Tempo-Free MAAC: The Broncs Lock In

Due to the fact that almost nothing has changed from last week’s rankings I wanted to highlight a few specific teams and their play on certain sides of the ball.

Rider's defense has improved as MAAC play has progressed.
Rider’s defense has improved as MAAC play has progressed.

First up is Rider. The Broncs defense really struggled early in MAAC play. As a team you want to be below the 1 point per possession mark if possible, or at least near it, and Kevin Baggett’s team had a few games early in the season at Canisius and hosting Saint Peter’s where they were nowhere close. Since they hosted SPU the defense has been much, much better. Rider has allowed 312 points in 341 points in the five games since. Notice too that the Broncs have done it without abandoning their faster-paced style. That’s still right around the Broncs’ season average of 68 possessions per game (though it does include one overtime contest).

I asked the Rider beat reporter for The Trentonian, Kyle Franko (follow him on Twitter!), for some insight into what changed after that awful defensive effort against the Peacocks and he said that after that game the Broncs had their most physical practice of the season. Good job by Baggett for getting his players to commit again to the defensive side of the ball. Their tempo might hide it, but the Broncs are amongst the best defensive teams in the MAAC now.

There was a spike and then it was all gone for Manhattan.
There was a spike and then it was all gone for Manhattan.

There was a time earlier in the MAAC season where it seemed as if Manhattan was going to have an offense just as formidable as its elite defense. From the game against Fairfield through Siena the Jaspers scored at a clip resembling Iona or Canisius, but it has proven to be unsustainable. The injury to George Beamon certainly didn’t help — though the sample of excellent play included three games where he basically didn’t play. What’s changed since then?

The biggest change on offense is that Manhattan’s free throw rate has plunged. The book is out on the Jaspers. Manhattan is at its best when players such as Mike Alvarado and Beamon can attack the rim and get to the free throw line. After posting free throw rates of 84.4, 40.6, 64.2 and 74.1 during their days as an offensive juggernaut, the Jaspers haven’t gotten to the line nearly as frequently since. Rider, Iona and Saint Peter’s are classified by Ken Pomeroy as playing “man” against Manhattan, but they were soft. The Gaels for instance were content to sag off most of the Jaspers players to avoid fouling. Manhattan scored 1.06 that night, but it wasn’t enough.

Still, Manhattan has been quite unlucky this season. Here are the MAAC “luck” standings. This is how many games you’re off your pythagorean expectation given your offensive and defensive performance in conference play. Teams at the top have more wins than expected. (For instance, the numbers suggest Quinnipiac has performed closer to a 7-5 team than an 8-4 squad during MAAC play.) Obviously calling it “luck” adds unnecessary connotations. So if you instead want to call it “Things unaccounted for by any reliable measurement” or “TUFBARM” for short (h/t @jdottan) that’s fine by me.

Team (Current Record): Wins Off Expectation

  1. Quinnipiac (8-4): 1.3
  2. Rider (8-4): 0.77
  3. Monmouth (4-8): 0.46
  4. Saint Peter’s (3-9): 0.36
  5. Iona (10-2): 0.26
  6. Siena (6-6): 0.24
  7. Canisius (10-2): 0.23
  8. Niagara (3-9): 0.16
  9. Marist (5-7): -0.18
  10. Fairfield (1-11): -1.0
  11. Manhattan (8-4): -1.3

Most of the league falls right within the range of a single game. There’s nothing incredibly outlandish. Part of that is there have been few close games in the MAAC. The league ranks 24th of 32 conferences in the percentage of close conference games according to Pomeroy. There have only been 12 games decided by four points or fewer or overtime. Manhattan is 1-2 in such games and Quinnipiac is 3-0, which explains some of the discrepancy.

Addendum: 2/5 at 11:40 a.m.

There’s been some chatter on Twitter about teams that have easier or harder schedules down the stretch. Well, I decided to take a look and see if anyone really has a legitimate chance of catching the two leaders (Iona and Canisius) for the MAAC regular season title. The answer is: Not really. The Gaels and Golden Griffins combined to win the title outright in 68% of the 10,000 sims I ran of the remainder of MAAC play. The other teams had just a 5% total chance of winning an outright title. Of course, 27% of the 10,000 sims ended in some sort of tie starting at as few as 13 wins (highly unlikely, but a fun 5-way tie). Note that Siena is included in this chart because the Saints tied for first place in two of the 10,000 simulations. At 6-6 the Saints aren’t technically eliminated from a championship run, but man would it be hard.

Name Reg. Champ Outright Champ Best Worst
Iona 63% 40% 18 11
Canisius 49% 28% 18 10
Quinnipiac 9% 2% 16 8
Manhattan 9% 2% 16 8
Rider 5% 1% 17 8
Siena 0% 0% 14 6

So, knowing this, how many games is it going to take to win the MAAC regular season title this season? Great question. My guess: 16 wins. But I’m just playing the odds. Here’s a histogram of how many wins the champion had in each of the 10,000 simulations I ran.

The most common result was 16 wins, which occurred 4,377 times. A team needed 13 wins just once.
The most common result was 16 wins, which occurred 4,377 times. 13 wins occurred just once.


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