I have no idea how to write expert analysis on guard play in my emotional state. The Sweet 16 is where, as a Stanford fan, is a place we always want to be, and we seem to forget how hard it is to get there. We watch every year when seems so easy for Carolina and Kansas to get there and wonder why do we always seem to choke. Well, there is a fine line between choking kicking butt–and we were doing the rumba all over that line on Saturday, with a little help from our zebra friends. A quick joke: Trent was thrown out of the game for looking Curtis Shaw in the eye and saying "M-I-C-K-E-Y ….." Thank you, Thank you! I'll be opening next Wednesday night at the Houston House of Blues for Kenny Chesney, bring your dollar bills boys.
Mitch Johnson: Mitch, come on. Four turnovers against Cornell, a very disappointing regression toward the mean, dude. However, since you flat out out played Dominic James, exposing him for the overrated, freak of nature that can't drive left that he is, I am going to cut you some slack for that Cornell performance. In fact, Mitch, that new school record for assists in a game, that one set by some dude named Brevin about 20 times, that is a nice one to have in your pocket for later on down the line. 16 assists, 1 turnover, and 9 points on 3-7 shooting. As we saw throughout the game, we controlled tempo and Mitch gets credit for that. Mitch did a very solid job getting the ball to good entry pass angles the entire game, whether to Brook or to Robin. We had almost no turnovers in the game, which meant we got the ball into our offense and got the ball where we wanted it.
Our coach gets lobbed the holy hand grenade from the evil wizard Tim (I mean Curtis Shaw) and Mitch keeps his troops under control on the court and just playing the game one possession at a time. It is very easy to get rattled when a guy like James is in your face all day, but I thought Mitch showed composure and tenacity the entire time. A great game by Mitch, and I really did think he won the match up. Tempo was everything in this game and we controlled that, which allowed Los Lopez to dominate on our offensive end.
Kenny Brown: Raise your hand if you thought Kenny would be our third leading scorer in the NCAA tournament. After single-handedly pointing out to Cornell that our walk-ons would dominate the Ivy League, Kenny followed that performance up with 18 very good minutes against Marquette. I didn't like his fast break pull up jumper, but I loved the aggressive way he came off the bench against big time talent, and once again, showed he was up to the challenge. Big shots. And a lot of hustle. In fact, it was an odd game in that our guards routinely busted their butts and gave great effort, only to be second guy to the ball. Matthews and McNeal were that quick.
Fred Washington: This was a typical Fred Washington type of game. You look at it and you go man, what did Fred do in this thing anyway. But, I thought that our game smoothed out and we got a lot better when we subbed Fred back in for Kenny with about six minutes or so to go in the game. Our defense and ball movement improved and Fred went and got a couple of rebounds as well. Whoever guarded Matthews in the second half, mostly Fred, did a very good job cooling off a hot hand. I also liked Fred's aggressiveness on offense against their zone. He isn't a shooting threat, but he attacked the middle of the zone a couple of times off the dribble and his movement of the ball was sharp. He got it over to Mitch a couple times where the quickness of the ball movement allowed Mitch and Brook to seem "right on time" for the entry pass.
Anthony Goods had sort of a tough luck type of game–except his team won. He played very hard, he played very smart and he made a number of strong moves into the paint. The ball just didn't go down for him. And his guy just got smoking hot. I loved his aggressiveness and thought he could have been more aggressive in the second half attacking the middle the paint off the dribble, particularly when Los Lopez were off the floor. But, he hit two big threes when we needed them. Marquette did seem to respect his shooting ability and stayed tight on him most of the time. And when his late three was blocked, at least he was playing confidently and he wanted to take that shot. One thing about Anthony, he is not afraid to take the big shots.
Overall, I thought Matthews and McNeal were just studs. Great guards. But I was disappointed, thank goodness, with James. I thought he took some selfish shots, that he passed up good looks out of offense, and I thought his defense was poor. As opposed to a Collison or Hackett, he was not smothering Mitch on the wing angle when Mitch picked the ball up to make entry passes. If I was Ousmane Barro et al., I'd be a furious with the lack of on-ball pressure while I am down in the trench wrestling the Dinosaur. If you are Dominic James you have to impose yourself physically on Mitch and that simply was not done.
Final Thoughts: Great composure by our backcourt
throughout the ball game. Veteran guards playing like veteran
guards. Both teams actually. We were beaten badly on the defensive
glass and to loose balls and it almost cost us the game because McNeal got
hot. Marquette is that quick. Funny thing though, I thought they were
lucky to be in the game with us. We shot 50% in the second half and 62.5%
in overtime, we made free throws late, and yet in the first half we missed a
slew of bunnies. Law missed a bunch of opportunities that he usually
cans. And then the Curtis Shaw debacle. There were a couple of
points where if Anthony or Law had just knocked down an open look, we could have
gotten a bit more breathing room. A dominant first half by Robin and then
a guy comes off the bench and talks smack. Nice. I still think we
match up with Texas, but we gotta stick on Abrams, not help off of him, and make
Augustin make tough shots. This is more of a conventional match up and I
think that favors us a bit. The big question is this, "Will there be a
Charles Schwager sighting in Texas?" You are damn right there will be!
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