Friday, December 26, 2008

Connecticut Preview

Here are the current four factors for Connecticut:
.                    Offense         Defense
Adj. Efficiency 120.5 (6) 87.4 (28)

eFG% 54.9 (29) 43.8 (33)
Turnover % 17.4 (18) 18.3 (297)
Off Rebound % 38.3 (41) 27.9 (24)
FT Rate 39.3 (5) 18.3 (1)

Looking at the numbers for Connecticut, four thoughts immediately come to mind, some encouraging and some not so encouraging:
  • Connecticut, like last year, isn't nearly as good a defensive team as they should be.
  • Connecticut is probably the best offensive rebounding team we've faced so far this year.
  • Unlike against Memphis, Georgetown's newfound ability to get fouled is not matched against a weakness in an opponent's defense.
  • For the first time this year, the Hoyas will face a team that draws fouls.

It's somewhat surprising that UConn isn't a dominant defensive team when you look at personnel. They have 7'3" shotblocker Hasheem Thabeet, a good cast of rebounders and plenty of athleticism. But like last year, they just aren't a great defensive team. I certainly don't watch a lot Huskies games, but it could be as simple as the players not committing to defense as well as offense.

One consistent aspect of their weak defense is that the Huskies don't force turnovers. They didn't last year with similar personnel, and they don't this year. That's probably a coaching choice due to having Thabeet in the middle.

The Huskies also don't defend against the three well. That was true last year as well. However, this year, their shot-blocking is down and opponents are making many more twos than last year, even with Thabeet in the middle. Some of that may change if Calhoun goes more to a standard lineup with Stanley Robinson back -- the three guard lineup with Price, Dyson and Walker may have been hurting that.

That's the good news. The Hoyas should be able to protect the ball and should be able to get some good shots -- especially from outside.

Now for the rest of the news.

It may be a bit of the weak competition playing havoc with the numbers, but Hasheem Thabeet has turned into a rebounding machine. Both on offense and defense, where he's nearly twice as productive as he was last year. Pair him with Adrien, a strong if somewhat overrated rebounder and a very strong rebounding group of guards, and the Huskies are going to get a ton of second chance points. And keep the Hoyas from getting very many at all. I don't think there's much chance of winning the rebounding battle, but the Hoyas must minimize the damage.

Against Memphis, the Hoyas were able to offset this rebounding disadvantage by getting to the line. That's not likely to happen against Connecticut. For one, the game is on the road. More importantly, Connecticut doesn't foul much at all. Even in the Gonzaga game, the Zags had a fairly low FT Rate (in the 30s, much like Wisconsin did against UConn). They just happened to hit Thabeet with a number of those fouls. Can the Hoyas go after Thabeet? Sure. But systematically getting to the line isn't likely to happen.

On the flip side, Connecticut draws as many fouls as the Hoyas do. Like the Huskies, Georgetown does not foul very much. Both teams are coming into the game drawing a lot of fouls but not committing them. It's hard to tell which way each matchup will break, though Connecticut has the advantage of being at home.

Who would foul trouble hurt more? Both teams are actually very thin at center, neither having a real backup, though Connecticut has more bodies, period. Connecticut's extra depth -- Gavin Edwards/Stanley Robinson have proved more than Sims and Vaughn, and Austrie gives them an edge over Wattad -- makes the foul situation an advantage for them if the game is called tight.

But at the end of the day, Monroe and Thabeet are both at risk and key to each team. And who has the edge there? The junior at home or the freshman in his first road game?

At the end of the day, the formula for a win at Connecticut seems somewhat of a longshot. But here it is:

  • Minimize the rebounding damage.
  • Go at Thabeet early to try to draw some fouls
  • Hope the Hoyas are making their threes

I realize that's not exactly a strong plan. Thompson will undoubtedly come up with something better. But the reality is, the Hoyas need to execute extraordinarily well in the halfcourt -- on offense and defense -- to win. And even if they do that, they are likely to need a strong shooting day. The formula that worked against Memphis won't work against UConn on the road.


  1. "Hope the Hoyas are making their threes" is maybe an actual game plan. UConn is surprisingly poor at 3-pt defense--statistically, it looks like their major weakness as a team. (Actually, as you point out, their opponents' lack of turnovers is, statistically, UConn's lowest mark, but one assumes they haven't been trying to force those turnovers, while they surely have been trying to defend against 3-pointers.)

    Teams have shot 33.5 percent of 3-pointers against the Huskies--if Georgetown can come out and hit those shots, the possibilities for drives and, thus, foul trouble for Thabeet, open up.

    Whew. Not much of a plan, is it? We match up badly against these guys.

  2. SAdly, I'm not sure it is our worst matchup. Pitt is a very similar team, but with even better rebounding.

    There are a lot of really good offensive rebounding teams in the BE, including a couple you don't think about.

    Namely, WVU and Marquette are going to be trouble.

  3. Add Cincinnati to that list too.

    Thankfully, other teams' fans are looking at G'town's scouting report page and are thinking, "Second in off. efficiency and sixth in def. efficiency? Man, this team is going to kill us."