Saturday, January 24, 2015

Beat the Rockets Day Preview

And here we go.

It is rivalry day--the only rivalry day for this year, as basketball does not protect rivalries.  This one has the potential to be very interesting.

Neither BG nor UT are where anyone thought they would be when the season started.  UT was picked to win the MAC and BG was picked to finish near the bottom of the East.  BG has been winning and UT has too, but not as much as expected.  The Falcons enter 4-1 in MAC play and UT is 2-3.  So, in addition to the normal intensity of this game, before a sell-out crowd, you also have the fact that UT is in a little bit of a corner.  You don't want your 4th MAC loss this early and it would be their 3rd home loss in MAC play and that just makes things really tough.

Toledo has won the last 3 in the series, including a soul-crushing defeat for BG at the Stroh last year.  But this is a new year.  UT is favored by 4.5 and in my mind remains a threat to win a wide-open MAC this year and the teams have conflicting strengths and all that makes this a very fun matchup.

The Rockets are 10-8.  They lost to very good VCU and Duke teams as well as to a good Oregon team.  They also lost at home to Detroit (who BG beat on the road) and @Oakland.  Meanwhile, their best non-conference win was over Cleveland State, a team BG also beat.  So, they entered MAC play with a couple soft losses and no huge wins.

They lost to CMU at home to open things up, beat Akron at Savage (BG lost @Akron), won @Ohio (BG beat Ohio at Stroh) and then lost at home to WMU and @Kent (BG won @Kent).  There is a long, long way to go, but that's not how things were supposed to start, especially at home.

The key part of this game is obvious from the start.  UT is scoring 1.09 points per possession, which is 2nd in the MAC and 37th in the country.  BG is allowing .92 points per possession, which is 2nd in the MAC and 39th in the country.  Honestly, there won't be many D1 games with a spread like that this year.  As you can see below, the BG offense and UT defense are pretty evenly match...the game will be decided based on who wins the most possessions when UT has the ball.

When we compare the numbers, we see why UT is so potent on offense.  They shoot really well. and take care of the ball.  That shooting percentage is in the top 25% of the country as is the turnover percentage.  UT is very efficient from beyond the arc--they are 9th in attempting 3FGs in the MAC and 2nd in making them.  They are 3rd in the MAC in overall FG%.  Beyond that, they are decent on the offensive boards and while they don't get a ton of FT attempts, they lead the MAC in making FTs at 73%.  Bottom line, they're good at making the ball go into the basket...and BG has been good at stopping it.

The flip side is almost anti-climactic.  What BG is used to scoring is about equal to what UT is used to allowing in each case.  The Rockets are not a great defensive team, so if BG can get some guys going--especially from the outside--then it does take some pressure off the defense.

Individually, UT is led by Juice Brown, probably the best player at his position in the MAC.  Brown is scoring 15.5 per game on 47%/45% shooting and 87% from the line and 4.4 assists over 2.1 turnovers.  He's a legit MAC POY candidate and he's clearly first-team all-MAC and BG's first task is to guard him.

OSU-transfer JD Weatherspoon is also a beast.  Scoring 13.4 PPG on 57% shooting, he also averages 7.6 rebounds.  His match-up with Holmes deserves marquee-status.

Their third-leading scorer is Justin Drummond.  He is scoring 12 PPG on 42% and 35% shooting, which is not great.  He also average 4 RPG per game.

Note that all 3 players I mentioned are seniors.  I think that plays into the urgency for the Rockets.  This team loses a lot of talent after this season.

Their last double-figure scorer is Jonathan Williams, a sophomore who scores 10.7 PPG on 46% and 39% shooting.  Junior Nathan Booth averages 5.7 RPG.

One last note.  I was very impressed with how well BG used a couple days to prepare itself to beat the EMU zone.  I will be very interested to see how BG does with a couple days for UT.  This should be a great matchup in a great college basketball environment.  Enjoy.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Falcon football verbal

As signing day drips closer, BG has another defensive verbal commit, this one from Marion Franklin High School in Columbus, Ohio.  He played ILB in High School and is 6-1, 220 lbs.  ESPN had a little blurb on him and they felt like he might be best positioned as OLB or as a S, either of which could be plausible at BG.  I also saw something that said he had pass rushing potential as well.  I couldn't find any evidence of other offers.

He was first-team All-City on defense in Columbus and he was special mention all-district in Central Ohio as well.

Hustle Belt says that something called 24/7 sports put him as a top 30 recruit in Ohio.

Welcome to the Falcons, Shemar.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Two more verbals for football

BG added two new recruits for the next class--though one will be grey-shirted.  Based on the Orlando Sentinel, here's the scoop on the teammates heading to BG.

The first is RB CJ Lamar, a 6'2, 208 lb RB/LB/S.  No idea what they are thinking, but I am guessing they see him in the defensive backfield or bulking up to play LB.  In fact, he was 8A All-state at Db.  He is from Lake Mary HS and was committed to Florida Atlantic before he couldn't get admitted due to the lack of a couple foreign language credits (according to the article linked above).  You can find online that he had an offer from West Virginia.

The other player--also Lake Mary--is Zack Sharp.  He's an OL who is (brace yourself) 6'8" and 300 pounds.  Now.  He is going to grey-shirt, which means he won't go on scholarship until January of 2016.  He says in the linked story that he took too long commit and some schools lost interest, but he wanted to visit BG before he committed, which is entirely reasonable in my view.

So, CJ and Zack, welcome to the Falcons.

Falcons Wins #12, Equal last year's total

And the beat goes on.  Or, the beat rolls along.

The Falcons won their sixth out of the last 7, remained in what is now a three-way tie for the top of the MAC, and continued to show that they are a greatly improved program.

The win over EMU ended up being easy. In the preview, I noted that I didn't see EMU as being as good as their record, UM win notwithstanding.  Still, BG came up with a solid win in the conference over a team that has at least one good win.  We are 100% happy with the year.

BG won 74-58.  That's good, especially to get 74 points against a team that plays very tough defense.  More on that in a minute.  Right now, I want to look at how BG takes control of games and doesn't let it go.  BG took the lead about 10 minutes into the first half and led for the remainder of the game, uninterrupted.  A late first half run popped the lead over 10 and EMU never had the lead inside 9 for the remainder of the basketball game.  That's just not something we saw in the past.

The key was scoring.  EMU plays a tough 2-3 zone, they trap and they are very hard to shoot against.  Now, we noted that some of their numbers were put up against 4 non D1 opponents, but this has been their identity during the Murphy era.  BG scored 1.16 points per possession, which is a very strong effort for any offensive team.  It is the most points per possession scored against EMU in any game this year, even the Miami game where they gave up in the 80s but on a high paced game.

BG shot 46% and 44%--and the 11 out of 25 3-shooting for BG was a big difference in the game.  It was also the best shooting by any team against EMU.  BG didn't have a great day on turnovers. but had a great day on offensive rebounding--especially against a zone--with 40% of the available rebounds. BG got 22 FTs but shot only 59%, but EMU shot worse at 58%.

BG also played very, very solid defense.  They allowed EMU .9 points per possession, holding the Eagles to 36% and 29% shooting.  They took care of the ball better than BG, had a strong day on their offensive boards...the main difference in the game boiled down to making shots.

Anthony Henderson had a big game for BG, scoring 17 points on 6 of 12 and 3 of 6 shooting.  He also added 6 rebounds.  On top of that, both Holmes and Denny double-doubled.  Holmes had 13 points on 4 of 5 shooting to go with 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks.  Denny had 10 and 10, though he struggled with shooting.  Finally Dickerson had 12 points and 3 blocks.

Two other notes.  BG's PGs had 6 assists over 1 turnover and Spencer Parker started but had 2 fouls in the first 5 minutes and played only 11 minutes in the game.

So, BG is 12-4 and 4-1.  And next are the Rockets, who were picked to win the conference but currently sit at 2-3 in MAC play.  Starting to look really forward to that one.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

EMU Preview....

So here come the Eastern Michigan Eagles.  Eastern Michigan posted a gaudy pre-MAC record at 11-2....and yes, that included a win @UM.  It also include FOUR, count them FOUR non D1 wins.  That's just shameful scheduling.  Honestly, the MAC should be stepping team should play more than 1 in a given season.  Anyway, beyond those four, they beat 3 teams with RPI of 327 or over.  This scheduling did not take long to rear its head in MAC play, as the Eagles went 1-3, losing at home to Ball State and @Kent and @Miami, before beating EMU NIU (ed. We regret the error) in Ypsi.  That's the nation's 291st ranked schedule NOT COUNTING the non D-1 games.  They are 2-4 on the road this year.

So, when we look at the stats, just keep in mind who they were generated against.  To be fair, BG has not played that tough a MAC schedule, but BG did win against Ball State and @Kent.  BG's only home loss was to Ferris this year and I'd expect this to be a game BG should win.

The game pits the two best defenses in the MAC.  EMU's defense is its calling card and has been.  Rob Murphy plays a stifling 2-3 zone in the Syracuse style, and they have been generating numbers.  As you can see, they have played very efficient defense.  They held Michigan to 42, but have allowed 60+ in all their MAC losses.  BG has been good on defense as well, and adjusted for schedule I think we might be as good as they are and certainly we are as good on offense or even better.

The forte of the EMU defense has been to be difficult to shoot against.  They are that again.  BG is going to need to figure out ways to make shots against a very difficult defense.  They also force turnovers--you can still be very active in a 2-3 zone, it does not have to be passive.  They also rarely send teams to the line.  Beyond all the cracks about their schedule, EMU is probably a decent defensive team, but I think BG can get into the 60s on them.

Flipped around, there are significant areas of difference.  BG is better on turnovers, offensive rebounds and keeping teams off the line, and they will need to win all those battles if the Falcons are going to win a game in the 60s.  EMU is a good FT shooting team as well and they take 3FGs but are 11th in the MAC at making them.

Their leading scorer is 6'3" G Ray Lee.  He is sophomore who scores 14.7 on 48% shooting and 38% from 3FG.  The second leading scorer is Karrington Ward, who was a JUCO teammate of Richaun Holmes.  He is scoring 13.5 PPG on 40% and 30% and leads the team with 6.8 RPG.  PG Mike Talley, who transferred from Duquesne, scores 10 PPG on 49% shooting and also has more than 4 assists.  Their highest volume 3FG shooter is Jodan Price, a DePaul transfer who has jacked up 95 treys and made 30%.

So, all in all, with home court and what we see above, this is a game BG needs to win. Home losses are deadly--and then factor in a beatable opponent.  Let's look forward to a Falcon W Wednesday night.

Two more football verbals

As signing day nears, BG has landed two more verbal committments for the class of 2015, and both of them from the fertile football grounds of the state of Florida.

Tony Soto is Antonyo Sotolango, who is a safety from Gulliver Prep in Miami.  He appears to be a pretty big get.

His rivals page shows nearly two dozen offers, including from Big 10 schools as high as Wisconsin.  There's plenty of evidence online he visited Wisconsin and Arkansas.  ESPN has him as a 3-star recruit and ranked at a 76.  Rivals also has him as 3-stars.

Not sure what happened to get him at BG (you just don't see this happen very often) lot of times it is something academic, but the dude also has an offer from Princeton (and Wake Forest).  Either way, this guy appears to be a player and it appears like a great recruiting job by our team.

Here's a story from the Miami Herald that says that he was a "terror" on defense with 2 INTs and a pick 6 in an early season game.

Janarvis Pough is from American Heritage HS in Plantation Florida, which is on the SE Coast of the state.  ESPN has him as a 2-star recruit and an ATH and projects him to be a slot receiver or a DB, though he played WR and QB in high school.  He is a 2-star on Rivals, which says he ran a 4.4.

He had offers from NIU, Bucknell, James Madison.

Here's a little taste from the Miami Herald.  In a state playoff game, Pough had 3 touchdown catches from his QB...who is committed to Ohio State.  (Pough transferred to Plantation and probably played QB at his previous school).

Here's what his coach says:

“Tremendous speed, good kid, he’s got to have about a 3.5 GPA,” said Heritage coach Mike Rumph of Pough, whose top offer currently is from Bowling Green. “[College programs] should be banging his door now. He’s totally under the radar.”

Looks like a couple of very good players for the Falcons.  Welcome, gentlemen.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

With Big Second Half, Falcon MBB Notches 3rd MAC Win...

At halftime it was not looking so good.  An improving Ball State team headed into the locker room up 4 on the BG Falcons.  BG was shooting 31%, 1-9 from beyond the arc...and while defending the shot well had allowed Ball State 5 of 12 from 3FG.  BG had 7 turnovers to 4 for Ball State...and to hear the players and Coach Jans talk in The Blade this morning, the Falcons knew they were not playing with the intensity required for conference ball.

Much as they did against Cleveland State, the Falcons came out of the locker room and had certainly fixed the passion issue.  BG scored the first 6 points of the half (in 90 seconds) to take the lead and Ball State never had the lead again.  The game was tied at 33 with 14:25 left and BG went on a game-deciding 10-0 run, which included a Holmes old-school 3 point play and a Denny longball.  That came with about 11 left and about a minute later BG punched it up to 11 and it was never again inside 10 points and the Falcons cruised to the win.

BG did it with some sick 2nd half defense.  Ball State was held to 29% and 18% shooting with 10 turnovers.  BG had a very good half with 1.2 points per possession, partly thanks to 11 second half FTS...but they held Ball State to .58 points per possession which represents complete domination.  Ball State turned the ball over on 30% of its 2nd half possessions and when they DID get a shot off...well, we already covered that.

What is interesting is that Richaun Holmes scored 9 points, had 4 rebounds and 2 11 minutes.  That's pretty impressive.  Holmes did not get in much once the BG had blown the lead open.  In contrast, Zach Denny had 10 points and 5 rebounds, but he never left the floor in the 2nd half.

Here's how it looks for the 2nd half.

For the game, the key difference was free throws.  Ball State had a 41-39 advantage on field goals.  However, they got to the line 13 times and had a really rough night, making only 5.  Meanwhile, BG got 26 free throws and had a good night, making 19 (73%).  So, +14 at the line and that's the difference between winning and losing in some other numbers that are pretty close.

On an individual basis, Zach Denny had a double-double, with 17 points on 5 of 9/2 of 5 shooting to go with 10 rebounds.  He played 39 minutes.  We already talked about Holmes in the second half, but he had a pretty soft first half and finished with 11 and 7 on 3 of 8 shooting.  Spencer Parker had 11 points on 3 of 6 shooting.  Pep Joseph got the start at PG and he and Austin both struggled, at least on the stat sheet.  As a TEAM BG had 4 assists.

So BG moves to 3-1 now and in a 5-way tie for the MAC lead.  Obviously, a long way to go, but so far, so good.  BG will continue with the West teams, at home against EMU Wednesday and then @UT on Saturday.

Eddy Wilson DeCommits

BG has had a decommit from the class of '15 as Eddy Wilson received an offer from Purdue and has decided to take that offer.  He also visited WMU (at least) but had de committed until this news came in.  As I always say, it takes a lot of dedication to be a D1 athlete and you want the guys you get to be fully on board.  He prefers to head to Purdue, and we wish him nothing but the best.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Getting Carded: Ball State Preview

So here come the Ball State Cardinals.  Coming out of the pre-MAC season, it was hard to see what they had.  Most of their  D1 wins were over teams with RPIs among the 30 worst in the country and there was a bad loss to IUPUI in there somewhere.  Since MAC play, however, we have seen a team that is pretty competitive.  They won @EMU (though I will content EMU's DII-laden schedule puts their gaudy record way ahead of where they should be), but then beat CMU by 18 in Muncie and lost in double OT @WMU.  They could easily be 3-0 in MAC play.

I am not too surprised.  I have liked their new coach from the beginning and I believe he will win at the MAC, especially at a school with the basketball heritage that they have at Ball State.

The upshot is that what might have appeared on the schedule as a nice chance to get a win is now turning into a dogfight.  BG played well after their last loss and I think we will play well again Saturday....and we will need to.

Taking a look at the game, as we can see, BG and Ball State are relatively comparable on offense this season, while BG has had the better of the defensive play.  Both teams are a little below average on offense and above average on defense.

When we look at the BG offense against the Ball State defense, we see that BG shoots about what Ball State allows, and the same is true of turnovers.  Both BG and Ball State are strong on the defensive boards, and that will be a big battle point.  BG does not get to the line much, and Ball State does allow a few more FTs, though neither stat really is remarkable.

Flipping it around, we see that Ball State is used to shooting better than BG is allowing, though turnovers are about the same (relatively high) and we see the same issue on the offensive boards as we saw on the chart above.  Finally, Ball State does get to the line a decent amount and BG has done a pretty good job avoiding that, so that would appear to be a decent battleground.  

Based on this, I'd say the key battlegrounds are going to be how well BG defends the shot and whether any team can generate any offensive rebounding.  Beyond that, looks like a grinder.

Zavier Turner is scoring 13 PPG to lead the team.  It is a little inefficient--he's shooting 40%--but he is also shooting 40% from 3FG, which puts a different light on it.  He also averages 4 assists a game over 3.7 turnovers.  He's a 5'9" sophomore.

Sean Sellers is their 2nd leader scorer.  He is a 6'6" sophomore and is scoring 12.6 PPG on 45% shooting and 47% 3FG shooting,

Jeremie Tyler is a 6'2" Fr G who is scoring 12 PPG on 46% and 43% shooting.  Franko House is a 6'6" SO scoring 9 PPG on 46% shooting and adding 5.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists.  Finally, Matt Kaminiecki is a 6'8" SR who is averaging over 8 rebounds per game.

You see what Whitford has done in two recruiting classes?  They are the youngest team in the MAC and the 24th youngest in D1 and they are 2-1 in conference play.  Like I said, I think Whitford is going to bring them back and the game tomorrow will be a grind.  Obviously, BG has an advantage at home, but they will need to play well or Ball State will get the win.  I do like our odds after playing so poorly Wednesday, but, again, that remains to be seen.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Akron Beats BG....Same Old Story

Ouch.  Honestly, it is pretty incredible.  Akron has now beaten BG 20 out of the last 21 games.  I would be very surprised to find out that BG has a similar streak against any MAC team and would actually be surprised to find out that there are too many similar streaks among any of the MAC teams.  It is just amazing.  The Zips have completely owned the Falcons and last night was the most owningest of the them all.

The game was close for the first few minutes, but then Akron went on an unbelievable 27-2 run to literally put the game out of reach.  That's 10 minutes of completely one-sided basketball.  From there BG was down 23 and never got closer to 14--and that was an anomaly--as the Zips cruised to an easy victory, handing BG their first MAC loss.

Look, lots of teams are going to lose at the JAR this year.  It is hardly a season-ender, and we had been on a nice winning streak.  There's still a long way to go.  That said, it was sobering.

Based on media reports, Akron played very physically and according to Coach Jans, BG was simply unable to respond.  He put that mostly on himself...said he needs to figure out how BG responds when the other team gets very physical.  That's Akron's trademark, but you don't want to get a rep as a team that can get pushed around in this conference.

BG did not have a good night on either end of the floor.  The Falcons allowed 1.08 points per possession and scored .8.  When you look at the chart below, you can see what happened.  Remembering that the most important of the four factors is shooting, look at the gap.  No team can win (or lose) with that gap.  BG shot 33% and 20%, while Akron shot 55% and 32%.  The Zips made 84% of their 2FG attempts.  BG handled the ball better and rebounded better, but it could not be overcome.  The Zips made only 11 of 21 FTs, or the game would have been more one-sided.

Individually, BG was hamstrung inside from the beginning.  Parker was hobbling and Dickerson and Holmes had 2 fouls in the first half.  BG was at a disadvantage on the inside to start with and then that happens and, you know how it turned out.  Henderson finished with 11 points and Holmes 10, both on 4 of 9 shooting.  BG's point guards REALLY struggled shooting

So the team's goal moving forward is to make this game "one of those nights." No better chance will exist than a home game against an improving Ball State team Saturday.