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yoco :: College Basketball
(a sports weblog) news and commentary on men's college basketball and the ncaa tournament

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Friday, January 14, 2005

the excerpt edition

-- According to the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, college basketball is more popular than ever. (Tell me something I didn't know). I don't have an "SI Exclusive" membership, but Blogger Chas of Pitt Sports Blather was kind enough to post an excerpt on his site. Enjoy!

Television has certainly noticed the difference. At a time when the Nielsens for many major sports are declining or flat, college hoops ratings are up 12% on CBS (compared with this time last season), 10% on ESPN and 25% on ESPN2. "In our world double-digit growth is more than significant. That's a major change from one season to the next," says Burke Magnus, who has coordinated ESPN's college basketball programming for the past five years. The ratings are up despite a proliferation of games: The ESPN family plans to televise 303 men's games this season, including 18 that have been added on Wednesday nights in place of locked-out NHL games. And that doesn't take into account the 510 additional games available on ESPN's Full Court satellite and digital-cable packages for the most addled of hoopheads.

Meanwhile, thanks to prodding from the TV networks and the NCAA tournament committee's increased focus on strength of schedule, coaches now have more incentive than ever to arrange the kind of marquee intersectional matchups that fans want to see. Back in the 1980s John Thompson's Georgetown teams would load up on cupcakes like St. Leo and Hawaii-Hilo. Now even notorious Syracuse fraidy cat Jim Boeheim is willing to take on Oklahoma State and risk an early-season loss. (The Orange fell to the Cowboys 74-60 on Dec. 7.) "I'm finding more teams are willing to play anybody," says Mike Aresco, the senior vice president for programming at CBS Sports. "We've never had so many good nonconference games, like Kansas-Kentucky and Connecticut-North Carolina [on Feb. 13], scheduled in January and February."

Three of the most electrifying games this season have been No. 16 Gonzaga's takedowns of No. 8 Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State and No. 14 Washington, prime contenders, respectively, for the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-10 titles. Such matchups might not have happened in years past. "As a coach you control a certain number of games, so you'd better do something to show you'll schedule the way the committee wants," says Zags coach Mark Few. "In the end you'll be rewarded, either by getting into the tournament or drawing a high seed." Even better, the tournament committee's recent changes to the Ratings Percentage Index -- which will reward teams more for road wins than for home wins -- should only increase the willingness of powerhouses to venture into the lairs of other heavyweights, as Georgia Tech did on New Year's Day when it dropped a 70-68 overtime thriller at Kansas.

-- Blogger Ryan of Hawkeye Hoops is some sort of mathametics whiz. After he ran a few computations, the blogosphere's premier statistician suggested Ryan's numbers were "the most accurate thing out there for assessing individual offensive performance." (You must-)Read about Ryan's calculations here. On this blog, I'll cut to the chase, his results. But first, the necessary explanation/excerpt.

The numbers I'm going to use are floor percentage and offensive rating.

Both numbers use individual possessions in their calculation. Individual possessions occur when a player has a scoring possession (see below), misses a field goal or free throw that the defense rebounds, or commits a turnover.

Floor percentage measures the percent of a player's or team's possessions that end in a scoring possession. A team scoring possession is a possession in which the team scores at least one point; individuals have scoring possessions when they contribute to a team scoring possession, by making a field goal, assisting on it, getting the offensive rebound that leads to it, or by making free throws.

Offensive rating is a ratio of a player's points produced to his individual possessions. Points produced is a number [author Dean] Oliver created that gives players credit for contributing to the offense through assists, field goals, free throws, and offensive rebounds.

Floor Leaders
NameSchoolFloor%O Rating%Poss
Chris PaulWake Forest.55013722.1
Nate RobinsonWashington.57414022.0
Jarrett JackGeorgia Tech.51012921.3
Raymond FeltonNorth Carolina.49312321.1
John LucasOklahoma State.56214621.8
Jeff HornerIowa.50813120.2

Shooters
NameSchoolFloor%O Rating%Poss
J.J. RedickDuke.52114024.9
Travis DienerMarquette.57915929.9
Ben JacobsonNorthern Iowa.52813124.4
Gerry McNamaraSyracuse.47812923.8
Adam HaluskaIowa.54513817.7

Slashers
NameSchoolFloor%O Rating%Poss
Julius HodgeNorth Carolina State.59712830.1
Francisco GarciaLouisville.51913024.6
Rashad McCantsNorth Carolina.52413223.3
Keith LangfordKansas.52411924.4
Pierre PierceIowa.46410331.3

Inside-Out
NameSchoolFloor%O Rating%Poss
Hakim WarrickSyracuse.57112225.7
Ike DioguArizona State.61813727.8
Joey GrahamOklahoma State.55812528.0
Paul DavisMichigan State.57612325.3
Taylor CoppenrathVermont.62113332.4

Post Men
NameSchoolFloor%O Rating%Poss
Shelden WilliamsDuke.55911522.0
Eric WilliamsWake Forest.60712523.9
Sean MayNorth Carolina.61012828.2
Luke SchenscherGeorgia Tech.55511719.7
Ronny TuriafGonzaga.57512327.1

-- Charlie Villanueva is finally playing passionate basketball, or so says the Manchester Journal Inquirer's Phil Chardis. Now if only he could help the Huskies win a few games.

There's little question that Villanueva wants to play. His performance against Oklahoma's formidable front line made that obvious. "Charlie was battling," guard Marcus Williams said. "I've never seen Charlie battle like that."

Villanueva, averaging 15.7 points and 9.8 rebounds over UConn's last six games, really had two of his head coaches watching him at the Lloyd Noble Center, since Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson was Villanueva's coach last summer on the gold medal-winning U.S. team at the World Championships for Young Men. He saw an improved Villanueva Monday night.

"Charlie is getting it now," Sampson said. "If I'm Jim Calhoun, I'm leaving here feeling good because of him. I coached him this summer and his deal was always going to be just the decision he has to make to be great. To come in here and get 14 rebounds? That team has a chance to win the Big East and Charlie will be a big reason why. I told him I was really proud of him. I think he's going to have a great year."

Calhoun thinks the dramatic change in Villanueva's play actually began when he played only 13 minutes against UMass in a game when UConn really needed him.
"Charlie really thought I was kidding," Calhoun said. "He thought that Emeka was gone and that I had no choice. He really didn't know me that well, and that if he didn't start playing some defense and start competing the way he's capable of, then he would be playing 10 minutes a game. I don't care who he was.

"He found out I was for real. He came into the office (after the UMass game) and he expected me to say I'm sorry, and I said, 'Next game it'll be 10 minutes. You can go anywhere you want. You can go to the NBA. I know you're supposed to be a really great player, but once I get you here, I don't know anything about your reputation - and to me you don't look like a terrific player. I think you're tremendously overrated.' I said, 'Unless you understand that I really mean a) you're not going to play for us unless you play a particular way, then b) you're not going anyplace. Yakima is not a great place for a professional career.'"