Expert Analysis: Guards vs. ASU/Arizona

The Bootleg's "Expert Analyst - Guards," former lights-out shooting guard "roscoemaynard" (1984-89) offers up to the Stanford Hoops faithful his review and comments on a decent home split versus the Arizona State Sun Devils and Arizona Wildcats at Maples Pavilion this past weekend.

So much to talk about after this first weekend of Pac-10 hoops at Maples. One never likes to go all coyote ugly on a Friday night, particularly early, as we did against ASU. But, how nice was Sunday's bounce back beating of the Luteless kitties? If nothing else, we learned a bit about our team. More importantly, we are 1-1 in conference after playing two of the upper echelon teams. That is good. Not great. Good. And frankly, that is incrementally better than the kitties feel right now as they wander aimlessly around Tucson trying to find their lost shaker of salt…I mean class. Any one finding a random bottle of Prozac, please contact Mr. Olson.

It's hard to talk about our guard play this weekend because we have to discuss ASU on Friday night. Let's start with this: crappy shooting, crappy shooting, average ball-handling, and mediocre defense will not get the job done against NCAA tournament teams unless you have a pair of NBA post men, which we don't anymore. Mitch and Anthony went 5-25 in that game, our bench came in and threw up bricks, and we didn't turn over Glasser or McMillan or Abbott. Sure, Anthony held Abbott down, but Glasser had a very efficient game and McMillan was almost as good. What was most disconcerting though was our consistently getting beat to loose balls and our lack of physicality with the ball. ASU won all the bumps, all the pushes, all the hustle plays, and all of the defensive rotations. Note to Booties: Shiller knocked Glasser on his butt and then offered him his hand to help him up and Glasser slapped it away; big deal, and most guys wouldn't have taken the hand either. Good or bad, big deal it was not. But, love the fire that Drew exhibited this weekend. Note: Glasser reminds me of Terry Taylor, the Cardinal point guard from 1986-1989 that I could never beat out: tough, competent, mistake free, and you can't leave him for an instant because he is pure.

It was also disconcerting that our guards could not figure out how to attack the matchup zone. We seemed prepared, we had a couple of zone offenses we ran, the guys knew them, they identified well, and we even ran some man offense. We just lacked any confidence in doing so for most of the game. Lack of crispness, lack of timing.

And yet, with about 13 minutes left in the game, we were down 10, with the ball and Landry got a very good look. The lid was ready to lift, Maples was so ready to pop. It didn't happen, and Harden, who is a wonderful player, proceeded to take us apart from there. Harden was in complete control even with Landry playing some stellar defense. He dominated the first half without shooting, including on the defensive end where his side of the ASU zone was locked down the entire game. Or so it seemed.

Now let's talk fun stuff; the kitties on Sunday night. I love Nic Wise as the guy is Jason Gardner all over again, without the coaching on the sideline. Nevertheless, I thought Mitch was much better against Wise than Glasser. Yeah, Wise went and got his, but Zona was rarely in rhythm and Wise wasn't able to create for his teammates. Mitch gets some credit for that as he forced Wise mostly to his left and made him a shooter, not a passer, and when Budinger isn't being set up, he isn't as good. What I really liked was Mitch's aggressiveness as his tone was much sharper in this game. He played with more purpose. He only took five shots, but he was looking and he penetrated effectively. It didn't always produce buckets, but his penetration was effective.

Goods was tough on defense all weekend, but this wasn't a good group of shooting guards he was playing. However, he shot the ball the poorly all weekend. His primary problem was off the dribble on the pull up. It will come. The looks were there. What I liked against the kitties was he went and got three assists, he made free throws, and he hit timely threes. I'll take three for seven from deep. That is okay, particularly when you make daggers.

Drew Shiller has arrived folks. His confidence level as a ballhandler has grown and while he is never going to be sexy with the ball, he is getting the job done and teams know they can't leave him open. His comfort with the offense is much improved. But, in both games it was his intangibles that were impressive. He might have been the only guy against ASU that played with the necessary edge. Against Zona, he was simply everywhere for the key stretch of the second half where we put it away. He "dug down" on the posts and in scramble situations. He took a huge charge. He got defensive rebounds; sure only two of them, but he hustled to both of them. He wasn't deferring anything to anyone. Great stuff, solid minutes, and Coach Dawkins rewarded him by playing him and Mitch together for quite a while on Sunday.

It was a good thing for the kitties that Jeremy Green missed shots. If he had 10, instead of four, which he easily could have, the thumping would have been epic. Jarrett Mann played very effective minutes at the "1" and "2" as well. Opportunistic offense, but real good defense. Mann showed this weekend that he can guard in this league and get something done on the offensive end. Between Shiller's improvement and Mann's contribution, it leaves Kenny in his warmup suit. But folks, this is what has to happen, Shiller and Mann need to play now because they will have to play next year. Mann brings very good defense and the ability to get to the hole. Shiller has become a solid point guard, more naturally a one than Kenny. Kenny's time will come, but this is the struggle for fifth year guards that aren't starters. They need to stay ready, stay positive, teach, lead, and cherish the uniform. I am sure Kenny understands by now the difference between being a player and being a competitor: players play, but competitors figure out what they can do to help the team win!

I know I made a truly tasteless joke about Coach Olson. But, anyone watching warm ups could see what Zona's real issue is without him: they weren't ready to play. They were jacking around half speed, throwing up "create-a-layins." When your back-up guards are completely fart-knocking and your starting center is firing up airballs from 20 feet 18 minutes before game time, the ship has no captain. We may not be great this year, but we have leadership and focus. Now is when we can say for the first time since Ned Wolk walked the sidelines in Tempe that the better coached team is ASU and the more talented team is ASU. Weird…Really weird.

Hey, not a great start, but a good start. We had a short memory, which is a good thing. But come one, anyone that has known college basketball players knows they have very short memories anyway. Go with short attention spans and very short arms when it comes time to pay the tab. Most importantly, we figured out how hard we have to play in conference to win. Now, we get to go to Washington, which isn't a bad place to start the conference season on the road. Brockman may get his, but I really liked what we did against Zona defensively, and if we can do the same to the puppies, we can get a win there before moving on to the Cougs in Pullman.

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