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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Attacking The Zone

So Syracuse played zone defense the whole game.

I remember writing to a friend in March of 2007

(If Coach Cal wants to play the dribble drive motion) "he has to teach his team how to attack the zone, and they have to accomplish it so successfully that their opponents will want to go back to man to man. And it's real easy to attack a zone. I got a DVD for my son recently, about play in the Post. They had a chapter about how to attack the zone. Simple stuff. You position your men depending upon what kind of zone you see. You attack the seams with precise passing. You move the ball and not your feet. You don't dribble into the zone. Your offensive players make their move before or after the zone moves, not with it. In the post, you screen and seal your defender, before the ball rotates to your side."

Or you pop the three point shots. But then you have to make them. If Coach Cal insists on attacking the zone by taking three point shots, then he needs to be playing his best three point shooters. That would be Robert Sallie and Preston Laird.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Memphis vs. UALR Comment by Brett Speer

By Brett Speer

Sitting amongst my fellow basketball starved students, minutes before tip off, I stop and look around to take it all in. In the midst of a season that has so far not gone the way Coach Calipari had hoped, I still notice the "hope" that every tiger fan has before a game. After tip off fear started to set in as Pierre Henderson-Niles turned over the ball to allow UALR's, Matt Mouzy, to hit a three pointer. This was followed up by a Robert Dozier turn over, in which he was able to steal back only to pass the ball to Antonio Anderson who turned it over and allow UALR to make an easy lay up. The first two minutes of the game saw the Tigers losing 5-0 and the inadequacy that every Memphis fan has deep down started to seep out of that place we keep hidden away. Before all hope could be lost Tyreke Evans took the ball down court, put up a quick three pointer that caused tiger nation's fears to be subdued. It was a back and forth struggle for the first twelve minutes of the game, with a score of 18-19, Shawn Taggart snatched the offensive rebound and was fouled while attempting a lay up. Taggart made both free-throws to give the Tigers a 20-19 lead, which the Tigers would not relinquish for the rest of the game. The game was a hard nosed clash that required every point to be truly earned. The Tigers made 26-40 free throws, mainly by the superb shooting of Evans(7-11) and Dozier(9-12). The Tigers field goal percentage was abysmal (shooting 15-45) and making 3-20 three pointers. The final score was Tigers 59, UALR 51.

The game was a defensive battle with ups and downs on both teams. Pierre saw more minutes than he has seen all season with 27 minutes, and this was also only the 2nd time he has played over twenty minutes this season. Although, his statistics were not mind blowing, his physical presence was felt by UALR. Early on in the game Pierre looked a little lost in the paint but by the 2nd half he had found his way. Throughout the game Antonio Anderson struggled to find consistency but his leadership flourished. The enigma known as Willie Kemp, continued his season of performing poorly. Hopefully this game will be the wake-up call the Tigers need to turn around their season, just as the loss to Arizona a couple of seasons ago was the wake-up call that lead to an Elite eight appearance.

By Brett Speer

A Preview

On CBS today, just before the Memphis game, we are treated to a great matchup between Gonzaga and Connecticut.

With Stanley Robinson back, Connecticut may well have all the pieces to contend for number one. I surely think the Connecticut front line could give Tyler Hansborough a tough time in the paint.

Commenting on the their recent rout of Stony Brook, ESPN says:

"The Huskies have won 134 of their last 135 home games played before January against opponents from outside the Big East."

I know that is supposed to say great things about Connecticut, but doesn't it really mean that the Huskies normally puff up their won lost record before Big East play, by playing only the little guys in their neighborhood?

I'm not saying Gonzaga is going to win. Pargo could be the difference maker. But the game might give us some ideas about how to handle Hytvelt and Daye.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Post Xavier, Pre-Georgetown

It is amazing to me to see the reaction from so many Memphis fans even two weeks after the heartbreaking loss to Xavier. It has been like the Tigers really disappointed people with that loss. Certainly any loss is tough, but Xavier is pretty good and currently 10th in the country in the AP(6th in the RPI, 25th in Pomeroy). In a way that is part of the problem. Memphis just doesn't have a hard enough schedule this year, so losing ANY top 25 game is disappointment and potentially problematic.

If you think about two years ago, Memphis was in the exact same boat. One they lost a few games early - especially the Georgia Tech loss in Hawaii - and they lost several of their tougher games against highly rated teams (at Tennessee comes to mind).

Memphis does have a way to redeem themselves - win at Georgetown (19th AP, 23rd RPI, 3rd Pomeroy). Any win over that kind of program on the road will be huge and Memphis has three games of significance this year (@ G-Town, @ Tennessee and @ Gonzaga)

Of course, what is most disappointing about the Xavier game was HOW the Tigers lost - they didn't look very good offensively and the free throws at the end of the game were disasterous. Let's all hope that the last two weeks have been an opportunity to learn from their mistakes. We have heard how Tyreke Evans has spent hours working on his outside jump shot (if he has any hope of moving to the NBA in the next year, he better keep up the 500 jumpers a day routine). The Tigers have gotten some good news in Matt Simpkins being ok'd by the NCAA clearinghouse (wow, what speed). Hopefully, they have figured out that your offense can't ONLY rely on steals and fastbreaks. Hey on occasions you even have to set up a half court play.

Go Tigers !!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Modest Proposal

I woke up this morning thinking about the special teams in football, and the role of the reliver in baseball.

Particularly the closer, the pitcher who comes in, in the last inning, when you have the lead, and simply shuts down the opposing team.

We have a sixth man in basketball. How about a twelth man?

How about bringing in Preston Laird, for the last two minutes of every game. Even the close games.

Have him get off the bench with just about ten minutes to go in the game, and warm up on a hoop in some remote part of the gym, with a coach watching.

Calipari could call the coach with about four minutes left in the game, on the phone, and the coach could fill him in, on whether Preston's shot is falling, and if it is, he'd be the closer.

You know, hitting a couple of threes, and every one of his foul shots.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Lessons From the Vols and Zags

It't not often that you get a chance, early in the season, to see two of your toughest scheduled opponents go head to head, but on Sunday November 30th, we got a chance to preview Tennessee (scheduled for January 24th) and Gonzaga (scheduled for February 7th)

The game was a battle....

Hopefully, by January and February, Wesley Witherspoon will be able to run the point, and Tyreke Evans will be able to hit the floater. We are going to need their offensive firepower.

What was most interesting about this November matchup was the depth both teams showed.

The commentators quoted Coach Pearl several times during the game: Your five may be better than our five, but are your ten better than our ten? Turns out, Gonzaga's nine were better than Bruce's ten.

Believe me, both of these teams are long and deep.

Gonzaga starts 6-10 Austin Daye, 6-11 Josh Heytvelt, 6-2 Jeremy Pargo, 6-5 Matt Bouldin, and 6-8 Micah Downs, and brings in 7-0 Robert Sacre, 6-0 Demetri Goodson, 6-4 Steven Gray, and 6-4 Ira Brown, but four of the starters (Heytvelt, Pargo, Bouldin and Downs) all played 30 minutes or more.

Tennessee starts 6-7 Tyler Smith, 6-6 Cameron Tatum, 6-9 Wayne Chism, 6-8 Renaldo Woolridge, and 6-2 Bobby Maze, and brings in 6-7 Immanuel Negedu, 6-4 Josh Tabb, 6-7 JP Prince, 6-7 Scotty Hopson and 6-10 Brian Williams. Only Tyler Smith played more than 30 minutes.

Normally, Tennesse's depth and athletecism can wear you down. Sound familiar? It's been a Memphis trademark of late.

And when Tennessee and Memphis tangle this year, we can expect a very physical game. Lots of pressing. Everything will be contested. Even the coaches, Calipari and Pearl, would duke it out, if they could.

The commentators called it "toughness." I don't know.

At one point in the Gonzaga-Tennessee game, JP Prince reached in for a ball Micah Downs was holding high at the sideline at midcourt, and got his mouth instead. Micah was so surprised he turned away, looking for the foul (which never came.)

It's scrappiness, that's what it is, and Memphis should be able to hold it's own, if forty percent of our threes pointers fall, if the team can shoot free throws at seventy five percent, and if Wesley Witherspoon becomes a point guard.

What concerned me was how Gonzaga managed to interrupt the Tennessee offense. It was in the first half with about 4:30 to go, that Gonzaga dropped their man to man, and moved into the zone, with Heytvelt, Downs and Daye on the back line. The score was Tennessee 28, Gonzaga 26. From that point to the end of the half, Gonzaga went on a 9 to 3 run.

Gonzaga opened the second half in the same zone defense.

Woolridge made a quick three to bring Tennessee up to 34-35, but then, over the next twelve minutes Gonzago wore Tennessee down, and lead by ten, at the Tennessee timeout with 8:26 to go. With two minutes to go, Gonzaga led by thirteen, and although Tennesse went on a brief 8-1 run, Gonzaga made their free throws down the stretch to close it out.

In my mind it was the Gonzaga switch to the disruptive zone defense that took the Vols out of their halfcourt offense.

In February I'd like to see the Tigers attack that Gonzaga zone by going down low to Taggart and Dozier. Lets see if we can get Daye and Heytvelt in foul trouble early.

Tonight it will ge Marist. How will Chuck Martin play the defense. Will he try to deploy the zone against the Tigers?

And will the Tigers respond by aggessively attacking the zone, or by lofting numerous threes?