Fan Scouting Report Results

The results of the fan scouting reports are posted here. We think T.J. McConnell is the best player on the team and that Saunders and Clark were second and third. Most of the results make good sense. I think we did a pretty good job.

Preview: Dukes at Oregon (CBI)

The University of Oregon’s football team had one of its most successful seasons in history, such has not been the case for the basketball team. Bankrolled by Nike founder Phil Knight, the school built a new basketball arena to help firmly entrench Oregon as a basketball power. After firing longtime coach Ernie Kent, the University’s financiers went on a search to find the right man to lead the program.

After being rejected by Tom Izzo and several other high profile coaches Oregon signed Creighton head man Dana Altman. Altman had much success with the Blue Jays turning the program from an also ran to a perennial power in the Missouri Valley. His tenure in Omaha boasted 11 consecutive 20 win seasons and seven NCAA Tournament appearances. This sustained success is what caused Oregon booster Pat Kilkenny end his search with Altman.

Altman has since learned that simply showing up on campus in the bright lights of a major conference program with a fancy new gym is not necessarily a cake walk. The Oregon program has seen many defections leaving the program without much of a direction. After four players transferred and one went to play professionally overseas, Altman had to try to pick up the pieces. What he thought was going to be an big team turned out to be one he is more accustomed to. Altman is known for having undersized teams dependent on shooting at the expense of rebounding. His 2-1-2 high post offense has been crafted to fit such personnel.

The prototypical example of Altman’s preferred brand of basketball is his only All-American Kyle Korver. Korver was a tall swing forward with a silky smooth shooting stroke whom the Blue Jays ran their offense through. That season he took nearly 20 percent of the teams shots and 39 percent of Creighton’s three point attempts. Altman’s offense will likely feature one player, typically a small/power forward. This season that role has been filled by 6’6” senior Joevan Catron, who is the 67th most used player in the nation. Catron does not fill the Korver prototype because he is not a proficient long distance shooter. He is more in that position because of his status as a senior leader rather than his skill set.

A more natural fit is found in Sophomore swing man E.J. Singler. Singler, the less homely little brother of Duke’s Kyle, is a 39 percent shooter from behind the arc and a 51 percent marksman from inside. Further he has a good handle for someone his size and is a decent passer and defender. Next year’s offense will likely feature the Beaver state native perhaps allowing him to recreate some of the younger sibling magic put forth by Notre Dame’s Ben Hansbrough this season.

Collectively Oregon will run Altman’s high post offense, which is similar to the scheme that Marquette employed to manhandle Xavier. Oregon is not as big as Marquette however so the offense will be run farther from the basket at the expense of rebounding. Unfortunately, for the Ducks there are not many shooters on the team which hinders Altman’s schemes to work properly. On the other hand, this Oregon team has met the high standards Altman sets for his ball handlers doing a good job of taking care of the ball.

On defense there has been a trend over Altman’s recent seasons of decline. The year’s Oregon club is no different. Particularly of note is the increased proficiency with which opponents are getting to the free throw line. Obviously this is not of benefit to a poor free throw shooting team like Duquesne. What is of benefit is the poor field goal defense. Oregon ranks 260th in effective field goal percentage which bodes well for the Dukes as I have explained before.

Duquesne is the superior team in this matchup, however Oregon has the superior coach. That could be the difference. A good game plan could end Duquesne’s season but if talent alone should decide this game the Dukes will likely prevail. Coach Ron Everhart would be wise to deploy the platoon strategy which was so effective in the Montana game. Keeping players fresh will allow the Dukes superior athleticism to shine through as well as allowing the offense to function properly with movement. Do not be fooled, just because Oregon is a BCS school does not make Duquesne an underdog. The Ducks are the inferior team and this game is one Duquesne should win, but playing on the road and a long lay off allowing Altman to devise a game plan could quite well tip this game in Oregon’s favor.

Statistic Duquesne Rk Oregon Rk
Points Per Possession 1.065 89 0.976 87
Effective Field Goal % 52.0% 49 51.0% 260
Turnover % 18.6% 84 22.2% 60
Offensive Rebound % 33.0% 148 33.0% 210
FT Attempts/ FG Attempts 43.3% 48 35.9% 127
Three Point FG % 35.2% 124 36.2% 262
Two Point FG % 51.5% 32 49.1% 233
Free Throw % 62.6% 326
Block % 10.4% 260 8.1% 220
Steal % 7.8% 28 11.6% 36
3P Attempts/ FG Attempts 36.6% 77 36.5% 282
Assists per Made FG 65.1% 8 55.9% 236
Statistic Oregon Rk Duquesne Rk
Points Per Possession 1.045 108 0.933 19
Effective Field Goal % 47.4% 244 47.9% 117
Turnover % 17.9% 49 28.1% 1
Offensive Rebound % 30.5% 241 38.0% 336
FT Attempts/ FG Attempts 31.1% 313 37.4% 163
Three Point FG % 33.7% 201 33.4% 109
Two Point FG % 45.7% 262 46.9% 134
Free Throw % 74.4% 34
Block % 10.5% 270 14.0% 17
Steal % 7.7% 20 13.8% 3
3P Attempts/ FG Attempts 35.1% 119 32.5% 171
Assists per Made FG 55.8% 115 53.8% 167

Scouting Report: St. Joseph’s

Its been a tough year for Saint Joe’s and head coach Phil Martelli. Martelli’s Hawks have put forth the worst season of his career on Hawk Hill. Following the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons in which SJU made the elite eight and NIT Finals respectively the program has been on the wane. Is Martelli losing his fastball? A better explanation is that he never had a fastball or rather that his max 90 mph heat was not being supplemented by the right secondary offerings. Those other pitches are the talent he has.

Martelli is not good enough of a coach to schematically break teams down, but very few coaches are. When he has excelled is when the coach has convinced top level talent to spend some time on Hawk Hill. In the early part of the previous decade when St. Joe’s had its most success players like Marvin O’Connor, Jameer Nelson, Delonte West and Pat Carroll dawned the crimson and gray. Since those years Martelli has not been able to get that type of player to come to St. Joe’s and consequently it has not been able to match the success of the apex of the program.

Things are changing however. Martelli put together one of the best recruiting classes in Atlantic 10 history this season getting coveted prospects Langston Galloway, C.J. Aiken, Daryeus Quarles, and the red shirted Papa Samba Ndao. They combined with sophomore Carl Jones comprise a solid core of players of which the Hawks can build around. The influx of talent has come with a price this season. The youth of the club has led to more losses in the short term. Martelli’s inability to mold his players into a cohesive half court unit has held back the Hawks this year, but the future remains bright.

Ideally, Martelli’s offense is a drive-and-kick penetration game where the point guard is featured prominently. It is no wonder that the years when the Hawks had Jameer Nelson mark the most successful in the recent history of the program. The team goes as its point guard goes. This year there was no true point guard with Jones and Galloway doing the bulk of the ball handling. Neither has an elite handle but both do a solid job of taking care of the ball with both ranking in the top 500 players in turnover rate. Such is expected from a Martelli coached team. The Hawks are generally going to have ball handlers who are good decision makers that can find an open shooter. The shooters will then knock the shots down. That’s what happens when everything goes right, but that was not this year. Fortunately, Martelli has already signed a highly touted point guard Chris Wilson.

On defense, Martelli seems to focus on staying in the half court and preventing open shots. St. Joe’s will not pressure often and will play a good bit of zone. This season it has seemed that the Hawks has not put together consistent effort on defense. The athleticism of the players has not manifested itself when the other team has the ball. This condition, again, may go back to Martelli’s inability to game plan well.

St Joe’s is clearly a poorer team when compared to George Washington however it has won three of its last four games and is playing the best basketball it has all season. A flat effort from Duquesne will open the door for the youthful Hawks looking to make a statement. Nevertheless, this is a game the Dukes should win and SJU fans can look forward to next season when the Hawks are my favorite to be the sleeper team.

Scouting Report/Preview: Richmond

Efficiency, that is the name of the game for Chris Mooney’s Richmond Spiders. Both the offense and defense are built around maximizing results. Richmond ranks fifth in the Atlantic 10 in defensive efficiency and second in offensive efficiency. It does seem clear that Mooney builds his team around offense with a solid to good defense behind the offense. The interesting feature of Mooney’s clubs at Richmond is that it excels and lack in the same categories on both sides of the ball.

Over the past three seasons the Spiders have generally been good at avoiding turnovers on offense while creating them on defense. Similarly, Richmond teams will shoot well and contest shots at the other end. The table below gives the national ranks in effective field goal percentage (eFG) and Turnover rate (TO%). Now compare these data to the other table. Notice a difference? Where Richmond has been good in the first two areas, it has struggled with rebounding and getting to as well as preventing opponents getting to the line. (Oreb=offensive rebounding rate; Dreb=defensive rebounding rate; FTR=free throw rate FTA/FGA).

Off. Off. Def. Def.
Year eFG TO% eFG TO%
2008-09 67 32 139 84
2009-10 76 18 15 55
2010-11 10 11 30 147
Off. Off. Def. Def.
Year Oreb FTR Dreb FTR
2008-09 295 248 289 292
2009-10 331 297 274 141
2010-11 302 308 237 37

Those numbers are remarkably consistent and should look familiar to Duquesne fans being that Ron Everhart’s teams follow a similar pattern. There is a big difference however. Richmond tends to play slower and Duquesne tends to play a faster pace. Mooney, having played for Pete Carrill at Princeton has adopted Carrill’s famed offense. Look at it this way, Mooney’s offense is like Duquesne’s offense but better.

The Dukes give more of a motion look as opposed to Richmond’s set offense. Nonetheless, both teams are dependent on the three point shot and strong back cuts to the basket. The Princeton offense can be effective but it is troublesome to me because, as is evidenced by the numbers, offensive rebounding is lost. The best teams are able to adjust and teams dependent on long jumpers that don’t crash the boards are susceptible to losses when shots are not falling. Then again, I’m a back to the basket forward type. Needless to say, I like rebounding.

Every Spider shoots the ball, including player of the year candidate 6’10” center Justin Harper. Harper can play on the low block, flash for mid-range jump shots, shoots 49 percent from three and makes over 80 percent of his free throws. Did I mention he is 6’10”. The Dukes will have difficulty guarding him because of his height. They do not have anyone that can contest any jumpers. Combine Harper’s game with 2009-10 A-10 player of the year Kevin Anderson, a strong slasher who makes 42 percent of his attempts from behind the arc. Anderson has the ability to take over games with his scoring prowess. Richmond is tough offense to stop, so it is best to hope that they miss since they are such poor rebounders.

The best advice for the Dukes would be to take advantage of Spider misses by pushing the ball down the floor on all rebounds. Getting quick strikes will allow Duquesne to stay with Richmond if its offense is hitting on all cylinders. Unfortunately for the Dukes, Richmond does not turn the ball over often, but if they can force the Spiders to cough up the ball they will have a chance to pull off the upset. Duquesne controls its own destiny regarding getting the four seed and a bye for the league tournament. Doing so would place this season amongst the best in the history of the program. Also, a win tomorrow would help ease the sting of some of the tough losses this season including last week’s affair at St. Louis. One fortunate factor may be that Richmond does not foul much, so the Dukes’ deficiency at the line may not be exploited. For Everhart’s club, it’s a long haul but a win in Virginia is not inconceivable.

Scouting Report: Saint Louis

Rick Majerus is a legendary coach. The jolly fat man did excellent work with his St. Louis program last season as Blue Ribbon writes (ESPN Insider).

Majerus proved last year yet again that great coaches can turn teams with question marks into teams that win. The Billikens had every reason to fail, but didn’t thanks to stellar defense and an uncanny ability to raise their intensity level in conference games.

The former Utah coach has instituted his slow tempo half court game predicated on getting stops on the defensive end and being efficient on offense. Last season the Billikens were chosen to finish 12th in the Atlantic 10. Defying those expectations SLU finished 4th and earned a first round bye in the conference tournament. The Blue Ribbon write up points put that last year’s St. Louis club was a based around its defense as it always is. The Bills gave up a remarkable 0.908 points per possession to opponents which ranked 29th nationally.

Majerus’s teams generally play man but will throw in a triangle-and-two zone look every now and again. The SLU defense is based around forcing tough shots and not forcing turnovers. The primary goal for the Billikens is to prevent open looks from the perimeter. Most Majerus squads do well in three point percentage allowed, including last season.

This year’s club is more solid all around ranking in the top third of division I in Effective Field Goal percentage, Turnover rate and defensive rebounding percentage. Nevertheless, the Billikens are among the top defensive teams in the Atlantic 10 giving up only 0.954 points per possession ranking 61st nationally (Only Temple and Duquesne have a better defensive efficiency in the league).

On offense, Majerus runs a 4-1 motion offense, just like Duquesne, only much slower. Whereas, Duquesne averages nearly 72 possessions per game, SLU plays at nearly 65 possessions per game. These numbers are pretty common for Majerus and Duquesne coach Ron Everhart and they have been noticeable in previous matchups. The games between these two coaches reveal that Majerus has had more success in dictating the tempo.

Majerus vs. Everhart Tempo Battle

Year Pace W/L H/A
2008 72 W H
2009 65.78 L* A
2009 64 W H
2010 64.8 L** H
2010 65 L A
2011 60 W H
Average 65.26

(The games with Asterisks are prorated for 40 minutes because they went to overtime)

Over Everhart’s five seasons at Duquesne, his ballclubs have averaged 72.56 possessions per contest. Despite this, against Majerus’s Billikens the Dukes have averaged only 65.26 trips down the floor. Clearly, Majerus has been able to dictate the tempo. Such is the sign of an elite level coach. The fat guy, who according to SI’s S.L. Price enjoys being nude and calling his players “cunts”, has a winning percentage over .700. Majerus is one of the best college basketball coaches of all time and Everhart is merely a solid average one. Because of this tactical mismatch, Majerus has often been able to take inferior clubs and have success against Duquesne. The series between the two coaches is currently tied 3-3 including two overtime losses (sound familiar Dukes fans).

While Majerus’ SLU teams have been generally short on talent during his tenure they are especially thin this season. The Bills lost their two best players point guard Kawain Mitchell and power forward Willie Reed to sexual assault allegations and subsequent suspensions. There were hopes that prized recruits guard Jordair Jett and center Rob Loe would be able to contribute right away on offense. Such has not been the case. Jett has been used often this season for his slashing ability but his cumulative performance has led to an 80.9 offensive rating (stat that measures a player’s entire offensive contribution). Similarly, Loe has been an unexceptional rebounder and scorer culminating in an 85.4 offensive rating.

Making up for this deficiency against the run and gun Dukes will be tough as evidenced by this year’s previous matchup. Duquesne cruised to a 22 point victory even though the contest only had 60 possessions for each team. Can the defense make up for the offense. Probably not. Majerus will most likely put forth a game plan that will control the tempo but will also not be likely to have the horses to win this race. However, one would be misguided to count any team with an elite coach against a club with an average coach with problems managing games. Also, the game being played at St. Louis adds to the concern. Nevertheless, this is not the same team as last season and will come in large underdogs against a Duquesne club trying to hold on to 4th place in the A-10.

Scouting Report: Rhode Island

This year’s Blue Ribbon College Basketball Preview on Rhode Island (ESPN Insider) says this of the Rams’ chances this year.

If you’re going to pick against the Rams this season because they lost two of their top three scorers to graduation, be warned: Rhode Island has lost seemingly irreplaceable pieces the last two years and improved their win totals. But if you’re going to pick against the Rams because of their suspect defense, you might have an argument.

These words were written by Nate Crossman of Blue Ribbon. Wow, was he wrong. The conclusion he came to was not out of the ordinary, I may have made the same analysis. Over the past five seasons, URI has had one of the best offenses in the Atlantic 10 and the Rams have been able to make up for critical losses of major offensive pieces. What has happened so far this season is exactly the opposite of what Crossman describes. Rhody’s defense has been stout but the offense has been porous. Consider this graph.

The dark blue line represents the points per possession allowed for the past five seasons under head coach Jim Baron. As can be seen there has been a downward trend ranging from awful in the 2006-07 season to good the past two seasons. The key difference over the past few seasons is an increase in forcing turnovers. The Rams’ national rank in turnover rate in these two seasons have gone from 321st to 184th to 144th to 49th to 76th. This trend essentially matches the improved defense overall. It seems that the marginal improvement between the 2009-10 season and this year is an improved effective shooting percentage. URI went from giving up a 50.9 eFG% to a 48.1 eFG%. Considering these metrics, Baron has made great strides to improve his defense to go along with his usually efficient offense.

Despite this improvement on defense the offfense, which as the graph shows has been rather consistent staying above 1.120 PPP the past four seasons has fallen dramatically this season. It appears as if the Rams have not made up for the production of Keith Cothran and Lamonte Ulmer. A New York Times profile of Baron and his offensive style by Pete Thamel describes the coach’s influences this way,

Baron has studied the Phoenix Suns, the University of Missouri and the old-school Loyola Marymount teams of Paul Westhead to try to master the nuances of fast-paced basketball.

Despite this characterization URI’s defense has never been that fast paced. Last season Rhody averaged 68.2 possessions per game ranking 126th and this year the Rams have posted 67.5 possessions per game ranking 133rd. That tempo is not representative of a Mike D’Antoni seven seconds or less offense and certainly not an example of a Paul Westhead four seconds or less offense. Duquesne has routinely averaged under Ron Everhart much faster paced teams. I would not describe the Rams as a run and gun team but rather a program with a very efficient quicker than average offense.

When the Rhody offense was at its zenith in the past few seasons one dependable bright spot was offensive rebounding. Baron’s Rams never ranked more than 64th in offensive rebounding rate and as high as 28th. This season URI is placed 181st in offensive rebounding. That combined with poor three point shooting point to what ails this normally potent offense.

This season it has been up to leading scorer Delroy James to create on offense. James is a 6’8” small forward who can be described as Chris Wright but good. James is likely to touch the ball on every possession as evidenced by his high usage rate (he ranks 29th). The forward is an able slasher, quality offensive rebounder, especially for a three and a decent passer. The only thing is he can’t shoot well from long distance. James’ ability to get to the rim could be better used if Rhody shot better than 31.8 percent from three, but this team cannot seem to utilize the space James creates.

This year’s URI club is not a typical collection of Jim Baron players. Generally, an efficient offense is the mark of the program but this season it is the defense doing the dirty work. Baron may have learned something from studying the fast paced offenses of Paul Westhead but it also seems that he has paid attention to how a quality fast paced defense operates perhaps by watching Everhart’s teams at Duquesne. Up-tempo teams win by creating turnovers. Rhody has successfully done that this season and their 16-10 record demonstrates that. If left up to the offense, this team would be lucky to be .500.

Stats from kenpom.com

AJNWUTE7U3S9

Scouting Report: UMass

The UMass program was taken over by former point guard Derek Kellogg. Kellogg was the captain of the team for two seasons in which the Minutemen won the Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament championships under John Calipari. Kellogg later learned under the tutelage of the great vacater at Memphis where he served as an assistant coach from 2000-2008. According to the A-10 Tournament media guide last season, he was Coach Cal’s leading recruiter which must mean he learned the tricks of the trade from the master. In other words, he was the one responsible for falsifying Derrick Rose’s SAT scores. All kidding aside, Kellogg was hired to help bring back some of the old magic and cheating that marked the Calipari glory years after Travis Ford had left for Oklahoma State.

Kellogg seems to have adopted his mentor’s offensive strategy focusing on a dribble drive motion offense focused around one player (a good description of this offense can be found here by Lee DeForest). Basically, the offense has a dominate the ball guard that is responsible for creating most of the team’s offense. In Calipari’s case consider luminaries such as Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall to name a few. These point players are given great latitude to do what they want and a common characteristic of these players is that they all can get to the rim at will. Their dribble penetration abilities establishes the entire offense.

In regards to UMass, last season the player that filled this role was by All A-10 third team player Ricky Harris. Last season, Harris was among the national leaders in usage rate (a measure of how important a player is on offense) and shot rate (percentage of shots taken while a player is on the floor) ranking 8th and 11th respectively in those categories. The Minutemen’s offense ran through Harris.

Adopting that role this season is Senior guard Anthony Gurley, who is 41st in usage rate and 22nd in shot rate. The offesnsive blueprint largely remains the same. There were hopes that freshman point guard Daryl Traynham would be a good fit to run the offense but he was dismissed from the team after violating team rules. The Minutemen were further hindered in the backcourt when Sophomore guard Freddie Riley injured his leg in UMass’s last game against George Washington. He is listed as a probable scratch for the game. Filling out the backcourt are nominal point guard Gary Correia, a decent passer but otherwise unspectacular player and the ultra-aggressive Javorn Farrell who often ends up in foul trouble averaging 5.6 fouls committed per 40 minutes played.

The frontcourt is altogether unimpressive although one of the team’s strengths is offensive rebounding ranking 64th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. Leading the pack is 6’9” center Sean Carter who had 19 rebounds in UMass’s only contest against Duquesne last season. He is a solid rebounder on both ends of the floor and especially on the offensive end where he ranks 73rd nationally in rebound rate. Carter also is a good shot blocker who could wreak havoc against a small Duquesne club. Do not be surprised if Carter has an outstanding game.

Defensively, the Minutemen thrive on forcing tough shots but they give up several second chances to opponents, an area where Duquesne excels. UMass also fouls often giving up 42.1 free throw attempts for every 100 field goal attempts placing it 254th nationally. That could be troublesome for a Dukes team that is poor from the foul line.

The Minutemen should not pose a great threat to Duquesne but free throw troubles and a big game from Carter could pose danger to a team in need of a win. UMass’s offense is floundering and confused while the defense is solid if not spectacular. However, they look to do similar things on defense as Xavier which proved to be a huge impediment to the Dukes on Sunday.