NASCAR... It's not watching Syracuse piss all over itself-tastic!
Warren, a real deal writer who pimps the tightest blog this side of the Mississippi, has uncovered quite the story emanating from Steel Town.
I'm left with only one thought after reading this story: Is it worse that the inspiration for naming this child "Seven" came from looking at an 84 lumber sign or that they now adorn their child in a cacophony of seven paraphenalia?
God Hates Michigan and People Named "Joey"
Over at Straight Bangin'/Schembechler Hall, Joey has been hard at work constructing an open source letter to God decrying the pity that is Michigan athletics.
Now, I'm not one to that usually engages in a Monty Python-like "We were so poor..." dialogue, but for Michigan fans to decry torment that stifles their daily life is a little bit like Bill Gates being pissed off he can only light cigars with $100 bills rather than swim in his money like Scrooge McDuck. If anyone should be questioning the validity of a higher power, the heresy should be initiated by Orange Nation.
When Nerds Attack: The Billboard Wars
Personally, I don't particularly give a damn whether Southern California should be credited as back-to-back National Champions or not. But some super dorks apparently do.
In a bold move designed to infuriate lots of people with guns and a lack of fear of alligators, Kevin Robl of USCdynasty.com has decided that it would be a good idea to erect a billboard in Baton Rouge touting the Trojans' "dynasty."
The folks over at onepeat.com are apparently up to the challenge, topping the $11,000.00 mark in donations to erect a billboard in Los Angeles asking "Shouldn't dynasties win more than one?" The signage is slated to be up by February 15, 2006.
Pirate Blog... Arrrrrrrrrgh!
If you're interested in seeing how the average Seton Hall fan thinks, check out this blog. My all-time favorite statement in anything ever written comes from Caesar Darias' January 28, 2006 essay:
If the SHU men’s basketball team beats Syracuse tomorrow and if St. John’s loses to West Virginia, the Pirates will be in 7th place in the BIG EAST Conference standings. That would be amazing. The goal is to finish 12th or higher which means a ticket to Madison Square Garden.[Emphasis added for purposes of hilarity.]
You've got to have goals, no matter how pitiful.
Tempo-free Statistics: Big East Style
If you don't have the time to crawl through all of Pomeroy's statistics, the folks at Cracked Sidewalks have compiled all the information in an easy to read format. Take a perusal and see where Syracuse stacks up against its brethren.
In case you've been busy arguing the intracacies of how Gerry McNamara is able to accumulate 90.1% of Syracuse's available minutes while only generating an effective field goal rate of 44.1% (third worst on the team behind Louie McCroskey and Matt "For Three?" Gorman), National Signing Day is this Wednesday, February 1.
I bring this to the forefront of attention not because Syracuse has brought together some great almalgamation of gridiron heroes, but rather to prepare you for the utter disappointment that will inherently underlie such a day.
In other words, make sure to stock up on the Kleenex and Valium.
Even though I am hopelessly infatuated with college athletics, I have yet to really get onto the recruiting bandwagon. There are a couple reasons for this disinterest.
First, I think recruiting is masquerading as a noble pursuit, where future student-athletes judiciously weigh the options before them - both academically and athletically - and invariably make the best decision for them. Anybody with two eyes and goop between their ears that functions at a remedial level realizes that this isn't happening. Recruiting, at its best, is a dirty exercise devoid of general ethical limitations. At its worst, it's... well, it's... it's Alabama and Kentucky. That's the best I can do.
Second, I think trying to project the development and impact of an 18 year-old is an inexact science and not worthy of my ultra-valuable time. To predetermine whether or not some kid is going to pan out four years down the line and how that will impact a team is a pointless exercise that can only frustrate rather than excite. Therefore, I refrain from giving more than a glancing reflection on the crop of future Orange that has been harvested this year.
Finally, I think elevating recruiting to more than a mere distraction at the onset of February overvalues high school accomplishments and allows sleezeballs like Tom Lemming and Sonny Vaccaro to have relevance. The all-encompassing problem of kids making bad decisions about their futures can be traced directly to how they are treated as high school athletes and the praise they receive for their youthful exploits. When young athletes can go on Scout.com to read what some "expert" has written about them and how they are bound to become a 5-star stud, they are bound to have an inflated sense of self-worth. Thus, we are left with a system where priorities are viciously distorted and perpetuates the very ills that amateur athletics was designed to prevent.
With that soapbox moment out of the way, Greg Robinson has compiled quite the pile of horse dung for the Class of 2006. Highlighted by a wide receiver that may not qualify and a bushel full of 2-star also-rans, the Orange are poised to take up an inch or two of space in the Post-Standadrd on Thursday allowing Billy Fuccillo to pimp his "'uge" deals. Up-to-date lists of Syracuse commitments can be found here and here.
On a brighter note, the entire Syracuse recruiting class isn't the equivalent of vomit. Delone Carter is generally considered to have all the goods necessary to become a pretty darn good back for the Orange. As his Scout.com profile states:
Definitely has big-play mentality. Fell in love with Carter after watching his film. Can shake tackles. Very good lamps (vision). Can run between the tackles and has the quicks to take the ball outside. Stock should rise throughout the year. Elusive. Very good running back instincts. Breaks tackles.As an aside, if you call vision/eyes "lamps," you should be taken behind a shed and beaten incessantly until the dumbass falls out of your head.
Along with Carter comes Baltimore, Maryland quarterback Andrew Robinson. I mention this not because he appears to be anything other than functional, but rather because he may actually be functional, and that is a major step-up from the mannequins taking snaps for the Orange right now.
Stop Crying for the Irish
I actually watched the travesty that is Collge Basketball GameDay this morning. Other than wondering why such a crappy show has such a tight opening and theme song (while its football counterpart, a bastion for the pigskin freak, has an opening that makes me want to murder children), the only time I really wanted to spit nails was when Digger & Co. were talking about Notre Dame and their "bad luck."
First of all, I don't subscribe to the idea of luck. As Seneca once said:
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."[As I write this, Notre Dame has just lost to Villanova. By two. Via a tip-in with 1.4 left. Ironic, huh?]
So, with this in mind, there has to be reasons for Notre Dame losing as many tight games as they have this year for reasons other than "Jesus hates Mike Brey." A cursory look at Notre Dame's tempo-free statistics provides a great opening thought: this team plays no defense. In fact, the Irish are so bad on the defensive end of the floor that in only two statistics - "non-assist FG%" and "free throw rate" - is Notre Dame within the country's top 60 clubs. So, despite the fact that the Irish are in the top-20 nationally in offensive efficiency, Brey is forced to watch his team go slug for slug with their opponents consequently making games tight.
Bottom line is that if Notre Dame played some defense, they might actually pull out some of these games. You can't get away with not playing defense in the Big East because everyone can score, and do it in freaky-fast bunches.
What is also not helping the Irish is the fact that they have an offensive/defensive turnover percentage of 18.2/16.5. It doesn't take a genius to realize that losing the turnover battle is a good avenue for losing the war. Along similar lines, Notre Dame is also being outpaced by their opponents to the charity stripe 28.4 to 26.9. When you give up more opportunities for free points than you generate, you're going to get hammered in conference.
Finally, when a team relies on knocking down the triple to generate offense, there are bound to be instances of drought. Notre Dame gets 36.7% of its offense from beyond the arc and knocks down these shots at a 38.7% rate. When so much emphasis is put on hitting a shot that has a low probability of falling, the opportunities for failure skyrocket. Thus, because the Irish cannot effectively pound the ball inside to draw fouls, pick up easy buckets, and extend leads (I'm looking at you, Torin Francis, and your disappointing 109.4 Offensive Rating), they are stuck in a quagmire of bombing away and hoping the clock ticks down before they squader away a lead.
So, in short, Notre Dame's "hard luck" is the residue of their choice of style rather than simply coming out on the short end of the stick on numerous occasions.
Daaaah, dah dah, Seton Hall
The Orange are actually playing basketball on Sunday. In the Dome. Against a team that won't pummel them viciously. Well, at least according to Pomeroy they won't (Syracuse is docketed as a +7 favorite by the statistics guru; a 75% chance of victory).
Despite the Hall's heroic upset of N.C. State earlier this week, Louis Orr still has the equivalent of Syracuse football under his charge this season. Gregg Doyel of CBS Sportsline wrote some beautiful things about Orr earlier this season, but quite honestly, no matter how good of a coach Orr is - and he is a good one - success is going to be a fleeting thing with the Pirates this season.
Kelly Whitney and Donald Copeland are nice players, but they don't have the talent to put the Pirates on their back and string together 40 minutes of competitive basketball week in and week out.
The Four Factors:
|Syracuse||50.1 (135)||21.2 (137)||39.5 (19)||23.2 (220)|
|The Hall||46.6 (262)||21.3 (144)||35.9 (76)||31.2 (20)|
|Syracuse||44.0 (15)||23.4 (68)||31.4 (126)||39.9 (239)|
|The Hall||45.4 (36)||21.0 (202)||27.8 (25)||36.7 (179)|
February 11 Can't Come Fast Enough
SU Athletics decided to appease the populace by writing a truncated season preview for the resurgent lacrosse team. I'll pick this apart sometime down the line as the season gets closer, but a critical reading of this preview will lead you to a dizzying conclusion - this team has a million midfielders.
And no goalkeepers.
And I'm not exactly sure that's a horrifying prospect given how good the offense will be this season.
Errr, Uh, Ok
The latest out of Syracuse, NY: Size matters.
I'm pretty sure if your academic study is premised on measuring the size of bat testicles and comparing them to the creature's brains, your research has the relevance of this blog.
In an apparent effort to make 30,000 Syracuse fans flock to their local Goodwill and Salvation Army superstores, the SU athletic department has dubbed the February 1st game against Rutgers as "Dress Like Coach Boeheim Night."
As the press release states:
So, what it comes down to is that the athletic department is really interested in making sure that everyone wipes that shit-eatin' grin off their face and start looking like like someone stole all of your candy. The look isn't "throwback"; it's more like "throwaway."
Fans are encouraged to dress in clothing similar to what Coach Boeheim wore when the Dome opened in 1980.
Those who participate in the contest should register at the Syracuse Athletics marketing table in the backcourt area prior to the game. The top five contestants who dress most like Coach Boeheim will be selected and brought out at halftime and presented with a gift pack from the SU Athletics Department.And, of course, you can't forget the greatest gift of all: being ridiculed by your friends until you snap and gun down 15 people at a local McDonald's.
Big East Basketball: It's Better Than a Forearm Shiv to the Throat
1. At least by looking at the efficiency numbers, Pittsburgh is a team that is surviving on the strength of its defense. Is that a fair assessment and was that the death knell for the Panthers on Saturday?
No. The defense is the primary and it is leading the way. It has under Dixon and Howland before that. But surviving is the wrong way to put it (maybe I'm just being defensive). Pitt has been very efficient in the offense -- not too far from where Syracuse is according to Pomeroy. What Pitt's style is, though is to keep the game slower. Pitt has one of the slower tempo/pace -- lower third of the country. But, even then, it is around middle of the pack for the Big East.
Impatience and not passing was the death knell for Pitt against St. John's. Pitt's A/B% going into the game was 68.4%. In the loss, Pitt only had a 52.6% A/B%. Players got selfish and tried to do too much in the face of a defensive effort that caught them off guard in the first half.
The last 3 games were against teams with top-50 defenses (if we want to go to the traditional, per game numbers) in terms of scoring defense and FT% defense. Both St. John's (12th) and Louisville (41st) are top 50 in defensive efficiency; and Rutgers is 70th. That will skew perception a bit.
2. I've always been a little intrigued by Ronald Ramon and what he brings to the team. Talk a little bit about him and whether his only taking about 14% of the team's shots and being involved in only about 14% of the team's possessions is a good or bad thing.
Ramon has become a very good defender, and expends a lot more energy there. He has a strong B-ball IQ. He has battled through some tough injuries that limited his development. He looked great as a sharpshooter until injuries to his hand and shoulder. Honestly, he is still working on regaining the shooting touch.
He is still working at being a point guard and is still too willing to defer to Krauser, but he seems to be getting confident. His playing time is being shared with Levance Fields, a freshman also at point guard. With such a deep rotation for Pitt, it isn't surprising that he isn't as involved. Still, he is a starter and at the end of games he is on the court.
3. Aaron Gray seems to be an awesome cog in the Pitt machine this year. Has his development surprised you at all? To me, if Pitt is going to do some serious tournament damage this year, he's going to have to be the guy that goes bizerko, not Krauser. Dis/Agree?
He showed some flashes mid-way through the season when Chris Taft was starting to wear out the coaches patience with his disinterested play. 7' Centers are always intriguing because they usually are so raw but there is so much expected based on their sheer size.
I'm not surprised by the way he is scoring, more with the rebounding. I've seen too many seemingly huge big men in college wilt on the boards -- mainly because they don't like the pressure and intensity they face from opposing players. Gray has actually responded to that and starts fighting harder for boards.
Where he still needs work is in learning the refs. He has had serious foul trouble in some games, and it was clear he didn't catch-on from the early calls that how the game was going to be called. He's got to understand that as a big guy, he's not going to get as many calls, but it is more likely that calls will go against him if the opponent is smaller -- just a perception thing.
As for a deep run in the tournament, if Gray is going well, it is likely so is Krauser -- at least from sparking the team and drawing attention. Balance on the team has been when Pitt has played its best.
4. If he has one, where is Sam Young's ceiling?
I don't know where his ceiling is, but Young looks to be Pitt's most exciting and dynamic player in years. He is everything you can want -- big and athletic, has great leaping, high energy, a great first step, can go inside and out, likes to muck on defense and he is already strong and wide. I'd say he is already a favorite of many Pitt fans because of what he could be.
5. This game has gone from Syracuse having to prove itself against an undefeated Pittsburgh team to Pittsburgh having to prove itself against a struggling Syracuse squad. Has this change in fortune and perception been picked up by Panther Nation? Has everyone stepped back from the ledge after the Johnnies upset?
I'd say perspective was regained rather quickly. Definitely helped by Duke and Florida also losing on the same day. There was a brief window of anguish and frustration after the game. Yet, there was a lot of optimism. Pitt played as miserable a first half as can be imagined. They were still down by 11 with less than 9 minutes left in the game. Then Pitt made a big run and nearly snatched away the game.
Pitt was going to lose sooner or later, and the fact that it was St. John's -- again at the Garden -- wasn't an overwhelming shock. Like Syracuse, Pitt's in it's rough stretch of a lot of games in a short space. Maybe not UConn and 'Nova back-to-back, but 3 straight on the road at Louisville, the RAC and MSG in a week is not the easiest time.
Look, Pitt is facing Syracuse. The perennial power of the Big East from the start. A team Pitt has a historic winning % of .348 (32-60). No matter what, Pitt fans will look at the Syracuse game as a measuring stick.
At 6'4", 200 pounds, Baskin is squarely within the mold of the prototypical receivers dominating contemporary football. As the Scout.com player evaluation profile indicates, the New Jersey native has a lot of "upside":
Baskin uses his body control well, he has tremendous ball skills, and gets yards after the catch. Very tough and physical player, needs to improve his straight line speed.For everything that is great about Baskin on the football field, however, he is not the complete package. Many strongly believe that Baskin won't even have the opportunity to don an Orange uniform next season due to his poor qualifying scores and Syracuse's stringent admissions requirements. And even if Baskin does get sent to Milford Academy to prep next year in order to get his academics in order, it is no sure thing that the receiver attempts to re-enroll on The Hill in 2007 (i.e.: Ken Tinney).
So, I guess the moral of the story is that "it is what it is."
Update: The plot thickens. Sort of.
As speculation has indicated, Baskin does in fact have some eligibility issues in terms of his academic performance. Additionally, because of these academic woes, Baskin committed to Syracuse not because he truly wanted to wear orange, but rather because other schools had 'cooled' on him and didn't want to burn a potential scholarship on a player that may not be able to enroll by August.
This raises two important issues. First, does Baskin realize that Syracuse has tougher admission standards for athletes than other schools he was looking at like N.C. State and Ohio State? To commit to a university that has turned more players away the last few years for poor classroom ethic seems to be a gross miscalculation on the part of Baskin than anything.
I understand that he was anxious to scoop up an available scholarship, but to accept one from a university that limits your ability to actually exercise the rights associated with that scholarship offer seems short-sighted.
Second, if Coach Robinson was willing to make an offer to Baskin when he had actual knowledge of the young receiver's woes in the classroom, what does this say about the direction he is taking this program? Will Chancellor Cantor step in and make Robinson rescind the offer much like she did in the Colt Brennan situation?
This is certainly a developing situation that has great reach.
As it turns out, student-athletes within this cohort graduated at a 62% rate nationally while fat white kids who like to drink beer and write a blog housed at http://orange44.blogspot.com only graduated at a 60% clip.
Syracuse, not surprisingly, demolished the national average. Orange student-athletes within this freshman-cohort graduated at a 79% rate, which was actually three points higher than Syracuse's four-year average. For all students enrolling on the hill in 1998-1999 (including myself), 79% graduated, which is a point higher than the four-year average.
The rest of the Syracuse report may be found here.
In addition to releasing the federal government graduation-rate data, the NCAA also released updated GSR (Graduation Success Rate) reports. The GSR, for those that do not know, is the NCAA's method for measuring a college or university's success in graduating student-athletes.
In Syracuse's new GSR report, the Orange did quite well, graduating students at or above the federal rate in every single sport the university supports in this cohort. The Athletic Department announcement from December (when the 1998-99 GSR report was initially released) may be found here.
While on the topic of graduation, Billy Joel was recently announced as being this year's commencement speaker. Some may be thrilled with the selection of Joel as the Class of 2006 orator, but I think it's pretty pitiful that this university has gone from Rudy Giuliani and Bill Clinton, to Claire Huxtable, a lady who talks to monkeys, and, finally, a terrible drunk driver.
Once again, Ken Pomeroy should be given medals and cookies and, like, frankincense and myrrh. He's that good.
In the latest development on his uber relevant website, Pomeroy has finally given the basketball universe exactly what it needs - team-by-team scouting reports of every Division I basketball club.
These scouting reports have everything: team efficiency data, four factors analysis, tempo ratings, and, most importantly, promptly updated tempo-free player statistics. It's really a one-stop-shop for everything you could possibly need to make your head spin in a drunken stupor of basketball bliss.
So, if you're interested, the Syracuse scouting report may be found here. Villanova, the Orange's opponent on Saturday, may be found here. And Pittsburgh, Syracuse's next Big Monday rival, may be found here.
Going through some of this material, some things quickly jump off the page. First, of course, is Gerry McNamara's effect on the Orange offense.
McNamara, logging almost 90% of the minutes available in a basketball game, is taking 28% of Syracuse's shots and has generated only a 112.1 offensive rating (which smacks of poor efficiency). Therefore, because of Gerry's predisposition of finding his shot first (and failing to efficiency convert on a great many of his attempts), McNamara has created a scenario where the Orange defense must save the Orange offense from itself as there are very few offensive possessions where a more efficient scorer (like Demetris Nichols) can actually have the opportunity to convert.
Basically, Gerry has made himself the centerpiece of the offense, and how he goes, so goes the Orange offense.
Next is the impact of Arinze Onuaku. Only logging about 23% of the minutes available to him, he has dominated the glass. Scooping up 23% of the defensive rebounds available to him and a whopping 16.8% of the potential offensive rebounds while he is on the floor, Onuaku has really found his niche on the team. All Boeheim needs to do is give him some more minutes on the floor and Onuaku could flourish as the rebounding presence this team so sorely needs.
Finally, there is the two-face that is Darryl Watkins. Watkins comes in ranked 11th in the nation in block percentage yet cannot break the top 500 in defensive rebound percentage. That is pretty pitiful. Throw in the second lowest offensive rating on the team (just ahead of superstar Matt Gorman), and you really question whether Watkins will ever develop the all-around game that his predecesors (like Etan Thomas) were able to create.
Adios, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye
Donnie Webb has been counting them up and the list is now full of some all-time favorite washouts.
As it stands currently, the Syracuse football team may be without the huge impact of these superstuds next season due either to academic ineligiblity (AI) or because they decided that Syracuse is not the only school they want to lose at (T):
- Lendel Bembo (AI)
- Richard Abney (AI)
- Tim Washington (?)
- Ricky Krautman (T - Richmond)
The Mayor Rules in Favor of Drinking Like a Bastard
Kyle King, the writer of, appropriately, Kyle on Football, has turned the college football universe on its collective head by taking an old favorite - the Brent Musburger Drinking Game - and coming up with the College GameDay Drinking Game.
My personal favorites from this guide to debauchery include:
Lace 'Em Up
Rule No. 6: Lou Holtz
Anytime Lou Holtz mentions Notre Dame while discussing a game in which Notre Dame is not playing, everyone takes one drink. If he does it twice in the same segment, everyone takes two drinks, and so on until the end of the segment. If you try to speak and you find that you sound like Lou Holtz, stop drinking and have someone call you a cab.
Rule No. 11: Desmond Howard
If you can't understand what Desmond Howard is saying, take one drink. If you're pretty sure he's making a good point, despite your inability to understand what he is saying, take two drinks.
Rule No. 16: Holly Rowe
If Holly Rowe starts to look good to you, stop drinking.
The season has begun!
Next stop, Philadelphia, bitches!
If you're outside the local Syracuse area (which, I hope, you are) and still want to watch the Orange destroy its opposition, CSTV has announced that it will be carrying the Syracuse/Cornell game on April 11, 2006 at 7:00 PM. Hooray!
Also, before the lacrosse news comes to an abrupt end, Danny Brennan, the Orange's primary face-off specialist, is likely to be academically ineligible for the spring semester. This is not good. Syracuse was terrible at the "x" last season, and with its top face-off performer ineligible, the Orange's uphill battle just got a little more steep.
Coach Desko has indicated that Jon Jerome may be the frontrunner for the job this spring, but others such as John Carozza and Virginia transfer Nathan Kenney are expected to compete for the position.
(HT: Kim Baxter.)
Even though Poe was lementing the bleak December that stole his lost love 'Lenore,' the former resident of Maryland's best city for being brutally murdered - Baltimore - provides, through the haunting stanza above, the perfect backdrop to Syracuse's nightmarish upcoming hoops schedule.
"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by Horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!"
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."
- Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven
Over the next 12 anxious days and sleepless nights, the Orange will face five teams with an RPI rating of 91 or better. Four of those five teams are within the index's top 41, and of this subgroup, three are safely residing inside the top 15. Moreover, Syracuse has the luxury and good fortune of facing four of these five upcoming opponents in a venue not named "Carrier Dome."
Still not sufficiently tormented? Well, try this on for size.
Syracuse, according to uber genius Ken Pomeroy, is favored in only one of these contests - the home game on January 16th against Connecticut. And even for that one, Syracuse has only a 57% chance of victory. Every other game in this stretch sees the Orange as a decided underdog, with Syracuse's best chance for victory coming against Notre Dame on Wednesday (42% chance of victory) and its best chance at receiving a world-class beatdown coming against newly-defeated Villanova on January 21st (12% chance of victory).
With the introduction out of the way, let's get into some meat and potato stuff. Snippets will appear as games grow nearer, or until I feel like writing them.
Notre Dame - January 11th (South Bend, IN)
Think Iowa State on Sudafed. That's the Irish this year.
The Irish have been quietly flying under the radar for the early part of this season. With a 9-4 record punctuated by a loss to woeful DePaul, the Irish have hardly provided reason to turn a curious eye. However, records can be deceiving and there is much more substance to this group of ballers than their early season resume indicates.
As it stands right now, Notre Dame is 64th in Ken Pomeroy's power ratings and maintains the number 91 position in the RPI. Just last week Mike Brey's group pushed around a pretty good Pittsburgh team in the Petersen Events Center while establishing that they can, on any given night, shoot the lights out from the floor.
Moreover, when you start examining the numbers, Notre Dame seems to provide even more fits for a Syracuse club that has consistency serve as its kryptonite. Averaging only about 68 possessions per game, Notre Dame likes to slow the pace of play, putting the onus on their opponent to score efficiently. With an offense generating about 110.3 points per 100 possessions and a defense yielding around 95, Mike Brey has armed Notre Dame with enough strategy and production to win if their opponent does not come into the Joyce Center prepared to play.
What really scares me about Notre Dame isn't the pace of play but rather the Irish's style of play. Notre Dame gets 34.9 percent of their offense from behind the three-point arc. Given the fact that Syracuse yields to their opponent about 30.8 percent of their offense from beyond 19 feet, Syracuse could get down early if they give the Irish the same kind of looks from the outside they have allowed their 15 other opponents this season.
Additionally, one must consider the method of the Irish's attack. Mike Brey really tries to take the air out of the basketball on a nightly basis, and if the potent combination of Notre Dame getting hot from behind the arc and Gerry McNamara chewing up too much of the the Orange offense with a litany of poor shots occurs, Syracuse may not have enough possessions available to pull this game out.
Finally, if Syracuse plans to win, it's going to have to get there from the field, because the Irish are quite stingy in handing out their fouls. Currently, the Irish are 29th best in the country at limiting their opponents' trips to the charity stripe. As a consequence, only about 16% of a team's offense will come from a non-badgered scorer when the Irish serve as the opponent. When you realize that Syracuse has only generated a 51.5% effective field goal rate this season (89th best in the nation), and Notre Dame is only yielding a rate of 45.3 to its opponents, the fact that Syracuse will have to get all its points from the floor becomes even more startling.
The "Four Factors":
|Syracuse v. Notre Dame - Offensive|
|Syracuse v. Notre Dame - Defensive|
In an earlier essay, I examined team efficiency, both offensive and defensive, in the Big East. The purpose of this essay is to examine whether or not there is a blatant, overt connection between quarterback efficiency and a team's offensive efficiency.
Obviously, a quarterback's efficiency will affect a team's efficiency. As a primary cog in the offensive machine, a quarterback may account for both of an offense's methods for moving the football. Therefore, the purpose of this essay is not to question whether there will be an effect. The question presented here is whether passing efficiency has a reach that supercedes a team's ability to rush the football.
Lots of writers have waxed poetic as to the importance of a quarterback and the changing role of the signal caller in contemporary college football. Thus, with quarterback efficiency at the forefront of discourse, it's important to actually examine its true value. Using the Big East as a laboratory to carry out this experiment, some reasonable assumptions and conclusions can be made.
2005 saw the Big East dominated by stingy defenses. Only one team - Louisville - generated an offensive benefit value above the 300 mark while four teams - West Virginia, South Florida, Connecticut, and Louisville - had a total defensive benefit value below 200. As a consequence, only two Big East passers - Brian Brohm and Ryan Hart - finished the season in the top 50 of the NCAA in passing efficiency.
A brief note on the data below is necessary. I did not present data for every Big East quarterback that took a snap this season. Instead, I only listed the primary passers from each team this season. I defined "primary" as the quarterback who threw the most passes for his team this season. So, D.J. Hernandez and Adam Bednarik, while frequent features in their team's offenses this year, were not considered.
|Big East Passing Efficiency|
|2005 Big East Drive Efficiency|
At first blush, there does not seem to be a connection between passer efficiency and drive efficiency. Only Louisville and Syracuse had their primary passers slotted in the same rank as their offensive units in drive efficiency. South Florida had the greatest deviation with Pat Julmiste ranking 7th in the conference in passer rating and his Bulls offensive unit ranking 3rd in drive efficiency. Almost every other club had a two position deviation with West Virginia serving as the exception, having only a one position deviation.
What does this tell us? Well, having a top-notch passer is not as important to an offense's ability to score points as we are led to believe by the "experts." What ultimately determines an offense's success or failure, at least in the Big East in 2005, is the ability to effectively run the pigskin.
South Florida and Pittsburgh serve as prime examples for this conclusion, albeit for different reasons. South Florida, led by Andre Hall, had the 3rd most effective offense in the league this season. With an offense built around running the football and pounding out yards, it did not matter that Pat Julmiste was borderline terrible this season. Through an effective running game, the Bulls were able to overcome Julmiste's interception infatuation and still effectively score points.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, relied heavily on Tyler Palko to score points. With the Panthers failing to place one rusher amongst the league's top ten ball carriers, Pittsburgh leaned on Palko to move the football. Had Palko not amassed the passer rating he did, it is likely that Pittsburgh's drive efficiency would have been even lower.
If you think I'm crazy for posing this conclusion by pointing at Louisville's Brian Brohm and the team's drive efficiency value, you're not totally off-base. However, Louisville wasn't totally reliant on Brohm to score points. Michael Bush, if you remember, was second in the league in rushing. So, while Brohm certainly was important to the Cardinals offense, his ability to efficiently pass the pigskin wasn't the sole reason for Louisville's success. He had a little help from his backfield mate.
And, of course, if a team is terrible at everything, like Syracuse, it doesn't matter who's messing up your offense.
The BlogPoll experiment has reached its apex with this, the final ballot of the 2005-2006 season. It has been, at the very least, an interesting exercise in discourse and many thanks go out to Brian for being the impetus behind this pursuit.
Over the course of the season, some interesting things came out of the BlogPoll, including:
- Syracuse received one (1) total vote during the 15-week BlogPoll season.
- I did not cast this vote.
- Syracuse's lone vote for inclusion amongst the nation's 25 elite was cast in Week 1 by 50-Yard Lion who, surprisingly, thought that the Orange (21st ranked) was better than his hometown heroes, Penn State (25th ranked).
- Other one-vote teams include: Arizona (Week 2), Duke (Week 1), Oklahoma State (Week 1), Rice (Week 1), Tulane (Week 1), and Tulsa (Week 16).
- 23 teams were featured in the poll every week during the regular season.
[Bowl Games I Took In]
In a recent article from the venerable Wall Street Journal, Oregon was crowned the Nielson National Champion over its northwest brethren, Washington. Syracuse, due in part to its horrific bowl placements, finished dead last in the ratings index with a -21.1 ratings differential.
The WSJ describes its methodology as follows:
The full report may be found here.
Which college football teams draw the biggest national TV audiences? To find out, we checked the Nielsen ratings for 15 bowls over as many as 15 years.
For schools that showed up at least five times in our sample, we compared the rating for each game they played against the average for that particular bowl. (Games that determined the national champion, such as this year’s Rose Bowl, were given their own average.)
Rankings are based on ratings differential—the percentage by which TV viewership differed from the average in the bowl games they played.
I know I've said this on more than one ocassion, but if you're not reading Ken Pomeroy on a daily basis, you're really doing a disservice to your hoops IQ.
In Pomeroy's latest blog entry, the efficiency guru takes time to highlight his power ratings and how the conference races haven shaken out so far this season. Leading the Big East is, not surprisingly, Villanova with Pittsburgh, surprisingly, only about seven points behind.
Syracuse has been slotted in the 39th position, 8th in the conference. What is particularly interesting about Syracuse's rating, however, is not it's position within the conference, but rather its strength of schedule.
The Orange has, accordingly to Pomeroy, the 162nd strongest overall schedule in the country. This, in and of itself, isn't mind-boggling or particularly noteworthy. What is interesting is that Syracuse's non-conference strength of schedule is the 161st strongest schedule in the country. Thus, Syracuse's conference schedule is, albeit barely, easier than it's non-conference slate of games.
[Insert the time-space continuum collapsing upon itself here.]
One final note on Pomeroy before I move onto some other stuff. Pomeroy, bless his heart, is a pythagorean genius and has put together a team page tracking Syracuse's schedule and its projected win/loss record. While the predictions are purely conjectural, they are an interesting way to gauge how Syracuse should perform on the hardwood.
Arinze Onuaku = Basketball Jesus
Well, maybe not so much Jesus as much as burgeoning demi-god.
Onuaku, in limited minutes this year, has begun to establish himself as the rebounding presence that Syracuse has been in the market for. The numbers here do not lie:
|Individual Rebounding %age|
If you're confused as to what this means, the answer is actually simple: when Arinze is in the game, he collects almost 21% of the rebounds available. That, for a freshman, is pretty damn impressive.
What isn't impressive is Darryl Watkins' numbers. That percentage needs a meteoric rise if Syracuse expects to bang in the post during the conference slate.
Trojans Hooked by Young
I saw Donovan McNabb pull of some crazy stuff while a student at Syracuse, but nothing compares to the effort that Vince Young put in last night in Pasadena. Holy cow.
Rutgers Will Always, Always Blow Me
Gregg Doyel is my hero. But his armor took a huge chink with his latest article.
In a piece designed to make us all believe that Rutgers will somehow, someday become respectable in something other than blowing my stones, Doyel contests that if the Scarlet Blight land this Lance Thomas fellow, the world will collapse upon itself and Rutgers will suddendly start hoisting banners to the rooftop of the fallout bunker they call an arena.
Note to Gregg: It doesn't matter if they land Thomas. Gary Waters will, like Greg Schiano and every other coach that Rutgers has ever employed in any sport, find a way to screw up a good thing. You just can't win at Rutgers.
Is anybody in Syracuse ever happy about anything?
In a blog entry filed this afternoon, the Syracuse insider dropped some much needed knowledge on Syracuse's 2006 and 2007 football schedules.
As Webb notes, East Carolina has chosen to exercise its buyout clause rather than play the Orange in the Dome this coming football season. This is actually the second time that East Carolina has weasled its way off of Syracuse's home schedule, as the Pirates cancelled their contest with the Orange in 2002 due to a conflict with their Conference USA's scheduling commitments. As a result of East Carolina's failure to recognize its responsibilities, former Syracuse athletic director Jake Crouthamel was forced to put I-AA member Rhode Island on the schedule.
In an apparent effort to fill this new 2006 home vacancy with a university not currently designated as a I-AA participant, Syracuse has attempted to work out a deal with Frank Solich's Ohio Bobcats. These talks, however, appear to have fallen through.
As it stands right now, Webb believes that Buffalo, a functional I-AA squad masquerading in I-A clothing, will fill out Syracuse's home schedule in 2006. In order to accomplish this, Buffalo will be taken off the home schedule in 2007. In Buffalo's place on the 2007 home slate will be Ty Willingham's Washington Huskies.
Speaking of the 2007 schedule, Ohio State has officially removed itself from Syracuse's schedule in 2007 and 2010. However, the 2010 vacancy appears as if it will be filled with the Orange's former nemisis, Boston College.
|2006 Football Opponents|
|Miami (OH)||Syracuse, NY|
|South Florida||Tampa, FL|
|West Virginia||Morgantown, WV|
|Wake Forest||Winston-Salem, NC|
|2007 Football Opponents|
|Connecticut||East Hartford, CT|
|Iowa||Iowa City, IA|
|Miami (OH)||Oxford, OH|
|South Florida||Syracuse, NY|
|West Virginia||Syracuse, NY|
Unlike America's primary three sports, lacrosse has received little attention in terms of statistical development and methodology. Those statistics that have dominated the game since the inception of its recordation are still at the forefront of examining production and value.
Unfortunately, those traditional methods have become dated and I think there are better methods for determining production. The methodology I am proposing in this essay is similar to much of the material I have presented on football and basketball, where an eye is turned toward possession-based statistics rather than game or season-based averages.
Possession-based statistics, as opposed to traditional statistical approaches, provide a truer examination of efficiency, whether offensive or defensive. Analyzing team or player efficiency is preferable to traditional "averages" analysis because efficiency illustrates an individual's or team's consistency. Traditional statistics, however, tend to reward an entity for a particularly impressive performance and having that output residually imputed to underachieving performances. This kind of inaccuracy is unacceptable.
As noted above, I am proposing in this essay the use of a possession-based method to examine a team's offensive and defensive efficiency. However, the implementation of this system is not without difficulty.
Unlike many college basketball teams, there are not, currently, any college lacrosse teams that chart possessions. Consequently, to determine the number of possessions a team generates in a contest, we need to find those events in the boxscore that mark the end or beginning of a given possession. As it turns out, there are essentially two ways for a possession to end or begin:
1. On the Face-Off
Every possession following a goal or the start of a new period begins with a center face-off. When any player successfully corralls the loose ball following the face-off, possession is awarded to that team.
Thus, the first element in the equation is: (Face-offs Won)
2. Clearing Attempts
Defining when a possession begins or ends on a clearing attempt is not as easy to recognize as it is on a face-off. Because a clearing attempt may or may not be successful, there is actually the opportunity for two possessions to begin and two possessions to end. To illustrate this point, and example is necessary.
Let's say Team A wins the face-off against Team B and advances the ball into Team B's defensive zone. This simple action - collecting the ground ball and advancing it into the attack zone - results in one possession for Team A.
As Team A works the ball around Team B's defensive zone looking for an opportunity, Team B intercepts an errant pass. Consequently, Team B now has a clearing opportunity as a result of the turnover. This clearing opportunity marks a change of possession, no matter how many shots Team A took on change, so long as none of Team A's shot tickled the twine. Thus, the possessions at this point are each 1 and 1, despite the fact that Team B has yet to advance the ball out of their own defensive side of the field.
Now, this is where the possession analysis gets tricky. Given the fact that once Team B creates a clearing opporunity a new possession occurs, every clearing attempt must be considered a team possession, regardless of whether the team is successful in clearing the ball from their defensive zone. Because all clearing attempts are considered possessions, Team A actually has the opportunity to create two possessions without the ball leaving Team B's defensive zone.
So, say Team B intercepts a Team A pass as noted earlier. On the clearing attempt, Team B fails to clear the ball either by an errant pass, a Team A interception, or a failure to proceed in the required amount of time. At that point, Team A will gain possession.
Thus, from the face-off to Team B's failed clear, three separate possessions have taken place - two for Team A and one for Team B.
If you are asking yourself why clearing attempts are considered as marking the end or beginning of a possession instead of turnovers, you're asking a very valid question. However, turnovers, unlike in basketball, are not effective means for defining when a change of possession takes place in lacrosse. This is for two reasons.
First, very few college lacrosse teams track turnovers. To formulate an equation that takes into account a statistic that appears in only a handful of boxscores is not an effective means for determining the number of possessions a team has.
Second, clearing attempts naturally take into account turnovers, and to consider turnovers as a separate category would "double count" the statistic. In other words, a turnover naturally leads to either a clearing attempt or a failed clearing attempt. Thus, all "turnovers for" are counted for in "total clearing attempts" and "failed opponent clearing attempts."
As a consequence of all of this, the formula for possessions now looks as follows:
Face-offs Won + Total Team Clearing Attempts + Number of Failed Opponent Clearing Attempts
To illustrate how the possession formula works, a brief look at Syracuse's 2005 statistics may be helpful.
Syracuse - 175
Opponents - 158
Total Clearing Opportunities:
Syracuse - 286
Opponents - 283
Total Failed Clearing Opportunities:
Syracuse - 45
Opponents - 56
Thus, with this material, we can determine the number of possessions Syracuse had in 2005 by using the formula above:
175+286+56 = 517 = Number of Syracuse Possessions
158 + 283 + 45 = 486 = Number of Syracuse Opponent Possessions
This data indicates that Syracuse averaged somewhere around 38 possessions per game last season. The Orange's opponents averaged about 36, which makes sense, given the fact that Syracuse was stronger on the ride and at the face-off "x" than its opponents, thus resulting in more possessions per contest.
The data produced below represents Offensive Efficiency (goals/possession), Defensive Efficiency (opponent goals/possession), and Efficiency Margin (Offensive Efficiency - Defensive Efficiency).
Note: This data does not include Vermont because I have not been able to uncover data from its games against Duke or St. Michael's.
* = Reclassifying/Provisional Division I member
|21||Mt. St. Mary's||.2677|
|45||Mt. St. Mary's||.2838|
|34||Mt. St. Mary's||-.0161|
Unlike much of the efficiency material I have previously written about in this notebook, the formulae and data derived for this particular essay has been developed by yours truly. Therefore, I am interested in fielding comments as to whether the information I have used to develop possession data is sound.
So, if you feel the urge to comment on any of the methods used above, you're more than welcome to leave a comment below.
Tomorrow evening, Connecticut and Marquette will kick off the 2006 Big East Conference season when they tussle in Milwaukee. In honor of this special occasion, I thought it appropriate to take a brief look at some tempo-free statistics and how each conference member has measured up at this, the pseudo-halfway point of the season.
If you're not familiar with tempo-free statistics, they are essentially an alternative method for analyzing production and value. Tempo-free statistics are free from inflation or deflation by measuring a team's production through a possession-based analysis, rather than of raw, aggregate data.
For more information on tempo-free statistics, I highly recommend this introduction written by Big Ten guru John Gasaway and this primer written by blogging superhero Ken Pomeroy. Additionally, for each statistical category, I've provided a link to some background information on that particular method of measurement so that each value can be put into its appropriate context.
Note: All the data produced below represents games played through 12/31/2005.
Pace: Possessions Per Game
Tempo/Pace represents the number of possessions a team generates per 40 minutes of basketball. Even though possessions are not charted officially as an NCAA statistics, it can be adequately estimated by using the follow formula developed by Ken Pomeroy and Dean Oliver:
Possessions = FGA-OR+TO+.42*FTA
On average, a team will generate about 70 offensive possessions per game.
This value represents the number of points scored by a particular team per 100 offensive possessions. Given the fact that an average college basketball team will only generate about 70 possessions per contest, these numbers are higher than the points-per-game statistics that you may be accustomed to.
Furthermore, in order to accurately represent a team's true offensive efficiency, these values have been adjusted in order to account for a team's competition. Ken Pomeroy describes this adjustment as follows:
Say Team A averages a pace of 62 possessions per game and Team B averages 68 possessions per game. And for the sake of this example, let's say the average college game has 70 possessions, a nice round number. For the model I use, the expected possessions in a game involving Teams A and B would be 60. This results from the fact that Team A averages eight possessions slower than normal and Team B averages two possessions slower than normal. The sum is ten possessions slower than normal, or 60.If you are still confused and would like to read more about how Pomeroy illustrates offensive (and defensive) efficiency, this link would be helpful.
Why would the game end up being played at a slower pace than either team's average? A team's average pace is a product of how they like to play and how their opponents like to play. A team playing much slower than average, like Team A, is more than likely playing opponents that prefer to play faster than them. So Team A's average pace on the season is faster that they would really like if they were totally in control.
The method used for calculating defensive efficiency is the same as that used for calculating offensive efficiency. So, if you're curious as to how these values have been determined, simply used the links and information listed above.
Effective Field Goal Percentage
Using a traditional method for measuring field goal percentage is an adequate way to illustrate a team's ability to strike consistently from the field. However, with the advent of the three-point shot and its pervasive role in contemporary offensive style, using a straight-forward methodology does not illustrates the full value of a team's attempts from the field.
Thus, Dean Oliver has developed a method that accounts for both the two-point and three-point shot. This formula is a simple, yet informative evaluation of a team's shooting ability and looks as follows:
Eff FG% = (FGM + 0.5*FG3M)/FGA
Consequently, an effective field goal percentage recognizes that a made three-pointer is worth more (approximately 0.5 more) than a made two-pointer. As John Gasaway has noted, using a straight field goal percentage in the presence of the three-point shot is roughly analogous to calculating a batting average using plate appearances instead of official at-bats.
|Effective Field Goal Percentage|
Turnover Percentage serves as a pace-independent measure of basketball security. To measure a team's turnover percentage (whether offensive or defensive), by dividing the number of turnovers a team commits by the team's total possessions.
Offensive Rebounding Percentage
Measuring rebounding as a function of opportunities seized or squandered is much more enlightening than simply using boards per game. As described by John Gasaway:
To take just one example: in the bizzaro world of per-game stats, Penn State usually “leads” the conference in offensive rebounding, as seen here on the Big Ten’s official stats page.To calculate a team's offensive rebounding percentage, the formula is quite straightforward:
How can this be? Mainly because the Nittany Lions (the poorest shooting team in the Big Ten last season) miss so many shots and thus have so very many opportunities to record an offensive rebound. So last year in conference Penn State hauled in about 11.7 offensive boards a game while Michigan State had “only” 11.1.
Does this mean PSU’s really a better offensive rebounding team than the Spartans? Of course not. In fact, Tom Izzo’s team was outstanding on the offensive glass last year, far and away the best in the Big Ten at rebounding their misses.
OR% = OR / (OR + Opponents Def Reb)
|Offensive Rebounding Percentage|
Getting to the Foul Line
As noted by Ken Pomeroy:
Free throw rate captures a team’s ability to score from the line:
FTRateoff = FTM / FGA
In Dean Oliver's piece, he mentions the relative importance of each factor.
In the NBA, effective field goal percentage is easily the most important factor, followed by turnover percentage, offensive rebounding percentage, and free throw rate.
A "RoboScout"-type analysis of games from the 2005 season shows that the importance of each factor is similar in college, with free throw rate being slightly more important in the college game, but still taking a back seat to offensive rebounding. Each team is different though.
For instance, Gonzaga’s free throw rate was the second most important contributor to their offensive success. For Michigan State, offensive rebounding ranked second.
Effective Field Goal Percentage
The principles used to derive a team's defensive effective field goal percentage are the same as those used to derive a team's offensive effective field goal percentage.
|Effective Field Goal Percentage|
The principles used to derive a team's defensive turnover percentage are the same as those used to derive a team's offensive turnover percentage.
Offensive Rebounding Percentage
The principles used to derive a team's defensive offensive rebounding percentage are the same as those used to derive a team's offensive rebounding percentage.
|Offensive Rebounding Percentage|
Keeping Opponents Off the Foul Line
The only difference between a team's defensive free throw rate and its offensive free throw rate is that defensive free throw rate employs free throws attempted in the numerator since the defense has little control on the percentage of free throw attempts made by the opposition.
Thus, the formula looks as follows:
FTRatedef = FTA / FGA
When the clock strikes 7:00 PM Tuesday evening in barley-fueled Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun will finally have at his disposal the final cog necessary to make his Huskies not only the 2006 Final Four favorite, but, arguably, the most balanced NCAA hoops squad since John Wooden's UCLA Bruins.
In honor of this momentous occasion, I've assembled a list of some of Coach Calhoun's most famous players (whether former or current) and staff members that have had some sort of run-in with Connecticut's finest protectors of the peace. However, before the names of the not-so-innocent are re-released, some caveats must be made to appropriately accompany this essay.
First, I've limited the roster to individuals that have been under Coach Calhoun's supervision since 1990. Given the fact that I do not have free reign to a newspaper library, this is the only manageable way to construct any type of police blott... err, cataloguing of fine "student-athletes" and "educators."
The second caveat is that former players or staff members that may have committed arrestable acts of stupidity (such as Johnnie Selvie) following their time in Storrs are not considered. At some point, ultimate accountability cannot fall at the feet of the head of the hierarchy of responsibility.
Finally, I know that Syracuse does not have a spotless record in terms of player behavior. Everyone knows that DeShuan Williams is one of the ten worst human beings on the planet and that the Orange was put on probation back in 1996. However, the purpose of this essay is not to wave an angry finger of comparative institutional control. Neither is it to serve as a vehicle for depression or jealously. Rather, the sole function of this essay is to highlight the notion that the cast of characters is oftentimes not as good as the play itself.
2005: A.J. Price
· Stole four laptop computers in June 2005
2005: Marcus Williams
· Stole four laptop computers in June 2005
2005: Antonio Kellogg
· Charged with possession of less than four ounces of marijuana
· Charged with criminal intent to assault a police officer, criminal trespass, and interfering with an officer
2004: Clyde Vaughan
· Charged with patronizing a prostitute and interfering with an officer
2003: Ben Gordon
· Charged with third-degree assault and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors
2003: Rashard Anderson
· Threatening and breach of peace
2001: Marcus Cox
· Charged with one count of marijuana possession
2000: Tony Robertson
· Accused of scheming to swap tickets for boots at the Timberland Stores at Westfarms Mall. No charges were filed after a four-week investigation.
1999: Khalid El-Amin
· Charged with possession less than four ounces of marijuana after his arrest in Hartford’s North End
1998: Antric Klaiber
· Charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, seat belt violation
· Charged with shoplifting
1998: Doug Wrenn
· Charged with shoplifting $85 sneakers from Bob’s of Hamden
· Cited for disturbance outside of a bar
· Arrested on breach-of-peace charges
1994: Rudy Johnson
· Charged with breach of peace in an incident involving Connecticut women’s basketball player Sue Mayo
1993: Brian Fair
· Charged with shoplifting
1990: Murray Williams
· Charged with driving while intoxicated