Ball State picked up its first win last night over slightly less talented Stony Brook squad. Coming into this game I thought that Stony Brook was a lackluster squad that Ball State would roll. Clearly I didn't do my research because while Stony Brook may have been 0-2, they did lose to Maryland by 15 and Uconn by 8 which are probably just as impressive as the two losses that Ball State had.
This was the third straight game where Ball State was greatly out played in the first ten minutes. While some of that I feel was in part to poor shooting on Ball States end, it seems as if they just come out sluggish early. Some of this could be a case of James Whitford trying a few different things to see how the other team reacts, but Ball State can't continue to get down by 10+ points early if they want to have success this year.
I think one thing Ball State proved last night is how much balance they have and how much depth they have on their team this year. Last year Ball State had good balance among the starters but really only went about 7 or deep in terms of guys who would make a real impact on the game. Through 3 games, Ball State has already had 6 players reach double figures and that doesn't include Trey Moses who has been limited in minutes due to an injury and also Francis Kiapway who is just off to a slow start as a shooter this year. Once those guys get going then Ball State will have 8 legitimate threats to score 10+ points on any given night.
While it may seem as if Ball State is off to a bad start to the season so far I am actually more confident that they will win the MAC this year then I was a week ago. First off, Ball State has already played two teams that will have a very good chance of making the tournament this year and still play 3 more who were in the tournament last year before they even get to MAC play. Ball State could easily finish 6-8 in non conference play this year and it would be considered a success. While I think they could win a few more than 6, they probably only play 6 teams where they will be expected to win and that will prove to be good in the long run.
Another reason why I think Ball State is set up for success in conference play this year is their combination of depth and balance but also having a guy who could take over a game in Tayler Persons. Like I mentioned earlier, Ball State has ten guys on their roster who could go for 10+ points any night, and a few guys who could go for 20. The second half of the Stony Brook game was a perfect example of this. Midway through the second half, Tayler Persons started to take over the game which brought Ball State back in it. Once Stony Brook started cheating to help on Persons then guys like Teague, Mallers, Sellers, and Walker started getting their buckets. Last year, teams could cheat on House and Persons and the rest of the guys would maybe beat them if they had enough good nights, this year the threat of Persons will make teams decide if they want to allow him to go off for 30, or let 3 or 4 other guys get 10-15 each. Last night Stony Brook let both happen and Ball State put up 53 in the second half.
As I mentioned earlier, Ball State has a lot of guys getting off to slow starts, with 2 new freshmen getting quality minutes and a transfer, it will take time to get acclimated in the game. Guys like Trey Moses, Sean Sellers, and Francis Kiapway have maybe played to half of their potential, and that's not a knock on them. Trey as I mentioned is recovering from and injury and he will be back to full strength soon enough and Kiapway and Sellers are 2 of the top 3 point shooters in School history, its just a matter of time before one of them has a 6/8 or 5/7 night from behind the arc and puts up 25 points.
Here is one stat that will give you some hope, Ball State is shooting 31% from behind the arc this year. Each of the past two seasons they shot over 37% which may not seem like a lot but at the rate they are shooting now, that's about 4 1/2 points a game more which will be huge come conference play when many of the games are decided by 5 points or less.