Does Great Continuity Really Equate to Early Season Success?

Posted by William Ezekowitz on November 28th, 2016

Every season pundits and commentators often gush about the importance of team continuity and experience. The teams who return the most players, the thinking goes, are those that will transition most seamlessly into the new season. The teams that are integrating a bunch of new freshmen and transfers, by contrast, aren’t as likely to play up to their full potential before the new year. But is this maxim, repeated by so many inside the game, actually true? Is there data to support it?

The Champs Return 67.3 percent of Their Minutes This Season (USA Today Images)

The Champs Return 67.3% of Their Minutes This Season, 27th Nationally (USA Today Images)

KenPom recently developed a new statistic called minutes continuity, which measures “what percentage of a team’s minutes are played by the same player from last season to this season.” This allows us to analyze whether teams with greater continuity overachieve at the beginning of the season and teams with lesser continuity underachieve. While it is possible that most any preseason ranking mechanism (including KenPom) would already account for player continuity, any positive effect would most likely be exhibited in the first half of the season. The teams with more continuity would benefit earlier while the teams with less continuity would catch up as the season wears on. To determine if this is true, we examined team performance versus preseason expectation in two groups (based on Pomeroy’s list (paywall)): the 40 teams with the most continuity, and the 40 teams with the least continuity.

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NCAA Regional Reset: South Region

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 21st, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

New Favorite: #1 Kansas (32-4). Meet the new favorite, same as the old favorite. Kansas did nothing over the weekend to diminish its stature as the #1 overall seed and clear Final Four favorite out of the South Region, dropping 105 points on Austin Peay on Thursday before handing Kevin Ollie his first NCAA Tournament loss two days later. In that contest, a 73-61 victory over #9 seed Connecticut, the final margin didn’t even do the Jayhawks justice; Bill Self’s bunch led by 20 points at the half and limited the Huskies to just 27.5 percent two-point shooting for the game. The defense has been sharp, focus doesn’t seem to be an issue and Perry Ellis is playing Most Outstanding Player-level basketball (21.0 PPG, 15-of-21 FG). Even with Maryland and (possibly) Villanova looming next weekend, it would be silly to consider anyone else as the favorite to reach Houston out of this region.

Wayne Selden and the Jayhawks look better than ever. (Associated Press)

Wayne Selden and the Jayhawks look better than ever. (Associated Press)

Horse of Darkness: #3 Miami (27-7). Can we really designate a #3 seed as a dark horse? In this case, yes – the Hurricanes were actually underdogs against #11 seed Wichita State on Saturday, and their hopes seemed grim after coughing away a big first half lead. But Miami (FL), led by point guard Angel Rodriguez, came up with enough big shots to hold off the MVC champs, and now stands just two wins away from its first Final Four appearance in program history. Despite finishing tied for second in the ACC this season, Jim Larranaga’s experienced group was not the subject of much pre-NCAA Tournament chatter. That will change if the Hurricanes take down Villanova on Thursday.

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Rushed Reactions: #5 Maryland 73, #13 Hawaii 60

Posted by Kenny Ocker on March 20th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregionKenny Ocker is at the Spokane pods of the South and West regionals this week.

Three Key Takeaways.

Maryland Moves Into the Sweet Sixteen for the First Time Since 2003 (USA Today Images)

Maryland Moves Into the Sweet Sixteen for the First Time Since 2003 (USA Today Images)

  1. The run Maryland went on is the stuff of champions: The Terrapins trailed 41-39 midway through the second half before Diamond Stone finished off a lob. Jake Layman then slammed home a breakaway jam. And Melo Trimble pulled up on a fast break to hit the Terps’ first three-pointer after 15 misses. From that point on, the game was over. The 16-1 run took what had been a competitive game and turned it into a blowout – and Hawaii never got within 10 points again.
  2. The Terrapins are still very frustrating: That second-half run should never have been necessary. Two days after doing its best to squander a 17-point second-half lead to South Dakota State, Maryland sleepwalked through 30 minutes of Sunday afternoon’s affair. Until waking up for the second-half run, it seemed like another showing of squandered talent by coach Mark Turgeon’s squad. When you have NBA shoo-ins like Stone and Trimble and another player in Rasheed Sulaimon who will likely get a look, it’s inexplicable to keep lesser-talented teams in the game again and again. Why there’s not at least one ball screen – if not two, three or four more – set for Trimble on each play, the world may never know.
  3. It’s a real bummer Hawaii won’t be in the NCAA Tournament next year: The Rainbow Warriors worked hard, hustling to as many rebounds as they could get their hands on all weekend, and they play fun, energetic basketball. But first-year coach Eran Ganot inherited a postseason ban for next year and loses two scholarships for each of the next two seasons, thanks to improprieties under former coach Gib Arnold’s regime. But Hawaii will always have its upset win over #4 seed California on Friday, the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament win, and the first by a team currently in the Big West since 1990.

Star of the Game: Maryland sophomore point guard Melo Trimble. His three-pointer – the Terps’ only successful conversion in 18 tries – changed the game. His 24 points led all scorers. He made 13 of his 14 free throws. He grabbed eight rebounds. He had three assists.

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Rushed Reactions: #13 Hawaii 77, #4 California 66

Posted by Kenny Ocker on March 18th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregionKenny Ocker is covering the Spokane pods of the South and West regionals this week.

Three Key Takeaways:

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The Magic of March Goes to Hawaii (USA Today Images)

  1. Cal really, really missed its starting backcourt: The Golden Bears came to Spokane knowing it would be without its lone senior and leading scorer, point guard Tyrone Wallace, who broke his hand in practice earlier this week. They didn’t account for shooting guard Jabari Bird also being unexpectedly sidelined by back spasms just before the opening tip. And then backup-point-guard-cum-starter Sam Singer and superfreshman Jaylen Brown picked up three fouls apiece in the first half and magnified that problem. Brown ended up fouling out with about eight minutes left in the second half and the Bears still in the game, but they were never able to close it out without him on the court. He finished with a mere four points. Singer had 12 points before fouling out. Cal only had six assists in the game.
  2. REF SHOW! Speaking of all those fouls… there were 25 in the first half, which didn’t let the game generate any sort of flow. Singer and Brown had three apiece in the first half. Four of Hawaii’s starters had two fouls by that point. And then the Rainbows’ star center, Stefan Jankovic, picked up his fourth foul less than four minutes into the second half. All told, the game ended with 49 fouls, including disqualifications of Brown and Singer for Cal, and four Hawaii players finishing with four fouls. The tight officiating made it difficult to watch what should have otherwise been an entertaining #13 over #4 upset.
  3. Hawaii ignored Cal’s vaunted interior defense: The Bears came into Friday’s game with the nation’s best two-point field goal defense, according to KenPom, giving up a mere 40.9 percent shooting inside the three-point arc. Hawaii did not care. The Warriors made 24-of-38 shots inside the arc (63%), including 6-of-8 inside shooting from guards Quincy Smith and Roderick Bobbitt and 5-of-7 inside shooting from center Stefan Jankovic.

Star of the Game: Hawaii guard Quincy Smith: The slashing senior wing got to the basket at will all game against Cal, hanging up 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including a perfect 4-of-4 in the second half.

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Cal’s Tyrone Wallace Sidelined Again With Broken Hand

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker) on March 18th, 2016

California has an unexpected hole in its starting lineup today after senior point guard Tyrone Wallace broke his hand for the second time this season days before the Golden Bears’ NCAA Tournament game. The injury came in a non-contact drill when Wallace, the team’s lone senior, got his hand caught in a teammate’s jersey, head coach Cuonzo Martin said during a Thursday news conference. With the importance of veteran guard play in the NCAA Tournament, the injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for the #4 seed in the South Region. But at least they’ve already played five games without Wallace this season. The Bears went 3-2 in those games, losing both ends of the Pac-12’s difficult Utah/Colorado road trip in late January and winning home games against Stanford, Arizona and Arizona State with junior Sam Singer as their point guard.

Tyrone Wallace might be the best player in the Pac-12, but he's going to need help for Cal to stay near the top of the conference standings. (AP)

The loss of Tyrone Wallace puts junior point guard Sam Singer back in the driver’s seat. (AP)

“Everybody loses someone at some level, injuries, stuff happens. You have 13 scholarships. So there’s no excuses, it’s part of the game,” Martin said. “We won games with Sam at our point. I’m not worried at all. Sam will do a great job at the point guard position and whoever backs him up will do well as well.” But there’s a big difference between home conference games in January and NCAA Tournament games in March, and there’s just as big a difference between Wallace and Singer. Wallace leads Cal with 32.2 minutes, 15.3 points, 4.4 assists and 1.0 steal per game, and averages 5.4 rebounds as well. Singer, who has played in every game, averages 3.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists in just under 20 minutes per contest. Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking In On Likely One-Bid Leagues

Posted by Andrew Gripshover on January 15th, 2016

When the Ivy League tipped off last Friday night, it was official: Conference play was underway everywhere, in power conferences and low majors alike. While only a handful of games in March will ultimately matter for those teams in leagues without legitimate at-large candidates, the regular season will still define the favorites to win automatic tournament bids in the smaller conferences. Some leagues have a clearly defined top dog, while others have a handful of teams battling for that status. Either way, if you like March chaos, there are low major teams out there you should absolutely be rooting for to hold serve and earn their way into the field. Here are a few of the team you should be getting familiar with now — whether because of star players, a proven core of seniors, or a collection of “red line” upsets against Power Five schools.

With the dynamic Dallas Moore at the helm, North Florida is looking pretty good for the Big Dance. (AP)

With the dynamic Dallas Moore at the helm, North Florida is in good shape. (AP)

  • America East  You probably already know about Jameel Warney, the unquestioned Stony Brook leader, but the rest of Seawolves also have a nice veteran core around Warney (30th in the nation in experience per KenPom). Stony Brook has also been close to scoring a signature victory for the league, leading much of the way at Vanderbilt in November before succumbing in overtime. Unbelievably, the Seawolves have either won the regular season title and/or been in the conference tournament final for six straight seasons, but they are still seeking the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance. Albany has been the most frequent tormentor, and the Great Danes have matched Stony Brook’s 3-0 start to league play so far this season. Looking for pole position in the America East? The two teams’ first meeting is next Friday on Long Island.
  • Atlantic Sun – You probably heard about Ben Simmons’ destruction of North Floridabut did you know the Ospreys had two players (Dallas Moore and Beau Beech) score 31 apiece that night? As a team UNF hit NINETEEN threes against LSU; on the season they’ve connected on 43.4% of their triples, good for 8th in the country. They scorched Illinois in a 12-point season opening victory and legitimately own one of the best offenses in all of college basketball. They lost in a play-in game last March, but a return trip to the Dance may include a spot in the field of 64 for the Ospreys and their dangerous offense.

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Evaluating the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon: 29 Takeaways From 29 Hours of Action

Posted by Andy Gripshover on November 18th, 2015

My name is Andy Gripshover (@apgripsh) and I watched the entire ESPN Tip-Off Marathon. All 29 hours of it, from start to finish. Here are 29 takeaways from the proceedings.

Denzel Valentine Was the Star of Stars to Finish Off the Marathon (USAT Sports)

Denzel Valentine Was the Star of Stars to Finish Off the Marathon (USAT Sports)

  1. I actually like the Oregon court. I really do. It’s unique; it’s fitting for the area; and everyone wastes too much time hating on the brightness in the middle when it’s actually a perfect contrast to the shade of brown used inside a three-point arc that doesn’t get NEARLY enough love. But that court plus the Ducks’ all-neon yellows PLUS Baylor’s forest greens with the neon green lettering? Yeah, that was a little much. Or perhaps a secretly evil way of starting off the Marathon.
  2. As for the game itself, Baylor was flat most of the way, trailing by double figures for the first 10 minutes of the second half before making a push late. Oregon put four starters in double figures plus Dwayne Benjamin doing his thing off the bench, and Chris Boucher and Elgin Cook thoroughly outplayed Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince.
  3. Now the Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State is a court that I think we can ALL agree is beautiful. Very light and easy on the eyes, and those palm trees….
  4. The offenses in that game between the Beach and BYU were anything but beautiful, though. The Cougars were 26-of-62 from the field, including 5-of-21 from three and an utterly ghastly 8-of-21 from the free throw line. Was that bad? Because Long Beach was worse: 22-of-71 (!!!) from the floor, including 7-of-24 from three. The 49ers had a 22-2 run midway through the first half and held on for dear life in the second to knock off an NCAA Tournament team before heading to Charleston this weekend.
  5. As for the Cougars, Kyle Collinsworth looked at less than 100 percent in going 4-of-9 from the field…. and also 4-of-9 from the foul line. Chase Fischer took five threes and made none of them. It was a nightmarish offensive performance for BYU, and yet, the Cougars almost stole a win at the end anyway.
  6. There’s a certain feeling you get when you see the Stan Sheriff Center court at Hawaii for the first time and realize you’ve made it that far in the Marathon.
  7. Nevada made its first 17 free throws before missing and losing on a Roderick Bobbitt layup with 1.4 to go on the island despite an inspired 34 (!) for Marqueze Coleman. Quality Hawaii game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 02.06.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 6th, 2015

morning5

  1. The decision by Syracuse to self-impose a postseason ban for this year has been controversial to say the least. On one hand it shows that the school understands how serious the allegations against it are, but the decision to announce this self-imposed ban for one of its weaker teams in recent memory seems a little disingenuous. If this had been a Syracuse team that would have been a NCAA Tournament team (not necessarily a high seed either) the announcement might have been viewed as more significant, but it seems like the school is essentially banning itself from something it would not have been invited to anyways. Of course, all of this is assuming that the NCAA won’t hit the school with more sanctions when it makes its own announcements, but given the way the NCAA is handling the North Carolina case we would not hold our breath.
  2. While Syracuse was not a realistic postseason team this year, Kansas State certainly is although those chances have been dropping recently. Things got worse for the Wildcats when the school announced that Marcus Foster and Malek Harris had been suspended indefinitely for an unspecified violation of team rules. Losing Foster, the team’s leading scorer (14 points per game) and best player, is obviously a huge loss and it showed in the team’s loss to Texas Tech on Wednesday. The question for Kansas State is how long Foster in particular will be out since this is the second time that he has been disciplined this season. If he is out for a prolonged period of time, Bruce Weber can forget about making the NCAA Tournament.
  3. While Ohio State’s place in the NCAA Tournament is more secure than Kansas State’s, we are not sure how long they can maintain that security if Marc Loving misses much more time. Loving, the team’s second-leading scorer at 11.7 points per game, was suspended prior to Wednesday night’s loss at Purdue. The school did not give an explanation outside of that Loving had “temporarily lost his privilege to wear the Scarlet and Gray.” Given the wording we would assume that Loving will be back relatively soon and although the Big Ten is down this year, D’Angelo Russell needs more than just cursory support if he wants to have a memorable March.
  4. Kent State also suffered a big albeit apparently temporary loss this week when they announced that Jimmy Hall, who leads the team in scoring (15.1 per game) and rebounding (7.5 per game), would be out for at least a week after being diagnosed with mononucleosis. The Golden Flashes currently are tied for first in the Eastern Division of the Mid-American Conference (four-way tie in a six-team division), but lost their only game without Hall (a one-point loss at Western Michigan on Wednesday). Unlike the other teams we mentioned they don’t have a shot at an at-large bid so as long as Hall is back and healthy for the conference tournament it probably won’t matter in the end.
  5. Recently, we mentioned how a court had ruled that Geno Ford owed Kent State $1.2 million for getting out of his contract early. Now it is a college coach (Gib Arnold) who is going after his former employer (Hawaii) for the $1.4 million that they owe him. Arnold is essentially challenging the charges levied against him by the NCAA (including two Level I allegations) and says that the school owes him the full $1.4 million due to him based on his contract as he was fired without cause (reason for challenging the NCAA allegations) rather than the $346,000 that they paid him (presumably based on the idea that there was cause for the firing). His official statement goes into a little more detail about the issues at hand, but we think in the end it will be difficult for Arnold to win his case fighting on two fronts (the NCAA and Hawaii).
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O26 Weekly Awards: GW, Christian Wood, Benjy Taylor & Pac-12 Upsets

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 30th, 2014

Throughout the season, the Other 26 microsite will run down our weekly superlatives, including team, player, coach and whatever else strikes our fancy in that week’s edition.

O26 Team of the Week

George Washington. While many folks were drinking eggnog and caroling and having holiday fun, George Washington was in Hawaii stringing together three impressive, defensive-minded victories in a row to win the Diamond Head Classic. In doing so, not only did the Colonials establish themselves as the Atlantic 10’s second-best unit, they also picked up a resume-defining non-conference victory that should work wonders come Selection Sunday.

George Washington beat Wichita State and won the Diamond Head Classic. (Eugene Tanner / Associated Press)

George Washington beat Wichita State and won the Diamond Head Classic. (Eugene Tanner / Associated Press)

Mike Lonergan’s club entered last Monday with essentially zero quality wins of note, having dropped all three opportunities against KenPom top-100 units – including a 13-point handling at Penn State the previous week – and running out of chances. Luckily, the trip to Hawaii offered a few finals shots before A-10 play, and the effects from that contest in Happy Valley (especially defensively) were apparently left on the mainland: GW opened the tournament by holding Ohio to 15 points in the second half and steamrolling the Bobcats, 77-49. Big man Kevin Larsen finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds and the Colonials allowed their MAC opponent a mere 0.77 points per possession – a dominant defensive effort that continued into their next two games. Against Colorado the next night, Lonergan’s group limited the Buffaloes to just 50 points on 36.5 percent shooting, their second-worst offensive output of the season. Then, on Christmas night, GW notched its biggest win (and probably the A-10’s biggest win) of the young season by storming back from eight down against Wichita State, grabbing the lead with under five minutes to play and holding off the Shockers for a 60-54 triumph. Lonergan’s decision to switch to a 1-3-1 zone in the second half enabled GW to limit Wichita State to its fewest points per possession since February 2, 2013, and helped spark the game-clinching, 20-6 run late in the contest. In fact, over the course of three games, the Colonials allowed just four (total!) double-figure scorers and never surrendered more than 0.90 points per trip – a stretch of defensive excellence that puts them firmly in the NCAA Tournament at-large discussion, likely from now until March.

Honorable Mentions: Loyola-Chicago (2-0: N-Texas Tech, N-Boise State); Stony Brook (2-0: vs. American, at Washington); UNLV (2-0: vs. Arizona, vs. Southern Utah); Iona (2-0: vs. Florida Gulf Coast, at Drexel)

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For Hawaii, An Unexpected Triumph During Unpleasant Times

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 24th, 2014

Although the Warriors’ 74-70 victory over Pittsburgh on Friday was not the biggest upset of the weekend – that distinction went elsewhere – it was certainly among the most surprising, even if virtually no one could watch it. Few programs have had the rug pulled out from under it quite like Hawaii has to start 2014-15, with an ongoing NCAA investigation leading to the firing of its head coach and the departure of its best player, each within three weeks of the team’s season opener. To make matters worse, would-be contributor Sammis Reyes – a Chilean freshman who initially left the program amid coach Gib Arnold’s firing – was forced to redshirt after breaking his hand last Tuesday. And yet, despite all the attrition and adversity and general weirdness, interim head man Benjy Taylor and his guard-heavy lineup managed to gash the Panthers for 1.3 points per possession on Friday night and topple an ACC opponent for the first time since 2012. Could it be the prelude to a season-long rally? Maybe, maybe not. But either way, considering everything Hawaii has been through over the past month, it is one impressive victory.

Hawaii pulled off a surprising victory over Pittsburgh on Friday. (UH Athletics)

Hawaii pulled off a surprising victory over Pittsburgh on Friday night. (UH Athletics)

On October 23, Hawaii was picked fifth in the Big West preseason poll and forward Isaac Fotu (14.9 PPG and 6.1 RPG in 2013-14) was made an All-Conference selection; five days later, the university announced that Arnold and assistant coach Brandyn Akana had been relieved of their coaching duties. Expectations were not necessarily high coming into the season – top scorer Christian Standhardinger had graduated and point guard Keith Shamburger had transferred to Missouri – but the Warriors were supposed to at least be competitive in the nine-team conference. Without their head coach, though, the outlook became more suspect – especially considering the timing. According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Hawaii has been under NCAA investigation since March stemming from a self-reported incident in which “a men’s basketball coach submitted an altered document that was essential for admissions purposes.” The abrupt nature of the firing – just as the team was set to embark on its 2014-15 campaign – came as a surprise to many, including Arnold himself, who gave an emotional press conference from his home a few days after the fact:

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