Friday, December 31, 2010

Temple University Post Game: The 2011 Big 5 Champions

The Books Say...
When #25 Templa faced #8 Villanova at the Pavilion on Villanova's Main Line campus the national media touted the match up as a "1 in 220" game -- the last time two nationally ranked Big 5 teams faced off in a City Series game. But for the 6,500 fans who braved the December cold to watch Villanova beat back four Temple second half rallies to preserve their 78-74 win, it was just another night in the Big 5. Desipite taking a commanding eight point lead, 76-68 inside the last minute, the Wildcats watched the Owls record six points in the last 18 seconds to close the final margin to four points. Senior Corey Stokes scored a game-high 24 points to bring Villanova the school's 23rd win in the last 25 Big 5 games, and help the Wildcats clinch their third Big 5 title in the last four seasons. Senior forward Lavoy Allen paced Temple with 22 points and nine rebounds.

The Nova/Philadelphia Blogoshere has two (relatively) early returns, the Nova Blog posted some and linked to Aaron Bracy over at for post game quotes and an interview with Juan Fernandez (for the Wildcat fans who think they may have missed his name on the roster...Fernandez is the Owls' Argentine point guard who fouled out in the last minute). Both sites are worth a look if you have the time. The Athletic Department website posted the official boxscore and the AP wire story, "No. 8 Villanova Beat(s) Crosstown Rival...", led off with Corey's scoring spree. The breakdown by halves...

Opponent:Temple University 
 Offense Defense

The green highlighting is good news to the Villanova faithful, while the red highlighting denotes areas that will no doubt show up in the game films and post game notes Coach Wright will emphasize in practice. There appeared to be a pronounced drop off in efficiencies the second half.

The first half was played at Temple's pace, a somewhat leisurely 31 possessions that would stretch out to about 62 possessions for the game, just a tick lower than Temple's usual 66 possessions. Both teams abandoned their trademark defenses and posted surprisingly (for very different reasons) efficient offensive numbers. Temple's efficiency was powered by their shooting -- just about everything they threw up went in. And field goal accuracy, especially from beyond the arc, forgives many transgressions (like their 19% turnover rate and free throw conversion ratio -- compare the Owls' FTA/FGA to their FTM/FGA -- note the big drop off). Villanova shot poorly, yet managed to compensate by not turning the ball over (6.4% turnover rate) and by getting to the free throw line and converting efficiently when they got there. For the second half, the staff handed the ball to Sophomore guard Maalik Wayns, and the point guard-in-waiting did what he does best, pop the gear and punch the accelerator. The change in speed and emphasis on getting out in transition was helped (accidentally no doubt) by Temple's press. Effective in the first half at slowing the 'Cats down, Villanova found ways to pass over and dribble through it to get clean looks at their end of the floor. Temple's very hot shooting run also tailed off, a very helpful development for the Wildcats too.

Notes & Observations
1. Consistent with nail biters, the staff shortened the rotation considerably. Though the staff called numbers for nine players, only seven logged double digit minutes, with three players (Wayns, Stokes and Pena) getting PT >= 35 minutes.
2. Corey Fisher picked up two first half fouls and played only 12 minutes, dishing a dime and recording a steal. The senior guard also picked up two more fouls in the second half, and the staff, probably more concerned about the bulging rebounding dificiency, played him only 10 minutes, opting instead to go with a combination of taller, more rebound-oriented players such as Dominic Cheek and Maurice Sutton. The senior guard finished by scoring five points on 1-6 overall and 3-5 from the line, four rebounds, two dimes and one each of a turnover, steal and block, in 22 minutes of play.
3. Corey Stokes led all scorers with 24 points on 7-13 overall (a phenomenal 5-8 from beyond the arc) and 5-6 at the line. Two others, Maalik Wayns (21) and Mouphtaou Yarou (14) scored more than 10 points for the Wildcats.

Up Next -- The 'Cats will open the Big East season Sunday when they host Rutgers at the Pavilion. Rush the Court will be there with a live blog. Tip off is 1:00 pm.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Villanova - Temple Pregame

I received a note from Aaron Bracy over at about tonight's game. Aaron will be at the game tonight and plans to send live updates to his blog (see above) and to twitter. Hopefully the reception is good and Aaron will be able to convey the excitement from inside the Pavilion.

Why aren't the Big 5 games all played at the Palestra anymore?
While Villanova has taken a good deal of the heat for "breaking up" the Big 5, the problems with the Palestra have been well documented over the years. The lighting is poor, the facilities are antiquated and Penn pockets all revenues from concessions. Aside from the ticket sales, the other four schools raise little revenue from playing at the Palestra (and have to pay Penn "rent" for privilege of playing there). As Aaron noted, the seating capacities at both Villanova's and Temple's campus arenas is greater than 1/2 of the gate at the Palestra. Plus each gets the benefit of a home court advantage in alternating years, something Villanova typically cannot count on at the Palestra, even when the 'Cats played their "big name" guests there in the 1960s and 1970s. The truth is each school alternates as the "host team" in the series (this year Villanova hosts) and has the choice of site, so if Temple wanted to keep up the tradition, they could schedule their matches with Villanova (and all other Big 5 rivals) at the Palestra.

The Palestra made a good deal of sense in the 1950s. The point shaving scandals that touched many teams which had scheduled their games in Madison Square Garden and "pro" arenas controlled by the Ned Irish ring (like the Philadelphia Convention Center). Villanova, unhappy with some of the scheduling practices at the downtown arena, had stopped playing there (and playing the three city schools who scheduled most of their games there) after the 1939 season. Eager for access to a larger facility however, the school opened negotiations with Penn for the use of the Palestra for their higher profile opponents. Penn agreed and Villanova scheduled a number of games during the 1950 season. The experiment was a success and Villanova continued to expand their Palestra schedule during the early 1950s...even scheduling double headers with Penn as co-host. Interestingly, the two schools did not play each other until the Big 5 contracts were signed and a City Series officially inaugurated. The Palestra was chosen because it was located on Penn's campus, and because it had a seating capacity comparable to the Convention Center. The 20,000 seat modern facilities would wait for another two decades.

Villanova and Saint Joseph's played several of their games at the Spectrum in the 1980s, but after several large gates, interest dwindled, and the schools returned to their on campus (or for Saint Joseph's, the Palestra) facilities.

If Villanova wins tonight, they will win their third City Series title in four years. The Wildcats are 22-2 in their last 24 Big 5 games, their last loss came at the hands of Temple last (played in the Liacouras Center). For more pregame information, try VU and

I will have the usual recap and breakdown by halves after the game.

What if...Division 1 Used the BCS?

Counting Our Blessings
If there are not enough reasons to hate the BCS system already, Rush the Court just gave college basketball fans a few more. They replicated the BCS system (human polls + computer rankings) to produce a composite ranking of the Top 25 in college basketball. Then they really get funky, and used that ranking to "assign" bowl-like post season match ups according to the rules developed by the bowl committees that run that racket called the BCS. As of this week Duke and Kansas would play in the Championship Bowl, while Pittsburgh (Fiesta) and Syracuse (Orange) would get the Big East's two BCS Bowl "slots". Too bad, given this week the AP has five Big East teams in their top 10 and six in their top 15, and Pomeroy has two ranked in the top 10 (the same Pitt and Cuse) & five in his top 15. Those other four teams (Connecticut, Villanova, Georgetown and Notre Dame) would end up in lesser bowls (Tires anyone?). The conference is just too good I guess. Rush the Court will update their rankings periodically.

Villanova did not do well because of the "computer" polls. Sagarin ranked the 'Cats #25 (earning them a single point per the BCS-like system employed by Rush the Court), while Pomeroy ranked them #13 (not a killer) and ESPN's InsideRPI (subscription only, sorry), developed by Joe Lunardi, ranked Nova #33 (thanks Joe). Those combined rankings put Villanova at about #18 on the list, the human polls brought the 'Cats up to #10.

The bowl games may give fans at a few lucky schools the chance to take the New Year holiday in a sunnier (and warmer) climate, while watching their favorite team play football, but the rules are biased (as if the Mountain West, WAC and CUSA didn't know) and worst of all, it does not produce an undisputed champion in the NCAA's biggest cash cow.

Rush the Court's version of the BCS

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: North Carolina at Rutgers (at MSG)

by Ray Floriani
NEW YORK CITY - A featured game with North Carolina at Madison Square Garden closed the books on Rutgers non-conference schedule. Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, the 78-55 loss left some questions needing resolution with Big East play just days away.

Pre-game warmups
about an hour prior to the tip

Pace & Efficiency:

North Carolina76103

North Carolina enjoys a brisk pace in the seventies while Rutgers is a mid-sixties tempo team. UNC forced the pace and kept the advantage through the duration.

The Four Factors:

North Carolina56153121

Roy Williams and the Tar Heels huddle

The First Four
As noted many times the first four minutes of each half can set the tone for the game. They did last night. North Carolina got out to a 7-2 lead after those first few minutes. A five point advantage with 16 minutes to play the first half is not a huge mountain to scale. But the character of the game was set. UNC established a fast tempo. A tempo they wanted. Even Rutgers coach Mike Rice noted that his club got caught up in the fast pace, rushed things and failed to cash in on early opportunities.

UNC mentor Roy Williams said his defense has been sporadic this year. Tonight it was on. The TO rate and Rutgers eFG mark are exhibits A and B. UNC also rejected 7 shots with 6-10 sophomore John Henson leading the way with four.

Rutgers' Offense
Rutgers struggled all night to get an offensive rhythm. Jonathan Mitchell led all scorers with 20 points on 7 of 14 shooting. Other than Mitchell, a few nice Dane Miller (8 points) moves in the paint and Austin Johnson's 7 points, that was it for Rutgers.

Ball Movement...
...for North Carolina was outstanding. The first half the movement constantly found an open shooter on the perimeter. Their half court spacing allowed for penetration and/or kick outs to the perimeter. In transition they always seemed to make that extra pass. Williams was thrilled that none on the starters were in double figures. The leading scorers, sophomore guard Leslie McDonald (14 points) and junior guard Justin Watts (10 points) both came off the bench.

About Determination
Mike Rice frequently alluded to 'determination' in the presser. The Rutgers coach was clearly upset with his team's effort. A frustrating point per Rice was the occasion when a player missed a shot or made a bad play the effort would be missing on the defensive end. "We can't have that," Rice said. "We are about defense we always have to be ready to defend no matter what happened on the offensive end."

The sign says it all

How can Carolina have four losses?
As Roy Williams noted the last two years have seen about a dozen changes in personnel. This is still a young team that on days will look like this and others not nearly as good. Chalk it up to growing pains.

About Barnes
Highly touted freshman Harrison Barnes had 9 points and 3 rebounds in 22 minutes. Williams said, while the game results do not always bear it out, Barnes is making great strides daily in practice.

Dexter Strickland's uncle
grants an interview

Rutgers is 9-3 while North Carolina improved to 9-4. UNC was 11 of 17 (65%) from two point range the first half. Tar Heels cooled off a bit the last twenty minutes finishing at 46%. North Carolina enjoyed a monumental 38-13 edge in points off the bench. Sophomore guard Dexter Strickland, a Rahway, NJ native who starred at prep power St. Patrick's in Elizabeth, enjoyed his homecoming with a 9 point 3 rebound outing. Rutgers starts Big East play Sunday at Villanova.

Rutgers' Mike Rice meets the media

greyCat note -- Rush the Court will do a Live Blog from the Pavilion as both teams open their Big East seasons on Sunday.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Big East Previews -- Links & Thoughts

Pico Dulce over at the east coast bias blog conducted his second roundtable of the 2011 season, graciously allowing all of the participating bloggers (there were about 19 of us, at least one from every Big East team...) to repudiate our earlier projections and rewrite history based on the OOC results so far. Pico asked about each blogger's team, the surprise team(s) so far, the disappointing team(s) through this point in the OOC and which players were exceeding expectations and which were not and how the order of finish in conference play. He was kind enough to compile the results and organize a series of posts...
Part 1 -- Team Expectations
Part 2 -- Surprise Team
Part 3 -- Most Disappointing Team
Part 4 -- Players Who Surprise; Players Who Disappoint
Part 5 -- A Revised(?) Order of Finish
The answers were very interesting and worth the time it takes to read through.

Brian Lerner over at the Hoya Prospectus blog published an offense/defense aerial of the conference on the eve of conference play along with a few observations on the comparative efficiencies so far. In addition Brian, in an effort to assess the home/away schedules through the front end of conference play, compiled a rough estimate of strength of schedule. Brian's Big East Preview is a must-read for those who want some context for the first month of play.

Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated reworked his annual "Warning List of Pretenders and Contenders". A compilation not limited to Big East teams, but Winn's premise and conclusions are always a conversation starter, especially when the team you love is identified as a pretender, a sentiment many in the Nova Nation remember from last season. Winn added an Andy Glockner-inspired metric, the Adjusted Scoring Margin, (a variant on John Gasaway's efficiency differential, except that Glockner then ranks the teams to identify the elite scoring margins, etc.) Big East teams mentioned in Winn's article include Connecticut (bad news), Notre Dame (maybe bad news), West Virginia (historical reference), Syracuse (good news) and Louisville (a sleeper). The good news for Villanova's faithful I guess is that no news is good news.

...and Thoughts
ECB Expectations -- The Pitt-UConn game last night (Monday) did not refute the Huskies' progress this season, but it does point to the weakness Luke Winn identified -- if UConn's offense is not on, their defense will probably not keep them in many games this season, and that is a departure from the best of the Connecticut teams. If ESPN's announcing crew dwelt long on Walker's scoring capabilities, they were slow to recognize and analyze UConn's lack of ball and shot distribution, especially at the end of the game, when an option #2 would have been greatly appreciated. I have Connecticut finishing somewhere between #9 and #12 in conference play. While UConn's 8-0 start, with wins over Michigan State and Kentucky are impressive and a #9-#12 finish strong hints at a losing record, I still believe this team's ceiling is about 0.500, which is pretty much where Pomeroy has them now. Winn summed up Notre Dame nicely too. If the Irish can put some defense on the floor they will be very good. The question has always been how much defense they will play.

ECB Surprise Players -- Given Cincinnati's success in the OOC, tabbing Cashmire Wright is no coincidence. The Bearcats have been in dire need of a distributing point guard, imagine had Wright been given the room/incentive to blossom last season. I am surprised Darius Odom-Johnson is struggling. While he appears to have his 2 point shot, his three point conversion is down, as are his assists.

Brian's Aerials -- One encouraging development this season has been Villanova's defensive development. A standard of the teams from 2005 through 2009 (with a few exceptions), the ability to disrupt what the opponent wants to do offensively is an important element if the team is to succeed. Compare Brian's aerials from 2008-09, 2009-10 and this season. This season's defense is farther along than either of the prior seasons. This is a promising development.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Dayton & Richmond at Seton Hall

by Ray Floriani
NEWARK, NJ- Christmas week brought a 'tour of the Atlantic Ten' to the Prudential Center. Seton Hall hosted Dayton on Wednesday and Richmond Sunday. Both games saw the Pirates enjoy half time leads only to be reeled in and out played the final twenty minutes. And both losses left Pirate coach Kevin Willard pondering the Hall's immediate future.

Dayton69Seton Hall65

The Rock under lights

The Four Factors:

Seton Hall44163314

The Hall led 40-26 at the break and appeared to be in full control. The all important first four minutes of the second half saw Dayton get out to an 11-6 advantage. With 16 minutes to play the margin was suddenly a manageable nine points. Dayton also scored four field goals, with three coming in the paint. A point of concern Hall coach Kevin Willard referred to after the contest.

Willard also had a concern about the rebounding. Dayton was tough on the boards and attacked the glass as OREB percentage shows. Matt Kavanaugh, a 6-9 sophomore, epitomized the Flyer effort coming off the bench for a team high 15 points while adding 7 rebounds.

Four Pirates were in double figures led by Jeff Robinson's 15 points. Jordan Theodore scored 13 points with 5 assists but greater defensive attention on the part of the Dayton guards in that final half, saw Theodore wind up shooting 5 of 13 from the floor.

Dayton had 70 possessions with a 99 OE. The Hall matched the offensive efficiency (OE) with 99 on 66 possessions. Those final twenty minutes Brian Gregory's club clearly set the pace with a 123-71 OE advantage.

Victorious Flyrs greet their fans

Richmond69Seton Hall61

Snow is great for Winter scenes
not so for driving...

Efficiencies for the game:

Seton Hall6890

The Four Factors:

Seton Hall43153921

Richmond Coach Chris Mooney
fields questions from reporters

The Hall led 35-30 at the half but was unable to close the issue. This was a point discussed by coach Kevin Willard after the Dayton game as well as after this one. Seton Hall is simply unable to sustain the effort the full forty minutes. That is a point that must be addressed and altered for the Hall to start winning games of this nature against formidable opposition.

Willard was concerned that as the offense lagged the second half, the defense followed. Entering the game the Hall's defensive efficiency was a very creditable 89. This afternoon, it was 16 above average.

Herb Pope is still rounding into condition. The Pirates' junior forward did give a nice 9 point 12 rebound (team leading) effort in 28 minutes. Pope seems to be attacking the glass more aggressively the last two outings. A good sign.

Hall did a good job forcing the pace and getting in the lane against the Richmond defense, especially the first half. Willard noted that defensive letdowns in the second half hindered the offense. "It's hard to run when you are waiting for the ball to get through the net," he said.

Hall had three in double figures. Once again Jeff Robinson had an active 17 point 10 board effort. Jordan Theodore scored 15 points while Fuquan Edwin added a dozen.

Edwin's added minutes and the experience the freshman swingman is getting are a silver lining in the Jeremy Hazell injury.

Willard said an early January decision will be made regarding Hazell's return or medical red shirt. "We will do what benefits Jeremy the best," Willard said.

Richmond's OREB percentage margin is 25-29%. Simply they are -4 in the percentage margin (their minus that of the opposition). Hall enjoyed a healthy advantage in that area and had a 16-7 edge in second chance points.

Justin Harper led all scorers with 24 points. Richmond's 6-9 senior forward is effective inside or on the perimeter. Harper hit 6 of 8 from three and added a team high 8 rebounds.

Richmond entered with a 44% two point field goal percentage defense. Seton Hall shot an outstanding 68% from two the first half. Pirates cooled off, credit Richmond's defense, the second half finishing with a 41% mark for the contest.

The Final Five Minutes:
Taking a cue from Chris DiSano's "Ice Water in the Veins" article on College Chalktalk last season, is a possession breakdown showing how Mooney's club sealed the deal in the stretch.

Seton Hall led 59-57 with five minutes remaining. The results of those last possessions...

PossRichmondSeton Hall
1.field goal (Harper 2pt)turnover
2.field goal (Harper 3pt)Miss (defensive reb)
3.field goal (Garrett 2pt)turnover
4.Miss (defensive reb)field goal (Robinson 2pt)
5.field goal (Anderson 2pt)Miss (defensive reb)
6.field goal (Anderson 3pt)Miss (defensive reb)
Total12 points2 points

Final Numbers
Seton Hall is 6-6, Richmond improves to 10-3. South Florida visit's the Rock on Tuesday to open Big East play. Willard reemphasized that "we have to make plays at the end of the game. Plays on the defensive end."

Hall finished 1-4 against A-10 opposition. They defeated UMASS on the road while losing at Temple, to Xavier on a neutral court and Dayton and Richmond at home. "In all our losses this season," Willard said, "we had a chance to win. We were right in the game."

Post game outside a snowy Rock

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Big East Road Warriors and Home Bodies

Carrots & Sticks
Maybe it is just me, but the past 2-3 seasons have seen more Big East teams abandon the cozy comforts of home court and take to the road early and often in their out of conference portion of the season. While the days of guaranteed games are hardly behind us (below the Red Line conferences and teams still need to balance budgets & above the Red Line programs crave cupcakes), a judicious application of carrots and sticks has I believe, altered the historic tendency for above the Red Line teams to open the season with a 10+ game home stand.

One Big Stick
The NCAA Selection Committee has not been reticent about snubbing homebodies in the past four Selection Sundays. They have made very public examples of high profile programs like Syracuse and Florida State, in each case citing extended home stands and/or weak out of conference (OOC) schedules as the factor that negated a decent-to-good conference (and overall) record or a solid close on the season. Coach Jim Boeheim grumbled and hinted at a conference breakup in the 2008 post season, but took his team out of the Carrier Dome for several games the following season. Program critics may wonder aloud if New York City is really "the road" for the Orange, but Syracuse has passed on several 200k play dates at the Dome every season since.

Most of These Carrots Are Green
Back in 2004 the NCAA reworked the RPI calculation to give a road win at 1.4 of a win and a road loss at 0.6 of a loss. Home win/losses are also adjusted accordingly. Ken Pomeroy ran a scathing review of the formula (despite his early disclaimer...) about a year before he decided the RPI was a useless instrument for what he wanted anyway. Pomeroy may have moved on, but the formula remains, and continues to give a bump for an on-your-opponent's-homecourt win (and hand the home team a whopping penalty for dropping a home court game also...).
TV money has a way of persuading the NCAA to do lots of things, both good and evil. Just ask the BCS bowl committees. CBS convinced the NCAA to open up their post season basketball tournament to spectacular results (both on the court and in the wallet). ESPN has underwritten most of the above the Red Line conference challenges, which entice BCS conference teams out of their home arenas and onto neutral courts to play the kind of power conference opponent they usually shun for OOC play.
ESPN and other media organizations (like the Gazelle Group) have also underwritten early season invitational tournaments, the D1 equivalent of a high school mixer. Though the tournaments have a variety of formats, one of the common features is out of conference match ups on neutral courts, and again format-dependent, a few below the Red Line teams thrown in for good measure.

Looking at the Big East teams and their schedules through December 23, it is clear some teams have embraced the spirit of the NCAA directive, while others have read the fine print carefully. And still others apparantly did not get the memo...

West Virginia420.667820.8000.600
Seton Hall240.333650.5450.545
St. John's320.600730.7000.500
South Florida150.167670.4620.462
Notre Dame310.7501110.9170.333

The table above gives the discussion some perspective. Note the data is sorted by percentage of the team's schedule played outside of their home arena. Ken Pomeroy's Team pages (and his judgement) is the arbiter on whether the venue is a home, neutral or away site. I count any game played at a venue other than the team's "home venue", normally (but not always) a facility located on the school's campus, or in a nearby town where the team commutes to play virtually their entire "home" schedule. Pomeroy dices a bit more finely than the generally recognized "Home", "Neutral" and "Away" categories as he can also identify a game as "semi-home" and "semi-away", identified in his game plan pages with a lower case "h" or "a" (depending on the designation). I have lumped anything not "H" as "not at home", and count it in the tabulations above and below.

On The Road...
Conference-wide, the average percentage of "not at home" games through 12/23 is 36.5%, or between four and five games, depending on the number of games played. Seven teams are at or above that average. Most readers can probably guess three-to-five of the teams who fall below the average...the usual suspects.
...The Warriors
West Virginia has taken 60% of their schedule outside of Morgantown so far, an inspiration to homebodies everywhere. Beyond the usual three game invitational tournament (the Puerto Rico Tip-Off this season -- they lost in the Championship game to Minnesota) and a traditional rivalry game with Duquesne, scheduled for Pittsburgh this season, the Mountaineers added a road game with Miami (FLA), and a game with VMI in Charlestown, WV (guarantee game or a home-n-sort of home?). Their last two OOC games will be on a neutral court and at home, so the move away from the Coliseum this season was deliberate. Given the difficulties Coach Huggins has had away from home in past seasons, is it possible he decided to get his squad aclimated to life on the road?
Georgetown's schedule is in most respects even more impressive than West Virginia's. The Hoyas packed an invitational tournament (the Charleston Classic -- the Hoyas swept), along with return dates Old Dominion and Temple, both in hostile areans. Add the away game with Memphis, and GTown put together an OOC schedule that Pomeroy ranks #25. Coach John Thompson III's squad will start conference play next week, and a title-challenging run should net Georgetown a #3 seed at least (given).
Villanova plays in the Big 5, so the Wildcats are, with three off site invitational games and two Big 5 road games, will almost always have an OOC schedule with a 35%-40% "not at home" component. Villanova's invitational this season was the NIT Tip-Off -- they lost to Tennessee in the Championship -- which, coupled with their two Big 5 away games and a run down the (Jersey) shore to Monmouth produced a 45.5% "out of the home arena" mix. Had Monmouth been ranked #103 instead of #303 by Pomeroy this would have been a solid OOC schedule and probably ranked in the mid-low hundred, rather than #207. Taking three games in hostile environs yields a higher RPI than taking those same three opponents at home. If Villanova meets preseason expectations and takes the Big East regular season title, few (and that includes the Selection Committee) will remember this stretch of the Wildcats' OOC was a bit light. Villanova has two more OOC games to complete their slate -- both at home -- Temple on 12/30, before the Wildcats begin conference play, and Maryland in mid January, a return date from the BB&T Classic last season.
After stumbling out of the gate at Princeton, Coach Mike Rice seems to have Rutgerspointed in the right direction. Their loss to St. Joseph's of the A-10, a team Pomeroy ranks #329 for experience, is puzzling, and coupled with their (neutral site) win over Auburn, their 23 point road win over Monmouth and their two point (home) win over St. Peter's, suggests the team has not yet established a consistency.
On Their Shields? -- St. John's, Seton Hall and South Florida -- for the Johnnies and Pirates, stocked with experienced players, the stategy may have seemed sound in July, but each program has been challenged with bringing a new staff, with their own ideas about offense and defense, together with an established squad. Seton Hall's Coach, Kevin Willard faces the additional problem of a sidelined star (Jeremy Hazell) and a less than 100% starter, Herb Pope, who continues to rehab from an extended hospital stay in the off season.

...The Lawyers
Cincinnati's Coach Mick Cronin took the team to Canada over the Labor Day Weekend to find some offensive options, and the Bearcats appear to have built on those wins through the front part of the season. The mix of "out of home" opponents and sites has worked to the team's advantage so far. The Bearcats' resounding win over Dayton and their 10 point win over Oklahoma are reasons for optimism, but this is one of the softer schedules in the conference (ranked #341 by Ken Pomeroy) if not all of Division 1. Two of the next three home opponents, Xavier (the last OOC opponent on the slate) and Seton Hall, should provide a better gauge on the state of the Cincinnati team.
Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Syracuse have this down to a science. All have taken the largest portion of their OOC schedules at home, leaving the home court only to take neutral site, or "friendlier" venue games with (relatively) high profile opponents. Syracuse ventured out of New York state for a change this season, taking two games in Atlantic City, NJ in addition to a game in Madison Square Garden. The opponents -- Georgia Tech, Michigan and Michigan State -- were hardly cupcakes, but the Orange were well supported by what is probably the best "traveling" fan-base in the conference. Crowds from the Boardwalk Convention Hall, about 5,500 per the announced attendance for the two games played by Syracuse, were 70%-30% Orange fans.

At Home...
...The Homebodies
Marquette and Providence are both less experienced squads (ranked #210 and #325 respectively by Pomeroy), standing reflected in their performances away from their home courts...

OffensiveDefensiveO - D

A four factors looks at those games identifies different problems for each team, but ironically the point per possesion (PPP) differential for each (the last column) is the same. Providence has difficulty scoring (note the Friars' Offensive eFG%) and defending their opponents' shots (Defensive eFG%), but compensate offensively by limiting turnovers and securing second chance points...but they foul too much. Marquette scores more consistently, but has similar difficulties limiting their opponents' conversion. Marquette's rebounding difficulties, especially the defensive boards, is evident in their 38.0 defensive rate, which is about 6% lower than the D1 average. The decision to limit out of home games as the squads mature and continue to train, is probably a good decision. The Golden Eagles have one last road game, versus Vanderbilt, on their OOC slate. That game, and the three they will play (@Rutgers, @Pittsburgh and @Louisville) in the first 15 days of conference play, should indicate whether they can hope for a 0.500 or better road record in conference play.

...The Agoraphobes
Is Louisville trying to pay off the Yum! Center in it's first season of operation? Off season problems getting squad members qualified could not have been anticipated as the schedule was assembled, but it was probably a fortunate accident. The single foray outside of Louisville City limits (but still within the state of Kentucky) yielded a decisive win over a well regarded opponent (Western Kentuck, perennial Sun Belt Conference power), but is far too small a sample to predict how the Cardinals will do in the nine conference road games over the next two plus months.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Monmouth Post Game: An Early Christmas Gift

An Evening in South Jersey
What can anyone say about a 76-36 win? I guess the coach summed it up nicely with "I like where we are right now".

The Athletic Department website posted the official boxscore and the AP wire story, "No. 8 Villanova Cruises to Easy 76-36 Win Over Monmouth", took a break from the negative tone of the past three games. I am confident the Philadelphia press will find something wrong with the Wildcats' performance. And if they do not, then they will complain about scheduling soft opponents. The breakdown by halves...

Opponent:Monmouth University 
 Offense Defense

We will dispense with the green highlighting this time. Just assume that what is not red highlighted is green. There appeared to be a pronounced drop off in efficiencies the second half. The 44-17 scoring gap in the first half may have had something to do with that.

Notes & Observations
1. For the second straight game the staff emptied the bench, using 11 players in all. Eight of the 11 players logged 10 or more minutes apiece, a strong suggestion that the Wildcats controlled the game early.
2. Corey Fisher again led the 'Cats, this time posting 20 points on overall shooting of 8-10 (1-3, 7-7) and 3-3 from the line. The senior guard had a five rebound night for the second consecutive game, even as he dished five dimes (and had a single turnover).
3. Three other 'Cats, Corey Stokes (19), Maalik Wayns (11) and center Mouphtaou Yarou (14) also scored double digit points. The offense went through those four for the most part, with Stokes and Yaour being the first options (when each was on the court) with Wayns and Fisher as second options.
4. Antonio Pena may have had a quiet (but efficient) scoring night, he was a vacuum cleaner on the defensive boards, scooping up 34% of the defensive boards when he was in the game. .
5. The walk-on Dallas Ouano logged five minutes recording a steal and a turnover.
6. Freshman James Bell played for 21 minutes as he continues to get into game shape. The wing went 1-5 (0-3, 1-2) without getting to the line.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: The Holiday Festival Finals

by Ray Floriani
NEW YORK CITY - St. John's celebrated the holiday season with their second tournament championship this year. The Red Storm defeated Northwestern in the championship to capture the MSG Holiday Festival at Madison square Garden. In November St.John's had captured the Great Alaska Shootout.

The Holiday Logo
on the MSG scoreboard

The scores:

ConsolationDavidson76St. Francis(NY)69
FinalSt. John's85Northwestern69

The Four Factors in the consolation:

St. Francis(NY)39324217

Sometimes we get caught up in over analyzing, 'paralysis by analysis' if you will. Forgotten is the simple act of putting the ball through the hoop. Davidson went into the locker room at halftime with a 33-28 lead largely on that ability to make shots. The Wildcats' eFG percentage was 59% while they enjoyed the same percentage from two point range (10 of 17). St. Francis(NY) on the other hand, shot a 31% eFG mark hitting only 30% inside the arc.

The Davidson percentage cooled a bit the second half. Still, they never lost the lead. The game was contested at a 70 possession pace with Davidson owning a 109-99 offensive efficiency edge. Davidson mentor Bob McKillop emphasized that his team likes to get out and shoot quickly not walk it up the floor. The Wildcats entered the game averaging 67 possessions.

McKillop was quite pleased with his team's ability to get to the line and the guards distributing the ball in the paint. Over the last 12 minutes of the game each of the five Wildcat field goals was in the paint.

St. Francis was without leading scorer Akeem Bennett (suspended one game for an ejection the night before). Bennett's absence saw interior contributions from the likes of sophomore forward Akeem Johnson (15 points 10 boards). Something definitely needed with conference play resuming in earnest after the new year.

Ricky Cadell of St. Francis(NY) led all scorers with 21 points. Both clubs are now 6-5.

Northwestern's John Shurna (28 points)
shows better form at the line than...
see below

Northwestern and St. John's
The pace and efficiency in the championship:

St. John's67127

The Four Factors:

St. John's66313319

The first four minutes. Northwestern came out taking the three. They knocked down three treys en route to an 11-8 lead. St. John's answered with a pair of their own by Dwight Hardy. At the 16 minute mark each team had only 6 possessions.

Both teams lit it up on the offensive efficiency. At the half, Northwestern checked in at 121, St. John's not too far behind at 112. Credit the trey. The Wildcats got great looks, hitting 6 of 12 beyond the arc. John Shurna, a junior forward was 3 of 4 from three with 19 first half points. The Red Storm hit 5 of 12 treys. Dwight Hardy canned 12 points on 4 of 8 dialed long distance. Hardy took nine attempts from the floor the initial half with one (miss) inside the arc.

The first four minutes, second half. Northwestern led 40-37 at the half. At the 16 minute mark the score was tied at 45. The tide had begun to turn as the 6 possessions over those first few minutes score St. John's knock down field goals on four of them. All the Wildcats came up with were two (two point) field goals and a free throw.

St. John's coach Steve Lavin referenced the box score and spoke of St. John's 'offensive efficiency' the second half. Lavin was referring to the Red Storm's 80% field goal shooting percentage (16 of 20) the last twenty minutes. Over that juncture the eFG percentage was 85%. St. John's scored 48 points on 34 possessions, a whopping OE of 141. Lavin was right about the offensive efficiency.

Why the change? Northwestern plays a tough 1-3-1 zone. The Red Storm figured one way to beat it was outrun it. St. John's utilized transition and was very effective the second half. Lavin also pointed out that when the defense of Northwestern got back, St. John's was willing to get touches, reverse the ball and feed the post.

As impressive as the offense was, the Red Storm did a great job defensively the second half. The wildcats scored 29 points on 36 possessions for an OE of 81. Two keys: St. John's rotated quicker to close out on perimeter shooters and defensively pressured the ball and forced Northwestern to "put it on the deck," per Lavin.

Zone offense.
Impressed the way St. John's attacked the 1-3-1. They utilized good ball movement and patience. The first half St. John's penetrated into the gaps, looked for a cutter or passed back to the perimeter. The second half they posted up more as Northwestern often had a guard on the back end of the zone, vulnerable to a low post mismatch.

St. John's assisted on 22 of 31 (71%) field goals. "Coach Wooden said you should try to get 20-25 assists per game," Lavin said. "We did that and it showed in our offense."

Red Storm put five players in double figures. Efficiency totals of the top three players illustrate impressive performances and a spreading of the wealth.

RatingPer. Min.
Dwight Hardy270.722
Justin Burrell230.920
Justin Brownlee230.677

Northwestern coach Bill Carmody and his players saw the loss as a little more than a 'bump in the road'. What concerns Carmody was not how his offense fizzled the second half. Rather, the concerns are with defense. A defense that not only gave up an 80% shooting half but allowed St. John's to get great looks and penetration leading to better or easier shots to hit..

Closing the Books:
St. John's is 7-3, Northwestern suffered their first loss and is 8-1. John Shurna paced all scorers with 28 points while Dwight Hardy led St. John's with 24.

An Early Advantage:
Yours truly arrived at MSG about two hours before game time. It afforded an opportunity to shoot a while on the hallowed Garden floor. For 'stats' purposes, included were two sets of ten free throws. The first set was a 'Shaq like' 2 of 10. The second set improved to 6 of 10. If my writing colleagues and I form a team, now it's obvious who will be fouled late in a close game.

Your VBTN contributor at the line.
This one was good.
(photo by John Ryan)

The All-Tournament Team:
Ricky Cadell, St. Francis(NY)
Jake Cohen, Davidson
Drew Crawford, Northwestern
John Shurna, Northwestern
Dwight Hardy, St. John's
Lou Carnesecca MVP: Justin Brownlee, St. John's

Coach Steve Lavin and the victorious St. John's team
celebrate at center court

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Corey Fisher Nominated for Cousy Award

The Bob Cousy Award
Villanova announced yesterday that senior guard Corey Fisher was nominated for the Bob Cousy Award. Nominations were received from college basketball coaches in each of the three NCAA Divisions. In all 68 nominations were received, the process that will eventually name a winner includes
A Bob Cousy Award screening committee will review the nominations submitted and release finalists lists of 20, 10 and finally down to 5 before the Selection Committee meets via conference call to decide the winner. The final lists of 20, 10 and 5 will represent voting from all three Divisions in college basketball.

A premier Selection Committee will be appointed by the Hall of Fame to review the final five candidates in contention for the award.

Other Big 5 guards nominated for the award...
Juan Fernandez, Temple
Zack Rosen, Pennsylvania

Other Big East nominees...
Kemba Walker, Connecticut

"A List" nominees...
Talor Battle, Penn State
Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech
Jimmer Fredette, BYU
Kyrie Irving, Duke
Lewis Jackson, Purdue
Brandon Knight
Kalin Lucas, Michigan State
Demetri McCamey
Jacob Pullen
Nolan Smith, Duke
Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas
Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin
Isiah Thomas, Washington
AJ Walton, Baylor

Congratulations Corey
& all of the nominees

Monday, December 20, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: The 2010 Maggie Dixon Classic

by Ray Floriani
NEW YORK CITY- The Maggie Dixon Classic gave the fans four elite teams. The games did not turn out as competitive gems. Regardless, it was a special day. A history making day and a day to celebrate the life and legacy of Maggie Dixon and women's basketball.

The classic on the Garden scoreboard

The scores:

Texas A&M79Rutgers50
UConn81Ohio State50

The Four Factors from the TAMU-Rutgers opener:

Texas A&M52234723

In a 73 possession game Rutgers saw the extreme at both ends. A moderate to average offensive team entering the game (102 offensive efficiency), coach C. Vivian Stringer's club had defended well (84 defensive efficiency). Until today. The edge was close on the boards but that was about it. Rutgers had no answer for 6-2 Danielle Adams with 24 points 12 rebounds in 36 minutes. Adams hit from outside (2 for 6 from three) but did appreciable damage in the paint with a 50% (7 of 14 mark). In fact the paint was owned by the visiting Aggies with an absurdly high 34-10 edge on points in that area. Another stat that jumped off the page was TO rate. Specifically that of Rutgers with a ridiculously high 38% (27 total). Again, those turnovers spelled points as Texas A&M enjoyed a 38-7 margin in points off turnovers. Coach Gary Blair's group had a nice inside/outside mix. They hit 7-17 (41%) from three and 22-45 (49%) inside the arc. Rutgers was 0-8 from three and 13-41 (42%) from two.

The Efficiency numbers from the nightcap:

Ohio State8758

Pace was a little quick as UConn entered averaging in the high 60s (possessions) while Ohio State was in the mid 70s. Pushing the pace was by design. "We wanted to rebound and get out and run," said UConn junior guard Tiffany Hayes.

West Point Glee Club
performed the National anthem

The Four Factors:

Ohio State33132624

About the only area Geno Auriemma will look back in disdain on is turnovers. Fueled by 21 miscues the Huskies posted a TO Rate that could hurt them in a close game. Part of that TO number could be construed to a game plan that emphasized getting out in transition. On that end UConn held a 21-7 edge in transition points. Ever the perfectionist, Auriemma will address the turnovers as early as next practice, if not before.

Added Observations:
UConn did a great job on 6-4 center Jantel Lavender. She tied Tyler Hill for Buckeye scoring honors with 14 points but was forced into a 7 of 21 night from the floor. The nation's leading scorer was held 12 below her regular average.

The Garden scoreboard tells the score
and notes other streaks

Freshman center Stefanie Dotson had a 'stat stuffer' of a day for UConn. She scored just four points but added five rebounds and three blocks. In fact she was one of UConn's and the game's top three efficiency leaders, and the leader on a per minute basis:

Overallper Min
Tiffany Hayes280.800
Maya Moore260.765
Stefanie Dotson220.880

What if?
Roster sheets in the press room had Maya Moore listed on both UConn and Ohio state. Buckeye coach Jim Foster would certainly have been willing to add Moore to his 10th ranked team.

Coaches unanimously agree the first four minutes of each half are vital. Ohio State opened the game with a pair of three point field goals by Brittany Johnson to take a very early 6-0 lead. Thoughts of a potential upset were soon ended as the Huskies ran off 11 straight points to enter the 16 minute mark ahead 11-6. The numbers of the first four minutes saw UConn nine possessions (1.22 PPP) while Ohio State with the same possession total checked in at .67 PPP.

At the half UConn led 40-26. The first four minutes of the final half saw each team with 8 possessions. UConn scored 11 points (1.38 PPP) while Ohio State checked in with six (.75 PPP). That put the score at 51-32 UConn at the 16 minute mark and the outcome all but finalized.

Such was the UConn dominance inside (a 48-22 point in the paint edge) the first 8 minutes of the final half, the Huskies eight field goals and the 'longest' was a five footer in the lane.

Ball distribution was solid for the Big East representatives as well. UConn handed out 18 assists on 32 field goals showing 56% of their field goals assisted. Ohio State assisted on 8 of 18 (44%) field goals.

Closing the Book:
Rutgers is 7-5 while Texas A&M is 9-1. The Aggies' Danielle Adams' 24 points led all scorers in the first contest.

UConn is 10-0 while Ohio state fell to 8-2. Tiffany Hayes of UConn led all scorers with 26 points.

With 88 straight in the books, UConn hosts Florida Sate on Tuesday. Record crowd to see a women's game, 15,232, at Madison Square Garden was on hand. Pitt mentor Jamie Dixon was in attendance. His Panthers defeated Maryland Easter Shore the night before in Pittsburgh.

"When I was last here (as an assistant at Louisiana Tech) the major papers sent fashion editors to cover our game. Now I look at all of you out there in the media in this room and that is proof women's college basketball has arrived." - Texas A&M coach Gary Blair.

"It is different times but there are similarities to both teams (UConn women and UCLA men). The two teams shared a level of competitiveness. A level of expectations above that of anyone else." - UConn's Maya Moore on the 88 game win streak.

"I am not doing anything different than other (coaches). The stuff I do I 'stole' from other people" Geno Auriemma on his coaching philosophy.

"We prepared and went about our routine the same way. I did let the players know it was a different week. A chance to get into the history books" - Geno Auriemma on the preparation for the Ohio state game.

The UConn women celebrate their historic moment
at center court, Madison Square Garden

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: A Look at the UConn Women and Their Historic Run

by Ray Floriani
NEW YORK CITY, NY - Heading into Sunday's 'historic' meeting between UConn and Ohio State, UConn women's SID Pat McKenna provided a rundown of the Huskies' stats in the 87 games prior to this Ohio State game. The summaries were done against all opponents as well as the 29 games versus nationally ranked (top 25) teams. The breakdowns are summarized in the tables below. But a few added notes just illustrate the magnitude of this dominating streak…

During the 87 game run Geno Auriemma's club has trailed 3.8% of the time. No opponent has hit over 50% from the floor over the last 236 games. Last to do it was Boston College on March 8, 2004. Baylor hit an even 50% (22 of 44) in their 65-64 loss to the Huskies back on November 16.

UConn fans express their views on the streak.

UConn has not lost back-to-back games since 1992-93. Gampel Pavilion opened for the 1993-94 season and the Huskies sport a 216-5 (.977) record in their on campus facility.

UConn has won 144 straight against teams not ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.

UConn has been ranked number one forty nine consecutive weeks. Louisiana Tech enjoyed the same lofty ranking 36 consecutive weeks from 1980-82. Ironically, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey starred on that Louisiana Tech squad.

UConn's last loss was April 6, 2008 in the national semifinals to Stanford, 82-73.

A look at UConn's possessions and efficiency against the 29 games versus ranked opponents the Huskies faced during the streak:


An incredible +35 efficiency margin (offense - defense) against the strongest programs in the women's game. The following are the numbers for all 87 games.


The efficiency margin is a +47, which is Springfield, Mass. Material. But not much higher than the margin posted against ranked teams. In simple terms, the Huskies were formidable against all opposition. Interesting to see the pace was basically the same against ranked and all opponents. In 'Woodenesque' fashion, UCONN has a way they play the game and they are adhering to it no matter the opponent.

The Four Factors for all 87 games in the study:


Absolutely no surprise that UConn dominates in every area. The one category the Huskies are a little 'deficient' in is turnover (TO%) rate. Their 20% mark is a borderline deficiency as an offensive rate. On the defensive side they do force opponents into a 26% TO% rate, insuring they maintain a positive take-away/give-away ratio.

There is a neat and tidy association tied into UConn's eFG% and rebounding. The Huskies clean the offensive glass which affords great second chance opportunities and opportunities to get to the line. Through the 87 games 24% of their points came from beyond the arc and only 30% of their field goal attempts originated from that range.

UConn goes for number 89 Tuesday against Florida State in Hartford. Following that game is a west coast trip with visits to Pacific and Stanford before Big East play continues after the new year. Very interesting name is on the itinerary, Stanford. The last team to knock off the Huskies. Stay tuned.

Tomorrow a rundown on the Maggie Dixon Classic games.

Madison Square Garden.
A fitting stage for a record.