31 December 2013

Is this a bad shooting team?

Our GAMBLE Reports have highlighted just how bad NU’s offense has become under CCC.  Part of the offense’s struggle is perfectly understandable with the coaching transition.  As the weeks go on and the offense goes further in reverse some blame ought to be placed on CCC.  That this year’s offense is 100 rungs below last year’s decimated team suggests CCC’s offensive coaching is bordering on negligence.

Proponents of the coaching change have been quick to throw CBC and his recruits under the bus in an attempt to insulate CCC from criticism. This agenda to lower expectations and shift blame to CBC -- even with NU players as collateral damage -- comes as no surprise.  Noticeably absent in this shameless tactic are facts.  Carmody Court is here to put meat on that bone.

One common excuse given for CCC’s poor offense is that this “bad shooting team” is unable to take advantage of open shots.  On its face this claim is hard to wrap one’s head around since CBC recruited shooters.  Did NU players suddenly forget to shoot?  To dig into the merits of this assertion we began with a review of the individual player statistics. 

Individual Player Analysis

There are six players on the roster for whom a kenpom comparison can be developed: Crawford, Sobolewski, Cobb, Demps, Olah, and Abrahamson.  To reduce the effect of injuries we used the 2012 season for Crawford’s baseline and 2011 for Cobb. Below is a summary of the changes in a few key offensive statistics from the baseline year to this season.

The cleanest and simplest measurement for comparing shooting is FT%.  Free throws are a constant and independent of offense.  Four of these six players are shooting free throws BETTER this year (all but Demps and Abrahamson).

The next cleanest measurement for shooting comparison is 3P%.  It’s not as clean as a free throw analysis but like free throws the 3P distance is more or less constant and is a shot practiced with regularity.  Four of the six players are shooting BETTER from beyond the arc (Crawford, Sobolewski).

Finally we compared ORtgs.  Although it isn’t directly relevant to the bad shooting team assertion it is on point for NU’s offensive woes.  Once again four are playing better on offense (Crawford, Sobolewski)

Note that three players from 2013 (Hearn, Swopshire, Marcotullio) not included in the above analysis shot about 35% from three.  The two players from 2014 (Taphorn, Lumpkin) not included in the analysis also are shooting about 35%.  A wash in other words.

So an examination of the individual statistics does not support excuse that this is poor shooting team. Maybe looking at the forest would?

Team analysis

As a team NU is shooting 71.3% from the charity stripe which is good for #119 in the land.  Top third doesn't sound so bad to us.  

Last year NU shot 67.9% which was ranked #220.  In addition this year’s 71.3% is better than the 69% shot in two of the NIT years, a hair below the 71.4% shot in 2010 and 1.7% below the 2011 team.  We don’t think folks in their right minds – or even the CBC haters – would claim the NIT teams were bad at shooting.

For 3P% this year’s team is shooting 33%.  This is below average (#195 ranked), a smidge below last year’s 34% clip and well below the NIT years when NU shot between 35.7% and 38.6% as a team.  This team statistic does give some legs to the argument that this team is bad at shooting.   

But…… when one takes out Sobolewski from this year’s statistics the team is shooting 37% from three which is within the NIT years range.  That is not scorching the nets good but is also much better than one would expect from a bad shooting team.

Dave Sobolewski

When we first dove into this analysis we were coming up scratching our heads trying to explain why this offense is so bad.  Individually most players are improved in shooting percentages and rating.  As a team the shooting percentages don’t look so bad either especially when one accounts for Sobolewski’s abysmal 3P%.  And it was with this last thought is when the light went off.  The problem is Sobolewski.  That’s unfair to Sobolewski – more accurately the problem is Sobolewski in CCC’s offense.

Sobolewski’s struggles this year are not a revelation.  Fans and even the press have started to dig into this storyline.  Per kenpom his ORtg is down from a mediocre 97.9 in 2013 to a very poor 81.1.  The dropoff is due to the drop in 3P%, a much higher turnover rate and a lower assists rate. 

Sobolewski has been the biggest loser from the coaching transition.  Why? Because he is being asked to do things he simply can’t do well such as breaking down a defense on the dribble drive and creating for others.  This bears out not only in his increased turnovers but in a much higher free throw rate.  Remarkably his assist rate has dwindled even with these marching orders from CCC.

At this point we think Sobolewski needs to see a sports shrink if NU’s offense is going to recover this year.  One alternative hope is that Demps could pick up some more of the slack, but NU recruiting two PGs for next fall doesn’t sound like Demps is what CCC is looking for in his PG either.

CCC’s Role

Sobolewski’s struggles this year is a cause for concern when it comes to CCC’s ability to lead NU to the NCAAs and beyond.  Not so much because one player is really struggling but rather that CCC hasn’t demonstrated he can amend his offense to fit the personnel.  It’s evident the offense is broken and some of the blame for that is CCC’s inability to take better advantage of what he’s got on hand.  What happens in the future if for whatever reason CCC does not have an active roster that adequately fits his offense???????

A good coach molds his offense to his personnel.  Instead of continuing with this losing proposition of Sobolewski dribble driving his way into turnovers -- and to a lesser extent Cobb -- why not try to run an offense that takes advantage of the players’ strengths?  

30 December 2013

GAMBLE Report 1.09

NU (7-6) played its final two non conference games since we published GR 1.08.  

NU 58 Brown 52
Depaul 57 NU 56

kenpom predicted NU would win both games.  A split of these games is not good and does not bode well for the looming B1G slate.

Both games were expected to be tight affairs but not quite the defensive battles (to put a kind spin on it) that materialized.  The end result is a lower kenpom overall rating (down 9 spots to 125 and now just 7 above the 2013 season), a much improved AdjD (up 38 spots to an impressive 46 which is better than CBC's best defensive team -- 56 in 2005), but a woeful 252 AdjO (101 rungs below even the hamstrung 2013 team and much worse than CBC's worst offensive team -- 196 in 2005).

Next up is the B1G opener at home against Wisconsin.  NU is predicted to lose 63-56 with just an 18% chance of winning.  Far be it from us to question the wisdom of kenpom"dom" but we give NU a snowball's chance in hell of staying within double digits much less an 18% chance of winning this game.

kenpom even predicts NU will win 5 games in the B1G although only three games are actually predicted to be wins (three home squeakers against Purdue, Penn State, and Nebraska).  If that happens we may have to rename this blog "Collins Court".  More likely however is an NU squad that fails to win double digit games on the season and sadly finishes ranked below the personnel-beleaguered 2013 squad.

17 December 2013

GAMBLE Report 1.08

NU 86  Mississippi Valley State 64 (F)

On the surface it sounds like a good win.  Not true.  It wasn't a bad win.  It was just a non-event statistically speaking.  Essentially went as predicted by kenpom. 

The offense looked a tad better and the defense a wee bit worse.  And one could split hairs to say that NU did better than expected without JerShon Cobb who was out with a mild ankle sprain.  Meh. The kenpom overall rating needle was unchanged.  That is hard to do and in and of itself noteworthy.

Next up: Brown.  NU is predicted to win 69-64.  We don't have a good feeling about this one.

11 December 2013

Nightmarish thought

Perhaps induced by the coach k locker room appearance we had a terrible thought.  What if NU players start slapping the floor on defense?  All joking aside if that were to happen we might need to find another favorite team.  Please Lord don't let this happen.

08 December 2013

GAMBLE Report 1.07

NU 51 W Mich 35

A game right out of the 50s but with a three point arc.  Not that the three point arc figured much into the game.

But a win is a win is a win is a win is a win.

 The kenpom figures are improved overall though it should come as no surprise that the offense figures dropped and the defense figures improved.  CCC compares favorably to the 2013 train wreck.  For now.

The win is the good news.  The bad news was:

ARGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  That's fingernails on chalkboard disturbing.  All we need to do is surround dr jim with Laettner Hurley and Wojo to send us to the funny farm!

05 December 2013

GAMBLE Report 1.06

NCSU 69 NU 48

It was ugly as the score suggests. In fact so ugly that we feel compelled to start comparing this train wreck of a season to another train wreck season: 2013.  Behold the new and improved GAMBLE Report! 

The comparison to the NIT years is getting outright pathetic.  #144 NU is now ranked 78 rungs lower than during the NIT years.  The #157 offense is a woeful 132 spots worse, and the #147 defense is only 24 better.  So much for the hopeful notion that improved defense would offset diminished offense.

Now the 2013-14 seasons and 2012-13 seasons are train wrecks for completely different reasons.  Last year it was extraordinary personnel losses. This year it's CCC's inability to make effective use of a roster geared toward the Princeton Offense.  The former was unavoidable but the latter was.  Thanks again dr jim.  Can we stand up and pull up our pants now?

This season is quickly shaping up to be similar or even worse than last season.  That's right.  CCC has a full complement of CBC's players** and his team is looking like it might compare unfavorably to last year's team that had just 7 scholarship players by the time it had to travel to Columbus on Valentines Day.

Hard to believe?  Look at that last line of GR 1.06.  Incredibly NU is currently ranked 12 spots worse than last year.  Not only was CBC able to squeeze out more offensive production from his severely depleted lineup but the real shocker is that he coaxed them into slightly better defense to boot.  Wow.

** Mike Turner and Jaren Sina may beg to differ.

04 December 2013

Paging dr jim

We just wanted to quickly say thanks.  Thanks for focking us NU basketball fans over for this season and likely next season.  We haven't had reason to forget about the team since our buddy Kevin O'Neill roamed the sidelines.   We need the break after that exhilarating football season.  Can't have too much fun being an NU fan now can we?  Thanks again doc for thinking of our well being.

CCC has the built in excuse that he doesn't have the players for his system.  That is true.  Doesn't make it go down any easier especially knowing that CBC would've had NU at worst 8-1 right now and not 4-5 and with no hope.  Yeppers!  The dr Jim gamble is really starting to hit home now.  Tune back in two years to see how it looks to be panning out.

We do appreciate the laugh from that basketball savant LTP.  Check out this gem of a quote:  "It’s also been flat out unfair to Coach Collins to have Drew Crawford’s injuries hampering the roster against tough competition."  Seriously?  Two missed games for one player and it's poor CCC.  Yet last year three players were gone for entire conference season including Drew and a fourth was lost halfway through conference--and what did BC get?  Sorry coach you had your chance already.  That's the way the cookie crumbles.  Thanks for the laugh oh wise one.

GAMBLE Report 1.05

NU has gone 1-2 since our last GAMBLE Report with a home win against Gardner Webb and two losses in Las Vegas to Mizzou and UCLA.  Not surprising that those three games took their toll in GAMBLE Report 1.05.

Overall NU's 121 ranking is at its lowest point for the season ... 55 spots behind CBC and only 11 slots improved over last year's injury-marred season.  This is bad.

The 118th ranked offense actually inched to a new high water mark though still 93 spots behind CBC.  Propelling the offense forward has been better shooting (eFG%) and getting to the line more often.  The biggest problem with the offense continues to be turnovers.  The hope is that these will be cut down with time as players get used to driving and dishing.  We can already see Sobo doing a better job of getting into the lane under control. 

The defense is ranked 140 which is easily the low mark for the season and is now just 31 spots better than CBC's much maligned defensive effort.  All four factors contributed to the 40 spot drop since GR 1.04 but eFG% was the key contributing factor: it dropped an eye popping 92 spots.  This eFG% is still 79 spots ahead of what teams shot against CBC's teams, but this gain is offset by a dramatic drop in forced turnovers that the 1-3-1 generated as well as more fouls committed by CCC's base man defense.  Rebounding continues to be much improved as to be expected from better rebounding positioning created by man defense.

Tonight NU travels to Raleigh to battle NC State.  Seeeeaaaaaacaaaaaaaaattttttttt!