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An introduction

Written by Craig Meyer on .

I'm sure you all have had a few of these over the years, so I'll aim to keep this as short as possible.

My name is Craig Meyer and I'm the Post-Gazette's new West Virginia football writer, as of last Sunday. I've been at the P-G for the past two and a half years, where I've covered high schools, Robert Morris basketball, the now-defunct Pittsburgh Power of the Arena Football League and a slew of other things.

College sports have long been a part of who I am and I intend for that to be reflected in my coverage. I was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, at the nexus of two universities with incredibly rabid fan bases. It's the kind of place where college basketball and football are a part of life and the athletic exploits of a group of teenagers mean a little more than they probably should. It didn't take long for me to embrace that passion.

From there, I went to school at Boston University, an incredible academic institution with an unforgivable shortcoming -- it hasn't had a football team since 1997. Boston's a great professional sports town, but my four years there allowed me to realize that the zeal surrounding college sports is truly unmatched. Though I've never lived in West Virginia, I grew up in a state with no professional teams and know the kind of captivating crucible that creates. After years of living in it, I now have the privilege of covering it.

I realize I'm the third writer assigned to the team in the past five or so seasons, but I also know that I'm taking over for an incredibly capable and diligent reporter in Stephen Nesbitt. While I can never predict what our staff movement will be like moving forward, I can assure you that I'll provide you with the absolute best stories and information I can.

Coverage of what takes place on the field is paramount and I plan on chronicling that as comprehensively as possible.

But aside from the games and trends are players with stories that go beyond a series of 60-minute games, the kind of stories that I hope to tell in the best way I can. To me, those kind of pieces are the most rewarding part of my job and I look forward to getting to know as much as I can about as many Mountaineers as possible so that you as fans can know more about the players for which you cheer.

There's a select and admittedly small amount of space available in the paper for West Virginia coverage, but I plan on utilizing this blog for everything that can't make it into print. In some ways, I plan on treating this blog like I did the one I started on Robert Morris basketball, but this thing's far from an autocracy. If there's something you would like to see or a feature you'd maybe like to see added, feel free to reach out to me.

Ideally, journalism isn't a lecture, but a conversation, so if you ever want to get in touch, please don't hesitate. My email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and my Twitter handle is @CraigMeyerPG. If you're at a game and happen to see me roaming around, feel free to say hi. I'm the white, 6-foot-2 25 year old whose hair makes it look like he just rolled out of bed. As much as I plan to get to know the players I cover, I'd also like to know some of the people for whom I'm providing that coverage.

This post has gone on a little longer than I originally hoped, but I just wanted to say how excited I am for this new opportunity. Hopefully it's the start of something enlightening, informative and, most of all, fun.

I know that a newspaper in Pittsburgh probably isn't going to be the first place you'll turn for West Virginia coverage, but I hope to contribute in a meaningful way to an ongoing and constantly evolving narrative that extends well past a three-month run in the fall.

 

Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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WPIAL basketball playoff picture

Written by Mike White on .

This is the final weekend of section play in WPIAL basketball, and only a few playoff spots are open in both boys and girls.

Here is how the playoffs work: The top four teams in each section qualify. If there is a tie for fourth, head-to-head competition breaks the tie. If teams tied for fourth and split two section games, they both qualify.

If there is a three-way tie for fourth, head-to-head competition again breaks the tie. Head-to-head competition also breaks a three-way tie for third.

Teams that have already clinched playoff spots are fighting for seeds. This could change, but right now I have Hempfield, Mars, Aliquippa and Vincentian as the No. 1 seeds for their respective classes.

The WPIAL will announce playoff pairings and seeds Tuesday night. The playoffs will start next Friday.

Here are the teams that have clinched playoff spots, and also scenarios for teams still alive.

BOYS

CLASS AAAA - (Section 1) Hempfield, Latrobe, Norwin, Penn-Trafford (pictured is Hempfield star guard Kason Harrell). (2) Plum, McKeesport, Fox Chapel, Gateway.Kason Harrell (3) North Allegheny, Pine-Richland, North Hills. The winner of Seneca Valley vs. Butler also qualifies. (4) Mt. Lebanon, Chartiers Valley, Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair.

CLASS AAA – (1) Mars, Hampton, Knoch, Highlands. (2) Beaver Falls, New Castle, Ambridge, Central Valley. (3) Indiana, Southmoreland, Greensburg Salem, West Shamokin. (4) West Mifflin, Uniontown, Steel Valley, Laurel Highlands. (5) South Fayette, South Park, Montour, West Allegheny. Also, Trinity can make it, but only if it beats McGuffey, and West Allegheny loses to Montour.

CLASS AA – (1) Lincoln Park, Laurel, Neshannock, Riverside. (2) Greensburg Central Catholic, Apollo-Ridge, Shady Side Academy, Ford City. (3) Seton-LaSalle, Bishop Canevin, Washington, Chartiers-Houston. Also, Burgettstown can qualify, but only if it beats Washington and Chartiers-Houston loses to Fort Cherry. (4) Charleroi, Brownsville, Waynesburg, Frazier. (5) Aliquippa, Quaker Valley, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Avonworth.

CLASS A – (1) Sewickley Academy, Cornell, Union, Eden Christian. (2) Vincentian, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, Riverview. Also, If St. Joseph’s beats Leechburg, St. Joseph's qualifies. If Leechburg wins and Riverview beats Springdale, then both St. Joe’s and Leechburg qualify. If Leechburg wins, and Springdale beats Riverview, then just Leechburg qualifies. Springdale can’t make it at all. (3) Monessen, California, Geibel, Jefferson-Morgan. (4) Jeannette, Clairton, Winchester Thurston, Imani Christian, Serra.

GIRLS

CLASS AAAA – (Section 1) Penn-Trafford, Norwin, Hempfield, Latrobe. (2) Penn Hills, McKeesport, Gateway, Plum. (3) North Allegheny, Pine-Richland, Shaler, Seneca Valley. Also, Butler can qualify if it beats Seneca Valley tomorrow. (4) Bethel Park, Baldwin, Mt. Lebanon, Upper St. Clair.

Chassidy OmogrossoCLASS AAA – (1) Mars, Hampton, Ford City. Also, If Deer Lakes beats Highlands tonight, Deer Lakes qualfies. If Highlands wins tonight, Highlands qualifies. Kittanning is still alive also. (2) Blackhawk, Ambridge, Beaver. (pictured is Blackhawk star guard Chassidy Omogrosso). Also, Hopewell and Ellwood City are alive for the other spot. If they both win or both lose tonight, they both go because they split in head-to-head. If one wins and the other loses, the winner goes. (3) Indiana, Mount Pleasant, Greensburg Salem, Derry. (4) Elizabeth Forward, Belle Vernon, South Park, Ringgold. Thomas Jefferson can qualify but only if it wins tonight and Ringgold loses to South Park. (5) Chartiers Valley, McGuffey, South Fayette, Trinity.

CLASS AA – (1) Neshannock, Mohawk, Riverside, Shenango. (2) Burrell, Greensburg Central Catholic, Shady Side Academy, West Shamokin. Also, if Apollo-Ridge beats West Shamokin, then Apollo-Ridge also qualifies. (3) Seton-LaSalle, Bishop Canevin, Chartiers-Houston, Brentwood. (4) Frazier, Washington, Beth-Center, Charleroi. (5) Carlynton, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Freedom, Avonworth. Also, South Side Beaver is still alive, but can make it only if it beats Freedom, and Avonworth loses to Northgate.

CLASS A – (1) Quigley, Aliquippa, Cornell, Sewickley Academy. (2) Vincentian, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, Riverview. Also, the winner of Leechburg vs. St. Joseph's tonight will most likely qualify, provided Vincentian beats Leechburg Friday, and St. Joseph beats Springdale Saturday. 3) California, Jefferson-Morgan, Geibel, Fort Cherry. (4) Serra, Imani Christian, Winchester Thurston, Ellis School.

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Tracking Penguins prospects - 02-05-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Here's a feature we hope to make a regular part of the blog.

Here's a look at all the Penguins' prospects as well as other minor leaguers on NHL contracts (who aren't currently on the NHL roster) and their statistics during this season.

Forwards

Player, position Age Team (League) Games
Played
Goals-
Assists-
Points
Penalty
Minutes
Anthony Angello, C 18 Omaha (USHL) 34 10-9-19 49
Josh Archibald, RW 22 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
Wheeling (ECHL)
31
1
2-3-5
1-0-1
11
0
Theodor Blueger, C 20 Minnesota State-Mankato (NCAA) 27 9-12-21 22
Blaine Byron, C 19 Maine (NCAA) 28 9-11-20 6
Jean-Sebastien Dea, C 20 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
Wheeling (ECHL)
37
1
9-10-19
0-0-0
14
0
Nick Drazenovic, C 28 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) 22 7-10-17 14
Andrew Ebbett, C 32 Pittsburgh (NHL)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
21
21
1-5-6
9-14-23
2
8
Bobby Farnham, RW 26 Pittsburgh (NHL)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
11
33
0-0-0
2-3-5
24
155
Jake Guentzel, C 20 Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA) 23 9-16-25 28
Troy Josephs, C 20 Clarkson (NCAA) 26 2-9-11 12
Kasperi Kapanen, RW 18 KalPa (Liiga) 28 10-8-18 12
Tom Kuhnhackl, RW 23 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) 42 4-8-12 13
Sam Lafferty, C 19 Brown (NCAA) 21 2-6-8 12
Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, RW 29 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) 33 0-2-2 171
Jaden Lindo, RW 19 Owen Sound (OHL) 27 4-1-5 28
Matia Marcantuoni, C 20 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
Wheeling (ECHL)
30
11
2-3-5
4-6-10
8
6
Jayson Megna, C 25 Pittsburgh (NHL)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
12
34
0-1-1
13-6-9
14
32
Adam Payerl, C 23 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) 24 1-4-5 41
Bryan Rust, RW 22 Pittsburgh (NHL)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
14
31
1-1-2
12-10-22
4
12
Oskar Sundqvist, C 20 Skelleftea (SHL) 35 8-8-16 20
Dominik Uher, C 22 Pittsburgh (NHL)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
2
44
0-0-0
5-5-10
0
51
Scott Wilson, C 22 Pittsburgh (NHL)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
1
29
0-0-0
10-13-23
0
18
Anton Zlobin, RW 21 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) 6 0-0-0 0

Defensemen

Player Age Team (League) Games
Played
Goals-
Assists-
Points
Penalty
Minutes
Dane Birks                       
19 Michigan Tech (NCAA) - - -
Taylor Chorney 27 Pittsburgh (NHL)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
2
42
0-0-0
3-8-11
0
28
Nick D'Agsotino 24 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
Wheeling (ECHL)
23
5
0-6-6
1-3-4
8
2
Brian Dumoulin 23 Pittsburgh (NHL)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
8
37
1-0-1
2-14-16
2
14
Reid McNeill 22 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) 44 1-3-4 100
Harrison Ruopp 21 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
Wheeling (ECHL)
1
21
0-0-0
0-1-1
2
43
Ryan Segalla 20 Connecticut (NCAA) 21 2-2-4 42
Jeff Taylor 20 Union (NCAA) 26 4-24-28 20

Goaltenders

Player Age Team (League) Games
Played
Record GAA Save
Percentage
Shutouts

Eric Hartzell

25 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
Wheeling (ECHL)
2
18
2-0-0
10-8-0
2.92
2.62
.882
.914
0
1
Tristan Jarry 19 Edmonton (WHL) 42 18-19-5 2.65 .910 3
Sean Maguire 22 Boston University (NCAA) - - - - -
Matt Murray (above)
20 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) 24 12-8-1 1.90 .926 5
Jeff Zatkoff
27 Pittsburgh (NHL)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
1
24
0-1-0
11-10-2
1.62
2.15
.941
.912
0
3

Notes:

-Zlobin is sidelined for the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury.

-Birks and Maguire have been redshirted.

(Photo: Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice)

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A primer on advanced statistics

Written by Craig Meyer on .

 

Anyone that read my Robert Morris blog at all over the past few years knows I like statistics.

It seems like there’s always talk about the best way to analyze games, whether it’s through astute observation or through obsessive statistical research. It’s a debate that began in baseball and has transitioned over to basketball at both the pro and college level.

To me, the answer lies in between the opposing camps. Stats don’t mean way too much if you don’t have fundamental basketball knowledge, but you also can’t put forth opinions through game analysis alone. It’s like just writing a thesis statement and calling it a paper.

With the wealth of resources that exist – like Ken Pomeroy’s ratings and the work being done at Basketball State – college basketball followers now have access to numbers that present a more comprehensive picture of the game and heightens our understanding. It aids writers like me and makes fans smarter, a true win-win.

However, the best statistics aren’t the ones commonly floated around. Per game numbers (be it points, assists or rebounds) have their place, but they’re largely inadequate because they are a product of pace. Instead, more contemporary basketball analysis revolves around tempo-free statistics that focus on a possession-by-possession basis, not a game-by-game one.

Teams that often score a lot of points per game are seen as offensive juggernauts when that sometimes isn’t the case. An example that’s been used a lot is Billy Tubbs’ 2003-04 Lamar team. That season, the Cardinals averaged 79.1 points per game, which was the 15th-best mark among Division I teams and would lead some to believe they were an offensive juggernaut. But they also used about 80 possessions per 40 minutes, the fastest pace in the nation. Because of that, they were an inefficient offensive team that averaged just about 0.963 points per possession (242nd in DI), something that might explain why the team just wasn’t very good (finishing 11-18).

The Lamar example helps illuminate the importance of judging a team, both offensively and defensively, on a points-per-possession basis. More often than not, the most efficient teams in college basketball are the most successful.

If there’s any threshold to judge a good team from a bad team on offense and defense, it’s an even one point per possession. Generally speaking, if you’re holding teams under one point per possession on defense and scoring more than one point per possession on offense, you’re in pretty decent shape.

Below is a tempo-free aerial of the Atlantic 10 this year to expand on this point:

A-10 tempo free aerial

(Image snipped from Basketball State. Apologies for the Dukes being in the lowest quadrant. I promise I'm not trying to rehash bad memories.)

I’ll follow this up with an explanation of some of the individual statistics I use. I’ll add this to the blog roll at some point for easy reference or you can feel free to individually bookmark it.

Behind many of these stats are mathematical formulas that I won’t attempt to explain or pretend to fully understand beyond the concept of them. But I’ll explain the end product.

Percentage of possessions used: Pretty self-explanatory, but it’s basically how much the ball is in a player’s hands when he is on the court and his team is on offense. Jordan Stevens leads Duquesne this season in this category at an even 31 percent.

Percentage of shots taken: The stat says it all: what portion of a team’s overall shots are made by a particular player when he is on the court? Stevens also leads this category.

Effective field goal percentage: A field goal percentage that puts a greater emphasis on 3-point shooting. Roughly, they’re given about 50 percent more credit. Since 3s are (obviously) worth more points and are harder to make, you generally see strong 3-point shooters at the top of this statistical category. Not surprisingly, Micah Mason has a team-high 59.3 eFG%, which ranks him 91st among Division I players.

Assist rate: Kind of a weird, catch-all stat that I stay away from most of the time, but it's the number of assists divided by the number of field goals made by teammates when a player is on the court. In short, it measures how active a player is in getting his teammates good scoring opportunities.

Offensive rebounding percentage: The percentage of available offensive rebounds a player gets when he’s on the court.

Defensive rebounding percentage: Same thing as offensive rebounding percentage, but on the defensive end. Anything over 20 percent is good. Dominique McCoy's DR% is 19.2, the 231st-best mark in Division I.

Block percentage: The percentage of two-point shots that are blocked by a player while he is on the court.

Free throw rate: Basically, the number of free throws a player takes per 100 field goal attempts. This is an important thing to consider because a player that gets to the line a lot is often a very capable and efficient scorer, since free throws are pretty easy to make. It also can indicate how aggressive a player is on offense (at least for guards), as they are generally fouled in closer proximity to the basket.

Steal percentage: Percentage of possessions where a player records a steal while they are on the court. Anything around five percent is pretty, pretty good.

Turnover rate: The percentage of personal possessions used on turnovers. Ken Pomeroy warns that these are highly dependent upon context. Point guards generally have higher turnover rates than their teammates simply because the ball is in their hands more.

Again, feel free to bookmark this since these are numbers that I'll sprinkle in with most any analysis I do of the team. I'll always try to contextualize these by saying where they rank both on the team, in the A-10 and in Division I.

And, as always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to shoot me an email or hit me up on Twitter. Both of those addresses are listed below.

 

Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

 

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Empty Netter Assists - Recapping Penguins-Oilers - 02-05-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-The Post-Gazette's recap from last night's game. “We’ll take that. Hopefully, we can build on the offensive part, but it was much-needed.” - Sidney Crosby.

-The Edmonton Journal's recap. - “Early on, we were standing around watching and not dictating the play but Viktor was outstanding tonight. They obviously out-chanced and he was there to keep the game within reach.” - OIlers coach and former Penguins defenseman Todd Nelson on goaltender Viktor Fasth.

-The Canadian/Associated Press' recap. "It feels like it's been a while since I got one." - Marc-Andre Fleury (above, with Edmonton's Matt Fraser) on recording his seventh shutout of the season.

-Highlights:

-Mike Lange's goal calls.

-Chris Kunitz battled former Penguins defenseman Andrew Ference for position in front of Fasth:

-Mike Johnston speaks:

-Kris Letang speaks:

-"I may not always have the most exciting answers, but that's who I am. I can't change that." - Crosby on his dealings with the media.

-“We’re almost down to the final exams. It’s the marking period here, these next few weeks. What do we really have?” - Jim Rutherford on his team as the March 2 trade deadline approaches.

-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Scott Wilson has been ripping it up with 11 points in his past eight game.

-The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins assigned forwards Josh Archibald, Jean-Sebastien Dea and goaltender Eric Hartzell to the Wheeling Nailers.

-Hartzell made 22 saves for the Nailers in a 2-1 loss to the Reading Royals.

-Happy 39th birthday to former Penguins forward Jan Hrdina (right). A fifth-round pick in 1995, Hrdina parts of five seasons with the Penguins. As a rookie in 1998-99, he appeared in all 82 games and scored 42 points. During that spring's postseason, he saw action in 14 games and scored five points. He followed that up in 1999-2000 by playing in 70 games and collecting 46 points. In nine postseason games that spring he scored 12 points. During much of 2000-01, he centered a line with Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux and scored 43 points and in 79 games. In the 2001 postseason, he appeared in 18 games and contributed seven points. Hrdina played in 79 games in 2001-02 and set career highs in goals (24) and points (57) while leading the team with six game-winning goals. After 57 games and 39 points in 2002-03, Hrdina was traded to the Coyotes along with Francois Leroux in exchange for Ramzi Abid, Dan Focht and Guillaume Lefebvre. In 366 career regular season games, Hrdina scored 227 points, 36th-most in franchise history. In 40 postseason games, he scored 24 points.


Happy 70th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Jean-Guy Lagace. Originally acquired earlier in the 1968-69 season in a deal which sent Larry Hillman to the Canadiens, Lagace spent parts of four seasons over two separate stints with the team. He finished that season by playing in 17 games for the Penguins and recording one assist. After spending all of 1969-70 with the Penguins' AHL affiliate in Baltimore, he was claimed by the North Stars in an intra-league draft in the 1970 offseason. Midway through the 1970-71 season, he was re-acquired from the Sabres in a deal which sent Terry Ball to Buffalo. he finished that season by playing in 31 games for the Penguins and scoring six points. The 1973-74 campaign saw him play in 31 games and score eight points. After 27 games and nine points in 1974-75, Lagace was traded to the Kansas City Scouts along with Denis Herron in exchange for Michel Plasse. In 106 games with the Penguins, he scored 24 points.

-Happy 34th birthday to former Penguins forward Kris Beech (right). Acquired in the 2001 offseason along with Michal Sivek and Ross Lupaschuk in one of the biggest trades in franchise history which sent Jaromir Jagr and Franticek Kucera to the Capitals, Beech spent parts of four seasons with the Penguins over two separate stints. In 2001-02, Beech appeared in a career-high 79 games and scored 25 points. He followed that up in 2002-03 by playing in 12 games and recording one assist. During 2003-04, he was limited to four games and one assist. Following the 2004-05 lockout, Beech was traded to the Predators in exchange for a draft pick. He returned to the Penguins midway through 2007-08 when he was claimed off waivers from the Capitals and appeared in five games while failing to record a point. In the 2008 offseason, he joined HV71 of the Elitserien in Sweden. He currently plays for HC Innsbruck of Austria's EBEL. In 100 games with the Penguins, he scored 27 points.

-After the Jump: A throat injury sidelines Henrik Lundqvist.

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