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Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Final Four! & Etc.
Pts Poss Off_Eff Def_Eff
The Wolfpack will play at Michigan State on Wednesday. Elsewhere...
-- The softball team committed seven errors and handed Virginia an 8-7 win on Sunday. Yikes. Offense wasn't a problem today, but it's been a serious issue for most of this season. After hitting .273/.357/.441 in 2007, the team is hitting .236/.314/.350 in '08. That's a 134-point dip in OPS.
-- It's a similar story for the baseball team: .302/.398/.455 last year, .272/.360/.401 this year. Fortunately the pitching has improved, led most notably by Clayton Shunick. Last season, Shunick pitched much better than his ERA suggested, and so far in 2008, he has improved on his good peripherals despite moving from the bullpen to a starting role:
ERA IP HR/9 H/9 K/9 BB/9 K/BB BABIP FIP
[BABIP, FIP ERA]
A pitcher's batting average on balls in play is mostly outside of his control, so when it deviates significantly from the league average BABIP (around .340 in college baseball), that can be fairly attributed to good/bad luck. Shunick's been a little more fortunate (not surprisingly) in this regard so far this season, but that's not the only source of improvement:
The difference in the angle of his arm from one year to the next was acute. In the Cape picture, Shunick’s arm was nearly straight over the top. In the NC State picture, he had dropped down to nearly three-quarters.
That added control is clearly paying dividends.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Wolfpack Women One Step Away From WNIT Final Four
Pts Poss Off_Eff Def_Eff
Hey, it's something.
More embarrassing than airballing it?
I'd say yes. I found this while looking for UMass/Syracuse highlights:
Onuaku would later fire an attempted layup over the backboard.
In other news...
-- Pete Gillen sounds a little depressed: "I’ve had a bad decade - I got fired, no friends, no money, no clothes."
-- Duke student complains that he'll graduate without seeing the Blue Devils go to a Final Four. Writes GP:
Oh the humanity, how many poor, bedraggled, downtrodden and unfortunate college students didn’t get to “enjoy” a “Final Four” trip? Let’s think now…A couple hundred thousand EVERY DAMN YEAR! Jeez, some 500,000 UVA graduates have never sniffed the place…(Sorry, Hoos, but somebody had to take the fall.)
-- Another great tidbit I found in the SI Vault:
In the Oklahoma media guide under "Favorite class at OU," Sooner forward Darryl (Choo) Kennedy listed "Theory of Basketball." Below it, under "Least favorite class," Choo wrote "Several."
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
The Other Three People Are Just Out There
On April 9th of last year, Joe Lunardi put together his way-too-early bracket for 2008, which you might remember included this pod...
Turns out he was just a hair off regarding the Wolfpack. (Good calls on MSU and Arizona, though.)
I'm going to take one last in-depth look at what did happen. I won't be hurt if you decide to skip this. All the numbers below are in-conference only (conference rank in parenthesis).
Off_Eff Def_Eff Margin ExpW-L
Why did it happen? Statistics tell a part of the story. After averaging 71 points per game a season ago, the Wolfpack was down an average of four points per contest this season. Lowe’s first team in 2007 also hit 49 percent of its shots, an excellent rate by any measure. This season, the Pack could muster only 45 percent shooting from the floor.
He said efficient! *swoons*
eFG% TO% OR% FTR 2FG% 3FG% ShotDiff Pts/ePoss
[ShotDiff = shot attempt differential. The difference, per game, in shot attempts by the Pack and the Pack's opponents, with free throws factored in. The negative number means opponents are getting more attempts at the hoop.
Pts/ePoss = Points per turnover-less possession. The term "effective possessions" (ePoss) is credited to John Gasaway.]
If we were going to contend in 2008, we needed to significantly improve in our areas of weakness. We did not. While we marginally improved our offensive rebounding, thanks to JJ Hickson and, to a lesser extent, Gavin Grant, problems at the point led us to turn the ball over more frequently than we did a year ago.
Lowe's assessment of our shooting capabilities is correct, but just as it wasn't something he should have been concerned about coming into the season, it's not something he should worry about going forward, either. Despite what the regular old field goal percentage may tell him, we were fine in that regard, and we'll be fine next year, too.
And there has to be at least some bounce-back for McCauley and Costner--surely they won't be this bad in 2009--and that should help push our 2FG% back up. We'll miss Grant's newfound three-point accuracy (he shot 44.2% from outside), and you can bet that Courtney Fells, who somehow managed to shoot 45.2% despite consistently poor shot selection, won't be that effective again. To pick up the slack along the perimeter, we'll need Costner and Horner (assuming he's back) to reclaim what they've lost, and we'll need Javier Gonzalez to build on the confidence he displayed toward the end of the season. I'm optimistic enough to think those things will happen.
As the last two seasons have shown, however, being among the league's best shooting teams doesn't do much good when opportunities are slim. We've operated with a margin of error that makes extended success impossible, losing the shot attempt tug-of-war night in, night out. Until we start protecting the basketball, the overall picture isn't going to change. I'd check back in 2010 or so.
eFG% TO% OR% FTR 2FG% 3FG%
As messy as the situation at the offensive end is, our performance here, and our near-term prospects, are even more depressing. ACC offenses were collectively worse in 2008, scoring 104.4 pts/100 poss versus the 105.3 they averaged in 2007. Which means we declined from about 6% worse (111.4/105.3) than the average ACC defense to about 9% worse (114.1/104.4). In terms of the four factors:
eFG% TO% OR% FTR
(So, for example, our eFG% defense was 4.6% worse than average, while our defensive free throw rate was 13% better than average.)
Essentially, our hopes for defensive improvement lie with the rather nebulous proposition that the guys will try harder. I'd like to be able to offer some words of encouragement here, to be able to point to something positive. But, well... (1) we're losing our best defensive rebounder/lone shot-blocking threat, (2) McCauley/Costner make for horrific defense when they're on the court together, and (3) even if Sidney Lowe changed his philosophy, I think our passive style that keeps opponents off the line but doesn't create turnovers is so ingrained that there's no going back with this group; this is the defensive identity we've forged, and unfortunately, it sucks.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
-- The Wolfpack Women rallied from 14 down to beat South Carolina in the second round of the WNIT last night:
“We told [Whittington] and Lucy Ellison that we weren’t always going to hit the first shot, so they had to be ready to rebound,” Yow said. “And they did a really good job of that in the second half. It was a completely different intensity level and sense of urgency.”
State grabbed 44.2% of its misses--23 offensive boards total.
-- Just hit him in the face!
Mazzulla took an inbound pass when he entered the game at the 14:06 mark and Paulus pounced. Mazzulla swung his torso left to right and caught Paulus with an elbow in the face.
-- Occasionally, I get asked by online businesses (usually by ticket brokers) if I would be willing to place ads or links on the site. I received one such request on Monday from a guy running a merchandise website. After requesting a link, he closed the email with, "By the way, good luck with Tom O'Brien. You may like him now but he'll wear you down. Give him time." Which, I have to say, didn't really make me feel compelled to help him out.
-- Here's an interesting piece from 1987 on the proliferation of junior college players in division I basketball:
Even if you haven't heard the stories, Bob Knight has. Time was when Knight would sooner appear at the Feinstein family picnic than scour the junior college badlands for a quick fix. But times change, and last spring a junior college player (Keith Smart) sank a junior college shot (a cinder-block-and-tumble-weed number from the baseline with the clock ticking down) to give Knight and Indiana a national title. Says Ronnie Arrow, who coached for 10 years at San Jacinto (Texas) J.C., "Bob Knight may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night."
Says Warkentien: "After Kentucky and Carolina hold their 'drafts,' six of the nation's top nine [high-school seniors] are gone. Then Illinois and DePaul carve up Chicago, the SEC takes everybody in the South—except for the Mississippi kids, who go to Louisville—and the elite high school players are basically spoken for. Guys who can't recruit them and won't recruit the junior colleges are selling insurance now."
When juco gunner Kenny Drummond nearly sank North Carolina State last season with his selfish play, Wolfpack coach Jim Valvano vowed never to recruit in Jucoland again. It seemed an irrational pledge, particularly because Valvano had dipped into the jucos for Nate McMillan and Anthony (Spud) Webb, fine citizens both and NBA guards today. "If Valvano sticks by that," says Eastern Kentucky coach Max Good, "he'll be out of business."
Sunday, March 23, 2008
They do tend to enjoy the RBC Center experience.
-- Pity the poor souls from Mount St. Mary's and Arkansas. Carolina scored 113 points in 75 possessions against MSM and 108 in 67 against the Razorbacks; that's better than 1.5 pts/poss in each game, which is absurd. This is what dominance looks like:
vs. MSM: 65.5% eFG, 12.0 TO%, 58.1 OR%
vs. Ark: 73.8% eFG, 10.4 TO%, 44.9 OR%
You can't help but marvel at that.
The whole of UNC's success, as always, can be directly attributed to Quentin Thomas, who had 10 assists in 30 minutes of playing time over the course of the weekend.
-- I'm on the Davidson bandwagon from here on out. Georgetown shot better than 75% and still managed to lose thanks to a -15 turnover margin. The Hoyas turned the ball over 20 times in just 61 possessions.
-- I only got 10 of 16 sweet sixteen teams correct, but my elite eight is intact. The only real shocker to me this weekend was UConn's loss at the hands of San Diego, though Clemson's defeat is a close second.
Friday, March 21, 2008
From The Vault
Saw this on Pack Pride yesterday: the Sports Illustrated Vault.
Absent was any mention of cruditas, in which the Dukies also dabble. It has cost them friends. Dean Smith, for one, could not appreciate their work less. Others have thicker hides. N.C. State coach Jim Valvano feels right at home among the Animals. "They're all from Jersey, so they sound like me. If I went to Duke, I'd probably be one of them."
Apparently the Crazies were at one point called the Student Animals; never knew that. I can't imagine why that didn't stick.
I found lots of great Jimmy V quotables, which I'll post once SI's site stops having issues.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Gonna Regret These Picks
My final four:
Louisville -- Should cruise to the second weekend. And I've never thought much of Tennessee. Beating the Heels in Charlotte, though, whew; I'll admit that's a stretch.
Kansas -- Despite what I said on Sunday, I'm taking the Jayhawks to win it all again. Clearly I just can't not pick Kansas. I don't know what my deal is.
Stanford -- Love the way they play defense. With twin seven-footers in the lineup, you'd expect they would make it impossible for opponents to make twos or grab misses--and they do. One problem: Marquette is a huge first weekend roadblock. Go Kentucky!
UCLA -- I find it a little disappointing that Kevin Love isn't in the National POY discussion. If Hansbrough deserves serious consideration, so does Love, because he's been every bit as good. Just what is the difference between Hansbrough and Love (and Michael Beasley)? Let's ask Jay Bilas:
Michael Beasley is the best player in the country and an unstoppable man among men. But, Tyler Hansbrough is my choice as national player of the year. Hansbrough is the unyielding leader of a title-contending Tar Heels team, and he has been the toughest and most relentless player in the country. Hansbrough is the ultimate teammate that will do anything to win, and his will exceeds his considerable skill.
In other words:
Lady: Lisa, [Tyler]'s got something you can't learn in school. Zazz!
That's Bilas's (and numerous others') argument in a nutshell. Hansbrough: kapowza!!!!!!
I guess that was a bit of a tangent. Anyhow, Bruins. San Antonio. Affirmed.
I wouldn't have put it past him...
From the New York Daily News:
Whittenburg, the leading scorer in the 1983 NCAA Tournament with 120 points, vividly remembers the first time he met the man who would eventually become his coach. He and soon-to-be N.C. State teammate Sidney Lowe were playing as high schoolers in the Boston Shootout. After Whittenburg's Washington, D.C. team defeated a team from New York City, "this Italian guy comes up and grabs me and Sidney in a headlock and says, ‘I love you two guys and I'd love to coach you,'" Whittenburg said.
It's Award Time Again
Good practice, kids. Now its time for the easiest part of any coach's job. The cuts. Although I wasn't able to cut everyone I wanted to, I have cut a lot of you. Wendell is cut. Rudy is cut. Janey, you're gone. Steven, I like your hustle. Thats why it was so hard to cut you.
There are a lot of great basketball players in the ACC, and as each season concludes they are properly recognized and rewarded. But why should those guys hog the attention and the hardware just because they have talent? Hardly seems fair.
The Ekene Ibekwe Award
For hideous shooting in conference play.
Hank Thorns, Virginia Tech
Harvey Hale, Wake Forest
Deron Washington, Virginia Tech
Anthony King, Miami
Brandon Costner, NC State
The Ibekwe goes to...
Anthony King. Because it's preposterous for a 6-9 low post player to shoot 38.4%, which King did against ACC foes this season. That's a special kind of terrible. At least he did it with grit, determination, and, oh, let's say, intensity.
The Quentin Thomas Award
For most turnover prone player in conference play.
Quentin Thomas, UNC
Biko Paris, Boston College
Ryan Reid, Florida State
Nolan Smith, Duke
Adrian Bowie, Maryland
The award goes to...
Quentin Thomas. I mean, come on.
Give QT credit--he was much better this season, but he still handles the ball as if it were a bar of soap, throws the ball where no one is standing, and occasionally forgets which team he's on.
The Tunji Soroye Hole In The Lineup Award
For lowest possession usage in conference play.
Ryan Pettinella, Virginia
Lance Thomas, Duke
John Oates, Boston College
Cheick Diakite, Virginia Tech
Raymond Sykes, Miami
The award goes to...
Ryan Pettinella, who was as much a spectator this season as you or I. His 10.7% possession usage means he should probably get himself a shirt that says "Yes, I am on the basketball team," because how would we know otherwise? He has all the talent of a mannequin--and the presence of one, too.
The Anthony Harris Award
For worst overall efficiency in conference play.
Jeff Jones, Virginia
Marques Johnson, NC State
Hank Thorns, Virginia Tech
Lewis Clinch, Georgia Tech
Rakim Sanders, Boston College
The winner is...
Marques Johnson. No player who played in at least 30% of his team's minutes had a lower offensive rating than Marques's 71.2. He turned the ball over a ton, posted a weak assist rate for a point guard, and provided minimal offense.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
-- While nosing around the softball team's season stats, I noticed something amazing about pitcher Lindsay Campana: of the 230 outs she's recorded, 180 of them have been ground balls (78.3%). That is insane.
She also sports an outstanding 4.4 K/BB ratio. I know it's early, but these are great signs.
-- Filled out your WNIT bracket yet?
-- Thoughts on next year's basketball team. I'm not ready for that headache yet.
-- In conference play this season, ACC teams averaged 70.8% from the FT line and 35.4% from beyond the arc. And how'd the league shoot against NC State? 75.3% and 42.2%, respectively. Seventy-five percent? Jeez, guys, like yell or something while you're standing there. (That is, yell at the other team.) Contrast that with UVA, which somehow "held" opponents to 63.1% from the line.
Duke and Carolina also had opponents shoot below average from the line. Because God loves them. And they're scary, man. Once Scheyer graduates, Duke should stick him in the front row behind the basket and have him make faces--no one would ever make a free throw in Cameron again.
-- Here's a spring football practice preview.
Addition by subtraction?
From the Sporting News:
North Carolina State coach Sidney Lowe says freshman J.J. Hickson will enter his name in the NBA draft this year but won't hire an agent.
I'm not much for intangibles--their impact is
[Morning Update: Drinking + blogging = poorly articulated thoughts. Spelling's not so bad, though, surprisingly.]
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Glancing At The Bracket
...while waiting on word from the College Basketball Invitational. I'm sure we won't be in, and for some reason I feel a little disappointed about this. Which means there's a part of me that apparently still wants to watch this team play basketball...and that makes no sense whatsoever.
The sweet sixteen, going by Pomeroy Rating:
(1) UNC vs. (4) Wazzu; (2) Tennessee vs. (3) Louisville
(1) Kansas vs. (5) Clemson; (2) Georgetown vs. (3) Wisconsin
(1) Memphis vs. (5) Michigan St.; (2) Texas vs. (3) Stanford
(1) UCLA vs. (4)UConn; (2) Duke vs. (3) Xavier
Hmmm. That's kind of boring.
I picked Kansas to win the title in each of the last two years, and sure enough, there they sit, lookin' all tantalizing at the top of the Pomeroy Ratings again. But your guys can't fool me anymore, Self! Enjoy San Antonio, Wisconsin.
The potential Butler/Tennessee second round matchup is interesting. The Vols' defense is heavily reliant on turnovers, as they're nothing special in the other defensive factors. Butler's offense is one of the most ball secure units in the country--eighth in turnover percentage. That said, the Bulldogs shoot a ton of threes, and UT's perimeter defense has been good. So maybe not that interesting after all.
Oregon intrigues me because it has a top-five offense. It's just too bad they can't stop anybody.
North Carolina may be the #1 overall seed, but UCLA got the weakest team in the entire tournament.
Who's going to burn me this season? I'm looking your way, Stanford. It's always a team I like for no real reason.
I have no idea what to make of Kansas State. Excellent overall numbers (15th in the Pomeroy Ratings), but they've lost five of seven down the stretch. None of those stick out as particularly bad losses, but it's evident they aren't playing like they were in January.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Hickson strains back while carrying bloated carcasses across finish line.
Box Score (pdf)
Pts Poss Off_Eff Def_Eff
Thursday, March 13, 2008
I am not above begging.
Good news, everyone.
Sort of, but not really.
According to Ken Pomeroy's log5 analysis, we have a 0.8% chance of reaching the ACC tournament finals this season. Depressing, sure, but that's actually higher than the 0.5% chance we were given last year.
So take heart, friends.
What's the plan this year, anyway?
"We’re going to try to use our leadership and get back."
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
If you're lookin' for a dark horse...
Georgia Tech might be a pretty good bet.
Let me also take the time to heap some praise on Jeremis Smith, who has been very, very good in conference play but has not garnered much attention:
%Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% OR% DR% FTR TO%
Remember what a win looks like?
Yeah, I don't either. Here's a refresher.
Our free throw rate is always important for us, but especially so against the Hurricanes. NC State's correlations:
There is a statistically significant correlation between our FTR and our offensive efficiency, and there is also a relationship between opponents' FTR and Miami's defensive efficiency.
Back when I previewed the Hurricanes, I wrote:
In order to put themselves in position to make the NCAA tournament in 2008, Miami needed to drastically improve its defense and find a way to score on the road. They maybe possibly have accomplished the former, but we won't know about the latter for a while.
As far as the defensive improvement goes, mission accomplished. The Canes stayed healthy, their 2FG% defense stayed solid, and that took care of it. They were still a below-average defensive squad this season--they still didn't defend the three--but the 107.2 points they allowed per 100 possessions is nearly a 10-point improvement on the 117.0 DEF EFF they posted in conference play a year ago.
And they did do a better job of scoring on the road, but not much:
But they were able to catch enough breaks at home to make up for their ineffectiveness on the road, so NCAA tournament-bound (probably) they are.
The Predict-O-Meter likes Miami by 8: 76-68 in a game with 66 possessions.
Monday, March 10, 2008
The Miami Turnaround
Two years ago, it was North Carolina--after starting 3-3, the Heels rolled to a 9-1 finish. Last season, it was Maryland; after a 3-6 start, the Terps found their offense and finished 7-0. In both cases, the change in performance was massive. The Heels and Terps had negative efficiency margins while they struggled, and when they put things together, both saw their margins soar into the positive double-digits.
This season's Miami team did something similar--at least in terms of results--bouncing back from a 2-6 start to go 6-2 during the second half of the conference slate. It turns out, though, that the margins in Miami's case are much slimmer; unlike UNC '06 and Maryland '07, the Hurricanes have not become a vastly superior version of their former selves.
Off_Eff Def_Eff Margin
eFG% 2FG% 3FG% 3FGA/FGA FTA/FGA FTM/FGA FT% TO% OR%
As you can see, the Hurricanes shot the ball considerably better during the second half of the conference schedule, especially from outside. They both took and made more three-pointers, and they also started getting to the line more frequently, which was coupled with increased accuracy from the stripe.
The numbers allowed by the defense:
eFG% 2FG% 3FG% 3FGA/FGA FTA/FGA FTM/FGA FT% TO% OR%
The change on this side of the ball is less significant. While opponents shot the ball better overall during the second half, they took a lot more threes while also making fewer of them. Miami also began forcing more turnovers and improved on the defensive glass, giving opponents fewer opportunities from the field to help offset the improved shooting.
Throughout the year, Miami's 2FG% defense anchored this unit. What a difference a healthy front line can make; in 2007, the Hurricanes allowed conference foes to shoot better than 55% from inside the arc.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Wake Forest 78, NC State 67
Don't see the box posted yet, so these numbers are unofficial.
Pts Poss Off_Eff Def_Eff
This is the fifth time during our eight-game losing streak that we have allowed an opponent to go for more than 1.2 pts/possession.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Wolfpack Women Travel To Greensboro Needing A Pair
From the News & Record:
N.C. State: The youthful Wolfpack must advance past North Carolina to the tournament semifinals to receive an NCAA at-large bid. With only one significant victory to date, the Pack needs to pad its resume quickly.
Entering the ACC tournament at 18-11 (6-8), the Wolfpack sits at #57 in the RPI and does not have a win over a team currently in the top 50. State is not in Jerry Palm's March 2nd bracket projection, nor is the team listed among the last four out. So, safe to say there's some work to be done this weekend.
As they did a year ago, the women win with defense. In addition to forcing a lot of turnovers and rebounding well defensively (what a concept!), their field goal percentage defense is outstanding. Opponents have made just 39.2% of their twos and 27.8% of their threes this season.
Poss Off_Eff Def_Eff
[Update: So much for that. Clemson downs State in OT, 65-60.]
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Rookie Of The Year
Andrew Jones thinks it should be James Johnson. I agree. A comparison using the conference-only stats:
%Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% OR% DR% FTR
Ast% TO% %Blks %Stls
It would be hard to find fault in a vote for any of these guys, but I think when you consider the fact that Johnson has been the most efficient scorer with the highest workload, and that he's probably had the largest positive impact at the defensive end, the nod goes to him.
Monday, March 03, 2008
Some notes on the updated conference-only stats:
-- Comparing the PGs:
%Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% Ast% TO% A/TO
-- Scoring punch from unlikely places:
Pts/40Both Smith and Ferguson have been very efficient in limited minutes:
%Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% TO%
%Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% TO% OR% DR%Only JJ Hickson has been a better overall rebounder than Tracy.
-- Over at ACC Stats, Vince has updated his PAPER player ratings through February 18th. Of interest are the defensive ratings, which are not kind on Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley (shocker!). McCauley rates as the worst defender in the league, having allowed 60 more points over the course of the season than a hypothetical league-average player of the same size. My plus/minus numbers are in agreement with PAPER.
Def_EffOn Def_EffOffAnd when they're on the court together, our defensive efficiency is an unfortunate 112.1.
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Pts Poss Off_Eff Def_Eff
I'm exhausted--I got nothin'.