BY RAY FLORIANI
The top teams have earned the proverbial separation as we head to the homestretch. Among that group, there is still some movement and activity. Last Saturday, Dayton lost at home to St. Bonaventure. Last night, VCU was defeated on the road by George Mason. Saint Joseph’s keeps rolling along. Ditto for St. Bonaventure, rebounding nicely after a loss at La Salle to knock off the Flyers in a tough environment.
On the opposite side, George Mason and Saint Louis show signs of encouragement. La Salle has two wins, over Dayton and St. Bonaventure, a sure sign there are no ‘easy outs’ in this conference, As usual, numbers are courtesy of Basketball State:
VCU: 11-3, +15 efficiency margin
Dayton: 12-3, +11
Saint Joseph’s: 11-3, +11
George Washington: 10-5, +9
St. Bonaventure: 11-3, +7
Rhode Island: 7-8, +7
Richmond: 6-8, +5
Fordham: 5-10, +5
Davidson: 8-6, +3
Duquesne: 4-10, +3
UMass: 5-10, -3
Saint Louis: 5-10, -9
George Mason: 4-10, -9
La Salle: 2-12, -18
Saint Joseph’s: 96
Rhode Island: 96
The top three listed are among conference leaders for a reason, the defensive prowess. That, coupled with an efficient offense, is a tough combination to beat.
George Washington: 108
As noted previously, Richmond is very efficient on offense. Still, not at defense, with a 106 efficiency allowed on that end.
Duquesne: 74.9 possessions
Saint Joseph’s: 71.6
Coming to the conclusion, as John Lennon sang, ‘whatever gets you through the night.’ Here are successful teams pushing it as well as those who are struggling. Simply, no guarantee a faster pace ensures wins. It all comes down to what a team is comfortable with.
Rhode Island: 66.6 possessions
La Salle: 67.8
George Mason: 68.6
George Washington: 69.0
The same thing applies to the slower pace. No certainty that a slower tempo adds in the win column. The exception here is George Washington.
Jack Gibbs, Davidson: 34.39 percent
Jordan Price, La Salle: 30.55
Trey Davis, UMass: 29.55
T.J. Cline, Richmond: 28.13
Milik Yarbrough, Saint Louis: 28.12
The newcomer in the group is Milik Yarbrough. The Saint Louis sophomore forward is averaging 8.3 points per game. Yarbrough had 16 points as the Billikens nearly upset Dayton recently.
We can’t get through a tempo free breakdown with turnover mentions. Good news: Once again, every Atlantic 10 team is under the 20 percent cutoff, impressive in a conference with a number of teams pushing the pace.
A breakdown from Fairfax, VA: George Mason 76, VCU 69
The pace was 73 possessions in VCU’s favor. On this night, George Mason excelled on both ends. Their offensive efficiency was 106, 11 above their average. On defense, Dave Paulsen’s group allowed a 94, 10 better than their norm. Both teams had very good turnover rates, with VCU at eight percent and the Patriots at 16. That latter figure is impressive, as George Mason is young and the Rams come at you with defensive pressure. Offensive rebounds were close, as plays will illustrate.
In the Dean Smith points per possession (now known as plays) formula, offensive rebounds started, not continued, a possession:
PPP = FGA + (.5b * FTA) +TO
Utilizing that formula, VCU had 86 plays and a 0.80 per play. George Mason used 84 plays for a .91 points per play. The difference was due to the Rams' 12-10 offensive rebounding edge.
Final note with usage: Melvin Johnson of VCU had a game-high 24 points and a pace-setting 23.88 usage. George Mason’s usage leader was Shevon Thompson, with a 17.64. Thompson also led the Patriots in scoring with 17. The Patriots were balanced in the usage department, with four in double figures. In fact, second-leading scorer Jalen Jenkins (16 points) had a usage of 9.20, a truly efficient display of offense for the junior forward.
Quick hits from Wednesday's action:
Fordham 56, La Salle 53: The Rams posted a 95 efficiency. Of greater note, defensive-minded Fordham held LaSalle to an 84 OE.
St. Bonaventure 80, Duquesne 76: The Bonnies’ Jaylen Adams had a game-high 24 points and 20.16 usage. St. Bonaventure's 10 percent turnover rate stood out as well.
Saint Joseph's 74, UMass 57: The Hawks flew with a 106 OE, while allowing an 86 on defense. Had to love the numbers and overall versatility of DeAndre' Bembry, who had 18 points, nine rebounds, four assists, three steals, and zero turnovers.
George Washington 73, Richmond 61: The Colonials held high-efficiency Richmond to a 90 OE. That is eleven below their season average.
Keep an eye on Saturday’s afternoon matchup in our nation’s capital. VCU visits George Washington. The Colonials are hoping to finish strong before the A-10 heads to Brooklyn. VCU leads in the win and loss columns, but a win by the home five could make the standings ever more interesting. Both teams, especially the what happened to the visiting Rams not far removed in Fairfax on Wednesday, will be ready for this one.