BY MATT CRAIG | BALL STATE SPORTS LINK
Every week of the season, we’re going to take a look at the three biggest storylines surrounding Ball State Men’s Basketball, categorized in order of importance the same way basketball shots are: first a basic layup for the most obvious point, then a mid-range jumper and finally a bomb from deep three-point range for our most important storyline of the week.
Layup: In 49 states it’s just basketball, but this is Indiana.
It’s really difficult to describe to people not in the state of Indiana what playing here is like. It’s just different. But the Ball State Basketball team has gotten to experience first-hand exactly what Indiana has to offer with its slate of games against in-state competition.
Already this year the Cardinals have faced off against Indiana State, Valparaiso, and IU-Kokomo, with one more matchup coming up on Saturday against IUPUI. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the leading scorer for the Cardinals in each of those games was one of the nine players on Ball State’s roster who grew up in Indiana.
Perhaps the most notable of these came in Tuesday night’s 92-52 victory over IU Kokomo. Tayler Persons, a Kokomo native, led the Cardinals on the court with a career-high 14 assists.
Head coach James Whitford has said many times that ruling the state is something that he has emphasized in his tenure, both in recruiting as well as in competition. Continued matchups and victories against the best that Indiana has to offer is certainly the way to accomplish that.
Mid-Range: Early this season, a lot of hype has been directed toward the prolific scoring of Tayler Persons and Franko House. And deservedly so, with Persons averaging more than 17 per game and House joining the 1,000 point club in Ball State history during Tuesday night’s game.
But overall, the Ball State scoring attack has been a balanced machine. The Cardinals have had five different players lead the team in scoring in their seven contests, and don’t stop running their pass-and-cut offense for any one individual.
That has added up to an astounding 17.7 assists per game, placing the Cardinals 22nd in the country in that category.
During Tuesday night’s game against IU Kokomo, Ball State assisted on 30 of 35 baskets.
And scoring production has come from up and down the roster, with the Ball State bench producing a substantial 22.3 points per game. If that number can remain high, it will pay off in a big when when conference play comes around and deep rosters are of the upmost importance.
It also makes the Cardinals a difficult team to scout for, as teams have nowhere to hide poor defenders on eight or more scoring options that could be on the floor. It gives Whitford plenty of options.
Three-Pointer: One of the most promising developments so far this season has been the reemergence of Sean Sellers, and is our most important storyline of the week!
Sellers came into Ball State as a 2014 Indiana All-Star, followed by high expectations. In his freshman season he exceeded all predictions, leading the Cardinals in scoring (12.0) and being named the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year.
However, with the influx of talent coming into the program during last season Sellers had to adjust to a different role. His minutes were reduced, and he started just two contests.
It was an up-down season for the guard from Greensburg, Indiana, as he tried to develop his game in limited action. While his scoring numbers were down, the work that he put in during last season is paying off this year.
Through the first seven games, Sellers has started each one and leads the Cardinals in three pointers made at an efficient 45.2%. Coach Whitford has also trusted Sellers to guard the best player on most opposing teams, something he would never have been capable of as a freshman in 2014-2015.
As the team rounds into form, the leadership of Persons and House alongside the experienced Sellers could lead to quite a few more victories for Ball State with the toughest stretch of their schedule behind them and five consecutive home games ahead.
The next contest for the Cardinals comes on Saturday against IUPUI, inside Worthen Arena, a game being broadcast on ESPN 3 by Ball State Sports Link.
Stay tuned to Chirp City and @bsusportslink on social media for full coverage!