Before looking ahead to the Turkey Week slate in Collegiate hoops, I will always begin this section with a quick recap of what we saw from the previous 7 days. The major storyline was the obviously the new rule changes and how unbearable the increased fouling has made games down the stretch. KenPom’s daily tracking of offensive figures compared to a year ago gives us the hard data for the numerical impact …
- PPG: 67.3
- Offensive Efficiency: 99.1
- Possessions per Game: 67.3
- This year:
- PPG: 73.4
- Offensive Efficiency: 102.7
- Possessions per Game: 71.0
Bottom line is that we must play a waiting game for assessing whether the reduced shot-clock is truly giving us the better product we were all promised. Both PPG and OE numbers are up, but I suspect the efficiency figures will regress as the number of whistles begins to decline. The NCAA is an evil genius in releasing these installments at the same time, knowing most would rush to both PPG & efficiency metrics as the almighty success criteria for how effective their “revolutionary” changes were. I would personally like to assess both changes in isolation, so peeling back the layers of what is truly driving increased efficiency (number of fouls or more possessions) will be tricky.
The reality is, it all comes down to how you define “better product”. I’d slap any in the face who believe it’s simply points per game, and I even think just looking at offensive efficiency has its limitations. Many of the highest Points per Possession game performances are a result of “free-throw-a-thons”, which I’m not sure how you can argue is more pleasing to watch. I plan to dive in to this topic deeper as the year plays out, but for now lets focus on what really matters, which is how I’ll be spending my week off …
St. Johns vs. Vandy: Monday 1:30 PM
After a less than ideal start to the Chris Mullin era at St. Johns (http://nypost.com/2015/11/04/st-johns-mullin-era-begins-with-dud-a-blowout-loss-to-d-ii-school/) they’ve come out of the gate FIRING with 3 big wins against perennial powers, Wagner, UMBC & Rutgers. The Johnnies will look to keep this train rolling when they do battle with the Dores of Vandy. Vandy has been on the 3MW love list since day 1, but they gave us a mini-scare when they got taken to OT at home against Stony Brook (who’s actually solid). The oddsmakers set this Vandy/Johnnie number at -15 (as of Sunday evening), which feels like 115 points too low. Vandy should roll in this one, and thus begin the demise of what should be a dumpster-fire year for Chris Mullin.
Vandy vs. IU: Tuesday 2:30 PM
Assuming St. Johns does exactly as I alluded to in the previous section and the Hoosiers get by Wake in round 1, we will witness perhaps the sexiest offensive matchup this year to date. Both teams exemplify balance on the perimeter, and the Damion Jones/Thomas Bryant inside matchup will have the scouts drooling.
Rest of field
The bottom of the bracket features Kansas (who drew local tourney host Chaminade), UNLV & UCLA. The Jayhawks will have an easier stroll to the finals then many think, now that we’ve seen UCLA get beat on their home floor by Monmouth (yes, Monmouth).
Battle 4 Atlantis
Michigan vs. UConn: Wednesday 8:30 PM
The Wolverines got smacked by Xavier on their home court last week, as the X-men’s superior athletes exposed Michigan’s shaky rebounding frontcourt, and questionable perimeter defenders. There is still plenty of offensive firepower in the backcourt, and with Johnny B roaming the sidelines, they still feel like a top 20-25 to team to me. The Wolverines get a great bounce back opportunity against Kevin Ollie’s Huskies in the Bahamas, who have been cruising in the early going. A big thanks is in order to the massive contributions transfers Sterling Gibbs (Seton Hall) and Shonn Miller (Cornell) have put on the table. Even after the departure of Ryan Boatright, Uconn is currently 10th in the country in taking care of the ball, doing so without any true point guard on the roster. Daniel Hamilton is emerging as a go-to playmaker and Rodney Purvis is showing his own prenatal signs of efficiency. In this particular match with Michigan, I think Ollie should play a little more man to limit 3-point looks for the Wolverine shooters. Regardless of what defense he plays, controlling the glass should not be an issue, given the way Amida Brimah is playing at the moment. Brimah is emerging as the next great foreign big man out of Storrs, Connecticut, and I will wager a fair some of money he hauls in 15+ boards in this one.
Chattanooga @ Iowa State: Monday 7:00 PM
Anytime the Clones play in front of their home crown at Hilton Colosseum, it is must-watch television in my opinion, but seeing them take on one of the better mid-majors in the nation will be uber-entertaining. ‘Nooga has already knocked off Georgia and Illinois this year, but going in to Ames, Iowa will be a completely different challenge.
Valpo @ Oregon State: Tuesday 8:00 PM
The Fighting Beavers host the Crusaders early this week in a matchup that features two favorites of the 3MW staff (DJ Dimes is to Valpo as Jimmy Roots is to Oregon State). Valpo was off and rolling (wins against Rhode Island and Iona) before getting beat by a tough Oregon team earlier today (writing this Sunday night) in Eugene. This date with Oregon State will complete their 2-game series in the state Oregon, and given the caliber of both the Ducks and Beavers, a 1-1 record for this “road-trip” would be a successful result for Bryce Drew’s crew.
Providence vs. Evansville: Turkey Day 8:00 PM
Two teams with semi-high expectations this year will square off in in the Wooden Legacy in California. The Friars prevailed in what may have been the luckiest win this year, thanks to a missed tip slam at the buzzer by Illinois. The Aces had a mini-home scare as well to the always-pesky Belmont Bruins. These two seem to be headed directly to bubble town if things play out as planned, and these types of forgettable wins in November will become not so forgettable on selection Sunday.
Wisconsin @ Oklahoma: Sunday November 29th 1:30 PM
After a nightmarish opening day HOME loss to Western Illinois, and a subsequent loss at G’town, Bo Ryan MUST be wondering why he didn’t sail off in to the sunset with Big Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker last year. Whiskey is still trying to figure out what the offensive cadence will be, as Koenig and Hayes have been the only two consistent producers thus far. Given the high roster turnover, this really should not have been a huge surprise. Perhaps we all were too quick to assume ole Bo would drag and drop new parts in to the same roles, and see no regression in efficiency. The oddsmakers will have Wisconsin projected for their third loss of the year heading in to Norman, OK, and unless they find more consistency on the offensive side of the ball, the Badgers will find themselves 3-3 come week end.
On the flip side, the Sooners had an impressive 2H showing in their opening game of the year at Memphis, as Buddy and Woodard both made huge plays down the stretch to close out the Tigers. Woodard struggled mightily last year shooting, so hopefully his 3/6 start from 3 is a mini-sign he can knock down shot more efficiently this year. And while Tyshawn Thomas was deemed a significant loss prior to the year, the projected increase in run for shot-swatter Khadeem Lattin seemed to mitigate my concerns for any major regression for the Sooners. However, Lattin proved just how massive his fouling issues are, as he rotted on the pine for a large portion of the 1H, and picked up his 3rd early in the 2H. With a lack of true interior post depth, Lattin's ability to stay on the floor will be a major factor in OU’s consistency throughout the year, especially when the big 12 slate rolls around.