Thursday, November 21, 2013

Early Season Notes and Trends

There have been quite a few games over the past week that I haven't had the chance to write about, but rather than look at them in much detail, I thought it might be interesting to take a quick look around the league and look at one or two interesting stat or trend each team!

Eastern Washington - When you look at some of their individual defensive rebounding numbers (Venky Jois - 18.7 DR%, Martin Seiferth - 30.3 DR%, PG Drew Brandon - 22.0 DR%), you would think that hardly anyone is getting offensive rebounds against them. However, opponents have grabbed 39.5% of available offensive rebounds, putting EWU 303rd in the country. Also, through three games, Eastern Washington has taken 72 threes, with guard Tyler Harvey accounting for 31 of them himself, over ten per game. Of course, nobody will complain about a guy taking that many threes when he makes 48% of them, as Harvey has done so far this year.

Idaho State - Through three games, Idaho State continues to play at a much faster pace than last season. While they only had one game over 70 possessions last season (an OT game against Southern Utah), all three of their games have achieved that so far. They had 1.15 PPP in their win over San Francisco, and that improved offense is a good reason that Bengals fans have to be optimistic.

Montana - Through two games, it's hard to be more efficient than Brandon GFeller has been. He has an EFG of 106.2%, thanks to shooting 6/8 from the field, including 5/7 from downtown. One of the main guys getting him the ball is Kareem Jamar, who has a 35.0 ARate and sports a cool 2:1 A:TO ratio. He is great. As a team, though, there has only been one squad worse at grabbing offensive rebounds, as Montana is only rebounding 9.7% of their misses. That will go up, but they look like a very poor offensive rebounding team.

Montana State - Senior Antonio Biglow has really struggled this year, as he is 0/9 from downtown. He has distributed the ball ok, but they need him to be more of a scoring threat than he has been. Defensively, they have struggled, going into Thursday's game against CS Northridge allowing 1.13 PPP. Then they sent the Matadors to the foul line an astounding 40 times. They need to get better defensively, and in a hurry.

North Dakota - Jaron Nash was a bit of a question mark heading into the year, but through two games (one against an NAIA team), he has been everything they could have hoped for and more.  He has a 133.1 ORtg, is hitting outside shots, and has a robust 23.1 DR%. Those are all-conference type numbers, so expect to see a dropoff, but he looks like a highly productive player for UND.

Northern Arizona - It's fair to say that Jack Murphy is still figuring out the bench rotation, and who he can trust back there. PG Aaseem Dixon has played 90.1% of the team's minutes, and Gaellen Bewernick has played 88.1% of them. One guy that has stood out to me is Kris Yanku, who I think could be a Big Sky assist champion at some point in his career. He has a stellar 27.1 ARate in the first four games of his career, but is struggling to gain the coaches' trust thanks to his abysmal 33.7 TO Rate.

Northern Colorado - If all you knew about the Big Sky was the current season games, UNC would probably be your pick for the best team in the conference. They are getting it done defensively, though part of it is a mirage though - opponents are shooting just 10% from downtown and 51.7% on free throws against them, both of which are unsustainable. However, they're playing well despite their offense not really having gotten going yet - their EFG% will be better than 42.8% by the end of the year, as they are shooting just 29% from downtown themselves. Senior forward Derrick Barden is averaging almost 14 rebounds per game... he is a joy to watch.

Portland State - More than anyone else in the Big Sky, it's tough to make conclusions on PSU, as they have only lost to UNLV (in a game they played well defensively but terrible offensively) and beaten Pacific Lutheran. One potential area of concern is finding someone to set up teammates for good looks. PG Tim Douglas has just four assists compared to ten turnovers. Brandon Cataldo has been a bright spot so far this year, grabbing then rebounds against UNLV, and shooting 7/11 from the floor through two games. He has always been talented.

Sacramento State - Though their strength is their backcourt, they have struggled holding onto the ball, turning it over a combined 32 times against Cal State Bakersfield and UCLA. Another struggle has been getting to the free throw line - against UCLA they shot two free throws all game. Dylan Garrity is shooting more than ever, and that's a good thing for the Hornets - he is an excellent shooter and scorer. The Hornets are still searching for frontcourt answers, and nobody seems to have really grabbed those spots yet.

Southern Utah - Outside of the opener against an NAIA team, they have had the offensive problems that were predicted - getting 0.88 PPP against Utah State and 0.73 PPP against California. They play a lot of young guys, and this was to be expected. Trey Kennedy and Juwan Major have had some promising debuts, and look to be a big part of the foundation for coach Nick Robinson.

Weber State - I covered them earlier this week, but an area of concern is that they aren't forcing turnovers, but they weren't great at that last season and their defense was still solid. They are still doing a good job of not allowing opponents to take threes, but the problem is teams shooting 53% on twos against them. Jeremy Senglin has impressed a lot of people in his first two games as freshman PG, but he only has three assists vs four turnovers... he needs to create a few more shots for others.

Anything else catch your eye so far this season?

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