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Ball State Cardinals Open Thread & How to Watch

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The Huskies take on a dangerous mid-major in Round 1 of the Diamond Head Classic

NCAA BASKETBALL: JAN 03 Ball State at Kent State Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Essentials

Date: Sunday, 12/22/19

Tip-Off Time: 6:30 pm PT

TV: ESPN2

Radio: KOMO 1000

Streaming: Espn.com/watch

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii

Betting line: Washington -6

Ball State 2019-20 Statistics:

Record: 6-4 (1-0 against Non-D1 schools)

Points For per Game: 72.8 ppg (128th)

Points Against per Game: 61.1 ppg (30th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 99.8 (184th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.7 (63rd)

Strength of Schedule: 300th overall

Ball State Key Players:

C- Tahjai Teague, Sr. 6’8, 215: 13.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 53.8% FG, 23.5% 3pt, 55.6% FT

Teague is an extremely well rounded mid-major senior big man and he can do a little bit of everything on the court. He’s an above average passer, rebounder, and shot blocker for his height and is shooting nearly 62% in the paint this season. Drawing fouls hasn’t been his strength but it may be Ball State’s only chance against Isaiah Stewart.

F- Kyle Mallers, Sr. 6’7, 220: 12.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 0.6 apg, 52.6% FG, 48.2% 3pt, 81.3% FT

Mallers is the heaviest player in the Ball State rotation but he operates almost exclusively behind the 3-point line on offense. It makes sense since he is a deadly shooter and one of the most efficient players in the country. Almost 70% of his shots have come from 3-pt range this season but when he does wander inside the arc he is still making 66.7% of his 2-pt attempts.

G- Jarron Coleman, Fr. 6’5, 205: 7.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.7 apg, 46.8% FG, 41.7% 3pt, 60.0% FT

Coleman is coming off the best two games of his young career as he scored 37 points in 47 minutes on 14 of 18 shooting combined in them. If he can be that efficient against Washington as essentially Ball State’s 4th option on offense then it spells trouble for the Huskies.

G- Luke Bumbalough, Fr. 6’1, 180: 6.8 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 34.8% FG, 35.6% 3pt, 12.5% FT

First off, what a fantastic last name. He moved into the starting lineup 3 games ago and is the definition of a 3-pt specialist. An astounding 90%(!?!) of his shots have come from beyond the arc this season. If he ever wanders inside the 3-pt line the Huskies should leave him completely unguarded and take their chances. He’s also 0/3 on attempts in the paint.

G- Ishmael El-Amin, Jr. 6’1, 180: 14.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.7 apg, 51.6% FG, 48.1% 3pt, 76.9% FT

El-Amin has taken his game to the next level as a junior after missing half of last season due to injury. He’s the leading scorer for Ball State and also their most versatile scorer. Ishmael can knock down 3-pointers or drive to the hoop either in the pick and roll or cutting off the ball. He’s only a so-so passer and is definitely more of a combo guard than a true point guard.

2019-20 Ball State Shot Chart

Synergy Sports

Ball State has a middling adjusted offensive efficiency mark but that’s mainly because of the schedule they’ve played rather than their ability to put the ball in the basket so far. Everywhere except the left corner Ball State has been above average beyond the 3-point line and they’ve got multiple guys who are a threat to shoot it from anywhere.

The Cardinals have been pretty good shooting mid-range shots this year but they’re attempting no more than 1 per game in any segment other than beyond the arc or in the paint. Washington’s zone defense will leave the free throw line open and Ball State will have to prove they’re willing to take and make that shot or else the Husky D will extend beyond the 3-point line and Isaiah Stewart will lock down the paint.

The Outlook

The pressure is on. Not because this would be a bad loss for tournament resume purposes but because if the Huskies lose then their 2nd round game won’t start until 10:30p PT on Christmas Eve Eve. No thank you. I still have to get up at 6a to work that morning.

Although the point about resume purposes still stands. Ball State is not a bad team by any means. In their most recent game they won at Georgia Tech by 18 points. The Yellow Jackets may be one of the worst teams in the ACC but they’re still a power conference team with several 4-star talents. And Ball State’s specialty is the great equalizer in games like this: the 3-pt shot.

Ball State ranks 10th in the country in percentage of their points coming from 3-pt range and 22nd in percentage of their overall shots coming from behind the arc. Washington’s 3-pt defense has gotten much better recently after starting off extremely poorly. The Huskies’ last 4 opponents have all shot 32% or worse from deep against them. The Cardinals will bomb it away with a pair of players shooting 47% or better on more than 6 attempts per game. If El-Amin and Mallers combine for 7 or 8 3’s then anything can happen.

On the other side of the court it’s a battle of strength vs. strength. Ball State is currently 5th in the country allowing opponents to shoot just 39.6% on 2-pointers. That’s largely because they’ve only allowed teams to shoot 22% on mid-range floaters and jumpers. Washington and particularly Jaden McDaniels can be goaded into taking long 2’s so the Huskies need to go all the way to the hoop to try to draw contact.

If we get particularly foul-happy refs it might be advantage Washington. Ball State is not particularly good at drawing fouls and they rank 2nd in the country in 2-foul participation meaning their coach will almost never pull a guy for picking up his 2nd. If Isaiah Stewart is able to be a wrecking ball down low against a Ball State team with no rotation players heavier than 220 pounds it could lead to a lot of Cardinals fouling out of the game. And Ball State is also 334th in the country in FT% meaning a chippy game will likely naturally lead to an advantage on the scoreboard.

The primary question in just about every game the Huskies play is whether the opponent will be capable of slowing down Isaiah Stewart. The answer would seemingly be no but Ball State has to be doing something right with their interior defense numbers, right? However the best big man Ball State has played all season is probably...Cameron Krutwig for Loyola Chicago? And he finished with 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists on 50% shooting. I like Stewart’s chances.

If this game is close it’s going to be because of a wild differential at the 3-point line. Ball State is going to need to make at least 4 more 3-pointers than Washington to have a chance. I don’t think they can pull it off but crazier things have happened especially in tournament settings. The Huskies can’t afford to go into their patented turnover-happy offensive funks for long.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 74, Ball State Cardinals-67

*****

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