Thursday, January 12, 2017

Tempo Thursday: January 12, 2017

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

Conference play is early, yet trends are beginning to take place. Still a relatively small sample, yet as predicted, teams are applying the brakes tempo-wise in the face of stiffer competition and with so much at stake in league play. In addition, those efficiency margins are decidedly different from the ones we saw in non-conference play. Once again, chalk it up to the rigors of Atlantic 10 play. Numbers here are provided courtesy of KenPom.
Dayton did draw first blood with their win at home over Rhode Island on Friday. That victory came on the heels of a convincing road win at St. Bonaventure two nights earlier. It is early, and early indications concur Dayton, Rhode Island and VCU are in it to contend for the duration. As always, someone else can, and probably will, emerge to join the battle.

The efficiency margin and records:

1) Rhode Island (+30, 2-1)
2) VCU (+15, 3-0)
3) Dayton (+14, 3-0)
4) Richmond (+8, 3-0)
5) La Salle (+9, 2-1)
6) St. Bonaventure (+3, 2-1)
7) Davidson (+2, 1-2)
8) George Mason (-2, 2-2)
9) George Washington (-4, 1-2)
10) Duquesne (-5, 1-2)
11) Saint Joseph’s (-6, 2-2)
12) Fordham (-13, 0-3)
13) UMass (-15, 0-3)
14) Saint Louis (-34, 0-3)

Offensive efficiency leaders:
1) Rhode Island (120)
2) Richmond (117)
3) VCU (111)
4) Davidson (110)
5) St. Bonaventure (110)

Probably the biggest early surprise here is Rhode Island, with a 120 offensive efficiency, leading defensive efficiency we will discuss shortly and one loss. Who beat them? Dayton, last Friday. The Flyers scored a 69-64 home court victory, holding the Rams to a 97 efficiency. Dayton’s OE was 102. A difference in that one was care (or lack of it) of the ball - Rhode Island’s 27 percent turnover rate to the 17 percent of Dayton.

Forcing turnovers: Teams that repeatedly impose their defensive will to the point where the opposition is giving up the basketball prior to getting a shot off are considered among the elite.  Forcing those turnovers, though, is not the only way to defend. You can also be an elite defensive team without the turnovers. Case in point: Rhode Island. Dan Hurley’s Rams show a 20 percent turnover rate on the defensive end. Obviously, they are forcing turnovers, but the secret to their leading defensive efficiency is a conference pace-setting 44 percent effective field goal mark they allow their opposition. Opponents find it difficult to get and make a good shot against that defense.

The top five in defensive efficiency:
1) Rhode Island (90)
2) Dayton (93)
3) VCU (96)
4) La Salle (98)
T-5) George Mason (104)
T-5) Saint Joseph’s (104)

Rounding it out, both the Patriots and Hawks have an identical 104.4 defensive efficiency.

Taking a look at the pace, average number of possessions per game, no surprise it is beginning to slow just a bit. As is the case with offensive efficiency, the tougher competition of conference play is going to have a bearing on a team’s pace. This trend will continue to go, and more teams will fall out of the 70-possession NASCAR pace as the season progresses. The numbers:

Pace - the uptempo five:
T-1) UMass (75 possessions per game)
T-1) VCU (75)
T-1) Duquesne (75)
4) St. Bonaventure (74)
5) George Mason (73)

Most deliberate:
1) Saint Louis (65 possessions per game)
2) George Washington (66)
T-3) Rhode Island (67)
T-3) Saint Joseph’s (67)
5) Richmond (68)

Several teams are still getting out and pushing the ball. On the opposite end, there is the deliberate group emerging. As conference play moves on, expect more teams to opt for games shy of 70 possessions. Conservative play often rules in close contests.

La Salle is sporting an impressive plus-9 efficiency margin, 107 offense and 98 defense. In addition, they enjoy a plus-7 margin in offensive rebounding percentage. Despite the 2-1 record, the critics want more proof. The Explorers a team we should learn more about the next week. They opened with a tough loss at Dayton, no shame there. Dr. John Giannini’s group followed up with home wins over Saint Louis and Duquesne. Thursday evening is a trip to Rhode Island, followed by a Sunday home date with George Washington, two games which should give added insight on the Explorers.

The conference turnover rates: With the discussion of turnovers and how damaging they can be to a team, I decided to see how the A-10 teams rank in that category. Once again, only conference games are factored in. Early on, the numbers are impressive from an offensive standpoint:

1) Davidson (12.7 percent)
2) St. Bonaventure (13.5)
3) Fordham (13.9)
4) Dayton (15.9)
5) Rhode Island (16.4)
6) Richmond (16.7)
7) Duquesne (17.9)
8) Saint Joseph’s (18.6)
9) George Mason (18.9)
10) George Washington (19.3)
11) UMass (20.4)
12) La Salle (20.8)
13) Saint Louis (21.0)
14) VCU (21.5)

To little surprise, Davidson is near the top. Bob McKillop’s teams traditionally are low in turnovers. In the past, St. Bonaventure struggled in this department. Recent years have seen improvement carrying over to this season. The cutoff, as noted many times in the past, is 20 percent. Offenses strive to be under that figure in turnover percentage. Four over 20 and the highest under 22 percent is impressive for a conference of this stature. Interesting irony that VCU, traditionally one of the best at forcing turnovers, is at the bottom on the offensive end of things. The Rams are second in turnover rate on the defensive end at 20.6 percent, trailing only Dayton at 22.6. With regard to La Salle’s prospects and their positive start, cleaning up those turnovers is a priority to ensure the continuation of winning ways.

While we utilized KenPom for resources, let’s list their all A-10 team at this point:

Charles Cooke (Dayton)
Jaylen Adams (St. Bonaventure)
Marquise Moore (George Mason)
T.J. Cline (Richmond)
Jack Gibbs (Davidson)

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