Saturday, November 05, 2011

Men's Basketball Preview

Hard as it is to believe, we're less than 24 hours from the first men's hoops game in the Stroh Center.  The first is a just an exhibition game with Tiffin, but last year we saw our guys show a first sign of struggle in a weak performance against Adrian.

First, as an overview, I look at where the program is.  And, basically, they are now in a place where there is nowhere to hide.  Coach Orr is starting his fifth season as our coach.  He now has his second year of having his own players.  This is a program he has built.

There has been a little success, but in fairness, it has been limited.  He did win a regular season MAC title, but he has an overall losing record.  He has had a winning season only once and the last two have had losing records.  Yes, things were bad when he took over, but at the same time, that time has passed--these are his circumstances.

I think the Falcon Nation has been pretty patient with the men's basketball program.  In fact, it is perhaps more worrisome that they have reacted more with apathy than anger as the team has struggled.

Things are lined up this year.  As mentioned, these are all Orr guys and there were only two losses from last year, and they were coming off the bench.  There are two seniors coming back off a team that finished 7th in the MAC last year.  You're moving into a new facility....this is the year you have to point to and many have been pointing to.  People are going to be a lot less patient if BG doesn't make a run this year.

So, when the MAC media poll came out earlier, I think BG fans were shocked to see the Falcons picked to finish 6th in the East, and behind Buffalo by a wide margin.  I think you could put us ahead of Buffalo, but I think we'd have been shocked to be picked 5th, too.

Now, that's just a prediction.  It can't be right or wrong until later.  It is based on what people know.  I will do a MAC preview as well, but the East is no picnic, that's for sure.  Kent also only lost a couple guys, and other teams have incoming talent from transfers and started out better than us in the first place.  So, I do recognize that it is not easy.

And yet, if it is that hard, something is wrong.

I said when I wrapped up last season that the key is going to be player development.  BG ended last year behind everyone in the East and basically tied with Buffalo.  BG's players have to get better--not just older--than the players those teams have.  And, we can expect that the other teams have gotten better.  We have to be better than that amount plus the amount we were behind already.

That is about players and coaches.

For example, as a team, BG has to defend better.  BG was either 7th or 8th in the MAC in scoring defense, FG% defense, and rebounding.  They were sixth in forcing turnovers.  This is a team thing, but BG simply must play stronger defense to win consistently.  I think we will score better, but I don't think we have the scorers to win games consistently on offense.

Part of that will be to defend the perimeter.  Only UT gave up more 3s and only two teams gave up a higher percentage on 3s.  BG talks every year about mixing man and zone and yet always ends up exclusively in zone.  We are also told you can defend the 3 from inside the zone....and yet we do not seem to do it.

See here is where that having every guy back thing cuts two ways.  Because we have to get the guys we already have to move from average defense to above average defense.  Coach Orr prides himself on coaching defense, and this is a chance to prove he can get guys to defend in his system at a high level.

BG's offense also struggled, and for this analysis we do it a favor by only including conference games.  BG was 9th in scoring offense, 8th in FG%s, 7th in FT% and dead-dead last in 3-FG.

We heard a lot about how BG wanted to play in the paint and had some success at times, but in general, the scoring was lacking.

I do think there is hope for the offense.  As I wrote in the spring, to me the key is Cam Black.  Black has very nice post moves and if he can be a force down low, he forces team to pay attention to him and to put their center on him.

Which, my theory goes, creates a mismatch for A'uston Calhoun, who I think is very tough to guard for a 4 in this conference.  (Oglesby adds needed depth).

If that can happen, we will have the inside part of the game taken care of...

Then, BG will need to work on the outside, which has been a struggle.  BG has not had consistent outside shooting for some time and did not really have it last year.  Scott Thomas, Dee Brown, and Luke Kraus need to be able to consistently make some baskets, which will help to open up the middle as well.

Finally, Jordon Crawford has to lead effectively from the point.  He has to distribute the ball, force teams to cover him as a shooter and get into the paint himself.  He was good last year, and he needs to be even better this year.

With a team concept and balanced contribution inside and out, this team can improve its scoring.  Whether they get to the level they need is another issue.  Thomas and Brown, for example, were better as juniors, but not a lot better.  Will they make a big jump for their senior year?

BG has some promising guys who will be interesting to watch.  Anthony Henderson will back up at PG and seems highly thought of and Craig Sealey has size and speed, though we seemed to have trouble finding a way to use him last year.  We don't know what to expect out of Chauncey Orr and Jehvon Clarke, who are both freshman.  If they contribute, that would be a nice plus, but you generally don't get much out of freshman.

Again, the question is, how much better did this team get over the off-season?  Just a year older isn't going to be good enough.  At this point, I think fans are reasonable to expect a top 4 finish and a double-bye in Cleveland.  I'd love to see us really bloom as a team...and will be there as often as I can to cheer them on.

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