Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

December 14, 2009

Weekend in Hoops: Final Four-bearance

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 12:05 pm

Temple beat Villanova 75-65 on the Owls’ home floor at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia yesterday. Juan Fernandez of Temple, who just last year as an unassuming freshman reserve was able to hit but 68 percent of his free throws, made 78 percent of his threes against ‘Nova (7-of-9) on his way to 33 points. As a team the Owls made half their threes and 58 percent of their twos against Jay Wright‘s D. Do that and you can score 75 points in a slow (62-possession) game. 

The Wildcats entered the game ranked number three in the nation so this morning I’m seeing lots of variants on “shock” and “stun,” but I suspect that Prospectus readers will know better. ‘Nova may well be a very good team this season but from what we know this early, ranking them number three was far too much praise for a mediocre-shooting team that draws fouls often but fouls even more. Indeed aside from the gaudy ranking there’s no particular reason to be shocked or stunned that a team that struggled to beat ostentatiously young George Mason by one point on a neutral floor couldn’t record a road win at Temple.

Call this type of over-ranking Final Four-bearance. Speaking in terms of how we evaluate teams in November and December, we will forbear a lot from a team that made it to the Final Four the previous season.

Speaking of Big East teams that entered the weekend undefeated… 
Georgetown beat Washington 74-66 on Saturday to improve to 8-0 on the season, and to me the most impressive thing about the game from a Hoya perspective was simply its location: Anaheim. For a D.C. team to cross that many time-zones and beat what might be the Pac-10’s best team, even in a down year for that conference, is enough for me to take a closer look.

I had heard, of course, about the sassy new-look more-aggressive Greg Monroe. What I didn’t know, though, was that “more aggressive” doesn’t begin to tell the tale here. Monroe’s willingness to shoot has actually shot through the roof this season–while his accuracy has tailed off and, just to make things even more schizophrenic, his defensive rebounding has improved in spectacular fashion. It’s an evaluative mess.

The three faces of Greg 
%Shots: Percentage of team’s shots taken by Monroe during his minutes
DR%: Defensive rebound percentage

         2008-09    Now
%Shots    20.8      30.1
2FG%      57.8      48.4
DR%       16.7      24.1

Monroe’s frequent shooting has boosted his scoring average from 12.7 last year to 15.3 so far this year, so brace yourself for a lot of laudatory coverage that doesn’t realize the sophomore has actually become less efficient. And yet there’s no denying that the Georgetown offense as a whole, while still too turnover-prone (giving the ball away on 22 percent of their trips), has been shooting the ball quite well over its first eight games. Basically Monroe’s helping his team score more points by acting as the hoops equivalent of a shiny object to opposing defenses; individually he is far and away the least efficient Hoya starter on offense. Austin Freeman, Julian Vaughn, Chris Wright, Jason Clark–they’re all hitting shots while opponents stare intently at Monroe.  

BONUS Hoya look-ahead! When colleague Ken Pomeroy flips the switch on this year’s individual player stats, proceed directly to the Georgetown page and check out the respective tempo-free assist rates of the starting five. Prediction: You will find them to be freakishly balanced.

K-State plays the ugliest games in D-I.
And while we’re on the topic of impressively-located wins, Kansas State stomped on previously undefeated UNLV 95-80 in Vegas on Saturday night. Jacob Pullen scored 28 points for the Wildcats while hitting a Juan Fernandez-like 7-of-10 threes. Note additionally that Frank Martin‘s team needed just 74 possessions to flirt with the century mark. Highly-efficient ‘Cats of Manhattan, I salute you!

Now, about the fouling, both your own and your opponents’. Wow. I remember two seasons ago when Michael Beasley was still in residence and in occasional foul trouble, Martin was borderline-brilliant in how he used each and every whistle to either yank Beasley or put him in the game on a possession-by-possession basis. It was like the coach had discovered how to make basketball more like baseball and make Beasley the equivalent of a designated hitter, at least when he was in foul trouble. Fast-forward to now and I sometimes wonder if the K-State coach simply got into that habit and has been instructing his team ever since to draw a foul on every offensive possession and commit one on every defensive trip. Behold:

Refs working K-State games should get triple-time
Kansas State foul rates for and against; “Now”–through games of December 13

              FTA/FGA   FTA/FGA
2009 Big 12     0.37      0.52
Now             0.60      0.47

In other words for every two shots from the field, the ‘Cats are taking more than one free throw. (And, likely, missing it: K-State is making just 64 percent of its freebies.) At the other end of the floor, Martin throws a battallion of foul-prone bigs at opponents, the most notable of whom is Wally Judge and his rather improbable foul rate: 9.2 whistles per 40 minutes. Good grief, Judge makes Duke‘s Brian Zoubek, who reportedly was whistled for his first foul in the delivery room, look like Jon Scheyer.

Kansas State’s number of free throws will come down to earth when they get to conference play, but recent history suggests their own fouling will stay pretty much where it is. Right now the best way to watch this team is on a DVR with heavy use of the FF button. 

Indiana shows how to beat Kentucky–for a half.
Kentucky beat Indiana 90-73 in Bloomington on Saturday as Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson combined to score 42 points on 17-of-27 shooting and the Wildcats rebounded a somewhat robust 57 percent of their own misses. Nevertheless the first half was actually surprisingly competitive, and it was during that stretch that the CBS announcers passed along an interesting tale about John Calipari. It seems that in the wake of Syracuse‘s victory over Florida last week, the UK coach texted Jim Boeheim and said in effect: I hope my team doesn’t have to play yours because you guys look tough. Good call, Coach Cal! At the very moment that this anecdote was being told, a plucky Hoosier squad was staying in the game against the Wildcats thanks to three things: 1) Unconscious shooting (it wouldn’t last), which led to 2) Good transition D (Kentucky had to keep taking the ball out of their own basket), and 3) A zone defense. The Orangemen, who not only play zone but thus far this year have been shooting lights-out, are like some genetically programmed cyborg brought to this planet specifically to beat Kentucky. Not that the two teams are scheduled to play, of course. Still, file this under potential tournament match-ups we’d like to see.

Don’t just mutter ineffectually; email me!

Mr. Gasaway, tear down this Wall!
Today’s email was actually a tweet. (Technology. Is there anything you can’t do?)

Any chance we start suffering Tebow-like fatigue with John Wall soon? He’s awesome. We get it. @goodmanonfox, @JohnGasaway, @SethDavisHoops.

Jeff N.

Not really, no. Keep in mind Wall will only be around for a maximum of 113 more days. Tebow’s collegiate career on the other hand was longer than the Korean War, which I am told was also the cause of some fatigue.  

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