Thursday, March 31, 2005

Taking a Look Back (part 2) -- NC State

Statistical leaders on per-minute basis in '04-'05 (departing seniors in bold):

Pts/40 min

1) Julius Hodge -- 19.6
2) Cam Bennerman -- 16.5
3) Andrew Brackman -- 15.8
4) Jordan Collins -- 14.8
5) Ced Simmons -- 14.0

Rebs/40 Min

1) Julius Hodge -- 7.6
2) Andrew Brackman -- 7.6
3) Ced Simmons -- 7.4
4) Gavin Grant -- 7.2
5) Tony Bethel -- 6.0

Ast/40 Min

1) Julius Hodge -- 5.5
2) Tony Bethel -- 3.9
3) Gavin Grant -- 3.5
4) Engin Atsur -- 3.0
5) Ilian Evtimov -- 2.7

Turnover Rate (TOV/Indiv Poss)

1) Engin Atsur -- 15.3%
2) Andrew Brackman -- 15.9%
3) Jordan Collins -- 16.0%
4) Levi Watkins -- 16.6%
5) Julius Hodge -- 16.6%
9) Evtimov -- 24.2%

Hodge's numbers impress me every time I look at them. No one category is spectacular; Hodge is just good across the board. Hodge's leadership in several major categories says a lot about Hodge, but it may also say some (negative) things about the team in general.

Hodge is obviously the team's most productive scorer per 40 minutes, and senior Jordan Collins is no slouch either. Can the other guys pick up the slack? It would be immensely beneficial to the team if Ilian Evtimov and Engin Atsur could pick up their scoring. Those two had some big games, but too often they disappeared from the scoreboard for long stretches. That's easier to overcome when those guys are playing secondary roles (as they were this past season), but with Hodge departing, those two are going to take on something closer to a primary role.

When two positions on the court don't do much damage while at the same time logging a lot of minutes, that's going to hurt the offensive unit. I think it's clear that Ev and Atsur can't be primary options, but they may be forced into that role anyway...and that's trouble.

Replacing Hodge's rebounding shouldn't be much of an issue. While Julius was the best rebounder on the team, he wasn't markedly better than his teammates, and they should be able to account for Hodge's absense without a problem. I expect Brackman and Simmons to become better rebounders as they mature. Furthermore, two of NC State's incoming freshmen are forwards, and while they aren't low post guys in the traditional sense, they bring some extra height to the roster.

Hodge also had the market cornered on dimes, but this is partially because of all the touches he got on the offensive end. In Herb Sendek's quote-unquote positionless offense, there aren't likely to be standouts in this category unless a player handles the ball as much as Hodge did. Engin Atsur is the only returning player who is on both the Ast/40 and TO Rate lists. His steady hand looks impressive, though you should remember that Atsur used only about 15% of the team's possessions while he was in the game (lowest figure on the roster).

I'd like to see Evtimov, Grant and Bethel improve their TO Rates (all three boast rates above 20%...Grant's rate is above 26%). In Evtimov's case, it probably won't happen (simply because of the nature of his role in the offense), but I do expect better from the others.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Taking a Look Back (part 1) -- NC State

NC State reached the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in a while, but the 2004-2005 season was a disappointment to most. Hindsight tells us that the pre-season expectations put on this team were too demanding (at no point was the Wolfpack deserving of a ranking in the top 15), and unfortunately it is those pre-season expectations that shape our post-season impressions.

Injuries and illness hit the Wolfpack hard in December, and those setbacks nearly killed the entire season. NC State had to win critical games in the last week of the regular season and in the ACC tournament in order to reach the NCAAs.

What's on the horizon? Does NC State have enough talent to reach the NCAA tournament without Julius Hodge? Let's have a look at some pertinent numbers.

Below is a chart which attempts to illustrate the value of each NC State player in several different ways. Here are some necessary explanations for what you'll see:

1) Offensive Rating (O Rtg) -- O Rtg, like many of these statistics, was developed by Dean Oliver and explained in his book Basketball on Paper. This statistic uses the same concept as the team Offensive Efficiency stat I've been using all year. It is simply:

(Points Produced / Possessions) x 100

Bear in mind, however, that points produced are different from points scored. Points produced are (this is straight from Oliver's book) "the number of points an individual generates through various offensive contributions, including assists, field goals, free throws, and offensive rebounds." For the sake of comparison, you should consider the "league average" to be around 100.

2) %Poss -- Also developed by Oliver, this indicates what proportion of a team's possessions a player uses when he is in the game. Five average players who share the ball evenly will each be expected to use 20% of the team's possessions. Star players tend to use a higher pecentage since their teams look to them to score, while role players will often use a lower percentage.

3) Floor Percentage -- This is the fraction of an individual's possessions on which there is a scoring possession. Anything above 50% is pretty good.

4) Points per Field Goal Attempt (PPFGA) -- Developed by John Hollinger and also called Points Per Weighted Shot, this is:

Points Scored / (FGA + 0.44(FTA))

This takes into account every shot a player takes, rather than just field goal attempts as measured by points-per-shot (PPS). Have a look at Big Ten Wonk's (linked above) lists of best and worst PPFGA, as that'll give you a feel for what the good and bad numbers in this category look like. Suffice it to say that no NCSU player is exceptional in this category.

The other categories are self-explanatory. If you've got any questions or would like more detailed explanations of any of these numbers, e-mail me.

I would also like thank Ryan of Hawkeye Hoops for helping me iron out some of these difficult calculations. If you're interested in reading more about a lot of these stats, I highly recommend Ryan's site.

Wolfpack 2004-2005
PlayerO Rtg% PossMin/GPPGFG%3FG%Floor %Pts Prod/GPPFGA
Ilian Evtimov10717.7%30.49.844.7%42.6%0.459.31.2
Gavin Grant9023.5%13.14.241%26.5%0.434.50.97
Cam Bennerman11519.5%23.19.647.5%39.3%0.498.41.21
Engin Atsur11515.1%32.69.440.6%38.3%0.479.21.12
Levi Watkins10418.5%11.33.940.7%31.30.443.51.05
Tony Bethel11018.2%
Julius Hodge11728%34.617.049.3%25.5%0.5618.41.13
Jordan Collins12017.6%17.86.650%46.2%0.536.11.23
Cedric Simmons10021.4%103.550.6%00.503.51.06
Andrew Brackman12119.5%18.77.447%36%0.557.21.21

Departures (that I know of): Julius Hodge, Jordan Collins, Levi Watkins

Incoming Freshmen: Brandon Costner, Ben McCauley, Courtney Fells

Several things stick out from the table: Julius Hodge is a huge chunk of the offense, Gavin Grant needs to learn some patience, and Evtimov plays too much.

The more possessions a player uses, the less efficient he generally becomes. The best players are capable of maintaining high Offensive Ratings while using a lot of possessions. Julius Hodge is a good example. Hodge uses 28% of the team's possessions when he's on the floor, and that's a huge chunk. I haven't run the numbers for every ACC player yet, but I'm guessing Hodge will rank first in that department. That he maintains the third best ORtg on the team is a credit to his skills. You can see why he's efficient: his FG% and Floor % are among the best on the team.

If you've seen a lot of Wolfpack basketball this year, Gavin Grant's numbers should come as no surprise. On too many occasions, Grant decides it's the Gavin Show when he's in the game, eschewing the offense for poor shots. He seems to say, "I won't be in for long, so I better get my shots." Grant uses 23.5% of the team's possessions when he's on the court, which is second only to Hodge. That number is much too high. Players like Chris Paul, Justin Gray, Eric Williams, and Shelden Williams don't even use that high of a proportion of possessions. His ORtg is awful, his shooting percentages are bad, and his PPFGA is a joke. Grant has potential, but if he's not going to work with the rest of the team, he's only going to waste everyone's time.

My main concern for 2005-2006 is workload. With Hodge gone, those extra possessions are going to be distributed among the other players. Everyone is going to have to pick up the slack to an extent. The problem is that guys like Evtimov have an unimpressive ORtg despite using a low percentage of possessions. If Evtimov's %Poss jumps to 21% next year, how will that affect his ORtg? Atsur had a light workload despite playing 30+ minutes per game, so he could be the person most significantly affected next season.

The good news is that Andrew Brackman was excellent in limited playing time--he posted the best ORtg on the team. Cameron Bennerman will definitely be expected to take on some of the scoring load next year, and I think he's up to it. He should have played more this past season. He'll need to improve on his ability to pass.

Tony Bethel dealt with a lot of injury/illness this year, so I'm not sure we've seen him at his best for anything close to an extended period of time. When he was healthy at the start of the season, he was still adjusting to playing after having sat out the previous season. Hopefully this portends better things to come for Tony. NC State will need better.

Cedric Simmons shows promise, particularly on the defensive end. Simmons averaged 4.5 blocks per 40 minutes, and that's big time. He's also one of the best rebounders on the team. If he can improve his game to the point where Herb Sendek feels comfortable playing Simmons for 20 minutes, he'll make NC State a lot better at the defensive end. For now, most of his value derives from his defense.

It'll be interesting to see how the incoming players factor into the rotation next season. Will Costner or McCauley have impacts similar to Brackman's? Fells is supposed to be an athletic scorer...will he play intelligently, or will he turn the ball over a lot? Will he follow Grant's path?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Now starting at defensive end for the Clemson Tigers...

...Olu Babalola?

I always knew he was a football player trapped on a basketball court.

Monday, March 28, 2005

So I guess it's baseball season.

There's one weekend left in the college basketball season, but NC State is done, so really, the season is over.

I'm not quite ready to shift into full baseball/football mode yet, and later this week I'll probably take a look back at the ACC season that was.

Baseball is right around the corner, though, and I've got to get into some preseason discussion before it's too late.

In case you don't know--and since I haven't made a baseball-related post in several months, you probably don't--I'm a Chicago White Sox fan. Don't ask me how my childhood was blighted in this way. It's a terrible tale. But mostly it's just boring.

All-Baseball has an NL West preview up on its front page, and you can also find previews of the AL East, AL Central, and AL West. Previews of the other two NL divisions are forthcoming this week.

As far as the AL Central goes, pretty much everyone is predicting another division crown for the Twinkies. I wish I could refute those predictions, but the White Sox haven't made much of a case for themselves during the off-season.

Baseball Prospectus's Joe Sheehan wrote his AL Central preview last week, and once you see his projected standings at the bottom, you can imagine the response he got from ChiSox fans.

White Sox GM Ken Williams spent the offseason exchanging bats for arms, yet Sheehan thinks the Sox will allow more runs in 2005 than it did in 2004. Sheehan expects the Sox to score 749 runs while giving up 856; last season, Chicago scored 865 and allowed 831. While I think a drop off in runs scored is a near-certainty, I find that runs allowed projection to be close to a worst-case scenario for the Sox. Say it ain't so, Joe.

Remember that in 2004 the White Sox had Scott Schoeneweis in the #4 slot with Danny Wright and [insert name here] in the #5 slot. Jose Contreras and El Duque (the new guys at the end of the rotation in 2005) can't possibly be worse than Shoeny and Wright. Add in an improved bullpen, and there's reason for at least a little optimism.

I am ever the pessimistic White Sox fan, but I'll really be surprised if the pitching is even worse in 2005 than it was in '04.

Over at The Hardball Times, Studes paints a brighter picture for Chicago.

The serious problems for the '05 Sox lie on the offensive side, and Studes illustrates why that is the case. The White Sox were abnormally proficient at getting base hits with runners in scoring position in 2004, and that figures to dip a lot in 2005. The Sox had the least at bats in the AL with RISP.

With Frank Thomas out of the lineup for much of the year, the 2004 Sox naturally struggled to get guys on base. Thomas is the only White Sock with what you could call an impressive or exceptional on-base percentage. Jose Valentin had a sub-.300 OBP. So did Joe Crede and Sandy Alomar/Ben Davis. Fortunately, Studes notes, the White Sox have made changes that will improve the team's OBP and lead to more at bats with runners in scoring position. Without those changes, the '05 offense could have completely collapsed (it may still anyway, which would make Sheehan look psychic).

[Interestingly, the Cubbies have a similar problem. They hit a ton of homers in '04, but they netted the fourth-worst Runs/HR in the majors. Things don't look to be much different in '05.]

Valentin is gone, Crede has no where to go but up (I hope), and improvements have been made at catcher and second base.

And if Big Frank can come back healthy, that'll only aid matters.

Still, the White Sox don't figure to be a very good hitting club. Considering that the team acquired Scott Podsednik from the Brewers with the intention of being more aggressive on the basepaths, I have no doubt that the team will waste plenty of outs.

Manager Ozzie Guillen is already on the record as saying that running into a few outs here and there is fine because the team is being aggressive. I can only shake my head. If Chicago can steal bases at an acceptable rate, it can add value to its offense. Somehow I can't see it working out that well.

There's that pessimism again.

My AL Central prediction: Delicious Twinkies win again. Sigh.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Stop The Music

Pardon the delayed post, but I haven't been able to bring myself to look at the box score until today. There's not a whole lot to say...

NC State shot an adjusted 47% from the field, while Wisconsin shot 54.8%. That's the story.

Several things went as anticipated. Namely, Wisconsin didn't offensive rebound very well, but did an excellent job grabbing defensive boards. The Badgers also didn't force too many turnovers.

The Wolfpack just stunk it up on the offensive end, scoring 56 points on 66 possessions. That's one of the least efficient performances State has had in months...probably the worst showing since December.

Tough way to go out for Julius Hodge and the rest of the seniors.

Friday, March 25, 2005

In honor of Wisconsin...


ESPN Columnist Jim Caple Visits NC State

NC State of the union

His student hosts took him to the Free Expression Tunnel and, of course, Cook Out.

That pretty much covers it.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Syracuse Region Standouts

Hawkeye Hoops posted comprehensive "players to watch" lists before the tournament began. From these lists it's easy to see why North Carolina so good.

UNC has four players who have an offensive rating above 120 (which is very, very impressive). Neither Wisconsin nor NC State have a player on the O Rtg list. Curtis Sumpter checks in with the sixth-best offensive rating in the Syracuse region, so it's clear that he's a major loss for the Wildcats.

Big Ten Wonk has ranked the players on the Sweet Sixteen teams according to a stat called Points Per Field Goal Attempt, which was developed by John Hollinger. Wonk calls the stat Points Per Weighted Shot (PPWS).

PPWS = Pts / (FGA + (0.44 x FTA))

The PPWS list also speaks well for North Carolina, as the Heels have five guys in the top 30, which is more than any other team. Illinois has four.

Some of the guys near the bottom of the list may surprise you: Deron Williams, Daniel Ewing, Hassan Adams, Randy Foye.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Wisconsin, eh

NC State and Wisconsin like it slooooooow (you'll need to scroll down a bit).

If I used the adjusted tempo numbers from the above link, this game (based on an average of 70 possessions per team per game) would have an expected pace of 57.5 possessions for each team.
Previous tournament games suggest that 57.5 should be about right. In Wisconsin's game against Bucknell--another team that loves the slow tempo--the Badgers and Bison had about 58 possessions each. In Wisconsin's first round game against another slow-paced team (Northern Iowa), there were only about 56 possessions for each team.

NC State's tempo numbers are basically the same as Wisconsin's previous opponents, so another sub-60 possession game is likely.

Up to this point, NC State has faced teams that prefer a faster pace and prefer to score the ball in ways much different than State. Not the case any longer. If you click on 'North Carolina State' on the above-linked Ken Pomeroy stats page, it'll activate Pomeroy's Basketball Shrink, which matches teams based on statistical similarity. Checking in at #9 on the list of teams most similar to NC State? Wisconsin, of course.

You can see from the Pomeroy link that Wisconsin is almost as good defensively as UConn. But whereas Connecticut's defense derives its value from blocked shots, I would guess that Wisconsin finds success through good on-the-ball defense (edit: and through rebounding. see below). Right about now I'm wishing I had taken more time to watch the Badgers on TV this season.

Stat comparisons:

Adjusted FG%

NC State: 53.3%
Wisconsin: 50.7%

O-Reb Rate

NC State: 33%
Wisconsin: 30.9%

Turnover Rate

NC State: 19.1%
Wisconsin: 18.1%


NC State: .391
Wisconsin: .384

Interestingly, Wisconsin's offensive rebound rate is poor, but it's defensive rebound rate (74.5%) is excellent--even better than UConn's. That's probably one of the secrets to their success on the defensive end.

Also noteworthy: Wisconsin is great at avoiding turnovers, but not very good at forcing them. Wisconsin opponents average a turnover rate of 19.3%; NC State opponents average a TO rate of 23.4%.

That may be somewhat associated with the style of play in the Big Ten--which is pretty slow-paced--versus that of the ACC. The ACC features some of the fastest teams in the nation, and they tend to be turnover-prone.

Wisconsin has a nice advantage in free throw attempts over its opponents, but as you can see above, they aren't any better at getting to the line than NC State.

Monday, March 21, 2005

How the Champs Went Down

NCSU 65, UConn 62

Pre-game post: Rebounding, Rebounding, Rebounding

Let's get right to the rebound rates from the game:

NCSU O-Reb Rate: 24.1% (season avg. = 33.3%)
Conn O-Reb Rate: 32.1% (season avg. = 42.8%)

UConn has absolutely dominated teams on the glass this year, but they didn't dominate NC State. Did they rebound better than State? Yes. But did they rebound well enough to give themselves a significant advantage in the game? No.

NC State scored 11 second chance points to UConn's 9.

UConn also didn't have the luxury of a large FTA advantage over NC State...

Conn FTA/FGA: 0.35

Turnovers were pretty even as well. State turned the ball over on about 20% of its possessions, while UConn turned it over on about 22% of theirs.

With those three factors so even, field goal percentage made the difference.

NCSU AdjFG%: 50%
Conn AdjFG%: 44.2%

It's always refreshing to encounter teams that don't rely on the three-ball. Not because I have anything against the three-pointer, but because teams that don't take a lot of threes don't scare me as much. UConn doesn't have a lot of shooters and relies on its big guys to win games with rebounding and high percentage shots from the post. The Huskies were 2-14 from behind the arc against State, so while their raw field goal percentage was in fact higher than NC State's, that's misleading because NC State was far more effective from three-point range (thus the Pack's advantage in adjusted field goal percentage).

UConn's defense had an obvious negative affect on NC State's offense (as expected). The Pack's offensive efficiency for the game was just 102.4, about 9 points below its season average. Fortunately, the Huskies struggled just as much, managing an efficiency of 97.6.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Sweet Sixteen

The last time NC State made it to the tournament's second weekend was 1989. I was a couple of months from my sixth birthday. I have no memory of that run or any NCAA tournament run, for that matter.

The Wolfpack of my childhood was the Les Robinson Wolfpack. They were perpetual afterthoughts. I remember how excited people were just to make the NIT.

I thought last year was it. They were finally going to get back to the Sweet Sixteen. They were up double-digits in the second round with just a few minutes left. But then it fell apart, and that loss became the centerpiece of the worst sports-related day of my life.

(A lot of) Water under the bridge.

A look at the numbers will come later. For now, I'm absorbing this one.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Rebounding, Rebounding, Rebounding

Connecticut does not have a great offense (UConn averages 107.4 points per 100 possessions), but as you might expect from a team with that kind of size, UConn plays excellent defense. The Huskies have allowed just 91.9 points per 100 possessions this season, which puts them among the 20 best defenses in the country.

Rebounding is one the the major factors in UConn's success.

UCONN O-Reb Rate: 42.8% (easily better than any ACC team)
UCONN D-Reb Rate: 69% (so their opponents are grabbing only about 31% of available offensive boards)

Like Charlotte, the Huskies have a huge advantage in free throw attempts over their opponents (755-498).

UConn is a better shooting team than Charlotte, though they have very little reliance on the three-pointer. Josh Boone has made 61% of his field goal attempts this season.

NC State's O-Reb Rate is a mediocre 33.3%, and the Pack has fewer total rebounds than its opponents this season. For State to be competitive on the glass against UConn, they will have to make a point to box out well, and they'll have to catch a few bounces here and there.

If UConn shoots poorly, it has the potential to score a lot of second chance points. If the Wolfpack gets mauled in this fashion, the upset ain't happening.

If the Pack are efficient on offense and stay competitive on the boards, they'll definitely be in the game. They need to avoid reckless drives into the teeth of UConn's defense, and they need to take advantage of the possible mismatches presented by Ilian Evtimov, Julius Hodge and Andrew Brackman.


I couldn't possibly do Julius Hodge justice with the written word, but Andy Katz gives it a shot.


Friday, March 18, 2005

One last note...

There is nothing quite like an NCAA tournament victory. I'll be basking in the afterglow between now and Sunday.

Beating Charlotte isn't exactly a huge accomplishment, yet I've been in a great mood since the game ended. Part of it has to do with the way the game started, part of it is just circumstance--lose and that's the season.

And I get to see Julius Hodge play at least one more game in a Wolfpack uniform.

Movin' On

NC State 75, Charlotte 63

The game began as a nightmare for the Wolfpack, who were down 18-4 very quickly. Brendan Plavich came out firing, hitting his first four (or was it five?) three-point attempts of the game. It wasn't necessarily for lack of defense, either. In a couple of cases, NC State guard Engin Atsur had a hand right in Plavich's face, but Plavich hit the shots anyway. I don't think he even hit rim until his fourth or fifth attempt.

Importantly, NC State made a run in the latter third of the first half, and the team was only down by seven at the half. With the way the game started, that seven point deficit felt pretty small.

The second half was a completely different story--NC State shot well over 50%, while Charlotte was under 30%.

Charlotte shot so poorly in the second half that they finished the game at 40%, and this was despite beginning the game 11-17.

Remember that FTA/FGA advantage that Charlotte has had over its opponents this year? Not a factor today. NCSU had 22 free throw attempts (hitting 19) and Charlotte had just 14 (hitting 9).
Also worth noting: each team had 73 possessions, which is actually above the season averages for both teams (so NCSU didn't dictate the pace like I thought they would). Just by glancing at the score, it's clear that neither team was very efficient today.

NC State OFF EFF: 102.7 (75/73)
Charlotte OFF EFF: 86.3 (63/73)

Turnovers were an issue for both teams, though NC State managed to force more:

Turnover Rate

NC State: 21.9% (16 turnovers in 73 poss)
Charlotte: 27.4% (20 turnovers in 73 poss)

Charlotte's Curtis Withers had 7 turnovers. Evtimov had 4 turnovers and didn't manage a single assist (he did have 4 steals, however).

NC State had advantages in shooting %, FTA/FGA, turnovers; rebounding was a wash (the two teams had near-identical offensive rebound rates).

I can't say enough about Julius Hodge. Nineteen points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists. He gives the Pack everything, and he always plays hard. Hodge's emotion helped get the team into the game in the first half. His great passing keyed fast breaks and gave teammates easy buckets in the half court.

On a day in which most of the team wasn't hitting, Hodge was both efficient and unselfish. He finished 8-12 from the field.

Andrew Brackman and Cam Bennerman were also very good today...Bennerman is the defensive hero for holding Plavich to zero second half points. Brackman scored 16 points in just 24 minutes and grabbed 5 offensive boards.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Defensive Matchup -- Charlotte vs. NC State

Earlier this week I took a gander at each team's offensive numbers, and now it's time to see how the defenses stack up.

Opp AdjFG%

Charlotte: 49.4%
NC State: 48.6%

D-Reb Rate

Charlotte: 66%
NC State: 63.9%

Opp Turnover Rate

Charlotte: 22.9%
NC State: 23.3%


Charlotte: .281
NC State: .393

Of interest is that FTA/FGA category. I mentioned in the offense comparison that Charlotte had a huge advantage in free throw attempts over its opponents (716-477), and that's evident in this defensive category. I don't have the numbers for the defenses of other ACC teams with which to compare that low figure (ACC teams are the only ones I track, so they're the only teams I can compare to UNCC), but consider: the worst team in the ACC at generating free throw attempts is Miami, which has a FTA/FGA ratio of .286.

As for why Charlotte has been so good at keeping opponents off the line...I haven't a clue. I wouldn't think it would have anything to do with the schedule they've played this season. On a per-game basis, Charlotte is commiting about 17 personal fouls. NC State is commiting about 19.

NC State must be mindful of Eddie Basden's yoink!-ing prowess. Basden has 91 steals in 28 games, and he averages 3.6 steals per 40 minutes. NC State's most proficient swiper, Tony Bethel, averages 2.4 steals per 40 minutes.

On paper at least, Basden looks like a fabulous player. In addition to the 15 points and 8 boards per game he averages, as well as the steals mentioned above, Basden has the second best assist-to-turnover ratio on the team.

NC State is slightly better than Charlotte at keeping its opponents' adjFG% down and at creating turnovers. Charlotte, not surprisingly, is better at grabbing defensive rebounds.

I have but one request.

Well, make that three requests.

Whatever happens this Friday, the game had better not end like this, this, or this.

Surely the Wolfpack has earned a respite from agonizing NCAA tournament defeat.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

See ya, Petey.

Gillen steps down.

I know I speak for the rest of the conference when I say you'll be missed.

Seven years, 1 NCAA appearance, a 118-93 overall record.

The new coach will have some work to do with regards to the roster (though JR Reynolds and Sean Singletary will ease the pain), but he won't have to worry about facilities. If you haven't had a look at UVA's new John Paul Jones Arena, you should check it out. I am hugely jealous.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

And now... Deep [Tourney] Thoughts

Some early impressions:

-- They couldn't have made the road to St. Louis any easier for Duke if they'd tried (okay, they could have put the over-seeded UConn Huskies in Duke's region rather than Kentucky).

-- Washington/Pittsburgh should be very, very interesting.

-- Louisville is under-seeded as a #4.

-- I'm having trouble picking anyone to come out of the Austin region, which means I'll probably settle on Duke.

-- There really are no snubs this year, which just goes to show how strange this season has been.

-- ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb has been rather outspoken about whether or not Iowa deserved to be in the dance. For several days he's been saying that the Hawkeyes needed to win the Big Ten tournament in order to get in, and that if they didn't, they had no business in the field. I disagreed mostly because of their strong RPI rating, and it looks like that rating put them in good shape with the committee (they're a 10-seed, so they weren't necessarily even among the last four in).

-- It's a shame that Georgia Tech will run into Louisville. I like the Jackets, but I can't see them getting past the Cardinals.

-- Wake/Zags in the Sweet fun would that be?

-- I'm leaning towards picking Arizona to win the Chicago region.

-- These 8/9 games are tough this year. Stanfraud or the enigmatic Mississippi State? Minnesoota, eh or Iowa State? PJ Tucker-less Tejas or the other Pack? Yeesh.

-- Potential bracket busters: New Mexico, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, LSU.


Kansas. Florida. Villanova. UConn. And, oh yeah, North Carolina. That's a tough field for NC State to wade through, but those teams are all irrelevant if the Wolfpack can't get past UNC-Charlotte.

To be perfectly honest, Charlotte scares the crap out of me. It looks like the Pack and the Niners have similar numbers...

Charlotte OFF EFF: 108.5
NC State OFF EFF: 110.9

Charlotte DEF EFF: 98.6
NC State DEF EFF: 99.9

Charlotte TEMPO: 71.3
NC State TEMPO: 66.7

Charlotte likes a fast pace, but NC State will dictate its tempo just as it has all season. The Pack played just a single "up tempo" (i.e., above the conference average 0f 70 possessions per team per game) during its conference slate--at home versus Georgia Tech. That slate includes two games against Maryland and UNC, two teams that rank among the ten fastest-paced teams in the country (check it). So NC State shouldn't have any difficulties keeping this game where it likes it--around 64-67 possessions per team.

Adjusted Field Goal Percentage

Charlotte: 49.9%
NC State: 53.6%

Offensive Rebound Rate (ORebs / [ORebs + Opp DRebs])

Charlotte: 37.0%
NC State: 33.3%

Turnover Rate (turnovers/possessions)

Charlotte: 18.7%
NC State: 19.0%


Charlotte: .419
NC State: .393

The Niners aren't a particularly good shooting team, though they are exceptional at hanging on to the ball (having a lower Turnover Rate than NCSU despite the faster pace of their games is impressive). Charlotte has slight advantages in every category except AdjFG%.

Judging by the differential between the number of free throws Charlotte has attempted and the number of free throws its opponents have attempted (716-477), Charlotte is a pretty physical and aggressive team. If they don't shoot well against NC State, it'll be important for them to get to the line.

Charlotte players to watch include Curtis Withers, Eddie Basden and Brendan Plavich. Plavich is a 3-point shooter almost exclusively. Of 320 field goal attempts, 284 have been 3-point attempts. That's a little over 10 3-point attempts per game...if he's on (and I have a disgusting feeling that he will be) he's liable to score a bunch. Both Withers and Basden are averaging over 8 rebounds per game...State will have to keep those guys from giving Charlotte easy second chance points.

The 49ers will go 8-deep, although they've got four guys averaging over 30 minutes per game. NC State has spread its minutes around more over the course of the season, but during the ACC tournament Herb Sendek gave Ilian Evtimov, Engin Atsur and Julius Hodge well over 30 minutes per. Sendek will tighten his rotation when necessary; of course, pending the health of Jordan Collins and Tony Bethel, the rotation may tighten itself.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The In Thing

NCSU 81, CPunch3-Less Deacs 65

You've got to give NC State credit. The Pack played great when they needed to do so.

NCSU's offensive efficiency for the game was 132.4, which is one of the highest OFF EFF's they've posted in conference play (if not the highest). Despite having and adjusted field goal % of 56%, Wake Forest posted a modest offensive efficiency of 106.2. That's not bad, but it's well below Wake standards.

Turnovers were a factor in the game:

Turnover Rate

NCSU: 13.1% (8/61.2)
Wake: 24.5% (15/61.2)

Wake was also sub-par at the free throw line, hitting just 10-20. State shot a more typical 13-16 (more typical than 9-22, anyway).

And Wake Forest didn't have the advantage on the glass that I thought they would...

O-Reb Rate

NCSU: 38.7% (12/31)
Wake: 36.7% (11/30)

So while Wake Forest shot pretty well from the field, they weren't particularly good in the rebounding, free throw, or turnover categories. Against a flame-throwing NC State club, that spelled defeat.

I didn't think NC State had this one in them--not without Bethel. Bethel absense ended up not mattering, thanks mainly to Cam Bennerman's 17 points and 8 boards in 34 minutes. With Engin Atsur having an insignificant night, Bennerman provided the guard production that State desperately needed. Julius Hodge and Ilian Evtimov were also fabulous...Evtimov scored 18 for the second consecutive night while dishing 7 assists (no turnovers).

Most importantly, NC State had to have locked up an NCAA bid with this win. I had all but tossed my dancin' shoes into the garbage, but I guess I'll need them after all.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

More RPI-ery

Today brought this intriguing note from Ken Pomeroy with regards to the "new" RPI formula. The estimates of Pomeroy, Jerry Palm, ESPN, etc have likely been wrong all along, meaning we have even more confusion about just what the NCAA tournament committee will actually be looking at.

So there's the old old formula, the new old formula, and the new new formula. Yay.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Low Post Monster

Almost as amazing as Carolina's comeback was Sean May's stat line.

Twenty-six points and 24 rebounds? In one game? Against Duke?!

Thanks to May's awesome rebounding, the Heels had an O-Reb Rate of 48.8%. So out of all of the available rebounds at its offensive end, North Carolina grabbed almost half of them.

With May's offensive rebounds (12) alone, the Heels still posted a respectable O-Reb Rate of 35.3% (which happens to be higher than NC State's season average...).

Perhaps nothing speaks to May's performance on the glass better than Shelden Williams's rebounding numbers: Williams had 4 rebounds in 36 minutes, and for a guy averaging 10+ per game, that's difficult to imagine. Heck, Lee "Every Shot I Make Is Huge And I Must Illustrate This With Appropriately Significant Facial Expressions" Melchionni grabbed 5.

Also interesting is that despite this:


Duke: 56.3%
UNC: 41%

...Carolina was still more efficient than Duke at the offensive end. UNC had a sub-standard Offensive Efficiency of 111.1 for the game, but Duke's OFF EFF was just 108.1. How did that happen? Second chances and free throws.

Duke shot 10-19 from the FT line compared to UNC's 20-26 shooting.

Carolina also edged Duke in FGM (27-26) thanks largely to second chances...the Heels required 11 more attempts to squeak past Duke in the FGM category. Duke made 10 more three-pointers than Carolina, but even so, that was only good enough for an 8-point Blue Devil edge based on field goals alone, so the free throw discrepancy (barely) made up the difference for the Heels.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

I am trying to break your heart.

NC State went assassining down the avenue and shot 9-22 from the free throw line.

I haven't got anything to say...I'm going to try to forget that this game ever happened (never works; i should try heavy drinking).

Tonight's outcome marks another crappy senior day for me.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Big Four go at it one last time...

Wake @ NCSU

In the first meeting, Wake won 86-75 thanks largely to a huge FTA advantage (42-12). It also didn't hurt that the Deacs made 35 of those 42 attempts. Wake was the best team in the ACC at getting to the line then, and they still are now. NC State can't let anything like that happen again...the Demon Deacs are good enough without a lot of freebies.

The Wolfpack and Deacs are very similar in the adjFG% and Turnover Rate categories; the differences, as you might expect, are in the rebounding and FTA/FGA categories:

O-Reb Rate (OREB / [OREB + OPP DREB])

Wake: 38.4%
NCSU: 34.4%


Wake: .454 (1st ACC)
NCSU: .385 (6th ACC)

The averages say...

Wake Avg. ACC Road Game OFF EFF: 122.9 (whew)
Wake Avg. ACC Road Game Possessions: 71.8

NCSU Avg. ACC Home Game OFF EFF: 112.3
NCSU Avg. ACC Home Game Possessions: 64

Expected POSS in Wake/NCSU Game: 66
Predicted Score: Wake 81, NCSU 74

Can NC State shoot well enough to win? Can the Pack find some way to hold the Deacs to a sub-par performance? Hopefully the Pack doesn't put too much pressure on certainly would be nice to send Julius Hodge (and the other seniors) out as winners.

Duke @ UNC

The Devils forced their game on the Heels in Cameron, but don't expect that to be the case this time. Holding the Heels to 70 points (as the Blue Devils did in Derm) is no small feat, and I'll be shocked if Duke manages to do that again. Neither Duke nor North Carolina shot the ball well in Durham, and these are two of the best shooting teams in the conference (UNC leads the ACC in adjFG%, Duke is 4th).

One reason to expect a high score: the first game had 71 possessions, and the rematch projects to have upwards of 78 possessions for each team. The Heels average 78.4 possessions per conference home game, while Duke averages 69.1 possessions per conference road game.

Based on the number of possessions in the average ACC contest (70), an estimate is done in the following way:

Duke Poss - ACC Poss = 69.1 - 70 = -0.9
UNC Poss - ACC Poss = 78.4 - 70 = 8.4

Duke DIFF + UNC DIFF = -0.9 + 8.4 = 7.5

DIFF + ACC AVG = 7.5 + 70 = 77.5

77.5 = Expected Possessions in Duke/UNC game

At that pace, both teams would have to play well below their averages for us to see a score similar to the one posted in Durham. I would expect the Heels to approach the high 80s or low 90s in this game, but I'm not so sure about the Devils. The UNC defense frustrated Duke in the first matchup, and the only saving grace for Duke was its success from behind the arc. If they aren't hitting their threes at a good clip, they're going to be in danger of getting blown out (IMO). Depth will continue to be an issue for Duke (they had Dockery in the first go 'round), and Heels have no such problems (even without Rashad McCants).

Will this:

Duke Avg. ACC Road Game OFF EFF: 118.8
UNC Avg. ACC Home Game OFF EFF: 118.7

...hold up tomorrow?

I just don't think so. I'll take the Heels in this one, 91-83. Based on an expectation of 77.5 possessions for each team, my prediction reflects an average day for the Heels (91/77.5 = 117) and a good-but-not-good-enough day for the Devils (83/77.5 = 107).

One thing's for sure: if the game is played at this pace, it'll be a helluva show.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

NCSU 82, UVA 72

Box Score

From the preview:

Positive signs for the Wolfpack:

1) Julius Hodge had only 5 FGA in the first matchup. He'll be more productive this time around.

2) Just to reiterate--Virginia is not a good shooting team. The team's performance in Raleigh was one of its best in-conference performances.

3) UVA has the worst defense in the ACC.

4) Pete Gillen could decide to sit Elton Brown again. He'll regret it.

5) Timeout!!!!!

How did it go?

-- Julius Hodge again totaled a mere 5 FGA, but he was 11-15 from the free throw line, and he added 8 dimes. So he didn't increase his field goal attempts, but his impact was still much more significant.

-- Virginia had an adjusted field goal percentage of 47.5% for the game (that ain't good).

-- NC State's offensive efficiency for the game was a beautificent 124.8. Not what I'd call a ringing endorsement of UVA's defense.

-- Brown logged 20 minutes, scoring 5 points in unimpressive fashion (2-5 from the field, 1-6 from the line). Jason Cain was far more impressive (13 pts and 8 boards) in a similar amount of playing time.

Virginia seniors Devin Smith and Elton Brown were a combined 7-18 from the floor. I feel badly for those guys.

NC State got balanced scoring from Ilian Evtimov, Julius Hodge, Tony Bethel and Jordan Collins. The Pack shot 54.9% (adjFG%) for the game, bolstered by a blistering 60% (adjFG% again) in the second half.

The two teams had nearly identical turnover rates and offensive rebound rates.

Cameron Bennerman didn't log any playing time for NC State, and that has been cause for a lot of speculation. Foul trouble was very much a problem in the game--four Wolfpack players had at least four fouls. Fouls limited Engin Atsur and Ilian Evtimov to less than thirty minutes each, but the extra minutes went to NC State's freshmen.

If there are off-court issues, it's a shame. Bennerman is second on the team in points-per-minute to Julius Hodge, and his loss (if it spans future games) is a significant detriment to the team.

Oh well--on to Wake Forest. According to ESPN's College Gamenight, Wake scored 61 second half points against Georgia Tech on 33 possessions. That's an offensive efficiency of 184.8. Ho-lee crap.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Friendly Confines

Maryland is markedly better at home than it is on the road in ACC games. Okay, so that's not much of a revelation, but I think the degree to which the Terps perform differently is interesting:

UMD's Road Offensive Efficiency: 94.5
UMD's Home Offensive Efficiency: 111.7
Difference (Home - Road) = +17.2

Road PPG: 73.9
Road Poss: 78.2

Home PPG: 85.1
Home Poss: 76.2

... which means Maryland averages 11 more points per game at home on two fewer possessions per game.

In 8 ACC home games, the Terps have not posted an offensive efficiency below 100. In 7 ACC road games, they have posted an offensive efficiency above 100 only once (in their win at UVA).

The next largest differential between home-road offensive efficiency belongs to Duke. The Devils are actually worse at home, posting a home OFF EFF of 110.5 and a road OFF EFF of 118.8 (diff = -8.3).

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

It's nervous time -- NC State at Virginia

The Wolfpack travels north to take part in one of the last few dates of the Pete Gillen Farewell Tour 2005.

In the first meeting, NC State had its worst conference home game performance of the season, and the Cavs managed a last-minute win. Pete Gillen went with a smaller and quicker lineup (much to the delight of Jason Cain) in an attempt to better match up with NC State. Elton Brown played just 4 minutes, which struck me as utterly stupid at the time (and seems no more intelligent in retrospect), but NC State played poorly enough as to make the issue irrelevant...UVA won without Brown.

The two teams are pretty similar in the TO Rate, O-Reb Rate, and FTA/FGA categories, but NC State is a considerably better shooting team. UVA's season adjFG% (48.7%) ranks 10th in the ACC; NC State's (53.2%) ranks 3rd.

NC State doesn't need to worry about establishing its tempo. Pete Gillen illustrated in the first meeting that he was quite willing to play at State's pace--the game had just 60 possessions, which was slow even by NC State standards (State averages about 67 possessions per game).

Here's what the numbers say about the final score...

UVA Avg. ACC Home Game Offensive Efficiency: 104.2
NCSU Avg. ACC Road Game Offensive Efficiency: 113.1

UVA Avg. ACC Home Game Possessions: 71.4
NCSU Avg. ACC Road Game Possessions: 63.2
Expected Possessions for NCSU/UVA Game: 67 (average)

Predicted Score: NCSU 76, Wahoos 70

But based on the pace of the first game, I think we'll see fewer than 67 possessions for each team...probably closer to 63 or 64. So look for a lower score than the one predicted above (the prediction is just a ballpark figure...any number of factors can affect the number of possessions in a game, but chances are the teams will play close to their averages).

Positive signs for the Wolfpack:

1) Julius Hodge had only 5 FGA in the first matchup. He'll be more productive this time around.

2) Just to reiterate--Virginia is not a good shooting team. The team's performance in Raleigh was one of its best in-conference performances.

3) UVA has the worst defense in the ACC.

4) Pete Gillen could decide to sit Elton Brown again. He'll regret it.

5) Timeout!!!!!