Darien Brothers playing the percentages
Richmond is off to a fast 3-0 start with an average margin of victory of, brace yourself, 31.7 points. A big reason why the Spiders have cruised early on has been the improved offensive proficiency of senior guard Darien Brothers.
Coming into this campaign, Brothers was Richmond’s lone remaining starter from the team that pushed to the Sweet 16 in 2010-11. Last season he was a solid but generally unspectacular performer, averaging 14.6 ppg for a team that struggled to a 16-16 finish.
But he gave a sneak peek at things to come when he posted back-to-back 30-point efforts in Richmond’s final two games. While he hasn’t cleared the 30-point barrier in the Spiders’ current opening season win streak he has managed to push his scoring average up a full five points to 19.7 ppg.
A closer look at the numbers reveals he’s producing more this season with essentially the same amount of activity he had in 2011-12. His field goal attempts have actually decreased (10.7 per game this season vs. 10.8 last season) but his field goal percentage thus far is a ridiculous 59.4%, which is something you might expect from a burly power forward, not a perimeter player.
Brothers is cranking out an unsustainable 53% shooting mark from 3-point range, which explains the big increase in his scoring average. But as that percentage shrinks a little, watch for his attempts to increase and keep him right around that 20 ppg mark.
The degree of difficulty increases a little for Richmond on Sunday night with a visit to Minnesota. A victory in that one would give the program its first 4-0 start in 27 years.
Duke doing some addition by subtraction
Early on in the 2012-13 campaign, Duke is proving me right concerning a theory I had about that team: it would be better WITHOUT Austin Rivers on the roster.
Don’t get wrong, Rivers was without question an otherworldly talent who was clearly Duke’s primary offensive weapon as a true freshman last season. With his explosive first step and ability to score in traffic there was little doubt that he would be a one-and-done player.
But Rivers, like most true freshmen who are thrust into playing significant minutes early on, had some faults. His 65.8% mark from the free throw line was a little troubling for a player who had the ball in his hands so much.
Which leads me into the other knock I had on Rivers: he was a create his shot type of player, not one who would generate points off of assists. And in the system that Coach K has taken decades to craft at Duke, was that really a good fit?
In his absence, some speculated that Duke would suffer from not having a go-to scorer who could exert his will on the opposition. But at this extremely early stage in the season we’re seeing a team that looks like it won’t have any trouble generating points.
The biggest beneficiary of Rivers bolting for the NBA has been senior forward Mason Plumlee, whose increased involvement in the offense has resulted in an 18.5 ppg average, up from 11.1 a season ago.
Plumlee has become a legitimate low post threat who is joined by three proficient 3-point shooters in Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and newcomer Rasheed Sulaimon. So while Rivers’ slashing drives to the rim would come in handy for Duke, I think the offensive continuity bred by his departure will end up being a greater good for this squad.