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Just The Sports: 2011-03-27

Just The Sports

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Virginia Commonwealth Has Had Easiest Road To The Final Four

Virginia Commonwealth's improbable run to the Final Four makes for a great story, but the Rams have benefited from having a lucky draw in the NCAA Tournament. Of the four teams remaining, Virginia Commonwealth has faced the least dominant competition.

Before facing the Rams and having their seasons ended, Virginia Commonwealth's four NCAA Tournament opponents combined to outscore their opposition by 14.0 points per 100 possessions, which is the smallest such winning margin of any of the Final Four's NCAA Tournament opponents.

Although Virginia Commonwealth's offense has had to play against the stingiest defenses based on the fact its opponents have held their opponents to only 95.9 points per 100 possessions, Virginia Commonwealth's defense has benefited by having to defend offenses who have scored just 109.9 points per 100 possessions. That offensive rating is the lowest of any of the Final Four's NCAA Tournament opponents.

As for the other teams left, Connecticut and Kentucky have faced almost equally dominant opponents in the NCAA Tournament. Connecticut's tournament foes outscored their opposition by 15.4 points per 100 possessions before Connecticut ended their seasons, and Kentucky's tournament opposition outscored their opponents by 15.3 points per 100 possessions before they played Kentucky and were subsequently sent home.

Unsurprisingly, based on the fact Butler had to play Old Dominion, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, and Florida to make it to the Final Four, the Bulldogs can boast that the road they traveled to make it to the Final Four was the most difficult, making it even more impressive that they made it to Houston. Butler's tournament opponents outscored their opponents by a combined 16.0 points per 100 possessions before they squared off against the Bulldogs.

Teams can only play the teams on their schedule, and Virginia Commonwealth does deserve credit for beating multiple opponents who had better seasons, but if they had had to face the other three teams' opponents, they might not have made it to the Final Four.

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Friday, April 01, 2011

Dwyane Wade Is More At Fault Than LeBron James and Chris Bosh When The Miami Heat Lose

When LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami to join the Heat, they probably never imagined Wade would let them do so thoroughly in the games the Heat lost. Yet, that is exactly what has happened in their 23 losses this season as Wade has been most at fault in those contests.

Wade has a well-earned reputation as a very effective all-around player, but you would not know it based on how he performs in losses in relation to how he has performed when the Heat have won.

There is no part of Wade's game that does not become drastically worse when the Heat lose and it starts with how poorly he shoots in those games. In relation to how he shoots in Heat victories, in losses, his effective field goal percentage experiences a 20.8 percent decrease (from 55.3 percent to 43.8 percent) and a 17.4 percent decrease in true shooting percentage (from 60.8 percent to 50.2 percent). Wade essentially goes from being a supremely effective scorer in wins to a mediocre one in Heat losses.

Wade also finds it difficult to maintain his level of proficiency when it comes to ballhandling. Compared to how he plays in victories, in defeats, Wade sees his assist percentage decrease by 6.7 percent (from 23.8 percent to 22.2 percent). That decrease can be understood as the whole Heat team shoots worse in defeats, but what cannot be understood is Wade's increased penchant for committing turnovers.

In defeats, Wade's turnover percentage increases dramatically by 43.9 percent (from 10.7 percent to 15.4 percent). By turning the ball over so much, he is keeping the offense from playing more efficiently.

Furthermore, in an effort to make sure he does not play well in any aspect, Wade also sees fit to become a much worse rebounder. When the Heat lose, Wade experiences a 38.1 percent decrease in offensive rebounding percentage (from 6.3 percent to 3.9 percent), a 14.1 percent decrease in defensive rebounding percentage (from 14.9 percent to 12.8 percent), and a 25.5 percent decrease in total rebounding percentage (from 11.0 percent to 8.2 percent).

Although Wade struggles the most to maintain his statistics in losses, Bosh and James are certainly not off the hook when it comes to playing poorly in defeats. They just do not play as poorly as Wade does compared to their performances in victories.

Bosh becomes a poorer shooter in defeats as he undergoes an 11.4 percent decrease in his effective field goal percentage (from 50.7 percent to 44.9 percent) and a 9.7 percent decrease in his true shooting percentage (from 57.9 percent to 52.3 percent).

He also has problems with maintaining his rebounding percentage statistics. His 3.0 percent increase in his defensive rebounding percentage (from 19.7 percent to 20.3 percent) is overshadowed by his 22.4 percent decrease in offensive rebounding percentage (from 6.7 percent to 5.2 percent) and a 9.4 percent decrease in total rebounding percentage (from 13.8 percent to 12.5 percent).

However, it is not all bad for Bosh in losses as he takes better care of the ball in Heat defeats. His assist percentage decreases by 2.2 percent (from 9.1 percent to 8.9 percent), but the 16.0 percent decrease he has in his turnover percentage (from 10.0 percent to 8.4 percent) more than makes up for that.

In the case of James, the only thing that truly lets him down in Heat losses is his shooting touch. James undergoes an 11.4 percent decrease in his effective field goal percentage (from 56.3 percent to 49.9 percent) and a 9.1 percent decrease in his true shooting percentage (from 61.3 percent to 55.7 percent).

Yet, in other aspects of the game, James actually gets better when the Heat lose, demonstrating what a talented all-around player he truly is. Compared to how he plays in wins, in defeats, James experiences a 3.5 percent increase in assist percentage (from 34.0 percent to 35.2 percent) and a 1.4 percent decrease in turnover percentage (from 13.9 percent to 13.7 percent) so he becomes a better ballhandler.

Additionally, he still crashes the boards amazingly well. Even with a 6.1 percent decrease in his offensive rebounding percentage (from 3.3 percent to 3.1 percent), James still gets 1.8 percent better in total rebounding percentage (11.4 percent to 11.6 percent) thanks to an amazing 13.3 percent increase in defensive rebounding percentage (from 18.1 percent to 20.5 percent).

Even when he is not shooting well, James is still able to make up for that deficiency in other ways.

When it comes to losses, the Miami Heat could be considered Wade's team because, out of Miami's Big Three, it is how he performs that really determines whether or not the Heat win.

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Derrick Rose's Poor Shooting Has Been Saved By Free Throws

This season, much was made of the work Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose put in over the offseason in an effort to improve his jump shooting. Supposedly, his attempt to improve his perimeter game would make him an even more dangerous shooting threat and a more efficient scorer. Instead, all it has seemed to do is lull him into a false sense of confidence and convince him that he is a better shooter than he really is.

If Rose's offseason work had really made a difference in his shooting this year, then we could expect to see an improvement in his effective field goal percentage. The reality is that this season Rose is posting the lowest effective field goal percentage of his three-year career. His .478 effective field goal percentage trails both his rookie .482 effective field goal percentage and last year's .495 effective field goal percentage.

Yet, despite shooting as poorly from the field as he ever has, Rose still has a 54.1 true shooting percentage, which is the highest true shooting percentage he has ever managed. The fact Rose has still managed to post a career-best true shooting percentage has everything to do with his trips to the free throw line, which is the aspect of Rose's game for which he should receive some of the highest praise.

A quick way to judge just how proficient a player is at both getting to the free throw line and converting his free throws once he gets there is to subtract a player's effective field goal percentage from his true shooting percentage. The higher a player's difference, the better he is at converting free throws to get easy points, and Rose's .063 difference is a career-high.

That difference is a direct result of the fact Rose has spent this season taking one free throw for every three field goal attempts. In his two previous seasons combined, Rose took 4.4 field goal attempts for every free throw he shot.

Not only is Rose getting to the line more frequently, but he is also converting his free throws at a higher rate. His .855 free throw percentage is superior to the .776 free throw percentage of his two previous seasons combined.

All praise that might be heaped upon Rose for the work he put into his perimeter shooting should instead be heaped upon him for his improved ability in scoring points from the free throw line. It has been the free throw line and not his jump shot that has resulted in Rose being a more efficient scorer.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Oliver Purnell Will Turn DePaul Basketball Into A Winning Program

DePaul basketball fans should be comforted by the fact that this season where the Blue Demons only won seven games while losing 24 and were outscored by 12.9 points per 100 possessions will be the worst season the program has while Oliver Purnell is the head coach. Based on what took place at each of his three previous coaching stops, there are only brighter days ahead for DePaul basketball.

It was at Old Dominion, a program Purnell took over in the 1991-92 season, where he first displayed the trend that continues to this day. In his first year as head coach, Purnell led his team to a .500 record of 15 victories and 15 defeats. Purnell then followed that up by coaching his 1992-93 squad to a 21-8 record and his 1993-94 team to a record of 21-10.

Leaving Old Dominion, Purnell took his coaching acumen to Dayton where his team posted a record of only 7-20 in his first season. Never again did the Dayton Flyers have a season where they played as poorly as they did in 1994-95.

After the nine seasons Purnell spent turning Dayton into a consistently winning program to the point where the Flyers went 24-6 in his final season as their coach, Clemson received the benefits of having Purnell roaming the sidelines.

In what has become his modus operandi, Purnell's Clemson squad struggled in his first season, only winning 10 games and losing 18 games. For no other season did Clemson have a record with a winning percentage under .500.

With that sort of coaching track record in turning around previously mediocre programs into winning ones, it is no great leap to expect that Purnell will be able to do the same thing with the DePaul Blue Demons. Of course, it is worth nothing that all the wins Purnell leads DePaul to will not result in any NCAA Tournament success. None of Purnell's teams have ever gotten past the first round of the tournament.

Even with his multiple tournament failures providing the only blemish to his coaching résumé, DePaul certainly hired the right man for the job, and hopefully, DePaul's opponents enjoyed the dominance they had over the Blue Demons this season because it will not be that easy to beat them again while Purnell is their head coach.

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