Hello again ZipsNation. I hope everyone reading this has had a good holiday season.
So the Zips completed the first third of the conference portion of the 12-13 slate last night, and I thought now was as good a time as any to take a step back and look at where things stand. Due to circumstances, I missed the MTSU, CSU and Ball St. games in person. Listened to CSU, caught the MTSU game on the feed with French in the background.
So with the usual apologies to Sergio Leone, here goes:
- Zeke, Zeke and More ZEKE: Lots of discussion here at ZN.O and elsewhere that Zeke is turning a bit of a corner after the Creighton game. Hard to argue with that sentiment when you look at his last 3-5 games. He has been dominant defensively, and more importantly AGGRESSIVE on offense. If he keeps his current mindset and goes Conyers for his senior season, we're looking at the MAC POY and a 1st round draft pick. Get after it big fella .. it's great to watch the new mindset with Zeke.
- Pounding it in: Once upon a time, the Zips had some Wood in the post, and they put the ball inside on nearly every possession to start the offense. Now, the Zips appear to have the whole Tree. I absolutely love the aggressive, simple nature of the offense the past few games. A month ago, they weren't really sure what they were running. Lately, it's come up the court, make some space, and drop the ball to the blocks. Ever since about the Princeton game, the Zips have done a great job of initiating the offense inside.
- Extending the D: Shaka has apparently finally convinced KD to stretch the D, and we've seen it in spurts, especially against CSU. It's a powerful tool that will no doubt improve as the year goes on. It didn't affect Princeton much, but I think it will pay dividends against some of the less disciplined teams the Zips will face in the MAC. The horses are there, let's get some easy buckets, right? This also goes for their ability to stretch the defense on the perimeter in the half court, which made the difference against U@B.
- Athletic size rules: KD is using almost 80 minutes a game between Zeke, Tree, Harney and Forsythe. All 4 guys are shooting near or above 50% from the field, and Zeke is almost at 70%. Harney is the low man @ 47%, but he's taking more outside looks than the remaining 3 combined. I recognize that these were "puffed up" in the bakery portion of the schedule .. but I can't see how MAC teams will defend that. If the Zips remain committed to pushing the ball low and going at the rim with these 4 guys, what's the defense? I guess we're going to start seeing 2-3 zones from teams that ordinarily don't run them, in an effort to prevent the entry pass? A question to ponder as the MAC season continues: Which other post players in the ENTIRE LEAGUE would you trade for with any of our 4 bigs? I can think of maybe one off hand .. but would love to hear from you about that.
- Getting down early is a habit the team should try and rid themselves of. Even sitting in the JAR on Saturday, I'd have told anyone that I figured the Zips would still cover. The talent on this team is just so strong that I never felt they'd let it get away. My point here is that it's a dangerous game to play to always get down and then believe the switch can be thrown. On one hand, the testicular fortitude shown to dig these past two Saturday games out will serve the Zips well down the road, but on the other .. it'd be good to see the Zips approach the full 40 minutes they played against CSU and Princeton. I'd love to see the Zips get back to building some momentum early and not needing a big 10+ point swing late in the 2nd half.
- 40 minutes of D hasn't really happened yet, at least in conference play. Frankly, it'll be ugly for whoever it happens against. The Zips have shown in spurts the ability to take teams out of what they want to do .. but my sense is that the team D this year isn't as good as it can be .. and isn't as good as it's going to be a month from now. Rolling out the 1-1-3 yesterday to squash the Canadians was cool. I don't want to parrot KD, but being able to do different things on D will be good down the road.
- The FT stripe is perhaps one of the areas where an improvement would really help the team put teams away. The Can't game wouldn't have been a contest if the Zips weren't so awful at the line that day. There isn't any reason it won't get better, but it needs to happen. Missing 1 of 3 is way too many. I'd like to see the Zips pick up 10% in the stat. At the moment it looks like FT shooting could cost them a game at some point this season. Opponents aren't really outscoring the Zips at the line, but I feel like if this team can shoot 46+% from the field, they can do better at the line. It might make a difference later in the year.
- TO's: As in prior years, I still feel this is an area for improvment. The Zips tend to gather TO's in bunches. The baseline out of bounds plays against U@B are good examples of plays that can kill runs. Said this last year too: If a guy is 7' tall, has probably almost an 8' wingspan, and is athletic enough to really jump .. how is it that 2-3 times a game, a ball gets thrown over his head either out of bounds or to a defender. On the same topic, I think that Carmello has made strides within the past week in this department. Against U@B particularly he played one or 2 key shifts where he effectively ran the half court set, defended his guy well, and protected the rock. I'm more and more comfortable with him long term as the Zips' PG .. and if he continues this short term trend, he'll be fine by the time the MAC Tournament for providing 8-10 minutes.
... And a few Comments More:
- Tree: He's been a real beast lately. I haven't looked specifically, but he must be the MAC's leading rebounder, right?
- Is Zeke a lock to retain his Defensive POY trophy?
- 4 Freshman contributing in the top 11 on this team still blows me away. And if Carmello continues to settle down, all 4 will be factors. This youth would really bother me if I was a less fortunate fan of any other MAC school. That's before they even see what comes next.
Put them on Zips fans! Buckle up .. it's going to be a great ride!
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Better yet, go get yourself one of these: