Friday, December 21, 2012

Men's Hoops...Welcome to Tampa

The Falcon Men's Basketball team now takes to the road to try and convert its strong performance against MSU into a road win against a team from the Big East, at least for now.

We talked a lot about how MSU and UM and OSU had only played one road game this year...Falcon fans might be surprised to know that as of right now BG has only played one road game, which was against Robert Morris in the pre-season NIT.  Some of those games were on neutral courts....but there has been only one road game.

This one comes against South Florida, one of the 3 remaining football-playing Big East schools that are either going to have to arrange a East-West "Conference America" or find a new home.

In men's basketball, the Bulls are coached by Stan Heath, a former assistant at BG who coached for one season at Kent State (getting them to the Elite 8), jumped to Arkansas, got fired and then ended up at USF, where he has a losing record, albeit in the toughest conference in basketball right now.

This season, they are off to a 6-3 start and a rating of #85.  (BG is #193).  On the plus side, they have beaten Bradley (#114), Georgia (#120), and Youngstown State (#141).  (Note, the Penguins beat BG at the Stroh).  Each of those wins was on their home court.  They lost at home to UCF (#111) and WMU (#207), as well as @Oklahoma State (#19).

All that is a pretty decent start.  The two home losses keep it from being a great start, especially the WMU loss, but they have beaten some solid teams, one of whom beat BG.

This team will remind you a lot of Michigan State.  They are a defensively oriented team with effective big men...they play at a very slow pace (They play at 62 possessions a game, which is sloooooooooooow with a capital SLOOOOOOOOW), so their per game averages are a little distorted.  That is one difference with MSU, in fact...the Spartans like to get into transition, but this team plays a very slow and deliberate style.

Statistically, this team scores 1.05 points per possession, which is above average (1.01).  They take excellent care of the ball and shoot it pretty well (49.5% EFG), but are well below average in terms of offensive rebounding and free throw rate.  They get 31% of their scoring from the 3, which is in the top third of the country--they shoot almost 37% from beyond the arc.

So, not spectacular on offense, but with good ball control and some 3s, they are scoring pretty effectively.  (We will look at BG's defense a little more later today, but if BG is going to establish a true defensive identity this is an opportunity).

They allow only .94 points per possession on defense, which is good, though hardly lock down territory (#118).  They get there by being 48th in the nation in effective field goal defense and not letting teams get to the line (#46).  Their defensive rebounding is average and they are below average in forcing turnovers.

They have only two double figure scorers....6'9" Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (12.8) and 6'1" Anthony Collins (10.3).  Collins also contributes more than 7 assists per game (which is #5 in the nation and #2 when you figure in the low number of possessions).  For his part, Fitzpatrick is a 45% 3-point shooter and a tough outside matchup for anyone.

Two other players score 9 points a game.  Victor Rudd, 6'9", is one of them and he also averages 8 rebounds a game, which is #3 in the Big East.  (He is pretty inefficient, shooting only 38%, which is low for a big man).

The other is Jawanza Poland, who is 6'4" and gets those points in only 21 minutes.

Note, therefore, that they have two strong big men

This is not as good a team as MSU, but it is a road game, which obviously makes it harder, especially for a team that has not played much on the road yet....on the other hand, we have played plenty outside our arena.  Anyway, this is a tough assignment...BG has played better over its home stretch and this is a chance to translate that into a tougher venue.

BG needs additional players to emerge...I suspected Calhoun would struggle against MSU and I suspect he will struggle against USF, as they have good big men and will probably pack the inside.  Against MSU, Chauncey Orr was able to emerge...the Falcons need something like that--an efficient outside scoring threat. Also, Jordon Crawford was apparently benched for the final minutes of the MSU game, and it will be interesting to see how he reacts to that.

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