Tuesday, March 21, 2017

MAC Men's Hoops Ends

And that's it.

And not with a bang, but with a whimper.  The Zips lost by 16 to Texas-Arlington in the NIT to finish 27-9.

It was not a great post-season for the MAC.  Kent got hot and won the MAC tournament but got a really poor seed due to its pre-hot performance and therefore a very tough assignment in the first round.

That's five straight opening round losses for the MAC.  The last team to get any wins was OU in 2012, when they made the Sweet 16.

MAC Basketball is pretty much stuck right in the middle of D1 right now.  There are 32 conferences and the kenpom ranking has the MAC #14.  That's behind the Southern and ahead of the Sun Belt and Summit.

We are pretty much in the middle where we have been over the past 15 years. MAC Basketball hit a low point in 2009 (the year BG won the regular season title) and did not begin to rebound until 2012, when the whole thing got on an upward track...which has regressed the last two years.




As currently constituted, there's a ceiling on how high the thing is going to go.  Simply put, it is a challenge for schools with our size and finances to maintain good football and basketball programs at the same time.  Of the teams that won byes to the tourney--Akron, OU, Buffalo and Ball State--only OU had a strong football team.  Similarly, the eventual champion and traditional power...Kent...is not good at football.

On the flip side, NIU, BG and WMU have won the most football titles in recent years, and of them only WMU was even passably good in basketball.

Small sample, I know.  But I think it holds up.  Also, the top 4 seeds in the NCAA tournament are Kansas (lousy football), UNC (average football), Villanova (FCS football) and Gonzaga (no football).

Yes, I know the Big 10 does it.  No, I don't have an explanation for that.

Anyway, just an annual note that the MAC was once a "thinking man's" basketball conference, and now I just think we're average.

By the way, one thing is interesting.  For a LONG TIME people have said "it is hard to win on the road in the MAC."  And by people, I mean coaches who just lost a road game.  The home team won only 54% of the games this year in the conference, with was the 26th ranked winning percentage.  There were only 6 conferences where it was lower.

Monday, March 13, 2017

WTOL: Hluchoweckyj and Worrell to Leave Program


Well, some not great news from the men's basketball front, as reported by Jordan Strack of WTOL.

Hluchoweckyj is not a huge surprise.  He was hardly playing at all, made some starts following the suspension for the OU game.  Then, his minutes slowly dwindled until he did not play in 4 of the last 5 games.  He was the only Jans recruit who stayed with the program and he scored 39 career points.  He is from Nebraska.

Rasheed Worrell is a little more disappointing.  He red-shirted during the Jans year and then played during the Huger years.  He's 6'8" and gave the team important depth on the inside.  He started 28 games last year and then none this year, averaging 5.8 ppg and 4.2 RPG in 17 average minutes.  I always felt he had the ability to be, at least, a strong reserve for a team that is starved for inside players, but apparently it didn't work out.  He is from North Carolina.

Anyway, that leaves the men's basketball team with 5 returning scholarship players...Wiggins, Fox, Frye, Caldwell, and Lillard to go with the recruits and redshirts who are returning.  Fox will be the only senior.  Even before, next year was setting up to be a tough year and this will only make it more difficult.

There is time for Coach Huger to bring in even more new players or at least a player.  The key thing you would point to would be a graduate transfer, if available.  One of the reasons that this year's team was looking to be tough was that the recruiting had stopped kicking the can down the road with JUCO players.  Maybe that will change now.

Anyway, best to Rasheed and Malik.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

MAC Post-Season Line Up

Kent #14 playing UCLA in Sacramento.

This is a tough assignment.  Kent has the potential to be a tough out, but I think UCLA has a shot to win it all.  Kent has a good defense, but that's going to be a tough night but the Bruins are #3 in the nation in offensive efficiency and in the top 80 in defense.  Also, they have to go a long way to play that game.  To their benefit, the game will be the last one played in the first round.

Akron is a 7-seed in the NIT, playing @Houston (#2) on Wednesday.  Houston is ranked #49 in the country on kenpom and will be a big favorite on home floor against the Zips.  That said, Akron is a tough out.  Also, depends on how much each team feels like playing.

Ball State is going to keep playing.  They will play @IPFW on Wednesday in the CIT.   IPFW is #145 in kenpom.com and Ball State is in the 170s.  That's a good in-state matchup and remember that IPFW beat Indiana earlier this year.

UT is in the post-season.  They are playing in the CBI @ George Washington on Wednesday.  That could be a good matchup, with GW at #125 and UT at #129.  GW fired their coach during the season and is still working with an interim coach.

For their part, Buffalo has opted out of the post-season field.  I think it makes sense.  I hope the players weren't denied a chance to play together one last time if that's what they wanted, but these are incredibly minor events and that UB team is senior laden and so it isn't really a developmental opportunity.  If I recall correctly, this is not the first time Buffalo has done this.

Finally, the late report is that Ohio U. did not get an invite anywhere.  I suspect they did and chased it off, but I could be wrong.  Anyway, at this hour, it appears that OU's season is over.

List of Shame to 10


Now 49 elapsed years since BG has been in the NCAA tournament.  Northwestern has stepped off the list, bringing it down to 9, not including BG.  Here is the company we live with now.  Next year will be a half-century.

Columbia: Last appeared in 1968
Tennessee Tech: Last appeared in 1963
Maine: Division I since 1962
New Hampshire: Division I since 1962
Dartmouth: Last appeared in 1959
Army: Division I since 1948
Citadel: Division I since 1948
Northwestern: Division I since 1948
St. Francis (N.Y.): Division I since 1948
William & Mary: Division I since 1948

MAC Update

So, the season ended last night for MAC MBB, as Kent pulled the big "upset" and defeated Akron to win the MAC and head to the Big Dance.  I say "upset" because based on the last weeks of the season, it wasn't as shocking as the seeding might indicate.  After losing to BG and UT in mid-February and being 5-7, the Flashes won 9 of 10 coming home, beating Akron, Ohio and Buffalo twice each.  They were playing the best ball in the MAC.  Then, they won the tournament playing a bye game on Monday, which isn't "four games in four days." as the ESPN announcer was fond of saying, but was still impressive.

I guess you might think it isn't fair to win the regular season and not get the bid, but titles are decided on the field.  There's always a playoff.  I can't think of a sport that decides its title based on regular season standings (in the United States).  It is cruel, but Kent did also beat Akron 2 of 3 times.  (Oddly, BG also beat both teams, with 2 of 7 wins against the top teams in the  MAC).

Due to their previous struggles, they are set to be a #15 seed, based on Lunardi.  The last time a >4 seed won the tourney was in 2011 when Akron beat...Kent.

Anyway.  More tonight as the tournament pairings shake out as well as the other "minor" tourneys.  Seven MAC teams were .500 or above overall.

In the other news, John Cooper was fired at Miami, to no one's surprise.  They should hire carefully, because that program is a sleeping giant.  (John Groce?)  They are a historic MAC power and could get back there again.  This is a great job for the same reasons Chuck Martin thought it was a great job on the football side.

I'd guess that will be it.  His contract was up anyway, so it is more a non-renewal.  I actually thought Senderhof might be in trouble, but clearly not.  Others I wonder about would include Hawkins, Murphy and Montgomery, with no idea on their contract status.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Huger Rips Selfish Team, Inherited Guys


This video was posted by Jordan Strack at WTOL.  This is a pretty big WOW, if you ask me.

You should definitely take a couple of minutes and watch it.  Coach Huger gives a pretty bleak look at his program as it stands today.


  • Guys with one foot in and one foot out.
  • You question how tough your team is.  Mentally and physically.
  • We played selfish basketball.  Offensively and defensively.
  • Once it started to go bad, we couldn't stick together.
  • It's like it's the last go-round and you are going to show everybody what you can do and you show everybody what you can't do.
  • When you inherit guys, it is hard to get them to change.  It's hard to change a guy who has been doing it this way for so long and we're trying to change him and it's hard.
  • We had the same thing last year with the same issues, and now hopefully we can move forward.

Ouch.  Oh, and when he says now, he means that now that all of the players from previous regimes have moved through the program.  Those are the guys he inherited.  (It actually isn't quite true.  He also inherited Worrell and Fox).

Anyway, in yesterday's game, the only "inherited players" who played were Denny, Worrell and Fox.  The other seniors were Alcegaire and Ali, both of whom Huger recruited and were not "inherited."

So, I guess I understand what's being said.  Denny did shoot 3 of 7.  And, he played only 17 minutes.  (Worrell had 5 points and 4 rebounds in 20 minutes).

Ultimately, though, they can't possibly be all of the problem that we saw out there last night.  A significant part of the issue has to be guys who Huger didn't inherit, because that was who played most of the minutes and the whole team was getting skunked.

Anyway, it was a disappointing way to end the year.  BG was playing them relatively tough and with 15:42 left, BG was down only 4.  Over the next 8 minutes, BG was outscored 25-5 as UT blew the game wide open and never looked back.

I'm a supporter of Coach Huger and I definitely think he came into a difficult situation.  There will be a season review coming up, but in the meantime the team was a little better in conference play and about the same overall in year 2 when compared to year 1.  Next year is going to be rough, but starting with next year and extending onward, if guys are "one foot in and one foot out" then there's going to be no doubt where the accountability for it lies.

Erratum:  Mailk H. also was committed to BG before Huger took over.  We regret the error.

Monday, March 06, 2017

That's it. It's Over.



That's it.  There will be no run in the MAC tournament this year.  UT took a moderately close game at halftime and then blew BG off the hardwood in the second half, leading by more than 20 most of the way and walking to the win, 77-62, in a game that wasn't actually that close.

More to come on the game and the season.  BG finishes 13-19.  For now, the streak continues.  1968.

Denny and Frye Get MAC Honors

Nice honors for two Falcons today.

First, Zack Denny received honorable mention all-MAC honors as well as being named to the all-defensive team.  It is his first time to get an all-MAC honor.  His primary defensive stat is steals.  He averaged 2 steals a game, which was 3rd in the MAC and he was 2nd in steal%.

The other honoree was Dylan Frye on the all-freshman team.  For the year, he also shot 9.0 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists. His 40.0 three-point percentage ranks 10th in the conference. Frye is also shooting 44.8 percent from the field for the season.

The last Falcon to make All-Freshman was Joe Jakubowski in 2008, something made even weirder by the fact he and Frye could be twins.

Congrats to Zack and Dylan.  Great job!

Football depth chart for spring ball released



And so here it is. The football depth chart set for the start of spring football at BG.  This is always a good feeling...as we get a chance to look ahead at what the program has to offer for the Fall.

A few observations.

There was some shuffling on the o-line but no huge surprises.  You have rock-solid Tim McAuliffe in the middle with Labus and Hunter at the tackles, as was probably expected.  Taborn, who played T last year due to injuries, is moving into G and Jack Kramer was a backup G and is now up to the starter.  Beyond that, we need to keep good hope for health.  BG has three backups who have never played a down and one (Lucke) who has played in only one game.  Clark Clancy is the one backup with any kind of playing experience.  So, BG needs to stay healthy and know that the line next year will be very young.

At QB, James Morgan is the starter, as expected.  The backups are undetermined. You have walk-on Loy, Elijah Cunningham who red-shirted and Jarrett Doege, who is a FR early enrollee.  It matters how this one sorts out.  Most teams need a backup QB at some point in a year.  I have a feeling it might end up being Doege in the 2-hole, but that's just a guess.

At WR, you have Redding, Zimmerman, Pough and Miller, which represents no surprise.  Also offers no real outside deep threat.  The backups include Matt Wilcox (early enrollee) and Darin Guyton, a transfer who was once at Oregon State.  Phoutavong and Folkerstma round out the WR Corps.  If I had to guess, I'd say Guyton will start to steal reps pretty quickly with his size and speed.

Lastly, Cleveland and Wilson will split time at RB.  Both are seniors.

On the defensive line, it is important to remember that this is all a rotation, so really the whole two-deep gets PT.  Dirion Hutchins and Nico Lautenan are moving into the rotation.  Lautenan has played some....9 games last year as a R-FR.  In general, defensive line is stable for us heading into Spring.

At LB....well, BG might never have lost two more key LBs in the same year as they did with Austin Valdez and Trent Greene.  Nate Locke will slide in at MLB.  He's got quite a bit of time under his belt with 39 games played.  Aaron Banks will take the other spot.  He's a R-SR who has played some but not much.  He made 3 tackles last year.  His backup is KY transfer Dorian Hendrix and the backup in the middle is Jerry Judd, a R-FR in his first game.  The other LB is stable, with Brandon Harris and Nillijah Ballew, both converted DBs.

Speaking of which, in the d-backfield BG has Cam Jeffries and Robert Jackson in the first spot at corner.  Both of those young men got some duress-laden reps at true freshmen last year.  Marcus Milton is one of the backups...he got a number of snaps last year...and then the other CB is Clint Stephens, who is coming back from injury and will be important if he can get healthy.

BG was decimated at S, between injuries and now graduation.  Jamari Bozeman and Jerry McBride will begin the spring as the starters...both of them also had a growing year during 2016.  The backups are Tavarous Wade and JUCO Fred Garth.  Missing from the depth chart are Antonyo Sotolango, who played quite a bit last year, as well as Ben Hale and Jack Walz, both of whom were injured but remain listed on the roster.  So, conceivably there is the possibility of additional depth as well.

The special teams come back pretty intact.  Jake Suder is the K.  I don't know if BG has any preferred walk-on kickers, but those would not show up until July.  Joe Davidson is back.  We have a new long snapper, this is Gabe Skrobot.  KRs appear to be pretty much the same.

So that's how things look.  BG needs a healthy offensive line and for the D-backs to continue to get better...to begin with.  And, the offense needs some WRs to step up and become playmakers in order to get things in gear.  Spring ball is a comin'.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Catching up with football,...

Other than the Austin Valdez news, BG has a couple more news flashes on the football front which we can sneak in here before the UT-BG game tomorrow.

The big one is the release of the schedule.  There's no way to overstate this for Falcon fans, who are hungry to see the program rebound next year...a really good record is going to be tough with this schedule.  BG could have a good year at 6-6.

There are 2 P5 programs on the schedule.  Also, BG plays at a very good Middle Tennessee State program.  Yes, there is an FCS team, but there are also only 5 home games overall.  More on that in a minute.

Here is the way it breaks out.

@MSU
South Dakota
@Northwestern
@Middle Tennesee
Akron
@Miami
OU
NIU
@Kent
@Buffalo
UT
@EMU

So, let's say you lose the 3 non-conferences games.  You still have to play UT, @Miami and @EMU, the last 2 of whom have returned to our rotation just as their programs have been rebuilt.  And, after that, you still have OU, NIU...so for example, a 6-win season might look like SD, Akron, OU, NIU, @Kent and @Buffalo.  The 7th win would need to be (for example), UT, @Miami or @EMU.  If BG gets 7 wins they would be 6-2 in the MAC and possibly in the MAC title game.

And if BG ends up there, I think we can start to think we have some guys who can coach.  A continuation of last year?  BG could be as poor as 3-9/4-8 again easily.

Now, as for the lack of home games...it is very disappointing.  I love to be at the Doyt and I love our home games.  A while ago we had an AD committing to having 6 home games, which by definition means more home and homes with mid-majors.  I just don't think that's realistic for us for financial reasons.  I have posted here time and again about the level of subsidy our athletic program gets from the students at BG.  It is among the lowest in the MAC and still too high.  I just think the athletic department needs the football team to play those two games and cash the checks from, this year, MSU and Northwestern.

It is just one of the contradictions of playing football at this level.  We strain to keep the house up while the neighbors are putting additions on and buying vacation homes.  And sometimes we still beat them.

It is too bad, but it is a reality of how we roll right now.

The other snippet of news is that BG has a commit from Ricardo Marble.  He's a '17 commit.  I am assuming he's a preferred walk on, who the Falcons can't comment on until they start classes.  He is from Detroit, he was a QB at De La Salle Collegiate HS.  There's not a ton of info on him, my guess is that we view him as a DB.  He is 6'2".

The spring game is April 8.

Third Time for Rockets and Falcons....

So here we go.  Could be the final outing for the Falcons this year.  Last year, they salvaged a rough year with a tourney run.  Such a thing would be great this year...and, for that matter, all the better because who it would entail beating...UT.

BG and UT split the games this year, both winning at home.  In the first game, UT pretty much cruised to the win, 85-73 and not as close as that.  BG won the game at the Stroh in what was an operatic double OT thriller before BG ended up breaking a six-game losing streak to UT.

UT has to be disappointed with the results they are getting.  Their 2014 probably should have won the MAC--but got blown out by WMU in the final.  They are 17-19 in the MAC over the last 2 years.  Kowalcyzk had a bunch of really good players and transfers at the beginning, but hasn't been able to sustain it and didn't get the big win he needed to land a bigger job.  This year, they were hampered by an injury to Zach Garber, one of their big men, and then needing to dismiss jUCO transfer Daniel Dzierzawski.  They have good players, but have had only an average season.

So, below are the stats from game 1 and game 2 between the two teams.  UT is the best shooting team in the MAC and BG is the worst team defending the shot.  So, it is no surprise that in both games UT shot very well and pretty much the same.  The thing is, UT is not as good on defense--#6 overall and defending the shot.  BG is 11th in shooting...so you got what you pretty much would expect in game 1.  In game 2, BG made shots out the ass.  That's their best shooting game of the year...and the next best was 60% EFG against Norfolk State,  the #304 team in the nation.

So, you want something to start with?  BG will need to make some shots.  The other difference (major) between the two games was free throws.  In the first game, UT was 18 of 31 and BG only 8 of 12 at the line.  In the second game, BG was 21 of 32 and UT was 14-24.  The Rockets shot FTs poorly in both games, partly by BG's hack-a-Taylor strategy.  He was 4 of 19 in both games.

So, if you want a formula to win, it is going to need to involve making some shots.  As Coach said after Buffalo, BG just tends to miss a lot of open shots and this has been a problem for the program for a long time.  BG hasn't finished higher than 9th in the MAC in shooting since 2012, when they were 5th.  You can talk about defense all you like, but I still contend that the program has not recruited enough offensive playmakers.






UT is led by Jonathan Williams and Steve Taylor--both seniors.  Also, Nate Navigato rarely misses a shot against BG.  Jaelen Sanford is also a SO and an excellent player.  Overall, this UT team is less than the sum of its parts.  Kenpom gives them an 82% probability of winning this game and you're going to need to see the Falcons bring their very best effort--on the road--to get this win.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Regular Season Ends on Loss


And this is where it all ended up.   With last night's loss to Buffalo, BG finished in the #10 spot, about where they were predicted to be.  They play Toledo on Monday and then OU at the Q if they win that one.  The Falcons finish 7-11 in the MAC, which is a modest two-game improvement over Huger's first year.  More on the future in another post.

The game in Buffalo was never a contest.  The Bulls bolted out to a 13-2 lead and led by as much as 16 in the first half.  BG got it back to 8 at halftime and 6 early in the 2nd half, but the Bulls spent the first minutes of the second half doing nothing but burying 3FGs and they led by 15 with 17 left in the game.  They maintained at least a 10-point lead the remainder of the way and led by as much as 20 points.

BG tried a lot of things to shake the effort up.  For one thing, Dylan Frye ran the point.  Antwon Lillard played 30 minutes.  BG trapped and pressed.  BG hounded Hamilton.  None of it, especially the last one, accomplished anything.

When you see a shooting differential like that, you can tell exactly the story of the game.  Buffalo shot well....not great...but well.  BG shot awful, that's 40% on 2FG and 29% on 3FG.  Coach Huger identified this after the game.  BG was getting good looks and missing the shots.  That included jumpers and layups.  The only game all year in MAC play where BG shot worse was the EMU game.  BG did a little better on turnovers and did a nice job on the boards and got to the line...taking 32 FTs to UB's 15...but BG made only 18 of those 32.

So, yeah, the weaknesses for BG came in the parts of the game where a team needs to put the ball inside of the rim.  Which is important.


Zack Denny led BG with 16 points, but on 5 of 14 shooting.   He also had 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.  Frye had 11 on 4 of 10 shooting, Caldwell 11 on 4 of 7 shooting (and only 14 minutes) and Lillard 10 on 4 of 7 shooting.  Wiggins, who I fear is being exposed as a defensive liability, played only 18 minutes with 9 points and 9 rebounds.  Worrell shot 2 of 7 as well.

So, on to the Rockets.  Last year, BG made a run in the MAC tournament.  This will be a tough one, but you never know.  The Falcons have episodically been capable of strong play, but not capable of consistent success.