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'Moneyball' in basketball; soccer and MEC tourney

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ye olde notebook:
  • You might remember "Moneyball." It was the movie about Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane - played by Brad Pitt - and his staff's use of sabermetrics to build a team.
  • Well, since then advanced analytics have spread throughout Major League Baseball, as well as the NBA. And now you can toss in college basketball.Brad Stevens used advanced analytics to lead Butler to back-to-back national championship games and grab the Boston Celtics coaching gig. A recent Athlon magazine piece outlined how tempo-free statistics and analytics have spread throughout college hoops.I've always found it fascinating, if a bit above my pay grade. The article breaks down many aspects of analysis, but also has suggestions for fans. Replace points per game, for instance, with points per possession to judge teams and their effectiveness. That takes different styles of tempo out of the mix.In WVU's exhibition with Fairmont the other night, the Mountaineers scored 1.1 points per possession in the first half, 1.15 in the second half and 1.13 overall. That was pretty efficient considering the median college team scored 1.01 points per possession last season.The article suggests offensive and defensive rebounding are separate skills. To judge either, use a percentage of the rate the free balls are gathered. On Monday, WVU's offensive rebound percentage was 29.7 percent. Fairmont's was better at 31.3 percent. That accurately reflects what those watching saw.The article suggests replacing field goal percentage with a new statistic that gives added weight to a made 3-pointer. Makes sense since, well, one is worth two points and one is worth three. In the traditional metric, WVU shot 40.8 percent in getting to 89 points. In the effective field goal percentage, it shot 53.1 - again a truer reflection.It also makes sense to take tempo out of stats like turnovers. A team that blazes up and down the court will have more than a deliberate offense, right? So why compare two completely different teams? Instead look to turnovers per possession. WVU had a paltry .14 against the Fighting Falcons.Outside the game, men like Ken Pomeroy have made a living producing the stats. Inside it, coaches like Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg - who used them as vice president of the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves - are using them to make a living.WVU coach Bob Huggins, on the other hand, is not."We have all that," said the Mountaineer coach. "But much of it is skewed. There are just so many variables - like which teams you play against. Teams will play differently if they're behind. How much weight do you put into it?"Huggins admits there's "some validity to some of it," and after ballgames he'll certainly study the provided stat sheets (which don't, by the way, track possessions or any of the aforementioned analytics). He's just a skeptic of the new-age numbers."It's like the old adage," Huggins said. "You can make numbers say what you want them to say. And why do you think there's so much of that out there? To make money."
  • I spoke to SSAC executive director Gary Ray the other day. He filled me in on the body's agreement with PlayOn! Sports to stream championship events online.
  • In case you're unaware, it's a pretty neat setup if you don't mind paying a fee. Today and Saturday, for instance, the state soccer championships can be watched live online. The SSAC earns rights fees."We make money in segments," Ray said. "In the first segment we make $10,000, but that can go up to $45,000."It came at a good time. Because of the economy, we lost some sponsors for our championships. Initially, I thought [the streaming rights fees] would be a windfall, but the wind blew that away. This is sort of balancing it out."
    According to Nick Minore of PlayOn!, those wishing to watch today must pay $9.95. On Saturday, it's the same deal. One can, however, pay $14.95 for a month pass, which would cover both days. You can watch any of the streamed nationwide events, in fact, for the month.Anyway, here are the links to this weekend's West Virginia soccer championships:
    For the Class AAA boys: the Class AA/A girls: the Class AAA girls: for the Class AA/A boys:
  • And finally . . .
  • Not long ago it was announced that the first Mountain East Conference basketball tournament would be held - a la that of the old West Virginia Conference - at Charleston's Civic Center.It was certainly good news for those in the Kanawha Valley worrying that MEC commissioner Reid Amos would move the event to Wheeling. The commish's last job was at West Liberty.It's noteworthy, though, that the deal is simply for 2014."As it stands right now, that's right," said Tim Brady, vice president of sales and services at the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We just haven't had that [long-term] discussion yet."It makes sense, of course, for Amos and his staff to take a look at all options, especially since the league is new. It also makes sense for the Charleston CVB to do what it can to make sure the event stays put. Word is, the CVB is on it."We're looking for new elements for the tournament," Brady said. "We'd like a better fan experience. We're trying to secure some additional entertainment."In a related note, I received a call suggesting the Lions Club would be cut out of the tournament after hosting the teams for, what, 50 years?"That's absolutely not true," Brady said. "We've had conversations with the Lions Club. Our thought, though, is to get more civic clubs involved, like the Kiwanis, Civitans and Generation Charleston. We'd like an increased civic involvement."We're all just getting our hands around this," Brady concluded. "We want to step it up."Which is good news for the Kanawha Valley - and possibly the MEC.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, or follow him at  
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