Monday, January 31, 2011

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Providence at Seton Hall

by Ray Floriani
NEWARK, NJ - Seton Hall left little doubt from the opening tap of this one. The Pirates defeated Providence 81-71 at the Prudential Center on Sunday. The Pace and efficiency:

Seton Hall81100

The Four Factors:

Seton Hall45262614

Warmups at the Rock

The field goal mark of the Friars is a bit deceptive as Seton Hall played very good defense. Providence shot 4 of 19 beyond the arc . Inside they were 21 of 35, a 60% rate. A fair percentage of those came in the stretch with the Hall holding a double digit lead and in command of the contest. Marshon Brooks, Providence’s outstanding scorer, registered 20 points. Brooks however shot 8 of 17 from the floor. Credit some good defense on the part of Jeff Robinson for that.

The Hall ‘D’ (some pressure, some man and zone in half court) was rooted in PC’s 24% turnover rate as the Pirates forced 19 turnovers. Brooks alone committed 9 of them. “Turnovers were definitely our downfall,” Providence coach Keno Davis said. “Credit Seton Hall’s defense for that.” Davis also felt the Hall defense prevented his club from getting any offensive continuity in half court.

Pirates received a number of contributions in this victory. Herb Pope was a force inside with a game high 23 points, 11 rebounds in 31 minutes. It’s safe to say the junior forward is in full playing shape.

Robinson was effective inside, out and on the break. He posted 20 points 6 boards. Jeremy Hazell gave a solid 10 point 6 assist effort. The senior guard constantly looked to feed teammates often passing up a shot in the process. Jordan Theodore gave a respectable 11 point, 4 assist outing.

Seton Hall lost several games earlier in the season because of the inability to put together a 40 minute effort. That was not the case today. Some late game Providence pressure got the margin to nine but the Hall regrouped to seal the verdict.

A young team, Providence received fine performances from two talented sophomores. Center Bilal Dixon, a Jersey City native, had a 17 point, 10 rebound day. Vincent Council, had a twenty point, five assist showing at the guard spot.

PC coach Keno Davis

Providence is 13-9 (2-7 Big East). Seton Hall improves to 10-12 (4-6). Providence host South Florida Wednesday at the ‘Dunk’. Friars defeated Louisville and Villanova in their last two games at their home facility. Pirates visit West Virginia on Wednesday a place coach Kevin Willard ‘fondly’ remembers from his playing days at Pitt and the traditional ‘backyard brawl’. “They guy (Mountaineer mascot) with the rifle drives me crazy,” Willard said. Actually, the Mountaineer defense is of paramount concern. “Coach Bob Huggins gets his teams to defend as well as anyone in the country,” Willard said. Regardless, the Hall will journey to Morgantown with a better mindset than a week or two ago. “Winning is great,” Willard said, “it’s a good feeling.”

About an hour after the game
a quiet street outside the Rock

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: St. Bonaventure at Fordham

by Ray Floriani
BRONX, NY- St. Bonaventure bounced back from a tough home loss to UMASS on Wednesday, defeating Fordham 69-60 at Rose Hill on Saturday.

Outside Rose Hill Gym
Enough with the snow but at least its photogenic

The pace and efficiency:

St. Bona67103

The Four Factors:

St. Bona46552412

Inside Rose Hill Gym

Free Throw Rate.
The Bonnies were 26 of 41 from the line while Fordham was 5 of 9. Rams coach Tom Pecora had nothing but praise for the officials. On the disparity from the stripe he said, "they (Bonaventure) came out aggressive. When you come out like that you put yourself in a position to get calls and get to the line. Give them credit. We came out too passive."

Mark Schmidt of Bonaventure added, "we get to the line a lot in our games. Our philosophy is inside/out. We get the ball inside and as a result get opportunities to go to the free throw line."

Fordham led 17-8 in offensive rebounds. A strong second half showing on the glass was responsible for the edge in the OREB percentage category.

TO rate was a revelation for the Bonnies especially. They had been plagued with turnover problems in recent seasons. On the season both clubs have a 21% TO rate. And in this contest they showed outstanding TO rate numbers.

Forward/Center Andrew Nicholson shows his form

Crucial Four
The first four minutes of both halves are critical to setting a tone. Fordham, down 36-20 at intermission, utilized those opening minutes to their distinct advantage. On Bonaventure's opening possession Andrew Nicholson was fouled in the act of shooting. Nicholson missed both free throws. Fordham scored on their first three possessions of the half. The Bonnies missed shots on the two possessions following Nicholson's misses from the line. Instead of a potential 18 point Bonaventure margin, the Ram deficit was 10 points with about 17 minutes to play in front of an energized home crowd. Fordham closed the four minute stretch with a 9-2 scoring edge in 6 possessions. The efficiencies for that juncture were Fordham 150 and Bonaventure 33. More important, a lead that took the Bonnies about a half to build was virtually sliced in half in the span of just four minutes.

Defending the Three
Taking a cue from David Hess' Project Scoresheet on the Audacity of Hoops site, I decided to chart every field goal attempt from three point range. For uncontested attempts, a notation was made. The results:

1st Half3 Point Shooting
St. Bona3-4 (75%)2-2 (100%)
Fordham3-11 (27%)0-2 (0%)

2nd Half3 Point Shooting
St. Bona2-7 (29%)2-5 (40%)
Fordham2-11 (18%)2-6 (33%)

For the game, the numbers were:

Game3 Point Shooting
St. Bona5-11 (46%)4-7 (57%)
Fordham5-22 (23%)2-8 (25%)

Seven of the 11 three point attempts by the Bonnies were uncontested. That was largely due to the inside game and the attention afforded Nicholson by the Fordham defense. The Rams just did not close out quicker on perimeter shooters. Also, the likes of freshman Matthew Wright (9 points on 3 of 5 beyond the arc) shot some very deep threes.

On the Fordham side, the Bonnies did a good job ensuring the Rams got a minimum of open, uncontested looks. They did get 6 uncontested looks the second half. Chalk that up to a few Fordham attempts in transition and with Chris Gaston more effective in the paint the final twenty minutes, the perimeter opened up a bit.

St. Bonaventure is 11-9 (3-4 A-10). The Rams drop to 6-13 (0-7). Andrew Nicholson led all scorers with 25 points. The Bonaventure junior added 11 boards. Brenton Butler paced Fordham with 15 points while Chris Gaston led the Rams with 11 rebounds. Game was a sellout at Rose Hill. Gaston finished with 11 points and was well defended especially the second half. Fordham did own a 30-24 points in the paint edge. That was largely due to the second half and not just on posting up. The Rams were successful those final 20 minutes in hitting the offensive boards and getting dribble penetration. Demetrius Conger, a sophomore forward, finished with 11 points 5 rebounds and made a few big plays to allow the Bonnies to maintain the lead when Fordham made its second half run. Attendance was a sold out 3,200.

Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt meets the media

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Fairfield at St. Peter's WBB

by Ray Floriani
JERSEY CITY, NJ- The Fairfield women's team won their third straight, 61-46 over St. Peter's Friday night. The game at Yanitelli Center saw the Stags impose their defensive will on the contest. The pace and efficiency:

St. Peter's6274

Fairfield prefers a slower pace. St. Peter's, especially trailing the second half, utilized full court pressure to force turnovers and get the Stags in a quicker tempo of play.

The Four Factors:

St. Peter's35103523

The St. Peter's pressure did get the Stags into rushing things. On the night they had 21 turnovers. Most of those however were in the latter 10 minutes of the game when they were enjoying a double digit lead. Fairfield coach Joe Frager was not pleased with the turnovers, especially with a number of them coming in the latter minutes (which are crucial in a close contest) when St. Peter's forced a chaotic tempo. Defense, boards and getting to the line were all strongly in Fairfield's favor.

Tempo-free proof. Discussing the game with Fairfield sophomore guard Katelyn Linney, she said that Fairfield's number one defense is "a source of pride and something we work on daily." Linney was referring to the Stags' defensive points allowed average of 48 points per game. Now the question, is the 48 ppg allowed due to a slower tempo? A tempo-free look at the 18 games prior to coming to St. Peter's yielded these results:


Without looking at some of the other top women's teams in the nations, the numbers show Fairfield is playing some pretty sound defense. The 64 possession pace is pedestrian. But the 75 allowed on the defensive end is nothing short of outstanding.


Fairfield is 13-6 (6-3 in the MAAC). St. Peter's falls 10 (3-17 (3-6). Linney led all scorers with 19 points. Lauren Morris paced St. Peter's with 14 points. Brittany MacFarlane, Fairfield's 6-1 sophomore, did not score but led all players with 11 rebounds. Fairfield junior forward Taryn Johnson had an impressive all around effort. Johnson scored 17 points while grabbing 9 rebounds and handing out a game high 6 assists. Admiring St. Peter's work ethic and resilience in a tough injury riddled year, Frager called them "the most dangerous 3-17 team you will find anywhere." St. Peter's freshman Teresa Manigrasso (8 points) and Linney were teammates on St. John Vianney's 2009 NJ High School Girls Tournament of Champions title winners.

Georgetown University Post Game: Inside Game

Life in the Big East
After directing the tip-off to Fisher Mouphtaou Yarou grabbed a defensive rebound off a Jason Clark miss, grabbed a tipped pass and hit a reverse layup for the game's first score. An offensive rebound two possessions later that elicited a foul from Hoya center Julian Vaughn and the sophomore center was on the line for two. He made both, and grabbed a second defensive rebound two (Hoya) possessions later that ended with a Corey Stokes three point miss. Yarou picked up his first personal foul about a minute later and headed to the bench. He came back in, missed two attempts on consecutive possessions about seven minutes later, and, as the Wildcats collectively settled into an offense that consisted of a series of jump shots from 14 feet and farther out, did not touch the ball again in the first half. Although the center re-emerged for a dominant sequence about halfway through the second half, he committed foul number four with seven minutes to go and went back to the bench, not to see the court again until the last three minutes of the game.

The Villanova blogosphere registered a collective groan, as posted a recap with player/team grades..."Hoping for a good recruiting class" is a grade? The Nova Blog posted a video sequence from "The Shining" -- Jack Nicholson chopping through the bath room door to get to Talia Shire -- which is Chris' reaction to Austin Freeman. A reaction very different, but complementary in it's own right, from Coach Wright who cited Freeman's 30 point performance in his post game press conference and concluded with the aside "I love him, and he's a great kid too". The Hoya blogosphere has a few early posts, including the Hoya Prospectus recap with a breakdown by halves similar to vbtn's (I wrote the first paragraph above before going over to check out Brian's recap -- he indicates the "Let 'em take jumpers" is a defensive strategy the Hoyas also used against the Johnnies last week...) and The Casual Hoya posted a quick recap & look ahead as well. The Athletic Department website posted the official boxscore and the AP wire story, "No. 8 Wildcats Upended by No. 21 Georgetown, 69-66". The breakdown by halves...

Opponent:Georgetown University
 Offense Defense
1st2ndGame 1st2ndGame

Forget the highlighting...Brian Lerner does a nice job of highlighting the good and bad, just remember to "see" red where he has green, and green where he has red. paint it all red. For the second game running, the pace was surprising. 30 possessions for the first half is stunning, possibly the lowest possession half played by the 'Cats this season. Only the Pennsylvania game, at 62 possessions, matches this 62.7 (63) game for lowest number of possessions. The Wildcats were able to force turnovers, particularly in the first four minutes of the game (see below) and during the last two minutes of the game when the Hoyas committed two turnovers and committed personal fouls as the Wildcats trimmed the lead to a single possession. But Villanova did not blunt the Hoyas' shot efficiency, allowing a 57.6% eFG% for the game, and a disappointing 57%+ for each half. No halftime adjustment appeared in the offering. Villanova's inability to get offensive rebounds, especially in the first half was also disappointing.

1. Austin Freeman posted 30 points in a performance eerily similar to many that Scottie Reynolds had over his career. And like Reynolds, Freeman stepped up as the "go to" guy in the opponents' arena. During the last two minutes of the game every Hoya ball handler looked around to find Freeman, and the senior did not disappoint. If he could not take the shot he found the teammate who could. After Freeman dropped his last free throw an NBA scout sitting next to me commented on his "calm and professional demeanor", especially with the game on the line. Only one other Georgetown player, Jason Clark, scored in double digits -- 10 points on the nose (though Nate Lubick and Julian Vaughn scored eight and nine respectively).
2. Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns shared scoring honors for the Wildcats, logging 15 points each as an ironic counterpoint to Freeman. Two other Wildcats, Antonio Pena (10) and Corey Stokes (13), also scored 10 or more points. Stokes, 4-10 with 3-6 three pointers, converted at an efficient 55% eFG% despite suffering a turf toe injury in the game's opening minutes.

The First Four Minutes
What can the first four minutes tell us about the half/game? With respect to today's game, not much apparently. In the first half, the Wildcats took the tip-off and the two teams ran off six possessions in the game's first four minutes...


Though the tempo favored the Hoyas (6 possessions tracks for 30 on the half), the effieincy definitely seemed to favor the Wildcats. Villanova however turned over their next two possessions, and Georgetown out scored Villanova 27-16 over the last 16 mintues of the half.

The second half produced seven possessions in the first four minutes, but the scoring so favored the Hoyas that Coach Jay Wright called a timeout to regroup his squad...


With seven possessions, the half was on pace for 35 possessions apiece; that "slowed" to 32 over the next 16 minutes. Unlike the first half, this four minute snapshot did accurately "foretell" a more offense-oriented half. The Wildcats went on to outscore the Hoyas 32-28 through the end of the game.

Records, Next Up...
Villanova's records drop to 17-4 overall and 5-3 in conference. The 'Cats are now off of Pittsburgh's pace by 2 games. Georgetown extends it's winning streak to five games and pushing north of 0.500 in conference play for the first time this season. The Hoyas are 16-5 overall, 5-4 in conference play. Villanova readies for another home game with Marquette on Wednesday (2/2), while Georgetown heads home to host Louisville on Monday (1/31).

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fisher Name Cousey Finalist

The Basketball Hall of Fame announced the finalist for the Bob Cousey Award for 2011 earlier this week. Corey Fisher, along with 19 other Division 1 point guards was listed among the finalists. The winner will be announced April 4. Others from the Big East include Scoop Jardine of Syracuse, Kemba Walker of Connecticut and Chris Wright of Georgetown.

Congratulations to Corey
and the other finalists!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Conference Differentials, Part 11/01/28

The View From Week #3+...
The Big East members have run through 44% of their conference schedules. There is quite a bit of the regular season ahead (Villanova fans should remember how this point last season differed so much from the end of the Wildcats' season), but the conference rankings are starting to take shape. Using the differential of each team's offensive and defensive efficiency can give us an idea of how each team is progressing. The table below reflects conference games through January 27, and for each team, shows their Big East record, their differential, a Pythagorean Winning Percentage (PWP) -- conference games only -- each team's conference strength of schedule rating and SOS rank. Like the differential, the Pythagorean Winning Percentage (PWP) often restates the Win/Loss percentage, but there are (more) often exceptions that can provide insight on how the team is faring with their schedule.

TeamWLPct.Diff.Win %RtgRnk
West Virginia430.5710.0650.6770.826814
Notre Dame630.6670.0010.5020.90532
Seton Hall360.333-0.0570.3380.89068
South Florida270.222-0.0780.2980.89725
St. John's450.444-0.0790.2870.89725

I have sorted the data by efficiency differential, and the movement from last week suggests that a particularly good or bad outing (or two) can have an impact on team ranking. The offensive/defensive conference average is about 1.04 (points per possession), about 0.03 above the Division 1-wide average of 1.01. Is the Big East's offense better or is the defense poorer? Since the average overall conference efficiencies (all games) are 1.08 (offense) and 0.96 (defense), comparatively the Big East's offense is the stronger element. Defense in Big East games is a premium.

Not All 5-2 Records Are the Same
The conference is separating into tiers by differential, one that does not necessarily correspond to conference won-loss records. Pittsburgh (to a lesser degree Villanova) and DePaul are separating from their conference mates, only in different directions. For Pittsburgh and Villanova, there is always time to stumble (see last week) and head back into the pack. For DePaul however, the gap appears to widen with each week. If the differential (consistent with the won-loss record in this case) is a reliable indicator, the Blue Demon Nation will have to wait until next season for (positive) signs of rebuilding. The Panthers and Villanova, despite stumbles this past week, have put some daylight between themselves and the rest of the conference. The cluster of Marquette, Louisville, Connecticut and West Virginia have similar differentials but records that range from 5-2 down to 4-4. If this conference SOS is reliable and the explanation for the differences lies in the set of opponents, expect that section of the conference race to tighten in the next few weeks. Notre Dame, no matter which set of calculations I use, appears to have run through a tough stretch of their schedule. This may be the season when the Irish do another bounce back into the conference's top tier, as hinted by their win in Pittsburgh this week. Surprisingly, Notre Dame's offensive efficiency (1.057) is just above the conference average, while their defense (1.056) is just below. Historically Notre Dame's offense has been among the most productive and efficient in the conference while their defense has lagged seriously behind. Regressing their efficiencies to the mean against their 2011 schedule (so far) has, frankly to my surprise, produced a 0.667 record. Defense trumps offense, perhaps?

Another Look at Strength of Schedule
A few emails with the publisher of Rush the Court and a quick rereading of Ken Pomeroy's Strength of Schedule calculation (based on adjusted offensive and defensive ratings) gave me another approach to express each team's strength of schedule for conference games. The approach is the same used by Pomeroy, but I applied Pythagorean Winning Percentage to the average of the adjusted ratings (offensive & defensive) for each team's opponents. After comparing Pomeroy's Overall SOS and out of conference SOS (a "conference" SOS would be the other component to his overall SOS), I think these numbers pass an eye-ball test, so I went ahead and ranked the teams by their conference SOS. That the teams towards the bottom would appear to have harder schedules makes sense. Teams at the top appear to have easier schedules, which would make sense because their slates contain teams from the lower division. Which makes those exceptions, Georgetown (4-4, SOS #16), Notre Dame (6-3, SOS #2) and Seton Hall (3-6, SOS #8) for example, points of focus when considering how the conference races are unfolding.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Providence College Post Game: Road Trips

Villanova evened their record for this, the longest road trip of this season, at 1-1 on Saturday with their 11 point win, 83-72, over Syracuse. Chances to conclude the road trip with another win were foiled as the Friars won a decisive, 83-68 victory over Villanova at the Dunkin Donuts Center in downtown Providence, RI. The Friars punched the Wildcats with a 6-0 run to start the game, then stretched that lead to nine, 34-25, going into halftime. Credit Providence for striking again early in the second half, taking a 7-4 run over the first four minutes that stretched the lead to 12, 41-29, before the 'Cats could regroup for their own run. Villanova could get no closer than seven (43-50 at the 10:11 mark), and once repelled, could not stop the Friars from pushing their lead back out to double digits, where it largely remained through the end of the game. Villanova's longest road trip for this season ended with on a 1-2 note.

Providence guard/forward Marshon Brooks led all scorers with 20 points despite shooting 4-15 from the field. Going 0-8 on three point attempts, the senior went 12-14 from the charity stripe. Four other Friars, sophomore guard Vincent Council (16), freshman guard Gerard Coleman (16), sophomore forward/center Kadeem Batts (11) and freshman Bryce Cotton (10) scored double digit points. Sophomore point guard Maalik Wayns paced the Wildcats with 18 points on 7-15 shooting (2-4 on three point attempts) and 2-3 from the line. Senior forward Antonio Pena notched a double-double, scoring 17 points while grabbing 15 rebounds.

The blogosphere registered a few post games, including "postgame -- Villanova 68 Providence 83" from the Nova Blog. The Friar blogosphere has a few early posts, including a quick recap with a few comments at (Providence Journal) authored by long-time Friar and Big East beat writer Kevin McNamara and an exuberant but brief recap with a picture of the court rushing) from Dave at the Friar Blog. The Athletic Department website posted the official boxscore and the AP wire story, "No. 8 Wildcats Surprised by Providence, 83-68". The breakdown by halves...

Opponent:Providence College
 Offense Defense
1st2ndGame 1st2ndGame

Forget the highlighting...paint it all red. Pace was the surprise. Providence likes to run, an element of the Friar program going back to (at least) Rick Pitino's days in Friartown. Villanova has proven to be very proficient at controlling high-possession games offensively, but has seen success lately with a lower possession, structured play offense. A 38 possession first half with Villanova leading would have been a good sign, but owning that many possessions along with a nine point deficit had to be a warning that things were not going well. Pushing the pace in the second half would be a necessary prerequisite to making a serious run at the Friars.

1. The two Coreys put up some stunningly bad numbers, going a combined 4-26 from the field, including 1-13 from beyond the arc. The transformation from a dead-eye three point shooting machine on Saturday to the pair who couldn't shoot straight is the type of inconsistent play expected from underclassmen, not seniors. A real headscratching performance at this point in their careers.
2. One of several paradoxes offered in the game was Villanova's domination on the boards. In the first half the 'Cats were able to hold the Friars to an anemic 14.8% rebounding rate. The Friars bounced back in the second half to grab a crucial 40% of their misses, necessary second chances (they were credited with 13 second chance points) that allowed them to hold Villanova at an arm's length through much of the second half. The overall rebounding rate for the Friars, 25%, looks very good for Villanova, but it masks that strong second half adjustment that brought more Friars to cover their offensive boards.

Records, Next Up...
Villanova's records drop to 17-3 overall and 5-2 in conference. After pulling even with the Panthers in conference play, the 'Cats drop back with the loss. Providence has a two game winning streak, both wins coming against Top 25 teams. The Friars are 13-8 overall, 2-6 in conference play. Villanova heads home to face Georgetown on Saturday (1/29), while Providence heads down to Newark, NJ to play Seton Hall on Sunday (1/30).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Rutgers at Seton Hall

by Ray Floriani
NEWARK, NJ - Opportunity lost.
That is the theme looking back on Seton Hall's week. There was a chance for the upset of Georgetown that slipped away. Yesterday, the in-state rival visited the 'Rock' and the Hall could have used a victory to try to get some momentum. It wasn't to be as Rutgers exited the Prudential Center 66-60 victors.

Outside the Rock the streets are busy
prior to game time

The efficiency numbers:

Seton Hall6790

Hall fans wave their towels

Pace definitely favored Rutgers as Seton Hall was more inclined to get this into a high octane affair. Usually games start fast and gradually settle into the regular pace. The first four minutes of this one however saw the tempo set and dictated. After four minutes the Hall led 5-4 and had 6 possessions (83 OE) to Rutgers 5 (80 OE).

The Four Factors:

Seton Hall38123016

Lights out for Seton Hall introductions

Outside of turnover rate and an even mark in OREB percentage, Seton Hall trailed significantly in the other two factors. A 6 of 27 shooting performance severely affected the eFG mark. Pirates shot 17 of 41 (41%) from two point range which was not exactly lighting it up. Rutgers, on the other hand, showed inside strength going 22 of 43 (51%) from inside the arc.

Seton Hall hit the offensive glass as the Pirates had a 12-10 edge in those 'raw' rebounding numbers. Unfortunately some of the best efforts on put backs were unrewarded as Seton Hall had trouble finishing in the paint. That was one of the reasons Rutgers built a double digit first half lead.

Game action captured from a number of rows off the floor.

Rutgers led 31-23 at the half. The lead hit double digits early second half. Seton Hall trimmed the deficit but never got this to a one possession affair. Outside of a brief Seton Hall lead early in the game, Rutgers was in command.

Dane Miller was listed on the box score as a guard. The 6-7 sophomore swingman for the Scarlet Knights, was a tough matchup for the Pirates. Miller scored a team high 17 points while adding 10 rebounds. He was 7 of 13 (0 for 1 from three) from the field. Miller has the ability to be a factor in half court and transition scenarios. At the other end Miller was no slouch with 3 blocked shots and 8 of those rebounds on the defensive end. About the only area he was deficit was the charity stripe (3 of 7).

A good all around effort was provided by Gilvydas Biruta, Rutgers' freshman forward. The 6-8 Biruta played 22 minutes scoring 12 points and pulling down a game high 11 rebounds (6 on the offensive end).

Herb Pope had a solid 20 point, 16 board, 3 blocked shots effort for the Pirates in 37 minutes. A positive indication that the 68 junior forward is now in full form and game condition.

Hall put four players in double figures but it was a deceptive number performance wise. Pope led all players in scoring and rebounding. Jordan Theodore had 11 point but twice as many turnovers 94) as assists (2). Jeremy Hazell scored 15 points. The Hall senior guard had the opportunities as he attempted 21 shots hitting just 6 (29%). Jeff Robinson checked in with a dozen points and he too had a generous amount of chances, hitting just 5 of 14 (36%).

The star Ledger had a great pre-game piece on the whole idea of the Seton Hall-Rutgers rivalry. The whole premise is the respective coaches Mike Rice of Rutgers and Kevin Willard of Seton Hall can't and shouldn't obsess on sweeping these games. Seeing the big picture in moving up the Big East ladder is more important. While the coaches and players want to win, the reality is it is a game, or two, as part of an 18 game Big East schedule. It has also been noted when the day comes and the two schools are in the conference's upper echelon, then the rivalry will gain fruition.

Regardless, you have the two Garden State Big East members about 30 miles apart. The different institutional backgrounds, the State University of New Jersey and the Catholic University of New Jersey. The fans, though love it. They light up the chat rooms, fuel the pre and post game talk and genuinely exercise those bragging rights should their school, rooting interest or alma mater get that win. While the respective coaches and players eye that 'big picture' and say otherwise, getting a win in this series has to be a little special and significant.

Rutgers is 12-7 (3-4 in the Big East. Seton Hall drops to 8-12 (2-6). Doesn't get easier the Hall's next one is at Syracuse on Tuesday. Rutgers, suddenly on a two game Big east win streak, visits Cincinnati on Wednesday. Former Rutgers assistant Darren Savino, now an aide to Mick Cronin at Cincy, will face his former club. Attendance was 8,929.

No rivalry?
Evelyn (L) and Amanda (R) show proudly display the towel.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Syracuse Post Game: Streaks

Bombs Away!
Both Villanova and Syracuse entered the game eager to break the streak each had begun with their last outing. A streak of the losing kind. For both the number stood at one and neither wanted to see it go to two. Villanova played to their offensive and defensive numbers in the first half, establishing an 11 point (40-29) lead going into the intermission. The last 20 minutes, an offensive festival for both (or a clinic on how to deconstruct the other team's defense?), saw the two Top 10 teams match point-for-point to the end of the game, ended at 83-72, with Villanova's 11 point first half cushion intact.

Forward Kris Joseph, back from an injury that sidelined him for Syracuse's loss to Pittsburgh, scored his game-high 23 points on 8-15 overall shooting, and 3-5 from the line. Senior Forward/Center Rick Jackson recorded a double-double (16 points and 15 rebounds) in the losing cause. Villanova was paced by sophomore guard Maalik Wayns, who scored 21 points on 6-11 shooting and 5-5 from the line in a nice bounce-back from his performance in Storrs Monday. The two Coreys, Stokes and Fisher, scored 16 points apiece, while senior forward Antonio Pena, the fourth Wildcats to score 10 or more points, chipped in 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds in the winning effort.

The blogosphere registered a few post games, including "postgame -- Villanova 83 Syracuse 72" from the Nova Blog and posted their recap with a poll for player grades. Best I can tell the polls are still open, so go over and vote if you are inclined. All's quiet in the Orange blogosphere, a commentary-less series of videos from the Troy (complemented by a commentary on 3 pointers) and some post game musings from Otto's Army excepted. The Athletic Department website posted the official boxscore and the AP wire story, "No. 7 Wildcats Overpower No. 3 Syracuse, 83-72", led off with Villanova's three point "zone busting" shooting, and followed with the crowd size. There are a handful of good quotes from Corey Fisher as well. The breakdown by halves...

Opponent:Syracuse University
 Offense Defense
1st2ndGame 1st2ndGame

Green highlighting identifies the good elements of Villanova's game yesterday, while red highlighting identifies elements that are below the levels the team has played to to date. Pace was the second surprise. I believed the 'Cats would push at every opportunity, preventing the Orange from getting into the 2-3 zone. 66.1 possessions is a pace Syracuse should have wanted -- it suggests Villanova would have to score out of offensive sets, and not transition. The box score confirms the Wildcats scored four points (only -- all in the second half) on fast breaks, with two coming on Maurice Sutton's jam at the end of the game.

Same Result, Two Paths
The yellow highlighting on the teams' second half ratings and four factors shows how the same efficiency can be attained by different means. Both teams scored 43 points on (about) 32 possessions, but each employed different methods to attain their result. Villanova did not convert shots as efficiently as the Orange (50.0% vs. 55.7% eFG% above), but the Wildcats limited turnovers (9.3% vs. 20.7%) and got to the line more frequently (80.0% vs. 17.1%). Though the Orange "won" in two of the four categories (offensive rebound rate -- 61.1% vs. 43.8% -- was the second category), those two were not enough to outscore the 'Cats in the second half and cut into their first half lead.

8 Minutes & 43 Seconds of the First Half...
At the 14:43 mark of the first half with the score 9-7 Syracuse, the Wildcats put on a run of nearly nine minutes during which they outscored the Orange 27-11 and built a 14 point lead (34-20) on 14 possessions...


The best sequence of possessions for Villanova in the game (1.93 points per possession equates to a 193.0 offensive rating), but actually typical for the entire first half for Syracuse (see "By Halves" table at top). Villanova was a deadly 6-7 from beyond the arc, scoring 21 of the 27 points in the run from that distance, including two streaks of 3-3 from beyond the arc. Though the Orange would outscore the Wildcats 9-6 to close out the first half, they would play virtually the entire second half from a 6-to-14 point hole, sustaining a single rally that cut Villanova's lead to four only once, at the 2:41 mark of the second half.

Records, Next Up...
Villanova upped it's to 17-2 overall, 5-1 in conference, remaining a single game off of Pittsburgh's pace. The Wildcats play their third consecutive road game next Wednesday at Providence. Syracuse dropped it's second game running, putting the Orange at 18-2 overall, and 5-2 in conference play. The Orange will host Seton Hall on Tuesday.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Preview -- Syracuse

The Dome Dwellers...
When #7 Villanova visits Syracuse Saturday at noon for the front end of their home-away 2011 season conference series. they should expect to step onto the court of the famed Carrier Dome to the booes (and cheers?) of 30,000 spectators. That is not a misprint, Syracuse University announced earlier this week that 34,000 tickets had been sold, putting Saturday's tilt on course to break the existing on-campus attendance record of 34,616, set at last season's Syracuse GameDay (also versus Villanova)...

Common Opponent
Cincinnati is it actually. Interesting that these two Northeast basketball programs typically have so few common opponents outside of conference play. Each allocates a large part of their out of conference schedule to local competition. For Villanova this presents as Big 5 play (four OOC opponents each season), while for Syracuse, Colgate aside, this translates into a sample of in state opponents from the Western Tier and metropolitan New York City. Their single common opponent is Cincinnati, out of the Big East...


The pace for the Cincinnati-Syracuse game was surprisingly low. A possession-rate closer to Cincinnati's preference than the Orange. This is one of the newer characteristics of the Syracuse program this season -- a willingness to adapt to (or inability to dictate?) the opponent's pace/style of play. How, if Villanova indeed adopts a faster tempo, will Syracuse adjust? Villanova's inability to control the boards in the Cincinnati game, especially when the outcome was a win, is very uncharacteristic of Wildcat games this. Board control, especially on defense is a priority for the Villanova defense. Compare the offensive and defensive ratings of the two squads versus Cincinnati with the season-long ratings scraped from Ken Pomeroy's team pages (below). Generally Villanova's offense is rated better than Syracuse's, while Orange defense is higher ranked than the Wildcats', yet in each played Cincinnati, Syracuse's offense fared better than Villanova's while the Wildcats' defense did a better job on the Bearcats than did the Orange.

Syracuse's best OOC win was a 14 point victory over Michigan State (Big Ten, 11-6, 4-2, RPI #40), a win that looked better last December than it does now. Best conference wins include the 76-59 road win at St. John's (11-6, 4-3, RPI #36) and at home versus Cincinnati (16-3, 3-3, RPI #35), a convincing 15 point win. Their single loss, a 12 point loss at Pittsburgh earlier this week, did little to diminish their tournament resume.

Villanova's marquee out of conference win to date came against the Owls of Temple University (A-10, 13-4, 3-1, RPI #43). The wildcats' best win overall was a 14 point victory over Louisville (15-3, 4-1, RPI #16) in conference play last week. Villanova's two losses came to Top 10 ranked opponents, Tennessee (SEC 12-6, 2-2, RPI #16) in December (which like Michigan State, looked less damaging at the time than it does now...), and Connecticut (15-2, 4-2, RPI #8) last Monday...

Lineups, Rotations...
...Preseason predictions for the Orange's demise were premature. Returning 55.9% of their 2010 minutes and 52.8% of their 2010 points, many (this previewer among them) wondered if the cohesion of last season's team, "Seven Starters" as Coach Boeheim called them, would return as well...and if it did not, how would the staff structure an offense from the parts that were left (or coming in as freshmen). The team has survived the dings and nicks that are the lot of almost every D1 team these days, and has put together a strong post season resume.

Coach Boeheim has abandoned an "iron man" rotation of seven and typically reaches nine deep into his bench which he has done in nearly every game. The starting for the Orange will have a very traditional look. The backcourt at tip-off will feature two guards, sophomore Brandon Triche to handle the ball with junior Scoop Jardine, playing off guard, though either can man the point (and at one time or another during the game, will) while the other runs off screens to find an open spot on the floor. The front court has been a solid set of junior Kris Joseph at the #3, senior Rick Jackson to start at the #4 and freshman Fab Melo to man the #5. When Joseph suffered a concussion and sat at Pittsburgh, sophomore James Southerland took his turn at the #3. Expect substitutions early and often. Melo, a 7-0 import who is farther along defensively than offensively, averages 10.7 minutes per game (game, not half, game), with Southerland, freshman CJ Fair and freshman Baye Moussa Keita drawing minutes as the game progresses. Melo, Keita, Fair, Southerland and Jackson form a flexible #4/#5 rotation, where many times (at least) one of Melo/Jackson/Keita may play alongside Fair or Southerland. Relatively rare of late, even sophomore Mookie Jones may see time. The Orange back court has a similar, flexible rotation that includes freshman Dion Waiters, who typically plays about 16-20 minutes per game (he averages 16.0 minutes through 19 games) to take the point and allow Triche to move to the off guard spot (as Jardine then rotates up to the #3 or out to the bench). Southerland started when Joseph was out, and either he or Fair can rotate "down" to the #3 should the staff look for more length.

Villanova has used the same starting five -- Corey Fisher and Maalik Ways will split the point duties with Fisher shifting to the off guard when the staff wants to push the ball up the floor. Corey Stokes, who has found consistency (more or less) with his outside shot before a hamstring strain in the Cincinnati game diminished his jumper, will take the third guard spot, and play mostly on the wing, though in a pinch either he or guard Dominic Cheek can bring the ball up court and set the offense. The front court positions will be manned by Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou. Pena is a senior who has started off and on, for the past three seasons, mostly on for the past two. Villanova's rotation can go to 11, but nine, those five players who logged time versus Cincinnati on Sunday and freshman wing James Bell, sophomores Dom Cheek, Maurice Sutton and Isaiah Armwood, is more typical, especially in a closely contested game. Cheek, who like Kris Joseph, sat a game with a ding (in Cheek's case, it was his knee), has practiced and may see action in this game.

By the Numbers, Offense & Defense...
Pace may become a tug of war between the squads, though Syracuse has shown a willingness to adapt to the preferences of the other team. Should there be "accommodation", expect a pace in the 70s. If tempo becomes a point of contention, then expect the game to be played in the high 60s. Villanova's pace, the Connecticut game excepted, has trended up for the past several weeks, a bit counter intuitive given conference games can settle into chess match-paced affairs. A "Four Factors" comparison when Louisville has the ball...

When the Orange has the ball...
Cuse O53.817.335.637.9
Wildcat D43.619.527.033.5

The Orange offense is ranked #16 according to Ken Pomeroy's Scouting Report, very much among the elites in Division 1. Syracuse does two things very, very well -- they convert their shots to points (especially 2 point attempts, they convert a strong 54.3% of their 2s) and they do not turnover the ball much, giving themselves every opportunity to end the poseesion with a shot attempt, either from the field or on the line. They are good at covering the offensive boards, thereby giving themselves second chance opportunities. This mtachup is crucial for Villanova, as the Wildcats are among the elites for defensive rebounding. In their two losses they were unable to control the defensive boards, allowing their opponents to gather >35% of their misses. Syracuse's biggest weakness comes at the line, they do not shoot free throws particularly well, and will not want to be in a close game that may have to be decided at the line. Villanova has become particulary good at defending the shot, their eFG% defense is ranked #16 in D1. If Villanova struggles to contain Syracuse's offensive rebounding in the first half, look for a half-time adjustment, either a combination of longer players (Armwood, Pena, Yarou in together, possibly with Cheek or Bell and one of Fisher and Wayns for example) or sending three or four to the boards. Expect each staff to juggle their substitutions to gain an advantage on the boards. The "Four Factors" look at Villanova's offense versus Syracuse's defense:

When Villanova has the ball...
Wildcat O50.818.036.644.2
Cuse D43.321.631.527.0

The Cuse's adjusted defense is 86.4, ranked #12, among the elites for Division 1. They are strong shot defenders (good at defending both the two and the three, but ranked among the elite at defending the two), and enhance that strength by forcing a high turnover rate, typically causing opponents to lose more than a fifth of their possessions without a shot. When opponents miss however, the Orange are just a touch above average at netting the rebound. Rebounding under Villanova's basket is a strength-to-weakness match up that could prove to be critical to the outcome of the game. The key indicator for Syracuse's defense however is fouling -- they don't. For Villanova, used to netting 25% or more of their points at the line may well have to find another source for posting points.

Want to Beat Syracuse? Then...
Shooting is always critical, make them miss and convert your own, but...
1. Put empty trips on their offense. Syracuse has played three games where their offense averaged less than a point per possession. Their record is 3-1 in those games, and of the three they won (vs. Detroit, vs. Seton Hall and vs. Michigan) their margin of victory averaged 6.3 points. In the rest of their games (15-0, all wins), they averaged a 18.0 point winning margin.
2. Limit second chance opportunities -- rebound under Syracuse's basket. In games where the opponent has held the Orange to <30% of their misses, Syracuse is 3-1, with an average winning margin of 6.0 points.

...If you are going to the game, bring binoculars, from the upper decks the court will be about the size of your TV screen. Pomeroy is calling this one for Syracuse, 68 possessions and a six point winning margin for Syracuse, with a 72% degree of certainty.

Conference Differentials, Part 11/01/21

About 30% of the Has Been Completed
All of the teams in the conference have between four and six games in the record books, so an early look at offensive and defensive differentials is in order. The offensive and defensive efficiencies measures the number of points a team scores (offensive) or allows it's opponents to score (defensive) per possession. I have taken the (raw) offensive and defensive ratings from Ken Pomeroy's site for each of the Big East teams, extracted the conference games only, and averaged their efficiencies for conference games only. Any team's efficiency differential is simply the team's offensive points per possession (ppp) minus their defensive points per possession. The differential is a shorthand way to measure the team's offense versus it's defense. A team with a winning record usually has a positive differential, there can be exceptions, often worth investigating. The table below reflects conference games through January 19, and for each team shows their Big East record, and offensive & defensive efficiencies and their differential. I have also included the team's Pythagorean Winning Percentage (again conference games only). Like the differential, the Pythagorean often restates the Win/Loss percentage, but there are (more) often exceptions worth reflecting on.

TeamWLPct.OffenDefenDiff.Win %
West Virginia320.6001.
Notre Dame430.5711.001.03-0.030.426
St. John's430.5711.001.04-0.040.378
South Florida150.1671.031.13-0.100.268
Seton Hall250.2860.921.02-0.100.227

I have sorted the data by efficiency differential. The conference divided evenly into groups of eight (an upper and lower division?) based on positive and negative differentials -- if the differential is positive, the team's offense scores more points per possession than it allows. The undefeateds and winless behave, sorting to the top and bottom of the data set as expected. Things in between however get a bit murky. If sorted by won/loss percentage, Syracuse would appear after top ranked Pittsburg, followed by Syracuse, with Villanova and Louisville clustered (1/2 game) behind. In the next group however any semblance to won/loss order breaks down. Notre Dame and St. John's fall into the lower half of the table, but have won/loss records that suggest they ought to be ranked higher. Are these two "over performing" relative to the conference at this point and due to settle downward? Syracuse's differential was "low" compared to their Pythagorean Winning Percentage and their won/loss percentage. Has the Orange benefited from an easy section of their conference schedule? I decided to create a back-of-the-napkin SOS to determine what (if any) impact the strength of schedule may have had on any school's record. The table below shed some light on why some of the team's are performing as they are.

Notre Dame0.5680.193
Seton Hall0.5370.300
South Florida0.5350.281
St. John's0.4790.214
West Virginia0.3700.278

I also took the standard deviation of each schedule to get a sense of the "consistency" of the Pythagorean Winning Percentage. A high standard deviation would suggest there was a large degree of dfference (less consistency) between a team's opponents. I left this list in alphabetical order to make it easier for those interested in a particular school to locate and find the team's information. Notre Dame's schedule so far has been "difficult", and the standard deviation would suggest slate has been uniformly difficult. The low (relative to Big East teams with a similar record) PWP reflects the degree of difficulty of their schedule. Color me sceptical when the topic turns to a Notre Dame resurgence this season, but the Irish have a 4-3 record after playing (on the road) Marquette, Syracuse and St. John's (twice) to go with Connecticut, Cincinnati and Georgetown (at home).

Syracuse's schedule appears to have been a bit lighter than the "average" for the conference, Providence, Seton Hall have struggled. Notre Dame and St. John's have above 0.500 records, but have not established strong winning margins in those victories.

Villanova has an "average" schedule with a typical mix of teams, Rutgers and South Florida, conbined with Connecticut, Louisville and Cincinnati.