So, let's take a closer look at the seven teams that comprise my personal nightmare. I'm going to focus on four items:
- The pace at which these schools play;
- The efficiency of each school (there are sub-conversations for offensive and defensive performance);
- The shooting performance of each school (once again, there are sub-conversations for offensive and defensive performance); and
- Strength of schedule (specifically, who the hell are all these idiots playing when they're not playing each other?).
As an aside, I took the position in a previous essay that I didn't think that Johns Hopkins was a particularly good team worthy of an N.C.A.A. invitation if the Blue Jays managed to get to .500.
I think that I've moved away from that sentiment. In fact, if Johns Hopkins beats Loyola on Saturday, not only do I think that the Blue Jays should be included in the field, I think that they may be a tough out in the tournament.
So, yeah. I hate myself for writing that, too.
Just a quick primer on the constitution of "pace": This is merely total possessions per game. I've alternatively called it "tempo" in the past, but you get the picture. The higher the pace value, the higher number of possessions. The higher number of possessions, the greater the opportunity for runnin' and gunnin'.
In other words, pace tells me whether you're playing like Syracuse under Roy Simmons, Jr., or if you're playing "Tierney Ball."
The fastest team in the Big East so far this year is Syracuse (currently fifth in the country); the slowest team is Rutgers (53rd nationally). What is scary is that Georgetown and Syracuse are the only two teams in the league playing about the national tempo average (the national pace average is around 70 possessions per game). Notre Dame is squarely on the average while four teams -- Villanova, St. John's, Providence, and Rutgers -- are below the mean.
This raises an interesting fact. Remember when Rutgers and Providence bored you Orange-loving mind when Syracuse played each team? Well, your boredom is validated! Congratulations! What you saw was reality. A very boring, elongated reality that probably resulted in you wanting to drink bleach to dull the pain forever.
It also signals that Rutgers and Providence may have imposed their tempo on the Orange. More on that next week (not a huge deal, at least in the Providence situation).
What's the takeaway from all this? Well, this isn't a rocket fuel league. It's kind of slow and it's probably attributable to some of these teams (I'm looking at you, Providence and St. John's) needing to play a measured pace because they don't have the personnel to run with Georgetown and Syracuse. I'd like to see more action on the field, but it's reassuring to know that these coaches are doing what they need to do to at least create a competitive situation.
Providence is the worst offensive team in the country. It's true! I have numbers to prove it and everything. But you don't need to see those numbers because you witnessed the Friars making a mockery of offensive lacrosse it the Carrier Dome just a few weeks ago.
But, to complete the picture of how bad Providence is on offense, I'll provide the following: Virginia isn't as far ahead of the offensive mean as Providence is behind the offensive mean. I'll provide another example: Virginia is around eight efficiency points ahead of the national mean; Providence is around 10 efficiency points behind the national mean and the second worst offensive team in the country (Air Force) is still two efficiency points better than Providence.
Horrendous. Pathetic. Sad. [Enter your own word from the thesaurus here.]
With respect to the rest of the conference, three teams are above the national average -- Georgetown (highest rated at 12th), Syracuse, and Villanova -- and three team are below the national mean -- Notre Dame, St. John's, and Providence. Rutgers is straddling the average.
That distribution feels about right, but it's a little deflating to know that the A.C.C.'s four teams are all in the country's top-11 in offensive efficiency. So, I think it's fair to say that the Big East has some good offensive teams, a couple of average offensive teams, and a handful of poor offensive teams.
Good, but not great. So this is a hell of a defensive league, right . . .
. . . not so fast, stupid. You'd think that the offensive efficiency would be influenced by an opponent's defensive efficiency, but in the Big East that doesn't appear to be the case.
- Syracuse and Notre Dame are so far ahead of the Big East pack in terms of defensive efficiency it's almost humorous. The Orange is second nationally (behind North Carolina) and the Irish are fourth.
- St. John's brings up the rear in the Big East (hold your head up high Providence!) clocking in at 51st in the country.
- The Big East also sees three other teams below the national average: Rutgers (which helps explains the Scarlet Knight's maddening season), Georgetown (ha ha, losers), and Providence (let's bring down that chin a little bit, Friars). These are terrifically bad defensive teams (Rutgers and the Hoyas are just below the mean, but they aren't impenetrable, either.
- Villanova is hanging out just above the mean. Good for them, though. The Wildcats are still operating without a full compliment of scholarships. That's kind of impressive.
So, this begs the question: Are Syracuse's and Notre Dame's defensive performances deflating the league's overall offensive efficiency? Honestly, I have no clue. This very well may be the case. The alternative is that defensive efficiency isn't impacting offensive efficiency in the conference because the league just doesn't have lights-out offensive teams.
I think that the alternative may be right.
If this shocks you, then you're probably a hell of a drooler. The Big East doesn't have a hell of a lot of good shooting teams.
Crazy, right? I know. It's nuts. I should win awards and stuff for this research.
The national average in in effective shooting percentage is .2583, which just happens to be Georgetown's rate. Two teams -- Villanova and Syracuse -- are above the mean with the Wildcats holding the highest overall position nationally (ninth). Once again, the league has a bunch of teams below the mean -- Rutgers, Notre Dame, Providence, and St. John's.
Remember when I said that the Big East wasn't a good offensive league? Well, a big reason for it is that nobody in this conference can bury the seed when they shoot it (except for Villanova).
What is infuriatingly frustrating is Providence. The Friars play slow, can't shoot, and are one of the worst overall offensive teams in the country. That is almost unwatchable. Almost.
Once again, I shouldn't be shattering your universe: The Big East has a bunch of inefficient defensive teams; the fact that they're allowing teams to score when they shoot isn't a magical circumstance.
Syracuse is the best in the conference in terms of stopping or creating bad shots from their opponents. Rutgers is the worst (56th nationally). All teams other than Syracuse are below the national average.
This . . . this is not good.
Georgetown should be especially chastised for their performance. The Hoyas have the talent, but are getting cooked when it comes to limiting good shots (or stopping them, for that matter). Georgetown is 52nd nationally, a fact that is full of schadenfreude and may spell doom for the Hoyas championship (or tournament invitation if you love cynicism like me) hopes.
Strength of Schedule
This has no bearing on anything other than the fact that I'm interested in this nonsense. Let's look at a couple pieces of the puzzle:
- Providence has played the toughest overall schedule in the Big East; Rutgers has played the worst. Accordingly, I can understand the Friars going winless on the season. Rutgers? Well, the Scarlet Knights have absolutely no excuse for their inconsistent season. They're playing nobody this year and only four schools have played worse schedules. Pathetic.
- Providence has played the toughest defensive teams this year; Rutgers has played the worst. Just copy and paste what I wrote in the last bullet point and apply it to offensive performance. Once again, shame on you, Rutgers.
- Georgetown has faced the best offensive teams this year (it probably helps explain why teams are shooting well against the Hoyas -- those are just good shooting teams); Rutgers has faced the worst. C'mon, Rutgers. The game isn't that hard to figure out.
- Overall, the league has three teams with schedules that are above the national mean in terms of difficulty: Providence, Georgetown, and Notre Dame. Two schools are hovering around the average: Syracuse and St. John's. Two schools are toward the bottom nationally: Villanova and Rutgers. There are three takeaways from this: 1) Georgetown should be given credit for this in their at-large debate; 2) Syracuse's seeding may (and probably should) take a little bit of a hit because the Orange has played a so-so schedule; and 3) Villanova should be given some discredit for playing a relatively lousy schedule this year in its at-large debate.
And that's all I have to say right now.