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December 3, 2007
Back and Forth
The Eyes of Texas Edition

by John Gasaway and Ken Pomeroy


John: Yo, hoops nation! Ken and John back once again, trying to keep up with what's becoming a promising 100 percent favorite-free season. Ken, BCS Selection Sunday was huge for Texas, just not the way Longhorn fans thought it would be a few months ago. How about Rick Barnes' team scoring a win at UCLA?

Ken: You have to be impressed with the Longhorns' athleticism and with the ability of Connor Atchley to contribute offensively. Barnes devised a game plan for all the Pac-10 to see. The Bruins miss Arron Afflalo's jump shot for sure. I think that's what I'm starting to like about this season. All of the so-called favorites to get to the Final Four have an exploitable weakness. In the case of UCLA, it's perimeter shooting.

John: Funny how Jim Boeheim goes with a 2-3 zone for decades, then it's suddenly cutting-edge stuff when it works for other teams. Now, on to offense. Last week I watched Duke spread the floor and take Wisconsin off the dribble. Last night I watched Texas spread the floor so Damion James could take Josh Shipp off the dribble. Is this Memphis-style offense destined to be adopted by every talented team?

Ken: The thing is, Duke, Texas, and Memphis have been doing this for a while. They've been highly efficient offenses based on more one-on-one play than most teams use. On the one hand, you could argue that it's a more consistent offense, since it relies less on the streakiness of the jump shot. Sill, you need the players for a system like that, just like you need the players for a Butler-type system, which is equally devastating. I had to laugh at the game report that indicated the Bulldogs had a poor shooting game against Ohio State. When your effective FG percentage is right around 50 and people say it's a bad game, you must be doing something right.

John: Butler really needs to move to a BCS conference. They actually play better against BCS teams. Last year they couldn't win the Horizon outright, but the Bulldogs were 5-1 against power-conference opponents, and even that doesn't include a win over Gonzaga. This year they're 4-0 against the heavies. The way they've played thus far, A.J. Graves and Mike Green inspire the question as to whether they're on the same level as A.J. Abrams and D.J. Augustin. Oh, and this freshman Matt Howard looks ready to roll. He's only in the game half the time, but when he's on the floor he's a huge part of the offense, thanks in large part to outstanding offensive rebounding. I didn't know outstanding offensive rebounding was allowed within a perimeter-oriented offense.

Ken: It's certainly a novel concept for Butler, although one man alone will not turn them into Georgetown. One more nugget from that Ohio State game: the official scorer recorded a total of four two-point jump-shot attempts by Butler out of 56 total shots. That's 22 lay-ups, 30 three-point attempts and four mid-range jumpers. You won't see shot selection like that too often.

John: Any other games from the weekend jump out at you?

Ken: Lest all basketball analysts think this sport is all about making shots, note that Wyoming posted an effective FG percentage of 64.8 against Akron and still managed to lose the game. By 25 points.

John: Sweet mother of Bruce Pearl. Did the Cowboys have like 30 turnovers?

Ken: They did commit a bunch of turnovers. Plus Akron went 20-of-21 from the line while Wyoming was around 50 percent on their many attempts.

John: I'll talk about a game less statistically aberrant, but equally notable: Indiana getting a big win in a true road game at Southern Illinois. Along with everyone else in the world, I picked the Salukis to win the Missouri Valley. Now I'm not so sure. There's no shame in losing to ranked teams, of course, but in consecutive games SIU has made USC and the Hoosiers look like the best defensive teams in the nation. And...how to put this tactfully...they're not. Maybe Southern misses Jamaal Tatum more than I thought they would.

Ken: Yeah, the Saluki offense is anemic right now. It's too early to get too down on SIU but, man, you have to score more than every once in a while against Indiana. I'm really looking forward to the Creighton/Xavier game on Wednesday. If Creighton makes it interesting, I think you have to start liking their chances in the Valley. This season's SIU team reminds me a lot of the Dick Bennett Washington State teams...which do not remind me at all of this season's edition of Wazzu. The Cougs' offense could actually be better than their defense, which is excellent.

John: People still think "Washington State" means strong D and weak offense. No longer. The Cougs weren't exactly Arizona last year but they cleared a point per trip with ease in the Pac-10. Not to mention they needed plenty of offense to win a really slow game at Baylor Friday night.

Ken: Nobody has come close to keeping WSU below the point-per-possession threshold yet this year. Could Gonzaga be the first this week? It would be a nice defensive feather in their cap, though they struggled a bit against UConn. Then again, the Huskies were unusually hot on threes in the first half and the Zags' Austin Daye missed three-quarters of the game. For their D to be halfway decent, Gonzaga needs Mr. Daye playing 30 minutes and continuing to have an impact on the defensive end.

John: Ken, you realize you just used "halfway decent" in reference to Gonzaga's defense. What's next? "Big Ten" and "recklessly fast"?

Ken: What's especially sad about that is that Northwestern actually may not be the slowest team in the Big Ten this season now that Todd Lickliter and John Beilein are in the league. Seriously, we could have the slowest conference in the history of hoops. On that note, is this the appropriate time to give Harvard's Tommy Amaker a shout-out for his big win over Michigan?

John: Yes, this is the time. Amaker is undefeated as Harvard head coach at Lavietes Pavilion--you're next, Vermont! As for pace, Beilein's team at West Virginia last year was actually pretty normal. Still, you're right: Beilein's best shot with this group of Wolverines might be slowing things down to, oh, about one possession per game. Also note that if the Big Ten averages less than 60 possessions per 40 minutes this year, I swear I'll pull a Sinead O'Connor and rip up a picture of Pete Carril on YouTube.

Ken: Well, we wouldn't want that. So let's talk about teams that are willing to push the pace. How about this Australian invasion? Both Vanderbilt and Saint Mary's are off to great starts and both are being led by impressive Aussie freshmen.

John: Gotta love those Commodores. OK, maybe it's hard to get too excited about a team that needed double-overtime to win at home against South Alabama. Still, you could make a case that Vandy has had the best start of any SEC team. Aussie Andrew Ogilvy has been every bit as good as advertised. He's no threat to record an assist, I'll grant you, but he's strong on the defensive glass and makes almost 70 percent of his twos. Such are new realms, to say the least, for Vanderbilt. Now, what is this "Saint Mary's" you speak of?

Ken: I think their slogan is "the WCC's other team." Either that or "Team Australia." They have four Aussies on the roster, although Indiana transfer Ben Allen isn't eligible this season. Patrick Mills is the only starter of the bunch, but he's their leading scorer and has been productive in wins over Oregon and Seton Hall. They also have good old Americans--Omar Samhan and Diamon Simpson--who are capable scorers in their own right. I'd be surprised if the WCC doesn't send two to the Dance at this rate.

John: Ah, yes, those two being the Gaels and the aforementioned stout defensive scrappers from Gonzaga. With that, I'm off to L.A., a strange place, apparently. Did you catch John Wooden sitting in the crowd tonight at Pauley Pavilion? People were walking right by him. It's John Wooden! Are you telling me you'd just mosey on by? Not me. The Bruins' next home game is against Idaho State and I intend to be there. I'm going to strike up a conversation.

Ken: I think when you're 97 you've earned the right to watch a game in peace, but that's your call. Enjoy your trip to the left coast. I'll be staying put in Utah and attending the BYU/Michigan State game. It's a college basketball game between two ranked teams. And it's on Versus. What a country.

John: Ken, "peace" is a relative term. Once I've tasered Coach Wooden's bodyguard I'll be quite pacific. I'll even put in a good word for you. Ciao.

Ken: Let me know if you need help making bail. Later.

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.
Ken Pomeroy is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Ken by clicking here or click here to see Ken's other articles.

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<< Previous Article
Game Reax (12/02)
No Previous Column
Next Column >>
Back and Forth (12/12)
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Interpreting Individua... (12/05)

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