Big South Tournament Preview: Radford the Favorite

    
March 3rd, 2009

This is the first in a series of conference tournament previews I’ll be doing for CollegeHoops.net, in which I run down all the teams involved, giving a breif statistical review and picking out some of the key players, and presenting the log5 projections, using in-conference offensive and defensive efficiency.The basic log5 methodology comes from Bill James, and this is an area Ken Pomeroy has looked at in the past as well. I claim nothing new in the application, but obviously with slightly different methodologies, these numbers may differ from others you find.  Anyway, with no further ado, the preview follows below:

Big South

The Big South Tournament features the top 8 teams out of a 10 team league, with the quarterfinals being hosted at the home courts of the top 4 seeds, the semifinals at the regular season champion, Radford, and the final held at the highest remaining seed. Presbyterian is ineligible for the conference tournament.

Tournament Odds

#

Team

SF

F

W

1

Radford

95.02%

82.91%

67.71%

2

Virginia Military Inst

84.48%

42.44%

12.06%

3

Liberty

74.55%

41.85%

12.56%

4

NC Asheville

74.07%

12.51%

4.08%

5

Winthrop

25.93%

3.24%

0.82%

6

Gardner Webb

25.45%

11.64%

2.18%

7

Coastal Carolina

15.52%

4.07%

0.43%

8

High Point

4.98%

1.33%

0.15%

 

Radford are hosting every game they play, so should be clear favorites to win.  VMI and Liberty are close for the second spot, and should contest a good semifinal if both survive. There’s just an 8% chance of somebody outside the top 3 grabbing the bid, with most of that belonging to Asheville.  

 

 

#1 – Radford Highlanders (18-11, 15-3) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.112

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1998 (1st Round)

The Highlanders feature the Big South’s best defense, holding their opponents under 40% from the field, and doing an excellent job both inside and outside. They also do well on the defensive glass, and rarely foul, so the fact they force very few turnovers doesn’t hurt them. Offensively, Radford rarely takes threes, and has a lot of problems with turnovers, but lead the league on the glass and in getting to the free throw line.

 

Players to watch:

6-11 JR Arstiom Parakhouski, 16.0 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 54.7 eFG% - The Belarusian big man leads the team in both scoring and rebounding, and is one of only two players in the conference to average a double-double. He’s a solid shot blocker as well, but his shooting percentage isn’t that great for a big guy.

 

6-8 JR Joey Lynch-Flohr, 13.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 52.7 eFG% - Another quality scoring forward, he’s not as good a rebounder as Parakhouski, but shoots a similar percentage and is a solid second option.

 

 

#2 – Virginia Military Institute Keydets (22-7, 13-5) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.045

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1977 (Sweet 16)

VMI started the season 11-2 in conference, and after beating Kentucky in the non-conference, looked like they might be on course for the league title, but things fell apart a bit down the stretch, and the Keydets find themselves in second spot. This is easily the nation’s fastest paced team, the only one averaging more than 80 possessions a game, and it takes more than 50% of its shots from behind the arc. The Keydets hold on to the ball exceptionally well despite their speed of play, and shoot a good percentage inside and outside. The problem is on the other end, as their fast pace forces a lot of turnovers, but also results in the third-worst two-point defense, and the second-worst defensive rebounding in the nation.

 

Players to watch:

6-4 SR Chavis Holmes, 22.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG,3.2 SPG, 61.5 eFG% - The first of the Holmes twins is the nation’s second ranked player in steals, and while his big average numbers are mostly a result of the team’s fast pace, he’s a very good percentage player as well, and the conference’s  best three-point shooter.

 

6-4 SR Travis Holmes, 19.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 4.3 APG, 3.3 SPG,  54.4 eFG% - They may be identical twins, but Travis’ game features better ball movement and somewhat weaker shooting

 

 

#3 – Liberty Flames (21-10, 12-6) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.052

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2004 (1st Round)

Like VMI, Liberty shoot a huge percentage of their shots from behind the arc, nearly 50%, but they make a higher percentage from inside. The conference’s second best offense also depends on good free throw shooting and avoiding turnovers to make up for poor offensive rebounding. The Flames struggle on the defensive interior, allowing a high percentage of shots and getting few defensive rebounds. One notable thing they do well is avoid fouling; only a handful of teams in the country send opponents to the line less often than Liberty.

 

Players to watch:

6-5 SR Anthony Smith, 17.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 59.0 eFG% - Smith doesn’t start, but is the second leading scorer and leading rebounder for the Flames. He’s just 6-5, but shoots over 60% from inside the arc, while being a nice outside shooter as well.

 

6-3 FR Seth Curry, 20.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 51.1 eFG% - He’s no Stephen Curry, at least not yet, but he’s still a pretty remarkable player in his own right, the only freshman in the nation averaging over 20 PPG. Seth doesn’t have a long way to go to reach the same level as his brother, just needing to increase his two-point percentage.

 

 

#4 – NC Asheville Bulldogs (14-15, 10-8) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.011

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2003 (1st Round)

Asheville seemed like it was doomed to the bottom half  after starting the conference season 5-6, but put together a solid record since then to earn a home game in the tournament. The Bulldogs have a good offense, making a nice percentage of shots from inside and outside. They struggle with defence, though, with only VMI worse out of the tournament teams. The Bulldogs have real troubles inside, where they are weak on the glass and allow conference opponents to shoot nearly 50%.

 

Players to watch:

6-4 SO John Williams, 13.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 56.3 eFG% - Williams is the team’s most efficient scorer; he does all of his work inside, and is an excellent shot-blocker, quite impressive for a 6-4 player, even in a smaller league like the Big South.

 

 

6-6 SR Reid Augst, 15.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 50.7 eFG% - Augst is the team’s leading scorer, but struggles from behind the arc, where he shoots below 30%. Like Williams, his offensive play is best inside the arc.

 

 

#5 – Winthrop Eagles (11-18, 9-9) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.023

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008 (1st Round)

Winthrop have represented the Big South in each of the last four NCAA tournaments, but its chances are very thin after a tough season. A strong finish will give Eagle fans some hope, but this is still a work in progress. Their problem is offense, as Winthrop is simply abysmal at making shots. They shoot just 41% overall, and rarely make threes or get to the free throw line. The reason that they’ve managed to stay nearly at .500 is defense; the Eagles are the second best defenders in the conference tournament. They are the Big South’s best shot-blockers and typically get opponents to shoot a lot of threes, where they are good defenders as well.

 

Players to watch:

6-2 FR Andre Jones, 8.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 42.8 eFG% - Jones is the team’s third leading scorer, but has been an inefficient player, especially with two-point shots, where he is well below 40%. He’s Winthrop’s best long-distance shooting option, but at 36%, that’s a bit of a back-handed compliment.

 

6-7 SO Charles Corbin, 9.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 47.2 eFG% - Corbin’s numbers are modest, but he’s the team’s top scorer and rebounder. He was slowed somewhat with injuries in mid-February, but has had some big games, including a double-double against Radford. If he can find some form, the Eagles can cause opponents a lot of trouble.

 

 

#6 – Gardner Webb Bulldogs (13-16, 9-9) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.013

Last NCAA Tournament bid: None

Gardner Webb looked good at 7-5, but losing four straight conference games cost it a first round home game. The Bulldogs are a deserved mid-table team, boasting both a middle-of-the-road offense and defense. They depend a lot on outside play, making 35% of threes and rarely turning the ball over, while forcing a fair number of turnovers themselves and allowing over 50% of opponents’ attempts from inside the arc.

 

Players to watch:

6-3 SR Aaron Linn, 14.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.9 SPG, 48.7 eFG% - Linn leads the team in scoring, and just barely makes enough shots to stay reasonably efficient. He’s a better threat from inside than outside, and is  also the team leader in steals.

 

6-0 JR Grayson Flittner, 14.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 4.0 APG, 49.1 eFG% - Flittner was the Bulldogs’ leading scorer when he suffered a knee injury, and while he returned earlier in the month, he has struggled since, just 10-for-his-last-43 from the field.

 

 

#7 – Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (11-19, 5-13) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.049

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1993 (1st Round)

Coastal Carolina are pretty much mediocre across the board, and it adds up to a mediocre season. The Chanticleers are good offensive rebounders, but their shooting is inconsistent, and they tend to give up a lot of steals. Defensively, they have trouble stopping the long distance-shot, and are below average in most other areas.  When they do win, it’s usually because they’ve made a lot of shots, especially from two, where they are occasionally quite dangerous.

 

Players to watch:

6-5 JR Joseph Harris, 15.5 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 57.3 eFG% - I can’t pretend to be an expert on the conference, but Joseph Harris has to be a factor in the Big South player of the year race with his numbers. One of only two Big South players to average a double-double, Harris leads the conference in rebounds, and leads his team in points, steals and blocks as well. He’s a high-percentage inside shooter who gets to the free-throw line a lot, and will be a handful for any opponent.

 

6-5 SO Anthony Breeze, 10.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 56.2 eFG% - Another strong interior scorer, Breeze is second on the team in points, but would be a lot closer if his free throw shooting wasn’t an abysmal 52%. Interestingly, he doesn’t start, and is just 6th on the team in minutes, but from an outside perspective I really couldn’t tell you why, he’s the Chanticleers most efficient non-Harris player.

 

 

#8 – High Point Panthers (9-20, 4-14) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.083

Last NCAA Tournament bid: None

With Presbyterian ineligible, a 9th place finish was enough for a young High Point team to sneak in as the #8 seed, despite an fairly poor record. The Panthers have struggled to score all season, committing a lot of turnovers and making less than 42% of field goal attempts, including under 30% from behind the arc. One bright spot on both sides of the ball is rebounding, where High Point is very good. Their defense is decent, good at forcing turnovers and reasonable defending shots, but unlike another weak offensive team, Winthrop, it’s nothing special, and can’t make up for the lack of scoring.

 

Players to watch:

6-11 JR Cruz Daniels, 7.9 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.7 BPG, 63.0 eFG% - Daniels isn’t a key player in the offense, only reaching double digits on a few occasions, but does just about everything else you could ask of a big man. He’s an excellent rebounder, with his relatively low minutes somewhat masking excellent rebounding rates, and the conference’s best shot-blocker. When he does attempt to score, he’s high percentage, over 60% from the field, but he doesn’t get to the free throw line much for a big guy.

 

6-2 FR Nick Barbour, 14.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 48.6 eFG% - The team’s leading scorer, Barbour is High Point’s only legitimate three-point threat, and he hits just enough to make up for a weak performance inside the arc.

 

My statistical all-Big South team:

VMI G SR Chavis Holmes, 22.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG,3.2 SPG, 61.5 eFG%

Liberty G SR Anthony Smith, 17.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 59.0 eFG%

Liberty G FR Seth Curry, 20.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 51.1 eFG%

Coastal Carolina F JR Joseph Harris, 15.5 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 57.3 eFG%

VMI F SR Travis Holmes, 19.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 4.3 APG, 3.3 SPG,  54.4 eFG%