Monday, February 25

What about Ty?

So, with the impending (we all hope) return of the Heels' starting PG Ty Lawson, many of us are left to wonder: what wonderful offensive progress will said return bring? To dig deeper and answer (or attempt to answer) this question, I compared the tempo-free performance of Carolina's ACC games with and without Lawson. For statistical equivalence I left the Duke game off, since the other 12 games are against opponents that can be considered roughly equal. In addition, UNC has played a couple of teams both with and without Lawson (Clemson and NC State), helping to balance out the statistics.

There are 5 measurements that differ between the Lawson-led Heels and the Quentin Thomas-led Heels, and they fall into 3 categories:

1) Have Nothing to do with who is playing point guard (or if they do I have no idea how):
Defensive Efficiency has gotten much better for the Heels. Not too much stock can be placed in this stat since the teams UNC has faced aren't normalized in any way. Also, it doesn't make much sense other than the fact that the lineup has gotten taller. I don't think anyone would try to tell you that Thomas is a better defender than Lawson, even considering his 3 or 4 extra inches. I'd like to think that the team has collectively picked up its defense since Lawson's offensive impact is missing.

2) Have Something to do with who is playing point guard:
Effective FG% and Free Throw Rate have both seen marked jumps in the time since Lawson left the lineup. This isn't due to either Lawson or Thomas but the fact that the offense now runs more through Tyler Hansbrough, who makes a higher percentage of shots and gets to the free throw line more than pretty much anyone, period.

3) Have Everything to do with who is playing point guard:
These are the important things; the team's change over the past weeks in Turnover Rate, Pace, and Offensive Efficiency are all due to Ty Lawson's bum ankle. Without Lawson in the lineup a less effective ballhandler is always toting the rock (be it Thomas for Lawson or Ginyard for Thomas). Also, there are far fewer possessions that the Raycom cameraman misses by zooming in on someone popping their jersey or pounding their chest, which means we've been playing slower. Also, since the Heels aren't getting those easy layups in transition their overall Offensive Efficiency is down.

So, to overstate the obvious, the Heels miss Ty Lawson, and should benefit from an added 6 to 8 non-empty possessions per game upon his return. Let's just hope they don't forget to feed the machine down low.

All of the specific stats can be found here. (Don't you just love Google Docs?)

Diamond Heels sweep FAU to begin 2008 season

UNC played Florida Atlantic this weekend in baseball, sweeping the series and starting off the 2008 season 3-0. This from TarHeelBlue:

"Carolina clubbed 11 home runs and added six doubles for a .675 slugging percentage in the series sweep at Florida Atlantic, which marked just the eighth sweep on the road for UNC in the last eight seasons. Left fielder Dustin Ackley and center fielder Seth Williams each hit three home runs, and second baseman Kyle Seager added two."

"National player of the year candidate Dustin Ackley had at least three hits in each game this weekend and finished with a .714 average (10-14), three home runs, seven RBI and five runs scored. He belted a pair of solo shots Friday and added a three-run blast in Sunday's series finale for six home runs in his last seven games dating to last year's College World Series. The Walnut Cove, N.C., native was 4-for-4 Friday for his sixth career four-hit game and followed with back-to-back three-hit games to close the series. Ackley finished with a 1.429 slugging percentage on the weekend." Ackley has a .706 OBP to go along with his 1.429 slugging percentage to begin the season.

Thursday, February 21

The Duke Dilemma

Just as an FYI (to those of you who read this site regularly but don't follow college basketball) Duke appears to have found a bit of a sour patch en route to replicating its ACC perfection of 1999. Now, many people seem to know why this happens to Duke, however, I'm personally more interested in why it happened to Duke this time and if it has revealed a chink in the Blue Devils' armor. So, to try and find what went wrong (statistically) within the Devils last two games, I decided to compare (using the appropriately named their first 10 ACC games (10-0, average margin of victory +14 pts) with their last two (0-2, -7 points).

Individually, these games differed greatly from each other. The points per possessions stat tells the story with Wake Forest able to limit the Duke offense (88 ppp versus and average of 116) while Miami's offense dominated the Duke "D" (113 ppp compared to 97). This is echoed in the eFG%, Duke shot 46.8% against Wake (54.5 ACC average) while Miami shot 63.1% against Duke (49.8% opponents average), while Duke held Wake exactly to their defensive average and shot exactly their offensive average against Miami. So, 2 ACC loses that Duke can blame on entirely different ends of the floor.

However, there are 2 statistical abberations that both games have in common. The first is the overall pace. Duke plays a fairly high pace game, 2nd in the ACC only to UNC. Both Miami and Wake average 70 possessions a game or fewer (Duke is at 74.5 in ACC play), so you'd think that neither would want to push the pace against a Duke team at home when the tempo reaches the 80's. In both losses, the games were the fastest Duke has played in the ACC (83 and 85 possessions), tied only by their game against fellow roadrunner UNC. The reason for the high pace was that Duke turned the ball over on 10% more of their possessions than average, in both games. Duke averages a turnover on 16% of possessions, but in these games they were forced to 26.5% and 27%. Their only other ACC game above 18% was when Duke hosted FSU. So, what's the formula for beating the Devils? Apparently "get the freaking ball". This should come to no shock, as Duke is not known for their rebounding, if a team can force them into empty possessions and limit their overall chances, you may very well have Duke on the ropes. However, this is easier said than done when playing a team that starts 4 guards.

To view the Duke vs ACC opponents spreadsheet (with thanks to click here.

Wednesday, February 6


Alright everyone, just going to put up a predictive post about the NCAA Tournament field. Using ESPN's bubble watch, I picked out the "Work Left To Do" teams and looked at both their KP rating, consistency, and predicted records via RPI Forecast (which is essentially KP's predictor). So, I took these components and weighted them to give each team a score that represents how they should finish the season.

The yellow highlights the teams that should make the tournament, given that all those in the "Should Be In" category make the cut, and taking 2 at-large bids for mid-majors (South Alabama anyone?), and 1 more for the occasional conference tournament upset I'm not confident that both Drake and Butler will win their conference tournaments. As a side note, VA Tech (just making it as of yesterday) lost last night to NC State, so knock them down a rung and promote the next middling ACC team.

Monday, February 4

2/4 Top 25

The picture is finally starting to get clearer for the best teams in the country as there were nine teams that were in all three lists this week but didn't quite make the Top 25.

1. Memphis
2. Duke
3. Kansas
4. North Carolina
6. Georgetown
7. Tennessee
8. Wisconsin
9. Xavier
10. Stanford
11. Marquette
12. Michigan St.
13. Washington St.
14. Texas
15. Kansas St.
16. Drake
17. Indiana
18. Connecticut
19. Arizona
20. Butler
21. Texas A&M
22. Louisville
23. Pittsburgh
24. Clemson
25. Notre Dame

Just missed the cut: Saint Mary's, Arkansas, Gonzaga, Mississippi, Southern California, Oklahoma, UNLV, Florida, Baylor

Friday, February 1

Game by Game Ratings

Hello folks, sorry for the long hiatus, but I'm back and soon (well, after this weekend) I'll be all college basketball all of the time. Anyways, First I'd like to go ahead and endorse, err pick the Patriots in the Super Bowl (sorry about that, too much debate watching). They'll get all 10 of my precious points. Now, onto the real reason I'm posting. I've been toiling away at a game by game measurement of the Tar Heels' offensive and defensive performances. I wanted to find a way to represent how well the offense and defense played in each game to see if the team is in as much trouble as people suspect, and also to see how much of the team's struggles have resulted in playing some stiffer competition. The results? Well, check out the nifty graph:

Now, what does that all mean. Ok, lets start with the easiest to understand first, OE-DE. Basically, game by game, our Offensive Efficiency minus our Defensive Efficiency. This roughly translates to score (as you can see, the lone negative value is the Maryland loss) and is a good barometer of how the game went, from domination (SC St, Kent St, Valpo) to close games (Clemson, GT, Maryland). Now, the slightly more complicated part. The red and green (for stop and go), are what I've deemed ratings. I calculated a rating based on two things: Opponent's Adjusted Efficiency (season average) and Actual Game Efficiency (game results). The rating is the difference between that single game, and the team's average on the season, which is then weighted by a adaptation of z-score. So, since Clemson is averaging 115.3 OE on the season, in the game against UNC they had 99.4, this makes that game's rating (after some z-score adjustment) 14.34. The blue line can be used as a guide to see the results of the game, and the red and green lines the respective strengths of UNC's offense and defense. Obviously UNC has won more games relying on offense than defense. As a side note, UNC's forced TO% and OE are now significantly correlated at a 99% CI. Basically, UNC scores more efficiently when forcing more turnovers's, statistically speaking.