100th Season of Ball State Basketball Tips Wednesday

After a disjointed offseason across all of college basketball, Ball State is playing for real Wednesday night. The 100th season of BSU basketball starts at Northern Kentucky, a team that went 23-9 and edged the Cardinals 59-57 last year. It’s the first of five non-conference games for BSU, which returns three starters from last year’s team that won the MAC West Division.

The Starting 5  –  The Top 5 Storylines For This Game

1. SOMEHOW, THE 100th SEASON IS UNDERWAY                                                                                 

It’s been no secret how teams all across college basketball have patchworked their way to having a safe and healthy season. Schedules have changed and will likely continue to change. But, the games have arrived. The 2020-21 season begins Wednesday night at NKU and it’s the 100th edition of Ball State hoops. The program began with a five-game season in 1920-21 and went 1-4. Ball State’s all-time record through 99 seasons is 1,249-1,154-1 and it is 57-42 in all-time season openers.

2. OLDER, EXPERIENCED TEAM                                                                                                                 

The Cardinals remain an interesting blend of youth and experience. Last year, the Cards’ freshman unit played the most minutes in the conference. Yet, this team has seven players who have been in college four or more years. The current roster enters the season having played in 556 total Division I games and scored 3,832 points. Ball State returns 60.1 percent of its scoring from last year and 61.2 percent of its minutes played.

3. WHITFORD’S BEST DEFENSIVE TEAM                                                                                                   

Last year’s 18-13 team was James Whitford’s best defensive club at Ball State. BSU allowed just 62.5 points per game and allowed .401 field goal shooting, both seven-year bests under Whitford. The Cards also held opponents to .307 shooting from 3-point range, another best mark. The advanced metrics on KenPom bared this out as well, as BSU was 37th nationally in defensive efficiency, up from 72nd the previous year.

4. ALL-CONFERENCE CARDS                                                                                                                    

Ishmael El-Amin, son of the famed UConn point guard, is Ball State’s top returning offensive option. El-Amin, a senior from Minneapolis, averaged 13.8 points per game last year en route to third team all-conference honors. He was voted second team all-conference in the preseason poll, in which Ball State was picked fifth in the league. The Cardinals also have 2020 MAC Freshman of the Year Jarron Coleman in the backcourt, though he will miss time early this season due to a foot injury.

5. ATOP THE DIVISION                                                                                                                                 

The MAC West division has gone through Muncie more often than not in recent years. The Cardinals have won the division three of the last five seasons, including last year. BSU went 11-7 in conference play and tied atop the division with Northern Illinois, but Ball State won both meetings over NIU to break the standings tie.