Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A10 Efficiencies -- An Aerial View of 2010

...And Then There Were Three
At the midpoint of the Atlantic 10's regular conference season, bracketologist all over the D1 universe were buzzing about the number of teams the conference would/could put into the NCAA Tournament. With speculation running as high as five, it may have been something of a letdown when three invitations actually went out. Three equals the number of invitations in 2008 & 2009 (their 2010 seeds were better though), and bettered their numbers for 2005 - 2007. Dayton, at times dominant in conference play, never seemed to engage with the season, missing early opportunities to build their resume. Rhode Island and Charlotte, surprisingly strong in their out of conference schedules with wins over Oklahoma State and Louisville respectively, sputtered late. Charlotte's swoon, an especially nasty 1-7 run in the 49ers' last eight games, cost coach Bobby Lutz his job. St. Louis, the youngest team in the conference going into the season, played to type early on (winning at Chaivetz, but losing -- at times badly -- on the road), but posted a strong 7-1 record in February and (best of all...) played a game in January quirky enough (all points scored on 2FGAs only) to draw warrant a post in Ken Pomeroy's blog. The Billikens would have had to run the table in Atlantic City however, to draw an invitation from the Selection Committee. The aerial view of the conference's offensive and defensive efficiency (conference games only)...

Note that the conference-wide efficiency was 1.011 points per possession (or adjusted for 100 possessions, 101.1 -- table below). The standard deviation suggests greater variability in defensive efficiency among conference teams than on offense.

Efficieny(Off - Def)Avg=101.1
Rhode Island109.2103.35.98.2-2.2
St. Louis96.694.32.3-4.56.8
George Washington99.3101.0-1.6-1.70.1
St. Bonaventure99.4103.8-4.3-1.6-2.7
La Salle98.4106.6-8.2-2.7-5.5
Saint Joseph's94.5105.5-11-6.6-4.4
Std Dev5.776.63

The teams which posted positive efficiency differentials went to the post season, while those who did not -- George Washington excepted -- ended their seasons before Selection Sunday. The configuration, most teams (10/14 -- 71%) located either in the "Good Offense/Good Defense" quadrant or the "Bad Offense/Bad Defense" quadrant, resembles the Big East aerial from 2009 (13/16 -- 81%). The Big East Conference was considered "stronger than usual" in 2009 -- true for the 2010 edition of the A10 perhaps? The conference's post season success (Temple and Richmond, two first round losses aside...) was also rather notable...

1. Xavier went to the Sweet Sixteen where the Musketeers lost by five points to Kansas St. in the second overtime period.
2. Dayton won the NIT, beating North Carolina.
3. Rhode Island ran to the NIT semi-finals, losing by a point to North Carolina in overtime.
4. St. Louis lost to Virginia Commonwealth in the CBI finals.

A few thoughts as I reviewed the aerial and underlying data (and sometimes team-related data)...
1. Dayton was clearly an outlier. I suspect (though have not confirmed) that a team that places in the "Good/Good" quadrant in any of the BCS conferences would receive an NCAA bid. The Flyers, victims in part of a late charging Billikens squad (they were 0-2 in that series last season), appeared unable to finish close games. Coach Gregory's squad was 1-7 in conference games decided by five or fewer points. Location mattered as the Flyers were 0-6 in close games on the road, and 1-1 in close games at home. Dayton returns a squad weighted heavily with rising junior and seniors, but as a whole, they (along with a few rising sophomores), represent just over 50% of the minutes logged in 2010. Winning the NIT is, given where the squad stood on March 13, the best possible ending, but Coach Gregory may have missed on his best chance to field a squad capable of taking a deep run into the NCAA field.
2. Richmond, Temple and Xavier, the three teams that finished in the "Good/Good" quadrant return about (give or take) the average of returning minutes next season. Fans anticipating strong showings for the Spiders, Owls and Musketeers should not be disappointed.
3. The Billikens' run through the CBI was a good start for a squad that returns virtually intact next season. St. Louis, typical of Coach Majerus' coached teams led with defense. Success in 2011 will no doubt depend on how they progress offensively.
4. George Washington, the seventh conference team invited to a post season tournament is, re-checking the chart and tables above, an outlier. The Colonials were eliminated in the first round by the tournament's eventual winner, Virginia Commonwealth University. Unlike the NCAA and NIT, the CBI does not appear to have a quantitative criteria for seeding their field. GW boasted two headliners, A10 Honorable Mention Damian Hollis and A10 All-Rookie first teamer Lasan Kromah, which combined with the local match-up (VCU is located in Richmond, Va, about 50 miles southeast of Washington DC), increased the chances the game would draw media attention and a box office.
5. Charlotte, a near-miss for the post season in 2010, returns nearly all of their squad. First year head coach Alan Major steps into a nearly perfect situation for a new coach. If he can address the defensive problems and avoid the pitfall of trying to install a brand-new system without due consideration to the talent on hand, he ought to be able to get that squad to take the next forward step.

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