Marching To Vegas: Are Elite Pac-12 Guards Using Officiating Changes to Their Advantage?

Posted by Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) on November 15th, 2013

Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) of Pachoops again will be joining us all year, providing us with his weekly take on our favorite conference, as we begin the March to Las Vegas. 

As soon as Bobby Dibler told us we were going to have “more whistles” this season, I had two thoughts: 1) Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhh; 2) Are Spencer Dinwiddie and Jahii Carson going to shoot a gajillion free throws? The rule changes Dibler helped roll out would have more fouls called on the perimeter, hand-checking to be penalized, giving a great advantage to those with the ball in their hands. Sweet moves translated into a whistle. Dinwiddie had already demonstrated a propensity to draw fouls (a 76.7 FT rate which was 19th in the nation last year, while drawing 6.2 fouls per 40 minutes). Carson, meanwhile, is riquickulous and could cause some significant foul trouble in the lane and on the perimeter. Last year his FT rate was 42.4 (405th nationally), while drawing 5.5 fouls per 40 minutes. Yes, my mind wandered here with Dibler on stage. And before we dive too deep into these outstanding Pac-12 guards, let’s take a gander at the state of the whistles, one week into its season.

Statistic

2013

2014

% Difference
FT

20.4

23.3

14.22%

FT Rate

35.9

43.1

20.06%

FT % (shooting)

69.4

68.4

-1.44%

TO %

20

18.1

-9.50%

Steal %

9.9

8.7

-12.12%

These are the D-I averages according to Ken Pomeroy’s website. To synopsize and analyze, we’re seeing a lot more free throws at a wild rate with fewer of them being made. Meanwhile, defenses are forcing fewer turnovers as a result of likely more fouls or timidity. Davante Gardner of Marquette is drawing nearly 17 fouls per 40 minutes. This game happened. Is Herb Sendek right when he declared these rule changes “revolutionary?” Pretty close. There certainly are some elements to these changes that have affected the game. I mean, anything that shifts an average by 20 percent is significant. The free throw rate change between 2012 and 2013 was just -1.37 percent. It stayed about the same. The game is changing, there have been 152 free throws shot in two Oregon Duck basketball games this season. REVOLUTION! (?)

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Marching to Vegas: The Pac is Back

Posted by Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) on November 1st, 2013

Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) of Pachoops again will be joining us all year, providing us with his weekly take on our favorite conference, as we begin the March to Las Vegas.

Have you ever seen that Dodge commercial? It’s the one narrated by Dexter for the Durango re-release. And don’t fear – not yet at least – I’m not about to go full Grantland on you. I’m just curious if you’ve seen the commercial? Anyhow, it’s got me thinking about Pac-12 basketball. Now in the interest of full disclosure, few things don’t lead me back to that subject. We can dismiss that evidence. But back to the commercial, here it is. Michael C. Hall opens it by telling us it’s 2011. “Wonder where the Durango’s been for the last two years?” Dexter asks. He goes on to explain how the SUV left to improve itself and how, but to be honest I hadn’t given the Durango much thought. The Pac-12 on the other hand? I’ve been curious about where it had gone. It’s how I opened last season, running through the elite programs of the conference and why their disappearance lowered the bar for the others. In our most recent version of Pac-12 basketball, both Arizona and UCLA were included in the field of 68; along with three other Pac-12 schools. Five of 12 ain’t bad coming off a year in which the conference champion was not invited to dance; begging the question: Is the Pac Back?

How Is Pac-12 Basketball Like The Dodge Durango? Geez, How Isn't It?

How Is Pac-12 Basketball Like The Dodge Durango? Let Us Count The Ways.

If we look at predictive measurements, the answer may be a resounding NO. KenPom doesn’t rate a Pac-12 team until his 23rd slot (Arizona) and has three squads rated outside the top 100 (Washington State, USC, and Utah). Conference by conference, the Pac settles in at number five behind the B1G, the new Big East, the ACC and the AAC (please note that I believe this is the first time I’ve ever written AAC, for whatever that is worth). For comparison’s sake, the Pac-12 finished eighth among conferences in 2012 and third in 2013. Perhaps the Pac returned last March? But these 2014 numbers suggest that the conference is still among the latter half of the big kid conferences. And isn’t this the beauty of predictive stats? They help us tell the story, but cannot become the story. Because if that were the case, you could have stopped a lot closer to “Dodge Durango” (and I thank you for not).

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Marching to Vegas: Weighing a Pair of Midweek Upsets

Posted by AMurawa on February 1st, 2013

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

Settling into my cubicle Thursday morning I was greeted by an instant message from my brain trust, Brad, “Which was the bigger win last night: USC or Stanford?” I will make no bones about this one; Stanford’s win was the bigger of the two. But it did get me to thinking about USC’s season and what it has and will become. Kevin O’Neill’s dismissal came at a truly strange time – as the team appeared to be turning either the cohesive group or easier schedule corner – indicative of the fact that Pat Haden has plans, big or otherwise, for that position.

The games themselves were solid, the respective performances impressive. From a strictly basketball perspective, Stanford may have been the best team in the nation Wednesday night. And with regards to magnitude of victory, it is my belief that Stanford’s win was the biggest. From an expectations standpoint, we thought the Cardinal would be doing this regularly. Their coach demands hard-nosed defense and their skill set – at least on an individual level – suggests an explosive offense. On Wednesday, they were exactly that, a perfect storm. They connected on their highest percentage of shots in a single game (52%) and held an opponent to the opposite, the lowest percentage of made baskets on their defensive season (34%). To say the Cardinal were due would be an understatement. And to acknowledge that the Cardinal were due is to recognize that their effort, while impressive and the best of the year, was not unexpected. Between Randle, Bright, Huestis, and Powell, Stanford can and should compete.

Against Oregon, Stanford Finally Played Like We Had Expected Them To This Season (Ben Margot, AP Photo)

Against Oregon, Stanford Finally Played Like We Had Expected Them To This Season (Ben Margot, AP Photo)

On the other hand, the Trojans marched into a “Blue Out” with specialty tops of their own and simply didn’t care to adhere to the guest policy. They handed the ball over 17 times and still won. Sure they shot a shade over their season average but this was a road, rivalry game with an interim staff. What business did the Trojans have even flirting with victory let alone controlling the game? I’ll refrain from going in on the Bruins here. So what do these wins mean? For Stanford, outscoring the Ducks represented an exorcising of the demons. My impression – if not hope – is that this represents a tipping point or springboard by which the Cardinal become the team they were meant to be. Returning NIT champs has got to mean more than a middling Pac-12 squad.

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Marching to Vegas: Washington Out-Frustrating Opponents on Road to 4-0

Posted by AMurawa on January 18th, 2013

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

A few months ago, while watching a dog-days, locally-broadcast San Francisco Giants game with my roommate, we witnessed a four-pitch walk. As former baseball players, we both recognized the innate frustration within the competitive-less play. And seeing as this was a local and homered broadcast, our own commentary was necessary and grew into a conversation about the most frustrating plays in sport. Quickly we came up with the following list: offensive rebound, double fault, gutter ball, three-and-out, charge, catcher’s interference, missed PK, bases loaded double play, shorthanded goals, a member bounce. Sports have a manner of ripping your heart out in a moment’s notice and a manner of getting your hair out of your scalp.

Aziz N'Diaye Contests A Shot From Colorado's Xavier Johnson (Dean Rutz, Seattle Times)

Aziz N’Diaye Contests A Shot From Colorado’s Xavier Johnson (Dean Rutz, Seattle Times)

But back to the list and its first item. On Wednesday I watched the new look Washington Huskies grind their way to a fourth consecutive Pac-12 win. That game turned into a defensive battle, one that the Huskies managed to maintain a lead in largely due to the remarkable talents of C.J. Wilcox (23 PPG in conference, 25 against CU). But Tad Boyle, along with every other Buff quoted in this article, spoke extensively on the gut-wrenching, game-wrecking, momentum-sucking offensive rebounds collected by UW. On the whole, 15 were collected by the purple team who grab those annoyances at a 38% clip – best in the conference. Following that game, I got to discussing momentum and its inability to be quantified. We can understand possession-by-possession efficiencies and their effect on a game. However – and this is where it gets interesting – can we quantify that ill-advised three that drops and blows the roof off? The charge that leads to a four-point swing? The open-court dunk? These can be moments that define games and sometimes seasons (we’ll see just how that monitor discussion ultimately affects Colorado). And while a solitary offensive rebound isn’t going to define a ton, regularly collecting them could. It’s debilitating to an opponent’s game plan and just a good old ass pain. But among the top 30 offensive rebounding teams in the nation (by rate), just 13 are ranked teams. Looking deeper into, say, upsets, Oregon was outrebounded by Arizona whilst beating them. Wisconsin was doubled on the offensive boards by Indiana in Bloomington on Tuesday night; yet the Badgers still managed to win.

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Marching to Vegas: Analyzing Arizona State’s Turnaround

Posted by AMurawa on January 11th, 2013

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

Back to our regularly scheduled M2V. Last week’s peek into the Sun Devils and their success to date was interrupted by the Monitor Mishap in McKale. That subject has run its course and so we find ourselves back to examining how a 10-win team 10 months ago finds itself well beyond that mark with more than half of the 2012-13 season remaining.

Herb Sendek Has The Sun Devils Winning Again (Photo credit: US Presswire).

Herb Sendek Has The Sun Devils Winning Again (Photo credit: US Presswire).

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about ASU is the blondes on Mill Avenue the speed at which they play. A byproduct of Herb Sendek’s system and his desire to minimize possessions and win the ball game on the defensive end, they’re slow. For his career, Sendek teams have averaged an adjusted tempo (AdjT) of 63.5 (stats back to 2003). That’s to say these squads (split between six-plus years at ASU and four at NC State) average about 64 possessions a game. For additional context, that generally ranks amongst the 150 “slower” teams in the country; the bottom half of college basketball. This, however, does not necessarily dictate success or failure. By no means at all. The past four NCAA champions have had AdjT of 66.2, 65.4, 65.5, and 73.9. No, AdjT in and of itself is a far cry from defining whether a team is successful, but knowing what Sendek’s teams have previously done in this category and knowing he made it well-known they were going to turn up the tempo, it’s certainly worth examining their newfound success. Thus, comparing Sendek’s historical tempo (63.5) to his team’s current and declared increased tempo (66.5), we find that he’s upped that pace by three possessions per game. I’ll go ahead and assume that Arizona State is not winning more games by garnering three additional possessions a game. That’s a max of twelve points if you’re Larry Johnsoning it. Unlikely.

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Marching To Vegas: But How Many Will March Beyond?

Posted by AMurawa on December 14th, 2012

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

Earlier this week, Joe Lunardi posted his updated Bracketology. Amidst the returning cries of mediocrity in the Conference of Champions, ESPN’s foremost bracketologist allotted six spots to the Pac, the second largest number amongst all conferences. This is a number that the conference hasn’t sent dancing since 2009. In his projected field he’s got Arizona as the highest Pac seed (#3) and Stanford the lowest (a play-in #12). UCLA is a declining #12, Colorado a solid #7 (second highest seed), Cal an improving #9, and Oregon a solid #10. That, indeed, is six teams dancing. This, indeed, is December; but what else are we going to talk about during exams week? There’s a lot of season remaining to resume boost but it’s good to see six Pac teams projected to dance (I fully understand the arbitrary nature of December brackets). It’s certainly a different look from last season’s actual bracket in which just two teams danced; a page I like to think the conference has turned. Or have they?

Arizona Presently Leads The Way Among Pac-12 Teams, But Even They Don't Have Any Great Quality Wins. Yet. (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

Arizona Presently Leads The Way Among Pac-12 Teams, But Even They Don’t Have Any Great Quality Wins. Yet. (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

Percy Allen proposed a similar question earlier this month when he brought up the issue that, once again, the Pac-12 is struggling against ranked opponents. He makes the argument against SOS, RPI, and other acronyms for tried and true Wins. A concept I rather love. So Allen harps on the conference’s win-loss record against ranked opponents; a record the Pac has run to 2-16 this year. An unimpressive stat to be sure and one that cannot bode well in the eyes of a selection committee tasked with selecting the 37 most eligible bachelors. The conference’s collective work would not seem to be deserving of significant (say… six?) invitations. He is quick to point out that there are remaining games against ranked opponents (four, highlighted by Saturday’s Arizona-Florida game); a fleeting effort to bolster that conference win-loss record against ranked opponents. But for what? Will Colorado not dance because USC over-scheduled and went oh-for-the-season against ranked opponents? Could Oregon wind up a #10 seed but not a #8 because Stanford struggled at the Battle 4 Atlantis? Not necessarily. A team’s success helps the conference, giving everyone a chance to play a better opponent. But they’re flounderings? Well those can only hurt if you lose to them in which case what’s it even matter if the conference is undefeated or defeated against ranked opponents? The name of the game, as Allen agrees, is winning.

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Marching to Vegas: Joshua Smith Will Not Be Joining Us

Posted by AMurawa on November 30th, 2012

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

With news of Josh Smith’s departure earlier this week, UCLA’s departure numbers since their 2008 Final Four has reached 11 players. Just a week earlier, teammate Tyler Lamb left the team as well. Now I’m not going to turn this into a “UCLA has transfer issues” column. There are thousands of those across the interwebs for three years now. No, college basketball has a transfer issue and the spotlight just shines brightly on UCLA because they’re arguably the greatest program in the history of the game. For that reason, the spotlight shines brighter and it’s quickly turning into an interrogation lamp as Ben Howland has to answer spicier and spicier questions about his spiraling program. I know I’ve already spent an M2V piece examining the state of this program but these days it appears about as volatile and complex as Paula Broadwell’s “unprecedented access.”

Joshua Smith, UCLA

Joshua Smith’s Mid-season Departure Again Shines The Spotlight On Ben Howland And Begs The Question, “What’s Going On?” (Gary A. Vasquez, U.S. Presswire)

So with Smith’s departure we’re disappointed. I wrote about it on my blog, how Josh Smith is our selfish tragedy because we choose to believe we’d never let that happen to us. Me? Squander innate NBA talents? Never! But that’s the thing: Leaders are there to lead and while success is driven from within, great leadership helps you find that desire deep inside your gut. Thus the question is now perpetually being brought up – Bruins Nation kills it – as to what’s going on in Westwood? Stemming from the theories proposed by Bruins Nation, the one that strikes me as most poignant is that it is well-documented that playing for Ben Howland is joyless. Now this didn’t come to me as a tremendous surprise, A) I’ve watched Howland teams for years now and see it myself, and B) I’ve heard rumblings of such. Not a shocker. But Josh Smith’s transfer, among so many of the others, really brought to light the fact that this is a significant concern. Winning masks most everything but at the end of the day, this is a game being played, shouldn’t it be fun? Go ahead and call me an idealist because I most certainly am. I choose to believe my superstars are playing for championships not contracts and kids stay in school a year longer because they love the experience. That’s how I see sport.

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Marching to Vegas: Throw Out The Expectations

Posted by AMurawa on November 9th, 2012

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

We’ve read previews, prognostications, and pontifications on the forthcoming basketball season; the one that begins today. The series of games that will captivate us until there’s but a single game remaining on a Monday night in April played inside a football stadium. And I don’t know who’s going to be playing in that game and neither do you. But like I said, we’ve probably read a whole lot about it. Allow me to get to the point: To date, we’ve heard nothing but expectations. A drone of maybes, could be’s, should be’s, has to’s, going to’s, for-this-to-happens… you catch my drift. But today, all of that changes. The roundball will go into baskets counting for points and someone will walk away the victor, today onward. We’ll begin to talk about tangible things like wins and losses instead of the offseason world of hypotheticals.

Tad Boyle, Colorado

Just Like Tad Boyle’s Team Proved Last Year, Starting Today, You Can Throw Out All The Preseason Prognostications

And so I want to talk about the Colorado Buffaloes. Tied with Utah for Newest Members of the Pac, last season they went ahead and won the conference tournament. No big deal, right? The tournament, in its fifteen iterations, had been won but twice by anyone not named Arizona (4), UCLA (3), Washington (3), or Oregon (2). So for the new kids on the block to waltz into Staples and take the crown says something. I think it speaks volumes about the kind of coach Tad Boyle is and the program he’s building. Here was a team picked to finish eleventh – more on that later – that was in the regular season title hunt into the final weekends. Tad can coach. Colorado isn’t going anywhere. But back to that prediction, the media pick that said they’d finish eleventh in their inaugural Pac campaign. First of all, it was wrong. Secondly, it was founded on fact. They returned a rebounding wing/post hybrid with suspect scoring and two returning seniors-to-be who combined to put up 9/6/2. Their recruiting class was unheralded and their most optimistic piece was a transfer from the team picked to finish last (Utah).

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Marching to Vegas: How Can UCLA Find It’s Way?

Posted by AMurawa on October 19th, 2012

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

Midnight’s madness has come and gone and so it begins. Or something like that. There still aren’t games or standings but there’s optimism and the knowing that those eternally glorious things are soon to come. And with season’s beginning there’s new dialogue. From transfers to healed wounds to recruiting classes and seniors, the Pac-12 dialogue hasn’t necessarily centered on last season’s monstrosity but rather the potential for a return to glory. Or at least something resembling such.

Howland Has Loads of Talent Now, But Is It His Kind of Talent? (credit: LA Times)

The unfortunate twist is the immense questioning of the prognosticated success in Westwood. Here is a program that needs no introduction but gross amounts of explanation and dissection when examining their current state. I could rattle off the tribulations of the recent past but that’d feel like piling on which I’d feel is unfair considering the optimism surrounding this program in light of their 2012 recruiting haul.

[Enter: ominous cloud]

But that’s right, we’re all too familiar with the investigative cloud hovering over new Pauley and the once glowing forecast of the 2012-13 Bruins. Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson continue to be investigated by the NCAA. You don’t need me to tell you that this is not good news considering much of UCLA’s projected success was centering on these young talents, particularly Muhammad. As the investigation drags on (ask Jahii Carson about timelines on such matters), the ominous cloud grows darker. How long will Anderson (he who faces the less stiff allegations) be held out? Is Muhammad done for the year? How big of a distraction is this to the team? Then of course we could question just how good the current, confirmed roster is. Has Larry Drew II matured? Will Josh Smith ever realize his potential? What sort of progress have Tyler Lamb (now injured) and Norman Powell made? Are the twins capable of being difference makers or are they role players?

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