Wednesday, February 5, 2014

An Atlantic 10 - Big East Challenge? Already Happening

The Under Reported Conference Challenge
"Something I'd love to see moving forward in the non-conference portion of schedules? A Big East-Atlantic 10 Challenge." I caught that tweet from a hungry -- yet humble -- sports writer several Sundays ago as I monitored my twitter feed while watching Massachusetts take Fordham behind the shed to the tune of 90-52. ESPN, CBS and Fox Sports, through the power of made for television events (power conference challenges, early season invitational tournaments and gimmick-inspired match-ups like the "Aircraft Carrier" and now-defunct "Bracket Buster Weekend" games), have transformed the out conference portion of the season from untelevised David and Goliath games in which an "above the red line" host pummels a "below the red line" visitor (and then settles the penalty clause for breaking the NCAA-mandated home-away contract with a check) into a series of games that capture the excitement of the post season in the weeks before conference play begins.

I wrote about this organic rivalry several years ago, and though conference realignment has changed the details, the general points remain the same...
1. The conferences share a common geographical footprint that stretches from Rhode Island (URI and PC) in the east, south to the Washington DC metro area (Georgetown, George Washington, Richmond and VCU) and west (through the Rust Belt) to the Mississippi River Valley and it's tributaries (St. Louis and Creighton).
2. Many of the teams continue historic rivalries initiated because of their shared geography. While there are exceptions (*cough* Georgetown *cough*), most, as the table below confirms, continue to play their neighbors even though conference commitments take a large portion of their schedules.
3. Many of those schools located in the upper mid-west and south share conference affiliations.
4. Early season invitational tournaments have brokered matches that two neighbors have not, on their own, created. The two conferences had 30 members who played 37 games back in 2010 (and 50+ games, including the post season, in the snapshot I took in 1975) when I wrote about the rivalry last. Conference realignment has reshaped both conferences. Today they have between them 23 teams (10 in the Big East, 13 in the Atlantic 10) that include four entirely new faces (Creighton, Butler, George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth) and 11 teams departed (Charlotte, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse, Temple and West Virginia), but the table below suggests that number of games played aside, the power relationship remains unchanged.
ButCreDPUGTUMUPCSHUSJUNYNovaXUA10
Day
Duq
FdmSJUNY0-1
GMU
GWUGWUMU1-1
LSUPCVU0-2
UMassUMass1-0
URIPC0-1
Rich
SBU
SJUPACrVU0-2
SLU
VCUGTU0-1
BE1-11-01-02-11-02-0

The number of common games has declined as the membership of each conference has changed, but the trend over the past five years (and the snapshot from 1975 seems to affirm), that the Big East schools tend to win the larger portion of the games; 2011 excepted (of the 21 games played the Big East record was 11-10 or 0.524) the Big East tends to win at least 60% of the games. 2013-14 is an outlier only in the smaller-than-usual sample and the high winning percentage (10 games, 8-2 so far). Of course the post season will yield at least one-to-two additional matchups.

Observations:
1. If the last three invitations are any indication, A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade's realignment strategy will have the conference expand to the south. With the addition of Xavier, Butler and Creighton, the Big East appears open to moving westward should Commissioner Val Ackerman and the membership decide to expand beyond 10.
2. The regions into which each conference expands will decide whether their pool of common games grows or diminishes.
3. When the Hoyas joined the Big East in 1979-80, they allowed three of their most active local rivalries, with American (1938-39), George Washington (1906-07) and Maryland (1907-08) to lapse. George Washington (1981-82) and Maryland (1979-80) were discontinued in the early 1980s, while the American series continued until 1986-87 before taking a 20 year hiatus. Restarting the series with George Washington, relatively competitive at 54-39, would likely raise DC interest in college basketball. Reviving the Maryland rivalry would give the Big East an annual game with the Big Ten.
4. As the rankings and head-to-head records suggest, both conferences would be better served with conference challenge showcases with better matched conferences. Fans may find a Big East-Pac-12 challenge more competitive for both conferences while the Atlantic 10, clearly at the head of that group of conferences consisting of the C-USA, Mountain West, West Coast and Missouri Valley might be better served with a conference challenge with the West Coast Conference, a showcase that could give both conferences exposure on the other coast.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Coaching Carousal Part 2013-02: On the Banks

Trenton New Jersey Makes the World Takes
I remember seeing that slogan on a sign whenever I took the old Pennsylvania Railroad back and forth to college...an out of state school of course. New Jersey may be rated the best place to raise a child in the US, but every September the recently graduated high school class joins a tidal wave of 18-24 year olds who leave the state to pursue their education anywhere but in New Jersey. Successive recessions dating back to the Telecommunications Crash of 1999 and 9-11 have stemmed the tide slightly, but the truth everyone involved in secondary and higher education in the state knows is that the Garden State exports a much higher percentage of their college age students than any other state in the union. And that has been true for at least the last 50 years. The University of Delaware and the state colleges in Virginia have balanced their budgets with the tuition/room and board checks of New Jersey parents; even as New Jersey athletes have been recruited to the rosters of football and basketball powerhouses (and a number of the lesser lights) all across Division I. Persuading those athletes to play for "State U" is the perpetual challenge for Rutgers.

If You Build It...Will They Come?
The Scarlet Knights joined the Big East for football in 1991 and have compiled a 117-151 record over that time. The program under Greg Schiano (11 years, 68-67) turned around a dreadful first decade of BCS football (two coaches, 40-80) to produce seven bowl teams in his last eight seasons in New Brunswick. His successor, Kyle Flood, took a 9-3 team to the Russell Athletic Bowl and lost. The men's football team has consistently earned post season play under Schiano and Flood, not so for the men's basketball team. Though the program earned a Final Four berth under Tom Young (239-116, 0.673) in 1976, the next 37 years and six coaches yielded four bids -- the last in 1991, four years before joining the Big East in all sports.

Rutgers Athletic Directors going back to Fred Gruninger have vacillated between candidates with Rutgers/New Jersey roots (Kevin Bannon, Fred Hill, Craig Littlepage, Bob Wenzel) and those from outside of the Rutgers community and state (Tom Young, Gary Waters, Mike Rice for example). While not uniformly successful (see Mike Rice), the outsiders have produced better records, compiling a combined 362-242 (0.599, four NCAA bids) while the homies combined for a 257-335 (0.434, two NCAA bids) record.

Mike Rice's termination, the seventh consecutive termination going back to Tom Young, put the program back on the market. Lacking a sitting Athletic Director (Tim Pernetti was also fired/resigned as a result of the Rice Scandal), interim AD Carl Kirschner decided to first fill the basketball coaching vacancy before finding a successor to Pernetti. The field appears to have narrowed to another insider/outsider pair, with NBA assistant coach Eddie Jordan, captain of Rutgers' 1976 Final Four squad opposite La Salle University head coach Dr. John Giannini. Jordan, strongly endorsed by NBA Commissioner (and Rutgers graduate) David Stern has connections in the NBA and over eight years of head coaching experience (with three different franchises) at the pro level, he has yet to manage his first collegiate program. Dr. Giannini, a native of Chicago educated at North Central University (Napierville, Illinois), North Texas and the University of Illinois, has 23 years of head coaching experience with stops at Rowan University (Glassboro, New Jersey), Maine and La Salle University. His specialty is building programs. Jordan is the favorite to be named later this week.

ESPN's Brett McMurphy reports that Rutgers has indeed hired Jordan.

Who Put On the Brakes?
My earlier projection of 50-60 now appears too high. While I believed the number of low and mid-major openings would drive the total to the 50+ range, the absence of a "domino effect" among the high-major schools applies a braking effect on the number of openings created to date. The UCLA firing for example brought Steve Alford of New Mexico to the Bruins, but the Lobos promoted assistant coach Craig Neal to the first chair, effectively snuffing the expected chain reaction initiated by Ben Howland's termination and limiting the domino effect to two openings total created by that termination. Firings at power conference schools -- Minnesota, Northwestern, Rutgers, Southern California, Texas Tech and UCLA so far this cycle -- should have the kind of multiplier effect that would create between 6 and 11 additional openings, accounting for between 12 and 17 total vacancies. Even though Rutgers is still open and the chain reaction from Southern California has not concluded, the total number of openings generated from those six original terminations is four, a very small multiplier effect that translates into 10 total vacancies (rather than the 12-17 anticipated). The multiplier effect is so small that only three more assistant coaching vacancies have been created to boot. True, Rutgers may trigger another head coaching opening or two, but if the Scarlet Knights opt for Eddie Jordan, that hire will have no effect on head coaching in Division 1 programs. Even if the Scarlet Knights turn to Dr. Giannini, the multiplier/domino effect overall will be still be smaller than expected. Given the total of vacancies to date is 41 (with 29 hired through April 16), expect no more than about 55 before the first Fall Practice.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: At the NIT Final

by Ray Floriani

New York City - The key to the game was defense. Baylor defeated Iowa 74-54 to win the National Invitation Tournament title at Madison Square Garden. While Baylor posted a glowing offensive efficiency, the foundation and framework for this championship originated on the defensive end.

 Offensive
Eff.Reb%
Iowa7838
Baylor11421


As impressive as the Baylor frontcourt performed during their New York stay, on both nights the Bears were defeated in offensive rebounding percentage. In fact Baylor coach Scott Drew was hard pressed to recall a time his team gave up 20 offensive boards, as they did in the finals, yet won by 20.

The rebounding deficit of Baylor was more than compensated by the outstanding job they did challenging, blocking and defending Iowa field goal attempts. Even after grabbing offensive boards the Hawkeyes struggled to finish, a testament to the Baylor frontcourt effectively guarding the rim.

Possessions vs. Plays: The old method used extensively by Dean Smith, calculated possessions by not subtracting an offensive rebound. In Smith's formula an offensive rebound started a new possession. Today that formula still has a usefullness as the calculation of Smith's gives us plays, rather than possessions. The formula:

FGA + (FTA * .475) + TO = Plays

The 'play' result:

 Offensive
PlaysEff.
Iowa8961
Baylor70106


Naturally, Iowa's 20-5 offensive rebounding edge provided more plays. Not converting on those added chances severely limited their 'play' efficiency. On the other hand, Baylor still put an impressive offensive efficiency for their plays.

 Eff.
FG%
Iowa30
Baylor58


The Baylor defense and an offense that got on track in the second half. Bears were 22 of 33 (67%) from two point range on the evening. Iowa took 24 of their 69 attempts from three, hitting just five for a 20.8 percentage that reflects their eFG struggles.


For Baylor the celebration
began just after the final buzzer.


The individual honors:

Most Outstanding Player: Pierre Jackson, Baylor

All-Tournament:

Alex Len, Maryland
Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa
Cory Jefferson, Baylor
Isaiah Austin, Baylor

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: At the NIT Semi-Finals

by Ray Floriani

New York City - BYU did what they wanted. In the end Baylor had too much and held on for a 76-70 victory in the NIT semifinals. The Bears will face Iowa, 71-60 winners over Maryland in the other semi, for the NIT championship.

In a 68 possession game, Baylor held theedge in offensive efficiency:In a 68 possession game, Baylor held the edge in offensive efficiency:

 Offensive
Eff.Reb%
BYU10336
Baylor11227


One of the priorities of BU coach Dave Rose was rebounding. Despite Baylor's size, Rose felt his team needed to compete and win the boards for a chance of getting to the final. In raw numbers BYU won that battle 40-33. The tempo free OREB percentage also saw the Cougars on top.

Both clubs took meticulous care of the ball with BYU showing a 16% turnover rate and Baylor an outstanding 10%. In the end it was a scoring drought on the part of the Cougars that allowed Baylor to gain some separation. A late BYU run sparked by the shooting of Matt Carfino (19 points and four threes the last five minutes) got it to a one possession game late but Baylor was able to maintain the edge.

The stat MVP.
Scott Drew's outstanding lead guard Pierre Jackson. The Baylor standout senior scored 24 points and handed out 10 assists. In efficiency (using the NBA model) Jackson had a game high 27 efficiency. The main blemishes on the efficiency side were 6 of 14 shooting and four turnovers. Given the time the ball is in his hands and his expert orchestrating of the offense, the four turnovers are generally 'excusable'. Especially against those 10 assists in 38 minutes of action.

As of late there has been much talk of Baylor. Most recently over the demise and upset of the defending national championship women's team. The national championship may return to Waco in the form of an NIT title. On Tuesday, Baylor did have a national champion grace the MSG hardwood.


Baylor twirler Allison Hatfield in action

Allison Hatfield a Baylor junior and baton twirler of international status, and a US champion, performed for the crowd. Her take on a first trip to MSG : "I have performed at Cowboys Stadium, Reliant Stadium and the Alamodome and there is nothing like being at the 'world's most famous arena'. The history and tradition here are fantastic."

The entire Baylor program is hoping to add to that tradition with a win on Thursday.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Coaching Carousal Part 2013-01: A Record Job Market?

A Big Turnover This Off Season...Probably
When the talking heads turn their attention to the Division I head coaching job market, most will declare that this off season will see the highest level of coaching turnover since the 60 created in the 2007 off season. And they will be right, but for the wrong reasons. Most will focus on a few of highly visible "tall trees" (UCLA & USC) but will miss the forest of vacancies created all around those two. Through the end of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament Division I coaching vacancies totaled 29. Between regular season vacancies and those created during Championship Week(s) -- 24 total before Selection Sunday -- hint that the total number of vacancies this cycle will range from 57 to 75, certainly above the average (50) for the last five seasons, with the potential to eclipse the total created in 2007. The sheer number of early vacancies, and not a much anticipated musical chairs effect generated by the UCLA and USC (and...Minnesota & Northwestern!?) job searches, will drive the numbers.

The West Coast Housing Market is About to Get a Shot in the Arm...
In addition to UCLA and USC, three other California colleges, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge (two UCLA assistants, Scott Garson and Phil Matthews, among five others, rumored to be in the mix) and San Jose are also looking for new coaches. The turnover will not be limited to the five fired head coaches, 23 staff members, ranging from assistant/associate coaches to operations directors are also updating their resumes. How many will be retained will be decided by the incoming head coach...but expect the attrition to be very high, probably four or fewer will be retained.

The View Atop the Food Chain...
National media attention has focused on the four power conference jobs, Minnesota, Northwestern, Southern California and UCLA. Looking closely, when the higher profile and salary scale are balanced against the challenges, the Athletic Directors at each school have a selling job ahead. After promoting from within for much of it's 108 years, Northwestern has looked to outside and floated from "brand names" like Kevin O'Neil (yes, that Kevin O'Neil), Harold Olsen, Tex Winters and Bill Foster to eccentrics like Ricky Byrdsong to "system guys" like Bill Carmody. Carmody brought the Princeton Offense and a 92-25 career record with him, and the administration stayed with him through 13 seasons. But Carmody's experiment yielded only five winning seasons and a 192-210 record. 192 wins might be second to Dutch Lonborg's 236 (1927-1950) wins, and his 0.478 winning percentage was better than his seven immediate predecessors (dating to 1963). The candidate pool appears surprisingly wide. Athletic Director Jim Phillips has assembled a to-do list, according to various sources, that includes longtime Duke assistant Chris Collins along with head coaches Dr. John Giannini (La Salle), Bryce Drew (Valparaiso), Dave Paulsen (Bucknell), Ben Jacobson (Northern Iowa), Bob McKillop (Davidson) and Brett Reed (Lehigh) to interview. I suspect that beyond Giannini and Paulsen, who have professional connections to Phillips, the real field consists of Collins and (maybe) Drew. The Chicago Tribunes' Teddy Greenstein thinks Collins and Drew, despite drawbacks, would generate the most buzz. Collins has a pocket full of recommendations from media types, most of whom draw paychecks from ESPN and have openly lobbied for their guy on air and via twitter. If their voices prevail, Phillips will revert to "buzz" and pick Collins. Caveat Emptor -- of the 10 head coaches (all fired) to prowl the Welsh Arena sidelines between the legendary Lonberg and Bill Carmody, only two, Kevin O'Neil and Tex Winters, went on to head another Division I program.

Wracked by an academic scandal whose punishment included vacating the school's only Final Four appearance, Minnesota gave Don Monson of Gonzaga seven-plus seasons to rebuild the program. The rebuilding project stalled, but the Golden Gophers caught lightening in a bottle when Orlando (Tubby) Smith, head coach of Division I's premier program, the Kentucky Wildcats, decided he was tired of stoking the outsized egos of an out of control fan-base and the unrealistic expectations of it's Athletic Director, and took his approach to basketball to the Twin Cities. Smith compiled a 124-81 record (a 0.617 winning percentage) and earned three NCAA bids, while running a squeaky clean program. Tubby, despite an 85 year old (renovated twice) arena and seriously out-of-date practice facilities, was building something in the Twin Cities...just not fast enough. Athletic Director Norwood Teague, Virginia Commonwealth's former AD, thanked Smith for his contribution as he showed him the door early Monday. Teague, most likely rattled by media reports that Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart would be courted hard by UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero (and most likely USC's AD Pat Haden), decided to eat Smith's 2.5 million dollar buyout and rely on his prior relationship with Smart to make up for lost time. Smart has to feel a bit lonely because he is the only candidate in Minnesota's pool right now. That could spell bad news for Teague, because someone, Shaka Smart or not, will have to blow the whistle next October 15 to start the fall practice in that old basketball practice facility and get whoever is on the roster ready to play basketball in Williams Arena.

Faced with mounting evidence of a massive payoff scandal in their football program that could result in death penalty-level sanctions, Southern California's then AD, in a gesture meant to show the NCAA that the USC Athletics Department would re-establish control over that outlaw program, threw then basketball coach Tim Floyd out the window. Floyd landed at Texas El Paso. USC's AD of the past two years, Pat Haden, is still trying to decide where to take the Trojans next. Haden dismissed the program's cleanup crew, Kevin O'Neil, in January, and turned to Tom Cantu to finish out the 2013 season. Haden's list -- after Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon signed his annual extension (that takes his tenure at Pitt through the 2023 season) -- includes a collection of young head coaches (Shaka Smart, Josh Pastner of Memphis and Buzz Williams of Marquette) and Mark Hopkins, longtime assistant coach to Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, who has ties to the Southern California area. The problem? USC's "One Shining Moment" was Henry Bibby's tenure (specifically the 2000-01 season) and since the John Wooden Era in Westwood, the Trojans are perennially the second (or third) best ticket in Los Angeles in the months between the Rose Bowl and Spring Practice. Whoever takes the job will have to compete with Sean Miller (Arizona) and UCLA for the area's best recruits. Interviews I would have loved to be a "Fly on the Wall" for in this cycle has to be Haden's interview with Texas El Paso's Tim Floyd (yes, that) Tim Floyd).

The object of a prolonged media feeding frenzy for the past two years, Ben Howland's time in Westwood was over even before the season began. Despite taking the UCLA program to three consecutive Final Fours -- a feat unmatched since John Wooden -- Howland and the Bruin fan-base were headed to a divorce on grounds of (mutual) alienation of affection, with a 3.5 million dollar buyout to Howland. The candidate pool -- high profile youngish coaches for the most part -- includes Smart, Butler's Brad Stevens, Florida's Billy Donovan, Villanova's Jay Wright, pro coach Mike Brown, Washington's Lorenzo Romer and Marquette's Buzz Williams. While each offers a quality resume, a few (Williams, Stevens and Wright) are puzzling. The others might want to consider that Howland and Steve Lavin, the last two to pace the Pauley Pavilion sidelines (both fired) combined to win 378 games over their collective 17 years in Westwood. Lavin earned six NCAA bids, advanced to four Sweet Sixteens and a Regional Final in his seven year tenure and failed to win at least 20 games only once. But he was fired in favor of Ben Howland, who earned seven NCAA bids, advanced to three Final Fours, won 30 or more games three times and turned in two losing seasons (not this season) before being fired at the end of his tenth year. In the thirteen seasons before he took UCLA to it's first Final Four, coaching legend John Wooden won 247 games, earned three NCAA bids and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen (but no farther) each time. Given the total circumstances, Smart or Brown (or Romer) make the most sense for the Bruins.

Housekeeping
The total vacancies from the 2011-12 season was 50, with UMBC head coach Randy Monroe's surprise resignation three days before the start of fall practice, the "official" last vacancy created. Commentators last March/April projected a "down year" for the coaching job market, but 50 is average for the period 2007-2012. I include Saint Louis in the vacancies for this season. Although Coach Rick Majerus took a medical leave last August, the stated intent (though few who saw the coaching legend in 2011-12 believed it would happen) was to return to the bench for the 2013-14 season. His resignation in November of 2012 was the confirmation that his career was indeed over. For the nose counters, the period between the end of the NCAA Tournament and the Spring Signing Period will provide important clues for the final count. Vacancies created during the NCAA Tournament (already at five) should be the single largest number created for the cycle; combined with the Spring Signing Period total, the number should be about 1.5 to 2 times the number created during the season and immediate post season (the conference tournament, but before Selection Sunday) period. Should it come to pass, the number by the third week in May would be between 50 and 62.

.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Talking Stats with Brad Stevens

by Ray Floriani

Brooklyn, NY Following the former presser it was a chance for a one on one interview. The interviewer nervously introduced himself, fumbling on words. Such was the excitement of meeting one of the best young coaches in the nation. With two NCAA finals on the resume and, of paramount importance, a tempo free advocate. Brad Stevens' Butler Bulldogs had just defeated Dayton in the opening round of the Atlantic Ten Tournament.

Following the somewhat awkward self-introduction, came a calm as the topic turned to advanced statistics. A facet of the game where interviewer and subject both share a passion.

"One of the major aspects of studying tempo free statistics is trends," Stevens said. The next opponent would be LaSalle in the quarterfinals. Stevens would crunch the numbers since the last time the teams played (a 54-53 LaSalle victory on January 23). The idea, to see if there was a marked change in a certain area regarding LaSalle since that meeting. "The numbers give you trends and a good read on styles," Stevens noted.

The numbers would be used to produce and emphasize key points in the scouting report. They serve a purpose of not only evaluating your opposition but your own team as well. "We would look at what we do well and what they (LaSalle) do well," Stevens said. For instance, Stevens pointed out a concern would be LaSalle's guard play. "It is an important part of their attack," he said. "But looking at it closely we are making a decision. We probably will feel it is not as good to pick up their guards 40 feet from the basket. Twenty one feet away is probably better."

During the tournaments you have live scouting. During the regular season, the reliance is on tape. Stevens will integrate tape breakdowns with the numbers he crunches.

The Butler mentor was asked which of the Four Factors in his view is most important. Stevens took the neutral road saying all four (effective field goal percentage, free throw rate, offensive rebounding percentage and turnover rate) are equally important. He did concede, with his present team, "Rebounding is something we look at very closely." In Atlantic Ten play the Bulldogs enjoyed a 35.5% offensive rebounding percentage while allowing opponents A 27% mark. That is a plus 8.5% advantage.

Finally, Stevens was asked how and why he poured himself into the stat analysis. "Just another way, a different way to look at the game," he said. "From the beginning of my coaching I found statistics and numbers very useful. I have been doing (tempo free) stat breakdowns well before there were web sites."


Brad Stevens (Right) with Amdrew Smith (Center) and Rotnei Clarke (Left)
discuss Dayton game

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Atlantic 10 Tournament Efficiencies

A Tournament Grows in Brooklyn
The first tournament championship at the Barclay's Center concluded on Sunday as Saint Louis beat Virginia Commonwealth 62-57 and led five A-10 teams (Butler, La Salle, Saint Louis, Temple and VCU) into the NCAA tournament. Five bids (more than the ACC, SEC or ?) matches the conference's all-time high from the 1997 and 1998 tournaments -- the hey days of John Calipari and John Chaney. The format used this season brought the top 12 conference teams to a neutral site (the Barclay's Center) for four days of basketball. Seeds #5 through #12 paired off Thursday, with winners facing seeds #1 through #4 in Friday's quarter-finals. The four survivors (Butler vs. Saint Louis and Massachusetts vs. Virginia Commonwealth) played Saturday with the winners playing the Finals on Sunday.

By the Numbers
I decided to plot the possessions and offensive/defensive efficiencies (points per possession) for the 12 teams:

 PointsPossEfficiecies
TeamGmsForAgstGmeOffDefDiff
Saint Louis3201168690.9710.8120.159
VCU3210203710.9910.9580.033
Butler3198192661.0000.9700.030
Massachusetts3218217730.9950.9910.005
Saint Joseph's2137139621.1141.130-0.016
Xavier15758521.0961.115-0.019
George Washington17277740.9731.041-0.068
Temple17479701.0571.129-0.071
Richmond16368571.1051.193-0.088
Charlotte2123135640.9611.055-0.094
Dayton16773641.0471.141-0.094
La Salle15869640.9061.078-0.172


The sample is far too small for conclusions, but there are a few things that jumped out:

  1. Defense Prevailed -- the Billikens' offense was uneven and not partcularly efficient as they generated 1.04 points per possession versus Charlotte Friday and a low of 0.939 versus VCU on Sunday, but their defense was solid throughout the three game stretch. The same could be noted for VCU, Butler and Massachusetts, the four teams to advance to the semi-finals.
  2. Butler showed some offense -- The Bulldogs had a shootout with Dayton on Thursday as both teams posted offensive efficiencies of 1.14 and 1.05 respectively (Dayton's offensive efficiency is Butler's defensive efficiency). Brad Stevens' squad lowered their defensive efficiency below the 1.00 mark in their next two games, though their offense declined slightly versus La Salle as well. Fatigue played a role perhaps, as their outing versus eventual winner Saint Louis saw the Bulldogs' productively crater at 0.800 points per possession, well below their two +1.0 outings. If Rotnei Clarke can get some rest between games and freshman Kellen Dunham has any gas left in the tank (and Andrew Smith can stay out of foul trouble and...) the Bulldogs are poised for a run to the second weekend (at least).
  3. One game samples can't tell us much -- but La Salle's showing gives me pause. Temple, (NCAA) bid in hand ran into a very motivated Chaz Williams-led Massachusetts squad, but the Explorers served up a very uncompetitive offering versus a Butler squad that featured an overworked Rotnei Clarke. Dr. John Giannini's game plan may have been to run Clarke all over the arena, but after competing for the first half, La Salle seemed content to hang on the perimeter and chuck threes. The Explorers are, at best mediocre two point defenders, which may work to their advantage versus their first NCAA opponent, Boise State. Or it may not.
  4. UMass' showing was strong if unsuccessful -- the Minutemen, especially senior guard Chaz Williams, were motivated to run the table and grab the A-10's automatic bid, but they clearly ran out of gas in their third game (in three days) versus VCU. Notable that they held the Rams to miserly 0.947 points per possession in a losing effort Saturday afternoon. After posting >1.0 points per possession against George Washington and Temple, coach Derek Kellogg's squad collapsed under VCU's pressure. If they can avoid a first round letdown in the NIT, UMass should be strong and experienced enough to duplicate their 2012 NIT run, get back to Madison Square Garden and allow Williams to close out his career on a winning note.