Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Previews Reconsidered -- Quartiles Revisited

Ok, This is What I Really Meant...
Six weeks into the season and I confess a few things look a little different now. A few players have been injured and others just did not pan out (to this point at least). As the curtain is going up on the Big East regular season I wanted to take a look back at what I thought would happen, and reflect a bit based on what has happened. First the projection from the alphabetically correct version of the quartiles

1st QuartileWLPct.Comments
Connecticut920.818Ranked #11 now
Louisville930.750Still early?
Villanova1110.917Ranked #8
West Virginia1101.000Ranked #6, 2-0 in conf.
2nd QuartileWLPct.Comments
Cincinnati830.727What happened with X?
Georgetown910.900Ranked #13 now
Pittsburgh1120.8461-0 in conf.
Syracuse1301.000Ranked #3, 1-0 in conf.
3rd QuartileWLPct.Comments
Marquette940.6920-1 in Conf.
Notre Dame1120.846Tim Who?!
Seton Hall930.7500-2 in conf.
St. John's1020.833Burrell? Mason?
4th QuartileWLPct.Comments
DePaul760.538Consistently inconsistently
Providence840.667Better than I thought
Rutgers930.750Better than 2009
South Florida1020.833Hmmm...

Every season brings unexpected developments, usually in the form of injuries, unforeseen academic and behavior glitches, even transfers (usually outbound) -- 2010 is right on schedule. Marquette's rotation became unexpectedly thinner when freshman forward Jeronne Maymon left the team. DePaul, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, St. John's, South Florida, Villanova and West Virginia have all reported injuries to key players. Bob Huggins re-instated point guards Joe Mazzulla and Darryl Bryant, both suspended over the summer, with the expectation he would have both experience (Mazzulla) and great talent (Bryant) at his disposal. Injuries to both (Mazzulla still slowing recuperating from shoulder surgery; Bryant hobbled with a severe ankle sprain) have forced him to field a "4 Forwards" lineup that neither Seton Hall nor Marquette were able to exploit.

Second Thoughts...or Not
Louisville -- The Cardinals seem to struggle in November and December. The common thread in those seasons when they do not improve is injuries to key players. The problems this season appears to be shot defense (and overall defense), not injuries.
Notre Dame -- When well-regarded transfer Scott Martin went down with a preseason injury, I thought, in light of the press the Notre Dame staff invested in the Purdue transfer, that their 3rd quartile finish was solid. Their OOC record makes me wonder...but only for a moment. 11 of their 13 games were played in the Joyce Center, and their one serious competitor (according to Pomeroy's ranking system), Northwestern (#53 per Pomeroy), beat the Irish by 14 on a neutral court. Ignore their UCLA win (at home), the Bruins are in a death spiral right now, and consider instead their 2 point loss to Loyola Marymount, a 0.500 WCC team, on 12/12. Notre Dame was outrebounded and allowed the Lions as a team an eFG% of 56.3%. Only 1 of the 7 Lions who logged a field goal attempt registered an eFG% of <50.0 -- not going to win very many Big East games if they cannot force misses. Most interesting is Notre Dame's adjusted defensive rating (again, per Ken Pomeroy) 105.3, ranked #250 out of 344 D1 teams. This year's edition looks a lot like the Irish teams in the years before Luke Harangody -- a team that scores at will, but offers little defensive resistence. The last team that scores wins.
South Florida -- The Bulls have compiled an eye-catching 10-2 record this OOC. This in the face of the fact they have played 6 of their 12 games out of their Sun Dome. If their resume wins are thin (Virginia and UNC-Wilmington are the only 2 with Pomeroy rankings under #100), they do have a "good loss" against South Carolina (#70) on a neutral court. The loss to Central Michigan is troubling, but consider the squad is running light right now -- transfer Anthony Crater continues on suspension (expected to play his 1st game in mid-January), senior center Alex Rivas-Sanchez continues to rehab from his injury last season and bfc Gus Gilchrist is hobbled with high ankle sprain with torn ligaments. According to published reports, Gilchrist is due back in mid/late January. Expect the late January/early February version of this squad to be somewhat closer to what Coach Heath anticipated going into fall practice. The team goal by a few accounts, seems to be to get close to 0.500 (9-9, 7-11 maybe?) this season. 7 wins should be enough to move them out of the conference cellar (the 4th quartile -- it's a big's a big conference). This is a zero-sum game though, so who moves down? The Louisville opener may not be, given that the Bulls will have 8 players tops in the rotation Coach Heath uses in Freedom Hall. But the margin may say as much about Louisville as it does about USF.
Syracuse -- the Orange are the biggeest surprise in the conference coming out of the out of conference schedule. Their OOCD (out of Carrier Dome) wins against North Carolina and Florida, two of the bigger D1 brands over the last 5 years turned a few heads. Beating Seton Hall Tuesday (12/31) at the Rock provides some conference credibility to the unblimished OOC slate. Last September I debated a 2nd or 3rd quartile finish for Coach Boeheim's squad. Being 1 quartile low is better than being 2 quartiles low.
West Virginia -- the preseason consensus had the Moutaineers #1 or #2 in the conference. Coach Huggins has done everything necessary to meet those expectations, even in the face of injuries to his point guard contingent. So why did Syracuse leapfrog WVU in the polls? Brand name trophies on their resume may be the best reason.

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