Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jackets ALMOST Shock the World

Wow. Tonight the Jackets almost shocked the college basketball world. Tonight the Jackets almost beat the #1 team in the country. Tonight the Jackets had the final shot to win. It clanked off the back of the rim and they lose again, but tonight the Jackets made basketball fun again. I really mean that. I have some hope again.

There is no shame in losing to the North Carolina Tarheels 83-82 at home, especially when they are the top ranked team in the country. I really had no expectation of a win. What I had was a keen interest in seeing if this team cared - if this team could rise to the occassion - if they would buck up and compete. They did. They played hard and they gave me hope again that maybe this group can win a few games before the season is over.

What is the take-away here? How do we fit this pieze into the overall puzzle to know what we're looking at? What does the picture look like? For me, it is clear that regardless of issues with lack of ball handlers, issues with fundamentals, issues with defense, etc, this group has enough talent to compete wiith anyone. For me it just comes down to focus. They play to the level of their competition. Well almost to the level of their competition. The three best teams they've played this season are arguably UNC and Kansas at home and Indiana on the road. They gave every one of those teams all they could handle, then proceeded to lose every one of them. Then we go losing to average and below average teams. This paradox just begs to talk about focus, energy and motivation. If they can just figure out how to sustain the energy level they had tonight against all the other ACC teams coming up in the schedule, they just might win a few.

1. This team has talent and athleticism
2. This team has the capability to compete with anyone.
3. This team plays "about" at the level of their competition = lack of focus
4. Tonight means nothing in the grand scheme of things.

You know, Zach tends to have up-and-down games. He frustrates fans at times. However, do you find it interesting that he always seems to have the ball at the end of the games trying to make something happen? I give the guy credit. He doesn't always succeed, but he is always willing to mix it up, scrap and take the final shot. While other guys are standing around, he was the guy moving and looking for the ball at the end.

Matt Causey is a firey little cuss. Now, it's one thing to be firey and out of control. It's another to channel that fire into making things happen. I really haven't been sure what camp Matt really fell into. Tonight he showed his mean streak and he poured it into some great play. He made some nice aggressive steals and had some nice passes and hit a few shots.

Mo Miller seems to have matured substantially the past few games. He's playing with more confidence and he's making things happen. It's fair to say that you can start to see where his game might develop. You can see that he has a shot to be a Jarrett Jack type guy. He really reminds me of Jarrett Jack as a freshman, and life as a freshman PG in the ACC is brutal. However, he's showing some growth as we enter the ACC slate. Great news for sure.

Gani Lawal showed what he is capable of by scoring in double digits, grabbing a bunch of boards and doing a decent job defensively against Tyler Hansbrough (before fouling out). He's a super-nice kid and once he learns not to make those ticky-tack fouls, he will continue to excel. Nice to see.

I singled out a few guys, but really a bunch of guys had good games like D-Bell, J-Smith, A-Mo, to name a few. Most of the guys left everything they had on the court. Really, as far as I could tell, only Lewis Clinch and Alade Aminu struggled.

Ultimately tonight was just fun. It was nice to watch a game again and see the Thrillerdome in full swagger on national TV. Maybe it's only a thin slice of time, and now we'll go back to losing to mediocre teams as well. We know this group has the ability to compete with anyone. We just don't know if they will. More efforts like tonight and they sure can get a few W's.