Monday, January 6, 2014

Do the Colonials Have a Rebounding Problem?

Short answer: yeah, kinda but don’t worry about it.

            I trekked out to Hofstra last week to see the Colonials take on the Pride. Though GW pulled away eventually, a common groan that resounded throughout the G-dub dominated section stemmed from a few possessions where no one seemed to rebound the ball. Moreover, these concerns have been voiced before. However, when you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all (YES I JUST QUOTED FUTURAMA NO I’M NOT ASHAMED IN THE SLIGHTEST). From a fan’s perspective the act of rebounding the ball, specifically defensive rebounding, tends to go under the radar since it’s expected to just happen. A fan seemingly has two mindsets: “Congratulations, you forced them into a terrible shot. Go score the ball now” or “How did they miss that wide-open shot? Go back on offense and try not to mess that up (aka Knicks fans).” Regardless, the defensive rebound is sort of forgotten until your team fails and gives the opponents another possession. On the other end, offensive boards are constantly used as a barometer for measuring a team’s energy and hustle. 
Rebounding starts in the frontcourt but it certainly does not end there. Tall guys who play close to the basket tend to get more rebounds because they are tall and play closer to the basket. At the conclusion of non-conference play, Isaiah Armwood is averaging 7.4 rebounds per game, down from 8.8 last year. Kevin Larsen’s minutes have seen a sharp increase this season but his rebounding numbers have not increased in proportion. There’s more to rebounding than being freakishly tall. Understanding where the ball tends to go based on the shot and who’s shooting, gaining inside position, and having the hand strength and sense of timing to corral the ball separate the best rebounders from the rest of the field.
Where have all the boards gone? First, there are simply fewer misses to actually rebound. The Colonials are shooting 49.6% from the field and 38.5% from three, blowing away last season’s poor efficiency. Opponents are also shooting 45.7% from the field, slightly up from last year, though they are generally shooting worse from behind the arc. The total rebound percentage, an estimate of the percentage of available rebounds a player grabbed while he was on the floor, of Larsen has decreased a negligible amount, while Armwood’s percentage has only decreased by less than three percent. The team has seen better rebounding on a whole.
The real problem, though it may be remiss to call it problem, lies in the better rebounding numbers of Joe McDonald and Kethan Savage. These guys are superior rebounders for their position. Savage is averaging nearly three more rebounds per game. Though he has seen a significant increase in minutes, his per 40 minutes rebounding numbers have gone up as well. McDonald is averaging 5 boards a game, up slightly from 3.7 per game last season. Both players have seen their respective total rebound percentages increase significantly as well. Rebounding does start with the tall guys, but overall it is a team effort. Look at the Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC is second in rebounding, yet no one player averages double-digit rebounds.
Going forward, the GW backcourt should continue to rebound well so long as those numbers come within the flow of the game. On one hand, crashing the offensive glass can lead to more second chance opportunities, but on the other hand, the lack of players hurrying back on defense can lead to more opportunities in transition for the other team. Conversely, guards grabbing defensive boards often contribute to ending an opponent’s possession while forsaking transition baskets. Finding a good balance is important for the team as it heads into conference play.


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