Yuge weekend for A10 hoops as two pivotal games highlight the conference schedule. The appetizer comes on Friday night, a sock hop at the Sweater Centre between the Flyers of Dayton and the Davidson Wildcats. The main course is served, piping hot, on Saturday afternoon, as The Grasp for Not Being Last™ takes place at 1pm in Philly, where the St. Joe’s Hawks will take on Fordham. Both games seemed inevitable, Dayton was destined to clinch the league title a week or two before the end of the conference slate, and Fordham and St. Joey’s were on a unavoidable collision course for sole possession of last place in the league before A10 play even began. The wait is over, it’s crunch time.
The Davidson/Dayton game offers plenty of intrigue. The Wildcats have looked good over the past five games (although the loss to St. Joe’s certainly stung) and seem to be playing about as well as any team in the league outside of your Flyers. Dayton has wrapped up at least a share of the regular season title and will cut down the nets as title holders with a win tonight. With Davidson finally looking like the team many projected before the season started, and UD possibly looking ahead to a big matchup with Rhode Island next week, this game could be very entertaining for all in attendance. Nevertheless, if you bought seats off the secondary market, nothing that occurs over forty minutes tonight will have been worth it. I don’t know what you were thinking.
St. Joseph’s/Fordham will not be what you might deem “traditionally watchable,” but it should entertain the shit out of you nonetheless. Fordham has one of the worst offenses in the country and St Joseph’s is one of the nation’s worst defensive squads. This factoid will not appear during the pregame breakdown on ESPN+. Ryan Daly is back for SJU and might get up 25 shots against the Bronx Rams (Do you guys know that Daly almost messed around and almost put up triple-double against UD? It’s true — 22 points, 7 assists and 12 rebounds). If Daly is knocking down shots there’s almost no chance Fordham wins this game. Regardless, this will be the first time this season both teams walk onto the court with the belief they can win the ballgame. False confidence is a dangerous thing, and oftentimes leads to hilarious results.
Often times in these gigantic games where the stakes are high, a team’s superstar performs can be the difference between being bathed in glory or the stink of victory. In the biggest Atlantic 10 game of the weekend, Saint Joseph’s Ryan Daly will need to carry the burden of expectations if his Hawks are to get the crucial win over on Hawk Hill. In Daly’s path will be the surprisingly stout defense for the Fordham Rams, hell bent on getting off the bottom of Atlantic 10 standings and avoiding the Wooden Spoon.
While Ryan Daly missed Saint Joe’s lone Atlantic 10 win over Davidson this season, the junior guard must feel like he has to do everything for the Hawks in the games he is playing. Daly has a usage rate of 32.1% and has taken 32.7% of Saint Joe’s shots this season, both easily the highest on St. Joe’s. The Plumber (as I’ve decided Daly’s nickname should be) is also ranked 45th in the country with an assist rate of 33.1% and pulls down an impressive 18.4% defensive rebound rate.
Yet despite Daly being so involved in the St. Joe’s offense, no one would accuse him of being an efficient scorer. This season, Daly averages 0.96 points per shot on all field goal attempts. He isn’t anything special finishing at the rim or from three, averaging 1.03 and 0.99 points per shot respectively. Everyone knows Daly will be taking most of the shots for the Hawks and he will certainly get his buckets. Yet, the lack of alternative options for St. Joe’s means that teams can key in on Daly defensively and force someone else to score. So far this season, Ryan Daly scoring a ton of points has not been enough to lead St. Joe’s to victory. Will it be enough on Saturday?
We all take our pot shots at Fordham and typically they are deserved. However, despite furthering the case that they have no place in the Atlantic 10 earlier this month, the Rams have a sneaky good defense. This season, Fordham is ranked 72nd in the country in KenPom Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and 87th in effective field goal % at 47.5%. The Rams are great are forcing turnovers, as evidenced by their turnover rate of 21.3% and steal rate of 10.8%. So, if Fordham has such a great defense, you probably don’t need me to tell you their undoing is their absolutely awful offense.
If you look at the Fordham Offensive Metrics KenPom page, you might think you are in Amsterdam with all the red lights. The Rams are ranked sub-300 nationally in Offensive Efficiency, effective field goal %, offensive rebound rate, free throw ratio, 2-point field goal %, free throw %, and steal rate. They are certainly the worst offensive team in the conference and might be one of the worst offensive teams in the country, a trait their good defense has not been able to cancel out most of this season. This game will come down to Ryan Daly trying to do enough against a tough Fordham defense while Fordham will try not to trip over their own flaccid dicks on offense.
Now that we have covered the numbers behind the most important game of this Atlantic 10 season, we can focus on the Flyers trying to secure the A10 title against the Davidson Wildcats. If not for the recent travails of the VCU Rams, there would likely be a lot of attention on the disappointing season the Wildcats have had. Davidson was expected to compete with VCU and Dayton for the Atlantic 10 crown this season, but after jumping out to a 1-3 start in the conference that quickly became out of reach. Quietly the Wildcats have bounced back a bit and their 9-6 record has them with an outside shot of earning a double-bye in the A10 Tournament (a 6.16% chance to be specific according Bob Arciero’s tournament seeding probabilities).
The lofty expectations for Davidson this season were largely due to the return of 2019 A10 Player of the Year Jon Axel Gudmundsson and All A-10 guard Kellan Grady. Last season the two guards featured in the highest percentage of available minutes for the Wildcats. Both were threats to either take the ball to the basket effectively or hit a shot from deep last season, which made them, and the team, tough to guard. Grady averaged 1.30 points per shot at the rim and 1.02 points per shot from three, while Gudmundsson averaged 1.25 points per shot at the rim and 1.06 points per shot from three. Both players have seen their effectiveness drop at shots of the rim, with Grady and JAG averaging 1.15 and 1.12 points per shot respectively. Grady has actually seen his efficiency improve from deep, averaging 1.11 points per shot from the perimeter, but Gudmundsson has not been as effective from deep, seeing his 3-point % drop from 35% to 33% and his points per shot average drop to 0.98.
While Kellan Grady and Jon Axel Gudmundsson have seen their offensive efficiency drop this season, both players are still more than capable of putting up some numbers. Davidson losing the third offensive threat they had in Luke Frampton before the season really started has put extra weight on their two star guards. Frampton was a knock down shooter, hitting 38% of his threes last season and putting up a true shooting percentage of 56.1%. With Grady and JAG’s ability to get to the hoop, Frampton was often the recipient of help defenses leaving him to help on a drive by his teammates, giving him an open look on the perimeter. When Frampton left the Davidson team after five games this season, that option was no longer available and most of the offensive burden fell on Grady and JAG. That extra responsibility has seemed to weigh heavy on the two Davidson stars all season.
All that said, Davidson still has one of the better offenses in the Atlantic 10 this season. Their 112.42 offensive rating is much better than every other Atlantic 10 team not named Dayton. Even without Frampton, the Wildcats are shooting 36.8% from three—ranking them 28th in the country. They take a lot of those threes, with 44.6% of their field goal attempts coming from behind the arc. Dayton has done well preventing opponents from getting opportunities from deep, with only 32.4% of opponent’s shots coming from the three-point line. They will certainly have their work cut out trying to prevent the Wildcats from being effective from deep.
Stats are like bikini’s, in that if you average 1.11 points per possession in a game that shows your good, but if you allow 1.12 points per possession that shows you lost to a team who hadn’t won in A10 this season.
— Matt Rhein (@mattrhein86) February 19, 2020
While a step back compared to last year, the Davidson offense is still dangerous. However, the Wildcats’ lackluster defensive play has been a big contributor to their disappointing season. While single game stats are far too small of a sample to make broad judgments, giving up 1.12 points per possession against St. Joe’s? That’s not an encouraging sign. In terms of metrics, Davidson’s 96.91 defensive rating certainly puts them below the Atlantic 10 average. There’s no glaring weakness to isolate as far as the Wildcat’s defense is concerned, but a good indicator of their general mediocre defensive abilities is their 17.2% turnover rate and 7.7% block rate. Both these numbers are among the bottom third of all division one teams on and indicate that Davidson isn’t a physical, defensive team like Saint Louis and Duquesne — squads that has given UD trouble this season.
As mentioned, the Wildcats have been playing very well offensively as of late, and there’s always a decent likelihood Davidson could knock down some early threes to quickly gain momentum. Still, I expect a raucous, even dangerous, crowd at the Arena later tonight. UD wants to cut down the nets at home and clearly has an offensive profile that will give the Wildcats more than it can handle. While I expect Davidson to remain opportunistic offensively, it just won’t be enough over forty minutes. Dayton wins, 80-73.
I have been on the record, both written and aural, that this is Fordham’s game to lose. When handicapping a game like SJU/Fordham you ask not what team is better, you ask what team is less worse. From the handful of times I’ve seen each team this year, Fordham appears to be the superior squad by an asshole hair. This will be a close one throughout, a barn burner where there are no survivors. In the end, Ryan Daly will have the ball in his hands to win the contest and, like an Irishman in a dick measuring contest, will come up short. Fordham wins 61-59, ending the season with their heads held high, a thirteenth place finish firmly in their grasp.
As a reminder, it’s a #LOWDBOYZ weekend in the City of Gems. The crescendo is Saturday night when Grant Kelly, a PROWD UD student, goes toe to toe with Dave “I Drive a KIA” Broska. Broska is undefeated, recently beating his father-in-law in the parking lot of a Dollar General. Kelly has the youth, the gumption and the support of a very male and extremely Caucasian fanbase. One man’s life will change on Saturday night. If you aren’t doing a gotdamn thing, consider coming out and drinking some cold ones while amatuer pugilists slug it out. This is as close to a dog fight as most of us will unfortunately ever get.
I won’t quit until all of you own at least two shirts from BreakingT. Get your mom’s credit card, click the box and buy some
American made attire. We got tshirts, hoodies, stuff for the ladies and even youth sizes. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. Participate in the free market, it just feels good.
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.