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January 26, 2010
Tuesday Truths
First Look at Big 12, SEC

by John Gasaway

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Welcome to the latest installment of Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 126 teams in 11 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.)

Behold the first full-strength look at all of the teams I'm tracking this season.

ACC: The defense forcing turnovers is not the one you'd expect

Through games of January 25, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession Opp. PPP: opponent PPP
EM: efficiency margin (PPP - Opp. PPP)

                      Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Maryland          66.6    1.17    1.00    +0.17
2.  Duke              68.0    1.09    0.95    +0.14
3.  Virginia          67.3    1.05    0.98    +0.07
4.  Wake Forest       70.3    1.02    0.99    +0.03
5.  Clemson           68.6    0.95    0.95     0.00
6.  Florida St.       68.3    0.99    0.99     0.00
7.  Virginia Tech     69.7    0.95    0.96    -0.01
8.  Georgia Tech      68.0    0.98    1.00    -0.02
9.  NC State          68.6    1.05    1.10    -0.05
10. North Carolina    71.3    0.99    1.06    -0.07
11. Miami             65.8    0.99    1.10    -0.11
12. BC                64.2    0.97    1.10    -0.13

I gave the Maryland offense some love yesterday, so I'll be fair and balanced and note here that Clemson has come out of the gate playing very good defense. What's more the Tigers are solid even when they don't force opponents into a turnover, allowing just 1.23 points per "effective" (TO-less) possession. If you're looking for an ACC defense that excels at making the other team give the ball away in 2010, that would actually be Virginia Tech. In conference play the Hokies have forced a turnover on a notably robust 27 percent of opponent possessions.

Big 12: Remember Kansas?

                      Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Kansas            70.5    1.20    0.95    +0.25
2.  Baylor            66.9    1.20    1.08    +0.12
3.  Oklahoma St.      71.2    1.02    0.94    +0.08
4.  Kansas St.        75.1    1.02    0.95    +0.07
5.  Texas             75.1    1.05    0.99    +0.06
6.  Missouri          70.1    1.01    1.00    +0.01
7.  Texas A&M         65.4    0.98    1.01    -0.03
8.  Colorado          70.6    1.09    1.18    -0.09
9.  Oklahoma          68.4    0.90    1.00    -0.10
10. Texas Tech        72.6    0.96    1.07    -0.11
11. Iowa St.          71.0    0.95    1.07    -0.12
12. Nebraska          62.6    0.92    1.09    -0.17

National champions in 2008, preseason favorites to win it all in 2010, etc.? Well, the Jayhawks look good so far. Saturday night Bill Self's team has an opportunity to further distinguish itself from Texas by doing something the Longhorns could not: Win at Kansas State.

Big East: Is Marquette the unluckiest team ever?

                      Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Villanova         72.0    1.19    1.03    +0.16
2.  West Virginia     64.4    1.13    0.99    +0.14
3.  Syracuse          71.4    1.08    0.97    +0.11
4.  Louisville        66.9    1.15    1.06    +0.09
5.  Georgetown        65.1    1.10    1.02    +0.08
6.  Pitt              64.9    1.07    1.01    +0.06
7.  Connecticut       69.2    1.02    0.97    +0.05
8.  Marquette         62.9    1.10    1.05    +0.05
9.  Notre Dame        66.5    1.12    1.12     0.00
10. Cincinnati        65.2    1.02    1.02     0.00
11. Seton Hall        69.8    1.05    1.09    -0.04
12. Providence        72.6    1.09    1.14    -0.05
13. St. John’s        66.7    0.93    1.00    -0.07
14. S. Florida        68.5    1.01    1.12    -0.11
15. DePaul            63.8    0.92    1.15    -0.23
16. Rutgers           70.7    0.91    1.17    -0.26

The numbers here suggest that the Golden Eagles are a solid NCAA team, but at just 2-5 in the Big East Buzz Williams' group is tied with the likes of South Florida and St. John's in the eyes of the committee. Marquette lost by one at West Virginia, by two to Villanova, by two at Villanova, by one at (brace yourself) DePaul, and by five at Syracuse. Then again what's done is done. Assuming Lazar Hayward and the gang win tonight against Rutgers, let's see how they do Saturday at Connecticut.

Big Ten: Wait, Northwestern's about as good as...Iowa?

                      Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Michigan St.      65.5    1.04    0.92    +0.12
2.  Wisconsin         58.7    1.03    0.92    +0.11
3.  Purdue            66.7    1.06    1.00    +0.06
4.  Ohio St.          64.0    1.01    0.98    +0.03
5.  Michigan          62.0    1.01    0.98    +0.03
6.  Illinois          66.9    1.00    0.98    +0.02
7.  Minnesota         66.6    1.03    1.03     0.00
8.  Iowa              64.2    0.93    1.01    -0.08
9.  Northwestern      63.5    1.04    1.13    -0.09
10. Penn St.          61.1    0.97    1.08    -0.11
11. Indiana           65.3    0.91    1.02    -0.11

Let us say instead that over their first seven conference games each team's been outscored by about the same margin. The concern for Bill Carmody's team going forward is that the Big Ten is absolutely feasting on this defense in the paint, making an incredible 57 percent of their twos.

Pac-10: We have separation

                      Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Cal               69.3    1.11    0.99    +0.12
2.  Arizona           66.1    1.09    0.98    +0.11
3.  USC               61.6    0.99    0.89    +0.10
4.  Arizona St.       62.6    1.02    0.93    +0.09
5.  Stanford          65.6    1.02    1.04    -0.02
6.  Washington        69.7    1.03    1.06    -0.03
7.  Washington St.    66.6    1.04    1.09    -0.05
8.  UCLA              63.9    0.99    1.06    -0.07
9.  Oregon St.        64.0    0.92    1.01    -0.09
10. Oregon            67.6    0.98    1.13    -0.15

For all the talk of a "wide open" Pac-10 this year, the league is actually showing a much cleaner distinction between haves and have-nots than any other major conference. On the one hand there's Cal, Arizona, USC, and Arizona State. On the other hand there's everyone else. That could change, of course. Who knows, maybe Washington will decide to start playing offense and/or defense in road games. But right now there's a big difference between the fourth- and fifth-best team on the left coast.

SEC: Incredible! Amazing! Superb! And Kentucky's pretty good too.

                      Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Kentucky          74.1    1.14    0.95    +0.19
2.  Vanderbilt        69.1    1.20    1.10    +0.10
3.  Tennessee         66.5    1.01    0.94    +0.07
4.  Ole Miss          69.2    1.02    0.98    +0.04
5.  Mississippi St.   71.7    1.02    1.00    +0.02
6.  Alabama           64.5    0.95    0.95     0.00
7.  Florida           65.6    1.11    1.11     0.00
8.  Georgia           70.0    1.04    1.04     0.00
9.  South Carolina    68.7    0.99    1.00    -0.01
10. Arkansas          72.3    0.99    1.08    -0.09
11. Auburn            70.0    1.00    1.13    -0.13
12. LSU               64.6    0.95    1.12    -0.17

You've probably heard it said that Georgia coach Mark Fox deserves consideration for SEC if not national coach of the year. That may be putting it mildly. If the Bulldogs continue to score about as many points as they allow, they will have set a new standard for major-conference year-to-year improvement. (Last year's efficiency margin: -0.18.)

A-10: Does Majerus have a weird pronunciation for "defense" too?

                      Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Temple            62.4    1.11    0.91    +0.20
2.  Saint Louis       64.4    0.99    0.87    +0.12
3.  Rhode Island      70.8    1.06    0.96    +0.10
4.  Dayton            69.3    0.99    0.90    +0.09
5.  Xavier            70.5    1.07    0.99    +0.08
6.  Richmond          63.9    1.03    1.00    +0.03
7.  Charlotte         67.9    1.00    0.98    +0.02
8.  La Salle          68.3    1.03    1.05    -0.02
9.  St. Bonaventure   67.5    0.98    1.00    -0.02
10. GW                65.0    0.98    1.05    -0.07
11. UMass             69.9    0.97    1.04    -0.07
12. Duquesne          68.7    0.95    1.03    -0.08
13. Saint Joseph’s    71.0    0.92    1.04    -0.12
14. Fordham           70.2    0.86    1.08    -0.22

The Billikens have been playing themselves some D. A-10 opponents are making just 41 percent of their twos and 27 percent of their threes against stingy SLU.

Conference USA: Welcome to a post-Calipari dogfight

                      Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Tulsa             67.9    1.10    0.95    +0.15
2.  Marshall          65.4    1.19    1.05    +0.14
3.  Memphis           65.2    1.15    1.02    +0.13
4.  UTEP              65.4    1.03    0.90    +0.13
5.  UAB               63.2    1.00    0.93    +0.07
6.  Houston           70.9    1.08    1.04    +0.04
7.  SMU               59.2    1.00    1.01    -0.01
8.  Southern Miss     60.1    0.98    1.00    -0.02
9.  Tulane            70.1    0.87    0.97    -0.10
10. UCF               69.8    1.03    1.13    -0.10
11. E. Carolina       67.3    0.89    1.05    -0.16
12. Rice              66.5    0.93    1.12    -0.19

UAB may look like they're a step behind the top of the conference here, but keep in mind the Blazers won by two at Marshall on Saturday night. This should be a fun conference race to watch.

Missouri Valley: The one true Game of the Year! is tomorrow night

                      Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  N. Iowa           60.3    1.03    0.88    +0.15
2.  Wichita St.       64.7    1.03    0.96    +0.07
3.  Illinois St.      63.3    1.06    1.00    +0.06
4.  S. Illinois       65.8    1.00    0.99    +0.01
5.  Bradley           66.5    1.04    1.03    +0.01
6.  Missouri St.      65.7    1.12    1.12     0.00
7.  Drake             64.8    1.01    1.01     0.00
8.  Creighton         65.6    0.99    1.02    -0.03
9.  Indiana St.       64.5    1.00    1.07    -0.07
10. Evansville        65.1    0.90    1.10    -0.20

I'm kidding, of course. (I said the same thing last week. From here on out I'll name a Valley Game of the Year! weekly.) Still, Drake's game tomorrow night at Northern Iowa could be more interesting than you'd assume. The Bulldogs' "0.00" here is made up of four games of "-0.19" followed by five games of, well, do the math. On Saturday in Des Moines, Mark Phelps' team dispatched Wichita State by 14. If I'm UNI coach Ben Jacobson, right now I'm telling my team to forget about Drake's highly misleading 10-11 record.

Mountain West: Provo wants GameDay to pay a visit

                      Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  BYU               68.4    1.13    0.89    +0.24
2.  New Mexico        69.4    1.02    0.93    +0.09
3.  UNLV              70.3    1.07    1.00    +0.07
4.  Utah              65.4    1.02    0.95    +0.07
5.  San Diego St.     67.2    1.06    1.06     0.00
6.  TCU               61.0    0.98    1.05    -0.07
7.  Wyoming           69.8    1.01    1.09    -0.08
8.  Colorado St.      69.6    0.97    1.07    -0.10
9.  Air Force         58.6    0.86    1.16    -0.30

Digger Phelps might be skeptical, but yea verily I say beware BYU. They are balanced, efficient, and consistent. Indeed the Cougars have a better shot at running the Mountain West table than any team since, well, BYU in 2008 (14-2). At any rate I'd get used to the "1" next to their name here.

WCC: These numbers come with an advisory label

                      Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Portland          64.7    1.15    0.97    +0.18
2.  Gonzaga           69.4    1.19    1.05    +0.14
3.  Saint Mary’s      67.3    1.17    1.04    +0.13
4.  Pepperdine        69.2    1.07    1.08    -0.01
5.  San Francisco     70.0    1.01    1.06    -0.05
6.  Santa Clara       64.3    0.98    1.06    -0.08
7.  Loyola Marymount  69.0    0.96    1.11    -0.15
8.  San Diego         61.7    0.93    1.09    -0.16

This past weekend Portland showed a clear ability to win home games by healthy margins against Pepperdine and, especially, Loyola Marymount. Gonzaga, conversely, allowed those same two vanquished foes to stay a bit closer. So, yeah, that's one data point. Here are a couple others. The Zags won by three at Portland and by seven at Saint Mary's. On the other hand the Pilots lost by five when they visited Moraga, CA. Draw your own conclusions.

John largely eschews decimal points on Twitter: @JohnGasaway. College Basketball Prospectus 2009-10 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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