This will be nice and easy since St. Mary’s dominates URI in terms of statistics. Not only does URI have to fly across the country (to just outside Oakland, CA), but St. Mary’s gets 4 days of rest and home court advantage. This is not an easy game for Rhody and I do not have high expectations for this game.
SMC sports an 8-3 record (though there are no big name schools in their win column). Looking into the numbers, SMC is scoring 81 PPG while URI puts up 61 PPG. SMC also only gives up 67 PPG (an average margin of victory of 14). SMC is also 5-0 at home. The Gaels (seriously, what the fuck is a Gael?) have a huge home court advantage and their home record proves it.
SMC also out-rebounds URI by 3 rebounds per game (36 RPG compared to 33 RPG). Although they are very even in offensive rebounds which will lead to equal second-chance opportunities.
In terms of assists and turnovers, SMC, collectively, has a 1.24 to 1 assist to turnover ratio (compared to URI’s 0.82 to 1 ratio). SMC’s primary ball handler, Matthew Dellavedova, has an outstanding 1.81 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. Mike Powell has a ratio of 1.56 to 1 which is also a very good ratio. The issue really lies with Xavier Munford and Nikola Malesevic who both have over 20 turnovers this season and have sub 1 to 1 ratios. Those two need to focus more on being the scorers in this offense and not the facilitators. They need to allow Powell to do his job as the “Floor General” and run the offense through him. Both have more turnovers than Powell and quite a few less assists.
Both are equal in steals (URI has 2 more steals than SMC – 69 to 67) so neither side has an advantage there. If one side has more turnovers than the other side, it will likely mean that that the side with more turnovers made more stupid mistakes (like dribbling off their own feet or passing it to nobody and the ball sails out of bounds).
The only area where URI has an advantage is in blocks. URI averages 5 blocks per game to SMC’s 3 blocks per game. URI needs to utilize the size advantage of Brooks and Hare and turn those blocked shots into fast break opportunities for their offense. At the same time, there is no real need to worry about SMC doing the same thing (which is a good thing for URI). URI struggles in fast-break defense and always seems to give up the fast break points. Fewer blocks means the only opportunities for fast break points for SMC is through rebounds.
URI will need to force the Gaels to play at URI’s pace and set up in their half-court defense and really defend the perimeter. Two of SMC’s top 5 scorers are shooting over 42% from behind the arc. As a team, SMC is shooting over 50% from the floor. That is just outrageous. Hopefully Coach Hurley can get this team to play some smothering defense. That will be very difficult with the lack of depth on the bench; that type of defense usually drains the energy of the players and will affect the players offensively as they will be just too damn tired to get lift on their jump shots or to get the energy to get the quick step past their defender into the lane.
SMC only averages 2 more shots per game than URI. The difference in points scored per game is simply answered with efficiency. SMC gets better looks and their players hit their shots. URI struggles at times to set up their offense and that usually ends in someone (usually Powell or Munford) jacking up a contested fade away jump shot.
To make this a contest, URI will need to take advantage of their size. SMC’s only players over 6’9″ play a combined 20 minutes per game and combine for 1.2 blocks per game. They need to turn those blocks into easy points (already mentioned the fast break points above) and force the Gaels to rely on taking jumpers (lower percentage shots than lay-ups and dunks). URI also needs to not focus on grabbing offensive rebounds and hurry back on defense and force SMC into a half-court offense and take contested shots.
All in all, I see URI getting run out of the gym in this game. URI will be able to surprise the Gaels with their defense and will hold SMC to the low-70’s but that will means URI will not have the energy to hang with the Gaels and will struggle mightily on offense. URI is already woeful on offense shooting just 39% from the field. I expect URI to score in the mid-50’s in this one.
The intangibles: URI flying across country and SMC’s home record/home court advantage.
The tangibles: SMC is more efficient on offense and controlling the ball (we discussed assist to turnover ratios, shooting percentages, and defensive styles in this blog).
SMC runs away with this 70-56.