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Posts Tagged ‘defense’

There Are NO Goats Here

Posted by naterb on January 17, 2009

 

Don't make him your scape goat.
Don’t make him your scape goat.

Despite USC constantly chipping away at Arizona’s lead, the Wildcats looked as if they were headed for their first road win of the season – until Nic Wise was called for an intentional foul away from the ball with 3:50 left on the clock. From that moment on 7 of USC’s final 11 points came from the free throw line – including the game winner with 1.2 seconds remaining. It would be easy to find a scape goat to pin another one-point loss onto, but in reality that’s ridiculous.

Yes, the officiating was terrible with blown calls left and right, the worst of which the intentional foul on Wise, but Arizona still controlled the game despite the officiating. Sure, Jordan Hill missed a late-game free throw, but he never should’ve received the inbounds pass, and Budinger shouldn’t have been in-bounding the ball. Nic Wise definitely shouldn’t have thrown the ball away on the Wildcats final possession, but he shouldn’t have even had the ball in that situation. Not a single one of these things should have happened, but they did. That’s just the misfortune the ‘Cats have had on the road this year.

This was the best performance on the road the ‘Cats have had all season long. They controlled most of the game and held the lead for almost all of it. I commend the ‘Cats for that, but it all came unraveled in the final 3:50 putting the ‘Cats in a position they never ought to have been in. So blame Budinger, Hill, Wise, Horne, Johnson, Fogg, the officials and everyone else if you want, but to pin it on one play or one player is bogus.

The Wildcats did a nice job making adjustments throughout the game. When Budinger was face guarded, they ran him off staggered double-screens to get him open looks. When Jordan Hill picked up his second foul with 9 minutes remaining in the first half, the ‘Cats continued to fight by scoring 19 more points before halftime. After giving up 11 first-half offensive rebounds, they cranked down and only allowed four more in the second half. I was very impressed by the overall effort of the Wildcats tonight, but it’s the worst way for a great game to end – with a one-point loss.

The Good:

Chase Budinger – Budinger was aggressive tonight, and the ‘Cats looked to get him the ball for most of the night. While facing an intense defense designed with him as the focal point Budinger came up big for the ‘Cats with 19 points on 60% shooting. A game like that against the nations 5th best defense is what reminds us that despite his slumps, he has the talent to become a solid player in the NBA.

Jamelle Horne: Horne was a major contributor and a big reason why Arizona had a shot at pulling off their first road win tonight. I’m sure you’re probably mad that I didn’t put him down in the “Ugly” section because of his last second foul that led to the game-winning free throw by Hackett. To judge Horne’s performance based on a ticky-tack foul is an injustice to what he did. Horne is a major reason why USC only got 4 offensive rebounds in the second half. He was aggressive going after the ball even leapt higher than Taj Gibson for rebounds on consecutive plays. Horne did exactly what we needed him to, scored (8 points), was active defensively (2 steals), and was crashing the boards (7 rebounds). One mistake doesn’t change the fact that he was a major contributor and a big reason why Arizona was in a position to win this game.

The Bad:

Simple Mistakes: I’ve already listed them above. Budinger in-bounding the ball, Hill missing a crunch-time free throw, Wise turning the ball over, as well as a shot clock violation. These were signs that this team is struggling and has youth and an interim coach at the helm. They are all easily correctable. Not one of these plays single-handedly lost the game for the ‘Cats (nor did Horne’s foul) – but a culmination of them and the refs was enough to shoot the Wildcats in the paw.

The Ugly:

Many fans’ reaction to Jamelle Horne following his late-game foul. He was in a good defensive position, staying in front of Hackett, and was called for a tacky foul. Yes, it was heart-breaking. But if I’m Horne, I’m not embarrassed or upset with myself for that play. He was where he was supposed to be, doing what he was supposed to do and got called for a cheap foul when the ref should’ve swallowed his whistle. Horne wasn’t chasing Hackett down and going Superman-style on him. He didn’t clobber him, and he didn’t foul him in the act of shooting. He was playing defense!

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Posted in Arizona Wildcats, Game Recap, NCAA Basketball, PAC-10 Basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Take it Personal: Arizona @ USC

Posted by naterb on January 17, 2009

The threat level of Arizona’s NCAA Tournament streak coming to an end has been heightened to critical after a blow-out loss to UCLA on Thursday. It’s not the single game that has put it there, it is a large accumulation of things. Ineffective defense, poor shooting and decision making, mostly non-existent bench players, points given up in transition, and a big donut in the road wins column. Arizona will get a chance to put a vertical number in the left column when limp into the Galen Center later today.

I’m going to keep this preview short, as in my mind there is really only one pressing issue for Arizona that will make or break any remaining hope for an NCAA Tournament bid. I’m sure you can figure what that is, but we’ll get there in a minute.

USC has shown significant strides over the more recent portion of the season. They hung tough against UCLA, and beat ASU – which should be no surprise to anyone that really pays attention to PAC-10 basketball. Sure they lost to OSU, but teams have bad games, mental lapses, or get caught looking ahead – don’t expect that to happen tonight at the Galen Center. You can expect Tim Floyd to have a defensive scheme to throw at Budinger, Hill, and Wise. Most likely a triangle and two with Hill and Budinger receiving heightened attention throughout the game.

Tim Floyd is known for catering his defensive schemes to individual schools based upon their strengths and weaknesses. Because of it the Trojans are ranked the ninth best defense according to pomeroy.com. They have built that ranking by being the 5th best team in the nation in blocked shots with 5.2 per game, and hold teams to 39% shooting from the field. DeMar DeRozan is being a very tough defender for the Trojans, but his inexperience may cause him problems against Budinger.

Offensively the Trojans are led by Dwight Lewis, Taj Gibson, and Daniel Hackett. Hackett is a tough-as-nails player who gets in opponents faces, dives for loose balls, and leaves it all on the court. But despite shooting over 51% as a team the Trojans have shown signs of inconsistency due to selfish play. The Trojans average 15.6 turnovers per game, only Oregon with 15.7 turns the ball over more in the conference, and have a 0.87 a/to! Their lack of cohesiveness as a team has led to some late game problems when the game is on the line. The Trojans’ turnover problems bring me to the pressing issue I alluded to earlier and my keys to the game.

Keys to the Game:

  1. Defense, Defense, Defense (Part 1)- USC, as I mentioned is the 5th best defense in the nation. Arizona… well… 111 before the thumping by UCLA on Tuesday. Arizona’s “Claw” defense is so ineffective the Wildcats may as well be sitting in lawn chairs while on the defensive end. Arizona needs to crank up the pressure and make some changes. I don’t care if it is going to a man defense, a 3-2 zone, or a 1-3-1. Just find something that works and do it!
    Projected Need: Force USC to shoot less than 40% on the night, and less than 35% from beyond the arc.
  2. Defense, Defense, Defense (Part 2) – Not only do they need to find a defense that works, they need to find one that can give them more opportunities to get out and run. The ‘Cats have been drastically outscored in points off turnovers during their three of their five conference games, and in five of their six losses of the season.
    Projected Need: Force USC into 15 turnovers, and limit their transition points to fewer than 8.
  3. Defense, Defense, Defense (Part 3) – It’s not just Arizona’s lack of perimeter defense that has been appalling, it’s how easily teams are able to break the zone defense and get the ball for wide-open jumpers around the free throw line. If that isn’t bad enough, they are allowing opponents to dribble penetrate past them which leads to offensive rebounds as Hill is forced to defend the ball leaving the weak-side rebound up for grabs.
    Projected Needs: Hill 6 defensive rebounds, Limit Gibson to 3 or fewer offense rebounds
  4. Battle on the Blocks: Jordan Hill and Taj Gibson, the conferences best two big men, will be going head to head. Gibson leads the conference in blocked shots (3.1 per game), and is second in rebounding (10.3 per game). Meanwhile, Hill is second in the conference in blocked shots (2.3 per game) and first in rebounding (11.8 per game). The Wildcats have gone away from Hill when he had a significant advantage over each team in conference play this year, they better not do the same tonight.
    Projected Need: Hill 16 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocked shots, 35 minutes
  5. Take it Personal: The Wildcats have seemed to have a ho-hum attitude ever since conference play began. I know they haven’t given up on Pennell & Co., but they certainly aren’t firing on all cylinders and aren’t playing with emotion. Arizona needs to take it personal if they want to keep their slipping chances for an NCAA Tournament bid within grasp. Defensively they need to be more aggressive. They need to take the shots they are given, and they need to play with a fire in their eyes as if this were the game that could burst their bubble.

 

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, Game Preview, NCAA Basketball, PAC-10 Basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Game Preview: Arizona @ UCLA

Posted by naterb on January 14, 2009

tipoff“You can beat UCLA in Pauley Pavilion.” Those are the words that Assistant Coach Mike Dunlap has for the Wildcats every day during practice. The ‘Cats are hearing the message and by all accounts appear to be buying into it. UCLA has heard Dunlap’s message as well, and are preparing for Arizona’s best shot, even if the Bruins’ fans aren’t.

 It’s been nearly three years since the Wildcats beat the Bruins – and it just so happened the last win came at Pauley Pavilion. Since that February game in 2005, both teams have had complete roster turnovers with the exception of UCLA’s Josh Shipp. That shows just how dominant the Bruins have been over Arizona the past few years. As an Arizona fan, that’s a tough pill to swallow.

So after seven straight games and almost three years, what is it going to take to make Dunlap’s words a reality? Let’s cover the obvious fan retorts- UCLA injuries, miracles, a lucky night, UCLA looking past Arizona, and any other number of would-be post-game excuses would all be pathetic reasons for victory at Pauley. But I don’t think that’s what Dunlap and the Wildcats have in mind. So we’ll break down UCLA’s counterparts to Arizona, followed by the Keys to the Game.

Point Guard: Nic Wise vs. Darren Collison

Collison is the better guard here, hands down. Collison is a lightning quick point guard with great court vision, the ability to shoot the long jumper or create his own shot, and plays very smart basketball. Collison is only 6-0 (2-inches taller than Wise) but is an aggressive defender with long arms that menace point guards into poor decisions.

Nic Wise was not the primary point guard for Arizona last season, and struggled to find his niche under Kevin O’Neill while Jerryd Bayless was in the game. Wise, while not known for his on-ball defense, has shown improvement and is a master at dropping down into the paint to strip the big men on the low block. While Wise has shown improvement in his decision making and shot selection over the course of the year, he still has a long way to go to finding that sweet spot between being aggressive and allowing the game to come to him. As a playmaker and the floor general, that is a key element of his game that the Wildcats need him to pick up on.

Last Year: Nic Wise played 1 game with 12 points, 2 assists, and 3 turnovers

Darren Collison averaged 14 points, 4 assists, 2 turnovers in two games against Arizona, but had 16 points, 7 assists, and 1 turnover while at Pauley.

Shooting Guard: Kyle Fogg vs. Jrue Holiday

Freshman vs. Freshman here. Fogg and Holiday have both become the best on-ball defenders their respective teams have to offer. Holiday is the more athletic of the two and takes defensive challenges personally. In fact, he even asked to guard DeMar DeRozan in the USC game after DeRozan got off to a good start. Subsequently DeRozan only scored five more points with Holiday on him. Chances are that mentality will find Holiday guarding Chase Budinger instead, with Shipp defending Fogg.

Holiday, unlike Fogg, is an offensive threat. He has a decent long-range shot and can work his way to the rim. Fogg, however, can shoot long range but has been apprehensive about taking the open look far too frequently. Credit Fogg, however, for continually showing growth in every area of his game, and finding ways to score and collect loose balls.

Small Forward: Chase Budinger vs. Josh Shipp

Shipp is a lean athletic shooting guard, that like all of Howland’s players, is trademarked by in-your-face defense. Shipp is an explosive player who has the capability of dropping 20 points on a team that allows him to get into a nice flow. Shipp has great career numbers against the ‘Cats averaging 13.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2 steals each contest. Shipp likes to get out into the open court and run in transition, so a big part of stopping him will be stopping transition.

Budinger isn’t nearly as talented defensively as Shipp is, but he is the more explosive player. If Budinger is assertive on the offensive end he becomes difficult for anybody to guard. Since the probability of Holiday guarding Budinger is pretty high, the ‘Cats will need to look to find Budinger slashing to the bucket and posting up the smaller Holiday. Budinger is due for a big game against a tough opponent this year, and it would be great to see him get it against a team that he is still winless against in his collegiate career. My train of thought has always been that Budinger doesn’t show up to play against the Bruins’ aggressive defense – but I crunched his career numbers and was surprised at what I saw.

Budinger’s Stat Line: 14 ppg, 40% fg, 5.5 rebounds, 2.75 assists, 2.75 turnovers

Power Forward: Jamelle Horne vs. Nikola Dragovic

James Keefe has been the typical starter for the Bruins this season, in part because Howland considered him the better defender. But Howland said that Dragovic has closed that defensive gap, and is a bigger offensive threat so he’ll get his second start of the season against Arizona. Dragovic has performed well his previous two games, and has filled the role player spot well. Dragovic has the capability of knocking down the occasional three-pointer, but considering he only shoots 25% from beyond the arc, Horne should let him make one before stepping out on him.

Jamelle Horne is the more athletic of the two players, and plays a lot bigger than his 6’7” frame would indicate. Horne did not have an opportunity for significant minutes against UCLA under Kevin O’Neill a year ago. So Horne’s athleticism and hustle may prove to be an ace in the hole for the ‘Cats.

Center: Jordan Hill vs. Alfred Aboya

Aboya is a thug on the inside. He provided a different defensive look for UCLA last year when they would move Kevin Love off of Hill. This year, the change in personnel guarding Hill won’t make as much of an impact. Hill is a superior interior player than any Bruin. Hill will need to play under control and avoid offensive fouls, and picking up tacky fouls when trying to block shots of penetrating guards.

Aboya is a tough defender and a decent shot blocker for UCLA, but his big threat is junk stats. Aboya hustles for loose balls and rebounds, he’s very active on the offensive glass, and like Jamelle Horne, can pick up junk stats with some regularity.

The Bench:

UCLA has a much deeper bench than the Wildcats, and can get productive minutes from three players off the bench, and two more can provide mistake free minutes to help the Bruins starters get rested. The key bench players for the Bruins are Michael Roll and James Keefe.

Roll is an improved version of Zane Johnson. He can shoot the three, and has the tendency of finding himself open around the elbow or baseline with good looks. Roll won’t impress you with his athleticism or rebounding, but he’s a smart player with a nice stroke.

Keefe isn’t much of an offensive threat, but expect to see him come in to log some defensive minutes against Jordan Hill. Keefe is a solid defender, but will likely struggle against the taller, more athletic Hill.

Arizona’s bench has been iffy at best this season. We’ve seen erratic production from Judkins and Lavendar. Zane Johnson has stepped up his game and become more aggressive the past few games, and a continuing that effort and results will be vital for Arizona if they want to pull of the road win at Pauley.

Injuries:

Arizona – None

UCLA – Malcolm Lee, another key reserve for UCLA, is listed as probable. Freshman center J’Mison Morgan is doubtful

Head to Head:

UCLA is deeper, more athletic, and better defensive team that Arizona is. But they aren’t infallible, and they aren’t as good as they’ve been the previous 2 years. The ‘Cats, although not as talented as last year, are playing better team basketball and when things are going well believe they have a shot against anybody. It won’t be easy to pull off a road win in Pauley against a great team like UCLA, but it isn’t unrealistic to think they can do it.

 

Head-to-Head

Head-to-Head

Keys to the Game:

  1. Secure the Package: UCLA is averaging over 9 steals a game behind their in-your-face perimeter defense. The ‘Cats need to play smart, controlled basketball and limit their mistakes because they won’t be able to keep up with UCLA for 40 minutes of transition basketball.
    Projected Need: Limit turnovers to 12 or fewer, while forcing UCLA into at least 10.
  2. Limit Collison: Collison is the drive train for this UCLA offense. If they can limit his ability to pass and find open teammates the ‘Cats will be headed in the right direction. Just as with the Gonzaga game, point guard play is going to be key.
    Projected Need: Limit Collison to 5 or fewer assists, while forcing him into 3 or more turnovers.
  3. Break-out Budinger: Budinger has been handcuffed the past few games, and more importantly against defenses tailored to limit him. Budinger has decent numbers against ULA with one bad game, and one great game to show for his two years. Coming off the series against the Oregon Schools, Budinger appears to be heading out of his slump and due for a big game in the near future.
    Projected Needs: Budinger – 16+ points, 45 FG%, 3 3-pointers, 3 assists, 2 or fewer turnovers.
  4. Exploit the Advantage: Jordan Hill has no match to be found on UCLA’s roster. But, as with Oregon, perimeter defense can limit the touches that Hill gets. The ‘Cats need to find Hill on the low block or within 8 feet throughout the game.
    Projected Needs: Hill – 18+ points, 35 minutes playing time, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, 75% FT%.
  5. Four through Six: Arizona needs Jamelle Horne, Kyle Fogg, and Zane Johnson each to step up big in this game. Between them they need to apply defensive pressure, scrap for loose balls, steal some rebounds, and do all those intangibles you expect from role players. The needed impact of the role players in this game can not be understated, as they are likely the most vital part of Arizona’s upset hopes. If they can step up big, Arizona has a honest chance, if they don’t it could prove to be a long night for the ‘Cats.
    Projected Needs: Horne, Fogg, Johnson combined – 24 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, less than 5 turnovers.

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, Game Preview, NCAA Basketball, PAC-10 Basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Game Preview: OSU @ UA

Posted by naterb on January 10, 2009

Even if the Beavers fail to beat another opponent for the rest of the season they can have a successful season. Craig Robinson’s and OSU’s goals are modest this season – 1) Improve upon their 0-18 conference record from a year ago. 2) Show growth as a team every game. By those standards, the Beavers have already had successful season. Don’t expect them to stop there, however. After the USC game, the Beavers are starting to believe that they can contest and beat anybody in the conference. That’s a big change from a year ago.
Calvin Haynes has been a monster off the bench with 15.7 ppg and should find himself with a starting role in the near future.

Calvin Haynes has been a monster off the bench with 15.7 ppg and should find himself with a starting role in the near future.

Craig Robinson has changed a lot of things in Oregon State since his arrival in Corvallis – even if the overall record and box scores don’t show it. The Beavers are still giving up more points than they score on a nightly average, they still have the 2nd worst turnover rater in the conference, and have been out-rebounded by over 3 boards a game. But there is a swagger that can be seen in their step now. A sign of confidence and a glimmer of intensity that was lost during Jay John’s final season. The players are buying into Robinson’s Princeton style offense and are getting better with every game – evidenced by the fact that they closed out their non-conference schedule by winning four of their final five games before pulling off the upset over USC.

 Perhaps the result of those games not only has to do with Robinson, but the impact of Calvin Haynes. After being academically ineligible for the fall semester, Haynes had played during the last seven games and has become the teams leading scorer with 15.7 a contest – that’s 8th in the PAC-10. Haynes has been coming off the bench for the Beavers since his return, but considering his scoring average and that he’s the 2nd best 3-point shooter on the team, he should be starting soon enough. Haynes is an impact player that believes in Robinson and his system. Things like that are what have the Beavers heading in the right direction after truly hitting rock-bottom a year ago.

The Beavers’ new swagger and confidence has them believing they can contend with any team in the conference and win, which means teams can no longer sleep on the Beavers. Despite the swagger and effort these kids have and the trust they’re putting into Robinson, the USC win will continue to prove as the exception rather than the rule. After all, you don’t go from 0-18 to competing for the PAC-10 title by changing your coach and bringing in three recruits.

The Beavers are still being out-rebounded by over 3 a game, outscored by 1.5 a game – against mediocre competition, and have a negative-four turnover ratio. The results have improved slightly, but are still comparable to a year ago. But the swagger is new. The confidence is new. And the style is new. The Beavers are pointed in the right direction already, and its been less than a year.

Key’s to the Game:

 

  • Improve the Defense: The Ducks believed they could get a shot off anytime they wanted against Arizona – and that’s something that needs to change if they hope to compete with UCLA, CAL, and ASU for the conference title. The Beavers are not a solid 3-point shooting team, but are good enough. Even Roeland Schaftenaar can pop out and knock down the occasional three-pointer.
    Projected Need: Force the Beavers into 14 or more turnovers while shooting less than 40% from the field and beyond the arc.
  • Get an Education: Nic Wise needs to get his head up and see the floor again. During the last two games Wise has had a significant increase in over-penetrating and not reacting to the collapsing defense quick enough. The result has been a lot of offensive fouls and excessive turnovers. I would like to see Wise, for the time being, scoring less and focusing more on his assists and turnovers.
    Projected Need: Wise 7 assists, 2 or fewer turnovers
  • Chase Budinger: Budinger got it going within 8 feet against Oregon, but that’s not enough for me to believe he is out of his slump yet. Budinger needs to continue to be aggressive and get to the rim. But I’d like to see more of those long-range shots starting to drop too. Budinger has had one good game, but I believe it takes two back-to-back to really break a slump. Time to break it, Budinger.
    Projected Need: Budinger 40+% shooting, 6 free throw attempts, 3 3-pointers, 16 points
  • Jordan Hill: For the first time since the Gonzaga game, Hill failed to record a double-double against Oregon. Keep in mind he was only 1 point away as he was hustling and playing hard, despite the ‘Cats not looking to get the ball to him. The Beavers have several big bodies to throw at Hill which should make it difficult, but they aren’t much more than big bodies. Hill should be able to dominate inside
    Projected Need: Get Hill 12 good looks at the basket. Just 12. He’ll do the rest I have no doubt.

 

 Princeton Offense: Every now and then it helps to have a refresher – and for some they’ve never learned – so I’ve posted two links found on ESPN about the fundamentals of the Princeton Offense. It has been split into two sections, the low block and the high post. Includes some good visuals as well. I hope that at least one person can find them useful.

Part 1 (The Low Block)
Part 2 (The High Post)

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, Game Preview, NCAA Basketball, PAC-10 Basketball, Sports: General | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »