It’s been a disappointing start to the season for Will Ryan and the Green Bay Phoenix (2-12, 1-4), who were picked by most national pundits to finish in the bottom third of the Horizon League in the preseason. This of course seemed reasonable considering there were eight players that left via the transfer portal in the off-season.
Roughly half way through the season, it’s hard to envision Green Bay finishing much higher than predictions suggested. However, it’s worth noting that last season Green Bay lost their first nine games of the season before finishing with a record of 8-8 over their final 16 games. So, it’s entirely possible that this season’s Phoenix could be a slow burn as well. Especially considering the fact that 61% of their players had never logged a minute for the Phoenix before this season.
The greatest concern surrounding this years team is the fact that they’re terribly inefficient from beyond the arc. Out of 358 division one programs, Green Bay ranks 353rd in 3P% (24.7). That’s a problem for an offense that’s predicated on generating open outside shots just as much as it is touches on the low block.
As a matter of fact, Green Bay has just three players averaging better than 30% from beyond the arc: Kirciman (.417%), Stieber (.357%), and Listau (.300%) – that’s just not going to cut it at this level.
As you can see in this graphic from shotquality.com, Green Bay is in the bottom 17% in all of college basketball in generating open and efficient looks. They also rank in the bottom 24% in all of college basketball in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency.
Now, some of this can of course be explained by so many new faces playing together for the first time – in a Covid season no less. But the offensive concerns for this team are very, very real.
Last season the Phoenix finished the year ranked 324th in adjusted defensive efficiency, so there was nowhere to go but up this season right? Well if you guessed that, you’d be wrong.
Through the first 14 games of the season, Green Bay ranks 337th in Adjusted defensive efficiency. There have been miscues defending ball screens and preventing dribble penetration for the better part of the season.
This system is highly predicated on following the rules of the system, and all parties knowing their assignments. Thus far, the defensive cohesion has been inconsistent at best – and hasn’t done the Phoenix any favors in crunch time. It also doesn’t help that Green Bay’s effective FG% is 307th in the nation (53.5%).
The silver lining is that Green Bay is the second least experienced team in division one, and there are some really solid building blocks already in place for this young rebuilding program.
Kamari McGee is well ahead of where I would have expected coming into this season, and he’s a lead guard for this team to build around. I firmly believe he’ll be an All-Horizon League player more than once in his career.
Transfer guard Donovan Ivory has arguably the highest ceiling of any player on this team, and could be a terrific scoring threat for the Phoenix in his career. Additionally, Emmanuel Ansong is a freak athlete that makes for a nice complimentary piece as an undersized forward.
Green Bay also has a glue guy in Lucas Stieber, an improving big man in Japannah Kellogg, Cade Meyer who is already starting as a true freshman, and the school’s highest rated recruit in school history Donovan Short who will be entering the program next season.
It may seem cheesy, but I’m preaching patience with this program. This is an insanely young team, and it’s not devoid of talented players. I believe many of the pieces are in place for future success, they just need the hardest thing to give a program – and that’s time.
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