Thursday, March 2, 2017

Tempo Thursday: March 2, 2017

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

It is all coming down to the final week. Dayton holds a slim lead with two games to play: A home date with none other than VCU, followed by a road game at a George Washington team that has become very dangerous of late. VCU, with one win over Dayton already, is at Dayton and will finish at home against another tough assignment in George Mason. Rhode Island and Richmond may not be in contention, but look to finish strong to maintain favorable seeds at the conference tournament in Pittsburgh. All statistics reflect Atlantic 10 games through February 28, 2017, and are courtesy of KenPom:

1) Dayton (+15, 14-2)
2) VCU (+14, 13-3)
3) Rhode Island (+11, 11-5)
4) St. Bonaventure (+5, 10-7)
5) Richmond (+4, 11-5)
6) Davidson (+2, 8-9)
7) George Mason (+1, 8-8)
8) George Washington (-1, 8-8)
9) La Salle (-3, 8-8)
10) Fordham (-6, 7-9)
11) UMass (-6, 4-12)
12) Saint Joseph’s (-9, 3-13)
13) Duquesne (-10, 3-13)
14) Saint Louis (-16, 5-11)

Offensive efficiency leaders:
1) Dayton (109)
2) VCU (109)
3) Rhode Island (107)
4) George Mason (107)
5) Richmond (106)

To little surprise, the most efficient offenses have belonged to the conference elite. George Mason may not have been in serious contention, but that does not belittle the fact that Dave Paulsen’s Patriots have been extremely efficient, and arguably, the biggest surprise in the conference this season.

Defensive efficiency leaders:
1) Dayton (94)
2) VCU (95)
3) Rhode Island (96)
4) St. Bonaventure (100)
5) Fordham (101)

The top three in the conference are joined by the Bonnies, who have put together a good season and are far from an easy out. Fordham rounds out the top five largely due to their conference-leading 23 percent defensive turnover rate.

A closer look at George Washington: Winners of three straight and four of their last five, Maurice Joseph has the Colonials playing their best at an opportune time. Their tempo is a moderate 66-possession pace. The offense hums along at a 106 efficiency. The defense is improved, but still at 107. The Colonials are allowing a 51 percent effective field goal mark and forcing turnovers on only 15 percent of opposition possessions. The difference is a plus-six on offensive rebounding percentage. The Colonials check in with a 32 percent rate while allowing just 26. That rebounding area is proving to be crucial to the Colonial offense.  

Tempo leaders:
1) UMass (73 possessions per game)
2) Richmond (72)
3) Duquesne (71)
4) George Mason (70)
5) St. Bonaventure (70)

This late in the season, there is not much change. UMass and Duquesne still push the pace. The only big surprise is that Chris Mooney has stayed with an uptempo pace all season.
Most deliberate:
1) Saint Louis (63 possessions per game)
2) Fordham (65)
3) George Washington (66)
4) La Salle (69)
5) Rhode Island (69)

The first three on the list are what you would really classify as deliberate paced teams. La Salle and Rhode Island are more borderline uptempo with a 69-possession pace. Fordham, with their forcing a slower pace and ability to disrupt offenses, has proved to be tough opposition, especially in the latter part of the campaign.   

Turnover rate leaders:
1) Rhode Island (17 percent)
2) Richmond (17)
3) Davidson (17)
4) St. Bonaventure (18)
5) Dayton (18)

Ten of the fourteen Atlantic 10 teams have turnover rates below 20 percent. As seen by the list, low turnover rates have a strong correlation to overall offensive efficiency.

Defensive turnover rates:
1) Fordham (23 percent)
2) Dayton (21)
3) St. Bonaventure (21)
4) VCU (20)
5) Richmond (20)

During Shaka Smart’s tenure, when VCU ruled in this category, havoc reigned supreme. Jeff Neubauer hasn’t come up with a catchy name, but the Fordham defense is disruptive nonetheless. Dayton and St. Bonaventure are both tied for second in the conference behind steal percentage leader Fordham.

Free throw percentage leaders:
1) La Salle (80 percent)
2) George Washington (77)
3) St. Bonaventure (76)
4) George Mason (74)
5) Davidson (73)

Legendary coach Pete Carril often said the free throw line was the one place a player should be selfish. The charity stripe can often have a huge effect on the outcome. VCU (72.5 percent), Richmond (71.6), and Dayton (70.6) are not far off the pace. An interesting note on these rankings sees Rhode Island, one of the conference elite, check in at second-to-last, The Rams (63.1 percent) barely edged Saint Joseph’s (63) at the bottom of the pack.  

Games of note:
Friday, February 24: Dayton 89, Davidson 82 (OT)
The Flyers earned a hard-fought road win requiring an extra session; Dayton put four in double figures, shooting 10-of-22 from beyond the arc. Archie Miller’s group needed that three-point accuracy, as they were forced into an uncharacteristically high 24 percent turnover rate by the upset-minded Wildcats.
Saturday, February 25: Rhode Island 69, VCU 59
Dan Hurley’s Rams did it with defense. They showed a 103 on the offensive end while limiting VCU to a far below par 88 on their end. Rebounding was a big key. URI had a 39 percent offensive rebound rate to the 21 percent of VCU.

Upcoming game of note:
Saturday, March 4: Davidson at Rhode Island
A game both teams would like for seeding and momentum, as Davidson; after a few bumps in the road, has won three of their last five and aims to go to Pittsburgh on a high note. Rhode Island has captured three straight and seven of the last nine and plans to venture to the Steel City with a top-four seed.

Dayton at George Washington
On paper, Dayton, on the road against an improved team that nearly upset VCU a few weeks ago, is far from an uncertainty. To get the upset, the Colonials need a better eFG defense than their 51 percent norm. If Dayton holds on to capture the top spot, they will have undoubtedly earned it.   

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

Efficiency: 103
Pace: 69 possessions
eFG percentage: 50
Free throw rate: 38 percent
Offensive rebound percentage: 28
Turnover rate: 19 percent
Home record: 68-47 (.584)

Top five in individual usage (percentage of team possessions):
1) T.J. Cline, Richmond (29.5 percent)
2) Tyler Cavanaugh, George Washington (29.3)
3) Jack Gibbs, Davidson (29.1)
4) James Demery, Saint Joseph’s (28.6)
5) Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure (28.1)

Cavanaugh, playing no small part in George Washington’s good fortunes of late, has an offensive rating of 112.4; the conference’s top mark, barely edging T.J. Cline of Richmond at 112.1.

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