"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Odds are worse than 2-to-1 against if it comes down to a final UConn shot - SO STEAL THE BALL!

Saturday is Marquette’s 5th and final opportunity to pull out a win against one of the tallest teams in the US. Marquette is one of only 17 teams with an average height of 6-foot-3 or smaller on the court at any given time, while MU opponents UConn, Syracuse, West Virginia, NC State and Florida State are among only 24 teams that average 6-foot-6 or better. The other 306 teams are somewhere between 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-6.

In other words, MU is 0-4 against teams that average at least three inches taller than them at all five positions, and 12-4 against teams that average less than 6-foot-6.

The one thing the first four games against tall teams makes clear is that if the game comes down to stopping UConn from hitting a shot on their last possession, then MU has less than a one-in-three chance of winning. The three 6-foot-9 UConn players would be a nightmare to defend on a final possession, with Gavin Edwards hitting 66% of his two-pointers, Stanley Robinson 56% and Alex Oriakhi one of the best at crashing the offensive boards even if they miss.

The two things that have killed MU against the tall teams is that these opponents have made 55.3% of all 2-point shots they’ve taken on MU (98 of 177) compared to around 48% hit by MUs other opponents, and that even when tall teams miss, they grab 41.6% of their own rebounds against MU. I believe the high shooting percentage results from tall opponents having virtually no fear of having a shot blocked so they get a great look at the basket. MU has blocked only 3 of 177 two-point attempts by the four tall opponents.

So based on the other four games, if UConn comes down the court for a final trip down one or in a tie and takes a shot, there is a 55.3% chance they hit it and win. But the odds are actually much worst than that because even if they miss a shot with a few second left, there is a 41.6% of grabbing their miss and having another shot. Doing the math, there is a 55.3% chance the first shot goes in, an 18.6% chance they miss but grab the offensive rebound, and ONLY a 26.1% chance they miss and MU grabs the rebound to win the game. Keep the math going and that means there is a 10.3% chance UConn misses the first shot but grabs the rebound and makes the second shot, and a 1.6% chance UConn misses the first two shots but grabs both rebounds and puts the second one back in. Even assuming they don’t have time for a third offensive rebound, that gives UConn a 67.2% chance of winning the game if it comes down to shots in the closing seconds with MU trying to grab a rebound to win the game.

MU has to go for the turnover – even at the end

At this point you may wonder why we even show up to play the big teams, if we are going to watch them score more than 67% of the trips down the court on which they put up 2-point shots.

But MU has two great equalizers against tall teams – which is why all four games have been very close. First, with MU still leading the nation at 43.3% on 3-pointers, we can trade 3-pointers for 2-pointers all day. Shooting 43.3% on 3-pointers gets you just as many points as shooting 65% on 2-pointers, so we have plenty of offense to keep up.

The defensive equalizer MU has is that in the four games against taller teams, MU has forced a turnover on 24.8% (67 of 270) of the tall opponents’ trips down the court.

So if UConn is scoring 67% of their trips IN WHICH THEY TAKE A SHOT, BUT MU is forcing a turnover one-quarter of the trips, then UConn would actually score only 50% of their trips overall giving MU a great chance.

But if it comes down to that last trip down the court, MU cannot simply stay back and get good position. MU MUST make every effort to force a turnover. I know Buzz will be trashed if we foul going for a steal (see Georgetown two years ago), but the fact is if we try to force the turnover on the last trip we have a 50-50 chance of the win, if not we have less than a 1 in 3 chance. Remember this year that Lazar, even playing with four fouls, stripped the ball from Monroe in the final minutes to prevent a high percentage shot. Going for the turnover won the game – if he had stepped back and let him dunk then we would have lost that game by 1.

After UConn - it's all lining up nicely for MU

Don’t look now, but everything else has lined up nicely for MUs final run. UConn is the last tall team we play. In fact, USF is the only remaining opponent among the tallest 100 teams in the country, and they are about the same height as Rutgers and Georgetown, both of whom MU handled well. The rest range from Louisville (101st tallest) to Pitt (256th tallest).

Everyone has us as underdogs against UConn Saturday, but Pomeroy has us as favorites in the last 9 games after that, and RealtimeRPI has us as favorites in 7 of the last 9 (underdogs vs. Louisville and at Cincy). It’s doubtful MU would win all 9, but the matchups are all against teams with moderate height and none of them have clearly played better than MU this year. The 8 wins needed (either in the final 10 regular season or the Big East Tourney) that would seem to give MU an NCAA bid will not be easy, but they are doable. If MU gets them, they roll in as a team with tough early season losses that finished very strong.

In addition, MU now has five chances to register some quality road wins. We always knew a win at UConn or Cincy would get a lot of credit, but now wins at Providence (which beat UConn), St. John’s (which beat Cincy) and/or Seton Hall (which beat Pitt and Louisville) would each be a huge resume boost. Obviously the downside is that those performances do indicate that all five road games will be tough, but they give MU five opportunities to come up with a few huge road wins.

What more could we have asked for - the rest of the regular season is going to feel like tournament games already – every game is big but winnable down the stretch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

boy, you guys called it. DJO comes through.

man, this team is fun to root for!