Season Snapshot: Long Island

At the highest level you can argue that the start to the season has been a disappointment for Long Island, but the only way of doing so is to first acknowledge that the expectations were pretty darn high to begin with. The Blackbirds are 2-3 in their first five games, including close losses at Penn State and Old Dominion. LIU has yet to play at home, but the offense has looked strong and the victories have started to come. Maybe Saturday against Radford was the turning point, but Jim Ferry’s team still looks to be on its way to 20+ wins and a solid performance in the NEC.

LIU's offensive efficiency has steadily improved as the season has progressed, but the defense is still inconsistent at best.

What’s gone right?
– The Blackbirds are averaging 71.8 possessions per game, a pace that that makes sense for a squad that wants to run-and-gun with anyone it plays.

– For all the concern about Jason Brickman his assist ratio – as defined by John Hollinger in his PER calculations – is a strong 37.8, compared to 44.5 last season.

– The two main rotation players with the highest usage rate are Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere. They’ve both been pretty efficient offensively. That means the Blackbirds are successfully getting the ball to their scorers in positions that make them effective.

What’s gone wrong?
-The reason to be concerned about Brickman is his turnover ratio. After having a turnover ratio of 15.8 last season, it has almost doubled to 28.0 this season through five games. Even when Brickman has played well his turnovers have still been a bit high. This could be a sign that’s he’s pressing now that he’s in the starting lineup.

-The defense has been poor. Except for the game against Radford the Blackbirds have allowed over a point per possession in the other contests. This has forced LIU to outscore opponents. This was also a problem last season, so it’s not a new issue, but it is certainly something worth tracking. In particular teams are just getting too many open looks. The only times LIU held an opponent below an effective field goal percentage of 55.0% was against Radford and Penn State.

-What’s up with Kenny Onyechi? Maybe his recovery from offseason injuries is taking longer than expected, or maybe Ferry is just frustrated with him, but Onyechi isn’t getting as much run this season. Still, when he’s on the court he’s making things happen – good and bad. Onyechi’s usage rate is the third highest on the team behind Boyd and Olasewere, but his per possession efficiency is below the team average. Onyechi is shooting worse from the field and the free throw line then he did last season. To make the offense truly elite he’ll have to get back on track.

Other interesting things?
– Monday against Iona will be LIU’s most difficult game of the season to date and probably the team’s last chance to get a quality win out of conference that could help justify avoiding the First Round of the NCAA Tournament if LIU wins the NEC’s automatic bid. That’s really big stakes to put on the third game of the season, but the truth.

– The early season numbers suggest that freshman Gerrell Martin has earned some more playing time. He’s got a pretty high usage rate for a first-year guard, but it’s hard to argue with the results thus far. Most of this is based off of one big game against Penn State where Martin scored 13 points in 12 minutes, but he also scored eight points against Hofstra. He’s shooting 53.3% from the field, 87.5% from the free throw line and 70.0% from beyond the arc. The first and last of those numbers are unsustainable, but Martin’s proven he should at least get a shot.

– Speaking of players getting a shot, it’s good to see senior Arnold Mayorga getting solid playing time again. When given the opportunity in 2009-10 he scored 4.0 points per game. He’s hitting that average right now in just 14.2 minutes per game in 2011-12. The one concern is rebounding. Mayorga needs to crash the glass harder, because the Blackbirds can’t afford to be giving up extra possessions on defense.

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