Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: St. Peter's versus Seton Hall

by Ray Floriani

NEWARK, NJ - The two teams entered the Monday night game at the Prudential Center with personnel issues. Seton Hall was able to get through theirs en route to a 69-49 win over St.Peter’s.

Pre-Game Shootaround
The Pirates came in averaging a brisk 71 possessions per contest. St.Peter’s, a decidedly more deliberate 63 possessions per. Early in the season a team as Seton Hall may have glowing efficiency numbers due to a mild schedule. That is not the case here as December is two days away and the Pirates have played Temple and a few other formidable teams in the Paradise Jam.

St. Peter's8095
Seton Hall9691

The defense of St.Peter’s is respectable but as was the case a year ago, Coach John Dunne’s club is just struggling to score points. A 24% TO rate and 42% eFG percentage are not exactly helping the cause.

Efficiencies for the game:

St. Peter's6575
Seton Hall64108

The Four Factors:

St. Peter's35282723
Seton Hall4612368

‘Personnel’ issues dealt with Jeremy Hazell and Wesley Jenkins. Hazell broke his wrist at the Paradise Jam and missed the Pirate losses to Xavier and Clemson. “Jeremy’s injury affected us all ,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. “But from a coaching standpoint you make adjustments. The players were devastated. They were not used to playing without him (Hazell). It was like they expected to see him come down and hit a three. It took some adjusting.” A period of practice after the Virgin Islands tournament helped the team adapt to not having Hazell, who was playing outstanding before getting injured. Willard said Hazell will see another specialist Wednesday. If surgery is not required he will be back in five weeks.

Seton Hall Coach Kevin Willard
fields questions from reporters

Wesley Jenkins injured his knee in a Fall pickup game. A torn ACL was feared. It turned out the injury was not as severe and no surgery was needed. Jenkins’ first game was Saturday against LIU. “We probably played him more than we should have,” St.Peter’s coach John Dunne said. “The knee was fine but his game conditioning wasn’t up to par.“ In the LIU game, Jenkins (played 29 minutes scoring 13 points) was needed to pull out the St.Peter’s win. In the Seton Hall game Jenkins logged 20 minutes scoring three points and grabbing a team leading six rebounds. "It’s a game conditioning thing for Wesley,” Dunne said. “He is still rounding into form."

The pace of the game actually benefited both teams. Entering the game the Hall was a uptempo. With Hazell’s injury the Pirates are more half court or as Willard says, “a grind it out team.” Willard scrapped a few sets and added several new ones during the days between Paradise Jam and St. Peter’s. He’s looking to get more scoring opportunities for Herb Pope, Jordan Theodore and Jeff Robinson.

St.Peter’s should improve offensively but right now without Jenkins at full strength, they struggle to manufacture points. Ryan Bacon, a 6-7 senior forward, was the Peacocks’ only double figure scorer with 13 points. Bacon can score inside but is averaging just over 7 PPG. He is using only 9% of the team’s possessions. The problem here is mostly foul trouble which has saddled his effectiveness in the young season. Without fouling as a problem tonight, Bacon logged 27 minutes and used 14% of the St.Peter’s possessions.

Willard was pleased with the 5 turnovers by Seton Hall which gave them an outstanding TO rate.

To get an offensive spark, Willard brought Theodore off the bench. He discussed the role with the Pirate junior who was happy with it. “Coming into the game Jordan gives us energy and a lift,” Willard said. “Also the defense gets caught off guard with his style.” To Willard, starting is not the big thing. Playing time and contributions are key and Theodore logged 25 minutes, tying Pope and Robinson in that category.

St.Peter’s zoned, 2-3 or 3-2 the whole night. Hall seemed more comfortable attacking (not just settling for jump shots) as the night wore on.

Final Bookkeeping
Hall is 3-3 while St.Peter’s falls to 2-4. Theodore (11) and Robinson (10) led the Hall in scoring.

Saw Brian Nash, former St.Bonaventure and Seton Hall assistant who most recently headed up the St.Francis(NY) program. Nash is going to games and practices these days with an eye on getting back on the sidelines. Hopefully one of the great guys in the game gets his wish.

Pregame Drills at The Rock

Sunday, November 28, 2010

2010 Legends Classic -- Six Takaways

Thoughts on the drive home
After blogging the Legends Classic Friday and Saturday for Rush the Court, I crossed over the Atlantic City causeway, merged onto the Garden State Parkway North earlier today and let my mind wander as the South Jersey landscape unfolded...

1. Tim Floyd is complicated -- He landed on my radar during his stint at Iowa State, though he held two D1 head coaching jobs before taking up the first chair in Ames. His drawl shows more west Texas and even big sky than Louisiana, as does his dressing pattern (mostly to brown-tones and flannels). And completely out of step with an image I had of the guy who mixed it up with the OJ Mayo crowd. The Legends folks had a hard time staying on their post game press schedule after the first semi-final game Friday. UTEP had lost a six point half-time lead to Georgia Tech, dropping the decision by 10 points, and twice they advised the press that UTEP was still in a "post game debriefing". The players and coach who appeared for questions were very subdued and used phrases like "poor judgment" and "leadership" throughout their opening statement and Q&A session. Floyd spoke softly, thoughtfully and modestly, that southern/western accent layered over his sentences like sugar frosting on a Hostess Cupcake and emphasized in subtle ways by his choice of phrases and word sequences. Was he as overwhelmed by the circumstances as his players appeared to be? Is this what happened at Southern California -- Country boy thrown under the bus by the sharpies, too modest and selfeffacing to stand up to them? The starting five the next day told a very different story. The coach benched his best candidate for All-CUSA Team and replaced him with a junior who average 4.3 points per game, and at the same time benched his (star) freshman center in favor of a senior who weighed 70 pounds more and averaged 11.0 minutes per game. And it worked. After beating John Beilein's Michigan team by 10 points in the Third Place game, Coach Floyd and his two "benched" starters appeared (on time) for the post game presser, exhibiting very different body language and attitudes about their performances. Randy Culpepper managed to play 30 minutes -- "I'll do what it takes for this team to win. Whatever the coach feels is best. It's not who starts, it's who finishes..." -- and showed the kind of athletic play and shot making that are often associated with players whose time is spent at schools with bigger budgets and better media exposure. The senior guard still took 16 field goal attempts, but he converted three more of them the second day and upped his first day point production (13) by 11 more (24). If he plays as smart for the rest of the season, he will be on more than one All-Conference Team. The freshman scored four more points and grabbed one more rebound than his previous outing.

2. John Beilein is going to have a very long year -- though next season may be more fun. When I saw the probable starters for the second semi-final game Friday I assumed it was a typo. Michigan had three freshmen (two "true" and one "redshirt") starters for their game against Syracuse. The John Beilein I remember from West Virginia (and Richmond) rarely had three freshmen as active players on his squad, much less in his starting five, because he routinely red shirts his freshmen players, having them simply practice with the squad for a year before stepping onto the court to execute his playbook against real competition. There were of course, exceptions like the just graduated Da'Sean Butler from West Virginia, who saw significant playing time, and even a few starts, as a true freshman. But that was how everyone knew Butler would be a special college player. He had to be, Beilein started him as a freshman. Since Canisius Beilein-coached teams have followed on of two possible arcs of development, the Canisius Model in which the team reaches it's highest point of development in the coach's second year, and the Richmond Model in which the team generally improves with each passing season (there are exceptions, but not many). Right now Michigan apprears to be in the Canisius Model, having made the NCAAs in Beilein's second season, and taken a step-back last season (Beilein's third. Three freshmen starters is almost a concession that the season will go for play development and not for conference wins or post season consideration. Too bad, because these Wolverines are talented, but maybe not as wise as other, earlier Beilein-coached teams about breaking down opposing defenses.

3. Memphis may have the players, but UTEP's coach will make CUSA a race -- See #1 above. UTEP has a very competitive roster, and if that squad buys what this coach sells, they should give Memphis all they can handle in conference play. The Miners will have to play road games in Hattisburg (Southern Mississippi), Birmingham (UAB) and Houston (Houston), but the Miners will host Memphis.

4. Tech might find a higher ceiling after Lawal and Favors -- Hewitt passed on the St. John's job last April (to the surprise of many in the New York media) and decided to stay in Atlanta. The reasons may well be named Brian Oliver and Glen Rice Jr. With Favors, Lawal and a lousy break with the conference schedule, Tech could do no better than 7-9 in the ACC last season, but Oliver and Rice should replace the points and keep turnovers down. With a more favorable conference schedule (and a few breaks...), the Jackets may be able to up that to win enough conference games to return to the NCAAs in 2011. Tech beat a good UTEP team and pressured an NCAA-quality Syracuse squad through most of their second game. Brian Oliver shredded the Syracuse 2-3 zone with a 6-11 three point performance. For the weekend games, Oliver converted 18-38 (9-19, 9-19) and 2-2 for an eFG% of 59.2%. He had five turnovers total between the two games. Rice was not as consistent as Oliver, but with Udofia and Shumpert, neither of whom as to be prolific night-in and night-out, the Jackets may, for any given game, ger enough point production to win their share of games.

5. The race for Big East Freshman of the Year is wide open -- Preseason choice, Fab Melo started both games and logged 14 minutes. He scored 0 points on 0-1 and 0-2 shooting. He will be better by season's end, but he will not be "All" Team material for another season, possibly two. Dion Waiters might keep it in the Syracuse family this year, the freshman played for 31 minutes in the two games, shooting 6-12 (1-5, 5-7) and 2-3 to score 15 points. Of course Jeremy Lamb (UConn), Vander Blue (Marquette), JJ Moore (Pitt -- not sure Talib Zanna, a red shirt freshman qualifies...) and Dwayne Polee (St. John's) might have something to say before the season is over. In 2007 Paul Harris was the preseason favorite by a large margin, but the #2/#3 found himself on the bench for large stretches by the end of the season, and Scottie Reynolds of Villanova emerged from a crowded field to take the honor. Would not surprise me if the winner is someone not named earlier (though at this point I think it is between Blue and Waiters).

6. Thanksgiving tournaments are not well attended -- something Ray Floriani noted in a conversation this afternoon. I think Thanksgiving is a family holiday (heaviest travel days of the year), and that takes a toll on attendance. I asked one of the folks from the Michigan Daily why the Wolverines had no cheering squad (UTEP was the only school that seems to have sent a squad), and they replied that the squad went home for the holiday. The games drew between 5,000-6,000 each night, where seating capacity in the Hall is about 13,000-15,000. The crowd looked thin in the upper ring, but was very loud and partisan for the Syracuse game each night, as Orange fans far over-matched fans from their two opponents (Michigan and Georgia Tech). Though the Tech fans, out numbered, did compete on sound level.

The Gazelle Group organized the event and did a great job of making material and the teams available to the press.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: NIT Tip-Off Tennessee Post Game

by Ray Floriani
NEW YORK CITY -- For the second straight year the Big East finished in a runner-up position int the Pre-Season NIT at Madison Square Garden. Tennessee defeated Villanova 78-68, in what was, a very defensive oriented contest.

Why do I give NJ transit ink?
They were 10 minutes late and the fare went up.

The Scores:


The Four Factors for the consolation:


VCU was devastated on the glass but extremely efficient overall. The pace was to the Rams' liking (UCLA 80 possessions, VCU 76) with Shaka Smart's club owning an impressive 117-106 edge in offensive efficiency. As noted, UCLA owned the backboards largely due to Tyler Honeycutt (13 rebounds) and Reeves Nelson (10). The turnover rate was a killer for the Bruins with Honeycutt and Reeves in the mix again, combining for 8 of the 21 Bruin miscues. Another encouraging sign for VCU was inside play. The Rams scored 34% of their points from three but displayed a nice presence in the paint in Jamie Skeen. The 6-9 senior scored a game high 23 points while grabbing a team high 9 boards.

Pace and Villanova-Tennessee Notes...

Outside MSG on Black Friday

Recorded the Villanova possessions with a time per possession breakdown for this game as well. Note the "manual" play by play recording will sometimes differ from the formula -- but not by much.

Villanova -- 1st Half:
Time# PossTOsPtsPPP
0 - 14 sec.238241.04
= > 15 sec.14060.43
1st Total378300.81

Villanova -- 2nd Half:
Time# PossTOsPtsPPP
0 - 14 sec.274291.07
= > 15 sec.10190.90
2nd Total375381.03

In the first half Villanova had a larger percentage of faster (under 15 seconds) possessions. Both teams got back defensively and stopped transition as fast break points were 0-0 at halftime. The longer the Villanova possessions wore on the less efficient the offense was as Tennessee just locked down defensively with the clock ticking.

The second half saw the Wildcat efficiency an improvement in the longer possessions. Most of the charted possessions were of a faster variety as Villanova was playing catch up the latter part of the half. In other words, it was no time to get tentative and hold the basketball.

Villanova's Stokes inbounding
against the Vol defense

General Notes and Observations
Have a feeling a number of Big East opponents will contact Knoxville for a game tape of the final. Tennessee stopped the Villanova guards. Even coach Jay Wright commented, "we as a staff have to figure another way to play when our guards are shut down." That is not going to happen a great deal but it is a possibility against some of the elite defenses faced in Big east play.

UCLA wanted to stop transition and stay in front of the Villanova guards. They couldn't. Tennessee had the same game plan but with better defenders they were able to. Corey Fisher suffered through a 3 point 6 turnover night on 1 of 10 shooting.

Credit Scotty Hopson, a well deserved MVP, for a great deal of the defense imposed by Tennessee. Hopson, a 6-7 guard is very long, athletic and was quick enough to stay with and bother the Villanova backcourt.

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl noted the other night how much fun it was to prepare for VCU, a team that does a lot of interesting things. Last night, Pearl said the same thing about Villanova, how well coached they are and the intriquing things they do offensively. Maybe Pearl is just happy to be breaking down film and game planning in staff meetings, after what has transpired off the court. On the other hand Pearl probably does truthfully admire how his two opponents in New York play. Pearl did note, "Villanova is about ball screens. They do that extremely well." Tennessee was ready for the ball screens and defended them extremely well.

The other night thought Wright made a good move zoning a little each half. Again Tennessee was ready by spreading the floor and creating gaps for penetrations that would up with inside shots or passes to the wing. Overall, Villanova needed to do a better job of closing out on weak side perimeter shooters.

In Wright's estimation the Tennessee defense not only suffocated the guards but negated any chances for easy baskets. Final count saw the Vols with a 9-2 edge in transition scoring.

As tough as Tennessee's defense was, the Wildcats did not turn the ball over. They had 13 turnovers but were under 20% for the TO rate.

Mouphtaou Yarou was a well deserved All-Tournament choice for the Wildcats. Yarou scored 15 points and added 5 rebounds. His continued contributions will be needed as the weeks go on.

Impressed with Dominic Cheek. He had a 10 point 6 rebound game and showed the versatility to mix it up inside or work on the perimeter.

Scotty Hopson, a well deserved MVP
for starring offensively and defensively

The Breakdown by Halves and a Few Comments
The first half was a defensive tug-of-war, while the second half was an offensive show. Tennessee won both.


1. Villanova lost the battle of the boards, a crucial element if the shots are not dropping.
2. The possessions/shots were again taken largely by the backcourt, with Wayns accounting for nearly 42% of the possessions and 30% of the shots. Fisher's possession/shot split was 31/23. Both had excruiciatingly low conversion efficiency. Wayns' eFG% was 27.3%, while Fisher's was 10.0% (yeah, that's not a typo, it was that low). Tennessee took these two right out of the game.
3. Wayns' assist rate was stronger than Fisher's, but the sophomore played a low percentage of minutes (as did Fisher). First half fouls, two apiece, kept Wayns off the floor for nearly half of the available minutes. Neither finished the game.
4. The balance of the squad, Yarou, Stokes, Pena and Sutton were efficient offensively, but all, Stokes excepted, were reduced to "Role Player" status.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The 2010 NIT Tip-Off -- A log5 Look at the Last Day

Last Call at the Garden
The semi-final games have decided the match-ups for the last round in the 2010 Tip-Off Tournament. Pythagoras may have prevailed with absolute accuracy, but the exact route was not as predictable (and nevertheless very interesting), as Ray Floriani reported in the previous post. Looking ahead to the Third Place and Championship games...


The teams appear to be fairly evenly matched, both have efficient offenses, with the difference coming in defense. Will Coach Howland be able to use his larger front line effectively against the smaller (but more outside oriented) Rams? The pace and log5 projection...


UCLA prefers a more deliberate pace, and will probably want something that allows them to get points out of their offensive sets. The projected pace (70+) is a bit brisk, but not outside the Bruins' comfort zone. Looking at offensive and defensive differentials I get, despite a rather high margin of confidence favoring UCLA (60.9%), a close scoring game. If VCU hits their threes (and those will come from guards Joey Rodriguez, Brad Burgess and/or Brandon Rozzell), then Bruins may well spend most of the game playing catch-up with the Rams. They will have to go for the extra possessions to make up any gap in the scoring differences. Virginia Commonwealth will want to take >40 of their FGAs from beyond the arc, while UCLA has been effective at defending the three point line. The Rams' extended cold streak from deep against Tennessee has to have folks wondering if the Rams can pull an upset. Coach Smart's team will have to shoot better.

The Championship Game
The Tennessee - Villanova Final should be the fastest paced game of the tournament, the teams going out at about 73 possessions (games have been a possession or so higher than projected so far). Tennessee is a team that can run with Villanova...


Villanova is ranked #6 on PWP, while Tennessee is #30. The margin is wide enough to account for the relatively higher confidence level for a Villanova win (see table below). Other than that however, the teams appear to be fairly evenly matched, both have stingy defenses, the difference coming on offense where Villanova holds the clear edge. Both defenses register as elite, but their opponents have tended to look outside for points. Maybe the margins of scoring were wide enough to motivate the team down in scoring to fire away, but another explanation may lie in the opposition. Both teams have loaded up on mid/low majors so far, and many low/mid major teams routinely employ offenses that stress motion offenses that rely on the three point attempt. Tennessee utilizes the inside shot for 74% of their field goal attempts and nearly 56% of their points. The Vols lose over one-in-five of their possessions before shooting, almost half (49.8%) due to steals...


The offensive/defensive differentials and pace suggest nearly a 10 point margin of victory (for Villanova). Slowing Villanova's offense down while keeping his Volunteer offense in uptempo mode would be a huge challenge for Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl. A half-court approach however, would require a skilled point guard who could run the team effectively while directing the attack. Something outside of the Volunteers' comfort zone I suspect, and given the lack of a truly effective point guard, something of a work in progress with the Vols at this point. Both teams will go inside at every opportunity, thereby exposing their low post players to more opportunities for fouls and foul trouble. Both teams routinely win the battle for the boards, for Tennessee offensive rebounding provides second chance opportunities that are vital given their very average shooting efficiency for field goals. Who controls the boards, and more importantly, how many fouls (and on whom they are called) may a key to determining the outcome of the game.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: NIT Tip-Off UCLA Post Game

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY - It will be Villanova against Tennessee for the Pre-Season NIT championship. The scores from Wednesday night's semifinals:


The Four Factors for the first semifinal:


The pace was not for the faint of heart. Both teams entered MSG averaging over 70 possessions per game. In an 80 possession contest Tennessee had the offensive efficiency edge 96-90. The talk was the Rams' shooting, or lack of it. Their eFG percentage the first half was a horrid 28%. Only a rebounding edge and the Vols 'willingness' to part with the ball (23% TO rate)kept them within one at intermission.

The second half VCU found the range thanks to 6-2 guard Brandon Rozzell (23 points, 19 in the final half). The big story was rebounding. Bruce Pearl's club cleaned the glass the second half. Scotty Hopson, a 6-7 guard who was a matchup problem all night for VCU, had 11 boards to compliment his 18 points and 6-10 Brian Williams enjoying a New York homecoming adding 13 rebounds.

Pace and UCLA-Villanova Notes...

Too Busy for the Details?

Once again, recorded the Villanova possessions with a time per possession breakdown. Again please note, the 'manual' play by play recording will sometimes differ from the formula -- but not by much.

Villanova -- 1st Half:
Time# PossTOsPtsPPP
0 - 14 sec.283331.18
= > 15 sec.91111.19

Villanova -- 2nd Half:
Time# PossTOsPtsPPP
0 - 14 sec.182241.33
= > 15 sec.161140.88

Villanova got out and ran the first half. That transition and penetration in half court meant a great deal of the possessions were under 15 seconds. The Wildcats were very efficient in that category, In fact, their entire first half was outstanding in offensive efficiency.

The second half UCLA tightened up on defense (mainly in the first 12 minutes). As Jay Wright said, "Ben Howland is an excellent coach and I expected him to make adjustments." Wright pointed out that the UCLA mentor defended the Villanova ball screens a little differently the second half.

In the later minutes of the game, Villanova used more clock with a double digit lead. Better UCLA defense and clock were the reasons for longer second half possessions by the Wildcats.

General Notes and Observations
Ben Howland said his pre game emphasis was to stop transition and keep the Villanova guards in front of them (defensively). Howland admitted his Bruins did neither. Villanova did a good deal of transition damage, a 9-2 scoring edge, the first half. Keeping Corey Fisher in front of the defense was a virtual impossibility. Fisher, a local product who seemed to love every second out there on the big stage in the Pre-Season NIT, was too much for UCLA to handle. Fisher led all scorers with 26 points while adding 4 assists. "He (Fisher) is so good that he shot only 6 of 19 but got to the line (14-15)," per Howland. "He has that ability to draw fouls and get to the free throw line a great deal."

One thing Howland didn't prepare or expect to do was pressure Villanova. "They just don't turn the ball over," the UCLA mentor said.

Both coaches agreed Mouphtaou Yarou came up 'big' tonight. The 6-10 Villanova sophomore scored 13 points pulled down 16 rebounds and blocked three shots in 27 minutes. "Having Yarou back there allows our guards to gamble a little more on defense," Wright said. "He (Yarou) can anchor the defense and can stop penetration should our guards get beat. He gives us a nice inside presence." A presence Wright hopes only continues to get better when Big East play arrives.

Malcolm Lee led UCLA with 13 points. Tyler Honeycutt, a 15 PPG scorer, was a non factor scoring eight. A group of Nova fans behind me on press row heckled Honeycutt to no end. Don't think that was the key, just chalk it up to Villanova defense forcing him into a 3 of 8 shooting night.

Speaking of defense, liked how Jay Wright showed some zone looks late both halves. The zone, especially in the first half found UCLA losing player movement on offense and getting tentative.

Yarou, Wright and Fisher meet the media

Impressed with Maalik Wayns. The sophomore guard scored 19 points while adding 6 rebounds. He is very fast end to end and often penetrated and kicked out to an open teammate for a three point attempt. Howland knew how good Fisher was but admitted Wayns posed more problems than expected.

Impressed with UCLA's ability to compete and stay with it. The young Bruins trailed by 15 at the half, at Madison Square Garden and could have folded. "They never wavered from their game plan," Wright said of the Bruins, "give them credit." UCLA had the game a two possession affair midway through the second half but Villanova regrouped and sealed the contest.

Wright said Tennessee is similar to UCLA in their length and athleticism and will pose some problems on Friday. It will be a reunion for Wright and the Vols' Scotty Hopson. Wright coached the Tennessee star in a scrimmage against the NBA team before the FIBA championships this past Summer.

Ray Floriani, Will D. &
the Villanova Cheerleaders

The Breakdown by Halves and a Few Comments
The split by halves shows a dominant first half performance followed by a passable (but less efficient) second half performance.


1. From Ray's breakdown of possession timing and scoring efficiency (points per possession) -- Villanova's efficient conversion early in a possession is not surprising. The same is generally true for many D1 teams and has been enshrined as a truism for at least four decades -- "fast breaks yield easy points". What is surprising is how much Villanova uses the fast break/delayed break to score. Note that the 'Cats scored within the first 15 seconds on 75% of their possessions in the first half. All < 15 possessions were not fast breaks, but the scoring play was probably early enough in the possession that UCLA did not have time to set their defense. In the second half the Wildcats took that shot early in 52.9% of their possessions, and their efficiency dropped dramatically. Coach Howland's gameplan, "stop the transition" was spot on. The Bruins did not perform.
2. The Wildcats' rebounding numbers continue to impress. Against UCLA they held the Bruins offensive boards to less than the D1 "standard" 33% for both halves. In fact, at 25-26% for both halves, the Bruins were clearly dominated. Remember that Ben Howland built those pre-Dixon Pittsburgh teams with dominating bigs. He has not accomplished that in Westwood.
3. Wayns and Fisher continue to garner the lion's share of touches and shots. No question these are two extremely talented guards, but Villanova games so far have fallen into one of two categories. The possessions & shots have been pretty distributed among six or seven players or Fisher and Wayns have garnered a very large portion of the touches and shots, leaving little for the other three players on the floor. The super backcourt had possession rates touching 40% apiece in this outing...the first type. Following the pattern, one will have a so-so outing while other will struggle with his shot. Both took about one-in-three of the available field goal attempts when they were on the floor. And the pattern held in this game with Wayns posting 19 points on 7-16 (46.9% eFG%) shooting, which yielded a 1.03 PPWS to contrast with Fisher's 26 points on 6-19 (31.6% eFG%) shooting, which yielded a 1.00 PPWS largely because Fish had a 14-15 night from the charity stripe. I love the combination, but think more equitable distribution of shots (see the the player breakdown for the Marist game) would improve the overall efficiency of the squad (they will score more points more easily).
4. Mouphtaou Yarou arrived on the big stage, as the national media had their first good look at what the big guy can do -- he posted his second career double-double, also his second consecutive double-double game. Villanova dominated the offensive boards because Mouph grabbed an unbelievable 21.2% of the offensive rebounds when he was on the floor (about 66% of the time). Grabbing 21% of the defensive rebounds will get a player rated in Pomeroy's Top 400 (or so). Duke's Brian Zoubek, Pomeroy's #1 offensive rebounder last season grabbed 21.4% of the offensive boards when he was on the court. The #2 player grabbed 19.6%. Mouph also grabbeed 38.0% of the defensive rebounds when he was playing Wednesday night. He will not post numbers like that every night, but combined with Pena, Sutton and Stokes, and Villanova has a very good rebounding front court.
5. Corey Stokes had another outstanding offensive outing. The senior is not taking over games (he is at a disadvantage as Wayns and Fish bring the ball up...), but is posting extremely efficient shooting numbers. Stokes and Yarou formed a very efficient third/fourth option on offense, as Yarou had an eFG% of 55.6% exceeded by Stokes' 60.0 effort. Yarou had a 1.14 PPWS, again topped by Stokes' own 1.34 (no that is not a typo).

Further Reading...
Recap/Analysis from a Bruin fan (yeah Tydides, those 3-4 possessions at the end of the first half did you guys in...)
another Bruin perspective
Analysis from Chris over at The Nova Blog.
From the Nova Basketball Report.com -- Joe's thoughts on the game.
Luke Winn over at Sports Illustrated has the 'Cats ranked #9 before the UCLA game, but has some good insight into what the Villanova's two guards are up to. I have to think Winn will move Villanova up a spot or two (or three?) after this weekend.
-- greyCat

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Army Women at Seton Hall

by Ray Floriani

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ -- Love good defense? Then Walsh Gym on the Seton Hall campus on Tuesday night was the place to be, as Army and Seton Hall battled in a non-conference women's basketball matchup. Offensively both sides had looks but for the most part, points were earned and penetrating was not for the faint of heart. Seton Hall prevailed 50-40 to improve to 3-2 while Army fell to 1-3.

The Pre-game Shootaround:
Both teams entered the game with rather low offensive efficiencies. On the other side, their respective opponents were not exactly ringing up fantastic numbers. Chalk it up to defense.

Seton Hall8083

Seton Hall came into the contest averaging 72 possessions (a brisk pace). Army was a bit more deliberate averaging 65 possessions per game. So game pace would have to be watched closely.

The first four minutes saw at least two things that were an Army concern going in. Both teams had seven possessions over the first four minutes. Army already had three turnovers which matched their point total. On the other end Army was having trouble keeping Kandice Green off the boards. The 6-1 junior had three offensive boards in those first four minutes.

Efficiency at the "four"
Seton Hall86

What was the story line of the first half?
Offense, or lack of it. The Hall led 22-20 and the offensive efficiencies were quite below average.

Seton Hall65

Your VBTN contributor does not normally get a 'Royal' greeting.
Early attendees were greeted by the Hall cheerleaders

Wrapping it up:
In a 67 possession game the efficiencies:

Seton Hall75

The Four Factors:

Seton Hall34114424

The Army TO% rate, again is not a misprint. Army turned the ball over 27 times. Army coach Dave Magarity credited Seton Hall, "for getting at us defensively especially with their press." What upset Magarity more was the fact Army has a senior backcourt which accounted for 11 of Army's turnovers. "(Nalini) Hawkins is a four year starter at the point," Magarity said. "We just need better production from her and other veterans." Hawkins led Army with 10 points but was guilty of 5 turnovers.

The two teams had difficulty scoring. A recurring theme, for both, in this young season. "That's our story to date," Seton Hall coach Anne Donovan said. "We have had trouble putting points up every game, the positive thing is our defense has been very good." Donovan threw several defensive looks and some full court pressure to keep Army off balance.

Donovan also mentioned the Pirates got a good second half spark from Jasmine Crew, Ka-Deidre Simmons and Jazzmine Johnson. Especially after Army had a four point lead early in that final stanza. Crew was a go to player (game high 16 points) providing offense when needed. Simmons played solid defense and scored in transition and hit a three as the Hall made a run to get breathing room. Johnson scored 6 points while energizing the Hall defense with 3 steals.

Despite the offensive struggles, Donovan sees better offensive days ahead. "We are working on eliminating the turnovers," she said. The Hall entered with a 26% TO Rate, even a small improvement is a plus. "If Kandice (Green) finishes at the rim that will open things more for our perimeter players." Green scored 10 points adding 7 boards but was 2 of 10 from the field.

Magarity is also dealing with offensive woes. "We shot 8 of 17 from the line," he said. That's a big difference in a game like this." Another factor was Erin Anthony, a Patriot League all-Conference forward, who was held to 7 points on 3 of 10 shooting. Again credit the defense for denying her few, if any, any good looks.

Game was a homecoming of sorts. Army senior guard Laura Baranek spent her freshman year at the Hall before transferring to West Point. She led the Pirate softball team in hitting (.277) that year. Seton Hall assistant Ty Grace served on Magarity's staff at West Point before joining the Hall last season.

Hall and Army in action at Walsh Gym

The 2010 NIT Tip-Off -- A log5 Look at the Championship Bracket

The Championship Bracket
Now that the consolation pods play is in the books, the four regional pod winners meet in Madison Square Garden to play the semi-final games and Championship game and so complete the championship bracket. Using the log5 method, we can calculate the probabilities for semi-final winners and the probabilities for each of the tournaments final four teams. The four pod round winners (in alphabetically correct order), with their regional pod, seed and conference affiliation:

VillanovaNorth#1Big East

In basic tournament fashion, #1 will play #4 and #2 will play #3. VCU eliminated the #3 seed (Wake Forest of the ACC) and has taken that spot. Below is a quick reference table for the offensive and defensive efficiencies (adjusted per Ken Pomeroy's site), along with the Pace (approximate possessions per game) and Pythagorean Winning Percentage (PWP). Note all possession-based stats are current through 11/22/2010.

New York City
TeamPaceAdj OffAdj DefPWP

The adjusted stats suggest the games in New York City will be very competitive. Given that all the teams have defensive ratings somewhere in the 90s or below, the shots should be contested and the scores close (even if the offensive/defensive splits suggest differently).

"log5ing" the Semis
The seed match-ups for the semi-finals (Wednesday night) below suggest the winners should be Tennessee (seeded #2) and Villanova (seeded #1):

Tennessee vs. VCU
PWPWin Prob.

Using pace and adjusted efficiencies, the game should be played for between 70 and 71 possessions, with Tennessee winning by about 3-5 points. The Vols tend to turn the ball over while Virginia Commonwealth's defense tends to force turnovers, so keep track of this stat if you are watching the game; it could be a decisive factor, especially if the game is close. Tennessee does not shoot the three particularly well (that means they are terrible at it), while VCU's defense tends to defend the line...indifferently at times. Can the Vols exploit that weakness? The Vols tends to get to the line (it might be all of the home games, given the time of year) frequently, while the Rams are fairly average about fouling -- they are not particularly aggressive defenders.

Villanova vs. UCLA
PWPWin Prob.

This side of the bracket appears less competitive, but the 'Cats really took it to the Bruins in the 2009 NCAA second round. Coach Ben Howland has to remember the manhandling his players took at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. Through the weekend the numbers were closer. Expect the 'Cats and Bruins to play for about 69-70 possessions (just slightly fewer than the Vols and Rams), with the margin of victory only slightly larger (about 6-7 points). Expect Villanova to control the boards. The Wildcats are strong and aggressive when it comes to the boards. This has not been an obvious problem for UCLA because they have shot very well from the field so far. Should that change in the Garden however, it could spell trouble for the left coasters. Turnovers are another area to watch. The 'Cats are not especially aggressive defensively so far this season, a departure from seasons past. They have not forced turnovers at the same rate as prior seasons (they are excellent at protecting the ball by the way), but the Bruins are not particularly careful with the rock, and have turned it over on between one-in-five and one-in-four possessions.

Probabilities For the Bracket
The probabilities for each team for each round (two round bracket)...

Probability to win...

Though it is just two rounds, I was a little surprised Villanova was so heavily favored -- relatively, note the the ratio is nearly 3:1 over the next closest team, Tennessee. The PWP is still a bit early and hardly an absolute predictor. Check out my post on the Washington DC and Winstron-Salem pods. Hampton, a team that was projected to lose both of it's consolation pod games.

Further Reading...
log5 Explained by Dean Oliver
The Official NIT Tip Off Site
The Consolation Brackets with sites, teams, dates and game times. Home team bolded.
A Look at Two Consolation Pods
A Preview of the Consolation Pods

Monday, November 22, 2010

The 2010 NIT Tip-Off -- A Look at the Winston-Salem and DC Pods

A Tale of Two Consolation Pods
A coincidence perhaps, or an ingrained part of the New York City-centric history of the NIT, but two of the three consolation pods (and the Championship Bracket) will be played in states along the Atlantic seaboard. Consistent with the protocol for (real) tournaments, pod play will dominate the early part of Thanksgiving Week, Monday and Tuesday nights, yielding the late week spotlight to the games of the Championship Bracket. The Semi-final will be played Wednesday night, with the Final (and Third Place game) scheduled for Friday night.

The Washington DC Pod
The two "North" pod 1-1 finishers, Boston University (NEC) and George Washington University (A-10 -- the pod host) will square off against Nevada, a 21 game winner and NIT team last season, and the Pirates of Hampton University (MEAC). Asking GW to take the hosting responsibilities was a nice touch. Although the A-10 representative lost their primary scorer Lasan Kromah just before the tournament, they have a renovated facility in the nation's capital. Nothing says Thanksgiving like a holiday in the nation's capital. And the Colonials have a brand new Daktronics scoreboard in their renovated on campus arena.

Washington DC
TeamPaceAdj OffAdj DefPWP
George Washington67.4102.497.60.635
Boston University68.6103.9100.30.600

Breakdown of the Monday night games...

Boston University81.567.310+

Of Villanova's four opponents this season, Boston University has played the Wildcats tightest. Matt Griffen, Jake O'Brien and John Holland should have a good night at the Terriers take this by double digits. The overcard will feature GW and their WAC guests from Nevada

George Washington73.4@7?

Pomeroy's Pythagorean Winning Percentages are still heavily influenced by Pomeroy's preseason calibration, so Lasan Kromah's loss is still not reflected in the offensive/defensive efficiencies. Coach Karl Hobbs will look to veterans Tony Taylor, Joseph Katuka, Aaron Ware and red shirt Jabari Edwards to fill in the gaps left by Kromah. Hopefully the sophomore will recover soon.

The former North Pod teams will swap guests for their Tuesday night games...

Boston University70.5@5-6?

This promises to be the highest possession game of the pod, with both teams geared to shoot early in the possession. Nevada however is in danger of finishing this tournament 0-4, as neither of these games looks close.

George Washington83.610+?

Hampton, though sporting a 1-1 record out of the East Pod (they beat Winthrop in their second round game at Winston-Salem), Hampton brings the lowest PWP to this pod. Too bad they were not matched with Nevada, not possible because the other two teams played in the first round of pod play. It might be a bit ugly to watch, but it would be closer than any of the four scheduled games.

If the teams play to their PWPs, expect BU and GW to finish the tournament with 3-1 records, while Hampton can console itself with a single win over Winthrop, Nevada would go winless. Brutal for the cross country trip.

The Winston-Salem Pod
If the Pythagorean Winning Percentage is an accurate measure, this is the weakest of the three consolation pods. The irony is that it is simultaneously the most diverse in terms of team strength. The pairings also virtually two nights of near blowout basketball with as the least competitive potential match-ups were made. Rank has it's privileges apparently.

Winston-Salem, NC
TeamPaceAdj OffAdj DefPWP
Wake Forest (host)71.9101.299.60.545

Although Winthrop and Wake were grouped in the East Pod, they did not play. The organizers (and Wake as the pod host?) decided to match them this time around. Those two will trade off Belmont and Marist on Monday and Tuesday. Breakdown of the Monday night games...


Marist is the weakest team in the field, and the log5 projection shows they will lose again Monday night. Heavily. Hopefully Coach Martin can use this experience to mature his squad and get them ready for MAAC play.

Wake Forest71.9@8?

Though seeded #3 and given hosting responsibilities in the preliminary round, Wake struggled with Hampton in their first round game, and fell to Virginia Commonwealth in the second round. Given pod host responsibilities again, the tournament organizers appear to want the Demon Deacons to have the best opportunity to finish with a 3-1 record as well. The Eagles represented the Big South Conference in the NCAAs last March, but coach Randy Peele, entering his fourth season at Winthrop, faces a rebuilding year. The Eagles started slow last season and managed to make the Dance, maybe they can again this season.

Tuesday night games...

On paper this is a near-blowout of the Big South representative by a lower ranked conference opponent. Belmont is good and will probably finish this tournament with a 3-1 record that includes a good loss to Tennessee (by nine points on the Vols' home court), and three blowout wins over lesser opponents. This would have to be a confidence builder for the Atlantic Sun Conference representative. The Nashville, TN school has to be favored to take the conference championship this season.

Wake Forest85.0@10+?

This should be good entertainment for the Deacon faithful, as they will watch their team in an up tempo game blowing out a lesser opponent. Hopefully they can hold onto that memory, as it might be the high point of their season.

The most interesting match-up of the pod is the one that will not be played -- Wake vs Belmont. For giggles I ran the log5 numbers for that game and came up with Belmont favored, 74.8-25.2, in a very high tempo game (about 74 possessions), with the Bears mauling the Deacons by double digits. It is a shame, because low majors get very few opportunities outside of invitational tournaments like this one (where the organizers have some say in the match-ups) to take a good shot at a power conference team. Maybe Wake ran the log5 numbers too, before they decided on the pairings.

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Coaches vs Cancer Finals

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY -- The championship of the Coaches vs. Cancer final at Madison Square Garden, came down to the final possession. Down two, Texas tossed, or should it be said forced, an on the run prayer that missed by a wide margin and Pitt emerged victorious 68-66. The Scores:



Madison Square Garden
on a Friday afternoon

The Four Factors in the consolation:


The game was played for 72 possessions. The offensive efficiency for each team computed to:

Off. Efficiency111106

In one night Maryland improved dramatically in the rebounding department. Terrapins had a significant 20-11 edge on the offensive glass. Illinois' ability to care for the ball, even facing some full court and three quarter court pressure was significant. They shot very well, going 10 of 19 from beyond the arc. Leading the way from downtown were Demetri McCamey (3-3 from three) 20 points and D.J. Richardson (3-6 from three) 9 points. Maryland's Jordan Williams did not score and had 2 boards in nine first half minutes but came alive after intermission finishing with 15 points 13 rebounds.

The tale of Jordan Williams' two halves by efficiency...


Recorded Maryland's first half possessions by time with the following chart showing the results:

<15 seconds216211.00
=> 15 seconds133151.15
[Note -- Poss. is possessions, TOs is turnovers and PPP is points per possession computed as Pts/Poss.]
Normally as possessions progress the chances of turnovers are greater. In Maryland's case they committed most of the TOs early on. Chalk that up to a few transition opportunities that ended without a shot. Interestingly, Gary Williams' club was more efficient after the 15 second mark. Partially due to the fact as the clock winds down they have a special set(s) to ensure a good attempt from the field. And they are actually more cautious as the shot clock winds down.

Your VBTN contributor was not invited

The Four Factors for the final:


The championship game was played for 66 possessions; the offensive efficiencies were...

Off. Efficiency103102

Scoreboard tells it all

The telling rate was in the turnover category. The Longhorns did everything else, out rebound Pitt (which few teams do), got to the line and shot a percentage that matched their opposition. But 17 turnovers in a 65 possession contest is a killer. Especially in a one possession game. In the dreaded TO category it seems Rick Barnes' club 'shared the wealth'. Cory Joseph and Jordan Hamilton led with three each but everyone of the nine players Texas used, had at least one. In Hamilton's defense the 6-7 sophomore swingman led all scorers with 28 points and proved to be an inside/outside matchup problem all night long.

Talib Zanna had an impressive semifinal but the Pitt frosh had only 2 points and 6 boards in a 15 minute foul plagued final. These things will happen but the impressive thing is Pitt has a number of players who can step up on the given night. Ashton Gibbs led the Panthers with 24 points (19 in the second half) while running mate Travon Woodall added 7 points 5 assists. The Panthers will capitalize on opposition errors and can beat you in many different ways.

Recorded the Pitt possessions by time once again. In the breakdown I just limited it to turnovers, points and points per possession. For calculating purposes an offensive rebound was an extension of the possession. Pitt had only seven offensive boards, so a great deal of their 'extended' possessions of 15 seconds or more were due to the Texas defense.

The First Half...
<15 seconds213221.05
=> 15 seconds13390.69
[Note -- Poss. is possessions, TOs is turnovers and PPP is points per possession computed as Pts/Poss.]

The Second Half & Totals
<15 seconds222251.14
=> 15 seconds143120.86
2nd Half365371.03

The number of possessions sometimes deviates from the formula. Many times the formula for possessions is right on the money or one or two off. Still, it is a great way to calculate the possessions if you do not chart every one the 'long hand' method. Also in charting, the person charting can make a clerical error, or two.

As the chart shows, the Panthers' points per possessions was more effective when the possession ended prior to 15 seconds. Those sequences include transition opportunities that were converted and good looks in the early offense. Pitt had a number of those the first ten minutes before Texas dug in and forced the opposition to make the extra passes and extend each Pitt trip down the floor.

In the post game presser Rick Barnes said the first 10 minutes were the key. "We came out a little stagnant especially on defense." With a young club, getting to the final with a strong showing against the nation's number four team was significant."

Jamie Dixon noted how the Travon Woodall-Ashon Gibbs (both NJ products with Woodall from St. Anthony's and Gibbs Seton Hall Prep) backcourt was very effective in the second half. Dixon also was impressed with the Panthers' balance. "We have 11 guys who contribute," he said. "One night someone will break out another night it could be someone else."

Ashton Gibbs receives the MVP award

Dixon was asked by Lenn Robbins of the NY Post to comment on critics contention that Pitt 'wins ugly'. "They are probably looking at me," Dixon quipped. The Panthers mentor went on to note how Pitt has been one of the most offensively efficient teams around the last few years. In '09 the average possessions for Pitt in Big East play was 67. Last season, with a lot of new faces, the pace slowed a bit to 64. Entering the Texas game Pitt averaged 71 possessions for their first four contests. If the break or early offense shot is there they will take it. You can chalk the slower paced games, especially in the Big East, as a product of their suffocating defense. The only 'ugly' in Pitt is what opponents see in having to face that trademark defense. Dixon summed it best saying, "better to win ugly than lose pretty."

Both nights at the Garden the Panthers won. And it was pretty impressive.

All Tournament
Ashton Gibbs (MVP)Pittsburgh
Trevon WoodallPittsburgh
Jordan HamiltonTexas
Jordan WilliamsMaryland
Demetrius McCameyIllinois

Pitt Panthers celebrate