Showing posts with label Basketball. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Basketball. Show all posts

Thursday, June 12, 2014

And So Graduates The Most Efficient Shooter Of The Generation

Jordan Mast
Image probably used without permission.
One thing I haven’t done with much regularity over the past few years is update my Facebook status. One thing I have done is maintain an excel-based statistical record of Calvin basketball on my computer. I have seasonal data – at some level – for every year through 1998 which now makes 17 seasons.

One thing I do with the data is compile career totals for players.

It’s fun to look back and remember just how crazy-efficient Andy Draayer was as a shooter due to the high (1) quantity and (2) quality (in a percentage sense) of three point shots he took as a player. Draayer’s .611 career effective field goal percentage is crazy-good (especially considering the frequency with which he shot the ball), but it’s not the best.

The best mark, among the 66 players who hoisted at least 100 career field goal attempts* over this time span, is the .617 eFG% that Jordan Mast compiled over the last three seasons.

*The best mark without any sort of threshold applied is Michael Fabiyi’s 1.000 career eFG% (earned in 2011 by going 1-1 from the field).

Mast wasn’t like Draayer who could take over a game by knocking down extremely deep or contested three pointers, but he did have a role which he filled admirably. By netting the team more points per field goal attempt than any other player who donned the Maroon and Gold over the last 17 years.

Career Top 5 (1998-2014)

Career FGA
Career eFG%
Jordan Mast
Andy Draayer
Brian Roelofs
Derek Griffin
Danny Rodts

Active Career Top 5 (no minimum)

Career FGA
Career eFG%
Jordan Brink
Brad Visser
Tyler Dykstra
Jordan Daley
T.J. Huizenga


Career FGA
Career eFG%
Jordan Mast
Mickey DeVries
Tyler Kruis

(For context, Calvin's average eFG% since 1998 is .511)

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

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.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Boss Back

"Somebody call the Brink(s) truck"
          -Rick Ross

I'm unsure whether it was (occasional FFTMAG author) Zac or me that quoted the above rap lyric after Jordan Brink hit his fifth three pointer of the ballgame on Saturday night, but it seemed apropos at the time. I might have even embeded video of the song -- had a family-friendly version existed -- and gone on to laud the incredible game that Mr. Brink had in Calvin's not-as-close-as-the-final-score-indicates 67-58 win over UW-Stevens Point.

But I'm not going to go on-and-on about how clutch Jordan was in scoring 21 points and hitting on all five of his three point attempts because that's not what this team is about. It's not about individual scoring efforts or any particular player carrying the team.

On Saturday it was Brink with the game-high 21 points, but last week against Rose-Hulman it was Tom Snikkers with 20. Against Hope in the MIAA Championship, Bryan Powell led the way with 18 and Tyler Kruis had a game-high 15 against Adrian.

So, in the last four games -- all with Calvin having their backs against the proverbial wall -- a different member of the team has come out on top in scoring. And it's been like that all year. If one guy has a good matchup, they all look to feed him. This team doesn't play selfishly, they're not out there looking to pad a stat line, and they quite clearly share a common goal.

In both rounds of NCAA Tournament play, the opposing team's broadcasters have commented on how impressed they were with Calvin's balanced box scores. The Knights have four guys averaging between 10.5 and 13.5 points, but rarely, it seems, do games play out that way. The four top scorers don't necessarily hit double figures each game, content to play a role when it's not working for them, but they're each capable of making plays and taking over a game if it fits inside the team flow.

And it's not even about the top scorers. Calvin is where they are for multiple reasons. They're one of the (if not the, singular) best rebounding teams in the country, and guys like Mickey DeVries and Dan Stout play big roles in that department. Stevens Point didn't get their first "real" offensive rebound until there were about five minutes left to play (the first credited offensive rebound came at about 10 minutes in the second half on a Tyler Dykstra block that ended up out of bounds). When teams don't get second chances, they don't score very much.

It's a team game and Calvin's playing it that way. I should be writing about every single guy wearing the maroon and gold, but I can't because my mind is really just "WE ON! WE ON! WE ON! WE ON!" right now. I'm just, wow, I love this.

Efficiency Numbers

Estimated possessions: 59.4
Offensive Efficiency: 112.8
Defensive Efficiency: 97.7

That's actually Calvin getting things done more on the offensive side than on the defensive side -- which is a little bit unusual -- but UW-Stevens Point is as good of an offensive team as they've seen all season, so that defensive number is still pretty darn good.

The Knights were up 14 with darn near 0:30 to play, but a late three pointer and a layup cut the game to single digits by the final buzzer. They have more or less clowned two opponents on their home court in the NCAA Tournament.

Calvin's last three games -- vs. Hope, at Rose-Hulman, at UW-Stevens Point -- have probably been their best three games of the year. This is the right time of year to peak.

In which the author quotes himself

This came all the way back on October 25:
19 to 21 wins heading into the MIAA tournament with a 12-2 or 11-3 conference record and a league championship. They’ll grab an NCAA tournament berth and make a Sweet 16 appearance.
It was 22 wins heading into the MIAA Tournament with a 13-1 conference record, a league championship, an NCAA Tournament berth, and a Sweet Sixteen appearance. I was way off.

Looking ahead

St. Thomas is up next. They're good, and that's an understatement. Perhaps I'll have numbers and other nerdy things to come.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

On Tempo, Reality, and On To The Next One


This will be a slightly scattered post, so for that I apologize, but I figured I wanted to write something rather than nothing, so this qualifies.

Calvin did something that no one predicted they’d do which was beat Rose-Hulman by 20 points. On the road. In the NCAA Tournament.

This was billed as a defensive battle. According to Massey, Rose-Hulman was the #1 defense in the country and Calvin was #12. The predicted score was something in the 50’s for both teams. Rose-Hulman hit their mark by scoring 52 points, but Calvin exploded for 72.

72 isn’t usually an “explosion”, but this was against THE NUMBER ONE DEFENSE IN THE COUNTRY. Except, not realy.

The Engineers were the top team in terms of points allowed per game, but that doesn’t necessarily qualify them as the best defense. You see, RHIT typically plays at a slower than average pace and therefore gives the opponent fewer opportunities to score. They averaged about 58 possessions per game in the regular season compared to the typical average of about 68. Considering an average team maybe scores a point per possession, that’s 10 points per game of “defensive quality” that’s really just a result of them playing slower games. That still leaves them with a very good defense, but probably not #1, and probably no better than Calvin’s.

Tempo, Tempo, Tempo

Rose-Hulman was dubbed the better defensive team, but Calvin actually had better numbers on a per-possession basis. Calvin’s defensive efficiency rating (points allowed per 100 defensive possessions) was 85.2 heading into the game and Rose-Hulman’s was 86.6. When it came to actually stopping the opponent on any given possession, the two were virtually identical. (It should also be noted that these two numbers are very, very good).

In order to do a more rigorous analysis, one would need to consider the strength of each team’s opponents, but both played Top-100 (ish) schedules (Calvin’s is #68 and RHIT’s #101 according to Massey), so it’s probably pretty close. If anything it would under-value Calvin relative to Rose-Hulman.

This is an example of why per-possession metrics (otherwise known as tempo-free metrics) give us a more accurate picture of team quality than per-game metrics.


Calvin is a good offensive team. Not spectacular when it comes to NCAA Tournament teams, but probably still at least average for a Round-of-32 team. So how then did they score 72 points against the not-#1-but-still-very-good Rose-Hulman defense?

They probably got a bit lucky.

Calvin doesn’t typically shoot at eye-popping percentages – they’re at .471 for the season – but on Saturday night they shot 82% in the second half to run away with it (61% for the game). It’s true that they got a few easy buckets in transition as they broke RHIT’s press a few times, but 82% is ridiculous and won’t happen again. I don’t mean to rain on the parade at all, but you’re not going to see Tom Snikkers, Tyler Kruis, Mickey DeVries, and Dan Stout combine to go 10-11 on jump shots very often. They all can knock down those shots, but they can’t knock down those shots at a 90%+ clip.

A little bit of positive randodm variation never hurt anybody (well, except for Rose-Hulman in this case), but if Calvin shot a more “normal” percentage then they might have 10-14 of those points off the board. That would have made the game a little bit more interesting at the end.

This isn't to devalue what Calvin did one bit -- I think they're the better team between the two, even on the road -- but if they were to re-play the game I'd pick the Knights by about five, not twenty.

On To The Next One

It's really unfortunate that Calvin is going to have to hit the road for this one rather than meeting UW-Stevens Point at a neutral site or at home. Traveling by bus nearly seven hours is rarely a recipe for success -- especially against a team like Stevens Point -- but the Pointers can be beaten.

UWSP has been without one of their better players, Tyler Tillema, for the second half of the season. That has hurt them quite a bit, but they were still strong enough to claim the regular season WIAC title. And teh WIAC champion is usually one of the best three or four teams in the country. I'm not sure the Pointers are playing quite at that level right now, but they sure are good and could beat anyone in the country on any given night.

Like Rose-Hulman, they play at a little big slower pace (though not as slow as the Engineers), but they (i.e. UW-Stevens Point) are more of an offensive team than a defensive one. Their defense is likely better than their raw numbers suggest -- given the fact that they play in arguably the best league in Division III -- as is probably their offense.

Pace: 61 possessions per game
Offensive efficiency rating: 113.2
Defensive efficiency rating: 96.2
Massey strength of schedule: #2

Pace: 67 possessions per game
Offensive efficiency rating: 111.5
Defensive efficiency rating: 85.3
Massey strength of schedule: #68

Calvin has the edge from a raw-numbers standpoint, but we would really want to adjust Stevens Point's numbers up to account for their schedule.

These raw numbers -- including for a simple home court advantage multiplier in favor of the Pointers -- suggest a three-point Calvin win. It would take something like a five point adjustment (in any combination of OEff or DEff) in favor of Stevens Point for the numbers to predict an even score. I have no idea what a reasonable strength of schedule factor should be, but let's just say this game looks like it should be quite close.

Massey is predicting a five point Calvin loss, for whatever that's worth.

The good news is that Calvin has been playing just about their best basketball of the season the last two weeks. They needed to win the MIAA Tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament so they've been in win-or-go-home mode for three games. These are their numbers:

OEff     DEff Margin
Adrian 121.9   71.5 50.4
Hope 110.9   82.1 28.8
Rose-Hulman 121.7   87.9 33.8

As a simple rule-of-thumb, efficiency margins of 28.0 and above mean "there's no way this team could beat you". That's not really true, of course, in a one-game setting but if a team could put an efficiency margin of 28 or better for a season, they'd be darn near undefeated.

As you can see, Calvin has treated Adrian, Hope, and Rose-Hulman* -- all teams who have spent time in the Top 25 this year -- as a bunch of ragamuffin cupcakes.

*Caveats that Adrian wasn't the same team on March 1 that they were on January 1 and that Hope was more or less a Preseason Top-25 team.

We shouldn't expect Stevens Point to go down that easily, but whatever sort of thing Calvin has found recently, let's keep going with that.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Our Bracket of Death is Deathier Than Your Bracket of Death


I am, at the same time, both (1) thrilled about Calvin’s inclusion in the field of 62 for the NCAA Tournament and (2) not thrilled about their draw. It wasn’t completely unexpected that Calvin would have to start on the road – the writing was on the wall when they were regularly ranked fifth and sixth in the region by the Great Lakes committee – but there was a chance that they’d get a home game, and that, obviously, would have been more pleasant. But even after we look past the home/road decision, we see that Calvin has a tough road ahead.

First of all, let’s reiterate that the tournament timeline is different this year. We typically have Friday-Saturday pods of four teams on the first weekend that get us down to the Sweet Sixteen and then Friday-Saturday sectionals the following week that whittle the field down to the Final Four. This year, however, the tournament is being stretched so that the D-III (and D-II) championship games line up with the D-I Final Four weekend. So here’s our new one-year schedule:

Saturday, March 2: Round of 62 @ campus sites
Saturday, March 9: Round of 32 @campus sites
Saturday, March 16: Sweet Sixteen @campus sites
Friday, March 22: Elite Eight @ Salem, VA
Saturday, March 23: Final Four @ Salem, VA
Sunday, April 7: Championship Game @ Atlanta, GA – (Monday, April 8 should a “we don’t play on Sunday” team such as Calvin make it there)

So we’re usually looking at the four regions of 16 teams each as groups that will have to meet on campus sites until the neutral floor of Salem, VA (the traditional Final Four site), but this year we’re (I’m) more focused on the sub-regions of eight teams that will eventually meet for the Elite Eight round in Salem. This year’s committee was probably more hamstrung with the first three rounds – having to make sure most/all were within 500 miles to avoid the cost of flights – but were more free to move these groups of eight around to balance the bracket. Whatever, I can tell you’re bored.

Anyway, here’s Calvin’s sub-region with Massey Rank noted parenthetically:

Calvin (#8) at Rose-Hulman (#23)
Northwestern (Minn.) (#82) at UW-Stevens Point (#4)

Aurora (#72) at St. Thomas (#1)
St. Norbert (#28) at Wheaton (#10)

That’s four top-10 teams and six top-30 teams. When it comes to the tournament, everyone’s good, but this is a meat grinder. Obviously the national committee isn’t setting out to balance the bracket according to Massey Rating – they’re using the handbook criteria – but it sucks all the same. From the way the criteria looks, the seeding/hosting priority order in this group/region/sectional looks like (in order): St. Thomas, UW-Stevens Point, Wheaton, Rose-Hulman, St. Norbert, Calvin, Northwestern (Minn.), Aurora. So Calvin will likely be needing a major upset or two if they hope to host a future round. Potentially Calvin and St. Norbert could be flipped in the above order.

Just for fun, here’s the sub-region just below Calvin’s (the one that they’ll meet up with in the Elite Eight) looks like this:

Delaware Valley (#120) at Virginia Wesleyan (#16)
Rutgers-Newark (#67) at Christopher Newport (#37)

Wesley (#47) at Williams (#17)
Staten Island (#121) at Catholic (#24)

No top-10 teams and only three top-30 teams. I want to go to there.

The term “bracket of death” has been floated out with respect to the region that includes:

Spalding (#68) at Washington U (#12)
Transylvania (#39) at Illinois Wesleyan (#6)

Dubuque (#36) at UW-Whitewater (#2)
Centre (#61) at North Central (Ill.) (#3)

So yeah, sucks that there’s a possibility for a would-be, could-be Final Four matchup in the second round, but overall this isn’t really any more “bracket of death” than the one Calvin’s in. The two regions look equally difficult – save for the higher Massey-ranked teams all having home games in this second one. We’re talking about seven of Massey’s top-ten teams existing in these two sub-regions (plus the #12). That leaves only three top-tens to be spread across the other six sub-regions. Cool.

So it is, of course, true that “you’ll have to beat these teams sooner or later”, but knowing that Calvin is going to (likely) have to play all road games in perhaps the toughest section of the bracket is not an encouraging thought.

But one can’t think of it like that. We have a full week in between games, so it’s full focus on Rose-Hulman and then we can worry about Stevens Point when we get to that. I’ll break out some numbers on RHIT a bit later.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Trine Not To Think Too Far Ahead

Calvin 56, Trine 43 (box score)

This was really the first game Calvin had won this year purely with defense. You could also throw in the Adrian game perhaps, and maybe Aquinas and Cornerstone, but none of those three games were as extreme as this one.

Calvin couldn’t score, plain and simple, but the defense allowed them to hang in there and make a game of it until the baskets started falling. Remember this?

There are good days and bad days. There are games where shots don’t fall. There are games where the ball seems to take weird bounces. This happens – and will happen again at some point down the stretch – but this isn’t what WANT is about. It’s a decision – a repeated decision that’s made every moment – to stay calm, stay focused, stay controlled, stay team-oriented, and stay dominant.

I had very literally written that two days before this game, and that’s pretty much what happened. Calvin didn’t score a point for nearly seven minutes (a Dan Stout free throw), and didn’t make a field goal for the first ten minutes -- nine minutes and fifty nine seconds, actually, if you want to be literal about it. But even then, one-quarter of the way through the game, with one field goal in and three points on the board, the Knights found themselves down only six points.

Trine jumped out to the quick 9-0 lead inside the first five or six minutes, but the Calvin defense clamped down then and there, and only allowed 34 more points the rest of the game. It was the best defensive output of the season, holding Trine to a 68.1 efficiency rating – the first time they’d held an opponent under 70 all year.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

How Much More Do You WANT?

Calvin 75, Hope 49 (box score)

The thing about “The Rivalry” is that games don’t go like this. Calvin and Hope are – with a few exceptions – both very good teams every single year. They know each other; they see each other in the GRSHOF Classic and MIAA-CCIW Classic; they rarely surprise each other.

But then this game happened and the Calvin Knights surprised the pants off the Flying Dutchmen who were apparently not prepared to play a basketball game. Calvin was a heavyweight boxer who nearly knocked out the opponent in the first round, sending them to the corner on wobbly legs. When the second round began, they (the metaphorical Calvin boxer) stood in the middle of the ring with gloves at the side, accepted a small flurry of uncontested body blows, laughed, and then delivered the right-hook that would end the fight.

Fun Fact: Hope finally tied Calvin’s halftime score with 1:43 left to play in the game.

And I guess that’s where the ill-conceived boxing metaphor fails. Calvin didn’t win this game so much with an offensive barrage – though they put up a quite good 113.0 offensive efficiency rating – it was more the fact that their defense suffocated the Dutchmen from the get-go. From a raw defensive efficiency standpoint, it was their third best game of the season:

Grace Bible
at Kalamazoo
North Park
at Albion

Note the surrounding teams being Grace, Anderson, Kalamazoo, and North Park. This was easily the best defensive game if we account for the relative quality of Hope’s offense. It didn’t look like it last night, but Hope’s one of the best offensive teams in Division III. According to the Massey Ratings’ breakdown, they’ve performed as the 29th best offense in the country. Calvin did that – 49 points in a game played at a reasonable pace – against what is possibly one of the Top-30 offenses in the entirety of NCAA Division III. I also want to note that Massey’s data set – the data set that rates Hope’s offense at #29 – already includes last night’s futility.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Calvin Is Better Than Michigan State. Probably.

Mickey DeVries is from Lansing, a city to which MSU is near.
I rather enjoy Kenneth Massey’s sports rating site. He goes into great depth in the college basketball realm, ranking everyone from Duke to Luzerne County Community College (and presumably other worse teams that the author was unwilling to try to find). Included in the middle is the most comprehensive Division III basketball rankings available.

I had not – for reasons unknown – previously explored some of the more advanced features of the website. For example, we can see that these ratings predict Calvin to finish the regular season with eight or nine more wins, and gives them roughly an 80% chance of hitting the 20 win mark (prior to the MIAA Tournament). We can also see that the teams Calvin plays this year look awfully regional even if three didn’t count as such.

But, perhaps most importantly, we find definitive proof that Calvin is better than the Michigan State Spartans. Or, perhaps more appropriately styled, the twenty second ranked in Division I Michigan State Spartans.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Calvin Knights Topple #7 Adrian Bulldogs

First off, should Adrian have been ranked in the Top-10? Probably not, but they have represented themselves to-date as a solid Top-25 team and a ranking in the teens wouldn’t have been underserved. They’re certainly still a Top-25 team even with the loss. I’m probably splitting hairs here, I know that, but this wasn’t so much number seven versus unranked as it was more like, say, number 14 versus 28. I mean, it was exactly number seven versus unranked, but that billing doesn’t do justice to the relative quality of the teams.

What I mean to say is that although Adrian was highly ranked and Calvin not ranked, this was going to be a close game, and one that Calvin would likely win. Massey had Calvin as a 62% favorite and predicted a three-point win. My unadjusted efficiency numbers predicted a 60-54 Calvin win. I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say here other than that Calvin and Adrian are both very good teams, and that this particular game went pretty much according to form.

It’s tough to immediately recall a game that was more tightly contested from start to finish. Calvin never trailed by more than two, and never took a lead larger than six until the final five minutes when they stretched it to seven on two occasions. But even with the score close – seemed like it was Calvin by four for the entire second half – it didn’t necessarily feel like it was “only” a two-possession game. The game was a defensive battle and I’m sure (though I haven’t done it) one might be able to count the number of times either team scored in back-to-back possessions on one hand.

The win got Calvin on the D3hoops front page:

It was a great game to watch – if you don’t mind the absence of pretty offense – and a great win for the Knights.