Lee Kunkel (@kunkel5)
There are a lot of teams in college basketball who shoot the ball well. None shoot it better then the Colgate Raiders.
As a team, Colgate is the best shooting squad in all of college basketball right now. They are lighting teams up from behind the three-point-line, and that has opened up the entire offense.
The Raiders are shooting a ridiculous 51 percent from downtown, best in the country. The lowest 3-point percentage on the squad? Leading scorer Murphy Burnatowski at 39.5 percent, which is not bad at all for a guy who’s 6-foot-7.
That 3-point-percentage, combined with 56.4 two-point-percentage (25th best in the country) gives the Raiders the best effective field goal percentage in college basketball according to KenPom. Speaking of the statistician, his metrics had Colgate ranked as the No. 306 team in the country entering the season; as of Tuesday, they’re up to No. 198.
Some statisticians would say the Raiders have the best offense in the country, as effective field-goal-percentage is one way to judge a teams offensive performance.
Colgate coach Matt Langel credits the hot start to ball movement and smart offense.
“In order to make shots, you got to get good shots and we’ve been getting good shots. At times we have five guys on the court who are very capable of making an open three point shot which makes it difficult on the defense,” he said. “I think in order to get good shots, we’ve been able to move the ball and our guys are really enjoying playing with each other. That results in a good recipe for success.”
Much of this success has to deal with a few transfers, including Burnatowski (15.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg), who transferred from Maine two years ago, Ohio University transfer Ethan Jacobs (13.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg), and the teams’ floor general Austin Tillotson (Monmouth).
“There were a few things that drove me to come here. I’ve known coach Langel since he was an assistant coach at Temple. I went to a camp there my ninth or 10th grade year of high school and played really well. We created a special bond,” he said. “I also had a teammate from my AAU team, Matt Mullen who came here, and he always loved it. It was a pretty easy decision,” Tillotson told CoBL.
Tillotson has been a consistent threat for Colgate. He leads the team in assist, averaging 5.3 per-game but has still been a scoring threat (second on the team at 13.5 ppg). Much like the rest of his team, he’s off to a great start, shooting 64.3 percent (9-14) from three, and 66 percent from the floor overall.
“It is really impressive [teams shooting percentage]. It shows how hard we worked this offseason. We share the ball so well and have so many shooters on the floor,” Tillotson said. “It’s hard to guard everybody at one time. We take really good shots, we share the ball, there’s not one person who’s going to force something up.”
The Raiders lost their first two games on the road at ACC foe Wake Forest–a game they lead until the 10 minute mark of the second half–and at top-10 ranked Syracuse. In both games, the Raiders shot the ball well but were not rewarded with a win.
“We started the season with two difficult games at Wake Forest and at Syracuse and I think the guys realized that they have a chance to be a good team,” Langel said..
Since that 0-2 start, Colgate has rallied off four straight wins, including two wins away from home at Tulane and at Binghamton.
The success is something that the coach–a former Penn standout and assistant under Fran Dunphy at both Penn and Temple–hopes is a recurring theme as he prepares his team for Patriot League play.
“Coaches are always focused on their team and getting better (early in the season before conference play). Winning, especially early in the season provides the players with confidence,” Langel said. “It’s a moral boost and willingness to continue to do and work like they have been in the pre-season and early in the season.”
Tillotson, like the rest of his team, is happy with the start, but understands that it’s all about getting prepared for Patriot League play, and having success once league play starts.
“As a collective group I think we’re heading in the right direction. We think that we should be 4 and 2, we put in a lot of work in the off-season to push for a run at this Patriot League title and so far we’re off to a good start,” he said.
Next up, the Raiders get a tough test against Georgetown (Saturday, Dec 7). It will be a great opportunity to see what the team has learned since their 0-2 start against two high-majors as they continue to prepare for their Patriot League opener against Lehigh on January 2.
“I’ve known coach [John] Thompson for a long time since his days at Princeton and he recruited me to be a student athlete,” Langel said. “There’s not a program that I have more respect for in the country. He does a fantastic job taking really talented players and getting them to play together. It will be a really hard game for us.”
And what will it take for Colgate to take down their first high-major opponent of the year? There’s only one possible answer.
“We’re definitely going to have to shoot the ball well,” Tillotson said.