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One of the Porky's Seven
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Local Time: Jun 19 2013, 08:48 AM
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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:View the full blog post here.
George Thomas has reached out to see if Zips fans would take him up on the offer to get together and discuss the ABJ coverage, what we like, what we'd like to see, and the coverage in general.
This isn't an invitation to attack the ABJ, but a chance to have an open, constructive dialog with the new beat writer.
I've been on the road this week with crummy data connections, so I'm slow in posting this.
If there's sufficient interest, we can set a time and place to meet with George prior to one of the hoops games.
I reitierate that the hope here is for a constructive dialog, not a ranting session.
Post here if you're interested.
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!
Go Zips!View the full blog post here.
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.
Go Zips!View the full blog post here.
16 Jun 2013 - 22:01
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