Game 22: at Central Michigan (6-15, 3-6)
The Chips are 1-3 in their Eastern swing, losing their last 3 after beating OU in Mt. Pleasant. After getting rolled by Akron (in part due to travel difficulties), the Chips have hung tough at Buffalo and against BG, but lost close games to both, games they should have won. Central’s other league wins came at home versus Ball St. and at NIU. Their only major non-conference win was an overtime home comeback win over Wright St. Coach Ernie Ziegler has a relatively young team mixed in with some experience that is improving. However, until Coach Ziegler can develop his young bench players and get a couple of more playmakers, his squad will hang with, but not breakthrough against the MAC’s elite.
Robbie Harman, 6’1" 180 Jr. 12 pts, 3 ass. 37% FG, 33% 3PFG, 71% FT. Has really developed the rest of his game, especially his ballhandling, not just a shooter anymore. Can run the team comfortably under pressure and get others involved. Still a deadly shooter, can’t leave open despite his numbers being a little down.
Jordan Bitzer, 6’3" 195 Jr. 13 pts, 6 reb. 37% FG, 33% 3PFG, 89% FT. Another shooter you can’t leave open. Not the quickest guy off the dribble, but can get in the lane and hit tough pullups.
Jacolby Hardman, 6’5" 200 Jr. 10 pts, 5 reb. 52% FG, 41% FT. Very athletic freshman, and a very long 6’5". Scores a lot in primary and secondary transition, but showed an up and under and left hand finish in the post. Hits the offensive boards hard.
Marcus Van, 6’7" 220 Sr. 12 pts, 8 reb. 53% FG, 58% FT. Wide body in the post, can dropstep either way and score. Can also hit the turnaround jumper in the post. Will also spot up for the little 10 footer. Most physical guy on the team, will battle underneath.
Brandon Ford, 6’11" 225 Jr. 1 pt, 2 reb. 50% FG, 38% FT. Big body who can get on the boards. No real offensive game to speak of. Doesn’t play a lot of minutes because the big fella still has to work on his conditioning.
Off the Bench
Jeremy Allen, 6’3" 185 So. 10 pts, 3 reb. 36% FG, 29% 3PFG, 75% FT. Very long, athletic player, good at scoring around the basket and in transition. No real perimeter game, not a good ballhandler, so even when he tries to drive he loses control. Very good rebounder for his size.
Antonio Weary, 6’3" 215 So. 3 pts, 3 reb. 34% FG, 33% 3PFG, 58% FT. Solid bench player, doesn’t look to do much. Can hit open perimeter shots if he’s open, but he’s not very aggressive offensively.
Adrian Hunter, 5’11" 195 Fr. 3 pts, 2 reb. 36% FG, 36% 3PFG, 55% FT. Strictly catch and shoot, make him dribble.
Lawrence Bridges, 6’6" 220 Fr. 1 pt, 2 reb. 46% FG, 36% FT. Another athletic wing who crashes the glass.
William Eddie III, 6’2" 170 So. 35% FG. Backup point guard who plays too fast sometimes.
Offensively, Central runs some good sets that are hard to defend if you’re not paying attention. One that’s very effective is pick and roll with Bitzer and Hardman, but the look is to Van on a quick flash into the lane. Once Van establishes position in the lane with his wide frame, it’s a done deal. Another set begins with Harman passing off to Allen and going through. Bitzer cuts hard off a double screen and heads to the corner, but again the ball is looking to go into the post. If the post isn’t open, Harman is coming back up top off a screen for a 3. You think Harman is coming up top to reset, but he’s looking for the shot first, which catches the defense by surprise. A third set that really makes you work defensively begins with Harman passing to Allen, who passes it back immediately to Harman, who passes over to Bitzer. Once Bitzer catches the ball, both bigs move after standing at the elbows. Weak side elbow big flashes hard to the block (1st option). If the post isn’t open, Harman after going through, uses the wing and other big as a staggered screen and is looking for a 3 (2nd option). After Harman catches the ball, you think play’s over, right? Wrong again, Bitzer is on the move after reversing and is on the receiving end in the opposite corner for a jumper (3rd option). But if he’s covered, the big at the top of the key (usually Hardman), is flashing to the near side block (4th option). Central will also run some UCLA motion, dribble weave with the bigs lingering out front to continually set screens, trying to open up lanes to the basket. And you can’t fall asleep on inbounds plays. They like to run a little Fence Stack, with Bitzer popping out to the wing, but if you run 2 guys at him, that leaves Hardman an open lane to flash to the basket.
Defensively, Central wants to make you play on one side of the floor. In their man defense, they’ll try and keep you from reversing the ball and put a lot of pressure on the ball. You have to be careful with Allen and Hardman because they are extremely long and quick. They will also set up quite a bit in a diamond, 3/4 court press, and with our struggles against full court pressure, I’d be expecting this. If they employ the diamond press, they will often fall back into a matchup zone that comes out hard against the ball, again trying to prevent any kind of ball movement. If you do try and reverse the ball, don’t try and weak skip passes because they will result in dunks and layups at the other end. If you can reverse the ball, you will find open space. Central is in the bottom 30 of Division 1 in 3 pt. field goal percentage defense at 38%.
Central runs some good sets offensively, but they’re short of playmakers. Harman and Bitzer can shoot the ball, but they can only do so much off the dribble. Allen and Hardman are athletic, can crash the boards and score in close, but they can’t get their own shot and don’t shoot the ball well from the perimeter. Van is good underneath, but his 6’7" is a stretch. And the bench does very little offensively, so it can be hard for Central to score. If we can play our defense, and communicating will be essential, and rebound, they’ll have trouble scoring points. They often run the shot clock down to the very end because they have a tough time creating shots for others. They only average 10 assists and are the 10th worst in assist/field goals made. At the other end, ball movement and attacking their ball pressure with penetration will be essential. They will crowd us on the perimeter, so a good hard jab step and power dribble will probably draw a foul. Central is the 2nd worst fouling team in the country, so it will be important to make free throws. We need to score off the press, get a guy in the middle and attack 3 on 2 and with Ford and Van in the back, they’ll have to foul us hard because neither move very well. Against their matchup, dribble penetration and the skip pass to the wing/corner will be there. Attack offensively, aggressiveness and intelligence defensively and we’ll have a good chance.
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