Sunday, March 09, 2008

Hoops - Jackets Take Down BC on the road

The Jackets grab another coveted ACC road victory against Boston College on their senior day. It was a solid performance all-around, led by another eye-popping game from Jeremis Smith. Listen, I'm not going to dare and suggest that this team will win four games in a row in the ACC tourney. Based on the resume this season, it just ain't gonna happen. However, there's a small part of me that won't let it go completely. With solid defense like against Clemson or BC and some respectable rebounding, this team could rip off a small run. They've got the offensive ability. It's entirely possible. Honestly, another factor is our ability to finally win on the road. What have we won - 4 ACC road games? You know, it's kinda, sorta hard to just completely rule out the possiblity that they could do it................... even though they won't.

Here are my keys to winning the ACC tourney:

  • Lights out defense - it's got to be Clemson / BC game caliber D........ can't be the D that has characterized this team most of the year, which is near worst in the conference.

  • Rebounding - somehow we have to get back control of the paint. We won't win four in-a-row if we're outrebounded every game. We give up too many easy offensive putbacks. Gani has to establish himself. Alade has to stop getting pushed around in the lane. Zach needs to spend a little more time in the paint and less time roaming the perimeter. I'd like to see D'Andre Bell be more aggressive going after a few boards.

  • Ball control - this team has shown a solid ability to control the ball and limit turnovers. That will continue to be key. Mo Miller and Matt Causey MUST dictate tempo. They must push the game, but they must limit turnovers and easy buckets for opponents.

  • Stamina - winning 4 games in 4 days. Ouch. I don't think it's been done yet by any team in the ACC tourney (not 100% sure). Coach Hewitt is going to have to balance out playing guys it will take to win versus trying not to wear them out in case they move on.

There's something else. I just can't help but dream and wonder what this team would have been like had Jeremis Smith played this way since he was ... maybe a sophomore. Don't get me wrong. Jeremis has been a workhorse since he got here. I said it yesterday - you can always count on 12/7. However, his game has been 95% in-and-around the basket. Jeremis with a consistent 10-12 foot jumper would change the complexion of the team if you ask me. It certainly did last night. So where has that jumper been? When JS came out of high school, his reputation was that of an all-around player. He WAS an inside-outside guy. He did take jumpers. So what happened? Well, I think it's a combination of things.

  • Coach Hewitt needed him to play a certain role. He was needed inside as a banger. We didn't really "need" his jumper as much as we needed his brute strength. He's been on teams with plenty of decent shooters, but not enough tough, insider enforcers. Jeremis gravitated towards that part of his game. Even though he is clearly undersized, he plays bigger and stronger than this size.

  • Confidence. I can vaguely remember about 4-6 short stretches during Jeremis's GT career where he tried to expand his range. I almost remember one stretch last season where Coach Hewitt specifically commented on giving Jeremis a green light to take more shots. However, I also remember a vast array of bricks. Face it - his jumper never looked great during his career. Those experiments were mostly short-lived.

Why all-of-the-sudden now? Why is that part of his game clicking now at the end of his career? Who knows. Maybe confidence. Maybe an "it'll be over soon" attitude. Maybe just some luck or a hot streak. However, watching it happen just makes me wonder what could have been.