Appalachian State Vs. NC State Preview: Hey, Tamper This, Bub

USA TODAY Sports

Jason Capel couldn't really play basketball, and he can't really coach it either. But he sure can cast aspersions with the best of 'em!

App State @ StatSheet
2013 Stats
2014 Roster
2014 Schedule

App State Offense 12-13
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 49.6 117
Turnover Rate 19.4 137
Off Reb Rate 30.3 220
FTA/FGA 37.9 112

Basketball season is finally here for real, and that means it is time for my unnecessarily long opponent previews. Good to be back, everybody, real good to be back. As always, these previews are heavy on statistics you will not find in a traditional box score; these stats are significantly more illuminating, I think, though they haven't quite swept the nation just yet. (We'll get there.)

If you are new to these numbers, fret not, sir or madam!

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

Did you look at that box above and wonder what the heck 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 15 possessions per game. This can create distortion in counting stats. 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 75 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 simply 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 right here.

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

Jason Capel's Appalachian State program isn't so much making progress as it is loitering in a puddle of .500ishness. The Mountaineers finished last season 15-16 overall and a respectable 10-8 in Southern Conference games. In three seasons, Capel is 44-49 overall and 27-27 in league play. The team does return four starters for 2014, including a guy named Tab, which is pretty sweet. That could help Capel's program turn something resembling a corner, though the preseason projections are not optimistic on that count.

Undoubtedly bored to tears by watching the basketball equivalent of a guy jogging in place at a stoplight for three years, Capel and the App State athletics department found a way to spice things up. By holding a recruit hostage this summer and accusing somebody of tampering in his recruitment. That somebody allegedly was NC State. It could have been UConn. Or there was no tampering, only a staff that finally gave up on Candy Crush Saga. We may never know.

Starters

Mike Neal (6-2, 185) -- Decent outside shooter, but he shot a dreadful 38.3% inside the arc last season, and turnovers were a serious problem. He's a good distributor and he might knock down a few threes, but I'm not sure he'll be a noticeable factor in the offense.

Tab Hamilton (6-3, 180) -- Competent three-point shooter--he hit 33% of his threes as a freshman and 36.7% last year--but as is generally the case with guys who are limited to mostly jumpers, he's not gonna provide a whole lot else to the offense. Doesn't turn it over much, doesn't get to the line often either. He profiles as a three-point specialist based on those two stats, though his attempts have been split about 50-50 between twos and threes.

Jay Canty (6-6, 200) [Just kidding! He's ineligible.] -- The departure of leading scorer Nathan Healy puts some added pressure on Canty, who was the only other guy to average in double figures last year. Canty had the highest workload on the team, and in hindsight, Capel probably should have tried to get Healy more opportunities. Healy was considerably more efficient scoring the ball and he had an above-average workload, it just wasn't quite as high as Canty's.

Canty, on the other hand, hit just 47.7% of his twos and a quarter of his 60 three-point attempts. But he did do a decent job getting to the line, and he proved to be a good passer as well.

Tevin Baskin (6-6, 210) -- Baskin came off the bench exclusively in his first year at ASU, but I think the JuCo transfer could end up being this team's offensive leader when all is said and done. He was efficient despite the second-highest workload on the team last season, hitting about half his twos while knocking down a good percentage of his occasional three-point attempts. He needs to step up in the defensive rebounding department, but there's a lot to like here--a low turnover rate, solid steal and block rates, and a good free throw rate coupled with a FT% north of 70.

Michael Obacha (6-8, 215) -- There is something to be said for knowing your place, so credit is due to Obacha, who let the more experienced players on the team run the show while he learned the ropes as a freshman. He only took 10.5% of the shots, but that selectivity helped him make 55.3% of his twos.

He finished the season with more free throw attempts than field goal attempts (this is always a great sign), and with a few improvements--namely to his turnover rate and free throw shooting--he could begin to start looking like more of an impact player. He's already the team's best offensive rebounder. But his low involvement in the offense combined with a high TO% definitely point to a raw prospect.

Bench

Chris Burgess (5-8, 175), Rantavious Gilbert (6-8, 235), Mike Kobani (6-8, 250), Tommy Spagnolo (6-7, 210). Honestly, I'm clueless about this team's bench. The Mountaineers haven't played an exhibition game, making it difficult to guess at their rotation. Burgess played in all 31 games last year and figures to be a prominent reserve, but Gilbert and Spagnolo played sparingly, and Kobani is an incoming freshman.

Some mix of that forward trio will be necessary for the Mountaineers, but as for what they bring to the table, who knows.

App State Defense 12-13
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 51.4 281
Turnover Rate 18.8 240
Off Reb Rate 30.3 104
FTA/FGA 35.2 153

App State had a small team last year, and it will be undersized again this season. The Mountaineers' slight stature and polite nature allowed opponents to score at an incredibly efficient rate from two. The coaching staff is doing its best to change the culture, however. In related news, Jason Capel just opened a bottle of Snapple and accused his local grocer of tampering because the pop sound the cap makes wasn't loud enough.

The Mountaineers did a decent job on the glass considering what they were working with, but they needed to force a whole hell of a lot more turnovers for their overall defensive efficiency to approach anything remotely average.

The Pomeroy Predictor (which is based entirely on Pomeroy's preseason ratings at this point) likes NC State by 14.

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