Bisons win one down the wire, keep conference tourney hopes alive

Christian Brothers played a solid game backed by some enthusiastic traveling fans, but Kevin Weybright’s 35-foot shot to tie the game at the buzzer fell short, and the Bisons won 66-63. In yet another game marred by poor GSC officiating, the Bisons continued to battle and got just enough shots to fall.

Here are the keys, but let me tackle the analysis a little differently:

HU Opp +/-
Eff 91.8 85.6 6.1 Actual net efficiency
TS% 50.1 54.7 -0.047
OR% 21.6% 21.9% -0.003
TR 15.2 23.8 0.086
6.4 Predicted net efficiency

1. Shooting: This is still a problem for the Bisons, and it still has to do with shot selection. Patrick Andrepont got some threes to fall, but he still missed 9 of 15 shots, several of which were the result of him just taking the shot within 5 seconds of crossing half-court, not looking for anyone else. Andrepont is simply not a good enough shooter to make that work. I barely noticed that Steggie Barnibb (my new name for the Bisons’ PG duo, which is almost exclusively used one-at-a-time) was 1-for-8 with 6 assists and 7 turnovers, making for a pretty rough night. Those guys need to stop shooting the ball unless they have open layups or jumpers inside 12 feet. I think the shot selection might be affecting the next key…

2. Rebounding: This was basically a wash between the two teams, neither of which put in a lot of work on the offensive end to get their missed shots. 21.6% is a poor offensive rebound percentage, but it looks better when you do well on the defensive end. I think our poor shot selection is creeping over into this area, because some of our crazy shots come with the rest of the team completely out of position for a rebound. It was helpful to have Ceso Sprewell in for 32 minutes without him fouling out. As our second most efficient player, he needs to be in the game if at all possible.

3. Turnovers: Christian Brothers has struggled with turnovers all year, though not necessarily because they commit too many. Their problem is being too passive defensively (they have the league’s worst defensive efficiency at 106.5), mainly because they don’t force turnovers. The Bisons turned it over more than the average CBU opponent, but HU usually does well at forcing turnovers, and that was true again last night. Lonnie Smith’s 4 steals, including at least one clutch steal late in the game, proved to be the catalyst for some easy baskets.

4. Overall efficiency: The Bisons’ slight edge of 6.1 came from the large turnover advantage, offset somewhat by their poor shooting. Neither offense was really on track, with the Bisons’ 91.8 coming well short of their 97.1 average in conference play. That’s a little disconcerting against the league’s worst defense, but when you play good defense to go along with it (CBU is the league’s third-best offense at 103.0, so that 85.6 is no small feat), you’ll stay in the game.

Important individual performances:

1. The Bisons held Kevin Weybright somewhat in check. He still had 21 points, but it took some late threes to get him there, and he only contributed 3 rebounds and committed 6 turnovers. Weybright is firmly entrenched as the #3 most efficient player in the conference, and the Bisons did a good job defending him.

2. Ceso Sprewell played 32 minutes. I touched on this before, but last night proved that Ceso can play good defense and still stay in the game by not committing fouls. The officials were unusually (and in my opinion unnecessarily) harsh on the Bisons for fouls last night (15 in the first half), but Ceso managed to stay in the game.

3. Alassane Savadogo was not so lucky. He’s having a rough stretch as far as foul trouble goes, and we need his inside scoring and rebounding presence just like we need Ceso in there. An improvement on his part could go a long way toward making the conference tournament.

4. Lonnie Smith and Cole Kee took good shots. Cole gets a little too full of himself sometimes, but when he’s under control, he’s an efficient scorer. Lonnie’s had a rough shooting stretch, so it probably helped him to just take a few shots and sink them last night. The team played well without him after he picked up two fouls in the opening minutes, so that was a plus.

Overall, I was impressed with the effort the Bisons showed last night. Their shot selection is really my only criticism, and that was somewhat less of a problem than it has been.

Now, let’s look at the GSC West playoff picture, which could get very interesting if the Bisons do their part to stay in the race:

Rank Team W L Pct.
1 Delta State 13 0 1.000
2 Arkansas-Monticello 9 4 0.692
3 Central Arkansas 9 5 0.643
4 Henderson State 8 6 0.571
5 Christian Brothers 7 6 0.538
6 Harding 5 8 0.385
7 Ouachita Baptist 4 9 0.308
8 Southern Arkansas 3 11 0.214
9 Arkansas Tech 2 11 0.154

Henderson State didn’t do the Bisons a favor by beating OBU, and the other two games were fairly inconsequential for HU, as Delta State beat UCA and UAM beat SAU. If the Bisons win all three remaining games (at OBU, vs ATU, at HSU) to finish 8-8, there is still a chance of making the tournament. I would say we’re about 60/40 toward being in if we can pull of three wins.

Here are our competitors’ schedules:
Henderson State (8-6): at ATU, vs HU
Christian Brothers (7-6): vs DSU, vs UAM, at SAU

Let’s start with Christian Brothers, the closest team in the standings. CBU has two very tough home games coming up against the best teams in the division. I think they’re likely to lose both of those games and beat SAU, but there is also the possibility that they could lose at SAU and finish 7-9. In that case, the Bisons wouldn’t have to worry about tiebreakers. 8-8 seems more likely, though, with 9-7 being as strong a possibility as 7-9.

Disregarding the season finale against us, Henderson State has what would appear to be an easy road win at Arkansas Tech on Monday. If we assume a Harding win (which we need to if we’re hoping for a playoff spot), that puts them most likely at 9-7. A choke at ATU would place them at 8-8 and really make things interesting, but I should point out that the Reddies haven’t lost a game they should have won (a game against anyone other than Delta State or UAM) since January 9th.

Here are the most likely scenarios (in my opinion) if we win out and finish 8-8, including my estimated probabilities of occurrence:

1. (40%) Henderson State finishes 9-7 in 4th place, CBU and HU tie for the fifth and final spot at 8-8. I don’t know how the tiebreakers work with just two teams involved, especially when they split the season series. The Bisons would have the edge for in-region record, (10-8 vs. 10-11, not counting games against one another) record vs. GSC East teams (3-1 vs. 2-1), and record against common opponents (8-8 vs. 7-8), but like I said, I don’t know how those tiebreakers work.

2. (20%) Henderson State finishes 9-7 in 4th place, HU finishes 8-8 alone in fifth, CBU finishes 7-9 and out of the playoffs. This one’s self-explanatory. The Reddies and Bisons are in, and the Bucs are out. Obviously, this one works out well for us.

3. (15%) All 3 teams tie for fourth at 8-8. I know the first tiebreaker is record against the tied teams, which would make HSU 3-1, HU 2-2, and CBU 1-3 (HSU won both games against CBU), leaving CBU out of the playoffs. Again a good scenario for us.

4. (10%) HSU and CBU both finish 9-7 to tie for fourth, HU finishes alone in sixth at 8-8 and out of the playoffs. Clearly we don’t want this to happen, so Christian Brothers needs to lose two of their last three for us to stay alive.

5. (8%) CBU wins out to finish 10-6 in fourth, HSU finishes 9-7 in fifth, and HU still finishes 8-8 in sixth and out of the playoffs. Same end result as #4.

6. (7%) CBU wins out to finish 10-6 in fourth, HSU and HU tie for fifth at 8-8. This brings up the tiebreaker scenario with Henderson State instead of Christian Brothers. Again, we have the edge in the areas I showed above: in-region record (10-8 vs. 8-9), GSC East (3-1 vs. 1-2). The Bisons and Reddies have no common non-GSC Division-II opponents, so that one would be a tie.

So, that’s 47% where it’s a toss-up based on the tie-breakers. I’d give us a 30-17 edge in that department given the records I showed that favor us. Then, there’s 35% where we’re in for sure, and 18% where we’re out for sure. So, I guess my estimate for us getting in the playoffs if we can win out (and that’s a big IF) is actually 65-35 toward us getting in.

If we finish 7-9, obviously Christian Brothers will have to lose all 3 of their games for us to have a chance. I’d give about a 12% chance of that happening and us winning the tiebreakers to get in.

Clearly there are some on-court matters to take care of (winning at least 2 and preferably all 3 of the remaining games) before these scenarios will play out, but it should be interesting to follow.


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