Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

November 9, 2011

College Reading Material

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 3:29 pm

With the start of the season upon us, writers around the NCAA are showcasing their own talent to highlight the action on the floor, meaning there are tons of great articles to read. Here are four that have especially caught my attention the last two days.

We start with a tearjeaker: Tom Friend‘s account for ESPN.com of how Thomas Robinson got through the deaths of two grandparents and his mother last season with the help of his surrogate mom, Angel Morris–the mother of teammates Marcus and Markieff Morris.

Now a 6’9″, 237-pound junior, Thomas is no longer a sixth man. In a preseason poll, he was voted first-team All-America by CBSSports.com. Some NBA scouts are even predicting he could be the No. 1 overall pick in the next draft. In the meantime, he lives part-time with Angel, who is fulfilling her promise to Lisa and keeping an apartment in Lawrence, even though her twins were both NBA lottery picks in June. Angel also flies regularly to DC to check on Jayla, who, because of her scholarship fund, is attending private school and learning piano. And on both Thomas’ and Jayla’s bedroom wall is the same photograph — the picture Angel took at Madison Square Garden of Lisa and the two kids, hugging.

The other great player feature spotlights USC center Dewayne Dedmon, a JC transfer who will start for the Trojans this season after spending the spring semester on campus redshirting. Dedmon is a 7-footer with NBA potential, so why had no one ever heard of him just a few years ago? In this week’s Sports Illustrated, Chris Ballard fills in the blanks.

When Horton finished talking with one of his players, the boy walked over. He wore an enormous pair of beat-up hightops, ratty shorts and a white T-shirt so large it looked like a muumuu. He hunched over, as if trying to shrink to standard proportions. “Coach,” he said, “my name is Dewayne Dedmon. I want to play basketball.”

Instantly Horton recognized the name. For years stories had floated around the valley about a tall kid who wasn’t allowed to play basketball, but the coach had never believed them. He heard lots of stories. Most came from the kids themselves. Every year dozens of cocky teenagers approached Horton and assured him they’d score 20 a game if only he’d give them a uniform and the rock. To weed out the dreamers and boasters, he told them, “Come back next week.” Only one in 10 ever did.

Also in Sports Illustrated, Luke Winn uses his unique combination of access, interest in numbers and willingness to spend a numbing amount of time watching tape to evaluate four NCAA contenders at the defensive end of the court based on the system laid out by Dean Oliver in Basketball on Paper. The results are intriguing, enlightening and not always expected.

(John) Henson proposes that he and (Tyler) Zeller—the team’s second-ranked defender in SI’s study—should be called Fire and Ice for their divergent defensive skill sets. “Fire, because I’m a shot blocker,” says Henson, the only Tar Heel coaches allow to jump at shooters on the interior, “and Ice, because Z’s a charge-taker.” Zeller creates turnovers at a rate (19.7%) more than double Henson’s, mostly in ways that don’t appear in the box score: by stepping in front of drivers to draw offensive fouls and by deflecting or tipping post entries into the hands of teammates.

I’d also recommend Winn’s appearance on the Inside Sports Illustrated podcast with Richard Deitsch, where he lays out his methodology in more detail.

Lastly, David Woods of the Indianapolis Star also takes a look at tempo-free stats in college basketball, and specifically how they are being used by Butler coach and past College Basketball Prospectus foreword author Brad Stevens.

If money were no object, there is one element Brad Stevens would add to Butler’s basketball program. Not an opulent practice facility. Nor a university jet to transport the Bulldogs to road games.

“I’d probably create a statistics division,” the coach said.

November 8, 2011

College Basketball Prospectus 2011-12 PDF on sale now!

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 9:01 pm

It’s out! If you have an iPad, I have a really good way for you to spend this week: browsing through 343 tempo-freelicious pages. The paperback version will be available in a few days at Amazon.

We previewed every team in Division I. Guaranteed hype-free and reality-based. The guy who did the Foreword’s kind of well known.

Know what I think? You should buy this book.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here.

November 2, 2011

Visualizing Schedule Strength

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 11:54 pm

We’re going to hear a lot over the next two months about the strength of non-conference schedules for various NCAA contenders. Strength of schedule is an issue that defies easy quantification because so many different factors are involved. That’s what is so cool about the SOS piece Matt Norlander put together for CBSSports.com. Using the same Tableau software our Dan Feldman produces pretty graphs with, Norlander recorded six key data points for every BCS team and a handful of key mid-majors: average 2010-11 wins by opponent, number of 20-win opponents, number of opponentswith single-digit wins, number of NCAA Tournament opponents, number of BCS opponents and true road games.

Individually, none of those metrics are definitive. Together, they tell a compelling story, especially when combined with Norlander’s analysis. Take a look and play around. It’s an easy way to pass a half-hour of your day.

(By the way, Long Beach State. Wow.)

November 1, 2011

Sim Season: Opening Night!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 12:42 pm

Well, it’s here. For about two years, we’ve known tonight was coming, the night we knew was inevitable yet hoped would never actually arrive. It’s Nov. 1, the night the NBA season was supposed to begin. On the 124th day of the lockout, now it’s real. Because the league’s opening night has always been like Christmas morning for me, all I can do is quote the initimable @NotWaltFrazier: “Did David Stern really threaten to cancel Christmas? Grinchin’ and power clinchin’!”

Ah, but it’s also an opening day of a different sorts here at Basketball Prospectus. As I described here, we’re going to be posting day-by-day results of a simulated season beginning tomorrow thanks to a collaboration with our friends at Strat-O-Matic. So if you wake up tomorrow experiencing the nasty effects of box score withdrawal, don’t head for the nearest methadone clinic. Just pull up Basketball Prospectus.

To jog your memory, here’s what’s on the slate for the first night of simulations:

  • Bulls at Mavericks: Dallas raises its first championship banner and Derrick Rose begins defense of his first MVP trophy. What more could you ask for?
  • Rockets at Jazz: Kevin McHale coaches his first game for Houston, while Enes Kanter and Alec Burks will make their respective NBA debuts for Utah.
  • Thunder at Lakers: Two prime contenders for Dallas’ Western throne square off in L.A. Will OKC’s Kevin Durant be worn out from his summer regimen of scoring about 60 points per game in an endless string of exhibitions?
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