Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bball Brief: Believe in Experience

Do you think the Cornell players ever saw this Pistol Pete video? Perhaps not, but they're busy compiling their own psychology of shooting clips.

They certainly have the conceptualization, concentration, and confidence when shooting the ball (57.1 effective field goal percentage). According to kenpom.com, only Denver (57.9) and Syracuse (57.8) have a higher eFG rating.

And, with all of its senior contributors, the Big Red stands out amongst its peers in experience. In fact, just about all of the mid major NCAA tournament teams that won first round games are more senior laden than the advancing powerhouses (not really a surprise when one considers the number of underclassmen from major schools who leave early; however, still worth noting a meaningful reason for the lesser known teams that win). Old Dominion, which recently lost to Baylor after taking down the veteran Notre Dame ship (3rd in NCAA experience) has but one go-to senior, yet five crucial juniors.

Cornell ranks eighth in experience in the nation and gets important production from seven at the top of their class -- including a point guard who has been a kenpom.com "go-to" since his freshman season and a transfer forward from Kentucky that provides power off the bench. The smarties from Ithaca boast a 7-footer and five players that shoot better than 43 percent from 3-point range. Plus, it's all been in the making for the last few years. Same coach. Same system.

The mid majors that advanced to the second round sported 18 senior contributors, double what teams had from the major conferences. From the historically top teams, only Tennessee has more than two contributing seniors. And only Syracuse and Duke have two. (Wisconsin had two as well before Cornell convincingly ended their run). Kansas was beaten by a Northern Iowa squad that parades three standout seniors. Meanwhile, New Mexico was just taken down by a traditional power team in Washington that edges the Lobos only by the slimmest of margins in experience.

Interesting to think about. Here are the sweet sixteen match-ups. Teams in bold are "favorites" to win while teams listed on the left are kenpom.com predicted winners. Average experience is listed for each team.

West Virginia 1.79 -- Washington 1.52
Duke 2.00 -- Purdue 1.83
Northern Iowa 1.96 -- Michigan St. 1.61
Ohio St. 2.00 -- Tennessee 1.92
Kentucky 0.84 -- Cornell 2.50
Syracuse 1.70 -- Butler 1.70
Kansas St. 1.71 -- Xavier 1.47
Baylor 1.73 -- St. Mary's 1.53

In all cases but one, experience trumps. And that contest features the youngest against the oldest ... two teams that are 9th and 10th in offensive efficiency (Cornell is a tad better) but worlds apart in defensive efficiency over the long term. The Wildcats are No. 8 in that category versus the Big Red's 131st ranking. But, that is why there is a tournament ... and maybe Cornell will continue to demonstrate how maturity correlates with domination as it did in the first two rounds and practically all season. From The Red Majority:
With an offense so explosive and efficient that it averaged nearly a point and a half per possession, Cornell laid down a wide swath of total basketball destruction.
We'll see if talented experience can battle experienced talent.

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