Some thoughts for upcoming season | Syracusefan.com

Some thoughts for upcoming season

billsin01

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It was one game, and an exhibition at that so don't want to act like we know the answers to everything, but figured I'd put together some thoughts on the season based on what we saw last night and what we know/don't know about this group. So, thoughts:

IUPUI was a pretty good barometer
Everyone will get angry when I say "IUPUI was good" so I tried to find another way to say that. The reality is that was a well-coached team that runs a good system on both ends, has a bunch of veterans, decent athleticism, and had a game under their belts. Tough opponent considering two things: 1) We have so many new faces and 2) We're simply not as talented as we're accustomed to being. I think you saw this play out in the first half with the botched alley-oop by Bell (I think). The pass from Girard was a good one, a guy like Jeremi Grant is going to rip the backboard off the stanchion on that play, but we missed an in-between layup instead. Everyone can get furious about this fact but it just is what it is. Yes, JB probably should retire and maybe, ideally, would have done so already but an AD pushing out a guy with JB's resume, loyalty, and elevated position within the community (key boosters include) is extremely dicey. So, all of that said, with where we are now, that was a difficult spot on opening night and if you want to take a positive from it -- it would have been easy to cave and lose and we actually won going away. We'll take it and the game should provide more insight into the season ahead than most exhibitions.

We still don't run much of an offense, imo
I get annoyed at the constant animosity toward JB on here, but my biggest criticism through the years has been that we often have teams that just don't do a lot in half-court sets. At least in this one-game snippet, that was true again last night. To watch IUPUI get good looks on almost every trip (really don't remember many bad looks for them) against zone and man and then watch us do little more than the occasional high ball-screen was brutal. Our entry passes to the post should have been a focus in the preseason given how good Edwards is, yet we were brutal going over the top to him. JGIII, who also frustrates everybody, was the best at this. If I had to watch everyone stand around and watch Bell brick another lightly contested three, I was going to lose my mind. I don't know if it's high-low action or just a more concerted effort to get the ball to the post, but we need more post touches for Edwards and we have to be able to use our improved athleticism to occasionally get a backdoor and make a team pay for pressure man defense. Frustrating.

Didn't love the man or zone but there was a bigger problem defensively
Again, want to credit a well-coached veteran team. They're going to expose you if you're inexperienced and not overwhelmingly talented. So it's OK. But didn't think our man or zone disrupted much of anything. Don't remember a weak side block from any of our athletic forwards (maybe there was one and i'm forgetting). The press was a non-factor as well. The biggest issue in the first half in particular, however, was how poorly we got back on defense and got set up. Maybe that's a young kid thing with jesse on the bench a lot. But we need to clean that up. Way too many transition/secondary break opportunities for IUPUI. One other note on the man -- if we really are going to use it at some point -- we need better communication. If you watch good M2M teams these days they really play what amounts to more of a matchup zone -- they switch a ton and pass off a ton of cutters. We gave up some penetration and didn't exactly pressure the ball intensely, but I thought the biggest red flag was how often we had guys trying to run around screens to catch up to the guy they were defending. Poor communication is my guess on that but we looked really vulnerable to well-executed sets.

The backcourt mix will be interesting to watch
We know JGIII and Mintz will factor in heavily. Hard to imagine Copeland not averaging double-figures in minutes. What's interesting about that is that I'm not sure Torrence isn't our steadiest hand here. Torrence played a total of 10 minutes, hit a three (not really his game) and dished out 4 assists with no turnovers. JB indicated he's the odd-man out but as we are going through the year, at least when some of the others are struggling, I can't help but feel like Torrence could still be a big factor for us. My review of Mintz is this: I have no idea what to think. I'm not sure he took an open, uncontested jumper all night. But, he made a lot of jumpers. He didn't really get anyone else involved (1 assist in 33 mins). But, he didn't really seem like a ball-stopper and since we don't run great sets (see above), we need someone who can create offense and he did a decent job of that. He had three turnovers and felt out of control at times. But he's a really good athlete and really, I don't remember his turnovers. Gonna have to see him play some more before I settle on any sort of opinion. Copeland, as I mentioned, had some moments. Wouldn't be entirely shocked if he ends up emerging as the guy getting the most minutes at the 3. Regardless, will be interesting to watch b/c those four guys might be our best four players not named jesse edwards (obviously benny will have something to say about that but just not quite counting on 15 and 12 from him every game just yet).

The Brown/Bell/Taylor trio was fine but ...
If we're going to actually challenge for a top 5 or 6 ACC spot and an NCAA tourney berth we need one of these guys to be a player. Thought by and large they were OK -- Bell will likely shoot better, Taylor played within himself offensively and looked like a very solid athlete with quick feet, and Brown was fine (4 pts/4 rebs in 8 mins). It's super early to make any determination on these kids and they were in a tough spot against a veteran team ... but I will say that at first glance, they all look like kids who have potential down the road but may be a year away. Happy to admit that this is a rushed judgment, but at first glance, Bell looks like mostly a guy focused on getting his shot off, Taylor looks good but could well be trumped by Copeland, and Brown appears to be behind Tayler and Bell as it is. I'm sure these guys will show more in the next exhibition and will get some opportunities, but I'm not sure I see a ton of minutes for them. I will say, that I applaud Taylor for going to the barber and getting the Buddy Boeheim cut.

Will be interested to see Carey
I'm thinking the limited minutes for Carey had more to do with matchup than talent. Maybe I'm wrong. We'll see. The one thing with JB is that a guy with size and a really good motor usually gets minutes. Dolezaj before any of us could pronounce his name or remember what country he came from, Ogenaut, who's name I still can't spell or pronounce and who's country I remain unsure of, Keita despite not being able to catch a basketball and coming in in the same class as Fab ... those guys often find a role. To do a Bill Simmons here, I'm holding onto my property on Carey Island. Still think he could emerge with Mintz and Copeland when all is said and done.

Such a sigh of relief to see Benny play well
Absolutely need Benny to be a player and he had a really nice debut. The numbers are great (15 and 12) and the jumper looked better. But to me, the key with him as he works on developing the skill portion of his game, is the hustle. He's big enough and athletic enough to get himself 8-10 points a night on hustle. Run the floor, get after the boards, fight for every loose ball -- he did all those things last night. Great put-back dunk, a couple garbage buckets, harassing people on loose balls. Really good start for him. Also thought knocking down 4 FTs was as important as him hitting a three. He should be able to get to the line, but it won't matter if he's not able to convert when he gets there. All in all a nice performance from Benny.

Joe/Jesse
Not a ton to say here that hasn't been said before. Thought Jesse looked great in the second half but will be interested to see if he expands his offensive game to take a jumper now and then. Not sure he has that in his game, but if we struggle at times offensively, it would be a nice boost to have him knock down a 15-footer. Joe is one of those weird players who will likely be underrated and overrated his whole career but he's an outstanding shooter and pretty good offensive player in general. The ball-handling is still a bit of a thing but shouldn't be a huge worry with more time off-ball. Still wish we had seen him come in in absolutely kickass shape. Not Mac McClung jacked, per se, but lean and visibly fit. Don't see that. But on the plus side, thought that was a really veteran game from him last night. Scored 17 without shooting incredibly well (3-for-8 from three is good but it wasn't like he hit 5 of 7 or something) but didn't force much. Good sign from him.

Rotation prediction (for when it matters -- don't care about blowouts)
Everyone will complain. Oh, wait, an actual prediction on who will play. I'm going with this:
Joe/Judah/Torrence backcourt rotation
Heavy dose of copeland at the 3
Benny at the 4
Edwards 5
Hima some backup 5 minutes
Carey some legit minutes at the 4/5 when we need to be bigger
That's 7.5. If there's someone else, probably Bell to add a shooter although there's a huge asterisk there b/c he needs to defend and do more than just shoot.

Record prediction
I think this is always a range. It feels like a 16/17-win team to me. I know that's depressing but we're rarely great at really taking advantage of a good low-post big, scoring is a bit of a question and while I think the defense will be better, I'm not sure it will be great. Just not sure we have a real calling card. I also think the difference between a 20+ win team and a 16/17-win team is your ability to get a big bucket when you need it. Maybe Judah or Joe could be that guy or we go to Edwards in those spots ... but I'm just not sure.

The recipe for that surprising 20+ win season? Edwards has to be the guy we all think he can be. Joe/Judah need to be a dynamic scoring duo. Benny may not have to score a ton but has to be a consistent factor on both ends. And then we need one more guy -- copeland maybe -- to play more like a veteran. Not sure i see that but it's not impossible.
 

Cuse99&01

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Nice write up.

IUPUI is a D-1 school from the Horizon League where as IUP is a D-2 school in the PSAC.
One is located in Pennsylvania (IUP) and the other is in Indianapolis Indiana (IUPUI)
 

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