We’re a week away from Midnight Madness, but I’m already developing my stat sheets for the coming season. (For the time being, you can still see last year’s stats here.) Looking at last year’s stats, I thought I’d address a few areas we may need to improve in order to have an even better season this year.
1. Defense: I hate to be so broad with this area, since there are obviously many factors that go into defensive efficiency. We just don’t have a good way to measure most of them. By the measures we do have, however, we know that Harding was not that great at defense last year. With our fast-paced style of play, you have to look past the points-per-game numbers and look at efficiency on a by-possession scale. Even with that adjustment, our team was eighth in the nine-team division last year. We were erratic, to say the least. If we can’t gain some sort of advantage in efficiency and/or stamina by playing at a fast pace, there’s not really any point in doing it. That’s basically where we stood last year: score a lot, and give up a lot. In the end, we finished just in the conference tournament. The three teams that were clearly the best in our division were all solid defensively, holding their opponents to a field goal percentage of under .425, while our opponents shot .462. We’ll be losing our two best on-ball defenders in Edward and Emmanuel White, so it will be interesting to see where the necessary improvement will have to come from.
2. Rebounding: We have to crash the boards better this year. We were usually undersized last year, preferring to play a finesse game most of the time. That doesn’t work unless you can make your shots from all over the floor, which we weren’t able to do last year. We ranked #8 in offensive rebound percentage while our opponents ranked #3. Grabbing offensive rebounds is one of the four keys to a great offense (along with shooting for a high percentage, hanging on to the ball, and getting to the free throw line). Among the four, it was our weakest in terms of not doing it ourselves and allowing our opponents to do it well. We’ll need at least one more talented post player (or some internal improvement) to make a difference in this category.
3. Free throw shooting: I don’t have stats to back this up, but it certainly seemed like we missed a lot of clutch free throws this past season. We were essentially in the middle of the pack, but for a team that prides itself on three-point shooting, we were not great at the line. We all miss Aaron Farley, but this is a place where any team can improve. No one’s out there to defend these shots! It helps to get to the line a lot, but you need to make the shots when you get there.
I’m looking forward to seeing how we deal with these areas as the season starts in a few weeks. Coach Morgan seems to do a great job getting the team ready, and I’m sure we won’t be disappointed with the effort on the court. I can’t wait to see how this turns out.