In this first installment of the Week in Review, I’ll take a look at each team’s results so far, particularly focusing on strength of schedule, general offensive and defensive efficiency, and the four key stats. My explanation of the subjective team rating, which I’m calling the Performance Leveling Factor (PLF) is in my previous post. I’ll start at the top of my own current ranking of the GSC West teams.
1. Delta State (4-0)
11/15 win 90-60 at Tougaloo (PLF of 16)
11/18 win 102-68 vs Miles (34)
11/19 win 97-65 vs Lane (34)
11/22 win 83-77 at Bellarmine (48)
Delta State has come out with four impressive wins and has deserved their preseason #1 ranking in the GSC coaches poll. Their offense has been a solid 111 against somewhat weak opposition, and the defense has been an equally solid 84. They’re one of only three GSC teams that has been better than their opponents in each of the four key areas, and their performance has been strong enough not to worry about a huge drop-off when they face tougher GSC West teams. I should also point out that the Statesmen lost a fairly close exhibition game to Florida State, which says a lot about their talent.
2. Arkansas-Monticell0 (2-1)
11/16 loss 72-73 vs Arkansas Baptist (21)
11/23 win 74-61 at Lynn (54)
11/26 win 73-50 at Florida Gulf Coast (49)
UAM is a team that I thought was going to be very good this year, much better than their #4 preseason ranking in the division. They made me look bad in their season-opening home loss to Arkansas Baptist, but their road wins over Florida powerhouses Lynn and FGCU more than make up for that slip-up. Lynn is a perennial contender in the SSC, while FGCU always looks good as a South Region independent team. Offensively, they’ve been as good as ever at 112, while their 91 on defense is also good. Like DSU, all four key areas look good. I would say that Lynn and FGCU are better than most GSC teams, so those wins tell me that the Boll Weevils are up for another great year. They have a ridiculous stretch in their schedule next month when they face four solid D-I teams in a row (Dayton, Cincinnati, LSU, UC-Irvine), so they will be battle-tested come conference season.
3. Central Arkansas (3-0)
11/15 win 58-46 vs Southwest Oklahoma State (41)
11/22 win 53-46 at Southwest Oklahoma State (41)
11/26 win 61-51 vs Missouri-Rolla (37)
UCA is playing their trademark staunch defense in Rand Chappell’s super-slow-down style of play, and that has led them to three opening wins over lower-to-average D-II teams. They are the third team in great shape with the four keys, although their shooting edge has been very slight. This team is mostly new, though, and I expect them to feel their way through the non-conference season and be ready for GSC play in January. This is yet another strong Chappell team in UCA’s last year as a D-II school.
4. Harding (2-1)
11/19 win 102-77 vs Missouri-Rolla (37)
11/21 loss 52-64 at Alabama-Huntsville (43)
11/23 win 86-78 at North Alabama (42)
The loss of Matt Hall hurt us, but 2-1 isn’t bad after two road games and one home game against all-D-II opposition. The offense now relies heavily on excellent outside shooting, which let us down in one game but propelled us to two victories. As a 106 on offense and a 97 on defense, our efficiency ratings are in the middle of the conference. As for the four keys, we’re dead even with our opponents in shooting, which means our threes have to fall more often or we have to play better defense, or perhaps both. Rebounding and ball-handling have been strengths, but free-throw shooting is an area that must improve. This would come with getting inside to take better shots, but as things are, we’re killing ourselves with bad shots and inefficient inside play. I’m not going to be overly optimistic here: #4 might be a stretch, but no other team jumps out as a deserving team for this spot. No one can touch us when our shooters are hot, though, and that makes us dangerous, even against top opposition.
5. Henderson State (1-2)
11/21 win 50-49 vs West Georgia (54)
11/25 loss 43-46 vs Fort Hays State (53)
11/26 loss 59-76 at Emporia State (48)
As always, this team scares me, but they can’t always put things together. West Georgia always has an excellent team, and this year is no exception. The Reddies knocked them off in a close one at home, and then lost a neutral site game to similarly good Fort Hays State. The loss at Emporia State is somewhat surprising because of the margin of victory, so I’m still not sure where to place this team. After all, their worst opponent so far is probably a better team than anyone HU has faced. Their efficiency ratings (88 offense, 100 defense) are not good, and they have been slightly worse than their opponents in each key area (except turnovers, which are much worse). The jury is still out, but they’re staying #5 unless they start losing to lesser opposition.
6. Ouachita Baptist (3-3)
11/15 win 77-67 vs Philander Smith (19)
11/18 loss 58-77 vs Nova Southeastern (33)
11/19 win 81-64 vs Abilene Christian (37)
11/22 loss 51-67 at Southeast Oklahoma State (43)
11/25 win 60-47 vs Southwest Oklahoma State (41)
11/26 loss 71-76 at West Texas A&M (46)
Like Henderson State, I don’t know what to think about the Tigers. They beat a solid SWOSU team and lost to a usually-bad Nova Southeastern team. WT A&M is usually good, so I wouldn’t feel bad there, and the Abilene win is solid, even though they’re not supposed to be great this year. Their efficiency numbers are par for the course (98 on both offense and defense), and their four key stats have been fairly average (better at shooting and rebounding, worse at turnovers and free throws). I wouldn’t feel bad about dropping them a notch if someone else in the division started showing signs of life. This looks like a rebuilding year for Schaef’s team, but they should be competitive enough not to finish at the bottom.
7. Southern Arkansas (2-3)
11/17 loss 74-76 vs West Alabama (34)
11/19 win 98-88 vs Midwestern State (50)
11/22 loss 62-65 at Texas A&M-Commerce (52)
11/25 win 77-60 vs Newman (26)
11/26 loss 45-55 at Incarnate Word (41)
SAU is the third of three erratic-but-dangerous teams in the division. They were bad last year, but they were mostly freshmen, and they returned nearly everyone. Kenny Langhorne has been phenomenal, with an adjusted PER of 34.28, and the loss against TA&M-CC was not bad at all. On the other hand, the home loss to UWA is mystifying. Their efficiency has been decent enough (102 offense, 97 defense), and three of the four keys have been good. Rebounding, however, has been a real problem for the Muleriders. Until that changes, they’re likely to get manhandled by the Delta States and Monticellos of the world.
8. Christian Brothers (2-2)
11/15 win 74-64 vs LeMoyne-Owen (38)
11/18 win 82-69 vs Saginaw Valley State (36)
11/19 loss 60-77 vs Findlay (56)
11/22 loss 67-70 at Lane (34)
Christian Brothers has been strong recently until last year, and they lost several of their better players after last season. They’re always undersized, and they usually play with solid fundamentals. Knowing that, this year’s stats look strange. CBU’s main weakness has been turning the ball over. Their rebounding edge has been slight, which is impressive against all D-II opponents so far, and they have held a slight shooting edge as well. This is a young team, and I expect them to improve, but they still may not make much noise in the division.
9. Arkansas Tech (2-1)
11/19 win 70-51 vs William Penn (18)
11/25 win 85-76 vs Lincoln (35)
11/26 loss 69-72 at Missouri-St. Louis (38)
Any lurking Wonder Boy fans out there might be wondering why I’m ranking a 2-1 team last in the division. The answer: Tech hasn’t played anyone good, and they’ve still lost a game. Rone Smith has been decidedly average in these games after an excellent ’04-’05 season, so if he returns to form, there is still hope. I don’t expect a lot, though, from a team that’s been a 100 on defensive efficiency against opponents like this. The 111 on offense is impressive, but I want to see them in some tougher games. Sadly, we won’t get that chance until the conference season (aside from a strangely scheduled game at Colorado State). Until further notice, they’re stuck in the cellar as far as I’m concerned.