Monday, March 7, 2011


Cincinnati finished up the regular season by pounding Georgetown (for the second time this season) 69-47 on Saturday. The win brought Cincinnati’s record to 24-7, and 11-7 in the Big East (tied for sixth with West Virginia). Cincinnati is currently ranked 17th by Ken Pomeroy, fifth highest in the BE.

While the Bearcats non-conference schedule was very weak, their overall SOS was 64th (again, according to KenPom). Going 24-7 against the 64th ranked schedule in the country is certainly reason to be optimistic about where this team is right now, and where this program might be going in the future. Not a bad year.

Unlike the last couple of seasons, Cincinnati won’t have to sweat out selection Sunday, as they should be comfortably positioned regardless of the Big East tournament. As a little tribute to a tremendous season, here are Cincy’s best wins:

Opponent KenPom Rank Score
Seton Hall 56 70-53
Xavier 36 66-46
@St. Johns 31 53-51
Louisville 13 63-54
@Georgetown 28 58-46
@Marquette 34 67-60
Georgetown 28 69-47

I’m looking forward to post-season play!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Big win at St. Johns

Probably like you, I’ve been cautiously optimistic in following the Cincinnati Bearcats this year. Yes, they are 17-3, but their schedule hasn’t been great and, in past years, fast starts have culminated in ugly late-season performance. I do feel a little bit different about this team, though.

I mean, no, they aren’t a top ten team. They’ve shown so far that they aren’t quite good enough to beat the Syracuse’s, the Villanova’s, even the Notre Dame’s on the road. With that said, this Bearcats team has shown that they’re good enough to beat everyone they’re expected to beat (including the likes of Xavier, @St. Johns, Seton Hall, Dayton, @Oklahoma), which is no small feat.

St. Johns isn’t an elite team either, but winning in their building is still a quality road victory. The Red Storm have already beat Northwestern, Georgetown, and Notre Dame at home, not to mention West Virginia and Providence on the road.

Cincinnati seems to have some issues opening games (as well as after the halftime break), falling behind St. Johns early but taking a six point lead to the half, only to give it right back in the second half. It took a clutch three-point play from Yancy Gates to put the finishing touches on a narrow win.

The Cats won the game because they, like usual, played good, solid defense and outrebounded St. Johns. They got help on the line as well, as St. Johns shot a pathetic 12-26 on free throws. Outside of Gates, who had a nice second half after a non-existent first, Justin Jackson provided some quality play, scoring eight and grabbing six boards in 29 minutes.

Backup big man Anthony McClain also did good work (four points, six rebounds), though inexplicably (at least to me) got only eight minutes of court time. The Senior center has developed into a pretty solid player, and I think he deserves more minutes. He has good hands and passing ability underneath, and he plays solid defense and is a presence on the glass.

If anything, this is a very deep team. There are no superstars, no go-to guys (besides maybe Gates, at times), but on any night there are a number of players that can really contribute, and if guys like Jackson and McClain can pitch in solid minutes, that’s all the better.

Think about it, Cincinnati got little production from Dion Dixon, Ibrahima Thomas, and Sean Kilpatrick, all regular contributors, and Cashmere Wright had a season-high eight turnovers while Rashad Bishop went 2-11 from the floor, and they still got a nice road win. It’s fun to think about the possibilities if everyone is hitting on high cylinders.

Monday, December 20, 2010

We have a basketball team here

As usual, it’s taken me a little while to get into the college hoops season, especially with the way the last few years have concluded for the Cincinnati Bearcats. This year, I’ll admit, I was very skeptical after uninspiring wins against the likes of Mount St. Mary’s, IUPU Fort Wayne, and Savannah State. Since the early shakiness, however, Cincinnati has done all you can expect, absolutely destroying a decent Dayton team and now rolling over Oklahoma (sandwiched between routs of Wright State, Utah Valley, and Georgia Southern.

Admittedly, the strength of schedule has been laughably weak (even Dayton and Oklahoma, the two marquee wins, are no Goliaths), but Cincy has done just about all you can ask on the court. The offense still hasn’t been great, but the defense has been very strong. Regardless of the competition, you know you’re doing something right when you play ten straight games against D-1 competition winning by ten points or more in every one of them. edit: not sure what I was talking about here, there were a couple within ten.

The real challenge – the Big East conference schedule – is still to come, not to mention non-conference games against Miami of Ohio and Xavier. Still, UC has set themselves up nicely by taking care of business, and if they finish anywhere near Pomeroy’s projections (22-9, 10-8 BE) the NCAA tourney will, for once, be a lock. Games are played on the court, of course, but I have to say – hesitantly -- that I’m just a little bit excited to see how this one unfolds.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Replacement level in college basketball

In baseball, the concept of replacement level, popularized in the 1990s by the likes of Keith Woolner (now working for the Cleveland Indians), has developed into the standard way to evaluate players. Arguably, the main reason for using replacement level is to balance rate stats and counting stats, and to provide an accurate assessment of a player’s total marginal contribution to his team.

If you use average as the baseline to rate player performance, then it looks like an average player has no value. We know that an average player does, in fact, have value. A team of average players should win 50% of their games. What we really want to compare a player’s performance to is some baseline below average, preferably at the theoretical replacement level.

Though there is still much debate in the baseball analysis community over how to precisely define replacement level, the overall idea is relatively simple. Here’s a basic definition of replacement level, offered by Woolner (linked above):

Replacement level is the *expected* level of performance the average team can obtain if it needs to replace a starting player at minimal cost.

Here’s a basketball-specific example:

Player Points/game Games
Player A 20 25
Player B 15 40

Obviously, using points is simplistic, but the numbers are for illustration purposes only. So, which player is more valuable? Let’s assume a replacement level player scores 5 points a game. In a 40 game season, Player B, playing in every game, provided 15 points/per. However, player A only played in 25 games, so we have to add in 15 games of replacement level production (5 points/game). His new average is 14.4. Or we could say Player B is 400 points better than replacement level (a RL player would score 400 points less, in the same number of games) , and Player A is 375 points above replacement level. Same thing. So, these two players, with different levels of playing time and performance, are basically equal.

But how do we truly define replacement level in basketball? As we have discussed before, basketball analysis is not baseball analysis, for a variety of reasons (most notably, they are different sports!). And, more specifically, college basketball is not NBA basketball.

In the NBA, when a player goes down mid-season, the organization has many options on how to replace that player. They can elect to do it entirely with players already on the roster, simply changing playing time and/or positions around. Or they can go out and look at available free agents or players in the D-League. Trades are also a possibility. In college basketball, once the recruiting period is over and the season has begun, teams are essentially restricted to playing out the season with their roster.

So, we are left with (at least )two questions. How do we define replacement level in basketball? And, specifically to college hoops, how do we apply this concept? Should replacement level be the expected performance of the last player on the bench, or the best player on the campuses club team? These questions are not easy, but if we are able to define replacement level in college basketball, we can gain a better understanding of player value.

Spam – Not good in any form

I just noticed that the comments section of this blog has been flooded with spam. Nothing worse than poking around a blog, only to see it filled with spam.

I have now enabled comment moderation, which means I’ll have to moderate any comment before it appears on the site. This is not a big deal, as this blog has received a total of about five comments. Please, my fellow humans – no spam-bots allowed! – I encourage you to comment on any posts, whenever you have something to add. I have not been posting much recently, as you have probably noticed, but hopefully that will change.

Bearcat Blogger

Goodbye, Lance

It has been a while since I’ve written here – the spammers have let me know, flooding the comments section. It has also been a while since I’ve diligently followed the Bearcats, as my interests have given way to baseball, school, and other “priorities.”

Apparently, Lance Stephenson is not returning, as he will enter the NBA draft and has hired an agent. Stephenson had an interesting season with Cincinnati, at times dazzling with his superior athleticism and understanding of the game, while at other times playing a non-factor.

Overall, Stephenson averaged 12.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 28 minutes a game. He averaged 2.4 turnovers and one steal per game, while shooting .440 from the field, .664 from the line, and an ugly .219 from three (he shot 50% on 2pt FGs).

While Stephenson’s presence will undoubtedly be missed, note this nugget: His effectiveFG% of 46.2% was below the team average of 47.6% (neither figures particularly good, by the way), and Lance shot a team-leading 26% of the time while on the court. He is going to be missed, but his shoes are not impossible to fill.

Best of luck in the NBA, Lance.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Heartbreak city

I really don't know what to say after a loss like that.

I mean, there are a lot of things to be said -- some good, some bad -- but I don't think I could put them into comprehensible sentences right now.

I don't understand what Dion Dixon was doing, but I feel for the kid. Hopefully it's something he can build on positively, both in his basketball career and his life.

Yeah .... what a tough loss. It's amazing how quickly all of the hope and optimism -- for a huge win and a realistic shot at the NCAA tournament -- can go out the window in a matter of six seconds. What a helpless feeling it is to watch it unravel.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Stephenson staying?

I missed Bill Koch's piece from a few weeks ago, but in it Lance Stephenson says:

“I think I’m going to stay and keep working,” Stephenson said. “I don’t think I’ve had an NBA season this year so the best choice for me is to stay.”
In what has been another dismal finish to a season, finally some good news. Getting an extra year of Lance Stephenson is at least some consolation for what could be another lost season. Stephenson has shown flashes of brilliance to go along with plenty of freshman struggles. It's definitely fun to think about how good he might be this time next year, hopefully still here at Cincinnati.

On the year, he's averaged 12/5/2.4 in 28 minutes a game. He's shooting 44% from the field, but just under 20% on threes. His 98 Offensive Rating is fifth on the Bearcats.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cash money

Cashmere Wright scored a career-high 24 points (on 9-11 shooting) to spark Cincinnati to a 92-88 win over Providence on Saturday night. Wright also recorded five assists, no turnovers, three steals, and four rebounds.

Cincinnati's offense, in general, was tremendous all night, scoring 92 points in 79 possessions. They shot 57% from the field, and 44% (8-18) from three-point range. They did, however, struggle at the line again, with an embarrassing 20-41 performance that allowed Providence to make a game of it late.

Rashad Bishop went 3-3 from deep, scoring 16 points on nine shots. He also added six rebounds. Lance Stephenson quietly had a solid game with 12 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Deonta Vaughn scored just 12 points on eight shots, and went 5-10 at the line (where he had been shooting nearly 90% all year).

The Providence defense is 15th in the Big East, according to Pomeroy's ratings, so it is not surprising that Cincy had a great night offensively (though it's still very encouraging). Conversely, their offense is very talented, ranking 27th in the country. After making their first six three pointers, though, they went just 7-28 from beyond the arc the rest of the night.

What we saw on Saturday night was not a familiar sight : a fast-paced, high scoring game that Cincinnati clearly took control of. The defense was not up to par, but offensively they showed that they can win a shootout.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Can ya say offense?

Cincinnati rolled over South Florida earlier tonight, 78-70. Sure, they only won by eight points, but for the most part they controlled the game, maintaining a ~ten point advantage throughout the second half.

The offense finally came to life, as Cincy shot 56% overall and 36% from beyond the arc. They were led by the sharp shooting of Deonta Vaughn (20 points on 10 field goals), Rashad Bishop (15 pts/11 fgs), and Jaquon Parker (15 pts/8fgs). Those three also combined for 12 rebounds, 12 assists, and only 2 turnovers.

Yancy Gates played only 10 minutes due to foul trouble, but did score 8 points and grab 2 bounds. Lance Stephenson did not play because of a sore ankle.

The offensive efficiency is promising because South Florida is a pretty solid defense, 50th in the nation in Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency. Cincinnati shot the three ball relatively well in the first half, hitting 4 of 11 from long range, but what you have to like is that, despite that, they went inside in the second half. They shot 14-21 on two point point field goals in the second half, and only attempted 3 threes. They also got to the line 14 times (though only converted on 6 of those attempts).

Overall, it was nice to see some solid offensive play, mixing the occasional three point attempt with some easy buckets down low. The defense was not quite up to par, but tonight, for once, the offense picked up the slack.