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February 16, 2010
Tuesday Truths
Wild, Wild East

by John Gasaway

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Welcome to the latest installment of Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 126 teams in 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: Maryland looks way better in rare Monday night game

Through games of February 15, 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              9-2   66.2    1.11    0.94    +0.17
2.  Maryland          7-3   68.9    1.09    0.97    +0.12
3.  Virginia Tech     7-3   68.8    1.00    0.95    +0.05
4.  Wake Forest       8-3   69.2    1.01    0.98    +0.03  
5.  Virginia          5-5   65.1    1.01    0.98    +0.03
6.  Clemson           6-5   69.2    0.96    0.95    +0.01
7.  Florida St.       6-5   67.3    0.97    0.98    -0.01
8.  Georgia Tech      5-6   68.9    0.98    1.01    -0.03
9.  North Carolina    3-7   69.9    0.98    1.05    -0.07
10. BC                3-8   64.8    0.98    1.08    -0.10
11. Miami             3-8   65.6    0.99    1.09    -0.10
12. NC State          2-9   67.6    0.97    1.09    -0.12

I realize that the last time you saw Maryland they were busy making Brian Zoubek look like Dwight Howard, but the Terrapins have actually played another game since then. Gary Williams' team hosted Virginia last night to make up for a game that had been postponed due to last week's snow, and the Terps won easily 85-66. Maybe Maryland is simply vulnerable to size on the opposing front line (this Saturday's game against Georgia Tech in College Park will provide more info there), or maybe the 21-point loss to the Blue Devils was just Cameron Indoor craziness. Anyway, don't dismiss the Terps just yet. I think it's safe to say they're exceeding expectations.

Big 12: Kansas wins any kind of game it's in

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Kansas           11-0   67.4    1.14    0.96    +0.18
2.  Kansas St.        7-3   71.6    1.05    0.96    +0.09
3.  Texas             6-4   72.8    1.07    0.99    +0.08
4.  Baylor            6-4   66.1    1.12    1.04    +0.08
5.  Missouri          6-4   70.3    1.05    0.99    +0.06
6.  Oklahoma St.      5-5   70.5    1.06    1.03    +0.03
7.  Texas A&M         7-4   65.5    1.04    1.03    +0.01
8.  Oklahoma          4-6   68.3    0.98    1.06    -0.08
9.  Texas Tech        4-6   72.2    1.00    1.08    -0.08
10. Colorado          2-8   68.7    1.01    1.10    -0.09
11. Iowa St.          2-8   69.8    0.96    1.09    -0.13
12. Nebraska          1-9   63.5    0.91    1.09    -0.18

Last night the Jayhawks won a slow (61-possession) ugly game at Texas A&M where Bill Self's team went just 1-of-10 on their threes. There will be a good deal of interest in whether or not KU can run the table in the Big 12, and I can understand and get behind that interest. Running the table would be historic. (No team in the top six conferences has gone undefeated in league play since Kentucky did it in 2003.) Surely it also bears mention, though, that Kansas is putting almost as much per-possession daylight between itself and the Big 12 as Kentucky is putting between itself and the SEC. And with a second tier that includes Kansas State, Texas, Baylor, and Missouri, getting this far out in front of the field is impressive.

Big East: Where favorites fear to tread

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  West Virginia     8-4   63.7    1.14    1.01    +0.13
2.  Syracuse         11-2   68.9    1.08    0.97    +0.11
3.  Villanova        11-2   73.2    1.17    1.06    +0.11
4.  Marquette         7-5   63.9    1.13    1.03    +0.10
5.  Louisville        7-5   65.8    1.13    1.06    +0.07
6.  Georgetown        8-5   67.0    1.10    1.03    +0.07
7.  Pitt              8-4   63.1    1.08    1.03    +0.05
8.  Notre Dame        6-7   66.2    1.13    1.13     0.00
9.  Connecticut       5-8   69.0    0.99    1.00    -0.01
10. Cincinnati        6-6   65.9    1.01    1.04    -0.03
11. Providence        4-9   73.0    1.08    1.13    -0.05
12. Seton Hall        5-7   68.5    1.06    1.12    -0.06
13. S. Florida        5-7   65.5    1.03    1.09    -0.06
14. St. John’s        4-8   66.1    0.96    1.03    -0.07
15. Rutgers           3-9   68.9    0.97    1.15    -0.18
16. DePaul           1-11   63.6    0.93    1.12    -0.19

For the second consecutive year West Virginia is losing close games and winning comfortable ones, which makes them impressive on paper and less so in person. The Mountaineers' home losses to Syracuse and Villanova, not to mention their loss to Dayton in last year's NCAA tournament, make me provisionally skeptical of that little "1" next to their name, but I can be persuaded. Meantime Syracuse is committing too many turnovers and Villanova is committing too many fouls. (Oh, and Georgetown? Losing at Rutgers was an upset, sure, but it's also true that as seen here that the Hoyas' actual performance hasn't matched the talent that snags them the really lofty ratings in the polls.) So, yeah, with each passing week I come a little closer to a bold and iconoclastic "Marquette is the Best Team in the Big East" feature.

Big Ten: I've had my say on the top of the conference

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Wisconsin         9-4   57.8    1.08    0.93    +0.15
2.  Ohio St.         10-3   63.0    1.08    0.96    +0.12
3.  Purdue            9-3   64.6    1.08    0.97    +0.11
4.  Michigan St.     10-3   63.4    1.06    0.99    +0.07
5.  Illinois          9-4   65.1    1.03    1.00    +0.03
6.  Michigan          5-7   59.9    1.01    1.00    +0.01
7.  Northwestern      6-7   62.1    1.08    1.12    -0.04
8.  Minnesota         5-7   64.9    1.03    1.07    -0.04
9.  Iowa             3-10   61.8    0.92    1.04    -0.12
10. Penn St.         0-12   61.1    0.96    1.10    -0.14
11. Indiana           3-9   64.8    0.93    1.09    -0.16

It should indeed be a great conference race down the stretch. Meanwhile allow me to note additionally that Michigan's actually doing a little better than last year's NCAA team (-0.02). Likewise, Indiana has surprised me, a little. They're being outscored by 0.16 points per trip, a level of performance oddly similar to what they did during last year's Lost Season (-0.19) with a roster that'd been thrown together at the 11th hour.

Pac-10: Respect will now come only with NCAA wins

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Cal               9-4   68.9    1.12    1.01    +0.11
2.  Arizona St.       8-5   64.4    1.03    0.96    +0.07
3.  USC               7-5   62.0    0.97    0.91    +0.06
4.  Arizona           7-6   68.2    1.03    0.98    +0.05
5.  Washington        7-6   71.6    1.06    1.01    +0.05
6.  Oregon St.        5-7   62.3    0.92    0.95    -0.03
7.  UCLA              6-6   63.2    1.01    1.06    -0.05
8.  Stanford          5-8   65.8    0.99    1.06    -0.07
9.  Washington St.    5-8   67.3    1.02    1.10    -0.08
10. Oregon            4-8   65.4    0.95    1.08    -0.13

When the Big East had a tumultuous weekend it was said that the conference is even deeper and stronger than previously supposed. But imagine Cal, Arizona State, Arizona, and Washington losing to Oregon State, UCLA, Stanford, and Oregon. That kind of weekend would be taken as confirmation that the Pac-10 is down. Nevertheless Cal has the talent to compete in the NCAA tournament. Sure, they'll be at the mercy of seeding and location more than any other major-conference leader. Who knows, like UCLA last year the Bears might even be shipped three time zones east to play on an opponent's de facto home floor.

SEC: Talk about a solid middle-class

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Kentucky          9-1   72.0    1.10    0.93    +0.17
2.  Vanderbilt        8-2   70.0    1.13    1.07    +0.06
3.  Mississippi St.   6-4   70.2    1.00    0.97    +0.03
4.  Arkansas          6-4   70.6    1.04    1.01    +0.03
5.  Florida           6-4   65.7    1.09    1.06    +0.03
6.  Tennessee         6-4   67.7    1.00    0.98    +0.02
7.  Ole Miss          5-5   69.1    1.05    1.03    +0.02
8.  Alabama           4-7   63.7    0.97    0.96    +0.01
9.  Georgia           3-7   68.0    1.04    1.07    -0.03
10. South Carolina    5-5   67.4    1.00    1.03    -0.03
11. Auburn            3-7   69.1    1.01    1.08    -0.07
12. LSU              0-11   64.4    0.88    1.11    -0.23

Half the SEC is virtually indistinguishable right now in terms of in-conference performance. Below Vanderbilt and above Georgia there are six really similar teams.

A-10: A really clear top four until further notice

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Xavier            8-2   71.2    1.12    0.98    +0.14
2.  Dayton            6-4   66.9    1.04    0.90    +0.14
3.  Temple            8-2   62.4    1.09    0.96    +0.13
4.  Richmond          9-2   63.4    1.05    0.93    +0.12
5.  Rhode Island      7-4   68.6    1.09    1.04    +0.05
6.  Saint Louis       7-3   63.1    0.94    0.91    +0.03
7.  Charlotte         8-2   67.5    1.01    0.99    +0.02
8.  GW                3-7   66.4    0.98    1.00    -0.02
9.  UMass             4-7   71.9    1.00    1.05    -0.05
10. La Salle          3-7   70.7    1.01    1.07    -0.06
11. St. Bonaventure   3-7   67.6    0.96    1.02    -0.06
12. Duquesne          4-7   70.6    0.97    1.04    -0.07
13. Saint Joseph’s    3-8   70.3    0.94    1.03    -0.09
14. Fordham          0-11   70.4    0.88    1.13    -0.25

For one thing Dayton's four losses have come by a total of nine points, though the fact that one of them was to Saint Joseph's is rather unfortunate.

Conference USA: Still more history from El Paso

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  UTEP             10-1   67.1    1.06    0.89    +0.17
2.  Marshall          6-4   68.4    1.13    1.02    +0.11
3.  Memphis           8-2   66.4    1.15    1.06    +0.09
4.  Tulsa             8-3   66.3    1.04    0.99    +0.05
5.  Houston           5-5   68.5    1.05    1.01    +0.04
6.  SMU               4-6   59.5    1.01    0.97    +0.04
7.  Southern Miss     5-5   59.0    0.99    0.95    +0.04
8.  UAB               7-3   66.0    0.99    0.97    +0.02
9.  UCF               4-6   65.0    1.00    1.08    -0.08
10. Tulane            2-9   67.0    0.89    1.01    -0.12
11. Rice              1-9   65.6    0.95    1.09    -0.14
12. E. Carolina       2-9   68.5    0.89    1.10    -0.21

One of the very few programs on this list to have had a feature film made about them, UTEP will again be notable this year. They will receive the first NCAA bid to go to a non-Memphis CUSA team since UAB snagged an invite in 2006.

Missouri Valley: Eglseder won't even miss the rest of the regular season

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  N. Iowa          13-2   58.6    1.04    0.91    +0.13
2.  Wichita St.      10-5   63.8    1.03    0.98    +0.05
3.  Illinois St.      9-6   62.8    1.06    1.01    +0.05
4.  Missouri St.      7-8   64.5    1.11    1.08    +0.03
5.  S. Illinois       6-9   64.7    1.02    1.00    +0.02
6.  Bradley           8-7   65.3    1.04    1.03    +0.01
7.  Creighton         8-7   64.3    1.03    1.04    -0.01
8.  Indiana St.       7-8   63.3    1.04    1.07    -0.03
9.  Drake             6-9   62.7    1.03    1.07    -0.04
10. Evansville       1-14   65.0    0.94    1.12    -0.18

Northern Iowa seven-footer Jordan Eglseder was arrested for drunken driving on Sunday morning and has been suspended by coach Ben Jacobson for the Panthers' next three games, a punishment that is being widely panned as much too lenient. UNI finishes its MVC slate with home games against Creighton and Illinois State, as well as a visit to Evansville. But because there will be a BracketBusters game snuck in there as well (against Old Dominion), Eglseder could in theory play in the season finale against the Redbirds in Cedar Falls. That does seem fortuitous.

Mountain West: Never mind the "3" next to the Lobos

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  BYU               8-2   69.6    1.12    0.92    +0.20
2.  San Diego St.     7-4   66.1    1.09    0.99    +0.10
3.  New Mexico        9-2   67.1    1.07    0.97    +0.10
4.  UNLV              7-4   67.6    1.08    0.99    +0.09
5.  Utah              4-6   66.1    0.97    0.98    -0.01
6.  Colorado St.      6-4   66.8    0.97    0.98    -0.01
7.  TCU               4-7   62.6    0.96    1.04    -0.08
8.  Wyoming           2-9   69.1    0.96    1.10    -0.14
9.  Air Force        1-10   58.3    0.88    1.15    -0.27

The truth is New Mexico has a very good chance of finishing MWC play at 13-3. Yes, they've won some tight games (they're 2-0 in OT in-conference) but those wins are in the book. Steve Alford's team is thus on-track for both a less impressive per-possession showing than BYU and a good seed in the Dance. Embrace the paradox.

WCC: Gonzaga's still Gonzaga

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Gonzaga           9-1   68.8    1.15    0.98    +0.17
2.  Portland          7-3   63.8    1.11    0.98    +0.13
3.  Saint Mary’s      8-3   67.4    1.13    1.02    +0.11
4.  San Francisco     6-5   67.9    1.01    1.02    -0.01
5.  Santa Clara       3-8   65.0    0.95    1.02    -0.07
6.  Loyola Marymount  4-6   68.3    1.00    1.08    -0.08
7.  San Diego         2-9   62.3    0.94    1.05    -0.11
8.  Pepperdine        3-7   67.4    0.96    1.10    -0.14

The Zags are done playing Portland and Saint Mary's, and Mark Few's team went 4-0. (Note however that the Gaels still nourish hope of getting an at-large.) Maybe Gonzaga will lose focus like they did at San Francisco and drop a game. If so, they'll have only themselves to blame. Their remaining road games are at Loyola-Marymount and Pepperdine.

John also labors mightily to spell "Eglseder" correctly on Twitter: @JohnGasaway. College Basketball Prospectus 2009-10 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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