Patriot League Tournament: Preview & Prediction

    
March 4th, 2009

This is one in a series of conference tournament previews, in which I run down all the teams involved, give a brief statistical review and present 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.  I don’t claim to be an expert on any particular conference, and I’m sure there are some mis-characterizations on some players I’ve seen sparingly at best, so please add your thoughts in the comments. Anyway, with no further ado, the preview follows below:

 

Patriot League Championship

The Patriot League Tournament features all league teams, with all games being hosted at the higher seed.

 

Tournament Odds

#

Team

SF

F

W

1

American

99.07%

97.22%

86.03%

2

Holy Cross

93.81%

80.21%

12.37%

3

Navy

85.31%

17.26%

1.28%

4

Army

66.79%

1.75%

0.16%

5

Lehigh

33.21%

0.83%

0.08%

6

Colgate

14.69%

1.39%

0.04%

7

Bucknell

6.19%

1.14%

0.03%

8

Lafayette

0.93%

0.19%

0.01%

 

Between their domination of the league and the home court advantage, American is the single most dominant favorite in any conference tournament of the season. Holy Cross seem to have the only serious chance of stopping the Eagles’ run.

 

#1 – American Eagles (21-7, 13-1) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.219

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008 (1st Round)

 

After earning its first NCAA Tournament berth last season, American doesn’t seem like it’ll take long to get its second, having lost just once since late December, and entering the tournament on a 10-game winning streak. It might be easier to list what American doesn’t do better than anyone else in the league, it’s so dominant. The Eagles are excellent shooters, 47% overall and at nearly 40% from behind the arc. They take a lot of threes, and play a slow, deliberate offense that focuses on ball control. They are also the best at defending shots in the PL, allowing opponents the same percentage from two that they shoot from three themselves. The Eagles also dominate the defensive glass, so opponents have a lot of one-miss-and-out possessions.

 

Players to watch:

5-11 SR Garrison Carr, 17.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 50.7 eFG% - Carr leads the Eagles in scoring, and is basically the only guy who takes threes on the team, his 251 attempts about the same as the rest of the team combined. He’s made nearly 38% of them, nearly as good a percentage as his two-point attempts. He’s a typical sort of high-usage player, providing solid efficiency over a large number of possessions, and freeing up other players into smaller, more effective roles.

 

6-8 SR Brian Gilmore, 11.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 60.7 eFG% - Gilmore is the main option for American inside, a very good inside scorer with a great touch from outside as well. He leads the team in rebounding, but his rates on the boards aren’t particularly good. While he doesn’t often put up a big number, he chips in with effective shooting down low.

 

 

 

#2 – Holy Cross Crusaders (16-13, 11-3) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.114

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2007 (1st Round)

 

Holy Cross had a poor non-conference season, picking up a number of bad losses (including three against the Ivy), but turned it on when Patriot play started, and were the only team to beat American. The Crusaders dominated the rest of the league as well, and have the second best offense and defense, behind only the Eagles. Holy Cross depends on getting the ball inside to score, and going 50% on two-point shots makes up for struggles with long-distance shots and free-throws. It’s a good offensive rebounding team, and distributes the ball well, but turns the ball over too often to be really efficient. Defensively, the word is possessions. The Crusaders are decent at stopping shots, but really shine at denying opponents chances with turnovers and rebounds.

 

Players to watch:

6-9 SO Andrew Keister, 9.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 59.6 eFG% - Keister may not be the Crusaders’ first option, but he’s the most efficient offensive player by a wide margin. That tends to happen when you lead the team in rebounding and shoot a better percentage from the field (60%) than from the stripe (56%).

 

6-4 SR Colin Cunningham, 8.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.8 SPG,  47.1 eFG% - If Cunningham were a half-decent three point shooter, he’d be an excellent player. However, his 29% mark from beyond the arc really drags him down. Beyond that, he’s a good ball distribution guard who leads the league in steals.

 

 

#3 – Navy Midshipmen (19-10, 8-6) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.030

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1998 (1st Round)

 

Navy first came to my attention when it shot 71% from the field in beating Texas San Antonio, but it couldn’t keep that level of play when conference play came around, and ended up hanging just above .500 the whole season. The Midshipmen are a step down from the two leading teams on the offensive end, but are still clearly better than the teams below them. They play a fairly quick style that depends on avoiding turnovers, where they are best in the conference, and making long-distance shots, where they are only average. Navy is a pretty good team at defending the perimeter, but get beaten out inside, and are only an average league defense.

 

Players to watch:

6-4 SR Kaleo Kina, 17.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, 44.4 eFG% - Kina leads the Midshipmen in scoring, rebounds, assists and steals, and when his shooting touch is on, he’s as dangerous a scorer as there is in the league. The problem comes when his shots aren’t falling, as he is capable of some frightening lines, especially from three, where he shoots just 25%.

 

6-2 JR Chris Harris, 15.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 48.3 eFG% - Harris is the team’s second leading scorer, and takes the majority of his shots from behind the arc, where he makes a better percentage than he shoots inside.

 

 

#4 – Army Black Knights (10-18, 6-8) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.052

Last NCAA Tournament bid: None

 

Army has had one of the nation’s worst offenses, and the worst in the Patriot League, so its 6-8 final record is a testament to its ability to defend. The Black Knights are decent shooters, 41 % overall, but struggle inside, and lose so many possessions with poor rebounding and turnovers that that their shooting doesn’t really matter. Army defends shots well, and forces a lot of turnovers, good enough for the Patriot’s third-best defense, but not good enough to keep up with the conference leaders. 

 

Players to watch:

6-3 JR Cleveland Richard, 11.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 53.9 eFG% - Richard is the Black Knights’ main threat from behind the arc, and the team’s leading scorer. The team is quite deep, using a lot of players, but Richards’ shooting ability clearly sets him apart.

 

5-11 JR Josh Miller, 9.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.4 APG, 45.5 eFG% - The team’s best ball distribution guard, Miller doesn’t score much, and his two point shooting is a weakness at just 43%.

 

 

#5 – Lehigh Mountain Hawks (15-13, 5-9) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.057

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2004 (Play-In)

 

There’s not much separating the teams in slots 4-7, and the Mountain Hawks’ trip to Army to open the tournament should be a good one, if the triple overtime game the two played in the regular season is any indication. Lehigh’s in-conference  inconsistency can be blamed, for a large part, on their shooting, which is among the worst in the nation, and easily the worst in the PL. It especially struggles from two, where it takes the majority of its shots, and even good rebounding and interior defense weren’t enough to get it to the .500 mark.

 

Players to watch:

5-11 JR Marquis Hall, 14.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.7 SPG, 44.7 eFG% - Hall is the first part of Lehigh’s inside-outside duo, and is a good guard in every area but his shot. He’s a decent rebounder, and has a very good assist rate, but his shooting inside the arc is quite weak, and is the major failing in his game.

 

6-7 JR Zahir Carrington, 14.0 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 44.2 eFG% - The conference’s leading rebounder, Carrington’s 44% from the floor is pretty disappointing, and really reduces his effectiveness as an offensive option. He does get a good number of points at the free throw line, where he makes fairly frequent appearances.

 

 

#6 – Colgate Red Raiders (9-19, 5-9) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.060

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1996 (1st Round)

 

Colgate sat at 5-5 with two-and-a-half weeks left in the season, but a disastrous end to the season that included a tough series of road games saw them slump into the bottom portion of the conference. The Red Raiders are an average offensive team, though their slow pace makes them seem less potent then they are. They sit fifth in FG% and turnovers, so the middle-of-the pack overall efficiency fits with a balanced, mediocre unit. Defensively, they manage to hold opponents to a reasonable percentage, but have trouble stopping opponents from getting a possession advantage, with their rebounding a major culprit.

 

Players to watch:

6-6 JR Ben Jonson, 10.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 49.7 eFG% - The junior forward is Colgate’s best option inside, and has really upped his level of play while taking on a larger role. He’s a solid rebounder, and is a good scorer from the floor who puts up a lot of points at the free throw line.

 

6-1 SO Mike Venezia, 10.6 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 44.5 eFG% - Venezia leads the Red Raiders in scoring, but his shot needs a lot of work, especially with his 41% inside. Considering that he doesn’t contribute many steals or assists, he’s a very inefficient player when his shots aren’t falling, which is fairly often.

 

 

#7 – Bucknell Bison (7-22, 4-10) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.055

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2006 (2nd Round)

 

Just three years removed from the second of their pair of memorable NCAA runs, the Bison have shown just how fleeting success can be, slipping to a spot just above the Patriot League cellar. The Bison are good shooters,  and don’t turn the ball over much, but are woefully outclassed inside, putting up one of the nation’s worst two-point percentages. Likewise, they defend the three well, but allow opponents to score with relative ease inside. A couple of things don’t quite fit with this profile; Bucknell forces very few turnovers, but is excellent at defensive rebounding, despite playing at a fairly high pace.

 

Players to watch:

6-8 JR Patrick Behan, 13.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 45.8 eFG% - Behan fits with what we’ve seen from several Patriot League forwards, a good rebounder who takes a lot of his team’s shots, but doesn’t shoot a particularly good percentage.

 

6-1 SR Justin Castleberry, 11.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 44.5 eFG% - Castleberry has a good scoring average, but not much else; he put up a good steal rate, and he’s a decent three-point shooter, but his sub-40% shooting from two means he’s a pretty inefficient player.

 

 

#8 – Lafayette Leopards (8-21, 4-10) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.117

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2000 (1st Round)

 

When I’ve been describing some of the teams above as relatively poor defensively, this has been within the context of the Patriot League, where the average team has scored well below a point-per-possession. Lafayette is the only team that allows more than that, and have been easily the worst team in the conference.  The Leopards’ opponents shoot 47% from the field, and manage to score inside and outside with equal impunity. Lafayette also commits a lot of fouls, giving opponents even more high-percentage chances. Offensively, Lafayette are about average in the conference, a three-heavy offense that doesn’t shoot a great long distance percentage, but is effective inside and at the line.

 

Players to watch:

6-2 SR Jeff Kari, 10.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.7 APG, 48.2 eFG% - Kari is 2nd on the team in scoring, but he’s not a particularly effective guard, having an even assist/turnover ratio and a below average shot inside and outside.

 

5-11 SR Andrew Brown, 13.6 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 3.1 APG, 43.6 eFG% - Lafayette’s leading scorer and assist man, Brown is another player who’s struggled to make shots, below 30% from three and under 35% overall.

 

My statistical all-Patriot League team:

American SR G Garrison Carr, 17.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 50.7 eFG%

Navy SR G Kaleo Kina, 17.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, 44.4 eFG

Navy JR G Chris Harris, 15.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 48.3 eFG%

Army JR G Cleveland Richard, 11.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 53.9 eFG%

American SR F Brian Gilmore, 11.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 60.7 eFG%