Thursday, May 26, 2011

On Second Thought -- Plotting Trendlines for Atlantic 10 Teams (pt 3)

Slumps and Surges...
The tie that binds the three Atlantic-10 teams featured in this post is the offensive efficiency trendline. Irrespective of where the offensive efficiency was in relation to the the defensive efficiency trendline, the team spent some part of the season "under water", only to have the offensive efficiency trendline emerge on top by the end of conference play. The conference standings/seeds for the Atlantic 10 Tournament with the featured teams highlighted:

George Washington1060.625
Rhode Island970.563
St. Bonaventure880.500
La Salle6100.375
St. Louis6100.375
Saint Joseph's4120.250

As the standings above show, two of the teams posted losing records in conference play. In fact George Washington and Saint Louis were eliminated in the first round of the conference tournament and did not appear in the quarter finals in Atlantic City. Adding to George Washington's woes, the Colonials were not invited to any post season tournament either.

George Washington

The team learned how to play as the season progressed

Going into the 2011 season Coach Karl Hobbs knew he would not have the four seniors (and red shirt post grad guard Travis King) available. He could draw consolation however in a promising freshman (Nemanja Mikic), a few returning players who showed promise (Tony Taylor and David Pellom), but best of all, Lasan Kromah, the team leader for three point shooting and steals as a freshman in 2010. Kromah was named conference Rookie of the Week three times during his freshman campaign, and would surely be the offensive centerpiece for the 2011 campaign. Until he was injured in a preseason scrimmage with North Carolina State on October 30. Coach Hobbs literally had to retool the offense on the eve of the season, and that process went on for much of the 2011 campaign. Truly the proto-type of a team that got better as the season progressed, the Colonials logged a tepid 7-6 out of conference record, but managed a 5-5 record 10 games into the conference season, that 10th game was a four point loss (65-69) to Richmond on February 9. GW went 5-1 in the last six conference games, beating Rhode Island and Dayton in the process, to finish 10-6 (17-13 overall). Given the obstacles, this had to be one of Coach Hobbs' better coaching jobs, but a change in the Athletic Directorship at season's end resulted in Hobbs' termination in late April. Vermont's Mike Lonergan takes the helm of a team with experience and talent. Assuming no defections, Coach Lonergan should do well next season.

La Salle

Chemistry problems?

As the chart suggests, the Explorers dropped their first four conference games. Coach John Giannini, dissatisfied with sophomore center Aaric Murray's effort during a 26 minute stint in the conference opener at George Washington, suspended the sophomore for the second game (against Richmond), which La Salle lost by 19, 87-68. La Salle however, dropped two more conference games (interrupted by a win over Big 5 rival Penn) before they kicked off a three game winning run at Rhode Island. If Dr. Giannini's squad went 6-6 over the last 12 conference games, why the clear separation between offensive and defensive efficiencies which indicates the team operated "under water" for most of the conference season? The margin of wins and losses, coupled with the unexpected turns taken via the adjusted efficiencies explains the gap. Of their six conference wins, four were by five or less, with their wins over Massachusetts (21) and Fordham (26) at the end of the season the only double digit wins in conference play. The point margins in their 10 losses varied from -2 to -38, with half by double digits (and three by 20 or more). The wins over Massachusetts and Fordham account for the end of the season surge. The Explorers avenged their 21 point loss to St. Bonaventure with a road win in the first round of the A-10 Conference Tournament, but they lost the quarter final round to Temple by 20, 96-76 to close out their season. Aaric Murray announced his transfer on March 24, but Dr. Giannini has a number of very promising guards slated to return for the 2012 season.

Saint Louis

Another season, another unseasoned team...

Suspensions to two players just after the open of the Fall Practice dealt a blow to the Billikens' prospects in the 2011 season. Like Coach Hobbs at George Washington, Coach Rick Majerus has to retool on the fly, and St. Louis forged a lackluster 5-8 record before they began conference play. Ranked #346 among D1 programs in experience (by Ken Pomeroy) in 2010, the Bills were set to move up in 2011, but those suspensions (coupled with two off season transfers) pushed Coach Majerus' squad back down to #339 (again per Ken Pomeroy). The playing time distribution (he relied heavily on freshman guards Jordair Jett and Mike McCall, and gave freshmen center Rob Loe and wing Dwayne Evans more playing time than sophomores Cody Ellis, Cory Remekun and Christian Salecich). The efficiency trendlines are classic Majerus as tight defense and flagging offense (until the team "gets it") reflects youth on the squad. The late season "surge" was due more to several outstanding defensive outings (St. Louis held Charlotte, Duquesne and Dayton to 56 or fewer points, while an out of conference opponent, Chicago State, scored 52 points) rather than a surging offense. 2011 did not bring a repeat of the Bills' Fabulous February of 2010 (a 7-1 run to close out their A-10 slate and bring their conference record to 10-4), as they logged a 3-4 record in conference games to start March with a 5-9 conference record. For 2012, one of the suspended players will most likely return to play his senior season, but the other, along with transfer Christian Salecich, has decided to move on.

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