Saturday, March 9, 2013

VCU to Wreak HAVOC in Philadelphia?

The End of a Most Irregular Season
The Media Day buzz was the unusual strength of the Atlantic 10 and the possibilities for at least five (if not more) bids to the NCAA. Charlotte and charter member Temple would take their curtain calls as Butler and Virginia Commonwealth took the measure of their new conference and their future conference mates. What a difference 10 weeks makes. Temple departs to an athletic association that only recently settled on American 12 as their new brand, a shell of the former Big East. The Catholic 7 (nee Big East), having stripped the American 12 of their last vestages of basketball legitimacy, borrow a leaf from the ACC and appear to have raided the Atlantic 10 of two of their more better basketball members...if rumors are to be believed. The conference maker was clearly thinking TV Storyline when he made the last game of the regular season and matchup between the best of the two departing and entering teams. Hosted by the departing team of course.

Does Temple Need this More Than Virginia Commonwealth?
Yes. Like their City Series Mates, the Owls are at the tailend of a roller coaster season that has three of Philadelphia's Big 5 on everyone's "Last Eight" (In or Out) List. Flattened by Duke on a neutral court, they went on to take a baffling loss to Canisius (at home no less) before they bounced back with a win over then #3 Syracuse. They opened their conference schedule with a loss to Xavier and played 0.500 ball in conference before a second baffling (and truly damaging) home loss to Duquesne seemed to get them focused. No more margin for error, the Owls have rattled off six straight to put themselves back on the NCAA bubble and in the hunt for a #3 seed to the Atlantic 10 Tournament next weekend (the scnearios are complicated, see below).

How VCU Can Lose This Game
I am heading down to Philadelphia to cover the Virginia Commonwealth - Temple game tomorrow for another publication, and those who tune in (12:00 noon CBS) might want to keep track of Temple's turnovers. I know I will. Virginia Commonwealth's HAVOC defense works to force turnovers, and the Rams tend to win when the HAVOC is effective. The Rams the best turnover rate in Division I (29.1%) and in Atlantic 10 conference games (about 25%). Following the adage "offense flows from defense", the Rams' ability to convert at the offensive end tends to follow that defensive turnover rate. When they don't force turnovers their shot conversion rate tends to suffer. VCU is 7-5 in the twelve games where their offensive eFG% is less than 50%. But more tellingly, if they cannot force turnovers they tend to lose outright. The Rams are 3-6 in games when their opponents lose less than 25% of their possessions. That includes every loss VCU has taken so far this season, with six of those games coming away from Verizon Wireless Arena (their home court). The Owls tend to value the ball/their possessions, logging the third lowest turnover rate in the conference. But the Owls also do not seem bothered when they do have a relatively sloppy game, as they are 6-0 when they lose 20% or more of their possessions on turnovers (they have never turned over 25% or more of their possessions). The Owls win when their conversion rate (eFG%) is 50.0% or better. The Rans have allowed 50% or better in 15 of their games this season, half of their outings. Stats were gathered from Ken Pomeroy's website. Pomeroy by the way, favors the Rams in this one.

Sorting Out the Seeds
Saint Louis' win over La Salle means the Billikens can do no worse than a tie (with VCU) for the regular season title and a #1 seed in Brooklyn. Virginia Commonwealth gets the #2 seed win or lose versus Temple, with La Salle's seed (#3 or #4) left to the result of the Temple/VCU game. Should Temple beat VCU, the Owls end up in a at least a two way tie with La Salle and a threeway tie should Butler beat Xavier tonight. Tie breakers -- both two with La Salle and three with La Salle and Butler -- favor Temple by virtue of their win over Saint Louis (three way). La Salle would take the #4 seed and Butler plays Thursday with the #5.

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