This year, Mike Nienaber’s fellow GSC coaches realized that he knows what he’s doing with the Christian Brothers program, and they voted the Bucs #1 in the preseason GSC West poll. They didn’t finish first last year, as I had predicted, but things should be different this time around. Before we get to this year, though, let’s take a look at 06-07.
What Christian Brothers did well: Slow down the game and score efficiently.
Christian Brothers played slower than any other GSC West team last year. This was a slight departure from previous years, when Henderson State and Central Arkansas would usually battle to see who could play the slowest game. The Bucs averaged 61.1 possessions per game (and under 60 in conference play) and played league-average defense while dominating on the offensive end with a 114.0 efficiency rating.
Leading that charge for CBU was Kevin Weybright, who was arguably the division’s best player last year. He combined a 125.1 offensive rating with a high usage rate of 22.6, which made him a 20-ppg scorer and a threat to shoot from anywhere, as well as a solid rebounder.
The knock on CBU in recent years is that the type of player they typically recruit is not athletic enough to compete physically with the rest of the GSC schools. While this is partly true, the Bucs have been loaded with efficient players, and they have slowed down the rest of the teams to match their own desired pace. While that will necessarily cause them to lose a close game or two, they’re possibly a better team for it.
What we learned in 2007: The Bucs shoot lights out from beyond the arc, but they’re strong in every facet of the offensive game.
One of the keys to CBU’s efficient scoring is freeing up their outside shooters for good three-point looks. The Bucs made more threes than any other team, but not by much, because team stats are skewed by possessions. The Bucs attempted a three on over 35% of their offensive possessions, leading the division in that category as well.
Even though CBU was a great outside shooting team, other aspects of the offensive game went equally well for them. They made the highest percentage of two-point attempts of any GSC West team (56.9%), kept their possessions going by crashing the offensive boards (their 35.7% OR% was 2nd to ATU), and they held on to the ball well, with only UAM (14.3) turning it over on a lower percentage of possessions than CBU (14.6). Christian Brothers was simply a fundamentally solid team, and they put it all together to create an outstanding offense.
What’s in store for 2008: More of the same excellent play.
The Bucs return a much higher percentage of their minutes than any other team, with Adam Brock the only remotely key loss. Brock averaged 12.5 minutes of moderately efficient low-usage offensive play, and (no offense to Brock) that type of play is easily replaceable. All five starters, plus the man off the bench who received the most playing time, are returning.
Player of the Year candidate Weybright will return as the focal point of the offense. There are few offensive players like him in the GSC, but there is one primary area where he could improve: ball control. While his 13.4 turnover ratio is not terrible, he handles the ball enough for that to be a significant number of turnovers. Combine that with his tendency to be an offensive black hole (the ball comes to him and never leaves), and he has one area of inefficiency on which to work. His 8.8 assist ratio is understandably the lowest among returning players, but on a team with other solid offensive weapons, perhaps he could make that extra pass every now and then. I don’t know if I’d have him change that myself, but it’s a thought.
Nick Kohs was the Bucs’ second option, but he was able to take over the games at times himself. Kohs actually had a very slightly higher usage rate than Weybright when he was in the game. Most of his value, though, is in his defensive play and rebounding skill. Kohs was probably the best rebounder in the division last year as a sophomore, and his active, athletic post play is a tough matchup for virtually every team.
Reggie Peyton filled the role of guard-distributor and reliable third option. As a reliable inside/outside athetic two guard, he became a very difficult matchup for teams who were already focused on stopping Weybright and Kohs. He pulled down 9.3% of available rebounds, an impressive figure for his size and position, and he controlled the ball reasonably well. Peyton could probably cut down on the turnovers, but otherwise he’s the best third option in the division.
Remaining starters Kyle Couvion and Justin Ray both fit the small-but-efficient guard/shooter role on the team, with both of them topping 61 in true shooting percentage. To me, it’s remarkable that so many seemingly one-dimensional players (strictly outside shooters) can function in the same offense, but it works for CBU because of Kohs’ inside presence and Weybright’s all-around ability.
Brandon Shane is the other returnee who logged a significant number of minutes, but he is neither as good a shooter nor as good a ballhandler as the other competent CBU guards. Also returning are senior guard Roberto Casiano, junior guard Colin Flynn, junior forward Zach Welter, as well as redshirt freshmen Tommy Fridy (6’4″ guard) and Paul Brennan (6’11” center).
The newcomer list is short for the Bucs, who have built their program with freshmen instead of transfers (You can have two guesses for which way I think is more effective, but you’ll probably only need one):
- Joe Birch – 6’7″ FR forward (Memphis): Dad is a TV anchor in Memphis and a CBU alum, so I can’t find anything on Birch the player.
- Casey Carr – 6’1″ FR guard (Memphis): Rated the 147th best player in TN for the Class of ’07 by TN Prep Hoops, for what that’s worth. Considered to be athletic but in need of refinement, so luckily the Bucs can wait on him.
- Sean Hennessy – 6’5″ FR forward/guard (Cincinnati): The Bucs clearly have a recruiting pipeline in Catholic-heavy Cincinnati, as Hennessy is one of three La Salle HS alums and one of six Cincy-area players on the CBU roster.
- Zack Warner – 6’8″ FR forward/center (St. Louis): averaged 15/8 and almost 3 blocks per game as a senior, and he has a good shot for a big man.
More than any other team, we know what to expect out of Christian Brothers. They will be deep, talented, efficient, and they will attack from long range. Expect them to be one of the top 3 teams in the division, if not the very best.