The Wagner Seahawks’ offense is waking up and with it Bashir Mason’s club is becoming one of the most dangerous teams in the NEC.
The last time Wagner’s offense didn’t come to play was during the first win of the Seahawks’ recent run – a 52-50 squeaker over Mount St. Mary’s. Since then Wagner has scored over a point per possession in every game and last week against Central Connecticut and Bryant the Seahawks had their two best offensive games of the season.
The two wins represented a little bit of an evolution in the mindset of how Wagner plays basketball. While the Seahawks have traditionally been a team that wants to stay in the mid-60s possession wise, as his team has gotten healthier Mason has loosened the reigns. Wagner has played four of its past six games at over a 70-possession tempo in regulation. All of those games have been wins.
Last week the Seahawks scored 101 on Central Connecticut and then followed it up with 89 points against Bryant.
“I feel like our offense has now caught up to our defense, which is making us really good,” Mason said.
One of the biggest changes is that Wagner is finally healthy. Key players such as Jonathon Williams, Latif Rivers and Marcus Burton all missed time this season due to injuries. Now that they’re all healthy it’s easier to press on defense and push tempo on offense.
“Health has more to do with it than anything. This has been a trying year,” Mason said. “We’re getting healthy at the right time. Before that we were able to get stops. Now we’re flying up and down the court because guys feel good and their bodies aren’t broken down.”
Shooting earlier and getting into transition has bolstered Wagner’s offense. Outside of Rivers the team doesn’t have any elite shooters, so it can get bogged down when forced into a half court set, but watch out if they beat you to the rim. Against Bryant that was certainly evident. I broke down each of the Seahawks’ possessions by total time used and these were the results.
- Fewer than 10 seconds (21 possessions): 1.62 points per possession
- Between 10 and 20 seconds (22 possessions): 1.36
- Greater Than 20 seconds (26 possessions): 0.96
Yes, Wagner did have a few short possessions at the end because Bryant fouled to stop the clock, but there’s also a 1 second possession at the end of the first half that Rivers heaved up a shot. So it seems like a fair sample. Playing faster works for this team.
And quite frankly that’s no surprise. Wagner has better athletes than any team in the NEC besides maybe LIU Brooklyn. (Why the Seahawks can beat those teams though is their depth.) Wagner ranks first in the NEC in block percentage at 13.8% in conference play and third in steal percentage at 11.6%. Those are the signs of an athletic team. Against Bryant on Saturday everyone but Williams who played blocked a shot, eight players in all.
The funniest part? It’s not even something the Seahawks are trying to do. Rivers attributed his two blocks to good scouting and Mason said he’d rather have his players drawing charges. Instincts and natural athleticism lead to those opportunities. (And SportsCenter Top 10 moments for a precocious freshman.)
The nine players Mason currently has in his rotation (10 if Eric Fanning returns from a suspension for a violation of team rules) gives the 29-year-old head coach a multitude of options.
“Everything [the bench players] went through is paying dividends right now,” Mason said. “Right now coming down the stretch… It’s great to be able to have fresh bodies and capable bodies. When you put a guy in the game you don’t really lose anything.”
The new healthy, faster, more explosive Wagner might not be what everyone remembers from Dan Hurley’s short stint on Grymes Hill, but it’s a formidable contender in the NEC.