Monday, March 25, 2013

A Good Season

Four months ago, the Cats started the season 4-0.  Even at that time, it was clear that this season would be special.  I am proud to report that at the end of November, I wrote that the numbers suggested that Arizona was a "deep tourney run" kind of team.   I'm happy that things have panned out that way.  I started working on this project back in May.  For about three or four months, I was able to keep up with it.  Then, life got in the way.

Last week, I was in Shanghai.  On Friday morning (China time), I was in a meeting and peeking onto a Chinese colleague's iPad to get the score of the Belmont game.  On Saturday, I was driving home from the airport when the Harvard game ended.  I watched both on the DVR.   Does anyone else enjoy watching recorded games while knowing the outcome?  I find it to be so much more relaxing than live television.

Anyway, the way I see it is that no matter what happens from here on out, I can have a peaceful off season, knowing that the banners hanging above the hardwood at McKale will be augmented with this season's team.  Most likely, this run ends on Thursday, but who knows what will happen.  Maybe the Cats will still be playing next weekend.

I haven't had the time or energy to work on this project lately, and I don't know if I will again in the future.  I very much appreciate the few people who have read this and/or contacted and encouraged me.  This is a lot of work, but so are my job and other parts of my life.  I am not sure that I was providing much beyond what is already available out there, but I like to think I was.

I will end by noting that Ken Pomeroy gives us a 35% chance of beating the BuckeyesNate Silver is also pessimistic.   I respect the hell out of those guys because they are emotionless number crunchers who understand the magic of probabilities, but for once, I am going to ignore the numbers and say that we are going to kick their ass.  Go Cats!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Ups and Downs

After a brilliant start to the season, things no longer look so shiny for the Arizona Wildcats.  The regular season Pac-12 championship is out of reach.  We have lost four of seven, and our tournament seed is slipping.  Broadcasters love to speak of the importance of momentum going into the tournament.  I'm not really a believer in that concept, but psychologically, I think it must matter.  The fans are feeling down, and I imagine so is the team.  Everyone is looking for answers.  What has been the problem of late?  It should be obvious to anyone paying attention.  It's defense.

For quite some time, the offense was slipping..  Efficiency was down as were assists.  Although the trends are noisy, it's fairly clear that the offense bottomed out in mid to late January.  Since that time, the Cats play has improved.  Even though we have dropped four of seven, over that time span, our offensive efficiency has averaged a respectable 1.08 points per possession, and our assist rate has been climbing:


If we could couple that offense with an effective defense, Arizona would be a very difficult team to beat, but the last four losses are among our worst defensive performances of the year:


Against USC, we had our worst game on defense, allowing just under 1.2 points per possession.  The Cal loss ranks at #2 at nearly 1.19, closely followed by the Colorado game.  The loss to UCLA ranks #5.  Against Florida, the defense was slightly worse.

When the defense is giving up points at a rate near 1.2 points per possession, it's nearly impossible to win games.  Arizona has only eclipsed that mark on offense four times this season.  That the Cats have stayed close in most of these tells you that the offense is working well.  How can the defense be fixed?  I'm not sure.  I think that comes down to a question of X's and O's, and tactics are not my strong suit.  One thing I do know is that I have seen teams use the same strategies repeatedly against the Cats.  A guard gets into the lane, and the defense has to adjust.  A man is left open.  Easy bucket. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

UCLA

There haven't been many games this season when the Cats have been legitimate underdogs, but today, they are.  At Pauley Pavillion, UCLA should be the favorite to win.  Apparently, Vegas does not agree, and admittedly, they are smarter than I am.  Still, it's hard to feel optimistic after the way the Cats have been playing lately.  We are only batting .500 over our last six.  It makes you long for the early weeks of the season when this team was invincible.


Statistically speaking, we have been better offensively, defensively, and rebounding.  UCLA is much better at taking care of the ball.  They have about half an inch advantage in size, but they are a young team without much depth.  The advantages the Cats have, however, are negated by UCLA's home court advantage, and I'm sure Pauley will be louder than average.



According to the simulation, you can expect around 69 possessions and with a final score in the upper 60's or lower 70's.  UCLA would be expected to win about 47.3% of these games, meaning that it's close to a coin toss.  The most likely score is a 71-70 loss. I hope the Cats can make some shots, and when they don't, that they get back on defense promptly.  We owe these guys some payback.  I hope we get it.