The Efficiency Margin standings this week are fairly reflective of the actual win-loss standings this week. Therefore, there are few anomalies that need discussing. One note is worth mentioning, however. Though South Dakota State has two league losses, it has more or less beat up on conference opponents at the same clip as Oral Roberts. The SDSU-ORU game on Thursday will be as "must-watch" of a game as we'll see until March.
So that's where we stand as of the games played through Saturday, January 28. Now let's get to the individual teams.
In attempting to get its defensive efficiency back to a championship-level, Oral Roberts received exactly what it needed: a homestand against USD and UMKC. Those teams have some of the worst offenses in the league, so it is a positive sign to see that ORU held them to a combined 0.91 points per trip last weekend.
The Golden Eagles have won games in a variety of ways this season, where at the end of the day what the stats tell us may not matter much. When you have a core of upperclassmen playing with supreme confidence -- and bench guys who are making all their threes or throwing down dunks that make SportsCenter's Top 10 plays -- you have a team that wins 20 games before February 1.
If you're a South Dakota State fan and concerned that the team dropped a game at Oakland, don't be alarmed. SDSU did a solid job of containing Reggie Hamilton, but Travis Bader just had one of those once-in-a-career nights from beyond the arc that proved insurmountable for the Jackrabbits. Coach Nagy has made quality adjustments all season long, and whatever ailments the Jacks had defending the perimeter against Oakland were cured against IPFW. The Mastodons made just 2-of-17 shots from beyond the arc. On the strength of its perimeter defense, SDSU put together the top defensive performance we've seen thus far in league play -- and it's not even close. Here are the top 10 defensive performances:
What strikes most about SDSU's performance is that it came on the road. Only one other team can claim a top-10 defensive performance away from its home. Moreover, it's also worth noting that this performance didn't come against South Dakota. As we can see, USD has had plenty of brutal showings this season.
If you've watched North Dakota State this season, you know there are some guys on the team who can throw down dunks. TrayVonn Wright steals the show with his highlight-reel leaping ability, but there are several other players on the squad who can dunk with the best of them, too. Adrian Atkinson of HoopSpeakU has done some great work on dunks (and athletic ability), using play-by-play sheets to tally the feats in assorted major conferences. I have been doing the same for the Summit League with the hope of replicating some of his work in all its pace-adjusted glory, but for the time being I put together a chart that simply counts up the number of dunks Summit League teams have completed thus far in conference play.
NDSU is clearly above the rest of the competition.
The Leathernecks won their lone game of the week in dramatic fashion as freshman Remy Roberts-Burnett hit a game-winning three-pointer that had Western Hall going bananas. Just check out the video. Of course, credit must also go to Ceola Clark III for finding the open man through the outstretched arms of an IUPUI double team, but Roberts-Burnett knocked down the improbable shot. Just how improbable was his make? On the season, the rookie had been 0-of-3 from beyond the arc. In other words, he had yet to make a three-pointer in college. Moreover, that was the first shot of any kind -- free throw or field goal -- that he had attempted in the final four minutes of a close league game (there were five other games of this sort). If there was a guy to leave open, IUPUI picked the right one, but unfortunately for the Jags, Roberts-Burnett made them pay.
In another improbable end-of-game situation, it was Lawrence Alexander who hit the game-winning three-pointer for North Dakota State at Oakland on Saturday night (video). The freshman point guard entered the game as a 22 percent three-point shooter -- or 16 percentage points off the league average for a guard. He was also 0-of-3 from deep in the final four minutes of six prior league games considered "close." Oakland and IUPUI learned a tough lesson that even inaccurate young bucks can hit big shots when they're left wide open.
Even though Southern Utah is below-average in offensive efficiency, its defense is very much on the verge of becoming elite. What's impressive about it is that it's not predicated on forcing turnovers, limiting second-chance opportunities, or refraining from fouling; nope, the Thunderbirds simply make their opponents miss shots. Opposing squads are shooting just 31 percent from beyond the arc and 48 percent from inside the arc, which are marks good enough for first and second in the league, respectively. Amazingly, teams are also making a league-worst 69 percent from the charity stripe against these guys as well. Perhaps all those missed field goal attempts psychs out opponents at the free throw line!
Oakland's perimeter defense has been suspect all season, but its performance this weekend was particularly miserable. SDSU and NDSU went a combined 24-of-49 (49 percent) from beyond the arc at the O'rena. All of those three-point makes has given Oakland one of the worst defensive effective field goal percentages in the country (EFG% weights three-pointers). In fact, the team is currently ranked at 342 out of 345 Division I teams. That stands as one of the worst marks ever by a team in the Summit League era.
Yes, the Oakland defense is allowing a higher effective field goal percentage than the one-win Centenary team from last season.
Last week I wrote that it was "hard to find many positives with this squad." The same applies this week.
Carter Williams, who does a superb job covering Southern Utah hoops for the SUU News, Tweeted out this interesting fact from UMKC's game in Cedar City: "In the second half, SUU blocked more UMKC shots than UMKC actually made." Yikes! It is true that the Kangaroos get their shots blocked more than any other Summit League team. According to KenPom.com, nearly 12 percent of their offensive possessions end in a blocked shot.
Efficiency Margin doesn't like IPFW much. And a big reason why is because the team has been on the receiving end of a number of thorough beatdowns, including Saturday's 43-74 loss at the hands of South Dakota State. Despite that fact, the Mastodons have a better record than their Efficiency Margin would suggest. Their win over NDSU last week will go a long way to protecting them from being left out of the Summit League tournament.
The Coyotes may be struggling, but they are still drawing more And-1 opportunities than any other team in the conference. They are the only squad in the league that has three guys who have drawn at least seven And-1s: Charlie Westbrook (10), Trevor Gruis (8), and Louie Krogman (7).
That's it for this week's Weekly Breakdown. Please tell your friends about it. And check back for more next week.