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Friday, October 21, 2016

Rugby East Drop On All Three Conference Races



by Ryan J. Trost
This is American Rugby – Rugby East


As the year has progressed in Rugby East, some statistical tells have begun to form. Yes, it’s clear that Penn State, Army, Wheeling and Kutztown are still in their own stratosphere. Wins, Points For, Points Against, Points Differential and Bonus points: Name the top four teams in any one of those categories and you’ve named the top four in all of them. Hint: All four have already been named.

Other teams in the conference are showing signs of splitting away from the typical chase pack though too, making this year’s tour a three tiered race. Iona and St. Bonaventure in particular, though unable to upset any of them, have been competitive with the lead group for long periods of play.

They both have also shown an ability to run up the score against the other lower ranked teams in the conference. Iona shut out Delaware 33 – 0 in week two, while Bonaventure handled both Buffalo and West Virginia by an average margin of 32 points.

Take the jump to read more.

In an interesting turn, UB has actually got a better Points Differential than Bonaventure on the year. If we take a deeper look at the statistical team categories, what we find is that UB is actually competing in that middle tier range.

At 0-4 and 0-5, Delaware and West Virginia are clearly in the weeds this year. Their negative 300-ish Point Differentials back that claim. They will be playing for pride the rest of the way, culminating on a final week of the season head to head match.


W
L
T
PF
PA
PD
BT
BL
FF
PTS
Out of Conference
National Ranking
Penn Sate
6
0
0
373
59
314
6


30
2 - 0
#4
Army
6
1
0
344
58
286
5


29
1 - 0
#8
Wheeling
4
1
0
216
119
97
4


20
1 - 1
#17
Kutztown
3
1
0
252
91
161
4


16
0 - 0
#13
St. Bona
2
4
0
205
309
-104
4


12
0 - 1

UB
1
3
0
102
186
-84
2


6
1 - 1

Iona
1
4
0
69
129
-60
1


5
2 - 0

Delaware
0
4
0
23
282
-259
1


1
0 - 1

WVU
0
5
0
42
380
-338
1


1
0 - 1


Comparing them to Iona, St. Bona and UB we see a distinguishable difference, which is something a lot of us have been waiting to see happen since the conference realigned in 2014. 

Most people probably expected Iona to continue living in its own little world between the groups, with Bonaventure maybe approaching them this year. No one expected UB to have a clear advantage over Delaware and WVU though… no one except the Bulls themselves, that is.
So, while the top four are still what we thought they were and the bottom two are far and away worse off than the rest, Buffalo, Iona and St. Bonaventure have definitively gotten their programs moving in the right direction. 

The Bulls, like Bonaventure and Iona put a large number up against Delaware. UB’s schedule has allowed them recovery weeks between dates with the big four and they will be facing a potentially injury-weakened Jesuit team this weekend. We don’t expect them to upset Wheeling, but if they get a positive flow going again, the Bulls may actually have some wind in their sails by the time they get to Iona the following week.

Speaking of Iona, here are some interesting defensive numbers. The Gaels and Penn State are the only teams to hold Army to under 50 points on the year (held them to 16, in fact). They and Army are the only teams to keep the Nittany Lions from reaching the half century mark as well (gave up 36). 

While Army and Penn State are easily the two best defensive teams in the series (both averaging fewer than 10 points per game), Iona’s Points Against average (PAA) of 25.8 per game puts them squarely in contention with Kutztown (22.8) and Wheeling (23.8). The next best defensive team after them is UB with an almost doubled per game average of 46.5. 

Keep in mind, Iona is averaging 25.8 Points Against while playing all four of the conference draught horses already. That’s pretty tight stuff. Kutztown hasn’t played Penn State or Army yet. Wheeling hasn’t dealt with Penn State yet. It is feasible that Iona could end up with better defensive numbers than either of them, by the end of the year.

Offensively, Kutztown carries the league baton. Their unique mix of power and agility has helped them ring up an average of 63 points per game. A close 2nd to them in attack is Penn State at 62.2 per game. To say Penn State is the 2nd best team in both offense and defense is to do them a major disservice though. They are the only team without so much as a hiccup on the year and show no signs of faltering. 

In attack, Kutztown (63.0 avg) is less than 1 point per game better than State (62.2 avg), with 3rd ranked Army coming in 13 points down (49.1 avg). Those same Black Knights are only 1.5 points better than PSU defensively per game, with 3rd ranked KU a perfect 13 points adrift on that side of the ball (Army - 8.3 paa; PSU - 9.8 paa; KU -22.8 paa).

Wheeling fits into all of this in another interesting space. They are the 4th best team in every single category (though close to KU defensively and close to Army offensively). They won when Kutztown came to town however, and that is of course all that really matters. Who plays better on game day? The fact that we are getting closer to parity in the conference, which is what the numbers show…  is, I think a very good sign.

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