Thursday, February 2, 2017

Tempo Thursday: February 2, 2017

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

Halfway home, it is Dayton and Richmond battling for the lead. A pair of Rams, VCU and Rhode Island, are a step behind. A courtside look at Dayton vs. Fordham on Tuesday gave us a reminder of how competitive and unpredictable this conference can be.
Dayton is the leader in conference defensive efficiency, at an excellent 90 figure. Fordham’s 96 offensive efficiency put the Rams third-last in conference. On this evening, Dayton prevailed 75-66. The Flyers posted an outstanding 115 efficiency while the Rams led for almost one-third of this contest and fought to the final minutes. Their secret? An offense putting up an outstanding 105 efficiency, an excellent showing against any competition. Facing the conference’s, and one of the nation’s best defenses was an achievement bordering on remarkable. Such is life in the Atlantic 10.
Once again, numbers are factored for conference games only through February 1, with figures are courtesy of KenPom:

1) VCU (+17, 6-2)
2) Dayton (+13, 7-2)
3) Rhode Island (+13, 6-3)
4) Davidson (+8, 7-2)
5) Richmond (+6, 7-2)
6) St. Bonaventure (+3, 5-3)
7) La Salle (+1, 5-4)
8) George Mason (-4, 4-4)
9) UMass (-4, 2-7)
10) George Washington (-5, 4-5)
11) Saint Joseph’s (-7, 3-6)
12) Fordham (-10, 3-6)
13) Duquesne (-11, 2-7)
14) Saint Louis (-19, 2-7)
Offensive efficiency leaders:
T-1) Rhode Island (111)
T-1) VCU (111)
3) La Salle (109)
4) Davidson (108)
5) Richmond (106)

Ten A-10 teams are 101 or over in offensive efficiency. Expect that number to decrease, but to date, there has been offensive firepower in this league as evidenced by the leaders.
Defensive efficiency leaders:
1) Dayton (90)
2) VCU (94)
3) Rhode Island (98)
T-4) UMass (100)
T-4) Davidson (100)
T-4) Richmond (100)

Among the defensive leaders, the inclusion of UMass is a bit of a surprise. The Minutemen do show an effective field goal defense of 46 percent, which ties them with VCU for second in the conference. The problem for Derek Kellogg’s group is a 96 offensive efficiency, one of the poorest in the conference. A 20 percent turnover rate, the worst in the Atlantic Ten, has not helped the cause on the offensive side of the ball.

Fastest pace:
1) UMass (74 possessions per game)
2) Richmond (73)
T-3) George Mason (72)
T-3) Duquesne (72)
5) Rhode Island (70)

The top five here are the only ones breaking into the level of 70 or more possessions. As mentioned last week, Richmond is a mild surprise to be included in this uptempo fraternity. But who can argue with their results to date?

Most deliberate:
T-1) Saint Louis (65 possessions per game)
T-1) George Washington (65)
3) Fordham (67)
4) St. Bonaventure (68)
5) La Salle (69)

No guarantee the slower pace ensures a winning record. In the case of Saint Louis, it is what they need to do to remain competitive. The difference between 65 and 70 possessions may not seem as much. Over the course of the game, and conference season, it is of greater significance than it appears to be. St. Bonaventure’s pace has dropped in recent weeks. Close games and/or an opposition with an ability to control tempo can factor into that as well.

Turnover rate leaders:
T-1) Rhode Island (17 percent)
T-1) Davidson (17)
T-3) Richmond (18)
T-3) St. Bonaventure (18)
T-3) George Mason (18)

Defensive turnover rate leaders:
1) Fordham (23 percent)
T-2) VCU (22)
T-2) Dayton (22)
4) St. Bonaventure (21)
5) Rhode Island (20)

Jeff Neubauer holds up final stat sheet, perhaps highlighting Fordham's forced turnover rate. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

Those Rams! Here, we are not just talking about VCU and Rhode Island, but rather, the Rams of Fordham. With such a gaudy defensive turnover rate, why does Jeff Neubauer’s club struggle with a subpar 106 efficiency? For starters, look no further than the defensive eFG percentage. Fordham allows a 54.9 percent eFG mark which happens to be the highest in the conference.
Speaking of Neubauer, he sang loud praise for the defense of Dayton, which he said was one of the “ten best in the country.” The Fordham mentor was going by points allowed, but as noted, the Flyers’ defensive efficiency tells the story. To find Archie Miller’s team among the leaders in defensive turnover rate is little surprise. Dayton also leads the A-10 in eFG defense at 45.7 percent, a tough combination to beat.

Some of the better offenses are also among the best at caring for the ball. As a group, the conference does very well in that area. The only teams on or above the 20 percent turnover rate cutoff are George Washington and UMass, both of whom are right on the boundary line with 20 percent rates.

KenPom’s All-A-10 Team:
T.J. Cline, Richmond
Charles Cooke, Dayton
Jack Gibbs, Davidson
Peyton Aldridge, Davidson
Jaylen Adams, St, Bonaventure

Aldridge breaks in by virtue of an outstanding week. The 6-foot-8 junior scored 28 points, including six three-pointers, in Saturday’s win at Fordham. He followed that up with a game-high 31 points in Tuesday’s win at Saint Joseph’s. Aldridge is third in A-10 scoring (21.7 points per game) just behind teammate Jack Gibbs (21.8) and Jaylen Adams (21.8) of St. Bonaventure.

Game of note:
Saint Joseph’s 73, La Salle 72
The Hawks, barely holding on, needed this one. La Salle could have dearly used this one, but are still not far from the contenders. St. Joe’s defended their home turf with a narrow victory at Hagan Arena. The efficiencies: St. Joe’s 100, La Salle 99. The turnover margins, 14 percent for the Explorers and 18 for the Hawks, also attest to the quality of play. Sophomore guard Chris Glover led the way for Phil Martelli’s club as they earned not only an Atlantic 10 victory, but a Big 5 conquest to boot.

Game to watch:
Friday, February 3: Rhode Island at Davidson
The Wildcats of coach Bob McKillop are hot ,having won four of their last five and two straight on the road. They return home to host Rhode Island, a dangerous team in their own right. The Rams have also captured four of five. Two of their three conference losses have been away from home. Those road losses were to two of the better teams in the conference, Dayton and Richmond. Here, Dan Hurley & Co. line up against another strong opponent on their floor. Will they have enough to neutralize Jack Gibbs and Peyton Aldridge?

Trends (conference averages):
Efficiency: 103
Pace: 69 possessions
eFG percentage: 50
Free throw rate: 36 percent
Offensive rebound percentage: 29
Turnover rate: 19 percent

Figures to this point show a league emphasizing offensive execution. Teams shoot the ball well, take care of the ball and have the ability to draw fouls and get to the foul line, not to say there is not good defense in this conference. On each night, however, those defenses face a challenge of teams with varied styles of attack and some impressive offensive firepower.

To date, home teams have won 39 of 64 games in conference play, a 60.9 percent success rate. Gradually, the home court effect is making its mark in conference play.

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