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Ben Ball Roundup: Some Early Season Data Points

Ben Ball warriors get back into action tomorrow night against LMU. I thought with 8 games in this conference season it would be interesting to look through some of the early season numbers. Let’s start on the defensive side.

Take a look at our adjusted efficiency on defense and national ranking in parenthesis 8 games into this season and compared that to the numbers from Coach Howland’s previous five seasons in Westwood:

Adjusted Efficiency/Defense

2009: 91.0 (54)
2008: 83.9 (3)
2007: 84.0 (2)
2006: 85.1 (3)
2005: 94.8 (58)
2004: 98.1 (116)

I think we should just throw away the numbers from 2004 at this point because that was for all intent and purpose a throwaway season. So if we strike 2004 out, what do we get? Our early season defensive statistics look comparable to the number from 2005. A possible explanation? Could it be that this team with 5 freshmen and three seniors is going through the same adjustment issues the 2005 team was going through following the arrival of AA, JF, JS, and LM? I think as this team continue to develop, our defensive numbers will continue to tick down while our national rankings might continue to tick up.

Meanwhile, in the department of adjusted efficiency on offense take a look at the following stats because this might cause heads of some of the concern trolls constantly whining about Howland’s offense to explode:

Adjusted Efficiency/Offense

2009: 119.1 (10)
2008: 119.7 (7)
2007: 116.8 (23)
2006: 113.0 (28)
2005: 107.0 (79)
2004: 102.1 (142)

Hmm. Again I will start with striking out the stat from 2004 for the same reason mentioned above.

So after all the whining and concern trolling we have read both in the traditional media and sprinkled here and there in message boards, right now the Ben Ball warriors have the 10th best offensive team in the country. They are putting up these numbers early in the season despite losing three stars to the NBA draft and with lot more room to grow. Again, just something to keep in mind when the drive by bandwagoners hit our comment threads following rare losses (in this season’s case and they are increasingly looking like losses to good to very good teams).

I also wanted to wade through our roster stats/playing time a bit. Bruinhoo put up a terrific post re. the min breakdown in this early pre-season showing how the minute allocation among our Ben Ball warriors haven’t totally settled in yet. In terms of min. allocation right now four starters – DC, JS, JH and AA2 – are firmly entrenched as they are averaging 26+ mins per game. AA2’s early season performance has been refreshing as he has not only putting up career high numbers in pts (8.4) and rebounds (5.8), but more importantly giving Coach Howland what he exactly wanted before the season: 27 mins per game.

The interesting issue right now is the min. allocation for the 5th starter. Right now it’s JK who is the 5th starter averaging about 21.3 mins per game. The guy who is cutting into most of his mins is ND averaging about 17.0 mins per game. Here are the stat comparisons between the two forwards:

 

PTS

REB

AST

TO

A/T

STL

BLK

PF

FG%

FT%

3P%

JK

4.8

4.8

0.3

0.8

1/3

0.6

0.1

2.3

.500

.200

.364

ND

6.1

2.1

1.0

1.0

1/1

0.0

0.4

1.7

.439

.500

.208

Right now ND is averaging a bit more than JK in scoring and shooting better at the FT line. However, JK is productive around the boards and is more efficient offensive player. No doubt JK has been horrific from the FT line early this season, but that is something he will most likely improve on if he gets more chances. I also get the impression from what I have seen early this season JK’s intensity level is higher in terms of going after lose balls and also being more familiar with the scheme of Howland’s offense. Certainly JK is lot more judicious in his selection of outside shots, and he has started the previous three games hot. Now it would be interesting to see how these two players compare when Howland and his staff release their mid-season hustle stats for the entire team which tracks among other things offensive boards, taking charges, you know the little parts of the game that makes up a prototypical Ben Ball warrior.

Keep in mind though there might be another X-factor emerging at the 4 spot. While JK has been averaging 22 mins per game in last two outings, ND actually only got 14 mins v. DePaul and 13 against CSUN. Who else got more bite of those invaluable mins? Drew Gordon. DG got 16 mins v. CSUN and another 11 against DePaul and he was fairly productive during those appearances. So keep an eye on how CBH continues to divvy up those mins at the 4 spot.

Also noteworthy is MR’s steady play early this season. MR is averaging almost 45% from the 3 pt line and shooting 50% over all. He is getting just 15 mins per game but he is making the most out of it also posting a very solid 2.2/1 A/T ratio. I personally would love to see CBH shave another 3-5 mins from JS’s time (26.6 mins per game) and increase the mins for MR and also perhaps give ML more opportunities in these last few games during the non conference season.

Anyway, its fun to see how the identity of this team is slowing shaping up. And while the team is evolving observers in the traditional media are throwing up all kinds of nonsense. For i.e. check out the gibberish from Dan Webber in the Press Enterprise (who is probably covering the UCLA beat, subbing for Kevin Pearson) following the DePaul game. Dan was all excited to discover that Ben Ball warriors can do some running and gunning:

It allows them to rebound better with its emphasis on running and getting lanes to the baskets and quckness off the floor rather than the lean Bruins trying to stand and push and establish their positions on the floor.

And other teams can't send extra people to the boards. They better keep somebody back or risk giving up a layup.

It keeps Collison from ever again walking the ball up the floor while other teams set up their defenses. No more 64-59 yawners like the Miami (Ohio) game earlier when all the UCLA offense consisted of was either Collison or Shipp dribbling around until one got a jumper or the other drove to the basket.

Dribble, dribble, dribble.

Ugh.

In that game, the Bruins had a total of five assists.

They had five guys on the floor who looked like they each had their own team.

This is far better. This way has a future.

LOL. The future!! He is so excited!

What Dan forgets is how important it is for every high profile team to also get used to playing slow down, half course game. After all time after time our team has had to pull out slowdown nailbiters in NCAA second round games vs. teams like Texas A&M and Alabama. That close, heart stopping game against Miami (OH) might have been "boring" to these pundits, but IMHO those are the kind of games that get a young team ready for the close games with lot more on the line later in the season. The beauty of Howland’s out of conference season scheduling is that he gets his players accustomed to all style of play heading into the conference season so that they can get ready for Bennett’s Washington State or whatever other flavor of the month from rest of the conference.

Speaking of the conference, Luke Wynn from SI.com who is usually pretty good when it comes to his basketball commentary, launched a scud this week:

UCLA is probably the league's best all-around squad, but that's not saying much; the Bruins already flopped against Michigan and lost at Texas. Unless swingman Josh Shipp becomes a go-to guy to complement point guard Darren Collison, and a few of the Bruins' freshmen step up, the gap between Ben Howland's boys and 'Zona, ASU and USC is minuscule.

No where in Luke’s column he added how the Dukees, the darling of the Eastern Sports Eastablishment also "flopped" against the same Wolverines when they took on them for the second time this season.

In a way it’s kind of fun to see these kinds of comments coming out now. You take that comment about gap closing and the public, on the record rhetoric coming out of Tucson about how the Cats under an interim coach can beat sweep UCLA, it will certainly get our Ben Ball warriors more fired up than ever.

GO BRUINS.