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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:The Good:
- 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.
... And a few Comments More:
- 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.
- 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!
Better yet, go get yourself one of these:
Greetings Zips fans! And isn't it great to be that?!
Well, our Zips head to the crossover games with a 4-1 conference record, a one game lead over the next closest team in the East, and what appears to be a whole lot of momentum. Thought now would be an appropriate time to update the View on the current state of the Zips since the VCU game. So with the customary apology to Sergio Leone .. here goes:The Good:
- First place is always good: After the first swing through the East, the Zips are 4-1. And despite the final margin of victory, the Zips were about 2 minutes and 3 good defensive possessions from being 5-0. This is a very good place for the Zips to be. Aside from sending a message to the East that the Zips are serious contenders, they've started to round into shape as the full complement of players has now been available for about 3 weeks.
- Road successes: With 2 road wins in the first East swing, the Zips are getting really close to the position where they can lock up a bye by just taking care of the home action. It's important to keep momentum going against the West, but with 3 of 5 at home in the second East swing .. a 12 or more win conference slate isn't out of the question.
- Winning from behind: Something the prior MAC title teams have been able to do well is win close games, and take a punch in a game (sometimes literally) and get back up and press on to a victory. In all 4 conference wins thus far, the Zips have trailed in the second half, and had to mount late comebacks. They appear to thrive under pressure and play pretty loose. There don't appear to be nerves hitting these guys in crunch time. A very positive sign in my opinion.
- Athleticism rules: Raise your hand if you've ever seen a Zips team this deep, this quick, this big, and this athletic. Didn't think so. There's a long way to go this year, and the wheels can wobble at any time .. but I'll say this. Each and every year, KD seems to put a group on the floor that is a little bigger, a little quicker and more athletic than the year before. This year takes the cake. Watching these guys finish at the rim on the break (all 9 of them) on Saturday was a thing of beauty. And something most of us won't forget soon.
Nitpicking a bit here, but tradition dictates I hit all of the categories:
- 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. Ditto for BG, though things were tighter in that situation. My point here is that it's a dangerous game to play to always get down and then believe the switch can be thrown. I hope the West swing can be used to 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. 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. Watching the team claw back to within a possession of U@B only to give up 2 or 3 more wide open looks to the shooter was painful, and hard to watch. Nit picking for certain here, but the team D can be better.
.. Again, it's all relative nit picking .. unless we're talking about yellow shirts .. which are truly ugly.
... And a few Comments More:
- The FT stripe is perhaps one of the areas where an improvement would really help the team put teams away. VCU could have been salted away at the line. And against BG, there were some critical misses that would have obviated the need for last second heroics. Small stuff. I think the Zips are shooting 66% as a team, which isn't horrible, but 70% would be a big improvement. 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: At times .. not always .. but at times .. the ball has gotten away from the Zips. There's been some discussion about this during the aftermath of the Can't State game, and I agree that increased TO's may come with the style and tempo of play the Zips can play. My problem with that sentiment is that many of the Zips' turnover problems manifest themselves in the half court set .. NOT in transition. See the Can't State game with 11 first half turnovers. 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. I don't get it.
- More on the talent: Following a few of the recent conference wins, the following has been written by opposing fans:
Other fans are starting to see what we've believed from the beginning of the season. These Zips are loaded. You could almost feel the air go out of the Stroh center when the Zips went on their run to cut the lead late. The place was pretty lively, and then Treadwell & Harney took the game over. And after the pass off the glass for the slam that brought the Zips back to within 2, I looked around, and you could see BG fan sitting back in their seats wondering what hit them. They just didn't anticipate that quick of a turnaround and that much athleticism. The upside here is TREMENDOUS.
- BG guy: ... a team that is LEAPS AND BOUNDS ahead of us, talent-wise. Harney, Diggs, and Treadwell all COME OFF THE BENCH for them. Either one of those guys would probably be the first or second best athlete on our entire team.
- Can't State guy: How did this (Akron) team ever lose to Buffalo?
- Other Can't State guy: Their bench players are better than our starters.
- The rotations are really starting to take shape. I'm of the opinion that the breakdown KD is using now is close to the best split available. At the start of the game, the Zips trot out a future NBA center, with a Euroleague PF and 3 pretty good shooters from the outside, and pound the ball inside. Most conference teams can and do struggle to contain this. In the past 2 games it's put the opponents' bigs in early foul trouble. Then right when they're catching their breath, with their 2nd unit, KD can roll out Diggs, Harney, Treadwell & Nitro and put the hammer down. It's really awesome to watch. And even if the Zips aren't pulling away in the first half .. it's a good bet they will in the 2nd when the other teams really hit the wall.
- The 216 has really given the Zips some huge talent. These 2 guys are going to be really special players for the Zips. And they're surrounded by top flight elite mid-major guys. I'm blown away by the roster.
Finally ....R.I.P. Phil Martin, aka zip37 here at ZN.O
.. I believe he passed away in mid-December, just prior to the holidays. He sat in front of me for the past 5 or 6 seasons. A more passionate hoops fan I don't think I've ever seen. The guy lived and died with each possession, and put his time & money where his heart was. If you played in the golf outing, you probably spoke with him at the check in table, or benefited from his help on the committee. The Zips have lost another huge fan this season. Best wishes to his family & I hope he's enjoying things from his new seat.
Put them on Zips fans! Buckle up .. it's going to be a great ride!
Well, the Zips let a good team off the hook @ the JAR. It was an entertaining game for certain. But I can't shake the sense that the Zips really let a good resume win sneak out the back door. Kept some mental notes as it went down, and with apologies to Sergio Leone .. here goes:The Good
- Nikola carried the Zips for much of the game. The feeling I had watching this was that Nik is really starting to emerge as the clear leader of this team (with AA as well). He really played his tail off tonight. Was pretty efficient with the ball, and hit some clutch baskets. Along w/ Tree, did a pretty good job on Burgess tonight.
- The Defense. For most of the game, the Zips did a tremendous job of forcing VCU to score in the half-court set. VCU loves to force turnovers and get out on the break. For the game they had 8 fast break points (4 buckets?). That's pretty good. Furthermore, VCU only scored 22 points in the paint. The Zips forced them into making shots .. which is reflected in VCU shooting percentages of 26% on 3's and 39% overall. That's good defense against any team. Against a team like VCU .. great D. The team is starting to find defensive cohesion and identity. I like that a lot.
- Alex answers the bell. Dude just played 37 minutes 9 days after surgery. Played pretty well too. Had a big +/-, best of the Zips, even though it was clear he wasn't nearly 100%. He didn't have the quickest first step, and his strength wasn't all there. You could see that he was a bit off when he couldn't get some of the early layups to drop. That I think affected his 2nd half as far as going to the hole. He's not going 4-12 very often. Good game by AA.
- Couldn't put them away. A big game at the JAR with a lively crowd & a good opponent, and a very winnable game gets away from the Zips. It was clear at half time that this could go 3 ways. The Zips could win close, the Rams could win close .. or the Zips could pull away. One or two more buckets in the middle of the 2nd half, and this game is a 10 point win by the Zips. They just couldn't finish the deal. There were several times in the second half where the D did it's job, but they couldn't finish on the offensive side. This is a young team. We all get that. Tough one to see get away from them. They played hard and put it out there .. but they didn't ultimately finish. This one unfortunately got away.
- Turnovers. You aren't going to win often against good teams with 20 turnovers vs. only 15 assists. Those turnovers resulted in 25 points for VCU. That's 11 more than the Zips were able to generate.
- Untimely misses @ the line. When you go to the line 12 fewer times than your opponent in a close game, you've got to make yours. The Zips shot 68% as a team, which isn't really that bad .. but missed some really critical shots at the stripe. 2 front ends in the 2nd half, and one that could have iced the game late in regulation, or at least forced VCU to foul on the ensuing possession.
A Fistful of Talent
- Breaking the Press. There are a few things that as a hoops fan I may never understand. #1: Why is it that teams that are pretty good on defense and have some success pressing themselves are almost never good at consistently breaking the press? #2: When you're getting pressed in the back court, doesn't it make it harder to get up the court if you have all 5 of your guys in the back court, and as a result the D has all 5 defenders back there, enabling zone traps? There must be a strategy to it .. but I don't understand these things. I don't understand how hard it is to throw a pass 20 feet to a guy who's 7' tall, can jump really well and isn't being fronted. There were some harrowing moments last night watching the Zips face the press w/ AA on the bench.
- Stretches of not playing together. Mostly early in the game, but also a bit in the second half when VCU was making their run, the Zips drifted back into one on 5 offense at times. Where one guy would take the ball to the rim against 2 or 3 defenders, and try to make everything happen by himself. Midway through the first half, we saw the Zips settle down and play offense together, and it was a beautiful thing. The lone ranger offense while out of control with the ball? Not so pretty.
Once the early nerves settled down for the Zips, it was apparent to me and most of those around me that this was a pretty even matchup. Talent, size, and athleticism were pretty much a wash. This against a top CAA team just off a Final Four trip. That wasn't the case against teams like Nevada, Rhode Island, Dayton in recent years. There was always a little quickness or size deficit that KD needed to scheme creatively to overcome. Not so vs. VCU .. the Zips were right there with them. I think it's been a little while since a MAC school was on par with the top rosters in the A10 or CAA. Great sign IMHO.... And a few Comments More
- Gilliam played well when out there. Didn't hit much, but was a part of some of the best runs the Zips put together all game. Foul trouble I think limited his time in the second half, but when he sat down, the Zips led by 10, and he never re-entered the game. Hopefully there's not an injury at play here. I like having Gilliam out here, and think he'll be a critical component of the Zips success this season.
- I think Walsh & Deji need to be the backup PG's soon. We can't have AA going 30+ all season or he will wear down. So we need 10-15 minutes at the point from other places. Against all but one or two teams in conference it isn't going to be a problem, but against high caliber teams, it will be an issue. My point isn't that Diggs was struggling with the ball (which he did and can do) as much as the belief that Digs is one of our most explosive scorers from the SG or SF spots. He's best slashing from the wing and scoring from outside. Having to use him as the PG for stretches is disrupting one of the best weapons the Zips have. Hopefully they can get to the point where he can play less PG, and KD can count on Deji or Walsh for the minutes that AA sits. The PG depth might be the Zips' Achilles heel?
- Not referring to the last possession here, but I though the move to having Nikola bringing up the ball against the press was a great one. It really pretty much unplugged the pressure, since Nik was clearly quicker than the big guy guarding him, and so the guy couldn't really pressure him much. Shades of using Linhart the same way against Can't State in the MAC title game 4 years back. I think it was a good move.
Well that's what I got for now. These were the thoughts that stuck with me a day after the game. Much more to come as the season progresses. A 1 point loss doesn't change my outlook on this team or this season. Sure would have been a nice win, but we move on to the next.
Sincere hopes & wishes for all Zips fans and observers to have a safe Holiday weekend and prosperous New Year. May one of us win the Powerball Lottery in 2012 so we can solve the hoops facilities problems once and for all.
Happy Holidays to all! My sincere wish for everyone is for prosperity with challenges in the new year, because prosperity in the face of challenges keeps us sharp and is the most rewarding type. Regardless, best to all. Due to a very busy couple of quarters, I haven't been posting many hoops thoughts. This entry was started 3 weeks ago, and I'm just now coming back to it now.
A recent topic around ZN.O has been "what is Akron Basketball" .. probably because there's so many new faces trying to figure it out.
On March 10th, 2004 a new coach for Zips Basketball was introduced. In that press conference, he introduced what his concept for "Akron Basketball" would be. Paraphrasing: "We will play hard, we will play smart, and we will play together. If we do those things to the best of our ability, we'll be successful here."
So for the past seven season, the Zips mantra has always been "play hard, play smart, play together." I can think of only a few occasions (4 actually) in that time where it occurred to me that the Zips weren't doing that .. and even in those instances they fell down on one or two aspects .. not all three.
This season, the Zips entered the year with 5 returning key contributors and 5 new faces, some of whom would be relied upon as contributors for the Zips to be successful. In the summer we saw glimpses of the athleticism of these new Zips. The talent level isn't really a question for most of us. The unknown was always going to be how quickly the new group came together and filled the gaps left by 4 of the winningest players in Zips history.
So how are things going? Rather than trying to determine if the MAC is setting up for it's 5th at-large bid in 60 years, I thought I might just consider the definition of Akron Basketball and see how our guys are meeting the mantra.Play hard.
- This has been a real mixed bag thus far: In the MSU game, the Zips looked much more energetic and active than a team that later broke into the top 25. Then against Detroit, the Zips used their numbers to wear down the (admittedly undermanned) Titans. However in other games, it's gone the other way. The Zips had a lead late vs. Valpo and slid backwards down the stretch. I'm not sure that the early games can be attributed to effort, but the WVU and MTSU losses seemed to come with late game stretches where the urgency wasn't there. These streteches are hard to watch, not the least bit because we're so unaccustomed to seeing the Zips play with uneven effort. Now in the bakery aisle the week between exams and the holidays, they Zips were back on top of their game effort wise .. destroying all four opponents, generally keeping the pedal down troughout the entire games.
- Rebounding and Defense are effort based: In the past 2 weeks this has become a strength, albeit against some overmatched competition. Zeke, Nikola, and Treadwell have worked very well on the glass of late, all averaging (through my recollection math) about 6-8 rebounds a game. If the front court rebounds in the mid-20's night in and night out, the Zips should do well on the glass in conference. Side note: Walsh seems to rebound really well from the backcourt, and gets a lot of the same across the lane boards Linhart was famous for. So this has been a nice help.
- Finishing has been a challenge in losses: Certainly in the first 2 losses (Valpo and Duquesne) the Zips had the chance to close down the stretch, either in the lead or very close. Against WVU, we know that finishing wasn't really the problem, same for MTSU. Against CSU, however, the ship turned a bit and the Zips played better down the stretch than they had through much of the game. In the bakery aisle, this wasn't a challenge for the front line guys.
In general, I think the Zips' effort has been there, and there's a good deal of hustle apparent on the court. As in previous years, there's not guys taking plays off .. and I don't expect it to be an issue in games this year either. KD simply has too much depth and talent to be forced to deal with this, and he won't need to. The Zips are playing hard.Play smart.
- New players have forced a simplification of play book (dumbed down). KD has not hid the fact that he's trimmed his offensive playbook significantly as he mixes the new guys in. This has potentially helped the guys, but I think at times it has hurt the team as well. The plays in the 2nd and 3rd week of the season seemed geared more to leveraging the athleticism of individual guys, and less to working together as a unit to get the open / easy look. The upside is that it's helped get 5 new guys on the court and getting experience. The downside is that it's easier to guard a club with limited plays. Now the good sign is that we've seen much more of the offense in the past 2 weeks as he seems to put more in play.
- Leading to a lot more one-on-one clear outs (see below): This is a comment I wrote mainly after the Valpo / Duquesne games. The simplification of the play book at times led to lots of NBA style possessions where we cleared out for Q or Harney, relied on them beating their man as an individual and getting an open look. It led to struggles against Valpo when the calls weren't there on contact in the lane, and what ordinarily might generate 2 FT's generated a TO instead. There was also a period where Nikola took it upon himself to try and score individually .. and that inhibited the ability of the Zips to get into a flow together. I think that it has been good of late to see the assist total rise as the offensive cohesion improves and buckets are generated by 2 and 3 man possessions.
- Off the court:In order to be successful on the court as a team, the guys need to be smart off the court as individuals. It's been rare in KD's tenure here, but this season the off the court stuff has caught up with the younger players. I think we're at 9 missed games due to suspension / violation of team rules. My understanding is that these are all correctable, learning events that can be moved past in each case. But the guys need to grow and move past them so that they can continue to grow as a team and have good chemistry together. This will be difficult to get to if the available group of players changes every week. Play smarter of the court guys!
As the weeks have gone by, it seems as the collective basketball IQ has risen for the Zips, and the results have improved. What remains to be seen is how much that is linked to the youth and talent level of the opponent, and how much it is linked to the cohesion and effort by the Zips themselves. I think the next 2 games vs. VCU & @ Marshall will reveal much aboutPlay together.Assists are down: This is another area where things have changed in the past 2 weeks for the better. Early on in the road trip, the Zips were playing a lot of man to man offense, letting the athleticism try and take over, with guys trying to beat their man off the dribble. This resulted in a few games where the assist totals were well off prior season's pace. Statsheet has a nice chart plotting total assists for the Zips against their opponents on a game by game basis. If you scan backwards over the past 3-5 years, you'll find no instances where the opponents' assist totals tracks as high as the Zips. However in the middle stretch of the non conference this season, you'll see that for a time, the Zips opponents actually had MORE assists than the Zips. This is in stark contrast to years past, and I think evidence that blending the new faces, and perhaps simplification has led to less sharing of the ball. The other side of the coin no doubt is that the Zips are converting more fast break attempts, and running more .. so those may result fewer assists.Too much one on one w/ no help: At times, the clearouts have really hurt the offensive flow. Notably the ends of the Valpo and Duquesne game. There have been moments where the guys are playing individually not as a unit. Nikola had his stretch where this was a problem, and several of the guys have been pressing. Lately however, this has improved a bunch. Nikola is back to his old self, and the offensive flow is getting better and better. The past 4 games @ the JAR have shown a pretty cohesive unit, moving the ball well in the half-court. Hopefully that trend can continue.You can't play together when you can't play: I've heard it a couple of times in the past week or so .. apparently KD has only had his full complement of guys for 2 games the entire year. Much of this was Deji's injury .. and now AA's surgery. But a LOT of it is suspension related. Maybe 9 games missed due to "unspecified violation of team or department policies"? This is far too much, and it will continue to have a detrimental affect on team chemistry and playing together. If guys aren't able to be out there .. then they can't play well together. I sincerely hope these issues can find their way into the rear-view mirror soon. The sooner the Zips can field their best 9 or 10 .. the better off they will be. Even with the small losing streak on the road, I think this Zips team is a bit ahead of where last year's club was at this time. Sitting at 7-5 with 2 non-con games isn't where we thought we'd be after taking it to MSU in the opener. However, looking at the flow of things on the court .. I look for the Zips to salvage no worse than a split of the next 2, going into conference play at 8-6 or 9-5. Bottom line: these guys need to play together. That means taking care of business off the court so that KD can play them together. Hope this turns around soon.
As with the basketball IQ on the floor .. the cohesiveness has improved game over game since the early slump. It's really critical that Harney get back soon, so that he can be mixed in to the rotations before the roadie to start conference play. As KD said on his TV show this week .. guys are out of position due to the injuries and missed games .. and they need to play in their preferred positions and get comfortable with each other. Hopefully Nick can resume his role smoothly very soon.Additional thoughts:
- I'm VERY bullish about this team: I was lucky to see these guys a few times over the summer and in early season practices. I'll maintain that this is the most raw talent ever assembled at UA, certainly in the last 20 years. The challenge comes down to the guys and the staff as to how well they put it together. We saw vs MSU, and I think we'll see a lot during MAC play .. the length and athleticism of this team is a very difficult matchup for most teams. That can pay big dividends when they get to the post season.
- Tree is an animal not a plant: Haven't gone too much into individual players in this post, but I'm continually astounded by Treadwell. He seems to have a real tenacity for the basketball on both boards, has some ball skills to put the ball on the floor to drive, or on the break .. and he apparently can fly. One of these days one of those ridiculous dunks is going to stay down .. and the JAR will go nuts. I think we're only seeing a small fraction of what he's capable.
- Should be a wild ride if they can get on a roll: I think this is a team that will ultimately be sensitive to momentum .. both during games and from game to game. When they're up, they're pretty good already .. when they're down, they've been mediocre. A challenge for the staff is to keep them level headed and on the upbeat side from game to game. You can see how some of the new pieces play much better when they're not pressing. This is where veteran leadership can help. The guys who have been through the full season w/ KD & co should be able to help the newer guys through it.
It's been an up and down few weeks related to the FB coaching search. Seems like we've been teased with resolution a few times only to have to wait a few days. Like many others, I'm really pleased with the hire that's been made, and looking forward to what it may bring for Akron Football. However, I can't shake the feeling that UA needs to balance its priorities soon. We're putting a lot of resources to the Football program. We've put investment into Soccer. Both for good and defendable reasons. I think a challenge for LP, TW & GVH is how to make sure hoops doesn't get left behind. Coach Bowden can be a big fundraiser and proponent for Zips Athletics. That's great. But a rising tide needs to lift all boats here.
I don't bring this up for any reason but this nagging feeling I have about our current situation as it relates to 1986. In '86 we were in a great era of hoops. UA essentially pulled the plug on that to move the FB program to previously (and thus far) unseen heights. I hope we don't make the same mistake twice. I hope that we can use some of the new energy (and hopefully success) of Bowden's program to leverage whatever we can to improve hoops resources in the same way that Football and Soccer have seen their needs attended to the past few years. KD has brought the hoops team to the top of the conference. They're a consistent winner. They need to be treated as such sooner rather than later.
Get some extra pairs .. you're gonna need them:
What a week it was. From the loss at Can't State to the 2nd MAC Tourney title in 3 years in a matter of 8 days. I'm digging out of the short week from last week, during this short week before heading to Chicago. Thought I would put down some of my thoughts about the MAC Tourney while they remained fresh in my mind. Brevity is king here, because awesomeness needs few words. And awesome it was!
So with the customary nod to Sergio Leone, my take aways from the weekend of dreams at the Q:The Good:
- Team Tenacity: None other than Geno commented in the postgame about the ability of the Zips to remain calm when things were trending for the opposition. The Zips faced big runs at the end of the Miami game, the beginning of the Can't game .. and to a lesser extent the end of the WMU game. Teams will put forth runs, and things won't always go your way .. but it is the team that can rally itself, keep its composure and see through the storm that usually comes out on top. Our seniors this season are now 12-2 in the MAC Tournament. Are there any other MAC players who have even BEEN IN 12 postseason games, much less won 12 of them? IMHO this played a huge role in the Zips emerging victorious.
- Multiple Sources: McClanahan comes up big with a huge performance vs. Miami, and a big bucket against Western. Diggs tears western up. McNees brings the Zips back in the first half vs. Can't .. and Zeke obliterates the paint in the 2nd half & overtime in the title game. The Zips got big performances from lots of different places .. so many places that it has to be difficult to coach against, if you don't know where it's going to come from. The true essence of a team working together for a common goal. Great to see that. Thanks guys.
- The Environment: It wasn't a huge crowd by MAC Title game standards, but it was a lively one, and after watching the replay, it played well on TV for a national audience. It was a great atmosphere, and validates the conference having the tournament in a centralized, professional setting. Nice show as always.
- Boroski, Simpson & Wyman: Perhaps the best officiated game I've witnessed in the MAC. Calls were made .. and it was even. But for the first time in what seems like forever, the stripes just let them play. Both teams were able to get into a flow .. and the stripes weren't the center of attention for most of the night. Thanks for that, guys.
- Zeke! was huge, tremendous & clutch for the Zips against Can't State. He found a groove in the second half of the Can't game where he was able to keep the drivers away from his body and swat the shot without fouling. A big step for him. Keeping him on the floor really changed everything. No one expects that this will be the norm every game .. at least not right away. However, he was hugely deserving of MVP honors .. and played his best on the biggest stage he's yet faced. KD has said for awhile that a big like Zeke helps the Zips compete "when we get into the NCAA's." I for one can't wait to see the big guy's first go at in in the Big Dance on Friday.
- McKnight: comes close to earning the Jawanza Moore award for this season. On the offensive end of the floor in the title game, he put the Zips on his back late. He took and made tough shots, late in the shot clock .. when the Zips absolutely needed them. The knock on having a team like the Zips where 6 guys average between 8 and 11 points, but no one scores 20 has always been: there's no go-to guy .. no clutch player to carry a team. Brett may have come as close as we've seen on Saturday. A great performance in his last in a Zips uniform in Ohio. Tremendous effort. Brett has shown the ability to go off against high major competition. The 2nd half against Pitt being an example. Now would be a great time for another game like that. Honorable mention to Roberts & McNees as they also were clutch.
This needs no words .. just pictures.
This one credit to the Beacon Journal / Phil Masturzo
Credit to Mark Duncan / AP
This one also credit to Mark Duncan / AP.. And a few Comments More:
- Ecstatic for the team: I'm really happy for the team .. and it's great for us fans. What really strikes me is how cool it is to see a group of people excel at what they're working hard at. We witnessed a group of 15-20 people having one of the best days in their basketball lives .. for some their career. It's a cool moment I think. I couldn't be happier for the guys. They deserve this.
- Great seasons are defined in March .. but made in the summer months and early season workouts. This team has put in the work .. battled through slumps of different kinds .. and come out on top. This continues to be a great season because the team trusted themselves, the coaches and the process .. enough to be able to make the crucial plays down the stretch in 3 nights in Cleveland.
- More basketball awaits them and us in Chicago. If you're able to go .. I recommend it. During my days as a student, I had the opportunity to attend several NCAA tournament games in which my schools were participating .. and it's a whole different experience. My hope is that as many Zips fans as want to attend this can find a way to attend it. My secondary hope is that thousands of Purdue fans have purchased all session tickets. Because if they have, I can tell you that the Zips fans in attendance will have friends Friday .. LOTS of them.
Go Zips! Enjoy the moment. Play smart .. play hard .. and play together. And have fun. I know I will.
When I last summarized my thoughts on the Zippers, they were win the basement looking up at the MAC East, with 2 losses against West bottom feeders, and in a fight to simply earn a home game. What a difference a week makes. The Zips now find themselves a bit closer to the top than the bottom, and the potential for a bye seems slighty more realistic. Still much work to be done fans, but they've pulled themselves together and actually looked like a KD coached Zips team the last few games. The last 2 against the best the West has to offer.
So now, as our men pack up like John Candy and head back to the East
, I offer my current assessment of my favorite team:The Good:Team Defense: To say the D has improved over the past 3 games is an understatement, IMHO. On the season the Zips are allowing 42% FG shooting and 33% from 3 point land. Also giving up 65 points per game. In the past 3 games (2 of which were against solid MAC squads who have multiple wins against the East), they've pushed those numbers down to 40% FG shooting, 17% on 3 pointers, and are only giving up 57 points per game. These are tangible improvements resulting from a clear improvement in effort and cohesiveness on Defense. They did give up some big individual performances against Ball State, but the perimeter D has been stellar the past 3 games. Just as we know that teams aren't just having the night of their lives when they shoot 50% from outside against the Zips .. so too do we know that they're not just ice cold. The D matters .. and it has been better.Offensive Execution: On the other side of the ball, the past 3 games saw corresponding improvements in offensive efficiency. The Zips have assisted on 2/3rds of their made FG in the last 3 games, with an A:TO ratio of 1.43. The shooting percentages are up, the total points are up over the season averages. Generally, most things are trending in the right direction. Special mention to Steve McNees who seems to be thawing out at the right time for the Zips. Nice to see him get going 2 games in a row.NI-KOLA: The best, most consistent Zips player this season, hands down. The guy is playing hard, shooting pretty well, taking fewer chances with the ball (more on that later), and really leading this team. It's been nice to see someone step forward to do that. Nice couple of games vs. WMU and BSU.Bardo: Mike is a factor, and is apparently way more athletic than any of us knew. His put back late in the half was key for momentum, and he rebounded well. 6 boards in 14 minutes Saturday .. 4 of them offensive boards. That's extra possessions and extra points. Nice work Mike.Stringing them together: I like that they've used these 3 games to start to string some things together. It isn't going to get easier in the coming weeks, but they can beat every team on the schedule if they play complete Akron Zips basketball. There's not a doubt in my mind. Winning the final appearance at Harold "Andy" Anderson Arena would be huge in the hunt for the bye, as it would tie them w/ BG while holding a 2-0 sweep of the Falcons. If you can get out there, I recommend it .. it's a throwback gym. I understand the need for improvements and progress .. but that was a great place to see a game when the BG students cared. Once upon a time, it was a great home court advantage. Zips need a win to come back home for a tune up against Creighton.The Bad:
I've got nothing bad to say after the last 3 games. There are clearly areas for improvement for this team to become as good as they can be. Some of those items are individual in nature, some are team related. Suffice it to say, I'm stoked enough about the progress seen last week at the JAR, that I for one am not going to waste too much time on the negatives. They're there, we all see them .. so I'm going to quickly skip over them and keep hope that the Zips awakening we're seeing continues.The Ugly:
Only one entry today qualifies:
And a few Comments More ...
- Not Dr. J In addition to all his excellent play and leadership, Nikola provided us one of the better comic relief moments of the 2010-11 season when, for a brief moment late in the first half, he simply forgot he wasn't Dr. J. It must have been his 2nd or 3rd steal of the game out top, and he heads to the south basket with only one trailing defender. A layup and perhaps a dunk is assured when Nikola, feeling good about his game (as we all do) takes off for the rim from what must have been 10 our 12 feet out on the left side of the lane. Had he made it there, it might have been one of the most spectacular put downs in recent JAR history. However, even the most casual fan around me could sense he had left the runway too early in his approach. I haven't reviewed the tape yet, but judging by the play-by-play, the ball didn't make it above the rim, or to the rim .. or near the rim .. it doesn't even appear as a shot attempt. He adjusted course in mid-air, but to no avail. Reminded that he was NOT Dr. J .. Nikola fell to the baseline grabbing his ankle in an apparent career ending injury. Thankfully for all involved, it was the dreaded ankle stinger, and not much more. Whether there was extremity pain, or merely bruised pride, we may never know. But now we all know that Nikola Cvetinovic is NOT Dr. J. Thanks for that Nik.
- The current seedings are posted here and elsewhere, and you can see the Zips have risen from 11th to 6th in recent updates. With a game @ BG on Tuesday, the opportunity exists to make that 5th. The bye is in play for the Zips, but they have to find a way to beat a good team on the road. Because with BG, OU & Can't State remaining on the road, they likely need at least one of those games to get into the top 3 in the East. I think things will play out in the usual fashion with the top 3 in the East securing the free pass .. so that's where they need to be.
- Interior passing can improve even more than it has. We counted 3 occasions in the second half alone where a big was alone on the weak side, and the Zips failed to recognize it in time for the easy hoop. It was a different guy with the ball each time, and the guy open underneath each time was different .. so it wasn't a case of lack of confidence in any one player .. it was simply missing the open man. These types of things will further help the chances of the Zips if they start to take advantage of them. Few MAC schools have 2 capable big men .. the Zips have 3 or 4. This needs to be a strength.
- Rotations seem to be settling in the past few games. Combining Diggs & Abreu gives KD an up tempo lineup which has shown to tire out the opposition. In general, I think something that has worked for the Zips this season is pushing the tempo when available. Not Doug Moe style with no D and reckless abandon, simply taking advantage of any and every opening in the full court, and even making openings here and there. Diggs & McNees had a nice 2 on 4 break that yielded an old fashioned 3 point play in the 2nd half. In both the last 2 games, I think fatigue affected the opponent more than the Zips.
- In the last post, I finished by saying I thought the Zips could get to 6-5 coming back to the East, but it would take some progress and improvement on a possession by possession, half by half basis. Well they got there, and now I'll say I think that 10-6 in the MAC isn't impossible for the Zips. They need to win their home games and beat 2 of 3 on the road. Well they've beaten 2 of the 3 at home this season, and the 3rd team has struggled at home a bunch this year. The opportunities are here. The Zips need to take care of business at home also. If the team that played last week is what KD can build upon in the next 3, the Zips will be fine.
I think it's safe to say that not many of us expected to see the Zips in their current position halfway through the MAC portion of the season. After several seasons of leading or always being within a game of the East lead, our Zips find themselves in unfamiliar territory:
- The Zips are looking up at every team in the East, including OU when the tiebreakers are considered.
- Not only that, but the Zips only lead CMU and UT in the combined seedings at the moment. CMU by virtue of last weeks win vs. the Chips at the JAR. For the numerically challenged reading this, the Zips are in 10th place.
- The Zips have not won a road game in conference yet this season. With 5 conference losses and 4 remaining road games, it's apparent that securing a bye is quite unlikely, and getting a home tournament game will require a rebound in the second half.
I'm not alone among Zips fans in being quite surprised at the current state of things. On paper, the Zips looked to be primed to continue their run at or near the top of the East, despite the warnings of some staff members over the summer. Losing 2 seniors (big contributors in Conyers and McKnight) was going to hurt, we knew that. The other losses, mostly role players or players who didn't like their roles were expected to be more absorbable, given the addition of Abreu @ PG, and the number of incoming players to fill the extra minutes.
Could we have been more wrong? I'm not sure.
So my snapshot heading into the UT game:The Good:
- The Zips beat Can't to open the MAC slate. It had been a couple of seasons since our guys got over on the rivals, and it was a nice refreshing sight to see the Zips take out Can't at the JAR to open the conference slate. The coaches were both saying the same thing after the game. What they do after was more important than one game. Can't State sits near first, 3 games up on the Zips in the loss column. Maybe these guys know their teams? Regardless, Zeke had a huge game against Can't State and the Zips won one for the fans that we needed.
- Young athletic players (at times): There have been glimpses of the positive impact some of the roster changes can make. At times, Diggs has looked like the most athletic swing man we've seen in a long time, and I believe Abreu has the tools and basketball sense to become one of the Zips great PG's over time. Having to rely on these two at times when others have faltered is a component of the Zips struggles. Young players are going to make mistakes .. they're not going to be as steady as a senior who has won a MAC title and played almost 100 games. Regardless, these 2 guys as well as Zeke have shown stretches of what can be a more athletic running team.
- Nikola Cvetinovic: Has there been a more workmanlike season game in and game out than Nik is having? I think if we didn't have Nik, things could be a lot worse. He's matured to the point of not taking himself out of games emotionally, he leads the Zips in points and rebounds, is 3rd in assists and 2nd in steals. The guy is far and away the MVP of this team. He's improved his FT shooting, and is shooting a respectable 44% from the field. Put me in the group of people that hopes he finds a way to put off going home to Serbia one more year. We need this guy.
- Consistency: I can't remember a Zips team, perhaps because I've blocked most of the 90's out, that was as inconsistent as this team. I remember a few times in the Hipsher era where I felt the team should be better than it was, and that a bad game here or there unplugged a season. But I can't remember any team being as up and down as this team has. They beat Can't, they should have beaten U@B in their gym before giving it away, and then they lose to NIU & EMU. It's consistency at a whole bunch of levels, not just game over game. Within a game, within a half .. even within a single possession, the Zips are struggling to find consistent execution. This is leading to inconsistent results, to put it mildly.
- Cohesiveness: One of the mantras of KD Zips Basketball has always been to "Play Hard, Play Smart, Play Together!" I'm not here to question the effort, I haven't seen people loafing or anything, so I think they're playing hard. Playing smart is up for debate. But playing together isn't a strength of this team. There seem to be times when the backcourt just isn't on the same page as the bigs & vice versa. It's usually on Defense. A key to good team defense is good communication. Perhaps this relates to their struggles?
- Defense: KD has been up front about this all season. The D isn't where he likes it to be yet. At times, they've been blistered by outside shooters standing all alone. At times a singular player like Silas and Cooper has really hurt them. Either way, the Zips aren't stopping people enough. In the interest of fairness, it has been better the past few games. In 3 of the past 4 games, the Zips have held the opponent to 60 or fewer points. They won 2 of those 3. In the previous 12 games, they only held one team to 60 or less. In the same 4 games, they've held opponents under 40% from beyond the arc, a stark contrast to the 50%+ they allowed OU and U@B. So maybe the defense is evolving? We'll have to wait and see.
.. And a few comments more:
- The Offense: This is a frustrating area to watch the Zips struggle with. They've shown an ability to get open shots, and shoot solid percentages. They've shown the ability to dominate people in the post. They've shown an ability to play inside-out to leverage both skills. However, due to the cohesiveness and inconsistency, they're rarely showing these things on a night in and night out basis. One game, the post players will dominate and get the ball in, yielding wide open looks from outside. The next game, or 10 minutes later in the same game .. they'll start passing the ball over the top looking for three balls, and ignore the post all together. I think it's driving the coaches nuts. Bottom line is that the Zips are shooting 41% as a team in conference play and only 34.5% from outside. Included in that is 4 games where they attempted more than 20 3PT FG's and made LESS than 30%. If the percentages remain as they are trending, the Zips will struggle until they find a little more balance between inside and out.
- Rebounding: Pointed out earlier as a team weakness, it seems to me to have improved ever so slightly. They're winning the rebounding in about half the conference games. They did well against CMU and Can't State and won. They did poorly against BG & still won. Other games, they've been crushed. This is a hard stat to harp on, given the defensive problems. As KD continues to need to resort to the 1-1-3 to improve the defensive end .. rebounding will struggle, as it's hard to rebound out of a zone. This is further compounded by having a good shot blocker. They're almost never great rebounders, as going for the ball has you moving away from the rim .. and therefore away from the rebound.
- The season's not over .. there's lots of time. So the bye *looks* out of reach .. so be it. They won the title by playing 4 games in the tournament, and they can do it again. They have time to rebound. 3 games remain against the West, and there's 4 home games left to try and get into the middle third of the league and secure a JAR game. One game at a time, they can solve their issues and become the team they've been when March rolls around.
- They have a history of winning & veterans abound. Four guys who were key in winning the MAC tourney 2 years ago are the leaders of this team. They know how to win. They've done it a LOT. This experience has to help them at some point this season. They can put it together .. teams don't just forget how to play in a month. They can re-discover it .. and I think they will.
- There's numbers to the Zips' advantage: KD has a deep bench, and can use these guys to his advantage if he tries to speed teams up. This may mean more Egner & Bardo .. but I see no reason why the Zips can't push the ball more on offense & wear teams down more. We saw it work against CMU .. I think it could work against a bunch of teams in the league.
As Mike White once said .. "it ain't over!"
Here's hoping the Zips can pull a road win out at UT and start to string some games together. With 3 left against the West & 2 of those at home, it's possible to go into the 2nd East Swing at 6-5 with a shot at a home game. It won't be easy. One game at a time .. one half at a time .. one defensive possession at a time. Gotta start stringing these together.
OU isn't as good as they looked last night, and the Zips aren't nearly as bad. In my opinion, they're much closer to each other than you might think.
There's a story you hear about Jim Tressel as an offensive coordinator somewhere early in his career where he ran the same play like 4 or 5 times to start a game. I think it may have been at BW with his Dad's team. HC asks him "why don't you run a different play?" Young Tressel says .. "Why? They haven't stopped the one I'm running now."
To me, that was the game last night. OU did one thing well last night. REALLY well. And the Zips efforts to stop it were either futile, half-hearted or wholly ineffective, maybe all of these things. The game for me was a glimpse:
One one hand, it was a glimpse of how badly a Zips team can look on both offense and defense at the same time. It was a glimpse at how to let a one-dimensional team with a very good PG drill you in your own building. It was a glimpse at how to not attack a 2-3 zone .. over and over and over again.
On the other hand at times, it was a glimpse of how to defend OU well and force them in to bad shots or bad decisions. It also had a glimpse of how to attack a 2-3 zone when the opponent can't keep your PG from going by them.
Clearly we saw more glimpses of the former than the latter. Ultimately, last night was verification of what we already knew .. the Zips are inconsistent in effort at times. When they play well together & with energy .. good things happen (probably about 10 minutes of the 40 last night). And when they don't .. they can look pretty mediocre. You do that against a team that does one thing really well .. and you don't take that one thing away .. you can get pasted on your own floor.
I'm hoping it's a learning experience. In the press between Saturday and Wednesday, KD was clearly concerned about keeping his team even keel. He had real reasons to be concerned. Complacency was king last night.Thoughts .. on Abreu vs. Cooper:
The box score doesn't lie .. Abreu had 7 TO's .. likely his high thus far. But what we saw in the first 5-7 minutes of the game tell me a few things:
- Abreu is as quick with the ball as DJ Cooper.
- DJ Cooper generally was not able to beat Abreu off the dribble.
- For a moment .. Abreu was in Cooper's head.
To be clear, Cooper killed the Zips last night. I didn't see anything different than anyone else. But he killed them with the pass and not the shot. Where the Zips fell down last night was in the rotations, or lack thereof, to the shooters. I think this was due to A LOT of unnecessary double teams. They were doubling OU's post players, leaving Kellogg and Freeman open. Those guys can't be left open. You let Baltic, Washington and Freeman go one on one against our bigs .. and stay with the shooters.
And with Abreu at the point, I think you let him guard Cooper straight up, and don't double Cooper in the half court.
I'd take my chances letting Abreu check him one on one, and stick to a straight up man defense to take away his assists. Maybe you have Zeke help at the rim if Cooper gets loose down the lane .. but you do NOT come off the perimeter guy to help out. If half his assists were on 3 balls last night, then he assisted on about 38 points. If you single cover him .. he's not going to put 50 on the board against you. He's a better passer than distance shooter.
Abreu had his challenges last night. Made some unbelievable plays .. made some bone-headed plays. At least two of his turnovers were "Jason Kid @ Cal" types .. where he hit guys with the ball that weren't ready for it and couldn't comprehend how in the world he got them the ball. But I believe one thing for sure: Abreu is good enough to guard Cooper straight up the next time and stop with all this Hipsher-era "let's leave an open shooter" silliness we saw yesterday.
Keep 'em on .. this is a good Zips team.
The Zips enter conference play this weekend, so what better time to chime in on the season so far, and what lies ahead. I feel comfortable asserting that this team has before it an opportunity to establish themselves as the best team in the league, and a worthy torch bearer of the KD Era Zips. Will they do it? ... guess they gotta play the games ..
So with the customary nod to Sergio Leone, my thoughts on the season so far:The good:
- No bad losses.
The Zips have beaten the teams they were supposed to beat thus far. No Austin Peay at home this year yet, and for the most part they have shown signs of improvements.
- In the 5 losses this season, the Zips have competed
well in 4 of them. I witnessed first hand at the Barn what 20 minutes of top notch Zips hoops could look like against a ranked team. Same for UD & Miami. I still feel like they should have taken down one or two of them .. but not to be.
- Newcomer Integration.
Writing this on January 5th / 6th, I'm pretty happy with the degree to which the newcomers have stepped up and filled roles that were needed of them. I do think we'll wish we had the Euton redshirt back .. but those are the breaks. What I'm surprised by is that in 14 games Abreu has put a stranglehold on the starting PG position for the Zips, and in fact, may already be one of the Zips pivotal players. At times, Diggs has looked positively high-major talent wise .. his creativity and athleticism are unmatched on the roster at the moment. There was a bunch of turnover last off-season. Seems to me the team has handled it well. The PG need has been addressed.
- Zeke on the rise:
Steady as she goes, big fella. Averaging 10 & 6 with 3 bpg in just over 20 minutes per game. He's battling fouls, some of his own making .. and I firmly believe he'll start to win that battle in the next 3-4 weeks. Call it MAC ref home cooking, familiarity .. or just experience. He's going to be playing major minutes and I think he'll be better at avoiding the 1 or 2 really ticky tack fouls. The simple thing here is that when Zeke is on the floor, it changes things .. it did at Minnesota .. it has at the JAR .. it will continue to be the case. He presents problems for people on the defensive end with his jump hook, he's able to pass out of the double teams, he's a decent passer off the defensive glass to start the break .. in short he's coming along.
- The Juniors:
Nikola and Nitro have gotten off to a strong start this season. Nitro is just about tripling his scoring average in just over double the minutes from last year. He presents a swing man that is willing to take the shot, not tentative, and there's some creativity in creating a mid-range shot when the long ball isn't there. He's clearly the Zips most improved player this season.
Meanwhile, Nikola has just gone to work game in and game out and been a very steady & consistent post player for KD. 12pts, 6 rebounds per game in under 30 minutes. That's the kind of consistency the Zips need from these two guys. The other day I was thinking back to when JD was just coming to Akron, how all the talk was that his most important recruiting job was to get Frye to stay. I'm starting to wonder if the magic KD needs is to find a way to keep Nikola state-side for his 4th year of eligibility. This guy is playing well and continues to show steady improvement.The bad:
- Even with the new talent infusion, the uptick in output by the juniors, the Zips are still getting bitten by the extended offensive droughts.
It cost them @ Minnesota .. vs. Miami .. and probaly a couple of the other losses too. Not sure why this is happening, but it's a frustrating thing. It's been observed here and around my seats that this season, these droughts feel like they coincide with Alex being on the bench. Not sure if that's true .. doesn't really show up that way in the +/- .. but I did sense that vs. Minnesota and again vs. ORU.
-Defense is not up to KD Zips' standards:
While the offense is ticking along at about 70ppg, even with some scoring droughts and the struggles of perhaps our best shooter .. the defense has been marginal, and at times worse. 66 points per game is the most any KD Zips team has ever allowed. They need to win with defense .. moreso if the offensive droughts continue. This team and these players are capable of holding teams to 60 .. if they can get down near that number, they'll be in a good position to win a bunch of games.
- The rebounding:
The Zips are getting beat on the glass for the first season in the last 3, and it is a really consistent issue throughout the non-conference slate. IMHO, this represents the single biggest area where the Zips can improve as a team and with it improve the teams fortunes. Extra rebounds means extra shots .. The Ugly
- The Temple Incident:
I think I can count on one hand the number of times in the past 6 years that a Zips team was just never in a game. Not in it, and beaten by 20 late .. just never in it .. statistically, energetically, emotionally .. you name it. The last one was @ URI 2 seasons ago .. that team did a good job of leaving that game in the dumpster and moving on, let's hope this one is the same.
- Rebounding: It's bad .. and it's ugly.
The Zips simply need to find a way to rebound better. Their starting front court is averaging a TOTAL of 14.6 rebounds per game in 78+ minutes per game. That simply HAS to get better for the Zips to become a championship team. The Zips are going to be the biggest interior team most of the MAC sees this season .. they need to use that to their advantage.
- Yellow shirts are ugly.
They just are. Simply not looking forward to seeing those.... And a few Comments More:
- I'm excited for conference play.
While I don't think it's a foregone conclusion, I do think that the Zips can really do some damage in this seasons MAC. Maybe this isn't the best Zips team we've seen at this stage of the season, but I do think there's an opportunity for it to be the best team we've seen in a long time in March (I realize what I'm saying). Things have to go well .. the rebounding needs to improve, McNees needs a slump buster .. and the team D needs to come around. But in this league, in this season, the Zips are as well positioned as any team to go out there and put a stranglehold on the league title. Lots of these guys have been there ..
- Need to put together 40 minutes.
Someone can correct me, please, but have the Zips put together a complete 40 minutes yet this season? We saw what I thought was a pretty darn good 25-30 against Minnesota .. but what would it look like if they could put a solid 35+ minutes together .. they'd be damn good, I tell you. I'm looking forward to seeing that as the season wears on. One of these days, the light's going to go on, and some poor MAC team isn't going to know what hit 'em. When the inside out game is flowing, and our shooters are hitting the open look. It could be fun. Hope to see it.
- Award potential?
Unless something striking happens, I think the Zips run of Defensive POY awards may come to an end this season. It was a nice run. I do think B. McKnight can re-claim his 6th Man award from 2 seasons ago .. and at some point Alex will step into the FOY conversation, despite how many BCS level offers Trey Ziegler turned down. The kid is plain & simple getting better every game, and has taken over a starting role on a team that should contend for the league title.
- Gotta force Can't into the half court on Saturday and make them hit jumpers to beat the Zips. Greene's going to get his .. but let's see the Zips make the flushes hit some shots, and not give them too many open transition looks.Go Zips!
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