Monday, May 29, 2017

MAAC Monday: Advanced stat wrapup, Part III

The final piece of our three-part MAAC Monday advanced stat wrapup looks at ball handling in the form of assist rates and assist-to-turnover ratios, and gives a detailed breakdown on the shots each team took and gave up, on a percentage basis. This follows separate installments that detailed tempo and efficiency, as well as the Four Factors and how each team performed. For the purposes of this review, only the 20-game conference regular season was taken into account; and as always, any and all statistics reflected within MAAC Monday were gleaned from the individual stat pages or final game notes of each school:

Assist rates, from highest to lowest:
1) Canisius (61.5 percent)
2) Fairfield (57.7)
3) Rider (54.5)
4) Iona (54.4)
5) Saint Peter's (53.6)
6) Siena (52.6)
7) Niagara (52.4)
8) Quinnipiac (50.7)
9) Marist (46.2)
10) Manhattan (45.3)
11) Monmouth (44.3)

Assist-to-turnover ratios, from highest to lowest:
1) Canisius (1.41:1)
2) Iona (1.27:1)
3) Fairfield (1.22:1)
4) Saint Peter's (1.20:1)
5) Rider (1.05:1)
6) Quinnipiac (1.048:1)
7) Niagara (1.02:1)
8) Siena (0.99:1)
9) Monmouth (0.98:1)
10) Marist (0.87:1)
11) Manhattan (0.73:1)

Analysis: Just as Canisius was heralded for its ability to play consistent team defense, at least from a metrics standpoint, so too are they for their proficiency in sharing the ball. The Golden Griffins had far and away the best ball handling and assist ratios in the MAAC, a credit to the steady hand of freshman point guard Malik Johnson, an All-Rookie selection who was able to spread the wealth on a team that possessed a quartet of double-figure scorers in Reggie Witherspoon's first season at the helm. Johnson will have a greater onus on him as a sophomore, as three of the Griffs' top four scorers have either graduated or moved on, but the emergence of Isaiah Reese in the backcourt and evolution of Jermaine Crumpton should allow the Virginian to evolve even further in his second season. Iona, Fairfield and Saint Peter's are all adamant about sharing the ball and creating space on both ends of the floor, so to see each within the top half of the charts is no surprise. The anomaly here, however, is Manhattan. The Jaspers were plagued by turnover woes throughout the conference season, a large part of which were attributed to point guard Zavier Turner. As a result, Steve Masiello saw an uncharacteristically inefficient offense under his watch for the first time in his six-year tenure, and is hopeful that a season of baptism by fire for eight newcomers into his system a year ago will enhance the skill set of the most experienced roster in the MAAC going into next season.

Percentage of shots, with schools listed in alphabetical order, followed by a breakdown of two-point field goals, three-point field goals and free throws, from left to right:
Canisius: 46.2% 2-pt FG, 30.7% 3-pt FG, 23.2% FT
Fairfield: 45.7% 2-pt FG, 33.6% 3-pt FG, 20.7% FT
Iona: 47.0% 2-pt FG, 28.3% 3-pt FG, 24.7% FT
Manhattan: 46.8% 2-pt FG, 24.6% 3-pt FG, 28.6% FT
Marist: 41.6% 2-pt FG, 29.1% 3-pt FG, 29.3% FT
Monmouth: 45.0% 2-pt FG, 25.9% 3-pt FG, 29.0% FT
Niagara: 50.0% FG, 26.0% 3-pt FG, 24.0% FT
Quinnipiac: 49.2% 2-pt FG, 25.4% 3-pt FG, 25.4% FT
Rider: 53.6% 2-pt FG, 18.9% 3-pt FG, 27.4% FT
Saint Peter's: 45.6% 2-pt FG, 31.3% 3-pt FG, 23.1% FT
Siena: 52.8% 2-pt FG, 20.2% 3-pt FG, 27.1% FT

Percentage of shots against, with schools listed in alphabetical order, followed by a breakdown of two-point field goals, three-point field goals and free throws, from left to right:
Canisius: 49.0% 2-pt FG, 25.3% 3-pt FG, 25.7% FT
Fairfield: 50.7% 2-pt FG, 25.0% 3-pt FG, 24.3% FT
Iona: 49.2% 2-pt FG, 28.3% 3-pt FG, 22.5% FT
Manhattan: 44.3% 2-pt FG, 21.8% 3-pt FG, 34.0% FT
Marist: 47.7% 2-pt FG, 26.0% 3-pt FG, 26.3% FT
Monmouth: 45.3% 2-pt FG, 28.3% 3-pt FG, 26.3% FT
Niagara: 48.8% 2-pt FG, 27.8% 3-pt FG, 23.4% FT
Quinnipiac: 50.0% 2-pt FG, 23.7% 3-pt FG, 26.2% FT
Rider: 43.7% 2-pt FG, 28.2% 3-pt FG, 28.2% FT
Saint Peter's: 46.6% 2-pt FG, 32.2% 3-pt FG, 21.1% FT
Siena: 49.5% 2-pt FG, 26.6% 3-pt FG, 24.0% FT

Analysis: Keeping with the unusually high-octane Saint Peter's offense, the Peacocks took the second-most three-pointers of any school in the conference, buoyed in large part by the arrival of Nick Griffin, who will head into his senior season as the focal point of John Dunne's attack. Only Fairfield took a higher percentage of long distance shots, and the Stags will need to replace two-thirds of a trio of guards who each attempted more than 100 triples in conference play, as both Curtis Cobb and Jerry Johnson, Jr. have transferred. Tyler Nelson will return for his senior season, but Sydney Johnson has his work cut out for him in finding a consistent knockdown shooter to pair alongside the likely MAAC Preseason Player of the Year. Once again, Rider and Siena took the least amount of threes, but the Broncs also allowed the lowest percentage of shots inside the paint to opposing teams, who were forced to use the deep ball and the foul shot to stymie Kevin Baggett's group. Conversely, Fairfield surrendered the highest amount of two-point shots, in large part due to the foul trouble of Jonathan Kasibabu, often leaving Amadou Sidibe alone to defend the rim.

MAAC Monday: Advanced stat wrapup, Part II

The second installment of a three-part MAAC Monday offseason wrapup continues a summarization of this past Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference season from an advanced stat lens. While the first piece of our review focused on tempo and efficiency, this edition will delve further into the Four Factors of college basketball games: Effective field goal percentage, free throw rate, offensive rebound rate, and turnover rate. The final segment of this series will take a closer look at sharing the ball, via assist rates and assist-to-turnover ratios, as well as percentage of shots for and against each of the MAAC's eleven programs. For all three parts of this subject, only the 20-game regular conference season was taken into account; and as always, any and all statistics reflected within MAAC Monday were gleaned from the individual stat pages or final game notes of each school.

Effective field goal percentages, from highest to lowest:
1) Iona (.548)
2) Saint Peter's (.537)
3) Canisius (.525)
4) Monmouth (.514)
5) Fairfield (.511)
6) Rider (.509)
7) Siena (.505)
8) Marist (.499)
9) Niagara (.478)
10) Quinnipiac (.473)
11) Manhattan (.459)

Analysis: The concept behind effective field goal percentage is to reward and encourage three-point shooting. To calculate each team's clip, each three-pointer made by a team counts as an extra half-field goal. In other words, if a team shoots 5-for-10 from the field and makes two three-pointers in that span, its effective field goal percentage is 60 percent, with the two threes counting as, in essence, a sixth field goal. Of the top four teams in this category, three were proficient from long range last season; as Iona (42 percent), Monmouth (39), and Canisius (37) all relied on the deep ball to win a majority of their contests. However, Saint Peter's did as well. The Peacocks shot an astounding 41 percent from beyond the arc in MAAC games last season, not something normally seen from a John Dunne team; but with four players possessing percentages of 40 percent or better from distance, including a staggering 56 percent clip from Cavon Baker and 48 percent from fellow reserve Sam Idowu, the efficient and fundamentally sound brand in Jersey City was able to parlay its added marksmanship into a Postseason Tournament championship.

Defensive effective field goal percentages, from lowest to highest:
1) Monmouth (.464)
2) Saint Peter's (.471)
3) Fairfield (.486)
4) Rider (.494)
5) Siena (.496)
6) Niagara (.506)
7) Marist (.513)
8) Iona (.5132)
9) Quinnipiac (.522)
10) Manhattan (.536)
11) Canisius (.554)

Analysis: Canisius' run-and-gun stylings came back to hurt them on the defensive end, as they allowed MAAC opponents to shoot 49 percent against them. Oddly enough, the Golden Griffins ranked sixth in the league in three-point field goal percentage defense, so their downfall was more a byproduct of giving up smart shots inside the paint. In the case of Manhattan, though, the opposite rings true. The Jaspers conceded a league-high 42 percent from behind the line, something Steve Masiello will be adamant about correcting this season with a senior-laden roster returning to Riverdale in a year where the former back-to-back champions will be projected toward the top of the conference as they look to win a third title in five seasons.

Free throw rates, from highest to lowest:
1) Marist (41.4 percent)
2) Monmouth (40.9)
3) Manhattan (40.0)
4) Rider (37.8)
5) Siena (37.1)
6) Quinnipiac (34.0)
7) Iona (32.8)
8) Niagara (31.5)
9) Canisius (30.1)
10) Saint Peter's (30.0)
11) Fairfield (26.1)

Analysis: The casual MAAC fan would certainly not expect Marist to lead the conference in getting to the foul line, but the tendency to do just that kept the Red Foxes from seeing their season spiral out of control. Khallid Hart and Brian Parker proved indispensable in their ability to draw fouls, accounting for 53.6 percent of Marist's free throw attempts in league games.

Offensive rebound rates, from highest to lowest:
1) Quinnipiac (35.4 percent)
2) Siena (32.8)
3) Canisius (32.6)
4) Manhattan (31.8)
5) Rider (31.1)
6) Niagara (29.0)
7) Monmouth (28.3)
8) Iona (26.2)
9) Saint Peter's (25.2)
10) Fairfield (23.0)
11) Marist (21.6)

Analysis: As the Led Zeppelin classic "Ten Years Gone" begins, "then, as it was; then again, it will be." The usual suspects at the top of the chart reprised their spots once again, with Quinnipiac, Siena and Canisius using their size advantage to crash the glass, while Manhattan cleaned up a majority of their missed shots to extend possessions. The surprising outlier here is Fairfield. Although the Stags had one of the MAAC's leading rebounders in Amadou Sidibe, as well as Curtis Cobb and Jonathan Kasibabu each averaging nearly five boards per game, Sydney Johnson's team was unable to convert on the offensive glass when it mattered most. Fortunately for Fairfield, a positive assist-to-turnover ratio was able to overcome the gap more often than not.

Turnover rates, from lowest to highest:
1) Monmouth (16.6 percent)
2) Iona (16.77)
3) Canisius (16.78)
4) Saint Peter's (17.0)
5) Marist (17.4)
6) Fairfield (17.5)
7) Quinnipiac (17.8)
8) Niagara (18.1)
9) Rider (19.6)
10) Manhattan (20.0)
11) Siena (20.4)

Defensive turnover rates, from highest to lowest:
1) Canisius (22.0 percent)
2) Saint Peter's (21.1)
3) Manhattan (19.8)
4) Monmouth (19.3)
5) Rider (18.1)
6) Iona (17.3)
7) Siena (17.1)
8) Fairfield (16.4)
9) Niagara (16.1)
10) Quinnipiac (15.9)
11) Marist (15.2)

Analysis: For the most part, each team lived up to their expectations in terms of handling the basketball and causing takeaways on the defensive end. The big difference is Canisius' conference leading plus-5.22 percent margin in turnover rates. One thing Reggie Witherspoon did not get enough credit for was his ability to turn the Griffs into a ball-hawking nightmare of a defensive unit, something that was masked by the high point totals given up. Looking further into the statistics and box scores, Canisius averaged seven steals per game, second only to Saint Peter's. What distinguishes them from the Peacocks is this: Whereas Saint Peter's defense was driven primarily by senior guards Trevis Wyche and Chazz Patterson, the latter of whom was recognized as the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, Canisius' exploits were more of a team-centric focus. Seven Griffs averaged at least one theft per contest in MAAC play, led by freshman Isaiah Reese, who recorded 31 steals in the conference season. Now entering his sophomore year and a candidate to break out after Kassius Robertson and Kiefer Douse are no longer overshadowing him, Reese will be a weapon to watch on the perimeter this season in what will be an intriguing campaign in Buffalo.

MAAC Monday: Advanced stat wrapup, Part I

In this latest offseason edition of MAAC Monday, we will reprise the recurring basis of our opening segment during the in-season posts, that being a look at advanced stats from the past Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference season. The first of this three-part retrospective will focus on tempo and efficiency for each MAAC school, with additional posts regarding the Four Factors and percentage of shots to follow. Unlike in-season MAAC Monday posts where overall statistics were taken into account, only conference games were analyzed here; and as always, any and all statistics reflected within were gleaned from the individual stat pages or final game notes of each school.

Possessions per game, from highest to lowest:
1) Quinnipiac (75.85)
2) Monmouth (75.25)
3) Rider (74.6)
4) Iona (74.2)
5) Niagara (72.6)
6) Canisius (72.4)
7) Manhattan (72.15)
8) Fairfield (71.3)
9) Siena (71.25)
10) Marist (70.2)
11) Saint Peter's (63.4)

Analysis: Quinnipiac was not known for being an outfit to push the ball under former coach Tom Moore, but with now-departed freshman guards Mikey Dixon and Peter Kiss running the offense in Hamden, the Bobcats were able to pick up the pace much more than in years past. While the overall tenor of their game saw a noticeable spike, it was unfortunately offset by a 1.11 points per possession figure on the defensive end that ranked second-highest in the conference. While Monmouth and Iona, second and fourth-best in this department, respectively, are in their usual spots near the top of the charts, Rider is somewhat of an anomaly compared to recent showings. The Broncs have usually been a team to take up a position in the middle of the pack, but much like Quinnipiac with their new faces in the backcourt, the arrival of Stevie Jordan gave Kevin Baggett's team a fresher and less deliberate look. On the other end of the spectrum, Saint Peter's is once again the outlier with a full seven-possession deficit to Marist, but those who know the Peacocks well know that John Dunne's offense is not about putting on a show, but rather one of fluid ball movement and simply doing what needs to be done while using its stout defense to dictate the terms of each contest.

Points per possession, from highest to lowest:
1) Iona (1.12)
2) Monmouth (1.10)
3) Canisius (1.09)
4) Saint Peter's (1.08)
5) Siena (1.06)
6) Rider (1.05)
7) Quinnipiac (1.03)
8) Niagara (1.01)
9) Fairfield (1.001)
10) Marist (1.00)
11) Manhattan (0.97)

Analysis: Once again, the top three offenses in the MAAC are the usual suspects, as Iona, Monmouth and Canisius used their uptempo stylings to their advantage in league play. The surprising member of the upper echelon here, though, is Saint Peter's. The Peacocks rode their senior duo of Quadir Welton and Trevis Wyche to an eight-game winning streak to end the regular season, and the pair anchored an efficient team on both ends of the floor through a postseason capped off be a scintillating comeback to win the Postseason Tournament. Only one school, Manhattan, failed to reach the break-even point of 1.00 points per possession. The loss of Rich Williams, who returns next season for his final year of eligibility, hurt the Jaspers immensely, as Steve Masiello and his team were unable to find a consistent third scorer alongside Zavier Turner and Zane Waterman, both of whom enter the 2017-18 campaign as likely all-conference selections if they can replicate their production from a year ago.

Points per possession against, from lowest to highest:
1) Saint Peter's (0.94)
2) Monmouth (0.96)
3) Fairfield (1.01)
4) Siena (1.028)
5) Rider (1.03)
6) Iona (1.06)
7) Niagara (1.07)
8) Canisius (1.08)
9) Manhattan (1.09)
10) Quinnipiac (1.11)
11) Marist (1.13)

Analysis: Unlike the offensive end, where 1.08 points per possession is something not usually seen from Saint Peter's, the Peacocks made their bones on the aspect of their game that has been a calling card throughout Dunne's 11-year tenure, suffocating their opponents while holding all but six under 70 points, and keeping teams under 60 points in 16 of their 36 contests. Monmouth, the only other team in the conference to post an efficiency margin of 0.1 or greater, was able to function as a hybrid of a juggernaut outfit while also playing gritty team defense when unable to run with their opponents. The Hawks' plus-0.139 margin ranked second in the league, just two-hundredths behind Saint Peter's.

Efficiency margins, from highest to lowest:
1) Saint Peter's (+0.14)
2) Monmouth (+0.139)
3) Iona (+0.06)
4) Siena (+0.032)
5) Rider (+0.02)
6) Canisius (+0.01)
7) Fairfield (-0.009)
8) Niagara (-0.06)
9) Quinnipiac (-0.08)
10) Manhattan (-0.12)
11) Marist (-0.13)

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.