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Friday, December 21, 2007

Excellent Preview/Analysis of Memphis v. Georgetown

(On a oversight on my part, I failed to provide a source for the following analysis, that I felt was excellent. I believe it was found on the Hoyatalk forum and was written by CO_Hoya, editor)

Thursday, December 20, 2007
Preview - Memphis Tigers

Borrowing a page from VBTN, I thought I'd put together a preview for Saturday's big game between Georgetown and the Memphis Tigers in the Fedex Forum (12:00 noon EST, TV: ESPN). I have a UNC/Rutgers game report from Ray Floriani way overdue in my inbox, hope to have it posted tomorrow.

While Saturday's game will likely be the highest ranked OOC matchup for the basketball season, the hype outside of Memphis and Washington has been surprisingly subdued, likely due to the timing (a noon game the weekend before Christmas).

Preseason Rumpus

Memphis was the pre-season #3 ranked team by both the coaches and writers, and moved to their current #2 rank the first week of December after UCLA's loss to Texas. In's season preview (Memphis #2), Joel Wesler argues that Memphis has 6 players who could make a legitimate argument for starting at the 1-3 positions (he has Dozier and Dorsey as locks at 4-5). Basketball Prospectus notes that the Tigers returning players used 83.4% minutes on last year's Elite 8 team. John Gasaway focuses on Memphis undeniable strength:

The Tigers are sometimes regarded as an unstoppable team loaded with NBA-level talent, one that can score virtually at will. That characterization isn’t entirely off the mark, yet like Kansas, the real story with this loaded team is its defense. It’s excellent . . .

Memphis simply shuts down the perimeter completely. It defends from the outside in and does so beautifully. The Tigers make you turn the ball over and, on those relatively infrequent possessions when you don’t, they make you miss your shot, whether it’s from outside or in close.

Meet the Tigers

The aforementioned 6-man wrecking crew in the backcourt is lead by deservedly-hyped freshman Derrick Rose (6' 4") and returning junior Chris Douglas-Roberts [d/b/a CDR] (6' 6"), who each use more than 25% of Tiger possessions when on the court - 9th man sophomore Doneal Mack (6' 5") is the only other Memphis player who uses more than 20%. Mack was tabbed pre-season to take up the outside shooting slack left by the Jeremy Hunt (38% on 3FG last year), but CDR and sophomore Willie Kemp (6' 2") are doing the best job currently, both at 45% on 3FG. Nominal point guard Andre Allen (5' 10") and defensive specialist Antonio Anderson (6' 6") round out the back court.

Last year, Memphis had primarily a 2-man front court, with senior Joey Dorsey (6' 9") as the quintessential undersized college center scoring primarily off of offensive rebounds, and junior Robert Dozier (6' 9") as Mr. Versatile. This year, the Tigers have added Iowa State transfer Shawn Taggart (6' 10"), a very selective and efficient shooter and reliable rebounder.

When Memphis has the Ball

To be clear, Memphis is a competent, but not strong, offensive team so far this season (Adj. OEff = 106.8, [91/341]). While at first glance the Tigers' offensive may look "playground," they are actually running a structured system known as AASAA (= "Attack, Attack, Skip, Attack, Attack), as devised by Pepperdine's Vance Walberg and adopted by John Calapari (and renamed the "Dribble Drive Motion" offense). I make no claim to understand the "Princeton Offense on Steroids" scheme, but the basic concept is to have a wing/guard drive the ball towards the basket, and kick to an open 3-pt shooter if the defense collapses or continue to the hoop if possible.

The team is great on 2-pt shooting, thanks in no small part to Joey Dorsey's 21-23 (91%) on 2FGA, but not very good from the outside (33.5% 3FG [217/341]). Since the offense is predicated, in part, on making those outside shots, it is understandable that the offensive efficiency suffers. So far this season, Memphis takes about 40% of all shots from behind the arc.

As for the remaining 3 factors, the Tigers value the ball well (TO% = 20.5% [93/341]) and crash the offensive glass (OR% = 38.0% [51/341]), but are fairly miserable from the FT line (57.6%, 331/341).

I haven't mentioned pace yet. Memphis likes to run up and down the floor, to the tune of 74+ possessions/game [27/341]. While most assume that a track-meet type game would strongly favor the Tigers, this isn't necessarily the case. KenPom finds that their offensive efficiency is only weakly positively correlated with pace so far this season, and their defensive efficiency also correlates positively with pace, and in fact more strongly. That is to say, as game pace increases Memphis is slightly more efficient on offense, but give up efficiency on defense at a greater clip.

When Georgetown has the Ball

An interesting note appeared in a column posted recently on Basketball Prospectus, "no team that got a top three seed in the NCAA Tournament last season had a starter with an offensive rating under 100." After their win as Cincinnati, Memphis starter Antonio Anderson sports a woeful 81.9 ORating.

Why isn't John Calapari worried? Because Antonio Anderson is a primary reason for the stellar Memphis defense so far this season (Adj. DEff = 84.9 [14/341]) and last (86.9 [11/336]). In fact, Memphis is a fine example where the dearth of individual defensive stats can fool stat-heads into devaluing a number of the Tiger players.

For the Tigers, and for most teams, defensive efficiency is strongly tied to their opponents' eFG%, and Memphis does a great job defending both 3FG (31.4% [74/341]) and especially 2FG (41.0% [21/341]). How do they do it? Regarding defending the arc, in addition to being quick, their back court players are exceptionally tall across the board - just take a look at the heights I posted above. And the team is top 10 in blocking opponents 2FGs, up slightly from last year likely to the extra help that Taggart now provides to exceptional duo of Dorsey and Dozier.

Well, that's all for now - it's getting late and I've got to work tomorrow. Hopefully, I got at least one salient point correct, and would love to hear from any savvy Memphis fans on what I got wrong.

Posted by CO_Hoya at 5:34 PM


CO_Hoya said...

An attribution of source would have been appreciated.

Coach said...

Mea culpa!

Oversight on my part. I do try to provide sources most of the time.