BGTD: Maui Musings, Act IPosted by rtmsf on November 21st, 2011
They say that Aloha means hello and goodbye here in the Hawaiian Islands, but after an entertaining morning/afternoon session of basketball, we’re still busy figuring out what to say during all the in-between periods. Regardless of our problems with language, and despite the breathtaking beauty of the landscape outside the gymnasium door, there is some equally compelling, if not gorgeous, basketball being played inside.
Here are some of our thoughts from the afternoon session, BGTD-style, here at the Lahaina Civic Center.
- Michigan picked apart Memphis in a way that well-coached teams do to athletic, undisciplined teams. In some aspects of the game — most notably, running the offense and crashing the boards, Michigan made the more athletic Tigers look silly in their approach. John Beilein’s team hit over 50% of its shots by selectively deciding when to drive the ball and when to pull up, and it worked to near-perfection. The Memphis defense at this point all too often tries to rely on its athleticism rather than principles, and with the precision of clockwork, Michigan found back door opportunities repeatedly as a result. Tim Hardaway, Jr., was excellent in both picking his spots (6-13 FG, but 9-10 FT for 21 points), crashing the glass (seven rebounds) and looking for others (five assists). He has the ability to put up those kinds of numbers every night out — like his dad, he has the look of a star (“I got skeelz.”).
- Memphis will win a lot of ball games this year, but they were befuddled by the Michigan zones. When you stand on the baseline watching both teams in warmups, you wonder how on earth Michigan can keep up with this team. Then you watch them both execute their stuff (or in Memphis’ case, not execute it), and you realize very quickly that there’s more to this game than athletic ability. Having elite blue-chip talent can get you pretty far,but at some point Josh Pastner is going to have to balance harnessing guys like Will Barton (3-12 FG) and Joe Jackson (3-9 FG) with letting them have their creativity to play their games. It’ll work in Conference USA well enough to win the league and make the NCAA Tournament, but it won’t last much longer than that until his team figures out how to pass against zone defenses and share the ball (six assists? really?).
- Tennessee is going to be fine this year and may end up in a better spot in two or three years than they were under Bruce Pearl. That’s a somewhat difficult argument to make given that Pearl had the most successful five-year run in Volunteer basketball history, but Cuonzo Martin is a better preparation and game coach. He showed it today in UT’s game against Duke. Players who looked completely lost and out of control in previous seasons in Knoxville — guys like Renaldo Woolridge, Trae Golden, and Jeronne Maymon, to name a few — appear to have found a clue. That’s not a coincidence, folks. That’s coaching. Our only long-term concern with Martin as the head man in Knoxville is making sure that he can recruit SEC-caliber athletes. If he can do that, UT will remain a power along with Kentucky and Florida in the SEC East, and this year’s team will at least give Vol fans an exciting and fun team to watch with some upsets thrown into the mix.
- Duke may have played its best game of the young season today, but you have to figure that the Blue Devils will lose when they face teams just as athletic but more talented than Tennessee. Think about Arizona last season. Austin Rivers clearly has the talent and moxie to support a scorer’s mentality, but man-oh-man, does Duke really need all three of their guards to play well to win against good teams. Rivers and his backcourt mates, Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins, combined for 45 of Duke’s 77 points, and with the exception of Rivers (who still has a freshman’s tendency to try to do too much), the other two don’t wow you in the same way that comparable elite guards do. Much has been made about the offseason improvement of Ryan Kelly (17/6) and the roles of the Plumlees, but the consistency of the Duke defense (holding UT to zero threes — they came in shooting 49% in two games) and the poise of its players (instilled by Mr. #905 himself) is what makes Duke work.
You may disagree, but the decision to have Michigan and Tennessee wear Maui Invitational-colored shoes and socks today was interesting, to say the least. From our perspective, the Michigan color combination with the maize and blue worked, but the Tennessee version or orange, white and teal was a hallucinatory disaster. We can’t imagine how that must have looked on television. Here’s a look at what we thought was the better version… more to come later today.