Expert Analysis: The Roadkill Edition

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 frustrating evening for the Cardinal guards as the team lost to an improving Oregon State Beavers team on Saturday night at Maples Pavilion.

So the Oregon schools come to the Bay and instead of the varmints being the roadkill as usual, the weenies and us were run over by the critters and left for dead out on the 101. CIG-Alert for the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza, reality appears to have landed like a giant crappy economy, snarling traffic, muddying the parking lot north east of the football stadium, and putting our post-season on the brink of a Dali-esque, futurescape-like fried egg clock.

More to the point perhaps, what the hell was that? And I am not talking about how bad the greebs are. I am talking about our team defense on Saturday against the modified Princeton offense the nutria ran in Maples. Raise your hand if you predicted that OSU would resurrect itself by using Roeland Schaftenaar as Bill Walton in the high post. This may not be guard related, but it is "guarding" related. What the hell has Coach Robinson done to poor Roeland? He can now dribble, pass, shoot, and hit amazing off-balance, off-glass floating garbage. He still can't rebound or play defense, but when you go 8-11 with 4 assists, three steals and no turnovers, who cares. And was that 27 on the weenies? Consolation prizes don't feed the bulldog, but at least we "held" the big Windmill to 18. If Calvin Haynes doesn't get the Conference POW, the Flying Roeland should.

Calvin Haynes, excellent segue to guard play. My grandmother, not my mother (who could tear you a new one while smiling at you - yes, apples and trees and gravity), liked to say, "If you don't have anything nice to say…" I didn't see the duck game and who cares, because they are 0-8 with buckshot and looking worse than last year's muskrats. Our guards were thoroughly outplayed by OSU's guards. This is the first time this year that I thought Anthony Goods was outplayed. Ricky Claitt was in complete control of his game, which prior to this weekend I don't think anyone thought he had any of. But, when your team shoots 85% from the floor for the weekend, on the road, the point guard gets a lot of credit. They ran their stuff, they ran it well, and they got results. Besides, 5 assists to no turnovers on the road in our house, kudos. You win. We put no effective pressure on him all game and conversely I thought he and Haynes were very good in their roles in the 1-3-1 on the other end. Think we missed Mitch? I do. Calvin Haynes goes for 25? Who? What?

Instead of picking apart our guard play, let's talk about what didn't get done. This was not that good a zone defense, we just didn't have anyone that had played any meaningful minutes against it. Really, someone watched the film of the ASU game and took it a step further, running the old 1-3-1 trap out there like a Henry Bibby, Jeff Trepagnier, Bluthethal, Scalabrine, Sam Clancy flashback. Yick. In the first half we simply didn't attack it. Coach Dawkins talked about this with John Platz and Dave Flemming. The seams were there, but we didn't get the ball to the high post enough, we missed diagonal passes to the weakside so many times that I was apoplectic. There were a lot of quizzical looks on the faces of our guards. Jarrett Mann was the only guy that had any feel for attacking this zone, but unfortunately he threw in a few too many bad passes and defensive lapses to get more minutes. The hard part was that we were open a lot on the perimeter and we have good perimeter shooters. 33 threes is too many, but the gaps were like fools gold. The alchemy is if we hit 14, instead of 8, it isn't feldspar any more, it's a nice hedge against inflation. But, Shiller was 1-5, Green 1-6, Goods 3-12, Kenny 0-4. And only 11 free throws. The bottom line, the gerbils aren't that good on defense. They aren't mobile and strong on the interior and the few times we were able to find Hill or Owens inside, we were able to get easy, easy baskets.

I think Saturday we clearly missed Mitch Johnson in the key areas of intensity and focus. The energy was off. The lack of focus showed up instantly with a layin off the opening tip, and then making 16 turnovers. Your point guard's job is to get you good shots. Remind guys on the floor to make the extra pass, make the extra look. Move the ball, sometimes against a zone you have to simply move the ball to move the ball, get it from side-to-side to make the defense shift and shift. That is how you get the ball to the weakside and interior where the scoring opportunities are, you force the post guys to move their feet, force the post guys to use their eyes to find moving targets, avoid the double teams, and get the zone sliding instead of attacking. We held the ball too much. Too much catch, look, analyze, pass. Against a zone, the point guard has to think three passes ahead, get the wings to think ahead a couple of passes, and trust that opportunity will arise, the seam will open up, the high post will open up, and then a weakside diagonal pass will be there.

Defensively, again, lack of intensity, lack of focus. We just let a mediocre team shoot 62% against us. We let Seth Tarver look like the player everyone thought he would be four years ago. Who is Calvin Haynes? We can't stop Calvin Haynes? Ouch. Too many backdoor cuts without help rotation. We had very mediocre on-ball pressure after the rats picked up their dribble and we were out hustled. I had an old coach that used to harp on intensity and focus being the primary responsibility of the point guard. Set the tone every night. Bring that every night and the team will follow. A lot of times, that is an over-simplication that coaches make because that is what coaches do best. But, I don't anyone that was at the weenie game saw an approximation of that intensity against the knawers.

But, I want to point out what I thought was positive in this game. We were badly outplayed in the first half, but chipped away and went in down six, but Goods got a solid look that could have cut it to three. We cut it to five with 12:36 left to go, and then back to six a minute later. We were patient with ourselves. I didn't see any panic. We simply didn't make any meaningful stops thereafter and we couldn't literally get a bucket for seven minutes thereafter. We went from the 11:23 mark, a Shiller three from the top of the key, to a Goods jumper at the 4:26 mark, with only a made free throw by Landry intervening. That cold streak was enough to tinge anything Cardinal blue. In that stretch where global warming clearly took time off, we missed six threes, took no layin attempts or interior shots of any kind, and committed three turnovers. Our opponent in that stretch didn't play well either, but they put nine points on the board. Maybe that is nitpicky, maybe that is a microcosm. But you simply cannot win when the ball doesn't go in and you don't get enough good shots.

We are 3-4 in conference and the LaLa roady is up. The good news, mediocrity abounds in this conference and we just saw firsthand what mediocrity combined with real good execution and shooting can do for a team on a road trip. I say, if the buckies can do it, we can do it. And if not now, then we are 3-6 in conference. 4-5 is a lot better. A lot better. Let's cross our fingers.
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