Heading into the home stretch of their season, Fairfield men’s basketball has been able to maintain a winning record overall at 14-10 for the year, but have been inconsistent in their MAAC play.

The Stags sit at just 6-6 thus far in conference games, with their earlier struggles having been answered with their current four- game winning streak.

With eight games to be played before the MAAC Tournament, it’s that time of year again. Time to grade the performance of the Stags.

Offense

Before comparing the Stags’ offense to that of other teams in the MAAC or even before grading them, it’s important to note exactly where the Stags’ statistics are offensively.

Twenty-three games into the season, the Stags have amassed 1466 points. The leading scorer, Derek Needham ’13, has 332 of the points to his name. Junior Maurice Barrow follows Needham with 212 points, and Desmond Wade ’13 rounds out the top three with 168 points.

Freshman Amadou Sidibe leads the team in field goal (FG) percentage, with 60-101 shots made, which will calculate out to a .594 FG percentage. Freshman Josip Mikulic leads the Stags in three-point FG percentage, with .365 after making 23 of 63 attempts from behind the arc.

The scoring the Stags do have come from an even distribution between guards and forwards. Needham, a guard, is the leading scorer, while Barrow, a forward, is second. Then the third, Wade, is a guard, followed by Sidibe, a forward.

Now, when comparing these statistics to other teams in the MAAC, there are some areas in which the Stags seem to be lacking, and of course, others where they are excelling.

One of the more striking deficiencies for the Stags seems to be in the number of shots taken by the team. They have the second fewest amount of FGs attempted and the fourth fewest amount of three-point FGs attempted.

The Stags have attempted 1220 FGs, while Iona (the leader in this category) has attempted 1448 shots. With their large number of attempts, Iona also has the highest FG percentage, .458.

In three-point FGs, Fairfield has 404 attempts, while again Iona has 567 attempts from beyond the three-point line.

In order to offensively compete with some of these teams, the Stags will have to take more shots at the net, as they have been successful when they can get looks close to the basket. Their FG percentage is the third highest in the league, showing some high level precision shooting.

This is also true when the Stags are having a good three-point shooting day, an aspect of their game which is lethal when they are hitting their shots. In their 71-37 win over Marist on Jan. 24, the Stags went 11-22 from behind the arc.

Mikulic, Wade and Steven Johnston ’15 had particularly strong games, scoring four, three, and three three-pointers, respectively. It’s clear that when the Stags are having a good three-point shooting day, they can dominate the offensive play.

The other aspect the Stags have been struggling with is turnovers. Offensively, they have the power to be a team that holds onto the ball well. During their six-game win streak, they were only turning the ball over eight or nine times per game.

In their more recent games, the team has begun to lessen their turnovers again to 11 or 12 per game.
Currently, they are averaging 13.5 turnovers per game, which is the sixth highest in the league.

The Stags have every opportunity to be a highly efficient offensive team, and for the most part, they have been close to that high level of productivity they have the potential for. We saw it against Marist, with the highest scoring margin of the season, and periodically in Monday’s game.

However, until they can iron out some of the kinks, the team is merely sitting on that potential.
It’s not enough to have the potential and show it when convenient; it’s about consistently showing it all season long.

They have been more consistent in the last four games, and are working well as a team and an offensive unit.

Grade for offense: B-

Defense

As with the offense, before looking at any of the other teams, we are going to isolate the stats of the Stags.
In the first 23 games, the Stags have held opponents to 1408 points, giving them a +58 scoring margin, and showing the strength of the defense.

The Stags also currently have 500 defensive rebounds with Sidibe at the front with 81 and Colin Nickerson ’13 right behind with 73.

The team has 89 blocks to their name, with Keith Matthews ’14 the leader with 18. There 162 steals for the Stags, with Nickerson at the lead with 39.

While turnovers were a weakness for the offense, it seems to be something that the defense has done quite will.

Offensively the Stags have 320 turnovers, while the defense has forced 320 turnovers from opponents.
Forcing more turnovers than committing is something only four other teams in the MAAC have been able to do, showing the prowess the Stags can have when the ball is in the opponents’ hands.

Most impressive for the Stags is their scoring defense. They have only allowed an average of 61.2 points per game, which puts them at the top of the MAAC in this statistical category.

They are able to hold the team to the lowest points in the MAAC through forcing turnovers and through their defensive rebounding.

The Stags are first in the MAAC for rebounding defense, with an average of 32.6 rebounds per game and a total of 749 rebounds in all. With some of their bigger and stronger men around the basket, they are able to come out with the ball more often than any other team in the league.

Of course, while they are excelling in several aspects of defense, there is always room for improvement, and that might be in blocked shots for the Stags.

As it stands right now, the Stags sit in fifth in the league for blocking shots, a minor complaint for a statistically strong defense.

Overall, the defense is more in the place they want to be than the offense is. They are holding opponents to just over 60 points, and getting the rebounds in the backcourt. With that being said, they can still always work on more cohesion and not letting as many easy layups through and forcing more perimeter shots, an admittedly difficult thing for a defense to do.

Grade for Defense: A-

Overall

This team has enormous potential through the skill of veteran players and freshman alike. There has been some phenomenal play for the class of 2016 that has kept the team in many games, and even given them the edge in some games.

This freshman class is dynamic and diverse, with Mikulic showing his strength from the perimeter and Sidibe showing his strength in the paint, as just one example.

Still, with the continued leadership from Needham and the other upperclassmen, it would not be unreasonable to see this team making a repeat appearance in the MAAC-Tournament Finals in 2013.

The team has had a few excellent win-streaks, including a six-game and the four-game streak they are currently on. If the team goes into the tournament during a win-streak, when the team is playing at their potential, there are excellent possibilities for the team.

Overall grade for the Stags: B/B+

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.