Tuesday, November 17, 2015

do not panic

OK, so I think most people reading this probably take a pretty even-keeled approach to UVA sports.  Either because I've trained you to do so or because you decide to read this stuff because my mindset is similar to yours.  (Most assuredly it's the latter, but I like to pretend it's the former and that when I ring a bell, someone somewhere gets glassy-eyed and says "We Can't Have Nice Things," eliciting a dirty look from their spouse.)

So you already know not to panic just because UVA lost to George Washington, but I'm gonna take it a step further and say, don't even fret a little.  Feel free to be annoyed, of course, and to grumble that it puts a ding in the ol' tournament resume, but here's what you shouldn't do under any circumstances: listen to anyone who takes two games of evidence and declares "we don't have this" or " X can't do that" or "Y needs to Z or else" or just about anything that draws a conclusion about how this team will look in March based on two games in November.  One of which was against a horrendous team missing two of its better players.

For one thing, even if there's nobody on the team with a shooter's rep, the vast majority of basketball games will not start off at a 2-for-14 clip from three point range.  Making three of those 12 misses would be highly mediocre and have made the game very different.  Second, the number of times GW got a bucket from a ball bouncing on the rim - sometimes multiple bounces - was obscene.  I can't count the number of flailing prayer-drives the GW players tried that resulted, somehow, in a bucket, and sometimes in a foul too.

Yeah, there's a few things to fix.  Tony won't be so phlegmatic about the result, and he'll have some ideas for his team in practice.  The positioning was a little sloppy, probably a little too far from the rim.  The offense took maybe a couple too many contested early jump shots.  (I'd guess the acceptable number of those is zero.)  It's possible, even likely, the 30-second shot clock is in the players' heads a little.

Tony's kind of a good coach, though, so everyone obviously should believe he can fix things.  And it's that last point that leads me to the main deal here.  Just about every year, I point out that a basketball team is a chemistry experiment, one which has to be rebalanced and retried every season.  You can't ever say exactly what you'll get from your players, not even your seniors and juniors.  Mike Tobey has been a work in progress his whole UVA career, because that's the nature of a skilled big man.  Anthony Gill has to learn to play defense without having a spring-loaded 6'9" spiderman next to him on the block.  Perrantes and Brogdon have to relearn how the offense is going to work without a lion-maned maniac on the floor.  Lots of other guys have to learn what their new, expanded role is.  And this year there's rule changes up the gazoo, and the team has to learn what they can and can't do and how to deal with a faster-paced clock.

This is a veteran team, of course - one with a very high basketball IQ and coached by a damn genius.  A lot of instinct has to be relearned, but that relearning process is partly automatic.  They'll get it without trying to get it.  They're about to embark on a full weekend of basketball - they'll be playing Thursday, Friday, and Sunday.  That's how you get into the comfort zone again.  They did look a little uncomfortable and out of sorts, and I'm sure the incredibly brah-riffic crowd at GW likes to think they had something to do with that, but these players have been to ACC road games before, so, nah.  I think it's much more to do with the new rules environment, and the fact that the chemistry experiment is still percolating.


-- I wish I could get mad at the refereeing, but the simple truth is it's impossible to know right now whether they were following the directives from the NCAA to the letter or whether they were just being ticky-tack.  There weren't a lot of replays of the fouls they called.  I do know that Jim Calhoun expressed his pleasure that they were "letting the teams play" and that was the clear winner for dumb announcer statement of the night.

-- I liked the look of Jack Salt.  If he continues to play that way he should be a regular.  He had a blocked shot and it made an audible slap-thud even in the noisy court.  By the way, students, if one of you doesn't bring a huge cardboard cutout of a salt shaker this year to a game, you're wasting your whole educational experience.

-- I think Malcolm Brogdon started to take seriously the idea of being the takeover guy.  He forced a few drives, and it was honest-to-God working.  But then he sort of stopped.  I still want to see a little more selfishness at the end of tight games, especially when the refs are calling fouls for breathing.

-- Mike Tobey would've been more successful on the block if he didn't start his moves with the idea of a fadeaway hook already in his head.  But I love that he dropped in a three-pointer.  Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

-- The hair this year is something else.  Gill has Jheri curls now.  Darius Thompson has a skunk stripe.  Mike Tobey is trying to look like a trucker instead of a huge 15-year-old, but all he's managed to do is look like a huge 15-year-old trucker.


KP said...

I think the biggest loss this year is the relentless energy that Darion Atkins brought around the basket. Mike Tobey is, to use your word, phlegmatic. I also have to disagree that it has do with the challenges of coaching a "skilled big man", but is rather the inherent challenge of coaching a guy with a low motor.

In my opinion, Bennet needs to find a way to inject Tobey with energy, or this could be a disappointing season. Note: I have little hope that you can take a low motor guy and turn him into an animal. I fear the 'Hoos have a soft, chewy center.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Perrantes's hair. He's trying to bring back the Kid n Play look.