The game: 5. Army (15-15 overall, 10-8 Patriot) vs. 1. Boston University (23-9, 15-3)
In-league efficiency: Army: +.02 (1.07 pts/poss, 1.05 allowed); BU: +.10 (1.08 pts/poss, .98 allowed)
One key chart: How important is Kyle Wilson to Army’s offense?
(Data for this chart, like everything else necessary for human life, comes from KenPom.com.)
Obviously, every team lives and dies with its primary offensive option to some extent, but Army’s reliance on Kyle Wilson is stronger than most. BU has had good offensive games with a bad Maurice Watson, Jr., and mediocre ones when Watson plays great; the same can be said for Cameron Ayers or Dave Dudzinski. But in Patriot League play this season (including its quarterfinal victory over Bucknell), Army never had a good offensive performance when Wilson struggled, nor was it ever particularly bad when Wilson was well above average. The sophomore had two middling games against BU, both of which went down to the wire; an especially good or bad performance on Saturday could portent a blowout in either direction.
Superior mascot: A Knight, Black or otherwise, has the utmost respect of his countrymen, having earned his title through brave and heroic service. But when he goes home, the knight, like any other human, prepares and serves food to his dog, perhaps a Terrier. He takes his dog for walks and, if he is truly chivalrous, handles and manually disposes of the canine’s fecal matter. Who’s the real master here?
Critical matchup: Wilson vs. Maurice Watson, Jr. Sure, they won’t really go head-to-head, but as the only two non-seniors on the first All-Patriot League team, the two perimeter talents are the leading early contenders for the 2015 and ’16 Player of the Year awards. As shown above, Wilson is the clear linchpin to the Knights’ offense; BU rarely allows high-volume, high-efficiency outings (except against Murphy Burnatowski, who torched the Terriers twice), so another average-ish outing that keeps Army close might be more realistic. Watson, on the other hand, is more of a luxury for the Terriers, since they can win without him — as in the first meeting, an overtime victory in which Watson spent key stretches on the bench — but doing so all but necessitates a big game from D.J. Irving.
History: December 2, 1994: BU 103, Army 83. The most recent meeting before the Terriers joined the Patriot League this year is also the last time BU hit triple digits in a game. The Terriers may have hung 91 on Lafayette in the last round, but don’t expect another challenge of 100 against Army’s physical defense.
One thought on Army: Kevin Ferguson leads the Patriot League with a 9.9% block rate, based in large part on his efforts against BU — he set a season high with six blocks against BU in January, then matched it with another half-dozen at West Point a month later. He particularly frustrated center Dom Morris, who attempted five of those blocked shots and shot a combined 6-for-24 in the two meetings. When Ferguson patrols the interior — and he’s relatively foul-averse for such a prolific shot-blocker — expect the Terriers, already the league’s most three-point-happy team, to bomb away from the outside.
One thought on BU: I’ve written before about shot selection, and how mid-range jumpers are generally bad shots, compared to the alternatives. But D.J. Irving is one of the few players I actually like watching take pull-up 16-footers. Now, let’s be clear that this is an emotional statement, not a statistical one. In fact, Irving’s numbers illustrate why mid-range jumpers are often suboptimal — according to hoop-math.com, Irving makes a higher percentage of his three-pointers than two-point jumpers, suggesting he could gain a lot of value by shooting from 22 feet instead of 16. But still, I can’t help but feeling good whenever Irving releases his step-back jumper from the elbow.
Winner gets: American or Holy Cross, with an NCAA bid on the line. In Saturday’s early game, both potential opponents will certainly be rooting for the Black Knights, whom the Eagles and Crusaders each swept; meanwhile, both lost fairly easily at Agganis Arena — where a championship game, if it involves BU, would be played.
Prediction: Pomeroy says BU, 80-69; the oddsmakers have a nine-point spread. In the 23-year history of the Patriot League tournament, no #1-seed has failed to reach the championship game; given how the Terriers blew out surging Lafayette; I don’t expect that to change soon. BU 77, Army 63.