Coach Tracy and the Barons face their hardest task of the season tonight: taking down the #1 seed Walter Johnson Wildcats on their home court. It’s a tall task, but the Barons have shown that they are capable of being up to it. WJ won the regular season matchup 53-51, but as the Barons showed us in their first round matchup against Einstein, which they won 74-71, this team is not going to let their regular season record dictate how they do in the Playoffs. Still, it’s not going to be easy. Here’s what the Barons need to do if they want to come away with the victory:
Yes, I know – “DEFENSE” is a broad key to the game. But it really is that simple. Overhelping in the paint, underhelping on screens, and allowing wide open perimeter shooters have been some of the struggles for the Barons throughout the season. Unfortunately, much of the trends continued on Friday night against Einstein. If B-CC isn’t able to lock down at least a little more defensively, they are going to need to hope that WJ has a bad night from the field.
Outscoring the Wildcats on the perimeter:
Walter Johnson has lost six times this season. Five of those times they have made fewer three pointers than the other team. The Barons are capable of being a really good shooting team, and if they can capitalize tonight, it will be hard for WJ to keep up. Cole Doherty has made four or more three pointers five times this season, so finding his stroke tonight could prove to be extremely helpful for the Barons. But it’s not just him; McAuliffe, Tyler Groom, Elijah Wood, and Cameron Etris have all hit some big shots from deep this season, and they could swing the perimeter numbers in the Barons’ favor.
Getting Kevin McAuliffe going early:
McAuliffe has scored 20 or more points on five occasions for the Barons this season, and the team is 4-1 in those games. As the team’s points per game leader, it’s going to be important for them to incorporate him into the offense early on to establish a rhythm. One thing that could stop that is if he gets into foul trouble, which unfortunately happens a lot. Due to his tenacity out of the gate on the court, he is often called for fouls early in games, which forces him to take a seat. If he can stay out of foul trouble, that could only mean good things for the Barons.
Preventing offensive rebounds:
Offensive rebounds aren’t specifically tracked in the box score for these games, but by just watching games throughout the season, and especially in the playoff matchup against Einstein, I can give a pretty good estimate as to how many offensive rebounds the Barons allow per game: too many. While some are due to awkward bounces and impressive boxouts, much of the rebounds are allowed because of incorrect positioning or the ball slipping through the hands of a player. However, this Barons team has many solid rebounders, so this problem may be more of a mental one than a physical one. When defensive rebounds are assumed, offensive rebounds happen. The Barons need to stop assuming. We all know what that makes us.
The Wildcats went 16-6 in the regular season. That’s pretty daunting. But the record doesn’t quite tell the whole story. 12 of the 16 teams they beat finished the season below .500. Against the 10 above .500 teams they faced, they went 4-6. Not as daunting. If anyone should know that the regular season doesn’t mean too much, it should be the 9-11 Barons. It’s easy to get in your head about the strength of the opponent, but if the Barons can stay focused, they should look around and realize that the team they’re facing is beatable, and the game they are playing is winnable.