Wednesday, November 12, 2014

2014-2015 Season Preview/Analysis

Preseason nationally-ranked #16 MIT is less than a week away from tip-off, and MITHoops.NET takes a look at whats in store for the 2014-2015 season.

MIT finished 20-9 in their last campaign, winning the NEWMAC Conference Championship and making their 6th straight NCAA Tournament appearance. With no graduating seniors in the Spring, MIT brought back nearly its entire 2013-2014 roster and reinforced with a handful of new student-athletes.

The Engineers return with some very valuable strengths they took advantage of last season, and must focus on a few key areas if they want to progress even further.

2013-2014 NEWMAC Champions


MIT is one of the biggest and longest teams in Division III, with 10 of their 14 players clocking in at 6'5" or above. They've enjoyed domination in the post the past few years, with the 6'8" Senior duo of Matt Redfield and Andrew Acker coming off All-Conference seasons. Redfield, already MIT's all-time leading shot blocker, swatted away 63 shots last season and threw down 17 dunks, while his partner in crime Acker registered 14 double-doubles on the year (8th all-time).

Joining Acker and Redfield in the back-court are 6'10" Junior Lampros Tsontzos, who's hard-work in the offseason has been showing in the preseason, and newcomer 6'9" Spencer Rust, who had a great outing versus DII NCAA-Tourney team Franklin Pierce in the two squads' scrimmage last weekend.

Utilizing their size, MIT continues to be one of the best defensive teams in the nation, leading the country last year in Scoring Defense (55.6ppg). The Engineers ranked 12th in FG% Defense (38.4%), despite ranking 197th in 3FG% defense (34.3%) (given this statistic, it is our guess MIT was near the top if not first in the nation in 2FG% Defense at 40.2%).

MIT's army of long, athletic wings (6'8" Sr. co-captain Dennis Levene, 6'8" So. Tim Butala, 6'6" Jr. Justin Pedley, 6'6" Jr. Russell Johnson, 6'5" Sr. David Bender, 6'5" So. Hunter Gatewood, 6'4" Sr. Nick Prus, and 6'4" Fr. Andy Wang) will help add to MIT's defensive fortress.

Below takes a look at MIT's defensive improvement since they first made the NCAA Tournament in 2009. 

The 2013-2014 defense put up better numbers than MIT's Final Four team (2011-2012)

Again with size comes the ability to control the glass. The Engineers ranked 4th in the country last season in Rebounding Margin (+9.4). 

MIT has become one of the nation's best rebounding teams thanks to an influx of extremely talented big men

Areas of Improvement

Turnover Margin
Turnovers plagued the Engineers at critical times on offense last season, as they seemed too reliant on forcing the ball inside at certain moments and unable to get position in their sets during others. On the defensive end, the Engineers forced only 10.4 turnovers per game, a sharp decline compared to years past (see below).

During MIT wins in 2013-2014, MIT saw a TO margin of +2.8; in losses this ballooned to +7.9 (with three crucial games sticking out: Bridgewater State 26 to 11; Babson 17 to 6; Plattsburgh NCAA 1st Round 17 to 5).

Granted MIT's size comes at a price (lateral quickness), the Engineers must be able to put more defensive pressure on opponents, and keep their own turnovers to a minimum, running their sets with precision.

The Engineers will be relying on Junior co-captain Ryan Frankel to steady the sails and lead MIT's meticulous offense at point guard, with newcomer Samson Donick ready to step in at back up.

MIT's TO margin last year was the highest out of all MIT NCAA teams

Perimeter Play
In addition to low opponent turnovers, lapses in defensive pressure on the perimeter led to easy looks for opponents from three. In MIT's wins last season, the Engineers held teams to a moderate 30.9% 3-point percentage. In MIT's losses, however, teams shot a comfortable 40%. If MIT can defend the three while the bigs clog the lane and Redfield cleans up anything left, teams will have a very difficult time scoring on the Engineers.

On the offensive side, in order to have that inside-out presence that has worked so well for Tech in the past, the Engineers need to find way to get their rhythm beyond the arc. In MIT wins, the Engineers shot a solid 36.0% from three; in losses they shot just 26.2%.

The Engineers have the tools to get hot from three, with Pedley connecting on 67 threes last year and Frankel and Butala both registering high percentages from deep (39% and 36% respectively). The Engineers also welcome back sharp-shooter Prus after a year studying abroad in the UK.

Last season was the first time opponent's shot better from three during MIT's six year reign of winning conference championships

The stats are clear. If MIT can defend the three and put more pressure on the guards, they will have one of the best defenses in the country yet again. If MIT can take care of the basketball when running their attack and can knock down shots from the outside, their offense will also be a threat to reckon with.

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