Last three games - the good and the bad

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For as ugly as things can get at times, it has been surprisingly enjoyable to watch this team over the last couple games. We're in the awkward position, as fans, as watching these games with two eyes, one towards the future and one towards the present. And, much as it may behoove us to rid ourselves from expectation and see these games as building blocks, it's impossible to separate those interests from the seniors, who have given us a lot. They're not going to be here next year or the year after, so even if these games matter very little to the long-term success of the program, I still want very much for them to win them because I know they do. I'll try to address both the short and long term ramifications of some recent trends.

The bad:
- East Carolina, South Florida, and Tulane rank 198th, 283rd, and 261st, respectively, in the country, per KenPom. For reference sake, about half of America East ranks higher than all of them. Even though this is our fourth year in the American, I'm not sure people truly understand how bad some of these teams at the bottom of this league are (granted, the worst of the bunch, South Florida, was a Big East leftover). I'm going to need to see more, like a real fight against SMU or Cincinnati, before I start waxing poetic about the grit and the fight and the resilience, even if we do have six players. I want them to earn it, not because I'm particularly authoritative sitting on my couch but because I think it undermines what teams like the 2013-14 group did when you start loosely tossing around comparisons. Call me a cynic - I appreciate the effort, but the parade this squad has gotten for beating exactly two top 100 opponents all year isn't yet justified.

- The dash to declare Adams a great player has been a bit premature, in my opinion. He is shooting 35% in conference play and 38% on the season if you take out three games worth of extended garbage time in Maui. Now of course that's not entirely fair - you could take out his three worse games and see a similar uptick in efficiency, and he's carrying a ridiculous workload, both in terms of minutes and usage. But he still doesn't trust his jump shot (the color guy pointed this out last night), he's fairly middling defensively, and his free throw rate is surprisingly low for somebody who attacks the basket like he does. That said...

- He's simply looked exhausted at times. I realize Ollie's hand has been forced, but he needs to do a better job of finding him two minutes of rest each half. He's not Kemba - kid isn't in good enough shape to be playing 40 minutes.

- Last comment on Jalen. The short shorts. Is there a reason? Not judging just curious.

- Defense. This is the biggest negative to me. Fatigue or not, the defense of the three point line has been mostly bad against three bad offenses. On this note...

- Vital and Jackson have gotta start figuring it out defensively. We're 20 games into the season now and the youth excuse won't fly, not when there are several other teams relying on freshman to support top-flight defenses and not when everything else is there - three seniors, all of whom have performed well - from an infrastructure standpoint to help simplify their roles. They are lethargic off the ball to the point that I wonder if Ollie needs to tap into his inner Calhoun a little more. That's not a hot take where I'm suggesting Ollie isn't enough of a disciplinarian, but sometimes you wonder if it would help him out to be just a little bit worse of a human being. Maybe Vital and Jackson start maintaining focus better if you threaten to punt them to the sun the next time they give up a three, you know? This group needs to be better than 48th in defense if they're going to accomplish anything.

- Brimah is never not going to pick up dumb fouls.

The good:

- Brimah wouldn't be a maddening player if he wasn't typically good when he was out there. There will be wily teams that take advantage of him with slip passes (you saw Dunleavy adjust after he blocked like five shots in the first four minutes last night and have his guards drive to pass rather than score), but that's on the other guys as much as it is him. I also like how, collectively, they're looking for him more on those lobs. It's there, always has been.

- Assuming we're able to play the type of game flows that hinge on contested twos, I like our chances, because Facey just kills it on those high-rising turn-around shots in the post. I also like the way Facey and Brimah have been attacking the offensive glass.

- Speaking of Facey, he's slowly but surly growing more comfortable with his back to the basket. It's simple stuff (seizing up the defender while allowing cutters to run through and unclog the paint), but important. If he can start finding shooters across the floor, then we'll really have something. Meanwhile, Brimah made a move last night, where he lined his man up like he was going over this left shoulder, then drop stepped to draw a foul, that I don't think I've seen from him at all in the past. He's also turned it around from the line in a big way - you have to give the staff credit, they - and Miller in particular, if we're to believe the reports - have been free throw whisperers for a while now.

- I really like Vital, to the point that people I watch the games with am wondering why I keep randomly talking about how much I like him several times per game. His shooting has been one thing, but at this point he has emerged as a desperately needed secondary facilitator. Other than D-Ham, I can't remember our last non-point guard freshman that saw the floor this well. I'm at the point where I trust this kid to run the point in pinches to spell Adams.

- Purvis has quietly - and I do mean quietly - been good the last three games. His solution to his ailments seems to be deferring to his teammates, playing defense, and facilitating off drives. You have to give him a lot of credit for his selflessness.

- I wouldn't be surprised if Vance was indeed hobbled, an it's unsurprising that defenses have adjusted to him a bit. I think you're better off guarding him with a smaller guy, and we make that easy when we play him at the three. I'd actually like to get him a few post touches if possible - he has good foot work down there and he's a much better passer than I anticipated.

It is difficult to envision this team winning three games in three days - much less four in four - against quality competition given what we have seen this season, even if it is in Hartford. I can see them winning one, though, and when you win one, the bracket can open up. Save our last three opponents, this is a fairly competitive league and there is no guarantee that the SMU's and Cincinnati's of the world even survive the quarterfinals, especially if they're playing more desperate teams. I could easily see Temple or UCF springing an upset in the conference tournament.

Certainly, there is a lot of basketball to be played before then, seven of those nine games coming against quality competition, and two of them - SMU on the 25th and Cincinnati on the 5th - home games on CBS that will potentially forewarn the preciously meaningful basketball that will take place in Hartford one week later. That's one of the reasons that college basketball is my favorite sport. You're not dead until you lose your final game, and this team - despite my cautioning - is not dead yet. I urge you all to join me on these particular dates because this team has earned that much. It matters a lot, even if it seems like it doesn't in what has felt like a wasted season. It matters to be able to sit there, knowing you're watching the final games of careers, and lose yourself in the micro spectrum of playing for another day, another opponent, another trip. That's what it's all about as a fan - compartmentalizing all of the bad and realizing that you're three or four days of good basketball away from hearing your name called on Sunday. That's the goal. And when we accomplish that goal, it is going to feel really good, knowing everything that's happened. The dream is anything that happens after that.
 
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The shorter shorts are coming back a bit... at least more reasonable length than the 2000s. Jaylen brown on the celtics is known for the short shorts, seeing as Jalen is a Boston boy, I imagine he got it from him.

Good analysis though.

And I hope people realize being tough on Jalen is BECAUSE he has potential, not because you're demeaning the kid. He has surprised with his vision and speed this year; we just need him to get a left hand and learn to shoot just a little more consistently.

Vital will be a steady cog for four years. I'm sure of it.

Faceys development from essentially 0 minutes to one of the best power forwards in conference has been very impressive. Kudos to the bigs coach.
 
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Are we just all into "Money Ball"/ Ken Pom stuff ... or just use our eyes?

I actually do watch America East frequently walking a thousand steps to see UAlbany play UNH or Vermont or Stony Brook. It is good basketball. But you are absolutely nuts if your eyes are telling you that the caliber of ball players at a UAlbany/Binghamton/Stony Brook/UNH/Maine/Vermont is anywhere near what we just saw in these three last teams on our schedule.

There is no one close to Holston on any of these. Big guys? None like Washington (ECU) Guerrero (USF) or even Ryan Smith would be a solid player in that league.

Having said that ... all three of those programs were unimpressive. The exception (maybe) is that I thought Tulane was better than last year - in spite the 4-18 record. I like what Dunleavy is running and know that he had very little addition to his roster since he was hired; Let us see on that. I thought ECU had a good complement of players ... but played sluggishly for too long. If the average American East marks you at 220, these programs are a good 20-50 places better based purely on what we just saw in the last week. Not their earlier schedules. And 2 of these programs have interim coaches.

Lots of good insight however. Facey obviously is playing far greater than ever; evidence that he always could. I agree on Purvis and Brimah. It is too bad that Enoch and Durham missed some very valued court time.
 

joober jones

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As long as he doesn't go John Stockton short with the shorts I won't be too worried.
 
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Are we just all into "Money Ball"/ Ken Pom stuff ... or just use our eyes?

I actually do watch America East frequently walking a thousand steps to see UAlbany play UNH or Vermont or Stony Brook. It is good basketball. But you are absolutely nuts if your eyes are telling you that the caliber of ball players at a UAlbany/Binghamton/Stony Brook/UNH/Maine/Vermont is anywhere near what we just saw in these three last teams on our schedule.

There is no one close to Holston on any of these. Big guys? None like Washington (ECU) Guerrero (USF) or even Ryan Smith would be a solid player in that league.

Having said that ... all three of those programs were unimpressive. The exception (maybe) is that I thought Tulane was better than last year - in spite the 4-18 record. I like what Dunleavy is running and know that he had very little addition to his roster since he was hired; Let us see on that. I thought ECU had a good complement of players ... but played sluggishly for too long. If the average American East marks you at 220, these programs are a good 20-50 places better based purely on what we just saw in the last week. Not their earlier schedules. And 2 of these programs have interim coaches.

Lots of good insight however. Facey obviously is playing far greater than ever; evidence that he always could. I agree on Purvis and Brimah. It is too bad that Enoch and Durham missed some very valued court time.

"Caliber of ball player" is a slightly different discussion, no? I don't doubt that ECU, South Florida, and Tulane recruit at a higher level than the teams in America East, but teams at the bottom of their leagues are ripe with roster and coaching turnover to the point that you'd almost rather have lesser players.

I currently attend UNH, so I've also seen a bit of America East ball. It's a sizable step down in talent, for sure, but I've been watching the same core of four players at UNH - all of whom start and are upperclassmen - for three years now, and they've tracked to 20 wins in each of those seasons. Save for a 60 point loss to West Virginia, they represented themselves better OOC than either South Florida or Tulane did. They beat Temple, played Providence tough, and split with another couple potential tournament teams in Winthrop and BU.

It's not really a money ball type thing because the rankings are virtually just an aggregate of the results, and those results - with point differential being an important factor - are what the spreads derive from (and I trust those more than anything else).

So I do agree with you to an extent - a Tulane or ECU probably has a higher ceiling than a Stony Brook or an Albany. But even by the eye test, I'm hardly convinced that there is much difference at all between the teams. Vermont lost to Houston by one point. Albany won @ Penn State. Stony Brook beat the Northeastern team we lost to and UMass Lowell beat the Wagner team we lost to. Go through all of the games and tell me where you think Tulane or South Florida is doing better. Even the losses (Albany lost to Cincinnati by 23 and SMU by 18) are better than what the three aforementioned AAC schools mustered against the Mustangs, and two of those were home games.

You can't make a total apples-to-apples comparison because SMU is probably more locked in for a conference game than they are a December tune-up, but all things being equal, I think the best three teams in the America East play us better than the bottom three in the American. It's a fair debate, though.
 

HuskyHawk

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"....You can't make a total apples-to-apples comparison because SMU is probably more locked in for a conference game than they are a December tune-up, but all things being equal, I think the best three teams in the America East play us better than the bottom three in the American. It's a fair debate, though.

Yes, but why? It's the same reason whoever the Ivy champion is will give somebody fits in the NCAA tournament. These are usually kids who play basketball very well while not being great athletes. Most of them can shoot. Most can pass. Most move well without the ball and stick to their defensive assignment. Will they blow by two guys for a highlight reel dunk? No. Will they block a bunch of shots in spectacular fashion? No. But they also won't turn the ball over as much with unforced errors. We see it when we play them, their bigs always have solid post moves that we envy. The guards hit open shots.

Interestingly, I think Dunleavy has Tulane close to playing that way. They were not beating themselves, they made UConn take its game up a level to beat them. Once the Huskies finally did, it was over.

I'm reminded of a local 4th to 8th grade tournament I watched two years ago. Standing on the stage with a guy from Providence, watching a city team from Providence get waxed by some suburban kids. Best player was a 6th grader playing on the 8th grade team. He was everywhere, passing, hitting shots, rebounding. His basketball IQ was 50 points higher than anyone else on the floor (and his dad was his team's coach and a former Div III star). Yet the guy from Providence noted that he wasn't really fast, and couldn't really jump very high, so others would pass him by. Those are the kids that go to the America East, or DII.
 

gtcam

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Good write up
Overall - some good points, some raked over the coals stuff and some stuff all of us will never agree on
I highly question the "extended garbage time" in Hawaii - JA played at another level the entire time AND the majority of time, to me, was not garbage time
Vital is by no means ready to spell JA - its been tried recently and he's not there yet - But I do like some of the tings I see from this kid
 
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"Caliber of ball player" is a slightly different discussion, no? I don't doubt that ECU, South Florida, and Tulane recruit at a higher level than the teams in America East, but teams at the bottom of their leagues are ripe with roster and coaching turnover to the point that you'd almost rather have lesser players.

I currently attend UNH, so I've also seen a bit of America East ball. It's a sizable step down in talent, for sure, but I've been watching the same core of four players at UNH - all of whom start and are upperclassmen - for three years now, and they've tracked to 20 wins in each of those seasons. Save for a 60 point loss to West Virginia, they represented themselves better OOC than either South Florida or Tulane did. They beat Temple, played Providence tough, and split with another couple potential tournament teams in Winthrop and BU.

It's not really a money ball type thing because the rankings are virtually just an aggregate of the results, and those results - with point differential being an important factor - are what the spreads derive from (and I trust those more than anything else).

So I do agree with you to an extent - a Tulane or ECU probably has a higher ceiling than a Stony Brook or an Albany. But even by the eye test, I'm hardly convinced that there is much difference at all between the teams. Vermont lost to Houston by one point. Albany won @ Penn State. Stony Brook beat the Northeastern team we lost to and UMass Lowell beat the Wagner team we lost to. Go through all of the games and tell me where you think Tulane or South Florida is doing better. Even the losses (Albany lost to Cincinnati by 23 and SMU by 18) are better than what the three aforementioned AAC schools mustered against the Mustangs, and two of those were home games.

You can't make a total apples-to-apples comparison because SMU is probably more locked in for a conference game than they are a December tune-up, but all things being equal, I think the best three teams in the America East play us better than the bottom three in the American. It's a fair debate, though.

This is also a debate we see on the Football side.

You can play one game - early in the season - and think the KenPom way. And there is little doubt that ECU and USF are today "a Mess". But then so was Houston and Memphis when we first saw them in this league. They'd crunch UNH today. And there is a reason Herrion is not at ECU any longer. The American East just does not have near the quality not depth nor good bigs. This AAC can be a far better league in all reasonable qualitative metrics. Don't kid yourself.

USF, for instance, can be 100 slots higher in KenPom with one decent hire. Tulane? I'm telling Mike Dunleavy can crush any American East program with a good recruiting class or 2.

Still ... What makes MM energizing, you still can have a American East team beat a major from one of the top 6-8.
 

fleudslipcon

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Yes, but why? It's the same reason whoever the Ivy champion is will give somebody fits in the NCAA tournament. These are usually kids who play basketball very well while not being great athletes. Most of them can shoot. Most can pass. Most move well without the ball and stick to their defensive assignment. Will they blow by two guys for a highlight reel dunk? No. Will they block a bunch of shots in spectacular fashion? No. But they also won't turn the ball over as much with unforced errors. We see it when we play them, their bigs always have solid post moves that we envy. The guards hit open shots.

Interestingly, I think Dunleavy has Tulane close to playing that way. They were not beating themselves, they made UConn take its game up a level to beat them. Once the Huskies finally did, it was over.

I'm reminded of a local 4th to 8th grade tournament I watched two years ago. Standing on the stage with a guy from Providence, watching a city team from Providence get waxed by some suburban kids. Best player was a 6th grader playing on the 8th grade team. He was everywhere, passing, hitting shots, rebounding. His basketball IQ was 50 points higher than anyone else on the floor (and his dad was his team's coach and a former Div III star). Yet the guy from Providence noted that he wasn't really fast, and couldn't really jump very high, so others would pass him by. Those are the kids that go to the America East, or DII.
Where can we obtain this bb IQ test? 50 points higher? This forum can use such a test in discussing players.
 

fleudslipcon

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"Caliber of ball player" is a slightly different discussion, no? I don't doubt that ECU, South Florida, and Tulane recruit at a higher level than the teams in America East, but teams at the bottom of their leagues are ripe with roster and coaching turnover to the point that you'd almost rather have lesser players.

I currently attend UNH, so I've also seen a bit of America East ball. It's a sizable step down in talent, for sure, but I've been watching the same core of four players at UNH - all of whom start and are upperclassmen - for three years now, and they've tracked to 20 wins in each of those seasons. Save for a 60 point loss to West Virginia, they represented themselves better OOC than either South Florida or Tulane did. They beat Temple, played Providence tough, and split with another couple potential tournament teams in Winthrop and BU.

It's not really a money ball type thing because the rankings are virtually just an aggregate of the results, and those results - with point differential being an important factor - are what the spreads derive from (and I trust those more than anything else).

So I do agree with you to an extent - a Tulane or ECU probably has a higher ceiling than a Stony Brook or an Albany. But even by the eye test, I'm hardly convinced that there is much difference at all between the teams. Vermont lost to Houston by one point. Albany won @ Penn State. Stony Brook beat the Northeastern team we lost to and UMass Lowell beat the Wagner team we lost to. Go through all of the games and tell me where you think Tulane or South Florida is doing better. Even the losses (Albany lost to Cincinnati by 23 and SMU by 18) are better than what the three aforementioned AAC schools mustered against the Mustangs, and two of those were home games.

You can't make a total apples-to-apples comparison because SMU is probably more locked in for a conference game than they are a December tune-up, but all things being equal, I think the best three teams in the America East play us better than the bottom three in the American. It's a fair debate, though.
You've got to be acing your grades. Unless these write ups are taking time away from your studies. What's your major? I think writing something special is in your future.
 

HuskyHawk

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Where can we obtain this bb IQ test? 50 points higher? This forum can use such a test in discussing players.

It involves the application of literary license. In this case, it was really astonishing to see. It was like watching the old Bugs Bunny cartoons where he played every position on a baseball diamond, at the same time.
 
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This is also a debate we see on the Football side.

You can play one game - early in the season - and think the KenPom way. And there is little doubt that ECU and USF are today "a Mess". But then so was Houston and Memphis when we first saw them in this league. They'd crunch UNH today. And there is a reason Herrion is not at ECU any longer. The American East just does not have near the quality not depth nor good bigs. This AAC can be a far better league in all reasonable qualitative metrics. Don't kid yourself.

USF, for instance, can be 100 slots higher in KenPom with one decent hire. Tulane? I'm telling Mike Dunleavy can crush any American East program with a good recruiting class or 2.

Still ... What makes MM energizing, you still can have a American East team beat a major from one of the top 6-8.

Oh trust, I'm not trying to argue that the American isn't a far better league. UCF is a good example - they were putrid a couple of years ago, but now they seem to be turning things around. The differences in facilities, recruiting territories, enrollment, etc. are night and day, which is why it's only once in a while that you'll see a UNH beat a Temple. UNH has one of their better teams in school history and Temple is re-building, and yet still, if they played again, Temple would be a comfortable favorite.
 
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You've got to be acing your grades. Unless these write ups are taking time away from your studies. What's your major? I think writing something special is in your future.

Appreciate it, fleud. I'm a bio-chem major.

No, just kidding, English.
 

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