Archive for the acc sports Category

Advanced Stats and an ACC Preview

Posted in acc sports, college basketball, sports with tags , , , on October 30, 2012 by cueball

I have often admired the mystical way of Pythagoras, and the secret magic of numbers.

-Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici

I love football, especially college football.  There are very few things in American life like a fall Saturday afternoon.  However, my first love is about to tip off next week and that is college basketball.

That means my days over the next week or two will be filled with phrases like “Pythagorean calculation,” “points per possession,” “offensive efficiency,” and “tempo-free basketball.”

Yes, I am a user of advanced statistics in college basketball.

That brings up two points: 1) My predictions for the upcoming ACC season and 2) how to use these stats.

All of the people who doubt the use of advanced statistics to help evaluate basketball usually make the same argument:  that these stats only tell us the same things our eyes see and they cannot give the sports they discuss any context.

First off, stats are only a tool used in evaluation.  Meaning, stats should only be used to explain what your eyes see or show you things your eyes may miss.  Second, no stats can provide you with context, which is why they are bad measurements for defensive effectiveness of individual players.  They do a better job of measuring the defensive strength of teams, but fail individuals.

The way a lot of jocks attack advanced stats and their practitioners is to go all school yard and call them geeks, nerds, etc.  That is code for, “I know what I’m talking about because I played and all you do is sit in your parents basement in front of a computer.”  Yes, you actually do need to watch the games and you do need to see how a player actual plays to get an effective evaluation.

However, advanced stats can tell you if a player is as effective offensively as his raw number indicate.  In other words, is what you see actually happening and is it a good thing.  One thing advanced stats dislike are “volume scorers” because they put a premium on effectiveness, which is just another way of saying efficiency.  These are players who put up lots of shots to get their points, which is not always good for the team.

Is there over-reliance on stats to tell you everything by some statisticians?  Yes.  Of course there is.  The concept of player efficiency rating (PER) is one that some people rely too much on in basketball.  PER is an attempt to tell you how effective an offensive player is.  This is a stat that has to be used within the context of a team, in my opinion.

Basketball is a game where individual’s true effectiveness can only be measured with in the concept of the team.  This is where basketball offensive statistics differ from baseball (where most advanced stats come from).  Only by calculating a players PER within the concept of a unit or in concert with other players can you really get a gauge on how effective he is.

Anyway, my ACC predictions.  The top three teams will finish in some order of NC State, Duke, and UNC.  However, each of these teams have enough questions and flaws that could see them finish 4th or lower.  NC State is a team that went into the ACC Tournament last year on the bubble.  While they return most of last year’s team (where there should be improvement) they have yet to perform with the pressure of expectations.  By the end of the season, I think they will handle the pressure just fine and finish at or very near the top spot.

Duke needs to find some type of consistent point guard play.  The system Duke runs is a predicated on having a point guard who knows how to get his teammates involved offensively and who puts defensive pressure on the opponents point guard.  They got neither last year.  If that improves this year, they should have enough wing talent to finish ranked in the top ten.

You may have heard that UNC lost a lot of players to the NBA draft.  There have been a few stories written about that.  The ultimate success of this season is probably going to come down to perimeter shooting and if their freshman point guard is ready to lead.  If they get consistent 3-point shooting and good contributions from someone other than James Michael McAdoo in the post, they should have a good season.

Other than Florida State probably making the NCAA tournament and Wake Forest bottom feeding, the rest of the ACC is a jumble.  Any order of finish involving the other seven teams would not shock me.

Anyway, I will check in throughout the season with my thoughts and rudimentary analysis, mostly just to keep myself entertained.

Advertisements

College basketball season is finally here

Posted in acc sports, college basketball, sports with tags , , , , , on October 13, 2012 by cueball

Sports fans are really broken down in the two basic categories as glass half-full and glass half-empty.  Most fans alternate between the two depending on the state of their team, but usually a fan has their natural state of full or empty.  I am probably more of a half-empty fan always looking for what is the worst thing that can happen and will the team be able to overcome it.

However, this upcoming basketball season as a proud alum of UNC Chapel Hill I am in my favorite mode of fandom:  Neither half-empty or half-full.  This season I have no idea how to feel about this team.  I love that.  Roy Williams could very well start two freshmen (Marcus Paige and Joel James) this season.  Two of our best returning players missed most of not all of last season with knee injuries.  Our best player, James Michael McAdoo, is a potential All-American and lottery pick, but was at best a complimentary player on last year’s team.

All of that means I have no idea what to expect.  What will probably happen is the team will start of slow and get better as the season goes along which will make it fun to watch.  Being expected to win is not as fun as some fans might think.  If you look at it half-empty, even a national championship is more relief than celebration.  If you look at it half-full, losing a national championship is crushing.

This is the type of season fans remember most fondly (or most dejectedly).  If a team over achieves and makes an unexpected run of success then it will become part of the program’s lore.  If the team implodes, it will become a cautionary tale.  My hope is I will speak fondly of Marcus Paige being mature beyond his years, JP Tokoto flying around like Vince Carter, and Joel James being a lovable man-mountain in the post.

Long live basketball season.

My take, not that it means anything.

Posted in acc sports, college basketball, sports, Uncategorized on March 26, 2012 by eightball

Monday night after the Elite 8 and I can’t help but think about what I watched this weekend. I am not a Tarheel fan….no big story there. But I have to say, the thing that got me about UNC’s game with Kansas is the way they quit. The 2012 version of the Tarheels will forever be an enigma. A hell of a lot of talent that was unfulfilled. I’ll be the first to say that Stillman White did not distribute the ball to the rest of the team in the right position for them to score. But he played hard….I can’t say that for the rest of the team. The rest of the guys on the team quit. Just as Duke losing Rivers will be addition by subtraction….I truly think Harrison Barnes leaving will make Carolina better. But I don’t see him making a splash in the NBA….or making 5 years in the NBA for that matter. He has Europe written all over him. And just like Julius Hodge, he will be out of pro basketball in any capacity before he sees 30 years old…..if that. Also, it is a sad statement of the talent in the ACC when Tyler Zeller is the player of the year.

Carolina and Duke, will be Carolina and Duke, and will be back near the top soon. But if something isn’t done by the NBA….get used to Kentucky to be on top for a while….we just won’t have a clue who is on their team, because it will be an all freshman team year in and year out. As for my Wolfpack…..we will see how everyone mesh with the freshman that are coming in….just because they are talented, doesn’t mean Gottfried will be able to make the upperclassmen give up their playing time for the superheros coming in.

Eightball is back in the pocket.

Tuesday Quick Hits

Posted in acc sports, college basketball, college football, soccer, sports with tags , , , , , on November 1, 2011 by cueball
  • Good news for all college sports fans, Pat Forde is back in action.  It was only two weeks since he left ESPN, but I was already in withdrawal.  Outside of Ivan Maisel and Gene Wojciechowski, writing about college football, there aren’t any writers who I go to ESPN.com specifically to read.  Grantland doesn’t count since it doesn’t even carry an ESPN banner.  Like other sports fans, I wonder who is next to leave the “worldwide leader.”  Also, Yahoo! Sports has gathered a lot of writing talent under its umbrella.
  • Of course I say that forgetting about this new blog dedicated to UNC Basketball written by Robbi Pickeral.  She has covered ACC basketball in general and the three Triangle schools in particular for a long time.  A very good writer.
  • For US Soccer fans out there, this is awesome from The Offside Rules.
  • Speaking of Grantland.com, here is the first part of their college basketball preseason all-american list. Is Grantland an attempt to create a complete alternative to ESPN.com?
  • As Target is a higher-end version of Wal-Mart, The Big East is trying to become a higher-end version of Conference USA.  The college sports world simultaneously yawns and cringes.
  • One of the things I disliked about the Butch Davis era, is that he didn’t get how important this week’s game actually is for the program.  Winning the “state championship” is important.  UNC will not win the conference without winning the state.  If nothing else comes from Everett Withers time as head coach, putting the importance of this game back front and center is a good start.  By the way, I don’t think there is any chance that Withers will be back as head coach, but I do think he will be a head coach again and soon.
Until next time.  Countdown to Carrier Classic:  10 days.  Countdown to State/UNC:  4 days.

Carolina/State Week

Posted in acc sports, college football with tags , , , , on October 31, 2011 by cueball

Not that anyone has really noticed, but this is the week of the North Carolina/North Carolina State game.

Before the season this game seemed to be pregnant with meaning. Butch Davis was coaching the best defensive front seven at UNC since the heady days of Mack Brown and Tom O’Brien would be trying to continue his mastery over UNC for a fifth consecutive win.

Instead, we have a North Carolina team, though bowl eligible, that is a hollow shadow of what might have been if Butch Davis had not been fired (12 months too late) and if the defensive backfield was not a youthful mess beset by injuries.

NC State on the other hand is…Honestly, I have no idea. I have been too busy following UNC football and preparing for the basketball season to pay any attention to the happenings on the red-bricked plain of the NC State campus. Seriously, why would I watch any NC State football this year. I just looked at the standings and apparently they are really bad. Of course, this could be the one game of the season they actually put together a complete performance and give Mike Glennon more then 3 seconds to throw the ball.

So which will win out: A more talented UNC team trying to break a 4 game losing skid against NC State or an NC State team tying to win 3 of its final 4 games to become bowl eligible.

So, eightball, I need you to tell me about the state of Wolfpack football.

Brothers

Posted in acc sports, college basketball, college football, sports with tags , , , , on October 27, 2011 by cueball

In the beginning there was the Southern Conference.  The thirteen schools who would form the Southeastern Conference (SEC) left the Southern Conference in 1932 to make travel easier. All the schools were west and south of the Appalachian Mountains. The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) schools stayed in the Southern Conference until 1952 when the seven original members left to focus on basketball.

The older brother, SEC,  is drawn to the simpler more direct and regimented sport of football that was making money hand over fist with its huge crowds.  The younger brother ACC without the shackles of expectations is drawn to the freedom and expressive nature of the newer more exciting basketball as it muse.

The SEC is the older more serious brother who had to go out and make money for the family and the ACC is the younger brother who goes off to get an MFA and spends his time staring at a computer screen trying to be a writer before stumbling upon a couple of characters to base a successful series of pulp mystery books that make him a lot of money.

However, money is the reason both exist and have grown.  As football grew, so did the SEC’s excellence and concentration on it.  The ACC’s existence is  almost solely because of basketball. The four (Duke, UNC, NC State, Wake Forest) “Tobacco Road” schools were all beginning to excel in basketball and making lots of money with it and the old Dixie Classic Basketball tournament.

The two conferences have differences in perception academically and socially based on the two sports that they traditionally represent.  The SEC is perceived as a football playing money machine who has no time for intellectualism. The ACC is seen as a basketball playing academic dilettante who is who is too above the fray to truly dirty itself with football.  The ACC while managing to do a lot of the same things that the SEC does (make money hand over fist), only in basketball, has managed to appear more sophisticated and socially progressive then its football dominated brother.

These differences in perception are not only due to the two sports but also to their geography. Both conferences are made up primarily of state-supported institutions, however as the century moved along, the states that make up the ACC became more interconnected with the northeastern parts of the country because of growing interstate road and rail systems. Therefore, they moved into a more modern, less agrarian based economy quicker then did the states in the deeper south. That meant they had more of a need of a populace with a higher education making funding for education important. However, the schools of the SEC were in the poorest states in the country and did not have (with the exception of Georgia) the need (or political will) to put money into higher education because of the continued geographic isolation caused by the Appalachians.

This mountain range has played an important part of the history of the two conferences by shaping their views of potential expansion and television markets.  The SEC towards the south and west and the ACC to the north and east.

Having said all that, there are schools in each conference that are more culturally akin to the majority of schools in the other conference. So, how would I make up the two conferences to place the right schools with the right cultural fit? I’m glad you asked. Here are my revamped ACC and SEC lineups:

ACC

SEC

UNC Alabama
Duke Auburn
Wake Forest LSU
Vanderbilt Tennessee
Maryland Florida
Virginia Arkansas
Georgia Mississippi
Miami Mississippi State
Boston College Clemson
Pittsburgh Virginia Tech
Syracuse Texas A&M
Georgia Tech South Carolina
Kentucky Florida St.
UCONN NC State

Georgia Tech and Kentucky could go either way. Georgia Tech is an original member of the SEC but has the academic/social arrogance of the ACC. Kentucky has the lawless disregard for NCAA rules that make the SEC so much fun, but it also is a basketball school first and foremost. Who would not want to see Georgia and Georgia Tech play for more then pride in football every year and who would not like UNC, Duke, and Kentucky playing basketball once a year.

Miami is another interesting case. While a football factory with a lawless disregard for NCAA rules, it is also a small private university with big academic ambitions. UCONN was thrown in solely to balance out the conferences and with the knowledge that either they or Notre Dame ends up in the ACC in the next two years.

Monday Night Rant

Posted in acc sports, college football, football, sports, sports and society, Uncategorized on September 12, 2011 by eightball

If Peter King can write the Monday Morning Quarterback, I can figure I can write the Monday Night Rant. Thinking back to the games over the weekend and thought I would bitch just a bit.

I have heard a lot of people questioning Tom O’Brian for letting Russell Wilson leave and putting his faith in Glennon. This weekends loss to Weak Forest had absolutely nothing to do with quarterback play….State’s defense (which was supposed to be the strength of this team) is what is letting this Wolfpack team down…not Mike Glennon.

Brian Kelly….just too damn easy…he has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory two weeks in a row.

Cam Newton…don’t think I have anything to rant with him…more of the fans. I can say which side of the aisle I came down on…I tried to take a wait and see on him. I personally don’t like a running QB. I feel there are certain basics in football and if a QB can’t sit in the pocket and pick apart a defense…he won’t amount to too much. Well, Cam didn’t run much at all yesterday; he couldn’t.  Arizona’s D-Line collapsed all around Cam…no running lanes.  And as for the fans that yell that Cam was playing a weak defense….I say he did what he was supposed to do to a weak defense, so…I give him an A.

Eightball is back in the corner pocket.