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Posts Tagged ‘Daven Harmeling’

MAILBAG: APR, the starting five, and recruiting

Posted by Jeff Nusser on May 19, 2008

Welcome to our first edition of the mailbag, where I will attempt to answer your inquisitive questions with my awesome ability to speculate despite a total lack of access to any kind of insider information!

Mike R. wonders about the effect of Thomas Abercrombie’s departure on the team’s APR:

“Perhaps this should be a mailbag question (feel free to answer it then), but what kind of impact will this have on our APR score? Obviously, it’s not as bad when guys leave while in good academic standing, but will this still have a negative impact?”

In a word, yes, it will have a negative impact. But it will be minimal.

The important thing to remember is that while any departure from the program does hurt you a little bit, it only really hurts you a lot when the guy leaves the program academically ineligible or having not made what the NCAA deems as satisfactory progress towards a degree. (Vince Grippi does a great job explaining it here.) We have no reason to believe that was the case with Abercrombie.

And even then, that’s only if the average of the previous four years is below 925. This basketball program is going to soar well over that 925 mark next year, thanks to the abysmally low score in Dick Bennett’s first year finally leaving the four-year average. Even if Abercrombie did leave the program ineligible, chances are good there would be no penalty, anyway. It’s this progress that’s allowed Bennett to take a chance on a talented guy like DeAngelo Casto, who might be a litle bit of a question mark in the classroom. If he doesn’t pan out, no harm, no foul.

Grady over at Stadium Way wonders about the starters in 2008-09:

“Hey, I’ll bite on that mailbag request. What do you think the starting five will be for the Cougs next year?”

Read the rest of this entry »

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A day I’ll always remember

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 10, 2008

I have a lot of conflicting feelings about what I witnessed in Pullman on Saturday, mostly because I think the game represented two very separate and distinct experiences as a Cougar basketball fan.

The first experience, and obviously the one I will remember most fondly once this season is in the rear view mirror, is of being able to give these five seniors the hero’s send off they all so richly deserved. As I contributed my voice to the cheers that descended from the rafters, I thought of all the joy these guys have brought us — not only in the successes of the past two years, but in the lumps they took the first two years as we learned to love Bennett ball.

In that respect, the game did not even come close to disappointing. As Ryan Appleby’s last chance to send the game to a third overtime clanged off the rim (do you realize that guy never beat WSU in his three years in Seattle?), Aron Baynes practically stomped a hole in the Friel Court floor, the seniors smiled weary, exhausted smiles, and I high-fived anyone within reach of me. (Except for the guy to my left who spent the entire game trying to impress his girlfriend with his “knowledge” of basketball and superfluous string of profanties. I didn’t high-five him. But that’s another story.) Watching the players gather at midcourt for one final time at Beasley and then thank the fans back for their support — specifically the Zzu Cru, which stepped up huge with spring break already underway — just made me feel so proud to be a Coug.

But during the game itself, I had a heck of a hard time separating that experience from the one that kept staring me in the face — the one that let the Huskies hang around far longer than they should have, the one that scares me to death going forward from here, now that the postseason is upon us.

For the fourth time in five games, the offense performed well below its season standard. What’s weird about it is there’s not really one thing you can point to as a neat and tidy explanation for the issues that have caused the funk. In two games, it was simply poor shooting (Arizona State, Arizona); in another, an inability to get anywhere near the rim or to the free throw line for the most critical stretch of the game (Stanford); against Washington, it was turnovers and poor free throw shooting.

The problem with having no tidy explanation, of course, is that there are no tidy fixes, either. So we’re left to wonder: Is there something bigger going on here? At various times throughout the year I’ve openly wondered if this team is tiring, given not only the heavy minutes most of our starters log but the nature of those grinding minutes thanks to the Cougar basketball style. And I’ll openly wonder it again.

I think this team is a lot more worn down and banged up than anyone is letting on. Daven Harmeling was completely ineffective again, getting absolutely abused on defense, thanks to his lack of lateral movement, to the tune of three fouls in four minutes. Kyle Weaver clearly is playing hurt, something that was exacerbated when he landed hard in the game. I don’t know if they showed it on TV, but many times Weaver was the last to leave the huddle, sitting on his chair until the very last second he had to get up and limp his way into position. He is battling, but he made some uncharacteristically boneheaded decisions with the ball in that game, which makes you wonder if his pain is getting into his head.

Then, there is the not-so-obvious candidate. For about 38 minutes, Aron Baynes was having a flashback to his freshman year, and someone close to the program speculated after the game that he might be playing through some back issues. It would make sense, because he just didn’t look like the same guy out there for most of that game, allowing a lot of rebounds that he normally just does not give up. It also might help explain his sudden ineptitude from the free throw line — when you’re dealing with that big of a body, it doesn’t take much to throw off a shot.

For the Cougs, Weaver, Baynes and Harmeling are three important cogs that serve distinctly unique and important roles on this team. For all that Ptowncoug wants to rail against Baynes being a focal point of the offense, you saw how much the game changed once Baynes started being aggressive around the basket, how the threat of him scoring opened things up for everyone else. You’ve also seen at times this year how a healthy Harmeling completely changes the way teams defend us. And it doesn’t even need to be stated what Weaver means to our offense.

Additionally, I think it affected us on the defensive end, too. We’ve been doing such an outstanding job of rebounding as of late that we’ve started to take it for granted. We did a spectacular job of keeping the Huskies from making shots on Saturday, but we got absolutely destroyed on the glass. A lot of the credit has to be given to Washington, which was relentless in its pursuit of the ball. But how does Weaver play 44 minutes and grab only three rebounds? Or Baynes play 38 and grab only eight? How do we get outrebounded by nearly 20? We know what the point of emphasis will be heading towards Thursday, especially after Oregon did a similar thing to Arizona on the glass in its win on Saturday.

Now, I know everyone is banged up this time of year. But one of the interesting things about the way this team is constructed — besides lacking a lot of depth — is that it’s not a team full of interchangeable parts. When one of these guys isn’t able to do his job, it’s to the detriment of the whole. And this whole needs to be functioning at its tip-top level very soon. Let’s hope some of this stuff heals up a bit between now and Thursday.

That said, nothing can take away from the fun I had this weekend, and the memories I made. I couldn’t stand the thought of having to get to November’s Apple Cup with the Huskies finally breaking the streak. Thank goodness I don’t have to.

Seven in a row, baby!

Posted in Game Analysis | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Best performance of the season so far

Posted by Jeff Nusser on February 29, 2008

Today’s going to be a two-post day, because I’m finding as I’m writing that I have a lot to say. (Which, of course, will come as a complete shock to anyone who knows me.) Here’s the first one, a look back at last night. I’ll have one a little later on the defense.

In the wake of the Arizona loss, we were left with a number of questions floating around in our heads.

We wondered if the offensive funk against the Sun Devils and the Wildcats was an aberration or a sign of something bigger, such as tired legs. We wondered if we should simply chalk the second consecutive poor performance against Arizona to matchup problems.

Most of all, we wondered if the four-game win streak, in which the Cougs played the kind of defense that reminded us of last year, was a mirage — and if our hopes for a high NCAA seeding were slipping away before our eyes.

After last night, there should be very little doubt about the answers to those questions. And the answers are all positive.

Read the rest of this entry »

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GAME THREAD: California at No. 9 WSU

Posted by Jeff Nusser on January 31, 2008

Cougars (17-2 overall, 5-2 Pac-10) at Bears (11-7, 2-5)

Beasley Coliseum (Pullman, Wash.), 7 p.m. PT
TV: None

Oregon State notwithstanding, Cal is about as close to an easy opponent as you’re going to get in the Pac-10 — which, once I start telling you about Cal, ought to tell you just how freaking tough the Pac-10 is this year.

The Cougs pretty well dominated the Bears last year, and you can chalk that up to one factor: They were horrific from beyond the arc in those two games, just 7-of-29 and 6-of-22 — 25.4 percent. And as was on full display on Saturday, a team shooting the 3 poorly against the Cougs is a team that usually loses.

One problem: Offensively, these Bears are much better than they were a year ago. Their offensive efficiency (what’s that?) has jumped from 105.1 to 112.8, and their effective field goal percentage (huh?) has jumped from 51.2 to 54.8.

Quite simply, they’re a better offensive team this year because they’re a better shooting team, and they’ve proven they can score on anybody — they’ve exceeded a 100 efficiency rating (the benchmark for solid offense) in every game but three, including all Pac-10 games but the one against UCLA, and they have exceeded 50 percent in effective field goal percentage (another benchmark) in every game but four. That’s not likely to change against WSU, unless they have an uncharacteristically bad shooting night.

But while we can wring our hands over what Cal might do offensively, trust me when I say that the Bears will be rightfully more worried about the Cougars are going to do offensively. Cal is a bad defensive team, something that ought to be obvious from the fact that despite all the offensive fireworks, the Bears are 2-5 in the conference and just a few games over .500 overall.

Cal has yet to even really come close to stopping a legitimate conference opponent. (Oregon State doesn’t count.) While UCLA and USC were around 107 in offensive efficiency, Oregon (116.5), Arizona (121.0), Stanford (121.4) and Arizona State (126.3) all exceeded a 116 efficiency against the Bears. That’s not just bad defense; that’s terrible defense. And as we’ve said here all year, the Cougs are one of the best offensive teams in the country, something that’s lost on most everyone because they don’t score a lot of points per game. Their overall offensive efficiency rating is 114.8 — ninth nationally. They’ve been especially beastly at home.

The moral of the story? The Cougs are going to score points and they’re going to win, but this is the kind of game I wouldn’t bet on if my life depended on it. The Cougs are favored by 11, but the score could be 70-65 as easily as it could be 70-55. It all depends — stop me if you’ve heard this one before — on whether Cal hits some 3s.

Other keys that could influence the flow, if not necessarily the outcome, of the game:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Game Threads | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments »

Thoughts on the Baylor victory

Posted by Jeff Nusser on December 1, 2007

Since I didn’t see the game thanks to it being on ESPNU, and since ESPN’s treatment on SportsCenter last night of this near upset of a No. 6 team amounted to 15 seconds of highlights — you’d think the only two interesting plays of the game were Low’s two late 3’s — I can’t really bring much to the table in the way of first-person analysis. (Several readers did a fine job of that last night.)

But what I can do is look at the numbers and offer up some observations.

First of all, I don’t know what it is about this team and its crappy starts, but they better get it figured out. I understand the whole thing about opponents coming out fired up and riding adrenaline early, but that only explains half the problem — the Cougars simply are not playing well early in games. If they don’t shore it up, there will come a point where they will not be able to dig themselves out of a hole. In fact, they might not have last night if Jerrells hadn’t missed the end of the game.

What went wrong in the first half? Well, the turnovers, for one. Let me hit you with two stats. Heading into last night …

  • WSU was 11th in the country in turnover percentage (the percentage of possessions that end up in a turnover);
  • Taylor Rochestie had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.4, and Kyle Weaver had one of 2.2; and
  • As a team, WSU had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.5.

Last night? Ten assists, 14 turnovers as a team. Rochestie had four assists and three turnovers, Weaver had two assists and three turnovers. Very uncharacteristic, so it gives you hope that it’s something that’s solvable.

What else happened last night that’s solvable? Read the rest of this entry »

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