Recon: Richmond

Recon: Richmond

11279646-chinese-gamblers-in-vegasI’ve been in Las Vegas the past few days, which is pretty much the best place to be if you don’t want your thoughts consumed by anything. Instead of pondering what is amiss with the Flyers, I’m focused on getting handjobs from women who came to this country in shipping containers. 

Two quick non-basketball related observations:

  1. High-Limit slots — who is the targeted market here? Most of the people I see playing slots appear to be keeping Chef Boyardee alive, how are they affording slot machines that are $100 a pull? Asians are the sector of society that Vegas routinely targets as far as their “high-limit” rooms are concerned, have you ever seen an Asian person at the slots? No, they are sitting next to you at the blackjack table blowing smoke in your face while they down Heineken after Heineken.
  2. Speaking of Asians, I had the opportunity to sit down with a table full of Chinese men last night. They were all having a raucous time (they even had the requisite escorts standing behind them for moral support) when another man from the Orient sat down next to me. He lit up three cigarettes at once and immediately began playing $100 a hand. At one point he tried to split an ace and a four, I swear to God. Although it was met with laughter by everyone at the table, there was also an eerie sense of deep shame. The guy next to me, who was smoking what appeared to be actual tobacco leaves, literally apologized to me on behalf of the dude sitting next to me (“he probably from mainland”). The table was gloomy and the boisterous crowd was at once quiet. At first I thought it was very odd, but then I realized — blackjack is the Chinese national pastime, my fellow players had every right to be embarrassed for their fellow countryman. 

I did visit a sportsbook and can report that the Flyers are currently listed at 100-1 to win the national title. This is down from the 75-1 Dayton was listed at back in September. Apparently UD reached 40-1 a few weeks ago, but those days, as you know, are long gone.

I was hoping to place a sizable wager on Dayton tonight, but I just can’t pull the trigger. There’s nothing I love more than throwing money away on the outcome of sporting events, but I feel that UD is in a tailspin and we can only watch from a distance. 

I won’t even bet on this team for the fuck of it.

Overview

Richmond was picked to finish sixth in the Atlantic Ten and has, for the most part, lived up to their billing as a conference also-ran. Five years ago Chris Mooney was on every athletic director’s short-list. The Spiders were in the midst of an extended run in the NCAA Tournament and Mooney’s charming backstory was reported by damn near every sports outlet you can think of (did you know he went to Princeton??). Although the Richmond program hasn’t fallen into a pit of obscurity, UR hasn’t returned to the Dance since their Sweet 16 appearance in 2011, it’s evident that Mooney’s name isn’t as hot as it once was.  

That is not a slight directed at Mooney, not by any means. He remains one of the best coaches in the A10 and still has the potential for a shot at a P5 school sometime in the near future. We wish him well. Archie, I know you are reading this – look at what will likely be on your roster in 2017-18 and make a call to Chris Mooney. Ask him about striking while the iron is still hot. It’s either this spring or next spring. Don’t chance it, bruh.  

promo237582911The current iteration of the Richmond Spider men’s basketball team is a free-wheeling, high-flying, defense-denying group of SOBs. Mooney’s crew is one of the most efficient offensive teams in Donald Trump’s America. They rarely turn the ball over, just 15% of their possessions end up in enemy hands, and they have a real sense of who they are as a unit. The Spiders are offensively proficient due to the fact that they focus on what they do best – push the ball and quickly get it in the hands of their best scorers. It’s simple, not sexy, and it works. That’s MooneyBall 101. 

However, this team takes a clear departure from previous Spider teams on the defensive side of the ball. This is one of Mooney’s weakest rebounding squads, particularly on the defensive glass. Richmond is giving up an offensive rebound on nearly 32% of its opponent’s possessions, that’s the 255th worst percentage in the nation (UD, by contrast, is 8th in the country with a 24.2% rate). One thing has remained constant — UR guards the perimeter with the intensity of a night stalker. 

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[show-team category=’richmond’ layout=’grid’ style=’img-square,img-shadow,text-center,img-above,4-columns,white-box-theme’ display=’photo,position,location,name’]

Richmond is one of the few teams in the Atlantic Ten with a formidable frontcourt. TJ Cline and Terry Allen are the Spiders’ leading scorers and rebounders, two big bodies with the ability to score anywhere on the floor. Allen and Cline are skilled with the ball in their hands, with the ability to handle and find the open man (Cline is arguably the best passing big man in the league). Cline is a more athletic Dan Geroit, which, if you know anything about this website, is high praise indeed. Needless to say, the Flyers are going to have their hands full with the Richmond forwards as much of the Spider offense flows through them.

ShawnDre’ Jones, the conference’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, gets the nod as Mooney’s starting point-guard. He is a tiny, quick player – reminiscent of former diminutive Spider guards Kevin Anderson, Cedrick Lindsay and Kendall Anthony. Jones has improved every season in Richmond, becoming a better perimeter shooter and distributor since he arrived in the River City three years ago. His shot selection, questionable during his underclassmen seasons, has improved tremendously.

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The other starting spots are occupied by senior wing Trey Davis and 6’7” small forward Deion Taylor. Davis is one of the better defenders in the Atlantic Ten, an athletic player that is not much of an offensive threat. Taylor, who had an absolutely abysmal junior campaign, is experiencing a disappointing senior season.  Although not much was expected from Taylor, he remains the weak link of what is a fairly solid starting lineup for Mooney.

6’8” forward Marshall Wood, a Virginia Tech transfer and freshmen Khawn Fore and Julius Johnson are the Spiders’ key reserves. Wood has size but prefers to hang out around the three-point line where he takes the overwhelming majority of his shots. Fore sat out last season with a foot injury and is enjoying a surprisingly productive season. To say Johnson is having a quiet year would be an understatement, he won’t be much of a factor tomorrow night. 

Nate’s Numbers

luck-tro-printsTypically this is the space where I discuss Dayton’s upcoming opponent. I could go on about how efficient Richmond’s offense is and that they play no defense, but I think everyone is much more concerned about what they hell has happened to the Flyers since the George Mason game.

While the win at Rhode Island was a very nice victory for the Flyers I think it’s fair to say that Dayton’s struggles may have begun as early as the Duquesne game. The question is, “What’s been causing this and is it just random?” Usually I’m a big proponent of the idea that random variance happens more than the we think, people don’t acknowledge it enough, and instead try to find some narrative to explain randomness. However, these past few games have me questioning how much of this really is random.

So what’s been driving Dayton’s struggles? Is it the competition, offense, defense or just shitty random luck? While the competition has stepped up a bit when we consider St. Joe’s and Rhode Island, it certainly doesn’t explain the difficulties against Duquesne and St. Louis. On offense, these are five of Dayton’s worst 10 games of the year. If we look at the Four Factors to determine what might be driving it, the turnover percentage, offensive rebound percentage and, kind of surprisingly, free throw rate vary greatly. What doesn’t change is the Flyer’s effective field-goal percentage. Dayton only shot their season average two-point percentage once since blowing out Mason and were below 45% twice. The Flyers also only shot above 30% from three once. It’s pretty simple, the Flyers can’t shoot from anywhere.  And here’s the thing, none of the five teams UD has struggled against are all that adept at 2pt% defense and only St. Joe’s can defend the arc. UD’s players just can’t make buckets.

The defense has certainly contributed to UD’s failure during the last month, but to a lesser degree. Three of Dayton’s five worst defensive performances have come in this stretch, with all three resulting in losses (Joe’s, Bonnies and Rhode Island). The defense was stellar against St. Louis, Duquesne and in the Rhode Island win. We can chalk some of the defensive shortcomings up to randomness. St. Bonnie and Rhode Island both shot 50%+ from three in their wins. Three-point shooting percentage is typically controlled by the offense, while one of the biggest things defenses can control is three point attempt percentage. The pack line defense that Archie employs is susceptible to allowing three point attempts. His teams have typically allowed about 30-33% of their opponents’ attempts to be threes over the years. This year that is up to 37%. So while some of this shooting can be chalked up to randomness, you also can’t let Jaylen Adams and Four McGlynn fire off 9 or 7 threes in a game. You’re gonna get burnt.    

In summary, Dayton’s defense has struggled and part of that has been randomness. The problem is their offense, and particularly their perimeter shooting, has been terrible the last month. Early in the year if the defense faltered Dayton was able to compensate with their offense. In the wins against Iowa, Davidson and St. Bonaventure, Dayton’s defense was much worse than usual however Dayton’s offense was able to put up some of the best performances those teams allowed all year.  Archie needs to find a way to get more efficient/better shots and not forget to defend the three point arc or we may have many a clenched bumhole in two weeks.

(You can read more about who controls shooting percentage and attempts here: http://kenpom.com/blog/index.php/weblog/entry/offense_vs._defense_three_point_percentage and here: http://kenpom.com/blog/index.php/weblog/entry/offense_vs._defense_three_point_attempts)

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Prediction

Nothing that has occurred over the past two weeks allows me to trust Dayton on the road again. Richmond is a bad matchup for the Flyers, they deny the three, have size and are well-coached. UD keeps it close but the Spiders eventually pull away, 79-72. You know I’m right. 

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Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o’ D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.

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