Bluejay men’s season a study in contrasts so far

The Tabor College Bluejay men’s basketball team is facing an interesting situation.

With an overall record of 4-8, you’d think things weren’t that great in Tabor Land.

But all four victories have come at the expense of conference opponents, so the Bluejays sit atop the KCAC, tied with Friends at 4-0.

How does such a disparity occur in the conference and non-conference records?

All you need to do is look at Tabor’s brutal early-season schedule. All eight non-conference opponents have win-loss records over .500 and currently sport a cumulative record of 73-21.

Included in among those opponents:

— Oklahoma Baptist, at 11-0, is ranked No. 2 in NAIA Division I.

— Columbia College, ranked 15th in NAIA Division I, has qualified for the national tournament eight of the past nine years and is 13-1.

— William Jewell College is now 12-2, winners of 12 straight games, and ranked seventh in NAIA Division II.

— Oklahoma Christian is 9-1, while Missouri Valley and Fresno Pacific University are both 8-4.

Looming on the horizon are games this weekend in the Post Holiday Classic on Friday and Saturday at home against Northwestern Oklahoma State University and St. Gregory University.

Yes, it’s the same NOSU that punished the Bluejays’ football team last month. The Rangers own a 5-3 record.

St. Gregory is just 4-5, but four of their losses are to Texas Wesleyan, NCAA Division II’s Pittsburg State and Missouri Southern, and to NCAA Division I Oral Roberts.

Could the Jays’ non-conference schedule be much tougher?

Statistically, the Bluejays rank near the bottom of the KCAC in many categories. But then the level of their competition has had a little bit to do with that.

Through 12 games, the Bluejays are averaging 71.3 points a game while their opponents have averaged 79.2.

Against non-conference opponents, the Bluejays averaged 68 points while their opponents averaged 86.5 points. But in the KCAC, the Bluejays average 80.3 points per contest while holding their opponents to just 64.8 points.

In the process, the Bluejays shot at a 40.6 percent accuracy against non-conference foes while 49.8 percent of their shots against conference competition.

Tabor’s 3-point shooting improved from just 21.4 percent in their eight losses to 33.9 percent in their four KCAC victories.

Not all things are readily attributable to tough defenses.

Brubacher has lamented the Bluejays’ rebounding deficiencies and poor free-throw shooting throughout the pre-Christmas portion of their schedule-and with just cause.

The Bluejays shot just 59.2 percent from the charity stripe in non-conference play, but stayed consistently poor in conference games, hitting 63.7 percent of their attempts.

In their losses, the Bluejays have been out-rebounded by their opponents by 3.4 rebounds per game, but haven’t fared any better against KCAC competition, where they’ve lost their rebounding battles by an average of 3.8 boards.

Individually, the Bluejays have been buoyed by several newcomers:

n Junior transfer Anthony Monson leads the team in conference games in scoring (11.5) and field-goal percentage (.692).

n Sophomore transfer Josh Reeves has given the Bluejays another plausible threat beyond the 3-point arc, hitting five of eight attempts in conference play (.625).

n Freshman Andy Brubacher, forced into action due to brother Grant Brubacher’s injury, shares point-guard duties with Cody Schafer and leads the team in free-throw percentage in conference games (.875)-a desirable trait for a teams’ ball handler down the stretch in tight games.

n Junior transfer James Black has proven he’s capable of being the Bluejays defensive stopper, with his athleticism and quickness.

Returning veterans such as Tyson Ratzlaff, Brad Gattis and Jeremiah Randall continue to be anchors on a team that tries to improve with each outing.

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