Monday, February 11, 2008

What's wrong with Arizona basketball?

How does one player score 39 points yet all his teammates combined manage just 15?

Take out Jerryd Bayless and ASU would have beat Arizona 59-15. Bayless was 12-18 from the field and 9-9 from the free throw line. The rest of the team, was 3-23 and 8-13.

Chase Budinger made just 1-12 shots. Only two other players made a field goal, one each. In 22 minutes off the bench, no one scored. Daniel Dillon played 38 minutes and did not score.

Best word for Jawann McClellan and Dillon, two starters: Useless

greenmachineAZ (1:03:32 PM): McClellan is worse then useless
greenmachineAZ (1:05:36 PM): and Dillon has no business getting a degree from a 4-year college
greenmachineAZ (1:05:41 PM): he's awful at basketball and at life

How does a guy who's on scholarship play 38 minutes and can't make a single basket? My friend and I have the following argument sometimes. If we take our buddy Larry and put him on the court with the Lakers and he gets to take all of Kobe's shots, how many points would he score? We always conclude that he'd probably make one shot a game. But he's horrible. He couldn't make the freshman team at El Camino right now. Now take Dillon. He's a senior at a Division I university that has made the NCAA tournament 23 straight times. And he can't score one basket while playing almost the whole game. How does that happen?

So what's the problem?

Well a number of things. That toughness that was supposed to come in with Kevin O'Neill is not really there. If it was, you'd think Chase would take the ball to the basket and not settle for long 3s once he realized they weren't falling? Rebounding is always an indication of toughness. Tom Izzo's Michigan State teams who sometimes practice in football pads are always known as one of the toughest teams and they're always at the head of the pack in rebounding. Arizona lost the battle of the boards Sunday 28-21. They say that when one part of your game isn't on, look to do other things. Chase had only four rebounds in 39 minutes. Fendi Onobun wonders why he doesn't play. He had 0 rebounds in 12 minutes off the bench.

How about the defense? Giving up wide open backdoor cuts for easy dunks isn't exactly what was expected out of this group. Some will look up and say, well, ASU only scored 59 points. That's how they want to play. They run the shot clock, slow down the tempo and then back door you with time winding down. The Sun Devils shot 51 percent. Jeff Pendergraph looked like an All-American. He was 12-16 and scored 29 points. Most of his shots were easy buckets inside, which brings us to Arizona's next problem.

The lack of big men. Jordan Hill has developed nicely, though he didn't have a particularly good game Sunday. He was lightly recruited and Arizona got lucky by spotting him. He's still foul prone but he'll get better with experience. Hill is the only big guy Arizona has. It's the only program that has such trouble getting big men to come to its school. North Carolina has three big guys who would start at Arizona. Tyler Hansbrough, Alex Stepheson, and Deon Thompson. Same with UCLA. Aboya, Love, and Mata Real. Throw in James Keefe and Mbah A Moute also if you're looking for periemter big men. Arizona has Mohamed Tangara, Kirk Walters and Alex Jacobsen. All three were touted by the coaching staff. All three are at least 6-9. Walters and Jacobsen are near 7-feet. But they are terrible. Jacobsen appears to be redshirting and its unlikely he'll ever be a factor. Walters is the only person in mankind to be sidelines by Mono for two years and Tangara is incapable of making good basketball plays, though he's one of the nicest people I've ever met.

It's not like it will get any better next year either. Arizona has one big man coming in, Jeff Withey, a 7-footer from San Diego. I have seen him in street clothes because he played for the same AAU team as Jamelle Horne but I have not seen him play. He's a twig at this point and I'm uncertain based on Arizona's big man recruiting of the past that he will be of any assistance. I am almost completely certain however that he will not help right away.

And that gets us to the coaching.

Remember when Kevin O'Neill was a horrible NBA coach with the Raptors. He was trying to bring some of that back Sunday when he called his final timeout with more than 10 minutes left in the second half. So while ASU was scoring on wideopen layups, O'Neill didn't have a timeout left. Apparently he was trying to stop the run ASU was making and I'm sure he had no use for those timeouts when Arizona was desperately trying to climb back into the game in the final few minutes, cutting the lead to three.

The sad thing for Arizona's team this year as Greg Hansen points out, this may be as good as it gets.

On to the good news:

Unlike Arizona, the Lakers are fun to watch. The biggest beneficiary of the Gasol trade has been Lamar Odom. In the win over the Heat, Odom had another great game with 15 points, 18 rebounds and six assists. He's free to roam the glass, has no pressure to score, and is playing like he feels comfortable in his own body again. Here's the difference between the Lakers and Arizona. When the Lakers' stars have poor games, other players step up. So when Kobe has six points against New Jersey, it didn't matter. So when Gasol had a pedestrian 12 and 7 rebounds Sunday, Odom made up for it. And so did Sasha Vujacic with 13 points off the bench. And so did Luke Walton with nine.

As for Kobe, he had 33 points on just 15 shots. More impressive was his stifling defense on Dwayne Wade. You won't find it in any of the highlights but the last Heat possession of the third quarter was a clinic in pressure one on one defense when Kobe made Wade fumble the ball repeatedly and allowed him to go nowhere. Wade scored just 19 points for the game on 7-17 from the field and turned the ball over nine times. That's why Kobe's the best player in the NBA. Because he plays hard on every play, be it offense or defense.

This is indicative of how good the Pac-10 is:

The Washington student section, which is always one of the best and most rowdy in the Pac-10, didn't rush the court after beating UCLA. The Huskies have established themselves as a top notch program and expect to win big games. So beating No. 4 UCLA was a huge win but nothing to rush the court over.

As always, an updated Lakers +/- (through 50 games) Lakers: 33-17 5th in West

Fisher +186
Kobe +337
Turiaf +65
Odom +179
Gasol +37
Mihm -16
Walton +122
Bynum +236
Farmar +117
Radmanovic +179
Brown -44
Vujacic +65
Crittenton -40
Karl +6
Ariza +5
Mbenga +7

Up next: at Charlotte Monday 4:00 p.m. PST (5:30 p.m. KCAL)


Kyle said...

Budinger can't honestly believe he's NBA ready, can he? His jump shot is inconsisent, he struggles to create his own shot, and if he can't guard Ty Abbott, how will he guard guys like Kevin Martin, Manu Ginobili, Monte Ellis?

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