Friday, May 17, 2019

Riley Keller Commits to BG

So, after a long recruitment that started back at BC, Scott Loeffler has landed Riley Keller as a verbal commit.  Riley is a 3-star player who plays at Whitmer and has a wide range of offers and visits from top programs.  According to 247, Iowa State (Matt Campbell) had offered, along with Ole Miss, NIU, UT, WMU and WVU.  He would be in the 2020 class and provide BG with an immediate impact recruit at the key position.

He was second-team Division I All-State after his junior year and was first-team all-district.  He was co-first-team all-TRAC with Brady Lichtenberg.  He's a three-sport athlete whose Father is the Whitmer OC.  He's listed as a dual-threat QB, though I would suspect he spends more time in drop back with the pro-style offense.

This is a big one.  Coach Loeffler said he likes to spend a year recruiting a QB because he is the here's the first product of that process.

Welcome to the Falcons, Riley!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

BG Gets Kicker Commit

So BG has a new commit for football....another Lucas County prospect.  It is Kyle Rhonehouse, a Springfield HS product who is a kicker.  And a very good one.

He was all-state at some level three times and first-team all-state as a senior.  He had been heading to Miami, but wasn't listed on their recruiting class, at which point you assume walk-on...which isn't unusual for a kicker.  Anyway, you can see above that he's heading to BG now.

All these eligibility rules confuse the crap out of me, but I'm assuming if he didn't sign a NLI or enroll, he is eligible, but that's a guess.

Here's the best recap on him from The Blade.  He's a highly effective kicker, even from distance, having hit from over 50.  Also, he fits the old Clawson rule of being a football player who happens to be a kicker.  Springfield used him on offense and defense.

He's also a 4.0 student.

Good kicking is important.  Seems like these pro-style offenses end up with a lot of FGs (see Michigan), so we can use a guy who both can get the job done but also grew up kicking in the cold and the wind.

Welcome to the Falcons, Kyle.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

BG Football Verbal

So, BG has its third 2020 verbal...this one with a familiar name.

Shawn Simms is Trent's father.  Shawn Simms was an All-MAC performer who graduated in 1986...which is the same year I did.  He was an assistant at Illinois, OSU, Pitt, Iowa State, Miami, Toledo, Colorado, Heidelberg, Oberlin, and possibly others before entering positions in private business.  He is from Fremont and his half-brother is Charles Woodson.

Trent attends Sylvania Northview, which makes him our third verbal from Lucas County and our second who is a multi-generational player.

He's 6'0" and 190 pounds.  247 said he had offers from Ball State, WMU and EKU.  They list him as an athlete.  At Northview, he plays QB and DB.  I would suspect we project him on defense, but I don't know.  He was second-team all-district as a DB and was a very dangerous QB as well.

This review on 419 Football says that he has natural football instincts and a high football IQ, which are things you often get with the children of coaches.

He was also a three-sport star, playing basketball and running track as well.

Welcome to the Falcons, Trent.

NickP With Loeffler

So NickP caught up with Scott Loeffler to talk about the roster issues facing the Falcons.  You should read the article--there are rules involved in how many guys you can bring in every year, which is why losing guys is such a serious problem.  Definitely worth a read.

Having said that, one piece of news worth commenting on.  Coach says that he is looking to bring a QB in to help with Doege's departure, which took him by surprise.  That would mean a grad transfer or possibly a JUCO (I guess) because you would need immediate eligibility.

So, I'm sure we will keep an eye on that.  With grad transfers you don't usually get spring practice anyway, so it will be a busy summer.  It's a little strange in that the pro-offense, which used to be everyone's base, is now almost an odd-ball offense.  It'd be easier to find someone versed in spread.  Anyway, we'll watch what lies ahead.

Here's a link to guys who are still available.

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to the Falcon Nation.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

The Blade: Rico Frye's Career Likely Finished

So, terribly disappointing news for Rico Frye.  I have no idea about what happened, but here's a person who gets the chance to do something he had dreamed his whole life of doing and then gets to play for one year and he's seemingly on the path to success and this happens and it is over.  Big disappointment to have so early in your life.  Best to him.  There's a whole life to live.

From a football perspective, Nick sums it up well here.
Which is right, it does explain the transfer at RB.  Makes Hargrove's transfer harder to understand, but that's his call.  Coming in, you thought RB was a strength and you had a QB who had played and a couple WRs and a dozen TEs and you might be able to move the ball and keep the defense off the field.  That's looking less likely right now.

A tall mountain keeps growing for the 2019 Falcons. The key is to put the pieces in place so we don't stay here.  My negative example is Ball State, who had the Hoke years but have 2 winning seasons in the 10 seasons since Hoke left.  Six of the 10 years were 4 wins or under.  Their "Neu" coach won 4 games last year in his third year.

It's not about 2019, but suffering this year doesn't guarantee success in the future.  That's the challenge facing the program.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Report: Jarrett Doege in Transfer Portal

Well, that's unexpected and going to make things a little more difficult.  I mean, it wouldn't have always been unexpected.  I kind of expected it at the beginning, when Jinks left, but then there was a story about how closely he and the new coach were bonding and then spring practice happened, so I started to think that he'd be back.

Here's what he said in the story linked above:

“It’s a complex offense with a lot to learn,” Doege said. “I’m getting it down, but I can’t wait to learn more.”

"Basically, I’m trying to portray him, but he’s just a crazy dude,” said Doege of Loeffler. “I’m kinda laid back, but being around him more I’m starting to turn into Coach Loeffler.”

But, if this is true, then not.

Obviously, he came here as an Air Raid guy from the town where Jinks coached.  His brother was an assistant who was let go.  Was he comfortable in the pro-style offense?  Seemed like it, but then it wasn't.  He's got every right to leave and he's doing what most college players seem to do under these circumstances.  We wish him nothing but the best.

The QBs on the roster include:

Grant Loy
Bryce Veasley
Grant Strock

There were no QBs in the signing class.

There is the possibility of a graduate transfer with the position opening up.  If not, I'd expect Loy to be the starter when the season kicks off.  I think he's better than people would expect, and with a power offense he might fit in ok.

Additional Transfer for Football

BG has a new transfer coming to the football program.  No idea what the plan is...and what the deal is with sitting out...but the young man is named Declan Burt.  He played (wait for it) TE at Bryant University, which is an FCS school in Rhode Island.

He played there two years and apparently did not redshirt.  He missed the last 3 games last year with injury.  He's a good-sized young man, at 6'4" and 210 pounds.  He hasn't been a pass catcher, with 13 receptions in 14 games.  He was an all-state player in Massachusetts in high school.

His father played water polo for Canada.

Welcome to the Falcons, Declan.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Graduate Transfer and New Assistant for Football

So, a little Monday news from the football program.

First, Davon Jones is a graduate transfer on his way here from Boston College.  He was a combo RB/LB at BC, and you might think that he'd play LB here at BG, a position of need, but NickP at The Blade has indicated that BG plans to use him at RB, where he joins Andrew Clair, Rico Frye and Bryson Denley on the depth chart.

He's 5'10 and 235 pounds and from that you might infer that he's more of a power back than a speed back, like the other three young men we have returning.  He carried the ball 91 times for 4 yards per carry as a freshman, and then carried the ball 16 times over the next two years as he also played on defense.  He has 5 TDs.

He will be eligible immediately.

The new coach is interesting as well.  One non-surprising thing is his Michigan pedigree.  His name is Steve Morrison, who will coach LB and be the Associate Head Coach.

Morrison was an all-Big Ten LB at UM and played for the Colts and the Lions, making 31 NFL starts.

He was a graduate assistant at UM after leaving the NFL, and then coached at WMU, EMU and Syracuse.

Up until then, it is a pretty typical resume.  Then, he put out this statement.

And then he left football and spent several years on a couple sales jobs.

And now he's back in football after quite a lot of time out of the game in medical device sales.  I suspect we'll get some more info on him as we move along, but it certainly raises some in, why get out and why get back in?  You don't see that very often.  I will say that this is the first of the assistant coach choices that has made me wonder...and I'm not sure why he's the Associate Coach.

Anyway, welcome to the Falcons, Davon and Steve.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

New Football Verbal, May 5

So, BG has notched another football verbal.  His name is Alex Wollschlaeger, and he is a rising senior at Oswego East High School, which is a suburb of Chicago.

He plays OL and DE in HS.  His twitter profile says offensive lineman.  He's got the right height, which is 6'6" and he weights 252, which would obviously need some work (and may be outdated, too).

He broke his collarbone and did not play his junior season.  BG offered a while ago and he was down for the spring game. He visited EMU and said he had been talking with Harvard, Western Michigan and South Dakota State.

He's the second OL out of 3 so far.  Coach has talked quite a bit about the need for depth and numbers at most positions.  Of the 13 OL on the BG roster, six of them are in their last two seasons.  There were 3 in this signing class...and the 7 who are returning haven't really been game tested yet.  Could also be some PWOs.  Point is, I think I have heard you need 10 playable OL and when BG takes the field in 2021 that's going to be a project.

Welcome to the Falcons, Alex.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

New Football Verbal

So, BG has its second verbal (to my knowledge) for the 20 football class.  This young man is Matt Fortner of Sylvania Northview High School.  He's a lineman who has played both ways and been recognized all-district and special mention all-state as a d-lineman.  However, his profile pic on twitter says "offensive line."

He's listed as 6'3" and 280 pounds.  He doesn't have a 247 profile. so there's no information on stars or any other offers.  Here's an evaluation from the McCallister Report on him.

Matt's brother plays for Kentucky.

That's BG's second verbal, and good to Coach's word, they are both local boys.  ln fact, they are both in Lucas County.

Welcome to the Falcons, Matt.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Hargrove Portals

So Hargrove enters the transfer portal.  Best of luck to him, he should be able to attend college and play football where he wants, and I wish him nothing but the best.  It happens when things are transitioning...and BG is very deep at RB and Hargrove might have been more of an Air Raid guy than a pro-style guy.

He was active as a true FR.  He had 33 rushes, caught 10 passes along with returning kicks.  He scored twice and was third on the team in all-purpose yards.  He was a highly-productive HS player, runner-up for Mr. Football, etc.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Scotty Miller Drafted!

So, the good news out of yesterday's final day of the NFL draft is that Scotty Miller was drafted in the sixth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It's excellent news and we are very happy for him.  Warm your heart here.

By the way, that video was posted by James Morgan, who QB'd here, just to see what kind of guy he is.

Miller is an all-time great at BG.  He finished 3rd in all-time receptions and receiving yards.  He was all-MAC on the first team and should have been twice...his senior year he was 7th nationally in receiving yards and 18th in receptions and yet did not make first team.  He also holds a MAC Championship ring.

The Miller narrative is one of being under-appreciated.  He had one FBS offer.  And he wasn't invited to the combine or to any of the all-star games.  What I suspect moved him into the draftable range was that he ran a 4.3 on pro day at BGSU and when you combine that kind of speed with the production you saw at BGSU, and people started to take notice.

Again, incredibly happy for him.  As I said, he's an all-time great.  He's a Falcon forever and a champion forever...regardless of whether he plays a down in the NFL.  We're rooting for him like crazy, but he could quit now and never be forgotten here.

One reason why is because he stuck with this team through some of the worst years in the program's history.  He could have transferred or quit, but he kept battling and fighting even when there were precious few victories to savor.

A few notes as it relates to the draft and the NFL...

  • I saw somewhere that if Miller plays in the NFL, he will be one of three WRs on the 2015 championship team to play in the NFL, and Teo Redding is on the Packers practice squad.  (Thanks to the commenter who pointed this out to me).
  • It is BG's first draft pick since 2012 when Chris Jones was picked.
  • Since 1994, BG has had six players picked in the draft.
  • BG has had players make the NFL as UDFA coming out of the Clawson years...Adjei Barimah and Gabe Martin both played in the NFL, along with Gehrig Dieter and Ryan Hunter.
  • As far as I know, BG didn't have any UDFAs or camp invites this year.   Update Montre Gregory has a camp invite to KC.

The MAC had 9 players drafted into the NFL.

2nd round, 39th overall    DB Sean Bunting (Central Michigan) by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2nd round, 55th overall    OT Max Scharping (Northern Illinois) by the Houston Texans
3rd round, 66th overall    WR Diontae Johnson (Toledo) by the Pittsburgh Steelers
4th round, 106th overall   DE Maxx Crosby (Eastern Michigan) by the Oakland Raiders
6th round, 175th overall   DE Sutton Smith (Northern Illinois) by the Pittsburgh Steelers
6th round, 185th overall   DB Ka'dar Hollman (Toledo) by the Green Bay Packers
6th round, 195th overall   DB Xavier Crawford (Central Michigan) by the Houston Texans
6th round, 207th overall   LB Ulysees Gilbert (Akron) by the Pittsburgh Steelers
6th round, 208th overall   WR Scott Miller (Bowling Green) by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The surprise here is Tyree Jackson, who left Buffalo early and was projected to be a day 2 pick and fell completely out of the draft.  He was the conference offensive player of the year and I feel sort of fell in the Omar Jacobs trap.  He did sign with Buffalo.  The knock I heard on him was accuracy, which people are fond of saying know can't be taught to someone his age.

Also, Anthony Johnson wasn't picked, a bigger surprise for my money.  He's going to join Miller in Tampa Bay.

MAC Prospectus is tracking the UDFA/invite scene, which you can find here.

You look at the list, and you just see how you can be a really good player in the MAC and not be drafted.  It's just not easy.

I was glad to see Sutton Smith drafted.  I think he can play for the Steelers.

Friday, April 26, 2019

MBB Verbal is a very big person

So, this is interesting.  Dylan Swingle is a transfer from Duquesne....6'11 and 300 pounds.  He redshirted at Duquesne in his only year there, so there's no news about him related to his collegiate play.  He was, however, a highly-decorated player in HS.

He's from Chillicothe, so an Ohioan.  That is in D-III of OHSAA.  There are 4 divisions overall so this one would be the second-smallest.

Dropping some knowledge:

  • Ranked 35th nationally among centers and in the Top 11 in the state of Ohio by 247 Sports.
  • Two-time First Team Division III All-Ohio.
  • Rated as a 3-star recruit, and 10th-best overall player (No. 3 center) in Ohio, by
  • Averaged 23.1 points, 13.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.7 blocks per game as a senior in leading Paint Valley (17-8) to the Division III district semifinal.
  • Finished his career with a Paint Valley High School, Scioto Valley Conference and Ross County record 1,796 points. The Paint Valley scoring record stood for 43 years.
  • His 1,160 rebounds were the most in school history and second-most in conference and county history. Also had 267 career blocks.
  • Two-time District and Scioto Valley Conference Player of the Year.
  • Averaged 21.3 points and 13.0 rebounds per game as a junior.
  • 2016-17 Associated Press All-Southeast District Division III co-Player of the Year.
  • According to 247, offers from Akron, WVU, GW and Dayton.

I have no idea if there is some kind of hardship involved here.  If not, Dylan will have to sit next year per NCAA rules and then would have three eligible seasons moving forward.

So, you wanted a big man and you wanted to use all the scholarships, there you go.  Not expected to see him impact next season, but if he develops he has the looks of somebody who could be a very effective MAC player.  At his size, you'd expect big HS numbers--and they are there.  If he can play against guys his size, everything points to a formidable post presence.

Welcome to the Falcons, Dylan.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Happy Easter to the Falcon Nation

Happy Easter to the Falcon Nation.  Regardless of our religious faith, we can unite around the idea of committing ourselves to a new beginning built on love and forgiveness.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Spring Practice Wrap Up

So Coach Loeffler had a presser after the end of the Spring practice today.  I watched it.  You can, too.  It's on the internet, and embedded below.

A few things jumped out at me.

First, Coach thinks our running backs are going to be pretty good and we're going to use them.  Given his offensive track record, I'd envision a lot of 12 and 13 personnel and an attempt to run the ball.  If you think about it, that would take the pressure off a defense that is going to start undermanned.  Run blocking was an issue last year (understatement) but with a new coach on the o-line they have moved some guys around.  I felt like they had ability all along and they've certainly gotten time to play, so with effective coaching and a run-friendly personnel grouping, maybe more holes can open up.

Second, he talked about the opening days of practice when he had to teach the players to get into "basic football position."  He describes what he means by that in the clip, but what's interesting is that he positions it as the kind of thing that is just fundamental to know and says that our guys did not know how to do that.  That's kind of an artifact of where we were the last three years.  I suspect it was worse than we even thought, based on that.

Third, he says that the practice moved inside, which was OK because he wanted a short practice for "player safety."  BG has only one healthy scholarship RB, for example.  And shortages in other position groups.  So, we didn't want a 150=play scrimmage, though Loeffler thinks that would have been "AWESOME."

Fourth, and perhaps most significant, was that he said "the numbers aren't right."  I believe this is related to what I mentioned in my post on the roster....BG is short on guys at certain positions.  He went on to say that BG has scholarships available but they can't be filled due to "rules."  I don't know what "rules" he is referring to, but I believe you can only give 25 scholarships in any year.  You are allowed 85 total, so you can eventually catch up, just not right away.  Those PWOs are going to be really important.  Point is, that we are short on players at some positions and that is one of the challenges he is dealing with as we attempt to rebuild the program.

He said that he was happy with the spring but there's a long way to go.  Almost has to be true.  Pretty much four months and they'll get their first test at home against Morgan State.

Football Verbal

So far as we have heard, this is the first verbal commitment to the football program.  As noted in the tweet, Boyer will be a 4th generation Falcon, which is pretty cool.

He attends Anthony Wayne HS.  This is the golden age of AW athletics.  They were undefeated in football, made a deep run in the boy's basketball tournament and are a power in baseball as well.  Boyer has played football and basketball for the Generals.  He is listed at 6'4" and 215 and played TE/DE in HS. 

He was second-team all-NLL on offense.  There aren't a lot of stats on him, but he is cited in news stories as making big catches in key games.

I'll tell you this.  I think he's at BG because he loves our school.  And he's an athlete and a leading player on a great team.  Welcome to the Falcons, Bryce.

Spring Roster Review

So, the spring roster is out.  There are a few players who were expected back who are not listed and a few new guys who are in camp, based on the roster.  We're on a transition point between coaches and it's normal to see some turnover, especially as there are attempts made to improve the culture.  I'm told that these players include some players who left the program and some who had medical issues.

We have already written about losing Josh Croslen and Kyle Junior.  Junior grad transferred to Oklahoma State, by way of an update.


Wortham--mentioned just this week as one of only four returning CBs with playing experience who were returning, Wortham will now be added to the departing CBs.  He played as a true FR and then gained a medical redshirt and played 10 games last year.

Marble--was a walk on QB from Warren MI.

Hall--walk-on RB from Jeanette, PA

Judd--a LB who would have been a R-JR.  He played in 11 games last season, with a handful of tackles.

Antwuan Johnson--a LB who was a highly ranked 3-star recruit when he came to BG. Red-shirted last year.

Fitz-Henley--also a highly recruited LB with a lot of offers.  He actually moved to TE for a while last year.

Keije Brown--a walk-on WR who actually played in the UB game to end the year, which I am betting you didn't know.

James Lachey--a recruited TE and son of football announcer.  Played for a BG grad in HS.

So, what's the take away?  Honestly, this is not a surprising turnover. LB was hit hard as a position, but just as importantly, it shows that recruiting rankings are though to judge, as are young people in HS.

There are significant deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball in terms of manpower.  You're basically losing six more guys who would have been considered to be in the pipeline when they got here.

Nick P in The Blade talked about some position changes today.  Evan Brown, from Anthony Wayne and the baseball team, came as a CB and has been moved to LB and is listed as a starter, just to illustrate the manpower issues.  RB CJ Lamar also moved to LB.  Caleb Biggers is now a CB and Sotolongo is back at S.  For other updates, definitely read the article.

There are also five new players on the roster, three of which you have heard about before.

One is Joey Carroll, the St. Francis grad who is listed as starting at TE as a true FR.  Appears to be popular with Loeffler.

Another is Jake Rogers, Medina, who was a PWO and is now listed as the starting KR.

Austin Dorris, a grad transfer from Indiana who is a TE and should contribute.  (Remember: You spell Loeffler T-I-G-H-T-E-N-D.

Najee Freeman, Kissimee--walk on WR from FL who was productive in HS...not too much out there on him.

Corey Frank, is a d-lineman from Cincinnati Reading.  His school did a cool thing.  They had a signing cermony for their top 10 students.  Of which he was one.  Also a walk-on.

So, that's the update.  Remember, we're in a process here.  I do think the offense has a shot to be decent.  They are moving guys around on the o-line and they kept a lot of good players and you have Johnson-Mack coming into the fold after transferring.  Done right, I think we might be able to score a little.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Herrmann: Out

Tracing back the story here, the original idea was that Carl Pelini was going to stay as DC and Van Gorder was going to coach LBs.  Then, Pelini left, Van Gorder was made DC and Jim Hermann was brought in as Associate Head Coach and LBs coach.  He has a large amount of college and professional experience that was viewed as helpful in the AHC role to a first-time Head Coach.

Well, Herrmann is now leaving to take an unspecified position in the NFL, according to the school as reported in The Blade.

So, Loeffler goes back to the drawing board.  Herrmann will finish out the spring, which is good.  So far, Loeffler has hired seasoned and qualified coaches and I look forward to seeing who he gets with the next one.  Herrmann wasn't a token "seasoned" coach, he was one of many.  It would have been great to have him--quite probably only for a year anyway--but it's not the end of the world.  We're on a building process here.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Some football info from Spring practice

So Nick from The Blade is doing a nice job on the spring football coverage.  I'm not going to do something every time he writes.  You can read that for yourself.  Only when I'd like to comment or add something.

Today's article is about the lack of CBs on the BG roster.  Marcus Milton, Clint Stephens, and Montre Gregory all graduated and left a pretty thin CB corps for BG.

First, a nit to pick.  The article cites BG as being 6th nationally in passing yards allowed.  Which is true.  However, it's not a great measure, because teams didn't pass as much against BG due to the ease with which they could run against BG.  In fact, BG faced only 262 pass attempts, the lowest BY 18 in the entire FBS.

More accurately, BG was 10th in pass efficiency defense in the MAC.  They were 9th in conference games.  BG was 10th in interception/passing attempt, 9th in yards/completion allowed.  Etc.  I say that just to note that BG lost those guys off a below average pass defense, not a good one.  There's a way to go.

So, BG has four guys on the roster right now with some playing experience.  Only 1 has made a start.

Torrian Hampton
Darius Wortham
Ty Redding
Antonyo Sotolongo (missed entire season).

There's also one R-FR.

Five of the first signing class were d-backs.  They could get action right away.  Obviously, that was a big part of the struggle in Jinks I, but you have to hope that we have the staff to be a little more tactical and protect guys a little more.

There's a big issuer that I feel is important for Falcon fans to know and it can be seen throughout this story.  BG has big holes in the roster.  This is a rebuild.  The program is largely in tatters, especially in critical front-line positions.  Here's what coach says in the article.

“That’s the issue next year, even with recruiting,” Loeffler said. “Normally, you’re sitting [and saying], ‘OK, we’re going to take two offensive linemen, we’re going to take two this.’ We’re taking five D-linemen and five O-linemen, four tight ends. That’s a lot.

"I mean, it goes on and on and on.”
So, just a reminder to have careful expectations for the first year or two.  The roster and the culture are being re-built.  It might be a while before we see the mess cleaned up.  If not, all the better.  The hope is to see progress, in my opinion.  And be prepared for continued patience.

Friday, April 05, 2019

The Coming Year in BG MBB

Let's look ahead to what we have for the next year.

A couple things.  First, as noted in my state of the program post, Coach Huger will be back.  The Blade has reported that there are discussions around an extension for him.  One thing I forgot to note when I extolled the success of the WMU program is that perhaps as much as anything they also had stability at the top.  They were succeeding and not looking to get Hawkins out every time something didn't go well.  I believe that BG would be well-served with similar stability in the program.

I would support Coach getting a reasonable extension.  My thought is two is OK.  Anymore probably isn't a good idea.

So, what does next year look like?  First, of course, is the caveat that you have to wait and see who's still around November comes.  I have no knowledge of anyone looking to leave, but in a world where there are hundreds of transfers each year, the idea can't be ignored.  I know of no one leaving now and that's what we are basing this on.

BG lost 3 significant contributors off the team this year:  Wiggins, Lillard and Uju.  That's your 3rd and 4th leading scorers, your best rebounder and an important role player.   In the large scheme of things, that's not a crippling graduation loss, but in BG's case there is one issue, which is that Wiggins and Uju were really BG's only post players.  Replacing them will represent a challenge to the team in keeping its momentum moving forward.

BG has two current players on the roster who could be post players but have not seen much time.  Taylor Mattos, who will be a SO, played 67 minutes on the year and Joniya Gadson, who will be a Junior, played only 107 minutes over two years.  Not to say that either of these players can't play in the post, but we have yet to see them shoulder that burden in game play.  They may have shown it in practice, but we haven't seen it in a game.

All 3 of BG's incoming freshmen appear to be good players (more in a second) but none is a post player.

Which brings us to the most common complaint I hear about Coach Huger from Falcon fans...that he hasn't used all his scholarships.

BG played last year with one open scholarship and still have one open for next year.  For some, this is a pretty big issue.  You'd like to think you have an opportunity to bring in post players who could help right away--either Grad transfers or JUCO players.  It does seem to be the way the sport is going.  Certainly hasn't hurt Buffalo.

FWIW, while I haven't lost my mind on the issue, I do think that now that the program has some success and would be attractive to a player coming in, we really should be about the business of filling those slots, especially as there is an apparent hole in the roster at a pretty important position.

The two freshmen coming had very strong senior years in HS.

One of them is Davin Ziegler.   He's a 6'2 SG from Cleveland Benedictine.  He comes from a basketball family...his uncle is Ernie Ziegler, former UCLA assistant, and CMU Head Coach, and Trey Zeigler is his cousin and it goes deeper than that.  He won the Clark Kellogg award for boy's basketball player of the year in the Cleveland area and he finished all-state first team, Division II.

Zeigler scored 20.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game during the regular season.

The other FR coming in is Chandler Turner of Renaissance HS in Detroit.  He was named Mr. PSL (Public school league) this winter.  Also, he finished in the final 4 for Mr. Basketball in Michigan.  He was first-team all-state this year as well.

He's a 6'6" 2/3 who had offers from Kent, CSU, UB, NIU, Milwaukee, and IUPUI.

As a senior, he scored 24.7 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 7.3 APG and 41% 3FG shooting.

The last one committed yesterday.  That's Trey Diggs.  More on him here.

Adding all that up, you look to have Frye, Turner and Fields off the starting team.  Plowden really seemed to come on late, so you have him as a starter.  And then you have the open slot in the post.  Lillard was highly productive coming off the bench, but I'd like to think that Turner and possibly Diggs can fill his slot pretty nicely.  You've got Laster back, along with Marlon Sierra.  And then Mattos and Gadson and Kulakovics, which is all guys you don't know what you have.  You'd certainly think the Diggs can bring some points off the bench and I think Zeigler can contribute as well supporting Frye,

Which I hope adds up to some nice depth for BG, which was a strength this year.  I'd assume under this scenario that Mattos starts in the post.  I will say this:  BG did a great job bringing Wiggins along and maybe they have been doing the same thing with Marros.

Again, on a team that I think you have to feel pretty good about, the question mark is in the post.

I can't wait to see it start. The challenge is to string these years together and I'd love to see Coach Huger do that and get the program where it needs to be, year after year.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

MBB Commit

So big news for the "use all the scholarships" camp.  There's only one left.

Trey Diggs announced his commitment to BG today.  Diggs is a JUCO player who will be eligible immediately and have two seasons ahead of him.

He's a 6'5" G from Northwest Florida State College.  He didn't put up big numbers there...7.7 PPG and 42% overall shooting.  He's clearly a shooter.  He shot 39% from 3FG, which is good, and he had a significant number of attempts.  He averaged about 16 minutes a game.

He played on a good team.  They were a #1 seed in the national tourney and made the Elite Eight.

He started his college career at DII Florida Southern, where he scored 9.6 PPG as a FR and shot 41% from 3FG.  He went to NW Florida State because it is a high-level JUCO program that puts a lot of guys into D1 ball.  A teammate committed to Oregon before the season started--he is the #1 JUCO prospect.  They have 5 of the top 100 JUCO transfers, all guys who are not Diggs.  They had 5 last year, including Derek Funderburk, who went to NC State.

Diggs averaged 20 PPG and 8 RPG as a senior in HS in Niceville FL.

I'm only kind of kidding about using all the scholarships.  The only thing I would say is that I had expected BG to use both scholarships for some post help.  Will be interesting to see what happens with the one that's left.

Welcome to the Falcons, Trey.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

MBB: The State of the Program

So, the dust has settled.  OU has a new coach and Buffalo will have one soon.  UB lost a ton of players and their next class was JUCO players designed to keep the program moving forward.  Those guys seem to be fleeing the coop and it looks like UB might not keep their assistant who recruited all those guys...which is not to say that UB won't continue to be the conference's lead program but that there might be a break in the reload-cycle.  And if Rob Lanier (the moment's favorite and a guy who is coveted by Tennesee fans and yet being rejected as a loser from Siena by some UB fans) isn't the right choice, then the whole thing can turn in the other direction pretty fast.

Beyond that, OU lost its better players when it did not renew Saul Phillips. In today's transfer crazy environment, it is something you have to factor in when you have a coaching change, especially one the school causes.  Actually, I think you see evidence of that concept across the MAC.  Contracts notwithstanding, I think you would be surprised that Montgomery, Murphy, and Whitford are still in their jobs after long tenures not breaking through.  For perspective, if BG used their standard, Louis Orr would still be here.

Point is, that's a big decision when you hire a coach.  The most important decision and one that is harder to get out of than ever.  So, you want to make the right choice.  Pretty much have to.

Which brings us to BG.  I've been a little surprised at the undercurrent I'm hearing from BG fans that they kind of hoped Coach Huger might get hired away somewhere based on this year and let a new guy pick up with the team that is returning. 

Again, I find that surprising.

I'm not going to claim that I am sure that Huger will put the program back where it needs to be...more on what I think that is in a minute...because I'm not and nobody should be.  This is a thing you have to do, not have the potential to do.  And he hasn't done it.

A couple of things.  First, the initial years of the Huger tenure were rough, no doubt.  What he walked into was tough, though.  You want to talk about transfers?  BG was a couple clicks from having a situation like the one Gene Cross left at Toledo.  Clearly, you had guys who were not bought in and I believe he did a good job keeping a team on the court.

There's a time limit on that,  though.  You wanted to see progress last year and it seemed like we were and then we lost the last 6 and all the transfers and it was not great...and then we're picked last and then we're treading water pretty bad and we get embarrassed by Cleveland State...and then things came together and you saw what happened, which is one of the 2 top seasons BG has had since WVU, probably the best given the appearance in the tournament final.

So, if you're going to blame Coach Huger for problems in the years leading up to this season, it seems a little unfair to act like this year was in spite of him.  I point to 2 things in particular.  First, I believe BG succeeded this year with less talent than UT and UB had.  BG played a stronger team game, had parts that fit together well and were generally tough to beat.  That's a reflection of coaching.  Second, I believe Coach Huger showed his ability to adapt and grow in his job when he took stock of the program with the players after the CSU and altered his style.

Again, do I know he's going to get it done?  No.  To me, there's reason to believe he will, though.

He has two years left on his deal.  I'd think he will get an extension...something that is fraught with risk, for sure.  But, I'd have no problem with adding a year on the deal based on what we saw this year.

All right.  Back to the question of whether he will get it done.  Let's talk about what "done" means.

Yes, 1968.  We all know it.  We all want to make the NCAAs.  But that can't be the only measure of success and, in fact, it misses a key step.

In this league, making the tournament is hard.  It is downright cruel.  You're basically taking an entire year's worth of effort and deciding it in 72 hours in a zero-sum contest where everything has to go right.  Strict merit isn't enough on its own.  You need the cosmic tumblers to click into place.  This idea drove Keith Dambrot from the MAC.  UT's coach called it out as he neck-veined on David Briggs. 

To me, the way you get there is to be in the conversation all the time.  Four years out of 5.  Getting byes.  Getting to the semis.  You have to spin those tumblers often...not twice in 16 years, as BG has done.

For example.  Since the WVU year, BG has made the MAC finals once.  They have been to the semi-finals four times.  Beyond that, they've had four winning seasons in that time.  Won 20 games twice.

Let me show you another MAC team's record over the same period of time.

2 NCAA tournament appearances
8 20 win seasons
9 seasons with 10+ MAC wins
5 losing seasons
5 top 4 MAC finishes

Got a guess on who that is?  Western Michigan.  Yes, I know they were awful this year. Also, yes, fine, we should want to be what Buffalo was this year.  That's a historic anomaly, though.  I'd think if we can get BG's program to look like what we see above--and it's totally doable--we will be where we need to be.  And in the tournament twice.

Which means we need to begin to string together seasons like this one.

Do we have the coach to do that?  Time will tell.  It will happen or it won't.  But, for the first time in many years, I feel like we've got some evidence that we can get the program where we want it to be.  My next post will look at next year, but in the meantime, I'm a) not interested in re-booting with a new coach and b) on the optimistic side of the ledger.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

MAC MBB Check in

So, it's early Saturday afternoon in week one of March Madness and the MAC is down to one team still playing.  UT, CMU, and Kent went down in their tournaments, leaving just the Buffalo Bulls still in play.

And how in play they are.  The Bulls destroyed Arizona State in their first-round game.  I, for one, would love to see the national media find a way to talk about Buffalo for 60 straight seconds without mentioning Bobby Hurley.  Nate Oats can coach and he deserves some credit, not just being mentioned as riding Hurley's temperamental coattails.

The Bulls pulled 1.23 points per possession in an NCAA Tourney game and allowed 1 ppp.  Massinburg, Graves, Harris and Perkins were all incredibly effective for Buffalo.

Look, they are slipping. They beat Arizona by 21 last year in the first round.

That's a joke, son.

The last MAC team to win games in consecutive tournaments was that Kent team they are normally compared to.  Kent did it in the 01 and 02 tournaments and in 02 made the Elite Eight.  If Buffalo wins tomorrow, they will be the first MAC team in the Sweet Sixteen since OU in 2012.

It won't be easy.  Texas Tech is an underrated team if you can be that and win the Big 12 title.  Kenpom gives Texas Tech a 66% chance to win and ESPN has them at 72%.  Vegas has it at 3.5 points.  I believe UB will give them all they can handle...and I think the Bulls are being under-respected a little, even with a 6 seed.  This is the best team UB has played this year and it isn't close, but in no way do I think they will be over-matched.

Last thing.  I keep hearing how Nate Oats is winning "with Hurley's players."  Would you like to know how many points last night were scored by a player who played for Hurley?

The number is zero.

Go get 'em Bulls.  Make us proud.

Monday, March 18, 2019

MAC MBB Post-Season

Four MAC teams are in post-season play.  One in each tournament.

Of course, the one we want to watch is Buffalo.  They have a real shot to get to the Sweet 16 or further, and last year's win over Arizona gives them a great deal of confidence.  That's an experienced, senior-led team.  They were seeded #6, which had some Buffalo fans upset on Twitter.  I think that's a little unreasonable...and it is the highest a MAC team has been seeded since the tournament expanded to 64 teams.  They play Friday at 4 against the winner or AZ State or St. John's.  If it's the Sun Devils, that sets up an interesting match up between Buffalo and their former coach.

Toledo got into the NIT.  Toledo is a #6 seed and will play @ Xavier on Wednesday at 7:00

In the CBI, CMU is @ DePaul, Wednesday at 8 and then would play the winner of Southern Miss-Longwood

Lastly, in the CIT..Kent is @Louisiana-Monroe, Thursday at 8 pm.

As you know, BG opted to not accept any bids once the NIT selected someone else.  I've already said on Twitter that I support the the sense that if the players and coaches don't want it, they shouldn't have to do it.  The tournaments mean nothing and BG left everything they had on the floor at the Q.

Some people have also asked me about not getting into the NIT.  A couple of things.  First, the NIT already has to take every regular-season team that loses their conference tournament and didn't get into the NCAA.  By definition, those are all mid-majors.  The NIT is owned by the NCAA, and that's about all the mid-major they are going to be able to take.

Even assuming decisions are made rationally, BG's losses to Hartford, Detroit and Cleveland State make it tough to get an at-large bid.  BG finished with a kenpom of 106 and the lowest ranked team in the NIT as an at-large was Wichita State at 93.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Falcon MBB Season Has Ended

And there it is.  Presumably, after hearing that BG had not received an NIT bid, the Falcons announced that they would not be playing any further.  Coach Huger had originally said BG would accept a post-season bid that wasn't the NIT, presumably the CIT.  However, given a day to think about it, BG declined the CIT bid.  I saw some interesting comments on twitter from Brent Klassen today...his point was that the players don't want to play in the games and no one cares, so it would be better to let it go.  And, if their heart is not going to be in it, then I don't think it makes sense to go through the motions.

More to come, but it was a great year.  Thanks to the Falcons players, coaches and staff who work so hard.  You gave us a lot of thrills and pleasure.  Thank you.

51 years....

Now 51 elapsed years since BG has been in the NCAA tournament.  Here is the company we live with now.  Sadly, this list remains static this year...but maybe a light at the end of the tunnel?

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
St. Francis (N.Y.): Division I since 1948
William & Mary: Division I since 1948

Proud of Our Boys

So here we are.  It didn't work out.  More on that in a minute.

We may have lost, but we are not beaten.  Those guys had such a year and I was so proud of their performance all year and in this game.  I was proud to clap them off the floor.  Winning would have been great...incredible...and not because we don't respect Buffalo but because we do.  It didn't happen, but we got closer than we have in 17 years and I think we are building a true program and these guys--the guys we have right now--did something pretty cool and I hope they enjoy it for their lives.

Nothing but love here.  What a great year.

BG gave Buffalo all they could handle.  Buffalo made a couple runs and BG always brought it back.  This Bulls team is so good.  The last team in the MAC that was better beat us in the MAC Final that year, too.  Massinburg is two-time POY.  Jeremy Harris?  Are you kidding me?  And Nick Perkins is your third best player.  The Bulls are a machine.  When you turn the ball over, your first thought is they are going to come down and hit a 3 and in the blink of an eye you're down 3 more.

More on the Bulls.  They've won 4 out of the last 5 titles.  That never used to happen.  How good was Akron every year--and yet, it's hard to win that tournament consistently.  Buffalo is on the verge--if they keep it together--of becoming the Gonzaga of the East.  Great program, mid-major conference, win big games in the non-conference...they are on that kind of path.

So here's the thing.  That's how good the MAC needs to get.  You can see it.  We are not there yet but we can get there.  Competition makes us better.

So, with 4:25 minutes left in this exact game, BG was down 3.  That's a one-possession game.  From there on in, UB went 13-2 and put the game away.  That included a 12-0 run that put the game away.  BG obviously had nothing...two turnovers, two blocked shots, one missed front end and two missed shots.  Honestly, in two possessions, the game went from competitive to over.

That's what you have to do to win championships.  In crunch time, Buffalo won every battle.  Tip of that hat.  Against a team that good, two bad minutes can kill you.

There were positives.  UB outshot BG.  The Falcons shot 46% from 2FG and 27% on 3FG.  BG is 1-9 in games where they shot under 30% from 3FG.  Buffalo had a significant advantage on turnovers as well.  The key thing for BG was rebounding, which was considered a big issue coming in.  BG dominated the game on the boards, and if anything failed to convert those offensive rebounds into the easy baskets they are supposed to be.  Lastly, Buffalo was 16 of 21 at the line and BG was 10 of 15.

Overall, BG scored .99 points per possession in the end while UB scored 1.18.  If you could do either one of them, you'd be in good shape.  I have no idea where it was with 4 minutes left, but probably a lot closer.

Individually, Daeqwon Plowden had a huge game--a good portent for the future.  He scored 16 points, shooting 7 of 9 and 2 of 3, 8 rebounds and a steal and a block.  And the top MAC highlight of the year, according to the video board.

Justin Turner also had 16, but he had to work at it.  He shot 5 of 21 and 2 of 7.  He had 3 assists and 3 turnovers.  Demajeo Wiggins had 13 points on 5 of 7 shooting and 10 rebounds--but was 4 of 8 from the turnovers.  Michael Laster had 13 on 5 of 11 shooting and 5 rebounds.

As a team, BG had only 6 assists.

One other note.  Coach did tighten the rotation up.  Wiggins played 35 minutes, for example.  It was his most minutes all year...he played 34 @Ohio U.  Plowden played 32 minutes, his season-high.  Meanwhile, Lillard played 10 minutes and Uju 2--both their lowest of the year....and Sierra played 7, his lowest since the Toledo game.

So, BG opted to reduce their rotation from 9 to, essentially, 6 or 6.5.  That's a surprise, especially on the third straight night of playing.  I would guess that Coach Huger wanted to match UB's talent level and felt he needed a shorter rotation.  We'll never know, but part of the price might have been the slow close.  Or, if you play a bigger rotation, you're not in the game at the end.  But BG clearly used a different pattern than they did the rest of the year.

So, we await the news about our next step.  We'd expect to be in a tournament.  I don't think we're in the NIT and I don't think UT is a lock.  But, hopefully, we get a shot at one of the other two and Coach says we will accept, which I think is the right call.

More to come on the year as a whole and our matchup, etc.  For now, just appreciation for what was probably our best year since 2002.  Can't wait until November.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Enjoy the ride people

Wanted to check in with the nation. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT??? What a run this has been. How many games have we set through, for 17 years, seasons ending on Mondays in Mt Pleasant?  Here we are. One game from The Big Dance.  Yes, we’re underdogs. But it’s one game and we have  beaten them. Why not?

Beyond that, stop to remember. Remember how it felt after the Cleveland State game. Or when we were picked last. Or, remember how many years we have dreamed of being in this position. Again.

Me?  I was at the first MAC Title game. We lost to Toledo. I was at the one WE LOST ON OUR HOME FLOOR.

One. More. Game.

I’m dying over here. I cannot wait. Let’s back our boys.

Note:  read David Briggs in The Blade for a great column on this.

Let’s back our boys. And enjoy the ride.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Falcon MBB Advances

Quick post here due to time constraints.

BG thrilled their fans last night with a quarterfinal win over Ball State.  Coupled with UT's defeat, there's a clear path to the finals and I think the nation is pretty excited.

A couple thoughts about the game.

First, it was the fastest pace game BG has played all year at 82 possessions.

So, when you see that Ball State scored 86, you have to take that in context. At 1.05 points per possession, it was BG's best defensive game since the Akron win.

That was better in the 2nd half, when BG held the Cards to 35 points.

Meanwhile, BG shot the lights out.  It was their best offensive game and shooting game since the NIU game in DeKalb.  Had BG shot free throws even marginally well they would have broken 100.

I don't know if BG's strategy to winning the tournament is to run and gun.  We shall see.

Both teams had a significant player missing.  KJ Walton was injured in the first half, missed time and never seemed like himself.  Meanwhile, Justin Turner had 2 fouls, missed most of the first half and finished with 10 points and BG still scored 99.

Side note. When it comes to playing guys with 2 fouls in the first half, Coach Huger is one of the most conservative in the country.  Of the 351 coaches, only about 40 are more conservative.

Demajeo Wiggins had his best game in a while.  He tied his season high in points with 22 and had 11 rebounds.  He made 9 of 11 shots.  First time around, he struggled with Ball State, so it was great to see him step up and play the game we need him to.

Dylan Frye, who has really struggled, had his best game in a while, scoring 20 on 5 of 7 and 2 of 3 shooting.  Raise your hand if you expected Frye to score 20 with only 3 3FGA.  Me either.

Anyway, it wasn't perfect but it was good enough and there's only two things in tournament basketball...survive or don't survive.

NIU is next in the late game tonight.  They shocked Toledo last night....check out the video of the post-game presser if you want to see David Briggs get ALL THE WAY under Kowalcyk's skin. 

BG played NIU once this year, beating them by 20 in DeKalb on a game where all the shots went in the basket.  After the UT win, Coach Montgomery noted the difference in his team over the last few games, when they are 5-1.  Those were all MAC West games except for the OU tournament game on Monday.  They beat CMU and Ball State on the road and then OU and UT in the tournament.

Obviously, we all know BG can't sleep on anyone.  Hopefully, the situation itself will keep that from happening.  NIU is going to be riding some momentum, to be sure.  On the other hand, it doesn't get easier.  Eugene German--who would have been on my All-MAC first team--had a big night against UT, making some (in Kowalcyk's words) "unguardable" shots.  Levi Bradley had a good game against UT and has been playing well through this run for the Huskies. 

Tempo will be key.  NIU plays at the 11th ranked pace in the MAC.  If BG can force misses and get the tempo going, I think they should be able to get this one.  If BG plays with energy and tenacity, I think they should get this one.  Even as relieved (let's be honest) as we are not to be playing UT, the Huskies are playing well and are not the same team we saw in February.  We don't want to fall victim to the same thing UT did.

Survive and advance.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Next Up: Ball State Preview

So, in the late game BG will face the Ball State Cardinals at the Q.  Interestingly, because the MAC doesn't re-seed, BG is playing the lowest seed still in the tournament, which is #11 Ball State.

Ball State had a very rough year.  They were picked to be among the top teams in the West, they entered the MAC season with a top 100 Kenpom and they would appear to have talent on the team.  However, that did not work out.  It was a rough year for them.

Just as an example, when BG beat them by 1 at the Stroh earlier in the year, your first thought was how helpful that would come in tiebreaker season, not that BG would finish six games ahead of them.

Before we get into the preview, let me just say that if BG brings the game they brought against Kent State or others, this is a game they should win.  If BG brings the game it brought against Akron, then Ball State will advance.  In other words, winning or losing is in BG's hands.

Ball State does not enter the tournament playing well.  They have lost five of their last seven.  They made it this far by beating EMU on Monday in Ypsi, an 18-point thumping featuring the two most mercurial teams in the MAC...even the game was that way.  Ball State scored 23 points in the first half and played like a team that would have preferred to be doing anything else, but then in the second half it turned out EMU wanted it even less, scoring 14 points, and 2 in the first 10 minutes of the half.

The first time the two teams played it came right down to the wire.  If you recall, BG had to struggle to get the ball in and Persons hit a buzzer beater to cut the lead to was more of a 4-point difference.  We were very happy to win that game at the time.  

Here's how it went down.  The odd thing is, BG shot terrible.  It was the worst BG shot in a win all year.  The next worst was 47%.  BG saved the game with offensive rebounding and FTs.  BG was 29-33 at the line (an uncharacteristic success rate) and +10 at the line.  Turner scored 26 and Plowden 20 and Wiggins had 15 boards.  For Ball State, Persons had 28 (his MAC season high) and Teague 19.  Trey Moses was held to 3 points.

So, it's been a while, but let's catch up on the Cardinals.  They are more like Akron than other teams.  They are a poor offensive team  (11th in MAC) in one that shouldn't shoot like you see above, but they are very good on defense (3rd).  So, it's a test of who wins out, the team that can score or the team that can't.  Now, look, BSU is underwater--they allow more than they score, which is what you get with an 11th place team...and BG is right side up.  If BG plays anything near its average defensive game, they should be able to win this one.

So, what's the deal with their scoring?  BSU is poor across the board.  They are 11th in shooting, 9th in turnovers and 9th in offensive rebounds.  They are last in the MAC in terms of trying 3FGs and last in terms of making them.  They are better at 2FG, ranked 3rd, so BG needs to defend the paint very effectively.  BG is 9th in the MAC right now in defending the 2FG.

They are also not great at the FT line.  They are 7th in getting to the line and 10th in FT shooting.

Flipping it around, their defensive success is mostly built on stopping the shot, the most important factor.  They are 3rd in the MAC in defending the shot.  They are 2nd defending the 2FG and 4th defending the 3FG.  You'd hope BG gets some stops and gets into transition.  Little hint, if you see BG get frustrated and start jacking 3FGs up, then you can start wondering how Ball State will do in the semi.  The Cards are just typical at the other things...6th against turnovers, 7th on the defensive boards and 6th in allowing FTs.

Ball State has some very solid players.  Their highest profile player is probably overrated.  Tayler Persons leads the team in scoring at 16 PPG.  However, he shoots 42% and 28%.  He leads the MAC in the percentage of his team's shots he takes.  What about assists you ask?  He's only 6th in the MAC with an essentially 1:1 A/T ratio.

Tahjai Teague is a really solid player.  He's scoring 12.9 PPG on 50% and 24% shooting.  He averages 8 RPG, which is 4th in the MAC.  Even tempo-free (the BSU defense does create a lot of missed shots) he's top ten on the defensive end.  He's also 13th in steals and 8th in blocked shots.  He's a good player.

Their other double figure scorer is KJ Walton, who shoots 12.3 PPG.  He shoots 49% and essentially never tries a 3.  He's third in steals and first in steal rate.

The surprise guy is Trey Moses.  He was third team all-MAC last year, but scores only 8 a game on 46% shooting to go with 7.6 RPG this year.  He was injured for a couple games.

So, the second season begins.  By seeding, BG should be set to advance.  Having said that, if BG doesn't play well, the Cardinals are capable of closing BG out in a game that would likely be very low scoring.

Oats is MAC Coach of the Year

I know this isn't going to play well in our base, but I'm going to tell you it's probably the right call.

Most years, the Coach of the Year is synonymous with "most improved team."  Based on that measure, Huger wins in a landslide, after being picked last and then finishing #3.

But when you have the coach of the team that has been ranked most of the year, would qualify for an at-large bid and is the best team in 15 or 16 years in this conference, then you have to recognize that guy as a pretty good coach, too.

I don't think you can argue it.  Tip your hat.  Our guy had a good year, too, and might have won most other years.  He gave us a great year when we were competitive and relevant for the first time in a long time.

Looking forward to more.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Turner First Team All-MAC, Wiggins Second-Team

The MAC announced the all-conference teams, and I think it was a fair shake for everyone involved.  From the BG perspective, Justin Turner deserved to be a first-team player and he is.  Note that he's the only non-senior on the first team and there are no juniors.  

It's well deserved.  He's the second most efficient player in the MAC among players who use at least 24% of their team's possessions.  (Side note, you can rack up big efficiency numbers without making a big impact with a few shots.  Combining the measures allows you to make sure you are talking about impact players.  It basically means that he scores a lot without using a lot of possessions through missed shots or turnovers.)

Massinburg and Perkins have to be there.  I'd expect Massinburg to be POTY.  The only first-team guy I have quibbles with is Walker, who led the league in scoring but did it through jacking up a shload of shots.  He was the #42 shooter in the MAC.  To me, that's not a first-team player.  I would have elevated Thompson or German ahead of him.

Wiggins was on track through December to be first-team as well, but his conference play was just not as good.  He was third in rebounding and first in tempo-free rebounding, but only averaged 10.3 PPG in conference play.  He had a great year and certainly earned second-team honors, which he got for the second straight year.

I had hoped Caleb Fields would be all-FR, and I thought he had a better case than Edu, but that would be it.  He is a very solid player who I think will develop at BG and become a really good player.

All-MAC First Team
Justin Turner, G, Bowling Green, R-So.
C.J. Massinburg, G, Buffalo, Sr.
Nick Perkins, F, Buffalo, Sr.
Jaylin Walker, G, Kent State, Sr.
Jaelan Sanford, G, Toledo, Sr.
All-MAC Second Team
Demajeo Wiggins, F, Bowling Green, Sr.
Jeremy Harris, G, Buffalo, Sr.
Larry Austin Jr., G, Central Michigan, Sr.
James Thompson IV, F/C, Eastern Michigan, Sr.
Eugene German, G, Northern Illinois, Jr.
All-MAC Third Team
Tayler Persons, G, Ball State, R-Sr.
Shawn Roundtree Jr., G, Central Michigan, Sr.
Nike Sibande, G, Miami, So.
Jason Carter, F, Ohio, R-So.
Seth Dugan, C, Western Michigan, Sr.
All-MAC Honorable Mention
Daniel Utomi, F, Akron, Jr.
Paul Jackson, G, Eastern Michigan, R-Sr.
Elijah Minnie, F, Eastern Michigan, R-Sr.
Nate Navigato, F, Toledo, Sr.
Marreon Jackson, G, Toledo, So.
All-Freshman Team
Anthony Roberts, G, Kent State, Fr.
Mekhi Lairy, G, Miami, Fr.
Ben Vander Plas, F, Ohio, Fr.
Jason Preston, G, Ohio, Fr.
AJ Edu, F, Toledo, Fr.
All-Defensive Team
Dontay Caruthers, G, Buffalo, Sr.
Davonta Jordan, G, Buffalo, Jr.
Larry Austin Jr., G, Central Michigan, Sr.
James Thompson IV, F/C, Eastern Michigan, Sr.
Darrian Ringo, G, Miami, Sr.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

The Second Season Begins

And there it is.  18 regular season games played to establish this. 

Not much point in writing too much about last night's game.  Here's the thing.  When BG gets smoked (especially on defense) by OU, Miami and Akron, that's a problem.  Last night, they were beaten by the best team in this conference in 16 years who haven't lost at home in almost two years...on their senior night.  Toledo lost by 30 @UB.  The Falcons fell way behind and battled back and got into the game, which many teams have not in a similar situation. 

Again, lose by 24 @Akron is bad.  Lose by 13 @UB not so bad.

BG finishes #3.  This is the second best regular season since WVU.  We'd take this any time.  I will have a post later about what I think the program should aspire to.  Yes, we want to make the tourney, but what we want way more is to be in the hunt every year or almost every year.  In fact, you have to be in the hunt every year to get the dice to tumble your way at the Q once.

But there's time for that.

In the meantime, the regular season has no meaning.  Literally.  UB has clinched an NIT bid if they don't win the tournament, but they will be in the Dance either way, so it doesn't matter.  For the other 11 teams, it's a new beginning.

I got half of my wish with BG's draw.  I was hoping to avoid EMU and OU.  So half was avoided.  OU is playing well and I like them @NIU on Monday.  (Side note.  Firing Phillips in my opinion would be a huge mistake.  He's got two of the top FR in the MAC, I think they'll be back.  Anyway).

EMU is in our draw, hosting Ball State.  EMU beat Ball State twice, including one game at Ypsi on March 5.  BG beat both teams when they played during the year.

So two things.

First, BG has to focus in that quarterfinal game.  Either EMU or Ball State is capable of beating the BG team that has shown up and lost three of the last four.  If you want to tell me that we didn't have anything to play for, fine.  Or we were in a cold streak.  Whichever.  If BG plays that way, they won't get out of the quarterfinal.

Then, we see how hard it is to win this title.  You're going to (in all likelihood) need to beat Toledo and Buffalo on consecutive nights on a neutral floor.  That's the deal.  That's the only route and it is incredibly hard.  And it isn't going to be easier next year or the year after.  That's why the first goal has to be to get in this position most of the time.

Here's the other thing.  Sometimes it happens.  If we see the BG team from earlier in the MAC year, playing intense defense and making shots, then we should beat EMU or Ball State and we absolutely can beat UT.  Then, you're in the final game, and you just need to have one of those magic nights, but it's down to one game.

So, as I have said all year, let's enjoy the ride.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Junior and Croslen to Transfer

So, this news from The Blade this morning.  No big fact, if anything the surprise is that there haven't been more people leaving with the change in coaches.  Keep in mind, though, that the new staff is putting a new culture in and that can lead to other departures as the program rebuilds...and make no mistake about it, that's what we are doing.

The Junior loss is big, no doubt.  He was the top performer on an already decimated defensive line.  Croslen was off the depth chart by the end of the year and was up from Steele, so maybe not too much of a surprise.

Wish both of them the best.  They get to make choices about their life just as we all did.

Spring practice starts tomorrow, so everyone gets back to work.  It's going to take a little time to do it right, but I have a feeling we're on a much better path.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

The Finale: The Bulls

So, it's been 119 days and the last regular-season game is at hand.  It's been a great season, with BG set to finish no worse than 3rd in the MAC.  The Falcons will end the season with their toughest game--a game at the Buffalo Bulls.  They are the #19 team in the country based on the polls.  They are 23rd in the Kenpom.

And, of course, in the highest point of the season for BG, the Falcons beat UB by 4 at the Stroh early in February.  It was BG's biggest wins in years, because this Buffalo team is no joke.  They are the highest rank team since that Kent team in 2002.  They are 27-3 and are set to win the MAC by at least 3 games.

They lead the MAC in offense and defense.  They are the #17 most experienced team in D1 basketball. 

Since losing to BG, they've won the next 8 games.

They've won 25 straight at home, including all of the games this year.  Their last home loss was December 2 of 2017 to St. Bonaventure.

And, of course, they beat Arizona in the NCAA Tournament last year.  They will enter the MAC Tournament as prohibitive favorites and even if they don't win, they'll end up in the big dance as the first MAC at-large in 20 years.

These guys are very good.  And yet, the Falcons harnessed the home crowd and delivered the big win. 

How did it happen?  First, BG matched UB in shooting.   Then, BG reversed the normal UB trend and did twice as well on turnovers as the Bulls.  BG was smoked on the boards, but made it up with a big difference at the free throw line.  Frye had 25, Turner 22 and Wiggins 17 (on 11 made FTs). 

CJ Massinburg leads the Bulls.  He's the returning MAC Player of the Year and I would expect him to win it again this year.  He's the most efficient offensive player in the MAC and #14 in the country.  He's 8th in shooting the 2FG, 12th in shooting the 3, #11 at the free throw line.  He's 6th in turnover rate.  He's a complete player and the best in the MAC.

They also feature Nick Perkins--almost certain to be the 6th man of the year--Jeremy Harris, Dontay Carruthers.  They are deep, they keep you under constant pressure and have no holes in their game.

They beat Ohio U by 47 a couple weeks ago.  If BG plays like they have in 3 of their last 4 games, that's what will happen in this one, too.  BG is a 14-point underdog and will need to play as well as they can play to be competitive in this one...on the road.  In a sense, it doesn't matter.  BG will be #3 when the tournament opens.  But you don't want to have to turn it back on again after a weak effort in let's hope the Falcons play with the kind of 40-minute intensity it will take to be competitive.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Horrors at JAR continue

Well, that was ugly.  It was ugly without consequence, but it was ugly.  BG played probably its worst game of the season in Akron, I don't think there's much doubt about it.  Akron came in as the worst 2FG and 3FG shooting team in the MAC, and against BG they shot 70% and 45%, their best shooting game of the MAC schedule.  It was their best offensive game of the MAC season as well.

And it is the third time in recent days that BG has been torched by an offensively-challenged team.

Meanwhile, BG had its third-worst offensive game of the year, worsted only by VCU and @Miami.  They shot 36% from 2FG and 28% on 29 3FG attempts, which is just not the way that team is going to win.  A few times BG got into the paint and the shot got rejected and they seemed to avoid it after that.  That's the most 3 attempts by BG in MAC play.  They also made only 11 of 19 FTs.

Wiggins played only 15 minutes.  Frye had an awful shooting night.  Lillard and Laster, too.  And no one can possibly have been defending anybody.

BG is almost certain to finish 3rd in the MAC.  Which is a good outcome, any way you want to slice it and something we have rarely achieved in recent years.  The question from here is what will happen in the MAC Tournament.

BG has played bad basketball in 3 of the last 4 games.  When they needed it, they rallied against Kent State in a meaningful game.  Coach said BG "got ahead of themselves."  And all this is fine as long as they come back to playing at the level we know we can play at in 8 days.  If not, it's going to be a short trip to Cleveland. 

As mentioned, BG is likely to be #3.  To get #2, BG would need to win @UB and then have EMU beat the Rockets at Savage.  Note, that #3 sets BG up to be in the latest games Thursday and Friday, if you want to drive over from BG.

So, at #3, BG would play the #6 and #11 seeds.  Right now, that's EMU vs. Ohio. 
That's not for sure.  You could end up with a 3-way tie, CMU, EMU and that case, I think BG plays AK with CMU in #5.  If CMU and EMU end up tied, CMU wins the tie breaker and BG plays EMU.  If AK and CMU tie, I think AK gets the nod for #5 because of the BG game, and BG would play CMU.

But don't quote me.

Similarly, OU and BSU could still finish 10th/11th.  If that happened, OU would get #10 as they beat BSU twice, believe it or not.

For my money, I'd rather not be matched up with OU, who is actually playing pretty well.  I'd rather not play EMU, either, just for freaky zone reasons.  Beyond that, these are pretty even teams and the biggest variable is which BG team shows up.

But, again, the matchup won't matter if BG doesn't bring the focus we are used to seeing.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Quick ZIp Re-Match

So, the final week of the regular season is here.  BG has played its last home game and starts the week at the JAR.

Akron is struggling.  They've lost 6 out of their last 8 and 5 out of their last 6.  They were just bludgeoned on Saturday by Ohio U, in Akron.  The Bobcats won by 24.  Nobody would have seen that coming.  The Zips are 6-2 at the JAR in MAC play, which is pretty normal.

The two teams played just a couple weeks ago, with BG winning a buzzer beater on home floor.

Here's how things shook out.  It was more of a defensive struggle, with neither team shooting well and BG getting a slight advantage at the FT line.  You'll recall this is the game where Justin Turner went nuts in the second half and essentially took the game over.

So, not much has changed in terms of the matchup, so I'll just point you to the breakdown from the previous game.

Just to recap, Akron is the worst offensive team in the MAC and the 2nd best defensive team.  They are last in shooting the 2FG and the 3FG.  They are last in offensive rebounding and they are 11th in getting to the line.  This is a team that struggles to score points.

We've seen BG allow offensively challenged opponents to score in the last couple weeks, so BG's first challenge is to keep Akron off the scoreboard.

On the other side, Akron is the hardest team in the MAC to shoot against.  They are the hardest to shoot the 3FG against but only #6 against the 2FG.  My diagnosis here would be that BG needs to play the kind of offense they played against Kent...get to the rim and then shoot the 3FG off ball movement.  If you see the Falcons jacking shots up, you know we're in trouble.

I talked before the last game about slaying Zip dragons.  The Zips have won 18 out of the last 20 with BG and before that 2009 win there was another long winning streak.  BG has lost their last 9 at the JAR and there was that 2009 win and then before that BG had lost 3 in a row.  So, 12 of 13 at the JAR.

This is a chance to turn that around, too.  Akron is tough at home, but BG needs to be tuning up to play at a high level and getting this win on the road would fall in that category.  I'm not sure how Akron will react to getting killed by OU--those things can go either way--but it will probably keep the home crowd down.  AK is in the bottom 50 in the NCAA in terms on bench the past, BG teams have been in that situation and it just wears a team down, so maybe that's happening.

Either way, this is a tough assignment and an opportunity for BG to show themselves that they still can string tough wins together.