Saturday, March 31, 2012

Last season's predictions - Revisited

UNLV predictions, revisited

On October 23, 2011, Jason Taylor and myself kicked around out predictions about what this season would be like. Let’s find out how we did, and what we didn’t account for happening that created deviations in those predictions. For clarity, the black is Jason's (his comes first too), the dark red is mine (after Jason's).

Given that the Rebels will win 20+ games again, what match-ups are toss-ups or losses?

Shortened up, here are the teams I mentioned.
Toss up – New Mexico    Wins – USC, and Cal    Losses – UNC, Wisconsin, Illinois
Worried about – UCSB    Overall guess at our record… 28-5

So, for what I mentioned... not too terrible.  We won and lost to New Mexico (toss up).  We beat USC and Cal, as predicted, and we lost to Wisconsin as predicted.  I was worried about UCSB… fortunately we squeaked out an overtime win where we held a 10 point lead with 2 minutes to go in regulation.  The two I got wrong… UNC and Illinois.  It was so nice to be so wrong on those!  UNC was #1 at the time, and Illinois was ranked #19, undefeated (if I remember correctly), and we played the Illini “away”.

My biggest blunders came in failing to mention so many other teams that, not only should I have been worried about, but I TOTALLY underestimated.  I thought the conference was going to be weaker, where I predicted only losing 2-3 games.  We lost 5.  SDSU… wow.  Great job Steve Fisher.  CSU… I thought losing Andy Ogide would put them at a huge disadvantage.  WRONG!  How about Wyoming?  Phenomenal season considering the preceding year and the loss of Amath M’Baye to Lon Kruger’s Sooners!  TCU, too.  They had a really strong home performance this year, even though we blew… what, a 20 pt lead or so?  MAN, that one got me.

We went 26-9 through all games.  In all fairness, I wasn’t including D II games, so apples to apples the “Actual” record was 24-9, and I had us at 28-5.  That’s four full games the “wrong” way.  It felt worse than 4, though.

Here’s how I called it
UNC – loss (they’re just too good and we’ve not had good luck at the Orleans) -Wrong
USC – win
UCSB – win
Wichita State – toss-up (loss)
Wisconsin – toss-up (loss)
Illinois – win (revenge)
Cal – toss-up, win
UNR – toss-up, win
SDSU – win, both times Wrong, only once
CSU – win, both times Wrong, only once
New Mexico – split series (home win, road loss)

Not too shabby on my part, what I didn’t count on (and nobody else did) was the extreme fortune and whatever the team was drinking the night we beat UNC at the Orleans. Amazing. But, on the negative, who would have guessed losing to Wyoming and TCU? Head scratchers, games that I chalked up as ‘given’. The big surprise to many was that San Diego State would be a formidable opponent, spending some time ahead of UNLV in the national rankings. Clearly, SDSU can recruit and Coach Fisher is one of the best out there.

UNLV finished conference play with a record of 26-7, not quite the 28-4 I had predicted, but still good enough for Coach Rice to be among the best new coaches in college basketball, not to mention one of the best regardless. The Rebels spent more time being nationally ranked than they had since 1992, at one point #11 in the nation. The major hurdle for the Rebels was the MWC, as a whole, was completely legit and brought effort, intensity, and a lot of luck when they played the Rebels. 

Will the Rebels actually run?

I said:  We'll be playing bigger and faster.  Coach Rice has stressed style of play since day 1, and his style "Runs"!

The reality, in my opinion:  Yes, we Ran… Right out of steam!  I think the reason we did so well early in the season truly had a lot to do with “legs”.  I think we lost our legs late in the season because we were tired, and I think the biggest mistake Rice made was leaving fresh legs, much too often, on the bench.  Kruger used more subs on the average, and he wasn’t trying to run a high-octane offense.  I hope Rice and staff will consider this over the summer.  Lopez, Thomas, Smith, and even Wallace could have added much more depth and helped preserve the starters.  I think some of those huge leads we gave up are indicators of this notion.

I said they would, that losing Willis and Jasper, and gaining Moser and Smith would make the team more athletic, and could better execute the Runnin’ offense. 

I was half right. The Rebels did run, but Smith was not the factor he was envisoned to be, not totally his fault – he was inserted into a high-octane team midway through the season and was unable to match what Oscar Bellfield brought to the table. Mike Moser on the other hand, was half-man half amazing for the first 75% of the season, and then a mere mortal the rest of the way. Changing systems takes time, Coach Rice increased the PPG dramatically in his first season, and he will continue to implement both his offense and defense more effectively when he has his handpicked guys running it, and more time to work it. 

Will this year's schedule be the RPI builder of years past?

I said:  The first half of the year will be an RPI builder, but the second half would be “fragile”.  
RPI of 20 most of the conference season.  I greatly underestimated the strength of the conference.

I said it was a mixed bag, and there was a serious gap between the quality opponents we faced and non-quality opponents in the nonconference schedule.

Mostly right on this – but I didn’t properly value the RPI. The opponents were either high quality or terrible, with no middle ground. The RPI, and the way the Rebels capitalized sent our RPI soaring and certainly helped with the consistant national ranking (that and beating UNC). This was Coach Kruger's schedule, 95% of it. Coach Kruger’s most genius move is putting together a schedule that creates 20+ win seasons and also boasts a great RPI at the end of the day. The man is most genius in this respect. Hopefully Coach Rice will keep a little of Coach Kruger’s magical RPI schedule building. 

Last year the average attendance at the T&M was one of the best on the west coast at 13253.  What will the average attendance be this year?

Due to a lack of Saturday games, I said:  We'll still be one of the best-attended basketball arenas on the west coast, but I think we'll maintain attendance numbers - until next year.  

Home attendance ended up at 13867.  I’d say that was a reasonably good prediction???  However, had I known that ticket prices for the Plaza level would increase so much, I may have been more skeptical.  Overall, the fan turnout was great.  We took some major strides in creating a better atmosphere this year, even coming up with a cool name for the student section:  The Rebellion.  The 20 ft “Mike Moser” was awesome!

I predicted 15,000, the real number was 13867. I totally agree with Jason Taylor’s assessment on why there was no boost. Frankly, he should be running their ticket sales / marketing department, he accurately predicted their failure, and the reasons why that failure occurred. 

Will Marshall be a better PG than Bellfield?

I said:  If Marshall can build his way into the NBA, the Point is the perfect position for him to do it from.  Try guarding him one-on-one and he'll end up cramming it down your throat with his speed, strength, and explosiveness.  Apply "help D", and he'll dish or kick.  

Bellfield is a very good "face-up" jump shooter, so I believe he'll actually benefit as well.

With that said, I don't think the switch means as much under Rice as it would have under Kruger.  Rice's offense will rely on multiple transition ball handlers, all the way up through the power forward position.  Guards, including Wallace, will immediately turn up court as they rebound, so Marshall will bring the ball up less often under Rice, I believe, than Bellfield brought it up under Kruger.

If I were asked the same question now, I’d say it depends on how you view the role of the point guard.  If it is to control pace, conserve a good assist to turnover ratio, and distribute the ball, I’d say Bellfield.  However, if you need a point that can force his will, then Marshall is the obvious choice.  I like them both, for different reasons.  I think having the power to use either style was a big plus for Rice.

Marshall would greatly increase his stock with a more consistent outside shot and better free throw shooting.  Bellfield was a very reliable guard, and played MUCH better than his high school recruiting assessment valued him at.  He will be missed.

I had predicted that he would be the same, but do it in a different way. Marshall is not a better point guard than Bellfield, main reason is turnovers. Offensively, Marshall was ahead of Bellfield, but that’s fine and good and they have a name for that – shooting guard. I don’t think that Marshall has the mentality to be a great point guard, but he is fantastic as a shooting guard, or in limited minutes as a point guard. I was wrong on this one. 

Which assistant coach are we likely to see standing up and being the most vocal during games?

I said:  My only guess is a long shot - Heath Schroyer.  He was a bit of a foot stomper as head coach at Wyoming, but who knows how he'll be as a non-alpha dog?  

I think this was right.  There were several times Schroyer was standing behind rice yelling out calls.  I think he was well behaved, but I’d say he was the most vocal.  Augmon – sometimes I wondered if his lips were glued shut!  Hutson – Reserved, but not bashful.  

I had predicted Hutson, but it turned out to be Jason’s pick – Heath Schroyer. The guy couldn’t help himself, and the way the Rebels sometimes played – I don’t blame him in the least. 

Whose game will improve the most over last season?

I said:  I'm going to cheat on this one a little bit and look at a transfer.  For comparison, since he sat out last year, I'm borrowing UCLA's stats from 2009-10.  My prediction:  Mike Moser WILL WIN this category, assuming he stays healthy.  He didn't get much playing time at UCLA... only 4 minutes per game.  He shot 20% from the field and made less than 10% of his 3's.  My prediction:  Moser will go from averaging less than 1 point per game for the Bruins, to leading the Rebels in rebounding and scoring for UNLV this year, and will compete for "MWC Newcomer of the Year" honors.

Crazy?  Maybe, but I'm stickin' with it!


Leading scorer for the Rebels?  Mike Moser.
Leading rebounder for the Rebels?  Mike Moser.
MWC Newcomer of the Year?  Mike Moser.

Ya Baby!  Cheater or not, I’m braggin’ about that one!  Nobody around the conference called Moser a pre-season MWC Award winner, or likely to be the best overall player for UNLV.  

As John Sandler would say:  SLAAAM, DUNK!

During the fan scrimmage, I saw a good 10-12 pts per game that you can’t take away from him.  He’s too long, energetic, and can hit free throws.  Rebounds… that was obvious.  After the scrimmage I told him I was looking at the MWC Newcomer of The Year.  He smiled and said, “I wish.”  Cool kid.

I picked Mashour, but he was never given the playing time to improve and has essentially been removed from garbage time duty due to to an incident mid-season. 

The clear most-improved candidate was Brice Massamba – he was everything we wanted him to be this season. I am really, truly, sorry to see the big man leaving.  I think Justin Hawkins also raised his game considerably, and had Massamba not done it as a starter, I might named Hawkins instead. 

Is bringing back ‘the shark’ the right thing to do moving forward? 

Is there any greater respect we could give to Tark?  Loved it!

I was cautiously optimistic about the shark. Now, I’ve totally jumped on the bandwagon. It makes us unique, it a a very good thing, and it pays homage. I love the shark, even more than I love Mozilla. Long live the shark. 

No comments:

Post a Comment