Men’s Basketball looking to shrug off conference struggles heading into playoffs

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James Kay, Sports Editor

College of DuPage’s men’s basketball team heads into the playoffs coming off a tough stretch where they have lost six of their last eight games. They can’t have their recent skid or their subpar conference record (5-9) linger, as the playoffs start today. Head Coach Earl Reed remains optimistic about his team’s chances to win a championship. “All of the people who are going to be in the game have to understand the mental aspect of the game,” said Reed. “If they can do that, and overcome as a team, I think we are capable of playing with everybody.” Reed’s words are strong, but does COD (17-11) really have what it takes to win the championship? The following is what you should expect from COD when they start their playoff run tonight.

Strengths

Intensity on defense

COD’s defense can be shaky at times, but when they are all on the same page, they are a force to be reckoned with. Reed revealed after their first loss against Triton on Jan. 27 that he hasn’t shown all of his defensive schemes. COD hasn’t used full-court pressure on their opponents this year, and Reed is planning on unveiling it during the playoffs. This could be a risky move as it is difficult to stay energized throughout the game while using the full-court press. That being said, this strategy could work out since their opponents will not be expecting to see COD press up. If they show more energy throughout the game than their opponents, they will be tough to beat.

Field Goal Percentage

According to the NJCAA’s website, COD is 54th in the country in FG percentage (43.4.) They can look stagnant on offense since they don’t move a lot around the perimeter, but when they do they create high percentage shots for themselves. They have multiple players that can hit three-pointers, and it they are given wide open opportunities they will convert them.

Weaknesses

Lack of Size

In a recent interview with COD’s starting center, Moter Deng, he admitted that he would not be playing in the post if COD was more established down low. While Deng has done a great job for someone his size at that position, COD has had a problem with giving up offensive rebounds and second-chance points. Rock Valley Community College has a lot of depth and size on their roster, which has been a problem for COD in the two games against the Golden Eagles. According to Reed, COD lost two frontcourt players for eligibility reasons. Deng has done a good job learning the center position, but there’s only so much he can do since he is guarding players that are a couple of inches taller than him. Reed’s team will need to find a way to keep their opponents away from the post if they want to compete against bigger teams.

Turnovers/Efficiency on offense

Reed challenging his players to thrive in key moments is exactly what his team needed. In their recent skid, COD forced turnovers and then immediately gave the ball away by trying to force the issue. The Chaparrals are at their best when they are playing efficient basketball on the offensive end. They don’t run a complex offense and shouldn’t turn the ball over as much as they do. They have talented offensive weapons in Deng and forward Christian Mathis. If they give both players the ball without coughing up a lot of turnovers, they will be in a good position to take on any defense.

Toughest Opponents

Rock Valley (26-3; 10-3) is the no.1 ranked team in the country for Division-III basketball. They outscored COD 169-111 in their two meetings. Their point guard, LT Davis, has the ability to take over games whenever he wants or needs to. He is an excellent all-around shooter who can also finish at the basket with great poise and elusiveness. If COD has any shot at beating Rock Valley, they will have to shut down the Golden Eagles scrappy point guard. Besides Davis, Rock Valley has other weapons on offense.
Milwaukee Area Tech College (23-6; 10-4) is the 9th best team in the country and would play COD in the second round of the playoffs if COD wins against Madison today. Milwaukee Tech has the combination of size and strength that could put away COD early on. The Chaps held their own against Milwaukee Tech in their last meeting but faltered in the final seconds of the game. COD also didn’t have Mathis in the last six minutes of the game because he fouled out. If he stays out of foul trouble, he could be the difference between a win and a loss in their next go-around against Milwaukee Tech.