Monday, January 17, 2005

Jackets Lose to NCST 76-68


This is just frustrating. Of course it's always frustrating to lose. But the entire game was just a long series of personal outbursts for me..... and most of them not positive. It's one thing to lose to North Carolina on the road. It's another to lose to a struggling NCST team that had lost 4 in-a-row coming in. The Jackets once again just plain got out-played. I will give the team an "A" for heart in the 2nd half for battling back. But no sooner had they gotten within 3 pts did they give it right back up.

I need to preface my comments with this - I am typing this right afer the loss. I will try to keep things objective and factual but some of my frustration is bound to leak-in. I am just upset because this team is capable of more.

1. Forget Carmen Sandiego. Where in the world is our half-court offense? 1-on-1......1-on-1......1-on-1..... 1-on-1........ 1-on-1........ 1-on-1...... 1-on-1. Is this what our half-court offensive is all about? You watch NCST run their offense with back-door screens, good interior passing, kick-outs and you just wonder if there is possibly more to our offense than 1-on-1. Whether NCST wins or loses is determined by how many open shots they get. For us, it is how many of our players can "take their man".

Does anyone remember watching that nice little 5 minute "All-Access" focus on GT by ESPN earlier in the season? Jay Bilas came to campus and interviewed Coach Hewitt. It was a nice piece. I just went back and re-watched it. There is a sequence where Coach Hewitt says -

"I like to give the players freedom. But it's a freedom that is earned everyday in practice and through individual instruction. If there is a shot there in a game that they've worked on in individuals they don't hesitate to take it."

Then they cut to a practice sequence where Hewitt's is talking to the players and he says -

"Again, I'm just showing you the play, but as always, you can break the play off the minute you have an advantage or there's something you want to take advantage of. I'm just giving you a framework and you just play from there. Don't become a robot to the play. Use the space that you have to break people down."

Then believe it or not they cut back to the interview where Coach Hewitt says this -

"I always tell them, if you guys get better then the team is going to get better. I say, if you're looking for me to come up with some magic plays, you're looking at the wrong guy."

Wow, that is exactly what it appears we are doing. Only the "framework" is usually a few passes near half-court and then someone goes 1-on-1. Every once in awhile it seems obvious that we are running a play. Why? First, it is usually always right out of a timeout, when you can draw one up. Second, because we usually score with an easy basket. The rest of the time - (insert name here) is driving the hoop for a circus shot.

2. Jack leading the team in scoring is NOT in our best interest. Jack lead the team tonight with 16 pts....... and we lost. I repeat - this is NOT good!!! Exhibit 1 - Jack's two high scoring games - Kansas and North Carolina...... and we lost both!!! How many assists did he have in those two games combined? Try 4. How many tonight? Try 3. When Jack is not distributing the ball and involving the team, we break down into the "and 1" mix tape team (see point 1). Tonight the Jackets has 12 assists and 17 turnovers. Not a winning formula for "team ball".

3. We lost this game beyond the arc defensively, on the strong 3pt shooting on the Pack. But how many times did they penetrate and dish to the perimeter for a wide-open outside shot? A lot. I hate to say this but it's the truth - teams get a lot of open 3pt shots against us (at least lately). Our defense has been so focused on double/triple teams and help defense in the interior that if a team has some guys who can pass, then we get killed. So watch out for teams that have solid 3pt shooting and at least one very good passing big-man.

Here's the odd stat of the night. GT shoots 27-59 (46%) from the floor. NCST shoots 19-50 (38%). But want more proof about how the 3pt shot killed us? NCST actually shot 40% from 3pt range (8-20) and 11-30 (36.7%) from 2pt range. Not hard to figure when once again you realize that our defensive strength is doubling down low and interior defense. That leaves the outside open if their guy can pass (am I repeating my self?).

4. Another weak area tonight was our transition offense. There were a number of fast-break opportunities where we just made mistakes that we don't typically make. This has not typically been a problem, but many missed opportunities.

5. Is anyone out there wondering why it is that NCST seems to have their best night against Georgia Tech...... ALWAYS!!! The team that struggles from the outside starts hitting from the outside. The team that was struggling from the free throw line goes 30-37 (81%). I guess in some crazy way, this is creating some kind of cosmic balance with the fact that we own NCST in football.

6. Rebounding. Well, once again we lose the battle of the boards 38-37. Pretty close yes, but still lost it. That means 4 losses and we were outrebounded in every one of them. Need I say more?

7. Line-ups. I am not one to really question the line-ups Coach uses in the game, but when you have Tarver, Bynum, West, Isma'il and Dickey on the floor, you sure don't have much scoring punch - particularly when Bynum is cold.

8. There will be much talk about GT 3-pt shooting. It has been HORRIBLE the last two games. However, I am telling you, the problem is not shooting per say, it is passing and ball-movement. How many open 3pt shots did we get tonight? Not many. How many shots happened naturally in the flow of the offense? Not many. Yes we miss BJ Elder. Heck, yes we miss Marvin Lewis and Clarence Moore. But the problem is not 3pt shooting - it's ball movement. Go back to point 1 above. Sorry Coach, but the players may have earned freedom, but they should have it taken away too. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

9. In my pre-game post I said that this game would be SUPER-CRITICAL to our season. It is and it was. It was a key game to separate us from the "pack" (so to speak). We didn't do it. Don't talk to me about "it was a road game" or "Elder was out". Bottom-line, if we want to be considered in the elite, we have to win these games. We're not doing it, and as it stands now, here's how the ACC is stacking up:

TIER 1 - UNC, Wake Forest, Duke (shaky though)

TIER 2 - GT, Miami, NCST, Maryland

TIER 3 - Clemson, VaTech, UVA, FSU

Duke of course has played nobody of consequence so they have not earned their status yet, but they are undefeated, so it is what it is. Until a Coach K team loses, you have to give them props (as much as it pains me).

Georgia Tech is a very good ACC team that will still end up over .500 in the ACC. We're a legit top 25 team, but not a legit top 10 team. And we are likely to play very well in the post-season, because almost all of Coach Hewitt's teams do so. However, it would be nice to see progress DURING the season. To be able to compare the ACC schedule with last year and see progress in winning. Heck, I just want to beat NCST! But as Coach has also said - the minimum goal is to finish in the top 4 of the ACC, because with that you will be playing at an elite level.

The good news - one game in the next 10 days - time for rest, time for practice, time for preparation. More good news - our next opponent is Virginia Tech. More good news - it is at home. We can get back to 3-2 in the ACC and then REALLY get ready for a home battle with Wake Forest. No looking ahead though!!!



NCST 76 GT 68
While coach said strongly that missing BJ didn't impact the UNC game, he says something different about this one:

"B.J. is definitely one our best players, and you can't say that his absence doesn't make a difference when we are out on the court," coach Paul Hewitt said. "At the same time, we know we have the personnel to win this game."

Sendek on the GT comeback:

"They scored about as fast as a team could score," Sendek said of Georgia Tech's comeback. "I think we were up 15 and I blinked and the lead was seven. I blinked again, and it was three."



Hodge had an interesting stat line from the game:

Hodge scored 14 points on 1-for-7 shooting from the floor and 12-of-14 from the free-throw line. He also led the Pack with 10 rebounds and added four assists and two steals, which helped negate five turnovers.


"We looked like a very young team, and we're not a young team," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said Sunday. "This reminded me of our game up here two years ago when (point guard) Jarrett (Jack) was a freshman."






This before the game. Makes you even more depressed.

North Carolina State (4): With a Daily RPI of 110, the Wolfpack actually aren't even accomplished enough to get on the bubble yet. They're 10-5 overall but 0-3 against the top 70, with a six-point home win over Louisiana-Lafayette standing as their signature win to date. Injuries have provided an excuse, but excuses don't get teams into the tournament.



The flex cut is a staple feature in today's game. It involves a low-post, weakside screen, freeing a teammate to flash across the lane. It is used by college (Gonzaga and Georgia Tech) and pro (Spurs and Sonics) teams. When executed properly, the system is a dazzling display of how the game is meant to be played: hard cuts, solid screening, precision passing and yes, midrange jump shots.




Just think how great college basketball could be right now if LeBron James was at Ohio State, Carmelo Anthony was still at Syracuse, Amare Stoudemire suited up for Memphis and Sebastian Telfair played for Louisville. You'd have Luol Deng and Shaun Livingston keeping Duke at its national power status, while Chris Bosh and Georgia Tech would also be a serious contender.