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.

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