Monday, January 20, 2020

Winless Eagles Come to Stroh

Next up, the EMU Eagles.  This team is an interesting picture of what can happen in today's college basketball.  Here are the players EMU expected to lose last year...three really good players, in fact.  Be a problem on its own...

James Thomson IV  All-MAC
Elijah Minnie All-MAC HM
Paul Jackson, 14 PPG
Isiah Green

Then, on top of it, they lost five more players to transfer

Daivon Stephens and Tariq Silvers, transfer to Tallahassee Community College
Malik Ellison, transfer to Saginaw Valley State
Bud Jones, St. Thomas University
Kevin McAdoo, Bradley

So that's 9 scholarships Rob Murphy had to fill for this year.  That's also nearly impossible.  By definition, a lot of transfers happen after signing day...when the top players, even JUCO players, have already chosen a home.

It's just unbelievable...9 new players.  They have 10 players who started their career at another college or JUCO.  It's just a brutal way to go.

They are 10-8 with 4 non-D1 wins.  Their kenpom is 226.  Their best win is a good one, @ North Texas (#86).  They have lost their first 5 MAC games and their last 7 D1 games.  They have not won a D1 game since December 17.

BG has won 6 out of the last 10 but only 3 of last 5 at the Stroh.

So, what you get with EMU is a 2-3 zone and a consistently strong defensive unit.  You get that this year, as well.  Their problem is that they are just dreadful on offense--last in the MAC, one of tghe worst in the country.  Look at that spread on the EMU offense/BG defense!  (MAC games only).  The defense is good, 3rd in the MAC and will be a test for BG, which has struggled with this zone.

Starting with the EMU offense, this is just amazing.  EMU is last in the MAC in shooting and in turnovers.  They are last in 2FG% and 3FG%.  They are 11th in FT% and 11th in offensive rebounding.  They are first in getting to the line, but, as noted, don't convert very well.  If BG can hold NIU to .88, they out to be able to get EMU under .9 as well, and have an oustanding shot at winning the game.

The problem is, BG has had some absolutely dreadful, cringe-worthy experiences against zones, especially this one.  Coach said after the last game that BG needs to make shots to beat the zone, something they did not do against NIU and haven't been great at all year.  The Eagles are only 9th in FG defense and actually #10 in 3FG defense.  They are 2nd at forcing turnovers and #3 on the boards, both areas with big differences with what we seen for BG so far.  If BG takes care of the ball and makes shots even at their average, they should be good to go in this one.

One other note.  They lead the MAC in steals, which is a turnover that can yield a transition attempt, unlike a dead-ball turnover.

Still conference games, they are led in scoring by Noah Morgan, a 6'5" JUCO transfer.  He's scoring 13.4 PPG on 44% shooting overall and 33% from 3FG.  He leads the team with 21 of their 80 turnovers.  Yeikson Montero, also a 6'5" JUCO transfer, scoring 10.6 PPG on 36% and 21% shooting.  He leads the MAC in steals.

Two returnees also figure prominently.  Ty Groce (6'8") scores 9.8 on 33% and 32% shooting and 2nd on the team with 5.6 RPG.  He is 2nd in the MAC in steals.

Lastly, big man Boubacar Toure is averaging 9 PPG and 10 RPG...he's #28 in the country in tempo-free defensive rebnoudning.

BG is 4-1 and heads to Toledo on Saturday.  This seems to be an everyone can win in the far, except EMU, but that can change.  BG needs to hold serve on this one at the Stroh.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Falcon MBB wins #4

After the game, Coach said that if you told him BG was going to win and have Frye and Turner shoot a collective 5 of 24 and you'd win the game in MAC play, he would have taken it all day.  That's just what happened--the shooting goes deeper than that, in fact.  BG has won 4 straight MAC games now and getting the W is the key.  And if winning when you aren't playing well is important, so is playing well.  I don't think BG has put together a complete performance in MAC play, but maybe it's that kind of year.  There clearly is no dominant team in the MAC right now.  It might be a dogfight to the end.  My feeling is BG still has to elevate the game to get to the title.

For the first, BG was clearly the stronger team.  About 7 minutes in, BG took the lead and led until haltime, with its largest lead, 9 points, at the break.  The second half was a different kettle of fish.  BG shot 28% in the second half.  The game was down to a one-possession game 3 minutes into the half.  BG maintained the lead, though, even as the margin stayed in the 1-3 point range.  BG popped it up to 6 with 9 minutes left but NIU finally put a modest run together and took the lead with about 6 minutes left, after BG had led for 27 straight minutes.

They only ended up holding the second half lead twice, but the game was tied with 2:06 left.  The two teams traded stops and BG had the ball and called time with 1:10 left.  They ran offense, didn't really find anything and then Laster got the ball to Frye in the corner.  This was right on line with my seat and Frye was behind the backboard when he launched this shot and he'd been cold all night and then in it went.  That took some stones.  BG was up 3.

Down on the other end, German missed a 3FG, Justin Turner got the board and was fouled and made both FTs to make it a 5-point lead with :29 to play.

BG got another 3FG miss from NIU but gave up the board and NIU made the follow and cut the lead to 3 again with :16 left.

BG was in-bounding from its baseline.  They got the ball into Turner, but it was in the corner and the had him trapped and didn't foul and BG called time.  That killed :04.  With :12 left off the TO, BG actually ran a nice play, getting a high pass to Mattos who then fed it to Frye who had looped through traffic and was in the clear.  He got down court and got the clock to :08.  He was fouled, needed one FT, missed the first but made the second after an icing and BG had the win.  NIU hit a buzzer 2 to get to the 66-64 final.

From a stats standpoint, it was an amazing game to win.  BG's EFG was 38.8%--36% on 2FG and 28% on 3FG.  Since 2002, BG has only shot that poorly and won five other times (D1) and only twice in MAC play:

Green Bay 02
Wright State 13
Ohio and EIU 08
UT 06

So, that was unusual.  What was really weird--and what has not happened since at least 2002--is BG shot that poorly and still scored over 1 point per possession...1.02, which is actually above the D1 average for the year.  That's fascinating.

How did it happen?  Three things.

First, BG turned the ball over on only 15% of its possessions, above where they have been but still a good result.

Second, BG got 40% of the available offensive rebounds...against a team that was #50 in the country on their defensive glass.  Those extra shots helped BG score when shooting badly.

Third, BG had a great game at the line.  BG has not excelled getting to the line.  It was only the third game when FTs exceeded 40% of FGA this year.  More importantly, BG made 21 of 24 at the line.

So, that's how BG got to 1-point possession on a dreadful shooting night.

The other thing was defense.  If you have read here, you know that BG's defense has been terrible in the last couple games.  Not so last night at the Stroh.  BG locked down NIU, holding them to .99 per possession, the lowest in MAC play to date.  (Caveat, NIU came in averaging .96 per possession).

They shot 46%, which is 4% below the MAC average, so that was a win.  NIU took good care of the ball but only had poor night on the offensive boards and hardly got to the line at all.  They made 12 of 14, which is good, but it's -9 on FTs compared to the Falcons.

One thing has to be noted.  Eugene German is an all-MAC player, top 25 scorer in the country and NIU's only double-figure scorer on the year.  Caleb Fields spent most of the night on German--Turner did some as well.  Let me assure you, when Eugene German went to sleep last night, he saw Caleb Fields in his dreams.  Fields hounded German everywhere he went.  They would pull German back to the center line.  Fields was there.  Send him to the corner.  Fields was there.  Fields didn't help on anyone.  He guarded German and often denied the ball.  The Huskies tried everything to pop him free, including sending 2 centers out for a double screen.  It was an amazing effort by Fields that should be recognized.

Yet, German got 19, nearly his average.  But, he normally shoots 47% from 2FG, for example, and this time he was 3 of 10.  He was 3 of 9 from 3FG.  Making him use those extra 2-3 possessions to get his points could have been the difference in the game.

Individually, Daeqwon Plowden led the way with an efficient 14 points and 11 rebounds.  He shot 4 of 9 overall but 3 of 6 from 3FG.  Frye had 14 on 4 of 12 and 1 of 5 shooting--yes, the only 3 he made was the one we had to have.  Tayler Mattos continues to improve, scoring 11 on 3 of 5 shooting, 5 of 6 from the line and adding 8 rebounds in 23 minutes.  If that's the kind of thing that might interest you.

Todd Walker on the post-game noted what BG is getting from Michael Laster.  Previous year, he was certainly an effective player but made a lot of risky plays that didn't always work out.  He's rock solid lately.  He's leading the MAC in A/TO and is #19 in the country.  He was 5 over 1 in 16 minutes, include the dime on Frye's dagger-3.

Winless EMU comes in next on Tuesday before the hated Rockets the following Saturday.  BG is in a 3-way tie for first, 5/18 of the way into the year.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Huskies Ride to Town

Next up for BG MBB is a two-game homestand, with NIU and then EMU coming to town.

The Huskies are 9-8 with only 1 non-D1 win.  Their best non-MAC win was Oakland (#205) and they have 5 wins over teams ranked 300 and below, which is an impressive scheduling feat if nothing else.

They opened up MAC play with a surprising win @ UB, lost @ CMU, beat EMU in DeKalb and were smoked by a scalding Akron team at the JAR.  (AK is up to #60 on kenpom.  Their average margin of victory in MAC games is 19 points).

BG beat them twice last year...once in DeKalb and once in the MAC semi-finals after NIU had knocked UT out.  Over their last 10 meetings, the series is 5-5 and 2-2 over the last four games at the Stroh.

Profile-wise, NIU is a good defensive team and a not-good offensive team.  d-1 average is 1 point per possession, so you can see where everybody stands.  BG has struggled on defense quite a bit and if you see the Huskies start scoring at will, you'll know we're struggling again.  Meanwhile, BG has been successful on offense and will be taking on a decent Huskie defense.  It has the makings of an interesting game.

So, struggling offense meets struggling defense...things should look pretty even and they do.  NIU is a poor shooting team--especially against the 2FG, where they make 45%, among the lowest 30 in the country.  BG has been excellent over the year against the 2FG, so that's an opportunity.  For 3FGs, NIU is right on plumb average and BG is #310 defending the 3FG.  They try about the same amount of 3s as BG's previous opponents.

They take OK care of the ball, but are good on the offensive boards. D1 average is 38%.  The last place with a big spread is at FT shooting.  They are #279 at getting to the line and BG is #278 at allowing FTs.  They make only 67%.

On the other side, it's good on good, but still evenly matched.  BG is not a great shooting team, but to the extent the Falcons have relied on 3FGs, NIU is #50 in the country defending the 3.  You're going to need to attack the basket as well.  Maybe that back door play will work like 10 times like it did against NIU.  As has been the case all year, BG makes up for not great shooting by not turning the ball over...they are #1 in the country in turnover percentage.  BG is average on the offensive boards but NIU is #19 on their own defensive boards, which will keep BG from extra possessions if it holds true.  They don't put people on the line and BG doesn't get to the line.

NIU has only one double-figure scorer and he's the MAC's leading scorer...Eugene German at 20 PPG.  He shoots a lot to get there, which you would expect.  He's #25 in the nation in terms of percentage of possessions used.  He's shooting 43% overall, which is nothing special, though he is above average at 35% from 3FG.  He leads the team in assists but has an even A/TO ratio.

Lacey James is a 6'9" Sr.  He's scoring 9 PPG and adding 7.7 rebounds, but his 43% shooting is not very good for a big.

BG needs these early wins and at home they should win this one.  Hopefully. the defense will clamp down on a weak offense and BG will get the win.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Falcon MBB Wins Third Straight

And the second straight on the road...

The Falcons are 3-1 and in a tie for second in the MAC.  Remember, BG is in the softest part of its MAC schedule.  We have statistically played the softest MAC schedule, according to kenpom.

Having said that, you're supposed to beat these teams and BG is winning the games.  The test for a championship team is to translate that to the better teams in the MAC.  BG has faced one--Kent--and had a decidedly bad night.  That's going to need to change when the time comes.

Just to put it in perspective, BG could easily end up at 6-1 following Tuesday's EMU game.  Anything less would be a disappointment.  They will have played 4 home games and 2 away games, so 5 home left and 7 on the road.  After that, Kenpom has BG favored to win only 3 more games--just to illustrate the schedule difference.

So, to get to 12 wins (let's say), you need home wins over EMU, NIU, BSU, UB, UT, OU and a win at Miami.  That's certainly doable.  Bonus opportunities are @UB and @CMU and AK at home.

Anyway, with championship expectations, I would say two things.

1.   You need these early wins badly
2.   This team needs to defend better to win a title.  And there's time to get that done.

BG's two worst defensive games of the season have been the last two.  BG is currently 11th in the MAC in defense and 3rd in offense.  Last year BG finished 6th in defense and 2nd in offense.  That's going to have to adjust itself against better competition moving forward, or BG will have a hard time meeting expectations.  BG's 3 best offensive games have been the last two and Hartford, so BG is scoring with Turner back, but I just feel it will take a more rounded effort to win pressure games.

For this game, WMU led for most of the first 10 minutes.  BG took the lead with 9 minutes left and WMU lead for only :35 the rest of the way.  There's more to the story than that, but BG essentially was in the lead for 29 straight minutes, with leads reaching as high as 10 at 64-54 with about 12 left. 

WMU then went on a 15-5, though, and the game was tied with 8 minutes left.  BG responded well and had the lead back to 9 with 2:51 left to play.  (At that level, the winning team wins 97% of the time, as they did in this case).  Over the next 1:45 or so WMU scored 7 straight points, leaving BG with the ball and a 2-point lead with 1:07 left.

So, the pressure's on.  You don't want to drop this one after having that kind of lead with 3 minutes left.  BG got the ball to Marlon Sierra and he made a shot from the key and drew a blocking foul to make it an and-1.  Hawkins was apoplectic at the call...I watched the replay several times.  The WMU player was moving when the contact happened.  He seemed to be moving sideways, though, which is allowed if he had established legal guarding position, which for my money was a bang-bang call.

Anyway, Sierra hit the FT and BG was up 5 with :40 to play.

You'd like one stop here, one buckle down effort where you seal the game.  Unfortunately, BG couldn't contain Flowers and he hit a layup with :30 to play to make it 3.

Even so, you're in decent shape with the ball.  WMU pressed like crazy and Justin Turner showed some serious handle, basically driving down the sideline against pressure and into the front court before turning back.  They didn't get a foul until :20 left.  WMU needed 3 fouls to get BG into the bonus. 

So, basically, BG has to inbound the ball 3 straight times without a turnover.  We've all sat through some cringe-worthy BG pressure inbounds, but BG made it happen this time and relatively easily.  On the third one, the ball ended up with Sierra as opposed to one of the guards...Coach said after the game he's looking for the guards to work harder to get to the ball in that situation.

Anyway, Sierra missed the FT so WMU had a chance to tie.  Once again, BG did not foul in this situation (because the data indicates that's the better move ;)  ) and Flowers launched a contested 3 with :03 left.  Thankfully, he missed, BG knocked the rebound out and WMU did get a shot off in .7 but missed again and the Falcons had the win.

BG scored 1.15 points per possession and WMU had 1.11 (see discussion above).

Here's what you have.  BG shot well--best of the year.  BG made 56% of 2 FGs and 42% of 3FGs.  As mentioned, WMU also shot well, with 57% from 2FG but only 32% from 3FG.  Turnovers were even as were offensive rebounds.  The other key difference was fouls.  BG had 17 fouls...WMU had only 11 until they had to start fouling at the end.  WMU made 14 of 19 at the line while BG made only 5 of 7...a -9 deficit for BG.

Daeqwon Plowden led the way for BG.  He scored 19 on 8 of 11 shooting and 2 of 3 from distance.  He added 6 rebounds...a good day in any book.  Frye had 16 on 7 of 17 and 2 of 8 shooting, so a relatively rough road to those points.  Justin Turner had 12 on 5 of 13 and 2 of 5 shooting and 7 rebounds.  He was quiet until late.  Coach said after the game that he wants Justin to attack double teams more...said he can be too passive when doubled-team.

Probably the key performance was Marlon Sierra, who scored 12 on 5 of 6 shooting and added 8 rebounds in 21 minutes.  That's just solid and allows BG to go without a true 5 much of the way.

The bench was productive.  Trey Diggs was 3-4 from 3, Laster had 8 assists over 1 TO, and Matiss and Swingle were both productive when they were in there.

Next up is NIU back at home.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Falcon MBB Visit Kalamazoo

BG's weeknight game this week is in Kalamazoo against the WMU Broncos.  They Broncos are 8-8 with a Kenpom of 259, the lowest in the MAC.  That's with 2 non-D1 wins.  Their best win this year was at home against Kent   Ohio (we regret the error), before Youngstown State.  Their worst losses were Seattle and Oakland.  They have had a rougher MAC start than BG, losing at Akron and at UT.

BG is on a nice run against WMU, winning 8 of the last 10 and 4 of 5 in K-zoo.

The Broncos are not good on either side of the ball, though the defense is worse than the offense.

Looking first at how WMU does when they have the ball...the biggest here is shooting.  WMU is #300 in shooting in the country.  They are terrible from 3FG...29%, and despite that they take 3FGs on 40% of the FGA, which is above the D1 average.  They also make only 47% of their 2FG, which is below average.  Lastly, they are poor on the offensive boards.  They do take excellent care of the ball and they do get to the line, which helps their offense be as good as it is.  They are good FT shooters at 72%.

When BG has the ball, they will find a poorly performing WMU defense.  They are #206 in shot defense, which is their best asset.  They are right at the national average defending the 3 and below average defending the 2.  Beyond that, they are among the 60 worst in the country in forcing turnovers, allowing offensive rebounds and allowing other teams to the line.  BG's offense, which is above average, is built on taking care of the ball and decent offensive rebounding.  They need to make 3FGs to score.

Their leading scorer is Jr.Michael Flowers.  He's scoring 17 PPG, but on 44% shooting.  He's an excellent 3FG shooter (42%) and makes 87% at the line.  He's the 2nd leading scorer in the MAC.  Their other double-figure scorer is 6'8" R-Jr F Brandon Johnson.  He had started almost every game in his first two seasons, and then missed last year with injury.  He's scoring 15.1 PPG, shooting 45% and 24%, which is unusually low for a big man.  He also averages 8.4 RPG and 1 block per game.

So based on what we have seen, this is another winnable road game.  WMU is the lowest ranked team in the MAC and don't have anything on the resume that suggests they are better than that.  Having said that, it's a game-by-game thing.  BG doesn't need to do anything special.  If they defend the way they have been and score the way they are capable of, they should win this one.  A 40-minute effort would certainly not be unwelcome.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Road Win!

Dakich used to say that when you grow old as a coach, you remember three things.

  • The day you got married
  • The day your kids were born
  • Road wins

The order depends on who you beat.

And the Falcons picked up that road win Saturday at the Convo, moving to 2-1.  No doubt, it wasn't a flawless performance and no doubt that OU is not a top team in the MAC, but BG needed the win and they got it.

At the beginning, BG was playing very poorly.  The defense was a mess and OU was sinking 3FGs like layups.  It wasn't hot shooting...they had guys wide open with time to gather their shot.  Many of them were little more than warm up shots.  OU led 11-2 and midway through the first half they were up 28-14--the exact same deficit BG faced against Miami.  It never got closer than 7 in the first half.  It was 13 late when Dylan Swingle his an and-on to get it to 10.

The second half was another story and shows how good this team can be when they are on their game.  Early in the half, BG went on a 7-0 run---in one minute--to cut the lead to 3.  With 14 left the game was tied and with 13 left BG had the lead.  It was a close affair for a few minutes, but then Trey Diggs hit a 3FG with 8 left to put BG up 6 and it wasn't a one possession game again.

BG closed out the game the way you need to.  Just inside 4 minutes, BG was up 6 and Dylan Frye drained a 3 after being cold the entire night.  Preston made an and-on to get it back to 6 and Frye nailed another one to make it 9 again with 3 left.  OU got it to 5 with a minute left, they fouled Frye, who had been missing FTs all night but on this one he dropped them both and the lead was 7 again.  He made 2 more to get the final to 83-74.

Here's the way the numbers played out.  BG made 57% of its 2FGs and 33% from 3FG, while OU was 50% on 2FG and 41% on 3FG.  BG won the turnover battle, had its best game of the season on the offensive boards and got to the line more.

How does this add up to a win, if both teams shot the same?  First, BG was +1 on FTs.  Next, BG took 64 shots, making 32, while OU was only able to shoot 56 and make 26.  BG picked up 8 extra attempts at the being +3 on turnovers and +4 on offensive rebounds.

BG scored 1.29 points per possession, their best game of the season.  They also allowed 1.15 points per possession, their worst defensive game of the season.

For fun, I ran the number for just the second half.  In the second half, BG scored 1.61 points per possession and allowed 1 point per possession, outscoring OU 50-31.  OU made 9 of 15 3FGs in the first half and was 1-9 in the second half.  BG shot great, took care of the ball and was great on the offensive boards.  This was what the second half looked like.

Individually, the biggest story was Justin Turner, who almost single-handedly kept BG in the game in the first half.  For the game, he finished with 29 points on 12 of 23 like to see it over 50%.  He still doesn't have his 3FG stroke back (1-5) but he was willing to take the ball in the first half when no one else seemed to want it.  You can clearly see his game coming back.  He also had 5 rebounds.

Dylan Frye had 19 on 6 of 10 and 2 of 5 shooting, both of the 3s clutch, 4 clutch FTs, 5 assists over 2 turnovers.

Plowden had 10 on 4 of 8 and 1 of 2 shooting. 

The other key was the bench.  Marlon Sierra played 20 minutes, had 7 points on 3 of 6 shooting and 9 rebounds.  Mattiss had 6 points in 12 effective minutes, Diggs and Swingle each had a big was a full effort for the win.

So, BG is now 2-1 with another winnable road game Tuesday at WMU.  This is definitely a soft part of the schedule, so BG needs to take advantage with Ws.  Obviously, you'd like to start better in games and not be down far would we be behind, say, Kent, with the same performance--but we don't apologize for winning. 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

BG Hires New Football Assistant

The only departure to date has been Louis Addazio joining his dad at Colorado State.  He was the TE coach.  Chris Hedden, who was RB coach, will move to coach the TEs.  He's a highly seasoned coach and TE is a position where BG needs critical development to execute the offense we envision.  So, Nosal will work with the RBs.

It is his first official position as an assistant coach.  He played at Va Tech on the o-line, moved to the University of Miami as a grad assistant and quality control guy before heading to East Carolina where he was an offensive analyst.

Welcome to the Falcons, Gre.