Thursday, November 30, 2006
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Ok, on to the game. Winston Salem is playing this year with "C.E. Gaines" on the back of every jersey, a tribute to former coach Clarence "Big House" Gaines who passed away last year. The Rams, who will join the MEAC next year, came in with a 1-8 record.
Pretty much smooth sailing all the way through with a 90-45 romp. Same starting lineup as Monday. Early on, it was apparent that none of the Winston Salem guards could dribble without palming the ball. Since the refs refused to call carrying on the Rams and due to some hot outside shooting, the score stayed reasonably close for about a half. In the 2nd, the Irish used their depth and athleticism to overpower to clearly overmatched WSSU team.
Tory Jackson really impressed in extended time tonight. While he needs to cut down on transition turnovers and overly flashy passes, Jackson played with typical high-intensity defense, moving his feet and harrassing Ram guards every time they touched the ball. He also had a very nice game controlling the half-court offense. Once he learns to settle down and play within himself, he could pressure K-Mac for the starting job. It also has yet to be seen if his attitude and fire will help or hurt his teammates in high-pressure situations.
Russell Carter had another solid game. Showing off a better outside shot than Monday, he knocked down a few threes and was solid on both ends of the floor.
I really want to see more of Luke Harangody. For one reason or another, Brey has not given the freshman more playing time. He will surely get more chances as the season goes on, and I would like to see him in the starting rotation before the end of the year. He is without a doubt our best post threat and knocked a few shots down from 15' as well.
Luke Zeller was better inside today, but did not make much impact on either end of the floor. On defense, he needs to keep his feet against smaller forwards. He has a great height advantage and got caught reaching out too far on a shot he could have contested with arms straight up. Zeller should get more opportunities outside to show off his shot as Kurz and LH continue to play strong inside.
K-Mac had a very solid game today. In previous matchups, he had failed to knock down open looks, but today connected on a couple threes. He also proves to be very dangerous driving the lane and hitting the teardrop a la Chris Thomas.
I like to see Gene Cross on the bench. He seems to have a big impact on the younger players and usually comes out of the huddle with a few extra words for someone.
Played a lot more 2-3 than usual. I'm sure this was to get ready for the big games in the next two weeks. WSSU did do a good job a couple times of moving the ball and hitting an open player, but the Irish closed down on opportunities very well. Hillesland is especially good on the wing playing with his hands up constantly. Hopefully that will rub off on the other defenders.
Congrats to Colin Falls on 1,000 points. He had a great game, knocking down three pointers with ease and making a big impact for the team. One major mental mistake was not running the baseline on an inbounds pass which led to a 5 second violation, but all in all a very good game.
In the 2nd half, we played primarily 4 reserves- Jackson, Hillesland, Harangody, and Ayers.
Jackson did a great job running the B offense and creating turnovers, although he did get stuffed by the rim on a one-handed dunk attempt. Hillesland will continue to get PT if he works as hard as he has the last few games. For a big guy, he has great moves and plays a very smart game. Harangody was improved from Monday's foul-laden performance. When he keeps his hands up, he is a very successful defender because he uses his body to keep post players from getting too close. Ayers looks lost out there. Not as fluid as Hillesland, he reminds me of a puppy whose body is too big for its own good. He also seems to be a bit afraid of taking control of a game. All of this should come with experience, but right now Hillesland is a much better option.
Overall, a good tuneup for the home team. Two big games coming up against Maryland and Alabama. If we can take at least one of those, there is a lot of hope going into league action.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
Before the game, Mike Brey presented former Irish captain and Lehigh head coach Billy Taylor with a nice plaque. After that, Taylor's boys jumped ahead with good early defense and poor shot selection on ND's part. Most of our offensive futility can be attributed to impatience and taking wild shots with no second chances. Russell Carter had an interesting game. He can be a headcase, taking wild off-balance threes and cursing at himself when Brey substitutes for him. Later on, however, he settled down and used the drive to set up his outside shot.
Bamm-Bamm had limited minutes, partly due to foul trouble. When he did play, he was our best inside weapon and will hopefully continue to get more playing time. Kurz played very well. He isn't as effective as LH inside, but has a good dribble drive and can hit the 15 footer. He also played good interior D and was a workhorse while Harangody was on the bench.
Most impressive was Zach Hillesland. I would love to see more of him in the future. Brey gave him time for Zeller at the beginning of the 2nd half, showing confidence in his ability. I was worrying about Hillesland's place on the team after seeing him backup Kurz and Zeller down low. He is most effective playing the 3, with two bigger men inside. ZH can drive and kick or use his height to shoot over smaller defenders. Most impressive was the way he handled himself on the floor. He is a smart player who doesn't turn the ball over and hustles on both ends to grab loose balls and run the break. I hope Brey plays him in combination with Kurz and Bamm-Bamm to let him focus on what he does well, drive and shoot, instead of posting up under the glass.
Colin Falls ended up with great numbers, but I am beginning to believe he would be better suited coming off the bench. He is a streaky shooter who needs to get hot. If he gets 15-20 backing up Carter or the small forward, he could very well end up being as much of a weapon, while having a more mobile player on the floor to start.
Jackson has a bit of an attitude, but he is tenacious. The fire he plays with must rub off on the other guys and inspire them to work harder late in games. He doesn't stop on defense, gets in his teammates' faces on the bench and is effective running the offensive for K-Mac. If he stays humble, he could turn out to be a good player.
For a few minutes in the 2nd half, we ran our most athletic offense all year.
Hopefully we see more of that in the future.
Best scene all day was watching Jackson, Ayers, and LH on the bench losing 41-38. The three underclassmen were on their feet urging the small crowd to cheer louder. Good to see players in the game even without more playing time.
That's it. Hopefully we see a more dominating performance on Wednesday.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
On to an infinitely more exciting topic... the Lehigh game! Should be a good tuneup for Maryland. I'm sure the players are excited to get into it after a long week of practice. Lehigh (2-5) had a marquee win over perennial powerhouse Cornell and is battle-hardened after a close loss to beast of the Big Sky Portland St. Yeah, it should be exciting for about 10 minutes. I hope it will turn into another good opportunity for Bamm-Bamm and the other freshmen to get quality minutes off the bench. Watch the second half scores. Mike Brey will focus on keeping Lehigh down for 40 minutes and avoid being outscored in the second half as they were against the Citadel. If the team can put together a complete performance, it will bode well for future contests against competitive teams.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Friday, November 24, 2006
Gonzaga still has a lot on their plate before playing intraconference. #25 Texas, #13 Washington, #8 Duke, and #20 Nevada will all be big tests for the young team. If they win two of those, paired with the previous victory over North Carolina, I can see Gonzaga grabbing a 2 or 3 seed. That would be a great accomplishment for a team losing the biggest star in its history. A high seed, with the team coming together at the right time, could be very dangerous.
What does this mean for us? In hindsight, Notre Dame's strong performance against Butler bodes very well for our season. I hope the boys watched that game and realized that they can play with anyone in the country. We have Lehigh and Winston Salem before the biggest tests of the nonconference schedule, Maryland and Alabama. If we can take one of those, our bubble profile starts looking a lot better. Although we have a weak SOS, the Irish could put up a gaudy record (only 3 ranked games in the Big East, G'Town, Syracuse, and Marquette).
Well, that was my positive outlook for the day. Have a great weekend. Three days 'til Lehigh.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
UCLA won in Maui. It hurts to watch that team in action. Just two seasons ago, the Bruins came into town for a winnable game on national television. Last year they went to the NCAA final and are currently ranked in the top 5. Talk about programs heading in different directions. In many ways, the game in '05 was a turning point for both schools. The Irish won one game the rest of the season, lost in the first round of the Big East Tournament to Rutgers, and played their way out of an NCAA bid. The Bruins won their final two regular season contests to solidify an NCAA at-large bid and have since gone on to the aforementioned success.
Apart from that painful memory, I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the food, fellowship, and football. I'll be back tomorrow with a preview of the Butler/'Zags game.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Gonzaga/UNC game which is at the half. 'Zags up 40-37 after falling behind 10-zip early. Did I mention my love affair with this school? Mark Few has to be one of the best recruiters and motivators in the country to turn Dan Monson's Cinderella team into a national powerhouse. Admit it, everyone loves to see a mid-major go toe-to-toe with the big boys. So far, super-soph Tyler Hansbrough has been shut down, while Gonzaga sophomore Josh Heytvelt has scored 14. No one gave this team any respect after the Stache left, but Gonzaga continues to find a way to churn out big seasons as they did after the departure of Dan Dickau and Ronny Turiaf and Richie Frahm and...
Other games around the country:
UCLA up early against Georgia Tech in the Maui final,
Memphis beat Kentucky 80-63, and
Georgetown rolled over Fairfield 73-60
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
While we wait for the Lehigh game to come on the 27th, semi-finals in Maui are tonight. So far Memphis is leading Ga. Tech 28-11, 8:00 left in the 1st half. As for the NIT, UNC/Gonzaga in one Semi tomorrow, with Tennessee taking on the pride of Indiana, the Butler Bulldogs, in the other. Here's to mid-major boys going all the way and easing the pain of our 71-69 loss.
Monday, November 20, 2006
He agrees with my opinion about Jackson, saying he "makes Chris Thomas look like the world's most judicious point guard." As for Falls, I wish we could make him a better part of the offense. Colin is easily our best pure shooter, but can't get open to save his life. Last night, he threw up a few off-balance shots that a better dribbler could have turned into an open look. With opposing teams having to account for Bam-Bam, the case could be made that Falls will see more open looks this year. However, his playmaking ability is affectively nil and he is best suited for a catch-and-shoot opportunity from a drive by K-Mac or Russell.
Continuing with Falls, he finished with a pedestrian 11 points in 30 minutes last night. Give him 15-20 off the bench and with a hot hand he could match that total. 3 of 10 from the floor, all threes. No need to have a guy like that taking up so much playing time. His defense is touch and go, although he did end up with 7 boards last night. Zach Hillesland is a good replacement for Colin, with 4 boards in 17 minutes and at 6-9 he presents a matchup problem. However, as stated yesterday, Brey will have trouble finding a job for ZH with Falls in the rotation.
Finally, good news for the Irish future. If Falls is taken out of the starting lineup, we only lose one starting senior (Russell Carter) to graduation in '07. Given the way the team is starting to gel around K-Mac (he was the first to congratulate guys on both sides of the floor) we could contend in the Big East as early as next year.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
The Irish shot 44% from the floor and looked in control all night. This was my first game of the season, but already the team looks more athletic and in shape. Luke Harangody's a beast. Take T. Francis' size and give him a double helping of athletic ability and heart. At one point, Bam Bam slapped a ball away at midcourt, picked it up, and raced towards the basket ahead of a streaking Citadel guard. Even better, after getting hacked on said play, he popped right up and sank the double free throws. I'll take 18 pts in 17 minutes from the young man any day. By Big East time, he should be starting.
Nice effort defensively with 9 steals and 5 blocks. They got away with a little under the basket, but it does get the team ready for a physical Big East season. Kurz didn't shy away from contact, nor did Zeller. Most impressive was Hillesland. I'm still not sure where he fits in on the team. He's a big guy with moves, but plays a bit of an awkward 3. I'd like to see him beef up and get down low, but Zeller, Kurz, and LH seem to take up all that time. On defense, however, he was smart and effective. Our 2-3 has gotten burnt in previous years because of a lack of fundementals. Hillesland, however, played every possesion with his great wingspan out to disrupt possible passers. I like his basketball IQ and he seems to hustle. Not bad to have a guy like that on the bench.
We'll get to K-Mac some other time. Today he was just efficient. T. Jackson, however, may have some trouble in the college game. "The Chosen One" reminds me too much of a certain #1 who no longer plays for the University. He travels, and drives into traffic, and once threw a pass backwards over his head into the third row. Not the guy to lead the offense. 16 minutes, 4 points, 5 turnovers. No thanks. Give him a couple of years backing up K-Mac. I'd rather see Falls and Carter at the 2/3.