I’d like to start things off by acknowledging the first and maybe only nominee for the 2007 Center for Tempo-Free Stats Luke Winn Trophy for best writing. (By naming the trophy for Mr. Winn, I can make him ineligible without any guilt.) Please welcome the Greensboro News-Record’s Jim Young to our club. Jim uses the power of tempo-free stats to illuminate the point that Duke’s defense may well be improved this season even by losing what many thought was the defensive player of the year.
The case is pretty solid, and it’s a point that needs to be made by somebody besides me. Duke’s style may be ugly and boring this season, but it is more effective than most have been giving them credit for. And frankly, I never thought I’d be a Duke cheerleader and I’m starting to feel nauseous, so I’m going to move things along. But Triad newspaper readers really should give Mr. Young a hearty pat on the back the next time they see him.
I’m going to get back to posting things besides e-mail responses here, I swear. I’ll shoot for February 1st for a return to semi-regular postings of original thought. In the meantime, dear reader Dan provides me with some good stuff.
I know you aren’t a huge fan of predictions, but based upon UConn’s resume to date—and the fact that they lost by double digits to a less-than-impressive Louisville team that shot 31%—I wonder what you think the Huskies prospects are in the Big East and for the postseason. It’s interesting they remain fairly high in your rankings but come in at No. 88 in the RPI. They’ve beaten nobody thus far; I guess the question is, “how likely is it that they will and will that be enough?”
UConn goes down in the kenpom.com bust hall of fame alongside 2005 Arizona State and 2006 Washington State. They probably have to get to 20 wins to have any chance of getting in. But honestly, given how their offense crumbles at any sight of having to run a half-court set against a modicum of resistance, the Huskies are now my early pick to win the NIT. It seems like a lot of the blame has fallen on AJ Price, but it’s not really his fault. I thought I saw Jeff Adrien’s picture on a milk carton the other day. I know it would help him out if somebody was an outside threat, but he doesn’t have much ability to score on his own.
p.s. I’d love to put in a strong request for your take on/a breakdown of the upcoming UNC-Arizona game this weekend. I’m sure you’ve noticed, but Arizona has the nations best adjusted offense rating and, amazingly, has done it against the best opposing defense rating. (not to mention the teams they’ve played have the no. 2 offense, additionally= brutal). Meanwhile, UNC for all the hype they have gotten for their offensive potency (No. 4 AdjO), have really slipped under the radar thus far as a stellar defensive team (No. 2 AdjD—against the 17th-best opponent’s offense rating). Somehow, in the breakneck pace that seems inevitable, I think UNC’s defense MAY be the difference but will likely get completely ignored in the analysis in favor of unrepresentative offensive statistics. Of course, Arizona needs a win pretty badly right now and has had the type of horrible luck thus far that makes you think they are more than due for the type of close win that has been torturously escaping them this season.
I don’t know that I need to do much more analysis than that. We have Arizona, the most underrated team in the most overrated conference, but with defensive issues. And we have UNC, a defensive juggernaut. On a related note, it was interesting to hear how UNC shredded Clemson’s press last Saturday. In fact, they scored 77 points in 79 possessions – their second worst offensive rating of the season. Carolina’s defense/Clemson’s offense was the story behind that game.
Getting back to Arizona – it’s not so unusual that they have the #1 offense against the #1 defensive SOS. Those offensive figures are adjusted for that schedule. What it does mean is that the impressive raw numbers that guys like Radenovic and Budinger are putting up have a higher degree of difficulty associated with them than most or perhaps all other players in the nation. And they are coming off a pasting of Arizona State without Marcus Williams.
The Cats are the second best team in the Pac-10, and I think in mid-to-late March that will be obvious. This game is winnable, but if they lose, watch how they lose. None of their losses have been disgraces, they’re sitting near the bottom of the luck standings, and their defense is probably underrated by my stats because they know they don’t need it on every possession with the scoring punch they have. Don’t get me wrong, they have limitations defensively, but having one of the best offenses in the nation is worth something. Where some see fatigue, I see bad bounces and a tough schedule. They have a late-season run written all over them.
On the UNC side, any wagers on whether we’ll hear about how Roy Williams wants his team to be more focused on defense? I don’t doubt that he does, but to imply that the Tar Heels are lacking defensively is nowhere close to reality. Much like the 2005 team, this one is balanced. This season’s version has been slightly better on defense than offense if you want to split hairs. But that will be our little secret.
My prediction: I’d be surprised if this wasn’t the most entertaining game of the weekend.
Locally, BYU is virtually giving tickets away in an effort to defend its 26-game home winning streak against Air Force. If you’re at the game, I’ll be the one not wearing white.