Sunday, August 30, 2009

Roster Moves -- Late 2009 Off Season

Late Summer Edition
Keeping our fingers crossed there have been no injuries reported. We are coming into that part of the preseason though, school is coming back into session, squads continue to play unsupervised pickup games. The changes are more gains than losses right now, though one or two are a little surprising.

Marquette -- I am not sure the Marquette Athletic Department ever got around to "officially" announcing that freshman forward Brett Roseboro, a 6-9 forward out of Pennsylvania, signed in the fall of 2008 and on campus for part of the summer has transferred to St. Bonaventure. Since he did not enroll in classes the transfer rules should not apply. He will be available to play in the fall 2009.

Pittsburgh -- The Panthers announced on August 10 that they had picked up Centenary point guard Chase Adams, a 5-11 rising senior as a transfer. Centenary had voted to downgrade their program to DII, opening the door for outbound transfers who could have the one year wait period waived, as Adams did. Adams, more a bridge and insurance policy, as opposed to an impact player, will help the 2010 Panthers maintain the program as the staff waits for the arrival of (Class of 2010 recruits) Isaiah Epps and Cameron Wright to reinforce the current back court contingent of Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, Jermaine Dixon and Travon Woodall. Pitt waited until the last Friday in August to announce that forward Gilbert Brown, their 6-6 junior guard/forward would not be eligible to play in their Fall 2009 games. Brown, on academic probation for the semester, will have to get his books & grades in order before he can be re-instated to the team.

Rutgers -- About a week after returning from touring Europe with a group of "East Coast All-Stars" guard Corey Chandler was abruptly dismissed from the Scarlet Knights team for violating Athletic Department policy, according to Head Coach Fred Hill. Heralded as Coach Hill's 1st big get, the former All-State performer was suspended briefly in the fall of 2008, and ran afoul of the staff after a heated phone call made in the spring of 2009. Chandler apologized for the indiscretion and all appeared well until this latest run in. Corey will finish his career at Binghamton, according to his High School coach. Chandler's exit, coupled with guard/forward Earl Pettis' transfer last May, leaves Rutgers shallow at the #2/#3 spots.

South Florida -- Bulls Head Coach Stan Heath re-instated senior guard Mike Mercer on Friday Augusst 21. Mercer, a transfer from Georgia was dismissed in January 2009 after his second arrest since transferring to South Florida. Coach Heath noted that Mercer had completed his course of study and fulfilled his requirements for graduation. Mercer will add depth to the #2/#3 spots this season.

Villanova -- Announced that rising senior guard Reggie Redding was suspended from games for the Fall 2009 semester. Redding, arrested on July 31 for possession of marijuana, will be able to go to class and practice with the team. If all goes well he should be eligible to play after December 18. The Wildcats will not have Redding available when they play in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in November.

West Virginia -- Head Coach Bob Huggins re-instated rising senior point guard Joe Mazzulla for the fall 2009. Mazzulla, red shirted last season with an arm injury, had been suspended in April when he was arrested for assault on a woman. Mazzulla had been arrested in Pittsburgh the preceding summer for assault and disorderly conduct during a Pirates baseball game. The Mountaineers' second point guard, rising sophomore Darryl Bryant, remains on suspension following his second arrest for leaving the scene of accident in June.

Assessing the Impact
Roseboro, who attracted the Golden Eagles' attention when he shot up 4-5 inches over the summer of 2008, was considered more a project than an impact player. Adams will provide depth and experience for the Panther back court. Brown's loss will hurt...Brown. He had a minimal impact on the team in the course of his first 2 seasons. Chandler's value may be the most debatable in the group. Though he was not afraid to shoot -- Chandler takes another 14% of the Scarlet Knight's 3s with him -- he was not especially accurate. Mercer, if he finally plays to his potential, would have a great positive impact on the team play. Heath tended to play him or Jones in the 4 games in which Mercer appeared last season. Playing in tandem might make a difference for the Bulls. Heath seems to be a coach who likes guards and knows how to develop them. Redding's maturity and court vision (and IQ) will be missed, especially in Puerto Rico where the 'Cats may face the most demanding portion of their OOC. Restoring both point guards would have a tremendous impact on West Virginia's prospects in 2010. Without Mazzulla and Bryant the Mountaineers would still be very good, though relatively more vulnerable in ball handling situations. With both guards back they should have the depth and experience to be considered the team to beat in the Big East next season.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

25 Top PPWS Returning Players

True Shot or PPWS?
John Hollinger developed the True Shot statistic as a way of expressing a player's overall shooting capability with a single value. True Shot folds the player's free throw proficiency into his field goal efficiency (2FGA & 3FGA), expressing all three elements of shooting as a single number. If eFG% can, with a single number, provide a sense of the player's ability to convert field goal attempts (2s and 3s), True Shot provides a sense of a player's ability to convert field goal attempts into points, whether those points come with successful 2s, 3s or free throws. The specfic calculation varies slightly from DI to the NBA, and from author to author, the idea (and elements) however, remain the same. Points Per Weighted Shot (PPWS) is the same calculation with one difference -- True Shot calculations multiply the player's points scored by 50, while PPWS does not. True Shot then is expressed as an implied percentage (ie xx.x), while PPWS looks more like...well points per shot (ie x.xx). True Shot's advantage is that it provides a "normalized" representation of the conversion metric, consistent with eFG%, 3FGM%, and FTM%, which makes it easier to compare the values. I like PPWS because it can tell me at a glance how many points a player can score every time he takes a shot. He will either convert from the field, or at the line (or not). The PPWS calculation (for DI)...

PPWS = Pts / ((0.475 * FTA) + FGA)

Want the True Shot? Just multiply Pts by 50 before dividing. For True Shot, anything above 60 is very good, while 50 is the threshold for "good". By the same token, a PPWS of 1.20 or greater is very good, below 1.00, and the player is not at all efficient at converting his field goal opportunities. Freshmen will typically have PPWSs ranging from the mid 80s to the high 90s, though some of the best will record PPWSs > 1.00 (see Greg Monroe below -- a PPWS of 1.22).

Top Guns
I have listed (about) 25 Big East players, returning for 2010, who recorded the highest PPWSs in 2009. The player had to log => 40% of the time in his position. I included the player's eFG%, field goal attempts (FGA), 3 point attempts (3PA), free throw attempts (FTA), minutes (MIN), points (PTS) and percentage of available shots taken while the player was in the game. The players highlighted in dark green were the focal points (to use Ken Pomeroy's term, the "Go-to Guys") for their team's offense. Light green suggests a prominent (but not overwhelming -- per Pomeroy a "Major" or a "Significant" Contributor) role, a player who may share the 1st option on offense role with another player, or one who is the 2nd option on offense.

J SmithVille78552.91.2816.963.119565131289

Providence's Marshon Brooks and Corey Stokes out of Villanova will get more recognition when they are logging more minutes. For Brooks, playing in a rotation with (senior) Weymini Efejuku and (sophomore) Brian McKenzie last season, the door is wide open as the Friars lost 3 starters and McKenzie aside, the team has few bench players when the Class of 2009 moved on. Coach Davis has some replacements coming in, but a shallow bench leaves few to challenge him for the starter's nod. Stokes will play in front of freshman Dominic Cheek, but expect Cheek, and when he returns, senior Reggie Redding, to push Stokes for time. Lazar Hayward, fresh off of a bronze medal (a teammate of Corey Fisher on the USA team) run at the World University Games this past summer, will get as much offensive responsibility as he can handle when he takes the court for Marquette. With the departure of the 3 Amigos and front court player Dwight Burke, Hayward is the only experienced volume scorer returning this season. Marquette will have a handful of JUCOs and true freshmen to compete for the vacated starting spots, but the newcomers will initially complement Hayward's offense. Jeremy Hazell's Pirates will have something they have not had in a few seasons -- legitimate 2nd and 3rd scoring options to draw some of the defensive attention that Hazell has drawn. Hazell will most likely scale back (or at least stay about where he is) his shooting, but with more space to work in, expect him to become even more efficient at scoring. Between them Louisville's wings, Jerry Smith and Preston Knowles have accounted for over 93% of the minutes, converting shot to points very efficiently as 3rd/4th options in the offense, complements of the attention Williams and Clark drew from opposing defenses. The Cardinals may need more from these two in 2010. Whether they play together or in sequence, they will most likely be expected to take more liberties with their shooting.

I was a bit surprised to see no less than 4 Hoyas, Greg Monroe, Jason Clark, Austin Freeman and Chris Wright, among the 25 (27 actually, I used 1.07 as the cutoff point for list), about 1/8 of the list then comes from a single team. With four players (3 starters) drawing a PPWS of 1.07 or better, how could Georgetown have a raw offensive rating (per Ken Pomeroy) of just 106.4? The guys over at the Hoya Prospectus Blog partially answered that question in their August 14 post on turnovers during conference play. Of the 4 on the PPWS list, only Freeman appeared to value the ball. Monroe and Clark were worse than the team average, while point guard Chris Wright with a turnover rate of 22%, was just below the team's average of 23% for conference play. That 23% turnover rate ranked the Hoyas #14 among conference teams. Ouch.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Asset Efficiency

by Ray Floriani

LYNDHURST, NJ - Coaches preach about doing positive things and cutting down on mistakes. Outside of the realm of putting the ball in the basket, some of the positives are hitting an open teammate, grabbing a rebound, swiping the ball or rejecting a shot. On the other side, throwing the ball out of bounds simply gives the coach a few more grey hairs. In his 1999 book. ‘The NBA Analyst’ author David Claerbaut discusses a measurement called asset efficiency. Asset efficiency is a relatively easy formula to compute. It simply involves rebounds, blocks, steals, assists and turnovers and is noted as follows:

AE = A + STL + REB + BLK/A + STL + REB + BLK + TO

Claerbaut feels the stat favors "aircraft carriers", a term coined by the late Al McGuire to describe outstanding post players. The author feels teams with a strong inside game fare better due to an increase in rebounds and blocks. Claerbaut felt in his 1998 NBA study there was an .829 correlation between a strong asset efficiency and winning.

The following is a rundown of Big East teams for the 2008-09 campaign. Again, only regular season conference games are included.

Asset Efficiency
Notre Dame.862
West Virginia.844
Seton Hall.829
South Florida.823

In Claerbaut’s study four of his bottom five teams in asset efficiency failed to make the NBA playoffs. Looking at the Big East results I feel the stat gives a better read on the teams in the lower echelon as well. The BE bottom four DePaul, Georgetown, St.John’s and Rutgers all struggled. Georgetown? Well the Hoyas weren’t one of the conference’s four worst clubs but they were a 7-11 team that was shown the door in round one of the BET by St.John’s. Notre Dame led the way in AE but was an 8-10 team in conference play. Why the discrepancy? First the schedule didn’t smile on the Irish. After starting out 3-1 ND had a stretch that included At Louisville, at Syracuse, UCONN, Marquette and at Pitt. All ranked and all in a nineteen day stretch. Unfortunately for Mike Brey’s club, all losses. ND’s numbers in AE were solid due to Luke Harangody’s presence which aided the rebounding numbers. ND also took the best care of the ball in conference with not one player having a negative assist/TO ratio.

Claerbaut talks about rebounding numbers but with the Big East I found teams, as South Florida , Seton Hall and West Virginia for example, helped themselves more with low turnover figures.

What about ‘Nova? I thought the Wildcat's AE would be higher. Blocks (64) and rebounds (667) however, were roughly middle of the road. 'Nova, to my surprise, was near the top of the conference in steals (147), but were mid pack with 267 assists. The dagger was turnovers. Jay Wright‘s club recorded 252 TOs. Only five Big East clubs (Georgetown, Providence, Rutgers, St.John’s and Syracuse) had more. Chalk it up to turnovers for keeping a 13-5 Big East Semi and Final Four Villanova club from having a higher AE. Again, Claerbaut notes AE has a high correlation but not the only correlation in defining an elite team.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rising Sophomores -- Ten to Watch

The Big Jump
Common wisdom says the prime-time players (who don't jump to the league after their freshmen seasons...) take the biggest leap in their development during their sophomore season. I am not sure there is a single rule that dictates when a player makes his greatest strides. Some, like Dante Cunningham (Villanova, Class of 2009) and Hilton Armstrong (UConn, Class of 2006), see their roles grow with each season, but take the biggest (it seems) spurt in their senior season. Others make an impact their freshman seasons, but never seem to develop beyond that season (Edgar Sosa? Mike Nardi? Darryl Hill?). Like other "10 to Watch" postings, I am not listing All Big East Freshman Teamers, everyone knows who they are and will be watching/reporting on their every game. These overlooked ten might be on the threshold of a breakout season, or more likely solidify a starting spot on their team's roster. These players have a Big East season under their belts. They survived, put up some good (but not stud) numbers and are looking at opportunities to step into major roles with their teams this coming season.

On Offense...
A GibbsPitt25.9117.518.220.858.11.201.917.1
K JonesWVU48.1113.616.719.550.31.0210.723.7
C WrightGTown81.0107.821.922.
D DixonNati54.1104.119.220.545.40.986.433.3
J ClarkGTown45.1100.317.
K JosephCuse29.288.216.315.546.10.917.050.5

Ashton Gibbs and Terrence Jennings did not see the floor much at the start of the season. Gibbs was behind senior pg Levance Fields and sophomore Brad Wanamaker, while Jennings found Samardo Samuels and Earl Clark in front of him. Both worked themselves into the rotation by season's end. Jennings logged about 38% of the minutes at his position during the Big East season, while Gibbs spent July playing lead guard for his coach in the U19 World Championship Tournament in New Zealand, making up ground on the playing time he missed last season. Gibbs gained valuable experience he will be able to use early next season. He will split time and responsibilities with rising junior Brad Wanamaker and red shirt freshman Travon Woodall. Rutgers' Greg Echenique, efficient but under utilized on offense last season, will benefit from a distributor like transfer James Beatty at the point. Having a reliable 2nd and 3rd option on offense will work to All Big East Rookie teammate Mike Rosario's benefit, even if the gunner gets a few less touches. Darryl "Truck" Bryant is on this list even though he is currently suspended. Bryant, arrested twice within a one week period in June for (serious) traffic offenses, was suspended by Coach Bob Huggins, but has continued to live (and workout) in the Morgantown area over the summer. His 102.7 offensive rating is on the right side of 100, combined with possessions and shot percentages (%Poss and %Shot) above 21 suggest he can produce points (via shooting or assists) efficiently. His assist rate (Ast% -- 21.2) was top 400, though undermined by his high turnover rate (TO% -- 22.2) in a typically freshman sort of way. Given a full season that should improve (and help his ORtg, not to mention his team, considerably). Given both he and red shirt junior Joe Mazzulla (suspended in May, pending resolution on an unrelated assault charge), are both listed on West Virginia's latest roster, odds are excellent both will be re-instated before the season, if not by the Fall practice in mid-October.

On Defense...
Ashton GibbsPitt25.95.413.719.30.30.8
Kevin JonesWVU48.
Terrence JenningsVille26.511.63.816.313.72.3
Gregory EcheniqueRU70.720.64.516.88.11.5
Chris WrightGTown81.09.525.
Dion DixonNati54.19.712.516.30.81.4
Darryl BryantWVU63.76.721.
Jason ClarkGTown45.
K JosephCuse29.
Augustus GilchristUSF48.512.95.416.24.20.7

At 6-10 and 235 pounds Gus Gilchrist drew a lot of attention last season. With nearly 28% of the possessions and taking (just) over 30% of the shots when he was on the floor, he was taking a "Go-to Guy"-level role in the Bulls offense. But he was not converting possessions into points very efficiently (about .88 points per possession, below the Bulls team .95 ppp). I got the feeling Gilchrist wanted to play more #4 than #5, and with Jarrid Famous, a classic back-to-the-basket type #5 to bolster returning rising senior Alex Sanchez at the #5, Gilchrist may be able to play facing the basket on offense. For a real break through season however, in addition to improving his shot selection (and accuracy) Gilchrist will have to step up his rebounding. Though he had another year of eligibility, DaJuan Summers moved on, handing Hoya wing Jason Clark one of those opportunities to blossom. Georgetown needs rebounding under both baskets -- something Clark did not demonstrate an instinct for last season. Cincinnati's Dion Dixon on the other hand, will face very stiff competition for minutes. With redshirt freshman Cashmire Wright taking the point, All-Big East Teamer Deonta Vaughn will most likely move out to the wing. Between Vaughn and incoming wing Lance Stephenson, Dixon will have to produce early and often to secure a spot in the Bearcat rotation. Kris Josephs' situation at Syracuse bears similarity to both Gibbs/Jennings and Clark/Dixon. Like Gibbs/Jennings Joseph did not draw a lot of minutes in 2009, but the Orange lost 3 starters in the off season, virtually guaranteeing that Joseph will draw an opportunity to compete for a larger role with the team. But Joseph will get competition from transfer Wesley Johnson, red shirt freshman Mookie Jones and true freshman James Southerland.

And Then There's...
The Big East All Freshmen Team, Yancy Gates, Kemba Walker, Greg Monroe, Samardo Samuels, Mike Rosario and Devin Ebanks, will no doubt have great seasons. If all goes as anticipated, a few (Greg Monroe? Devin Ebanks?) will likely put in for the NBA draft next June.

DePaul's Jeremiah Kelly will draw more duty at the point this season, now that senior Jabari Currie has moved on. Currie was hobbled with turnover problems for his entire career, that Kelly could not move past him last season was disappointing. When Malik Boothe was sidelined with injuries last season Quincy Roberts was one of several freshmen who stepped into the breech. Less than stellar shooting was further undermined by turnovers. This season Roberts will compete with 2 more freshmen and a transfer for playing time (not to mention 3 returning players) in the back court/wing. I have closed an eye to playing time for a handful of rising sophomores, but Louisville's Jared Swopshire & George Goode, Georgetown's Henry Sims and Pitt's Nasir Robinson have too little playing time to project comfortably. Sims has about 20+% PT at his spot, with Swopshire, Goode and Robinson far closer to 10% than 20%. Of the 3 Robinson most likely has the clearest path to a secure spot in his team's rotation, but how successful he will become is uncertain (from the numbers). His best path to the Panther rotation is rebounding. Pittsburgh finds itself in the same boat as Connecticut, Louisville, Marquette and Villanova, it's best rebounders have moved on and the staff will give high marks to the players who grab the loose balls.

Many thanks for Ken Pomeroy. His website is an invaluable source for individual possession-based stats.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Experience and Close Games

Definitions and Methods
2009 was not notable for close games, at least not until the post season. A "close game" is one decided by 5 points or less. The 5 point margin suggests that the decision could have turned on 2 or fewer possessions -- a game that was probably settled in the last minute or so. Who would be more likely to play close games? A team with a bad record (like Notre Dame back in 2007)? I sorted the conference by percentage of the team's schedule that contained close games...

Record% ofExp.
Seton Hall740.6360.3441.65
West Virginia340.4290.2001.26
South Florida150.1670.1941.58
Notre Dame310.7500.1112.48
St. John's301.0000.0880.86

The table shows the team's record in close games, the percentage of the schedule that involved close games and lastly, Ken Pomeroy's Experience Level, a stat in which he combines minutes played with class. The Overall line sums wins, losses calculates the winning percentage and the close games as a percentage of all games played. [Note the winning percentage is > .500 because I have included all games -- OOC, conference & post season -- for each team]

Did "not very good teams" play more close games? Well, yes...and no. True, Seton Hall and Rutgers did have the most close games, about 1/3 of their schedule was decided by 5 points or less, but Villanova and Marquette, two teams that finished near the top of the conference were just behind. That set of two paired teams provide an interesting snapshot on their seasons, relative to each other. In close games Seton Hall pulled out over 60% of them, while Rutgers could not break even, a capsule statement of their respective seasons and records. The same holds for Villanova and Marquette. Many had those two teams in a virtual tie in the Big East standings going into the season, but the Wildcats held a very healthy margin in the close games. The Golden Eagles stood at 50% (four of those games occurred after Dom James ended his season with an injury; Marquette went 1-3 in those games...another effect of losing the senior guard?). While Connecticut and Pittsburgh, two 1st quartile teams had the fewest close games (Pittsburgh's in particular, were badly timed), but St. John's and Notre Dame, two teams that finished in the bottom half of the conference played only a single close game more than UConn and Pitt.

The two "losingest" teams, Georgetown and South Florida really caught my eye. Among teams that had 20% or more of their schedule decided by 5 points or less, those two had strikingly poor winning percentages. While the folks over at the Hoya Prospectus Blog have examined the Georgetown season in detail in an attempt to construct a narrative of the 2009 season, I have not seen a post that explains this abnormally low winning percentage, though a post on experience discussed overall performance (and concluded it was not a decisive factor). If Villanova is an outlier (on the high side), those two were clear outliers on the low side. Ironically one of Villanova's close losses and Georgetown's single close game win -- was the 2/28 game played at the Wachovia.

Learn Anything in the School of Hard Knocks?
Georgetown was one of the "younger" teams in the Big East. Was their bad run (as suggested by a few fans & examined in depth by statistical analysis) a product of their youth? The Hoya Prospectus Blog (see above) says "no", but my question is more specific -- was youth a factor when the game was close? Looking at all of the Big East teams (same set of games), for each close game, I compared the experience-level of the two squads to determine if the "more experienced" squad won. Going back to each team, I reclassified each close game according to whether the result was consistent with the experience level of the two teams -- ie "did the more experienced team win?". The survey yields a few interesting nuggets...

W/L vs ExpExp.
West Virginia610.8571.26
Notre Dame310.7502.48
Seton Hall830.7271.65
South Florida240.3331.58
St. John's030.0000.86

I sorted the data by the "expectations percentage" and included Pomeroy's experience level as a point of comparison. Hmmm, these results look pretty interesting. True Connecticut and Pittsburgh offer a sample too small to draw conclusions, but Syracuse and West Virginia look pretty conclusive. Seton Hall and Rutgers show consistent results (even though their won/loss records in close games were very different). Even down-on-their-luck DePaul and contrarian Georgetown show reults that agreed more than disagreed with the experience expectation. Looking at the bottom of the table, St. John's and South Florida appear to be counter intuitive (but consider that two of St. John's counter-expectation wins came versus Georgetown...that team again).

Marquette and Providence came at .500, both for winning percentage in close games (4-4, 3-3 respectively) and for "experience result consistency". They caught my eye because they are two of the more experienced teams in the conference -- Marquette was ranked #1 in the Big East according to Pomeroy, while Providence was #3, behind Notre Dame. Common sense (and this data) suggest they underperformed. Both also had 1st year coaches, relatively inexperienced 1st year coaches. Buzz Williams and Keno Davis each logged a single season as head coach before coming into the Big East.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Signs of the 2009 Offseason -- Invitational Tournaments

Squeezing the Market
In a move that suggests the Great Alaska Shootout may follow in the footsteps of the Top of the World Classic, the Shootout's sponsors announced the traditional 8 team field will be reduced to 6 teams for the 2009 tournament. They will employ an Olympic-style pool play system, in place of the three round single elimination system (winners play winners, losers play losers) to guarantee three games to each of the participating teams. The Top of the World and Alaska Shootout tournaments have suffered from the 2006 NCAA rules change for early season invitational tournaments.

In an effort to set the number of regular season games, the NCAA simplified the method used for counting games. They also lifted the restriction on participating in invitational tournaments, allowing teams to participate in those tournaments every season. The NCAA virtually eliminated their 20+ year old approval process, the method by which they had limited the number of invitational tournaments (and indirectly controlled the number of teams which could play an expanded season). Prior to 2006, the NCAA sanctioned 10 "exempt" invitational tournaments. In 2007 there were 45 tournaments employing a variety of formats that included "single site" hosting, 2 stage regional "pod play" followed by semi-final and final play at a single site and preliminary play involving traditional (regular season) visitor-home team play followed by semi-final and final play at a single site. Pre-2006, the Alaska tournaments relied on exclusivity to counter balance limited operating budgets as they filled out their field. With exotic (and warmer and more plentiful) locations available in the continental US and just offshore, the Alaskans cannot compete.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rising Juniors -- 10 to Watch

After the Rush
Looking at the rising juniors makes me a bit nervous. How many times am I going to have to write "X" is going to have a breakout season...this time...honest before he actually does? Like other "10 to Watch" postings, I am not going to note the 1st or 2nd All Big East Teamers, I want to look at the guys who have fair-to-good (or better) scoring efficiencies, but are stuck in the "role player" category. They might be on the threshold of a breakout (or more likely solid starter/regular-level) season. The suddenly a stud player doesn't develop every season. Particularly for the four year players, just making progress every season can spell "star" status by the senior season. Villanova's Dante Cunningham is a great example of the constantly progressing player who was good coming in, but became great by his senior season. I am not going to include transfers/JUCOs who enter with upper classmen status (I covered a few of them in a previous post), but rather will look only at those players who have 1-2 Big East seasons under their belts.

On Offense...

By all accounts Jimmy Butler will pick up more time and possessions. Pomeroy's growth curve suggests the window (to 95% confidence) should be just shy of 20% of possessions next season (or down to about 10%, which would suggest he was benched in favor of someone else...). Butler helped himself with good offensive rebounding (how many of his FGMs were putbacks?) and benefited from playing in a rotation with 4 others who no doubt drew much more defensive attention than he. Like Butler, Louisville's Preston Knowles and Villanova's Corey Stokes start on the low side (16.9 and 17.5 respectively) for possessions, but each is extremely efficient (see their ORtgs) and has an upper edge in their "growth windows" of around 24%. And given the attrition suffered by Louisville and Villanove, each should have an opportunity to get more possessions (and shots).

On Defense...
Jimmy ButlerMU48.96.610.02.51.410.8
Corey StokesNova56.
Austin FreemanGTown72.514.613.90.61.811.3
Preston KnowlesVille41.710.813.
Marshon BrooksPC52.512.515.03.12.610.9
Rick JacksonCuse53.47.921.67.32.316.9
D.J. KennedyJohn's86.217.717.41.32.616.9
Brad WanamakerPitt47.418.
Mac KoshwalDPU77.712.721.51.42.520.8
Sean EvansJohn's68.

UConn big men typically take most of the oxygen out of a discussion of Big East shot blockers. Next season may be Rick Jackson's (and Syracuse's) turn. Brad Wanamaker's %Shot is light (13.9), suggesting he was way down on the priority list in the team's offensive scheme, but he did log 47.4% of the minutes at a guard/forward spot and had a relatively efficient 103.8 ORtg, with a shooting efficiency of 54.2...way too high actually, given his offensive rating. If Wanamaker gets his turnovers under control he will contribute in 2010. With the loss of Blair, Fields and Young, there will be chances for Wanamaker to shoot and score. Given his assist rate, steal rate and (especially) defensive rebounding, Wanamaker is too useful in too many wing spots to leave on the bench. With the loss of Dar Tucker, DePaul's Mac Koshwal will get a lot of touches next season as the Blue Demons will look around for scorers to pick up Tucker's %Poss and %Shot. Koshwal is already among the best in the conference for his rebounding, offensive and defensive. Ready or not he will have to take a larger than 20.0% role (a "major contributor" according to Ken Pomeroy's DePaul Team Report) for scoring too next seaon.

And Then There's...
Jeremy Hazell (All Big East 3rd Team), Dominique Jones (All Big East Honorable Mention) and Corey Fisher (All Big East 6th Man) drew honors last season and will have some visibility (and expectations) going into next season. I struggled with the last three or four spots on the list, leaving off Paris Horne (St. John's), Dion Dixon (Cincinnati) and Antonio Pena (Villanova) in favor of Sean Evans (St. John's), Jimmy Butler (Marquette), Brad Wanamaker (Pittsburgh) and Preston Knowles (Louisville). I am operating under the assumption that incoming recruit Lance Stephenson will clear the NCAA (academics and amateur status) and displace Dixon, if not 5 minutes into Fall practice, then earlier. Given the Villanova staff's preference for playing upper classmen over freshmen, Pena ought to get a long look at #4/#5, as Yarou gets up to speed.

The St. John's rising junior cohort -- there are six players total among the 22 (rising juniors) I began with -- is well balanced. They share the ball and shooting responsibilities pretty well, with possessions ranging from 23 (Rob Thomas) down to 17 (Malik Boothe), 4 had right around 20% of the possessions. The shot distribution is wider (25.9 down to 13.9), but again there are 4 who take about 20% of the shots when they are on the floor -- balanced enough to make defense a headache. I included DJ Kennedy and Sean Evans in my Ten to Watch. Paris Horne took 26% of the shots in 2009 when he was on the floor. Lack of other options, may have been one reason for his prolific shooting, though his ability to hit 51% of his FGAs inside the arc was most likely the other. If Horne can significantly improve on his 33% conversion rate from beyond the arc (while maintaining his 26% share of the shooting), he will make one of the All-Big East (not to mention my ooops list) teams next March. As of now however I am looking for candidates on the Red Storm squad who are most likely to "grow" their role in the offense, and Horne already takes a large share of it. Justin Burrell and Malik Boothe share a few of the same problems. They both logged a good number of minutes, but each has problems converting their FGAs into FGMs. Combined with high turnover rates (23.7 & 31.8 respectively -- see Pomeroy's St. John's Team Report), that leaves each with low (<100.0) offensive ratings (ORtg). For Burrell there is the additional problem of playing in the low post. St. John's under Norm Roberts has become known for physical play in the paint, and Burrell, with 4.7 fouls per 40 minutes (which goes with his 4.7 fouled per 40 minutes), continues the tradition. Villanova's Dante Cunningham had problems with being effective until he managed to control his fouling problem. The same may hold for Burrell. The "other forward" playing in tandem with Burrell, Sean Evans, made my list largely because he logged better numbers than Burrell. Whether shot efficiency, rebounding, even fouling, Evans posted more efficient numbers. Opponents may foul him less next season if he makes his free throws more consistently (51% is terrible, and very correctable). And if those opponents are less inclined to foul, Evans may convert more of his FGAs. Rob Thomas is the last of the Johnnies I considered. His numbers are good (%Poss -- 23.0; %Shot -- 25.4; ORtg -- 108.8; eFG% -- 51.1), but his minutes are low, especially relative to the other St. John's players in the rotation. Thomas, coming off a red shirt freshman season, logged far more minutes in 2009 than he did in 2008. He will get more in 2010. His numbers, very promising at 28.9% of the time at his position, will will really help the Johnnies if they stand up when his PT is doubled. Dele Coker, St. John's 7th rising junior, logged a modest 22.7% of the playing time at the #5. If the Burrell-Evans tandem continues to improve, Coker may see even less time next season.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Reggie Redding on the Bench

Villanova University announced that senior guard/forward Reggie Redding has lost his status as a "student in good standing" for the Fall 2009. Redding will remain enrolled in the University and will continue to attend classes. He will be allowed to practice with the team, but will be benched for all games played during the Fall 2009 semester. Coach Wright added his own assessment in the press release, indicating his support for the process and punishment, even as he affirmed his opinion of Reggie as "a quality person".

The fall semester ends on December 18. While Redding will not participate in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in November, given the uncertainty in the schedule, I am not sure exactly how many games for which Reggie will be benched. Right now the number is 7, but a few more dates/times/opponents need to be settled.

The civil authorities still have punishment to assess, so there remains one more set of punishments to assess.

Opposition Research -- An A10 Walkaround

Assessing the Damage
Three members of the Big 5 also share a conference affiliation through the A10, which makes the yearly ebb and flow in that conference of more than passing interest to Wildcat fans (especially the basketball fans). Last season Villanova, by accident of invitational tournaments and scheduling design played nearly ½ of the conference during the OOC part of their season. Along with the 3 Big 5 opponents, Villanova will complete a home-n-home series with Fordham this season, the when and where are still TBD, though November and the CAA Arena in the Meadowlands, NJ have been in circulation for a few weeks. Dayton has been assigned to Villanova's bracket in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Though the Wildcats and Flyers are not matched up in their first game, depending on results, the two may meet in their second game. The College Chalk Talk Blog has been running a couple of series of interest in the off season. Their 2 part "Damage Assessment" series provides a quick summary of key losses to each program, packaged with an assessment and explanation. Dayton, Fordham and La Salle are covered in "Part 1". For Dayton (expected to contend for the A10 title this season if Gary Parrish's early summer Top 25 Plus 1, which ranks Dayton at #17 proves accurate) and La Salle losses are "minimal" (smallest impact rating). Dayton, according to the summary, "has arguably the best forward in the league to help make up for..." the departing player. That forward, Chris Wright, was listed among the Honorable Mentions on Dick Vitale's All Rolls Royce Team in July. College Chalk Talk also ran a "5 Questions" style interview with Assistant Coach Jon Borovich. Borovich provided some background on the Flyers' incoming class, a few of Dayton's returning players (with a comment about injured pg Rob Lowry's status) and expectations for the 2010 season. CBSsportsLine's Team Report says Lowry will be back for this season, but the Flyers still need some outside scoring.

The assessment for Fordham is "significant", the return of Jio Fontan, an A10 All-Rookie and All-3rd Team'er the only event that saved the Rams from a "total" (the worst impact rating) damage assessment. As the Rams lost two guards through transfer at the end of the 2009 season, Fordham denied Fontan's request for a release and touched off a controversy that brought comments and press statements from his parents, his High School Coach (Bob Hurley of St. Anthony's), a few Rutgers players (former St. Anthony's teammates, with Rutgers rumored to be his destination) and bloggers from New Jersey and metropolitan New York. Fontan joined the Puerto Rican U19 team (with Rutgers' #2 guard Mike Rosario) and played in the FIBA U19 Championship in New Zealand, giving everyone space to return to their corners and assess their options. The Rams bring in 6 more freshmen this season, in what increasingly looks like -- at best -- a slight improvement over last seasons' 3-25 campaign. Head Coach Dereck Whittenburg has to feel some heat going into this season.

Damage Assessment for the Explorers is also minimal which, combined with the arrival of consensus A10 preseason Rookie of the Year Aric Murray, puts expectations very high for the senior-led team. The summer started with good news (for La Salle) as Philadelphia native Earl Pettis decided to transfer from Rutgers and sit the 2010 season before joining the Explorers for the 2011 season. Senior forward Mekongo Mbala will spend the first part of August competing in the FIBA Africa Championship with the Cameroon National Team.

Damage assessments for the latter part of the A10's alphabet revealed "significant" damage for both St. Joseph's and Temple. The Joe's, coming off of a 17-15 season are, staggered by the loss of A10 (and Big 5) Player of the Year Ahmad Nevins, who will continue his career in Spain next season (the 6-9 forward signed with Manresa in the ACB League) and without a step-in replacement for their front court. Also departed is point guard Tasheed Carr, a transfer who put in his last two years with the Hawks. While the CBS Team Report notes that Coach Phil Martelli may have found replacements, the entering class will replace losses (to some degree), but add no more depth than the Hawks have had for the past several seasons. According to Coach Phil Martelli, who also sat for a "5 Questions" interview, the Hawks will compensate for the loss of Nivins by spreading the shooting responsibility and putting more motion in their offense. With a raw pace of 65.2 the Hawks were ranked #219 out of 344 DI teams by Ken Pomeroy last season. He looks to Garret Williamson and Darrin Govins to step into the leadership vacuum left by Nivins and Carr. Opening their renovated (and expanded) field house to host more on campus games should be a morale booster.

Like St. Joseph's, Temple loses their best (and the A10 champion) scorer, along with a senior center and their point guard. According to CBS' Team Report, Coach Dunphy has some good players coming back and others coming in (even the College Chalk Talk bloggers believe the Owls will finish near the top of next season's A10), but, like the Joe's, Temple may go through the season with a shallow bench. In his 5 Question Interview Coach Dunphy fielded questions about rising sophomore Juan Fernandez, an Argentine pg who has been compared to Temple great Pepe Sanchez. When asked about "the critical stat" for the Owls he answered turnovers. If shooting efficiency does step back from last season (with a team eFG% of 51.5, the Owls were ranked #88 in DI by Ken Pomeroy), limiting turnovers (with a TO% of 18.9%, the Owls, ranked #77 in 2009, are doing pretty well already).

Late Additions
I posted this walkaround on 8/14, but in the meantime, ESPN published an extensive update on the conference on the 19th. A detailed look at the entire conference, it appears that Fran Fraschilla also believes Dayton will dominate the conference. The second game in Puerto Rico, should both the Wildcats and Flyers advance from their first round game, could loom large for later in the season. Fraschilla also sees the Owls and Explorers finishing in the upper division, suggesting those two will provide good games for the 'Cats in December.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Early August Odds and Ends Around the Big East

The Dog Days of summer are approaching, but the basketball news continues...

Puerto Rico Tip-Off tidbits
Villanova's potential 2nd round opponent Georgia Tech reported that freshman forward Kammeon Holsey tore his ACL on August 1 and will undergo surgery Wednesday. Holsey will red shirt for the 2009-10 season. Holsey, part of the consensus best recruiting class in the country going into 2009-10, is not the biggest name in the group (that honor goes to consensus #1 recruit Derrick Favors), but his loss will be a blow to the Jackets, who are expected to be competitive in the ACC this season.

A possible 3rd round opponent Mississippi announced the return (and complete recovery) of guards Chris Warren and Trevor Gaskins, along with guard-forward Eniel Polynice, all red shirt injuries from the 2009 season. Warren, Gaskins and Polynice are expected to be cleared to resume all basketball activities within the next 2 weeks. Zach Graham, limited by a partial tear of his patella tendon, underwent surgery at season's end, and has according to Coach Andy Kennedy, made considerable progress and should be cleared before the beginning of the season.

Change in the Big East Tournament Format?
Kevin McNamara over at the Providence Journal penned an article for the Sunday paper that the Big East was looking at a Tuesday round that would match the #1 - #4 seeds against the #13 - #16 seeds in Madison Square Garden. The winners would "lay over" until Thursday when they would play the winners from the Wednesday round (#5 - #8 seeds matched against the #9 - #12 seeds). In this proposed format, the #1 through #4 seeds would trade a two round bye for a Tournament Week mini-break. Losing two of the four top seeds in their first outing (the quarterfinal game on Thursday), while a third, Villanova, needed a last (literally) second shot to beat Marquette no doubt provoked some second thoughts. And ESPN passed on televising the first round game, which I am sure played a role too. Under the proposed format teams #1 through #8 would play in the first days, giving ESPN a number of (possibly) interesting match ups to televise. The conference's Presidents will decide sometime in September.

Pittsburgh Picks Up Another pg
The Panthers accepted Centenary College's point guard, 5-11 rising junior Chase Adams, as a transfer for the 2009-10 season earlier this week. Adams, slated to be a senior with a single season of eligibility remaining, will have his one season waiting period waived because Centenary voted to downgrade to DIII last month. Pittsburgh blogger Chris Dokish fills out the details (and thinking) on this late summer "roster move" as part of a longer (and more detailed) look at the state of the Pitt program, over at the New Big East Report.

Jeff Goodman penned a late summer look at the Marquette Golden Eagles as part of his summer series. The staff will rebuild with a mixed bag of JUCOs and high school recruits, several of whom are well regarded, but for the most part flying under the national media radar.

Also from the New Big East Report blogger Zach Smart offers a look at the St. John's Red Storm. The lead in to Smart's piece not surprisingly, is Coach Robert's status. Smart provides a run down on old and new faces. To date the bloggers over at the New Big East Report have rolled out only 5 "summer reports". Better get busy guys, you need to start the official previews (late) next month.

Christmas on the Mainline?
Sorry could not resist. Speculation (and excitement) over Top 10 recruit, Class of 2011 forward Rakeem Christmas is rising as the 6-9 220 pound forward announced his short list of 8 schools. Villanova, along with fellow Big East member Georgetown are still in the running for the Philadelphia high schoolers verbal. Also on the list are elite schools Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Baylor. Looks like the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC are represented.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rising Seniors -- Ten Nine to Watch

Last Impressions?
Luke Harangody won't make this list. Neither will Lazar Hayward nor Scottie Reynolds. They are names already, having made their marks during their freshmen or sophomore seasons. Every season a Hilton Armstrong, or a Rob Kurz, a Jon Wallace or a Dante Cunningham lands in the national press (and picks up a post season Big East award or two) seemingly out of nowhere. Invisible to all but their team's fans, these seniors tend to start somewhere back in the pack, but unlike their classmates, they improve every season. By Pomeroy's classification system they may start as "Role" or "Limited Role" player, and grow into a "Major" or "Go-to Guy" player over the course of their four years. Pomeroy discusses growth "probabilities" in "Putting Individual Efficiency into Perspective" over at The Basketball Prospectus back in 2007. One thing about these players is clear -- they tend to push at the upper limit of their growth curve each season. A few things are clear about the Hilton Armstrongs and Dante Cunninghams -- they are drawing a good share of the minutes at their position going into their senior seasons and they are drawing somewhere between 18% - 20% of the possessions when they are on the floor...their teammates know who they are and can find them on the floor...and trust them.

On Offense...

Jermaine Dixon, a JUCO out of Tallahassee JC in Florida, will spend his second (and last) at Pitt as a wing, distinguished as the lone returning starter. Dixon was shy about contact, an unPitt-like characteristic, taking about 42% of his FGAs from beyond the arc and hitting at a < 30% rate. He will draw more attention this season, but will no doubt improve his accuracy as well. If he can step in and take some of the production left by the exits of Same Young, Levance Fields and DaJuan Blair, he will get noticed. Sharaud Curry, Arinze Onuaku, Stanley Robinson and Andy Rautins, like Dixon, face similar circumstances, they have started (and will start next season) for teams depleted by graduation and NBA dreams. Rautins split time on the wing with Harris and Devendorf (both departed). Alongside a well regarded transfer from Iowa State, Wesley Johnson, Rautins will have a few more opportunities to contribute, both as a scoring option (expanding his reportoire of shots) and as a distributor. The De Paul staff encouraged Will Walker to take a larger share of the offense at the end of last season. With off guard Dar Tucker off to Europe(?), the immediate responsibility for outside scoring will fall to Walker, at least in the near term. Whether he can keep it will depend on whether he can improve on his 36.8% conversion rate.

On Defense...
Jermaine DixonPitt61.59.213.714.03.03.4
Sharaud CurryPC79.25.423.419.40.01.8
Arinze OnuakuCuse64.816.64.317.85.31.0
Andy RautinsCuse67.510.518.
Will WalkerDPU86.
Reggie ReddingNova71.913.018.823.62.22.2
Stanley RobinsonUConn47.215.48.819.63.91.4
Eugene HarveySHU83.96.927.521.10.32.5
Robert MitchellSHU83.716.

The Pirates expect their new faces (transfers from Missouri, Memphis and New Mexico State) will give the squad an upgrade in talent. On that theory both Eugene Harvey and Robert Mitchell should get better. For Mitchell, a transfer himself, playing his 2nd season in the Big East, the expectations for improvement should be high. Pending resolution of a legal matter,Villanova's Reggie Redding, a versatile guard-forward, has at one time or another, played anywhere from the #1 to the #4. Versatility -- and defense -- has been the key for Redding, who started a handful of games his freshman season when Mike Nardi was hobbled. Though his shot lacked accuracy, Redding got the nod over older, more polished scorers. His long range shooting stills (30.3%) still need work, but if he can improve that feature of his game he will contribute even more to the team his last season.

And Then There's...
Ok, I know I said I would not mention Lazar Hayward (among others), but the rising junior will be the 1st and 2nd option on offense until transfer Dwight Buycks gets up to speed. Hayward was one of the go-to guys on the World University Games that won the bronze medal in Belgrade in July. He will get a lot of looks next season.

And a thank you to Ken Pomeroy for use of the stats from his Scout Pages.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dove Entrails, Tea Leaves and Returning Minutes...and Pythagoras

So I Was Surfing the Web, Minding My Own Business...
Ok, not really. I logged into VBTN late last week and found a link back notation from the guys over at the UM Blog, who (as desparate for hoops discussions as I am) decided to apply returning percentages to the Big Ten teams to see if anything interesting shook out. The tidbit that peaked my interest (and inspired this post) was their reference to the guys over at The Only Colors Blog (they are a Michigan State blog) who crossed each (Big Ten again) team's returning minutes (percentage) with their previous season's Pomeroy rating (the team's Pythagorean Winning percentage actually) to produce a pretty interesting scatter chart, which plots the conference's eleven members on an X (returning minutes) and Y (Pomeroy's Pythagorean-based rating) Axis. Their chart may be problematic since they used Pomeroy's data for their returning minutes (a bit incomplete, given that Pomeroy does not include players whose %Min are <10%). The idea for the chart came from this diagram over at the Big Ten Geeks Blog, a blog I added to the blog roll last August (when they started up). The Geeks are on hiatus for the summer, but hopefully they will be back for this season. Where did The Only Colors get the idea of crossing returning minutes with Pythagoras? I can't be certain, but on my way over to see their scatter chart I found a reference at Rival's The Dagger Blog (his Extra Onions series, a kind of "walk around D1 basketball" feature) that contained a link (embedded in a rant) to the Vegas Watch Blog's post on using Pomeroy's Rating with returning minutes to project that team's rating for the next season.

A Reliable Metric?
Vegas Watch regressed the previous season's Pomeroy Ratings and returning minutes from every team affiliated with the six major conferences, and determined there was a statistically significant relationship -- strong Pomeroy Ratings and high returning minutes generally translated into strong Pomeroy Ratings for the next season. There are of course outliers, but not many. The Only Colors' idea seems like a good one, and frankly I was interested to see how the conference would align, but before I looked at 2009 numbers, I decided to look at the Pythagorean percentages and returning minutes for 2008. The quadrants were organized like this:

Pomeroy: Below Average
Ret. Mins: Above Average
Pomeroy: Above Average
Ret. Mins: Above Average
Pomeroy: Below Average
Ret. Mins: Below Average
Pomeroy: Above Average
Ret. Mins: Below Average

It was not a neat, 4 team per quadrant breakdown, but the breakout was interesting. Not just for those predictable (good teams in the good quadrant, bad teams in the bad quadrant) team, but also for the outliers, those teams that seemed to run against the assumptions. I ordered the teams within each quadrant by highest Pomeroy Rating.

Seton Hall
Notre Dame
De Paul
South Florida
St. John's
West Virginia

The X-Y intersection (average for returning minutes & Pomeroy Rating) is 0.689 and 0.8361. Finding De Paul, South Florida and St. John's in the lower left quadrant is not surprising. Even finding Cincinnati in that company is only a little surprising, since the Bearcats' conference record had not changed from 2008. Providence registered a good improvement over their 2008 finish (12th up to 8th), while Seton Hall compiled an identical record (& finish -- 11th). Though Rutgers had a very high "return" rate (about 89%), the Scarlet Knight's Pythagorean Winning Percentage was (by far) the worst in the conference (0.495). The Scarlet Knights actually lost ground in the conference win column (3 down to 2), but finished one place higher (16th to 15th). The "blue" quadrant looks like a winner, except for Georgetown. The Hoyas' 2009 results seem to conflict with the other teams' results, until I compared returning minutes. Both Pittsburgh and West Virginia returned over 60% of their 2008 minutes (66.3% & 61.0% respectively). Georgetown returned 43.8% of their minutes. If I had an nickel for every analyst who projected the 2009 order of finish according to the "green" quadrant I could probably afford a better skin for VBTN (or at least a nicer vacation destination next summer). But Notre Dame will drive us all to the poorhouse (if we gambled and if we bet on Notre Dame). Of the teams in the "green" quadrant, Villanova returned the highest percentage of minutes, which might explain how the Wildcats finished above the Orange. Marquette's loss of Dominic James is a reminder of how a season can turn on a critical injury.

How About 2010?
Mapping 2010 returning minutes (at least what we know so far -- see Disclaimers... below) with 2009 Pythagorean Winning percentage (from Ken Pomeroy's Big East Page -- many thanks to Ken Pomeroy for making this data available) yields a scatter chart that looks like this:

X-Y intersection in this data set is 0.583 and 0.8088 -- a modest drop in both measures. Declining returning minutes makes sense when you consider the graduation of seniors and the exodus of NBA talent. The drop in the Pomeroy Rating is more paradox than contradiction. The standard deviation for Pomeroy Ratings in 2008 was 0.1407, for 2009 it was 0.1789. The teams at the top of the conference pounded the teams at the bottom. 75% of the teams sorted out to the "blue" and "yellow" quadrants this time. A hint that next season's conference will be more competitive than last season's? Most likely I suspect. Taking up sole residence in the "red" quadrant suggests a long season ahead for Providence fans. Among the "yellow" quadrant teams, Seton Hall and Cincinnati are positioned, relative to the Y Axis, much like Providence was going into last season. Upward mobility in the conference may be in the offering for both. St. John's has been mentioned as another candidate for upward mobility. I confess I am not sure what to make of the Johnnies' location on the chart however. Rutgers and South Florida track very closely, can a large separation in finishing ranks next season be chalked up to coaching? Like St. John's, De Paul sits in an "outlier" location on the chart. Rutgers had a similar spot (low Pythagorean WP, relatively high returning minutes), which translated into a slight rise in rank, but a decline in wins.

Like Seton Hall and Cincinnati, Louisville sits in a "blue" quadrant spot similar to where Pittsburgh was going into last season. The Panthers finished in a 1st place tie with the Cardinals in 2009 and ran to the Elite Eight. I suspect, should it come to pass, that Cardinal fans would not be too disappointed. With their three guards and Dwight Burke moving on few would argue that Marquette will struggle in 2010. Location on the chart suggests the Golden Eagles will fall more than a spot or two in conference standings. Connecticut fans (and more than a few in the media) anticipate the Huskies will compete for the conference title. Pittsburgh & Syracuse no doubt have hopes too. The chart could hint however, at a very brisk competition for spots #4 through #8 in the conference, where experience (but not winning track records) will contend with winning track records (but less experience). Among the "green" quadrant teams, Georgetown's location is a bit of a surprise. After dropping nearly 8 spots in the Big East standings in 2009, I was frankly a little surprised to see the Hoyas place so well. Those anticipating Georgetown will again compete for conference honors may not be far off base.

Rosters for 5 programs have not been made public. Coupled with suspensions to Mountaineer players Joe Mazzulla and Truck Bryant (though if Bryant's participation in a European tour is a hint, he will most likely be reinstated to the team at some point in the next 3 or so months), West Virginia's returning minutes may be understated. Pending resolution of Reggie Redding's case, Villanova's returning minutes may be overstated. Radically alter those two teams and the scatter chart changes. The unpredictable events -- injuries, staff conflicts, chemistry problems within the team -- are impossible to graph.