WSU HOOPS

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Taking a step back

Posted by Jo-Jo on February 12, 2008

Well, first of all I would like to thank Phatt Nuss (as I know him) for his stunningly generous introduction. I do believe that this will bring him some much needed accountability since I have all of the dirt on him, feel free to probe me on him so I can help keep him on his best game.

Now to business. As a person who bleeds Crimson I think it is very important to take a look at where this team is right now, especially in the wake of such a decisive bounce back performance against SC on Saturday. I’m not interested in making more of that victory than it is, and I’m not interested in the doom and gloom of the past few weeks either. I think it is the perfect time to take a step back and look at where this team is.

If I had asked anyone at the beginning of the season what they would have thought about losing a close game at home to UCLA and then trouncing the Trojans this weekend, every single response would have been positive. However, in the context of the past few weeks it still leaves the Cougs with two wins in their last six contests. Ouch. But something else happened in the Pac-10 this weekend. The University of Arizona (who absolutely pummeled the Cougs) lost to Arizona State, and the purple puppies took a ride on crimson coat tails to beat the first place team in the conference, the UCLA Bruins. Fans, this conference is the best in America, hands down. No other conference in the country has the depth that the Pac-10 brings to the table. For two months, every single team in the Pac-10 has a dog fight every single weekend (except when Oregon gets to play the Beavs). In terms of the Pac-10 standings, the Cougs are just fine.

They were beaten by a better team in LA ealier this year, and gave that same a team a run for it’s money on Thursday. Yes, they crapped their pants against Arizona, then crapped the bed against Cal. They let the Stanford game slip through their fingers and there are your four loses. Wouldn’t you agree that it is better to have lost those games than, instead of … say … during the Pac-10 Tournament? That’s what I thought.

Several things have surfaced during this stretch through the conference schedule. One thing is that the offense is maturing. We know that the Cougs have players that can shoot the three and that they can get those players shots pretty much when ever they want. But I’ve noticed much more of the two-man game showing up durring this time, resulting in a much needed boost on offense from our long lost friend Mr. Robbie Cowgill. The second thing is that we are starting to see the emergence of some help from the bench in the forms of Caleb Forrest and Nikola Koprivica. This is extremely important, especially considering how much will be asked of them next season. The third thing is that the defense has played much better in the last two games than they’ve played since the start of the conference schedule. I believe that those issues should spring hope to Cougar fans, but I also believe that their performances against Arizona, Cal and even Stanford near the end, should scare the crap out of Cougar fans.

This team has proven that they can hang with anyone in the conference, and they’ve proven that they can fall flat on their face as well. But let us give credit to our opponents. The Cougs aren’t sneaking up on anybody like they did last season. Every team knows that when Washington weekend rolls around, the Cougs are the team to focus on (unfortunately for UCLA, that came back to bite them Sunday at Hec Ed.).

At the end of it all, UCLA is still the best team in the conference (despite what the University of Washington pulled off), and that has never been in question. Stanford, in my opinion, is stealing victories all over the place because I’m still not conviced that they are that great other than Mary-Kate and Ashley Lopez. And then you have the Cougars of Washington State University. Right where they belong. In the mix with every other team in the conference.

Here is to looking at continuing to grow through the rest of the Pac-10 schedule, en route to putting on one hell of a show at the Pac-10 Tournament.

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9 Responses to “Taking a step back”

  1. Ptowncoug said

    Cowgill started to hit some shots. If you go back to many of those losses, Cowgill had some wide open looks that he flat out missed. He lost confidence and then stopped looking for his shot altogether. Personally I think Forrest can be the next Cowgill offensively. He has a sweet stroke and is almost automatic if wide open.
    I think one of our continued weaknesses is how many points teams are scoring off our turnovers. Maybe Nuss can get those figures?

  2. Nuss said

    Let me see what I can dig up.

  3. Nuss said

    OK, here’s the data re: points given up off turnovers. I limited it to conference opponents so that the data isn’t skewed by clearly inferior opponents.

    http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pWdGsxnpBGnnPIviBEArIcw

    Although I didn’t do the math — for various reasons, not the least of which is I don’t know how anymore — there really seems to be very little correlation between points given up off turnovers and results. Two cases in point: Against Arizona we turned the ball over nine times but gave up only four points in a blowout loss; against Arizona State we had 12 turnovers and gave up 15 points and still won.

    Perhaps evaluating it on a game-by-game basis is a better strategy — it might say more about what happens when you turn the ball over against certain teams. For example, it certainly seemed to be a problem against Cal and UCLA on this homestand, two teams that are excellent in transition.

  4. Ptowncoug said

    I agree there isn’t a direct correlation and I agree with Longball’s analysis that the AZ game, they were simply shooting wide open 3s so the trouncing was a result of the inability to get out on the shooter.
    However, I don’t look at the ASU and go great we won that game. We barely squeaked by! Some of those numbers e.g., UCLA game are flat out scary. 21pts off TOs! Yikes when you average only 10 TOs a game, you hope that the opposing team converts 50% or less of those into pts.
    If a team steals the ball gets into a set offense misses a shot, but gets the rebound, shoots it again, misses, gets the rebound again and then shoots and makes, are those points off the TO?

  5. Nuss said

    I don’t think so. Those would fall into second-chance points, and I don’t think they double-dip.

    That UCLA game was an anomaly, in my book. It was the only game where we had a high number of turnovers and a high number of points off and we lost. Correlation to wins and losses (i.e. if we keep down the number of points off turnovers we win or vice versa) doesn’t seem to be there, at least to me.

    Another stat to support my conclusion, by the way, is that Ken Pomeroy says that our offensive turnover percentage only has a +.11 correlation to our defensive efficiency — in lay terms, that means our offensive turnovers, overall, have practically no effect on our defense. (Although I will note that those kenpom stats include all games, not just conference games, so they might be skewed a little bit. But still, .11 is awful close to zero for these purposes.)

  6. johnnycougar said

    Another interesting way to look at it is via kenpom.com, specifically:

    http://kenpom.com/expsked.php?team=Washington%20St.&y=2008

    Scrolling down to the correlation part, it shows a couple things. Turnover % (TO%) obviously has a negative relation to offensive efficiency, but the values aren’t significant within 95% confidence interval. I don’t think this specifically uses “points off turnovers” but just correlates overall efficiency with various factors. If you look at UCLA’s stats, however, you’ll notice that their TO% DOES strongly correlate with offensive efficiency, meaning that limiting TO’s on offense is even more important for them than for us.

    It’s interesting to me that opponent TO% is strongly correlated with our defensive efficiency, indicating that TO’s are a necessary part of our defense. This makes sense when noticing that our eFG% allowed has been slipping over the course of Pac-10 play – basically, we don’t defend the shot as well, and so when we don’t force many turnovers we lose a lot of defensive potency. Also, our pace has a negative correlation to our offensive efficiency, suggesting that we play better offense when we run a bit more. However, comparing with defensive efficiency, it appears slowing down helps our game overall.

  7. Nuss said

    That is hilarious. We posted that at practically the same time. I swear, I am not Johnnycougar.

    Way to bring some hard core analysis to the table — that’s what we love around here!

  8. johnnycougar said

    Cool, thanks! agree, great timing. I’m an engineering grad student so I do love some number crunching occasionally. I’m fortunate enough to get to go to the home games in person, and I’ll be the first to admit that “hard core analysis” can get completely thrown out the window when watching the Cougs play their best. Here’s hoping to a sweep down under, and I’m looking forward to your previews as always!

    Go Cougs!

  9. Nuss said

    The funny thing is that I’m an English teacher who loves numbers … go figure. I love it when they reveal deeper truths, and there’s no reason not to embrace them. This isn’t baseball, where the sabermetrics are so abstract you really do pretty much need a math degree to understand them. These are pretty simple rates and percentages, which is why I love them so much. Not tough to follow if you expend just a few brain cells.

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