Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Calvin Flips the Bell Curve on Hope

Jordan Brink thanks the Hope Athletic Department for the free net.

I went to the Wednesday, February 5 Calvin-Hope game at the DeVos Fieldhouse with a couple of friends. The refrain from the two of them (and a few others in our section) throughout the game was “Hope’s just faster and better than Calvin is”. I kept trying to say “but they’re not this good”.

It turned out that Hope was that good – on that night – but I tried to assure these friends of mine that what we just witnessed was something like a 2nd percentile result*. They only could chuckle at me – apparently I’ve developed something of a reputation for being overly-statistical in my discussion of the sport – but I truly believed it.

*Upon further investigation it appears that the 18-point Hope win was more like a 4th percentile result.

Hope turned out to be much better than I thought they might be early in the year, but I refused to believe that they were really any better than Calvin. The preponderance of evidence* suggested, to me, that they were not better than even strength with the Knights.

*Calvin outscored the rest of the MIAA by an average of 19.5 points per game; Hope outscored them by 15.5 points per game. Calvin outscored the quartet of Aquinas, Cornerstone, Carthage, and Wheaton by a total of 22 points; Hope was a -1 against these four (HFA probably doesn’t quite make up the difference).

And then Saturday came.

I was fully expecting a close game – one that Hope might win by virtue of home court advantage – but I rarely expect either side to pull away in this rivalry.

And then it was 13-2.

Nate VanArendonk slammed home a basket and suddenly we were all watching some terrible rerun of How I Met Your Mother (except no one would actually watch that show on purpose). It was the same dang thing all over again.

Alex Eidson was floating and hanging and hitting everything, Grant Neil was D-ing up everybody, Cody Stuive was just knocking home three-balls, VanArendonk was getting free for easy buckets, and Calvin was shooting like 7% from the floor as a team.

But then our old friend Regression To The Mean showed up, and Calvin started getting buckets. And then our even better friend (in this particular case) Regression Way Past The Mean came and took his place and stayed for the rest of the game. Calvin continued to attack Hope and ended up out-scoring the Dutchmen 76-40 over the final 34+ minutes of the game.

How did they do it? I really don’t know.

A lot of good luck, that’s for sure, but the three-guard approach (Austin Parks started instead of Tyler Dykstra) also seemed to reverse some of the matchup problems Hope caused for Calvin in the earlier meetings. And Calvin’s defense rarely allowed Hope’s offense to settle into comfortable offensive sets.

Calvin made terrific adjustments, had an excellent game plan, and executed the snot out of their assignments. That, mixed with a good amount of random variation, led us to a 98th percentile result (these according to Massey). It was completely the other side of the Bell Curve from the earlier meeting at the DeVos Fieldhouse.

I think it was a testament to the fact that, despite what the doom-and-gloomers say, Coach Vande Streek and the Knights can make the proper adjustments, and, despite what the doom-and-gloomers say, the bad results in the first two meetings with Hope had a good amount of bad luck mixed in.

Onward and upward.

Jordan Brink and the newly minted MIAA MVP Tyler Kruis have showed that they can both score (1) efficiently and (2) in bulk. I’m a little bit nervous about what would happen if a tournament opponent really did shut these two down, but Calvin has enough offensive weapons that they might still be able to make it work out. I haven’t adjusted the numbers for strength-of-schedule, but this year’s Calvin offense ranks as the most efficient (116.8 points per 100 possessions) of the last 12 years (as far back as the detailed numbers go online).

The defense isn’t as stifling as it was last year, but they’re still good (and slightly better than the average Calvin defense of the last 12 years).

The Washington U.-Wilmington-Wittenberg-Calvin pod isn’t going to be easy for the Knights, but I can assure you that none of the other three teams are tickled with the prospect of an early-round matchup with Calvin.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Calvin beats Kalamazoo

The score was 86-59.


Calvin is much better than Kalamazoo.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tipping Off The Season vs. Anderson

Calvin tips off their regular season tonight in Anderson, IN as they take on the Anderson Ravens. Two years ago Anderson won the inaugural meeting by a 73-60 margin, but they’ve since had a coaching change and were in full-on rebuilding mode when Calvin won 98-56 at Van Noord Arena last year. Former Wheaton (Ill.) assistant Owen Handy is in his second year at the helm of the Ravens.

Anderson has played two games already and has taken two relatively bad losses. They lost 70-64 on opening night to perennial UAA also-ran Case Western Reserve and then by a 80-68 score the next night in the same CWRU Tournament to Otterbein (who was voted to finish 8th of 10 teams in the OAC by the coaches). We don’t really with certainty how good any of these teams are so early in the season, but those are both games that good teams win. Anderson was voted to finish 9th in the HCAC by the coaches.

Projected Lineup

G – Jordan Daley
G – Jordan Brink
F – Tyler Dykstra
F – Mickey DeVries
C – Tyler Kruis

Kyle MacDonald started the exhibition game vs. Ferris State, but Jordan Daley was the one in the game during crunch time, and then he also started in the Alumni scrimmage. I’m guessing he’s the nominal starter at this point.

Projected Rotation Players

Dan Stout
Kyle MacDonald
Jordan Mast
BJ Van Loo
Austin Parks

TJ Huizenga had played as sort of the 11th man and may be still in the mix, but coach Vande Streek is probably looking to pare down the rotation to 10 guys. I think, for now, Parks is in and Huizenga is out, but that’s just me guessing. If you’re looking to go 12 deep, Brad Visser is probably the man there.

The final margin of this game might be wide enough that at least 11 or 12 players will get into the game anyway. We’ll see how coach Vande Streek treats this game if it gets out of hand though. More than anything this Calvin team needs time for the rotation players to gel together – mostly the second five – so perhaps he stays away from the deep bench unless it gets really ugly.


Massey’s still-too-early rankings give Calvin an 84% chance of winning, and projects the final margin to be 11, but I’d guess something closer to 15. Calvin lost to Ferris in the exhibition game because they lost the battle on the offensive glass. They won’t lose that battle in this game. At the risk of hubris, anything less than a 10 point win would be concerning.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Calvin Roster and Ferris State Exhibition Preview

What the water tower really said.
We’re 12 days away from the official tip-off of the season – when Calvin heads to Anderson on November 19 – but in some ways this annual Ferris State exhibition game is more fun than the typical early-season game.

For one, Ferris is always as athletic as any team Calvin will see this season. Two, the expectations are low because Division II and Exhibition. And Three, we haven’t seen basketball for like eight months.
So what do I know about Ferris? Besides their continual attempts to ruin a perfectly excellent color combination, not very much. Last year Calvin lost 63-62 up in Big Rapids, the same -1 scoring margin that Massey would have predicted following the season. The final version of Kenneth Massey’s ratings had Calvin as four point favorites over Ferris on a neutral court, eight point favorites at home, and one point underdogs on the road.

What does that mean for this year? No idea. Probably nothing. Massey’s preseason historical-regression-based ratings (that he uses as a starting point but get damped out as the season goes on) has Calvin being two points worse overall but three point favorites at home. These ratings quite obviously have no idea who’s on what roster or how a team might perform with a new coach.

So the dummy-starter Massey ratings say 59%, but I’ll say closer to 40-45% (without really knowing Ferris’ roster). Really you could make an argument anywhere between 35-65% and I wouldn’t care. That’d represent something like a five point game in either direction.

Speaking of rosters, Calvin has a new one. Six players will be playing with the Varsity for the first time – either Freshmen, transfers, or former JV players – and another three have played basically only mop-up time in their young careers. It feels like there’s a lot of newness to the roster, and there is, but they actually return the second most varsity minutes played of any MIAA team this year, and that doesn’t count junior Kyle MacDonald (Jackson CC) and sophomore BJ Van Loo (Grace Bible) who have experience at the college level.

I don’t know a whole lot about MacDonald, but Coach VandeStreek spoke highly of him in the preseason audio interview, and, reading between the lines, it sounds like he will begin the season as the starter at the point.

Grace Bible doesn’t maintain a very comprehensive statistical archive on their website (read: no stats at all), but I was able to search engine my way to 12 of Van Loo’s box scores from last season (against schools like Calvin, Ferris, Davenport, Aquinas, Spring Arbor, Cornerstone, etc). He played 23 minutes per game with 10 points and 5 rebounds on a .522 effective field goal percentage (basically Calvin’s team average last year) in that sample. Those are pretty good numbers for a freshman, and I’m very comfortable with the competition level (average Massey rank of 1177, Calvin’s average MIAA opponents were 1199).

The frontcourt is going to be very strong. I realy have no read on who the starters will be (besides Tyler Kruis), but it almost doesn’t matter. I still think you go with Kruis-DeVries-Dykstra as your three most experienced and talented players even though both of the forwards are more of the ‘four’ types. I was initially thinking that perhaps we could see some of the bigger guards, like the Jordans Brink and Daley, be pushed up to play some three, but I think it might be more of the opposite. Someone like 6-5 Jordan Mast might be pushed down from somewhat of a ‘three’ to more of a ‘two’. If we’re talking 20+ minutes for Tyler Dykstra, Mickey DeVries, and BJ Van Loo plus some time at the ‘four’ for Dan Stout, there might be fewer than 10 minutes to spread around to fewer options. But that’s all well and good because the backcourt, though high in potential talent, is lower in experience level (especially if Jordan Brink is not at full-go).

Probable Starters and Rotation vs. Ferris

C – Tyler Kruis, Dan Stout
F – Mickey DeVries, Tyler Dykstra, Dan Stout
F – Tyler Dykstra, BJ Van Loo, Jordan Mast
G – Jordan (all)
G – Kyle MacDonald, Austin Parks

These are the 10 guys who I think will open the season in the primary rotation. For now that leaves junior TJ Huizenga, and newcomers Danny Leach, Brad Visser, and Eric Brower mostly at the end of the bench, but I wouldn’t be surprised for one or two of these guys to play versus Ferris (and/or eventually crack the rotation) as Coach KVS tries to figure out exactly how the roster fits together.

Prediction: I think Calvin is very probably the better team, but, I think for this game, the inexperience of the backcourt vs. the generally-more-athletic Division II guards is going to lead to a loss. That’s not a bad thing though, as I think they’ll have better long-term success if they use the game to experiment, learn, and grow rather than simply try to win the game. Ferris 70, Calvin 67

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Calvin’s Van Noord Arena a Finalist to Host Division III Final Four

D3hoops.com unveiled the NCAA’s list of finalist locations for the 2014-2018 Division III basketball championships (both men’s and women’s), and Calvin’s Van Noord Arena is on both lists. Here’s the link to the story.
Men's basketball:Salem Civic Center (Salem, Va.)
Van Noord Arena (Calvin College campus)

Women's basketball:
Banker's Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Van Noord Arena
Salem Civic Center
Mayo Civic Center (Rochester, Minn.)
The D3hoops folks note that The VNA is the smallest of the four locations listed on the women’s side. That makes for a curious list as the women’s Final Four drew in the 1,000-1,300 neighborhood last year when it was hosted at Hope’s DeVos Fieldhouse. Van Noord’s 4,600 capacity (or whatever it really is) would be far larger than anything the women would conceivably need (save a Calvin or Hope Final Four run). Their (i.e. D3hoops / probably Pat Coleman’s) guess, which is a good one, is that we might be headed for a combined men’s/women’s Final Four weekend.

Also on both lists, however, is Salem, Virginia’s Civic Center which has hosted the men’s Final Four quite successfully for what I will lazily describe as ‘several’ years (except last year when they hosted the Elite Eight and Final Four rounds with the championship moving to Atlanta). It would be amazing fun to have the Final Four right in our back yard (almost quite literally for some of us), but I’m betting heavily on the NCAA to go the safe and boring route with Salem. Because the NCAA.

I would bet that Van Noord Arena would draw very well compared to Salem for the men’s Final Four. Just looking at the current Top 15 – a good sample of prennially strong teams – nine are obviously more drivable to Grand Rapids (particularly the CCIW and WIAC schools), two to four are so far away from either that it doesn’t matter, and maybe two or three are obviously closer to Salem. Maybe that means bigger crowds (which makes for a better atmosphere).

Potentially more motivation for the home teams too. Would be a huge boost to play for a title in front of a friendly crowd.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Predicting the 2014 Depth Chart / Player Rotation

It’s always dangerous to predict a sort of depth chart when we (1) don’t know the roster and (2) don’t even fully know who’s trying out, but nothing that’s completely safe is ever fun, so let’s go. This exercise comes with the caveat that I probably have no idea what I’m talking about, so take any and all necessary precaution.

5 / Center:

Center is the easiest position to figure out because it’s going to be 100% – barring injury or something unforeseen – 100% the same as last year.

Tyler Kruis is obviously not changing here. He received basically 26 minutes per game last year and could/should see a bump up to 27 or 28 (and pushed to 30 in the bigger games), but frontline depth is probably the smallest concern for the Calvin Knights heading into the 2013-14 season so squeezing out extra minutes from Tyler won’t be a huge issue. I’m just saying this off the cuff without really thinking about it, but the senior should start the year on the shortlist of MIAA MVP candidates.

Dan Stout took a big step forward last season. He didn’t see A Ton Of Time – basically 13 minutes – but he proved to be an outstanding rebounder, a good shot blocker, and an very efficient scorer. He can step out and hit a jump shot, but his bread and butter was drawing fouls (particularly off of an offensive rebound) and knocking down his free throws (over 74%). He’s probably earned more minutes, but with Kruis in front of him he’ll be relegated to whatever playing time is left.

4 / Forward:

Mickey DeVries had an excellent year off the bench for the Knights a season ago, and I think he has a very good chance of cracking the lineup this season. He played roughly 19 minutes per game last season, but could see that go up to as many as 24 this year. DeVries was mostly a hard-nosed rebounder in his first year with the Knights, but he developed into an efficienct scorer as well a season ago. He could stand to improve his free throw percentage and probably pass on the longer of his jump shot opportunities, but I shouldn’t get negative here. Mickey was really really good last year.

Tyler Dykstra is probably the nominal backup here. Not because he’s getting bumped from the lineup, but because I have him as the starter at the other forward spot. Tyler didn’t look to shoot a lot last season, but, when he did, he was the most efficient scorer in the starting lineup. He’ll probably gobble up the remaining 16 (or so) minutes at this position unless Coach VandeStreek thinks Dan Stout needs more playing time in which case we might see a small handful of minutes with both he and Kruis on the floor.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Preview: 2013-14 Calvin Knights Men’s Basketball Schedule


The Purpose of This Schedule Preview Post, Generally

The purpose of this schedule preview post is to view a list of scheduled games before they (i.e. the scheduled games) take place.

The Purpose of This Schedule Preview Post, Specifically

Specifially, the schedule that will be dissected (and it should be made clear that this took place with as little effort as possible on the part of the author) is the one belonging to the 2013-14 Calvin Knights Men’s Basketball team.

One might alternatively consider this post an attempt by the present author to alert the readership to the fact that he is indeed still alive.

Regarding the Schedule, What it Consists of

A full-list of the 25 games (plus one exhibition) can be found by following this internet link, but, generally speaking, the schedule can be thought of as:
  • One exhibition game
  • One pre-conference-season tournament
  • Two “classic” style weekend events with pre-scheduled opponents
  • Five singular non-conference games
  • Fourteen conference games against MIAA opponents
  • The possibility of participation in a four-team MIAA Tournament
  • The possibility of participation in the NCAA Tournament

Regarding the Actual Opponents, Who They Are

As has been the case more often than not in recent years, the list of opponents will be familiar to Calvin fans as 85%* of the schedule (including any and all exhibition games but not including any and all potential post-season games) is comprised of opponents who also appeared on last season’s schedule.

*Depending on how the Calvin Tip-Off Tournament plays out (e.g. if Calvin and Grace Bible both win their first game), this number could jump to 88%.

Opponents that would roundly be considered “new” to the schedule include Kuyper College, NCCAA-2), University of Redlands, and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. It’s also possible (but seemingly unlikely) for Calvin to meet up with College of Faith – who lost to Hope by 98 points on a neutral court last November – in the Tip-Off Tournament.

Kuyper, typically the doormat of the Grand Rapids Small College Basketball scene, had what the author will call (without having the requisite knowledge) their best season ever. They finished with a 1-2 record in a seeminly evenly played season series with Grace Bible with the win coming in NCCAA-2 tournament play. In the three head-to-head games combined (two of which took place at Grace), Kuyper was outscored in regulation by five points. After adjusting for home court advantage, considering only these three games, and performing a back-of-the-napkin calculation, one might guess that Grace would win something like 53% of hypothetical matchups between these two schools. This is all to say that Kuyper matched up well with a team that Calvin beat by 31 points last year.

The author could not, while employing only a minimal amount of effort, get the Massey system to simulate a matchup between last year's Calvin and Kuyper teams, but he's pretending it's because the servers which control the website in question simply couldn't count high enough to display an appropriate margin of victory in favor of Calvin.

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, the combined athletic program of Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, and Scripps College, finished as the runner up in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with an 18-8 (13-3) record. Their final Massey Division III Rank of 100 put them roughly 30 spots below Adrian and 30 spots above Trine, which is to say they would have competed favorably in the MIAA. The Wilson rankings more or less agree with this assessment.

The Massey system estimates that a similarly scheduled meeting between last year’s teams would finish in Calvin’s favor 90% of the time, with a 14 point margin being the most likely result.

Redlands, who apparently operates under the philosophy that institutions of higher learning should each have their own athletics departments, finished the 2012-13 season as the SCIAC champion with 22-6 (15-1) record. The lone SCIAC representative in the NCAA Tournament went on to drop their opening round game to Whitworth by six points. Their final Massey Division III Rank of 47 indiates that they were quite a good team, though perhaps not quite as good as Hope, who checked in 17 spots ahead of them. The Wilson rankings doesn’t quite agree, but still lists Redlands (39) and Hope (45) very similarly.

The Massey system estimates that a similarly scheduled meeting between last year’s teams would finish in Calvin’s favor 82% of the time, with a 10 point margin being the most likely result.

Calvin will host the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame Classic with Cornerstone, Aquinas, and Hope on their normally scheduled rotation, but, due to an aparent conflict, they’ll also be hosting the MIAA-CCIW Classic with Carthage and Wheaton in what would “normally” be Hope’s year to host.

Also on the schedule is a return trip to Anderson for the third installment of what appears to now be a yearly rivalry, a home game with Manchester, and a home game with Finlandia in a continuing series that is hopefully dropped at Calvin’s earliest convenience.

Regarding the Actual Opponents, Who They Are Not, Most Notably

A notable fact about Calvin’s scheduled 2013-14 opponents is that they are not – at least not with the desired frequency – officially recognized Division III in-region opponents. Only 17 of the 25 scheduled regular season games (68%) can be classified as in-region: the 14 MIAA conference games, Anderson, Manchester, and Finlandia.

The Significance of Opponent Regionality

In this case regionality isn’t considered in a pure geographice sense, but rather in a pre-defined and, in the present author’s opinion, ill-conceived NCAA sense.  At any rate, regionality is significant because the NCAA has announced that teams must play 70% (up from 50%) of their games against in-region Division III competition in order to be eligible for at-large consideration for the NCAA Tournament. Under this new system the NCAA will be counting all results versus Division III opponents in the primary criterea, instead of results only versus in-region competition.

The astute reader will recognize that Calvin’s scheduled percentage of in-region games (68%) does not meet the reported threshold. Specific details aren’t exactly known, but it is entirely likely that conference tournament games will count toward this total and that Calvin would be meet the criterion if there were able to reach the MIAA Finals.

One might ultimately consider it a “bummer” if Calvin were to have a terrific, nigh unblemished regular season, suffer an upset loss in the MIAA Semifinals, and finish with a schedule containing only 69% regional games. A large part of the bummer would be their potential disqualification from Pool C consideration, but another, non-insignificant part of the bummer would be that the schedule, as constructed, follows the spirit of the law, if not the letter.

The Author’s Prediction Re: Calvin’s Performance Against the Schedule in Question

Conceding that the author knows very little about both (1) the construction of Calvin College’s 2013-14 men’s basketball roster and (2) the roster construction and relative quality of the various opponents he feels compelled by the conventions of sports media to offer up some manner of final record prediction.

The prediction is as follows: 20-5 (11-3).

It should be noted that the style of this post was directly stolen from actual-writer Carson Cistulli and that the present author deserves zero credit for anything you, the reader, enjoyed and all the blame for anything you did not.