Friday, February 4, 2011

Bits and Bytes: Of going forth in fourth and going scoreless

The Flying Dutchmen better end up connecting four! (This game ruled)

One of the segments of yesterday’s recap that ended up on the cutting room floor was a reminder that the Flying Dutchmen’s three-game losing streak should have us focused only on Northeastern on Saturday and not any sort of machinations over the final three weeks of the CAA schedule that could allow the fourth-place Dutchmen to move up in the standings.

We remain steadfast in following that wordy variation on a familiar cliché, but the entire CAA hit a mathematically relevant mile marker Wednesday, when the conference season reached the two-thirds mark. So it’s acceptable—just for today, or at least until the Dutchmen win tomorrow and get us all pondering how they can still finish first!—to look back at the history of teams that were in the top four through 12 games (dating to when the league expanded to 12 teams in 2005-06) and whether or not they eventually earned a bye.

Generally speaking, the news is good for teams that are in top four after 12 games: Seventy-five percent—15 of 20—of those squads earned a bye. But, more importantly for our purposes, the team in the most precarious position is the fourth-place squad.

Only two of the five teams that have been in fourth place at this point in the season have earned a bye, and each of the last three teams in this position have fallen out of the top four by season’s end: Drexel fell to sixth in each of the last two years and Delaware fell all the way to seventh in 2007-08. Uh-oh, that’s an awful lot of ECC representation there.

But wait! ECC alumni also account for the fourth-place teams that landed a bye: Drexel in 2006-07 finished fourth and Hofstra took third in 2005-06. Hooray ECC!

As for the first-, second- and third-place teams through 12 games: The news is really good for co-leaders VCU and George Mason (VCU currently holds the tiebreaker because the Rams beat Old Dominion while Mason fell to the Monarchs) as the first- and second-place teams after 12 games have not only earned a bye but also accounted for the regular season champion every year.

History is less convincingly on the side of third-place Old Dominion, as three of the teams in third through 12 games have finished in the top four (William & Mary in 2007-08 fell to fifth and VCU in 2005-06 fell to sixth). Of course, the Monarchs have their own bit of history suggesting they’ll stay in the top four: They’ve earned a bye in each of the last seven seasons.

Going by the trends, Old Dominion being in the top four at this point is a good sign for the Dutchmen, since the Monarchs have come from outside the top four and earn a bye three times (from tied for fifth to fourth in 2008-09, from tied for sixth to fourth in 2007-08 and from tied for fifth to fourth in 2006-07). The others: William & Mary (from sixth to third last year) and UNC Wilmington (from fifth to second in 2007-08).

—One trend that is not a good one for the Dutchmen is Greg Washington’s sudden slump. The senior co-captain has gone scoreless in each of his last two games, which, as we noted yesterday, is particularly jarring since it comes on the heels of a three-game span in which he shot 63 percent as well as an eight-game stretch in which he scored in double figures six times and an 11-game stretch in which he shot 58 percent (51-of-88). Only eight players have ever shot that well for Hofstra over the course of an entire season dating back to 1947-48.

However, scoreless games—at least this season—are nothing new for Washington, who has now failed to score in four of his 23 starts this year (he didn’t score against Western Kentucky Nov. 19 and UNC Wilmington Jan. 19). That’s double the total he had in 43 career starts entering this season. And both of those bagels came during his freshman season, when he made just six early-season starts.

Washington is the first Dutchman to go scoreless in consecutive starts since Greg Johnson capped the 2008-09 season with back-to-back 0-fers against UNC Wilmington and Old Dominion. Darren Townes also had two straight scoreless starts earlier that season against James Madison and UNC Wilmington.

However, neither Johnson nor Townes spent nearly as much time on the court during a scoreless effort as Washington, who played 29 minutes against Drexel and 31 minutes against George Mason. Johnson played 17 minutes combined in his two games while Townes played a total of 26 minutes in his back-to-back scoreless starts. Dating back to 2008-09, only one other Dutchmen has started and gone scoreless while playing more than 25 minutes (Nathaniel Lester, 28 minutes against Georgia State Feb. 25, 2009)

In (pardon the pun) defense of Washington, he contributed far more in his consecutive scoreless efforts than either Johnson or Townes. Washington racked up four rebounds, five blocks and a steal against George Mason and seven rebounds, one block and two steals against Drexel. He also had 10 rebounds in 34 minutes against Western Kentucky (he had just one rebound when foul trouble limited him to 15 minutes against UNC Wilmington).

Johnson, meanwhile, had a total of one assist in his final two games with the Dutchmen while Townes collected five rebounds and two blocked shots in his back-to-back scoreless games.

Only one other Dutchmen has gone scoreless in a start this season (Brad Kelleher against Iona Dec. 29). The Dutchmen received just three scoreless starts last year, all from Cornelius Vines. Remarkably, the Dutchmen had 16 games in which a starter went scoreless in 2008-09, which makes their 21-win season all the more impressive. Johnson “led” the way with five scoreless starts while Townes and Arminas Urbitus had four apiece and Lester, Tony Dennison and Miklos Szabo had one each.

—As we posted last week on Twitter, Flying Dutchman legend Loren Stokes, who has played professionally overseas since his graduation in 2007, is back in the States and playing for Erie, the NBA Developmental League affiliate of the Cavaliers and Raptors.

The Erie Times-News ran a lengthy and interesting feature this week on Stokes, who has had a real rough go of it over the last couple years. His Mom, who was diagnosed with colon cancer while Stokes was at Hofstra, died of the disease a year-and-a-half ago and Stokes returned home from Belgium after last season and hadn’t played until signing with Erie as he took care of his daughter and uncle, both of whom were sick.

His uncle died last Saturday night, one night after Stokes debuted for Erie and scored five points with three rebounds and two assists in a win over Maine. Here’s hoping things begin getting better for Stokes, and soon.

—Oh and one more interesting nugget from that story: Stokes’ coach is Jay Larranaga, son of you-know-who. We kid you not. This comes a little more than three years after Stokes was teammates in the NBA Summer League with that wonderful piece of work Tony Skinn.

And we think we’re haunted by 2006. You think son of you-know-who ever asks Dad for tips on slowing down Stokes or has a Chris Farley Show moment with Stokes?

—I vented on Twitter earlier today about this “scouting report” from identifying Charles Jenkins as the 13th-best NBA Draft prospect among college seniors. The placement is fine, but the analysis is something south of well-informed. See for yourself.

—Lastly, belated congrats to Loyal Reader Jojogunne, who trounced the field in the Charles Jenkins Record Game by nailing everything almost to the second. He predicted a free throw in the 30th minute. Pretty damn impressive—as was just how close Jenkins came to hitting his average time for his 16th point. As we noted early Saturday, Jenkins scored his 16th point an average of 31 minutes into a game. He scored the record-breaking point with 10:15 to go—a mere 16 seconds away from the 31st minute. All of which proves that if you’re going to bet (even if you wager and win nothing at all!), bet the trends.

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