So, Friday the basketball season gets underway. Gonna do three things, starting with a team preview today. Then, there will be a MAC preview and my normal fearless and ridiculous game by game predictions ("Often wrong, but never in doubt" is our motto).
First, the big picture. Everyone is picking us to continue to improve this year, and I think that's probably right. We do have everyone back from a team that was 7-9 in the MAC. We were 6-2 at home in conference and had one road win in the conference.
I think there are three reasonable goals for our team this year, especially given a soft non-conference schedule.
- A winning season.
- 10 MAC wins and a bye in the MAC tourney.
- A win in the MAC tourney.
If you are curious, here is what I saw at the end of last year.
So, as we look to this year, let's think about scoring, defense, and the newcomers.
But let's begin by remembering that while we were 10th in the MAC in scoring margin last year, we had two losses by a combined margin of eighty points, which is about 5 points for every game on the MAC schedule. In reality, it was much closer. The teams in the range we are looking at would win games by 3-5 points per game...so, we are only 5-7 net points from being in pretty good shape.
When you think about the number of trips you make up the floor, this just seems pretty manageable. And when you think about all those trips, some of which do not appear to mean anything, you realize that it really does matter what you do each time down the floor.
With that in mind, how could BG score more to help toward that goal? Last season, we were 10th in the MAC in scoring (conference games only). And while we didn't lose anyone off that team, we don't have any major additions either (unless the Freshmen mature more than expected), so how will what amounts to the same guys score more points? For example, I know Nate Miller is a good player, but I don't expect him to score more than he did last year.
The thumbnail on where it was last year:
- 10th in scoring, 12th in FT%
- 8th in 3FG%
- 11th in 3s made
- 8th in assists
- 11th in turnover margin
- tied for 9th in offensive turnovers
- 8th in offensive rebounds
- 6th in FG%.
Some thoughts on how it could improve.
Brian Moten could come into his own. The MAC 6th player of the year seems to be thriving under Coach Orr, and if he were to give us a consistent, viable outside threat, then our scoring could improve. In today's game, your offensive mix either has to include a good number of 3s, or you have to shoot your 2s REALLY well or get inside and get fouls and convert from the line. So, Moten coming into his own could contribute the points we need.
Chris Knight could come into his own. Knight has the ability to be a special player, and he could be a very good player in this conference. If he continues to get better and improve his consistentcy, he could become a go-to scorer as well.
Erik Marschall could return to his former level. He has had serious injury problems, and I think everyone is watching carefully. However, he was a scoring threat down low before, and might feel more comfortable with his role on the team. We're deeper inside, and I think he might not have as much pressure on him as he did before. Anyway, if he can score, it'll help.
A sophomore Joe Jakubowski could take care of the ball better than the freshmen Joe Jakubowski did. Not to be critical, because I thought he played really well, but I think some improvement here would be expected. With fewer turnovers, we will get more shots at the basket, and that should net more points. An even better bonus will be if Joe develops into the kind of player who creates opportunities, but he can help just managing the offense. Also, I think we may actually have two functional PGs, which will help to keep things fresh and ensure we have a natural PG for 40 minutes a game.
We could create opportunities on defense. Coach likes to talk about getting more of those "easy" baskets in transition. If we create turnovers or get rebounds on the defensive end, that could help our scoring. Coach says he wants to run more this year, but you gotta create turnovers or get rebounds.
We could make our free throws. Sounds stupid, but those count. We were last in the conference last season, and apparently struggled against Ashland. I don't understand this, but even average free throw shooting would add some points.
Or some combination of the above.
On defense, here is the thumbnail from last year.
- 9th in point allowed (note a couple big games inflate this number a little)
- 8th in 3FG% defense
- 10th in rebound margin
- 10th in steals.
- 12th in turnovers forced.
- 5th in FG% defense
- 1st in blocked shots
The team was meant to be built on defense, and they are not as far away as it might have seemed last year. If this team can do better on the defensive boards and force more turnovers, our naturally strong shooting defense should put the opponents back within striking range.
Finally, the newcomers. We are in the process of both upgrading the talent level and getting players for Coach Orr's style...here are the new players.
Darnell Brown--will play 1 and 2, but is a natural 1, something Falcon fans have not heard much of in recent years. An honors graduate at Detroit Country Day, he was the 4th best PG in Michigan, which is impressive. I think he will contribute this year and improve our guard play.
Scott Thomas--At 6'6" he has the length we have been lacking. Coach says he has a "high motor" and can shoot or drive. There's talk about him needing experience and size, so I'm not sure how much he contributes this year.
A'uston Calhoun--At 6'7", another long player. Highly skilled player, with high athleticism. He averaged 17/14 his last year in high school. Coach notes that he can be a special player "as he matures" so again, not sure how much we see this year, but it will be fun to watch. (Note, based on The Blade's preview, he is not practicing at this point, so he is definitely questionable for now.)
Any of these guys could contribute in low minutes and make a big difference.
I'm optimistic that we take another step forward. Its clear the parts of the game that have to get better, and I look forward to seeing the Falcons put them together.
One last note. There is some talk of some discipline issues on the team. Obviously, this impacts our ability to come together as a team and reach our goals. I do have confidence in Coach Orr and the people he recruits and, frankly, in the players who are here. Hopefully, everyone can correct the situation and focus on getting our team on the right side of the win/loss divide and toward a MAC title.
And a rocking Anderson Arena again.