Weekly Notes: December 28, 2007

Here are some thoughts as you think about how you’re going to watch the Pats-Giants game on three different networks tomorrow night:

  • I would be slightly offended if I were a New York Giants fan who decided to make some money by selling my season ticket to tomorrow’s game to a Patriots fan. The team apparently doesn’t care for my financial support, so next time I might not buy the ticket at all. I’m sure the Giants’ PR team is ready to hurt Brandon Jacobs and Justin Tuck, who were quoted in the article.
  • My Christmas/birthday haul included some DVDs, games, books, and other such things that have taken my time away from working on this site.  You’ve probably noticed (or not) that I’ve been a bit light on content lately, but I plan to pick things back up in the new year.
  • Last night, I became a Netflix subscriber after having toyed with the idea for a while.  I’m going to use it to catch up movies I should have seen in the past, and I might chime in with a review of either a movie or the service from time to time.
  • The more popular some of the 2008 Presidential candidates become, the more dirt we get on them.  I guess that’s part of the process, and possibly an agonizing one for the revolving door of Republican favorites.  While the top three Democrats have remained the same for some time (Clinton, Obama, Edwards), the Republicans have seen McCain, Giuliani, Romney, and Huckabee take turns in the limelight.  Ron Paul, whose candidacy has mostly flown under the radar, except on the internet, may be next.  Here’s a little tidbit from Think Progress showing one way that Paul, while sometimes refreshingly libertarian, is also a little scary.

That’s all I have.  See you in the new year.

If you ask me, stats are a pretty good Christmas present

So I have updated the GSC team stats through Friday’s games. Henderson State’s still missing a box score, so they’ll have to post that if they want me to recognize their only win of the season so far (against Harris-Stowe of the NAIA). Right now, Christian Brothers and OBU are the pace-setters, with HSU dragging their feet in the early going. Everyone else is somewhere in between, so we could be in for a wild conference season.

So, check out the team stats page for fully-updated sortable goodness. Individual stats will be up before the next GSC game (Friday).

Weekly Notes: December 21, 2007

It’s been a light week around here with no basketball games. If you’ll let me extend the definition of a light posting week to “nothing since Monday morning.” So, I have a few notes:

  • I saw I Am Legend last night. I had fairly high expectations, as I seem to for basically every Will Smith movie (especially since Hitch). It was slightly disappointing for me in a similar way to The Pursuit of Happyness, because it was another great acting job by Smith in a movie that just didn’t have enough substance to really grab hold of me. The story was decent, but the movie ended somewhat abruptly, just as it was starting to get good. Before I spoil the plot, I suppose I’d better stop.
  • President Bush wished reporters “Happy Holidays” the other day, and frankly, I was offended. I mean, is he trying to kill Christmas or something? He’s just as bad as the other “secular-progressives” who hate Christians…
    …Seriously, I’m not sure if he just wasn’t thinking about what he said, or if it was a conscious effort to distance himself from the wingnuts who made up the ridiculous “War on Christmas” to appeal to the religious right. That’s the right wing, though: libertarian on issues like fighting poverty, but alarmingly ready to legislate frivolous social policies. Now, back to your regular de-politicized notes.
  • Duke lost its first game of the season last night to a strong Pittsburgh team, but they remained #2 in the Pomeroy ratings. I like this year’s Duke team: even without McRoberts, they’re very athletic and tough defensively, and I think they’re better positioned for a strong ACC run. Pomeroy’s stats still probably don’t mean a whole lot at this point in the season, but I am encouraged that Duke has already beaten #4 (Wisconsin) and #6 (Marquette) in those ratings, despite the loss to #8 Pitt.
  • My fantasy season came to an end on Brian Westbrook’s heady play that ended the Eagles’ win over the Cowboys, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. It was still a cool play, though, and smart football is always more fun to watch than the alternative. A day or two later, I was nearly the beneficiary of an opponent’s failure to make that decision in an NCAA 08 game, as I scored on the ensuing drive and recovered an onside kick, falling just short at the end.
  • Every man needs a name to go by if he makes the Brazilian soccer team. John Wright = “Wrincha.”
    Sammy Sosa = “Sosito”
    Jed Bartlet = “Bartlinho”
    Barack Obama = “Obamiano”
    Matt Hall = “Himo Santos”
    Mark Teixeira = “Teixeiraldo”
    “Barnett brings it down the floor on the fast break, lobs it up there…GOOOOAAAALLLL!!! Himo Santos!!!!” I think I could play with this for hours.
  • Mark Cuban has too many Facebook friends. I didn’t even know that was possible.

I probably won’t have anything else until after Christmas, although I am planning to update GSC stats over the weekend.  Have a great long weekend.

Twenty-Four

Today I’m turning twenty-four years old.

More so than any other day, my birthday is the one day each year that I spend some time looking back at the past year and what I’ve accomplished or not accomplished.  The truth is, I’ll never accomplish everything that captures my heart or succeed at everything that occupies a moment of my time.  I can look back and be proud of what I’ve done and at the same time think about how to make the next year even better.

I’ll have plenty of time to contemplate life as a twenty-four-year-old, since I’m on the road today traveling to a plant for work, so I’ll finish this thought with the words that someone else wrote on the eve of his twenty-fourth birthday:

Twenty four oceans
Twenty four skies
Twenty four failures
Twenty four tries
Twenty four finds me
In twenty-fourth place
Twenty four drop outs
At the end of the day
Life is not what I thought it was
Twenty four hours ago

Still I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
And I’m not who I thought I was twenty four hours ago
Still I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You

Twenty four reasons to admit that I’m wrong
With all my excuses still twenty four strong

See I’m not copping out not copping out not copping out
When You’re raising the dead in me
Oh, oh I am the second man
Oh, oh I am the second man now
Oh, oh I am the second man now

And You’re raising these twenty four voices
With twenty four hearts
With all of my symphonies
In twenty four parts
But I wan to be one today
Centered and true

I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
You’re raising the dead in me
Oh, oh I am the second man
Oh, oh I am the second man now
Oh, oh I am the second man now
And You’re raising the dead in me

I want to see miracles, see the world change
Wrestled the angel, for more than a name
For more than a feeling
For more than a cause
I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
And You’re raising the dead in me
Twenty four voices
With twenty four hearts
With all of my symphonies
In twenty four parts.
I’m not copping out. Not copping out. Not copping out.

Here’s to another year of not copping out.

Lyrics written by Jon Foreman.  From the Switchfoot song “Twenty-Four” on the album The Beautiful Letdown.

Harding blows out Ecclesia heading into the break

This one probably wasn’t expected to be close, so it’s good to see the Bisons play another efficient game and get their record over .500 (now 6-5).

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With the defense focused squarely on Matt Hall, the other Bisons did a great job taking (and making) good shots.  Hall had 20 points, but it took him 16 shots to get them, which is not the otherworldly level of performance we’re used to seeing from the Harding forward.  Luckily, Trent Morgan, Chris Dixon, and Kevin Brown picked up the scoring slack.  All three ended up in double digits: Dixon with 18, Brown with 16 (so far a career high), and Morgan with 11.

Free throw shooting was a problem, though, in an otherwise efficient shooting game.  Jacob Thies was just 1-for7 at the line, which is totally unacceptable, no matter what your role is.  Jesse Bynum was nowhere to be found (injury, or just to give Brown/Howard some PT?), so Thies played 19 minutes.  The rest of the team was 12-for-19, which still isn’t anything to write home about.   The Bisons, fortunately, were simply more talented in other areas of the game.  When you’re able to take almost 80% of your shots from inside the arc, you’re probably exploiting some kind of athletic advantage.  The huge disparities in turnover and rebound rate also confirm that theory.

The Bisons will take a break for the holidays and start the new year on the road at North Alabama and Alabama-Huntsville.  I’m currently planning on making the trip for the UAH game, as I have for the past two years.  While that one looks like a tough matchup, I’ll try to remain optimistic.

I said earlier this week that I was working on individual stats, and I am.  However, I’ve noticed a bug in some of the team stat calculations.  It’s related to the offensive rebounding percentages, so it’s possible that some of the strange numbers we noticed earlier this season were inflated because of the bug.  We’ll see.

Weekly Notes: December 14, 2007

Here’s what’s going on in my world:

  • It’s getting close to wintertime, regardless of what the temperature is outside, so I guess that also means it’s time for everyone to get sick.  Melissa is sick, several of my co-workers are sick, and one of my friends had an emergency appendectomy this week.  I’ve somehow managed to avoid it so far, but the proverbial bug is making its way through my neck of the woods.
  • My friends and family always get onto me because I can’t pass up the good deals that come with the holiday season, so I always end up getting stuff for myself right as my birthday and Christmas are approaching.  I’ve tried to avoid that this year, and I will resist the temptation to grab March Madness 08 when it comes out next week.  It’s tough enough for people who feel like they need to get me two gifts within one week’s time, so I guess I’ll give them a break for once.  And yes, that was an attempt at subtlety.
  • If you’ve been wondering who’s responsible for the awful salary cap situation and dismal performance of the New York Knicks…it’s yours.
  • I tried Xbox Live’s HD movie download service last weekend, since I haven’t reached the point where I’m ready to buy a player for one format or the other (HD-DVD or Blu-ray).  I was mildly impressed with the whole experience, which seems to work great unless you need to see the movie right away.  They’re huge files, and they expire 24 hours after you press “play” or 2 weeks after you download it (whichever comes first).  I don’t think it was true HD, though, since the file for Blades of Glory was just 5 or 6 gigs.  There’s also a price premium over most in-store deals ($6 after the conversion from “Microsoft Points”), but it wasn’t outrageous for me, since I don’t rent a lot of movies.  Otherwise, I would probably favor Netflix or another subscription service.
  • I didn’t go to any sporting events this week, although I guess I could try to go to the NCAA FCS football championship game tonight at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga.  Appy State has a great team, and their fans have traveled well for the past two years.  I probably won’t go, but if you’re in the area and don’t have Friday night plans, you might give that a shot.  Dubner wishes he could be here, but it’s fine with me that he won’t be, because seeing his co-author Levitt would be cooler.

That’s enough for one week.  Have a good one.

First thoughts on the Mitchell Report

A few minutes ago, former Senator George Mitchell released his report on the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball. The full report is already available for download on MLB.com. Virtually none of the conclusions were surprising. Both MLB and the MLBPA bear responsibility, along with pretty much anyone else involved with baseball in the last quarter-century.

Some of the names listed in the report were more surprising (Kevin Brown, Eric Gagne, Mo Vaughn, Paul Lo Duca) than others (Clemens, Bonds – though with no new evidence on Bonds).  Mitchell seems to have done a good job downplaying his “list,” though. The list gives baseball fans like myself something to talk about. It puts faces to a group of people we knew existed, and it allows us to point fingers at and speak from our soapboxes until there’s no one left to listen.

There are almost certainly more names to be found, and I’m sure there will always be people looking for them. A large number of players in this report were ratted out through the connections of Kirk Radomski (Mets clubhouse attendant) and Brian McNamee (Yankees trainer), so it’s possible that Mitchell’s list is only a small fraction of the whole.

None of that is important, though, now. Mitchell basically came out and said so during his press conference. What’s important is curbing the use of harmful and illegal drugs by influential Major League Baseball players. A stronger testing program is necessary in baseball (and all other pro sports) for the purpose of eliminating players’ incentives to use drugs, if only so that we can finally have some closure on the steroid era.

Even if the MLB and MLBPA continue to flounder, look the other way, and deny the problem (or its implications) in the face of this report, people will still watch baseball. I will still watch baseball. There’s no going back to change the past, so what’s important now is allowing the focus to return to the game itself. Even when it’s played and run by imperfect people, it’s still a beautiful game.

D-I Basketball Rankings: December 10, 2007

I know today is December 12th, but I did these rankings on Monday. I was having some issues with my tables plugin (apparently I can’t use punctuation in the imported data), but I seem to have that worked out.

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Big movers include Xavier, whose strength of schedule keeps improving with their record, and NC State, which not only falls out of the top 25, but also isn’t even one of the next 10 schools.

The next 10, in alphabetical order, are: Arkansas, Drake, Kansas State, Miami (FL), Miami (OH), Southern Illinois, Stanford, USC, Vandy, and West Virginia.

In related news, I’ve decided to run only one blog for now, so I am no longer doing the Harding Basketball blog at MVN.com.  I thought that was going to be good for Harding’s exposure nationally (at least a little bit), but there weren’t a lot of people clicking through to that site who weren’t already searching for HU basketball, and no one at all was leaving comments.

It was nice to be able to say that Harding was the only D-II school on a prominent sports blog network, but for now, this site seems to serve the purpose of increasing HU’s exposure just as well.  As a bonus, I have full control of the site’s look and feel.  I like the wider post section I have on this site, since it allows me to post fairly large tables without running out of space.  So, don’t go looking for me over there.  I was posting the same material here, anyway, so nothing’s changing if you’ve been reading this blog.

Team stats are up

2007-2008 GSC West Team Statistics

In related news, pigs were seen flying today over Ringgold, Georgia.

We’re almost a month into the season, and I’m just now getting the team stats up and running. That’s not such a bad thing, though, since there is some danger in reading too much into early-season stats. GSC West teams have played anywhere from 4 to 10 games, but even for the most active teams, it’s hard to read too much into the season so far.

Here’s what I’ll say definitively: Ouachita Baptist is better than I thought, and Henderson State looks positively awful. Christian Brothers has been good, but not outstanding, and everyone else is somewhere in between.

I’ll have some more insightful analysis as we go along, probably starting this week (since Harding doesn’t play again until Saturday). I’m also working on updating the glossary, or maybe even the stat pages themselves, with some explanations. I know the acronyms don’t do you much good if you don’t know what they mean.

Here’s a quick primer for some of the items you might not understand if you’re new to the site or to advanced basketball stats:

  • Pace is a pretty simple (and vital) concept: it’s the number of possessions a team has in a particular game, as well as the basis for pretty much every other meaningful stat.
  • OEff, DEff, and Net are the same concept: Offensive Efficiency is the number of points a team scores per 100 possessions, while Defensive Efficiency is the number allowed. Net is OEff – DEff.
  • Schedule Strength is based on my rough estimate of a team’s talent level, as explained in this post from two years ago. “Sched” is the average opponent’s rating using that method, so the higher the number, the more difficult the schedule. The adjusted efficiency numbers are based on these estimates of schedule strength.
  • PythW, PythL, and PW& are estimated wins, losses, and win percentage based on the adjusted efficiency numbers I came up with. These are based on Bill James’ interpretation of Pythagorean Record for baseball, but adapted based on basketball scoring.
  • AOff, ADef, and ANet are adjusted offensive, defensive and net efficiency.
  • The “keys” to the outcome of a basketball game, as I define them, are adapted from Dean Oliver’s “Four Keys.” I combined both of his shooting keys into one rating (measured by Hollinger’s True Shooting Percentage) while leaving the others (offensive rebounding and turnovers) alone. Offensive rebounding skill is represented by offensive rebound percentage, while turnover avoidance is measured by Turnover Ratio (roughly the number of turnovers per 100 possessions). The other number thrown into that section is Assist Ratio, which is the same as Turnover Ratio, but for assists (rocket science, I know).
  • Shot Selection is ranked by True Shooting %, broken out by 2-point field goal percentage (2PT%) and 3-point percentage, then by the percentage of each that a team attempts (%2S and %3S).
  • FTA/P is the number of free throw attempts per possession, a measure of how often a team gets to the free throw line, and FT% is simply the percentage of free throws made.

That should cover most everything on the stat pages for now. They’re fully sortable, so play around with them all you want. I’ll be working on individual stats from this point forward, and I’ll keep everything updated probably on a weekly basis.

#8 Drury gets 33 Christmas presents in home win over Harding

Harding shot and rebounded well enough to pick up a huge road victory over Drury this afternoon in Springfield, Missouri, but the Bisons must have been feeling charitable. After all, Christmas is just around the corner. They turned the ball over 33 times en route to a frustrating close defeat against a good Division-II team.

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Any time you hand over the ball on a third of your possessions, you’re going to have to shoot and rebound exceptionally well to make up for it. The Bisons were merely good, and they fell 7 points short against one of the top teams in Division-II basketball. The result was a very poor 83.2 offensive rating, which won’t get it done against much of anyone, although the Bison defensive effort was solid enough to keep the team in the game.

The chief culprit on the offensive end was Steven Barnett, who despite a solid 14-point scoring effort, gave up an astounding 11 turnovers. Those numbers are simply unacceptable for a point guard, especially one for whom turnovers have been a persistent problem in his career. I don’t know that the Bisons have other options, and it’s entirely possible that this was a one-time heroic effort by the Drury defense, but Barnett is going to have to do something to keep his team strong offensively. Games like this just won’t cut it.

To be totally forthcoming, every Bison who played at least 10 minutes turned the ball over at least twice, except for Jacob Thies. The problem with turning the ball over so much, aside from simply killing offensive possessions, was that Matt Hall couldn’t get his game going all the way. Hall had just 15 points on 10 shots.

The other problem for the Bisons on the other end of the floor was staying out of foul trouble. Hall, Chris Dixon, and Kevin Brown all fouled out of the game, while Barnett and Trent Morgan finished with four fouls each. The result was a 25-for-35 free throw shooting performance for Drury. Harding actually kept Drury from shooting that well and held star Collins Harris to 8-of-20 shooting (even though he did score 21 points).

Strangely, Jesse Bynum did not play in this one. I’m kind of hoping that’s because of an injury, since he’s been playing well of late. Jacob Thies still only played 12 minutes, so most of the leftover playing time went to Kevin Brown (19 minutes) and Brian Howard (13 minutes). Matt Ragsdale also played 11 minutes, and Calvin Rayford was on the floor most of the game. Rayford again proved to be a solid outside scoring threat, knocking down 3 of 4 treys (half of the Bisons team total).

Harding nearly mounted a comeback on several occasions, even though they trailed for most of the game. They led by 2 late in the first half before a Drury run made it a six-point game at the half, and Drury held the Bisons (closely) behind them in the second half. It’s frustrating to lose a big game in such a sloppy way, but it gives the Bisons one more thing to work on before the conference season. They’ll face Ecclesia a week from tonight at home before taking a break for the holidays.

[UPDATE: For some reason, Drury's box score gave HU 33 turnovers, while HU's only gave them 32.  I'm leaving everything the way I had it.]

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