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League tournament finals preview: Team comparisons

8 March, 2007

by

Predictions are a tough business. Instead of trying to give an exact prediction, we are in the business of previews. Here’s a breakdown of the important edges Holy Cross and Bucknell have on each other:

Point guard
Based on efficiency numbers, the edge would appear to go to Bucknell and Abe Badmus. Badmus’ effective field goal percentage (a number that gives proportional extra weight to three-pointers) is 50.3 percent, compared to 45.0 percent for Torey Thomas. However, the number belies the Crusaders’ reliance on Thomas, who is very often asked to chuck shots late in the shot clock when the offense can’t find a favorable matchup. Of course, that same reason also explains some of Thomas’ points-per-game advantage on Badmus (13.2 points to 7.5). It’s tough to give either player an edge as a scorer: Thomas is asked to do more for Holy Cross, but Badmus is more efficient in performing his role. The difference between the two players comes when you look at the rest of their all-around games. Thomas averaged 4.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game. Badmus put up 3.1 assists, 2.7 boards and 1.5 steals per game. Thomas’ overall abilities overpower Badmus’.
Edge: Holy Cross

Go-to scorer
Donald Brown, the most efficient scorer in the Patriot League, has looked very strong in his two games back from injury, putting up 15 points and 9 rebounds in each game. However, the games were against Army and Navy, who seemed a bit overwhelmed by the Bison. It’s hard to say if Brown is back to full strength. But even at full strength, Brown cannot measure up to Keith Simmons, the Patriot League’s best overall player. Simmons can score almost at will, anywhere from the lane to the three-point arc to the free throw line. While Simmons isn’t the rebounder Brown is, he did average 5.8 boards per game from the small forward position, and he is a superlative defender. In any situation, the edge would have to go to Simmons; when you add in the question of whether Brown is fully caught up after missing a month, it’s not really close.
Edge: Holy Cross, by a lot

Frontcourt
This is a bit of an x-factor. The Bison forwards, Chris McNaughton and Darren Mastropaolo, are seemingly much stronger than Tim Clifford and Alex Vander Baan. The Bucknell group scores more efficiently, rebounds better and defends better. However, Clifford has shown an occasional propensity to put up big scoring numbers. Clifford is averaging 20.5 points per game in the Patriot League Tournament, and dropped 33 on Navy a few weeks ago. He also sometimes fails to break double digits scoring. If Clifford has one of his big games, then the Crusaders are coming from a point of strength. If he struggles to score, the Bison have a huge edge, because McNaughton and Mastropaolo can do more non-scoring things. Split the difference…
Edge: Bucknell, slightly

Shooters
Bucknell has John Griffin and Jason Vegotsky, whose main jobs are to spot up and wait for the ball. They’re not particularly strong shooters (36.7 percent and 37.8 percent from the arc respectively), but their fearlessness makes them dangerous. Holy Cross gets most of its shots from Thomas and Simmons. Kyle Cruze and Pat Doherty share the two-guard spot for the Crusaders, but they’ve both had bad shooting years. Their jobs are more to facilitate offense than create their own shots.
Edge: Bucknell

Bench x-factors
Bucknell’s Justin Castleberry has had an alright season, scoring 5.1 points in 16.3 minutes per game. However, he’s excelled against Holy Cross, scoring a combined 26 points in the two Bison/Crusader games. He has scoring ability, and seems to match up well with Holy Cross. There is no equivalent x-factor for the Crusaders. Colin Cunningham and Doherty have shown strong shooting ability in the past, but neither has done anything of note this season, and both are longshots to be influential in this game.
Edge: Bucknell

Home court advantage
The Crusaders haven’t lost in the Hart Center since Bucknell visited last season. Not only have they dismantled most visitors, but they’ve shown the ability to come back from deficits, beating American at the Hart twice after losing at halftime.
Edge: Holy Cross, but…

Intangibles
Holy Cross’ 65-60 win over the Bison in Worcester helped. But last year, Bucknell came back from a 15-point second-half deficit to down the Crusaders 57-52 in the Hart, and the year before that, the Bison snuck out of Hart with a 61-57 victory over the Crusaders in the 2005 Patriot League finals. These two games have to be in the back of the Bison minds, as well as the Crusader minds.
Edge: Bucknell

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