Friday, April 29, 2011

Coaching Carousal, Part 2011-03

The Tipping Point...
In the three-plus weeks since Connecticut cut down the nets and ended the 2011 season, 13 coaching positions were filled even as three more head opened up. Even more notable, of the three which opened up, two were at the initiative of the current head coach, a strong signal that the momentum in cycle has begun to wind down. Dane Fife became the latest in a growing trend of low-major coaches who abandon the first chair to take an assistant job at a high-major when he left IPFW for a spot on Tom Izzo's staff at Michigan State. 25 years old when tabbed to lead the then independent IPFW in 2005, Fife led the Mastodons into the Summit League in his third season at the helm. A historic 0.218 program after three Division 1 seasons, Fife led IPFW to a 0.357 winning percentage his first season (12-18), and bettered that mark in each of his next five. The Mastodons logged an 18-12 record (0.600) last season and perhaps Fife felt it was time to move on. Division 2 (and lower level) head coaches traditionally take assistant positions to move up the ladder, have successful head coaches voluntarily leave their positions to take assistant jobs may be another piece in a growing body of evidence of the gap between BCS-level programs and nonBCS-level programs.

The timestamp on Dana O'Neil's ESPN feature, "Old Coaching Assumption Fading", was barely 10 days old when Jim Larranaga, cited by O'Neil as an early trend-setter, exchanged the familiar surroundings of the program he built at George Mason to lead Miami and work in the ACC on April 23. Put O'Neil at the end of a line of disappointed observers that no doublt includes Providence (Larranaga's alma mater, twice rebuffed when they came to court after his 2006 Final Four run) AD Bob Driscoll and anyone who bet money that Kansas State's Frank Martin would suceed the departed Frank Haith as the Hurricanes' most likely next coach (not to mention Martin himself perhaps?).

Only Karl Hobbs, the George Washington University head coach dismissed unexpectedly on April 25, was an employer-initiated move. The circumstances of Hobbs' dismissal were typical of a post season evaluation, and so seemed strange coming more than a month after the GWU men played their last basketball game. That Hobbs was fired by Patrick Nero less than a week after Nero was designated the successor to Athletic Director Jack Kvancz, and more than eight weeks before Nero will take up the day-to-day duties as AD, strongly hints that Nero's first personnel move was decided before he was hired, and therefore by others in the GWU administration. Why the quick trigger for Hobbs? The key may well be Jim Larranaga's move to Miami -- Vermont head coach Mike Lonergan has been featured prominently on George Mason Athletic Director Tom O'Connor's short list. Nero, whose previous job was Commissioner of the American East Conference -- of which Vermont is a member -- may emerge as the point man to bring Lonergan to Foggy Bottom. Should Lonergan prove to be the target for both programs (other overlapping targets for those two include Jeff Capel, released in March from Oklahoma), the 2011 edition of the Coaching Carousal may have a bidding war should both programs go full bore for either Capel or Lonergan. Andy Katz may believe that George Mason is the better situation, but as a member in the best non-BCS conference (the A-10) in Division 1, a renovated arena in the nation's capital and access to a top 10 media market and a few good coaches in the past two decades (Tom Penders, Mike Jarvis) George Washington can offer a higher profile.

Best Hires? Worst Hires?!
If the talking heads have no clear favorite for "Best Hire" (Ed Cooley to Providence, Sidney Johnson to Fairfield and Cuonzo Martin to Tennessee are drawing most of the approving nods...), a (negative) consensus is about Frank Haith, Missouri's choice to succeed the departed (for Arkansas) Mike Anderson. Adapting Dan Hanner's efficiency margin comparison method for the two coaches, even as we allow for different schools and conferences, might give us a hint at expectations for the Missouri fan-base...

Average Adj.
Anderson, Mizzou 2007-11113.692.7+20.8
Haith, Miami 2007-11112.596.7+15.8

While Anderson appears to have the edge (good news for the Arkansas fan-base?), Haith does not appear to be an unreasonable choice. A comparison of styles (using Ken Pomeroy's coaching resume feature) can perhaps give Missouri fans an idea of what to expect...

Mike Anderson, Missouri200971.352.834.316.036.6
Frank Haith, Miami200867.449.

Anderson's version of "40 Minutes of..." is much in evidence at Mizzou, and Arkansas fans, who enjoyed three Final Fours, including a National Championship under Anderson's mentor Nolan Richardson, should recognize (and appreciate) the style. Haith ran a more deliberate offense, that compensated for less efficient shot (fewer transition points most likely) converson (and a slightly higher turnover rate) with more aggressive offensive rebounding and lane work (the 'Canes got to the line more).

Anderson, Missouri46.434.524.839.9
Haith, Miami47.034.220.335.4

The defensive snapshot of their "best" season suggests that Anderson's defense was more aggressive (note the turnover rate and free throw rate, both higher than Haith's Miami squad, and frankly much higher than the Division 1 average). Neither squad excelled at rebounding, and were about the same for shot defense as well (Haith's squad was ranked #47 in 2008, Anderson's #53 in 2009). Both coaches seemed to favor guards and 'tweener type wing players, and Haith should find a familiar skill set on the Missouri squad next season. Missouri's playing style next season will be more deliberate than Mizzou saw under Anderson, but with a similar set of players, Haith should be able to make his system work (or not...) fairly early next season.

By the Numbers...
In the last Coaching Carousal post I suggested a floor of about 40 vacancies in this cycle. The total to date (fall practice to today) is 46. If the cycles over the last four off seasons is a good indication, the ceiling will probably be around 50 (48-53), as those unforeseen circumstances ("The things we know we don't know...") will acount for another 1 - 7 vacancies after the Spring signing period. The spate of coaching carousal articles this week (see Davis over at SI, Katz at ESPN for example...) hint that the cycle is winding down, yet in seasons past -- even setting aside 2009 (a very unusual off season for coaching changes) -- the cycle has continued into July and even into late August once or twice. The cycle picked up quickly between the end of the regular season and Selection Sunday, and spiked dramatically during the NCAA tournament. The NCAA Tournament is always the peak, but the period between the end of the tournament and the close of the spring signing period (the third week in May) is often as busy as the period between the end of the regular season and Selection Sunday. The average number of vacancies per season (season opening to fall practice of the following year) over the period 2000-2010 is 47.8 -- clearly the 46 vacancies to date means this season will, at worst be an "average" year in the cycle.

A Smaller Turnover in the post Tournament Period?
If the post tournament period period seems less hectic, consider that at this point in the cycle vacancies are created less from ADs firing coaches and more from coaches switching positions. The "fuel" that drives the carousal after the NCAAs is generally provided by the coaching fraternity, and indeed the coaches do account for 66% of the new vacancies since the crowning of the National Champions. BCS vacancies typically drive the carousal by triggering a chain reaction of coaching searches to replace coaches who move up the Division 1 food chain. Of the eight 2011 BCS coaching vacancies (Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Miami-FL, Missouri, North Carolina State, Oklahoma, Providence and Texas Tech), two (NCSU & Texas Tech) were filled by currently unemployed ex-coaches (Mark Gottfried and Billy Gillispie respectively), three (Georgia Tech, Oklahoma and Providence) were filled by low/mid-major coaches whose departure triggered at most one other vacancy (Providence <-- Fairfield <-- Princeton), while the remaining three (Arkansas, Missouri and Miami) were part of the same chain reaction, initiated when Arkansas fired John Pelphrey on March 13 (Arkansas <-- Missouri <-- Miami <-- George Mason...for now). Given the pool of candidates George Washington and George Mason have to work with (compete over), expect no more than two additonal vacancies to be opened from their searches.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Early Season Invitational Tournaments -- 2011-12

Where the Big East Will Play Their Exempt Games
A post over at John Templon's new blog venture, Big Apple Buckets put me on to Blogging the Bracket's Early Season Invitational page. Chris Dobbertean has pulled together information about the fields for 20 tournaments, along with seven campus-only round robin multi-team events (MTEs) that appear to be in the process of forming fields that qualify for exempt tournament status.

CincinnatiRound Robin Event?4TBD
ConnecticutBattle 4 Atlantis3Nov. 23-27
DePaulOld Spice Classic3Nov. 24, 25 & 27
GeorgetownMaui Invitational4Nov. 21-23 (& campus)
LouisvilleRound Robin Event?4TBD
MarquetteParadise Jam4Nov. 18-21
Notre DameCBE Classic4Nov. 21-22 (& campus)
ProvidenceSouth Padre Invitational4Nov. 25-26 (& campus)
RutgersCancun Challenge4Nov. 14-19 (campus); Nov. 22-23
Seton HallCharleston Classic3Nov. 17, 18, 20
South FloridaHall of Fame Tip-Off4Nov. 12, 14, 19-20
St. John'sCoaches vs. Cancer Classic42 pod; Nov. 17, 18
SyracuseNIT Tip-Off4Nov. 23, 25 (& campus)
Villanova76 Classic3Nov. 24, 25 & 27
West VirginiaLas Vegas Classic3Christmas time?

Notes & Observations1. The two tournaments noted with question marks are unconfirmed, but seem to have varying degrees of certainty per Dobbertean's post of 4/27/11. Cincinnati appears to have a two year commitment to an event named "Global Sports Shootout". This season the games will center on the Bearcats' homecourt at Fifth-Third. Louisville, per Dobbertean, is close to forming/hosting an MTE of it's own out of the KFC Center in Louisville, which makes sense as the arena is brand new and Louisville scheduled quite a few events there last season. Pittsburgh appears to be the only Big East team not committed to an invitational tournament at this time.
2. The Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament will premier this season. Set on Paradise Island, Bahamas, the tournament will feature a possible match-up of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Those two regional rivals have not played since December of 2005. The series, which spanned 100 years and 108 games, has been on "hiatus" for the past five years.
3. The Las Vegas Classic is also new this season, and, like the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, will be played during the Christmas season, rather than over Thanksgiving. That tournament will also feature a campus-hosted preliminary round that will precede the final two rounds in Las Vegas. Three hosting teams (Baylor, Missouri State and West Virginia) are the only teams committed so far. The sponsors need to find five more teams to fill out the field.
4. Syracuse, a team (like Pittsburgh) with a reputation for staying close to home in the season's first two months, will, according to Dobbertean (via John Rothstein), participate in the NIT Tip-Off. The preliminary round(s) are hosted at a campus site (perfect for the Carrier Dome), with the semi-finals and finals at Madison Square Garden, and that fits Syracuse's preferences to a tee.
5. Villanova will participate in the 76 Classic in Anaheim, California over the Thanksgiving Weekend. The field...

TeamConf TeamConf
Boston CollegeACC New MexicoMWC
OklahomaBig 12 UC RiversideBig West
Saint LouisA-10 Santa ClaraWCC
Washington St.PAC-10

Five teams in the field won 20 or more games in 2010, while Oklahoma will have a new coach. Featured coaches in the field include Saint Louis' Rick Majerus and Villanova's Jay Wright, both of whom have been to the Final Four.
6. Coming into May, the fields for only nine of the 20 tournaments listed at Blogging the Bracket are filled. Several of the campus + travel tournaments have yet to even fill out their "host" brackets, while several have identified half or less of their projected field. Commitments for these tournaments used to be given years in advance, and it was not uncommon for the field in the coming year to be announced at the end of the tournament. This off season there seem to be more than the usual number of open/available spots in a few of the more prestigious -- the Charleston Classic, the CvC Classic and the CBE for example -- which makes me wonder if the exempt tournament niche has reached the saturation point. The first wave of tournaments after exempt tournaments no longer needed to apply for waivers from the NCAA forced a number of the more exotic locations (Top of the World Shootout) out of the field. Will there be a similar shakeout in the next season or two?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

On Second Thought -- Plotting Trendlines for Big East Teams (pt 3)

Are Slumps Inevitable?
While even Top 5/10 teams seem to hit a point in the season where their performance seems to be below their usual level, will that slump produce a noticible "dip" in their offensive efficiency or a "rise" in their defensive efficiency (signs of a regession in their efficiency)? For Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, the answer in 2011 remarkably was no...neither appeared to register a detectable (per a third order polynomial trendline) regression in their efficiencies. The key is that while each lost multiple games (seven between in total between them), only Notre Dame managed to lose two consecutive games -- to Marquette (79-57) on 1/10 and to St. John's (72-54) on 1/16. Those two, double-digit losses account for neither lost The conference standings/seeds for the Big East Tournament:

Notre Dame1440.776
St. John's1260.667
West Virginia1170.611
Seton Hall7110.389
South Florida3150.167

(3T #4) Louisville

They worked though the slump early...

The roster Coach Rick Pitino started the 2011 season with could not have been the one he envisioned the preceding April/May. If the Cardinals struggled with an uncertain roster and freshmen playing crucial roles in the offense, the offensive surge through the last half of conference play, coupled with the nearly season-long improvement in defense suggested they were poised for another deep post season run. Louisville finished with a 12-6 conference record and a bye seed. They used the bye to run to the BET Championship Game, losing by three, 69-66, to Connecticut. Their opening round loss to Morehead State, 62-61, six days later was shock and had to be, to the Cardinal Nation, an especially disappointing end to their season. Attributing that faltering finish to Rakeem Buckles' season-ending ACL injury in the Pittsburgh game (#16 on the chart above) maybe be tempting, but inconsistent offensive production from Peyton Siva, Preston Knowles and Kyle Kuric (those three combined for 21 points on 7-23 shooting in Louisville's loss to Morehead State) and freshmen "burnout" of Gorgui Dieng, coupled with season-long uneven contributions from the front court returning contingent is probably a more accurate assessment.

(2 #2) Notre Dame

The offense steadily improved?!

Though the Irish lost four conference games, including three (to Syracuse and two in a row to Marquette and St. John's) in the first third of the season, they were one of two teams -- conference regular season champion Pittsburgh was the other -- whose offensive efficiency trendline never dipped below their defensive efficiency trendline. Despite the three early losses (double-digits, all three) Notre Dame's offensive efficiency improved at a rate sufficient (and a glance at the trendline suggests a constant rate as well) to keep their offensive trendline above their (at that point...) regressing defensive trendline. That offensive caught my eye because it appears to be a nearly continuous rate of improvement (a kind of season-long opposite of Villanova's season-long offensive decline) through the entire conference season. The range of improvement is truly unusual, rising from a 101/102 range at the start of the conference season to finish above 120 (122/123?) by the end. And that rate was adjusted for the competition. If Coach Mike Brey's offensive efficiency is impressive, the rising defensive efficiency through the last third of the conference season may well have provided a hint of the problems that ended Notre Dame's season. Drawing a #2 seed in the Big East Tournament, the Irish could not stop Louisville in the semi-finals, falling by six points after an overtime period on Friday night. A #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament should have given them an easier path to the Swee Sixteen, but a cold shooting night versus Florida State (coupled with an 114.2 defensive efficiency in that 62 possession game...) 71-56, in the second round.

(1 #1) Pittsburgh

The gap between defensive efficiency and offensive efficiency was promising...

Coach Jamie Dixon's squad also registered an offensive trendline that stayed above the defensive trendline all season long, despite losing three games on their way to a #1 seed in the Big East Tournament. Strong, consistent defense managed to help the Panthers weather a mid season offensive slump that bottomed out with Ashton Gibb's injury (and absence through games #11 through #13). Talib Zanna's season-ending injury (he missed the last four games of the regular season and Pittsburgh's three post season games) was not the cause of Pittsburgh's early exit from the BET and NCAAs, but for a squad that played the maximum 31 games in the regular season, Zanna's 10+ minutes in the rotation were crucial to keep McGhee and Robinson fresh. With a combination of experienced players and a deep squad, this was the season seemed to favor Pittsburgh taking a deep NCAA run, with the Final Four a realistic possibility. The Panthers earned a #1 seed (West Region), but ran into a hot Butler squad in the second round, and suffered a one point loss, 71-70, in the second round.

(3T #5) St. John's

The double intersection...but in the wrong direction

Unlike Connecticut, Coach Steve Lavin's Johnnies' "double helix" trendline was curved in the wrong directions through the season. Stumbling into the Big East season with several unexpected out of conference losses, the veteran St. John's squad appeared to "get it" after hitting the bottom in the first half of the conference season (they were 4-5 through the first nine conference games). A strong run through the second half of the conference slate (a single loss Seton Hall in game #17 capped an 8-1 run through the last nine conference games). Though DJ Kennedy had not yet ended his career with an injury, the Johnnies were already showing signs of a late season slump. Dwight Hardy, a wing complement to Kennedy, was already having problems scoring efficiently, relying more on volume shooting to meet his quota for points in the St. John's system. Kennedy's injury hastened the Red Storm's exit from the Big East Tournament (a semi-final loss to Syracuse after eliminating Rutgers in the quarter-final round), and set the stage for a bookend loss to a West Coast Conference team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. St. John's opened the early season ESPN-sponsored television marathon in November with a televised loss Gonzaga's conference mate, St. Mary's.

(3T #3) Syracuse

Evidence of a mid-season slump...

Few expected the Orange to have a season like 2010, but Coach Beoheim's squad managed to exceed the consensus predictions for their conference record. After a solid 12-6 conference record and pull down a double-bye (a #3 seed) for the Big East Tournament. Having weathered a mid-season slump (their record in games #6 through #14 was 3-6), the Orange seemed to be poised for a deep post season run in the Big East Tournament, if not the NCAAs. Syracuse was eliminated in the semi-final round at Madison Square Garden by a streaking Connecticut team (76-71). The Selection Committee did them no favors in the NCAAs when they matched them with conference mate Marquette in the second round. Despite being favored, the Orange lost by four to Buzz Williams' Golden Eagles, 66-62.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Milestones: Class of 2011

The Wildcat faithful will no doubt thank the three players whose careers on the Main Line ended with the loss to George Mason last month and will graduate as members of the Class of 2011 next month. They leave behind a program that had reached an uncertain crossroad, but whose foundations are firmly set and ready to take the next step. Consider that:
 1. They went 14-2 in the Big 5, matching the second-best four year record (class of 2010), compiling a 0.875 winning percentage.
 2. They made four consecutive appearances in the NCAA post season tournament (the fourth consecutive class to finish each of their seasons with an NCAA appearance).
 3. They won 98 games over the course of their career, ranked third in most career wins by a class behind the class of 2010 (99) and the class of 2009 (102). The Class of 2011's winning percentage is 0.705 on a 98-41 record. They are the 25th class since 1939 to compile a career record of 0.700 or better.
 4. The first time in Villanova history that four consecutive classes have won 20 or more games per season every year during their career.
 6. The first class to graduate three 1,000 scorers.

Some Individual Numbers
The trio proved to be very prolific scorers...

Corey Fisher5301284161473167213
Antonio Pena410801416110051
Corey Stokes4131008264677131533

...some of their other career stats...

PlayerGms MinOffDefTotAstStlBlkComments
Corey Fisher13836627625833448717410#6 Assists; #11 Steals
Antonio Pena13832362515197701529567#13 Rebounding; #36T Steals; #14 Blocks
Corey Stokes1343298933454381238834T37 Steals

The annual Men's Basketball Banquet (Wednesday night, 4/20 6:30pm at the Pavilion) should be a great send off. Also saying goodbye at the banquet will be Assistant Coach Chris Walker, who is, according to Jeff Goodman, headed to Texas Tech as an Associate Head Coach for Billy Gillispie.

Friday, April 15, 2011

On Second Thought -- Plotting Trendlines for Big East Teams (pt 2)

Through the Middle Section of the Conference
While there is something appealing about taking the conference by quartiles -- Big East observers have only another year or two for that approach -- I decided to look at the teams in three parts, taking about five teams with each look. The decision was not random, as the trendlines for teams grouped in this way, highlights a number of common elements...similar records & progressions. As in "Second Thoughts: Part 1" I have highlighted those (six this time...) teams discussed in this post in the year-end conference standings:

Notre Dame1440.776
St. John's1260.667
West Virginia1170.611
Seton Hall7110.389
South Florida3150.167

(T6 #6) Cincinnati

Multiple intersecting trendlines suggest...

Third order polynomial trendlines tend to resist wild gyrations, which makes them a good tool for identifying "long term" trends. Cincinnati's season, per the trendline, suggests a mild slump around games 5 through 12, and indeed the Bearcats' record through that seven game stretch was 3-4 (they finished 11-7 and secured the #6 seed in the BET). Coach Mick Cronin, possibly the conference's strongest hot seat candidate going into the season, secured his tenure (at least in the near term) with a team performance that exceeded preseason expectations. An especially strong 5-1 finish of the conference regular season featured wins over Louisville, Marquette and twice over Georgetown, NCAA invitees all. The lone loss through that run was Connecticut, the team which also eliminated Cincinnati in the second round of the NCAA Tournament (and went on to win the National Championship).

(T9 #9) Connecticut

Ahhh, A double helix, perhaps?

The Huskies offer one of the more interesting trendlines from the conference season. Like many teams that finished in this middle third of the conference. Connecticut's trendlines suggest a team that was "evolving" as the season progressed. What sets Connecticut's trendlines apart from the usual in season slump is the suggestion the source of the "pause" was defense. Note the adjusted offensive trendline shows no signs of regressing through the season. The Huskies were one of two squads whose offense (adjusted for the competition) appeared to improve (no regression) over the course of the season.

(8 #8) Georgetown

A curved double intersection like Cincinnati's, but...

The adjusted chart suggests Coach John Thompson's squad peaked around the time of the Villanova game (game 9 on the chart), and then declined through the end of the season. The Hoyas finishd the 2011 season on a four game losing streak that began with the last two games of the conference season and continued through the Wednesday round in the Big East Tournament, culminating with their second consecutive first round of the NCAA Tournament. Junior guard Chris Wright missed three of the games through that stretch, but the chart suggests the offense was in full decline well before Wright missed games. Note the second intersection in the chart, around game 14, was an eight point loss (70-78) to Connecticut. The Huskies also eliminated the Hoyas in New York City exactly three weeks later.

(T9 #11) Marquette

Slump & recovery...

The adjusted chart suggests a decline/slump through much of the season, as Coach Buzz Williams' program bottomed out around the Georgetown game (game #12), then began a slow rebound through the end of the regular season. The Golden Eagles did finish the regular season on a two game losing streak, one that may well have put their NCAA bid on a bubble going into New York City. Marquette rebounded nicely however, running to the Sweet Sixteen where they fell, 81-63, to North Carolina.

(T9 #10) Villanova

The season-long slump?

The season-long decline of the Wildcats' offensive efficiency is clearer in the adjusted efficiency chart. Many of my post game analysis pointed to defensive lapses (also indicated in the trendlines), but the chart hints strongly the offensive decline was persistent and steady throughout the conference season. Stepping back a bit, the decline, from just under 120 (118?) down to about 101, was dramatic for an 18 game stretch. Unlike other teams in this group, there was no rebound...

(T6 #7) West Virginia

No double intersection here either

The trendlines suggest that West Virginia's offensive slump was well timed. The Mountaineers' record from games three through nine was 6-1, with an eye popping 89.9 adjusted defensive efficiency that masked a 10% decline in offensive efficiency during that time period. Coach Bob Huggins' squad finished the conference regular season with an 11-7 conference record (tied for #6 with Cincinnati, earning the 'Eers a #7 seed for the Big East Tournament). West Virginia earned a #5 seed to the NCAA Tournament and lost in the second round to Final Four-bound Kentucky.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On Second Thought -- Plotting Trendlines for Big East Teams (pt 1)

What Funny Shapes Can Teach Us...
I liked tj's original post on mapping Michigan State's efficiency trends during the 2008 season when I read read it years ago, mapping the trend over time could be useful. The graph itself however was visually busy; the trendlines got lost as MSU's offensive and defensive efficiencies (points per possession scored and allowed) gyrated, game-by-game. Which leads us to the real problem of measuring team efficiency over a series of games (in conference out of conference, through a tournament, etc.) -- adjusting the performance to account for the competition. The conference regular season, which offered a more balanced schedule than a composite out of conference slate of opponents, should be a better context for judging performance over time. The bloggers over at Maize-Colored Glasses Blog put together an outstanding set of alphabetically correct posts that mapped each Big Ten team's trends over the course of conference play. I was so impressed with the methodologies described in the "Polynomial-centric Recap: Part 1" that I decided to apply the method (unadjusted and adjusted) for a similar look at the Big East. I describe the techniques later in this post. From the bottom up, (alphabetically correct of course) the conference's last five teams shared some features. The conference standings/seeds for the Big East Tournament:

Notre Dame1440.776
St. John's1260.667
West Virginia1170.611
Seton Hall7110.389
South Florida3150.167

(16 #16) DePaul

Not an ironic commentary on DePaul's season...honest

I rechecked the numbers and calculations when the fish appeared. The unadjusted trendlines look much the same. Coach Oliver Purnell will bring the program along next season, but seeing offense and defense move in such a symmetrical way throughout the entire season suggests (perhaps) that some nights his young Blue Demon squad got it and other nights not at all. The late season "fish tail" was probably a morale-induced slump. More experienced players should make a difference.

(14 #14) Providence

It was the defense...again

Throughout the Tim Welsh and Keno Davis Eras the Friars have been a Notre Dame Lite -- good offense but little defense. This season was no exception, and Marshon Brooks alone could not carry the team night-in and night-out. Lack of progress no doubt the catalyst that led to Davis' departure, Ed Cooley has been charged to turn things around. One common trait of the teams in the fourth quartile is that the defensive efficiency trendline never falls below the team's offensive efficiency trendline. Though everyone of the four team that finished #13 through #16 won at least one game, winning was neither prevalent (all had winning percentages <0.400) nor sustained for any period of the conference season.

(13 #13) Rutgers

An end of season rally...

The unadjusted trendline suggests the Rutgers players were "getting it" -- Coach Mike Rice's system as the season progressed. Though the Scarlet Knights went 1-3 through the last four games, the defense appears to have stabilized even as their offensive efficiency improved. Note that by the 18th game (a season-ending, 74-75 loss to Providence), trendlines for offensive and defensive efficiency seem poised to cross. And the Knights went on to win their next game, 76-70 in overtime over Seton Hall in the Tuesday night round of the Big East Tournament. The trendline chart adjusted for the competition however suggests something a bit different...

...or a modest slump?

Providence and DePaul, teams that finished #14 and #16 respectively, were Rutgers' last two regular season opponents. The Knights' performance (a 1-1 record on games with margins of +3 and -1 points), coupled with the "fish tail" curve of the trendlines suggest that the team was slumping more than rallying, as the season drew to a close. The win over Seton Hall, an instate rival with whom the Scarlet Knights drew 1-1 on the season, does not refute the trend. It will be interesting to see what Coach Rice does with a squad made up largely of players he recruited.

(12 #12) Seton Hall

The trendlines are consistent with a losing record...

The trendlines converge and cross just before the end of the season (for the curious, game #14 for the Pirates was Villanova). The wave motion is similar to South Florida's (see below), but unlike the teams that finished #13 - #16, the trendline for the Pirates' offensive efficiency crossed to the north of their defensive efficiency trendline, an element the Hall held in common with the other 11 members who finished in the upper three quartiles.

Coach Willard's system was beginning to work

The Hall's last two regular season games, both wins, over St. John's and Marquette, were a huge boost for the adjusted numbers. The Johnnies were seeded #5 in the Big East Tournament and managed to draw a #6 seed in the NCAA Tournament, while Marquette finished the Big East regular season with a 9-9 record, drew a #11 seed in the NCAA Tournament and ran to the Sweet Sixteen.

(15 #15) South Florida

The wave pattern?

Having finished #9, drawing an NIT bid and losing Dominique Jones all in 2010, the Bulls were poised for a rebuilding year, and 2011 lived down to those expectations. The wave pattern (the adjusted version above is consistent with the unadjusted trendlines), which features the trendline for defensive efficiency always above the offensive efficiency trendline, by (more or less) a consistent margin, throughout the conference season. With a 3-15 conference record (10-23 overall) and a cumulative conference record of 51-77 in 4 seasons, I wonder, lacking a clear sign of improvement next season, how much longer Coach Stan Heath will pace the sidelines in Tampa.

Methods & Sources
I used Ken Pomeroy's website, specifically each Big East team's gameplan pages, as the data source for each team's offensive and defensive efficiencies for each conference game played (many thanks to Ken Pomeroy for providing this invaluable resource for the past eight seasons). I plotted the data points for offense and defense and then applied a third order polynomial to map the trend line. Those charts are captioned as "Unadjusted" in this and subsequent posts. The conference average for points per possession in 2011 (conference games only) was 1.037. I adjusted each team's offensive and defensive points per possession for each game using the formulas documented by the Maize-Colored Glasses Blog...
offensive adjustment -- (100 x points per possession)/(1-(opponents average points per possession allowed - conference-wide average points per game allowed)). Given the Big East average points per possession was 1.037, that simplified the adjustment to (100 x points per possession)/(opponents average points per possession allowed - 0.037)
defensive adjustment -- (100 x points per possession allowed)/(opponents average points per possession - 0.037)
A strong defensive effort against Notre Dame would be properly weighted versus a strong defensive effort against DePaul.

Offensive points per possession for each team (ordered by PPP Scored):

1Notre Dame1.130
6West Virginia1.049
10TSt. John's1.022
14South Florida0.972
15TSeton Hall0.958

Defensive points per possession for each team (ordered by fewest points per possession allowed):

4Seton Hall0.987
6St. John's1.001
7TWest Virginia1.004
10Notre Dame1.055
14South Florida1.094

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Guest Contributor: Ray Floriani The NCAA Women's Finals

by Ray Floriani

LYNDHURST, NJ - The two teams lining up on Tuesday night in Indianapolis were not supposed to survive their respective regional. No apologies needed as Texas A & M defeated Notre Dame 76-70 to capture their first NCAA championship in women's basketball. The pace and efficiency:

Notre Dame7199
Texas A&M73104

Pace was on the faster order of the day. To no surprise, it became more half court in the stretch with so much at stake. The Four Factors:

Notre Dame48392423
Texas A&M57302625

Turnover rates on the higher side but credit the respective defenses. The aggie shooting percentage largely attributed to their outstanding marksmanship from two point range. Texas A & M shot 27 of 46 (59%) from two. They were only 2 of 7 from beyond the arc but one of those was arguably the game decider. That trey came courtesy of Tyra White, came with under a minute to play , with A & M clinging to a two point lead and the shot clock about to expire.

Danielle Adams, led all scorers with 30 points. The A & M senior was especially effective in the paint. Adams shot 13 of 20 (65%) from two point range. She pulled down a team high 9 rebounds (4 of them offensive). Not all of Adams' work was restricted to the lane as she knocked down a few mid-range shots as well.

Penetration and inside play allowed Notre ame to draw fouls and get to the line. Skylar Diggins' the Irish's outstanding lead guard led ND with 23 points, shooting 8 of 9 from the charity stripe.

Devereaux Peters was also effective for Muffet McGraw's club. She scored 21 points, shot 8 of 10 from two point range and five of her game high 11 boards were on the offensive end.

Manley Game Leaders
The top five in the Manley numbers:

D. Peters, NDU28
D. Adams, A&M28
T. White, A&M24
S Diggins, NDU14
A. Elonu, A&M12
S. Colson, A&M12

Numbers tie breakers were done by minutes. In other words, Peters put up her efficiency total in 36 minutes (.777 eff per minute). Adams' 28 was accomplished in 39 minutes for a.718 eff. Per minute.

National championship was the first in Gary Blair's illustrious head coaching career that has spanned three decades. Blair was an assistant on the Louisiana Tech title team in the Eighties. Notre Dame captured the championship in 2001 under McGraw. At 64 he is the oldest head coach to win a Women's NCAA basketball championship. UCONN's Jim Calhoun, with his victory on Monday night over Butler, became the 'elder statesman' on the men's side with his title at age 68.

To get to Indianapolis, Notre Dame had to defeat Tennessee to win the Dayton regional. The Irish lost the twenty prior meetings with the Lady Vols. In the national semis the Irish defeated UCONN which won the three previous meetings against ND this season.

Texas A & M had to beat Baylor, whom they were 0-3 against this year, for a trip to the Final Four. Their semifinal was against highly regarded Stanford and was settled until the final seconds.

On Tuesday, Notre Dame and Texas A & M gave us a wonderful contest. Shame someone had to exit disappointed.

Texas A & M coach Gary Blair in December at the Maggis Dixon Classic

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Surfing and Thinking...

Josh Harrellson's East Region Performance
Dan Hanner's blog over at the RealGM site is becoming a frequent stop for me these days. Dan chooses his topics well and always makes for an interesting read. I found his post weekend piece, "The Final Four is Set", very interesting given his computed offensive ratings for the Kentucky Wildcats based on the four tournament games played through last weekend. Freshman point guard Brandon Knight has an offensive rating of 95.7, taking 32% of the team possessions ("Jordanesque"), while junior. The PTBs named the All-East Region Team at the end of the Regional Finals Sunday, and as noted by Ray Floriani the five named to the team were...

Brandon Knight, Kentucky -- All-East MVP
Josh Harrellson, Kentucky
DeAndre Liggins, Kentucky
Tyler Zeller, North Carolina and
Harrison Barnes, North Carolina

While I thought the PTBs had the right five players, I disagreed about the MVP. No slight intended to Brandon Knight, who sent Ohio State home Friday night on a jumper with 9.5 seconds left in regulation. Knight also scored 31 points in 74 minutes of play. A tremendous effort, all the more impressive given he is a freshman. I thought however, that junior forward Josh Harrellson, named to the All-Region Team along with his teammate, was the most valuable player on the Kentucky squad that weekend. Harrellson recorded a double-double against Ohio State. The junior was something of a Dutch Boy for Kentucky during the game's 20 minutes, supplying 12 of Kentucky's 30 first half points on 6-8 shooting. During the first 16½ minutes of the game Kentucky's forward was a perfect 5-5 as he, along with Darius Miller supplied 17 of the Wildcats' first 25 points, as the two teams struggled for control of the game. Harrellson paced Kentucky with a double-double, recording 10 rebounds to go with his 17 point performance. After going 6-8 (and 0-0 from the line) in the first half, Harrellson was a perfect 1-1 and 3-3 from the line. Though Knight and Doron Lamb started much faster in the North Carolina game on Sunday contributing eight points apiece through the first half, Harrellson again provided the Wildcats offense with teeth, scoring 10 points on 3-4 shooting from the field and 4-6 scoring from the line through the first 20 minutes. He finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

Shooting in Stadiums vs Shooting in Arenas
Kevin Pelton over at Basketball Prospectus looked at the conversion data for arenas versus stadia for the regional finals in 2009 and 2010. His appreciable difference -- and that is especially true for three point attempts.

Coincidence? I Think Not
Pete Thamel over at the New York Times broke a story on Friday (April 1...) that featured ex-UConn player (who never made it onto the court) Nate Miles who reversed an earlier stand of non-cooperation with the NCAA's investigation of recruiting improprieties by refuting denials of specific knowledge made in writing by Jim Calhoun and Tom Moore late last fall. Thamel has a history of "good timing" on his breaking news. His expose of then-Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez's bad coaching behavior on the eve of the Big East Tournament in 2010 managed to distract the program during a late season push for an NCAA bid. Though Thamel has made John Calipari's management of the Kentucky program something of a personal project, it was FOXSports who broke the second edition of the Bilal Batley saga earlier today. Just to level the playing field for UConn and Kentucky I suppose. Allegations that Batley, while in a non-coaching position on Kentucky's staff, assisted several players on the court resulted in his resignation last fall. Earlier today FOXSports alleged that Batley also made impermissible contacts with recruits, the kind of no-no that got Kelvin Sampson fired at Indiana (and censored at Oklahoma) and put Connecticut (along with several more serious violations) in hot water with the NCAA last fall.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: NIT Final

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY - It wasn't as much a 'shock'. Wichita State defeated Alabama 66-57 to give the Shockers their first NIT championship. For the second straight game the Missouri Valley Conference representative had a surprise marquee player under the bright lights of Madison square Garden.

Outside MSG about two hours before tip off
on a wet, damp day

The pace and efficiency:

Wichita State65102

The Garden floor waits patiently.
About 90 minutes before game time.
Not a player in sight
but the two cheer squads are limbering up.

The Four Factors:

Wichita State58283229

The turnover rate stands out for Wichita. Alabama had only a 17-14 edge in points off turnovers. Regardless, surrendering almost one third of your possessions in the TO category could spell disaster against a quality opponent as Alabama.

The Crimson Tide's eFG rate was largely due to a 2 of 14 showing from three point range. More solid defense on the part of Wichita.

Shockers were 7 of 15 (47%) from three and 16 for 31 (52%) from two point range. Both good showings as was their overall scoring balance. The leading scorers for Wichita were J.T. Durley and Graham Hatch, both with a dozen points.

Taking a halftime break from tempo-free charting
to get in a picture with a few Wichita State cheerleaders

Charting Possessions
Kept a long hand record of the possessions. At the half had 35 for each team. The formula gave 36 for each team. Wichita State led 37-34 at the break. The halftime efficiencies (on the 36 per formula):

Wichita State103

The second half charting yielded 29 possessions each. For the game that would be 64. Using the formula the second half possessions were also 29. The final total was 65, thus another example of how accurate and useful the possession formula is.

Most Outstanding Player. Yours truly was in on the voting and have to say it was tough. Good thing the ballots were collected with three minutes to go The All-Tournament team was not as difficult but that outstanding player, another story.

Wash. St.AlabamaTotal
Garrett Stutz35540
Graham Hatch121628

Taking it on a per minute basis for the two games:

Eff. per
Garrett Stutz470.851
Graham Hatch460.609

NIT Selection Chairman C.M. Newton and the champions from Wichita State

Relatively close call if you look at the per minute contributions. Yours truly voted for Stutz, but had no problem with Hatch's selection. Had both on my All-Tournament team. Stutz had the great breakout game, 24 points 11 boards against Washington State. In that one Wichita State never trailed. You can argue it was an easy rout. But one reason it was one sided was due to Stutz's asserting himself very early on.

The final saw 6 ties and 9 lead changes. Hatch earned the MOP not due to tying for the club scoring lead. Rather, there were crucial threes he hit in the stretch to put this one away. The senior swingman's clutch perimeter shooting proved to be the difference and enough to get the votes needed for MOP.

Given the type players on and off the floor, neither Stutz nor Hatch would have a problem regarding who took the MOP trophy.

Fans of the Shockers celebrating and savoring the moment

JaMychal Green was effective inside for the Tide. Green scored 12 points (5 of 7 from two and overall) while adding four rebounds. Once again foul trouble reared its ugly head. Green logged only 25 minutes, which hurt the Tide especially the latter part of the final half. Tony Mitchell, the Tide's 6-6 sophomore forward, led all with 13 points, 12 rebounds. Mitchell played 33 minutes but he too weathered foul trouble.

As noted, the Tide struggled from the perimeter. Anthony Grant's club was 19 of 42 (45%) from two point range, reflecting how tough the defense of Wichita State was.

Manley Game Leaders
The leaders in Manley for the final:

Tony Mitchell, Alabama16
Graham Hatch, Wichita St.16
JaMychal Green, Alabama15
Aaron Ellis, Wichita St.12
Chris Hines, Alabama11

Wichita State finished 29-8. The 29 wins a school record. Alabama wrapped up at 25-12. The All-Tournament team:

Alec Burks, Colorado
JaMychal Green, Alabama
Trevor Releford, Alabama
Garrett Stutz, Wichita state
Graham Hatch, Wichita state (MOP)

Besides being an outstanding coach, Gregg Marshall of Wichita State showed a deep appreciation for the NIT history and tradition. Naturally, he was extremely proud as well as thrilled that his club could emerge champions.

First half saw the two teams shoot 100% from the line. Wichita 9-9 and Alabama perfect on all five. Teams combined to hit 17 straight before there was a miss. Wichita finished 13 of 17 (77%) while Alabama was much improved after the semis, connecting on 13 of 15 (87%).

About 45 minutes before the game music began to play on the Garden PA system. The very first song was 'Wichita Lineman' by Glenn Campbell. Asked the Wichita State cheerleaders, warming up, if they were familiar with the song. None heard of it and one thought the singer was Frank Sinatra. Explained the song's background and how it was a hit in December of 1968. Larry Rankin, the Wichita State Media relations Director, explained the song was for Wichita County in Kansas but adopted by the city of Wichita.

Next song was 'Alabama Getaway'. Alabama cheer squad was familiar with it. In fairness, Alabama Getaway came about 12 years after Wichita Lineman and was performed by the Grateful Dead.

Favorite of the Wichita band was 'We're not gonna' take it' of Twisted Sister fame.

Attendance, only 4,873 for the final. The Wichita contingent did travel well with a very active group.

Post game festivities on the floor seemed to go on a good forty minutes. Shocker fans reveled in this victory. Following the presser some close friends and family were invited to the Wichita state locker room. Again, they wanted the party to continue.

Heading home, got in my car after getting the train to Secaucus. Popped in a 60s CD with the first song that came up, none other than, 'Wichita Lineman'.

They may not know the "Wichita Lineman"
but the Wichita State cheer squad knew "New York, New York"
and danced to the lyrics in post game celebration