So, here we go. Onto Muncie for game 2 of the MAC season. I'm probably not being smart, but I am really looking forward to seeing this game. BG put together a nice performance--albeit in defeat Tuesday--and I'm excited to see if they can string some of those together, because this game is one you could win with a similar effort.
Not that Ball State is a bad team or will be easy to beat. They are 9-5. However, according to kenpom they played the second weakest non-conference schedule in D1. They beat no team ranked higher than 228 and six wins were over teams ranked 300+ and one was a non-D1 win. So, I think it is safe to say that we don't know what we have here yet. (BG played the #329 ranked schedule, so it isn't much different).
They are 0-1 in the MAC, dropping a crazy 100-90 game at Kent on Tuesday. (Great quote from Coach Whitford: "I'm disappointed we lost, but I'm not losing my mind.") That was an 82 possession game in regulation, which is atypical of those two teams and, more or less, any two teams. Anyway. For the year, BSU is at 70 possessions per game, which is slightly above the national average. This team is slightly above average on offense and slightly below average on defense. (National is 1.037 points per possession). As you can see, that compares to a BG team that is a little above average defensively and below it on offense. Still, all these stats are in the same range, and Ball State gave up 1.22 points per possession to Kent, an OK offensive team but not a juggernaut. If BG can shoot like they did Tuesday, I think we have a shot to compete.
When BG has the ball, things are pretty predictable. Most of these numbers are really close. BG's offense has been about as productive as the offense of Ball's opponents this year. So I think we know what to expect. (Note: Kent made 31-31 from the line Tuesday).
Flipping it around, Ball State's offense is actually similar to Akron's, just not as good. They are the #76 shooting team in the country, with 51% from 2FG and 38% from 3FG, both of which are pretty good. They shoot 39% of the FGS from 3FG, which is about a percent or so above average, so they are nowhere near as 3-dependent as Akron and they don't have Isaiah Johnson, but still, this is a team that can shoot. They are also good on the offensive boards, like Akron, and this is an area BG has to take care of. Ball State is poor at taking care of the ball and doesn't get to the line a lot, and shutting off the boards would be a big help to keeping them off the scoreboard.
In what appears to be a MAC trend, their best player is a transfer. Tayler Persons, a 6'4" G who transferred from Northern Kentucky where he was Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year, leads the team with 15.8 PPG on 47% and 42% shooting, both of which are solid. He also averages 5.2 assists per game, although with 3.3 turnovers.
Our old friend Franko House, a 6'6" Sr, is scoring 11.5 PPG on 52% shooting and 6.1 rebounds per game. Sean Sellers, a 6'6" JR and former MAC Freshman of the Year, is scoring 10.5 PPG on 47% shooting. Ball State is like Akron in that they play a very long rotation. No player plays more than 29 minutes and 9 players play 14 or more.
So there you go. I think it sets up as an interesting game and a good opportunity to BG, who has not really exceeded expectations at any point this year. An early MAC road win--and then two home games next week--would be a good start.