Floriani: Tempo-Free at the Preseason NIT

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2010

Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC, and makes additional contributions based on his analysis from action around the country.

There has been a lot of news coming out of Knoxville, Tennessee, as of late. Until last week, all of it centered on activity off the court – from Bruce Pearl’s recent troubles with the NCAA to last year’s player suspensions. Presently, the conversation is shifting to what is transpiring on the floor as Tennessee captured the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden. They did it in resounding defensive fashion.

Let’s take look at a tempo-free analyses of each of the games contested at the World’s Most Famous Arena.

First Semifinal

VCU 39 28 29 18
Tennessee 42 26 38 19

Neither team was a walk-it-up-the floor type as they both came to New York averaging over 70 possessions per game. In an 80-possession contest, Tennessee had the offensive efficiency edge, 96-90. The talk at halftime was the Rams’ shooting, or lack of it. Their eFG percentage the first half was a horrid 28%. Only a rebounding edge and the Tennessee’s careless ball-handling style (23% TO rate) kept them within one at intermission.  In the second half, VCU found the range thanks to 6’2 guard Brandon Rozzell (23 points, 19 in the final half). The big story was rebounding. Bruce Pearl’s club cleaned the glass the second half. Scotty Hopson, a 6’7 wing who was a matchup problem all night for VCU, had 11 boards to complement his 18 points and 6’10 Brian Williams enjoying a New York homecoming, adding 13 rebounds. In the end, the Vols edged the Rams, 77-72.

Jamie Skeen made these fans proud of his tenacity on the boards.

Second Semifinal

UCLA 44 31 26 18
Villanova 44 45 33 10

At the half, Villanova enjoyed a 15-point lead and a huge 122-78 edge in offensive efficiency. In a low 70s possession game (UCLA 73, Villanova 71), the final numbers were a bit more respectful but Villanova still enjoyed a 116-96 OE edge. Credit a better second half by UCLA largely due to an improved defensive effort after halftime. Throughout the contest, the Bruins could not keep the Villanova guards in front of them defensively as Ben Howland planned. Corey Fisher shot 6-9 en route to a game high 26 points. Fisher constantly drew fouls from beaten Bruin defenders and was 14-15 from the line. Villanova cleaned the glass, largely due to sophomore Mouphtaou Yarou who pitched in a big 13-point 16-board night.  UCLA did have four in double figures, but not Tyler Honeycutt. The 6’8 forward came in averaging 15 PPG but struggled scoring just eight points on 3-8 shooting. Villanova was able to prevail, 82-70, also on the basis of their low turnover rate.


VCU 56 26 33 17
UCLA 54 15 52 26

VCU was devastated on the glass, but extremely efficient overall. The pace was to the Rams’ liking (UCLA 80 possessions, VCU 76) with Shaka Smart’s club owning an impressive 117-106 edge in offensive efficiency. Even with a quick pace, VCU did not get into transition similar to the semis and actually trailed UCLA 16-6 in fast break points.  As noted in the table, UCLA owned the backboards largely due to Tyler Honeycutt (13 rebounds) and Reeves Nelson (10). The turnover rate was a killer for the Bruins with Honeycutt and Reeves in the mix again, combining for 8 of the 21 Bruin miscues.  Another encouraging sign for VCU was inside play. The Rams scored 34% of their points from three (actually right on the team average coming to New York) but displayed a nice presence in the paint in Jamie Skeen. The 6’9 senior scored a game high 23 points while grabbing a team high 9 boards. In the end, VCU topped UCLA, 89-85. The level to which the Bruins’ defense improves is a major storyline in Westwood.


Tennessee 51 40 39 18
Villanova 38 44 35 18

In a 73-possession game, Tennessee held a 108-93 advantage in offensive efficiency. Villanova’s OE was subpar, but do not point fingers at the offense. Credit the Vol defense for doing a job in harassing the Villanova backcourt all evening. Corey Fisher had twice as many turnovers (six) as points (three). Credit should go to Scotty Hopson, a well-deserved MVP. Offensively, he was too much in the semis. In the finals the 6’7 wing used his quickness and length to disrupt anything the Villanova guards tried to accomplish. Hopson wound up with 18 points as he excelled on both ends of the floor. For Jay Wright, it was another fine performance out of Mouphtaou Yarou with 15 points and five rebounds. Consistent contributions from Yarou will be needed in Big East play and nights like this when the Wildcat backcourt is neutralized. Despite the tough Tennessee defense, key to defeating a top-ten Villanova team, 78-68, the Wildcats cared for the ball in a positive way with a TO rate under 20%.

After getting slapped with an eight-game league suspension, Bruce Pearl and the Vols have something to smile about.

Final Note

Looking at efficiency using the Manley formula (points + reb + Steals + Assists + Blocks) – (missed shots + TO), you can see the difference in Fisher’s and Yarou’s two games.

vs. UCLA vs. Tennessee
Fisher 19 -10
Yarou 28 18

Negative numbers in efficiency are not too common. They show the effect Tennessee’s defense had on Fisher. On the other hand, the consistency of the 6’10 Yarou as a bright spot and his place on the All-Tournament team was also well earned.

All-Tournament Team

  • Jamie Skeen (VCU)
  • Reeves Nelson (UCLA)
  • Mouphtaou Yarou (Villanova)
  • Tobias Harris (Tennessee)
  • Scotty Hopson (Tennessee) MVP
Brian Goodman (966 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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