Too young for these Cougars?

What more could you really ask about last night? In seeing some of the numbers flying around the GBI board it was almost a negative to play the Cougars. Their Pomeroy ranking was somewhere around 350. As a result, our strength of schedule allegedly dropped 100 points simply by playing them. I knew something like that would happen. SIU-Edwardsville is not going to get better or get much needed cash for their program unless they play games like this.

There can be positives for us though. We got to develop the bench guys some more with quality minutes. I am a firm believer in having everyone ready because you never know when an injury is going to strike. We didn't know LewJack was going to be gone, but we have now had 11 games to get used to life without him. Before the season Sandi Marcius was projected as playing more than Patrick Bade. Now Bade has 11 games of experience, and I think we saw that beginning to pay off last night. We can only take so much from games like this, but it was nice to see that we did take something from it.

Patrick Bade - Once again, I will reluctantly take credit on this one. I have now attended two games as an official member of the press. After Wake Forest, I asked one question about Purdue being a second half team. We immediately began starting games better. After the Ball State game, I asked one question as well, this time about Patrick Bade being more aggressive in the game and his development as a player. We saw the result last night as Patrick played maybe his best collegiate game.

Thank you, again.

We got a career high of 10 points and 8 rebounds. Yes, it was against SIU-Edwardsville, but it is a still a step forward. It shows the versatility that makes us so dangerous. We now have nine different players that have at least one double-digit scoring game this season (JJ, E'Twaun, Robbie, Kramer, Grant, D.J. Byrd, Mark Wohlford, Ryne Smith, and now Bade). Kelsey Barlow has also shown he is a threat to join that club. It is one thing to have a 10 man rotation for purposes of depth. It is something else to have ten players that are legitimate threats to score if they have the basketball. We didn't have either of these last year. If you think about it, both of these numbers jump to 12 once LewJack and Marcius return, though Marcius has yet to prove he is a threat to join the double-figure scoring club.

I have long said that the Marcius injury is much bigger than the LewJack injury simply because of the depth issue at the respective positions. Keaton Grant, Chris Kramer, E'Twaun Moore, and Kelsey Barlow can serve as a guy to bring the ball up the floor. We're averaging 16 assists and 79 points per game (as a sidebar, I thought we were a slow, boring, all defense no offense team?) without LewJack. He is a good player that makes a very good team even better if healthy because of what he brings to the table (quickness on defense, added pressure, the ability to slash and score or kick the ball out). Losing a guy like Marcius, who was supposed to provide depth at a position where we have really on JaJuan Johnson established, is a big blow. We saw it against Alabama and Tennessee. If JJ is in foul trouble, we can quickly become ordinary. To beat the good teams on our schedule we are going to need players like Bade and Marcius to step up and both compliment JJ as well as step in if he gets in foul trouble.

Other teams watch film. They know they can get JJ in foul trouble and they will work to do so. I have already seen it by noticing he isn't as aggressive on defense in going after blocked shots because he is fearing the whistle a little. It is almost like seeing how Kramer wasn't as aggressive going to the basket after knocking himself against Clemson two years ago. If they get JJ in foul trouble they know it is our one major weakness. That is why seeing Bade develop into a guy that can solidly "run, rebound, and defend" as Matt Painter described him after the Ball State game is so important. Getting Marcius to the level will help too. Getting guys like Donnie Hale and Travis Carroll with JJ staying next year, plus Bade and Marcius, plus LewJack/Byrd becoming Kramer clones on defense to replace his loss? Holy Crap!

I think I need to sit down. I'm too excited.

Stevie Loveless - Congratulations to the young man for scoring the first points of his career! Now we need to get the ball to Kyle Coleman more. Coleman is the only healthy player on the roster that has not scored. He is 0 for 1 from the field and 0 for 2 from the line this season. For the next Walk-On Whiteout we need to get Coleman the ball and have him shoot.

JaJuan Johnson - You get the sense he could have totally dominated the game if he wanted to last night.

Keaton Grant - Grant found his outside shooting touch last night. I feel like he has a huge breakout game in his future when we will need it most. I can't wait to see it.

Negatives from the SIU-Edwardsville game:

Kelsey Barlow on free throws - Maybe he is a great free throw shooter in practice that clams up during a game. I don't know. I do know that if he is going to be handling the basketball in late pressure situations we need him to knock down free throws. It nearly cost us the Tennessee game. There is nothing worse than a point guard who barely shoots 50% from the line.

Defending Mark Yelovich - Helluva night for the young man. 23 points on 5 of 5 3-pointers. We didn't defend him and he showed why he is a solid building block for the Cougars.

Up next:

We have about as easy of a road trip as we can have to open conference play with Iowa coming up. The Hawkeyes have shown that they may be the worst team in the conference this year, so it absolutely has to be a win. It counts no more in the standings than beating Michigan State, but a lot more people will beat Iowa in conference play than the Spartans. Once again, we have to stay focused, not look ahead to a huge West Virginia game, and take care of business. I'll have more on the Hawkeyes next week, as well as a Big Ten Power Rankings tomorrow.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas, gentlemen. At 11-0 and one of just six teams in the country to make it to December 25th perfect, you have earned it.

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