Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Spread the Tempo - Part Two

On sharing the ball:

-Drexel finished the regular season 16-13 (8-8)
-When Massenat and Fouch combine for 49+ points in a game the Dragons are only 2-2 this year
-When Massenat has 6 assists in a game the Dragons are 8-1

On Pace:

Drexel played five non-overtime games this year in which there were at least 68 possessions:  UCLA, Illinois State, Arizona, Delaware (twice).  Four of the games were away from the DAC and the Dragons were 2-3 in those games with an average point differential of -2, against opponents with an average kenpom ranking of 73.

Drexel played twelve games this year in which there were 63 or less possessions:  Tennessee St, St. Francis, Southern Miss, William and Mary (twice), UNCW (twice), James Madison (home), College of Charleston (twice), Northeastern (away).  The Dragons were 6-6 in 7 home games and 5 road games, with an average point differential of +3.5 against opponents with an average Kenpom rating of 214.

Reader of the blog and national college basketball guru Alan Boston was kind enough to help me out with the following:  The 73rd ranked team in the country is New Mexico State, who is likely to win the WAC.  If Drexel were to play them in Las Cruces, Drexel would be about a seven and a half point underdog.  The 214th ranked team in the country is Cal Poly,  If Drexel were to play them on a neutral court Drexel would be a five point favorite.

The spread between those two outcomes is twelve and a half points.  Yet when DU plays a string of games against uptempo teams that average 73rd ranked teams on the road, vs a string of teams that play slow with a road/home close to even split, the spread was only 5.5 points (-2 to +3.5).  They outplay their expectation of losing by 7 against the fast team, and under perform their expectation of winning by 5 against slow teams.

Need more data?  Drexel is 7-1 against the spread when the game has more than 66 possessions.  They're 6-8 against the spread when there is 66 or less possessions (again, only counting non-OT games) in the game.  If we consider the spread to be a reasonable determination of expectations, then Drexel is much less likely to have a Baltimore letdown if they push tempo.  And oh by the way, the only game the Dragons didn't win versus the spread when the game was uptempo?  The game they went 4 guard against Delaware.  Throw that out as an anomaly since they're not going to do that again, and the Dragons would be a perfect 7-0.

In both of the games that Drexel has played this year against Northeastern, Drexel played a slow paced game.  Both times the Dragons were favored.  One time they went to OT, the other they lost in regulation.  This.  Is.  Important.

Toughness is a word that every coach likes to talk about for a variety of reasons, I'm sure none of which include the fact that it's entirely arbitrary and no one can call them wrong.  I don't know what any coaches definition of toughness is, but I'd imagine that letting the other team dictate how the game is played and the pace of the game shows a lack thereof.  The Huskies will want to play this game low and slow, and the Dragons shouldn't grant that wish if they to avoid another CAA Tourney letdown.  No one here is saying that the Dragons suddenly need to turn into the running rebs, or even the Delaware Blue Hens, but when they have an opportunity to push the pace in transition, they should use it.


  1. Surprising. I always felt Drexel reveled in the half court. You prove otherwise. I assume their guards are athletic. I also assume since they seem to implode in end games where execution is relevant, that they do not mind a more free flowing approach that playing faster would allow.
    As for the tourney, I believe Drexel will win. If they had not lost key players to injury, it would be a no brainer (how good does that start vs Arizona look now??), however the injured players that have now returned will be somewhat fresher for the conference tournament. Also, Drexel has only been at the current rosters 100% health for a few games. Any rust of not playing together, will be gone. Even though Towson is close to site of tourney, it is obviously not their home court. They will not have the entire arena on their side. They are not comfortable on that court. Also, if Towson is tested, their lack of depth may show. Delaware does not defend well enough. I would love to see William and Mary win. I love watching them run offense. Tony Shaver is brilliant but it has never been a basketball school. Supposedly, the strict academic standards get in the way, therefore, they are usually destroyed on the boards and struggle defensively vs more athletic teams. They would have to shoot lights out to win this. They are certainly capable, but the lack of rebounding I am afraid will doom them before the final. I have no clue what is going on at College of Charleston. They are huge underachievers. So Drexel is the winner, either by default, or by just being the best team.

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  3. Alan, thanks again for your assist. Won't complain at all about your logic. Drexel was a much better half court team, and much weaker transition team, when they were good two years ago. This years team triggers off of movement, which makes sense as they are pretty athletic all the way around.

    I've yet to hear a smart person... or anyone... make a case for UD, which I view as a really good draw for DU amongst the top 3 possibilities (TU, UD, W&M).

  4. It is ironic that UD is rated highest, yet liked least of contenders. Ultimately tournaments are won by executing in the half court and defending, neither, UDs strong suit. I like Monte Ross. He seems like a class act. There is a part of me, that wants UD to win, so they do not find some bs reason to fire him. This team has overachieved by my preseason projection. They have been consistent despite an ever changing roster. They are in the NIT. I hope that is good enough for him to keep his job. If he already has an extension, I apologize for wasted time.

  5. I think Towson takes it. Benimon is on another level from the rest of the conference and can carry them on his back.

  6. The only problem with this line of thinking, in regards to playing more up-tempo, is that that was a different team. I have 7 games played at a pace of 67 possessions or greater, 5 of them occurred with the original starting lineup of Frantz, Chris, Damion, Dartaye and Kaz (just so happened to be the first five games of the season). The other two against Delaware featured the four guard lineup due to injuries in the first game, and facing off against them shorthanded in the second game. While we went 6-1 against the spread in those games, which is great if you are a bettor, the real life record only came out to be just above .500 at 4-3 and now 40% of the starting lineup is gone. I don’t know that you can draw any conclusions that we fared better than expected with a full complement against better competition and that we didn’t do as well as expected against worse competition while down players.

    I guess it really doesn’t matter. We know Bru isn’t going to look to push the action any more than he has to, and accepting that, I’ll take solace in knowing that we went 5-2 when slowing things down to 60 possessions or fewer, even though those teams had an average ranking of 250. In reality, I’m looking for three things: One, that Chris has his stroke; two, that we get the bigs involved with the offense (magic number is 20!); and three, that we are able to rein in the fouling. Get all three and I don’t think anyone can beat us. Get two and we get at least one win in the new digs, but winning the whole thing is a lot tougher. Only get one, and I’m guessing Timer is going to have a very lousy early Saturday evening.

  7. Drachen, I looked at that. The Dragons didn't have Kaz for the Zona game, or Lee for half of it, and only played UD with 4 guard once, the other time, while UD was shorthanded they were still winning games. I thought spread record was better then game record because there's such a gap in skill level of the teams we were playing at those paces.

    I tend to agree with your entire second graph. The sharing the ball is tough for this one, with our guards being so much better than the NU ones, and NU having an advantage in the interior, I understand why Bru was tempted not to share the ball the prior two times we played NU. It's an easy trap to be lured into, and I'm not sure how bad it is to do. Fouch had very strong games against NU both times we played him, Frantz was pretty good too. But the flip side is, get Eatherton out of the game, win the game.

  8. Actually, now that I look at it, Kaz missed the Zona and both Delaware games while Damion missed ¼ of Zona and the Delaware games. It just seems to me that there’s been too much jumbling of the lineup to make any definitive conclusions. The other problem is that they went faster against teams that generally go faster. They haven’t tried to push it against a team that likes to go slow, so we have no real basis on what the outcome would be. I guess you could say that we pushed it a bit more in the games against UCLA, Illinois St. and Arizona than where they settled out at and we beat Ill. St. while losing close ones to much tougher competition in UCLA and Zona, however, when we played at Delaware’s normal speed we lost and when we slowed them down a bit we won. But, again, they were without the second best A/TO player in conference play, and while they still were winning games, they did lose their two conference games, saw their point differential lower and their offence took a 0.06 PPP hit while he was out. I agree with your theory against NU, they don't have the talent and look to slow it down, but this year's data implies that it won't happen. This seems to fit in with your narrative on toughness, we don’t dictate the pace – we base it on our opposition.

    I am becoming more concerned with the rematch as I've looked at the previous meetings. NU generally shoots 48.9% of their FGA at the rim. In the first game, without Kaz and Dartaye, they attempted 55.9% of their shots at the rim and hit 66.7% of them. They also had a FT Rate of 50.8%, up from their normal 43.3% and took advantage by hitting 76.7% of their foul shots (63.5% season average) and were able to take the game to two OTs. In the second meeting they took it to the rim more (58.8%) but were only successful on 30% of their shots. Again, however, they got to the foul line on 56.9% of their shot attempts and hit an above average of 69%, while causing Dartaye and Rodney to each pick up three first half fouls.

    For Drexel, the bigs only had 8 FGA and were 2/2 on FTs for both games. The first game with the rookies actually saw more set plays for the bigs run than the second, where the majority of their attempts were on put-backs. We drove it to the hoop more in the first game, and when we did settle for jumpers, both two and three, they were hit at a higher percentage than the season average. The home/road split came into play in the second game where we drove less and hit below average on our jumpers.

    My concerns for the tournament game revolve around the shooting splits. If we drove less in the last game to allow our shooters to have game action shooting with a more arena-like background, I can understand that. The fact that, besides Chris, no one really shot that well is a concern. The lack of big involvement in the offense allowed Eatherton to remain out of serious foul trouble in both games. They shot 11/16 from the floor and 4/4 from the line, get them the ball. Meanwhile, Coen has obviously decided that his best course of action is to drive it to the net and get the bigs into early foul trouble and get to the line. And a game after giving Bru credit for Chris having the ball down the stretch to close out games at the line, Frantz and Major each missed front ends to help seal the deal. Bru needs to have his game of the season each of the next three days, but then, I'm preaching to the choir.

    Sorry for the length.

  9. In a meaningless game for drexel, they obviously should have won at Northeastern. I still believe Drexel has the biggest upside of all in this tournament. Yes Coen does a terrific job but I believe Drexel now as healthy as they have been in a long while, is just too talented for Northeastern. Amazing job by Mihalich with an oft injured short handed roster to even win one game in the tourney. Unfortunately, they now take a somewhat sapped roster to an early game vs rested Delaware. Hofstra will no doubt be better next year, and likely a threat to win whatever conference they are in 2 years from now. Mihalich worked wonders at Niagara. He coaches a style that talented players would love to play. He did not have much to work with this year. They are playing their best right now. Great job coach. Towson finished the season strong, but conference tournaments are a new season. Underachieving James Madison has had a pattern to their year that often leads to first round upsets. Towsons ceiling is not that high. I would not be shocked if they lost. I love Tony Shaver. I love watching his teams run their stuff. It truly is beautiful. Unfortunately, Wm+Mary figure to struggle with the physicality of conference tournaments. Also Charleston slaughtered them when they last met. It read like a bad matchup for W+M. Charleston confused me this year. I expected much more. This is a very good program that has underachieved both Wojciks years. Perhaps they right the ship this tourney. My heart is with W=M. My head with CofC. I do think Drexel wins this. That is written with both my heart and my head.