Checking in with Brown men’s basketball

Record: 7-6 Overall and 0-0 Ivy (5-1 Home; 2-5 Away) 

Rankings: KenPom #239, Bart Torvik #235, TeamRankings #246

What’s Hot:
Defensive Improvement and Guard Play

The Bears are again playing an up-tempo game (Top 60 nationally), putting up lots of points (78.2; 2nd in Ivy), and getting to the free throw line at an elite level (25.0 attempts/game, 19.3 made/game, 76.1 percent shooting, and 23.8 percent of total point production).  However, this year’s team has been showing growth on the defensive side of the ball, most noticeably in holding opponents to 33.6 percent from three (minus-3.8 percent from ‘16-’17) and securing a 73.4 percent defensive rebounding rate (plus-2.1 percent from ‘16-’17).  This effort has led to a 5.0 percent decline in opponent’s effective field goal shooting and a 7.8 point improvement in adjusted defensive efficiency.

With Brown’s three starting guards, Brandon Anderson moved over to point guard from the two guard spot, while adding first-year Brandon Anderson and JUCO transfer Zach Hunsaker.  After the nonconference schedule, Anderson is second in the league in scoring with 19.0 ppg, Desmond Cambridge is sixth with 15.0 ppg, and Hunsaker is in the conference’s top 20 with 10.8 ppg.  Anderson is also tops in free throw shooting (88.2 percent) and steals (1.8 pg).  Cambridge is third in free throw shooting (85.0 percent), fifth in made three pointers (2.5 pg), and top 15 in steals (0.8 pg).  In addition, he is arguably the leading candidate for Ivy Rookie of the Year with four weekly awards to his name.

What’s Not:
Three-Point Shooting

The Bears are scoring 2.4 more points per game than last year, but their efficiency has dropped from 4.3 points this season.  The decline is mainly due to the team’s three point shooting, which has declined from 36.7 percent in ‘16-’17 to 31.6 this year.  The team made 8.1 made threes a game in ‘16-’17, which accounted for 31 of its total point.  In non-conference play, Brown is averaging 7.2 made threes and they are making up 29 percent the team’s points.

The many changes in the team’s roster resulted in a loss of 60 percent of last year’s total points and 75 percent of its made three pointers.  Anderson, Cambridge and Hunsaker have accounted for 78 percent of this year’s threes, but they are hitting those shots at a combined 32.5 percent.  With league play about to begin, teams more familiar with the Bears are going to force them to win from outside the arc.  This youthful team is going to need more diversity and improvement in its three point shooters to make a run for the Ivy’s upper division.

What’s Meh:
Strength of Schedule

Heading into the season, many pundits and fans were looking at Brown as the eighth team in the Ivy League and a low-300 nationally.  After its non-conference schedule, the Bears are 7-6, with the second highest win total in the conference and ranked in the low-to-mid 200s nationally.  Their strength of schedule, though, is bottom 60 nationally.  Of the six Division I schools that the Bears have defeated, the average KenPom ranking is #299 and the best win was a one point victory at home against #249 NJIT. Brown did play very well against city rival Providence (#57), losing by five in overtime, but they do have losses to St. Francis, NY (#277) on the road and Central Connecticut State (#287) at home.

What’s Next:

Brown opens up Ivy League play on the road against travel partner Yale on Jan. 12, followed by a return match against the Bulldogs on the 19th.  The Bears will begin back-to-back weekend games on the 26th and 27th, when they welcome Dartmouth and Harvard to the Pizzitola Center.

Starting Jan. 10, the Mike Martin Coaches Show, hosted by Scott Cordischi, can be heard every Wednesday from 6-7 p.m. on WPRV-AM 790 Radio for the remainder of the season. For those who don’t live in the Providence area, the station can be accessed online or through the TuneIn app. The show, which often features interviews with women’s coach Sarah Behn and players from both teams, can also be found on Facebook Live and the Ivy League Network.

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