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The State of the Balls

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I have a lot of respect for Purdue when it comes to facing the Cardinals. They were not afraid to go to Muncie last season and play on Ball State's home floor. This year's game was supposed to be the third game in a two-for-one deal, but the Cardinals agreed to move the game to Conseco as part of the Wooden Tradition when the organizers could not  find an opponent for us.

Some might remember this summer that I campaigned, and even posted an e-mail address for the organizers, to have Notre Dame be our opponent. Since the organizers would do the scheduling and not the schools I saw it as the perfect opportunity to renew a long dormant series. The Boiled Sports guys and I took this a step further in last night's podcast by talking about a dream scenario where Indiana, Purdue, Butler, and Notre Dame would be the four teams every season. They would rotate playing each other, with Indiana and Purdue only playing in years where the Big Ten was too stupid to have us play twice in conference play. This makes too much sense, so it would never happen because the schools wouldn't agree to it. This is especially true with the national brand Notre Dame is developing. Why lose to a quality program like Purdue or Butler when you can develop a national brand by losing to Loyola Marymount.

I'll step down off my soapbox though. We get Ball State this year and I am sure the Cardinals will appreciate the national boost they get for playing in a name event like this. I'll be running a CoverItLive from Conseco thanks to the very good people on the media relations staff at the Fieldhouse, so let's see what we are up against:

2008-09 record: 14-17 (Lost to Buffalo in MAC Tournament 2nd round)

2009-10 record: 3-4, 0-0 MAC

Blog representation: Over the Pylon (Primarily football)

Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 7-2

Last Purdue win: 68-39 at Ball State on 12/9/08

Last Ball State win: 72-52 at Conseco Fieldhouse on 12/18/99 (Purdue was ranked #24 at game time.)

Common Opponents: Valparaiso (W 88-78), SIU-Edwardsville (W 57-47), Central Michigan (January 17, February 13), Buffalo (January 28).

Ball State is a team that I have always felt should be better than it is. They haven't made the NCAA's since 2000, but their biggest claim to fame was losing 69-67 to a nearly unstoppable UNLV team in the 1990 Sweet 16. That UNLV team won three tournament games by 30 points, but barely survived the 12th seeded Cardinals. Ball State had already upset Oregon State and Louisville. Had Ball State won, you would have seen the lowest seeded regional final in NCAA Tournament history against 11-seed Loyola Marymount (the famous Bo Kimble led team).

The Cardinals haven't had much national success since then. They made some noise in 2001 by upsetting UCLA and Kansas before falling to Duke in the Maui Invitational, but they were unable to sustain those wins into an NCAA bid. A nasty textbook scandal essentially gutted the team before the 2007-08 season and they are still recovering. They have gotten better each season though. They finished 6-24 with very few scholarship players in 2008. They improved to 14-17 last year, and could be in line to compete in a wide-open MAC this season. So far they have lost to Temple and Butler, while dropping close games to UC Davis and Tennessee Tech. They did grab a nice road win at Indiana State on December 9th.

Where Ball State will struggle Saturday is the fact they are not a high scoring team. They average less than 63 points per game, which is not enough to beat us. This is without facing our defense, which is among the best in the country. 6'9" sophomore forward Jarrod Jones is a very promising young player from Michigan City, IN. he leads the Cardinals in scoring (14.6 ppg) and rebounds (6.6 rpg). He is strictly a post player who shoots better than 50% from the field. 6'2" freshman guard Jauwan Scaife is second on the team in scoring at 11.4ppg. This is a kid that was a key cog for nearby Muncie Central High for four seasons. As a freshman in high school he played against the great Oden and Conley Lawrence North team in the state championship game. The Bearcats were merely a speedbump against possibly the greatest team in Indiana High School history, but Scaife did play against pretty good competition all four years.

Scaife is an accomplished 3-point shooter. He leads the team in made triples, hitting 12 of 27 on the young season. He can also create his own shot and is good at getting to the foul line, hitting 88% from there. 6'4" junior Malik Perry is a reliable third option averaging 8.9 points per game. 5'11" sophomore guard Randy Davis from Plymouth, IN was a great scorer in high school, but he has become a distributor for the Cardinals. He averages 7 points and almost 4 assists per game. Davis is your stereotypical Indiana white boy that can simply shoot the basketball with great accuracy. After being held scoreless against Butler he has been in double figures each of the last two games. Most of his damage has come at the free throw line, where he is 29 of 37.

Ball State is not an overly deep team, and that lack of depth will hurt them in a game like this. Thanks to our freshmen and the emergence of Mark Wohlford we can legitimately play 10 players. That number, like Spinal Tap, goes up to 11 if Sandi Marcius makes his season debut on Saturday. Aside from Jone they don't have much size, either. Terrence Watson (6.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Brawley Chisholm (5.9ppg), Pierre Sneed (3ppg), and Mo Hubbard (0.9ppg) round out the eight man rotation. As you can see, however, Hubbard and Sneed are hardly scoring threats.

Ball State shares the ball fairly well with 11 team assists per game, but they do not rebound well. That is to be expected with their overall lack of size. Only Watson and Jones are serious rebounding threats. If we neutralize them on the glass we should have an easy day. I am very much encouraged by the way we crashed the offensive glass against Alabama. That was a very underrated, but incredibly important part of our comeback.

Ball State is a pretty good 3-point shooting team, hitting a little more than a third of their long range attempts. They only shoot 43% from the field overall.

While Ball State is an improving team, the recipe for an upset just isn't there. They lack a go-to scorer that can take over a game (like Brandon Wood for Valparaiso or Aminu for Wake Forest). They don't shoot well from the field and they don't rebound well. Turnovers are an issue at 15 per game against much worse competition. In truth, we should only be worried if they start bombing away from 3-point land and that opens up the low post for Jones. If he can operate and get JaJuan Johnson in foul trouble (our Achilles heel) they might have a chance. It is still not a good one.

Keys to the game for Purdue:

  • Defend the three-pointer
  • Clamp down on Jones inside
  • Keep Davis off the foul line
  • Play Purdue-style basketball

Purdue 72, Ball State 52