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Statistical Preview: Army Black Knights

A deep-dive into the offensive and defensive tendencies of the Black Knights

NCAA Basketball: Army at Oregon Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: This is the first statistical preview that I have written with the access to Synergy, which is an advanced tracking statistical website. This allows for a deep dive into offensive and defensive play types, individual tracking, and much more. Let me know what you think about this type of team analysis. A “normal” preview will be out tomorrow ahead of the game tomorrow night.

The Army Black Knights will come into Winston-Salem with a 5-3 record following a loss on the road to Binghamton last night 71-66.

If there is one way to describe the way that Army plays then it would be FAST. Second year coach Jimmy Allen’s squad ranks 39th in adjusted tempo nationally, and most of that is due to their quick possessions on offense.

The Black Knights play a press defense (mostly full court man-to-man) on 42% of defensive possessions and have limited to opponents to 33% shooting when the press is activated. They also forces a turnover on 20% of the possessions when pressing, while allowing the opponent to score just 31% of the time.

OFFENSE

This speed also translates to offense, where 24% of the play types from the Black Knights come in transition. While this makes up nearly a fourth of all their offensive plays, Army is simply average at scoring in transition.

The real threat that Wake Forest will have to watch out for is the Black Knights spot up shooting plays.

In 136 possessions this year of spot up shooting Army is averaging 1.14 points per possession. On the year Army is shooting 44% (54-122) from the field on these spot up shots and has assisted on 61% of the makes.

Junior guard Jordan Fox has been the biggest threat out of these sets, shooting 16/32 on the year, ranking in the 92nd percentile nationally. He is shooting 23-49 (47%) from behind the arc on the year.

Interestingly enough, Wake Forest rates as “excellent” according to Synergy at defending spot-up shooting on the year. It has by far been the most common offensive set faced at 27% on the year, and Wake has allowed just .753 PPP, which is in the 93rd percentile. Teams are shooting just 29.9% out of spot-up shots against the Deacs.

Most of this is thanks to Bryant Crawford and Chaundee Brown, who have contested on 61 of these shots and allowed just 16% shooting on the year. This is probably another article altogether, but Brown has been fantastic on defense this season. He should probably be getting more minutes solely based on that fact.

This success in spot-up shooting is primarily due to how good at Army is at shooting threes.

Overall the Black Knights are very good from behind the three-point line on the season, shooting 41%, ranking 21st nationally. Although they do hit on a good number of their threes, they still rank 209th in the nation in 3PA/FGA so they aren’t taking an overabundance of them in games so far this season.

This makes for a good eFG% (55% on the year, 50th nationally) despite average shooting from 2-pt range (51%).

Army ranks 186th in offensive efficiency nationally according to KenPom.

One area the Black Knights really struggle in is getting to the free throw line, as they rank as the 4th worst team nationally in FTA/FGA. This may be a blessing in disguise since their free throw shooting is 66%.

This is more of an indictment on the lack of aggressiveness of guards Jordan Fox and Tommy Funk, as they are both 80%+ free throw shooters, but have only attempted 35 total shots on the year from the line.

Army does not operate out of the pick-and-roll a lot, with just 16% of their possessions ending with from an action by the P&R ball handler or P&R roll man. When they do go to the pick-and-roll it is likely staying with the ball handler as opposed to getting to the roll, but that is by far the worst part of their offense, averaging just .622 points per possession (17-44 shooting, with a 33% turnover rate).

This is not a game that Wake Forest will want to go zone in very much. Army has faced the zone defense roughly 10% of the time this season (just 43 possessions), and has shot 21-35 (60%) from the field against it. The 1.23 points per possession ranks in the 95th percentile nationally in scoring against the zone.

Against the man-to-man Army is a more pedestrian .91 PPP, while shooting 48% on the year. I would expect Coach Manning will primarily stick with the man-to-man and encourage his guys to “guard their damn man”.

This is a game where the guards will absolutely have to stick with their men. The spot-up shooting is a lethal threat and most of the passes come on drive and kicks, so it’s not a Francis Alonso situation where they are going to have to work through 3-4 screens to stay there. They just need to stay focused, know where their guy is at all times, and stay on him.

DEFENSE

A quick look at the stats on the defensive end show that Army is an above average team, ranking 139th in defensive efficiency.

They are strictly a man-to-man defensive team, and as mentioned before love to full court press to slow down opponents. This has resulted in a below average possession length for the opposing offense, which Wake Forest should be used to based on a couple of the games so far this season.

In man-to-man, Army is limiting opponents to just .801 points per possession, and 38% shooting from the floor. Despite pressing on 42% of defensive possessions, the Black Knights rank below average nationally at forcing turnovers, sitting at 19.1% on the season. Most of this is because in the half court defense the Black Knights do not force many turnovers.

The area that Army will likely struggle in against Wake, much like other teams have so far this season, is how to defend Doral Moore. The Black Knights are decent at grabbing defensive rebounds (130th nationally), but when they do give up an offensive rebound, they usually pay for it as teams are shooting 60% on putback attempts on 32 possessions. This works out to 1.18 points per possessions allowed, which is well below the national average.

The other play type to watch when Wake is on offense is the pick-and-roll. Wake loves to run pick-and-roll, comprising 25% of possessions that ends in this offensive set, and particularly likes to use the ball-handler off of those sets (those who have said that Wake never passes to the roll man are spot-on, as the Deacs get it to the roll man just 13% of the time out of the pick and roll).

When Wake keeps it with the ball-handler it averages .95 points per possession, which is excellent compared to the rest of the nation. Bryant Crawford has excelled in the pick-and-roll as the ball-handler, running it 47 times this season, attempting 22 shots, and making 11 of them (50%).

If Wake does go to the roll man on the pick-and-roll, which is an area that Army is very bad at defending, then it will also likely see great success. Despite getting it to the roll man in just 3% of all offensive sets, it has seen phenomenal results, averaging 1.45 points per possession. The primary guy here is obviously Doral Moore, who on 10 possessions as the roll man has scored 15 points on 7-9 shooting. He scores 80% of the time that he gets the ball out of this set.

Overall

In looking at the stats this is another game where styles will contrast a bit. While Wake does occasionally look to get out and run, it has struggled in that part of the game on both ends of the court this year. Army runs a lot and likes to push the tempo for 40 minutes.

Army will have to come up with a gameplan that will limit Doral Moore, particularly on the offensive boards and the pick-and-roll. They have been around average at defending post-ups allowing .81 PPP when opposing teams end a possession out of the post up. With Moore shooting 83% from 2’s this year that will be a seriously test for the Cadets.

I would expect Wake to look to run a lot of pick-and-roll and get Crawford or Keyshawn Woods going downhill to either get to the basket or get the lob to the big guy. On defense, Wake will need to be sure to stay on their man and not get caught ball-watching. Army can beat the Deacs with hot shooting from behind the three-point line so it’s another good test in the out-of-conference schedule to prepare for the ACC.