Column: GVSU basketball needs to stay consistent on offense to contend in the GLIAC

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

Kellen Voss

If the casual college basketball fan were to describe the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team in one word, that word would not be ‘consistent’.

It appears that the Lakers are starting to right their losing ways, as they earned arguably their biggest victory of the season this past weekend, going on the road to beat No. 7 Ashland 60-53.

However, despite that, big wins haven’t come often this season for GVSU. Before Saturday’s win, the Lakers had previously lost five of their last seven games, including a winning drought that lasted nearly two months, with their last road victory coming against Quincy on Saturday, Dec. 16.

When looking at the GVSU roster on paper, the one thing it doesn’t lack is talent, as the roster boasts a bevy of former DI players, seniors with in-game experience and individual basketball talent flowing out their ears.

The issue that has plagued GVSU basketball all season long has been the fact that these individuals struggle to play well as a team. When watching the men’s team, one doesn’t see a consistent offensive flow with unselfish basketball. GVSU’s offense features way too many bad shots in the form of contested mid-range jumpers, with poor shot selection rivaling that of mediocre NBA teams who are the reason why diehard college basketball fans hate the NBA.

Let’s make one thing clear: I’m not saying this basketball team is boring to watch. Jeremiah Ferguson driving to the basketball for and-ones, Hunter Hale and Zach West hitting clutch threes, Jake Van Tubbergen’s combination of skilled interior moves and a fine looking jumper and big men Justin Greason and Isaiah Brock hitting jump hooks and catching alley-oops makes for an entertaining performance on the offensive end.

That said, when looking at past GVSU losses, a recurring trend seems to be that when this team loses, they often have more turnovers than assists. In the last four L’s, GVSU has posted at least five more turnovers than assists, with recent losses to Wayne State and Northern Michigan featuring the Lakers having twice as many turnovers as assists.

These losses often feature a lot of ‘iso-ball’: one Laker tries to get past his man while the other four players space the floor and watch him make his move. With reigning NBA MVP James Harden not being on this roster, that kind of offensive gameplan is simply not going to work, especially with the physical, helpside-heavy defenses that are used throughout the GLIAC.

What this team needs to improve upon is playing better as a team, which comes down to little things like more effective, better offensive vision from the guards and physical screens from the big men on and off the ball.

The team should try to model their offense to be like that of the San Antonio Spurs, who have been an NBA juggernaut for the maturity of the 21st century. 

Through an offense that gets the most out of each player’s individual talents through vigorous movement and more than a few passes out of each possession, head coach and future NBA hall of famer Gregg Popovich used his team-first offense to get the most out of talented offensive players, such as Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner to name a few.

The Lakers need to adopt an offense similar to this. This college basketball season has proved that teams who share the ball often, such as the Tennessee Volunteers, Gonzaga Bulldogs and Michigan Wolverines get the most success on the offensive end. 

In fact, if this basketball team needs inspiration for how to play better together as a team on offense, look no further than the team they share the GVSU Fieldhouse Arena. 

The 19-2 women’s basketball team runs their offensive like clockwork, with Jenn DeBoer controlling the pace, Nataie Koenig and Victoria Hedemark hunting for open shots, Maddie Dailey picking-and-popping and Cassidy Boensch flexing her muscles, controlling the paint and continuing to be one of the best players in Division II.

The win against Ashland this past weekend proves that the Lakers have the capability of going off on offense, with a 47-point offensive explosion in the second half leading to victory, but if this team wants to keep those winning ways going, they have to share the ball on offense consistently in order to compete in the GLIAC come tournament time.