Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

January 12, 2011

Hot Freaks! (Mid-Major Edition)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kyle Whelliston @ 6:54 pm

So far, there’s been Illinois’ “preposterous” effective field-goal shooting, and there’s been Wisconsin’s “amazing” turnover rate. If the Big Ten is any sort of leading indicator, this truly is the new age of the tempo-free √úbermensch in college basketball. But there are other, smaller, more humble sideshow gawkables in the total Jim Rose Circus the 2010-11 season has turned out to be. Here, for your entertainment, are two.

Saint Mary’s efficiency – Most of the country last encountered Saint Mary’s in the Sweet 16, where they received one of the most unmerciful drillings in recent Sweet 16 history by the Baylor Bears. On that glum March evening in Houston, Randy Bennett’s squad managed .81 points per possession, lost 72-49, and were left figuring out how to clone the outgoing production of gregarious Omar Samhan, the 6-foot-11, double-doubling, self-described “Beast” with a rebound rate of 21.6 percent. Turns out they didn’t bother! The 2010-11 version effectively tops out at 6-foot-9, and a young rotation of three players of that exact height — sophomores Mitchell Young and Tim Williams, as well as junior Kenton Walker — have combined to grab 58.4 percent of available boards (last season: 52.9 percent) against a schedule that’s included wins over Saint John’s, Texas Tech and Mississippi State. The only black marks have been a one-point loss to BYU and a 69-55 drop at San Diego State.

It’s not all tripling rebounding pleasure like Triplemint gum, it’s about the offense. The Gaels have guards that love to shoot and shoot, like senior Mickey McConnell, who converts 59 percent of his 2’s and 47 percent of his 3’s. All told, Saint Mary’s is tops in the nation in effective FG percentage (59.4), points per weighted shot (1.24), and true shooting percentage (62.3). It’s also Division I’s most efficient offense, averaging a raw 1.20 points per possession over 16 games. (The defense isn’t bad either, holding opponents to .91 points.)

And since WCC play started, they’ve put up 1.33 points per trip in a pair of conference contests down south, at Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine. SMC’s effective field goal percentage in those two games was 65.1 percent! Take that, Fighting Illini! (Or don’t… the Gaels are actually second in conference eFG behind Illinois at 68.4.) But this offense can’t be described in numbers; watch them play whenever you have a chance. Thrill to the spacing, the ball movement, the unselfishness. It’s beautiful basketball.

Missouri State’s floor percentage – The Bears totally missed out on the MVC’s NCAA party in the 2000’s, having to settle for a historic 2006 snub (a 21 RPI and 21 bucks will get you a ticket to see Yakov Smirnoff in nearby Branson) and Blake Ahearn. This past Sunday night, after a 59-56 statement road win at Wichita State, Cuonzo Martin’s team was alone in first and league-undefeated after five Valley games. Who are these guys? Well, mostly seniors… but in a departure from most great Valley teams of the past, none of the four in the starting lineup began their careers at Missouri State.

Still, experience, in whatever available form, is paying off. As of Wednesday, the Bears have had 1033 possessions and scored at least one point on 457 of them. That’s a 44 percent floor, best in the Valley, and Mo-State has maximized those possessions by taking good control of the ball too (16.4 percent turnover rate). Wichita’s profile shows that the Shockers are slightly more careless with turnovers but superior on the glass; keep that in mind during the next two matchups, the regular season finale-slash-return game at Missouri State on February 26, and the inevitable eliminator in St. Louis at Arch Madness.

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