Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rising Juniors -- Nine to Watch

What We Are Looking For
Lance Stephenson is gone, he did not make it to his sophomore year. You will not find Peyton Siva on this list (Big East Honorable Mention last season) -- too high profile. Not Jamal Coombs-McDaniels nor Mookie Jones, nor Dalton Pepper, nor Isaiah Armwood either, as all have transferred to other schools. The All-Conference Teams have tended to be senior-heavy for the past few seasons (which may be a backhanded way to explain the transfers), so quite a few rising juniors could be on this list...if they had stayed. The nine listed below should all see their roles expand as the upper classmen have moved on. Using Pomeroy's classification system as a guide, I am scouting the "Role" or "Significant Contributor" player, someone who took about 16%-23% of their team's possessions last season, but could grow into a "Major Contributor" or "Go-to Guy" player over the course of the course of next season -- though most probably won't. Pomeroy discusses growth "probabilities" in "Putting Individual Efficiency into Perspective" over at The Basketball Prospectus back in 2007. One thing about these players is clear -- most pushed to the upper limit of their growth curve each of the last two seasons.

On Offense...
Dante TaylorPitt36.4124.916.416.51.22
Hollis ThompsonGTown57.9123.
Alex OriakhiUConn71.4113.
Shaun NoriegaSo Fla40.7109.418.424.11.12
Brandon TricheCuse71.6107.521.421.81.10
Mouphtaou YarouNova60.1107.019.718.41.08
Cashmere WrightNati63.3105.322.319.21.08
Travon WoodallPitt53.8105.119.918.30.98
Dominic CheekNova46.9100.617.119.20.96

Dante Taylor was one of those heralded high school recruits that everyone fought over back in the summer of 2009. Pitt won the sweepstakes and Taylor, along with classmate -- but now rising sophomore -- Talib Zanna was the heir apparent to DeJuan Blair and Aaron Gray. No one thought much about an off-the-radar transfer back then named Gary McGhee. McGhee improved every season he was at Pitt and became the low post mainstay over the next three seasons. Defensive rebounding may be one reason Taylor could not move McGhee out of the starting lineup (see the "Miscellaneous" table below...or maybe his penchant for picking up fouls?), but McGhee is gone this season, so Taylor and Zanna (and freshman Klem Birch) will divvy up McGhee's minutes. The way will not get much clearer for the 6-9 player, but he will have to control the fouling and work on his defensive rebounding. At 5-11 out of Seton Hall Prep, Travon Woodall was regarded as the one "Most Likely to Suceed"...Levance Fields at the point. Woodall took a red shirt his freshman year, Ashton Gibbs went on to lead the U19 Men's Team to a World Championship in 2009 and Woodall's role became back up to Gibbs. Tray's minutes, offensive rating and role within the offense has progressed each of the past two seasons. With Gibbs nailing three pointers at a 49% clip, I would not be surprised to see Coach Dixon play Woodall and Gibbs in tandem, with the red shirt junior taking the point and allowing Gibbs to roam. If Woodall can improve his outside shot and assists (that should not be hard since he has Gibbs, Taylor and Nasir Robinson to pass to), the Panthers will not miss a beat. The Hoyas will return less than half of their minutes (48%) and an even smaller percentage of their scoring (42%). Expect larger offensive roles for virtually all of the returning players, especially Hollis Thompson. Though the 6-7 rising junior has two years of experience, he actually enrolled at Georgetown in the spring of 2009 and practiced with the team that semester. The 6-7 wing has seen his minutes and role grow modestly even as his offensive rating (top table) exploded. With the graduation of Austin Freeman and Chris Wright look for Thompson (and rising senior Jason Clark) get more touches and scoring opportunities...and attention from the defense. If Thompson can maintain (or even improve) his offensive efficiency with a larger role, the Hoyas should have a very nice resume to present to the Selection Committee next March.

Four Factors...
Dante TaylorPitt36.461.617.012.346.4
Hollis ThompsonGTown57.963.06.713.326.5
Alex OriakhiUConn71.450.714.512.745.7
Shaun NoriegaSo Fla40.752.71.815.024.4
Brandon TricheCuse71.650.04.319.930.6
Mouphtaou YarouNova60.149.813.416.057.2
Cashmere WrightNati63.348.31.322.947.9
Travon WoodallPitt53.842.91.321.344.0
Dominic CheekNova46.943.67.515.228.0

With something of a break out season in 2011 (offensive efficiency if not offensive role), Alex Oriakhi will most definitely make more than a few Break Out/Watch lists in the next two months. Kemba Walker has moved on to the NBA (if the lock out ever ends...), so the scoring should be a bit more distributed throughout the Husky squad. Entering freshman Andre Drummond might be grabbing headlines, but don't be fooled, credible talk of a repeat National Championship will rest far, far more on the shoulders of Oriakhi, Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier. The hottest seat in the Big East going into this season has to belong to South Florida's head coach Stan Heath. Shaun Noriega joined an off guard rotation that included JUCOs Jawanza Poland, Hugh Robertson and Shedrick Haynes that scrambled to replace the large scoring gap created with the departure of Dominic Jones. The Bulls' revolving door continues as Haynes left at the end of the season. Though Poland took most of the minutes, Noriega, with his 37% three point conversion rate, carved a role for himself on the perimeter. Poland's numbers were not that impressive, so the opening is there, if the local star (Noriega graduated North Port HS, about 85 miles south of the Tampa-based USF campus) can step up his defense and convert more consistently from inside the arc. Bringing in Lance Stephenson for a single season back in 2010 was costly to some of the other players on the roster. To make room for Stephenson, the Bearcats had to shift Rashad Bishop and Dion Dixon around, a move that Bishop in particular had difficulty with (he was suspended near the end of the 2010 season and not re-instated until late August 2010, in time for Cincinnati's exhibition tour in Canada). One of the other casualties (by indirection) was Cashmire Wright. The red shirt freshman (missed the 2009 season with an ACL) would have formed a back court rotation with then-senior Deonta Vaughn and Sean Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick took a red shirt and Wright played more back up to Vaughn, rather than in tandem with Vaughn. The point was pushed a bit by Kirkpatrick in 2011, but managed to up his minutes, offensive rating, assist rate and shot efficiency even shot rate stalled. Note his possession rate was well within the 95% certainty area (ie, he did not push the envelop) even though Vaughn graduated and Stephenson moved off to the NBA. Wright's role (possession and shot rates) should "grow" another 1-3% next season.

Dante TaylorPitt4.317.54.90.5
Hollis ThompsonGTown6.
Alex OriakhiUConn2.518.25.60.8
Shaun NoriegaSo Fla6.
Brandon TricheCuse18.
Mouphtaou YarouNova3.420.74.71.1
Cashmere WrightNati31.
Travon WoodallPitt28.610.50.32.2
Dominic CheekNova7.

Coming off of a promising freshman year, expectations were sky-high for Dominic Cheek. The rising junior's sophomore season mirrored the team's...unfortunately. Losing senior Corey Stokes left a large opening for Cheek to step into, albeit a year early. Cheek had difficulty, reflected in the decline of his offensive and shot efficiencies. The team as a whole struggled as well. Mouphtaou Yarou by cotrast, struggled his freshman season. Sidelined with a touch of Hepatitis B, the then-freshman did not get back into the lineup until the eve of February, more than half a season later than hoped for. His minutes and role grew in 2011, but his offensive rating and shot efficiency (eFG%) took a hit -- greater visibility draws greater (defensive) attention. Both are keys to the Wildcats' prospects in 2012. If they develop the Nova Nation should be happy with the results. Both Cheek and Yarou, along with point guard Maalik Wayns, were scoring leaders for Villanova on their European Tour this summer. Cheek in particular took a large portion of the shots (29.2%) while managing to convert very efficiently, highlighed by a 34 point outing versus the Israeli National Team. Yarou continued to dominate on the boards even as he stepped up his scoring, a good sign despite the Wildcats' disappointing 1-4 tour record. Syracuse had a tremendous year in 2010, despite losing some 2+ year mainstays in the program. The success of 2010 obscured the lingering problems at point guard, one of the starting position left up for grabs with the departure of Jonny Flynn. Coach Beoheim claimed that Brandon Triche would step in and the Orange would not lose a beat. And indeed in 2010 that appeared to be true, though in truth it was more "point by committee", with Andy Rautins and a brace of wing/front court players setting the table for each other. Oh, and Scoop Jardine, who after a red shirt year returned with what appears to be a more determined inclination to fit into Boeheim's system. 2011 brought Dion Waiters, a talented (if edgy) addition to the back court who was supposed to push Trich (and Jardine) for time at the point. Triche nevertheless improved his minutes, possession and shot rates (even if his efficiency numbers went sideways). Triche will likely not be pushed aside by wings Trevor Cooney or Michael Carter-Willliams (Waiters and Jardine, hampered with some bad habits may not fair as well). Like Woodall and Wright, Triche will probably have a solid season that will see his role within the Orange offense grow (but not explode). He should be a reliable and consistent (and "Major"?) contributor/leader going into his senior season.

What About...?
Marquette's big center, Chris Otule has the requisite minutes and efficiency for this list, but the rising junior (though I am a Buzz Williams fan) finds himself in a program that relies on speed and mobility to score. For Otule to carve a larger role for himself the guards would have to stop long enough to attempt low post entry passes, and I am not sure that play is in the Marquette playbook. He was not a dominant enough defensive rebounder (very good offensive rebounding numbers though) to motivate his coach to define an offensive role (beyond rebound and put back) for him. By season's end Otule was being pushed hard by freshman Devante Gardiner, a 6-9 low post player with a more polished offensive repertoire. Vincent Council (& Duke Mondy), Bilal Dixon (& Kadeem Batts) are members of that large Providence class recruited by Keno Davis in his second season. Davis is gone, and with the changeover to Ed Cooley, expect a lower tempo, more inside scoring and a larger emphasis on defense. That should benefit Batts and Dixon, two wing/forwards (think Fairfield's front court pair Anthony Johnson and Mike Evanovich here). Cooley may, however, choose to stay with the guard/outside oriented, high tempo offense run by Davis (and Tim Welsh before Davis), which should translate into more touches/shots for Council and/or Mondy.

Hits and Misses...Last Season's "Rising Juniors"
Kevin Jones had a great season and made the All Big East Honorable Mention team. Darius Johnson-Odom was named to the All Conference Second Team while Kris Joseph made the All-Conference Third Team. Cincinnati's bfc Yancy Gates led the team in minutes played, points scored (tied with Dion Dixon), rebounds and blocked shots. Gates was invited to tryout for the World University Games men's squad in July. Point guard Darryl Bryant saw his minutes hold steady even as his role in the Mountaineer offense grew marginally. His efficiency dropped slightly (though he maintained a top 500 standing on assists) as increasingly it seems he will become a volume scorer. The same can be said of Jordan Theordore. The Hall's point saw his minutes and offensive role grow, but his efficiency crashed (too many turnovers) even has his scoring efficiency did not improve. Theodore and Bryant will return to lead their teams for one more season. Among the front court players, Gus Gilchrist, Jeff Robinson, Kris Joseph and Terrence Jenningsall saw their minutes grow dramatically. Gilchrist became a "Go-to Guy" for the offense-challenged Bulls, but saw his offensive efficiency crash, a very common outcome when a player's role expands beyond the "Role Player" level. As the individual becomes more visible offensively, he also draws more defensive attention. Joseph was on everyone's "break out candidate" short list. And though the small forward saw his minutes and role in the offense grow even as he maintained relatively efficient shot conversion, his offensive efficiency decline modestly (111 down to 108). Robinson's minutes may have increased, but his role with respect to the team did not. Eligiblity exhausted, he left the program at the end of the 2011 season. Jennings was a well-regarded recruit when he joined the Cardinals in 2009 as part of a class that included Samardo Samuels. Even though many regarded the bfc as equivalent to Samuels, his inability to win more playing time from Samuels, or produce consistently enough to allow Coach Pitino to entertain Twin Tower schemes, Jennings remained firmly behind Samuels on the depth chart until the (then sophomore) jumped to the NBA in 2010. Though his role grew minimally (high-end role player to low-end major contributor), his efficiency declined, and as an appropo ending to a head scratching career at Louisville, the junior (against all advice...) jumped into the NBA draft. And went undrafted.

Thoughts on Villanova's Big East Schedule

The Big East unveiled the composite conference schedule this afternoon, just after releasing the conference television schedule.

DateOpponentH/A DayTV
28-DecWest VirginiaAWed.
1-Jan Marquette A Sun ESPNU
5-Jan South Florida H Thur
8-JanDePaul H Sun
11-Jan Syracuse H Wed. ESPN2
14-Jan Cincinnati A Sat
18-Jan Seton Hall H Wed. ESPNU
21-Jan St. John's A Sat ESPNU
25-Jan Louisville A Wed. ESPN
28-Jan Marquette H Sat ESPN/ESPN2
5-Feb Pittsburgh A Sun ESPN
7-Feb Providence H Tues
15-Feb South Florida A Wed. ESPN/ESPN2
18-Feb Notre Dame H Sat ESPNU
20-Feb Connecticut H Mon ESPN
25-Feb Georgetown A Sat CBS
1-Mar Rutgers A Mon ESPN/ESPN2
3-Mar Cincinnati H Wed. ESPN/ESPN2

The Good...
1. The Wildcats play a bit more than half of their schedule before February 1. Given how unkind February has been the past two seasons, that might be a blessing. In particular Villanova plays only three games in the first two weeks of that month.
2. Taking Notre Dame and Connecticut at home at the end of February should be good news, especially if the 'Cats are playing confidently. I suspect the Wildcats and Irish will be competing for the same seed in the Big East Tournament (and hopefully a Dance bid). I should be good to have the home court advantage under those circumstances.
3. 12 of Villanova's 18 conference games will be carried by an ESPN outlet or by CBS.

The Bad...
1. The Wildcats have three "extended" road trips of two games each. They may be spaced "symmetrically", at the beginning, near the middle and at the end, of the conference season, but that is hardly compensation for getting three of them.
2. Drawing St. John's in late January could prove to be a case of bad timing. The Johnnies will put a very inexperienced squad on the court next season. By mid/late January the freshmen should be "getting it", and still be fresh enough to take down some big names. I would have rather seen the 'Cats draw them early (late December/early January) before they acclimate to Coach Lavin's system, or late (late February/early March) when Freshman Fatigue has set in.
3. President's Day with Connecticut again? This is becoming a tradition. Unfortunately for Villanova, Connecticut has consistently gotten the better of the 'Cats on that day.

The Ugly...
1.Villanova has not had a lot of success when they start the conference season on the road. This season is especially unhelpful given the opponents are West Virginia and Marquette, two teams that will most likely compete with Villanova for spots in the top half of the conference. The Wildcats could very well start the Big East season staring up from an 0-2 hole.
2. The second extended road trip takes Villanova to St. John's first, then Louisville. As offered earlier, the Johnnies is scheduled into the one spot in the season when Lavin's Young Guns will most likely be hot. This could turn into the second o'fer road trip of the season.
3. Playing a road game at Rutgers. Not my favorite venue, especially after the collapse in Piscataway last season. I would much rather have seen this game rotated "back home" to the Pavilion this season. Coming as the second game, after Georgetown, in the Wildcats' last extended road trip is even worse. Those are two very "losable" games. The timing and sequence could make this very bad...and possibly the third o'fer road trip of the season.

Traditionally the key to a 0.500 or better conference season starts at home, the home team has to dominate. If the team harbors any hope of a better than 0.500 record, then they have to accumulate a winning record on the road. And it should be better than 5-4. Three difficult two game road trips could put the 'Cats in an 0-6 hole. Ouch.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Signs of the Off Season 2011-05 -- ESPN Feeds the Basketball Jones

Break Out Your Track Shoes, We Are Running a Marathon
Irene dominated the headlines going into the weekend, but thanks to the basketball-focused crew at Rush the Court, ESPN's Friday release of a preliminary Marathon Day lineup and schedule did not go completely unnoticed. The Marathon is scheduled for Tuesday November 15 and will include 19 NCAA Division 1 games (17 men and two women), to be broadcast over four outlets (ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU), over (at least) a 25 hour period. In addition the World Wide Leader promises a one hour "College GameDay" to be broadcast at 6pm, as the teaser to the feature games, Duke vs. Michigan State (at 7pm) and Kentucky vs Kansas (at 9pm).

In keeping with the tradition, ESPN will kick off the basketball festival with a midnight game, this year's honors going to Washington State and Gonzaga (the second consecutive marathon in which a West Coast Conference team opens against a BCS conference team), which will be followed by eight consecutive games, all broadcast on ESPN and The games will suspend for the season's first "Game Day" feature. To capitalize on the prime time slots, the WWW will resume at 7:00pm with (at least) five more games distributed via their ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU outlets, each to begin at the top of the hour. The action begins at midnight 11/15 with a PAC-12/WCC matchup on the West Coast. St. Mary's makes the marathon for the second consecutive year, though in a less desirable 2am slot, as the Gaels play Northern Iowa of the Missouri Valley Conference. The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors make their annual appearance at 4am when they host South Alabama of the Sun Belt Conference, before the coverage moves to the East Coast to pick up the Drexel (CAA) versus Rider (MAAC) game at 6am.

Winners & Losers
The womens' game is a big winner with two games carried on the secondary outlets in the late afternoon hours. Leading off the women's slate is a Louisville-Texas A&M game at 4pm, followed by the second game, which will overlap the Game Day feature on ESPN. The Tennessee-Miami game should draw a fair amount of attention, as Tennessee's Pat Summitt will coach her first regular season game on the heels of her diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

ESPN-sponsored early season invitationals -- should be a big winner. ESPN has invested heavily in the November (Thanksgiving-based) early season invitational tournaments, and the preliminary (campus-based) rounds for those tournaments have been fodder for the marathon feeding frenzy, with a handful of made-for-tv matchups in the prime-time slots. While ESPN has often gone to the non-BCS conferences for opponents (versus BCS opponents) to fill the off-hours slots, this marathon seems to rely heavily on the ESPN-sponsored invitationals, as the network will showcase seven of the preliminary games in the CBE Classic, the NIT Tip-Off, EA Sports Maui Invitational and the Legends Classic. The NIT Tip-Off will show four games alone. Those early season invitationals should get a good deal of free publicity during the games. If that does not boost ticket sales, it will at least put those teams in front of the public and media. In addition to the invitationals, ESPN has also put together three made-for-tv matchups using State Farm as the sponsor.Those three games straddle the primetime viewing slots and feature perennial powers Duke, Florida, Kentucky and Kansas (men) along with Miami and Tennessee (women).

The BCS Conferences -- setting aside the women's games for a moment, the "conference count" based on ESPN's announcement...

Big XII4Baylor, Kansas, Ok St., Texas
Pac-123Cal. Stanford, Wash St.
ACC2Duke, Va. Tech
Big Ten2Mich. St., Ohio State
Big East2Syracuse, WVU
SEC2Florida, Kentucky
West Coast2Gonzaga, St. Mary's
Ohio Valley2Austin Peay, Morehead St.
Atlantic 101Rhode Island
Mount. West1San Diego St.
Missouri Valley1No. Iowa
West. Athl.1Hawaii
Sun Belt1So. Alabama
Atl. Sun1Belmont
Southern1Coll. of Charleston
MAC1Kent St.
SWAC1Ark. Pine Bluff
TBDs3Opponents unannounced

If the Atlantic Coast Conference, the SEC (or the Big East for that matter) did not get many teams in the marathon, at least Duke pulled a prime-time slot on ESPN. Kentucky and Florida kick off in prime-time, with the Wildcats on ESPN and the Gators on ESPN2. Syracuse on the other hand will televise on with an unannounced opponent and unknown time slot. Three opponents, all in the early season invitational field, were not announced Friday.

California, Tennessee & Kentucky -- California placed four teams in the marathon field while the Volunteer and Blue Grass states had three apiece. Of the other 47 states, Ohio and Washington supplied two teams apiece, while 28 states have no team in the field. Notable exclusions among the states...Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, Arizona and Maryland.

Northeastern Basketball -- appears to be one of the losers this time around. While the northeast pulled down the 6am slot again (Drexel at Rider -- will Ray Floriani be able to get to Rider that early?), the marathon moves south and west for the 8am and 10am games. Drexel is the only major city-based team in the northeast corredore (Boston-New York City-Philadelphia-Baltimore-Washington DC) to place a team in the marathon. Four northeast teams, Rider (6am versus Drexel), West Virginia (10am) Rhode Island (4pm from Texas) and Syracuse (TBD), in addition to Drexel, made the marathon field.

World University Games Wrap Part 2 -- The Teams

Final Standings & Some Possession-Based Stats
After looking at the final standings Monday night and reading a few day-after reactions, I decided to go back and process the boxscores for the teams that made it through to the quarter final round. This tournament divided the pool of team (23 total) into four groups of six each, with the intent that the teams within each assigned group would play five games, round robin style, to determine which of the three "second round" groups each team will be assigned. The first eight (two from each group) will play for positions 1 - 8, the next eight (again, two from each group) play for positions 9 - 15, the bottom two from each group will play for ranks 17 - 24. The teams then play three additional rounds to determine place/classification. Unlike the round robin format of the preliminary round, the second round pits winners versus winners and losers versus losers. After a team dropped out of the competition (before the start of play), the five remaining teams in Group B played a four game round robin, then divided (with a single team sent into the last group ). The usual quota of paradoxes and quirks surface when Team USA competes in a tournament with this particular format...


In addition to the usual wins/losses/winning percentages, I treated the eight teams that made the quarterfinal (and subsequent classification) round as a mini-conference and tracked their offensive and defensive efficiency and Oliver's four factors (see below) for both offense and defense, along with pace, (that is, possessions per 40 minutes) only in the games they played among themselves. This was typically four games, (admittedly not a large sample) the three played in the medal rounds and the one game played each group's #1 seed played with that group's #2 seed as part of the preliminary, round robin phase. In FISU (and FIBA) tournaments, wins and losses (and winning percentage) do not necessarily track with the place finishes. And this World University Game Tournament was no exception. Some of the oddities persist for the USA teams selected to compete in FIBA/FISU international tournaments.

On Offense...

Serbia, 2009 WUG Tournament winner repeated in Shenzhen, taking the gold in a run that also included a single loss. This time, the Serbs lost their second game (on August 14, 2011), a a three point, 67-70 affair with the Canadians, their Group B #2 seed. Group B had only five teams in their bracket, which explains why Team Serbia and Team Canada played eight, rather than nine, games in the tournament. After losing to Team Canada, the Serbs ran off two consecutive wins to finish secure the #1 seed in Group B, and then swept the three medal rounds games, facing Team Canada a second time, and winning 68-55, to secure the #1 rank in the tournament field, and the gold medal.

Team USA ran off five straight wins to sweep their Group D opponents, but (like their U19 compatriots in July's U19 World Championships) dropped a two point quarter final decision and finished with two wins to secure fifth place. Again, losing in the quarter finals made all the difference, as that play began the elimination phase of the tournament.

On Defense...

Looking at Team USA's four factors, this American squad posted strong, but not dominate numbers relative to the four teams that finished above them in the rankings. Comparing the overall shooting efficiency, turnover rate, offensive rebound and free throw rate to those posted in the Lithuania game, suggests where the Americans had greater difficulty in dealing with the Group C #2 seed. The American squad posted a dismal 38.1% shot efficiency versus Lithuania, coupled with an offensive rebounding rate of 26.7%, both well off their offensive numbers for the other medal opponent games. The game and boxscores identified Darius Miller with three fiest half fouls, while the Greens, Draymond and JayMychal, along with Trevor Mbakwe had four apiece by the end of the game. Lacking the consistent inside presence afforded by Mbakwe and JayMychal Green, the Americans continued to attempt three point shots, even though they compiled an abysmal 0-14 conversion rate in the second half. Draymond Green picked up two first half fouls, while Mbakwe and JayMychal Green picked up three apiece in the second half. A decimated front court, coupled with moving the offense to the outside (30 of the 67 FGAs attempted -- 44.8% of the American's total FGAs -- was far beyond the usual 31% recorded for the tournament) translated into a lower shot conversion rate and far fewer offensive rebounds.

X's & O's or Jimmys & Joes (part 2)?
The analysis/commentary that followed the U19 World Championship 5th place finish focused on squad experience ("lacked it"), the selection and development process ("star-oriented" and "not long enough to build a team"). Common sense (ie common knowledge) can betray us sometimes, as the tables above suggests the problem was not lack of offensive/defensive efficiency (signs of team cohesion) or offense/defense lack of production. The successes of U16/U17 Coach Don Showalter and Olympic coach Mike Krzyzewski suggest, continuity of the squad may be a bit less important than continuity of the coaching staff. A table of the last four WUG teams built using the tryout approach.


The staff this time around was very talented, Matt Painter of Purude, assisted by Brad Stevens (Butler) and Cuonzo Martin (Missouri State, Tennessee), but also the least experienced (years of head coaching experience) of the decade. Painter's seven years (six at Purdue and one at Southern Illinois) is actually half of the staff's total. While the coaches do not take the shots nor grab the rebounds, they do design the game plans and prepare the team to play. Does the string of "one game lapses" in the U18, U19 and WUG tournaments suggest a "slide to mediocrity" as some have suggested, or problems with oppposition scouting and game planning?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

World University Games Wrap Part 1 -- The Players

Some Possession-Based Stats
I have been processing Team USA's boxscores throughout the tournament, but just got around to formatting the possession-based stats...

D GreenMich St.43.828.
J Green'Bama39.732.723.670.91.4265.5

The Min% suggest that Ashton Gibbs, John Jenkins, Trevor Mbakwe, Orlando Johnson and Darius Miller formed the nucleus of the squad. Those five started all but one of the tournament games -- not to mention the single exhibition game they played pre-tournament -- and Gibbs, Jenkins and Mbakwe got many of the touches (see Poss% above) when they were on the court. Coach Matt Painter employed something of a Bo Ryan platoon system with the result that none of the players logged more than 54% of the minutes at his position (Gibbs), and most logged between 39% and 49% of the available time. USA international teams, made up as they are of "all stars" invited to tryout and selected during the process, tend to use larger rotations (10, 11 sometimes more players -- see the distribution of Min%), but the academic teams these players are drawn from and the international teams they face rarely go beyond the first 7-9 players. Team USA's coaching staff played 11 of the 12 squad memebers in every game. The (single) player who did not appear in every game did log minutes in six of Team USA's eight tournament games, including the finale versus Germany (a tight three point win).

The team's offense went through (see Shot% above) Jenkins (no surprise), JayMychal Green, Gibbs (again no surprise) and Draymond Green, each of whom would be classified as a Significant or Major Contributor (in the Pomeroy classification system). It is notable that each not only took the shots when he was on the floor, but (check each player's eFG% and PPWS) each also shot efficiently (eFG% >50%) and used their opportunities to put points on the board (PPWS >1.00). Not every player had a terrific tournament offensively (see Rush the Court's "Notes on Player Performance" for names...), but the consolation is that those players had limited roles (<= 20% Shot%). If they weren't hitting, they stopped shooting. Overall Teams USA's offensive efficiency (game 6 versus Lithuania excepted) was outstanding, material for a part 2 post.

A look at the rebounding and several support stats (turnover rate, assist rate), affirms the notion that this WUG team was loaded with talent...

D Green43.814.119.515.214.5
J Green39.718.518.319.15.3

Individual offensive rebounding rates for Mbakwe and the Greens, J. & D. in particular were Top 100 for Division 1. Mbakwe posted similarly dominant numbers on defensive boards as well. In all three players, the Greens and Tim Abormaitis posted "above average" defensive rebounding rates, while even several of the wings/guards (see Orlando Johnson, Darius Miller, Scoop Jardine and Jenkins) posted credible numbers under the opponent's boards. RTC may have been unhappy about assists, but consider that this team contended for a medal less than three weeks after their first tryout, it is difficult to see how the staff could have installed an overly involved offensive scheme.

Outstanding squad, outstanding offensive production...and a fifth place finish. What happened?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dove Entrails, Tea Leaves, Returning Minutes & Scoring...and Pythagoreas

Projectioning the Future by Looking Back?
The Big East conference rosters are still shaking out, but most questions at this point concern entering freshmen, not returning players. The Pythagorean Winning Percentage was employed as an analytic tool by a number of bloggers in the runnup to the 2010 and 2011 seasons with varying degrees of success. The Vegas Watch guys (the previous linked article) kind of winged it after running the numbers, I have used a slightly different approach. I pulled the Pythagorean Winning Percentage (PWP) as computed by Ken Pomeroy, computing the conference-wide average for PWP, and from other sources I pulled the 2011 stats for all players. I then computed averages for (all tracked player stats, among them...) returning minutes & points scored, and then mapped the teams into one of four quadrants based on whether they had an above/below average PWP (overall PWP for the season) and above/below average returning minutes. I performed the same for PWP and returning scoring.

The method was a useful, but hardly a perfect predictor for the 2010 and 2011 seasons. For the curious, click here to see the 2010 chart. [Note -- that chart was current through early August of 2009. After I posted the analysis, Rutgers dismissed Cory Chandler, and removing his 2009 contributions from Rutgers' list of returning minutes remapped the Scarlet Knights into the red quadrant. West Virginia reinstated suspended guards Joe Mazzulla and Truck Bryant before the beginning of Fall Practice. The addition of the two guards' 2009 contributions repositioned West Virginia farther into "the above average" quadrant, reinforcing perceptions that the Mountaineers would be one of the co-favorites to win the conference in 2010.] and here to see the 2011 chart (a quiet preseason for conference roster moves).

Thoughts on the 2010 & 2011 Charts
Of the three squads which mapped into the "above average" quadrant (Above Average PWP, Ret Mins) on the 2010 chart, two -- Georgetown and West Virginia -- logged better 2010 conference records than 2009, posting a net gain of 6 wins. Villanova, the third "green" team, posted the same record record (13-5) and finished #4 again. One team in the "below average" quadrant (Providence) took a giant step back in 2010 (4-14) from their 2009 (10-8) record, while the other, Rutgers, earned two more wins and moved up one spot (#15 to #14) in the conference standings even as the Scarlet Knights sidestepped a crashing Providence.

The quadrants going into the 2011 season showed Pittsburgh, Georgetown and Villanova in the "above average" quadrant. Pitt bettered their already high standings by going 15-3 (2 wins better than 2010). The Hoyas pushed, posting another 10-8 conference record (and an #8 seed in the conference tournament), while the Wildcats took a large step back, posting a -4 conference wins over their 2010 record. All three teams earned NCAA bids in a post season that saw a record 11 Big East teams earn bids. Villanova joined with Notre Dame as the only schools from the "above average" who failed to equal their previous season's performance.

Of the three "below average" quadrant (less than average PWP and less than average returning minutes) teams, South Florida crashed as suggested, posting -6 conference wins from 2010 to 2011. Rutgers replaced their coach, and made no progress (granted it was a more difficult go in conference play), earning an identical 5-13 record and #13 seed, while Providence also held steady with a 4-14 record and #14 finish. The Friars fired their coach at the end of the season.

Among the programs with winning PWPs, but below average returning minutes (there were six teams), Syracuse, West Virginia and Marquette gave back wins, between them seven total, while Notre Dame, Connecticut and Louisville gained wins -- seven actually (no attempt here to suggest a correlation between the two groups) -- with the Irish producing the biggest gain with 4 wins, but the Huskies won the war, taking the National Championship even though they finished #9 in the conference. Of the four teams that plotted into the "low PWP/high Ret. Minutes" quadrant, St. John's fired their coach and improved dramatically (+6 wins), DePaul fired their coach and had a push (one win each of the 2010 & 2011 seasons). Seton Hall fired their coach and lost ground (-2 wins over 2010), while Cincinnati did not fire their coach and picked up 4 wins (chemistry and maturity perhaps?).

The conference average for returning minutes is down from last season (56% from 62%), as is the PWP (82% down to 66% -- additional evidence that the conference was more challenging last season?); If the PWP drop is predictive, the 2012 edition of the Big East will be a bit easier than the 2011 edition, whether the 2012 mid/end of season aerials will show a different, a greater distribution of teams to the "high or low" quadrants...take with a grain of salt. Out of curiosity, I decided to plot the teams using Pythagorean Winning Percentage (PWP -- overall again) and scoring, that is, percentage of returning points. Of the 16 teams plotted, only one (Connecticut) mapped to a different quadrant..."The Value of Kemba Walker"?

Hints About 2012
If the trend for teams in the upper right quadrant (Villanova and Notre Dame excepted) is an improved (or at worst, the same) record over the previous season, the six teams (a very large number for that quadrant, by the way) are in for a collective good year. Indeed, that Pitt, Louisville, Cincinnati and Syracuse are on track for good seasons does not contradict the consensus of preseason projections so far. Marquette and UConn are surprises...for only a moment. Buzz Williams has been consistently under valued by the press and fans from schools other than Marquette. I expect the Warriors will earn another NCAA bid next March, marking every year in Williams' tenure that they have danced. Despite some early off season waffling from Coach Jim Calhoun, the coach with the conference's second longest tenure will be back for his 26th season. If last season's run to the National Championship rekindled the coach's enthusiasm, the recent retirement of Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway did nothing to dampen it. The loss of Kemba Walker noted, Jeremy Lamb's performance in the U19 World Championship Tournament in July should give UConn fans reason to believe their team will have scorers to step in.

Rutgers and Seton Hall have mapped to the lower left (below average) quadrant. If the trend (Rutgers in 2010 excepted) holds, those two will continue to struggle in the conference's lower division (if not the bottom quartile) for another season. What to make of St. John's and Georgetown? Villanova's season-ending swoons in 2010 and 2011 caught most of the media (and fan) attention. Few beyond the Hoya Faithful have noticed that Georgetown suffered through a 5-6 ending in 2010 that included a first round loss in the NCAA Tournament, and that 2011's end was an even more disheartening 1-6 skid that included a first round NCAA exit for the second consecutive post season. The Johnnies' remarkable Big East season cloud the memories of the struggles in Coach Lavin's earliest days as the Red Storm mentor. The veteran coach had an experienced and very hungry group of seniors to work with, a luxury he won't have in 2012. Late 2011 post game pressers touched repeatedly on prospects in the year after Dwight Hardy and DJ Kennedy, and even the coach acknowleged 2012 would be one long learning curve. Mid/late conference season may be an interesting time for Red Storm fans, but the early parts of 2012 will probably have a few hard-to-watch affairs.

Programs in the "Above/Below" Quadrants
How does Notre Dame, which has mapped into the below average for returning minutes continue to maintain an above average PWP? Coach Mike Brey seems to have a constant stream of transfers to mix with red shirts and true freshmen nearly every season. Ben Hansbrough, Scott Martin and (eligible in 2013) Garrick Sherman out of Michigan State. While a few schools have been adverse to accepting transfers (not to mention JUCOs), having an experienced player practice for two semesters with the squad (even though they have less eligibility than a true freshman) before taking the court can give the squad a strong replacement with no noticible on-the-court learning curve. Although the 12 programs mapped into the lower right quadrant (below average returning minutes, above average PWP) in the 2010 and 2011 seasons have fared well in conference play, which may bring comfort to members of the Nova Nation and fans of the Mountaineers. Both must replace minutes and scoring from classes graduated in 2011. While West Virginia can count on rising seniors and a steady supply of transfers and JUCOs to fill out the squad. Villanova however, has a squad heavy with juniors and freshmen, and on the heels of last season's late season struggles, may find it harder to maintain a winning program in 2012.

The upper left quadrant has been something of a coach's coffin corner. Of the six programs that mapped to that quadrant in 2010 and/or 2011, four were about to replace, or had just replaced their head coaches. Cincinnati's Mick Cronin dodged that bullet, but will South Florida's Stan Heath escape a second time (the Bulls were there in 2010)? Providence has mapped into the quadrant in 2012, but the Friars replaced Keno Davis in the 2011 off season, which means five of the seven programs to map there have replaced their coaches since 2009.

Things We Know We Don't Know
Villanova and Georgetown's experiences in 2010 and 2011 suggest that chemistry may be undervalued when looking at a stats-based projection. Fans overvalue the impact of incoming freshmen, and the media does too, but with virtually no statistical history with the team, freshmen are ignored in these charts -- immunizing these charts from the hype. Yes there are impact freshmen (Carmelo Anthony, Luke Harangody, DeJuan Blair), but enough to affect more than one or two conference teams in a season? I feel largely the same about JUCOs, though they do bring more collegiate-level experience with them, they tend to play support, rather than impact roles, for any destination team. Maybe this season, with St. John's having immediate need roles for Nurideen Lindsey and God’s Gift Achiuwa (having lost over 95% of their minutes from 2011...), those two may have an impact approaching the level fans anticipate annually in other programs. Properly assessing the value of transfers however, has proven to be the bigger challenge. Unlike the true freshmen and JUCOs -- most recognize (on some level) they have a learning curve to overcome -- the impact of red shirt freshmen and transfers are unrepresented by charts like the ones used here over the past three off seasons. Those players often find their way into the regular rotation early, because the coaching staff has had a year to observe and work with the player. Coaches develop confidence in the player which is not measured/reflected in a statistical database. Teams this season that will put potential impact transfers out on the floor include South Florida (Victor Rudd) and Marquette (Jamil Wilson -- Buzz Williams again).

Monday, August 22, 2011

World University Games 2011 -- USA Beats Germany, Takes 5th Place

USA 86-83 Germany
Team USA earned it's sixth win of the World University Games tournament and secured fifth place with a three point win over Team Germany, 86-83 in Shenzhen University's Luohu Gym. A switch to Ashton Gibbs, John Jenkins, Orlando Johnson, Darius Miller and Trevor Mbakwe, the starting five used through much of the tournament, brought a slow start for the Americans. Though they built a four point lead (12-8) in the early moments of the first quarter, the Germans secured a narrow two point lead (21-19) by the end of the quarter, a lead they yielded -- temporarily -- six and a half minutes into the second quarter. Jenkins personal five point outburst gave the Americans a four point lead, but the Germans bounced back with a 7-2 run on field goals by guards Bastian Doreth (3 points) & Karsten Tadda (2 points) and forward Johannes Lischka (2 points) to take a one point lead, 41-40, into the intermission.

The lead see-sawed between the Germans and Americans until a Dray Green free throw put Team USA on top for good, 48-47 four and a half minutes into the third quarter. Though the margin varied from one to 12 points over the next 15 minutes, the Americans kept the Germans away and perserved an 86-83 score to secure fifth place. The score by quarters...


German forward Johannes Simon Lischka scored a game-high 28 points on 11-20 (2-4, 9-16) shooting from the court and 4-7 from the line. The German back court trio of Doreth (12 points), Tadda (10 points) and Nicolai Simon (10 points) chipped in double digit points. Trevor Mbakwe's 21 points on 7-9 (0-0, 7-9) shooting from the field and 7-9 shooting from the line, paced the Americans. Jenkins (15 points), JayMychal Green (12 points) and Gibbs (11 points) all supported Mbakwe with 10 or more points. Mbakwe posted a game-high eight rebounds even as the Greens, J & D supported with six rebounds apiece. German forward Andreas Seiferth notched six rebounds to lead the German team.

The possession-based breakdown suggests this was hardly a defensive struggle...

Team USA77.31.1152.322.
Team Germany1.0754.520.725.

The offensive efficiency numbers, eFG%, turnover rate, and free throw rate (FTA/FGA) are all very close, but Germany "won" every one of those battles. The difference was rebounding. The Americans' offensive rebounding rate (41.0%) was decidedly better than the Germans (25.0%), and yielded Team USA with eight more (64 vs 58) field goal attempts. The additional field goal attempts gave the Americans three more made field goals than the Germans (the Germans got some -- but not all -- of those points back at the line).

Additional Reading
USA Basketball posted a game recap on their website, along with a box score and post game quotes.

Rising Seniors -- Eight to Watch

What I Am Looking For
Last March's "All-Big East'rs" Ashton Gibbs, Darius Odom-Johnson and Kris Joseph won't make this list. Neither will Kevin Jones or Tim Abromaitis. Everybody knows them, and everyone will have them on their "Best in" or "Top" list in the next two and a half months. The Big East coaches and AP writers will vote them to a variety of "All" preseason teams. They have already been a bullet on ESPN's "Keys to the Game" pre-game analysis, and will probably continue their bullet status this season. They made their marks during their freshmen or sophomore or junior seasons. Those "name" guys decided to come back and most will reap the rewards of returning to finish their education and eligibility. But every season a Hilton Armstrong, or an Andy Rautins, a Jon Wallace or a Dante Cunningham lands in the national press (and picks up a post season Big East award or two) seemingly out of nowhere. Invisible to many except their team's fans, these seniors tend to start somewhere back in that freshman pack, or labor in the vinyards of a low ranking team, but unlike their classmates, they (and their team?) improve quietly every season. By Pomeroy's classification system they may start as a "Role", "Limited Role" or even "Invisible" player, and grow into a "Major" player or "Go-to Guy" over the course of their four years. Pomeroy discusses growth "probabilities" in "Putting Individual Efficiency into Perspective" over at The Basketball Prospectus in 2007. These guys tend to push at the upper limit of their growth curve each season. The Jon Wallaces and Orinze Onuakus -- are drawing a good share of the minutes at their position going into their senior seasons and they are drawing somewhere between 18% - 20% of the possessions when they are on the floor. They may lurk off the MSM's radar, but their coaches and teammates know who they are, look for them on the floor...and trust them with the ball.

On Offense...
Jae CrowderMU68.8120.119.822.61.13
Dion Dixon'Nati66.8112.722.424.61.08
Chris Smith'Ville63.8110.019.718.91.12
Yancy Gates'Nati67.2108.822.924.31.07
Jason ClarkGTown76.1107.420.522.11.20
Nasir RobinsonPitt54.8103.521.920.51.10
Scott MartinNDU73.0101.018.520.11.03
Jordan TheodoreHall75.098.622.820.31.05

Dion Dixon fits the profile, each season (except for Lance Stevenson's single year in the Queen City...) his role with the Bearcats has grown. Securing 22.4% of the possessions and just under a quarter of the shots last season should have put Dixon on an "All" team if not for a slew of seniors (with better name recognition?) ahead of him in line. And also a Bearcat or two who drew conference and media attention. For Cincinnati to rub shoulders with the conference elites (seeds #1-#4) in 2012, Dixon and Gates (and rising sophomre Sean Kirkpatrick along with a few others...) will have to have very good seasons. And while we are in southeastern Ohio, Yancy Gates is another name that will appear on a preseason list or two. Gates, whose self-made demons held him back for a couple of seasons made significant strides last season. This time around the forward/center should do even better. vbtn is firmly in the pro-Gates Line this preseason. Marquette's Jae Crowder is another Buzz Williams JUCO/transfer the fourth year coach has a habit of pulling out of thin air (or so it seems). Two seasons of conference play may not be enough to turn heads among the conference's large media following, but every one of Marquette's conference opponents know they will have to account for him in their gameplans. Given Coach Pitino's penchant for stockpiling players are certain positions, Chris Smith has been victimized a bit by competition with rising junior Mike Mara and fellow rising senior Kyle Kuric. If Smith, whose shot and possession rates (Shot% & Poss%) are on the high side of "role player" will probably need more playing time and opportunities to score to grow into a major contributor or significant contributor level player. Preston Knowles is gone, but freshman Wayne Blackshear will press him for playing time at the #2. .

Four Factors...
Jae CrowderMU68.854.99.58.638.3
Dion Dixon'Nati66.849.
Chris Smith'Ville63.853.46.718.933.6
Yancy Gates'Nati67.251.79.312.742.0
Jason ClarkGTown76.157.24.721.025.9
Nasir RobinsonPitt54.854.89.519.854.3
Scott MartinNDU73.
Jordan TheodoreHall75.047.52.622.433.6

An offensive rebounding rate of 9.3 and higher is a Top 500 ranking per Ken Pomeroy -- Gates, Crowder and Pittusburgh's small forward Nasir Robinsin are reasons their teams rank in the upper half of the conference for rebounding. Robinson's offensive rating is hurt by his turnovers (and lack of playing time due to an absent three point shot?) a byproduct of his close-to-the-basket play, but with more mobile front court mates and versatile forwards, Robinson should see more time this season. Crowder's and Gate's lack of turnovers, despite their play in the front court is encouraging, especially when considered with their offensive rebounding, each presents some strong scoring opportunities for their teams. For Jordan Theodore to garner more favorable recognition in the conference, he will need to dampen his turnover rate, as will Georgetown wing Jason Clark, whose outstanding shot efficiency (eFG% -- 57.2%) is tempered by his tendency to lose the ball.

Jae CrowderMU11.418.73.32.7
Dion Dixon'Nati15.
Chris Smith'Ville18.
Yancy Gates'Nati10.321.15.11.8
Jason ClarkGTown11.711.20.72.9
Nasir RobinsonPitt10.513.70.41.2
Scott MartinNDU12.
Jordan TheodoreHall30.

Scott Martin had to sit a year as a Purdue transfer. The rising senior suffered an injury on the eve of the 2010 season, and came into 2011 off of a two year layover. Though he was rusty last season, as his rebounding suggested, and fitting into a rotation that had Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis available offensively no doubt limited his scoring oppportunities, Scott has another year to condition and as Hansbrough has graduated, should see a larger role in Notre Dame's offense. Theordore's assist rate is impressive and his defensive rebounding rate is not too shabby for a point guard. Now if he can get the turnovers under control and improve his shooting, the Hall will benefit immensely in conference play.

Hits & Misses...Last Year's List
Marshon Brooks exploded offensively and became one of the few bright spots (along with a win over Villanova...) in Providence's otherwise lackluster season. Brooks was named to the All-Big East First Team, along with "vbtn Watch List" mate Dwight Hardy from St. John's (who also took home the Big East's "Most Improved Player" award). Most of the Johnnies' limelight however, shone on "vbtn Watch List" member DJ Kennedy, who hit a runner at the buzzer against Pittsburgh in the Garden that put St. John's back into the Top 25 (and sealed their invitation to the Dance?). A season-ending injury three weeks later sidelined Kennedy and took a bit of wind out of the Red Storm. Rick Jackson and Brad Wannamaker made the All-Big East Second Team, with Jackson earning the "Defensive Player" award and Wannamaker honored with the conference's "Sportsmanship" award. Though Chris Wright was named to the All-Big East Third Team, the Hoyas' season sputtered at the end, giving Wright no opportunities for heriocs. The same can be said for Villanova's Antonio Pena, also named to the "vbtn Watch List". Though the bfc started the entire season, the Wildcats looked in vain for low post offense when their perimeter players were slowed (or sidelined) with nicks and dents. The Wildcats were trapped in a death spiral as the regular season slipped into the post season. Scoop Jardine decided to take all of his eligibility and return for a fifth year. Gilbert Brown had a decent season, though he did not have the breakthrough that fans predicted each of the four seasons he spent with the Panthers. Caught covering Butler's Shawn Vanzant late in their second round game, Brown could not prevent Vanzant's pass to Adam Smith whose bucket put Butler up for good, and sent Pittsburgh home in the first weekend.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

World University Games 2011 -- USA Defeats Romania, Plays Germany for 5th Place

USA 94-73 Romania
A change in the starting five brought a change of fortunes at Shenzhen University Sunday as Team USA posted a 21 point win over fellow quarter final loser Team Romania, and advanced to a showdown with Team Germany for fifth place at the World University Games. Coach Matt Painter turned to Scoop Jardine and Marcus Denmon to man the back court. In the front court Painter decided to go with a three forward set that included Notre Dame's Tim Abromaitis, Draymond Green and JayMychal Green. The change paid dividends as the Americans jumped out to a 12-2 edge in the game's first five minutes. Though the Romanians staged a mini-rally to cut the USA lead to eight by the end of the quarter (20-12), the Americans never looked back, stretching the lead to 18, 47-29, by intermission. The Romanians conceded only three more points to the Americans through the second half, one in the third quarter to yield a 74-55 score, and two more in the fourth quarter, bringing the final tally to 94-73. The score by quarters...


Romanian forward Titus Nicoara paced all scorers with 9-18 (2-4, 7-14) from the court and 2-2 from the line. He recorded a double-double with 10 rebounds (2-8-10) to go with his 22 points. Power forward Vlad Sorin Moldoveanu also logged a double-double, scoring 13 and grabbing 11 rebounds, while guard Rares Andrei Mandache chipped in 18 points. The American had four double digit scorers, paced by Draymond Green's 16 points on 7-10 (2-3, 5-7) shooting from the field. John Jenkins (12 points), JayMychal Green (11 points) and Tim Abromaitis (11 points) also posted more than 10 points. Tevor Mbakwe, J. Green and Abromaitis posted team-high eight rebounds apiece.

The possession-based breakdown suggests things are returning to "normal" for Team USA...

Team USA81.41.1652.019.746.225.329.71.12
Team Romania0.9047.125.835.917.634.50.99

The numbers fall back into the pattern Team USA set in games #1 through #5 -- pace in the low 80s, shooting efficiency in the mid-high 50's, offensive rebounding rate in the high 30's/low 40's, etc. The Romanians offered little defensive resistence, allowing the Americans to post an offensive efficiency above 1.10 points per possesion (ppp), with shooting leading the way, as the PPWS, back above 1.10 where it was for tournament games #1 through #5. Defensively, the Americans held Team Romania to a 0.90 ppp, largely because the Romanians did not shoot efficiently (see their eFG%, 47.1), taking 75% of their FGAs as two point attempts, the Romanians converted at a 45.1% rate. Combining high turnover rates (in Romania's case they lost 25.8% of their possessions, over 1-in-4) which limit scoring opportunities with a poor shot conversion rate doomed the Romanians.

Team USA will face Team Germany, which lost to Serbia, 55-77, in the quarter final round and beat (Group D #2 seed) Finland, 84-63, Sunday, for fifth place in the tournament. The game will be played at 7:00 am (Eastern DST) in Shenzhen University's Luohu Gym on Monday (local day/time). The Americans and Germans share a common opponent -- Finland. The Germans beat the Finns by 21 on Sunday (local day); the Americans beat the Finns by 60 (no, not a typo), 124-64, in their fourth tournament game.

Further Reading
USA Basketball posted a game recap on their website, along with a box score and post game quotes.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

World University Games 2011 -- USA Falls to Lithuania, Plays for 5th Place

USA 74-76 Lithuania
For the second time in less than two months a Lithuanian team eliminated an American team from medal consideration in an international tournament, as the Americans dropped a two point decision, 74-76, to that Baltic Republic in the World University Games held at Shenzhen University earlier today. Team USA took a 2-0 lead on an Ashton Gibbs jumper and remained on top through the first quarter. With Team USA nursing a 15-12 lead in the second quarter, the Lithuanians tied it up at 22 near the quarter's midpoint, but the Americans stretched it back out to five at the intermission, 42-37, on the strength of a 9-5 run in the last 1:49 of the period. Vanderbilt's John Jenkins went 3-3 from beyond the arc to provide all nine of Team USA's points in the last two minutes, salvaging what had been to that point a dismal 1-5 efficiency on three point attempts in the quarter.

The Lithuanians used the intermission to regroup, and came out swinging with a 7-0 run to open the third quarter, taking the lead, 44-42, for the first time in the game. Pressured for the first time in the tournament, the Americans dropped the third quarter by a 28-19 margin, shooting blanks from three point land (0-5), an uncharacteristicly anemic 4-8 from inside the arc and committing three turnovers. An 11-16 performance from the charity striped, coupled with six offensive rebounds kept Team USA in the game. Down by four going into the last quarter, Coach Painter's squad managed to tie once, at 74, in the last 1:55, but a foul by Draymond Green on guard Mantas Kadzevicius put the Lithuanians up by two, 76-74, in what became the final score. Five attempted field goals by the American squad (three 3FGAs & two @FGAs) in the last 1:25 failed to drop, sending Team USA to the Classification round to fight for fifth place. The score by quarters...


Lithuanian wing Gediminas Orelik recorded a game-high 19 points on 6-10 (5-8, 1-2) shooting from the floor and 2-4 from the line. Three other Lithuanians, Marius Valukonis (11 points), Edgaras Stanionis (10 points) and Gediminas Zyle (10 points) scored double digit points.

Team USA was paced by John Jenkins' 17 points on 5-10 (4-9, 1-1) from the field and 3-3 from the line. Ashton Gibbs and JayMychal Green chipped in 16 points and 12 points respectively. Trevor Mbakwe led all rebounders with (4-6-10) 10, while Kadzevicius and Orelik paced the Lithuanians with six apiece.

The possession-based breakdown suggests this was a defensive struggle...

Team USA87.90.8438.126.226.746.347.80.91
Team Lithuania0.8754.227.335.635.667.91.10

The high pace could be attributed to the number of turnovers committed by both teams. Uncharacteristically, the USA team was, third quarter aside, unable to rebound their misses effectively (26.7%), which, combined with an out-of-character 30 three point attempts (44.8% of their FGAs; the USA averaged 19.4 3FGAs in their five previous tournament games), worked to diminish their eFG% to 38.1%, well below their tournament eFG% of 59.4% going into today's game.

With the loss, Team USA will face Team Romania, the #2 seed out of Group A, who lost to Team Canada in quarter final play. The game will be played at 8:30 am (Eastern DST) in Shenzhen University's Luohu Gym.

Further Reading
USA Basketball posted a game recap on their website, along with a box score and post game quotes.