Big East Hoops

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Questions

January 25, 2009 3:37 am by donald

Connecticut Notre Dame Basketball

From Connecticut’s victory over Notre Dame earlier tonight, a few questions arise:

  1. Was this an impressive UConn victory (its sixth over a ranked opponent — the most in the country), or did they just get lucky because McAlarney couldn’t make anything?
  2. Should Gavin Edwards be starting in place of Hasheem Thabeet?
  3. What exactly happens when Thabeet goes up for a shot? Why does the ball always inevitably pop out of his hands?
  4. Who has the worse looking shot — Luke Harongody or AJ Price?
  5. Was College Gameday crazy today at ND because it was a recruiting day for football, or is basketball really that big there?
  6. How bitter do the guys over at Black and Green sound?

Answers in sentence form, please. Coach O will do the grading…

#1?

December 22, 2008 6:00 pm by Dan'l B

UNC has as firm a hold as you can have on #1 in the voters’ minds, but there’s plenty of statistical rankings that list Big East teams on top. Hopefully this won’t read like a Jayson Stark entry, if you know what I mean. Some of these measures are highly indicative of strengths and weaknesses.

Georgetown

#1 Pythagorean rating belongs to the Hoyas. Believe it or not, UNC is #4 in the Pomeroy ratings, trailing the Hoyas, Zags, and Panthers. The numbers are adjusted for the usual list of everything context related. JTIII has his…

#1 adjusted offense to thank for the highest rating. We’d have a very pedestrian offense (#168 turnover rate, #204 offensive rebound rate) leading the Big East if not for two particularly good skills: the 3rd highest rate of free throws made per field goal attempted and the…

#1 2-point FG%, which translates to their high effective field goal percentage. This is what happens when your offensive game consistently translates into layups and dunks. Not only that, the Hoyas must practice against themselves in practice (duh.). On defense, they do the same two things particularly well: in this case, they avoid fouling the enemy and limit opposing offenses to the…

#1 lowest effective FG% against. Just like on offense, the Hoyas are pedestrian to downright awful elsewhere (#85 turnover rate, #295 offensive rebound rate). If they’d just corral all those missed shots, the Hoyas would be unstoppable on defense.

Pittsburgh

#1 offensive rebounder in the country? He’s probably 7′ 3″ tall, right? Not so much. All 6′ 7″ of Mr. DeJuan Blair currently lead the nation in offensive rebounding rate, and it’s no surprise that he’s Top-10 in defensive rebounding. In fact, by collecting 25.8% of available offensive rebounds, he’d rank in the Top-40 among defensive rebounders. When Pitt is on offense, you should expect Blair to be the most likely rebounder of missed shots. That’s both incredible and, uhh, unsustainable. His ranking is probably sustainable however–only two other players throughout the NCAA clear 20% and both are barely above that. Blair could record zero offensive boards for his next 100 minutes and likely remain #1. As a team, Pitt does nearly everything well, leaving them without any other #1 rankings. The only hole in their game is earning trips to the free throw line (#222) and converting them efficiently (#214).

Connecticut

#1 lowest free throw rate against. UConn has been so good at getting to the line and avoiding fouls that their worst FT rate game–36.1%–was better than their worst FT rate against game–33.3%. Are the Huskies really good at avoiding fouls or too careful and tentative? So far, the overall defensive numbers aren’t very good (only #29 defense). One measure that suggests they’re not aggressive enough is the #300 ranking in turnover rate. Opposing offenses are operating too freely. Perhaps UConn relies too much on their…

#1 tallest center in NCAA basketball, weighted by minutes played. Sitting back and waiting for Thabeet et al to block shots isn’t working well enough unless you’re happy with the #29 defensive efficiency. Considering all the backcourt quickness, I’d expect better turnover numbers than they’re generating so far.

West Virginia

#1 tallest shooting guard(s) belong to the Mountaineers. Obviously, there’s some subjectivity here in selecting “positions,” but the average NCAA shooting guard is in the neighborhood of 6′ 2″, and Alex Ruoff is about as short as it gets at SG for WVU. He’s 6′ 6″ and the rotation is 6′ 7″ otherwise. Ken Pomeroy discussed the impact of height last January and found that having a backcourt height advantage does not translate to better defense. He found that correlation is only strong for teams with advantages at the 4 and 5. As he concluded, “At least on the defensive end, basketball really is a big man’s game.” Fortunately, WVU is above average at every position, and their efficiency (#6 defense) agrees with expectations.

Louisville

#1 defensive effiency resides here. The Big East is home to the best offense (Georgetown) and best defense thus far. For Louisville, it’s a crutch. Take away Padgett et al and roll forward a year and this offense stinks. #131 hurts. The defense comes from two key attributes–they limit field goal percentage (#8 effective FG%, #3 3-point FG%) and when opponents miss, the Cardinals rebound the ball (#6 best offensive rebounding rate against.

Notre Dame

#1 steal rate on offense. This quirky statistic might have more to do with who they’ve played than whether ND particularly avoids getting the ball stolen. Either way, the Irish are very protective of the ball, as their #2 rank in turnover rate suggests. If not for UConn, ND would be #1 in free throw rate against. They trail UConn by 0.4%. And wouldn’t you know it, like UConn, ND is terrible at generating turnovers. They’re one spot worse than UConn here (#301). Take it another step to #3. It’s another Big East brother, Syracuse! And wouldn’t you freaking know it, they’re also bad at generating turnovers (#295). That’s three strikes against keeping opponents off the charity stripe.

Cincinnati

#1 offensive rebounding team. Cincy pulls down 47.4% of their available misses. Obviously, that’s impressive, and it props up an otherwise poor offense (#105 effective FG%, #261 turnover rate, #237 free throw rate). An average offense collects about 1 in 3 available offensive rebounds. The Bearcats have bested that measure every time on the floor, with a worst mark of 35.7% against Mississippi St.

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#1 conference in the country? Well, if we pretend this is a conference of eight, yes, but you have to take the best with the worst. Sagarin likes the ACC and Big Ten better, even though the Big East would obliterate every conference if they played 1v1, 2v2, etc.

And the Race Is On………

November 8, 2008 10:17 am by Coach O

Offseasons are way too long. The season starts this Friday night and we are ready for it. UConn #2…. Louisville #3…. Pitt #5….. ND #9…. Marquette #16…. Hoyas #22…. Nova #23. Seven in the top 25 ! What a league. Jay Bilas calls it by far the best league in the country. Welcome to the Big East 2008-9.

It’s hard to see a Big East team finishing in the top 5 at seasons end. These teams will beat the stuffings out of each other in January and February and then meet in NYC for a final rumble before meeting the best from other leagues in the NCAA’s. Will any of our teams have anything left come March? It’s hard to tell, but the league season might just be the best ever. And the tourney at the Garden will be a whole week (almost) of the best hoops in the USA. With the talent level in the league this year it is hard to imagine anywhere else in the country where you could see better basketball being played. Sorry ACC…. you can’t compete this time. You may have UNC and Duke. We have 7.

Let’s take a look at the team capsules for 2008-9.

UConn-

Frontcourt – Thabeet and Adrien. A formidable frontline. Defensively probably the best in the country. Not offensively, but that doesn’t mattter here and the word is that Thabeet has improved offensively. Gavin Edwards can spell either. Ater Majok (6-10) should join the club in January. Jonathan Mandeldove should also supply some minutes down low. Grade – A

Backcourt – Start with A. J. Price and Jerome Dyson, throw in some Craig Austrie, and add a touch of Freshman Kemba Walker and you have a winning combination. Stanley Robinson is said to be rejoining the team in January too. Donnell Beverly can give some relief also. The question is Price’s knee. Will it hold up? So far so good in early practice. The only negative is long range shooting. Scottie Harralson is said to be the sharpshooter the Huskies need. Until proven, the long range weakness denies UConn an A here. Grade – B+

Coaching – Calhoun is in the Hall of Fame. Nothing more needs to be said. How the team reacts to his rants is the only question. Sometimes last year players faces showed they didn’t like being embarrassed on national TV. Grade – A-

OVERALL GRADE – A- – The Huskies have it all. This is a team that can make a go at the Big East title and go deep into the NCAA’s. Thabeet is the key.  Outside shooting will tell if UConn will finish ahead of Louisville.

Louisville

Frontcourt – Padgett and Palacios are gone. That’s a big gap to fill. But the Cards played a lot last season without either or one of them and still looked formidable. Earl Clark will be back. He averaged 8.1 R/G and will probably be joined by 6-8 Freshman Samardo Samuels. Terrence Jennings, a 6-10 Fr. will push Samuels for playing time. George Goode is another Frosh who will see minutes. UofL always plays tough defense. In this league, however, Freshmen need time to become dominant. Grade – B

Backcourt – Terrence Williams, Jerry Smith and Edgar Sosa is a formidable backcourt. It’s hard to think that anyone can match that group. Sosa must become more consistent. If he falters, Andre McGee will step in as he did so successfully last year. And add Reginald Delk, a transfer from Miss St. for good measure. Grade – A

Coaching – Rick Pitino A

OVERALL GRADE - A- The Cards have the depth and talent to survive this league and become champions. Will Padgett’s loss be too much to overcome? My choice for regular season champs.

Pitt

Frontcourt – DeJuan Blair was a sensation last year. he was co-rookie of the year and a lot of fun to watch. He will team with Tyrell Biggs in the frontcourt this year. Pitt will at times move Sam Young down low to make up for Biggs lack of scoring. If Pitt has a weakness this year it will be depth down low. Grade – B

Backcourt – Levance Fields missed considerable time last year with a foot injury and returned strong. There was, however a problem again this year. That puts a big question mark on this club. The uncertain status of Fields and loss of Ronald Ramon leaves Young as the only strong point in the backcourt. But Young is very strong. He took over the BET last year ala Gerry McNamara. Gilbert Brown has experience to join the backcourt mix. Keep an eye an Fr. Ashton Gibbs who can really shoot it. Grade B+

Coaching – Jamie Dixon has proved he is one of the nation’s elite coaches. He bring Pitt to the Big East Championship game every year. That’s no small task. The NCAA’s have not been so kind to Dixon. Maybe the Panthers use it all up at MSG. Grade A-

OVERALL GRADE – B+ Dixon gets the most out of his players. But will Fields be ready for full time action once January comes around? 3rd place is probable. Not strong enough to take UConn or Louisville.

Notre Dame

Froncourt – Luke Harangody won the league MVP last year. Nothing more needs to be said. Harangody is not the most talented player in the Big East. But is without a doubt the hardest worker. He will have a harder time this year with Rob Kurz gone. Luke Zeller just won’t draw the attention from opponents that Kurz did. Zach Hillesland probably will take Zeller’s position as the season progresses. Hillesland is a hard nosed 6-9 Sr. Shooting is not his forte though. This is an area of concern without much depth. Grade – B+

Backcourt – Kyle McAlarney is the best pure shooter in the Big East. Moving the 3 point line won’t have any effect on him. Tory Jackson is an explosive point guard who sometimes plays out of control. His outside shooting is also suspect. And he must improve his free throw shooting if he is to have the ball in crunch time. Ryan Ayers had a good Jr season. Another outstanding shooter, Ayers also plays top notch defense. He is not consistent though and that may pose a problem for the long-range shooting Irish. Again, depth is a problem in the backcourt. Grade B+

Coaching – Mike Brey has won Coach of the Year two years in a row. He is that good. But a magician he is not. Grade – A-

OVERALL GRADE – B+ Irish will fight with Pitt, Marquette, Syracuse and Villanova for 4th place. If they can find an answer at power forward they will be 4th.

Marquette

Frontcourt – Lazar Hayward had a good season last year. But that is all the Golden Eagles have down there. Dwight Burke is not going to strike fear in opponents. And the problem is that Hayward is a 6-6 power forward. This is an area that Marquette has been weak for a few years and it doesn’t seem better this year. Grade C

Backcourt – McNeal, Matthews, James. Seems like we have been saying that for decades. They are seniors now and as good a backcourt as there is in the Big East. Backed up by David Cubillian and Maurice Acker this is a talented, deep backcourt. But unless they are hitting from long range they won’t carry MU to the top. Grade – A

Coaching – Buzz Williams takes over for Tom Crean this year. Williams has been around and even was Head coach at New Orleans in 2006-7 (14-17 record). He will learn quickly that the Big East is a tough league to cut your teeth on. He was Crean’s assistant last year so he is familiar with the program a bit. Grade C

OVERALL GRADE – B- Too weak down low to finish in the top 3 but will challenge ND for 4th place. If Crean were still here I would be more confident but I’ll say either Nova or Cuse will finish ahead of the Eagles. 6th place.

NEXT……. Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown and West Virginia.

Marquette Win Puts Pressure On Leaders

February 26, 2008 11:32 am by Coach O

Marquette’s victory over Nova last night put pressure on the four teams ahead of them working for a bye in New York in two weeks. The Eagles can now finish 13-5 with wins in their last two games against Georgetown and at Syracuse. With the Hoyas looking more and more vulnerable, this is entirely possible with Marquette on a 5 game roll, winning handily in each. Let’s take a look at the leaders and their prospects for a bye.

Georgetown – The Hoyas are 12-3 and finish with St. John’s, at Marquette and Louisville. If the Hoyas were to lose to Marquette and Louisville they would end up 13-5 and lose a tiebreaker to both teams. Two wins would assure the Hoyas of a bye. Even though GTown is in a good position, they have to be careful of a letdown and must defeat either Marquette or Louisville to enter the BET with some momentum.

Louisville – The Cards are 12-3 and finish with home games against Notre Dame and Villanova along with a final game at Georgetown. Although the Cards should win both home games, ND is capable of an upset. If the Cards lose to ND and GTown they will end up with a record of 13-5 and lose tiebreakers to the Irish and UConn. Louisville has two wins over Marquette and a win over Georgetown. If the Cardinals win two of the last three they will secure a bye.

Notre Dame – The Irish are 11-3 and have three of the final four games on the road. Although they have been unbeatable at home, they have shown some vulnerability away. With splits against UConn and Marquette, the Irish lose tiebreaker vs. Georgetown and still have to travel to Louisville this Thursday. The game at DePaul is not a gimme, seeing that it is a rivalry game. ND should beat St. John’s at home and USF away. If the Irish split their remaining four games they will end up 13-5. A Marquette victory over Georgetown might force the Irish to play a Wednesday game.

UConn – The Huskies are 10-4 and suffered a crucial loss at Nova on Saturday. Remaining games are at Rutgers tonight, West Virginia Saturday and at Providence and home to Cincinnati next week. The Huskies must win 3 of the last 4 to put themselves in a good position at 13-5. UConn has trouble with Providence and West Virginia is still a mystery team. Two losses will probably push UConn to a Wednesday game. The Huskies lose a tiebreaker to Georgetown and win tiebreakers vs. Louisville and Marquette. The UConn-ND tiebreaker will be determined by the Irish game vs. Louisville this Thursday.

****UPDATE***** In checking all possibilities, if Marquette were to lose one of their final two league games, UConn and ND would have to win 2 of their remaining four games to receive a bye.

Complicated???? Not really…… Typical???? You bet….. WELCOME TO THE BIG EAST!

Study High. Take the Test High. Get High Scores.

January 6, 2008 2:01 am by donald

This is the secret to success:

  1. Get some weed.
  2. Smoke up.
  3. Get kicked out of school.

What can I say? It worked bigtime for Kyle McAlarney on Saturday night when ND downed UConn 73-67. What did he do? Oh, just score 32 points on 13-19 shooting (6-7 from three), pass for 5 assists, and not turn the ball over once. Throw in four rebounds and call it a day. All I have to say is: damn, that must be some crazy good weed.

I was only able to watch the first half of the game. It was just too depressing as a UConn fan. You see, it was a rainy day here in the Bay Area and I ended up on the couch all afternoon. ESPN Classic was on a Big East bonanza, and I saw two old games — St. Johns vs. UConn (February 9, 2002) and the Georgetown vs. UConn Big East Championship (1995). Those were some totally different times for UConn and it was such a treat to see players I had forgotten about — Eric Hayward (and his gap-toothed smile), Doron Sheffer (what court sense!), Ricky Moore (his unbelievable heart and defense on Allen Iverson), Taliek Brown (again, a bull on defense), and Kirk King (I forgot what a huge game he had against Georgetown). I remember the days that I used to be frustrated with Travis Knight. I long for those days, because we were so damn spoiled.

Bonus points for those who know where the title of the post comes from.

(Correction — this was the 1996 Big East Championship game, not 1995, as Big Willie notes in the comments)