[9:55PM] Unofficially, we've got NC State shooting 52% (that's eFG of course) and Tech shooting 39.7%. And yet we are up a mere two points. Not good.
Dowdell has 11 for Tech, McCauley has 12 for the Wolfpack.
[10:01PM] Virginia Tech had just 3 turnovers in the first half...
[10:06PM] Dowdell ties the game on Tech's first possession of the second half. McCauley gets our lead right back with a beautiful left handed shot.
Gordon misses off the glass...Ben rebounds. Fells bricketh a shoteth againeth.
[10:08PM] Ahhh, a jumpshooter. How nice it is to have one. Atsur with his third three. Tech's heating up at the offensive end--they've scored on three of four possessions.
Atsur misses a three, Deron Washington gets a nice bounce to give Tech the lead for the first time tonight. Gavin then with a well-timed bad three pointer, which he misses, natch.
[10:11PM] Sweet, sweet alcohol.
[10:13PM] McCauley gets fouled and hits the shot! He is playing some ball, peeps. Misses the FT, but he's 8-10 from the field.
[10:15PM] Whew. Dodged a couple of bullets there...Dowdell missed a short one, Tech got the offensive board, then Dowdell missed an open three pointer. Pack ball up six.
Not a good shot by Atsur there.
[10:20PM] Muskier Salsa gets a bucket for Tech. Gavin drives and gets those points right back. This doesn't make up for the end of the first half, Gavin!
Gavin with two more, once again putting us back up six. Salsa scores with a quickness at the other end...I can't believe that just happened. Six straight points for Gavin.
[10:22PM] Horner called for another foul before the TV timeout, apparently. He's like channeling Kenny Inge.
[10:25PM] [NC State player] takes a charge. Who, you ask? Why, I have no idea--Fox Sports wasn't showing the action at the time.
McCauley takes the worst shot in college hoops and misses, but there's an offensive rebound and another Gavin Grant score. Washington scores quickly at the other end.
[10:27PM] Atsur misses a three, but Tech hits it out of bounds, so that's a break. Gavin gets fouled...he's everywhere this half.
[10:28PM] Hogewood says Atsur is resting for the first time...this is not true. He went out in the first half when Nieman/Fergy were in at the same time. Jeez, I'm intoxicated and I know that. What's your excuse, Mike?
[10:29PM] Coleman Collins misses two FTs. Gracias. Awful pass by Courtney Fells results in a Wolfpack turnover. Foul on NC State, we're under eight.
[10:31PM] Coming up next! West coast basketball that no one cares about!
[10:33PM] They shared the candy.
[10:34PM] Dowdell gets one of two from the line, Costner is fouled by Vassallo. It's gettin' to nervous time. BC gets the first free throw...and the second. Up eight.
[10:35PM] Muskier Salsa has ignited the team, according to Cliff Ellis. Come on now.
[10:36PM] Salsa free throw good, Tech comes out pressing. Great. Fantastic. Wonderful. Argh...Atsur pass is taken away, it's just good defense.
[10:38PM] Gratuitous and too-long shot of parents: check. Costner loses the ball, Tech misses a layup, Grant gets a huuuuuuge rebound. We're talking six-u's huge here.
[10:39PM] Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. I'm not enjoying this anymore.
[10:40PM] Courtney Fells!!!!!!! O. M. G.
[10:42PM] Tech goaltends, no call. Layup at the other end makes it a two point game. Costner with a big time three pointer!
[10:43PM] We're up five with the ball, less than four minutes left. I'm freaking out, man. I'm FREAKING OUT.
[10:44PM] What's your favorite NBA League Pass moment?
[10:47PM] Two rather important FTs from Gavin Grant. 60-53. Let's get a stop. Vassallo misses a three after an offensive board. Grant with the rebound...he's been brilliant this half. Under three.
[10:49PM] McCauley with a follow-up layin, Gordon gets two free throws at the other end. Time to eat clock.
Another offensive rebound! Huge.
Costner to a wide open McCauley for the dunk! Much too easy for Tech at their end, so we're up seven with 1:20 to go.
[10:52PM] Gavin gets fouled hard. Nieman comes in for defensive purposes. Whew...Gavin coolly hits another FT. And another. Up nine.
[10:53PM] Rebound to Courtney Fells and he's fouled. We're under a minute. First FT good. Misses the second.
Tech comes up dry again, Fells fouled again. :43 left.
[10:55PM] Aww...Seth Greenberg just picked up a T. That's too bad. That's really too bad.
[10:57PM] Fells is fouled...gets one of two. Up eleven. Washington bricks a three and that will do it, folks!
NC State 70, Virginia Tech 59!
[11:00PM] So I think it's clear the drunken liveblog is lucky. Henceforth, every liveblog shall be a drunken liveblog!
Oh, god, the Pac-10 basketball is starting. Change channel! Change channel!
[11:02PM] My night just isn't complete without a Barry Thompkins appearance. Where's Steve Physioc?
[9:00PM] My drink is poured and I'm ready to go. Let's pray for a good night.
[9:03PM] Oh, great, Cliff Ellis. We've got the fourth string announcers to go with Fox Sports' lovely fourth-rate production.
[9:08PM] Atsur/Fells/Costner/McCauley/Grant to get us started.
Big Ben gets us going with two in the lane. Collins misses a layup at the other end, Costner hits the ball out of bounds but refs give it to us anyway. I'll take it. And there's the first turnover...McCauley pass tipped, Atsur steps on the line trying to recover it.
[9:10PM] VT can't convert off an offensive board, McCauley gets a dunk in transition. Like the defensive effort so far.
Fells with a poor shot, but McCauley is there for the board...nothing on the second chance, though. Dowdell gets Tech's first bucket three and a half minutes into the game. We're moving along quickly so far.
[9:11PM] I need more whistles...it's hard to make time for drinkin' what with this pace.
[9:15PM] Atsur misses a deep three after McCauley unfortunately passes up an open jumper. VT still cold, fortunately. We're gonna need this to continue all night. Costner misses a three...ugh.
[9:16PM] Two offensive boards and a dunk on that possession for VT. Gotta box out...this is not a good offensive rebounding team.
Atsur for three! Good sign. Dowdell then breaks his ankles at the other end and hits a 16-footer.
[9:19PM] Nieman and Fergy are in the game for Atsur and Fells...this is a scary backcourt. McCauley gets two more off a goaltend. I don't think Tech has committed a foul yet--we're under 13:00.
McCauley hits an 18-foot jumper...he's got 8 pts (I think).
[9:23PM] I'm not sure it's possible to commit two fouls faster than Dennis Horner just did. Bummer. Ferguson misses a three, Costner rebounds and immediately travels. D'oh.
Nieman and Fergy are both low-usage players/non-factors...I don't think they should ever be on the court at the same time since that puts basically two vacant positions on the floor. But I'm not the coach.
[9:25PM] Wow, Bimbo Coles totally has a banner.
[9:27PM] Costner hits two FTs. 15-8, halfway through the first.
McCauley is 5-6 from the field now, Tech with a quick miss--they're 3-15.
[9:30PM] Pack comes out of the timeout in the 2-3 zone. Refs miss a double dribble call, Vassallo nails a three. I don't think we needed to change defenses...they had eight points in 11 minutes. Costner leaves one short, Tech rebounds, scores quickly and the rally is on.
Terrible entry pass by Fells = turnover. Fortunately VT gives it right back. Beautiful dish by Atsur to Big Ben.
[9:31PM] Vassallo nails a three with a hand in his face. We'd switched back to man-to-man, not surprisingly.
[9:35PM] So I found out recently that Brad Dougherty is back on ESPN, but he's covering NASCAR. That just don't seem right.
Costner with a drive and a lay-in. VT comes up empty at the other end. 21-16 Pack.
[9:36PM] Engin gets open and hits another three. McCauley with the assist. Air ball from Deron Washington! Fells then dunks the ball, but I have no idea what it looked like thanks to Fox Sports. Thanks, FSN.
[9:39PM] "Cash deposit!" -- Cliff Ellis. You can stop right there, Cliff. Because I've been drinking and that's still not funny.
And now it's getting ugly. We're doing pretty well on the offensive glass but have gotten sloppy with the ball. Had opportunities to push the lead to double digits...instead, it's six.
[9:40PM] Under-four timeout, 26-20. Sidney Lowe points and says, "You're killin' me, Courtney!" Well, he didn't really say that. But he should have.
[9:41PM] Mmmm...monster biscuit.
[9:43PM] Dang; BC has eight boards already. Then he gets called for a cheap illegal screen. Garbage. Atsur commits his second foul.
[9:46PM] Fells bricks a three, gets a layup after a defensive stop. Haven't heard much from he or Gavin so far. Lucky shot in the lane for Engin, but I'll take it.
Krabbendam is the suck. My goodness is he not good at the putting the ball through the hoop. Which is the whole point, you know.
[9:49PM] Dumb play by Gavin leads to a Zabian Dowdell three pointer and foul. So it looks like we'll be up just two at the half.
Yep, it's a two point NC State lead at the half, 30-28. Fortunately I've had too much to drink to be upset about the finish.
N.C. State point guard Engin Atsur returned to the court Saturday during the Wolfpack's 71-58 loss to Virginia and, during 32 minutes, played well enough to impress Lowe. Atsur finished with nine points, three assists, two steals and one rebounds.
Atsur has missed nine games during December and January because of injury, then missed four more earlier this month because of a pulled hamstring. Lowe said Atsur might have played hesitantly Saturday because of his still-healing injury.
"I think he thought about it, and that's kind of normal, I guess. I think he was a little worried about it," Lowe said. "But the fact that he was out with his teammates, that he wanted to be there, says a lot about him."
Lowe said Atsur was "probably 50 percent," and, with any luck, would be healthier when the Wolfpack travels Wednesday to Virginia Tech.
I'm hoping we see Engin more involved in the offense against Tech, because as much as we need his steady hand distributing the ball, frankly, we also need him to take some shots away from Courtney Fells. Before the hamstring injury, Atsur was taking about 12 shots per 40 minutes; in the two games he's played in post-hammy-pully, he's taking 7 shots/40. I'd prefer to see Fells, who's taking 12 FGA/40 min in ACC play, take fewer shots--and better shots--and ease into the secondary role that better suits him at this stage of his career. But I'm not sure he has any interest in that.
Coming off a postseason-less 14-16 season, the Hokies have not only positioned themselves as an NCAA tournament-worthy team, they've also become legitimate contenders for the ACC title.
Entering this season, Virginia Tech was fairly easy to peg as a rebound candidate for a couple of reasons, and the league's media members illustrated as much when they picked the Hokies to finish sixth in the ACC. The Hokies were expected to improve largely because they were returning all of their important pieces, but there was another factor which made the Hokies almost certain to improve: they were ridiculously unlucky in 2006--and I'm not just talking about the bit of unpleasantness dealt them by Sean Dockery. Take a look in the 2006 scouting report at their luck factor--the Hokies were so unlucky that they finished five wins below expectation. Virginia Tech's 2007 makes a lot more sense when you consider that they were really a 19-11 team last year, not a 14-16 team.
Their misfortune was also evident when I examined expected win-loss records after last season. The Hokies finished their conference slate with a 4-12 mark, but their efficiency margin suggested they were in fact a 6-10 team. I wrote:
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.
Luck comes in many forms, some obvious, some not. In the case of the Hokies it was obvious at times, as they actually lost twice when leading as the buzzer sounded. They suffered one defeat by scoring a game-losing basket on their own hoop, and in another were felled by a successful halfcourt heave. Everyone of note is back for Tech, who should have higher than normal expectations for a team that won just four of 17 conference games.
The Hokies have put 2006's frustration behind them and have made a breakthrough in 2007. Both the offense and defense have improved, and in terms of efficiency margin, Virginia Tech has become one of the 20-25 best teams in the nation.
Offensively, the improvement has been mainly in two areas: field goal percentage and offensive rebounding. Tech has a 52.8 effective field goal percentage so far in 2007 (up from 49.6% last year). The difference is outside shooting:
2006 50.0 32.2 2007 50.8 39.2
In the offensive rebounding department, they've increased their OR% from 30.0 in 2006 to 34.1 this season. And as usual, the Hokies do not turn the ball over. Like, ever. Their TO% in conference games (17.3%) is tops in the league.
Jamon Gordon (6-3, 215) -- One of the best thiefs in the country, and together with Dowdell forms a turnover-causing nightmare of a backcourt. Not something you want to deal with if you lack ballhandlers as we do.
Zabian Dowdell (6-3, 200) -- A big reason why Tech's offense has improved is because Dowdell has improved. He's shooting better from everywhere (from three, from two, from the line), his free throw and assist rates are up, and his turnover rate is down. He's averaging 21.7 PPG in ACC play. He has a total of nine turnovers in seven conference games.
Deron Washington (6-7, 205) -- Washington has an excellent free throw rate but is only hitting 57% of his freebies. Shoots well from two, not so much from three. He's had to be more involved offensively in 2007 and has stepped up and become a more efficient player.
Lewis Witcher (6-9, 220) -- He has started every conference game Tech has played, but he's only averaging 13 min/g and isn't a factor at the offensive end. Does offensive rebound well, though.
Coleman Collins (6-9, 240) -- Collins has taken a smaller role in the offense this season but he remains a solid contributor. He is the team's best overall rebounder, he gets to the line a lot, and he is a shot blocking threat.
AD Vassallo (6-6, 215) could easily start the game Wednesday, but if not, he'll be the first guy off the bench. He'll get 25 minutes regardless. Vassallo is a big factor in the offense when he's on the floor and he is shooting really well from three-point range (44.9% overall this season, 59.1% in ACC games). He and Dowdell are Tech's outside threats, although the Hokies don't take many threes.
The rest of the bench in anagram form:
Cheick Diakite: Kicked It...I Ache Markus Sailes: Muskier Salsa Nigel Munson: Sunning Mole Robert Krabbendam: Brand Marketer Bob Chris Tucker: Tick Crusher (he's fearsome!)
Virginia Tech Defense 06-07
Off Reb Rate
The source of Virginia Tech's defensive improvement is field goal percentage defense. Defensive rebounding is an issue--conference foes are grabbing 36% of their own misses.
Predict-O-Meter: Tech 77, State 64 in a game with 68 possessions.
I was updating my tempo-free statistics this afternoon and thought it'd be interesting to take a look at how some of the ACC's point guards are faring. I've got a bunch of numbers here, including (just for the hell of it) per game and per minute stats that do not adjust for pace.
In conference games only:
AstRate Ast/Gm Ast/40 Ast:TO TO% TO/Gm TO/40
Tyrese Rice 34.4 6.3 6.8 1.9:1 20.8 3.3 3.6 Sean Singletary 33.2 5.8 7.0 1.3:1 26.3 4.3 5.2 JR Reynolds 28.8 4.7 5.7 1.3:1 19.9 3.7 4.4 Isaiah Swann 28.4 4.2 6.3 2.1:1 23.1 2.0 3.0 Ty Lawson 26.6 4.2 7.2 1.1:1 35.9 3.7 6.3 Ish Smith 25.3 3.1 5.2 .76:1 37.0 4.1 6.9 Eric Hayes 23.4 3.3 5.2 1.8:1 25.1 1.8 2.9 Jamon Gordon 22.7 3.8 4.5 1.1:1 23.9 3.5 4.1 J. Crittenton 22.1 4.2 4.8 1:1 27.3 4.0 4.6 Anthony Harris 21.6 3.1 4.4 1.4:1 20.5 2.3 3.2 Greg Paulus 20.1 3.3 4.3 1.1:1 27.0 3.0 3.9 Gavin Grant 19.2 3.0 3.4 .75:1 24.5 4.0 4.6
AstRate = Estimates the percentage of teammates' made shots the player assists on while he is on the court. For example, we see above that when Greg Paulus is on the floor, he assists on one out of every five shots his teammates make. Ast/40 = Assists per 40 minutes. Equalizes for playing time but not for pace. (Player's Assists / Player's Minutes Played) x 40 TO/40 = Turnovers per 40 minutes.
-- It's not really fair to lump Gavin with these guys, but I wanted an NC State representative and Atsur hasn't played enough minutes to qualify.
-- I would like to direct you to Ishmael Smith's unfortunate line. His assist rate is good, but the turnovers, oh, the turnovers. Six-point-nine per 40 minutes. Making matters worse, Smith is shooting 40.9% (eFG) in conference play.
-- In general, the freshmen--Lawson, Smith, Hayes, Crittenton--are struggling to hang onto the ball. Lawson and Smith in particular are finding out how tough this league can be on young point guards. Lawson at least redeems himself with efficient scoring.
-- Which ACC forward has the best assist rate? Ben McCauley: 20.9%. He edges out Josh McRoberts (18.5%).
NC State head football coach Tom O’Brien has completed his coaching staff with the addition of two more coaches. Andy McCollum, the former head coach at Middle Tennessee State University, will coach the linebackers, while Mike Reed, who has spent the past five seasons in the NFL will coach the defensive backs.
McCollum, you may remember, was canned just a few days after his MTSU team lost to NC State in 2005. Also of note: McCollum was given the MTSU job by none other than Lee Fowler.
Although we were within 2-3 possessions for much of the night, including an interminable portion of the first half where the score was stuck on 23-17, I never thought we were going to win. I guess this is the despair setting in. I think the most disappointing aspect of this recent stretch is our inability to put a good performance together on our home court. Everyone in the building wants it so badly for the team, but it just doesn't happen.
If, in these trying times, you are searching for a reason to be optimistic--and who isnt?--then I present you with the matter of Virginia's road woes.
Yes, Virginia hasn’t won a road game outside its own state the past season and a half and the Cavs have lost 23 of their last 27 road games dating back to the 2004-05 season.
But coach Dave Leitao clearly gets irritated when the topic comes up. Following Sunday’s home win over Wake Forest, Leitao was reminded of this week’s two road games and his team’s 0-3 road mark this season (losses at Purdue, UNC and BC).
“I know the reasons why. It’s more upstairs. We’ve got to prepare ourselves to play through everything, through the crowd, through the opponent and through runs and just maintain our poise, our focus and our energy. If we do that, I am confident whether it’s Wednesday or whenever, we’ll win some games.”
Just how bad were the Cavaliers on the road in conference play last season? Really, really bad. Were I Dave Leitao, I'd be irritated too. Also, I'd wear my suit inside out. Because I have to change our mojo somehow. Time for the rally...er, pants! Here's how ACC teams fared on the road in 2006, sorted (worst to best) by efficiency margin:
Team OFF_EFF DEF_EFF EFF_Margin
Virginia 87.3 108.3 -21.0 Olé! 106.1 120.8 -14.7 Maryland 89.8 102.2 -12.4 Clemson 92.4 102.4 -10.0 Ga Tech 101.8 110.5 -8.7 Miami 103.2 110.3 -7.1 Va Tech 102.5 107.5 -5.0 Florida State 103.9 108.7 -4.8 Boston College 106.7 106.6 +0.1 NC State 107.2 106.9 +0.3 Duke 115.0 104.9 +10.1 North Carolina 112.6 100.4 +12.2
[EFF Margin is OFF EFF - DEF EFF. For reference, the conference average offensive and defensive efficiency in 2006 was 104.7.]
As you can see, Virginia was in its own suckosphere. I mean, the Cavs were way out there. Even Wake Forest and its comically bad road defense offered no match.
87.3 points-per-100-possessions? It's like they would forget how to run their offense. The defense wasn't good either, but at least they were only a few points off the conference average at that end. Were there Virginia fans who sat through all eight road games, and if so, have their eyes stopped bleeding yet?
En route to a 1-7 road record, Virginia lost five games by double-digits. Their lone road win: an ugly, low scoring affair in Blacksburg. They weren't good that day; they were out-sucked.
It's too early to know if the pattern will hold with the 2007 Cavs, but the numbers they've posted in their first two road games aren't exactly encouraging. I have to think their road offense will be much better this year...it has no where to go but up. And fortunately for the Wahoos as it pertains to Wednesday, NC State's defense at home has been a joke. It's the movable object and the stoppable force! Who will succumb?
These are a lot easier the second time around. I'd recommend glancing at my preview of the first meeting, linked above. There's still pertinent info to be found there, plus its interesting to see how UVA's Four Factors have changed from then to now.
As luck would have it, we couldn't force many turnovers (and UVA didn't inflict many errors on itself), so the only way we could get stops was to rebound...which we didn't. Fifteen or sixteen UVA turnovers--and the extra 5-6 possessions we'd have gotten--could have proven the difference for us. Virginia grabbed 40% of the misses at their end of the court, and that saved the Cavs from having a truly terrible day offensively. An offensive efficiency of 101 is mediocre, but it probably should have been worse considering they shot an adjusted 42.4 percent.
Virginia had a terrible night from the field but managed to avoid the upset by protecting the ball (9 turnovers) and dominating the glass (40.0 OR%, 87.9 DR%). Reynolds and Singletary were relatively quiet, scoring 14 and 11 points respectively, on combined 8-23 shooting.
For NC State, Brandon Costner scored 17 points while shooting 65.4% (eFG); Fells, McCauley, and Grant all shot below 50%. Gavin had 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists but needed 16 FGAs to get his points. The box score is here.
I had mentioned in the preview of that game that our turnover rate would depend more on us than them because UVA's defense doesn't force turnovers. We avoided self-inflicted mistakes and turned the ball over just 10 times. Our turnover rate in the game (15.1%) is one of the lowest we've posted this season.
What's been goin' on with Virginia in the mean time?
When we first saw Virginia, it was so early in the season that we still had more questions than we did answers. On UVA's offense, I wrote:
[T]he real question is whether or not the Cavs can sustain better field goal shooting in 2007. As you can see, they were bricktastic in '06 (so it's a damn good thing they got better at grabbing their misses). They were similarly bad in '05.
We know the Cavs are going to rebound. If they add improved shooting to that, they'll have an excellent offense rather than merely a mediocre one.
So how's that worked out for them? After shooting 46.9% in 2006, the Cavs are shooting 52.7% this year. They've improved their turnover and offensive rebounding rates as well, and the result is a much better offense--they rank 24th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency. It helps that both Singletary and Reynolds have improved their shooting this season.
Whether or not they've found the third scoring option they need is debatable. Mamadi Diane is the only other player averaging 10+ pts/game and the only other player taking an above average proportion of the team's field goal attempts.
Back in December I thought maybe Jason Cain could improve his offense to the point where he became that third option. Hasn't happened, though. His shooting is a bit better than in 2006, but he turns the ball over far too often. He does continue to grab rebounds by the bushel.
When these two teams last met, I wondered, Where've you gone, Laurynas Mikalauskas? (Hey, I wonder these things.) He hadn't played much up to that point and only logged three minutes against the Wolfpack. This after a freshman season that saw him average 23 minutes per game and provide a solid contribution (56.8% shooting) in a small role.
It seems Dave Leitao has rediscovered Mikalauskas--he has started Virginia's last six games after starting none of the previous 11. He's averaging 22.5 min/g in those six starts; over the previous 11 games, he averaged a mere 9.7 min/g.
What else have we learned about this Virginia team?
They're considerably more perimeter-oriented than they have been in past seasons. Thirty-nine percent of their field goal attempts are three-pointers, a proportion that is the 60th-highest in the country. That proportion is up from 32.2% in 2006. Take a look at how the 3FGA/FGA ratios have changed for Virginia's shooters from last season to this one:
The Cavaliers are also considerably faster-paced in 2007; their games have about 6-7 more possessions than they did in 2006. When the Cavs met Maryland--another up-tempo team--earlier this January, the result was the fastest conference game of the season: 91 possessions. Nine Cavaliers have played in all of UVA's conference games, and eight of them average 10+ minutes per game.
Predict-O-Meter says: Virginia 84, NC State 78 in a game with 74 possessions. Ken Pomeroy's prediction, which takes home court into account (mine does not), has Virginia winning 82-80, also on 74 possessions. In other words: it's a toss up. Virginia does not play good defense, so we should expect a better offensive showing from the Pack.
-- In the first half, Courtney Fells took 3-4 pullup jumpers in the early seconds of the shot clock, one of which practically coming from the scorer's table. I had to take a breather after that one. I haven't been angrier than that all season. Fells was the major culprit, but everybody took bad shots in the first 20 minutes--I don't think I've seen worse shot selection from an NC State team.
-- Kudos to Duke--not many teams have been able to force us to shoot poorly on two-pointers. We rank 4th nationally in 2FG% (58.5%) but only hit 10-of-30 (33.3%) twos today. Defensively, the Blue Devils did to us what they've done to opponents all season: held us to a low FG%, turned us over, and prevented us from grabbing offensive boards. That's why they've got a fantastic defense.
-- The game had 69.5 possessions, putting State's offensive efficiency at 80.6. My score Predict-O-Meter had pegged us for an OFF EFF of 87.2, so we actually weren't that far below expectation. Duke's OFF EFF was 113.7. In five conference games, NCSU opponents are averaging an OFF EFF of 111.9 (119.7 in the friendly RBC Center confines)--this is atrocious defense. But you knew that.
It's not hard to see what's been holding their offense back. The Blue Devils' in-conference turnover rate is even worse: 25.6%. They'll be thrilled to see our no-turnover-forcin' team, I'm sure.
Greg Paulus (6-1, 180) -- I think he's surpassed Anthony Harris as my Favorite Inefficient Player On An Opposing Team (but you still my boy, Anthony). To Paulus's credit, though, he's dramatically improved on his outside shooting. And his in-conference turnover rate (28.9%), while still bad, is an improvement on his full-season TO rate (35.9%).
Jon Scheyer (6-5, 180) -- It's uncanny how Duke does this. Out with the old Annoying White Guy (Melchionni), in with the new, improved more-annoying-than-ever Annoying White Guy. Dear god, where will it end? He has already inspired a huge photoshop thread at Terp Town--here's a good one. In ACC play, Scheyer averages 16.4 points and 2.3 moths eaten per 40 minutes.
DeMarcus Nelson (6-4, 200) -- Leads Duke in the percentage of possessions used and percentage of shots taken while on the court. The Blue Devils are pretty balanced, but the player most resembling a "go-to guy" has been Nelson.
Lance Thomas (6-8, 215) -- Thomas starts more often than not, but he's only getting about 16 minutes per game and doesn't factor into the offense very often. He is averaging 5.1 turnovers per 40 minutes in conference play.
Josh McRoberts (6-10, 240) -- On the year, he's taking 21.7% of the team's shots while he is on the court. In Duke's four conference games, though, that figure is 18.2% and he's averaging an unimpressive 13.3 pts/40. He'll block shots and rebound well enough, but the Blue Devils could really use some added scoring.
David McClure (6-6, 200), Gerald Henderson (6-4, 215), and Brian Zoubek (7-1, 250) round out the bench. McClure and Henderson should see about 20 minutes each.
In four conference games, McClure has seven field goal attempts. Henderson will be more involved offensively.
Duke Defense 06-07
Off Reb Rate
This is currently the #1 ranked defense in the country--no team allows fewer points per possession. It's no illusion created by a soft schedule, either. The Blue Devils have faced a lot of excellent offenses and they have in most cases gotten the better of them. Only a few Duke opponents have managed to score over a point per possession against the Devils.
Team SeasonOE OEvsDuke
Air Force 123.2 100.2 Ga Tech 116.3 100.7 Georgetown 113.7 87.3 Indiana 112.6 79.8 Gonzaga 111.9 91.0
[OE = Offensive Efficiency]
All of those teams rank in the top 20 in adjusted offensive efficiency. Assuming the pace of the Duke/State game is somewhere in the 60s, we'll be lucky to break 70 points.
I think this Duke team is one people are going to sleep on in March. When you watch them, nothing they do stands out as impressive, and they seem to be involved in a lot of ugly games. They're getting the job done with defense, and they're playing at a much slower pace than they did in 2006. Those qualities aren't good for the image. With the way they're able to neutralize great offenses, they can play with anyone. [/end tangent]
No, This Seven-Game Losing Streak Isn't Slowly Crushing My Soul, Why Do You Ask? (pts. II & III)
I didn't mean for a month to pass between part one and the last two installments, so here they are together in one huge post. It's partacular!
The Middle Third: Beer Me
By the time NC State had finished its comeback win over Florida State, Chuck Amato was so overwhelmed that when he was asked about his quarterback, he could only respond with an awkward, "Ice...ice." It's hard to blame him for a loss of words. A few weeks earlier, the team looked done; now, back on the right side of .500, the team had restored some potential to its season.
We were perched atop the division, two of our toughest competitors dispatched and in the rearview. Also encouraging was the way the offense looked with Daniel Evans in control. We'd yet to break that cursed 24 point barrier, but it seemed just a matter of time--I said as much in this space.
My thoughts at the time sounded something like this:
With this improved offense, hey, who knows? We could win the division. Not gonna happen, but at least the notion feels less absurd. Or we could go on a devastating losing streak instead. Ooh, that'd show us. Nah. That's not too likely, either.
October 14th: the first time and the last time I head back to the tailgate before the second quarter is over. Sam Swank kicks a field goal to narrow State's lead, the Deacons kickoff and NC State gets the ball back with less than two minutes left. I leave my seat, feeling good about taking the lead into halftime.
But as I'm rounding the west stands and nearing the south end zone, I hear a gasp followed by a groan followed by silence. Crap, what was that? And--oh god--are those cheers coming from the Wake section? Panicking, I try to quell my fears by thinking of an innocuous event that can inspire the gasp/groan reaction. I can't think of anything. Once I had a clear view of the scoreboard, I saw: Wake Forest 15, NC State 14. A safety? Later I'd find out that Andre Brown had fumbled and the ball ended up rolling like fifteen yards backward. But standing there in front of the Murphy Center, I was baffled. Guess I better stay for the rest of the half, I thought.
I watched in horror as Riley Skinner avoided a sack near midfield and completed a long pass to Nate Morton. Morton, who caught the ball around the 15 or so, cut back to the middle of the field and scored easily. Instead of taking a lead to the break, we've gifted them nine points in two minutes.
This one should have been ours, but we couldn't make the game-deciding plays we needed, and the Deacs were opportunistic. Anthony Hill dropped passes in key situations. John Deraney missed a field goal. We had to settle for three points after a long fourth-quarter drive. We missed the game-tying two-point conversion attempt. Evans threw an interception on a potential game-winning last-minute drive. It goes on.
How would we respond in College Park the next week? Not well.
The Maryland game was my rageahol game. Every year, there is one Wolfpack performance that, beyond all others, is pathetic, disorganized, and frustrating. When they happen, they make me re-evaluate why I am a sports fan. The only thing running through my head is SMASH SMASH SMASH. How my television controller survives these moments I'll never know.
There was this:
When we got the ball back with 2:00 left in the first half, we couldn't decide if we wanted to try to score or not. Evans was sacked on first down, then we ran the ball twice and managed to move the sticks. After Baker's third down run (and conversion), he fumbled the ball but was officially ruled down. Amato, looking to get some points before the half, began to motion for a timeout, only to have a coach run up to him and point out that we didn't want the TO because we didn't want to give the officials time to review the last play. You'd think that, what with Amato being right there on the field watching the play, seeing that the officials were not sure about the play and huddled before calling Baker down, he'd recognize that this probably wouldn't be the best time to stop play.
There was this:
When Maryland got the ball back after Evans' fourth-quarter INT (about 6:00 left), it took them three plays to get into a 1st-and-goal situation. They had 1st-and-goal with 4:17 on the clock. If we use our three timeouts on the next three plays, we probably have 3:45 instead of the 1:55 we ended up with. When you don't use your timeouts in this situation, still down two scores, you are definitely putting your team in a position where it must get the onside kick to win. That is, you don't have time to score, kick it deep, play defense and use your timeouts. Really, whether we used the timeouts there or not, we were going to need the onside kick. So Maryland getting the ball back doesn't even factor into your strategy. If they do get it back, you lose. You have to operate as though this is Maryland's last possession and use your timeouts where they can save the most time.
And, lest we forget, this:
The call to put Stone into the game was so perplexing, Steve Martin had to go down to Mike Hogewood for an explanation. Teams have so much film on you by this time of the season, Hogewood said, that you have to throw some wrinkles in there to give opponents something they haven't seen. So NC State decided to call an option play and have Stone run it. Stone saw the defensive end to his right coming straight at him, which didn't give him the chance to run the option with Brown to that side, as I assume was intended (this assessment based on re-watching the play). Instead, he had to give it to Baker quickly. Maryland was so stunned by this wrinkle, they completely blew it up.
If Trestman wants to give Maryland some different looks, that's great. But why, on a 3rd-and-6, do you decide that this is the appropriate time to put Marcus Stone into the game, and not only that, but to call a running play? Why not find a better situation for that particular play? We ran the ball effectively all day, and that gave us plenty of mid-range second down situations which would be much better suited for Stone's option. Besides, Evans had already hit several passes on the drive--those completions were what had made it successful. We got away from what had worked up to that point.
We kinda pay these guys a lot of money for their situational judgment.
See, now I'm typing angry.
Next stop on the trail of tears: Charlottesville, for a game against Virginia that I avoided (but DVRed just in case...) in protest. That ended up a smart decision. The Cavaliers held NC State scoreless for three quarters before the Pack finally broke through to tie the score at seven. Virginia re-took the lead with an 80-yard touchdown drive on their ensuing possession, the Pack threw an INT on theirs, and the Cavs held on.
The Final Third: Delicious bourbon. Brownest of the brown liquors. What's that? You want me to drink you? But I'm in the middle of a football game!
I wish I did, really I do. Problem is, I'm skinny. So I don't take well to cold weather. I layer up so much that I end up having my range of motion restricted like Ralphie's little brother in A Christmas Story (also, like Ralphie's father, I often weave a tapestry of obscenities that hangs in the air over Carter-Finley stadium for days); we even have a space heater at the tailgate. It is no use. A losing battle--like trying to defend Calvin Johnson.
Sitting at 3-5 and coming off three tough, close losses in a row, we were well past the measured concern phase and on into crisis mode. With a road trip to Clemson looming, a loss to the Jackets here would almost certainly end whatever bowl hopes we had left.
Two first-quarter Calvin Johnson TDs later, it's looking like things are about to get ugly. The Wolfpack managed to put a scoring drive together after the second Johnson touchdown, however, and Reggie Ball obliged our efforts on Tech's subsequent possession by giving us an example of the kind of disastrously poor judgment that he is famous for. Pat Lowery returns his mistake to the endzone, narrowing the score to 14-13.
We somehow managed to take the lead going into the fourth quarter, but that lasted less than six minutes. Once the lead was gone, I didn't think we'd ever get it back. That's what a losing streak will do to you. As I told Ramblin' Racket in our pre-game discussion:
We rarely put it all together for any extended period; the offense has been the biggest transgressor here. The team's most even performances came against the Seminoles and the Eagles, but those games proved merely flashes of potential. The real NC State team is not the one that played in those two games; the real NC State team shoots itself in the foot far too often to exhibit any consistent success. The real team is not clutch.
We went three-and-out after Tech reclaimed the lead, punted to the Jackets and watched them march down the field for another score. Which could not have been less surprising. It remained a one-possession game, but it might as well have been four possessions.
Off to Clemson, then, needing to do what I deemed impossible.
Halftime: Clemson 7, NC State 0
Hunh. Not bad. We were stuffed on 4th-and-goal else we'd be tied.
It occurred to me that Clemson looked nothing like the team that dismantled Georgia Tech. In fact, the Tigers would lose all the games they played after facing us. What happened? Did we... did we give them the Suck?
"I know what that is," he whispered, eyes like moons. "I've seen it before."
Slowly, the A's gathered 'round Kielty as he shook his head like a man with a terrible tale to tell. "It's the Suck from the Twins!" he proclaimed in a deathly voice. "It will make you hit into double plays, field like blind monkeys, turn any good bat into an ass bat..."
"Oh, my god," said Scuturo.
"Oh, my god," agreed Swisher.
"IT BURNS," repeated Thomas.
"How did it get on us?" breathed Jason Kendall.
"I don't know," said Kielty. "It must have infested the stadium when they were there. I mean, that was a lot of suck."
"Yeah," said Kendall. "There's no way all that suck could be contained in the visitor's clubhouse."
Oops, sorry about that.
End of 3rd Quarter: Clemson 14, NC State 14
You know what I like? Pleasant surprises. Those are good; we should totally have more of those.
Our losing streak had been more of an "oh great, tube socks" kind of surprise.
Willie Young's interception return (one of the few truly thrilling plays this season) came on the heels of a long Wolfpack touchdown drive. Two scores in fifty-four seconds. Tied! Alas, you know where we're going from here, and it ain't Lollipop Lane. No, the barrenous wasteland that is Loserville beckons. They get points in the last quarter, we squander opportunities and that's that. Lamart Barrett catches a would-be game-winning pass at the pylon and is just barely out of bounds.
We've been fortunate. While sometimes our frustration prevents us from fully appreciating the small things--and minor bowl bids are certainly that--a winning season is always rewarding on some level. We've had a good run since I became a serious fan in 1997: there'd been only one losing season in the intervening years. Until the Clemson Tigers sacked Daniel Evans to end the game.
I would watch plenty of bowl games in December. I watched East Carolina fall to USF in a bowl sponsored by a pizza company's website. I watched Troy stomp Rice in front of approximately 37 people. And I was jealous. I'd have given anything to watch the Wolfpack play in some lamely-sponsored, poorly-named bowl game. Shreveport? Sure! El Paso? Any time! Boise? Hey, I have limits.
With the season effectively over, there was but one thing left for the team to do: add in some insult!
You have killed me, you have killed me...
I went to the game against East Carolina played in Charlotte at the end of the 2004 season. I admit to being nervous beforehand because we had nothing to play for and we were expected to easily handle a bad Pirates team. Those are not comfortable circumstances. (Plus, I get nervous before games almost as a matter of routine. East Carolina, East[ern] Kentucky, East Mecklenburg, whatever.)
But then the game started. Not only were the Pirates small, they looked like they were running at half speed. I was shocked by how terrible they were. By the time we had a 17-7 lead in the second quarter, my concerns were forgotten--we'd go on to win 52-14, and that was despite four giveaways, including one that directly resulted in a Pirates score (they recovered a Jay Davis fumble in the end zone). There existed a rather significant gap between the two programs, is what I'm saying.
Fast forward to 2006. Could the Pirates possibly have made up the difference in two seasons? I had my doubts. I also had a this-can't-be-happening-surely-we-can't-lose-this-game-at-home feeling of desperation. It took a lot less game time than usual to realize I'd made a mistake by caring. The Wolfpack obviously didn't.
And when you think about it now, how else but ingloriously could the season have ended? With 10,000 fans from that nuisance of a directional school celebrating in our stadium? The previous six weeks--the previous week in particular--had led predictably to this point. No other outcome made sense.
There's been some debate as to whether or not Courtney Fells actually traveled as he was preparing to posterize Kyle Visser early in the second half. Even with the benefit of replay, it's not easy to tell. What we need here is a frame of reference so that we might observe future trespasses with the sagacious eye of a veteran official.
That's traveling. Well, it would have been if it'd been called.
Now that we're a quarter of the way through the conference slate, it's time to look at a few numbers. These are up-to-date through the games played yesterday and include conference games only.
2FG% 3FG% 3FGA/FGA
Duke 59.4 35.6 30.8 Georgia Tech 59.1 42.6 34.9 NC State 56.5 37.5 32.9 Wake Forest 54.7 31.2 36.0 Clemson 51.9 37.5 30.0 League Average 50.6 35.4 30.6 North Carolina 49.0 26.8 26.8 Boston College 48.7 34.8 29.7 Virginia 48.6 33.8 42.3 Florida State 45.9 35.6 26.9 Virginia Tech 45.9 42.4 19.6 Miami 45.4 36.8 30.9 Maryland 43.4 31.0 24.6
Georgia Tech 60.8 Duke 57.5 NC State 56.4 Clemson 53.2 Wake Forest 51.9 League Average 51.3 Boston College 49.8 Virginia 49.5 Virginia Tech 49.4 Miami 48.4 Florida State 47.9 North Carolina 46.7 Maryland 44.2
Opponents' Effective FG%
Virginia 42.8 Maryland 46.9 Miami 48.3 North Carolina 48.9 Boston College 49.2 Virginia Tech 51.2 League Average 51.3 NC State 52.0 Georgia Tech 52.1 Duke 54.1 Florida State 54.7 Wake Forest 55.0 Clemson 60.3
Offensive Efficiency (Pts Scored per 100 Possessions)
Georgia Tech 115.5 Clemson 114.1 Boston College 112.9 North Carolina 112.6 League Average 105.9 Virginia Tech 105.2 Miami 104.7 Duke 104.3 NC State 103.8 Wake Forest 99.0 Maryland 98.2 Virginia 98.0 Florida State 97.2
Defensive Efficiency (Pts Allowed per 100 Possessions)
Boston College 97.7 North Carolina 98.4 Duke 98.7 Virginia Tech 100.1 Virginia 102.2 Maryland 103.7 League Average 105.9 Wake Forest 107.7 Miami 108.8 Clemson 110.5 NC State 111.4 Georgia Tech 112.4 Florida State 114.2
Efficiency Margin (Off Eff - Def Eff)
Boston College 15.2 North Carolina 14.2 Duke 5.6 Virginia Tech 5.1 Clemson 3.6 Georgia Tech 3.1 Miami -4.1 Virginia -4.2 Maryland -5.5 NC State -7.6 Wake Forest -8.7 Florida State -17.0
Virginia Tech 13.1 North Carolina 16.6 Clemson 16.9 Miami 19.4 NC State 20.2 Boston College 20.5 League Average 20.9 Virginia 21.5 Wake Forest 22.6 Florida State 23.8 Maryland 23.8 Georgia Tech 25.7 Duke 26.4
Opponents' Turnover Percentage
Clemson 27.3 Virginia Tech 24.8 Duke 23.0 Wake Forest 21.5 Florida State 21.4 League Average 20.9 Maryland 20.5 Boston College 20.5 Miami 19.8 Georgia Tech 19.6 NC State 18.8 North Carolina 17.9 Virginia 14.5
Offensive Rebounding Percentage
North Carolina 45.9 Boston College 43.1 Clemson 42.1 Maryland 38.6 Georgia Tech 37.9 Miami 35.9 Florida State 35.7 League Average 35.6 Virginia 32.8 Wake Forest 32.4 Duke 28.9 Virginia Tech 25.5 NC State 21.2 (Rebounds are overrated anyway...)
Defensive Rebounding Percentage
Duke 79.1 North Carolina 72.7 Wake Forest 69.7 Boston College 69.5 Virginia 68.7 League Average 64.4 Virginia Tech 63.0 Miami 62.6 Clemson 61.6 Georgia Tech 60.4 Florida State 58.2 NC State 57.6 (I'm telling you. Overrated. Please, take them all, [Opponent].) Maryland 54.4
-- How many times did you watch it? Costner brings the ball up the court, dribbles behind his back, through his legs, drives down the lane and slams the ball home. I probably rewound the DVR like eight times. Someone's got to YouTube that play. Courtney Fells also had a highlight reel dunk, though it was nullified by a traveling call.
-- Wake scored 74 points on 75 possessions, so we held them to under a point per. That's a big improvement over the 1.22 points/poss our previous three opponents averaged. The big difference was turnovers, but it also helped that Kyle Visser was a non-factor. Visser hit a field goal in the first five minutes of the game and didn't hit another until around the 15:00 mark of the second half. His lack of involvement is reflected in his usage for the game, which was 17% (well under the 26.9% he's averaging). Visser was frustrated by foul trouble and the 1-3-1; he managed only two rebounds in 25 minutes and had a turnover rate over 25%.
Wake Forest's guards really struggled to hang onto the ball, and they accounted for 17 of the team's 22 giveaways. Turnover rates:
-- For the first time all year, both McCauley and Costner played fewer than 30 minutes. Thanks to the working margin we enjoyed, Darrell Davis was able to give us 6 energetic minutes (I was impressed by his athleticism), and we even had sightings of Chad Williams and Justin Clark. -- Aside from his 27 & 19 performance against UNCW, Brandon Costner hasn't played better than he did today. He scored efficiently (66.7% eFG) with nary a turnover, and posted excellent rebounding percentages at both ends.
-- One of many highlights for me was watching Bryan Nieman put a move on Michael Drum (pretty sure it was Drum, anyway) in the lane.
-- Dennis Horner is 9-11 from the field (5-6 from three) in his last two games. He's gone almost 60 minutes without committing a turnover.
-- Courtney Fells is 7-15 (46.7%) from three-point range over his last three games. Hopefully this is an indication that his jumper is coming around. I know he's better than a 25% shooter from outside, but that's what he has been for most of the season.
-- Grant's usage has been trending downward of late--whereas he had a streak of games earlier in the year where he used over 30% of the team's possessions, more recently he has been just as likely to be under 25% as near that 30 mark. He reversed that trend today by being much more aggressive. Turnovers remain a problem for him, but the possessions he used were otherwise well-spent.
I don't particularly care for N.C. State, but for some reason I always liked the pencil-thin Julius Hodge when he played for the Wolfpack from ‘01 to ‘05.
He never looked like a gifted athlete, or even a great basketball player, but always seemed to get it done on the court when it mattered most. Even as a freshman, his awkward-looking jumper was able to give him 10.7 points per game -- tops for ACC freshmen.
FSNBA has introduced a new feature on Warriors broadcasts that examines win probability based on statistics in the NBA over the past five years. The probability is predicated on five key factors -- home court, possession, time remaining, timeouts left and point differential.
The formula was devised by San Mateo-based ProTrade, an online company that treats sports like the stock market and assigns values to players and teams. At any point during a game, the ProTrade formula can show the percentage of times a team has won based on the key factors over the past five years.
ESPN.com has been using ProTrade's win probability figures in its NFL game recaps this season. For example, you can see that Tony Romo's botched hold increased Seattle's chances of winning from 15% to 72%.
Fans of ACC football will see plenty of familiar faces in the 2007 Under Armour Senior Bowl, as bowl officials announced on Thursday that 15 players from conference schools would play in January 27 contest.
Included in the group are four new players named to the roster on Friday – a trio of stars from North Carolina State – All-ACC defensive tackle DeMarcus “Tank” Tyler, offensive lineman Leroy Harris and defensive back A.J. Davis, and Georgia Tech offensive lineman Mansfield Wrotto.
No other ACC school is sending more than two representatives.
It's not quite the offensive rebounding juggernaut it was during the Eric Williams era, but Wake Forest continues to maintain a good offense. Like NC State, the Deacs take relatively few three pointers and are among the best two-point shooting teams in the country.
Probable Starters (Nine different Deacs have started a game this season, so bear with me...):
Ishmael Smith (5-11, 155) -- Smith is the Deacs' second-leading scorer, averages better than 9 assists per 40 minutes, and is among the nation's leaders in assist rate. His turnover rate (26.3%) is within what I consider an acceptable range for a point guard. He's shooting the ball well from the field but has only made 44.7% (21-47) of his free throws.
Harvey Hale (6-2, 186) -- Thrust into major playing time as a freshman last season, he struggled with his shooting and turned the ball over a lot. While his shooting still needs work, he has cut down on his turnovers in 2007. He takes a high proportion of the team's shots (25.2%) while he is on the court.
LD Williams (6-4, 210) -- Solid contributor, if not a major part of the offense. His workload looks to be right where it should be.
Jamie Skeen (6-8, 220) -- There is a lot to like about Skeen already. He scores efficiently, he has range, he gets to the line often, and he's grabbing a good number of offensive rebounds. Where he needs work: defensive rebounding, two-point shooting, protecting the basketball.
Kyle Visser (6-11, 255) -- One of the league's most improved players from last season to this one:
Even with a much larger workload, his shooting is way up, and he's halved his turnover rate. It remains to be seen how much of a toll conference play takes on his numbers, but through Wake's first three ACC games, Visser has a 115.5 offensive rating.
Michael Drum (6-6, 204), Anthony Gurley (6-3, 185), and Shamaine Dukes (6-1, 175) are the main contributors off the bench, while David Weaver (6-10, 224), Kevin Swinton (6-7, 224), and Cameron Stanley (6-6, 214) will also get minutes.
Drum will be the sixth man if he isn't starting; he is a threat from outside (39.5% from three) and one of the few Deacs you do not want to send to the free throw line.
Gurley takes a bunch of shots--in fact, no Deacon takes a higher pecentage of the team's shots while on the court. He is seventh on the team in minutes played, third in field goal attempts.
Wake Defense 06-07
Off Reb Rate
Wake has been lit up this season, both inside and out. They put opponents on the line often, but have been fortunate to have those opponents make just 64.3% of their free throw attempts.
Despite the problems, they're allowing fewer points per possession than we are. Yes, we've reached the point now where our defense is statistically worse than Wake's. For shame.
This game is close to a coin flip. Wake Forest has a slightly better defense and the home court advantage. NC State has a slightly better offense. Can we put forth the effort at the defensive end that we'll need to win? It's hard to be optimistic about that.
Pomeroy has Wake by five: 83-78. I've got Wake by a hair: 81-80.
During halftime of tonight's St. John's/Seton Hall game, Fran Fraschilla mentioned that Clemson has been forcing its opponents to commit a turnover on one out of every four possessions. In other words, he cited the Tigers' turnover percentage.
This should be an interesting change for us, because from what I've read, Archer prefers the 3-4 and also uses a lot of zone. We aren't used to seeing either. I was happy to find that he's not dead-set on one scheme over another; he'll evaluate our personnel and go from there. This is from a June 2004 online chat:
Scott Reynolds: If the defense entered a season short on linemen, would you change the system to a 4-3 alignment or would you convert a linebacker to a down lineman position and keep the 3-4?
Mike Archer: Yes we would. In fact, last year we played a lot of true 4-3 defense with four down linemen. The Ohio game was the first of many that we played that particular package. We continued to do it the rest of the year based on injuries and depth concerns that we had at outside linebacker. We will continue to work in practice on our 4-3 package and will use it in 2004.
-- ...and the defense has reached a new low. Clemson scored 87 points on 67 possessions for an offensive efficiency of 129.5. That's the highest mark an opposing team has posted against NC State this season. The Tigers have actually bettered that number in two other games this season.
-- So, yeah. Not a lot to talk about that's not been mentioned previously and repeatedly in this space. I harped on rebounding and we proved to not be up to that challenge, but who cares? It's our so-called perimeter defense--which granted the Tigers numerous open looks and didn't much seem to care--that cost us whatever shot we had at winning tonight.
I left Ferguson out because he used a mere 3.9% of the team's possessions while he was on the court. There's uninvolved and then there's what Trevor was tonight. Sidney Lowe could prop a cardboard cutout of Engin Atsur in the corner and Cardboard Engin would finish the game with a higher usage.
Although Gavin continues to frustrate with the turnovers, it is at least comforting to see him shoot well. He's shot over 60% in two straight games.
To follow up on SFN's report that Engin Atsur is likely out tonight, here's a mention of the tweak that I found this morning:
According to coach Sidney Lowe, Atsur started to experience discomfort "when he made a move" during practice Sunday. Lowe said he and Atsur both thought the pain was only scar tissue, but after an already-lengthy absence both are proceeding with caution.
"We're going to see how he feels (Monday)," Lowe said. "He practiced (Sunday) and was a little sore. Hopefully, he'll be able to go (today)."
The Wolfpack (10-5, 0-2 ACC) will need Atsur to run the offense and allow the other players to start at their natural positions. The team has struggled from 3-point range during its two conference losses, hitting less than 24 percent (9-for-38) of such shots.
We need all the ballhandling we can get against a team that is very good at causing turnovers in general and, more specifically, causing turnovers by stealing the ball.
But Engin's presence goes far beyond ballhandling, as outlined in a Winston-Salem Journalarticle today.
"It puts him back in his natural position," Lowe said. "It puts him back on the wing. So if we get a stop, we can now run and get him in the open floor and create some opportunities by going to the basket. We talk about going inside-out, and that's another phase of it - kicking the ball ahead and letting those guys penetrate and get to the basket. So having Engin helps us in two areas. It helps us with the calmness and control at the point, and it helps us with Gavin being back at his position where he can get out on that wing and put pressure on a defense."
Grant scored most of his points against Boston College in transition. That's an essential part of the game for a team that is lacking in depth and inside firepower.
Grant wasn't able to get out in transition much while Atsur was gone, because he was triggering the break - not finishing it.
Another thing about having Gavin back on the wing: it allows him to help out more on the offensive glass. We desperately need a boost there, no matter how slight.
Clemson's offense is a good bit better this season, thanks to both improved shooting and improved offensive rebounding. The Tigers are one of the most accurate teams in the country on two-point attempts, and while their outside shooting still isn't great, the two guys taking most of the threes are shooting them well (especially compared to what they did in 2006):
Ken Pomeroy introduced a new feature on his site today which he calls the Game Plan--here is Clemson's. On the page, you can see the Four Factors broken down for each game Clemson has played. Even cooler than that, though, are the correlations at the bottom.
Note the statistically significant correlation there in the first column next to offensive rebounding percentage. This indicates a strong positive relationship between Clemson's OR% and its offensive efficiency. Moreso than most teams, Clemson's success at the offensive end is tied to its offensive rebounding. Now take a look at the NC State Game Plan, make your way down to the "Opp OR%" row and note the rather large +0.50 correlation between that number and NC State's defensive efficiency. How the other team offensive rebounds is a major factor in our defensive efficiency. Which makes sense, of course--we don't force turnovers, so we only stop teams by forcing them to miss shots. That makes defensive rebounding particularly important.
All of which is a long-winded way of pointing out how vital defensive rebounding will be for NC State on Tuesday. I think if the Tigers grab 40% of their misses (and that's what they've been averaging) they win easily.
They've grabbed more than half their misses on four different occasions. Take a look (in the Game Plan) at what they did to poor Minnesota. By game's end, the Gophers were naught but roadkill.
Clemson Defense 06-07
Off Reb Rate
Oliver Purnell's Tiger teams always play good defense, and they consistently force a lot of turnovers:
Season Opp TO%
2005 25.2 2006 26.1 2007 26.3
As if their offensive rebounding wasn't enough to worry about.
Against Clemson last year, we turned the ball over on 25.4% of our possessions. Clemson had a large edge in the turnover category, and that nearly cost us the game.
These guys are a terrible matchup for us--couple their ability to force turnovers and our inability to do the same and you have the makings of a big advantage. At least Gavin does not have to run the point against their quick-handed guards, because that would truly be a nightmare. It'll probably be ugly for us anyway.
Pomeroy has the Tigers winning by a score of 77-67. I'll take 79-66.
-- In a game that was otherwise close statisically, the Eagles crushed us on the glass. It's true that Boston College is a good offensive rebounding team, but when you let someone push you around and grab more than half of their own misses, that speaks as much to your effort level as it does to their skill level. I mean, John Oates had 8 rebounds in 21 minutes. He is not a good rebounder, but he hustled and got rewarded. Where was our hustle?
Here's a fun sequence from the second half:
MISSED JUMPER by RICE, TYRESE REBOUND (OFF) by MARSHALL, Sean MISSED LAYUP by DUDLEY, Jared REBOUND (OFF) by RICE, TYRESE MISSED 3 PTR by MARSHALL, Sean REBOUND (OFF) by WILLIAMS, Sean MISSED 3 PTR by MARSHALL, Sean REBOUND (OFF) by WILLIAMS, Sean MISSED JUMPER by OATES, John REBOUND (DEF) by Fells, Courtney
This possession begins after Gavin Grant hits a shot with 7:34 left. By the time Courtney Fells finally collects the defensive board, there is 6:09 on the clock.
Archer is a candidate for the defensive coordinator job at North Carolina State, and he interviewed for that position this week, UK spokesman Tony Neely said last night.
Archer was in Raleigh, N.C., for an interview on Wednesday, said Neely, UK's director of media relations. He returned yesterday.
That's all we've got from the major media outlets at this point. WKYT reported late last night that Archer had been offered "big bucks," but I've not seen seen that seconded anywhere else. No word on a potential counter-offer of "mega bucks" from UK.
UK Defensive Coordinator Mike Archer is considered a top candidate for the defensive coordinator opening at North Carolina State. Archer interviewed for the position Wednesday. Brooks expects to meet with Archer this weekend. "I'm sure we'll have a chance to visit this weekend and see where it goes from there."
Who knows. A UK poster who others assure is like totally reliable says Archer is staying in Lexington:
Just got an email from a good source after I had phoned he or she earlier, not our usual source but a very good source. Said that Coach Archer did talk to NC State but is not going. Take it for what it is worth. This is not recruiting news, so I am not 100% but is from a good inside source.
27 Sportsfirst has learned that North Carolina State has offered its defensive coordinator positiion to UK's Mike Archer. The offer could max out with incentives at $500,000 per year. Archer met with N.C. State coach Tom O Brien on Wednesday. Those two worked together previously at Virginia for two years. Rich Brooks has a previously schedule news conference set for Friday at 12:30.
I would like to thank the state of Kentucky for making this more amusing than it should be.
And I thought the Carlos Lee deal was the worst signing of the offseason.
"Hundred and eighteenth in total defense? I like the cut of your jib! Here, have $500k."
NCSU May Want To Hire Kentucky DC; Gleeful Wildcats Fans Pleasure Selves
Earlier today, Pack Pride published a story indicating that NC State may be interested in current Kentucky defensive coordinator Mike Archer. A couple of hours ago, ACC Now reported that Archer has interviewed for the position:
N.C. State football coach Tom O'Brien may be adding a former coaching colleague to his new Wolfpack staff.
Mike Archer, the defensive coordinator at Kentucky, has interviewed for the defensive coordinator position at NCSU, Kentucky athletics spokesman Tony Neely confirmed tonight. Archer coached with O'Brien at Virginia in 1991 and '92 on the staff of former coach George Welsh.
If this happens I am totally going to touch myself.
O-kay then. There is another thread on that message board which says that a local news station is reporting that Archer has been offered the job, but there's been no reaction to the thread, and I've seen nothing on the station's website. Just a bunch of message board hoo haw, most likely.
Archer has been at UK for four seasons. Here is how the Wildcat defense has ranked in scoring defense and total defense in that time:
Year TotDef ScoDef
2003 66 69 2004 102 85 2005 103 107 2006 118 99
I'll say one thing about those numbers--they're certainly, um... numbery. We're going to hire the guy whose defense finished the season ranked 118th? On the surface, this looks like a case of cronyism. Would O'Brien really be interested in someone with this sort of resume if he didn't know the coach personally?