Sunday, April 23, 2017

Men's Basketball Review

The most important thing you can say about the BG Falcons and their 2016-17 season is that Coach Michael Huger is coming back for a third season.  The program desperately needed some stability.  The second most important thing is that all the plays who were here during the Orr-Jans situation are gone, with the exception of Matt Fox.

For now, everything else is speculative.  I am cautiously optimistic, but it is speculative.

The Jans situation was a huge set back for the program.  I think we felt it at the time and I think you can see it now.  To be clear, had Jans been back for his second year it would have been a tough year, much like it was for Huger, but the program turmoil caused emergency recruiting for one year and left the program with kind of a split identity for a couple years.  There was talk at one point of literally everybody transferring, and while that didn't happen, I think it is one of those things...when once you have your toe out, it is hard to get all in again.

I base this partly on observation and partly on many comments from Coach Huger over the years, culminating in a very frustrating late-year press conference.

For 2017, BG was 13-19 and 7-11 with a first round loss in the MAC tournament on a 10 seed.  The year before BG was 16-18 with a 5-13 MAC record.  The schedules were rated almost exactly the same, which yields the conclusion that BG played poorly in the pre-season and then improved in MAC play.

From a kenpom ranking perspective, BG was a little worse, ranked 230 in year one and 249 this season.  I'll take the two-game conference improvement as meaningful, however.

The pre-season play was a little disappointing.  BG had finished Huger's first year with a little tournament run and you could sort of hope that the team might be jelling and coming together.  The team also went to Italy, creating extra practices and bonding time.

These hopes were pretty much dashed.  BG ended up 6-7 in non-conference play.  They lost their first four and then won 3 out of 4 coming home.

So here's the thing.   First, BG played a very soft schedule.  There were no P5 teams and only one team from a strong basketball conference--the UC Bearcats.  The three-game Bill Frack challenge was set up to give the Falcons 3 quality home games and they lost 2 out of 3.  That includes UMKC (219) and Green Bay (190), both games you'd have thought you would win (or at least split) coming off the end of the previous year.

BG did rally to beat Murray State--their best non-conference win (199).  Other than that, BG's wins were over Morgan State (324), Detroit (302), Alabama A&M (351--they don't get lower), Norfolk State (299) and a non D1-win.

Meanwhile, after the Frack games, the losses were to UC, @Evansville (154) and @San Jose State (213).  Both of those last two losses were by one point, with the Evansville game being probably the biggest miss opportunity of the schedule.  That would have been a quality road win.

In MAC play, there were positives.  First, BG beat UT in a thriller at the Stroh, making the MBB team the only high-profile sports team to beat the Rockets in way too long.  Also, BG beat Akron and snapped the ridiculous winning streak the Zips had over the Falcons.  Third, BG won @Kent, and Kent, as you are aware, won the MAC.

There were 3 road wins--Ball State, Miami and Kent.

Perhaps the worst element of the season is that BG lost 5 homes games in conference.  That just has to turn around.  Perhaps the darkest time was in mid-January when BG lost to EMU by 28  and NIU by 17 at the Stroh in consecutive games.  Other home losses were Buffalo, Kent and Ohio, good teams, but you still have to protect home court better than that.

BG had the numbers of a #10 seed.  Maybe worse.  The Falcons were #11 in offensive and defensive efficiency (MAC games only).  This is exactly where they were in Huger's first year.

BG's primary problem in scoring comes when they have to put the ball inside the cylinder.  That's a tough thing not to be good at.  BG was 11th in EFG.  That comes from being #9 in 3FG and #10 in 2FG.  BG took an average number of 3s (#8), but if you are going to have that kind of shot mix, you have to make your 2FGS.

Free throws were worse.  BG was #10 at getting to the line and last, dead last, in FT shooting.

They did a good job taking care of the ball (#5) and a decent job on the offensive boards (#7), but those are peripheral.  They have to shoot better.

On defense, the issue is pretty much the same, only in reverse.  BG was the easiest team to shoot against in the MAC.  Everything else was good...#2 in creating turnovers, #6 in protecting the boards, and #2 in keeping teams off the line.

When diagnosing it, the answer is pretty clear.  You have observed this at the games, too.  BG is #5 in defending the 3FG, which is decent.  However, the Falcons were last in defending the 2FG.  That's a result of BG's under-developed inside game.  For his spurts of effectiveness on the offensive end, Wiggins struggles to defend in the paint and Wes Alcegaire was playing out of position at 4.  Worrell had trouble getting onto the floor and BG had two inside players injured for the whole season.  They just gave up too many 2FGs and when you can't get stops you aren't going to win.

One last thing...BG's opponents were #9 in the MAC in shooting 3FG.  Teams knew they could pound it inside on us.

Zack Denny led BG in scoring with 12.7 PPG on 41% and 32% shooting.  So, an inefficient 12.7 PPG.  He also led the team in FT% and steals.

Wes Alcegaire scored 11.8 PPG on 42% and 34% shooting, so also inefficient.  Demajeo Wiggins scored 10 even on 49% shooting (even that should be higher) while leading the team with 7.8 RPG.

The BG freshmen were the most encouraging part.  Frye (MAC All-FR team) shot 44% and 40% (compare to Denny) and moved into the starting lineup.  Rodrick Caldwell made 12 starts and also looked to be a guy who can handle the point into the future, especially under the tutelage of Coach Huger.

So those top two scorers will not be back.  PG Ish Ali also graduated, and Malik Hluchoweckyj and Rasheed Worrell both left the team.

This all highlights the point that has plagued the Falcons since the last time they had a truly outstanding team, which was the year before WVU.  BG simply doesn't recruit enough quality players.  There have been a few here and there, but never the critical mass it takes to win in this conference.

The entire list is below.  You can scan it and see the point.

So, what is the state of the program?  I think we are on the way back, but I am only cautiously optimistic.

Here's the reason for optimism.

So, that's not an OFFICIAL ranking.  For much of the time, there were no such things.  Still, BG has an excellent recruiting class coming in.  Also, Uju and Turner will return after injury redshirts.  Add that to Caldwell, Frye, and Wiggins (and Lillard, who leveled off in SO year), and you can see where you are starting to get the players assembled.

So, why cautious?


First, recruiting rankings are recruiting rankings.  Wins are another thing.

Second, we have yet to see what Coach Huger can do with a team that isn't under-talented and half-in half-out.  That cuts both ways.  We don't know.  I feel like he will be good, but we have to see it first.  He hasn't had a fair test, yet.  And remember, if we are talking a MAC title, we're talking about better than Akron, better than Kent, better than OU, and consistently.

Now, the last year could be another struggle.  BG just has a very young's what they will show on the court when the season opens.
  1. Wiggins (Jr)
  2. Caldwell (So)
  3. Frye  (So)
  4. Turner (R-Fr)
  5. Lillard (Jr)
  6. Uju (r-Jr)
  7. Fox (Sr)
  8. Cummings
  9. Gaden
  10. Koch
  11. Plowden
  12. Kulackovskis
That's a really young team.  Seven players with essentially Zero D-1 playing experience.

Who knows?  But, I would say that patience will be required for one more year, in my view.

Falcon Hoops Recruiting Scorecard, Updated April 2017

Stephen Wright--Productive player, left prior to his senior season.
Ron Lewis--Two productive seasons, no junior year. Prominent Big 10 player.
Raheem Moss--26 games, two starts, 66 career points, left program. Contributed at Cleveland State.

Chris Hobson, 28 games, 51 points, left program.
Austin Montgomery 56 games, 189 points, transferred.
Reggie Harwell--Nada.
Matt Lefeld--A contributing senior and a true warrior. Academic All-American
Isaac Rosefelt--24 minutes, two points. Left Program for stellar DIII career.
John Floyd--Played 59 games averaging 8.4 ppg. 247 career assists Left program.


Scott Vandermeer, 60 points and 40 fouls. Transferred, contributed at UIC where I think he ended up as a pretty good player.
Moon Robinson, Left program after sophomore season. Transferred.
Mawel Soler, completed eligibility. Effective player, even good in spots.


Jeremy Holland--left program after one practice
Nick Wilson--left program without playing a game.
Lionel Sullivan--Sayonara. 30 minutes, 6 points.
Dusan--Minor contributions. Left program prior to Junior Season.
Erik Marschall--Injury-plagued career ended with effective senior season.
Daryl Clements--Good contributing player, played strong D, stable presence, and probably underappreciated player.
Brian Moten--MAC sixth man of the year in junior season and all-MAC HM as a senior. Good player at this level, had game-changing shooting potential.
Martin Samarco--2nd team All-MAC, finished career.


Ryne Hamblett--Contributing player, but kicked off team prior to senior season.
Brandon Bland--Left the program.
Marc Larson--Averaged 17 minutes a game for his career.
Otis Polk--Productive starter.  Left as BG blocked shot leader and led MAC in offensive rebounding as a senior.  Career: 5.9 PPG and 4.8 RPG.
Ryan Sims--left team early in Junior year. Made little contribution.
Nate Miller--All-MAC First team. Great player, carried team into post-season.
Chris Knight--Transferred following two seasons at BG. (Technically, he was a Dakich recruit).

Joe Jakubowski--Four-year starter, among the program's career leaders in assists and steals.
Cameron Madlock--Transferred out.

Dee Brown--1,000 point scorer.
Scott Thomas--Third team All-MAC as senior. 1,000 point scorer. 10th in career assists, 10th in career rebounds, 6th in career 3-pointers.
Au'ston Calhoun--Two-time Second-team All-MAC, 19th all-time leading scorer @BGSU.
Adrion Graves--left before appearing as a Falcon.
Darion Goins--Played sparingly, left team in first season as a Falcon

Jordon Crawford--Honorable mention All-MAC.  1,000 pt scorer, 4th in career assists, 5th in steals.
James Erger--Averaged 10 minutes per game as a Senior.  Role player.
Luke Kraus--Started 25 games as a senior.  Scored 4 points per game.
DaVon Haynes---Left program without playing.  Averaged 12 points and 7 RPG for Ark-Pine Bluff.
Danny McElroy--Left program. Ran afoul of the law.

Anthony Henderson-Made 73 starts, scored 6.4 PPG for career.
Cam Black--Finished in Top 10 in program history in rebounds.  Also 3rd in blocked shots.
Torian Oglesby--Juco. Solid role player. Set NCAA record for most consecutive FGs.
Craig Sealey--Was a career role player at BG, injured in senior year.

Jehvon Clarke--Made 40 career starts, 7.7 PPG for career.
Chauncey Orr--Transferred following his father's dismissal.
Desmond Rorie--Left program without appearing in a game.

Richaun Holmes--All-time leader in blocked shots.  First-ream All-MAC, MAC Defensive POY, now in NBA.
Spencer Parker--1,000 point scorer.

Zach Denny...scored 1,000 points, 7th all-time in 3FG and #9 in steals.
JD Tisdale...Left program before his senior year
Garrett Mayleben..left program before senior year
Josh Gomez....Rarely used.  Left during senior season.

Delvin Dickerson.  Played 15 MPG for BG after JUCO transfer.  Fouled out 6 times.  Left when Jans did.
Jovan Austin:  Played 16+ MPG for BG after JUCO transfer. Had 87 assists in 33 games, which was 6+/40.  Left when Jans did.
Rasheed Worrell--Left program after R-SO year.
David Joseph--Made 59 starts for BG

Ish Ali--Graduated, 247 assists in 2 years.
Wes Alcegaire--Graduated, averaged 10.9 PPG for BG.
Antwon Lillard--7.9 PPG and 4.2 RPG as a SO.
Demajeo Wiggins--10 PPG and 7.89 RPG as a SO
Malik Hluchoweckyj--Left program after playing 21 games.

Dylan Frye--Made MAC All-FR team
Jeffrey Uju--JUCO transfer, injured, redshirt
Justin Turner--Injured, redshirt
Rod Caldwell--Made 12 starts as FR.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Briggs on Jinks

The Blade's Dave Briggs is in with a column today about Coach Jinks.  There's nothing really new here that Jinks didn't say to the Sentinel in late December.  Here's the basic idea.  Falcon fans fell in three camps on Jinks.  First is that he had to go.  Second that the cupboard was bare.  Third was that the team was overrated but the problems were made worse by the coaching staff, which was the position taken by me.

What Jinks is saying in both of these articles is that the third one has truth to it.  He says they were obstinate to change defenses when it wasn't working.  In the Sentinel article, he also acknowledged the youth of his coaching staff and that he shouldn't have spent time with Texas Tech before their bowl game.

Then and now, I give him credit for the candor.  Note that he has been talking this way since before he signed the big recruiting class.

He also said this to the Sentinel:

If you go lose by 70 in two out of the first four weeks, we’re lucky to still be coaching here." (emphasis added).
So he gets it, fans.

So, as I wrote in December, much as it was unnecessary to break in a newbie in college coaching, that's the path we are on.  I think we will be better but I think that overall it would be good to have reasonable expectations for this year.  The schedule is very tough and pointing to those three wins at the end of the year as progress is pretty tough to sell.  BG could be much better and go 6-6.  We won't really begin to get an answer about whether Jinks is a championship coach until year 3.

Monday, April 17, 2017

New Chris Jans Update

Well, earlier last week we thought we had located Chris Jans' location for the next season.  Today, it was learned that he is heading back into head coaching at New Mexico State.  Most of the commentary is the same as before....Jans is a proven winning coach at non-D1 schools and that is important to me.  And then, of course, every mid-major would take what the Shockers have going.  And he did a great job with the BG program during his one year at BG.  Now, on the other hand, I'm not sure that first recruiting class was going anywhere, so that probably counts in the opposite direction.  This is a pretty good opportunity for him.  The Aggies have been successful, winning the WAC in 5 of the last 6 years.  The job came open when the former coach was hired by arch-rival New Mexico.

As I said when he was just thought to be returning to the bench in Wichita, I am rooting for him and I do think he will be a successful coach at D1.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter to the Falcon Nation

Happy Easter to the Falcon Nation.  Regardless of your religious faith, we can all unite around the idea of committing ourselves to a new beginning, letting the mistakes of the past go and embracing the chance to be a better person in the future.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Update on Former BG Head MBB Coaches

Both of BG's last two MBB coaches are now back in of them in a surprising place and one in a predictable place.

Let's start with the easy one.  To no one's surprise, Chris Jans is back as the Associate Head Coach with Gregg Marshall at Wichita State.  That's where he came from before he came to BG and he had been working as a "consultant" for the Shockers for two years and was seen on the sideline by sharp-eyed Falcon fans during the NCAA tournament.  According to the article, he was promised the first open job, which has now happened.

I'm rooting for Jans.  What BG did was the right thing as it related to that incident, but one incident doesn't have to label someone for their entire life.  Even better, he seems to appreciate the second chance:

“I am indebted to Coach Marshall and the whole WSU administration for bringing me home,” Jans said. “They’ve been unbelievable to me and my family and we’re thankful and grateful for them believing in us and being there when we needed them most.”
The other is a little more interesting.  Patrick Ewing has hired Louis Orr to be on his staff at Georgetown.  This is very interesting.  First and foremost, those schools HATE each other and Orr was a lead player in the drama for the Orangemen. It would be similar to Chuck Ealey coaching the Falcons...or Bob Nichols...or Anthony Stacey being hired to coach for UT (wait...but wait, see what I mean?  That's how it feels).

It also might be the most NBA-experienced staff in college basketball history and depending on who else they hire might be the tallest staff in D1 history.

I wish Louis well, too.  I know it didn't work out at BG...that happens in life...but he is a man of integrity who always represented BG well.  I'll be rooting for him.

As a side note, Chauncey Orr finished his career with a lot of honors at the DII level.  You might remember that he transferred to Hawaii Pacific where he scored 19 PPG and 55% shooting.  He was all-conference, the tournament MVP and an honorable mention All-American.

Note:  Chris Jans is now going to be the Head Coach at New Mexico State.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Two Players Sign Football NLI

So, with the spring signing period, the Falcons inked two additional young men to national letters of intent.

One of them is Josh Crolsen, who we posted about recently.  The other is James Carolan, who we had written about back in late December.  To refresh, he is from the school Jinks coached at in Texas, he's very highly ranked and was committed to MinnesotaHe's the #3 long snapper in the country and would be slated to be long-term player at that position.

Welcome to the Falcons, Josh and James.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Falcons Sign Latvian to MBB

So, a while ago I noted that BG had picked up a verbal from Mattiss Kulackovskis, a Latvian F who was playing Prep ball in Philly.  He's 6'8" and a late bloomer and this one could be a significant pick up for us.

Well, today he signed.  The BGSU release notes that he will have four years of eligibility.  He played two years in prep ball, so I am interpreting that to mean that he has used his redshirt year.  Anyway, the release notes the importance a player like this--who scores inside and out and can guard against 2-4s--would make in the MAC.  Huger waxes poetic when describing his "soft, feathery stroke."


This past season, while serving as a team captain, the Latvian averaged 18.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists for the Raiders. He also shot an impressive 40 percent from three-point range as a senior, while shooting 55 percent from the floor overall. In Kulackovskis' two seasons at Archbishop Ryan, the Raiders won 39 games, made two appearances in the Philadelphia Catholic League (PCL) semifinals, which are staged at the famous Palestra, while also making a run this past season to the PIAA Class 6A state semifinals.

Kulackovskis was named First Team All-PCL in 2016-17, and earned Second Team All-City honors, on top of being named to the All-Southeastern Pennsylvania Third Team. Archbishop Ryan finished the season with a 23-6 mark this season. In Kulackovskis' first season at Archbishop Ryan, the Raiders went 16-8.

So, right now, BG's team looks like this.  Players with * have not played any significant game time for the Falcons.

  1. Wiggins
  2. Caldwell
  3. Frye
  4. Turner*
  5. Lillard
  6. Uju*
  7. Fox
  8. Kulackovskis*
  9. Cummings*
  10. Gadson*
  11. Koch*
  12. Plowden*

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Spring Game Concluded

Made it down for most of the spring game today.  Actually some of the best weather for a spring game that I can recall.  Some years it is as cold as a November game, but today was actually pretty nice.

As always, scrimmages are hard to judge.  For instance, if I told you we didn't have anybody who could cover Scottie Miller, you'd think that could be a good thing, a bad thing, or both.

And we didn't have anyone who could cover Scottie Miller.

I think it was 100% clear that Doege is in position to be the backup QB.  He threw 2 TD passes including a dazzling throw to Guyton in the corner of the end zone.  He appears to be a natural born QB.  Loy did decently and Cunningham appeared to have a tougher day.

James Morgan, I am assuming, will end up starting.  He had the game's only turnover for completed his other 4 passes in limited action.

In general, it was a "clean" scrimmage.  The offense had some big plays--including a huge run by Cleveland--but in my view, the defense won more than their fair share of the possessions.  And, given that our bigger concerns are on that side of the ball, I'm OK with that.   Coach called out his JUCO transfers--Guyton and Garth--as making big contributions among new players, which given that they are not right out of HS is not surprising.

It seemed like we blitzed a little more from the edges than I remember seeing last year, and the guys did seem to get home.  D back play on the corners seemed strong to me, except when guarding Scottie Miller.

Having said that, Guyton and Miller have the potential to form a very strong WR duo, with other guys filling in the gaps.  If Morgan is improved over last year and keeps his turnovers down, the offense could be good.

For my frequent Jake Suder correspondents, yes, Jake had a big game hitting a 46 yarder and a 49 yarder, both longer than his longest last season.

After the game, in the video below, Coach noted that BG had played mostly base...which teams to because their Spring Game is shared.  However, he says you will see BG in some "10" per, which is 10 personnel, which is 1 RB and 4 WR, he seemed to indicate it might not be that common because BG was to "control the clock" to help the defense out, which is a big switch from what we heard a year ago.

So, again, just a scrimmage.  Great to be out at the Doyt.

Oh, and I didn't see anyone injured.  Which is perhaps most key.  In fact, I have not heard about any serious injuries.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Coaching Change At BGSU

The staff has been one of the big concerns--maybe the biggest--as it relates to how Coach Jinks has chosen to structure the program.  Unlike Coach Babers, he did not make big changes in the off-season.  However, the Sentinel reported one change today...Benny Morrison, the LB Coach, was relieved of his duties.  As noted here when he came to BG, Morrison might have been the least qualified on a staff that has a bunch of question marks.  He had been a graduate assistant for FOUR years, three of them with Eliano at UTSA.  I honestly didn't think you could do that.

Anyway, Ryan Downard is moving to an on-field position.  Downard was the Director of Football Operations (initially named as Chief of Staff).  Before that, he had been a defensive assistant (like an assistant to the assistants) for the Browns.  FWIW, I have heard good things about him.

He will coach safeties.  Matt Brock, who was coaching special teams and nickel backs, will now coach the LB.  The story doesn't say what will happen with special teams but Coach Jinks has talked a lot about having a special teams coordinator, something I am a fan of as well.

Update:  Brock will continue to coach special teams.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Falcons Land 3-star 2017 Texas DL

So recruiting was not over for the Bowling Green Falcons when signing day came, as they landed a non-April fool surprise when they landed DT Josh Croslen from Steele HS, which, I suspect you know, is the school where Coach Jinks made himself into what he is today.

Here's the story.  First, Steele was a good team last year, playing for Steele HS making it all the way to the Class 6A Division II State finals last year before losing.  They had 9 players go on to play some kind of post-HS football, but the local writer thinks Croslen might have been the best of them.

He was set to go to Minnesota...under the previous regime.  He apparently dropped his verbal during the bowl boycott scandal stuff.  Fleck would still have taken him, but he opted out.  Unfortunately, most of the teams interested in him didn't have a scholarship available, but Coach Jinks stayed with him and landed the young man.  He has signed.

This is one to put a pin in.  BG hasn't had a homewrecking DT since Chris Jones left and it just can't be described how much a guy like Jones would open stuff up for others AND cause carnage himself, even when double-teamed.

He is 6'1" and 280 pounds and was the San Antonio Express-News Defensive Player of the Year.  He had offers from Minnesota (obvi), Houston, Air Force, Navy, Colorado State, La-Monroe, North Texas State, SMU, Southern Miss, Texas State, and Texas-San Antonio.

Croslen registered 75 tackles, including 28 for loss, and 10 sacks as a senior.  Those are not misprints.  28 for loss.

And, he's an honor roll student, if you didn't get that from the service academy offers.

It would be ironic if this was Austin Valdez's scholarship.

Anyway, this was a big one.  Will say it again...we haven't seen if Coach Jinks has the full game to be a successful D1 coach but he clearly can recruit highly ranked players.

Not sure if Josh plays in year one, but it is possible, in my opinion.

Welcome to the Falcons, Josh.

Update:  Hey, one other thing I should have mentioned.  Josh is actually one of THREE 3-star DLs BG has in this class.  Caylon May, who comes in at 6'1" and 308 pounds and Jamari Rouse, who is smaller at 6'2" and 262.  BG investing in the front D-line, which I am for.  Nothing breaks down an offense faster than chaos on the line of scrimmage and when it comes from the middle, it opens the ends up and keeps one potential receiver in to block on pass plays.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Quick Update from football

Had a chance to watch Coach Jink's video from Friday about the scrimmage they had.  There were a couple of interesting takeaways.

The first and most newsworthy is that the team has a scholarship available and is out looking for a K, mostly likely coming as a graduate transfer.  (just to be clear, coach just said we were hoping to resolve the K position and I have inferred he is talking graduate transfer.  I guess it could be JUCO too.)

For the record, I'm for it.  Special teams are important and PK is probably the most important part of it.  Yes, he says we are working on the return game, including both returner positions...for PR we need somebody who will catch the ball...anyway, the PK isn't a prelude to points, he represents points.  We were OK last year, but some additional range would be huge.

The second part of the scrimmage was that James Morgan is playing really well, based on the comments.  Not that he'd talk about him playing poorly, but he did provide a lot of discussion that would suggest he's on board.  It is enough that if he gets another week like that out of Morgan he will allow the backups to work with some #1 reps to help see who the backup will be.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

MAC Men's Hoops Ends

And that's it.

And not with a bang, but with a whimper.  The Zips lost by 16 to Texas-Arlington in the NIT to finish 27-9.

It was not a great post-season for the MAC.  Kent got hot and won the MAC tournament but got a really poor seed due to its pre-hot performance and therefore a very tough assignment in the first round.

That's five straight opening round losses for the MAC.  The last team to get any wins was OU in 2012, when they made the Sweet 16.

MAC Basketball is pretty much stuck right in the middle of D1 right now.  There are 32 conferences and the kenpom ranking has the MAC #14.  That's behind the Southern and ahead of the Sun Belt and Summit.

We are pretty much in the middle where we have been over the past 15 years. MAC Basketball hit a low point in 2009 (the year BG won the regular season title) and did not begin to rebound until 2012, when the whole thing got on an upward track...which has regressed the last two years.

As currently constituted, there's a ceiling on how high the thing is going to go.  Simply put, it is a challenge for schools with our size and finances to maintain good football and basketball programs at the same time.  Of the teams that won byes to the tourney--Akron, OU, Buffalo and Ball State--only OU had a strong football team.  Similarly, the eventual champion and traditional not good at football.

On the flip side, NIU, BG and WMU have won the most football titles in recent years, and of them only WMU was even passably good in basketball.

Small sample, I know.  But I think it holds up.  Also, the top 4 seeds in the NCAA tournament are Kansas (lousy football), UNC (average football), Villanova (FCS football) and Gonzaga (no football).

Yes, I know the Big 10 does it.  No, I don't have an explanation for that.

Anyway, just an annual note that the MAC was once a "thinking man's" basketball conference, and now I just think we're average.

By the way, one thing is interesting.  For a LONG TIME people have said "it is hard to win on the road in the MAC."  And by people, I mean coaches who just lost a road game.  The home team won only 54% of the games this year in the conference, with was the 26th ranked winning percentage.  There were only 6 conferences where it was lower.

Monday, March 13, 2017

WTOL: Hluchoweckyj and Worrell to Leave Program

Well, some not great news from the men's basketball front, as reported by Jordan Strack of WTOL.

Hluchoweckyj is not a huge surprise.  He was hardly playing at all, made some starts following the suspension for the OU game.  Then, his minutes slowly dwindled until he did not play in 4 of the last 5 games.  He was the only Jans recruit who stayed with the program and he scored 39 career points.  He is from Nebraska.

Rasheed Worrell is a little more disappointing.  He red-shirted during the Jans year and then played during the Huger years.  He's 6'8" and gave the team important depth on the inside.  He started 28 games last year and then none this year, averaging 5.8 ppg and 4.2 RPG in 17 average minutes.  I always felt he had the ability to be, at least, a strong reserve for a team that is starved for inside players, but apparently it didn't work out.  He is from North Carolina.

Anyway, that leaves the men's basketball team with 5 returning scholarship players...Wiggins, Fox, Frye, Caldwell, and Lillard to go with the recruits and redshirts who are returning.  Fox will be the only senior.  Even before, next year was setting up to be a tough year and this will only make it more difficult.

There is time for Coach Huger to bring in even more new players or at least a player.  The key thing you would point to would be a graduate transfer, if available.  One of the reasons that this year's team was looking to be tough was that the recruiting had stopped kicking the can down the road with JUCO players.  Maybe that will change now.

Anyway, best to Rasheed and Malik.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

MAC Post-Season Line Up

Kent #14 playing UCLA in Sacramento.

This is a tough assignment.  Kent has the potential to be a tough out, but I think UCLA has a shot to win it all.  Kent has a good defense, but that's going to be a tough night but the Bruins are #3 in the nation in offensive efficiency and in the top 80 in defense.  Also, they have to go a long way to play that game.  To their benefit, the game will be the last one played in the first round.

Akron is a 7-seed in the NIT, playing @Houston (#2) on Wednesday.  Houston is ranked #49 in the country on kenpom and will be a big favorite on home floor against the Zips.  That said, Akron is a tough out.  Also, depends on how much each team feels like playing.

Ball State is going to keep playing.  They will play @IPFW on Wednesday in the CIT.   IPFW is #145 in and Ball State is in the 170s.  That's a good in-state matchup and remember that IPFW beat Indiana earlier this year.

UT is in the post-season.  They are playing in the CBI @ George Washington on Wednesday.  That could be a good matchup, with GW at #125 and UT at #129.  GW fired their coach during the season and is still working with an interim coach.

For their part, Buffalo has opted out of the post-season field.  I think it makes sense.  I hope the players weren't denied a chance to play together one last time if that's what they wanted, but these are incredibly minor events and that UB team is senior laden and so it isn't really a developmental opportunity.  If I recall correctly, this is not the first time Buffalo has done this.

Finally, the late report is that Ohio U. did not get an invite anywhere.  I suspect they did and chased it off, but I could be wrong.  Anyway, at this hour, it appears that OU's season is over.

List of Shame to 10

Now 49 elapsed years since BG has been in the NCAA tournament.  Northwestern has stepped off the list, bringing it down to 9, not including BG.  Here is the company we live with now.  Next year will be a half-century.

Columbia: Last appeared in 1968
Tennessee Tech: Last appeared in 1963
Maine: Division I since 1962
New Hampshire: Division I since 1962
Dartmouth: Last appeared in 1959
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

MAC Update

So, the season ended last night for MAC MBB, as Kent pulled the big "upset" and defeated Akron to win the MAC and head to the Big Dance.  I say "upset" because based on the last weeks of the season, it wasn't as shocking as the seeding might indicate.  After losing to BG and UT in mid-February and being 5-7, the Flashes won 9 of 10 coming home, beating Akron, Ohio and Buffalo twice each.  They were playing the best ball in the MAC.  Then, they won the tournament playing a bye game on Monday, which isn't "four games in four days." as the ESPN announcer was fond of saying, but was still impressive.

I guess you might think it isn't fair to win the regular season and not get the bid, but titles are decided on the field.  There's always a playoff.  I can't think of a sport that decides its title based on regular season standings (in the United States).  It is cruel, but Kent did also beat Akron 2 of 3 times.  (Oddly, BG also beat both teams, with 2 of 7 wins against the top teams in the  MAC).

Due to their previous struggles, they are set to be a #15 seed, based on Lunardi.  The last time a >4 seed won the tourney was in 2011 when Akron beat...Kent.

Anyway.  More tonight as the tournament pairings shake out as well as the other "minor" tourneys.  Seven MAC teams were .500 or above overall.

In the other news, John Cooper was fired at Miami, to no one's surprise.  They should hire carefully, because that program is a sleeping giant.  (John Groce?)  They are a historic MAC power and could get back there again.  This is a great job for the same reasons Chuck Martin thought it was a great job on the football side.

I'd guess that will be it.  His contract was up anyway, so it is more a non-renewal.  I actually thought Senderhof might be in trouble, but clearly not.  Others I wonder about would include Hawkins, Murphy and Montgomery, with no idea on their contract status.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Huger Rips Selfish Team, Inherited Guys

This video was posted by Jordan Strack at WTOL.  This is a pretty big WOW, if you ask me.

You should definitely take a couple of minutes and watch it.  Coach Huger gives a pretty bleak look at his program as it stands today.

  • Guys with one foot in and one foot out.
  • You question how tough your team is.  Mentally and physically.
  • We played selfish basketball.  Offensively and defensively.
  • Once it started to go bad, we couldn't stick together.
  • It's like it's the last go-round and you are going to show everybody what you can do and you show everybody what you can't do.
  • When you inherit guys, it is hard to get them to change.  It's hard to change a guy who has been doing it this way for so long and we're trying to change him and it's hard.
  • We had the same thing last year with the same issues, and now hopefully we can move forward.

Ouch.  Oh, and when he says now, he means that now that all of the players from previous regimes have moved through the program.  Those are the guys he inherited.  (It actually isn't quite true.  He also inherited Worrell and Fox).

Anyway, in yesterday's game, the only "inherited players" who played were Denny, Worrell and Fox.  The other seniors were Alcegaire and Ali, both of whom Huger recruited and were not "inherited."

So, I guess I understand what's being said.  Denny did shoot 3 of 7.  And, he played only 17 minutes.  (Worrell had 5 points and 4 rebounds in 20 minutes).

Ultimately, though, they can't possibly be all of the problem that we saw out there last night.  A significant part of the issue has to be guys who Huger didn't inherit, because that was who played most of the minutes and the whole team was getting skunked.

Anyway, it was a disappointing way to end the year.  BG was playing them relatively tough and with 15:42 left, BG was down only 4.  Over the next 8 minutes, BG was outscored 25-5 as UT blew the game wide open and never looked back.

I'm a supporter of Coach Huger and I definitely think he came into a difficult situation.  There will be a season review coming up, but in the meantime the team was a little better in conference play and about the same overall in year 2 when compared to year 1.  Next year is going to be rough, but starting with next year and extending onward, if guys are "one foot in and one foot out" then there's going to be no doubt where the accountability for it lies.

Erratum:  Mailk H. also was committed to BG before Huger took over.  We regret the error.

Monday, March 06, 2017

That's it. It's Over.

That's it.  There will be no run in the MAC tournament this year.  UT took a moderately close game at halftime and then blew BG off the hardwood in the second half, leading by more than 20 most of the way and walking to the win, 77-62, in a game that wasn't actually that close.

More to come on the game and the season.  BG finishes 13-19.  For now, the streak continues.  1968.

Denny and Frye Get MAC Honors

Nice honors for two Falcons today.

First, Zack Denny received honorable mention all-MAC honors as well as being named to the all-defensive team.  It is his first time to get an all-MAC honor.  His primary defensive stat is steals.  He averaged 2 steals a game, which was 3rd in the MAC and he was 2nd in steal%.

The other honoree was Dylan Frye on the all-freshman team.  For the year, he also shot 9.0 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists. His 40.0 three-point percentage ranks 10th in the conference. Frye is also shooting 44.8 percent from the field for the season.

The last Falcon to make All-Freshman was Joe Jakubowski in 2008, something made even weirder by the fact he and Frye could be twins.

Congrats to Zack and Dylan.  Great job!

Football depth chart for spring ball released

And so here it is. The football depth chart set for the start of spring football at BG.  This is always a good we get a chance to look ahead at what the program has to offer for the Fall.

A few observations.

There was some shuffling on the o-line but no huge surprises.  You have rock-solid Tim McAuliffe in the middle with Labus and Hunter at the tackles, as was probably expected.  Taborn, who played T last year due to injuries, is moving into G and Jack Kramer was a backup G and is now up to the starter.  Beyond that, we need to keep good hope for health.  BG has three backups who have never played a down and one (Lucke) who has played in only one game.  Clark Clancy is the one backup with any kind of playing experience.  So, BG needs to stay healthy and know that the line next year will be very young.

At QB, James Morgan is the starter, as expected.  The backups are undetermined. You have walk-on Loy, Elijah Cunningham who red-shirted and Jarrett Doege, who is a FR early enrollee.  It matters how this one sorts out.  Most teams need a backup QB at some point in a year.  I have a feeling it might end up being Doege in the 2-hole, but that's just a guess.

At WR, you have Redding, Zimmerman, Pough and Miller, which represents no surprise.  Also offers no real outside deep threat.  The backups include Matt Wilcox (early enrollee) and Darin Guyton, a transfer who was once at Oregon State.  Phoutavong and Folkerstma round out the WR Corps.  If I had to guess, I'd say Guyton will start to steal reps pretty quickly with his size and speed.

Lastly, Cleveland and Wilson will split time at RB.  Both are seniors.

On the defensive line, it is important to remember that this is all a rotation, so really the whole two-deep gets PT.  Dirion Hutchins and Nico Lautenan are moving into the rotation.  Lautenan has played some....9 games last year as a R-FR.  In general, defensive line is stable for us heading into Spring.

At LB....well, BG might never have lost two more key LBs in the same year as they did with Austin Valdez and Trent Greene.  Nate Locke will slide in at MLB.  He's got quite a bit of time under his belt with 39 games played.  Aaron Banks will take the other spot.  He's a R-SR who has played some but not much.  He made 3 tackles last year.  His backup is KY transfer Dorian Hendrix and the backup in the middle is Jerry Judd, a R-FR in his first game.  The other LB is stable, with Brandon Harris and Nillijah Ballew, both converted DBs.

Speaking of which, in the d-backfield BG has Cam Jeffries and Robert Jackson in the first spot at corner.  Both of those young men got some duress-laden reps at true freshmen last year.  Marcus Milton is one of the backups...he got a number of snaps last year...and then the other CB is Clint Stephens, who is coming back from injury and will be important if he can get healthy.

BG was decimated at S, between injuries and now graduation.  Jamari Bozeman and Jerry McBride will begin the spring as the starters...both of them also had a growing year during 2016.  The backups are Tavarous Wade and JUCO Fred Garth.  Missing from the depth chart are Antonyo Sotolango, who played quite a bit last year, as well as Ben Hale and Jack Walz, both of whom were injured but remain listed on the roster.  So, conceivably there is the possibility of additional depth as well.

The special teams come back pretty intact.  Jake Suder is the K.  I don't know if BG has any preferred walk-on kickers, but those would not show up until July.  Joe Davidson is back.  We have a new long snapper, this is Gabe Skrobot.  KRs appear to be pretty much the same.

So that's how things look.  BG needs a healthy offensive line and for the D-backs to continue to get begin with.  And, the offense needs some WRs to step up and become playmakers in order to get things in gear.  Spring ball is a comin'.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Catching up with football,...

Other than the Austin Valdez news, BG has a couple more news flashes on the football front which we can sneak in here before the UT-BG game tomorrow.

The big one is the release of the schedule.  There's no way to overstate this for Falcon fans, who are hungry to see the program rebound next year...a really good record is going to be tough with this schedule.  BG could have a good year at 6-6.

There are 2 P5 programs on the schedule.  Also, BG plays at a very good Middle Tennessee State program.  Yes, there is an FCS team, but there are also only 5 home games overall.  More on that in a minute.

Here is the way it breaks out.

South Dakota
@Middle Tennesee

So, let's say you lose the 3 non-conferences games.  You still have to play UT, @Miami and @EMU, the last 2 of whom have returned to our rotation just as their programs have been rebuilt.  And, after that, you still have OU, for example, a 6-win season might look like SD, Akron, OU, NIU, @Kent and @Buffalo.  The 7th win would need to be (for example), UT, @Miami or @EMU.  If BG gets 7 wins they would be 6-2 in the MAC and possibly in the MAC title game.

And if BG ends up there, I think we can start to think we have some guys who can coach.  A continuation of last year?  BG could be as poor as 3-9/4-8 again easily.

Now, as for the lack of home is very disappointing.  I love to be at the Doyt and I love our home games.  A while ago we had an AD committing to having 6 home games, which by definition means more home and homes with mid-majors.  I just don't think that's realistic for us for financial reasons.  I have posted here time and again about the level of subsidy our athletic program gets from the students at BG.  It is among the lowest in the MAC and still too high.  I just think the athletic department needs the football team to play those two games and cash the checks from, this year, MSU and Northwestern.

It is just one of the contradictions of playing football at this level.  We strain to keep the house up while the neighbors are putting additions on and buying vacation homes.  And sometimes we still beat them.

It is too bad, but it is a reality of how we roll right now.

The other snippet of news is that BG has a commit from Ricardo Marble.  He's a '17 commit.  I am assuming he's a preferred walk on, who the Falcons can't comment on until they start classes.  He is from Detroit, he was a QB at De La Salle Collegiate HS.  There's not a ton of info on him, my guess is that we view him as a DB.  He is 6'2".

The spring game is April 8.

Third Time for Rockets and Falcons....

So here we go.  Could be the final outing for the Falcons this year.  Last year, they salvaged a rough year with a tourney run.  Such a thing would be great this year...and, for that matter, all the better because who it would entail beating...UT.

BG and UT split the games this year, both winning at home.  In the first game, UT pretty much cruised to the win, 85-73 and not as close as that.  BG won the game at the Stroh in what was an operatic double OT thriller before BG ended up breaking a six-game losing streak to UT.

UT has to be disappointed with the results they are getting.  Their 2014 probably should have won the MAC--but got blown out by WMU in the final.  They are 17-19 in the MAC over the last 2 years.  Kowalcyzk had a bunch of really good players and transfers at the beginning, but hasn't been able to sustain it and didn't get the big win he needed to land a bigger job.  This year, they were hampered by an injury to Zach Garber, one of their big men, and then needing to dismiss jUCO transfer Daniel Dzierzawski.  They have good players, but have had only an average season.

So, below are the stats from game 1 and game 2 between the two teams.  UT is the best shooting team in the MAC and BG is the worst team defending the shot.  So, it is no surprise that in both games UT shot very well and pretty much the same.  The thing is, UT is not as good on defense--#6 overall and defending the shot.  BG is 11th in you got what you pretty much would expect in game 1.  In game 2, BG made shots out the ass.  That's their best shooting game of the year...and the next best was 60% EFG against Norfolk State,  the #304 team in the nation.

So, you want something to start with?  BG will need to make some shots.  The other difference (major) between the two games was free throws.  In the first game, UT was 18 of 31 and BG only 8 of 12 at the line.  In the second game, BG was 21 of 32 and UT was 14-24.  The Rockets shot FTs poorly in both games, partly by BG's hack-a-Taylor strategy.  He was 4 of 19 in both games.

So, if you want a formula to win, it is going to need to involve making some shots.  As Coach said after Buffalo, BG just tends to miss a lot of open shots and this has been a problem for the program for a long time.  BG hasn't finished higher than 9th in the MAC in shooting since 2012, when they were 5th.  You can talk about defense all you like, but I still contend that the program has not recruited enough offensive playmakers.

UT is led by Jonathan Williams and Steve Taylor--both seniors.  Also, Nate Navigato rarely misses a shot against BG.  Jaelen Sanford is also a SO and an excellent player.  Overall, this UT team is less than the sum of its parts.  Kenpom gives them an 82% probability of winning this game and you're going to need to see the Falcons bring their very best effort--on the road--to get this win.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Regular Season Ends on Loss

And this is where it all ended up.   With last night's loss to Buffalo, BG finished in the #10 spot, about where they were predicted to be.  They play Toledo on Monday and then OU at the Q if they win that one.  The Falcons finish 7-11 in the MAC, which is a modest two-game improvement over Huger's first year.  More on the future in another post.

The game in Buffalo was never a contest.  The Bulls bolted out to a 13-2 lead and led by as much as 16 in the first half.  BG got it back to 8 at halftime and 6 early in the 2nd half, but the Bulls spent the first minutes of the second half doing nothing but burying 3FGs and they led by 15 with 17 left in the game.  They maintained at least a 10-point lead the remainder of the way and led by as much as 20 points.

BG tried a lot of things to shake the effort up.  For one thing, Dylan Frye ran the point.  Antwon Lillard played 30 minutes.  BG trapped and pressed.  BG hounded Hamilton.  None of it, especially the last one, accomplished anything.

When you see a shooting differential like that, you can tell exactly the story of the game.  Buffalo shot well....not great...but well.  BG shot awful, that's 40% on 2FG and 29% on 3FG.  Coach Huger identified this after the game.  BG was getting good looks and missing the shots.  That included jumpers and layups.  The only game all year in MAC play where BG shot worse was the EMU game.  BG did a little better on turnovers and did a nice job on the boards and got to the line...taking 32 FTs to UB's 15...but BG made only 18 of those 32.

So, yeah, the weaknesses for BG came in the parts of the game where a team needs to put the ball inside of the rim.  Which is important.

Zack Denny led BG with 16 points, but on 5 of 14 shooting.   He also had 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.  Frye had 11 on 4 of 10 shooting, Caldwell 11 on 4 of 7 shooting (and only 14 minutes) and Lillard 10 on 4 of 7 shooting.  Wiggins, who I fear is being exposed as a defensive liability, played only 18 minutes with 9 points and 9 rebounds.  Worrell shot 2 of 7 as well.

So, on to the Rockets.  Last year, BG made a run in the MAC tournament.  This will be a tough one, but you never know.  The Falcons have episodically been capable of strong play, but not capable of consistent success.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Valdez to Transfer from BG Football

So, bad news for the BG Football program, as starting MLB Austin Valdez has decided to graduate and be a 5th-year transfer elsewhere in college football.

This is a difficult blow.  The defense had enough issues as it was last year and this just makes it more difficult for a team that has a very tough schedule and is attempting to claw its way back to respectability with question marks in the program leadership.

Trent Greene also left, so BG has pretty big gaps at LB to fill.  The heir apparent would be Nate Locke, who has been in the rotation for a couple years but has never had to carry the burden on his own.  Valdez was hurt much of last year, so there was PT for the next level of players.  BG returns 6 starters on defense.

I wish Valdez the best.  It is his life and he has to do what is right for him.  I don't like the graduate transfer rule, but it exists and he should be able to go to school where he wants.  Coaches get to go when they want, I get to go where i want, it seems reasonable that a player could do something like this too.

He was a great Falcon.  First-team All-MAC as a junior on a championship team, 222 total career tackles and 13 TFL.  He played in 37 games total over his 3 playing seasons.

So, best of luck Austin.  You're always a champion in BG.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Season Finale Preview

So we have reached the end of the least the regular season road.  As always seems to be the case, the Falcons will wrap things up in Buffalo in a meaningful game...for both teams, but more for the Bulls, who can work their way into a bye, which is huge.  BG needs three things to happen to get a home game, one of which is to beat UB.

UB is good and playing well.  And, of course, they are the two-time defending champion.  I think there are 3 teams that could win the MAC next week at the Q, and those are Akron, UB and Kent.  I don't see it being OU, but I guess they could be the 4th.

They are 10-7 in MAC play after a 3-5 start.  They had a little bump when they lost at home to Kent and Akron, but then they rallied to beat OU in Athens on Tuesday night.

They beat BG pretty handily at the Stroh earlier this year.  The game was close into the second half, but then the Bulls went on a 16-2 run and blew the lead open and had cruised to the win.  The basic storyline was the UB pounded the ball inside relentlessly and effectively and BG was unable to get the ball anywhere near the hoop.  Buffalo is just tougher and stronger than BG---or they were that day.  As you can see, BG shot the ball a little bit above league average, but UB shot it through the roof.  It was the worst defensive game for BG up to that time and has been since been eclipsed by the 2nd OU game.  UB had trouble taking care of the ball, which kept the game close, but they ended up shooting a bunch of FTs, too.

Looking at the season, we see UB and BG pretty much produce the same amount on both ends of the court.  The Bulls are a defensive team, mostly.  They are #2 in the MAC in defensive efficiency and #7 in offensive efficiency.  BG, as we know, is 10th in offense and 11th in defense.

Same pattern is here.   BG is a poor offensive team and UB a good defensive team, so things are pretty much equal in terms of what to expect.  They are very good at defending the shot and on the offensive boards and they are just OK at forcing turnovers.  They do give up a lot of FTs, 11th in the MAC.  As noted from the first game, Buffalo is #2 in the MAC in defending the 2FG.

As usual, BG allows higher shooting than their opponents come in with.  However, in this case, the spread is not as large as it often is.  UB is only #7 in the MAC in shooting.  They also are 8th in turnovers....but 2nd in offensive rebounds and 5th in getting to the FT line...but only 8th in making FTs.  They are 8th in 3FG and 5th in 2FGs.  They are just a good but not great offensive team.  They certainly looked like a great one in the first game, so let's hope that doesn't happen again.

They are led by Blake Hamilton, who is a first-team All-MAC player in my book.  He is scoring 16.9 PPG, 6 RPG and 5 APG.  He isn't terribly efficient, shooting 42%, but he's a very good player.  CJ Massinburg scores 14.6 PPG on 43% shooting and 6 RPG.  Willie Conner is scoring 12 PPG on 42% shooting. Nick Perkins has 11.7 PPG on 42% shooting.  Basically, UB's best players are not great shooters.  Also, in game 1 Dontay Caruthers had a huge game as well.

So, the regular season comes to an end Friday.  BG has pretty much been as expected...maybe just a TICK better.  A win Friday certainly changes that.  And, of course, there's the tournament.

Quick Kent Summary, BG Reset

Won't have much of an update on the Kent game.  I was out of town again and literally heard not a moment of it.  It was senior day for Ali, Denny and Alcegaire, and they each scored in double figures.  More on those guys later.  BG had a shot to win the game.  They were down 1 with the ball with a minute left, but got the stop when they needed it and then went on a 6-0 run in the last minute to wrap the game up.  On balance, it looks on paper to be a solid effort for BG that just came up short against a team that is playing really well.

So, let's reset.  There are 5 teams in the MAC currently at 10-7 and they all play at home on Friday.  Only 3 of them are going to get a bye.  There are like a million permutations of all that which I am sure has been analyzed elsewhere.

So, BG needs 3 things to happen to get a home berth.  They need to win @UB.  Also, EMU would have to lose at home to Toledo and NIU would have to lose @BSU.  All three things have to happen.

That's going to be a tall order.  The hardest will be the Buffalo win, frankly.  The Bulls are playing well, won at the Stroh and have a lot to play for on their senior day.  It certainly isn't impossible, and BG is playing better, but it is going to be difficult.  If that happens, you gotta think NIU will lose @Ball State, and who knows about EMU and Toledo, they are both unpredictable.  Certainly, UT could win.

There is a chance BG could play UT in a rubber match in the first round of the tournament.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Flashing into town....

So next come the Falcons, as the season draws to a rather interesting close.  Here's the thing.  BG has a shot at a home berth.  They pretty much need to win them both coming home and certainly need to win 1 and this is the more likely of the two to get.  It is still going to be tough.

The opponent is Kent State.  BG beat the Flashes in OT at the MACC earlier this year in a crazy game in which BG erased at 4-point deficit in the final :14 of overtime.  There are no bad road wins.

Since then, Kent is playing great basketball.  Their very next game after that was not good.  They lost by 20 to Toledo and at 5-7 it was starting to look like the Flashes were driving off the side of the road.  In fact, you have to wonder how secure Senderhoff is over there, though I have no idea of his contract status.

Anyway, since then things have turned around.  They have won 4 straight, including @Akron, @Buffalo and Ohio.  Those are the 3 best teams in the MAC, and they've beaten them and won two of them on the road.  This is a team that is playing really well and appears to be a threat to win the tournament.

Looking back at the first game, I suspect Kent regrets mostly their inability to take care of the ball against BG...especially at the end of the OT.  The rest of it was pretty even and even favored Kent a little bit.  Jaylin Walker led the Flashes with 18 points and Jimmy Hall double-doubled though he also had 8 turnovers.  Matt Fox had 18, Wiggins 16 and 8 rebounds and Caldwell had 16 as well.

So, for the year we can see that Kent is about even offensively and defensively.  That's 9th in offense and 5th in defense.  BG has been getting stops the last two weeks.  During their winning streak, Kent has basically just tweaked this formula a little bit.  They have been a little better on offense and even better on defense.

Kent has not been a great shooting team this year.  They are 8th in the MAC in shooting.  They also turn the ball over a lot...they are 10th in the MAC in turnovers.  If anything has really improved in their run, it has been turnovers, which have been under 15% in all four wins and under 8% in the win at the JAR.

Their strength is now and has been offensive rebounding.  They are just really good on the offensive boards.  That's the best number in the MAC.  They also don't get to the line much, though they make 73% when they do.  They are 10th in shooting 3FGS and 7th in 2FGs.

Flipping it around, Kent gets their strong defense not by doing any one thing really well but by doing nothing badly.  They are 5th in EFG, 5th in turnovers, 6th in OREB% and 6th in FTR.  They are #3 in defending the 3-pont line.  As you can see, their offense and BG's defense are pretty similar.  Reminder, BG is 11th in offense and defense in MAC play.  (Frankly, and this is a topic for another day, but BG's 7 wins are clearly out-performing what you'd expect from these numbers.)

Kent is led by Jimmy Hall, who is a MAC POTY candidate for sure.  He's scoring (all games) 19 PPG and adding 9.6 RPG.  He shoots 53%.  He's a handful and first-team All-MAC and there's no doubt about it.  Perhaps their better-kept secret is Deon Edwin, who is scoring at 14.8 PPG with 6 rebounds per game.  He had 20 and 18 against OU Saturday and scored 21 in the Akron win.

He and Hall are both seniors and actually are the top assist-men on the Flashes as well.

Their other top scorer is Jaylin Walker, who scores an inefficient 15 PPG on 38% shooting.  FWIW, Kevin Zabo, a 6 PPG scorer had 17 in the first game against the Falcons.

So, this is going to be interesting.  The Flashes are playing really well, have two strong seniors and are in the hot running for one of the byes.  BG is playing well and will be at home.  It will be a good test for our guys.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Falcons Notch 7th MAC Win @Miami

For all the unexpected nature of this year's season, this is one that went just as it was supposed to.  BG was playing Miami, the worst team in the MAC and it isn't close.  BG isn't great, but coming off the win over Akron you'd hate to lose this one, no matter where it was played.

And the Falcons did drama-free fashion, 70-54 and going away.  Miami never led.  The game was tied a little bit in the second half.  Miami cut the lead to 5 with 7:30 left at 50-45, and then from there on in BG outscored them 20-9 to get the victory.

I saw Vegas had Miami as a 2-point favorite.  You'd have to wonder about that.  Too bad I don't gamble...anyway, this is one BG should have won, needed to win, and won...and did so without any craziness.

More at the end of the post to reset BG's shot at home court, which has improved.

For the game, the key was defense.  It was no work of art for either team when it comes to making 3FG.  Collectively, the two teams were 5 of 42 from long distance.  That's not good at all.  Miami, the worst offensive team in the MAC, had .76 points per possession.  The only BG opponent to be less efficient was Morgan State, not counting Notre Dame.  Anyway, Miami only had an EFG of 41%, which means 63% on 2FG and 8% on 3FGs.  That is also BG's second best outcome in D1 this year, best in the MAC.  

BG didn't have a great offensive game.....98 points per possession and an EFG of 50%, which is pretty much average.  However, they were significantly better than the RedHawks and then more or less even on turnovers, better on the offensive boards and at the line.  BG had a great game with FTs, making 17 of 19 while Miami made only 8 out of 16.

BG was led by Antwon Lillard with 16 points.  He was about as efficient as you can be, making 4 of 6 FGs and 8-8 FTs and adding 9 Rebs.  He has certainly been in a sophomore slump.  Since the Ball State game, (the first one), he has only been in double figures twice, UT and this game.  I still believe he can be a contributing player and I hope he does, too.  Doesn't have to start, but I think he can still help us win.

Rasheed Worrell also had a big game, scoring 11 points making everything.....4 FGs and 3 FTs.  He also added 6 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.  He has been coming on.  Until the suspensions, he had not played 15 minutes in any MAC game, but he has been over 20 in 3 of the last 4.  Wiggins is seeing a little less time, with 2 points and 3 rebounds in 18 minutes.  I think he's struggling on the defensive end and he is having his own little slump.  Still have confidence in him, too.

Denny and Ali, for their parts, had pretty inefficient 10-point games.

So here's the reset.

BG is tied for the last home berth.

If BG wins both of their remaining games, they need NIU to lose one of their last 2, which I think is likely.  There might be some other scenarios with 3-4 way ties from one of the 9-7 teams, but with 9 wins I think BG would be hard pressed not to get the home game.

Now, if BG only wins one of the games, then they need NIU to lose both of their games, which could happen.  If that happened, BG would be at home, probably against NIU.  If UT lost out and tied BG and NIU and 8-10, NIU, BG would still be 9th.

So, BG needs help.  Their last 2 games are tough.  Kent is playing really well, just watched them rally to beat OU and Buffalo is playing well, too.  Two wins would be huge, but is going to be tough, and one win is not going to be a picnic.  But that's what is ahead of us.

Friday, February 24, 2017

BG Picks up MBB Verbal from Latvia

BG has landed what would appear to be its 5th recruit for next season.  This guy is really interesting.  His name is Matiss Kulackovskis and he is from Saldus, Latvia.  He came to the US to try and get a basketball scholarship, attending Archbishop Ryan in Philly, where BG is recruiting hard.  He is BG's first Latvian basketball player (as far as I can recall), though BG did have Ralfs Freibergs on the hockey team.  Ralfs played for Latvia in the Olympics.

Kulackovskis follows another trend for BG's signees, which is to increase the team's overall length.  He is 6'7" but plays that stretch game you expect out of a European.  He scored 17.6 PPG and is an excellent 3FG shooter, which is a matchup problem in the MAC with his size.  There is an excellent article about him and his recruitment here.  

Basically, he is a later bloomer, struggled with confidence when he first arrived here (you trying moving to Latvia) but has emerged this year as a leader and as a player.  Once BG locked onto him they worked it hard until they landed him.  He doesn't have other offers, which could be because of the late blooming.  If you can get a guy like this it is like buying low on a stock that breaks out big.

Fans will be reminded a little of Dusan Radivojevic, a Dakich-era Serbian who had a similar physical profile.  He didn't work out terribly well here, though he transferred to Arkansas Tech, where he played effectively on a team that made the DII tournament and was ranked #1 for part of the year.  The coach of that team was Mark Downey, who was at BG for 1 year with Coach Jans.  Today Dusan is coaching in Brazil.

Anyway, BG badly needs an outside threat and if Matiss can be that guy he helps turn this program around.

BG returns the following 9 players who are on scholarship right now.  The 5 recruits would put them one over the limit of 13.  My guess is that Matt Fox's scholarship is year to year.  Also, you never know if someone else doesn't return.

  1. Wiggins
  2. Hluchoweckyj
  3. Caldwell
  4. Frye 
  5. Turner
  6. Lillard
  7. Uju
  8. Fox
  9. Worrell

Welcome to the Falcons, Matiss.

Can BG Keep it Up?

If they do for four hours, we will call a Dr.


So the beat goes on.  BG heads to Oxford to play the last place Miami RedHawks.  As noted earlier in the week, BG's has long a long shot at a home berth, but it is a shot.  Miami is in last place and it isn't close.  They are 2 full games behind EMU, the next worst team.  At 3-12 in MAC play, these are almost certain to be the final days of the Cooper era at Millet Hall.  Miami has simply never had a period like this...where they were not one of the dominant programs in the MAC.  Someone (if they choose right) is heading into a very good situation, actually.  But, for now, things are tough.

BG won the first game at the Stroh, 83-72.  Miami is not a good shooting team, but they shot it well against BG in that matchup.  However, they had a staggering number of turnovers.  Likely MAC FOY of the year Michael Weathers had 10 on his own.  Meanwhile, BG shot the ball pretty well, took OK care of it but added huge offensive rebounding numbers and a +11 advantage at the FT line to get the win.  Wes Alcegaire scored 25 with 6 3FGs.  Hluchoweckyj (who played 0 minutes in the Akron game) scored 10 and Denny contributed 10 on 7 FTs off the bench.  Jake Wright led MU with 16 points.

Looking at the whole season now, you see a big spread on the left hand side of this chart.  MU is the worst offensive team in the MAC and BG is the 11th best defensive team.  So, that's a crap shoot, pretty much.  On the other side, BG is 10th in offense while Miami is 8th in defense.  Here, we just wonder which Bowling Green team shows up.  You can obviously score on Miami, but BG needs to bring their shooting.

Miami comes by their last-place offensive rating honestly.  They are 9th in overall shooting, last in turnovers and 10th in offensive rebounding.  Their only really strong point is getting to the line.  In the first game, they shot well against BG (the worst FG defense in the MAC) but threw it away with 34% turnovers.  That will be the test in this one.  They are 6th in getting to the FT line and make 72%, which is in the middle of the MAC.  They are the worst 3FG shooting team in the MAC and 6th in making 2FGs.

Flipping it around, Miami is relatively easy to shoot against.  The number you see there is #10 in the MAC.  The only thing Miami does well is cause some turnovers, which they are #2 in the MAC.  They give up a lot of offensive rebounds and FTs.  They are 10 in defending the 3FG and 7th in the 2FG.  BG, of course, is weak on many of these items as well.  It will be an interesting element to the game.

Michael Weathers still leads MU is scoring with 14.3 PPG on a struggling 39% and 16% shooting (MAC Play).  That's a couple points below his season average.  He also had 4.7 APG and about 2 steals per game.  Logan McLane is their inside threat, with 13.9 PPG and 7.2 RPG on 53% shooting.  Marcus Weathers is scoring 11 PPG on 54% shooting and 6.3 RPG.

This is a game BG should win.  However, all 3 of MU's MAC wins have been at home.  Even so, after the big win Tuesday, BG has the chance to finish the season strong as it builds toward the future and with a loss here, that apple loses a little bit of the polish.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Zip Streak Snapped!

So when the boss said they needed me on a business trip on Tuesday out of town, I was like, well, I'm going to miss the Akron game, but, you know, we know how those usually turn out.  And we were playing very poorly heading into the game.

Sigh.  Wouldn't you know it?

Anyway, I might have been the only beneficiary of the late start.  I was able to listen to the Walker/Cowan call for the second half of what was a very exciting game.

OK.  That breaks the 17-game losing streak to Akron--something that should never happen to a team in our conference.  Interestingly, Coach Huger told the Sentinel after the game they HE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW ABOUT THE STREAK and "doesn't pay attention to stuff like that."

OK, then. Surely, he knows that is the first time he's beaten Akron, right?

I'm proud of our guys.  They have broken two long streaks--UT and Akron--and those go on the highlight reel for a season that has not been terribly distinguished.  I wish we brought a "big game" effort more often since we are clearly capable of it.  I'm sure that's on Coach's mind as well.

Be that as it may.  We are glad for the win at any rate.  It is significant and I'm especially glad that the late heroics were Denny and Alcegaire, both of whom might have played their last game against Akron.

Here's where we stand right now....BG is just one game out of one of those home berths.  Let's just say BG won @Miami and beat Kent next Tuesday.  We would finish 8-10.  NIU just needs one win to beat BG, which I would see them getting in one of their 3 games, but not for sure.  The other team is UT.  We split with them, so I don't know where the tie-breaker goes.  Anyway, they have two home games and then EMU, so I think they end up with 9 wins.  In general, it looks tough.  But who knows.

BG led the game most of the way.  Akron jumped up 11-5 and then BG went on a 14-0 to go up 8 with 12 minutes left in the game.  BG continued to build the lead up to 12.  Akron continued to battle and got it to 5 by last in the half before BG scored to lead by 7 at the half.

BG came out hot in the 2nd half and had the lead up to 11.  Akron went on a run and got it to 3 with 14 minutes left, 1 with 11 minutes left and they tied the game with 8 minutes.  Akron finally took the lead back with 2:26 left in the game.  Here, you just have to have the feeling that things are going the way they often do, with BG playing Akron tough for a long time, but in the crunch minutes the Zips push their foot down on the pedal.

Wes Alcegaire nailed a 3 to put BG back up 1.  Denny got a steal on the next Akron possession and was fouled, but he missed the front end of the 1-1.  Akron cleared the board and went to Johnson for a layup to put the Zips back up 1 with 1:32.

At that point, you felt like BG might have missed a pretty big opportunity.  Frye missed a 3FG and things were looking rough.  However, this time when the Zips fed the ball to Johnson, Denny got the steal.  BG took the ball into Alcegaire who missed the layup.  However, this time Wiggins took the offensive board, worked the ball and with :20 left Zack Denny nailed a jumper to put BG back up 1.

Akron called timeout and worked a play to get the ball to Johnson, who made a layup with :07 left.  Akron back up 1 again.  Without a timeout, BG ran the ball down the floor and Alcegaire drove to the basket, collided with Johnson and BG got the call.  By all accounts, it could have gone either way, but this one went BG's way.  Even so, this is far from a done deal.  BG was still in the 1-1 and Alcegaire is only making 58% this year.  This time, he was clutch, though.  He made both ends and BG was up 1 and had a thrilling victory in hand.

As noted, this is one that could have gone bad and was pointing toward Akron grinding out a victory in the last minutes.  But, this time, BG got a couple key stops and made the FTs they really needed with :07 left.

The key to the victory was that Akron didn't make any shots.  You know, I've written for a while that BG is the easiest team in the MAC to shoot against, but in this case Akron found it hard to get shots to fall.  BG held them to .93 points per possession, their best defensive game since Ball State.  That 43% EFG is BG's best effort since the Alabama A&M game, and they are...literally...the worst team in the country.

For that matter, it was Akron's 3rd worst shooting game of the year and their worst in the MAC.  BG didn't shoot great, but it was better than Akron shot.  And then, BG did a much better job on turnovers.  BG had only 8 turnovers for the game and Akron had 14.  Those two factors together were enough to get BG the win.  Nobody did any real offensive rebounding or FT shooting.  There were only 31 fouls in the entire game.

BG was led by its guards.  Zack Denny had 20 points on 7 of 17 shooting and 2 of 5 shooting.  He also added 10 rebounds and 4 steals.  Dylan Frye had 22 points on 9 of 12 shooting and 3 of 5 shooting.  Wiggins and Alcegaire both had terrible shooting nights...except for Alcegaire getting the shots needed at the end and Wiggins getting the big offensive board before Denny's basket.   He had 9 for the game along with 4 blocked shots.

So on the season goes.  This was a big win.  As Coach said after the game, Akron is the model.  You want to be Akron.  They are consistently good, year in and year out.  And you can't have a team in your conference that you lose 17 straight to.  Now, to Oxford, the most winnable game left on the schedule.  Let's hope BG delivers it.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Akron Trail of Tears Continues

So it is time for the BG-Akron rematch.  You know the storyline.  Akron has beaten BG in 17 straight games and 25 out of the last 26.  When the games tips off it will be 2,914 days since BG beat Akron.

The two teams opened the MAC season at the JAR.  At the time I said it was the best game BG had played all season, and it might still be.  Now, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.  Akron led for 32 minutes.  However, they only won by 5 and more of what we saw last Saturday in Athens is what we would have expected.

Honestly, this team is capable of rallying like they did against UT in an "important" game and putting something together.  That's the saddest part of it all.

There's no doubt, Akron is the best team in the MAC this year.  They are 12-2 in the conference and they have already clinched one of the top 4 seeds.  They are 22-5 overall and have a kempom of 103. Their RPI is 47, if you are looking at something a little more conventional.   Right now, Lunardi has them as a #13 seed.

Their only MAC losses are @Buffalo and at home to Kent, which broke a 30-game home winning streak.

I've said it before, this is a great program and they are a very good team.  They know how to win.  In this first game, when BG got it close the Zips found a gear and pushed the lead back out again.

Here's the stats from that game.  BG shot well but Akron shot much better.  However, the Zips turned the ball over.  They are super tough on the baords, and they showed it and they ended up at the line...well...a lot.

Akron plays an interesting style.  They play at the 2nd slowest pace in the MAC, yet they are #2 in offensive efficiency.  And let there be no doubt.  If BG doesn't figure out how to keep the ball out of the paint, Akron will drive it there all day with relentless efficiency.

And, as we always seem to say, as good as Akron is on offense, BG is that poor on defense.

Akron is not a great defensive team.  That rating is 7th in the MAC.  (This is in the weeds, but that's not a very big spread for a team with only 5 losses, which is why their Kenpom ranking isn't very high).

Anyway, BG is 10th in the MAC in offense.  Clearly, the opportunity to score on Akron exists.  Whether BG takes advantage of it--as they did against UT, which had a similar defensive profile, well, that remains to be seen.

Akron is #3 in the MAC in shooting and BG is last in FG defense, which is what you see there.  I doubt if Akron plays many teams who give up a higher percentage than they shoot.  Although they did not take care of the ball well in the first game, they have in general.  They lead the MAC in turnover%.  They are not great on the boards and they are 2nd in the MAC in getting to the FT line.

They are #2 in the MAC in terms of attempting 3FGs.  They are, however, only #6 in making them.  In both of their MAC losses they shot under 25% from 3FG.  They've also won 3 games with a similar 3FG%.  Anyway, that's not great for them, given the volume of shots.  They are #2 in 2FG shooting and not good at the FT line, #11.

Flipping it around, Akron is strongest at protecting the defensive boards, where they lead the MAC.  They force very few turnovers and are 7th in EFG%.  They are 5th in the MAC allowing teams to the line.  As noted above, they are just an average defensive team.  BG will need to get some shots to fall to take advantage.  BG is #10 in shooting in the MAC and #270 in the country.  Akron is the easiest team to shoot 3FGs against in the MAC, so you'd like to think you had a shot at making that work.  It wouldn't on the surface appear to be something BG is well poised to do, but you never know.

Akron is led by Isaiah Johnson.  He's scoring 16.7 PPG on 63% shooting and 7.25 RPG.  He is a poor FT shooter, so there might be something there.   He's #8 in scoring and rebounding, #1 in FG% and #13 in assists in the MAC.

They also feature Kwan Cheatam a 6'10" Sr.  He has 12 PPG and 7 RPG, shooting 42% and 40%. Antino Jackson scores 12 PPG and adds 3 assists.  He is efficient, shooting 46% and 42% from 3 FG.  Jimond Ivey is a 6'4" SO who scores almost 10, adds 6 rebounds and shoots 46%.  Finally, Daniel Utomi is a 6'6" FR who is leading the MAC making 50% from 3FG.

In game 1, Wiggins had a big game.  That would help this time as well, but he's going to have to play enough defense to stay on the floor to make that happen.

Anyway, the odds are strongly against BG in this game.  Certainly, a victory is possible, but Akron would be heavily favored.