Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Preview -- Hartford Hawks

Hartford is the second American East Conference team (and the first of two Hawk teams...and the first of two Connecticut teams...) Villanova faces this season. The Wildcats opened against the Seawolves of Stony Brook, beating them 86-64, back in November. This is also a Philadelphia/Big 5 reunion of sorts, as the Hartford head coach is Dan Leibovitz, spent 10 years as assistant to John Chaney at Temple before moving over the Hartford when Chaney retired, and Hartford has two players, guard Joe Zeglinski and forward Anthony Minor, on the roster...

What Others Say...
... Blue Ribbon gives the backcourt a A-, the frontcourt a C and the bench/depth a C.

..."Last year there weren't any seniors who could say to the younger guys 'hey, this is how you do it', Leibovitz said. "Everyone was on the same page. Now we have some guys who have gone through a season and know we're doing. Some things we didn't get to last year, but the work ethic has been established"...
- Hartford Preview, 2007-08 Blue Ribbon Yearbook

So Far...
...The H Hawks are currently 5-6, with wins over Sacred Heart (NEC, 3-6, RPI #283), Jackson State (SWAC, 1-10, RPI #287), South Carolina State (MEAC, 3-6, RPI #278), Army (Patrior League, 4-5, RPI #233) and most recently, Monmouth (NEC, 2-7, RPI #229). They started the season with a two game skid, St. Francis (NY) (NEC, 4-7, RPI #291) and Quinnipiac (NEC, 4-4, RPI #285). Their other four losses were to Louisville (Big East, 5-2, RPI #38), BYU (MWC, 7-2, RPI #84), LIU Brooklyn (NEC, 6-9, RPI #119) and lastly, North Texas (Sun Belt, 4-2, RPI #19!!). All 6 losses have been road games. Villanova and Hartford share several opponents this year (Stony Brook, Louisville, etc.), but those games will be played later. No common comparisons to share at this point.

Hartford Hawks By the Numbers...
...Over the past 5 years Hartford's RPI has dipped as low as #300 and risen as high as #168 (last season). Hartford is a slightly lower than average pace team this season (68.2 possessions, adjusted, via Ken Pomeroy's Hartford Scout Page which ranks Hartford #184 out of approx. 341 - the current average for pace is 68.6). Their offensive and defensive stats which influence their efficiency:

Hartford's Four Factors
Hartford on...eFG%

Offensively, the Hawk's are a perimeter-oriented team -- a logical choice if there is no big man for the middle. They fit the "classic description" for a POT, as given by The Big Ten Wonk...they shoot over 40% of their FGAs as 3s (43.9 actually), do not turnover the ball much, do not get to the line much (little/no contact which tends to happen around the basket) and little offensive rebounding. Indeed Hartford is among the lowest ranked D1 teams for offensive rebounding. The balance of their offensive numbers are ok (but not great). Given they are trying to run an offense to get open looks out on the perimeter, but their game pace is high, there is little surprise their record hovers around 0.500. The Hawks defense needs some work. They appear to suffer the same inability to defend the shot that bedevils Nova. And their rebounding is a problem here as well. If the 'Cats miss their first attempt, it appears they can get a second pretty consistently. Especially troubling for a freshmen backcourt is Hartford's turnover rate on offense (25.7, #43). That is a very good number and suggests a problem if Fisher, Grant and Reynolds are not attentive to the ball.

Frontcourt vs frontcourt...
...The Hawks do not have a traditional big man to take the center. Coach Leibovitz started the year with Warren McLendon (junior, 6-6, 250) coupled with Anthony Minor (freshman, 6-6, 200). Lately Minor and Kevin Estes (freshman, 6-7, 230) have started. The experiments continue no doubt with the Villanova game. Estes, along with Morgan Sabia (freshman 6-7, 200) have gotten consistent minutes from the beginning of the season. David Bookman (sophomore 6-7, 225). McLendon has not started lately but has continued to get double digit minutes in what appears to be an attempt by the Hartford staff to develop their younger players, possibly for league play next month. Villanova will start Dante Cunningham and most likely Shane Clark (assuming he is healthy and ready to go). Given that Cas Drummond is hobbled with an ankle problem (those on campus reported seeing him in a boot the day after Villanova's win over Temple), Antonio Pena, who had a great game against Temple, will see some minutes as well. Freshman Corey Stokes, redshirt freshman Andy Ott and Dwayne Anderson may also see more than end-of-the-half type minutes.

Backcourt vs backcourt...
...Coach Leibovitz had planned to start Jaret Von Rosenberg (junior, 6-2, 185) at the point and Joe Zeglinski (sophomore, 6-0, 185) at the #2 guard. But things change. For the past 3+ games Coach Leibovitz has started a backcourt trio consisting of Zeglinski, Rich Baker (senior, 6-1, 180) and g-f Michael Turner (junior, 6-5, 215). Von Rosenberg has played double digit minutes in most games, while Brian Glowiak (senior, 6-3, 180) and Andres Torres (freshman, 5-10, 170) have provided some depth. Coach Wright will counter with Scottie Reynolds and...a number of good candidates to choose from. Freshmen Corey Fisher and Malcolm Grant have swapped great games lately. Sophomore Reggie Redding has started all games so far this season and despite a rough outing versus Temple, will most likely get the nod again. Coach Wright will probably look to him to counter Michael Turner. If Coach Wright feels freshman Corey Stokes is ready, he may also bring him out for some serious minutes on Turner.

Final Thoughts
In truth I expect Villanova to dominate in both the front court and the back court. Hawks however has some good outside shooting, which will give the 'Cats an opportunity to work on their perimeter defense. The most accurate Hartford marksmen, guard Rich Baker and wingman Michael Turner do not however, get many opportunities to shoot as the offense tends to flow through Zeglinski and McLendon (when he is in). Neither is efficient however.

Casiem Drummond (ankle) and Shane Clark (hip pointer) have been dinged lately. If neither plays it should not be taken as a bad sign; the 'Cats should have enough to handle the Hawks while giving those two a rest. This should offer the staff an opportunity to work on some of the noted defensive weaknesses. And give some of the bench players a longer look in game situations. Pomeroy's Log5 calculation favors Villanova with a 96% confidence, and (using his adjusted offensive/defensive ratings...) projects a 25 point victory.

1 comment: said...

I am continually amazed at the detail and scope of your Previews.

Great stuff (even though there is a portion of the posts that go over my head).