Friday, December 30, 2011

A Comparison

Color me optimistic this morning.  I'm pretty sure the source is simply halo from the Louisville win and general guilt from having let Brian carry this blog for the past two months, but either way, it occurred to me that this team is kinda, sorta, in that-wow-we-might-be-really-good way similar to the last Hoya Big East regular season champs.

This website keeps non-conference stats, and 2011-12 has all of one conference game played, so non-conference stats are what I'm going to use to compare.  I won't be ignoring the important (read: conference) games in the commentary, but the stats listed will all be non-conference.

The Center of Attention.
Stat           Hibbert [Sr]       Sims [Sr]
Poss%             26                 29  
ORating          122                118
OReb%             14                  9
DReb%             17                 18
ARate             15                 31
TORate            14                 18
Goofiness          8                 10
Block %           10                  8
Team Def Rating   88                 86
Indiv D Rating    89                 84
Monster Points     1                  0

I know. I'm as surprised as you. They have different strengths and weaknesses, but offensively, they have been similarly effective. We know that Roy's performance translated well to conference play -- his low post moves did not lose effectiveness, but we did see his offensive rebounding decline and turnovers increase as he became the focus of better defenses.

That's a concern for Sims; similar slides in either or more games where his shot is rolling out, and his effectiveness will start to rely almost entirely on his passing. And we know from experience the backdoors are severely cut down in conference play.

It is interesting to note that this year's Hoyas are statistically superior to the '07-08 Hoyas in non-conference defense. Some of that is opponent, but it's a nice sign for this year's Hoyas and Sims in particular.  

Verdict: Sims isn't having a Ya-Ya year; he's having what we'll call a Sims year in the future. Ya-Ya went from nothing to decent; Sims is well beyond that. But Roy was still better, though possibly by not as much as I thought.

the rest of the breakdown after the jump

The Veteran Two Guard.

In some ways, it would be Jessie's senior year that would compare best to the situation Jason Clark is in now. Though starters for part or much of their career (and always playing significant minutes), both were overshadowed in media attention and in on-court focus by the stars of the class just ahead of them.

For Jessie, it was mostly the forwards -- Roy and Jeff would become quality NBA players. But also from a team leadership standpoint, Jon Wallace and Pat Ewing were always there to play that role.

For Jason Clark, it was coming in behind All-Americans Austin Freeman and Chris Wright at his position (not to mention Greg Monroe in his own class). For both of them, senior year would be the time when they would both have the opportunity and the requirement to shine.

Alas for neat, tidy comparisons, 2007-08 was not Jessie's senior year. Good news is, Jessie's junior year was very good.
Stat              Sapp [Jr]          Clark [Sr]
Poss%                26                  25                  
ORating             107                 113
3Pt%                 43                  39
ARate                30                   9
TORate               27                  20
Indiv DRating        86                  84
Onions        Just about the biggest      2, presumably
              pair you've ever seen

Any else remember Sapp tearing up the pre-season with a massive number of assists and turnovers? Me neither. It's important to note that he dropped the assist rate to 22 in conference play while the turnovers dropped less, to 24.

Clark isn't much creating for others at the moment, and he's still a bit more turnover prone than almost anyone else on the team (the Louisville game won't help that). He's improved his handle to be as good as Jessie and I think he's actually been a bit more aggressive driving to the hoop.

All in all, though, I think this comparison will come down to whether Clark can continue to hit threes around 40% (he's streaky, and in the "long periods of time" kind of streaky, so who knows). I don't know that we can expect him to hit the number of big shots Jessie did, but he can certainly be as effective overall.

Verdict: Push.

The Wing Shooter.

Hollis Thompson and DaJuan Summers are both tall forwards who are at their best shooting from the outside. They both had to play quite a bit of power forward despite personal predisposition to a more perimeter role. (I say personal because DaJuan was not undersized in any way to play a college power forward role.) Both rebounded solidly despite fan protestations that they didn't (until DaJuan's senior year) and both began to develop a dribble drive game. Neither developed the post up game that would have made them a much stronger college player and neither is much for creating for others. Both have strong defensive potential, though Summers always played as a bit of a tweener whereas Hollis, skinnier and quicker, plays more to a position defensively.

But they could both shoot. And that's their primary role on the team: finisher, primarily from three.

Stat               Summers [So]         Thompson [Jr]
Poss%                  23                   20
ORating               120                  132
3Pt%                   40                   45
TORate                 16                   12
DReb%                  21                   18
Indiv DRating          85                   88

Hollis is a better pure shooter than Summers, turns the ball over less and from observation, seems to finish better on drives. He's less versatile, but the need for him to play PF has been lessened because of team depth -- which means this strength of Summers versus Thompson is not all that relevant to a discussion of the relative value of each team.

By playing the three, Thompson's rebounding becomes even more valuable (compared to say, Austin Freeman at 10% DReb % last year) and he doesn't have to worry about getting out-muscled as much. Summers played very well as a four his sophomore year; if Hollis had to do so, this verdict here may be different.

Verdict: Hollis, and clearly so. He's a better offensive player than sophomore Summers and probably compares quite nicely on D as a 3 versus Summers as a 4.

The Point Guard.

This comparison came up on Hoyatalk earlier this year, and at the time, it came up as a contrast of styles. A few games later and that seems irrelevant.

(Also: this writer claimed Markel would never shoot like Jon Wallace, which just seems stupid now. In my defense, Markel, from a career perspective, had a big gap to make up for his comparatively awful shooting freshman year... and no...there's plenty of time for Markel to nail a billion threes at 45%+).

Anyway, personal ridiculous comments aside, Jon Wallace and Markel Starks don't seem so different, anymore. Markel's clearly quicker and has a better handle. Wallace still has an edge on shooting and decision-making and that whole leadership and ice-in-his-veins thing, but more because he was so good at those things rather than Markel not exhibiting them at all.

When our Bay Area crew went to the Charleston Classic last year, we saw that Markel takes a leadership role on the bench and on the floor. We saw that it takes a lot to get him flustered. And in the last few games, we've seen that pretty shot begin to drop.
Stats             Wallace [Sr]          Starks [So]
Poss%                  21                   17
ORating               128                  118
3PT%                   48                   41
ARate                  21                   12
TORate                 16                   19
Indiv D Rating         92                   93
Cold-Blooded?           Y                    ?

A senior Jon Wallace comes out ahead, perhaps unsurprisingly. If we were counting Louisville, Starks would look a bit better, but still be a tad behind in three point shooting (48 to 47%), and 8 ticks behind in O Rating.

The shocking gap is in the turnovers and assists. For all the commentary about how Wallace couldn't create, his assist rates are pretty typical for a Hoya point under JTIII. Chris Wright's were higher, but Wallace's are not low. Starks' are low. With how Sims has played that hasn't been an issue, but if the typical Princeton baskets start to dry up it could become one.

Even more interesting is that despite Starks having a better handle, it's not reflected in a lower turnover rate. No Hoya lead guard has ever really been able to keep the turnovers down, but Wallace was really no different in results than Chris Wright or Sapp or Starks in this area. Chris Wright created more offense than Wallace, but Starks is playing much more like Wallace than Wright -- and yet those turnovers are not low. If he can get them down, he'll gain an edge on Wallace in that area, but for now it's a qualitative advantage that isn't showing up in results.

On defense, Wallace is tough to judge. As a younger player, he was much maligned, but by senior year he was a smart defender who used Hibbert well behind him. Starks is naturally quicker but its worth noting (if not relying on) that his individual D rating is one of the worst on the current Hoyas squad.

Verdict: Wallace, and it's further off than I expected at the moment. If this shooting spree is less a hot streak than an improvement, then it may get closer this year.

The All Purpose Starter and Super Sub.

Both Otto Porter and Pat Ewing, Jr. are athletic, 6'8" players who have a habit of doing lots of little things on the basketball court. Ewing began this season as a starter, then ceded his role to a freshman Austin Freeman to come off the bench. Otto Porter began as a reserve and he's a starter already in quality if not in actuality. Both bring energy and a hardhat attitude off the bench. The similarities begin to end there. Ewing is more athletic and outgoing; Porter seems more reserved and skilled.

Stat             Ewing [Sr]            Porter [Fr]
Poss%                17                    16
ORating             115                   124
TORate               21                    11
OReb%                 8                     7
DReb%                10                    19
Block %               3                     4
Steal %               2                     3
Indiv D Rating       90                    83

It's pretty clear, isn't it? Ewing probably has an edge in defense despite the stats -- he was an extraordinarily versatile and solid positional defender. But freshman Porter has such an edge offensively over fifth year senior Ewing in shooting, holding onto the ball, rebounding, ballhandling and even the flashier defensive stats that despite the easier competition...

Verdict: Clearly Otto.

The "Backup" Sophomore Center?

Both squads had a big man playing somewhere around 40-50% of minutes. Both players primary role was to back up the center, as the Super Sub ended up playing a lot of the PF minutes. Where Nate Lubick's role seems to be going and where Vernon Macklin's role were are the same place.

To be sure, the players are nothing like each other. Nate may be struggling with confidence in his shot, but it's still better than Mack's. And Nate's passing skills and well, every basketball skill, are much more advanced than Macklin's at the same stage.

But while Nate isn't a bad athlete, Macklin was a much better one. He wasn't quite the freak people claimed, but he was quick for a big man and would eventually develop into a strong defender.

Stat            Macklin [So]         Lubick [So]
Poss%                13                  16
ORating             115                 110
TORate               12                  19
ARate                11                  20
FT%                  16                  53
OReb%                 7                  11
DReb%                11                  19
Block %               5                   2
Indiv D Rating       94                  86
Mystifyingly Ugly
Plays             Every FT               17

Some of it is what you'd expect. Macklin actually had a more efficient offensive rating by dunking as much as he could and not turning the ball over. Lubick actually plays the center role more like Sims -- the result is more creation, more turnovers and more missed shots, though. If he can get confidence back in his shot, is there any doubt that Nate will be a superior offensive player to Vernon Macklin?

One might have expected Macklin to at least be a better offensive rebounder, but Nate's clearly better than that across the board. It's almost shocking. He's not the shotblocker Macklin was, but Macklin wasn't spectacular there, either.

Verdict: Mack was the better defender, but given that I think Lubick recovers a bit, this one goes to Lubick by a bit. I know, I can hear the outcry, but don't you folks remember Macklin shooting FTs?

The Defensive Specialist.

Jeremiah Rivers came with good size for a guard, good footwork, quick feet, probably the best handle on the team and a broken shot. Greg Whittington comes with good size for a small forward and great size for a guard, natural athleticism, a shot that looks nicer but still doesn't fall and a tendency to turn the ball over.

The result is the same: a defender who can shut down Johnny Flynn or Kyle Kuric but has their minutes limited by less than effective offense.

Stat                 Rivers [So]        Whittington [Fr]
Poss%                    11                   14
ORating                 118                   85
eFG%                     53                   41
TORate                   17                   25
ARate                    13                    6
Block %                   1                    3
Steal %                   3                    3
Indiv D Rating           91                   88
Starting with where both players are strong, right now the edge between the two is largely determined by the player you'd want to shut down. Whittington couldn't shut down a top tier PG -- he doesn't have the experience to play off his properly and use his length to compensate for a quickness disadvantage. On the other hand, Rivers wouldn't have bothered the taller Kyle Kuric nearly as much as Greg did. Rivers is the better defender for this comparison, but Whittington's defensive potential is through the roof.

Offensively, the numbers above simply lie. Rivers' offense had a nice little renaissance here but he was not nearly as effective in conference play. His shot was simply broken and needed an incredible amount of work. Whittington's just doesn't go in. Rivers followed the career path of never really improving his weaknesses; that's the downside to Whittington, isn't it?

However, for now, it's somewhat of a wash for me. The turnover difference is very real, and I'm not going to assume a large amount of in-season improvement for Greg, even though it could occur.

Verdict: Push.

The Freshman Guard, or where this comparison finally begins to break down...

So um, Austin Freeman was a freshman, and Jabril Trawick was a freshman, and they both are bigger guards and solidly built and the fans seem to like them and... yeah, I've really got nothing.

Austin was an efficient offensive beast as a freshman and forced himself into the starting lineup (in this way, perhaps he is more comparable to Otto Porter). Jabril isn't nearly as good a shooter or scorer but brings a defensive intensity Austin didn't.

Stat                Freeman [Fr]        Trawick [Fr]
Min%                     53                  33
Poss%                    19                  12
ORating%                130                 123
eFG%                     69                  52
TORate                   18                  10
ARate                    13                   8
Block %                   0                   2
Steal %                   2                   3
Indiv D Rating           91                  86
Upbringing?         DeMatha        Apparently, the streets of Mogadishu, 
                                      to hear announcers tell

Freeman's a player who immediately took a fair share of possessions and shots and converted them at a stunning level of efficiency. Trawick's a guy who understands his role and doesn't make mistakes. The latter is not to be scoffed at -- too many players over-assert themselves and cost their team's points. Trawick doesn't turn the ball over and does a good job of getting to the line. But offensively, he's nowhere as valuable as Austin was.

Trawick is a better defender, and that makes up for it some. But less minutes and a substantial deficit in offensive skill makes this...

Verdict: A strong win for Austin.

The Others.

The 2007-08 Hoyas had both a smattering of minutes from Tyler Crawford and some very nice pre-conference minutes from Chris Wright. Of course, Chris Wright went down with an injury, so a nice promising start from Mikael Hopkins and any possible minutes from Tyler Adams give the 2011-12 Hoyas more depth.

The Verdict: Mikael and Tyler A.

The Big East winning 2007-08 squad took three of our matchups -- center, point guard and Austin. The current incarnation snagged our leads with Otto Porter, Hollis Thompson and two less important wins in Nate and the last part of the bench.

It's actually somewhat amazing how similar some of the players are in many ways. It's not surprising from one point of view; the offense and defenses are similar, the coaching staff is the same. On the other hand, the roster matches up very well in skills, ability level and role through almost every player. It's close across the board.

But Hibbert's clearly the X-Factor here. If I had to pick one clear reason why I think 2007-08 will end up being a bit better in conference play, it's him. But if Markel can continue to shoot like this; if Jason Clark gets hot; if Sims holds up better in conference play than I expect; if Lubick recovers or Hopkins steps up, the story at then end of the year might be different.


  1. Fun analysis/trip down memory lane. And yes, I do remember Macklin's free throws - sadly. Need some mental bleach for that.

  2. Thanks, for reading, Phil. And thanks to Brian for doing his usual cleanup.

  3. Thanks, Alan and Brian. Absolutely LOVE this blog. My first read the day after every game.

  4. Individual defensive rating for OOC games now included.

    It's funny, 'cause the 2008 team was easily Thompson's best defensive team [$], but right now this year's team rates better in most head-to-head matchups.

    The 2008 team didn't miss a beat defensively once conference play started - will be interesting to see if this year's model can repeat that trick.