Badgers see themselves as the hunted with an easy schedule

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According to men’s basketball head coach Charles Kissi, the light schedule for the team during the second half of the season isn’t any reason to give the younger players more minutes.

“There’s no charity in this program,” said Kissi, following the teams 83-54 dismantling of the Windsor Lancers on Saturday. “Everybody’s got to earn everything. You get a chance [to play] you have to make the most of it.”

Maybe the young guys have earned more playing time and that’s why most of them have seen their minutes increase in 2018. It could be the blowout wins that is allowing Kissi to go deeper into his bench during garbage time — however, three of the five games the Badgers have played in the new year have been decently close (don’t let the final scores fool you). On another hand, these final games against a relatively weak OUA west division is a chance for the younger players to learn the university game ahead of a potential deep playoff run.

“Coach [has] always said you have to have your own confidence,” said Kascius Small-Martin, a first-year guard for the Badgers, who has started the last five games. Small-Martin is one of the many players to see his minutes increase in 2018 compared to 2017. The Toronto native has been playing 26.4 minutes per game since entering the starting lineup, compared to 21 minutes per game during the 11 games prior.

Trevor Thompson, who started a majority of the games last season, has played 17 or more minutes in three of the last five games; 6’6 rookie guard Godsman Kwakwah is seeing about 3.5 more minutes per game over the last 5 games as well; and Ibrahim Ngom, another rookie, only played more than five minutes four times in 2017, but has played five or more minutes in every game thus far in 2018 (including a career-high 17 on Saturday).

The veterans on the other hand, are seeing a lot more time to rest. Cassidy Ryan is seeing almost seven less minutes of action per game over the last five games. Since moving to a sixth man role, Johneil Simpson’s minutes have gone from 30.5 as a starter to 24 minutes off the bench. Dani Elgadi is the only player to see consistent minutes when comparing 2017 and 2018.

The case can be made that with an easy remaining schedule, Kissi can trust his bench a bit more. The head coach will tell you otherwise, saying the records in the west shouldn’t fool anyone.

“It’s not easy,” said Kissi when talking about the OUA west. “We aren’t good enough to take nights off.”

Sitting at 14-2, five wins better than the second place Western Mustangs in the west, it almost does seem easy for the Badgers. After a two-win weekend against Windsor and Guelph on Friday, the Badgers are 8-0 against the west this season and are winning by an average of 18.9 points.

Against the east, the Badgers closed out 2017 with two losses to Carleton and Ottawa — two of the three teams in the west with at least 12 wins, the other is Laurentian, who Brock beat by 16. The Badgers were also pushed to overtime versus Ryerson, where they won and Queen’s was a tight game as well. However, against the bottom three in the west the Badgers have a winning margin of 28.3 points.

So, it’s obvious that the Badgers schedule has gotten easier. However, that doesn’t seem to be the reason Kissi is giving his bench more minutes as the team was only tested in four of its first 11 games in the first half. The bench is getting a chance to prepare for the playoffs and the coaching staff is experimenting with different lineups.

Nothing is truly coming easy for the Badgers, but they know everyone needs to be ready. West teams like McMaster, Guelph and even Algoma gave the Badgers tough games thus far. Whoever the Badgers play out of the west come playoff time will battle hard — the young guys also have to be ready in case there’s foul trouble for the starters if and when the Badgers play the tough west teams again.

“Its more than the [wins] at the end of the day; we are just trying to play the right way,” says Kissi. “We get everyone’s best as one of the hunted teams in our league.”

On another note: there was discussion for a potential second Meridian Centre game this season for Brock men’s and women’s basketball, however it seems unlikely as some people believe it will be tough to top the December 2 game versus Carleton.

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