Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

November 29, 2008

Daily Ten: Holiday Edition

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 3:38 am

There was three quarters of a solid game between New Orleans and Portland on Friday, as chronicled by Kevin Pelton. This was one of those deceptive-type matchups on the schedule that seems as if it could be a measuring stick game for both teams. In fact, New Orleans, not the deepest of squads anyway, was coming off a hard-fought win in Denver on Thursday. With the Hornets up by four late in the third quarter, Byron Scott‘s crew got a bad case of the old back-to-backs.

It was still a good win for the Blazers, who are tied with Utah and Phoenix for the second-best record in the West behind LA. Way behind LA. In fact, if current winning percentages were to hold up, the Lakers would win the West by 23 games.

Portland is a strong fourth in my current power rankings, playing like a 60-win team. The Blazers face a rugged stretch coming up as they head east for five games, including stops in Detroit and Boston. By the time they return to sniff the Rose Garden, the Blazers’ will have played 15 of their first 22 games on the road. If they’re still sitting at second in the West after this road trip, easier times lie ahead.

Nov. 28 (19.1% of season complete, 235/1230 games)

Friday’s games

No. Player, team           gRATE
_1. james,lebron_cle       16.7
_2. wade,dwyane_mia        11.7
_3. granger,danny_ind      11.4
_4. bynum,andrew_lal       10.3
_5. allen,ray_bos           9.9
_6. herrmann,walter_det     9.8
_7. okur,mehmet_uta         9.0
_8. graham,joey_tor         8.8
_9. brewer,corey_min        8.8
10. okafor,emeka_cha        8.5

Thursday’s games

No. Player, team           gRATE
_1. smith,jr_den           15.2
_2. butler,rasual_nwo       9.8
_3. johnson,anthony_orl     9.7
_4. paul,chris_nwo          8.9
_5. howard,dwight_orl       8.1
_6. carter,anthony_den      5.3
_7. daniels,antonio_was     2.1
_8. lee,courtney_orl        2.0
_9. butler,caron_was        1.9
10. andersen,chris_den      1.7

Wednesday’s games

No. Player, team           gRATE
_1. jefferson,al_min       11.8
_2. gordon,eric_lac        11.0
_3. millsap,paul_uta       10.9
_4. gordon,ben_chi         10.0
_5. anderson,ryan_njn       9.7
_6. ilgauskas,zydrunas_cle  9.6
_7. rondo,rajon_bos         9.3
_8. afflalo,arron_det       9.2
_9. outlaw,travis_por       9.1
10. nash,steve_phx          8.7

Explanation of gRATE here:

In the news

  • The Celtics had Sam Cassell on their active roster for the first time this season on Friday for the game against the Sixers. Cassell took the spot of Gabe Pruitt, who was ill. Cassell didn’t play in the game.
  • With Jason Richardson back in the lineup, the D.J. AugustinRaymond Felton backcourt experiment came to an end, at least for the time being. Charlotte beat Indiana in OT as Felton scored a season-best 31 points. Augustin did play 35 minutes off the bench as Larry Brown elected to go small for most of the contest.
  • Don’t look now, but the Spurs welcomed Tony Parker back to the roster on Friday in San Antonio’s win over Memphis. Parker hardly looked rusty, scoring 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 16 minutes off the bench. The game marked the first time this season that Gregg Popovich‘s core trio of Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Giniobili played in the same game.

Tonight’s games

+10 cle @ mil,  9:00 p.m. EST [ cle by 13 ]
+ 9 ind @ orl,  7:00 p.m. EST [ orl by 10 ]
+ 7 sas @ hou,  8:30 p.m. EST [ hou by  5 ]
+ 5 bos @ cha,  7:00 p.m. EST [ bos by 11 ]
+ 1 njn @ uta,  9:00 p.m. EST [ uta by 13 ]
- 2 den @ min,  8:00 p.m. EST [ den by  4 ]
- 5 atl @ was,  7:00 p.m. EST [ atl by  7 ]
- 8 dal @ sac, 10:00 p.m. EST [ dal by  7 ]
- 8 mia @ lac, 10:30 p.m. EST [ mia by 10 ]
- 9 gsw @ nyk,  7:30 p.m. EST [ nyk by  4 ]
-21 okc @ mem,  8:00 p.m. EST [ mem by 12 ]

Notes: Games listed in order of quality, as determined by the sum of each team’s efficiency ratio. NBAPET projected winner and margin of victory is listed in brackets.

Questions or comments?

November 28, 2008

Live Blog: Portland vs. New Orleans

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 11:24 pm

Hello from the Rose Garden, where the Portland Trail Blazers host the New Orleans Hornets tonight in a matchup of two Western Conference contenders. Besides taking in a great matchup, I’ve got two things I’m keeping an eye on tonight which might be column topics in the near future: Greg Oden’s terrible plus-minus thus far and Chris Paul’s defense.

Locally, those topics are surely overshadowed by tomorrow’s Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State. As I type, the Blazers’ video screen is picking out fans on both sides. For the record, because Washington and Oregon are bitter rivals, I’m definitely cheering for the Beavers to make an improbable run for the Rose Bowl. Enough football. I’ll settle in for some hoops and offer updates each quarter or so.

Portland 31, New Orleans 26 (end first quarter): Raise your hand if you thought coming into the season that the Blazers would boast the league’s second-best offense this deep into the season. Put it down; no you didn’t. Well, maybe Blazers homers. Tonight has done nothing to change that. Portland hit 65.0 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from three-point range in the first quarter.

When Steve Blake is hitting from downtown as he has tonight, not to mention playing some more-than-acceptable defense on Chris Paul, I start to wonder if maybe the Blazers already have the complement to Brandon Roy that they need.

Portland 51, New Orleans 46 (halftime): For the third time in as many games as I’ve attended at the Rose Garden this season, it’s been back and forth. The Blazers led the majority of the first half, but a late run gave the Hornets a one-point edge before a Nicolas Batum three offered the final halftime margin in favor of the home team.

The perimeter trio of Batum, Steve Blake and Brandon Roy has powered the Blazers, combining for 32 points and nine assists. Batum has really had a great game at both ends of the floor, scoring 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting and knocking down a pair of triples. With Martell Webster due back before long, Nate McMillan is going to have a tough time divvying up minutes at the three spot.

On the New Orleans side, Chris Paul got it going in the second quarter and the Hornets got an enormous lift from James Posey, who had 10 points off the bench. New Orleans is going to need more stops to win this game, something that has been a recurring theme this season.

Portland 77, New Orleans 69 (end third quarter): When David West hit a jumper to put the Hornets up 69-65, the visitors briefly succeeded in quieting the Rose Garden. Things changed quickly, as the Blazers started locking down on defense. The Hornets did not score the rest of the quarter as Portland finished on a 12-0 run to take an eight-point lead to the fourth. When the Blazers get stops, they are a very good team.

I made a note to watch Chris Paul’s interactions with Byron Scott after Bill Simmons’ column earlier this week. During the third quarter, Paul went up to Scott during free throws, the exact setting Simmons described except initiated by the player. He seemed upset, but not at Scott. I think Simmons misread this one. I recall thinking the first time I saw Paul play in person as a rookie that he plays angry with a chip on his shoulder all the time. It’s not necessarily directed at his teammates or coach; that’s just how he is.

Portland 101, New Orleans 86 (final): An impressive seventh consecutive win at the Rose Garden for the Blazers. This game was pretty much even except for Portland’s run at the end of the third and start of the fourth, which I believe reached 20-2 all told. The Blazers got enough stops in that stretch to win the game.

At the end, Portland had the luxury of putting the ball in the hands of Brandon Roy when the team’s offense briefly stagnated. Roy isolated at the top of the key in a 1-4 flat set and the Hornets had no answer. Chris Paul has had consecutive triple-doubles, but tonight Roy out-Pauled the man himself, finishing with 25 points, 10 assists and six boards. (Paul settled for 16, six and six.)

The Hornets got a strong night from Peja Stojakovic offensively (21 points), but the Blazers contained Paul and no one else hurt them. David West was very quiet in finishing with 10 points and three rebounds.

November 26, 2008

Daily Ten: Weekly 25

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 3:22 pm

There is only one thing you can be certain about: This will not be the last time I fall behind on updating the database that generates NBAPET ratings. The NBA sets up its schedule so that is seems like games just keep coming night after night. They never stop. The leaves fall from the trees. The ground gets hard, then is buried in ice and snow. Eventually that all melts and the trees come alive again. The winter coats go back into the attic. And still, all the while, the NBA games keep coming — 1,230 of them. It’s a beautiful thing, and a lot to keep track track of.

I’ll be finishing up this week’s Prospectus Hits List this evening. Watch for that later in the week. Beyond that, please accept my best wishes for a safe and happy holiday weekend. The “happy” part of that sentiment does NOT apply KU football fans. See you at Arrowhead.

Nov. 18-Nov. 25 (17.0% of season complete, 209/1230 games)

No. Player, team           gRATE   (DATE)
_1. jamison,antawn_was     16.88 (18-Nov)
_2. foye,randy_min         16.76 (23-Nov)
_3. carter,vince_njn       16.12 (22-Nov)
_4. carter,vince_njn       14.95 (21-Nov)
_5. terry,jason_dal        14.91 (25-Nov)
_6. bosh,chris_tor         14.44 (18-Nov)
_7. paul,chris_nwo         14.35 (22-Nov)
_8. blatche,andray_was     14.32 (25-Nov)
_9. mason,roger_sas        13.58 (21-Nov)
10. johnson,joe_atl        13.43 (21-Nov)
11. law,acie_atl           13.32 (22-Nov)
12. augustin,dj_cha        13.22 (24-Nov)
13. kaman,chris_lac        12.74 (19-Nov)
14. rondo,rajon_bos        12.70 (21-Nov)
15. chalmers,mario_mia     12.69 (24-Nov)
16. granger,danny_ind      12.52 (18-Nov)
17. kidd,jason_dal         11.79 (21-Nov)
18. granger,danny_ind      11.69 (21-Nov)
19. wade,dwyane_mia        11.49 (22-Nov)
20. bosh,chris_tor         11.45 (21-Nov)
21. ming,yao_hou           11.39 (24-Nov)
22. gordon,ben_chi         11.31 (23-Nov)
23. west,delonte_cle       11.28 (22-Nov)
24. bryant,kobe_lal        11.05 (21-Nov)
25. nowitzki,dirk_dal      11.02 (18-Nov)

Explanation of gRATE here:

In the news

  • I don’t have nearly enough programming ability and/or remotely enough time to do gRATE and Wins Produced metrics for college basketball. I can, however, track those items for Mizzou basketball. That info can be found here. Also on that page is my live blog from the Xavier-Missouri game.

Tonight’s games

+ 8  mia @ por, 10:00 p.m. EST [ por by  2 ]
+ 8  orl @ phi,  7:30 p.m. EST [ orl by  3 ]
+ 6  ind @ hou,  8:30 p.m. EST [ hou by  6 ]
+ 5  gsw @ bos,  7:30 p.m. EST [ bos by 16 ]
+ 0  mil @ atl,  7:00 p.m. EST [ atl by  8 ]
- 2  chi @ sas,  8:30 p.m. EST [ sas by  9 ]
- 2  mem @ uta,  9:00 p.m. EST [ uta by 11 ]
- 2  phx @ min,  8:00 p.m. EST [ phx by  4 ]
- 3  okc @ cle,  7:00 p.m. EST [ cle by 28 ]
- 6  cha @ tor,  7:00 p.m. EST [ tor by  7 ]
- 6  nyk @ det,  8:00 p.m. EST [ det by  5 ]
- 8  den @ lac, 10:30 p.m. EST [ den by 10 ]
-13  njn @ sac, 10:00 p.m. EST [ sac by  0 ]
Tomorrow's games
+ 8  nwo @ den, 10:30 p.m. EST [ den by  1 ]
+ 0  orl @ was,  8:00 p.m. EST [ orl by 11 ]

Notes: Games listed in order of quality, as determined by the sum of each team’s efficiency ratio. NBAPET projected winner and margin of victory is listed in brackets.

Questions or comments?

November 25, 2008

The Night of Living Dangerously

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 10:35 am

We interrupt your regularly scheduled week of neutral-floor Thanksgiving week Classics (Maui, CBE, Old Spice, etc.) to bring you a couple notable results from last night that took place in good old-fashioned home-court games. Two high-major teams that are supposed to be pretty good struggled to win against feisty mid-majors. No upsets here, but it was close…. 

Baylor beat Jacksonville 76-68 in Waco. (Relatively) big things are expected from a veteran group of Bears this year, coming off their first NCAA appearance in 20 years. The worry with this team, however, will be defense, and, while it’s only November, yielding 61 percent two-point shooting on your home floor to an A-Sun opponent does little to assuage that particular worry. Still, it’s a W. Actually the big news here was that Bears freshman Quincy Acy actually missed a shot (it’s true!) after starting the season a perfect 17-for-17 from the field over three games. Alas, now the lad is a mere 19-of-20 for the season. Sounds like it’s time from some extra shooting drills. Meantime, the Dolphins are making a habit out of dropping close games to power-conference opponents, having previously lost at home to Florida State by two and at Georgetown by nine. Georgia Tech is next: the Fins travel to Atlanta Friday night.

Ohio State beat Bowling Green 61-57 in Columbus. Thad Matta is looking for offense to replace the possessions used and shots taken last year by Kosta Koufos and Jamar Butler. After watching his team score just 61 points in a 66-possession game against an opponent that just went 7-9 in the MAC, however, it’s safe to say the Buckeye coach is still looking. Matta, per usual, brought in two McDonald’s All-American freshmen this season (B.J. Mullens and William Buford), which is two more than the rest of the Big Ten combined. For now, however, the shots are being taken for the most part by (relative) geezers like Jon Diebler and junior college transfer Jeremie Simmons. That worked, barely, last night, but OSU will need more makes next week when they play at Miami in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

November 24, 2008

Second Coaching Change: Jordan Out in D.C.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 2:15 pm

It’s not even Thanksgiving, and already we have our second NBA head-coaching change. Predictably, it was the NBA’s other one-win team, the Washington Wizards, who made the move two days after their counterparts in Oklahoma City. Eddie Jordan was let go after five-plus years at the helm of the Wizards, along with associate head coach Mike O’Koren, a Jordan loyalist.

Jordan’s demise was not unexpected, given the Wizards have started 1-10 and lost Saturday to a short-handed Knicks squad that played just seven players. More surprising is his replacement, Ed Tapscott. I was only familiar with Tapscott as a front-office executive, the role he held in Charlotte for the first three years of the Bobcats’ existence (where he also had oversight of business operations) and in New York before that. I had not realized that Tapscott was a head coach at American University in D.C. for nine years in the ’80s and had been working with the Washington coaching staff since last year as director of player development/programs.

Still, Tapscott seems like an odd choice, unless his role is heavy on the interim. Randy Ayers, who coached the 76ers for one season and has more extensive and more recent college head-coaching experience, is a more natural fit.

The Wizards are bound to improve. There’s way too much talent on this team to be 1-10, especially as the team gets healthy. The injuries may have ultimately cost Jordan his job. Washington could survive without Gilbert Arenas, but losing Arenas’ backup (Antonio Daniels) and defensive anchor Brendan Haywood proved far too much to overcome.

by Bradford Doolittle 

The Wizards have pulled the plug on highly-respected Eddie Jordan, sacking the sixth-year coach and his top assistant, Mike O’Koren.

Washington is off to a 1-10 start with projected starters Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood out with injuries. The on-court picture is grim—the Wizards are near the bottom of the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency against a middle-of-the-pack schedule. However, Jordan had led Washington to four straight .500-or-better finishes and four straight playoff appearances. Prior to that run, the franchise had missed the playoffs in 15 out of 16 seasons.

Jordan will be replaced on an interim basis by Wizards director of player development Ed Tapscott. ESPN is also reporting that former Ohio State coach Randy Ayers will be Tapscott’s top assistant.

Tapscott has held about every basketball-related job you can hold, and that includes broadcasting. His only previous head coaching experience was an eight-year stint at American University in the 1980s.

UConn vs. Miami: Everyone Looks Good

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 12:25 pm

No doubt Xavier‘s hard-fought win against Memphis was more exciting down the stretch, but as it happens there was a truly “big” game being played at the same time at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands: Connecticut vs. Miami. Two top-20 teams, Big East vs. ACC. The coming tournament-happy week could bring a few more collisions of equal heft but this was the first one. And it was fun, as the Huskies prevailed 76-63.

In my Big East preview this year (buy the book!), I dinged UConn for its surprisingly weak defensive rebounding, noting that said weakness was the largest single factor behind a defense that was only average in Big East play. True and true. That being said, I’m beginning to wonder whether Jim Calhoun‘s team simply doesn’t sweat opponents’ offensive rebounds. They know Hasheem Thabeet will swat away any put-backs anyway. At least that’s how it played out yesterday. The Huskies’ numbers were again weak on the defensive glass but it mattered not one whit, as Thabeet recorded a gaudy seven blocks (to go with a 19-14 dub-dub on 8-of-11 shooting) and the Hurricanes shot an abysmal 34 percent on their twos.

And yet if you saw this game there were a few incredibly impressive twos from the ‘Canes, weren’t there? I’m thinking of that sudden and spectacular dunk the 6-8 Dwayne Collins inflicted on Thabeet–not on a break, either, but off a good old-fashioned Pete Newell back-to-the-basket post move. (Thabeet appears to prefer some space between himself and his victim. An interesting number to track would be how many blocks he records against his own man versus many he inflicts on his teammates’ men.) Not to be outdone, Jack McClinton lofted the sweetest teardrop yet seen offshore, one that teased and eluded Thabeet, kissed off the glass and went in. Thabeet’s actually something of an evaluative gift to opposing players: if McClinton can make that shot against the Huskies’ shot-blocker, Q.E.D., he can make it in the NBA, a thought that probably wasn’t lost on the passel of pro scouts on hand for this game. Granted McClinton’s line for the game was nothing to write home about (he needed 23 shots to get 27 points) but there were stretches in this contest when he was the best player on a floor crowded with big-name guards.   

Speaking of which, A.J. Price is back from ACL surgery, yes, but it’s a something of a tribute to the senior that he can record a 13-11 dub-dub while nevertheless giving one the sense that he’s not yet really up to speed. No worries for the Huskies there, however. Freshman Kemba Walker‘s up to speed enough for any three guards. Walker’s every bit as fast as advertised but on first blush it would appear he’s also something even more important: fearless. (For one thing Calhoun had him guarding McClinton.) A couple more appearances like this against quality opponents will kick-start pundit speculation on when Walker will crack the starting lineup. I say start, schmart. Calhoun can dole out honorary starts to more veteran players if he wishes. What Walker may yet prove that he merits is more precious than mere showy honorifics: minutes.

Alas, after tonight’s title game against Wisconsin, UConn will effectively disappear for almost a month. Not until the Huskies take the court at Key Arena in Seattle against Gonzaga on December 20 will we again have the chance to measure this team against a worthy foe. Mark the date: Thabeet vs. Austin Daye, certainly the best basketball the suddenly NBA-less Emerald City will see anytime soon. 

November 22, 2008

First Coaching Change

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 2:24 pm

In the last week, the indignities have piled up for the 1-12 Oklahoma City Thunder. On Wednesday, the team heard boos at the Ford Center for the first time during a 20-point loss to the equally-lowly Clippers (who were so encouraged by blowing out the Thunder they decided to make a major trade). Last night, OKC’s former residents the Hornets came in and blew out the Thunder by 25 points on national TV. The contrast between the two teams who have called the Ford Center home could not have been much more dramatic.

Apparently, that was all Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti needed to see, as he fired head coach P.J. Carlesimo late Friday night after the game. Carlesimo’s status was already shaky when the team made the move; Presti’s unwillingness to provide a definitive statement on Carlesimo’s future at the end of the regular season made some headlines last April in Seattle.

More telling might be that Paul Westhead, Carlesimo’s lead assistant, was fired as well. (Fellow assistant Scott Brooks, considered an up-and-comer in coaching circles, takes over as interim head coach, with just two nominal assistant coaches–Ralph Lewis and Mark Bryant–left on his staff at the moment.) While I noted in yesterday’s coaching trees article that Carlesimo’s philosophy largely matched that of Gregg Popovich, who could be considered Presti’s mentor, the one exception is Carlesimo’s desire to play at a fast pace. Of course, Westhead, nicknamed the “Guru of Go,” has had teams play faster than anyone in NBA history. That Westhead is out of the picture may be a sign the Thunder plans to slow things down considerably, which if nothing else should help the team keep things somewhat more respectable.

November 21, 2008

Crawford-Harrington Swap

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 5:14 pm

As has been reported … everywhere, the Knicks and Warriors have agreed to a deal that will send Jamal Crawford to the East Bay while reuniting Al Harrington with Donnie Walsh, the Knicks’ president of basketball operations who originally drafted Harrington in Indiana (and later traded for him before sending him on again to Golden State in the first place).

Realistically speaking, though, the Knicks acquired AHEC (Al Harrington’s expiring contract), and for them this move is a sign that instead of being seduced by a solid start, the team will continue to stockpile cap space for the summer of 2010 (when Harrington’s deal expires; barring him opting out, Crawford is signed through 2010-11). There have also been some whispers of a related deal that would send Zach Randolph (and Mardy Collins) to the L.A. Clippers for Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas, which would clear additional space.

The Warriors get a pretty solid player for the disgruntled Harrington, but man is this team going to be flush with guards when Monta Ellis gets healthy. Even with Corey Maggette presumably sliding to power forward, is there enough room with Kelenna Azubuike and sudden star Anthony Morrow coming off the bench?

I’ll have some more substantive thoughts on the deal later.

Classing Surprises: Michigan, Seton Hall, 167 points, etc.

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 12:44 pm

Michigan beat UCLA 55-52 at Madison Square Garden last night and will face Duke tonight in the title game of the 2K Sports Classic. Let that sink in. 

To class this outcome as a mere “surprise” won’t do. Last year this same Michigan team, after all, lost at Harvard by 11 points. Last year this same Michigan team, playing at home, gave Northwestern its only conference win. Last year this same Michigan team finished 10-21.

All true enough, but that was last year. The young Wolverines will still face their share of struggles this year, of course, quite possibly as soon as this evening. But let it be fairly said of last night’s game that it had the clarifying effect you sometimes grasp even in murky November. John Beilein‘s team is better than I thought they’d be. And Ben Howland‘s is worse.

Yes, there had already been intimations of mortality where the Bruin offense is concerned. I had already seen UCLA struggling to score enough points merely to beat Miami of Ohio in Pauley Pavilion. Indeed it would seem that an ode should be penned to Kevin Love (and, perhaps, Russell Westbrook). See how halting and ineffective the Bruin offense now appears despite being outfitted not only with a full kit of Final Four mainstays (Darren CollisonJosh Shipp, and Alfred Aboya), but also by smooth freshman Jrue Holiday, who despite his youth appeared singularly well-prepared for and unperturbed by the Wolverines’ 1-3-1 defense.   

Get ready for a fair amount of pundit love for said 1-3-1, of course, but beware: the aforementioned Miami precedent suggests that the Bruins’ struggles last night said a lot more about the UCLA offense than they did about the Michigan defense. Sure, the 1-3-1 is a pain for opponents who have to prepare for something they see once a year. But during Beilein’s time at West Virginia, at least, the actual results of this particular D were below (the Big East) average. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course–it’s the offense that gets it done for Beilein. It’s just that spending time and oxygen on the 1-3-1 where the subject under study is Beilein is a little like obsessing over fielding where the subject is Manny Ramirez or special teams where the subject is Mike Leach. It’s just not where the juice is.

One last finger-waggle. Let’s cool the Manny Harris-for-Big-Ten POY talk. Sure, he could win it. Stranger things have happened. But all we know of the young man so far is that he’s an excellent free throw shooter who had a disastrous (I’m talking Rutgers-level) season shooting the rock from the field last year.   

Speaking of Big Ten teams who hurt your eyes last year. You needed ESPN Full Court to see it, but Illinois can now say they’ve won a true road game against an SEC opponent. (Then again so can Mercer. Har!) The Illini prevailed 69-63 against a suddenly young-looking Vanderbilt team. Even more strange, Illinois got the job done with good perimeter shooting (10-of-19 on threes).

Speaking of ranked Pac-10 teams laying eggs. If you’re looking for hoops outside the continental U.S., November is for you. In Puerto Rico Seton Hall beat USC 63-61. The Trojans, variously ranked as number 19 or 20, led by 15 at the half but an 18-point second half sealed their doom. Big win for the Pirates, surely. And yet….Verily, I say, in the Gonzalez era it has been much more difficult to be impressed by the Hall after February 1 in any given season. Stay tuned.

BONUS Unified Theory of Paul Westhead! On January 5, 1991, Loyola Marymount scored 186 points against U.S. International. Fast forward almost 18 years: former LMU head coach Paul Westhead is now an NBA assistant in Oklahoma City. Apparently he’s been making the 83-mile trip to Ada, OK, to offer stylistic pointers to East Central University. For you see last night Texas Tech came within a mere 19 points of Westhead’s old record, registering 167 points in a 119-possession game against the Division II Tigers. You will be able to watch literally years of college basketball before you again see a game where committing 18 turnovers is actually a good result. Such was indeed the case last night for the Red Raiders, however, who in fact gave the ball away on just 15 percent of their possessions. And if a team that’s scoring a once-in-a-season 1.40 points per trip in a once-in-a-generation 119-possession game can only come within about 20 points of LMU’s record, the question might fairly be asked whether said record belongs to the ethereal and untouchable realm of 56-game hitting streaks and such.

Absolutely. No surprise there.

November 19, 2008

And Then There Were None

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 3:19 pm

Of everything I wrote during my first year at Basketball Prospectus, my favorite column was probably one posted a year ago today looking at the fast starts of the New Orleans Hornets and Orlando Magic and arguing, based on the history of similar teams, that they were almost certainly not flukes. The Hornets and Magic, as well as the Boston Celtics, joined seven other teams since the start of the ’80s to start at least 8-2 coming off of a .500 season. With their additions, six of the 10 ended up division champs, and eight of the 10 have won at least one playoff series.

Alas, there will be no addition to the list this year, nor even to the slightly less prestigious group that started 7-3. The last hope was the Atlanta Hawks, and their fourth consecutive loss yesterday dropped them to 6-4 after their unbeaten six-game start.

The bigger picture of that column is that things have generally settled down at the team level by the 10-game point. That’s good news for the Hawks as well as above-.500 teams Miami, New York and Portland (all 6-5), but the early evidence doesn’t suggest a surprise team on the magnitude of New Orleans and Orlando a year ago.

Bonus Along the Lines of the Previous John Gasaway Post Note: I’m glad John has chosen to concentrate on rebounding percentage. Personally, I’ll know my life’s work is complete when the last writer has determined an offense or particularly a defense’s quality based on points scored or allowed per game with no regard for prace of play.

Chat Thursday: Join me tomorrow at Baseball Prospectus at 1 p.m. EST to talk about the first three weeks of the NBA season. If you can’t make it, submit your question now and check out the transcript.

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