Monday, January 30, 2006

The Adventures of Bucky McMillan & the Misleading Box Score (BSC 70, Radford 57)

There’s a reason this site isn’t titled “Big South Wonk,” a la certain better-read (and better-written, better-researched, better-etc.) stats-first blogs out there. That reason is that while statistics and I are on very, very good terms, I sure ain’t about to ask them to the prom anytime soon.

I mean, look at the way they treat Bucky McMillan. A glance at the box score for BSC’s 70-57 win over Radford Saturday says that McMillan had a nice offensive game, with 5-7 shooting for 14 points. But it also points out he missed 3 of his 6 free throws, had only one assist (in 30 minutes) to a pair of turnovers, and failed to make anyone’s eyes pop with his steals (2) or rebounds (3) total.

In short, there’s no way to know from statistics the truth about Bucky McMillan, which is that he was the best player on the court Saturday. He ran an offense that finished the game shooting 51 percent overall and 44 percent from deep. He spearheaded a perimeter defense that held a good three-point shooting team to 28.6 percent (6-of-21) from outside and 39 percent overall. He drew fouls. He also made the undisputed play of the game, the play with 3:35 to play that finished off MacRadford for good: after taking a feed from Powe or Paul (not sure which) on a backdoor cut down the center of the lane, McMillan’s usual path-to-a-layup was blocked by Chris Oliver. So he tossed a behind-the-back no-look wrap-around hella-sweet dish to Ed Horton out in the corner. The three was good, the crowd was bonkers, the score was 65-50 and the game was JCCW-certified over.

And all the stats say about the play is that he had an assist on a Horton three. Thanks to work like Wonk’s, stats are cooler to hang out with than they used to be. No one's asks who invited them when they show up at the happening New Year's party. But they’ve still got a ways to go to catch up with the Buckies of the world.

WHAT IMPRESSED ME

--The shooting of every BSC player who wasn’t Dwayne Paul or LeCory Ruffin. Take away those two players’ combined 5-of-17, and BSC shot 18-of-28 (64 percent) from the floor. Likewise, toss out Paul’s and Ruffin’s combined 0-4 from outside the arc and BSC shot 8-of-13. Beautiful.
--Dwayne Paul. As I said, not his shooting. Radford’s size seemed to bother him more than even Alabama’s, and the officials let a number of plays go that could have been fouls when Paul muscled his way inside and drew contact. (To their credit, they called it this way on both ends.) But Sir Paul picked up 13 big rebounds, hit all five of his free throws, and despite his shooting woes still led the team in both points and boards. (A 15-and-13 dub-dub.) He’s like Avis--he's not as tall as his opponents, so he just works harder.
--The Panthers’ glasswork overall. A 40-24 rebounding advantage against a team with Chris Oliver on it is pretty doggone good.
--Dan Ross. On a day when BSC collapsed into a zone around Oliver and Whit Holcomb-Faye seemed like he’d rather eat a double-portion of Brussels sprouts than shoot the 3, Ross stepped up and hit 5-of-12 from deep to keep the Highlanders in the game in the late first half and early second. Sure, he fouled out and didn’t contribute much else (2 RBs, 0 assists) but at least he was aggressive.
--Coach Reboul. Radford’s starting C Duane Ricks picked up a quick second foul early in the first half (one very subtly relayed to the scorer’s table by the official, who stood in the back of the court rather than approaching the scorer’s table … this may be why Byron Samuels didn’t remove him from the game immediately). Next trip down, Reboul calls a play, executed perfectly, that gets the ball to Powe deep in the post and gives Ricks no choice but to foul. Ricks finished the game with eight minutes played (12 below his average), 1 rebound, and zero points. Reboul also made the productive decision to promote…
--Josh Bailey. The senior power forward has been the last-guy-off-the-bench his entire career, but with Viglianco in foul trouble he came on for five big minutes at the end of the first half, grabbing three boards and hitting a free throw. Freshman Kyle Rowland had been getting those minutes and is unquestionably the more talented of the two, but he’s been hoisting an awful lot of ill-advised threes and I’m guessing Reboul finally decided to go with Bailey’s effort over Rowland’s athleticism.
--The anonymous 10-year-old heckler who repeatedly serenaded Chris Oliver with the “O-ly-ver! O-ly-ver!” chant from the musical “Oliver!” Hilarious.
--Holcomb-Faye’s vision. After McMillan’s wraparound special, the next three or four prettiest assists on the day were all Holcomb-Faye’s. His drive-and-dishes were the only way for Radford to pick up points in the paint against the Panther zone.

WHAT DIDN’T IMPRESS ME

--Holcomb-Faye’s everything else. The official MacRadford site reports he was hampered by an injury, but for whatever reason Whit looked very little like a guy capable of leading the conference in scoring. He passed up open looks only to force others (3-of-12 from the field), he missed half his free throws (4-of-8), and picked up only one rebound. The BSC defense had a lot to do with that, of course, but he also just had an off-game against an opponent he couldn’t afford to.
--Viglianco’s forays inside the three-point line. OK, OK, I give up: Viglianco should just play the 3. Outside the arc, he went 3-of-4, shooting directly over the top of the much smaller defenders Radford was running at him. On what seemed like his first three trips inside the arc, he a) traveled b) got called for a charge c) committed a silly over-the-back foul. Whenever two of Powe, Paul, or Ihirim were on the floor, Viglianco was playing small forward, and while it seems weird to deploy our tallest player on the perimeter, the way the Masters P are playing down low I have to admit that’s probably the right move. TV’s quick enough to guard most Big South 3’s on the defensive end and at 6-9, he’s a complete mismatch on the offensive end for any conference small forward not named “James Shuler.”
--Radford’s team effort on the glass. The Highlanders had three players record 2 or more rebounds. BSC had eight.

OTHER NOTES

For someone whose name has foretold his future occupation since birth, Radford coach Byron Samuels (yeah, like a “Byron Samuels” was ever going to, say, manage a hotel) sure didn’t show a lot of know-how in dealing with officials Saturday. After a fairly steady stream of abuse over several minutes, one of the officials T’d him up with just under 5 minutes to play. Because Samuels hadn’t said anything especially foul just at that moment, the official told him he’d been T’d for being outside the coach’s box—despite the fact that Samuels hadn’t left the sideline and wasn’t more than a step or two towards the scorer’s table than technically allowed. Samuels knew, and the official knew, that the T wasn’t for him being outside the box—it was for him being a general ass over the last few minutes and the official having reached the tipping point. But this didn’t stop Samuels from mocking the ref by first pointedly toeing the line and asking if this was OK, then suddenly pointing at Reboul and saying “He’s outside the box! He’s outside the box!” (Reboul wasn’t.) When Reboul gently edged over the line two minutes later to complain about a call, Samuels screechingly pointed out so again, and deservedly got his walking papers. Reboul just chuckled … True conversation from a row behind me: Guy 1: “So which one’s Bucky?” Guy 2: “That’s him with the ball, No. 8. He’s my godson.” Guy 2, whoever and wherever you are, congratulations on doing your part to raise an outstanding point guard … I found out that Auburn won their first SEC game of the season by staring over the shoulder of the man in front of me as he checked the score on his Blackberry. 'Tis an amazing age we live in … BSC’s loudest hecklers are a pair of students in the “Panther Pit” section, located behind the basket closest to the opposing bench. With plastic mini-megaphones in hand, they do an excellent job of heaping endless noise on the opposing players and coaches, even I think some of the taunts (about player’s sisters, for example) are kind of in bad taste even for student hecklers. Their sustained vigor, however, is tremendous (especially since, unlike their counterparts in the ACC or Big East, they are pursuing this endeavor without feeding off of the energy of an entire section of likeminded fans) and I wondered if they managed it with the help of some pre-game liquid courage or purely on the overflowing ebullience of their BSC spirit. I got my answer when, standing in line for a urinal at halftime, one of them burst in, did a slightly more mature version of the “cha-cha” for a second or two, asked politely if he could cut in line, then proceeded to take the longest leak I can remember in my 27 years of attending sports arena men’s rooms. Good on ‘im.

2 comments:

Greg said...

Great column as always, J. How's the pep band these days? I haven't been back to the Battle since I graduated. I guess they've changed the layout of the seats?

Jerry Hinnen said...

There's been some changes, but nothing too radical. They knocked down the walls along both sidelines to put in extra seats, so the front row's much closer than it used to be. As I said, they stuck the "Panther Pit" behind the goal opposite the main entrance, and there's even one row of courtside seats that I'm pretty sure are close enough for you to get sweat dripped on you if you like.

The Best Pep Band in the Land sounds as good as ever, except for when you and Monkey played, of course. One wrinkle is that they're letting the drummer solo in the halftime song, which is cool.