My fellow booties, you know what is better thank turkey on Thanksgiving? Cat. Wildcat to be specific. And we damned near got ourselves some, too. How great would a week containing a victory over the bloviated Kentucky Wildcats and Notre Dame Fighting Irish have been? All we needed was one free throw. One. Two would have been even better, but one probably gets the job done. Cussing and pathetic ramblings about former players that always made their free throws aside, you hope what comes from Cancun is the knowledge that we can ball, and that when we play together, rotate on defense like maniacs and pay attention to details that we can beat anyone, anywhere. But, moral victories only go this far...
The entire Turkey Day experience starts and ends with Jarrett Mann. Two games on back-to-back nights in Cancun and he played damn well. Let's not forget that we started out with a solid victory of a Wahoo group that could have beaten us. Mann was in control most of the way against the Wahoos, but logged heavy minutes. 16 points, eight assists, and three turnovers in back-to-back nights would get it done most of the time. But, I am raising the bar on his performances now as he can play a lot better than that. What I want to see from him now is this: start acting like a shooter when you catch the ball in the offense. He gives away a lot of draw and kicks because he comes off of screens and motion and is sloppy with his feet and eyes, never even giving the defense the impression he is looking at the rim. I complained about Mitch Johnson doing the same thing early in his career, but primarily because getting the defenders closer would open up the dump downs. With Jarrett, it will open up the blow by. One more point, Mann had eight assists against the PIL Second Team All-Conferences, and threw some very good back cut passes, but I want the tempo pushed higher against teams like UVA and the Vikings so we can open up the floor use Mann's superior ability to find guys in broken court. In other words, push the tempo Jarrett, so you can allow you to spend more time being the good you.
Drew Shiller, three damn professional shooter games in a row over the Turkey Holiday. 7-11 behind the stripe off the bench. Showing some solid aggression off the bench and some excellent off ball help defense as well. Our ball movement in the half court improves when we have Mann and Shiller on the floor at the same time, and Landry seems to get open more then as well because the court stretches out. I thought Coach Dawkins did a smart thing against Kentucky, he got Drew out on the floor with Cousins at the line late, but Cousins screwed us up by clobbering Mann on the defensive rebound before we could get the ball out to Drew so he could be fouled.
Speaking of professional locking and loading, Jeremy Green got lit up by the Wahoos guards. The defense has to improve, period. It was average at best against the Vikings and the Wildcats also. Gotta get down, recognize who you have after the switches and be better at the point of attack. But, throw in the 2-6 from the pond against the Wahoos and you still get 12-22 from deep in three games. And many were of the Large variety. The rhythm is there, the aggression is there, and we are starting to see some arrogance about it. I for one thought it was a questionable charging call late in regulation in Cancun. That call could have gone either way, but the recognition has to be that I am jump shooter, not a slasher, hanger, flipper. Find a way to take that drive hard two or three dribbles and then go Ray Allen on a dime, or lift, clean, and draw contact. The ankle still isn't 100%, but the Yumper is.
Da'Veed Dildy, see my comments on Jarrett Mann, please. Da'Veed was solid in all three games. In fact, I really liked his minutes against the Vikings Sunday. I thought they were his best in a Stanford uniform. He pushed tempo several times and ended up creating for himself, but he also found open guys for easy shots. His last-second hustle in the first half against the Vikings resulted in opportunities for us, which paid off when the Vikings inexplicably left our All-American candidate Landry Fields wide open for a three. His defense was very solid as well. But, like Mann, it is time to relax at the line and just make the shots. Stop squeezing the trigger and let the ball come off the fingers with some touch. Release it a nanosecond earlier, and please stop dribbling seven times. No good free throw shooter has ever taken more than four dribbles for a reason. When in doubt, mimic Drew Shiller on shooting. Attack the rim and push tempo, when Dildy does this, good things happen. It is more a question for Da'Veed now of knowing he is going to get good minutes, so relax and find a way most nights to do what he did against the Vikings, which was make five or six positive plays in those minutes.
Just a closing thought or two: Game icing free throws are the culmination of your career. They are why you play. Most players only get one or two chances in a career to do this, although Chris Hernandez seemed to do it every other night. Some dudes are vicious about it, almost born with it, some dudes don't want to be there at all, and some dudes are somewhere in between. This team has a bunch of "in between" guys that haven't made up their minds yet as to how much they "own" those moments. This is also symptomatic of why we are 4-3 and not 6-1. We are growing into our roles and finishing close games when you have no experience to speak of is like puberty. Wait, another good thought – I really liked the way we got on the offensive glass in Cancun. Almost more than anything else about that trip, the effort on the offensive glass, 26 in two games, was a repeatable offense. Make it a mantra.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!