Monday, November 16, 2009

weekend review: of hoops and soccer

So, while we wait for the NCAA to get back to us with the soccer bracket, a little celebration is in order for our ACC champion soccer team. I wish they would have ever put any of these games on TV. Seems like the sort of thing that ESPNU was invented for, but what do I know? I guess more people are so starved for football they'd prefer to watch yapping talking heads debate over and over what Tony Pike's injury means for this week's epic clash with whatever random crappy Big East team is on the slate this week. Or whatever. Such is the midweek programming on ESPNU. This is basically the reason I stopped putting anything related to soccer up here. How often can you look at a boxscore and say "gee, I wish we'd score more"?

Funny thing is, that's what our opponents have been saying. All season long. The last goal we gave up was almost exactly one month ago - October 17 in the 13th minute against VT. That's about 837 minutes, give or take, of shutout soccer. The last time we gave up two goals in a game was last year. Unbelievable.

So - the bracket. It's our 29th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance - the longest active streak in the country, by the way - and (unless Tim Weiser is involved) winning the ACC tends to give you a nice seed in the tourney. In our case: 2nd. We'll get the winner of Bucknell/Princeton, and then if we win, a rematch against NC State. There are seven ACC teams in the NCAAs, four of which are seeded. It speaks to the depth of the conference - that, and the fact that the ACC final was the #5 vs. #7 seed.

Now. Hoops! I don't know about you, but I'm really digging on the notion that we're now in basketball season instead of wishing it would start. I don't know how long this happy optimism will last - it might be that that particular bubble gets burst tonight after South Florida's twin 6'10" and above towers expose our donut hole in the middle. I'm willing to enjoy it while we're still undefeated, though.

It would have been really cool not to have been outscored in the second half against Longwood, but for right now, we'll take it. You know Tony Bennett'll get rid of that defensive sloppiness. Not tonight, surely, and probably not even this year entirely, but every indication out of the JPJA is that this is a team that has bought in to what Tony's selling. Two things I think we can count on this year: we will both lose a game and win a game we're not supposed to.

The Good Ol' Blog singles out Farrakhan and Landesberg as two players whose defense stood out, and the writer goes into more depth about those two on the boards (that's "message boards" not rebounding) as well. Mu also racked up 17 points. I bet he never gets that many again all season, but it doesn't matter: Playing defense Coach's way will get him a nice concrete niche in the rotation, and we'll get our answer to the question of whether or not that'll bring about more consistent shooting. And obviously it's nice to see that the guy who'll play the most minutes this year is also the one playing quality defense.

For a little bit of South Florida preview action, in case you read this in the hour or so between now and the game: USF is a Big East team, but only in the most technical sense. It doesn't mean they're good, it means they have no say in the matter of being dog chow for UConn every year. They are also 1-0, having squeaked past SMU 67-61. SMU is a bad team in a mediocre conference - you don't beat them by six if you want to make the NCAAs. (You also don't get outscored by Longwood in the second half but that is entirely beside the point.)

However. We are, of course, without our 7-footer for another two games, which is unhealthy when your opponent starts one player who is 6'10" and another who is 6'11". We still don't have a grasp on what kind of strategy Bennett likes to employ in situations like this, but here's my best guess: We'll start four guards again, that much is likely, and attempt to run the Bulls out of the gym from the get-go. On Friday that was portrayed as a reaction to the way Longwood likes to play; tonight, we'll try and make USF react. Outside shooting is huge. If the game goes well, our guards will dominate our side of the scoresheet.

If the shooting is cold and their bigs aren't tired, and we can't defend two big men at once, we'll see a lot more biggish guys rotate in and try to rough it up a bit. We could see Will Sherrill if for no other reason than he brings five fouls to the court. Spurlock should see a bigger role regardless. Meyinsse and Scott are going to have to pretend to be centers. I'm willing to bet that the number of minutes played by "post" types (not that we have many true ones, but for now, these are Scott, Meyinsse, Sherrill, and Spurlock in a great big emergency) vs. the number of minutes played by guard types (specifically the reserves, Jones and Evans, and maybe Farrakhan too) will be a great predictor of the outcome. More guard minutes? Win. More post minutes? Ehhhhhhh maybe not so much.

One fun thing: South Florida's roster includes freshman guard Jordan Dumars, the son of Pistons great Joe.

For the rest of the week, look for the following things: ACC roundtable, Q&A with Block-C (as it's Clemson week), Jim Grobe, Clemson preview, and probably every basketball thought that pops into my head, unfiltered.

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