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.
ESPN Recruiting Ranks MBB Incoming Class The Best In Program History: Men's Basketball Inks Four During Early… https://t.co/nMUqonOu7y— BGSU Falcons (@BGSUFalcons) April 23, 2017
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 thing....next year could be another struggle. BG just has a very young team....here's what they will show on the court when the season opens.
- Wiggins (Jr)
- Caldwell (So)
- Frye (So)
- Turner (R-Fr)
- Lillard (Jr)
- Uju (r-Jr)
- Fox (Sr)
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.
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.