Three Thoughts: Quinnipiac 80, Lehigh 65

Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore knew he had seen it. At least in spurts. But maybe that was in practice or was it a scrimmage? Could he have been imagining it? Maybe Gio McLean held the key to it, but he wasn’t going to be playing this season. No, it was there in the season-opening win over a very good Yale team when they put up 88 points, and he had most certainly seen it when his team dismantled a good Vermont defense to the tune of 89 points three weeks ago. Continue reading “Three Thoughts: Quinnipiac 80, Lehigh 65”

NEC Recap – Dec. 3

With six NEC squads in action for the first Wednesday evening of December, John and I decided to recap the games. It’s been a rough start to the season for the conference, but there were several winnable games for the league. Let’s check in to see if they took advantage. Continue reading “NEC Recap – Dec. 3”

Patriot League Preview – A Friendly E-mail Discussion

With just two days before college basketball tips off, Kevin Doyle and I engaged in some friendly Patriot League banter over e-mail. We already gave you our preseason all-conference teams/individual awards and top impact rookies, so instead of writing up a boring primer, we decided to chat it up regarding this league. Of course, feel free to add your opinion to the message board. Enjoy! Continue reading “Patriot League Preview – A Friendly E-mail Discussion”

Impact Patriot League Freshmen for the 2014-15 Season

Projecting the impact of freshmen and how they will perform in their first season playing Division 1 hoops – unless one happens to be a Top 100 recruit – isn’t exactly a foolproof science. While coaches are still in the process of deciphering what their regular rotation will look like once the season begins, the following eight freshmen project to be some of the better ones in the Patriot League, and will have an immediate impact for their respective teams. With the additions of Boston University and Loyola to the league last season, the influx of talent continues to become better and better. Loyola will be forced to lean heavily on its freshmen class, while Bucknell – who will have a few talented freshmen on its roster – should not be as reliant. Let’s begin with my preseason all-rookie team.

[One caveat: Given the high number of freshmen both Army and Navy bring into their programs and stash at MAPS (Military Academy Prep School) and NAPS (Naval Academy Prep School) it is often tough to gauge just how good each program’s freshmen class will be at the outset of each season. Your guess is as good as ours who the top freshmen will be for each team.]

Kahron Ross, Lehigh – Lehigh’s past two starting point guards – Marquis Hall and Mackey McKnight – were both four year starters at the position. Based on reports out of Bethlehem, it seems like Kahron Ross may be on that same track as he projects to start for Lehigh in their season-opener against Villanova.

Kahron Ross (right) projects as one of the top Patriot League point guards. (Photo credit: Star-Telegram)
Kahron Ross (right) projects as one of the top Patriot League freshmen point guards. (Photo credit: Star-Telegram)

Eric Johnson, Boston University – The second season in the Patriot League for Joe Jones will likely not go as smoothly as their inaugural one as the Terriers were picked to finish in the middle-of-the-pack; that’s what happens when D.J. Irving and Dom Morris graduate, and Mo Watson transfers. Having to replace much of the production in the backcourt, Jones will likely lean on Eric Johnson. Johnson has good size for a point guard standing at 6-foot-2.

Mitchell Hahn, Holy Cross – It’s no secret that Holy Cross is thin up front with graduation claiming Dave Dudzinski. The only proven forwards Milan Brown returns are Taylor Abt and Malachi Alexander. Mitchell Hahn, Holy Cross’ lone freshman, will be one of the first three of the bench for the Crusaders, and has an opportunity to receive immediate minutes at the 3 and 4 positions. At 6-foot-8, Hahn can fill it up from the perimeter.

Cam Gregory, Loyola – G.G. Smith has been fighting an uphill battle the day he accepted the head coaching job at Loyola prior to the 2013-14 season. His predecessor, Jimmy Patsos, took many of Loyola’s top recruits with him to Siena, which left Smith in a bind for his first season at the helm. Entering his second season, Smith will be without Dylon Cormier – the top player from last year’s team – along with senior point guard R.J. Williams, who is no longer listed on the roster. Playing time will be available from the outset for the young Greyhounds, and expect forward Cam Gregory to benefit from it. Gregory was a highly-coveted recruit in the Patriot League, and will be expected to produce immediately for Loyola. At 6-foot-8, Gregory reportedly has the ability to play with his back to the basket, something that isn’t always common for freshmen big men at the mid-major level.

Nana Foulland, Bucknell – Bucknell is fairly deep in their frontcourt this season, but minutes will be available with Brian Fitzpatrick having graduated. Foulland was perhaps the premier recruit in the Patriot League for the 2014 recruiting class, boasting offers from Delaware, George Mason, Fairfield, Old Dominion, UMass, and Seton Hall among others. Foulland is a big body who can run the floor, and excels on the defensive end with exceptional shot blocking and rebounding ability. Dave Paulsen got a good one.

Bucknell's Nana Foulland may be an immediate difference-maker for Dave Paulsen. (Photo credit:  Reading Eagles)
Bucknell’s Nana Foulland may be an immediate difference-maker for Dave Paulsen. (Photo credit: Reading Eagles)

Honorable Mention

J.C. Show, Bucknell – It would be funny to be a fly on the wall for a discussion between Bucknell’s head football coach Joe Susan and Dave Paulsen. Show, who was a tremendous high school athlete and excelled on the gridiron, could most definitely find himself contributing to the Bison’s football team in some capacity this season, but he elected to take his talents to the hardwood, instead. Paulsen may have found his point guard of the future in Show, but minutes may be hard to come by at the position with Steven Kaspar and Ryan Frazier both returning for their senior and junior seasons, respectively.

Cheddi Mosely, Boston University – Eric Johnson may take over for Mo Watson at point guard, but look for Cheddi Mosely to slide in – along with Wagner transfer Eric Fanning – and help fill the void D.J. Irving left in the two-guard position. The 6-foot-3 combo guard from St. Anthony’s in New Jersey excels from the perimeter, but also can go off-the-dribble. Joe Jones has set up Boston University well for the future with Johnson and Mosely manning the backcourt.

Colton Bishop, Loyola – G.G. Smith was thrown a curveball when starting point guard R.J. Williams was allegedly tossed off the team in October. Williams has struggled to stay in line at Loyola as he was suspended in October of 2012 for a violation of team rules that kept him sidelined for half of the season. Without Williams, and Jevon Patton transferring to Northeast Oklahoma A&M, Bishop will likely be forced into immediate playing time.

You can follow Kevin on Twitter @KLDoyle11

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