Thursday, March 18, 2010

Collaborative Post: Bobby Gonzalez's Last Game

by Ray Floriani

NEWARK, NJ - We didn’t realize it at the time. But with the lopsided 87-69 loss to Texas tech in the first round of the NIT , came an end to Bobby Gonzalez’s coaching tenure at Seton Hall.

The factors and numbers from a 70 possession game at the Prudential Center:

Texas Tech12854374413
Seton Hall9739103910

The deciding factor was Texas Tech’s defense. Coach Pat Knight said when his club holds opponents to under 70 points they are tough to beat. A major component of under 70 is illustrated the better than average numbers in deficiency efficiency and (defensive) effective field goal percentage.

The offensive rebounding percentage, in Tech’s favor also displays the hustle and willingness to beat their opponents to loose balls all night. Entering the game the Red Raiders were on the negative side of OREB percentage with Big 12 opponents owning a 38-29 edge.

Arguably the biggest number looking back is 14:19. That was the time remaining in the half when Seton Hall’s Herb Pope punched (twice) Texas Tech’s Darko Cohadarevic in the groin and was ejected. Without Pope, Gonzalez was left without a significant presence to clog the lane and score. Jeff Robinson gave a game leading 23 points 12 boards. John Garcia contributed 7 points 10 rebounds. But Jeremy Hazell, slowed by a bad back, scored 6 points and was 0-4 from three. With Pope gone and no one consistently helping Robinson carry the load, the Hall was doomed and faced double digit deficits virtually all night.

The Pope ejection had further implications as many feel it was the last straw that ultimately sent Gonzalez packing the next day. ESPN2 replayed the incident several times and that is something you do not want a national audience , many who do not know your school that well, to see.

Gonzalez ended his four years in South Orange with a 68-59 overall record. He was 27-43 in Big East play and last night picked up his seventh technical foul on the season. But it was to be his last at Seton Hall.

Tech put five players, led by guard John Roberson with 22 points, in double figures. Raiders improve to 18-15 while the Hall ends up at 19-13.

“I’m happy for my kids. They have been through a lot and had a tough stretch with some close losses. In some ways we are similar to Seton Hall as we both try to stay competitive in a tough conference.” - Texas Tech coach Pat Knight

greyCat's Comments
The game was poorly attended by Seton Hall fans, 4,000 possibly, but no more than 5,000 fans total in the arena. Many were angry students. Like every other collegiate venue, the students heckled and booed the Texas Tech players as they came out for their warmups. But they saved their most vitriolic heckling for Coach Gonzalez when he came out in the minutes before tipoff. The crowd quieted at topoff and the team played with energy, until Pope ws ejected. The life seemed to go out of the Pirate team. Several observers along Press Row commented repeatedly throughout the game at how the Pirates lacked energy and speed. Shots were short or offline. Jeremy Hazell's line, 6 points on 3-10 (0-4, 3-6) and 0-0 shooting, coupled with Pope's ejection, doomed the Pirate cause.

Notes & Observations
1. Seton Hall's second half shot efficiency was within 1.1% of their first half efficiency (39.2 vs 38.1), most likely a good hint of how the team would score without both Hazell and Pope. Jeff Robinson aside, the balance of the squad had tremendous difficulty converting shots to points.
2. The Pirates' problems, shooting aside, was over on the defensive side. The Pirates, hardly a defensive juggernaut this season, had a subpar performance at the worst possible time. If the observers along Press Row saw lack of energy in the lane and tentative jumpers, their defense, specifically getting after defensive rebounds, putting up a hand on Red Raider shooters, shot blocking and steals, were all well below their season numbers.
3. Jeff Robinson is the sliver lining from this game. He, Jordan Theodore, Jamal Jackson, Keon Lawrence and Herb Pope(?...) will be the nucleus around whom Coach Gonzalez's successor will have to rebuild.

Jeff Robinson92.526.055.31.13
Jordan Theodore75.
Jamal Jackson25.040.537.50.75

Jeff Robinson stepped up offensively, with a number of impressive lane drives and finishes around the basket. His 24% defensive rebounding rate (I realize this is too small a sample for generalizations...) was particlarly impressive given Garcia's graduation.

I was doing a live blog for the folks over at Rush the Court and negotiating a number of technical problems connecting to the WIFI at the Rock (Windows 7 and certain WIFI systems "aren't on speaking terms it seems"). I want to give a grateful thanks to the Seton Hall guys who took a shot at it, and the Physical Plant fellow who ran a wire out to Press Row for me. A terrific save credited to you guys. He was kind enough to check with me several times during the game to make sure the connection was (still) good. Thanks very much guys. Sorry it could not have been a better night for the Hall.

NIT Logo
Following Up...
The course of the game and the events immediately following have overrun what, despite the drama, has been the best season for Seton Hall basketball since Louis Orr's tenure. Hopefully the next coach will be able to build on the good things Coach Gonzalez accomplished. Best of Luck to the Red Raiders in their next round game. And best of all possible futures to the Pirates of Seton Hall.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Quarterfinals at the A10

by Ray Floriani

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ- Go with the favorites , The Atlantic Ten quarterfinals at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City saw three of the higher seeds move on to the semis. Fifth seed Rhode Island provided the only upset, a mild one, in the day/night action.

Quarterfinal Scores
TeamScore TeamScore
Rhode Island63

The game of the day was the 6:30 matchup between Dayton and Xavier. Two rivals in the conference post season tournament with Dayton fighting for it’s NCAA hopes, gave the potential for an intense ballgame. The pre-game buildup did not disappoint.

In a 75 possession game, the four factors:


Right from the tap this was a virtually frantic pace. Transition, three pointers, attacking the basket, physical play were the norm. Not a whole lot of half court sets , especially in the opening half. Dayton had a fifteen point lead with just under 12 minute to play. The Flyers could not hold off late charging Xavier , especially Terrell Holloway (22 points) and Jordan Crawford (20 points).

Offensive rebounding percentage told a significant story. In planning for this quarterfinal, Xavier coach Chris Mack emphasized rebounding as the priority. The Musketeers got the job done in resounding fashion.

The disparity in free throw rate can be attributed in part to Dayton’s late game fouling when they trailed and needed to get the ball back. A closer look can attribute part of that FT Rate advantage to the job Xavier did on the offensive glass. Second shots very often give better scoring opportunities and make the defense more susceptible to fouling. For the game Xavier shot better than Dayton from two point range. Xavier was 18 of 35 (51%) to Dayton’s 16 of 34 (47%). Again, offensive rebounding was a contributing factor.

Xavier's tempo-free grad assistants

Notes on the other contests. Richmond-UMass was a 71 possession game more to UMass’ liking. Richmond prevailed because they knocked down 11 treys (11-20) for a nice, 52% eFG percentage.

St. Louis had their 54 possession tempo, but Rhode Island did a great job on the defensive end. They forced the normally careful Billikens into a 24% Turnover rate and also enjoyed a marked 47-25 Offensive Rebounding percentage advantage.

Temple established a 56 possession tempo an was impressive in both phases of their offense. The Owls offensive efficiency was 127, the highest of any team in the quarterfinals, as Fran Dunphy’s club knocked down six treys and shot 60% (24 of 40) inside the arc.

Xavier is tempo free. Our press row seat behind the bench gave great close up insight. For the Dayton-Xavier game we were behind the Xavier bench. After each time out an assistant asked a quick question , of two young men seated behind us keeping charts, such as ‘how many post touches the last four minutes?’ Near the end of one time out I asked the two men if they were coaches. Turns out they are grad assistants and the one said, “we are breaking down offensive efficiency.” Naturally yours truly said it was thrilling to hear that. The legions of tempo free followers is growing.

“(Jordan) Crawford and (Terrell) Holloway made the plays we needed in the stretch.” - Xavier coach Chris Mack

“For 32 or so minutes we played pretty darn good. When we needed the key stops we didn’t get them.” - Dayton coach Brian Gregory.

Officials (Joe DeMayo center) confer
with coaches Brian Gregory of Dayton (L) and Xavier's Chris Mack (R) over a ruling

Friday, March 12, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Big East Day 3

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY - For the quarterfinal game of the day/night I was certain to report on Georgetown-Syracuse. A number eight taking out the top seeded team, in conversation this week about a possible number one seed in the NCAAs. The Notre Dame - Pitt sealed it . Especially from a tempo free analysis angle.

Quarterfinal scores:

TeamScore TeamScore
Notre Dame50Pitt45
West Virginia54Cincinnati51

In a 50 possession game, the four factors:

Notre Dame10262242025

Perception. This is why tempo free studies are so great. At the half ND leads 32-29. The assumption from yours truly, and others, is the defense is dictating. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Case in point:

Notre Dame13974

Those numbers are not reflective of good solid defense. The score was low due to an extremely pedestrian 25 possession pace. The second half both defenses stepped up. Notre Dame had an offensive efficiency of 69 while Pitt checked in at 64. Even coach Mike Brey noted his club sealed the win by getting crucial stops in the stretch.

Luke Harangody gave a good 12 point effort in 22 minutes. Tory Jackson also had 12 points and came up big in the stretch making several key shots and plays. Brad Wanamaker scored 16 to lead all scorers and was a defensive task off the dribble for the Irish all night.

The slower paced offense has been a charm for ND. Mike Brey instituted it after Harangody’s injury in February and has kept it in tact. It is not a Princeton offense per se but it milks the clock and uses passing and good player movement. During the Big East I am keeping Synergy results. Remember Synergy is FG Pct + (Assists/FGM). For this game the numbers reflect the ball distribution, beauty and execution of the ND offense.

Notre Dame1.307

The ND Synergy numbers on this night were superlative.

Notre Dame Cheerleaders

A Georgetown-Syracuse note. The offensive numbers were impressive. Georgetown had a 125 OE while Syracuse checked in at 114. The deciding factor was turnovers. Hoyas cared for the ball with a 16% rate while Syracuse was too high at 23%.

Georgetown missed a number of free throws in the stretch but still had a significant 58-15 edge in free throw rate. A look at three point attempts shows why. The Orange took 39% of their attempts beyond the arc. Georgetown took only 20%. In late game Syracuse was in a fouling mode which inflates the FT rate. But the rate takes in free throws made and most of Georgetown’s nine misses were in the stretch. The Hoyas simply did a better job attacking the basket.

A final Villanova note. greyCat will undoubtedly elaborate in detail but here are a few press row thoughts…A major factor in this one was Marquette’s three point shooting. They actually shot better from three than two. Marquette was 11 of 18 (61%) from three and 14 of 34 (41%) from two. Darius Johnson-Odom with 24 points did a great deal of damage to Nova beyond the arc (5 of 7). Corey Stokes came off the bench to supply a team high 22 points. Jay Wright’s club had difficulty matching up with Lazar Hayward (20 points). Hayward hit a couple three pointers but mostly operated inside where ‘Nova did not have a big man to consistently step up and defend him. Several times I have seen good things from Mouphtaou Yarou. Today he had an uneventful 15 minute outing with a 4 point 4 board performance. This was a day Wright could have used more from the 6-9 freshman. Antonio Pena had a creditable 14 point 6 board outing but was the lone inside threat for the Wildcats.

“This Villanova team is one of the best we played in my two years at Marquette. They are hard to guard and have five guys out there who can pass, penetrate and shoot.” - Marquette coach Buzz Williams

“Marquette is a team that uses their possessions well…the great thing about this (Big East) tournament is the games are great. We are all familiar with each other so it is harder to win.” - Jay Wright

Coach Wright fields questions after the game

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: At the Big East Tournament Day 2

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY - Georgetown and Syracuse have staged some epic battles. In fact they have met twelve times in Big East Tournament play. Tomorrow will be 13 as Georgetown defeated South Florida 69-49 to open the second round at Madison Square Garden. The four factors and efficiency in a 62 possession contest:

South Florida8030294120

Defense was the key for the Hoyas. South Florida 33% from two point range. The Bulls were 0 for 8 from three against DePaul but USF coach Stan Heath said he has shooters and they would have to hit a few or more from the perimeter against the Hoyas. The Bulls were 1 of 10 beyond the arc and did not hit a three until 20 seconds remained and the game was in hand.

Dominique Jones of USF led all scorers with 21 points but he did not get help as Georgetown , as noted, defended very well. South Florida did win the battle of the boards with an 18-11 edge on the glass.

Hoya band battles Seton Hall band

Their turnover rate was too high especially for a game of this pace. Jones had 6 of USF’s 12 turnovers but the outstanding junior guard was virtually the only player on his team taking a consistent offensive initiative.

USF had an edge on the foul line. Chalk it up to stiff ling Hoya defense that at times got a little too aggressive. Jason Clark and Greg Monroe both scored 16 points as John Thompson III’s club had a balanced attack.

Georgetown had a 32-28 edge in scoring in the paint. Not a big surprise as USF struggled from the perimeter, even on fifteen footers.

“I’m pleased with our focus. When they (South Florida) made a run early second half we didn’t get frustrated” - John Thompson III

Out for a stroll on the Garden floor

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: At the Big East Day 1

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY - The first round of the Big East tournament concluded with three top seeds advancing. The only upset was St. John’s over UCONN in a surprisingly lopsided contest. The scores:

TeamScore TeamScore
South Florida58DePaul49
St. John’s73UConn51
Seton Hall109Providence106

The game of the night. An easy one Seton Hall’s 109-106 win over Providence. And we did not forget the ’OT’, this was a regulation game. The numbers in an 88 possession ’track meet’.

Seton Hall12458463314

The Hall led by 29 (76-47) with just over thirteen and a half minutes to play. Providence coach Keno Davis simply implored his team to plat hard to the end. Once the deficit was a manageable 12-14 the Friars used a press that forced a few turnovers. A few threes went down. The Friars hit the offensive glass with a vengeance. In the final minutes it was a two possession game.

Seton Hall had a high free throw rate but did miss 14 from the line (31-45). Jeff Robinson missed a pair with seven seconds to go. The Friars had a great look from three but Duke Mondy missed and Eugene Harvey grabbed the miss as time expired.

Sophomore forward Jamine Peterson was outstanding for the Friars. He led all scorers with 38 points, added 16 rebounds and had 4 assists. Peterson logged 39 minutes and had 10 offensive boards, many of them during the Friar’s late game surge. Bilal Dixon, another sophomore forward, added 16 points , 12 boards for Providence.

Both teams placed five players in double figures. Herb Pope led the Hall with 27 points, 11 boards while Jordan Theodore had an excellent 21 point 6 assist night.

Turnover rate figures were very good for both teams given the rapid rate of the game. Several of Seton Hall’s dozen TOs were crucial as they came when Providence made that huge run. Friars also owned a 23-12 offensive board advantage as exemplified by the Offensive Rebound (OR%) percentage.

While the game was not the equal of last year’s 6 OT classic it will go down as one of the most memorable in Big East Tournament lore. It is the first time both teams cracked the century mark in regulation.

Providence finished 12-19 while the Hall improved to 19-11.

“It was kind of two different games. We got out and played great…with the three point line and 35 second shot clock the game is never safe today. The game is never over until that clock runs down.” - Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez

“The last month we played a stretch of top ten and bubble teams. I am pleased though with the progress and improvement of our young players. We have a good nucleus here. “ - Providence coach Keno Davis

Seton Hall cheerleaders
can breathe easier and smile after the final buzzer sounded

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: At the MAAC Men's Quarter-Finals

by Ray Floriani

ALBANY, NY - The men’s first round games on Friday were the fifth and sixth of the day at the Times Union Center. The women’s quarterfinals proceeded and the men got their tournament rolling at 7:30.

Albany Times Union Arena

The first game saw a mild surprise with ninth seeded Manhattan knocking off eight seed Loyola 94-79. In a 71 possession (Manhattan 72 Loyola 69) game:


As noted in the women’s rundown no team hit 100 for offensive efficiency. This game was an aggressive wide open contest with a lot of offense and at many times, token defense.

Rico Pickett of Manhattan had 23 at the half and finished with a game high 33 points. On the other end Shane Walker, a 6-10 Loyola sophomore, had two at halftime and went on a tear to finish with a team pacing 26 points.

Both teams had high free throw rates as evidence of the physicality and frequent trips to the line. Manhattan shot 38 of 46 while Loyola went 21 of 30.

Jaspers also had a slight edge 17-14 on the offensive glass. Loyola shot the ball better but that 25% turnover rate did the offense in. For a wide open affair, Manhattan did very well caring for the ball with just 9 turnovers.

The efficiency numbers saw Pickett, a junior guard, with a 30 in 34 minutes for an impressive .882 eff/min metric.

Walker had an efficiency of 31 and an excellent .969 eff/min rating. Pickett shot 10 of 18 from the floor and was 3 of 8 from three. To put it very kindly, his shot selection was ‘liberal’.

The nightcap saw Canisius end the Marist campaign at 1-29 with a 72-54 decision. The numbers in a 61 possession (Canisius 62 Marist 60) game:


As they have done through the long season, Marist battled gamely. It was a two possession game until the Griffs hit a last second trey to go into the break ahead 34-26. That shot basically took its toll as the Red Foxes ended their long season.

Once again, youth (a 26% TO rate) and lack of consistent inside play doomed Marist. The offensive rebound disparity as well as that from the foul line illustrate some of the interior problems Chucky Martin’s Marist club has faced all season. Canisius shot 13 of 25 (52%) from two point range, another sample of evidence regarding Marist’s interior problems.

Canisius was very impressive in the TO rate category. That’s the difference. Tom Parrotta has the ball in the hands of an excellent senior lead guard, Frank Turner, one turnover in 37 minutes. Martin is relying on mostly first and second year players. Whom he hopes will only get better.

“I am foaming at the mouth.” - Manhattan guard Rico Pickett regarding a quarterfinal meeting with top seed Siena.

“We wanted to come to the (MAAC) tournament to play our best. To us it’s a new season” - Manhattan coach Barry Rohrssen

Darryl Crawford, Manhattan College
answers reporters questions

Monday, March 8, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: At the MAAC Women's Tournament

by Ray Floriani

ALBANY, NY - On Friday it was New York’s capital city for six, yes six games. The women’s quarterfinals tipped off at 9:30 a.m. The men’s first round doubleheader started at 7:30 p.m. and ended up somewhere around midnight. For the basketball fanatic who revels in the reality of such a schedule, the ‘MAAC six pack’ is as good as it gets.

This is a great opportunity to take a statistical and analytical look at the women’s quarterfinals with the men’s doubleheader to follow later. The scores:

TeamScore TeamScore
Iona59 Siena43

Times Union Center, Albany, NY
30 minutes before Women's Tournament tip off

The following chart shows how the teams fared in their quarterfinal meetings. We limited the four factor section to effective field goal percentage and turnover rate to display a noticeable trend throughout the morning, and afternoon.


A noticeable common thread is offense, or the struggle to produce it. Call it good defense and the heightened urgency of ‘survive and advance’ tournament time. No team had an offensive efficiency of 100. Niagara, which narrowly missed triple digits OE, and Fairfield were the only teams to crack 50% in effective field goal percentage. Again, the defense digs in a little more come March.

Marist, 15-3 the regular season champion, values the ball and defends extremely well. Coach Brian Giorgis would have it no other way. Red Foxes had a great 11% TO Rate (TO% - no shock) but their 38% eFG mark kept the OE under 100. Again, the defense was paramount with Canisius losing a quarter of their possessions to turnovers and failing to hit 30% for the eFG category. Those miscues were extremely costly for the Griffs as Marist enjoyed an 18-8 edge in scoring off turnovers.

Good officiating friend Joe Barrise was on the first game. Joe & crew enjoyed a nice tempo with the first foul not occurring until 8:05 had elapsed.

Iona coach Tony Bozzelli had a priority against Siena -- contain Serena Moore, the saints’ main inside threat. Mission accomplished. Moore scored 14 points but was 3 of 11 from the field. For the Gaels their outstanding forward Thazina Cook, committed 5 of Iona’s 20 turnovers. All was forgiven as Cook in general had an outstanding game leading all with 19 points 11 rebounds in 35 minutes.

I never tire of watching, and admiring, the play of Marist's Rachelle Fitz. The MAAC Player of the Year never forces a thing, is the consummate unselfish and fundamentally sound performer. Fitz, a 6-0 senior forward, had a solid 12 point 8 board effort for the Red Foxes.

Stephanie Geehan of Fairfield, the MAAC defensive player of the year, came up with sixteen rebounds (14 defensive) four blocks and four steals against Loyola. A 6-2 senior center, Geehan showed per prowess is not limited to the defensive end as she led the way with 22 points. Geeham was over 50% inside and out shooting 7 of 13 (54%) from two point range and 2 of 3 (67%) beyond the arc.

The sacred arc. The three pointer is a weapon. It can get you back in games or at times, when misfired, bury you deeper in deficit. During the four games it was evident the three was very much in use. Teams used it to try to come from behind or when the opposing defense didn’t give up much inside and the shot clock was ticking. The following chart is the percentage of field goal attempts from beyond the arc in the quarterfinal contests.


Canisius’ best inside player Ellie Radke (3 points 1 of 9 shooting) was smothered by the Marist defense so the three was necessary for Terry Zeh’s club. Iona shot a number of threes but didn’t hit many (5 of 22). Their overall shooting was not a strong point but the defense was. Fairfield is a good outside shooting team with All-Rookie guard Katelyn Linney, a deft three point shooter. Not much of a need for long distance with Stephanie Geehan controlling the paint. Manhattan trailed by 4 at the half then fell behind by double digit’s the second half. Still, the Lady Jaspers did not shoot threes until the latter desperation minutes. They basically stuck to their half court game plan and tried to attack the basket.

Move over Wilt and Bevo. Small samples may give good insight but beware. Case in point Maggie Blair of Manhattan. The 5-10 freshman guard played the last four minutes and scored 10 points, second on the team to Michelle Pacheco’s 11. Blair’s numbers project to a 100 point scoring effort. Again, watch those small sample projections. The high scoring likes Wilt Chamberlain and Bevo Francis did not have the three pointer in their day. Blair did and two treys didn’t hurt those numbers. The following is the breakdown for that four minute effort. Her efficiency was 11 with an eff/min an unheard of 2.75. Any efficiency per minute even just past 1.00 is outstanding.

Blair’s abbreviated outburst marked her only points, of the season. She had appeared in five games without a point. It also tells us coach John Olenowski will give Blair a good long look next pre-season.


The first round was on Thursday with Canisius defeating St.Peter’s 65-57 and Siena knocking off Rider 45-25. I was not in attendance but that latter game simply begs for study and mention. The numbers:


It was the tournament record for fewest combined points in a game. Rider set a single game low, breaking Loyola’s 27 of a year ago. In fact Marist media relation staff jokingly said a record they thought would last was gone in a year. In last year’s MAAC tournament the Marist women held Loyola to 27 points in an early round victory.

The Rider efficiency , if not the lowest , is one of the lowest in my two decades or so of studying points per possession. The eFG mark of 16% has to be the lowest uncovered. Then again when turnovers (16) are twice the number of field goals (8) this is what you get.

Siena did not actually put up world beating numbers. The Saints led 18-11 at the half before significantly pulling away after intermission. In fact the offensive efficiency at the half was:


So at least Rider could take solace in having played a better final twenty minutes.

“People are saying Marist might get beat (in the MAAC tournament) but they did go 15-3 (conference) and lost to nationally ranked Oklahoma in overtime. They are a team whose big stars make plays and unheralded players step up. “ - Canisius coach Terry Zeh

MAAC coach of the year Kendra Faustin of Niagara
takes post game questions with two members
of the Purple Eagles squad

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Big East Differentials -- The Last Week

The Composite Going Into the Last Weekend...
93% of the conference schedule has been entered into the books, and true one or two more issues are left to be settled by this weekend's games, but a good many questions have been answered by games over the last two weeks. The latest scrapings from provide an interesting tidbit or two...

RecordPoints Per Poss.
West Virginia1250.7061.1341.0070.127
Notre Dame980.5291.1431.1060.037
Seton Hall790.4381.0491.088-0.039
St. John's5120.2940.9781.039-0.061
South Florida890.4711.0321.098-0.066
Stdev 0.0610.0470.084

Ahhh...the Four Quartiles Emerge
Earlier tables showed a fair amount of definition in the conference differential "rankings". The six tiers are gone, replaced by clustering that more closely resembles the four, "natural" quartiles that fit the conference's numbers. The four in the top quartile have taken residence in the conference penthouse since the first weekend in February. Missed in the early coverage of Syracuse and the late fascination with Notre Dame's closing rush is Marquette's strong first season without James, McNeal and Matthews. The Warriors' 11-5 record, and most impressive, their defense in conference games this season, is a credit to a very overlooked roster and young coach. Buzz Williams looks very much like a keeper. Oddly, the next four have been as mainstay in the second quartile as the top four in the first quartile. True the teams have shuffled within the quartile (Notre Dame and Pittsburgh have switched places with Louisville and Georgetown), but the membership has also been surprisingly stable.

Looking at the differential ordering, it seems only South Florida, St. John's and (maybe) Connecticut appear to be seriously "misplaced". Connecticut and Cincinnati have hovered at the conference divider for virtually the entire season, with the Huskies moving back and forth across the second and third quartiles several times during January and early February. South Florida has done much the same as Connecticut, but over the the third and fourth quartiles, as opposed to the second and third quartiles. The Bulls lock up with the Huskies in Tampa, for the season closer for both teams. A win would help the Bulls' chances for post season play, but Huskies, whose last hopes for a post season with four letters, took a bad blow with back-to-back losses at the hands of Louisville and Notre Dame earlier this week, maybe in no mood to help. The Bulls, despite a winning home record (5-3) in conference play, have posted a negative efficiency differential in home games, -0.011, a bit unusual for a team with a +2 winning record, which suggests Coach Heath's team was blown out once (or twice). The Huskies sport a -0.032 efficiency differential for road games, which suggests this game may be close, consistent with Pomeroy's (using a log5 formula) projection of a one point Huskie win. Providence was solidly in the third quartile for much of January, but a nasty patch in the schedule that had them play, in sequence Syracuse, Marquette, Georgetown, Villanova, West Virginia and then Syracuse a second time, have pretty much taken the fun out of Coach Davis' season. The Friars, operating with a young squad of largely red shirts and freshmen, will be better stronger next season. They know what to expect.

Going into the last weekend of (regular season) conference play, consider that beyond the Huskie-Bull match up touched on earlier, that West Virginia will visit Villanova in a game that will (most likely) decide the #2 and #3 seeds at Madison Square Garden, but also affect seeds in the NCAA. Should Seton Hall beat Rutgers Thursday, the Pirates have a shot at squaring their record at 9 with a Saturday win at Providence. The Friars have a losin record (2-6) and negative efficiency differential (-0.069) at the Dunk this season, while the Hall has an equally unimpressive road record (1-6) and worse efficiency differential (-0.11). Beating the Scarlet Knights first may be the key, as a .500 conference record and the NCAA consideration that would come with it, has to be a strong incentive.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cincinnati Post Game: Road Games

Fifth Third
The Cincinnati home court has been kind to Villanova since the Bearcats joined the Big East. The Wildcats are 2-1 in conference games since 2006. Those tempted to lay this at (Cincinnati Coach) Mick Cronin's feet should think again. Villanova's first win came against interrem coach Andy Kennedy. The 'Cats are 2-1 versus Cronin, but consider the trainwreck the former Murray State had to clean up.

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

 Offense Defense

Half-time Adjustments
At (roughly) 30 possessions apiece, the first half looked a little like the first half at Syracuse...without the defensive meltdown. The second half pace, 38.5 (call it 39), was closer to Pomeroy's predicted pace of 72. Tied at 31, each team arrived at that common score by very different routes, as illustrated nicely by the table above. The Wildcats hit their shots (especially from the outside, which, at 48.4%, accounted for nearly half of their points), secured rebounds and got to the line. They also turned the ball over too much. The Bearcats did not shoot particularly well, but did rebound their misses and did not turn over the ball. Lack of defensive board presence was unusual in that both team suffered that deficiency in the first half. Cincinnati corrected (on both boards) in the second half, Villanova did not.

Notes & Observations
1. Although Reynolds came on in the second half, he stepped back overall, as the focal point of the offense. The staff matched big-for-big, as Juniors Pena and Stokes stepped into the dominant offensive roles when they were on the court. Tone took 24.8% of the available shots, while Stokes launched 32.7% of the shots when he played. Each played just under 66% of the available minutes at their positions, enough time to establish an offensive presence. Pena was prolific in his shot, but struggled a bit from the field, hitting on 42.9%, but Stokes was a bomber, hitting three of six from beyond the arc and finishing twice around the basket for an eFG% of 72.2%, very good for the number of shots he took. Reynolds, Fisher and Yarou blitzed the Bearcats as secondary scoring options. Each posted an eFG% of better than 70.0% while taking between 17.3% (Fisher) and 18.8% (Reynolds) of the available shots when they were on the floor. A solid offensive performance coming from all five of those players. The balance of the rotation had shooting success ranging from none (Armwood, Cheek & Wayns...literally none, zero) to great (Redding posted an 80.0% eFG% taking 13% of the shots). Overall the offensive production was very balanced, with six players scoring 10 or more points (and none scoring more than 17).
2. Mouphtaou Yarou started his second consecutive game, while logging more than 20 minutes for the third consecutive game. He has averaged 9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2 blocks per game over the three games. The staff appears to be getting him ready for a larger role.
3. The starting lineup for Cincinnati and Syracuse included Pena, Reynolds, Fisher, Redding and Yarou. This contingent logged 67% of the playing time. The amount of time allocated to the starters has remained in the mid-60s through much of the season (both OOC and Big East), though it appears to fluctuate slightly based on fouls (not really a problem with Cincinnati) and sooring margins. The rotation totaled 10 players, with eight logging 10 or more minutes.
4. For the fifth game running Corey Stokes has put the ball on the deck and driven to the basket at least once. Known as a catch-and-shoot (with a not very strong handle) perimeter player when he first came to the Mainline, Stokes has developed the knack for recognizing when to shoot and when to drive. He caught a nice entry pass in the low post and finished against the Bearcats, a move nowhere in his skill set two seasons ago.
5. Rebounding was a concern going into the season, but by late January it appeared the Wildcats had the matter under control. If the last seven games are an indication, the situation may be less secure than it appeared in January. The Wildcats have held their opponent to less than 32% of their misses only twice over the last seven games, compiling a 4-3 record during that span. They have failed to corral 33% or more of their own misses twice over those same seven games. This may be one reason Yarou is seeing more playing time now, as the freshman has snagged 21 rebounds over that period.
6. The Wildcats are 6-3 in Big East road games this season.

Ref Notes
John Cahill, Bryan Kersey and (gasp!) Michael Stephens worked the game, whistling the teams for a combined 47 fouls, a bit higher than the Wildcats' average for the season. This was the fourth Villanova game this season in which Micheal Stephens refereed and a technical was assessed. This time the "T"s went to two players, Antonio Pena and Yancy Gates, instead of the bench. The frequency of fouls and number of free throws were not outside of the "normal" range (high or low) for Villanova away games.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: MAAC Conference Wrapup

by Ray Floriani

JERSEY CITY, NJ - Iona edged St.Peter’s on Sunday at Yanitelli Center. The game drew the MAAC regular season to a close. The following is a final regular season tempo free breakdown of the MAAC, with conference games only factored in.

The offensive and defensive efficiencies are subtracted to give us the efficiency margin on the far right. Naturally, a figure in the positive is desired. Pace is the average number of possessions a team uses per game.


Siena, the class of the conference, has the impressive numbers to back it. The defensive numbers in the MAAC are noteworthy especially those of St.Peter’s. The offensive efficiency was not too great in Jersey City but when you hold opponents to an 88 DE you will win games.

Last season Chucky Martin arrived at Marist with th dribble drive motion offense. This season Marist was the most pedestrian team in the conference. Little worked this season for a painfully young Marist squad.

A 9-9 mark is not bad but many expected more of Rider. A quick look shows the defense was too generous and the efficiency margin, one of the poorest in the conference.

Conference tournament is March 5-8 at the Times Union Center in Albany.

Dinneen Hall
St. Peter's College

The St.Peter’s-Iona game was a 59 possession (Iona 56 St. Peter’s 62) contest , with the efficiencies and four factors as follows:



At Stake. A lot, namely third place. The winner would secure third in the MAAC standings. Beyond the pride of a higher finish was the knowledge that tournament favorite Siena would not (possibly) be faced until the final game.

With all that in mind, these two teams got together in an intense, defensive struggle with 7 ties and 4 lead changes, that was not decided until the final possession.

Interestingly Iona ,which took 40% of their attempts from three point range (19 three point attempts of 47 total tries), got the game winning points due to a penetration. Sophomore guard Scott Machado was fouled going to the basket with 5 seconds left and converted both shots. St.Peter’s countered with a drive by Eddie Leon who was stripped of the ball by Iona’s Jermel Jenkins.

One of the discernible differences was in rebounding where St.Peter’s had an edge. That was offset by Iona’s defense. St.Peter’s led 27-24 at the half but shot 7 of 26 (27%) the final twenty minutes. The Gaels were only slightly better at 8 of 22 (36%) but they knocked down three treys (st>peter’s had one) and that slight margin was enough in a very close finish.

Numbers. Jenkins led Iona (21-9 overall) with 13 points. Machado was the other double figure scorer for the Gaels with 10. St.Peter’s (16-13) had two players hit doubles with Ryan Bacon and Wesley Jenkins both scoring 12 points.

The MAAC. St.Peter’s wanted that third seed but what they are getting is not too bad. The Peacocks will face Rider at 2:30 on Saturday in Albany. The two teams split this year and Rider struggled this weekend getting waxed by Siena on Friday and barely surviving Canisius (both at home).

Iona draws Niagara in a 10 pm game on Saturday. Gaels coaches and players all said the right thing but deep down the 10 pm contest is a coaching nightmare. Awaiting is a Niagara team that played fairly well down the stretch.

“We had a tough weekend at Fairfield and St.Peter’s. We finished 12-6 (MAAC) and 21-9 that’s what I’m most proud of.” - Iona coach Kevin Willard

“I’m disappointed we didn’t get the win and finish third but I’m proud of my team. We are playing with passion.” - St. Peter’s coach John Dunne

Kyle Smith (l) and Jermel Jenkins (r) of Iona
interview with Sean Brennan of the Daily News

Monday, March 1, 2010

Syracuse Post Game: Game Day

The Dome
The Wildcats did not look like Wildcats Saturday night in the Carrier Dome. In previous visits Villanova has held it's own and taken an important win or two away. Saturday is one the team will remember for next season, or maybe the next time they face the Orange. The game was an old fashioned Big East beatdown. And the 'Cats were on the receiving end.

The Official website has an AP wire story and the box score. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

Half-time Adjustments
The 42.4 possession first half suggested an 84/85 possession game, something on the order of a North Carolina game. The second half pace was a more "normal" 68/69 possession game. Villanova's shot defense was, again, on target, but their defensive efficiency suffered. Lack of board presence, coupled with excessive fouling (first half) and embarrassingly few turnovers (second half) negated a good (but not great) shot defense effort. Allowing Syracuse to rebound >50% of their own misses in the second half represents a huge breakdown on the defensive glass. This is the third game in the last five where the Wildcats have not been able to hold their opponents to the Wildcats' season average.

Notes & Observations
1. Reynolds stepped in as the focal point of the offense. The senior took nearly 1 in 4 of the FGAs when he was on the court. Cheek and King also played "major" roles as their shot percentages were 37.8% and 24.5% respectively when they were playing. Note neither logged 50% of the available time though. Fisher, Yarou and Stokes played the "second option" when they were playing. For Fisher and Yarou, logging 50% or better of the available minutes, this translated into a number of shots and scoring opportunities. Among those six, only Reynolds (eFG% -- 57.1%) and Yarou (eFG% -- 75.0%) were able to convert efficiently. The others had largely ineffective nights from the court. Unfortunately none could point to another area where he might have compensated for the ineffective shooting.
2. The staff used 10 players total, keeping the starters in for 69.3% of the time, above the cumulative average of (about) 65.3%. The cumulative average has been increasing throughout the month, most likely due as much to:
   a. the normal end of the season rotation tightening,
   b. the sequence of close games and losses and
   c. fouls to the starters -- not the problem Saturday.
Fouls were not a problem with Syracuse however.

Ref Notes
John Gaffney, Tim Higgins and Brian O'Connell manned the crew. The number of fouls called, 39, is comfortably within the range for Wildcat road games. The Orange, working with a seven man rotation for much of the season, benefitted from a relatively low (but consistent with road games) number of fouls called (14). Antonio Pena was the only Villanovan DQ'ed by fouls, though Isaiah Armwood picked up four.