Friday, November 26, 2010

Overachiever, Underachiever: Comparing Ivy Teams To Initial Projections

At the beginning of the season, the 14-Game Tournament released its preseason projections for each Ivy team's offensive and defensive efficiency, and with at least four games per team in the books, it's time to take a look back and see how each league team stacks up against their projections.

Initial Projection: 99 Offensive Rating (ORat), 107 Defensive Rating (DRat), 66 Possession Pace (Pace), 14-14 Overall, 6-8 Ivy
Regular Season Figures: 102 ORat, 112 DRat, 68 Pace, 14-14 Overall, 6-8 Ivy

Improvement on the defensive end, paired with the Bears' talented offensive weapons, was supposed to lead Brown to the upper division of the Ivies and potentially make it a contender in the league race.

If anything, however, the defense has regressed, as an equally anemic turnover rate versus last year and an opponent eFG shooting percentage over 50 have left the Bears with the league's worst defense. Brown has managed its 3-1 start by playing the weakest offensive opponents of an Ivy team, something which probably will hold up for the remainder of the non-conference slate.

Adrian Williams has had a tremendous bounceback start and rookie Sean McGonagill has been amazingly efficient. The usual suspects (Tucker Halpern, Andrew McCarthy and Peter Sullivan) are all performing on the offensive end at a very high level as well. The Bears are pulling the ball out of the basket too much defensively to be taken seriously as a contender at this point.

Trending: Sideways

Initial Projection: 92 ORat, 103 DRat, 65 Pace, 12-16 Overall, 5-9 Ivy
Regular Season Figures: 104 ORat, 110 DRat, 73 Pace, 13-15 Overall, 6-8 Ivy

After losing a trio of decent veteran guards to graduation, the Lions looked to take a step back on offense, as they attempted to try out options alongside star guard Noruwa Agho.

Agho has carried the load, using 30 percent of possessions while on the floor, but the freshmen and sophomores surrounding him have served as the perfect role players thus far. Rookies Dyami Starks and Steve Frankoski have shot the lights out, while Brian Barbour has proven adept at getting to the line early and often. Even the frontcourt players have been average to slightly below average offensive players thus far - a vast improvement over last year's disastrous numbers posted by the bigs.

Much like Brown, however, Columbia is a good offensive team that has been handicapped thus far by its horrible defense - more specifically, its inability to force misses and turnovers. The Lions are a well above average defensive rebounding team, meaning that more off target offerings from opponents should rapidly improve Columbia's defensive rating, but its eFG percent allowed was hardly better last year, so it's hard to just assume that its opponents will start missing shots in droves.

While the performances at La Salle and St. John's were impressive, the Lions haven't generated enough stops thus far to make them appear truly competitive.

Trending: Up

Initial Projection: 100 ORat, 100 DRat, 66 Pace, 15-13 Overall, 8-6 Ivy
Regular Season Figures: 93 ORat, 96 DRat, 69 Pace, 14-14 Overall, 8-6 Ivy

Five games in and it's still hard to figure out this Big Red squad. Aside from a couple good games from center Aaron Osgood, the interior has been a disaster for Cornell, which has been getting beaten up on the boards. Add that to the rate at which the Big Red is sending opponents to the line, and this team should be among the league's worst on defense.

Guards Chris Wroblewski and Andrew Ferry have helped Cornell generate turnovers on over 22 percent of opponents' possessions and those same opponents have shot horribly from the field, putting the Big Red in the top half of league defenses.

Cornell still has a long way to go offensively, especially when it comes to interior shooting. The Big Red is connecting on fewer than 40 percent of its shots from inside the arc, and due to the lack of credible attacks of the rim, the team has struggled to get to the line as well. The result is a team wholly dependent on its ability to make three pointers, and that has made Cornell incredibly inconsistent on offense.

Trending: Sideways

Initial Projection: 89 ORat, 107 DRat, 64 Pace, 5-23 Overall, 2-12 Ivy
Regular Season Figures: 87 ORat, 105 DRat, 66 Pace, 5-23 Overall, 2-12 Ivy

Coming into the season, it was clear that the Big Green lacked legitimate Division I offensive talent. Guards Mbiyimoh Ghogomu (115 ORat) and Jabari Trotter (114 ORat) have played well - though the former has seen the floor sparingly - but none of the rest of the team has even cracked 90 in offensive rating.

The result is pretty much what we expected: The league's worst offensive team by a pretty significant distance.

Surprisingly, the Big Green has been decent defensively, consider that it has only rebounded 59 percent of the opportunities on the defensive glass. The four-guard lineup has managed to force turnovers and keep opponents from feasting at the line, allowing Dartmouth to hang around with teams ranked outside the top 200.

Trending: Sideways

Initial Projection: 105 ORat, 97 DRat, 68 Pace, 20-8 Overall, 11-3 Ivy
Regular Season Figures: 96 ORat, 94 DRat, 68 Pace, 20-8 Overall, 11-3 Ivy

The Crimson has played about 40 minutes of its "best" basketball over the first four games, but the defensive intensity has been good enough to sneak to a 3-1 mark.

Turnovers have killed Harvard, as the Crimson has given the ball away slightly more than once every four possessions. The remainder of the offensive metrics have been incredibly solid, and with freshman Laurent Rivard starting to turn around a nightmarish start and sophomore Ivy POY candidate Kyle Casey finally ready to step back into the starting role, the offensive efficiency ratings should improve rather soon.

Stingy defense has allowed Harvard to tread water while its sorts out its offensive issues. The Crimson didn't allow Bryant to get to the free throw line during its last game and has forced turnovers on 23 percent of opponents' possessions this year. If Casey's return can put Harvard's offense back on track, there's a good enough defense here to make this team nationally competitive.

Trending: Sideways

Initial Projection: 100 ORat, 102 DRat, 66 Pace, 15-13 Overall, 8-6 Ivy
Regular Season Figures: 98 ORat, 107 DRat, 64 Pace, 13-15 Overall, 7-7 Ivy

It's not quite that easy to perform a complete turnaround.

The season-opening win over Davidson opened people's eyes to the possibility that Penn be a legitimate contender in the Ivy race. Since then, the same problems have crept back in.

The Quakers are letting opponents make shots at well over a 50 percent eFG rate, and what opponents fail to make, they're rebounding at an above-average 34 percent rate. The defense that had been expected to show a drastic improvement with more bodies to throw at the problem has only done so marginally, and not nearly enough to make Penn a top 200 team.

The injury bug hasn't completely left the Quakers either. Mike Howlett and Dan Monckton have missed the entire season so far with only the former expected back before the Ivy season gets underway. Tyler Bernardini and Andreas Schreiber have returned from injury to give Penn a boost, but it's not nearly of the magnitude that the Quakers had needed coming into the season.

Trending: Down

Initial Projection: 99 ORat, 92 DRat, 60 Pace, 22-8 Overall, 11-3 Ivy
Regular Season Figures: 103 ORat, 104 DRat, 66 Pace, 19-11 Overall, 10-4 Ivy

The defense that led the league by a mile last year has hardly even looked average this season.

While the Tigers have dominated the glass on both ends of the floor, opponents have shot incredibly well and turned the ball over relatively rarely, dropping Princeton to the fourth rated Ivy League defense. While it has shown significant offensive improvement this season, led by super sophomore Ian Hummer, a breakout performance by Mack Darrow and continued solid efforts from Douglas Davis and Dan Mavraides, the Tigers won't win games, or the league, by outscoring anyone.

Kareem Maddox has been a trainwreck on the offensive end, leading to his benching during the recent three-day, three-game tournament in which Princeton participated. If Maddox can't provide a decent enough offensive effort to stay on the floor, his abilities as a stopper on defense don't really matter all that much. The Tigers have a lot of time to figure all of this out, but there are definitely a few things that require serious attention.

Trending: Down

Initial Projection: 94 ORat, 105 DRat, 65 Pace, 11-17 Overall, 5-9 Ivy
Regular Season Figures: 95 ORat, 95 DRat, 69 Pace, 13-15 Overall, 6-8 Ivy

The Bulldogs bet the house and almost pulled it off. Coming off a year in which it finished in the middle of the pack and lost its best player (then lost its second best player off last year's team just before the start of this season), Yale put four BCS schools on the schedule.

Then, the Bulldogs went out and almost knocked off one (losing by three at Providence), toppled another (Boston College) and played 20 decent minutes at nationally ranked Illinois.

Yale has a lot of work to do offensively. Other than getting to the line, it's struggling with everything and only has three guys (two guards, Austin Morgan and Porter Braswell and a center, Greg Mangano) who look comfortable making things happen on the offensive end.

Defensively, the Bulldogs have managed to stay pretty average against the 21st toughest offensive slate in the nation. Taking the schedule into consideration, Yale has been the second-best Ivy League defensive team, which is where the Bulldogs would need to stay to be competitive in the league race. The mere fact that Yale and competitive are in the same sentence is quite the surprise this season.

Trending: Up

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