Thursday, April 25, 2013

Houston Texans 2013 Draft Needs

For something a little different, my look at the Texans depth chart and what positions I'd like to see them pick.

It seems like the same positions are on this list year after year... WR, right side of O Line, nose tackle, cornerback.

Needs (in order )-
 - Starting WR - Texans have enough young talent to fill the 3rd and backup WR spots, but need a starter opposite Andre Johnson.  It would be good if they could find a #1 WR guy to take over for Johnson in a couple years.
 - Starting RT - the right side of the line was a big question mark last year.  I was hoping they'd get Eric Winston back in free agency.
 - Starting NT - Shaun Cody was alright last year but he's gone, Earl Mitchell ain't the guy.  I've been waiting for a space eater since they made the move to the 3-4.  Will take some heat off the inside linebackers in the run game.
 - Starting ILB - giant, giant hole when Cushing went down with an injury.  It made the loss of DeMeco Ryans sting even more
 - OLB depth - lots of talent and a couple top 2 round picks, but anyone drafted should see playing time rotating with the two young starters
 - Starting CB - Kareem Jackson isn't so much of a train wreck anymore, but it's a "safe" pick because they need a nickle too.  And a long-term replacement for FS Ed Reed.
 - Starting RG - Ben Jones looked ok here last year, and Brandon Brooks might be a better fit at RT.
 - Backup C - Meyers, the starter is getting old and expensive
 - Backup RE - ditto with Antonio Smith, although last year may have been the best of his career starting across from JJ Watt
 - Backup ILB - As much as I root for Tim Dobbins, him and Sharpton are replacement level players

What I think we'll see the Texans select
1st round - trade down - I really don't think they pick a WR this high.  Kubiak might have one guy in mind that he might take, otherwise he'll try to do something else with it.  I don't think you take a RT this high, and any big time nose tackles are probably gone
2nd round - WR - they took one in the 3rd and 4th last year, I think they try higher
3rd round - OLB - they love them some outside linebackers
3rd round - RT - could find a starter here
4th round - TE - only thing Kubiak loves more than OLBs is TEs.  We might see two selected.
5th round - RG - they'll find the same talent as Jones and Brooks, won't clear anything up
6th round - NT - can't find a space eater here
6th round - ILB - Wade Phillips will have to work some special magic to find a starter this deep
7th round - CB - speed guy to maybe have a shot at returning punts

extra picks - if they get any, and they probably need to, I see them being used in any of the follow ways - TE, QB, H back/FB, safety

Before I started, I thought the Texans were in good shape.  Now I'm not so sure.  They don't have huge holes so if they nail every pick, most could be filled.  I'd be ok with them trading down in the first to take some more shots to fill depth.  Wade will find at least one starter in this draft, but Kubes will waste a couple picks on his fetishes.  Hopefully they listened to owner Bob McNair when he said he wanted to see a wide receiver.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

"Fred is good for one extra win in the NCAA's"

While not "technically" true, I still stand by the spirit of this statement.  The idea is, some coaches always seem to be winning more games than they should in the tournament, and some coaches always seem to be bowing out early.  A couple years back, I found a table that highlighted this using a metric called PASE - performance against seed expectations.  You can find an explanation of it here.

Each seed has a historical average number of wins.  ISU has been a nine seed and a ten seed the last two years.  This means they should have won .56+.65 = 1.21 games between the two years.  Iowa State, of course, won one game each of the past two tournaments.  This is a total PASE of 2-1.21 = .79 or .395 extra wins per year.  Not a whole game more like I had stated.  But read this quote from the above article:
Generally speaking, a PASE above +.250 shows solid overachievement. A PASE of +.500 represents major over-performance. 
So Fred is easily in the overachievement category.  He certainly isn't the best coach out there.  This chart comes from

The coaches you think are good are backed up by this metric.  I referenced Tom Izzo in my previous post and he's second behind Brad Stevens, who has made two improbable runs to the Final Four with Butler.  So Fred might not be in the top five, but this metric isn't always positive.  If one team is overachieving, another is under achieving.  From the cbssports article:
 DePaul coach Oliver Purnell owns the worst PASE (-.818), followed by Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy (-.665), Pitt coach Jamie Dixon (-.567), Creighton's Dana Altman (-.515) and Clemson's Brad Brownell (-.446).
My feelings on Jamie Dixon are justified!  It's tough seeing Larry on that list.  His PACE was obviously hurt in 2001.

And finally, another chart in the above article was very interesting.

These are the top 10 attributes that contribute to a positive PASE.
- ISU isn't outscoring people by 15 (2013 margin of 8.4).  BUT, I've said recently, you need to score points to win, and winning games 50-45 doesn't leave you a lot of margin for error in the tournament.
- Fred hasn't been to the elite eight, but I believe when he gets ISU to the second weekend, they'll win to make the Elite Eight.
- Turnovers they were basically +/-0.0 / game.  I'd like to explain this away with pace but the opponents have just as many possessions a game as the Cyclones.
- ISU shot 73.1%, fitting this criteria.
- Iowa State's starters scored 72.4% of the points this year, in large part thanks to Tyrus scoring 13 a game. And it's another reason why I think Fred will keep someone in this role again next year, either SDW or Bluford.  Keeping the scoring going when the second units are in really keeps the pressure on.
- Royce was an All-American last year, but I don't envision that being an every year occurrence.
- Even if you include Will's scoring as a forward, ISU doesn't meet this criteria.  And I don't know that they ever will, but look at next year's squad, with the only scoring returning being Niang and Ejim in the frontcourt.
- ISU *only* outrebounded its opponents by 4.6 a game, but like most of the stats, got better during the conference part of the schedule.
- ISU was senior heavy this year, but Fred hadn't been through a full recruiting cycle yet.  Even if SDW didn't redshirt, he wouldn't have started over any of these guys.  Next year, I think we'll see two freshman, one sophomore, one junior and one senior start next year.  Now, I don't think Fred looks at these types of numbers, but I believe we'll see at least one freshman start every year from here on out.
- ISU has a looooong way to get to a defensive efficiency less than 90.  At first glance, it would seem difficult to get guys to play in Fred's system, at a high offensive efficiency rate, that would also play defense.  But then I looked at the numbers, and the two teams surrounding ISU in the offensive efficiency rankings are Louisville and Florida.  Good company!  Those two teams are first and third in defensive efficiency.  Fred is one step ahead of us again.  It's my belief, his plan all along has been to establish the offense first - done - and then work on the defense.  Fun offense brings the fans and the talent.  Better athletes brings better defense.

To summarize, Fred Hoiberg is building this team for the tournament, and he's already shown results.  I think the Cyclones will continue to exceed expectations in the regular season to make the big tournament, and will continue to have success when they get there.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Prediction for 2013-2014 - Part III, the Conclusion?

- I took my time, but here's my big prediction.  We see more of what happened in the Notre Dame game.  I don't think you ever see Georges playing point forward like Royce White, bringing the ball up the court, but I definitely think we'll see more high post with the option for Niang to hand off, dish to the cutter, pass outside, cut himself or turnaround and pop.  And I think it's going to be beautiful.  Who will guard it?  Big guys could take away his shot, maybe his move to the basket, but if ISU can get movement like I think they'll be able to, Niang will have three other options every handle.  It might be difficult to get him the ball in a zone, but then ISU can just rain threes. With this type of offense, they could be very, very difficult to stop.  It'll mean a little slower pace likely, and less points, but a very entertaining half-court set.  I can't wait.


If good season, another 23-11.

If great season, 26-9.
(Don't laugh.  At least five games went screwy this year, and the last one could have meant more wins)

Numbers based
 - Ejim only 2nd team all Big 12 (maybe some more on this later)
 - Niang borderline all big 12 third team (I hope/expect more but we'll see)

Hunch based
 - Monte Morris on all big 12 rookie team (I think Fred has something going here)
 - Ejim - not scholar-athlete of the year again, but he should be.  I can't imagine the amount of reading and writing necessary for a History degree.  I don't care if he got it online or got help or whatever, it has to be a lot of work
 - ISU finishes 3rd in the Big 12 - validating Fred's pay.  7 seed in NCAA.  Fred wins two to make it to Sweet Sixteen.

If great season scenario - ISU competes with KU for regular season and tournament championship.  Gets a 3 seed.  If 3 seed, Elite Eight.  

Predictions for 2013-2014, Part II - the Players

- If Ejim makes an improvement like he has the last three years, he could be a unique and special player not only in recent Cyclones history, but Big 12 history too.  However, depending on how the JUCOs turn out, I wouldn't be surprised to see him play a little more 3 and handle the ball and shoot some more.  His three point shot is very good, and he's starting to show something off the dribble.  If Hoiberg owes anything to any of these players, it's Ejim.  He's a long way from home, recruited by the previous regime.  Stuck it out and put up the best rebounding numbers in the big 12 this year.  First recipient of the Big 12 Scholar Athlete award.  Could have his number retired.  I doubt Ejim is a NBA player, but he could make a go of it overseas if he wanted to, and I think Hoiberg would like to showcase that a little bit.  He made Diante Garrett a fringe NBA player, and I watched Chuck Hayes play center for the Rockets for a few years, so nothing is impossible.  I feel like we're just starting to see some of the explosiveness he showed in high school and as a freshman.  More should be in store.

- Monte Morris.  Everyone's focus had been on Matt Thomas, but I think Monte Morris could have the bigger impact next year.  Shooters aren't easy to find, but it's a specific skill set.  If Morris can translate his point guard play and winning ability to the college level, Iowa State shouldn't see a drop off at that position, and that can't be understated.  ISU's point guard play has been inconsistent at best, especially at the start of the season.  And that could be expected from a freshman as well, except what I've read, Morris plays beyond his age level.  This year, ISU didn't need a PG that 'made plays' so much as facilitated the offense.  Eli Manning instead of Peyton Manning.  And I think that will be true next year as well.  Bubu might start next year, but Monte should start by the end, and I expect him to provide solid play down the stretch.

- It doesn't look like a lot of love for Thomas, but what a shooter's dream!  Everyone on the court has a green light.  From anywhere.  ISU works the ball around quite a bit, so I don't think the transition to the speed of college ball will be too much of an issue at first.  If he's good, he'll have to start making shots like Tyrus, but that kind of respect won't come right away.  I don't think we see him starting at first.  And maybe Fred runs him off the bench like Tyrus, but shooters excite me, and strike fear into the hearts of opposing teams.

 - The wild card - SDW.  Who is Sherron Dorsey-Walker?  What kind of player is he?  These questions will be answered this year, and hopefully the answer is he's a Chris Babb clone.  I'm worried the Cyclones will be small at guard, and tentative with the help defense.  ISU needs someone to eliminate one scoring threat on a nightly basis.  I think SDW's best long-term chance at seeing the starting lineup is with a three guard set, and him as the third, defensive guard.  Either this or SDW comes off the bench as the spark plug, but K.J. Bluford seems to have the inside track.  It's been pointed out that SDW had a pretty impressive list of offers, including Michigan, with HC Belein listed as the main recruiter.  Hopefully Fred is just stockpiling talent, and this kid is special.

- Georges Niang.  Not often do you see a kid make an impact early, and then improve during the season as much as Niang did.  He scored early, even though he was obviously slow and a little chubby.  By the end of the season, he looked like a legit college playmaker, and leader.  What excites me the most (after 10000 words...) is Georges Niang.  Unlike other ISU players, who've shown flashes early because of their athleticism (Rashon Clark comes to mind), Georges is doing it with skill.  He's eaten up some of the best big men in the country with post moves.  He shot threes at the second best rate on the team.  Forty percent!  But he's got great hands, great vision.  I think he got the short stick on fouls this year.  I rarely saw him make a bad foul, he just didn't get that calls.  That changes next year with a little more respect.

Predictions for 2013-2014 part I

I broke this down into sections.  It got long.

- It all starts with Fred.  The improvement that he's shown as a coach from one year to the next has been remarkable.  I don't know if it's the dedication that he honed as a player or exposure to the 365 nature of the NBA, but he's brought something new every year, and his players have shown marked improvement over the offseason, and maybe the best I've seen during the season.  I thought when he was hired, he'd be a recruiter and would have to rely on others for the X's and O's.  I was wrong.

- Other big 12 schools see it too.  My KU friends used to root for Fred and the Cyclones.  They don't any more.  ISU played them tougher than anyone else in the conference.  KU swept #2 KSU three times and two of them weren't even close.  Self showed twice he thinks he has to get T'd up to beat ISU.  Travis Ford tried it too.  Second year in a row ISU was picked 8th in the big 12.  Second year in a row they finished at least three spots higher.  The coaches might pick them that low again, but they're just hoping.  I'd put my money on something much higher.

 - New look for next year.  This is a trend for ISU.  They're losing 3/5 of the starting lineup again.  They're losing 65% of their scoring AGAIN.  But I feel good about it.  Next year will be the first Iowa State team that Fred has had.  Sure, JUCOs will play a role, but next year's squad will be built around Niang and Ejim, two ISU recruits.  Morris and Thomas and SDW won't know anything other than the Cyclones and could start from day one.  Bubu and Percy could be big parts at the beginning of the year.  It wouldn't have taken much to push ISU over the top in two games against Kansas this year.  A game against OSU.  One against Texas.  If a little more heart and dedication to ISU does it next year, I'm ok with it.

- Playing to the refs.  For most of the year, this wasn't an issue.  I was frustrated in the Big 12 tourney, because it was obvious the refs were going to let the players bang, and it seemed ISU was slow to catch on. But they redeemed themselves in NCAA tournament.  It was evident from the first games of Thursday, the refs were going to let the players play.  That seems to favor teams from the Big 10 and Big East to a lesser extent than teams that play with a little more finesse.  But the Cyclones seemed to acclimate just fine.  Niang played his game.  Ejim didn't get beat over the top for boards.  Booker brought a couple hard fouls.  I predict next years' team is more suited to playing how the refs' allow.  If Niang can know when he can be more aggressive, and when he needs to back off, he can be even more effective.

- Play better than the refs.  I'm tired of seeing the Cyclones get screwed.  I think Fred and the rest of the team are too.  They just need to take it out of the refs' hands.  Much like in boxing or UFC, when a fighter gets screwed in a decision, there's something ISU could have done about it.  And it's to wail on people.  The goal has to beat teams by 10.  And KU by 20.  After the anguish Fred and the rest of the team showed, I think there will be a little more killer instinct next year.  At least I hope so.

- No more Mr. Nice Fred.  This goes with the item above.  Now, I don't expect to see Fred acting like a clown like Bill Self, but it's evident he needs to do more than the Jim Boeheim "I"m tired" routine.  He can subtly work the refs from the start and still keep his dignity.  Self would obviously act like an ass to influence the refs every game if it meant a win, so I think Hoiberg can/will come that direction just a little more.