Monday, June 8, 2015

Ray Floriani's Tempo-Free Big East Wrapup

A Xavier cheerleader in mid-routine during Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)

The Big East provided a number of interesting stories: A fast Seton Hall start that later hit a road block head-on. A St. John’s team with the ability to win, then promptly disappoint with a hard-to-explain setback. Providence, ultimately proving to be a tough out as they attempted to defend their crown. The one constant in all this was the impressive ‘tip to buzzer’ dominance of Villanova. The regular season champions received a scare in the conference semis before dismantling Xavier in the final for the championship. Numbers are from conference games only and courtesy of

1) Villanova (+23 efficiency margin, 16-2 record)
2) Georgetown (+7, 12-6)
3) Butler (+4, 12-6)
4) Providence (+2, 11-7)
5) Xavier (+2, 9-9)
6) St. John's (-2, 10-8)
7) Creighton (-8, 4-14)
8) Seton Hall (-9, 6-12)
9) DePaul (-11, 6-12)
10) Marquette (-11, 4-14)

Fastest pace:
1) St. John's (68.7 possessions)
2) Providence (67.5)
3) Xavier/Seton Hall (66.4)
No major shock among this group, especially St. John’s, which loved to get out in transition and create opportunities on the run.

Most deliberate:
1) Creighton (64.2 possessions)
2) Georgetown (64.8)
No surprise with this duo. Even with Doug McDermott last year, Creighton averaged just 65 possessions.

Conference traits: Among the ten teams, only 4.5 possessions separated the fastest from the most deliberate. Another wing/guard conference, no team was over 20% in turnover rate, an impressive display of caring for the ball. The other side of the coin showed that full court pressure defense was not a conference-wide staple. The TO rates and possession totals bear that fact out.

Offensive leaders:
1) Villanova (116 offensive efficiency)
2) Xavier (103)
3) Georgetown (103)
4) St. John's (103)

Top defenses:
1) Villanova (93 defensive efficiency)
2) Georgetown (96)
3) Butler (98)

Villanova was the class on both ends of the floor. Jay Wright’s group clearly outdistanced the three ‘runners-up’ on the offensive end. Defensively, the top three were the only teams to keep opponents under 100 offensive efficiency. Villanova, again, was clearly the cream of the crop.

For a moment, forget the alleged locker room issues. Seton Hall held opponents to 31% three-point shooting, one of the best marks in the conference. Why shoot the three? Kevin Willard’s Pirates gave up the highest two-point field goal percentage at 53%.

What a difference a year and McDermott make. Creighton enjoyed a plus-13 efficiency margin and the conference’s best 119 offensive efficiency en route to conference runner-up a year ago. Ten less conference wins for the Bluejays, but the biggest free fall was in the efficiency margin. They went from plus-13 to minus-8. For those of you scoring at home, that’s a drop of 21 in the EM category.

Big East Championship: Villanova 69, Xavier 52
In a mid-sixty-possession (Xavier 66, Villanova 63) affair, the Wildcats were decidedly better. Both teams, two-point victors, worked extremely hard in the semis. Xavier edged Georgetown to earn their first title game appearance, while Villanova ‘survived’ defending champion Providence.

On this night, the Wildcats posted an outstanding 109 efficiency while limiting Xavier to 79. Chris Mack’s group had the edge in TO rate, committing just 14% while forcing Villanova into a 21% mark. That was it. Villanova was clearly dominant in the other three factors, especially field goal shooting. They shot 59% eFG percentage, while holding the Musketeers to 39.7%.

Scoring leaders and efficiency:
Xavier: Dee Davis (13 points, 15 efficiency) and Jalen Reynolds (13 points, 12 efficiency)
Villanova: Dylan Ennis (16 points, 17 efficiency) and Josh Hart (15 points, 19 efficiency)

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