Thursday, June 30, 2011

FIBA U19 World Championship -- USA Dominates Egypt to Open U19 Tournament

Playing to Seed
Team USA hammered Team Egypt 115-60 to open their defense of the U19 FIBA World Championships in Latvia this morning. Opening with a scoring outburst absent in their two exhibition games, the USA U19s piled on a 20 point advantage in the first period, 25-5, then withstood an Egyptian response in the second period to add another point (25-24) going into halftime. Creighton's rising sophomore Doug McDermott led all scorers with 19 points on 8-11 (3-4, 5-7) shooting. All 12 Americans in Coach Hewitt's rotation scored today, while McDermott, son of Creighton head coach Greg McDermott was the most prolific of seven double-digit American scorers. Jeremy Lamb, rising sophomore out of Connecticut nearly matched McDermott with 15 points on 6-12 (3-6, 3-6) shooting. Seven foot Meyers Leonard, another rising sophomore, this time out of Illinois, grabbed a game-high 11 (6-5-11) rebounds to log his first double-double in international competition. Crunching the game boxscore to develop some possession-based stats for the game...


The pace is still higher than many of these Division 1 players -- and Coach Paul Hewitt -- played last season, but today, against the Egyptians, it worked out well. The Americans shot efficiently (Michigan's rising sophomore Tim Hardaway dialed back his shot production and drastically improved his conversion efficiency), and those who formed the nucleus of the American offense, Joe Jackson (rising sophomore, Memphis, 15 points), Jeremy Lamb, Doug McDermott, Keith Appling (rising sophomore, Michigan State, 10 points) and Leonard all scored at a 58.7% eFG% or better (much better in most cases). The losses in exhibition were significant enough to wrinkle a few MSM eyebrows on this side of the pond. A 55 point margin of victory over Egypt suggests this team can dominate lesser competition. The question is how competitive will they prove to be against the better teams in the field.

Pools of Immediate Interest
Groups C & D will eventually be folded into Group F for a second round robin phase early next week. The standings at the end of opening day play...

Group C Group D
South Korea01Egypt01

Team Serbia downed Team China by a surprisingly close five point margin, 78-73 in other Group D action. If the scores are true barometers (and not opening day jitters...), play in Group D will be either very competitive...or not. The news that Team Crotia beat the Lithuanian U19 squad (that beat the American U19 team by 31) 88-73 caught me by surprise, more so by the margin (15) than the outcome. Are the Lithuanians prematurely celebrating, or are the Croates that good? Team Canada dispatched South Korea by a similar margin, 16 in their opening day 109-93 win.

Bell Tones
Villanova's rising sophomore James Bell started the game and played 15 minutes, scoring 4 points on 2-5 (0-1, 2-4) shooting. Bell picked up 2 rebounds and 3 fouls, while dishing 2 assists and 2 steals.

Who's Got Next?
The USA's U19ers will get to it tomorrow, as the Americans face off against Team Serbia at 4:00pm (local time, 10:00am EDST). The Serbs have beaten American teams in international competition before, so there will be no intimidation factors to count on in game two. The winner will punch their ticket to preliminary round two and Group F play, while the loser will have to wait on the outcome of the Egypt-China game.

Further Reading...
USA Basketball's game recap
Additional game game quotes from the coaches and s few of the players.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

FIBA U19 2011 World Championship -- Ouch...

Granted the Grames Don't Count, But...
The USA U19 men's team arrived in Lithuania on June 25 for the U19 FIBA tournament which opens play tomorrow (June 30). It is typical (and prudent) to enter a warmup tournament to continue preparation, and part of the plan, the U19 USA team entered the Youth Global Games Tournament, held in Lithuania. The Americans one of about eight U19 teams in the field drew two Lithuanian teams, the U20 and the U19 teams, as their opponents.

Lithuania U201.1656.

The U20 team has been together for a year longer than the U19 Lithuanian team (which has been together at least 11 monthes longer than the USA team...), but the results are nevertheless disappointing. American shooting was definitely off, especially three point shooting. Was the distance difference, 20 feet 9 inches to 22 feet the principal culpret? Maybe, but American teams have had to compete with the deeper line since (at least) 2008. Team USA is listed everywhere as the U19 Champion (from the 2009 tournament). A chance to knock of "the champ" may play into the Lithuanian mentality. A shame given these players were not rostered on the 2009 team. Shooting 35% from inside the arc was not even on par with the Lithuanians' three point conversion rate, 36%, meaning the Americans were in deep trouble from the onset. The box score indicated that the Lithuanians jumped on Team USA from the opening whistle, building a 32-8 lead going into the second (10 minute) period, where they padded that lead (-24) with another eight points. Down by 32 at the half, Team USA had few strategic options. Lithuania's U20 team converted 49.3% of their two's, yielding an overall eFG% of 56.0%, a very difficult conversion rate to overcome. Countering with an eFG% of 39.5% would be enough, on it's face, to lose, but Team USA was also dominated on the boards (OR% was 31.9 vs. 34.1) and could not compensate by getting to the line (see table above, 26.3% vs 62.7% -- the Americans were not especially aggressive in the low post?). The final deficit, -29 (101-72) was slightly better than the half. Would Team USA do better against their tournament counterparts? Ahhh no...

Lithuania U191.1653.845.025.769.7

The net score was -33 (108-75), four points worse than the scoring net versus the Lithuanian U20 team. Though the Americans did not get rolled at the opening tip, losing the first period by 11, 34-23, they could not regain the ground in the second period. They yielded another 10 points in the second 10 minutes to take a -21 gap (38-59) into the locker room. But the third period proved even worse as Team USA ceded another 17 points to the Lithuanians before cutting into some of that -38 gap in the final 10 minutes. Compare the two possession-based breakdowns and note the similarities, especially in shooting and rebounding, considered the two more important elements in offensive and defensive efficiency (Eff. in the tables above). Small "victories" in the turnover rate versus Lithuania U19 and getting to the line more than against the U20 team. The Americans continue however, to foul far too much. As the box score indicates, the European teams are more inclined to hit their free throws (80%), fouling offers no advantage.

Team USA, with better athletes and higher skill levels, should do well against Egypt, their first opening game opponent, but Serbia, game two (on Friday), may, if Team USA does not get their shot conversion and rebounding in order, give Team USA another rude surprise. Coming so early in the tournament, a first loss will only increase the pressure on the young squad.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

FIBA U19 2011 World Championship -- The Field is Set

16 Teams, Three Stages
The FIBA U19 World Championship field includes 16 teams (see Preliminary Pool below). FIBA will operate this tournament in three phases to determine the champion and set the finish for each participating team. ;

The pool for the preliminary round will include four groups (A, B, C & D) of four teams each:

Group AGroup BGroup CGroup D
TunisiaTaiwanSouth KoreaUSA

The first preliminary round will have each group play three games, round robin style, with the other teams in the group. The top three teams from each group will be reorganized into two groups (E & F) of six teams each (Groups A & B will be assigned to Group E; Groups C & D will be assigned to Group F) for a second sequence of three games against the three teams from the other original group (A teams will play B teams; C teams will play D teams). The four teams not assigned to a second round group will play a two round classification sequence to determine places #13 - #16 in the tournament. The USA schedule for the first preliminary round is below; all first preliminary round games can be found at the USA Basketball and the FIBA World Cup sites. Team USA will play all three Group D games in Liepaja, Latvia...

Est. Time
06/30/11 ThursEgypt9:00am
07/01/11 Fri.Serbia9:00am
07/02/11 Sat.China11:15am

Note start times are given in Eastern Daylight Savings time, approximately -7GMT from the time scheduled in Latvia.

From the second round of group play, the top four teams from Groups E & F (eight teams total) will advance to the medal round to play a quarterfinal game against an opponent from the other group (each group will be seeded for quarterfinal play). The winners will advance to the semi-finals, the losers will play a two round classification match for places #5 - #8. The last two teams from Groups E & F will advance to a two game classification round to determine places #9 - #12. Medal round quarterfinal winners will advance to a semi-final round, the semi-final winners to play for #1 and #2 place (gold and silver), while the semi-final losing teams play for places #3 and #4 (bronze and fourth place).

Sorting Out the Field in Groups C, D & F Play
A single loss in either of the two preliminary round robin phases would not, depending on the standing of the other teams in the group, doom Team USA to a classification round game in the third phase of the tournament. Since four teams will advance out of Group F, more than likely spots #3 and #4 (F3 and F4 in the medal round quarterfinal) will be settled on points and tie-breakers. A lower seed going into the quarterfinal medal round would not be fatal, but it would mean facing three (should Team USA continue to win...) of the most competitive teams in the field in the last three games. Team USA should advance out of Group D, the game with Serbia serving as an early indication of how the team will fare against the more competitive teams they will encounter in Group E (and medal round?) games. Canada, Croatia and Lithuana should advance out of Group C. Both Crotia and Canada advanced to the medal round(s) in the 2009 U19 tournament before falling to Team USA. The Team USA-Team Lithuania exhibition game being played today (Tuesday June 28) in Vilnius, Lithuania should give a hint on how that second round, Group F, matchup should go. Though Team Canada and Team Croatia should be capable of surprises, it is the games with Teams Lithuania and Serbia that will determine whether Team USA can advance to the medal rounds with a #1 or #2 Group F seed, or finish the tournament in a classification game.

Other Teams & Matchups of Interest
Group A teams that should advance to Group E include Poland, Russia and Brazil. Given the proximity of the tournament, expect both Poland and Russia (and Lithuania), along with host Latvia to enjoy a home court advantage against teams from outside the Baltic region. Poland and Russia in particular should be worth following, but Team Brazil, which finished strongly in the U18 competition last year (and returns the nucleus of that team) maybe the surprise candidate and advance to the medal round at the expense of one of the European teams. Out of Group B, expect Argentina, Australia and host Latvia to advance. How far can the hometown crowds carry Team Latvia? Over the past few years, Team Latvia has finished FIBA zone and world tournaments somewhere in the middle of the field...they may get to the Medal Round quarterfinals (beyond typical expectations), but most likely fight for a place in the #5-#10 standings. The older age classification teams for Argentina have done better in international competition than the younger teams. Matchups with the Poles and Russians (and Brazilians) in the Group E round should be a good barometer on how far the Argentines can go. Team Australia advanced by sweeping a very small field in the Oceania Zone, their games against Argentina and Latvia should provide a preview on how far the Emus can advance beyond Group E play.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

FIBA Americas Cup 2011 -- USA Beats Argentina Twice in 72 Hours, Takes Gold

USA 104 - Argentina 64
Team USA was consistent throughout the 2011 U16 FIBA Americas Cup Tournament. They took the gold medal in Cancun tonight, beating Argentina for the second time this week and dominating the field both offensively and defensively throughout the tournament. Team USA played the game at their pace, converted over 50% of field goals and dominated board play as they upped the victory margin versus Team Argentina to 40, 104-64. Aaron Gordon led all scorers with 24 points as the forward and teammate Jahlil Okafor each recorded their second double-double of the tournament. Gordon scored 24 points on 11-15 (0-0, 11-15) shooting from the floor to go with a not-so-good 2-7 night from the line. Gordon also led all rebounders with 15 (4-11-15) rebounds. Okafor scored 18 points to go with his 14 rebounds. Three other Team USA players, Justin Jackson (13), Theo Pinson (10) and Jabari Parker (14) scored 10 or more points. Team USA, no doubt sensing the gold, jumped on the Argentines right from the tip-off. Not allowing Team Argentina the time nor space to find their game, Team USA took a 13 lead, 30-17, out of the first period and extended it to 24, 54-30 by the half. After a more competitive third period (24-21 Team USA), the Americans turned on the afterburners and stretched the lead out to it's final spot at 40, 104-64 to end the game. Crunching the game boxscore to develop some possession-based stats for the game...


Any solace for Team Argentina can be derived from the fact they are the only team that held the USA to under 90 possessions in this tournament. They could not stop Team USA from posting an extremely efficient offensive (1.20 ppp) and defensive (0.74 ppp) point-per-possession rates. A gold medal game with an opponent who had seen the USA once before most likely explains why Coach Don Showalter felt the need to rely on a nine man rotation with four players drawing > 50% of the time at their position. If the playing time was not evenly distributed, shot percentages and possession rates among five members of the rotation suggest they were leading contributors on offense. Like the Costa Rico game, five players took 20% or more of the available shots when they were on the court, while seven were credited with 20% or more of the possessions while they were playing.

Aaron Gordon had a red-letter night on the boards, while Jabari Parker also grabbed more than his share of offensive boards.

Final Standings
After pool play the field was reseeded for the last two rounds. The last two teams in each Group was assigned to the classification pool where they played off for places #5-#8. The first two teams in each Group qualified for the medal playoffs. The final standings based on the finals played Saturday...

Medal Round Classification Round
1USA (gold)505Brazil32
2Argentina (silver)326Chile23
3Canada (bronze)327Mexico14
4Puerto Rico328Costa Rico05

Team USA, Team Argentina and Team Canada earned berths in the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championships.

Winners... -- The top three finishers, USA, Argentina and Canada. They qualify the FIBA U18 World Championships. Team Canada -- The Neighbors to the North had the misfortune of drawing the USA and Puerto Rico for three of the five games they played at the Americas Cup this week. They managed to win one of the three (that is all they really needed to get to the World Championship next year). Team Brazil -- Though they were relegated to the Classification Bracket at the end of Pool Play, the Brazilians nevertheless managed a winning record (3-2) and a fifth place finish.

...& Losers -- Team Puerto Rico -- the Puerto Ricans swept the Centrobasket Tournament field 5-0 to qualify for the American Cup. Through Thursday it looked like the Puerto Ricans were ready for Team USA, as they also swept through their Group A slate almost as easily as they did the Centrobasket field week before. They dug a 24 point hole in their semi-final game with Argentina, but despite a furious fourth period rally, fell short and were relegated to the bronze medal game, a rematch with Team Canada, a team they beat by four on Wednesday. The Canadians took a leaf from Team Argentina's book and jumped all over the Puerto Ricans right from the start, building a 19 point lead in the first period. Team Argentina then extended their lead by three more before the half (40-18). There was no furious fourth period rally to make the final score a bit more respectable Saturday night however, as Team Puerto Rico could only cut the final deficit back to 21, 86-65. To have lost their ticket to the U18 World Championship after going on an 8-0 run has to be devastating to the young team. Team Costa Rico -- The Costa Ricans backed into the Americas Cup field when Belize squandered their last game in the Centrobasket Tournament the week before the Americas Cup. The Costa Ricans were simply not ready to compete effectively at this level however, as suggested by the -0.736 efficiency difference logged through the five games of this tournament.

Friday, June 24, 2011

FIBA Americas Cup 2011 -- USA Beats Canada, Goes for Gold

USA 113 - Canada 70
Team USA jumped on Team Canada from the opening tip, opening a 10 point lead on their first six possessions, and they never let the Canadians back into the game, building a 31-7 lead through the first period. Team USA extended their lead in each of the next two periods, taking a 63-28 lead into the half, and a 92-44 into the last period. Team Canada exacted a small solace in winning the fourth period 26-21 to soften their losing margin to 43, 113-70. Aaron Gordon led all scorers with 22 points on 11-16 (0-0, 11-16) shooting. Four of his teammates, Jahlil Okafor (16 points), Theo Pinson (15 points), Justin Jackson (14 points) and Kendrick Nunn (10 points), scored double digit points. Canadian Miroslav Jaksic and Aaron Gordon paced the rebounders with eight apiece. Malcolm Duvivier and Anthony Pate paced the Canadians with 10 points apiece. Crunching the game boxscore to develop some possession-based stats for the game...


Team Canada could not solve the USA's speedy pace and efficient offensive (1.19 ppp) and defensive (0.74 ppp) point-per-possession rates, an absolutely killing combination in this tournament. Coach Don Showalter again distributed playing time fairly evenly among the 11 man rotation he used today. Only two players logged 20 or more minutes (50% or greater of the playing time for a single position), the smallest playing time allocation, 15 minutes, equivalent to a 1½ periods or 37.5% of the playing time for a single position. Possessions, shooting and scoring followed the playing time, with nine players getting 19.7% or more of the possessions when each was on the floor, and five taking 20% or more of the shots when they were on the floor. no doubt contributed to evenly distributed shot percentages and possession rates among the five on the court. Five players took 20% or more of the available shots when they were on the court, while nine were credited with 20% or more of the possessions while they were playing.

Team Canada can draw some consolation in their board work today, matching Team USA for number of rebounds gathered, and snagging a higher percentage of their misses (34.8%) than any of Team USA's previous three opponents. Gordon pulled down a jaw-dropping 31.?% of the offensive boards when he was on the floor, while Pinson continues to gather extremely rates on the offensive boards. Okafor and Jon Williams also had a strong outing on the offensive glass. A sign of growing trust on the team perhaps, the assist rates have improved with each game. Against the Canadians it was a very encouraging 65.2%.

Who's Got Next?
Team USA is bound for the Tournament Finals. If the current scoring margin holds, the U16 USA team will play another game against Team Argentina. The Argentines currently hold a 19 point lead (71-52) over Team Puerto Rico with seven plus minutes left in the fourth period. The Gold Medal game will tip at 8:00pm (ET) tomorrow in Cancun.

FIBA Americas Cup 2011 -- USA Over Costa Rico, Advances to Medal Round

USA 118 - Costa Rico 46
Team USA held Team Costa Rico scoreless through the first period, 19-0 and continued their O'fer defensive run nearly eight minutes into the second period, taking the score to 35-0 before the Costa Ricans broke through with a two point goal. As suggested by the USA Basketball recap, by that time the game was well in hand, as the USA increased their lead to 52, 59-7 through the end of the second period. Though Costa Rico made the second half more competitive, losing the last two periods by a combined 20 points (59-39), it is doubtful that Coach Showalter let the first five-to-seven players in his rotation off the bench for that last 20 minutes. Four players, Justin Jackson (20), Aaron Gordon (23), Jon Williams (23) and Dom Collier (23) logged 20 or more minutes even as seven players scored 10 or more points. Guard Connor Frankcamp, as indicated by his post game comments, broke out of his shooting slump to pace Team USA with 22 points on 10-13 (8-8, 2-5) shooting. Aaron Gordon (18 points & 18 rebounds) and Theo Pinson (11 points & 10 rebounds) recorded double-doubles, Gordon was one assist and two blocks short of a quadruple-double. Costa Rico's Milton Jimenez Barrantes paced all scorers with 28 points on 10-29 (9-26, 1-3) from the floor and 7-11 from the line. Barrantes' 28 points was 60.9% of Costa Rico's scoring in the game. Crunching the game boxscore to develop some possession-based stats for the game...

Costa Rico0.5023.816.116.317.5

Team USA continues to push the pace yet post extremely efficient offensive (1.28 ppp) and defensive (0.50 ppp) point-per-possession rates. Evenly distributed playing time no doubt contributed to evenly distributed shot percentages and possession rates among the five on the court. Five players took 20% or more of the available shots when they were on the court, while nine were credited with 20% or more of the possessions while they were playing.

The team continues to dominate on the boards, gathering half of their misses to extend team possession. Okafor and particularly (for this game) Gordon and Parker(!) asserted themselves under the basket at both ends of the floor, while Pinson had a great night on the defensive end of the floor.

Everyone Out of the Pool
Group A & B standings going into action Thursday...

Group A Group B
Puerto Rico20USA20
Mexico02Costa Rico02

Team USA and Team Puerto Rico had clinched spots in the Medal Round with wins on Wednesday. Canada, Chile, Argentina and Brazil, knotted at 1-1 in their respective groups, had work to do on Thursday. Canada needed a win to clinch their spot in the Medal Round as they had already beaten Chile (on Monday). A loss to host Mexico would have knotted the Group A standings for the last three teams at 1-3, and opened the door for Team Chile, had they beaten Puerto Rico (admittedly not likely) to advance. A three way 1-2 tie in Group A would leave the last Group A spot in the Medal Round hanging on points and winning margins. Team Canada took control with a decisive 32 point win over Team Mexico 88-56. The Canadians will meet Team USA Friday at 6:00pm (ET) in the first semi-final game of the Medal Round. Resolution of the final standings in Group B came down to a shootout between Argentina and Brazil. Team Costa Rico, 0-2 with a combined margin of -141 through two games was slated to face Team USA in the 2:00pm game Thursday, with the outcome never in doubt. The winner of the Argentina-Brazil game at 6:00pm would advance as the second team out of Group B. The Argentines downed the Brazilians by eight, 85-77, and will face Team Puerto Rico at 9:00pm (ET) in the second semi-final game of the Medal Round. The final Pool standings...

Group A Group B
Puerto Rico30USA30
Mexico03Costa Rico03

Chile, Mexico, Brazil and Costa Rico will play two Classification Round games to determine places #5-#8. Team Chile will play Team Costa Rico (most likely at 2:00pm ET) Friday, followed by Team Brazil and host Mexico (at 4:00pm ET). The two semi-final medal round games will follow after the Classification games.

Who's Got Next?
The USA's U16 team will face Team Canada in the first semi-final Medal Round game Friday at 6:00pm. The Canadians logged a 2-1 record in Group A play to earn the A2 seed in Medal Round play, beating Chile and Mexico by a combined +79 points while losing by four to Team Puerto Rico (86-90).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

USA Basketball U19 Team -- James Bell Named to the Squad

Final Cut
Rising sophomore wing James Bell was among the twelve named to the U19 men's squad that will represent the USA in the FIBA U19 World Championship Tournament, to be played in Valmiera, Liepaja and Riga Latvia from June 30-July 10 this year.

Jeremy Lamb of the Connecticut Huskies was also named to the final squad.

According to the press release, the team, which is charged with defending the gold medal won by the USA team in 2009, will leave for Europe June 24, and continue training in Lithuania June 25-28. Team USA will play two exhibition games in Lithuania, the first on June 26 versus the Lithuanian U20 National Team and then on June 28 versus the Lithuanian U19 National Team.

Congratulations to James Bell, Jeremy Lamb
& the ten named to the final squad.

FIBA Americas Cup 2011 -- USA Beats Argentina by 21

Leaping Big Hurdles
The second day of the Cancun tournament saw the U16 men's teams from the USA and Puerto Rico clinch their spots in the medal round with wins over their closest Pool competitors. The Puerto Rican team beat Team Canada by four points, 90-86 in a game that saw the Canadians lead by 10 after the first period and by one at the half. The Puerto Ricans stormed back in the third quarter to take control of the game, and hold off a Team Canada fourth quarter comeback to notch the win. Should Team Chile's 22 point third quarter lead over host Mexico hold up, Team Canada can clinch their spot with a win tomorrow (Thursday) irrespective of the other outcomes in their pool.

USA 102 - Argentina 81
That the margin of victory (21 points) is not as impressive as the gap over Team Brazil Tuesday (35) should worry no one, as Team Argentina was picked as the USA's strongest challenge in Pool B play. Argentina, favored to defeat Team Brazil in Pool B play Thursday, should advance to the medal round. Jabari Parker, for the second consecutive game, led all scorers, this time with a 21 point outing on 10-20 (1-5, 9-15) shooting from the field. Team Argentina led Team USA by a point, 23-22 at the end of an opening period, that saw three ties and three lead changes in the 10 minute period. The American's second period 30-11 outburst brought them the lead perminantly. Team USA used the third period to push the lead out to 19, and they floated on a 20+ point cushion through much of the fourth period. Six of Parker's teammates, Kendrick Nunn, a 6-1 guard and teammate at Simeon High School, Chicago (14 points), along with Larry Austin (11 points) and four others (Jahlil Okafor, Theo Pinson, Tyus Jones and Aaron Gordon) who recorded 10 points apiece, also scored double digits points. A good sign the scoring was fairly evenly distributed this outing. Okafor made it a double-double with 11 (5-6-11) rebounds. This was the second double digit scoring night for Parker, Gordon and Okafor. Crunching the game boxscore to develop some possession-based stats for the game...


Like the Brazil game, the pace continues to look very NBA-like rather than high school or (Division 1) college ball in the USA. The team continues to record +1.00 points per possession (ppp) while simultaneously limiting opponents to < 0.90 ppp while running at 90+ possessions rate is promising. The Americans continued to shoot an encouraging 54.6% (eFG%) from the field while nearly matching their Brazil-game tendancy to get to the line (47.5% FTA Rate). Team USA's turnover rate (21.8%) continues to trouble. Argentina's turnover rate, at 23.8% is definitely down from Brazil's 32% rate. Perhaps this will prove to be a vulnerability in the medal rounds, but for the Costa Rico game, it should not be a problem. The USA continues to get to the line easily (more close-in scoring -- note that the percentage of 3FGAs to 2FGAs was 15.8%, a clear sign that Team USA goes inside for it's scoring opportunities.

On the boards, Okafor's "normal" strong effort was complemented by matching efforts from Theo Pinson and Nunn, especially under the Argentina's basket.

The U16 team will close out Pool B play with a tilt against Team Costa Rico. Given the Costa Ricans are 0-2 with a combined margin of -141 points, the Americans should win comfortably. Coach Showalter will most likely give the 10-12 rotation players some run, resting Gordon, Jackson, Nunn, Okafor and Parker after a short warmup interval.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

FIBA Americas Cup 2011 -- USA Downs Brazil to Open Tournament

Opening Day in Cancun
The eight team field of FIBA U16 Americas Cup Tournament opened with three blowouts. The closest match was a 10 point Puerto Rico win over host Mexico (78-68), the second game played between the two in 48 hours. Of the three blowouts, the average margin of victory was 60.7 points, with Argentina's pasting of Costa Rico, 130-28, the most lopsided of the four game set. USA's 35 point win over Brazil, 105-70, seems almost mundane.

USA 105 - Brazil 70
Paced by Jabari Parker's 21 points through the first half, the USA built a comfortable 14 point lead, 33-19, in the first quarter, and then pummeled the Brazilians with a 22-3 second quarter rout, taking a 33 point, 55-22, lead into the half. The Brazilians won the third and fourth quarters to chip the final margin down to a 30 USA win. Jabari Parker, a 6-6 forward out of Simeon High School in Chicago, Ill, led Team USA with a double-double, scoring 27 points on 9-10 (7-7, 2-3) shooting from the field to go with a 2-2 performance at the line. Parker also snagged 10 rebounds (2-8-10) to lead the team in those two categories. Three other Americans, Jahlil Okafor (19 points), Stanley Johnson (14 points) and Aaron Gordon (11 points) scored in double digits. Luis Maia, from Sao Paulo, paced the Brazilians with 16 points on 5-6 (5-6, 0-0) shooting from the field and 6-12 shooting from the line. Crunching the game boxscore to develop some possession-based stats for the game...


The pace more closely resembles the NBA than high school or (Division 1) college ball in the USA. 95 possessions is rare even in exhibition games. The Americans shot an encouraging 55% (eFG%) from the field and managed to get to the line about once for every two Field goal attempts against a team that would be very competitive in Pool A. Of Team USA's offensive four factors, the turnover rate (23.1%) is troubling. Though partially negated by Brazil's own problems with turnovers (a whopping 31.4%), against a better shooting (and more steal-oriented?) opponent, that could spell trouble. Some possession-based stats for the individual players...

Conner Frankamp27.529.731.20.6733.
Justin Jackson60.016.819.01.0750.00.020.812.5
Tyus Jones32.
Larry Austin45.
Kendrick Nunn57.523.324.80.6015.00.07.940.0
Dom Collier15.
Aaron Gordon57.526.414.91.2183.38.734.5116.7
Jabari Parker50.024.728.61.93100.010.08.590.0
Stanley Johnson52.528.229.91.1854.59.521.318.2
Johnathan Williams32.512.18.81.3350.07.70.0200.0
Jahlil Okafor70.

A quick look at the percentage of minutes played suggests that Coach Don Showalter will continue to go with a deep (9-10 man) rotation, even against a team as potential competitive as Brazil, a team that will most likely compete for the 5/6 place spot in the last game of the tournament. The coach has 5-6 realistic offensive options available, good news given this is a tournament that will play five games over five days. A look at some of the defensive and secondary stats:

Player% MinDR%A Rate
Conner Frankamp27.514.348.9
Justin Jackson60.013.10.0
Tyus Jones32.50.018.1
Larry Austin45.08.725.6
Kendrick Nunn57.56.84.9
Dom Collier15.00.00.0
Aaron Gordon57.513.624.6
Jabari Parker50.031.40.0
Stanley Johnson52.57.50.0
Johnathan Williams32.524.10.0
Jahlil Okafor70.02.80.0

Okafor's defensive rebounding may be the explanation for his additional playing time. It may be a short sighted strategy however, as Okafor's rebounding may be more needed later in the tournament against Puerto Rico and Canada. Frankamp, a 6-0 guard out of Wichita North High School, Wichita Kansas, along with Larry Austin (a 6-1 guard out of Springfield, Ill) and Tyus Jones (a 6-0 guard out of Apple Valley, MN) appear to be comfortable distributing the ball, a good sign given the team has scorers in the front court. Aaron Gordon, a 6-8 low post player out of San Jose, California also appears to be willing to throw the ball back out to a perimeter shooter when the situation calls for it.

The men's team will take on current pool leader Argentina today at 6:00pm (eastern daylight) in an early pool showdown. The Argentines beat Costa Rico 130-28 to open tournament play yesterday.

Monday, June 20, 2011

FIBA Americas Cup 2011 -- U16 Americas Cup Field is Set

Costa Rico is the Third Centrobasket Team to Qualify
Though the game results of the last day of competition in the Centrobasket U16 qualifying tournament were listed on the FIBA Americas website last night around 12:30am (eastern daylight savings) -- you had to link to the individual box scores scrolling at the top banner -- the final standings of the tournament were not posted until 11:00am or so this morning. The nightmare scenario played out as Costa Rico blasted Guatemala 105-47 to record a 2-3 record even as Belize, the team who controlled their fate, lost to El Salvador by seven, 64-71, dropping all three teams (Belize, Costa Rico and El Salvador) into a deadlock with matching 2-3 records. A review of the U16 Centrobasket Championship standings lists Costa Rico as the #3 place team. The FIBA Americas site has confirmed that the Costa Rican team (and not Belize, as I suggested yesterday) has been assigned to Pool B for the FIBA U16 Americas Cup Tournament, to kick off tomorrow with a full slate of games. Puerto Rico, as suggested in the previous post, did indeed win the tournament, beating host Mexico yesterday by a surprisingly large 36 point margin, 99-63. Puerto Rico will enter the Americas Cup with the momentum of a 5-0 record from the Centrobasket Tournament behind them.

The revised projected pools with Costa Rico assigned:

Pool APool B
MexicoUnited States
Puerto RicoCosta Rico

Puerto Rico swept through the U16 Centrobasket Tournament racking up a winning margin of +253 points over five games. That is an average winning margin of 50.6 points. Even eliminating the Guatemala game (a 125-28 pasting), the Puerto Rico team still managed an average winning margin of 39 points, the standard deviation -- 7.55 -- suggesting consistent game-to-game domination of the competition. The Puerto Ricans should probably be considered the favorites in Pool A, though the Canadians may disagree. Puerto Rican players to watch include Ariel Watson, a 6-2 guard who plays for Good Counsel in Washington DC, Eliel Gonzalez Gomez who shot 27-39 through the five games, Jairo Velez Lopez who shot 20-26 and Bryan Moreno who shot 19-25 in only three games. Under the boards, Ian Torres Medina averaged eight rebounds per game through five games.

USA games through pool play, again revised...

06/21/11 TuesBrazil
06/22/11 Wed.Argentina
06/23/11 ThurCosta Rico

After pool play the top two teams from each pool will advance to two medal round games, while the bottom two will play two additional Classification games to determine places #5 - #8, the games to be played Friday (6/24) and Saturday (6/25). Teams who finish #1 - #3 will qualify for the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championships.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

USA Basketball U19 Team -- James Bell Survives First Cut

The first three days of training camp for the U19 Men's Team that will compete in the U19 World Championship in Latvia next month, and USA Basketball released the roster of 13 (20 were originally invited) players who were invited to continue training. Villanova's 6-5 rising sophomore guard James Bell was listed on the 13 man roster this afternoon.

The only other Big East player (of 4 invited) to make the cut was Jeremy Lamb of the Connecticut Huskies.

According to the press release, the team will continue to practice through Thursday June 23, with the final twelve announced just before the team departs for Europe on June 24.

Congratulations to James Bell, Jeremy Lamb and the eleven other finalist.

FIBA Americas Cup 2011 -- U16 Americas Cup Field is Set...Almost

Puerto Rico, Mexico, and...Belize?
A review of the FIBA Americas standings at the Centrobasket U16 Championship 2011 held in Mexico City, Mexico indicates that Puerto Rico (4-0 with one game remaining) will qualify for the FIBA U16 Americas Cup, the tournament to start next week. Puerto Rico will be assigned to the A pool (see below). Mexico, also 4-0 going into the last game has already qualified for the Americas Cup and was assigned to Pool A back in May. Puerto Rico and Mexico meet in the last game (played later today -- Sunday), so one will finish undefeated while the other will take second place. The second qualifier from Centrobasket U16 will most likely be Belize, currently sporting a 2-2 record. The fourth place teams, Costa Rico and El Salvador are 1-3. Should Belize lose later today to El Salvador all three will most likely finish at 2-3 -- Costa Rico, facing 0-4 Guatemala is almost assured to finish 2-3 as well -- and will require a tie-breaker to determine the team for Pool B. The cleanest finish would be for Belize to beat El Salvador. Both have already played the leaders, Puerto Rico and Mexico, and lost. Belize has a -35 point margin in the two contests, while El Salvador is -127 (that is not a typo...). Though the game has to be played (and anything can happen...), I suspect that Belize will win, given that both also played Costa Rico, and Belize, in their head-to-head beat the Costa Ricans by a point (71-70), while El Salvador lost by 28 (79-51). If Belize loses while Costa Rico wins, and the tie-break is:
1. Head-to-head, then the FIBA Americas Commission will have to go to a second tie-breaker;
2. Point margin among the tied teams, then Belize should get the last spot;

The projected pools (Belize beats El Salvador or wins the tie-breaker):

Pool APool B
MexicoUnited States
Puerto RicoBelize

As expected both Puerto Rico and Mexico dominated the Centrobasket U16 field. Ironic that both wound up in Pool A. Given the strength of Canada, Puerto Rico (and do not underestimate home court advantage) and Mexico, Pool A could be interesting (though Canada and Puerto Rico would still have to be favored to advance to the medal rounds). USA games through pool play...

06/21/11 TuesBrazil
06/22/11 Wed.Argentina
06/23/11 ThurBelize

Friday, June 17, 2011

Coaching Carousal: Part 2011-04: Effects, Hits, Misses & Numbers

Effects -- Butterfly, Ripple or Domino?
When Villanova's Assistant Coach Chris Walker accepted a similar position on Billy Gillispie's Texas Tech staff back in April (announced formally only last week) Villanova Coach Jay Wright seized the opportunity to reorganize his staff. Though the process took just under two months and affected three coaches and two positions, Coach Wright's first step, completed in just over two weeks brought Navy Head Coach Billy Lange back to the Mainline as an Associate Head Coach. Lange, in his second stint on Coach Wright's staff, has taken an increasingly well-traveled road of head coach in a non-BCS program to assistant in a BCS program, the second to do so this off season alone. Lange's exit triggered a three job shift among D1 head coaching positions Villanova (Assoc. HC) <-- (Lange) Navy (HC) <-- (DeChellis) Penn State (HC) <-- (Chambers)Boston University (HC) <-- ?. The shift was unusual for the timing, coming so late in the cycle, but even more so for the number of head coaching positions opened, initiated by a head coach-to-assistant shift. Last season the Patriot League was ranked 24th of 32 D1 conferences by by Ken Pomeroy, the level where one would expect a coach to be named from a pool of assistant/associate coaches, rather than BCS-level head coaches. The circumstances of DeChellis' situation in Happy Valley played a large role in his decision to take a pay cut and change jobs. Clearly this was not the Butterfly Effect at work. Juwan Staten was slated to transfer from Dayton to Penn State prior to DeChellis' move, but instead signed with West Virginia, is an example of the Butterfly Effect (especially if he hits a shot that eliminates Villanova from the 2013 BET for example). The quick movement diagram (above) illustrates the moves as a chain reaction that typifies the Domino Effect, but given the number of coaches associated with the Philadelphia coaching fraternity, I would also suggest there was a Ripple Effect involved. Would Pat Chambers considered a BCS-level job this late in the cycle had it been located in Washington state? Would Penn State have looked at Chambers if Happy Valley were located in upper Minnesota? The influence exerted by the six D1 coaches coaches at Philadelphia schools (Drexel, La Salle, Penn, Saint Joseph's, Temple and Villanova) extends beyond the Delaware Valley and the state of Pennsylvania (to Madison, Wisconsin actually).

Hits & Misses?
The ACC saw an unusually high (four) number of vacancies this off season, 50% of the attrition can be attributed to terminations at Georgia Tech (Paul Hewitt) and North Carolina State (Sidney Lowe). Both coaches were on the hot seat going into the 2011 season. Interestingly, feedback about Paul Hewitt's and Sidney Lowe's replacements (Brian Gregory and Mark Gottfried repsectively) is (charitably at best) mixed. By general knowledge, Georgia Tech, with a large buyout on Hewitt's contract and huge capital expenses (facilities related) looming, may have been reluctant to go after a namebrand coach. North Carolina State AD Debbie Yow apparently believed a whispering campaign limited her pool of available replacements after she fired five year veteran Sidney Lowe, making Mark Gottfried, himself fired (in mid-season no less) from his last job (Alabama), the most attractive of the available candidates. She seemed to conveniently forget that the Wolfpack faithful practically ran off Lowe's predessessor Herb Sendak, and after a very public search marked by an embarrassing series of courtships and rejections, then AD Lee Fowler settled on Sidney Lowe, an NCSU graduate who was unable to translate consistently good recruiting into an NCAA bid in any of his five seasons at State. Sendak, with less attractive recruits, managed an NCAA bid in each of his last five seasons in Raleigh. Do the numbers support or contradict media perceptions that Gregory and Gottfried were basically misses? I dusted off Dan Hanner's Average Efficiency Margin method to compare the ex-coach and his successor...

Average Adj.
P. Hewitt, Ga Tech/2004-2011109.191.4+17.7
B. Gregory, Dayton/2004-2011104.794.7+10.0

Those seeking an explanation for Tech's selection of Gregory -- beyond expense -- cannot look to an efficiency margin better than Hewitt's. Though Dayton's ex-coach boasts a positive double digit margin through his last seven seasons, it is well off (see above) Paul Hewitt's efficiency margin (in fact Hewitt's efficiency margin was better -- by 8.4 points per 100 possessions -- than Jim Larranaga, the GMU Coach whose move to Miami created the opening at George Mason). Fans at both Georgia Tech and Dayton shared a similar view of their respective former coaches -- good recruiters who seemed to do less with more. Hopefully each will find greater acceptance (and success) at their next stop.

Though Coach Gottfried had a ten year run in Tuscaloosa, Ken Pomeroy provides data for only six of those years (2003-08). I decided to compare the last five years of Lowe's and Gottfried's tenure at their respective schools. Though Lowe never made the NCAA tournament, Gottfried did in three of his last five years at Alabama (2003 -- Elite Eight, 2004 -- Round of 32, 2005 -- first round)...

Average Adj.
S. Lowe, NCSU/2007-11109.798.1+11.7
M. Gottfried, Alabama/2004-08115.596.0+19.5

Gottfried might be the D1 coaching equivalent of Wally Pipp. The Crimson Tide of 2007 and 2008 had slumped from the high-water mark of 2003, the circumstances of Gottfried's "resignation" and the enthrusiasm surrounding Anthony Grant's early success have certainly combined to allow the Crimson Tide faithful to quickly forget about Gottfried's accomplishments. Being the third of three schools in the Research Triangle will be a challenge, but the circumstances at North Carolina State (public institution, football-centric) are similar to those at Alabama. Gottfried should do well there.

Radford Selects Jones, Boston University is on the Clock...
Despite speculation that focused on several former head coaches, the search to replace Brad Greenburg at Radford University settled quickly on the usual suspects -- assistant coaches from higher-level conferences within the region. 27 days into the search, Athletic Director Robert Lineburg introduced Mike Jones, an assistant coach at Virginia Commonwealth University out of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) as Radford's sixth Division 1 men's basketball coach.

Despite assertions that Boston University's search for Chamber's replacement would only take days, the process is now two weeks old with interim head coach Brian Daly (Assistant Coach under Chambers), announced June 3, holding down the fort. The post-Chambers press announcement candidate pool was an eclectic mix of ex-head coaches (Al Skinner), high-ranking assistant/associate head coaches (Mike Jarvis II & Orlando Vandross -- both of whom deny being contacted for interviews -- along with media favorite Richard Pitino, son of Louisville head coach and former Terrier head coach, Rick Pitino) and local sports names (Walter McCarty, former Celtic & Louisville assistant coach & former BU player Scott Spinelli) among others. When BU Athletic Director Mike Lynch fired 15 year veteran Dennis Wolff in March of 2009 he hired a search firm and took just under a month (26 days) to select and deliver Pat Chambers. Lynch did not initiate the process this time, did not hire a search firm and named Daly very quickly when Chambers left. Given how late in the cycle the opening was created, I would not be surprised if Daly leads the Terriers through the next season with the interim label attached to his title. Nor would I be surprised if Lynch tabs a head coach in the next week or so. I would be surprised, given Boston University's competitive standing in the American East Conference, if Lynch names a replacement after the start of the July recruiting period.

By the Numbers...
A single vacancy has been created since the last Coaching Carousal post, a bit unusual for me to post so quickly. The Villanova connection was too tempting to pass on however. The ebb and flow to this point...

Regular Season*02/26/1123.6%
Conf. Tourn.**03/14/111832.7%
NCAA Tourn.04/07/112341.8%
Spring Sign05/18/11916.4%
Post Spr. SignToday...35.5%
n = 55

* Regular season ending was arbitrary; I used the start of the earliest conference tournaments to mark the transition from regular season to post season play.
** Selection Sunday, March 14 this year, marks the end of conference tournaments & the beginning of post season program evaluations.

Turnover peaked during the NCAA tournament, typical given that most vacancies are initiated by the employer and conference tournaments and the NCAAs (and NIT, CBI, CIT, etc) mark the end of the season for viturally all of the Division 1 programs. 55 vacancies mark 2011 as the third busiest since 2002. Projecting a few more openings is not unreasonable, though the vacancy will be created by exigent circumstances (coaches behaving badly for example), with the AD either conducting a very quick (days, not weeks) search or tabbing an interim. 57? 58? Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

FIBA Americas Cup 2011 -- USA U16 Team Announced

The U16 Men's Team is Set
USA Basketball announced the U16 Men's roster earlier this week (to muted ineffectual mumbles from disaffected regional writers and fans) after a week of workouts with 25 invited members of the U16 Training Team. The twelve who will represent the USA in the second U16 Americas Cup will include...

Larry AustinG6-116102/18/962014Lamphier H.S./Springfield, IL
Dom CollierG6-214312/08/952014Denver East H.S./Denver, CO
C FrankampG6-015207/16/952013Wichita North H.S./Wichita, KS
Aaron GordonC6-820809/16/952013Archbsp Mitty H.S./San Jose, CA
Justin JacksonG6-617103/28/952014Homeschool Christian YA/Spring, TX
S JohnsonF6-521705/29/962014Mater Dei H.S./Fullerton, CA
Tyus JonesG6-017105/10/962014Apple Valley H.S./Apple Valley, MN
Kendrick NunnG6-117508/03/952013Simeon H.S./Chicago, IL
Jahlil OkaforC6-826912/15/952014Whitney Young H.S./Chicago, IL
Jabari ParkerF6-622503/15/952013Simeon H.S./Chicago, IL
Theo PinsonF6-417611/05/952014Oakridge M. A./Greensboro, NC
J WilliamsF/C6-720805/22/952013Southwind H.S./Memphis, TN

6-2 guard Dom Collier was named as the replacement for Malik Price-Martin, who returned home because of a death in his family. Conceding a deep talent pool from which to staff the squad, USA U16 team's regional make-up (7 from the Midwest/Great Plains, 2 from the west coast and 3 from the Southeast/Southwest) reflects that of the staff (4 from the Midwest/Great Plains, 1 from the Southeast).

The team will continue to train in Colorado Springs through Friday (6/17), then travel to Cancun, Mexico on Saturday (6/18) and will continue practice from Saturday through Monday. The Americas Cup will be held June 21 (Tuesday next) through June 25 (Saturday).

U16 Americas Cup Details
The eight teams participating in the tournament (like many FIBA-sponsored invitational tournaments) will be divided into (two) pools of four teams each for round robin play in the preliminary phase. The top two teams from pool play will advance to a two game single game elimination second phase of medal play. The top three teams will earn a berth to the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship, to be held in Lithuania. The pools:

Pool APool B
MexicoUnited States

The last two spots in the tournament field (CONCENCABA #n) will be filled by the top two finishers from the six team field that will play in the Central America/Carabean zone tournament, June 16 through June 19. That field includes Belize, Costa Rico, El Salvadore, Guatemala, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Mexico, the Americas Cup host, has already qualified, so expect (barring disaster) Puerto Rico and one other from that field to qualify. Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States have become fixtures in Americas Zone FIBA tournament fields. After a quick glance at the pools, I have to believe the USA Team will have a relatively harder road to the medal round as Argentina has fielded competitve teams in FIBA America Zone tournaments the past several summers, and beat the USA team in a 2008 tournament, and many Canadian players join traveling AAU teams and tour the United State during the summer months. From Pool A, expect Canada and (most likely from the Central America/Carabean Zone Tournament...) Puerto Rico to advance to the medal round versus the USA and Argentina (or perhaps Brazil?). USA games through pool play...

06/21/11 TuesBrazil
06/22/11 Wed.Argentina
06/23/11 ThurCONCENCABA #2

If past is prologue (at least for this summer), expect the U16 team to dominate the competition, as did the 2009 U16 team in the inaugural U16 Americas Cup. Next month the U19 men's team will compete in the World Championship (most likely will win, though there have been surprises), while the World University Team will compete internationally in late July and early August (tends to dominate) and the Pan American team (has tended to finish out of the gold lately) is slated to compete in October.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wash, Rinse, Repeat (pt 2) -- The 2012 Atlantic-10 Home and Away Slate

Flipping 2011 Home/Away Opponents
In addition to carrying the mirror opponents (home/away series opponents) from 2011, the Atlantic-10 schedule maker reversed the venues for the single game opponents. Charlotte visited Duquesne, Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure, Saint Louis and Temple in 2011. The 49ers will host those teams as single game opponents in 2012. Does this balance their schedule over the two season period? Remember that virtually no teams return their entire rosters season-over-season. The average of returning minutes in the A-10 next season (to this point) is about 66%.

Home & Away According to Pythagoreas & Seed...
I decided to take the average of the home and away Pythagorean Winning Percentage (PWP) -- conference games only -- for each team's set of opponents. I excluded mirror opponents (covered in the previous post) for this the compilation to focus on those match-ups that would not allow a return engagement (in the 2012 regular season). I also took the average A-10 conference tournament seed for each set of opponents, to determine if each team was facing an "average" set of opponents in the home or away setting -- the conference has 14 members, the "average seed" is 7.5...

Non-Mirror Opps.
George Washington0.5267.30.5658.5
La Salle0.4366.80.4887.1
Rhode Island0.5557.80.5468.4
Saint Joseph's0.2368.80.6914.6
St. Bonaventure0.5386.80.5558.5
Saint. Louis0.4775.50.3797.9

As the table suggests, there is a sharp contrast in the PWPs among visiting teams and hosts. George Washington, Rhode Island, St. Boanventure and Temple appear to have the strongest slate of non-mirror opponents, and Temple looks as if their slate of road opponents may be marginally easier than their slate of visitors (though the Owls did catch a huge break on their mirror opponents). Looking over the PWPs for road games, it appears that Massachusetts, Richmond and Saint Joseph's have their work cut out for them. For the Minutemen and Spiders, this could be problematic, as the UMass returns 60% of their 2011 scoring (points) and Coach Chris Mooney's squad returns just over 31% of theirs.
Different Strategies for Different Circumstances
A common wisdom approach to scheduling strategy might want to schedule the stronger opponents into the home arena, thereby using the home court advantage to maximum effect, while taking the weaker opponents on the opponents' home court with the notion they could be beaten in either location. For teams whose objective is to break out of the conference's lower division (or cellar...) however a counter intuitive strategy might be the better choice. Hosting weaker opponents would maximize the chances of winning conference games, while conceding the road loss to the conference's stronger teams. Very few coaches would embrace a strategy that concedes losses even before the season even starts, but as a practical approach to accumulating wins, programs like Charlotte and Fordham have few options, at least until they rebuild their programs. How do the non-mirror match-ups compare when looking at those two different approaches?

Looking for Wins...Any Wins
Rookie Coach Archie Miller may have caught a break from the schedule maker. Dayton graduated All Conference forward Chris Wright, while also losing freshmen Juwan Staten (West Virginia) and Brandon Spearman (Indian Hills CC) to transfer. The depleted Flyers return 58.4% of their minutes and 58% of their scoring. Drawing hosting duties for Charlotte, George Washington, La Salle, Massachusetts and Rhode Island without having to return the favor. Rhode Island at this point, is in line to return less than 25% of their 2011 minutes in 2012. Miller should be able to post a winning home record among these five opponents. The seed versus PWP spread for the opponents visiting the UD Arena in 2012 is interesting, about average for seed, but a comparatively low road PWP. The spread suggests those teams did not travel well in 2011.

Richmond, like Rhode Island, will have only 40% of 2011's minutes available going into 2012, a (mirrors excluded) home slate of Dayton, Fordham, La Salle (again!), Massachusetts (ditto!) and Temple should help build some confidence (and post wins) for the Spiders of tomorrow. Their (non-mirror) road slate however, should be a bit more challenging -- Duquesne, Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure, Saint Louis and Xavier. Should Coach Mooney's squad post a winning record versus those five, Richmond will be in a good position for post season consideration.

Massachusetts slumped at the end of their 2011 conference schedule, dropping their last regular season game to winless (in conference play) Fordham and then losing their A-10 first round game to Dayton. Lining up Charlotte, Fordham, Saint Louis, St. Bonaventure and Xavier for home dates should help to establish a winning home record in conference play. True as visitors the Minutemen will be hard pressed to win more than one game from their road slate -- Dayton, Duquesne, George Washington, Richmond and Temple -- but if they hosted those five would they win more than (say...) two?

Fordham's home slate -- Charlotte, Dayton, George Washington, La Salle and Xavier -- should provide the Rams with a few more winning opportunities than their road slate -- Duquesne, Massachusetts, Richmond, Saint Joseph's and Saint Louis. Returning a nucleus of Chris Gaston, Branden Frazier and Alberto Estwick provides Coach Tom Pecora with an opportunity to up Fordham's conference win total in 2012.

Making a Statement
St. Bonaventure has bettered their conference record in each of Coach Mark Schmidt's four seasons, finishing in the upper division 2011. With Andrew Nicholson a rising senior in 2012, the future maybe now, and the Bonnies drew a fairly balanced (in a PWP sense...) slate of (non-mirror) home and away opponents. Assembling a winning record at both home and on the road against those opponents would certainly serve notice the Bonnies are back, and probably put them in the conversation for a post season bid, preferably to a tournament whose name starts with an "N".

On paper George Washington appears ready to shop for more permanent digs in the A-10's upper division. Next season's (non-mirror) home and away slate seems fairly balanced per the average PWP (and note the average seed is consistent with the PWP). The question is whether new Coach Mike Lonergan can motivate the squad to perform in the face of a challenging road slate.

Temple drew the only slate that would fit the bill for an elite team -- face better teams (Dayton, Duquesne, George Washington, Massachusetts and Xavier) at home, lesser teams (Charlotte, Rhode Island, Richmond, St. Bonaventure and Saint Louis) on the road. The seed versus PWP contrast for the road opponents suggests that lineup, like George Washington's, were stronger in front of the home crowd than on the road.

Counter Programming?
On the heels of an unexpectedly good (slump at season's end excepted) season, Duquesne would probably have been better served with a stronger slate of visiting teams than Fordham, La Salle, Massachusetts, Richmond and Saint Joseph's. While there may be a measure of home crowd entertainment value in running up the score on Fordham or Massachusetts, but wide margins may (again?) obscure weaknesses in the Duke program.

Xavier drew a surprisingly balanced slate of single game opponents for both home (Fordham, George Washington, La Salle, Massachusetts and Temple) and the road (Duquesne, Rhode Island, Richmond, Saint Joseph's and St. Bonaventure). Note the home slate has an average seed within the standard deviation, while the road slate seed is just below the range established by the standard deviation (suggesting the Musketeers' hosts are better at home than on the road).

Caveat Emptor
Consider that...
1. The rosters are still taking shape -- at this point it appears that Saint Louis will return 92.8% of their minutes from the 2011 season (plus Kwamain Michell). Last June the Billikens were projected to return 82.7% of their minutes, but only 54% were on the roster when the season started. There are a variety of reasons why players, post NBA draft deadline, do not return to school, and every Atlantic-10 team has lost experienced minutes in June and later in the off season.
2. Timing can make a difference -- Duquesne ran up an 8-0 record through the first half of their 2011 A-10 slate against teams that finished the season with a collective 50-78 (0.391) conference record. Only two of those teams (Temple and George Washington) finished on the upside of 0.500 in their conference games.
3. Coaching changes can affect team dynamics, or not -- Charlotte's Alan Major had a rough rookie season as head coach, while rookie head coach Chris Mack's Xavier squad won the Atlantic-10 regular season title in 2010. George Washington's Coach Lonergan has six years of experience directing Vermont's program (and seven directing D3 Catholic University) before taking over at George Washington; the Colonials should show improvement over their 2011 conference record (health providing...). Dayton's Archie Miller, a long-time assistant, but looking at his first season in charge of a Division 1 program, may have problems matching departed coach Brian Gregory's 7-9 record.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wash, Rinse, Repeat -- The 2012 Atlantic-10 Conference Pairs

The Flip Side of 2011
Though at least one fan blog hinted at the pairings for the 2012 Atlantic-10 Conference regular season back on June 1, the conference did not officially release the pairings until June 6. Rather than build the conference mirror opponents and home/away games from scratch for 2012 (or roughly based on the 2011 conference results), the schedulemaker apparently decided to keep the 2011 mirror opponents and flip each team's 2011 home and away opponents for 2012 -- Saint Louis played Fordham, George Washington, Richmond, St. Bonaventure and Temple on the road in 2011, so they will host those teams at Chaifetz Arena in 2012. Was this a backhanded attempt at a balanced (over a two year period) schedule? For those interested in the complete listing, visit the Conference announcement here.

Fair and Balances?
I had noted last June when looking over the Atlantic-10 conference pairings that a balanced schedule may be only one of many objectives a conference schedulemaker may have satisfy...and a lower priority objective at that. Since the conference kept the same mirror opponents for 2012 as 2011 for each team, I decided to take the average of the conference Pythagorean Winning Percentage (PWP) for each team's mirros and compare them. Mirror games constitute 37.5% of each team's 16 game schedule. These pairings can provide a team with a big advantage (or a huge challange)...

Mirror Opponents
Charlotte0.735GWU, Rich, XU
St. Louis0.726Day, Duq, XU
Dayton0.724Duq, SLU, XU
Saint Joseph's0.670Mass, Rich, TU
Fordham0.612URI, Bonas, TU
La Salle0.582GWU, Mass, TU
Duquesne0.475Day, Bonas, SLU
St. Bonaventure0.453Duq, Ford, URI
George Washington0.438Char, LSU, Rich
Xavier0.380Char, Day, SLU
Massachusetts0.353LSU, URI, SJU
Rhode Island0.308Ford, Mass, Bonas
Richmond0.305Char, GWU, SJU
Temple0.208Ford, LSU, SJU
Std. Dev..0.171

"Protecting" a rival clearly still holds for the coming season, as Xavier and Dayton will renew their in state rivalry, Temple will face both Big 5 rivals (La Salle and Saint Joseph's), while Massachusetts and Rhode Island will extend their regional (New England) rivalry with another home & away series this season. Travel appears to have played a role as well, as Charlotte, Richmond and George Washington have all managed another season with mirror games. Television match-ups, Xavier/Dayton aside, appears to be a minor consideration. Looking at the average of the PWPs, it may seem the schedule maker created a "balanced" set of mirrors conference-wide, the standard deviation (and a visual inspection of the list highest to lowest) would strongly suggest otherwise.

Notes & Observations
A blend of regional rivals may help Charlotte's travel budget, but George Washington was stronger than anticipated last season, and with new coach Mike Lonergan at the helm in place of the departed Karl Hobbs combined with the return of well regarded (but red shirted last season) Lasan Kromah, the Colonials should be an even tougher challange in 2012. The Spiders lost Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper (and Dan Geriot), but Coach Chris Mooney has a deep squad at Richmond, which suggests the 49ers will again post a losing record in these six games.

Duquesne and Xavier account for Dayton's high PWP average for 2011, but Coach Rick Majerus returns over 90% of the minutes from the Bills' 2011 squad, and also bring back suspended Kwamain Mitchell, an All-Conference player in 2010. If Duquesne can regain their early 2011 momentum, Dayton may be hard pressed to come away from that six game set with even one win.
Xavier's mirrors seem to be a good balance of rivals and travel, but Saint Louis may be a tougher opponent this time around.

St. Bonaventure may benefit from a down year at Rhode Island and continued slow progress at Fordham. Like Xavier, the Bonnies appear to have drawn a traditional rivals schedule (Fordham and Duquesne) with travel (Rhode Island) as a consideration too. Coach Schmidt's squad went 4-2 against those three in 2011, and, given the 25% returning minutes at Kingston in 2012, may do even better in 2012.

Massachusetts, like St. Bonaventure, earned a 4-2 record against their mirror opponents in 2011, but if Saint Joseph's, the beneficiary of a an above average percentage of returning minutes (69%), improves as anticipated, Coach Derek Kellogg may be pressed to repeat that record in 2012. For a coach already feeling a bit of heat, that may well be the tipping point in his tenure.

Coach Jim Baron will see only 24% of his 2011 minutes return for 2012, so even with a rather light set of mirror opponents, the Runnin' Rams may take a step back from their 2011 3-3 mirror record.

Temple's 6-0 mirror record last season was due, in large measure, to the weakness of their three opponents who managed a collective 11-37 record in conference play last season. Collectively Fordham, La Salle and Saint Joseph's will absolutely improve their record next season, but expect Coach Fran Dunphy's squad to post another 6-0 record versus those three. That is a huge advantage when putting together a conference record.