Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hoop Dawgs Evaluation Thus Far

Seven games into this year's schedule and the Dawgs of the hardwood have looked a little flat so far. The Dawgs have probably played just one really quality team in #23 Notre Dame (8-0) and one other team that is on the cusp of being decent in Temple (5-2). These two teams are ranked 27 and 51 respectively in RPI, which is a pretty good indicator of the quality of team they are relative to the rest of the country.

UAB is a scrappy team, but let's face it, they lost their top-3 scorers from last year in a season where they didn't make the NCAA tournament. Colorado was supposed to be the other good win for the Dawgs but they have been disappointing losing to San Francisco at home and to Harvard at their place. St. Louis has also been disappointing. Needless to say, the signature wins that the Dawgs needed early haven't been as signature as Mark Fox had hoped them to be.

I know it sounds like I'm denigrating these wins, but I'm really not. They're still wins and will help our resume come March, assuming we're still in the picture. I'm merely saying that they won't be  as important to our RPI and SOS as we thought they would before the season started.

Tonight is an extremely important game for the Dawgs both in terms of quality wins and also swagger. Beating the Nerds at their place will give this team some confidence, which is sorely needed because it seems as though a majority of our players are extremely emotional types. If you've watched any game in the past two years you know what I'm talking about with Price and Thompkins.

Speaking of those two, Fox has to figure a way of getting the ball into the post when teams are zoning us. Both Price and Thompkins are legitimate threats to score 20 every night, but when you can't get them the ball they can't score. The primary reason behind this is that we have no threat from the outside shooting. Hitting 28.7% from three-point land gives most teams confidence to pack it inside and deny the post entry past, which is precisely what I'd do.

I'm not sure that this abysmal shooting from the outside will continue forever. It's a mental thing right now, as Ware and Robinson are much better shooters than this from all reports. Ware isn't a natural shooter, but has worked hard on his shot from deep. Robinson is more of a slasher, but from all reports he can fill it up from outside as well. I think our most natural shooter is Brantley, though he's not going to see major minutes until he can play defense and distribute the ball.

The key player for our team this year is Travis Leslie. He has to become more assertive and develop more of a nasty streak. He's capable of elevating his game at any time, he just gets frustrated and disappears for long stretches. His 15.4 points per game are the quietest you'll ever see. This guy could score at will if he developed his handle and went to the rack more. If he had the desire to go to the rim like Gerald Robinson, with his athleticism and ability to finish, he'd be a 25+ per night guy. He just doesn't have enough confidence in his dribble to do it. Come on Travis, you can do it.

The bottom line is, the Dawgs have to shoot better from outside. The opposition has to have at least a little respect for you from deep, otherwise you're going to have to win a lot of ugly games. That's what the Dawgs have done till now. If we don't gain at least a minute ability to punish teams for playing the zone, this is going to be another long season. It might make it longer considering the talent we have.

Andy Katz seems to think we're turning the corner in his observations from last week. I sure hope that's the case Andy. I have already been disenfranchised this season, so here's to the Hoops team getting on the upturn.

These shooting woes won't continue forever. They can't if we expect to be dancin' come March.

Oh yeah, Tech sucks.

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