Thursday, October 26, 2017

Calvin Basketball 2017-18 Roster Thoughts

The Calvin men's basketball roster has been out for nearly a week now, and I've been mulling it over in the meantime. I don't have any revelatory conclusions except that it's rather young and inexperienced. There are only four upperclassmen on the roster who played on the Calvin varsity team last season.

This is both good and troubling. The good news is that Calvin still returns four starters and a handful of bench players who saw minutes last season. The good news is also that 13 of the 15 players could return next season.

The troubling part is that it seems to me that Calvin needs at least two (and probably three) players who enter the season as relative unknowns to step up and contribute solidly in the rotation if they're going to entertain hopes of winning silverware once again this season.

Returning starters Tony Canonie (SR), Tony DeWitte (SO), Michael Wilks (SR), and Austin Bykerk (JR) should not present any problems for the Knights. Canonie is the best defensive player in the MIAA (he was robbed of the award last season), and Wilks could prove to be one of the best scorers in the league. DeWitte and Bykerk will both be asked to take a step forward in their second seasons in maroon and gold, but they both enter the season with the baseline of at least being solid contributors to begin with.

The rest of the returning players are Carlos Amoros-Gutierrez (JR), Derrick DeVries (SO), Alex Bos (SO), and David Rinke (FR). Amoros-Gutierrez and DeVries both appeared in double-digit number of games last year, but averaged fewer than ten minutes in those games. Bos came on as a matchup contributor at the end of the season, and Rinke appeared in a few games early before a foot injury ended his season (I believe he'll retain that season of eligibility).

Added into the mix will be Lake Michigan College transfer Jason Walter (JR), Hope transfer Tom Morrison (SO), and JV call-up Isaiah McLaughlin (JR). Quality of competition caveats apply for Walter's season at the NJCAA level, but he started 22 games for Lake Michigan and averaged 12 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes per game (his scoring efficiency numbers were strong as well with 1.23 points per weighted shot and a .605 effective field goal percentage). Morrison played a season of JV ball at Hope.

The four true freshmen that made the team are Forrest Bouyer Jr., Thad Shymanski, Luke Morrison, and Emmett Warners. Anything you get from freshmen should be a nice bonus. I rarely count on them for immediate impact.

So Calvin's going to need to find one starter, probably a forward-type player. I'd consider Derrick DeVries to be the favorite as the returning non-starter who logged the most minutes last season (excluding Amoros-Gutierrez who will probably need to come on when Canonie comes off). Alex Bos also saw some time in the rotation at the end of the season, particularly when Calvin needed to match up with a bigger squad. I'd say he's in the running as well. If we want to read his junior college stats in the most positive light, Jason Walter could also be in the mix.

I said Calvin needed to find three breakout players if they hope to compete at the top of the league. Here are my three bold predictions as to who those players might be (based on nothing but gut feel):

  • David Rinke gets major playing time and draws striking comparisons to a young Tyler Kruis.
  • Jason Walter becomes a rotation player and is one of the most efficient scorers on the team.
  • Forrest Bouyer pushes for playing time at the point and leads the team in assists (per minute).

Depth Chart Guess (2017-2018):
GCanonieAmorosBouyerL. Morrison
FWilksBosT. Morrison

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

At the Tipping Point

In sports it often seems that our favorite players and teams are at a tipping point. Sometimes we're actually at that point, but mostly it's just something we say as we build sports narratives in our minds. Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, for example, is in his third-straight make-or-break season (at least, I haven't really looked back further).

Calvin's potential tipping point is different than that of Stafford, feeling more severe. Will the program bounce back and return to national renown and MIAA dominance, or was last season a harbinger of lean years to come?

Calvin's 10-15 finish in 2016 was the program's first sub-500 season since 1984. That's not great. 2017 will be a different season, that much is for sure, but it's not clear how much different it will be in terms of wins and losses.

What is clear (or should be clear) is that this upcoming season isn't likely to set the tone of the next decade of Calvin basketball. Another substandard season isn't going to (necessarily) usher in a run of mediocrity (or worse!).

The situation was similar just four years ago when the Knights finished 13-13. Any sixth grader with a straight edge could draw a downward trendline from 19-9 (2010) to 16-12 (2011) to 13-13 (2012). Tipping point tipped. Calvin was doomed.

Except they weren't doomed. The Knights immediately rebounded to go on one of the better three-year runs in recent program history: a 24-win per season average, two league titles, three league tournament titles, three trips to the NCAA Tournament, and two runs to the Sweet Sixteen.

It was just the third time Calvin had ever won 20+ games in a stretch of three or more consecutive seasons, and the first time they did it without winning a National Championship.

This season might not go well for the Knights -- who knows exactly -- but either way it's unlikely to be part of an actual downward trend for the program. The tipping point is not real. At least probably not.

The race for MIAA Tournament spots should be an interesting one. Hope appears to be the favorite and Olivet will probably finish last, but spots 2-7 are very much up for grabs. Our expectation, as always, is for Calvin to compete at the top of the conference. And they'll be back there soon enough.

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Far-Too-Early Look at Calvin's NCAA Tournament Chances

I just started to crunch some of the NCAA strength of schedule (SOS) and RPI data that I run every year. It's way, way too early for any of this stuff, but the MIAA is off to a strong start with Hope and Trine particularly having good number. Again, very early and too soon to take anything seriously.

Calvin's last three teams were better than the current version, but this squad could have a better shot at an at-large NCAA bid than any of the previous due to the schedule. Only seven of the Knights' 22 Division III regular season games will be played at home this season, so they'll benefit from the 'away' SOS modifier more than they'll be hurt by the 'home' one. (It's also a genuinely difficult schedule with few cupcakes).

It's important to note that last weekend's disappointing performances versus Cornerstone and Aquinas (NAIA programs) won't play into a potential NCAA Tournament bid hardly at all. The NCAA only looks results outside of Division III as a last resort if they can't break a tie between two teams.

Calvin isn't NCAA Tournament quality right now -- they'll have to improve significantly as a team as the season goes -- but if the MIAA continues to do well in the non-conference and Calvin can manage to win 17 or 18 games against D3 opponents, they could find themselves in the conversation come February.

They almost need to come out of this weekend 2-0 versus Carthage and Wheaton to make those numbers work out, however. The MIAA-CCIW games are generally a good measuring stick for how the teams would stack up nationally with other strong programs. Calvin is going to need to win

This year will be interesting with Wheaton and Carthage appearing to be weaker than they have been in years (Calvin too, mostly) and with Hope looking like a national title contender.

Calvin had to win the MIAA Tournament in order to reach the NCAA Tournament in each of the last three years (they didn't have the SOS to warrant selection as an at-large team), so they couldn't afford many losses in the regular season. They probably can afford some of those losses given this year's schedule but that's still going to also mean improving along the way, picking up nearly every "winnable" game in the non-conference, and finishing 10-4 or 9-5 in league play with an MIAA Tournament win.

That's no small ask.

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