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Just The Sports: 2007-04-08

Just The Sports

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Behind Afflalo For Once

When UCLA guard junior Arron Afflalo threw his name into the NBA draft hat last year, without signing with an agent thankfully, I cautioned him against making so foolish a move, citing the sour note with which he ended the 2005-06 season, especially in the two Final Four games of last year where he scored only nineteen points on twenty-one shots. Someone in Afflalo's camp must have e-mailed him an attachment called reality because he withdrew his name from the draft and went back to UCLA for his junior year. Now that he is declaring for the draft after this, his junior season, I am singing a different tune.

Afflalo's most recent collegiate season was a mixed bag as far as accomplishments go. If he came back to lead UCLA to a national championship, then he failed at that. If he gave college basketball another try in the hopes of raising his draft stock, then he also fell short in that endeavor. So then why am I not suggesting Afflalo try to improve in his senior season?

The simple answer is Afflalo will be unable to improve with another year. His junior season demonstrated that while he was able to largely maintain the 57.0 eFG% and 1.24 points per shot attempt of his sophomore season with a junior mark 55.6 eFG% and 1.19 points per shot attempt on 1.5 more shot attempts per game, he has quite simply hit his peak. No good will come out of finishing out his career at UCLA, basketball-wise. Armed with the knowledge he has nowhere to go but down, Afflalo made the right decision in trying his hand at carving out a successful NBA career.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What Was The Point?

Losing Marques Tuiasosopo to free agency should not provide the impetus for an NFL team to sign someone like Josh Booty, who has spent his life waffling between baseball and football, played two uninspiring years in college at LSU, been away from football since 2003, and never attempted a pass in the NFL. As comforting as it might be to have more than one quarterback on the active roster, the signing of Booty provides no positive benefit to the Oakland Raiders.

Outside of allowing Lane Kiffin to have at least one Booty (albeit the older, less capable brother) on the roster, Booty will perform no other action than to allow the Raiders to throw their money away. Despite his advanced age-at 31, Booty is seven years older than incumbent quarterback Andrew Walter-Booty will not be able to serve as any kind of quarterback mentor to the destined for mediocrity Walter, never mind performing well on the football field. Having completed a lower percentage of his pass attempts in college than Walter leaves Booty in the unenviable position of being a worse quarterback than an awful one. Indeed, unless the Raiders want Walter to earn a master's degree in throwing more interceptions than touchdowns, they would be well advised to ban any contact between Booty and Walter.

What makes the signing of Booty even more troubling is that it comes on the heels of several head-scratching, idiotic, and mind-numbingly bad quarterback decisions made by the Raiders. Not every NFL franchise will be able to have a couple of serviceable quarterbacks, but that is no reason for a team to go out of its way to sign inept ones, which is what the Raiders seem to be doing, perhaps for amusement's sake only.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Two Overlooked Coaches

Even though I do follow end of the year awards for sports, I never expect the sports media to get the winners correct, but despite my lowered expectations, I am still surprised at just how far away the voters come from selecting the most deserving candidates. Case in point is the AP voters who selected Tony Bennett as their coach of the year by an astonishing margin. I have already spoken about why Bennett had an easier job coaching Washington State than many would like to admit so I will not be focusing on that subject again. What I find exceedingly difficult to fathom is how the AP voters, if they and their award desire to taken seriously, made the decision to cast nary a vote for Mike Brey of Notre Dame or Tim Floyd of USC.

Last year, there were two schools of thought for why the Fighting Irish finished with only a 16-14 record. Either you thought the basketball team were notorious underachievers or you just felt they ran into a lot of bad luck by losing so many close games. The latter school is closer to the truth. Although Notre Dame outscored their opponents by 8.8 points per 100 posssessions, they only finished one game above .500 due to losing fourteen games by an average of 4.1 points per loss.

Notre Dame reversed that trend in a big way in 2006-07 by dramatically improving their defensive efficiency by forcing more turnovers, allowing 8.7 points per 100 possessions less than in 2005-06, while maintaining their offensive play. By playing better defense, Notre Dame avoiding leaving the outcomes of their games up to chance and instead dominated their competition, outscoring their opponents by 19.0 points per 100 possessions. The Irish accomplished this feat with a roster stability of only .73 (a loss of almost 1 1/2 position players from the previous season), although some might say getting rid of Chris Quinn was actually quite the boon. Yet, despite this turnaround, not one single vote for Brey. Go figure.

USC under Tim Floyd made even a more dramatic improvement from last season to the one that just ended while working with a team with a lowly roster stability of .59 (a loss of two position players from the previous season). Their largest increase in efficiency came on offense. Better field goal shooting aided the USC Trojans in jumping from an offensive efficiency of 100.4 to 106.2. Their defense also improved even if it was not up to a statistically significant level. When both seasons were said and done, the Trojans outscored their opponents by 1.3 points per 100 possessions in 2005-06 and then 9.7 points per 100 possessions in 2006-07, enough for the Trojans to go from a 17-13 record to a 25-12 one.

Taking everything into consideration, what these coaches did is even more impressive than what Washington State's Tony Bennett was able to accomplish as Brey and Floyd were able to oversee their teams' improvements with fewer advantages.