Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Oh Canada! After the Storm

Rolling Through Ottawa
As I noted at the end of the UQAM post Sunday morning, the Johnnies hung a 17 point win on the Carleton Univesity Ravens, possibly the high point of their Canadian Excursion. The Ravens, rebuilding from the loss of Aaron Doornekamp (who played for the Canadian National Team before heading off to Italy to begin his professional career), looked to a few of their younger players to fill the void left by Dornekamp. After trailing by 4 at half-time, the Red Storm blew past the Ravins in the first 5½ minutes of the 2nd half, and never looked back. The efficiency stats for the team...

St. John's60.553.7117.31.1418.55.031.536.08.2

In a game whose pace was the most "DI like" of the quartet, the Johnnies put on one of their better offensive performances. Reflecting the level of their competition, St. John's defensive numbers were the worst of the trip. Each team negated the others offensive rebounding, neither team had many 2nd chance opportunities. By comparison though, the Johnnies did get the worse of the deal, grabbing a very slight 18.5% of their misses. The disadvantage went unnoticed because the Red Storm shot so well...

Nicks & Dings...Or Weary Legs?
The evening tilt against the Ottawa University Gee Gees, while counted as a win, was less impressive. Ottawa University, typically the bridesmaid to Carleton's domination in the CIS post season tournament, put up a surprisingly strong effort as they took the Red Storm down to (literally) the last seconds before bowing by a single point, 74-73. The efficiency stats suggest this was a loosely played game between two up tempo clubs, each of whom managed to lose over 20% of their possessions (Gee Gees -- 27.9%, Red Storm -- 22.6%)...

St. John's74.499.453.61.1237.922.837.550.017.3

Comparing St. John's eFG% and PPWS in the two games and I found a surprisingly consistent accuracy (even the FTA/FGA suggests the same level of "aggression" on offense/defense between the two games). The biggest difference was turnover rates -- versus the Ravens the Johnnies lost 5% of their possessions, while versus the Gee Gees the Johnnies lost a disappointing 22.8%. Their turnovers nearly negated their shooting. St. John's steals (17.3%) was due in large measure to Malik Boothe and Justin Brownlee, who combined for 9 steals. Coach Roberts went with a short rotation, using only 8 players (all of whom played double digit minutes). His starters (Boothe, Brownlee, Evans, Horne and Kennedy) combined to play 71.3% of the minutes, extremely high for an exhibition game. The staff decided to leave Anthony Mason Jr. behind due to a minor injury, and that decision seemed to set the tone for the trip. Justin Burrell played only 8 minutes in the 1st game (versus McGill), while Quincy Roberts, after logging 20 minutes versus McGill, received only 9 minutes in the UQAM game and did not appear in either of the Sunday games (and was also rumored to be slightly injured). Rob Thomas and Kevin Clark, both (deep) bench players did not see the floor versus the Gee Gees, despite logging minutes versus Carleton, UQAM and McGill.

Summing Up the Players
I have compiled the efficiency stats for those who logged any time in the 4 game tour...


Granted 4 games (about 160 minutes of playing time per player) is a very small sample from which to draw conclusions. Efficiencies for players logging < 10% of the playing time is even dicier. Take those numbers with an even bigger grain of salt than the others. The four game mix does however, provide an opportunity to see (I caught the streaming video from Carleton Sunday. It was wonderful to see a college basketball game over Labor Day...) the team and review the numbers. A few things occur to me as I look over the box scores and the spreadsheets.
1. The true freshmen are well, true freshmen. Stith and Lawrence had PPWSs =<0.99 and ORtgs in the range of the mid 80s (Lawrence) to the mid 90s (Stith), very typical of freshmen. They will be good players in time, but I doubt they will be game-changers, or players that will have an immediate impact on St. John's play.
2. The JUCOs hung with the veterans, which is a good sign. When I read that Justin Brownlee, a forward out of Chipola College in Florida had committed to St. John's my first question was "Where is this guy going to get time?". The team has a serious supply of forwards. Brownlee fit in. With the limited time he still managed to produce points fairly efficiently. The same holds for off guard Dwight Hardy, who will provide another outside threat to compliment junior Paris Horne. Though Hardy seems to be a bit shy when it comes to contact (see his FTA/FGA), his shooting efficiency was 2nd to Horne, as he converted 38.9% of his 3FGAs on his way to scoring 51 points (tied for 2nd on the team with Horne, behind DJ Kennedy). With an In/Out rating of -39.5, he was the "most outside" player on the team, among those who logged 20% or more of the playing time. Horne by the way, had a very good run over the weekend too. Tied with Hardy with 51 points, he shot an outstanding 42.9% from beyond the arc, making him the 3rd most effective shooter on the team, behind Evans and Hardy. Outside scoring was a significant shortcoming for the Johnnies' offense in 2009, the Horne/Hardy tandem, if as effective during the season as they were in Canada, could make a big difference for opposing defenses.
3. Malik Boothe is still his own worst enemy. The junior point guard had an eFG% of 53.3, along with a PPWS of 1.18, among the best on the team. But his ORtg was still below 100 because his turnover rate was an abysmal 26.0%, extremely high for a point guard. Boothe offered a mixed bag of numbers -- very good shooting, tops on the team for Stl%, abysmal turnover rate and a too modest 16% assist rate -- which may well make rotation decisions difficult during the regular season. Malik Stith, the freshman pg, offered less effective shooting numbers (translated into a modest eFG% and PPWS), but assisted at about the same rate as Boothe, but with a smaller turnover rate.
4. Kennedy & Evans continue to be the best rebounders on the team. Burrell logged too few minutes for accurate measure, but Evans and Kennedy continued where they left off last season. On the defensive boards, the newcomers Brownlee and Lawrence proved to be credible rebounders. The Carleton game was unusual for St. John's in that it was the only time on the Canadian Tour, and only 11 times (out of 34 games)last season that the Johnnies were outrebounded. Especially interesting given the Ravens had lost Doornekamp, their big rebounder.

Caveat Emptor!
The Canadian Junket offers many positives, no wonder the NCAA banned them. Aside from giving the team an excuse to conduct full practices in late August (an especially bad time for pickup game injuries), the northern tours allow teams to travel relatively cheaply as they play other, collegiate-level (admittedly largely -- but not exclusively -- DII level) competition under the supervision of their college coaches. The Canadians have a chance to compete with some outstanding American programs, and both sides learn and benefit from the early exchange. The strongest new players to emerge on the Villanova team when they took their Canadian Tour in the 2007-08 season were (true) freshmen Malcolm Grant and Corey Stokes. From Stokes it was expected, but Grant was a surprise of sorts. The 3rd freshman guard, Corey Fisher, struggled very publicly during the tour. Stokes appeared completely lost in a number of early season games, saw his minutes diminished while he regained his focus. Grant, after a handful of early season heroics, faded to the bench, and received virtually no minutes during the Wildcat's season ending run to the Sweet Sixteen. Corey Fisher's time slowly grew during the season, and by March it was he, not Grant, who drew the rotation minutes during the NCAA run.


Norman Rose said...

note, of course, that injuries played a large part in the minute distribution - Burrell may have fractured his hand, and Quincy Roberts had a concussion. Evans was a little dinged up, as was Rob Thomas. And Dele Coker missed the trip due to visa issues...

Thanks for the recap!

greyCat said...

Thanks for the update on the players Pico. I knew Burrell and Roberts were on the shelf for health-related problems (didn't know how serious -- hope they are both back quickly). Other than the Ottawa game, where injuries were clearly a factor in how the minutes were allocated (and without a doubt influenced the closeness of the game), I tried not to "draw conclusions" on the way in which the minutes were allocated. I had a chance to catch the Carleton game on streaming video. Brownlee and Hardy looked like they will help a lot this season. Stith and Lawrence may take more time.