Previewing UNC-Asheville

WASHINGTON - MARCH 17: Nasir Robinson #35 of the Pittsburgh Panthers drives to the hoop against Quinard Jackson #32 of the North Carolina-Asheville Bulldogs during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Verizon Center on March 17, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

2010 Scouting Report / 2010 Game Plan / 2011 Scouting Report / 2011 Game Plan
2011 Stats
2012 Roster
2012 Schedule

Asheville Offense 09-10
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 47.7 216
Turnover Rate 23.2 314
Off Reb Rate 34.1 122
FTA/FGA 37.0 187
Asheville Offense 10-11
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 48.9 182
Turnover Rate 21.1 235
Off Reb Rate 31.9 191
FTA/FGA 41.8 75

 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations (?) everyone, you've survived another basketball offseason. And now that the regular season is here, it's once again time for me to start beating people about the head with the club of tempo-free knowledge.

------- And now the obligatory What The H Is Going On Here? section  --------

(Feel free to skip this section if you're familiar with all of the stats contained in this post.)

Did you look at those two boxes above and wonder what the hell I'm talking about? That's quite all right, I get that a lot. If you aren't familiar with the format of these basketball previews, or you're new to the tempo-free concept, Ken Pomeroy's definitions page is a good reference. Most of the stats I'll use this season are defined right there.

But why these stats? What's wrong with the numbers in a traditional box score? It's all about gaining clarity through greater context. There's nothing inherently wrong with the stats in a box score (well, except rebound margin), but they're mostly counting stats, so they are influenced by a lot of factors and don't say a whole lot on their own. The foundational tenet is this: college basketball teams play at different speeds, which affects the number of shots they take, make, and rebound; it affects how many shots their opponents take, make, and rebound; it impacts turnover totals, foul totals, assist totals, steal totals, and on and on. The difference between the fastest and slowest team in I-A last season was around 20 possessions per game. Say they both average 15 turnovers per game. Is their ability to take care of the ball equivalent, as the per-game averages suggest? Well, one of them turns it over 15 times for every 80 possessions, while the other turns it over 15 times for every 60 possessions. That paints a bit of a different picture.

So the only way to put them on even terms is to take pace out of the equation, which is exactly what tempo-free stats do. There are a lot of percentages involved, but the nice thing about basketball, unlike baseball, is that the majority of these figures are straightforward. In many cases, we're just changing the denominator. Points per possession (offensive efficiency) rather than points per game, turnovers per possession (turnover rate or TO%) rather than turnovers per game.

I'd best stop there before this spirals out of control, but if you have questions, I'm always happy to help. And there are resources linked in the sidebar on the left-hand side.

------- End of obligatory What The H Is Going On Here? section --------

The UNC-Asheville Bulldogs return four starters off a team that won 11 games in the Big South, took the conference tournament, and won a play-in game in the NCAA tournament. It was their first 20-win season since 2008 and first NCAA appeareance since 2003.

Now they're the favorites in the Big South, and they should be carried by the backcourt duo of JP Primm and Matt Dickey, both of whom were named first team all-conference in the preseason. Dickey is the preseason player of the year. Those two guys led the team in points and minutes in 2011.

But neither one was exceptionally efficient, and the offense wasn't very good in general. It was an average shooting and rebounding team that turned the ball over too much. Asheville's struggled at the offensive end throughout Eddie Biedenbach's career.

It doesn't help that this team is exceptionally short in stature. In their exhibition game, they didn't start a single player taller than 6-5. I'm guessing it will be a different story tomorrow--out of necessity if nothing else--but suffice it to say that Asheville is lacking in the reliable tall guy department. That helps explain the poor offensive rebounding, though their two-point accuracy (49%) was better than I would have guessed.

Starters

J.P. Primm (6-1, 195) --Primm is the team's primary distributor in addition to one of its leading scorers, and while his shooting percentages were unimpressive in 2011, he excelled at getting into the lane and drawing fouls. His free throw rate suggests Big South defenders had a tough time staying in front of him when he put the ball on the floor. His outside shooting is just good enough that you've got to respect him out there.

Matt Dickey (6-1, 180) -- Dickey's been an effective scorer inside the arc throughout his career (his 48.6 2FG% in 2011 was a career low), which is impressive given his size. Some dudes just have that elusive quality I guess. And shooting accuracy. Gotta have that. He also hit 37% of his threes and 85% of his free throws last season.

Chris Stephenson (6-3, 200) -- If Stephenson's career had an epitaph, it would say "He took too many shots." Confidence is important, but so is the ability to self-analyze. When taking a quarter of the team's shots and shooting 32% from the field, as was the case his freshman season, it's time to take a step back. Inevitably, his shooting improved as a sophomore, though he kept using a lot of possessions. In his third year, he finally dialed the workload back closer to average and had the most efficient season of his career. He should probably cut the three-point shots way down, but he ain't bad inside the arc.

Quinard Jackson (6-5, 240) --In three seasons, Jackson has attempted a total of three three-points and made zero, so this is someone defenders won't need to play tight along the perimeter. He was a decent role player a year ago, hitting 58.6% of his shots and grabbing a good number of offensive boards. But he's turnover prone and the less said about his free throw shooting, the better.

Jon Nwannunu (6-8, 225) -- Nwannunu (pronounced "nanu nanu") played sparingly as freshman in 2011, but in his brief time on the court he was an outstanding offensive rebounder and decent interior scorer. I'm guessing a bit with this guy because I figure they need to start at least one player who can match up height-wise with NC State's frontcourt, but Biedenbach could just as easily go with that midget lineup from the exhibition game.

Bench:

Jaron Lane (6-4, 170), Chudier Pal (6-9, 230), Corey Littlejohn (6-3, 200), Jeremy Atkinson (6-4, 210), Trent Meyer (6-2, 165). Atkinson was a starter in the exhibition game; he's a transfer from Louisburg College and officially listed as a forward. Lane got significant minutes last year and was one of the more accurate shooters on the team. So many guards, though. I'll be interested to see how this whole thing fits together.

They're missing DJ Cunningham, who is out for the year with a knee injury. The 6-10 forward was the team's best overall rebounder a year ago and the only guy over 6-5 who played in more than 20% of the team's minutes (!).

Asheville Defense 09-10
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 49.4 184
Turnover Rate 19.4 234
Off Reb Rate 36.4 306
FTA/FGA 34.5 106
Asheville Defense 10-11
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 47.9 114
Turnover Rate 24.2 14
Off Reb Rate 36.5 322
FTA/FGA 39.9 225

 

 

 

 

 

The rebounding figures make plenty of sense considering the size available to Eddie Biedenbach, but here's the weird thing: they've been good at blocking shots in each of the last two seasons. Last year they ranked 56th in the nation in block percentage. And their 2FG% defense wasn't as bad as you'd figure, either.

This is a team that ranked 331st in effective height (average height adjusted for playing time) last season. Clearly they were pushed around on the glass. The block rate just seems counter-intuitive. Maybe Eddie Biedenbach has found the formula for Flubber. Or maybe they just come at you like spider monkeys. We'll have to wait and see.

The turnover rate in 2011 was aberrant, as was their overall defensive performance. Biedenbach's had as much trouble building a decent defense as he has a decent offense. It was the first time since 2004 that a UNCA defense cracked a 20% turnover rate. So I'm not sure how that translates to this season.

I'm gonna assume we'll see some zone from these guys, if not because they're so short then because we couldn't keep people honest with our perimeter shooting in 2011.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes State by 10.

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