The Byrd Cage

Bruins Score Big Points… Anything Missing?

In Game Posts on February 16, 2012 at 4:08 pm

The wise poet Snoop Dogg once said, “It ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none.”

It seems like the Bruins have been playing to this mantra lately- and if they are, it has been very fun for them.  Against Florida Gulf Coast last Saturday in Ft. Myers, six different Bruins went into double-digit points, and Belmont left with a 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.  Then Monday, after the “Benjamin” Belmont placed on Stetson, the Bruins moved to 3rd and 5th in points-per-game and assists-per-game, respectively, and they climbed the Ken Pom rankings to 25th.  Belmont, now ahead of the likes of teams like Vanderbilt, St. Mary’s and Gonzaga in the rankings, shows their great offensive efficiency.  But while the Ken Pom rankings tell more of a story than the AP or Coaches Poll ratings in my opinion, the whole story simply hasn’t been told with this team.

Which brings us to a big question mark before March.

Defense?

The Belmont Bruin offense has never been better. They are in the midst of a five game offensive tear producing 1.31 points per possession while shooting a blistering 61.57 percent effective from the field. For the season, the Bruins are currently second in the country in gross offensive efficiency. However, for the Bruins to make a deep tournament run, they must shore up the other side of the ball. During last season’s record breaking campaign, the Bruins surrendered only .89 points per possession finishing the season with the nation’s third best defense. You think that is impressive? In Atlantic Sun play, the Bruins were allowing an unheard of .85 points per possession. What has changed?

Rick Byrd mentioned early this season that this version of the Bruin’s does not press opponents baseline to baseline like past teams. Increased minutes for guards Kerron Johnson and Drew Hanlen have limited the Bruins ability to constantly pressure opponents. This change in defensive strategy is evident in the Bruins ability to force turnovers.

Last season, the Bruins forced opponents to turn the ball over 27.3 percent of the time, good for second best in the country. The Bruins have seen the percentage dip this season to 21.6 percent, not poor by any stretch of the imagination, but not what the Bruins treated their fans to last season. It was unrealistic to expect that type of turnover rate to continue. One noticeable difference is the steal percentage from Kerron Johnson. Kerron was the nation’s leading steal man by percentage last season at 6.2 percent. That number has dipped down to around 3.2 percent this season. Less steals means less turnovers means more opponent opportunities means more points allowed.

The Bruins defensive situation is far from dire, however. Despite a steady increase throughout the season (see the graphic below), the Bruins are surrendering .98 points per possession, placing them comfortably in the top half of the country. The defense certainly has room to improve, but as heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey said, “the best defense is a good offense”. If the last 5 games are any indication of how the rest of the season will play out, a 130.92 offensive rating paired with a 99.35 defensive rating produces a win expectancy of 94 percent, odds any wise man would happily take.

This graph shows the Bruins defensive efficiency, or points allowed per possession, throughout the entire season. The blue represents the actual points allowed per possession for each individual game. The red line shows the trend over the entire season. Interpretation: The Bruins defensive efficiency has declined marginally throughout the season.  

-Nick Broadhead

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