Monthly Archives: January 2014

A word on Northwestern’s strange new competence

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Chris Collins wins games with scores like this, the key word there being “wins.”

For Northwestern basketball to experience a surgence (I’d call it a resurgence, but with this program’s history that would be inexact) is surprising enough. For the turnaround to be, of all things, defensively-oriented is downright disorienting.

Year in and year out fans of Big Ten hoops have long been able to count on two things: a really slow pace league-wide, and NU being drop-dead awful on D. In each of the last four seasons the Wildcats have finished last in the league in points allowed per possession in conference play.  Continue reading

Tuesday Truths: Cold-Weather Edition

Welcome to Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 127 teams in the nation’s top 11 conferences are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis. For a tidy little homily on why this stuff is so very awesome, go here.

Say this for the NFL, the whole idea of playing the Super Bowl in a northern clime has created an entirely new and suspenseful topic of discussion. As it happens your intrepid possession-tracker is in the greater New York City area at the moment (yellow-jacketed Super Bowl greeters at the Newark Airport was a nice touch), and if the weather’s like this in five days the Broncos and Seahawks will be cold. I am.

American: How the other half lives
Through games of January 27, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession   Opp. PPP: opponent PPP
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Louisville        6-1   70.4    1.14    0.89    +0.25
2.  Cincinnati        8-0   64.1    1.06    0.90    +0.16
3.  Memphis           5-2   69.5    1.08    0.98    +0.10
4.  SMU               5-2   65.7    1.02    0.92    +0.10
5.  Connecticut       4-3   66.6    1.16    1.06    +0.10
6.  Houston           3-4   67.6    0.97    1.04    -0.07
7.  Rutgers           2-5   69.7    0.95    1.07    -0.12
8.  Temple            0-7   68.7    1.01    1.14    -0.13
9.  UCF               1-5   67.6    0.93    1.14    -0.21
10. S. Florida        1-6   67.6    0.90    1.12    -0.22

AVG.                        67.8    1.02

The difference in performance between Nos. 5 and 6 — Connecticut and Houston — in American play is a yawning gulf that separates the league’s top and bottom halves. As a result, the conference merits your particular interest whenever teams from within that top five actually, you know, play each other. In that spirit, here’s an American Top-Five Alert: Cincinnati plays at Louisville Thursday night.  Continue reading

The ACC slams on the brakes

Syracuse is first in the ACC in defense, efficiency margin, offensive rebounding, and opponent turnover percentage. And last in pace.

Syracuse is first in the ACC in efficiency margin, defense, offensive rebound percentage, and opponent turnover percentage. And last in pace.

Tomorrow afternoon Miami will host Syracuse, and, as it happens, in terms of pace the Hurricanes and the Orange rank No. 126 and 127, respectively, out of the 127 teams I track on a per-possession basis during conference play. Ken Pomeroy’s laptop is well aware of this state of affairs and has spit out what would otherwise be a rather startling 54-possession forecast for the contest in Coral Gables.

That sounds about right. Duke paid a visit to BankUnited Center just the other night, after all, and Mike Krzyzewski and company were treated to a 57-possession gameContinue reading

Fine, defensive rebounding does matter

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The Alabama student section is clearly excited about what the Tide and Arkansas can teach us about defensive rebounding.

This week while researching a piece on Arizona for Insider, I happened to notice that a) the Wildcats aren’t very good at defensive rebounding, and b) it hasn’t seemed to matter very much. Sean Miller’s team has far and away the best defense in the Pac-12, and possibly even the best D in the country.

This odd juxtaposition of facts led me to fling something reckless out on Twitter (it’s true!):

If only I’d held my fire, so to speak. Soon I was on to different questions entirely, or so I thought, when I came across this:  Continue reading

Tuesday Truths: “We’re Back” Edition

Welcome to the season’s first installment of Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 127 teams in the nation’s top 11 conferences are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis. For a tidy little homily on why this stuff is so very awesome, go here.

American: Cincinnati has a very good defense
Through games of January 20, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession   Opp. PPP: opponent PPP
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Louisville        5-1   71.1    1.12    0.92    +0.20
2.  Cincinnati        6-0   64.0    1.03    0.87    +0.16
3.  SMU               3-2   65.3    0.99    0.92    +0.07
4.  Connecticut       2-3   65.7    1.12    1.09    +0.03
5.  Memphis           3-2   69.3    1.06    1.04    +0.02
6.  Houston           3-2   67.0    0.99    1.00    -0.01
7.  Rutgers           2-3   70.7    0.96    1.05    -0.09
8.  Temple            0-5   68.9    1.00    1.10    -0.10
9.  S. Florida        1-4   67.8    0.95    1.07    -0.12
10. UCF               1-4   68.8    0.94    1.14    -0.20

AVG.                        67.9    1.01

Over the years Cincinnati has cultivated a reputation for excellent defense, but this season’s Bearcats are giving indications that they might be the best such team we’ve yet seen in Mick Cronin’s tenure. And even if UC doesn’t finish the season looking as good on D as they do here — and with a remaining schedule that includes two games each against Connecticut and Louisville, they likely will not — I still offer all coaches reading this the example of the Bearcats’ first six games for further study. Over that stretch Cincinnati protected the rim, pushed opponents inside the three-point line, forced turnovers, and stayed out of foul trouble. That’ll do. Continue reading

Coming soon: Tuesday Truths for a realigned world

Pearl, the world's only tempo-free dog, eagerly awaits the return of Tuesday Truths.

Pearl, the world’s only tempo-free dog, eagerly awaits the return of Tuesday Truths.

Next week on a day that I trust needs no further specification here, Tuesday Truths will spring to life for a seventh season. In the peripatetic feature’s latest incarnation, the Truths will track every possession in conference play for the American, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, A-10, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, and West Coast. If a Final Four team arises from outside of that group, you’ll have to say you saw it all coming thanks to some non-Truths source. My apologies in advance.  Continue reading