Tuesday, December 30, 2008

weak in the second half

Some of my colleagues on the message board have complained about this team not being able to finish off other teams when we get a lead late in the game, and the numbers confirm their frustration. The Trojans have outscored their opponents by 31 points in the first halves of games, but have been outscored by 7 in the second halves.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Achievable goal

What is a realistic goal for this program? We all would like to be the next Gonzaga, but there will only be a bare few of those. We ought to win 20 games this season, which would make two years in a row. At that point it would not be a stretch to start thinking of getting to the point where we would consider it a down year if we do not win 20 games. I think that is the next step forward. After several years in the 17-18 win range, we need to step up a notch, and I think we can. When you are in the 20-win mind set, anything can happen.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One thing well

Any successful basketball team is likely going to have at least one thing that it does particularly well. Last year it was our perimeter defense. This year it appears to be our opponents' overall shooting percentage, which is a tick below 40%.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

good trend

We have played pretty well three of the last four games. Only Wright State in the stretch was really sub-par. That is a good trend.

Still ahead of my schedule

We are ahead of where I expected us to be this year. I thought we would be 5-5 or maybe 6-4 if things broke our way. Instead we are 7-3. I’ll take it.

logjam at the post next year

We are scheduled to have a real log jam at the post positions next year. Smith, Courtney Jackson, Burton and Bails all come back, all of whom can play one or the other of those spots, and we have two 6-9 players coming in, both of whom are putting up impressive numbers in juco so far this year. Nice problem to have. It is hard to have too much talent at the post.

rebounding by committee

This team in two years went from rebounding almost completely by one dominant board man to true rebounding by committee. We out-board our opponents by 4.5 per game, which is significant, and no one on the team has more than 6.6 rebounds per game.

Monday, December 15, 2008


There are stats that create "slack for teams: outrebounding opponents, winning the net turnover battle, shooting good percentage. Slack is the room to make mistakes, which all teams will. Every team needs some slack, so every team needs to do at least one of these things well.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

How did we get here?

Despite our very nice 6-1 record, one thing that bothers me about this team is that, as I look at our stat sheet, there is no one thing that we do particularly well. We are very mediocre shooters; and although our defense is decent, so far it is not superlative like it was last season. We rebound fairly well, but certainly are not dominating on the boards. We do not take very good care of the ball. We do not have a dominant individual scorer. Just looking at the stat sheet, there is nothing that would lead one to think that we were 6-1.

all the factors

One figure is look at is shooting percentage minus opponent's shooting percentage. However, there are other factors that make that number less critical. When a team outrebounds its opponent and wins the turnover battle, that takes pressure off the shooting percentage battle.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

No slack

We are 6-1, but we are averaging only 4 points per game more than our opponents. That is not much margin for error.


I believe it is correct that Northwestern is the only BCS school (at least the only one of long standing) that has never been to the NCAA tournament. So far this year they are 6-1. Their schedule has not been tremendously tough, but they do have wins over Florida State and DePaul.

unproductive possessions

The thing that kills most teams is unproductive possessions, i.e., those in which you do not get off a good shot. This could be due to passing up good shots, forcing bad shots, or turning over the ball without getting off a shot. In any case, if you eliminated those, most teams would at least be in most games.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

late FT's

Our four top perimeter players – Mouzy, Stevie, Fowler and Patterson – shoot a collective 81.9% from the FT, which is very good in anyone’s book. If we can get them to the line late in the game we are in good shape. However, our four top inside players – Smith, Courtney Jackson and Edwards – shoot 50% from the line. Expect us to be guard heavy late in close games, huh?

Ahead of my schedule

I had us picked to be 4-3 at this point in the season, so I have to say I am very pleased so far.

Oral Roberts game

That was a critical, critical win last night, a well as a great game. Sometimes it is hard to come back from a lousy game. Hopefully this is indication of our focus and attitude being back where it ought to be.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pitt's culture of defense and blue collar

What separates the Panthers, what makes them more than just an intriguing team as this season unfolds, is their bread-and-butter, backbone defense.

It's as reliable as an old pair of sneakers, the foundation on which coach Jamie Dixon has built his program. Unintentionally, Dixon has modeled his team on the city it calls home. Pittsburgh citizens wear just one sort of collar -- down-and-dirty blue. Their hometown team likes its basketball just the same.

And because the defense is indoctrinated like another strand of DNA upon arrival freshman year, it doesn't go away and doesn't take nights off. It's in your face, unforgiving, downright nasty, and because of it, on nights when shots don't fall, neither necessarily will Pittsburgh.

Why you look inside first

As a case in point as to why many coaches prefer to look inside first instead of automatically blasting away from the perimeter. Matt Mouzy has 169 minutes this year. The next player has 146. He has shot 60 times. The next highest is 41. And yet he has shot only six free throws all year. Five other players have double figure attempts. Free throws are just that – free attempts to get points, with a penalty assessed against the opposing team. Matt has had very little “free” this year.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Where's the defense?

If we are not the worst 5-0 team in the country, I would hate to see the team that is. Our defense has just disappeared. That which used to be our strength (perimeter defense) has become our worst liability. We are shooting halfway decently this year, which we needed, but our defense has just disappeared against 3-point shooting. I know that has to be killing the coaching staff, since that was what we hung our hat on last year. Actually, our defense overall is not too bad (41%), but teams shoot almost as well from the arc against us as they do inside. We need to get this fixed, and quickly.