Sunday, December 31, 2006

ACC Preview #7: Miami

Team: Miami
Record: 7-6 (1-0 ACC)

Jack McClinton (72.0% minutes, 1.23 PPWS, 11.0 A/B%)
Brian Asbury (72.5% minutes, 1.16 PPWS, 9.8 ORB%, 14.6 DRB%, 3.0 Stl%)
Jimmy Graham (44.8% minutes, 1.10 PPWS, 20.4 DRB%, 2.1 Blk%)
Anthony Harris (59.6% minutes, 0.86 PPWS, 23.8 A/B%)
Dwayne Collins (50.9% minutes, 1.23 PPWS, 14.1 ORB%, 16.7 DRB%, 3.1 Blk%, 2.7 Stl%)

Key Reserves:
Denis Clemente (54.8% minutes, 1.07 PPWS, 24.1 A/B%, 2.0 Stl%)
Anthony King* (37.7% minutes, 1.10 PPWS, 14.4 ORB%, 27.5 DRB%, 5.0 Blk%)
Raymond Hicks (39.3% minutes, 1.07 PPWS)
James Dews (32.3% minutes, 0.75 PPWS, 3.6 Stl%)
Fabio Nass (16.3% minutes, 0.90 PPWS, 12.1 ORB%, 18.8 DRB%)

Biggest Win:
90-82 over Georgia Tech in the ACC opener (a win increasingly looking like an anomaly)

Worst Loss:
Oh, so many to choose from, and yet there’s still a standout: 74-79, at home, to the State University of New York in Binghamton. Ugh.

Conference Schedule:
Play Twice: Florida State, Virginia, Wake Forest, Boston College, Virginia Tech
Play at Home: Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina St
Play on the Road: Clemson, North Carolina, Maryland

To say this will be a rebuilding year in Miami errs slightly in two ways – it assumes there was a point of success from which they’ve fallen, and that this team will get better next year. Neither of those are really true. The best that could be said about Miami in the Diaz and Hite years is that they were consistently competitive. The best that can be said about this year’s team is that they’re young. Still, given the talent level throughout the rest of the ACC, the players on this team just aren’t the same ACC-caliber guys. Miami will be at or near the ACC basement for a few years to come. Good thing that football team is doing so well . . .

Still, there are some bright spots. Brightest is 6’1” sophomore Jack McClinton. McClinton, a transfer from Siena, was apparently not in the team’s media guide before the season, but has been the best player from day 1. The team has correspondingly leaned on McClinton – he takes 28.5% of the shots, scores 32.6% of the points, and plays 72% of the minutes (which includes 40 minutes missed in the last game due to injury). McClinton has been living off of extremely good 3 point shooting – he’s hit 49.4% of his 81 attempts. He’s cooled off a lot lately, just 19 of his last 51 from the field, and is about to miss a couple games due to injury. McClinton’s value to Miami is driven entirely by his scoring, as he doesn’t do much else while he’s on the court. It will be interesting to see what his numbers look like at the end of a full season of ACC play (he was 4 for 14 from the field against Georgia Tech).

Another soph, 6’7” Brian Asbury, does most of the rest of Miami’s scoring, accounting for 24.5% of the team’s points. Asbury shoots a lot of 3s, and has made just 7 of his last 25, but he’s also hit 59% of his 2s on the season to make up for it. He chips in some on the glass, particularly on offense, but aside from rebounding, his value to Miami is also scoring driven.

There are several players that handle rebounding. 6’9” senior Anthony King was off to a blistering start before being sidelined by injury, turning in rebound performances of 15, 10, 15, 12, and 10 within the first 8 games. His 27.5 DRB% leads the conference (he just barely has the minutes to qualify), and he also put up 14.4 ORB% and a 5.0 Blk%. They’ve really missed King, and are just 2-4 in his absence. 6’8” soph Jimmy Graham has gotten most of the starts, but his minutes are all over, everywhere from 29 to 3. He does well on the defensive glass, clearing 20.4% of opponent misses. 6’8” freshman Dwayne Collins has replaced King in the starting lineup, and is doing a good job replacing King’s rebounding, going for 14.1 ORB% and 16.7 DRB%. Collins has also been scoring well – 19.2% of the team’s points on a .618 EFG%, which is the highest on the team. Finally, 6’11” junior Fabio Nass, a juco transfer, chips in well on the boards in his limited minutes.

Helping out McClinton in the backcourt is the point guard combination of 6’2” senior Anthony Harris and 6’0” sophomore Denis Clemente. Harris is the remaining part of a three-guard class with Diaz and Hite. His shot has really struggled this season – 43.3% from 2 and an abysmal 18.9% from 3. Still, he distributes well (23.8 A/B%) and his 1.66 A/TO ratio is respectable. Clemente has been outplaying Harris though, and has taken starts from him recently. His shooting is better, although not great, at .511 EFG%. His assist numbers are just a touch higher at 24.1%, and his A/TO ratio is up over 2. Clemente also chips in with more steals and rebounds. As the season progresses toward lost cause status, it’ll be interesting to see how the minutes are apportioned between these two.

The final bench players to see significant minutes are 6’3” freshman James Dews and 6’7” junior Raymond Hicks. Dews has a good steal rate (3.6) and a solid 2.0 A/TO, but his shot has been awful. Dews’ PPWS is 0.75, and he hits just 35.3% of his 2s and 25% of his 3s. He has the unhealthy disparity of taking 16.8% of shots and scoring only 10.6% of points. Hicks has a solid 56.5 2ptFG%, but doesn’t do much else while he’s on the court, despite playing 16 minutes a game.

It’s clear that Miami’s young, and the players who will come up big for them will change from game to game. Frank Haith hasn’t helped matters by constantly juggling his starting lineup – no fewer than 10 players have started a game so far. This year will be a challenge – their only remaining non-conference game is at UMASS, which isn’t an easy game, and then there’s the little matter of ACC conference play. This is looking like a 10 or 11 win team, with 3 or 4 conference victories, and a chance for the other teams to get at least a little break during conference play. The basketball season will provide no solace to an already frustrated Miami fan base.

ACC Preview #6: Florida State

Team: Florida State
Record: 12-2

Jason Rich (70.9% minutes, 1.17 PPWS, 8.2 A/B%, 2.5 Stl%)
Al Thornton (69.6% minutes, 1.26 PPWS, 11.3 ORB%, 13.2 DRB%, 3.8 Blk%, 3.4 Stl%)
Toney Douglas (68.0% minutes, 1.19 PPWS, 12.9 A/B%, 2.4 Stl%)
Isaiah Swann (67.1% minutes, 1.05 PPWS, 16.4 A/B%, 4.1 Stl%)
Uche Echefu (50.9% minutes, 1.14 PPWS, 7.7 ORB%, 17.6 DRB%, 2.8 Blk%)

Key Reserves:
Jerel Allen (51.8% minutes, 1.20 PPWS, 12.7 DRB%, 3.4 Stl%)
Ralph Mims (47.3% minutes, 1.24 PPWS, 17.5 A/B%, 3.0 Stl%)
Ryan Reid (37.0% minutes, 1.11 PPWS, 14.3 ORB%, 17.9 DRB%, 3.2 Blk%)
Casaan Breeden (29.3% minutes, 1.04 PPWS)

Biggest Win:
70-66 over Florida

Worst Loss:
66-88 at Pittsburgh

Conference Schedule:
Play Twice: Clemson, Maryland, Miami, Boston College, Georgia Tech
Play at Home: NC State, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Play on the Road: Duke, North Carolina, Virginia

Leonard Hamilton has done a fine job building a program in Tallahassee, and this is the year when the goal of reaching the NCAA tournament is supposed to be reached. Last year they were right on the cusp, but missed the tourney by a whisker – they were the victims of a big comeback by UNC in Florida, a 3 point loss to Boston College, and overtime losses against Miami and at Duke. Still, they were 19-8 and 9-7 in conference headed into the ACC tourney, and no major conference team with 20 wins had ever been left out, and all they had to do was beat Wake Forest (worst team in the conference last year), and they were in. Final score Wake 78, Florida State 66, and the next thing you knew the Seminoles were hosting an NIT game.

This year got off to a little bit of a rocky start. Their schedule was predictably light until back to back games at Pittsburgh and Wisconsin, and the ‘Noles looked unimpressive in consecutive double digit losses. However, they opened December with a big win over Florida (sans Corey Brewer), and closed the month with a 30 point drubbing of a surprising Providence team. They head in to ACC play winners of 8 straight, and need only 8 conference wins for that magical number 20.

Florida State’s MO this year has been to go inside on offense and to hassle the perimeter on defense. They’re 9th in the country in 2FG%, converting 56.9% of their attempts as a team. Notably, they don’t get their shots blocked very often, which suggests that not only do they shoot well from inside the arc, they shoot smart. This doesn’t appear to be a scheduling fluke – Florida, Pittsburgh, and Wisconsin, all teams with very strong post play, recorded only 6 blocks collectively against the ‘Noles. On defense, FSU excels at forcing turnovers. Opponents cough the ball up an astounding 28% of the time, and only one opponent (Pittsburgh) has committed fewer than 15 in a single game. FSU has six players in the top 40 in the conference in steal percentage.

Leading the way on defense is 6’1” junior Isaiah Swann. Swann is 7th in the conference with a 4.14 Stl%. He’s also the primary distributor, recording an assist rate of 16.4% (FSU as a team doesn’t record many assists – less than 50% of all baskets are assisted). Swann is much more valuable as a distributor and defender than as a scorer – he scores just 15.4% of the points, due to a 1.05 PPWS that is weighted down by poor three point shooting (31.5%), and a shot rate heavily weighted in favor of threes (54% of all his attempts).

Of course, with the two talented scorers FSU has, Swann doesn’t need to provide a lot of offense. 6’8” senior Al Thornton is the unquestioned star of the team. A first-team all-ACC selection last year, and a preseason first-teamer this year, he’s done nothing so far but live up to expectations. Thornton scores 30.4% of the ‘Noles’ points on just 25.4% of the shots. He’s been very good inside (60.2%) and at the line (82.2%), which is good, because he’s also effective at getting to the line – he takes one free throw for every two field goals. Thornton also leads the team in offensive rebounds (though Reid would be ahead if he played 15 min/game) and blocks (3.8%), and tosses in a 3.4 Stl% as well. Still, he has been a little inconsistent this year, disappearing against Wisconsin, Providence, and Pittsburgh, partly due to foul trouble. He was dominant against Florida – 28 and 9 (6 offensive). ACC opponents should expect to see more games like Florida as the season wears on, especially if he stays out of foul trouble.

FSU’s other scorer is 6’1” sophomore Toney Douglas. Douglas is a transfer from Auburn, where he was on the SEC’s all freshman team. He’s a little bit of an ego risk (he thought he wasn’t getting enough shots at Auburn), but so far that hasn’t caused a problem in Tallahassee, largely because he’s getting enough shots. Douglas leads the team, taking 28% of the shots, and is second in scoring, at 27% of the points. His shooting percentages are very solid – 56.3% from 2 and 42.5% from 3, although he has cooled down a little in the past few games after an even hotter start. Douglas is a scorer without a conscience – he can shoot a team out of a game, but can also shoot them right back into it, and if he gets a shot he likes (not hard to find – he likes most shots), he’ll take it, regardless of whether he’s made his last 6 or missed his last 7. The addition of Douglas to provide Thornton with some scoring help after Alexander Johnson’s departure has been huge – Douglas is probably the best, and arguably the most important, transfer into the ACC this year.

Rounding out the starting 5 are 6’3” junior Jason Rich and 6’9” soph Uche Echefu. Rich has been the most consistent player for the Seminoles this year. He leads the team in minutes (just over 28/game) and has been good for between 10 and 16 points almost every night. Rich realized early that his 3 wasn’t falling (2 for 9 in his first five games), so has largely abandoned the shot, taking just 3 attempts (missing all three) in the last nine games. He takes exactly his share of shots (20.1%), and his PPWS and EFG% are above average. Echefu’s main role this year has been on the glass. He leads FSU in defensive rebounding (17.6%), and tosses in 7.7% of offensive boards as well. His shooting has been okay, but he certainly doesn’t hurt the team on offense. He does take a surprising amount of 3s for a big man – just about 2 a game – and he converts at a respectable 36%.

FSU is guard heavy off the bench, with 6’2” junior Ralph Mims and 6’4” senior Jerel Allen getting most of the minutes. Mims and Allen are both pretty deferential (12.9% and 16.4% of shots, respectively) and both shoot primarily 3s when they do take shots. Mims 3:2 ratio is 31 to 18, and Allen’s is 38 to 29. Mims also chips in with a team-leading 17.5 A/B%. Both also play solid perimeter defense, with steal percentages over 3, good for places in the top 20 in the ACC.

Inside, the ‘Noles turn to 6’8” freshman Ryan Reid and 6’8” soph Casaan Breeden. Reid is much more of a traditional post player. He cleans up on the glass (14.3 ORB%, 17.9 DRB%), blocks shots (3.2%), and converts well from the field (58.8 fg%). Breeden takes a healthy amount of shots (19.8%), but has only a 1.04 PPWS and a 47.9 EFG%. He takes almost half his attempts from 3, but hits just 23.8% of those shots.

Hamilton has instilled a measure of consistency in the team this year that has been absent in years past. They’re one of just two teams in the ACC to trot out the same starting lineup in every game, and their bench rotation has been consistent as well. They’ll need to stay consistent this year against one of the ACC’s tougher schedules. They play Duke and UNC only once, but both on the road, and they also have to travel to Clemson, BC, Maryland, Georgia Tech, and Virginia this year. For a team that struggled on the road this year, how they handle this schedule could be critical. Also, not getting a return visit from Duke or UNC deprives the Noles of a great chance for a marquee conference victory. Still, 9-7 puts FSU at 21-9 going into the ACC tourney. Coach Hamilton and his squad should be dancing this year come March, and even though this is Thornton’s last year, Hamilton has built a talent base that should allow the Seminoles to be a consistent tourney team in the coming years.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

ACC Preview #5: North Carolina

Team: North Carolina
Record: 11-1

Reyshawn Terry (53.1% minutes, 1.27 PPWS, 12.1 A/B% 7.7 ORB%, 21.3 DRB%, 3.3 Blk%)
Brandan Wright (63.5% minutes, 1.30 PPWS, 9.0 ORB%, 18.4 DRB%, 4.4 Blk%)
Tyler Hansbrough (71.7% minutes, 1.18 PPWS, 13.4 ORB%, 17.1 DRB%, 2.8 Stl%)
Wayne Ellington (59.4% minutes, 1.22 PPWS)
Tywon Lawson (58.1% minutes, 1.25 PPWS, 30.0 A/B%, 3.3 Stl%, 2.68 A/TO)

Key Reserves:
Marcus Ginyard (39.4% minutes, 1.08 PPWS, 11.6 ORB%, 14.5 A/B%, 3.4 Stl%)
Danny Green (33.3% minutes, 1.22 PPWS, 15.9 DRB%, 2.7 Stl%, 2.9 Blk%)
Wes Miller (33.3% minutes, 0.86 PPWS, 19.8 A/B%, 3.25 A/TO)
Bobby Frasor (25.6% minutes, 1.11 PPWS, 20.1 A/B%, 3.50 A/TO)
Deon Thompson (28.1% minutes, 1.15 PPWS, 15.5 DRB%)
Alex Stephenson (17.9% minutes, 1.08 PPWS, 17.5 ORB%, 23.2 DRB%, 2.3 Blk%)

Biggest Win:
98-89 at home over a Greg-Oden-less Ohio State

Worst Loss:
74-82 against Gonzaga in the semis of the PNIT

Conference Schedule:
Play Twice: Duke, NC State, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech
Play at Home: Miami, Virginia, Florida State
Play on the Road: Maryland, Clemson, Boston College

Without question, the Heels have the best talent in the league. They had a good recruiting class last year and a great one this year. The team is young (Terry and Miller are the only seniors, and there are no juniors), but Frasor, Hansbrough, Green, and Ginyard got a lot of experience last year. Roy Williams has used his talent depth to play 10 guys 11 minutes or more a game. The team has also played high paced basketball, about 75 possessions a game, with 3 games up over 80.

6’8” senior forward Reyshawn Terry has been a perfect glue guy for the Heels this year. He doesn’t command too many shots (19.8%) but hits the ones he does take (.604 EFG%, including 48% of his 3s). More importantly, he’s done all the little things a veteran should – he rebounds, blocks shots, steals, and even records a few assists. He plays the least of all 5 starters, averaging just over 20 minutes a game, and he has yet to play more than 27. Terry has led by being deferential, and embracing the team concept, rather than demanding shots. Of course, all the other starters are better than he is . . .

The Heels’ main strength has been the frontcourt, led by the blue chip duo of 6’9” freshman Brandan Wright and 6’9” soph Tyler Hansbrough. Hansbrough got all the press coming into the season, touted as the favorite for ACC player of the year, and one of the favorites for national player of the year. He got off to a fast start, with 29 and 9, 20 and 10, and 18 and 7 in his first three games. However, in the loss to Gonzaga, he had only 9 points plus four turnovers, and Kentucky held him to 7 points on just 2 of 10 shooting. Despite taking the most shots, he’s actually the least efficient scorer in the starting lineup – though that’s more because the rest of the starters score very efficiently rather than any real criticism of him. Wright, on the other hand, has turned into the best player for Carolina. His first game was less than impressive, but since then he’s been lights out, hitting 70 of 104 from the field (all 2s). Wright also eats up the glass and blocks shots better than any other Heel. Wright is looking like an odds-on favorite for freshman of the year in the conference, and deserves mention along with Oden, Durant, and Budinger as one of the true superstar freshmen in the country.

The Heels’ backcourt has been all-freshman since 5’11” speedster Tywon Lawson was handed the keys against Ohio State. He’s responded exceptionally well, racking up 51 assists against only 10 turnovers in that span. His outside shooting has been respectable (36% on 3s), but his conversions inside have been remarkable – 61.5% 2FG% for a 5’11” guy. At the off guard, 6’4” Wayne Ellington has been given the green light to shoot from day 1, and shoot he has. Ellington takes 26.2% of the Heels’ shots and has racked up nearly 13 points a game. He’s hit 55% of his 2s and 43% of his 3s, good for a .597 EFG%. Ellington is equally likely to shoot from beyond the arc as from within – 58 3s against 60 2s – and only once has taken fewer than 3 three-point attempts in a game.

Danny Green and Marcus Ginyard are the first two off the bench. Both are very good defenders, though Ginyard is better on-the-ball. Green is more comfortable on offense behind the arc – he’s taken more 3s than 2s, and hit 40% of them. Ginyard, on the other hand, is more of an inside player when he does shoot (just 11.8% of the team’s shots). Ginyard is very active on the offensive glass, and also leads the team in steals.

Wes Miller and Bobby Frasor are the main backups to Lawson as ballhandlers. Frasor began the season as a starter, came off the bench for a couple games, but has sat almost all the past month with a foot injury. He was playing as a pure distributor – not shooting the ball a lot (13.3% shots), but not turning it over either (2.5 TO%, 3.50 A/TO). So far, the Heels haven’t really missed him, but I’m sure Roy would love to have him back in the rotation. Bonus Frasor statistical anomaly – no free throw attempts on the year. Wes Miller has also recorded a very good A/TO ratio, also doesn’t shoot much, and also shoots mostly 3s when he does. Actually, mostly 3s is an understatement – he’s taken 32 three-pointers against only 2 two-pointers (0 for 2, in case you were curious). His shooting has been worse than last year (only 28%), and he hasn’t made more than one 3 a game since the first game of the season.

In the painted area, 6’8” Deon Thompson and 6’9” Alex Stephenson are the two-headed monster off the bench. Thompson plays more, although I’m not sure why, since the only thing he does better than Stephenson is shoot free throws. Stephenson really eats up the glass – in his last 6 games, he has 23 rebounds in just 60 minutes played. Thompson is probably the prime candidate to see his minutes reduced as the Heels hit tougher competition in the ACC.

UNC actually has one of the tougher schedules in the conference – they have to play at Duke, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Clemson, and BC, and only get one game against Miami, who looks like they’ll be hands down the worst team in the ACC. Still, the Heels will likely be favored in all of their remaining games, except maybe at Duke. As a team, there’s really nothing they don’t do well, and in fact there’s nothing that they do worse than their opponents – better shooting, more assists, fewer turnovers, more rebounding (41% offense and 72% defense), more blocks, and more steals. They’ve won fast (98-89 in 75 possessions over OSU, 101-87 in 88 possessions over Tennessee) and won slow (69-48 in 61 possessions over St. Louis). This team will definitely be one of the favored contenders to cut down the nets in April.

And having said all that . . . Go to Hell Carolina! Go to Hell! (now I don’t feel quite so dirty for writing so favorably about the Heels – but I still think I need a hot shower).

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

ACC Preview #4: Wake Forest

Team: Wake Forest
Record: 7-4 (0-1 ACC)

Kyle Visser (69.4% minutes, 1.33 PPWS, 12.5 ORB%, 18.8 DRB%, 3.1 Blk%)
Ishmael Smith (69.7% minutes, 1.13 PPWS, 33.6 A/B%, 2.8 Stl%, 2.03 A/TO)
L.D. Williams (59.3% minutes, 1.14 PPWS, 10.1 DRB%, 3.1 Stl%)
Michael Drum (57.3% minutes, 1.20 PPWS, 13.0 DRB%)
Jamie Skeen (63.1% minutes, 1.24 PPWS, 8.3 ORB%, 13.4 DRB%, 2.9 Stl%, 2.4 Blk%)

Key Reserves:
Harvey Hale (46.1% minutes, 1.05 PPWS)
Anthony Gurley (36.4% minutes, 0.94 PPWS)
Shamaine Dukes (29.0% minutes, 0.84 PPWS, 16.3 A/B%, 14.4 DRB%)
Kevin Swinton (23.4% minutes, 1.10 PPWS, 15.7 ORB%, 19.7 DRB%, 2.0 Blk%)
David Weaver (22.0% minutes, 1.18 PPWS, 12.8 DRB%, 4.2 Blk%)

Biggest Win:
88-78 over Vanderbilt. Although the 88-78 win over Appalachian State is starting to look alright after the ‘Neers romped through San Juan (including a win over Vanderbilt)

Worst Loss:
58-94 in a thorough whooping by Air Force.

Conference Schedule:
Play Twice: Miami, NC State, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia Tech
Play at Home: Maryland, Boston College, Clemson
Play on the Road: Virginia Tech, Duke, Florida State

Wake Forest is easily the youngest team in a young conference. Over 50% of all their minutes go to freshmen, and 3 of the 5 starters (and 3 of the top 4 in playing time) are in their first year. Kyle Visser is the only player with more than 1 year of experience, since Michael Drum didn’t play before his junior year and the other three in the rotation are sophs. Given the team’s youth and inexperience, it’s likely to be a rough rebuilding year in Winston-Salem. Already it’s been an up and down season – 5 straight wins, followed by 4 losses in a row, and now 2 consecutive victories to end up at 7-4.

Wake is at 7-4 primarily because of two people. First and foremost is senior center Kyle Visser. He basically had no other option but to be the man this year, and the man he has been. Visser scores 34% of Wake’s points while on the floor by shooting 68% from the field. He’s also been a horse on the glass, and is in the top 10 in the conference in both offensive and defensive rebounding. And he leads Wake with 14 blocks. He has simply taken over games this year in a way that Eric Williams never could, and has been effective even in the Deacon losses – Visser has yet to shoot under 50% in a game this season. The one place he has struggled this year is at the stripe, posting only a .588 FT%.

The other catalyst to Wake’s season has been 5’11”, 155 pound freshman Ishmael Smith. Smith has been the starting point guard from day 1 on campus, and has shown a natural ability to distribute. He leads the ACC in A/B%, responsible for dishing out over a third of the team’s field goals, and racking up 71 assists (nearly 10 per 40 minutes). Smith has also been a reliable shooter for Wake, knocking down 55% of his 2s and 48% of his 3s, for a very nice .595 efg%. Still, Smith has had the ups and downs one might expect from a freshman point guard, including an 8 turnover game against Georgia. In the 4 game losing streak, Smith put up just 27 points and 19 assists against 17 turnovers. Still, Smith is unquestionably the point guard of both present and future (and I bet Prosser wishes past, too – the thought of Ish Smith feeding Eric Williams and Justin Gray is pretty).

6’4” freshman L.D. Williams has also started every game in his young Deacon career. Williams does a little bit of everything – average shooting and rebounding, slightly below average assists (though an A/TO ratio over 1), and very nice steal numbers. Lately filling out the starting lineup with him have been 6’6” senior Michael Drum and 6’8” freshman Jamie Skeen. I like Drum – I think he’s a great complementary piece to a team, who does just enough to make the opponent think about him every once in a while. He’s already had three 13-point games this year, knocking down 3 threes in two of them. Still, there’s no earthly way he should be starting for an ACC team, and it’s kind of a sad state of ACC basketball when it’s apparent he could probably start not just for Wake, but for 2 other ACC squads as well. Skeen has performed extremely well so far – the number 2 freshman behind Smith. He has been a little up and down (four games between 12 and 16 points, five between 0 and 7), and his turnovers are a little high, but he rebounds well, distributes some, steals, and blocks shots. Skeen has also been a good outside shooter this year, hitting 43% of his trey attempts.

6’2” sophomore Harvey Hale has been the 6th man off of a bench that has been ineffectual all year. Hale is actually 2nd on the team in scoring percentage (22.1%), but his PPWS is only 1.05 and his efg% an ugly .458. Hale played a lot last year as an out of place point guard, and so far this year his performance has shown how out of place he was. Hale loves to shoot, and has only a 5.0% A/B ratio and two turnovers for every assist. Hale’s partner at young point guard last year was 6’1” soph Shamaine Dukes. Unlike Hale, Dukes actually is a point guard, and he’s second on the team in A/B% (albeit in more limited minutes). His shooting off the bench has been dismal though, as he’s only been able to put together a 0.84 PPWS. The last of the three perimeter players off the bench is 6’3” freshman Anthony Gurley. Gurley is a plain gunner – he takes more shots while he’s on the floor than Visser does. However, he can’t hit the basket from outside – 8 of 35 on the year (22.9%) from 3. Gurley’s PPWS is only 0.94. Hale, Dukes, and Gurley have all been black holes off the bench this year. As a group, the percentage of shots they take is 16.5% more than the percentage of scoring they account for. Not good.

The interior reserves have been far more effective, though their minutes have been more limited. 6’7” sophomore Kevin Swinton and 6’10” redshirt freshman David Weaver have been very solid inside. Swinton really eats up the glass, and sports a very solid .615 efg%. Weaver lacks a little in the rebounding department, but he can block shots – 6 on the season in the equivalent of just 2.5 full games. Two other interior players, 6’6” soph Cameron Stanley and 7’0” freshman Chas McFarland see only 4 minutes a game.

Like the Pack, Wake Forest is already looking ahead to the 2007-08 season to be a big improvement. These players are likely to improve with age and experience, and while the loss of Visser will hurt, they’ll have a talented and experienced young nucleus going forward. Wake’s conference schedule this year is tough – they’ll be lucky to go 1-5 against the teams they play only once, and Miami, NC State, and to a lesser extent Virginia and Georgia Tech, are the only opportunities for home wins all year. 5 wins would be a big accomplishment for this Wake squad, and 6 or 7 would actually be a fantastic coaching job by Prosser. His team this year has looked a lot like recent Wake Forest teams minus the offense. Wake still can’t defend – they’re raw 102.3 D Rating is last in the conference – and they turn the ball over too much (22% as a team, with just a .9 assist/turnover ratio. All in all, it’s likely to be a long year in Winston as these kids learn to gell together and become competitive.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All

On hiatus until December 27. Will resume with the Wake Forest preview that day. ACC tempo-free leaderboards are updated through Thursday night's games.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Kent State Wrap/Gonzaga Preview

I love watching games like the Duke-Kent State matchup, because it reminds me that, no matter how in depth we go, there's simply no predicting human performance in a single game through mathematics. In the draft version of my preview, I had a (later deleted) single sentence on Omni Smith, which essentially said he was the 5th starter and 4th double figure scorer, and nothing else. I thought Gates, Scott, and to a lesser extent Quaintance would be responsible for the success or failure of the Golden Flashes. Instead, Gates and Scott scored only 14 combined, Quaintance was sensational with 10 points, 10 assists, and 6 boards, and Omni Smith went Bootsy on us and scored 33 points on 14 of 20 shooting.

The other part of the game impossible to capture with math was Duke's ball movement. There were several offensive series that feature no fewer than three assist-worthy passes, and some brilliant passes that went unfinished (McRoberts to Nelson for a just missed reverse layup). We as Duke fans have been lucky over the past few years to see teams filled with players that are used to playing with one another, and know where each other will be on the court at almost all times. I think it was tough for some people to realize just how long it might take for this group to develop that kind of knowledge and familiarity (and don't get me wrong, they still have a long ways to go). But in the last couple games, we've started to see the potential this team has on offense - there are good passers and scorers all over the court, and as time goes on, the motion offense will prove perfect for this group. All in all, Kent State was a fun game to watch.

Tonight's game should be fun too. Gonzaga is a solid team, with very good guard play from Raivio, Pargo, and Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes. Heytvelt, Mallon, and Pendergraft give them strength and size down low, and could create matchup problems for Duke. The Zags have almost exactly the opposite turnover profile as Duke - the Devils force a lot but also give up a lot, while Gonzaga doesn't turn the ball over, but also never takes it away (327th in the country - yikes!). They're a good shooting team whose focus is primarily inside (Heytvelt alone takes 30.4% of the team's shots while he's on the court), but with the ability to hit the three when open - like Duke, the Zags have a very good team 3pt%, but a very low ratio of 3s to 2s. All in all, this should make for an exciting game.

Tempo-free stats for Duke and the ACC leaderboard will be updated after the game tonight, or tomorrow at the latest. And stay on the lookout for more team previews (hopefully they won't all make me immediately look like an idiot, as Virginia did after getting blown out by Utah a day after I predicted 21 wins and a tournament bid).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

ACC Preview #3: North Carolina State

Team: North Carolina State
Record: 7-3 (0-1 ACC)

Gavin Grant (93.8% minutes, 1.03 PPWS, 13.1 DRB%, 21.9 A/B%)
Courtney Fells (84.8% minutes, 1.11 PPWS, 1.7 Stl%, 1.9 Blk%)
Brandon Costner (85.5% minutes, 1.22 PPWS, 17.1 DRB%, 1.9 Blk%)
Ben McCauley (84.5% minutes, 1.24 PPWS, 8.9 ORB%, 12.0 DRB%, 13.1 A/B%, 2.6 Stl%)
Bryan Nieman (60.8% minutes, 1.01 PPWS, 2.4 Stl%)

Key Reserves:
Dennis Horner (45.0% minutes, 1.27 PPWS, 15.5 DRB%)
Trevor Ferguson
Engin Atsur* (37.0% minutes, 1.47 PPWS, 20.5 A/B%, 12.1 DRB%, 2.4 Stl%)

Biggest Win:
74-67 over Michigan in the ACC/Big Televen Challenge

Worst Loss:
Engin Atsur to a pulled hamstring, 14:00 mark of the first half, Michigan game.

Conference Schedule:
Play Twice: Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Play at Home: Duke, Boston College, Clemson
Play on the Road: Georgia Tech, Miami, Florida State

There is no team in the conference that lost more than NC State over the off-season. Tony Bethel, Cameron Bennerman, and Ilian Evtimov graduated. Cedric Simmons declared early. And Andrew Brackman decided his future was as a pitcher, not a power forward. All in all, the Pack brought back only 2 players who averaged more than 6 minutes per game. From the outset of the season, Sidney Lowe’s design was to heavily rely on his starting five (Atsur, Grant, Fells, Costner, and McCauley) and go only two deep off the bench (Nieman and Horner). Before the game against Alabama, only 11 minutes had been played by the bench outside of the first two subs. So if there was any team that could ill afford to lose a player, it was the Pack.

Unfortunately, they did lose a player, and not just any player, but their best player. 6’4” senior point guard Engin Atsur pulled his hamstring 6 minutes into the Michigan game, and has been out of action since. They hope to get him back for the main start of conference season in a couple weeks, but the timetable for his return is still uncertain. And Atsur was off to an incredibly hot start – in the first 4 games he was 17 of 20 from 2, 10 of 23 from 3, with 19 rebounds and 21 assists against only 6 turnovers. Without question, he’s the Pack’s best player, and a guy they desperately need to return – and at full strength – if they hope to be frisky in the conference season.

In Atsur’s absence, 6’7” junior Gavin Grant has tried to carry the load, and it’s proven to be just a little too heavy. In the 6 games without Atsur, Grant has taken 70 shots, but hit only 25. He’s also turned the ball over 34 times in those 6 games. Still, he is the go-to guy by default with Atsur out, and he’s sat only 25 minutes total all season. Grant does play solid defense, as he’s quick enough to guard smaller players, but he has been a black hole on offense, with only a 1.03 PPWS and a .461 EFG%.

The Pack’s most efficient scorer (sans Atsur) has been 6’9” sophomore forward Ben McCauley. He’s been in double figures in 8 games this year, and is 43 of 74 shooting in the last 6, with 43 rebounds tossed in for good measure. McCauley is not quite as skilled a passing forward as Evtimov was, but he has shown the ability to dish the rock, racking up a 13.0 A/B% and a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio.

Also stepping up has been 6’8” redshirt freshman Brandon Costner. He leads the team in scoring percentage (25.4%) thanks in large part to a strong ability to convert inside (.645 2pt%) and a decent ability to knock down an outside shot (a respectable, but not great .348 3pt%). Costner is also the team’s leading rebounder and shot blocker. And with a free throw rate of 49.1, he’s the only NC State player who’s shown even a passing ability to get to the line.

The final man in the intended starting five is 6’5” sophomore guard Courtney Fells. Fells’ outside shot has struggled this year – he’s taken 45 threes but has yet to make more than 2 in a single game, and he hits just 28.9% of his threes overall. Fells has been an adequate defender (at least in the stats categories) getting steals and blocking shots at a passable rate.

Rounding out the current starting five is 6’6” former walk-on Bryan Nieman. It’s unclear what Nieman does other than eat up minutes. He doesn’t shoot very much (9.4%), or particularly well (1.01 PPWS, .452 EFG%), doesn’t really distribute the ball (7.9 A/B%) or rebound that well, but also doesn’t turn the ball over much (1.2 TO%, 2.60 A/TO). Lowe would love to reduce his minutes, and the newfound eligibility of 6’5” Pitt transfer (sorta) Ryan Ferguson will give him that chance. Ferguson never attended a full semester at Pitt, only summer classes, and then didn’t enroll at NC State till the spring semester. Still, he was subject to the NCAA transfer rules, and was forced to sit two semesters. Now that fall semester is over, he’s available again, and it couldn’t have come at a more needed time. Ferguson played 23 minutes against Alabama, with 3 points, 2 boards, and 5 assists. More importantly, his playing time limited Nieman to 26 minutes, which still is a lot, but much less than the 36 and 40 of the previous two games. His presence in the rotation will be a big lift. Finally, 6’7” freshman Dennis Horner has been seeing a shade under 20 minutes a game. He scores well (1.27 PPWS) even if his contribution is more limited (14.7 score%), and has also been active on the glass. Personally, I would have given him some of Nieman’s minutes, but that’s just me.

Overall, the Pack is very much a team without its leader right now. Atsur was not only their best offensive player, and their most experienced player, but also their only point guard. Gavin Grant has been given the role of temporary de facto point guard, but he turns the ball over way too much to be effective in the job. Still, Atsur should be back relatively soon, and with the addition of Ferguson, the Pack may actually have some normal depth just in time for the conference season to start. NC State’s schedule is not easy, doubling up against UNC, Maryland, Virginia, and Virginia Tech. Going 2-6 in those 8 games is realistic. They do have a beneficial schedule against the opponents they play only once, as the three tougher ones (Duke, Clemson, BC) all come to the RBC, and their road games at Georgia Tech, Miami, and FSU are at least slightly less imposing. Still, I think anything over 5 conference wins would be a big accomplishment for Sidney Lowe and his squad. His team doesn’t rebound well (28% offensive, 67% defensive), shoot the three well (31.5% on the year), or get to the line at all (only 14 points a game from the stripe). But they play decent defense (1.01 PPWS and .99 points per possession by opponents) and don’t turn the ball over terribly much, particularly outside of Gavin Grant, two characteristics that help keep teams in games. The Pack is a pretty young team – only Atsur and Nieman are seniors, and there are a total of 9 freshmen and sophomores on the roster (even if only four of them play). Lowe’s first season will be a tough one, but hopefully his young players will improve and the Pack will be competitive again in the 07-08 season.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

ACC Preview #2: Virginia

Team: Virginia
Record: 6-2 (1-0 ACC)

Sean Singletary (80.6% minutes, 1.15 PPWS, 12.4 DRB%, 26.6 A/B%, 2.3 Stl%)
J.R. Reynolds (71.3% minutes, 1.05 PPWS, 10.0 DRB%, 21.4 A/B%)
Mamadi Diane (75.6% minutes, 1.26 PPWS, 6.7 ORB%)
Jason Cain (54.7% minutes, 1.09 PPWS, 14.1 ORB%, 22.8 DRB%, 2.2 Blk%)
Ryan Pettinella (40.0% minutes, 1.12 PPWS, 14.5 ORB%, 13.7 DRB%)

Key Reserves:
Adrian Joseph (59.4% minutes, 1.24 PPWS, 8.9 A/B%, 9.3 ORB%)
Will Harris (42.2% minutes, 0.98 PPWS, 11.9 ORB%, 14.3 DRB%)
Jamil Tucker (21.6% minutes, 0.77 PPWS, 9.2 ORB%, 13.1 DRB%)

Biggest Win:
93-90 over Arizona to open the JPJ.

Worst Loss:
69-80 to Appalachian State in Round 1 of the San Juan Shootout.

Conference Schedule:
Play Twice: NC State, Miami, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Play at Home: Duke, Georgia Tech, Florida State
Play on the Road: North Carolina, Clemson, Boston College

I was all set to write in this space about how promising the year looked for the Cavs – about how impressive the Arizona win would look as the year went on, and how the Purdue loss would actually look not so bad as it might initially have seemed (I see Purdue as an upper division Big 10 team, maybe even an NCAA team). Then they had to go and lay a big fat egg against App State this afternoon, and take the wind out of my sails a little bit. The Mountaineers have been playing decent basketball (3-0 in the SoCon), but were 0-3 against the ACC, losing by 30 to Clemson and 32 to Virginia Tech. So needless to say, the UVA loss was surprising.

Nonetheless, I think this year still looks promising for Virginia, and since this is their team preview, I’ll go ahead and tell you why. First, UVA has one of the more experienced teams in the league. Reynolds and Cain are both seniors, and Reynolds has seen a lot of minutes since his first year. Singletary is a junior who has started essentially every game since he got to campus. And Joseph is also a junior who has logged healthy minutes off the bench over his career. In a young ACC, the Cavaliers have conference tested players in the backcourt, in the frontcourt, and off the bench. Second, Dave Leitao has instilled a defense-first mentality in his squad, which helped keep them in games last year, and will help them win games this year. Finally, and I think most importantly, they have one of the easiest schedules in the conference. We’ll talk about that more a little later.

The motor of the Cavaliers is Sean Singletary, their 6’0” point guard. He has been the best player in a blue and orange uniform in every game that he’s suited up for them in 2+ years, and he will be as long as he plays for UVA. This season hasn’t gotten off to as smooth a start as he would like, particularly shooting the ball. Singletary is hitting only 41.3% of his 2s and 30.4% of his 3s, which is not so hot. However, he’s still been a reasonably efficient scorer for them because of his ability to get to and convert from the free throw line. He’s been to the line 65 times in 8 games, and has made 61 attempts. As the season plays out, his free throw shooting is likely to come back to earth a bit, but his shooting from the field is also likely to improve. He’s only had one game this year where he’s hit half his shots (3-for-6 against UMES), and he’s simply too good of a player for that to continue. Singletary has also been turning the ball over a little too much at about 3 per game. Still, his turnovers are usually the result of trying to make plays happen, rather than being careless. And he does definitely make plays happen – he’s recorded assists on 26.6% of the team’s baskets. When you combine that with his 27.1% share of the team’s scoring, he’s responsible for over half the UVA offense.

On the wings, UVA has a triple threat of 1 ½ slashers and 1 ½ chuckers. J.R. Reynolds, a 6’2” shooting guard, is more of a slasher than a shooter. Yes, he takes about 4 three-point shots a game, but they only make up 36% of his total shots. He’ll shoot the three if he’s open, but would prefer to take his man off the bounce to the basket. Like Singletary, he’s effective at getting to the line (50 attempts), but has been uncharacteristically poor from the line this year, converting only 70%. Look for this number to go up as the season wears on, as he’s historically a good free throw shooter. Reynolds has been clutch for UVA over the years, and is equally likely as Singletary to get crucial shots in crunch-time. If Singletary is option 1, Reynolds is option 1A. Mamadi Diane, a 6’5” sophomore, is the ½ slasher ½ shooter in the mix. He started the season on fire – hitting 28 of 43 shots, including 13 of 24 from beyond the arc, for a ridiculous .802 EFG% in his first five games. Since then he’s cooled off considerably – 0 for his last 10 threes and only 8 of 28 overall in the last three games. Diane is certainly not as good as his first five games, but he’s also not as bad as his last three, and will likely settle into being a reliable third option, though not someone who should be the focus of the offense. The last piece to the outside triple threat is 6’7” junior and Trinidad native Adrian Joseph. Joseph has never, in his three years at UVA, met a shot he didn’t like. So far this year he’s taken 33 threes against 23 twos (before the App State game those numbers were 32 and 16, respectively). Unfortunately for the ‘Hoos, though Joseph has been a chucker his entire career, he’s never been a reliable chucker, and that's still true this year. He’s only 12 of 33 from beyond the arc. Surprisingly enough, his 2 point percentage has been stellar (.696) – maybe coach Leitao ought to encourage him to seek the inside game a little more. Joseph had been starting until a few games ago, when the ‘Hoos went bigger and inserted first Soroye, then Pettinella, into the starting lineup. Personally, I like bringing Joseph off the bench – if he gets hot, he’s not afraid to shoot, and instant offense type sixth men are always useful (see, e.g., Vinnie “the Microwave” Johnson). Note to defenders of Joseph – he detests contact; he’s taken 53 shots on the year, but only 3 free throws. Put a body on him and he’ll likely give the ball up.

Inside, the Cavs are led by 6’10” senior Jason Cain, a man whose mustache is held in such esteem, it sponsored its own Assemblage. Cain has progressed nicely over his four years, and has established himself as an effective rebounder and post defender. His rebounding numbers are good for 6th (offensive) and 3rd (defensive) in the conference. However, as an offensive threat, Cain is not an ideal first option in the post. He lacks a reliable scoring move, and is much more effective cleaning up misses than making his own offense. Still, he’s easily Virginia’s most polished post presence (though that may just be damning him with faint praise). 6’9” junior Ryan Pettinella, a transfer from Penn, was inserted into the starting lineup against Hampton and promptly responded with a 14-10 double double in just 24 minutes. He went 6-6 from the field and brought in 5 offensive rebounds. He was also effective against Appalachian, converting 3 of 4 from the field and hauling in 8 boards in 24 minutes. Leitao has been happy with his play all year, particularly on the offensive glass. However, it’s not necessarily a good thing to have a starting center who has zero blocked shots.

6’6” freshman Will Harris has been a mixed bag off the bench. Like Pettinella, he’s been effective on the boards, but he’s taking too many outside shots for his own good. He’s 16 of 29 from 2, but only 2 of 14 from 3. 6’8” freshman Jamil Tucker has also been less than stellar with his shot – 6 for 19 overall. Tucker hasn’t helped out much in any of the other areas, and has accordingly seen his minutes substantially reduced of late. 6’8” freshman Jerome Meyinsse, 6’8” sophomore Laurynas Mikalauskas, and 6’11” junior Tunji Soroye have seen only limited minutes in the post, which is to be expected, as they are all extremely raw. Meyinsse can hopefully develop some polish, but I think that train has left the station now for Soroye. I’ve been personally disappointed to see Lars’ minutes reduced this year, since he is one of the goofiest players in the ACC, which inevitably means he’s a fan favorite. He’ll always have a special place in my heart for pushing Tyler Hansbrough around last year during UVA’s upset of UNC.

The Cavaliers were hurt by the loss of 6’5” freshman Solomon Tat to a groin injury. Tat, who played only in the win over Arizona, would have been ahead of Tucker in the rotation, and probably would have stolen minutes from Harris, Joseph, and Diane as well. I’m not sure what the timetable is on his return, but they’d love to have him back by the time conference season rolls around.

So what does all this add up to for Virginia? Hopefully they leave Puerto Rico 8-2, after which they have a home game against American and a couple tougher non-conference home games against Gonzaga and Stanford. Their OOC schedule finishes with an ultimate bunny in Longwood to give them a break in the middle of the conference season. They should be at least 11-3 non-conference, and have a good shot at going 12-2 with wins over Arizona and Gonzaga. Then there’s the little matter of their conference schedule. The three worst teams in conference this year are likely to be Miami, Wake Forest, and NC State, and Virginia gets each of them twice. They also play the Hokies (underachievers so far) twice, with the only really dangerous double up being the Terps. Anything worse than 6-4 against this part of the schedule would be a disaster, and UVA would really help itself by getting 8 wins in those 10 games. They also get Georgia Tech at home, which is helpful because the home/road split for the Jackets is likely to be significant. And don’t discount the JPJ effect – new arenas tend to bring bigger and more excited crowds, giving UVA more of a home court advantage than it enjoyed in U-Hall. Realistically, Virginia could go 10-6 in conference without beating Duke, UNC, BC, or Clemson. That would stick them at (hopefully) no worse than 21-9 heading into the ACC tournament, and even though their conference schedule was light, there’s no way that 10 ACC wins, and 21 overall, doesn’t bring a tourney bid, particularly with a marquee win like Arizona on the resume. This is the best chance UVA has at an NCAA bid for a while – Reynolds and Cain graduate, and Singletary will likely depart after this year – and I for one hope they capitalize on it. Still, if they do make the tourney, they will not be as good as their record (and probably their seed) looks, and are unlikely to make it past the first round.

Kent State Preview

Duke comes off of a ten day layoff tonight to face Kent State, which has established itself historically (and again this season) as one of the top teams in the MAC. This season's Golden Flashes are small (no one in the rotation over 6'7") but are not a typical perimeter-oriented guard heavy team, in that they don't just chuck it up from outside (only 29.7% of their shots are 3s), and rebound relatively well (35.5% offense, 70.6% defense). The Flashes have been extremely well balanced - 4 players average between 10.6 and 12 points per game, and another 4 average between 5.1 and 7.1, and no player in the regular rotation takes more than 22.6% of the shots. Armon Gates and Mike Scott have been their two leaders, with each doing a healthy dose of scoring and rebounding. Gates (brother of Antonio, former Flash himself?) is pulling in 5 rebounds a game as a 6'1" guard. He's also the only regular outside threat, and he loves chucking 3s - he's taken 52 from beyond the arc against 21 from 2. His 3 point percentage is good, but not great, at 38.5%. Scott has taken as many shots as Gates, but only posts a 0.99 PPWS, and is brought down by his 5-for-18 shooting from outside. 5'10" Jordan Mincy is the starting point guard, racking up 3.9 assists per game and a 2.4 a/to ratio, but he struggles on his shot, hitting only 31.4% for the year (and only 28% on 2s). Kent State as a team shares the ball well, with four players having over a 20% assist rate. Haminn Quaintance could be an x-factor - he's been out most of the last two games with a groin injury, but is their best rebounder and shot blocker, and tosses in a 1.22 PPWS to boot.

On the whole, Kent State is balanced in just about everything. They share the ball, shots, and minutes, and as a result can exploit weaknesses in the defense well, since there are really no offensive liabilities (except Mincy). Their profile as a team plays the same way - they don't excel in any particular area, but are above average almost across the board. Despite their size, they've been a very good rebounding team, particularly on defense. Still, size seems to be the one area Duke can reliably exploit. I'm at least hopeful that we'll get to see a little bit more of Brian Zoubek, who's proven to be an effective post scorer when he doesn't turn the ball over (which happens, unfortunately, often). McRoberts too could have a big game, as there's no one who can really match up with him. It will be interesting to see how often Duke goes big (McRoberts and Zoubek on the court at the same time, potentially with McClure or Thomas at the 3) and how well Josh guards a much smaller man on the other end of the court. Look also for a little bit faster game than Duke has been playing lately, possibly even hitting 70 possessions. I think Duke wins comfortably, something like 75-59, but you never know just how fresh they'll be after a layoff.

Monday, December 18, 2006

ACC Preview #1: Georgia Tech

Team: Georgia Tech
Record: 7-3 (0-1 ACC)

Javaris Crittenton (74% minutes, 1.20 PPWS, 12.9 DRB%, 23.7 A/B%, 4.3 Stl%)
Lewis Clinch (61.5% minutes, 1.41 PPWS, 2.7 Stl %)
Thaddeus Young (59.3% minutes, 1.15 PPWS, 12.8 DRB%, 11.3 A/B%, 2.1 Blk%)
Jeremis Smith (61.8% minutes, 1.30 PPWS, 12.3ORB%, 17.3 DRB%, 2.0 Stl%)
Zach Peacock (53.8% minutes, 1.21 PPWS, 7.6 ORB%, 9.9 DRB%)

Key Reserves:
Mario West (43.8% minutes, 1.20 PPWS, 13.3 A/B%, 4.8 Stl%)
Ra’Sean Dickey (48.5% minutes, 1.18 PPWS, 11.3 ORB%, 21.8 DRB%, 4.9 Blk%)
Anthony Morrow (41.3% minutes, 0.94 PPWS, 2.3 Stl%)
Mouhammad Faye (32.3% minutes, 0.95 PPWS, 11.9 A/B%, 9.8 ORB%, 13.6 DRB%)

Biggest Win:
92-85 over Memphis in Maui, a game in which the Jackets were down big early and stormed back with a monster second half

Worst Loss(es):
64-73 at Vanderbilt and 82-90 in the ACC opener at Miami.

Conference Schedule:
Play Twice: Duke, Clemson, North Carolina, Florida State, Wake Forest
Play at Home: Virginia Tech, NC State, Boston College
Play on the Road: Maryland, Virginia, Miami

Tech is a young team, starting three freshman, a sophomore, and a junior, and only former walk-on Mario West is a senior. Their performance so far has been what you’d expect from a young team – up and down. They’ve played several clearly inferior opponents and killed them, racking up big margins of victory in games against Elon, Jackson St, Georgia St, and Centenary. However, their performance in tougher games and away from home has been less than stellar, losing to ostensibly worse opponents in Miami and Vanderbilt. Predictably with a young team, their turnover percentage is relatively high, at 23%.

Of course, when they play well, it’s clear that they have as much talent as almost any team in the country. Clinch, Crittenton, and Young are extremely good, and Smith does all the things you want from a tough undersized power forward – rebound, play defense, and make the limited shots you get. Lewis Clinch has been very good so far this year. The 6’3” sophomore guard is a quintessential scoring 2, in that he doesn’t do much besides shoot and score, but he does that extremely well. He’s only had two sub-50% shooting games, both 4-for-10 efforts against Purdue and Memphis in Maui. His EFG% is 2nd in the ACC and 11th in the country, and his 1.41 PPWS is just out of sight. Clinch has sensibly been the focus of the offense, taking 29% of the shots and scoring 33% of the points.

More often than not, its Javaris Crittenton who’s getting him the ball. Crittenton is one of two blue-chippers (along with Thaddeus Young) in a very good Georgia Tech recruiting class, and has had the starting point guard job from day 1. He’s assisted about a quarter of Tech’s baskets on the year, but has been turning the ball over a lot (8.1% of all possessions, with no fewer than 3 in any game) so his A/TO ratio is only 1.23. Still, he shoots well enough to keep defenses honest (.467 3pt%) and is a terrifically exciting playmaker. Thaddeus Young has struggled to fit in at times, and is probably taking a few too many shots, but there’s no denying his talent. He’s effective on the boards for a 3, particularly on the offensive end, and he hits his shots to the tune of a .563 EFG%. However, for someone as talented as he is on offense, he doesn’t get to the line at all – his 15.5 FT Rate is one of the lowest in the conference.

Jeremis Smith I’ve mentioned does exactly what they need from a glue guy – he rebounds on offense and defense, he forces some steals, he plays good defense, and he hits open shots – he’s scored 19.5% of the Jackets’ points on only 15.3% of the shots, and has a .667 EFG%. The position that has hurt the Jackets so far this year is center. Zach Peacock has done absolutely nothing but occasionally score, and even that has been less against the tougher opponents – against UCLA, Memphis, Penn St, Vanderbilt, and Miami he’s averaging just 6 points and 3 boards a game. Ra’Sean Dickey was very highly regarded coming in his freshman year, but has yet to develop any polish to his game. It’s never good after two years of regular minutes to say that he’s still raw, but he’s still raw. Unlike Peacock, he at least rebounds and blocks shots, but he’s maddeningly inconsistent – here are his point totals in ten games, in order: 4, 15, 6, 4, 14, 2, 0, 19, 2, 4.

Tech is a pretty deep team, with 9 players getting regular minutes. The only surprise of that group has been Mouhammad Faye, who’s earned a spot in the rotation by doing a lot of little things – he has decent numbers in assists, steals, rebounds, and blocks. The other three – Dickey, West, and Morrow – were expected to play a big role from the outset. All are the more experienced players – a senior and two juniors – and West and Morrow are supposed to provide defense and outside shooting, respectively. Mario West has been reliably doing his thing – 4.8 Stl% and still playing lockdown defense – plus he’s hit the few shots he’s taken – 61.7 EFG%, though he only takes 2.5 shots a game. Anthony Morrow, however, has struggled. He had a big breakout last year as a deep threat, but he’s only 12 of 38 from outside this year, leading to a 0.94 PPWS and a .424 EFG%. He doesn’t do much besides shoot, so he needs to be hitting to justify the 23.3% of shots that he takes.

All in all, Tech has the talent to go 12-4, and the youth to go 5-11. They also have a very difficult conference schedule, playing Duke, UNC, Clemson, and FSU twice and having to travel to Maryland. The win against Memphis helps, as would a win against Georgia this weekend, but the rest of the OOC schedule is complete fluff. With a win over the Bulldogs and an 8-8 conference record, Georgia Tech would have 20 wins and probably a 7-11 seed in the tournament. That's not where some people thought they would be in the pre-season, but realistically, it would be a great building block for next year, when they should be a top-10 or top-15 team all year long.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Welcome to Tempo-Free ACC Player Stats

As I said on Friday, the ACC tempo-free leaderboard will be a season-long feature for the site. I'm hoping to put together conference only versions of these stats (like I do for team stats) by February. Now then, hopefully without stealing too much material from the team previews (or without sounding too redundant when repeated in the team previews) some thoughts on the first round of these stats. All stats viewed in the posts below, in the links on the side of the page, or, to make it easy, here, here, here, and here.

NC State is holding open tryouts this weekend for all able bodied players. Enrollment only technically necessary. The minutes played numbers reveal that 4 of the top 5 workhorses in the ACC are members of the 'Pack. Gavin Grant has played 4 straight iron-man games, reminding all those familiar with the Temple teams of the early 2000s of Lynn Greer, who always led the nation in minutes. No team has been hurt more by injury this season than the 'Pack, who have been without Atsur since the Michigan game. In the salt-in-an-open-wound category, Atsur was having a killer year - 17 of 20 from 2, 10 of 23 from 3, and 21 assists against 7 turnovers in just 4+ games.

ACC's best performing backcourt is in Atlanta. Lewis Clinch and Javaris Crittenton have been extremely effective so far for Tech. Clinch is shooting lights out - 1.43 PPWS, .703 efg%, and .510 3pt%. Crittenton is doing the dishing - 23.96 A/B% - and taking away - 4.13 steal%. Best performing rookie backcourt is a dead heat between Maryland's Eric Hayes and Greivis Vazquez and Carolina's Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington. Which brings me to a related point - the ACC has excellent guards - Clinch and Crittenton at Tech, Lawson and Ellington at UNC, Singletary and Reynolds at UVA, Hayes, Vazquez, and Jones at Maryland, Hammonds, Rivers, and Hamilton at Clemson, Paulus, Scheyer, and Nelson at Duke, Swann, Rich, and Douglas at FSU - it's impressive.

Duke shoots the 3 very well. Nelson, Scheyer, and Paulus are all in the top 12 (of eligible players) in the conference, and McClure has also tossed in 3 of his 4 attempts.

Best non-freshman newcomers. Say hello to Jack McClinton and Toney Douglas. Douglas you may have known about - he's a transfer from Auburn I think was on the SEC's all freshman team his first year. Douglas transferred because he thought he wasn't getting enough shots, and he certainly doesn't have that problem at FSU, leading the conference by taking 29.7% of his team's shots. Of course, no one in Tallahassee is complaining, since he's hit 46 of 89 2s and 15 of 28 threes, for a .585 efg%. Jack McClinton is a transfer from Siena who immediately became Miami's best player and #1 option in the search to replace both Diaz and Hite. McClinton is almost trying to do the work of both on his own, taking 28.7% of the shots and scoring 33.9% of the points while playing 77.7% of the minutes. Again, no one in Miami is complaining about McClinton hogging shots, since he's hit an impressive 37 of 70 3s, which overcomes his pedestrian 2pt % and gives him a .584 efg% on the season.

That's all for the early commentary. Team previews start on the 19th and continue, 1 a day, until the new year. I promise no rhyme nor reason to the order, which basically means I'll write about who I feel like when I want to.

Player Interior Leaders

Click here for an explanation of these stats. Minimum 15 minutes per game to qualify. Final stats, conference games only.

Dwayne Collins 15.53
Al Thornton 13.41
Ekene Ibekwe 12.55
Tunji Soroye 12.13
Shamari Spears 11.97
Tyler Hansbrough 11.93
Trevor Booker 11.58
Jeremis Smith 10.99
David McClure 10.04
Keaton Copeland 9.77
Deron Washington 9.50
James Mays 9.39

Josh McRoberts 20.24
Jason Cain 20.07
Uche Echefu 19.82
Reyshawn Terry 19.45
Ekene Ibekwe 19.01
Brandon Costner 18.77
Tyler Hansbrough 18.49
James Gist 18.42
Al Thornton 18.20
Ra'Sean Dickey 17.60
David McClure 17.57
Jared Dudley 17.20

Tyrelle Blair 8.36
Trevor Booker 6.67
Ekene Ibekwe 5.24
Josh McRoberts 4.34
James Gist 4.12
Brandan Wright 4.09
Tunji Soroye 3.83
Sam Perry 3.72
Coleman Collins 3.22
Kyle Visser 2.78
Dennis Horner 2.34
Mario West 2.28

ACC Ballhandling Leaders

Ballhandling stats reflect a player's ability to distribute, hold on to, and take away the basketball. Click here for an explanation of these stats. Minimum 15 minutes per game to qualify. Final stats, conference games only.

Tywon Lawson 34.62
Ishmael Smith 34.44
Javaris Crittenton 30.90
Tyrese Rice 30.31
Jamon Gordon 28.32
Sean Singletary 27.79
Engin Atsur 27.44
Greivis Vasquez 27.33
J.R. Reynolds 25.74
Eric Hayes 25.32
Cliff Hammonds 24.30
Anthony Harris 23.44

Wayne Ellington 3.43
Cliff Hammonds 3.26
Markus Sailes 3.00
Eric Hayes 2.21
Tywon Lawson 2.00
Jamon Gordon 1.83
DJ Strawberry 1.81
Keaton Copeland 1.80
Greivis Vasquez 1.76
Engin Atsur 1.73
Marcus Ginyard 1.64
Tyrese Rice 1.60

Javaris Crittenton 6.53
Ishmael Smith 6.33
Ra'Sean Dickey 6.22
Brandon Costner 5.85
Gavin Grant 5.74
Sean Singletary 5.66
Tywon Lawson 5.59
Anthony Harris 5.51
J.R. Reynolds 5.40
Trevor Booker 5.29
Greg Paulus 5.24
Tyrese Rice 5.21

Jamon Gordon 4.45
Mario West 4.15
Sam Perry 4.11
Keaton Copeland 3.87
Zabian Dowdell 3.85
Javaris Crittenton 3.71
Jeremis Smith 3.59
James Mays 3.45
Vernon Hamilton 3.38
Marcus Ginyard 2.93
Brian Asbury 2.84
Tywon Lawson 2.81