Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Analysis: UMBC Preview

A little later than I'd hoped, but it's time for more on what we can expect when the Hoyas meet the Retrievers on Friday (link to KenPom page). Unfortunately, I lack CO's nifty graphing software, so you won't be getting chart like the ones he provided last year for Belmont. I can, however, still run the same numbers.

The Retrievers' best skill is their offense, ranking 9th nationally in raw terms and 60th in adjusted. It hasn't been very consistent, though. The key to winning their conference championship game against Hartford was an outstanding offensive game, OffEff 136 v. ExpOffEff 119.6, +16.4, but two weeks earlier, against that same Hartford team, they'd had a dreadful offensive game, OffEff 86.7, -32.9, based primarily on poor shooting against a very poor defensive team. A look at the Retrievers' Game Plan page shows that UMBC will have WIDELY varying shooting nights. Their overall eFG% is 51.7%, 99th, but look at their last four games:
Hartford    36.4%
Stony Brook 67.0%
Vermont 37.7%
Hartford 67.6%

If you can make anything of those numbers, please let me know, because I sure can't.

The defense has been a little more consistent-at least close to average performance for the past 7 games. That 8th game, though, they yielded 123.7 OffEff to a poor (257th overall) Boston U. team, 22.3 more than expected. The game plan indicates the Terriers shot the ball well, but only marginally better than Hartford did in the America East championship. BU also rebounded well, but not better than Stony Brook the next game or Albany in the AE tourney. BU shot a lot of free throws for a UMBC opponent, but not that much more than Albany the next game or Stony Brook or Vermont in the AE tourney. There's really no reason to expect UMBC won't go out and lay a tremendous egg defensively; they're a poor defensive team that doesn't do very much well except not foul opponents.

The other problem is that UMBC plays in the America East. The America East is, in a word, terrible. The Retrievers' offense is the best unit in the country. The only other unit in the entire conference above average is Vermont's defense, and the Catamounts, at 101.5 v. 101.8 nationally, barely qualify. UMBC hasn't played a team better than 180th nationally since Ohio State back in December. They're the best team in the America East, but that's really being the smallest midget.

Before I dismiss the Retrievers entirely, let's look at how they did against teams that aren't terrible:
Opponent        Off   v.Exp  Def  v.Exp
@ West Virginia 91.0 -7.5 126.3 -3.0
@ Ohio State 124.4 +26.7 137.8 -19.0

The keys to the offensive performance against Ohio State were offensive rebounding and an outstanding job of not turning the ball over (7.5%, 2nd best all year). UMBC pulled in 36.5% of the offensive rebounds, their best performance on missed shots until their two most recent games. Note that game, where UMBC was 3-bombing; they normally take 32.4% of their shots from outside the arc, and 47.3% that game. This doesn't look like a trend, though, as against West Virginia, a more normal 36% of shots were three pointers.

Ok, I'm ready to write this team off. How UMBC wins:
--Retrievers shoot at least as well as Villanova in 1985 championship game
--Hoyas turn the ball over at least 35% of the time
--Roy Hibbert skips game to attend religious services (hey, it is Good Friday)
--Hoyas shoot outside arc like they did @ Pitt this year
If all of those happen, then the Hoyas may be in trouble. Barring all of those unlikely occurrences, though, I don't see any way this is a close game. The KenPom predictor calls for a 75-57 game; doing this preview, I really think that's overestimating the Retrievers' chances.

I'll be back tomorrow with a look at individual Hoyas' recent performance, and what they may tell us about the team's chances for an extended run. In the meantime, I suggest checking this post by SFHoya on the Hoyas' chances (featuring my inaugural HoyaTalk post), and, if you haven't read it yet, Alexander Wolff's wonderful article on JT3 from SI.

No comments:

Post a Comment