Thursday, March 22, 2007

Inside the Last Game

Ken Pomeroy has released what he calls an HD Boxscore for the January meeting between Tennessee and Ohio State. I tried to get it here, but my HTML table skills are lacking at the moment. The HD Boxscore can be found here.

Some interesting things to note:

1. Greg Oden had the biggest impact for Ohio State, as they were +10 when he was on the floor. Subsequently, they were -8 for the 4:03 he was on the bench.

2. David Lighty, Othello Hunter, and Matt Terwilliger combined were the sole reason Tennessee was able to keep the game close. They averaged -9.33 per player.

3. The only 3 players who had a positive +/- for Tennessee were Dane Bradshaw, Josh Tabb, and Wayne Chism. Chris Lofton's +/- was -6, Jujuan Smith's -4, and Ramar Smith at a -7. This actually bodes well for the Vols - I find it hard to believe those 3 play so poorly again. The defensive effort as of late for Tennessee has been it's best since Pearl arrived.

Will Thad Matta give Lighty, Hunter, and Terwilliger as many minutes as the game in January? If Tennessee conforms to Ohio State's slow pace, they might not. However, if Tennessee forces their tempo, those 3 will need to see the floor, as the top 6 on the depth chart will be puffed. Tempo will dictate this game's outcome more than anything. The second important facet will be the Ohio State defensive scheme, which will create the 3rd important aspect - Tennessee's 3 point shooting.

If Tennessee is able to get some open looks against the zone, they need to hit them. The zone defense allows for more 3 point looks, so this game could end up a blowout for either team. If Tennessee is hitting their 3s, Matta will either switch it up to man or Tennessee will win by 12+. If Tennessee is cold, Matta can just sit back and let the Vols brick their shots, let Oden pound the glass, and win by 12+.

The interesting strategy will happen when UT starts to hit some shots from behind the arc. Will Matta switch to man, allowing Pearl to bring Chism/Childress out to the perimeter, bringing Oden with them? This will allow for some serious backdoor cuts for Tennessee - remember the Florida game in Knoxville?

I just have a feeling - just a feeling - that Tennessee wins this game and we go where no man has gone before. Well, I mean, men have gone there, but none from Tennessee! THE REGIONAL FINALS!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

As Sweet as a Tootsie Roll

I was refraining from posting anything at all about the success of the Tennessee basketball program until the team reached a point that I called the "choke point." What was my standard? Reach the Sweet 16. The last time Tennessee advanced to the Sweet 16 was the 1999-2000 season under much-maligned Jerry Green. Every Volunteer fan would have been happy under the circumstances, but for those who know little about Tennessee basketball, I would like to explain why we all were hacked off.

First, in our last Sweet 16 appearance, we were leading 8th seeded North Carolina (yes, when they had Bill Guthridge) by 7 points with 4:48 to play, and Brendan Haywood had been on the bench since the 8 minute mark, meaning Tennessee had this game in their control. That was, until North Carolina took off on a 15-3 run to end the game, and to end Tennessee's season. In fact, Tennessee didn't hit a single FG for over 7 minutes, breaking the drought with 13 seconds left. The game was a premonition - a sign of what was to come. The next season, Jerry Green led our Volunteers to another pretty record, and another first round defeat. Here are the tournament accomplishments of Tennessee under Jerry Green:

1997-1998: 8 seed, 81-82 loss to 9 seed Illinois State in the 1st Round

1998-1999: 4 seed, 62-52 win over 13 seed Delaware, 51-81 loss to SW Missouri State in the 2nd Round

1999-2000: 4 seed, 63-58 win over 13 seed Louisiana-Lafayette, 65-51 win over 5 seed Connecticut, 69-74 loss to 8 seed North Carolina in the Sweet 16

2000-2001: 8 seed, 63-70 loss to 9 seed Charlotte in the 1st round

See, Jerry Green left a lot to be desired in March, and even though we were pretty new to the entire experience, the fans were upset. Jerry also couldn't control his players, and they obviously didn't respect him. In a game where Tony Harris was too hurt to play and thus sat in street clothes on the bench, a scuffle broke out near the opposing team's bench. Tony Harris sprints the length of the court to get into the action - it wasn't pretty. He was fired after the 2000-2001 season.

Next came the Buzz Peterson era, where a nice guy almost didn't finish last. Fans were split - some wanted Buzz to stay, considering how nice of a man he was. Others wanted him gone, and they got their wish after the 2004-2005 season.

Everyone knows the 2005-2006 Tennessee story. And now, here we are, March, 2007. Our Volunteers have reached the Sweet 16 again, and this time, if the Vols lose, it won't cause any anger or pink slips. The general vibe around this basketball program is that whether Ohio State ends our season or if we continue on, our program will be stable. Bruce Pearl has brought not only a winning program to the hardwood, but his attitude is exactly what everyone needed. Sure, if Tennessee landed any other sure-fire mid-major coach, there would be more wins. However, the silly feeling in our bellies and the excitement in our voices wouldn't be a tenth of what they are right now. Bruce Pearl is exactly what this team, this fan base, this program, this university, and this landscape of college basketball needed. It's as sweet as a tootsie roll.

Oh, the game? It should be another classic between the Buckeyes and the Volunteers. For those of you who didn't see it, here's how it ended:

A lot of the Tennessee fan base feels like Tennessee should have won this game in Columbus. After Lewis nailed the dagger, Tennessee missed a shot at the other end, but the Buckeye who rebounded the ball stepped out of bounds with more than 2 seconds left on the clock, but it was uncalled and the buzzer sounded. The stats show that Tennessee didn't play all that well, either, but we still almost pulled it out.

Here is a look at some shooting stats in the Ohio State game compared to their season percentage in parenthesis:

Jujuan Smith: 1-1 2ptFG, 1-8 3PT (45.4%, 36.9%)

Chris Lofton: 7-9 2ptFG, 3-11 3PT (47.8%, 41.7%)

Wayne Chism: 2-3 2ptFG, 1-5 3PT (44.5%, 34.7%)

Tennessee: 5-11 FT (65.4%)

Bare with me here, but let's adjust the points for these averages compared to what they did in January:

J. Smith: 5 points vs. Ohio State (9.76 projected)

C. Lofton: 23 points vs. Ohio State (22.36 projected)

W. Chism: 7 points vs. Ohio State (7.88 projected)

Tennessee: 5 FT points vs. Ohio State (7.19 projected)

If just these 3 players had shot their averages against OSU and the FTs were average, Tennessee would have scored 7.19 more points - and we lost by 2. Obviously, there are so many variables that created these poor shooting numbers, but it's interesting to see.

Lastly, for more good karma for our Volunteers, let me point you into the direction of Ken Pomeroy's Game Plan for Tennessee. If you click on the Eff tab for offense, it will arrange the games in a manner where Tennessee's offense was most efficient descending to the least efficient. As you'll see, Tennessee's 4th worst offensive showing was against Ohio State in January. I firmly believe that if Tennessee plays above average offensively against Ohio State, the Volunteers will win. Granted, one of Tennessee's best defensive performances was against Ohio State, so we'll need our boys to keep that up!

With this being my first real basketball blog, I must apologize for the chaotic format. This experience has been as exciting as almost any football achievement, so understand that during my writing of this blog, I was giddy with excitement. I'm sure with more experience, these basketball blogs will become a little more organized.

Oh, thanks for reading, and speaking of tootsie rolls:

Saturday, March 03, 2007

APP Breakdown: The SEC

I have finished the SEC analysis for Adjusted Performance Percentage. Keep in mind that a score of 100 means 100%, or that team performed on par with what their opponents allowed. Anything higher means they excelled, but anything lower means they underperformed. We'll start with Total Offense Adjusted Performance Percentage:

1. LSU 116.1
2. Kentucky 113.9
3. Arkansas 111.1
4. Florida 104.0
5. Alabama 103.7
6. Vanderbilt 102.9
7. South Carolina 100.7
8. Georgia 97.9
9. Tennessee 97.5
10. Auburn 91.0
11. Mississippi State 83.8
12. Mississippi 76.1

I think the two biggest surprises we see here are that Alabama was 5th in the conference on offense, while Tennessee was a dismal 9th! A lot of fans point to David Cutcliffe's return as the reason Tennessee went from 5-6 to 9-3, but during SEC play, Tennessee didn't play as well as we all thought.

Best Rush Offense (Best ROAPP):

Not surprising - Arkansas not only racked up a lot of yards on the ground, but scored a 164.9 for their ROAPP. Wow! Was it due to Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, or the 3 monster offensive linemen who just graduated? We'll find out in 6 months.

Worst Rush Offense (Worst ROAPP):

Again, no surprise here. Tennessee's terrible run blocking and inconsistent tailback play created a 64.5 ROAPP, meaning Tennessee performed 35.5% below what their opponents were allowing. Awful.

Best Pass Offense (Best POAPP):

Did you see this coming? Surely you had to, as they passed for 2,178 yards in the SEC, but a mere 178 more yards than LSU. What am I getting at? Kentucky scored a 133.7 in POAPP, while LSU and Tennessee scored 118.2 and 118.3, respectively. That's a 15.5% difference! Kentucky's pass offense wasn't just better than everybody else in the SEC, it was miles ahead! Oh, and they return every important skill position player on offense. Go ahead, say they won't make a bowl again.

Worst Pass Offense (Worst POAPP):

The arrival and play of Yaw Yaw Yaw Brent Schaeffaw (Brent Schaeffer for those who don't know Orgeron-ese) was nothing short of a nightmare. Let me put it this way, Tennessee fans: the Rebels' pass offense was WORSE than Tennessee rush offense, if you can believe it. A wretched 63.5POAPP is more than 12% worse than the Razorbacks' score. Ouch.

Next, I did the same analysis for the defenses in the SEC. There are a few changes when you compare it yards allowed. Here is Total Defense Adjusted Performance Percentage:

1. LSU 121.3
2. Florida 112.1
3. Georgia 109.6
4. Alabama 106.1
5. Auburn 104.7
6. Arkansas 103.0
7. Mississippi State 102.7
8. Tennessee 102.4
9. South Carolina 98.9
10. Mississippi 94.9
11. Vanderbilt 90.0
12. Kentucky 72.9

What stands out? Alabama at #4 is the biggest surprise. Tennessee at #8 is actually better than I expected. Not in terms of SEC rank, but in terms ofTDAPP score. They actually performed 2.4% better on defense than what their opponents' offenses were used to. The 4 teams to be in the bottom of bothTOAPP and TDAPP are Ole Miss, Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Best Rush Defense (Best RDAPP):

The Gators had 4 or 5 NFL draft picks on the defensive line in 2006, with 3 future picks at linebacker behind them. Only four teams had better than a 100 score inRDAPP: Florida, LSU, Mississippi State, and Alabama. Of those 4, the first 3 had amazing RDAPP scores - yes, Miss State was amazing in rush defense (134.9).

Worst Rush Defense (Worst RDAPP):

Kentucky couldn't stop anyone who wanted to rush the ball last season. Their RDAPP was 72.1, which means that they not only didn't stuff the run well, but they also played teams with very good running offenses. They'll need to get tougher in the trenches to have a chance in the SEC East.

Best Pass Defense (Best PDAPP):

The Tigers had studs all across the line last season, the year AFTER they lost 3 starters to the NFL draft. Their passing opponents were all over the board in terms ofPOAPP, so it just goes to show that the Tigers played extremely well when teams had to pass.

Worst Pass Defense (Worst PDAPP):

Deja vu? Kentucky's pass defense was a smidgen better than their rush defense, but still horrid. A 73.4 PDAPP is 15% worse than their closest competition for absolutely blowing coverage. Their entire defense was a joke, and without any improvement, they'll finish 6-6 next season. If you gave Kentucky a new defense, say just Ole Miss (94.9TDAPP), Kentucky would have fought Florida for the SEC East Division Title. I'm not joking.

Lastly, I wanted to see who the best overall team in the SEC was, statistically. I added each team's TOAPP with their TDAPP to create Complete Adjusted Performance Percentage:

1. LSU 118.7
2. Florida 108.1
3. Arkansas 107.1
4. Alabama 104.9
5. Georgia 103.8
6. Tennessee 100.0
7. South Carolina 99.8
8. Auburn 97.9
9. Vanderbilt 96.5
10. Kentucky 93.4
11. Mississippi State 93.3
12. Mississippi 85.0

Again, how do we use this for preseason predictions? Look at Alabama - 4th best team in the SEC, but they went 6-6. Expect a big jump in wins, especially when you consider their -2 CGVR. Couple that with new head coach Nick Saban and a boatload of returning talent and you've got a potential surprise SEC West Champion. Georgia is another team I expect to win more games next year. They lose a back-up running back to the draft and a few, key defensive players, but the core of both sides of the ball will be back and stacked. These statistics imply that Kentucky should take a step back next season, but they lose little to the draft, so I'm a little confused on their progress right now.

In the end, these stats don't win games, but they can absolutely give us ideas into who we can expect to show up in 2007. As for Tennessee, I expect the same old, same old.