PAC-10 Basketball

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Posts Tagged ‘slump’

Oregon's Inexperience Leads to Cats Win

Posted by naterb on January 9, 2009



Budinger dunks over Michael Dunigan

Budinger dunks over Michael Dunigan

Michael Dunigan turning his back on Chase Budinger during a first-half in-bound play is the epitome of what is wrong with the Ducks this season. The Ducks aren’t a bad team with players who have no business competing in the PAC-10. By-and-large, however, they are a team filled with young players who have been thrust into key roles too early in their college careers. The Wildcats exploited this and despite their less-than-stellar performance rode it on their way to a 67-52 route of the Ducks at McKale Center.

The Good:

Russ Pennell and the Wildcats did a nice job of getting Chase Budinger good looks at the basket by having him along the baseline and making strong cuts towards the basket. The result was several dunks, lay-ups, and short-ranged jumpers. Budinger was also found in transition on numerous occasions. I’m not ready to declare Budinger out of his slump as of yet, especially in light of his 1-5 shooting from beyond the arc, but the quality looks he got against the Ducks is a great way to help him find his rhythm again. The mental lapses by Budinger, as well as the over-flow mentality onto the rest of the team seems to have dissipated as the ‘Cats regained some of that swagger and confidence back throughout the game.

The biggest indicator of the teams reaction to Budinger starting to come out of his slump is Jamelle Horne. Following one of his worst performance of the year (2 points, 5 fouls, 19 minutes), Horne returned to progressing as an offensive weapon and impact player with 15 points and 4 rebounds while playing 36 minutes. I believe the reason for this is because Horne was playing within himself and making good decisions rather than trying to do too much to compensate for Budinger’s slump.

A few other things I was impressed with was Arizona’s ability to counter the tempo and defensive changes that Ernie Kent and the Ducks threw at the ‘Cats. There were a few lapses and mistakes caused by these changes, but on the whole the Wildcats did a nice job of transitioning from one look to another. I was also impressed with Zane Johnson’s first-half performance off the bench. Johnson, who has seen inconsistent minutes for the ‘Cats, came in and grabbed 2 rebounds while posting 7 points over a stretch when the ‘Cats had begun to stagnate. With some more experience and progression I can see Johnson turning into a great role player like Michael Roll for UCLA.

The Bad:

Jordan Hill did not record a double-double since December 14th against Gonzaga. Considering the defensive efforts of the Ducks and Michael Dunigan, I can’t blame Hill on this. Hill still had a solid game with 9 points and 12 rebounds, but expect more defensive focus on Jordan Hill for the rest of the season. The reason Hill’s failure to reach a double-double lands in the “Bad” category has nothing to do with the effort he made – after all he didn’t hurt the team by finding himself in foul trouble or missing open looks. The problem I have is that when teams focus on Hill defensively, the Cats need to run some set plays to get Hill the ball deep in the paint where even the best center in the nation can’t stop him.

Kyle Fogg’s performance, however, is a result of his own doing. Now, don’t get me wrong I’m not down on the kid, he had an off game which is to be expected from a freshman responsible for a big role. Fogg had several mental lapses leading to turnovers or fouls and failed to become an offensive threat against the Ducks.

The Ugly:

Nic Wise tops the charts of the ugly factor. The Wildcats were less than stellar in protecting the ball, and Wise was the core reason for this. Wise had 7 of Arizona’s 17 turnovers, and many of them were due to over-penetration and offensive fouls. Wise was also caught off guard by in-prompt-to traps across half court by the Ducks. As a veteran point guard, Wise needs to be prepared for these types of traps and be ready to hit the open man as he sees the trap coming at him. With such a sloppy performance by Wise, Arizona was fortunate that they weren’t facing a team clicking on all cylinders.

In conjunction with Wise’s 7 turnovers, the Wildcats committed 17 team turnovers. The Wildcats were fortunate that the Ducks weren’t able to capitalize on the turnovers the way that CAL or Stanford did. But the turnover situation has to be a major concern for the coaching staff. Since the Kansas game the Wildcats have seen their turnover rate rising as they’ve averaged 15.25 turnovers a game and have committed more turnovers than their opponent in the previous 3 games.

Back to the Ducks:

I was very impressed with the talent and glimpses of what the future holds for the Ducks. There were several points where the Ducks upped the defensive pressure resulting in nine steals and a few second-half mini-runs. A big concern for the Ducks has to be Tejuan Porter. Porter needs to be the leader on this team since Catron is completely unproven, but Porter is extremely inconsistent from game-to-game. With Porter being a focal point for the Ducks offense, they will see erratic scoring and inconsistent play from the entire team until he plays with consistency or another player steps up as the leader.

Despite foul trouble thanks to freshmen inexperience, Dunigan has the looks of a future stud for the Ducks. Ernie Kent would be wise to recruit complimentary players to Dunigan’s game as he will be one of the leading centers in the PAC-10 after the departures of Jordan Hill and Jon Brockman.

Game Highlights Video (Including the inbound play where Dunigan turns his back on Budinger)


Posted in Arizona Wildcats, Game Recap, NCAA Basketball, PAC-10 Basketball, Sports: General | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Should a Coach Bench Their Stars?

Posted by naterb on January 7, 2009


“Uh-oh!” My two-year-old son’s words resonated in my ears as they broke the silence I was enjoying while drinking my morning coffee. After setting down my coffee and getting out of my comfortable leather chair I walked into the bathroom where my son stood there sheepishly after dropping my wife’s new earrings in the toilet. He knew he was in trouble, and rightfully so. Before I could say a word he looked up and said “I sorry.”

As a father one of the things I have learned quickly is that when your child acts up there needs to be swift consequences for the trouble they are causing. Whether they’re pulling the dogs tail, flushing mommy’s brand new earrings down the toilet, throwing a temper tantrum because you don’t get them that new toy, or just being outright defiant, there has to be structured and appropriate consequences for the poor decisions that they are making.


For a basketball coach and his players it is the same. If a player is showing up late for practice, fighting with teammates, breaking team rules, or not following instructions during practice or games, the player needs to see direct and immediate consequences for his actions. Nobody is above the rules or the consequences.


Russ Pennell demonstrated that by benching Nic Wise and Jordan Hill for being a few moments late for practice.


Lute Olson did it several times, one of the most notable was when he benched Pete Williams, Joe Turner and Morgan Taylor for missing curfew before a big game. After the rules were broken, Olson benched the three stars for the entire first half in a late-season match-up with UCLA.


Ultimately what causes the coach to bench a player and a parent to discipline their child is the fact that that the player/child is hurting themselves and those that count on them. When players aren’t hustling, like Jamelle Horne earlier this season, they’re hurting their team by not giving 100%. Pennell laid the consequences out by taking away Horne’s starting spot. Horne got the message and has since been averaging around 10 points and 10 rebounds a game.

But what do you do when a player isn’t hustling because they’re frustrated with their performance? That’s the exact case Pennell is dealing with in regards to Chase Budinger who is currently mired in a four-game slump. Frankly, benching him isn’t the answer. When deciding what action to take with a player and the negative effects they’re having on the team, you have to consider the root. If Pennell were to bench Budinger it would only amplify the problem by demoralizing Chase’s confidence even further. So, while benching a player is often a good solution to lack of effort or poor decision making, it isn’t the case here. The only solution that Pennell has within his means is to run a few set plays early in the next game to find Budinger coming off a screen or rolling towards the basket.

Coaching, as with parenting, requires appropriate responses to player/child problems. Occasionally a player must be benched, suspended, forced to run extra wind sprints in practice, or even be kicked off the team all together. Coaches have to take careful consideration as to the effects of the issue at hand and the consequences they implement.

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, NCAA Basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Game Recap: Arizona @ Stanford

Posted by naterb on January 5, 2009

Just a quick side note before I recap the Arizona/Stanford game:

One thing about me that you will learn, is that I always want to focus on the positive things surrounding the Wildcats. My main reason for doing this is because these kids on the floor are not paid professionals, and a majority of them will never make it to the professional level. Sure they’re being compensated by the University to play by getting their tuitions paid for in return of putting on that uniform. I know that there are a lot of fans and media members that don’t view it this way, but I do. Call it the silver-lining mentality or being an optimist if you like, but the bottom line is that there is almost always something positive to right about.

My tendency to focus on the positives in a game is really being challenged with the recap of this game. I owe it to you as a reader who is taking your time to get my opinion, and learn what transpired during the Wildcats’ game against Stanford. So I’ll try and focus on the good things as much as I can but it won’t be easy because this game was filled with a lot of bad performances.


Yeah, thats about right.

Yeah, that's about right.

The Wildcat’s 16-point loss to Stanford was the worst loss at Maples since February 7, 1983, a season before Olson arrived in Tucson and the ‘Cats went 1-17 in conference play. This is also the first time that the Wildcats have started the conference 0-2 since the ‘04-‘05 season when they opened with losses to ASU and CAL. The margin of defeat, while disappointing, isn’t nearly as discouraging as the performance by the Wildcats as a whole. Sure, Chase Budinger found himself with double-digits again, and the ‘Cats shot 48% while Stanford had 44%, and Jordan Hill and Nic Wise seemed to be able to score almost at will. So why was the performance so disappointing?

The ‘Cats never really showed up tonight, and failed to find any sort of rhythm all night long. They found early in the first half that they could score almost at will inside the paint as their first 10 points came from dunks, lay-ups, or short jumpers. Jordan Hill exploited the under-manned Stanford frontcourt to the tune of 13 points and 7 rebounds in the first half. Unfortunately, after the first half the ‘Cats stopped looking inside with Jordan Hill only getting four touches for four points in the second half. I’m not understanding how a team with a significant and distinct advantage would not use it, it simply boggles my mind.

Another missed opportunity was Nic Wise’s ability to get past any Stanford defender almost at will. Sure he went for 13 points in the second half, but he would only take advantage of his quickness every fourth or fifth possession. They ought to have kept running the same plays, Wise penetrating and finding Hill or getting a lay-up, until Stanford found a way to stop them. By going away from that and trying to get other players who are playing scared or are currently incapable of throwing it into the ocean, Arizona effectively gave up their advantage and handed the game to Stanford on a silver platter.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing Stanford here, in fact despite Stanford appearing semi-lazy they still managed to fight of any attempts Arizona could muster by going on mini-runs to keep the game out of reach. They only shot 34.8 percent from beyond the arc, but it seemed like they would always hit them when the momentum would start to shift – and a ridiculous amount of them came from the corner. I commend Stanford on that, but also am appalled at Arizona’s lack of effort on the defensive end. It was down-right horrid.

The ugliest part of the game wasn’t the fact that they didn’t exploit their advantages, or shut clamp down the perimeter defense – even if Stanford did only shoot 34%. Simply put, the ugliest part of the game was that the Wildcats were playing outside of themselves and their roles, and they were playing frustrated tonight. While I commend Jamelle Horne for his hustle tonight, he reminded me of Jordan Hill because of the inexcusable fouls. Horne knew that Budinger was slumping and was attempting to step up and fill the void. Unfortunately, rather than sticking to what Horne does best, he tried to do too much and hurt the team by fouling out with nearly six minutes remaining.. Zane Johnson also played outside himself when he put the ball on the floor for consecutive plays and picked up an offensive foul.

When Budinger’s inability to score and be an offensive threat first started, players were playing within themselves and their capabilities. Horne posted a double-double, Fogg had a fantastic game, and everything was okay. Now as Budinger’s and the team’s frustration level is rising because of this slump, we’re seeing players trying to do too much and not combining hustle and effort with smart play. That’s a problem that needs to be addressed by Pennell and Co. in a huge manner, and for the time being “The Big Three” has become “The Big Two” and that’s something the Wildcats will only find limited success with.

The Good:

  • Jordan Hill tallies a double-double again with 17 points and 16 rebounds

The Bad:

  • Chase Budinger went 4-11 for 12 points
  • Jamelle Horne fouled out with nearly 6 minutes remaining.

The Ugly:

  • Arizona’s 19 turnovers, which ties a season high, led to 16 Stanford points
  • 8 Assists, 19 turnovers = 0.42 team A/TO ratio – that’s just horrendous team basketball.

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, Game Recap, NCAA Basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Budinger: Unrealistic Expectations

Posted by naterb on January 3, 2009

Chase Budinger

Chase Budinger

Over the last six games, not three, we have seen Chase Budinger’s numbers dropping off withstartling consistency. During that span his points per game is down to 13.3 and he’s shooting 30% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc. If you want to categorize this as a slump, and not just a shooting slump, be my guest. Afterall, the first five games of the season he was averaging 23 points a game, and shooting roughly 71% from the field and beyond the arc. Trust me, however, when I say that there is a reason for the, at times, erratic production we’ve seen from Budinger over the past two seasons. That reason is unrealistic expectations on Budinger.

During the past two seasons we have seen two more distinctive inconstincies – a four game anomaly in December ’07, and a three game anomaly in February of ’08. Combined, Budinger averaged 10.5 points, shot 30% from the field, and a meager 18% from beyond the arc. He eclipsed 10 points on three separate occasions with his highest total being 18 points. During that game Budinger shot 36 percent, but managed to get to the line for 9 of those points.

These three slumps, or anomalies if you will, are a product of Budinger trying to be something he’s not – a go-to guy. Sure, Budinger has the capability of dropping upwards of 30 points on a team but we can’t expect that type of production every night. Unfortunately, the team make-up the past two seasons has required that Budinger be a primary weapon on offense. That’s our first mistake is not only expecting him to be that, but demanding it of him because we need that type of player on the floor.

Let’s put Budinger’s play into perspective. Pretend that, heaven forbid, Budinger had gone to UCLA instead of Arizona. Budinger would have offensive weapons around him like Darren Collison, Kevin Love, and Josh Shipp to name but a few. Budinger would start on the wing, but he wouldn’t be the focal point of the offense. Budinger would resume a role player position similar to that of Michael Roll this season. In this context the 10.5 and 13.3 points per game averages wouldn’t be a “slump” but an unexpected surprise.

My point here isn’t that Michael Roll is as good as Budinger is, or that Budinger would be averaging that – chances are he’d be averaging closer to 14 or 16 points per game as a role player. My point is that Budinger has the player attributes of a role player, not a leading scorer or primary offensive weapon.

Still don’t believe me? Take a look at his freshman year and you won’t find a single slump. Sure he had a few games where he didn’t pour in the points, but you can’t find a single stretch that was marked by poor shooting and poor offensive production. Budinger was not the go-to guy on the team – that belonged to Marcus Williams – and he had a good offensive cast around him with Shakur, Radenovic, Williams, and McClellan. Of course, it helped that he had Olson coaching that year too.

That’s the second unrealistic expectation we have on Budinger, and don’t even realize it. Budinger has shown little growth in the last two seasons – under the coaching of O’Neill and Pennell. Don’t get me wrong, they each had/have their strengths as coaches and have developed Budinger a little bit. We’re not expecting a small development out of Budinger, we’re expecting him to transform from a role player into a leading scorer. Should we really expect that a couple of interim coaches are capable of that type of player transformation?

Bottom line is this, until we can step outside the performances and see the scenario in its full context we will continue to be disappointed in Budinger. Budinger is NBA quality, but he’s not your go-to guy, and he doesn’t have the skill set to be the focal point offensively or defensively. If you want to be disappointed in something, be disappointed in the circumstance that has put Budinger into a role he was never meant to be in, not in Budinger himself.

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, NCAA Basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »