Show Me My Opponent: Chattanooga

WHAT THEY BRING

Not much!

Since Will Wade and Matt McCall both left town, this has mostly been The Wilderness for UTC under Paris. Both of Paris’ teams have shot around the national average (201st and 132nd in eFG%), but continue to be hamstrung by a variety of maladies: mediocre offense rebounding, turnover issues, inability to hit two-pointers, etc. They take and make a good amount of threes, but that’s about it for things they notably do well. I guess if there’s any one notable thing, UTC did run an above-average number of post-ups last season. They aren’t doing that as much this year, so, yeah.

Matt Ryan (not that Matt Ryan)

Chattanooga’s biggest offensive driver so far is a guy you’ll remember from…well, last year: former Vanderbilt and Notre Dame shooter Matt Ryan. Ryan gets the most minutes on the team, has the highest usage rate, and has taken 64 attempts from the field in four games. Just 23 of those have gone in, but hey, he’s learning!

Ryan is still heavily a spot-up and screens-based guy, though UTC has experimented with him in the post and as the ball-handler in transition. Ryan is the 3-man in the starting lineup, but plays at the 4 slightly more often. Neither of UTC’s centers can shoot, so you’ll see him take a lot of threes in an attempt to draw Tennessee bigs to the perimeter.

Future Houston Rocket developmental project David Jean-Baptiste

Behind Ryan is David Jean-Baptiste, the 2-guard. DJB also takes lots of shots, nearly all of them either at the rim of from three. From this perspective exclusively, he is a perfect fit for Moreyball. He’s been pretty terrible at converting his rim attempts so far, as he’s been out of control at the basket on most of his looks.

He’s been far better on the perimeter, where he’s hit 12 of 28 threes. DJB is a career 36.8% three-point shooter and shot 41.1% from deep last year; it would probably be a good thing to avoid letting him get the ball in a relatively open spot-up situation.

Past that, not much else, aside from turnovers

Ramon Vila is the center, a 6’8” post-up/cut specialist that can’t shoot.

Rod Johnson is the nominal power forward/occasional third-string center with a really intriguing skill set: mostly spot-ups for now with occasional post-up looks.

Maurice Commander, easily the best name on the team, has a limited role in the offense despite being the guy who runs it. He commits tons of turnovers, but so do a couple others on this team as well.

Defensively: both awful and awfully fascinating

Hey, this is also bad, surprise. Chattanooga hasn’t had a single defense finish in the KenPom top 100 since 2004-05, and that remains their only top 100 defense. The two Paris defenses so far are 304th and 275th, and his third currently ranks 261st. I guess you could call that very minimal improvement, but it’s still not pretty. The general themes of UTC’s defense the last two-plus years: very bad interior defense and a below-average 3PT% allowed despite preventing three-point attempts fairly well and guarding them well above the national average.

Mostly, this is a defense that gets demolished on two-pointers and doesn’t really get better from transition to half-court. Eventually, they’ll stop giving up such a bad hit rate on threes, but if you can’t stop anyone at the rim, it probably doesn’t matter. By the way, this is me talking about a team with a 6’8” center and a 6’10” backup. Tennessee’s centers are 6’9” and 6’8”. And yet: Tennessee blocks one out of every six two-point attempts. It ain’t rocket science, man.

Atrocious rim defense, no matter how you slice it

The first is easier to understand. Chattanooga exclusively plays man-to-man; per Synergy, they’ve played a total of six possessions in zone through two-plus years of Paris. They never press, either; they are happy to sit back and kind of let you do your thing. Chattanooga isn’t one to necessarily force turnovers; their steal rate ranks 223rd despite a TO% that’s 97th. They’ve played one game against good competition so far – Florida State – and got absolutely demolished in the paint.

FSU went 18-of-26 at the rim, dunked seven times, got 11 offensive rebounds, and essentially did anything they wanted inside the perimeter.

South Alabama was less successful in their 90-72 loss, but still went 11-of-16 at the rim and shot 56.3% from two.

Check out this perimeter defense that’s oddly poor despite quality three-point guarding

The perimeter issues…well, I don’t quite get those. Chattanooga is solid at preventing threes in the first place, mostly because opponents immediately realize they can score easily inside. They’ve guarded around 65% of threes from 2018-19 onwards, which is a pretty good rate, and have allowed opponents to shoot just 33.2% on said shots – right at the national average.

The problem: for whatever reason, opponents have absolutely shredded UTC on open catch-and-shoots. They’re allowing a 45.4% conversion rate on these threes, which is absurd and almost certainly due to regress…

Unless it just doesn’t.

NEXT PAGE: Is Knoxville better than Chattanooga as a city? Need your thoughts

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