Friday, December 29, 2006

Hoops Bites

So, Tech knocked off Troy the other night by 30 points in a strong showing. Here were some takeaways from that game and some other random thoughts.

Don't make a ton of judgments based on the stat sheet from playing a super-cupcake. This was a team severely overmatched, particularly on the inside. Make sure to filter any judgments through that lens. Having said that, there were some good points

I would say that Javaris Crittenton had his best game of the season with 10 assists and 0 turnovers. Certainly the best PG type numbers he's had to-date. That's what I'm talking about. More of that and the wins will be easier to come by.

The team almost played a solid 40 minute defensive effort. There was a short stretch lacking in intensity, but for the most part the team had the desire to prove that they could keep up the pressure for an entire ballgame. That is three games in a row with a real step up in defensive play. Even more important than effort.......... the chemistry, the communication, the help-side D has improved. Defensive progress. It's what we'd all like to believe is a building block - a stepping stone if you will. Unfortunately we won't know until ACC season hits if it's for real.

If you looked at the offensive rebounding stats released by the ACC, you might not be overly impressed. Tech is #4 in the league in offensive boards per game. However, if you look at offensive rebound percentage, which is a measure of possible offensive rebounds gathered by a team, Tech is actually #5 in the nation at 43.6%. That is certainly impressive but it will be interesting to see how this changes once ACC play starts.

While we focus on our team defense, it is worth pointing out that Ken Pomeroy (hoops stat emaven) currently has the Jackets as the 14th most offensively efficient team in the nation. What does that mean? Well, OE% = Points Scored / (100 possesions). He then adjusts this for "tempo", which equals possesions / 40 minutes. So on an adjusted basis the Jackets are an incredibly efficient offensive team.

So which player is our most efficient offensively? Well, it's not even close - Lewis Clinch by a landslide. He is one of the top 20 players in the nation - in terms of offensive efficiency (taking into account a bunch of stats in a complicated formula). Of course unless he starts playing some D, we all know where that's headed. Interesting delimma for Coach Hewitt, because no matter how hard he talks about the importance of defense - the #1 strength you must have is the ability to score. That's fundamental to the game. So the question is - can Coach have a net positive by inserting a better defensive player? Will the minutes played by those other players improve the defense (a given at this point) and provide enough offense for a net positive? Certainly seems like a yes the past few games - but of course this has been against lower competition. Stay tuned.

I am personally glad to see D'Andre Bell back in the rotation. It was going to start getting hypocritical for Coach Hewitt to continue spouting off about playing the guys who #1 - defend, and #2 - hustle in practice. Why hypocritical? Well, Coach said Bell is possibly our best on-ball defender and never slacks off in practice. So if you're going to preach those things, why does a guy like that fall out of the rotation? Well, there's only one answer - offense. Bell is an interesting guy - a 6'5" wing guard who doesn't really have a strong 3-point shot nor a very strong inside game nor a slashing shot-creation game - or at least he hasn't shown one yet to Tech fans. Last season he showed a nice mid-range jump shot and that was clearly his offensive strength. In high school, he was the go-to guy on his team and scored from all over, but the collegiate game is a different level.

There's another factor. Bell plays within Coach's boundaries. He seems like a guy really willing to follow his role. Coach wanted him as a back-up PG when the 2/3 spots got crowded with Clinch / Morrow / Faye / Young / Diaw / West. But in the end that was not a successful experiment and Coach Hewitt took the blame for Bell's slow start and falling out of the rotation. So he's back at the 2/3 and back in the rotation. Personally, I'm glad. I've always like Bell for some reason. Maybe I'm just a huge fan of the mid-range jump shot. Not sure. I know I like guys that play hard and he falls into that category.

Now I'm just waiting for Alade Aminu to state his case to get back in the rotation...............

One pre-season physicality of note was the incredible wingspan of so many of our players - Faye, Young, Peacock, Dickey, Aminu. Yet with all those arms, the Jackets are 2nd to last in the league in blocks with 3.36 / game. Maryland leads the league with 7.23......

Some random tidbits on the ACC..................... That UGAg team we just beat WITHOUT their best player (and PG) was beat handily by Clemson WITH said best player. Could Clemson be the real deal? Weeeeeeeelllllllll, let's just wait until mid-way through the ACC slate ................................. Guess who has the league's best defense? Duke........................ Guess who has the league's worst offense? Duke... Certainly an interesting case study in the importance of O vs D. Ah, but not so quick. Those stats are based on points / game. If you look at offensive efficiency again, you'll see that Duke is actually 3rd in the ACC and still #1 defensively. So what it means is that Duke has more of a slow down offense that has fewer possessions per game. But they take nice advantage of those possesions. So don't judge a teams offense or defense by points scored or points allowed per game. Points per possession is key........................