Sunday, December 16, 2012

Montana's Rebounding is a Major Issue

On Saturday night, Montana hosted South Dakota State in a game that they could win, and would be big for their resume and for the conference (SDSU is ranked 14th in the mid-major poll). However, for Montana, the issue again was rebounding the basketball, which was a key factor in a 68-67 double OT loss. They had their chances:

The Jackrabbits jumped to a 59-53 lead with 3:01 left in the first overtime on a lay-up by junior forward Chad White. The Griz cut SDSU's lead to one (59-58) on a three-pointer by Weisner and a lay-up by senior forward Mathias Ward with 1:35 left to play.

Once again the Griz had a chance to take the lead, but junior guard-forward Kareem Jamar made just the first of his two free throw shots, and his charity shot knotted the game up at 59-all with five seconds left in the first OT. UM sophomore guard Keron DeShield fired up a desperation three-point attempt, but it was long and off to the left, forcing the second overtime.
On a more macro level, rebounding continues to be their Achilles' heel. The Jackrabbits had a 46-31 rebound advantage, including 14 offensive rebounds (leading to a 22-4 edge in second-half points for SDSU). As Bob Meseroll writes, in the Grizzlies' four losses, they are an astounding -50 in rebounding. They have an OR% of 16.6%, which is dead last in the country (347 out of 347).

They struggled rebounding last year, but there were a couple differences. One, Derek Selvig was there. He was much maligned in his career, but he was the best defensive rebounder on the team. Two, Will Cherry being out hurt, because he was a good rebounder from the PG spot and DeSheilds/Gregory aren't as good. It is not a great sign when getting your PG back will really help your rebounding woes, but that is the case for Montana.

Kareem Jamar is the team's best rebounder, and it's not even really close. Here is a look at the rebounding rates of everyone 6'7'' or taller on the Grizzlies:

By comparison, Konner Veteto of Sac State leads the conference with a 14.9 OR%, and Joel Bolomboy of Weber State leads with a 29.2 DR%. Montana's big men's rebounding numbers aren't just bad, they are terrible. They simply can't beat good teams if they continue to rebound like this.

The solutions are not obvious. Mathias Ward is their best big man because he is a really good offensive player, but he has shown throughout his career he doesn't add anything on the glass. Eric Hutchison showed flashes of being a good defender and rebounder last year, but those flashes haven't been there this season. Andy Martin can contribute in spurts, but he is probably a year or two away from being a guy they can really count on. Same for Jake Wiley.

The key might be Spencer Coleman. He is just 6'6'', but was a good rebounder at the JUCO level. He is a very talented player but has struggled making the transition to the DI level. Getting Will Cherry back will help, but the Grizzlies could really use Coleman turning into a legitimate Big Sky starting forward. The talent is still there to win the conference, but they need someone in the frontcourt to step up. So far, that hasn't happened.

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