Monday, June 1, 2015

MAAC Tempo-Free Wrapup, Part I: Pace and efficiency

In somewhat of a different approach than how Ray Floriani has broken down the final results of various conferences, we will crunch the numbers here by listing each team from top to bottom in both average possessions, points per possession, and efficiency margin, as well as provide some statistical analysis where applicable. Part two, featuring each team in terms of how they ranked in the Four Factors, will come soon. All statistics reflect regular season conference games only, and were gleaned from each team's official statistics on their respective websites, or when necessary, most recent set of game notes:

Possessions (from greatest to least)
1) Manhattan (69.45)
2) Iona (69.4)
3) Quinnipiac (68.45)
4) Siena (67)
5) Niagara (66.45)
6) Rider (66)
7) Monmouth (65.5)
8) Marist (63.85)
9) Canisius (63.75)
10) Saint Peter's (62.85)
11) Fairfield (62.65)

Analysis: Some may consider Iona's second-place status surprising given the prolific offenses that the Gaels have routinely turned out, but what stands out more when revealing the total number of possessions is the system that Steve Masiello has installed in Riverdale. In their back-to-back MAAC championship campaigns, the Jaspers have predicated themselves on not only suffocating opponents on the defensive end, they also make it a point to push the ball up the floor at a frenetic pace, a quality that gets overlooked far too often when Manhattan's points per game are criticized.

In addition, Quinnipiac's physicality enables the Bobcats to get more life out of the basketball, and their 68.45 possessions per game were largely attributed to Tom Moore's world-renowned offensive rebounding prowess. Rounding out the top five are two uptempo attacks in Siena and Niagara, while the defense-oriented programs in the conference played at a much slower clip. Just because some of these schools, namely Rider, Monmouth, Canisius, and Saint Peter's, did not average as many possessions as some of their counterparts, does not mean they were not successful, as three of the four finished above .500 in conference play, with the Peacocks making up for their 8-12 MAAC ledger by reaching the semifinals of the conference tournament.

Points per possession (from greatest to least)
1) Iona (1.10)
2) Canisius (1.04)
3) Manhattan (1.03)
4) Siena (1.03)
5) Rider (1.01)
6) Niagara (1.01)
7) Monmouth (1.00)
8) Quinnipiac (1.00)
9) Saint Peter's (0.99)
10) Fairfield (0.96)
11) Marist (0.95)

Analysis: This is where Iona's offense earns its reputation. The Gaels' penchant for three-point shots and astute selection is what puts Tim Cluess' high-octane attack a clear 0.06 points clear of Canisius, who; despite their more deliberate style, (the Golden Griffins averaged the third-fewest possessions in MAAC play) were able to get what they wanted for the most part, relying on Zach Lewis, Josiah Heath, and a strong supporting cast to keep themselves in the top half of the conference standings for most of the season, a testament to Jim Baron's ability to get the most out of every player on his roster.

Two other nuggets here...first, Rider's 1.01 points per possession was largely attributed to a pair of factors: Point guard Teddy Okereafor, whose VCU background helped him run the Broncs' offense in both a stable and experienced fashion, as well as Kevin Baggett's willingness to feed the ball to first team all-MAAC honoree Matt Lopez down low early and often throughout the season. Finally, aside from Iona, the parity that dominated the MAAC through the bulk of league play made an impact in these numbers, with just 0.09 points separating second-place Canisius from eleventh-place Marist.

Defensive efficiency (points per possession yielded from least to greatest)
1) Rider (0.94)
2) Monmouth (0.97)
3) Quinnipiac (0.98)
4) Manhattan (0.99)
5) Canisius (1.00)
6) Saint Peter's (1.00)
7) Fairfield (1.01)
8) Iona (1.01)
9) Marist (1.04)
10) Niagara (1.10)
11) Siena (1.10)

Analysis: The four teams to hold opponents under one point per possession each did it in a different way. Rider, whose 0.94 clip was far and away the best in the MAAC, relied on both Matt Lopez and the length of Xavier Lundy to force mismatches in the paint. Monmouth was more of a lockdown unit, holding opponents under 60 points on eight separate occasions. Quinnipiac used the skill of Ousmane Drame both around the rim and on the perimeter to intimidate their foes, while Manhattan did what they do best, which is create chaos by both forcing turnovers and making a team's third and fourth options try to beat the Jaspers at their own game.

As far as those near the bottom of the standings, Iona's 1.01 figure can be attributed to the wide-open nature of the Gaels' offense, which in turn allowed for multiple opportunities on the other end. Siena, however, fell victim to a short bench and a tendency to accumulate fouls among their big men, with both Lavon Long and Javion Ogunyemi frequently hampered by the whistle.

Efficiency Margins
1) Iona (+9)
2) Rider (+7)
3) Manhattan (+4)
4) Canisius (+4)
5) Monmouth (+3)
6) Quinnipiac (+2)
7) Saint Peter's (-1)
8) Fairfield (-5)
9) Siena (-7)
10) Niagara (-9)
11) Marist (-9)

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