After Wednesday night’s 73-58 loss to Vermont, Dartmouth finds itself at 0-7, one of four winless Division I programs. While there were expected growing pains with the hiring of new coach David McLaughlin, few would have thought things would be as rough as it has been the first five weeks of the season.
The Green are in the bottom nationally for points scored (63.9), scoring margin (-13.2), assists (10.4), turnovers (15.9), steals (4.6), total rebounds (32.1), offensive rebounds (6.4), first half points (28.7), field goal attempts (52.7), field goals made (22.0), blocks (1.3) and blocks allowed (5.6).
The team is in the bottom 100 for two point field goal percentage (45.7 percent), shooting percentage (41.7 percent), free throw attempts (18.1), second-half points (35.1), total points allowed (77.7), second-half points allowed (42.0), opponents effective field goal percentage (53.8 percent), opponent two-point field goal percentage (54.6 percent), and opponent shooting percentage (47.3 percent).
There are not many positives for team statistics, but Dartmouth is in the top 160 for free throw percentage (71.7 percent), three-point field goal percentage (35 percent), and fouls committed (19).
Individually, forward Evan Boudreaux is having a solid sophomore year, as he is averaging 17.0 (tied for third in Ivies) and 8.7 rebounds (first) a game, even with each opponent targeting him. Sophomore guard Guilien Smith has almost doubled his minutes this season (27.7 vs. 14.8) and is second in scoring, averaging 10.6 points a contest. In addition, Smith is hitting threes at 40 percent, while Boudreaux is shooting 44 percent (10th) from beyond the arc.
Junior guard Miles Wright, the 2015 Rookie of the Year, is averaging 9.0 points and 5.1 rebounds (tied for 11th) a game. While having improvements in rebounds (5.1 vs. 4.4) and assists (1.1 vs 0.8), Wright’s performance has declined in points (9.0 vs. 11.2), turnovers (2.9 vs. 1.6), steals (0.7 vs. 1.1), three point percentage (26.7 vs. 34.9 percent), field goal percentage (31.1 vs. 40.5 percent). Junior point guard Tyler Johnson has improved his assists from 1.4 to 2.1 per game. He is also averaging seven points in 21 minutes a game, which is similar to his 7.1 points in 19.2 minutes a game last year. However, he is doing it on lesser overall field-goal percentage (47.4 vs. 52.3 percent) and three-point field-goal percentage (31.3 vs. 46.7 percent).
Senior point guard Mike Fleming, who has recently replaced Johnson in the starting lineup. is averaging 4.4 points and 2.3 assists in 21.6 minutes a game. Last season, the team captain averaged 1.9 points and 0.6 assists in 12.2 minutes a game. While he has had a slight improvement in his limited three-point field-goal shooting (38.5 vs. 36.8 percent), his overall field-goal shooting is down (42.9 vs. 48.5 percent).
Seeing the biggest increase in playing time is forward Ike Ngwudo (17.7 minutes vs. 3.3). The senior starter is averaging 3.6 points and 2.1 rebounds a game. First-year guard Ian Sistare has been the biggest contributor of the incoming class, averaging 3.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 21.3 minutes a game.
Looking at the disappointing results of the first quarter of the season, the most obvious cause is the change in coaches. Not only is this coach David McLaughlin’s first year at Dartmouth, but it is the first year for all of his assistants. During the Ivy League Preseason Media Teleconference, McLaughlin mentioned that he was still trying to get to know his players as they learned entirely new offensive and defensive systems. He noted that he was trying to find an emerging leader from the team’s five seniors and three juniors. With regard to the first-years, he believed there were more questions than answers since they had to get used to the faster pace of college basketball.
A less apparent issue is the difficulty the team has had in replacing two of last year’s most important players, Connor Boehm and Malik Gill. Boehm, a career 1,000-plus point scorer, averaged 11 points and five rebounds while providing a second low-post scoring option, a defensive presence in the middle and leadership. While Gill often appeared to fall out of favor with erstwhile coach Paul Cormier, he was the team’s most tenacious defender and provided emotional intensity.
Looking to the future, the Big Green have a number of upcoming games to get into the win column. This Saturday, Dartmouth plays Maine (3-6; KenPom No. 337) in Hanover before two road contests against Hartford (2-8; No. 324) and LIU Brooklyn (6-3; No. 297). On 12/22/16, the Big Green visit Bryant (3-7; No. 281), which lost by one at Brown and defeated Yale at home. Following that, the team has two difficult home games against New Hampshire (6-3; No. 170) and Cal State Bakersfield (6-4; No. 96) before its January 7 conference tip-off against Harvard.
As the team gets closer to the conference schedule, it is difficult to see where the Big Green get significant improvement. Looking at its national ratings, there are issues in passing, shooting, turnovers and blocks, while playing at a middle-of-the-road pace (69.7 possessions per 40 minutes; 181st nationally). With teams focusing on Boudreaux, who is still averaging close to a double-double, others in the coach coaching staff and roster are going to have to step up quickly.
With coach McLaughlin’s inexperience with the Ivy League schedule as well as his late hire, it may take longer for him to create a culture change, then it will for other conference schools that have had recent coaching changes. As the new year quickly approaches, the goal for this season may have to focus less on immediate results, and concentrate more on finding people that are committed to being green.