Home Unfiltered Articles Players Baseball Prospectus
Basketball Prospectus home
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

Click here for Important Basketball Prospectus Premium Information!

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Best Team, Best Confer... (02/19)
<< Previous Column
Tuesday Truths (02/12)
Next Column >>
Tuesday Truths (02/26)
Next Article >>
Premium Article History Could Happen (02/20)

February 19, 2013
Tuesday Truths
Brother-in-Law Birthday Edition

by John Gasaway

Printer-
friendly
Contact
Author

Welcome to Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 131 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.

ACC: Seth Davis, I salute you!

Through games of February 18, 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.  Miami            12-0   64.9    1.07    0.88    +0.19
2.  Virginia          8-4   61.4    1.06    0.94    +0.12
3.  Duke              9-3   69.2    1.10    0.99    +0.11
4.  North Carolina    7-5   69.5    1.04    1.00    +0.04
5.  NC State          7-5   68.8    1.08    1.05    +0.03
6.  Maryland          6-6   67.9    0.99    0.97    +0.02
7.  Georgia Tech      4-8   67.2    0.91    0.95    -0.04
8.  Clemson           5-8   62.0    0.93    0.98    -0.05
9.  Boston College    3-9   63.7    1.03    1.09    -0.06
10. Wake Forest       4-9   68.5    0.93    1.03    -0.10
11. Florida St.       6-6   62.8    0.96    1.07    -0.11
12. Virginia Tech    2-10   65.0    0.97    1.11    -0.14

AVG.                        65.9    1.01

For a few minutes on Sunday evening, it looked as though Miami would lose at Clemson -- the Tigers were up four with two minutes remaining -- and, predictably, Twitter was proactively labeling the Hurricanes as a fraud that was being "exposed."

At which point Seth Davis chimed in:

Exactly. If "bad" losses are our test, there will be no national champion this year. Indiana lost at home to a team that at the time was unranked, and on the road to a team that was and is still unranked. Gonzaga lost at home by 11 to a team that is now unranked. Michigan State lost on the road by 13 to a team that is now unranked. Florida lost on the road by 11 to a team that has never been ranked this season.

I don't suppose Miami is the prohibitive favorite to win the national title, but they're playing very well against the ACC. A close loss at Clemson, in and of itself, wouldn't have changed the Hurricanes' profile dramatically, at least not relative to their peer contenders.

Big 12: Streak or no streak, this year is different

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Kansas            9-3   66.1    1.03    0.91    +0.12
2.  Oklahoma St.      9-3   68.6    1.06    0.95    +0.11
3.  Baylor            7-5   67.4    1.01    0.91    +0.10
4.  Kansas St.       10-3   62.4    1.10    1.01    +0.09
5.  Iowa St.          7-5   66.5    1.10    1.01    +0.09
6.  Oklahoma          7-5   65.8    1.03    1.00    +0.03
7.  West Virginia     6-7   63.1    1.00    1.00     0.00
8.  Texas             3-9   65.7    0.93    1.02    -0.09
9.  Texas Tech       2-10   64.3    0.88    1.11    -0.23
10. TCU              1-11   62.4    0.81    1.07    -0.26

AVG.                        65.2    0.99

Kansas is trying to win an incredible ninth consecutive Big 12 regular-season title -- shared or outright -- and it's going to be great theater, of course, to see if the Jayhawks can pull it off. That great theater gets off to a viewing-is-self-evidently-mandatory start tomorrow evening, as KU travels to Oklahoma State to take on the one rival that marched into Allen Fieldhouse this season and came away with a win.

Even if Bill Self's team does manage to extend their streak, however, this Kansas team is on a trajectory that will see them end the season as unusually similar to their Big 12 rivals in terms of performance. Customarily the Jayhawks are clearly the best per-possession team in the league, even if, as happened last year, people don't really realize it. (People, up to and including the selection committee, thought Missouri was as good as KU at basketball, and both teams were seeded on the 2 line. People were mistaken.)

The difference this season in Lawrence is the offense. As seen here, it's not very good, and keep in mind that's with arguably the best freshman in the country in the lineup. (Keep that freshman healthy, Coach.) Truth be told, on offense the Jayhawks look uncannily similar to West Virginia. Both are poor shooting teams that do a great job on the offensive glass and at getting to the line -- and have to. When Self starts donning track suits, the parallel will be complete.

With no fewer than five teams competing on more or less equal terms, this is going to be a great race for the conference title. And that alone highlights the fact that in performance terms this is relatively new territory for KU.

A theory of the Big East

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Louisville        9-4   63.5    1.05    0.90    +0.15
2.  Syracuse          9-3   61.4    1.08    0.97    +0.11
3.  Pitt              8-6   66.7    1.04    0.94    +0.10
4.  Georgetown        9-3   61.3    1.01    0.92    +0.09
5.  Marquette         9-3   61.9    1.08    1.01    +0.07
6.  Villanova         8-6   66.4    1.00    0.95    +0.05
7.  Cincinnati        7-6   62.2    0.98    0.95    +0.03
8.  Connecticut       7-5   65.7    1.04    1.01    +0.03
9.  Notre Dame        9-5   59.7    1.07    1.07     0.00
10. Providence        6-7   65.8    1.01    1.02    -0.01
11. St. John's        7-6   68.2    0.94    0.98    -0.04
12. Rutgers          4-10   62.7    0.96    1.07    -0.11
13. DePaul           2-10   70.8    0.98    1.10    -0.12
14. Seton Hall       2-11   63.3    0.95    1.08    -0.13
15. S. Florida       1-12   59.6    0.87    1.07    -0.20

AVG.                        64.1    1.00

One theory of the Big East would hold that Louisville is more or less exactly what everyone expected in the preseason and truly is the best team in the league. But three coin-flip losses (as well as one good old-fashioned just plain loss, the 73-64 defeat at Villanova) mean the Cardinals may have to prove their worth from a couple seed lines further down than they otherwise would have.

So be it. You can play your way out of a bad seed. The real harm here is done not to Louisville but to the nominal No. 2 seed that has to play Rick Pitino's team in the Sweet 16. Here is what I would say to that coach:

Hard cheese, old chap! You're about to play an opponent that is the functional equivalent of a 17-1 Syracuse team that in 2012 everyone, correctly, fawned over and that the committee eagerly adorned with a No. 1 seed.

And then the coach of that 2 seed will get yelled at when his team loses to lowly Louisville. Columnists will write that the 2 seed just wasn't "tough" enough "when it mattered most." I'm telling you, the conditions are ripe for a big misunderstanding here. Blame Garrick Sherman, the Oscar Robertson of fifth overtimes.

Big Ten: Game of the Year of the Week tonight!

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Indiana          11-2   65.9    1.16    0.95    +0.21
2.  Michigan          9-4   62.4    1.14    1.01    +0.13
3.  Michigan St.     11-2   64.4    1.08    0.97    +0.11
4.  Wisconsin         9-4   59.1    0.99    0.91    +0.08
5.  Ohio St.          8-5   62.0    1.02    0.98    +0.04
6.  Minnesota         6-7   60.8    1.06    1.04    +0.02
7.  Iowa              6-7   65.4    1.00    0.99    +0.01
8.  Illinois          6-7   64.2    1.02    1.02     0.00
9.  Northwestern      4-9   59.8    0.96    1.09    -0.13
10. Nebraska         3-10   61.6    0.91    1.05    -0.14
11. Purdue            5-8   64.2    0.94    1.08    -0.14
12. Penn St.         0-13   64.7    0.89    1.07    -0.18

AVG.                        62.9    1.01

For a second consecutive Tuesday, Michigan State is about to get one of the nation's best teams on its home floor. Last time that didn't work out so well in terms of entertainment. (Well, unless you're a Spartan fan. For the rest of us there was little fun to be had in watching a landslide.) I am cautiously optimistic that tonight will fare better on that metric.

For one thing, Indiana hasn't broken the huddle at the under-four timeout in the second half with no chance to win the game since -- well, if this don't beat all -- one year ago tonight. (On the other hand if IU does get blown out tonight we can clearly label this The Brother-in-Law Birthday Effect.) For another, the Hoosiers are better at defense than Michigan, and other things being equal one would suppose Tom Izzo's men will find it more difficult to run away and hide against these guys.

Unless of course Victor Oladipo's ankle really does prevent him from being Oladipo-like. In a piece at Insider today I note that many of us, yours truly included, had doubts about the Indiana D coming into the season, but that questionable IU defense in general (and a regularly and thoroughly posterized Jordan Hulls in particular) is simply the dog that has not barked this season. Maybe tonight's the night that dog at long last howls, but it seems probable the Hoosiers are going to end the season looking remarkably good on paper thanks in no small measure to a surprisingly stingy D. Tom Crean, I salute you!

The Pac-12 gives us a peek at the ghost in the hoops machine

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Arizona           9-4   67.2    1.04    0.98    +0.06
2.  Oregon           10-3   67.3    1.00    0.96    +0.04
3.  Stanford          6-7   67.9    1.03    0.99    +0.04
4.  Colorado          7-6   64.4    1.00    0.97    +0.03
5.  UCLA              9-4   70.3    1.00    0.97    +0.03
6.  Arizona St.       8-5   64.6    1.02    1.00    +0.02
7.  Cal               8-5   65.7    1.01    1.00    +0.01
8.  Washington        6-7   67.5    0.98    0.98     0.00
9.  USC               7-6   68.2    1.01    1.02    -0.01
10. Oregon St.       3-10   67.4    1.02    1.07    -0.05
11. Washington St.   2-11   63.8    1.00    1.08    -0.08
12. Utah             3-10   62.8    0.95    1.05    -0.10

AVG.                        66.4    1.01

"Flattest," "most undifferentiated," "incorrigibly corrigible," call it what you please. The Pac-12 this season exhibits the smallest statistical variation in performance across teams -- by far -- of any major conference over the past five seasons. These are 12 strikingly similar teams in performance terms.

Now, look at the records that have resulted from this historic set of teams. Surprisingly normal and un-historic, everything from 10-3 to 2-11. Throw a dozen very similar teams together and they don't just form a blob around .500. Instead the Pac-12's won-loss records look very much like what you see this season in the Big East, which hits the historical median for team-by-team variation on the nose.

The relationship between performance and wins in basketball, and maybe especially college basketball, is indirect. Watch as Arizona is given rankings and a seed that mark the Wildcats as far different than their Pac-12 peers. Maybe UA will indeed find their inner 2011 and turn out to be different, but over the course of 882 in-conference possessions thus far they're yet to display such a marked contrast relative to the Oregons and UCLAs of the hoops world.

SEC: Game of the Year of the Week tonight!

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Florida          11-1   63.2    1.19    0.83    +0.36
2.  Missouri          7-5   68.6    1.08    0.98    +0.10
3.  Alabama           9-3   61.1    0.96    0.91    +0.05
4.  Ole Miss          8-4   68.9    1.07    1.02    +0.05
5.  Kentucky          8-4   65.5    1.04    1.01    +0.03
6.  Arkansas          7-5   69.0    0.97    0.95    +0.02
7.  Tennessee         6-6   63.6    1.02    1.01    +0.01
8.  Texas A&M         5-7   60.3    0.97    0.98    -0.01
9.  LSU               6-6   67.1    0.95    0.97    -0.02
10. Vanderbilt        4-8   61.7    0.94    0.98    -0.04
11. Georgia           6-6   61.5    0.94    1.01    -0.07
12. South Carolina   2-10   65.7    0.89    1.01    -0.12
13. Auburn            3-9   65.3    0.95    1.07    -0.12
14. Mississippi St.  2-10   67.3    0.86    1.10    -0.24

AVG.                        64.9    0.99

Missouri gets those statistical bullies from Florida in Columbia tonight, and if the Tigers that we saw devour Ole Miss 98-79 show up this evening we should be in for a fun time. True, both Mizzou and the Gators have been humbled at Arkansas, but at least Frank Haith's team had a chance to win their game against the Razorbacks.

The last time these two teams got together, Scottie Wilbekin brought our brief national mania for Phil Pressey to a merciful end. (I never understood that mania.) Pressey will no doubt be eager to settle this matchup score on a more friendly court.

Pitt exists, so I would never label a non-Panther team as comparably inscrutable, but here we are in late February and I still don't feel like I have the full story on Missouri. They look great as an SEC No. 2 in the numbers here, but if Mississippi State had given up on basketball in the 1920s, as perhaps they would have if they had any premonitions of 2013, that "+0.10" up there next to the Tigers' name would drop to a mere +0.06. (Give Florida the same statistical Michael Bloomberg ban on cupcakes, and +0.35 would morph into +0.34. Impostors!) Tonight is therefore the perfect time to race me down the learning curve. Home floor, healthy Bowers, tres scary opponent. Show me.

A-10: Game of the Year of the Week tonight!

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Saint Louis       8-2   67.2    1.06    0.91    +0.15
2.  VCU               9-2   68.2    1.11    0.97    +0.14
3.  La Salle          8-3   65.7    1.05    0.96    +0.09
4.  Butler            8-3   65.3    1.05    0.98    +0.07
5.  UMass             6-5   69.1    1.05    1.00    +0.05
6.  Xavier            7-4   62.8    1.04    1.00    +0.04
7.  Dayton            4-7   65.4    1.06    1.03    +0.03
8.  GW                5-5   67.4    1.00    0.98    +0.02
9.  Temple            6-5   67.7    1.06    1.06     0.00
10. Richmond          5-6   64.3    1.00    1.02    -0.02
11. Saint Joseph's    5-6   62.4    1.04    1.09    -0.05
12. St. Bonaventure   4-7   63.8    1.03    1.08    -0.05
13. Charlotte         6-5   68.0    0.97    1.03    -0.06
14. Rhode Island      3-8   64.2    0.99    1.06    -0.07
15. Fordham           2-9   68.6    0.96    1.14    -0.18
16. Duquesne         1-10   69.3    0.94    1.10    -0.16

AVG.                        66.2    1.03

On a normal evening when Michigan State wasn't hosting Indiana and Missouri wasn't hosting Florida, Saint Louis hosting VCU would be as good as it is possible to get in terms of must-see TV. The Billikens continue to fly under two kinds of radar -- pollster and computer -- but as seen here they've played Shaka Smart's team to a performance draw to this point in the A-10 season. Jim Crews' team has arrived at this lofty station thanks to a defense that is head and shoulders above anything else seen from this sprawling league.

VCU, as you may have heard, likes to force turnovers. That preference will get a stern test this evening. SLU has given the ball away on just 16 percent of its A-10 possessions, the lowest such figure in the conference. If ever a Ram game would figure to be havoc-free, one would think it would be on the home floor of such a team. We shall see.

C-USA: Revise your Memphis stereotypes accordingly

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Memphis          11-0   68.7    1.11    0.90    +0.21
2.  Southern Miss     9-2   65.5    1.14    0.97    +0.17
3.  UTEP              7-4   61.0    1.05    1.00    +0.05
4.  UCF               7-4   66.2    1.05    1.03    +0.02
5.  East Carolina     5-6   69.8    1.05    1.05     0.00
6.  Tulsa             6-5   66.2    0.98    1.00    -0.02
7.  Tulane            5-6   64.6    1.03    1.06    -0.03
8.  SMU               3-8   63.2    0.98    1.01    -0.03
9.  UAB               4-7   67.6    0.99    1.02    -0.03
10. Houston           4-7   67.8    1.06    1.10    -0.04
11. Marshall          4-7   68.8    0.97    1.07    -0.10
12. Rice             1-10   61.2    0.96    1.18    -0.22

AVG.                        65.9    1.03

As Memphis makes its farewell tour of Conference USA, now is a good moment to point out that just because the Tigers reliably dominated this league doesn't mean all Tiger teams were created equal. For one thing, this Memphis team is really shooting the rock quite well.

"Perimeter accuracy" isn't the first trait that comes to mind when one thinks of Josh Pastner's program, but pack the paint against these guys at your peril. Joe Jackson only shoots about one three per half, but for the season he's connecting at a rate that puts him within shouting distance of Jordan Hulls. And before a foot injury sidelined him last week, Antonio Barton was shooting threes more frequently than Jackson but also hitting them with respectable frequency. That, plus their UConn-back-in-the-day-brand defense has brought Memphis to where they are today. There's a chance they will arrive at the NCAA tournament with a ridiculously long winning streak.

There's always a Valley team playing really well, it's just never the same team as two weeks before

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Wichita St.      11-4   63.3    1.08    0.94    +0.14
2.  Creighton        10-5   64.2    1.17    1.03    +0.14
3.  N. Iowa           9-6   61.7    1.01    0.93    +0.08
4.  Illinois St.      7-8   68.2    1.05    1.01    +0.04
5.  Indiana St.       9-6   65.1    1.03    1.00    +0.03
6.  Evansville        7-8   64.4    1.01    1.03    -0.02
7.  Missouri St.      6-9   59.8    1.02    1.10    -0.08
8.  Drake            5-10   68.1    0.99    1.09    -0.10
9.  Bradley           7-8   64.8    0.98    1.08    -0.10
10. S. Illinois      4-11   62.4    0.98    1.11    -0.13

AVG.                        64.2    1.03

Early in the conference season it was of course Creighton and Wichita State who were playing well. The Bluejays and the Shockers still look good in the numbers presented here, but to a certain extent CU in particular is living off of statistical deposits that were recorded in January.

Next it was Illinois State that was the flavor of the month, reeling off seven wins in eight games as if that 0-6 start in MVC play was all a giant misunderstanding. The Redbirds may yet turn out to be a factor in Arch Madness next month, but Dan Muller's team did itself no perceptual favors Sunday night, certainly, by squandering a seven-point lead in the final 40 seconds at home against the aforementioned Wichita State Shockers. No, for today's oh so trendy Valley team a nation turns its lonely eyes to Cedar Falls, where Northern Iowa has parlayed suffocating defense into a five-game winning streak. To Ben Jacobson I offer not only a salute (salute!) but also this warning: All Valley glory is fleeting.

Mountain West: Let's table this discussion just a few hours longer

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Colorado St.      8-2   64.9    1.10    0.95    +0.15
2.  New Mexico        9-2   65.6    0.96    0.87    +0.09
3.  San Diego St.     6-5   65.1    1.01    0.95    +0.06
4.  UNLV              6-5   68.0    0.97    0.96    +0.01
5.  Air Force         6-5   65.8    1.04    1.06    -0.02
6.  Wyoming           4-7   58.8    0.92    0.95    -0.03
7.  Boise St.         4-6   65.7    1.00    1.06    -0.06
8.  Nevada            3-7   65.2    0.95    1.05    -0.10
9.  Fresno St.        2-9   61.2    0.90    1.01    -0.11

AVG.                        64.5    0.98

Last week I said Colorado State was about to embark on a pivotal and perhaps even season-defining four-game stretch. The Rams are now halfway through that sequence, having recorded two close wins: at home against San Diego State, and on the road against Air Force (negating a heroic 45-point outburst by the Falcons' Michael Lyons).

In Tuesday Truths terms CSU is this league's big swaggering beast, and they now have the opportunity to prove this is indeed the reality. Tomorrow night Larry Eustachy will take his men into Vegas to take on the Rebels, and then this weekend CSU hosts New Mexico in Fort Collins. If Eustachy continues to get multiple great performances from his rotation, a 2-0 week is possible. In the Rams' win at Colorado Springs, for example, Colton Iverson was perfect from the field (6-of-6), Pierce Hornung recorded six offensive boards, Greg Smith shot 10-of-12 at the line, and Dorian Green led his team with 22 points. At Colorado State this season, "strong individual performance on offense" is a movable feast.

West Coast: Run the table talk may now commence

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Gonzaga          12-0   63.8    1.20    0.94    +0.26
2.  Saint Mary's     11-2   64.6    1.13    0.95    +0.18
3.  BYU               9-4   70.1    1.12    0.99    +0.13
4.  Santa Clara       7-5   66.5    1.09    1.05    +0.04
5.  San Diego         6-6   64.3    0.96    1.02    -0.06
6.  San Francisco     4-9   67.4    1.04    1.09    -0.05
7.  Pepperdine        4-9   63.7    0.96    1.08    -0.12
8.  Portland         3-10   64.6    0.90    1.07    -0.17
9.  Loyola Marymount 1-12   64.1    0.91    1.10    -0.19

AVG.                        65.5    1.03

Gonzaga survived what on paper should be their toughest test, winning at Saint Mary's 77-60 last week behind 20 points (and 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc) from Gary Bell. There is still the small matter of a game at BYU next Thursday, but after seeing the Cougars lose at home to San Francisco it's difficult to know exactly what to make of Dave Rose's team.

Whether or not the Bulldogs arrive at the NCAA tournament unblemished in WCC play, the larger point is that this could be Mark Few's best team yet. The Zags aren't particularly fearsome on the defensive glass, and they do seem a little too comfortable with opponents firing away from the perimeter. Meaning in theory one could see this team being tripped up, I suppose, by yet another Brandon Paul pulling yet another Brandon Paul. But these are the specks one spots by putting a microscope on a team outscoring its league by more than a quarter of a point per trip. In every other category all the way across the board, this team is dominant. An opponent will need a lot of offensive boards and a lot of threes to keep pace.

John uses fewer decimal points on Twitter: @JohnGasaway.

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

0 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Best Team, Best Confer... (02/19)
<< Previous Column
Tuesday Truths (02/12)
Next Column >>
Tuesday Truths (02/26)
Next Article >>
Premium Article History Could Happen (02/20)

RECENTLY AT BASKETBALL PROSPECTUS
State of Basketball Prospectus: A Brief Anno...
Tuesday Truths: March-at-Last Edition
Easy Bubble Solver: The Triumphant Return
Premium Article Bubbles of their Own Making: Villanova, Temp...
Tuesday Truths: Crunch Time Edition

MORE FROM FEBRUARY 19, 2013
Premium Article Best Team, Best Conference: About Indiana

MORE BY JOHN GASAWAY
2013-02-24 - Premium Article Smarter After Saturday: Peaking at the Right...
2013-02-21 - Premium Article Best Choice: Give Oladipo the Wooden Award
2013-02-20 - Premium Article History Could Happen: Assessing Gonzaga's Ti...
2013-02-19 - Tuesday Truths: Brother-in-Law Birthday Edit...
2013-02-19 - Premium Article Best Team, Best Conference: About Indiana
2013-02-17 - Premium Article Smarter After Saturday: Georgetown's D Clamp...
2013-02-14 - Premium Article The Nation's Top 25 Freshmen: 3.0
More...

MORE TUESDAY TRUTHS
2013-03-05 - Tuesday Truths: March-at-Last Edition
2013-02-26 - Tuesday Truths: Crunch Time Edition
2013-02-19 - Tuesday Truths: Brother-in-Law Birthday Edit...
2013-02-12 - Tuesday Truths: Theme-Free Edition
2013-02-05 - Tuesday Truths: Truth-in-Advertising Edition
2013-01-29 - Tuesday Truths: Full-Strength Edition
More...

Basketball Prospectus Home  |  Terms of Service  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us
Copyright © 1996-2014 Prospectus Entertainment Ventures, LLC.