Anyone watching five minutes of Providence College basketball last season could see that a lack of defense was the glaring problem that lead to a second consecutive awful season in the BIG EAST. Opposing teams (and often random role players) often scored with ease at incredibly efficient rates. It goes without saying that this needs to change in a Bartolo Colon size big way. What other stats should we be looking at in order to gauge improvement of Ed Cooley’s Friars this year? I’ll tell you what we won’t be looking at — anything that Keno Davis tweeted during preseason or early on in the season when PC was winning a few easy non-conference games. I’m paraphrasing here, but they went something like this:
“Oh hey, we’ve scored the most POINTS in the conference! How many did we give up? Hey look over there, it’s a dog with a puffy tail!”
“Since we run up and down the court and miss a boatload of shots, we have the opportunity to get SO MANY OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS! 5th in the country at offensive rebounds per game! They totally should count those as POINTS!”
“5 BILLION HITS ON MY WEBSITE!!!11one”
“I WILL FOLLOW YOU BACK, PLEASE, PLEASE FOLLOW ME.”
So what stats are essential to improve other than the almighty W?
EFFICIENCY MARGIN IN CONFERENCE PLAY
Every week during league play, John Gasaway at Basketball Prospectus breaks down efficiency margins (points per possession minus opponents’ points per possession) for all the teams in the top 14 conferences. As you could imagine given the nightly defensive efforts in BIG EAST play, the Friars were near the bottom of the final rankings.
W-L Pace PPP Opp. PPP EM 1. Pitt 15-3 61.9 1.11 0.96 +0.15 2. Syracuse 12-6 65.0 1.08 0.99 +0.09 3. Notre Dame 14-4 62.7 1.13 1.06 +0.07 4. Louisville 12-6 65.5 1.04 0.98 +0.06 5. West Virginia 11-7 62.0 1.06 1.01 +0.05 6. Cincinnati 11-7 62.3 1.03 0.98 +0.05 7. Marquette 9-9 66.0 1.10 1.06 +0.04 8. St. John's 12-6 65.9 1.02 1.00 +0.02 9. Villanova 9-9 64.6 1.08 1.06 +0.02 10. Connecticut 9-9 64.3 1.03 1.02 +0.01 11. Georgetown 10-8 62.6 1.04 1.04 0.00 12. Seton Hall 7-11 67.5 0.97 0.99 -0.02 13. Rutgers 5-13 63.6 1.01 1.08 -0.07 14. Providence 4-14 71.4 1.01 1.11 -0.10 15. S. Florida 3-15 63.1 0.98 1.09 -0.11 16. DePaul 1-17 66.5 0.96 1.18 -0.22
Most people point to Providence’s absurd point totals allowed (and they are absurd, as 75.3 points allowed per game was ranked 315 out of 345 teams), but the amount of possessions had something to do with that. Don’t get me wrong, the defense was still downright awful. In 13 of the 18 BIG EAST games, the Friars let their opponents score more than 1.10 points per possession. Friar fans would probably be happy seeing just the slightest improvement in that category. Even though the Friars offense might have trouble improving on their 1.01 PPP with the loss of Marshon Brooks, their efficiency margin can be drastically improved with Ed Cooley’s emphasis on defense.
For teams, percentage of field goals on which an assist was recorded (AST/FGM). For players, percentage of team possessions on which the player hands out an assist.
2010-11: 46.5% (316th in the nation)
While the number of assists per game is masked by the high number of possessions the Friars played to the last several seasons, the very low assist percentage shows what kind of offense (or lack thereof) was usually run. Part of this stat could be attributed to the Marshon Brooks effect — at times he was so unstoppable there was no need to involve any other teammate in the process of scoring 40-50 points. However, two seasons ago produced a similar stat of 48.5% (#294 nationally).
We know Vincent Council is a very good passer at the point, as evidenced by getting an assist in almost 30% of his possessions (good for 9th in the conference). Outside of that? Other than VC and Brooks, no player had more than 1.3 assists per game. In six games (5 in conference play), the Friars failed to get double digits in assists. Also, just because a player is not at the point guard position, it doesn’t mean they have to be allergic to passing the ball in order to create a good shot for your teammate. Bilal Dixon had NINE assists the entire year, leading to a 2.6% assist percentage. Vincent Council had 11 assists in the second half against Brown alone! Bryce Cotton and Gerard Coleman were at the guard position, but they had a 5.4% and 8.8% respectively.
Let’s see some passing! Make Norman Dale proud.
GERARD COLEMAN’S OFFENSIVE RATING
While it was unreasonable to expect Coleman to consistently contribute as a freshman getting thrown into significant minutes right away, the pressure is going to be on once again this season. How the highly touted slasher develops in his second season is going to have a huge affect on the Friars offense, which hopes to get more efficient with more structured offenses. Even though Coleman excels in the open court, he is going to need to find ways to get to the rim and score, while limiting his long range which hasn’t quite developed yet.
In almost 30 minutes per game last year, Coleman put up a 91.8 offense rating (points produced per 100 possessions). Top put that into perspective, the 100th ranked player amongst those in the BIG EAST in efficiency last season was Rutgers sophomore Dane Miller with 93.12.
As you can see, Coleman’s rating dipped as the season went along in conference play.
Over the first half of the season in conference play, Coleman put up some strong efficiency numbers. He reached over 100 in 6 of the 9 games, including a three game stretch of ratings of at least 125 (during the two upset wins over Louisville and Villanova). However, the last 8 games (remember he had to sit out of the UCONN game for team rules reasons) he put up these ratings:
South Florida – 39
Georgetown – 53
DePaul – 80
Cincinnati – 46
ND – 125
Marquette – 49
Louisville – 69
Rutgers – 110
Again, given he was a freshman it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he was inconsistent or tailed off later in the season. However, if the Friars are going to improve Gerard Coleman needs to be more efficient, especially if there are changes to the speed of the offense under Ed Cooley.
VINCENT COUNCIL’S MINUTE PERCENTAGE
As a sophomore, Vincent Council played in 90.2% of all possible team minutes. That number ranked him 3rd in the conference (Marshon and Kemba were the only ones higher), and 30th nationally. The fast pace of KENO BALL coupled with VC’s style of play could have possibly taken a toll on him throughout the season. His shooting percentage for the season was a poor 35.6%, including a woeful 33.8% after February 1st (which included two big fat glazed donuts versus Georgetown and UConn). Council was required to play the majority of the minutes at the point guard position because the Friars did not have much help backing him up. Dre Evans was only other option, and he was the only PC player to get tagged with the “nearly invisible” tag on Ken Pomeroy’s advanced stat analysis. Maybe Keno tried tweeting him instead of talking to him, and just couldn’t understand a word he said and just left him on the bench?
This season, freshman Kiwi Gardner will look to spell Council at the point for hopefully more than 6 minutes per game. We’ve seen him with the dazzling moves on Youtube, but I’ve been hearing Kiwi is going to need to adjust. He will definitely display some sick moves out on the court, but to consistently contribute for long stretches, he may need some time. Friar fans will probably be willing to endure some growing pains with the freshman in order to not wear down Council for a 2nd straight year.
(Note: I wrote this paragraph before learning of Kiwi’s eligibility problems. If he is indeed out this year, Vincent Council better hit up the CVS and stock up on 5-Hour Energies because he will have to play 40 minutes per game.)
OPPONENTS OFFENSIVE REBOUND PERCENTAGE
With lots of questions on where the points are going to come from, the Friars can ramp up their defensive game by limiting opponents’ seconds chances. Overall last season, PC let up a 35.1% opponent offensive rebounding percentage (ranked #281 in the country). In half of the BIG EAST games, Providence let their opponents grab at least 40% of their own misses. When you have a hard time stopping even the first scoring attempt, sh*t begins hits the fan when you routinely give them more chances in the same possession.
The big question is if freshman LaDontae Henton and Brice Kofane can offset the loss of Marshon Brooks on the defensive glass. Not only did Marshon carry the scoring load, but he also led the team in rebounding. Despite having the nickname “Buckets”, Henton has a nose for the ball off the rim. While his scoring will obviously be nowhere near that of Brooks last year, Henton can hopefully make a decent impact on the glass right from the start.