Why can't we have a cool nickname like Matadors or Toreadors or Toreros? We could be at the forefront of the Hispanic wave sweeping over California for the second time in the last 200 years. We could be trendsetters among the academic elite, and get rid of the freaking Tree/Asparagus/Weed thing too! Anyway, I know I am preaching to the choir here my fellow Booties. And for those unfamiliar with what I am talking about, meaning most of you that didn't brave the beautiful tromp from hell and gone in a dirty, dusty parking lot on the east side of the football stadium past the "VIP" parking lot in front of the baseball stadium that was half empty with beakoning parking spots, we played the "The Ridge" Madators last night at The Roscoe. Thank God we didn't go all nuts a few years ago and name the floor of The Roscoe the Mike and his much better half Sarah Montgomery floor. Back to the Matador game and what an appropriate name that is for this sterling exhibition of "Efense."
Fortunately, all our guards did was let guys blow by them like geriatrics trying to keep up with the dorks at a Wii sale at Fry's. I know we have a new system of "Efense" we are working on, and that it generated a whopping 25 turnovers, but there was no semblance of interior defense last night at all. Thankfully, I am paid by The Bootleg to comment on guard play, so I won't throw our interior players under the bus they can't guard anymore. "Hey Josh, look at that guard driving the lane all willy nilly!" exclaimed Law Hill. "What, where!" "Nevermind dude, Coach D said not to foul anyway because if we get in foul trouble then we are in deep #$#@!" "Good, 'cuz I didn't see anything anyway."
Guard play, well, The Ridge isn't a bad squad and they brought a point guard with them that ate our lunch. Josh Jenkins badly outplayed Mitch, which has to be a concern going forward. We had to switch Anthony over onto Jenkins to slow him down, and that didn't work, so Jenkins committed a bunch of stupid fouls (as did every single one of his teammates and all three assistant coaches and their trainers and some stupid idiot Ridge fan behind me about 20 rows who kept yelling "The Ridge" all the time) and took himself out of the game. If we are going to continue to play an in your face style of pressure defense, we are going to have improve at reading our opponents tendencies, because all of our guards were repeatedly toasted, particularly by Ridge players driving right. At about the nine minute mark of the second half, suddenly the defense of our guards improved dramatically, as did the defense of our interior players. Landry and Law in particular finally rotated quickly on some drives, forcing the penetrator to have to quickly stop and drop the ball off. Which, they did poorly, helping us generate some stops, some turnovers, some awkward shots. I attributed a lot of this to our guards finally forcing guys to drive left, which is not the way they were most comfortable, and which effectively took away their strong hand (right hand) on the dump off passes, resulting in a flurry of turnovers. Landry really is a guard playing a forward spot, so I'll single him out here for being our best weakside rotator on defense. We need everyone else to improve to his level to be just mediocre at this critical skill.
Offensively, it was very nice to see us improve dramatically over the Yale game, particularly in light of the fact that the Matadors were physically and in terms of intensity much better than Yale. We entered the ball into our offense better, we found open shooters down the floor better, and we handled the pressure acceptably. Not well, but acceptably. One of the issues we will have for a while, maybe for the entire season, is that the new motion offense has a number of ways of entering the ball into the offense and our guys are just not comfortable with the timing yet. This is heightened by the point guard not being comfortable either. The timing on entry passes is a team concept and in this motion the wing is the first entry timing that has to be right and if that isn't there the high post needs to flash to get open. But, it has to get to be second nature for the point guard to read his options, keep his timing and reads, and not tip what he is going to do to the defense. And all of that takes two or three guys to tango correctly. Game speed training is going to help with this, and it was fun to actually watch Mitch and his teammates get better at it as the game went along against pretty competent pressure.
Two comments on aspects of our guard play that I really like. Anthony Goods improved jump shooting footwork is wonderful to see. Over the past three years he has been inconsistent as a stand still shooter from deep largely because he tried to jump too high and stepped into a lot of shots. Some of you will remember I commented on the this at one point. Well, he has adopted a both feet down, butt cocked, not trying to jump so high technique of catching and shooting threes now most of the time. This was very apparent against Yale and again last night, and although last night Anthony only went 2-6 from deep, he had several "shooters" misses where the ball came off the top of the rim softly and not like a ricochet. Soft misses on top of the rim are much easier to offensive rebound, and less likely to be turned into fastbreaks the other way. More importantly, this improved technique is quicker, therefore harder to guard, and should result in more consistency, which we need him to be.
The second aspect I really liked was Landry. Again, improved technique on the standstill jumper just like Anthony. But, I thought he ran the floor both ways well, stayed active when the ball was shot on both ends, but most importantly he seems to get our defensive system already. He looked the most natural of our starters in this new system defensively. Not only as an on ball defender, where he is much improved and his length gets him in the passing lanes naturally, but with the help defense. The additional activity on defense, the way it opens up the key, seems to benefit his brand of athleticism on both ends.
Now we have a week to get ready for an entirely different style of play in
Air Force. There is a lot we can learn from the film of this Matador
game. Lots. And Air Force will bring a team that isn't going to beat
itself and that is going to back cut us into oblivion if we don't study film,
learn to expose its weaknesses, stay in our stances and get to the glass with
all five guys on defense. Mitch should have an easier time defensively
against the Falcons, because they don't have a Jenkins type guy, but the
pressure will shift defensively to Goods and Fields to effectively pressure the
passing lanes without giving up the backdoor all the time. The good news
is that Goods and Fields are our best defenders. We shall see.
Hopefully, another seven days of practice will allow us to improve again as
much as we did between Yale and The Ridge. If we keep improving at that
rate, we will be okay.
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