Tuesday, December 22, 2015

terra nova

In calling the Villanova game a potential rock fight, I didn't mean throwing pebbles into the ocean, but that's what you'd guess was happening the way the Hoos and Cats rolled the scoreboard up.  The main surprising thing isn't scoring 86 points.  The main surprising thing is doing it in only 60 possessions, the second-slowest game all year.

When you score 86 points against Morgan State, everyone eyes glaze over and they find a more interesting game to write about.  When you do it against Villanova, people notice - and now Tony Bennett is an offensive mastermind.  These are largely the same players that beat Rutgers 45-26, by the way.

It's all part of a program's metamorphosis into something special.  Mike Krzyzewski isn't known as a great offensive or defensive coach.  He's just known as a great coach.  Even before the Tennessee turnaround, Tony Bennett was getting accolades for his defense, and attention of all varieties for his desire to beat shot clocks into mewling submission.  That's great.  It's an identity, and one I truly enjoy.  I love that the arena gets its loudest for something as mundane as a shot clock violation.  I embrace the pace, and I know for sure Tony won't stop recruiting and selling his defense.

Still, it's one thing to get to the top.  UVA's climbed one Everest already by scrawling its name in the annals of the ACC championship.  Staying there is harder.  Old cliche, but so true.  You have to find and eliminate your weaknesses before the competition does.

That's why that Villanova game was a thing.  If the West Virginia game was proof of the season's chemistry experiment coming together, Villanova is proof the mortar has dried on the program foundations and the walls are ready to go up.  Take one of the really good defensive teams in the country and ruthlessly exploit their weaknesses instead of letting them jump on yours - that's how to keep on winning basketball games.  Not just this year, but in the long term.


-- The flip side to the offensive volcano is that Nova scored 75 points on those 60 possessions.  That's a lot for a Tony Bennett defense - but then, in the play-by-play I counted 11 points off of quick-change turnovers that the defense had nothing to do with.  Without those..... well, that's still kind of a lot for a Tony Bennett defense, but well within acceptable parameters for a top-20 opponent.  The halfcourt, set-it-up defense looked as good as ever.

-- Nervous nellies will rightly point out that UVA isn't going to shoot 8-for-12 from three very often.  No, they won't, but they will if they create as many open looks as they did.  This wasn't luck, it was the product of really crisp and beautiful ball rotation that resulted in probably half those attempts coming completely uncontested.

-- One of them was kinda contested, but it was my favorite of the day.  Malcolm Brogdon walked upcourt, dribbled the shot clock down to five just because Nova was letting him, then took two steps at the basket, pulled up, and nailed it.  That was pages one through seventeen of the Kobe playbook.  Normally that kind of play why I think the NBA game is much less interesting than college, but we already know Brogdon's character and there isn't a me-me-me strand anywhere in his DNA.  But I've already gone on record saying he can and must be the alpha wolf this year, and a little selfishness on his part will go a long way for his teammates when they start finding themselves unguarded.  Jay Wright's a damn good coach and he was basically throwing up his hands in surrender with his postgame quotes, asking what do you do with a problem like Malcolm?

-- A particular pet peeve of mine is the contingent of Mike Tobey haters the fanbase has.  They have a certain expectation of what Tobey should be, which he isn't, and fail to appreciate what he actually is.  This is a problem nobody else on the team has.  Tobey's lone bucket of the Villanova game, though, came from being what they wish he was.  It won't shut them up, because it's all about consistency and why doesn't he tear someone's head off every possession, you see, but still.

(His first foul was the same.  I don't know how everyone in the arena sees a jump ball and the refs see a foul.  A shooting foul!  That was completely bizarre.)

-- The last time more than one UVA player scored 20 points in a game was three years ago against UWGB, when Akil Mitchell and Joe Harris had 20 apiece.  I bet it happens again this season.


spinozista said...

The Cal game last night has amped up every bad vibe I've had so far about this season. Something's not right.

KP said...

Tobey's only problem is his motor, or lack thereof. He needs a little Bronco time - effort!! That being said, it is problematic when others are hustling and he is standing in place. To see a little bit of fire going into the ACC rotation was encouraging, but I am not sure it is sustainable. Let's hope he has seen the light.

pezhoo said...

Dude, are you okay? Do we need to send the police by for a wellness check? Write something about how things are going to be okay. I/we need some calming words about now.