Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

November 30, 2010

Syracuse University Charity Sports Auction

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jesse Behr @ 6:18 pm

This year, Syracuse University will be holding its 6th annual charity sports auction on December 5, 2010 during the SU-North Carolina State men’s basketball game. The auction will be held in the backcourt of the Carrier Dome before and during the game. Doors will open at 3:00 p.m. and the auction will run until the end of halftime. It has raised almost $100,000 for various non-profit organizations over the past 5 years.

Copies of the brand-new College Basketball Prospectus 2010-11 will be sold during the event at our retail price of $19.95. One hundred percent of the proceeds from this year’s auction will benefit the Central New York SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). The CNY SPCA provides many services for the animals in our area, including adoption, education, spay/neuter programs, and investigation into animal cruelty.

If you purchase a ticket to the basketball game, you’ll have the added value of the auction at no additional cost. So if you live in the greater New York area, please stop by and show your support.

Email: jjbehr@baseballprospectus.com; Twitter: @jj_behr

Fantasy Projections updated

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 2:24 pm

I’ve finished making additions / tweaks to the fantasy projection download. The latest version is now available on your ‘Manage Profile’ page.

There are seven basic enhancements to the new version of the Basketball Fantasy Spreadsheet. They are:

1. Playing time: Estimates for minutes now reflect a player’s current place in the team’s rotation and his availability. Previous sheets simply used minutes per game so far this season. The estimates are somewhat based on the season usage number, but more weight is giving to playing numbers from the last two weeks. Also, minutes are adjusted for current team news–injuries, suspensions, etc. Also, note that 10 players per team are projected in any given forecast, reflecting a typical team’s base rotation.

2. Game-by-game projections: The ‘Games’ tab in each spreadsheet lists the single-game projections for each player over the next seven days. Each player game has its own line.

3. Health status: To aid my playing time estimates, I created cells next to the part of my player logistics spreadsheet in which I log daily news. I have passed those along to you here. The cells are marked ‘RED’, ‘GREEN’ OR ‘YELLOW’ and are colored accordingly.

RED — The player is not expected to be available in the next week, whether it’s due to injury, suspension or an assignment to the D-League.

GREEN — The player has been available healthwise in each game over the previous two weeks and there are no indications from current news that he will miss any time in the coming week.

YELLOW — The player has either missed a game due to injury during the previous two weeks, there is current news that indicates he may miss time in the coming week, or he is recovering from an injury and is reportedly close enough to returning that he can be upgraded from ‘RED’.

4. Base positions: The system analyzes the playing time grid and determines at which position the player is most likely to receive the most minutes. This does not reflect eligibility for fantasy leagues.

5. Documentation: The notes tab details the Fantasy Projection system and contains definitions.

6. Three-day archive: The first tab on each sheet will reflect the current seven-day window. The right-most tabs each day will archive the three most-recent days’ worth of forecasts.

7. Daily upload/download: A new sheet will be available for download each day. The aim will be to have them available first thing in the morning.

Hope you enjoy the projections. As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or comments.

Email:  bdoolittle@basketballprospectus.com; Twitter: @bbdoolittle

November 29, 2010

Programming Notes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 2:30 pm

DEERFIELD, ILL | I was hard at work putting together today’s copious PBP Roundup when I was called away to cover today’s Chicago Bulls practice at the Berto Center. Carlos Boozer is working out with the team today and the hope is some news will be shed on when the Bulls’ marquee free-agent will return to game action. It could come as early as Chicago’s home game on Wednesday against Orlando. We’ll see.

I’ve made my way to the Berto Center, snaking along the freeways which I normally avoid like the plague, and am biding my time in the media room, while Tom Thibodeau’s muffled voice is interspersed with the squeaking of sneakers and the pounding of basketballs in the gym on the other side of the wall. While I wait, I’ll be finishing some upgrades to the Fantasy Projections spreadsheet, and will ship that off to become available via download at your Manage Profile page. I’ll document the updates once I’m finished, and I think you’ll be pleased with the result of my holiday labor. This new sheet will supersede the sheet I uploaded a couple of days ago, which hopefully has sufficed for you in the interim. Beginning today, there will be a new sheet uploaded daily.

The Roundup will go up later tonight, along with a piece on the league’s most improved players so far this season. (Heck, the pieces may go up earlier than that given how long Thibodeau’s practices tend to run.) I’ll also put up a short Unfiltered post sharing what, if any, news I find out about Boozer. Sorry for the delay.

Don’t tell the Big Ten it’s the favorite

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 10:47 am

I honestly don’t know what the conference’s reaction would be if it knew that it’s supposed to win this year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge. This is the same conference, after all, that went 0-10 in the event’s first decade, before finally breaking through with a 6-5 win last year. And now they’re the big scary odds-on favorites? Well, yes, actually.

Allow me to restate some points made in a simply marvelous new book that you should have by now. The paradox of a conference vs. conference “Challenge” like this is that a game like tonight’s Virginia at Minnesota match-up actually matters. A lot. Sure, Michigan State at Duke should in theory be a lot more fun to watch, but then again the Blue Devils are highly likely to win that game. Intuitively we might suppose that the entertainment value of the 11 games, the outcome of the Challenge, and the respective might of the two conferences would be more or less related. In fact the Challenge proves that, at least lately, these have been three entirely separate entities. Last year the poor forlorn “down” ACC lost the Challenge for the first time ever…and went on to claim its second consecutive national championship.

I had a Nate Silver-style post all teed up along these lines, one that would purport to show that some of this year’s dullest games on paper are likely to have the most impact on which conference wins this thing. But my colleague Ken Pomeroy already beat me to it, so I’m in the happy position of having merely to point. Pace Ken and phrased in Silver terms, I think the following rather low-key match-ups will actually be the three key “swing” games of this year’s Challenge. In other words with the exception of Ohio State winning at Florida State I expect the home team to prevail in every other game.

Iowa at Wake Forest (Tuesday, ESPNU, 7 ET)
The Hawkeyes used to play at a really slow pace under former coach Todd Lickliter, but under new guy Fran McCaffery they’re averaging 73 possessions per 40 minutes. More importantly they were competitive against Xavier and beat Alabama on their way to a 3-3 mark. Meanwhile first-year Deacons coach Jeff Bzdelik has a somewhat unearned reputation for going slow, a reputation that will quickly melt if Wake continues to average 75 possessions per outing as they have thus far. Alas, the Deacons’ 3-3 looks a little more shaky than Iowa’s–Wake’s losses have come to Stetson, VCU, and Winthrop. Then again Bzdelik’s men will be playing at home.

Purdue at Virginia Tech (Wednesday, ESPN, 7:30 ET)
Two teams coming off losses. The Boilermakers looked seriously under-powered scoring 54 points in 64 possessions in their 11-point neutral-floor loss to Richmond on Saturday. The Hokies, on the other hand, looked surprisingly permissive in yielding 71 points in 60 trips in their 12-point neutral-floor loss to UNLV yesterday. Matt Painter‘s team has the AP All-American (JaJuan Johnson) but Seth Greenberg‘s team will be hosting.

Maryland at Penn State (Wednesday, ESPN2, 9:15 ET)
We here at Prospectus like Terrapin big man Jordan Williams, and thus far Maryland’s only losses have come to Pitt and Illinois–no shame there. But at the risk of being repetitive, there’s a home team in this here game and they’re known as the Nittany Lions. Not to mention Talor Battle seems to turn into Oscar Robertson every time he sees an ACC opponent. Last year against Virginia and Virginia Tech, Battle hit 10 of 20 threes and scored 64 points.

So, yeah, the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is an artificial contrivance that happens way too early and its outcome is overanalyzed with hungry zeal by overzealous pundits. It is also, however, a genuinely compelling competitive spectacle. Enjoy the Iowa Caucuses of hoops!      

November 25, 2010

Without Rondo, The Celtics Squeak By A Scrappy Nets Team

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sebastian Pruiti @ 12:10 am

Coming into the season, Avery Johnson‘s goal for the New Jersey Nets’ defense was to hold opposing teams to 44 percent shooting. That defense, combined with the emphasis put on really slowing the pace, was the Nets’ strategy for defeating the Boston Celtics at home. Johnson’s squad executed just about as well as you could have expected, holding the Celtics to just 44.9 percent shooting and limiting the game to just 86 total possessions (For reference, the slowest team in the NBA – the Dallas Mavericks – play at a pace of 91.1 possessions per game). This effort was almost enough, but the Celtics can play a little defense themselves, and they were able to hold the Nets to just 37 points in the second half.

With Rajon Rondo missing the game due to injury, we really got to see the impact he has on the Boston Celtics’ offense. Not only did the team as a whole struggle to score points effectively, posting a 103.5 Offensive Efficiency Rating as a team, but the Celtics’ Big Three struggled to score as well:

Paul Pierce: 18 points on 7-17 shooting (1-5 from three)
Kevin Garnett: 8 points on 4-12 shooting
Ray Allen: 15 points on 5-11 shooting (3-5 from three)

It should be noted that two of Allen’s threes came off of defensive mix-ups late in the fourth quarter. So how did Boston come away with the win? Two reasons. First, Shaquille O’Neal picked up the slack. O’Neal had what was no doubt his best game as a Celtic, scoring 25 points on 9-10 shooting, and maybe more importantly, going 7-13 from the free throw line.

The Celtics’ defense also did its part. I already mentioned the 37 points in the second half, and in addition to that, the Celtics were able to force the Nets into a turnover on 19.8% of their possessions. This is what allowed the Celtics to put up 11 more shots than the Nets. The Celtics’ bigs also did a very nice job defending Brook Lopez, who put up 16 points but needed 14 shots to do so. The Celtics forced Lopez to catch it out of his comfort zone and than brought double teams right into his face when he did get into the lane. Lopez never looked comfortable, and when that happens, the Nets usually struggle on the offensive end.

Johnson’s Nets played as hard as you would expect them to, but with tight defense and with help from some unlikely places, the Boston Celtics were able to come away with a win.

November 24, 2010

Presti Gets Creative with Collison’s Extension

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 10:07 pm

Leave it to Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti to find a unique way to make use of the Thunder’s room under the salary cap. Having already collected plenty of first-round picks and young players with cap space in the past, this time Presti effectively used the space  to save some money over the next four years as part of an extension for Oklahoma City center Nick Collison. The Collective Bargaining Agreement allows teams to use space as part of renegotiated contracts, but this virtually never happens. According to multiple reports (I saw ESPN’s Marc Stein break this first), Collison got a signing bonus of $6.5 million that applies to the cap immediately as part of a four-year, $11 million extension that takes him off the free-agent market at season’s end.

From Collison’s perspective, he’s signed for four years and $17.5 million–a good deal for a 30-year-old reserve, especially given the uncertain future of the CBA. (In fact, the contract is slightly more valuable to Collison because of the time value of money and getting so much up front.) But the deal is very friendly to the Thunder’s cap, since Collison will be making an average of less than $3 million per season, down to just $2.24 million the final year.

All the complexity makes evaluating the extension from Oklahoma City’s position a bit tricky. We have to consider the cap number, the actual cash outlay and the alternative assets the Thunder could have gleaned from its cap space by the trade deadline (likely at least one first-round pick). Ultimately, I think it should work out well for Oklahoma City. Collison has been important to the Thunder’s defense, which missed him early this season when he was out with a stress reaction in his lower left leg, and is a veteran presence in the young Oklahoma City locker room. Collison will be making so little by the end of his extension–not even twice the veteran minimum–that it represents relatively little risk to the Thunder.

Whatever your take on the value, say this for Presti–he’s willing to try anything and everything to help his team.

Fins To The Left: When Mid-Majors Attack (In Paradise)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kyle Whelliston @ 3:28 pm

The music of Jimmy Buffett has been specifically synthesized (in an evil underground laboratory, perhaps) to appeal to a very narrowly-defined segment of the American population: middle-aged men living in cold-weather climates who spend most of their days behind desks. The lyrics invoke images of tropical adventure and intrigue, the likes of which are completely unattainable to their consumers — for 51 weeks out of the year, at least. That the target Buffett demographic so perfectly Venn-overlaps with the majority of college basketball coaches is nothing less than a spectacular coincidence.

This reporter has not found many — or, rather, any — Division I bench bosses who will cop to being “Parrotheads.” But for those in the smaller conferences, the woozy charm of warm islands, and particular Carribean harbors in ports-of-call named for saints, offer rare opportunities to hook the big fish of the Big Six.

On Tuesday, long-suffering Atlantic 10 entry La Salle overcame Providence in Cancun. Nebraska fell victim to a post-Curry Davidson squad last weekend. And the Paradise Jam in sunny St. Thomas saw a rash of neutral-court takedowns: CAA champion Old Dominion over Clemson, the Big West’s Long Beach State over Iowa, and perhaps most startlingly, Saint Peter’s of the MAAC over Alabama. These were the same Peacocks that won 38 games over the last four seasons. Fifth-year head coach John Dunne had not somehow found an offshore loophole to give former two-time national scoring champion “Kee-Kee” Clark supplemental eligibility.

The offshore scheduling exemption is one of those few NCAA rules enacted to protect the disadvantaged that actually did its job. When universities beyond the contiguous 48 states joined up during the time of Alaska and Hawaii statehood, they couldn’t get home games. So the governing body gave mainland schools a small enticement to go visit: games in places like Honolulu or Anchorage wouldn’t count against the 28-game regular-season cap. Without that rule, schools like Hawaii and the Alaska satellites probably wouldn’t be NCAA members at all.

Eventually, there were things like Sea Wolf and Rainbow Classics, and then promoters got ideas. In the last three decades of the 20th Century, exotic events with pretty names sprung up in tropical U.S. protectorates, anywhere there was a tiny offshore NCAA affiliate willing to host. Then the promoters successfully overturned an NCAA rule change intended to limit these events, after six years of legal wrangling.

Now, capitalism is unchecked again, and so is participation: no more two exempt events every four years. A Puerto Rico Tip-Off or a Paradise Jam isn’t a trip of a lifetime, because D-I schools can go offshore every year (just not the same event in two consecutive seasons). And why wouldn’t they? It’s the opportunity to sell hotel package tickets to alums. Everybody can relax on the beach a little — in November — and the head coach can get a few rounds of golf in. He might even sneak “Volcano” in his iPod, and watch a pink champagne sunrise whilst grooving to the beat.

Personally, I don’t understand the whole Buffett thing. But what I really don’t understand is why there isn’t a line of mid-major schools, 200 thick and ten years deep, waiting to play in these offshore Multi-Team Events. The true and specific charm is the neutral court itself and the sparse crowds — many nautical miles from the packed ACC or Big 12 buildings where these same small-conference teams would likely sustain 25-point losses, on-court blowouts aided by loud fans.

Take a team like the Saint Peter’s Peacocks, which hasn’t done anything of any particular note for a half-decade. Last season, their biggest win was against Monmouth. Now they’ve beaten a SEC team. Like the man says, with changes in latitudes and changes in latitudes, nothing remains quite the same.

Duke’s hot even though Singler’s cold

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 11:41 am

I’m a little surprised by the degree and intensity of Duke awe I’m seeing from my fellow pundits in the aftermath of the Blue Devils’ 82-68 win last night over Kansas State at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. I’ll agree, of course, that Mike Krzyzewski‘s team is a legit No. 1 in the nation right now. Still, this is the same team that beat unranked Marquette by all of five points night before last. I guess what I mean by a “legit No. 1” is that Duke looks better than anyone else in a year where no one looks much like Kansas 2008 or North Carolina 2009. Yet.

To me the most impressive thing about the Devils this season is that they’ve done what they’ve done without much in the way of efficient production from Kyle Singler. In theory that should matter, because this offense clearly revolves around Singler and fellow senior Nolan Smith.

Two stars on the No. 1 team  
Duke shot percentages, through games of November 23

               %Shots
Nolan Smith      26.8
Kyle Singler     25.3
Kyrie Irving     21.0
Mason Plumlee    21.0

In five games Singler’s made just 47 percent of his twos and 29 percent of his threes. (There were two AP preseason All-Americans in action in KC, Singler and K-State’s Jacob Pullen, and neither made the all-tournament team. Pullen went 1-for-12 from the field against Duke.) Good thing for Coach K that pretty much everyone else on his roster has exhibited varying degrees of hot shooting, from “moderately” (Smith’s made 61 percent of his twos while struggling outside the arc) to “insanely” (looking at you, Andre Dawkins).  

As for freshman sensation Kyrie Irving, he gives every appearance of being the real deal at the point guard position. Perhaps most ominous for future ACC opponents is the fact that he’s already getting to the line at will and knocking down those freebies at a 91 percent rate. (The college game has no NBA-like breaking-in period where newbies don’t get foul calls. I like that.) He’s also taking care of the ball and dishing 13 assists for every 100 possessions he plays for a fast-paced team. And, unlike some other point guard sensations we’ve seen come and go quickly, Irving looks like he’ll be able to make threes (42 percent so far). In a few short weeks I’ll be unveiling my third annual Basketball Prospectus Top 25 Freshmen list and the competition for the coveted No. 1 spot is already shaping up as a really interesting race.

The Blue Devils arrived in Kansas City having forced three overmatched opponents (Princeton, Miami OH, and Colgate) to commit turnovers on an incredible 30 percent of their possessions. That number came down to earth (Marquette and Kansas State combined gave the ball away on 23 percent of their trips) but Duke’s perimeter D still looks like it’s going to be very good. Over the course of 153 possessions played against major-conference opponents at the Sprint Center, Coach K’s men held the other team to 7-of-37 shooting on their threes. I may not be in awe of Duke but this is a really good team, one that can be even better if Singler starts being Singler. 

November 22, 2010

Prospectus Goes to the Movies: Sebastian Pruiti joins the team

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 9:23 am

Today at Basketball Prospectus, we are thrilled to bring you the debut of Sebastian Pruiti’s new column “The Clipboard.” Sebastian has been become the go-to player on the Web over the last year when it comes to combining top-notch Xs and Os analysis with video illustrations of those breakdowns. If you’ve been following along with my PBP Roundups,  you’ve probably noticed how often I’ve linked to Sebastian’s work at NBA Playbook and Nets Are Scorching. We figured we’d just cut out the middle man and bring him aboard, and we couldn’t be more excited. (Sebastian will still be contributing at those other sites as well, so keep your bookmarks fresh). We’ve made today’s column a free preview, but you’ll need premium access to keep reading Sebastian’s work.
In “The Clipboard,” Sebastian adds another layer to his work, one with a distinctive Prospectus flavor. He’s taking the trends emerging from advanced metrics and bringing them back to the chalkboard. It’s a perfect example of how the numbers of which we write aren’t about the math, but about the game. In our never-ending quest to bring you the best of the best in basketball analysis, the addition of Sebastian could not be a better fit. Hope you enjoy it. I’m sure you will.

November 20, 2010

Mizzou Finishes With a Flurry

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 8:56 pm

The Missouri-North Florida game wasn’t televised in Chicago, but I was able to find a feed online. There was no audio and I was also watching the Northwestern-Illinois football game, so it wasn’t real easy to follow the action. However, one of the new Tigers did make an impression.

The final score was Missouri 96, North Florida 58. If ever there was a final score that revealed less about how a game unfolded, this was it. Mizzou (No. 24 at kenpom.com) improved to 2-0 and both of its wins have been more peculiar than remarkable. The opener was Thursday’s uninspired 66-61 win over No. 246 Western Illinois, a game in which not a single Tiger reached double figures in scoring. I don’t remember seeing that happen to a winning team since I played in 24-minute games in junior high.

On Saturday, the Tigers struggled in the middle part of their game against the 270th-ranked Ospreys. Yes–Ospreys. I had to look this up, but an osprey is a “fish-eating bird of prey.” North Florida, which hails out of the Atlantic Sun and is in its 5th season as a DI program, won at Wyoming earlier in the week and while the Cowboys (whom the Tigers play on Tuesday) aren’t any great shakes, it’s still a road win against a DI school. The Ospreys committed 21 turnovers in the first half against Missouri’s pressure defense and trailed by 10 at the break, 41-31, even though the Tigers didn’t shoot the ball well.

North Florida scored the first eight points of the second half, closing within two, but it was all Mizzou after that. The Tigers outscored the Ospreys 55-19 the rest of the way. North Florida scored its last point on a free throw at the 7:50 mark. Missouri finished the game on a 26-0 run. As I mentioned, the final score might match up with what you expected before the game, it doesn’t exactly reveal how the contest unfolded. However, Mizzou’s system is built to wear down opponents, so perhaps this was simply an extreme example of that plan being executed to perfection. North Florida finished with a Mizzou Arena record 34 turnovers.

Missouri is breaking in a new starting backcourt in Kansas City natives Marcus Denmon and Michael Dixon, both of whom were key parts of last year’s rotation playing behind senior starters J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor. It’s not a big backcourt, but is quick and they both have combo guard skills. They’re going to be better offensively than the former TnT backcourt, but against North Florida, they looked like they have a way to go on defense. Sure, there were all the forced turnovers, but the scrambling nature of Mizzou’s system requires defenders to find away to get back to spot-up shooters and contest jumpers. They didn’t do a good job of that for most of Saturday’s game and until the Ospreys’ late-game collapse, North Florida was shooting a high percentage.

I didn’t get much of a read on Missouri’s trio of perimeter newcomers in brothers Matt and Phil Pressey nor Columbia native Ricky Kreklow. I was impressed by Juco transfer Ricardo Ratcliffe, regarded as possibly the best Juco player moving to DI this season. Ratcliffe is a strong, agile power forward who looks like he’s going to be the rebounder and interior scorer that the Tigers lacked. He’s versatile enough to step out and take jumpers but, in this game at least, didn’t appear to be a great leaper. He finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Missouri enters this season with lofty expectations, with an experienced and talented core returning and one of its best-ever recruiting classes coming in–a class which may get even stronger if skywalking wing Tony Mitchell is able to gain eligibility for the second semester. You can’t get much of a read in these early-season mismatches, but at the very least you can see that Ratcliffe is going to add the interior presence that Tiger fans longed for last season. Missouri again goes 10-deep with legitimate players, but it’s too soon to tell if the talent level has been upped enough to push the Tigers even beyond the successes of Mike Anderson‘s last two teams.

Over the next couple of weeks, Missouri has a probable meeting with No. 66 Providence coming up in the Cancun Classic and will play No. 12 Georgetown at the Sprint Center in Kansas City on Nov. 30. We’ll soon know how Anderson’s new mix is coming along.

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