Wednesday, January 30, 2008

UC takes on West Virginia, Huggins

Cincinnati looks solid early here -- West Virginia looks awful, at least offensively. Anyway, it's 29-21 with 2:32 to go in the first half. Really, it's frustrating to just have an 8 point lead as WV has shot just 24% and UC has hit 50% of their shots. It's the fouls -- some ticky take ones -- that are keeping WV in the game. The shots are going to start falling most likely, so Cincinnati has to keep it coming here ... but what an impressive start. I'll update this a few times ... if you happen to stop by, make a comment n the game if you'd like (it will appear instantly ; ).

UPDATE: 43-29 UC with 11:42 to play. Just unbelievable here. They were 13.5 point underdogs. We've just caught West Virginia on an off night shooting-wise (with some great defense) and played really well. Still, this is a critical point in the game. Don't want to get tentative and let them creep back in it. Go for the knockout right here.

UPDATE: Well, yeah, that's what I'm talking about! 7-0 run since I last posted like a minute ago.

UPDATE: Well, folks, that's a great win. But you don't need me to tell you that. I don't know how often a 13-14 point underdog beats a team by 23, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's pretty rare. I think it's getting pretty clear that this team is dangerous ... Marquette should be fun on Saturday.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cracking the top 25?

First a miniature rant. I'm not really sure what the point of the top 25 is in NCAA D1 basketball. I haven't paid attention to it for years. I mean, what is it, the aggregate opinion of a group of writers ... what's the point? When it comes down to tournament time, you're going to have to go past the top 25 anyway, so it doesn't really serve much of a purpose there. And why stop at 25? What's the difference between #25 and #26. I just don't see the point. I'm sure it's largely made to create excitement, but it just seems pointless to put too much stock into it.

Anyway, I read a post over at Bill Koch's blog on Cincy receiving a couple of votes for the top 25. Now, I don't care about "being ranked," but the natural question does come up: where should UC be ranked out of all 341 division 1 teams? Well, even if we wanted to use the writer's or coach's poll, we can't, as it doesn't cover every team. So, instead, we'll go to Pomeroy's ratings, RPI, and Jeff Sagarin's ratings.

Pomeroy: 105
RPI: 96
Sagarin: 109

Quickly average those and you get 103. So, by the numbers, UC is somewhere around the 100th best team in basketball. Or, at least, that's where they should be ranked based on their performance so far against their schedule. Anybody voting them up near 25 is either overestimating their early performance or great at identifying good basketball teams before they're good. That being said, Cincinnati has played extremely well of late and their recent play should probably be weighted more heavily. With a couple more big wins, they could definitely start to merit some consideration for that prestigious top 25. But I think that Bill (or anyone else) is pretty justified in his belief that they're not a "top 25 team" (not that anyone cares what i think).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Downing Pitt

I'm late with the recap for this one. Since I didn't see or hear it, I don't have much to add anyway. Glancing through the box score, it looks like UC made a conscious effort to dial in the 3's a little bit. They only shot 8 and saw their field foal percentage rise to almost 47% because of it. They shot a little better than Pittsburgh, they got to the line more (and converted at a higher rate), and they held their own on the glass. Basically, they played a little better game and ended up on top by 3. Another fantastic win over a very good team.

UCONN coming up next as it doesn't get any easier.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Taking on the Irish

Let's start with the obvious: this is a difficult game. Notre Dame has a .786 winning percentage under Mike Brey at home. They haven't lost as home since February 6, 2006. Pomeroy's model predicts a 77-60 ND win and only a 6% chance of a UC victory. He has Notre Dame as the 23 best team in the country and Cincinnati at 115.

Here's the scouting report on ND.

69 possessions per 40 minutes puts them at 134th in the country. They play slightly faster than average, but nothing too extreme. However, they're 26th in (adjusted) offensive efficiency and 37th on the defensive side. They're deadly from downtown with a 41% shooting percentage, but they don't take too many 3's. They're defense is, on the other hand, great at defending 2 point field goals (40% -- 9th in the nation), but much more susceptible from long range (35%). We'll see if Cincinnati looks to get up a lot of 3 pointers, as they have been recently.

Anyway, Harangody's the big threat inside (and he takes 35% of their shots). Ayers and McAlarney are the 3 point specialists. Kurz can also score it and Jackson, the point guard, has the 61st best assist rate in the country.

They're a tough team and we'll have our hands full ... but, with this team, you never know. Vaughn and Gentry need to be dialed in from deep. Let's go Cincinnati!

(as a side note, I'm not sure if this one's on espn2 or espnu yet ... hopefully it's on the deuce).

Monday, January 14, 2008

Vaughn vs. Logan, part 2

It's the latest buzz on the 'net. Deonta Vaughn is the next Steve Logan. Anytime you get to watch a guy like Logan for 4 years, you're going to be quick to anoint this guy or that guy as "the next Steve Logan." Who wouldn't want to see another one? Anyway, Bill Koch made a post about it last week and there's been some talk on the forums, as well. Let's take a look at some numbers and see how they compare.

It seems to me that the first thing we want to compare is Logan vs. Vaughn in their first two years. We can't compare Vaughn to the senior version of Steve Logan, because that just wouldn't be fair. The next problem that presents itself is that fact that Logan didn't play that much in his first two seasons, while Vaughn has been a starter who has racked up a ton of minutes. So we can't just compare raw numbers. Let's take it by the minute ...

Logan as freshman -- as sophomore
2 point fg: 53% -- 42%
3 point fg: 33% -- 42%
Points per 40 minutes: 16.6 -- 14.7
Shots per 40: 13.5 -- 10.9
Rebounds per 40: 2.9 -- 2.7
Assists per 40: 4.1 -- 5.3
Turnovers per 40: 2.3 -- 1.9
Steals per 40: .7 -- 1.1

Vaughn as freshman -- as sophomore
2 point fg: 47% -- 55%
3 point fg: 29% -- 42%
Points per 40: 17.6 -- 21
Shots per 40: 16.5 -- 14.5
Rebounds per 40: 4.2 -- 4
Assists per 40: 4.3 -- 5
Turnovers per 40: 3 -- 3.9
Steals per 40: 2.2 -- 1.1

For the sake of, um, clearity, I left plenty of things out (like free throws, free throw%, etc.). Click on their player cards and check out some other stuff, plus, I'll leave some stuff for another day. Anyway, through their first two years, let's try to make some general comparisons between Logan and Vaughn.

  • they are similar shooters both from 2 and 3
  • Vaughn's a better overall scorer
  • Vaughn is also a much larger part of his team's offense (at least shots-wise)
  • Vaughn's a better rebounder
  • Logan has (or had, whatever) better ball control
  • They are similar in assists
  • Vaughn's a litter better at creating steals

All in all, this seems to look very good for Deonta Vaughn. Over his first two years (or really, year and a half), he's been a comparable, if not better, player than Steve Logan was in his first two years.

The reason I stressed first two years and keep mentioning it is because Logan blossomed into one of the best players in the country over his last two years. You can't expect every above average sophomore to turn into Steve Logan as a senior. But after glancing at these admittedly quick-and-dirty numbers, there's certainly a chance that something like that happens and it wouldn't exactly be shocking if it did. Let's touch on a few other things.

These numbers, besides the fact that they are just numbers, don't account for a lot of things -- like, for instance, the pace of these teams, the teammates surrounding each player, the strength of opponents, the player's role, etc. They also don't account for scouting and/or things that aren't captured in the numbers. Leadership, defense, actual skills are a few examples. Like I said, it's just a quick look.

For Vaughn, sustaining this type of play isn't going to be easy. If he continues to play like this, opponents are going to start focusing on him more and more. Basically, it's tough to keep playing at an above average level and it's a credit to Logan that he was able to do so for so long. That said, if there's anyone that has reminded me of Logan since his departure, it's Vaughn. Be it size, stature, or numbers -- I can see a glimpse of Steve Logan when I watch Deonta Vaughn play, and that's why the comparisons seem so natural. Let me tell you, there isn't anyone who would want to see another Logan in Cincinnati more than me (well, I'm sure there are some people, like Mick for example). Steve Logan is still one of my favorite athletes ever. Who can forget going the length of the court against Memphis. Or the finish at the shoe against Marquette in his senior year ... beating Southern Missisippi by himself (literally). The guy is larger than life to me. And I didn't even really start following UC basketball until Logan's junior year.

Deonta Vaughn has a long way to go if he wants to fill Logan's shoes. But he's off to one hell of a start.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cincinnati 69, Villanova 66

Creative title, ey?

Another fantastic win. I don't have espnu, so I listened to this one on the radio (via the internet).

Vaughn was great again (more on that in another post soon). Williamson had a solid game, as usual. Bishop buried the huge 3 with 22 seconds to go. How about that recap ...

Couple of random things. I was watching the highlights on espn's Cincinnati site. I believe it was just a clip from the espnu post game show, but somehow they managed not to show the Bishop 3. I mean, if you're going to show anything, show Bishop's 3.

Also, let me try to understand what the analyst half of the announcing team was trying to say while I was listening on the radio(believe it or not, I don't even know his name). I think (but I could be wrong) that he said that he'd foul if Williamson made both free throws to make it a 4 point Cincy lead with 5.6 seconds to play. I haven't done or seen a comprehensive analysis, but that has to be the wrong play. Just let them dribble up the court and fire a 3 with no time remaining .... game over, even if it goes in. If you foul, you give them the slight chance of making the first, missing the second, and burying a 3 to tie. Maybe I heard him wrong.

Anyway, what a great win.

Strength of schedule

Bill Koch mentioned the Bearcats' tough schedule in a post today. He actually mentions how Mick talks about the non-conference schedule a lot. Let's go to Pomeroy's ratings.

He has Cincinnati's non-conference strength of schedule (NCSOS) at 55. Believe it or not, that's third in the Big East behind Syracuse (shocker, ey? ... they're at 25) and Depaul (35). The 55th hardest SOS may or may not initially be impressive, but when you compare it to the rest of the Big East teams, you see that a lot of them go with a really easy non-conference slate. West Virginia, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Villanova, and Notre Dame are all over 200 in NCSOS.

So, Mick is pretty spot on talking about his team's tough out of conference schedule. I mean, I know some people don't give a crap about strength of schedule and all of these different ratings, but I don't see how you can't at least acknowledge it in someway, especially if you accept the ratings.

Anyway, Cincinnati's overall SOS sits at 16 right now, and I'm guessing it's not going to go down much form here. This could be a big factor when selection day comes around ... of course, we've got a long way to go before really becoming a major player there.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Great win

It sounds like I've been saying this quite a bit of late ... but that had to be Cincinnati's best game of the year. At least it was right there with the Louisville win and maybe a couple of others. I was interested in how the pace of this one would go. If we use the formula for estimating possessions in a game we can figure that out.

Poss. = FGA-OR+TO+0.475xFTA

Cincy ...55-17+16+(.475*29) = 67.8

Cuse ... 54-11+13+(.475*24) = 67.4

So let's say 68 possessions. As I noted yesterday, Syracuse and Cincinnati were quite different in teams in terms of pace. Before tonight, Syracuse averaged about 75 possessions a game and Cincy 66. It looks like Cincinnati won the battle here, as the game was probably much slower than Syracuse wanted. This was probably largely due to the Bearcats getting that big lead and then being able to sit on the ball late.

Vaughn was the star again, scoring 29 points on 16 shots from the field. He also chipped in with 5 assists and 3 rebounds. Jamual Warren had a nice line: 5 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists. Won't get headlines, but that's a nice game (he also had 3 steals, a block, and just 2 turnovers). McClain had 7 points and 7 rebounds in just 23 minutes. I'm going to guess his minutes will keep going up.

Anyway, it was a great win all around. The real difference was Cincinnati's rebounding. They beat Syracuse on both sides of the ball:

Cincy: 17
Cuse: 11

Cincy: 21
Cuse: 18

Of course, there are still things to improve on. They had 16 turnovers, which is a bit high. 7-26 from 3 isn't going to get it done on most nights. A good Villanova team comes in on Saturday and Cincinnati looks for a 3-1 Big East start.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Shades of Steve Logan

Deonta Vaughn has 20 points on 10 1st half shots.

Cincinnati is dominating the glass with 22 rebounds (including 10 on the offensive side) to Syracuse's 10. The Bearcats have shot as ridiculous amount of 3's against the zone (6 for 18). Anyway, things couldn't be much better right now. I'll check back in when this one is over. Let's keep this up!


The odds makers have Syracuse as a 3 point favorite for tonight's game. Of course, with the game being in Cincinnati, that means the Orangemen are pretty clear favorites. Anyway, if you look at something like Ken Pomeroy's site, 3 points may be a little light. He has Syracuse ranked as the 33rd best team in the country. The Bearcats come in at 136. If you look at the link there, his model predicts a 81-71 'Cuse win and just an 18% chance of a UC victory. In fact, he only has Cincinnati winning 3 more times all year ... all in tight games. Obviously the Bearcats early performance is not one that is going to get a lot of support in a model that is based on early performance. That being said, it's still .... um ... early. Statistics are fun to look at, at least for me, but they're certainly not the end-all-be-all (especially at this point).

Anyway, take a look at the "scouting report" on Syracuse. I didn't even realize all of this stuff existed on Pomeroy's site (perhaps I shouldn't even update any stats -- they are all right there). The Orange are a fast based team, as they play at about 75 possessions per 40 minutes (12th in the country). If you look at the report, you can see that their offense has been borderline elite, while the defense is much more middle of the pack.

They basically start 5 guys and play them a whole bunch of minutes (all 5 over 30). I'm not sure about their depth, so maybe the key for Cincy will be to get them into foul trouble. It'll be interesting to see how this one plays out. Syracuse is a high paced, high scoring team. Cincinnati is a much slower paced team (66 poss. per game). We'll see if the Bearcats try to slow things down or if they try to keep up with Greene and company. Needless to say, this is a big game.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Cincy stuns Louisville

I'm not surprised by close Bearcat games anymore. It seems like every game -- whether it's Western Carolina at home or Louisville on the road -- is going to be close. They've done a fine job, if you want to call it that, of playing to the level of the competition so far.

So I'm not sure if I was really stunned by this outcome, but they were getting about 14 points. Pomeroy's ratings had Louisville at 27 and Cincinnati at 140. Add in the fact that the game was on the road, and I think it was quite a shocker.

Anyway, I got to see this one on espn and what a win it was. This definitely had to be one of their best performances of the year. Cincinnati held the Cardinals to 36% shooting from the field (including 3-23 from three point range). The Bearcats shot 47% and made 8 of 14 from shots from downtown. Vaughn is really having a nice year. He just doesn't seem to be forcing shots like I think he was at times last year. Here's how his scoring numbers compare to last year's:

2 point: 47%
3 point: 43%
Shots/game: 11.2
Points/game: 15.3

2 point: 47%
3 point: 29%
Shots/game: 13.6
Points/game: 14.5

The main difference is of course the huge improvement on three's. You can see that he's taking less shots and scoring more points per game this season. Of course, last season's numbers count a full slate of Big East games, while this year's are mostly non-conference. We'll have to see if Vaughn keeps up the improved play.

I don't know too much about either McClain or Hrycaniuk, but I feel a lot more comfortable with McClain out on the floor. He's much more of a presence on the defensive side of the ball and at least he can finish with a dunk offensively.

(checking the numbers) ... To my surprise, Adam H. has actually been pretty good offensively. I guess it just scares the hell out of me when the guy touches the ball.

Anyway ... great win. The team played good on both sides of the ball and beat a tough team on the road. What a way to start Big East play!