Monday, May 30, 2011

On Second Thought -- Plotting Trendlines for Atlantic 10 Teams (pt 4)

Conference Elites
The three teams discussed in this post were the teams that topped the Atlantic-10 Conference last season. The teams share a common trait -- their offfensive efficiency trendlines started above their defensive efficiency trendlines (they were winning games) throughout the season. Each team lost at least one game, but even when more than one conference game was lost, that team did not sustain a losing streak of more than one game. 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, all three teams earned first round byes, appearing first in the quarter finals in Atlantic City. And after Atlantic City, all three earned NCAA bids.


Kenny Anderson's last season was the Spiders' best yet

Senior guard Kevin Anderson may not have had the kind of individual season in 2011 that one might expect from the returning Conference Player of the Year of 2010 (indeed, the A-10's 2011 POY went to Tu Holloway), but the team results were decidedly better. It appeared, about 10 games into the conference schedule, that the Spiders were headed to a "crossover" (a slump), but avoided that turn and put on an impressive run to end the season. Note the steep decline in the defensive efficiency trendline from games 10 (George Washington) through 16 (Duquesne), that movement is especially positive given the emphasis on defense in the post season setting. The Spiders went on to eliminate Rhode Island, Temple and finally Dayton to win the Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament, and though they earned a lowly #12 seed in the NCAA field, they survived the first weekend (wins over Vanderbilt and Morehead State) and ran to the Sweet Sixteen before being eliminated by Kansas in the Southwest Region. Rolling up a 13-2 record over their last 15 games, Richmond managed a program record 29 wins over their 37 game season. Coach Mooney turned aside overtures for BCS-level coaching jobs, and Richmond has tied him into a long term contract that should keep him for at least 5 more (or so) years.


Injuries caught up with the Owls

The preseason favorite to repeat as conference champion spent a good part of the season struggling to cover gaps in their lineup. A preseason injury to senior Craig Williams became a precursor of the season to come, as the forward was expected to miss only the first month or so of the season. Despite the prognosis, the senior suffered further injuries during rehabilitation, and never set foot on the court in 2011. Of those who did start the season, Juan Fernandez, the 2010 Atlantic-10 Tournament Most Valuable Player struggled at times in the out of conference portion of the season, and ultimately missed four conference games in January. The roster count going into 2010-11 was 11 (absent Craig Williams), so the margin for injury was extremely small. Freshman forward Anthony Lee sat out the season with a back injury, while Center Eric Michael tore a patella tendon February 17 and missed the rest of the season (six regular season conference games, Duke, two Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament games and two NCAA games). Meanwhile during the last portion of the regular season, Scootie Randall was also sidelined with a deeply bruised foot. The wing missed the last four regular season conference games (and Duke), and returned only for the NCAA games. Note the upturn (not a good turn) in the defense around game #13 (Saint Joseph's), which coincides with the simultaneous loss of Michael and Randall. The consolation is that the additional playing time allocated to Rahlir Jefferson, TJ DiLeo, Aaron Brown and Khalif Wyatt should pay dividends in 2012. The Owls lost their Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament semi-final game to Richmond (revenge for the Spiders who lost to the Owls in the 2010 Tournament final), but did eliminate Penn State in the first round of the NCAA before falling to San Diego State after two overtimes, in their second NCAA game.


Led the conference from start to finish

Second year Coach Chris Mack, like Temple's Coach Dunphy, had to negotiate a rash of preseason/early season injuries that decimated the Musketeer squad through much of November. The Musketeers stumbled to a very unXavier-like out of conference record of 8-5 to start conference play. Pegged in the previews to finish anywhere from #2 to #4 in conference play, Coach Mack's squad led conference play from first tip to final buzzer, racking up an impressive 15-1 record in conference play. If Xavier's offensive efficiency showed a decline from games #6 (George Washington) to #14 (at Dayton), note their defense efficiency kept the margin more-or-less the same through that period. #1 seeded for the Atlantic-10 Tournament, the X-men were upset in the quarter-finals by old rival Dayton, and though seeded #6, they were surprisingly (again) eliminated from the NCAAs by a first round upset at the hands of Marquette.

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