Friday, November 16, 2012

Calvin Tip-Off Tournament Preview

Game Preview
WhoGrace Bible Tigers (NCCAA-II)
North Park Vikings
Cairn Highlanders
WhatCalvin Tip-off Tournament
WhereVan Noord Arena
WhenFriday 5:30 PM,  7:30 PM Saturday 1 PM, 3 PM
AudioCalvin Stretch Internet
VideoCalvin Live Stream
Live StatsLive Stats
Tickets$5 at the door or online

When We Last Met
Last year's Tip-Off Tournament marked the first time in three years that Calvin had won the title. Having lost to the Grace Bible Tigers the two years previous, Calvin eked out a double-over time win against a Grace team that probably "should have won" in regulation and in the first overtime. No one on the current Calvin team has beaten Grace in regulation. We're all getting itchy.

It's been a number of years since Calvin has played North Park. More than 15, and perhaps many more than that. They're in-region, so it would be a good game for Calvin to play (and win).

Cairn (known alias: Philadelphia Bible) came to the Calvin Tip-off Tournament in 2004-05, but they lost their opening game versus Eastern (PA) and didn't meet up with Calvin.

North Park vs. Cairn -- 5:30 PM
North Park wasn't very good last year. They finished with a 6-19 record and rated as basically Alma according to Massey.Cairn, however, was worse. They won only four games and Massey had them as the 15th worst team in Division III. I expect North Park to win rather comfortably, setting up the potential for an all-important regional game in the championship round.

Calvin vs. Grace -- 7:30 PM
These two teams earned nearly identical rankings on the Massey scale in 2012, but Calvin probably got a lot better, and Grace appears to have gotten worse. The Bible Tigers are 1-4 on the season with their only win coming (in overtime, at home) to a probably-not-very-good Crossroads team. I don't think this means Grace will be a pushover, but the "yeah, but they're a really strong team" excuse is now out the window. Grace returns one starter -- and only three players -- that participated in last year's game. Nothing about Grace's to-date results says "should be able to beat Calvin", but we really don't know what Calvin is this year.

I'm confident that Calvin will win -- and win comfortably -- but it's more of a "still terrified inside about what would happen if they don't" kind of confidence. Grace now has five regular season games under their belts, so they'll have "gelled" more than the Knights, so this isn't a game in which to lay an egg. Play needs to be tight, crisp, and under control.

Calvin should have a size advantage (as they will in most games), so they'll need to control the glass. They can't afford to give Grace second looks, especially since the Tigers are likely the better shooting team. If Calvin takes care of the ball and rebounds well on both ends, they'll be just fine. Rebounding will probably be the key to this team this year, unless they show that they can shoot with a high degree of efficiency.

In the end, this game won't count for much of anything if Calvin's in a position for NCAA Tournament selection/seeding, but they do need to make a statement to show what type of a team they'll be this year. I really miss those 30 point wins to start the season.

Final Score Bench Marks
Efficiency is the name of the game. Assuming a 70 possession game -- the typical pace in the last two Calvin-Grace meetings -- a 10 point win (+14.3 in efficiency margin) would put Calvin right above their target season margin that would yield and expected 20 wins on the year. I would be very happy with that. If we want to get really greedy, then we'd be hoping for an 18 point win here, which would put their efficiency margin right at the "gimmie win" average. (Read the linked post at the start of this paragraph if you don't understand what I'm talking about here).

Anything less than 10 and I'll outwardly say that "a win is a win", but I'll be nervous. A loss would mean... I don't even want to consider that.

The Big Picture
The most important result of the weekend would be a Calvin win over North Park. That would be a D3 in-region game which is the #1 criterion for NCAA Tournament purposes. It would be at home versus a rather weak team (when all is said and down) so it will bring down Calvin's final strength of schedule rating, but it's typically better to play and win (even "easy" games) than not play at all.

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