Friday, March 30, 2012

Men's Basketball...The State of the Program

So, I've posted the reports on the offensive and defensive elements of the team, but now, the questions before us are:

  • Where are we now?
  • What is the future prognosis?
  • Are we achieving as we should?

To start, I would refer you to the last "Ask the AD," where Greg Christopher said that he thought the men's basketball program was going in the "right direction."

We have to keep in mind that given that Coach Orr is staying, there isn't a lot else for him to say.  Could he have said something more like Coach Clawson usually says ("We are making progress but our goal is to win championships and we aren't there,"), sure, he could have said that and still be supportive of the program, because that's what they should all be saying.  He's not a guy on a message board, and if you are staying the course, you can't be half-hearted about it.  You're either in or out.

Before you can get irate about the statement, though, you have to know what the direction is.

I feel the same where here as I do about our stats...the only thing that matters is the relative conference rank.  How are we compared to the teams we are designed to compete with?  I don't care if we beat Michigan State or Malone.

Here are our MAC finishes during the Orr years.  Right direction?  For the Nation, this is a sort of ink blot test.  You can see what you like.  Yes, we have finished 6th or below in 4 of Orr's 5 season and little reason to think we are going to break through next season.  On the other hand, if  you view the 09-10 season as a natural crater built on empty Dakich recruiting classes, than we have steadily built on that.

A couple of thoughts.  The last two Dakich years were pretty grim, though I believed all the time that BG would let him ride the last two years out in his contract, and they did.  And, I think that people would be expecting the same thing this year, if BG hadn't pulled a complete shocker and bought out Brandon with time left on his deal.

I'm not comparing the situations, but other people are.  We saw how mismanaged the football program was under Brandon during Clawson's second year.  Also, the football program had APR issues, and (here I am strictly inferring) people didn't respect Brandon....both of which are not true for Orr.

A lot of people said that Brandon was fired while he had a winning record and we shouldn't fire a coach with a winning record.  He was the exception that proved that rule.

Now, another thing I said when Dakich was here was that you can't hide from the results.  Somebody might be a "good coach" and we might be moving in the "right direction," but is the person a successful coach who wins in a way we can be proud of?  Good is a judgment.  Success is not.  Those are things you cannot hide from.

And the results are just average.

You cannot hide from this fact:  There are 3 elite programs in the MAC that are good year in and year out:  Akron, Kent and OU.  If there's a candidate to break in, it is Buffalo, not BG.

So, if that's our goal, and it almost has to be, then after 5 years we aren't there.  Not only is BG not good every year, but we have only had one season over .500 in the Orr years.

I also think that people felt like this was a year we had a shot.  BG had the 4th most experienced team in the MAC, and Orr's first full recruiting class.  And we finished 6th.  Only 28 D1 teams were as experienced as BG or more and finished .500 or below.

And I have already showed that we under-performed based on our stats.

And those are the facts, as I see it.  Regardless of whether we are going in the right direction, we are not where we should be.

Will next year be better?  Because the whole "right direction" argument does rest on whether the line on that chart keeps moving up.

BG loses quite a bit.  Our two wings are gone, as well as a guy who provided badly needed strength and toughness on the inside.  The guys who are coming up have showed promise at times--Sealey for certain periods, for example, and Clarke if you want to remember individual drives to the basket, but I think it is fair to say that if next year's team is going to be better, we are going to need a lot of production from guys who haven't shown it. Doesn't mean they can't or won't, just means they haven't.   (We do expect Kraus back and we have seen what he can do).

On the other hand, this was a senior-dominated year in the MAC.  Two years ago, it seemed like everyone had a lot of guys back.  Not so much this year.  WMU loses 5 guys AND Stainbrook, 3 teams had 4 seniors and 4 teams had 3 seniors.  That's 8 of 12.  CMU only lost 2 seniors, but they lost Zeigler and could lose McBroom.

I know, OU has everyone back except Groce (apparently).  I'm just saying, maybe the bar is a little lower.  Still, it isn't like we lost nobody and they all lost people.  We riding the tide, and those teams started better than us.

I find it hard to believe next year's team will be much better than this year's team was.  I hope that proves to be wrong.

Which leaves us with two years left on Orr's contract.  I'd really like to see what we hope for--that Clarke, Sealey and Henderson (not to mention Calhoun and Black) jump in and become really good players and the team is better next year and we start to be good consistently.  I just don't see that next year, which leaves Orr trying to do all this in his last year.

Some people have said that he has only had one year to recruit to the Stroh.  I never really accepted the idea you couldn't recruit to Anderson, but to say we have to be in the Stroh for, say, 3 years before we can expect to compete in the nation's 20th ranked conference, that's going to be tough for people to swallow.

Teams just seem to get better faster.  UT, for example, was one of the worst teams in D1 for two seasons, and they would look to be better than BG next year.  EMU was better than BG in one season.

I don't think it is the recruiting, honestly.  It just feels like our guys develop into above average players and maybe into good players but not into great players, and that good teams can figure out ways to beat us even when we play well enough to win.  I believe that observation is supported by the facts.

Certainly, as a collective, our team has gotten the results of an above average and sometimes good but not great program.  I'm sure that's supported by the facts.

Anyway, if you want the state of the program, I would say that I fear the word is "languishing."  I hope that's wrong, because come whatever might come, I'm going to be in my seat again starting in November.  But, for where we are today, that's what I see.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Falcon Football Schedule Out--Fans Screwed

Complete 2012 BGSU Football Schedule
Sat., Sept. 1 - at Florida
Sat., Sept. 8 - vs. Idaho
Sat., Sept. 15 - at Toledo
Sat., Sept. 22 - at Virginia Tech
Sat., Sept. 29 - vs. Rhode Island (Homecoming)
Sat., Oct. 6 - at Akron
Sat., Oct. 13 - vs. Miami (Family Weekend/Varsity BG Weekend)
Sat., Oct. 20 - at UMass
Sat., Oct. 27 - vs. Eastern Michigan
Wed., Nov. 7 - at Ohio, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sat., Nov. 17 - vs. Kent State
Fri., Nov. 23 - vs. Buffalo (ESPNU/ESPN3*)

There it is.

Now, you'll miss the headline if you just look at that.  The real headline is that November 23rd game to be played against Buffalo, the one that looks like a home game, that game will now be played on a neutral field in Columbus, OH at the Crew Soccer Stadium.

Some quick points.  According to the post, if you have already bought your season tickets (which they have been hounding you to do), you will not be refunded for that game.  You can, however, use the ticket exchange to get two additional tickets to another home game (trading something you wanted for something that you didn't want).

The free parking you were promised?  Not for this game.  Sorry.

You want my opinion.  The game should be excluded from the package.

Let's look at the University's statement.  We haven't had anything this juicy and self-delusional to work with since Brandon left.  Here is the statement....

“With students away from campus for Thanksgiving Break, the Buffalo game became an opportunity for us to take BGSU on the road to one of our most populated alumni areas,” said Athletics Director Greg Christopher. “We view this as more than a football game and truly a university-wide effort and event. The Crew are excited about the partnership and we look forward to the unique event.”
Moving the final game to Columbus is an opportunity to provide something unique to our fans.  This will be the first Division I college game played in the Crew Stadium so BGSU will be a part of history.   Columbus is an important area for BGSU football recruiting and currently 12 players are from the Columbus area which will impact attendance.  This is not just a football game—this is a university event. It allows the university to take BGSU on the road to the capital city which will engage a strong base of students, alumni and allows an opportunity for admissions recruiting.  The day after Thanksgiving game has been a challenge from an attendance stand point in Doyt Perry Stadium and similar to Northwestern and Illinois playing at Wrigley Field and Ohio State and Michigan playing hockey at Progressive Field---this is an exciting opportunity for the Falcons to play on a different stage.  
Some comments:

History?  Yeah, history. Someday, we will tell our grandkids that we saw the first Division I college football game at Crew Stadium.  Maybe the last too.  (This argument is insulting).

Yes, Buffalo and Bowling Green at Crew Stadium is exactly like Northwestern and Illinois playing at Wrigley Field.  Great analogy.  (To be fair, they said "similar," which it is not either).

Yes, we have lots of alumni in the area.  Every single one of them now identify themselves as a Buckeye fan.  I'm sure that they are a lot more likely to show up on the day after Thanksgiving than the fans who watch you every week.

Did you think that this might actually be a game with some title implications?  And we are now taking it to a neutral field?

If the day after Thanksgiving is an attendance challenge, play on another day.  If it is ESPN's fault, that's the bed you made.

Finally, the idea that on the day after Thanksgiving, in Columbus OH, we will be having some kind of BGSU festival, where people do that rather than spend time with their families....yeah, that's going to happen.

It is great the Crew are excited, BTW.

So, I'm not a fan.  The Wisconsin game was fine--it was early in the year, they brought fans, and it wasn't a conference game.  And we never get Wisconsin to the Doyt anyway.

Honestly, selling season tickets and moving one of the games 119 miles away is false advertising.  This is bull.

Hey look though.  We finally get to play Akron.

Men's Basketball Offense, Part III

So, now a chance to review the overall trends in our men's basketball offense, just as we did for the defense.  What have the Orr years brought us?

We'll start with an overall notion....the Orr years have been lean offensively. That won't be a surprise to anyone who watched us play those games.  That, combined with being a team that played only average defense, has gotten us where we are today.

Note....stats are ranking in MAC, using conference games only.

Starting, then, with the most important measure, which is offensive efficiency, we see that BG had only been in the top half of the MAC one time during Orr's years, and that was this year.  In 3 of the 5 years, we have been between 9th and 11th.  Now, you can argue that Coach Orr now has his own players...and that this figure is a step in the right direction.  That will be true, if sustained.  If, on the other hand, this is an artifact of our 3 seniors, then it will be tough to keep it going.

Here, we see BG not improving its relative rank at all from last year to this year.  We noted at the end of last season that BG was not the only team with a lot of guys coming back and the team as a whole would need to get better, not just older.  Overall, on offense, they did, but here, despite our C getting a year older, we see that offensive rebounding was in the middle of the pack this year and last year.  I thought one of the strong points of the inside-out attack was the ability to get rebounds, but we have never excelled here.  Oh, and those back-back 6th place finishes are the high point...

The next of the Four Factors is turnover%.  This one is certainly a little bouncy.  The best year was Orr's .over .500 season, when BG finished 4th.  Last year, we were 6th and this year 5th, which sort of mirrors where BG was in the standings, which is one slot higher.  This is a decent number to have if you want to be a decent team, but is not great if we are trying to be an elite team in the MAC.

Finally, free throws.   If there is one thing that is the identity to our program, I would say it is this:  we don't shoot free throws.  Here, we are talking about getting to the line--not even whether we make them, which has also been an issue.  Now, remember, on the defensive side we did note that we rarely foul, so it isn't that we are falling way behind here.  But, we're not drawing fouls, which is not surprising because the team only really had one really good dribble penetrater and he is 5'6".

So, in general, BG was been, at best, an average offensive team and usually worse than that over the last five years.  Which will lead us to the last part of the review of the season for men's basketball.  The ultimate question is whether the team is going in the right direction.  This quote comes from the last "Ask the AD," in which the AD said that BG was going in the right direction.  This has caused a mini firestom inside the nation.  I'll try to look reasonably at whether we are going in the "right direction" or not, but, just to preview, I will also say this:  regardless of where you fall on the directional thing, we certainly hoped to be more competitive than this after 5 years.  On that, I think everyone--including our Coaching Staff and the AD--would be able to agree.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sentinel on Special Teams....

The Sentinel comes in with the third story on Falcon football, this one on special teams.  Things are pretty much where we left them last year.

A couple notes.  First, FG kicking has been a big issue.  Stein did OK when he got in last year, but as Coach noted, we only tried short FGs, and elite teams should be pretty much automatic inside 45 yards.  Kyle Burkhardt has left the program, and we have four kickers on the roster, including Stein, redshirt Tate, incoming FR Farinella, and a guy named Ozcypok (I swear) who has never tried a kick in a game.

Also, kickoffs are an issue because Burkhardt did that.  With that in mind, we can assume that if Stein had the leg for that he would have been doing that.  The FGs are going to be back on the 35 again, so if we just want touchbacks, it is hard to believe we need anything besides Farinella, whose recruiting video is OMG!!!  A touch back in HS should be a touchback in college, right?

Same issue hits kickoff returning.  We talk about Boo Boo returning kickoffs and how good he was, but it remains to be seen what kind of role that will have under the new rules.

Punt returning is also increasingly a small part of the game (teams have strategies on how not to have a kick returned--BG had only 20 returns last year on 66 opponent punts)...Eugene Cooper did our returning and he has graduated.   We have a few likely prospects, including Gates and Joplin.  I understand that sometimes you rip a really nice 50 yard return or get a TD and it can really change a game.  I'd be happy with someone who never fumbled.

Finally, in terms of snapping, Cory Johnson will continue to be the long-snapper, and then Clay Rolf is being trained to be the short snapper (for placekicks).  They like his size if he can make the snaps...he's an athlete, I think he probably can figure it out.

Anyway, you know our feelings here.  Special teams are really important and have been lacking at BG.  At a minimum, you want special teams to not give the game away (as we often did during the Brandon era) and you'd love to be able to make a few game changing plays, as elite teams can do.  I think Clawson has made some progress, and if the placekicking can be improved, I think we can be where we need.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Samuel Breaks Wrist, expected back for Fall

According to the Sentinel, Anthon Samuel, BG TB and MAC Freshman of the Year, broke his wrist in Spring Practice.  He had surgery and should be back at full strength by the end of May and ready for summer/fall workouts.

Spring Report: Defense

So, continuing to work off Jack Carle's previews in the Sentinel, today (Tuesday) we're going to review what they came up with as it relates to the defense.  The key thing I took away is that we were playing guys for too many reps the last couple of years, which could have led to the problems at the end of games.  We want to literally be able to play 22 players over the course of the game, and we have not been able to do that.  Whether we will...this remains to be seen.

One thing...and Clawson acknowledges it in the article, is that while our players are more seasoned, the defense remains very, very young.  He says he's rather have a sophomore who has played than a senior who hasn't (which is nice) but the question is whether our sophomore who has played can compete with an opposing SR. WR who has played, for example.

A few notes:

On the line, Jones, Campbell and Oullette are expected to run a three-man rotation on the inside.  On the end, we have about six guys competing for time, incluing Bryan Thomas, who is back from injury.  Baird and Shaq Hall, both of whom red-shirted, are in the mix as well.

(As we know, this is where it all starts.  Interesting question.  At his season-ender, Coach talked about the team getting stronger over the off-season.  I'd wonder how that was could ask him, but he's not going to say it didn't go well.)

LB is pretty solid.  We have Woods and Swan with DJ Lynch and Gabe Martin in the backup roles.  Woods is one of our two best players, and if the line holds their blocks, he can be a force.

It sounds like the d-backfield is the most unsettled position.  Remembering that two years ago we were bringing in JUCO WRs and moving them to the d-backfield, this is not a terrible surprise.

For example, at CB--we have 3 and Coach says in the story he would like to get to 4.  The 4th does not appear to someone with game-proven ability at Corner.

Safety and Rover are intertwined.  Rover is the hybrid WILL LB that also has to cover slot receivers.  Gates played their last year, but very late in the season he was moved to Safety, just because your safeties have to tackle, and Gates is one of our best player.  Basically, there are a number of guys swirling around here....if no one steps up at Rover, Gates would move back.  There is talk of "cross training" them which means you might only need to go 3 deep instead of 6 deep if the guys are not cross-trained.

Anyway, the defense is getting more experienced.  Given the relative youth, I still feel a little bit like the ceiling might not be terribly high, but they should be moving in the right direction toward being a really, really good unit.  The key is up front.  If we are stronger at the line, then I think we have the ability to make some plays at LB, and keep pressure on the QB and off our D-backs.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Offense Part II...

So, earlier in the week, we established that the offense was actually pretty good...BG was 4th in the MAC in offensive efficiency.  I was pretty surprised to see seemed like BG went through prolonged periods of time where they could not score at all and had virtually no offensive competence.  We said we wanted to play inside out, and I guess we were pretty good when that was working, but when teams packed it in (as CMU did against BG in the MAC Tourney), we didn't have the "outside" necessary to pull them out.

Let's look at the four factors that go into that efficiency.

The most important is FG%. If you thought you observed that BG doesn't like to shoot the 3, you did see that right.  BG was last in the MAC in 3-FGA and 11th in 3s made.  So, by process of elimination, you would expect BG to have a high FG%, since more of their shots were coming closer to the basket.  And that played out pretty much as you would terms of raw FG%, BG was 2nd, shooting 46.6%.

Now, when you look at Effective FG%, which gives teams 1.5 makes for a 3 and 1 for a 2, we can a slightly less optimistic story.  BG falls to 5th in the MAC in EFG%.  That's certainly not terrible, but it does show the impact of teams taking all those 3s and demonstrates the trade off BG makes in playing the way they do.  To win, we'd need to be even better on 2-FGs than we are.

The second most important stat is turnover%.  BG was 5th in this as well, with 20.6%.  Which means that BG was slightly above average in actually getting a shot, and slightly above average in making them when we did get them.

So far, in fact, we are over-performing to be 4th in efficiency.  Oddly, for a team that supposedly wants to play inside, BG does not get to the line.  BG was 11th in the MAC in free throw rate.  Which means they cannot expect much help from the stripe to the overall scoring.  (BG was also 10th in the MAC in FT%, so not only did BG not get to the line, but they didn't convert very often when they did).

Now, you start to think we are really over-achieving.  The final category helps explain, which is offensive rebounding.  BG was 4th in the MAC in offensive rebounds, averaging 35% of their overall missed shots.  This obviously helps, though you'd think getting those second chance shots would lead to a better overall shooting %.

We noted when looking at the defense that the average MAC team got 51% of its points from the field, 28% from 3, and 20% at the line.  BG was 62% FG, 22% 3-FG and 16% FT.  It would be interesting to see how many successful teams are that one-dimensional.  I'd like to think you'd be harder to defend if you successfully found two ways to score instead of one.

Other notes....

Assists are an interesting stat.  First, it seems like they are giving a lot fewer assists than they used to.  More importantly though, it strikes me that there are two kinds of assists.  The ones where you rotate the ball and make an easy pass to an open guy who hits a 3 (relatively easy pass) and then where a PG beats his man, gets into the key and kicks out to a guy who hits a 3 (in my mind, a more real assist).

BG was 9th in assist% and in 5th Assist-turnover ratio.  It is interesting to me that 7 of the 12 teams in the MAC had a ratio less than 1.  BG's was 1.

So, that gives us an idea of how the offense stacked up.  I guess when I looked this over, I don't mean to sound like it was worse than it was.  In fact, with some balance, the team probably had the potential to be better.

Next, we'll look at trends in our offensive basketball...are we moving in the right direction?  Are we establishing, for good or ill, an "identity?"

Falcon Football Update: News on the offense from Sentinel Tribune

So, one season morphs to another.  Spring practice is underway, and there is some news out of Camp Clawson.

The thing that has been most on the mind of the Falcon Nation has been Andre Givens, a RB who was once a huge recruit in Ohio.  He went to Pitt and then a prep school and now he is at BG.  Coach mentioned him in his signing-day presser, he was enrolled last year and expected to be in Spring Practice.  So, when the Spring Prospectus came out and there was NO Andre Givens on the roster, there was some concern.

According to Jack Carle in today's Sentinel Tribune... (Monday)

He (Givens) is now enrolled at Bowling Green, but is not yet on the team, as he attempts to gain his eligibility.

"Hopefully, Andre Givens will get himself eligible," Clawson said. "He's in school taking classes. He has to pass so many credits with a certain GPA (grade-point average). If he does that he will become eligible in the fall and practice with us in fall camp."

So, I think we have to move Mr. Givens to question mark status until the academics clear up.  BG is certainly not weak at RB, with MAC FOY Samuel, Hopgood, and Jamel Martin in the fold, but there is no way a guy like Givens doesn't help you in this league.

Two other things in Carle's story as news...

First, some movement on the O-line.

  • First, Kyle Bryant who played LT until he was injured will move to RT.  
  • Roussos, who played RT, will move to RG, where he will compete with Alex Huettel, who showed promise on the scout team.  
  • Dominic Flewellyn, who Clawson says was BG's most consistent guy on the O-line and Bojicic, will move to LG.  
  • Fahn Cooper and Darion Delaney will compete at LT.  
  • Chip Robinson will play C, competing with Kelii Kekuewa, the JUCO transfer who is here for Spring Ball.

Certainly interesting.  LT is generally considered the most important spot, so I think that it is interesting that two untried guys are ahead of Bryant.  I'm not sure why it matters that Flewellyn plays LG, unless it is also for blind side support.  Coach also noted the important aspect of competition on the he always (always) does.

One last thing.  Jordan Hopgood is not practicing this Spring.  He is "banged up."

Jack is going to look at the defense on Tuesday and (I assume) special teams on Wednesday, so it will be interesting to see if we get high quality information nuggets like these in those previews as well.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Offensive Review, Part I, as I use math

So, we have looked at the to look at the offense.  I was actually really surprised when I looked at this number.  What I expected was something closer to what I felt, which was that the Falcons had trouble (as they say) scoring the ball.  But, in fact, the offense was better than I thought.

In fact, in conference games, BG scored 1.03 points per possession, which was 4th in the MAC.  Given that BG was third in the MAC in points per possession allowed (.96), you have to wonder how we finished 6th.

That difference of .07 per possession doesn't sound like a lot, but in basketball it is pretty big.  In fact, only Akron and Ohio had a higher spread.  That shouldn't be for a 9-7 team.

Here we journey into statistics land.  We are going to apply something created for baseball by Bill James...the pythagorean theory.  The idea is very basic.  Winning a game means that if you score more points, you should win more games.  If you score a lot more points, you should win a lot more games.

The exact relationship---how much difference, how many wins---is where the math guys come in.  Logically, there is no reason to think the same thing would not work for basketball.

Here is the baseball formula...

Now, the basketball formula is going to be a little bit different, because we're scoring 100 points a game (with bigger differences) so the exponent (the little raised number) will have to be higher.  Ken Pomeroy of has done some actual math stuff, running a log5 analysis (oh no he di'nt) and determined the exponent should be 10.25.  So we used that.

So, you run that formula, you get an expected winning percentage, reflect that into actual wins and compare to the season's wit...

So, based on their statistical results, BG should have won 11 games and finished in a tie for 3rd.   Instead, BG won 9 and finished 6th.  In fact, the only team that underperformed more was WMU, who finished on the plus side in terms of scoring and yet was 6-10, putting themselves in the negative side.  This is called the Diophantan exception.

OK, its not.

The point is that BG's results were not in line with what you would expect.  Both our offense and our defense was good enough for us to have the kind of team we would have expected to have.

Now, there are two theories (that I have) for why it happened that way.  One is that BG's trouble closing games caused them to lose games they should have won.  This is hard to imagine, though, because you would still end up with fewer points if you lost the game.  Which leads to the second theory, which I will examine---and that is that BG didn't have good defense and good offense at the same times, which could distort the averages.

Anyway, inside all that is a relatively simply point.  A team that had those kind of scoring stats in a 16 game schedule should certainly have gotten better results than this team got.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Men's Basketball 2012-13 Scheduling.

I know.  HUH?

According to the Internet, (Twitter, not Wikipedia) BG will play Cleveland State in the first round of pre-season NIT at the Crisler "Center" (formally known as Crisler Arena and in Canada as Crisler Centre).  The Crisler Center is located in Ann Arbor, MI and is round.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Defense, Part II

So, now to delve a little bit deeper into the Falcon's defensive performance.  As I have already noted, for all the talk about being a defensively-oriented program, BG's defense has been pretty average over the Orr years. This year, BG had its best year, finishing third in defensive efficiency in the conference.

The primary driving force in this was that BG was able to play its zone, get turnovers and yet not allow a lot of 3-FG shots, which is how the zone is supposed to be played, and with that they became more efficient.  In particular, the perimeter defense seemed much better.

All of these numbers are for MAC games only.  When the year started, oh, wayyyy back in August with a little trip to Toronto, the idea was for BG to be able to put the man to man into their repertoire.  Every year, Coach Orr talks about it, and yet BG ends up playing zone.  This year, he seemed more serious about it, and in fact, BG played a decent amount of zone right up until the conference season started, when they kind of suddenly switched back to zone and went back to exclusive (or nearly exclusive) zones.  I didn't really understand it at the time, because we seemed to be as good in man as we were in zone, but it did get results, so no complaints here.

A few notes:

BG limited opponents in getting shooting possessions.  BG was 3rd in the MAC in turnover percentage defense and 4th in the MAC in steal%.  That's very important, because any shot can go in, but a turnover is forever.

BG did a great job on defending the 3.  The Falcons were 5th in FG% allowed and allowed the 4th fewest made 3s.  This is a huge improvement from other years, when BG was torched out there.

In fact, the average MAC teams gets 51% of their points from 2-FG, 28% from 3-FG and 20% from FTs.  BG allowed only 26% from 3 (3rd in MAC), and 16% from the line (2nd in MAC).  These are the building blocks of the efficient defense we had, when put on top of the non-scoring possessions.

By process of elimination, I think you know where I am going.  BG did have one weakness, and that was actually on the inside.  BG allowed 48.5% on 2-FG, which was 8th in the MAC.  Since the mid-range jumper is largely gone, those baskets are largely in the paint, and given BG's poor defense of the boards, on second chance baskets, which I suspect are very high percentage.  Part of this could be the space created by defending the perimiter better.  BG was last in the MAC in blocked shots%, which also impacts these numbers as much as any other.

A note:  I noted earlier that BG has never held the defensive glass effectively during the Orr era, and I heard one of the announcers on the NCAA Tourney say that was a by-product of playing zone, in that you had to go find someone to block out as opposed to playing in your man defense, where you block your guy out.  I checked, Syracuse was 11th in the Big East in this stat.

So, it was a very good defensive year that would have been spectacular if it wasn't for the issues defending 2-FG and offensive rebounds.  Nonetheless, I think this conclusion is clear.  The defense was solid enough for BG to be better than they were.  BG was 0-8 (overall) in games where is scored less than .93 points a game, so BG's defense wasn't that good.  But, there were four games where BG's offense was below its season average, and the defense bailed them out:  (Detroit, Ohio, @Ball State and @FIU.)

Next, the offense.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Men's Basketball, Defense Review Part I

So, now to review and sort out what we saw out there.  We will start with the defense...and here is why. When Coach Orr arrived here, he did it talking about defense.  (for that matter, when Coach Dakich left here, he was talking about defense).  Anyway, there was a lot of "don't let your shooting percentage determine your winning percentage" talk.  My contention has been that for most of his five seasons here, we have, in fact, been more talk than anything else on defense.  So, we start with a kind of historic review, and then in another post we will break down the most recent system specifically.

The data for all these charts was gleaned from, and use conference games only.  The data in the charts show our relative rank to other MAC teams, because I contend it is the only thing that truly is BG in relative relation to the other MAC teams?

The first, and most over-arching defensive measure is listed above...defensive efficiency, or points per possession.  As you can see, BG has been above average only twice during Orr's time here.  Those are also the only times BG had a winning season, and the only times that BG had a significant number of seniors.  (This trend will run throughout the stats).  Anyway, for whatever it is worth, this year's team was the best defensive team of the Orr Era.)

Next, let's look at the numbers that make up this number, starting with effective field goal %, the most important.

As you can see, BG has been generally pretty poor at defending the shot.  The '08-09 season was the best, and this year's team is the second best, though pretty average in the MAC.  (We will see in a second how this year's team went from being not so good against the shot to having the efficiency they had).

The next most important factor is taking care of the ball.  Every turnover a team makes is a possession where there is no chance of scoring and there is often a transition opportunity going the other way.  If a defense causes turnover, they can get away with being a little worse against the shot.  If a team doesn't force turnovers, they have to be stronger against the shot.  If they do both or neither, well, you can follow all that.

And here is the key to BG's defensive efficiency.  In 08-09 we were better against the shot, but didn't force many turnovers.  In 11-12, BG was 3rd in the MAC in forcing turnovers (again, using turnover %) and that combined with decent FG% was enough to be effective on defense.  (There is one other factor--FTs, which we will cover in a second).   BG has steadily improved in forcing turnovers each year, despite playing a zone defense.

The next factor is offensive rebounding....or, in this case, preventing offensive rebounds...

This story continue to get worse as you can see, after steadily improving over Coach Orr's first three years.  We use rebounding percentage so that we can eliminate the effect of allowing fewer offensive rebounds by just allowing fewer missed shots.  This percentage is the best measure of rebounding  Again, you an see that this was the second worst season for BG in preventing offensive boards, and that's with at least four pretty good rebounders on the team.

Finally, one last stat to throw rate.

Free throw rate is free throw attempts per field goal attempt.  This is a tempo free method of expressing the stat while rewarding a team for the trade off to creating turnovers, preventing shots but committing fouls.  Anyway, this has been BG's strongest part of the 4 factors during the Orr Era.  It came on the heels of the Dakich teams, which were routinely whistled for two fouls while the starting lineups were being introduced.  Of course, at that time BG also went from a man defense to a zone defense, but I don't think that completely accounts for it.  I have felt that BG's teams have played better position defense under Orr.  Who knows.  Maybe it is mostly the zone.

OK, one last thing.  In past years, these post-season reviews have focused on teams torching us from beyond the arc because we are in the zone.  Coach Orr says you can play the 2-3 and guard the perimeter, but we never seemed to do it.  In fact, when you look at the effective FG% above, a lot of the struggles are based on teams hitting 3s against us.

Anyway, we did play the zone (and these are conference only stats, and we played mostly zone during the conference season) and we did cover the perimeter much, much better than we did last year and the year before.

A few points...

BG has played good defense off and on, but is hardly a defensive powerhouse.  Certainly, you can't look at these numbers and think that defense is the identity of this program.

It isn't the system.  EMU started playing the same system we did with a bunch of players who had lost a lot of games the year before, and they were good at it right away.

We aren't good on defense year in and year out.  Twice, on senior dominated teams we have gotten the job done.  Now, I know you're going to be better with seniors, but a team that is committed to playing defense should be better year in and year out than this one is.

It will be interesting to see if next year's team will be able to continue our upward defensive trend as Thomas, Brown and Oglesby move on.

Next, we'll take a closer look at the defense for the 11-12 season.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Game by Game proves I suck...

So before the season started, I underwent my normal exercise in humility and tried to predict each game on our schedule.  In the big picture, I saw us being about .500 which was (in fact) right on..I said 15-14 (not counting the bracket buster and the tournament/CIT games) and that's what we were.  Now, I also saw us 8-8 in the MAC and that was one game south of where we ended up.

Any idea that I was right would be disputed by the idea that I was 17-12 for the year, which is kind of sad.

Let's review my excuses....

  • I thought Detroit was going to be pretty good, and by the end of the year they were pretty good, but they were short-handed in the game at the Stroh
  • I thought we could beat GW on our floor, and we probably should have.
  • I didn't think we would beat Temple.  Did you?
  • I thought we would beat WKU and we probably should have, though picking road wins is hazardous.
  • Ditto, Texas-San Antonio.
  • Miami's team deteriorated a lot over the early part of the year, allowing us a surprise and nearly unprecedented win at Millett.
  • I didn't think we would lose to EMU when the season started.  Did you?
  • I didn't think we would win @WMU or @Ball.  I was surprised at how poor both teams were.
  • I didn't think we would beat Kent at the Stroh, but it was one of our better games of the season.
  • I thought we would win at home and@Buffalo.  I honestly didn't think they would be anywhere near as good as they were.

11/11/2011 Howard W  RIGHT
11/13/2011 at Georgia L  RIGHT
11/21/2011 Austin Peay W  RIGHT
11/22/2011 Detroit L  WRONG
11/23/2011 George Washington W  WRONG
11/27/2011 Temple L  WRONG
12/4/2011 at Western Kentucky W  WRONG
12/7/2011 Malone W  RIGHT
12/10/2011 at Valparaiso L  RIGHT
12/17/2011 at Michigan State L  RIGHT
12/22/2011 at Florida International W  RIGHT
12/28/2011 at Duquesne L  RIGHT
1/1/2012 at Texas San Antonio W  WRONG
1/7/2012 * Ohio W  RIGHT
1/11/2012 * Akron L RIGHT
1/14/2012 * at Kent State L  RIGHT
1/18/2012 * at Miami (Ohio) L  WRONG
1/21/2012 * Buffalo W WRONG
1/25/2012 * Central Michigan W RIGHT
1/28/2012 * at Eastern Michigan W WRONG
2/1/2012 * at Western Michigan L WRONG
2/4/2012 * Northern Illinois W  RIGHT
2/8/2012 * at Ball State L  WRONG
2/11/2012 * Toledo W  RIGHT
2/15/2012 * at Ohio L  RIGHT
2/22/2012 * at Akron L  RIGHT
2/25/2012 * Kent State L  WRONG
2/29/2012 * Miami (Ohio) W  RIGHT
3/2/2012 * at Buffalo W  WRONG

Thursday, March 15, 2012

MAC Blogger Roundtable....

So the finale of the MAC Blogger Roundtable is here.  We've had a pretty good year.  Very energetic football blogging, and the basketball effort was a modified success.  We don't have as many blogs covering basketball, and we went with every two has such a solid routine (at least until November) that I think it was a little easier. We got answers this week from Eagle Totem and Bull Run.

1. OU has won the MAC’s automatic bid. What do you think? Did the best team win? What are their chances of making a run in the tourney, especially coming out of a lower seed?

EMUJeremy and Ken Bailey from Eagle Totem think OU has a shot against Michigan.  Tim at Bull Run doesn't see it.  For my part, I have OU making the Sweet Sixteen in most of my brackets.  I definitely think Michigan is overrated and ill-suited to tournament basketball.

2. Akron was dominant for so much of the season and then went 3-4 from the BracketBuster in. What happened?

EMUJeremy says they relied too much on Zeke Marshall, who he feels is overrated, and CMAdler disputes the premise, says the OU game was close and they didn't play that poorly down the stretch.  Bull Run says that OU was hot, Buffalo had the number and everyone in the MAC played badly in the bracket buster.  I wrote the question, so, that partly answers it.  I was surprised they were so dominant all year and played so poorly.  I think teams with depth are tough to beat because they aren't reliant on one guy.

3. Well, we debated it all year, now we can review it directly. What did you think of the MAC tournament format? Did it work? Should they keep it?

CMAdler hates it.  "Suck, suck, suck."  He said it worked very poorly for the women, and for the men, he thinks if you have divisions they should mean something, and you shouldn't have divisions.  EMUJeremy also hated it, but feels it actually disadvantages the top 2 seeds with a long layoff.  He agrees that a #2 seed for EMU would have been unjust.  Bull Run says we should keep it, and I agree.  The extra days off are actually a huge advantage for this time of the season.  I do think we should ditch divisions because it will make the scheduling more even, but I like the format because it creates additional meaning to the regular season.

4. Are there any coaches in the MAC you think won’t be back, either because they’re moving up or moving out?

Events somewhat overtook this one, so I will give everyone a pass on their predictions about Ernie Ziegler.  Everyone seems to agree Taylor is in hot water but probably gets another year and Groce is a candidate to move up.

5. The last I looked, the MAC was the 20th ranked conference. Give your State of the MAC address. Is basketball improving? Is it where it should be? What can make it better4?

For this one, I am running the responses verbatim because I think it is interesting.

I remember the days where the MAC was starting to get two teams in the NCAA tournament. So I would say until the MAC gets back to that, basketball isn’t where it should be.
The MAC still plays an entertaining brand of basketball, but it seems to have been surpassed by others over the last decade. There was a time when the MAC ranked higher than the Missouri Valley and West Coast Conference. Those days are long over. An easy argument can be made that the Colonial has also surpassed the MAC. Right now the MAC is fending off the Horizon League, I’d say top to bottom the MAC is still better but obviously no team in the MAC has come close to the success of Butler. Ray McCallum could have Detroit going strong as well, especially as they build on this years success and bring in Juwan Howard Jr. next year. A player who left the MAC for U of D…
Bull Run:
No, really the MAC should be shooting for a top 15 conference. That's where you start to hit safe double bid territory and its the only goal which is both realistic yet yields Tangible Benefits.
It seems to me Hoops is improving over what it was a couple of years ago but there is a ton of PR damage control that needs to be addressed. The perception of the MAC, both by fans and critics, is a bit worse than the reality of the MAC. Until that perception changes deserving MAC teams will get snubbed (not that we have a deserving at large bid this year, but Akron was close).
The new format is a start. Both the tournament and revenue sharing are good motivators for conference teams to get their act together (Im looking at you MAC West). The other thing we need is for MAC teams to start beating top 50 programs more regularly. You don't have to go into the dome and knock off the orange but the top MAC teams need to knock off top 50 teams at least half the time if they actually want to be seen as top 50 teams.
And, for my part, I believe:
I, like Ken, remember when the MAC was a peer of the MVC and a thinking man's basketball conference.  Conference play remains very exciting.  We are nowhere near being a two-bid league  however, and no MAC team was even close to the bubble this year.  To me, the decision 10 years ago to "save" I-A football in the MAC has diverted resources away from MAC Basketball and signaled the start of this decline.  I think there were really only four quality teams in the MAC this year, and really, not even one marquee player.  Good players, yes, but no national level stars.

Men's Hoops, Done....

Last week I was a little premature in declaring the season, now, unless the website starts a tournament, it's over.

Oakland smoked BG last night.  The game was competitive most of the way, and BG was only down 5 with about 8 minutes left. It was 61-56 at that point, and then Oakland scored 25 points in 8 minutes and held BG to 13 and the Grizz ended up with a 17 point win.  At the end, Oakland was scoring at will, and the Falcons had clearly been beaten.

It was the kind of game that was expected.  There were only 65 possessions, which is BG's average pace for the season, but Oakland scored 1.32 points per possession, well above even their average, and BG's worst defensive game of the season and worst since Akron hung 89 on the Falcons last year.  Oakland shot 48% overall, made 50% of their threes (12 in total), rebounded 40% of their own missed shots, shot 7 more free throws and only had 9 turnovers.

BG had a nice offensive game, though they were playing against one of the worst defensive teams in D1.  At 1.06 points per possession, they were a little bit above their season average, but not great and obviously not enough to keep up with an Oakland team scoring at will for 8 minutes.  BG was 3 of 20 from beyond the arc

Jordon Crawford did have 21 points, shot 54% and had 5 assists over 3 turnovers.  Calhoun had 15 and 7 and shot 58%.  Scott Thomas finished his career with a very Scott Thomas line--11 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists over 1 turnover.  Dee Brown had 10 points in 12 minutes in his final game, and Oglesby played only 13 minutes.

BG seemed to be trying to spread some minutes around.  James Erger played 17 minutes and Orr played 8.

For the Grizz, Reggie Hamilton, the nation's leading scorer at 25 points a game, went all CRAZY on BG, with 37 points on 63% shooting, and 14-15 from the free throw line.  He added 5 assists.  Travis Bader also scored 21 for Oakland.  Hamilton's scoring is the most against BG (according to Todd Walker) since the last time we played Oakland and one of their guys scored 31.  (To be clear, Todd Walker knew who it was, I just don't remember).

Anyway, the other ramification of this is that BG did not, in fact, have its third winning season since the West Virginia Incident.  They finish right at .500, so that's two winning seasons and one .500 season in the 10 years since "it" happened.

Anyway, there will be lots more time to rehash how this all went.  UT heads up to Oakland Saturday hosts Robert Morris Saturday to continue the tournament.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Last post-season win...

In case you was ponderin', BG's last win in the post-season was 37 years ago when the Falcons beat Tennessee in the National Commissioners Invitational Tournament, which, according to Wikipedia (sorry Dr. Messer-Kruse) was the NCAA's attempt to snuff out the NIT.  At the time, only a conference champion could get into the NCAA, so the NCIT was for second place teams.  Could be wrong about that, but the game itself comes from the BG game notes.  Anyway, after two years, the NCAA created the at-large bid and got rid of the NCIT.

Zeigler/Zeiglers Out at CMU...

CMU has fired Ernie Zeigler as men's basketball coach.  He lost 20 games in straight seasons, and in one sense, I don't think it is a big surprise.

Now, in other sense, it kind of is.  That's because there was a package deal between Ernie Zeigler and his son Trey, who was a very highly recruited player and who came to CMU to play for his Dad.  Note those last four words, because there is no chance he is at CMU for any other reason.

Chances are good that when you get rid of one Zeigler, you get rid of them both.  In fact, Trey tweeted "its been real."  He will have plenty of options...

Coach will be paid in excess of $350,000 to buyout his deal.

Grizzly Preview...

So, here we are back again.  After the CMU game, we had sort of said goodbye, but it turns out that it wasn't over in fact, and BG is playing in post-season basketball...hard as that is to believe.  Yeah, it would be cool to make a run, but it hardly feels like an honor, and if we did make a run, it would almost heighten the disappointment in the season as a whole.

Coach Orr was a little defensive in his presser this week, pointing out a number of teams in the NCAA Tourney who lost their last game.  Just a note....there's a difference between a 24-7 Temple team getting in despite a loss in their conference tourney and a 16-15 Falcon team getting in.

Be that as it may.  We are playing in the tournament, which is for mid-majors only, which explains the deep reach they had to make.  There are no brackets.  They are using what they call "the old NIT Model" which means they assign games in future rounds as they go.  This is necessary because the hosting team pays to host the game, so you couldn't have a pure bracket.  Also, I'd be surprised to see BG host a game.

We are playing Oakland.  They are coached by former Falcon Greg Kampe, and have been a good program.  They had a down year at 17-15, though their RPI is 136 (BG is 157) and their schedule was #142 (BG was 140).  They won a home game against Tennessee, and but lost on their floor to OU by 2 and WMU by 15.  They lost 5 times at home and lost twice to teams with an RPI over 200.  Of their 17 wins, 11 came against teams with a 200+ RPI.

We haven't played them since the 07-08 season.  Oakland has won the last 3 games between the teams, two in Oakland and one at BG.  Coach said that we have scrimmaged them, so the team's are familiar.

On the surface, a winnable game for the Falcons.  We have not played a team like Oakland this year.  Starting with their offense and using conference games as a comparison, they are among the most offensively efficient teams in college basketball.  They play at 70 possessions a game (26th in D1), and lead the nation in 3s made.  They are 10th in 3s attempted and 8th in 3-%.  They get to the line a lot, (19th in D1), and are 6th in FTs made.  They are 9th in offensive efficiency (their average is 1.15 points per possession, a total BG reached only four times this season), 4th in points per game and 9th in effective FG%.  This is a high-powered offensive team.

You might be wondering?  How does a team like that end up 17-15?  Well, basketball is a funny game.  After you score, the other team always gets the ball.  And that's an issue for the Grizzlies.  Keeping in mind that there are 345 D1 teams, and using conference stats only, they are below 300th in defensive efficiency (#324), 3-FG% allowed (#319), 3-FG allowed (#331), FG% allowed (#331), effective FG% (#333) and points allowed per game (#336).

Like I said, we haven't played anybody like this.

Oakland is led by the leading scorer in the nation, a dude named Reggie Hamilton.  He's 5'11" and a senior--he transferred from Missouri-KC.  He is averaging 25 points a game, which is how much BG gets from its top two scorers combined.  Nobody gets that many points without shooting a lot, and he takes 34% of their shots.  Even with that, his offensive rating of 117 is pretty good for a guard who shoots that often.  He is 6th in the nation in 3-FG and 1st in free throws made.  He shoots 87% from the line.

They also have Travis Bader scoring 15 points a game and Drew Valentine scoring 11.  Valentine also gets 7 rebounds a game (remember the high tempo) as does Fr. Big Core Petros.  Hamilton gets 5 assists in addition to his scoring.

I honestly don't have a feel for how this game will go.  On the surface, you would think that BG would try to slow the game down--Coach said we don't want to "play tag" with them.  On the other hand, if BG is getting its open looks to fall, we might well get into a running match with them, especially with seniors playing with house money.  The closest team that plays this style that BG plays is Duquesne and they have beaten us pretty consistently, but they are a lot better at it than these Oakland guys are.

From that perspective, it should be interesting to see how the styles clash.  As I said, this is clearly a winnable game (Oakland is a 4-point favorite).  What you never know with these lower-tier tourneys is who wants to play.  Who sees it as an opportunity, and who sees it as a chore or playing out the string?  That will also have to be answered, and will, one way or the other, about 9 PM tonight.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Half of MAC makes "post-season"

Fully one half of the teams in the MAC have extended their season with play in one tournament or another.  Six of the 12 teams will be able to keep playing for at least one more game...let's see who.

OU, as you know, is in the NCAA Tourney and drew Michigan.  Obviously, Michigan should be favored but I do think they are overrated by a little and OU could have gotten a worse draw with a 13 seed.  They are not a physical team, which I think is always a break for a MAC team.  They will play Friday in Nashville at a team which is being kept secret.

Akron gets the NIT, based on its regular season championship.  The best thing that ever happened to the NIT was having two tournaments come in beneath it.  Actually doesn't look as bad now.  Akron will play Northwestern in Evanston.  That game will be tomorrow at 9, and will be nationally televised.  If Akron is playing well, they are certainly capable of winning that game.  Northwestern also plays a non-physical style.  However, Akron limped home pretty bad, and I always worry that the players who have been counting on being in the Big Dance since February will not be able to get up for this one.  Of course, that could apply to Northwestern, too.

As mentioned yesterday, BG will play at Oakland on Wednesday at 7 pm.  Oakland was only 17-15 this year in the Summit and lost 5 times at home.  Their RPI is slightly higher than BG's and while they should be favored on their floor, you have to think that this one could actually be winnable.

UT also made post-season.  They host McNeese State tomorrow night.  McNeese is also barely over .500 (and below .500 in D1 games, they had 3 non-D1 wins), but has a much higher RPI than Toledo, who had an even softer non-conference schedule.  McNeese finished 4th in the Southland, lost 5-7 coming home.  This game is very winnable for the Rockets.

Buffalo is playing at American University.  This is a little tougher assignment.  Buffalo has a much higher RPI, but American was 20-11 on the year and they are playing at home, where they were 13-1.  This one has the potential to be a really good game.  (Wednesday, 7:30)

Finally, Kent is also in the CIT, playing South Carolina-Upstate.  This game is similar and could be interesting.  Kent has an RPI of 108, but Upstate's is 142.  They were 20-11.  (They are the Spartans).  They also only lost one home game.  This game is Thursday at 7 pm.  Kent should really win this one.

Anyway, college basketball has become like college football--you don't need a great record to make some kind of post-season play.  Obviously, we'll all be watching for OU on Friday....a Big Dance win is great for the conference's prestige and pocketbook.  Beyond that, if someone can make a run in one of the minor tournaments, why not?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Falcon Men In Post-Season Play...

Hard as it might seem to believe, BG's men's basketball team will play in the post-season.  They have accepted a bid to the tournament, and will play @Oakland Wednesday night at 7 pm.

I'm not sure how I feel about this.  I heard rumors about this for a little, but I couldn't imagine they were true.  BG was 15-15 against D1 competition, 6th in the MAC....just hard to believe that this is a post-season team, even as watered down as it gets.

I'm torn...on one hand, the year and its finish was so disappointing that it is hard to get excited about going on, especially given the lackluster effort we got when we had a chance to keep playing.

Of course, I'm a fan, and I'm happy that Thomas, Brown and Oglesby, each of whom has given all they had to the Falcon program, will get to play at least one more game.

For that sake alone, I wouldn't say what many fans are saying....that BG should have turned this opportunity down.

But, it doesn't do anything to mitigate what the season was.  It just means that there are way too many post-season spots.

List of Shame grows one shorter

There are now 12 on the list--the list of teams with longer tournament droughts than the BG Falcons.  Note, we're only counting teams that had programs in 1968...there are plenty of teams who have never been at all, but the number of drought years is still less than BG's.

Last year, Centenary dropped out of D1 basketball, in one way leaving the list and in one way ensuring their permanent place on it.  Harvard, after narrowly missing last year, has snapped their dry spell.  It was looking for much of the year that Northwestern might find their way off it, too, but they remain with the rest of us.

Here's the list....maybe next year...

Columbia: Last appeared in 1968
Tennessee Tech: Last appeared in 1963
Yale: Last appeared in 1962
Maine: Division I since 1962
New Hampshire: Division I since 1962
Dartmouth: Last appeared in 1959
Harvard: Last appeared in 1946
Army: Division I since 1948
Citadel: Division I since 1948
Northwestern: Division I since 1948
St. Francis (N.Y.): Division I since 1948
William & Mary: Division I since 1948

Kittens Rule the MAC

And so what started with a few exhibiton games games back in March has now come to an end.  The OU Bobcats have won the MAC Tournament and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.  They played an excellent game last night against Akron, and came up with the plays they needed to win the game.

For example, with about 5:30 left it was a 2 point game, and on 2 straight possessions Cooper picked up steals, once leading to a layup and once leading to a 3, and OU was up 7 with 4:19 left.  Akron rallied back, and was down 1 with less than 90 seconds left, OU came out big again, this time with stops.  Akron had a late possession, now down 3, and OU did what I think is smart, which is to foul before the team can even get near the 3-point line.

Now, I have been carrying on about DJ Cooper over the past week or so because I feel he is the most overrated player in the MAC.  I used facts, too.  Anyway, to give him his due, he had a very nice game last night.  Cooper had 23 points on 50% shooting, 4 of 7 from 3, with 6 assists and 4 steals on top of 2 turnovers, and two of the steals were in critical times.  He won the tournament MVP and probably deserved it.

To my point, however, last night, Abreu had 19 points and he only took 5 field goal attempts.  He made them all, including 3 treys, shooting 6 of 7 from the line.  He added 7 assists.  That's making very good use of your possessions.  He did have 5 turnovers and two of them coming down the stretch, but still, Abreu had a pretty good night and I'd take him over Cooper this year.

And so, the Bobcats made the plays in the final minutes and Akron did not, and OU heads to the NCAA.  Akron was a 14 in the latest projections, and I'd expect Ohio to end up in about the same spot.  (Update:  Lunardi has then as a #13 seed).

Akron--dominant for most of the season, was only 3-4 coming home (after the Bracket Buster) and two of those four losses were to Ohio.  They head to the NIT.

One last note.  Groce has to become a hot commodity and that would only get higher if they pulled an upset in the tourney.  He was the first name mentioned for the Nebraska job (which would be an interesting coincidence because he would be the second OU coach to go to Lincoln to try and make his way in the world--Danny Nee was the first) and it could be for others.  The Huskers are supposedly opening up the checkbook for basketball now that they are in the Big 10, so it could actually be a pretty good opportunity.

It would not surprise me if he was not back when we start this all next year.  That would become a pretty plum job, because OU was 22-7 this year with no seniors producing at all.  Next year's team will feature 5 seniors and start to look pretty dangerous.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

MAC Tournament so far...

On the MAC tournament so far...

The new format has given the MAC exactly what it wanted, which, I believe, was to ensure that its best teams won the only bid, thereby increasing the chances of the MAC making a run in the Big Dance, thereby enriching the coffers of our fair league.

Anyway, the first two rounds saw a couple of upsets.  WMU and UT emerged to make the quarter finals.  However, they lost against OU and Kent, who had been waiting there for them, leaving the top 4 MAC teams in the semi-final.

Now, that was how it was supposed to be.  I also think, however, that there were 4 teams in the MAC this year that set themselves apart and a gulf following them.  So, maybe that's just how it was.  The league is not deep this year, nor has it been deep in quite a while.

It is possible you think that having an underdog make a big run is what makes a tournament exciting.  That's not what the MAC is going for.

So, anyway, for year one, it has worked.

Last night's games were excellent.  Akron has now beaten their arch-rival Kent 3 times in the same season, and that's a significant accomplishment.  Last night's win was solid, Akron was in control most of the way.

In the other semi, Ohio beat Buffalo in an excellent game.  Mitchell Watt was just unstoppable on the inside (and occasionally on the outside).  He was just great.  OU got a typical DJ Cooper game out of DJ Cooper, though he did have 9 assists, but got some surprise inside play from TJ Hall and Reggie Keeley.  

OU had held nice leads the whole way, and when Buffalo closed the gap in the final minutes, Ivo Baltic, a player I have always liked a lot, nailed jumpers on 2 straight possessions to put OU in position to win. Thanks to Bobcat missed FTs, the last minute was crazy, but ultimately a smoky kitchen without any actual fire.

So, tonight, it is Akron against OU for the bid.  Akron has one unique thing, as it relates to making a run, and that is while the Zips have good guard play (the key to tourney upsets), they have Zeke Marshall on the inside, and won't be automatically victimized by a team that can get the ball inside.  

OU also has some guards, but they don't have the true big man, which can often be a problem, especially when you are a 13/14 seed.  (Lunardi has the Zips as a 14 seed.)

Anyway, the action at the Q is what the MAC wanted, which is to have the chalk play.  I think the four best teams in the MAC played last night, and it provided a good night of basketball.  Tonight's game should be much of an advantage does Akron have, only playing on the second straight night, while OU is playing on their third?

Well, that will have to be determined.  I do like Akron in the game.  That's just a very solid team with depth and experience.

One last note.  Akron has been in the MAC Championship the last 6 years.  That's impressive.  Why can't BG build a program like that?

Oh:  one more thing.  We also didn't have an unqualified West Champion polluting one of the byes.  The four best teams were there.  In another year, Kent would have been playing TWO extra games.  And the East had all the final four slots, as it should be.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

OK Temple. Leave Already.

Got it?  Go.  Leave $6M on the dresser, pull your pants up and get out.  K?

You have acted like you were always too good to be in the MAC, yet when we took you in, you were on the verge of not being a I-A program.  You stunk, no one wanted you and you came begging.

Now, look at you.  Off to the Big East.  Mr. Fancy.

Were they the ones that kicked you out before?  Ouch.  Yeah, you always wanted Daddy's approval.

Go.  I had a nice time this afternoon deleting all your feeds from the blog and twitter.

Hey, thanks for the $6M though.  We will put it to good use.  We might put a deck on, or pay some bills or maybe we'll finally buy that vacation home on the Lake.   Or we might buy the Charlotte Bobcats.  Who knows?

Meanwhile, BG moves baaaccccccck to the East, after an undefeated and untied stay in the West.  Rumors that we will spend some part of the $6M on a study of what it would take to get BG and Akron to play are unconfirmed.

And don't are leaving with losses to us in football and men's basketball...good times.

I leave you with the pride of Hibbing MN, a good midwestern boy.  Lyrics used utterly without permission.

I’m walkin’ down that long, lonesome road, babe
Where I’m bound, I can’t tell
But goodbye’s too good a word, gal
So I’ll just say fare thee well
I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don’t mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don’t think twice, it’s all right

All-MAC Teams are in....

So, the All-MAC team is out...only a little bit of quibbling over a couple of things.  But first, a couple things I applaud....

  • Recognizing Zeigler for what he has been on the court.
  • Recognizing Lampley
  • Four of the first five players, all of whom are well deserving.

Now, my major quibble is with Cooper, who I think is badly overrated.  In fact, I think Abreu is the more valuable player.  Yes, Cooper is a better scorer.  However, DJ Cooper uses up 28% of his team's possessions and Abreu uses up only 18%.  Let's look.  Who would you rather have?

Again, Cooper scores, but he misses a ton of shots.  His FG% is awful.  Meanwhile, Abreu scores his points economically, and saves possessions for his teammates, many of whom can score.  They have the same rate of getting to the life, Abreu is a better FT shooter.  Cooper is awful from 3, Abreu is better.  Abreu has a much better offensive rating, which measures points per possession used.

Yes, Cooper gives you an assist a game, but he also takes .3 of that back with more turnovers, and their turnover ration is very close.  You get almost one more steal a game with Cooper and their +/- is also pretty similar.  You want my opinion?  Abreu is on balance the more productive player and Cooper is overrated.

Beyond that, I would have liked to see Scott Thomas as second team and Calhoun as third team, but I can't really quibble with that too much.  I think the league is responding to the fact that teams are game planning around Calhoun and therefore he's a valuable player.  Which he is.

I really like Cvetinovic, but other than maybe Jones, I can't see him moving up. He is constrained because in the Dambrot system no one really racks up huge minutes.  Zeke Marshall might be the best player on the 2nd team.

The rest of it all looks good and I think the All-freshman team looks reasonable too.  Anyway, for your perusal.

All-MAC First Team
Mitchell Watt, Buffalo
Javon McCrea, Buffalo
Justin Greene, Kent State
Julian Mavunga, Miami
D.J. Cooper, Ohio

All-MAC Second Team
Zeke Marshall, Akron
Alex Abreu, Akron
Jarrod Jones, Ball State
A'uston Calhoun, Bowling Green
Rian Pearson, Toledo

All-MAC Third Team
Nikola Cvetinovic, Akron
Scott Thomas, Bowling Green
Trey Zeigler, Central Michigan
Darrell Lampley, Eastern Michigan
Michael Porrini, Kent State

Honorable Mention
Randal Holt, Kent State
Carlton Guyton, Kent State
Ivo Baltic, Ohio
Walter Offutt, Ohio
Curtis Dennis, Toledo
Flenard Whitfield, Western Michigan

All-Freshman Team
Aaron Adeoye, Ball State
Austin McBroom, Central Michigan
Brian Sullivan, Miami
Abdel Nader, Northern Illinois
Julius Brown, Toledo

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Henryville, IN Needs Help

Hey, everyone, our colleagues over at Over the Pylon, the excellent Ball State blog are putting out the word about Henryville, IN.  That's a little town that is more or less gone after the tornadoes late last week.  They need help.  If you are so inclined, click here and see how you can help...

When you say its over, that's the time I fall in love again...

And that's that.  From the hot days of August to a snowy March day, the arc has played itself out.  A losing football season that had promise, and a barely winning men's basketball season that was promise unfulfilled.

The men's basketball team completed their arc with a loss last night, perhaps the worst loss of the season.  RPI wise, it was our worst loss of the season.  Add in that CMU's star, Trey Zeigler, shot 1-11 and had 3 points, and you'd definitely think you'd be winning that game.

Coaches Orr and Hopson both said that the tournament is a whole new season...the whole thing starts over.  That doesn't really help make it better.  Bowling Green never should have lost at home to that team, especially in a win or go home situation.

The second half was about as ugly a half of basketball as BG has played this year.  Both Coaches said that you need a sense or urgency, and that BG did not play with it last night.  I noted last night that BG fell into dreadful offense and could not buy a basket.  Coach in his presser said that we didn't guard in the second half.  Both are probably true.

BG shot 27% in the second half and was 1-11 from 3.  The Falcons only turned the ball over 4 times in the half, so shots were getting to the rim, but they just wouldn't go in.  (To be fair, Coach did say that we didn't shoot well enough to win, but his answer to that is to play better defense.)  One last note---BG had 8 offensive rebounds in the second half and STILL shot 27%.

On the other end, CMU shot 61% and 5 of 6 from 3.  That's an effective field goal % of 69%.  So, yeah, we definitely didn't guard well enough to win in the second half.  That's from a CMU team that was the 10th best shooting team in the MAC over the MAC season.  And with their top scorer completely ineffective.

Coach makes the point that "we still had a chance to win the game," channeling his inner Gregg Brandon.  The fact that we played so poorly and still almost one just makes it all the more disappointing.  Shoot 35% in the second half and we win.

The end was wild.  BG was ahead when the game hit the 2:00 mark, but Zeigler got an offensive rebound and fed Derek Jackson who nailed a 3 to give CMU a point point lead with 1:47 left.  Dee Brown missed a 3 for BG and CMU ran clock before hitting Coimbra for an uncontested layup with :51 and a 3-point lead.

Incredibly enough, CMU fouled Jordon Crawford and he nailed both free throws and it was back to 1 with :39 left.  BG had to foul and did after trying to steal the inbounds, and Jackson missed the front end of the one and on, and all of a sudden, BG had a chance to win the game.

Except for one thing.  BG didn't box out, and CMU got the rebound and BG had to foul again.

And they missed the front end again.  This time, BG rebounds.  One point, :33.  BG comes down and runs offense.  CMU was very active on defense now, and for BG offense consists of one of the bigs coming out and setting a ball screen and Crawford running around it.  In this case, Calhoun came out to set the pic and was called for an offensive foul.

Very unusual to see that call there, but I'm a big fan of making the calls you have to make, even late.  I didn't see it...Coach Orr slammed the scorer's table in an unusual (or perhaps unprecedented) show of on-court emotion.  The call hurt.

BG fouls again and Coimbra splits the pair.  BG is STILL only down 2.  No time outs, :08 left.  BG comes down the floor.  CMU now playing stifling D.  Crawford dribbles all the way to the right sideline, where he draws a FREAKING blocking foul with :03 left.  Hardly ever see that either...I've seen MAC players literally tackled in situations like that.

Anyway.  Crawford goes to the line.  Makes the first...but misses the second.  BG down 1.  CMU fails to corral the rebound and it goes out of bounds, off them.  BG has one second.

No timeouts.  Thomas goes to inbound.  BG calls (according to Coach Hopson) play #5.  Obviously, CMU is ready for lob to the basket and they have a guy there.  They lob it to Oglesby who is near but not right on the rim, and he kind of taps the ball at the rim and it doesn't go down.  He actually gets the ball off the rim and tries again and actually sinks the shot, but it was about .5 seconds after the buzzer.

I had a pretty good view.  From me to Oglesby to the backboard was a straight line, and he clearly had the ball in his hands when the backboard lit up.

The officials went to the replay.  Coach Stone was in such a state of apoplexy that I thought maybe I had seen it wrong and that the ball had rolled off his finger sooner than it looked like...and remember, that's a game winner.  The official signaled no basket, Coach Stone slammed his keyboard to the court, and everyone went home.

So yeah, we had a bunch of chances to win the game.  CMU kept trying to hand it back to us.  And they still won.  That's not much to hang your hat on.

Though he played a flawed game, Dee Brown kept BG in the game with 20 points.  He was 7 of 19 from the field and had four turnovers, but at least he was eventually getting things to fall.  Neither Thomas nor Calhoun shot over 30%, though Thomas did add 9 rebounds and 6 assists.  Calhoun also had four turnovers.  Coach said that CMU "packed it in" on defense, challenging BG to generate outside shots without going inside-out, and it clearly worked.

Crawford did add 13 points with 3 assists and 1 turnover.  The only free throw he missed was his last.

We'll recap the season in the coming weeks with a potentially numbing amount of analysis. has taught us that it always ends with a loss, and so, in that sense, it is in the rhythm of the seasons.  I don't know if BG has ever had a worse loss in the MAC tournament...but it certainly was not how we thought the season would end when we stepped on the floor with Howard.  You can't hide from the results.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Game Over....

Not with a bang but with a whimper, the Falcon's Men's Basketball season came to an end tonight at the much to say.  CMU had won only one conference road game.....they had a terrible year.  Yet, they came into this game, and I felt played like they wanted to win more than BG did for much of the game.  Coach Hopson in the post-game said as much.

In my preview, I thought BG could only lose if it hit one of those endemic periods where it cannot buy a basketball, "almost incompetent offense" to use the words of Todd Walker.  And we certainly saw that, especially in the second half of the game, where BG shot 28%.  And despite CMU failing to close the game out at the free throw line, and despite a wild finish and numerous opportunities, BG was unable to get the game winner.

But, in the words of Coach Hopson on the radio, "it probably should never have been that close."

And he was right.

I thought Todd Walker did a nice job walking through the games this year that BG had late opportunities to win and did not.  Certainly, sometimes BG did close out, but they did not do it enough to be a truly winning team.  A winning team closes out all the time, or almost all the time.  Something in BG's DNA just didn't have that gene.

And BG should, without question, have beaten the Chips tonight.


Since the season where BG earned the #1 seed, fans have been pointing to this year, with seniors, everyone back, a full slate of Orr recruits.  And, everything was there except the ability to close those games out.  And, it ends at 16-15, with an embarrassing loss at home to end the season.

So, a disappointing season, followed by a disappointing end.  More tomorrow.

Battle of the Blog Entry....

So, I entered Battle of the Blogs on Akron Sports Now....we each did a MAC tourney bracket.  Here is what I have....

MAC Awards Week Begins....

The Awards have begun to flow out of the MAC's offices...

Coach of the Year is Rob Murphy.  Hard to argue what he has done with a moribund program in the first year. I was impressed with how resourceful he was in playing a style his actual team could play.  Most coaches play the style that matches the team they wish they had.  Dambrot was 2nd, and Witherspoon third, and even though I don't like him, he probably deserved more than 2 votes.  Than again, maybe everyone knows he isn't a good coach.

The Player of the Year is Mitchell Watt. Can't argue with that at all.  He is scoring 16 points a game, with 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks per game.  He had a huge season.  Mavunga was second.  DJ Cooper got 2 more votes than he should have, which is 2.

MAC Tourney....Chippin' Time

So, the MAC Tourney starts tonight.  The Falcons have drawn the Central Michigan Chippewas, the #11 team in the MAC.  The prize is a Wednesday night game against the winner of UT-Miami, also tonight @UT.

This is a game BG should win.  My biggest worry is that CMU does have a player, and while I don't think he has really shown what he can do in the MAC, he is capable of taking over a game, and in an elimination tournament, that has to make you nervous.

Of course, that's Trey Zeigler.

The Chips have had an awful season.  I don't know what the scuttlebutt is in terms of Zeigler the Senior staying on in that job, but if they keep him, it is strictly because of his son.  No one can be happy with the progress of this program, which has gotten the best recruit in recent memory in the MAC and only gotten worse.

They are 10-20 and 5-11.  That's 5-11, with 10 games in the MAC West.  They won only one conference game on the road, have an RPI of 287 and are at the end of a long season.


BG handled them pretty easily when they met earlier this year at the Stroh.  BG hit a run late in the first half, led by 10 at the half, and then pulled away in the second half, leading by 15-17 points most of the way.  CMU did get it back to 9 and BG turned that run right back.  It was not a competitive contest.

BG dominated CMU in most aspects of the game, out shooting them, basically ending up even in turnovers, and dominating free throw shooting.  BG had a very poor night in one regard, allowing CMU to get 55% of the available offensive rebounds, which is just an appalling stat.  It was our worst performance on the offensive boards since before the 2000 season, which is as far back as I can go on  And CMU is not a strong rebounding team.

As mentioned, the marquee player for CMU is Trey Zeigler.  He scored 15.5 points per game in conference games, which is 3rd in the MAC.  Now, that's not the world's most efficient scoring, as he is second in the MAC in field goal attempts and 66th in offensive efficiency.  Still, he doesn't have much to work with, so he might well be putting up shots that aren't great just because there's no one else to do it.

He's also 4th in offensive rebounds and 5th in overall rebounding.  He is a slasher...not too many attempts from 3.  He double-doubled BG at 17-10 in the first game.  He scored 22 in their last win over WMU and scored 33 a couple weeks ago against UT, though they still lost.

Derek Jackson and Austin McBroom are also scoring in double figures.

They have the stats of an 11th place team.  On offense, they are 10th in offensive efficiency and effective field goal%.  They are 8th in offensive rebounding percentage (tempo free matters, they have big numbers but they miss a lot of shots too), are 10th in getting to the free throw line.  They do take care of the ball.  They have the lowest turnover percentage in the MAC.

One note.  They are heavily dependent on the 3.  They are third in the MAC in makes and attempts, but only 9th in actual percentage.

On defense, they are not a lot better.  They are 11th in efficiency and in effective FG%.  They are dead last in allowing teams to the free throw line.  They are 5th in preventing offensive rebounds and 4th in causing turnovers, but because they are easy to make shots against, those two things don't equal out to actual production.

This is a game BG should win.  In looking for ways for that not to happen, I can see 3 or 4...

  1. BG has one of those nights where there is a lid over the basket.
  2. Zeigler goes nuts.
  3. CMU gets hot from 3.
  4. BG has a lousy FT shooting night.

Beyond that, you'd expect BG to win this game.  Let us hope it is so.  I think we will see Scott Thomas hitting shots again, and I'm hopeful BG does the same to the Chips as last time.