The Falcons end the cross-over season today with a game at CMU. The standings in the MAC remain very close, and every game is important as teams fight for seeding in the conference tournament.
CMU is one of the bigger disappointments in the MAC. They had won the West two straight years, and then they added the nationally-coveted Trey Zeigler, and you just thought they would be better than this. They have clearly struggled this year. They are 6-17 overall with an RPI of 307. They are 3-7 in the MAC. One of their wins is non-D1. Based on RPI, the best team they have beaten all season is Ohio U.
They lost to Detroit by 26 at home. They lost 41-38 to EMU.
They are 3-1 in the MAC at home, but upon closer reflection, those wins are against UT, NIU and OU, and they lost at home to Miami. They are hanging their hat on their home record (4-5 for the year), but they have been beating teams they should beat on their floor.
So what's the deal with these guys?
The first thing is that they have two really, really good players. Jalin Thomas, a 6'4" Sr Guard, is scoring about 16 and game with 5-6 boards as well. Zeigler (6'5") leads the team in scoring, with nearly 17 points and 5-6 boards as well. As you might expect from a freshman, Zeigler is up and down and is slumping a little right now.
Like most teams that have a good player on a not so good team, these guys are generating these numbers using up lots of possessions. They are both shooting under 40%, and together they account for 55% of CMU's possessions. Zeigler is 3rd in the MAC in possessions, and Thomas is 15th.
Offensively, in total, this is the worst team in the MAC. They average .87 points per possession (all stats from here on in are conference only). They are the worst shooting team in the MAC, in both raw FG% and effective FG%. They are 8th in 3 point shooting and 9th in getting to the line. Even with the EMU game in there as an outlier, (Thomas was injured), they have generally been very poor on offense in MAC play. They do have a decent offensive rebounding line, but on a tempo-free basis they are only 5th in the MAC....ie, they get a lot of offensive rebounds partly because they miss so many shots.
They lead the MAC in fouls.
They are 5th in the MAC in defensive efficiency at .98 points per possession, almost exactly where BG is (.99). They are last in FG% allowed, however, and 6th in effective field goal percentage, indicating that they have the top 3FG defense in the conference. They are also 4th in forcing turnovers, at about the same place BG is.
Chart is for all games
So, it seems to me that the task here is pretty straightforward. On offense, BG needs to get the ball inside. If they take care of the ball and get it inside, it appears that they can score points against this defense. If we get seduced by 3s, it could be different. On defense, we just have to understand Thomas and Zeigler will get their points, and we just have to make them use possessions to get there. We need to play strong defense and force them into bad shots. Finally, BG has got to toughen up on the defensive boards, but that would be true regardless of who we were playing.
This is a tough road challenge, no doubt. BG is a 2 point underdog. This just looks like a favorable matchup to me.