Men's Basketball 2013 Outlook: Acadia Axemen

With the Axemen set to continue their conference schedule tomorrow, we jump to AUS basketball and preview Acadia.

Record: 6-0 conference (2nd, AUS), 11-1 overall, +5.0 SRS (13th in CIS)

Offensive/Defensive Efficiency (CIS Rank): 98.7 ORtg (21st), 72.8 DRtg (1st)

First half highlights:
  • An unblemished conference record and a solid showing in non-conference play.
  • Two wins over Memorial by a combined 71 points.
First half recap: They've had the 5th easiest schedule in the country overall, but the Axemen have still managed to impress in their first semester. With an incredible (if unsustainable) defensive rating, they've been able to overcome a shaky offence and cruise to a 6-0 record.

What makes them good: So far, it's been tough to score against the Axemen. Their opponents' 72.8 points per 100 possessions is absolutely miniscule, and more than nine points fewer than no. 2 Ryerson, and teams playing Acadia have shot just 30% on two-pointers, a ridiculously low number. One reason the Axemen are so good at protecting their bucket is that they don't hit the offensive glass much (26% offensive rebounding rate despite having Owen Klassen, one of the premier rebounders in the country), letting the 'D' get set up off misses. Given that the Axemen play the fourth-fastest pace in the country (83.6 possessions per game), the need for solid transition defence is huge. Jonathan Tull (26.0 PER, 64 TS%) has been superb, while All-Canadian Owen Klassen (16.3 points per game, 10.3 rebounds) has put up great numbers despite shouldering much of the load so far (26.7% usage rate, 32 MPG). The Axemen should also receive a boost when sharpshooter Anthony Sears returns to the lineup, joining fellow bomber Anthony Ashe (62 TS%) on the perimeter.

What they need to improve on: Resilience in the face of the injury bug, among other things. Klassen is going to miss the next four to six weeks with an ankle injury, a huge blow to a team that will play several huge divisional games over that time period. He is also facing a February court date, "charged with assault and assault causing bodily harm in connection with two incidents last winter involving a woman." Klassen's combination of basketball skills is perhaps unmatched nationwide, and his ability to make up for teammates' defensive mistakes will be missed on the court — the Axemen struggled without him in a bad loss to Dalhousie at the Rod Shoveller tournament, shooting just 32%. Sears, who has returned to practice but isn't cleared to play, will provide a boost on offence when he comes back, but it remains to be seen whether Acadia can weather this storm.

Goals/Outlooks/Scenarios: If Klassen can return and Sears can help on offence, it should be a pretty good battle for the AUS title between Acadia and Cape Breton (who have injury problems of their own, it should be noted). If not, however, it could be a long winter in Wolfville.
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