The MAC tour West continues now with two road games...first in Muncie at Ball State. Say what you like, the West is faring a little better this year against the East, and Ball State is clearly a program on the upswing. They do like basketball in Indiana, and I always kind of figure that this program, operated correctly, should be good most of the time.
The Cardinals are 11-9 on the year, playing, on paper, almost an equal schedule with Bowling Green. They have won 5 of their last six, and that has included a win against Miami and @Buffalo and @OU. In this sense, they remind me of us last year, and they are 5-3 in conference play. They are 8-3 at home.
They have a nice win @Indiana State, but their other non-conference wins (SIU-E, UNC-Central, UMES (whatever that is) and Manchester are uninspiring.
BG beat BSU last year at Anderson Arena and has won 3 straight in the series.
Statistically speaking, we first look at Ball State's offense against BG's defense. Ball State plays a lot like Bowling Green, only a little more so. They are not a very good shooting team, and we can expect a pretty serious defensive struggle. They do turn the ball over a little, but BG isn't really one for causing turnovers anyway. Though they shoot poorly, they do a really good job on the offensive boards, which creates some second opportunities, and they are really good at getting to the line.
Flipping things, Ball State is a really good defensive team. Things are pretty evenly matched here, too, with BG showing a slight advantage on the boards, and Ball State also showing little interest in creating turnovers. They also are giving up fewer free throws than BG is used to getting.
Of course, these are averages, and Ball State appears to have been playing well of late. In their last 3 games, they have won WITHOUT shooting 40% from the field, which is truly living out Coach Orr's saying that your shooting percentage should not determine your winning percentage. In two of the games they made more than 20 free throws and shot more than 30.
Individually speaking, Ball State has two double figure scorers, Jarrod Jones and Jauwan Scaife. Jones is also their top rebounder, while Scaife is their best 3-point shooter. They don't foul very much, and have not had a player foul out this season. They have only two seniors and those are not their main players. They are not a big team--Jones is their only legitimate big man.
This will be a tough test. Ball State is playing well and they are home. It will be two teams that play the same style--the question is who will do it better. BG got solid post play against UT, and if Otis and Erik can produce inside in Muncie, I think we can compete. We need to keep BSU from shooting a ton of free throws, and if we can do that, and finish strong as we did @Kent and @EMU, this game is also very winnable.