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February 25, 2011, 10:36 AM ET
UConn’s (on-court) worries

by John Gasaway

I realize this marks my second consecutive Unfiltered post on Connecticut, but this one will actually pertain to basketball. The Huskies lost at home in OT last night to Marquette, 74-67. After a 5-2 start in Big East play (not to mention an OT win over Texas in Austin), Jim Calhoun’s team has won just three of their last eight games.

Over that eight-game stretch Kemba Walker has continued to perform what can only be termed heroic deeds. He’s been on the court for more than 95 percent of his team’s minutes, taken 30 percent of said team’s shots from the field while he’s in the game, and made a thoroughly respectable 37 percent of his threes — all while committing just 13 turnovers over the course of 526 individual offensive possessions. Walker is a mensch.

He may, however, be a tired mensch. Even with decent results from the perimeter his scoring efficiency over those same eight games has plummeted, due to  abysmal (39 percent) two-point shooting and suddenly mediocre accuracy (63 percent) from the line. Needless to say, when Walker sneezes the team catches cold. UConn’s offense has collapsed, mustering just 0.94 points per trip during this 3-5 run.

The Huskies are fortunate their conference is so highly esteemed. In the Big East a case of the February blahs is chalked up rather mechanistically as prima facie proof of the league’s might. (Good luck trying this in the Pac-10!) Then again maybe there’s something to that might. This 11-bid talk that’s been going around may seem a little much, but there really is a clear line between the conference’s 11th- and 12th-best teams. In fact it’s not too much to say that the Big East’s top 11 have been beating up on the bottom five. Or maybe the top one’s been beating up on the bottom 15….

I avoided the Spinal Tap reference in this headline 
Through games of February 24, 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.  Pitt            13-2     62.7    1.13     0.98   +0.15
2.  Villanova        9-6     65.0    1.09     1.03   +0.06
3.  Louisville      10-5     65.2    1.04     0.99   +0.05
4.  Notre Dame      11-4     62.8    1.12     1.07   +0.05
5.  Syracuse        10-6     65.0    1.06     1.01   +0.05
6.  Marquette        8-7     65.6    1.11     1.07   +0.04
7.  West Virginia    8-7     61.9    1.06     1.02   +0.04
8.  Cincinnati       9-6     62.9    1.02     0.98   +0.04
9.  Georgetown      10-6     63.0    1.06     1.04   +0.02
10. Connecticut      8-7     65.2    1.02     1.01   +0.01
11. St. John’s      10-5     65.7    1.00     1.00    0.00
12. Seton Hall      5-10     67.5    0.95     0.99   -0.04
13. Rutgers         4-11     63.8    1.01     1.08   -0.07
14. Providence      3-12     71.6    1.02     1.10   -0.08
15. S. Florida      2-13     62.7    0.97     1.09   -0.12
16. DePaul          1-14     66.2    0.96     1.16   -0.20

When speaking of the Big East in 2011 it would appear that team Nos. 2 through 8 are really similar in terms of performance. Not that they’ll all share the same fate next month, of course. That will be in the hands of the teams, the selection committee, and the hoops gods, in roughly that order. But for our purposes it’s good to know: throw a stick at the Big East just under Pitt and you’ll hit a ton of me-too solid-but-not-scary teams.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here. Book: now available on Amazon.  

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