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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday December 03, 2008 1:00 PM ET chat session with John Gasaway.

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John Gasaway of BasketballProspectus.com breaks away from the action on the courts to take your questions.

John Gasaway: Yo, hoops nation! Your humble servant J. Gasaway is in the house for the first chat of the year. And high time! Weíre already more than halfway through our annual ACC/Big Ten bloodletting, er, Challenge. It took a Plaxico Burress moment from Miamiís Jack McClinton but, by gar, the Big Ten is 3-3 in this thing. Alas, tough games await the underdog league tonight. Letís get right to it. As always I have The Current from Minnesota Public Radio piping through my ear buds and Iím ready to talk Challenge, non-Challenge, whatever. Let me hear from you.

nghunter (Brooklyn): I think Damion James of Texas might breakout for an absolute monster of a year. Sometimes he looks so poised and in control as to be a man among boys on the court. Thoughts? And, can he transition to the NBA and in what role?

John Gasaway: Iím not so sure he needs to breakout. Playing on the same team as D.J. Augustin last year, James may have been overlooked nationally. But not by me: he was both a Blake Griffin-level beast on the defensive glass and a perimeter threat. As I noted in the book (College Basketball Prospectus 2008-2009) Iím skeptical as to whether the latter will continue. But if it does that answers your NBA question right there.

shorts8617 (Detroit): What causes turnovers? Specifically why has Michigan State been plagued by turnovers recently and why were they able to stop turning the ball over last year in the second half of the season?

John Gasaway: I have no idea why Michigan State suddenly stopped turning the ball over in February last year. For one thing, they shot almost the exact same number of threes before and after--and threes, as you know, tend to "cost" less in terms of how many TOs you cough up. Anyway, TOs have been a legitimate matter of concern for the Spartans of late because they've been awful there but great at everything else. Also teams that don't go after offensive boards need to monitor their TOs. Otherwise a normal number of TOs need not be a concern: look at Florida back in the (national championship) day.

Boubacar Aw (Washington, DC): When will player specific stats be available? Even with the small sample sizes, they are fun to look at.

John Gasaway: Not next week but the following week. Maybe by then DeShawn Sims will have his second assist. Hi-yo!

David Kaufman (McLean, VA): How long will it be before your work becomes essential reading for college basketball analysts? As a Georgetown fan, I cringe every time anybody criticizes the Princeton offense. Any chance you can talk to Hubert Davis for me?

John Gasaway: It's already essential! He said modestly. Anyway, I think the tempo-free stats gestalt could benefit from a 2.0 moment, one where the content would be packaged in a more blatantly for- Dummies manner. Points per possession is not rocket science any more than home runs per season is.

Josh (Chicago): Yo John - I couldn't help but notice that the Boilermakers are really struggling with their offensive rebounding this season. They stand 312th in the nation in OReb%, and it probably cost them the game against Oklahoma, as well as making the Duke game competitive-looking. Is this the product of a missing Scott Martin? Martin wasn't a great rebounder, but he wasn't horrible, and Purdue wasn't exactly tenacious on the glass this year. Is there a real chance Purdue's OReb% stays below 30%?

John Gasaway: The Big Ten as a whole is not what you'd call ferocious on the offensive glass. Its member institutions are much more concerned about getting back in transition. That being said I don't think the Boilers will be sub-30 percent in-conference. That's a pretty reliable Mendoza line, below which you'll find only Northwestern and, now in the Lickliter era, Iowa--teams that are making a Lloyd Dobler-style conscious choice not to go after offensive boards.

ssteadman (St. Louis, MO): As a Georgetown alum, I'm happy to see that the Hoyas are ranked 5 in Pomeroy's most recent rankings, and the top 1 loss team in the country...but I'm a skeptic. I watched that Wichita State game, and we looked bad. Small sample size playing tricks? Or did the blowout against Maryland really do that much for the computers?

John Gasaway: Pomeroy would be the first to say don't look at the Pomeroy ratings in early December. Trust those peepers of yours. That being said, I think your Hoyas are probably being a little undervalued in the market of perceptions right now. Aside from nine atrocious minutes against Tennessee, they've been good enough. In a couple weeks when I have a better read on Monroe, I'd be up for a more declarative statement.

Gabriel (Arlington, VA): Is there any team out there with even a puncher's chance against UNC? Please tell me there is.

John Gasaway: Of course! Look at Duke in 1999, the last team to go undefeated in the ACC. They lost in the national championship game to heavy underdog Connecticut. Carolina is a legitimate heavy favorite and there is indeed a bigger gap between Nos. 1 and 2 than at anytime in the short time I've been doing this. (Four years.) But that doesn't mean the Heels are unbeatable.

Dexter Fishmore (New York, NY): How about a 30-word capsule preview of tomorrow's UCLA-Texas game (avec prediction)?

John Gasaway: Wow, 30 words. And I just used eight! OK, start here: UCLA lost to Michigan because their offense was woeful. We'll get to see if that's changed against the stout Longhorn D. It's in Austin, so Texas beats the Bruins for the second consecutive year. (And, circling back to the first question, Damion James breaks out.)

cclark131313 (Big Ten Country): Is this a new Wisconsin team? It seems like they are much more offensively efficient this year than past, but the D has struggled. Do you see them keeping it up?

John Gasaway: Your eyes are playing tricks on you. The Badgers had not only a great D last year but also the best offense (1.09 points per trip in-conf.) in the Big Ten. That being said, this year I have been surprised by how much playing time the freshman guards, Jordan Taylor and Rob Wilson, are getting and by how aggressive Wilson in particular has been. Leuer looks unbelievably more comfortable this year, doesn't he? And of course Hughes morphed into Michael Flowers-at-Texas at an opportune moment the other night. If Purdue and/or Michigan State continue to not live up to advance billing, Wisconsin could be right there.

Dexter Fishmore (New York, NY): So at what point on the calendar do the Pomeroy ratings start to reflect more signal than noise?

John Gasaway: I'm usually wearing a pointy hat, blowing a noisemaker, and crooning Auld Lang Syne before I peer too deeply into them. But that's just me.

Brice (Chapel Hill): What's your take on Liberty so far this year? Their statistical indicators aren't looking too hot, but they've pulled together some wins over pretty decent teams. With Winthrop still winless in Division I, might we see two Currys (Curries?) holding conference championship banners come March?

John Gasaway: Wow, you dream big! Then again, why not? Winthrop and UNC-Asheville both saw big departures. It's a wide open Big South, baybee! One thing, though. Seth Curry or someone needs to hit some more threes (as a team the Flames are sub-30 so far this year) and grab some defensive boards.

Nadav Henefeld (Storrs): Connecticut has looked pretty solid thus far this year, but they still are the same team that struggled mightily at times during the past 2 years to inferior teams. Any chance that they've matured enough to make it to Detroit?

John Gasaway: Connecticut is the 64 dollar question for all of college hoops this season. They just look, visually, like a team that can contend with North Carolina. But last year their defense didn't play like a team that can do that. And, as was said in the book, if Thabeet goes down for whatever reason, look out. His shot-blocking was the defense last year, period. There was nothing else. So, yeah, I'm watching the Huskies closely and counting the hours until they collide with Gonzaga in Seattle in a couple weeks.

Brent (Raleigh): What's your take on Wake Forest? They didn't look particularly great in wins over Cal State-Fullerton or UTEP, but did play an impressive 2nd half against a good team in Baylor.

John Gasaway: I saw part of that UTEP game and you're right, the Deacs just looked kind of lethargic. Then again I saw all of the Baylor game and came away impressed. Where was I when Teague became such a take-charge player? And if WF continues to do without threes, they should be a pretty consistent bunch as well.

tmcghan (Bay Area, CA): In a previous chat, I asked what I should be looking for from the Kings this season, and I got something along the lines of "figure out if Hawes and supporting cast are for real". A few weeks into the season, what's your take on how the younger guys of the Kings are growing, and where do you see the ceiling/potential for this team moving forward?

John Gasaway: You know, I'm supposed to pass on questions like this because they concern that other league. But we here at Prospectus aims to please! So I shot the question to Kevin Pelton. Here's Kevin:

"Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson have certainly impressed thus far this season. Hawes' growth at the defensive end is evident, and he's always had the tools offensively. Thompson, meanwhile, has been a revelation, which has made it very disappointing that his playing time has been stretched lately. The Kings might have to move Brad Miller ahead of schedule to find enough playing time for everyone. What's the ceiling? A little too early to make those kind of bold declarations. Sacramento is still in position to add talent in the draft, with PG maybe the biggest potential area for improvement (depending on your opinion of Donte' Greene, who has yet to play much). The big question right now, I think, is how you improve a defense that ranks dead last in the league by a mile. More PT for Thompson will help that, but the Kings also need to improve their perimeter defenders and come up with a more effective defensive scheme."

Thanks, K-Man!

Tim (Sonoma, CA): Couple west coast questions for ya. Surprised with the good start USF is having? Also, is Josh Akognon going to be the third CSU Fullerton grad to be in the NBA next year?

John Gasaway: Yes, surprised, but I don't know just how surprised. While I'll be excused for not knowing what to read into a 51-point win over the Academy of Art, I'm actually equally puzzled by the five-point loss to USC. Who knows what's up with the Trojans? And Colorado State was o-fer in the Mountain West last year. So, yes, it's a better than expected start for the Dons. And stay tuned.

P.S. Say hello to Buena Vista winery for me.

Tim (Sonoma, CA): Couple west coast questions for ya. Surprised with the good start USF is having? Also, is Josh Akognon going to be the third CSU Fullerton grad to be in the NBA next year?

John Gasaway: Yes, surprised, but I don't know just how surprised. While I'll be excused for not knowing what to read into a 51-point win over the Academy of Art, I'm actually equally puzzled by the five-point loss to USC. Who knows what's up with the Trojans? And Colorado State was o-fer in the Mountain West last year. So, yes, it's a better than expected start for the Dons. And stay tuned.



P.S. Say hello to Buena Vista winery for me.

Oops. Forgot the second half. To reach the next level, Akognon will have to up his assists over last year. Also, persuading the media guide to list him as 6-0 instead of 5-11 wouldn't hurt.

Matt A (Raleigh): Florida is young this year, but there's a lot of talent in the sophomore and freshman ranks. What're their chances to make some noise in the SEC this year?

John Gasaway: You're viewing the Gators in comparison to their recent history. Seen against the backdrop of this year's SEC, I'd say the prospects are very good. They just need to play some D. There was none last year.

Joe (Cincinnati, OH): After last night's tough loss against Clemson, how do you guys project the Illini? Do they have a reasonable chance to make the NCAA?

John Gasaway: Let's call it "a chance," sans adjective. If Legion (becomes eligible in a couple weeks) can hit threes, that will help. Either way, Mike Davis is about a million times more assertive in this offense than I thought he would be.

bigdoghoosier (Indy): Wonk, Nice article about the Hoosiers, wondering if you think they have a chance at double digit victories this year with the freshmen gaining experience throughout the season. Also, speaking of young teams, Butler has looked good so far this season. How do you think they will far in a big test tomorrow at Cleveland St.?

John Gasaway: I'll take the second part first. Yes, huge test against Cleveland St. I saw Butler in-person against Ball State and I was impressed with how good the younger Bulldogs looked on a night when Howard was just average. If Butler again does well this year only now without Graves and Green, Brad Stevens' stock will zoom, rightly so. As for the Hoosiers, they will improve and they'll be tough at home against the middle and bottom of the conference. Pritchard has already shown he'll be part of the answer in future years when the talent around him improves. Thanks for the kudo.

Keith (Milwaukee): Should I be worried that Marquette might not even make the tournament this year? In the early going -- and I'll add that I'm obviously judging off of a pretty small sample of games -- it seems as if everyone has stagnated besides Wes Matthews. Add in the fact that Marquette really didn't add any impact freshman due to Crean's departure and you have what looks like a team that, while probably not a whole lot worse than last year, looks to be comparatively worse if only because the competition (particularly in the Big East) has gotten better. Their defense also appears (not sure if the numbers back it up) to be markedly worse than last season...

John Gasaway: No, you should not be worried. Even if Buzz Williams' gang is not as good as some expected them to be--and, yes, it's too early to even go that far, even with the neutral-site Dayton loss--they will still be dancing.

John Gasaway: Alright, that's going to do it for me. Everyone settle in and watch Carolina-Michigan State tonight. And come back to Basketball Prospectus tomorrow for my thoughts on that one. Peace out.


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