Joe Dzuback of Villanova By The Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic-10.
A Look Back – Side-by-Side Analyses
A simple method to project winners and losers in conference play involves comparing scores against common opponents. It is crude, but, if timing and conditions are roughly equal, potentially effective for developing a rough sense on how the teams will match up. While the out of conference schedule features 189 games over (roughly) three months, there are quite a few common opponents. The problem with score and margin of victory comparisons is that they do not control for pace. I wanted to match teams that are projected to finish relatively close to each other in the conference rankings, and while this is very early in the season, two side-by-sides looked fairly interesting…
Temple side-by-side with Xavier
Both Temple and Xavier played (and beat) Seton Hall within a nine-day period. Temple may have had a slight advantage on November 12 in that they played the Hall at home, but given it was the season opener, the advantage may not have been that great. The Hall’s leading scorer, Jeremy Hazell, was injured before the Xavier game, another factor to consider in the comparison (that would go against the Musketeers’ defense). As the offensive and defensive efficiencies suggest, defense is decidedly ahead of offense in the first fortnight of D-I play, at least for these two A-10 teams. Seton Hall’s defensive efficiency is, however, consistent with the offensive numbers posted by the A-10 teams. What can the side-by-side tell us about the Owls and Musketeers, particularly when they meet each other? If things progress, probably not volumes, since their appointed time is about six weeks away. Several elements are worth noting though. Temple will probably control the offensive boards, they did a better job matching up with the Hall bigs than did the X-men. Temple will block shots on defense, while Xavier will steal the ball. Neither is particularly adept at getting to the line, and while both turned the ball over quite a bit, that was uncharacteristic of either squad (and neither squad forced turnovers either). The Owls’ shot conversion efficiency (eFG%) has not improved much over the past six (or so) games, and if that element of their offense remains a problem for the next month, expect them to have to compensate for lack of efficiency by grabbing offensive rebounds and limiting. For Xavier, rebounding will no doubt be an issue in a matchup with Temple. The X-men will have problems matching up with Eric Michael and Lavoy Allen, particularly if the Owls’ Allen overcomes his slow start. While pace, according to Pomeroy, can be overrated as a deciding element, Temple showed it can play fast or slow. The SHU game was played for approximately 72 possessions on a neutral floor, about 10% higher than Temple usually plays the game. Xavier played slower than usual, possibly pace dictated by a undermanned SHU squad, and the Musketeers were still successful. Against each other, if the common opponent game is a good predictor, expect a slightly lower than usual possession game — about 65 — with Temple taking a close (one-to-four point) decision.
Fordham side-by-side with George Washington
These are two teams that, according to preseason projections, may not see the first round of the A-10 Conference Tournament. True to form, both lost to the Hampton Pirates of the Mid-East Athletic Conference (MEAC). Hampton, it turns out, is on something of a tear, going 6-0 after dropping their season-opener against Wake Forest. Kyle Whelliston analyzes elements of Hampton’s success in an Unfiltered posting over at Basketball Prospectus. According to Whelliston’s analysis, the Pirates are terrible shooters but great shot defenders. Checking out GWU’s shot defense — that has to be very good news for Fordham (and anyone else who plays the Colonials). Hampton, true to Whelliston’s post, did not turn the ball over much, but Fordham’s turnovers, the Rams’ lost one in three possessions without taking a shot, a very high hurdle to clear if you want to win (Fordham lost by 10 points). Fordham and GW are scheduled to meet January 12, about a month from now. How would the two A-10 teams do against each other? Fordham actually looks pretty good in this comparison. Against a very good shot defender they converted in the high 30s (nothing to write home about), but better than the Colonials who appear to be searching for a scorer (or scorers) to replace the lost Lasan Kromah. Both rebounded well (offensively) against the Pirates, and I would expect Fordham to (again) do a bit better based on the side-by-side. If Fordham can get turnovers under control they should do very well against GW, though given that Chris Gaston and Alberto Estwick are two of Fordham’s principal options on offense and they seem to be contributors, this may be problematic, especially with a seven game lead time. Given the elements though, this one, based on the side-by-side, looks like a close win for Fordham.
The rankings are jumbled again by a series of unexpected losses (and a few unexpected wins). Next week I will take a closer look at how the conference has fared against some traditional rival conferences.
1. Richmond (7-2)
Last Week: 12/1 @ Old Dominion 70-77, 12/5 @ Arizona State 67-61
Next Week: 12/11 vs. Virginia Commonwealth
The second week in December turned out to be another 1-1 week for coach Chris Mooney’s Spiders. Richmond’s loss to Old Dominion, featured an outstanding effort by senior guard Kevin Anderson who scored a game-high 23 points, while logging a very efficient 76.7% eFG% and 1.53 PPWS. Junior wing Justin Harper’s 14 points and freshman Cedrick Lindsay’s 15 points (70.7% eFG%, 1.44 PPWS coming off the bench) provided strong compliments to Anderson’s efforts. The Spiders led at the 36 minute mark, but 12-0 run by the Monarchs over four and a half minutes dug a nine point hole that Richmond could not climb out of in the remaining 1:45 of play. Two stats that stood out in the loss were the 23.5% offensive rebounding rate, below Richmond’s usually very low 27.4% (ranked #291) and the 1.6% FTA/FGA rate. No, that is not a typo; the Spiders had a single free throw on 63 field goal attempts. They made the most of their opportunity going 1-1 from the line.
Richmond’s bounce-back road win over Arizona State featured an outstanding performance by Harper, who was given an Honorable Mention for his game-high 23 points on a very efficient 10-14 (3-4, 7-10) and 0-0 shooting . Harper garnered an 82.1% eFG% and 1.64 PPWS, outstandingly efficient shooting. The Spiders did a much better job on the boards, grabbing 32.0% of their misses, while limiting the Sun Devils to 34.1% of their misses. Richmond’s FTA/FGA was 37.3%, a significant improvement over their performance against the Monarchs.
2. Temple (5-2) AP #21
Last Week: 12/1 @ Central Michigan 65-53, 12/5 @ Maryland 64-61
Next Week: 12/9 vs. Georgetown, 12/12 vs. Akron
The Owls recovered from their disastrous Old Spice experience with two wins last week. Senior forward Lavoy Allen, who had struggled through Temple’s first five games, broke through with his first two double-doubles of the season, performances which earned him his first Player of the Week citation from the A-10. Allen posted 13 points and 10 rebounds in the win, but junior guard Juan Fernandez scored the team-high 18 points, shooting a 66.7% eFG% with a 1.34 PPWS. Wing Ramone Moore 16 points on a volume shooting night, posting a 40.0% eFG% and 0.90 PPWS. The star of the night, however, was the Owl defense, which limited the Chippewas to a very stingy 0.88 points per possession.
Allen followed with another 13 and 10 performance against Maryland in the BB&T Classic on Sunday. Like the CMU game, Moore provided points (16 points, the team-high) on another volume shooting night, while Fernandez chipped in 14 points and 3 dimes in 38 minutes. Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad limited the Terps to 0.91 points per possession with a sterling defensive effort that limited Maryland to 45.5% eFG%. But uncharacteristic of those earlier losses against California and Texas A&M, the Owl front court contingent of Allen, Eric Michael and Rahir Jefferson, along with wing/forward Scootie Randall, controlled the boards, snagging a strong 37.8% of their missed field goal attempts, while limiting Maryland’s second chance points by collecting 75.7% of the Terp’s missed field goal attempts.
3. Dayton (6-2)
Last Week: 12/1 vs. East Tennessee State 68-73, 12/4 vs. Miami (OH) 70-58
Next Week: 12/7 vs. Central Connecticut, 12/11 @Virginia Commonwealth
Coach Brian Gregory’s squad recorded a 1-1 week, like the balance of the conference elites. At least the Flyers came out on top of a head-to-head with cross-state (and conference) rival Xavier with a win over the RedHawks of Miami (OH). Freshman point guard Juwan Staten continues to impress the conference front office and fans around the conference, as he earned his second citation (co-owned with La Salle’s Tyreek Dureen) as Rookie of the Week for his performances against both opponents. Staten earned 14 points against East Tennessee State, while posting eight points and dishing five dimes as the Flyers overcome a second half deficit against Miami. The freshman sank every on of his eight free throw attempts in the last 2:30 of that game. Senior forward Chris Wright drew a conference Honorable Mention for averaging a double-double for the week. His 15 rebounds against East Tennessee State was a career-high. Though the Flyers lost that game, they had four players, junior forward Chris Johnson (15), senior guard Paul Williams (11), Staten (14) and Wright (13) score in double figures. The fan concerned that the ETSU result hints at a regression to last season’s inconsistent outings can probably relax and chalk it up to a learning curve that caught the new point guards off balance. In an odd turn, the game saw Staten, Williams, transfer point guard Josh Parker and rotation front court player Luke Fabrizius take larger-than-normal roles in the offense. Staten, Williams and Fabrizius took 32.8%, 24.3% and 29.8% of the possessions when they were on the court, the higher than normal possession rate due in some measure to the turnovers each committed (five, four and one) during their playing time.
Possessions returned to a more typical distribution with the Saturday game versus Miami, as Johnson and Wright took most of the possessions and shots, while Staten and Parker stepped back into the background and concentrated on distributing the ball.
4. Xavier (5-2)
Last Week: 12/1 @ Miami (OH) 64-75
Next Week: 12/9 vs. Butler
What happened at Miami on Wednesday is anyone’s guess, but mark this one down as a “what the heck?” game. The official recap chalked it up to a “slow start”, but I bet coach Chris Mack filed a “Missing Persons Report” after the game, because the Musketeers’ defense definitely did not show up at the game. Xavier gave up an appalling 1.14 points per possession (ppp) to the RedHawks, while garnering about 0.98 ppp for themselves. Miami OH shot an efficient 51.8% (eFG%) while tallying a PPWS of 1.16. Miami OH scored on 34 of their (estimated) 66 possessions, just north of the 50% mark. Tu Holloway led Xavier scorers with 18 points, matched by sophomore guard Mark Lyons’ 18, but the lead guard, taking 30% of the possessions and 24.4% of the shots when he was on the floor, simply made it too easy for the RedHawk defense. Holloway’s 18 points was scored by volume shooting, 5-13 (1-4, 4-9) and 7-9, an inefficient 42.3% conversion rate (eFG%). Lyons managed to shoot an equally unimpressive 4-11 (0-3, 4-8) and 10-11, yielding a 36.4% eFG%. Senior forward Jamel McLean did turn in a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds), but the scoring was neither efficient enough (McLean excepted) nor distributed enough to make the Miami defense work. Going into the season, the question was how the squad would make up Jordan Crawford’s production. As of this week, the question is still unanswered.
5. Massachusetts (7-1)
Last Week: 12/1 @ Quinnipiac 66-64, 12/4 vs. Boston College 71-76
Next Week: 12/8 vs. Maine, 12/11 vs. Seton Hall
Senior guard Anthony Gurley made the conference Honorable Mention list for the third time in four weeks as he posted an average of 20.5 points in the two games played last week. Poised to move up again in the rankings, coach Derek Kellogg’s squad fell five points short against Boston College (ACC) on a semi-neutral floor, the TD Arena, in Boston. Gurley scored 19 points on 8-13 (1-2, 7-11) and 2-2 shooting against Quinnipiac for an eFG% of 65.4% from a player known more for quantity the past few games. The surprise of the Quinnipiac game was high-scorer Javorn Farrell, a 6’5 swingman who scored 25 points on 9-16 (1-2, 8-14) and 6-7 shooting. Gurley scored 22 against Boston College, on 10-20 (0-4, 10-16) and 2-4 shooting. Sophomore guard Freddie Riley is struggling, placing a good deal of the scoring load on Gurley.
6. Rhode Island (5-3)
Last Week: 12/4 @ Providence 74-87
Next Week: 12/8 @ Northeastern, 12/11 @ Quinnipiac
College coaching is not an especially good career path for a curmudgeon. If you are going to be irascible, then you better win consistently, at least beat your biggest rivals. The disgruntled elements of the Rams’ fan-base grew a bit louder last week when Jim Baron’s squad dropped a double-digit decision against their biggest in state rival, Providence. This is supposed to be another rebuilding year for the Friars, so the 13 point margin was especially disappointing. Delroy James scored a team-high 25 points while three other Rams, Marquis Jones (15), Daniel West (13) and Nikola Malesevic (10) scored in double-digits as well.
7. La Salle (5-3)
Last Week: 12/4 vs. Oklahoma State 87-92 (2 OT)
Next Week: 12/9 @ Boston University, 12/11 vs. Villanova
Both sophomore center Aaric Murray and freshman guard Tyreek Dureen drew conference nods for their work in games on November 29 (Delaware State, a 65-61 win) and December 4 (the two overtime loss to Oklahoma State). This gives me some idea of how far the conference believes this Explorer program has come this season. Murray, a Conference Honorable Mention, was one of five La Salle players to score double digit points in their 65-61 win over Delaware State. The 6’10 big man tied with senior forward Jerrell Williams for a team-high 23 points against the Cowboys on Saturday. Dureen was cited for his scoring and assists (and steals) in the Delaware State game, and for the amount of time he played (43 minutes) in the Ok State game.
8. St. Bonaventure (4-2)
Last Week: 12/4 vs. Buffalo 76-74
Next Week: 12/7 @ St. John’s, 12/11 vs. Niagara
Bonnie point guard Ogo Adegboye drew Player of the Week honors with his performance against Buffalo. Andrew Nicholson may not have drawn his third Honorable Mention (in the three week old season) but his double-double effort will be noted here. The junior #5 scored 16 points (0-1, 6-10 and 4-6) and grabbed 10 (2-8-10) rebounds in the win. Junior forward Da’Quan Cook and sophomore guard Demetrius Conger continue to be efficient second and third options on offense as they take about 21.6% and 17.2% of the shots, converting at rates of (eFG%) 58.8% and 58.3% respectively. If Adegboye can keep his assist to turnover ratio above 1:1 (and get Conger the ball a bit more often), the Bonnies could beat the preseason projections.
9. Duquesne (3-3)
Last Week: 12/1 vs. Pittsburgh 66-80, 12/4 @ Penn State 73-77
Next Week: 12/8 @ Wisconsin-Green Bay, 12/11 vs. West Virginia
The Dukes suffered through an 0-2 week, though senior forward Damian Saunders recorded a double-double (20 points and 11 rebounds) in the Pittsburgh loss and another 23 in Duquesne’s loss to Penn State and draw an Honorable Mention from the league office. Fellow senior wing Bill Clark matched Saunders point production in the Pitt loss, while freshman guard B.J. McConnell chipped in 14 points on 6-11 (2-5, 4-6) and 0-0 shooting. The key stat for Pittsburgh was rebounding; the Panthers outrebounded the Dukes by a 56-35 margin. The Pitt bigs simply overpowered the smaller Duquesne front line. Clark logged the double-double against Penn State, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 (6-4-10) rebounds. The Dukes had no answer for the Nits’ Talor Battle though, as the senior guard torched Ron Everhart’s squad for 31 points on 12-18 (5-8, 7-10) and 2-4 shooting.
10. Saint Louis (3-3)
Last Week: 11/30 @ Portland 60-69
Next Week: 12/11 @ Duke
The pace was deliberate, about 59 per side, as most Rick Majerus games tend to be, but the defense was very un-Majerus, as the Billikens gave up a whopping 1.15 points per possession to the Portland Pilots. The Pilots’ conversion efficiency (eFG%) was a discouraging 61.7%. Cobbling together a defense for Duke on Saturday will be tough, as the Pilots have logged a Ken Pomeroy adjusted offensive rate of 108.1 good for a #57 ranking in D-I basketball. Duke, by contrast, is 121.9, good for a #1 ranking. Problems for the Billikens however, tend to occur more on the offensive side of the ball, a problem that has persisted for several seasons now, due in part to roster turnover. Saint Louis is (by Ken Pomeroy) currently ranked #157, very middle-of-the-division, with a 100.5 offensive rating (1.005 points per possession). This edition of the Billikens has been a bit of a mulligan stew, which has relatively prominent roles in the offense going to freshmen, while the more experienced players are either struggling (sophomore Cody Ellis), stepping back into minor roles in the offense (junior Kyle Cassidy) or both (sophomores Christian Salecich and Corey Remekun and junior Paul Eckerle). The “reliable” nucleus appears, at this point, to consist of Cassidy, junior Brian Conklin and freshmen guards Dwayne Evans and Mike McCall.
Why McCall has been ignored by the conference front office is the mystery of the season so far. The freshmen scored an extremely efficient 14 points against Portland, converting at a 66.7% (eFG%) rate, good for a 1.41 PPWS. In his last three games, McCall has maintained a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
11. Charlotte (3-5)
Last Week: 12/1 @ East Carolina 61-62
Next Week: 12/7 vs. Winthrop, 12/11 @Davidson
After being declared “probable” for the Winthrop game, graduate senior Charlie Dewhurst broke his finger and is out again, this time indefinitely, pending diagnosis. Charlotte dropped a one point decision at East Carolina, though 49er high-scorer Phil Jones drew an Honorable Mention from the conference for his 14 points and 10 rebounds. The only other Charlotte double digit scorer was Darrio Green with 11 points. Life after Spears is proving tough, at least on the court. With a week to practice and reform the offense, the Winthrop game should tell the fans where the team is headed this season.
12. Saint Joseph‘s (3-5)
Last Week: 12/1 @ Drexel 50-62, 12/3 @ Villanova 71-60, 12/5 @ Princeton 65-74
Next Week: 12/8 vs. Minnesota, 12/11 @ Creighton
Phil Martelli’s Hawks drew an oh-fer last week, losing all three scheduled games. If Drexel was regrettable (but expected) and Villanova predictable (but regretted), the Princeton game had to frustrate the Hawk faithful. While projected as a contender for the Ivy League title this season, the Princeton squad should not match-up well against Saint Joseph’s. The Tigers do not have a power forward to stop CJ Aiken, and their backcourt, the strongest area of their squad, should not match-up with Carl Jones and Langston Galloway. And yet SJU dropped a nine point road game largely on lack of defense. They allowed Princeton to score 1.12 points per possession and shoot a very efficient team-wide 60.0 eFG%, while mustering only a 0.98 ppp and 50.9 eFG%. Princeton had players in double-digits, while Saint Joseph’s guard Carl Jones scored 24 and only one other, freshman forward Ronald Roberts, scored more than nine points (10 points on 4-7 and 2-3 shooting). Such are the growing pains with freshmen-dominated rosters.
13. George Washington (2-5)
Last Week: 12/1 @ George Mason 46-60, 12/5 vs. Navy (BB&T Classic) 57-64
Next Week: 12/8 vs. Towson
Lacking a consistent shooter/scorer, the Colonials are riding a four game slide through the weekend, the last two coming in December. They dropped the over card match at the BB&T Classic to a 4-6 Navy team (out of the Patriot League) which Pomeroy ranks #316 in D-I for offense. Ouch. Of the 11 players identified (and rated) by Ken Pomeroy who have a possession rate equal to or greater than 12.4 (very limited role player), only three (junior Tony Taylor, along with freshmen Chris Fitzgerald and Nemanja Mikic) have offensive ratings of 101 or better. Two (Taylor and Fitzgerald) have ratings of about 101. The Towson game should be very interesting for both teams, as Tiger coach Pat Kennedy is under the gun with a team that has struggled for the past three seasons and currently sports a 2-4 record.
14. Fordham (3-4)
Last Week: 12/1 @ Harvard 57-80, 12/4 @ Lehigh 74-67
Next Week: 12/8 vs. Manhattan, 12/11 vs. St. John’s
The Rams are on a roll! Coach Tom Pecora has recorded his third win of the season, and a road win, the first win not in Rose Hill since 2009, to boot. The sky is probably not the limit, but the prospects for several conference wins this season have improved dramatically. The Lehigh game delivered other good news – Chris Gaston, who logged his sixth double-double of the season was not the high-scorer for Fordham. That honor went to senior guard Brent Butler. While that may sound odd, the sophomore forward draws a good deal of defensive attention whenever he is on the court, and with some justification as he accounted for over 1/3 of the Rams’ possessions and 29.3% of the Rams’ turnovers when he is on the court. Butler, combined with junior guard Alberto Estwick (and occasionally freshman guard Branden Frazier), give three to four legitimate scoring threats for Pecora to throw at an opponent’s defenses.