Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Maryland Preview

The last Duke-Maryland game was the jumpstart of the Terps' recent surge. Over the last 5 games, they've gone from 3-6 and wallowing to 8-6 and looking strong. The Terps have done it primarily by turning their offense around - they have a .534 EFG% in the last 5 games, and haven't posted a sub-100 O Rating. The team A/TO ratio is a very, very good 1.43, and even the offensive rebounding has been slightly improved (although most of that came against UNC on Sunday). As I mentioned before, Strawberry has been key to this resurgence - he's finally started to play like pre-conference DJ, who was very good. The continued emergence of Greivis Vasquez has also been instrumental - 66 points and 33 assists over the past 5 games. If this mercurial offense keeps performing at its recent rate, the Terps are tough to beat, since Maryland's defense has been good all season - no non-conference opponent scored a point per possession against them, and only six have done so in an offense-minded ACC.

Duke lost the last game in the first half, and though mounted a valiant comeback effort, never could string together stops to really take momentum away. For Duke's offense, the Maryland game was the second-worst in terms of efficiency, and worst in terms of shooting (both in EFG% and PPWS). Since the Maryland game, Duke's offense has really been clicking - .579 EFG% and a 110.69 O Rating over the last four games. This game is essentially for 5th place in the conference (or at least the inside track) - Duke could get fourth if they win out and BC loses to GT, and Maryland could if they win out and UNC loses out, but the likelihood is that the winner of tomorrow's game will be 5th in conference.

On defense, Maryland does 3 things very well - they defend the perimeter (conference leaders in opponent 3pt%), they deny passing opportunities (conference leaders in opponent assist rate), and they block shots (2nd in block%). They're only average at interior defense and forcing turnovers, and they're awful on the defensive boards (last in conference). In the first game, these trends basically played out - Duke shot 28.6% from 3, recorded assists on just 36% of their hoops, but pulled in 36.11% of their own misses and hit nearly 50% from two. The only inconsistencies were turnovers (much better than usual for the Terps) and blocks (much worse than usual, at only 5%). Duke also tossed in sub-50% free throw shooting. The most likely area for improvement is 3pt shooting - Duke has put more focus beyond the arc in recent games, and has found big success - 30 for 66, or 45.5%. Duke also needs to work harder to pressure Maryland with ball movement. As noted, the Terps are not particularly vulnerable to the assist, but the Devils have shown much improved passing in the last two weeks, recording assists on 58.5% of their hoops. For the Devils, three point shooting and ball movement are intimately related, and their outside shooting will only be as good as the number of open opportunities (which will only be as numerous as ball movement can get them). Cameron should be rocking for the last home game of the season - if the crowd can rattle freshmen point guards Vazquez and Eric Hayes, Duke may be able to jump out to an early margin. Ultimately, this is likely to be a last-minute kind of game - both Duke and Maryland are playing well, and both desperately want to win this game. Should be one heck of a matchup.


Unknown said...

agreed. i'm speaking from impressions and haven't checked the numbers on this (always a dangerous enterprise), but i don't think you'll find a team in the country that has played as well over its last 5 games as maryland has (prompting me to wonder if there is any predictive value in recent performance such as this).

i've always respected gary williams as a coach for the way that he seems to consistently put good teams on the court despite not bringing in highly touted recruits (sort of the opposite of rick barnes or bobby cremins in that regard). this season has really cemented that impression in my mind.

should be a war. git-r-done, duke!

Paul Rugani said...

Maybe Kansas, but they've done it against inferior opponents (has the Big XII been solid as a conference since 2002?). I was shocked when I saw that Maryland didn't climb back into the rankings in the coaches poll (and I believe was right behind Winthrop in the "others receiving votes").

Gary does have noted diamond-in-the-rough propensities, but the flip side of that is that his star recruits haven't always panned out - Travis Garrison and Mike Jones were both McD's, and neither played like one with any consistency. I could do without some of his histrionics, but you're right, you've got to respect him as a coach.

Unknown said...

for a game featuring two teams with top-10 defenses (according to KenPom at least), there didn't seem to be much to me in the way of defensive efficiency on display last night. i did NOT see that coming.

i haven't seen a team dismantle duke's very good defense like that all year (or perhaps i haven't seen duke's defense just not show up like that all year? i don't really know a very good objective means to distinguish between the two). this is all based on my subjective impressions, but i'll be very interested to see the tally on this game... and i wouldn't be surprised if last night was duke's least efficient defensive performance of the season.

Paul Rugani said...

Indeed you are correct. This was Duke's worst defensive performance by a healthy margin, and particularly when considering only ACC play.

By the way, I love when broadcasters just spout off soundbites without bothering to see if they're right. Hubert Davis at halftime - Maryland has been winning because they've recommitted to defense. Maryland's defense has been good all year - it's the resurgence of their offense (which was gawd-awful for much of conference play) that has spurred this run. For example, in 3 of their conference losses, Maryland had D Ratings of 88.2, 90.6, and 100.9 - that's two excellent defensive games and one above average. In their last two wins, they've posted D Ratings of 109.8 and 105.3, both below league average. It's their offense that's been brilliant - an O Rating of 116 over the past 5 games, which is well above the season average. Their D Rating in those 5 games has been good (99.4), but nothing to get all starry-eyed over. Hubert, your job is college basketball - would it kill you to do a little research so that you know what you're talking about?

Unknown said...

Vitale and Patrick, both of whom I rather like, repeatedly made similar claims during the game. In the second half, as Duke kept attempting to claw back into the game, they were persistent in talking about how this Duke team gets into trouble when they're behind because they don't execute well enough on offense to score points quickly, yadda, yadda, yadda...

Nevermind the fact that Duke seemed to have been executing quite well yesterday! The sinking feeling that grew stronger in me as the game got longer was that we were gonna have an awfully hard time coming back if we couldn't do anything about the points we were hemorrhaging on the other end!

Thanks for the sneak preview of the game stats - good to know it wasn't just my imagination that the defense last night was unusually, and superlatively, ineffective.

Anonymous said...

Great blog! I'm a Terps fan, and a quant, and this is just the sort of analysis I enjoy. Delighted to have found the link from kenpom.

Can't believe I'm praising a dookie (kidding), but I do look forward to checking out this blog regularly.

Paul Rugani said...

Thanks Carlos - opposing fans are always welcome. If you ever have any particular insight on Maryland that I'm missing, don't hesitate to correct me.

Anonymous said...

Thx. I don't have much to add. In fact i think you're analysis of the Terps strengths and weaknesses is spot on!