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February 1, 2011
Tuesday Truths
Welcome-to-February Edition

by John Gasaway

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Welcome to Tuesday Truths, where we look at how well the 157 teams in the nation's top 14 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.)

ACC: Pay no mind to that game Sunday at Madison Square Garden!

Through games of January 31, 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.  Duke              6-1   69.8    1.11    0.94    +0.17
2.  Clemson           4-3   65.6    1.09    1.00    +0.09
3.  Virginia Tech     4-3   65.7    1.05    0.96    +0.09
4.  Maryland          4-3   69.7    1.00    0.94    +0.06
5.  North Carolina    5-1   70.2    0.99    0.94    +0.05
6.  Georgia Tech      3-4   69.3    1.01    0.98    +0.03
7.  Florida St.       5-2   66.6    0.97    0.94    +0.03
8.  Boston College    4-3   64.4    1.11    1.12    -0.01
9.  Miami             1-6   62.9    1.07    1.13    -0.06
10. NC State          2-5   68.1    1.03    1.12    -0.09
11. Virginia          2-5   61.7    0.98    1.08    -0.10
12. Wake Forest       1-5   68.6    0.88    1.18    -0.30

AVG.                        66.9    1.02

Duke looked so lethargic in losing to St. John's 93-78 I actually turned the game off with eight minutes left, safe in the knowledge that nothing was going to change. And yet, as the numbers here will attest, in conference play the Blue Devils have been the functional equivalent of Boston College on offense and Florida State on D. That's a really good combination -- on non-lethargic days.

Big 12: Should Texas change places with the Cleveland Cavaliers?

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Texas             7-0   64.4    1.12    0.83    +0.29
2.  Kansas            5-1   70.2    1.11    1.00    +0.11
3.  Missouri          3-3   71.9    1.05    0.98    +0.07
4.  Nebraska          3-3   65.7    1.01    0.99    +0.02
5.  Baylor            4-3   64.6    1.05    1.04    +0.01
6.  Texas A&M         4-3   61.2    1.04    1.03    +0.01
7.  Colorado          3-4   67.9    1.07    1.08    -0.01
8.  Kansas St.        2-5   68.2    0.99    1.05    -0.06
9.  Oklahoma          3-3   65.9    0.97    1.04    -0.07
10. Oklahoma St.      2-5   65.7    0.98    1.06    -0.08
11. Iowa St.          1-6   73.4    0.96    1.05    -0.09
12. Texas Tech        3-4   69.4    0.98    1.13    -0.15

AVG.                        67.4    1.03

It's been an amazing start to conference play by Texas, one that calls to mind the way eventual national champion North Carolina opened the 2008-09 regular season. Not saying the Horns will keep following in these same footsteps, just reaching high for the correct parallel.

Big East: So that was the league's 15th-best team Duke lost to?

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Pitt              8-1   63.8    1.16    0.99    +0.17
2.  West Virginia     5-3   63.9    1.07    0.98    +0.09
3.  Marquette         5-4   65.9    1.17    1.09    +0.08
4.  Villanova         5-3   67.6    1.11    1.03    +0.08
5.  Connecticut       5-3   64.2    1.05    0.99    +0.06
6.  Louisville        6-3   67.9    1.04    0.98    +0.06
7.  Georgetown        6-4   63.5    1.07    1.04    +0.03
8.  Cincinnati        5-4   62.9    1.01    0.98    +0.03
9.  Syracuse          5-4   66.3    1.06    1.04    +0.02
10. Notre Dame        6-3   62.0    1.06    1.06     0.00
11. Seton Hall        4-6   68.9    0.96    0.99    -0.03
12. Rutgers           3-6   64.4    1.01    1.08    -0.07
13. S. Florida        2-7   63.7    1.01    1.09    -0.08
14. Providence        2-7   72.7    1.00    1.08    -0.08
15. St. John's        4-5   66.2    0.95    1.04    -0.09
16. DePaul            0-8   68.0    0.92    1.16    -0.24

AVG.                        65.7    1.04

Well, no, I suppose not. Oh, the Blue Devils lost alright. It's just that right now there's no effective difference between the Big East's 12th- and 15th-best teams. As for those vexing and enigmatic Orangemen from Syracuse, they'll get the full Featured treatment from me tomorrow. Working title: Wha?

Big Ten: Good news, Michigan State, your turnover problems are over!

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Ohio St.          9-0   62.6    1.15    1.01    +0.14
2.  Wisconsin         5-3   55.9    1.17    1.04    +0.13
3.  Purdue            7-2   64.5    1.16    1.04    +0.12
4.  Illinois          4-4   63.0    1.10    1.03    +0.07
5.  Penn St.          5-4   59.1    1.09    1.07    +0.02
6.  Minnesota         5-4   61.6    1.09    1.09     0.00
7.  Michigan St.      5-4   62.2    1.05    1.06    -0.01
8.  Northwestern      3-7   63.2    1.08    1.15    -0.07
9.  Indiana           2-7   63.5    1.07    1.15    -0.08
10. Michigan          3-6   60.0    1.08    1.17    -0.09
11. Iowa              1-8   66.6    0.99    1.16    -0.17

AVG.                        62.0    1.09

For the better part of a decade people have been yelling at the Spartans because they commit too many turnovers. Well, there should be rejoicing in East Lansing this year, because Tom Izzo's team is finally taking care of the ball. MSU has given up the rock on just 17 percent of their possessions in conference play. And what does Michigan State have to show for it? The league's 10th-best offense. Of course if you're Izzo it could be worse, I suppose.

Pac-10: The oddly extreme Arizona D

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Washington        7-2   71.5    1.13    0.97    +0.16
2.  Arizona           7-2   70.2    1.06    0.99    +0.07
3.  Washington St.    5-4   70.1    1.03    0.98    +0.05
4.  USC               4-5   64.0    1.02    1.00    +0.02
5.  Cal               5-4   68.1    1.10    1.09    +0.01
6.  UCLA              6-3   68.7    1.01    1.01     0.00
7.  Stanford          4-5   64.7    0.92    0.94    -0.02
8.  Oregon            3-6   66.9    0.96    1.05    -0.09
9.  Oregon St.        3-6   69.8    0.97    1.08    -0.11
10. Arizona St.       1-8   65.1    0.95    1.09    -0.14

AVG.                        67.9    1.01

Sean Miller's team is incredibly good at defending threes, having allowed Pac-10 opponents to make just 22 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc. (That is Texas-like.) But the Wildcats' FG defense inside the arc is actually pretty forgiving. By the same token, opponents very rarely get offensive boards -- but they very rarely turn it over either. Net result? A defense that's pretty good but not Stanford-like.

SEC: Roll, Tide, roll!

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Kentucky          4-2   67.9    1.05    0.89    +0.16
2.  Alabama           5-1   67.4    1.00    0.85    +0.15
3.  Florida           5-2   63.4    1.10    0.99    +0.11
4.  Tennessee         4-2   63.5    1.07    0.98    +0.09
5.  Georgia           3-4   68.3    1.08    1.03    +0.05
6.  Vanderbilt        3-3   69.0    1.08    1.07    +0.01
7.  Arkansas          4-3   66.1    1.00    1.03    -0.03
8.  Mississippi St.   3-3   70.5    0.99    1.03    -0.04
9.  South Carolina    3-3   66.7    0.97    1.01    -0.04
10. Ole Miss          1-5   67.1    1.04    1.12    -0.08
11. Auburn            1-6   67.6    0.88    1.00    -0.12
12. LSU               2-4   64.6    0.80    1.07    -0.27

AVG.                        66.8    1.00

Congratulations to Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant. Putting together a team that can outscore its major conference by 0.15 points per trip into February is no mean feat. The Tide's SEC opponents have made just 40 percent of their twos and 28 percent of their threes. Now, has Alabama benefited statistically from playing Auburn and LSU? Of course they have. So has Kentucky. Only problem: Grant's team has made just 24 percent of its own threes in-conference.

A-10: Xavier's offense has been a thing of beauty

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Xavier            7-0   64.6    1.25    0.99    +0.26
2.  Duquesne          7-0   71.9    1.12    0.89    +0.23
3.  Temple            5-2   67.1    1.07    0.95    +0.12
4.  Richmond          5-2   65.9    1.12    1.03    +0.09
5.  Dayton            3-4   64.3    1.04    1.01    +0.03
6.  GW                4-3   63.9    1.02    1.00    +0.02
7.  UMass             5-2   63.7    1.04    1.03    +0.01
8.  Saint Louis       2-5   60.8    0.91    0.94    -0.03
9.  St. Bonaventure   3-4   63.3    1.01    1.06    -0.05
10. Rhode Island      4-3   64.9    0.95    1.01    -0.06
11. La Salle          3-4   71.5    1.00    1.07    -0.07
12. Charlotte         1-6   66.2    0.97    1.08    -0.11
13. Saint Joseph's    0-7   64.4    0.95    1.10    -0.15
14. Fordham           0-7   69.4    0.84    1.10    -0.26

AVG.                        65.9    1.02

On January 9 the Musketeers opened A-10 play with a 27-point win on the road against Rhode Island, a game in which Chris Mack's team scored 72 points in 62 possessions. That game marked the "low" (ha) point for Xavier's offense. In every conference game since, the Musketeers have scored at least 1.20 points per trip. Yes, getting to the line helps (Tu Holloway was 17-of-17 from there in Saturday's 85-62 win at Richmond) but the way this team's shooting from the field they don't necessarily need to hear whistles to score.

Colonial: Patriots' games

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  George Mason      9-2   64.3    1.17    0.96    +0.21
2.  VCU              10-1   62.7    1.12    0.98    +0.14
3.  Old Dominion      8-3   58.2    1.05    0.96    +0.09
4.  James Madison     7-4   66.7    1.11    1.02    +0.09
5.  Hofstra           8-3   65.2    1.11    1.05    +0.06
6.  Drexel            6-5   63.1    0.96    0.95    +0.01
7.  William & Mary    2-9   61.9    1.04    1.10    -0.06
8.  Delaware          6-5   61.2    1.00    1.06    -0.06
9.  UNC-Wilmington    4-7   61.5    0.99    1.07    -0.08
10. Georgia St.       3-8   64.5    0.91    1.00    -0.09
11. Northeastern      3-8   59.6    1.03    1.14    -0.11
12. Towson           0-11   61.9    1.00    1.22    -0.22

AVG.                        62.6    1.04

George Mason drew a road game at Northern Iowa as their BracketBusters pairing. If: 1) the Patriots maintain anything close to the level of performance seen here (which is similar to what Butler did to the Horizon last year), and 2) they lose at Cedar Falls on February 19, and 3) they don't make the NCAA tournament -- if 1 through 3 all hold true, a small part of the college hoops me will die when a meh Big East team with a negative EM gets a bid.

C-USA: The league fits easily in your briefcase

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  UTEP              5-2   62.8    1.07    0.96    +0.11
2.  Marshall          2-4   69.1    1.05    1.01    +0.04
3.  Memphis           5-2   69.1    1.01    0.97    +0.04
4.  Tulsa             4-3   64.2    1.03    0.99    +0.04
5.  UAB               5-2   64.2    1.04    1.01    +0.03
6.  East Carolina     4-3   66.1    1.08    1.06    +0.02
7.  Southern Miss     5-3   66.5    1.13    1.11    +0.02
8.  SMU               4-3   62.6    1.07    1.06    +0.01
9.  Houston           3-4   63.6    1.05    1.08    -0.03
10. Tulane            2-5   64.1    1.05    1.11    -0.06
11. Rice              2-5   65.0    1.00    1.07    -0.07
12. UCF               1-6   67.1    0.95    1.07    -0.12

AVG.                        65.4    1.04

Even the legendarily egalitarian Pac-10 can't match the small per-possession first-to-worst difference displayed by Conference USA. If you like competitive games night in and night out, this is your league.

Horizon: Post-Butler clarity at last?

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Cleveland St.     9-2   65.9    1.08    0.93    +0.15
2.  Valparaiso        8-2   65.0    1.04    0.94    +0.10
3.  Butler            6-4   65.3    1.12    1.06    +0.06
4.  Wright St.        7-4   61.7    1.02    0.98    +0.04
5.  Green Bay         6-5   66.1    1.06    1.03    +0.03
6.  Detroit           5-6   69.4    1.05    1.06    -0.01
7.  Loyola            4-7   65.0    1.02    1.04    -0.02
8.  Milwaukee         7-5   64.3    1.02    1.05    -0.03
9.  UIC               1-9   65.2    0.97    1.09    -0.12
10. Youngstown St.   1-10   69.2    0.92    1.09    -0.17

AVG.                        65.7    1.03

Cleveland State has it in their power to be the best team in the Horizon. They have the league's best non-Butler offense and its best defense, period. First order of business for Gary Waters' team: take care of Valparaiso. The Crusaders pay a visit Thursday night.

Missouri Valley: The league's hottest team also did some stuff last year

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Wichita St.       9-2   63.9    1.12    0.92    +0.20
2.  Missouri St.      9-2   61.1    1.10    1.00    +0.10
3.  N. Iowa           8-3   59.2    1.08    1.01    +0.07
4.  Indiana St.       7-4   64.6    1.02    0.97    +0.05
5.  Creighton         6-5   62.5    1.08    1.03    +0.05
6.  Evansville        6-5   64.6    0.95    0.99    -0.04
7.  S. Illinois       4-7   62.5    0.94    1.02    -0.08
8.  Illinois St.      3-8   62.8    0.95    1.04    -0.09
9.  Drake             3-8   64.8    0.95    1.04    -0.09
10. Bradley          0-11   64.4    0.98    1.12    -0.14

AVG.                        62.8    1.01

See Colonial write-up above. George Mason will visit Northern Iowa on February 19 as part of BracketBusters. Three weeks ago that would have seemed like a good match-up for the Patriots. Now it looks much more challenging. The Panthers have won their last seven Valley games, including a 60-59 win at Missouri State on Sunday night. Over that seven-game span UNI has scored 1.13 points per trip, which in Missouri Valley terms is outstanding. They should be able to give Mason a game -- not to mention push the Bears and Wichita State all the way to Arch Madness.

Mountain West: This paragraph has been certified Jimmer-free

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  San Diego St.     6-1   64.4    1.11    0.94    +0.17
2.  BYU               6-1   71.8    1.18    1.03    +0.15
3.  Colorado St.      5-2   67.2    1.10    1.04    +0.06
4.  UNLV              4-3   66.1    1.02    0.97    +0.05
5.  New Mexico        3-4   67.5    1.06    1.02    +0.04
6.  Utah              3-3   68.4    1.05    1.07    -0.02
7.  Air Force         3-4   58.9    1.08    1.10    -0.02
8.  TCU               1-7   65.7    0.92    1.09    -0.17
9.  Wyoming           1-6   64.1    0.92    1.17    -0.25

AVG.                        66.0    1.05

OK, the showdown happened, and the team that won at home went on to lose their next game because they couldn't score enough points on the road. So can I talk about another team, just this week? Colorado State has improved markedly since last year, when they were outscored by 0.07 points for every possession they played in the MWC. This year the Rams are getting it done on the inside, where Tim Miles' team is making a league-leading 55 percent of its twos in conference play. Keep up the good work, Travis Franklin, Andy Ogide, and company.

West Coast: My trepidation was correct!

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Saint Mary's      6-1   66.2    1.18    1.00    +0.18
2.  Gonzaga           4-3   67.3    1.18    1.05    +0.13
3.  Santa Clara       5-2   66.3    1.06    1.02    +0.04
4.  Portland          4-3   63.0    1.08    1.05    +0.03
5.  San Francisco     5-2   70.0    1.05    1.03    +0.02
6.  Pepperdine        3-4   69.0    1.00    1.08    -0.08
7.  Loyola Marymount  1-6   67.5    0.99    1.09    -0.10
8.  San Diego         0-7   64.2    0.87    1.11    -0.24

AVG.                        66.7    1.05

After getting stomped by Vanderbilt and thereby worrying me, Saint Mary's went on the road last week and followed a narrow win at Gonzaga with a 15-point loss at Portland. Of course we here at Tuesday Truths don't get too worked up over a single road loss. Unless you're Indiana '76 you probably have one of those and, anyway, the Gaels still project to be the cream of the West Coast. But it's also true that SMC looks a little less formidable to me than they did a couple weeks ago.

WAC: My trepidation was correct (cont)!

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Utah St.          9-0   64.3    1.11    0.94    +0.17
2.  New Mexico St.    6-3   70.9    1.05    0.98    +0.07
3.  Idaho             5-4   66.4    1.02    0.95    +0.07
4.  Nevada            5-3   68.4    1.09    1.05    +0.04
5.  Boise St.         5-4   69.0    1.02    1.00    +0.02
6.  Fresno St.        3-6   65.1    0.98    1.02    -0.04
7.  Hawaii            3-6   66.8    0.92    1.02    -0.10
8.  Louisiana Tech    2-7   66.5    0.90    1.01    -0.11
9.  San Jose St.      2-7   68.3    0.96    1.09    -0.13

AVG.                        67.3    1.00

As foreshadowed in this space last week, sometimes airline miles trump efficiency margins. Hawaii did indeed give Utah State a game before falling at home in double-OT, 89-84. We are now on full run-the-table alert with the Aggies.

John uses fewer decimal points on Twitter: @JohnGasaway. College Basketball Prospectus 2010-11 is now available on Amazon.

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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