Saturday, October 14, 2006

Notes in transition

First, a few house-cleaning measures.

1) Check out Sunday’s Register for a feature on A.J. Price and his life over the past two years.
2) Saturday’s practices lasted a combined 3 hours, 40 minutes, roughly the same length as Friday’s First Night festivities. Which was more productive? Depends on whom you ask.
3) Suddenly, a number of people are placing Syracuse among the elite in the Big East even though the Orange’s roster hasn’t changed in the past few months. Always baffled how that happens. One publication catches wind of it, then everyone else does. Bottom line, they're not bad. This is the reason: First, greater Scranton’s favorite son is no longer Gerry McNamara. He has been replaced by the character “Jim” from The Office. Second, Paul Harris has arrived on the national scene. He is considered a freshman after a prep year, 6-foot-5 and strong, and played on the same New York state title team as Rob Garrison at Niagara Falls. Obligatory connection feature due in January.
4) I suppose Wednesday night in Greece is basketball night. Former UConn shooter Rashad Anderson has surfaced in the country, dropping 27 points in his first game for Egalo AO, last season’s Division 2 champion that has made the jump to Division I. To check his progress, go the Greece League's site.
5) Some interesting blog notes from New York Daily News college basketball writer Dick Weiss. Yes, some are a few days old, but interesting to note. First, Louisville had a few early setbacks, most notably the suspension of freshman Derrick Caracter. Scroll all the way down to see a UConn football knock. Then scroll back up to find Weiss’ returning top basketball players (note: only seven are from the Big East. Much was made of the conference’s mass indulgence last year, but should more names make his list, or is the conference in transition with a youth movement?).

Great segue to today’s numbers.

Now, a few days back, I mentioned the fact that Jim Calhoun wants this year’s team to attempt at least 75 shots per game. If the shot clock was reduced five seconds, then this will be the norm, but it’s not, so we’ll stick with this.

I broke down field-goal differential but let’s look at UConn team shot attempts per game over the last decade and see what drove those groups.

2005-2006 – 61.4
2004-2005 – 60.4
2003-2004 – 61.6
2002-2003 – 62.3
2001-2002 – 59.1
2000-2001 – 57.8
1999-2000 – 59.2
1998-1999 – 58.6
1997-1998 – 59.1
1996-1997 – 56.5

First, some ironies.

More shots have gone up over the past four seasons than any other span over the last decade.
Rashad Anderson was on all four teams.

Really, that’s the only irony.

Quick analysis: Over a two year span (2002-2004) the Huskies averaged the most attempts. Guards Taliek Brown and Ben Gordon became one of the more productive backcourts in the school’s history and led them to a national title.

Now, with five quality guards, a foundation is set to mimic such productivity.

In the lowest year (1996-1997), the Huskies relied on then-sophomore Ricky Moore to run the show after he played mostly as Doron Sheffer’s understudy the year before. Moore never really had a true complement in the backcourt to share the guard workload while facilitating the interior production. Every UConn team since has owned a productive two-guard chemistry, save for maybe last year, which leads us to the other side of shot selection and attempts.

Shot attempts can accumulate with a few factors in mind: guards who earn attempts while balancing the offense with forwards and/or interior players, or active interior players, who thrive on second-chance baskets or tips (Jeff Adrien’s strong suit. Later blog topic).

Next time when a game is played with two dominant frontcourts, watch the official scorer work feverishly. Some may think this is an exact science but it’s not. Attempts are mysteriously gained or lost in the fray.

The group of Rudy Gay (466), Denham Brown (290), Josh Boone (243) and Hilton Armstrong (194) were responsible for the majority of field goal attempts. All forwards. All who made a good living on put backs or second-chance baskets. That’s where last year’s team accumulated attempts.

Another source will be found this season.

For a Division I team that prides itself on defense to attempt 75 shots is not an easy feat. Maybe Division III Grinnell College has a few suggestions. Grinnell annually leads the country in attempts but mostly with gimmicks.

Last year, the Pioneers averaged 93 shots.

Good luck.

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