Saturday, January 30, 2010

Big East Efficiencies -- Husky Offensive Rebounding?

A Quick Look at the Big East Composite...
I have been tracking several conferences this season, scraping Ken Pomeroy's web site on a regular basis (thank you Ken you provide a wonderful resource for D1 ball...) for his possession-based, game-by-game, results. While Pomeroy keeps track of the conference teams in a very nicely organized conference page, that page does not tell me much about how any team is doing in conference -- the stats are overall -- all regular season games included. I understand the argument against looking only at (for example) conference games -- the sample is too small, the schedule is unbalanced, the timeframe is too restricted, etc. etc. etc. -- all of which are valid points. There are, however a few good points to be made for looking only at conference games at this point, but I will try not to arrive at any grand conclusions...

RecordPoints Per Poss.
West Virginia520.7141.1310.9650.166
Notre Dame440.5001.1141.146-0.032
Seton Hall350.3751.0351.083-0.048
St. John's260.2500.9180.994-0.076
South Florida350.3751.0231.124-0.101
Conf. Avg.1.0501.0490.001
Conf. Std.0.0850.0660.124

First stop is the won-loss record & Points Per Possession (ppp), ordered by each team's offensive and defensive ppp differentials. The differential is the remainder when I subtract a team's offensive efficiency (points per possession scored on offense) from their defensive efficiency (points per possession yielded by the defense). The mean for conference games is about 1.05 (rounding yields a slight difference in offense and defense, as it does for many of the four factors stats in the tables below) points per possession, the mean for D1 is about 1.00.For the most part things appear to be ordered, more or less, as they should (that is, by winning percentage). Winning teams cluster at the top of the table, while teams with losing records cluster at the bottom. Note how the conference clusters into (very roughly) six tiers. With just under 44% of the conference games played, things will change over the next three weeks.
Top Tier (green highlight) -- Villanova, West Virginia and Syracuse -- no surprises here, these three have been the talk of the conference since early December, if not the preseason. Everything seems to be on track, note how their differentials are well ahead of the rest of the conference; there is some separation between Syracuse (ranked #3 here) and Louisville (ranked #4). What was working for these three in the out of conference part of the season continues to work for them in the front end of their conference schedules.
Near Elite (yellow highlight) -- Louisville, Georgetown, Marquette and Pittsburgh are clustered at the next level. Three of the four, the Ville, Pitt and Marquette, have had to integrate many new faces (and styles?) this season. Louisville's offense did not appear to miss a beat, but the defense is lagging. As they considered the loss of Williams and Clark, how many Cardinal fans thought defense would be the problem this season? These squads have flaws, Marquette and Georgetown have shallow rotations and limited scoring and possession options. Louisville seems to be searching for a floor leader, someone the staff can trust. Pitt is a solid program, but like Louisville, has players who were complements to their stars and leaders last season. Growing into new roles (for Pitt, that means a a young front court) will take even more time. Someone among these four will nail down the #4 seed for the Garden Party in March. Louisville may be rounding into form like earlier Coach Pitino squads (albeit a bit more slowly, see Saturday's 77-74 loss at WVU), and along with Pittsburgh which has seen the harder part of their schedule already, might be favorites for me. Marquette is swimming against a heavy current, though their win at Connecticut helps. Lacking depth, especially in the front court has to be a problem for the Golden Eagles going forward. The unexpected road loss to DePaul was ugly.
Fence Sitters (orange highlight) -- Connecticut and Cincinnati are surprises, unpleasant ones to be sure. Both were picked to finish higher than the middle spots in the conference, but both have shown problems (see the next two tables). At this point in the season fans have to wonder if the Huskies and Bearcats are coming or going. For Cincinnati, learning to win road games against lesser (conference) opponents is important, not only for conference seed, but for the Selection Committee as well.
Hanging On (blue highlight) -- Providence, Notre Dame and Seton Hall. all entered the season with hopes and fears. Right now the fears appear to be in control. Of the three teams, only Providence lost significant offensive and defensive presence with graduation/eligibility, the others looked for and found (maybe...) missing pieces to a winning season.
Any Other Conference... (violet highlight) -- St. John's and South Florida have to wonder what it takes to win in the Big East. Note the Bulls' offensive efficiency is comparable to Seton Hall's and better than Connecticut's, but a porous defense has sabotaged an upward move. And for the Johnnies, long known for stingy defense, the offensive bugs continue. Compare St. John's defensive efficiency to Georgetown's and Cincinnati's; even an average offense would translate into two, possibly three more wins. Maybe Dwight Hardy should start and be given a Jeremy Hazell-type green light.
Waiting for Godot or the end of the season, which ever comes first (red highlight) -- DePaul and Rutgers have lost contact with the rest of the conference. The efficiency differentials confirm what the won-loss records suggest. DePaul has already "started" on next season, as interim coach Tracy Webster is no doubt looking at the roster and who is playing hard at this point. Hill's buyout is 1.8 million dollars. In the face of a recession that is certainly hitting the Garden State pretty hard, the question is which is more painful, eating a 7 figure contract (and then negotiating another one with his replacment), or sit by and watch the program dissolve as buyout clause matures to something more palatable?

The Four Factors -- Offense and Defense
When I compiled Oliver's four factors for the conference teams (conference games only), I found more than a few surprises waiting in the data...

Offensive Factors
West Virginia63.149.816.141.727.9
Notre Dame66.850.313.832.140.9
Seton Hall68.744.512.534.630.3
St. John's66.543.620.033.429.1
South Florida67.346.819.236.546.0
Conf. Avg.67.649.518.534.735.6
Conf. Std.

Villanova's strong offensive showing comes from a combination of efficient field goal conversion (#2 behind Georgetown) and getting to the free throw line (about once for every two field goal attempts, best in the conference). The most surprising stat in the table however is Connecticut's offensive rebounding rate. Not only is it among the lowest in conference games (#13), but is incredibly low historically for the Huskies. Pomeroy's overall offensive rebounding rate for Connecticut, 35.7, overstates the Huskies' effectiveness on the offensive glass. Granted the Big East is a rebounding conference (note the conference average for offensive rebounds, 34.7%, is above the D1 average of about 33.3%), but historically Connecticut has ranked among the best in conference in this category, and the decline, a nearly 10 point drop from OOC play, cannot be attributed solely to the conference competition. Connecticut typically has a dominant center and strong rebounding from the #3 and #4. While Gavin Edwards and Alex Oriakhi are ranked in Pomeroy's Top 500 for offensive rebounding, neither is a Top 100 (Charles Okwandu might fit the bill, but he draws very few minutes). And Stanley Robinson, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Ater Majok are no better than average (offensive) rebounders for their position. The lack of offensive rebounding virtually guarantees that missed field goal attempts (Connecticut is struggling there too, note their eFG%, ranked #6/7 in the conference for field goal efficiency) will become opposing team possessions. Pomeroy's overall ratings page shows the Huskies with an offensive rebounding rate of (about) 35%, still low for Connecticut, but not

Defensive Factors
West Virginia47.820.932.339.7
Notre Dame50.514.237.129.9
Seton Hall54.021.533.745.4
St. John's47.220.131.639.9
South Florida50.716.639.934.6
Conf. Avg.49.618.634.635.9
Conf. Std.3.342.724.167.40

Not Your Father's Wildcat Defense
In past seasons the Wildcats posted bad field goal numbers, but compensated by forcing higher than average turnovers and limiting second chance points. The 'Cats are doing a much better job with field goal defense, but they have eased off of turnovers, and are "giving points back" at the free throw line -- note the FTA/FGA for defense is nearly the same as for offense. Over the past 3 - 4 seasons the 'Cats have used the free throw line to gather 20% - 35% of their game points, which has translated into a 5% - 15% point advantage. This season the points taken and given at the free throw line Rebounding is about the same as prior seasons.

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Siena at St. Peter's

by Ray Floriani

JERSEY CITY, NJ - St.Peter’s saw their five game win streak ended by the leaders of the MAAC, Siena. The Saints earned a hard fought 66-58 victory at the Yanitelli Center on Thursday evening.

In a 71 possession game, the Efficiency and Factors:



St.Peter’s entered the game averaging 65 possessions in MAAC play and sporting an offensive efficiency of 97. Siena forced the Peacocks into a faster pace and a 19 turnover evening. The turnover situation was a very sore point for St.Peter’s coach John Dunne. Turnovers and 41% shooting (credit the Siena defense) largely contributed to St.Peter’s low OE.

Siena was without injured Edwin Ubiles their outstanding 6-7 senior swingman . Picking up the pace on this veteran club were forward Ryan Rossiter, a game high 21 points along with 9 boards. Point guard Ronald Moore, 10 points, 9 assists, 2 turnovers, 40 minutes- this is a typical Moore night. Alex Franklin added 9 points 10 rebounds but muscled his way in the paint for a crucial field goal with just under a minute to play.

For a veteran cast that’s been around, Siena did start a junior (Rossiter) and sophomore forward Owen Wignot.

St.Peter’s attempted almost a quarter of their shots (14 out of 59) beyond the arc. Thus a relatively low FT rate. Peacocks did go 50% (7 of 14) from three but were defended inside shooting 17 of 45 (38%) from two point range.

Wesley Jenkins led St.Peter’s with 13 points while Nick Leon added 12. Ryan Bacon did not get a lot of low post touches (5 of 8 shooting) but scored 11 and added a game high 15 rebounds.

Arguably the game breaker of a stat: Siena held a 20-5 edge in points off turnovers.

Siena travels well and had a few hundred fans. The attendance, mostly St.Peter’s faithful, was 1,609. “It was a great atmosphere,“ Dunne said, “the best atmosphere since our 6 AM game (in November).”

Siena is now 18-4, 11-0 in the MAAC. St.Peter’s is 12-9, 7-4.

“Siena’s 1-2-2 zone is tough. It didn’t turn us over that much but it forced us to stand around and use a lot of clock.” - St.Peter’s coach John Dunne

“I expected a close game. No one blows them (St.Peter’s) out. I expected and we prepared for a close game.”- Siena coach Fran McCaffery
Siena Assistant Coach (and former Villanova Assistant Coach) Mitch Buonoguro

Friday, January 29, 2010

St. John's Post Game: Ebb and Flow

The Homecoming, Part 2
Coach Wright's first head coaching job was Hofstra Univesity, a D1 program and member of the Colonial Athletic Association Conference. And located on Long Island, just east of New York City. Coach Wright has scouted the talent in the New York metropolitan area, maintained contacts with local high school and AAU coaches and has persuaded a steady stream of New York and New Jersey high school players to take their college educaton on the Mainline. Home-and-home contracts with Stony Brook and Fordham, unusual in an era of guarantee games, are common with Villanova but carry an ulterior motive. The Wildcats want games that New York and northern New Jersey fans (and prospects) can get to easily.

The Official website has an AP wire story, some post game notes and the box score. The breakdown by halves...

OpponentSt. John's 
 Offense Defense

Notes & Observations
1. Possessions for each half was very consistent. I did not have that impression as I watched the game.
2. Strong scoring from the field in the first half was undermined (for both teams) by turnovers. Note that both Villanova and St. John's lost over a quarter of their possessions. For Villanova, the culprit was, to a significant degree, steals by St. John's. Villanova point guards Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns in particular had two turnovers apiece.
3. Villanova's first half offensive rebounding was weaker than usual. The Johnnies' front and back court contingents can split credit, even as they did the defensive rebounds -- each group had 6.

Did St. John's Hit the Wall?
Among other questions asked in the post game press conference, one that was asked several different ways (reporters are funny that way...if they don't get the answer they want/expect, they simply rephrase the question and ask again...or get a colleague to) was whether the Red Storm team had not learned how to close out an opponent yet. The observation was that they had "stayed with" the Wildcats for 30 or so minutes, but could not "finish". I decided to break the game down into four minute segments to look a the scoring. How long did the Johnnies stay with the 'Cats?

Game ScorePts. in Segment
1st half
2nd half

Though not timed to the minute, the segments suggest that while St. John's came out strong in the second half and turned back a Villanova 19-9 run that closed out the first half by adding a point back onto their lead, the tide was turning before the 30:00 minute mark of the game (before the 10:00 minute mark of the second half). An 8-3 run through the segment that marked the first 28 minutes had put the Wildcats back on top. The next 4 minute segment (28:00 through 32:00) continued the Villanova run by adding another seven points onto the Wildcats' lead. the teams traded points and possessions through the end of the game. By the 32:00 minute mark it was pretty much over.

A Funny Thing Happened in the Post Game Presser
I have learned there is a rhythm and flow to questions at post game press conferences, apparent if one hears the post game pressers typically televised after each NCAA tournament game. One reporter was interested in player and coach (from both teams) reactions to Scottie Reynolds as the Big East Player of the Year. Variations of this question found their way into the several exchanges in the Villanova segment. Scottie and Coach Wright (Reggie Redding, the other Wildcat present at the conference did not offer an opinion) did not seem prepared for that one. Was it "out of context"? Or had they simply not considered the possibility that Scottie would be a serious alternative to preseason favortie Luke Harangody? I suspect it was a little of both. The coach talked about focusing on the games and letting the team (and Scottie's) performance "make the case". A good answer, but it did take him a few sentences to fix on it as "the response". The same reporter raised the question to the St. John's players during their post game interview. Seated as bookends to Coach Norm Roberts, Malik Stith and DJ Kennedy looked at each other after the question had been posed. Clearly they had not anticipated the question either. Stith fielded the question (and did a good job under the circumstances) and complemented Scottie's play with "He's a big shot taker and a big shot maker. He doesn't worry about missing, he focuses on his next shot...".

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: La Salle at Fordham

by Ray Floriani

BRONX, NY - They are getting closer. With just over a minute to go it was a one possession game. Fordham never could draw even and laSalle hit their free throws to seal an 80-73 victory at Rose Hill.

The efficiency and factors in a 74 possession game.


Key stats not in the box score:

La SalleFordham
Fast Break Points186
Points in the Paint4034

Points in the paint and fast break points are closely related. Simply because you want to finish your transition opportunities by going to the basket. Interestingly when Joe Bryant (Kobe’s dad) played for the La Salle in the mid Seventies, the 6-9 dynamo aka ‘jelly bean’ would often finish a fast break with a 25 footer (and there was no three point shot in college during that time). Back then ‘jelly bean’ had the benefit of the proverbial green light but that’s another story and era.

La Salle did their best to pound it inside. For the most part the Explorers were in an attack the basket mode. They attempted only 7 threes (hit three) out of their 55 field goal attempts. A main reason their eFG% percentage was extremely high.

Rebounding, a La Salle strong point, saw the Rams as the victors. Rebounding is the result of hard work and hustle, further evidence of how hard Jared Grasso has his team playing even during a long season. Another factor in the rebounding (Rams had a 13-7 offensive edge) was the play of Chris Gaston. The Fordham freshman added 15 rebounds (8 offensive) to his team high 21 points.

In a showcase of outstanding young talent, La Salle’s outstanding freshman Aaric Murray led all scorers with 24 points while adding 7 rebounds and blocking four shots. The efficiency numbers of two of the conference’s brightest first year stars. (Efficiency adds points, rebounds, blocks, steals and assists while subtracting turnovers and all missed shots).

OffensePer Min

Gaston was a perfect 7 of 7 from the line while Murray had a similar percentage , going 3 of 3. Gaston logged 30 minutes before fouling out but another Fordham first year player , Fahro Alihodzic added 12 points to help the Rams’ inside game.

Brenton Butler scored 12 for Fordham but was 3 of 15 (1 of 8 from three point range) from the field. Rodney Green, LaSalle’s outstanding senior guard had an interesting line. Green added 16 points, 5 assists and tied Murray for the team rebound lead with 7.

LaSalle is now 11-9, 3-3 in the Atlantic Ten while Fordham drops to 2-17, 0-7.

“He is a beast inside. He does everything he can to help his team. He doesn’t take a night off.” - LaSalle coach John Giannini on Chris Gaston of Fordham.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Breaking Down Two Seton Hall Games

by Ray Floriani

NEWARK, NJ - In the space of four days Seton Hall came up with two note worthy Big East wins at the Prudential Center.
First the Louisville game won by the Hall 80-77 on Thursday : In a 68 possession (Louisville 69 SHU 66) possession game, the Efficiency and Factors:


Seton Hall12157314720

Both teams had a high efficiency on the offensive end. Louisville has had some problems on the defensive end. The effort defense wise, was not a stellar effort by the Hall but they did do a nice job limiting post threat Samardo Samuels to just nine points. Edgar Sosa led the Cardinals with 15 points.

Both teams attempted 25 free throws and the Hall had the higher FT rate hitting 17 to the 14 of Louisville. Again the charity stripe is another sore spot for the Cards per coach Rick Pitino.

Hall had a balanced effort with five players in double figures and was led by Jeremy Hazell with 25 points. Hazell played a strong all around game as he added 5 rebounds and defended well.

Hall led by 13 with just under five minutes to play and barely held off the visitors as they closed strong taking advantage of several late Pirate turnovers.

Not a vintage Louisville team that is expected to play deep into March but a nice win over a Rick Pitino team, “that fights to the end,” per Gonzalez.

Seton Hall vs Pitt
On Sunday afternoon, Seton Hall defeated ninth ranked Pitt 64-61.

The factors and efficiency in a 66 possession (Pitt 66 SHU 65) game.


Seton Hall9946212615

Interesting that Gonzalez felt this was a slower game than the Louisville one. It was by about two possessions. The difference was more perception as Louisville and the Hall got out on occasion and ran. The Pitt game was a classic ‘grind it out’ half court affair.

Hall eventually beat Pitt at their own game with solid defense. It’s evident in the effective field goal mark and TO rate. Panthers had 20 TOs despite the Hall not full court pressing.

Ashton Gibbs of Pitt led all scorers with 23 points. Gibbs was 14 of 14 from the line and only 4 of 15 from the field.

Herb Pope was a huge factor inside. He had the touches shooting 8 of 12 finishing with a team high 19 points 9 boards.

Panthers, to no surprise, were tough on the boards. Raw figures saw a 39-25 rebounding edge, 16-8 on the offensive glass. Their board work was a major factor that kept them in and allowed them to battle back from an eleven point first half and eight point second half deficit.

Jeremy Hazell was limited to 16 minutes with foul trouble. He finished with 9 points and made a few big plays in the stretch.

Win was first over a top ten team during Gonzalez’s tenure. It capped a big momentum sweep as the Hall now faces South Florida, Villanova and Pitt their next three games, all on the road.

Pitt is 15-4 (5-2). Seton Hall improved to 12-6 (3-4).

The first minute:
A cue regarding tempo and interestingly, what was to transpire.

1. Hazell missed shot.
2. Pitt turnover
3. Theodore 10 foot jumper.
4. Foul Hazel… (possession continued)
2-0 SHU

“We need a better understanding of how to play. We are trying to get better but still have improvements to make.” - Pitt coach Jamie Dixon

“This is a great win. What Jamie Dixon ha done at Pitt is off the charts. I really think our West Virginia and Syracuse games earlier helped us win this game.” - Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez

Music Trivia.
Yours truly is pretty good on 60s and 70s songs. In the Hall they had an area where you guess the song and win. The song listened to was an easy one, ‘Moondance’ by Van Morrison. The prize, a small box of valentine candy.
Name That Tune

Monday, January 25, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Temple at Fordham

by Ray Floriani

BRONX, NY - Once again Fordham hung tough about 25 minutes. The Rams couldn’t go the distance and match sixteenth ranked Temple as the Owls pulled away for a 62-45 victory.

In a 57 (Temple 56 Fordham 58) possession game, the Efficiency and Factors:



The first minute actually gave us an indication pace wise of what was coming.

1. Fordham wins the tap. Brenton Butler hit’s a fifteen foot jumper.
2. Temple Luis Guzman twenty foot jumper.

The Rams are a low 70 possession team but Jared Grasso wanted a slower pace. The Fordham mentor had his team dictate. Temple is a mid 60 possession team. Not exactly a blistering pace but faster that the tempo they saw at Rose Hill.

Both teams had good marks in caring for the ball. Temple had only 7 turnovers and neither team really showed and full court pressure on the defensive end.

Rams did a nice job on the boards as OREB percentage shows. In raw numbers Fordham out rebounded Temple 31-30 and had a 9-5 edge on the offensive glass.

Both teams shot poorly, under 30% the first half. Temple came right out and found the range the final twenty minutes hitting 67% after intermission. Fordham , never really got it going on the offensive end.

Owls’ top scorers Lavoy Allen (0 points) and Ryan Brooks (9 points) were held in check. Juan Fernandez, playing well of late, led Temple with 13 points while Scootie Randall came off the bench to add a dozen points.

Fordham was led by Chris Gaston’s game high 16 points and Butler added 9. Rams are still searching for that complimentary scorer to step up on a regular basis.

Temple is 17-3, 5-0 in the A-10 while Fordham falls to 2-16, 0-6.

“We had a slow start and didn’t make shots or go inside the first half. The second half we hit shots and quickly got some separation.” - Temple coach Fran Dunphy

“The first half our defense was what e wanted. The second half they (Temple) made shots and that changed the game.” - Fordham interim coach Jared Grasso

World Championship Trophy sighting.
Not intended to upset ‘Nova fans/readers who are Phillie ‘Phantics’. On display at Rose Hill was the Major League Baseball world championship trophy. The coveted hardware now in possession of the New York Yankees was made available for the day by a member of the club’s media relations department who is a Fordham alum. Fans were given the opportunity to view the trophy , photograph and pose for pictures. Naturally, yours truly took the opportunity to pose with two Fordham cheerleaders who are fellow Yankee fans, Alex (appropriate Name for a Yankee devotee) on the far left and Melissa on the right.
Ray Floriani with the World Series Trophy

Friday, January 22, 2010

Guest Contributor Pico Dulce: Preview of Villanova at St. John's

Villanova travels to Madison Square Garden on Saturday to play the St. John's Red Storm. Pico Dulce of the east coast bias and Johnny Jungle Blogs shares his thoughts about the St. John's Red Storm and what the Wildcats can expect when they tip off at noon.

Things you should know about St. John’s:

The fans have found the team frustrating in Big East play. Personally, I believe people’s expectations were pretty high for a team that won 6 conference games (and a Big East tournament game) last year, beating the lame, the weak, and Notre Dame and Georgetown, who played like a little bit of both. St. John’s scored about .11 points per possession less than their opponents last year, and returned the same core. Familiarity breeds greater efficiency in college ball, but that’s a huge gap to make up – even if the name stars left the league. So far this year, the team is .5 points per possession below their opponents.

Something I strongly believe: this team is improved. “Improve” is a far cry from “contend”, and the fans are upset about not contending. Rightfully so; 6 years, with any extra leniency for the moral high ground and better relationships with AAU players, is a long time for fans to watch a team struggle to get near .500 on the season. And coming off another loss where the Red Storm seemed to have a chance, and once again lose it in a flurry of poor play, defensive breakdowns, and the usual scoring drought… things aren’t going well.

St. John’s has a lot of depth – and now Anthony Mason Jr. is back. So 10 guys will see court time in most games. The team’s point guards are not scorers; the points come generally from a plethora of wing players. Style-wise, you’ll see a lot of ball screens with the occasional off-ball screen for a shooter; St. John’s doesn’t pick and roll much, the screens are intended to give the ballhandler a clearer look at the basket. Defensively, there will be some token pressure and the occasional zone look, but the team is best – and usually – in the halfcourt man with bigs coming out to bother opposing ballhandlers.

The closest thing to an alpha dog player for St. John’s is DJ Kennedy, who will go to the basket in crucial midgame situations; his jump shot is vastly improved, his drives are crafty, and his rebounding is solid. At the end of games, Dwight Hardy has been the guy; he can drive and shoot the 3-pointer. Against smaller teams, Justin Brownlee and Sean Evans are solid rebounders and can score off the dribble… or make mistakes off the dribble. Paris Horne is a scoring threat from the outside; when he drives to the hoop he never seems to get the call. Justin Burrell has been more aggressive in looking for his shot. Anthony Mason Jr. hasn’t been crisp with the jump shot yet, but contributes with rebounding and length on defense.

Speaking of defense, Dele Coker has made some strides this year in playing without fouling, rebounding better (I am surprised he wasn’t credited with any boards against U Conn, he was positioned well on the glass and boxed out) and swatting shots. Burrell and Justin Brownlee can block some shots as well. Paris Horne is considered the team’s tough perimeter defender, but DJ Kennedy can defend well.

Thanking Pico for his thoughts, I want to add that I will be at the Garden, hosting a live blog for the folks at Rush the Court. After you open the game thread on your favorite message board, open a second tab, come over to Rush the Court and contribute to the commentary and dialog live from the game.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rutgers Post Game: The Iron Triangle

The Homecoming
The three Catholic preparatory schools located on the western side of the water that separates New Jersey from New York City, St. Anthony's in Jersey City, St. Benedict's in Newark and St. Patrick's in Elizabeth, produced four of the 23 players who logged time last night in Piscataway. Villanova beat Rutgers, 94-68, and those four scored a combined 51 points, over 31% of the total points scored in the game. Three of the four were former New Jersey POYs; three of the four were McDonald's All Americans, but if you checked the jerseys, three of the four wore blue & white, only one was in scarlet. When the Villanova student section chanted "This is OUR HOUSE!" at the end of the game (in stark contrast to the mood two seasons ago when the Scarlet Knights beat another Jersey-laden Villanova squad), one would be hard pressed to fault their confusion. Three of the four highest scorers on the floor were from New Jersey, and not one of them played for The State University of New Jersey. Fittingly, each of Villanova's New Jersey standouts came from a different member of the state's vaunted "Iron Triangle" schools. Corey Fisher graduated from St. Patrick's, the southern angle of the triangle. He followed another St. Patrick's graduate (and NJ POY), Michael Nardi, to the Mainline. Corey Stokes graduated high school the same year as Corey Fisher, but from the school that anchors the western angle, St. Benedict's. Dominic Cheek, the freshman who logged his career best, and Villanova team-high, 17 points, graduated from St. Anthony's, the eastern angle. Villanova's three Jersey Boys produced 48 of the team's 94 points, just over 50% of the point production on a night when the 'Cats won by 26. Whose house indeed.

The Official website has an AP wire story, some post game notes and the box score. The breakdown by halves...

Offense Defense


The Wildcats took a 25 point lead into the locker room, large enough to render the 2nd half statistics suspect in detail. Those first half numbers were comparable to Villanova's first half against DePaul and the Wildcats' second half against Louisville. That they were able "to beat" the Knights in the 2nd half as well speaks only in general terms of the different levels at which the two squads are operating right now.

Ray Floriani, also at the game last night, was generous enough to share his thoughts on the two teams & the game...

by Ray Floriani
Villanova used a dominating first half to go on to a 94-68 rout of Rutgers at the RAC. This statistical breakdown will look at the efficiency grades from last night. The efficiency rating used by the NBA totals the points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks while subtracting turnovers and missed field goals and free throws. The efficiency per minute is simply the total divided by minutes.

The rundown of both teams of players with ten or more minutes playing time

C. Fisher2820.714
D. Cheek17181.06
C. Stokes2415.625
I. Armwood1513.867
A. Pena158.533
M. Yarou188.444
M. Wayns178.471
R. Redding197.368
S. Reynolds286.214
T. King125.417

D. Miller3630.833
H. Ndiaye2220.909
J. Beatty269.346
M. Coburn276.222
J. Mitchell324.125
A. Johnson221.046
M. Rosario26-1-.039

Notes and observations:
1. Corey Fisher led the way for ‘Nova with a strong 15 point, 6 rebound, 4 assist (no turnovers) showing. Dominic Cheek led the Wildcats in scoring with 17 points. Cheek added four rebounds and turned in his impressive performance in just 17 minutes to post the highest efficiency per minute total for both teams. Isaiah Armwood had a high efficiency for his 15 minutes of action. The freshman forward was a perfect 4-4 from the floor and 1-1 from the line with 9 points, 4 rebounds. Scottie Reynolds was rather quiet on the efficiency totals but coach Jay Wright noted that the Wildcat senior played hard and made his presence felt.

2. Rutgers was paced by freshman Dane Miller with a game high 26 points. Miller added 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 blocks and steals while committing only two turnovers. Before fouling out Rutgers inside threat Hamady Ndiaye had a strong 12 point, 6 rebound , 5 blocked shot effort. Ndiaye had the best efficiency per minute mark for the Scarlet Knights as he put up his numbers in 22 minutes before fouling out. Mike Coburn, 8 points and 5 assists was praised by Rutgers coach Fred Hill for his efforts. Mike Rosario, in the midst of a slump, had a game to forget. You can usually pencil the Rutgers soph in for double digit scoring. On this night the efficiency was in negative numbers. Rosario scored only three points and was 1 of 8 from the floor with no assists and three turnovers. Again, a night to forget and put behind you.

Quotable:“We had to wait until we got Reggie (Redding) back until we set out rotation. We are going with 11 guys that allows us to be the best team we can be” - Villanova coach Jay Wright

“We actually shot better the first half but the offensive rebounds we gave up and our turnovers made a big difference. “ - Rutgers coach Fred Hill

Epiphanny Prince sighting:
In attendance was one of the Scarlet Knights all time greats who finished her career with the women’s program last Spring. Got a chance to meet and chat with Epiphanny Prince. These days she is playing pro ball in Turkey. She joined a struggling franchise but fortunes improved once Prince and Courtney Paris (formerly of Oklahoma) came on board. While we touched on basketball both here and overseas, most of our conversation was about Istanbul, an intriguing city, bordering both Asia and Europe, that I have had the opportunity to visit on two occasions. Turns out yours truly and Prince both share a passion for Turkish coffee and mint tea.
Ray Floriani(l) with Epiphanny Prince (r)

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: At DePaul vs Seton Hall Women's Basketball

by Ray Floriani

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - In the final minutes the game was available for the taking. Seton Hall came up short and dropped a 73-69 decision to DePaul in a Big east Women’s contest at Walsh Gymnasium.

In a 70 possession game, the Efficiency and Factors:


Seton Hall9949303324

Turnovers, a ongoing problem for the Hall (they entered the game with a 31% TO rate in Big East play), reared its ugly head. Hall committed 16 turnovers resulting in the 24% rate on the evening.

A better showing. Entering the game Seton Hall was 0-5 in Big east play. All except a 14 point loss to Providence were twenty or more point games. The pre-game efficiency numbers tell the tale:


Seton Hall7159106-47

Rebounding probably was the story of the night. Kandice Green led the Hall with 23 points. Coach Phyllis Mangina credited Green’s offense but was upset the 6-1 sophomore forward managed only three rebounds. Especially since DePaul owned a 17-11 edge on the offensive glass.

‘Second shots always go in’. This quote was often echoed in practice by coach Larry Weise during my basketball manager days at St.Bonaventure. Actually second shots do not always go in but the point is well taken. Second shots are usually closer range than the first and can often lead to drawing fouls by the defense. DePaul’s edge in OREB percentage and FT Rate was no coincidence.

Not often you can see a player and be impressed after watching them just two minutes. That was the case with Sam Quigley. DePaul’s junior point guard is a take charge player who sees the floor, finds teammates and can drill a perimeter shot. Quigley led all scorers with 25 points. She handed out 6 assists but had to be a scorer in the stretch when the DePaul offense needed it most. The stat sheet credits her with 40 minutes but she actually got about a 30 second rest before coach Doug Bruno had her back on the floor.

Give the Hall credit. Down five at the half, Seton Hall came out and was hit by a 12-0 DePaul run. Rather than fold and fear another one sided loss coming, the Pirates came back and rallied behind Green and guard Ebonie Williams (19 points). Pirates took a late one point lead before DePaul answered and finished it in the waning moments.

Hall dropped to 8-11, 0-6 in conference. DePaul is now 13-6 with a 2-3 conference ledger. Blue Demons had two heartbreakers, a three point loss at Rutgers and an overtime setback at West Virginia.

“I expect us to win some games. We shot 53% the second half. We are starting to score now we have to rebound. When we put it together we will be much better.” - Seton Hall coach Phyllis Mangina

“We couldn’t look past Seton Hall. We came in 1-3 not exactly a glowing record. We have a lot of young players and are in a constantly learning stage.” - DePaul coach Doug Bruno

DePaul squad at center court

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Georgetown Post Game: Laissez les bons temps rouler

The 6th Man
Since I was doing a live blog for Rush the Court, I arrived early and settled in to the press section (going back eight rows, we split the space under one of the baskets with the Villanova Student Section). The student section began to fill 30 minutes before the tip off. They roundly booed as the Hoyas came out for warmups, but the arena, at 20 minutes til tip off, was barely 40% full. The nose bleed section -- the balcony above the club boxes -- showed very few open seats with 10 minutes before the ceremonies, but the lower bowl had many more open seats than faces. The Hoya fans arrived to take their places (appropriately, the poorest seats in the lower bowl) in the corner behind press row.

The first surprise was how quickly the lower bowl stands filled. 7,000 fans arrived and took their seats in something less than six minutes. The second surprise was the Villanova Men's Chorus. Their a cappella rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" was flawless, and the crowd (surprise #3) voiced their approval loudly. Very, very loudly. A hint of things to come? Absolutely, and then some. The crowd stood for large portions of the second half, chanted in one voice frequently and supported the Wildcats, loudly, throughout the entire game. I heard chants from the Georgetown contingent several times, particularly during their second half rally, but they were drown out quickly by the very partisan, very hometown, crowd.

The Official website has an AP wire story, some post game notes and the box score. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

A quick calculation at half-time and I realized the pace was closer to Villanova's comfort zone at 36.0 -- that translates to 72 possessions for the game -- than Georgetown's. This might have been the best half of basketball the 'Cats have played this season, or as Coach Wright suggested in the post game presser, the 2nd half at Louisville and the 1st half versus Georgetown is probably the best "game" Villanova played this season. I suspected the Hoyas would slow it down a bit and run their screen and back-cut offense. Their 2nd half strategy was counter-intuitive -- they bumped the pace up and scored far more efficiently (119.3 -- see table above), taking back the 15 points they gave in the 1st half and tying the game at 4:37 mark on a Greg Monroe put-back of his own miss. The Hoyas would tie again at the 4:01 (Monroe again, this time on a driving lay-up). Over the last 4 minutes Monroe would take only one more field goal attempt, a 2 pointer on a driving lay-up, as four other Hoyas went 1-5 from the field (and 3-3 from the line).

"We Can Play Fast; We Can Play's the Quality of the Shot That Matters"
I suspected the Hoyas would slow it down and run their offense. Boy was I wrong, the Hoyas came out blazing, despite three fouls on Chris Wright the Hoyas threw caution to the wind and combined defensive board domination (they out rebounded the 'Cats by an uncomfortable margin) with outlet passes and lane penetration to switch to a transition offense. Greg Monroe was everywhere. If he wasn't grabbing a rebound (he had 10 in the 2nd half, eight on defense) and throwing an outlet pass to a streaking Austin Freeman or Wright (or Jason Clark), he was at the other end, taking a pass and going strong to the hoop (Monroe went 6-9 from the floor & 4-6 from the line).

Notes & Observations
1. The offense (Min%/Poss%/Shot%) went through Reynolds (72.5/31.9/32.8), Wayns (when he was in -- 35.0/41.0/40.8) and Redding (72.5/31.5/28.5). Fisher (70.0/25.4/15.9) went to the lane several times, but worked more later to set up Redding and Reynolds. The offense came through the back court, as the staff dipped deep into the bench to find an answer for Monroe and Vaughn.
2. The starters logged 65.0% of the minutes, a bit low for a close game. Two most obvious reasons -- fouls (Stokes picked up #2 quickly in the first half and sat for over 10 minutes before starting the second half; Pena fouled out; Reynolds and Redding had four apiece) and Greg Monroe. Though Stokes and Pena started, King (who fouled quickly), Armwood and Yarou logged minutes early and often as the fouls mounted. By the final buzzer Pena had to take a seat and the quintet loggedd 16 fouls combined.
3. Maalik Wayns has been accumulating minutes lately. With the advent of the Big East season, Wayns has seen his minutes grow from 15.8 mpg to 19.0 mpg. His scoring average has nearly doubled, from 6.5 to 12.4 over the last five games. Having been recognized by the conference twice already as Rookie of the Week, Wayns is putting together some numbers for the All-Rookie Team, and perhaps ROY consideration. No small feat given the depth (and seniority) of the Villanova back court.
4. The starters took 63% of the playing time, unusually low given the closeness of the game. 10 players logged >10 minutes apiece, and the staff used 11 players total during the course of the game. The staff has not played a rotation this deep this long ever. The chemistry looks very good.

Ref Notes
The crew of James Breeding, Bryan Kersey and Mike Kitts whistled the teams for a combined 52 fouls. This was the second Villanova game for each, though none has been teamed with any of the others for a Villanova game this season. The 'Cats are 2-0 with each referee. The game was within the standard deviation for Oddly, 52 fouls was pretty much in line with expectations for Kersey, but high for the others. Does Kersey have a "happy whistle"?

Impressions from the Post Game Press Conferences
Jon Tannenwald recorded the two press conferences and has the audio available over at his Soft Pretzel Logic Blog (thanks Jon).

James Bryson Sighting
As I wandered the bowls of the Wach looking for access (back) to the arena to reconnect with the wireless service and shut down my live blog, I spotted two men across from Coach Wright, who was informally answering a few more questions from reporters, waiting patiently for a moment with the Coach. While the shorter of the two was just an inch or two taller than I, the other, at 6-7 (at least) had to be a bballer. We exchanged greetings and a handshake. The name brought back memories of the early 1990s teams, some of Coach Mass' last teams and Coach Lappas' first. Frustrating at times, but those guys showed flashes too. Bryson started for the 1992 and 1993. After noting we both graduated in years ending in "3", I thanked him for some good memories and went off to find the arena floor again. He looked healthy and in good humor. And why not, the 'Cats beat Georgetown?

Press Clippings
The seating chart for the contained a number of familiar names, many of course are local ink or electronic (Tim Welch, former Providence Head Coach who announced the game for ESPN) or net-based media (Jon Tannenwald of Soft Pretzel Logic). In addition to the visiting press (Liz Clarke from the Washington Post), there were a few names known to audiences larger than the Delaware Valley (yes there was a DelCo Times reporter there) national name or two as well, New York (and Philadelphia) Daily News sports columnist Hoops Weiss, ESPN writer Dana O'Neil and Luke Winn to name three. The game drew more than a little ink...

1. Luke Winn drew much of the material for his 5 Lessons... article from the post game pressers. Though Coach Thompson felt he could get good games out of his bench, the collective 1-12 (1-8, 0-4) and 1-2 performance from the field spoke volumns. Coach Thompson acknowledged the bench has to get stronger.
2. Dana O'Neil's My Guy versus Your Guy game-day blog entry was vintage work. Well thought-out and well written.
3. Liz Clarke provides a Hoya perspective to the game in her recap, "Georgetown rally falls short this time...". Her piece also touched the Hoyas' very short bench.
4. Soft Pretzel Logic's Jon Tannenwald wonders Does Georgetown-Villanova matter anymore?. He raised the question to each coach individually in their separate press conferences. Both coaches couched their answers in the context of the Big East conference and where they felt their team was at this point in time. Hardly a rousing endorsement for the rivalry perhaps, but Greg Monroe's demeanor during the press conference suggested this loss stung. A lot.
5. The Hoya Prospectus has an HD version of the boxscore.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: At Marist vs St. Peter's Women's Basketball

by Ray Floriani

JERSEY CITY, NJ- Marist women, the team to beat in the MAAC, defeated St.Peter’s 70-55 at Yanitelli Center Saturday afternoon.

The efficiency and factors in a 67 possession game.


Marist entered the game with a +14 efficiency margin (103 offense 89 defense). The final numbers were a slightly better efficiency-wise, than their pre-game margin.

The turnover rate was a bit high for coach Brian Giorgis’ liking. The Red Foxes entered the St.Peter’s game with a 19% TO rate. Both teams had 15 turnovers.

Marist’s free throw rate (FTM/FGA) seems high. The result was due to the visitors shooting 100% (21 of 21) from the charity stripe.

Defense is a major factor in Marist’s success. The defense is present both inside and on the perimeter. Two point opposing FG percentage entering the game was 38%. Opposition fared less favorable beyond the arc with a .299 percentage. St.Peter’s shot 33% from two and was 43% , but attempted only 7 (making 3) from downtown.

The Red Foxes led by sophomore guard Corielle Yarde with 18, had three players in double figures scoring. Rachele Fitz, a two time MAAC Player of the Year, seemed to have a quiet game. The stat sheet revealed the senior forward as posing a 17 point 10 rebound game. A seemingly very quiet game but the type that is the norm for Fitz.

Inside/outside balance. Marist had 21field goals, seven beyond the arc. Shot charts show the first seven Marist FG included three (two by sophomore guard Kristine Best) from three point range, three in the paint and a foul line jump shot. A well rounded distribution to start. In the end, Marist had 21 field goals, seven from beyond the arc.

Hustle to the buzzer. The score was 2-2 when Marist went on a 17-1 run. At the half the Red Foxes led 34-19. St.Peter’s constantly looked at double digit deficits but kep working. Evidence is in the OR% percentage as noted in their favor. Overall St.Peter’s out rebounded Marist 35-33 with a 14-9 edge on the offensive boards. An appreciable part of rebounding, especially against a bigger opponent, is drive, continuous work and hustle.

Very deceptive bench scoring total, 31-10 in favor of St.Peter’s. Marist has depth but the starters did most of the damage in this game. Also St.Peter’s had senior guard Natasha Morris and junior center Charlene Riddick (9) account for most of the bench scoring.

The records. Marist is now 13-4 with a perfect 5-0 in the MAAC. St.Peter’s is 6-10, 2-3 in conference play. St.Peter’s was led by Morris with 16 points (3 of 4 from three).

“They can all shoot. They can get in the lane and hit the three pointer. Each time they have four or five shooters on the floor and if they miss they have a great chance of rebounding. They play great together. They are very, in a word, efficient” - St.Peter’s coach Stephanie DeWolfe on what makes Marist so formidable.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Preview -- Georgetown University

The Wildcats and Hoyas meet for the 67th time at the (Wachovia) Center in downtown Philadelphia at noon on Sunday. Georgetown holds the edge, 39-27, and have won the last five meetings, four of those games by five points or less. The Hoyas, ranked #12 by the AP poll, bring Wooden Award nominee junior forward Greg Monroe to counter #4 ranked Villanova's own Wooden Award nominee, senior guard Scottie Reynolds. And the big question is, "Where is Bob Donato on Sunday?"...

Common Opponents, Good Wins, Bad Losses...
The 'Cats (15-1, 4-0, #9 RPI) and Hoyas (13-2, 4-1, #18 RPI) share several opponents this year:

TempleL (A)-10W (H)+1
DePaulW (H)+25W (A)+17
MarquetteW (H)+2L (H)-3
MarquetteW (A)+2

Georgetown hosted Temple in their second game of the season, taking a 46-45 decision. Villanova played the Owls in mid-December (12/13), dropping a 75-65 decision. Temple (A10, 15-3, 3-0 #9 RPI) is Georgetown's best win to date, though Butler (Hzn, 13-4, 6-0, #19 RPI) and Connecticut (11-5, 2-3 #16 RPI) will most likely draw some attention from the Selection Committee as well. The Hoyas have no bad losses, Marquette (10-6, 1-3, #76) is the lowest (RPI) ranked opponent they have lost to to date. Villanova has a number of solid wins, counted among them Louisville (12-6- 3-2, #39 RPI), Dayton (A10, 13-4, 2-1 #32 RPI) and Mississippi State (SEC, 13-3, 1-1, #49 RPI) the best so far. Mississippi State and Dayton were beaten on a neutral court at the Puerto Rico Tip off in November. Villanova's sole loss is to Big 5 rival Temple on 12/13.

Lineups, Rotations...
Coach Thompson set his starting five in the first game of the season, and has stayed with a three guard set of Chris Wright (junior, 6-1, 208 lb) at the #1, Austin Freeman (junior 6-3 ½, 227 lb) and Jason Clark (soph, 6-3, 170 lb) on the wing, anchored in the front court by Julian Vaughn (junior transfer, 6-9, 247 lb) and Greg Monroe (soph, 6-11, 247 lb) ever since. Monroe may draw the attention (assorted NBA scouts & the Los Angles Athletic Club), but Freeman and Wright power the Hoyas' offense. Freeman has a scorching 44.5% accuracy on three point shots (25-56), while Wright, with a forward-like FTrate of 34.4%, drives the lane, gets to the line (2nd on the team behind Monroe) and converts, at a 81.5% rate. Niki Mersheriakov's transfer (to Wake Forest?!) makes an already short rotation even shorter. Hollis Thompson (a freshman 6-6, 180 pound forward) has consistently logged double digit minutes, posting a career-high 16 points against Lafayette in late November. He will most likely be first off the bench, followed by Henry Sims (a sophomore, 6-10 226 pound center), who has logged time in all but one (Connecticut) game this season. Sims best effort came against American Univesity (12 points, 4 rebounds) in early December. Jerrelle Benimon (a freshman 6-7, 210 pound forward) has appeared in the Hoyas' last four games, logging double-digit minutes in the last two (Connecticut & Seton Hall). Way down at the end of the bench Coach Thompson may find three more guards, 6-3 freshman Vee Sanford, 6-6 freshman Steven Stepka and 6-0 junior Ryan Dougherty. There may be more productive days ahead for Sanford and Stepka, but unless the Hoyas are up (or down) by a lot, I don't expect to see them after warmups, as the starting three guards, Wright, Freeman and Clark take 84%, 84% and 82% of the minutes respectively. The Hoyas circulate their front court, Vaughn and Thompson get a bit over 50% of the minutes apiece, with Sims taking a bit less than 25%. Should any of the guards need to sit (for fouls or a blow), expect to see another forward on the court.

Coach Wright will most likely start a pair of guards, 6-1 junior Corey Fisher and 6-2 senior Scottie Reynolds alongside a pair of 'tweeners/wings, 6-5 senior Reggie Redding and 6-5 junior Corey Stokes, anchored by a bfc, 6-8 junior Antonio Pena. The staff has an embarrassment of richs off the bench, beginning with 6-1 freshman guard Maalik Wayns, who has already been cited twice for Big East Freshman of the Week. For substitutions on the wing/front court, the staff can look to 6-6 sophomore transfer Taylor King, a strong sixth man candidate, who can play on the wing but has anchored the #4 in some rotations, freshman 6-6 Dominic Cheek, New Jersey's POY last season for St. Anthony's in Jersey City, or 6-7 freshman Isaiah Armwood, who hit the winning shot against George Mason in the Wildcats' opening game in Puerto Rico last November. In the paint/low post the staff can call on Mouphtaou Yarou, a well regarded 6-10 freshman who started two games before being sidelined with a viral infection (since treated and controlled) and 6-11 red shirt freshman Maurice Sutton, who filled in for Yarou earlier in the season and started seven games in the out of conference leg of the season.

A Few Thoughts...
...Pomeroy calculates a three point (78-75) Villanova win in a game to be played for 71 possessions. 71 possessions would work well for Villanova. The 'Cats like to run and Georgetown may be playing a bit more uptempo, game-for-game, than they have for several seasons (their adjusted pace this season, per Pomeroy's Scout Report Page is just over 66 possessions (ranked at #244 in D1). For their four road games however, the Hoyas really take the air out of the ball, playing for something closer to 60 possessions. Georgetown can keep pace with 71 possessions, if they hit their shots and limit turnovers. Georgetown has a relatively high turnover rate in conference games (over 20%) and a low number of offensive rebounds. Historically those two shortcomings were not fatal to the Hoyas' chances to win. Last season, and carrying into this season, a bad game in one ares has usually been more than off set by a strong game elsewhere -- against Butler, Georgetown lost 28.7% of their possessions, but shot well (51% eFG%) and had an unusually strong offensive rebounding percentage (42.9%); against Temple the Hoyas had a disasterous day from the field (eFG% of 39.3%) and lost over 25% of their possessions, but they compensated by getting to the line more 45% and stifling Temple's shot efficiency. That the Owls had difficulty rebounding was a benefit too. A high percentage of turnovers (and poor offensive rebounding) can be balanced by strong three point shooting. The Wildcat's perimeter defense may be severely tested by Freeman and Clark.

Reading List
For those looking for some background on the two teams, try these links...
1. Villanova Game Notes
2. Georgetown Game Notes
3. A Washington Post update on Georgetown.
4. Villanova Viewpoint's history of the series.
5. ESPN's Weekend Watch writeup.
6. NY Times background piece on Mouphtaou Yarou.
7. IBBW's Preview.
8. The Casual Hoya and IBBW collaborated on a mutual Q&A session.

I will be at the Center, hosting a live blog for the folks at Rush the Court. After you open the game thread on your favorite message board, open a second tab, come over to Rush the Court and contribute to the commentary and dialog live from the game.