Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The term “Go-to” guy was Ken Pomeroy’s first attempt to describe a player who took more than 25% of his team’s possessions and shots when he was on the floor. The term might be a cliche, a slight misrepresentation even, so Pomeroy over time modified the adjective several times, eventually settling on “Major Contributor” to describe a player who took 24% or more of the team’s possessions (irrespective of the number of minutes played).
Who are the “Go-to” guys of the A10? If the first 10-12 games of the season are an indication, these 27 players will find their names in game previews, usually at the end of sentences that begin “…must shut down.” And of course in postgame newspaper and blog accounts. Maybe even a highlight spot or two. Note, the A10’s All-Conference team pool is not limited to these players alone (there is, after all, about 224 conference games still to play), but more than a few of these guys will find their way onto voter ballots by late February.
Player stats for games through 12/20/09. Many thanks to Ken Pomeroy for providing player breakdowns on his web site.
The names ought to be familiar, especially if the reader follows the conference’s Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week awards. Ten of the players listed above have earned “OtW” (“Of the Week”) recognition at least once. To be sure more will be recognized before the end of the regular season.
Shamari Spears and Darrio Green (Charlotte) are typical of a number of players in the table — “Significant/Major Contributors” in either (or both of) possessions and shots, but a bit light on playing time (Min%). I set the lower (%Min) boundary at 50% in an effort to find those players whose time is/will be increasing over the course of the non-conference schedule. It’s a shame Jio Fontan bailed out on Fordham this season, as the sophomore could have paired with freshman Chris Gaston to form a potent scoring combination on both the perimeter and with penetration in the lane. Instead he will sit a year at another school, rumored to be USC, before he can resume his career. La Salle’s freshman Aaric Murray forms a kind of odd couple with senior guard Rodney Green. According to Ken Pomeroy’s inside/outside measure, Green is an “inside” player with a rating of 9.7, but the 6’10, 250 pound Murray, with a rating of 3.0, veers more to neutral (0.0) than even Green. Murray has taken 17 3-point attempts (and converted 9) and gotten to the line for only 20 free throw attempts. Murray’s 98.1 offensive rating is typical of freshmen (see also Chris Gaston and Carl Jones of St. Joseph’s). In time he will learn to use his body to score more efficiently near the basket, instead of stepping away from the defender for a three. St. Louis’ pair, Willie Reed and Kwamain Mitchell, along with Xavier’s Jordan Crawford, epitomize the notion of the “Go-to” guy — they combine lots of minutes (well maybe not so much for Mitchell…) with high usage (possessions and shot taking) and efficiency (ORtgs greater than their team). These guys consume a lot of possessions, but they make their teams better in the process.
And Then There Is…
I wanted to keep the list to 1-2 players per team at most, but a few teams/player combinations posed a challenge. Charlotte, Duquesne and La Salle are cases in point. Charlotte’s freshman Chris Braswell will most likely make the short list for the All-Conference Newcomers team, but his 24.8% possession rate was probably inflated by his 26.5 turnover rate. His 98.3 offensive rating (about 0.98 points per possession), though low for a “go-to” type player, is typical for a freshman. Braswell may well find the ball in his hands at a crucial juncture of a few of Charlotte’s games this season, but Green and Spears will probably have to pass on their shots first. La Salle’s junior forward, Jerrell Williams, also had a high possesion rate (about 24.4%), but took relatively few shots, 18.6%, more typical of a role or basic “starter”, rather than a go-to type player. The difference between possession and shot rates may be explained by Williams’ outstanding offensive rebounding rate (15%) and FTA/FGA rate (about 90%). Duquesne’s Malquan Bolding has been out with a broken wrist, injured in the Dukes’ first game of the season. His offensive role may well have passed to guards Bill Clark and Eric Evans. Bolding logged an offensive rating of 102.7 by the end of the 2009 season, an efficiency mark Evans (79.7) and Clark (99.5) have been unable to achieve, though both were more efficient last season than this. Which may explain in part why the Dukes have been tagged with four losses so early in this season. The last two, a road loss to Summit League member UIPIU and a blowout in Morgantown at the hands of West Virginia, have to be especially damaging to Duquesne’s postseason expectations. Temple’s Lavoy Allen takes even fewer possessions just below “Regular” (or Pomeroy’s new descriptor “Significant Contributor”), but any team taking on the Owls has to account for Allen’s board work, under both baskets, and his efficienct conversion rate (52% eFG%). Richmond’s David Gonzalvez logs 82% of the minutes, takes 21.3% of the shots and converts at a very efficient 59.8% (eFG%), but possessions, and even shots when compared to Anderson (and Harper when he is in) suggest those two get looks before Gonzalvez. Too bad, given that his offensive rating is an outstanding 117.4 (100.0 is good). If he could develop consistency, game-to-game, Coach Mooney would probably figure out how to get him more looks and shots.
Standings as of 12/29/09
- Temple (10-2)
- Rhode Island (10-1)
- Charlotte (10-2)
- Dayton (10-2)
- Richmond ((10-3)
- George Washington (9-2)
- Duquesne (9-4)
- St. Louis (9-4)
- Xavier (8-4)
- La Salle (7-5)
- St. Bonaventure (6-5)
- Massachusetts (6-6)
- Saint Joseph’s (4-7)
- Fordham (2-9)
The 49ers hosted Mercer Tuesday night, beating them soundly, 91-80, before 5,400 hometown fans. Dario Green and Shamari Spears (see above) led the way with 23 points apiece. Freshman forward Chris Braswell logged his fifth double-double of he season, scoring 14 points to go with 14 rebounds. Reserve center Phil Jones also scored 10 points. The 49ers have won 8 of their last 9 games.
Charlotte will host the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech on Saturday (1/2) and then travel to Knoxville to play Tennessee next Wednesday (1/6) before they open their A10 schedule against St. Bonaventure.
The Flyers dropped out of the rankings on the heels of their 1-2 trip to Puerto Rico at the end of November are back and knocking at the door this week. The AP has them ranked #28 (listed among “those receiving votes”), 50 votes below #25 Northwestern. While guard Marcus Johnson is working himself back into game shape after his sprained ankle, wing Luke Fabrizius is doubtful, having not practiced (according to local reports) last week. Guard Chris Johnson was also doubtful, but the sophomore wing logged 16 minutes off the bench, scoring 12 points in Dayton’s 74-60 win over Boston University on Tuesday (12/29). Rob Lowery might be approaching 100%, the guard led all scorers with 23 points in 23 minutes of play. Forward Chris Wright was the third Flyer to log double digit minutes with his 19 points on 8-10 (0-1, 8-9) and 3-4 shooting. The Flyers led end-to-end, with a 2-2 tie the closest Boston came.
Dayton will celebrate New Year’s at New Mexico’s home court, the Pit, in Albuquerque, then return home to host Ball State on Tuesday (1/5) before opening their A10 schedule with Duquesne a week from Saturday (1/9).
The Dukes await the return of Melquan Bolding as they travel to Norfolk, VA, to play Old Dominion Wednesday night (12/30). Duquesne will then take another week to get ready for Richmond on 1/6.
Coach Grasso’s team will take a Southern Swing before starting their A10 schedule. Against the Kennesaw State Owls, the Rams lost a 13 decision, 79-66 on Tuesday (12/29). Chris Gaston logged his eighth double-double of the season, and led the Rams in scoring, notching 26 points on 11-23 (0-2, 11-21) and 4-8 shooting. Senior guard Brenton Butler scored 25 points on 9-21 (2-7, 7-14) and 5-5 shooting. Butler tied his season-high effort against Stony Brook, and has now scored 20 or more points 8 times in his 4 years on Rose Hill. Fordham heads up to Virginia to play Hampton on 1/3.
The Colonials squeaked by the Crusaders, 70-68, extending their run to 5 of the last 6 games, as they have won 5 road games so far this season. Damian Hollis scored a team-high 19 points on 7-14 (1-4, 6-10) and 4-4 shooting. Freshman forward Dwayne Smith broke his career-high 19 minutes at East Carolina with a 21 minute run Monday night. Smith’s 13 points were second on the team. Sophomore guard Tony Taylor chipped in 10 points and 5 assists in 36 minutes of play.
George Washington will swing into Cambridge, MA to play Harvard Wednesday (12/30), then return home and close out their OOC schedule with a game against cross-town rival Howard on Saturday 1/2.
La Salle dropped a 78-75 decision to Cornell of the Ivy League on Tuesday (12/29) at the Tom Gola Arena on campus. Big Red senior forward Ryan Wittman led all scorers with a 34 point on 11-21 (4-9, 7-12) and 2-3 shooting. The win can only fuel speculation that Cornell head coach Steve Donahue, a former assistant under Fran Dunphy at Penn, will be a “person of interest” as Penn AD Steve Bilsky looks around for a candidate for the Quakers’ vacant coaching position. Rodney Green led the Explorers with 19 points, as all of their starters scored double digit points.
The Explorers will take to the road to play Binghamton on Saturday (1/2), then open their A10 schedule against Xavier on 1/6.
The Minutemen swing back into action on Wednesday (12/30) with a trip to Davidson. They return to host Fordham in their A10 opening game on 1/6.
Someone has noticed the Rams’ great start as Rhode Island received 5 votes in the AP’s 12/27 poll, making them the 3rd A10 team to receive votes in the poll this week. The nine day layover ended Tuesday (12/29) as the Rams squeezed by the Dragons of Drexel University 80-79 in Philadelphia. Rhode Island was led by senior guard Keith Cothran’s game-high 28 points (no surprise, see table above), augmented by rotation player Orion Outerbridge, a sophomore forward who scored 13 points on 5-6 (0-0, 5-6) and 3-5 shooting, in just 16 minutes of play.
The Rams travel to Uncasville, CT to meet Oklahoma State in the 9,500 seat arena in the Mohegan Sun casino on Saturday (1/2). Not quite a neutral setting, the Rams have a great opportunity for a Top 50 RPI win (Ok State is #40) for their resume. Rhode Island will close out their out of conference schedule with a trip to Ohio to take on the Akron Zips on Tuesday (1/5).
The Spiders scraped by UNC-Wilmington 66-64 on Monday night. Richmond took a 5 point lead into the locker room at the half,but lost it quickly in the 2nd half, dropping behind by 10 at the 5:00 mark. Led by Kevin Anderson who scored 13 points (with support from David Gonzalvez and junior forward Kevin Smith), the Spiders launched a 22-10 blitz to overtake the Seahawks and close out the game.
Richmond will take an extended road trip as a bridge to the New Year. They face Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, NC on Thursday (12/31), then travel to Lewisburg, PA to play the Bison of Bucknell on Saturday (1/2), then swing down to Pittsburgh to open their A10 schedule against Duquesne the following Wednesday (1/6).
Congratulations to Carl Baptiste for his Rookie of the Week honor. The forward scored a career-high 13 points in 22 minutes of play when the Hawks downed Lehigh,77-66, on 12/20. The Hawks lost to the Saints of Siena 92-75 in Albany, NY on Tuesday (12/29). Junior forward Idris Hilliard scored a team-high 13 points as the Hawks were again outrebounded 29-39 by an opponent.
Saint Joseph’s will host the Princeton Tigers at the Hagan on Saturday (1/2), then travel across town to play Temple on 1/6.
The Bonnies play their last game of 2009 on Wednesday (12/30), hosting Canisius in Olean, NY. They then take to the road to play Marshall Saturday (1/2) before starting their A10 schedule by hosting George Washington the following Wednesday (1/6).
The Conference Office named Kwamain Mitchell the Player of the Week, citing his career-high 33 points scored in St. Louis’ 61-54 win over Missouri-Kansas City and noting that 20 of those points came in the 2nd half. The Billikens hosted, and clobbered, Eastern Illinois, 60-42 on Tuesday (12/29). Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed led all scorers with 19 and 13 points respectively. Mitchell shot 7-17 (5-12, 2-5) and 0-0, while Reed’s numbers were 5-7 (0-0, 5-7) and 3-6.
The Billikens travel to Bowling Green for a game with the Falcons on Saturday (1/2), then return home to open the A10 season against Richmond the following Saturday (1/9).
Coach Dunphy’s Owls strangled the MAC’s Bowling Green, 63-39, on Monday night. Concerned the semester break would cut into attendance, Temple moved the game to the old McGonigle Hall, where, according to reports, they sold out their 3,700 seat gym and even turned fans away. The Owls donned retro unis reminiscent of the 1990s when playing in McGonigle and residing in the AP Top 25 were the norm. Maybe the old time feeling accounts for the smothering defense they put on the Falcons, as the Owls limited Bowling Green to an outstanding 0.66 points per possession in a game that played for about 59 possessions. Temple’s 1.06 ppp is very respectable. Ryan Brooks, Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez continued to dominate possessions and shots, with junior Lavoy Allen again contributing as a 4th/5th option on offense. Brooks played virtually the entire game (90% of the available minutes) and logged an impressive eFG% of 81.8% (with a PPWS of 1.54), Ramone scored an notable 17 points in 21 minutes, recording an eFG% of 83.3% and a PPWS of 1.56. The duo of Fernandez, and Allen (along with senior guard Luiz Guzman) logged eFG%s in the range of 50.0 – 55.0 as well.
The Owls close out the MAC portion of their schedule at Northern Illinois on Wednesday (12/30) when they travel to De Kalb, IL. Temple plays D1-A (Bowl Division) football in the Mid American Conference, and are obligated to schedule 4 teams from that conference in basketball. Temple’s standing should help the MAC’s conference RPI this season. Temple will return to Philadelphia to host Kansas on Saturday night (1/2) before starting their A10 schedule with a game against Saint Joseph’s on 1/6.
Xavier hosted Louisana State on Tuesday (12/29) and pummelled the Tigers 89-65 at the Cintas Center. Four Musketeers, led by guard Terrell Holloway’s 20 points, scored in double digits. Junior forward Jamel McLean recorded his second career double-double (10 & 10) and the first this season. X’s record versus Top 100 (RPI) teams improves to 3-3.
The Musketeers take to the road with a game in Winston-Salem, NC against Wake Forest on Sunday (1/3). And then to Philadelphia to open their A10 schedule against La Salle next Thursday (1/7).
Games to Catch
- Richmond at Wake Forest, Thursday 12/31 — This is the last big OOC opponent for the Spiders. And another opportunity for a top 75 RPI win (the Demon Deacons’ RPI is #51). Richmond’s front court contingent, Dan Geriot, Justin Harper and Ryan Butler will have to match up with the Deacons’ Al-Farouq Aminu and Chas McFarland.
- Dayton at New Mexico, Friday 1/1 — New Mexico’s home court, the Pit, is a notoriously difficult place for a visitor to win. The Lobos, expected to contend in the Mountain West Conference this season, are off to a 12-1 start and sport a #16 RPI. A good line on the resume and a great confidence builder going into conference play (the Flyers are 3-2 when playing away from their home court), if the Flyers can bring home a win.
- Temple vs Kansas, Saturday 1/2 — The #19 ranked Owls host #1 ranked Kansas in a game that could be a signature win for their tournament resume, and boost their chances of an at-large bid should they fail to win the A10 Tournament.
- Charlotte vs Georgia Tech, Saturday 1/2 — Ranked #20 in the Coaches’ Poll, the Jackets are Charlotte’s second ACC opponent this season, and provide a great opportunity to add another signature win to their resume.
- Rhode Island vs Oklahoma State, Saturday 1/2 — The Rams have a short trip down I-95 (to I-395) to Uncasville, CT where they will match up with the #40 ranked (RPI) Cowboys in a sort of neutral site game. Big 12 teams have been very tough to beat this season (ask Dayton, La Salle and Xavier). A good win if the Rams can bring it home.
- Xavier at Wake Forest, Sunday 1/3 — The Demon Deacons are the X-Men’s last BCS opponent this season. Xavier is 1-3 (thank heaven for LSU!), so this one is for the tournament resume. Win or lose, another road test can only make the Musketeers stronger for conference play.