And now back to our regularly scheduled program. Damned! Crap! Poopscoopers!! We almost got the Orange in the Garden. But pyrrhic victories are still pyrrhic. But now we can sniff it. Now the players know what the big dogs smell like, what makes Top 5 Top 5, and now they know that those whuppin's they put on all the State schools so far were nothing more than what they should have done. Our guys now know that they are better than most of the teams on our remaining schedule. Given the way we played in the Garden, I would expect and suspect that our guys now understand how good they are, and with that comes a more confident mindset. Valuable experience and more confidence equals good Thanksgiving.
Our play in New York was driven by a better sense of purpose at both ends of the floor. And focus starts at the point guard spot, so it is no surprise that Aaron Bright was named to the NIT all-tournament team because he drove our bus right over the Cowboys and for 35 minutes he played nose to nose with Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche of the Oranges, two senior guards for a team that has spent the better of their careers in the Top 10 in large part because they regularly do what they did in the last five minutes of the game against Virginia Tech on Wednesday and then again on Friday against us — they lock up, lock down and get it done. Numbers for Aaron this Holiday weekend to me are shallow. There were too many turnovers and shot well again (get used to the shooting). But I thought his leadership, his maintaining the team's defensive focus, and the way he ran us against the Navel's zone was rock solid. In New York, a town that knows point guard play, there are some dudes that are saying we are going to be "ahyt" this year because our point guard is a scrappy little shyte.
Speaking of scrappy dudes, Chasson Randle just hung another couple of solid games out there for us in New York. Too many turnovers against the Fruit, but big shots, too. And he was damned good against the Cowboys, going for 17 points in only 22 minutes. But, I thought he and Aaron were both pretty good on defense as well. Our starting guards were much better defensively than those the Cowboys put out there, which was not what I expected. His steals against the Mandarins all occurred because he was in the right place, anticipating the next pass, moving off the ball. Unfortunately, when the Citrus guards drop their shoulder and go to the hole, as they did late in the game, those are big shoulders on quality players and all of our guards, not just Chasson, got bumped out of the way. Big stage, maybe the best defensive team in the country, and big play from Chasson.
Jarrett Mann did his best Jarrett Mann impression on Broadway. Pretty good defensive effort, too many missed easy shots against the Cowboys and you knew he wasn't going to play big minutes against the Tangeloes' zone. Defensively against the Cowboys and their helter-skelter offense, he was terrific. Against the Cowboys he routinely forced his man to put it on the floor and drive inside the three point line, where they didn't want to go. OSU wants to chuck a lot of threes and we didn't let them and Jarrett was nails at making them dribble and then locking up. I wish he had been a bit better against Waiters and Joseph of the Citroens, but that can be said for everyone. And Joseph and Waiters are just flat good. Jarrett did a good job at MSG of maintaining proper balance on his free throws which resulted in his going 4-5. If I am going to bag on him when his balance is off, I also have to point out when he does his job.
An Anthony Brown comment; he seems very close to me to hanging real points on the board. I liked his offensive aggressiveness in both games in the Garden, and his work around the boards was excellent. But, it would be nice to see the production level out. I think it will.
Final Thought: In 1984 and 1985 I watched Tom Davis do to Greg Butler what Coach Dawkins and his staff is now appearing to do to John Gage. We saw this last season with John Gage and the same things seems to be happening again. The matchup of John Gage against the vaunted Orange zone was a good one because John is a 6'9" professional shooter. But were the matchups of John Gage against Oklahoma State's big guys or Fresno State's big guys, or Colorado State's big guys really so bad as to warrant him not playing at all? Stop worrying about what John Gage can't do, and focus more on what the kid can do. For chrissake, no one else took two charges on Syracuse's guards on Friday, but he did and he made shots. If we played John Gage more last season and early this season, does he make that poor pass at the end of the game against Syracuse? We'll never know. But really, Jack Ryan played against Okie State and John Gage didn't even get his sweatpants off.
Final Final Thought: I had a tear well up in my right eye when I saw Andy Brown taking his warmups off near the end of the Okie State game. It only took forever and a day, and thousands of hours of pain and suffering and hard work, but Andy Brown finally got to play in his Stanford uniform. Every single former player out there, from Fred Washington to Eric Reveno to Steve Brown, every guy that suffered through injury after injury and surgery after surgery, and every guy that watched teammates' careers end too soon or never even get started because of injuries, knows what Andy felt when he got to run down to that scorer's table and step over the sideline. That moment is one those that most players gloss over because it is a foregone conclusion, a small step on the ladder, but when you see Andy Brown's finally get that moment you remember how wonderful it does feel to play with that Stanford on your chest. And you just wanna slap him on the butt and buy him a beer.
Final Final Final Thought: I am now officially twice as jacked up about this season for two reasons — how good we looked in our shorts, and how bad the rest of the Half Rack looked last week in theirs. The UCLA Ruins and weenies really looked lousy, which is great!
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