teams in the field until the middle of July (not an official announcement incidently, but instead a note in Jeff Goodman's blog). The Philly Classic did not formally announce the brackets and games until nearly the beginning of the season, leaving the individual teams to announce their preliminary round games as part of the press released of their team schedule. The Puerto Rico Tip Off tournament, sponsored by O'Rielly Auto Parts and televised by ESPN, is a bit ahead of several other early season invitationals, but they have still not announced the seeds and early round pairings. Rumors suggest a press release, within the next 2 weeks, will set the brackets and quarter final round games, so I think now would be a good time to take a look at the field and speculate a bit about the seeds and 1st round (the quarter final round...) pairings.

2009 Season2009
Boston U17130.567161166Am East17NA
Dayton2780.7712778A109NCAA/Rd 2
George Mason22110.6675188CAA14NIT/Rd 1
Georgia Tech12190.38713993ACC1NA
Indiana5250.167216212Big Ten2NA
Kansas State20110.6458044Big 124NIT/Rd 2
Villanova3080.7891314Big East3NCAA/FF

The alphabetically correct listing of the field identifies the participants, their 2009 overall record, rankings (RPI & Ken Pomeroy), conference affiliation (and the conference's RPI ranking) and any post season activity for the school. The tournament, relatively cosmopolitan -- 5 of the 6 power conferences have a representative -- nevertheless draws from those mid-major conferences located in the northeast and Middle Atlantic regions (the American East, Atlantic 10 and Colonial Athletic Association Conferences), relatively convenient travel for those fans who have an inclination to take in a 3 day Thanksgiving tournament.

The usual procedure for the tournament promoter is to seed the field to develop the brackets and subsequent matchups. The criteria for seeding? Most likely the RPI/Pomeroy rankings or the team's 2009 record (and post season record) will be used to sort out the field. Seeding by RPI or Pomeroy's Ratings would set the field in this way...

Seed by...
George Mason34
Kansas St.42
Georgia Tech65
Boston U.77

Villanova will most likely be the #1 seed in the field, the Big East conference, 2009 record and finish (Final Four) are the strongest credentials in the field. I have a problem with Indiana as the #8 seed however (and frankly with Dayton as the #2 seed, even though the Flyers were a strong finisher last season and an early favorite to win the A10 this season...they are not a power conference team). A quarter final round game that matched Villanova and Indiana would have an interesting Big East story line, as Indiana Coach Tom Crean was the head coach at Marquette before moving over to take the Indiana job. Villanova coach Jay Wright has a 1-2 record versus Crean. That matchup however, is unlikely. Even though the Hoosiers will not be one of the top 4 teams, they will, with Georgetown transfer Jeremiah Rivers eligible this season and Top 100 recruits Christian Watford and Maurice Creek slated to suit up, will not be the weakest team in the field. Most likely Indiana, along with Boston U and George Mason will be seeded somewhere in the #5 through #8 (with the Hoosiers very unlikely to be seeded #8). Which means the Wildcats will most likely draw either Boston University or George Mason. Former Jay Wright (at Villanova) assistant Pat Chambers took over the coaching duties at Boston U, so again there is a story line for that matchup. Factoring in conference affiliation, 2009-10 projections and 2009 recruits, I suspect the seed will look something like this...

2Kansas State
3Georgia Tech
6George Mason
8Boston U.

The winner of Villanova/Boston U. (ok...Villanova) would face the winner of the Dayton/Mississippi game. As I wrote earlier, Dayton is an early favorite in the Atlantic 10 conference with Coach Brian Gregory returning a senior-dominated Flyer squad that went to the 2nd round of the 2009 NCAAs, notably taking down West Virginia of the Big East in the 1st round. The Flyers will be led by 4 of last season's returning starters, including 4 year starter 6-10 center Kurt Huelsman, A10 Honorable Mention (senior) guard Marcus Johnson and junior All A10 2nd team Chris Wright. Andy Kennedy's (coached a single season at Cincinnati) Mississippi team returns SEC freshman of the year Terrico White who also played on the Jamie Dixon-coached squad that won the U19 Championship in New Zealand this summer. Andy Kennedy's squad also boasts Nick Williams, an Indiana transfer who should be eligible for 2009-10. The Kansas State team will boast 4 returning starters from their 22-10 squad, and welcome Top 100 recruit Wally Judge. Georgia Tech Head Coach Paul Hewitt (another former Villanova assistant coach) will bring a Yellow Jacket squad that spotlights senior guard/forward D'Andre Bell, sophomore #1/#2 guard Iman Shumpert and 3rd team All ACC bf Gani Lawal. To this group Hewitt will add McDonald's and Parade Magazine All American Derrick Favors, a power forward who will team with Gani Lawal to form one of the ACC's dominant front courts in 2010.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dove Entrails, Tea Leaves and Returning Minutes

Looking Back to Look Forward
About this time last summer I posted a couple an entry listing returning minutes for each Big East team. A day or so later I broke those returning minutes down by experience level (roughly 1, 2 or 3 years of DI ball) in a post that speculated about the potential impact of differing experience levels on the corresponding team's ranking within the conference. Rob Lowe over at Cracked Sidewalks worked the "experience levels" along with 4 other factors into a series of posts that looked at teams most likely (according to his calculations) to finish in the conference's lower division and in the upper division. To Rob's credit he called the top 2 and the last place teams on the numbers. He also placed 3/4 of the bottom quartile (seeds #13-#16), 1/2 of the top quartile (seeds #1-#4) and 1/4 of the 3rd quartile (seeds #9-#12). I envy his accuracy and look forward his projections this preseason. Rob has developed a good model, his next step (what I look forward to this next month or so), is the refinements he will no doubt employ as he looks at the teams going into this season.

I was not especially comfortable with my "experience-level" refinement. A too-specific sampling can skew results in (random sampling) polling data. Overvaluing experience from seniors (or juniors) could pose a problem. I decided to "load the shotgun" and see how 2009 winning percentages (overall winning and Big East regular season...) correlated to the returning percentages of sixtenn different statistical categories. It was an interesting exercise. Don't expect a "greyCat's Predictive Model Based on Defensive Rebounding" post anytime soon. Nine of the more interesting categories...

Notre Dame47.055.719.753.261.655.552.6
Seton Hall75.883.983.684.073.583.072.7
St. John's93.496.797.997.194.492.595.1
South Florida70.969.867.571.663.373.579.8
West Virginia65.966.741.663.581.259.788.7

I have listed the table alphabetically, giving no bias for teams with higher percentages of returning minutes (Min%), points (%Pts) or rebounds (%Reb), nor against those with a smaller percentage of turnovers (%TO) nor blocks (%Blk). Every team however does not value each category equally. Notre Dame's Mike Brey has to be concerned that, given the large role the 3 point attempt assumes in his offense, that the Irish will only return 19.7% of their 3FGMs from 2009, even though it was admittedly, a down year for Notre Dame's 3 point shooting. Looking over the percentages while anticipating the state of individual teams, does raise a few questions. Cincinnati for example, struggled to score consistently last season, but the Bearcats do return 77.5% of their points. Stud recruit Lance Stephenson will not come into an unsettled offense system and be expected to fill a point vacuum created by the departure of a Bearcat scorer; he will step into a fairly well defined system, one with an existing array of scorers. He will not have to carry this team, but hit enough shots to make his teammates better. He can use his shooting to help set up his teammates. And they can score when the opportunity presents.

Returning Minutes -- the Outliers
If returning minutes cannot accurately predict where a team will finish relative to its conference mates, returning minutes, especially those "at the edges", should be able to tell us something about how a team will do relative to it's previous record. Rob suggested something of this in his posts last summer. Maybe it's less about how Team X will do relative to Team Y, and more about how Team X will do this season, relative to how it did last season. While more about that in another post, those teams that are returning a relatively large (or relatively small) percentage of their minutes have drawn my attention...with a few comments. St. John's should return at least 90% of their minutes (among other categories -- see green highlight in table above). In two previous instances (Connecticut in 2008 & Villanova in 2009) where the team returned at least 90% of their minutes resulted in an increase in the number of wins (in the conference between 4 and 6, and OOC). Good news for Johnnies fans no doubt, but with a grain of salt -- Norm Robert's 2009 squad returned 20% more minutes over his 2008 squad, but improved their conference wins by only 1 (5 to 6).

The Cincinnati and Connecticut squads of 2007 returned a small fraction of their minutes from the previous season -- 20.5% and 32.1% respectively -- and their 2007 records reflected the shift. The Bearcats notched 6 fewer wins (dropping from #8 to #16) while the Huskies won 8 fewer games (14 down to 6), dropping from a #1 seed in the NCAA (and BET) to failing to make the (non-BET) post season in 2007. Connecticut, Marquette and Providence will return < 40% of their minutes next season (red highlight in table above), the lowest for Big East teams since 2007, and low enough to surely cause their fans some concern going into the season.

Observations and Questions
1. If Connecticut fans are not especially concerned about the lack of returning 3s (Coach Calhoun's offense never emphasized 3s, the Huskies' point distribution typically has fewer than 27% coming from 3FGAs), the lack of returning rebounds (orange highlight above, 38.1%) -- especially defensive rebounds (not shown 36.8%) -- and blocks (orange highlight above, 26.4%), have to be troubling as Coach Calhoun's teams are defined by their defense, especially rebounding and blocks. Charles Okwandu, along with incoming Ater Majok and freshman recruit Alex Oriakhi will have very big roles to fill without the benefit of an "orientation" season.
2. For the second straight season Georgetown returns a low percentage of the previous season's 3 point conversion, a troubling development for a team that relies on perimeter shooting via the Princeton Offense. Identifying and developing a pair of consistent outside offensive threats to replace the now 2 seasons departed Jon Wallace and recently departed Jessie Sapp and DaJuan Summers will, most likely, be a priority. Omar Wattad transferred out while redshirt sophomore Nikita Mescheriakov was disappointingly inaccurate from the 3 point line last season. The staff most likely will look to sophomore Jason Clark to step up, while giving incoming freshmen Vee Sanford and Hollis Thompson long looks.
3. Though generally considered undersized, Villanova has consistently held it's own on the boards. The trio of Dante Cunningham, Shane Clark and Dwayne Anderson will be missed, especially on the offensive glass (not shown, 38.4% returning). Junior Antonio Pena, an especially adept rebounder on both the offensive and defensive boards, will return, along with redshirt freshman Maurice Sutton, transfer Taylor King and the incoming duo, bf/c Mouphtaou Yarou and pf Isaiah Armwood. Like Connecticut, the offense begins with the defense. Forecasters who see Pena on the bench early drastically undervalue the junior's rebounding contributions. But Pena and whatever combination of the others gets to the floor will have some very large rebounding stats to cover.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Reviews on the 3 Point Line -- The Wonk Weighs In

John Gasaway posted a quick reaction to the longer distance of the three point line in the Basketball Prospectus blog "Unfiltered" -- worth the time to get over and read. As I noted in an earlier VBTN post, Ken Pomeroy had tracked the percentage of 3 point shots taken (down slightly from 2008) and the the percentage of makes (also, as Gasaway noted, down slightly from 2008). Gasaway did note that the while the percentage of 3FGAs as a part of the total FGAs was down, the percentage of 3s made was up slightly (½ of a percentage point). Not a revolutionary change to the game, more like a minor adjustment.

The Wonk does a nice review on the fundamentals of a perimeter-oriented team (POT).

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A New Blog -- Cutting Down the Nets

From a Georgetown fan and sports management major, Cutting Down the Nets debuted last month with posts on covers Big East basketball (previews of teams and players), player updates, Georgetown news and coaching ranks. alleninxis (the blogger) supplies an interesting mix of information and opinion.

Friday, July 24, 2009

D1 Movements -- Anomaly or Trend?

The Passing of the Gents
With a modest, 65 word announcement, Centenary College's Board of Trustees voted to reclassify the Shreveport, LA school from D1 to D3 in basketball. Budget problems (a 1.5 million dollar shortfall and shrinking endowment) were cited as reasons for the move. The Gents will play 2 additional seasons in D1 as they work to develop D3 conference affiliation.

While the economic downturn was identified as an accelerant, but not the proximate cause, for the reclassification, I wonder whether the economy will motivate other schools to cut costs by reclassifying. Since 2004 18 schools have reclassified to DI status (at the conclusion of a "probationary" period -- it is easier to get out of DI than it is to get in...). The schools, their conference affiliation and 2008 basketball budgets...

SchoolInto DIOut of DIConf.2008 Bgt
Cal-Davis2005Big West$828,713
North Colorado2005Big Sky$770,607
Utah Valley St2005Ind$679,511
Kennesaw St.2006A-Sun$916,266
North Dakota St.2006Summit$852,658
North Florida2006A-Sun$631,627
South Dakota St.2006Summit$681,782
Birmingham Southern2007NANA
Central Arkansas2007Southlnd$604,928
NJ Inst of Technology2007Ind$962,162
Winston Salem St.2007MEAC$596,396
Cal St. Bakersfield2008Ind$815,741
Florida Gulf Coast2008A-Sun$568,955
North Carolina Central2008Ind$491,768
Presbyterian2008Big South$947,794
South Carolina-Upstate2008A-Sun$703,691
Houston Baptist2009Ind$764,773

[Budget numbers from Kyle Whelliston's Basketball State website -- thanks] With nearly 298.7 million dollars distributed to 31 conferences and independents in 2008, DI is the place to be. And clearly long term success comes through conference affiliation, where an NCAA Tournament "unit" will be worth $163,981 for the 2009 tournament. Even low-major conferences split just under a million dollars this past season. Couple tournament money (if the school is affiliated), with appearance monies (invitational tournaments) and revenue generated from television, the home gate (if the arena is big enough and the fanbase devoted) and guarantee games (mostly a revenue source for mid/low majors), and a program with a modest budget can break even, or make a little money. Why leave? Centenary's story seems straightforward -- shrinking funding sources and lack success at the DI level may account for the fall of the Gents. Birmingham Southern's story may be a bit more complicated. The Panther's Head Coach Duane Reboul (17 seasons, 402-124), appears to have led the school into DI and land an affiliation with the Big South Conference sometime in the early 2000s (2001 appears to be the 1st season where they played a full DI slate, going 13-14). The Panthers went 19-9 in 2006, their last season in DI. Reboul resigned after the Board of Trustees voted to reclassify DIII in May of 2006. The question, especially for the 18 newest members of DI, is whether the school will stay, or like Birmingham Southern, stay a few seasons, look around, and then reclassify to a level where expenses (mostly scholarships, travel and coach's salaries) are greatly reduced.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

U19 2009 -- Some Efficiency Stats

Offensive Efficiencies
I confess I have spent no time looking at the U19 and the U17 FIBA tournaments this summer. My bias towards the World University Games in Belgrade can be traced to Villanova guard Corey Fisher, one of the twelve collegians selected to play for the USA. The U19 team has a few Big East connections too -- Pitt's Head Coach Jamie Dixon guided the Americans to a World Championship in this summer's tournament hosted by New Zealand. And Pitt guard Ashton Gibbs played for the American team and scored an average of 9.4 points per game for the team as he logged a squad high 181 minutes over 8 games. The team's offensive efficiency stats...

10G. Hayward53.123.8117.91.2759.612.754.4
15H. Thompkins39.131.5102.41.1654.51.537.9
6T. Taylor51.830.188.31.0449.226.925.4
4A. Gibbs56.621.996.11.0348.515.819.4
5S. Curry47.825.487.01.1355.29.922.4
8K. Thompson46.623.193.01.1659.218.212.2
9T. White47.822.680.20.9948.23.914.5
11J. Shurna32.220.7121.21.3561.86.135.3
13D. Casto33.818.6119.01.4371.41.357.1
7S. Mack47.223.577.00.9344.016.412.0
12D. Miller35.919.295.01.2660.015.340.0
14A. Moultrie31.620.195.80.9141.45.731.0

While the team is composed of relative unknowns (to college basketball fans), one or two names caught my eye -- Tyshawn Taylor, the freshman out of Kansas, and Seth Curry, younger brother to Stephen Curry (late of VCU) who recently transferred to Duke (from Liberty)for example -- in addition to the already mentioned Big East freshman Ashton Gibbs (whose younger brother Sterling played for the U17 team). Tyshawn Taylor (Kansas), Seth Curry (Duke), Shelvin Mack (Butler), Gordon Hayward (Butler), Gibbs and Howard Thompkins (when he was in -- Georgia) formed the offensive nucleus. Of the group, Taylor and Gibbs offset their somewhat inconsistent shooting (45.8% & 40.3% respectively) with assists. As the table below shows, the team had several 3 point specialists on the roster.

Pt Dist%FGA Dist%
A. Gibbs56.621.044.042.713.350.749.3
G. Hayward53.
S. Curry47.821.575.013.911.179.320.7
T. White47.820.436.255.28.649.150.9
S. Mack47.218.836.753.
K. Thompson46.618.770.026.73.357.142.9
T. Taylor45.323.117.667.614.720.379.7
H. Thompkins39.
Darius Miller35.912.
J. Shurna32.218.834.045.320.850.050.0
A. Moultrie31.616.
D. Casto16.914.
U19 Team33.151.615.339.660.4

The table is sorted by playing time (%Min) to better see how minutes were allocated. Clearly Seth Curry's job was to play the perimeter and take 3s (Coach Krzyzewski dreaming of another JJ Redick?) despite his shooting difficulties, but Gibbs, Shelvin Mack, Klay Thompson also had green lights. Dixon inherited a Pitt program that Ben Howland had built from the inside out. That offense worked to overwhelm defenses through dominance (scoring and rebounding) in the paint first. Dixon maintained the personality, but recruited and integrated a number of outside/perimeter scorers into the Panther offense. Taking 39.6% (versus 28.3% for their opponents) of their FGAs from beyond the arc casts this USA squad as far more perimeter oriented than Dixon's Pitt teams. I wonder if this is a feature Coach Dixon will develop with his Panther teams, as Ashton Gibbs, most likely his pg next season, took just over ½ of his FGAs from the outside.

Defense and Rebounding
For defense and rebounding, the squad's efficiency stats looked like this...

A. Gibbs56.
G. Hayward53.
T. Taylor51.
S. Curry47.83.68.817.42.31.0
T. White47.86.59.415.12.81.0
S. Mack47.23.613.720.60.02.4
K. Thompson46.66.618.719.71.72.1
H. Thompkins39.
D. Miller35.96.718.828.49.05.0
D. Casto33.86.16.715.62.40.0
J. Shurna32.211.721.
A. Moultrie31.620.727.

Moultrie, Shurna and Thompkins were dominant on the defensive boards...add Hayward to those three for the offensive boards. Curry and White weren't bad defensive rebounders for guards.

A thank you to CO_HOYA over at The Hoya Prospectus Blog for some of Oliver's formulas.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Coaching Carousal Part 6 -- Circle Games

Break'n All the Rules...
There was a time, before Billy Donovan won his 2nd National Championship, when a school, short of violating the Rule for Louisiana Politicians ("In bed with a dead hooker or live boy."), did not fire a coach during the season. Three SEC schools have blazed new ground (not in a good way) by firing their basketball coaches during January or February. If the losing record rational could be applied to John Brady (LSU) and Dennis Felton (Georgia), the mid-season "resignation" of Mark Gottfried seemed especially odd, given the Crimson Tide's respectable, if unexceptional, record (53-36, 2005-2008, no losing seasons) coupled with multiple season injuries to several of the program's key players. Should there be a "Gottfried Correlary" to the Louisiana Rule -- Dead hookers, live boys or former students? Or did the Crimson Tide's Athletic Department seize on Gottfried's indiscretion and play it it as a "last straw" to the unfolding text book scandal (the NCAA released it's report with penalties last month)? While 201 student-athletes in 16 different programs were (according to Alabama and the NCAA) involved, athletes from the Men's Tennis, Men's and Women's Track & Field and the Men's Football were cited for intentional misconduct, the NCAA Infractions Committee seemed especially aggrieved that
1. While Alabama appeared to have a process in place to properly monitor and verify text book distribution to the institution's student-athletes, the administration did not follow it's own procedures, nor did they recognize and react to the yellow and red flags those procedures raised. And
2. Alabama has had two prior "serious violations" since 1999. In 2002, the Crimson Tide was on probation from violations arising in 1999, and in 2009 the NCAA found that Alabama was on probation from 2002 when the text book violations occurred in 2005-07.

Tim Floyd's sudden "resignation" as UCS's head coach, coming literally 6 weeks after he bowed out of the Arizona job search was shocking -- both for his supposed rational ("loss of enthusiasm"...patently untrue -- he was pushed out by AD Mike Garrett) and the timing (Garret had to know that mid June is inconveniently late in the off season to conduct a job search). Despite allegations by former Mayo insider Louis Johnson, that Floyd paid Mayo confidant (and runner for sports agent Bill Duffy) Rodney Gillory after Gillory steered OJ Mayo to his Trojan program, Floyd did not appear to be in immediate danger of being ousted from his job. That the NCAA had decided in May to combine the investigations surrounding payments to USC football player Reggie Bush with those surrounding bballer OJ Mayo may have influenced USC AD Mike Garrett. SI writer Seth Davis recently characterized Floyd's decision to recruit a player with ties to agents as a "Faustian bargain", but he may have missed his metaphore by suggest that Floyd (and Gottfried?) were the Dr. Fausts in this story. In Goerthe's "Faust" the good doctor, in spite of having committed a small encyclopedia of sin during the course of his adult life, was upon his death, carried to heaven by angels, rather than condemned to the fire and brimstone. The terms of a bet between the Lord and Mephistopheles, it seems, relieved the doctor of any punishment for sins committed while the wager ran its course. The Dr. Faust of this tale appears to be the BCS football programs that neither institution seems willing to discipline beyond the sanctions imposed by the NCAA.

Second Time Around...
Holy Cross Head Coach Ralph Willard took a longstanding offer from mentor Rick Pitino to rejoin his staff, this time at Louisville. Willard first teamed up with Pitino in 1987, joining Pitino's staff on the New York Knicks (NBA). When Pitino left to take the reins at Kentucky Willard joined him as an Associate Head Coach before striking out on his own, first at Western Kentucky (4 seasons) and later at Pittsburgh (5 years). Willard then moved over to Holy Cross, his alma mater, where he restored some of the glory to the Crusader program during his 14 year tenure. Willard has had health problems the past few years (prostate & heart), which combined with his growing (and publicly aired) frustration with scheduling at the mid-major, provided the motivation to take the second chair with his old friend.

Buzz Peterson decided to take a second stint at Appalachian State, the D1 program where he had the greatest sustained success over the course of his 10 year career as a D1 head coach. Peterson's first turn at Appalachian State ran from 1996 to 2000, when he compiled a 79-39 record with the Mountaineers and had 3 1st place finishes in the Southern Conference. He then took over at Tulsa (2000-01) where he led the Golden Hurricanes to an NIT championship. A 4 year run at Tennessee (2001-05) was less successful -- he compiled a 61-59 record, taking the Volunteers to 2 NITs (and no NCAAs). Peterson then moved over to Coastal Carolina of the Big South Conference. After he guided the Chanticleers through 2 seasons (35-25) before becoming the Director of Player Personnel for the Charlotte Bobcats of the NBA. And now back to Appalachian State again.

By the Numbers
The economic downturn no doubt dampened the job market this off season. The turnover signals a low in the current cycle, both numeric (30) and in the vacancy rate (8.7%), the second year running when the turnovers are down. Like the previous 3 seasons, the 2009 coaching carousal followed the pattern I noted in the 2007 off season...
1. Institutions initiated well over half of the vacancies. In 2009, employers fired/reassigned/failed to extend, etc. 2/3 of the open positions, (very) slightly higher than previous off seasons. Movement by the coach accounted for the other 1/3.
2. Institutions tended to act before the National Championship game (16/20), with nearly half (9/20) occuring before Selection Sunday. New Jersey reporters rightly expressed surprise at Fairleigh Dickinson's termination of 26 year veteran coach Tom Green back on June 4th, as a termination that "late" in the off season is extremely rare. If the coach is (still) in place on the first day of the Spring Signing Period, the chances are good he will remain in place through the start of the season.
3. The NCAA Tournament is a job bazaar. Approximately half of the vacancies (16/30 -- 53%) opened during the 2009 tournament, slightly higher than 2008 (13/43 -- 46%) and 2007 (19/60 -- 47%).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Happy (Belated) Birthday Reggie

Villanova's rising senior Reggie Redding celebrated his 21st birthday yesterday (July 18), according to the Player Biography on the Athletic Department's website (ignore the typo in the summary at the top). Happy Birthday Reggie!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

WUG 2009 -- Looking at the Efficiencies

Offensive & Defensive Differentials
John Gasaway subtracted each team's defensive efficiency (points per possession given up) from their offfensive efficiency (points per possession scored) as a measure of relative team strength. In conference play, where round robin (or nearly round robin) play is common, the measure can be extremely useful, but when applied to international tournaments the measure can be problematic. For the World University Games the men's field contained teams from 24 countries. The organizers divided the field into 8 pools of 3 - 4 teams each and used a 2 or 3 game preliminary round to (very roughly) separate the top half of the field from the bottom half. The teams from round one then "repooled", winners with winners, losers with losers, to sort out the top and bottom quarters for the "final placing" round(s). Ranking the teams by their offensive/defensive differential does follow the eventual placement (last column in the table)...sort of.

SquadWLPct.Eff DiffPlace
United States610.8570.293
Russian Fed620.7500.052
So Africa060.000-0.4125
UA Emirates150.167-0.5524

Not surprising, each team's efficiency differential correlates more closely with their winning percentage than it does their final ranking in the tournament. But that is the nature of FIBA tournaments.

If Only...
The vagaries of international tournaments can produce interesting, if not especially accurate, results. The initial pool assignment appears almost random. The second "preliminary" round pitted Serbia and the USA, projected even before the tournament began as the two strongest teams in the field, in their 4th game, even before the medal round(s). With the medal rounds the tournament becomes more like a single elimination tournament (think NIT/NCAA here), though the teams do "play out" for places 3 - 8. The USA and Serbia would have met for the 2nd time in the tournament (and the third time in less than 2 weeks) had the Americans weathered the Russian's 4th quarter push in their semi-final tilt. Like the NCAAs, their fortunes turned on a single point (and considering the USA's 4 point win over the Russians the week before, a good set of adjustments on the part of the Russians). The largely uncompetitive final medal round games (USA blowout of the Isrealis and Serbia's blowout of the Russians) confirm what the efficiency differentials suggest -- there was a separation between the teams at the top of the field (Serbia, USA, Lithuania) and those in the next group.

Notes & Observations
1. Mexico is an outlier in the placement. The Mexicans started the tournament badly, dropping 2 decisions in their 1st preliminary round. The saving grace was their blowout (113-54) of the United Arab Emarites. Placed in one of the "losers" pools for the 2nd preliminary round, the Mexicans managed 2 successive wins, including a 2nd blowout game (versus Korea, 118-87), to close out their play. Two of their 3 losses were by 5 points or less.
2. Finland also stands out as an outlier. The Finns were pooled with the USA (and Korea) for the 1st preliminary round. Hammered by the USA, Finland was able to return the favor with Korea (a team that finished, appropriately it appears, 22nd with a differential of -0.15). Repooled with the USA, Serbia and Greece for the 2nd preliminary round, they dropped a tough 8 point game to the Serbs, but recouped narrowly against the Greeks (70-66), they then scraped by in their semi-final game (classification for 9-12 place) to the Ukrainians 67-62, only to get blow out by the Canadians in their classification final, 88-63. Finland may have finished the tournament with an even record (3-3), but they found themselves on the wrong end of 2 of the 3 blow out games they played.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

WUG 2009 -- USA Downs Isreal, Takes Bronze

Starting Gate to Finish Line
The first quarter was the most competitive, featuring 2 ties and 4 lead changes before USA team managed a 2 point to close out the quarter. The USA did not yield that lead through the end of the game. The Isrealis did outscore the USA, 28-27, in the third quarter, but that only shaved the USA's lead to +6. Coach Bo Ryan and several players spoke of how the Isrealis pushed Team USA throughout the second half, closing the lead several times in the last three quarters. Three of Oliver's four factors (and a few other stats)


The pace, 76.9, was close to the average for the USA team during the World University Games, and lower than their pace during the warmup tournament. The team's defensive efficiency (104.1) was among the weaker efforts for the team, but the offensive-defensive differential (+14.3) was one of the team's best for the medal round, surpassed only by the quarter final game versus Bulgaria (a very uncompetitive +36.8). The team controlled the boards, posting a very good 37.5% offensive rebounding effort, while holding the Isrealis to 30% offensive rebounding. The team also took care of the ball, limiting turnovers to only 13% of their possessions, the best effort since their game with Greece (11.3%, 2nd preliminary round). The USA may have blocked a few more shots (the highest percentage since the Finland game), but had fewer steals than their opponent for only the second time since arriving in Serbia. Here is the individual possession-based stats for the players

Anderson, James22.550.01.0226.
Battle, Talor42.557.11.3624.
Booker, Trevor40.040.01.0218.716.10.012.5
Brackins, Craig35.033.30.7225.
Butler, Da'Sean45.0100.01.9413.
Fisher, Corey57.527.80.5623.
Hayward, Lazar55.059.11.1329.
Hummel, Robbie47.528.60.6322.
Pondexter, Quincy17.5NANA0.
Thompson, Deon32.540.01.0323.00.011.830.8
Turner, Evan60.083.31.6714.916.13.28.3
Varnado, Jarvis45.066.71.4610.00.08.538.9

Quincy Pondexter's NA for eFG5 and PPWS indicate that because he took no FGAs (Shot% is 0%), there could be no numeric representation for his effective field goal percentage nor his points per weighted shot. Representing those stats as zero would be misleading (suggesting he attempted to score, but did not convert).

Coach Ryan returned to the more familiar line-up for his starters -- Fisher, Hayward and Turner -- for this last game in Belgrade (starters are highlighted in green). Starting Varnado over Thompson may seem puzzling (Thompson did get very little PT in this game), but Varnado single-handedly dominated the defensive boards -- he out rebounded the Isreali squad (relative to the time) on missed Isreali shots. The offense was carried by Hayward, Anderson (when he was in), Craig Brackins (Iowa State) and Penn State's Talor Battle. Anderson, Battle and Hayward converted efficiently, and were largely responsible for the strong offensive showing. Brackins may have had a poor night shooting, but he did grab an unusually large proportion of team USA's missed shots. Villanova's Corey Fisher scored 5 points on 2-9 (1-6, 1-3) shooting. Fish dished an assist, grabbed 3 rebounds, had 2 thefts to go with 3 turnovers and 2 personal fouls.

Additional Links
The AP wire story posted at USA Basketball.
The box score in .pdf format.
Some additional post game quotes. "...I do this for the players. It's done out of passion and that drive to want to make people better. We are better right now than when we came. Not just the basketball, but we are better as people. ..."
Bo Ryan, Wisconsin Head Coach

Saturday, July 11, 2009

WUG 2009 -- USA Loses to Russia 69-68; Plays for Bronze

Running on Empty
After leading for the entire game and entering the last quarter with a 10 point lead the USA squad was outscored 20-9 by the surging Russians and dropped their semi-final game by a point.


The tight score is reflected in the stats -- nearly even shooting (in?)efficiency, rebounding and turnovers. Team USA did a bit better with steals, but no doubt gave that advantage back in fouls (29 to the Russian's 23) and free throw conversion (64.5% vs 82%). Individual player efficiency stats:

Anderson, James20.
Battle, Talor50.09.10.3434.
Booker, Trevor43.850.00.7721.820.87.514.9
Brackins, Craig40.
Butler, Da'Sean47.50.00.4416.79.63.513.7
Fisher, Corey62.565.01.3425.
Hayward, Lazar56.357.11.1419.816.25.80.0
Hummel, Robbie55.065.01.2828.
Pondexter, Quincy42.50.00.923.
Thompson, Deon52.542.91.1821.20.015.624.8
Turner, Evan30.00.00.535.315.20.00.0
Varnado, JarvisDNP

Odd that Jarvis Varnado did not play. No information on why (injury or coach's decision). USA will play Isreal for the bronze medal today, while the Russians and the Serbs will meet to decide who takes the gold and who settles for the silver.

Additional Links
The AP wire story posted at USA Basketball.
The box score in .pdf format.
Some additional post game quotes. "...I think we executed in the first half. In the second half, we started playing their game...and they got us out of our rhythym towards the end."
Corey Fisher, Villanova

Friday, July 10, 2009

WUG 2009 -- USA Over Bulgaria 96-66

They Never Looked Back...
Team USA jumped out to a 13-5 lead after the 5:00 minutes and increased the lead through every 5 minute interval through the 25:00 minute mark. Only in the last 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter were the Bulgarians able to cut into the USA 5 points. The player stats...


The USA squad turned in an outstanding performance at both ends of the court. Their offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) was well above 100, while they kept the Bulgarians at 80.9, well below the 100 threshold. The Bulgarians concentrated on 2FGAs, taking over 3/4 of their attempts from inside the arc. Converting below 45% of their attempts, coupled with rebounding little more than 1/4 of their rebounds (26%) meant their offense was largely stymied. Converting their 3s at an 11% rate did not break them, but it certainly did not keep them in the game. Probably the biggest change in the USA's offensive approach was the team's assist rate, above 50% for the 1st time since the game with Greece, and the only the second time since arriving in Belgrade.

Individual player statistics...

Anderson, James38.856.31.1227.515.68.910.3
Battle, Talor52.5110.02.2012.717.33.33.8
Booker, Trevor45.050.01.0211.913.50.022.2
Brackins, Craig42.542.90.8622.
Butler, Da'Sean32.5100.02.0024.
Fisher, Corey47.560.01.2014.
Hayward, Lazar43.875.01.5024.413.911.818.3
Hummel, Robbie50.025.00.5926.724.210.328.0
Pondexter, Quincy52.550.01.1727.911.59.93.8
Thompson, Deon40.033.30.6420.00.08.620.0
Turner, Evan40.033.31.0310.
Varnado, Jarvis15.00.00.3417.

Robbie Hummel had a terrible shooting day, but on balance his contributions were positive. Of interest in addition to Hummel and Fisher's high assist rates, is the double digit assist rates of 5 other players. Butler and Pondexter were the offensive guns for this game.

Additional Links
The AP wire story posted at Penn State (focus is understandably on Penn State's pg, Talor Battle).
The box score in .pdf format.

What's Next
The Americans will meet the Russians in the semi-final round round, 5:30 Belgrade time (11:30 am EDT). The Russians squad defeated the Lithuanian team on Thursday (7/9), 82-73.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

WUG 2009 -- Player Stats Through 2 Rounds

Offensive Efficiency Stats
Not much analysis, just a data dump for now.


Talor Battle had two great outings against the Greeks and Serbs. Fisher is still looking for consistency from beyond the arc. Both are penetrating a good deal, which explains their high (for point guards) Free Throw Rates (FTR%).

Rebounding, Assists, Turnovers, etc.
A quick look some of the defensive stats (and assists, turnovers...). For offensive rebounding (OR%) 10.0 or above is very good. For defensive rebounding (DR%) >19.0 (or so) is very good.

Anderson, James31.314.010.711.
Battle, Talor50.01.58.912.422.20.04.4
Booker, Trevor38.19.618.91.825.71.95.1
Brackins, Craig48.
Butler, Da'Sean43.
Fisher, Corey50.
Hayward, Lazar36.314.
Hummel, Robbie45.06.518.512.318.81.67.1
Pondexter, Quincy50.65.813.
Thompson, Deon43.
Turner, Evan38.87.521.523.125.91.910.5
Varnado, Jarvis25.02.913.

Surprisingly Evan Turner (Ohio State) appears to be the best at setting up his teammates. Battle, second on the team for assist rates, is (like Fisher) a bit lighter than I would expect from a team where the traditional point guard serves as the playmaker. Whether from a different interpretation on assists or a team characteristic where guards pass into the low post and the #4/#5 scores or passes out to the wing, it is difficult to tell without a play-by-play. But relatively high assist rates from Robbie Hummel (low post) and wings James Anderson, Quincy Pondexter, Evan Turner and Da'Sean Butler suggest the wings and (at least one low post player) are actively looking for teammates when they don't have a good shot.

WUG 2009 -- USA Over Serbia 68-66

With Serbia's 98-82 win over the USA squad in the Serbia International Invitiational last week this match was going to be a war. The players looked to this game for redemption from a dismal defensive effort (and a lost temper or two). Team USA was motivated. Let's hope, should these two squads meet for a third time in a late medal round (both advanced, the game result only dictated who each would meet in the quarter final round), the USA will stay motivated. A quick look at Oliver's four factors (with a side glance at the 1st USA-Serbia tilt) suggests that while the Americans still don't have the Serb's number, they made significant progress from their first effort...


For starters they slowed the pace and took a more deliberate approach to the offense, reducing their possessions by 8, 74 down from 82 (over 10% reduction) from their 1st game. The Americans also shut down the Serb's shooting. Serbia's PPWS was < 1.00 for the 1st time in the tournament (including the Invitational last week). The Serbs failed to convert shots efficiently nor did they get to the line (enough) to offset their lack of production from the court. If the Americans did not control the boards, they certainly did a better job under both baskets. Squad USA may not have been able to get 1/3 of their misses (about what is expected for offensive rebounding rates), they improved (modestly) over their 1st game effort against Serbia (25%). The big improvement came under the Serb's basket. In the 1st game the Serbs grabbed nearly 41.7% of their missed shots. The Americans slashed that rate by over 10% in the 2nd game, a big swing.

A look at the players stats:

Anderson, James22.50.00.0020.516.58.211.4
Battle, Talor55.070.81.3233.
Booker, Trevor50.033.30.839.
Brackins, Craig47.543.80.8825.
Butler, Da'Sean55.050.01.0228.
Fisher, Corey47.535.70.9122.
Hayward, Lazar22.533.30.6720.
Hummel, Robbie52.540.00.8014.70.03.519.5
Pondexter, Quincy62.540.00.8012.35.95.912.3
Thompson, Deon40.050.01.0023.10.04.625.6
Turner, Evan35.
Varnado, Jarvis10.0100.01.3815.

Starters are highlighted in green. Coach Ryan sprung a surprise by sitting Butler, Fisher and Thompson and giving the nod to James Anderson (Oklahoma State), Talor Battle (Penn State) and Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi St). Varnado was effective under the offensive boards, but ran into foul trouble early (Raduljica is the 7-0 center who gave the Americans fits in their exhibition game). Trevor Booker (Clemson) and Deon Thompson split the remaining time at the #5; both did outstanding work on the defensive boards (though as seen earlier the Serbs pulled down more boards). Purdue's Robbie Hummel also turned in an outstanding effort on the defensive boards. Talor Battle had a breakout night, converting 7 of 12 FGAs (3-6, 4-6) to post an eFG% of 70.8, both efficient and prolific. He drew a good deal of attention from the Serbs, taking 5 fouls from the Serbs (who tried to apply full court pressure on the Americans). Battle's 1.32 PPWS set the pace for the USA squad.

What's Next
The USA squad secured the top spot in Group I with the win over Serbia. Both the Americans and Serbs will advance to the medal round (the Finns and Greeks will compete for spots #9 through #16), and after taking Wednesday off face their quarter final opponents on Thursday. Team USA will face the 2nd place finishers in Group L, the Bulgarians, while the Serbs draw the Group L winner, Turkey. Bulgaria was beaten by Turkey 69-60. The tip off is set for 8:00pm Belgrade time (3:00pm EDT).

Additional Links
The AP wire story posted at USA Basketball.
The box score in .pdf format.
Some additional post game quotes. "...Everybody has their night, and tonight wasn't my night - tonight was a team night. We won the game. It was a close game..."
Corey Fisher, Villanova

Monday, July 6, 2009

WUG 2009 -- USA Downs Greece by 31; Serbia Next

It Was Close...for About 25 Minutes
The USA and Greece were locked in a 5 point shootout (44-39) going into the locker room at half time. Team USA came out in the 2nd half and exploded. Literally. The Greeks matched their 1st half production, notching 38 points in the 2nd half. Team USA dropped 64 2nd half points on the hapless Greeks to pull away. The 3rd quarter was decisive, as the USA doubled the Greek offensive production 31-15 to blow their 5 point margin out to 21. The discouraged Greeks lost the 4th quarter by another 10 points, leaving the final margin at 31.

Five players (Deon Thompson, Lazar Hayward, Quincy Pondexter, James Anderson and Da'Sean Butler) scored in double figures as all 12 squad members put points on the board. Thompson scored a team high 17 points with Big East player (Marquette's) Lazar Hayward and Quincy Pondexter of Washington contributed 13 points each on (collectively) 6-11 (4-6, 2-5) shooting from the field to go with Pondexter's 9-12 from the line. The USA dominated the Greeks on the boards, pulling down 40% of their own misses and virtually denying the Greeks 2nd chance opportunities by grabbing nearly 85% of the Greek's misses. The game was relatively turnover free, as both squads kept turnover rates under 13%, but that should not imply a "no touch" game. Collectively the teams were whistled for 46 fouls, nearly equally sharing the guilt (22-24 in favor of the Greeks), but the Greeks converted FTAs at a sizzling 81.5% rate, while the USA left points on the table, converting only 70.4% of theirs (improving, but still well behind their European counterparts). The four factors breakdown:


This effort exceeded the USA's game with Finland for offensive efficiency, while matching the South Korean game's rather impressive PPWS of 1.31 (suggesting the USA squad converted FGAs efficiently, but also hit their FTAs). The assist rate (54.8) bested their previous high of 47% versus the South Koreans, indicating the players are beginning to rotate the ball through the post players more consistently than in earlier games. Quotes from squad members (see Butler's response to questions about team chemistry). Individual player efficiency stats...

Anderson, James30.062.51.2538.
Battle, Talor47.540.00.7915.
Booker, Trevor22.566.71.2819.
Brackins, Craig40.062.51.4314.
Butler, Da'Sean50.083.31.6717.
Fisher, Corey52.558.31.1516.313.65.810.0
Hayward, Lazar42.561.11.3130.30.021.418.6
Hummel, Robbie52.550.01.0021.818.10.030.1
Pondexter, Quincy47.540.01.2515.
Thompson, Deon55.080.01.6326.
Turner, Evan30.066.71.4514.339.710.126.3
Varnado, Jarvis30.0100.02.0014.

The starters are highlighted in green. Coach Ryan returned to his three most consistent starters, Da'Sean Butler (West Virginia), Corey Fisher (Villanova) and Deon Thompson (North Carolina). Lazar Hayward, the last of the Big East trio and Purdue's Robbie Hummel rounded out the starting five, though from each player's %PT, it is clear the staff distributed the time fairly evenly through the squad. The starters received 51% of the PT. Hayward, Butler and Craig Brackins (Iowa State) all registered impressive rebounding rates on the offensive boards.

The Greeks attempted only 1 in 4 FGAs from beyond the arc, a stunning change of strategy from their three previous games, punched the ball inside to 6-9 center Savas Tzougkarakis who converted more efficiently than any Greek not named Verginis, going 6-12 from the field (all 2FGAs) and 9-11 at the line to provide secondary support for Verginis with 21 points. Point guard Dimitrios Verginis hit a sizzling 9-17 (0-1 from 3s) and 7-8 from the line to carry Greece with a game high 25 points. The rest of the Greek squad shot an appalling 30.6% from the field (8-21, 3-15). Their saving grace was the free throw line, where the Greek squad (minus Verginis and Tzougkarakis) 5 of 6 FTAs for 85% conversion rate. The Greek's 2nd and 3rd scoring threats in this tournament, guard Dimitrios Kompodietas and forward Sotirios Manolopoulos, were simply not a factor in this game, going a collective 2-9 (2-5, 0-4) from the field and 2-2 from the line.

What's Next?
In an odd seeding quirk, the USA squad will play Serbia in the second game of Preliminary Round #2. The game is set for 7/7 at 8:00pm Belgrade time (2:00pm EDT). Serbia defeated Finland 82-70 today (Monday 7/6), so there is no chance of a three-way tie in Group I. The USA and Serbia are competing for seed in the quarter final round, as they both will advance, irrespective of the outcome of their second tilt. Tomorrow's winner will get the 2nd place finisher from Group L, the loser of the Bulgaria-Turkey game, the loser will draw the Group L winner (the winner of Bulgaria-Turkey). From the quotes page, West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler (Newark, NJ) on round #2 with Serbia...
Q:  Are you looking forward to playing Serbia again?
A:  Definitely. I feel like they got us the first time. They have been playing together for a while, and we are starting to get the hang of playing with each other and knowing what people's weaknesses and strengths are. I think it will be a better match up than last time.

Let's hope the boys are rested and ready.

Additional Links
The AP wire story posted at USA Basketball.
The box score in .pdf format.
Some additional post game quotes.