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The First Four Minutes: A look at URI-Fordham and WVU-Rutgers

by - Published February 28, 2011 in Conference Notes

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The first four minutes. Coaches constantly preach their importance and significance. Getting off to a good start is paramount. Getting out of the gate quickly, or poorly for that matter, is important but does not guarantee a victory, loss or what may transpire the duration of the contest.

At games covered I frequently chart the shots and possessions of both teams over the first four minutes of both halves. The “first four” can tell us a great deal. In this article we will look at two games from the past weekend and how their “first four” of the game played out. … Continue Reading

Siena Women get ‘Defensive’ in Win over St. Peter’s

by - Published February 20, 2011 in Conference Notes

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – It has been a year-long struggle for the St. Peter’s women. Their offensive efficiency is 79, quite a bit below the generally accepted targeted 100. The defense is a healthy 92 efficiency. Good defense is commendable, but a 79 offensive efficiency will not get you many wins.

On Saturday, St. Peter’s’ efficiency hit only 64 on the offensive end as Siena defeated St. Peter’s 57-40 at the Yanitelli Center. … Continue Reading

Robert Morris Defeats FDU: Why Tempo-Free is Important

by - Published February 18, 2011 in Conference Notes

TEANECK, N.J. – Andy Toole planned on Robert Morris playing their best ball beginning mid to late February and into March. The Colonials seemed to be on track as they handily defeated FDU 74-50 at The Rothman Center. The defending Northeast Conference champions were outstanding on defense, limiting FDU to 35 percent shooting from the floor and forcing 17 turnovers. On the other end sophomore center Lijah Thompson was too much for the Knights to handle. The 6-7 Thompson scored a game-high 16 points, adding seven rebounds as the Colonials enjoyed a 34-18 edge on points in the paint. … Continue Reading

Rutgers, St. John’s Get Attention in a Wild Big East Week

by - Published February 13, 2011 in Conference Notes

NEW YORK – A look back at a couple wild nights in the Big East.

Rutgers’ improbable 77-76 victory over Villanova is widely discussed in how it transpired. The Wildcats had a three-point lead with seconds left. Rutgers’ Jonathan Mitchell hit a trey with .8 second reaming and was fouled by Corey Fisher, ironically his only personal of the game, Mitchell calmly converted from the charity stripe to give the Scarlet Knights the victory. … Continue Reading

For St. Peter’s Women, the Struggle Continues

by - Published January 12, 2011 in Conference Notes

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – On Monday evening the St. Peter’s women hosted Manhattan College at Yanitelli Center in Jersey City. The effort was there, the result a too familiar 58-44 loss. Coach Stephanie DeWolfe has St. Peter’s working hard and hustling, no small feat for a team that dropped to 1-14 on the season.

In a game that was basically a two-possession affair until the latter minutes, turnovers continued to be a problem for St. Peter’s. They committed 23 on the game. Given a 60-possession game, the St. Peter’s turnover rate was an astounding 38 percent. That is nearly four of every ten possessions wasted without a viable field goal attempt. Junior forward Jynae Judson gave St. Peter’s a nice eight-point, 10-rebound effort. But she added seven turnovers. … Continue Reading

Gary Blair Loves New York

by - Published December 21, 2010 in Columns

NEW YORK – Gary Blair loves New York. The coach of Texas A&M’s eighth-ranked women’s team does not get too many trips to the Big Apple but enjoys each one thoroughly. “Last time we were here we played Rutgers in 1981. They had the Coyle sisters playing and Theresa Grentz coaching.” Back then Blair was an assistant at Louisiana Tech, a power with the likes of current Baylor coach Kim Mulkey in the backcourt. Tech won 67-60 on that day three decades ago. Sunday, at the Maggie Dixon Classic, Texas A&M was also victorious in a 79-50 rout of Rutgers.

“I love New York,” Blair gushed. “It is a great city it’s all about the highest level of basketball around. Madison Square Garden is the Mecca of basketball.” Beside basketball, Blair is enthused about what the city offers. He made it a point to bring his team on sightseeing trips after practices and walk throughs were negotiated. “We visited Ground Zero, we saw the tree at Rockerfeller Center, our kids were all over,”  he said. … Continue Reading

UConn Women: 88 Consecutive Wins

by - Published December 20, 2010 in Conference Notes

NEW YORK – Number 88 is in the books. UConn ran and hid from tenth-ranked Ohio State, with an 81-50 defeat of the Buckeyes at Madison Square Garden. The featured game of the Maggie Dixon Classic saw the UConn women tie the UCLA record with their 88th consecutive victory. The tempo free efficiency numbers illustrate the Huskies’ dominance. … Continue Reading

The Jimmy V Classic: Five Things We Learned

by - Published December 10, 2010 in Columns

NEW YORK – A sellout crowd of 19,391 packed Madison Square Garden to give an atmosphere of electricity. Four ranked teams were in the building. The games did not disappoint and gave us a few things to notice and consider from a tempo-free perspective.

The scores:

Kansas 81, Memphis 68
Syracuse 72, Michigan state 58

1. Syracuse can mix it up inside. The Orange enjoyed a 36-26 percent edge in offensive rebounding percentage. They also had a whopping 41-17 percent advantage in free throw rate, a figure suggesting a team pounding it inside and getting to the line. That was exactly what the Orange did all night. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo called it a “butt kicking” and couldn’t remember when his team was outscored 42-24 in the paint. Syracuse repeatedly broke down the Spartan interior defense to the extent 14 of their 15 first half field goals were in the paint. Rick Jackson, with 17 points and 16 boards, was virtually unstoppable, doing the most damage for the Orange in the lane.

2. Memphis is good but still a work in progress. They came in with the national ranking and 7-0 record, only to exit the Garden with a double-digit loss. A young Memphis team showed questionable shot selection and seemed to rush their offense as they were caught up in the moment. You can also credit the Kansas defense that forced the Tigers into a far below average (they came in at 110) offensive efficiency mark of 91. “Our guys missed shots and became dejected,” said Memphis coach Josh Pastner. “Look at Kansas. They would turn the ball over and get right back and play defense. It all starts with defense.” Offensively, a good part of Memphis’ offense came off the Jayhawk miscues as they held a 29-18 advantage in points off turnovers. “We are learning,” Pastner continued. “I am learning every day as a coach. But it is a players’ game and we want our players to learn and get better every day.”

3. The Syracuse 2-3 zone is still tough to figure. The Michigan State fan behind my baseline press table seat constantly pleaded with his team to beat a “high school” zone. The 2-3 of Jim Boeheim once again took another highly-ranked team down. Big East teams fare a little better because they see it once or twice a year. A Michigan state may face zones but none like this. The Orange trap the corners and always have quick, long players getting into the passing lanes. Stifled by a defense not allowing them access in the lane, Izzo’s Spartans got caught up in what he termed “a sissy jump shooting game.” It was just a matter of playing into Syracuse’s hands. The Spartans shot 7 of 24 (29 percent) from three-point range. Lest anyone think zones are passive, Syracuse forced Michigan State into a 25 percent turnover rate.

4. The Jayhawks spread the wealth. They assisted on 59 percent of their field goals and even in transition always looked for the extra pass. Kansas also put four players in double figures, led by Markieff Morris with 16 points. Basically, they ran on all cylinders except one area: turnovers. They had 22 for the game, and given their 74 possessions it adds up to a dangerously high 30 percent TO rate – a loss of the ball without a chance to score on 3 of every 10 possessions.

Post -game talk centered around Josh Selby, who will join Kansas late December. Will the delicate chemistry be altered with Selby’s addition. KU coach Bill Self feels it won’t. “(Selby) will be part of us not the ‘guy’,” Self predicted. Stay tuned.

5. The Orange have “struggled”. They are 8-0 but Boeheim said, “I never had a team struggle early in the season like this team has.” The good thing is the struggling is not keeping them from winning and the veteran Orange mentor is certain with each day there is improvement. The senior Jackson, as noted, is providing strong inside play. Junior guard Scoop Jardine had a strong 19-point, three-assist night. Freshmen such as C.J. Fair, Fab Melo and Baye Moussa Keita are gaining valuable game experience and contributions in their own right. “We are defending,” Boeheim said. “We have to get better offensively. And we will.”

A Tempo Free Look: FDU Stops Bryant in NEC Opener

by - Published December 5, 2010 in Columns

TEANECK, N.J. – On Thursday, Fairleigh Dickinson defeated Bryant 78-68 in the Northeast Conference opener for both clubs at the Rothman Center. We take a look at a tempo free breakdown of the game.

The efficiency:

Possessions, Offensive Efficiency
Bryant 67, 102
FDU 68, 115

The Four Factors:

Effective FG Percentage Free Throw Rate Offensive Rebound Percentage Turnover Rate
Bryant 52 14 28 19
FDU 56 44 41 22

Observations:

  • About the only negative in FDU’s Four Factors was the 22 percent turnover rate. The inside game was so dominant, though, it didn’t matter as much. The Knight owned the lane with an incredible 46-18 points in the paint edge. The Knights were 25 of 42, good for 61 percent on two-point shooting. Granted not every two point field goal attempt is in the paint. But tonight virtually everyone for the Knights was.
  • FDU’s inside prowess was reflected in offensive rebound percentage and free throw rate as well, as the Knights shot 31 free throws to Bryant’s 12. As the Knights pounded it inside, Bryant settled for threes. They did shoot 12 of 27 (44%) from beyond the arc and were able to trim two double digit-deficits to a two possession game.
  • Bryant’s turnover rate was a step in the right direction. Under 20% is the target and the Bulldogs met it. Nice improvement for a club that entered with a (too high) 23 percent rate.
  • FDU coach Greg Vetrone was very pleased with the play of Kamil Svrdlik. The 6-8 junior was dominant on the blocks with a career-high 24 points to go along with rebounds. A native of the Czech Republic, Svrdlik is providing a much needed low post game with Alvin Mofunanya graduated.
  • Keeping a shot chart the last 12 minutes, you can see FDU’s inside prowess. The Knights had eight field goals, all in the paint (four in transition). Bryant had seven field goals. Among them five were three-pointers, one on the three-point line and one in the paint.
  • Cecil Gresham, Bryant’s senior forward, had a “breakout game” per coach Tim O’Shea, leading all scorers with 28 points. O’shea would like more contributions from sophomore center Vlad Kondratyev, who played very well last year but has not been contributing as well to date.
  • FDU improves to 2-3, Bryant falls to 1-6.

NIT Season Tip-Off: Five points of Emphasis

by - Published November 29, 2010 in Columns

:NEW YORK CITY – With all that is going on off the court, some of us forgot a simple fact: Tennessee is a very good basketball team. They shifted the action from the background to what is happening on the floor by capturing the Pre-Season NIT at Madison Square Garden.

The Semifinal Scores:

Tennessee 77, VCU 72
Villanova 82, UCLA 70

Consolation:
VCU 89, UCLA 85

Final:
Tennessee 78, Villanova 68

Five points of emphasis from the Pre-Season NIT:

1. Tennessee is not only resilient but talented. Despite the ongoing drama in Knoxville regarding coach Bruce pearl, the Volunteers came to New York and just concentrated on one thing: playing basketball at a high level. Pearl commented after the VCU game on what great things the Rams do and how much fun it was preparing for them. The Tennessee coach said the same thing about Villanova. Pearl, quite frankly, wanted to put all of these off the floor issues aside for now. Not dwelling on them does not mean they will go away. But for now Pearl is thrilled to be doing what he loves best: breaking down tapes, planning and preparing with his staff.

2. Villanova needs a plan B, Jay Wright admitted after the Tennessee game. There will not be many nights when Corey Fisher, Maalik Wayns and Corey Stokes for that matter are all shut down and not as effective. But when those days do come, Villanova will have to try a different approach. Admittedly, shutting down the Villanova backcourt like Tennessee did will not happen often. But it could happen in Big East and/or post-season and Wright wants to be prepared. Both nights Mouphtaou Yarou came through for Villanova. He scored in double figures both nights and against UCLA the 6-10 sophomore had 16 rebounds and three blocks. Wright likes Yarou’s defensive presence as it gives the guards the opportunity to defensively gamble knowing there is a “stopper” to guard the basket. His offense, as well as that of Antonio Pena and Dominic Cheek (both had good outings in the final), is going to figure very much into Wright’s plans down the road.

3. VCU will be tough to contend with in the Colonial. They earned a split in New York and showed some impressive attributes both nights out. VCU loves the three-pointers and transition. The uptempo offense of coach Shaka Smart relies on 38 percent of its scoring from beyond the arc. Often these three-point attempts are uncontested as the Rams attempt them in half court or out on the break. Their pace is a rapid 75 possessions per game and they utilize those possessions with a very impressive 111 offensive efficiency. This is a team not wildly running or bombing from three. There is an inside presence in Jamie Skeen. Prior to coming to New York, the 6-9 senior asked his teammates to get him the ball more. “When more is given, more is expected,” Smart said with a biblical theme regarding the request. Skeen delivered both nights, especially with a team-high 23-point outing against UCLA, earning him all-tournament honors. Not the last honor VCU will see this season.

4. UCLA showed heart. Down 15 at the half in the semifinal against top ten Villanova. Three time zones from home. It seemed like a time to think consolation game. To their credit, the Bruins tightened the defense, kept their composure and had it to a two-possession game midway through the final half before Villanova went on a game-sealing run. In the third place game the Bruins competed hard for 40 minutes before dropping a close one to VCU. What the Bruins have to do is avoid slow starts. They suffered through them in both contests in New York. They also need contributions from Malcolm Lee, Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson on a nightly basis. Against Villanova, Honeycutt (a 15 PPG scorer) came up with only eight points on 3-8 shooting. The Pac-10 is relatively balanced this season. There are games that are “winnable” through extra effort and outplaying opponents. Here UCLA showed the effort. Now if they can avoid those slow starts.

5. Tennessee can defend. Scotty Hopson is a threat on the perimeter or in the paint. Tobias Harris can slash and score. Brian Williams, at 6-10 cleans the offensive glass for put backs. Make no mistake, Bruce Pearl’s club is anything but one-dimensional. The defense by the Vols in the two games was quite impressive. Villanova entered the game with a 119 offensive efficiency, but was held to 93 by an active, harassing Tennessee defense. In fact, Tennessee held both opponents under 100 offensive efficiency as VCU managed just a 90 OE in the semifinals. In the final Hopson bothered the Villanova guards all night with his quickness and length. Villanova did struggle offensively in the championship. Blame that on the Vol defense.

ALL TOURNAMENT:

Jamie Skeen (VCU)
Reeves Nelson (UCLA)
Mouphtaou Yarou (Villanova)
Tobias Harris (Tennessee)
Scotty Hopson (Tennessee) – MVP

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