"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

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Providence game may indicate how far Stud Trio, Tall Trio and 3-pointer Trio can take MU

Since fully recovering from an ankle injury, Dwight Buycks has joined Jimmy Butler and Lazar Hayward to form a “Stud Trio” that rarely sits on the bench. Buycks has played 150 of 160 minutes of Big East play, and has now played more minutes than Lazar for the season despite that injury.

Sunday’s game against Providence may indicate if Buzz will tend more toward having the Stud Trio joined by two of his “3-pointer Trio” (Darius Johnson-Odom, Maurice Acker and David Cubillan are averaging making an incredible five out of 10 three-pointers every game), or keep one of that Trio and one member of the “Tall Trio” on the court (Joe Fulce, Erik Williams and 7-foot-2 Youssoupha Mbao).

Sunday’s game also may indicate if MU can really finish 11-7 and in the top half of the Big East, as forecast by www.kenpom.com, and it will be interesting to see if Buzz keeps one of the Tall Trio on the court for more than 20 minutes, which he has done the last two games, or goes back to the small line-up most of the time.

Where can MU finish?

If we start by looking at where www.kenpom.com now forecasts each team to finish, we get the following breakdown:

Double Bye: Syracuse 14-4, WVU 13-5, Pitt 12-6, Gtown 12-6

Bye: Nova 11-7, Lville 11-7, MARQUETTE 11-7, UConn 10-8

Trying to knock MU out of Top Half: Notre Dame 9-9, Cincy 8-10, Seton Hall 8-10, USF 7-11, Providence 6-12, SJU 6-12

Bottom again: Rutgers 3-15, DePaul 3-15

Providence is the first of seven games MU plays against teams that could threaten us for the top half. With the three other teams in MUs quartet (Nova, Lville and UConn) on the upswing, it is quite possible MU will need to play well to hold down the crucial 8th spot in the standings.

MU has shown they can rise to the occasion to battle the best in the country. Sunday, MU needs to assert itself it can take care of business in the first of seven games against these middle teams. While those seven teams are all ranked behind MU, they are all ranked ahead of NC State, which came into the Bradley Center and won. Providence has already won what www.kenpom.com rates as BIG road upsets at Northeastern (which has since won 7 straight including at VCU), George Washington (11-3) and St. John’s (74-59 blowout), so they could be a true threat on Sunday.

A double digit win for MU could indicate that with Buycks healthy, MU is now playing at another level and can expect to win at least five of these seven games which should put MU in the top half of the Big East. A struggle or loss Sunday may indicate those seven will all be battles, and MU could well need a season ending win against Notre Dame to finish in the top half and get a bye. The great news is that with the soft end to the schedule, if MU does distant itself from these middle teams it could result in winning the last nine games of the season. Adding one upset in the Big East Tourney could give MU an 11-1 record in the “last 12 games played” category that the NCAA committee reviews.

How MU has avoided making this just a rebuilding year

When Buzz Williams took over it looked like the cupboard would be bare this season with Lazar Hayward on his own. Buzz’s apparent incredible knack for spotting JUCO talent has enabled MU to reload amazingly quickly, and here is a look at the three trios that have emerged on MUs roster.

Trio 1: Stud Trio

Buycks (6-foot-3) gives MU a big rebounding guard it needs with the lack of overall side. When an opponent misses a shot, 48.85 of the time the rebound is grabbed by Hayward (21.0%), Butler (15.8%) or Buycks (12.0%). Hayward is the unselfish leader; averaging 18.3 ppg and 9.3 rpg in the Big East, and playing great defense that resulted in 6-foot-11 future lottery pick Greg Monroe of Georgetown to single digits. When I noted that Jimmy Butler was ranked as the 2nd best offensive player in the US by www.kenpom.com I got one harsh criticism because he had just missed some free throws while dead tired against Florida State. Well, he has hit 57 of 66 free throws since then (86%). He is the third best player in the country at drawing fouls.

In fact, in addition to everything else they do, the Stud Trio has combined to hit an incredible 166 of 208 free throws for 80% to help make MU the second best free throw shooting team in the conference.

Trio 2: 3-point Trio

Darius Johnson-Odom, or DJO, is actually scoring even more than Buycks despite shorter playing time. He appears on the verge of being an unstoppable scoring star, while Acker and Cubillan have turned into steady seniors. While they are different in that way, the three incredible 3-point shooters that also force a lot of steals. Their shooting has helped make MU the 7th best 3-point shooting team in the country at 42.1% and the 10th best offense in the country at 1.17 points per trip down the court.






Trio 3: Tall Trio

The question for Buzz is when is it best to have two of the 3-point Trio on the court, and when does he want to just leave one of them out there so he can bring in one of the Tall Trio – usually Fulce.

In his last game before transferring from MU, 6-foot-5 Jeronne Maymon scored four points in 22 minutes, including 2 of 6 free throw shooting. The three players on the team 6-foot-7 or taller (Fulce, Williams and 7-foot-2 Mbao) combined for 11 minutes that game. They averaged a combined 11 minutes in the first two Big East games, but then played 21 minutes against Georgetown and 20 minutes at Nova.

When Fulce is on the court he grabs 23.1% of opponents’ missed shots, so combined with the Stud Trio’s aforementioned 48.85%, Fulce’s presence can give MU 72% of opponents misses. Even in limited time, he has combined with the Stud Trio to help vertically challenged MU defense grab the defensive rebound 71.6% of misses, the 33rd best total in the country. If Fulce has another four of five shooting day like he did yesterday at Nova, Buzz may decide to leave him on the court longer.
As you can see from the stats below, MU is better off with the Tall Trio taking minutes that would have gone to Maymon.


Joe Fulce, 6-foot-7

Erik Williams, 6-7

Youssoupha Mbao, 7-2

Combo per 40 minutes

Jeronne Maymon per 40

While I do believe Jeronne Maymon would have really helped MU in the long-term, absent Tim Maymon, the fact is MU gets just as many rebounds and points per game with those minutes going to one of the taller players. MU also gets one taller player on the court for opponents to shoot over, and gives MU about an extra steal, assist and blocked shot then they would have gotten from Maymon.

Buzz now has the option of having two dead on 3-pointer shooters on the court in addition to the Buycks-Hayward-Butler Trio that is rarely sitting, or settling for one of the 3-point shooting guards to get a productive 6-foot-7 or better player on the court. Let's hope the two options allow him to adjust to a given opponent, and help MU continue the streak of 10 or more conference wins and an NCAA bid well ahead of schedule.


Hunt said...

Fantastic post bama, thanks for the detailed insight. This is the stuff that keeps me coming back for more!

Anonymous said...

this is awesome. great job. and thanks for all the research and analysis!

JohnPudner said...

Thanks both! Unfortunately I spent so long researching this that I had to spend the next few days catching back up on work before I saw your comments. Having had my Georgetown trip cancelled by a change in client schedule, I can't wait to get back on the plane Sunday morning for the Providence game!