Archive | April, 2016

4/4 National Championship Notes

4 Apr

So, tonight we have the two best teams in the tournament, particularly offensively where both have posted an absurd 1.32ppp in their 5 games, squaring off for the title. Additionally, in terms of making tonight’s game the potential antidote to Saturday’s lopsidedness, I don’t see an overwhelming advantage on either end for either team. A lot has been made about UNC’s massive advantage in the paint/at the rim, but I think that’s way oversimplifying that dynamic in this game, and ignoring the fact that Villanova is an outstanding 2PT% defense because Jay Wright is willing to mix in a few zone looks that always 1) cut off the paint and 2) extend ball pressure, whether it be in a 2-3 or the 1-2-2 zone press, and in man they’re always going to switch 1-4, and even 1-5 as both Ochefu and Reynolds got out on Hield effectively several times Saturday night. Let’s take a look at how Villanova’s defense fared against teams that are similar to UNC in terms of eschewing the 3 and relying heavily on 2 point jump shots/scoring in the paint via their PPP against the Wildcats:

  • Georgia Tech .85
  • Virginia 1.43
  • DePaul .87
  • DePaul II .98*
  • Seton Hall .93
  • Seton Hall II 1.13
  • Seton Hall III 1.03
  • Marquette .97*
  • Marquette II 1.01*
  • Butler .87
  • Butler II 1.00
  • UNC Asheville (more transition/TO reliant though) .85

In the games where teams scored at ~1ppp or higher (* means I included DePaul II and Marquette I, and Marquette II is a bit skewed because they were chucking garbage 3s in a blowout that became a bit closer at the end), those teams were a combined 50-125 from 3 for a 40% rate. In the games below 1 ppp, teams were 21-79, 26.5%. So what does this mean? Well, simply that teams who typically eschew the 3 offensively found some success when they were able to hit them, which of course makes sense, and is a roundabout way of saying that I think UNC needs to hit jump shots from the perimeter, and it’s not necessarily all about Brice Johnson and UNC’s bigger bodies being able to dominate the paint all night. That said, the same is true for Villanova. I’ve gone on at length about Jay Wright’s halfcourt offense, and how they score from the perimeter not just because they take a lot of 3s, but because those 3s are generally wide open and set up by the fact that typically all 5 guys on the court can pass it, and their 4 out offense is so versatile/efficient in ball screens, pick and roll, and ball reversal offense (and their shot fakes, my God the shot fakes, if you don’t close out under control against everyone on this team, you’re going to get burned more than a piece of Jim Nantz toast), which leads me to UNC’s defense. The Heels’ PNR defense can be something of an issue when you force the bigs to come out and defend, and honestly, and I think Nova’s 4 out offense will pose a bigger problem than UNC’s monsters inside will for Villanova’s defense. I’m not sure how Williams combats Kris Jenkins (and Hart to an extent) without going smaller, because Nova’s offense will spread you out and force Johnson, Meeks, and Hicks to guard you in space, and of course their ball movement in the halfcourt is impeccable too (that said, UNC can go “smaller” more effectively than Villanova can go “bigger”, which isn’t something Jay Wright does anyway in terms of putting two bigs on the floor at the same time). In short UNC’s defense is predicated on keeping the ball away from the rim (in fact, only 5 teams allow a lower FGA rate at the rim than the Heels), but that hardly matters one bit against a Villanova offense where scoring at the rim is basically the 4th option. UNC is going to be placed in some compromised positions in terms of their defensive switching tonight. Of course UNC’s offensive rebounding ability is a great equalizer (or more like game dominator). Jenkins and Hart are exceptional rebounding guards and make up for a lot of Nova’s lack of height on the glass, but UNC is entirely different animal. These guys absolutely hammer the offensive glass with their athleticism and preternatural sense of timing, and while Villanova ran away against Oklahoma, the Sooners did grab 43% of their misses (a lot of those were of course late in a blowout though). While we’re on the subject of rebounding, Villanova’s transition defense is going to be tested in a big way if the jump shots aren’t falling tonight. Per, Villanova allowed the 55th highest rate of transition FGAs 0-10 sec after a defensive rebound, which makes sense for a team that takes a high rate of jump shots, but that’s certain death against the Heels, who were 7th nationally offensively in terms of FGA rate 0-10 sec after a defensive rebound. However, we have seen Villanova actually miss jump shots in this tournament, and it was against another good transition offense off defensive rebounds (Kansas), but Villanova completely punted offensive rebounds to get back and set up their halfcourt defense that dominated KU’s high low offense and made Perry Ellis a total nonfactor, so of course I anticipate something similar tonight. That said, I think UNC’s halfcourt offense can carry some definite advantages tonight. Like Villanova with Arcidiacano and Brunson, they’re a dual PG offense with Joel Berry and the outstanding Marcus Paige (and really you can throw Theo Pinson in here too), and while their halfcourt offense is a lot more “basic” than Nova’s, that multiple ball handling dimension makes them extremely difficult, and dangerous, to throw those traps and 1-2-2 pressure against, and Nova’s defense has been so effective preying on weaker ballhandlers this tournament. That’s not going to be the case tonight against the Heels.

Once again I’m rambling and going back and forth between points, but this could very well be one of the better national championship games of all time given the offensive domination of both teams in this tournament. This game could very well be determined simply by who hits more jump shots, which of course favors Villanova, but UNC has a couple of advantages in that they can dominate against anyone on the offensive glass, they have multiple ball handlers against Nova’s pressure schemes, they can effectively go “smaller” if Nova’s halfcourt offense is running ball screen circles around them, and the Heels are scoring efficiently in the halfcourt/low possession games this tournament, even against ND’s burn offense and Syracuse’s transition denying 2-3. Looking forward to a good one, and of course Cubs opening day on the west coast afterwards.

PREDICTION (2177-1683-107, 36-28-2):

UNC -2, 73-70



4/2 Final Four Notes

2 Apr

I’ve talked ad nauseum about all four teams playing tonight, but just a few quick notes and predictions on tonight’s Final Four games…

I’ve gone on at length about how lazy it is to say that “Villanova takes a lot of threes”. Yes, Nova attempts threes at a high rate, but it’s entirely borne from their versatile offense that features multiple ball handlers and high level passers. Jay Wright’s offense will spread you out, shot fake you relentlessly, and if your halfcourt defense isn’t disciplined enough, they’ll exploit you every time down the floor. That said, I think Oklahoma’s biggest issue tonight might be Villanova’s defense. Jay Wright will extend 3/4 court pressure with a 1-2-2 zone press that he uses to alternately slow teams down, or speed teams up with turnovers, and lately it’s been far more aggressive (that press is expertly broken down here by @JustinKundrat). The key defensively for Villanova tonight will be Mikal Bridges (when he’s on the floor) against Buddy Hield. Bridges has the length and athleticism to disrupt Hield and force Woodard and Cousins to beat the Wildcats (which they’re wholly capable of doing). Overall, Jay Wright’s defense is capable of completely dominating this game defensively in the backcourt, and Oklahoma just doesn’t have any sort of overwhelming advantage in the frontcourt to close that gap. As for the NRG effect, I think it probably will bother both teams equally. These two teams essentially shoot the 3 at the same rate, and in this scenario, I’ll take the team that can force you into poor jump shots and turn you over with their extended zone pressure. As for the first meeting, I essentially glean nothing from a game played 4 months ago on a boat.

Moving on to North Carolina and Syracuse, I really don’t find anything all that interesting about this game. Obviously UNC can struggle to shoot from the perimeter, but they’re just as obviously familiar with the 2-3, which is a huge advantage (although not for UVA, who kind of got taken out of playing their game, but UNC is more versatile). Now, even if UNC struggles to shoot from outside tonight, they can feasibly grab 50%+ of their misses against one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the country. UNC is absolutely relentless on the offensive glass, and it could very well be the sole determining factor in this game. Add in that the NRG effect is more costly to three point reliant Syracuse, and I think the Orange have some major issues offensively as well. Encouraging for the Orange…I don’t really think anyone on UNC can guard Gbinije, but I think that’s about all they have going tonight, as UNC’s best offense is going to come from their ability to grab the majority of their misses vs the zone. Syracuse is an elite transition defense, which is a huge advantage tonight, but UNC is the most well rounded offensive team in the country (besides maybe Villanova), and Berry/Paige in the backcourt are going to be an issue for the Orange, as is the ridiculous athleticism in the frontcourt on the glass.

PREDICTIONS (2175-1683-107, 34-28-2):



4/1 CBI Game 3 Notes

1 Apr

The CBI championship series has essentially played out exactly how I thought it would in the first two games (game 1 breakdown, game 2 breakdown), so I don’t have a whole lot to add in terms of game 3 tonight…with one exception. Morehead State and Nevada are two physical, aggressive teams, so it came as no surprise that things got excessively chippy on the court (49 fouls, 66 FTs, 4 techs, several dust ups), but Sean Woods (as he’s prone to doing) threw some gas on the flames at the end of the game when he gave Eric Musselman the old “fake handshake blowby“. Game 2 essentially saw Morehead State play typical Morehead State basketball. Nevada struggled with their pressure (27% TO rate) and the Eagles grabbed their misses at a high rate, and still lost by 9. Nevada played typical Nevada defense, and shut down Morehead’s backcourt for the second game in a row (.87ppp for the Eagles’ offense). Despite lacking solid efficiency offensively, the Pack exploited mismatches in their ball screen offense time and again with Oliver, Fenner, and Criswell. Overall, I expect another hyper-physical game with free throws once again reaching the ~70s in terms of attempts, and maybe even an ejection or two, and while I think Morehead will shoot better than 1-16 from 3, it’s discouraging that the Eagles essentially “played their game” in game 2, and came away with a 9 point loss and were never within a single possession in the 2H. Plus, they’re playing in altitude on short rest tonight, which of course isn’t something they’ve done this year.

PREDICTION (2175-1683-106):