Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kalamazoo Preview

Game Fourteen (5-8, 0-2)
WhoKalamazoo Hornets (6-7, 1-1)
WhereVan Noord Arena
WhenWednesday, January 11 -- 8:00 PM                                       
AudioStretch Internet
VideoStretch Internet, MIAA Gameday
StatsLive Stats, MIAA Gameday

When We Last Met
It was Calvin winning a three point squeaker in Kalamazoo in early February of last year. This game was back-and-forth early on, but Calvin wouldn’t lead from the 10:00 mark in the first half until the 10:00 mark in the second half. The game was tight from this point on, but Kalamazoo was ultimately undone by their inability to make shots down the stretch. The Hornets managed just five points (2-10 from the field) in the final seven minutes of the game. This would be Calvin’s only win in a four game stretch that included home losses to Hope and Adrian and a road loss at Olivet.

About Kalamazoo
The Kalamazoo Hornets are 6-7 on the year. They don’t have any wins that would be considered “signature”. They’ve beaten most of the really bad teams on their schedule (Earlham, Northland, and Olivet), but they haven’t beaten anyone of even marginal quality all year (their best two wins are against Bluffton and Denison). But as I need to keep reminding myself, Calvin might not be considered to be “of marginal quality” right now themselves, so Kalamazoo’s suspect results versus a suspect schedule should not be cause for extreme optimism for Knight fans.

Four Factors

I think, as we’ve seen in the past couple of games, this is going to come down to how well Calvin can shoot. It’s basketball at its most simplest form, and it’s what the Knights are struggling the most with: getting the ball through the hoop. The league, on average, is shooting 44% from the floor, and if Calvin could have hit that mark (instead of 38%) in the first two MIAA games, we very well could be talking about a 2-0 Calvin team that had some life left in them. They almost certainly would have beaten Albion, and the game against Adrian would have probably been a win or a one-possession loss.

Calvin’s had been the best rebounding team in the conference, but they haven’t been quite as strong without Vallie and DeVries in the lineup. The remaining portion of the team is going to have to work extra hard to keep Joe Prepolec off the glass tonight, although Kalamazoo doesn’t rate particularly well on rebounding overall this year.

Kalamazoo likes to get to the free throw line, they have the highest free throw rate in the league by a good bit, but they don’t necessarily make a very high percentage of them (just 68%). Still, Calvin can’t afford to give them a large number of extra shots from the charity stripe.


The Hornets love to send up three point shots, and they’ve been very good at knocking them down. In past years, Kalamazoo has opted to drive and kick with regularity, so the Calvin defenders are going to have to be ready to close out – quickly and completely close out – on the open three point shooters.

Final Thoughts, Predictions, and Whatnot
Being in a “must win” situation only three games into the league slate isn’t where you want to be, but that’s where the Knights are at the moment. There’s still plenty of time to make up ground, obviously, but it would be more than a little difficult to climb into the top four (in order to make the MIAA Tournament) after starting in an 0-3 hole (with already playing winnable two home games). Losing isn’t really an option here.

That being said, winning won’t be a cakewalk. Kalamazoo isn’t a deep team, but they squeeze the most out of Joe Prepolec, Joe Wilson, Eric Fishman, and Mark Ghafari. They don’t get much production at all after their top six players. As a team, they rate as about average on offense, and solidly below average on defense (just the reverse of Calvin). This looks like one of the better opportunities for Calvin to have a good offensive game in league play, and they’re going to need it.

The Massey Ratings give Calvin a six point edge for tonight (77-71), but I think it’s going to be a bit tighter than that even. Something more in the 70-68 range. Still a Calvin win, but we’re going to hate every minute of it (figuratively of course). Allowing fewer than 70 points would be a ‘win’ for the defense, and scoring more than 70 would be a ‘win’ for the offense.

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