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The Pac-10 just got tougher

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 4, 2008

This guy's return to the Pac-10 is good for the conference's stature, but bad news for the rest of league's teams.In a move that would have been akin to Mike Price taking over for Ty Willingham, Mike Montgomery is apparently going to become the next head coach at California.

While I’m surprised Montgomery made the jump across the bay after so many years at Stanford (most recently as assistant AD), frankly I’m more shocked that it took this long for Montgomery to get another job. I also wish it had been in a different conference, because he’s a heck of a coach that just made things that much more difficult for everyone else.

I was always surprised that his name didn’t surface more often in connection with job openings. Maybe it’s because he was content to keep drawing those massive checks from the Golden State Warriors for doing nothing and all the ADs knew it, or maybe it’s because he’s not a hot, young, up-and-coming coach in a profession infatuated by potential and “making a splash.”

Whatever it was, as the Bears have made an excellent hire that is sure to revive the dormant program. Montgomery won 30 games three times at Stanford, taking the Cardinal to the NCAA Tournament 12 times in 18 years. If he can do it under the kinds of restrictive admissions guidelines he worked with at Stanford, he certainly will bring a winner to Berkeley.

Bennett getting another raise

Back in Pullman, the WSU administration is doing everything it can to make sure the Cougs are contributing to that conference clout, announcing that they’re reworking Tony Bennett’s deal for the second consecutive year. It appears that Bennett wasn’t the one requesting it, and that we’re not really changing any of the terms other than compensation.

This just shows what a tremendous understanding President Floyd has of what athletics do for the stature of a university, no matter how much academics want to pretend it doesn’t matter. I love the aggression in terms of making sure our coach is happy (put well in this Daily Evergreen piece), but this is uncharted territory for WSU. I can’t help but wonder if we can keep doing this every year. 

Can we keep this up? And what kind of precedent are we setting if, say, Paul Wulff somehow puts together an instant winner on the gridiron?

Those questions aside, I love that we’re taking our shot now and being proactive, rather than waiting until later to try and do just enough to keep him, as we’ve been wont to do in the past. When you get lightning in a bottle, you better do everything you can to keep it.

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GAME THREAD: No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 4 WSU

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 27, 2008

Tar Heels (34-2) vs. Cougars (26-8)

Bobcats Arena (Charlotte, N.C.), 4:27 p.m. PDT
TV: CBS

All I’ve heard this week over and over and over again are questions about just how the Cougars think they’re going to be able to stop the juggernaut that is North Carolina. And quite frankly, I am sick and tired of it.

In that vein, I’m going to kick this game thread off by going in a different direction and asking a simple question that probably wasn’t asked even once to Roy Williams in the past week.

What in the heck is North Carolina going to do to stop us?

In terms of adjusted offensive efficiency, the Cougs are the second best offensive team North Carolina has faced this year — right behind Duke.

The defense gets all the play, but the offense is what has made this team a legit Final Four threat. And I hope Carolina thinks they’re going to stop us the same way Winthrop and Notre Dame thought they were going to. I hope they think they’re going to run on us the same way Notre Dame did — the same way Gonzaga, Cal, USC and Oregon thought they were going to. Because unless they figure out a way to stop our offense, they won’t be able to.

What people don’t realize is that we don’t slow it down to give ourselves a fighting chance, like we did four years ago. We slow it down because that’s how we beat you. We slow it down to wear you out. We make you work for 35 seconds, only to give up a Kyle Weaver layup or an Aron Baynes dunk.

We slow the game down because we use it to break your will to beat us. Unless you play in the Pac-10, and are committed to winning this battle of wills — as UCLA and Stanford were — you have no concept of what that’s like.

Until you play us. And then, by the time you realize what is happening to you — that it’s so much more than some gimmick to stay close with more gifted teams — it’s usually too late. You stand there and think, “We’re losing to these guys?” (Just ask the Fighting Irish, who I think still are probably baffled as to how they lost that game.)

Carolina is not a team that wants to play defense for 35 seconds. Carolina is a team that wants to end possessions quickly by either inducing its opponents into quick shots and securing the rebound or getting a steal. In either case, it usually leads to a fastbreak for them, the heartbeat of their offense.

And therein lies the key — the reason why I think this is the most beatable No. 1 seed for the Cougs, despite the athletic disadvantage. We are the 20th-ranked shooting team in the country and the ninth-ranked team in the country in turnover percentage. Carolina has not played even one team that ranks that highly in either category this year. Take care of the basketball and make some shots — which the Cougars absolutely can do against this porous defense — and the Tar Heels can’t run. No matter how badly they want to.

Roy Williams thinks his team can be equally effective winning a halfcourt game. But when he says, “I wouldn’t say I’m not a fan of (the Bennett style). I’m a fan of basketball going up and down the court,” he actually is communicating a much different thing. He’s telling fans and his players that the Heels don’t want to win the way we want to win. And if we force them to win that way, they won’t believe they can do it. They think they’re above winning a half-court game. To the end, Williams and the Heels think they’re better than us — not just athletically, but in every measurable respect.

And that tells me one thing: They’re not convinced that we really can beat them. Heck, I’d be surprised if they really thought we could even hang with them. The fawning in the national media, the adoring home crowd at the arena yesterday, the belittling of our style of basketball … it all sends the message that WSU doesn’t belong on the floor with North Carolina.

But we know we do. We’ve proven it in the past. You want to know why UCLA played the way it did in two games this year against the Cougs? Because we spent three years banging on the Bruins’ door. You want to know why Arizona came out so fired up in its two games this year? Because we beat those Wildcats twice last year.

You think the Heels are going to have any clue about that kind of desire on their first try?

Me neither.

Bring it on.

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GAME THREAD: No. 4 WSU vs. No. 5 Notre Dame

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 22, 2008

Cougars (25-8) vs. Fighting Irish (25-7)

Pepsi Center (Denver, Colo.), 3:40 p.m. PDT
TV: CBS

In the old Schoolhouse Rock song, they used to say that three was a magic number.

Well, when it comes to today’s contest between Notre Dame and Washington State, 52 will be the magic number. As in, 52 effective field goal percentage. That’s because the Fighting Irish haven’t lost a game all year when they top that number, while the Cougs are 21-3 when holding opponents below that number.

(Those three losses when holding the opponent under 52 eFG%? All to the same opponent. Thank goodness we will never, ever see those guys again.)

What’s usually the difference between getting above 52 and not? Three-point shooting. And that — not containing Luke Harangody — will be the key today. (So I guess, in a way, 3 still is a magic number.)

Because Harangody (right) is the Big East player of the year and creates matchup problems galore for most teams with his strength and agility, most people will point to shutting him down as the key today for the Cougs. That’s simply not true.

I’ve isolated Harangody’s performances in the seven losses for the Irish, which you can see for yourself here, but here’s the gist: By every statistical measure other than assists and turnovers, he actually exceeded his season averages in those losses. His two best performances of the year in terms of points were 40 against Louisville and 32 against UConn … Notre Dame’s last two losses.

So while the Cougs of course will want to try and contain Harangody, focusing on him would largely be a mistake if it comes at the expense of keeping the Irish from shooting the 3 effectively.

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GAMES THREAD: NCAA Tournament – Round Two, Day 3

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 22, 2008

Welcome to Day 3 of the NCAA Tournament. This is your thread for all that you see today. While I love the first two days of the tournament, the second round generally is my favorite — still lots of games, but virtually all of them will be competitive.

Here’s the slate, along with my picks, which will come from my bracket if I still have the winner alive. All times PDT.

  • (2) Duke vs. (7) West Virginia, 11:15 a.m. — Duke is going to be motivated after Thursday’s scare. Of that, you can be sure. Pick: Blue Devils.
  • (3) Wisconsin vs. (11) Kansas State, 1:20 p.m. — With my winner gone, I’ll be rooting for K-State for the sake of my bracket. But I just don’t think the young Wildcats are ready to face whatever Bo Ryan has cooked up for them when the Badgers are on defense. Wisconsin will not allow Beasley’s supporting cast to go off as it did on Thursday. Pick: Wisconsin.
  • (3) Xavier vs. (6) Purdue, 1:40 p.m. — Another one of my Sweet Sixteen sleepers gone (Baylor) and I still think Xavier is horribly overrated. The Baby Boilers impressed me greatly with the win over the Bears. Pick: Purdue.
  • (4) WSU vs. (5) Notre Dame, 3:40 p.m. — Stop the 3, win the game. Pick: WSU.
  • (3) Stanford vs. (6) Marquette, 3:45 p.m. — Yes, Marquette’s guards are awesome. But the Cardinal’s advantage on the inside is awesomer. Pick: Stanford.
  • (1) Kansas vs. (8) UNLV 3:50 p.m. — It’s pretty safe to say that the Jayhawks aren’t going to score just 10 in the first half as UNLV’s first opponent did. Pick: Kansas.
  • (4) Pittsburgh vs. (5) Michigan State, 6:10 p.m. — Panthers showed in the opening round why they will be so very dangerous in this tournament. Levance Fields means as much to his team as any player in the country means to theirs.   Pick: Pitt.
  • (1) UCLA vs. (9) Texas A&M, 6:15 p.m. — I did pick UCLA to win the title, but the Bruins better be awful careful in this one. The Aggies possess enough talent to have been ranked in the Top 10 at one point. Pick: UCLA.

Posted in Game Threads, NCAA Tournament | 3 Comments »

GAMES THREAD: NCAA Tournament – Day 2

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 21, 2008

Welcome to Day 2 of the NCAA Tournament. I don’t know about you, but I’ll have a heck of a lot easier time watching and enjoying games knowing that the Cougs don’t play until Saturday. My thoughts never really were with any of those games yesterday until the Cougs had safely put Winthrop in the freezer.

This is your thread for all that you see today. Here’s the slate, along with the picks from my bracket — let’s hope I don’t lose two more Sweet Sixteen teams today. All times PDT.

Morning/afternoon session

  • (2) Tennessee vs. (15) American, 9:15 a.m. — Tennessee has the most success against teams that will be flustered by their full-court attack, both offensively and defensively. Here’s to betting American gets flustered. Pick: Tennessee.
  • (7) Gonzaga vs. (10) Davidson, 9:20 a.m. — Zags were rolling until throwing up a pair of offensive stinkers in the WCC Tournament. This is a pick ’em in my mind. I hate the Zags, but I’ll go with the known quantity. Pick: Gonzaga.
  • (7) Miami, FL vs. (10) St. Mary’s, 9:30 a.m. — One of my least confident picks of the Tournament. I really don’t have a great reason for picking Miami, other than they’re from a big conference. Isn’t that shallow of me? Pick: Miami.
  • (5) Drake vs. (12) Western Kentucky, 9:30 a.m. — I’ve been skeptical of Drake all year, but the way they dominated the Valley gave me some pause. They’re pretty athletic, and as long as they’re not awed by the stage, they should be OK. Pick: Drake.
  • (7) Butler vs. (10) South Alabama, 11:30 a.m. — The Bulldogs have struggled to live up to expectations this year … and are stil 29.3. How’s that for expectations? This is a veteran squad that is poised for a run against a team that probably should have been left out of the tournament. Pick: Butler.
  • (2) Georgetown vs. (15) UMBC, 11:35 a.m. — Georgetown will get upset at some point in this tournament, but it ain’t now. Pick: Georgetown.
  • (4) Connecticut vs. (13) San Diego, 11:45 a.m. — If the Toreros can figure out a way to score some points, they might just pull the upset. They are an excellent defensive squad that should be able to hang around, but the question is, can they get past a 7-foot-3 center? Pick: UConn.
  • (2) Texas vs. (15) Austin Peay, 11:50 a.m. — Texas poised for a deep run, says my bracket. Longhorns’ guards way too much in this one. Pick: Texas.

Evening session

  • (6) Oklahoma vs. (11) St. Joseph’s, 4:10 p.m. — Oklahoma’s interior play just too much for St. Joe’s, which has trouble stopping good rebounding teams. Pick: Oklahoma.
  • (1) North Carolina vs. (15) Mount St. Mary’s, 4:10 p.m. — This one will be ridiculous quickly. Pick: UNC.
  • (4) Vanderbilt vs. (13) Siena, 4:20 p.m. — Vandy ripe for an upset if its not hitting 3s. That’s what’ll happen here against a team that beat Stanford earlier this year. Pick: Siena.
  • (8) Mississippi State vs. (9) Oregon, 4:25 p.m. — This game is a matchup nightmare for Mississippi State. Bulldogs make their living erasing shots near the rim; Ducks make their living burying 3s. Good shooting wins it for the Ducks. Pick: Oregon.
  • (3) Louisville vs. (14) Boise State, 6:30 p.m. — Cardinals too athletic for Broncos. Pick: Louisville.
  • (8) Indiana vs. (9) Arkansas, 6:30 p.m. — Hoosiers miss Kelvin Sampson so much. They just aren’t playing with the fire of their fired coach since he left, but can still beat anyone on any night on talent alone. Arkansas might be one of the most underrated teams in the tournament. Pick: Arkansas.
  • (5) Clemson vs. (12) Villanova, 6:40 p.m. — Wildcats have a strong chance if they can slow down the reckless Tigers. I don’t think they can. Pick: Clemson.
  • (1) Memphis vs. (16) Texas-Arlington, 6:40 p.m. — This one will be ugly quickly, too. Pick: Memphis.

Posted in Game Threads, NCAA Tournament | 6 Comments »

GAME THREAD: No. 3 WSU vs. No. 14 Winthrop

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 20, 2008

Cougars (24-8) vs. Eagles (22-11)

Pepsi Center (Denver, Colo.), 4:20 p.m. PDT
TV: CBS

A lot of national pundits are dreading this game, saying it probably will be the most boring game of the opening round. If you’re a fan of another team and think teams that value every possession on both offense and defense are boring, then I guess you’re probably going to not like this game very much. But since one man’s boring is a Coug fan’s beautiful, this game will positively be eye candy to us, especially since it’s unlikely that any other team is going to beat us at what we do best.

Now, a lot of people have said this game features two teams that mirror each other. That’s probably true in terms of style — Winthrop averages 63.7 possessions (291st nationally) and WSU 59.1 (336th) thanks to patient offense and hard-nosed defense — but that’s where the comparisons ought to end.

While most people associate the Cougs with defense, and rightly so, they often do so at the expense of recognizing the offense, which is one of the best in the country (21st in offensive efficiency). There is no such confusion with Winthrop. The Eagles are one of the most defense-depended teams in the tournament, ranking 14th nationally in defensive efficiency (89.8), but just 228th in offensive efficiency (97.1). Honestly, this is a team the Cougs should have very little difficulty shutting down.

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GAMES THREAD: NCAA Tournament – Day 1

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 20, 2008

It’s finally here. The greatest weekend in all of sports. I could go on and on and on and on about why I love this game and tournament so much, but then I’d be preaching to the choir, wouldn’t I?

This is your thread for all that you see in the first batch of games. Here’s the slate, along with the picks from my bracket — lots of chalk in this session. All times PDT.

  • (3) Xavier vs. (14) Georgia, 9:20 a.m. — Perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the morning. I think Xavier is the most overrated team in the tournament (blown out by ASU, lost twice to St. Joe’s), and Georgia is one of the hottest. Another No. 14 might have snuck up on the Musketeers, but I doubt the Bulldogs have enough left in the tank. Pick: Xavier.
  • (1) Kansas vs. (16) Portland State, 9:25 a.m. — The Vikings are one of the many Tournament teams the Cougs played this year. While others will be competitive, this one gets run over. Pick: Kansas.
  • (5) Michigan State vs. (12) Temple, 9:30 a.m. — This is a dangerous game for the Spartans, if only because of their own inconsistencies. I’m not convinced teams in the Big Ten are as good as advertised, but I’m even less convinced about the A-10. Pick: Michigan State.
  • (6) Marquette vs. (11) Kentucky, 11:30 a.m. — Wildcats did a tremendous job to get this far, but the injuries haven’t magically disappeared. Eagles’ guards just too much in this one, although I wouldn’t be shocked if the Wildcats pulled what I would consider a mild upset. Pick: Marquette.
  • (6) Purdue vs. (11) Baylor, 11:40 a.m. — The feel-good story of the year continues with this opening round upset. Pick: Baylor.
  • (8) UNLV vs. (9) Kent State, 11:45 a.m. — If Kansas wasn’t waiting in the second round, I’d like the Golden Flashes to go to at least the Sweet Sixteen. Their defense will remind you of the Cougs. Pick: Kent State.
  • (4) Pittsburgh vs. (13) Oral Roberts, 11:50 a.m. — Pitt is 17-1 with Lavance Fields in the lineup. Digest that for a second. Pick: Pitt.
  • (3) Stanford vs. (14) Cornell, 1:40 p.m. — No way the undersized Ivy Leaguers can even think about hanging around in this one. Pick: Stanford.

Editor’s note: I decided to add the afternoon session to the morning thread to make one big huge Day 1 thread.

  • (2) Duke vs. (15) Belmont, 4:10 p.m. — This game will be a blowout. Mark it down: Duke will not lose to any team that doesn’t have it dominated with height. Pick: Duke.
  • (6) USC vs. (11) Kansas State, 4:10 p.m. — Everyone is talking about how this will be a game between Mayo and Beasley. They ought to be talking about how this is a game between the other eight guys on the floor. Advantage, Trojans. Pick: USC.
  • (4) WSU vs. (13) Winthrop, 4:20 p.m. — As if you need more analysis on this game. Pick: WSU.
  • (8) BYU vs. (9) Texas A&M, 4:25 p.m. — My, how the Aggies fell this year. They’ve still got more talent than BYU, who I freely admit I know virtually nothing about. Pick: Texas A&M.
  • (3) Wisconsin vs. (14) Cal State-Fullerton, 6:30 p.m. — I want to root for Josh Akognon, I really do. But I don’t see any way Wisconsin loses this game, not with the size advantage they possess. I think the Badgers are a bit overrated, but this isn’t where they lose. Pick: Wisconsin.
  • (7) West Virginia vs. (10) Arizona, 6:30 p.m. — Great coaching job by Bob Huggins, but Arizona’s talent shows up at just the right time. Pick: Arizona.
  • (5) Notre Dame vs. (12) George Mason, 6:40 p.m. — Here’s my No. 12 pick. Notre Dame is overrated after coming from an overrated Big East, plus a little tight after last year’s early exit. Larranaga knows how to coach in the Tournament after the run of two years ago. Pick: George Mason.
  • (1) UCLA vs. (16) Mississippi Valley State, 6:40 p.m. — The Cougs beat MVSU 71-26. Uh oh. Pick: UCLA.

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Stanford shakes off Cougs yet again

Posted by Jo-Jo on March 16, 2008

Okay, I know that this is a day late, but I couldn’t hash through the thaughts in my head well enough until after the Pac-10 Title was completed by UCLA. Now that the tournament is over, and all that is left is the seedings, I can turn to some clear vision as to what went down on Friday night.

As Tony Bennett said, “They beat us three times this year. We obviously couldn’t crack the code. Tonight was the least impressive of the three.”

I couldn’t agree more. I believe that losing to this team, as well as Arizona and UCLA, comes down to the battle in the minds of the Cougar players. As the old saying goes; “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me again, shame on me.” Well, shame on the Cougs for losing twice to a beat up Arizona team, and shame of the Cougs for losing to UCLA twice (even though pretty much so did everyone else, but seriously, USC and Washington beat them). But where to you fit a third lose to a team like Stanford? There was nothing new in this game that wasn’t in the first two. That loss Friday night was entirely mental. I just don’t think that the Cougs believe they can beat this team. They looked like they were playing scared.

Exhibit A: weak takes to the basket.
Look, I know what having a 7 footer under the basket (let alone his clone joining him) does to a game. We can throw cliches all over the place here; It’s not just the shots they block, but the shots they alter, You can’t draw both of them away from the basket at the same time, You can’t allow them second chance points, blah blah blah . . . BUT IT IS ALL SO TRUE! Figure it out.

When you know that you are going up against a defensive pressence such as the Lopez twins, you need to make a decision. If you are going to go to the basket, you need to go with reckless abandon right at them, STRONG. Maybe they block your shot, maybe you get called for offensive. But what doesn’t happen is you don’t get up in the air with out at purpose and end up throwing up some weak floaty prayer that, if it doesn’t get swatted, is about as low a percentage a shot as shooting from half court. Time after time the Cougar guards would penetrate into the paint and hesitate on their take off, paying more attention to the potential desaster in front of them instead of the basket they were trying to put the ball in. Brook Lopez collected is second foul half way through the second half. 30 MINUTES INTO THE GAME HE GETS HIS SECOND FOUL! I would bet a weeks wages that if the Cougs had taken the ball strong to the basket, and not bail out after they were in the air, Brook Lopez would have fouled out of that game. Officials are less likely to reward a shooter getting fouled when they are flinching and flipping up a prayer before the contact has even happened. Just take the ball to the rim and you will get fouled. Brook Lopez can testify to that.

Exhibit B: No confidence in the jump shot.
Somewhere along the line the Cougar guards have forgotten that you are allowed to take jump shots from inside the arc. If you can’t beat the defense in the paint, then you better start getting good looks on the perimeter. That doesn’t mean that they have to be 3’s though. I watched a lot of basketball yesterday while sifting through these thoughts and I noticed something that every other team in the country does that the Cougs don’t; every team has quick little shifty guards like Low and Rochestie, but what every other team does that I didn’t see the Cougs even attempt is that after you beat your perimeter defender off the dribble, instead of feeding the beast in the paint, you pull up and shoot a 12 to 15 footer. If you can beat your defender and get penetration, but don’t have the confidence to finish at the basket, then increase you chances by pulling up at the free-throw line and wacking a jumper. Eventually the post defender will start leaving his man to cheat on you and bang, one more pass and Cowgill is hanging off the rim. A pull up jumper from the stripe should be in every guards arsenal, its elememtary. These guys don’t do it.

Exhibit C: Post Defense
I will show a bit of mercy on the guys here, to some extent. I know that Brook Lopez has tormented everyone this year, maybe he is the greatest player in the history of basket ball. I have a hard time, however, believing that a 6’10” 270 lbs Aussie with a mean streak can’t keep that relative stick figure out of the paint. Post defense on a guy like that has nothing to do with defense played on the ball, it has everything to do with what is done when he doesn’t have the ball. You cannot allow him to continually recieve the ball within eight feet of the basket and rely on a double team. Get behind him early and keep him out of the paint. Okay, so Cowgill and Forrest might not be strong enough, but I don’t believe that Baynes can’t handle that assignment.

Exhibit D: Lack of faith in system
This one is very faint because many would believe that the Cougs did that all game long. I noticed something different. It was obvious that the three point shot kept the Cougs in the game in the first half. I know that most people don’t want to live and die by the three but in a game like this, when it was the only thing working for them, I actually believe that they should have started letting them fly. It has been a while since they were going to for them like they were on Friday night, I say let it ride. Nothing else was working and we’ve seen teams beat the Cougs with a hot night (Arizona). The biggest example was not trying to get Daven Harmeling some shots. Truly, he has been awful as of late, but when he does get going he is an atomic bomb to the opponent. From the moment he hit is first three point attempt it should have been on like donkey kong. The dude was 4-4 from behind the arc. He hit his first one with just under 5 to go in the first half and I honestly don’t think he touched the ball again on offense the rest of the half. He hit his second about half way through the second half and then didn’t get a shot off again until the last 3 minutes when it got desperate. He was primed, he was ready, and he was hitting; LET IT RAIN. I think that it is obvious, now that we are all the way through the season, that the Cougs can’t go toe-to-toe with the best teams of the country, so they need to rely on some of their strengths, a hot shooting Harmeling is one of them.

That is all I’ve got for now, but I will be back for more tonight.

Here’s to looking forward.

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GAME THREAD: Pac-10 Tournament, (3) WSU vs. (2) Stanford

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 14, 2008

No. 21 Cougars (24-7 overall, 11-7 Pac-10) vs. No. 11 Cardinal (24-6, 13-5)

Staples Center (Los Angeles), 8:30 p.m. PDT
TV: FSN

Since we just did this two weeks ago, I’m not going to go too crazy over analyzing this game.

WANTED: Anyone who can stop these two guys.

Brook Lopez has absolutely destroyed anyone who has tried to guard him one-on-one, and he’s made double teams look like child’s play, leading Stanford to a pair of wins in which they trailed at the half. Robin Lopez has been an absolute demon on the defensive end, teaming with his brother to dominate long stretches of each game with their shot blocking ability, as well.

Somehow, some way, we’ve got to limit their influence on this game. On defense, we’ve got to deny Brook Lopez the ball in comfortable positions around the basket, and if he does catch the ball, make him do it in areas where it’s harder to score and harder to pass out of the double team. On offense, we’ve got to figure out ways to draw both of them away from the basket so we can get some things moving towards it. We cannot settle for jump shot after jump shot if we expect to have any kind of success.

Above all, we have to bring it for 40 minutes. No 20-minute spurts.

I gotta be honest — I don’t have a great feeling about this game. I know it’s tough to beat a team three times, but there is a reason why we’ve already lost twice to them: The matchups just are not favorable. Hoping for foul trouble or a hot shooting game might just be our best bet.

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GAME THREAD: Pac-10 Tournament, (3) WSU vs. (6) Oregon

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 13, 2008

No. 21 Cougars (23-7 overall, 11-7 Pac-10) vs. Ducks (18-12, 9-9)

Staples Center (Los Angeles), 6 p.m. PDT
TV: FSN

Of the four games today, I look for three of them to be great. This should be one of them.

I find that these previews get harder and harder to write as the season goes along, because there just aren’t a lot of secrets out there between teams when they play a second and third time. But there are some interesting statistical trends with the Ducks that can give us some insight into how this game might unfold.

Oregon comes into this game having won three straight to revive its Tournament hopes — Joe Lunardi has them in the field as a No. 11 seed today — but I’d caution against getting too worked up about the Ducks being hot.

Real Duck Fan commented on another post this morning that this Oregon squad is a different team this time around, I’m guessing largely because of the recent winning streak. It’s not. It’s the same team, looking to do what it’s always done — shoot the ball with abandon — only doing it a lot better over the past three games, almost all of that attributable to opponent and location.

The first win in the “streak” came at Oregon State, so throw that one out the window. The last two came at home against Arizona State and Arizona. Now, those aren’t two walkovers, but those are the fifth- and seventh-place teams in the conference. And the games were at Mac Court, where the Ducks are 12-3 … and never to play again. They’re just 6-9 in road and neutral contests — like the one they’re playing tonight.

The common thread between the home wins and the road losses, generally speaking, is offense.

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