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Seven and the Ragged Tigers.

Seven games in with a week off between contests seems like a decent juncture to pause, step back and examine some bigger picture facts and figures about the 2012-13 Princeton Tigers.

Mitch Henderson's 3-4 team is now halfway through their non-conference slate and some interesting trends are developing. After the jump find lengthy analysis and projections as conversation starters and add your thoughts in the comments.

It might come as a huge surprise, but this year's team could be the best defensive squad since the 2009-10 Tigers. Princeton is currently ranked 42nd nationally - which helps compensate for a middle-of-the-pack 151st ranking for the offense.

The good news is that this current offensive number is far better than 09-10's 214th overall.

While Princeton struggled to protect the perimeter in the first three games (opponents made 20-35 threes to start the season) they've been much better since (26-98 or 26.5%). The insertion of Denton Koon into the starting lineup has helped solidify the arc, even when facing smaller and faster guard-oriented teams.

Three things the Tigers do very well on defense so far:

1. Force turnovers on 25.1% of their opponents' possessions.
2. Guard inside the arc - 41.4% shooting.
3. Pick up steals 13.2% of the time, 29th-best nationally.

The biggest offensive concern is an overall field goal percentage of 42.4% which would be worse than 2008-09 if this figure didn't change by mid-March.

Right behind that I'd put turning the ball over on 24.2 of all possessions, 293rd nationally.

For Ian Hummer, trying too hard doesn't also mean being selfish.

Most evenings Hummer is the best player on the floor for either team and opposing defenses know that. With the exception of the Wagner loss where he attempted a career high 20 field goals and made just five, Hummer has been an expert facilitator with a team high 34 assists.

He's on pace for 136 dimes this season, which would be third-most by a Tiger in a campaign, behind only Billy Ryan in 1983-84 and Kit Mueller in 1989-90.

Still being used at a high rate - 32.8% of all Princeton possessions involve the senior captain (13th nationally) and taking 31.0% of his team's shots when he's on the floor (89th nationally) - Hummer is also eighth in Division I on Assist Rate. Last year he was 273rd overall in this category.

His usage is up slightly from 31.8% as a junior but his shot percentage is down a hair from 30.6% last year to 31.0% through seven games.

Hummer's two issues to date are turnovers (4.0/game) and free throw shooting (18-30, 60.0%).

As Hummer continues to rise Princeton's list of all-time scorers, he's on pace for 404 points as a senior if he continues to average 14.4 ppg, which would put him at 1,604 for his career - good for second place behind Bill Bradley.

Not the best photo but on the floor is somewhere T.J. Bray has been a lot lately. That's a very good thing as Bray's frequent dives have resulted in 10 steals over the past two games.

Bray has 18 steals as a junior which projects to 72 on the season, which would leave him one off of Armond Hill's program record set in 1975-76.

Bray's also on pace for 120 assists which would give him 253 for his career and leave second all-time at Princeton in assists a possibility. Bray had 119 dishes as a sophomore, fifth-most in a season by a Princeton player.

The Tigers last had two players with 100+ assists in the same season in 1997-98 (100 for Steve Goodrich and 131 for Mitch Henderson - whatever happened to that guy?).

Two notes about Bray's shooting. As mentioned after the Kent State game he started the year 1-19 from three point range but is 6-12 (50.0%) since.

Bray's also made 57.1% of all his attempts inside the arc (12-21). Steady stuff, especially posting smaller defenders.

Will Barrett has three total turnovers in Princeton's three victories, 14 giveaways in the Tigers' four losses. 28.7% of his possessions end in a TO.

While Barrett is a team-best 50% from three point range (11-22) he's 7-19 inside the arc (36.8%). In fact Barrett is the only current Princeton starter shooting <50% from two point range this year. Weird.

After reaching double figures in four of the first five games he's totaled four points the past two times out.

There are good numbers for Barrett too beyond three point shooting - averaging career highs in scoring, rebounding, steals and overall field goal percentage while shooting 70% at the line.

Of equal importance is how Barrett has dropped his fouls called/40 minutes from 6.9 as a sophomore and 5.8 as a junior to 3.8 as a re-junior.

Barrett's +19 leads all Tigers in the Plus/Minus category.

Clay Wilson. Dude can shoot and dude likes to shoot. He's attempting one three every 3.65 minutes he's on the floor, fires 6.1/game and has launched a team high 43 of'm - 12 more than any other Tiger. 19 treys have gone down for the sophomore and when he gets going range is most certainly not a worry.

Since converting five shots from deep at Syracuse less zone has coincidently been thrown at Princeton.

Wilson's drawbacks aren't surprising ones - he's only scored twice from inside the arc - a backdoor layup and a baseline pull-up on a measly six tries that aren't threes. Due to where he camps out Wilson is not getting to the free throw line at all. His miss late at Kent State was his first attempt of his career.

He's such a different player than Koon that he provides a compelling alternative with a team high Effective Field Goal Percentage of 62.2%. If he could display slightly better ball-handling skills - a pair of open field strips at Lafayette come to mind - the backcourt would be a slightly more stable place.

In fact Wilson and Chris Clement are polar opposites as players in many respects - the itchy trigger bomber versus the unassuming shoot-second junior who started the season's first four games and now spells Bray off the bench.

Worth noting: Clement is a team-worst -49 in the Plus/Minus category.

Princeton with Denton Koon coming off the bench:

77-195 (.395)

Princeton with Denton Koon in the starting lineup:

68-147 (.463)

Princeton's opponents with Denton Koon coming off the bench:

92-191 (.482)

Princeton's opponents with Denton Koon in the starting lineup:

53-151 (.351)

Is the fabled "two-headed monster" Henderson has mentioned emerging?

Starting center Brendan Connolly has taken great care of the ball, committing turnovers on 11.9% of his possessions, which is easily best among the rotation players. Last year Connolly miscued at a 22.0% rate. This is a huge improvement.

While he's usually due for one frustrating possession - either forcing a shot over his stationary man after picking up his dribble inside or not finishing a close look he possesses the highest Offensive Rating on the team (103.4) while using a smaller number of possessions. That's downright Mack Darrow-ian of him.

Speaking of Darrow - in the last two games Connolly and Darrow have combined for 15 points and 11 rebounds (at Wagner) and 17 points plus five rebounds (at Kent State). That's the sort of ballpark production needed from Princeton's two centers if the Tigers are going to string together success.

Also nice is the positive assist-to-turnover ratio turned in by both Connolly and Darrow so far (15:10 combined).

As George Clark already noted in the comments it is going to be interesting to see Connolly and Darrow go up against Bucknell's superb big man Mike Muscala in a few weeks. A better center they might not see all season.

Before wrapping up this center discussion, I wanted to illustrate the drop in Darrow's offensive rating as a senior. He's currently at 86.6, down from 120.3 as a junior and 115.2 as a sophomore.

Two things about Hans Brase:

1. He's good for at least one "wow!" moment battling on the glass, either tipping a ball until Princeton can control or grabbing an impossible rebound between two men.

2. By committing an average of 7.1 fouls/40 minutes he's not going to be able to stay on the court given increased minutes.

In other words, he's a freshman.

There's no need to be glum, Mack!

While Princeton's 2-4 start was frustrating, especially with the hope that similarly slow opens in 2010-11 (2-3 through five games) and 2011-12 (1-5 prior to a DII victory over West Alabama) would no longer be the trend, there's no other Ivy League program setting the conference on fire.

In fact each member of the Ancient Eight is at .500 or worse with only Columbia's victory at Villanova standing out - and that's based more on the name on the jersey than anything else.

The Tigers have far and away the league's best defense statistically with a large gap between the orange and black and Harvard. Princeton's offense may have struggled but it comes in third in the Ivy trailing Harvard (94th) and Columbia (139th).

At the quarter turn Henderson's squad may not be where they wanted to be but they've put themselves in position for a similarly strong back half to their out of conference fixtures.

Steven Postrel said,

December 4, 2012 @ 4:52 am

I'm really surprised (favorably) that the Tiger D ranks so high statistically. It seemed like they were getting torched from three and beaten on the boards in the early going, but I guess their high turnovers forced throughout and their subsequent return to better FG% defense pulled them up. I would love an Ivy season where the team held some of its opponents to super-low scores in the 30s or 40s (not by slowing the pace). Denton, Will, and TJ harassing perimeter players while Ian and Brendan patrol the middle, everybody switching on ball screens, coming over from the weak side to get blocks, using their long arms and hustle to get deflections, steals, and pressure turnovers--I can definitely visualize a Brown or Dartmouth having trouble scoring at respectable levels.

The Kent State coach seemed pretty aggravated with his guys for not getting their usual 20 second-chance points on offensive rebounds. That's a good sign for Princeton, because it says that if they work at it, their height will keep even aggressive rebounding teams from hurting them.

George Clark said,

December 4, 2012 @ 9:21 am

Jon: How do you do it? I mean, I know how you do it, but the fact that you take the time and make the effort for no other reason than your passion for our passion is beyond remarkable. This statistical, mid-pre-season analysis is thoroughly enjoyable for every one of us who lives by the Bray steals and dies by the Hummer turnovers. If one can draw an interim conclusion from the numbers so far mine is that this team is on its way to becoming what a Tiger team must be to succeed: greater than the sum of its individual parts. Truly, necessity is the mother of invention. Every starter has struggled for frustratingly long periods so far, requiring others to step up. In Koon's case he has had to learn what is essentially a new position for him in the backcourt, not an easy thing to do for a 6'8" kid. But what a plus if he is successful! If I was an opposing coach I would not relish trying to score against a Tiger team whose shortest defender is the "tough as nails" 6'5" Bray. Defense will give us a chance every night. And, if you are counting on Hummer to continue to struggle much longer, well, good luck with that.

Adam Fox said,

December 4, 2012 @ 9:29 am

I'm not so sure I love the 6'8'' Koon in the backcourt. However I'm willing to be patient with it at least for remainder of non-conference schedule ...

Kevin Whitaker said,

December 4, 2012 @ 11:54 am

In the play-by-play, it's pretty clear that Henderson's been swapping Wilson and Clement in a lot of offense/defense situations -- even beyond the end of halves -- which skews their +/- numbers (particularly Clement's) a bit. I suspect Clement's numbers would still be pretty awful when adjusting for that, but I don't know how much of a factor that is.

Jon Solomon said,

December 4, 2012 @ 11:59 am

Kevin, a good point.

By the way, Wilson is +1 for the season.

Princeton as a team is +2.

The Tigers have scored 404 points and allowed 402.


Dave Mills said,

December 4, 2012 @ 8:26 pm

Great analysis, Jon!

larry said,

December 5, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

Great report Jon. You know my favorite section was the Center comments. If those two can play at/near/or above their recent level we will smiling in March.

Jon Solomon said,

December 5, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

Thanks, everyone.

I just added the opponents' FG% with Koon on the bench/starting above and the numbers were even more drastically shifted than the Tigers' offensive percentages.


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