Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

November 18, 2008

The Overnight Shift

Filed under: Uncategorized — jsheehan @ 1:47 am

3:47 a.m. ET: Boy, I want to make it…it isn’t helping that neither of these two games has been close. The Gaels have stopped short of running the Bulldogs out of the gym, largely due to occasional defensive lapses in which they allow seven quick points. Essentially, they can name the score because they shot the lights out in the first half. Down the road, they’re going to need to play on both ends of the floor.

The next game is interesting in that I don’t think any team has ever been asked to make a 2 a.m. start. That’s what the game will be for Idaho State, which hails from the Mountain Time Zone, and will be closing the first leg of the marathon by playing at 11 p.m. HST. That can’t be easy.

I mentioned earlier that Hawaii isn’t very good. At least they scheduled for it, with something out of the Boeheim Collection: just one nonconference road game, a trip to Illinois next month. Fuel costs were cited as a reason, but you can also point to a team that will be hard-pressed to avoid 20 losses in a better WAC even with their soft, home-heavy schedule.

This may be the last post of the night, so let me get this in here. If Kentucky got run out of the gym by VMI–and they did for much of the game–what exactly will North Carolina do to them? No, the world doesn’t really work that way, but given that Kentucky looked completely shocked by the Keydets’ pace, and that Carolina plays just a tick slower with, um, somewhat better players, you wonder if the signature game of the marathon is going to be about as competitive as the first two have been. 

2:17 a.m. ET: That wasn’t very impressive, unless you’re the coach of a team in Conference USA. The Memphis Tigers showed themselves to be long, fast, and completely terrified of shooting from anywhere outside the lane. It wasn’t just their poor percentages–28/57 on twos, 2/19 on threes–but their approach when UMass packed the lane and conceded not just threes, but long twos. They looked tentative and confused, and continued to make reckless charges into the lane. Against a team with a better halfcourt defense–this is not Massachusetts’ forte–they might not have scored 70 points, much less 80.

So the game plan for beating has to be pretty basic: 1) forget the offensive boards. Four guys get back at the first shot. Memphis needs runouts, because their halfcourt offense is not that good. 2) Pack the lane. Play the tightest 2-3 zone extant, completely conceding the three-point line and even out to about 18 feet. Make Memphis shoot jumpers, lots of them, to beat you. 3) No layups. Foul shooters in the lane like it’s a 1983 Celtics/Sixers. The Tigers went 18/23 from the line last night, so this may end up being a mistake, but make them prove it.

Memphis is a tournament team, but a first-weekend one. They lack the scorers in the halfcourt they had a year ago, and that’s the difference between the Final Four and the Final 32.

St. Mary’s is going to beat a rebuilding Fresno State pretty badly. Then Idaho State will give Hawaii a better game than you’d expect. The Rainbows or Warriors or whatever they are now aren’t a very good team this year, especially at the defensive end.

12:30 a.m. ET: How powerful is ESPN?

ESPN can get three schools to schedule games at 11 p.m. local time so that they can have a day of basketball, a Tip-Off Marathon that will extend midnight Tuesday to past midnight Wednesday. They have to fudge the “marathon” a bit–no one could be found to play from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. ET, so that’ll be a studio package–but Penn and Drexel pick it up again in the morning.

Right now, Memphis and UMass are playing…well, about how you’d expect a bunch of college students to play an early-season game in a late-night time slot. It’s sloppy and energetic, with a streetball feel that is enhanced by the fact that both these teams play pressure defense and the dribble-drive-motion offense. UMass even has the scheme’s architect, Vance Walberg, on staff as an assistant. Eight minutes in, the most impressive part of the game is Memphis’ athleticism on defense. They aren’t going to shoot well–the Minutemen are conceding everything on the outside–so they’ll have to turn defense into offense or get UMass into a man-to-man to pull away in this one. They sure can check people, though.

I’ll check in throughout the night as we go from Memphis to Moraga to Manoa, beneficiaries of ESPN’s strength. Hey, I’m a hoops junkie and an insomniac, so I love my enabler.


1 Comment »

  1. […] Call this 23-hour thing the season’s effective commencement, then, one vastly superior to the technical one. My indefatigable colleague and two-sport wunderkind Joe Sheehan has already offered his contemporaneous thoughts on Memphis-UMass. (The new-era Tiger D looks alive and well. Offense? Stay tuned. Note for example that Tyreke Evans had pretty much the prototypical inefficient but intriguing debut for a Very Highly Touted Freshman. It took Evans no fewer than 17 shots and six turnovers to get to 19 points.) Allow me then to just add a few thoughts on the extreme nightcap, St. Mary’s-Fresno State, more specifically on a certain Australian therein….  […]

    Pingback by Basketball Prospectus | Unfiltered — November 18, 2008 @ 1:07 pm

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