Through the first eight games of the season Brock men’s basketball has posted a 5-3 record, which in all honesty is the best-case scenario for this team. Four of their first eight games were against two of Ontario’s best and another two against a divisional rival that is as talented as they are. The Badgers went 2-2 in those four games and could easily have an overall record of 6-2, but no matter their current position in the standings the Badgers have not made any of their first eight games easy on themselves.
This is a nationally ranked team, which most experts would probably predict to see in the final four of the OUA playoffs. However, right now they’d be lucky to make it past the second round.
There’s no easy way to breakdown this bizarre start by the Badgers. Four of their five wins have come by four or less points, and their other win against Guelph could’ve been a larger margin of victory but the Badgers didn’t close out like they would’ve liked to. Most recently they lost by four points to Nipissing, which shouldn’t be the case for this highly talented Badger team (Brock beat them by 17 last year).
For now, we’ll leave the Carleton and Ottawa games off to the side because it’s clear Brock isn’t ready for that tier of talent.
Brock ranks 11th in the OUA in points per game (73.5), seventh in points against per game (76.1) and sixth in rebounds (39.8) – Brock’s negative point differential is due to their two losses against the Ottawa schools.
So, what is it with this Badgers team that can’t seem to put lesser teams away when on paper they’re the much better team? The consistency of playing a full 40 minutes is of course one of the issues, but chemistry looks to be the biggest problem.
Over this past weekend versus Laurentian and Nipissing, Brock head coach Charles Kissi changed the starting five by replacing Trevor Thompson for Cassidy Ryan and point guard Tyler Brown was taken out for Nolan Mackenzie. Yet the change didn’t affect much, as it was a similar story from what we’ve seen all season.
Brock had its best first quarter of the season versus Laurentian on Friday, but again couldn’t close the door allowing the Voyageurs back into it before holding on for a three-point win. Against Nipissing on Saturday, Brock got off to a slow start and struggled to shut the door as they fell to the Lakers by four.
This roster lost two key role players from last season in starting forward Matt Marshall and sixth man Zach Angelini. An afterthought subtraction from this roster is Nathaniel Gardner, a fifth-year guard last season that brought poise and leadership to a young team on and off the court.
Marshall on the other hand played a much larger role on the court. He was the forward that stood alongside star Dani Elgadi in the frontcourt. Marshall, now playing overseas in Slovakia, fit his role with Brock nicely. Never did Marshall step outside of his own game, which was to rebound, be a scorer when needed and even a ball handler at times. His style of play fit nicely with Elgadi.
Angelini was normally the first guy off the bench and he never stepped out of his own game, which was to shoot the ball and defend. Marshall and Angelini fit the system perfectly for Brock.
This season the Badgers have five new faces, three of which are veteran pieces who have transferred: Ryan, Thompson and Mo Ismail. In a way, Ryan replaces Marshall and Ismail replaces Angelini, while Thompson and rookies Daniel Cayer and Micheal Asemota add much needed depth to a roster that has lacked options in the past.
Through eight games it seems the five new faces are still trying to find their comfort zone on a new team and system. While veterans Elgadi and Johneil Simpson are adjusting to the fact that they don’t need to be relied on for all 40 minutes. If this team can figure it out in the final 11 games of the season, they’ll be dangerous come playoffs. For now, it’s about trust and adjusting personal game styles.
Defensively this team will be fine. Its offensively where the trust and adjustments need to be made. Brock ranks second last in the OUA in turnovers per game (18.1).
There’s a lot of talent on this team, in which most guys could be the face of many other programs around the OUA. The question remains, can all the talent work as one?
This upcoming weekend the Badgers head to Thunder Bay to play divisional rival Lakehead. The Thunderwolves have a 2-7 record but have played in close games all season just like the Badgers. The way Brock is currently playing they should be happy to win at least one of two versus Lakehead.
In other news, Brock women’s basketball also split their two games this weekend. They improved to 3-5 after picking up their first road victory, 75-67 over Nipissing. They lost Friday 64-56 to Laurentian.
If there’s one positive to take away for both Brock teams it’s that if the season ended today they’re both in a playoff spot.