Friday, February 21, 2020

MBB Preview: Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

BG returns back to action after its bye to host the Ohio U Bobcats on Saturday.

BG beat OU by 9 at the Convo...believe it or not, BG's biggest win in MAC play.  Even so, OU had the lead for the first 25 minutes of the game before the Falcons took control and put the game away.  It was never a one-possession game after the 8-minute mark of the second half.

OU is 5-8 in MAC play.  They have won three of their last four, though that includes Miami and WMU and CMU....all at home.  They lost @ Kent.  They are 1-5 in the MAC on the road, with the win at EMU.

Here's how it went in the first game.  As you can see, shooting was even.  BG won the game because of the extra possessions they generated on turnovers and on the offensive boards and having a net +1 advantage on FTs.  Turner had 29 and Frye had 19 for BG.  Vander Plas had 25 for OU and Preston had 15.  I don't have numbers on this but Vander Plas appears to save his productivity for when they play BG.

So, you have two teams that are basically scoring what they are allowing.  Basically, BG is 3rd in the MAC in offense and 9th in defense, while OU is 7th in offense and 6th in defense.

So, having established that OU is #6 in offense, how do they get there.  They are 5th in shooting and 9th in turnovers...which was reflected in the first game.  They are decent on the offensive boards and they are poor at getting to the line.  They are 6th in 3FG and 7th in 2FG and 9th in FTs.  BG is last in the MAC in forcing turnovers, so if that holds it would help OU produce more. 

Flipping it around, things are pretty evenly matched here. OU is 5th forcing turnovers and BG is #1 at preventing them, so that's an issue.  Also, OU is #1 on their defensive boards.  BG had a large number of offensive boards in the first game, so that's something to watch.  OU doesn't give up a ton of FTs, but their opponents are making 76% of it--that's the highest in the MAC.  Nothing OU can do about it, but it makes it harder to win.

Same as shown in our first meeting, Ben Vander Plas and and Jason Preston lead OU in scoring.  Vander Plas is scoring 17 PPG, shooting 48% and 33% with 7.2 RPG, a team high.  Preston has scored 16 PPG on 51% and 37% shooting, making him the more efficient player.  He's 2jnd on the team in 6.8 RPG and leads the MAC with 7.3 APG and is second in A/TO ratio. (Laster is #1).  Both of these players are sophomores.

Dartis, a senior, is scoring 12.6 PPG, shooting 38% on mostly 3FGs.  Sylvester Ogbonda also gets 6.6 rebounds.

So, based on what has happened this year, BG should win this game and hit 11 for the season, a key step in their drive for a bye.  They are also in the running for the regular-season title, for which a win is essential. 

Dylan Frye will be back.  It will be interesting to see how the team reacts and how Dylan reacts.  Players miss a couple games with injuries all the time, but this is a little different.  Hopefully he's refreshed and we get the guy back who started the season and the team molds back around him.  If so, this game should be a W.  They are all needed.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Another Plot Twist in MBB...Frye is back

Well, this is a wow. I heard Todd Walker in our most recent game make some cryptic reference to the possible temporary nature of Frye's situation...don't remember exactly what he said, but Dylan Frye is back and will be dressed and available to play Saturday against OU.

Hang on kids.

Update: Frye's statement

Monday, February 17, 2020

MBB Taking a Breath

We've hit the bye week, no game tomorrow.  I think it's a good time to look at the success we are having and put it in a little context.  Because we are seeing something we have not seen in a long time at Bowling Green, and something we hope can continue.

The Falcons are 19-7.  That's (obviously) one win from 20.  That would put BG over 20 for two straight seasons.

FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1949...a team that was ranked #10 in the AP Poll.

Many of you know that I tend to use the WVU year as a dividing line for our program.  Not that WVU caused what followed, but it's a clear line in the geologic record.  When WVU happens, we are 24-9 and feeling robbed of an at-large bid.

Since then, in 17 seasons coming into this year

  • Four winning seasons
  • No (ZERO) back to back winning seasons
  • One MAC Final appearance (last year)
  • Two 20-win seasons (one last year)
  • Two tournament byes (one last year)
  • One regular season title

It's just a sad story.  That's 15 years where this program simply lagged behind the others in our conference.

In the last two years:

  • Our first back to back winning seasons, overall and in the MAC.
  • As mentioned, back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in 70 years (with one more win)

Just wanted to put this out there to make this point:  we might or might not make the Dance.  This system is just cruel.  Everything has to go right.  All the tumblers have to fall into place.  Look at the injury UT had one year.  Or the half-court Miami shot.  It is just very difficult.

But, and here's the key point, our program is as good as it has been in 20 years.  We've finally rebuilt the program.  We are continuing to recruit well.  What we need is a program that is consistently relevant in the MAC...and then we'll get there.

Not saying we won't make it this year.  I think we have as good a shot as anyone--possibly except Akron, who present matchup issues for us.  Looking forward to seeing a rematch.

We all want to make it so bad.  But, we have waited a long time to even be competitive again, and we should enjoy this team at that level, too.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

MBB MAC Scenarios

So, with the bye, a chance to look in on where things stand right now.

Here's the chart the MAC puts remember when I did these first, right?  Me too.  Love they are doing it, mostly because the tiebreakers can give you a headache.

So, first, the primary concern here is to get one of the 4 byes.  We can talk about winning it all, but it gets you nothing and really, once you're in Cleveland you have to win three games.  The seed doesn't matter except for matchups and you might get a better match up for your team  in the 2 seed than the 1 seed.

If BG wins out, they win the whole enchilada.  That's a big accomplishment, it just doesn't mean anything.  If they don't win out, it depends on how Akron does and of course there is that head-to-head game.

Now, BG has eliminated 5 teams already.  They have to eliminate 8. (Well, OU could technically knot the tie-breaker Saturday.)  BG does have home court sewn up.

If BG wins 4...they would clinch a bye and could not finish below the #2 seed.

If BG wins 3....that's 13-5.  That puts them over NIU and Ball State, who the Falcons have tie-breakers over (2).    Leaving only Kent, UB and CMU who can end 13-5.  Only two of them can do it because Kent and UB play (3).  And BG plays both Kent and UB.  And that's only if they win out...Kent still has to play @EMU (don't laugh) and @AK.  And UB has Ball State and Akron, though at home.  CMU has the tie-breaker over BG, but would need to win seven. due to the coronavirus-game.  In short, at 13-5, BG is virtually assured a bye.

No, what if BG wins 2?  And let's assume they are the least tie-breaking friendly OU and Miami wins.

12-6 was good enough last year.  Probably would be again.  NIU and Ball State play each other and one will end up with a 6th loss (1).  You'd need one additional loss from the winner of that game (2), and then two of the following three teams to lose twice: UB, KSU and CMU.  And UB and KSU play each other, the loser would need to win out beyond that.  And CMU has 2 extra games.

At 12-6 BG is in very solid shape for a bye.  It would take a lot.

At 11-7...yeah, that's a different story.  If BG wins just one out of 5 going home, the answer is in the wind.

I don't think that's going to happen.  Honestly, I don't think there are any unwinnable games left.  Yeah, we didn't go fantastic against Akron and Kent, but I don't think either of them has shown themselves to be unbeatable.  Last year we limped a little to Cleveland and I am hoping we don't this year.

But, to be clear.  The purpose of the regular season to finish 1-4.  And we're in excellent position and in control of whether we make it.  We need no help at all and we don't even need to win out.  Win and advance.

MBB Makes Statement

I said in my preview that BG would be making a statement if they won at Ball State on Saturday.  They did win...and the statement is clear.  Even without Frye, BG is capable of winning the MAC Title.  I'm not going to say they are better without Frye, because I don't think that's true, but with that win BG is not going anywhere.  We're in this race to stay.

More on all the permutations in another post.  For now, BG has 10 wins in MAC play.  12 got them a bye last year and almost certainly would again. 

This is a statement win because Ball State was undefeated at home.  BG, coming off the Akron loss where they could not score, came into the den of the best defensive team in the conference.  And BG adjusted their approach, played good D and got the win they needed.

Not without two minutes of absolutely ridiculous play...but we'll get to that.

Ball State actually led for most of the first half.  They led by 1 with 2:55 left, but BG scored the last 8 points of the half (with two 3FGs by Justin Turner) and led by 7 at the half.  BG then scored the first 4 points of the second half to go up 11.  BG then took control of the game....BG had the lead to 16 with 11;50 left.  In the interim, it had never been closer than 8. 

The lead stayed in that comfortable range.  BG led by 20 with 4:14 left to play and by 17 when the final media timeout hit at 2:31.  At those points, BG had a 99.9% chance of winning the game.

And almost didn't.  I mean, they did...but they almost didn't.

BG came out of that timeout.  The Falcons had been just milking clock.  Justin Turner is a huge asset because you can put him up top, have him run the clock down and you know you are going to get a good shot anyway.

So, the game's over if that keeps happening, so Ball State put full-court pressure on BG and the Falcons completely folded.  It was complete chaos.  Inbounding the ball directly into corner traps, intercepted passes, tie-ups that led to turnovers, even getting the ball up the floor once and turning it was ugly.

BG turned the ball over on 6 straight possessions and 7 of 8, with the odd possession out being the missed front end of a 1-1.  BG had 5 turnovers in the game's first 37 minutes and 8 in the last 3 minutes.

The lead vanished.  Between that 2:37 timeout and :30, it went from 17 to 3.  It was incredible to watch.

Coming off the FTs that made it 3, BG was able to get the ball up floor.  Thankfully, it was inside :30 and Ball State had to foul.  BG maneuvered Turner to get the foul and he made both FTs to put the lead back to 5.

Ball State wasn't done...they came down and missed a shot but had two offensive rebounds and scored again to make it 3 with :13 left. 

BG successfully got the ball in to Turner and he was fouled with :11 left and he made both FTs again to go to 5.  Teague missed a 3FG on the other end and it was finally over.  BG had joined the 999 teams out of a thousand who win with a 17-point lead with 2:31 left.

It's not the first time something like that has happened...BG's Norfolk State collapse is one of the notable ones in NCAA basketball this year.

Coach said BG came out of the timeout thinking they had it won.  They missed open passes and didn't execute the game plan for getting up court.  He also said that it's good to be able to learn when you win...not lose.  And that's fine.  But teams have seen this.  We need to make sure this is figured out.

Here's how it looked.  Pretty close.  Imagine how it would have looked with 3 minutes left.  BG held Ball State to .94 points per possession, a winning number.  Ball State's offensive strategy is inexplicable to me.  They are 10th in the MAC in 3FG shooting and lead the MAC in how many 3FGs they take.  Yesterday was no different.  They took 45% of their FGs from the 3FG and only made 28%.  They were 51% from 2FG.

BG turned them over a little and kept them off of the offensive boards.  Two of their 8 offensive rebounds came on that one possession in the last minute.  And they got to the line only 15 times, making 11.

BG didn't shoot any better, but it was a smarter mix.  I mentioned that Coach Huger had said BG had to drive to contact and get to the rim more, especially post-Frye and as teams are double-teaming Turner.  In this one, BG tried only 12 3FGs.  That's 19% of their total attempts, their lowest since 2016 (Cleveland State, right before Christmas).  They made 45% of the 2FGs and 33% of their 3FGS but shot 22 FTs, making a very solid 17.  Coach said that it was the same offense against Akron but guys made their shots in this one. 

They took very good care of the ball...until...and had a good game on the offensive boards.

In total, BG had 1.01 points per possession against a team that came in allowing .91.

BG was led--and saved--by Justin Turner.  We should really appreciate what we are seeing.  This guy is just a magical player and, as I understand it, a better teammate and friend.  Against constant double-teams and hard-hedges, he scored 33 points.  That's 8 of 16 on 2FGs and 2 of 3 on 3FG.  Both 3FGs came on that key run in the late first half and he made the 4 FTs BG had to have at the end.  He shot 11 of 13 at the line.  He added 6 rebounds and 6 assists...and 4 turnovers. 

Michael Laster had 12 points on 5 of 11 shooting, 6 rebounds and 3 steals.  He also had 1 assist and 3 turnovers, two in the late meltdown.  He's going to be needed as a ballhandler in those situations.

Plowden had 8 points and 8 rebounds, but the shooting wasn't great at 4-13 and 0-3.  Mattos had 6 points and 6 rebounds in 11 minutes.  Mattis had 6 rebounds and 3 turnovers.

So, here's how it looks.  With that win, BG greatly solidified their position.  More on that later.  The Falcons are off on Tuesday with some time to heal up.  Well needed, I'm sure.  I think you always want a late bye if you can get it.  Also, you want one off a win.  Being off after blowing that lead would have been awful.

But that didn't happen.

In the meantime, this is exactly what we have waited for all these years.  Enjoy.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Ball State, Deux

So, BG had its worst offensive game of the season against Akron, it's first post-Frye game against a team that plays defense. Ball State, tomorrow's opponent, plays the best defense in the MAC.

That's exactly the kind of game it was when the two teams played at the Stroh a little while ago.

If you recall, BG won by 6.  Justin Turner had 10 points in the last 3 minutes of the game to salt it away.

So, the MAC average is 1.01 points per possession.  Ball State is allowing .91 points per possession, but BG got .95 points per possession against them in the first meeting.  The mix you see below was how it played out.  For reference, BG's EFG was 40% against Akron Tuesday.  So, while it was a poor offensive night, BG mixed very average shooting with low turnovers and 15 of 19 at the line to get to that level.

Ball State is 11th in the MAC in offense, and BG was able to maximize that part of the equation to get the win.  They scored .86 points per possession--they average .97--and had the worst shooting game of any BG opponent this year.  Again, that's worse than BG shot at Akron Tuesday.

They have won 3 of 4 since playing BG, winning @Kent and ending NIU's winning streak in Muncie.  Their formula has not really changed. They scored under 1 per possession in each win. They held Kent and OU under .8 per possession--a legit shutdown--and you that's a worst-case scenario for BG on Saturday.

From my viewpoint, BG played its first game post-Frye against UT, a terrible defensive team. Against Akron, a good one, the Zips took Turner away and BG's other players had shots conceded and they didn't go down.

BG has had a few days...some kind of adjustment needs to be made.  One thing:  Ball State is #1 defending the 3FG and #8 against the 2FG.  It seems like BG needs to attack the basket in this one...and do it strong, "drive to contact" as Coach said after the game.  I think if BG is going to try and win on the perimeter, that's not going to work.

With KJ Walton down, Ball State basically has been using a six-man rotation.  They are led by two guys.  Tahjal Teague, a legit all-MAC player, scoring 16.5 on 50% shooting, 10 rebounds, two blocks and a steal a game.  Not a good FT shooter.  Ishmael El-Amin 13 on 41% shooting overall but 40% from 3FG.  Jarron Coleman is their PG, with basically a 1:1 A/TO ratio.

So here we go.  This would be a huge one for BG to get.  You'd get to 10 MAC wins with a road win against a team that has not lost at home this year in conference.  You'd establish some confidence in the team's ability to rebound from Frye's departure--it would just make a statement.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

JAR of Horrors

So, the JAR remained what it has been for BG over the past 11 years...a place of horror and disappointment.  Just to wallow in it for a minute, among those 11 defeats, 8 have been by double digits, three by 20 or more and one by 30 or more.  It just has been a place where nothing good happens to BG.

For the record, BG did not come in and lay a complete egg or get blown off the floor by any stretch of the imagination.  BG didn't have enough to win, but they were in the game much of the way.

In the first half, for example, it was very evenly played.  BG was only down 2 with 4 minutes left when AK went on a 9-3 run to go up and 8 and they led by 6 at the half...certainly still a game at that point.

As they have sometimes done, BG came storming out of the locker room and scored the first six points to tie the game just 1 minute in.  Alas, that was the high point of the half.  AK pumped the lead to 6.  Still, BG had it at 1 at 12:27.  Akron got it back to 6 and then a 7-0 run to build the lead from 4 to 11 with 8 minutes left.  At that point, the game went almost 3 minutes without any points at all, during which time BG had 1 turnover and missed 4 layups and it never got closer than 9 again and ended up at 15.

BG did not lead in the second half.

My preview noted that Akron has been a good shooting team but slumping and BG needed to score against them to compete.  Akron did, in fact, have their fourth straight sub-par shooting game.  BG held them to 1.02 points per possession, which should be a for-sure winning number for us.  Sadly, BG had its worst offensive game of the season, at .82 points per possession.  They were that low in a MAC game only once last year. Only 3 times since 2002 has BG won a game scoring that low or less.

From my view, it was clear what Akron wanted to do.  They wanted to take Justin Turner out of the game and force other players to make shots for BG, and they did not.  Coach said in the post-game that BG got open looks but didn't make them and that other players are going to have to learn to step up.  He tripped over himself quite a bit in trying to avoid saying it, but losing Frye has required different guys to do different things and they have to make adjustments and it wasn't evident at the JAR that night.

BG shot 43% from 2FG and 24% from 3FG, their 4th worst shooting night this year.  They also turned the ball over....17%, not a terrible amount for more than usual...did OK on offensive rebounds and never really got to the line at all and shot under 50% when they did. Coach emphasized the BG needed to drive to contact to get fouls called.

Meanwhile, BG did a nice job on Akron's 3FG shooting, holding them to 29%.  The problem, as Coach noted, was that Akron adjusted and drove the ball and the Falcons gave up too many straight-line drives.  Akron shot 54% from 2FG.  They took reasonable care of the ball, didn't have much success on the boards and made a ton of FTs, partly as BG was fouling at the end.  Still, they shot 93% in the second half at the line.

Individually, Daeqwon Plowden played well for BG with 18 points and 10 rebounds.  He shot 8 of 15, so he had a good night.

Justin Turner really had to work.  He had 12 points of 4 of 12 and 1 of 3 shooting, 3 assists and 4 turnovers.  Any team in the MAC would consider that a success.  He was double-teamed much of the night and didn't make much of it and his teammates didn't take advantage of the open space.  Tayler Mattos had 7 points and 6 rebounds in 10 minutes.

Akron is really long on the edges and that seemed to be a problem for BG.  If I had a chance to ask Coach a question, I would wonder why Matiss, who would seem to be the antidote to that, didn't get more than 3 minutes in the game.  And, why does Mattos only play 10 minutes?

Here's where we are.  BG is 9-3 in MAC play and has a negative scoring differential.  You just don't see that happen.  This is why, by the way, BG is so poorly ranked in all the computer rankings and why they are considered "lucky."  Akron is +9 per game, by comparison.

The Falcons do not have any time to feel sorry about this game.  They have a very tough roadie at Ball State on Saturday.  BSU is unbeaten in the MAC at home and certainly has a shot to win the title this year.  BG remains in decent shape--and let's remember we would have identified this as the toughest week of the season all along--but they don't have the luxury of time in adjusting to playing without their 2nd leading scorer.  They have time...but not a lot.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Akron Preview....

The echoes of Saturday's game have barely died down and here we are again, on the court with a game against the team that has the highest ranking, if not the best record, in the MAC.

Akron is 17-6 and 7-3 in the MAC.  Their non-conference losses were to Louisville, WVU and Liberty.  They started out 6-1 in MAC play, but lost 2 of their next 3 (and barely beat EMU at the JAR).  They lost at home to Toledo (not part of the streak).  I'll take a look at why they are losing in a second.

Falcon fans know that Akron has dominated us in a way that no other team has.  Going back 15 years, Akron is 28-3 against Bowling Green.  It's just incredible.  The Falcons have won 2 of the last 5 against the Zips.  Their last win at the JAR was the 2009 shocker that led to a MAC regular season title...10 straight losses.

BG split with Akron last year and lost by 24 in Akron.

One thing we know is that John Groce can coach in the MAC.  He was highly successful at OU and now he has rebuilt the Akron program after it was down to bare wood after Dambrot left.

The Zips are the top offensive team in the MAC and #39 in the country.  They combine that with being #4 in defensive efficiency and that's how they get where they are.  They won their first five MAC games in blow outs...for the year, their average margin of victory is 9 points, whereas BG's is .5.

This is a little different from playing UT and CMU--who can score the ball but don't play great defense.  AK is strong on both sides of the ball.  Basically, BG and AK present similar profiles.

The key to Akron's success for the year is shooting.  They lead the MAC in EFG and are #50 in the country.  They lead the MAC in 3FG and are 2nd in 2FG.  The 43% of the FGs from 3FG, 2nd in the MAC.  The other numbers are fine...they are #6 in protecting the ball and on the offensive boards.  They are 9th in getting to the line, but lead the MAC with 81% made.  They are #13 in FT shooting.'
They will be a test for BG--who attempted to outscore CMU and UT and didn't have much success on defense.

So Akron has lost 2 of their last 3.  That's UB, @KSU and then they beat EMU by 1 at the JAR.  What's going on?  As you can see here, they are a shooting team that has not been making shots for the last 3 games.  So we can only hope to see that continue...

Flipping that around, UA's biggest defensive calling card is forcing turnovers.  They lead the MAC.  Their are #6 defending the shot and are #11 in rebounding and allowing free throws. 

I think those middle two factors will be key.  AK is #1 at getting turnovers and BG is #1 at preventing them.  We know BG has had a change at the guard position and Akron will present a real test to how well BG moves on from losing Frye.  BG has been decent on the offensive boards and could help their cause a lot with some offensive boards.  Finally, BG can't chose tonight to miss shots, either FGs or at the line.

The Zips are led by Loren Cristian Jackson, who is #2 in the MAC with 21.9 PPG.  He's efficient as hell.  He makes 50% overall and leads the MAC with 55% from 3FG.  He makes 86% of his FTs (#3 in MAC) and is #3 with 4.9 assists per game.  He's #2 in A/TO ratio...behind Michael Laster.  He's just a really good player...POY candidate.  Transferred from Long Beach State.

He is joined by Tyler Cheese.  He scores 18 PPG, but less efficiently.  He shoots 48% and 35%, which are plenty good.  He makes 87% of his FTs and has 3.7 assists per game.  He's a very good player.

If that wasn't enough, they probably have the MAC's top newcomer in Xeyrius Williams.  He's a 6'9" transfer from Dayton.  He is scoring 15.2 PPG to go with 8.9 RPG.  He shoots 45% overall but 44% from 3FG and makes 93% of his FTs, though he rarely is fouled.

They don't have tremendous depth.  They are 10th in the MAC in bench minutes (BG is #3) and they are the 3rd most experienced team in the MAC.

This is another test on the road to the championship.  BG is taking on a very good team on the road in a place where we rarely win and we're going it without a key player.  Unless Akron's shooting woes turn out to be permanent, I think they are likely to be in the title game.  BG will play them twice and these will be good tests. 

Akron is obviously why not BG?  Looking very forward to tonight's game.