11 March 2014

GAMBLE Report 1.22

It's been six games since our last installment of the GAMBLE Report.  Let it never be said that we post these out of some sort of sadistic desire to bury CCC with futility statistics.  The first five games of this six game absence were all losses including one for the ages (more on that later).  The most recent game was a win.  If we wanted to trash CCC there was definitely ample opportunity over the last few weeks  (in particular the Penn State debacle as reference in our recent CCRUMMYs post). 

No.  Despite the name of our blog which may lead one to conclude we have some of anti-CCC agenda the point of these statistical summaries is to take an unbiased view of CCC's performance relative to CBC's benchmark.  We didn't know what the results would be this year when we started it.  We figured that whatever happens happens and we'll interpret it accordingly. 

And let's just reiterate that we do hope good things happen in the future. It's hard to understand how any Northwestern fan does not hope for the best in the future no matter what one's thoughts are on that fateful decision to fire CBC about one year ago.


OK down to business.  The three week break may not be ideal for someone interested in how any of the past six games influenced the statistics but conversely it does provide an opportunity to view trends over the last third of the season. 

The team's overall ranking slipped 31 rungs from where we last measured it.  Basically NU is now at the same place it was before the big upset at Wisconsin.  NU finished the B1G regular season at #146 which is 14 rungs worse than last year's injury plagued season.  FULL STOP. 

Let us repeat because it bears repeating.  An unusually healthy NU squad (only material absence -- Cobb missed the last four games), one that had the benefit of adding three keys to its lineup who were not available to CBC during last year's B1G campaign (Crawford, Cobb, Lumpkin), finished the year ranked 14 rungs lower than last year's team.

On offense the story is ALL RED!!!!!  How is that even possible??!?!?!?!?

The adjO is at #319.  This is just horrible and is only a dead cat bounce away from the season low (#324: GR 1.17).

The eFG% continued to go from bad to worse.  Or maybe we should say from worse to worst.  It is now #328 which is the season low.  Where the hell is the improvement?!?!?!

Oh wait.  We found the improvement.  It was in TO% which improved 11 rungs to #89.  That good news is muddied by the fact that is still 52 rungs worse than last year and 70 rungs worse than in the NIT years.

The OR% did not improve one iota from it laughable #348 in our last report.  Remember: there are only 351 teams tracked by kenpom.

The FT% improved marginally by 6 rungs to #288.  That's still worse than the NIT years and last year.  #NUEra?????

The good news is that the story on defense remains largely the same.  A marked improvement over CBC's NIT years and 2013.  On all fronts except TO% this year's team was hands down better than the CBC benchmarks.  We are quite happy to ignore the TO% difference because at the end of the day NU had the #14 defense in the land. That is off from the high water mark of #7 but it is still MIGHTY IMPRESSIVE and a welcomed changed.  Kudos CCC!!!!!!!!!


The story is bleaker than when we last looked at the BIG GAMBLE Report.  We had been giving some credit to CCC for having to compete against an improved B1G at least at the bottom of the standings.  But now the kenpom rating is lower than even last year (see note 2) so even that modest note of good news is no more.

As we know the offense couldn't get any worse.  No use beating that horse anymore. 

Sadly the defense slipped over the last trimester of B1G play.  NU's high water mark of #4 is no more with NU slumping backing to a slightly below average overall defense at #7.  That's still a marked improvement over the CBC benchmarks. 

 Our Overall Take on the GAMBLE Reports

These reports do not paint a pretty picture, and this last report just underscores it in our minds ever so slightly.  Yes the defense made big strides.  And yes there were some growing pains to be expected with the coaching transition.  But we can't help but conclude that this season has been anything more than a disappointment. 

Why?  Because we just can't get past the fact that it underperformed a severely hamstrung CBC team which was missing three key personnel from this year's team which so happened to be 4-6 in B1G play until Jared Swopshire went down with an injury and was the straw that broke the camel's back.  That is simply inexcusable and grounds for a "D" grade for this coaching staff at best.

Sure excuses have and will continue to be made about this being a natural outgrowth of the coaching change.  There is some truth in all that.  But that hand is SO OVERPLAYED.  It's basically the same as trying to bluff a pair of 10s with a pocket ace past two other hands no worse than three of a kind.   Yes you have something to go on but it's a loser hand.

Some even go one or two steps further and say the personnel didn't fit CCC's offense so you can't blame him.  Usually the tone is not so subtle though with many willing to throw nearly the entire team under the bus in an effort to deflect blame away from CCC. 

Screw that!  Simply put CCC did not have the wherewithal to tailor his offense to make adequate use of the talent he inherited.  CCC himself has said the mark of a good coach is one who maximizes what he has.  On offense it was an EPIC FAIL of a coaching job.  Instead of the team adjusting to the new offense and improving during the year -- straws that some had feebly tried to grasp out of desperate hope for this season -- this offense just got worse.  The eFG% ended the year at rock bottom for goodness sakes. 

For all the goodwill earned by the defensive coaching our confidence in the future is shaken by the complete disaster that we witnessed from this year's offense.  Based on the team's performance alone it is a stretch to say that this year was a step in the right direction.

A Look to the Future

The hope now is that the defense will stay at or near current levels and the offense improves once CCC's recruits make their way to Evanston.  We will say that these kids do sound pretty good on paper.  Vic Law is the headliner and is arguably the most ballyhooed recruit to land in Evanston since The Esch.  The other four have decent resumes as well although not hands down any better than what we had seen during CBC's latter classes.

There may even be some more new blood on the way in the form of an incoming 5th year transfer or two if the rumors that at least one NU underclassman will be parting ways with the team (Abrahamson is the most common name floated about, but we have also seen some suggest Taphorn or even rising senior Sobo). 

So next year's team will be substantially made over with CCC-style recruits.  That in and of itself should prove improve the team in the long term although in the near term many aren't appreciating just how hard for most if not all of the recruits to make the from high school stardom to B1G play.  No one is saying these kids are one-and-done types afterall, and only those type of recruits tend to make waves during their freshmen years. 

What's more concerning to us is that CCC is used to working with McD AA type recruits.   Can he get it done with a tier lower of recruits?  No one knows the answer to that, but this year's offense does not suggest CCC will be very adaptable if the fit and/or talent level aren't adequate.

The other question we have is whether CCC will routinely get a Vic Law or better caliber recruit in the future?  If he can then we might just have to hop on the CCC-bandwagon. 

For now there are too many uncertainties and red flags to put more than one foot on board. 

10 March 2014


The Carmody Court Awards show is a wrap.  For those who missed the telecast -- no need to wait for some kind soul to upload the video to youtube -- here are the award winners.

The CCRACKYS: Awarded for most outstanding game performances by a B1G team. 

The Glove (Best CCR-D: 0.338 PPP)
In an upset dark horse Penn State took home its first Glove for its suffocating defensive effort at Northwestern on March 6.  Although it is well-documented that Northwestern's offense was awful in league play (0.881 PPP) the Nittany Lions made an already futile offense look like something run by a JV team.   The Nittany Lions earned a rare blowout road victory, 59-32, and held their opponents to just 0.571 PPP.  Northwestern's offensive figure (literally and figuratively speaking) is even worse than just that eye popping statistic when one remembers that the game was played IN EVANSTON!  ON SENIOR DAY!

The Nittany Lions weren't even an after-thought for The Glove until their beatdown of Northwestern.  Their next best defensive effort, a CCR-D of just 0.097 PPP, came in a 64-65 loss at Purdue way back on Jan 18.  In their next and final game the Nittany Lions had their third worst defensive effort of the season, a -0.168 stinker at Minnesota.

Penn State's Glove was extra bitter for Northwestern fans.  If it were not for that embarrassing Senior Night game then NU would've won the award for its stunning 65-56 victory up in Madison (CCR-D 0.329 PPP)

The Torch (Best CCR-O: 0.351 PPP)
You can't blame Michigan State's offense for losing 4 of 6 games in the stretch run.  Sparty's offense outperformed average B1G teams in 4 of those games including the league's best effort in a 96-79 win at Purdue on February 20.

That effort was good enough to edge out the league's best offense, Michigan, which had its best effort in a 84-53 beat down of a streaking Illini in Champaign (0.341 PPP).  Remarkably Michigan's well-oiled offense outperformed average B1G offense in all but three games during B1G play.

Iowa had the second best offense in B1G play and only underperformed in four games.  Just like Sparty Iowa sputtered down the stretch -- lost four of last five games -- not because of its offense which outperformed in each of the five games but due to its suddenly porous defense which underperformed in each game.

The Truth (Best CCR: 0.478 PPP)

While Michigan State may have stolen The Torch Award from the Wolverines, Michigan's aforementioned effort at Illinois was the most outstanding performance by a B1G team overall and brought home some hardware to Ann Arbor. 

The next best effort was Ohio State's home win over Nebraska (0.429 PPP).  That figure is inflated because it took place in just the second game of the season before the Cornhuskers hit their stride.

That just goes to show that Michigan 84-53 road victory at Illinois really was truly a spectacular effort by the Wolverines.

The CCRAZZIES: The 'razzies are awarded to B1G teams with the most dubious in league game performances.

The Sieve (Worst CCR-D: -0.319 PPP)
This award is in many ways the inverse of The Torch so it should come as no surprise that Purdue takes home this CCRAZZY for its awful 79-94 losing home effort against Michigan State.  Giving up 94 points doesn't sound so bad until one considers it took Sparty just 67 possessions to tally that score.

It's a good thing Sparty played so well at W Lafayette because their home stinker of a defensive effort against Northwestern would've otherwise brought home the hardware.  Although Sparty beat NU 85-70 it was just a 62 possession home game against an offense that scored on average just 0.881 PPP in league play and against an offense that outperformed an average B1G offense just three times all year.

The Sieve (Worst CCR-D: -0.520 PPP)
NU's home loss to Penn State was by far and away the worst offensive effort of any B1G team all year long.  To put it in perspective that statistic is about 0.2 PPP worse than the runner-up, Illinois' 39-48 loss at Ohio State (-0.328 PPP).  What an awful AWFUL way for Drew Crawford to end his career at The Welsh!

The Angst (Worst CCR: -0.602 PPP)
You really didn't think NU's defense was going to keep NU from winning this most dubious CCRAZZY now did you?  Once again NU "won" this hardware going away. 

Michigan: 1 CCRACKY
Michigan State: 1 CCRACKY
Penn State: 1 CCRACKY
Northwestern: 2 CCRAZZIES
Purdue: 1 CCRAZZIE

Way to go CCC!  You won more hardware than any other B1G team!!!!

Final Regular Season B1G CCR Power Rankings

Which teams are hot and which are not?  Which will do well in Indy?  Which will make a run in NCAAs and which will fall flat?

You got questions.  We got answers.  Here are your B1G CCR Power Rankings!  Keep 'em handy when it comes time to fill out your March Madness brackets!!!!

Biggest Gainers:

+4: #1 Michigan, #5 Penn State
+3  #4 Illinois, #9 Minnesota

Biggest Losers:
-6: #10 Iowa
-3: #6 Ohio State

Trending Positive:
Nebraska, Illinois, Penn State

Trending Down:
Iowa, Michigan State

Filling out the Brackets:

The bracket project has six teams in the NCAAs: Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Iowa.  In addition Minnesota is in prime bubble territory and could play their way into a 7th seed. 

Positive trenders Illinois and Penn State will need to win the Big Ten Tournament to make The Dance so momentum players will have to hang their hats on Nebraska.

Iowa is really in a funk, and Michigan State is uncharacteristically woozy at this time of year.  Momentum players will want to steer clear of these teams unless either can right its ship in Indy.

Best shots to go deep:  Michigan (duh!) and Nebraska (huh?)  who are trending head and shoulders above the rest of the league.

Reason for guarded optimism: Olah finished season strong!

In the second to last game he scored 10 points on 4-5 shooting from 2P.  He upped that in his last game stuffing the stat sheet with 12 points/7 rebounds/3 blocks/1 steal on 3-5 from 2P and 6-7 from FT.  His late season improvement is a real reason for optimism for continued improvement for him personally and the team next season! 

And just look at the game highlights here! He's just not used around the arc anymore!  Even we can agree with the fire carmody folks that the high screen and roll to the tin for a flush was a refreshing part of this offense!  Check out the highlight at the 0:15 mark and try wiping that smile off your face!

Oh wait.  That was the end to last season.

Before one starts to put word into our mouths...... yes!!! We agree that Alex's play improved this year!  Yes!!! we think CCC et al played a part in that growth!   YES!!! We think Alex will continue to grow in future season thanks to this staff and his hard work!  We're not trying to say otherwise.

But the oft-repeated narrative that CBC couldn't do squat with big men beside parking them beyond the arc and let their skills diminish is a little much.  We just couldn't help ourselves to interject some facts into the prevailing "wisdom". 

The facts that have been conveniently swept under the rug are 1) CBC did use Olah for offense besides passing around the arc and 2) Olah did improve last year which was a promising sign for this year.  That Olah flush was just one of several down the stretch and was a clear sign 1) CBC adjusted his offense to fit Olah's developing skill set and 2) that Olah was getting more comfortable playing at a big ten level toward the end of last year. 

We view this year as one of Alex's continued progression that began toward the end of last season.  But that won't stop those from continuing to develop the narrative of "thank the lord CBC was fired because Olah would've been squandered."  That judgment is based in large part from projecting onto Olah the history of previous centers at NU under CBC who either did not have the potential or the devotion to become solid big ten players. 

Because they are all the same right?????  B.S.!!!!!