Friday, December 11, 2009

A Change of Pace

Editor's note:  Please welcome a new contributor to the blog,  Saxamaphone. 

As the sample size for the season gets larger, the stats on the Georgetown page at begin become more telling. It’s still early, but the team’s numerical fingerprints are starting to take shape.

Looking at that page after the Butler game, one number in particular was a surprise: 68.2. That’s Georgetown’s adjusted pace so far this year, and it’s much, much faster than expected.

One of the consistent knocks against the JTIII’s version of the Princeton Offence is that its deliberate pace isn’t compatible with the kind of elite athletes on Top 25 teams. At the beginning of his tenure, that was unquestionably true – at least the pace portion of that argument.

The 2005-6 season, III’s second year on the sidelines, saw the Hoyas average an adjusted tempo of 58.7 possessions per game. That glacial pace was good for 9 possessions slower than the NCAA average of 67.0, which was the slowest of any major conference team and slower than all but 5 D-I teams, including Princeton.

But a funny thing has happened over the next 4 seasons – the pace picked up.
Season        Adj. Pace
2004-5          60.4
2005-6          58.7
2006-7          59.9
2007-8          62.2
2008-9          63.6
Seven games in to 2009-10, the adjusted tempo of 68.2 is significantly faster than last year’s final pace and only a half a possession less than this year's D-I average of 68.7.

But is this an accurate indicator of how the rest of the season will unfold?

Alan noted something similar last year in his analysis of the offense 5 games in. At that point in the season, GU had an adjusted tempo of 68.1 – virtually identical to this year so far.
Is this increase in pace real? Given the slower pace of the Maryland game, you could make an argument that Georgetown's pace is inflated by playing Tennessee and some cupcakes.

Maybe it is, but it doesn't seem likely to fall back to the crawl of prior years. Georgetown didn't break 64 possessions until Game 7 [in 2007-8]; this year it has four games at 64 or above and the low is 63.

From watching the games, is there any doubt the team is looking to fast break more?

It turned out that yes, 2009 was indeed faster than 2008, but not by such a dramatic margin. But does the same pattern hold true through other seasons? Is the tempo faster through the cupcakes only to bog down in conference play?
Season     7 games in   Final Pace
2004-5        58.9         60.4
2005-6        60.0         58.7
2006-7        62.7         59.9
2007-8        60.4         62.2
2008-9        66.3         63.6
2009-10       68.2          ??
From those numbers, apparently not.

So what does this all mean?

From a statistical or prediction standpoint, nothing concrete at this point. But it is worth keeping your eye on. The team is certainly not the tortoises that they once were, even if they are painted that way by lazy print or TV analysts.

Will this pace hold in the high 60s for the rest of the year? Quite possibly.

If the offensive and defensive efficiency numbers hold steady, the difference between a 68 possession game and a 60 possession game is an extra 9 points on the offensive end to only 7 more allowed on the defensive side. Those are 2 points that might come in handy during a Big East slugfest.

If I had a press pass, I would certainly ask Coach Thompson if this was a conscious adaptation of the Princeton offense to the professional-caliber athletes at Georgetown. Whatever his response, the data suggest that his style is indeed evolving and that he is taking advantage of the athleticism on his roster.

And that’s an encouraging change of pace.

1 comment:

  1. Thanx, Saxamaphone, for contributing your time and effort to the blog. I look forward to reading your work as the season progresses.