Thursday, February 25, 2016

Zipper Problems

This is the second time we are playing Akron this year...everyone knows that the Zips just own the Falcons, winning 22 of the last 23.  You can read the litany of woe from the first game if you like, just add one more loss.  There's no reason to walk through it again.

Since leaving the Stroh, Akron has proven to be a little more mortal than they did before that.  In fact, they have lost 3 of their last 4, with all three losses on the road to NIU, Kent and Miami.  They did beat Buffalo at the JAR by 10.  They are still in first place and have three home games and no road games coming home, reinforcing their status as MAC favorites.

The first game was a 15 point Zip win and exposed some pretty big matchup issues for BG.  The Zips were 16 of 32 on 3FGs (they only tried 57 FGS) and when they didn't feel like doing that, they were able to feed Johnson and Forsythe in the post for nearly uncontested baskets.  They scored 1.19 points per possession against the Falcons, and if they shoot that effectively again, the result will be the same.  BG just have to guard the perimeter better. Akron does a great job moving the ball and making extra passes and have lots of guys who can shoot.

Essentially, all that to say there's a good reason Akron is the 2nd best offensive team in the MAC.  BG is struggling on both ends of the floor right now....10th in offense and 7th in defense.  Akron has the 5th best defense.  This is why they are in first.  As noted before, their scoring does not come from comes from efficiency.  They play the 8th fastest pace in the MAC.

The Zips brings a potent offensive combo.  They are 2nd in the MAC in shooting and in taking care of the ball.  They aren't great at offensive rebounding or getting to the line and the only team that shoots FTs worst than them is BG.  But, if you maximize shots and are good at making them, that's the key to scoring.  They take over half their shots from 3FG range, which is first in the MAC and 3rd in the country.  They are 3rd in the MAC in 3FG% and get 46% of their points from 3FG, which is the highest number in the country.

As mentioned, Akron is 5th in the MAC in defense.  This is built on being 4th in EFG allowed and in keeping teams off the line.  They are near the bottom in forcing turnovers and giving up offensive rebounds.  They are first in defending the 3 and last in defending the 2, despite leading the MAC in rate of blocked shots.  So, while they are making 3s they are forcing the opponents to make 2s.  Anyway, BG needs to attack the basket--on drives, not post ups--and convert near the rim to have a chance to keep up with Akron (and then defend the Zips much more effectively).

Akron has four players scoring in double figures.  Isaiah Johnson is their leading scorer with 14.7 PPG on 58% shooting and 6.8 rebounds in 24 minutes a game.  He's the 2nd most efficient offensive player in the MAC, behind Antonio Campbell.  Reggie McAdams is scoring 11.8 PPG on 44%/42% shooting and 4 rebounds in 26 minutes.  Antino Jackson is scoring 11.6 PPG on 38%/35% shooting (though he was 6 of 8 from 3FG in the game at the Stroh) and is a 90%+ FT shooter.  Finally, Noah Robotham is scoring 10.3 PPG on 42% and 44% shooting to go with 4.4 assists.

They have a solid bench, too, with Forsythe, Kretzer, and Cheatam all making solid contributions.  Finally, they have only 2 seniors (McAdams and Kretzer) getting significant minutes.

The game will be on Friday on national television with CBS Sports Network.  This is a tall mountain, but who knows?  I didn't expect BG to beat OU again, either.  How it would happen won't be any surprise...let's enjoy the show.

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