Behind Enemy Lines: Maryland Eastern Shore
The Opponent: 5-8 Maryland Eastern Shore of the MEAC travels to Olean to take on our Bonnies on Monday night. The Hawks are coming off a 17 point road loss to Old Dominion but previous to that had won two in a row against NC A&T and Navy. They’ve faced some good opponents already in Villanova, VCU, and ODU as mentioned above.
The Rundown: UMess is second in this “should sweep” three game stint for the Bonnies before A10 play begins. SBU took care of business against Binghamton on Saturday after a somewhat sluggish start winning going away (sorry for no post-game, all staff were out of town). Now, they’ll return home to play a historically poor UMess team at home in the RC minus the student body whose away on break. KenPom ranks UMess 307th in the nation (Binghamton was 343 for the record) so it’s likely to the Bonnies will face a slight step up in competition on Monday night. It will be important to come out with energy at home without the student body there. For me, I want to see two things happen over the course of these next two games. First, win both. Second, see our bench start to contribute more. As noted on the beloved Bandwagon, the Bonnies bench is one of the bottom 6 in the nation in terms of minutes played. They won’t be able to get away with those type of minutes being given to the starters all season long. Schmidt needs to trust the bench more and in turn, they need to start producing more. I’d love to see more Jalen Adams but I’ve been told he’s struggling with the sets/defenses and so Schmidt is leery of using him. We’ve seen that before from Schmidt- he actually felt the same way about Hillary Haley who transferred to where else- UMess after his freshman year…see how I tied it all in there?
Notable Alumni/Random Facts: 3,900 students, founded 1886. Motto is: Deeds, not Words. Clarence Clemons, The big man of the E Street Band (RIP), NFL HOF’er Art Shell.
Quick Fact: UMess hasn’t had a winning season in 20 years and has won more than ten games just once in the last dozen seasons.
Starters returning from last season: 1- Devon Walker (6-4 guard) who Blue Ribbon called a “Big time shooter”- We’ll see for ourselves Monday.
Their best player(s): Likely it’s 6-8 Senior Forward Mike Myers…not the one you’re thinking of. He’s averaging 13.6 points, 5.5 boards and doing so shooting 60% from the field and 63% from the line. Myers has been on a roll lately scoring at least 12 points in each of the Hawks’ last six games. In their best win of the year at Fordham, Myers scored 20 points on 7-12 shooting. He has made one of four three pointers, so he’s by no means a stretch four man.
Their glaring weaknesses: The Hawks do a really poor job of taking care of the ball. UMess turns the rock over on 26.9% of their trips up the floor, 348th worst in the country. There is no way to downplay how damming that stat is. Giving up over 1/4th of your possessions makes it almost impossible to win games against even bad teams. Conversely, the Bonnies are doing a pretty good job turning their foes over (20%) so this could be an area for Schmidt and company to exploit. SBU did turn Binghamton over 20 times on Saturday. I’d expect some more of that 1-3-1 to force some turnovers and run-outs on the other end.
Their strength: Oddly enough, their strength is the Bonnies’ weakness right now: bench depth. UMess has 43rd most used bench in college hoops right now, playing their non-starters 39% of the game. The Hawks play eight guys over 18 minutes a game allowing them to rotate essentially their entire roster in and out of the game. This is not a team that should be overwhelmed by foul trouble. I suppose you could look at this the other way too: their starters aren’t very good?
Their bad stats: As noted the turnover stat is quite troubling for the Hawks. Additionally, they play really slow on offense (344th longest possessions) but allow their foes to score beyond easily, or at least shoot it very quickly…55th fastest in the country. Their offensive efficiency ranks below 315 so between turnover woes and shooting it at a below average clip UMess has their issues. Finally, teams shoot 55% against the Hawks from two so getting the ball inside is a key to victory…they defend the three point line much better.
Their good stats: They do a really nice job getting to the foul line doing so at a 46% clip of their possessions- that’s 33rd nationally. So, they make their living staying in games by going to the line and converting at a 65% clip…which isn’t good. Also, as we said above their bench is deep which will allow their starting five to be more spry than ours at games’ end.
How UMess can win: First off they’re going to have to limit their turnovers in the RC. If they turn it over close to 20 times like Binghamton did they are going to have a rough night. Getting to the foul line (and doing a better than 70% job converting) would also be wise for the Hawks. If I were them, I’d play Ndoye and Dion straight up and guard our shooters in Posley and Adams. There’s no reason to give those two open looks by doubling our forwards right now. Furthermore, UMess could potentially use their deep bench to wear us down if they decided to play a run-and-gun style but I don’t see that happening as that’s not their identity.
How the Bonnies can win: Another one of those games where SBU needs to hit Schmidt’s trifecta and just use their talent and home court advantage to win. The Bonnies have been defending at a great clip this year and I expect that continue Monday. We’ve done a much better job on the glass of late (Saturday included) and the turnover battle is a work in progress (we’ve been taking it away but giving it away also). SBU has slowly morphed into a three point shooting oriented team: We rank 86th in 3PT% and just 259 in 2PT%…that falls largely on Ndoye/Dion who have struggled to finish at a good clip inside. I’d really like to see us establish those two in this game so we can head into league play with a better confidence about the bigs. Our effective FG% defense right now is 46th in the nation…very, very strong. It’s a great strength to have a defensive minded club because you know you’re getting that effort each night out. Now, we just need to get some of our key guys clicking on the offensive end and we’ll really turn a corner.
X-Factor: I didn’t think I’d be naming Youssou Ndoye an X-Factor come late December but I’m about to that. Ndoye has only scored over nine points in two of his eight games. Aside from his big outings against Niagara and Buffalo he’s been mostly a decoy on offense. He’s shooting 29% in his last three games and only 43% on the year down from 52% last year, 51% two years ago and 59% from his freshman year. Youssou’s turnovers are also on pace for a career worst at 2.9 a game…far too many. Listen, more has been placed on his shoulders this year than ever before, so this is new to him. But I think now Schmidt needs to readjust a bit and not force it so much to the big man…allow his touches and scoring to come within the offense…the offense doesn’t have to revolve around him. He still has that ability to go for 20-10-5 against anyone we play, and that’s huge. Finally, I do need to give a ton of credit to ‘You for his improved rebounding (11.3 PG, A10 best) and shooting blocking (2.9 PG, A10 best)…he’s brought that each and every night.
Three keys to victory:
- Go +7 in the turnover battle and +7 on the glass
- Limit the Hawks to no more than 20 FT attempts
- Hold the Hawks to 41% or below
Staff predictions: All had wins in this one. Prove us right.