Thursday, February 28, 2019

A Chance to Turn the Tide

And, like it does every season, there's another chance to turn the tide.  Sooner or later, there won't be, but for now there is.  BG has had a couple bad games in a row--for the first time since early December.  That time, they turned it around.  And this time they can, too.  Whether it will happen is a different matter.  But what happened wasn't a mirage.  But, it's late, everybody's tired.  You gotta dig deep and rally.

Kent enters the Stroh tied for 4th in the MAC with CMU.  They have a lot to play for.  They are battling for a bye, too, and they don't have a two-game lead to protect.  In fact, they lose to CMU in the tie-breaker, so they're actually down a game.  I'd expect Kent to be ready to battle.

Which means it won't be easy.  But it isn't easy.  Easy is what we have had most of time over the past 17 years.

It's going to be a good one.

So, the two teams opened the MAC season together.  BG came in with a few wins in a row against lower ranked non-conference opponents and we were cautiously encouraged and then BG went into Kent and popped the Flashes by 22, a pretty big statement result.  Kent was kind of limping along at 4-3, won 4 of their next 5 to get to 8-4, then lost @CMU and @UB.  They beat OU at the MACC in their last game.

Stakes are the same.  BG win gets them a bye.  Same with a CMU loss to UT in Mt. Pleasant.  But, if BG's going to do anything in the tournament, the quality of play has to turn around.  It needs to start with defense.  BG has been awful against poor defensive teams in the last two games.  Now they are playing a good offensive team.

In the first game, BG held the Flashes to .86 points per possession, their worst offensive performance at home all season.  Something similar would be just what the doctor ordered.

Kent is #4 in the MAC in offense.  Not as good as BG has been, but better than Miami and OU are.  The good news is that Kent is 10th in defense, so if BG can also revert to their previous offense, that would help too.  If they get stops, I think it will happen.  Having said that, BG needs to get back to moving the ball around and not just jacking up easy 3s.

One thing is interesting.  Kent has scored 1,091 points and allowed 1,124.  It isn't too common for teams to have that kind of negative differential and have a 9-6 record.  They don't have close losses.  They also lost to EMU by 34.   Anyway, you don't see that too often.

So, how does Kent score like they do.  It's not shooting....also unusual.  They are 9th in #FG%.  They are 8th in 3FG% and 7th in 2FG%.  They take a pretty normal number of 3FGs.  So, it isn't shooting.  They are very good at taking care of the ball, though, and 2nd in the MAC at offensive rebounding.  BG has fallen to 3rd in defensive rebounding, but they are going to have to do as well as they were doing earlier to bring this one home.  They are pretty average at getting to the line, and are #5 in the MAC in making FTs.

So. flipping it around, Kent is last in the MAC in defending the shot.  That's #10 against the 3 and #11 against the 2.  BG just has to make shots against these guys.  They stay alive by being 3rd in the MAC in forcing turnovers.  They aren't great on the defensive boards and are 11th in allowing their opponents to the line.

They are led by Jaylin Walker, the MAC's leading scorer.  He scores 20 PPG, though shooting 35% and 32%, so it's taking some shots.  He also averages 5.3 RPG and is very good from the FT line.  It's a big drop to their second scorer.  Philip Whittington scores 10.9 PPG shooting 55% and 8 RPG.  Antonio Williams is scoring 10.8 PPG on 51% shooting.  Jalen Avery leads the team with 38 assists over 7 turnovers.

So there it is.  Big game coming down the pike Friday.  Hope we have a decent crowd.  Hope we rally.  We are 100% capable of it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Rough Night at the Stroh

Tuesday night was no fun at all at the Stroh.

But let's not get carried away.

For the second straight game, BG came out and laid a complete egg against a team that our previous results would suggest we should beat.  It ended up with a blow out win for Miami, who celebrated in the Stroh Center locker room like they had won the MAC title.

It was frustrating and very disappointing.  I know Coach felt the same way...his post-game interview was straight out DOWN.  You could barely hear him.

And yes, I know we ended up last year with a long losing streak.  And I know that we have a tough three-game stretch to finish the season out.  If it plays out that way, yeah, that would be really disappointing.  But, let's wait until it happens.

And we could still get hot in Cleveland.

I'm not giving up on the team though.  When you see that a team has the ability to win, then you believe they can win.  The converse is true too.  I give you the football team.

I'm not even going to throw out that BG was picked to finish last in the MAC.  That's fine but we have probably advanced past that.  But they were 11-2--something no BG team had ever done.  They hit a cold patch, which happens in a long season.

They've had a great year.  They are having a great year.  I still believe they can finish strong.

It won't happen with BG playing as they have the last two games.  No doubt about that.  Coach took the blame for the loss, which is interesting.  Sometimes coaches do that, so hopefully, it works.

Even worse, Wiggins said post-game he had seen a return of the guys not staying together and blaming each other.  I will say that I saw a couple things like that from our seats in the second half.

That needs to be addressed.  Beyond that, the defense has to get solved.  Both of those are things coach can fix.  The last time we lost two in a row, Coach reached deep and rallied the team and it needs to happen again.  Hopefully, he gets some leadership from the team.

In summary:  Tuesday was no fun.  If BG rallies Friday, it will be fun.

I said after the OU game that if BG played the same level of defense that they did in Athens, they would not beat anyone.  In fact, against Miami they played worse defense.  And you still can't beat anyone like that.  OU scored 1.14 points per possession.  Miami scored 1.19.  It was BG's worst defensive performance of the season.

Again, if that doesn't get fixed, we're going out in a sad way.  I just think we will do better.

On offense, BG actually had a decent, winnable game at OU.  That didn't happen here.  BG had only 1 point per possession, which is a level they have not won at this year.

The key was shooting.  BG had an EFG% of 44%, their worst since the UT game.  BG shot 46% from 2FG...which isn't great...and then was 8 of 28 for 29% from 3FG.  That's bad on a couple measures.  The % is awful, but the number shot just make it worse.  Coach noted that BG is shooting too many 3FGs, and that would certainly be true.  A lot of no-movement possessions followed by a opposed to ball movement/penetration sets that lead to 3s.

Miami shot great.  They made 61% EFG, with 52% from 2FG and 46% from 3FG on 33 attempts.  It was BG's worst volume game against the 3 since the Cleveland State game.  Shudder.

BG narrowly won the turnover battle, though I would have sworn that wasn't true in real-time.  BG narrowly won the rebounding battle and definitely got to the line more.  BG shot 19 FTs and Miami shot only 10.  However, Miami made 9 of those 10 and BG made only 13 of 19.

The individual numbers are pretty grim, too.  Turner scored 14, but on 5 of 15 and 2 of 8 shooting.  That's a lot of shots for 14 points.  He also had 4 turnovers.  Wiggins also had 14, but it was on 6 of 12 shooting, which is OK but not great.  He had 11 rebounds and 1 turnover.  Frye scored 13, on 4 of 10 and 3 of 7 shooting, which is also rough.  Plowden had 11 on 4 of 10 and 2 of 7 shooting and blocked four shots.

BG is also not getting the bench scoring it was previously.

Just, a very rough patch.  It can be like last year, or the team can rally and play like they did for the first 13 games.  Let's hope they can turn it around.

Here's the way it stands right now.  BG no longer controls its own destiny.  Even if BG won out, it would need either Miami or OU to beat UB to give BG the title.  BG leads CMU and Kent by just 2 games.  A BG win would put the bye issue to bed, as would a CMU loss to UT in Mt. Pleasant.

It's not as good as it has been this year, but it's pretty much better than anything we have seen since the 2002 team.  Let's not overlook the year we've had.  And let's root for the boys to turn the bus around Friday.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Redhawk Redux

So BG gets a re-match against the Miami Redhawks.  This is the first time this year that BG is playing a team they lost to earlier.  And, it will be the only time.

BG had a poor game in Millett the first time around.  Miami led by 9 or more for the last 12 minutes of the game.  BG played good defense but played awful offense.  They only shot 30% on 2FGs, turned the ball over, didn't get offensive boards and didn't get to the line.  It was BG's worst offensive game of the season at the time and it still is.

So, let's look at how things have shaped up since that game.  Miami is 6-8 in MAC play.  They started 0-4, won their next three and seemed to be getting hot but then they are 3-4 since then.  They have won 3 of the last 5 at the Stroh, even while they struggled as much as we have.

So, here's how it shapes up.  You can see the key element.  First, if BG defends the way they did Friday night in Athens, they won't beat anyone.  Moving on though, BG is #4 in defense and Miami is #8 in offense, and those work out to .99 points per possession both ways.  The test will be on the other end.  BG remains a very effective offensive team and Miami's defense is 1.01, which is right about MAC average.  (The MAC is ranked 25th out of 32 conferences in offensive efficiency).

Looking at Miami on offense, they are just below average.  If BG plays the defense we are used to, they should be able to keep the Redhawks off the board.  They are 8th in the MAC in shooting, 9th in turnovers and 10th in offensive rebounding.  Their strongest area is getting to the FT line, which they lead the MAC in....they are 6th in FT shooting. 

The shoot a lot of 3s...they are 2nd in the MAC in the percentage of shots from 3FG.  But, they only make 33% of them--just below the MAC average--and 8th in 2FG%.

Flipping it around, Miami is decent defending the shot, at #6 in the conference.  They don't force turnovers, but they are very good on the defensive boards (1st in the MAC) and give up an average number of FT attempts.  They are OK defending the 3FG....#7 in the MAC, but they are 3rd in defending the 2FG.  This is a decent defensive team and BG will need to make shots to win, which hopefully will spin off good defense on the other end.

Miami is led by Nike Sabandie, who is scoring an inefficient 14.5 PPG on 37% and 34% shooting.  Bam Bowman is their other double-figure scorer at 10.4 on 43% and 35% shooting---again, not great.  He leads the team with 5.9 rebounds.

Miami plays a very deep rotation.  No player averages 30 minutes a game, which brings their overall numbers down.  Darrien Ringo is scoring 9.3 PPG, but leads the MAC in Assist rate and steals%, but plays only 28 minutes.  He has a lot of turnovers.  Dalonte Brown also scores 9 a game with 5 rebounds and Jalen Adaway gets 5.8 RPG.

So, BG gets the chance to get back on the right side of the ledger and I have a pretty good feeling that it will happen.  This is a game BG should be able to win if they play well, as they typically have at the Stroh.  Let's see if it happens.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

MAC Reset

Ok, time for the reset.  BG would have clinched home court with a win at OU, or with CMU losing, but neither happened. 

Two more teams are eliminated...coming into the weekend, we had these guys out.

Ball State

Miami lost to Akron and now has 8 losses and can't catch BG, which is slightly better because they had beaten BG and would have ended up with the tiebreaker.  Akron can still tie BG and under that scenario they would have split the series but I am told the other tiebreaker works out in BG's favor. 

So that's 7.  BG only needs eight.  A win for BG or a CMU loss @EMU would eliminate the Chips and that would be that.  Also, by the way, a Kent loss against OU would clinch the bye for BG.

If you're following for the overall title, actually BG had that one to burn.  BG still controls their results.  If BG wins out, they would finish #1 in the MAC.  That would require winning @Akron and @Buffalo, but winning a championship is supposed to be hard.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Defeat at the Convo

So, the story isn't too complicated.

BG went down to Athens to play a team that had lost six straight and was stinging from a program-worst defeat to Buffalo on Tuesday.  Despite all that, they had 6,000+ in the Convo and got the place rocking like the old days.

Meanwhile, BG decided to "leave the defense in Bowling Green" in Coach Huger's words, and revert to some bad habits on offense down the stretch, and the combination of all that was a 92-87 defeat in OT for the Falcons.

It was certainly frustrating to watch.

Having said that, I cannot understand getting upset with the guys.  Unless I misread it, after Tuesday they were the only team in our program's history to be 11-2 in MAC play.  The ONLY one.  They certainly played poorly--their worst since December 5--but keep that in perspective, too.

Their worst since December 5.

Lastly, I remind you of the words of The Late Evil Genius, Charlie Coles, after BG beat Miami when BG was at home on a 7-game losing streak and Miami was in 1st place...the Cole Magner game...

“I think their need for a win was far more than our need for a win,” Miami coach Charlie Coles said. “We came in here in first place and they had lost seven games in a row, so there is no way you can have kids as hungry as their kids were.”
It happens.  Here's the thing.  It can also be a springboard.  You see that all the time.  Team loses a game like this, refocuses and brings it home toward the end.  Whether that happens remains to be seen, but plenty of teams have made good use of a loss like this.  We're still on track for a bye, and could possibly clinch it today with other losses, so let's just have a cup of coffee and look forward to Tuesday.

If you watched the game, your eyes did not deceive you.  BG played poorly, especially on defense.  They allowed 1.13 points per possession to the worst offensive team in the MAC.  No way to minimize that, it was not good.  It was BG's worst defensive performance since the Cleveland State game, and to be candid this felt as frustrating as that.  Over the past five years, BG has won only 5 D1 games allowing 1.13 or more.  It's a losing performance.

OU had an EFG% of 64%, which is the most allowed by BG this year.  They shot 59% from 2FG and 50% from 3FG.  You just won't win that way. That's their second-worst against the 2FG and 3rd worst against the 3FG this year.  It actually could have been worse.  OU is the worst FT shooting team in the MAC and got to the line 32 times and only made 19.

BG's offense was reasonable, at 1.07 points per possession.  It is the best offense BG has played in a losing effort this season.  Yes, BG shot poorly, with 46% EFG (ok from 2FG--50%--but terrible from 3FG), but took excellent care of the ball, did a good job on offensive rebounding and made 20 of 29 from the line.  Odd as it might seem, BG wins with numbers like that, even if they aren't ideal.

Individually, there are a few things.

First, Wiggins went over 1,000 rebounds, giving him 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 points for his career.  Dylan Frye also became BG's 47th player to score 1,000 points.  Congrats to them both and more on that kind of stuff tomorrow.

Wiggins had his best offensive game in MAC play, scoring 20 on 7 of 9 shooting.  He also made 6 of 8 FTs, added 14 rebounds and only 2 turnovers.

Dylan Frye scored 18, though it required a high volume of shots. He shot 7 of 18 and 3 of 10.  Justin Turner also had a rough night, scoring 15 but on 5 of 17 and 1 of 4 shooting with 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 turnovers.  I felt like Kirk really played Justin tough.

Antwon Lillard had 14, same story though, shooting 3 of 7 and 2 of 6, though he did make a couple key 3s in the second half.  He added 5 rebounds.

Caleb Fields had 10 points, shooting 4 of 9 and 0 of 4, but adding 5 steals.  Young man is going to be a very solid player in our program if we can continue to develop him.

Plowden added 6 rebounds in 20 minutes.

So, that's that.  A tough night all around at the Convo.  What can't happen is losing this game twice.  BG has bounced back well, and we'll look to see that again on Tuesday at the Stroh.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

To the Convo We Go.

Next up are the OU Bobcats.

Rough times in Athens.  The Bobcats are a traditional basketball power in the MAC, with a huge fan base and a great track record of support.  John Groce took them to the sweet 16 and was replaced by Jim Christian, who won 70% of his games.  The last coach to leave the school with a losing record was in 1989.  When Phillips replaced Christian, he had been an unqualified success at North Dakota State and won 20 games in his second and third years.

The next two years are not so pretty.  They are 10-21 in MAC play over the past two years, have lost six in a row, including a record loss by 47 points to Buffalo in their last game.

I searched online and people were demanding his head last year and it hasn't gotten any better.  Phillips is in the last year of his contract, as well, making it very precarious indeed.

Last year was tough with injuries but this year he has guys in the lineup, it's just going really poorly.  I'd suspect that Phillips is a pretty good coach but there is probably a tough situation, as it relates to an extension.

The two teams played in early January and BG won easily, by 19 points.  BG shot 57% and 48% on the way to the win.

So, here's the way things stack up.  OU is the worst offensive team in the MAC and they are 11th in defense.  BG is 2nd in offense and third in defense.  In fact, for the year OU is #316 in the nation in offense, and their MAC offense is worse than their entire season.

So, how does that happen?  Well, they are 11th in shooting....that's a good/bad start.  They are 8th in taking care of the ball, 9th on the offensive boards and 10th in getting to the line.  As noted, BG's defense is very good, and when BG plays defense they have held their opponents to roughly the same average OU scores, across the board.  So, if this rolls as the records suggest, these numbers should be how it plays out.  OU takes an average number of 3FGS, but is 10th in making them and 9th at 2FG.  They are also last in FT shooting, making 55% in MAC games, which is just awful.  For the year, their FT shooting is one of the 5 worst in the nation.

Flipping it around, we also see that BG's offense is about as successful as the OU defense is unsuccessful.  They are 10th in defending the shot.  They do force some turnovers but are just average on the defensive boards and at keeping teams off the line.  They are last in allowing 3FG%, which is a good matchup for BG.  They are 6th in defending the 2FG%.  Same thing here.  If things shape up as they have, this is what you will get.  OU will need to do something to change this dynamic to win....which does happen.

Jason Carter is their leading scorer, with 15 PPG.  He's shooting 45% and 39%, so decent.  He leads the team with 7.3 RPG.  Teyvion Kirk is scoring about 13 PPG but shooting 40% and 20%.  They have no other double figure scorers.

So, look, on paper BG should win this game.  Having said that, just when you think one of these sneaks up on you.  With a win, BG clinches a bye.  They should win this one, even at the Convo...and let's watch to see if they take care of business.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

MAC Reset

So here's how things stand.  And they stand in a good way for BG.  After last night's win over Akron, BG is 11-2, tied for first.  BG can finish no worse than 11-7.

As such, five teams are now eliminated out of the eight BG needs to eliminate.

Ball State

Miami could still tie BG, and to do so they'd have to sweep the season series, so that's not gone completely, but would require Miami to win out and BG to lose out.

Akron could still tie BG, and to do so they'd have to split the season series, and be 1-1 against UB just as BG would be, so I don't know where that would leave anyone, but it is very unlikely to happen.

Which leaves CMU.  They can still finish with 12 wins, under the same scenario and they would beat BG.  However, one game and they are down to 11 or BG is up to 12 and BG beat them, so that would be that.

In other words, a win Friday against OU and BG will have clinched the bye.

Imagine that.

I still expect UT to finish in 3rd.  Their West-oriented schedule is just much easier.  They play only one team with a winning record whereas Kent is at UB and BG.

Which leaves BG dueling with UB for that top spot.  I expect UB to win out, only because their tougher games are at home and they have Miami and OU on the road.  For BG to matchup with them for the title in the finale, I suspect they will have to match that.  But who knows?

Turner Time.

And the beat goes on.

BG moved to 11-2 in MAC play.  Let's be clear about this:  no BG team has ever been 11-2 after 13 MAC games.  In fact, it is only the 11th time we have ever won 11 games.

Also, the game represents BG's 3rd win against Akron since 2005.

It did not come easy.

Look, Groce can coach and he has those guys battling like they are in the snake pit.  Last night was no exception.  BG jumped out 14-4, but then got a snootful of the MAC's leading defense.  BG went 8 full minutes without scoring anything.  The saving grace was that Akron isn't great on offense either and BG can defend.  At the end of that 8 minutes, the Zips were still only up 5 points and for at the half.

The second half was about two words:


Holy shit.  No points in the first half, 23 in the second half, shooting 9 of 11 and 3 of 4 from 3FG.  BG scored 48 total in the half.  What you saw was one player taking a game over.

BG comes out pretty strong in the second half, but UA was ready for that.  With two FTs coming out of the first media timeout, they were still up 4.

From there, things turned.  BG went on a 9-0 with Turner scoring 7 of them.  BG was up 5 at that point.  Akron never got the lead again, but that didn't mean the game didn't get a little hairy.

With 6 minutes left, BG was up 9 and still up 8 with 6 left.  With inside of a minute, BG was up 6 and you'd like to think that's a pretty decent place to be.  BG had an 84% win probability at that point.

Utomi hit a 3FG with :47 left to cut the lead to 3.  Lillard was fouled and sank both FTs, so it's a seemingly safe 5 point lead with :44 to play.

Then, disaster strikes.  With :35 left, Ivey hit a 3FG and was fouled, and completed the 4-point play to cut the lead to 1.  BG runs :07 of clock to :28 and then Plowden was fouled.  He made them both to make it 3, but that extra point off the foul is a killer and with :19 left Jackson nailed a 3 and the game was tied.

BG did not call timeout.  There was actually no reason to call a play.  BG spread the floor while Turner dribbled time to make sure BG had the last shot.  He started to drive with :05, got into the lane, took some contact and got the ball up in a forest of arms, found an angle off the glass and put the ball in with less than a second to play.

After an incomprehensible delay micromanaging tenths of seconds, BG ended up with the win.  It was a thrilling win, and all but salted away a first round bye.  It was a well-earned, hard fought win where BG road the back of a great player....the first sophomore to score 1,000 points in BG history.'

BG finished with .97 points per possession,  It's the lowest amount in a winning game this year.  Again, Akron is the best defensive team in the MAC.  BG shot 46% from 2FG and 32% from 3, all well below what we are used to seeing.  The good thing was, they held Akron to .92 points per possession, 42% and 31% shooting.  That was the difference, along with BG having an 11-7 advantage in made FTs.  BG had a slight rebounding edge, too, and lost the turnover battle narrowly.

Star of the game is Turner.  He scored 23 on 9 of 15 shooting, 3 of 6 from 3 and seven rebounds.

Frye scored 16 on 6 of 16 and 3 of 9 shooting, so not the most efficient night ever.  He also had 5 rebounds and 2 steals.  Plowden had 10 to go with 6 rebounds and 2 blocked (and several altered) shots.  Laster Also had 10. 

Wiggins led the team with 12 rebounds.  He only shot 1 of 5 from the field and only got to the line for 2 shots.  It was a rough offensive night.  Coach said after the game that he did make a contribution to protecting the rim, which is something he seems to be working harder to do.

And the beat goes on.  BG is in uncharted territory, believe it or not.  They can clinch a bye with one win, which we all hope comes Friday.  And, of course, they continue to play for a title.

Good times.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Coaching News in the Football Program

When Carl Pelini left BG, the assumption was that Associate Head Coach and LB Coach Brian Van Gorder would ascend to the role of DC.  He has been a DC all over the place, including in the NFL.  I kind of assumed he would keep LBs as well, but that's not what happened.

He was named DC.  But Jim Herrmann was named as the LB Coach and Associate Head Coach.  Jim Herrmann may not be a name you know, but to have this guy on our staff is saying something.  He was DC at Michigan for 9 years.  After that, he was an NFL LBs coach for the New York Jets, Giants (Super Bowl Ring) and the Colts.  He coached on highly successful defenses across the board, including at Michigan.

So you'd suspect he might command some respect in our LB room.  Or a recruit's home.  I mean, to have this guy coaching a POSITION at BG??

It's impressive. 

Adding the Associate Head Coach role is also very interesting.  Here's a guy who's been in coaching for 30 years, give or take.  Frankly, if we had hired him to be the head coach, it wouldn't have seemed out of line.  But, our coach, a young, new head coach, has the sense to want this guy by his side.  And this guy wants to be by his side.

I've said it before and I don't want to belabor the point, but the contrast between this approach and the approach of the previous regime cannot be overstated.  Night and day doesn't begin to capture it. 

Success still has to be achieved, but you have to be impressed by the people that Coach Loeffler surrounded himself with.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Time to Slay Zip Demons

So game #13 is up next as BG continues to work toward a finish in the top of the MAC at best, and a bye at worst.  Obviously, the only path forward is to keeping winning, and that's doubly true at home.

Enter The Zip. 

There's no two ways about it...the Akron game has been a horror film for the Falcons.  That kangaroo has been a Freddie Krueger-like character to our program.  Here's ZIPPY!

Since 2005, Akron has beat BG 27 out of 29 times.  I haven't checked, but I don't believe there can be possibly any streak even similarly close to that kind of run.  BG won in 2009 (to vault to the #1 seed) and then in 2017.  BG lost both games last year, though by a collective four points, so perhaps there's more promise to the Huger/Groce era than the HugerJansOrrDakich/Dambrot era.

So, as long as we are exorcizing demons, how about this one?

Akron is 6-6 in MAC play.  They have a kenpom of 100.  They have lost 3 of their last 4 in the conference, including losing @UT, beating Kent, losing to Buffalo and @Ball State.

They are two games out of a bye--and they play Kent in the closer--so if they can get one more game on them they have a shot to get a bye.

The overall storyline is that Dambrot left a couple years ago and most of the team went with him.  Groce has been in heavy rebuilding mode, but he's a proven winner in the conference and Akron is a place you can win.  They were 6-12 in the MAC last year, so Groce has them headed in the right direction.

Tuesday's game will pit the best offensive team in the MAC and the best defensive team.  That should be very interesting.  In fact, for the year, Akron is the #22 defensive team in the country.  Knowing that, it wouldn't be surprising to find out they are 11th in the MAC in offense while BG is third in defense.  BG might not get the scoring they are used to, so shutting down Akron would be a great way to go.

Akron is poor on offense.  They are last in shooting.  They try a lot of 3FGs....#2 in the MAC, yet they are last in 3FG shooting.  They are also #11 in 2FG% shooting.  They take very good care of the ball, but are 10th in rebounds and 11th in getting to the line, though #3 at making FTs.  Simply put, BG has to keep them off the scoreboard, mostly by missing shots.  Then, you can hope that the team gets some transition going which will help the scoring.

Flipping it around, again, they are just really good on defense.  BG has lived on the 3FG, but Akron is the top 3FG defending team in the MAC.  They are second on shooting overall and 5th on defending the 2FG.  They do force turnovers, as well.  That's a potent combo.  They are just average on the boards, and give up very few FTs.  This will be a challenge for BG.

Their leading scorer is Loren Christian Jackson.  He's a 5'8" transfer from Long Beach State.  He's scoring 13.3 PPG, but it's rough...31% and 21% shooting.  Jimond Ivey is scoring 12.6 on 49% and 30%.  He also averages 6.3 RPG. 

Tyler Cheese is a JUCO transfer scoring 12.1 PPG.  He's shooting 41% and 16% and leads the team with 6.6 RPG.

Daniel Utomi scores 12 PPG, on 34% and 34% shooting.  Deng Riak, an Australian transfer from East Carolina, has 6.5 RGP in 24 minutes.  He's 6'10''.

They play a very tight rotation, with 7 players and the 7th playing 10 minutes a game.  (This is a huge switch from the Dambrot era).  They are #312 in the country in bench minutes.

Akron has a lot to play for.  Yes, they have lost 3 of 4, but UT and UB (the losses) are top MAC teams.  They did lose to Ball State.  I think the key will be BG playing great defense, keeping Akron from getting going with scoring, and then managing even to score against Akron's defense.  BG may need to look to penetrate for 2FGs more than they are used to.  And get over the hump against this team.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Season Reset

So this is where we stand with 6 games left.

I don't really care for this phrase, but BG's destiny is in its own hands.  That includes everything...finishing first, second, or in the top 4.  BG needs no help, but will get it just by the vagaries of the schedule.

So, let's look at a few things.

Overlaying it all is that BG's next four games are a nice little streak.  Three of the four are at home and the away game is @OU.  Honestly, BG can and should lock the bye up before the Akron game.

BG is in first place with the UB tiebreaker.  We play them again at their place, which is obviously a tough assignment, but that could be what's needed.  Buffalo plays four of their last 6 at home and the road games are at @Miami and @OU.  They could easily win out from here until the finale.  Probably would be expected to.

Beyond that, BG has a 2-game lead over UT and Kent for #2.  We play Kent at the Stroh, so we have some ability to control that.  We lose the tie-breaker to UT, who also have a relatively easy schedule coming home.

We all know there's no intrinsic advantage in finishing 2nd-4th, except for a slight difference in possible semi-final opponents, but given the logjam in the middle I'd suggest that's all pretty equal too.  You'd prefer to arrange it to play Kent in the semis if you could, but winning the tournament is going to require at least 2 super-strong efforts any way you slice it and you can't really avoid it.  Also, you have to win a quarter-final game.  It's hard.  That's how it is supposed to be.  When that's your only route to a bid, it's brutal.

As for finishing in 4th, BG basically needs to eliminate 8 teams.  BG cannot finish worse than 10-8.  So far, three are gone.


Three more are hanging right on the line.  Seven loss teams include Miami, EMU and Ball State.  EMU and Ball State play each other, so someone gets #8 and BG beats both in a tie-breaker and EMU plays UT 2 more times.  Miami has BG and UB still on its schedule (and Kent and Akron).  It is very hard to believe BG finishes with 8 losses and just as hard to think any of these teams don't finish with more than 8.

Which leaves us with Akron and CMU.

Akron is 4 games behind BG and I guarantee they are more focused on catching Kent and UT for a bye than catching BG for a bye.  Having said that, Akron plays BG twice coming home and would have a shot at getting the ball rolling.  They also have to go to Buffalo.  A win by BG Tuesday over Akron would give them 7 losses and BG a maximum of 7 losses and essentially ensure that BG will finish ahead of them.

CMU also has 6 losses.  BG wins the tiebreaker with them.  Essentially, any BG win and a CMU loss eliminates them.

So, I don't want to jinx it, but there you are.

Ours to lose, for sure.  One thing not to forget.  We were picked dead last. ALL of this is a blessing.  A home tourney game would have been considered a decent season when we started.  Enjoy the ride.

BG is now 84 in Kempom, their highest rating since the Jans year.  Kenpom loves blowouts and NIU still has a kenpom of 146.  The MAC remains the #9 ranked conference in Kenpom.  For reference, in the 2009 season when BG finished #1 seed it was the #19 ranked conference.

No Muss, No Fuss in DeKalb

The Falcon MBB team was in DeKalb and needed to take care of business, on the road against a team in the middle of the standings who is playing poorly.  Still, it's on the road and you're in first place and people want to beat NIU did to Buffalo...and it's just something that has to be done.

And it was.  BG was never in danger and controlled the game almost the entire way to cruise to a no-muss, no-fuss victory to remain in first place of the MAC. 

Ten minutes in, BG was up 10.  There was some technical foul nonsense with Sierra and NIU got the lead to 4, but with 5 minutes left it was back up to 9, with 3 minutes left it was back in double digits and with 2 minutes left it was in double digits to stay for the remainder of the game.

BG led by 13 at halftime and did what they have done so well with leads this year, which is to come out hot in the second half, scoring the first five points and popping the lead to 18....a huge psychological blow to a team trying to make a comeback.  BG got the lead as high as 24 before an NIU run got it as low as 12 with about 5 minutes left to play but BG responded with an 8-0 to quash any hopes of a comeback.  The Falcons eventually won 87-67.

BG played great on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, BG had an EFG% of 71%.  That's their best shooting game since 2012 against Morehead State.  They made 60% of the 2FGs, highest against MAC competition this year, and 57% on 3FG, their highest since the double OT win over UT a couple years ago.  We only tried 12 in that game, though.  Anyway, all that shooting helped with a game where BG had more turnovers than did have a good day on the boards and getting to the line at the highest rate this season as well.

So that's an essentially unloseable performance on offense.

Meanwhile, BG held NIU to .99 points per possession, also a winnable total.  NIU shot 42% EFG, which is 45% on 2FG and 24% on 3FG.  BG did not force many turnovers, but dominated the glass, as expected, and kept the Huskies off the line.  BG was 21 of 32 at the line and NIU was 17 of 18.

So, that's a winning performance on defense as well.

Individually, Justin Turner had a career night.  He scored 34 points on 10 of 14 shooting...3 of 4 from beyond the that's about as good an offensive game as you can have.  He also made 10 of 14 at the line, adding 7 rebounds and 4 assists. That was the fifth best stat line in the country last night, according to kenpom. 

Dylan Frye scored 13 on 4 of 9 and 2 of 6 shooting, so he cooled off a little.  He had 5 assists over 1 turnover, though, and frankly seems to me to be a calming presence on the floor...great when he needs to push it and strong in halfcourt sets.  He's not a playmaker PG, but he keeps the team organized and distributes the ball.  And, even as a shooter, he doesn't force shots anymore.  He takes what's there.  For my money, he's rounded into a high-quality performer.

Lillard had 10 on 4 of 7 and 2 of 4 shooting.   Marlon Sierra had a highly-efficient 9 off the bench and Fields nailed a couple 3s in key moments.

Wiggins had an interesting line, which is to say he didn't generate any stats.  He scored 8 with 2 FGs and 4 FTs and had only 3 rebounds.  But, Todd Walker mentioned after the game that BG was +16 when Wiggins was in the game, which is really important.  Coach praised his play even without the stats.

On we go.  Akron is next at the Stroh.  Akron is #5 and that's the spot BG has to stay in front of to end up with a bye, so this game remains important.  Beyond that, of course, we can look higher.  BG's in first place and has a shot to win it all, and to do that, they're all vital.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Falcons Try to Erase Memories of Last Year's NIU Game

So the thing about being in first place is that nothing is easy.  I think you kind of think you get a really good team and it's going to be easy, but actually you need to have every game and everyone wants to beat you and half your games are on the road.

Which brings us to NIU.  They are 5-7 in MAC play.  They entered MAC play 7-6.  They did beat UB in Dekalb, but it might have been the worst thing that ever happened to them, because they then lost 5 of 6.  In that streak, they beat OU, lost @ AK, UT, BSU, @EMU and @WMU.  They are 3-3 in MAC play at home.  They are the only team to lose to WMU.

BG has lost last 2 in DeKalb, last year by 93-62.  We won there in 2015.

We are 5-5 over the last 10 years in total.

They are right in the middle of the MAC rankings.  They are #7 in offensive efficiency and #5 in defensive efficiency.  They score about as much allow, which you would expect of a team that's about .500.  Anyway, BG is near the top of the MAC in both.  In particular, BG has scored very effectively and defended effectively and if they can do that again, they can win the game.

Looking at the NIU offense, actually things are pretty evenly matched.  They are 6th in shooting, 7th in turnovers, but last in offensive rebounding and 9th in getting to the line.  BG should be able to control the boards--if they aren't that's a sign of trouble.

They don't take a lot of 3FGs....11th in the MAC.  They are 7th in 3FG% and 4th in 2FG%.  They are #2 in the MAC in the percentage of points coming from 2FG, so BG's going to be tough on the inside.  Also, while they don't get to the line a lot, they are the top FT shooting team in the MAC.

On the other side, actually all these lines are pretty close to each other, too.  They are also good on the boards, but they are pretty average defending the shot and on turnovers and they are last in the MAC in allowing FTs.  On both sides, if BG plays its normal game and NIU plays its normal game, BG should win, even at NIU.

Here's something that is interesting. NIU's opponents take a ridiculous amount of 3s against them.  In conference play, 50% of FG attempts are 3s.  The average is 38.  That's the highest in the MAC and for all games, NIU has the 3rd highest percentage of 3-point shot in the nation.  You'd think they would be easy to shoot against, but they defend 3FGs at 33%, which is better than average.  You might think they were easy to shoot 2FGs against, but they are right on the D1 average.  They don't block a lot of shots.  It's a mystery.  We'll see if BG takes that many 3FGs.

Individually, they are led by Eugene German, who is second in the MAC scoring 20 PPG.  (This is all games).  He's efficient, too, shooting 50% and 41%.  He averages 5.4 RPG and about 3 APG, leading the team in that category.  He was suspended a couple games ago and then came off the bench in the last one.  Based on offensive rating, he's the second most efficient player in the MAC among players using a high-level of possessions.  By the way, last year when NIU smoked BG, German had the craziest line. He scored 19 in 11 minutes without missing a shot and making 5 3FGs.

Levi Bradley is scoring 14 PPG, shooting 50% and 38%, which are also decent numbers.  He's a 6'7" Sr. who also makes 81% of his FTs and 5.4 RPG.

Senior transfer Dante Thorpe is scoring 14.1 PPG on 54% and 43% shooting, which is also pretty good.

Lacey James is their top rebounder at 6.8 RPG.

BG is a slight favorite, Kenpom thinks we are likely to use.  This is why winning is hard.  You have to go to DeKalb in the middle of February and beat NIU.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Early Superlatives for this season

I think we definitely want to keep our success this year in perspective...which is to say that we are experiencing uncommon success for our program in recent years.  It's fun, and even more fun given that we just haven't been that competitive over the last 15 years or so.

I have typically used 2002 as a benchmark...pre-WVU and post-WVU.  Not that the West Virginia things caused the problems, but that is a clear and distinct marker between the last time we had a true MAC title competitor and now.  This is the 17th season included in that "era" and it just hasn't been pretty.  One MAC regular season title, for example.

There were really only 3 successful years in that 17.

2005:  BG goes 18-11, lost a chance to win the division late.
2009:  BG goes 19-14, wins regular season MAC.
2015:  BG goes 21-12, wins first post-season game in forever.

And then this year.

So, BG has 17 wins.  That's the highest in the Huger Era.  It is also a win total BG has reached only 3 times since 2002.  As you can see above, if BG gets 5 more wins (with 7 to play, plus tournament) it would be the most wins in that period.

BG has 9 MAC wins.  Highest in the Huger era.  Again, with 7 yet to play. Even so, BG has only won 9 MAC games ALL YEAR 4 times since 2002.  (Note, for some of those years the MAC season was 16 games and sometimes it was 18).

BG has clinched a winning season.  As hard as it is to imagine, BG has only 3 winning seasons since 2002.  There were a couple even .500 seasons, but only 3 winning seasons.  That's just a very average to below average program for those years.

So this year's success is a revival of the program, in the truest sense of the word.  I also believe we have the ability to continue the success in the future.

Of course, we know that BG has not been to the tournament since 1968.  BG has not even played in the final since 2002.  Only BSU, EMU, and NIU have gone longer than that.

Anyway, this ride isn't over yet.  Could erase all those things.  Just want fans to appreciate where we are, where we've been, and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

BG guts out sweep of Chips

For much of the night at the Stroh on Tuesday, it looked like BG was going to suffer a hangover from the UT loss and make it 2 straight just when it had the opportunity to put some distance between itself and the teams trying to get into the BYE discussion.

It was a tailor-made. After two games of a rocking crowd, BG was back to having 1,500 in the stands for the game.  It was just a let-down prone night.

It certainly started that way.  BG played terrible defense and offense for the first half.  CMU bolted out to a 15-4 lead and then led 23-8 just 8 minutes into the game. BG finally got some stops for a couple minutes and then got the lead down to 6 with 9 left.  The lead kind of bobbed along between 6 and 9 and really stayed in that range for the rest of the half.  With 1:34 left BG was down 6 and had a chance to get a stop and cut the lead down, but CMU scored twice more and led by 10 at the half.

CMU shot 49% and 50% in the first half.  They had 6 offensive boards.  BG shot OK--46% and 44%--but had 1 offensive rebound.  BG trailed 42-32.

The second half didn't get better right away.  Five minutes in, the Chips still led by 9, 49-40.  At that point, CMU was in the early part of a six-minute scoreless streak.  With 9:48 left, Justin Turner put BG up 1.  CMU broke their scoreless streak with a 3FG on the next possession and popped the lead back up two a two-possession lead.  They were up 7 with 6 minutes left.

It was just looking bleak.  That's 34 minutes into the game.

BG battled back, went on a 8-0 to take a 1-point lead with 4:21 left.  CMU took the lead right back, but this time the script was different.  We're inside the last media timeout now, and BG got up 3.  Larry Austin missed the front end of a 1-1 with 2:18 left and Frye came down and made a huge 2FG to put BG up 5 with 2 minutes left.

So, in about four minutes, it went from a game where you figure you are going to lose to it being a game you should win.

With 1;15 to play, BG was up 3 with the ball.  Dylan Frye missed a 3 and CMU cleared the board, but Justin Turner came out of nowhere to steal it back.  After a long review over whether CMU had possession--which they did--BG finally got the ball back in and Wiggins was fouled. He hit them both to put BG up 5 with 1:04.

BG got Austin to miss on that end, and then Dylan Frye was fouled.  Now with :47 left, Frye split the pair and Roundtree came home and hit an and-one to cut the lead to 3 with :42.  I didn't understand what Davis was doing here, because I would think you'd play for the stop with :42 left, but they fouled on the in-bounds and Wiggins split a pair.

Austin came down.  It is smart to foul Austin, because he isn't a great FT shooter.  And, when fouled, he split the pair to cut the lead to 3 again with :25 left.  Still pressure on BG, but Frye was fouled, made them both, BG got a stop on the other end and Wiggins was fouled, and then he made them both and BG had managed to gut out a tough where they trailed for more of the game and by as much as 15.

BG scored 1.1 points per possession, which is a winning number.  In fact, BG has not lost when scoring that much this year.  Meanwhile, they held CMU--when it was over--to 1 point per possession, which is above average and a winning number as well.

The stats were much different for the second half.  CMU shot 30% and 23% and 9 turnovers, while BG shot 44% and 36%, 86% from the line and 5 rebounds.  BG outscored the Chips 47-30 in the second half.

For the game, BG outshot CMU by a significant margin, led in turnovers, was out-rebounded significantly and doubled CMU up on FTs (almost) 23-12.

BG shot 49% from 2FG and 40% from 3FG for the game.

BG shot 82% from the line, a key factor in the win.

Dylan Frye is scoring really well of late.  He had a run of like 4 3FGs in the first half, keeping BG in the game as they were struggling to score.  He had 23 of 7 of 16 and 4 of 10, plus 5 of 6 at the line, 6 rebounds but 5 turnovers.  Justin Turner scored 20, on 6 of 12 shooting and 7 of 8 at the line.  He also had 6 rebounds.

Demajeo Wiggins had one of those games.  He sat most of the first half after an intense discussion with Coach Huger.  He shot 3 of 6 from the field and has 11 of 12 from the line to go with 11 rebounds.  That was in 26 minutes.  He played tougher in the second half, in my opinion.

Only three other Falcons scored--Laster with 8, Plowden with 6 and Lillard with 5.

So, the beat goes on.  BG is 9-2.  BG is in first place.  That's also a 3-game lead over Akron, the #5 team, which is who BG needs to beat to get one of the 4 byes, which are more or less equal in the MAC setup.  There are 7 games left.  Even if BG goes 4-3 and gets one of those wins over Akron, they finish in the top four.  Of course, they're in the running to win it all.  A win in DeKalb Saturday would go a long way to closing the door.

Monday, February 11, 2019

CMU Redux

So, BG gets what I hope is a gift, which is a quick turnaround to play CMU at the Stroh on Tuesday.  I always think after a tough loss that its best to get back out there right away and exorcize the demons.

CMU is 5-5 in the MAC.  They started out 2-0, but then lost to BG in game 3 as part of starting a streak where they have lost three of eight.  They are no pushover.  They only lost to UT by 4 at Savage, lead UB at halftime on Saturday, etc.  They are certainly competitive.

In fact, they led BG by 6 with 1:33 left in the first game before BG rallied to tie the game and then won it in overtime.  Of course, that game was in Mt. Pleasant.

Overall, CMU relies on its offense to win.  They play the third fastest pace in the MAC and they are third in shooting and second in offensive rebounding and getting to the line.  They are the #2 3FG shooting team in the MAC.  They are 10th in defense, however.  They are 10th in defending the shot, #9 on the defensive boards and #9 at forcing turnovers.  They defend the 3FG well but are last in defending the 2FG.

Below is the report from the first game.  Your key elements here are that BG outshot CMU and beat them on turnovers and on the boards, where they typically have success.  Free throws kept them in the game.  The Chips made 24 of 35 and BG made only 15 of 23.

Shawn Roundtree leads them with 16.5 PPG...with 47% 3FG shooting.  Larry Austin--a transfer-0-is their leading scorer overall but is struggling more in conference play.  He is scoring 14.5 on 43% overall shooting and 36 turnovers in 10 games.  Rob Montgomery is scoring 14.4 and DiLeo is scoring 11.6.  Remember, they play a fast pace which inflates scoring averages.  Austin also leads the team with 6.6 rebounds and also 6 assists per game.

He scored 26 in the first game between the two teams, adding 11 rebounds, 6 assists and 7 turnovers.  Roundtree, McKay, DiLeo and Dallas Morgan also ended up in double figures.  For BG, Justin Turner scored 30, Laster had 18 and Wiggins added 16 rebounds.

The next six games are critical for BG.  They have four of them at home...its CMU, @NIU, Akron, @Ohio, Miami and Kent, before BG finished @Akron and @Buffalo.  Of the next six, there's not one that isn't winnable, and the best case scenario is that BG bounces back on Tuesday and starts another winning streak that can set them up for a bye and possible championship before heading into the JAR.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sadness Accures

And sadness falls across the nation.

Don't get me wrong.  If you had told me when this season began that BG would be 16-7 and 8-2, still in first place and fighting for a bye after this game, I would have taken it all day long.  In fact, if you had told me we were going to win 8 conference games period I would have been surprised.  This has been and can continue to be a great season, one for which I am thankful.

We have been winning on shooting, especially from 3FG, and sometimes the shots don't go in.  That was bound to happen.

Just why did it have to be Toledo?

It was a great game and a great atmosphere.  All credit to Toledo.  That's a tough, well-coached team with a bunch of good players.  Even with Sanford slumping, they have guys who pick up the slack.  They're just really good and they earned the win Saturday at the Stroh, in front of that crowd.  You can't take anything away from them, even if it stings to say it.

BG showed a lot of mental toughness, that was lost in the defeat, I think.  BG was down 8 with 10 minutes left and then in the lead with 8 left.  That had happened a couple times.  BG was never able to get the run to go up 8, but they took punches and responded.

Once BG had the lead with 8 left, the two teams settled into an incredibly entertaining battle where it was a one-possession battle one way or the other until the last media time out, when the game was tied at 67...3:34 left.

And here is where the game was decided...obviously.  BG has been very good in these situations this year...locked in, to use Coach's words.  And with that crowd, you'd think you'd be in position to get it done.  Instead, it was the Rockets who dug down and got the gritty win in the key moments of the game.

With 2:11 left, BG was down 1, 70-69.  From there, UT scored the next 8 points to get the win.  That's just a team taking the game.

Frye had missed the backend and UT had the ball.  Darrington drove to the basket for a layup to make it a 3 point lead.  On the other end, BG struggled to find a shot and Frye missed a 3, Sanford cleared the board and Darrington drew a foul and sunk both free throws.  Now, it's 5 points with 1:15 left.

There was one possession you had to have, and it's this one, but Turner missed a 3 and then Plowden had the board and was right on the rim but couldn't get it down and (for my money, and it was right in front of me) Wiggins had a tip at it too (not in the stats though) but it wouldn't go down and UT cleared the rebound but the ball was knocked out.

BG played as good an inbound defense as I have seen them play, forcing UT into 2 timeouts before they could get the ball in.  They eventually did, Knapke was fouled and split his pair.

Down 6 with :32 to play and still with a shot, Frye missed a 3 Darrington was fouled and made both of the FTs and then it was over.

So, what you have there is one team scoring and the other team not scoring in the last 2 minutes.

It stung.  On the post-game, if Coach gave more than a one-sentence response to any of Walker's questions, I would be surprised.

You can find everything you need to know right here.  Coach said it after the game.  BG didn't make shots.  They have relied on 3FG shooting to win.  As I mentioned in the preview, they lead the MAC in 3FG shooting and are last in 2FG shooting.  In this one, they shot 19% from 3FG, which is their worst of the season...and they were only worse than this twice last year.  That percentage is all the more meaningful because BG shot 27 3s, second most for them in MAC play, eclipsed only by the WMU game.

BG did much better inside the arc, shooting 53%.  Having said that, though, the overall mix was toxic.  BG hasn't shot this poorly since Cleveland State.  Meanwhile, UT shot well.  BG defended the 3 pretty well, holding UT to 35% on 29 attempts, but UT made 59% of their 2 FGS--so they won both sides of the shooting battle.

The game was made close because of the turnovers.  BG was +10 on turnovers, and those extra possessions allowed the Falcons to stay in the game.

There's a myth going around that BG lost the rebounding battle.  They did not.  If you just look at bulk rebound numbers, you are often seeing a measure of who faced more shots.  The defense on average gets 2/3s of the rebounds.  So, if your opponent takes a lot of shots, then you are likely to get more rebounds and "win" the rebound battle.  Because of the turnovers, BG tried 9 more FGs than UT did, creating this exact situation.  In fact, BG outrebounded UT, as seen below.

Lastly, UT had an advantage at the line.  Both teams made 14 FTs, but UT tried only 17 and BG tried 22.  That's 64% for BG in a tight game.

In the end, UT had 1.06 points per possession and BG .96.

Dylan Frye led BG with 17 points, but you can guess it was a rough 17.  He shot 6 of 18 and 3 of 11 to get there.  Wiggins had 16 and I thought had one of his better recent games.  I thought he played with more toughness inside, absorbing some contact and getting the ball down.  He shot 7 of 8 from the field, made both his FTs and had 11 rebounds.  He had only 2 turnovers and I don't think Knapke was the force he sometimes can be.  Overall, I felt like Wiggins rallied and played a tough game when he wasn't getting calls.

It was his most FGs in a game since Kent, when he was 8 of 14.  Based on the ORating, it was his best offensive game of the year.

Plowden had 11, including a 3FG to put BG ahead in the second half, a highlight reel Blocked Shot and a highlight reel dunk.  He shot 4 of 8 and 1 of 3 and added 6 rebounds.  Turner had 9 on 4 of 14 and 0 of 7 shooting, so a tough night for him.  Laster is playing very solid ball, he had 9.  Yes, 1 of 7 shooting but he draws fouls and was 7 of 10 at the line.  He also had 4 assists and 0 turnovers.

Anyway, it was a sad ending to the night.  The key now is that BG can't let UT beat them twice, by which I mean they can't carry a hangover into the CMU game Tuesday at the Stroh.  With a win, BG continues to move toward clinching a bye and would remain in first place.  They need to bounce back just as they did from the Miami loss.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Falcons in the AAF

So, for those of you who love football so much, the AAF is kicking off this weekend to fill in those ugly winter and summer months.  Not for me, but anyway, there's a little related BG news.  There are two Falcons slated to play, both of them with NFL experience.

One is Izaah Burks, who was known as Lunsford when he played at BG.  He is playing for the Orlando Apollo.  He's a DT and had time with the Packers and the Giants.  At BG he played in 44 games and made 90 tackles, 4.5 sacks and has two championship rings.

The other is Jude Adjei-Barimah, who was a DB at BG.  He plays for the San Diego Fleet.  He made 8 NFL starts with the Bucs. He played in 52 games as a Falcon, had 150 tackles and 5 INT.  He was a member of the 2013 Championship team.

I''m always happy to see guys get the chance to keep playing if that is their desire, so good luck to Izaah and Jude.

Friday, February 08, 2019

The Hated Rockets

We're back.  Another huge, sold-out game at the Stroh, the Rockets and the Falcons hooking up with both teams on upswing.  UT has dominated the series of late....8 of the last 9 and the one win being BG's double-ot thriller at the Stroh a couple years ago.  Last year, UT beat BG by 26 at Savage in a game that could actually have been way worse.

UT comes in at 19-4.  They are 7-3 in the MAC, but have won 7 of their last 8.  This is a really good team that had a strong pre-MAC season, then stumbled by losing their first 2 MAC games before putting this 8 game run together.  I say stumbled, but they lost to Ball State at home (a stumble in retrospect) but the second was a loss @UB, which was a stumble only because it was a 30-point margin.

The interesting thing is that their pre-MAC schedule was not tough, but they did beat people solidly.  There's only one non-D1 team in that 19 wins.  These guys can play and they are playing well right now.  This one should be another thriller.

The Rockets play at the #7 pace in the MAC, so pretty much on the average.  Their numbers are a little unusual.  The are #6 in offense and #4 in defense, but now above average in both areas.  Typically, they are a higher-scoring team.  (Last year they led the MAC in offensive efficiency.).  Their scoring has been up since those two losses, but nothing too great and they actually gutted out their Akron win on a poor night.

On defense, however, they are better than normal.  Last year they were 8th in defense, for example.

FWIW, those are unusual numbers for a 7-3 team.  So here's the thing.  BG is #2 in offense and #3 in defense and higher than UT on both sides of the ball.  I said that I didn't think BG could outscore UB and I was wrong, so I won't say it again.

So here's how UT gets the #6 offense in the MAC.  They are OK shooting (#6) but they take excellent care of the ball.  They don't do much on the offensive boards and its crazy how little they get to the line....that's #12.  They do make them....they are #2 in FT%.  They are a balanced shooting team.  They are #5 in 2FG% and #5 in 3FG%.  They take a good number of 3FG's---42% of their total FGs, which is #4 in the MAC.

I'd put the key battle on turnovers.  BG is #3 in defensive turnovers and #1 in the MAC in steals.  BG can impact their offense most by forcing more turnovers than they are used to while holding their shooting somewhere around where it is currently, which is good but not great.

Flipping it around, things are going to be interesting.  UT is the #1 defense in the MAC against the shot, and BG is third in EFG%.  That's going to be a real battle.  UT is last in forcing turnovers, but is great on the boards and doesn't give up FTs.  

On the shooting, UT leads the MAC in 2FG defense and BG is last in making 2FGs, so I'd guess the key to winning for BG will be the 3FG, as it pretty much has been.  UT is 8th defending the 3FG, and has faced a below average number of overall attempts, so a more 3-rich FG mix for BG might shake things up a little.

UT is led by Jaelan Sanford, who's down a bit in MAC play, scoring 13.4 on 38% and 28% shooting.  Luke Knapke is also scoring 13 PPG, shooting 61% and 39%, which is pretty efficient.  He also averages 7.5 RPG.  Marreon Jackson (all-FR last year) is also scoring 13 PPG, but on 43% and 38% shooting.  He leads the team with 4.6 assists per game.  Nate Navigato is also struggling a little at 11 PPG with with 42% and 36% shooting.  Willie Jackson (Missouri transfer) leads the team with 8.9 RPG.

So that's the tale of the tape.  I expect a good one.  If BG plays the game it played against UB--especially the shooting--they can win this one, but I expect a thriller.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

BG and MAC MBB for 2019

A few semi-random thoughts about BG and the MAC MBB year.

First, BG is currently ranked 98th on Kenpom, as of Wednesday night.  That's #3 in the MAC.  UB is #22 and UT is #56.  Right now, Buffalo is the only team in the MAC with a shot at an at-large bid.  However, this is BG's best ranking since the Jans season, when BG peaked at a #59 before losing four of the last six in the regular season.  Even with that, BG won its first post-season game in forever.

Anyway, the 2002 lose-on-a-half-court-shot team finished the year ranked #60, for perspective.

In the NET rankings the NCAA uses, BG is #110.  Unbelievably, they are ranked behind Ball State which is #99.  (This is why computer rankings can't be completely trusted on their own).  UB is #22, UT is #57.

In case you are curious, here's BG's team sheet that the selection committee would use.  It does not include the WMU game.  For example, you can see that our average win has a 202 rating.  That's not good, but our schedule was designed to prepare the team, not win an at-large bid.

As for the conference, the MAC is #9 on kenpom.  This is remarkable and very cool.  The biggest fall has been the A-10, which is now #12.  The next conference up is the West Coast Conference.  In the NET, the MAC is 9th as well.  The PAC-12 is 7th.  (Does not include Tuesday's games, which can't have made too much of a difference.

The MAC was 13th in kenpom last year.  When BG won the regular season, the MAC was at its low point, #19.  The MAC has not been in single digits since before 2002 (as far back as we go).  In 2005, the MAC was #10.  OU beat Buffalo in the championship that year, and Turner Battle was the MAC POY.

So, the point of all this is that BG is having its resurgence at a time when the MAC is as strong as it has been in many years, possibly in a generation.  With the advent of the ESPN products, it is possible to watch a lot more than in the past, and I'd recommend you take it all in.  It's been a great season and we're only half-way through.

Loeffler in the Detroit News

With all the signing days done, we can take a second to look at what's going on with the football program.  As it turns out, the most extensive interview done with Coach Loeffler was by Angelique Chengalis of the Detroit News.  She normally writes about UM Football, and that's the angle she takes with this article.  Specifically, the heavy Michigan influence on the BG program.

Check the article out, it's pretty interesting.  Here are a few comments.

We've all heard the legends of Loeffler's workaholism.  As his family moves to Bowling Green, he is sleeping in his office--either on the couch or an air mattress if he has the strength to pump it up.  I suspect he might keep sleeping there, at least once in a while, even when the fam is here.

I'd say there were three things that rung out to me. 

The first is the words "culture change."  That's certainly going to get your attention.  So, to date, BG has not had any transfers, even keeping all the Texas players who came with Jinks. However, a culture change suggests a culture problem and when you start to revise the culture, there can often be people who can't meet the new expectations.  The good thing is, we're talking about a culture of higher performance.  Loeffler specifies sitting in the first row in class and being on time for the trainer, etc. It is also the 455th example of how poorly run the program was previously, including recruiting.

The second is a discussion of "flipping the roster."  So, we could all see on the field that the team was getting poor results, and we also heard that we had highly-ranked recruiting classes.  Sometimes you have a poor tactical coach who has talent and the team gets better right away.  You might think of Blackney's last team, in this respect.  If you were hoping that was the case here, then discussions of flipping the roster would seem to point us in the other direction.

Third, there is a lot of talk about building the program the right way.  That means not compromising with guys with character issues and not bringing in a bunch of JUCO guys.  It means building the program in a way it can be sustained, but which is slow.  This is a Clawson approach.  In fact, Loeffler seems to allude to the differences between Babers and Clawson when he says he doesn't want to win and leave, but rather wants to set the program up to be successful after he leaves.

Look, I do get it.  I have always said, everyone in our athletic department is looking to get out.  We hope that works in our favor.  You can make your career here.  And I'm supportive of him doing things the right way and getting things moving in the right direction.  And then getting a better job.

The one thing I would is that the last coach who started talking about leaving before he had even coached a game was Gregg Brandon, and that didn't seem to work out that well.  I think it's probably better to keep that to yourself until the time comes.  We know, but let's do something first.  I like the direction, but you might also not leave of your own accord.

Final thought.  We're going to have to be patient.  The program is in bad shape.  We might be a little better next year, but I think we're looking at something like the path Clawson and Leipold took to success.  We'll need to be patient, which sucks because of the last three years.  Not that we were exactly patient.  You can see in the article that we have a very close-knit group of coaches and I think they are the men we need to turn this around.  There are no guarantees, but I feel a lot better about what we're doing this time.

Final final thought.  If your last name is Campbell, you nickname will be "Soup."

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

BG Avoids Trap, beats WMU (MBB)

And the beat is back.

BG did what they needed to do to go 8-1 in MAC play...avoiding a trap game against WMU and grinding out a 85-72 win over the winless Broncos.

It was one of those games....WMU hung around for much of it, but you never really felt BG was out of control.  You feared them hitting a couple threes around a TO and slashing into the lead, but the Falcons always seemed poised for victory.

With 9 minutes left in the first half they had built a 10 point lead.  It got as high as 14 with 5 minutes left and was 13 with 3 minutes left.  But, WMU closed on a 10-4 run with a buzzer-3FG and had to have some momentum to only be down 7 at the half.

Then they pulled a page out of BG's book and scored the first four points of the 2nd half to cut the lead to 4.  That was as close as WMU would get.  BG responded with a Wiggins and-on and then BG got a stop, cleared the board and Wiggins hit another layup and the lead was 9.  WMU didn't go away.  Mid-way through the half they had the lead at 5, to which Lillard responded with a 3FG to get it back to 8.  With 5 minutes left BG was up 12 and got the lead as high as 18 after that, but WMU hit some late shots to get it back to the 13-point final margin.

Again, nice, solid, no drama win for BG.  Just what the doctor ordered.

Looking at the stats, BG scored 1.15 points per possession, which is almost what they did against Buffalo.  They allowed WMU .97 points per possession.  Both of those are winning numbers.  (For example, BG is 10-1 at that level of defense or better).

BG was outshot by WMU, but won every other facet of the game comfortably.  Turnovers were ridiculous--and I thought WMU just made a bunch of lazy turnovers and unforced errors--BG was better on the boards against a team that works hard to rebound and BG got to the line more.

BG shot 40% on 2FG but continued great 3FG shooting at 43%.  BG is #38 in the country in 3FG% shooting in all games and leads the MAC in MAC games only.  Interestingly, they are #10 in the MAC in the proportion of 3s taken, which means they are taking good shots, not just jacking them up.  BG is last in the MAC in 2FG shooting.

WMU shot 54% on 2FGs and 38% on 3FG, which is how they end up with shooting above MAC average.

BG was a strong 21 of 27 at the line for 78%, while WMU was 15 of 19.

Individually, Antwon Lillard had a career night off the bench.  He scored 27 points on 7 of 16 shooting, 5 of 8 from 3FG and 8-10 at the line.  He added 11 rebounds and no turnovers.

Dylan Frye was over 20 for the second straight game.  At 20, actually.  He was 7 of 13 and 4 of 9 shooting and had 4 steals.  As I said after the Buffalo game, I just feel like he's maturing.

Wiggins double-doubled at 15 and 10, shooting a less than ideal 5 of 11.  Also 5 of 7 at the line, and five turnovers.

Justin Turner had 8.  Fun fact.  That's his first game out of double figures all season.

So on we go.  Rockets are next and playing well.  Sounds like the Stroh will be rocking again....BEAT TOLEDO.

National Signing Day, Part II

So, today was national signing day, part II.  BG picked up three new guys.  On the first NSD, Coach Loeffler said we had four scholarships left, so that leaves us one...but this is always hard to track.  A walk-on might have gotten a scholarship or someone might have left.  Who knows?

Anyway, here are the three.

Austin Dorris is a grad transfer from Indiana who plays TE.  We had more about him when he committed here.  He was a big HS recruit who has played mostly special teams and he can contribute right away there and at TE.  He's at BG now.

Anthony Johnson is an interesting verbal as well.  He's a WDE from Cleveland Heights who had offers (based on 24/7) from Georgia Tech, Ball State, Toledo, Syracuse and other FCS schools.  He's ranked as 3-stars.  He's listed as 6'4" and 230 pounds. He had played originally in PA and then his family moved to Cleveland before his senior year.

Here's some verbiage on his PA career:

In his one season at Jeannette, Johnson totaled a team-leading 134 tackles with 12 sacks to lead the Jayhawks to a PIAA Class 1A championship when they defeated Homer-Center, 42-12, at Hersheypark Stadium. Johnson was named defensive lineman of the year in the Eastern Conference.
In Cleveland he was 2nd-team All-State in Division I and he was first-team all-District.

I suspect that one thing BG offered that helped was that he is coming in at a position in extreme need of bodies and he has a chance to contribute in 2019.

The last signee is Christian Sims of Norcross, GA.  He's a 6'2" and 207 pound WR/TE who had 30 catches for 525 yards.   247 lists him as a TE with an offer from Wingate.  He played S as well in HS.  His sister is in the Air Force and she surprised him for his senior night.  He was first-team all-region in Atlanta as a TE.

You've also seen a bunch of other names coming through Twitter for players who are committed to BG.  Those guys are preferred walk-ons.  The program is working that angle hard with an eye toward getting bodies in the program.  And, we have had very good players start as walk ons at BG, Ryan Burbrink jumping to mind.  (Update: also Konowalski)

Last note.  Loeffler was interviewed in The Blade about the one thing that is lacking in the class, which is a QB.  Most programs want one a year.  Loeffler told the Blade that he needs a very long relationship before offering a QB prospect, someone he calls the CEO of the team.  He didn't feel he had that by now but I think we can assume he will be working on it.  BG did have PWOs come in at QB, however.