Friday, February 08, 2013

Things Get Real....Falcons Visit OU

So, riding their first back-to-back wins since December, the Falcons now face one of the season's tougher challenges....a trip to Athens to play the OU Bobcats.  OU is one of two elite teams in this year's MAC...and, of course, made the Sweet 16 last season, etc.

They are 16-6 so far this season, 7-1 in the MAC and 12-1 at the Convo.  They beat a good Richmond team by 25 and Oakland by 17.  Overall, their schedule has not been especially tough (#213 by RPI with 9 of their wins over teams with an RPI over 200+) and that is why they are #91 in RPI and #64 in Kenpom.

Still, this is a good team.  It starts with DJ Cooper.  Last year, I felt that Cooper was badly overrated and that, in fact, Alex Abreu was a more valuable player.  That's mostly because that Cooper's gaudy point totals were coming at a high cost--bushels of missed shots.

He has turned that around this year.  He is actually scoring slightly less, but he is shooting 43%, as opposed to 35% last year.  His 3-% is up a little, but he is trying slightly fewer as well.  As a scorer, he's simply much more valuable than last year, with an efficiency of 108.9, up from 103.2.

His assists (which fell to 5.7 last year) and up again, at 7.9, which is #1 in the MAC and #4 in D1.  He is turning the ball over 3.6 times per game, which is also the most in the MAC.  He is also making 2.1 steals per game.

He is simply a better and more complete player than he was last year.  He's still probably not as great as people think he is, but he's plenty good.

He is going by Reggie Keely and Walter Offut, both of whom are scoring 11 points per game.  Keely is shooting 65% from the field and is complimented on the inside by Ivo Baltic, who leads the team in rebounding. (Yeah, dude is FINALLY a senior).

This is an incredibly experienced team.  EVERY player who averages 10 minutes or more a game is a junior or a senior.  They are the 3rd most experienced team in D1 basketball.

The big change from last year has been that John Groce took college's basketball's most clenched jaw to Champaign-Urbana and OU brought in Jim Christian, a proven MAC coach at Kent.

They played the most up tempo game in the MAC....68.5 possessions.  They also lead the MAC in 3FGs made and 3FG%--and are #26 and #55 respectively in D1.  They are also the best shooting team in the terms of FG% and EFG%.  So, we can see the first and primary challenge.

BG is going to need to bring its best defensive game.  We've only won once when allowing more than .93 points per possession and OU has only been held below that four times this season.

On a % basis, they are still not good on the offensive boards (11th) but they take care of the ball--they have the 3rd best turnover rate in the MAC.  Rounding out the four factors, they don't get to the line that much--just 10th in the MAC.

Defensively?  They defend like an elite team.  They allow only .93 points per possession, #2 in the MAC and #61 in D1.  Their defense is built first and foremost on turnovers---they are 3rd in the nation with 26.6% defensive turnovers.  They defend the shot pretty well (46%), and lead the MAC in 3-FG defense.  They are 11th in allowing FTs and offensive rebounds, but that isn't enough to counteract the foundation of their defense, which is turnovers and missed shots.

This is a very good team.  Their rankings are suffering due to scheduling and they did lose @Akron but I think on a neutral court that could be a really tough game and OU is capable of another Sweet 16 run this year.  They just don't seem to have any major holes.

BG simply has to do everything right...we haven't seen that in a while, but who knows, maybe this is the time for it to happen.  OU will be heavily favored and rightfully so.

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