This is an excerpt from Michael Lewis's latest book, The Blind Side, which I think you guys will appreciate:
[F]ive plays into the game the Ole Miss quarterback, Ethan Flatt, hit his fastest receiver, Taye Biddle, for a 41-yard touchdown pass. But Biddle, one of the seniors who would quit school immediately after the game, might as well have kept on running out the back of the end zone and into his car. Ole Miss never called that play again. Instead, their offensive brain trust decided to use their unbelievably slow, fifth-string running back to test the strong interior of the Mississippi State defense. In the press box before the game, the Ole Miss offensive coordinator, Noel Mazzone, happened to walk past a TV on which was playing a North Carolina State football game. Six months earlier, Mazzone had left his job running the North Carolina State ofense to take the job of running the Ole Miss offense. Seeing his former team on TV he snorted and said, loudly enough for journalists to overhear, "Should have stayed there, at least they had some players."
Bill Walsh had shown how much an imaginative coach might achieve even with mediocre talent; Noel Mazzone was demonstrating how little could be achieved by a coach who did not admit any role for the imagination. The next five times Ole Miss had the ball Mazzone used the opportunity to prove that his slow, fifth-string running back couldn't run through a giant pile of bodies in the middle of the field.
Lewis continues from there and absolutely lays into Mazzone and the rest of the offensive coaching staff; it's fantastic.
-- What did Brandon Costner eat for breakfast this morning? Holy smokes. Eighteen of his 19 rebounds were defensive boards--he grabbed 41% of Wilmington's misses by himself.
-- Led by Costner's effort, NC State locked down the defensive glass: of the 44 available defensive rebounds, the Pack grabbed 39 (that's 88.6%). The Seahawks, shooting terribly and deprived of second chances, did not have a chance. They were held to an offensive efficiency of 71.1, which is the lowest number an NC State opponent has posted this season.
-- Gavin Grant attempted a season-low six shots and actually managed to hit more than half of them. Still, his overall efficiency was killed by a 40.9 turnover percentage.
-- Ben McCauley: 19 points on 57% shooting, 7 rebounds, team-high 6 assists, 10.8 TO%. After the game, he thwarted a bank robbery, climbed a tree to rescue three cats, and pulled four children from a burning house.
-- We're in an offensive rut right now. Over the last four games, we've not had an offensive efficiency above 100.8. No one has stepped up and provided a consistent third scoring option behind McCauley and Costner. Today offers a perfect example: it took almost 15 minutes for someone other than Costner or McCauley to score.
[Pts/40 = points per 40 minutes; just a player's points scored divided by his minutes played and multiplied by 40]
Note how Grant's turnover percentage is nearly as high as his shooting percentage. BC has been on fire from beyond the arc over this span (11-21, 52.4%), but Fells and Grant are a combined 6-34 (17.6%) from three.
I've been perplexed by Gavin's declining free throw rate. His FTA/FGA ratio this year is just half what it was last year, and it's been even lower over the last four games. I wouldn't think that moving him to the point would negatively affect his free throw rate; it seems he's just being less aggressive (all the zone defense we've seen doesn't help).
Not 48 hours later, we're back at it. Hope the guys are resting today.
This UNCW offense scares me a bit. It's nothing special on paper, but the Seahawks have the benefit of a good matchup. They offensive rebound well; we don't defensive rebound well. They've been turnover prone; we play a handcuffed form of defense that hardly forces any. They shoot reasonably well; we still give up too many open looks.
Plus, they have Vladimir Kuljanin, who is having a fantastic season:
ORtg %Poss eFG% OR% DR% PPG RPG
118.5 23.7 69.1 12.9 21.3 16.2 8.2
Stopping Kuljanin is the Pack's main task, yes, but the Seahawks allocate their possessions and field goal attempts evenly among the starters. Kuljanin isn't the only leg they stand on.
Temi Soyebo (6-0, 170) -- Soyebo is turning the ball over way too much, even for a point guard. He won't shoot from outside too much, because when he does, he usually misses (28.6% from three this season, 20.5% last season). Other than a surprisingly high defensive rebounding percentage, there isn't much worth noting here.
Daniel Fountain (6-4, 210) -- The team's best three-point shooter, hitting 42.2% (19-45). He won't provide much beyond the outside shooting, but he is UNCW's second-leading scorer.
Montez Downey (6-5, 230) -- Taron Downey's little bro. He averages more than six 3-pt. attempts per game but only hits 25.5% of them. By all means, Montez--bombs away.
Todd Hendley (6-9, 235) -- Not to be confused with Todd Hundley. Hendley was a useful player last season, shooting 53.5% while providing scoring both inside and outside. 2007, on the other hand, has been a struggle. The outside shooting has gone bye bye. He's turning the ball over a lot more. His rebounding numbers are down, and they weren't good to begin with.
Vladimir Kuljanin (6-10, 265) -- As noted earlier, Kuljanin does a lot of things well. He rebounds at both ends, and goodness, can he ever shoot the ball. The most interesting thing to me about him, though, is his puny free throw rate. Eighteen FTAs in nine games. Sup with that?
Dejan Grkovic (6-8, 225), Darryl Felder (6-3, 180), Jeff Horowitz (6-9, 250), and Derion Jeralds (6-1, 160) have each played in every Seahawks game this season, and each of them averages 10+ minutes per game. UNCW has no problem playing up-tempo, so look for them to use their depth as other Wolfpack opponents have. We may still be tired from Thursday.
UNCW Defense 05-06
Off Reb Rate
UNCW Defense 06-07
Off Reb Rate
UNCW had one of the 15 best defenses in the country last season; this year, the Seahawks have regressed significantly in the three areas that matter most and they're giving up an added 11.8 points/100 possessions.
Pomeroy has the Wolfpack winning 81-71. I've got 80-74.
-- I knew it. I knew it all the time. Never had a doubt. Not even the slightest ink-- JESUS CHRIST, THIS TEAM IS GOING TO KILL ME. Losing to the Pirates in football is one thing, but getting beaten in hoops would have been the ultimate indignity.
-- Courtney Fells, Point Guard? I can live with that. Gavin Grant, Shooting Guard? Hmm...maybe this isn't the best idea. Fells ended the game with a team-high five assists, and the Wolfpack only turned the ball over twice in the second half (after the switch was made) versus 11 times in the first half (prior to the switch). Gavin attempted five threes in the second half, likely as much a function of ECU's zone defense as it was of his positional switch.
-- East Carolina, coming in with a 45.4 effective field goal percentage on the season, shot 62.5% in the opening half. Fortunately, they remembered that they do in fact suck at shooting and hit only 37% of their attempts in the second half. The Pirates ended up finishing the game with an offensive efficiency right near their average (89.8 on the night, 87.5 for the season).
-- Ben McCauley. He passes, he scores, he rebounds.
ORtg %Poss OR% DR% eFG% FTRate TO%
120.6 30.3 11.5 21.6 55.6 144.4 17.3
All of those numbers are stellar. Horner was the only other NC State player with an offensive rating above 100, but anyone can be efficient while using less than 10% of the team's possessions. McCauley was asked to shoulder more weight than he has all season--and he came through big time.
Costner’s biggest shot of the night came with the shot clock running down and just over three minutes to play. He caught the ball going away from the Wolfpack basket, but glanced at the shot clock at the other end of the floor and noticed that there were only two seconds remaining. He made a quick turn and launched a desperation shot that went in as the buzzer went off.
“I knew I had to get it up quick,” Costner said.
Asked if that was a high-percentage shot for him, Costner smiled and said, “Let’s just say I don’t lose in H-O-R-S-E. That was a H-O-R-S-E shot.”
East Carolina has what I like to call Clemson Disorder (fn. 1). That is, the Pirates fancy themselves a perimeter-oriented team--39% of their field goal attempts are threes, which is the 70th-highest proportion in the country--but they aren't a good (or even decent) three-point shooting team. They rank 331st in three-point field goal percentage, barely hitting more than a quarter of their attempts. It was the same deal last year: 38.7% of their shots were threes, only 29.5% of those threes went in.
ECU has a bunch of guards and mid-sized wing-type players whose games aren't suited to playing inside the arc. (Not that they're especially suited to playing outside of it, either.) Problem is, there ain't much in the way of alternatives. Sure, they'd probably be better off taking fewer long jumpers, but where do you shift those attempts? Tell the guards to attack more, to try to be players they aren't? Give more shots to the forwards? That's not really feasible: of the five players on the roster listed as forwards (uhh...Ricky? A tip from me to you: recruiting more tall reboundy guys would be a good idea.), one starts, one is injured, two barely play, and one has not logged a minute all season.
So what do you get when you can't shoot and are too short to grab a good proportion of your misses? An offense that ranks 301st in offensive efficiency.
Darrell Jenkins (5-11, 175) -- Jenkins is ECU's Everyman. He leads the team in scoring and field goal attempts (but isn't a good shooter) and he runs the point. Jenkins is sixth in the nation in assist rate, which is no small feat considering how poor a shooting team that East Carolina is. He sports a low turnover rate (18.6%) and has better than a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He's much better served being a distributor first and a scorer second, but the Pirates don't have the personnel that would allow him to take a secondary scoring role.
Courtney Captain (6-1, 185) -- Captain is the other primary scoring option, but he isn't quite as versatile as Jenkins. He takes most of his shots from three, hitting 31.1% (19-61) of them this season. He was no better in 2006 (48-148, .324), so he isn't just off to a bad start in 2007.
Cory Farmer (6-3, 185) -- Like almost everyone on the roster, Farmer is have problems putting the ball through the hoop (42.6 eFG%), but he is one of two Pirates with a passable three-point shooting percentage (34.8%).
Sam Hinnant (6-4, 190) -- Hinnant has had a bad case of the bricks all season: 26.1% (6-23) on twos, 26.7% (8-30) on threes.
Gabe Blair (6-8, 210) -- Gabe Blair, the token forward. Blair is the team's best rebounder but isn't very involved in the offense. Won't get to the line or block shots. Turns the ball over too much.
John Fields (6-9, 200) is a starter if he's healthy. He injured his shoulder on the 18th, missed ECU's last game (on the 21st), and I haven't been able to find anything beyond "out indefinitely." I guess it's possible that he'll be back on Thursday, and if that's the case, it's a huge boost to the Pirates. Take a look at his line in the scouting report and you'll see what I mean. He provides the efficient scoring that ECU desperately needs and he gets to the line a ton. Needs to work on that free throw shooting stroke, though--he has made just 36.7% (18-49) of his FTAs. Even Shaq would be appalled.
Fields has emerged as an excellent shot blocker (averaging 4.7 blocks/40 minutes), and, oh yeah, he gives the Pirates another player who is actually taller than 6-6.
Taylor Gagnon (6-6, 210) and Justin Ramsey (6-10, 250) have been getting about 22 minutes per game between the two of them, and neither will be doing much at the offensive end. Which is a good thing for ECU.
Wake Forest transfer Jeremy Ingram (6-3, 190) will see the most time off the bench--if he doesn't start.
ECU Defense 05-06
Off Reb Rate
ECU Defense 06-07
Off Reb Rate
East Carolina's strength of schedule ranks 329th, and the Pirates have played NCAA-average defense (giving up about a point per possession) against that slate. I don't think they'll give us too much trouble.
Pomeroy says 77-59 Wolfpack. I've got 75-61.
1.) Clemson hit 31.2% of its threes in 2006, which ranked 298th, all while taking the 66th-highest proportion of threes in the country. I may need to rename the syndrome, however; Clemson is taking fewer threes and making a higher proportion of them this season.
-- How do you manage to score less than a point per possession despite shooting 62.7% and grabbing 38.5% of your misses? Turn the ball over four out of every 10 times down the court. There've been five other games this season in which we've had a shooting percentage comparable (~60%) to what we had today. Our average offensive efficiency in those five games is 119.3. Our offensive efficiency today was 89.8. It really hurts to squander the kind of shooting day we had. For once, I'm glad I don't get ESPNU.
-- Because of the turnover discrepancy, Cincinnati had the advantage of 20 extra possessions, yet still the game was tight heading into the last four minutes. Points off turnovers: Bearcats 32, Wolfpack 9.
-- I knew these would be fun--here are the individual numbers, sorted by turnover percentage.
Cincinnati is another team dealing with a lot of roster turnover; this year's squad features three juco transfers and a freshman in its starting lineup. The reinforcements from the junior college ranks have helped Cincy patch together a competitive starting five, but that's about it. Six guys average double-digit minutes, while the rest of the bench fills in as little as possible. But even in limited roles, those bench guys have been awful. No need to worry, then, about the Bearcats sending waves of players at us in an attempt to tire us out. Nor will they look to play an up tempo game. We're arguably deeper than they are.
Deonta Vaughn (6-1,200) -- Vaughn, who is a true freshman, has stepped into the lineup and played the point admirably. The Bearcats rely on him to both distribute the ball--he has good assist and turnover rates, plus a 1.7 A:T ratio--and to score--he's their second-leading scorer and leads the team in field goal attempts. He shoots a lot from outside (63 3FGAs, hitting 34.9%) and has the highest usage on the team.
Jamual Warren (6-2, 195) -- Warren has struggled with his shooting (38.2 eFG%, 4-26 from three) and is turning the ball over a lot, which has killed his offensive rating. He's using more possessions than he probably should be. Doesn't get to the line but does have a nice steal percentage.
John Williamson (6-6, 225) -- Cincy's MVP so far. He's shooting well (58.4 eFG%) and has a low turnover rate (12.3%) despite high usage. He gets to the line, and, most impressively, grabs a ton of rebounds at both ends of the court. Sounds like a job for Gavin Grant.
Cedric McGowan (6-6, 230) -- McGowan--the only starter on last year's Cincinnati roster--is the other big hole of ineffectiveness in the starting lineup. He's 3-24 (12.5%) from behind the arc; he shot 24.4% (11-45) from long range in 2006.
Marcus Sikes (6-8, 235) -- Fourteen-for-40 (35%), 11-27 (40.7%) from three. Good offensive rebounding numbers but the defensive rebounding could be better. Takes a low proportion of Cincinnati's shots while he's on the court (15.9%) and has fewer field goal attempts than every other starter.
Well, let's see here. I'm just going to go down the offensive rating column to get an-- Oh dear god! For the love of all things holy! Can these numbers be right?
What do I find when I look at the bench? A barrenous wasteland. A massive, swirling, mostly useless Black Hole of Suck from which efficiency cannot possibly escape.
Deonta Vaughn has been given explicit instructions by coach Mick Cronin. "You must ignore your impulse to distribute the basketball! Do not pass to the Black Hole of Suck! Do not even look at the Black Hole of Suck! Would you want to kill a young, innocent possession? Of course not. You're too good a person. Every time you think about passing to the Black Hole of Suck, take a jump shot." And so he does.
The Black Hole of Suck will, in its various incarnations, take the form of Marvin Gentry (6-3, 175), Ronald Allen (6-9, 225), Tim Crowell (6-2, 170), and Connor Barwin (6-4, 240).
Sorry; I never learn my lesson. When the BHoS scores 30 points on Saturday, you can heap the blame on me.
Cincy Defense 05-06
Off Reb Rate
Cincy Defense 06-07
Off Reb Rate
Some teams win with offense, others win with defense. Cincinnati wins with (stop me if this is shocking) defense. The Bearcats' offense ranks 165th in offensive efficiency (99.9 pts/100 possessions) while the defense ranks 30th in defensive efficiency (allowing 87.1 pts/100 possessions).
Pomeroy has us losing 70-63. I've got the Bearcats by two, 68-66.
-- I knew it was bad karma to call Alabama overrated. My bad.
-- The Pack's late scoring spurt salvaged what had been a terrible offensive performance; it ended up being just mediocre. Tonight's game, with 77 possessions, was the most "up tempo" game the Pack has played this season, but that's skewed somewhat by the foul parade and turnovers in the last two minutes. Seventy-five points on those 77 possessions gives the Pack on offensive efficiency of 97.2--well off our season average of around 111. Lots of lazy passes and some poor shot selection hurt us. Bama's OFF EFF was 106.3, also below their season average.
-- Rebounding was of course a struggle, but the Tide didn't completely club us to death on the offensive glass. They ended up grabbing 36.1% of their misses. They did a good job on the defensive glass, holding us to an OR% of 23.1. This marks the seventh time this season we've been held to an offensive rebounding percentage under 30%.
I'm going to have to start keeping a thesaurus nearby to help me find new ways to say nice things about Ben McCauley. Dude is awesome. He and Costner were the only Wolfpack players to manage offensive ratings above 100, so it was a rough night all around. In addition to the points he scored, McCauley had his best rebounding game of the season.
Memo to Gavin: the pull-up threes have got to stop. They're dumb shots by any standard, and since you've shown absolutely no ability to make a decent percentage of your three pointers, you should only be taking threes when (1) you're open; (2) you're right at the line; and, most importantly, (3) you have your feet set. Pulling up, especially when it's early in the shot clock, especially when you're 2-3 feet behind the line, is about the worst decision you can make.
-- I don't want to overlook the things Grant did well, because I know it seems like I'm extra critical of him. It's just that he is the most important player on the team, so I tend to put him under the microscope a little more. Anyway, as far as the positives go, Gavin was great on the defensive glass and he got his teammates involved while maintaining an acceptable turnover rate.
-- Richard Hendrix: 23 & 12 in 33 minutes. Turned it over five times but was otherwise excellent. Having Ronald Steele and his outside shooting back was also a major bonus for Alabama. The Tide may not have played like a top ten team to this point, but they looked the part tonight.
N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said he labels the probability of Atsur returning tonight as iffy.
He said Atsur has been able to shoot and do some rehabilitation and conditioning work in the pool, but running has proven to be a much more balky matter.
Atsur, with 95 career starts, was averaging 17.3 points, 5.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds entering the Michigan game.
“If he does play against Alabama,” Lowe said, “we don’t know how long he’s going to play.
“If Engin is in there we’ve got to be careful, obviously, and just see how he feels. I’ll let him go as long as he feels OK, but the minute it’s not comfortable for him, we’re going to have to take him out.”
But he does know what his first order of business will be inside the Wolfpack's locker room; O'Brien is going to put up a sign that reads: "Penalties lose games." It's a dictum he stole from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
"They're going to see that every day," O'Brien said Tuesday during a news conference at the Murphy Football Center. "You reinforce it at practice, you reinforce it every day. Now, some penalties happen. You're going to hold. It's the personal fouls, the late hits -- those things bother me. You want to stay onside. ... Those things are not acceptable."
If N.C. State's players continue to show an affinity for rumply yellow flags -- the Wolfpack ranked 94th in Division I-A this season with 58 penalty yards per game to perpetuate a trend that plagued Chuck Amato's teams -- O'Brien won't have a problem making an example of offending players by having them run in front of the team.
If that doesn't work?
"If they don't get it, they don't play," O'Brien said.
-- Prep QB Russell Wilson, who is the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Player of the Year, remains firmly committed to NC State:
"I haven't really changed my decision," said the B-student, who has not taken his official visit but has been on the Raleigh campus many times. "I know coach [Tom] O'Brien is one of the best coaches in the country. He brings discipline. I'm going to love that. He kinda reflects [Collegiate] coach [Charlie] McFall to me. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. That's where I was born. He thinks I'm an excellent quarterback."
He had another outstanding season at Oldsmar, and some of college basketball’s biggest names called, as well as several local schools. His eyes were opened about the possibility of going out of state, and was convinced that Pittsburgh was the place for him. So he signed a letter of intent without ever visiting the school.
When he arrived in the Steel City following his high school graduation for summer classes, he knew immediately that he needed to head back south. He was homesick and Pittsburgh was a far cry from Tampa.
Even though he knew he would have to sit out and entire year, Ferguson decided to transfer elsewhere. He chose NC State, though he could not enroll until the start of the spring semester earlier this year. So he spent last fall semester at New Creations Prep School in Richmond, Ind., where he played only a few games, but got all of his school work in order to enroll at State for the spring. And, just as last season wrapped up, the coach who had recruited Ferguson, Herb Sendek, decided to go elsewhere, leaving Ferguson up in the air about his future.
Now, however, he loves Sidney Lowe’s offensive system and thinks he can be a big asset to a program that has played only six players the last couple of games. He might be a primary ball handler on occasion, behind Atsur and Gavin Grant, but mostly Ferguson sees himself as a scorer.
“Honestly, I am more of an up-and-down kind of player,” Ferguson said. “I love to run and get up and down the floor, and Coach Lowe’s offense is great for that. I knew I was going to fit in right away.
“I am more comfortable on the wing,” Ferguson said. “But I also feel like I am one of the better ball-handlers on the team. I feel like I can get the ball to the right people who need to score, especially Gavin, because he is a beast and we need to get him the ball as much as possible.”
Actually, that might be premature. Between Jermareo Davidson's personal tragedies and the injury to Ronald Steele, you could argue that we haven't seen the real Alabama yet. But what we have seen is, well, nothing close to being worthy of a top ten ranking. Alabama's pythagorean winning percentage only places it 56th nationally.
Especially if we have the services of Trevor Ferguson and Engin Atsur, this is a winnable game for us. Ken's score predictor says 76-74 Alabama. My less-accurate score predictor says Bama wins 78-72. There isn't as big a difference between the two teams as the polls would suggest. A win sure would help our sliding RPI.
Alabama Offense 05-06
Off Reb Rate
Alabama Offense 06-07
Off Reb Rate
Here we go--Alabama is the first legitimately good offensive rebounding team we've seen since Michigan. The Wolverines seemingly grabbed every single one of their misses in the first 5-7 minutes, but once the Wolfpack started playing with more energy, the rebounding evened out. Michigan finished the game with just a slight advantage. That serves as encouraging evidence that we can hold our own on the glass against Alabama; we're going to need to get some lucky bounces like we did against UM, though.
They don't commit many turnovers and we don't force them, so that's a problem. I hate to sound like a broken record, but that obviously makes defensive rebounding all the more important.
On the plus side, it doesn't look like they're all that deep. Nine guys are averaging 10+ minutes per game; however, in the closest game the Tide have played this season, Gottfried leaned heavily on his starters. The four guys he brought off the bench combined to log 24 minutes. If Wednesday's game is as tightly-contested as I think it will be, I wouldn't be surprised to see a similarly small amount of PT from the bench.
Ronald Steele (6-3, 185) -- It's unclear how much Steele will play, if he does at all. He started Saturday's game against Southern Mississippi but only played four minutes. He's an excellent outside shooter and doesn't turn the ball over much. Brandon Hollinger will start in this spot if Steele can't go.
Mykal Riley (6-6, 185) -- Riley has been excellent in a complementary role behind Gee/Hendrix/Davidson. He's primarily a three-point shooter (19-55, .345 on the season), so he doesn't get the free throw line much, but he won't turn the ball over and he rebounds respectably.
Alonso Gee (6-6, 215) -- Gee's role has expanded in 2007 and he's handled it well so far. His 61.7 eFG% is the best among the team's regulars, as is his free throw rate, and he's shooting 42.3% from three (11-26).
Richard Hendrix (6-8, 265) -- Hendrix doesn't get a lot of notice nationally, but it's only a matter of time. As a freshman last season, Hendrix displayed a nice shooting touch, blocked shots, and gobbled up rebounds in bunches. He's proving this year that that was no fluke. Take a look at his line in the scouting report and you'll see red ink all over the place.
Jermareo Davidson (6-10, 220) -- He doesn't shoot as well as you'd like your forwards to (47.7% last year, 42.5% this year), but he adds value in a lot of other ways. He's an excellent rebounder at both ends, he blocks shots, and he has a great turnover rate for someone who has the ball in traffic as much as he does. Good FT shooter, too.
Sophomore Brandon Hollinger (5-11, 170) will see plenty of time if Steele can't go. Hollinger does most of his damage from outside, but he's yet to prove himself to be better than a 31-32% shooter from out there.
Demetrius Jemison (6-7, 225), Yamene Coleman (6-9, 230), Justin Tubbs (6-2, 175) and Mikhail Torrance (6-4, 185)--all of them freshmen--fill out the rotation.
Alabama Defense 05-06
Off Reb Rate
Alabama Defense 06-07
Off Reb Rate
If ever there were an opportunity for a brisk, whistle-free game, this is it. Alabama rarely puts its opponents on the free throw line. Ditto NC State.
The Crimson Tide defense also forces few turnovers, and were it not for their superb FG% defense, they'd be struggling. Even with opponents missing a lot of shots, though, the Tide have a defensive efficiency of 93.5, which only ranks 85th nationally.
Joel has posted all the details at Rocky Top Talk, including a full list of the awards and their discriptions. You need not be a blogger to make nominations, and if you are so inclined, you can suggest some nominees here.
Here are mine:
Dr. Z Award FOR: Cogent, interesting analysis.
The Blue-Gray Sky -- BGS regularly features in-depth analyses of Notre Dame's statistics that are always interesting.
The Trev Alberts Quits To Do Construction Award FOR: comic relief; overall hilarity.
EDSBS -- Tapping college football's comedic potential for two seasons now. Not only is the site a lot of fun, it's also good therapy after a bad weekend (or nine bad weekends...).
The Sports Fans Don't Cry Award FOR: The blog that has suffered through its chosen team's dismal season with the most dignity.
Orange 44 -- Matt's endured two painful years in a row and his team has an offense that is, statistically, worse than NC State's. That's some slam dunk give-him-the-trophy-now type stuff right there. How he manages not to cry, or to heave things at other, larger things, is beyond me.
Statistically, this was Bryan Nieman's best game of the season. We can't ask for any more than what he gave us today: efficient shooting and zero turnovers in 36 minutes.
-- Is there a pattern to the team's performance as it relates to Gavin Grant's workload? This is something I'll be keeping an eye on. I'm not putting any stock in these numbers yet, because Gavin's high workload games have come against the toughest part of the schedule, but here's what we've got so far...
Grant %Poss Under 30.0: 4 games (Woff, Del St., Sav St., Mt. St. Mary's) Grant's Average %Poss In These Games: 24.7 NCSU Average Offensive Efficiency In These Games: 118.5
Grant %Poss Over 30.0: 5 games (Valpo, G-W, Mich, UVA, WVU) Grant's Average %Poss In These Games: 32.5 NCSU Average Offensive Efficiency In These Games: 105.2
-- Second chance points: MSM 21, State 8. MSM grabbed 43.5% of their misses (season average: 34%). I cringe at the thought of what the bigger ACC teams--teams that are on a whole different rebounding skill level than Mount St. Mary's--are going to do to us. As has been the case over the last five years, offensive rebounds aren't particularly important to us--we shoot well enough to have a good offense without them. Defensive rebounds, on the other hand, are vital to our defensive effectiveness. It's hard enough to stop the better teams in the league even when they don't have the benefit of second chances.
Scoring about 0.9 points/possession, Mount St. Mary's ranks 280th in offensive efficiency. The Mountaineers rely on their starting trio of guards to carry the load: the three combine to use 69.7% of the team's possessions while they're on the court. But that's not to say they don't have forwards who can score; they do. The problem with the post players is they turn the ball over a ton, so the team can't get as many shots out of them as it might like.
Jeremy Goode (5-9, 172) -- Has a nice assist rate, but that's coming with a lot of turnovers as well (28.1 TO%). He is, along with Chris Vann and Will Holland, one of the team's major outside threats. He's been effective at getting to the free throw line with dribble penetration, but we're so good at avoiding fouls that this isn't likely to be a factor.
Chris Vann (6-0, 195) -- He's the team's leading scorer and its most efficient starter (108.1 ORtg). Averages more than six three-point attempts per game, and over half of his field goal attempts are from behind the arc.
Mychal Kearse (6-4, 205) -- Mychal is having a rough go of it in 2007. He's shooting 25.4% from the field, and unfortunately for the Mountaineers, he is second on the team in field goal attempts. That hurts the offense a wee bit. Good rebounding numbers for a guard.
Sam Atupem (6-7, 240) -- Atupem's offensive rating is sub-100 despite an excellent effective field goal percentage (58.5%). Why? An ugly 29.2 turnover percentage--and that's with relatively low usage. On the season, Atupem has 19 turnovers and one assist. He's the team's best offensive rebounder, but his defensive rebounding needs work.
Markus Mitchell (6-7, 245) -- Same story with with Mitchell--great shooter (59.0 eFG%) but extremely turnover prone (30.5%). He's about as secure as the Springfield prison that relied on the honor system ("You're ruining it for the rest of us!"). It's a shame because Mount St. Mary's would probably be more efficient if it could afford to put the ball in his (and Atupem's) hands more often. As it is, Mitchell is only a small part of the offense (14.7 %Poss, 13.2 %Shots). Mitchell's rebounding percentages suck, and he doesn't get to the line.
Will Holland (6-4, 215) is the only bench player likely to have a significant impact. He seems to be a typical catch-and-shoot 2-guard: over half of his FGAs are threes and he sports a low turnover rate.
Mount St. Mary's Defense 05-06
Off Reb Rate
Mount St. Mary's Defense 06-07
Off Reb Rate
As you can tell, if they don't force turnovers, they're in big trouble (one thing that stuck out: MSM opponents have shot 42.8% from beyond the arc this year). And good lord, these guys are hacktastic.
Player Fouls/40 min
Loughry 7.9 Beidler 7.1 Mitchell 6.1
NC State's current "leader" in Fouls/40? Bryan Nieman with 3.8.
No, This Seven-Game Losing Streak Isn't Slowly Crushing My Soul, Why Do You Ask? (pt. I)
This is part one of my 2006 football retrospective.
The First Third: It's Early; I Think I'll Just Have A Soda
The days leading up to the start of the 2006 season passed smoothly enough, albeit the time felt like it was dragging. I learned the location of my season tickets. Carolina adopted a motto that's even funnier in retrospect. The team practiced with like pads and stuff.
It was hard to know what to take away from the Wolfpack's August scrimmages; firsthand accounts from GoPack.com were typically vague and sugarcoated. One thing they couldn't obscure with empty superlatives: Marcus Stone's completion percentage. Two numbers separated by a dash; cold, hard statistical evidence that couldn't be dressed up or distorted. No matter how glowingly Amato spoke of Stone, there was a "yeah, but..." in the form of: 17-38 (44%).
Rather than face what those numbers implied, I went into denial.
How could he not be better? He's had a whole offseason to get better. There's no way he's not better. No way. You heard Amato, self. Stone's playing smarter. The game has slowed down for him. I wonder if this would be more convincing if I spoke it rather than thought it. We will not have a terrible offense. We will not have a terrible offense. We will not have a terrible offense.
September finally rolled around, and with it, the opener against Appalachian State. Not much felt different. A lot of words came to mind as I sat perched in the temporary bleachers..."new and improved," uh, not among them. Although NC State limited its offensive gameplan so as not to give anything away to future opponents, the bad indicators were tough to ignore. Poor third-down conversion rate. A bunch of turnovers. Thirty-six passing yards. After the game, I wrote, "Our offense is an aesthetic atrocity."
But, y'know, we did win. It was nice. If I'd known it would become a collector's item, I'd probably have savored it a bit more.
We were a couple of weeks away from a road game against a bowl-caliber opponent, and I figured that would be when we'd find out just what we had. But first, the simple matter of getting past Akron. Yes, the simple matter of getting past Akron. The straightforward task of bea--
Halftime: Akron 7, NC State 0
What? If the alarm bells weren't going off the previous week, they were now. The team showed some life in the second half, and we rallied, but the Zips, like every other team we play, waited for us to do something stupid. Mis-managed clock + Andre Brown running onto field lidless + defensive lapse = stunning last-second defeat. Officials take their buzzers and smash them on the ground, making haste for the locker room. Amato vainly gives chase, but the deed, regardless, is done. The Zips form a celebratory heap in the endzone, then jog to the lockers under a hailstorm of angry soda bottles, making sure to offer one last wave goodbye. They then proceed to suck for the rest of the season.
I thought this loss might prove the difference between a bowl game and a losing season. Hah!
When Michigan limped to a 7-5 record in 2005, UM bloggers dubbed it the "Year of Infinite Pain." Michigan lost a lot of close games, but they beat their in-state rival and earned a bowl bid. That's not infinite pain. This--getting outplayed by a MAC school that would end up with a losing record--this was infinite pain.
"This is one of the worst losses that we've had in the past two years," Heath said. "Losing to Akron is a disappointing loss. We've just got to learn how to start faster, instead of finishing faster, (and) learn how to play hard from the beginning."
Against Southern Mississippi the next weekend, we neither started nor finished. USM's punter lounged around the sideline all night, taking leisurely sips of gatorade, soaking in the ambiance, taking a few practice kicks, admiring his clean uniform, that sort of thing. The Golden Eagles rolled up 442 yards--they never needed his services.
Fletcher is small (in the 5-10, 180 range) and wasn’t very highly recruited, but he had pretty obviously supplanted last year’s ho hum combo, Larry Thomas and Cody Hull, by halftime against Florida; considering USM backs are routinely held under 2 yards per carry against that kind of defense, his 127 total yards against UF was probably the best individual performance by a USM running back since Derrick Nix in early 2002. He came back with 122 and two touchdowns against SE La. on more than six yards per carry. Because its success running the ball is disproportionately representative of USM’s overall success (this is statistical fact), it’s a pleasant surprise to have some optimism in that area against a not-terrible defense for a change.
Fletcher proved to be a terror; Southern Miss ran for 261 yards (177 of which were Fletcher's) and cruised to victory.
With the Golden Eagles ahead by three scores in the second half, NC State crumbled to pieces. This comment from my liveblog of the game sums it up:
Another personal foul on the Wolfpack. Glad we're keeping composure, because this isn't already embarrassing or anything.
How do you come back from that level of embarrassment? It would take a miracle. Sometimes, if only for one minute, one drive, one play, everything comes together. Parts that so often seemed to be working in opposition click into place, move in concert. Execution, I believe it's called.
It hadn't been a complete effort, or anything close. But we'd done enough in the preceding 59 minutes--limited dumb mistakes, played good defense--to put ourselves in a position to have an epiphany. And then we actually had it.
A pair of sharp Daniel Evans throws moved the Wolfpack to Boston College's 34 yard line. There was time left for a couple of plays at most; thankfully, we'd only need one. Evans took the shotgun snap, scrambled toward the line of scrimmage, and heaved the ball to the back-right corner of the endzone. I expected several Eagles to be there waiting for it; when I looked down, I saw John Dunlap positioning himself against a lone defensive back...
Away with you, despair. Welcome back, hope.
After the officials put the play under review, I overheard a nearby Wolfpack fan say, matter of factly, "he was out of bounds." I wasn't sure, so I assumed the worst. At which point I remembered we were sitting in stands that barely qualified as being in the stadium proper; like he could tell if the catch was legitimate. Before the moment had been ruined, the officials finished their review and let us know that the touchdown stood. We could all get back to hugging people we'd never met.
Here's how inspired North Carolina State's football coaching hire was: Some influential folks at Virginia and Virginia Tech, programs superior to the Wolfpack, fancied Tom O'Brien as the next big whistle at their respective schools.
Well, scratch O'Brien from those what-if lists. N.C. State figures to be the final stop in a remarkably stable career that veered onto Bizarre Boulevard when the Wolfpack lured him last week from ACC rival Boston College.
"I didn't notice a lot of tears at Boston College," said a friend and colleague of O'Brien's.
"Someone wanted him gone," school trustee Greg Barber told the Boston Globe.
Barber, who endowed Boston College's head-coaching position with a $3.5 million gift, said he worries "the football world is going to question our commitment because we let him go. It's a lot easier to keep people than go find new ones, especially when you have a good guy."
Tom O’Brien moved from Boston College to NC State why? Out of all the places college football is played, Boston is easily as nice as any major city. He has a consistent winner in place after building the BC program into an underrated power that’s better than NC State is now, or has been in the last several years. The fan base might be slightly more interested than BC’s, considering Boston is a pro town, but most Pack fans would take a stomping over North Carolina on the hardwood any day of the week over a big win in football. Then again, O’Brien’s a coach. They’re all nuts. Speaking of which...
Wolfpack redshirt sophomore quarterback Daniel Evans, making his first start, leads the offense onto the field trailing 15-10 with 0:46 to play. The ball is on the N.C. State 28. After a pair of completions takes the ball to the BC 34, Evans lofts a pass into the right back corner of the end zone with 8.5 ticks left. Receiver John Dunlap leaps higher than Eagle DB DeJuan Tribble, bobbles the pass and then hauls it in for the Wolfpack victory.
Alabama (8-1) is preparing for Saturday's matchup with 7-0 Southern Mississippi in Mobile's Coors Classic. Gottfried is uncertain whether either player will participate in the game. Davidson withdrew from classes on Friday to avoid a failing grade that would jeopardize the senior's academic standing.
Davidson has missed substantial time in class since his brother, Dewayne Watkins, was shot and critically wounded in Atlanta last month. He was returning to campus after visiting his brother on Nov. 12 when the vehicle in which he was riding flipped on an Atlanta interstate, killing his longtime girlfriend, Nikki Murphy.
"Jermareo's had a very, very hard time," Gottfried said. "His brother is in the hospital still. You know the situation with his girlfriend. Due to that, he's missed a lot of academic dates because of the number of times he's been at the hospital with his brother."
Davidson's story is unbelievably sad. Best wishes to him and his family. More here.
-- Boston College's Sean Williams has 37 blocks in 190 minutes this season: 7.8 blocks/40 minutes. The ACC's most prolific shot blocker in 2006 was Shelden Williams, who averaged 4.6 blks/40. The only problem with Sean Williams is that he may be looking for the block too much. The Landlord blocked shots while also posting good rebounding percentages; Sean Williams' rebounding numbers are terrible.
-- Duke is playing at a pace that is about six possessions/game slower than last season. There has been some fretting in Durham about the offense, but it really hasn't been bad. Not what they're used to, but not bad. The Blue Devils do everything reasonably well--they just can't seem to protect the basketball (I wonder why (*cough* Paulus *cough*) that is?).
Ben McCauley, N.C. State: With Cedric Simmons leaving early for the NBA and Andrew Brackman concentrating on baseball, North Carolina State needed 6-9 sophomore center Ben McCauley to help solidify its frontcourt . First, the Wolfpack needed him to stay. Herb Sendek's departure to Arizona State had McCauley considering his options.
“I was kind of in an undecided state,” McCauley said.
The hiring of Sidney Lowe reassured McCauley, who's averaging 14 points and 5.4 rebounds playing alongside heralded redshirt freshman Brandon Costner.
McCauley needs to be taking more of Grant's possessions on a regular basis. Up to this point in the season, Ben has only used an average (~20%) proportion of possessions, but I think it's becoming evident that he can handle more. He shoots the ball well, he doesn't turn it over, and he has a decent assist rate, which means he isn't a black hole in the post from which the ball never returns. That's a guy who needs to have his hands on it more often.
-- Savannah State's offensive efficiency for the game was 85.3, and while that's not very good, it is well above their season average of 73.9. Thanks to this performance, the Tigers no longer have the least-efficient offense in the nation (that honor now belongs to North Florida). NC State ranks 10th in the ACC in defensive efficiency, ahead of only Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. If we dip below the Deacons, then we'll know we've got problems.
“When I got involved in the search, we were really looking for someone who would take care of our student-athletes and win football games and do it the right way,” Fowler said. “Everybody I talked to said, ‘Tom O’Brien is all about integrity, all about the student-athlete and he all about graduation and, most of all, he is all about winning.
“I called Craig Littlepage, who is the athletics director at Virginia, and he said, in short order: ‘He is one of the best men I ever met and one of the best football coaches I have ever been around.’”
O’Brien left an extremely positive impression on those who were in attendance, just as new men’s basketball coach Sidney Lowe has impressed everyone during his first seven months on the job.
“I do believe this is a home run,” said Wendell Murphy, the chairman of the NC State Board of Trustees. “He told us exactly what he is all about. He is about winning championships on the field. He is about having discipline off the field, graduating his players, getting everyone their degrees and becoming productive citizens.
“To me, the future of NC State athletics looks very bright. Sidney has already demonstrated that he can coach. He has already demonstrated that he can recruit. Give us another year or two in basketball. My guess is ...that our football team has more talent comparatively speaking than our basketball team does right at this particular time.”
Since I got over my initial disappointment on Wednesday, I've really warmed up to O'Brien. I'd said it was hard to muster enthusiasm for him; I was wrong. I'm looking forward to 2007, looking forward to NC State football being fun again. Now that TOB is here, I think we'll be enjoying ourselves sooner rather than later.
“When you think of integrity, you think of Tom O’Brien,” said Fowler. “He is one of an elite group of coaches who have enjoyed high levels of success on the field and in the classroom. I have every confidence that he will lead NC State to national prominence in both of those areas.”
This is quite possibly the worst team in Division I-A. In 2005, the Tigers were 0-28. In 2006, they were 1-26. This year? 2-6. Progress!
This is, for certain, the worst offense in I-A:
Savannah State Offense 05-06
Off Reb Rate
Savannah State Offense 06-07
Off Reb Rate
My intramural team scored more points per possession.
Joseph Flegler (5-9, 165) -- Flegler is the team's point guard and and one of their main scoring options as well. On the plus side: good assist rate, good at stealing the ball, good free throw shooter, decent at getting to the line. On the bad side: like everyone else on the roster, he's turnover prone; he's second on the team in three-point attempts but is only hitting 30.3% of them.
Javon Randolph (5-10, 160) -- Easily the best player on the team (his O Rtg is actually above 90!), he's the leading scorer (17 PPG) and the best shooter (53.3%) among the starters. He's their most prolific and most accurate three-point shooter (21-56, .375), but at his size he is not going to have an easy time getting off shots.
Chris Linton (6-6, 195)
In my freshman year at NC State, I took a really basic math course. The professor liked to call it a math class for "lovers and poets." Which is to say, a math class for liberal arts majors. We were there to fulfill a requirement, pretending to be serious math students, but that wasn't our element--our strengths were elsewhere. Just as we were then, Chris Linton is pretending to be something he's not. I don't know that he's a lover or a poet, but he definitely isn't a basketball player.
Joshua Obiajunwa (6-6, 210) -- An excellent rebounder at both ends of the court. He's exclusively an interior scorer, which makes his 39.1 effective field goal percentage that much more unfortunate.
Lazarius Coleman (6-8, 200) -- Turnover rate: 35.6%. He'll block some shots, but he's only a modest rebounder and not much of a shooter.
The main contributors off the bench will be Patrick Hardy (6-3, 185), Bjorn Bohley (6-9, 240), and Alvin Edwards (5-7, 165). What will they contribute? Things. And stuff. Probably some stuff.
Remember back in the day when you'd be in your driveway playing basketball with your friends and your little sibling comes out and asks if he can play, and you sigh heavily, and you're like, "yeah, I guess so," but really you don't want him to because he can't dribble and he's like 4'6" and all he does is get pushed around and when you pass him the ball everyone just sort of pretends to play defense but they aren't really and that kills the seriousness of the game but you gotta throw the kid a bone and let him feel like he's involved so he doesn't start pouting and he inevitably shoots every time he gets the ball, missing badly, or maybe dribbling the ball off his shoe? That's Alvin Edwards. Here are Alvin Edwards' turnover percentages in 2006 and 2007, respectively, despite extremely low usage: 52.6%, 53.0%.
Savannah State Defense 05-06
Off Reb Rate
Savannah State Defense 06-07
Off Reb Rate
Savannah State's 2006 defense, seen there on the left, ranked dead last in I-A last season, as the Tigers allowed opponents to score 1.20 points per possession. Teams shot them out of the building, and on the rare occasions when they missed, they grabbed over 40% of the available offensive rebounds.
They've been better in the early stages of 2007 (1.01 PPP allowed), but I imagine it's only a matter of time before the bottom falls out once more.
-- The game had 61 possessions, making it the second-slowest game we've played this season. I doubt our guys had an issue with this since four of them played the full forty. After posting an eFG% of 44.6 in the first half, West Virginia came back in the second to shoot 54.5%. We were just as good in the second half (56%), but most of our production came from two pointers (11 of 13 second half field goals were twos) while most of West Virginia's came from threes (8 of 14 second half field goals were threes).
-- Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. In the preview, I talked about how good the Mountaineers are at forcing them, but I was optimistic that we could limit our giveaways. Alas, the combined pressures of the environment, fatigue, and that unusual zone defense of theirs proved too much. West Virginia had ten extra possessions to work with and ended the game with 13 more field goal attempts than the Pack.
-- Speaking of WVU's zone defense, I think it would absolutely be in our best interests this season to look at what they're running and try to copy it. Here's the cool thing about it: they force a lot of turnovers without putting opponents on the free throw line. Take a look at their numbers from 2006: their defense was number one in the country in FTA/FGA (i.e., their opponents had the lowest ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts), 26th in turnover percentage. We're laying off so much for fear of foul trouble that we don't put anyone on the line (we're 5th nationally in the FTA/FGA category), but we don't force turnovers, either (we're 320th! in TO%).
WVU's zone seems to give the Mountaineers the benefit of an aggressive D (TOs) without the cost (foul trouble, FTAs for the other team). That's brilliant. And needless to say, it'd be invaluable to us. More turnovers would mean we wouldn't have to rely as heavily on our weak defensive rebounding to get stops.
-- NC State was, once again, very good from inside the arc: 19-32 (59.4%). We are 5th in the nation in 2FG%. Now, if we can improve on our atrocious outside shooting... By the way, how weird is it to be so bad from behind the arc? I can't remember the last time we had to worry about a lack of three-point shooters. Get well soon, Engin. For the love of god, get well soon.
-- Grant's usage was over 30%, and this was his least-efficient performance to date. His individual turnover percentage was a Paulus-esque 45.5%. The game saw Courtney Fells take on his largest workload of the season: 23.0% of State's possessions and 27.1% of the shots.
“The 1-3-1 has been causing everyone problems,” said forward Joe Alexander, who finished with 15 points. “At the end of the game, I don’t know if they got frazzled, but it definitely caused them problems.”
Alexander helped seal the game with a baseline jumper from the corner with two minutes left. He them stole the ball and dunked before N.C. State was called for a charge with 1:30 remaining and West Virginia holding its largest lead of the game at 65-53. The Mountaineers, which scored 17 points on s many turnovers, made six of seven free throws in the final minute to finish the win.
“We tried to force them into turnovers, and that’s the beauty of the 1-3-1,” Young said. “That’s what it is known for, creating turnovers. We made adjustments during the season half and tried to make it more frustrating for them.”
As fans rejoice here on the Heights, I will NOT be included among them. Tom O’Brien was one of the best coaches BC has ever seen. 6 seasons of at least 8 wins. The nation’s longest bowl winning streak at 6. A chance for a 10 win season this year. But he never really got the respect he deserved. In 04 a late season loss kept them out of the Orange Bowl, last year UNC, and this year a loss at Wake Forest. People said he couldn’t win the big one, but what about all the games he did win? This year they were 6-2 against bowl bound teams, and beat two conference champions and two 10 win teams. I can’t say enough about how much he has meant to this program, especially one that doesn’t reload with talent every year, doesn’t red shirt often, and graduates 96% of its players. Just a class guy, will truly be missed.
Update #6: Clearly, it's not my day. Decent-but-underwhelming coaching hire. Basketball team loses. Hurricanes down 3-1 to the Oilers. White Sox trade Freddy Garcia for a pair of young arms, which isn't a bad deal, but I thought Garcia would bring back more.
I'm astonished by the momentum that Tom O'Brien's name has picked uptoday. While I think he's done an admirable job with blah talent in Chestnut Hill, it's hard to muster any enthusiasm for the guy. He's in his late fifties. His teams are consistent yet unspectacular. Most alarmingly, BC fans won't mind if he leaves. That wouldn't scream "good choice" to me were I Lee Fowler.
I guess the biggest reason I'm down on O'Brien is because he's a known quantity. He's established a decent level of success, and we'd probably win 7-8 games most years, but we couldn't realistically expect more than that. There is far more uncertainty as to how Johnson or Fisher would take to the job. That makes them riskier, sure. But it also makes them more fun. I'd have no problem with winning eight games a year if in fact that's what O'Brien delivered, but if we shy away from the more exciting options, we may be shying away from something special. I'd rather take my chances; if there's a greater possibility for failure, then fine. I find it terribly unfortunate that Lee Fowler is so dead set on hiring a guy with head coaching experience that O'Brien would look like the best available candidate to him (as apprears the case). I thought Jimbo Fisher was one of the most intriguing of the serious candidates for the job precisely because he doesn't have the experience (also, I like the idea of having someone named "Jimbo" as our head coach). Naturally, his interview was cancelled.
I shouldn't be surprised; Lee Fowler has consistently looked right past the more interesting names and instead focused on the boring, potential-less yawner prospects like David Cutcliffe, Bobby Johnson (I mean, honestly...), and Jim Donnan. Why? They have head coaching experience.
Ultimately, this affects nothing but my peace of mind, because perception and reputation don't determine who's going to be a success here. Perhaps, when armed with better facilities, fan support, and a southeastern recruiting base, Tom O'Brien will be that much better. And if he is hired, I'm willing to give him a chance. I worry, though, that a large portion of the Wolfpack fanbase will be disappointed by the decision to go with O'Brien, thus shortening his grace period and involving everyone in useless message board bickering before a game is even played. O'Brien is already tired of being unappreciated. How much patience would he have for further abuse?