Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Hated Rocket Preview

So the rivarly renews itself again Wednesday night (weather permitting) as BG and the Rockets tangle for the first of two meetings this year.

Look, there's no way to sugar coat this.  The Rockets are huge favorites.  They have come all the way back from the depths and are now probably the best team in the MAC, or at least in the neighborhood.  They are 18-3 against the 139th ranked schedule and have an RPI of 31.  At 6-2 they are tied for first in the MAC.  Their losses are @Kansas, @WMU and @OU (in OT).  They are 10-0 at home.

Unlike most college basketball teams, this is a team built on offense.  They are very efficient, at 1.19 points per possession.  That is #6 in the nation.  BG has been effective on defense, but has played poorly of late and that is simply going to have to be fixed.  UT is not especially efficient on defense, so there is an opportunity there.  BG played poor defense yet scored enough to beat Buffalo, so maybe that's in the cards, but if you want my bet, BG's a lot more likely to win if UT scores about 70 instead of the 83 they average.

What makes the Rockets offense so good?  They are a team without blemishes, really.  They lead the MAC in Effective FG%, Turnover %, Offensive Rebounding % and they are #3 in free throw rate.  In fact, they take ridiculously good care of the ball.  That turnover rate is in the top 10 in D1.  Finally, FT Rate is a measure of getting to the line.  They are #3 in converting FTs as well.  They don't take a lot of 3s (9th) but they have the best %.  This is an offensive juggernaut.

The flip side is that UT is not especially good on defense.  They are 10th in the MAC in defensive efficiency and they are as poor against the shot as they are good with it.  They force an average turnover rate and an average offensive rebounding %.  They are very good at keeping teams off the line...2nd in the MAC.

Individually, these guys have some very good players.  It all starts with Juice Brown, their PG.  He's scoring 14.5 PPG with 6.6 assists against 2.9 turnovers.  That assist number is 6th in the nation, though they do play an uptempo style that provides more FG opportunities.  He also makes 89% of his FTs and has a ridiculous ability to make shots in clutch times.  He's among the best players in the MAC and probably the best guard.

Justin Drummond is their 2nd leading scorer.  He scores 14.4 PPG on 53% shooting and 4.9 rebounds per game.  Rian Pearson is scoring 13.7 PPG on 48% shooting and 40% from 3FG.  He also averages 5 rebounds per game.  OSU transfer JD Witherspoon is scoring 12 on 58% shooting and 6.3 rebounds.  Nathan Boothe is scoring 10 a game on 47% shooting and 4.7 rebounds.

Anyway, that's 5 guys in double figures.  They are built this program very effectively and this is a very good team.  They are huge favorites over BG.  The Falcons are going to need to keep the game around 70 and play their very best game to win...something they have done on the road twice this year.  BG won @WMU and @OU, both places UT lost.  That's the kind of effort they are going to need.

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