UNH: What went right, what didn't, what does it mean? | Syracusefan.com

UNH: What went right, what didn't, what does it mean?

billsin01

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So got a chance to re-watch the game this a.m. Think it was actually a really interesting look at what this team was trying to do. Not a world-beating performance but thought there were some positives and plenty of reasons to not entirely jump ship on the season, which I know is what we're thinking after getting outscored by UNH for 2/3 of the game or so.

What went right
The first 12 or so minutes of the first half.
I think we saw what this team could be in the first 12 minutes of the first half. It has been a while since a Cuse team just overwhelmed an opponent with athleticism and activity on the defensive end and turned it into easy buckets on the other end. Bell played well in his first 5-6 minute stint, we deflected a TON of passes, harassed ball-handlers, cleared the glass ok, got quite a few folks involved (Bell had 5, taylor had a bucket, Quade had a couple buckets, McLeod had a touch down low for a bucket, Brown had a bucket or two, Cuffe got on the board, and obviously JJ and Judah). Probably still a bit iso heavy, but it was solid and gave us a look at what Red wants to do.

We played a bunch of guys. For the folks who hated JB's tendency to go with a shorter rotation, we actually got 9 guys involved without Westry or Benny and I'm thinking Hima, whether he ends up being a factor or not, must be dealing with some sort of injury too. Obviously not big minutes for Carey or McLeod, but they were involved.

Definitely played with pace without too many turnovers. We could have turned the ball over less against a team that wasn't really able to match our physicality and athleticism, but 11 isn't awful. We also got plenty of buckets in transition (primary and secondary break) and early in the shot clock.

We need as much as we can get from the Bell/Taylor/Benny/Copeland combo. Two of those guys had nice nights. Taylor had a much more assertive second half. Put the ball on the deck a bit, created his own shots a bit, grabbed a few boards, had a nice feed to Brown on a break. Did more in that game (14 and 6 with 3 assists, two steals and a block) than he did for almost any other game I can remember. Yes, Copeland had four turnovers and got bailed out on what could have been a fifth. That's ... not awesome. But 10 points, 13 boards, three assists (could have been four if Brown didn't uncharacteristically blow a wide open layup), is a lot of activity. He also has nice flexibility to put up a fight against bigger players while also being able to harass smaller players. He is a weapon, even if there are some ups and downs and frustrations along the way.

Judah and JJ were factors even in off nights. Not sure either of these two will wow people with their shooting, but Judah made a three and a couple mid-range J's. JJ hit a jumper from 17'-18' or so ... it's better than nothing. But JJ played really solid defense and didn't turn the ball over. He also had a nice post-up and got to the line a couple times. Judah did his thing getting to the line and putting constant pressure on the defense.

What went wrong
We weren't even close to putting 40 minutes together ... again.
My one concern with Red's style of play is that it's tough to sustain for 40 mins. My son plays AAU and you see this all the time where teams jump out early and sometimes have another spurt in the second half but if you can withstand the initial onslaught, you can figure things out and start to turn the tables. It's going to require these guys to be in impeccable shape and we're certainly going to have to play 9+ guys to have any chance of sustaining it. I also think it's just difficult sometimes to remain that focused for so long. Something to watch.

We still look like five players playing defense more than one group of five playing a defensive system. Thought this was really noticeable last night. We did a lot of good things individually defensively but our help was either late or non-existent much of the game and with McLeod only playing 10 mins, we didn't have much of a deterrent in the lane. Even the steal Bell got early, he was face-guarding his man 30+ feet from the basket. That's fine but he's literally not even thinking about helping a teammate. That kid that burned Brown and someone else off the dribble late in the second half (Woodyard I believe) had waaaayyyy too much space with Daniels off the floor. There just has to be help when someone is getting beat that bad. Something to watch that hope improves.

Judah has to be part of this team. I'm not going to get into the whole 'Judah's just auditioning for the NBA' thing that we'll certainly hear because I'm not sure that's it. But when he was locked in defensively he was a monster. The second half, particularly once he was in foul trouble he simply stopped moving his feet and he constantly gave up on plays. That's a bad look. Offensively, as a ton of people including Devo have pointed out, he needs to get others involved offensively and be a bit more mature on his play-making. Wild drives to the basket are not a sustainable offensive approach.

Having just 13 assists is a bad look. Bunch of iso ball and, to be fair, these numbers would look a little better if we were making more jumpers. But we also just had several bad passes or missed looks. JJ missed a wide open Brown in transition for an easy alley-oop. Taylor threw an awful entry pass that, even at 7'4", McLeod had zero chance of catching. Bell had some ugly iso takes. Just all in all, not great movement off the ball and not great passing in general.

Was anyone aware that Daniels was a lefty? Thought the biggest takeaway for me was how often, even on some misses, we let Daniels get exactly to the spot he wanted on the floor. We should have been forcing him right, camping on that left hand and sending help early on his attempted drives. Has to come back to Red and he's got to have this group better prepared even for the UNH's of the world.

We *gulp* missed Benny? I'm far from the biggest Benny fan here and still kinda wonder why we tried so hard to bring him back for this season (and I hope he proves me wrong, by the way). BUT, both Taylor and Bell had several moments where they were actually in position to box someone out and still gave up an offensive rebound. UNH had 14 offensive rebounds (some on some long rebounds that you can live with a little more) and that was after St. Rose gave us some fits there too. A healthy Brown and Benny in the game would have to help with that. Not sure it makes us great on the boards but it would help. Just can not give up that many boards to a team like UNH.

We can't shoot. I hesitate to put this one here because I think it's more fact than anything, but we simply have to shoot the ball better. Judah and JJ were 8-for-28 and 1-for-9 from three. I like that they were shooting but they've got to make some. I think they will, ultimately, when all is said and done, but until they do things could be very difficult. Rock fight difficult and I'm not sure we're good enough to defensively to win a lot of games like that.

What does it all mean?
Pretty sure this team is the definition of 'work in progress'. We can get better and there were encouraging signs -- Judah and JJ will be better but even with their struggles their speed and athleticism is a problem. Brown at less than 100 percent still got his hands on the ball constantly and put up 10 and 6 with just one turnover, which i think was a moving screen, which is whatever. Copeland and Cuffe were really active off the bench. Cuffe hit a huge three and has that feel of a guy who you want on the floor in big moments. Taylor had his best half of basketball in a regular season game since probably Bryant last year. It was fun watching us get after it on D, particularly for most of the first half. Also a welcome change to see us switch up defenses from time to time. Fun watching us run the floor. There is a good amount of skill and athleticism. Those are all good things.

My thought is we will have to see some tweaks to the defensive system. Need to be able to help better, need to be sure we're playing something we can sustain for 40 mins. Don't think we'll be a great rebounding team and wonder a bit about how good we'll be against teams with real size. Don't think we're going to be a great shooting team, but a Taylor emerging along with maybe Benny and Judah making enough shots could be just enough to squeeze out some wins in tough games. Think we'll be seeing a lot of Cuffe and Copeland and plenty of small ball, for better or for worse on that front.

All in all, didn't think it was disastrous for a first game. Tough one for Bell and I wonder a bit about his minutes more because I think he's got some serious competition. Should be more fun to watch but I'd say my prediction remains about the same -- something in the neighborhood of a bubble team. But there is a ceiling here if the individual parts start to form into a more cohesive whole.
 
My question is - how many games are we going to say "it's too early" before the defensive issues start to become a reflection of the coaching staff? I mean the help defense is so non-existent that we're making Brey's Notre Dame teams look like defensive specialists.
 
My question is - how many games are we going to say "it's too early" before the defensive issues start to become a reflection of the coaching staff? I mean the help defense is so non-existent that we're making Brey's Notre Dame teams look like defensive specialists.
It's already a problem. The only reason it wasn't a problem in the exhibitions is because I thought perhaps they were playing things vanilla. But it's already a problem. The reason it's too early to flip out is that it can be addressed. Not sure it will be, in which case I agree with you. But there's no reason to believe they couldn't adjust that piece of their system. It should be obvious watching the film of all three exhibitions that the help is either non-existent or faaaarrrr too slow consistently.
 
My question is - how many games are we going to say "it's too early" before the defensive issues start to become a reflection of the coaching staff? I mean the help defense is so non-existent that we're making Brey's Notre Dame teams look like defensive specialists.

There should be measurable progress on this front by the start of the conference season (i.e. Virginia on 12/2).

Lots of practice and games between now and then.
 
To be a bubble team means that we need some quad one wins. Teams with winning records without quad one wins did not dance.
 
My question is - how many games are we going to say "it's too early" before the defensive issues start to become a reflection of the coaching staff? I mean the help defense is so non-existent that we're making Brey's Notre Dame teams look like defensive specialists.
How about until end of the non conference schedule at least?
 

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