- West Coast Bias: Opposing coaches assess five of this year’s top teams – Aside from this being a great series by Jeff Eisenberg, Cal State LA’s Dierter Horton explains to us that UCLA’s most effective lineup looks just like theirs did last year. Which is effectively what we said here on Tuesday. The specific, however, that I didn’t delve in to, was Aaron Holiday’s ability to play the role of Norman Powell – a supersized guard with defensive prowess. Powell was a bulldog, and while I’m not much of one for “replacing” players, if the Bruins can manage to not miss a beat with the losses of Powell and Kevon Looney (Horton says Bolden is great at being a long, versatile PF) then they’re a year up on everyone else.
- On Grantland and Sports Media – I really appreciate this article. It takes a very macro view of the entire happenings with Grantland. As I noted in Monday’s #34B the actions of the Mother Ship are consistent with their other activities. The Grantland product is highbrow in a lowbrow medium. It wasn’t making money and that’s a fact. Of course there are Skipper and Simmons’ proclaimed BSDs and now even stretches that Simmons’ podcast intro song (TuPac’s “Picture me Rollin'”) is a slight at his former employer. My big takeaway: the internet is the greatest mouthpiece an individual has for self-promotion. So please tell your friends about pachoops.com!
- Ranking every team in college hoops from Grambling St. (351) to UNC (1) – Dan Hanner and Luke Winn do it again. This is my favorite list as I believe it’s more comprehensive than the KenPom preseason ratings and more analytical than the AP (who usually isn’t far off in the preseason). Of course what none of the current polls can account for are the injuries to Robert Cartwright (shoulder done for the year) and Dylan Ennis (foot injury out one month). I tweeted this, but between Cartwright (PG), Ennis (combo/PG), Ray Smith (SF), and Xavier Johnson (PF) the All-Injured Pac-12 squad DOES NOT NEED A CENTER. Thanks and take care.
- Welcome to Lopez Land. (You may know it as New York) – There’s Pac-12 splattered throughout this nice profile of the Lopez twins. But my favorite call out is the NYT quoting of friend of the program and over all good dude, Kevin Danna. In related news, the NBA tips on Tuesday night and I’m pretty fired up for that. Think about the NBA right now. It’s as exciting and broadly talented as I can remember. The league’s best player isn’t on a talent contending team – but he might be? I won’t derail this brief into a note the Pellies but Tuesday night is exciting.
- Injury bug hits Wildcats again, this time in basketball – I was going to make Ray Smith the “Stat you must know” for my Arizona preview. He’s a dynamic “modern” basketball player with shooting range, length, and a bunch of other scoutitudes (that’s scout + platitude combined). You haven’t heard a lot about him because the summer before his senior year of high school he tore his ACL. Shortly thereafter he committed to play for Sean Miller and the rest of the 2015 class took to the summer circuits. Smith remained a highly rated recruit but the publicity didn’t swirl. And that was fine. Smith worked hard to rehabilitate and join a his new teammates in Tucson. And then, on Thursday night, he tore his other ACL. And that sucks.
- Sports Illustrated Pac-12 basketball preview – I’m a fan of the numbers. I like when we use past performance to predict future performance. The last few seasons, SI has done a great job leveraging the smarts of Dan Hanner and Luke Winn, to discuss preseason hoops. This year is no different. This preview shares some fantastic insights into the forthcoming season.
- The Worldwide Cheerleader: ESPN and the College Football Playoff – Some very interesting food for thought especially for what I presume is a significant Pac-12 readership (clicking from here, that is). We’ve heard so much of the SEC hype and this spicy article begins to quantify that.
- Ranking the top teams in college basketball: 351 – 1 – Just read the logic behind what these two have developed in projecting this season. It’s a fascinating piece of work that Hanner and Winn have conspired to build here and I’m interested to see what the model spat out as our 2015 season. That said, I’m even further excited to be in New York City this weekend. And I’m even further excited that the season begins in two weeks.
- Being Bill Murray – His son, Luke, was a member of the Arizona staff for a short while. The Murrays hail from Illinois and I remember Bill being shown on TV, in attendance at the fateful 2005 Elite Eight. He was most certainly in an Illini hat. I don’t begrudge him that. I still hate that game, however. Anyhow, Murray attended a handful of games in Tucson and would wear a single, Arizona “A” eye black strip when in attendance. He’d don a visor as he was probably fresh off the golf course. I don’t have a story like the many noted in this article, but I wish I did.
It should be obvious that this is going to center around the rim. It’s my favorite. But what sets TJ McConnell apart from the other guys we’ve discussed (Anderson and Wright), is that we”ll wind up talking about the guys around him. After all, he’s got an NBA front court to dish to.
And dish he does. McConnell is fourth in the conference in assist rate and third in assists per game. Further, and I apologize for being unable to contextualize, he’s collecting these dimes just 27.6% of the time in transition. That’s the lowest number (aside from Justin Cobbs) amongst Pac-12 point guards that I glanced at. This is a significant number because no matter how often you want to get in transition, the majority of your offense is going to come in a half court setting. As the offense’s facilitator and someone collecting as many assists as he does, McConnell’s ability to facilitate offense for his friends is impressive. It’s a tribute to his understanding and execution of the team’s principles and the talented pieces around him.
When crunching all of the rim success numbers, it was McConnell that lead the conference (amongst the players I studied) in success at the rim:
|Player||% poss resulting in rim score||% poss resulting in play at rim||Success % at Rim|
|Brett Comer (2013)||51.18||72.47||70.63|
Nearly 90% of McConnell’s possessions at the rim are successful. He was making the third most assists at the rim per game (2.72) despite having the fewest possessions (8.59) per game. Aside from the ridiculous Delon Wright, McConnell accounted for the highest percentage of rim scores. I love that. Kaleb Tarczewski, Aaron Gordon, and every other Wildcat loves that. Arizona, in fact, is second in the nation in FG% at the rim (74.1%). They don’t take the most shots there (31.6% of the offense is good for 300th in the nation) but when they do, they’re making it:
— Arizona Basketball (@APlayersProgram) February 28, 2014
See what I mean? The word facilitate means to “make something easier” and so it appears TJ McConnell makes scoring easier for his sometimes scoring inept team.
Now look at Arizona’s last two offensive explosions. In those two games, McConnell has assisted 16 times and turned the ball over just once. The above tells us that his team easily scored when he passed them the ball. The turnovers suggest the other team isn’t getting an opportunity to easily score, forcing teams into a half court setting against the Wildcats in which they have the second best non-transition defensive eFG%. Good luck. In a moment of inspiration and wanting-to-copy-cat-a-great-mind, I saw Luke Winn’s power rankings in which he notes Fred VanVleet’s protection services. He notes VanVleet’s propensity to not turn the ball over and a few wildly impressive 5 game stretches (most notably a 30:1 A:T ratio in late December to early Jan). Wichita State’s facilitator protects the ball and dishes to his playmakers and they haven’t lost. Which – for a Pac-12 blogger – begs the question: Do TJ McConnell and other Pac-12 points offer similar protective services?
This is a pretty interesting graph in that everyone seems to have taken a pretty significant dip as they began to face off against one another in conference play. Look at the downward trend beginning right around games 10-13.
And then there’s McConnell. The lead man at Point Guard U with a violent uptick as we head into the game’s most critical month. Is it a sign of things to come? As that’s a rolling five game average, it would suggest so.
In the meantime: