New Beer Hall at Kaplan & 5 Basketball Observations

Dane Fischer has his team riding a scorching hot start to the season. [photo via tribeathletics.com]
If we told you at the beginning of the year that W&M would start the season 11-5, would you have believed us? Full transparency: we certainly would not have. But here we are! Two weeks into the CAA season, your William & Mary Tribe is 11-5. Holding an undefeated CAA record (3-0, all coming on the road), the Green and Gold is just a half game back from the #1 CAA spot — currently held by Charleston, who’s 4-0 in league play.

So far, it’s been a stunningly remarkable season for W&M’s first-year head coach Dane Fischer. Squeezing every bit of talent out of a revamped roster, W&M was recently ranked in the “Mid-Major Top 25” (checking in at #25). For context, the list is voted on by 31 D-1 basketball coaches, so it certainly has credibility.

And we’ll say it now: if Fischer gets this team to the promised land in his first year (knock on wood), W&M needs to immediately erect a Dane Fischer statue outside Kaplan Arena. Yeah, we said it. 

Below are some observations through the first part of the season. But before we do that, we wanted to show you the mock up for W&M’s new beer hall, which will be located courtside at W&M basketball games starting TOMORROW, for the W&M vs. UNCW game.

Entrance will be free, and on a first-come-first-serve basis. Looks amazing — someone please sample and let us know how it is! Roll Tribe.

W&M’s Precarious Beer Hall is a product of the Tribe’s new marketing rights partner, Van Wagner. [photo via tribeathletics.com]

Observation #1 The Tribe = Road Warriors

Get this:

  • William & Mary has the most road wins in the entire country (7).
  • The Tribe is the first team in the history of the CAA to start league play 3-0 with all three wins coming on the road.
  • William & Mary completed its first northeast road sweep (Hofstra and Northeastern) in program history
  • W&M posted 4 non-conference road wins, only the 6th time in program history.

Oh, and did we mention there are still 15 games left?…Wait, you’re still not a believer?

With just one more road victory, W&M will already match a 6-year road win high (when it finished 8-7 on the road). And with just two more road victories, W&M would finish with the most road wins in the last TEN years. And at this point, 9 total road wins is not out of the question, but overall, we’re already amazed at what this Tribe team has been able to accomplish.

Skeptics may say that W&M “hasn’t played any good teams” on the road. That is simply not true.

W&M defeated Wofford, who had a 17-game home winning streak going into the contest — one of the longest in the country at the time. Wofford is currently 6-1 at home, and W&M remains their only home loss since November 6th, 2018 (when they lost to #8-ranked UNC).

W&M also led Big-12 foe Oklahoma the entire contest, all the way up until the final minutes in Norman. Oklahoma remains undefeated at home this season.

Still not enough? How about this: W&M defeated the CAA preseason #1-ranked team (Hofstra) and the preseason #3-ranked team (Northeastern) on the road in back-to-back games. This includes a 27-POINT margin of victory over Hofstra. Let that sink in: 27 POINTS. Against the CAA preseason #1.

We rest our case. W&M is comprised of road warriors; what the team is currently doing away from the ‘Burg is absolutely remarkable. Moving forward, if the team can keep up its road success, the sky is the limit.

#2 Nathan Knight and Andy Van Vliet are Match-Up Nightmares

How many teams in the nation, forget just the “mid-major” conferences, can claim that they have two players taller than 6’10” — both of whom can carry the ball, drive, post-up, and shoot the 3? We’ll wait.

W&M’s Nathan Knight (20.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG) and Andy Van Vliet (15.1 PPG, 9.2 RPG) have been absolutely terrorizing opposing defenses this year. In fact, they are the only pair of teammates in the country to average at least 15 points and 9 rebounds per game.

Both players are top-10 in the CAA in scoring (Knight – 3rd, Van Vliet – 9th) and top 3 in rebounds (Knight – 2nd, Van Vliet – 3rd). Combined, Nathan Knight and Van Vliet have garnered 4 CAA Player of the Week honors. Knight leads the CAA with 3 CAA Player of the Week honors, and with one more Player of the Week award, he will pass W&M all-timer Marcus Thornton for the most in program history.

Let’s talk about Nathan. Is there anything he can’t do? He’s 4th in the CAA in scoring (20.1 PPG), 2nd in rebounding (9.9), 4th in FG PCT (58.7%), and 2nd in blocked shots (1.2 per game). He has scored 20 or more points in 9 games, and has finished with double digit point totals in all but one game this season.

And, oh yeah, he also has 12 double-doubles in 16 games — which leads the entire nation. Most recently, Nathan scored a game-winning shot with a second to go, knocking out a very strong Northeastern team.

In short, Knight has been on a tear; we hope he keeps up this level of production to not only finish as CAA Player of the Year, but also springboard himself into the NBA. It’ll take that and more for W&M to get to the promised land this season.

Now let’s talk about Van Vliet. As a 7-footer, Van Vliet is 4th on the team in 3-point FG Percentage, shooting 40.8% from beyond the arc; he currently leads the team in 3-pointers made. Let that sink in: a 7-footer leads W&M in 3 pointers made.

Van Vliet has scored in the double digits in all but two games this year. And while he is a great sharpshooter, he also possesses the ability to post players up, utilizing quite the hook shot.

Nathan Knight and Andy Van Vliet currently comprise the most imposing duo in the CAA. They really do have the ability to lead W&M to the promised land — something we certainly didn’t think was possible at the beginning of the year.

#3 Luke Loewe is W&M’s Most Improved Player in Recent Memory

Luke Loewe has elevated his game to another level this season, and boy is it fun to watch. In our opinion, his single-season improvement is perhaps the best improvement we’ve seen from a Tribe player over the last ten years.

Here are Luke Loewe’s stats from last season:

  • Points per Game: 3.9
  • FG PCT: 44.4%
  • 3-PT FG PCT: 22.6%
  • Free Throw PCT: 34.6%

And here are his stats compare to this season:

  • Points per Game: 11.1 (+7.2 relative to last season)
  • FG PCT: 54.9% (+10.5%)
  • 3-PT FG PCT: 44.2% (+21.6%)
  • Free Throw PCT: 71.4% (+36.8%)

These are absolutely MIND BOGGLING numbers. Loewe improved over 20% in 3-point shooting and almost 40% in free throw percentage. He currently ranks 6th in the CAA in FG PCT, and 4th in 3-Point FG PCT.

We all know what kind of season Knight and Van Vliet are having, but folks need to start taking notice of what Loewe is doing. He obviously has put in countless hours over the offseason to improve his game, which is now leading to serious results. He’s third on the team in scoring, and has made himself a big key to the Tribe’s ongoing success.

Check out the video in the below tweet for a great feature on Luke Loewe this season.

#4 W&M has Dramatically Improved on Defense

It’s no secret that defense was not former W&M head coach Tony Shaver‘s strong suit. While he was an offensive mastermind, W&M typically gave up a lot of points.

That’s not the case this year, as teams have only eclipsed 80 points four times against W&M. In CAA play, W&M is currently only giving up only 66 points per game.

Here is how W&M ranked last year:

  • Scoring Defense: 76.9 PPG (8th in CAA)
  • Field Goal PCT Defense: 45.8% (6th in CAA)
  • 3 Point FG PCT Defense: 37.4% (8th in CAA)
  • Scoring Margin: -2.1 (6th in CAA)

Here is how W&M ranks this year:

  • Scoring Defense: 68.2 PPG (-8.7) – 5th in CAA
  • Field Goal PCT Defense: 41.4% (-4.4%) – 4th in CAA
  • 3 Point FG PCT Defense: 31.1% (-6.3%) – 5th in CAA
  • Scoring Margin: +5.7 (+7.8) – 4th in CAA

The Tribe is giving up almost 9 less points per game, which in basketball terms, is 3 possessions less than W&M gave up last year. That is a huge improvement.

Paired with a scoring margin differential of almost 8 points (+7.8), we begin to see how the Tribe has experienced success so far this year. W&M’s defense is now for real, and it’s showing.

#5 The Tribe Needs to Limit Turnovers to Win Down the Stretch

As we know, seemingly every CAA game comes down to the wire. Truly, any team in the CAA is capable of beating any other team on any given night. In these close games, it is essential to win the turnover differential. 

Currently in this category, W&M is not faring too well. The Tribe averages 13.4 turnovers per game, which is third most in the league. And as one can see below, the Tribe is a paltry 9th in the CAA in Turnover margin.

Capture
via caasports.com

It may come as no surprise, but the three of the top four teams in turnover margin (Hofstra, Charleston, and Northeastern) find themselves in the top 4 in CAA Standings. The only team missing? William & Mary.

If the Tribe can improve on their turnover ratio, it should win some inevitably close games down the stretch in the CAA.

LET’S GO TRIBE.

 

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