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February 15, 2011
Tuesday Truths
Blunt Force Edition

by John Gasaway

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Welcome to Tuesday Truths, where we look at how well the 157 teams in the nation's top 14 conferences are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis. For a tidy little homily on why this stuff is so very awesome, go here.

ACC: How 'bout dem Hokies!

Through games of February 14, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession Opp. PPP: opponent PPP
EM: efficiency margin (PPP - Opp. PPP)

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Duke             10-1   69.3    1.12    0.94    +0.18
2.  Virginia Tech     6-4   65.6    1.09    0.98    +0.11
3.  North Carolina    8-2   71.5    1.05    0.95    +0.10
4.  Clemson           6-5   64.8    1.05    0.98    +0.07
5.  Maryland          5-5   68.7    1.05    0.99    +0.06
6.  Florida St.       8-3   68.4    0.97    0.95    +0.02
7.  Georgia Tech      3-8   69.4    0.98    1.00    -0.02
8.  Miami             4-7   63.7    1.05    1.09    -0.04
9.  Boston College    6-5   65.2    1.08    1.14    -0.06
10. NC State          3-7   67.5    1.03    1.10    -0.07
11. Virginia          3-7   61.7    0.96    1.04    -0.08
12. Wake Forest       1-9   69.3    0.90    1.18    -0.28

AVG.                        67.1    1.02

While we were all busy focusing on a resurgent North Carolina, those unprepossessing young men at Virginia Tech went out and quietly beat Georgia Tech about the head and shoulders with a blunt instrument. (In that game Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen combined for 58 points on 19-of-29 shooting. Ah, seniors. Ones not named something fun to say like "Jimmer" may not get the ink, but they sure come in handy.) The Hokies' 102-77 win over the aptly named Wreck has powered VPI to the ACC's No. 2 spot in this week's Truths. Note that if this keeps up much longer you can say goodbye to that annual interview with a Dejected but Composed Seth Greenberg at 7:12 ET on Selection Sunday. Is nothing sacred anymore?

Big 12: Kansas got hammered last night, but I still want them to play Texas again

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Texas            10-0   65.3    1.10    0.84    +0.26
2.  Kansas            9-2   70.1    1.17    1.02    +0.15
3.  Missouri          5-5   71.6    1.09    1.03    +0.06
4.  Colorado          5-6   67.9    1.07    1.05    +0.02
5.  Texas A&M         6-4   60.4    1.07    1.06    +0.01
6.  Kansas St.        5-6   67.4    1.04    1.03    +0.01
7.  Baylor            6-5   64.9    1.04    1.05    -0.01
8.  Nebraska          4-6   65.7    0.99    1.02    -0.03
9.  Oklahoma St.      4-6   65.7    1.01    1.06    -0.05
10. Oklahoma          4-6   65.7    0.98    1.08    -0.10
11. Iowa St.          1-9   73.0    0.98    1.11    -0.13
12. Texas Tech        3-7   68.5    0.98    1.14    -0.16

AVG.                        67.2    1.04

Congratulations to Kansas State, 84-68 winners over the Jayhawks in Manhattan last night behind a masterful 38-point performance from Jacob Pullen. The Wildcats had to have that game, and they got it. And yet, even though KU looked less than awesome in Bramlage Coliseum, I'd still like to see Bill Self's team play Texas twice a year. As seen here the gap in performance between the Big 12's second- and third-best teams is about the same as that between No.s 3 and 8. What a shame, then, that in hoops terms the Big 12 has long suffered from a bothersome asymmetry between its balance of power and its divisional structure. The Longhorns and the Jayhawks have both been to every NCAA tournament this millennium, but they only play each other once a year in the regular season. Fortunately this will change next year, as a league that's saying goodbye to Colorado (Pac-10) and Nebraska (Big Ten) moves to an 18-game round-robin. With all due respect to the hoops legacies of the Buffs and Huskers, that is a trade well worth making.

Big East: Who's No. 2?

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Pitt             11-1   63.6    1.13    0.98    +0.15
2.  Villanova         7-5   64.8    1.12    1.04    +0.08
3.  Notre Dame       10-3   62.7    1.11    1.04    +0.07
4.  Marquette         6-6   65.4    1.13    1.08    +0.05
5.  Georgetown        9-4   64.0    1.07    1.03    +0.04
6.  Syracuse          8-6   64.9    1.05    1.01    +0.04
7.  West Virginia     7-6   62.4    1.05    1.01    +0.04
8.  Louisville        8-4   66.0    1.06    1.02    +0.04
9.  Connecticut       7-5   65.3    1.03    0.99    +0.04
10. Cincinnati        6-6   62.5    1.01    1.01     0.00
11. Seton Hall        5-8   68.1    0.94    0.98    -0.04
12. St. John's        7-5   65.5    0.98    1.02    -0.04
13. Rutgers           4-9   64.1    1.02    1.09    -0.07
14. Providence        3-9   71.5    1.00    1.08    -0.08
15. S. Florida       2-11   63.8    0.97    1.09    -0.12
16. DePaul           0-12   65.4    0.96    1.19    -0.23

AVG.                        65.0    1.04

Give Pitt credit. With Ashton Gibbs sidelined due to a knee injury, the Panthers somehow managed to win last week at West Virginia and at Villanova. (Barely.) Meantime I'm still trying to figure out who the second-best team in this historically great 11-bid swaggering behemoth of a conference really is. Toward that end I'll be tuning in to tomorrow night's game between Georgetown and Connecticut in Hartford. Since starting 1-4 in Big East play the Hoyas have run off eight straight wins. Over that span John Thompson III's team has scored 1.11 points per trip while allowing 0.99. That's the kind of laudable swagger on both sides of the ball I could get enthused about come tournament time, particularly if the streaking team in question has a win at the XL Center under its belt.

Big Ten: Why do awards have "Finalists," anyway?

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Wisconsin         9-3   56.3    1.18    1.03    +0.15
2.  Ohio St.         11-1   62.6    1.14    1.02    +0.12
3.  Purdue            9-3   64.8    1.13    1.02    +0.11
4.  Illinois          6-6   64.3    1.08    1.02    +0.06
5.  Penn St.          6-7   58.5    1.07    1.08    -0.01
6.  Minnesota         6-7   62.4    1.05    1.06    -0.01
7.  Michigan St.      6-6   61.3    1.05    1.09    -0.04
8.  Michigan          6-7   60.9    1.07    1.13    -0.06
9.  Indiana          3-10   63.8    1.04    1.11    -0.07
10. Northwestern      4-9   62.9    1.05    1.14    -0.09
11. Iowa             3-10   64.6    0.98    1.10    -0.12

AVG.                        62.0    1.08

Jordan Taylor, renowned throughout the land as the nation's 11th-best point guard, will lead Wisconsin into West Lafayette tomorrow night for a key game against Purdue. What with all the undefeated teams being defeated and court-storms in Madison, the Boilermakers have been overlooked of late. Nevertheless Matt Painter's team is doing just fine in their (third) post-Hummel incarnation. Particularly notable is the way in which the Purdue D forces you to do without threes -- and then makes you miss your twos. Expect a tense well-played contest. In other news: Funky Scoring Distribution, thy name is Big Ten! Fully seven of this league's 11 teams have been outscored to this point in the season, and even among the elite on the positive side of the ledger there's one team that ain't exactly looking like a world-beater. I repeat my blunt assertion from a couple weeks ago. This is a three-Beast league.

Pac-10: Kind of like Dana Milbank with Sarah Palin, I'm declaring this a Washington-free week

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Washington        9-4   72.5    1.12    0.98    +0.14
2.  Arizona          10-2   68.5    1.09    1.00    +0.09
3.  UCLA              9-3   67.1    1.02    0.98    +0.04
4.  Washington St.    7-6   69.1    0.99    0.99     0.00
5.  USC               5-7   63.6    0.99    0.99     0.00
6.  Stanford          6-7   65.6    0.99    1.00    -0.01
7.  Oregon            6-7   66.4    0.98    1.00    -0.02
8.  Cal               6-7   68.0    1.09    1.12    -0.03
9.  Oregon St.        4-9   69.7    0.93    1.03    -0.10
10. Arizona St.      1-11   64.3    0.97    1.11    -0.14

AVG.                        67.5    1.02

I mean, really, what's the point of talking about, uh, that team? If I say they're great they'll just go out and lose three straight. Then if I say they've collapsed they'll just start looking like their old explosive selves. Enough! I'm getting off this treadmill for one week at least. Instead I'm going to talk about a team whose name I can actually say out loud. Has there ever been a team as dominant on the perimeter as Arizona? Boasting no fewer than five players who average at least 14 minutes a game and shoot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc, Sean Miller's team is hitting 44 percent of its threes in Pac-10 play. Then on the other end of the floor the Cats limit conference opponents to 25 percent shooting from long-range. It's not too much to say that Arizona's atop the Pac-10 because of this extreme disparity in results on the perimeter. Miller should give thanks every night to one of the following: Herman Sayger, Howard Hobson, Al Grenert, or Eddie Rios Mellado.

SEC: Gillispie's revenge?

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Alabama           8-2   66.8    1.03    0.90    +0.13
2.  Kentucky          5-5   67.0    1.07    0.96    +0.11
3.  Florida           9-2   63.4    1.08    0.98    +0.10
4.  Georgia           6-4   67.1    1.06    1.00    +0.06
5.  Tennessee         5-5   63.4    1.02    0.98    +0.04
6.  Vanderbilt        6-4   66.6    1.11    1.07    +0.04
7.  Arkansas          5-6   65.8    0.99    1.01    -0.02
8.  Mississippi St.   5-5   69.0    0.97    1.00    -0.03
9.  Ole Miss          4-6   66.8    1.03    1.07    -0.04
10. South Carolina    4-6   65.4    0.96    1.04    -0.08
11. Auburn            2-8   66.6    0.90    1.02    -0.12
12. LSU               2-8   65.2    0.84    1.04    -0.20

AVG.                        66.1    1.00

John,
Any comment on why Kentucky's numbers look great but they can't win a #$%@! road game?

Thanks,

Luke S.
Depressed UK Fan

Luke, that is indeed pretty #$%@!ed up. So I put a team of young Prospectus analysts wearing white lab coats on this vexing question, and their findings are incontrovertible. This is all Billy Gillispie's fault. Think about it. In Gillispie's final season in Lexington the Wildcats went 8-8 in the SEC, even though they outscored their conference opponents by 0.04 points per trip. That was a fairly atypical result, but by then Gillispie was in no position to save his job by telling UK fans, "Hey, this was a fairly atypical result!" (On-court factors were not the only ones in play -- and I'm not suggesting they should have been.) In comes John Calipari, and in the new guy's second season look what happens. The Cats are .500 even though they're outscoring the SEC by a Purdue-like 0.11 points per trip. This is even more atypical -- way more, in fact. Somewhere Gillispie is chortling. Meantime I continue to believe that the best strategy to employ with respect to close games is to not get into them.

A-10: Xavier says they're still Xavier

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Xavier            9-1   65.3    1.18    0.99    +0.19
2.  Duquesne          8-2   70.0    1.10    0.92    +0.18
3.  Temple            9-2   68.1    1.07    0.95    +0.12
4.  Richmond          9-2   63.1    1.13    1.02    +0.11
5.  Rhode Island      7-4   65.1    0.98    0.98     0.00
6.  St. Bonaventure   5-5   63.6    1.02    1.03    -0.01
7.  Dayton            5-6   66.4    1.00    1.01    -0.01
8.  GW                6-5   63.1    1.02    1.03    -0.01
9.  Saint Louis       3-8   62.8    0.94    0.97    -0.03
10. UMass             5-5   63.4    0.99    1.03    -0.04
11. La Salle          4-7   71.7    1.00    1.08    -0.08
12. Charlotte         2-8   65.9    0.98    1.06    -0.08
13. Saint Joseph's    2-8   62.3    1.00    1.11    -0.11
14. Fordham          0-11   68.0    0.88    1.12    -0.24

AVG.                        65.6    1.02

On Sunday the Musketeers left no doubt that they're still the cream of the A-10, winning at Duquesne 71-63. In the process Chris Mack's team managed to force the Dukes into both their worst offensive and defensive showings of the conference season. The loss is a severe blow for Ron Everhart's team, which is trying to make its first NCAA tournament since 1977. Aside from a road date at Richmond to end the regular season, Duquesne just doesn't have any more chances to impress the committee. Who knows, even if they never enter the bubble discussion the Dukes may end the season looking really impressive in Tuesday Truths. The last A-10 team to do that won the NIT.

Colonial: The Patriots hit the road

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  George Mason     13-2   65.0    1.17    0.95    +0.22
2.  VCU              12-3   62.7    1.11    1.02    +0.09
3.  Old Dominion     11-4   59.2    1.04    0.95    +0.09
4.  James Madison     8-7   67.0    1.08    1.02    +0.06
5.  Hofstra          11-4   65.2    1.10    1.07    +0.03
6.  Drexel            9-6   62.4    0.96    0.95    +0.01
7.  William & Mary   3-12   62.3    1.04    1.10    -0.06
8.  Georgia St.       6-9   63.8    0.94    1.01    -0.07
9.  UNC-Wilmington    6-9   62.0    1.03    1.10    -0.07
10. Northeastern     5-10   60.6    1.08    1.15    -0.07
11. Delaware          6-9   60.6    0.99    1.06    -0.07
12. Towson           0-15   62.1    1.04    1.21    -0.17

AVG.                        62.7    1.05

George Mason plays tonight at VCU, before heading to Northern Iowa on Saturday for their BracketBusters game. Those figure to be the two toughest challenges Jim Larranaga's team will see before the Patriots place their seeding fate in the hands of the selection committee. Right now I'm seeing Mason projected as an 8-seed. That's a bit low, but if you're a mid-major and you're not being under-valued in mid-February it just means you're not under consideration at all. The best way for GMU to make its case is to win the next two games.

C-USA: There are no nights off

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  UTEP              7-2   62.4    1.06    0.95    +0.11
2.  UAB               8-3   62.9    1.05    0.99    +0.06
3.  Tulsa             6-4   64.4    1.02    0.98    +0.04
4.  Memphis           7-3   67.4    1.01    0.98    +0.03
5.  Southern Miss     7-4   65.2    1.12    1.10    +0.02
6.  Marshall          4-6   66.8    1.02    1.01    +0.01
7.  SMU               6-4   61.2    1.04    1.04     0.00
8.  East Carolina     5-5   65.5    1.03    1.03     0.00
9.  Houston           4-6   64.0    1.05    1.06    -0.01
10. Rice              3-7   64.6    1.00    1.05    -0.05
11. Tulane            2-9   63.6    1.00    1.09    -0.09
12. UCF               2-8   65.5    0.96    1.05    -0.09

AVG.                        64.4    1.03

My definition of "no nights off" is simple: "no DePaul." (Har!) No, seriously, C-USA this season is strikingly competitive. Pretty ironic given the way Memphis used to shove the other 11 teams around, no? Now look: the per-possession difference between first place and last place in C-USA is exactly the same as the difference between first and third in the Big 12.

Horizon: A salute to Cleveland State's Norris Cole

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Cleveland St.    11-4   66.6    1.09    0.97    +0.12
2.  Valparaiso       11-3   66.2    1.03    0.95    +0.08
3.  Butler           10-5   64.3    1.11    1.03    +0.08
4.  Wright St.       10-6   62.0    1.04    1.00    +0.04
5.  Milwaukee        10-5   65.2    1.03    1.03     0.00
6.  Detroit           8-8   69.5    1.05    1.05     0.00
7.  Green Bay         6-8   66.2    1.03    1.05    -0.02
8.  Loyola           5-10   65.5    1.02    1.05    -0.03
9.  UIC              2-13   65.5    0.96    1.07    -0.11
10. Youngstown St.   2-13   68.9    0.94    1.09    -0.15

AVG.                        66.0    1.03

I don't care if it was against Youngstown State. The 41-20 double-double that Cole, a 6-2 guard, recorded on Saturday was incredible. (He was one assist away from the triple-double.) Next up for the Vikings, a visit to Wright State tomorrow night. Win that and Gary Waters' team stands a fair chance of getting a share of the Horizon regular-season title.

Missouri Valley: How could the Shockers lose, at home, to Southern Illinois?

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Wichita St.      12-3   63.0    1.12    0.92    +0.20
2.  Missouri St.     12-3   61.6    1.11    1.02    +0.09
3.  Creighton         8-7   62.2    1.08    1.03    +0.05
4.  Indiana St.       9-6   63.9    1.02    0.98    +0.04
5.  N. Iowa           9-6   59.3    1.06    1.04    +0.02
6.  Evansville        8-7   64.8    0.97    1.00    -0.03
7.  Drake             6-9   63.8    0.99    1.04    -0.05
8.  Bradley          3-12   64.6    1.00    1.09    -0.09
9.  S. Illinois      5-10   61.8    0.93    1.03    -0.10
10. Illinois St.     3-12   61.7    0.94    1.05    -0.11

AVG.                        62.7    1.02

The Salukis lost at home to Bradley and then in their very next game won on the road at Wichita State, 56-53. Against Chris Lowery's team the Shockers mustered just 53 points in 63 possessions. It reminded me of something that happened last month. A head coach was introducing me as "the guy from Prospectus" to one of his assistants when he turned to me and said this: "You know what would really help us out [implied: "for a change"] would be if you could come up with a system that would predict how players will be on a given night in terms of energy and emotion." I guess a night like the one Wichita State had last Tuesday is what he was talking about. Incredible.

Mountain West: The league's playing for high stakes in 2011

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  BYU              10-1   71.4    1.15    0.96    +0.19
2.  San Diego St.    10-1   64.3    1.08    0.91    +0.17
3.  Colorado St.      7-3   66.3    1.06    1.00    +0.06
4.  New Mexico        5-5   66.9    1.06    1.00    +0.06
5.  UNLV              6-5   66.6    1.03    0.99    +0.04
6.  Air Force         4-6   60.1    1.02    1.11    -0.09
7.  Utah              3-8   68.1    0.96    1.05    -0.09
8.  Wyoming           2-9   65.7    0.93    1.08    -0.15
9.  TCU              1-10   65.7    0.94    1.11    -0.17

AVG.                        66.1    1.03

Both BYU and San Diego State are currently being projected as 2-seeds, and whether or not one or both stay that high I think it's safe to say that the Mountain West is going to have some of its best seeding in a long while. The league will therefore be expected to get a team to the second weekend, something it hasn't done since 2007. Lest you think that looking really good in Tuesday Truths means you'll automatically thrive in the NCAA tournament, however, think back to last year, when the Cougars were even better than they've been so far this season. It's true! In 2010 Dave Rose's team outscored the MWC by 0.22 points per trip, a performance judged worthy of a 7-seed by the committee. BYU fell by 12 in the second round to 2-seed Kansas State. Looking good in Tuesday Truths is nice, but where the committee seeds you is important too.

West Coast: Where performance trumps venue

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Saint Mary's     10-1   66.6    1.17    1.00    +0.17
2.  Gonzaga           7-3   66.9    1.12    0.98    +0.14
3.  Portland          5-5   62.5    1.08    1.03    +0.05
4.  Santa Clara       6-4   65.4    1.03    1.01    +0.02
5.  San Francisco     7-3   69.2    1.03    1.01    +0.02
6.  Pepperdine        5-6   66.9    0.99    1.06    -0.07
7.  Loyola Marymount 1-10   66.3    0.97    1.09    -0.12
8.  San Diego        1-10   62.9    0.89    1.08    -0.19

AVG.                        65.9    1.04

Playing at home is more important in college basketball than it is in just about any sport -- except in the West Coast this past weekend. Pepperdine managed just 44 points in 66 possessions in Malibu against Gonzaga. Loyola-Marymount recorded just 48 points in 63 possessions at Gersten Pavilion against Portland. San Francisco lost by 18 at home to Saint Mary's. Only Santa Clara showed any semblance of normality, though a four-point home win over struggling San Diego is hardly worthy of storming the court. Non-Broncos moral of the story: When the top half of the WCC hits the road to play the bottom half, the top half wins. Road, schmoad.

WAC: Guess the Aggies aren't so Memphis-like after all

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Utah St.         12-1   63.5    1.11    0.92    +0.19
2.  New Mexico St.    8-4   69.7    1.04    0.97    +0.07
3.  Idaho             7-6   65.9    1.03    0.98    +0.05
4.  Nevada            7-5   67.6    1.07    1.03    +0.04
5.  Boise St.         7-6   67.5    1.02    1.02     0.00
6.  Fresno St.        5-8   65.4    0.99    1.05    -0.06
7.  Hawaii            5-7   66.1    0.94    1.03    -0.09
8.  San Jose St.      3-9   68.9    0.99    1.10    -0.11
9.  Louisiana Tech   2-10   66.5    0.89    1.00    -0.11

AVG.                        66.8    1.01

Last week I compared Utah State's current domination of the WAC to the kind of hegemony Memphis used to exert over C-USA back in the Calipari days, so of course the Aggies promptly went out and lost (at Idaho). Nevertheless I refuse to fret about what this will do to USU's at-large potential, because I think Stew Morrill's team will stand a very good chance of winning the WAC tournament. In other words I think the question itself is likely a moot point, though now that I've said that out loud Utah State is doomed.

John uses fewer decimal points on Twitter: @JohnGasaway. College Basketball Prospectus 2010-11 is now available on Amazon.

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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