Plus/minus analysis for analytics-friendly Penn basketball

Utilizing the box score and play-by-play from Penn’s matchups with Robert Morris and Central Connecticut State, this post uses unofficial plus-minus numbers for the Quakers in their first two games this season, both wins at home. Keep in mind that these numbers are a short sample size and do not yet include Penn’s win at Delaware State Tuesday.

Steve Donahue has made much of the fact that he is an analytics-friendly coach, emphasizing to his players that they seek high-percentage shots in the paint first and foremost before subsequently trying for three-pointers if they cannot get off layups. He has also said that he likes to go 10 deep in the first half, using as much of his bench as he can.

That means a lot of lineups for a coach who relies on a lot of analytics, which merits some further analysis of our own. We already established that Penn’s worst lineup against Central Connecticut State was also its most used lineup, as the starting lineup of Jake Silpe-Antonio Woods-Matt Howard-Sam Jones-Darien Nelson-Henry posted a -11 rating in 11:49 together on the court. Donahue used 19 different lineup combinations with 14 different players in that game.

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Crunching the numbers: Penn-CCSU plus/minus

Utilizing the box score and play-by-play from Penn’s matchup with Central Connecticut State, this post uses unofficial plus-minus numbers for the Quakers in their 77-61 win. Keep in mind that these numbers are a very short sample size.

While Sam Jones put on a show against Central Connecticut State by going 5-for-9 from three-point range http://wp.me/p5jSrX-1QV, he wasn’t the only Penn player to post strong plus-minus numbers. Of the 10 players to get three minutes or more of playing time, seven posted positive plus-minus numbers, including a game-high +23 from Darnell Foreman.

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Sam Jones on fire for Penn basketball

PHILADELPHIA – Early in the second half, Penn basketball had yet to hit its stride against Central Connecticut State, tied at 36. Where was the three-point barrage that had just two days earlier taken Robert Morris by storm? Was this sluggish offense reality setting in?

But then Sam Jones hit a three. And then another. AND THEN ANOTHER.

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The Steve Donahue era begins with Penn finishing

PHILADELPHIA – Eight months since he took the post as the head of Penn basketball, Steve Donahue’s team was up 17 against a Robert Morris squad that returned four starters from last year’s NCAA Tournament squad. Penn had only coughed up the ball five times in the first half. Almost every shot that the Quakers took was within the bounds of Donahue’s system. It was as good as Donahue could have scripted it.

Read moreThe Steve Donahue era begins with Penn finishing

Q&A with Robert Morris coach and former Penn guard Andy Toole

Penn basketball leads off its season this Friday against Robert Morris, a team coached by none other than former Quakers guard Andy Toole (“03). Since winning two Ivy titles as a player at Penn, Toole’s career has taken off. After time as an assistant at both Lafayette and Robert Morris, Toole took over and has already eclipsed 100 career victories at the age of 35. He also led the Colonials to an NCAA Tournament bid and a victory in the First Four.

Before his squad opens its year against the Red and Blue, Toole took some time to talk about the matchup and his time at Penn with Ivy Hoops Online. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation:

Read moreQ&A with Robert Morris coach and former Penn guard Andy Toole

Penn Season Preview – Where the Whānau Is

There’s a new word surrounding Penn basketball this season: whānau.

What does this word mean and what does it have to do with the Quakers program under new coach Steve Donahue? The word means family in the Maori language.

Yet, as Donahue says, it means much more. It also refers to one’s extended family and their community, something that the Red and Blue hope to embrace in the 2015-16 season.

Embracing the community is a necessity after the Quakers’ recent lack of success. Penn is coming off possibly the worst three-year stretch in program history, a period that led to the ouster of coach Jerome Allen and the tenure of Donahue. A Penn assistant from 1990-2000 and the former head coach of Cornell and Boston College, Donahue brings a new wave of optimism and excitement to his former school.

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Reading the Ivy tea leaves – Penn roundup

Thanks to everyone close to the Penn basketball program in some capacity who shared their thoughts on their hopes and expectations for the Quakers this season:

A.J. Brodeur, Penn basketball class of 2020: I think this year for Penn, people need to watch out for the freshman class. There’s a lot of talent there that was under-recruited in high school in my opinion. Also, Steve’s style of play focuses on letting the players play with offensive guidelines and concepts rather than always running defined plays and offenses. It’s worked for him in the past and I’m excited to see where it takes the Quakers this year. I think Penn basketball will definitely turn some heads this year.

Ryan Betley, Penn basketball class of 2020: This upcoming season, I am looking forward to seeing how coach Donahue’s offense works and how the guys on the team buy into it. It’s a big style change from the previous coach, but I think it makes a lot of sense: Shoot rhythm threes and get the ball inside. In addition, I’m intrigued to see how the freshman class performs, knowing I will be teammates with them for the next three years. I know the expectations aren’t that high but I think Penn can still be a sleeper in the Ivy League this year. #GoQuakers

Read moreReading the Ivy tea leaves – Penn roundup

Steve Donahue: The Reconstructionist

Does this look like a man ready to turn around Penn basketball? Why yes, yes it does.
Does this look like a man ready to turn around Penn basketball? Why yes, yes he does.

It is ironic that Steve Donahue has become our new head coach.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with the choice.  After all, this has to be his dream job. A Philly guy with Quaker DNA who has a deep respect, if not love, for the hoop traditions of the city, returns as leader to the campus that once nurtured his coaching skills as a young assistant.  In fact, he was so enamored with his new position that in his introductory press conference he said, “This place is one that has everything I ever wanted in an institution.  I am a Big 5 coach. There are only five of us. To imagine that I am one of them, at this institution, is just incredible.”

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Making sense of Tony Hicks' departure from Penn basketball

Tony Hicks was a two-time All-Ivy honorable mention and reached the 1,000-point plateau in February. (USA Today Images)
Tony Hicks was a two-time All-Ivy honorable mention and reached the 1,000-point plateau in February. (USA Today Images)

Tony Hicks has walked away from a most interesting scene, just when we thought he’d be front and center.

Unfortunately, what made the scene so interesting in theory is probably what kept it from ever becoming a reality.

The senior guard has left the program, according to a Friday afternoon press release from Penn Athletics:

“After speaking with Coach (Steve) Donahue about the best situation for Penn basketball and myself, I have decided the best decision for me will be to take a break from basketball,” Hicks said in the release. “I plan to graduate from Penn in May, and then take my next step as a basketball player next year.

“This is a personal decision, and I wrestled long and hard with it because I have thoroughly enjoyed playing for Penn the last three years and wearing the Red and the Blue. I want to wish the guys on the team and the coaches all the best for this season and future seasons, and I will definitely be backing them in The Palestra during these next several months.”

Hicks leaves a lot on the table. He was named a captain for the 2015-16 season, was the leading scorer for the Quakers for the past two seasons and figured to be the greatest beneficiary of an offensive system under coach Steve Donahue that values efficiency through careful shot selection (i.e., shoot under the hoop or behind the three-point line).

Read moreMaking sense of Tony Hicks' departure from Penn basketball