Hoops Check-in: Mythical Beasts and How to Beat Them
North Texas Recap
There may be no such thing as a moral victory, but Tech’s 19-point comeback to tie the game in Denton is nothing to scoff at. Especially when playing against perhaps the best team in C-USA this year.
Or maybe it is something to scoff at. But I’m not 100% sure what a scoff is.
The comeback was even more surprising considering just how horribly Tech played throughout the game.
Although I hate when the losing team’s fans say things like “We only lost because we had a bad game”, I think it’s important to show just how below average this game was for Tech.
I’ve included box-and-whisker plots before, but as a quick refresher on how to read it: the majority of the values lie within the blue or red box. Those are the normal values, or what we can expect from the Bulldogs on any given night. The “whiskers” are the outliers, whether good outliers or bad.
And boy did Tech had some bad outliers in Denton.
Some of the struggles were due to a solid defensive gameplan and execution by the Mean Green. But a defense doesn’t have to be great when their opposition is that cold from the floor.
Losing to North Texas may be excusable, but losing to Rice is not. This should not have been a game Tech struggled in, even if Owls had some momentum going in from knocking off a struggling Southern Miss two days prior.
Post-game, Coach Konkol mentioned how Rice was able to pull out a win in a game that swung back and forth throughout:
I was pleased with our execution on both ends of the floor, but I thought the real difference was the three-point shot. They hit three very timely threes in those last four minutes. Difficult ones too. That put the game out of reach for us.
Interestingly enough, this is similar to one of Coach Konkol’s responses after the loss to UNC-G in Delaware:
They made two huge threes in the last ten minutes of the game. We needed a key stop. We needed a key basket. And at the critical times, we didn’t get either.
Both quotes suggest the Bulldogs’ problems are simply a lack of luck. Had the opposition not hit the threes, or hit them at a different time in the game, Tech may have been able to pull out a win.
Whether lucky or not, it’s much easier to come to terms with a loss to UNC-G than a much more meaningful loss to the not-very-good Owls.
Record Probability Chart
If you’re like me, you’ve had January 10, 2019 circled on your calendar for a while now. That’s when everyone’s (well, at least C-USA’s) favorite team comes to Ruston.
This matchup, like many this year for the Bulldogs, may come down to which ever team can pull down the most rebounds. UAB is 10-3 when they pull down more boards than their opponent, while Tech is 8-1. But while Tech out-rebounds the other team by an average of +3.6, UAB’s figure is +7.8.
Another factor in this game may be UAB’s ability to stifle a comeback.
In the first three games of the 2018-19 season, Tech scored more points in the first half than in the second. But starting with the LSU game, the Bulldogs have put up more points in the second half than the first. (The exception is Rice, where the halves were equal).
This is important because UAB is 9-0 when leading at halftime. So if Tech falls behind early (which has happened a lot this year), the Blazers might just be able to fend off any comeback attempt.
For the second straight week, the Saturday game should be easier for Konkol’s squad than the Thursday game. The Blue Raiders are 3-12 on the year. Middle Tennessee’s last win was before Thanksgiving.
But things aren’t always as they appear. I mentioned last week that North Texas had an almost literal cakewalk of an out-of-conference slate, but things were a bit different for Middle Tennessee.
MTSU played nine games against teams with Massey Ranks above 100 (three times as many as Tech). The “weakest” team the Blue Raiders have lost to is a 10-5 FAU.
So is MTSU a better school than their record indicates?
As a Magic 8 Ball would say “All signs point to yes.”
Other People’s Predictions
Massey – Tech wins 73-68
KenPom – Tech wins 71-65
Massey – Tech wins 75-62
KenPom – Tech wins 75-62