A KenPom Preview: Hofstra Pride

I'm not sure yet if this means I'm full-fledged back or not. At some point, I'm going to post some form of season preview, and being that the season starts on Friday night, it should be soon. It won't be by tipoff, but it should come on pretty soon. College basketball is so effing exciting though, and I had to post something. And I miss writing these pieces, so I figured why not.

Those of you with us last year remember the drill. To all of the newcomers, it's pretty simple. I preview our upcoming opponent simply by looking at their KenPom page (you can find Hofstra's here). Now, since the season just started, I'll be using last year's numbers. As we move on, I'll do some mix of the two, until we get enough data for this season's numbers to be relevant. They are fun pieces, and usually end up being fairly accurate, which is a testament to just how much genius is inside Ken Pomeroy's brain. Too much, man. Too much. 

So, with that said, here commences the preview.

Opening Thoughts

So, here it begins. The Season of Expectations. This team is good. There's no denying that. This team is the best in the country. There's some denying that, but not enough to supplant the overwhelming national opinion that it is. This team is going to win the National Championship. Serious denial going on here, but still, we're the favorite. The favorite. If someone held a gun to your head, and told you to pick a team to win the NCAA title this year, with a correct pick saving your life and an incorrect one ending it, the majority of people would pick Kansas. That's some powerful stuff.

Hell, Kansas is good enough to incite some Undefeated talk. I've done it with my friends here at Xavier, mostly just to say it. But sometimes, when I really look closely at this team, I start to really believe. This team really could go undefeated. It has the talent. It has the depth. It has the coach. It's basically a mirror image of last year's North Carolina team. That was a team that was clearly #1, that was coming off of a disappointing loss the year before in the NCAA Tournament, and a team that received some serious Undefeated discussion. They didn't go Undefeated, but they did win it all.

I'll take that trade. So, yeah, this game basically means nothing. Obviously, a loss would send some fans off the ledge, and even a narrow win would change the nation's perspective. But in college basketball, as in every other sport, all that really matters is you win the National Championship. At least in terms of achieving Expectation or not. The fun comes from the ride, but the long-lasting feeling of success comes from actually succeeding more than anybody else.

This has gotten way too long. So now, we're just going to move on to Hofstra now. After the jump, of course.

The Background

Hofstra was actually a pretty good team last season. They won 21 games, were ranked 175 by KenPom and had a really good defense. I mean, they didn't make postseason play, and they aren't going to match up well, but they aren't a pushover either. As far as returning talent goes, there are two ways you can look at it. You could look and see that all 5 starters from a year ago are returning, and you would think that they should get better. But then you look at their bench, and you would be think that this year is entirely a rebuilding effort. 12 players played enough minutes last year to get their name on Hofstra's KenPom page, 5 of them being the starters. Of the other 7, only 1 of them is returning. The other six have run out of eligibility. So, yeah, 6 of Hofstra's players have some experience to draw on. The rest of the players are entirely unknowns.

The Offense

The Pride shouldn't be proud of their offense (I feel like an anchor on SportsCenter right now, and that isn't a good thing). Let's just put it that way.

Four Factors

  • eFG% (325th) -- There's only like 344 schools in KP's database, so 325 pretty much is awful. A team with a 44% eFG%, which gives extra points for 3-pointers and is thus higher than regular FG%, is embarrassingly bad. Relatively, they are actually better behind the arc, but I really should just say that they are worse inside of it. It's just ugly all over.
  • Turnover% (250th) -- Not as atrocious, but still not good. If you can't shoot, the least you could do is maximize the opportunities. Or not. So, hopefully we see some nice open floor dunks. I'm not expecting anything to replicate Marcus Morris or anything, but who knows.
  • Off. Reb% (23rd) -- OMG! Something they are actually good at. So this is how they score at all, they just keep on picking the bricks off the glass and kicking them out again, setting up another clank. But seriously, at least they are good at something. It should be a good test of how people not named Cole can box out and pull down boards. If Thomas Robinson ends up playing, it'll be interesting to see just how good of a rebounder he is. And how much muscle has been added to the frames of the Morris twins.
  • FTA/FGA(127th) -- This basically means nothing unless it's incredibly high or incredibly low. They get fouled some, but not a ridiculous amount. 

The Defense

As awful as the Pride were on offense, their defense was pretty good. They didn't win 21 games entirely on accident. They were mostly successful when possession numbers stayed low and games became defensive struggles, because that's their strength. Especially guarding the shots.

Four Factors

  • eFG% (27th) -- So. This is strength of their team. They are especially good at the 2-pointers, meaning they probably pack it in tight and contest anything within 15 feet. They aren't bad with the perimeter shots, but it's still where they are vulnerable -- if you can't hit shots from outside, then you're in trouble.
  • Turnover% (211th) -- Hey! We actually might win the turnover battle! Last year, our downfall was the fact that we didn't force turnovers and we gave away possessions. It's exactly why we lost to Michigan State in the Sweet 16. But hey, we're actually better than Hofstra at it. So, it's not really a weakness anymore. If you think about it.
  • Off. Reb% (88th) -- I'm not trying to be mean. I'm not trying to be a big, bad bully or something. But let's just say, this doesn't really concern me. You try and keep Cole Aldrich off of the offensive glass. Pfft.
  • FTA/FGA (320th) -- They foul. A bunch. So, this should be good practice for our free throws. Last year we were pretty good, so hopefully that can stay the same.

The Players

Charles Jenkins (G Jr.) -- The star of the Pride, he's the guy who likes to shoot the most. He will take shots from the outside, but he wasn't terribly accurate with them last year, and he much prefers to drive to the basket and take contact, getting himself to the free throw line. That's his game, which makes sense considering he's an 83% free throw shooter. He's a good assist man too, which I would imagine comes from being double-teamed a bunch, leading to open players who then make shots giving him an assist. Yay! He uses a bunch of possessions, and is definitely the key to the Hofstra Pride.

Cornelius Vines (G Sr.) -- He's the best three-point shooter on Hofstra, but even he can't hit a shot every 3 times he shoots one. Of course, he can't do anything else too, so that's not really that impressive. Or good. Or anything like that. So yeah. Unless he's hot from the outside, he's a subpar player.

Tony Dennison (G Sr.) -- He can't shoot. He doesn't draw fouls. He doesn't make the free throws when he gets there anyways. He's a marginal rebounder. Essentially, he's basically useless on the offensive end. Oh, and he turns the ball over quite a bit without a whole lot of defense. Put simply -- dude isn't very good.

Nathaniel Lester (F Jr.) -- He's a pretty good offensive rebounder, but he's entirely useless on the offensive end.

Greg Washington (F Jr.) -- Maybe the Pride's best player, really. Washington is a stud rebounder, especially on the defensive glass, and isn't entirely hopeless down in the post. Best of all, he's practically the Hasheem Thabeet of the CAA, blocking more than 12% of opponents' 2-point attempts last season. That's good enough for 5th in the entire country. So, yeah, he probably won't be stuffing Cole, but everyone else needs to go at him strong and draw fouls. And I guarantee he'll deposit at least a ball or two into the stands.

Miklos Szabo (F Jr.) -- I'm assuming Szabo is on the team for two reasons -- to have an awesome name on the team, and because he can rebound the heck out of the basketball. His numbers are better than Washington's, albeit in much less playing time, which is quite impressive. Of course, he's substantially worse on offense, and isn't a shot-blocking presence. But still, dude can rebound. At least he's good at something.

The Keys

1) Really? -- We already basically won. If you were nervous at all, check out their KenPom page. Blech. Yes, I realize, upsets happen. Bam. I don't really care. We could take our starting lineup (Sherron, Cole, Morris Twins, Xavier) and sit them down on the bench for the entire game and still probably win. It'd be pretty close, at least for a long while, and we could lose, but I wouldn't bet against us. Add in those players, and there is no reason why this game should be close in the second half.

2) Three-Pointer -- I'm really interested to see how well we shoot the three this year. I didn't get to see the two exhibition games, so I don't really know how we'll shoot. We all know that Relly Ice can hit the three, and Sherron is money. And Xavier is a better shooter than I think he is, I have a feeling. However, who the hell knows how the rest of the team is going to shoot. Can Tyshawn be more consistent? Can the Morris twins consistently hit? How good is Elijah? It'll be interesting to watch. We won't need a barrage to win this game, but we will need one at some point. I'm interested to see just how potent said barrage can be.

3) Turnovers -- I get it. We're going to turn the ball over a bunch. That's okay. But we still need to cut down that number some, and more importantly force more turnovers. It's easier to swallow turning the ball over 18 times if you forced 23 turnovers, y'know? So yeah. We have the athletes. And Bill Self, if he knows how to do one thing, knows how to coach defense. But we should absolutely dominate the Pride, as turnover prone as they already are. Let's see if we can.

Conclusion

We're going to win. But in close games, with more this-season data, these things can get really sweet. I'll try and post some essay-style season preview piece tomorrow before the game. Then do more hardcore season preview stuff over the weekend or something. I'll do my best.

I can't believe college basketball is already back. It's the best time of the frickin' year, y'all. Enjoy it.

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