Patriot League Tempo-Free, Simulations, and an All-Conference Rant

The Patriot League tournament has been paired down to eight teams (sorry Loyola and Navy) and the action continues this evening. To help make sense of the madness, John was kind enough to run 10,000 simulations for this tournament to determine who has the best chance at earning the NCAA’s automatic bid. But first, a look at the final efficiency standings for the Patriot League regular season. Continue reading “Patriot League Tempo-Free, Simulations, and an All-Conference Rant”

Tempo-Free Patriot League: A Three Team Race

Two Saturdays ago American had just won their tenth straight Patriot League game under the direction of Mike Brennan. The Princeton offensive system was working! Or at least that’s what everybody waxed poetic about. Continue reading “Tempo-Free Patriot League: A Three Team Race”

Tempo-Free Patriot League: The Top Three Are Legit

With six regular season conference games in the books, now is the perfect time to break out the first ever edition of the Tempo Free Patriot League! There have been some major surprises (Army, American, Lafayette) thus far, but what do the tempo free numbers tell us? Let’s dive right in.

Efficiency Margin (Offensive Efficiency – Defensive Efficiency):

  1. Boston University (6-0): +0.17 points per possession
  2. American (6-0): +0.14
  3. Army (5-1): +0.10
  4. Bucknell (3-3): +0.02
  5. Holy Cross (3-3): +0.01
  6. Loyola (3-3): -0.03
  7. Colgate (1-5): -0.05
  8. Lehigh (1-5): -0.06
  9. Navy (2-4): -0.12
  10. Lafayette (0-6): -0.17

The top three teams, and their records, are legit. At least that’s what the early conference returns tell us. With the exception of a narrow victory on the road over Lehigh, Boston University has dominated the competition with an average margin of victory of 11.2 points per contest. After losing seven out of 10 Division I non-conference games, Army has completely turned things around thanks to a stark improvement on the offensive end (more on that later). The trio of 3-3 teams are right where they should be in terms of efficiency. Colgate, the 50th most experienced team in the country, is off to a disappointing start, as is Lehigh, who sits on the opposite end of the experience spectrum (318th). Lafayette is … well you’ll see why they’re winless later on.

Best Offenses:

  1. Army: 1.14 points scored per possession
  2. American: 1.09
  3. Boston University: 1.09

After scoring a respectable 1.01 points in their D-I non-conference games, the Army offensive attack has kicked it up a notch for Patriot League play. Tanner Plomb’s inspired play of late (18.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 60.7% FG% in five league games) and Dylon Cox’s ability to take care of the basketball (25 assists versus 3 turnovers) have been a big reason for the Black Knights’ sizable jump in offensive efficiency. In Washington D.C., Mike Brennan’s Princeton style offense has been magnificent with the Eagles registering an assist on 72.8% of their field goals. Their crisp offensive sets are leading to a lot of layups and shots near the rim; they are second in the nation in two-point field goal percentage (57.5%) at the moment. Coming off a season ranked 127th in offensive efficiency, it comes as no surprise that Joe Jones’ Terriers are scoring the basketball with ease. Maurice Watson’s assist rate of 49.4% (second nationally to LIU Brooklyn’s Jason Brickman) likely has something to do with that.

Worst Offenses:

  1. Navy: 0.86 points scored per possession
  2. Holy Cross: 1.00
  3. Lehigh: 1.00

It’s really a shame that Navy’s offense has been so putrid, especially on the road where the Mids have mustered a puny 43.3 points per game. It’s led to the brutally honest Ed DeChellis breaking out these post game quotes:

“We were so god-awful, I’m not sure if we could have beaten four nuns and a priest tonight.” -DeChellis, after a 55-32 defeat at Boston University.

“We did not come out of the gate ready to play and we could never put two or three shots back-to-back-to-back to get some momentum.” -DeChellis, after an uncompetitive loss at Colgate, 63-41.

Navy has been good enough in other facets of the game to be successful, but as I wrote last week, the Mids will continue to struggle without their best playmaker, Tilman Dunbar, in the lineup. At 1.00 ppp, Holy Cross appears to be doing an adequate job scoring, but the Patriot League average is approximately at 1.03 ppp, making Milan Brown’s offense slightly below average. Still, the Crusaders are defending relatively well (0.99 ppp), therefore they’re projected by KenPom to finish third with a 11-7 conference record. It helps that Holy Cross still has Lafayette and Navy on the schedule two times each.

Best Defenses:

  1. Boston University: 0.91 points allowed per possession
  2. American: 0.95
  3. Navy: 0.98

Worst Defenses:

  1. Lafayette: 1.23 points allowed per possession
  2. Lehigh: 1.06
  3. Colgate: 1.06

In his 19 years of coaching, Fran O’Hanlon has never coached a defensive stalwart, but this season has been absolutely ridiculous. At 119.8 points allowed per 100 possessions for the season, only two teams IN THE COUNTRY have been worse in that regard. The Leopards defense is certainly approaching unchartered territory; inside the conference, only the 2011-12 Colgate Red Raiders have given up more than 115 points per 100 possessions in the past 12 seasons. Lafayette is fouling too much (47.6% defensive free throw rate, last in the Patriot League), not defending the perimeter (opponents are shooting 47.1% from behind the arc, last in PL), and failing to protect the defensive glass. That’s a trifecta of defensive incompetence.

Luckiest Teams:

  1. American: 0.98 wins above expected
  2. Navy: 0.95
  3. Boston University: 0.64

Unluckiest Teams:

  1. Colgate: -1.15 wins below expected
  2. Lehigh: -1.11
  3. Lafayette: -0.94

Due to their aforementioned woes on offense and a couple of blowout losses, Navy’s perceived as one of the luckiest teams in the Patriot League. Still, the Mids blew a 10-point lead with five minutes remaining at Loyola in their conference opener, so if anything they should be sitting at 3-3. American hasn’t blown anyone out so far – likely a factor for why they’re considered “lucky” –  yet their victories have been impressive nonetheless. A 4-0 road record is no joke, and on Wednesday, they’ll host the only other undefeated team in league play, Boston University.

While the numbers indicate the Matt Langel’s group is the unluckiest squad (the Red Raiders monster win over Navy closed their efficiency gap), Lehigh surely has the biggest gripe. Sans a blowout loss at Holy Cross last weekend, the Mountain Hawks had lost their previous four games by a combined 10 points. While their inability to close it out may be indicative of their youth, those narrow outcomes could eventually swing in Lehigh’s favor moving forward. They’re probably a better team than they’re 1-5 record indicates. Lafayette, who sits in the Patriot League cellar, should outscore a few opponents, especially if Seth Henrichs eventually returns from a knee injury.

Ryan covers the Patriot League on Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride

Patriot League Roundup – January 5

It’s time to recap the second day of the Patriot League season. There were plenty of interesting match-ups on the first Sunday of 2014.

Boston University 67, Lehigh 66
The Terriers narrowly escaped a victory when Lehigh’s Jesse Chuku missed a three-pointer late, as Boston University held off a young, feisty Lehigh squad for their second straight victory. Despite only hitting six of 24 from long-range, the Terriers controlled the paint, sinking 61.1% of their twos while out-rebounding the bigger Mountain Hawks. Dom Morris was a significant part of that, registering an impressive 15 points (on eight shots) and nine rebounds. Nathan Dieudonne chipped in with a career high nine boards as well. To no one’s surprise, Maurice Watson was terrific as the Terrier’s floor general, dishing out 12 helpers against four turnovers. As a team, Boston University posted a superb 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Lehigh falls to 1-1 in conference play, despite a very good performance by Mackey McKnight. The senior had 23 points, five rebounds, and five assists, but it was his 12 points in the final 5:06 of the contest that stood out the most. After posting a double double on Thursday, freshman Tim Kempton was quiet with four points and a mere one rebound.

American 69, Holy Cross 54
Five Eagles were in double figures, led by Jesse Reed’s 14 points, as American cruised past Holy Cross for their second league win in as many games. American jumped out to a 17-6 advantage and never relinquished the lead from there. Mike Brennan’s crew was perfect from the charity stripe (11-11) while making more than half of their shot attempts (51%). For the second straight league game, it was a perfect display of basketball for Brennan, as the Eagles had 21 assists on 27 field goals.

Holy Cross remains winless in the Patriot League, after a lackluster effort on the offensive end. Through two league games, the Crusaders have scored 0.79 points per possession. In today’s game, Holy Cross committed 14 turnovers versus nine assists and shot a miserable 32.1% from the floor. Dave Dudzinski scored a team high 13 points, but got little help from his teammates. The rest of the starters (Abt, Miller, Hamilton, Burrell) only combined to score 15 points. In fact, Holy Cross’ bench nearly outscored the starters (28-24).

Navy 79, Lafayette 71
Navy hit a remarkable 11 of 14 three-point attempts as the offense out powered the Leopards in their Patriot League home opener. Brandon Venturini scored a career high 28 points and hit eight three-pointers in the victory. Thurgood Wynn provided a much-needed slashing presence for the Mids, as he scored 15 points thanks to 12 free throw attempts.

While Lafayette did an excellent job getting to the line (25-35), the offense suffered elsewhere. They shot 40.8% for the contest and barely made a third of their three-point attempts. But it was their defense that was the most troubling, as they allowed the worst offensive team in the Patriot League to score 50 points in the second half. The Leopards have now allowed 1.20 points per possession through two league games. That certainly won’t get it done.

Bucknell 68, Colgate 57
Chris Hass scored a career high 26 points – after setting a career high on Thursday night with 18 – as Bucknell evened their conference record to 1-1 with a fundamentally sound victory over Colgate. Hass’ four three-pointers quadrupled the number Colgate hit from behind the arc (1). Dom Hoffman had 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench and Steve Kaspar, all 6’3″ of him, had a game high 10 rebounds.

The Red Raiders only made 1 of 12 three-point attempts, and for a team so reliant on the three, that’s usually bad news. When Colgate has a three-point shooting percentage under 45%, Colgate is 0-7 this season versus Division I competition. In the loss, Austin Tillotson was once again excellent, scoring 15 points on six shots to go along with two rebounds and two assists. Yet Matt Langel got little production off his bench and a 16 point deficit at halftime was simply too much to overcome.

Army 91, Loyola (MD), 82
Five Black Knights were in double figures as Army moves into three-way tie for first place in the Patriot League with a home victory over Loyola. Kyle Wilson had a game high 18, while Kevin Ferguson was terrific down low, registering 15 points, nine rebounds, and two assists. Army shot 56.8% from the floor, a season best, while scoring 1.19 points per possession. They were effective getting to the free-throw line and converting those attempts, making 24 of 28.

On the other end, the first half woes continue for G.G. Smith’s Greyhounds. In their last eight Division I games, Loyola has trailed at halftime by an average of 16 points. Today wasn’t as bad – Loyola “only” trailed by seven – yet they couldn’t play catch-up like they had on Thursday night. Dylon Cormier scored a game high 27 shots, but needed 25 shots to acquire said points as he continues to take a large portion of Loyola’s offense. R.J. Williams also contributed on both sides of the ball, swiping six steals while scored 14 points in defeat. Loyola has now lost seven of their last eight Division I games – if it wasn’t for Navy’s ineptitude in the second half on Thursday, then it would eight consecutive losses.

Player of the Day — Brandon Venturini
For a Navy offense that desperately needed a spark minus the contributions of Tilman Dunbar, Venturini’s shooting was just what the doctor ordered for Ed DeChellis. The junior utilized several effective screens to hit open looks, and even got a little lucky when he banked in a long-range bomb at a critical junction of Sunday’s game. For Navy to be effective moving forward, they’ll need adequate outside shooting from Venturini, Kendall Knorr and others.

Patriot League Standings
1) Boston University, 2-0
2) American, 2-0
3) Army, 2-0
4) Bucknell, 1-1
5) Loyola (MD), 1-1
6) Lehigh, 1-1
7) Navy, 1-1
8) Lafayette, 0-2
9) Colgate, 0-2
10) Holy Cross, 0-2

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride

Patriot League Roundup – The Season Openers

Boston University 70, Holy Cross 60
In a workmanlike performance, Boston University took care of business in their first ever Patriot League showdown by dispatching the upset-minded Crusaders at home. Maurice Watson, Jr., a player we pegged as our Patriot League midseason POY, led the Terriers with 12 points. It was the second lowest point total Watson has scored in any game this season, yet Boston University survived thanks to a balanced effort. Eight Terriers scored at least six points, while seven registered at least three rebounds.

Boston University took advantage of their opportunities at the charity stripe, converting an impressive 18 of 20 free throws while dominating the Crusaders on the glass, 39-29. Holy Cross was plagued with 18 turnovers (nine were committed by their primary ball handlers, Justin Burrell and Anthony Thompson) against a measly seven assists on 22 made baskets. That simply won’t get it done, nor will 0.79 points per possession (ppp), especially against a Boston University squad that’s now 7-3 versus “mid-major” opponents.

Army 85, Lafayette 66
After falling behind 15-11 heading into the second media timeout, the Black Knights went on a 15-5 run to take the lead. It was an advantage they would not relinquish; in fact, there were several more runs Army would make through the second half, ultimately turning the mid-afternoon game into a laugher. Unexpectedly, Tanner Plomb was the star of the show, scoring a career high 24 points on 8 of 12 shooting. Kyle Wilson, who’s currently third in the conference in scoring (18.8 ppg), chipped in with 24 points, five rebounds, and two assists.

For the Leopards, the defensive issues continue for Fran O’Hanlon, as they’ve given up more than 1.10 ppp in eight of 11 contests. Coming into this afternoon’s matchup, Lafayette was allowing opponents to shoot 37.9% from behind the arc, which is always dangerous when facing a team like Army who jacks up a high number of threes. Zach Spiker’s squad didn’t hoist up a ton of threes (20), but they did convert at a 45% clip. Also troubling: Army was a stellar 59.5% from inside the arc. Seth Hinrichs missed his third straight contest due to an injured knee, and according to Tom Housenick, his return to the lineup is still unknown. Lafayette is 0-3 in those games without Hinrichs.

Lehigh 88, Colgate 81, 2 OT
Four Mountain Hawks scored 77 of their 88 points as Lehigh held on to hand Colgate their second straight loss in double overtime. Mackey McKnight’s three-pointer with 27 seconds remaining in regulation inevitability drove the game to an extra session. Even though the game went on for 50 minutes, both teams played a somewhat clean game with 35 total fouls called between the two. Lehigh’s advantage at the line (21 to 11) was the outlier stat in this one.

Murphy Burnatowski was excellent in the loss with 26 points, five rebounds, four steals and one assist. Despite scoring 13 points, Austin Tillotson’s five turnovers was a season high.

Loyola (MD) 63, Navy 57, OT
After going nearly 19 minutes without scoring a field goal – and registering just seven free throws in that span – Loyola somehow utilized a late second half run to send the game into overtime, and win it in the extra frame. Without Tilman Dunbar in uniform (more on that later), Navy played inspired basketball from the start, building an eight point lead at the halftime break. Despite the impressive start and a 13 point lead with five minutes remaining, backup point guard Earl McLaurin – his first career start – struggled mightily against the pressure defense of R.J. Williams in the second half. McLaurlin’s seven turnovers (and 23 team turnovers of which Loyola scored 26 points off of) inevitably did the Mids in. Missing multiple free throws late surely didn’t help.

Dylon Cormier, who scored a game high 20 points in the victory, broke a school record by shooting a perfect 12 of 12 from the free throw line. He was the only Greyhound to reach double figures. A win is a win, yet this is a flawed Greyhounds team and G.G. Smith knows it. Tonight was the ninth straight game where Loyola has been out-rebounded by their opponent. You can find the Baltimore Sun’s recap here.

American 67, Bucknell 57
The Bison made it interesting late, but a terrific first half by American and an early spurt in the second half was too much to overcome for Bucknell, now losers of three straight games. The Eagles led by as many as 17 points (47-30), but a 12-0 Bison run made things interesting. Overall, American beat Bucknell in all facets of the game, winning the battle on the glass (34 to 29), at the charity stripe (22 to 14), and shooting the basketball (53.8% to 33.3%). Troy Wroblicky had a double double for the Eagles with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Mike Brennan certainly has to be happy with his Princeton style offense tonight – the Eagles had 14 assists on 21 made field goals.

Chris Haas scored a career high 18 points after logging 31 minutes. The sophomore has been a real contributor for Paulsen lately, averaging nearly 12 points and five rebounds in his last seven. Cameron Ayers scored 17 points, yet he needed 21 shots to get there.

Player of the Night — Tim Kempton, Lehigh
Brett Reed has something special here with 6’10” center Tim Kempton. The freshman has now registered four double doubles in the past six games, with the latest one coming emphatically in an overtime victory over the Red Raiders. Kempton’s 25 points and 13 rebounds were both game highs. Kempton now leads the team in scoring with 14.4 ppg; he’s the last Mountain Hawks rookie to lead the team in scoring this late in the season since … yes, you guessed it, C.J. McCollum.

Surprise of the Night – Bucknell Losing to American
Bucknell is officially reeling, which is something you aren’t used to hearing about with a Dave Paulsen coached team. The Bison have been out of sink offensively, and tonight was no exception, as they mustered 0.93 ppp. Moreover, tonight was only the third time Bucknell had an effective field goal percentage under 40% this season; not surprisingly all three contests have resulted in Bison losses. Our friends over at Beanpot Hoops offers a little insight on Bucknell’s offensive woes.

Interesting Tidbits

  • Freshman point guard Nick Lindner struggled against Army pressure defense, committing four turnovers against only two assists in the Leopards loss today. It’s completely unfair to pin any loss on one player, but it warrants a mention that Lafayette is now 0-7 this season when Lindner commits four or more turnovers. Do you think the Leopards miss Tony Johnson’s presence at the point much?
  • For the first time all season, Joe Jones elected to bring his Patriot League preseason POY D.J. Irving off the bench. The senior still shot 20% from the field (1 of 5) while turning it over five times, but he was incredibly active elsewhere. He grabbed eight defensive rebounds, dished out three assists, and stole the ball twice in just 24 minutes of play.
  • Zach Spiker is the king of juggling rotations, and while I don’t know how many substitutions Spiker made in today’s win, he did stick with a rotation of “just” 10 players. Only one other time this season (St. Francis Brooklyn) has Army played so few guys. Perhaps this thinning of the rotation will remain for league play?
  • A few days ago, Tilman Dunbar was indefinitely suspended by Navy for a violation of team rules, whatever that means. What it means in the short-term is Ed DeChellis no longer has an experienced point guard on the roster. Sure, there’s Earl McLaurin and plenty of shooting guards that can masquerade as floor generals (Knorr, Venturini, Alter), but Navy’s production will undoubtedly suffer. They already have the worst scoring offense in the conference, it surely won’t get better given Dunbar’s unforeseen departure.

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride

Midseason Awards – Patriot League

With the non-conference season in the books, now is the time to divvy out our mid-season awards for the Patriot League. There have been plenty of surprises in the first two months of the season, but most surprising has been the production from the conference’s underclassmen. Let’s begin! Continue reading “Midseason Awards – Patriot League”

Patriot League Power Rankings – The First Installment

With more than two weeks in the books, Big Apple Buckets unveils their first installment of the Patriot League power rankings. There’s been quite a bit of movement from the original preseason poll. Continue reading “Patriot League Power Rankings – The First Installment”