Tuesday, February 28, 2006

It's bird! It's a plane! It's a Matt Mangini extra base hit!

-- NC State 3B Matt Mangini is killin' the ball dead, and people are noticing:

Speaking of 2007 hitters -- as offensive players will obviously be back on the map by then -- there has been no bigger story this year than NC State third baseman Matt Mangini. While the sample size police are surely on their way to arrest me, it is safe to say the best hitter in the country thus far (through 50 AB) has been Mangini. In a lineup that already features insane firepower from the likes of Aaron Bates and Jon Still, Mangini is hitting an insane .680/.730/1.080 this season. Not the most athletic player in the nation, Mangini will go as high in the draft as his bat takes him. Right now, that is pretty damn high.

Looks like Matt's OPS has dipped from a herculean 2.000+ to a merely titanic 1.810.

Also discussed: Bryan Smith's list of the top 20 pro prospects in college baseball. Two UNC pitchers are in his top five, and one of the two--lefty Andrew Miller--is number one. I knew those guys were good, but...wow.

-- Sometimes you run into strange things on the Internets. Take, for instance:

March is Tournament time, the season for what everyone refers to as March Madness. It is the season for me in which basketball is on the TV 24-7. It is the season in which my fiance walks around rattling off team stats and telling anyone he meets who the number one player/team/coach/division is and why they're going to beat all of the other players/teams/coaches/divisions. It is All Basketball, All the Time.

Case in point: David is currently in the living room yelling at the TV. And since this is not an unusual occurrence in our apartment (I, in fact, was yelling at the TV yesterday watching last week's episode of "24") let me share with you what is being yelled in the living room.

"NC State! You are NOTHING, NC State! I want you in ASU's bracket, NC State, so you can some here and play some real women and we can tear you apart. You need to come play here in the Valley of the Sun, NC State, because you suck! You ... are ... nothing!"

Two oddities: (1) this person lives in Arizona, and (2) he is directing his ire at the women's basketball team.

Yeah, well, you know what you can do, Sun Devils? You can cram it, that's what you can do!

Must be RPI envy.

-- Manny Lawson and Mario Williams are improving their draft prospects at the NFL combine:

We had a tremendous time from N.C. State defensive lineman Manny Lawson, who ran a 4.44 and 4.45. We had a linebacker -- Tarna Nande from Miami, Ohio -- lift 41 times and we had a record-tying bench press (45 times) by Mike Kudla from Ohio State. Defensive lineman Brodrick Bunkley from Florida State had 44 lifts to really help himself. N.C. State defensive lineman Mario Williams was already high, but his stock went higher after his workouts.
From Sporting News:

Another player who really helped himself Monday was North Carolina State defensive end Manny Lawson. He ran a 4.45 40-yard dash, which could put him in the first round. Lawson also participated in linebacker drills and looked good, which opens up the possibility of him being selected by a team that runs a 3-4 front.

Also in that Dan Pompei post: Maryland's Vernon Davis ran a 4.38 40. Nothing against Marcedes Lewis, but any GM who passes on Davis is outta his mind.

Mario Williams, Bronze God:

Most impressive: N.C. State DE Mario Williams wins the award in a close call over Southern Cal TB Reggie Bush. Although Bush is “cut like Charles Atlas,” according to NFL consultant Gil Brandt, Williams (6-7, 295) is a bronze god who fills doorways with his awesome physique.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Growing Prep School Problem

Two weeks ago, the Washington Post ran a great story on Philadelphia's Lutheran Christian Academy:

The school does not have its own building or formal classrooms, and it operates out of a community center in a ragged North Philadelphia neighborhood. It has just one full-time employee: the basketball coach, a former sanitation worker who founded the school. One former student, who attended the school for three months, said it did not use traditional textbooks and that the coach, Darryl Schofield, was the only teacher.

Yet Lutheran Christian graduates remain a hot commodity for college recruiters.

"Prep schools are the biggest problem in our sport today, and Lutheran Christian Academy is one of the worst," said one college head coach, who has visited the school. Said an assistant coach, who recruits from schools in the Philadelphia area: "We don't recruit players from Lutheran. Lutheran's players aren't prepared academically to attend college, and we don't need those headaches."

No ACC schools are mentioned in connection with Lutheran Christian, though one of NC State's non-conference opponents (George Washington) does recruit players from the prep school:

Among the Lutheran Christian products currently in college, George Washington guard Maureece Rice, one of the No. 8 Colonials' top reserve players, spent one year at the school after he failed to graduate from a public school in Philadelphia and abruptly left a more established preparatory school in North Carolina.

The article includes a comment from GW coach Karl Hobbs regarding Rice, but Hobbs dances around the academics issue. The last few paragraphs of the article discuss the transcript of a Lutheran player who left high school with a 1.33 core GPA after his junior year. According to Lutheran's basketball coach, Rice's academic record was similar.

Hobbs says that while he was evaluating Rice, he wondered why the kid wasn't getting more attention. See, "it must be academics" would be the first thing to occur to me, but apparently not so Karl Hobbs.

The other schools mentioned in the article: UTEP, Washington State, Georgetown, Mississippi State, UMass, Temple, Michigan, Gonzaga, Rice, Columbia, Jacksonville.

Yesterday, the New York Times also examined the issue (HT: YoCo Hoops), taking a more general approach. There's plenty more on Lutheran Christian Academy...

The red-brick community center that houses Lutheran has become a running joke in recruiting circles. Interviews with 10 current or former players revealed that all of Lutheran's more than 30 students are college basketball prospects. They have classes in one community center, a converted grocery store on North 17th Street, and practice in another.

Three former Lutheran students — Roosevelt Lee, Jamual Warren and Bobby Maze — echoed Phil Jones in saying that they were not required to attend classes and that Coach Schofield was their only instructor. Maze said he did no work when he did attend class.

Warren said his mother took him home to Springfield, Mass., after a month because he told her there was no school building.

"I like to get by easy," Warren said, "but not that easy."

Jones, a Brooklyn native, is a senior at Laurinburg Prep in North Carolina. He said he was glad he left Lutheran because universities like Kansas, Virginia Tech and Kentucky indicated that they could not recruit him there.

Lee and Warren did not qualify for Division I scholarships out of high school; they now attend Globe Institute of Technology, a junior college in Manhattan. Lee said that in one month at Lutheran, he received credit for five courses, earning all B's, although he never took a test, attended a class or received instruction.

"There were no classes," Lee said. "We went to basketball practice every single day. What we were told when we first went there was: How you perform on the court, that's what you do for your grades."

Schools mentioned in the NYT article (not necessarily in conjunction with Lutheran Christian): ECU, Xavier, UTC, Middle Tennessee, Florida Atlantic (that's Matt Doherty's team), Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Alabama.

Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury talked about the recruitment of Jamont Gordon from Lutheran Christian Academy (see also: this article):

Jamont Gordon went to Lutheran after withdrawing from Oak Hill last April. Coach Smith said Gordon would have been a borderline prospect to qualify for college academically if he had completed the final quarter of his senior year at Oak Hill.

Gordon now leads Mississippi State in scoring as a freshman. Bulldogs Coach Rick Stansbury said Gordon had gone to Lutheran to "finish one class." Told that Gordon had left Oak Hill needing to complete all his classes, Coach Stansbury said: "He went there to finish. That's all. He did what he had to do to finish his academics."

Coach Stansbury, who refused several requests to allow Gordon to comment for this article, said he had no reason to check whether Lutheran, which has been open in various forms for eight years, was accredited. Despite Gordon's tenuous academic situation and the fact that Mississippi State's top recruit, Vernon Goodridge, also went there, Coach Stansbury said he neither visited Lutheran nor talked to teachers or guidance counselors. He did, however, go to the gym.

"We don't talk to teachers when we're recruiting kids," he said. "Everyone does it differently."

I also liked this bit:

Sam Rines Jr., who opened Rise as a basketball academy, said a student could get credit for as many as eight core courses in a year. He said that if students finished their senior year and did not meet the N.C.A.A.'s eligibility standards, he encouraged them not to graduate, then to retake classes to raise their averages.

"Graduation," Mr. Rines said, "is a horrible thing."

I was looking at some profiles at Scout.com and noticed that Wake Forest had some interest in (but didn't offer) Lutheran Christian forward Maurice Thomas.

Another Philly Lutheran product, Vernon Goodridge, had offers from Clemson, FSU and Virginia Tech according to his profile. Georgia Tech recruited but didn't offer.

Bobby Maze, who was mentioned in my first excerpt of the NYT article, is being recruited by Virginia Tech and Clemson. These days he is attending The Patterson School in Patterson, NC (i.e., the middle of nowhere). Interesting but unrelated: I noticed that Patterson's soccer team is composed almost entirely of South Koreans.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

A final note on the UNC game...

Last week, I mentioned that UNC beat NC State with stunning efficiency. The Heels had an offensive efficiency rating of 149.6, which is the highest number posted by any ACC team in any game (conference or OOC) this season. I was curious about how the performance stacked up nationally, so I asked Ken Pomeroy.

He indicated that Carolina's mark has been exceeded just eight times. Here are the top three:

1) UC Irvine (against Miss. Valley State) -- 155.3

2) Ohio State (against Penn State) -- 155.1

3) UConn (against Morehead State) -- 153.0

Let's Bicker Like It's 2001

Kent: Professor, without knowing precisely what the danger is, would you say it's time for our viewers to crack each other's heads open and feast on the goo inside?

Professor: Mmm, yes I would, Kent.

Greenland 74, NC State 72

I'm less than keen on this whole double OT thing we got goin' on. Today was downright painful. Who would've thought that Sean Marshall's three point play to open the second OT would be all the scoring the Eagles needed to win?

NC State took nine shots in the overtimes, eight of which were three-pointers. Offensive execution was terrible in every one of the game's crucial last-minute possessions. I think fatigue cost NC State the game...we weren't up to playing for fifty minutes.

Boston College grabbed nine of its 19 offensive rebounds in the overtimes, and NC State only managed to hit one field goal.

NC State opponents have rebounded over 40% of their misses in three straight games, which a disturbing trend regardless of opponent. No one should be surprised if Wake Forest makes it four straight.

It's a shame that NC State wasn't able to take the opportunity presented by this week and solidify a high NCAA tournament seed. I don't know that the Wolfpack can make up the RPI ground it has lost, barring an ACC tournament title.

I'm trying to stay positive, as difficult as that is sometimes. (I seem to alternate between "we're never going to do anything special" and "we still have a good chance to make a run in the NCAAs.") In these last two games, NC State has shot the ball well below its average. We'll bounce back.

And we'd better not waste any time doing so, either, since I will be attending the Wake Forest game.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Caution: Falling Defense

After last night's historically bad defensive performance, I made a few guesses as to how NC State's efficiency numbers would be affected. I figured we'd drop a good 15-20 spots, but that has proven to be a conservative prediction.

NC State came into the Carolina game ranked 43rd in adjusted defensive efficiency; today, NC State ranks 71st.

The Wolfpack also plunged in the RPI.

UNC went from 17th in adjusted offensive efficiency to 4th, vaulting it over the likes of Villanova, Texas and UConn.

Welcome to the atrocity exhibition.

Y'know, I was angry, but now that I have had a chance to look at the offensive and defensive efficiency numbers for each team, I've transitioned to a mixture of frustration and awe.

Carolina scored 95 points on 63.5 possessions, which comes out to an offensive efficiency of 149.6. I have never seen anything like this. There's nothing from this season--absolutely nothing--that even approaches this number. Duke and UNC have both managed to break into the low 130s this year, but that's as close as anyone's gotten.
This is the way; step inside...

In checking my numbers from last season, I found that Wake Forest managed 140.9 against Clemson in 2005, but that's still a pretty distant second.

We were just subjected to an offensive performance for the ages. And I thought the night couldn't get more embarrassing. Averaging 1.5 points per possession for 40 minutes...that's astonishing. You will not see a more complete offensive effort.

It's better to react to this information with bewilderment rather than with disgust. If you don't laugh, you'll only end up crying.

So... How to pick up the pieces? NC State had no intensity, no energy, and no answers. Sendek was asked why the effort was lacking and had no explanation. There is no explanation.

The Heels played so well that didn't need State's help, but they got it anyway. When NC State wasn't playing lazy defense, it was playing confused defense. Mental lapses occurred one after the other; the Heels had great looks without having to work hard for them. When Carolina actually missed a shot, it just grabbed the rebound and took another crack at the basket. Here's how to score 1.5 pts/possession for an entire game: shoot 61%, grab over half of your misses, turn the ball over just six times.

I hope that the Wolfpack can put this mess behind them, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned. Tonight's loss wouldn't have been so disturbing (nor so lopsided) had NC State simply played hard; that we didn't play hard in a game of such obvious importance is more than a little perplexing. We'd better be ready for Boston College, because the Eagles aren't going to be feeling sympathetic.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

We love you too, Dave.

That hurts, man.

“(N.C. State) has the worst fans ever,” Noel said. “I told (my teammates) that you will hear something that you never thought you’d hear a day in your life.

“That’s just the way fans are, especially at State. Just focus out, focus on the court. Just be prepared to play 40 minutes of basketball, because it’s a lot more fun at the end of the game when they’re quiet.”

Oh yeah? Well...

So there!

Noel wasn't finished...

Noel said he has come to expect one thing at N.C. State’s place: a few vulgar comments. His worst memory came during a game in 2004 when fans shouted “S.T.D., S.T.D.” — for sexually transmitted disease — at swingman Rashad McCants.

“I don’t know where they got it from or anything like that,” Noel said. “It shocked Rashad, too. We were all like ‘wow.’

“The coaches kind of made fun of it. They thought they were chanting SUV, so it was kind of funny for the most part.”

If ever there was a perfect example of WTF Face, it was McCants's expression as he stood at the free throw line listening to the "S-T-D!" chant. It's lamentable that only 20,000 people were able to see his reaction (via the arena jumbotrons).

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Taking Another Look At Carolina

Here's my preview from the first meeting; updated Four Factors and other stats are located in the scouting report.

-- One of the few things (the only thing?) NC State's defense did well in the first game was defensive rebound. We'll need more of the same on Wednesday, but I'm having trouble being optimistic after what happened in Blacksburg.

-- Hansbrough's in-conference O Rtg is 123, which puts him in the ACC's top five in that category. He's averaging 26.6 pts/40 on 59.9% shooting. Hopefully NC State can do a better job of guarding Hansbrough without fouling him; he went to the line 14 times in the first meeting and averages an ACC-leading 11.6 FTA/40 min in-conference. That's a nice skill to have when you make 75% of your free throws.

-- Reyshawn Terry is putting up numbers in ACC play that are nearly as good as Hansbrough's. Terry averages 24.4 pts/40 and 10.3 rebs/40, but does still struggle with turnovers.

-- Frasor and Noel have turnover rates above 30% in ACC play. And let's just say that UNC should list "turning the ball over" as a hobby in Quentin Thomas's tarheelblue.com player profile. But that's why Q only gets 10 minutes per game.

-- Back in January, I wondered why Marcus Ginyard was getting more playing time than Danny Green and...I'm still wondering. Green's in-conference O Rtg (110) is 4th on the team behind Hansbrough, Terry, and the man of light usage--Wes Miller. Ginyard's O Rtg is 90. Green is averaging 19.4 points and 10.0 rebounds per 40 minutes, compared to Ginyard's 9.0 and 5.8.

-- On average, North Carolina has been pretty efficient on the road, but they've had some big swings from game to game. I thought it was interesting that Carolina's three best and three worst in-conference offensive performances have come on the road. They've posted offensive efficiencies anywhere from 93.1 (at VT) to 132.7 (at Miami).

-- Score Predictor says: NC State 78, UNC 76.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Mystery Of Engin's Hair Solved, Plus Other Items

-- From the Greensboro News & Record's SportsExtra blog:

On Friday, [Atsur] finally broke under intense scrutiny from the media and revealed the reason why his once close-cropped hair is now resembling afro status.

Apparently Atsur continue to let his hair grow out because it pleases N.C. State SID Annabelle Vaughan, who thinks Atsur looks - and I'm quoting accurately here - "cute" with long, curly hair.

Also, Atsur - ever the college student - pointed out that not getting a regular haircut helps him save money.

[Edit: On second thought, this joke prolly wasn't a good idea.]

-- I watched the debut of Knight School on ESPN yesterday. Please don't judge me too harshly. The show wasn't very good, though I liked the part where Knight removed a ball from practice because it had been "dribbled too much." Watching a bunch of guys with questionable talent fumble the ball around the court brought back memories of my own days as an intramural basketball player of questionable talent. All the familiar faces were there on the show, too: Slow Footed, One-Dimensional Shooter Guy; No-Pass Guy; Self-Important "I'm The Point Guard" Guy; Needs Four Put-Backs To Make One Layup Guy... It brought a tear to my eye, it really did.

-- Caulton Tudor points out a big reason why NC State needs to beat Carolina on Wednesday: to increase its chances of playing in Greensboro for the NCAA tournament's opening weekend.

Carolina defeated State, then ranked No. 13 nationally, by 13 points in Chapel Hill on Jan. 7. Should the Tar Heels pull out a win at Raleigh, a regular-season series sweep would be weighed heavily by the NCAA selection and seeding committee. If the two teams do not face each other again during the ACC Tournament, Carolina could get the nod.

NC State already has the edge in RPI, but it's a small one. If State were to beat Carolina, the Pack would almost certainly finish the regular season with a better conference record than the Heels (at worst, they would tie), which, when combined with the advantage in the RPI standings, would make NC State the pretty clear choice for Greensboro.

-- From Doyel's Dribbles:

Reasonable people disagree about the Indiana job.

Not talking about me. For one thing, I'm not reasonable. For another, I'm not a coach.

But this weekend I did speak with two coaches whose names have been tossed around regarding the Indiana job. In both cases, we spoke off the record. They were brutally honest. And in brutal disagreement.

One coach says Indiana is a top-five job nationally. He mentioned Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas. "Indiana might be fifth, but it's in the top five," this coach told me. "Indiana is a place you can go and win national championships."

One coach says Indiana isn't even the best job in the Big Ten. This coach says the Indiana job isn't as good as Michigan State or Ohio State. "The facilities are terrible, the salaries haven't been that good, and the fans are brutal," this coach told me. "It's a job that looks good because of Bob Knight, but that's it."

The more I thought about this, the more I started to lean towards the second coach's opinion. What makes the Indiana job more compelling than tOSU (barring NCAA sanctions) or Michigan State? A school's tradition and the quality of its head coaching position aren't always as closely related as fans like to think they are. Along with losing its elite status (in terms of results), Indiana has also lost a lot of its cachet. And I'm not just talking about the Mike Davis era--the last 5-6 years of Knight's tenure didn't do the program many favors either.

I'm not going to delve too deeply into a situation that I'm not familiar with, but I thought the negative comments from the anonymous coach were interesting. Times change.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

NC State 70, Virginia Tech 64

Box Score

While I'm always concerned about the things we don't do well, a win usually turns those issues into water under the bridge. Yesterday's defensive rebounding effort, however, was too pathetic to ignore. Virginia Tech's offensive rebounding percentage in conference games...

11 Games Prior To Sat: 28.6%
Against The Wolfpack: 44.7%

NC State has allowed an OR% similar to Tech's on two other occasions in-conference (BC, Wake), with the difference being that those two teams are actually good offensive rebounding teams. I realize there is a certain amount of luck involved in rebounding, but I wish the Pack could be more consistent.

During the second half, Virginia Tech grabbed 13 of its 21 offensive boards and scored 12 of its 18 second chance points. I think the Hokies' rally would have fallen short a little sooner had NC State simply grabbed defensive rebounds at a rate near its in-conference average.

In other news, NC State shot the ball well again (56.9%) and has made at least 12 threes for five straight games. The good shooting allowed us to escape despite getting killed on the offensive glass and despite being on the wrong side of a significant turnover margin (-9).

Taking a cue from what others have done, I decided to track the number of possessions played by each Wolfpack player against Virginia Tech. It wasn't as difficult as I thought it might be, although I was annoyed by the (not unusual) inattention paid to substitutions by the TV coverage. At least it distracted me from Steve Lavin's color commentary.

Anyway, the numbers have been placed in the table below. The table lists how many possessions each player was on or off the court for, and how the team fared over those periods. For reference: NC State's OFF EFF for the game was 109.6, and its DEF EFF was 100.2. The game had 64 possessions.

at Virginia Tech
PtsScoredOffPossOFF EFF
PtsAllowedDefPossDEF EFF

BennermanIn 6859115.3

AtsurIn 7062112.9

SimmonsIn 5849118.4

GrantIn 5145113.3

BrackmanIn 222878.6

McCauleyIn 121580

FellsIn 2366.7


There isn't much to be learned from the guards' splits since they just about went the distance. Engin only sat for two offensive possessions and was on the court for all 70 of State's points.

Other items:

-- NC State's defensive efficiency was surprisingly bad with Cedric Simmons in the game.

-- Brackman had a terrible game offensively and it shows in the table. He came the closest to spending half the game on the court and half off, and State's offense was tons better with him sitting.

-- The same five guys were on the court for the last 7:00 of the game: Bethel, Bennerman, Atsur, Grant, Simmons. Over that span, Virginia Tech scored 17 points on 13 possessions. Before the jump ball that ended a VT possession with :12 left, Tech had scored on 10 of its last 12 possessions.

-- NC State's longest string of possessions without a point was 5 (happened twice). The first occasion came early in the first half, right after Tech got a free throw to make the score 10-1. The Hokies only managed to climb to 10-5 during that NCSU drought. The second occasion came between Cam's jumper with 6:19 left in the game and a free throw with :55 left. Four minutes and 29 seconds elapsed over those five possessions.

-- After the under 8:00 TV timeout in the first half (which came with 6:46 on the clock), NC State scored 23 points on 12 possessions. The Pack outscored Tech 23-8 over that period.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Previewing Virginia Tech

Scouting Report

Virginia Tech Offense 05-06
Four FactorsPercentNat'l Rank
Turnover Rate16.54
Off Reb Rate29.3259

Dig that turnover rate...wow. Usually a team's conference-only numbers are worse than their full season numbers, but that isn't the case for Virginia Tech. Their in-conference TO% is 16.1%. In 11 league games, they have 65 fewer turnovers than their opponents. It happens to be the case that Virginia Tech is both good at avoiding turnovers and good at forcing them (see defensive factors below), thus the huge differential. In an average ACC game, Tech gets six extra possessions thanks to turnover margin. That can obviously make a big difference in an otherwise close game.

The players' turnover rates are impressive almost without exception. Dowdell: 13.6%. Collins: 11.1%. Gordon (the PG!): 16.8%. Witherspoon: 17.2%. Washington: 22.2%. Vassallo: 13.4%.

That's bad news, man. I keep thinking back to the Boston College game...the Eagles (also good at avoiding turnovers) only committed six. Of course, NC State won that game by 18, so it's not, you know, cripplingly bad news or anything.

Despite the low turnover rate, the Hokies have one of the worst offenses in the ACC. After all, it's shooting that matters the most, and the Hokies rank 9th in the ACC in eFG%. Tech's in-conference OR% ranks 11th in the ACC, just ahead of NC State.

And then there are free throws. In ACC games, Tech's FTM/FGA ratio is nearly identical to Clemson's, which is red flag-raiser is there ever was one. Those two teams are by themselves in the conference cellar in both FTA/FGA and FTM/FGA. The problem is, of the three Hokies who get to the line the most often--Dowdell, Collins, Gordon--none are shooting better than 70%. In fact, AD Vassallo is the only Hokie with an in-conference FT% over 71%, and he's only attempted six free throws.

NC State has made more free throws in ACC play than the Hokies have attempted.

Probable Starters (numbers are conference-only unless otherwise noted):

Jamon Gordon (6-3, 200) -- Among the league leaders in %Stls. Gordon is shooting 48.3% and doesn't appear to be much of an outside threat (30% from three on the season, 21% in-conference), but he is the only starter aside from Vassallo with an O Rtg above 100. Interestingly, Gordon has been the team's best rebounder in ACC play. His DR% (19.7%) ranks 8th in the conference.

Zabian Dowdell (6-3, 200) -- The team's offensive leader, Dowdell is Tech's highest-usage (25.3%) player. He's taking over 15 shots per ACC game, but his 45.5% effective field goal percentage makes him rather inefficient. He leads the Hokies in 3FGA, but is hitting just 30% (17-56) from behind the arc--down from his .359 season 3FG%. Like Gordon, Dowdell is great at stealing the ball.

Wynton Witherspoon (6-7, 185) -- Poor rebounder, crappy three-point shooter.

Deron Washington (6-7, 195) -- Modest 95.9 O Rtg in-conference. Not a primary scoring option, but he is shooting well by VPI standards.

AD Vassallo (6-6, 213) -- Has the best O Rtg (113.6) among the starters, and he's been taking a bigger role in Virginia Tech's offense as the conference season has progressed. Vassallo has the highest eFG% (56.6%) of the VPI regulars and his 17.0 pts/40 average is second only to Dowdell's 17.5 pts/40. Vassallo's rebounding numbers are modest, and like just about every other Hokie, he has a low TO%.


Most of the bench's contributions will come from Coleman Collins (6-9, 235), Markus Sailes (6-5, 210) and Chris Tucker (6-7, 220). Of late, Collins has been relegated to sixth man, but he's averaging well over 30 min/game in conference play. One would think he'll have to play a lot in order to matchup with Cedric Simmons. Collins has been one of the team's most efficient players, though his in-conference rebounding numbers are disappointing.

Tucker has been getting about 11 MPG in-conference, Sailes about 18 MPG. Both have usages under 10%.

Virginia Tech Defense 05-06
Four FactorsPercentNat'l Rank
Turnover Rate24.240
Off Reb Rate33.0193

Tech's in-conference defensive efficiency is 105.1--right around the league average, and comparable to Florida State's.

VPI's in-conference TO% forced is tops in the league. The Hokies' skill in this area is going to make their defense look good if NC State isn't careful.

My score predictor says...

NC State 77, Tech 68

(Caveat: Predictor, bless its heart, is unaware of Evtimov's injury.)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Doyel Conjectures Uselessly About Coaching Carousel, Mentions Larry Harris

Which coaches will end up where?

Duquesne: No, the job isn't open. Not yet. But put it this way: Danny Nee is more gone than Quin Snyder. When it opens, this job will be Ohio State assistant John Groce's to turn down. Groce, the hot young stud on Thad Matta's staff, worked with new Duquesne AD Greg Amodio when all three were at Xavier. Dark horse pick: If Groce says no -- he might wait for a more winnable situation -- and Rohrssen replaces Dixon, watch here for former Pitt star Larry Harris, an assistant at North Carolina State.

I thought it was interesting that Harris's name came up, even if it was qualified by an improbable chain of events. I'd suggest reading the whole article, because Doyel puts together some entertaining scenarios.

I don't want to suggest that Gregg was drinking while he wrote the piece, but he did call Arizona State a "sleeping giant."

One other quick note from an AP story on Ced Simmons:

A few weeks ago, the North Carolina State center came over late to try to stop a drive by Wake Forest's Chris Ellis, who leaped high for a dunk over Simmons as he was fouled. The moment was replayed endlessly on TV and preserved for posterity in a photo.

How does Simmons, a former West Brunswick (N.C.) High standout, know? Well, he sees the picture often, since teammates Andrew Brackman and Gavin Grant put it on their computers as their screen saver.

Football Postmortem: Yeah, The Offense Was Really That Bad

Brian has been working with college football play-by-play data from the 2005 season, and has this week written a series of posts discussing third down efficiency. Earlier today, he made his data available to the masses, and you can go take a look at the graphical breakdowns (efficiency, third down distance) for every DI-A team.

The graphs for NC State's offense are every bit as ugly as you would expect. Here is the first:

Click the image to view a larger version, or better yet, head over to mgoblog and fiddle around with this stuff yourself. Reading the graph is pretty straightforward: on the y-axis is 3rd down conversion percentage, on the x-axis is yards to go. The thick line represents the national average, while the thinner line represents the team's 3rd down efficiency. Anything above the NCAA average is in green, while anything below it is in red.

Not surprisingly, NC State's offense struggled mightily in almost every third down situation. The offense wasn't just a little bad at converting third downs; it wasn't even in the ballpark of the NCAA average. The gap is actually at its largest in 3rd-and-short situations, which tells you all you need to know about the offensive line's performance. On 3rd-and-1, the national conversion pct. in 2005 was about 68%. NC State's was 38%. On 3rd-and-1! One yard. One stinkin' yard.

I offer my best wishes to departed OL coach Mike Barry as he assumes a job with the Detroit Lions, but I'm glad we're going to have someone new coaching our offensive line in 2006.

Let's move on to the graph that examines third down distance:

The coloring works the same way for this graph as the first one, though it's more for differentiation than for designation of good and bad. This graph illustrates what percentage of NC State's third downs occurred at the various distances listed on the x-axis. For example, about 8% of NC State's third downs were 3rd-and-10s.

What we see in the graph is pretty consistent with what we would expect from a team that insisted on pounding away with its crappy running game. The Pack saw a lot fewer third downs in the 2-5 yard range than the average team did, and a fair bit more in the 6-9 yard range. Our inclination to run the ball the majority of the time on first down helped us in that we faced fewer 3rd-and-10s than average, but, clearly, that inclination only moved us forward so far. Maybe they weren't 3rd-and-10s, but they were still 3rd-and-longs.

1st down: Andre Brown carries for one yard
2nd down: Andre Brown carries for two yards
3rd down: Marcus Stone pass incomplete

On to the final chart, which breaks down the number of third down plays at each distance:

The blue portion represents failed attempts, the red represents conversions. So on 3rd-and-1, for instance, NC State was a pathetic 6-16 (37.5%). It's really amazing to see how bad we were in short yardage situations. When you look at the shorter distances, there's hardly any discernable improvement in conversion percentage from the longer distances. NC State posted its lowest rates in 3rd-and-8 and 3rd-and-9, but those conversion percentages weren't nearly as bad in relation to the national average as our short yardage percentages were (as evidenced by the first graph).

All this unpleasantness has no doubt left a sour taste in your mouth, so I will end this post with the NC State defense's 3rd down efficiency graph:

Look at all of that delicious green.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

NC State 86, FSU 64

Box Score

Evtimov's injury has stolen most of my usual post-victory enthusiasm...I hope his MRI doesn't reveal anything serious. The nice thing about being balanced is that no one player's production is irreplaceable, but it is very unlikely that we replace Evtimov's production at his level of efficiency. I really dislike the idea of having to rely more heavily on McCauley and Grant.

No use discussing this until I hear something official, though...

-- First and foremost, tonight was just an awesome offensive performance--even sans Ilian for a half. The Wolfpack shot 78.4% (eFG%) from the field, which is the team's highest mark in conference play (and second-highest this season). The Pack also hit 85% (17-20) of its free throws. State's 86 points on 71.5 possessions equates to an offensive efficiency of 120.3.

-- That impressive efficiency came despite a turnover rate above 29%. Fortunately, NC State forced Florida State into a lot of mistakes as well; the Seminoles turned the ball over on 32.2% of their possessions.

-- I should also point out that tonight was NC State's best game at the defensive end in conference play. State allowed 64 points on 71.5 possessions for a defensive efficiency of 89.5. This is only the third time in 12 conference games that the Pack has had a DEF EFF below 100. All three have occurred at home.

-- Another conference game, another impressive shooting performance from behind the arc. Including tonight, NC State has hit 45.7% of its threes in-conference. Three point shooting, last four games:

vs UMD: 12-28 (.429)
at UM: 12-27 (.444)
at GT: 12-24 (.500)
vs FSU: 13-23 (.565)

NC State has made at least 10 threes in 8 of 12 conference games. There is no die by the three. There is only live.

-- I was a little disappointed in how we rebounded the ball. Ced only had three boards in 31 minutes. The rebounding totals suggest the teams were even (25-25), but in fact the Noles were much better. FSU rebounded 38.2% of its misses and 75% of State's misses; NC State had OR and DR rates of 25% and 61.8%, respectively. I like to see us keep teams under a 35% offensive rebounding percentage, although the number posted by FSU tonight is actually no better than its in-conference average.

-- Twenty wins! We should move back into the RPI top 20, and it's going to be really important for seeding purposes to avoid another "bad loss" to a team outside of the RPI top 100. The only opponents left on the schedule that are outside of the top 100 are VPI and Wake Forest. We still have a chance to pick up two wins against the RPI top 50, so that's good.

-- Herb couldn't help but take a jab that has become surprisingly common this season:

"We just keep running that N.C. State offense," quipped Sendek, a not-too-subtle shot at those who criticize his team's Princeton-like system.

-- Cam to close games: you complete me:

"I feel incomplete," he said. "I feel like there's another half to play or something. But I guess we deserve this."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Previewing Florida State

FSU Scouting Report

Florida State Offense 05-06
Four FactorsPercentNat'l Rank
Turnover Rate22.0201
Off Reb Rate34.934.9

A more efficient offense has been the reason behind FSU's improvement from a sub-.500 team in 2005 to one that has a realistic shot at an NCAA tourney bid in 2006. The Noles had an OFF EFF around 102 last season, good enough for 120th in the country. So far this season, their OFF EFF has improved to 113 (ranking 27th nationally). FSU has become one of the best shooting teams in the country, and it has also markedly improved its OR% and FTM/FTA ratio.

Not surprisingly, such an impressive improvement in the offense has been facilitated by the increased efficiency of nearly every major contributor on the roster. Especially important is the improvement this year's starters have made, as Leonard Hamilton has been given more reliable options at the guard spot...

Player / 2005 O Rtg / 2006 O Rtg

Alexander Johnson / 83 / 103
Jason Rich / 94 / 108
Todd Galloway / 92 / 103
Isaiah Swann / 81 / 105

None of those 2006 numbers are great, but they represent a meaningful step up from awful to serviceable. Given the lack of efficiency at guard last year, it's surprising to me that FSU didn't lean on Von Wafer more heavily. Wafer only played about 60% of the team's minutes. Galloway and his poor O Rtg--for lack of options at the point--led the 2005 Seminoles in minutes played.

The Noles won't do much damage from outside--only Maryland has a lower 3FGA/FGA ratio in ACC games. In conference, the Noles have averaged an OFF EFF around 107, which ranks 6th and is a bit above the conference average (105). FSU's in-conference shooting (54.1%) ranks third. NC State (57.7%) ranks first.

I'm concerned that FSU's biggest offensive weakness (turnovers) matches up with NC State's biggest defensive weakness (forcing turnovers). It's important to force mistakes out of good shooting teams like FSU in order to deny them attempts at the basket.

Probable Starters (unless otherwise noted, numbers are conference-only):

Todd Galloway (5-11, 178) -- Second on the team in %Min, Galloway continues to handle a lot of PG duties but still struggles with turnovers: his TO% is over 30%. Shoots the ball decently well, but shouldn't factor into the offense very much (his usage is under 15%). Galloway is a selective three-point shooter, but a good one. He has made 40% (10-25) of his attempts; his season average is also 40% (21-53).

Isaiah Swann (6-1, 197) -- Fourth on the team in field goal attempts, Swann is shooting 51.2%. He leads the team in three-point attempts (33) and has made 36.4% of them (which is up from his 34.3% season average). He'll be pretty involved--only Johnson and Thornton have higher usages.

Jason Rich (6-3, 185) -- One of three starters (Galloway & Thornton are the others) averaging over 30 MPG. He won't turn the ball over much, and he also operates mostly inside of the arc (only 13 of his 97 FGAs are threes).

Al Thornton (6-7, 208) -- Has a usage of 26.5% and an O Rtg of 113. He boasts a turnover rate below 17%, and his eFG% (55.8%) is the best among the starters. Thornton averages 22.8 pts/40, which ranks 6th in the ACC. Oh, and he rebounds well, too. [Who's going to guard Thornton? Evtimov = pwnt. Gavin?]

Alexander Johnson (6-10, 250) -- Johnson was terrible with the ball last season, posting a turnover rate over 28%. He's got that down to a more bearable 22% in ACC games this year, and he has improved his field goal shooting by nearly nine percentage points.


Leonard Hamilton likes to get erebody involved; nine guys have played in all of FSU's conference games. The minutes are spotty for the bench, though. It is depth, yes, but it is not so much quality depth.

Andrew Wilson (6-6, 206), as you might have noticed, is lighting fools up. But that's only by being extremely selective (he is taking 3.5 shots/game). If it seems like Wilson has been in Tallahassee for the better part of a decade, it's because he has. I bet he pines for the glory days of the Bobby Sura era.

Diego Romero (6-10, 240) has been excellent in a miniscule role (%Poss below 10%). He and Wilson have been seeing the most minutes (15-20) off of the bench.

Ralph Mims (6-2, 200), Jerel Allen (6-4, 195), and possibly Uche Echefu (6-9, 220) will get the leftover minutes.

Florida State Defense 05-06
Four FactorsPercentNat'l Rank
Turnover Rate26.77
Off Reb Rate31.9159

FSU is league-average in defensive efficiency, giving up about 105 pts/100 poss (nearly identical to NC State's DEF EFF, in fact).

Interestingly, the Noles have allowed conference foes to rebound 37% of their misses--the fourth-highest (i.e., fourth-worst) mark among ACC teams.

Their perimeter defense also appears lacking.

ACC Individual Stats Leaders -- Conference Games Only

Statistics are up to date through this past weekend. Ken Pomeroy's stats glossary has definitions for just about all of the numbers you'll see below. A player must play a minimum of 30% of his team's minutes (about 12 mpg) in order to qualify. Have a look (Wolfpack players are in bold)...

Effective Field Goal Percentage
Rank PlayereFG%
1 Andrew Wilson71.4
2 Louis Hinnant71.0
3 Sean Dockery67.8
4 Tony Bethel65.8
5Diego Romero65.2
6 Ra'Sean Dickey62.8
7 Cam Bennerman61.2
8 Ilian Evtimov61.0
9Wes Miller60.7
10JJ Redick59.9
11 Byron Sanders59.1
12Reyshawn Terry58.9
13Eric Williams58.5
14Laurynas Mikalauskas58.3
15DeMarcus Nelson58.3

Special kudos to the pure forwards (i.e., non-three-point shooters) who are on the eFG% leaderboard since they don't get the benefit of eFG's adjustment for the value of threes.

O Rtg & Usage
Rank PlayerO Rtg%Poss
1 JJ Redick12530.2
2Robert Hite12422.0
3Shelden Williams12325.5
4 Craig Smith12123.7
5Justin Gray11928.2
6Tyler Hansbrough11827.5
7Jared Dudley11724.0
8Eric Williams11721.0
9Guillermo Diaz11525.0
10AD Vassallo11420.3
11 Al Thornton11326.5
12Andrew Brackman11221.1
13Cedric Simmons11022.9
14Reyshawn Terry11027.5
15Danny Green10822.7

Note: An added requirement for the above table is a usage above 20%. I wanted to remove the guys who are efficient mainly because they play small roles in the offense. Keep in mind that efficiency tends to decrease with higher usage.

Rank Player%Poss
1 JJ Redick30.2
2 Sean Singletary29.0
3 Justin Gray28.2
4 JR Reynolds27.6
5Reyshawn Terry27.5
6 Tyler Hansbrough27.5
7 Al Thornton26.5
8 Tyrese Rice26.2
9Anthony Harris26.0
10Shawan Robinson25.7
11 Shelden Williams25.5
12Alexander Johnson25.3
13Zabian Dowdell25.3
14Guillermo Diaz25.0
15Jared Dudley24.0

%Shots & Usage
Rank Player%Shots%Poss
1 JJ Redick35.630.2
2Sean Singletary31.629.0
3Justin Gray30.228.2
4 Danny Green29.822.7
5Al Thornton29.326.5
6Guillermo Diaz29.225.0
7JR Reynolds29.027.6
8Zabian Dowdell28.625.3
9Shawan Robinson27.725.7
10Reyshawn Terry27.527.5
11 Robert Hite27.422.0
12Sean Marshall27.223.3
13Anthony Morrow27.123.1
14Tyrese Rice25.726.2
15Tyler Hansbrough25.127.5

The above table illustrates how related %Shots and usage tend to be. I was surpised to see that Danny Green takes such a large chunk of his team's shots while on the court. He's only getting about 15 min/game in conference, so I guess he figures there is no time to waste.

Rank PlayerOR%
1 Tyler Hansbrough18.0
2 Raymond Hicks15.3
3 Shelden Williams14.7
4 Jeremis Smith13.8
5Travis Garrison13.0
6 Jason Cain12.5
7 Akida McLain12.4
8 Kyle Visser12.3
9Al Thornton12.1
10Chris Ellis11.9
11 Reyshawn Terry11.6
12Danny Green11.4
13Ekene Ibekwe11.1
14Laurynas Mikalauskas11.0
15Anthony King10.9

I'm a little surprised to see Leslie Visser on this list. She just barely met the minutes requirement.

Rank PlayerDR%
1 Craig Smith22.6
2 Alexander Johnson22.6
3 Shelden Williams22.2
4 Reyshawn Terry22.0
5Akin Akingbala21.1
6 Eric Williams20.8
7 Jeremis Smith19.8
8 Jamon Gordon19.7
9Gavin Grant19.6
10Cedric Simmons19.3
11 Ekene Ibekwe18.8
12Jason Cain17.7
13Ra'Sean Dickey17.6
14Danny Green17.5
15Byron Sanders16.2

Gavin Grant has been a better defensive rebounder than Ced Simmons in conference play. Simmons, however, is a much better offensive rebounder than Gavin. Note the guys on both the OR% and DR% lists.

Rank PlayerPPWS
1 Andrew Wilson1.42
2 Louis Hinnant1.41
3 Sean Dockery1.35
4 Diego Romero1.34
5Tony Bethel1.33
6 JJ Redick1.32
7 Cam Bennerman1.32
8 Tyler Hansbrough1.31
9Ilian Evtimov1.29
10Ra'Sean Dickey1.29
11 Andrew Brackman1.29
12Shelden Williams1.28
13Reyshawn Terry1.28
14Wes Miller1.22
15Craig Smith1.21

What do you know...the guys who rank 1-2-3 in eFG% also rank 1-2-3 in PPWS.

Turnover Rate
Rank PlayerTO%
1 Anthony King7.1
2 Coleman Collins11.1
3 Robert Hite11.9
4 Guillermo Diaz12.1
5Eric Williams13.1
6 AD Vassallo13.4
7 Zabian Dowdell13.6
8 Jared Dudley13.7
9Jason Rich13.8
10Lee Melchionni13.9
11 Travis Garrison14.0
12JJ Redick14.1
13Akida McLain14.8
14James Gist15.4
15Shelden Williams15.5

It's important to keep these turnover rates in context. King barely touches the ball, which makes it pretty easy to avoid turnovers. Most of the league's point guards are well over 20%, but that's not necessarily a bad number for guys who have the ball in their hands all the time.

When he learns of his placement in the above leaderboard, Lee Melchionni will chest bump his teddy bear and slap his dorm room floor.

Fouls/40 Min
Rank PlayerFouls/40
1 Tunji Soroye7.2
2 Sam Perry6.0
3 Josh McRoberts5.9
4 Alexander Johnson5.8
5Laurynas Mikalauskas5.7
6 Kyle Visser5.5
7 Reyshawn Terry5.4
8 Travis Garrison5.3
9Ekene Ibekwe5.2
10Chris Ellis5.1

No one approaches Soroye's level of hackitude.

Blocks/40 Min
Rank PlayerBlks/40
1 Shelden Williams5.9
2 Cedric Simmons4.0
3 Theodis Tarver3.2
4 Kyle Visser3.2
5Travis Garrison3.2

Landlord indeed.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Post-game Reaction: Grant, Bennerman

Jackets' agony ends:

Ilian Evtimov (17 points, nine rebounds, nine assists) grabbed Bennerman's missed 3-pointer with five seconds left, passing to the right corner, where Gavin Grant, one of N.C. State's least-gifted shooters, caught it.

He made a baseline move, only to remember his team needed a 3-pointer. Too late. Time expired, and the team that triggered the Jackets' longest losing streak in 25 years with an 87-78 win in Raleigh on Jan. 14 lost.

"I was trying to get the ball to Engin [Atsur] or Ilian or Cam, one of our best shooters," Grant said. "I didn't realize how much time was on the clock."

That's the first quotation from Gavin Grant I've been able to find.

Also of interest, from a Chip Alexander post at ACC Now:

"We struggled to come out of the gates," Bennerman said. "The reason we were flat is because of us. It wasn't them. Tech played a good game and beat us. But that's something we'll have to deal with soon because at tournament time we have deal with those type of situations.

"In some of our close games, we played well and it ended up in that situation at the end. In this one, it was all about the first half. We had 15 turnovers in the first half. We can't give up that many opportunities."

How will the Pack respond? It has a home game Wednesday against Florida State.
Said Bennerman, "Everyone has to put it behind us, as hard as it will be."

Not very encouraging comments from Cam.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The lights are on but nobody's home.

Box Score

SHOOT IT!!!!!!!!!11111111

Gavin did his best Danny Green impression, and you have to admit, it was pretty spot on.

NC State has been playing with fire too much lately. Sooner or later, the good fortune evaporates. The Pack didn't take care of the basketball and played some weak defense, and those shortcomings were enough to squander a 63.8% shooting day. NC State turned the ball over on 29% of its possessions, which is the highest TO% the team has had since the Iowa game.

It was frustrating to watch Georgia Tech shoot the ball as well as they did; compounding my disgust was the fact that they shot over their heads in the first meeting, too. They took advantage of poor defense, but they also just hit some tough shots. Remember that list of Tech's most efficient offensive performances in conference play? Here's an update:

1) at NC State -- 112.7
2) vs NC State -- 108.5
3) vs BC -- 103.3
4) at FSU -- 100.9
5) at Wake -- 98.5

It's an honor to help the Jackets obtain otherwise unknown heights of offensive success, it really is.

-- I think NC State needs some new shoes, as it seems like the players are losing their footing a lot more often than they should be. If I didn't know any better, I'd say some of the guys play in their socks. Maybe they could all stand in a pool of soda before the game or something. Double-sided tape could work.

-- Ced's foul trouble was crippling at the defensive end moreso than the offensive end, I thought. Neither Evtimov nor Brackman could handle Dickey.

-- Mario West: two points, one bruised hip. Way to go, dude.

-- Evtimov destroy! Evtimov crush you!

-- 12 turnovers between Atsur, Bethel and Bennerman. Not to mention two costly, painful blown layups. At least Tony rediscovered his shooting touch.

-- I really wish Evtimov had taken the open shot he had on the last possession rather than passing the ball to Bennerman. And wouldn't it have been better to have Brackman in the game rather than Grant, since Brackman's a better perimeter shooter? State would've needed to call a timeout in order to substitute (I'm pretty sure we had one), butI guess Sendek wanted to let the last possession play out without allowing Tech to setup or discuss its defense. That approach did pay off with some nice looks...we just couldn't hit them.

-- Maybe it was for the better that Brackman wasn't in the game, because if he'd hit another three, there's no telling how Bob Rathbun would have reacted.

"Strike three looking!!! Brackman third base warning track to the hit and run!!"

Friday, February 10, 2006

Taking Another Look At Georgia Tech

Scouting Report

In the first meeting, Georgia Tech had one of its best offensive performances of the season...but NC State still won.

What's interesting is how much of an aberration Tech's performance in Raleigh has turned out to be. Here are Tech's five most efficient games in conference play, sorted by offensive efficiency (Pts/100 possessions):

1) at NCSU -- 112.7
2) vs BC -- 103.3
3) at FSU -- 100.9
4) at Wake -- 98.5
5) at BC -- 97.4

Georgia Tech's average OFF EFF in 10 conference games is 96.5. While I was compiling that list just now, it occurred to me that the four Tech opponents are the ACC's four worst defenses. It isn't surprising that their best offensive games came against bad defenses; it is telling, though, that the Jackets were so mediocre against the league's swiss cheese. The Jackets couldn't even hit 100 (referring to offensive efficiency) against Wake Forest, and the Deacs are allowing an average OFF EFF of 116 in conference play.

Turnovers continue to be a big part of the problem for Georgia Tech--it is one of the most turnover-prone teams in the ACC. The Jackets' season TO% (.251) ranks 311th in the nation; their TO% in ACC games is 26.9%. They've had a turnover rate over 30% four times in conference play...that is a lot of wasted possessions.

As we know by now, however, NC State is not likely to take advantage of this weakness. The Jackets had a TO% of 15.8% in the first meeting, which is the only occasion in nine conference games that they've managed to stay under 20%.

Georgia Tech's offensive struggles are reflected in the individual numbers. Frederick and Clinch have O Rtgs below 90 in ACC play, Dickey and Smith are right around 100, while Morrow leads the regulars with a modest 108 O Rtg.

Dickey is making 63.1% (eFG%) of his shots in conference play, which puts him among the league leaders. I think you can guess what's killing his overall efficiency...

Anthony Morrow remains the guy we have to be the most concerned with. He's hit 43.9% of his threes in-conference. By the way, why didn't NC State recruit Morrow (who is from NC)? I assume grades weren't an issue. Was he just under the radar? He'd be such a perfect player for NC State...

Mario West was one of the Jackets' numerous injuries early in the season, and he has since returned to the lineup. He adds experience, but he is playing a pretty minor role--and not playing it well.

I'm worried about a post-double OT hangover, and I will not be surprised if State shoots poorly in Atlanta. But the Jackets are so inefficient that a sub-par Wolfpack offense may still be adequate. I think Tech's performance in Raleigh represents the ceiling for this team: in addition to limiting its turnovers more than usual, it also shot well above its average eFG%. Those are two things that very rarely go well at the same time for the Jackets.

More often than not, Tech is a team that struggles to score 1.0 pts/possession, and I think that will be the case on Sunday; as long as we don't out-suck them, we'll be fine.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

NC State 86, Miami 77

Box Score

Four Factors

NC State58.
The U46.821.035.9.39

Now that I have had some time to recover:

-- In three conference games against Miami, NC State is 36-69 (52.2%) from behind the arc. The Pack has hit 12 threes in each game.

-- Cam says conditioning was an advantage for State (HT: ACC Now). Fatigue did look like a factor in Miami's free throw misses during the second overtime. Defensively, Anthony Harris had trouble staying with Bennerman in the OTs.

-- Tony Bethel had a bad night from the floor, but that was inevitable considering how well he'd been shooting in conference play. It also seemed like Bethel lost his footing a lot. On the plus side, Tony had four steals and only turned the ball over once in 47 minutes.

-- Numbers confirm our suspicion: Gavin Grant was excellent. His O Rtg for the game was 128, third on the team behind Bennerman and Brackman. Good things happen for Gavin when he plays with discipline and doesn't force shots. He took and made a wide open three (and as long as he's open, he should take those jumpers--despite his poor shooting percentage), calmly made some huge free throws, and hit an important jumper in the opening minute of overtime. No Wolfpack player averaged more points-per-minute than Grant did.

-- Evtimov had six turnovers, which translates into a turnover rate of 37%. So despite a great shooting performance, his O Rtg for the game was only 100.

-- I'll consider Miami's turnover rate (21%) a victory even though NC State couldn't take advantage. I wish I could say that it was something NC State did, but the Hurricanes just made a lot of unforced errors (in the first half, mostly). Protecting the ball became a big key to their run.

-- State didn't have much success on the offensive glass, but the offensive board that Ilian Evtimov snagged with about 1:30 left in the second OT was among the most important plays of the game. Already up five, NC State used the renewed possession to eat more clock and eventually draw a foul (Simmons would hit two free throws and extend the lead to seven).

Overtime: it's splendidly superfluous!

The first rule of NC State basketball: why make easy what can instead be made difficult?

For the game, Miami's offensive efficiency was a modest 101. Over their last 11 possessions of regulation, however, the Hurricanes scored 21 points. That's an OFF EFF of 191. Those possessions span the last six minutes--from a 44-56 deficit to a 65-65 tie.

NC State's OFF EFF was 113 for the game, but during those final 11 possessions it was just 82. Of course, the Wolfpack's problems started closer to the midway point in the second half, but I thought the last six minutes were the most interesting.

That stretch of the game was a nightmare of Vanderbilt-esque (fn. 1) proportions; Miami hit shot after shot, and when they didn't get a field goal attempt, they were getting points from the free throw line. I wasn't appreciative of the officiating during this part of the game, but whatever. It doesn't change the fact that a little offensive execution on State's part would have put the game out of reach.

Right at the end, it looked like we'd finally made the decisive play we needed. Atsur drove to the basket and forced Anthony King to help, which freed Simmons right under the goal. Atsur got it to Ced, and for a second he was wide open. As shouts of excitement began to build throughout the bar at which I was watching the game, I stood up in anticipation: Ced's gonna throw this down. We're going to sneak out of here after all. But Simmons (underestimating King's ability to recover, perhaps) decided to lay the ball in, and King got there just in time to deny the shot.

I sat down in disbelief. Of all the painful blows that we endured down the stretch, that one hurt the most. I could feel the enthusiasm drain from everyone in the sports bar.

Naturally, as the Pack headed into overtime, I thought we were toast. Miami scored first, giving the Hurricanes their first lead since some time in the first half. See? Toast.

Gavin Grant hit a big jumper on State's next possession, and that seemed to bring the team out of its lethargy. The sinking feeling began to abate a little after that shot. The guys deserve a lot of credit for putting the last few minutes of regulation behind them...they were not outplayed by Miami in overtime. If anything, the Hurricanes were fortunate to extend the game another five minutes.

As the team prepared for the second overtime, oft-philosophic head coach Herb Sendek offered a bit of encouragement to his huddled players: "Did you know that the Chinese use the same word for 'crisis' as they do for 'opportunity'?"

Ilian Evtimov responded, "Yes--'crisitunity'!"

Acting fully in the spirit of the knowledge just gained, Evtimov hit a three pointer to open the second OT. The rest of the period proved anticlimactic. The Hurricanes had given it their best shot, but they were all out of efficiency.

Predictably, there's a lot of useless postgame hand-wringing about losing a double-digit lead. I'm too tired to care.


1.) I can't even type Matt Frieje without becoming nauseous.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

One of the faster-paced games you'll see this year...

Tonight's Duke/UNC game featured 80 possessions.

Four Factors


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Previewing Lethal Weapon 3

This is a lot easier the second time around. Here's the Miami preview that I posted prior to the first meeting, and all of the relevant team and individual statistics are available in the scouting report.

Some notes based on the events since our last meeting:

-- Miami is still giving up a big chunk of points from behind the arc. Miami's defense ranks 9th in the ACC in adjusted defensive efficiency (64th nationally).

-- A noble spirit embiggens Robert Hite, who has been brilliant in conference play--though he remains the second option behind Diaz. Hite's O Rtg in conference is 130; he's shooting 59.6% (eFG%), scoring 21.1 pts/40 and grabbing 6.9 rebs/40. Hite has hit 50% (31-62) of his threes and his TO% is under 11%.

-- Anthony King's rebounding numbers have not been up to his standards in conference play: 9.0% OR%, 13.3% DR%. King's O Rtg in conference (129) is excellent, but he's managed that level of efficiency because of low usage (13.7%).

-- Let's give King and Gary Hamilton some credit...maybe they aren't lethal weapons, but they can do some damage. A sort of billy club to the guards' pistol. King and Hamilton are blunt objects with which Miami pounds opponents into submission, but they're generally not dangerous enough to render a fatal blow.

-- Although nine guys have played in every conference game this season, the Canes' rotation is closer to seven: Diaz, Hite, Harris, King, Clemente, Hicks, Hamilton. Anthony Harris's in-conference O Rtg is 101, Hicks's is 103, and Clemente's is 85. Poor Denis is only making 36.3% of his shots. Hamilton's offensive rating (114) looks nice, but a lot of guys would look good with a %Poss under 10%.

-- Barring a performance like Sunday's, NC State should victimize the Miami perimeter defense like it has in the last two meetings.

-- Miami isn't turnover-prone (except from my man Anthony Harris), so (per usual) it'll be a challenge for the Wolfpack to maintain a positive turnover margin.

Monday, February 06, 2006

NC State 62, Maryland 58

Box Score

Three-pointers saved the day...

Inside Arc: 18.5% (5-27)
Outside Arc: 42.9% (12-28)

The Wolfpack's perimeter success meant that they just about matched Maryland in the eFG% department (State shot 41.8% to UMD's 43.4%). And even though NC State was 1-10 on two-pointers in the second half, it still had an eFG% of 54.2% over that span.

The Pack were also surprisingly effective at offensive rebounding against Maryland's front line. State came into the game averaging an OR% of 24.9% in conference play; against the Terps, State's OR% was 41.4%. That makes two games in a row where the Terps have allowed an OR% over 40%, and while it's forgivable to allow that kind of success to North Carolina, there's no way that NC State should have gotten the better of the Terrapin frontcourt.

NC State's defensive rebounding wasn't much better than Maryland's, but at least the Pack held the Terps below season average.

Also important in this game were free throws. I pointed out in the preview that Maryland gets a higher proportion of its offense from the line than anyone in the ACC, but they didn't get much of anything today. I can't remember the last time NC State had fouls to give with less than 4:00 in a conference game. Maryland had only two FTAs in the second half and finished the game 5-10.

Tony Bethel continued his exceptional shooting, so maybe I should stop worrying about this. He hit 5-9 from behind the arc and was the only NC State player to shoot 50% or better from the field.

The game had about 63 possessions, which means the Wolfpack has now gone two games in a row without posting an OFF EFF above 100. Wouldn't it be nice to break out of this on Wednesday?

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Previewing Maryland

Maryland Scouting Report

Whether or not it's justified, I tend to worry about the plexiglass principle over the short term. That is, I don't like to see opponents play poorly in a game right before they play NC State because I fear they will bounce back and play really well against the Wolfpack. Maryland had an OFF EFF of 79 against North Carolina on Thursday. They shot terribly, they didn't rebound like they normally do, and they didn't make free throws like they normally do. The good news is the Terps have been a bad road team.

Maryland Offense 05-06
Four FactorsPercentNat'l Rank
Turnover Rate21.8184
Off Reb Rate39.023

No ACC team gets a higher proportion of its offense from the free throw line. Maryland is hitting 74.4% of its free throws on the season, 75.3% in conference play. The Terps are among the fastest-paced teams in the country.

Several Terrapins have struggled in conference games, which has made the Maryland offense very pedestrian over that span. Ibekwe, Garrison and Strawberry each have O Rtgs below 100 in conference; Garrison and Strawberry are actually below 90.

Probable Starters:

DJ Strawberry (6-5, 201) -- In addition to shooting poorly in conference, Strawberry also has a high turnover rate (over 30%). It's his lucky day, though, because NC State isn't going to force mistakes.

Mike Jones (6-5, 204) -- Maryland ranks 330th in 3FGA/FGA even with Jones doing all he can to help the cause. With McCray out, there's really no one but Jones to concern the Pack with outside shooting. He has 80 of Maryland's 267 3FGAs and has made over 46% of his attempts on the season. Does have a tendency to turn it over.

Nik Caner-Medoodily (6-8, 240) -- Caner-Medoodily really has done an admirable job in McCray's absense, and he is Maryland's most efficient player in conference play. Rebounds decently, does a good job drawing fouls. No doubt relieved to not have to guard Julius Hodge.

Ekene Ibekwe (6-9, 220) -- Only shooting 40.8% in conference and perhaps uses more possessions than he should.

Travis Garrison (6-8, 241) -- Could be Gist in this spot, especially with Garrison shooting a ghastly 32.4% in conference. Personally, I think Garrison is underappreciated; however, there's no denying how bad he's been in ACC play. He does a lot of damage on the offensive glass.


James Gist (6-8, 223) is having a much better go of it than his post-mates are. His secondary role has allowed him to be more selective and shoot at a higher percentage (56.5% in conference).

Parrish Brown (6-1, 175), Will Bowers (7-1, 262) and Sterling Ledbetter (6-4, 198) will see some time, though Maryland isn't inclined to use any of them for very long. All three have been terrible in conference play, and they won't take much of a part in the offense.

Whenever I see Bowers, I always get the impression that he and his five o'clock shadow have just arrived from a kegger. And pre-gaming is important, you know.

Maryland Defense 05-06
Four FactorsPercentNat'l Rank
Turnover Rate22.791
Off Reb Rate30.177

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Wolfpack Players' Conference-Only Stats

Individual statistics that include every game played are here. You can compare those numbers to the conference games-only stats, which I have compiled below. In the tables, you'll find every statistic tracked by Pomeroy plus a few extras. I've bolded numbers that are of particular interest.

Conference Games Only
Player%MinO Rtg%Poss%ShotseFG%Reb%OR%DR%FTR
Ilian Evtimov75.811018.019.858.19.13.913.129.0
Gavin Grant43.38922.
Cam Bennerman86.712418.220.465.
Tony Bethel83.312016.720.667.67.92.511.91.4
Ced Simmons70.011524.721.459.715.110.818.393.5
Engin Atsur87.011117.118.753.
Andrew Brackman45.811122.

The first thing I noticed was Gavin's offensive offensive rating. His inefficiency is made to look even more glaring by his teammates. He has been the Pack's best defensive rebounder, though, and he does a good job of getting to the free throw line.

In case you're wondering, Tony Bethel has one (1) free throw attempt in conference play--thus the miniscule free throw rate. He's gotta work on that. Since he has handled most of the point guard duties, it's weird that he's had so much trouble getting to the line. At the least, he should be getting FTAs as often as Atsur. But this minor nitpick doesn't change the fact that Tony has been fabulous in conference play. I am a little concerned that he's shooting at an unsustainable percentage.

It's amazing how evenly distributed the field goal attempts are. Even Simmons, who is using the most possessions on the team, doesn't have a shot percentage that's much higher than his teammates (though his %Shots is deflated by fouls in the act of shooting since missed attempts in that situation do not count).

Is it any wonder that the Wolfpack doesn't offensive rebound very well? You can also see why we have problems in this area when Simmons is on the bench.

Conference Games Only
Ilian Evtimov21.621.601.71.2514.
Gavin Grant16.327.
Cam Bennerman16.417.
Tony Bethel37.
Ced Simmons15.
Engin Atsur33.716.
Andrew Brackman13.722.

[By the way, PF = personal fouls; the last four columns are per-40 minute stats]

Here's a big problem which is illustrated to an extent by the %Stls column: State has shown a complete inability to force turnovers (even moreso in conference). Conference foes are turning the ball over on only 15.9% of their possessions. Note that if a team averaged 15.9% for the season, they'd rank 6th in the country in TO rate. In eight conference games, Wolfpack opponents have turned the ball over 89 times--a little over 11 per game. NC State's average turnover rate in conference play is over 19%, and although that's not bad, it's obviously not better than 15.9%. That edge in TO% gives opponents more shots at the basket, more opportunities to go to the free throw line, and more opportunities to extend their possessions via offensive rebounds.

I'm sure the coaches hold their "deflections" statistic (and whatever else they track) close to the vest, but if we were to get a look at those numbers, I wouldn't be surprised if we found that they were down this season.