Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Are we there yet?

-- Tony Barnhart ranks the ACC's top five running backs. Brown and Baker are honorable mentions.

-- SportsProjections.com asked me to write a brief Wolfpack football preview, which you can find here. I'm overly optimistic, as I usually am this time of year.

-- This trade deadline hasn't lived up to my expectations (so far). Tadahito Iguchi to the Phillies for a pittance. Rob Mackowiak to the Padres for an unnamed prospect. Jermaine Dye to the Red Sox, and then not to the Red Sox, and then to the Red Sox again, and now definitely not to the Red Sox. I don't want to think about the White Sox lineup without Dye. "Now batting fifth, another recently-called-up clueless pseudo-prospect!" I love those.

-- It was pretty okay, but I don't know about this 89% business. If you're gonna bring Albert Brooks back as a guest voice--playing the bad guy, no less--how can you not reprise his Hank Scorpio role? Boo-urns on that missed opportunity.

"Homer, on your way out, if you wanna kill somebody, it would help a lot."

Friday, July 27, 2007

More History

The first 100 years of Wolfpack football...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Skip Prosser, 1950-2007

Nothing official from Wake Forest just yet, but there are multiple reports indicating that Skip Prosser died today.

My thoughts are with the Prosser family and everyone associated with Wake Forest University. I'm so, so sorry, Deacs.

[Update 7-26-07 10:47PM] Thoughts and tributes are rolling in. Mike DeCourcy (who also stopped by the Wake board to offer condolences), Andy Katz, Seth Davis ... all worthwhile reads.

The Boston Herald's Jeff Horrigan:

During the midst of my years covering the Cincinnati Reds for the Cincinnati Post, Prosser was coaching Xavier University in Cincy and word was passed along to me through colleague Todd Archer that Prosser and I shared something in common. Both of us had the same unique historic hero, Irish patriot Michael Collins, which probably made us the only two people in Cincinnati who knew who the Big Fella was. Between us, Prosser and I must have owned every book ever written about Collins and, although we never met, we exchanged the ones we hadn’t read from the other’s collection through Archer. What’s odd is that just a couple of weeks ago, while looking for another book in my bookcase, one of my Collins books fell over and one of Prosser’s airline boarding passes dropped out. He’d obviously been reading it on a recruiting trip. It made me ponder for a minute taking the time to find Prosser’s email address to see what he thought of Peter Hart’s new book, “Mick: The Real Michael Collins.” I never got around to it.

The Dallas Morning News's Todd Archer:

You're not supposed to become friends with the people you cover, but Skip was a friend. We'd swap Irish history books and have a few Harps (if we were drinking light) or some Guinness (if we weren't) at our favorite Irish bar, Haps. We talked history. We talked football. We talked baseball. We talked politics. We hardly ever talked basketball. He was a teacher more than a coach.

I missed one practice during the 1996-97 season and I can't remember why. I really didn't need to be there every day, but listening to Skip talk to his players was motivating, educational and entertaining. He would quote anybody from Yoda to Billy Shakespeare (as he called the great). My favorite was Thomas Paine's Summer Soldier's and Sunshine Patriots, when his team hit a rough stretch.

In 1999 he came to my wedding, probably because my wife, Courtney, worked in the Xavier athletic department. We were supposed to have a keg of Guinness until the hotel wanted to over-charge us, so we went with some cases of Harp instead. Knowing my fondness for the dark beer, Skip went downstairs to the sports bar and had them pour a Guinness.

When he returned, he pulled the Harp out of my hand and handed me a Guinness.

"Here," he said. "Drink a man's beer."

See also:

Barry Jacobs
Tom Suiter
Mark Curnutte
Remembering Skip Prosser (Cincinnati Enquirer)
Army women's coach loses close friend (AP)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

This is good, because we didn't already have enough problems.

Anthony Hill out for 2007 season.

NC State head football coach Tom O’Brien has announced that senior tight end Anthony Hill underwent reconstructive knee surgery on Wednesday and will be forced to miss the 2007 season.

During a diagnostic arthroscopic procedure this morning, orthopedic surgeon Mike Fajgenbaum discovered that Hill had a damaged anterior cruciate ligament and went on to perform the reconstruction.

“Anthony had twisted his knee several weeks ago but tests were inclusive,” said Fajgenbaum. “Until this morning, we were unsure of the extent of the injury.”

Pass the ladle, would you?

This stuff is fun. It's too bad I can't find much in the way of online archives for other ACC schools.

That's the Wolfpack in Memorial Auditorium during the late '40s. The caption says the players are "taking a dipper of water." You kids these days and your cups...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wolfpack Football Through The Decades

All photos and captions are from the University Archives Photograph Collection. You can click on the photos for larger versions.

"North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts football team lining up in formation on the practice field." (1906)

"More than 13,000 crowded Riddick Stadium for the State-Carolina game that by 1923 had become a State Fair week tradition." (1923)

"North Carolina State College's defense pursues a Clemson pass receiver in a football game won 13-0 by State." (1932)

"Four students in the street outside of Bagwell residence hall during homecoming, 1939."

"Cathey's famous 'quarterback sneak' scores against North Carolina." (1941)

Douglas Herakovich explains the sneak in Touchdown Wolfpack!

In 1941, the Pack employed the Tennessee System on offense. It was basically a single-wing attack with the quarterback crouching close to the ground behind the center. However, the quarterback played a much different role than he does in modern football. The quarterback rarely ran the football, and the position was also referred to as the "blocking back." When State met Carolina, Wolfpack co-captain Bob Cathey was State's quarterback.

On second down from the 16, Cathey ran what was known as a "quarterback sneak" at that time. Cathey took the ball from center Jimmy Allen and proceeded to make a number of fakes to the halfbacks. The defense, which had watched Cathey hand off all afternoon, went for those fakes. Cathey then tucked the ball into his stomach, bent over and slowly moved down the field. Near the line of scrimmage Cathey bounced off a couple of UNC defenders who didn't realize he had the ball, and then Cathey trotted into the end zone virtually unnoticed for a touchdown.

"View of North Carolina State College marching band in formation at Riddick Stadium." (1940s)

"Aerial view of Riddick Stadium during North Carolina State College football game against Duke, September 28, 1946."

"North Carolina State College marching band during halftime of game against University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill." (1950s)

"Dick Christy, North Carolina State College's all-American halfback and Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year." (1957)

"Football-shaped float that is being ridden by a male student wearing a bra, homecoming, 1958. A sign on the float reads 'I dreamed I beat VPI in my Maiden-from bra.'"

"North Carolina State College quarterback Roman Gabriel passing to halfback John Stanton." (Sometime between '59 and '61.)

"Athletic Director for North Carolina State University Roy Clogston, President of the Consolidated University of North Carolina William Friday, and Chariman of the Stadium Committee Walker Martin at the groundbreaking for Carter Stadium, December 14, 1964."

"North Carolina State University wingback Gary Rowe breaking tackle in 21-0 win against Duke University, November 6, 1965."

"North Carolina State University player tackling University of North Carolina quarterback. For the first time in 11 years the two teams played in Riddick Stadium." (1965)

"Aerial view of Carter Stadium on dedication day, October 8, 1966."

"The white shoes defense completed the tremendous 1967 campaign by pulling down Georgia in the Liberty Bowl."

"North Carolina State University mascot standing on goal post." (1969)

"Mu Beta Psi float depicting NC State trash 'compacktor,' homecoming, 1982."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Darrell says you suck, Marc Trestman.

Some of Darrell Blackman's comments from the ACC Football Kickoff:

On why Philip Rivers was successful and why his successors were not

"He basically knew the offense better than the coaches did. They really didn't have to coach or teach him anything, because he knew what was going on. He knew how to read defenses and pick them apart. We tried to run that same system with a guy, Marcus Stone, who was more of a running quarterback. He liked to get out in the open and move, but we were still in the Philip Rivers era – trying to sit back there and pick teams apart. We needed to change the concept of the offense so we could move the ball like we wanted to, but it just wasn't happening."

On his new role in the offense

"I think they're trying to get me more involved, rather than put me toward the back and emphasize the running backs. I think they want to get the ball out in the open to the receivers like me, John Dunlap and Donald Bowens. I am thinking they are going to put in a lot more of screen passes, reverses; things to get us involved more. I am running deeper routes and expanding my abilities as a wide receiver, rather than being confined."

Emphasis mine.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The national title that wasn't?

There is a story in today's Charleston Gazette (W.V.) about a couple of old basketball players. One, Nemo Nearman, played at UNC in the late 1940s. The other, Hot Rod Hundley, intended to play for NC State beginning in 1953 but ended up at West Virginia instead. The Wolfpack, unfortunately, were put on probation shortly after his arrival in Raleigh, so Hundley packed his bags and left.

How did NC State end up on probation? From the article:

Nearman used the occasion to have dinner with Hundley and reminisce about the NCAA violations that had made him in ineligible at North Carolina State in 1953.

Also present at the dinner was a Nearman friend and former North Carolina classmate — a former sportswriter named Julian Scheer, whom he introduced to Hundley.

As it happens, Scheer in 1953 had discovered Hundley and other N.C. State players working out illegally in Raleigh and had written an expose in a Charlotte newspaper, leading to the NCAA sanctions and Hundley’s ineligibility with the Wolfpack.

An expose written by a Carolina grad! They really are out to get us!omg!111

Hundley recalls:

Red Brown, the coach at West Virginia, was a good coach and a great guy, but my first choice was North Carolina State. I liked coach Everett Case, and along with Kentucky they were the best thing in the South. I could tell Coach Case knew a lot about basketball and they had a lot of talent in their program. I went there for a couple of visits and they treated me well. He had invited me down there illegally for a tryout my sophomore year in high school. That summer they put me in a basketball camp and got me a job as a lifeguard at pool on the NC State campus, even though I couldn't swim. I was assigned to the wading pool, but mostly I got paid for laying in the sun. It was like Grand Central Station the way they had kids coming in from everywhere in the country. I've never seen anything like it. They put me up in a dorm and I spent my days lying by the pool and spent my nights driving a fancy Olds and wearing the fancy duds they gave me. I was loving it. Like I said, they treated me well.

A little too well, maybe. The Atlantic Coast Conference declared 14 of North Carolina State's players ineligible because they were brought in for tryouts as high school students, which was against the rules, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association was starting to investigate the school's recruiting practices as well. The NCAA was looking for even harsher penalties for both the school and individuals, and my name got mentioned. NC State wasn't doing anything other schools weren't doing. They just got caught. But I was one of the ones they brought in for illegal tryouts and I was scared. If I went there now, would I be jeopardizing my career?

If that's accurate, it's a prime example of how morally bankrupt college basketball had become in the 1950s. I mean...my god. A car, clothes, and a job as a lifeguard even though he couldn't swim. And I thought the '80s were the most embarrassing years in our program's history. I've always felt a mixture of pride and shame when I think about our basketball legacy; this doesn't exactly help.

Anyway, back to the Gazette article:

During the three-hour dinner, Scheer posed a question: How would things have turned out if the story had not been written, the NCAA had not intervened and had he remained at North Carolina State?

“In my junior year,’’ said Hot Rod, “we would have won a national championship.’’

My first reaction was that he was just blowing smoke, but he may have been right. Hundley became an excellent college basketball player: he scored over 2000 points during his career at WVU and during his junior year averaged more than 26 points and 13 rebounds per game. His junior year at NC State would have been '55-'56. That season, the Wolfpack won the ACC title and were ranked #2 in the final AP poll. He and Ron Shavlik would have made for a killer tandem. Who knows; maybe, had Hundley stayed in Raleigh, Bill Russell's San Francisco teams would never have celebrated back-to-back titles.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Leaving Lollipop Lane For The Mean Streets

Although he never said it explicitly, the argument underlying Phil Steele's positive take on the 2007 NC State football team was plenty apparent: they'll regress back to the mean. Bad luck becomes average luck and there you go: instant improvement.

SMQ points out that Wake Forest and Maryland are due for some regression themselves--but this ain't the good kind. NC State bumbled its way to a 2-5 record in close games while Wake and Maryland were a combined 12-0 in the tight ones. SMQ examines the yardage, first down, and turnover differentials in each team's close games, and the results are enlightening.

Wake Forest: out-gained in five of six, out-first-downed in all six. Record: 6-0.
Maryland: out-gained in all six, out-first-downed in four of six. Record: 6-0.
NC State: out-gained in three of seven, out-first-downed in three of seven. Record: 2-5

In baseball, you can often find an over- or underachiever by looking at records in one-run games. Since those are toss ups (regardless of whatever talent gap exists between the two competing teams), teams that are significantly above or below .500 in those contests tend to be teams with achievements that don't accurately reflect their performance. It's why run differential (or point differential, in the case of football) is generally more telling than won-lost record--it allows you to wade through this kind of luck.

Back in 2005, the Nationals went on a huge first half run that vaulted them into first place. But they were never legitimate contenders: they'd managed a 16-3 record in one-run games during the hot streak, and despite their shiny overall record, they'd allowed more runs on the season than they'd scored. When the good luck vanished in the second half, so did the Nats' winning record. When it was all over, Washington was what its run differential had said it was all along: a .500 team.

I liken the 2006 versions of Wake and Maryland to that Nationals team. It's just that the Deacs and the Terps didn't have enough time to expose themselves.

SMQ on Wake Forest:

I watched Wake Forest last year, I’m looking at its performance in black and white, and I still refuse to believe that team was any good, and even more adamantly refuse to believe it has any hope of beginning to think about threatening a repeat. The collaboration of circumstance, turnovers and clutch kicking in that championship run is not sustainable. In fact, Wake is a textbook first-to-worst candidate regardless of personnel changes (which also happens to work against them, minus four of their best defensive starters) because the Deacs’ every-down play was still among the worst in the league, as it’s always been.

On Maryland:

There’s struggling with Florida International, and there’s beating Florida International with an interception inside your own ten with a few seconds to play, but the two other visits from the Sunshine State really stand out here: Florida State outgained Maryland by 235 yards, more than doubled up the Terps in total offense, held them to 37 yards the entire second half, and somehow, incredibly, with but a single turnover – on its first possession of the game at that – wound up losing on a missed field goal that would have tied with a few seconds left; and Miami forced UMD into seven three-and-outs on its last eight possessions, but gave up the two early bombs I linked to Wednesday to Darrius Heyward-Bey, two plays that accounted for nearly two-thirds of Maryland’s entire offensive production, and couldn’t overcome those lapses. Virginia blew a 20-7 lead in part by allowing a fourth quarter interception return for a touchdown and still could have tied on a late two-point conversion (the pass failed, obviously); the Terps finished 88th in total offense, 84th in total defense, and just a couple slots outside the final polls.

I don't understand why these sentiments aren't more prevalent as we get closer to the season. Okay, sure I do: people worry less about how a team reached its record than about what that record is. Wake won 11 games last year. Maryland won 9. Both return a reasonable amount of talent, therefore both will be successful in 2007. That's a natural and oft-repeated conclusion.

CFN's Wake Forest preview makes note of the Deacs' good fortune in 2006, yet in predicting that a "down" year is most likely (or at least that a modest record would be a success), CFN reasons that this is because "everyone's going to take them seriously this year." How insightful. They had the answer, but rather than treating 2006 as an indictment, they wondered rhetorically if Wake could catch all the breaks again.

The numbers presented by SMQ speak for themselves, but I want to make a couple of additional notes. Below is each school's national rank in total offense, scoring offense, total defense, and scoring defense in 2006.
       TotO  ScoO  TotD  ScoD
Wake 96 78 45 12
UMD 88 74 84 51
NCSU 97 101 36 50
It's tempting to credit Maryland and Wake Forest for their perceived efficiency, but knowing what we already know about the teams, that's credit they don't deserve. Particularly interesting is the scoring defense column; both Wake and UMd ranked 30+ slots higher in scoring d than in total d. That was enough, in Maryland's case, to make its scoring defense on par with NC State's despite a fifty-slot gap in their respective total defense ranks (Maryland allowed 43 more yards per game).

Finally, there's SDPI: teams are ranked based on the points they score and allow relative to the league average and standard deviation. SDPI suggests Wake Forest was only the 5th best team in the ACC last season; Maryland rates 9th.

One of these two teams is going to finish in the bottom third of the Atlantic Division. Sportswriters will wonder where it went wrong. What happened to all of that promise? Nothing--it wasn't there to begin with.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Phil Steele Likes The Wolfpack

JP Giglio caught up with Phil Steele and got him to share his thoughts on NC State and the rest of the ACC.

Steele pointed to the strength of State's running backs and its inability to win close games last season. Yes, inability. One of Steele's main tenets, which he supports with statistics, is if Team A loses a lot of close games in Year A, they'll win more close games in Year B. And vice versa.

State lost seven games by a touchdown or less in 2006 and won two, giving them what Steele calls five "net close losses." According to Steele, there have a total of 120 teams in the past five seasons who have had two or more net close losses, only 29 had a worse record the next season.

The Pack's turnover margin (-11) also makes it a candidate for an improved record in 2007. Same principle, if Team A has a lot of turnovers in Year A, that number will go down in Year B. And vice versa.

An example of the TO margin theory in action, courtesy two recent NC State teams:
       Give  Take  Net
2004 32 15 -17
2005 24 24 0
Steele has NC State finishing 3rd and BC finishing 6th in the Atlantic division, which would be so very priceless. If that happens, I will never ask for anything ever again ever (for two weeks).

If you want more Phil Steele, he's appearing on EDSBS's radio show tonight. I doubt they'll spend any time on the ACC (they rarely do), but Steele is always interesting.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday Items

-- Coach, ESPN. ESPN, Coach.

While it was not surprising that Barton didn't win an ESPY, the Lievenses were a little disappointed that the category wasn't given much attention and shunted off to a mere announcement at the end. The Bulldogs' incredible 45-second comeback was reduced to a quick flash in the opening montage.

Lievense said the show focused on entertainment, such as co-host Jimmy Kimmel's jokes and co-host LeBron James' talent-show musical skits.

"I think what happened was Jimmy Kimmel did a lot of talking and ran off a lot of time and then they had all these songs and LeBron James dancing," Coach Lievense said. "We really felt it was more marketing and entertainment than it was showing all these great athletes and what they accomplished."

Well, look who just caught up.

With some well-timed channel changing, I managed to catch the Kay Yow portion of the ESPYs and avoid any and all LeBron performance pieces. Growing up I got criticized for flipping around too much, but you need that experience in a crucial situation like that one.

Here's what Kissing Suzy Kolber had to say about the V award presentation:

ESPN tried to stir up the pot with a cat fight when they sent Ashley Judd and Pat Summit to present the inaugural Jimmy V Perserverence Award to the incredibly inspirational Coach Kay Yow of NC State. Yow is in grips of a battle with cancer but she credits God for allowing her to attend the show. Which is more than she could say for those asshole doctors who kept trying to force her in to bed. No other nominees were mentioned, the are presumed dead. Immediately following the show Sidney Lowe went to have his colon checked out.

-- Keep an eye out for the new ncsu.edu, which is being soft-launched at some point this week:

Beginning the week of July 16, visitors to the university home page will find a link to the redesigned site, where they can experience the new content, video and multimedia features and provide feedback prior to the site’s official launch in August.

“Because the site has so much new content and is so different from the current site, we wanted to give people, particularly those on campus, an opportunity to get used to the new site before it goes live,” said Jason Simon, the university’s director of Creative Services.

-- On Saturday, the White Sox were clinging to a one-run lead in the 9th when Bobby Jenks threw a wild pitch that allowed the tying run to score. What followed was possibly the closest thing to an expletive that Hawk Harrelson has ever uttered on air: "got dammit." And then ten seconds of silence. Chicago's play-by-play man, ladies and gentlemen. His entire call of that play was, "the ball gets away! [pause; runner scores] Got dammit!" [extended silence]. Hey, you got eyes, you fill in the blanks, pal. Imagine if this man had been doing the radio broadcast.

Harry Doyle: That's all we got, one goddamn hit?
Assistant: You can't say goddamn on the air.
Harry Doyle: Don't worry, nobody is listening anyway.

-- What's the point of streaking with clothes on (see 2:50 mark)? (Hat tip: BBTF.)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Kenny Drummond's Prep School Thingy

From the Greensboro News-Record:

Drummond calls his venture Future Academy, but at this point, it’s clearly more future than academy. He says he will need $6 million in private donations to make it happen, but he has not shown regulatory agencies the structure necessary to sustain even a rudimentary business or nonprofit organization.

Drummond has been praised by some parents of basketball players, of whom 10 were on the Future Academy team in 2006-07. The players were high school graduates seeking better college basketball opportunities. They came from Forsyth County in most cases and paid $6,000 each in tuition to Drummond’s program, housed at that time in a community center in High Point. The money covered the cost of uniforms and travel to games and tournaments across the country.

Operating independently of local, state and federal agencies, Drummond did not employ teachers. He was the only full-time staff member.

Emphasis is mine. A so-called prep school operating out of a community center with one employee who also happens to be the basketball coach. That sounds familiar...

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

Two reports on Lutheran Christian Academy--the above Washington Post piece and a New York Times investigation--got the whole NCAA prep school crackdown rolling. Philly Lutheran was banned by the NCAA earlier this year.

Drummond's school seems to have less redeeming academic value than Shofield's, if that's possible. Future Academy isn't accredited, and with everything the NCAA is doing these days, Drummond really should know better. But if he's worried about the NCAA, he's not letting on. And actually, it may be that the NCAA isn't relevant in this case. I'm not sure. If his school deals strictly with athletes who already have high school degrees, he may be able to operate outside of the NCAA's prep school/diploma mill scope.

Academics, as vaguely offered by Kenny Drummond:

As for academics, Drummond said he didn't promise a broad-based, traditional curriculum or anything else that would magically grant NCAA eligibility to a previously unqualified athlete.

"Whatever (academic credentials) they come in with, that's what they leave with," Drummond said. "The coaches who recruit the kids, what they love about the program is that we introduce the kids to the work. Parents love it because we were able to get their kids to see the bright side of going to college. We taught these kids how to work. There was no pressure to perform; there was pressure to learn."


He described Future Academy's academic program this way: "When students come to our program, they choose a major. And we go over to High Point University or A&T and Winston-Salem State. We buy these kids books in those majors. We put together a syllabus for the whole semester, and we show them how to do the work so that when they go to college the following year, they're familiar with the work already. That's why we call it a preparation course."

Asked how students could effectively learn from textbooks without the guidance of recognized experts, Drummond said, "I show them how to do the work. I'm a smart guy myself. I showed the guys. ... We talked about the work."

That last bit is kind of dubious.

Friday, July 13, 2007

You poor kids.

That's three hours they can't get back.

When freshmen at North Carolina State University arrive on the Raleigh campus this year, they will have to take a three-hour Internet course on the dangers of drinking alcohol.

It's the first time that the school has required its 5,000 incoming freshmen to take the course.


Some students consider the class a useless chore, but public health advocates say it prepares young students for their new freedom and the drinking culture that marks so many college campuses.

When I was at State way back in the first half of this decade, you only had to take this course if you were caught in the dry dorms with alcohol. Which I was once. And yes, it is a useless chore.

I also got to write a fun essay about alcohol something something and et cetera! As if it isn't punishment enough when they make you pour whatever alcohol they find down the drain. I had some suitemates who were forced to say goodbye to a rather large store of delicious beverages. The mental anguish lingered for days.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wednesday Items

-- This All-Star break, Major League Baseball welcomed everyone back to 1997. The Counting Crows and Paula Cole? Who performed at the celebrity softball game, Duncan Sheik?

And by the way, were the White Sox actually contenders this season, I would say: thank you, Tony La Russa. Thank you for letting Aaron Rowand hit in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and the bases loaded and leaving Albert Pujols on the bench. Spectacular idea.

-- The second game of Julius Hodge's summer season did not go so well. Kevin Durant, by the way is 9-36 from the field in two games. Thud.

-- Before I saw this, I was not aware Gardner-Webb had a football team. They need to do something about that getup before 2009; those things look like a rejected Seattle Seahawks uniform idea.

-- Maize N Brew previews the ACC.

-- Strange--I don't see any beer cups.

-- SMQ previews Georgia Tech:

What's the Same: I'm not sure I've ever seen a game that better defines a defense at its best than Tech's season-opening win at Auburn in 2005, when Brandon Cox threw for 340 yards in his first start and still left a beaten, battered goat for throwing four interceptions in total bewilderment. Jon Tenuta's mad zone blitzin' does that to young quarterbacks; the Jackets sacked Cox three times in addition to the picks, sacked Kyle Wright seven times when they upset Miami later in `05, then opened up conference play last year with 17 sacks, collectively, in wins against Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland and Miami last year. Tech's turnover margin in those four games was +6, but more importantly, those teams combined to average about two yards per carry. That number a) is awful even accounting for the sacks, and b) contributed to Tenuta's lusty aggression by keeping teams off-schedule on third down. Evidence of that is here in handy chart form, and more circumstantially in the measly half-yard average Tech allowed on all third down runs, heavily influenced by all the negative yardage on sacks. New passers at Notre Dame, Maryland and Clemson aren't going to have a very nice time with this.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Defensive Contributions In Basketball

I recently stumbled across the ACC Stats & More blog, and I've found some stuff there that I haven't seen anywhere in the college hoops blogosphere. Of particular interest is PAPER:

PAPER represents the number of points a player would contribute to a league-average team over the course of a 16-game conference season, relative to the expected contribution of a hypothetical league-average player. Only statistics from conference games are used. PAPER does not simply assign a set value to the various statistics that individuals accumulate. Instead, it uses a model of a typical league possession and introduces the player's net contribution to determine what the expected scoring output would be.

What PAPER's telling us--how many points a player adds to his team above/below what an average player would--is a concept borrowed from baseball analysis. It's a marginal lineup value for hoops. The most interesting thing to me about PAPER is that it approximates defensive value. That's a murky area in basketball for obvious reasons (it doesn't help that the box score stats we have to evaluate defense tell only a small part of the story), but separating the individual from the team isn't totally infeasible.

The ratings are here. You'll probably scoff at where Brandon Costner is located on the list, but keep in mind that this is for conference games only, and Costner wasn't very efficient in league play (it's his offense that's dragging him down). He turned the ball over too much and shot rather modestly (his ORTG in conference play was 100.9, if that helps).

Other notes:

-- The five members of the ACC All-Defensive team were Jamon Gordon, Zabian Dowdell, DJ Strawberry, Ekene Ibekwe, and Josh McRoberts. According to PAPER, the writers did a good job--four of the five are rated as above average defensively.

-- Ben McCauley's defense...uh, yikes. Ben had 9 blocks and 10 steals in 16 regular season conference games and was a terrible defensive rebounder, so you can see where the rating is coming from. McCauley is an example of why understanding a player's net contribution is important. I'm not saying PAPER's right about him, but you can see, in tangible terms, how defense may impact a player's value.

-- There's my man Anthony Harris right near the bottom, not surprisingly. By any measure, Anthony, you suck. But that's why I dig you. Not too far above Harris are Jack McClinton and Sean Marshall, two overrated players who provide little aside from high volume shooting. Marshall preposterously averaged almost three more field goal attempts per 40 minutes than Jared Dudley during the ACC regular season. Which, had I been running the country at the time, would've been a punishable offense.

So what do you guys think? Does this pass the sniff test for you?

Although I never use them here, I do have individual defensive ratings for everyone in the ACC. Later this week I'm going to see if there's a general agreement between PAPER and the DRTGs.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Solid Summer League Debut For Julius Hodge

Fourteen points and 10 boards in 21 minutes. Hodge's Sonics lost to Reyshawn Terry's Mavericks.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


I got nothin', so here's some YouTube.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Catching Up With Manny And Marcus

The San Francisco 49ers have their own social networking site (which is a great idea), and both Manny Lawson and Marcus Hudson are featured prominently. They've got some photos/videos/blog entries you can check out. Read about the crazy rabbit that chases Marcus while he rides his bike to work. And also about Manny's idea for a kinder, gentler planet:

I'm thinking nap time should be internationally known that sometime throughout the day, all jobs are required for their employeeds to have a nap time. After a nap, everything would be better. The market would be better, everyone would be fresh. People wouldn't be so angry all the time. If you were to step on my foot, if I had just had a nap, I'd say no sweat. Steal a potato chip out of my bag? I'd say, no problem have another. So it's all about naps.

Take for instance when a child is cranky, all he needs usually is sleep and he's better. So that philosophy should be applied worldwide.

You have to admit he makes a compelling argument.