I heard a good joke Monday. Head coach Tim Buckley said he was considering taking Chris Williams out of the starting lineup.
If you ask me, Buckley has it all wrong. Williams isn't who he should consider removing.
So, the team continues to win. Granted, the last couple have been at home, which helps. And the win against Akron on Saturday was really only that - a win. I'm pretty sure everyone in attendance would agree it would be wrong to be proud of that win. Nonetheless, it was a win.
Even though the team continues to draw tick marks in the "W" column, there is one thing about the team that continues to bother me - the starting lineup. It's a lineup that has acquired a reputation for "slow start" games.
Buckley has not changed the starting lineup in one of the team's 17 games this season. It has been the same starting five since Kansas.
And now, it's time for a change, but not with Williams.
Where? You might ask. Lonnie Jones continues to be a presence inside with blocked shots and quite frankly is the best guy for the jump-ball situation at the beginning of the game. Theron Smith is absolutely dominating the Mid-American Conference as the leading rebounder and fifth best scorer in the conference. Not only that, he averages a double-double. Petie Jackson just broke the school's all-time three-point record, so that in itself is fairly deserving of a starting nod. And then there is Williams, who, through thick and thin, has been a presence on the perimeter constantly making opponents think about the long ball from behind the arc.
So that's four, who's missing?
More than likely you have to think about it for a minute before the answer hits you. We haven't seen much of the fifth starter lately with the exception of the first few minutes of each half.
It's freshman Matt McCollom.
The freshman guard has started every game for the Cardinals this season. His time has come, however; or should I say his time has been replaced.
Against Akron McCollom played only 10 minutes while against Bowling Green the freshman played 11 minutes. And, against Central Michigan, he again played 11 minutes.
So who is the replacement?
Stepping back into the Ball State point guard spotlight as of late has been senior Billy Lynch. Lynch started the season a bit slow coming straight in from football, but more and more Lynch continues to be a factor for the Cardinals.
In the last nine games for Ball State, Lynch averages 18.1 minutes a game. In those same games, McCollom averages 16.1 minutes a game.
Sort of interesting isn't it? The freshman continues to get to start, while an experienced, obviously much improved Lynch continues to clean up.
And clean up is what I mean. It's almost as predictable as the sun coming up that around the 17- or 16-minute mark at the beginning of every game, Buckley pulls McCollom and puts in Lynch.
Let me put that 17- or 16-minute mark idea in a different light.
After nearly every game and at nearly every interview session with Buckley, at least one member of the press presents a question about Ball State's inability to start games well. There is no question Ball State starts games slow.
Against Akron, almost nine minutes into the contest, the Cardinals trailed the Zips 11-4. Against Bowling Green, four and a half minutes into the game, Ball State trailed the Falcons, 12-5. Halfway through the first half against Toledo, Ball State again trailed, 16-7.
If Ball State wishes to continue with its success, then this slow start problem shouldn't be overlooked.
That slow start comes in part with McCollom. I am not in any way saying McCollom isn't a skilled player; he is. I am, however, saying that Lynch has more energy, runs a quicker offense, and more importantly has much more experience.
With all that, Lynch could give the Cardinals more success in the first few minutes, if given the opportunity.
Bringing in Lynch will help the situation, removing Williams will not.
Williams is still too much of a threat. Plus, if Williams is removed, I will assume he will in turn be replaced by Lynch, which creates a really weak offense with Lynch and McCollom both in for the start.
After Saturday's game against Akron, Buckley said, "I'm going to take a good hard look at it. That's what starters do, they get you off to a good start, and they are supposed to."
Unless Matt McCollom presents some controlling factor for the actual tip-off, which I'm pretty sure he doesn't, it's about time to give Lynch a try. Let's be realistic: Lynch has played more minutes than McCollom in six of the last nine games. He's already getting the minutes; all he's missing is the actual starting position.
Leave Williams, start Lynch and sit McCollom.
After all, the fans have subsided with the boos; he must be doing something right.
Write to Greg at email@example.com