"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Sunday, November 22, 2009

3 big positives, 3 concerns vs. Grambling

Last year I wrote that I didn’t like having so many cupcakes on the schedule because no matter how bad MU beat them it dropped our RPI ranking substantially. Well, the 87-41 win over Grambling State will drop MUs RPI ranking in the final analysis, but after watching my first MU action of the season in person, I actually believe it was a good idea to start this season with four cupcakes.


I thought there were three very positive developments in this win:

1. PATIENCE. This game taught our young guys patience. I discovered when writing the preview on the game that Grambling rarely stole the ball. It became evident why in watching their defense, as they play hard but NEVER take chances on jumping out in a passing lane. The result was they packed the defense in and frustrated MU, still holding a 6-4 lead five minutes into the game. MU adjusted and exploded for points the rest of the way.

2. CONFIDENCE. I believe at this point the most important thing we can do for the team is to give a team of newcomers confidence. I was most excited tonight about having 7-foot-2 Youssoupha Mbao take the court for the first time, and he had a nice blocked shot, an assist, drew a foul and sank the first free throw, and even showed a good ability to pop out 20 feet from the basket on defense and get back. Jimmy Butler and Lazar Hayward will always be awesome, but this game enabled Chris Otule to hit a couple of shots, David Cubillan to play great defense and grab five steals, Darius Johnson-Odom to put in a wild but exciting 13 points off the bench with no fear, Mo Acker to thread four assists, Joe Fulce to show some shooting range and his full athleticism back, Jeronne Maymon to look like a man among boys for his five rebounds and Erik Williams to finally get going with a nice dunk. Shoot, even Robert Frozena had a three-point play.

3. DWIGHT BUYCKS. But the newcomer I was most impressed with was Dwight Buycks. I found myself watching him off the ball like I used to watch Dominic James. After grabbing an offensive board and scoring 22 seconds into the game, he simply shut down Grambling’s attempts to grab backdoor rebounds. This team had been very effective last year and this at turning offensive boards to points, but last night they grabbed only 4 offensive rebounds against 30 defensive rebounds for MU. Buycks simply shut if off by grabbing 8 rebounds in the first 15 minutes of the game and boxing out the guards trying to score backdoor points. By half time he added 10 points as well, and then he did something neat. With a double-double virtually assured, he became very unselfish and started dishing instead to get other people involved, handing out five second half assists to finish just short of a triple-double at 10 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.


However, this was a weak opponent, basically four guards and a forward, and there were three smaller negatives.

1. TURNOVERS. This was not an aggressive defense, and most of the 13 turnovers were the result of sloppy or hot dog play.

2. LAZAR’S FOUL TROUBLE. The game marked the second time in three games that Lazar has played less than half the game due to getting four fouls, as he scored just 12 points. Against Centenary he scored only 9 points in 18 minutes due to four fouls. I am concerned that against clearly inferior players he needs to foul. The 28-point performance against Maryland Eastern-Shore is what we need to see.

3. FAILURE TO CONTROL OPPOSING STAR. I wrote in the preview that 5-foot-10 guard Ariece Perkis was clearly the one star of this team. Everyone on MUs team had to know it, and yet he put in another 20 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. After being lit up for 25 points by Centenary’s top player, I am concerned we aren’t able to better control the opponent's top player.


While MU looks good in the early going, part of the question ahead is how much the Big East has fallen off of last year’s incredible level of play. While I always root for the Big East against other foes, I’ve found myself hoping that player departures from other teams will give MU a chance to move into the top half of the conference.

While the season is young, the Big East is looking as good as last year so far. The conference has the best record of any conference, with only the ACC being anywhere close. The Big East also has the most impressive wins with three wins over ranked opponents (Syracuse over UNC and California and Louisville over Dayton) and the only two losses being teams in the lower part of the Big East to teams expected to finish in the upper part of the SEC (Providence to Alabama and South Florida to South Carolina).

The following is where the 6 “BCS” conferences rank in winning percentage so far, with records followed by parenthesis on their record against other “BCS” conferences and which of those teams they beat):

1. Big East, 44-2, 90% (4-2, Syr >UNC, USF>UVa, Syr > California, Lville>Arkansas)
2. ACC, 37-4, 90% (1-2, win UNC>OSU)
3. SEC 32-7, 82% (4-1, wins Mississippi > Kansas State, South Carolina>USF, Bama>Providence, Mississippi>Indiana)
4. Big Ten 24-8, 75% (1-2, win OSU>California)
5. Big Twelve 33-13, 72% (1-1, win Texas Tech>Oregon State)
6. Pac Ten 23-10, 70% (0-3, no wins)

Looks like another tough gauntlet once we get to Big East play, but so far, so good.


Unknown said...

The BEAST is a daunting challenge. But I am pretty confident Marquette strikes a significnant amount of respect in any opponent we face. I am pretty sure no one looks forward to playing us except to see a hell of a battle. Go Marquette!

JohnPudner said...

Agreed, and the 44-2 Big East record is actually 96%. Sorry for the 3 a.m. typo in the original.