Sunday, March 16, 2008

First Weekend Enemies

There will be much disagreement inside our fanbase over the next 4 days about whether our boys should have been a 1 seed or a 2 seed. In the end, it doesn't matter. What does matter are match ups. Not all 7 seeds are created equal, as Miami would have been an easier game than Butler will potentially be. What I'll be doing in this entry is comparing (with HTML tables - sexxxxxxy) the variables that our enemies have that will benefit or hinder our run in the tournament.

The stats I'll be looking at are completely decided by looking at Ken Pomeroy's Game Plan tool that I find far, far better than his ratings. It shows, statistically, the most important factors for a team's offensive and defensive efficiency. I'm sure Bruce Ball Blog will cover these things as well, probably more eloquently. Anyway, Pomeroy's GP tool says that the biggest (and only certain) factor in Tennessee's offensive efficiency is our own turnover percentage (TO%). Thus, for our opponents, I'll list their defensive TO%, to see if they cause turnovers. For our defensive efficiency, it improves when our opponents turn it over more, and to a lesser, but still strong degree, their ability to get to the free throw line (free throw rate). I'll also compare the pace, effective heights, experience, and percentage of minutes the bench gets for our enemies. If it gets confusing, leave a comment and I'll expand.

Def TO%TO%FTRPaceEff. HgtExp.Bench Min
19.2% (270)21.3% (196)31.4% (20)60.9 (324)-0.5 (202)2.1 yrs (46)25.1% (294)

Def TO%TO%FTRPaceEff. HgtExp.Bench Min
22.6% (85)16.6% (8)27.1% (103)60.0 (330)-1.6 (265)2.2 yrs (30)26.7% (262)

Def TO%TO%FTRPaceEff. HgtExp.Bench Min
20.0% (214)20.3% (130)32.5% (12)66.9 (175)+0.5 (136)2.1 yrs (48)24.7% (299)

I know you're in a bit of an overload right now with all the numbers. For the effective height numbers, it's in inches. For example, South Alabama, above, is +0.5 inches taller than the average team. For pace, the number is how many possessions they average in a 40 minute game.

Overall, none of the three teams are actually overwhelmingly bad match ups for us. American can get to the free throw line a lot, as evidenced by their 20th ranking in that department. However, I believe our athleticism will keep us in less situations where a player is beaten and has to foul. American ranks 270th in causing turnovers, so our offense should be just fine, and they are below average at 196th in turning the ball over, which helps us defensively. While American is definitely experienced with each player averaging 2.1 years in the program, those players aren't big enough to exploit our poor post defense, they aren't deep enough to run with us if we push tempo, and they play a plodding pace, which only matters against us if the opponent is any good. American, obviously, doesn't pose a huge threat. They do shoot well from 3 point range (3rd overall), but our perimeter defense is some of the best in the land.

Butler will be a battle - they are above average (85th of 341 teams) in causing turnovers, and the 8th BEST TEAM (!!!) in ball security. They also rank 103rd in free throw rate, which is above average, as well. They play a slower pace than American, with better talent, and is the main reason we lost to them in 2006. However, we're both different teams. Butler isn't big, especially in the post, so I believe our bigs will have a nice day if we play. They also have major experience and lack a deep bench. If we get past Butler, we fans should have some increased confidence, as on paper, it's a difficult game.

South Alabama is not as talented as Butler, but had a good resume in terms of what the committee likes. Pomeroy doesn't like them nearly as much, ranking them as the 75th best team in the country. South Alabama doesn't cause many turnovers and protects the rock just a little better than average. They will get to the line and knock free throws down, which doesn't help Tennessee's flow of offense. USA is above average in height, but still not as tall as Tennessee, and they are not deep at all. USA, even though it's not mentioned in the chart, is a good perimeter team, ranking 52nd in 3 point defense.

Overall, while at first response, I felt like the match ups were awful, they actually aren't. They are the best we could have gotten, but with focus we should overcome them rather easily. Butler will obviously be the toughest test if it happens, but they have to play USA in Birmingham, as well.

Lastly, this is only half the equation. Tomorrow, I will post what factors effect American's, S. Alabama's, and Butler's efficiencies, and post where Tennessee ranks in those areas.

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