Monday, January 15, 2018

MIami Redux Preview

So, BG now moves to Oxford to take on the Miami RedHawks.  We just previewed the game a couple weeks ago, so I doubt if much has changed.  Since the BG game, they beat Kent at home, and lost to WMU in Oxford and at the Buffalo chainsaw.  They are 2-2 in the MAC.

They beat BG in the first game 77-72 at the Stroh.  You can see below what went on.  Basically, there were two key factors in the game.  First, BG made only 11 of 21 FTs, something that it is apparently clear is something we cannot win with.

Second, BG was completely unable to contain Darrian Ringo with dribble penetration.  He's a JUCO player who is making an immediate impact.  He's averaging 8 assists per game in MAC play, which is the MAC leader by more than 2 assists per game.  For the year, he's #2 nationally by assisting on 53% of the baskets his team scored while he was on the floor, behind only a guy named Trae Young.  No one else is over 45%.  He had 7 turnovers in the BG game, but has only had 11 in the next 3 games to go with 25 assists.

The last issue was a young man named Dalonte Brown, a true FR from Bowsher HS who had 16 points and 17 rebounds in the first game.  He hasn't been in double figures in scoring since, so hopefully he'll be back down to earth by the time this game happens.

BG is 2-2, with both losses being games they could have won.  (In fairness, the EMU game went into OT, so that could have gone the other way as well.  With @Miami and CMU this week, BG can stay at it and maybe pick up a couple of wins.  It is certainly possible.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Frustrating Loss to the Zips (MBB)

So, in basketball there are hundreds of individual plays.  This game had 73 possessions, which means a total of 146 times down the floor.  Each of them contributes to the outcome.  But in the Akron game Saturday, one action, one moment was decisive.

Akron had the ball with a tie game and less than a minute to play.  They had to shoot by about :19, so BG can expect to get the ball back.  Even if they score, you can get the ball back.  What BG really needs is a stop, though.  That way, you get the last shot and worse case is you get overtime against a team that had fouled 3 players out. 

BG got 90% of the way there.  Ivey missed a 3 with :22 left.  If BG clears the board, you have exactly what you need.  Except, Akron gets the board and resets and now they are holding for the last shot.  Which they hit, despite forcing the Akron player to go up in a crowd.  That happened with about 3 seconds left.  Akron fouled BG to prevent a 3 getting off and won 80-78.  (It was pretty funny listening to Reghi and his broadcast partner talk about what Akron's defensive strategy might be without once broaching the idea that Akron would foul, which is the obvious call.  That was right after several mentions of true freshman Justin Turner.  Anyway).

Coach was clearly frustrated in the post-game.  Between the lost offensive rebound and missed FTs, BG could and probably should have won this game, despite not having the lead for the last 37 minutes of the game.  BG is on a streak of four out of 5 on the road and picking this one off would have been a great way to start that run.

BG trailed by 14 with 7 minutes left, a point where you'd have to think that winning didn't look very likely at all.  Prior to that, BG just hadn't been able to string any stops together and make a run.  This time they did.  BG scored 12 straight points and had the lead to 2 with 4 minutes left.  With 2 minutes left it was tied.  And with :49 left it was tied, leading into the finish described above.

Akron ended up at 1.09 points per possession and BG ended up at 1.06 points per possession.  It was a 73 possession game, which is a pace BG typically plays at. 

A couple key elements here.  First, BG is shooting awfully.  Their EFG has been under 48% in every MAC game.  BG made 38% of its 2FGs for the second straight game, which is just awful.  What salvaged it was that BG made 44% of its 3FGs, did a great job protecting the ball, an average job on the offensive boards and a ridiculous job getting to the line.

BG's offensive plan is pretty clear.  Attack the rim and get fouled.  It worked.    Akron committed 31 fouls in a game they led almost the whole way.  BG shot 43 FTs.  43!  Are you kidding me?  Unfortunately, BG only made 29 FTs.  That's about 67% and BG usually shoots 72%.  At their normal rate, that would be 31 FTs and probably a win.  Even as it was, BG was +13 on FTs.

Justin Turner had 30 points for BG.  He shot 8 of 15 overall, made all 4 of his 3s and 10 out of his 12 FTs.  Also 5 rebounds and 3 steals.  Wiggins had a good game as well, scoring 18 and grabbing 12 rebounds.  Shooting wasn't great at 4 out of 9, but he made 10 out of 14 FTs.  Dylan Frye had 14 on 5 of 14 and 3 of 7 shooting.  Not to get too far into it, but other guys are really having a hard time right now.

Anyway, with all that, BG should have won this game.  Akron is not what they normally are, but it would have been a good one to get.  BG now goes to Oxford to take on Miami, a team they lost to at home but also could have beaten.  Miami seems to be a little better than expected so the rematch shiould be interesting.

Friday, January 12, 2018

BG travels to Zipland--Updated for Olojakpoke

So, it is back to the JAR for the Falcons, a long and storied den of horrors for our team, that has won only once in recent memory and that was 2009.  It is no secret that Akron absolutely owned the Falcons...until last year when BG finally took down the Zips on the way to splitting the season series.

Things have changed.  Keith Dambrot has moved along to another school and most of this team left in the meantime.  Akron brought in successful MAC Coach John Groce to take his place, and there's every reason to think he will succeed.  For this year, however, there is an adjustment period.

They are 7-8 with one non-D1 win and they have lost 6 out of their last 7 games.  They are an unheard of 0-3 in MAC play...something which makes me feel a little nervous.

They lost @WMU and @UT, and then by 22 to UB in the JAR.  (UB is the clear class of the MAC to date).  I was watching when they led USC at halftime and then went on to lose by 31 points.

So here is the matchup.  Akron is below average on both ends of the floor.  Offensively they are closer to average.  They are ranked #268 overall on defense.  As you can see, BG's offense is right where Akron's is, and actually plays better defense.  (The D-1 average is 1.039 points per possession, so BG is nearing average on defense.)

So, how does that happen?  Well, they're average.  They are decent shooters but not great.  They turn the ball over too much, and OK on the offensive and at giving up FTs.  In the NIU game, BG held an average-ish team to a season-low offensive performance, so that's what we will be watching for here, too.  One thing hasn't changed.  The Zips shoot a lot of 3s (#33) in the country.  And they make a high percentage (#90).

Here is what is interesting.  After being a good shooting team in the early year, BG has really fallen.  Their overall EFG% is 293rd in the nation (out of 351) and dead last in the MAC in MAC play.  Meanwhile, Akron is 300th in EFG%.  So, we have two polar opposites and not in a good way.  Beyond that, things are pretty evenly matched.  The Zips don't cause many turnovers, they do a really good job on the offensive boards and they keep teams off the line.  (This is also a potential key.  BG has been getting consistent advantage at the FT line).

Daniel Utomi is their leading scorer.  He's a sophomore scoring 18 PPG on 46% shooting, to go with 44% on 3FG and 80% at the line.  He also gets 6.6 RPG.  He's 6'6" and one of the best players in the MAC you've never heard of.

Their next scorer is Malcolm Duvivier, a 6'2 G who is a graduate transfer from Oregon State.  He is scoring 14.6 PPG on 41% shooting from 2FG and also from 3FG.  He averages just under 4 assists per game but also 3 turnovers per game.

Jimond Ivey might be the most recognizable name on the team. He's scoring a rough 12.6 on 40% and 33% shooting.  The 6'5" JR also averages 5.6 RPG.

When I watched the USC game, it was just very disorienting.  Akron was just so consistent and you'd get to know these guys like they were own team...and all of a sudden, these other guys are running around.  As usual, they are tough at the JAR, with the Buffalo loss being their first home loss of the season...but also by far the best team they have played at home.

I talk a lot about BG being the 15th youngest team in the country.  Akron is the 27th youngest team.  Should be interesting.  Even as Akron struggles, this would be a huge win for BG to get on the road.  The Zips are on a skid, though, and they'll be very hungry to get a W.

Update:  The Akron starting C had open heart surgery and is expected to miss the remainder of the year.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

BG Closes Well, Beats NIU

So, running a little late here, but BG put together a winning effort on Tuesday to beat NIU and move to 2-1 in the MAC, holding serve at home.  For much of the game BG played really well.  Obviously, you'd like to blow out to that big lead and hold it the whole way home and win by 10, but I just don't think our guys are there yet.  We'll take a winning effort anytime.

I mean, BG led the game for 34 consecutive minutes.  They led by 14 with 9 minutes left when things began to get a little loose, as NIU scored 13 straight points to chop the lead to 1 with 6 minutes left.  That's a fast way to lose a lead of that size.

Now, to BG's credit--and in contrast to some of our teams from the past--BG stopped the run and made the scores and stops they needed to win the game.  Other BG teams might have just folded up and lacked the ability to respond as needed.  In the possession just after the lead was cut to 1, Matt Fox drained a 3 to put it back up to 4.  When NIU got it to 2, Justin Turner nailed a 3 to put it back to 5.

In all, in the six minutes left after NIU got the lead to 1, BG outscored them 14-6.  That's what you have to do to win conference games.  That's only 2 FGs for NIU in those last six minutes.  Final score, 66-57.

Now here's the thing.  BG has let some very poor offensive teams run wild on them.  In this one, NIU came in averaging 1.05 per possession and BG held them .78 points per possession.  That's the best defensive performance for BG this year against any team not named for a place where you can take the cure.  As you can see below, BG did an excellent job defending the shot, did a fantastic job on the defensive boards against a normally very physical NIU team, and held the Huskies to 14 FT attempts, of which they made 10.

It was no work of art for BG on offense.  BG had .9 points per possession, which is their fifth straight D1 game under 1. BG shot poorly and had a terrible game for turnovers.  They did a great job on the boards, however, and got to the line 20 times, making 16, which is a significant improvement over the Miami game and maybe the biggest difference.

Individually, the big story was Wiggins.  He went 15 and 15 on 5 of 11 shooting and five of 8 at the line, including his last 3 in crunch time.  He did have 5 turnovers, some of which were not directly on him.  NIU was packing it in on him and I think we forced and telegraphed the ball in their a few times.  Justin Turner had a tough 14 on 4 of 14 shooting and 5 rebounds.  Frye had an even rougher 11 on 3 of 8 shooting, including a couple of air balls.  Koch added 7 points and 7 rebounds in 20 minutes.

Antwon Lillard continues to be a contributor since his suspension.  He had 8 points and 6 rebounds in 21 minutes to go with 4 assists and 2 of 4 shooting.  The team just seems more effective when he is the game.  He gives them another ball handler and someone of size who can create opportunities.  Matt Fox had 8 points in 16 minutes on 3 of 6 shooting.

BG played very small again.  As noted, Koch only played 20 minutes and Plowden played 8 and Uju and Gadsen did not play at all.

Next up is Akron at the JAR, a building of many horrors which can possibly be exorcised since Keith Dambrot has departed.

Monday, January 08, 2018

How Football Looks as Classes Begin

So John Wagner has the goods on the football team as Spring classes started back up at BG today.  You should head over and check the story out and then come back here and I will have some comments.

A few things.

First, for all the drama right as the season ended, BG did not end up (at least yet) with a lot of transfers or players leaving the program, even after the 2-10 season.  That's to the credit of our Coaching staff, who have done a good job at recruiting and retaining players.

Second, four players are in early.  Bryce Veasley is notable.  With Morgan and Cunningham leaving the program, there is no clear all-down backup, and you have to guess that by opening day Veasley will be #2 on the depth chart, with a hope they can redshirt him.

There's a kicker in town, which is good because Suder is a Sr.  No idea of Nate Needham is the answer, but he's in early as a JUCO transfer.

Also, the new punter and a JUCO LB are in, both guys who you would think will contribute this year.

Beyond that, if there are any other guys who left, I have not heard about them.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

NIU Preview

So, the beat goes on.  Next up, on the short turn around, are the NIU Huskies into the Stroh on Tuesday.  They are 8-7, with the second-lowest kenpom ranking in the MAC, but then again the lowest is Miami and they beat BG at the Stroh.  

The 8-7 includes 2 non-D1 wins.  In a common opponent, they beat Green Bay by 20 in DeKalb.  They are 1-1 in the MAC, with a home win over Kent (by 14) and a road loss to OU (by 10).  (Of the 12 MAC games so far, only 2 have been decided inside of 4 points or in OT).

Mark Montgomery, their coach, is in his 7th season, and has had only one winning record.  On the other hand, he was 10-51 in his first two years and the Huskies are now at least a .500 team, though picked to be near the bottom of the MAC.  They were bitten by the graduate transfer bug when Marin Maric left for DePaul, where he is scoring 14 PPG and getting about 6 boards.  (He was expected to leave early, but supposedly to go home to play in Croatia).

Anyway, they are a young team this year, though not as young as BG.

This game is pretty evenly matched.  NIU isn't terrible at anything and yet they don't have any real strong points either.  Let's look.

As you can see, they are an average offensive team and BG is just slightly below average after a couple of improved performances recently.  On the other hand, BG is now a below average offensive team and NIU is a considerably below average defensive team.

So, you just don't see teams matched like this.  NIU is basically right on the national averages all the way across that line and BG is right there with them.  One thing.  NIU is 2FG-focused.  Only 15 teams in D1 basketball take fewer 3FGs.  They are average at 35% when they do shoot a 3, and poor (48.5%) on 2FGs, given them an Orrian kind of profile.  They make 72% of their FTs and prefer a slower pace.

Things are a little more interesting on defense.  NIU is easy to shoot against, and that extends to 2FGs and 3FGs.  They do force some turnovers, They are OK on the offensive boards and they do a good job keeping teams off the line.  BG has been struggling to shoot--even in the EMU game--and this is an opportunity to make life easier by making shots again.

Their leading player is Eugene German, who was all-Freshmen last year.  He scores 19.5 PPG on pretty good 46% shooting, those he is a frequent and poor 3FG shooter (32%).  Junior Levi Bradley is their second-leading scorer.  He is 6'7" and scores 14.6 PPG but only shoots 43%,  and gets about 6.3 RPG.  JUCO transfer Dante Thorpe is scoring 12.7 PPG and is very efficient, shooting 61% and 50% from 3FG.

From BG's standpoint, a key issue is the availability of Dylan Frye.  Beyond that, this is a game that BG needs to get on home floor.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Falcons Get Small, Get Road Win

So, with 4 minutes left in the first half, things could not have been going worse for the BG Falcons.  They were down 24-13...that's right, 13 points in 16 minutes of college basketball.  The EMU zone had BG in fits and while EMU wasn't exactly lighting the scoreboard up on the other end, they were getting open looks and droppings 3s.

Meanwhile, BG was having foul trouble with their bigs.  So, Coach Huger said they went small out of necessity.  And playing with a four-guard lineup, BG finally broke out.  They closed the half with 16 points in the remaining 4 minutes and help EMU to 6, heading into the locker room down 1.

EMU came out of the locker room and jacked it back up to 6 points, but BG had another rally and with 5 minutes gone in the 2nd half the game was tied.  From there it was a dogfight, with no team leading by more than 4 points.  Minnie tied the game inside of 1 minute with a FT and then both teams traded pitiful last-minute possessions before overtime.

I did not know this, but Coach Huger has never lost in OT at BG.  He wasn't even behind in this one, as Matt Fox opened the scoring with a 3.  There wasn't a ton of scoring, and then with 90 seconds left Lillard score a hoop to put BG up 3 and then BG made 4 of 6 free throws in the last minute to close out the 75-71 overtime win.

It was an important win.  Not to make EMU out like the best team in the MAC, but after losing to Miami BG needed to get back on track before they dug a hole that would be very difficult to get out of.  Through the first 16 minutes they literally could not have been playing worse, but they got it together and ground it out and ended up with a win they kind of needed, not to make the 2nd game of the season too dramatic or anything.

As mentioned, they did it with a four-guard lineup that did not include Dylan Frye, who is injured but apparently not seriously.  But Antwon Lillard had a huge game and Matt Fox was nailing shots left and right and Justin Turner had his turns and BG got the win and for most of the first half, that had seemed like the most unlikely thing possible.

It certainly wasn't an offensive slugfest.  BG had .98 points per possession and held EMU to point .93.  Neither is very good, but BG made enough shots to get the win.

These are the stats of a pretty close game.  The teams were equal in shooting and no one did much on the offensive boards, a victory for BG since EMU relies on that and we were playing a small lineup.  BG got a couple of extra possessions due to turnovers and EMU was +3 on FTs for the game.

BG had 2 double-doubles.  Lillard had 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting and 12 rebounds and 5 assists and 2 turnovers.  Wiggins scored 15 points on 6 of 13 shooting and added 11 rebounds....and held James Thompson to one offensive rebound.  Matt Fox had 18 on 6 of 10 shooting from 3, and Turner had 15 on 4 of 8 shooting.    While he had a rough night shooting, Rodrick Caldwell had 6 assists and 0 turnovers.

When it is said BG went small, they went small.  Wiggins played 36 minutes, but Koch played 10, Uju 5 and Gadson 3.    That's a small lineup.

BG has a decent shot now to make it 2 in a row, with NIU coming to town, probably the next most likely team for BG to beat this least on paper.