The cupcake portion of the Harding basketball schedule is pretty much over. The next five games will go a long way toward showing where the Bisons stand in the GSC West. Are they really as good as they’ve been so far, with a +25 net efficiency so far this year that trumps the rest of the division? Or, are they just beating up on the easy teams and winning for the home fans. A 5-0 homestand is hardly a bad thing, but the 1-1 start against mediocre D-II opposition shows that this is far from a perfect team. Christian Brothers is still my pick to win the division, since they’ve had almost as good a start (7-2) against far better opposition.
Now, as I was saying, the next five games could change all that. On the road at North Alabama and Alabama-Huntsville. Back home against a usually-competitive Drury team. Then comes a trip to Hawaii for more D-II action against BYU-Hawaii and Hawaii Pacific. Five D-II games and only one of them at home.
5-0 through this stretch would truly be impressive and probably would get the Bisons back in the top 25. 4-1 might even do that. 3-2 will have me a little skeptical, and anything worse could really hurt the team’s standing when the regional rankings come out.
Here are some of the important individual stats thus far:
Playing time has been spread out very well, which hopefully will keep the team fresh heading into the conference season. Matt Hall is still the key to the team’s success, but Sims and Andrepont have come out of the gate shooting very well to provide excellent support. Rick Hamilton has been an even better shooter, but will his size be a limitation against bigger GSC guards? We’ll see. Brian Howard has shown an ability to score and rebound effectively, but he hasn’t played a lot of crucial minutes.
Steven Barnett has been surprisingly solid this year, shooting adequately while improving his ballhandling and actually becoming a strong rebounder out of the guard position. It will be interesting to see if he keeps that up against the solid teams Harding will be facing. Trent Morgan has been a defensive spark for the team and has handled the ball remarkably well when he’s been given the chance to take care of it. If he learns to shoot the ball well, he can be outstanding.
On the negative side, we have Cole Kee, Reggie Bibb, and the post duo of Thies and Bynum. Kee has shot terribly while dominating the ball, and he really hasn’t added anything in other areas like handling and rebounding. Bibb is still dishing it out, but his value is completely negated by his inability to shoot and tendency to turn the ball over. Thies and Bynum have been adequate rebounders, but Thies can’t seem to hold on to the ball, and Bynum has missed too many shots. When will Brian Howard get a chance to prove himself with more minutes in the post?
These are the obvious comments and questions so far, and the coming weeks will go a long way toward labeling the Bisons as contenders or pretenders. Any stray comments about the season so far are welcome, and if you think I’m off-base so far (after all, I haven’t seen this team play), let me know.