Friday, November 20, 2015

Thoughts on Opening Night and Season Expectations


The Calvin men's basketball team tips off tonight, I thought I'd lay down some thoughts to get my head around the season.

Calvin suffered substantial roster losses between last year and this year -- graduating four players and having one of the top freshmen decide not to return -- which has made it difficult for me to peg this season.

When the roster came out last month, I was surprised to find 17 names listed. That's not the norm for a Kevin Vande Streek team. Usually we see 14 or maybe 15 names.

But perhaps even more unusual than the number of players was they way they were used in Tuesday's exhibition game at Northwood. Ten players saw the floor so we got a good idea of the playing rotation:

Starter Bench
G Parks Kronemeyer
G Visser Canonie
G Daley Drews
F Denney Wilks
F Welch VanEngen

There's nothing really unusual here -- except maybe that six of the ten players are listed as guards -- but the minute distribution is where things get interesting. Vande Streek didn't expand his rotation beyond a "normal" ten players, and two of the players saw the floor for only 11 minutes.

The starters didn't necessarily play heaps of minutes -- Welch led the way with 27 -- but the team appeared to jump right into an exhibition game with a rotation that was already relatively tight.

I'm not really sure what that means. It seems like if any of the other seven players were going to be contributors this season that they would have gotten into the game to get their feet wet, but that might not be a correct assessment. We'll have to see how things unfold in the coming weeks.

It's clear that Calvin is going to play small this year. Two years after nominally starting Dyler Dykstra at the 3 and Jordan Daley at the point, Calvin will be running out three guards on most occasions. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Calvin remains a relatively big team for Division III (or, at least, not a small team), and going guard-heavy should allow their offense to operate more in the spread-the-floor-and-shoot-threes style. Not that they weren't three-ball heavy last year or in past years, but they've typically found a Tyler Kruis or John Mantel to play inside-out with. I don't think Calvin can do that this year.

Neither Welch nor Denney appear to me to be able to generate a ton of offense for themselves in the post. Perhaps I'm incorrect there. Jordan Daley, I think, will be the team's best post scorer, and he thrives on mismatches against the other team's 2 or 3.

At any rate, shooting three pointers worked tremendously against Northwood. There's no way they can shoot 55% for the season -- and there's evidence that Northwood is simply a bad defensive team -- but Calvin has several players who should have the green light to shoot from range when they find themselves open. As long as this doesn't turn into settling for long-range two point jump shots as well, I'll take this kind of offense all day every day. It's no secret that I love the three point shot.

If we can take real science data away from a one-game exhibition sample (and we probably shouldn't), it's that Parks, Visser, Denney, Canonie, Drews, Wilks, and Daley (more from history) can all knock down threes when given an opportunity. There's no Jordan Brink, but perhaps the offense can still find a way to hum.

Defense is another story. Calvin was poor defensively against Northwood, but they're perhaps a good Division II offense, so maybe they weren't the best measuring stick. Calvin is going to have to defend well to be successful and compete for the league this year. They weren't a particularly good defensive team last season, but they were so good offensively that some of the miscues were covered up and they still won games. I'm not sure that happens this year.

So let's talk about expectations. Calvin's coming off of a very good three-year run that saw them win two league titles, three MIAA tournament titles, reach two Sweet 16s, and reach the Round of 32. The 2013 squad in particular might have been Final Four good, but they had to play at (eventual Final Four team) St. Thomas in the Sweet Sixteen, losing by a single point at the buzzer when the final shot rimmed out.

I think it's unreasonable to expect more of that to just continue. The MIAA coaches voted Calvin third in the preaseason poll, a spot that makes some sense. I might actually swap Alma and Trine in the projected finish myself, but I think 2,3,4 are going to find themselves in a dogfight. It's Hope's title to lose.

I think Calvin's 50-percentile projection for this season is 16 or 17 totals wins and an eventual third place finish in the MIAA standings. In this case there will be flashes of greatness, stretches of facepalm, and some hope for the coming years. If you could run the season 1,000 times (given current unknowns, etc.), half the time they would perform better than this and half the time worse. Sometimes you catch breaks and sometimes you don't.

But I also think there exists a 90-percentile scenario whereby Calvin wins 19-20 games and either finishes atop the league or wins the MIAA Tournament. In this scenario Jordan Daley becomes a legitimate MIAA MVP candidate, Calvin becomes a defensive juggernaut (particularly on the perimeter), and everyone is capable of knocking down three pointers on offense. 90% of the scenarios are not this, but maybe 5-10% are. The aforementioned 2013 team did basically this, but they had a few more established players heading into the season.

On the flip side, the 10-percentile projection is Calvin repeating 2012 and finishing .500 in fourth place. It's hard for me to see Calvin completely dropping out of the MIAA Tournament (though fifth place would be possible here), but the floor of this squad is that of only a middling Division III team. The schedule is a difficult one this season, and in my most pessimistic of moods I see lots and lots of loseable games.

But this season isn't about pessimism vs. optimism. It's about enjoying the ride we're on right now, wherever that might take us.

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Friday, October 23, 2015

2015-16 Men's Basketball Roster Announced

The Calvin Men's Basketball team unveiled their varsity and JV rosters this week. You can find the rosters by following this link and see a hastily constructed depth chart by class below:

GAustin ParksNick KronemeyerTony CanonieCarlos Amoros
GBrad Visser
Nate Drews
Nate MeppelinkPreston Huckaby
FJordan DaleySeth Van EngenMichael WilksLuke VanBoxel
FCameron DenneyMike SiegelJacob Ray
CMichael WelchNick Goeglein

(Bolded players have started at least one game for Calvin in their respective careers).

A few observations:
  • 17 players is a lot.
  • No Connor VanderBrug is obviously a huge blow to the team's 2015-16 prospects, but this is what you get with Division III when student athletes are actually that. Sometimes they decide to simply be students. This needs be neither celebrated nor grieved.
  • Precious few players have experience at this level. Parks and Daley have been mainstays for a couple of years. Denney, Welch, and Vissser were rotation players off the bench last year. Kronemeyer and Canonie each were in the rotation for half the year. That's it for returning players.
  • Nate Meppelink has transferred to Calvin from Biola University (NAIA-I) in California. He redshirted his freshman year in 2013-14 (you can do that in NAIA) then appeared in eight games (25 minutes) last year. This will be his third year in college but he retains Sophomore eligibility. According to the famed Massey Ratings, Biola's last four seasons have been equivalent in absolute quality to a third or fourth place MIAA squad.
  • Van Engen and Goeglein spent last season on the end of the bench with very little playing time. Goeglein also played JV ball with Drews, Wilks, and Siegel. Wilks began last season on the roster and appeared briefly in the early stages before he was moved to JV (because playing time wasn't going to be there on varsity).
  • Amoros, Huckaby, and Ray are new as Freshmen. VanBoxel (I believe) was on campus last year but elected not to play. He retains Freshman eligibility in hoops.

I tried to project out a 10-man rotation but couldn't do it. There are far too many unknowns (and players I know zero about) to make that exercise worthwhile.

I would guess KVS will go with experience in the starting lineup and go with Parks, Visser, Daley, Denney, and Welch. With 10 guards on the roster, I'm guessing they'll play smaller than they have in years.

Here's some stuff on the new guys.


Senior Year Highlight Video


Luke VanBoxel 2013-2014 from Coach Lindquist on Vimeo.


It's tough lose the conference MVP in back-to-back years and stay on top of the league without some major reloading. I'm not sure if Coach VandeStreek has pulled that off this year or not.

I think it would be appropriate to temper expectations from the onset -- maybe third or fourth in the MIAA -- but there's a scenario (90th percentile or so) in which two or three of the new guys turn out to be players and Calvin somehow wins the league or sneaks into the NCAA tournament.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Statistical Look at the Mount Union Pod

Here's a quick, tempo-free look at the four teams in the Mount Union pod (Mount Union, Calvin, Oswego State, Neumann). I've been tracking team efficiency numbers all year. Attempts were made to adjust offensive and defensive ratings (points per 100 possessions) for schedule strength.

For context, NCAA averages this year were:
Offense: 100.4
Defense: 100.4
Tempo: 69.1 possessions per game

For context, MIAA averages during conference play this year were:
Tempo: 63.1 possessions
effective field goal percentage: .494
Offensive rebound rate: 30%
Turnover rate: 18%
Free throw rate (FTA per FGA): .35

Mount Union
Mount Union
Overall Rank: #51
Offense: 114.1 (#13)
Defense: 100.0 (#191)
Tempo: 73.1 possessions per game
effective field goal percentage: .585
Offensive rebound rate: 29%
Turnover rate: 20%
Free throw rate (FTA per FGA): .28

Mount Union likes to shoot a lot of threes (167 3PA more than Calvin this year), and they make them. They don't get to the line very much and they're prone to turning the ball over. Don't give them open looks from range. Defense appears average, and they don't rebound the offensive glass all that well (defensive rebounding looks good).

Overall Rank: #132
Offense: 98.3 (#255)
Defense: 93.8 (#51)
Tempo: 69.2 possessions per game
effective field goal percentage: .487
Offensive rebound rate: 35%
Turnover rate: 22%
Free throw rate (FTA per FGA): .41

Neumann's schedule was a bit soft so maybe the defense isn't quite that good (I can't guarantee that though). They don't shoot particularly well, and they turn the ball over a lot, but they do get to the free throw line a lot. They only made 62.5% of their free throws as a team, so not great, but it appears they have some trouble scoring elsewise. Defense appears quite strong and rebounding is solid.

Overall Rank: #64
Offense: 113.7 (#15)
Defense: 101.5 (#236)
Tempo: 67.7 possessions per game
effective field goal percentage: .536
Offensive rebound rate: 38%
Turnover rate: 18%
Free throw rate (FTA per FGA): 0.34

Good offense that can score in a variety of ways. Gets to the free throw line a decent amount. Rebounds both the offensive and defensive glass very well. Defense is questionable at times, and they don't force many turnovers.

Oswego State
Oswego State
Overall Rank: #75
Offense: 105.1 (#105)
Defense: 94.6 (#61)
Tempo: 65.3 possessions per game
effective field goal percentage: .495
Offensive rebound rate: 29%
Turnover rate: 15%
Free throw rate (FTA per FGA): 0.27

Solid on offense though not spectacular. They shoot (and make) threes at about the same rate that Calvin does. They don't force their way to the free throw line much, but they take care of the ball on offense. I think Calvin will want to force them inside without doubling. Oswego doesn't score as well inside the arc, and Calvin has the length advantage. Below average rebounding team on both sides of the floor.

Statistical score predictions:

First Round
Mount Union 79, Neumann 72 (Massey: Mount Union 83, Neumann 66)
Calvin 69, Oswego State 68 (Massey: Calvin 71, Oswego State 66)

Second Round
Mount Union 83, Calvin 80 (Massey: Mount Union 83, Calvin 77)
Mount Union 76, Oswego State 72 (Massey: Mount Union 79, Oswego State 69)
Calvin 73, Neumann 67 (Massey: Calvin 76, Neumann 64)
Oswego State 64, Neumann 60 (Massey: Oswego State 67, Neumann 60)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Mock Selection and Bracket

In my last post I went about ranking the Pool C candidates in each region. In this post I'm going to take that information to select 19 Pool C teams and (hopefully) try my hand at making a bracket. We'll see how this goes.

First, before I start the actual process, here are the top 19 Pool C teams in terms of RPI (that is winning percentage and strength of schedule only, no other criteria). This usually serves as a quick guide and has picked about 16 correctly the past three or four years. Now, that's not a great record considering how easy 10-12 picks are each year, but it's not horrible either since it requires no thinking. (Numbers are winning percentage / strength of schedule).

1 Bates NE 0.760 / 0.609
2 UW-Stevens Point CE 0.808 / 0.576
3 Washington U. CE 0.800 / 0.565
4 Virginia Wesleyan SO 0.815 / 0.554
5 Amherst NE 0.741 / 0.579
6 Illinois Wesleyan CE 0.704 / 0.590
7 Johns Hopkins MA 0.852 / 0.539
8 Eastern Connecticut NE 0.815 / 0.550
9 Springfield NE 0.704 / 0.584
10 Marietta GL 0.893 / 0.519
11 Wooster GL 0.786 / 0.551
12 William Paterson AT 0.741 / 0.565
13 North Central (Ill.) CE 0.667 / 0.587
14 Ohio Wesleyan GL 0.815 / 0.537
15 Bowdoin NE 0.692 / 0.571
16 Trinity (Conn.) NE 0.792 / 0.535
17 Williams NE 0.600 / 0.599
18 St. Olaf WE 0.808 / 0.527
19 Elmhurst CE 0.731 / 0.551
--------- --------- --- --- ---
20 Rutgers-Newark AT 0.667 / 0.572
21 Bethel WE 0.679 / 0.564
22 Catholic MA 0.846 / 0.506
23 Southern Vermont NE 0.880 / 0.491

Now it seems very clear that Williams isn't going to make it because the committee won't consider their low winning percentage, but the other 18 are reasonable picks. North Central (Ill.) also sticks out as a stretch right now.

Pat Coleman and Dave McHugh went through a mock selection process on Hoopsville on Sunday night. Here were their picks:

Looks like the tweet missed mentioning Marietta and Johns Hopkins, but they're in there. They matched up with the RPI list on 16 of 19 picks. They had Williams, North Central (Ill.), and Bowdoin out, and John Carroll, Catholic, and WPI in. Again, not bad for something that's 100% formula based.

So now I'll start my process using the rankings I came up with in the last post. I'm not going to be particularly concerned with pick order for these first few picks because they're all getting in. Only the top team in each region can be considered at any point in time (so always and only eight teams at any point). When one team is selected, the next team in the region slides onto the discussion table.

Virginia Wesleyan
UW-Stevens Point
Washington U.
Johns Hopkins
Illinois Wesleyan
William Paterson
Ohio Wesleyan
Trinity (Conn.)
Eastern Connecticut

Let me stop here and say these are the teams I think are safe. That's ends up being 13 teams that I consider a slam dunk.


Two more that I feel pretty good about. These last four are on the edge. It all depends on how exactly the regional rankings stack up and who gets to the table first.

John Carroll
North Central (Ill.)

Again, not at all confident in those last few, but I have a reputation for always being higher on the SOS candidates, so what are you going to do?

Left on my board:
AT: Brooklyn
CE: none
EA: Plattsburgh State
GL: Penn State-Behrend
MA: Franklin and Marshall
NE: Bowdoin
SO: Centre
WE: St. Olaf

Things that could change things:

I had Bowdoin ahead of WPI in the Northeast. I don't think WPI is a partiularly great candidate, but if they stay ahead of Bowdoin maybe they match up better and get one of those final three slots.

I ranked Bethel aggressively in the West Region. Dave McHugh apparently got some information during Hoopsville that the West committee ranked them seventh in that region. I don't get that at all. So I stuck to my guns there, but maybe St. Olaf (who Bethel beat three times) gets to the table (and into the tourney) sooner, and maybe Buena Vista or Whitman get to the board as well. Again, don't really get Bethel sixth there if that ends up being the case.

If I had to keep going -- without expending too much effort here -- my next four picks would probably be St. Olaf, Bowdoin, WPI, and Centre.

I didn't kill myself to make a bracket, but here are pods that look reasonable. I tried to make seeding more of a priority than mixing regions, but I did try to keep conferences out of the same pod. Let me know if there's a mistake here. Bracket isn't bracketed, but here are possible pod groupings:

East Texas Baptist and Emory pods were designed out of geographic necessity (reducing the number of flights for distances exceeding 500 miles). I think we only have two first-weekend flights here: Whitworth to Texas and C-M-S to Atlanta. Augustana and Babson were given byes based on merit.

EDIT: Changing some things because I had Wash U. at Marietta which is now than 500 miles. It was late.

East Texas Baptist
Texas Lutheran


Ohio Wesleyan

Concordia (Wis.)
Washington U.

UW-Stevens Point
John Carroll
St. Norbert

Mount Union
Illinois Wesleyan

St. Vincent

North Central (Ill.)
St. Thomas
Northwestern (Minn.)


Albertus Magnus

Richard Stockton

Regis (Mass.)


Johns Hopkins
Oswego State
Eastern Connecticut

William Paterson
Virginia Wesleyan
Keene State

St. John Fisher
Trinity (Conn.)
Westfield State

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Mock Final Regional Rankings

What a night, am I right?

I've been tracking regional data numbers all year, so I thought I'd sit down and collect some thoughts on the selection and bracketing process.

The first thing the regional committees will do is generate a new set of regional rankings. Unfortunately these will never be made public (NCAA transparency issues and all), but we can take a stab at it here. The RACs will be rigorous with their rankings, but we can take a shortcut for out mock selection purposes and use last week's ranking as a guide while removing teams who have received automatic bids.

Pool A bids:

Conference Team Reg.
AMCC Medaille GL
ASC East Texas Baptist SO
CAC Salisbury MA
CC Dickinson MA
CCC Endicott NE
CCIW Augustana CE
CSAC Neumann AT
E8 St. John Fisher EA
GNAC Albertus Magnus NE
HCAC Defiance GL
IIAC Dubuque WE
LAND Scranton MA
LEC Keene State NE
LL Skidmore EA
MACC Alvernia MA
MACF Misericordia AT
MASCAC Westfield State NE
MIAA Calvin GL
MIAC St. Thomas WE
MWC St. Norbert CE
NAC Colby-Sawyer NE
NATHC Concordia (Wis.) CE
NEAC SUNY-Cobleskill EA
NECC Regis (Mass.) NE
NESCAC Wesleyan NE
NJAC Richard Stockton AT
NWC Whitworth WE
OAC Mount Union GL
ODAC Randolph-Macon SO
PrAC St. Vincent GL
SAA Rhodes SO
SCAC Texas Lutheran SO
SCIAC Claremont-Mudd-Scripps WE
SLIAC Spalding CE
SUNYAC Oswego State EA
UAA Emory SO
UMAC Northwestern (Minn.) WE
USAC LaGrange SO
WIAC UW-Whitewater CE

That makes 43 of our 62 bids, leaving us with 19 Pool C bids to give away (there is no Pool B this year).

Now, leaving those teams out the discussion, we can rank the regions using only Pool C candidates. The national committee considers on the top-ranked team from each region at one time, so this is the projected order that teams will "come to the board". We can use last week's rankings as a guide and adjust based on overall numbers, including what happened this week in conference tournaments.

This is still pending the result of the Centenary (La.) vs. Texas Lutheran final. I don't think it will affect what I have here, but it might change some of the numbers slightly. I'll update later on if it does.

I have not adjusted the results versus regionally ranked column to take into account newly ranked teams. That's probably Alvernia in the MA and Concordia (Texas) in the South.

Atlantic Region

Reg. Rank Team Conf WP SOS RPI Rank Pool Status D3 vRRO OVR
AT 1 William Paterson NJAC 0.741 0.565 0.609 22 C 12 20-7 4-3 20-7
AT 2 Brooklyn CUNYAC 0.786 0.507 0.577 61 C 36 22-6 2-3 22-6
AT 3 Rutgers-Newark NJAC 0.667 0.572 0.596 37 C 20 18-9 1-6 18-9

Central Region

Reg. Rank Team Conf WP SOS RPI Rank Pool Status D3 vRRO OVR
CE 1 UW-Stevens Point WIAC 0.808 0.575 0.633 8 C 2 21-5 2-4 21-5
CE 2 Washington U. UAA 0.800 0.565 0.624 10 C 3 20-5 4-2 20-5
CE 3 Illinois Wesleyan CCIW 0.704 0.591 0.619 13 C 6 19-8 5-5 19-7
CE 4 Elmhurst CCIW 0.731 0.551 0.596 36 C 19 19-7 4-4 19-7
CE 5 North Central (Ill.) CCIW 0.667 0.587 0.607 23 C 13 16-8 3-6 18-8

East Region

Reg. Rank Team Conf WP SOS RPI Rank Pool Status D3 vRRO OVR
EA 1 Plattsburgh State SUNYAC 0.704 0.534 0.576 63 C 38 19-8 1-0 19-8
EA 2 New York University UAA 0.680 0.544 0.578 60 C 35 17-8 3-2 17-8
EA 3 Hobart LL 0.720 0.509 0.562 88 C 60 18-7 3-2 18-8
EA 4 Clarkson LL 0.731 0.512 0.567 80 C 54 19-7 2-5 20-7

Great Lakes Region

Reg. Rank Team Conf WP SOS RPI Rank Pool Status D3 vRRO OVR
GL 1 Marietta OAC 0.893 0.519 0.612 20 C 10 25-3 4-3 25-3
GL 2 Ohio Wesleyan NCAC 0.815 0.537 0.607 24 C 14 22-5 3-1 22-5
GL 3 Wooster NCAC 0.786 0.551 0.609 21 C 11 22-6 3-2 22-6
GL 4 John Carroll OAC 0.769 0.527 0.587 48 C 27 20-6 3-3 20-6
GL 5 Penn State-Behrend AMCC 0.885 0.469 0.573 72 C 47 23-3 1-1 23-3
GL 6 Hope MIAA 0.680 0.558 0.588 45 C 25 17-8 2-6 18-9

Middle Atlantic Region

Reg. Rank Team Conf WP SOS RPI Rank Pool Status D3 vRRO OVR
MA 1 Johns Hopkins CC 0.852 0.539 0.617 16 C 7 23-4 3-3 23-4
MA 2 Catholic LAND 0.846 0.506 0.591 39 C 21 22-4 1-3 22-5
MA 3 Franklin and Marshall CC 0.769 0.517 0.580 59 C 34 20-6 3-3 20-6

Northeast Region

Reg. Rank Team Conf WP SOS RPI Rank Pool Status D3 vRRO OVR
NE 1 Amherst NESCAC 0.741 0.579 0.619 12 C 5 20-7 6-3 20-7
NE 2 Trinity (Conn.) NESCAC 0.792 0.535 0.599 29 C 16 19-5 5-1 20-6
NE 3 Bates NESCAC 0.760 0.609 0.647 4 C 1 19-6 4-5 19-6
NE 4 Eastern Connecticut LEC 0.815 0.550 0.617 17 C 8 22-5 0-2 22-5
NE 5 Springfield NEWMAC 0.704 0.584 0.614 18 C 9 19-8 3-5 19-8
NE 6 Bowdoin NESCAC 0.692 0.571 0.601 28 C 15 18-8 1-6 18-8
NE 7 WPI NEWMAC 0.808 0.515 0.588 44 C 24 21-5 2-3 21-5

South Region

Reg. Rank Team Conf WP SOS RPI Rank Pool Status D3 vRRO OVR
SO 2 Virginia Wesleyan ODAC 0.815 0.554 0.619 11 C 4 22-5 0-4 23-5
SO 5 Centre SAA 0.800 0.513 0.584 53 C 30 20-5 1-2 21-5
SO 6 Hardin-Simmons ASC 0.741 0.531 0.583 55 C 31 20-7 2-2 20-7
SO 8 Concordia (Texas) ASC 0.667 0.543 0.574 69 C 44 18-9 4-5 18-10

West Region

Reg. Rank Team Conf WP SOS RPI Rank Pool Status D3 vRRO OVR
WE 1 Bethel MIAC 0.679 0.564 0.592 39 C 21 19-9 4-3 19-8
WE 2 St. Olaf MIAC 0.808 0.527 0.597 35 C 18 21-5 1-5 21-5
WE 3 Whitman NWC 0.792 0.520 0.588 48 C 27 19-5 2-2 20-6
WE 4 Buena Vista IIAC 0.720 0.527 0.576 66 C 41 18-7 3-1 18-8

This is already longer than I expected, so I'll split this into two posts. Here are the rankings, then I'll go through the selection process to follow.