Wagner’s Not Done Yet: Returning Possession Minutes and the NEC

The news has come fast and furious for Wagner. With yesterday’s announcement that Mario Moody is transferring, the Seahawks are down to just four players from last season’s rotation. Bashir Mason has just 23% of his team’s possession minutes returning.

That’s an astoundingly low number. In fact, the past four seasons of NEC play the only team that had fewer RPMs were the 2012 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights. That team finished 3-26 (2-16 in the NEC) as things went from bad to worse in Teaneck, NJ with Greg Vetrone trying to plug the gaps with junior college transfers. It is worth noting though that two other teams with extremely low RPMs actually bucked the trend and were better the next season. One was Greg Herenda’s surprising FDU team from last season (33% RPM) and the other was the 2011 Sacred Heart Pioneers (30% RPM). Of course that 2011 SHU team failed to qualify from the NEC tournament.

Those two teams both featured something else too: a breakout star. Sidney Sanders, Jr. and Shane Gibson became all-NEC performers during those respective seasons. Is it possible that someone from Wagner might take advantage of the situation in a similar fashion?

There’s actually a number of reasons for that to be a reasonable expectation. For one, while only four key contributors return, they’ve all showed loads of potential in the past. Marcus Burton is already an efficient, dynamic scorer. He took 25% of the Seahawks’ shots when he was on the court last season, but that was only about half the time due to Wagner’s deep backcourt rotation. Now there are lots of minutes available and Burton should benefit greatly. On the other hand, Dwaun Anderson is still learning how to harness his unbelievable athleticism, but he was an aggregate 3.5-star recruit back in the day. His offensive rating still wasn’t great last season at 86.0, but it was up from 71.3. What’s more, as the season went on Anderson harnessed his athleticism on the defensive end.

The young front court players also showed promise. Greg Senat showed flashes of potential during his freshman campaign. He absolutely dominated CCSU in the NEC quarterfinals, scoring 10 points on 3-6 shooting inside. At 6’8″ Senat has legit size to bang against an NEC frontline. Nolan Long is even taller and had an even better offensive rating. Both could be important pieces for the Seahawks in 2014-15.

There’s also a large freshman class coming in. Mason is recruiting the players he wants for his tough, defensive system. Yes, next season might be a rebuilding season, but it’s doubtful Wagner will return so few pieces in the future.

On the other side of the spectrum of course is Saint Francis U. The Red Flash made a surprising run to the sixth seed in the NEC tournament and earned a trip to the NEC semifinals with an upset of Bryant in 2013-14. Everyone – at least right now – is coming back. And I have good news for SFU fans. Teams that return a lot of talent generally improve, logically enough. Sometimes a lot. There’s no real corollary though to what SFU will bring back in the past four seasons of NEC play. The most is Wagner bringing back 88% of its RPM in 2012 (and that team was really good). Still, if Rob Krimmel can harness his young team’s potential, the Red Flash should definitely be a contender in the NEC. A Pomeroy ranking in the 150-180 range isn’t an unreasonable hope. That would be a huge step forward for SFU.

St. Francis Brooklyn and Central Connecticut are the other two teams hoping returning a big piece of their core helps them make a move next season. In general the trend holds that those teams can improve. A team’s RPM and previous season pythagorean is able to explain almost 40% of next season’s results. But injuries and defections have sometimes caught up to NEC teams that thought things would be better next season. Just a word of caution to everyone.

Here’s a chart showing the general relationship between RPM (x-axis) and the change in adjusted pythagorean (y-axis) for NEC teams. May the odds be ever in your favor.


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