Thursday, November 29, 2012

New Weekly Segment - Four on the Floor

November has not fully passed yet and already a lot has happened.  On average, teams have played six to seven games.  But based on that sample, we can tell that Indiana, Gonzaga and Michigan will be a handful.  Duke is still Duke after winning the Battle for Atlantis, then beating Ohio State last night.  UCLA is already in trouble, despite being 4-2 (?). Frank Martin is in full force, giving death stares and leading South Carolina to already as half as many wins, five, as last season . VCU is the best 3-3 team in the country.  Finally, Doug McDermott is rightfully getting Player of the Year consideration, despite Creighton losing at home to Boise State last night.

This is the start of a new weekly segment called "Four on the Floor", where we take a brief look at four good teams, whether they are doing well, or in the case this week of Drexel,surprisingly struggling.  The four teams will most likely be teams that aren't getting a lot of national press.  But that's what we do here at the College Hardwood - Champion the Underdog.

Drexel Struggles - The Dragons, the hands down favorite to win the CAA this season, lost four of their first five games before salvaging seventh place in the Anaheim Classic by beating Rice.  Frantz Massenat struggled through his first four games before rebounding against Xavier and Rice.  And yes the loss of Samme Givens has hurt them.  As Brian Mull noted to me in a recent Twitter discussion, it's hard to replace someone who required a double team to defend him in the paint.

But the main reason for Drexel being 2-4 is their defense.  Last season, the Dragons led the CAA in field goal percentage defense at 39 percent.  They only allowed three teams all last season to shoot fifty percent or more from the field - Fairfield, William and Mary and UMass (they were 2-1 in those games).  Drexel has already allowed this season three teams to shoot fifty percent or more - Kent State, St Mary's and Xavier (all losses).

The Dragons are amazingly 274th in the country in two point field goal percentage defense at 51.9 percent.  Last season, they were 33rd in the country at 43.8 percent.  They are also ranked at #330 in the country in steal percentage at 6.2.  If you're not creating turnovers and allowing opponents to shoot 52 percent from inside the arc, it's hard to win games.  Considering Drexel's long standing history under Bruiser Flint of being a good defensive team, there is time to turn this around.  Count on Bruiser to fix this.

The Mighty Bison - Bucknell is off to an impressive 6-1 start.  What makes it even more impressive is that four of their six wins have come on the road or in neutral site games, including beating Purdue at West Lafayette.  Their only blemish is a three point loss at Penn State.

But this shouldn't be a surprise.   The Bison won twenty five games last season, including a first round NIT upset at Arizona.  And the statistics show how bullish you should be on Bucknell.   The Bison are 45th in Pomeroy's rankings.  They are 40th in the country in offensive turnover percentage, 46th in effective field goal percentage defense and 45th in offensive rebound defense percentage.   Basically put, Bucknell doesn't turn the ball over, plays good defense and limits opponents' second chance opportunities.

Finally this is a balanced, veteran team.  They return four of their top five leading scorers from last season, three  of whom are averaging double figures.  The fourth leading scorer, Joe Willman, averaged double figures in scoring last season.  Mike Muscala averages a double double with sixteen points and eleven rebounds per game.   Once again, it will come down to Lehigh and Bucknell in the Patriot.

The Elecrifying Shockers - Wichita State continues to be one of the best teams in the country, but gets no love in the Top 25 rankings.  They win at VCU.  Then the Shockers defeat DePaul and Iowa to win the Cancun Challenge.  Where's the love?

The love is right here.  The Shockers are statistically right up there in many defensive categories.  Eleventh in the country in two point FG percentage defense at 36%,  #12 in block percentage defense at 17.4% and #32 in the country in effective field goal percentage defense.  And they clean up the offensive glass too, #31 in the country in offensive rebound percentage at 40.1%.

Gregg Marshall has a deep and balanced team.  Nine players average about twelve minutes or more per game, with another two players averaging eight minutes.   The Shockers only have two players averaging in  double figure scoring, yet the team averages seventy points per game.  Cleananthony Early and Carl Hall combine for twenty seven points and fourteen rebounds per game.  Wichita State should be 9-0 when they play at Tennessee on December 13.

Way To Go O-hio - The Bobcats are the highest ranked Ken Pomeroy team featured here this week at #31.   They are undefeated at 6-0 after rallying to defeat St. Bonaventure at home last night.  Their average margin of victory is over twenty one points.  Ohio is trying their best to show everyone that last year's Sweet 16 team was no fluke.

The statistics show they are no fluke, especially when it comes to defense.  The Bobcats lead the country currently in defensive turnover percentage at thirty two percent and are second in the country in steal percentage at eighteen percent.  They are also pretty efficient on offense as they are ninth in the country in effective field goal percentage at 57.8 percent, thirteenth in the country in two point field goal percentage at 56.6 percent and twenty eighth in the country in three point field goal percentage at 39.8 percent.

Basically the Bobcats make you turn the ball over and then pay for it on the offensive end.  They average four players in double figures scoring.  Senior D.J. Cooper is a one man stat machine.  He averages fourteen points, nearly seven assists and nearly three steals per game.  Nick Kellogg, Clark Kellogg's son, shoots fifty percent from beyond the arc, averaging two three pointers per game.

Finally, this is a deep Bobcats team, as nine players average more than ten minutes per game. If there is only one slight concern, it's that Ohio has not played a road game yet this season.  That will change as their next two games are good road tests - at Robert Morris, then at Memphis.  This veteran team that won twenty nine games last season has a pressure defense game that should translate well away from home.  Just ask Michigan and South Florida.

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