The NCAA postseason starts on Tuesday with the Atlantic Sun Conference and Patriot League tournaments tipping off. To date, only the seedings for the Atlantic Sun tournament have been determined. The North Florida Ospreys (21-10) finished atop the Atlantic Sun for a second year in a row with a 10-4 conference record, finishing two games above NJIT (17-13), Jacksonville (16-15), and Florida Gulf Coast (17-13).
|No. 1 North Florida *||10-4||21-10|
|No. 2 NJIT *||8-6||17-13|
|No. 3 Jacksonville *||8-6||16-15|
|No. 4 FGCU *||8-6||17-13|
|No. 5 Kennesaw State||7-7||11-19|
|No. 6 Lipscomb||7-7||11-20|
|No. 7 Stetson||4-10||10-21|
|No. 8 USC Upstate||4-10||10-21|
Jacksonville kicks the postseason off by hosting Lipscomb in Jacksonville, FL at 7:00 PM EST. Five minutes later, Florida Gulf Coast hosts Kennesaw State in Fort Myers, FL. Over the past three seasons, only one #1 seed won the tournament; North Florida in 2015. The previous years, Mercer and Florida Gulf Coast traded #2 over #1 games in the previous two seasons; just before Mercer’s departure for the Southern Conference in July 2014.
A Look At The Teams…
1. North Florida Ospreys (21-10; 10-4)
After a loss to VCU, the Ospreys took charge of the Atlantic Sun and won their first 7 conference games. Afterwards, North Florida tried to fight off the fouling bug. Anchored by guards Dallas Moore (19.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 6.1 APG) and Beau Beech (15.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.0 APG); the Ospreys utilize a guard heavy seven-man rotation that emphasizes tempo with 61 field goal attempts per game against 8.6 offensive rebounds and 11.2 turnovers a game. The result is approximately 75 possessions per game, which translates to approximately 16 seconds per possession.
48% of the Osprey field goal attempts are three-pointers, and they have a knack of hitting over 40% of those attempts (41.6%). However, being a guard heavy rotation, North Florida loses the rebounding battle on average and can get into foul trouble. After their seven game rip through the conference to start the season, North Florida went on to lose four consecutive losses with a home loss to Stetson; followed by three road losses to FGCU, Kennesaw State, and Lipscomb. In their losses to Stetson and FGCU, the Ospreys shot a paltry sub-30% from the arc and got into foul trouble; limiting minutes of key players. In their loss to Kennesaw State, the Ospreys struggled with turnovers, turning the ball over 17 times; as opposed to a more usual 11 turnovers a game.
The Ospreys have the most balanced scoring attack in the Atlantic Sun with five of their seven man rotation averaging more than 12 points a game. The Ospreys also tend to outshoot teams, averaging 1.178 points per field goal attempt against their opponents’ 1.003 points per attempt. This indicates that the Ospreys should be winning games by a margin of about 13.1 points. That’s the shooting efficiency of the Ospreys compared to their opponents. However, the Osprey’s give up a possession per game due to turnover differential and typically get beaten on the offensive glass, 13-8 per game. This ends up with 6 extra partial possessions, allowing teams to gain an extra 5 shots more than the Ospreys per game.
The key for the Ospreys to win is to limit turnovers, put up their usual strong defense, but limit the fouls. With the scoring efficiency of the Ospreys, no team has a chance to beat them by outscoring them.
2. New Jersey Institute of Technology (17-13; 8-6)
NJIT finished second in the conference but and has a conference record that matches their game play. With their six conference losses, NJIT managed to lose to either the best teams in North Florida (twice) and FGCU (once) or to the bottom of the conference with Stetson (twice). The Highlanders are led by Junior guard Damon Lynn (18,1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 3.3 APG) with his astounding 37.5 minutes per game.
Despite Lynn leading the team in scoring, his offensive efficiency is one of the lowest in the Atlantic Sun, scoring a lowly 0.966 points against his field goal attempts (FG points / FG attempted). With almost every team averaging the 1 point or more mark, Lynn is losing points for this team on offense. At a 9.9 three point attempts per game and a 33% mark; Lynn is best serving his team by limiting his three point attempts closer to 6 per game.
Maintaining stability for the team, the combination of Tim Coleman, Ky Howard, and Terrence Smith that manage to help NJIT’s field goal percentage climb back into the mid-40% range. The Highlanders average approximately 65 possessions per game, and manage to average 75.7 points a game; which is a decent clip. However, they also give up an average of 74.3 points per game. The other similar stats? Check them out yourself:
Hint: NJIT is on top. NJIT is a team capable of winning the tournament, but does not have the consistent play to be considered a strong contender at this point. Limiting poor shots and making a couple extra plays each game will be NJIT’s best chances for getting to the NCAA Tournament.
3. Jacksonville (16-15; 8-6)
Jacksonville is the second of a five team log-jam between second and sixth place. Since an overtime win over Stetson on February 6th, the Dolphins have dropped four of their remaining five games; their lone win coming against the bottom of the conference in a 5 point win over SC Upstate.
The reason is straight-forward: star forward Darius Dawkins went down with a knee injury in Jacksonville’s January 14th win over Kennesaw State. Dawkins, a clutch shooter with a 1.316 points per field goal attempt… an great scoring efficiency. With Dawkins, Jacksonville may be the best team in the Atlantic Sun conference; provided Dawkins could stay out of foul trouble.
Despite the injury Jacksonville’s top player and playmaker, guard Kori Babineaux (18.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.9 APG), alongside forward Marcel White (15.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.6 APG) have managed to keep Jacksonville relatively close in several games. Unfortunately, Jacksonville’s other players are required to play at a much higher level than they have consistently played at.
For instance, senior guard Josh Adeyeye put up a monstrous game (13-21/6-10/3-5; 35 pts) in a win over FGCU on January 27th. In their rematch a few days later, J.R. Holder put together a top performance with 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists; followed up with a double-double in their win against Stetson. However as these two started to shine, White and Babineaux would struggle.
In the losing run, Adeyeye and Holder played well with a combined 39 points in their 92-93 loss to Lipscomb (0 points from the bench that game). Marcel White took a game off (0-7 from the field) in 33 minutes of inefficient basketball in a blow-out loss at Kennesaw State. Jacksonville’s days may be behind them this season; that is unless they are able to put together a solid effort from Babineaux, Holder, White, and Adeyeye.
4. Florida Gulf Coast University (17-13; 8-6)
Another 8-6 team that went through a rough patch during an eight day period at the end of January. FGCU started the conference season hot with four straight wins. But a four game losing streak knocked the Eagles back down to the middle of the pack in the Atlantic Sun.
FGCU tends to play a 7-9 man rotation as 9 players have played in 27 or more games while averaging 10 or more minutes per game this season. The result is a long tailed scoring distribution for the team. Junior forward Marc-Eddy Norelia (17.1 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.2 APG) is a double-double machine with 12 on the season after an impressive 29 points – 12 rebounds effort in a 73-80 loss to Stetson earlier tonight.
If there is a team poised to make a run at winning the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament, this team is it. The Eagles average only about 62 possessions a game; one of the lowest in the conference, but they score an average of 76.6 points per game. The Eagles’ offensive efficiency is only at 1.030 points per field goal attempt, despite averaging approximately 1.235 points per possession. This is a testament to the Eagles league leading rebounding totals (40.0 per game).
What is baffling is how FGCU is barely above .500 in the Atlantic Sun conference. Take their team stats for instance. FGCU takes as many shots as their opponents: 60.6 per game. FGCU shoots 6 percent better per game. Broken down to per game totals: FGCU shoots 23.1-45.4 (50.88%) inside the arc, 5.4 – 15.2 (35.53%) beyond the arc, and 14.2-21.8 (65.14%) from the free throw line. Compared to their opponents’ totals of 18.7-38.7 (48.23%), 6.6-21.9 (30.14%), and 13.7-20.1 (68.16%); FGCU should be winning games by an average margin of 6-7 points a game.
However, FGCU tends to be a big win – big loss team. Of their 14 conference games, FGCU have won four of them by 15 or more points while losing one by 15 or more points. The average loss by FGCU is by more than 8 points per game. The average win is by an average of slightly more than 16 points per game.
5. Kennesaw State (11-19; 7-7)
Kennesaw State is an interesting team for they have had difficulties over the previous four years with constant coaching turnover and lowly season results. In the previous three years, a 9-41 Atlantic Sun conference record looms over the seniors that helped build a 7-7 conference record this year. Senior guard Yonel Brown has helped rebuild with his third coach in four years and leads the team with his 18.6 points per game. However, it isn’t just Brown that’s helped the Owls nab a 7-7 conference record.
Junior guard Kendrick Ray (18.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.8 APG) is a standout player with a 1.085 points per FG efficiency rate and 1.5 steals per game. Ray has made a statement this season, showing that he is probably the top player in the Atlantic Sun.
After Brown and Ray, the Owls struggle to find a suitable mid-tier player (10-12PPG, 5-8 RPG, 2-4 APG). Senior forward Nigel Pruitt suffered a mid-season injury and his numbers are down this year. Interior defense is lacking for the Owls as they allow teams to get a 54.05% field goal percentage within the arc. Add that to Kennesaw State’s lowly 44.5% field goal percentage, it’s not hard to fathom how the Owls manage to average 0.993 points per possession while giving up 1.062 points per possession. This translates to losing two possessions per game to their opponent, based on shooting alone.
Include Kennesaw State’s two extra offensive boards given up per game and slightly higher turnovers per game; the Owls make it a hard case to say that they are going to win the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. Given their path as well, they will have to beat an FGCU team that they are 0-2 against (despite being two possession games) and have match-up problems against. If they manage to defeat the Eagles, we will be given a treat provided North Florida gets past SC Upstate.
6. Lipscomb (11-20; 7-7)
Lipscomb is an intriguing team for the mere fact that they are a three point barrage team without the ability to be a consistent three point team. Typically for teams that use a fast-paced three-point attack, either the team is capable to consistently shooting 40% from beyond the arc or they are good on crashing boards and setting up extra attempts. A pedestrian 10.3 offensive boards a game and a non-lead-building 35.9% from the three means that Lipscomb will end up a .500 team against teams that are mediocre at shooting; and terrible against teams that are fundamentally sound. Which significantly explains their 11-20; 7-7 record.
The Bisons are a microcosm of the higher ranking teams, but don’t have the personnel to match the quality. Lipscomb sets up their offense more in the style of North Florida with a slightly more emphasis on the three-ball. Despite this, Lipscomb does not have the high shooting numbers that North Florida has. Lipscomb also has a stud player out with an ACL tear. Junior guard Josh Williams (12.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.5 APG) tore his ACL in mid-December against Princeton; kicking off the first of eight consecutive losses. No doubt the loss as huge for the Bison, however Williams’ impact may not have pushed this team to a 10-4 record in conference play.
Lipscomb plays at a high possession rate (approximately 75 per game) and averages more than a point per possession. On the flip side, the Bison are unable to stop the opposing team from scoring as they give up over 80 points a game; get out-rebounded by 2 boards a game… and turn the ball over more often.
The main way Lipscomb does damage in the conference tournament is sticking to what they do best: shoot the three. If they get hot, they can make a run. Their first game of the tournament is against a free-falling Jacksonville. If they pick up the win, a date against NJIT or Stetson plays to their favor. So don’t count Lipscomb out just yet. Their fate will be decided on a mere couple percentage points from beyond the arc.
7. Stetson (10-21; 4-10)
Stetson plays an eight man rotation that features a solid big man in Brian Pegg (12.6 PPG, 10.0 RPG), a good young sophomore guard that can distribute in Divine Myles (13.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.3 APG) and a consistent shooter in freshman forward Derick Newton (15.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.4 APG). If there was a solid young core to build around, this is it. Pegg, Myles, and Newton are a great 1-3-4 set up for any team in the Atlantic Sun conference.
Stetson has shown some brilliance this year, despite their 4-10 conference record. Of their four wins, one came against regular season champion North Florida in Jacksonville, FL. Another came right at the end of the season against FGCU at home. Stetson is capable of winning big games.
Stetson’s problem is consistency from every other player on the team. A winning team typically will average 1.15 points per field goal or more (shooting around 48% of better) or hold a differential in three or more traditional categories (including points per game). Stetson does not do this. Let’s break down Stetson’s scoring efficiency:
Stetson averages approximately 75 possessions a game; on par for a high speed team. They shoot 35.9% from beyond the arc, typical for lower-caliber NCAA Division I teams, and score 1.030 points per field goal. Opponents shoot slightly better from the interior and score 1.073 points per field goal attempt.
Of the 62.6 shot attempts per game, Pegg, Myles and Newton account for 30.4 (less than 50% of the teams attempts). Combined the three players average 1.092 points per field goal on 50.66% from the field. Those are strong numbers. The rest of the team? 12.7-32.2 (39.44%) from the field for an average of 0.972 points per field goal attempt; one of the worst ratings across the entire NCAA. Since the trio comprises of only 45% of all total minutes played by the team; it’s no wonder why Stetson loses more games than they win.
More importantly, Stetson plays well despite this trend in the bench. In their six game losing streak between the wins in North Florida and FGCU; the Bison lost by a total of 29 points (5.87 points per game); with three of those games by three or less points and two in overtime.
Note: Stetson is ineligible for the NCAA tournament as they have low APR (Academic Progress Rate).
8. USC Upstate (10-21; 4-10)
SC Upstate has an uphill battle if they hope to win the Atlantic Sun tournament. With a 4-10 conference record; all four conference wins have been by 2 or less points. The Spartans play a nine-man rotation and have no stars on the team. Their leading scorer, Deion Holmes, posts the worst scoring efficiency for all starters in the Atlantic Sun with a 0.856 point per field goal attempt. Combined with a 2.5 RPG and atrocious 0.7 ATO (for a guard); the only bright side to Holmes getting 25 minutes a game and 28 starts is that he is only a freshman and has much room to grow.
Some good notes for SC Upstate is that they don’t shoot the ball abysmally. Their numbers are par for a lower-caliber NCAA Division I team. However, they give up an extra three possessions to opponents per game in turnovers and allow opponents to shoot a percentage point better at all ranges. The result is an average loss of about five points.
Rankings and Chances of Winning…
Using our rankings model that we developed here at Squared2020.com, we are able to build up a Markov-Chain Monte-Carlo simulation to identify probabilities for each team to win the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament.
|Overall||Team||Rank Score||Tourney Prob|
|195||FL Gulf Coast||0.42917||0.17722|
Despite North Florida having the best record, they only hold a 21.483% chance of winning the tournament. We see Jacksonville’s slide apparent in having an 11.262% chance of winning despite being a three-seed in the tournament.
Whatever the results are, the Atlantic Sun is a one-bid conference for a spot in the NCAA Tournament later in March. As this is the first conference tournament of the season, be sure to tune in and catch some deep shooting teams duke it out for that one lone spot come Selection Sunday.