Badly Timed Slumps...
After developing the trendlines for all 14 teams of the Atlantic 10 Conference, two trends were obvious (a characteristic shared in common it would seem, with all conferences) -- those teams for whom the adjusted offensive efficiency trendline plotted above the adjusted defensive efficiency trendline, and remained there for the entire conference regular season, and those teams for whom the adjusted defensive efficiency trendline plotted above the adjusted offensive efficiency trendline and remained there throughout conference play. The former generally (but not always) finished at the bottom of the conference. The latter tended to dominate in conference play, finishing at the top of the conference. Those two trends however, account for about half the teams in the A10 (and seven of 16 teams in the Big East), but what of the others? Among the other seven Atlantic 10 teams two trends predominated -- either the offense declined as the conference season wore on, to the point that the defensive trendline crossed over or the offensive efficiency trendline rose through the latter part of the season (at least...). The first trend suggests the team was falling into a late season slump. The second trend, the team's offensive efficiency improved as the season progressed, suggests the players were "getting it" offensively (or the staff had begun to identify -- and play -- those players who were "getting it" offensively), but may have struggled with defense. The defensive efficiency trendline may (or may not) have crossed over the offensive trendline, but for three of those four teams (those three will be the subject of the next "On Second Thought..." post), the offensive efficiency trendline was above the defensive efficiency trendline by the end of conference play. This post will look at the four teams whose defensive efficiency trendlines were above their offensive efficiency trendlines by the end of conference play. The conference standings/seeds for the Atlantic 10 Tournament with the featured teams highlighted:
As the trendlines below illustrate, by season's end the defensive efficiency trendline had definitely crossed the offensive efficiency trendline for all four teams.
As suggested by the trendlines, the Flyers maintained a 0.500 record through most of conference play. If the dropped a (surprise) road game to Duquesne early in the season, they broke back later against the Dukes. They collapsed in the last three conference games however, sliding from a 7-6 record to finish 7-9. Despite a conference tournament mini-run, the Flyers' credentials qualified them for the NIT only. The defending champions from 2010, the Flyers went out in the first round, 94-84, to the College of Charleston. Coach Brian Gregory accepted the Georgia Tech coaching job in April.
Through much of the out of conference schedule, the Dukes racked up the kind of efficiency margins that drew the notice of notable stat geeks, an unimpressive schedule accepted. Through the first half of conference play, the preseason raves seemed justified, but as the Dukes' offensive trendline hints, there was trouble ahead. Though their 19 point win over Fordham (91-72) looks like their high water mark offensively, Coach Ron Everhart's squad did record an impressive 25 point win (84-59) over George Washington. But a corner had been turned, as Duquesne's offensive efficiency trended down through the last 10 games of the conference season. Though they hung on to qualify for a bye seed in Atlantic City, the Dukes were eliminated in an overtime quarter final game by Saint Joseph's. Duquesne was eliminated in the quarter final round of the CBI Tournament, 77-75, by Oregon of the Pac-10 Conference.
The "book" on Rhode Island in the Coach Baron Era is the team starts strong and fades by season end. The Runnin' Rams played a very competitive 83-75 game against Pittsburgh (in Pittsburgh) to open the season, and (despite several subsequent headscratching losses in their out of conference schedule), opened the conference season with a 5-3 record. Through the first eight games Rhode Island's offensive efficiency improved by 9 points (per 100 possessions). Though the offensive efficiency trendline continued to mark improvement, the rate slowed to approximately two points (per 100 possessions). Meanwhile, the defensive efficiency trendline slipped upward, putting the team "under water" in their last three games of the regular season (actually a 1-2 record). The Runnin' Rams recorded a 4-4 record over the last half of their conference slate to drop into a first round game to qualify for Atlantic City. Coach Baron's squad was invited to the CBI Tournament where they were eliminated 66-54 in the quarter final round by Central Florida of CUSA.
Most Bonnies fans would not think of the 2011 season as a bust. The team had it's strongest showing since 2001-02, logging a >0.500 record with an 8-8 finish in the Atlantic 10. Coach Mark Schmidt's squad finished in the A10's upper division, a feat not accomplished since the 2001-02 season. Schmidt has matched or bettered the Bonnies win total each season he has directed the team, and with the CBI bid, this is the first post season for St. Bonaventure since their 2001-02 bid to the NIT. St. Bonaventure had two characteristics different from the other three teams...
1. The Bonnies' offensive efficiency improved throughout the 2011 conference season. The initial point (around 95) may seem low, but the Bonnies gradually improved that efficiency through the season, finishing at around 115, a versy strong finish.
2. The defense undermined the Bonnies' offensive progress, though that too was trending in the "right" direction by season's end.
The trendlines do not, however serve as a good predictor to St. Bonaventure's post season prospects. The Bonnies dropped their last two games of the season, an upset to La Salle allowed the Explorers to swipe their ticket to Atlantic City, and a first round loss to Central Florida knocked them out of the CBI. In all however, a season to build on for next year.