Friday, December 21, 2012

Butler's Winning Blueprint

Going into last Saturday's Butler-Indiana game, the question was how would Butler's shaky defense stop quite possibly the best offense in the country. Indiana scored 1.13 points per possession, a more than respectable number but still their 3rd lowest output of the season. The gameplan for Brad Stevens was pretty  obvious and discussed all over Twitter: let Freshman guard Yogi Ferrell take long jumpers. On the season, Ferrell is 35% from 2 and 25% from 3.

Stevens chose to put the stellar defender Roosevelt Jones on Yogi Ferrell. If the gameplan was to let Ferrell shoot, then Butler conceivably could have put someone like Rotnei Clarke on Farrell, saving Jones for a more efficient offensive player. However, Stevens purposefully put Jones on Ferrell  in order to more effectively stop the Ferrell-Zeller pick and roll. The video below of the opening play demonstrates this:  

Butler chose to switch screens and use Roosevelt Jones' versatility. Although only 6'4", Jones is a very good rebounder for his height and kept a body on Zeller at all times. Meanwhile, Ferrell felt compelled to go at the bigger/slower Andrew Smith. Smith did a solid job of keeping Ferrell in front of him while still baiting him to take shots. Of course, it should be noted Jones and Smith both fouling out can probably be attributed to at times playing defensively out of position. The results?

Yogi Ferrell: 3-9 from two, 2-4 from three, 6 turnovers, used on 30% of Indiana possessions (team high)
Cody Zeller: 4-9 from two, 0-0 from three, 2 offensive rebounds, used on 21% of Indiana possessions (4th highest)

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Effects of Coaching Changes: Taking a Look at Iona

Recently, Jordan Sperber took a look at how a coaching change affects style of play.  His quality work caught the attention of Zak Boisvert, who gave us the idea to do a similar study looking at Iona. With Boisvert's idea and Sperber's guidance, I am delving into a similar post regarding Iona and the transition from Kevin Willard to Tim Cluess.

Iona, during the Willard days, struggled the first two years before going 21-10 in year 3.  The Willard led Iona teams didn’t excel in the four factors offensively, with the exception of 2009’s free throw rate, however were well above average defensively.

Under the lead of Cluess, Iona has been extremely successful at the most important category: wins.  They went 25-12 in year 1 and 25-8 in year 2, including an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament before this epic collapse.  Looking at the four factors, Iona excelled shooting and turning teams over.  Their offense has been stellar in the two full seasons under Cluess.

It’s tough to believe watching them now, but just 2.5 years ago, Iona was a slower, defensive centric team.

2008 was the fastest Iona played under Kevin Willard.  A likely reason for that is much of the personnel (upperclassmen) were used to playing at a faster pace under the previous coach, Jeff Ruland.

Something interesting to look at that I believe changes with a new coach is the bench usage.  Under Willard, Iona used their bench about as much as any team in the nation.  Under Cluess, Iona has been using their bench in the bottom third of the country.  To me, this seems contradicting.  I would assume a run and gun style would lead to more minutes for the bench. 

I believe many factors affect how a team plays after a new coach is hired.  Obviously, once a coach has settled in and has a chance to recruit the style of player he wants, “Run n Gun” or “Beilein Ball” can take place.  However, before a recruiting class or two, stats prove that personnel has a much greater influence in the short term before that coach can implement his system.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Villanova's One Dimensional Offense

After missing the NCAA Tournament in 2012 for the first time in seven years, Jay Wright's Villanova squad was looking for a bounce back year. However, the team has struggled to a 3-3 start against D1 opponents. Off the court, the Big East has continued to decline and Villanova has largely remained silent about the situation.

Villanova's offense has ranked 98th in the country in adjusted efficiency. This is relatively impressive considering their shooting, rebounding, and turnover numbers (all in the 200's). The factor keeping Nova's offense afloat has been their ability to get to the foul line. In fact, the Wildcats rank second nationally in free throw rate (FTA/FGA).

As a cynical Villanova student and fan, I assumed the extremely high free throw was simply due to competition. Basically, I thought Nova had coincidentally played teams that foul a lot on defense. I decided to look further into this by comparing the AVERAGE free throw rate of each Villanova opponent compared to Villanova's free throw rate when they played that team. The results are shown graphically below:

The graphs above show that the Wildcat's ability to get to the line does in fact appear to be legitimate. I knew going into this research that JayVaughn Pinkston and Ryan Arcidiacono were both aggressive drivers who tend to force the issue. Stats back that up, Pinkston draws 7.6 fouls per 40 minutes (23rd in the country) and Arcidiacono draws 5.2 foul per 40 minutes (352nd in the country). More surprisingly, center Mouphtaou Yarou has been very good at getting to the line this year. After a solid junior year, Mouph was expected to have a big senior year. The knock on him by the Villanova fan base has always been his inability to go up strong. Despite this reputation, he gets to the line quite a bit. The final player getting to the line often for Nova has been Maurice Sutton (albeit in limited minutes). Why teams would foul Sutton I'm not sure. Sutton is known for his defense, but doesn't have much of an offensive game in the post.

Obviously a team like Villanova that gets to the line so frequently is heavily affected by their ability to actually make the free throws. This season, Villanova has shot 71% from the line (the NCAA average is 69%). That coming off a great season from the line last year where the Wildcats shot a very high 75.4%. Currently, Nova is making 22 free throws per game. I wanted to look at the affect of FT% on points and ultimately on wins. I looked at FT%'s between 65% and 77% and how that would affect Nova's expected wins in these first six games and for the rest of the season (using pythag expectation):

The Wildcats are currently projected to 14-16 on the season given their 71% foul shooting. However, at 74% they would be projected to crack the .500 barrier and at 67% they would be projected to go 12-18. Coaches love to stress the importance of free throws. Jay Wright would have a legitimate point, because of how frequently his squad finds themselves at the charity stripe.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Meet Tavon Allen

The Drexel Dragons entered the 2012-13 season as the favorite in the now VCU-less Colonial. Drexel was snubbed of an at-large bid last season by the selection committee and returned the majority of their team, including go to guy Frantz Massenat. However, the start of 2012 has not been smooth sailing for Drexel. Chris Fouch sustained a season ending injury, while another guard Damion Lee has also been banged up.

Enter Tavon Allen, a 6'7" redshirt freshman wing. Allen made his debut at UPenn, scoring 15 points on 5-9 shooting. In Drexel's opening round game against St. Mary's at the DirecTV Classic, Allen got the start because of the injuries. Allen went for 16 more points in that game in his 30 minutes of playing time.

Tavon Allen is not your average wing. What makes him unique is his ambidexterity. No, not ambidextrous like a John Wall type player (shoots with his right hand but likes to dunk/finish with his left). Allen actually shoots with both hands. In fact, Allen shoots threes with his left hand and twos with his right hand. Below are the 10 field goals Allen took against St. Mary's on Thursday:

Neither of Allen's jump shots have textbook form, but that hasn't stopped him from getting good results on the season. Through the St. Mary's game**, Allen is 4-7 from three, 5-12 from two, and 9-10 from the foul line. Allen's lefty shot is a set shot that takes some time to load. However, Allen off the dribble took righty jump shots with a much quicker release.

What Allen is doing is nothing short of amazing. Many college basketball players struggle enough shooting with one hand (Nerlens Noel 12-23 from the foul line), but Allen has showed thus far he can be decently efficient with both. Going forward, I am very curious to see if Allen ever uses his left hand from two off the dribble or his right hand from deep. At first this might seem like a complicated decision Allen has to make, but is it really any different than deciding what hand to finish a layup with? If Allen is truly confident in both, why not use the hand that best avoids the defender?

**Friday against Xavier, Allen continued to shoot the ball well going 3-4 from three, 1-2 from two, and 2-2 from the foul line.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Finding the Cinderella Team

In 2011, Rick Byrd's Belmont Bruins had what was probably one of the best seasons in Atlantic Sun history.  Belmont lost their season opener at Tennessee by nine, then rattled off five wins in a row before losing at Vanderbilt by nine. They got a rematch against Tennessee in late December, but lost that one by just a single point. However, the Bruins cruised through the Atlantic Sun, going 19-1 with some ridiculously lopsided victories. After winning the Atlantic Sun Tournament, the Bruins were given a 13 seed. They became a trendy upset pick, but were pretty much beaten wire to wire by Wisconsin.

Statistically, the 2011 Bruins had the nations 40th best offense and 23rd best defense. Better yet, the team was loaded with players returning for the 2012 season. All six Belmont players used on at least 20% of possessions they were in the game were returning for 2012. Belmont seemed poised to be capable of making a Davidson-esque run in March.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Story of the Shammgod

I made a new YouTube video on "The Shammgod", a unique dribble move being used in the NCAA and NBA in recent years. The video tells the story behind the move and has highlights from the NBA as well as college highlights of God Shammgod from Providence. For basketball junkies, you can see my other two videos also featuring innovative moves here and here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Mid Major Scheduling: The Challenges of Life on the Bubble

I recently had a piece published by Winthrop Intelligence on the the challenges that surround mid majors when it come to scheduling. The idea behind the piece was to explore teams like Utah State, who cannot get major schools to commit to home and home series. The powerhouses of the NCAA have no incentive to go on the road against one of these successful mid majors and risk defeat.

For the full piece and many graphs and charts click HERE.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

UPDATED: 2012-2013 College Basketball Top 25 Preseason Rankings

Now that most of the incoming freshman/transfers have chosen their destination and all of the NBA-ers have moved on, it’s time for an updated college basketball preseason ranking.

Most of the changes in these 2012-2013 rankings were due to personal biases, or things that were overlooked in the first set of rankings.

In any case, these rankings shouldn't change much until just before the preseason tournaments.

1. Indiana
Leaving:  Verdell Jones, Tom Pritchard, Matt Roth
Returning:  Cody Zeller, Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, Maurice Creek
New:  Yogi Ferrell, Hanner Perea, Jeremy Hollowell

This is the season the Hoosiers have been longing for. With their size, shooting, defense and consistent play from freshman PG Yogi Ferrell, they should be in good position for a Final Four run. This might be their one shot, as Watford and Zeller are both likely gone next season.

2. Louisville
Leaving:  Kyle Kuric, Chris Smith, Jared Swopshire
Returning:  Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, Chane Behanan, Wayne Blackshear, Rakeem Buckles, Mike Marra
New:  Luke Hancock (George Mason), Terry Rozier

Louisville will be one of the best defensive squads in the nation this season, which will keep them near the top of the major polls. The question will be whether they will be dangerous from the perimeter after the departures of Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith.

3. Ohio State
Leaving:  William Buford, Jared Sullinger
Returning: Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas, Lenzelle Smith, Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott, Evan Ravenel, Amir Williams, LaQuinton Ross
New:  None

Deshaun Thomas was one of the best players last March and should cap off his collegiate career with another good season. The question will be whether there is enough scoring outside of Thomas that will help alleviate double-teams. Should Lenzelle Smith become the #2 scoring threat, this team will be very dangerous. Aaron Craft at PG is also a major advantage that the Buckeyes will have over its opponents.

4. Kentucky
Leaving:  Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, Darius Miller, Eloy Vargas
Returning:  Kyle Wiltjer
New:  Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley, Ryan Harrow (N.C. State)

It's hard to evaluate a team that has nothing left from the prior season. But the Nerlens Noel YouTube video is pretty impressive and Archie Goodwin will be a top scorer.

5. Kansas
Leaving:  Thomas Robinson, Tyshawn Taylor, Conner Teahan
Returning:  Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, Justin Wesley, Kevin Young
New:  Ben McLemore, Jamari Traylor, Andrew White, Perry Ellis

At this point, how can you not rank Kansas as #1 in the Big 12?

Leaving:  Lazeric Jones, Jerime Anderson
Returning:  Josh Smith, Travis Wear, David Wear, Tyler Lamb, Norman Powell, Anthony Stover
New:  Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker, Jordan Adams, Larry Drew II (North Carolina)

Much of the Bruins' success will be based on the play of their three prized freshmen.

7. Florida
Leaving:  Bradley Beal, Erving Walker
Returning:  Patric Young, Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy, Mike Rosario, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete
New:  Braxton Ogbueze, Michael Frazier
8. Michigan State
Leaving:  Draymond Green, Brandon Wood, Austin Thornton
Returning:  Keith Appling, Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson, Travis Trice, Brandan Kearney, Russell Byrd
New:  Gary Harris, Matt Costello, Denzel Valentine, Kenny Kaminski

9. Syracuse
Leaving:  Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters, Fab Melo, Kris Joseph
Returning:  Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair, James Southerland, Michael Carter-Williams, Rakeem Christmas, Baye Keita
New:  DaJuan Coleman, Jerami Grant

10. Michigan
Leaving:  Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, Evan Smotrycz
Returning:  Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Jordan Morgan
New:  Mitch McGary, Glenn "Tre" Robinson, Nick Stauskas

This team will have a very good starting five, but will be thin when Beilein looks to his bench.

11. Duke
Leaving:  Austin Rivers, Miles Plumlee
Returning:  Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, Andre Dawkins, Quinn Cook, Tyler Thornton, Josh Hairston
New:  Marshall Plumlee, Rasheed Sulaimon

12. UNC
Leaving:  Tyler Zeller, Kendall Marshall, John Henson, Harrison Barnes
Returning:  Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock, P.J. Hairston, James Michael McAdoo, Leslie McDonald
New:  Marcus Paige, J.P. Tokoto, Joel James, Brice Johnson

13. Baylor
Leaving:  Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller, Quincy Acy, Anthony Jones
Returning:  Pierre Jackson, Brady Heslip, A.J. Walton, Gary Franklin, Deuce Bello, Cory Jefferson
New:  Isaiah Austin, L.J. Rose, Ricardo Gathers

14. Memphis
Leaving:  Will Barton, Wesley Witherspoon
Returning:  Adonis Thomas, Joe Jackson, Tarik Black, Chris Crawford, Antonio Barton, Ferrakohn Hall, Stan Simpson, D.J. Stephens
New:  Shaq Goodwin, Damien Wilson, Geron Johnson

15. UNLV
Leaving:  Chace Stanback, Oscar Bellfield, Brice Massamba, Kendall Wallace
Returning:  Mike Moser, Anthony Marshall, Justin Hawkins, Carlos Lopez, Quintrell Thomas, Reggie Smith
New:  Anthony Bennett, Bryce Jones (USC), Khem Birch (Pitt -- midyear), Katin Reinhardt, Daquan Cook, Demetris Morant

16. Wisconsin
Leaving:  Jordan Taylor
Returning:  Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz, Josh Gasser, Ben Brust, Frank Kaminsky
New:  George Marshall, Sam Dekker, Zach Bohannon (Air Force), Zak Showalter

17. Saint Louis
Leaving:  Brian Conklin, Kyle Cassity
Returning:  Kwamain Mitchell, Dwayne Evans, Cody Ellis, Mike McCall, Jordair Jett, Rob Loe
New:  Jared Drew, Keith Carter

18. NC State
Leaving:  C.J. Williams, Alex Johnson
Returning:  Lorenzo Brown, C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, Scott Wood
New:  Rodney Purvis, Tyler Lewis, T.J. Warren

19. Gonzaga
Leaving:  Robert Sacre, Marquise Carter
Returning:  Elias Harris, Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell, Sam Dower, Guy Landry-Edi, Kelly Olynyk, Mike Hart, David Stockton
New:  Przemek Karnowski
20. Creighton
Leaving: Antoine Young
Returning: Doug McDermott, Gregory Echenique, Grant Gibbs, Ethan Wragge, Jahenns Manigat, Josh Jones
New: None

21. Arizona
Leaving:  Kyle Fogg, Jesse Perry, Josiah Turner
Returning:  Nick Johnson, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom, Angelo Chol, Jordin Mayes
New:  Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, Gabe York

22. Missouri
Leaving:  Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Ricardo Ratliffe, Matt Pressey
Returning:  Phil Pressey, Michael Dixon, Laurence Bowers
New:  Alex Oriaki (UConn), Keion Bell (Pepp.), Ernest Ross (Auburn), Jabari Brown (Oregon), Tony Criswell, Stefan Jankovic, Domonique Bull, Ryan Rosburg, Negus Webster-Chan

23. SDSU
Leaving:  Garrett Green, Tim Shelton
Returning:  Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley, Xavier Thames, James Rahon, DeShawn Stephens, LaBradford Franklin
New:  J.J. O'Brien (Utah), Dwayne Polee (SJU), James Johnson (Virginia -mid-yr), Winston Shepard, Skylar Spencer, Matt Shrigley

24. Kansas State
Leaving: Jamar Samuels
Returning: Rodney McGruder, Will Spradling, Jordan Henriquez, Angel Rodriguez, Thomas Gipson, Adrian Diaz, Shane Southwell, Martavious Irving
New: None

25. Minnesota
Leaving: Ralph Sampson III
Returning: Trevor Mbakwe, Rodney Williams, Austin Hollins, Andre Hollins, Julian Welch, Joe Coleman, Maurice Walker
New: Wally Ellenson, Charles Buggs

Thursday, June 7, 2012

An Insider's Look at a Final Paper: Stats in Sports

Below is a final paper submitted and revised by Jonathan Safir for his Approaches to Media Studies class at Vassar College. Thought it was applicable enough to post.

Media and Technology Transforming Sports: The Statistical Revolution in Basketball and the Change in Spectatorship

The way in which humans view sporting events has changed drastically over the course of time.  More specifically, Generation Y watches a game differently than the Baby Boomers. At its core, how we use the phrase “watching the game”  means the same today as it did 50 years ago.  However, as it is more critically analyzed, many different people can be watching for many different parts or subtleties of the game.  As a diehard fan, one can watch hours on hours of games for pure entertainment.  As a coach, one can break down each part of the game and create endless hours of film to watch and learn from.  As more and more information becomes available, coaches can watch games to track various statistics that are used to create a more sophisticated and enhanced scouting report.   This has created a rift in which watching games is no longer a necessity.  With access to websites like and, basketball coaches have alternative ways of analyzing film, footage, and accessing statistical data.  Advancements in media and technological capabilities have played a monumental role in how statistics are not only measured but also utilized in the game of basketball.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Effects of Coaching Changes

In a recent post, I went back and looked at a Beilein West Virginia team. Both Bob Huggins and John Beilein have had success coaching the Mountaineers, but they have done so with markedly different offensive strategies. The following graph visualizes these differences:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Debates: Biggest Tourney Snub

The following is part three of three of a series of debates featuring Jonathan Safir, Ricky Winkeller, and Jordan Sperber. For part three, we will be examining the biggest NCAA Tourney snub (i.e. bubble teams) in the KenPom Era (2003-2012).

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

2012-2013 Pre-Season College Basketball Top 25

It's early for a 2012-2013 top 25 college basketball list. That's true.

What this set of rankings gives you is a detailed list of the recruits, players leaving and players returning to each program.

Most importantly, I've also made very conscious choices on the photos for each team. The photos give you an insight as to why they are ranked where they are (especially for #6, not really for #12). But all of the photos resemble positive aspects of each team entering this season.

No explicit data has been used to create these rankings. As I've explained in the past, recent preseason, crowd-sourced rankings have performed almost as well as the final AP poll at predicting the Final Four..

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Debates: Best Player

The following is part two of three of a series of debates featuring Jonathan Safir, Ricky Winkeller, and Jordan Sperber. For part two, we will be examining the best player in the KenPom player era (2005-2012).

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Debates: Best Team

The following is part one of three of a series of debates featuring Jonathan Safir, Ricky Winkeller, and Jordan Sperber. For part one, we will be examining the best team in the KenPom era (2003-2012).

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Whirlwind of Recruiting

My first post on HoopVision was going to be an analysis on the impact of a top-15 recruiting class (according to in both college basketball and football. In a year when Kentucky wins the national championship after its third consecutive #1 ranked recruiting class, the impact of the one-and-done rule seemed to have manifested itself into one of the best college basketball teams in the last two decades. In the analysis versus football, we should have seen that a top recruiting class in basketball has a bigger impact in the first year than it does in football, where players stay in school much longer.

However, the correlation between winning percentage and X number of years after a top-15 recruiting class was low. Very little change from year one down the road. So, we decided to keep the analysis to basketball only and look at what a top recruiting class does to a team.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Video Charter’s Guide To The Final Four | Stat Geek Idol

The following is the third (Final Four) post I wrote for TeamRankings' Stat Geek Idol. For more information on the competition click here.

Last week, I attempted to quantify Wisconsin’s Swing Offense through the use of video charting. With the Final Four, I set out on a similar goal for Louisville, Ohio State, Kentucky, and Kansas.
To analyze each offense I watched each offensive possession from the Elite Eight of the Final Four teams in slow motion and charted categories such as: number of passes, shot location, defender proximity, number of dribbles the shooter takes, time of possession, number of players crashing the boards, and more. When it was all said and done, I was about 3% closer to becoming a video charting expert.

Video Charting The Swing Offense Of The Wisconsin Badgers | Stat Geek Idol

The following is the second (Sweet 16) post I wrote for TeamRankings' Stat Geek Idol. For more information on the competition click here.

The Wisconsin Badgers, led by Coach Bo Ryan, are a familiar topic of discussion for stat geeks.
The foundation of advanced statistics in basketball is tempo free. That is, numbers that are not influenced by the pace a team plays at. The Badgers are of course known for their slow pace. Without looking at Wisconsin on a per possession basis, you cannot compare them to teams that play faster.
To analyze Bo Ryan’s Swing Offense I watched each Wisconsin possession versus Vanderbilt in the Round of 32 in slow motion and charted categories such as: number of passes, shot location, defender proximity, number of dribbles the shooter takes, time of possession, and more.

Quantity Over Quality: Getting More Whacks At The Pinata | Stat Geek Idol

The following is a post I wrote for TeamRankings' Stat Geek Idol. For more information on the competition click here.

Earth shattering revelation: you have to make shots to win basketball games. This is an undeniable truth inherent in the great game Dr. Naismith created.
More controversial statement: you DON’T have to shoot well to win basketball games.
These two statements may seem inconsistent on the surface, but in fact are both true. Not every possession consists of one shot. Empty possessions are ones that end in a turnover before a shot is put up. On the contrary, other possessions consist of several shots via the offensive rebound.
Simply put, the quantity of shots you take is just as important as the quality.