The 2016-17 NAIA Division 2 season is now in the record books, and Union College walked away with the NAIA Division 2 championship. On their way to the top, they bested many teams, which in their own right, are worth mentioning for their noteworthy accomplishments. There are other winners. Teams that broke records and were the best in particular statistical categories. A lot of these achievements go unnoticed or pass us by without much pomp and circumstance. Most of them are only appreciated when seen through the lenses of advanced statistics and basketball metrics, something not ordinarily appreciated by the pedestrian basketball fan.
CONTEXT IS KEY
The highest scoring team may not always be the best offensive team. Some teams prefer to play an up-tempo style of offense, pushing the ball down the floor and running at every opportunity. On the other side of the coin, are teams that like to “milk the clock” and slowly set up their offense in a half-court set. These contrasting playing styles influence the number of possessions in a game and consequently, the opportunities to score, rebound, and compile other statistics.
IT’S ABOUT THE POSSESSIONS
It is fair and balanced criteria to assess teams and what they do on a per-possession basis, as opposed to a per-game filter because they can be compared more evenly, regardless of the pace of the game. The NBA was the first to use these type of advanced stats. Until today no such data was available for NAIA Division 2 Basketball. Court Side Newspaper is the first source in the world to introduce it for numerous countries, leagues, and players.
LONGEST WINNING STREAK IN NAIA DIVISION 2 BASKETBALL
After losing back-to-back games at the beginning of November, Union College stayed undefeated for the rest of the season and recorded a 33-0 winning streak. They were truly the most dominant team in NAIA Division 2 this season. West Coast Baptist had the longest losing streak with 24 games vs other NAIA Division 2 teams.
NERVES OF STEEL
Either the Robert Morris University players have ice in their veins, or coach Al Bruehl is a brilliant tactician, or maybe both. The Robert Morris Eagles played four games that went to overtime (one of them double overtime) and won all four.
TO RUN-AND-GUN OR GRIND IT OUT?
Asbury University was the fastest team in NAIA Division 2 this season. They averaged 86.4 possessions per game. Their aim was to get as many opportunities to score as possible and hopefully outgun their opponents. The slowest team in NAIA D 2 hoops was Lourdes with only 63.6 possessions per game.
MORE IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER
While Asbury played at the highest pace and averaged most points in NAIA Division 2 Basketball (95,5), they were not the best offensive team. In fact, they didn’t even make it to the Top 30. The best offensive team this 2016-17season was West Virginia Tech with an impressive Offensive Rating of 123,4 (123,4 points per-100 possessions).
The toughest team to score against in NAIA Division 2 Basketball was Union College. Their stingy defense allowed only 95.6 points per-100 possessions. Mount Marty had the worst defense in the league, allowing 127,7 points per-100 possessions.
NORTHWEST CHRISTIAN WERE SNIPERS FROM THE FREE-THROW LINE
Northwest Christian University recorded a 31.5 free throw rate. That’s the ratio of foul shots to field goal attempts. However, the best True Shooting Percentage belonged to Dakota Wesleyan (67 TS%). True shooting percentage is a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account field goals, 3-point field goals, and free throws.
WEST VIRGINIA TECH WERE CHAIRMEN OF THE BOARDS
West Virginia Tech grabbed 58 % of all available rebounds (Rebounding rate). They were closely followed by Northwestern (57. It is also noteworthy that no West Virginia Tech also crashed the offensive glass like nobody else (40.2% of all available offensive rebounds).
THE LITTLE SECRETS OF UNION COLLEGE
Defense wins championships. At least that’s what they say. It held true in regards to Union College. They were the best defensive team in NAIA 2 this season. Hands down. But they also ranked 3rd in offensive rebounding rate.