Saturday, May 27, 2017

CAA tempo-free review

Kevin Keatts and UNC Wilmington became first repeat champions of CAA since Old Dominion in 2010 and 2011, capping two-year dominance with title game victory over College of Charleston. (Photo by UNC Wilmington Athletics)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

When studying conference trends, it is always interesting to see how the different leagues almost have their own personalities. In that regard, we are discussing styles of play.

Taking a closer metric evaluation, one can see offense was the key factor in the Colonial Athletic Association this past season. In the final results, Kevin Keatts guided UNC Wilmington to both the CAA regular and postseason championships, the latter for a second consecutive season.

In our stat breakdown, the first items noted are efficiency margin and conference record. All numbers reflected within are courtesy of KenPom, with only conference games taken into account.

Efficiency Margins
1) UNC Wilmington (+13, 15-3 CAA record)
2) College of Charleston (+9, 14-4)
3) Towson (+4, 11-7)
4) Elon (+3, 10-8)
5) William & Mary (+2, 10-8)
6) Northeastern (+1, 8-10)
7) James Madison (-2, 7-11)
8) Hofstra (-3, 7-11)
9) Drexel (-10, 5-13)
10) Delaware (-18, 3-15)  

Half-Full, or Half-Empty?
Every team except Delaware broke the century mark on offensive efficiency. The former group would say it is a case of teams operating at a high level of proficiency on the offensive end. The latter group would undoubtedly chalk it all up to poor defense.

Offensive Efficiency Leaders
1) UNC Wilmington (117)
2) William & Mary (113)
3) College of Charleston (110)
4) Hofstra (109)
5) Northeastern (108)

Defensive Efficiency Leaders
1) College of Charleston (101)
T-2) Elon (102)
T-2) Towson (102)
T-4) James Madison (104)
T-4) UNC Wilmington (104)

Fastest Tempo
1) William & Mary (72 possessions per game)
2) UNC Wilmington (71)
3) Drexel (70)
4) Towson (69)
5) Elon (68)
6) Hofstra (67)
T-7) College of Charleston (66)
T-7) Delaware (66)
T-7) Northeastern (66)
10) James Madison (65)

Another relatively bunched group numerically in terms of pace, as only seven possessions separated the fastest from the most deliberate. It should be pointed out that the 72 possessions per game of William & Mary puts the Tribe in what is classified as a “NASCAR pace,” while James Madison’s 65 is on the moderate side of the tempo scale.  

Turnover Rate Leaders
T-1) UNC Wilmington (14 percent)
T-1) College of Charleston (14)
3) Hofstra (15)
4) Elon (16)
5) Northeastern (17)

Every team in the CAA was under 20 percent for their turnover rate. That is an impressive statistic, showing very good care of the ball. On the other hand, the defense, or lack thereof in some cases, is a definite factor. Another way to judge defense is on the effective field goal defensive statistics. In the CAA, only two schools; Elon and College of Charleston, had an eFG defense under 50 percent, and just barely at that. Both the Phoenix and Cougars checked in at 49 percent, respectively.

Defensive Effective Field Goal Percentage Leaders
T-1) Elon (49 percent)
T-1) College of Charleston (49 percent)
3) Towson (51)
T-4) UNC Wilmington (52)
T-4) Northeastern (52)

Given the turnover rate numbers with no defense forcing 20 percent or more, coupled with effective field goal numbers on the defensive end, it is safe to assume some of these gaudy offensive numbers are a product of below-average defense rather than all above-par offense.  
A Closer Look at Hofstra
Hofstra was a team doing a lot of good things on offense, yet struggling on defense. Interior play on the defensive end was an undoing for the Pride. Hofstra allowed a 112 defensive efficiency, which ranked eighth in the CAA. Joe Mihalich’s team had a 30 percent opposing offensive rebounding rate and 5 percent blocked shot rate. Both marks were at the bottom of the conference and factors for a team that ultimately lost seven conference games by seven points or less.  

CAA Championship: UNC Wilmington 78, College of Charleston 69
Despite the final score, Charleston was successful in luring their top-seeded opposition into their pace. The game was a 67-possession affair, more in line with the second seed Cougars’ tempo. In the end, however, UNCW had too much firepower, registering a 116 offensive efficiency, supported by 10-of-25 three-point shooting. Charleston’s efficiency was a tidy 103, but the damage was done on the defensive end, as the Seahawks also enjoyed a 31-27 percent edge in offensive rebounding. Extending possessions and three-point marksmanship proved too much for the Cougars to overcome.

KenPom Game MVP: Devontae Cacok. The 6-foot-7 UNCW sophomore scored 15 points, and added a game-high 14 rebounds, six on the offensive end.
KenPom All-CAA Team:
TJ Williams, Northeastern
Joe Chealey, College of Charleston
Jarrell Brantley, College of Charleston
CJ Bryce, UNC Wilmington
Devontae Cacok, UNC Wilmington

Percentage of Team Possessions
1) TJ Williams, Northeastern (31.3 percent)
2) Daniel Dixon, William & Mary (28.3)
3) Arnaud William Adala Moto, Towson (27.4)
4) Justin Wright-Foreman, Hofstra (27.3)
T-5) Joe Chealey, College of Charleston (26.5)
T-5) Miles Overton, Drexel (26.5)
7) Kurk Lee, Drexel (26.2)
8) Jarrell Brantley, College of Charleston (25.9)
9) Omar Prewitt, William & Mary (25.8)
10) Ryan Daly, Delaware (25.7)

Conference Traits
Moderate tempo and efficient offense: The average offensive efficiency of 107 was good for fifth among the 32 conferences.

Home court advantage: Home court was a big factor, as the host team won 64% of the time in CAA play.

Close games: The CAA was another conference for those enjoying games often coming to the wire, as 24 percent of league games were of the close contest variety, defined by KenPom as any contest decided by four points or less, OR one that required overtime.

Average tempo: 68 possessions, 24th among the 32 conferences.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

St. John's and Iona on track to rivalry reprisal in Holiday Festival

Chris Mullin and St. John's are reportedly adding Iona to schedule this season, with Gaels slated to face Red Storm in December 17 Holiday Festival. (Photo by SNY)

With the perennial cache of St. John's in the New York college basketball market, and the recent dominance of Iona as the winningest local program in this decade, many fans around the Big Apple have clamored for a showdown between the Red Storm and Gaels, two programs long reluctant to square off against one another.

No longer, according to CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein.

The dream matchup appears to have become a reality, as Rothstein reported early Monday morning that St. John's and Iona would headline the Holiday Festival on December 17 at Madison Square Garden. Army and Air Force will comprise the second matchup, but the main attraction will be a pair of programs that have not seen one another on the same floor since 1995, when Brian Mahoney and Tim Welsh patrolled the sidelines for their respective programs.

St. John's is expected to take the next step toward becoming a major contender in the Big East in year three under head coach Chris Mullin this season, with guards Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett leading an experienced group of players that now adds four-star recruit Sidney Wilson to its arsenal while also retaining forward Bashir Ahmed, who will be returning to Queens for his senior season, according to Zach Braziller of the New York Post.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions for two years running, the Gaels will be participating in the Holiday Festival for the first time since 2012, when they were defeated by Rutgers three months before winning the first of three MAAC titles under head coach Tim Cluess. Iona will be competing in the Garden for the first time since 2015, when they defeated Niagara. Ironically enough, that game was the second half of a doubleheader that featured St. John's taking on Duke earlier in the afternoon, a game most notable for Hall of Fame mentor Mike Krzyzewski recording his 1,000th career victory as the Blue Devils erased a double-digit deficit to sink the Red Storm.

Led by a stable of guards headlined by junior Rickey McGill and senior Deyshonee Much, Cluess will guide Iona into a nostalgic meeting of sorts when he locks up with St. John's, having begun his collegiate career on the corner of Union and Utopia before transferring to Hofstra, where he completed his eligibility on his native Long Island. The Gaels are still in the midst of retooling their latest outfit into contention, and are expected to be firmly in the mix for yet another MAAC crown, alongside bitter adversary Manhattan and two-time defending regular season league champion Monmouth among others.

Angel Delgado to return to Seton Hall for senior season

Angel Delgado, rumored to skip senior season for professional career, had change of heart Tuesday, deciding to return to Seton Hall for final campaign in South Orange. (Photo by the New York Daily News)

Two days after Seton Hall's already strong non-conference schedule was augmented by their impending matchup with Indiana in this year's Gavitt Tipoff Games, the Pirates got an even greater boost from arguably their best player.

Angel Delgado, who two weeks ago was rumored to be contemplating a professional career that would sacrifice his senior season, ended the speculation about his future Monday afternoon in a tweet that restored faith in the South Orange basketball community.

"I am coming back to school for my senior year," the 6-foot-10 All-American's tweet began. "It's very important to my family and me that I finish what I started. This was a difficult decision that took time and patience."

On May 10, Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog was first to report that Delgado had decided to eschew his senior season in favor of playing at a higher level, this coming two weeks after Delgado had announced he would enter the NBA Draft, but not sign with an agent. In the days that followed, the status of Delgado was the biggest question surrounding Seton Hall; but even as opinions in each camp wavered, NJ Advance Media's Jeremy Schneider was first to suggest that the decision to turn pro was not etched in stone, reporting that the monumental next step was "not certain."

Delgado, the reigning Haggerty Award winner after being voted the best player in the New York metropolitan area, continued his Twitter address with a salutation that reinvigorates the Seton Hall program, one that has legitimate potential to be ranked within the preseason Top 25 in both the Associated Press and ESPN coaches' polls.

The affable Dominican forward proclaimed, "coming back feels just right! I am excited to help make 2018 a special year for Seton Hall!"

Having averaged 15.2 points and a nation-best 13.1 rebounds per game as a junior, Delgado will almost certainly be considered as one of the top two choices for Big East Player of the Year honors in the preseason. He spearheads a quartet of seniors that also includes Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez and Ismael Sanogo to form one of the Big East's most experienced core groups of players, one that will be a threat to perennial conference powerhouse Villanova throughout the season.

Behind Delgado, Seton Hall will continue to rely on Myles Powell and Michael Nzei as rotation pieces, welcoming a five-man recruiting class to shore up the bench. Forwards Sandro Mamukelashvili and Darnell Brodie only solidify a deep front line, with Myles Cale expected to bolster an even more potent backcourt. Seven-foot junior college transfer Romaro Gill, initially thought to be a Delgado replacement, will likely redshirt now that the unanimous first team all-league selection has returned.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Northeast Conference tempo-free review

Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole chats with FDU assistant Bruce Hamburger before their opening weekend NEC clash. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

The Northeast Conference bases its philosophy on three days in March: Make the conference tournament, get hot, and get on the board on Selection Sunday.

Actually, it goes beyond that.

One must finish in the top eight to qualify for the NEC Tournament. Once in, then the next objective can be negotiated.
This past season, Mount St. Mary’s was able to accomplish both of their goals, winning regular season and postseason championships. A closer look at the NEC tempo-free numbers, courtesy of KenPom, follows, starting with efficiency margin. In all metrics cited here, only NEC games are included in the analysis:

Efficiency Margin
1) Mount St. Mary’s (+8)
2) LIU Brooklyn (+7)
3) Saint Francis U (+6)
4) Wagner (+5)
5) Fairleigh Dickinson (+3)
T-6) Robert Morris (+1)
T-6) Bryant (+1)
8) Sacred Heart (-2)
9) Central Connecticut (-12)
10) St. Francis Brooklyn (-17)

Offensive Efficiency Leaders
1) Saint Francis U (107)
T-2) Mount St. Mary’s (104)
T-2) Fairleigh Dickinson (104)
T-2) LIU Brooklyn (104)
T-2) Bryant (104)

Defensive Efficiency Leaders
1) Robert Morris (95)
2) Mount St. Mary’s (96)
3) LIU Brooklyn (97)
T-4) Saint Francis U (101)
T-4) Fairleigh Dickinson (101)

Like close games? KenPom defines a close game as one decided by four points or less, OR any contest necessitating overtime. In the NEC, 27 of the 90 conference games qualified as close. In other words, 30% of league games were white-knuckle affairs, which is always great for fans, but much more stressful for players and coaches.

The average tempo in NEC games was 68 possessions per game, a moderate-to-fast pace. These types of teams will set up in half court and run if afforded the opportunity.
Possession Leaders
1) Sacred Heart (71 possessions per game)
T-2) Fairleigh Dickinson (70)
T-2) Saint Francis U (70)
T-2) Robert Morris (70)
5) Bryant (69)
T-6) LIU Brooklyn (68)
T-6) St. Francis Brooklyn (68)
8) Mount St. Mary’s (67)
T-9) Wagner (65)
T-9) Central Connecticut (65)

Sacred Heart’s place at the top is no surprise to those familiar with the Pioneers or the NEC as a whole, as head coach Anthony Latina has consistently pushed the ball on the offensive end. Interestingly, in a ten-team league, just six possessions separated the fastest from most deliberate teams. Chalk that up to a combination of some similar styles and everyone knowing each other to the extent that they are able to do things on both ends of the floor to dictate tempo.

What about Robert Morris?
Andy Toole’s group was excellent on the defensive end, yet struggled on offense. A closer look shows the Colonials were near the bottom of the league in effective field goal percentage (47 percent) and turnover rate (21 percent), two major factors that had an adverse effect on the offense in Moon Township and its subsequent efficiency.

On the defensive side, it was quite the opposite. Robert Morris was second in the conference in defensive effective field goal percentage (also 47 percent), while setting the NEC pace in defensive turnover rate at 24 percent. In simple terms, the Colonials took away possessions while making scoring difficult when opposing teams did complete a trip down the floor.

KenPom All-NEC Team
Elijah Long, Mount St. Mary’s
Jerome Frink, LIU Brooklyn
Quincy McKnight, Sacred Heart
Darian Anderson, Fairleigh Dickinson
Nisre Zouzoua, Bryant

The NEC’s average turnover rate was 20 percent, with two teams performing better than the median. Oddly enough, those two were conference champion Mount St. Mary’s and tenth-place finisher St. Francis Brooklyn.

Turnover Rate Leaders
1) St. Francis Brooklyn (17 percent)
2) Mount St. Mary’s (19)
T-3) Bryant (20)
T-3) Fairleigh Dickinson (20)
T-3) Saint Francis U (20)

LIU Brooklyn
The Blackbirds finished second in the league, winning 20 games before losing to Robert Morris by just one point in the quarterfinals of the NEC Tournament. While LIU was one of the most efficient teams on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, head coach Jack Perri was ultimately dismissed at the end of the season. This is not the area for that discussion, but the closer one studies the season LIU had, the tougher the decision to part ways is to comprehend.

NEC Championship: Mount St. Mary’s 71, Saint Francis U 61
In a 71-possession game on The Mount’s home floor at Knott Arena, the Mountaineers rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit, registering an offensive efficiency of 100 while limiting the Red Flash to 86. The visitors were also held to a 46 percent effective field goal mark and forced into a 24 percent turnover rate, two major factors contributing to the defense of coach Jamion Christian’s champions, who worked their “Mount Mayhem” scheme to perfection. SFU did enjoy a 31-23 edge in offensive rebound percentage, but the advantage was offset by Mount St. Mary’s care for the ball, recording a sterling 11 percent turnover rate. Sophomore guard Elijah Long, who scored a game-high 24 points to lead The Mount back to the NCAA Tournament, was recognized as the game’s most valuable player on KenPom.

Percentage of Team Possessions
The final look is a review of the top ten players in the area of possessions. This looks at the percentage of total team possessions utilized by each individual player. These players are not necessarily the team’s leading scorer, but definitely someone you would want to get the ball to during crunch time:

1) Quincy McKnight, Sacred Heart (32.2 percent of team possessions)
2) Mike Aaman, Wagner (29.7)
3) Jerome Frink, LIU Brooklyn (28.5)
4) Iverson Fleming, LIU Brooklyn (27.1)
5) Isaiah Still, Robert Morris (27.0)
6) Nisre Zouzoua, Bryant (26.8)
7) Elijah Long, Mount St. Mary’s (26.6)
8) Darian Anderson, Fairleigh Dickinson (26.4)
9) Kavon Stewart, Robert Morris (26.3)
10) Jamaal King, Saint Francis U (26.1)

Final Thoughts
The numbers bear out the fact the NEC is:

- A homogeneous group in terms of pace. Six possessions separate the top to bottom in tempo.

- Closely related, a league with more than a fair share of close games, probably because they are so related in tempo. The conference sees almost one-third of its contests settled in the last four minutes of regulation or in overtime.

St. John's news & notes: Sid Wilson, Gavitt Games, St. Joe's at Mohegan Sun

Four-star forward Sidney Wilson became latest addition to St. John's roster Saturday, when he committed to Red Storm over former Big East rival UConn. (Photo by Rumble in the Garden)

A trio of happenings converged upon one another this weekend to spur on another edition of St. John's news and notes. Without further ado, here lies the latest buzz around the Red Storm:

Bronx native Sidney Wilson is the newest member of the program, having committed to St. John's over Connecticut and Texas, the latter of whom scored a massive recruiting coup earlier in the week with the signing of highly coveted freshman Mohamed Bamba. Wilson, a Top 85 overall prospect according to CBS Sports' Gary Parrish, is a 6-foot-7 wing with a seven-foot wingspan who will learn from Bashir Ahmed before helping to replace him in the 2018-19 season.

"The opportunity to stay home and play at the Garden, it doesn't get better than that," Wilson told the New York Post's Zach Braziller shortly after his commitment.

Associate head coach Matt Abdelmassih was the lead recruiter for Wilson, who comes to the corner of Union and Utopia from the same Brewster Academy program that produced former Big East Rookie of the Year JaKarr Sampson, who later went on to the NBA after starring for Steve Lavin as a freshman and sophomore. Once Wilson reclassified to the class of 2017, Abdelmassih and leading scorer Shamorie Ponds; who enters his sophomore campaign in the fall, helped ramp up the effort to land the former St. Raymond's standout and bring him back home. He joins Mikey Dixon as the Red Storm's two 2017 recruits, and according to Braziller, head coach Chris Mullin and his staff appear to be content with letting their two remaining open scholarships roll over into the class of 2018.

St. John's will also be competing in the Gavitt Games for a third consecutive season, welcoming the University of Nebraska to the Big Apple on Thursday, November 16, as first reported by college basketball insider Jon Rothstein. It is still not known yet whether the game will be played at Carnesecca Arena or Madison Square Garden, but the Cornhuskers follow Rutgers and Minnesota as the third Red Storm opponent in the series between the Big East and Big Ten Conferences. Head coach Tim Miles brings the Huskers into their second Gavitt Games contest, and first since a 2015 loss at Villanova, on the heels of a 12-19 record last season, and returns three of his top six scorers. Junior guard Glynn Watson Jr., Nebraska's top incumbent producer with an average of 13 points per game and a 40 percent clip from three-point range, is expected to anchor the offense in Lincoln this season. Isaac Copeland, who transferred from Georgetown, will not be eligible for this contest, as he will continue to serve his mandatory year in residence.

Finally, Rothstein also broke news of a neutral site non-conference matchup with Saint Joseph's, to be contested at Mohegan Sun on Wednesday, December 20. The meeting with the Hawks will be part of a doubleheader that also features Providence and Houston, and will be the first between the two schools since their encounter in the 2013 National Invitation Tournament, when a Sir'Dominic Pointer jumper sunk St. Joe's at the buzzer and allowed the Red Storm to leave Philadelphia with a postseason victory.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Lynx 90, Liberty 71: Ray Floriani's Photo Essay

NEW YORK -- The dog days of May?

The mercury soared past 90 degrees, hinting of a July or August date on the calendar. Despite the climatic aberration, it is May and still early in the WNBA season. On Thursday night, the New York Liberty entertained the Minnesota Lynx at Madison Square Garden.
Both teams were coming off opening game victories. For the Liberty, this was an especially significant test. Coach Bill Laimbeer and his team are looking to this year as the one in which they finally ascend to the top. However, it is more difficult and complex than making transactions and adjustments. The move from very good to elite is a huge step.
Minnesota defeated the Liberty, 90-71. The game was close for a half. The visiting Lynx basically owned the final 20 minutes. This provided a learning experience for the Liberty. Beyond Xs and Os and hitting shots, there is the intangible of intensity. No one chooses to take a play or possession off. It can happen. On championship teams such as the Lynx, that is the difference. Having Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen definitely helps. Having the mindset of not taking a break on a possession is the difference. Laimbeer knows that. On Thursday, the Liberty were reminded as well.

Summer in the city, or an early preview at least, with 90-degree gameday temperatures:
Sugar Rodgers with a fluid free throw release:
Maya Moore on the offensive attack:
From long distance in the photo, Brittany Boyd on a free throw:
Breaking ranks in the Liberty huddle:
Maya Moore addresses the media in the Minnesota locker room:
Bidding farewell from the empty Madison Square Garden concourse:

In Minnesota, Liberty finds learning experience on road to WNBA elite

Lindsay Whalen and Minnesota showed Liberty how much more remains in their process of returning to prominence in WNBA during Thursday's win at Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

NEW YORK -- The Liberty handled their opening day in an orderly fashion, taking care of business while posting a 73-65 victory over San Antonio.

The simple fact remained, though, that while the Liberty did what was needed to secure the opening victory, head coach Bill Laimbeer was not pleased with the way his team played. In the veteran mentor’s estimation, his group was capable of better. Much better.  
That is not a knock on San Antonio, but rather an indication of how high the bar is raised in New York. In simple terms, this is a team longing to execute the ultimate close-out, their first WNBA championship.
Thursday night, Minnesota invaded the Garden. If you are looking for a marquee team, the Lynx, last year’s WNBA runner-up, is exhibit A. Minnesota was coming off a home win over Chicago. Entering the Garden on a sweltering evening, Minnesota was a test; not just in talent and star power, but experience as well. Cheryl Reeve, one of the league’s best and most respected coaches, could not be overlooked in the equation of the Lynx and their success.
The first half saw three ties and three lead changes. The Lynx led by as much as 11 in that opening stanza, but the Liberty constantly showed resolve, fighting back to trail by just three at the break. In one respect, the deficit was a smoke screen. Defensively, the Liberty allowed 43 points and a 96 defensive efficiency, numbers that would not sit well with Laimbeer. Offensively, Sugar Rodgers was white-hot for the Liberty with 19 first half points, but a glaring concern was Tina Charles registering just two points, on free throws, in 13 minutes of first half action.
The Liberty came out strong in the second half. Minutes into the third quarter, they took a lead on a conventional three-pointer by Brittany Boyd. Lindsay Whalen quickly answered with a pair of field goals and despite the fact that over 16 minutes of action remained, the pervasive feeling was one of Minnesota regaining control. The Lynx were never really challenged after that juncture, going on to score a 90-71 victory for win number two on the season as the Liberty fell to 1-1.

While the season is in its infancy, Laimbeer is looking to get his team defined and in a groove, soon and fast. He was not as upset about the Lynx putting five in double figures, nor did he obsess over a subpar six-point night from Tina Charles. There were other pressing matters.
“Too many mistakes and  missed assignments that really can’t happen,” Laimbeer said following the defeat.  “They have to understand what good basketball teams do on both sides of the ball. It is drill and drill in practice, build good habits. Unfortunately, the league doesn’t stop these games continue to go on.”

“We are still a work in progress,” he conceded. “We were within three and let it get away. They are more disciplined and talented than us.”
In the winner’s locker room, veteran point guard Whalen touched on those aspects of the game that made Minnesota winners. Detractors may say their core group isn’t getting any younger. The half-full group would look at it as a case of having valuable experience. Whalen agrees.
“We have been together a while,” she said. “We never get down anytime during a game. We know each other so well our strengths and weaknesses and that is crucial. We are a group that enjoys playing together and gets along on and off the court.” Finishing her sentence, Whalen turned and fist-bumped Maya Moore, icing her knees and chatting with writers in the next stall.
A byproduct of that experience and camaraderie is intensity. It is not switched on. The Lynx have it the minute they step on the floor. “The X’s and O’s are important,” Whalen observed, “but you have to play hard through each possession. We had an early lead and lost it tonight. We all realized there was plenty of time to regroup and just knew we would.”
The Liberty have been known for tough defense under Laimbeer’s watch. The offense was the concern. Charles needed consistent complimentary help. Laimbeer hoped a group including Rodgers, Boyd (now out for the season with an Achilles injury), Epiphanny Prince, Shavonte Zellous; plus the additions of Bria Hartley and Notre Dame draftee Rebecca Allen, would be the answer. In the final analysis that group may, in fact, put those needed points on the board. A tougher task is developing that team chemistry, the type the Lynx have, an intangible qualifying Minnesota as a WNBA elite, an exclusive club the Liberty hope to join.
A long season has just started. Already, New York knows what needs to be done in the realm of intensity and effort. Maybe Minnesota posed more than a test. It was what we call a learning experience.