Last season, the Idaho State men’s basketball team finished fourth in the conference and one game above .500, the best season in recent history.
This season, the stakes were raised and the Bengals have yet to answer the bell. The Bengals are currently 4-15 and sit at 1-4 in conference play, meaning ISU would have to win out to avoid losing more games than last season.
I believe this team is soaring below expectations and with back-to-back games against Weber State this week, the conference’s top team, one of which ISU will start in a 13-2 hole, it doesn’t appear there’s an end to the spiraling black hole the Bengals have fallen into.
So what exactly is happening?
Long story short, the offense can’t score and the defense can’t get stops. As of Jan. 17, ISU ranks last in the Big Sky in scoring offense and second to last in scoring defense during conference play, not exactly a good formula for winning basketball games. Last season, the Bengals finished the season sixth in scoring offense and fifth in scoring defense during conference play.
Assists-to-turnover ratio is one of the most underrated stats in the game of basketball. This stat is the basketball equivalent to football’s touchdown to interception ratio and ISU has not been good in that category this season.
ISU ranks last in the conference in this category during conference play with a ratio of 0.7. The Bengals average 9.3 assists per game and 13.8 turnover per game. This would be the same as a quarterback throwing 13 interceptions while throwing nine touchdowns.
Simply put, ISU turns the ball over far too often and doesn’t share the basketball nearly enough. Too often the Bengals run an NBA-style offense where they jog the ball up the floor, get a high ball screen, drive and kick to a contested three with days left on the shot clock.
There isn’t enough ball movement and they are shooting too many contested shots too early in the shot clock. The loss of Kyle Ingram has hurt. Ingram would keep defenses honest as the 6-foot-8 forward would both share the ball and take defenders to the rack when opportunities presented themselves.
This season, there is absolutely no post presence. ISU gets bullied night in and night out in the paint and can’t do anything about it. ISU ranks last in the conference in offensive rebounds and has a -3.2 rebounding margin.
When ISU doesn’t turn the ball over, the team misses shots and then can’t get the offensive rebound.
This is only half of the problem. Defense this season has been nothing short of awful, as the Bengals have consistently given up easy baskets within point blank range of the rim.
The team ranks second in the conference during conference play in defensive rebounding, but that doesn’t matter if the other team makes everything they throw up. Opposing teams are shooting 51.4% from the floor against the Bengals during conference play this season, good for last, and are shooting 40.7% from three-point range, good for 11th. This doesn’t mean that everybody else in the Big Sky can shoot the lights out of the building. This means ISU can’t play defense. Eastern Washington, averaging 73.8 points per game during conference play, put up 92 points on the Bengals in Reed Gym.
ISU scored a season-high 85 that night. That has to be enough to win, end of story.
Bottom line is conference play is almost halfway over and the conference tournament will be here before we know it. ISU has to turn this around and the Bengals have to do it now.
Maybe the jump they need is another Ethan Telfair buzzerbeater to beat Weber in Reed Gym.