I’ve been looking forward to writing about the Winthrop matchup strictly due to the fact that Pat Kelsey is the current head coach of the Eagles. If Kelsey isn’t a familiar name to you, it should be. For starters, he is an ex-Xavier player – a backup point-guard on the 1996-98 Musketeer teams. After his playing days, Kelsey was a well-regarded assistant coach; he had a reputation as a gifted recruiter and was a rising star in the college basketball world. He is also at the center of one of the greatest Xavier legends ever told.
After leaving Wake Forest, where he was an assistant to Skip Prosser, and later to Dino Gaudio (member him?) after Prosser’s untimely death, Kelsey returned to Xavier when Chris Mack took the Musketeers’ head coaching job in the spring of 2009. Kelsey was named the program’s “associate head coach,” a role usually reserved for a coach in waiting.
And this, my friends, is where the supposed fun begins.
Some of you may recall Kelsey’s perplexing exit from Xavier in May of 2011. He left ostensibly without warning, using the Urban Meyer trope – he wished to walk away from the daily strain of college coaching in order to spend more time with his family. Kelsey was 36 at the time and never held a job that didn’t include wearing sweatpants and sneakers. What was noteworthy about the decision, and statement, was Kelsey’s insistence that this wasn’t a temporary change of scenery. No, Kelsey claimed that he would never work in basketball again.
Pat Kelsey was hired as the head coach of the Winthrop basketball program ten months later.
So what led to Kelsey’s sudden exit from Xavier? According to the rumor mill, and some people connected down in Norwood, the answer lies with Tu Holloway. Or to be more specific, with Tu Holloway’s dick.
You guys know I hate to gossip (ahem), but the story is Tu Holloway had been sleeping with Kelsey’s wife and the assistant coach found about it. Obviously floored and shook as a motherfucker, Kelsey allegedly informed Chris Mack that he would not be back on the staff if Tu Holloway returned for his senior season in Cincinnati. Holloway announced that he would be back for his last year on May 7, 2011. Kelsey’s resignation was announced nine days later.
Again, this is all rumor and speculation. Don’t tell anyone I told you this.
Kelsey is entering his fifth season as the head man at Winthrop. The Eagles have been on a steady climb since his arrival, winning an average of 19 games over his tenure. Winthrop racked up 23 victories last season, the highest total for the program since 2007. Kelsey has had the team knocking on the NCAA Tournament doorstep the past three years; however the Eagles have continually come up just short – losing three consecutive Big South championship games.
Winthrop looks to keep it going this season, as the Eagles were the unanimous pick to win the Big South. Kelsey’s squad returns three starters, two of which were selected to the Big South’s Preseason All-Conference First Team (the Eagles will also suit up the league’s Preseason Player of the Year). While not a particularly deep team, Winthrop does have plenty of experience.
The Eagles employ a shoot first, ask questions later offense. Winthrop sports an average possession length of just fifteen seconds, 33rd lowest in the country. While the frenetic pace allows Kelsey’s club to get up plenty of shots and score points, it does lead to an abundance of turnovers and a dearth of offensive rebounds. The Eagles turn the ball over on a staggering 20.6% of their possessions and their offensive-rebounding percentage of 24.3% currently ranks them 299th in the nation.
Additionally, it should come as no surprise that Winthrop likes to shoot the three quite a bit. 41% of the Eagles’ shots come from behind the arc, where they are connecting on 37% of them. Although the team doesn’t get to the line as much as your average club, they do convert foul-shots at a respectable level – coming into tomorrow’s contest connecting on 73% of their freebies.
Winthrop is 4-2 on the young season, with wins against Furrum, Manhattan, Illinois (bye bye, John Groce) and Furman. The Eagles dropped a game at Florida State and lost a tight game at home against New Hampshire.
Keon Johnson, a 5’7” dynamo, is the league’s Preseason Player of the Year. Johnson is a scorer, not a shooter, currently dropping 16.2 points per contest. As impressive as it is for a man of diminutive stature to drop buckets like that, Johnson also grabs four rebounds per game and hits 90% of his free-throws. The three-point line is his kryptonite so far this season – only hitting 28% of his attempts coming into tomorrow’s game.
The other big hitter for the Eagles is 6’8” junior forward Xavier Cooks. Cooks, an Aussie (!), leads Winthrop in scoring, 17.8 points per, and rebounding, pulling down 6.5 boards a game. Cooks is an issue offensively, a guy who can score around the bucket, knock down a fifteen-footer and hit consistently from three. He only shoots 57% from the line, however, so hack away Flyers.
The brothers Broman, Anders and Bjorn, start in the Eagle backcourt along with Johnson. From parts unknown (a.k.a. Duluth, Minnesota), the duo are mighty fine shooters from the perimeter. Anders, the older brother, knocked down a three at the buzzer to beat Furman in overtime on Wednesday night. You betcha. 6’5” senior forward Tevin Prescott will likely get the start at the other forward slot. Prescott is essentially a garbage man with superior defensive abilities.
As previously stated, the Eagles do not possess much depth. Their bench essentially goes three deep. Duby Okeke is a big ole boy who scores around the basket (4.5 ppg) and grabs boards with authority (5.3 rpg). He is also a dude who ain’t afraid to slap your shot into a row of red sweaters. Josh Davenport does what Kelsey terms, “winning things.” He is scoring 7.5 points per game and pulling down 4.8 boards a contest. Roderick Perkins rounds out the Winthrop reserves. Perkins was the second leading scorer in Division II before transferring over to Kelsey’s program. He has quickly become the Eagles’ third scoring option (7.8 ppg), particularly from three where he is shooting 47% on the season.
Your boy is back after a little holiday hiatus. The overserving dangers are always out there, lurking with influences strong enough to prevent you from meeting your volunteer mid-major college basketball blog writing commitments. Stay woke, fam.
We’re finally getting far enough into the season where an opponent’s performance data will start to matter and we may be able to draw conclusions from quantitative data. One of these data points that sticks out for Winthrop is their pace of play. In aggregate, they tend to play on the faster side at 72 possessions a game. If you dig a bit deeper though you see they operate on two sides of the extreme. 15secs on average when playing offense, 18secs when on defense. This may not seem like a great disparity (it is only 3secs), but it ranks them 33rd in offensive pace and 306th in defensive pace.
The question is, what drives this? Well, offensive rebounding tends to extend possessions. You get a fresh clock and can run more time. Well, Winthrop sucks at rebounding, period. They’re in the bottom quartile of offensive rebound percentage, whether defending or attempting to score. This is good news for the Flyers.
While I dont think anyone expected Winthrop to pose a huge challenge to Dayton, the Flyers likely need a clean sheet in regards to “bad losses” come early March. The fact Winthrop sucks at rebounding, and is one of the smaller teams in the country, makes me feel a lot better that this won’t be one.
Against Portland I nailed the opener, but there wasn’t much line movement. On the season, I’m off 1 point on openers, 5 on the closing number. I think the Flyers open as a 12 point favorite and close at 12.5.
Winthrop is a solid mid-major program but I don’t think they have the makings of a team that can beat UD in the Sweater Centre. The Eagles lack of rebounding and tendency to turn the ball over plays right into Dayton’s grubby hands. Furthermore, Winthrop’s wide-open style of play will likely turn into a negative against a team like the Flyers. Dayton can push the pace along with the Eagles, there could be easy buckets aplenty for the home team.
Charles Cooke leads the Flyers (get used to me saying that) with 21 points and Scoochie chips in 15. Ryan Mikesell has his best game of the year, scoring 11 points and grabbing six rebounds (I have no basis for thinking this, by the way). Flyers win 79-67. Everyone goes home happy, even you.