On Obama, the Heels and Reggie Love’s Chin…

Posted by nvr1983 on May 12th, 2009

Yesterday in the White House South Lawn, President Obama greeted Coach Roy Williams and his Tar Heels to celebrate their recent national championship.  Obama spent some time in his remarks reflecting on his pickup game in Chapel Hill last year, going so far as to suggest that luck may have carried both he and the Heels to victory in the ensuing year.  (well, that, plus a catastrophic economic collapse and Ty Lawson’s DUI; so yeah, it was all luck…)

obama-unc-jersey

Obama is our first genuine hoops president, so it’s no surprise that he employs former Dookie and teabagger extraordinaire Reggie Love as his assistant.  Everyone can use a House Dookie, after all.  This was a culmination of a particularly rough few days for Love, though, as he was forced to endure the gigantic slurping of his most hated rival from his BFF, coming on the heels of a weekend pickup game where he took a substantial shot to his face during play.  From Politics Daily:

After the game, Mr. Love had a bandage on his chin, according to the pool reporter at the scene. And on return to the White House, he “muttered he might need stitches.” 

reggie-love-obama-team

Yes, you read that correctly.  Mr. Teabags took a shot to his chin, a phrase which carries all kinds of hilariously inappropriate references that we won’t use here for fear of ending up in Gitmo. 

While our confidential sources did not give up the name of Team Obama‘s version of Dikembe Mutombo (Chris Paul?), it’s pretty clear that the President means business on the court – his team won three of the five games against Love’s crew (RTC is still waiting for its invitation).  As you can see from the above photo taken at the UNC ceremony on Monday, though, it appears that Love is just another whining Democrat Dookie who can’t handle a little rough action around the edges (unless of course it involves voluminous amounts of alcohol and someone’s scrotal region, then he’s +1).

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Gladwell’s Theory on Full Court Pressure is the Only Outlier Here

Posted by nvr1983 on May 5th, 2009

Everyone’s favorite contrarian and make-sense-of-the-world guru, Malcolm Gladwell, wrote a provocative piece in this week’s New Yorker that is making the rounds among the hoops blognoscenti today.  Gladwell, the author of such fantastic thinking-man’s books such as The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers, is one of our favorite writers, one of the few in the industry for whom we’ll actually make a specific trek to the book store and pay for a hardcover (!) edition shortly after his new material arrives.  So when we say we’re a major fan of his writing, thinking and (ahem) moral clarity, we’re not joking.  In RTC’s view of the world, Gladwell is Blake Griffin and the rest of us are merely the rim (or a hapless Michigan defender, take your pick).

Well, except for today.

gladwell-cartoon

Gladwell’s Argument

The article is long, but Gladwell’s thesis focuses on a story about a girls’ junior league basketball team located in Silicon Valley, filled with 12-yr olds who admittedly weren’t very good at the skillful parts of the game, but they could run and hustle and were able to win their local league and make the national tournament based upon their reliance and perfection of a strategy that any team can employ: the use of full-court pressure defense.  In his argument, Gladwell successfully interweaves the biblical story of David vs. Goliath with quantitative analyses of historical military strategy and modern basketball, ultimately concluding that the Davids in every facet of competition have a much better chance of winning by simply changing up how the game is played.

Using his typical mixture of anecdotal and statistical evidence, Gladwell argues that for a David to have a chance at beating Goliath, he must do two things.  The first thing – outwork Goliath – is a simple enough concept; but, more importantly,  the second requirement is that David must also be willing to do something that is “socially horrifying” in order to change the conventions of the battle.  For example, David knew he couldn’t defeat Goliath in a traditional swordfight; so he reconsidered his options and decided instead to pick up and throw the five stones by which his opponent fell.  Gladwell likens this strategy to the one implemented by the girls’ team’s coach, Vivek Ranadive, an Indian-born immigrant who had never before played the game of basketball.   Noting that his team wasn’t skilled enough to compete in the traditional half-court style of basketball played by most teams at that level, he instituted a full court pressure defense that truly confounded their opponents.  Using Gladwell’s model, the press was a socially horrifying construct that allowed Ranadive’s team a chance to compete with their more pysically talented contemporaries.  And compete they did, all the way to the national tournament.

Given the purported equalizing effect of the press, Gladwell asked why isn’t the use of full-court pressure defense more commonly used in organized basketball?  He cites Rick Pitino as one of the most successful adopters of the strategy, particularly with his 80s Providence and 90s Kentucky teams, but other than a few coaches here and there over the years, in his estimation the strategy remains largely underutilized (Mizzou’s Mike Anderson and Oklahoma St.’s Travis Ford, a Pitino protege, say “hi”).

malcolm-gladwell-for-harry-rosen

Why It’s Wrong

We’re somewhat concerned about a lightning bolt striking us when we say this, but Gladwell completely misses the mark on this one – the full court press as a strategy works great when you’re dealing with 12-yr old girls whose teams are generally all at roughly the same skill and confidence levels (i.e., not very good), but as you climb the ladder and start to see the filtration of elite talent develop in the high schools, it actually becomes a weapon that favors the really good teams, the Goliaths, more than that of the underdogs.  The reason for this disparity is simple – successful pressure defense is a function of phenomenal athleticism (quickness, activity and agility) more than any other single factor, and the best teams tend to have the best athletes (not always, but often).  That’s why the early 90s leviathans of UNLV, Arkansas and Kentucky were so unbelievably devastating – they each could send wave after wave of long, athletic players at their opponents, which were usually slower, less athletic and shallower teams.

Gladwell confirms this when he talks with Pitino at length about the 1996 Kentucky dismantling of LSU, when the Wildcats went into the locker room with an 86-42 lead as an example of the devastating consequences of a great full-court press.  No argument there, but where it breaks down is when he fails to recognize that 1996 UK team was one of the best and deepest teams in the last quarter century of college basketball.  Nine players saw time in the NBA from a team who steamrolled most everyone they came into contact with that season.  The LSU first half was Exhibit A of the destruction, but they were far from the only one, and for Gladwell to use this example to somehow make a case for full-court pressure defense assisting the Davids pull off an upset is borderline absurd!

The other factor that Gladwell doesn’t discuss in his piece is that teams at the highest levels of basketball usually have guards who can beat pressure by themselves (not typically found at the 12-yr old level).  There’s a very good reason that you almost never see a full-court press in the NBA, and it’s because point guards like Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo are nearly impossible to trap in the full-court.  Every NBA team has at least one player who can easily negotiate any backcourt trap, which will lead to an automatic fast break advantage and two points at the other end – a coach of an underdog employing this strategy on a consistent basis will soon be in the unemployment line if he tries this too often.  This is obviously less true at the collegiate level, but there are enough good guards at the top programs that similarly make full-court pressure a relatively futile effort.  Are you seriously going to trap Ty Lawson or Sherron Collins for an entire game?  Good luck with that strategy.

Not Even Matt Doherty Would Press Full Court as an Underdog

Not Even Matt Doherty Would Press Full Court as an Underdog

Conclusion

What’s particularly ironic about Gladwell’s conclusion that full-court pressure defense could act as the great equalizer in basketball is that a byproduct of this strategy is that it speeds up the game.  Yet, the tried-and-true method for less talented teams to have a shot to beat their more talented counterparts is to slow the game down.   Taking the air out of the ball became such a problem in the late 70s and early 80s that the NCAA instituted the shot clock to eliminate 24-11 abominations like this one.  Even former UNC coach Matt Doherty employed a modern shot-clock version of the strategy in a 60-48 loss against #1 Duke in the 2002 ACC Tournament.  We’d never say never about Doherty’s coaching acumen, but we would be seriously shocked if he had considered pressing Duke (and Jason Williams) as a viable strategy to pull off the major upset.  It is Doherty, though, so you never know.

Gladwell, as always, wrote a thought-provoking article that told a fascinating story about Vivek Ranadive’s team of twelve-year old “blonde girls.”  He failed, however, when he made a logical leap from youth league girls’ basketball to the elite levels on the assumption that such a strategy would work similarly for lesser talented teams.  It’s a fair assumption that was likely made by someone not as familiar with the intricacies of high-level basketball, but our job here of course is to set the record straight.  If we ever end up coaching youth league basketball, though, it’s now clear what our first practice will focus on.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: Regional Semifinals Day Two

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2009

dynamiteWe’ll be doing a full BGtD today so you won’t have any interruptions in coverage tonight. Honestly, last night’s games were kind of disappointing. Pittsburgh-Xavier was entertaining, but that was the only game that I would say was memorable from a pure basketball standpoint. Now the other games did have their own interesting subplots. UConn rolled over Purdue in a game that was close at points in the 2nd half, but I never really got the sense that the Huskies were in any danger of losing. I was particularly impressed with how the Huskies played despite the media circus that is going on around them. Missouri‘s victory over Memphis was entertaining although for me it was marred a little by the atrocious free throw shooting. As we mentioned last night, I really wonder what John Calipari does, if he does anything, for his team’s free throw shooting. At this point, I’m convinced J.J. Redick would have shot 70% from the free throw line if he had gone to Memphis. Also, what happened to vaunted Memphis defense. Missouri has a good offense, but they shouldn’t be able to hit triple digits in regulation against a team that went into the game with the #1 defense according to the Pomeroy numbers. I’m sure some of you took great pleasure in watching Villanova pick apart Duke leading to another early March exit for Coach K, but the game wasn’t exactly exciting if you didn’t have a rooting interest for (or in most people’s case against) a team.

The line-up for tonight should give us a couple of interesting games:

  • 7:07 PM: #12 Arizona vs. #1 Louisville
  • 7:27  PM: #3 Syracuse vs. #2 Oklahoma
  • 9:37 PM: #3 Kansas vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 9:57 PM: #4 Gonzaga vs. #1 UNC

We’ll be back around 7 for the start of tonight’s action. Leave your comments/questions and we’ll respond to them as soon as we start.

6:55 PM: A couple quick pieces of news to pass along in the midst of this Billy Gillispie madness and these somewhat important games tonight. Clemson‘s star forward Trevor Booker will return for his senior year. The news out of Iowa isn’t as good after Jake Kelly, Jeff Peterson, and David Palmer announced that they are transfering, which means that Todd Lickliter will need to replace 2 starting guards and a reserve forward.

7:10 PM: Chase Budinger makes a great play to temper Louisville’s great start. He’s going to need to have a great game tonight. If both teams use the press tonight, we’re going to get a blowout (and I think it will end up going in Louisville’s favor).

7:12 PM: I should warn you that I’m a big Chase Budinger fan so you’ve been warned. I haven’t seen a lot of him this year (stupid west coast starts), but I think he has the makings of a very solid NBA player.

7:14 PM: That’s not a good stat for Arizona. Only 6 Wildcats have scored in the NCAA tournament.

7:19 PM: Great play by Edgar Sosa feeding it to Preston Knowles. This pressure is going to kill Arizona if they only go 6 deep.

7:28 PM: I don’t think it will matter tonight, but I hope you paid attention to that FT statistic. Louisville shoots 63.8% as a team (307th out of 334 teams). That will come back to bite them. Just ask John Calipari. Actually he probably wouldn’t admit it because his team was just as bad last night. . .

7:30 PM: I think that any Blue Devil who mentions that they made the 1994 title game should put an asterisk by it on their resume saying that they rode Grant Hill‘s coattails there. If you don’t agree with me, see what happened the next year even if Coach K missed the last 2/3 of the season.

7:31 PM: It looks dead in Memphis. What do you guys think? I’m guessing it’s only 20% full. UNC fans must have bought up most of the stadium.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Is Patty Mills Next Year’s Stephen Curry?

Posted by rtmsf on August 25th, 2008

Quick…  see if you can name the only NCAA college basketball player to perform in the 2008 Olympics.  There’s obviously nobody on Team USA’s Redeem Team, and the rest of the world’s best players tend to move into their own pro leagues before coming stateside for the NBA, but if you said speedy Patty Mills from tiny St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA, by way of Australia, you’d be correct.

 

Mills is arguably already the best college player you’ve never heard of, or if you’ve heard of, you’ve never actually seen play.  In a quarterfinal game where Team USA obliterated Australia 116-85, the 20-year old Mills established himself as one of the best players on the floor among perennial NBA all-stars.  How do we know this?  Well, ask Chris Paul

“He’s good.  Man, he’s fast. I read something that says he’s faster than me. They’re probably right.  He can move.”

Or Redeem Team head man Coach K:

“I’m glad my Duke team doesn’t play St. Mary’s.  He’s a great guard. He’ll be an NBA guard. I’m very, very impressed. He really has great quickness. And I love him defensively.  I’ve been a defensive coach my whole life and there aren’t very many people who stay with the guard, like right on him, when he has the ball, and if he’s beaten, he doesn’t retreat, he continues to play the play.  He’s got to be an extremely tough-minded kid. But as good as he is offensively, he’s got a chance to be a great defender. I think the kid has got a big-time future, quite frankly.”

For the tournament, the rising Gael sophomore averaged 14/2/2 on 52% shooting, including the eye-opening 20 pt, 2 asst, 3 steal performance against the Americans.  This comes on the heels of a mid-major all-american 15/3/4 rookie campaign that was largely ignored outside of the tiny bandboxes of the WCC.  St. Mary’s had its chance at a Davidson-like run, leading Miami (FL) at halftime of its opening round game, but quickly disintegrated in the second half under a barrage of threes by Miami’s Jack McClintock. 

With four of its top five players returning from a 25-6 team, Patty Mills and St. Mary’s could become the west-coast version of a name everyone will be paying attention to in next March’s brackets.  Channelling Stephen Curry and Davidson…

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2008 NBA Draft Profiles: Derrick Rose

Posted by nvr1983 on June 24th, 2008

Over the past few weeks, we have rolled out profiles of several of the top prospects in the 2008 NBA Draft. In general, we tried to get the best school-specific bloggers to provide a more in-depth look at the players they’ve spent all year watching. Most schools had bloggers who were up to the challenge. However, a few schools weren’t so you’re going to end up with a few RTC profiles too.

Rtmsf and I split up the duties on the last 2 players to be profiled (Derrick Rose and Jerryd Bayless). I picked Rose because I have seen him more than I have seen Bayless (stupid West Coast late starts). While I haven’t seen Rose as much as the Memphis fans (apparently there are no Tiger bloggers), I have probably seen Rose play almost a dozen times this past season so I feel pretty comfortable critiquing his game. Well that and the fact that pretty much everybody has seen him and knows about him at this point.

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about Derrick Rose is his freakish athleticism. At the Pre-Draft combine, he was one of the top performers and I think some of those tests underestimated how athletic Rose is. For example, Rose had a good 3/4 court sprint time, but 1/10th of a second off the best. Having watched Rose play against the best PGs in the country, I can guarantee you that there is nobody faster with the ball in the draft (ask Tom Izzo, Rick Barnes, Ben Howland, or Bill Self what they think about Rose’s speed).

The question with Rose isn’t whether he has the athletic tools to become great. Instead the question is whether or not he  will develop the necessary feel for the game to dominate at the next level. The player that I hear Rose compared to the most is Jason Kidd, but I think that is just based on the fact that they are both quick PGs with great strength. However, I think their games are very different.

Along with speed and strength, Jason Kidd brought an extremely high basketball IQ and great feel for the game to the court early in his career (those of you old enough will remember Kidd torching Bobby Hurley and 2-time defending champion Duke in 1993 despite Dale Brown’s bold proclamation that Hurley would dominate Kidd). However, Kidd lacked the ability to score early in his career and never did really develop as a scorer. His inability to hit an outside shot became such a liability that hecklers began referring to him as “Ason” (got no J). On the defensive side of the ball, Kidd was an excellent defender despite the way that Chris Paul undressed him in the playoffs this year.

As for Rose, while he is probably more athletic than Kidd especially when you factor in his 40″ vertical, whenever I watch him I get the sense that I’m watching a great player rather than a great floor general. He just doesn’t seem to possess a great feel for the court and where everyone is. This may be a result of Calipari’s dribble-drive motion offense that Rose only played in for a single season, but his 1.77 assist-to-turnover ratio is pretty mediocre for a PG who will likely be the #1 overall pick. He has the ability to score at will at the college level, but I think some of those lanes are going to close against pro level talent. However, as he develops and matures he should be able to find these holes to get to the rim. The bigger question is whether Rose will be able to run a NBA offense early in his career. I think that eventually he will get it, but it may take a 2-3 years before we see what he can become as a point guard. As for the rest of his game, his jump shot needs a little work but I think it’s good enough that teams can’t leave him open or really drop off him (like they do with Kidd or Rajon Rondo). Defensively, Rose has all the tools he needs to be an elite defender. I never really saw him as a lockdown defender in college but perhaps that is because he’s still young and Memphis was winning most games by such large margins that he really never had to dig in for a stop. With his speed and strength he should be able to cause havoc for most opposing point guards.

Rose showing us the hops

Conclusion:While I don’t think the comparisons to Kidd are appropriate, I think the Bulls would be wise to select Rose with the 1st overall pick. Guys with the potential to be game changers don’t come along that often and you shouldn’t pass on them when they come your way (looking at you Billy King). Rose needs to work on his game some more (shooting and decision-making) before he will be able to compete with the best in the game (Steve Nash, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams), but he will be a major upgrade for Chicago or Miami (if Chicago decides to take Michael Beasley) and should be a quality NBA PG right away.

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NBA Draft Preview Version 1.1

Posted by nvr1983 on May 20th, 2008

As previously mentioned on RTC (and every other decent site that covers basketball), the NBA held its draft lottery last night. Among the luminaries in attendance were the Basketball Jesus himself Larry Bird, Dwayne Wade of “Fall down 7 times, shoot 14 free throws” fame, Jay-Z, Kevin Durant, Mitch Richmond, Fred “The Mayor” Hoiberg, and some lady who has Sacramento Kings season tickets.

As most of you know by now, the Chicago Bulls defied their 1.7% odds to steal the #1 pick. Rounding out the top 3 were the Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves. The losers of the draft were the Seattle Oklahoma City Supersonics who fell from the #2 spot to #4, which I think they deserved after last year (still bitter despite a NBA record 42-win turnaround and a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals).

The top 2 are essentially set in stone although the Bulls lack of an interior scoring presence (not you Joakim) and lack of an elite point guard (sorry, Kirk) means they could go either direction. The Heat will get the “leftovers”. I’m guessing that Pat Riley (still the GM, right?) is hoping that the coachless Bulls take Michael Beasley because it seems like Beasley and Shawn Marion would clash in terms of their inside-outside styles and type of play so he would prefer Derrick Rose, who could be absolutely ridiculous paired with Wade and Marion.

We’ll be putting up draft previews over the next couple of days, but until then we’ll just offer a few thoughts:

(1) If I was the Bulls GM (if Reinsdorf or any one in the organization is reading this, please contact me), I would go with Rose. Even though they lack a great inside scoring threat, I think it’s a lot easier to find a serviceable PF than PG. I also think the impact of a great PG is bigger as Chris Paul and the other great recent vintage PGs have shown everyone the past few years. The Bulls have a lot of talented NBA-quality young guards (Chris Duhon, Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Larry Hughes, and Thabo Sefolosha) along with a couple talented unproven youngsters (JamesOn Curry and Shannon Brown). While some analysts may argue that this is a reason to get a big man, I would argue they should take Rose (better than any of the current guards) and make a big package of these young guys to try to get another inside presence to compliment Andre Nocioni, Joakim Noah, Drew Gooden, and Tyrus Thomas along with the team’s only “star” Luol Deng. I’ll have more on this in an upcoming post. . .

(2) I wonder if Mike D’Antoni is starting to think he should have asked the Knicks for more money. He could have had almost the perfect team for his offense if he went to Chicago even before they had the chance to select Rose. I also wonder how D’Antoni is going to handle being on a team that uses its draft pick to select a player instead of selling it for money.

(3) Hoiberg looked like he was going to throw the cancer patient’s teddy bear when the Timberwolves ended up with the #3 pick (falling outside of the Beasley-Rose jackpot). That would have made an even better YouTube moment than it already was (around the 2:20 mark of the clip below).

A couple quick, early links on the NBA Draft:

(1) As always, Chad Ford has a mock draft up with a brief analysis. I swear he must have enough spare time during the year to come up with mock drafts for every possible team draft order combination.

(2) Meanwhile, Jack McCallum chimes in with his own thoughts. Mostly just rambling about what D’Antoni must be thinking along with a brief breakdown of what the top teams in the draft might do.

(3) If you want to hate John Hollinger and his ridiculous unproven stats, check out his Pro Potential analysis (ESPN Insider access required). For those of you without access here are a couple of gems:
- Michael Beasley at #1 followed by. . .Blake Griffin at #2 and Danny Green at #4.
- 11 of the top 25 are freshman, which isn’t surprising, but that does not include several notable freshman who didn’t make the list: Derrick Rose, OJ Mayo, DeAndre Jordan, Donte Green, and Eric Gordon.
- The list of freshman that Hollinger considers to have more pro potential than those five heralded freshman: DeJuan Blair (Pittsburgh), Dar Tucker (DePaul), Robbie Hummel (Purdue), Andrew Ogilvy (Vanderbilt), and Matt Howard (Butler). The fact that I decided to list the schools these guys play at should tell you how far off the radar most of these guys are as NBA prospects. Hollinger offers an impassioned defense of his system, but I don’t buy it.

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04.25.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on April 25th, 2008

Some news on early entries as the deadline (Sunday at midnight) looms and some other flotsam we’ve been holding on to for your Friday…

  • UNC’s point guard Tywon Lawson will be testing the waters.  Reading the tea leaves, does this signal a pending domino effect for his teammates Wayne Ellington, Tyler Hansbrough and/or Danny Green? 
  • Speaking of the Heels, in light of KU’s title, ol’ Roy’s face was consequently removed from a bathroom in a Lawrence, KS, barber shop. 
  • Super Mario Chalmers will be testing the waters of the NBA Draft, joining teammates Brandon Rush and Darrell Arthur in the pool. 
  • Memphis juniors Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier joined Derrick Rose and CDR in declaring for the NBA Draft this week – both will test the waters.  With Joey Dorsey (ahem) graduating, Memphis could potentially lose its entire starting five.    
  • The Texas backcourt of DJ Augustin and AJ Abrams have also decided to declare for the draft.  Abrams is probably only testing the waters. 
  • Missouri’s DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons will be testing the waters this year as well. 
  • A returner!!!  Tennessee’s Tyler Smith will return to Knoxville, where he’ll likely lead the Vols to another SEC regular season title (and not much else). 
  • VCU’s Anthony Grant and UAB’s Mike Davis received contract extensions from their schools.
  • You’ve probably heard that the itinerant Larry Brown stepped down from his job as Executive VP with the Sixers yesterday.  At least one report thinks he might be going to Stanford to take over Trent Johnson’s old job. 
  • This is a neat article on which Tobacco Road players and coaches are supporting whom in the 2008 election.  Um, shouldn’t Grant Hill be supporting Billary, given that his mom roomed with her at Wellesley?  Or…  maybe that tells you all you need to know. 
  • From the leftovers department, YABB did a quick and dirty analysis of the final conference standings of the NCAA Tournament.  Big 12… good.  ACC and SEC… bad. 
  • This is something we found that shows the progression/regression of the top four programs in terms of total wins over the last ten years.  Carolina really took a hit during those Doherty years, didn’t they?
  • Turning to the NBA Playoffs, this is a nice article on the positive effects that the late Skip Prosser had on his players now in the postseason – CP3, David West and J-Ho. 
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The Day After. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on April 7th, 2008

In the interest of full disclosure, I had a draft for this ready with a little over a minute left in the game congratulating Memphis for winning the game and making their FTs when it mattered since they had made their last 4 when Chris Douglas-Roberts stepped to the line. . .

After 2 blowouts in the semifinals, we finally got a close game. After a first half that lacked any real flow to it with both teams playing well offensively in spurts but never at the same time, the game took on the character we all expected with up-and-down end-to-end action. As we expected, Kansas dominated inside while Memphis won the perimeter battle. The shot charts for Kansas was particularly astounding as for most of the game Kansas scored nearly 70% of its points in the paint with most being lay-ups.

A couple of observations:
1) Billy Packer was right. As much as we hate to say it, he was dead-on when he said John Calipari should stop setting up picks for Derrick Rose since the Jayhawk big men showed absolutely no interest in staying on the guy setting the pick. This essentially put Rose up against a double-team every time without the pick man rolling to the basket hard. Bill Self almost cost Kansas the title when he switched to the box-and-one to help slow down CDR, who was destroying Brandon Rush at that point. The box created enough separation that the Tigers’ screens were useless so they stopped setting them, which freed up Rose to go by his man. I don’t understand why Calipari would even set the picks for Rose, who can blow by anybody at this level by himself. Picks can make it easier, but not when the opposition doubles the ball and the pick man doesn’t create a good passing angle. Fortunately for Memphis, Self made it easy for Calipari by switching to the box-and-one. Rose took over the game almost from the moment that Kansas switched to the box-and-one.

2) Rose should be the #1 pick in the draft. I love Michael Beasley’s game (and his “We’ll beat them [Kansas] in Africa” quote), but I just think Rose will be a much more valuable commodity at the next level as there are a lot more good PFs than PGs in the NBA. When Rose gets a full head of steam, he’s unguardable. He may struggle his rookie year adjusting to life in the NBA (the $106 per diem will buy a lot of Gummy Bears) due to his tendency to be a little bit out of control at times and the fact that he will finally play against guys who are on the same level as him. However, I can only think of two guards (Deron Williams and Chris Paul) that I would take over Rose for the next 5-10 years and that’s only because they are proven commodities while Rose still has to prove that he can handle himself at the next level. That said, as ridiculous as Chris Paul has been this year, Rose has a higher ceiling than either of them. While Rose was unable to close the deal, I don’t hold it against him (look to CDR for that) as he showed me more than enough during the tournament to make me a believer.

3) The Kansas inside game disappeared late in the 2nd half. For the first 30 minutes of the game, it seemed like I was going to be writing the Tigers 2007-2008 obituary by talking about how they got destroyed in the paint. It was probably a combination of Kansas not working hard enough to get the ball inside and Memphis packing it in late in the 2nd half. Either way, this (along with Self’s bizarre decision to go box-and-one) almost cost the Jayhawks the title. After Mario Chalmers hit his miracle 3 to force OT, Kansas reestablished itself inside and cruised to victory.

4) Heart attacks sky rocket in Lawrence and Memphis tonight. Ok. I was trying to write this paragraph during the last 2 minutes of the game to post before going to bed. Originally it was “Memphis hits the FTs when it mattered” (4/4 at that point) then it was “Rose = $$$” when he stepped to the line. This observation obviously didn’t want to be written so I’ll move onto #5.

5) FTs killed Memphis. This should have been the #1 point and it will be the headline of this game as long as people talk about it. It’s sort of humorous that the media finally stopped hounding Calipari about the Tigers’ FT shooting coming into this game and they laid an egg in the biggest moment. The last minute-plus was basically the anti-Rumeal Robinson as CDR was the guy that Memphis fans wanted to be in that position. After going 11/14 before the last minute-plus, Memphis finished 1/5 giving Chalmers the chance to hit a 3 that will only grow in legend in Lawrence, Kansas.

6) Holy $&!% I can’t even begin to come up with a word to describe how big that 3 by Chalmers was. The only other thing I can compare it to is Keith Smart’s shot in 1987 to help Indiana beat Syracuse. While this didn’t officially win the game, for all intents and purposes Chalmers shot won the game. There was no way Memphis was going to come back after they choked away the game at the line and Chalmers hit that shot. I would criticize Calipari for not taking the foul at that point, but it appears they Rose tried to commit a foul but it wasn’t called. After the shot, the game like this post-mortem was over.

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Skip Prosser – Forever a Deacon

Posted by rtmsf on July 26th, 2007

Skip RIP

With the news today of the passing of Skip Prosser, Deacon Nation and the rest of the college basketball world is coming to terms with what many people have described as a loss of “one of the good guys” in the game. This hits us a little harder than most, as although we’ve tried to keep our biases and fanship quiet for the sake of the objectivity of this blog, we too are a Demon Deacon (class of 1995). Today we drop our professional facade and give the man his proper dues and respects.

We’ve been no stranger to criticism of Skip as a coach over the last few years, but make no mistake, we always believed in our heart that Coach Prosser was an excellent teacher, person and family man in addition to being an exceptional coach. Not once have we ever heard anyone within the college basketball community question the man’s passion, his ethics, or his character. And most of all, in only six short years at Wake Forest he had completely morphed into a true Deacon, a fan of not only his own players but of the entire university’s sports program and, most of all, the student body.

Skip Coaching

A friend of ours reminded us that Skip never lost sight of the fact that he always, first and foremost, considered himself the same high school history teacher that he was back in his hometown of Pittsburgh. To that end, he graduated every one of his players who stayed all four years at Wake Forest. Always the academic, he would often sprinkle quotes from Tennyson and Shakespeare into his discussions of team defense and free throw shooting. There was a certain eloquence in the way he spoke that reminded you that he had more than just basketball on his brain twenty-four hours a day.

Despite that fact, Skip’s passion for the game could never be questioned. As a fellow Deac, we could read the pain on his face over the last couple of mediocre seasons as he struggled to keep the program afloat. But as if by cruel fate, last week it seemed as if he had once again turned the corner – just as he had at Xavier, and just as he had at Wake when he arrived – by receiving commitments from three players who would arguably form the #1 recruiting class of 2008. A recent cnnsi.com article revealed that Prosser was extremely excited about his recent coup, and why wouldn’t he be? Life as a coach in the ACC is hard enough with top talent – considering his haul, the future for Skip’s program could only be described as bright.

Roll the Quad 2

We had the good fortune to spend some time as an alumnus back on the Wake campus during Skip’s first two seasons (2001-02 and 2002-03), and the infusion with which he energized the campus was palpable. The previous administration under Dave Odom had left a dispirited pall over what had just years before been a basketball-crazy campus, dating back to the 1990s glory years of Rodney Rogers, Randolph Childress and Tim Duncan. Upon arrival, Skip immediately unleashed Josh Howard onto the rest of the ACC, recruited Chris Paul and Eric Williams, and once again the Joel was rocking. Over the next four seasons under the helm of Prosser, Wake ascended to its first-ever #1 ranking and the Tie Dye Nation at the Joel became a nightmare for most opponents, earning its rightful place among the toughest venues to play in America.

Skip with Students

But more importantly, Skip became the Campus Coach, often walking around meeting students, encouraging them to cheer throughout the games and generally making himself a fixture just as notorious as the magnolias on the quad or the noontime bells of Wait Chapel. As an indication of the campus hysteria, at one point the Screamin’ Demon basketball fan group numbered over 2000 kids, more than half of the student body – undoubtedly no other school in the nation can match that level of commitment. Skip engendered this relationship, as he would often email the student body the afternoon of a big game extolling them to “meet me on the quad at midnight,” representing the time-honored Deacon tradition of rolling the quad after a big victory. To that end, a grass-roots campaign has begun today to honor Skip with a quad-rolling tonight at midnight – and although we cannot be there in person, you can rest assured that the tall tree outside our building will turn white tonight.

Rest in Peace, Skip – you will always be a Deacon.

 

Update:  Katz, Decourcy, Seth Davis, Vitale, Parrish, and Wetzel weigh in with their thoughts.

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