Friday, February 27, 2015

Football Schedule is out...BG responds on five home games

And here it is....

A few thoughts....

First, it is a tough schedule.  Coach Babers said somewhere--in a way only he can--that you know you have to walk home from school and these guys are waiting for you, but you still gotta do it.

There are no breaks in the non-conference schedule.  You have Tennessee, Maryland (both "away"), a tough Memphis team at the Doyt and then @Purdue, where we are undefeated!  Anyway, four very tough games to open the slate.  There are no FCS games on our schedule, which we knew.

In the MAC, BG has the same cross-over games...UT, WMU and Ball State.  Two of those are away this year, with UT as the last home game and Senior Night.  Also, BG finishes with all MAC West games again.

In terms of home games, I'd say people will not be thrilled.  First, we play only 5 home dates.  Second, only 3 Saturdays.  To me that's the big one, but what can you do?  That ship has long since sailed.  Memphis and Toledo are good opponents, Ohio is a traditional review, Akron might be decent and UMass is...UMass.

BG does not play Miami again this year.

So, that's the deal.  Mark your calendars now!  BG will really be tested this year...and with all the normal anxieties we have, especially on defense, we are going to have no place to hide.


As you can see below, the program responded to the 5 home game issue...

MAC Standings, 3 games left!

So, things begin to shake out a little more, but still a lot of work to do.  That UT loss on Wednesday was really tough.  That's at home to a team they really should beat.  They have only one home game left now.

For BG, they are in 3rd right now.  For whatever it is worth, they have clinched home court.  Tough road ahead, though.  BG has a hot Miami team on the road, Kent at home and then a hot Buffalo team on the road.  They have a two-game lead on Akron and WMU and a one-game lead on Buffalo.  Head to head BG wouldn't beat Akron but would beat WMU in tie-breaker, but the most likely possibility is a multi-way tie.

So, obviously, if BG wins out they get a bye.  With 2 wins, they could finish no worse than 5th, and if BG had 2 wins and one of them was @Buffalo, they would clinch a bye.  With two wins and a loss to Buffalo it gets a little more complicated but a tiebreaker results with Toledo and Buffalo in it, and that's not great for BG.

BG could get a bye with one win, but that gets really tough to decipher at this point, based on how other teams do.

So, here's your rooting interest right now for Saturday.

To begin with, the BG-Miami game is huge.  This is the most likely win left on the schedule and the Falcons need it very badly.  This is one of the bigger games in years for this program.

First, it depends on what you are shooting for.  Here, we are shooting for one of the four byes and therefore are rooting for Kent to beat Buffalo.  If Buffalo wins, it is not the end of the world, because Kent could easily lose all 3 going home and one of those games is with BG and that would probably end up with BG getting a bye.

We are also rooting for Ohio over Akron and EMU over WMU, although in both cases that means rooting for road underdogs.  Toledo should beat Ball at Savage...but then again...and CMU is @NIU, again, very winnable, but who knows.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Football Check-in

So, football break-in quickly here, with an extra day between men's basketball games.  First, Spring practice is right around the corner, as you can see above.  The Spring game will be on April 11--bundle up.

To start working toward that, the spring roster was released.  Did a quick comparison with the roster for the NIU game, and found a couple of players no longer list.  Really, this is hardly anything in a D1 football program:

Monti Phillips:  Monti was a walk-on who got some reps against Wisconsin and was called out by Coach Babers as someone who was making an impact from off the depth chart.  He did not do much from there, playing 9 games with 7 tackles.  No longer on the roster.

Brandon English:  You may remember that when Clawson realized he would probably lose Anthon Samuel, he brought in 4 Florida RBs in one class.  Fred Coppet emerged as the best of the four.  Eric Harrell and Marcus Levy both left without making much contribution and Brandon English--who greyshirted--was the other still left.  He carried the ball 3 times last season.

Isiah Moore:  Big OL from Tiffin, no longer on the roster.  Don't believe he ever saw action:

John Klingerman:  He was a highly productive HS player who made a bunch of catches in last year's spring game.  He was actually on an early two-deep but made only 2 receptions on the season.

Also, of course, Jhalid Croley was dismissed for alleged legal issues.

Anyway, the good news is that this does not represent major off-season attrition, especially with a new Coach.

Finally, the schedule will be out at 3 pm on Friday, so we will know the dates--and maybe a couple of the times--for the year.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Falcons Rebound Basketball and Rebound With Win

See what I did there?

I think Coach Jans said it best when he said "he was as curious as anyone" about how his team would respond to last week's losses and being under pressure to win.

What he saw had to please him.  BG dominated OU at the Convo, leading by as much as 23 and winning by 11 in the final analysis after a late run by the Bobcats.

Let's get all the disclaimers out there.  OU is having a rough year.  (Turns out Jim Christian might be smarter than we thought).  Not only are they struggling, but their best player, Bean Willis, played only 9 minutes due to an in-game injury.  BG was set up for success.

The point is that they delivered on it.  When you have a bad team like OU, you are supposed to drub them, and the Falcons more or less did.  With 12 minutes left, OU led 14-13.  From there to the end of the half, BG had a 27-8 run to head into the half with a 40-22 lead.  BG led by as much as 23 in the 2nd half.

OU went on a run late (this time with most of BG's starters in the game) and brought the lead down to 9 with :40 left, but were never in a serious position to get back into the game, though that might have been different if a couple of late 3s had fallen.

So how did that happen?  Well, BG shot better overall (45%) while still struggling from the 3FG. (24%).  From the quotes after the game, it sounds like BG's priorities were to rebound and to get the ball in the paint--and shoot fewer 3FGs.  So BG had OK shooting, took very good care of the ball while doing an outstanding job on the boards.  BG got 47% of its available offensive boards--its best game of the season--and held OU to 28%, which is also a good result.  Meanwhile, BG had one more foul than OU, but BG shot 17 FTs and OU shot 8, a sign that BG was getting the ball inside, per the game plan.  BG also made 14 of 17 FTs, their third best FT% of the season.

The other big news was that BG succeeded on someone's else game than Richaun Holmes.  Holmes struggled--though he did keep his double-figure scoring streak alive--scoring only 11 points on 3 of 12 shooting.  He added 8 rebounds.  Spencer Parker was the lead guy picking him up, with 19 points on 7 of 14 shooting and 3 of 6 on 3FG, along with 10 rebounds.  Jehvon Clarke scored 13 on 6 of 13 shooting and Henderson had 10 on 5 of 9 shooting.

Coach Jans shook the lineup up a little, starting Parker for Dickerson and Clarke for Denny, who is in a big slump as his first season as a D1 player seems to be wearing on him.  BG got minutes out of Josh Gomez--6 points and 3 rebounds in 10 minutes.  He could be very valuable to BG even in that role moving forward.

Delvin Dickerson played only 8 minutes.  Finally, the PG split has slowly moved to Joseph, who played 27 minutes to 9 for Austin.

So, BG now moves on to play Miami in Oxford on Saturday.  Miami beat BG and is playing really well.  They have won 4 straight, the last 3 against BG, Akron and Kent.  They pressured BG and also had success with dribble penetration against BG in the first game, and it will be critical to see how BG responds to those challenges at Millett.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

OU Redux

So, with its back to the wall, the BG Falcons head to Athens with words like "over-achieving" following them the whole way.  BG has lost 2 in a row at home but won 2 road games the week before that, so maybe bizarro world mojo will set in.

Early in the MAC season BG played OU at the Stroh and the Falcons won by 15.  OU is not having an OU-season.  They are 9-16 and 4-10.  They are 3-4 at home in MAC play, with wins over Buffalo, Akron and EMU at the Convo, while losing to UT, CMU, Kent and NIU at really one one bad home loss.  Their only MAC road win is @Ball State.

They are also on a 4-game losing streak.

The first time the two teams played, it was a perfect storm.  BG scored 1.13 PPP and held OU to .89 points per possession.  BG shot well (44%/38%) and held OU to poor shooting (33% and 36%), while protecting its own defensive boards and keeping OU off the FT line to get the win.

Holmes double-doubled at 18 and 12, Denny had 11 and 9 and Anthony Henderson scored 10.  Ryan Taylor had 16 for OU and BG did a nice job against Ndour, who shot 4 for 10 but had 9 rebounds.

The following stats are all MAC games only.  OU is where they are in the standings because they are 11th in offensive and defensive efficiency.  Prior to the last two games, BG was typically shutting down good offensive teams and scoring on the other end, a trend that was reversed against Miami and Buffalo.  BG needs to play good defense and lock down a poor defensive team...and then take advantage of an ineffective defense.  Sort of like the formula from the first game, except we're hoping to just win by 1.

Here's how that battle matches up.  OU is a poor shooting team with below average turnovers, way below average offensive rebounding and FT shooting.  This is a good matchup, albeit on the Convo floor and BG needs to assert itself.

Having said that, if BG does not play better offense there is no way to play good enough defense to win.  OU is poor defending the shot, doesn't force turnovers and is ineffective on the defensive boards.  BG simply has to get people other than Richaun Holmes making shots....or they have to feed the post on every possession.  This is also a good matchup for the Falcons and they need to deliver on it.

They are led by Maurice Ndour and Bean Willis.  Ndour is scoring 14 a game on 49% shooting and is 2nd in the MAC with 8.4 rebounds per game.  He also block 2.4 shots per game.  Willis is a PG and scoring 14.1 per game.  He is not efficient--he shoots 40% and 36%.  He's also only getting 2.9 assists against 2.8 turnovers, so he has struggled in MAC play.

Antonio Campbell is scoring 10.6 PPG on 47% shooting and 7 rebounds a game.

BG really needs a win.  OU has been capable at home and on a losing streak.  This one has got me very nervous.  BG has been pretty resilient and this will be big test for that.  The most important thing BG can do that they have not been doing is make a few shots.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Four Games Left....

With four games left, this is where things stand.  Here's where the big games are...

First, Akron is at Buffalo in a very big game.  Akron is struggling to stay in the first tier and Buffalo is hot and I believe a pretty dangerous team.  Further, Akron PG Noah Robotham tore his ACL against Miami on Saturday and that would put him out for the year.  This is a big game and would be a great one to see.

Beyond that, of the first 3 teams, all 3 have winnable games.  UT is at home against NIU and Kent is @ Miami and CMU is @EMU.  Miami has played well a couple games in a row, so that one has the potential to be interesting and CMU taking on the EMU defense could be interesting.  Best odds are that all 3 of those teams win.

WMU is @Ball State, a game they should win as well and BG is @OU badly needing a win in a tough place to play--though against a team they handled earlier this season.  Right now, BG has tiebreaker issues with Akron and Buffalo--the two teams behind them--so staying in front of them is key.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

BG Season Changes With Buffalo Loss

Things are just a little different this morning.  BG has its back to the wall for the first time this year.

Coming into the week, things could not have looked better.  BG had a 1-game lead in the MAC, with two winnable home games up coming, two winnable road games the week after that...BG seemed to have gotten itself into a really solid position.

One week later, it is all gone.  BG lost both of those games at home--something you simply cannot do in the home stretch of the conference season.  Now, BG is one game back of the lead with Buffalo running up behind them and faces two road games that it simply has to have.  BG now faces the possibility that it might have a first round game before getting to Cleveland.

Who knows?  As unexpected as this week was, maybe next week can be the same.

The Falcons are in a shooting slump and when I say that, I say that everyone except Richaun Holmes is in a shooting slump.  Holmes is playing great.  No one else is consistently producing.  Not counting Holmes, BG is 24 of 81 shooting over the last two games, that's 29%.  BG is equally bad from beyond the arc.  Not counting Holmes in the Miami game and Dickerson in the Buffalo game--two guys who should not be your 3FG leaders--BG is 4 of 37 on treys.

You just can't play good enough defense to win with that.  Not that BG was playing great defense Saturday either.  BG played their third worst defensive game of the season, (USF and Ferris were worse) and the second worst rebounding game of the year.

The die was cast in the first half...which Coach Jans called a "disaster."  The game was tied at 7 with 12 left in the first half.  Over the next 9 minutes the Bulls just shredded BG for a 27-10 run...that's 3 points a minute against 1 point a minute.  They did it with uncharacteristic 3FG shooting compared with offensive rebounding and a complete inability of BG to score baskets.  The lead at that point was 17 and BG had it to 14 by the half.

The Falcons did battle back, though it did not happen right away.  With 12 left in the game BG was still down 11.  Over the next 5 minutes, BG went on a 16-4 run to actually take the lead for 42 seconds.  As you often see, BG expended itself getting back in the game and was not prepared to grind it for 7 more minutes.  The lead was 5 with 4 minutes left and moving in the wrong direction.  Henderson missed a FT that could have cut it to 3 and Buffalo came down and drilled a 3 that made it 7 with 3:28 left and from there it was fouls and free throws ending in a Buffalo win...68-56.

Ultimately, Richaun Holmes made the point after the was tough to battle out of the hole BG was in but the Falcons put themselves into that hole.

We have already discussed the overall stats.  BG actually did a decent job on UB's strength--which is the 2FG--holding the Bulls to 28% on that front.  However, Buffalo shot 53% from beyond the arc, dominated the glass, got to the FT a lot and shot 83% when they were there.  Meanwhile, BG had .95 points per possession on 40% and 20% shooting, low turnovers (which saved the line with shooting like that) and 67% FT shooting.

On an individual basis, Richaun Holmes continues to play at a very high level.  He had 15 points on 7 of 10 shooting, 7 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.  As noted above, the issue is getting production from other guys...and maybe getting him the ball more often.  Clarke had 12 points--but on 4 of 11 shooting--and a team high 8 rebounds.  Spencer Parker had 11 points on 3 of 5 shooting and Delvin Dickerson scored 10--including 3 of BG's 4 3FGs--in only 15 minutes of action.

And so it goes.  BG has lost 2 in a row for the first time this year and now has its back to the wall.  Three of the final 4 are away and the home game is to Kent.  This is a tough part of any is a real grind at this point.  It will be interesting to see how BG can recover and it will be a good test for the program.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Da Bulls: A preview

Buffalo is an interesting case.  They are 7-6 in the MAC and 16-9 overall but with the best RPI in the MAC.  They had no bad non-conference losses--the worst is to #130 St. Bonaventure and there are losses to Wisconsin and Kentucky in there, too.  Their highest quality non-conference win was over #103 South Dakota State and they had 6 wins over teams with a 200+ RPI.

Even though they lost a ton of talent in the off-season, their conference struggles have been a little bit surprising to me.  When you look at it, they have beaten the weaker teams (Miami twice, NIU, @Ball State, @EMU) and then added in wins against WMU and Kent, both at home.  They have lost to CMU twice, Akron and Toledo (the top teams in the MAC) along with OU and WMU.  They are 3-4 on the road in conference with wins over Miami, EMU and Ball State.  If they beat BG, it will be their biggest MAC road win of the year.

UB is the #2 offensive team in the MAC...which means that the game will be what most of the BG games are, which is a battle between one of the top offenses in the MAC and the top defense.  On the other side, BG needs to get it mojo back after a very poor offensive game against Miami.  Buffalo is just average defensively, and BG will need to hit shots to take the pressure off the defensive side of the court.

UB is not a great shooting team.  In fact, the effective FG% you see below is 10th in the MAC.  They are 3rd in overall FG% (44.8%) but last in 3FG% (27%).  They build their offense on that solid 2FG shooting, taking great care of the ball, MAC-leading offensive rebounding and good success getting to the line.  They are 3rd in FT shooting as well.  This is the rare successful offensive team that is built on something other than shooting.

Flipping things around, UB is not great at defending the shot.  They do force decent turnovers, are not great on their own boards and they do get teams to the FT line a little bit, but not as much as they get to the line. BG needs to make shot at this level and take better care of the ball.  I will be interested to see if UB pressures BG, which has been a winning strategy for others.

Individually, the Bulls are led by Justin Moss, who is from Romulus, MI and took a pretty remarkable journey to end up in Buffalo.  He's a really good player...a 6'7" Junior who scores 20.5 PPG and gets 8.7 RPG, (MAC games only) and those are both #1 in the MAC.  The scoring is #22 in DI.  He's shooting 58%, leads the MAC in free throws and free throws attempted...he has 19 straight double figure games and 11 double-doubles this year...he's a likely leader for being MAC Player of the Year.

Shannon Evans is the second leading scorer at 14.2 PPG, shooting 41% and 27% with 3.5 assists per game,  which isn't terribly efficient.  Xavier Ford is scoring 11 PPG on 53% shooting and 6.1 RPG.  LaMonte Bearden leads the team with 4.3 assists per game.

OK, so what is the final analysis here?  First, BG has played really well off a loss and it would be great to see the same thing today.  I actually think BG will rally with a much stronger game at home.  The inside game between Holmes and Moss will be very interesting, but the key for BG is to get its guards to make some shots.  BG remains in the hunt for the high seeding but you can't lose 2 in a row at home this late in the year and expect that to happen.  Big game.