Monday, March 19, 2007

Taking Another Look At West Virginia

Scouting Report / Game Plan / Preview of First Meeting
Season Stats (pdf)

West Virginia Offense 06-07
Four FactorsPercentNat'l Rank
Turnover Rate16.99
Off Reb Rate30.4266
West Virginia Defense 06-07
Four FactorsPercentNat'l Rank
Turnover Rate24.329
Off Reb Rate35.8273

There is a certain amount of comfort that comes with playing West Virginia, comfort that is derived from this fact: the Mountaineers suck at rebounding just as much as we do. It's like finding a familiar face in a foreign town. "Boy am I glad to see you!"

Those other teams, they're tough. But not you, sweet, sweet West Virginia. Not you. You kindly offer opponents their missed shots while keeping none of your own for yourself.

When we played WVU back in early December, we had one of our best offensive rebounding performances of the season, grabbing 37% of our misses. Mountaineer opponents have posted an OR% over 40.0 eleven times this season (Wolfpack opponents have done it seven times). West Virginia has at least managed some improvement at the offensive end, upping its OR% from 21.3% to 30.4% this season. That's still terrible, but it's a step up from inept (and it's better than our OR%).

With the two teams shooting and rebounding about the same in the first meeting, turnovers meant the difference. NC State turned the ball over 17 times (nine of those were Gavin's) while WVU gave it away seven times. As I wrote prior to the game:

That turnover rate sure is an eye-opener. On the season, WVU opponents are averaging 23 turnovers per game; WVU, on the other hand, averages 11. That's a massive advantage, particularly in the low-possession games that West Virginia likes to play. They won't continue to force turnovers at their current pace--that's ridiculous--but last year's TO% shows that their ability to force a lot of mistakes is no early-season fluke. This is a huge key to the game. WVU's FG% defense is nothing special, and neither is its defensive rebounding. You take care of the ball against the Mountaineers and you're liable to have a nice day at the offensive end because you're forcing them to stop you with their weaknesses.

The numbers have changed since then (WVU's turnover advantage now stands at +5 per game), but the larger point remains applicable to Tuesday. Their 2FG% defense is atrocious (we hit 59.4% of our twos against them) and they give up numerous second opportunities--but you gotta hang onto the ball in order to take advantage of those defensive weaknesses. Our ability to protect the basketball is important not just because of the opportunities it presents us offensively, but also because we know the Mountaineers aren't going to give it away much themselves. They leverage turnover margin better than anybody; if you don't allow them to do that, you give yourself a great chance to beat them.

Now that we've had a chance to see and play against their 1-3-1 defense, and now that Atsur is back on the court, we should expect to see a lower turnover rate. A few notes:

-- With both teams in the top fifteen nationally in eFG%, the game has the potential to be an entertaining shootout. To the extent that a 60 possession game can be a shootout.

-- John Beilein has started the same five guys in every game. Seven West Virginia players average double digit minutes.

-- Darris Nichols has a 3.7:1 (!) assist-to-turnover ratio. Alex Ruoff's is 2.4:1.

-- Seven-footer Rob Summers rarely shoots, but when he does, he's money: 68.1% on twos.

-- Predict-O-Meter says WVU wins 72-68.