Friday, March 31, 2006

The Home/Road Split: Offense

I'm ignoring defense and efficiency margin here, so this isn't an evaluation of the best home or road teams. Just best/worst home and road offenses. Let's see who hated those road trips...

Home/Road OFF EFF Differential -- Conference Games
Rank TeamGamesHome OFF EFFRoad OFF EFFHome-Road Margin
1 Virginia1611287.324.7
2 Clemson16106.392.413.9
3 Maryland1610389.813.2
4 Miami16111.1103.27.9
5Boston College16114106.77.3
6 NC State16113.2107.26.0
7 Florida State16104.9103.91.0
8 Wake Forest16105106.1-1.1
10Virginia Tech16100.4102.5-2.1
11 Duke16110.9115-4.1
12Georgia Tech1697.4101.8-4.4

Maryland had the largest home/road differential in 2005 (the Terps were about 17 pts/100 poss worse on the road), and while Caner-Medoodily and company put forth a similarly inconsistent effort in 2006, they were no match for Virginia.

The quality of defense the Cavs faced on the road was higher than what they faced at home, but that difference wasn't nearly large enough to account for Virginia's offensive drop off. At home, UVA was one of the three best offensive teams in the conference; on the road, they were the absolute worst. Amazing.

In eight road games, the Hoos did not once post an offensive efficiency rating above 100. Virginia is the only ACC school to manage this bit of ineptitude in conference play over last two seasons. (In at least the last two years. My numbers don't go back any further.) Virginia's best showing on the road? The .96 pts/poss it averaged at NC State.

Dave Leitao needs to make like Norman Dale and bust out the tape measure when his team is on the road. "See, guys? It's just like the gym back home..."

-- Playing at home, nine schools had offenses that performed at or above the conference average of 104.9 pts/100 poss. On the road, only five schools were league average or better.

-- The most consistent teams in league play were Wake, FSU, UNC, and Virginia Tech. Those teams could expect about the same level of offensive output regardless of venue. That's wonderful if you're an excellent offensive team like the Tar Heels, bearable if you're league-average like Wake and FSU, but if you're Virginia Tech, you'd probably like to be surprised a little more often.

-- Obviously the heckling that Duke endures on the road doesn't affect its performance. The Blue Devils had a similar split in 2005.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

ACC Hoops Rewind: Luck And The Regular Season

Back in late January, I examined the conference-play efficiency margins of each team to get a feel for their performance through 6-7 league games. Now that the season is complete, it's time to take another look.

In the table below, teams are sorted by conference efficiency margin. ExpW-L is expected win-loss record, which I computed using the pythagorean formula. ActW-L is each team's actual conference win-loss record. The games played column was needed in January but is irrelevant now. I just left it in because removing it would be a hassle.

Conference Games Only
Rank TeamGamesOFF EFFDEF EFFEFF MarginExpW-LActW-L
1 Duke16112.999.713.212.4-3.614-2
2 UNC16111.998.813.112.4-3.612-4
3 NC State16110.2107.32.99.1-6.910-6
4 Boston College16110.4108.32.18.8-7.211-5
5Florida State16104.4103.31.18.4-7.69-7
6 Miami16107.1107.4-0.37.9-8.17-9
7 Clemson1699.3101.4-2.17.2-8.87-9
8 Virginia Tech16101.5106-4.56.3-9.74-12
10Georgia Tech1699.6105.3-5.75.8-10.24-12
11 Virginia1699.6105.5-5.95.8-10.27-9
12Wake Forest16105.5114.4-8.94.9-11.13-13

Conference Averages: OFF EFF (104.9), DEF EFF (104.9)


-- You can see how good Carolina was during its second-half surge. Through six games, the Heels had a negative efficiency margin that suggested they were only the sixth-best team in the conference. Instead of struggling to 8-8 as it appeared they might, UNC won 11 of its last 12 ACC games and ended up being every bit as good as Duke (on paper). The fact that Carolina is both young and not an over-achiever (the team's actual record closely mirrors its expected record) certainly bodes well for next season.

-- The two luckiest teams in the ACC this season: Maryland and Boston College. Both finished with actual records that were about two games better than their expected records.

-- On the flip side, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest finished about two games worse than their expected records. Virginia Tech, in particular, is an interesting case. Last year, the Hokies were lucky: they had an expected conference record of 5-11 but managed 8-8. Note that, this year, their expected record was 6-10, yet they finished 4-12. So they may have actually been a better team this season, but they still finished four games worse than their 2005 mark. All of its major contributors will return next season, so Tech is a good candidate for a rebound.

-- Several teams regressed pretty heavily between January 30th (the date of my earlier evaluation) and the end of the season: Virginia's efficiency margin slipped 7.7 pts/100 possessions, Duke's slipped 6.8, and NC State's slipped 4.2. North Carolina was the big gainer, improving an incredible 14.5 pts/100 possessions.

-- The Wolfpack were lucky for once. Last year, State did not reach its expected conference record. If efficiency margin is to be believed, NC State proved to be a better team in conference play than Boston College, despite the Pack's maroon swoon. I'll buy that.

-- The league's best offense: Duke. It's worst: Maryland. Best defense: UNC. Worst defense: Wake Forest (no way!).

-- Maryland had some awful performances en route to the worst offense crown. Some of their hideous offensive efficiency ratings: 67.4 at Duke, 78.9 vs. UNC, 80.4 at FSU, 71.8 at UNC. The Terps' futility against UNC allowed the Heels to win both games comfortably despite being mediocre themselves (they only scored about 1.0 pts/poss in both games).

-- On the road, Wake's defensive efficiency rating was 120.8. The craptacular Maryland offense lit Wake up to the tune of 119 pts/100 poss. It takes that kind of defense to lose 13 games despite having an above-average offense.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

More On Grundy; Plus, I Found Greg Golden

A few items today:

-- From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's HawksBlog, more on Anthony Grundy:

Grundy’s a guy the Hawks didn’t want to part with in the preseason, but they knew he’d get much more work in the NBDL than he would with them - when everyone was healthy. And Grundy didn’t disappoint in the D-League, averaging 23.2 points and roughly five assists and rebounds. He impressed during his time with the Hawks with his hustle and natural point guard instincts, though he played more a of a combo-guard position at N.C. State. There was even some talk about keeping him on the roster back then. Now that he has a second chance, I’m interested to see how he handles it.

Grundy's back in NC tonight, as the Hawks are in Charlotte playing the Bobcats.

-- Hey, look, it's Greg Golden! The arenafootball2's (No caps, no spaces. They're so hip.) Memphis Xplorers finished training camp recently, and Golden made the team. af2 includes an interesting mix of teams with WNBA-esque nicknames: the Conquest, the Fire, the Shock. I'm partial to the Rio Grande Valley Dorados since they share a nickname with my high school.

-- Non-athletics related: Record number seeking admission at NCSU:

NCSU said Monday that it has received 15,236 applications seeking freshman admission this fall. The record number of applicants represents a 10.7 percent increase over the 13,762 students who applied for admission at NCSU a year ago.

Often times you hear that interest like this is sparked by the success of a school's football or basketball team, but, uh, I'm thinking that probably isn't what happened here.

If NC State enrolls as many freshmen as it expects to, the class will be the largest in school and state history. That's pretty cool.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Hawks Give Anthony Grundy A Cup Of Coffee

Grundy signs 10-day contract with Atlanta:

Averaging 23.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.4 apg and 2.5 spg in 39.8 mpg, Grundy is among the D-League leaders in virtually every offensive category. He ranks first in the league in three-pointers made and attempted, field goals made and attempted, steals and minutes. Additionally, he places second in scoring and free throws made, and third in efficiency rating (20.55). Earlier today, Grundy was named to the 2005-06 All-NBA Development League First Team as voted on by the league’s head coaches.

And as mentioned at the end of that blurb, Grundy made First Team All-Develoment League (along with Will Bynum, Marcus Fizer, Ime Udoka, and Andre Barrett). If you're wondering what efficiency rating is, go here.

Good luck in the ATL, Tony!

Sidenote: Kelenna Azubuike, All-NBDL honorable mention. Good idea leavin' school early, Kelenna.

Changes Schmanges

Caulton Tudor says Herb Sendek needs to start tinkering. On the offense:

But unless 2006-07 produces unexpected success, Sendek needs to admit the obvious: His offensive system has run its course. It no longer catches quality opponents by surprise, and when the outside shots aren't falling against those teams, defeat is virtually unavoidable.

It's hasty say the system has "run its course." Tudor is certainly correct when he says we don't catch quality opponents by surprise anymore, but I don't think there's much evidence to suggest that those opponents are getting better at stopping what we do.

In conference play, NC State had the fourth-most efficient offense among the 12 ACC teams:

Rank / Team / Pts per 100 Possessions

1) Duke (112.9)
2) UNC (111.9)
3) BC (110.4)
4) NCSU (110.2)

People act like there's something inherently wrong with being a perimeter-oriented team. Like this style is a basketball faux pas. Sure, it'd be nice to win the rebounding battles more consistently, and we'd all appreciate a little run 'n gun, but what gets overshadowed are the things that make the system enjoyable: low turnover rates, good shot selection, good shooting from the field and at the line (especially the free throw shooting). We've come to take these strengths for granted, and I doubt they are appreciated like they should be.

We know Herb is going to stick with his offense, so I suggest you save yourself some heartache and get busy appreciatin'.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Welcome to The BC

Interesting story in the New York Times today: Soap and the Campus: A Web-Site Spoof Succeeds (bugmenot)

Father MacMillan, a Boston College chaplain, plays Father Don on "The BC," a Web-site spoof of the Fox Television hit "The OC" that is written and directed by students at the college, who are joined in the acting by priests and administrators here at the Jesuit institution's main campus.

Episodes are downloadable at the show's website. The show is about as low rent as you'd expect, yet I find it oddly addictive--and I don't even watch The OC. I recommend the video featuring Tim Russert and several Boston College basketball players, which is right there on the homepage (this is not one of the episodes of the show, by the way).

Cullen Jones: 50-Yard Freestyle National Champ

Congratulations to Cullen:

NC State's senior sprinter Cullen Jones won the NCAA Championship in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 19.18. He is the first Wolfpack NCAA champ since David Fox won the same event in 1993. Jones is the seventh NCAA champion in school history. Fox was on hand to present Jones with his NCAA Award, as the two came together at poolside after the event.

Spring Football Prospectus

From today: 2006 Spring Football Prospectus. It contains precious few tidbits, naturally, but at least it's something. Chuck Amato says "fundamentals are the focus" of spring practice. Kinda like how penalties were the focus last year, and we know how that worked out...

No revelations regarding the defensive line situation:

Of the six players listed on the depth chart at defensive end, only one, John Amanchukwu (6-4, 283, R-Sr.), saw playing time in 2005. Amanchukwu, who actually played tackle last season, enters spring drills as the starter at right end, while Willie Young (6-5, 230, R-Fr.), who redshirted the 2005 campaign, is working with the first team on the left side. Several other redshirts from a year ago, Quentin Brown (6-5, 245, RS-Fr.) Littleton Wright (6-6, 244, R-Jr.) and Matt Kushner (6-4, 241, RS-Fr.), will also see frequent reps this spring.

"With Manny and Mario gone, we are young and inexperienced at end," Amato continued. "We have talented young men out there and a lot of competition, so we have a ton of potential. Now we just have to see who is going to step up."

With DeMario Pressley and Tank Tyler at tackle, State should be fine up the middle, but it is noted in the prospectus that little experience exists behind those two. There's going to be a lot of learning on the job this year.

The tailback position may be one of the most solid spots on the team, boasting more players with game-breaking ability than can possibly line up at one spot. Because of that tremendous depth and talent, Amato and the coaching staff started working Darrell Blackman (5-1, 209, Jr.) at receiver during bowl practices and that transition has continued into the spring.

Oh my god, Darrell Blackman is shrinking!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Gavin's Steady Improvement

Although Gavin Grant still has a lot of work ahead of him, the improvements he made between his freshman and sophomore seasons give reason for hope. He got better in just about every category in 2006, and shows encouraging signs that he's on the way to being an efficient, reliable ACC player. (stats glossary)

Gavin GrantO Rtg%Poss%MinPts/40PPWSeFG%TO%%Shots

Gavin's O Rtg spent most of the season under 100 but he came on strong over the last few weeks of the year and managed to reach the century mark. His overall shooting
"Shoot it!"

improved in 2006, though his 3FG% regressed (from 26.5% to 20%). Gavin takes few enough threes that that's not a big deal, but you'd think he could at least approach 30% with all those open looks. Shoot the J this summer, Gavin. Shoot it a lot.

His 2FG% increased from 46.6% to 53.1%; some work on his range, to go along with better shot selection, could mean that Gavin turns the corner in 2007. He became more patient this season, perhaps because he knew he was going to get more playing time. Whatever the case, he more willingly played within the offense and didn't venture into Gavin's World O' Poor Shots as much as he did in 2005.

The biggest knock on Gavin (aside from shooting) has been turnovers. He had some serious fumblitis last season--his turnover rate was the worst on the team. His 2006 TO% is still high, but he is at least approaching a bearable figure. He needs to handle the ball better, especially if he's going to help Atsur in the backcourt. On the other hand, the turnovers do, I think, reflect an important part of Grant's game: his aggressive dribble penetration. We don't have enough guys with his mindset.

Gavin GrantReb%OR%DR%TOV/40FTA/FGAFT%Rebs/40Asts/40

Note the bolded numbers: a FTA/FGA ratio which in 2006 ranked second (to Simmons) among State's seven-man rotation, and a big improvement in free throw percentage. In conjunction, those two things make him a dangerous player when he's not turning the ball over. Had he met the playing time requirement, Grant would've ranked in the top 70 nationally in FTA/FGA. (Ced's in the top 5 nationally.) This is what makes his aggression valuable--assuming he can maintain the free throw shooting. That FT% is a big reason for his improvement in the PPWS category.

Grant's 4.0 ast/40 minutes ranked second on the team to Atsur in 2006. His 8.3 rebs/40 also ranked second on the team.

Gavin needs to become more consistent, but there's a lot to like. He's versatile, he rebounds well for his size (and we desperately need the rebounding), he's improving as a shooter, and he's aggressive. With some luck, we'll see a lot of him next season. Out of want, not necessity.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Memo To Pundits: We Don't Care If You Don't Get It

It's around this time of year when the people who write about college basketball make public their consternation over the Herb situation. The result? An endless parade of "I don't understand it, man! Sendek is doing a fine job down there in Raleigh! It doesn't make any sense!" They're just trying so terribly hard, they really are. From a postion too detached to in any way aid their understanding, they furrow their brows, searching for epiphany.

But they can't be bothered to take the time to dig deeper. You know, put forth a little effort. That energy is better spent writing the 5,000th JJ Redick fluff piece of the season.

Whether some Wolfpack fans would like to admit it or not, there are tactful and logical ways to defend Herb Sendek. As we've seen over and over, though, the MSM isn't throwing out a lot of logic. Emotional pleas are too easy. Dismissing the fan base is too easy.

Give the hollow compliments a rest, Mr. Sports Columnist Guy. This nuanced issue is obviously too much trouble. I'd like to think that a lot of the ignorant opinions directed at NC State fans are feigned, but that would give people like Dick Vitale and John Feinstein more credit than they deserve.

Wrote Seth Davis today:

I truly cannot understand why Herb Sendek is getting so much criticism. Yes, N.C. State stumbled down the stretch, but it also had injuries to two important players (Cameron Bennerman and Ilian Evtimov) and still got to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Then again, unfair criticism of Sendek is nothing new down in Raleigh. He has handled it for years better than most people would.

Take more than a cursory glance at the situation and maybe you won't be at such a loss, Seth. But you haven't, and you won't, so you'll continue to piss me off and waste my time with your useless and repackaged perspective.

If you think you know what's best for NC State and you feel compelled to write about it, that's fine. But don't cop out. Don't tell us you "cannot understand."

You have a telephone and an Internet connection, and presumably a basic grasp of both. So what's the goddamn problem?

[I apologize for the rant. Please pardon me.]

Monday, March 20, 2006

Trudging Into The Offseason

Bummer, dudes. The disappointment of the last few weeks will have to continue on into the summer. NC State couldn't so much as muster a decent offensive showing in its final game, as Texas held State to its second-lowest PPP (points per possession) output of the season.

In the seven games after Evtimov's injury, NC State's average offensive efficiency rating was 100--far below the impressive standard set by the team in this season and in years past. That's despite playing three games against the ACC's 11th- and 12th-ranked defenses (BC and Wake Forest). The offense has done nothing but slide down the national rankings, and although it spent most of the season in the top 15-20, it will end the year ranked somewhere in the 40s. If you look at the data from 2005 and 2004, you'll see this is the worst NC State's offense has been in some time. Ditto, for that matter, the defense.

Against Texas, NC State did a good job on the defensive glass and took care of the basketball, but the Horns were better in both categories. And the discrepancy in shooting percentage was such that it was the only factor that mattered.

Now that we're toast (not to mention my bracket--thanks, Kansas), I'll be rooting for the mid-majors in the Sweet Sixteen.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


Some notes from yesterday's win:

-- This is the first time in a month that NC State has held an opponent below a point per possession. The Bears averaged 0.95 pts/poss. Way back on February 15th, NC State held Florida State to 0.90 pts/poss. In between, it's been ugly.

-- NC State's offensive efficiency rating (106) wasn't very good by NCSU standards, but it's the best performance the offense has had since the Carolina game on Feb 22nd. The Pack's OFF EFF was 112 on that day. The mark posted against Cal also snaps the offense's two-game sub-100 streak.

-- The Cal game had only 55 possessions, making it the slowest-paced Wolfpack game of the season. NC State has played several games under 60 possessions--at Alabama (58), vs. New Hampshire (59), and at Boston College (59). And had the other game against BC not gone into overtime, it would've ended with about 55 possessions.

-- Shooting:

1st Half eFG%2nd Half eFG%Game eFG%
NC State47.865.856.0

-- Cal did outrebound the Wolfpack, but the Bears didn't have much of an advantage here. Cal's OR% was 33.3%, compared to NC State's 29.2%. That's not at all a bad effort from the Wolfpack considering how good the Bears are on the defensive glass. Leon Powe, by the way, had six of Cal's nine offensive boards.

-- California turned the ball over 13 times, and that's a lot in a 55-possession game.

-- It was nice to see us win a game without the benefit of a good perimeter shooting night. We were fortunate to get away with the ineffectiveness of Evtimov and Atsur. If the guys don't rediscover their mojo by tomorrow, though, they've got no chance. Texas is one of the better defensive clubs in the nation.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Shall we play another?

Liveblog: Cal vs. NC State

[7:13] Just a few minutes 'til the tip, and I haven't been this nervous since...last March. Here's hoping that we will not be the suck tonight.

[7:19] Um. Plenty of good seats still available in Dallas.

[7:20] Herb in his 13th season according to the announcers...

[7:22] Didn't take long for Cal to get its first offensive board. Sigh. Leon Powe's off and running...

[7:24] Cal's hot early. Typical.

[7:26] Timeout at the 15:13 mark. Evtimov hit his first three, so that's good. Simmons just got fouled and will shoot two. The defense finally got a stop.

[7:31] Cal tall guy with two fouls. Ced still struggling from the field.

[7:32] Cal gettin' a little sloppy. Gavin missed a short fadeaway, but the Bears gave it right back. Do we have any fans in the building?

[7:35] Wow, Courtney Fells in early. Ced with the strong finish!!!

[7:36] Under 12:00 timeout. Gavin's not playing very well so far. Missed shot, turnover. Ced's only 1-4 from the field and he's missing chippies. Pack's up by a bucket, though.

[7:41] Fells with four off the bench.

[7:42] Midgley with the three ball. Just the sight of him makes me want to cry.

[7:44] Stupid damn pass by Evtimov trying to be cute via the backdoor. Decent defensive effort so far from the Pack.

[7:46] Don't shoot threes, Ced. I don't care how open you are. This has not been a very good couple of minutes. Bethel's pretty much invisible and Cam just turned the ball over. Cal's up one and heading to the free throw line.

[7:49] No one can complain about Ced not getting enough touches. He's 2-7. Ben McCauley with the tip in! Nice work, Ben.

[7:55] Cal's shooting 59%. Those jerks. The good news is they're just hitting shots...our defense hasn't been terrible.

[7:57] Simmons with an dumb foul, and that's his third. Now it's Brack on Powe. Brackman, way out of position, goes over the back on a defensive rebound.

[8:00] Brackman absolutely enrages me. He's 6-9 and rebounds like a pansie. Powe beat him for another offensive board and a stick back. At the other end, Brackman clangs a three-pointer.

[8:04] Our interior defense is terrible without Simmons in the game. The dropoff is painful. We will make all of Cal's anonymous tall guys look good before the night is over. Evtimov with an offensive foul, so Cal gets the last possession of the half. Yay.

[8:06] Halftime, Cal leads 29-25. The Pack looked confused on defense again but the Bears didn't capitalize.

[8:20] Okay, about ready to start the second half. I've turned my clothes inside-out, and I am extremely confident that this will be what the team needs to break through and score 50 points this half.

[8:22] Greg Gumbel in New York reminding us that Michigan State's defense still sucks.

[8:27] Ced starts the second with a nice +1 play. Four fouls on Hardin.

[8:29] Rod Benson with 13 points. Tony with a three, finally.

[8:33] Under 16:00, Wolfpack still down four. Bethel took a step-back three that did everything but go in. Simmons picked up his third (for real this time) with an offensive foul, but it doesn't look like Benson can guard him.

[8:36] "Nice play out of the timeout." Did everyone hear that?

[8:40] This is painful. Oh, god, it's painful.

[8:41] Under 12:00 timeout. So...anything on HBO right now? Ooh, we have a Coach Kar commercial sighting.

[9:14] Apologies (not that anyone's reading this). I've been too nervous to type.

[9:17] Cam!!!!

[9:21] A steal and it's over! Whew!

[9:22] Final: State 58, Cal 52

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Thursday Items

-- I'm going to liveblog tomorrow night's Cal/NC State game, so if you're around the internets and would like to join me for an incoherent rant or three, stop on by. Vicious sarcasm will be fully embraced.

-- Give Ken Pomeroy some credit for nailing the game of the day. Pacific should've held off Boston College in the first overtime but made some silly mistakes in the last few minutes (not the least of which was leaving Dudley open for a three when the Eagles were down 5 with a minute to go).

Props to Dudley for eschewing the "let's shave our heads in the name of team solidarity" thing. Don't these guys know they're going to be on television? Everyone on the team should have sat down, pictured John Oates's hairless dome and said, "nuh uh."

-- The San Francisco Chronicle talked to an anonymous ACC assistant coach for an article on the Wolfpack. Among the assistant's comments:

"Nobody in the ACC guards us better than North Carolina State, and that includes Duke," the ACC assistant said.

Nice compliment, though it rings less true this season.

-- As I write this, I'm keeping an eye on the action...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Picks

I might as well get these out there just in case I actually end up doing well this year. I like Kansas a lot, and that'll probably be the downfall of my bracket. But check the defensive efficiency, man. I also like Pitt and UCLA in that region. If you go by efficiency margin/pythag, Memphis is the fourth-best team in Oakland behind the three aforementioned squads.

My love/hate relationship with LSU has them going to the Final Four in a couple of my brackets and being ousted early in others (like this one).

I very nearly took Xavier over Gonzaga but couldn't pull the trigger. Instead, I'll have SDSU take Morrison and the Matadors out in the second round.

Let the record show (or, uh, let this post be quietly deleted in early April)...

Sweet 16

Texas A&M


Wichita State

Boston College

Elite Eight





Final Four



Kansas over UConn

Upton Comes to Raleigh After All; Plus, Is LACC Exchanging Players For Cash?

-- Over at Baseball Analysts, Matt Jacovina has some fun by playing the what if? game. As in, what if big time baseball prospect Justin Upton had enrolled at NC State rather than entering the MLB draft? Jacovina uses MVP '06 NCAA Baseball to find out. As a freshman, virtual Upton helped the Wolfpack win a virtual ACC title, and in his sophomore year...

NC State was eliminated quickly from the ACC tournament, but lead by Upton's seemingly unstoppable bat, they pummeled the competition in the regionals and super regionals. The College World Series, Justin's biggest stage yet, began with the best game of his career: 6-for-6 with 2 home runs in a 13-7 victory against Rutgers. He put in another fine performance in a blowout against Notre Dame, going 3-for-5 during an 11-0 victory. Unfortunately, the Wolfpack could only split the next two games against the Irish, and were then beat twice by Georgia Tech, ending their underdog run at the title.

It's a fun article. Check it out.

-- CBS Sportsline has posted a must-read from Gregg Doyel today:

An elaborate recruiting operation that has steered more than $100,000 to a Los Angeles business founded by a prominent junior college coach has stunned the NCAA, the NABC and athletics directors at some of the Division I schools involved.

The article continues:

"Oh my Lord," said Mountain State coach Bob Bolen. "Where did all that money go?"

Bolen's question, ultimately, is at the heart of CBS's investigation into a nationwide system that delivers junior college players to Division I schools. Those schools then play each other in paid "guarantee" games, with a tidy profit going to the company that arranged those games -- a company co-founded by Los Angeles City College coach Mike Miller.

D1 Scheduling has been setting up games between schools that get players from LACC, and it keeps most of the fee associated with the scheduling. A typical fee ranges in the $40,000-$60,000 range (for the caliber of matchups discussed in the article, anyway), and under normal circumstances, that fee is paid to a school like Iona to play a road game against, for example, Iowa State.

But instead of taking the full fee, schools like Iona have only been getting a fraction of it. The rest has been going to D1 Scheduling.

Last season, Iowa State paid D1 Scheduling $40,000 for a home game against Tennessee State. D1 Scheduling paid Tennessee State $10,000. Considering the going rate for such games is at least $40,000, why would TSU sacrifice 75 percent to D1 Scheduling? Perhaps because three of its best players -- Wayne Arnold, Clarence Matthews and Kareem Grant -- came from LACC. Tennessee State AD Teresa Phillips didn't respond to multiple interview requests. Pollard said he's uncomfortable with Iowa State's connection.

"We're associated because we're on the other side of the contact, but if I called Tennessee State (for a game) right now, it would cost me $50,000 or $60,000," he said. "What you're indicating here is (some ISU opponents) were taking far less money than I'd thought ... for another reason that's not a good situation. They're taking nearly $50,000 below market. That's a scary thought isn't it? What it sounds like they're getting is an influx of players."

Emphasis mine.

-- Obligatory.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Leon Powe And Etcetera

California Scouting Report

They call him The Show, and with good reason. It's all about Leon.

Cal Offense 05-06
Four FactorsPercentNat'l Rank
Turnover Rate18.429
Off Reb Rate29.1270

Hey, look, it's a team that offensive rebounds almost as poorly as we do. That's a bonus.

Leon Powe uses 31.5% of Cal's possessions when he's on the court, a number that ranks 20th in the nation. The proportion of the team's shots that he takes is similarly high, so it's not hard to figure out the key to stopping the California offense. Stop The Show.

It is going to be very important for the Wolfpack to take advantage of Cal's weak offensive rebounding, because the Bears probably won't turn the ball over too much. And Cal is only a decent shooting team, so if we can limit second chances, the Bears could have some problems.


Ayinde Ubaka (6-3, 200) -- Ubaka gives the team a steady hand at the point (see low TO%) and a second scoring threat. In general, the team doesn't rely on the three-pointer, but Ubaka will shoot a lot of them. He has made 38% of his 161 3-pt attempts. Not a quick-handed guy at the defensive end, if his lack of steals is any indication. He's the only Cal regular aside from Powe who has an above-average usage. Has seven offensive rebounds in 1120 minutes. That's JJ Redick territory right there.

Richard Midgley (6-3, 195) -- Richard Midgley is dead to me.

Omar Wilkes (6-4, 185) -- A low-usage guy (under 16%), like Midgley. Easily the team's worst all-around rebounder. He'll shoot the three sparingly but shoot it well. (Omar [hearts] a double team on Powe.)
"And Leon's getting laaaarger!"

Leon Powe (6-8, 240) -- People, this is going to take a lot of jinxing. Or a dose of Carl Krauser. It's the only way we're gonna keep him from scoring 30.

DeVon Hardin (6-11, 235) -- Very good rebounder, and the team's biggest shot-blocking threat. He's only hit 50% of his field goal attempts, though.

Other Guys:

Beyond Theo Robertson (6-5, 240), it's difficult to get a feel for Cal's bench rotation. I mean, take a look at the season box score. Rod Benson (6-10, 220) will probably play, as will Jordan Wilkes (6-11, 225) and Eric Vierneisel (6-7, 205). And some other guys, maybe. Robertson will get solid minutes; otherwise, PT for the bench guys looks spotty.

Cal Defense 05-06
Four FactorsPercentNat'l Rank
Turnover Rate20.6194
Off Reb Rate27.716

Cal's defense is led by the brilliant defensive rebounding of Powe and Hardin. NC State doesn't need offensive rebounds to be successful, of course. Shooting well takes care of that (and State's shooting during its losing streak hasn't been as bad as you might think).

These two teams have efficiency margins (OFF EFF - DEF EFF) that are nearly identical, which makes the outcome a toss up. NC State won't have any confidence going into the game, though, so it'll be interesting to see how it reacts if the Bears jump out quickly. All I want is a good effort. The Wolfpack played well in the second half against Wake Forest (in the ACCT), and maybe that's a sign of better things to come.

I'm excited about the game. Can't help it.

A Lot More Than A Basketball Game Being Played This Week

These days, the disgust is palpable, and while my initial inclination was to chalk this up as more of the usual hot air, there are signs that this is different. It feels like people are finally, truly at their wits' end, and that perhaps Herb Sendek is one of those people. Per State Fans Nation:

Herb Sendek has been sending feelers throughout various contacts inside of college basketball for the last couple of weeks regarding different potential jobs. One specific job that has been specifically mentioned is Oregon.

Frankly, I'm surprised Sendek has tolerated the fans as long as he has, but he's never been in a position to find a job as good as his gig in Raleigh. Nor is he in such a position now--it's just that circumstances have forced his hand.

I have been dodging this issue for a while. This blog has been a much-needed oasis. A place where I discuss the events on the court and lets those off of the court take care of themselves. Hopefully I'm not the only person who feels this way. It often seems like everyone is eager to argue about coaching. Me, I'd much rather escape those topics.

For one thing, talk--especially on the internets and especially in this case--has always been a pointless exercise. Regardless of how much the fans complain, regardless of the legitimacy of the arguments against Sendek, nothing changes. Besides, how many times can the same tired points be reiterated? Yes, Herb Sendek has had a mediocre career. We know. There's hardly a need to go over his record against Duke and Carolina. Or his record in close games. Making those points every time the basketball team hits a rough patch does not change the reality of the situation. At least, it didn't before. This time around, the unrest may finally have the ball rolling.

In addition, I've always held a moderate opinion regarding the coaching situation. A cautious supporter, I guess. "Settling for mediocracy!!1", if you prefer.

So that others can understand that perspective, I need to clarify: I grew up in the Les Robinson era. When Herb Sendek was hired, I was in the seventh grade (yikes...was it that long ago?), and that's more or less when I started actively following Wolfpack athletics. The end of Robinson's tenure was terrible (not that you need a reminder). I remember how excited people were to make the NIT. How excited I was.

I don't want to say that those years formed the complete basis for my expectations, but that painful era certainly shaped them. Sometimes I wondered if NC State would ever get back to the NCAAs. It's been five trips to the tournament in a row now, and getting to the NCAAs is still a bit of a novelty for me. This doesn't mean I'm less demanding than anyone else. More patient, probably.

I am at a point, though, where I'm ready to see the basketball program kick itself out of neutral, even if that comes at a cost in the short term (like losing Chris Wright, for instance). The new coach would have a difficult job, and we still may not get to where we want to be, but we won't know until we try. Let's start fresh.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Wolfpack Women Earn A 5-Seed, Will Play Tulsa

The women's NCAA tournament field was announced this evening, and the Wolfpack landed the 5-seed in the San Antonio region. They're off to Chicago to play Tulsa, and hopefully they can erase the painful memories from the 2005 tournament. NC State's strong standing in the RPI helped it land a nice seed despite a modest record. From

Yow believes that is what got her team, which finished fifth in the final ACC standings, a higher seed in the NCAA Tournament than Florida State, which finished fourth in the final ACC standings.

"Absolutely, it is the strength of schedule that got us a No. 5 seeding," Yow said. "I am glad to see that the committee stayed true to what they said the criteria would be. We based our schedule on that from Day 1. In the past few years, they have been very committed to sticking to that.

"We felt that that would be the case this year, which is why we put together a demanding schedule."

NC State won four games out-of-conference against the RPI top 50: Vandy, BYU, Liberty and George Washington. The OOC slate also included Utah (18th in RPI, 5-seed in NCAAs) and Rutgers (9th in RPI, 3-seed in NCAAs).

Congrats and good luck to the women.

And on an unrelated note, I give you... Allan Ray getting his eye poked out. I don't know what it is, I can't stop watching.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Bracket Thoughts

-- You gotta love the committee. In addition to playing a team it saw in the NCAAs three years ago, NC State could face everyone's favorite would-be Herb Sendek replacement in the second round. And if the Wolfpack somehow managed to reach the Sweet 16, it could find itself in a rematch with Iowa.

Part of the appeal (to me) of the NCAA tournament is playing teams you wouldn't otherwise see, but the committee has taken a lot of the fun out of NC State's matchups over the last few years. This year, we're finally divorced of UConn only to be thrown in with several other familiar faces.

-- I wish NC State could trade brackets with Seton Hall. The Hall plays #7 Wichita State in the opening round and Tennessee will likely be waiting for the Pirates in the second round (not that I think SHU will beat Wichita). That's a path that I could definitely see NC State getting through. That is, if NC State was playing like it was two months ago.

-- See Cal's scouting report. And here are their season stats. Let the Leon Powe nightmares begin.

-- Over-seeded: Tennessee, Syracuse, Gonzaga. Under-seeded: UNC, Xavier, Pitt.

-- Gonzaga got a terrible opening-round draw. Xavier is easily the best of the 14-seeds...check out the pythag winning percentages of the 14s. The Musketeers seem like a much tougher team than 3-seeds generally get.

-- The committee has tread into some unprecedented territory as far as at-large bids and the RPI go, particularly with the omission of Missouri State. Although they were eliminated early in the MVC tournament, the Bears finished in the RPI top 25. MSU (I'm pretty sure) will go down as the highest-rated team in the RPI ever to not receive an at-large bid. In leaving the Bears out, it's quite possible that the committee has snubbed the best team in the MVC.

-- I assume that A&M's strong finish had everything to do with its inclusion, because there's nothing that separates the Aggies from the other bubble teams. Pythag disagrees with me, but I think Michigan, Cincinnati and Missouri State are better (and more worthy) teams.

-- Boston College was a hot pick among ESPN's experts. Several of them had BC reaching the Elite Eight and I think at least one person picked them to reach Indianapolis, but I just don't think their defense is good enough to get them that far.

-- I would just like to wish Allan Ray well...and give myself an excuse to link that video. That's so freaky.

-- Tentative FF picks: LSU, UCLA, UConn, Villanova

Cal again?

At least the committee didn't stick NC State in UConn's bracket this year.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

It's Tourney Time

Even with all the problems NC State has faced of late, I can't help but get excited about the ACC tournament. To an extent, the tournament offers a fresh start. It doesn't mean things will be different for us. But they can be.

NC State should have Cameron Bennerman available, and although Evtimov and Grant are hurting, they'll play. With three straight games of substandard shooting behind us, I think we'll shoot well on Friday. At any rate, I'm not going to bother with thinking about the alternatives. What fun is that?

If your friends and family are anything like mine, the week of the ACC tournament is a highlight for another reason: the ACC tournament party. If there's a better excuse to mingle with fans of other ACC teams and drink food-colored (to match one's school's colors, naturally) beer, I haven't found it. The tournament party has become an annual requirement, a yearly tradition as vital as any other. It doesn't quite feel like March until this weekend rolls around.

I have been attending ACC tournament parties since long before I understood or cared about what was happening. Weaned at the very teat of the ACC tournament party, you might say. In my earlier days, NC State wasn't typically a threat to win the tournament--the play-in game wasn't called the Les Robinson Invitational for nothin'--but everyone was used to that by then. The great thing about the tournament, though, is every team has a chance. There's no need to quibble with probabilities or likelihoods. One of these days, man, it's gonna be the year.

A staple of the parties was (and continues to be) the betting pool. This isn't just any pool, of course. This is a pool befitting an event of high caliber and esteem. This pool comes with a fancy Excel program, honed by years of nitpicking and controversy (but mostly nitpicking). There are charts and graphs, and a top secret algorithm (only slightly less notorious than the RPI or BCS formulas) that looks at the distribution of bets and assigns a weight to each different outcome.

As the championship game tips off on Sunday, and most of the schools have long since been ousted, it is no time to despair, for solace may still be found in a finish in the money. And if not, well, there's always next year.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Wolfpack Players' Conference-Only Stats -- Thru Reg Season

You can compare the numbers below to the players' full season stats (glossary), though I think it's more interesting to compare them to the numbers from the midway point of the conference slate.

Conference Games Only
Player%MinO Rtg%Poss%ShotseFG%Reb%OR%DR%FTR
Ilian Evtimov69.711318.
Gavin Grant50.79521.520.544.313.07.517.656.3
Cam Bennerman79.011820.222.559.
Tony Bethel84.510616.419.
Ced Simmons69.911421.
Engin Atsur86.111217.519.755.
Andrew Brackman44.610921.522.551.29.86.812.252.4

Notice that Tony's O Rtg dropped from 120 to 106 over the course of the last eight conference games, and his eFG% dipped from 67.6% to (a still very good) 60.7%. But hey, he did up his free throw rate! Fifteen of his 16 in-conference free throw attempts came during the second half of the season.

I find Ced's final rebounding numbers to be disappointing. He's been far too inconsistent on the glass, and he's the guy who can most significantly impact the team's rebounding fortunes during any given game. We know it isn't a question of athleticism or jumping ability, because Simmons wins almost every opening tip and he can get up with anyone. It's technique. And effort. At this point in the season it should be better than what we've seen. Ditto for Andrew Brackman.

Give some credit to Gavin... his final O Rtg still ain't pretty, but it is better than his mid-season number. He's cut his turnovers down, and that's the main source of improvement.

Conference Games Only
Ilian Evtimov31.123.502.11.2613.
Gavin Grant14.323.
Cam Bennerman18.517.
Tony Bethel28.824.
Ced Simmons16.
Engin Atsur27.
Andrew Brackman16.318.

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

Monday, March 06, 2006

No More Road Trips

Nothing like a crisp performance and a convincing win on the road to ease one's fears. Oh, wait a minute...that only happened in the daydream I lapsed into during the first half.

I didn't actually fall asleep at the game, but between the on-court anemia and the morgue-like atmosphere at the Joel, conditions were conducive for a little shut eye.

At least we were able to send John Buck out a winner on senior day.

Lookit that spike...

That's what a losing streak will do.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Those Free-Falling Demon Deacons

Here's the Wake scouting report and my preview from the first meeting

A lot has been made of Wake's sharp decline this year, because while the team lost a lot of important players, it seemed as though Gray-Williams-Strickland would be enough to at least put the Deacs in contention for an NCAA bid. Instead, the bottom has fallen out. So what's going on?

To a certain extent, the Deacs have simply been unlucky. They've underperformed their expected in-conference record. Based on efficiency margin, they should be 4-11, not 2-13. But that's only one of Wake's problems.

Take a look at how Justin Gray's numbers have changed from last year to this one:

O Rtg%Poss%MinPts/40PPWSeFG%TO%%Shots
Gray 2005115.122.873.421.41.1754.918.327.4
Gray 2006105.527.382.721.01.0647.521.231.4

While his per game scoring is up a couple of points, his per minute production has remained constant. He's turning the ball over more often, taking more shots and making them at a lower rate.

The 2005 Deacons were balanced--Gray, Paul, and Williams each had usages in the 22%-23% range. Gray could be more selective with his shots (though he still took plenty), and he fed off of CP3's defense-drawing penetration.

Gray has had no such luxuries this year. Without a lot of support from the backcourt, he's had to work harder to create his own shots, and he has at times been forced to play out of position.

In Basketball on Paper, Dean Oliver notes that balance isn't always optimal. High usage guys (or "scorers") can help a team by allowing other players to take on a lesser role and thus be more efficient. When Gray and Williams are on the court together, they leave roughly 50% of the team's possessions to the other three guys on the court--that's about 16.5% per guy. This is a good thing for Wake Forest, because even at below average usages, the rest of the Deacs haven't been very efficient. Just imagine how much the role players would struggle if the team relied on them more heavily.

Wake Forest Offense
2005120.8 (2)55.519.639.631.5
2006109.3 (56)

The Deacs have lost over 10 points/100 possessions, taking them from wow to meh. Wake just couldn't servicably replace its backcourt losses--its inexperienced guards don't shoot the ball very well and don't take care of the basketball.

Of the seven players who logged at least 30% of the team's minutes in 2005, none had an effective field goal percentage under 50%. This year, only Ellis, Strickland and Williams are above 50%. Harvey Hale, who has been Wake's most reliable guard outside of Justin Gray, is only shooting 41.5%

When you don't shoot well and can't protect the ball, you're obviously going to have problems.

Still, 109.3 isn't an atrocious number. If Wake improved its defense, it could still be a solid team with that mediocre offense. Iowa is having a great season despite an offense that scores 103.6 points/100 possessions.

But we're talking about a Skip Prosser team here. The Deacs' defense hasn't improved. In fact, it's gotten worse.

Wake Forest Defense
200594.0 (76)49.919.630.132.4
200698.4 (120)48.318.431.335.0

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Kay Yow's Cell Phone Ringtone Discovered, Film At 11:00

-- I'm heading to Winston-Salem this weekend in hopes of ending my road game curse. Since I started at NC State as an undergraduate in 2001, the Wolfpack have not won a road game with me in attendance. Those were all football games, though, so maybe the curse won't translate to hoops.

2001 -- at Georgia Tech (L, 17-27)
2002 -- at Maryland (L, 21-24)
2003 -- at Wake Forest (L, 24-38)
2003 -- at Georgia Tech (L, 21-29)
2004 -- at UNC (L, 24-30)

I learned my lesson and didn't go on any road trips during the 2005 season. That turned out to be a good decision, because I'd have hated to ruin the wins in Atlanta and Tallahassee.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to my first trip to the Joel.

-- I'm concerned about the implications of this post. It underscores the importance of beating Wake Forest on Saturday and grabbing at least one win in the ACC tourney (only a week away!). I submit that, regardless of what happens the rest of the way, this is not Herb Sendek's best team. That honor still belongs to the 2003-2004 squad.

-- The other day, I was eating lunch at a restaurant near my place of employment and noticed Kay Yow sitting at an adjacent table. She and a couple of assistant coaches looked like they were getting some work done. Planning for Clemson, probably. Or planning 2006-07's exotic out-of-conference road trip (who's up for Jamaica?). I noted with approval that the ringtone on Kay's cellular phone was the fight song.

-- Courtside Times catches up with the NBA's undrafted rookies. Includes a blurb on Josh Powell.

-- More discussion centering on prep pseudo-schools, this time from columnist Adrian Wojnarowski. The article focuses on Terry Holland's quest to once more make freshmen ineligible:

Make no mistake: The system has never been so broken. It's never been so corrupt. And the NCAA has never been less interested in correcting the problem, because if it were, it would listen to Holland, the current athletic director at East Carolina who was an outstanding University of Virginia coach and who has been a longtime street fighter for genuine NCAA reform. He's been talking this forever, but no one listens. He's made his case to the Knight Commission, which acts like unregulated text messaging of high school kids is the 21st century scourge of college sports. He'll keep saying it, because it's never been needed more.

I hate the idea of making freshmen ineligible. Kudos to Holland for seeking genuine reform, but there has to be a better way.

-- I received a note from one of the founders of BracketBrains, as he thought their tool--which predicts the outcomes of NCAA tournament matchups--might be up my alley. And he was right. The link will take you to a page that lets you play with 2005's NCAA tournament field.

-- Better prepare yourself now--Florida State had a large advantage in free throw attempts over Duke tonight. We'll be hearing plenty about this from Duke fans, and I'm sure it will warrant several mentions in the media as well. I think FSU just punched its NCAA tournament ticket, though they need to avoid finishing the regular season 0-2.

-- This USA Today article examines the best defensive linemen in the upcoming NFL draft.

Considering the dearth of top defensive line talent in recent drafts, it may not be a coincidence that more NFL teams moved toward 3-4 alignments. The 2006 draft may finally bring this drought to an end.

The name of that end is Mario Williams of North Carolina State, who is expected to be the first of five or six defensive linemen selected in the first round according to early ratings by