Madness in March: Bobcats must brush up for postseason play

Sports Columnist

The Texas State men’s basketball team was picked to finish eighth in the Sun Belt Conference according to ESPN’s preseason predictions.

Right now, the Bobcats are slightly exceeding those expectations as they sit in the seventh spot with a pretty much secured—knock on wood—spot in the conference tournament.

This year shows a huge improvement after the team finished last in the Sun Belt with a 4-14 conference record in 2013. Some people might even deem it successful.

But to coaches, players, and fans, success is not just making the tournament. An early exit would just mean another season in the books. To be successful, they need to win the tournament.

In order for that to happen, though, there need to be vast improvements.

It is no secret that the Bobcat offense is horrific. They are in the bottom half in just about every offensive statistical category and dead last with 62.1 points per game. Even that number is slightly inflated, as many of their best offensive games occurred against lesser teams.

In order to improve their offense, they need to improve their 3-point efficiency. Opponents know the Bobcats are not the best from beyond the arc, so they pack the paint, creating low-percentage shots for Emani Gant, junior forward.

D.J. Brown, senior guard and Ethan Montalvo, junior guard, are shooting a combined 33.5 percent from 3-point range this season. While this is not a bad percentage, the Bobcats are going to need them, along with other wing players, to shoot in order to free Grant in the post.

3-point shooting is essential to making a post-season run because it is the ultimate equalizer. The extra point helps an underdog overcome the gap in talent.

The Bobcats are terrific on the defensive side, however. Texas State is No. 1 in conference scoring defense, allowing only 59.9 points per game. The perimeter defense causes opponents to shoot the ball 29 percent from 3-point range, which will bode well for the Bobcats in the postseason. The Bobcats also create turnovers, ranking third in steals per game with 7.3 and second in overall turnovers with 15.9.

However, their rebounding does need some work. Besides Gant, no one on the team averages more than five rebounds per game. When it comes down to the grit and grind games in the playoffs, Gant is going to need some help grabbing boards.

Another thing that will be in the back of the Bobcats’ minds entering the postseason is their 2-9 record against the top six teams in the conference. If they want to make any noise at all, the Bobcats are going to have to figure out how to beat these teams.

Overall, the Bobcats are going to need a huge lift in their offense if they want to have a chance to make a postseason run. Someone has to step up. Whether it’s Gant, Brown or JaMarcus Weatherspoon, junior guard, someone needs to provide scoring.

On the defensive side, they need to maintain their fantastic season. Postseason play calls for toughness, and that’s what the Bobcats are going to need to deliver if they want a shot at making the big dance.

Then they might cause some madness in March.

Follow Kyle Ashcraft on Twitter @Kyle_Ashcraft4.