Boston College’s Defense is Terrible on an Historic Scale

Posted by Kellen Carpenter on January 17th, 2014

Remember that time when there were a bunch of folks rumbling about how it was time for Boston College to take a big step forward this year? The Eagles were virtually losing no production while bringing back a number of players who had shown flashes of brilliance. At Operation Basketball, the media that covers the ACC picked Boston College to finish eighth in the conference, while at this very website, a bunch of turkeys picked them to finish seventh. With the Eagles currently lurking near the bottom of the ACC standings, these predictions might seem silly, but taking a step back: losses to Syracuse, Clemson, and Maryland aren’t so bad. That’s just a tough(-ish) opening schedule.

What Has Happened to Steve Donahue's Defense? (Boston College Athletics)

What Has Happened to Steve Donahue’s Defense? (Boston College Athletics)

The really concerning thing about Boston College, you might say, is how the team did during non-conference play. No matter where you are, 4-9 is not a great way to start the year, especially with your four wins coming against Washington (not bad), Florida Atlantic, Sacred Heart and Philadelphia (a legendary program that is nevertheless in Division II). Of course, this poor performance can be explained away too: BC played a bunch of really good teams. In Division I, Ken Pomeroy currently calculates the Eagles as having the fifth-toughest overall schedule and the 22nd hardest non-conference schedule. Can we really say that Boston College is playing poorly given the quality of opponents they are facing? Perhaps BC’s crummy record is just an artifact of scheduling: context overwhelming a team that would look much better against average competition. It’s early in the season. Surely those who dare to call Boston College terrible are simply overreacting!

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Breaking Down ACC Weekend #2 – Advanced Statistical Preview

Posted by Brad Jenkins on January 11th, 2014

It’s the second weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of January 8, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST).

Saturday - North Carolina (10-5, 0-2 ACC) @ Syracuse (15-0, 2-0 ACC) – ESPN (12:00 PM)

CJ Fair and Others Returned to School and We All Will Benefit

CJ Fair and the Orange Look to Add to North Carolina’s Losing Streak

Pomeroy Prediction: (#5) Syracuse 75-64 (#34) North Carolina

UNC-Syr

There’s some chatter that it would be typical of this year’s up and down Tar Heels team to pull off another monumental upset in the Carrier Dome. But North Carolina has actually been more consistent lately, only in a bad way. The Heels do not look like a confident team right now. Still, Roy Williams has shown in the past (including this season) that he can motivate a team out of a slump. At least they appear to have one clear advantage on the offensive end they could exploit – offensive rebounding. Unfortunately for the Heels, the same is true on the other end with Syracuse hitting the offensive glass hard this season. Taking care of the ball will also be crucial against the long and active Syracuse zone. It will be interesting to see how many three-pointers each team takes. Neither likes to shoot many, but they both allow opponents to fire a bunch. Finally, a good start by the Heels (see: the Michigan State game) is important, but with the way the Orange has come back from big early deficits, even that may not be enough.

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Breaking Down ACC Weekend #1 – Advanced Statistical Preview

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 3rd, 2014

It’s the first weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcome of the game. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of January 1, 2014. The games are presented in the order that they will be played this weekend (all times EST).

Saturday – Pittsburgh (12-1) @ N.C. State (10-3) – ACC Network (12:00 PM)

Jamie Dixon Has His Panthers Back to Playing Pittsburgh Basketball (US Presswire)

Jamie Dixon And Pittsburgh Kick Off the First Weekend of ACC Conference Play vs N.C. State in Raleigh (US Presswire)

  • Pittsburgh Offensive Efficiency – 114.1 (#24 in the NCAA)
  •         N.C. State Defensive Efficiency – 100.4 (#110)
  •         N.C. State Offensive Efficiency – 109.5 (#66)
  •         Pittsburgh Defensive Efficiency – 92.5 (#11)

What to Watch For: In its first ACC conference game ever, Pitt looks to have a strong edge on the offensive end of the court. In particular, look for the Panthers to try to exploit the Wolfpack on the boards. Pitt comes in 11th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage, while N.C. State is 237th in defensive rebounding percentage. Another area to watch is the mismatch in free throw attempts. N.C. State ranks near the bottom of the NCAA in free throw attempts, while Pitt rarely fouls. In fact, the Panthers actually had a game earlier this year against Cal Poly in which Pitt did not commit a single first half foul.

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ACC Preview Revisited – Part Two

Posted by mpatton on January 2nd, 2014

As the non-conference portion of the 2013-14 college basketball season nears its conclusion and conference play looms large in the New Year, the ACC has seen its share of ups and downs along an uneven early stretch. While some of its teams (Duke, Syracuse) appear to be capable of the preseason hype bestowed upon them, others have been a mixture of confounding (North Carolina), shockingly underwhelming (Boston College, Maryland) and utterly but pleasantly surprising (Florida State). The conference some were talking about being the greatest college basketball had ever witnessed hasn’t shown the depth and consistency in non-conference play to justify that acoolade, but there is still a long way to go as this new-look league embarks into ACC play. Here’s a look back at the RTC preseason ACC rankings as voted upon by the writers and how those teams have performed thus far and look to perform as the season progresses.

To review Part One of this feature, click here.

6. Maryland (8-5)

The continued emergence of Roddy Peters bodes well for Maryland. (USA TODAY Sports)

The continued emergence of Roddy Peters bodes well for Maryland. (USA TODAY Sports)

  • Signature Wins: Providence, at Boston College
  • Signature Losses: Connecticut, Boston University
  • Reasons for Optimism: Seth Allen is back, which should take pressure off of freshman Roddy Peters. But it’s also worth noting that Peters looks like he’ll be the real deal eventually. He’s already the team’s best distributor and his ability to draw contact in the lane should make him valuable going forward. Evan Smotrycz and Jake Layman make a pair of sharpshooting forwards who are a horrible match-up for anyone. Last but not least, the Terrapins already have a conference road win under their belt.
  • Reasons for Pessimism: What looked to be a great one-two punch in the frontcourt has turned into an awful start for Shaquille Cleare and nothing special from Charles Mitchell. Also, home losses to Boston University and Oregon State raise serious questions about the team’s consistency. The team often loses sight of its strengths on offense (or commits needless turnovers), which leads to scoring droughts and opponent runs.
  • Forecast: The losses essentially come down to defense: When the Terrapins hold opponents below a point per possession, they’re 6-0 (not counting Tulsa or George Washington, both of which effectively scored a point per possession). But when Maryland fails to limit its opponents on offense, the team is 1-4. This team needs to finish in the top three of the standings to sniff the NCAA Tournament, but the NIT should be in the cards with a strong conference showing.

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A Popular Preseason Dark Horse Pick, Boston College Has Failed to Live Up to Expectations

Posted by Chris Kehoe on December 31st, 2013

Boston College has had a resoundingly disappointing season, to say the least. Coming into the year with elevated expectations based on their youth and potent inside-out combination of Olivier Hanlan and Ryan Anderson, the Eagles have not even held a .500 record yet. Their defense is porous, ranking an astonishingly bad 298th in the nation out of 351 Division I basketball teams. They also haven’t shot the ball well from deep, yet have persisted in making it a staple of their offense. A top-40 schedule with games against UConn, Providence, UMass, USC, Maryland, Toledo and VCU have all resulted in losses. At some point this team needs to win a few marquee games in order to thrive in a top-heavy ACC, and although they won’t lack for those opportunities, it seems like the rest of the season will be spent in hopes of securing a non-NCAA postseason bid and building for the future.

Olivier Hanlan, Boston College

Olivier Hanlan is shouldering a large burden this season. (Boston Globe)

Boston College fans had good reason to believe in this squad coming into this season, as the Eagles returned all of their major players including the ACC ROY Hanlan, versatile big man Anderson, and guard Joe Rahon. The team finished the 2012-13 season relatively strong, winning four out of its last five games with an extremely young team that lacked depth and ACC experience. Much was made out of the momentous leap expected from Hanlan, the seemingly unstoppable Canadian guard who dropped an ACC freshman record 41 points in the first round of last year’s ACC Tournament.

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Playing Secret Santa With All 15 ACC Teams

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 24th, 2013

Let’s have some fun with a traditional office activity going into the Christmas Holiday. We’ll pretend each of this season’s ACC teams are in the drawing hat, and give our best advice to anyone picking out gifts for each, based on current needs. So here goes the list for each ACC team in alphabetical order.

presents

  • Boston College (4-8) – Probably the easiest team to shop for because they need so much. In fact anything defensively would be much appreciated. There isn’t one thing that the Eagles do well on the defensive end of the court, as proven by their current rank of #340 out of 351 teams in raw defensive efficiency. So they won’t be picky – they could use somebody to force turnovers, someone to grab a defensive rebound, or anyone who can make somebody on the other team miss a shot more than just occasionally.
  • Clemson (8-3) – The Tigers are all set on the defensive end but could use some help on offense. While better shooters are the obvious gift, a more meaningful option may be to find a way to get Clemson to the free throw line more often. They are wasting their 77 percent foul shooting average by ranking only #285 in the nation in free throw rate. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC M5: 12.23.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on December 23rd, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Notre Dame: Mike Brey’s weekend was probably worse than yours. First, his team coughed up an eight-point lead with less than a minute left to Ohio State that was so bad that it inspired CBSSports.com‘s Matt Norlander to track down the worst collapses of the millennium. That win would have brought Notre Dame back into the national conversation and made up for a couple of unfortunate non-conference losses. Instead as a kicker, Jerian Grant released a statement over the weekend that he will not be enrolled at Notre Dame for the spring semester, citing a “poor decision” related to academics. As of now Grant is planning to come back to South Bend next season for a final year of eligibility. Very tough basketball weekend in South Bend.
  2. Inside Carolina: If you’re looking for the details on PJ Hairston‘s case, Greg Barnes has you covered. Apparently what led to the final decision was not as much the impermissible benefits issue, but more the inconsistencies with Hairston’s accounts to the university and the NCAA. Also interesting (albeit perhaps not new) is that head coach Roy Williams did not initially want to suspend Hairston last summer, which put him at odds with North Carolina’s relatively new athletic director Bubba Cunningham.
  3. Run the Floor: Duke‘s second half against UCLA on Thursday night was probably its best 20 minutes of basketball this season. The Blue Devils were very good on defense (largely because the Bruins’ threes stopped falling), but their ball movement and three-point shooting were outstanding. Run the Floor breaks down all of the Duke threes in the game, exposing the porous UCLA defense. This is the Duke team many expected coming into the season. Zone defense should be ineffective against a team that usually has four shooters on the floor, two of whom are 6’8″ and highly skilled offensive weapons.
  4. Tomahawk Nation: Florida State got a strong non-conference win on Saturday, dominating Massachusetts on the defensive end. The Seminoles ended up holding the Minutemen to an absurd 0.75 points per possession. The highlight of Michael Rogner’s post here is his video capturing all 12 of Florida State’s blocks. Regardless of their current record, in case those two close games against Florida and Michigan didn’t convince you, these Seminoles are for real. Going to Tallahassee is going to be quite the test this season. Notre Dame and Syracuse will get their first taste of the Donald L. Tucker Center, and they should be prepared for what awaits them there.
  5. College Basketball Talk: And we’re back to teams that had bad weekends. Boston College lost at Auburn. On the surface that’s a road loss to a power conference team, but Auburn is not good (actually, they’re awful). And still, the Eagles lost by 10 points. Now it’s time to stop talking about how Steve Donahue can turn his team around and try to figure out instead where he lost them. Is it personnel? Effort? Both? The postseason isn’t happening this year, but Donahue now faces the uphill battle of motivating three different groups: his team, his fans, and his potential recruits.
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Otskey’s Observations: Episode VI

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on December 18th, 2013

Battle For Iowa Lived Up To Its Billing

For my money, the best game in recent days was Iowa State’s thrilling win over Iowa on Friday night at Hilton Coliseum. This game was the true essence of what college basketball is all about. It was a heated in-state rivalry between two quality teams in a crazy atmosphere, smack dab in the middle of a basketball-crazed state. It is simple: This was a fun game, period. Although Fred Hoiberg’s Cyclones came away victorious, you may be somewhat surprised to find out that my biggest impression taken from this game was just how good Iowa is. I actually thought the Hawkeyes were the better team for most of this contest. Don’t get me wrong, Iowa State played really well. After all, it beat a team I thought was very impressive so that should tell you something about the Cyclones as well. I thought Iowa had a terrific game plan and evidence of top-notch coaching and scouting was present throughout the game.

Devyn Marble

Devyn Marble and his mates were outstanding. But Iowa State was just a little bit better. (AP)

One specific example of great scouting came late in the first half when Roy Devyn Marble got in the middle of a dribble hand-off by Georges Niang and broke it up, leading to two Iowa points on the other end. Marble read the play perfectly and it paid off for his team. Fran McCaffery’s squad excelled in transition and got almost anything it wanted offensively on the low block with Aaron White leading the charge. Iowa ran some beautiful half-court sets that resulted in plenty of clean looks, especially for White and Marble. The Hawkeyes dominated the glass (but did not take full advantage of it) and answered the bell nearly every time Iowa State put together a charge, except for the final minute where it wound up costing them the game. Iowa simply didn’t make the plays it needed to win late, highlighted by Mike Gesell’s two missed free throws. McCaffery and his team can learn a lot from this game but in the end it is on the players to step up and lead down the stretch. Whether that’s Marble (most likely), White, Gesell, or someone else, Iowa needs someone to be “the man” in order to take the next step and contend at the very highest level in the Big Ten.

Michigan Back On Track?

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ACC M5: 12.17.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on December 17th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Testudo Times: Here’s a great film review of Roddy Peters in his recent game against Boston College. The in-depth look certainly supports my hypothesis that Peters has loads of potential on the offensive end. The play I found most interesting was the one where he picked apart the Eagles’ defense. It’s also rather alarming how easily the Eagles were picked apart by a freshman point guard, but that’s a post for another time. While he’s still not a shooter, Peters’ ability to get in the lane and find the open man is one that’s tough to teach. When he and Jake Layman develop more chemistry over time, they will be nearly impossible to stop.
  2. Syracuse Post-Standard: One big advantage Syracuse has over most opponents is on its front line, but you wouldn’t necessarily notice it from the stat sheet. Jim Boeheim wants to change that perception, though, by forcing the ball inside more. And he’s right if you look at Rakeem Christmas and DaJuan Coleman‘s numbers. The duo are hitting 72 and 68 percent of their field goals, respectively. Both are mostly scoring in the paint (through dunks and layups), but even if those numbers drop with increased possessions, that’s still a great pair of offensive options for the Orange.
  3. Boston Herald: Dennis Clifford received yet another setback in his potential return, which may end up forcing him to redshirt. He was originally scheduled to be back in action by now, but a source told Tom Layman that Steve Donahue is hoping to have Clifford back when conference play resumes the first week of January. Clifford has been dealing with nagging knee injuries since coming to Chestnut Hill, most recently trying to reduce the pain from arthritis in both knees. If he comes back the Eagles will be a much better team, as his shot-blocking will help to shore up the team’s interior defense. But at this point (and with this record), Donahue may be thinking about redshirting Clifford anyway and giving him the whole season to get back to 100 percent.
  4. Cardiac Hill: Stephen Gertz asks if Pittsburgh is better off without Steven Adams in the lineup. I’ll go ahead and posit no. Adams was the team’s most efficient rebounder (though Talib Zanna has stepped up significantly in defensive rebounding in his absence), most efficient shooter (albeit from close range), and an elite shot-blocker (an area Pittsburgh could decidedly use improvement). Also based on the success Adams has had in the NBA, I think he’s a much better basketball player this year than he was last season.
  5. WTVD: This story is head-scratching, but Will Graves – who was allegedly kicked off the 2011 North Carolina team for drugs – was recently cited for marijuana possession after consenting to let police search the house he rented from Roy Williams to finish his degree. First things first, major props to Williams for following through with Graves (who also worked part time for the Tar Heels as a video coordinator) and helping him finish his degree. But it’s not a good look for Graves.
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An Unstoppable Force Meets No Objection at Conte Forum

Posted by Matt Patton on December 14th, 2013

With seven minutes left in the game and his team down four points, Dez Wells took over the game. He scored 18 of Maryland‘s final 28 points, but that doesn’t do the performance justice. Every possession Maryland looked to run down the clock before he barreled into the lane, drawing six fouls before all was said and done. But Wells’ performance said as much about Boston College as it did about him.

Steve Donahue's team is struggling defensively, but better than its record. (Boston College Athletics)

Steve Donahue’s team is struggling defensively, but better than its record. (Boston College Athletics)

Boston College’s season has been bad. If you factor in the high expectations for the Eagles, who brought essentially everyone back from last year’s squad, it has been downright abysmal. Steve Donahue‘s team is 3-7, with one of those wins coming at home in overtime against a bad Sacred Heart team. Offensively, the team is very good. Defensively, it’s a train wreck. As Wells took over the game in Chestnut Hill, Boston College’s defensive lapses piled up. Every possession became a struggle. After the game Donahue cited his team’s youth, noting that players started focusing on their man instead of rotating to help — which is paramount against a score-first player like Wells.

But this game was a microcosm of Boston College under Steve Donahue. Statistically, he’s never had a good defensive team, at Cornell or at Boston College. His teams have never cracked the top half of Division I. But he’s never had a team as bad as this one either. Right now the Eagles are ranked 300 out of 351 teams in defensive efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy, the lowest of a major conference team by more than 25 spots. Watching Maryland for all but one stretch confirmed the metrics. This team did a poor job on rotations, often losing a man in the corner, or failing to step into Wells’ driving lane once he got past the initial defender.

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Three Thoughts on Maryland’s Win at Boston College

Posted by Matt Patton on December 14th, 2013

Maryland stopped its two-game skid with a road win to open conference play, and meanwhile the Eagles slipped to 3-7 in another poor defensive performance.

Roddy Peters will be a great player at Maryland. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America)

Roddy Peters will be a great player at Maryland. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America)

  1. Ryan Anderson and Joe Rahon are in shape this year, and Anderson kept the game close at the beginning. He was really the only active Boston College player early, cutting and finishing with a couple of two-handed dunks that kept Maryland from running away. However, a big concern was how Anderson disappeared after the first four minutes and throughout the second half. He only took two shots in the second period (making both; he also had two assists), which just won’t cut it in most games. Anderson needs to work on staying aggressive. Most of the game Steve Donahue played him at the four, where he’s really tough to guard because of his perimeter shooting. Rahon is listed at the same weight, but it’s clear he worked on his conditioning this summer. He finished last season on a high note, and his stats this season are a cut above. That said, I’m pretty sure Steve Donahue would happily take Rahon’s offensive stats from last season in exchange for him becoming an elite defender. Read the rest of this entry »
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Comparing ACC Team Computer Rankings With the Preseason: Pitt Up, BC Down…

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 12th, 2013

With approximately 30 percent of the regular season already played, it’s a good time to check out how ACC teams are currently rated by some of the most highly regarded computer rating systems. It’s also a good time to compare that with each team’s preseason expectations, where we find that there are definitely some surprises.

The chart below lists the 15 ACC schools according to their current computer rankings. This ranking is based on an average of three of the most respected basketball computer gurus – Ken Pomeroy, Jeff Sagarin, and Kenneth Massey. Keep in mind that these ratings are updated daily and this table represents data from Monday, December 9. The first column is the average national ranking for ACC teams in these computer systems. The next two columns compare the conference ranking for each team using the computers versus the official ACC Media Preseason Poll.

acc preseason computer

With the unpredictability of college basketball it’s not surprising that several teams are quite a bit above or below expectations so far this year. The first team on the list has the third biggest variance between current computer ranking and ACC Preseason Media ranking (five spots). The computers love Pittsburgh this year. Pomeroy has the Panthers fourth in the nation despite a less than challenging schedule. Basically it means that Pitt has been beating bad teams convincingly. It is still reasonable to project Jamie Dixon’s team higher now than at least two of the teams that were ranked ahead of them in the preseason poll — namely Virginia and Notre Dame. It’s worth noting that the Panthers were also something of a computer darling last season. At a similar point in the 2012-13 schedule, Pitt was seventh in Pomeroy’s ratings and eventually ended the season at #11, despite entering the NCAA Tournament as a #8 seed and losing to Wichita State badly in its opening round game.

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