Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Dance: Buffalo Sub-Regional

While its impossible to give a complete rundown of all the possibilities in the NCAA tournament, now that the bracket is set, we here at Immaculate Inning will be previewing some interesting match-ups we'll be watching. Whichever subregional got our Duke Blue Devils is of course the main focus, so we'll start there. Sixth seeded Duke takes on eleven seed Virginia Commonwealth, while third seeded Pittsburgh draws Wright State.

#3 Pitt took care of business in the Big East, and finished second in the regular season (and the runner-up in the conference tourney). They split with Georgetown but were swept by Marquette; a loss to Louisville was their only other conference loss. Out of conference, Pitt lost to a couple of big name teams (Wisconsin and OkSt) while the rest of their schedule had plenty of sugar. Statistically, Pitt ranks 10th overall on Pomeroy's efficiency ratings, and has done it with a plodding pace that is one of the slowest in Division 1. This is due to a solid offensive performance, an adjusted 11th at 118.9 points/100 possessions. This is fueled by solid guard play out of 5-10 Soph Levance Fields and 6-3 senior Antiono Graves, who limit Pitt's turnovers and rack up the assists- they're fifth in the nation with 67% of their made buckets having an assist. Seven foot senior Aaron Gray is a high percentage shooter (59.5% EFG) and is one of the twenty best rebounders in the country, on both the offensive and defensive end.

#14 Wright State beat Butler in the Horizon Conference tournament championship game to get in. Their schedule was completely unremarkable, and statistically Wright State backs up the sentiment that they're your typical bubble-bursting team: making a run in a conference tourney means FSU and Syracuse have to play in that other tournament. Wright State is better on defense than offense, raking 72nd in the nation (95.2 points/100 possessions). The go-to guy is 5-10 senior guard Dashaun Wood, who has had a hand in 30.7% of his possessions, which is top 30 in the nation. It is not a very efficient offense- 141st (adjusted), though they are above average in limiting turnovers and in getting to the free throw line. Other than that: meh; a team with no one over 6-8 isn't going to be able to stop Aaron Gray. If you're looking for a NWSt-over-Iowa 14-3 upset, this isn't the place to find it.

#11 VCU won the regular season and conference tournament titles out of the They are a team that leans on its offense- 10th in raw efficiency (114.7, adjusted to 114.8 and 34th overall), while their defense is sub-par (100.2, 130th). The lineup goes eight deep most games, but only six players have played 50% of VCU's minutes. Senior guard B.A. Walker leads the offense with an impressive 124.1 offensive rating, thanks to a high shooting rate and a low turnover rate. Jesse Pellot-Rosa is a 6-4 swingman that also chips in his share, taking the highest percentage of shots per minutes played. None of VCU's regular players are taller than 6-7, though they do have 6-10 freshman Calvan Roland who did not make much of an impact in his reduced minutes. As a whole, the efficient offense is run through dribble-drive guard play, with not many shots coming from beyond the arc. When those long-range shots do come, however, VCU is very effictive- shooting 40% on the season. Their high efficiency typically comes in a slow-pace game- just 65 possessions/game.

There will be a more in-depth look at the matchup with #6 Duke later, but for now it seems apparent that Duke will have to go with a four-guard lineup against VCU. Gerald Henderson should have the emotion pumping after having to sit out the ACC Tourney game, and Marty Pocius should get plenty of minutes off the bench. It could be exciting to see DeMarcus Nelson and Henderson on the court together, with high-efficiency scorers who don't decrease the defensive intensity. If Duke is able to recover its defense they showed earlier in the season, they should be able to shut down the smaller VCU team. If, however, Duke continues to struggle on defense, this could be a very close game.

Duke is a team that has played like a #2 seed at times, and has played like an NIT team at other times. Similarly, I can see Duke doing anything from a first round loss to taking out teams like Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, Indiana, and even UCLA on the way to the Elite Eight. No outcome in between would be terribly surprising.


Xenod said...

Duke can do good or bad, analysist says.

Matt said...

I would never use such grammar. Duke could do well or poorly, obv.

Xenod said...

Well, I'm gonna man up and make a real prediction. Duke is going to win the first two games, including an upset win over Pitt.

The sports media are going to be berating themselves for counting out Coach K and Duke and that'll dominate PTI and Around the Horn. When the Sweet 16 rolls around, Duke will give a flat effort and lose to UCLA.