By Avi Cohen All basic sports statistics need to be simple enough for the regular sports fan to comprehend quite readily, allowing them to understand the basics of how a player or team performed without actually watching the game. As a result of this simplicity, most are pretty flawed in some way or another when taken out of context. For instance, a typical stat line … Continue reading Regarding Rebounds
By Max Kaplan This is part 3 of my March Madness bracket series. In part 1, I showed that Florida was the best team to pick to win it all. In part 2, I explained how to choose the rest of your Final Four depending on your pool size and skill. First, I’d just like to express my frustration at a fellow Princeton publication: The … Continue reading Why You Won’t Win Your March Madness Pool (Part 3)
By Max Kaplan A couple months ago, I wrote an article that showed how to perform better in bowl confidence pools than 90% of all participants by just following the simple strategy of following the consensus of the nation (by either Yahoo averages or betting lines). To be successful, you didn’t need to know who was playing or who was better. You didn’t need to … Continue reading Why You Won’t Win Your March Madness Pool (Part 1)
By Chad Horner
The Duke Blue Devils, the number one team in the land for the past month, were finally knocked off their perch Saturday afternoon by the North Carolina State Wolfpack team that was favored to win the ACC in the preseason.
In fact, if you had examined Duke’s schedule in the preseason and tried to find which game would be their toughest, it likely would have been this one. However, after plowing through five potentially elite teams – Louisville, Ohio State, Minnesota, Kentucky, and VCU – in a two week span earlier this season, while NC State was run off of the floor by Oklahoma State in a twenty point loss, their positions in the rankings flipped. Duke came into this game as a modest favorite, despite the absence of Ryan Kelly, who they lost to injury earlier this week, and the fact that this was their first true road game of the season. But there was one sign that the Pack was not an ideal matchup for the Blue Devils.
By Patrick Harrel
When the Rockets acquired James Harden three days before Opening night, they completed a whirlwind of a summer that saw them trade or release 8 of their 10 rotation players from the previous year, including all five opening day starters from 2011. The longest tenured member on the team? Patrick Patterson, a third year player who would take over the starting power forward spot despite only having started seven games.
And the most experienced starter? Chandler Parsons, a second round pick from the previous season who had taken over the starting spot from Chase Budinger early in the 2011-12 campaign yet averaged just 9.5 points per game over the season.
With five rookies on the roster, just one player over the age of 26 (Carlos Delfino), and a combined 98 games started between the starting lineup, not much was expected of the Rockets. The team was, after all, by far the youngest in the league with just a 23.6 average age, and young teams do not have a vast history of success in the NBA.
However, after a 4-7 start, the team has vastly outperformed expectations, winning 12 out of 17 and 6 of their last 7 in order to move to 16-12 and into the sixth seed in the Western Conference. In these last seven games, they won five games against playoff teams from last year, including a three game streak of both scoring 120 and winning by over 20, matching an NBA record. They also broke both Memphis and Chicago’s defenses down badly, beating both team’s season high in points allowed on their way to blowout victories.
Now, they stand #1 in points scored per game and #8 in offensive efficiency, a remarkable feat for a squad that young.
The only question is how are they doing this? The duo of Asik and the Patterson projected to be somewhere between awful and god-awful this season, with Asik having more career foul-outs (2) than double-doubles (1), and Patterson shooting a cool 44% from the field as a power forward in 2011-12. Chandler Parsons started most of the season but rarely cracked into double figures in scoring.
Going into the year, it seemed like the team would be forced to ride James Harden and a still-injured Jeremy Lin extremely hard if they wanted to scrape out any modicum of respectability on the offensive side of the ball, but now they have a case to make as one of the most dynamic offenses in the league. What gives?
Turns out, it’s pretty basic: Just by outracing teams down the court on the break, the Rockets have improved their efficiency and gotten by despite a consistent half court attack. However, getting out on the break has not always been a path to success.
Since Synergy has begun charting games (the last three seasons), none of the league’s fastest teams have made the playoffs. However, unlike the past leaders in league pace, the Rockets not only get out on the break, they convert their looks.
Over the past three seasons, the league’s fastest teams have ranked 16th in the league in points per possession (PPP) in transition, with last year’s Sacramento Kings the only one to be above average in a year. The Rockets, on the other hand, are 9th in efficiency in transition, getting 1.18 PPP. To see how they’re exploiting their athleticism on the break, we’ll break down a couple of plays from the last week. Here’s one example from Saturday’s game against Memphis:
After a Marcus Morris block, Carlos Delfino collects the ball and four Rockets turn and run up the court.