- Titus’s Top 12 NCAA Power Rankings: Want Heartbreak? Play Arizona – Forget that. Want heartbreak? Root for Arizona. Outside of that, I think this is the first time two Pac-12 teams are in the Titus rankings. UCLA might’ve squeaked in at some point last year but definitively Utah is in there now. And now you’ve got to read Titus’ Utah blurb.
- Pac-12 Burning Questions: Favorite Newcomer? – Over at the RTC microsite, we answered questions about our favorite newcomers. I think this is going to spark a bigger profile of Gary Payton II. Nevertheless, gotta read this thing for Danna’s bit on Poeltl.
- CONGRATS, SOUL BRO! – I’ve never taken one of these classes, specifically, but I have been in this situation. You might have, too. Luc captures the scene perfectly. And uncomfortably.
- Coming close just isn’t good enough in college football – It isn’t good enough in anything. Read through those tales of thiscloses and tell me that some agonizing realizations don’t come to mind? I can think a certain missed field goal or another shot that was never taken or a baseball that was stopped by but a single toe (ask me about it). Anyhow, we’re always so close and we just come back because someday – and I promise you that someday – it’s gonna happen.
- In Conversation with Chris Rock – I always find interviews with comedians to be fascinating. They see the world through such a different lens that whether you agree with them or not, there’s always a very unique perspective. Further, on what’s wrecking comedy, I recently went to New York’s Comedy Cellar; a place Rock discusses extensively. It’s a great place but since I’d last been there (about 5 years ago) the tone had grown in severity. The doormen and wait staff were less patient with the patrons. I don’t need coddling, I’m there for laughs, but if the comedians’ craft is being compromised by small devices with the power to crush material, I get it. No one of Rock’s notoriety appeared while we were there but the comedians were certainly pushing the boundary of appropriate (it was hilarious). Tightening what the patrons can get away with allows them to do that. To get better.
- Titus’ Top 12 NCAA Power Rankings: Guess Who’s Number 1 – Always an entertaining read and it was nice to familiarize with Gonzaga. Read this just to watch the GIF of Kyle Wiltjer celebrating the 2012 Kentucky title.
- 2014-15 NCAA Basketball Preview: The Pac-12 – If after reading this you’re worried about me having to rehash the last thirteen years of Arizona’s NCAA tournament heartbreaks, I appreciate it. Titus is right that a flask was needed in hand but we endure. Such is life when your favorite team has only not been to two big dances your whole life. Sorry that I am not sorry. Alas, here is Mark Titus’ preview of our favorite conference and he doesn’t really tell us anything we don’t already know. This is probably the latest preview we’re going to see, because, ya know, the games have started. But he says it more entertainingly than any of ’em. So read this one and don’t feel too bad for me.
- Spy Gadget Guy Sells Airbnb Party Kit – I’ve never rented out my place but I have partied at an Airbnb. Never irresponsibly but we most certainly had more people than we said we would in the place. Please don’t hold that against me. We cleaned up. Anyhow, I think this is a really cool idea, a building upon an already very good idea.
- Death to Ringz: Chris Paul and the NBA’s Broken Narrative of Success –
@offensivelyfoul that was a narrative itself but an educated one. The modern annoyance is the click bait, speaking in unfounded absolutes
— Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) November 19, 2014
Games tip shortly and what do we need? More data and charts! I took one more run through each of the Pac-12 teams and highlighted a statistic or philosophy central to their success – or otherwise – and how their forthcoming opponent(s) might behoove or limit that skill.
#1 Arizona Wildcats
When Arizona found its Christ Air 720, they put themselves back into the national title conversation. They only stepped out for a second, but jumped back in the ring with outings at Colorado (1.33ppp) and against California (1.28) and Stanford (1.18). Transition offense. Since that game in Boulder, the Wildcats have been getting 23.6% of their offense by Christ Air. Their season average of 21.1% ranks them 151st nationally. That upgraded version – 23.6% – would rank them 92nd. So who in the West Regional is liable to let these Cats run? Let’s look:
As we see here, Wisconsin might be the most susceptible to the Christ Air attack. But that may be a little too far ahead of ourselves. Anaheim isn’t far from San Diego, but it’s pretty far from San Diego if we’re step-in-step right now. Weber State does a good job of limiting this, actually third best in the region, and as they are Arizona’ first opponent, they’re worth noting. Interestingly enough, Arizona’s first weekend opponents all do a pretty fair job of limiting transition work. They each do this by also not crashing the offensive glass. Each of these opponents ranks greater than 200th in OR%. In short, these guys shoot and get back on defense – a similar strategy to Cal (207th in OR%, 53rd in transition D). The benefit to Arizona is they already rebound the ball well defensively and they don’t necessarily need Christ Air to win. But it sure helps.
#4 UCLA Bruins
The mid-range game seems to be a lost art. Not in Westwood, it isn’t. Awhile back we examined how Kyle Anderson affects the game. In that study we didn’t report on it – focusing on the rim – but Anderson takes the most shots in the 2-pt jumper range amongst all of the players studied (5.9/game). He was the fourth most effective at creating offense in that range as nearly 55% of his 2-pt jumper possessions result in a score. As the PG of this team, Anderson sets a mid-range tone for this team. Wanna see?
Thanks to the genius of Dylan Burrkhardt’s brand new site, Shot Analytics, we can see just how dominant Anderson is in the mid-range. What does it mean for Bruin opponents? We’ll keep it brief and look just at their possible weekend foes:
In looking at this, I have two quick reactions: 1) Good luck, Tulsa, and 2) Gimme that VCU-UCLA matchup for all of the reasons and then some.
#7 Oregon Ducks
Here is my Mid-Major with a budget. The team that lives by the three and dies by it, running into the NCAAs on an 8-1 streak and connecting on greater than 47% of their threes in those wins. And it didn’t matter who they were playing! Arizona allows the 308th most offense from 3-point territory. Ducks didn’t care and made 10 threes, just the seventh team to make reach double digit threes in five years against Arizona. They shoot to win. But once again, let’s ask: Who’s going to let ’em?
If you hadn’t been paying attention, please note that there will be a lot of points scored in this Oregon-BYU game. The Ducks take 33.1% of their offense for deep and make the 19th highest percentage of them (39.1%). Live and die and it appears the Cougars are going to be willing to give the Ducks their chance. In beating BYU earlier this year, Oregon was 10-32 from deep. Because of BYU’s pace, Oregon will have plenty of chances to make every varietal of basket. But let’s jump ahead to Wisconsin. Bo Ryan predicates his defense on not letting teams shoot three pointers. That 25.3% 3FG/FGA rate ranks sixth in the nation. The Badgers’ haven’t allowed 30% of offense to come from deep in five years. But here’s the thing, Oregon doesn’t care. They didn’t when Arizona came to town and they won’t should they earn the opportunity to play the Badgers. Live and die.
#8 Colorado Buffaloes
This is the worst matchup in the second round. I calculated it by seeding standards and Jason sort of calculated it by scouting standards. I note that he only ‘sort of’ did because he didn’t break things down for all 36 opening games. It doesn’t necessarily look good for Colorado. But let me give you the silver lining. Pittsburgh takes the 272nd longest possessions in D-1 basketball. Subseqently they play the 293rd fewest possessions per game. This game projects to have just 63 possessions per KenPom. But did you know, the Buffs are 5-2 in games played to the tune of 63 possessions or less. Such a pace of game suggests an opportunity for Colorado to keep the game close, an opportunity for a last shot. Of Pitt’s 34 games, 15 were decided by 6-or fewer points (thanks, Jason). Keep it close – as Tad’s methodology tends to dictate – and the Buffs could have a chance to advance. Where they’ll likely meet Florida who is even slower than Pitt! But even better on offense and defense. And they’ll all be in Orlando. And they are the odds on favorite to win everything. G’luck.
#10 Arizona State Sun Devils
He might not always play well, but when he does, he’s the Pac-12’s defensive player of the year. Big Jordan Bachynski man’s the paint for ASU and is their primary rebounding option. As a team they’re generally pretty poor, ranking 339th in OR% and just 116th in DR%. Texas, meanwhile, is the sixth best offensive rebounding team in the nation. Let’s examine how ASU faired against the Pac-12’s top 3 offensive rebounding teams:
Red indicates games in which the Devils held the opposition below their in-conference OR%; yellow indicates games in which Bachynski was held below his normal DR%. Turns out, rebounding is a team effort. It would also seem that when the Sun Devils come together to collectively rebound, they’re pretty successful; 2-1 to be exact with the outlying loss – in Tucson – coinciding with the fourth worst defensive effort by the Devils (1.2 ppp). Now a six game sample set doesn’t indicate much, but if I’m going to take anything away from this, it’s that the Devils seem to bode better by limiting offensive boards, and Jordan Bachynski is just a cog in that machine. Also note that he’s not generally in the best position to rebound as he’s often in position to block shots. Those swats are recovered by his teammates or himself – all Devils however you slice it – 43.2% of the block. If they can manage to keep the Longhorns to fewer second attempts, then the Devils have a better chance at keeping Texas below 1ppp – a feat the Devils managed in each of their four wins against tournament teams.
#10 Stanford Cardinal
In that same post where Dylan notes Kyle Anderson and UCLA’s mid-range mastery, he also notes Stanford’s mid-range misery. Hoop-math, where I would’ve found this information, suggests that the Cardinal aren’t half bad; taking 38.8% of their shots there and making 40.4% of them. My guess is that this FG% is inflated with closer-to-the-rim-than-expected data drawn from play-by-play game logs (Shot Analytics reported 24% FGA and 35% FG%). That’s fine. What Dylan presents is derived from Synergy Sports which is taken from reviewed game film. Papa like and papa trust. Alas, what this overwhelmingly demonstrates to me is the individualized style of ball Stanford plays. The Cardinal rank 290th in percentage of made shots that are assisted; 281st on 2pt jumpers. Meaning these are shots the Cardinal are creating. Comparatively, UCLA’s mid-range game is fed by execution. Nearly 50% of their 2-pt jumpers are assisted (22nd best). So how does this translate into the weekend? New Mexico allows the 10th lowest FG% from 2-pt range in the nation (29.9%). That’s data derived from hoop-math which we assume already has an inflated 2-pt FG%. Now consider that teams are shooting below 30% from Stanford’s favorite spot against New Mexico and further consider that our story assumes that’s an inflated number. Stanford might have to find another way to score.
Jabari Parker was the best player on the floor with Rodney Hood close behind. And that’s the extent to which we will talk about Duke in this column. We don’t need to discuss their strengths or weaknesses, the makeup of their roster, or the Hall of Fame coach at their helm.
Because when vying for a championship, when the sights are set on AT&T Stadium in Dallas for a Monday night showdown, it doesn’t always matter who the best player is. Games are won by the collective effort of those dressed alike and what Arizona proved to us during their time in New York City was that their collective is going to be better than any individual. And could very well be better than any team.
Again, this isn’t about Duke because Arizona beat them without needing a perfect game. Sure they leaned on some moments but when push came to shove – and it always does – Arizona was the better team. When it came to a 19-point deficit against a hotter-than-a-Dragon’s-breath Drexel team, the Wildcats responded. Not with the efforts of one, but with anyone wearing a white jersey. Aaron Gordon had this to say to ESPN’s Andy Katz following the win:
“I’m the glue guy on a team that has talent,” Gordon said. “You can stick me in the middle of all these pieces and we have all the potential in the world.”
That’s coming from the rumored star. The prodigal one-and-done who’s declaring that his curtails won’t be rode to Dallas but that you’ve gotta mess with the whole damn lot of them.
Let’s roll things back 12-months with Billy Donovan’s Gators were headed to Tucson. It was a colossal game – particularly within the context of Arizona’s recent basketball history – that the Wildcats would win. But did it really feel monumental? Could you revisit that game, talk about it with a friend and think, “Wow, this Arizona team has got it.” Please don’t get me wrong here, I enjoyed watching that game as much as the next guy. My neighbors could hear the screams through the walls. But we couldn’t walk away sensing that Arizona was necessarily better than Florida – or anyone else for that matter. Frankly, the Gators outplayed the Wildcats for everything but the critical moments. The national dialogue – despite Arizona eventually running out to a 14-0 record with that nice RPI win – became such that the Wildcats were a good team who’d won a few ball games and would come back down to earth. That Florida perhaps dribbled one too many balls off their feet and Arizona hadn’t necessarily beat the Gators so much as outlasted them. There was a feeling of overachievement.
After defeating Duke, things feel different.
As the game was closing down to it’s final moments, with things slipping away from the Blue Devils and Arizona playing to its strengths, time seemed to slow as Kaleb Tarczewski set a nonchalant screen into the back of an unsuspecting Blue Devil. You could see the play developing from Tucson as TJ McConnell lofted the ball to the far side of the rim from 30 feet away. Rising to put the ball through the hoop was Aaron Gordon who emphatically did so. It was the Wildcats 17th assist on their 22nd made basket.
It wasn’t Mark Lyons off balance or Solomon Hill with a late steal. It wasn’t Brendan Lavender for 18 or a Derrick Williams block. It was an executed team play – repeatable and effective – for the Arizona win.
Tell me, how does that feel?
OSU fans are busy getting ready for tomorrow, right? They’re off Twitter? Good. In that case: I…I like McConnell…gulp…more than Craft.
— Mark Titus (@clubtrillion) November 30, 2013
I’ve been struggling to piece this one together. I think from the outset components of Ken Bone’s time at Washington State have been doomed. Tony Bennett is one of the few coaches who can compete with him in the cool name department (see QUOTABLE below) and who also set an unparallel-able bar in Pullman. Now to be clear, I’m not writing a fire and brimstone preview. I’m also not about to say “quite the contrary.” I’m just saying that there isn’t anything particularly interesting about this team. They’ve lost one of my favorite Pac-12 players of All-Time in Brock Motum. The Australian was my two time reigning Australian of the Year (which I’ve already awarded to Angus Brandt for this season) and he was really good at basketball. The saving grace of Cougar hoop. And now he’s gone to Italy and so too is long time assistant, Ben Johnson. They’ve lost him to Australia, too. Something about down undah.
Why I love them: It’s hard to love something you don’t know and there really isn’t a ton to know about this Cougar team. So I went to their Official Roster and that’s when I fell in love. For someone working in UX (user experience) and guiding different design teams to optimize a digital experience, I appreciate things like hover boxes that help with name pronunciation. You would think Apple Cup rivals, the Washington Huskies, would develop a stand alone page to help with the pronunciation of Giles Dierickx. The Cougars may not get a ton of love nationally or coastally, but god dammit you’re going to pronounce their names right. Additionally, I appreciate the back court of DaVonte Lacy and Royce Woolridge. They’re veterans (JR and rJR, respectively) and have shouldered the point guard role in the excuse of Reggie Moore. They were due help in the arrival of Danny Lawhorn – a JuCo standout set to take over at the one – but HEGONE. I have heard good things about red-shirt freshman, [cue] Johnson, and Dexter [KER-nick]-Drew. So there’s that.
Why I hate them: BROCKMOTUM. How can you be a fan of this conference and be glad to see him leave? He was the consummate collegian and I loved his game. How glorious was it to see him go HAM in Vegas – 28 points in a loss to UW – during his final game (a friend of mine saw him going the other time of HAM on the Strip but that’s a different tale and please note that Aussies party harder than anyone else. Anyone.). Alas, their roster comes at us guard heavy and in a league that already touts Jahii Carson, CJ Wilcox, Justin Cobbs, Nick Johnson, Jordan Adams, Damyean Dotson, TJ McConnell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Chasson Randle, Jarbari Bird, Joseph Young, Nigel Williams-Goss, Jermaine Marshall, Aaron Bright, Dominic Artis…do you get my point?
Stat you need to know:
To be honest, I have no idea what this number means as a number by itself. With context however, this is the 345th worst luck in Division-1 basketball. It basically means that the Cougars were in a lot of ball games (projected to win, arguably) that they wound up losing. There were 10 games last season they lost by 5 or fewer points. Often a poor luck scoring can translate into an improved record the following year. The logic suggests that you lost a bunch of games you were projected to win one year (youth, tough bounces, monitors) and that you’ll get those bounces the following year. Ya know…get better. But I wouldn’t soon hang my hat on luck, Cougar fans, but it is something.
“I’m cheering for Washington State to win the Pac-12 this year only because I don’t want their coach to get fired. There aren’t enough good porn names in sports, so Ken Bone getting axed would be a huge loss.” – Mark Titus
Outlook: Bleak. There’s early hot seat talk and that’s never a good thing. There’s nothing returning in the front court and lots lost. DJ Shelton will man the middle. He did tout a 21.7 DR% which I suppose is encouraging. Addtionally, Ken Bone’s best teams play fast. Or at least swifter than the average bear. His last three seasons, however, Bone’s teams have been playing increasingly slower from his better teams. They’ve also been getting increasingly worse in the ORtg and DRtg department. In analytics we call this a downward trend. But how about that Titus quote, eh?