Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gasaway on the Hoyas

John Gasaway of Basketball Prospectus had a short post on Georgetown Friday, "Georgetown's Internal Bleeding."

Some highlights, annotated:
The Hoyas have now played a third of their conference slate. There’s plenty of season left to be played, of course, but in order to make something of that season GU will have to improve dramatically on defense.
I'd love to have a snarky rebuttal, but this is true. I've updated the season's Performance Charts through the West Virginia game, and the Hoyas have been consistently underwhelming on defense since the UConn game. That's six games in a row where the Hoyas have allowed more points than expected, based on venue and KenPom's season stats to date.
A month ago I remarked somewhat raffishly that Georgetown appeared to be inventing a new category: “outstanding defense without rebounds.” Well guess what. Turns out you need rebounds after all. In a conference with Seton Hall, the Hoyas can at least take solace in the fact that they will always be spared the indignity of being “last in defensive rebounding,” but the truth is their defensive rebounding is terrible.
For the season as a whole, Georgetown's defensive rebounding has been miserable at 61.7%, ranked 318/344 - worst amongst the BCS conference schools. Within conference play, Georgetown (56.9%) is just a fuzz better than Seton Hall (56.4%) which is worst. The comparison to SHU is particularly appropriate since the teams have 5 common opponents so far this season (UConn, NDU, Cuse, Provy and WVU). The only difference is that the Pirates have played Villanova (OR = 36.3%; 69/344) while G'town played Pitt (43.6%; 2/344).
There’s a sense at large that Thompson will right this talented ship and, who knows, that sense may be proven correct. But as of this moment Georgetown has been merely the tenth-best team in Big East play on a per-possession basis. Unthinkable on December 29, but true.
Here's where Gasaway is being a bit disingenuous - Georgetown may be tenth in efficiency margin [= points scored per 100 possessions - points allowed per 100 possessions], but they have played the hardest conference schedule to date, based on KenPom's ratings.

To look at this further, I've compiled the strength of schedule for all Big East teams for conference games played so far (through Saturday, Jan 24th), and plotted eff. margin against strength of schedule. Here, I'm using KenPom's Pythagorean rating (0-1), rather than his ranking (1 to 344) for the strength of schedule calc.

The blue line is a linear fit to the data. There is clearly a trend here - the harder a team's conference schedule so far, the worse their efficiency margin. If the fitted line is to be trusted - and I don't have any way of knowing if it should, beyond the fact that it is statistically significant at 95% - it implies that there are 6 top-tier teams in the Big East, once you account for the quality of opposition. Georgetown is one of them, along with Louisville, Pitt, Marquette, UConn and West Virginia.

One thing I'm not adjusting for here is home vs. road in evaluating strength of schedule, mostly because I'm not clear what the best weighting factor would be. It should be noted that Georgetown has played 6 conference games so far this season, with only 2 on the road.

A few other comments from looking at this chart:
  • Notre Dame is surprisingly (to me) below the line, implying that they are not a top-half team in the Big East.
  • Providence and South Florida are quietly hanging around in the second tier of Big East teams. The Friars aren't a big shock, as they were a darling pick to make the leap this year due to their experience; the Bulls may be reaping the rewards of Gus Gilchrist's eligibility.
  • The four worst teams are Rutgers, St. John's, DePaul and Cincinnati, in descending order. A few weeks ago, I had figured that Cincinnati was probably the 10th best team in the Big East, heading into conference play.
  • Seton Hall, today's opponent for the Hoyas, has played the 2nd hardest conference schedule to date - i.e. they may not be as bad as their current conference record indicates.

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