Expert Analysis: A Long Turkey Weekend

Its a two-for-one special here at The Bootleg! "Roscoemaynard" offers up his comments on all of the Cardinal's guards vs. Air Force and Colorado from last week's long weekend at Maples Pavilion. Check out his thoughts on each of the players, starters and reserves, that helped Stanford move to 4-0 on the young season.

Is there anything more vacuous than announcing attendance at a basketball game of 6,988 people, when half that were actually there. Since when did season tickets sold equate to attendance? Is this football or basketball? I guess all the people that didn't show up must have the VIP parking passes so they don't have to park in the mud. Nice.

Sorry folks, I am a bit edgy this season I guess. Wonder why? Might be the "Efense" we are playing, particularly our perimeter "efense." The Falcons of Air Force and the Colorado Buffaloes are actually the same team, just wearing different uniforms. Same Princeton offense. Same size players. The difference? Colorado's perimeter players are more experienced, and because of that, better. But, neither team is any good. Which makes the fact that combined the two teams shot about 65% (my calculation) against us all the more distressing. The good news? We won both games handily. The silver lining is the guard play. Sure, every else may think it is vastly improved and better play of Landry Fields and Josh Owens, or the quietly rock solid play in both games of Law Hill, or the shockingly productive minutes against the Bison of Elliott Bullock, but not me. I think it was our guard play, let me explain.

Point guard play is very solid folks, no seriously, it is. Sure Mitch is not shooting well, but more to the point, he isn't shooting. We haven't needed him to, and he isn't. Which, believe it or not, is exactly what I would expect from a fourth-year starting point guard who has "been there, done that." Plus, Mitch averaged 20 minutes a game this weekend (more on this below). What I like from Mitch is that he is grasping our offense better game by game. He is getting more fluid bringing the ball up and timing the entry passes, checking off option one and going to the high post. His open court passes are where his turnovers are coming from predominantly right now, although he threw a low post entry pass against Air Force that was caught by a condor circling over Maples. He is pushing the ball in the transition well and Anthony Goods is benefitting from that. I thought he was particularly good passing out of the double teams he faced when Colorado went to a full court trap. They might as well have not trapped, it was that useless. I also thought his defense against Colorado was improved, his balance was better and he gambled less. His trouble, the team's trouble, against Colorado came on top of the key pick and rolls, where our big guys were abysmal hedging or getting the heck out of the way as they really did neither a lot. With big guy help like that, a high school point guard could have got himself some good shots. The film will be a nice learning experience during Dead Week.

Drew Shiller played 15 minutes a game this long weekend, mostly at the point. While he struggled on defense at times (see the hedging comment), at other times he looked as though he is getting more confident and starting to be able to anticipate. He was much improved on the help side defense from the Air Force game to the Colorado game. He is much more confident with his handle and he is more aggressive looking to take advantage of opportunities off of picks going to his left and driving right into the paint. Right now Drew is the presumptive starting point guard next year, and I love that Coach Dawkins is resting Mitch when we are comfortable, and letting Drew run the team. These are hugely meaningful minutes for Drew and the rest for Mitch right now is important as well, given the heavy minutes I presume he will play in conference and the tempo of our new "effense." This also shows that Coach Dawkins has some confidence in Drew, and realizes that we are one sprained ankle away from Drew being the starting point guard.

Jarrett Mann, as uncomfortable as he looks right now on offense, looks that comfortable on defense. Defensively, he is our best point guard. His assist-to-turnover ratio is 3.0 right now, very nice for a freshman point guard that isn't playing many minutes. His turnover against Colorado looked bad, but let me explain why it really wasn't. It's a three-on-two, sort of, fast break and Green is streaking down the right wing and Mann is pushing the ball hard. He gets to about 25 feet out and looks to hit Green at the three point line (remember, there are people back in the paint), but Green blows by the three point line and Mann saw that the pass to Green wasn't going to give Green room to do anything with the defense back. He tries to stop, bobbles the ball, kicks the can. Mann should have handled the situation better, but Green has to know that he should stop in that situation and do what he does best: lock and load another three-pointer.

Our point guards have the following assist-to-turnover ratios right now: Mitch 2.2, Shiller 2.0. and Mann 3.0. Very nice numbers so far given our new offense and the fact that guys aren't always in the right spots, our timing is mediocre at best, and we aren't used to running fast breaks.

Anthony Goods is starting to look consistent, isn't he? 30 minutes a game, 20 points a game, 43% overall shooting, and 46.4% from deep, and damn good on ball defense (his help defense is non-existent). His rebounding is improving. Coach Dawkins has him growing into his role as the offensive leader of this team. His range is limitless and his focus is relentless so far. Against Air Force, he did a great job of continuing to take open threes even when he started the game's opening sequence with two misses, eventually going 5-11 from deep in that game. Both Air Force and Colorado put big, strong, athletic defenders on him and he still got off. He faced very good defense in the Colorado game and went 2-4 from deep, only getting nine shots, but ending up with 15 points because he got to the line for a nice five-for-five. He forced the action against Colorado, several times just putting the shoulder into the gap and forcing the officials to make a call, getting to the line. That is what a scoring guard does and he clearly realizes that for us to win, he has to "get his" on a regular basis. Have I mentioned yet that he has really improved his footwork on his catch-and-shoot jumper? He is also shooting over 90% from the line. Now that is just kinky.

Briefly, Landry Fields has much improved and continues to grow as a player every game. Just tremendous work he is doing in all facets of the game. He is our best defender, destroying both his men over the weekend, particularly Colorado's best player, Cory Higgins. Not only did Higgins only go 4-12 from the floor, but he had five turnovers. And Landry is the only guy on the team right now playing help side defense. Kenny Brown and Jeremy Green both played solid, solid minutes this long weekend. Kenny really lit a spark off the bench against Air Force, knocking down some quick threes to blow the gap wide open. Green continues to come in and fearlessly, but with great mechanics, knock down threes and play solid "efense."

Admittedly, we are not playing great competition right now. That is a good thing, because you can see the wheels turning in our heads on offense, and our help side defense is pathetic. But damn if we aren't scoring the ball well and our guards are taking care of it pretty well too. But, we cannot continue to let our opponents shoot 51% from the floor as that is simply not going to work in conference. It may work in our soft non-conference schedule though, at least until we play Texas Tech. We now have two weeks off to hunker down on defensive court vision, and hopefully get better yet on offense, before going off to finish our decimation of the beautiful state of Colorado. Where is the University of Denver and Colorado College anyway?

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