RMU by the numbers: Small sample sizes and eye tests

BY CHRIS CAPPELLA

We’re four games into the college basketball season. Making conclusions based on numbers of such a small sample size would be a silly thing to do.

Last year at this time it would have been pretty easy to write off Steven Whitley as someone who couldn’t play. Whitley’s turnover numbers were so bad that he could punt the ball out of bounds every time he ran the point and RMU would have been better off for it.

By the end of the year, things balanced out. Whitley improved. I was pretty bummed to see him leave.

I forget who said this, but I like the saying: Numbers are like circumstantial evidence. They’ll help you see what you want to see. That’s how I always feel about diving into advanced statistics.

Let me run through some numbers, separate fact from fiction and talk about some possible trends that could start/stop.

Eye test: Kavon Stewart’s been a burden offensively.

Analytics: The shooting numbers are woeful.

For better or worse, Kavon Stewart brings a lot to the table. His out-of-control style can make him tough to defend in one-on-one situations. That same style has also led to a boatload of turnovers and wild shots around the rim.

Here are just some facts about the way he’s performing: He’s shooting 24 percent from the field and 23 percent around the rim, according to hoop-math.  He has 19 turnovers and 17 assists. His effective field goal percentage, a stat that takes into account the value of three-point shooting, is second lowest on the team to Roberto Mantovani.

So, that’s the bad. The good news is Stewart is doing a good job forcing turnovers on defense and accounts for 32 percent of the team’s total free throws. He’s shooting a respectable 66.7 percent from the line this season.

If Stewart is going to continue to be a focal point of shot creation for the offense – which is a fair expectation given that he’s the senior point guard – then he has to find a way to be better around the rim. Last year, he shot 40 percent on field goals at the rim, according to hoop-math. That’s not a great figure but would be a big improvement to an RMU offense that’s slowly starting to get its act together.

It’s also worth noting that the play of guards Clive Allen and Dachon Burke haven’t been much better. Allen is shooting 33 percent from the floor. Burke is at 26 percent. Stewart is the senior point guard. His value is far more than a stat sheet.

Eye test: The frontcourt does a lot of things well, but scoring isn’t one of them.

Analytics: Inconclusive.

Billy Giles is shooting a remarkable 64 percent from the floor. Everyone else is a little ‘meh’ at this time.

I will say, there’s nothing that can deter me from believing Braden Burke is a star in the making. He’s shooting 42.9 percent from the floor this season (12 of 28) and is just 2-7 from the line.

But I’ll tell you what. I’m just so impressed with what he does. It seems like every time he rises for a shot, he’s getting off a good look. He’s shown the confidence to shoot his jump hook with both hands. It’ll just take a little time to refine his game.

One guy that hasn’t shown much of a touch around the rim is Mantovani. But that brings up another point.

It’s impossible to quantify hustle and communication. After watching Mantovani play live at Richmond, I was impressed with his intensity and the way he’s talking with his teammates. The same goes for a lot of the big men. They’re playing hard and rebounding well. In fact, RMU’s offensive rebounding percentage ranks 70th in the country.

There’s not a rim protector on the team. That might be the one glaring defensive issue. But for the most part, guys like Giles, Aaron Tate, Burke and Mantovani are doing a nice job with everything else. When the level of competition drops, I think we’re going to see a really stout defensive team.

Eye test: Isaiah Still is poised to become a top-tier NEC guard

Analytics: Trending in the right direction

Still is averaging 17.3 points on 41/40/72 splits through four games. Last year he averaged 9 points on 35/29/68 splits.

My NEC-comparison for Still is Fairleigh Dickinson’s Darian Anderson. They play similar styles.  Anderson finished second team all-NEC last season as a sophomore by averaging 15 points on 41/33/79 splits. As a freshman he was at 11.4 points on 38/35/65 splits.

I’ve loved everything about the way Still has played. He has the potential to be a high impact player right now.

Other notes: You can make the argument that RMU played better than Richmond for the majority of Sunday’s game. The problem is, against good teams, you can’t sneak by teams with just the “majority”. It takes 40 really good minutes.

RMU led 20-13 before giving up a 16-0 Richmond run over the course of SEVEN minutes. The Colonials were outscored 26-7 over the final ten minutes of the first half, then gave up eight straight to open the second half. You can’t beat Moon High giving up 34-7 runs.

-What a great job by the school setting up an alumni happy hour before the game. Let me tell you, it was first class. Free drinks, free food and free tickets for the game. For those in the Virginia area, the school plans on doing this again for the Dec. 17 game at Virginia.

-Dachon Burke started the game on Saturday but was quickly subbed out and didn’t return. It didn’t appear that he was hurt. It seemed like a coaches decision.

-It was Harry Potter day at Richmond. The big screen started panning over people in the crowd dressed as Harry Potter characters. When it came time to find a Hagrid comparison, the camera went to Mantovani. He got a good laugh out of it.

–@C_Cappella

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