Published on 27 November 2021 at 08:45

Montana State Bobcats picked 2nd in the preseason Big Sky polls have opened up their season 1-4  playing four very solid teams such as Gonzaga, UNLV, South Dakota State, and North Dakota. While all 4 of these games were all on the road the loss to North Dakota was a surprise to us at Big Sky Breakdown. Their lone win is against a solid NAIA program from in-state Carroll College. Big Sky Breakdown wanted to take a deep dive into the Bobcats four road losses and try and identify some trends that are leading to these early struggles. 




 Here are some areas on the offensive end we have identified in the film that are hurting the Bobcats. The graduation of Tori Martell (2021 NCAA 3 point Champion: 41% on 69-166 attempts) hurts the perimeter shooting for the Bobcats. Currently, no player for the Bobcats is shooting above or equal to 35% from beyond the arch and that is Darian White (35% on 4-14 attempts). Players such as Katelynn Limbardo (33% on 5-15 attempts) and Leia Beattie (20% on 4-20 attempts) are capable shooters who have yet to shoot consistently from beyond the arch. Another threat is  Ava Ranson (28% on 4-15 attempts) who has yet to establish herself as an outside threat. The slow start in 3 point accuracy has led to some spacing and turnover issues as well. Darian White is seeing a variety of P&R coverages and teams are packing the paint to keep her from getting to the rim. This is forcing her to shoot more mid-range pull-ups than either White or Coach Binford would probably like in our opinion. If the Bobcats cannot improve on spacing the floor with their shooting from beyond the arch, it could be a rough offensive year for the Bobcats.


This leads us to our next offensive concern for the Bobcats. Turnovers are plaguing the team. Currently, no player on the roster other than White has a positive assist to turnover ratio. . Casual passing has been an early issue. Too many passes with fundamental mistakes are being stolen and taken the other direction for easy points.  Player awareness and understanding of where teammates are supposed to be in transition and half-court off has also been an issue. The biggest  turnover issue we see for the Bobcats is their poor post entry passes. Now, this is not solely an MSU issue, many teams struggle at the lost art of passing to the post. MSU uses their post players and often this can be a timing issue and is not always solely the fault of the passer. However, it is the passer's responsibility to make sure to deliver the entry pass to the post player away from the defense. If they can improve in this area, players like Beattie and Lombardo could potentially get the spacing and time they need to become more consistent from beyond the arch. (Watch the film to see these issues)


Looking at the Bobcat defense, a few things stand out to us. Due to the Bobcats youth (Six of the nine players playing more than 10 min a game are sophomores and freshmen) their lack of cohesiveness as a group, and communication on P&R and off-the-ball actions have led to Bobcat’s struggles guarding the perimeter. When the Bobcats like to switch as many actions as they do, communication is critical and will need to improve. Another area of concern are the long closeouts and 1 v 1 containment. Many times the Bobcats are in scramble mode in the half-court due to their weakness at containing the dribble and P&R/DHO coverages. This is making others have to provide help. When a team is constantly in help and recover situations a team will struggle in the half court defensively. This means their opponent will get a lot of easy spot-ups, layups, drop-offs, and offensive rebounds. (Watch the film to see these issues).


Improving their on-ball containment is sure to be a priority for the Bobcats in the coming weeks.  When you look at the PPP (points per possession) players are giving up in one on one matchups you can see some of the reasons the Bobcats are struggling: White (1.11 PPP), Van Sickle (1.03 PPP), Dedan (.952 PPP), Hein (1.095 PPP), Ranson (1.70 PPP), Bad Bear (1.14 PPP), and Jackson/Limbardo (.857 PPP). Combing that will their overall post defense (.947 PPP) and one can see why the Bobcats are struggling on this end of the floor. To put this into perspective anything over 1.0 is not good. Coaches love to see individual and team PPP’s below (.6). Below are some comparable numbers of other players/positions around the Big Sky


MSU                                                                     Other Leauge Player/Pos                                      Other League Player/Pos

White 1.11 ppp                                              Stiles .549 ppp (Montana)                                      Gandy .714 ppp (Idaho)

Lombardo .847 ppp                                     Rodabaugh .217 ppp (NAU)                                   Bourne .644 ppp (ISU)

Jackson .847 ppp                                           Simental .783 ppp (UNC)                                       Fatkin .509 ppp (Montana)

MSU Post Def .947 ppp                             ISU Post Def .641 ppp                                              Weber St Post Def .655 ppp



The good news is it is early in the season and the Bobcats can use these early road tests to prepare them for the Big Sky Conference. The tough part won’t be improving on these areas as Coach Binford and her staff will do a solid job of improving these weaknesses. The tough part will be keeping a team’s confidence up when they have struggled to win games early in the year. 

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