Thursday, December 17, 2009

the near future in basketball

We are getting ready to go into Christmas shutdown mode here at the fictitious offices of FOV, and in that span of time, basketball has three games. This was supposed to be the super-easy three-game stretch of the schedule, but UNC-Wilmington has put a bit of a scare into that idea by beating one of the common opponents on our schedule so far (Penn State.) And we may or may not have our only inside scoring threat available. Let's have a look at what's in store for the next week-plus as finals week (thankfully) draws to a close.


They were 7-25 last year. So they looked a lot like the rest of the cannon fodder in this part of the schedule, until they went out and beat Penn State. And they did it even with Penn State's Talor Battle doing the same thing to them as he did to us, which is to say, score an obnoxious amount of points. PSU had 69 points in both games; the difference was that UNC-W scored, and we didn't.

Not only that, but they gave Miami (10-1, by the way) a really hard time and hung with Wake Forest for most of the first half. This is their third and final crack at an ACC team.

If Mike Scott doesn't play, this is a scary matchup, to the point where I'd just go straight pessimistic and call Wilmington the favorite. It's that scary. Wilmington has their own version of Scott in John Fields, who is an extremely similar player. Same size, same stats, same game. They also have several guys whose purpose in life is to shoot the three, which has been the bane of the pack-line so far.

So how do we win? Figure out real quick how to step out and defend the three while at the same time staying true to the principles of the pack-line defense. That's going to be a long, ongoing process - let's hope we have one of our better games in that regard on Saturday, because if they're burying threes, we lose, Scott or no Scott.

The big advantage we have? Discipline. We've been very disciplined with the ball and done a good job of winning the turnover battles, while UNC-W is just the opposite. They turn the ball over a whopping 17 times a game, which puts them 303rd in the nation; they also foul 22 times a game, good for 309th. That means we can basically expect to be in the double bonus probably in both halves. Their forwards, Fields and Dominique Lacy, are the leading culprits with more than 3 fouls a game each. Getting Fields into foul trouble would be huge, because otherwise his ridiculous .618 shooting percentage is going to hurt. A couple extra measures of aggressiveness on both ends of the floor would be key here.

Getting through here with a win would be big. Three of the next five teams are positively horrible, so Saturday is the key to going at least 4-1 before ACC play starts.


The Great West Conference has arrived on the scene. They are so new and so lousy that they don't have an autobid to the NCAAs. Two of the next five are against Great West teams - this is one of them, despite the fact that New Jersey has never been mistaken for a western state.

The Highlanders made some headlines by going 0-29 two years ago. They followed that up with an infinity percent improvement last year by winning a game. This year, they managed to improve over their two-year, 1-59 showing by winning three so far, but don't be fooled - they had to add two Division III schools to the schedule to get that far. Not Division Two, Division Three. Ever heard of SUNY-Cobleskill? Apparently NJIT has.

It doesn't matter that we can't shoot from the outside, still have trouble with the nuances of the defense, and might be missing our post scorer. Spot this team 25, promise all the walk-ons 5 minutes, and call it a day. En-jitt is horrible and any win by less than 30 is a disappointment.


Another good matchup for us. Last year I sort of halfway predicted a blowout win, and whaddaya know, we got us a blowout win. Hampton is a good matchup partly because they shoot very poorly and partly because they don't win basketball games. Also they get outrebounded like crazy, which you'd sort of expect from a bad three-point shooting team, but they're 318th in the country in rebounding margin at -7 - bad shooting doesn't explain all of it.

They do play a good defense. Teams don't shoot well against the Pirates (though this could be a function of them playing mostly bad teams) and they also get a lot of steals. 10 or so per game. We don't play very good offense, so a good-defending team is always a threat to be a nasty thorn in the side, but might I remind you that Hampton is 2-8 against a schedule that includes just one team from a major conference - USF. If this isn't a win, I will start pining for baseball and lacrosse.

This mini-stretch between the break for finals and the break for Christmas will see us out with a winning record at the end of it. The question is, will the record be 7-4 or 6-5? Wilmington is a bigger game than it might seem; at least, if you think the CBI tournament is a worthwhile goal. Which I do. Get that win and we can set ourselves up with, at worst, 8 wins heading into ACC play. That's not going to grab anyone's attention, but it would mean that even holding steady at last year's 4-12 record in the conference would be a two-game improvement over last season. And remember, I think we have gotten better and the conference has gotten worse.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The focus in the 2009-2010 season (regarding poor teams) should be on Bryant (0-13) .... at least NJIT had 2 D1 victories against Wagner to compliment the D3 appetizers ... projected that it would win another 8 more D1 games this year and end the year with 10 D1 victories.... think it is possible?