Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ivy League tempo-free review

Steven Cook celebrates after cutting net following Princeton's win in inaugural Ivy League tournament. (Photo by Kevin Whitaker/NYC Buckets)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

They dominated in the regular season, yet almost fell short of the conference title game. However, at the end of the day, Princeton went through the Ancient Eight schedule unblemished.

In other years, the NCAA Tournament would have been automatic. This past season, though, the Ivy League got into the act of holding a postseason tournament. The site was the storied Palestra, not ideal in Princeton’s case. The Tigers’ semifinal opponent was Penn, who happens to call the Palestra home. Princeton prevailed, though it took an extra session. Following the overtime win over the Quakers, Yale was  dispatched in the final and the first regular/postseason tournament double was property of Princeton.

The following tempo-free statistics are courtesy of KenPom, and only Ivy League games are factored in.

Efficiency Margins
1) Princeton (+22, 14-0 conference record)
2) Harvard (+11, 10-4)
3) Yale (+3, 9-5)
4) Penn (+1, 6-8)
5) Columbia (-5, 5-9)
6) Cornell (-8, 4-10)
7) Brown (-9, 4-10)
8) Dartmouth (-13, 4-10)
Offensive Efficiency Leaders
1) Princeton (112)
2) Harvard (110)
3) Yale (106)
4) Brown (104)
5) Penn (103)

Defensive Efficiency Leaders
1) Princeton (90)
2) Harvard (99)
3) Penn (102)
4) Yale (103)
5) Columbia (104)

Efficiency was aided by good shooting on the offensive end. Conversely, those gaudy effective field goal percentages resulted in a number of below average defensive efficiencies.

Possessions Per Game
1) Brown (71)
2) Cornell (70)
T-3) Columbia (69)
T-3) Yale (69)
5) Harvard (68)
T-6) Dartmouth (67)
T-6) Penn (67)
8) Princeton (63)

Maybe it is stereotypical, but the Ivies are a more patient, set-oriented group. The possessions per game bear this belief. For years, Ivy League schools have been more inclined to set things up rather than run and gun. Brown and Cornell broke into the uptempo area of 70 or more possessions per game, but just barely.

Turnover Rate Leaders:
1) Princeton (16 percent)
T-2) Brown (18)
T-2) Columbia (18)
T-4) Harvard (19)
T-4) Penn (19)

Turnover rates were deceptive. The top five were the only teams under 20 percent, as the league average was 19 percent in conference, ranking 27th-best among all leagues according to KenPom. On the whole, turnover rates were borderline, while shooting well contributed to the fact that seven of the eight Ivy teams had triple-digit efficiencies. The effective field goal percentages were very impressive, as noted below:

Effective Field Goal Percentage Leaders:
T-1) Harvard (55)
T-1) Princeton (55)
T-3) Cornell (53)
T-3) Yale (53)
5) Dartmouth (52)

A Closer Look at Columbia
Columbia was the only team to shoot under 48 percent in effective field goal percentage. The Lions were also the lone Ivy team under the century mark in offensive efficiency, checking in at 99. The shooting woes centered inside the arc, with a 44 percent two-point field goal percentage, the lowest in the league. As a result, Jim Engles’ team did not visit the foul line as much, as their 27 percent free throw rate checked in as the second-lowest among the Ancient Eight.  
Columbia finished 11-16. They were 10-9 in early February before dropping seven of their last eight. The Lions’ defensive efficiency was a below average 104. The main problem, though, was on the offensive end; especially beyond the arc, where opponents connected at a 37 percent rate.

Ivy League Championship: Princeton 71, Yale 59
A 56-possession Palestra affair was not at all shocking, given the regular season pace with these two teams. Admittedly, the tempo was even slower than the regular season, but both teams were very efficient, with Yale showing a 105 efficiency and Princeton an outstanding 127. Princeton shot 11-of-26 from three-point range and had an outstanding 13 percent turnover rate. Both numbers went a long way to contributing to the efficiency of coach Mitch Henderson’s group. Yale also had an excellent 13 percent turnover rate. The difference was an effective field goal mark of 42 percent, which included a 6-of-20 showing from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs could not stay with Princeton in shooting from the floor, which proved to be the ultimate difference.

KenPom Game MVP: Myles Stephens. The 6-foot-5 sophomore scored 23 points for the Tigers, while pulling down eight rebounds in 37 minutes. Both figures were game highs.

KenPom’s All-Ivy League Team
AJ Brodeur, Penn
Devin Cannady, Princeton
Steven Cook, Princeton
Myles Stephens, Princeton
Spencer Weisz, Princeton

Usage Leaders
1) Evan Boudreaux, Dartmouth (29.2 percent of team possessions)
2) Stone Gettings, Cornell (28.3)
3) Bryce Aiken, Harvard (28.0)
4) Seth Towns, Harvard (27.5)
5) Matt Morgan, Cornell (25.7)
6) Alex Copeland, Yale (25.1)
7) AJ Brodeur, Penn (24.8)
8) Robert Hatter, Cornell (24.7)
9) Luke Petrasek, Columbia (24.6)
10) Steven Spieth, Brown (24.5)

Not surprisingly, the conference did not have a player with a usage percentage hitting 30. The Ivies have their share of talented players. The emphasis, however, is on spreading the wealth rather than putting it all in the hands of a marquee player.

Trends:
The Ivy League was a 50-50 conference, as home and away teams had a perfectly even 28-28 record. Close games were evident 20 percent of the time, with only eight percent ending in the blowout category. Tempo average was 68 possessions per game, placing the Ivy 23rd out of 32 conferences.

Defense: Steal percentage was nine percent, good for seventh-best in the conference order.  The block percentage was 10 percent, third among conferences. The area in which the group as a whole was deficient was in field goal percentage defense. In general, the problem was interior defense. Only Princeton (45 percent), Penn (46) and Columbia (49) held opponents to under 50 percent shooting inside the arc.

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