Seton Hall’s 20-Year Final Four Dream

“You writers, write this down,” said the Seton Hall fan, long after the band had packed up their trumpets and flutes, and security’s suggestions to exit Madison Square Garden became a bit firmer. Continue reading “Seton Hall’s 20-Year Final Four Dream”

Xavier 74, St. John’s 66: Three Thoughts

Four minutes remained during last night’s Xavier-St. John’s game, and for the first time, the upset the Red Storm had threatened to engineer was ready to become reality. The Musketeers, ranked tenth-nationally, had teetered throughout the Big East tilt, a combination of sloppy ball-handling, interior malaise, and plain being outworked by the Johnnies. Up one, Chris Mullin’s squad looked poised for its second upset of the season. Continue reading “Xavier 74, St. John’s 66: Three Thoughts”

Big East Tempo-Free Metrics: Week Six

The key topic during this week’s Big East teleconference was parity. This idea is paraded a few times each year either nationally (when there isn’t a clear leading team) or within certain conferences (when squads are bunched together), and as evidenced by yesterday’s call, Big East coaches feel parity is directly applicable to conference play this season. Continue reading “Big East Tempo-Free Metrics: Week Six”

Big East Tempo-Free Metrics: Week Three

What is most interesting about the Big East’s tempo free metrics during the third week of play is the seemingly lack of a consistent defensive force. Below are the Big East’s offensive and defensive efficiency figures through Tuesday night’s games.

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Through January 23      
Creighton 6-1 1.24 1.02
Villanova 5-1 1.18 1.04
Xavier 5-1 1.18 1.07
Providence 4-2 1.08 1.05
Marquette 3-3 0.98 1.03
Georgetown 3-4 0.97 1.02
Seton Hall 2-3 1.03 1.09
DePaul 2-5 0.98 1.12
Butler 1-6 0.99 1.1
St. John’s 0-5 0.97 1.1

Each team is so far allowing their opponents to score more than one point per possession, and is the only conference that doesn’t have a team under 1 PPP. However, is this a sign the Big East offenses reign supreme? Teams like Creighton, Xavier, and Villanova have shown significant defensive leanings, limiting additional possessions and scoring within the arc. Despite their sub .500 conference record, Georgetown’s effective field goal percentage is a by-product of the Hoyas’ stingy defense — their 14.1% defensive block rate makes it difficult for any opponent to convert near the bucket.

The likely cause of these inflated defensive efficiency rankings is the preponderance of blowouts. Xavier is the only team that hasn’t suffered a loss of ten points or more — even Creighton and Villanova have been blitzed at least once since conference play began. Some may counter that the Musketeers’ OPPP doesn’t seem very impressive; that rate is boosted by teams converting a high percentage of threes. With essentially the same team a year ago, their conference opponents’ three-point percentage was a miniscule 32%, so while Xavier limits second-chance attempts and minimizes a team’s ability to make twos, an excess of threes (both made and taken) pushed their defensive efficiency above one point per possession (don’t be fooled though — Chris Mack’s squad appears to possess the Big East’s top defense).

It will be interesting whether these rates will tighten as conference play continues, and teams whose gameplans has been waylaid by injuries, inexperience, and bad luck (i.e. DePaul, Seton Hall, Butler, St. John’s) become more consistent.

A few thoughts after deep-diving into game film, box scores, and tempo-free stats:

John Thompson III needs a third offensive option. The scoring prowess that is the tandem of Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera isn’t in doubt — the sophomore Smith-Rivera has the conference’s highest value add, topping even Doug McDermott, and Starks continues to efficiently carry the Hoyas’ offense — but coach John Thompson III desperately needs a third option to emerge. Joshua Smith might not play for the remainder of the season — the big is still sorting out academic issues, and it is likely Thompson has already begun to formulate an offense sans Smith — and Jabril Trawick is still out indefinitely with a jaw injury, so Georgetown has leaned on a trio of forwards to best determine who works best with their high-scoring backcourt.

Under Thompson, Hoya forwards need to direct the offense from the wing or the high post, so while Mikael Hopkins is somewhat an odd choice — his comfort levels rise when on the block but he doesn’t finish particularly well near the bucket (per, his field goal percentage of 54% at the rim is one of the team’s lowest) — Thompson needs to play Hopkins because of his post defense. Bowen could see more minutes if his perimeter game improves — he recently admitted his three-point touch had been lagging — but the key is Reggie Cameron. The freshman barely left the bench during non-conference play, but he has been on the floor for double-digit minutes the past four Big East tilts. Cameron is scoring more per 40 minutes than Hopkins or Bowen — 14.7 — and has the size and shooting range Thompson covets from his frontcourt.

Brandon Young’s continuing evolution. This offseason must have been liberating for Brandon Young. He knew the 2014 season would be the first year the senior guard would consistently play off the ball; the arrival of Billy Garrett Jr. meant Oliver Purnell could transition Young into a true combo guard, and Young has been reaping the scoring benefits. The guard is still attacking the rim and taking threes at the same rate as he did last season, but he has drastically improved his mid-range shooting, boasting a two-point field goal percentage of 41%. Though just a freshman, Garrett has demonstrated poise and ball-handling skill that belies his youth — he only has fourteen turnovers in seven conference games — and his ability to get into the paint and kick to a waiting Young on the perimeter, or create spacing within the halfcourt for his explosive teammate, has streamlined the senior’s offense. While coach Oliver Purnell sat Young during the second half of Monday’s loss to Marquette, it seems Young will play on Saturday against Seton Hall: “[Young] needs to step up now and really lead it … I talked to him yesterday for a long time, and he indicated we are definitely on the same page.”

Tempo-Free Big East: Week One

After two months of non-conference play and guarantee games, the Big East slate tipped last week. It is still ridiculously early to begin evaluating these squads — other than Creighton and Seton Hall, the remaining eight teams have played just two games — we can still begin to identify potential trends, possible standout players, and break down which team(s) to closely monitor in the coming weeks. Continue reading “Tempo-Free Big East: Week One”

SGOTW: Xavier at Fordham

This week’s Saturday Game of the Week takes us to Rose Hill where Fordham has had a lot of success lately. The Rams have won three straight home games against Texas State, Georgia Tech and Harvard. While they lost a tough one at Massachusetts on Thursday, it served as reminder to the Atlantic 10 that Tom Pecora’s squad should be competitive in the conference this season, even if they are really young. Competitive is nice, but wins are better and that’s the opportunity that the reeling Musketeers coming to Rose Hill presents. If Fordham can pull off the upset (and to be clear, it would certainly still be an upset) the Rams will have another quality win under their belt, and maybe have another New York Times feature on the way.

Continue reading “SGOTW: Xavier at Fordham”