Conference Midseason Player Review

In order to get a better picture of where things stand from an individual stat standpoint, I removed all of the non-conference data for this season to see how players have been performing recently against stiffer opposition. The results were interesting to see, even if they were somewhat predictable. Here are five things you need to know about GSC players right now:

1. One-dimensional scorers’ production has fallen off.

Denarryl Rice of Arkansas Tech is Exhibit A for this point. His Wonder Boys played a fairly easy non-conference schedule. I had predicted them 9th in the conference (which is where they are now) at the beginning of the season, but after their hot start, I didn’t think they’d cool off this much. Rice is one of the main culprits for Arkansas Tech, which uses its guards too much in the offense. Post players Rone Smith and Ike O’Hanson have been productive in the conference games, but they just don’t see the ball enough because of guys like Rice. Rice has fallen from a pre-conference-season PER of 21.48 to being below average at 12.37 (remember that 15 is set as “average”). He wasn’t exactly lighting it up from the field before the new year, but conference games have exposed his average ballhandling skills, and the improved defense has stifled his shooting. UAM’s Nate Newell, UCA’s Darryl Jones, and HU’s Patrick Andrepont could also be considered in this category for their respective drop-offs in production.

2. Defense rules.

Something about conference play makes teams want to start playing defense all of a sudden. Even as the level of play increased on January 5th, the league’s overall defense has not budged from its non-conference average rating of 98.2. Offense, on the other hand, has taken a nose dive. Arkansas Tech’s offensive rating has fallen 17 points (from 111 to 94), while Harding and Christian Brothers have seen theirs fall by about 12 each (111 to 98 for HU and 112 to 100 for CBU). On the average, offense is down exactly 8 points in GSC play (from 106.9 before to 98.9 now). I guess teams that know each others’ offenses well can learn how to stop them, while defensive play is more difficult to change.

3. Delta State is really freakishly good.

On January 3rd, Delta State looked like a good 8-1 team, having blown out a few teams, but their schedule had been fairly light. They had lost a game (to GSC East foe North Alabama, whom the Bisons beat twice), so they were not invincible, or so it seemed. Since that loss to UNA, the Statesmen have not dropped another game, improving even through the conference season. Their 84-40 win over Christian Brothers is probably the best example of how far they’ve come.

All of this shouldn’t be much of a surprise, since DSU regularly assembles a top-flight collection of transfer talent. Usually, though, they don’t put things together, at least not this early in the season. They’re probably just going to crack the top 10 nationally in this week’s polls, but in my mind, they have to be one of the top 3-5 teams in the country. I think they could beat Montevallo, which has been ranked in the top 3 all season. We even beat Montevallo last year when they were ranked that high, and this Delta State team, from what I’ve seen, is much better.

Leading the way for the Statesmen is Jasper Johnson, who transferred from Southern Miss, where he was one of the top post players in Conference USA. He has taken on more of the scoring load for Delta State, and now he is everything you could possibly want from a big man. He can hit the outside shot (I remember a sick bank shot he made here in Searcy). He defends well inside, and he’s opportunistic enough to average 3.1 steals per game. He rebounds very well (7th in the conference, with two of his teammates higher than he is). He’s a better than average passer, regardless of position (13.2 assist ratio compared to a 12.6 league average). Plus, he just doesn’t turn the ball over, despite handling it a lot (fourth highest usage rate in the conference and second lowest turnover rate).

Once you put Johnson with another excellent post player (Victor Brown) and a legit slashing scorer (Jeremy Richardson), you hardly need a supporting cast. Sandrell Spann is another great post presence for the Statesmen, and Travis DeGroot runs the offense well and is large and athletic enough to be a disruption defensively against opposing point guards.

As I’ve said before, these guys could finish the conference season 16-0, and I don’t think they’d have any problem trying for the elite eight in March.

4. A little support goes a long way.

Kevin Weybright has been the beneficiary of a mini-resurgence in Memphis. He was the only solid performer for Christian Brothers in the early part of the season, but recently fellow forward Sam Bradley and freshman post Nick Kohs have been doing more than their share to keep the Bucs at .500 in the GSC West. After a slow start, Kohs was showing signs of breaking through to mediocrity with a 14.97 PER through the non-conference slate, but his 21.32 performance since has been part of the reason for Christian Brothers’ excellent play. The Bucs needed another solid rebounder, and as a freshman he is now (by far) the conference’s rebounding leader (23.7% rebound rate). Bradley was already off to a good start with a 19.72 aPER, and his shooting touch has come around, at least enough to offset his declining ball-handling and rebounding numbers. Now, his 23.17 PER ranks him ninth in the conference. With these pieces in place, the Bucs might be able to stick around in the playoff hunt a little longer.

5. Something’s wrong in Searcy.

But what is it that’s wrong? I’ve been to every home game this season, and I still don’t know. It seems like a different problem every night. Rebounding has been a struggle all year, despite the pieces seemingly being in place to rebound well. Shooting has been on and off, from 17 threes in the season’s first game to Saturday’s 41.4% true shooting effort, which was the worst of the season.

Ball-handling has been a strength this season, but somehow the point guard position has not. Reggie Bibb has been overmatched in conference play, with his PER falling to a meager 5.07. Defensively, he can’t handle most of the quicker GSC guards, and he doesn’t have the size to contribute to the rebounding effort. His shooting touch is erratic at best (29.1 TS% compared to the league average of 52.5), and he takes enough shots for that to hurt the team (his 3.9 brick index is third in the conference). Essentially, his only value is in passing the ball, but you need a better reason than that to justify putting him on the floor for 24 minutes per game (his average in GSC games). Steven Barnett has been improving, if only because he’s shooting, rebounding, and defending well enough to somewhat offset his continuing turnover problems. His 10.61 conference PER is serviceable.

As for the other positions, I’d love to know what happened to Brandon Sims and Patrick Andrepont. On January 3rd, Sims was the #16 player in the conference, with solid numbers across the board in shooting, rebounding, and ball-handling. Since his back problems started getting in the way, his 10.49 PER has made him just a shadow of his first-half self on the court. I’m not willing to concede that the drop-off is entirely related to the injury, though, because I’ve seen his recent shot selection. His 5.6 brick index is unmatched in the GSC. He really has to work at getting better shots before he takes the team down with him.

Moving on to Andrepont, there’s no injury to justify his similarly large drop in efficiency. Before the conference games began, Andrepont was an adequate shooter and rebounder who needed to work on his passing a little bit. Now, his assist ratio of 5.1 is ninth-worst in the conference (fourth worst among players averaging 20+ minutes per game), and as more of his shots have been contested, his falling true shooting percentage (57.1 to 40.1) has caused his brick index to rise to fifth-worst in the league (3.5). With the 12th worst PER in the league and a growing penchant for technical fouls and less-than-smart plays on the court (no doubt a product of frustration), the Bisons would be much better off with Cole Kee (who is still slightly above league average in PER) in the starting lineup. Kee’s minutes have been declining recently for no apparent reason. He does make some questionable plays on the court, and he takes control of the ball too much, but he is at least moderately efficient.

The other mystery for the Bisons is Alassane Savadogo’s curious drop in rebounding productivity. At 23.8%, his rebound rate was the best in the league heading into the conference schedule. Now, his 13.5% rate is hardly becoming of his size, and this is trouble in an area that the Bisons are really struggling. His offensive game has improved by leaps and bounds, completely offsetting that decline so far, but he could really be special if he put that rebounding skill to more frequent use.

As for the rest of the roster, everything is going as expected. Lonnie Smith has been his usual high-scoring self, and Ceso Sprewell has stepped in as the only good rebounder and inside presence of late. Jacob Thies has made his usual smart plays, although he lacks the offensive game and rebounding skill to justify extended minutes in the post.

Clearly, someone has to step up if the Bisons are to stay in contention in the season’s second half. Who that person (or those people) will be is anyone’s guess.

Player ratings

Here’s my list of the conference regular players, ranked by efficiency from top to bottom. Remember that defensive production is undervalued in the PER formula, as are “intangibles,” or whatever you want to call them.

So good I had to double-check the math to make sure that humongous PER number was right:

Rank Team ## Player Name TS% PPR AR TR BI RR UR PER
1 DSU 32 Jasper Johnson 66.6 2.0 13.2 5.7 -5.6 14.9% 22.3 46.27


Not your ordinary elite post player:

Rank Team ## Player Name TS% PPR AR TR BI RR UR PER
2 DSU 43 Victor Brown 64.4 -5.8 6.3 13.4 -4.6 16.9% 22.9 37.45


Elite players (PER of 25 or greater):

Rank Team ## Player Name TS% PPR AR TR BI RR UR PER
3 HU 14 Lonnie Smith 62.7 -1.9 7.7 8.4 -3.8 4.2% 21.1 28.77
4 ATU 44 Ike O’Hanson 62.5 -7.5 5.7 18.7 -3.0 20.0% 19.3 25.33
5 CBU 23 Kevin Weybright 64.4 -3.7 8.0 12.6 -4.0 9.2% 20.1 25.27


Very efficient players (PER of 20-25):

Rank Team ## Player Name TS% PPR AR TR BI RR UR PER
6 HSU 23 Demontrian Drake 49.8 -1.2 14.4 11.8 0.9 11.2% 20.8 24.49
7 ATU 32 Rone Smith 67.3 -4.2 6.4 14.6 -3.9 9.5% 15.8 23.55
8 UAM 1 M’Jumbe Williams 52.6 -4.0 12.3 13.8 -0.1 9.1% 26.5 23.54
9 CBU 24 Sam Bradley 64.8 -4.0 12.9 16.9 -3.5 8.9% 18.7 23.17
10 DSU 23 Jeremy Richardson 60.3 -6.1 9.1 16.3 -2.6 8.4% 21.3 23.05
11 HU 15 Ceso Sprewell 58.2 -4.5 8.2 16.4 -1.3 17.0% 14.5 22.80
12 HSU 32 Randy George 53.3 -2.3 2.2 8.6 -0.2 17.9% 13.4 21.41
13 CBU 41 Nick Kohs 54.7 -6.3 13.3 21.5 -0.6 23.7% 18.9 21.32
14 UAM 21 Brandon Mayweather 72.8 -5.8 13.8 24.1 -4.0 11.5% 14.3 20.82
15 DSU 34 Sandrell Spann 47.7 -6.0 5.9 16.3 1.4 15.4% 17.6 20.35


Above-average players (PER of 17-20):

Rank Team ## Player Name TS% PPR AR TR BI RR UR PER
16 HSU 3 Donald Austin 59.8 -4.7 10.1 18.7 -1.7 8.5% 15.3 19.94
17 UCA 32 LeMar Phillips 51.9 -4.5 0.8 10.0 0.2 9.4% 19.7 19.85
18 HSU 5 Kelvin Brown 49.2 -7.9 4.4 14.5 1.5 10.3% 27.9 19.80
19 OBU 33 Justin DeLamar 55.4 -2.2 7.3 11.6 -0.6 12.5% 12.4 19.57
20 SAU 5 Corey Green 60.4 -2.4 6.2 10.7 -1.9 6.0% 14.1 18.91
21 UCA 1 Stephin Booth 62.9 -6.5 3.6 21.4 -2.2 14.7% 13.8 18.60
22 UCA 3 Aubrey Bruner 54.8 -3.3 14.2 15.4 -0.8 3.5% 20.9 18.60
23 HU 50 Alassane Savadogo 63.3 -9.3 6.5 23.2 -2.8 13.5% 17.4 18.08
24 HSU 42 Dedric Spooner 45.7 -3.9 5.6 13.0 1.9 13.8% 17.1 17.65
25 SAU 30 Kenny Langhorne 46.1 -3.0 8.7 12.3 1.9 12.6% 17.4 17.03


Slightly above average players (PER of 15-17):

Rank Team ## Player Name TS% PPR AR TR BI RR UR PER
26 OBU 4 Lucky Butler 47.5 -0.7 10.7 8.5 1.6 8.2% 18.3 16.59
27 OBU 20 Brandon Dawson 56.6 -3.6 12.6 16.0 -1.1 6.6% 17.5 16.53
28 SAU 52 Leon Stone 45.1 -5.9 7.2 16.2 2.3 15.4% 19.3 16.18
29 UAM 24 Billy McDaniel 50.6 -1.2 10.2 10.2 0.4 10.8% 13.5 16.00
30 HU 4 Cole Kee 54.9 -6.9 6.5 16.3 -0.8 6.8% 20.4 15.83
31 UCA 44 Joey Cortez 50.5 -3.2 23.5 21.5 0.5 9.9% 19.1 15.03


Slightly below average players (PER of 13-15):

Rank Team ## Player Name TS% PPR AR TR BI RR UR PER
32 UCA 12 Chad Wise 44.7 1.4 11.0 2.8 1.7 10.5% 12.1 14.97
33 OBU 3 George Kirby 43.4 -2.0 12.7 12.7 2.6 13.8% 17.5 14.79
34 UAM 30 Ron McGrew 52.0 -2.4 3.2 9.7 0.1 8.8% 12.6 14.47
35 UAM 11 Torre Doty 58.5 -7.5 3.2 22.5 -1.3 8.9% 14.4 13.65
36 DSU 12 Turmaine Rice 53.2 1.0 23.5 13.3 -0.1 3.8% 13.0 13.58
37 SAU 24 Brandon Bealer 57.7 -4.6 11.6 19.8 -1.1 8.0% 13.8 13.49


Below average players (PER of 10-13):

Rank Team ## Player Name TS% PPR AR TR BI RR UR PER
38 HSU 2 Ryan Johnson 53.0 -0.5 31.7 22.3 -0.1 5.3% 14.3 12.87
39 DSU 24 Marerllis Nix 60.1 -0.4 29.7 20.8 -1.1 4.4% 11.8 12.78
40 UCA 5 Frederick Campbell 49.6 -0.4 20.3 14.5 0.6 3.5% 14.1 12.44
41 ATU 22 Denarryl Rice 49.8 -3.6 13.6 15.9 0.8 3.5% 19.0 12.37
42 DSU 21 Colby Harris 46.2 -7.0 6.5 22.8 1.3 10.6% 13.7 11.45
43 ATU 10 Joel Casseus 47.9 -3.5 15.9 19.6 0.9 8.7% 13.7 11.22
44 UCA 22 Darryl Jones 49.3 -8.4 8.3 21.9 1.0 8.8% 20.3 11.18
45 HU 22 Steven Barnett 52.7 -3.8 22.4 24.3 0.0 6.9% 12.8 10.61
46 UAM 23 Nate Newell 47.6 -7.2 10.2 19.8 1.5 3.3% 20.9 10.60
47 SAU 25 Lonnie Jackson 46.4 -2.0 15.9 17.9 0.9 6.6% 9.8 10.54
48 DSU 11 Travis DeGroot 56.7 -2.5 33.9 28.0 -0.6 5.3% 13.2 10.53
49 HU 21 Brandon Sims 31.9 0.9 15.3 8.4 5.6 9.7% 15.9 10.49
50 SAU 15 Brandon Williams 44.7 -2.1 5.7 8.5 2.3 4.6% 16.7 10.02


Inefficient players (PER of 5-10):

Rank Team ## Player Name TS% PPR AR TR BI RR UR PER
51 CBU 10 Roberto Casiano 50.0 0.4 27.6 17.2 0.4 4.3% 11.0 9.71
52 ATU 21 Antonio Harrison 49.8 -2.5 15.3 19.2 0.4 3.3% 10.2 9.56
53 OBU 2 Damon Harris 56.7 -6.3 6.7 20.2 -1.0 5.1% 15.3 9.54
54 UCA 45 Fernando Johnson 37.9 -0.4 6.9 6.9 2.0 12.9% 7.4 9.22
55 ATU 5 Andrew Stanek 48.0 -5.1 17.4 22.7 1.0 10.7% 16.2 9.21
56 OBU 11 Jaranimo Marks 54.5 -9.4 19.1 31.9 -0.4 7.6% 17.2 8.99
57 SAU 10 Reggie Tims 47.7 -8.1 10.1 24.2 1.2 4.4% 17.0 8.59
58 HU 24 Patrick Andrepont 40.1 -5.7 5.1 15.4 3.5 9.5% 17.0 8.50
59 CBU 33 Adam Brock 47.0 1.4 36.0 18.0 0.5 10.8% 7.3 7.68
60 CBU 15 Colin Flynn 50.0 -3.1 29.4 29.4 0.3 5.5% 10.8 6.61
61 HU 42 Jacob Thies 47.9 -5.5 11.6 25.5 0.7 7.4% 10.6 6.58
62 CBU 31 Justin Ray 47.5 -3.1 15.6 18.6 1.0 4.1% 14.2 5.90
63 HSU 33 Marques Collins 60.0 -1.9 11.1 33.3 -0.3 8.3% 2.9 5.68
64 HU 12 Reggie Bibb 29.3 2.4 30.7 14.7 3.9 3.4% 12.4 5.07


Highly inefficient players (PER of 0-5):

Rank Team ## Player Name TS% PPR AR TR BI RR UR PER
65 HSU 13 Donte Norton 47.3 -6.3 9.4 25.5 0.9 4.7% 13.0 4.47
66 ATU 3 Marcus Lyons 41.8 -4.3 18.9 26.7 1.4 4.3% 10.7 2.43
67 SAU 0 Chris Montgomery 28.7 -8.9 3.2 25.3 5.2 9.8% 14.9 2.12
68 HSU 22 Antoine Vinson 35.2 -7.3 0.0 22.0 3.8 6.8% 13.9 1.22


He’s in the red, but at least he’s a good sport about it (PER below zero):

Rank Team ## Player Name TS% PPR AR TR BI RR UR PER
69 OBU 10 Rowan Ledbetter 38.1 -5.6 18.5 30.0 1.9 2.6% 11.1 -1.52

Team Standings (with relevant stats)

Overall stats, with my personal rank:

The Keys +/-
Rank Team W L Pct. Pace OEff DEff Net TS% AR TR TS% RR TR
1 Delta State 17 1 0.944 72.7 116.0 90.1 26.0 58.7 17.3 13.9 0.171 0.600 0.299
2 Arkansas-Monticello 12 7 0.632 66.5 110.0 98.0 12.0 56.2 13.7 15.6 0.082 0.352 0.012
3 Central Arkansas 12 6 0.667 63.1 102.1 95.1 7.0 50.3 12.9 13.8 -0.028 0.233 0.254
4 Henderson State 9 7 0.563 62.5 96.3 93.8 2.4 51.8 11.8 18.4 0.035 0.127 -0.055
5 Christian Brothers 10 8 0.556 66.8 106.8 104.5 2.3 59.5 17.9 17.8 0.165 -0.042 -0.306
6 Harding 11 7 0.611 73.3 105.4 101.0 4.4 54.2 14.3 15.2 0.014 -0.080 0.165
7 Southern Arkansas 6 13 0.316 67.2 93.4 101.4 -8.0 49.4 11.2 16.4 -0.072 -0.282 0.116
8 Ouachita Baptist 10 11 0.476 66.8 99.2 96.5 2.7 53.1 14.2 16.8 0.016 -0.074 0.107
9 Arkansas Tech 10 9 0.526 65.0 104.2 103.1 1.1 55.7 16.1 16.5 0.062 0.084 -0.166


Conference stats only:

The Keys +/-
Rank Team W L Pct. Pace OEff DEff Net TS% AR TR TS% RR TR
1 Delta State 8 0 1.000 68.3 110.7 85.2 25.5 58.2 15.7 16.8 0.248 0.550 0.075
2 Arkansas-Monticello 5 3 0.625 64.0 105.4 99.7 5.7 53.7 11.0 16.8 0.020 0.490 -0.118
2 Central Arkansas 5 3 0.625 62.0 97.2 96.8 0.4 50.1 12.2 16.1 -0.069 0.265 0.082
2 Henderson State 5 3 0.625 61.5 95.0 93.1 1.8 50.0 11.8 17.9 -0.040 0.121 0.141
5 Christian Brothers 4 4 0.500 61.2 99.8 107.9 -8.1 56.4 15.8 18.5 0.093 -0.209 -0.372
6 Harding 3 5 0.375 69.9 97.8 101.4 -3.6 50.2 11.5 15.8 -0.051 -0.230 0.182
6 Southern Arkansas 3 5 0.375 65.5 94.0 102.9 -8.9 49.1 9.2 16.2 -0.088 -0.281 0.109
8 Ouachita Baptist 2 6 0.250 64.3 94.1 100.5 -6.4 51.5 13.3 17.8 -0.067 -0.279 0.176
9 Arkansas Tech 1 7 0.125 64.1 94.0 102.7 -8.7 53.7 13.0 19.9 0.003 0.028 -0.284

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