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By the Numbers: Non-league edition

5 January, 2007

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A late collective slide turned what was looking like a dream season for the Patriot League early on into merely a very solid one. But with many questions left unanswered on the eve of league play, let’s take the time go beyond the records, the RPI rankings, and the perceptions to take a closer look at how Patriot teams have performed in the non-league portion of the schedule. What you’ll find below are normalized statistics, designed to take out skewing factors such as pace of play and data contamination by other factors.

Here are the numbers — taken from games against Division I opponents — along with team-by-team breakdowns of what the data means:

Strength of schedule
1. Bucknell .6450
2. Lafayette .5508
3. Holy Cross .5485
4. Lehigh .5195
5. .4031
6. Army .3909
7. American .3664
8. Colgate .3422
Possessions per 40 minutes
1. Lafayette 68.8
2. American 66.6
Lehigh 66.6
4. Army 65.1
5. 64.1
6. Colgate 63.8
7. Holy Cross 63.4
8. Bucknell 61.4
   
       
Offense      
Points per 40 minutes
1. American 67.0
2. Lehigh 65.1
3. Lafayette 64.5
4. 63.3
5. Army 61.3
6. Holy Cross 61.1
7. Bucknell 61.0
8. Colgate 56.9
Points per possession
1. American 1.01
2. Bucknell 0.99
3. 0.99
4. Lehigh 0.98
5. Holy Cross 0.96
6. Army 0.94
7. Lafayette 0.94
8. Colgate 0.89
Effective FG percentage
1. .530
2. Lafayette .518
3. Bucknell .513
4. Army .511
5. Lehigh .502
6. American .486
7. Holy Cross .478
8. Colgate .443
Two-point percentage
1. .512
2. Lehigh .503
3. Bucknell .501
4. Lafayette .497
5. American .473
6. Army .469
7. Colgate .452
8. Holy Cross .452
       
Three-point percentage
1. Army .401
2. .365
3. Lafayette .360
4. Bucknell .356
5. Holy Cross .355
6. American .343
7. Lehigh .333
8. Colgate .281
Three-point frequency
1. .495
2. Lafayette .475
3. Bucknell .356
4. Holy Cross .328
5. Army .314
6. American .305
7. Lehigh .291
8. Colgate .278
Possessions per FT attempt
1. Colgate 3.25
2. Holy Cross 3.29
3. Bucknell 3.38
4. American 3.38
5. Lehigh 3.53
6. Army 3.63
7. Lafayette 3.84
8. 4.08
Free throw percentage
1. .764
2. American .742
3. Army .738
4. Bucknell .730
5. Lafayette .721
6. Lehigh .712
7. Holy Cross .708
8. Colgate .698
       
Assist percentage
1. Lafayette .643
2. .638
3. Army .635
4. Bucknell .603
5. American .586
6. Holy Cross .579
7. Lehigh .517
8. Colgate .490
Turnover percentage
1. American .207
2. Bucknell .239
3. .239
4. Holy Cross .251
5. Lehigh .253
6. Lafayette .259
7. Colgate .262
8. Army .282
Offensive rebounding
1. Holy Cross .364
2. Lehigh .349
3. Colgate .346
4. American .320
5. Army .308
Bucknell .308
7. .245
8. Lafayette .238
 
       
Defense      
Points per 40 minutes
1. Holy Cross 60.2
2. Bucknell 61.0
3. Army 61.3
4. 63.0
5. Colgate 64.5
6. American 66.1
7. Lehigh 70.7
8. Lafayette 76.4
Points per possession
1. Army 0.94
2. Holy Cross 0.95
3. 0.98
4. American 0.99
5. Colgate 1.01
6. Bucknell 1.01
7. Lehigh 1.08
8. Lafayette 1.11
Effective FG percentage
1. Army .478
2. .483
3. Holy Cross .485
4. American .492
5. Colgate .492
6. Bucknell .511
7. Lehigh .529
8. Lafayette .571
Two-point percentage
1. American .446
2. Holy Cross .453
3. Colgate .462
4. Army .463
5. .479
6. Lehigh .481
7. Bucknell .507
8. Lafayette .575
       
Three-point percentage
1. .326
2. Army .329
3. Bucknell .346
4. Holy Cross .372
5. Colgate .372
6. Lafayette .376
7. American .389
8. Lehigh .402
Three-point frequency
1. Holy Cross .310
2. Colgate .312
3. American .334
4. .356
5. Lafayette .392
6. Bucknell .394
7. Lehigh .394
8. Army .455
Possessions per FT attempt
1. American 3.58
2. Colgate 3.55
3. Lafayette 3.36
4. Army 3.27
5. Bucknell 3.17
6. Holy Cross 2.98
7. Lehigh 2.75
8. 2.55
Assist percentage
1. Bucknell .502
Colgate .502
3. .546
4. American .567
5. Lafayette .588
6. Lehigh .598
7. Holy Cross .614
8. Army .627
       
Turnover percentage
1. Holy Cross .263
2. Army .248
3. .247
4. Lafayette .246
5. American .225
6. Bucknell .222
7. Colgate .219
8. Lehigh .209
Steal percentage
1. Holy Cross .142
2. .124
3. Lafayette .111
4. Bucknell .102
5. Army .100
6. Colgate .090
7. Lehigh .088
8. American .087
Defensive rebounding
1. Bucknell .717
2. American .693
3. Army .683
4. Lehigh .669
5. Holy Cross .657
6. Colgate .654
7. .653
8. Lafayette .594
 

American
The Eagles opened some eyes with their 7-2 start, but when the schedule got tougher, the losses started piling up. Even games against ACC opponents couldn’t salvage a very weak strength of schedule for American, so the numbers might be slightly inflated. Playing at a moderate pace, the Eagle offense was decent enough (1.01 points per possession) to lead an offensively challenged league, despite rather poor shooting both inside (47.3 percent) and outside (34.3 percent) the arc. Jeff Jones’s team got to the free throw line fairly frequently, averaging an attempt every 3.38 possessions and shooting very well once it was there (74.2 percent). But the biggest thing American’s offense has going for it has been the way it has valued possesson of the ball, as evidenced by the league’s best turnover rate of just 20.7 percent. The offensive rebounding has been mediocre (32.0 percent of rebounds at the offensive end), but the Eagles have been very strong on the defensive glass, rebounding at 69.3 percent. That’s one reason why the defensive efficiency is acceptable at 0.99 points per possession. Another big factor has been an interior defense that has held opponents to just 44.6 percent on two-pointers. The perimeter defending has been highly suspect, however, as opponents are shooting a very robust 38.9 percent from three-point range. American hasn’t fouled much (3.58 possessions per free throw attempt), but also is mediocre at forcing turnovers (22.5 percent), ranking dead last in the league in steal rate at 8.7 percent.

Army
Army’s surprising 10-5 start has been mostly the result of strong defense — along with a weak slate of opponents, even outside of the two Division III games. Offensively, the Black Knights have struggled, averaging just 0.94 points per possession in their Division I games. Without much of an inside game (46.9 percent on two-pointers), most of the points have come on threes, thanks to the league-best 40.1-percent three-point shooting. Jim Crews actually might want to encourage his team to shoot more from the outside, as a relatively low 31.4 percent of its shots have come from long range. The Black Knights aren’t great at getting to the line (3.63 possessions per free throw), but they do shoot well once they get there (73.8 percent). The offense has been generating a fair number of looks (63.5 assist percentage), but it’s also generated a ton of turnovers, as Army is dead last in the league in that department, with a woeful 28.2 percent of possessions ending in a turnover. The rebounding has been poor offensively (30.8 percent) and acceptable defensively (68.3 percent). It’s fitting that the U.S. Military Academy has featured a fierce defense, because the Black Knights have played better defense than anyone in the league so far, surrendering just 0.94 points per possession. Army has forced opponents to try to beat them from the outside, with a whopping 45.5 percent of opposing shots coming from beyond the arc. Generally, this has paid off, as opponents have shot just 32.9 percent from three. Combined with 46.3-percent shooting on two-pointers, this has led to the top effective field goal percentage allowed in the league at just 47.8 percent. Mix in the 24.8-percent opponent turnover rate, and you get the picture as to why the Black Knights’ defense has been so good.

Bucknell
The Bison have recovered somewhat from a tough 0-4 start to finish 6-7 against the toughest schedule in the league. But at this point it’s obvious that the talk of this team picking right up where the last two squads left off was badly off target. The offense has gone from “good” (1.04 points per possession last year) to “mediocre” (0.99 this year). The two-point shooting percentage is roughly the same at 50.1 percent, but the three-point shooting has slipped from 38.8 percent to 35.6 percent, while three-point frequency has increased to 35.6 percent of shots. Bucknell still gets to the line fairly often (3.38 possessions per free throw attempt) and still shoots well from the stripe (73.0 percent). Despite a slower tempo (league-low 61.4 possessions per 40 minutes), turnovers are up slightly to 23.9 percent, while offensive rebounding remains subpar at 30.8 percent. However, the Bison are outstanding on the defensive glass once again, holding opponents to just 28.3-percent rebounding on their own misses. The biggest reason for Bucknell’s return to the Patriot League pack this year is the defense, which ranked near the top of Division I last year (0.89 points allowed per possession), but has slipped all the way to 1.01 this season. While Pat Flannery’s squad still defends the three-point arc well (34.6 percent opponent three-point shooting), the opposition is shooting a very healthy 50.7 percent from inside the arc. Another key difference is the fouling, which has gone up dramatically (3.17 possessions per free throw attempt allowed) opponent turnovers are down. Last year 25.3 percent of opponent possessions ended in a turnover, but this year that figure has dropped to 22.2 percent. The Bison just isn’t the defensive juggernaut it was last season, and that’s why there may not be a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance in their future.

Colgate
Much was expected of the Raiders this season, and not only are the non-league numbers ugly, but they’ve come against the weakest schedule in the league. The offense has been flat-out terrible at just 0.89 points per possession, with the team that was supposedly full of shooters posting the worst effective field goal percentage in the league at just 44.3 percent. Colgate is knocking down a mere 28.1 percent of three-point attempts, though at least it has had the good sense to cut back on the threes when they aren’t falling, with just 27.8 percent of field goal attempts coming from the outside. Either the poor shooting has robbed the Raiders of assists, or the offense isn’t generating good looks, because only 49.0 percent of shots have been assisted. Turnovers also have been a big issue at 26.2 percent. The only thing that Colgate has done well offensively is to get to the line, which it does at a greater rate than anyone else in the league (3.25 possessions per free throw attempt). The offensive rebounding has been good at 34.6 percent, but the Raiders have allowed opponents to do even better, as they have grabbed just 65.4 percent of boards at the defensive end. For all the scoring problems, the defensive efficiency is all right at 1.01 points per possession. While opponents are knocking down 37.6 percent of their three-point attempts, only 31.2 percent of enemy shots have come from outside the arc. Colgate has played it fairly conservative defensively, largely abstaining from fouling (3.55 possessions per opponent free throw attempt), but also causing turnovers at a low 21.9-percent clip. Unless the offense can get untracked, it’s going to be a long rest of the season in Hamilton.

Holy Cross
Ralph Willard’s teams are known for their rugged defense and grind-it-out games, and so far this season has been no exception. The offense has had its issues at 0.96 points per possession. The three-point shooting has been good enough at 35.5 percent, but the Crusaders have had major problems inside the arc at just 45.2 percent. Holy Cross is making good use of the stripe (3.29 possessions per free throw attempt, 70.8-percent free throw shooting), but turnovers are unacceptably high at 25.1 percent for a team playing a slow pace (63.4 possessions per 40 minutes). There have been plenty of second chances on offense (36.4 percent offensive rebounding), but nearly as many for opponents (65.7-percent defensive rebounding). Aside from that and a penchant for sending opponents to the line (2.98 possessions per free throw allowed), the defense has been great (0.95 points per possession). Opponents have shot well from three (37.2 percent) when they’ve gotten good looks, but the Crusader defense doesn’t give up many of these (league-low 31.0 percent opponent three-point reliance). Nobody has forced more turnovers than Holy Cross’s 26.3 percent, and many (14.2 percent) are steals. After posting a winning record against a relatively tough schedule, Willard has to hope his team can continue to play solid defense while improving its offensive output in league play.

Lafayette
The Leopards’ 4-9 record against Division I opponents doesn’t look like much, but they’ve played the second-toughest slate in the Patriot League so far. Fran O’Hanlon has turned his team loose, averaging the fastest pace in the league at 68.8 possessions per 40 minutes. Unfortunately, while Lafayette has enjoyed some high-scoring games, the offense hasn’t been particularly efficient at just 0.94 points per possession. The three-point line is a key component of the offensive attack, with 47.5 percent of shots coming from outside the arc and 36.0 percent of those shots finding the bottom of the net, which is why Lafayette ranks third in effective field goal shooting at 51.8 percent. O’Hanlon’s offense has created a lot of good looks, with a league-best assist percentage of 64.3. Unfortunately, the tempo appears to be a little too fast, as turnovers are too high at 25.9 percent. There’s not much of an inside game to speak of, as Lafayette doesn’t get to the line much (3.84 possessions per free throw attempt) and is getting pounded on the offensive glass (23.8 percent). The defensive rebounding is even worse, allowing opponents to grab 40.6 percent of their own misses, which is part of the reason why the Leopard defense has been shredded to the tune of 1.11 points per possession. That and the fact opponents are shooting a sizzling 57.5 percent from inside the arc and 37.6 percent from three-point range, leading to an alarming 57.1 percent effective field goal shooting allowed. Despite not fouling too excessively (3.36 points per possession), Lafayette does create its share of turnovers (24.6 percent), but the defense is going to need to perform much better in the halfcourt if the program is to show improvement in year one of the athletic scholarship era.

Lehigh
Lehigh’s home-road dichotomy has been beaten to death and the difference in records probably has more to do with the teams the Mountain Hawks have played, seeing as that the away schedule has been tough. While the 3-11 Division I mark is poor, the strength of schedule has been decently challenging and the numbers suggest Lehigh has been the victim of some bad luck, as anyone who saw the losses to Princeton and Columbia could tell you. Billy Taylor’s offense has been slightly better than last season’s at 0.98 points per possession, mostly because it’s shooting well from inside the arc (50.3 percent). The outside shooting has been spotty (33.3 percent) and rather infrequent (29.1 percent of field goal attempts). Despite the strong interior game, the Mountain Hawks aren’t getting to the line that often (3.53 possessions per attempt). The assist rate is low (51.7 percent) and turnovers are elevated at 25.3 percent. Lehigh has done a decent job on both the offensive (34.9 percent) and defensive (66.9 percent) boards, making it the top overall rebounding team in the league. The biggest difference from last season, however, has been the defense, which has slipped all the way from an excellent 0.94 to a very poor 1.08 points per possession. Opponents are killing the Mountain Hawks from the outside, shooting 40.2 percent from three and taking 39.4 percent of their shots from beyond the arc. Fouling has been a big problem (2.75 possessions per free throw attempt allowed), and there hasn’t been any payoff in the form of turnovers, which are at just 20.9 percent defensively. Unless Taylor can recapture last year’s strong defensive form, Lehigh may have a ticket to the bottom half of the league.

Navy
The Midshipmen are another pleasant surprise for the league, owning an 8-5 mark against Division I opponents. However, like Army, the competition has been rather iffy, so the record — and stats — might be somewhat deceiving. Billy Lange’s crew has the top effective field goal percentage in the league at 53.0 percent, thanks to 51.2-percent two-point shooting, 36.5-percent three-point shooting, and 76.4-percent free throw shooting. Unfortunately, Navy’s reliance on the jumpshot — especially from three, where it takes 49.5 percent of its shots — has led to a league-worst 4.08 possessions per free throw attempt offensively. The Midshipmen are getting buckets out of their offensive sets (63.8 percent assist rate), and turnovers aren’t really a problem at 23.9 percent. However, the lack of an inside game has been a big issue, as illustrated by the very poor 24.5-percent offensive rebounding and below-average 65.3-percent defensive boarding. Despite giving up second chances, the defense has been good enough (0.98 points per possession). Navy is limiting opponents to just 32.6 percent from beyond the arc and 47.9 percent inside the arc. There is too much fouling in place of defense (league-worst 2.55 possessions per free throw attempt), but the aggressive defending has led to some turnovers (24.7 percent). Without an interior presence, the title talk is premature. But on nights when the outside shots are falling, the Midshipmen are going to be capable of beating anyone in the league.

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