Category Archives: tuesday truths

An unbiased summary of why everyone should buy my book

I wrote a history of Catholic college basketball that starts with Naismith and ends with the 2020 tournament being canceled. The book opens with an interview of Sister Jean on the day after her 100th birthday in 2019, back when we still did such things in person. It’s my first book, it’s called Miracles on the Hardwood, and it comes out today.

You might be saying, “But my team isn’t Gonzaga, and it’s not a non-UConn or -Butler Big East team, and in fact it’s not any other Catholic team either.”

Well, me too. I’m a graduate of a huge public land grant university, and I live and die with every bounce of the ball for its basketball team. But in the course of writing a book about the 12 percent of Division I that’s Catholic, I learned a great deal about the sport I love.

I learned why men’s college basketball in the United States is played in halves, while most of the rest of the world — amateur and professional, men’s and women’s — uses quarters.

I learned that in the 1960s John Thompson ran a 4-H program in Washington, D.C., and told the Washington Post, “Our kids don’t need to know how to make Indian headbands, they need to know how to survive in the city.”

Speaking of Thompson, the 15 coaches selected as finalists in recruiting Patrick Ewing arrived at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in September 1980 in alphabetical order according to their school names.

When the three-point line was introduced in 1986, Bob Knight told the press, “I don’t like the damn rule.”

Continue reading

Did Bill Russell cripple the NIT?

USF

The fact that the NIT was bypassed by the most dominant player up to that time on the most dominant team up to that time may have had long-term consequences. (Photo by the incomparable Rich Clarkson, of course.)

People who talk about the history of college basketball like to say that the NIT used to be just as prestigious as the NCAA tournament, if not more so.

I know this is the case, because I recently said it in an unpremeditated fashion myself. A couple weeks ago I was interviewing a college basketball VIP, and I somewhat airily blurted out that Seton Hall winning the NIT in 1953 was noteworthy because, you know, the annual get-together in Madison Square Garden used to be a really big deal.

Then I started wondering. My knowledge of the NIT in the early 1950s is admittedly limited. Is the sound bite we all like to use really accurate? Continue reading

Tuesday Truths: Final reality

Welcome to this season’s last installment of Tuesday Truths, where I looked at how well 108 teams in nine conferences did against their league opponents on a per-possession basis.

Come back, Zion

z

This post has nothing to do with Duke or Zion Williamson, Tuesday Truths just really wants to see what the freshman can do at full speed in an NCAA tournament that should be heavily populated by swaggering 2015-style beastly opponents. Hurry back, sir. (USA Today)

Final results, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession   Opp. PPP: opponent PPP
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

ACC                       W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Virginia             16-2   60.4    1.16    0.93    +0.23
2.  North Carolina       16-2   74.3    1.12    0.97    +0.15
3.  Duke                 14-4   71.9    1.09    0.97    +0.12
4.  Florida State        13-5   67.9    1.04    0.97    +0.07
5.  Louisville           10-8   68.2    1.04    0.97    +0.07
6.  Virginia Tech        12-6   63.3    1.09    1.03    +0.06
7.  Clemson               9-9   66.0    0.99    0.95    +0.04
8.  NC State              9-9   70.7    1.05    1.04    +0.01
9.  Syracuse             10-8   67.3    1.00    1.00     0.00
10. Miami                6-12   67.1    1.01    1.09    -0.08
11. Boston College       5-13   66.9    0.98    1.09    -0.11
12. Notre Dame           3-15   64.8    0.97    1.08    -0.11
13. Pitt                 3-15   66.7    0.95    1.08    -0.13
14. Georgia Tech         6-12   66.3    0.91    1.04    -0.13
15. Wake Forest          4-14   68.5    0.93    1.13    -0.20

AVG.                            67.4    1.02

Clemson is the anti-Indiana. Unlike the wacky and erratic Hoosiers, the Tigers were more or less utterly predictable based on the quality of the opponent.

Indeed, not to put too fine a point on it, Brad Brownell’s group effectively strip-mined the bottom of the ACC for that borderline-Virginia Tech-like scoring margin of theirs…. Continue reading

Tuesday Truths: AWOL from Bubble Watch edition

Welcome to this season’s penultimate installment of Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 75 teams in six conferences are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis.

I don’t think Virginia gets enough credit for its defense

hoos

(virginiasports.com)

Through March 4, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession   Opp. PPP: opponent PPP
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

ACC                       W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Virginia             15-2   60.4    1.16    0.92    +0.24
2.  North Carolina       14-2   74.2    1.13    0.98    +0.15
3.  Duke                 13-3   71.4    1.11    0.97    +0.14
4.  Louisville           10-7   68.6    1.04    0.96    +0.08
5.  Florida State        11-5   68.6    1.04    0.97    +0.07
6.  Virginia Tech        11-5   63.3    1.09    1.03    +0.06
7.  Clemson               7-9   66.1    0.98    0.95    +0.03
8.  Syracuse             10-7   67.3    1.02    1.01    +0.01
9.  NC State              8-8   71.1    1.05    1.07    -0.02
10. Miami                4-12   67.2    1.00    1.08    -0.08
11. Boston College       5-11   66.4    1.00    1.09    -0.09
12. Notre Dame           3-13   65.2    0.97    1.09    -0.12
13. Georgia Tech         5-12   66.3    0.91    1.04    -0.13
14. Pitt                 2-14   67.2    0.95    1.09    -0.14
15. Wake Forest          4-12   68.3    0.93    1.15    -0.22

AVG.                            67.4    1.03

Perhaps this falls under the heading of a blinding flash of the obvious the day after a team sinks 18 shots from beyond the arc (in a game with 59 possessions, if this had been a North Carolina tempo, madre de Dios), but it is of course long past time to retire the “I don’t think Virginia gets enough credit for its offense” announcer trope.

Actually, at the moment, said offense is (very slightly) better than the D relative to the respective ACC means. Continue reading

Tuesday Truths: Salute to concision edition

Welcome to this season’s first installment of Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 75 teams in six conferences are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis.

Editor’s note: Tuesday Truths 2019 refuses to play along with your bourgeois time-slavery plastic fantastic Madison Avenue thing by being updated weekly like its name would, um, logically imply. It will instead will appear here and there, now and then, to this one and that one. Also, with today’s post, Tuesday Truths has now made an appearance for 11 consecutive seasons under two different names and across three different sites. Huzzah, The Streak! Take that, KU!

Duke and Louisville are functionally the same ACC team

mcmahon

(gocards.com)

Through February 4, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession   Opp. PPP: opponent PPP
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

ACC                       W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Virginia              8-1   60.8    1.14    0.89    +0.25
2.  Louisville            8-2   69.8    1.12    0.95    +0.17
3.  Duke                  7-1   71.1    1.12    0.96    +0.16
4.  North Carolina        7-1   74.3    1.10    0.97    +0.13
5.  Virginia Tech         7-3   64.1    1.11    1.03    +0.08
6.  Syracuse              7-2   66.9    1.04    0.98    +0.06
7.  Florida State         4-4   67.9    1.02    1.02     0.00
8.  Clemson               3-5   66.3    0.98    0.99    -0.01
9.  NC State              4-5   69.4    1.00    1.04    -0.04
10. Georgia Tech          3-6   68.6    0.88    0.98    -0.10
11. Boston College        2-6   66.8    1.04    1.14    -0.10
12. Pitt                  2-7   69.6    0.96    1.08    -0.12
13. Notre Dame            2-7   65.7    1.01    1.14    -0.13
14. Miami                 1-8   67.0    1.00    1.13    -0.13
15. Wake Forest           1-8   67.5    0.90    1.13    -0.23

AVG.                            67.8     1.03

Duke is a rather well publicized team, and one of Mike Krzyzewski’s players in particular is possibly the best bridge we’ve ever seen between shoe sales and analytic swoons. But we here at Tuesday Truths are all about equal time, so let’s give it up for Louisville. Continue reading

Tuesday Truths: “The streak continues” edition

Welcome to this season’s first, last, and only installment of Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 97 teams in eight conferences did against their league opponents on a per-possession basis.

Editor’s note: I took on some new commitments this season in the areas of teaching on Monday nights and writing a multi-thousand-word Tuesday feature on bubble watching. As a result, there was a measurable decline (to zero, if you must be so precise) in how often my traditional multi-thousand-word Tuesday feature on per-possession performance appeared. But, with today’s post, Tuesday Truths has now made an appearance for 10 consecutive seasons under two different names and across three different sites. Huzzah, The Streak!

Virginia and the incorrigible myth of in-game “separation”

Hoos

Great finish, but shouldn’t you have won by more? (virginiasports.com)

Final results, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession   Opp. PPP: opponent PPP
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

ACC                       W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Virginia             17-1   59.2    1.08    0.89    +0.19
2.  Duke                 13-5   69.6    1.14    0.97    +0.17
3.  North Carolina       11-7   69.2    1.16    1.08    +0.08
4.  Louisville            9-9   69.6    1.06    1.02    +0.04
5.  Clemson              11-7   66.0    1.04    1.00    +0.04
6.  Notre Dame           8-10   64.8    1.08    1.06    +0.02
7.  NC State             11-7   71.1    1.08    1.07    +0.01
8.  Miami                11-7   67.3    1.08    1.07    +0.01
9.  Florida State         9-9   71.4    1.09    1.10    -0.01
10. Virginia Tech        10-8   67.0    1.06    1.07    -0.01
11. Syracuse             8-10   62.9    1.01    1.02    -0.01
12. Boston College       7-11   69.7    1.06    1.10    -0.04
13. Wake Forest          4-14   70.3    1.00    1.08    -0.08
14. Georgia Tech         6-12   65.7    0.96    1.05    -0.09
15. Pitt                 0-18   64.8    0.87    1.16    -0.29

AVG.                            67.2    1.05

For a fifth consecutive season, Virginia is doing strange things to the basketball frontal lobes of otherwise sensible observers. It is again being said that the Cavaliers will surely have trouble achieving “separation” from quality opponents in the NCAA tournament, a nice way of saying their offense isn’t actually good enough to go far into the bracket. Continue reading

Why do we worry about college players’ minutes?

Graham

Will he collapse in a heap?

This is the year of fatigue in the Big 12. When an elite team like Kansas or West Virginia drops a game or two, it is said to be because key players aren’t getting enough rest.

The explanation rises like a perennial in the spring every time the Jayhawks lose a game, and we all form a worry-circle around Devonte’ Graham’s current streak of six consecutive 40-minute games. Conversely, when the Mountaineers suffered a three-game losing streak, it was said that Jevon Carter was exhausted, and that the system itself wears out its players long before March. (Such talk has subsided now that WVU has won two straight.) Continue reading

The Big East could turn out to be the most entertaining conference ever

Spellman

Scoring 1.31 points per trip? That’ll do. (Eric Hartline — USA TODAY Sports)

It’s early in the season, but, with 21 percent of its conference games already in the books, it bears mention that the Big East is playing historically entertaining basketball. We can’t know if this is going to continue, of course, but the salient present-tense point is that the games we’ve seen so far have been outrageously high-scoring.

Teams in the league are simultaneously playing at a fast pace and scoring with a high degree of efficiency on each possession. Val Ackerman, I salute you!

scattered2

This combination of speed and effectiveness has put the Big East on an entirely different level in terms of scoring. Continue reading

Four lessons from a hideous title game

UNC

After a thorough statistical review I have determined that the 2017 NCAA tournament stood out most dramatically in terms of turned ankles. Speaking in an actuarial sense, we should be turned-ankle-free now through at least the 2023 brackets. We’re due.

Other conclusions to be drawn….

Hideous title games have to happen
An unsightly mess on the biggest evening of the college basketball year is unfortunate, but it will, unavoidably, occur. The 2011 game between Connecticut and Butler was even worse than what we saw last night. And, while this definitely falls under the heading of “How did you like the play otherwise, Mrs. Lincoln?” praise, North Carolina’s full six-game title run was if nothing else the fastest-paced such campaign by far that we’ve seen since this same program cruised to a much easier title in 2009. The Tar Heels averaged 74 possessions per 40 minutes in the tournament. (Villanova last year: 64.) UNC’s tournament run was a sprint that ended with fouls and missed shots exploding in every direction. Continue reading

Tuesday Truths: Final reality

Welcome to this season’s final installment of Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 120 teams in the nation’s top 10 conferences did against their league opponents on a per-possession basis.

A shot volume dynasty

bradley

UNC’s dominance on the offensive glass is made even more effective by the Tar Heels’ low turnover rate. (Jeffrey A. Camarati)

Through games of March 5, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession   Opp. PPP: opponent PPP
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

ACC                       W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  North Carolina       14-4   70.2    1.16    1.03    +0.13
2.  Louisville           12-6   67.9    1.13    1.01    +0.12
3.  Virginia             11-7   60.6    1.05    0.95    +0.10
4.  Florida State        12-6   71.1    1.12    1.03    +0.09
5.  Duke                 11-7   68.7    1.14    1.08    +0.06
6.  Notre Dame           12-6   67.9    1.10    1.05    +0.05
7.  Wake Forest           9-9   71.7    1.14    1.12    +0.02
8.  Syracuse             10-8   67.0    1.12    1.12    +0.01
9.  Miami                10-8   63.6    1.05    1.04    +0.01
10. Virginia Tech        10-8   67.7    1.10    1.14    -0.04
11. Clemson              6-12   66.8    1.09    1.14    -0.05
12. Georgia Tech         8-10   69.0    0.94    1.00    -0.06
13. Pitt                 4-14   64.7    1.02    1.14    -0.12
14. Boston College       2-16   71.6    1.00    1.15    -0.15
15. NC State             4-14   70.9    1.03    1.18    -0.15

AVG.                            68.0    1.08
Acceleration since 2015:        7.6%
KenPom rank: 2

In winning the 2017 ACC regular-season title outright, North Carolina came close but could not quite capture still another banner of sorts. This group was very nearly the best offensive rebounding team Roy Williams has ever had in Chapel Hill. Alas, the Tar Heels in 2008 rebounded 43.0 percent of their misses in ACC play, while this season Carolina posted a 42.1. Continue reading