Sunday, November 29, 2009

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Breaking Down Duke vs UConn

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY - This one needs special mention. It was a game not really as close as the final score indicates. Yet it was one that UConn had to a three possession affair in the waning minutes. In a hard fought game where "made shots were not easy to come by," per coach Mike Krzyzewski, his Duke Blue Devils defeated UCONN 68-59 to capture the Pre-Season NIT. The four factors...


Among the four factors the figure that jumps off the page is offensive rebounding percentage. Duke owned the offensive bards, extended possessions and offset their 32% eFG mark. Duke enjoyed a 56-43 rebounding edge and a 25-14 edge on the offensive glass.

Of added significance
By intermission the Blue Devils already had their defensive stamp on the contest:


The second half , Duke shot 28% (8 of 29). In addition they had one field goal (a Jon Scheyer 15 foot jumper) the final 12 minutes. Teams chart possessions on the bench. UCONN coach Jim Calhoun noted there was one point in the second half Duke scored once in ten possessions, yet the Huskies could not take advantage and seize the opportunity. UConn did not hit a three pointer. They were 0 for 4 but that was not a huge concern in Calhoun’s estimation because they opted to penetrate and attack the rim. Duke was 6 of 18 from beyond the arc. Virtually overlooked was Duke’s excellent turnover rate against an opponent whose defensive press was a major concern. In a game where lane penetration was not for the faint of heart, four players fouled out, two from each team. Duke’s Jon Scheyer (tournament MVP) led all scorers with 19 points. Nolan Smith added 16 for Duke. Jerome Dyson paced UConn with 15. Lance Thomas (5) and Brian Zoubek (7) did appreciable damage with those totals un the offensive boards. The game featured two hall of fame coaches with a combined five national championships and over 1600 wins.

"We held them to 28% shooting and they scored eight field goals the second half and we lost. I can’t remember something like that happening to us." - Jim Calhoun

"We are pleased and feel privileged to win the Pre-Season NIT. Especially with the Carlesimo name engraved on the championship trophy." - Mike Krzyzewski

* Next up a run down of tendencies from the three prior games from the Pre-Season NIT.

La Salle Post Game -- Home for the Holidays

Extended Celebrations
A scant 30 minutes after the Wildcat football team vanquished the Cursaders of Holy Cross, 38-28, to move to the quarter final round of the FCS Division Championship, their roundball counterparts tipped off the second leg of their 2010 Big 5 slate. About 2 hours later they too officially vanquished their opponents, the Explorers of La Salle University, 81-63, to run their Big 5 record to 2-0, and their season record to 6-0. On a weekend when the campus student population was depleted, at home no doubt, giving thanks for family and blessings, the men's D1 teams were giving thanks for victories won and thinking no doubt, of games yet to play.

The intrepid bloggers who follow Villanova basketball have begun to post their game stories, largely of the "quick recap" variety. Mike over at filed a 3 paragraph game summary that noted the win was the team's 30th consecutive at the Pavilion. Brian over at IBBW blog filed a set of Brief Post Game Notes which included some 3 point shooting stats, a kudo to Reynolds and Pena as the the Wildcats' high scorers (and a nod to Explorer forward Jerrell Williams who had a monster day on the boards for the city school), along with a note that Taylor King was benched in the 1st half for blowing a rebounding assignment. True this was not a good day for the Cats' front court, but King was benched when he picked up his 2nd foul of the 1st half. David over at Villanovan Sports Blog posted a game recap also. He noted the high scorers, the Explorer's significant rebounding margin and Villanova's significant turnover margin. The official website carries the usual AP wire story, quotes from the post game press conference and the box score. The breakdown by halves.

OpponentLa Salle 
 Offense Defense

You Can't Convert What You Don't Have
Dean Oliver and Ken Pomeroy have written about the "Four Factors" on numerous occasions. Both identify field goal efficiency (eFG%) as the determinant element in a team's profile. Hmmm, you are thinking, hardly a revelation, but when combined with the influence of the other three factors (turnover rate, offensive rebounding percentage and free throw efficiency, identified at TORate, OR% and FTA/FGA respectively in the table above), along with pace (the number of possessions the team gets during the game), can often sketch out a unique "profile", offensively and defensively, of any team in high school or college (or the NBA for that matter...) basketball. Consider the orange highlighted numbers above, all from La Salle's offense (and Villanova's defense). The Explorers went into the locker room at the half down by 8 despite a very respectable field goal conversion rate (eFG%) and domination underneath their basket. Why? The Explorers lost about half (49.5%) of their possessions. Had they lost a still terrible 24.7% of their possessions in the 1st half, all other numbers constant, they would have gone into the locker room with an 8 point lead. A 78.2 efficiency rating would have jumped to a 124.0 rating. The Explorers did cut down on turnovers significanctly in the 2nd half -- note the decline from 49.5 to 21.5 in the table. Their decline in field goal efficiency (54.5 down to 25.7) however, affirms the original point, efficient conversion of field goal attempts is the dominant factor. The Explorers did raise their rating, from 78.2 to 88.2, but they were unable to cut into, much less reverse, the Wildcat lead...defense counts too.

Notes & Observations
1. Mark the day & team, because this was Dominic Cheek's first double digit scoring day as a Wildcat. There will be many, many more as the freshman off guard scored 10 points on 3-6 (0-2, 3-4) and 4-5 shooting. The freshman also grabbed 2 offensive rebounds, had 1 assist along with 2 turnovers and a steal in 23 minutes. Congratulations Dominic!
2. Scottie Reynolds scored 14 points on 5-13 (2-8, 3-5) and 2-2 shooting. With his points today Scottie passed the 1,700 points mark. He passed Curt Sumpter (and Paul Arizin) to take the #12 spot on Villanova's All-time scorers list during the Tip Off Classic last week. Scottie has also accumulated 18 more assists though 6 games this season. He has at 392 career assists, 1 less than Whitey Rigsby, #14 on Villanova's All-time list. Expect Reynolds to pass Rigsby in the Drexel game on Wednesday. Scottie also has 8 more steals this season, giving him 164 total for his career. He passed Dante Cunningham today to take #11 on the list. Expect him to overtake Stewart Granger for #10 in the St. Joseph's game. While Kerry Kittles, Ed Pinckney and Randy Foye are ranked in Villanova's all-time top 10 for steals and points, no player is ranked in the top 10 on the assist, steal and points scored list. If Reynolds stays on pace, he should finish the season among the best 10 on all 3 lists.
3. With 14 points scored, Antonio Pena tied Scottie Reynolds for team-high points. In a season for firsts for Antonio, this is the first time he has scored the team-high in his career.
4. The Villanova front court rotation (Pena, King, Armwood, Sutton and Stokes) were outrebounded badly by their La Salle counterparts (Aric Murray, Jerrell Williams, Terrell Williams and Yves Mekongo) (10-13) 23 to (25-15) 40. Not a good day for the Wildcats.

Ref Notes
Familiar face (to the Nova Nation, if not much of the Big East) John Cahill worked Karl Hess and Mike Roberts on the game. This is a veteran crew whose members (as individuals) worked 14 Villanova games last season (10-4), though today was the first Villanova game for each of them in the 2010 season. The crew whistled the teams for 46 fouls total, giving the squads a collective 68 free throw attempts. That is not the highest total this season (that distinction belongs to the Oglesby/Pollard/Randall team that worked the Mason game), but Cahill & Co. came close. They are now #2 this season.

Roster Notes
1. Freshman Mouphtaou Yarou continues to be evaluated by the coaching & medical staff. He, according to multiple sources, participated in some warmup drills with the team, but dressed in street clothes and sat on the bench for the game. Medical tests, due early next week, should provide guidance to the doctors to determine if he can rejoin the team.
2. According to the Villanovan Sports Blog, senior walk-on guard Jason Colenda has left the team to concentrate on finishing his degree work this year. Best of luck to Jason.
3. Junior bfc Antonio Pena, the starter for all 5 of Villanova's games this season, was benched for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Pena subbed in for Taylor King at the 17 minute mark of the 1st half and scored 14 points, snagged 8 rebounds while recording a block and 3 steals in 33 minutes of play.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Roster Moves -- Discipline?

I came across this piece from Gary Parrish over at Ebanks has not played in any of West Virginia's games this season, the subject, according to Parrish, of a disciplinary move by head coach Bob Huggins. The staff (ie Huggins) will not disclose the reason for Ebank's benching nor the length of time his punishment will run. According to Parrish, Ebanks' punishment will end...when the coach feels he is needed. The Mountaineers are playing in the 76 Classic, an early season invitational tournament held in Anaheim, CA. The field includes West Virginia, Long Beach State, Clemson, Texas A&M, Butler, UCLA, Minnesota and Portland. With Clemson, Butler, UCLA and Long Beach State (complements of the 'Eers) having lost in the 1st round, Ebanks was brought in to play 30 minutes in WVU's 2nd round game versus Texas A&M. Ebanks scored 12 points and dished 4 assists as West Virginia won 73-66.

Puerto Rico Tip Off -- What We Learned

PR Packing List...Sneakers? Check. Unis? Check. Basketballs? Check. Defense? Check. Offense? Offense?
I managed to catch the final of the Puerto Rico Tip Off on Sunday, the third time this season I have been able to catch a Villanova game. The competition, Mississippi, a more talented and athletic squad than the first two I saw (FDU and Penn), gave the Wildcats a more competitive game. I wanted to see the 'Cats play without Mouphtaou in the paint. I had broken down the box scores from the first two rounds and, absent Yarou, the numbers were not what I expected. The Villanova team that went to Philadelphia International was an offensive juggernaut, able to score outside and inside with ease. The defense was terrific, coming along well, but the squad's calling card was an offensive assault that threatened to score from (literally) anywhere on the court. The staff has an array of scorers who can pass it inside to the low post where any one of three players can finish, quick guards who can scrape by a high post screen and take it down the lane themselves, or a couple of artillery spotters whose range runs from the locker room door in. If Scottie's motor was still warming up, there were nine other players in the rotation who seemed not at all shy about taking the shot, and more often than not, able to finish the play.

According to KenPom & Oliver...
I compiled a "four factors" look at the field, as they performed in Puerto Rico. The data is sorted by won-loss record and then by efficiency difference (Defensive Rating subtracted from Offensive Rating).

Geo Tech69.7102.153.626.443.453.191.744.221.629.331.610.4
Kansas St.71.7110.051.019.940.472.0107.553.121.431.052.72.5
Geo Mason70.793.844.321.229.348.196.644.323.541.566.1-2.8
Boston U.72.795.139.719.129.458.2106.552.318.331.155.9-11.4
Std Dev3.

For those curious about the stats used, check Ken Pomeroy's explanation. Since no team played even ½ of the field, and given early hour of the season, I am reluctant to use the weekend results to draw broad conclusions about what will happen in March (or February, or January, or...), but as a closed system & a twelve game sample played over a long weekend, I did find a few of the numbers and outcomes interesting.

Appearances Can Be Deceiving
Looking over the brackets when they were first announced, I thought Villanova's seed and draw looked a lot like the fuzzy end of a lollipop. George Mason is from the CAA, but the Patriots seemed to be a more difficult first round draw than Boston University, or even Indiana. Facing either Georgia Tech or Dayton in the 2nd round (win or lose) seemed to offer no reward for an upset in the other pairing. The opposite bracket teams however ended up with a better cumulative record (5-4 vs 4-5), Villanova's sweep, and Indiana's skid aside. The brackets split their 3rd round, crossover games(Villanova & Georgia Tech won, Dayton & Mason lost). Through the first two games of the season and a somewhat similar set of circumstances in 2008 (back court then instead of front court), it seemed Villanova had a scoring machine with certain defensive question marks. For those watching the games and breaking down the box scores though, the conclusion for this weekend is quite the opposite. Villanova took this tournament on the back of it's defense.

Virtually all four areas of Villanova's defense showed up last weekend. The Wildcats put up some very good shot defense numbers (eFG% under defense above) -- 3rd among the 8 teams and below the average for the tournament. Villanova forced turnovers (ranked 2nd in the field) while controlling the defensive boards. Their defensive rebounding was best in the field, and well above the average of the field. They did a credible job keeping their opponenets off of the free throw line, posting below the average numbers for free throw attempts per field goal attempts even as they were ranked 3rd in the field in that category. If the Wildcats did not win their George Mason game until their last possession, the Patriots had their worst rebounding day -- on both ends of the floor -- in 2010. Dayton may have been down 2 with less than 2 minutes to go, but the Flyers posted their worst shot conversion efficiency numbers of the tournament. And their rebounding, at both ends of the floor, was the also a team worst for the tournament -- by a large (7 - 10 points) margin. For Mississippi the story was much the same. The Rebs posted their worst turnover, shot conversion and offensive rebounding percentages of the tournament, indeed of the season.

Observations & Gross Generalizations
1. Georgia Tech's numbers coming out of the tournament are impressive, until you realize they posted 2/3s of those totals against George Mason and Boston University. The gaudiest of their numbers came compliments of a 22 point blowout of a Boston University team that was severely shot-challenged in that game. The Terrier's eFG% was 39.5, even as their offensive rebounding rate (OR%) was 21.8%, a very low rate indeed. Against the only experienced front court team they faced in the tournament, the Jackets' offensive only yielded 0.87 points per possession, despite strong offensive rebounding.
2. For newly minted head coach Pat Chambers and his Boston University squad, the tournament, despite the 1-2 finish, had some positive points. The Terriers dropped their opener to Kansas State by a respectable 10 points and beat high-major Indiana before being blown out (85-67) by Georgia Tech in the 5th place game. The Terriers are one of 3 teams expected to fight it out for the American East Conference bid to the NCAAs, and this tournament experience can only help.
3. Dayton has a lot of work to do, despite the lofty preseason reviews. The Flyers were a top 30 offensive rebounding and a top 75 defensive rebounding team last season, but were ineffective on the defensive boards in all three Puerto Rico games, and limited offensively in 2 of their 3 games. Dayton's defensive efficiency declined game-by-game through each round of the tournament, a troubling sign for Coach Gregory.
4. Indiana has a long way to go, despite strides by Coach Tom Crean in the off season. Crean is Indiana's 3rd head coach since Bob Knight's departure in 2000, each coaching turnover brings turmoil and distractions to the legendary program. While the Hoosiers were competitive their 2nd and 3rd round losses to Boston University (by 4 points) and George Mason (by 3 points), their 1st round blowout at the hands of Mississippi (18 points) suggests Coach Crean may have to recruit yet another outstanding class before the Hoosiers will have enough talent to turn the corner. This is supposed to be an up season for the Big Ten, so improvements may be unrecognized when the team record remains unchanged or only modestly changed from 2009.
5. The pace for the Villanova-Mississippi, at 85 possessions, was ridiculously high, exhibition-season high. Villanova has been playing games in the low-mid 70s, while the Rebels have been mid 70s into the low 80s. The game then, was played at Mississippi's pace. The Wildcats posted their best defensive "four factors" numbers of the tournament in that last game, especially heartening given Yarou's non-participation and uncertain medical status going forward. Despite having an incomplete rotation, and dealing with last minutes personnel changes, the squad responded well through the three games.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: NJIT Notches #2

by Ray Floriani

NEWARK, NJ – That’s two in the books and it’s not even December. NJIT earned its second win of the season with a thrilling 56-51 decision over Wagner at the Fleischer Athletic Center.

A 72 Possession Contest:


The four factors...


The factors are very close with a noticeable difference being free throw production and eFG in NJIT’s favor. Highlander coach Jim Engles stressed in pre-game to contest the perimeter, even if it meant sacrificing something in the paint. Wagner’s Michael Orock (22 pts 14 rebounds) was effective inside but the Seahawks of the NEC could manage only 3 of 22 (14%) from beyond the arc.

The turnover rate was high for NJIT but not a difference as Wagner had similar problems in that category. Actually the turnovers, a consistently sore spot for the Highlanders last year, have been cut down. Through the first 3 games the NJIT TO rate was 16%. The 17 turnovers committed by NJIT on this night were not a huge concern for Engles. Simply it was a hard fought game where, "nothing came easy for anyone..." per Wagner coach Mike Deane.

The talent upgrade is very evident at NJIT. Last year’s point guard, 6-4 sophomore Isaiah Wilkerson is at his more ‘natural’ four spot. He paced NJIT with 17 points 13 boards.

"This was the type game we had a number of times late last season and couldn’t finish…Now we can go out on the court in a game like this and know we have a chance." – NJIT coach Jim Engles.

"We have to get better offensively. We are a young team and even our seniors are young experience wise and in terms of knowing their roles." - Wagner coach Mike Deane

Mississippi Post Game: Jay Wright's Flying Circus

Once Upon a Time in San Juan...
On a night when the Wildcat offense (again) did not get going until late, the defense showed up and smothered the Rebels enough to put the Wildcats back in the game. Recaps are available elsewhere, but for those interested in the numbers, there is no better place to look than the Wildcat's home. For those who prefer quick hits, try Mike Sheridan's game notes; they are a great way to get key information and statistics without wading through the paragraphs. The Wildcats were locked up in a nip & tuck stuggle (+- 5 points) with the Rebels until the 14:13 mark of the 2nd half. The 'Cats began to break it open, slowly (and that's about the only place in this analysis I can use that word...), opening their lead out to double digits (on a j by Corey Stokes) at about the 7 minute mark. The 'Cats managed to maintain the margin for another 9 possesions (per team), when a pair of 3s by Chris warren and 2 free throws by Reggie Buckner brought the Rebs to within 9 points, 63-72. The Rebels however, had about 94 seconds in which to work, and fouling Villanova, a team that is converting at a 70.5% clip right now, is not a winning strategy. Villanova pulled away again, pushing the margin out to 12 as time expired.

The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

The 2nd half offensive explosion was fueled by each of Oliver's four factors (see green highlighted stats under Offense above). The 'Cats converted their 2 point attempts at a much higher rate, marginally improved their 3 point conversion rate, took care of the ball (reduced their turnover rate), took full possession of the boards (both ends, but I am talking about offensive boards right now) and did a much better job getting to the charity stripe (end-game fouling fluffed those numbers a bit). The offensive efficiency that was lacking for the first two games on the island showed up, just a little late. Reynolds and Stokes accounted for 100% of the 3FGMs while taking 56.3% of the 3FGAs. Collectively they converted their 3FGAs at a 44.4% rate. Stokes in particular, had a very good night, logging a 1.65 PPWS (82.5 True Shot) to go with his 66.7% eFG%.

The defensive efficiency slipped, half-over-half, but note the 1st half defensive efficiency, 57.8 is ridiculously low (see orange highlight above), there is no reason to expect that the 'Cats could limit the Rebs to a half a point per possession for an entire game, and the only number that slipped into the mediocre range was field goal defense (eFG% under defense, note the red highlight).

Notes & Observations
1. Antonio Pena logged his 3rd double-double of the 5 game-old season as he scored (a personal best of the season) 17 points while securing 16 (6-10-16) rebounds. His 6 offensive rebounds are especially impressive, as he posted a ?% offensive rebounding rate for the game. Pena missed a double-double in Villanova's opener against Fairleigh Dickinson by a single point. He is averaging a double-double (12.2 ppg, 11.0 rpg) so far.
2. Villanova defense is well ahead of Villanova offense this season, something of a surprise frankly. The 'Cats have held their opponents to < 1.0 points per possession (ppp) in every game this season. They have held opponents to < 0.90 ppp in 3 of their 5 games so far. I will post more on the tournament shortly, with additional numbers.
3. In the absence of Mouphtaou Yarou, Maurice Sutton has stepped in to start 2 games and play 55.8% of the minutes at the #5. Sutton's line includes 11 points on 4-8, 3-5 shooting. He has grabbed 17 (7-10-17) rebounds while dishing 1 assist and committing 7 turnovers with 4 blocked shots.
4. 3 point shooting in the Mississippi game aside, Taylor King put together a very impressive effort. Despite going 0-4 from beyond the arc, King scored 9 points on 3-9 (0-4, 3-5) and 3-4 shooting. For the 2nd consecutive game King missed his 1st collegiate double-double by 1 -- in this game it was a point; in the Dayton game it was a rebound. King also dished 1 assist, committed 2 turnovers and had 2 steals in 29 minutes of play. For the tournament King secured 24 rebounds while scoring 31 points in the 3 games.
5. For the 3rd consecutive year Villanova has played in the championship game of their early season invitational, and for the 2nd consecutive season they have won that game. Congratulations Wildcats!

Ref Notes
Terry Moore, Gerry Pollard and Kelly Self ran the game, the 2nd Villanova tournament game for Pollard who also refereed the George Mason whistle-fest. The game was well within the standard deviation for fouls called, on both Villanova and their opponent. Self is a new face to the Nova Nation. He has refereed for 14+ seasons, mostly in the CUSA and Big 12 conferences. From the stats over at, Self appears to be more a "let 'em play" type zebra. Gerry Pollard is also a new face to Wildcat fans. Pollard refs out of the Missouri Valley and Big 12 conferences.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Coaches vs Cancer Wrapup

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY -- On Friday evening Syracuse captured the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic dismantling fourth ranked North Carolina 87-71. A dominant second half enabled the Orange to pull away from the Tar Heels and establish themselves as one to watch on this year’s national scene.

The rundown:

In the 5 pm consolation, with both teams having played less than 24 hours before, there was a closely contested contest between two teams hoping the exit MSG with a win.

Ohio State6811057411715

Ohio State had a distinctively lower offensive rebounding total but looking at the eFG percentage we get a major reason why. The Buckeye’s shooting percentage from the floor meant there were less opportunities to grab a miss. Any weakness on the offensive board was negated by an impressive 15% turnover rate.

OSU’s Evan Turner deserves a lot of credit for the low turnover rate. Against North Carolina Turner had the triple ‘dubious’ double which included ten turnovers along with his 23 points 11 rebounds. After the semis Turner made it a point of emphasis to cut down that number. He succeeded with only 4 Tos in 40 minutes.

Turner and Cal’s Jerome Randle shared game high honors with 26 points. Not to discredit Cal’s senior guard but a breakdown shows Turner had a more complete outing.


The NBA efficiency formula adds positives (FGM, FTM, REB, PTS, BL, Steals, Assists) while subtracting negatives (missed FGS and FTS , turnovers).

The results from the consolation including total efficienc and efficiency per, or divided by, minute:

Effper Min

North Carolina759541304325

Syracuse trailed at the break 39-37. The Orange opened up the second half going on a 22-3 run the first eight minutes. During that stretch Carolina had more air balls (3) than field goals made (1).

The breakdown by halves:

Off. Eff.
1st Half2nd Half
North Carolina10387

The Tar Heels prefer a fast pace but this might have been too quick this early in the season. Especially against a Syracuse team getting great guard play. Syracuse attempted 10 free throws but hit only 4. Not detrimental on this night but this is a nother reason I prefer the FT Productivity metric (FTM/FGA). It is one thing to get to the line. More important what you do when you get there. Orange actually shot 43% (9 of 21) from three and only 40 % from the line.

"We have been coming here (MSG) a long time. That second hald might be the best we played. Defensively we were great and very unselfish." - Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim

"They have the best zone in college basketball. One minute you think you are open then there is someone to block your shot." - North Carolina coach Roy Williams

All Tournament
Jerome Randle-Cal
Evan Turner-OSU
Marcus Ginyard-UNC
Andy Rautins-SU
Wes Johnson- SU (MVP)

The Big East -- Comparing BCS Records

Oh Providence...
A quiet story through the first week+ of the season was the cumulative conference records, especially among the power (BCS) conferences. Preseason stories for example, heralded the return to glory of the SEC, led of course by the resurgence of the Kentucky program even as those writers anticipated a less dominant Big East Conference. The won-loss records compiled by the BCS conferences suggest the Big East may not be ready to go gently into that good night. 2009's most dominant conference opened the 2010 season with a 40 game winning streak that exceeded the next lengthiest conference (the Big 12) by 11. Which conference was the "last to lose"? In truth it came down to the Big East and Big 12 again. And who went last was not clear, as both Providence and Kansas State (the two who lost "first" in their respective conferences) started their ill-fated games at 8:00 EST (Providence-Alabama, Kansas State-Mississippi). I suspect, given the time lag in the game schedule at the Puerto Rico Tip Off Classic, that the Big 12 lasted about 20-25 minutes longer than the Big East counterpart. The summary through Friday evening per Ken Pomeroy's Rating Site...

Big 123020.9380.8948116.287.770.90.475328.5
Big East4120.9530.6839110.396.870.80.439313.4
PAC 102270.7590.6515111.099.570.80.39411.5
Big Ten2380.7420.592296.688.768.40.29257.9

The table is sorted by Strength of Schedule (SOS). The season is still very young (about 15% of the total games this season have been played), with the conference SOS and Pomeroy Rating still volatile. I looked at the totals for Thursday and found the Big Ten had the highest SOS. Note the Big East is ranked 3rd in adjusted offense (110.3) and 4th in adjusted defense (96.8). Efficiency Difference (Eff. Diff) derives from subtracting the ajusted defensive rating from the adjusted offensive rating. More teams accounts for more wins? Maybe, but consider Big East teams are averaging a won-loss record of 2.6-0.13 per team, while the Big 12 averages 2.5-0.16 and the ACC averages 2.5-0.23 per team through Friday night.

Last Thursday was brutal for the Big Ten, as the conference went 1-3, their teams taking losses to North Carolina (Ohio State), Mississippi (Indiana) and UNC-Wilmington (Penn State).

Dayton Post Game -- Flyin' High

They Were Born to Run
Fans from the Flyer Nation said over and over their guys liked an uptempo game. And the two teams ran through much of the game. Going into the locker room at the half, the 'Cats led by 6 in a game on pace for 75 possessions. That would have made this game the highest possession game played since Kutztown. Half time adjustments slowed the pace. Villanova pushed the lead out to 18 before Dayton took one last 24-8 run to tightened it up at the 2:22 mark. Flyers repeatedly fouled Wildcats (Fisher, King & Pena -- did Coach Gregory see the Louisville game last season?) to stop the clock and force possession changes, but going 9-10 from the line thwarted the strategy.

The Nova Blogosphere is replete with recaps/analysis/commentary. The Villanovan Sports Blog, IBBW,, Villanova News and Villanova Viewpoint have posted entries. The Flyers, coming off of the 2009 season which saw them send the Mountaineers packing from the NCAAs, are no longer satisfied with moral victories, according to the Dayton Daily News story filed Saturday. The official website posted the usual AP wire story, along with a number of quotes from teh post game presser. And of course, the official box score. The breakdown by halves.

 Offense Defense

No Offense But...
On a day when the Wildcats could not find a 3 point shot, nor could they convert their 2s after the break, the defense (everywhere except the 3 point line...) held the Flyers in check. Note the red highlighted shooting percentages in the table. What the 'Cats gave up in 3s, they more than made up for in defensive rebounding (see the OR% line above). The 'Cats went ice cold in the 2nd half, except at the free throw line -- note Villanova's point distribution for the 2nd half was a disquieting 41.2-17.6-41.2 (2s-3s-FTs) -- the 'Cats scored as much from the free throw line as they did from 2 point field goals.

Notes & Observations
1. Rebounding was an area of concern coming into the season. The Wildcats have registered their second strong outing against (a more...) experienced front court. Taylor King, Antonio Pena, Maurice Sutton and Corey Stokes have proven to be an effective front court rotation. Dominic Cheek, for the time he logged was effective on the defensive boards too.
2. Antonio Pena's double-double streak ended at two, as the junior bfc scored 13 points (on 4-5, 5-8 shooting), but grabbed only 7 rebounds. Pena, matched against Dayton's 6-10 Twin Towers, Devan Searcy and Kurt Huelsman, logged 19 minutes while dealing with 4 personals. 7 rebounds in 19 minutes is not bad at all.
3. Taylor King missed logging his first double-double by a single rebound. The sophomore transfer scored 14 points and snagged 9 rebounds in 31 minutes of play.

Ref Notes
Lee Cassell, Terry Davis and Rick Randall worked the game. This was the second consecutive game for Randall, who was involved in the foul-fest versus George Mason on Thursday. It must have been the other two zebras (Terry Oglesby and Gerry Pollard), as this trio whistled 40 fouls between the two teams (23 against Dayton, 17 against Villanova), contrast to the extraordinary 54 fouls (which translated into 76 FTAs between the two teams), a number more consistent with Villanova's first two home games.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: At the Coaches vs Cancer

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY – The first one was a rout. The nightcap looked like one was in the works. In the end North Carolina was left to sweat out a 77-73 decision over Ohio State in the Coaches vs.Cancer semis at Madison Square Garden.

The scores and TEMPO FREE Breakdown:

North Carolina7776101
Ohio State737597

Syracuse entered the game averaging 84 possessions a game. The Orange imposed their will pace wise and defensively. Cal could not solve the patented 2-3 zone of Syracuse. Often the possession, after several passes, would end in a three pointer. Cal (44 per cent eFG) shot 6 of 20 from three point land. Cal was without (injured) three point threat Ryan Roberson, an 18 ppg scorer, but coach Mike Montgomery refused to let that be an excuse.

Both teams had solid turnover rates, Syracuse at 15% and Cal at 19%. Actually Montgomery was very concerned over the 15 turnovers his team committed because they led to 19 Syracuse points. A closer look shows Syracuse had 10 steals so at least two thirds of the Cal turnovers were very damaging types leading to Syracuse transition opportunities.

Scoop Jardine led the Orange with 22 while Cal’s Jerome Randle, getting a good look by NBA scouts, paced all with 25 points.

The night cap was a tale of two halves. At the break it was 38-24 North Carolina and the Buckeyes (31 % eFG) had to be thankful it was that ‘close’. The second half saw the Big ten reps find the range, especially beyond the arc . The Buckeyes shot an eFG pct of 65% and made it too close for Roy Wiliams & Co.

Certainly, there were breakdowns on the Carolina side. but Ohio state found a late game rhythm and hit a succession of treys in the final two minutes to turn a 3-4 possession contest into a one possession affair. The late jim Valvano used to discuss how shooters facing a double digit deficit often loosten up , relax and start to hit shots. When the game is close they tend to tighten up. Carolina was consistent efficiency wise for their two halves. The Tar Heels posted a 103 mark the first half en route to a 101 finish. Ohio State was dramatically different.

1st Half2nd HalfGame
Ohio State6712697

North Carolina, led by Deon Thompson’s 17 points, had 4 players in double figures. OSU’s Evan Turner (I almost typed Evan Turnover) had an interesting line. Turner led all scorers with 23 points, pulled down 11 boards but had 10 turnovers.

OSU meets Cal in the consolation with an interesting ACC-Big East battle, North Carolina and Syracuse set for the championship.

George Mason Post Game -- Freshman Arise!

Time Stood Still
The Patriots were supposed to be a tough out, but they were supposed to go out in the end. I guess Coach Larranaga and his guards, Cam Long and Andre Cornelius who fueled the 21-8 Patriot run to open the game. The 'Cats, staggered with the pregame loss of Mouphtaou Yarou (transfer Taylor King started) were ice cold to start the game, but launched a run 15-5 run of their own to close the gap to 26-23. And the Patriots responded with another 11-5 run to close out the half, 37-28. It took the 'Cats 12 ½ minutes into the second half to erase the 9 point deficit, but they tied the Patriots at 54-54, and the game then went down to the wire, with neither team able to open a lead larger than 5 points. The Wildcats mounted a 7-2 run in the last minute of play to pull out the game. Thank the freshmen, Maalik Waynes and Isaiah Armwood for knocking down a pair of 3s to notch the win. posted a very brief recap, amidst the notes on Yarou and the preview of Dayton. Publisher over at Villanova Viewpoint penned a paean to Armwood in honor of the victory. The Villanovan Sports Blog also posted a quick recap. Nova News filed a longer recap with analysis -- "Thunder in Paradise". IBBW appears to be last to the party (except for my post...). And then there is the AP wirestory and box score posted on the official website, along with a short set of game notes and post game quotes. The breakdown by halves...

OpponentGeorge Mason 
 Offense Defense

The half-time adjustments are obvious -- note the jump in Villanova's offensive rating, half-over-half (green highlight). The bump derived from a small raft of improvements, largely but not exclusively, related to field goal shooting. Villanova's eFG% is a mixed stat that includes 2FG% & 3FG% conversions -- note that both improved in the 2nd half. The team apparently eschewed the take 'em aspects of the offense in favor of rotating the ball -- note the bump in the 2nd half assist rate. An important component is the dramatic cut in the turnover rate (even as GMU's FTA/FGA rate grew significantly -- note the red highlight). The Patriot's relatively strong point per shot (note the red highlighted PPWS) was due to the relatively large number of fouls which put GMU players on the free throw line. Villanova's shot defense (good in both halves -- note the blue highlight) held the PPWS and score down. Lack of consistent field goal defense has been a troubling part of Villanova's defense during the past 4 or so seasons. Last season's squad addressed the problem and the team prospered. Good to see the squad is maintaining that kind of pressure on opponents. Solid defense kept this game within reach. Despite having the ball, a timeout and 17 seconds, the veteran Patriot squad was unable to get a shot off in the last 17 seconds of the game.

Notes & Observations
1. The referees warmed up by stopping play 24 times for fouls in the 1st half. Then they got hot and blew it 30 more times in the 2nd half. On site reports note the play was choppy, frequently interrupted with free throws and out of bounds plays. A whopping 34 FT were attempted in the 1st half, only to be surpassed by another 41 (not a typo folks) free throws in the 2nd half. 75 FTAs make it hard to get into a flow.
2. Four Wildcats (starters Antonio Pena, Taylor King and Corey Stokes, joined by rotation player Maurice Sutton) were DQ'd by the zebras. GMU foward Kevin Foster was also benched for fouls. Four other Patriots, starters Mike Morrison and Louis Birdsong were, along with subs Luke Hancock and Andre Cornelius were tagged with four fouls.
3. Antonio Pena logged his 2nd career double-double, snagging 12 rebounds to go with 10 points. Also noteworthy is that this is the 2nd consecutive game in which Pena has reached double-double numbers.
4. Villanova absolutely dominated the boards on both ends of the court today, gathering a staggering 50% of the offensive misses in the 2nd half, while limiting the Patriots to an eyepopping 13.3% of their misses in the 2nd half. Villanova snagged 86% of the available misses. For the game, the Patriots were limited to less than 1 in 4 misses on their end of the court, while the 'Cats rounded out to 45.2 for the game. Mason returned a veteran front court this season, a game like this from Pena, Stokes, Sutton and King -- even in the absence of Yarou -- was very comforting. That Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns chipped in 6 rebounds apiece is shocking. I think Nova Nation fans would have to go back to the days of Randy Foye to find a guard performance to match the board work from Fisher and Wayns.

Roster Notes
Freshman Mouphtaou Yarou was a DNP. Eyewitnesses report he did not suit up and was not on the bench. Unofficial word has circulated that Yarou left Puerto Rico to return to Philadelphia for an undisclosed medical problem. The speculation spinning in the late afternoon to report he -- had already/was about/would definitely -- return to the island (and the tournament) before the last game on Sunday. No official comment on the circumstances surrounding Yarou's condition.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: ESPN's 24 Hours of Basketball, St. Peter's-Monmouth Recap

by Ray Floriani

JERSEY CITY, NJ -- A 6 am start, as part of the ESPN marathon, made for a unique setting. Beyond the excitement, all night activities and pre-game breakfast for the students who were absolutely pumped up, was a very good showing on the defensive end by St.Peter’s. St. Peter's and their cross state rival Monmouth University competed in a 63 possession game.

St. Peter's92

The Four Factors:

St. Peter's51162927

The 6 am hour was forgotten as, immediately after the tip, both clubs engaged with emotion and intensity. The first half saw St.Peter’s leading 27-16. At intermission it was a 33 possession tempo with John Dunne’s club showing their defensive prowess. Turnover rates were rather high. Chalk it up to defense rather than the 6 am tipoff. Effective field goal percentage shows how well St.Peter’s defended. Monmouth started slowly.

St. Peter's82

I didn’t expect the Hawks to post an under 50 in offensive efficiency for the 1st half, but the second half was not much better for the Northeast Conference representatives. St.Peter’s man to man contested the perimeter. 6-8 sophomore Travis Taylor, Monmouth's primary inside threat, was faced by collapsing defenders to the verge of frustration. The Hawks shot 4 of 22 (18%) the first half. On the afternoon -- excuse me morning -- they were 10 of 47 from the field (21%). Taylor led all scorers with 12 points while Wesley Jenkins paced a balanced Peacock attack with 10 points.

Basketball at 6 am is an almost surreal experience. Arriving at just after 5 am to find a charged up, high energy atmosphere. Departing after interviews, around 8:30, I found the campus as quiet as a church, commuters, on their way to work mingled with students on their way to classes. Truly an experience. For players, coaches, fans...all involved.

"We played three emotional games in five days but give St.Peter’s defense credit. They were awfully good.” –Monmouth Coach Dave Calloway

“I’m really excited right now but in a few hours I’ll be tired. I had every alarm in the house go off at 3 am this morning.” – St.Peter’s coach John Dunne

Penn Post Game -- Passing the Baton

The Big 5
Villanova opened the Big 5 season last night at the Pavilion as hosts for the Quakers of the University of Pennsylvania. The 'Cats were not very polite hosts as they rung up a 38 point win, 103-65, over their guests. The game was largely over at half-time, as Villanova took a commanding, 55-25 lead into the locker room. Coach Wright held off for a time, but went ahead and emptied the bench about halfway through the second half, running a total of 12 players through the game in the last 20 minutes. And with this victory, the Wildcats notched their 30th Big 5 win of the decade, surpassing the win total set by the great Penn teams of the 1970s.

The Official website posted an AP wirestory and box score, while a number of the Villanova blogs posted recaps. Rather than post the individual links, I will give you the Villanova Viewpoint, where the editor has already collected the links. A good job of coverage all around. Breaking down the box score by halves...

 Offense Defense

The pace half-over-half was surprisingly consistent given the large rotation. Given post game comments from Coach Miller ("As much speed coming off the bench..."(as they have starting) suggests Penn was not able to control the pace. Hard to do when your team posts a 33.3 eFG% in the first half, and 42.2 overall. And can only rebound about 1 in 4 misses. Those are very tough numbers for the Quakers, but do suggest some good things about the Wildcats.

Notes & Observations
1. Mouphtaou Yarou is a project. Yarou was DQ'd with 5 fouls in 17 minutes of play. He logged foul #1 about a minute into the 1st period, but the Coach waited another minute before sitting him down. Mouph checked back in 14 minutes later and finished out the half. Overall he averaged 3:24 between fouls in this game. He did better (2 fouls in 20 minutes of play) versus FDU.
2. The staff reached deep into the rotation as the starters only took 52% of the minutes in the 2nd half. Twelve players checked in at the scorer's table durning the last 20 minutes. The Wildcats still managed to out score Penn by 8 points (48-40).
3. The assist rate declined in the 2nd half. The freshman Maalik Wayns logged the larger portion of his minutes during the 2nd half, notching a single assist (a good looking entry pass) while scoring 16 points (for the game high). No question he will be an impact player in time...can he involve his team mates a bit more? Terrific speed and court vision though.
4. Antonio Pena logged a double-double, scoring 10 rebounds and 12 points in 25 minutes of play. This was his first as a Wildcat, and I suspect it will not be his last. Congratulations Tone.

Roster Notes
Penn Coach Glen Miller indicated Quaker wing & lead scorer Tyler Bernardini, absent entirely for the 2nd half, was nursing a foot injured during the Penn State game.

And Then There's
The folks at Rush the Court had asked that I do a live blog from the Pavilion concurrent with the game. How could I refuse? The task seemed daunting, as first Rush the Court had to get approval. Many thanks to Michael Sheridan, Villanova's SID who approved and made arrangements. Thanks go out to PeterN with whom I hitched a ride to the game, and mrbb, the Brothers Figg & the Beefer., all of whom made this prodigal alum feel very welcome and very much at home.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Preview -- University of Pennsylvania

The City Series
The Wildcats and Quakers face off in the opening game of the 59th renewal of Philadelphia's famed Big 5 series, at the Pavilion on Villanova's campus. The series, held annually since 1955, pits (a period during the 1990s excepted) Philadelphia's four city colleges (La Salle, Penn, St. Joseph's and Temple) and Villanova in a round robin series of games that, in the period before conferences, often reached a climax as each season ended. Today, Villanova typically plays most, if not all, of their Big 5 slate before they launch into the Big East regular season. This season is unusual in that Villanova will play 2 of their 4 rivals even before the end of November. While the Quakers have had a few off seasons under head coach Glen Miller (his 3 year record record at Penn is a disappointing average 45-45). After a 1st place finish (22-9) and an NCAA bid in his rookie season, the Quakers slumped to a 23-36 record. This season is projected as the Quaker's bounce back, as they expect to be among the top teams in the mid-major Ivy League, the oldest conference in the Northeast. While one might think of this as just another mid-major tune-up for the Wildcats, consider that the Wildcats have, to this point in the 2001-2010 decade, logged 29 Big 5 wins. That total matches Penn's best win total (from 1971-1980, 29-11, 0.725) which in turn, is the best decade-long record (wins, winning percentage) of any program in Big 5 competition. Should the Wildcats beat the Quakers, they will have notched at least 30 wins in the decade, and be guaranteed a winning percentage no worse than 0.750. Villanova has won the City Series 5 times since 2004, sharing the title twice during that run (2005 & 2008, both times with Temple). Villanova leads their series with Penn, 39-17, and puts a six game winning streak versus Penn on the line...

What Others Say...
...Blue Ribbon projects the the Quakers to finish 3rd in the Ivy League -- an improvement over last season's #7 finish (in the 8 team Ivy League) -- and gives the backcourt a B, the frontcourt a C and the bench/depth a C. Rush the Court writer Dave Zeitlin also projected Penn as the 3rd place team in his Ivy League preview, citing the return of Andreas Schreiber and Darren Smith as reasons to look for Coach Miller to have a solid starting line up. But Harrison Gaines' departure will have the Quakers looking for scoring from the remaining members of the rotation.

So Far...
Penn lost to an improving Penn State (Big Ten, 1-0, RPI #47 -- 2009) team Friday evening, 70-55 in State Park. The 'Cats enter this game sporting a 1-0 record - their opening game effort against Fairleigh Dickinson providing fans with a rusty first half, but a shooting exhibition in the second half that yielded a 23 point victory. .

Penn By the Numbers...
Over the past 5 years the Quakers have declined steadily from #59 (under Fran Dunphy) to #252 (last season -- an improvement actually, over their 260 rank in 2008) in the RPI. Penn ran a higher than average pace last season (68.2 possessions, adjusted, via Ken Pomeroy's Penn Scout Page which ranked the Quakers #93 out of approx. 336 - the D1 pace last season was 66.5). Penn's field goal efficiency (eFG) last season was a disappointing 47.1 (#243). Combined with their relatively high turnover rate (20.7, #202) and low offensive rebounding percentage (29.3, #276) Penn registered one of the least efficient offenses in D1 last season (according to Ken Pomeroy). The Quakers wanted to shoot 3s, taking nearly 35% of their FGAs behind the line last season, but their conversion rate (31.5%, #282) thwarted their efforts. If the PSU game is a guide, they intend to pursue this strategy against their opponents again this season. But given they converted about 21% of their attempts, the strategy may yield no better results this season. Penn's defense was slightly better in 2009, ranked #231 (about 40 spots higher than their offense) out of approximately 336 D1 teams. Ironically 3 point shot defense was their worst defensive feature. This could be a very big night for Corey Stokes and Taylor King.

Frontcourt vs frontcourt...
Penn has a stable of nine tweeners, all between 6-6 and 6-9 available for minutes. Senior 6-9 #4/#5 Andreas Schreiber (#13), a red shirt last season will most likely start next to 6-8 junior Jack Eggleston (#24, 30.2 mpg, 9.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg in 2009). Coach Miller started those two against Penn State, and Eggleston went on a tear, scoring 13 points on 5-6 shooting in 33 minutes. 6-7 junior Conor Turley (#, 6.9 mpg, 1.0 ppg, 1.6 rpg) logged 22 minutes scoring 8 points (6 of them at the free throw line) and grabbing 2 rebounds. 6-9 sophomore Mike Howlett (#23, 6.4 mpg, 1.4 ppg, 0.7 rpg -- 2009) battled injuries through much of his freshman season, logged 16 minutes and scored 4 points against Penn State.

Mouphtaou Yarou and Antonio Pena started in the front court versus Fairleigh Dickinson and there is no reason given their performance, to suggest they will not start again. I was a bit surprised to see Yarou start, as the staff almost always ease the freshmen into the rotation before allocating starts. The last freshman to start this early in his freshman season was Scottie Reynolds. After Yarou and Pena, the staff will look to give time to Taylor King, who joined with Corey Stokes to drop a stunning 7 of 8 3 point field goals on Kutztown in exhibition, and followed that with a 7 rebound 9 point performance against the Knights Friday. Behind King, expect to see the freshman, red shirt Maurice Sutton and true frosh Isaiah Armwood. The Villanova front court should give their Penn counterparts more than they can handle.

Backcourt vs backcourt...
Coach Miller will most likely start 6-1 Zach Rosen (#1, 31.1mpg, 8.1ppg, 4.9apg) at the point, paired with 6-4 Darren Smith (#5), a red shirt junior who has lost 2 seasons to a variety of injuries, at the #2. Given Coach Miller's up-tempo style, expect a third guard, 6-6 tweener Tyler Bernardini (#4, 29.4 mpg, 13.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg) to start on the wing. Bernardini was the Quakers' leading scorer last season, shooting from both the outside (39-122, 0.320) and inside (71-154, 0.461) last season. Bernardini accounted for 27.8% of the Quakers' shots when he was on the floor last season. And if his performance Friday at State College is an indicator, (4-8 in 17 minutes), he will continue to be the #1 option on offense this season. Two 6-6 juniors Rob Belcore (#30, 4.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg) and Dan Monckton (#2, 4.1 mpg, 0.3 ppg, 0.7 rpg), combined to take 33 minutes (27 to Belcore, 6 to Monckton) on the wing and back court. Beyond Belcore and Monckton, back court depth is very young, as Coach Miller has two freshmen, 5-9 Malcolm Washington (#11) out of Los Angeles and 6-3 Carson Sullivan (#20) out of Charlotte, NC available for minutes should the opportunity/need arise.

Coach Wright started Scottie Reynolds, and the Coreys, Fisher and Stokes, at the #2, #1 and #3 respectively. Reynolds logged an 8 point night versus the Knights, while Stokes shot out the lights with a 20 point performance on 6-12, 5-10 shooting. Fisher notched 13 points on a 4-9 (1-2) night. Depth will come from freshmen Maalik Wayns (6 points with 2 assists) and Dominic Cheek (8 points and 2 assists). Both freshmen saw 18 minutes against FDU -- expect them to see similar time against the Quakers.

Final Thoughts...
If the front court was tested in the FDU game, the back court and wing spots should face a good test in this contest. Coach Miller wants his Quakers to push the ball early and often. Poor field goal conversion rates undermined the up-tempo style as the team struggled to find open shots. If the 67 possession game versus Penn State was about "average" for last season, it was slow by the pace set in games played this opening weekend (possessions per team averages about 70 so far this season). Villanova would be happy to accommodate the brisker rate of play, using about 71 possessions versus FDU Friday night. Penn did not rebound well offensively in 2009, and the PSU game suggests this problem area may remain unaddressed.

Coach Wright employed a 10 man rotation against FDU. This appears to be the mode of operation through much of the OOC portion of the schedule. The question will be whether Armwood and Sutton will get join the other eight by logging double digit minutes. If Penn struggles with their shot in the Pavilion as they did in State College, both Sutton and Armwood will see action early.

Odds and Ends...
I will be doing a live, on site blog from the Pavilion Monday night during the game. If you have internet access, drop over to Rush the Court blog, say hello and participate.

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Report from the Rutgers - Marist Game

by Ray Floriani

PISCATAWAY, NJ- Rutgers posted a very workman like 74-67 victory in their season opener against Marist. Exactly a year to the day removed from a narrow win over this same Marist club. Well actually different as Red Foxes mentor Chucky Martin has virtually an entire new cast on board. The numbers in a 71 possession contest:


Notes and Observations:
Rutgers wanted a faster paced contest and Marist was a willing opponent with their DDM offense. Thought Marist turnover rate was not that bad given new personnel and a opener on the road against Big East competition. Rutgers had an excellent TO rate which went a long way toward getting the win in this contest. Rejecting nine shots and negating the Marist inside game was also huge.

Equal opportunity -- A year ago Mike Rosario utilized 27% of Rutgers’ possessions. On virtually every night he had to. Against Marist, Rosario used 25% of the possessions and led the way fo the Scarlet Knights with 17 points. The scintillating soph, though, had help. Patrick Jackson, a 6-6 sophomore forward, who scored all of 10 points last year added 15 points. Gregory Echenique used his size advantage to add 13 points. Even Rosario commented that having adding consistent scoring threats makes Rutgers more dangerous and gives himself more freedom to roam.

Closing Out -- Rutgers still must put people away given the opportunity. The Scarlet Knights made a nice late first half run to go up 9. Marist cut it to four before a Rosario baseline drive at the buzzer gave Rutgers a 41-35 lead at intermission. In the second half Rutgers led by 16 before Marist came back to make it a three possession contest.

Game Management -- I liked an early time out by Rutgers coach Fred Hill. Marist led 12-9 (in 7 possessions) largely due to some lax defense by Rutgers. Hill called time out to address the situation and lack of defensive intensity over those first four minutes.

Senior Experience -- I loved the energy Hamady Ndiaye brought today. The 7 foot Rutgers senior came off the bench and made an immediate impact by blocking 6 shots. Echenique added 3 as for the 9 Rutgers rejections on the afternoon.

Rebuilding -- As noted Marist has a lot of new faces for second year coach Chucky Martin. One to especially keep an eye on is 6-7 freshman swingman Rob Johnson (effective outside -- 2-4 -- and in the paint -- 4-7) who finished with a game high 18 points while adding 6 boards. Marist did have balance with 4 players in double figures.

Attendance was 4,828.

Stat of note -- Seventy per cent of Rutgers’ field goals were assisted. They had 27 FGM, 19 assists. That added with a great TO rate spells outstanding ball movement.

Quotes: "I have to give Rutgers credit. They’re a good team and much improved from a year ago." - Marist coach Chucky Martin

"I don’t think the difference was any one person. The difference was our team. We got out and pushed the ball and controlled tempo." - Rutgers coach Fred Hill