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Are the Cougs tired?

Posted by Jeff Nusser on February 6, 2008

Early this season, I mentioned that I was concerned about the minutes our starters were logging, especially in blowouts. Then, as this team slugged its way through the first seven games of the Pac-10 season, we all pointed to some road weariness before the start of this four-game homestand.

With that, I pose this question: Is it possible Tony Bennett deserves some of the blame for our failing defense? Here’s what I said in his grade report at the end of the non-conference season:

It certainly appears Tony Bennett is putting all his eggs into this season. His starters have logged heavy minutes in a lot of blowouts, as he tries to get this team into peak performance shape before Pac-10 play. Development of younger players has been largely pushed to the side. … However, the measurement of the job Bennett does will come at the end of the year when this NCAA Tournament-or-bust strategy can truly be evaluated.

A number of people said to me that starters on other teams were logging just as heavy of minutes as our frontline players, and to a certain extent, that’s true. Taylor Rochestie leads the team in percentage of minutes played at 81.2, far behind Pac-10 guys like O.J. Mayo (90.1), Patrick Christopher (87.3) or Chase Budinger (86.5 percent).

However, the big difference is this: In most of those situations, it’s a player or two from each team who’s spending so much time on the floor. In the Cougars’ case, it’s all the starters — especially the three guards — who are carrying such a heavy load. WSU starters are playing 76.6 percent of the available minutes — 27th nationally. Arizona and USC are the only Pac-10 teams who exceed that.

Additionally, among Pac-10 players, the Cougars have three of the top 14 players in terms of percentage of minutes played: Rochestie (seventh), Kyle Weaver (10th, 80.6 percent) and Derrick Low (14th, 78.7). No other team has more than two in those top 14, and some — UCLA, Arizona State and Washington — have only one.

For a team that already doesn’t have the quickest feet, this could be another reason why we’re seeing such a drop off in defensive effectiveness. Just some food for thought.


3 Responses to “Are the Cougs tired?”

  1. TiltingRight said

    They’re all young guys, and it’s not like they’re playing an NBA schedule with three and four games in a week. Should that kind of PT have THAT much impact at this point in the season? Also, what’s the answer if rest will help? I suppose we could play deeper into the bench against Oregon State, but it’s not like we have any other patsies on our schedule.

    Also, not to start talking about next year already, but we’re only going to have 4 seniors and 1 sophomore with any court time next year. Are we in for dark days in Beasley for a year or two? The scouting report on our new recruits is pretty good, and without vets to rely on all the time, you’d think they might be able to get some PT right off the bat.

    Finally, (on my last tangent) have you heard any word on Boeke’s situation? I’m assuming your sources are better than mine.

  2. Nuss said

    I know they’re all young guys, but one thing to consider is that few teams expend the kind of energy on defense that our team does, making the minutes they play more high effort than players on other teams. There is no resting on either end of the floor for our players, making depth all that much more important.

    Consider: When Dick Bennett took Wisconsin to the Final Four in 1999-2000, just one player averaged more than 30 minutes a game (Mark Vershaw, 31.2) and no less than 10 players averaged at least 10 minutes a game. The Cougs? Three guys who average more than 30 minutes a game, just eight guys who play 10 minutes or more. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Bennett’s most successful Wisconsin team also had its best depth.

    As for next year, who knows? It’ll definitely be a unique coaching challenge that Bennett has never faced. I don’t put a lot of stock in what I read on recruiting sites, because so much of college basketball is coaching. But there is little doubt that we’ll be more athletic. Boeke will be back; the NCAA ruled him ineligible for this season with a loss of a year of eligibility for his “pro” ties in Germany.

  3. TiltingRight said

    Very good point regarding the defensive effort on their stamina. And good news on Boeke… Last I heard they weren’t going to give him eligibility because of his “pro” ties.

    So if fatigue is the case… I guess there’s not really an answer, huh? The players that are all the most in need of rest are the ones that give us the best chance to win.

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