Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Zip Streak Snapped!

So when the boss said they needed me on a business trip on Tuesday out of town, I was like, well, I'm going to miss the Akron game, but, you know, we know how those usually turn out.  And we were playing very poorly heading into the game.

Sigh.  Wouldn't you know it?

Anyway, I might have been the only beneficiary of the late start.  I was able to listen to the Walker/Cowan call for the second half of what was a very exciting game.

OK.  That breaks the 17-game losing streak to Akron--something that should never happen to a team in our conference.  Interestingly, Coach Huger told the Sentinel after the game they HE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW ABOUT THE STREAK and "doesn't pay attention to stuff like that."

OK, then. Surely, he knows that is the first time he's beaten Akron, right?

I'm proud of our guys.  They have broken two long streaks--UT and Akron--and those go on the highlight reel for a season that has not been terribly distinguished.  I wish we brought a "big game" effort more often since we are clearly capable of it.  I'm sure that's on Coach's mind as well.

Be that as it may.  We are glad for the win at any rate.  It is significant and I'm especially glad that the late heroics were Denny and Alcegaire, both of whom might have played their last game against Akron.

Here's where we stand right now....BG is just one game out of one of those home berths.  Let's just say BG won @Miami and beat Kent next Tuesday.  We would finish 8-10.  NIU just needs one win to beat BG, which I would see them getting in one of their 3 games, but not for sure.  The other team is UT.  We split with them, so I don't know where the tie-breaker goes.  Anyway, they have two home games and then EMU, so I think they end up with 9 wins.  In general, it looks tough.  But who knows.

BG led the game most of the way.  Akron jumped up 11-5 and then BG went on a 14-0 to go up 8 with 12 minutes left in the game.  BG continued to build the lead up to 12.  Akron continued to battle and got it to 5 by last in the half before BG scored to lead by 7 at the half.

BG came out hot in the 2nd half and had the lead up to 11.  Akron went on a run and got it to 3 with 14 minutes left, 1 with 11 minutes left and they tied the game with 8 minutes.  Akron finally took the lead back with 2:26 left in the game.  Here, you just have to have the feeling that things are going the way they often do, with BG playing Akron tough for a long time, but in the crunch minutes the Zips push their foot down on the pedal.

Wes Alcegaire nailed a 3 to put BG back up 1.  Denny got a steal on the next Akron possession and was fouled, but he missed the front end of the 1-1.  Akron cleared the board and went to Johnson for a layup to put the Zips back up 1 with 1:32.

At that point, you felt like BG might have missed a pretty big opportunity.  Frye missed a 3FG and things were looking rough.  However, this time when the Zips fed the ball to Johnson, Denny got the steal.  BG took the ball into Alcegaire who missed the layup.  However, this time Wiggins took the offensive board, worked the ball and with :20 left Zack Denny nailed a jumper to put BG back up 1.

Akron called timeout and worked a play to get the ball to Johnson, who made a layup with :07 left.  Akron back up 1 again.  Without a timeout, BG ran the ball down the floor and Alcegaire drove to the basket, collided with Johnson and BG got the call.  By all accounts, it could have gone either way, but this one went BG's way.  Even so, this is far from a done deal.  BG was still in the 1-1 and Alcegaire is only making 58% this year.  This time, he was clutch, though.  He made both ends and BG was up 1 and had a thrilling victory in hand.

As noted, this is one that could have gone bad and was pointing toward Akron grinding out a victory in the last minutes.  But, this time, BG got a couple key stops and made the FTs they really needed with :07 left.

The key to the victory was that Akron didn't make any shots.  You know, I've written for a while that BG is the easiest team in the MAC to shoot against, but in this case Akron found it hard to get shots to fall.  BG held them to .93 points per possession, their best defensive game since Ball State.  That 43% EFG is BG's best effort since the Alabama A&M game, and they are...literally...the worst team in the country.

For that matter, it was Akron's 3rd worst shooting game of the year and their worst in the MAC.  BG didn't shoot great, but it was better than Akron shot.  And then, BG did a much better job on turnovers.  BG had only 8 turnovers for the game and Akron had 14.  Those two factors together were enough to get BG the win.  Nobody did any real offensive rebounding or FT shooting.  There were only 31 fouls in the entire game.

BG was led by its guards.  Zack Denny had 20 points on 7 of 17 shooting and 2 of 5 shooting.  He also added 10 rebounds and 4 steals.  Dylan Frye had 22 points on 9 of 12 shooting and 3 of 5 shooting.  Wiggins and Alcegaire both had terrible shooting nights...except for Alcegaire getting the shots needed at the end and Wiggins getting the big offensive board before Denny's basket.   He had 9 for the game along with 4 blocked shots.

So on the season goes.  This was a big win.  As Coach said after the game, Akron is the model.  You want to be Akron.  They are consistently good, year in and year out.  And you can't have a team in your conference that you lose 17 straight to.  Now, to Oxford, the most winnable game left on the schedule.  Let's hope BG delivers it.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Akron Trail of Tears Continues

So it is time for the BG-Akron rematch.  You know the storyline.  Akron has beaten BG in 17 straight games and 25 out of the last 26.  When the games tips off it will be 2,914 days since BG beat Akron.

The two teams opened the MAC season at the JAR.  At the time I said it was the best game BG had played all season, and it might still be.  Now, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.  Akron led for 32 minutes.  However, they only won by 5 and more of what we saw last Saturday in Athens is what we would have expected.

Honestly, this team is capable of rallying like they did against UT in an "important" game and putting something together.  That's the saddest part of it all.

There's no doubt, Akron is the best team in the MAC this year.  They are 12-2 in the conference and they have already clinched one of the top 4 seeds.  They are 22-5 overall and have a kempom of 103. Their RPI is 47, if you are looking at something a little more conventional.   Right now, Lunardi has them as a #13 seed.

Their only MAC losses are @Buffalo and at home to Kent, which broke a 30-game home winning streak.

I've said it before, this is a great program and they are a very good team.  They know how to win.  In this first game, when BG got it close the Zips found a gear and pushed the lead back out again.

Here's the stats from that game.  BG shot well but Akron shot much better.  However, the Zips turned the ball over.  They are super tough on the baords, and they showed it and they ended up at the line...well...a lot.

Akron plays an interesting style.  They play at the 2nd slowest pace in the MAC, yet they are #2 in offensive efficiency.  And let there be no doubt.  If BG doesn't figure out how to keep the ball out of the paint, Akron will drive it there all day with relentless efficiency.

And, as we always seem to say, as good as Akron is on offense, BG is that poor on defense.

Akron is not a great defensive team.  That rating is 7th in the MAC.  (This is in the weeds, but that's not a very big spread for a team with only 5 losses, which is why their Kenpom ranking isn't very high).

Anyway, BG is 10th in the MAC in offense.  Clearly, the opportunity to score on Akron exists.  Whether BG takes advantage of it--as they did against UT, which had a similar defensive profile, well, that remains to be seen.

Akron is #3 in the MAC in shooting and BG is last in FG defense, which is what you see there.  I doubt if Akron plays many teams who give up a higher percentage than they shoot.  Although they did not take care of the ball well in the first game, they have in general.  They lead the MAC in turnover%.  They are not great on the boards and they are 2nd in the MAC in getting to the FT line.

They are #2 in the MAC in terms of attempting 3FGs.  They are, however, only #6 in making them.  In both of their MAC losses they shot under 25% from 3FG.  They've also won 3 games with a similar 3FG%.  Anyway, that's not great for them, given the volume of shots.  They are #2 in 2FG shooting and not good at the FT line, #11.

Flipping it around, Akron is strongest at protecting the defensive boards, where they lead the MAC.  They force very few turnovers and are 7th in EFG%.  They are 5th in the MAC allowing teams to the line.  As noted above, they are just an average defensive team.  BG will need to get some shots to fall to take advantage.  BG is #10 in shooting in the MAC and #270 in the country.  Akron is the easiest team to shoot 3FGs against in the MAC, so you'd like to think you had a shot at making that work.  It wouldn't on the surface appear to be something BG is well poised to do, but you never know.

Akron is led by Isaiah Johnson.  He's scoring 16.7 PPG on 63% shooting and 7.25 RPG.  He is a poor FT shooter, so there might be something there.   He's #8 in scoring and rebounding, #1 in FG% and #13 in assists in the MAC.

They also feature Kwan Cheatam a 6'10" Sr.  He has 12 PPG and 7 RPG, shooting 42% and 40%. Antino Jackson scores 12 PPG and adds 3 assists.  He is efficient, shooting 46% and 42% from 3 FG.  Jimond Ivey is a 6'4" SO who scores almost 10, adds 6 rebounds and shoots 46%.  Finally, Daniel Utomi is a 6'6" FR who is leading the MAC making 50% from 3FG.

In game 1, Wiggins had a big game.  That would help this time as well, but he's going to have to play enough defense to stay on the floor to make that happen.

Anyway, the odds are strongly against BG in this game.  Certainly, a victory is possible, but Akron would be heavily favored.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

OU Stomps BG

For the first 13 minutes of today's game, BG was playing pretty well.  Shots were falling and stops were being made...BG led 29-23.  For the last 7 minutes of the first half and the first 7 minutes of the second half, however, BG collapsed on both ends of the floor and was outscored 40-14 over that 14 minutes span.  That put OU up by 20, which was the final margin of victory, 95-75.   BG was only 4 points worse with 2 football players on the court.

BG did get the margin to 10 with 8 minutes left.  It never got closer and was 16 with 4:41 left.  OU led by as many as 28 and hit 95 points with 2 minutes left and didn't score again during garbage time.

This team is just a mess right now.  You can listen to Coach's presser, he's very frustrated.  BG cannot stop the drive at all and conference basketball is ruthless.  Until you do, that's all you will see.  In fact, as coach pointed out, OU is a 3FG shooting team and they drove on BG.

Meanwhile, on the other end, BG's can't make shots--Huger cited missing open 3FGs and layups as being a problem.  When BG got it "close" in the second half, BG started to take bad shots.  Coach says the team is inconsistent.  At the end of his second season, you don't necessarily expect to see the talent reversed but these kinds of things not being fixed eventually reflects on the staff.

And as Coach points out, if they don't get it figured out, it is going to be an ugly finish to the season.

Here's the way the numbers sort out.  As you can see, BG had a subpar shooting game and OU had an incredible shooting game.  That shooting % is the worst BG has allowed since that November of 2011 game against GW in (IIRC) the pre-season NIT at the Stroh.  OU shot 74% from 2FG and 45% from 3FG.  BG is the easiest team to shoot on in the conference and they were bad even by their own standards.  In fact, they are #310 in the country.

OU even had more turnovers than BG and won the game by 20 and it should have been more.  BG shot 45% and 33%.

That all equals out to 1.31 points per possession for OU and 1.04 for BG.  That scoring for OU is the best for a BG opponent that wasn't named Cincinnati.

BG wasn't solid on the boards either.  The game was refreshing foul free.  OU only tried 12 FTs and made 10 and BG was 12 of 17.

Individually, BG was led by Rod Caldwell with 12 points on 5 of 7 shooting and 3 assists over 2 TOs.  Wiggins had 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting and 6 rebounds in only 18 minutes, which might seem odd.  Coach singled out his big men for poor defense on ball screens and said teams are exploiting it.  I'm guessing that includes Wiggins.  That's the only reason he wouldn't be on the floor more for a team starved for bigs.

Denny also had 11 on 4 of 7 shooting.  Alcegaire had 10 points on 4 of 12 shooting.  He joined Lillard and Frye in having very long shooting nights.

All the OU starters ended up in double figures.  Jaaron Simmons had his way with BG from the start to the finish.  As Coach said, they tried numerous things on him and "nothing works."  Simmons ended up with 26 points on 10 of 12 shooting, 3 of 4 from 3FG, 3 of 4 from the line, and 11 assists over 4 turnovers.  Hard to have a better night than that.

Lastly, watch out for Jason Carter.  The FR had 19 on 9 of 11 shooting and 5 rebounds.  He's going to be a very good player in this conference.

Here's the story, sad but true.  BG is in 11th place and is 1 game out of a home berth.  However, there are 3 teams ahead of them and none of them have to play Akron and Buffalo in their final four games.  And, they all play each other. Tuesday Akron is at the Stroh and then BG is a Millet on Saturday.  BG found the ability to play well in the first Akron game and maybe they will this time, too, as they did against Toledo.

Saturday in the Convo

So, BG now enters the Convo on Saturday.  Things are rough, as BG plays Ohio and then Akron in the next two games.  BG is 5-8 in the MAC.  Last year they were 5-13 and there's only one really good chance to win on the schedule and that's @Miami.

We won't spend too much time talking about the first OU game at the Stroh because that was the game when BG had the four players suspended and used two football players and OU won 96-72.  Not much to draw from that.

OU is one of the stronger teams in the MAC at 8-5.  They were 3-0 when MAC POTY Antonio Campbell went down.  To their credit, however, they beat Akron since that and have won on the road four times.  Weirdly, they have lost 3 of their last 4 at the Convo.

Anyway, they are clearly in the conversation for a bye and remain one of the most consistent programs in the MAC.

OU's is strong on both ends of the court...and BG is as weak as they are strong.  OU is 5th in the MAC in offense and third in defense.  BG is 10th in both.

OU is very strong on 3 of the 4 areas.  They are 3rd in shooting, 3rd in taking care of the ball and 1st in getting to the FT line, something that looks worrisome following the game in K-zoo on Tuesday.  Their only weakness is that they don't offensive rebound.  They are last in that.  As noted here numerous times, BG is the easiest team to shoot against in the MAC, so that's not a great matchup.

In terms of shooting profile, they are 3FG focused team.  They are 3rd in the MAC in terms of how many 3FGs they take and they are 2nd in making 40%.  They are 5th in 2FGs.  BG is going to need to guard the perimeter effectively if they are going to have a chance to compete.  They are 8th in the MAC in FT shooting.

As noted, they are a very strong defensive team.  This comes from excelling in one thing, really.  They are the hardest team to shoot against in the MAC.  They have the best 3FG defense and are 5th in 2FG defense.  BG is the 10th ranked shooting team in the MAC, and this is the key dynamic on this end.  BG is going to have to make some stops to be competitive.  The remainder of OU's defense is nothing special, though they are also pretty good at keeping teams off the FT line.

The biggest factor in their continuing success without Campbell is Jaaron Simmons.  In MAC play, he is averaging 17 PPG and over 6 assists per game.  He shoots 45% and 40%.  He's a really good player.  The only thing to put a little perspective on those numbers is that he never comes off the floor.  He plays almost 37 minutes a game.  He's 24th in the country in % of minutes played.

Jordan Dartis never comes off the floor either.  He plays 35 minutes  game at the other guard spot.  He scores 14.5 PPG on 50% overall shooting and 49% from 3FG, which is 3rd in the MAC.  He also makes 87% of his FTs.  This is a very efficient offensive player and he's a SO.

Kenny Kaminski is a SR Forward.  At 6'8" he's more of a stretch guy.  He is scoring 11.6 PPG on 39% shooting and 43% 3FG shooting.  He's also an excellent FT shooter.  Jason Carter, a 6'8" FR is scoring 10.9 PPG and grabbing 7 RPG.  He's likely to be all-FR.  He's shooting 47%, which is just OK for a big man.

This looks to be a tough matchup for BG.  OU's kenpom is 104 and BG's best current win is over Kent at 165.  This would be BG's biggest win of the season and a pretty big upset.  Sometimes those things happen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ugly Game Draws Huger Ire

It was ugly, my friends.  I didn't see the game--I had the Todd Walker feed--but you play a 40 minutes game and there are 53 fouls called?  That's just not what anyone wants to see.  As Walker kept saying, the game had no flow.

It went a little farther than that.  BG had 30 of the 53 called against them.  Coach Huger was relatively frustrated and outspoken in the post-game...and in a way that I suspect will get him a letter from the MAC office.  He felt that the calls against BG were bad but also not being called evenly.  "If you are going to make a bad call, make it both ways," he said.

BG played most of the game with players in foul trouble.  Ali, Caldwell and Alcegaire all fouled out, Frye had 4 and Denny 3.

It wasn't the only factor.  He also said that BG missed open shots in the 2nd half, and did a poor job on the defensive boards.  And that's pretty much what you see below.

The shooting was pretty even and neither team took good care of the ball.  However, WMU had 11 offensive rebounds on 28 opportunities--and almost all of those in the 2nd half--and BG had 8 of 35.  And, WMU had an incredible 31 of 37 at the line and BG was 17 of 25.  Thomas Wilder was 15 for 15.

So, you're 14 down on FTs and you lose by 10...that's your problem right there.  I didn't see the game so I don't have any real comment on the officiating, except to say that Huger isn't a perpetual whiner about officiating (cough cough Dan Dakich) so it carries some weight that he was upset about this.

If you are curious, WMU had this kind of FT rate last year when the teams played, but BG won.  Maybe if Hawkins is fired we can get away from games like this.  The last time BG allowed a higher FT rate was in December 2012 at Valpo.

Individually, Rod Caldwell led BG with 15 points.  That's 3-8 shooting (3-7 from 3FG) and 6-6 from the line.  He also had 3 assists and 1 turnover.  Frye had 13 on 5 of 10 shooting and 4 assists over 1 turnover.  Denny had a very efficient 13...4 of 6 shooting...and Alcegaire had 11 on 4 of 8 shooting.  Wiggins led the team with 7 rebounds (but shot only 3 of 7) and Worrell had 6.  Ali had 1 assist and 3 TOs in 15 minutes.

So, here is where things stand now.  BG is right where they were predicted to be, which is ahead of Miami with only East games left to go and only 2 home games.  However, the last home spot (#8) is only one game away, but that's a complicated story that won't be answered in the positive for BG until they can win some more games.  If they beat Miami and Kent, they'd finish 7-11.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Playing the Broncos in their Corral

So next up is the last team in the MAC that BG has yet to see...the WMU Broncos.  This is a team that has been strong for a long time but has kind of bumped up against some struggles.  I guess there's some talk that Steve Hawkins, the dean of MAC Coaches, will be in his last year there.  Anyway, they started out 2-6 in MAC play but now they have won 3 of the last 4, which is winning against Ohio, @Miami and NIU and a loss @CMU.  Their only home loss in MAC play has been to Akron.

They are 5-7 in MAC play, which is the same record BG has.  This is also one of BG's more winnable games on the road home, and this is one you're going to need to try and get home court, which will be tough enough with a win.

Looking at the basic matchup, WMU is the 4th best offensive team in the MAC and BG is 10th on defense.  On the other side, BG is 10th on offense and WMU is 11th on defense.

So, this is interesting in a little geeky way.  So BG and WMU are  5-7.  You'd expect that with record that a team would have scored roughly what they have given up.  And WMU has...but BG has allowed a lot more than they have scored.  It's because of BG's high number of blowout losses and close wins, which skew the results. (There have been 9 games in MAC play that ended up +20 and BG is on the losing side of 2).

So, as we have seen often, WMU is relatively easy to shoot against.  BG is 10th in the MAC in shooting, however.  The turnovers and reboundings are pretty typical and even.  WMU has always played physical ball under Hawkins and they do let teams to the line a lot.  BG will need to do better getting to the line and making them....BG is last in the MAC in FT%. 

So, on the other side, WMU is a decent shooting team...that figure below is #6 in the MAC, while BG's FG defense is last in the MAC.  They need to get some missed shots to have a chance to compete in this game.  They also take really good care of the ball are good at offensive rebounding and average at getting to the FT line.  They make 71% of their FTs.

Much like BG's other opponents, they don't shoot a lot of 3FGs.  They are 10th in trying 3FGs and 3rd in making them and 7th at making 2FGs.  They have a lot of players who are in the 6'8" range that BG is going to have to handle in the paint better than they did Saturday against Buffalo.

WMU is led by Thomas Wilder, a 6'3" JR G who is scoring 18 PPG on 45% shooting overall and 44% on 3FGs.  That's very efficient and #4 in the MAC.  He also has 3.7 per assists per game.

Their second leading scorer is Tuckey Haymond.  He's a 6'6" SR scoring 14 PPG on 45% and 40% shooting.  Their leading rebounder is 7'0" Seth Dugan at 5.4 rebounds per game in 19 minutes.  They also have FR Brandon Johnson at 6'8" getting 5.2 RPG in 23 minutes

Anyway, BG has been playing better until last Saturday.  They need to resurrect their 40-minute focus...and it wouldn't be terrible to fix the interior defense we saw on Saturday.  WMU plays a tough, physical game, something BG had trouble with against Buffalo.

One last piece of news, Coach announced Saturday that Turner and Uju will both redshirt this year and will not return. They will join a four-person FR class bringing new blood into the Falcon program next season.

Buffalo Pounds Falcons

BG's 3 game winning streak came to an end at the Stroh Saturday, and it was a game that clearly showed who the better team was, with UB winning 88-74.

BG came out playing like the team we hoped we were evolving into.  BG led the entire first half and by as much as 8 at one point.  The Falcons were up 3 at the break.

In the second half, UB just showed that they are a much tougher and more resilient team.  Much like when we play Akron, we were playing against a team that just knows how to win games and how to take their play up a notch.  Punched in the mouth, BG had no response this time.  BG had played two long, high-energy games before this, but this is what conference play requires and the Bulls had it and the Falcons didn't.  As Coach said after the game, we need to get more mentally tough.

Buffalo tied the game 2 minutes into the 2nd half and then had a lead a minute later.  With about 15 minutes left, UB had a 1-point lead.  Then they went on a 16-2 run over the next 5 minutes to essentially win the game.  They pounded the ball inside relentlessly and effectively while BG was unable to get inside on its end, turning the ball over and missing outside shots.  Coach Huger tried some different combinations, but none of them were able to get things resolved.

BG never got the lead inside 10.  With about 5 minutes left they got it to 11, but the Bulls turned it back on again, scoring the next 6 points.

So, here's the story of the game and it is pretty clear.  BG is the easiest team to shoot against in the MAC and that was clear here.  BG is also the easiest team to shoot 2FGs against.  The Falcons had 1-point per possession, which is below the league average.  The Falcons did shoot above average, with 42% on 2FGs and a strong 48% on 3FGs.  However, Buffalo shot an incredible 74% on their 2FGs and 36% on their 3FGs.  The 74% is the highest allowed under Coach Huger.  The Bulls ended up with 1.19 points per possession.

This is the 7th time this year BG has allowed 60% EFG or more in a MAC game.  The best shooting team in the country only averages 61.5%.  BG has been consistently allowing that kind of shooting over recent games and winning because they have been shooting well.  I don't think we are likely to stay successful, however, on that model.  

BG was helped by turnovers.  Buffalo shot well the whole game but had turnovers early and then eliminated them when they made their run.  They had a good day on the offensive boards--BG seemed to just drop several defensive rebounds--and then the FT was a disaster.  BG's 2 defense is poor which leads to baskets and fouls.  UB was 17 of 26 at the line, which is only 65%, but BG was 7 of 13, which is 54%.

Individually, Dylan Frye had a big game for the Falcons.  He scored 20 points in 25 minutes, on 8 of 14 and 4 of 7 shooting and added 7 rebounds.  Zack Denny had 12 points on 5 of 11 and 2 of 2 shooting.  BG's PGs both had 8 points, but Caldwell only shot 3 of 9 and Ali had 3 assists and 3 steals to go with 4 turnovers.  Wiggins had 8 rebounds but saw his FTs continue to regress (3-7).  Alcegiare and Lillard continued to struggle to make shots.

I like Buffalo.  Akron is clearly the favorite to win the MAC, but I would not count Buffalo out in the tournament.  They are tough and they have strong players at numerous positions.  I'm not sure they have enough to handle Johnson on the inside, but we shall see.  Beyond that, they asserted themselves in the 2nd half against BG and the Falcons didn't have a response.

I would circle the AK @ UB game on your calendar.  Right now, with Campbell out, I think those are the two best teams in the MAC.

Here's how things look it we started the tournament now.  BG woiuld be on the road, but has the same record as the last team with a home spot, which is EMU.  BG has a tougher road, because with 6 games left they have 4 away games and EMU has 3, WMU has 2 and KSU had 3.  Also, BG loses the tiebreaker to EMU.  Which means that the game Tuesday is important or even critical for BG's chances to getting that home game, which are slim anyway.  WMU is not a great team and if BG is going to rally with a strong road performance, this would be the time to do it.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Buffalo Comes to Town

So here come the Buffalo Bulls.  This is going to be interesting.  First, BG has won three straight games for the first time in the Huger era.  They had a nice crowd for the UT game and rewarded the fans with a win.  Hopefully, some of those people will be back.  With the logjammed MAC, both teams are in the running for a home spot or even, at least mathematically, a bye.

Buffalo started 3-5 in MAC play, but since then they have also won 3 in a row.  They beat CMU by 10 in Buffalo, won @Ball State by 27 and then beat NIU by 20.  So, they have been winning and blowing people out of late.  They lost to Miami...and @UT by 32.

And, they are two-time defending MAC Champions.

So, starting at the top...the UB defense is 3rd in the MAC and BG is 10th, so that's actually a pretty even match up.  Where the difference comes is on offense for UB.  It is interesting...UB is 8th in offense and BG is 8th in defense, which oddly leaves BG allowing more points than UB is used to scoring.  A little about the UB hot streak in a second, but for now it would appear to me that BG's ability to defend is going to be key to winning the game.

We will start with the close one first.  As you can see, what BG is used to doing offensively is what UB is used to allowing.  Which is not too much.  They are 2nd at defending the shot and 4th and keeping teams off the boards.  The big difference is at the FT line.  UB is 10th in the MAC in allowing teams to the FT line.

On the other side of the ledger, we see stats for the entire MAC season.  UB is 9th in FG shooting, 6th at taking care of the ball, 4th at offensive rebounding and 8th at getting to the FT line.  You always look here for the spreads...and it comes on the most important factor.  BG is 11th defending the shot, so you have a poor shooting team against a poor FG defense team.

One thing that's interesting is that until their last game, UB had been very hot shooting.  Counting the Akron 1-point loss, the CMU win and the Ball State win, UB shot 45%, 42% and 46% from 3FG.  They had over 1.2 points per possession in each of the games.  (The NIU win they got when NIU couldn't make any shots at all). 

So, anyway, that makes them a different team, as we see here.  For the year, UB is last in the MAC in 3FG% and 4th in the rate they try them.  Unless BG shoots as well as they did against UT, they are going to need to get some stops to keep UB close.  

They are also pretty much as poor at shooting FTs as BG is.

UB has four players scoring in double figures (all games now).  Two are seniors and 2 are sophomores.  Their leading scorer is Blake Hamilton with a relatively inefficient 16.8 PPG on 42% shooting, 4.4 assists per game and 6.4 RPG.  

So. CJ Massinburg is scoring 14 PPG with pretty much the exactly shooting percentages as Hamilton.   Classmate Nick Perkins is scoring 13.9 PPG on 44% shooting and a team high 7.2 RPG.  G Willie Conner scores 12.9 PPG on 41% shooting.

Buffalo is playing really well and BG is playing as well as it has all season.  This is an opportunity to show some sustained success at home, where you need to win.  (Home teams are winning 59% of conference games, making the MAC the 15th toughest conference to win on the road in).  I have said several times this year that BG had yet to really exceed expectations at any point.  I'd say beating UT and Kent in the same week is the first time.  A 4th straight win would be a for sure.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Sweet Road Victory....

Are you kidding me?  I mean....are you kidding me?

After Saturday's 2 OT thriller, BG came back and played an overtime game at Kent.  This one was every bit the thriller that the UT game was.  OK, maybe not every bit, but certainly a thrilling game which saw BG rally from a nearly impossible position to win the game on the road, 84-83.

And yes, they caught a huge break from Kent at the end.  There are no bad road wins in conference play.  None.  K?

Well, and there's actually more to it than that.  BG was in the lead most of the way, and while you're not happy to blow a lead late, it wasn't like it was one-sided the whole way and BG snuck in at the end.  BG controlled the game most of the way, leading for almost 36 minutes out of 45.  Kent led for less than 4 minutes.

With 4 minutes left in the game, BG was up by 9 points.  BG had a couple empty possessions while Kent made 5 FTs to get the lead down to 4 with about 2:30 left.  Frye split a couple FTs and BG was up 5 again.  Zabo and Frye matched 2 FTS and BG was still up 5 with 2 minutes left.  Then, Kent drained a 3FG to get it to 2.  BG was back up 4 with 1:26 left when things quit bouncing back and forth.

BG forced a Kent missed shot but the Flashes got the board and hit a jumper.  Lillard missed for BG and Kent hit another jumper and the game was tied with :25.  BG had one of those possessions where you hold it until the end and worse you can do is OT.  Jimmy Hall blocked a Dylan Frye shot, it went OB and then Ish Ali missed a 3FG to end regulation.

Halfway through the overtime, both teams had only one basket and it was still tied, 77-77.  The game was tied at 79 with 1:20 to play.  And then there was a sequence that really should have been decisive for Kent.  Ridenour scored and then stole the ball from Lillard on the other end with :41 left.  They ran the clock to :14 and Ridenour scored again to put Kent up 4 with :14 left.  At this point, it should be over.

Rod Caldwell ran down the court and drained a 3FG with :09 left.  BG called time out.  Kent just had to inbound the ball, get a BG foul and make it very tough for the Falcons.  Instead, Kent inbounded the ball and essentially fumbled it out of bounds.  (Julian Edelman ain't walking through that door).  BG had the ball with :06 left.  No timeouts, so they inbound the ball.  It doesn't go well.  Caldwell launches a prayer, total airball, but Wiggins snatches the ball Lorenzo Charles style and puts it home to put BG ahead, however improbably.

There was 1.2 left.  Kent inbounded, BG knocked it OB.  After a long review, Kent got to inbound again and fired a shot up.  From Todd Walker's description, it looked like Worrell grabbed the ball below the rim as it came down, but Kent started to scream right away for goaltending.  This is exactly the kind of goofy call you can see the MAC's officials making, so you are kind of wincing a little bit.  But it was determined that there was no shot, so no goaltending and BG had its second straight overtime win.  (Here's the SportsCenter Clip)

On the stats, it was a little bit more of a normal game, with BG scoring 1.06 points per possession and Kent 1.05.  BG shot the ball fairly well--that's a couple points ahead of the NCAA average--and took good care of the ball.  The Falcons even had an decent/average day on the offensive boards.  Their biggest weakness was at the FT line, where they shot only 62%.

On defense, Kent shot about as well as BG did, however they had 6 additional turnovers--and one particularly deadly one.  BG also did a better than expected day on the defensive boards.  Kent was getting 40% and BG held them to 34%, which is good if not great.  And Kent got to the line less, though they made 82% and ended up +2 on FTs against BG.

BG was led by Matt Fox, who had a huge game with 5 of 7 from 3FG and 3 of 4 from the line to net out 18 points and a team-high.  He also had 3 assists and 0 turnovers.  Wiggins had 16 on 7 of 10 shooting (and one huge one) and 8 rebounds.  Rod Caldwell also had 16 on 4 of 6 3FG shooting (and one huge one).  Dylan Frye had 11 on a tough 3 of 9 shooting night.  He did make 5 of 6 from the line.  Interestingly, BG got production from guys who did not contribute as much in the UT game, whereas the big contributors in that game did not contribute much this game.

BG did good work on Jimmy Hall.  He scored 12 on 4 of 10 shooting and 8 turnovers.

Well, things are getting interesting.  As you can see, 9 of the 12 teams in the MAC have 6 wins or 5 wins.  Things are very log-jammed.  I said I was going to avoid getting too excited until BG had won 3 in a row, which they have now done.  Saturday will be very interesting.  Buffalo is just scorching hot right now.  Hopefully, everyone who was there for the game Saturday will be back and making noise.  This will be a good test for the guys.

MAC standings below, sans tiebreakers.