Thursday, June 29, 2017

Tempo Thursday: A-10 year in review, Part I

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

The coaching cliche tells us about the season being a marathon, not a sprint. That was vividly illustrated in the Atlantic 10 this season. For the better part of the conference season, Dayton and VCU jostled back and forth at the head of the pack. Not far off, Rhode Island and Richmond stayed close. Come conference tournament time, it was time for Rhode Island to make a move, and Dan Hurley’s Rams were able to do so in convincing fashion. Rhode Island finished strong, overtaking the field to capture their first A-10 title since 1999.  

All numbers to follow reflect conference games only, and are courtesy of KenPom.

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

Offensive Efficiency
1) Dayton (109)
2) VCU (108)
3) Richmond (107)
T-4) George Washington (106)
T-4) Rhode Island (106)
6) George Mason (105)
T-7) St. Bonaventure (104)
T-7) La Salle (104)
9) Davidson (103)
10) Duquesne (100)
11) UMass (98)
12) Saint Joseph’s (96)
T-13) Fordham (95)
T-13) Saint Louis (95)

Ten of the 14 teams hit the coveted century mark for offensive efficiency. Dayton relied a good deal on the three-point shot. The Flyers’ effective field goal percentage was second in the conference, at 55 percent. From long range, Dayton hit for 39 percent, again good for second in the league. Richmond led the A-10 in effective field goal percentage, at 56 percent. Both Dayton (18 percent) and Richmond (16 percent, the conference leader) enjoyed better than average turnover rates on offense.

Defensive Efficiency
1) Rhode Island (95)
T-2) VCU (96)
T-2) Dayton (96)
4) St. Bonaventure (100)
5) Fordham (101)
T-6) Richmond (102)
T-6) Davidson (102)
T-8) Saint Joseph’s (105)
T-8) UMass (105)
T-8) George Mason (105)
11) La Salle (106)
12) George Washington (107)
13) Saint Louis (109)
14) Duquesne (110)

The objective is to keep opposing offenses under 100, not an easy task as it turned out, and the numbers attest. Fordham was a bit of a defensive surprise. Their secret was not in lockdown half court defense, as their opponents shot a 52 percent effective field goal mark, third-highest out of the 14 conference schools. Jeff Neubauer’s Rams did the job extending pressure. They showed a 23 percent defensive turnover rate, a figure that set the conference pace.
Another group of Rams arrived at their defensive success in an opposite manner. Rhode Island was sixth in conference with a 19 percent turnover rate. The Rams of Kingston led the conference with a 45 percent defensive effective field goal mark, which included a 29 percent defensive three-point field goal percentage, another conference-leading figure.

Taking another look at the efficiencies, the half full/empty question comes up again. Did the Atlantic 10 post these impressive efficiencies due to good offense? Or was it subpar defense? A quick look shows the conference as a whole was seventh in block percentage (9.9 percent) and tenth in steal rate (10.1 percent). On the offensive side, the assist rate was second nationally at 56.2 percent. Turnover rate collectively was 18.5 percent, ranking 20th among conferences. A conclusion can be assessed as the league did defend. The efficiency in turnover rate and sharing the ball with that assist rate is proof that the offensive numbers were more likely due to good, efficient offense, rather than porous defense.

Tempo Leaders
1) UMass (72 possessions per game)
2) Richmond (71)
T-3) Duquesne (70)
T-3) George Mason (70)
T-5) St. Bonaventure (69)
T-5) Saint Joseph’s (69)

The average conference tempo was 68.6 possessions per game, ranking 18th in the nation. UMass and Duquesne were two teams that eschewed the uptempo game. Richmond, known for the Princeton offense run in the past by Chris Mooney, was a mild surprise pace-wise.
Most Deliberate Pace
1) Saint Louis (63 possessions per game)
2) Fordham (65)
3) George Washington (67)
T-4) Rhode Island (68)
T-4) La Salle (68)

An interesting note regarding Fordham: The Rams did pressure and force turnovers, yet their overall pace could be described as moderate. Given Saint Louis’ situation, it was wise for Travis Ford to walk it up the floor, and the Billikens did improve as the year went on. With better personnel coming on board, look for Ford to hit the accelerator in the near future.

Turnover Rate Leaders
1) Davidson (16 percent)
T-2) Richmond (17)
T-2) Rhode Island (17)
T-4) VCU (18)
T-4) St. Bonaventure (18)

Expect a Bob McKillop team to care for the ball, as Davidson did. Ditto for Chris Mooney. His Richmond team was not affected by pushing the pace a bit. Early in his tenure, Mark Schmidt’s Bonnies had an awful time with turnovers. In recent seasons, that hasn’t been the case. Having an outstanding guard corps certainly helps. In total, all but three teams were under 20 percent in turnover rates, with only La Salle, Fordham, and UMass finishing over the threshold.
Atlantic 10 Championship: Rhode Island 70, VCU 63
A battle of Rams in Pittsburgh. Rhode Island defeated St. Bonaventure and Davidson before facing a VCU team they defeated at home two weeks prior. The championship was URI’s most deliberate of their three tournament games, a 60-possession pace. URI led 117-105 in offensive efficiency, highlighted by a 10 percent turnover rate and 40 percent shooting (8-of-20) from long distance. VCU had an excellent turnover rate as well, at eight percent. Will Wade’s group was able to hang around until the stretch by virtue of an outstanding 46-27 percent differential in offensive rebound rate, extending a number of their possessions. Justin Tillman of VCU alone had eight offensive boards. As a team, Rhode Island had nine. Junior forward E.C. Matthews of Rhode Island earned KenPom’s game MVP honors with a 19-point, nine-rebound, two-assist outing against just one turnover.

The home team was a tough out, compiling a 75-51 record for a .595 winning percentage. That figure put the A-10 at 13th among the 32 major conferences.

Close games (decided by less than four points or any game going to overtime) saw 17.5 percent of contests fall into that category. Conversely, the blowouts (greater than a 19-point difference) were not as frequent, as just 11 percent were in that one-sided group.

Oddly enough, the average efficiency (103) was 23rd among the major conferences. Dayton and VCU posted outstanding efficiencies. After that, you simply had a number of teams with an offensive efficiency registered as above average. In effect, the Atlantic 10 was more offensive minded than that 23rd ranking would suggest.

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

Tyler Cavanaugh, George Washington

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