Better Know an Opponent: Manhattan

Tomorrow, this blog will be on the road as we make the trek back to South Carolina to celebrate the holidays.  At that time, the Gamecocks will also be on the road, as they head back to New York City (the site of this disaster) for non-conference action against the Manhattan Jaspers.  Interestingly, New York represents one of only three locations where South Carolina will play non-conference basketball this season (the second being Puerto Vallarta, and the third of course being beautiful Columbia, SC).

The Jaspers represent a matchup of strength on strength and weakness against weakness, as South Carolina’s offense and their defense represent slightly above-average units, whereas the Jaspers’ offense and the Gamecocks’ defense are the areas that keep these teams from being reasonably good units (both are ranked in the low 200s in Ken Pomeroy’s rating system).

Four Factors

Taken from KenPom.com (parentheticals are national ranking of 345 D-1 schools)

USC O
MAN D
MAN O
USC D
eFG
52.0
(57)
50.7
(247)
44.5
(278)
48.9
(192)
TO%
26.5
(336)
24.6
(37)
28.0
(345)
19.0
(256)
Oreb%
44.1
(5)
31.1
(132)
29.6
(245)
31.6
(147)
FTR
40.1
(89)
50.1
(338)
44.5
(36)
40.6
(249)
Possession
66.9
(190)
67.8
(139)

When South Carolina has the ball…

This is the type of game that will be foul and be fouled, judging by the teams’ respective offenses and defenses.  Manhattan fouls at one of the highest rates in the nation, so South Carolina can hopefully exploit their ability to get to the line and make those shots to rack up some easy points.  Since Manhattan typically rotates 10-12 players throughout the game, this likely will not result in many foul outs, but still should impact the game positively for the Gamecocks.

One of the big risks of this matchup is the fact that Manhattan causes a boatload of turnovers, something that South Carolina has no problem doing itself (these teams have some odd similarities, turnovers and fouling prime among them).  As much as getting to the line is an area where South Carolina can exploit Manhattan, turnovers are an area the Jaspers can pay us back.  They force turnovers at an impressive clip, and every one of their players creates steals on between 1-4% of the possessions they are on the court, for a team total of 11% of possessions ending in steals (not overly impressive, but well distributed).  This will put the pressure not just on our guards,  but on every member of the team to protect the basketball, something we have clearly struggled with this season.

I keep trying to find new ways to put our turnover rate in perspective, because it really is the fundamental reason we’re woeful on offense.  For this week in Perspective on Turnovers, I looked up what a team with a 20% turnover rate would rank in the NCAA (the answer: 136th; nothing great, but fine enough).  South Carolina has had a turnover rate under 20% in exactly one of their ten games thus far.  In fact, 77 teams turn the ball over less frequently than South Carolina did on its best evening – interestingly enough, the last time they were in New York, for their game against St. John’s.

Speaking of ball control, Manhattan will give you opportunities to score off the pass, with their opponents scoring almost 63% of their baskets off assists.  This should give Eric Smith a chance to continue to improve on his work of assisting on 27% of the baskets made by his teammates while he’s on the floor.  Smith’s worst evenings distributing the basketball have come against Morgan St. (0), Elon (1) St. John’s (2), and Clemson (3).  I don’t think it completely surprising that our three losses – which also represent three of our worst evenings offensively on the season – came from those nights.  These were also our team’s worst four nights for assists (interestingly, 10 in every single one of those games), so Smith clearly has a role to play here.

Of course, one thing the Gamecocks did not do as well as hoped against Appalachian State was rebound the basketball, especially on the offensive end.  As we noted in our review of that game, a lot of that had to do with the personnel on the floor.  It will be interesting to see if Carrera’s minutes tick up at all in this game, and how that impacts our ability to rebound offensively.  Martin seems to be trying out a rotation where we only have two big guys on the floor, but with Jackson counting as one of those bigs.  Lakeem’s game certainly plays more like a 4 than a 3, but I’m not sure that’s going to work in the long term, or that we’re going to get enough rebounds on the offensive end if Lakeem and another big are paired with Smith, Page, and Williams.  However, we were dealing with an injury to Slawson, so maybe that had some impact (though again, Carrera played seven minutes, so clearly it was partially by design).

Manhattan also allows the 3PA when you want it (opponents take 34.5% of their shots from long range), and has been unfortunate in this regard, as opponents are hitting 37.3% of their shots from downtown (291st in the nation, and remember, you can’t control how well teams shoot against you from 3).   That said, they also allow teams to shoot 48% against them from 2PA and give up a ton of FTAs, so this is a team that can be exploited defensively.  The key is – and forgive the broken record portion of this post – to avoid turnovers.  As we’ve shown before, South Carolina plays very efficiently offensively when they don’t turn the ball over.  That – and getting to the line – will be the keys to offensive success on the evening.

When Manhattan has the ball…

On the other end, Manhattan has one strength and one strength only – getting to the foul line.  The Jaspers take 31% of their total shots from the foul line, and score 25% of their points there (even though they shoot a relatively average 67% from the line), which rates 19th in the nation.

Martin noted in his post-game press conference after Appalachian State that we played OK on defense, but could’ve done a lot better if we’d drawn more fouls and avoided committing cheap fouls ourselves.  While it’s true that our foul rate has been on a slight uptick lately, it’s probably more noise than anything else (we’ve been between 34-41% in six of our games, with two slight outliers (28 and 48 percent) and two major outliers (19 and 95 percent).  Martin teams simply foul a lot – his lowest defensive FTR at Kansas State was 38%, which was still outside the top 200.  So expect the Jaspers to spend a lot of time on the evening at the charity stripe.

If you’re scoring a lot of points from the free throw line, that’s good; but if you’re scoring a high percentage of your points from the free throw line, that means you can’t get it done from the field.  The Jaspers’ 44.5% eFG bears that out.  They are a woeful team from both 2PA (43.9%, 270th) and 3PA (30.4%, 256th).  Interestingly, South Carolina’s fouling has not hurt them much this season thus far, as they have “defended” the free throw reasonably well, with opponents shooting only 64.8% against us this year from the line.  While this clearly has nothing to do with our skill, it does serve as a reminder that fouling as a strategy can wax and wane based on the opponent.  Appalachian State doesn’t shoot particularly well from the line generally, and had they not shot so well from the stripe the other evening, the Gamecocks would’ve won the game going away a bit more.  That’s completely out of the team’s control, and so it’s something perhaps to mark as a credit to our guys for their effort on the defensive end in that game (on the other hand, State shot slightly worse than they normally do from 3PA, something the Gamecocks also don’t deserve credit for, and something that saved our bacon).

Also, it should be fun to see a team that’s actually worse at turning the ball over than the Gamecocks, as the Jaspers rank DEAD LAST in the nation in turnovers on offense.  Be warned that this may not show up in the box score, as the Gamecocks don’t do a particularly good job of forcing turnovers on the defensive end.

Otherwise, there’s nothing particularly interesting about either of these teams on this side of the ball, except to note how thoroughly average or below average they are in almost every facet of the game.  South Carolina does seem to have a slight advantage in rebounding on this end, so between that, turnovers, and the Jaspers’ FTR, expect a wide disparity in FGAs between the two teams at the end of the night.

Personnel

South Carolina

Player Min% %Poss eFG OR% DR% A% TO%
Jackson 79.0 17.5 63.0 11.0 17.0 14.5 29.5
Kacinas 65.9 17.4 61.3 13.2 13.6 7.9 29.6
Smith 64.4 18.8 39.2 1.9 7.4 27.4 30.3
Williams 56.3 21.4 68.5 2.2 7.9 13.3 22.2
Page 53.7 23.2 41.9 2.3 13.5 7.5 15.8
Richardson 47.3 17.8 55.4 3.9 10.6 16.2 23.5
Slawson 42.0 17.8 41.9 16.3 12.0 9.6 26.5
Carrera 32.2 27.6 47.9 18.3 27.8 8.1 22.2
Leonard 18.8 19.4 42.9 3.3 7.4 4.8 42.6
Chatkevicius 10.5 23.3 68.2 11.8 13.3 24.8 34.6

With Ellington out, the minutes should tick up for Williams, Page, Smith, and Richardson (though mostly Smith).  Williams continues to fill it up on the offensive end.  He’s had double-digit points for five games running, and continues to be an incredibly efficient shooter from every spot on the floor (85% on FTAs, 62% on 2PAs, and 50% on 3PAs).  Page is going in the complete opposite direction (his shooting: 87% / 38% / 31%).  And yet, Page is taking 31% of the shots while he’s on the floor, which is 63rd in the nation.  Right now, there’s no good reason for LaShay Page to be shooting every two minutes he plays, and this is especially frustrating because a lot of his shots come early in the shot clock and away from the rim.  Improving his shot selection is probably more important than improving his shot at this point (though credit Page, he’s the only guy on our team turning the ball over on less than 20% of the possessions he uses, an important feature against a team like Manhattan).

We’ll hope Slawson returns, as his efforts on the offensive glass help complete our team on that end (that 16.3% ranks 15th in the nation).  While he could use an uptick in his 2PA% shooting, it’s still early in the season, and I think RJ will improve as the season goes along.

One player we haven’t talked about much here this season has been is Brian Richardson, who has been quietly shooting very well from the field while taking a relatively substantial number of shots.  It’d be nice to see him tick his assist rate up a bit and limit turnovers, but he’s someone who could add something to our offense as the season goes on.

Manhattan

Player Min% %Poss eFG OR% DR% A% TO%
Kates 70.8 16.2 36.5 2.8 11.1 7.5 22.9
Stores 61.7 18.1 48.0 2.2 14.9 26.6 26.4
Andujar 61.1 21.3 50.0 3.8 16.2 19.6 32.8
Alvarado 59.4 29.3 46.1 2.2 11.5 23.8 30.1
Brown 53.1 26.3 58.5 16.3 18.0 5.7 21.2
Colonette 49.4 13.5 46.0 9.4 9.0 1.4 32.0
Beamon 39.2 24.7 49.0 6.8 14.8 11.1 16.9
McCoy 33.9 15.2 29.4 2.9 14.1 14.8 47.7
Jones 30 15.8 14.0 5.5 6.8 16.6 27.6
Richards 25.6 15.8 31.5 3.9 8.0 8.0 16.2

Beamon is highlighted here because he’s missed the last three games with an ankle injury.  As of publication, we haven’t been able to find any indication that he will or won’t play, so keep that in mind as you look at those numbers.

If Beamon isn’t playing, Manhattan is in trouble, as they simply don’t have many true weapons on the offensive end of the court.  Alvardo and Brown compensate for his absence by taking a ton of shots, and while Brown does a decent job of shooting, only being able to run out two scoring threats isn’t a recipe for success for any team, especially when those guys are only playing 20-25 minutes each.  These guys also draw a ton of fouls (Alvardo gets fouled almost 8 times per 40 minutes played, and Brown checks in at over 6 fouls per 40).  These are the guys to stop if Beamon isn’t playing.

Brown will be a handful to deal with on the night.  He’s a rebounding force, both on the offensive and defensive end (his OReb% is also in the top 20).  He also blocks over 10% of the 2PAs taken by other teams when he’s playing, so the Gamecocks will need to be conscious of where he is on the court when they go looking for points in the lane.  That said, he commits over 6 fouls per 40 minutes, so his limited minutes could be as much a product of his inability to stay out of foul trouble as they are of the Jaspers deliberately choosing to rotate a deep bench.

Predictions

KenPom: 67-65 Manhattan (45%)

TeamRankings: 69-67 Manhattan (45%)

Ratings systems are as good as far as they go, but they have inherent limitations, and the major one in this instance is that these systems have no idea whether or not Beamon is going to dress and be effective on Saturday evening.

Neither do I, frankly.  In the three most recent games he’s missed, the Jaspers have had two of their better offensive performances against Siena and Marist, improving against Marist by grabbing almost half their misses and against Siena by shooting over 50% eFG and playing their first game of the season with under 20% TO%.  Interestingly, they followed that up with a 17% turnover rate against Long Island in their most recent outing, but they were doomed by being woeful in shooting (eFG of 34% and 55% from the line) and only grabbing 11% of their misses.

The Jaspers have been trending downward on turnover rate in any event, and the numbers above clearly show it’s not because of the absence of Beamon, so it could be actual change reflected in underlying improvement.  Or, it could be noise.  In any event, if South Carolina can’t force turnovers – and that’s something they’ve been bad at doing most games this year – then they need to win the game by making Manhattan miss shots and then grabbing those misses, two things opponents have been good at doing against the Jaspers this season.

So where does that leave us?  It’s hard to be optimistic about a lot of things regarding this basketball program based on the most recent outing, which was particularly disappointing given just how well the Gamecocks played against Jacksonville (though it’s hard to expect a team to knock down 63% of its 3PAs night in and night out).  I could make my pick conditional on Beamon playing, and that may well be the difference.  That said, give me the Gamecocks in a squeaker, on the theory that some may hate – by having Bruce out, this team will improve.  I love Bruce and a lot of the things he brings, but I’m not sure he’s been able to bring those things in large enough quantities to offset some of his struggles in adjusting to our system.  I’ll also predict that LaShay either finds his shot, better shot selection, or hopefully both.

Gamecocks, 68-66, in a game that we’ll want to have in our back pocket if we harbor any hopes of playing in any postseason game.

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About marvinnedick

Blogging from the mid-Atlantic on Gamecock sports, as well as general musings on sports theory otherwise.
This entry was posted in 2012-13 Basketball, Better Know An Opponent, Manhattan, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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