Monday, November 19, 2012

Champs.

I'm hoping these students (not pictured) were at the volleyball match.
Calvin 84, Grace Bible 53 (box score)
Calvin 83, North Park 54 (box score)

Not the sports apparel retailer, that’s Champs Sports, and not the sports bar and grill chain, that’s Champps Americana Restaurant (notice the extra ‘P’, someone over there is too clever); I’m talking about the Calvin Tip-off Tournament Champs.

It’s kind of a big deal. People know it.

I find it hard to write words after horrible, horrible losses and blowout victories, but at least I can justify typing random words after the latter (I think that means the second one), because no one’s reading this anyway. They’re all out celebrating the championship. Still.

The results of the two games this past weekend were nice – it’s rarely a bad thing to win by 30 – and we don’t know how the respective seasons for Grace and North Park will shake out, but winning both of these games by 30 (or 31 and 29, if you’re a stickler for details) should put Calvin right where they want to be. In order to be a good team one must beat these two soundly, and Calvin did just that.

It was good that Cairn was at this competition because it provides us some sort of benchmark. North Park and Grace aren’t good, but Cairn is plain bad (bad, bad, bad). We know that Cairn is horrible (about as bad as you can be in D3), and we know that they lost to North Park and Grace Bible by 24 and 48 respectively. So we learn something about Calvin’s two opponents: that they are both markedly better than a bottom feeder. And then Calvin proceeded to destroy the two teams that are “markedly better than a bottom feeder” making them markedly better than teams that are markedly better than the teams on the bottom. I have no idea what I just said, but I think I’m meaning to say that Calvin beat two teams they were supposed to beat by scores in which they were supposed to beat them.

I think the biggest thing that stood out to me, both while watching the actual games and while taking a brief stroll through the stat sheets, was that Calvin played two pretty complete team games. The Knights made 66 field goals across the two games, and recorded an assist on 49 of them (that’s 74%). Last year’s team was actually quite good with assist rate (59%), but that could be a partial function of the team’s poor-ish scoring ability. Whereas last year’s team needed assists to lead to easy baskets (otherwise they weren’t scoring), this year’s team seems to be constantly creating such opportunities. The result has been very few forced shots and many, many good looks at the basket.

Fun fact: everyone that’s played at least ten full minutes has at least two assists.

One of the more impressive stat lines probably belongs to Tom Snikkers. Tyler Kruis has the impressive 20+ point average (and I’m going to take him for granted for a moment here), but Snikkers has dialed down his shot attempts and has become the team’s assist leader. Not that he wasn’t scoring – he has the third highest scoring average at 8.5 – but he’s doing that while also leading in assists and trailing only Mickey DeVries in total rebounds. That’s a versatile player.

Defensively Calvin was no less impressive. I’m sure coach Vande Streek will find things to break down and stomp about, but they appeared to be as active – or proactive, perhaps – as a Calvin team has been in a number of years. Like they’re past the point of learning the system and to the point of getting good at the system. Active hands, active feet, cutting off driving lanes, closing out on three point attempts, getting in the passing lanes. All things that frustrate the opponents and lead to high (25%) turnover rates.

My biggest complaint about the man-to-man help side defensive system that coach Vande Streek likes to employ is that it can’t be a passive system. No defensive system can be (and still be effective). When Calvin has a young team (like last year) or a team filled with new people, the defense feels that way. When the defense is passive, the offense dictates the play. I’m sure the Grace Bible and North Park players will tell you they didn’t feel comfortable on the offensive end.

All of this, of course, receives the all-encompassing quality-of-opponent caveat, but it’s not like we’re trying to justify an eight point win over Finlandia or anything. All signs point to good.

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