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2013-14 Pac-12 Post-Mortem

by - Published May 7, 2014 in Columns, Conference Notes

For the Pac-12, the 2013-14 season was a rebound from a stretch of so-so seasons. Six teams made the NCAA Tournament, with three reaching the Sweet 16. A record eight teams won at least 20 games. As a whole, the conference was as competitive as it’s ever been, with five teams tying for third place.

And yet, if you think the Pac-12 has entered some new halcyon days, you might want to stop right there. The conference is in a bit of flux right now, especially when you look at the coaching ranks and, correspondingly, how teams are trending.

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Health Comes Before Hoops

by - Published April 18, 2011 in Full Court Sprints


Go coast to coast with a roundup of news from across the nation.

When forward Emmanuel Negedu transferred to New Mexico, he figured he had a fresh start ahead after heart problems at Tennessee. While with the Volunteers, he entered a sudden cardiac arrest in 2009. He had the all-clear to play, barring any more bad news. But more bad news struck in December 2010 when he a bad reading on a defibrillator, according to Diamond Leung of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog. And that means Negedu’s playing career is through, though he’ll remain on scholarship to complete his degree as a Lobo.

Washington State fans are holding their breath that Klay Thompson won’t follow junior DeAngelo Casto to the NBA after the Cougar forward announced that he’ll enter the draft and hire an agent, according to the Associated Press. Casto was Wazzu’s top big man last season, with 12 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

In addition to losing Josh Selby and the Morris brothers to the NBA and Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar and Mario Little to graduation, Kansas will be without guard Royce Woolridge, who announced he is transferring, according to the Associated Press. Woolridge said he wants more playing time, which he apparently isn’t convinced he’d get in Lawrence despite the roster turnover.

In other transfer news, Loyola Chicago is getting some Big Ten talent in Iowa guard Cully Payne, who will have three years of remaining eligibility, according to ESPN Chicago’s Scott Powers. And sparingly used forward J.J. Richardson is leaving Pittsburgh in search of a better fit, according to the Associated Press.

On the flip side, the Jayhawks could be on the receiving end of a transfer if La Salle’s Aaric Murray picks Kansas over West Virginia. According to Jon Rothstein, the sophomore big man is leaving the Explorers for one of those destinations after averaging 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this past season.

Miami’s coaching search continues, writes the Miami Herald’s Michelle Kaufman, as new athletic director Shawn Eichorst talked to Wisconsin-Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter about the position. Eichorst has connections to the state after coming to Miami from Wisconsin, where he was an associate athletic director at the school.

Whoever ends up in south Florida as the Hurricanes’ coach might not bring highly regarded recruit Bishop Daniels to Coral Gables. According to Barry Jackson’s “Sports Buzz” blog at Miami Herald.com, Daniels wants a release from his letter of intent so that he can choose Tennessee or Rutgers. Given that the Scarlet Knights are the only team of the three with a returning coaching staff, that could bode well for Mike Rice’s squad.


You’ve got to feel for New Mexico’s Emmanuel Negedu.

The Lobos sophomore overcame the scare of a cardiac arrest at Tennessee and found a fresh start in Albuquerque. New Mexico is one of the top programs of the Mountain West Conference, especially with BYU bolting for the West Coast Conference.

But it just wasn’t in the cards for Negedu to make an impact on the court. A bad reading on a defibrillator means team doctors won’t clear him to play ever again. It’s just too risky.

Although Negedu must manage his condition carefully, his life is still full of opportunity. The Lobos intend to keep Negedu on scholarship, which will give him the opportunity to earn his degree as a Lobo. And if Negedu has interest in contributing to team activities, the squad should be able to find an off-court role for him.

For players gifted enough to earn a Division I scholarship, the concept of imminent mortality might not be an everyday realization. But Negedu now has a perspective that gives him the opportunity to keep his teammates grounded in the face of adversity and focused on greater goals.

And that’s a perspective that could allow Negedu to make an on-court impact vicariously through the rest of the Lobos.

NIT Semifinal Games Are Another Study in Contrasts

by - Published March 30, 2011 in Columns

NEW YORK – “Déjà vu all over again,” to quote a wise sage. The NIT semifinal doubleheader was similar to the semis of the recently completed Newark Regional in the NCAA. Washington State versus Wichita state was a one-sided rout devoid of ties or lead changes. Following that, Alabama and Colorado saw five ties, nine lead changes and an SEC team emerge victorious in a game not settled until the final shot.


A tempo-free look follows.

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Pac-10 Player Rankings 2.0

by - Published December 19, 2010 in Columns

In recent weeks, the Pac-10 has fallen on some tough times. The conference’s 10 teams have dropped 18 games this month, including an 0-2 record against Montana.

One cause for the recent struggles has been poor guard play. Of the six power conferences, the Pac-10’s guards already had the lowest average Total Impact Quotient of 6.2. In the past three weeks, that rating has fallen to 5.8. The Pac-10’s best guard, Trent Lockett, wouldn’t rank in the Big East’s top six.

So with conference play quickly approaching, look for the teams with the steadiest guards to have an advantage. That means Washington State could be poised to surprise some people, with Marcus Capers and Klay Thompson leading the way. The two Cougars are right behind Lockett in TIQ rankings among Pac-10 guards. … Continue Reading

Strong Panthers Win Legends Classic

by - Published December 3, 2008 in Columns

NEWARK, N.J. – Over the years I have maintained an interest in the statistical analysis of basketball. Today the term “tempo-free stats” is the hot terminology used by those breaking down numbers. Tempo-free is self-explanatory. It provides a number that can assess a team or performer whether said team walks the ball up the floor or pushes it to a track meet pace.

Points per possession – simply, points divided by possessions – gives us a good read on a team. For instance, a team giving up 60 points per game may or may not be a great defensive team, but one playing a “shorter” game with fewer possessions so the point totals will be lower.

Today we multiply the points per possession by 100 to give us a workable number called efficiency. Outside of efficiency, possessions or their number tell us something about a team. And a possession is defined as what you do until you lose the ball. Shoot, miss and get your rebound and you are on the same possession.

All of this brings us to the Legends Classic and its champion, Pittsburgh. Their performance over the two-day event at the Prudential Center is a perfect background in discussing tempo-free statistics.

Pitt captured the Legends Classic by defeating Texas Tech in the semifinal and Washington State in the championship. The tournament, played at the Prudential Center, not only gave the Panthers another trophy and legitimized their ranking, but drove home a crucial point: they can beat you at your pace or theirs.

Before moving on let’s look at the basic formula:

Possessions = Field Goals Attempted + (Free Throws Attempted * .475) – Offensive rebounds + Turnovers

(The .475 multiplier was derived through research by Ken Pomeroy. This allows for possessions that end with one free throw taken on a one and one and is well over 90% accurate.)

Points/Possession = PPP. Multiply this figure by 100 to arrive at efficiency.

Facing Texas Tech, Jamie Dixon’s club went up against a team that pushed the ball and had the green light on three-point attempts. Washington State, on the other hand, favors a slower half-court pace and is much more methodical. Pitt handled both challenges in impressive fashion. A tempo-free look at both contests:

Semifinal     Score     Efficiency
Pitt     80     105
Texas Tech     67     88

(76 possessions)

Final     Score     Efficiency
Pitt     57     97
Washington State     43     73

(59 possessions)

The tempo free breakdown gives a graphic illustration of the difference of Pitt’s opposition game plans in the two games. A 76-possession game is quite fast. On the other hand the 59 possession contest is more on the pedestrian side. One thing that was consistent was the Panther defense. Holding an opponent under 100 is good, under 90 is outstanding.

Another point to consider is Pitt faced quality teams on both nights. As Jamie Dixon said after the final, “I would be really surprised if any of these teams were not playing in the NCAA tournament in March.”

Washington State 63, Mississippi State 52
Pitt 80, Texas Tech 67

TexasTech 77, Mississippi State 73

Pitt 57, Washington State 43

Mississippi State finished 0-2 dropping decisions to Washington State in the semis and Texas Tech in the consolation. The trip, though, was not without reward. “We played two very good teams these two days,” said Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. “We grew up a bit in a lot of areas. With time and experience we will get better but we definitely took a lot of positives from this tournament.”

One area where Stansbury wants improvement is on the free throw line. “We shot 17 of 31 in the Texas Tech game,” he said. “You just cannot shoot like that and hope to beat a good team.” Another area was the broken plays. “We just had too many possessions on defense where they (Texas Tech) used up a lot of the shot clock,” he said, “and right at the end we fouled and bailed them out.”

Texas Tech coach Pat Knight was pleased after the consolation. Not just in getting the W, but in his team’s confidence. “I was worried coming into the tournament,” he said. “Last year we got down at Texas A&M and Kansas and our pride was challenged we gave up. We got absolutely drilled. This time if we got down we responded. We proved over these two days that we can compete with anybody.”

Knight noted that the morning after the Pitt game the Tech trainer was busy tending to bruises and minor injuries. “That’s good, I told my kids,” Knight said. “Pitt is tough and coming out a little banged up shows we competed.”

Pitt mentor Jamie Dixon took time to comment on MVP Sam Young following the championship. The versatile Pitt senior was lethal from the perimeter or going to the basket. “He was a late bloomer in basketball,” Dixon said of Young. “He looked at the NBA draft last spring and decided to stay. He’s even a better player than last year. He came to us at Pitt as a five (center) and just worked on his game. He literally sleeps in the gym.”

Washington State coach Tony Bennett said Pitt reminds him of a team he sees at least twice a year, the UCLA Bruins. Shouldn’t be a surprise as Ben Howland put his mark on the Panther program before doing the same in Westwood. “Pitt , like UCLA , has size is very physical and protects the paint.” In fact Bennett sees a shift taking place in the Pac 10. “You have guys like (Ben) Howland, Tim Floyd at USC, now Mike Montgomery in at Cal, Herb Sendek at Arizona State all come in and start to turn this into more of a half court league. There’s talent but the league is more suited to tournament basketball. If you can execute half court you have a better chance of succeeding in (post season) tournament play.”

Final quote: “Pitt does not give up easy stuff. I say our kids reached a new level of fatigue tonight.” – WSU coach Tony Bennett

Tournament MVP: Sam Young, Pitt – 24 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists in championship.

Trevor Cook, Texas Tech – 24 in semifinal vs. Pitt
Kodi Augustus, Mississippi State – Double-digit scoring both nights.
Klay Thompson, Washington State – 19 pts in semifinal win.
DeJuan Blair, Pitt – 15 points, 11 boards in semis


Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

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Your Phil of Hoops

Watson’s transfer will sting BU the most

April 11, 2014 by


Boston University recently saw three players transfer. The impact of the departure of one of them will be felt more than the other two.

Mihalich’s first year at Hofstra is over but will have plenty of value

March 9, 2014 by


The first year for Hofstra under Joe Mihalich is in the books. Many expected that wins would be hard to come by, and they were, but this season was about more than that and is hardly a throwaway year.

Cornell’s future can only be better

March 2, 2014 by


Cornell has had a rough season, as could be expected given some personnel losses. It’s almost in the books, and the future at least looks brighter.

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Conference Coverage

2013-14 Big Ten Post-Mortem

July 8, 2014 by


The Big Ten had some teams slip as the season went on, but plenty of others picked up the slack in another good year for the conference.

2013-14 Sun Belt Post-Mortem

July 7, 2014 by


Membership changes have been happening at quite a pace of late in the Sun Belt, and it was a new member that stole the show for much of this past season and seems poised to lead the way in the future.

2013-14 Big Sky Post-Mortem

July 1, 2014 by


The teams that have led the way in the Big Sky of late were right there again this season. One of them won both the regular season and conference tournament, and also had a nice time with the post-season awards as well.

2013-14 MEAC Post-Mortem

July 1, 2014 by


The 2013-14 season was N.C. Central’s year in the MEAC, as the Eagles completed their four-year ascent to the top of conference.

2013-14 Big 12 Post-Mortem

June 30, 2014 by


When it comes to overall depth, the Big 12 this season may have been one of the strongest leagues in a long time. The conference sent seven of its 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament, the first time in 21 years and just the fifth time ever that a league sent 70% or more of its teams to the tourney.