Monday, November 23, 2009

Bobby's Thoughts on The Cincy Loss

Yesterday's loss to Cincinnati team was difficult to watch and certainly takes the bloom of a team that Commodore fans have desperately been waiting for since the football team lost to Army in mid-October. But it's not the end of the world and it's not cause for panic. At least not yet. Before responding to the comments from the open thread, I'll make a few observations. First, and this is so ridiculously obvious, that I'm remiss even to write it. But alas, you cannot win games when you get out-rebounded by 21. That was the margin: 53-32. That is atrocious. We'd make a good defensive stand, they'd get a rebound; we'd force a bad shot, they'd get a rebound; we'd take a shot (good or bad), they'd get a rebound. You get the idea. If there is anything to be concerned about long term, it's this team's inability to get rebounds and limit opponents to 1 shot a possession. That prevents you from getting back in games, and it prevents you from putting games away, two things that have happened already in this nascent season. Second, with the exception of a few possessions where the ball would go down to A.J. and he'd either make a move, or kick t out, we had no offensive cohesion. It almost looked like Ted Cain and Jimmy Kisler made the trip to Maui. Papa O'Shea, in between letting me know how badly Vanderbilt was getting out-hustled, made a good point: we never ran plays to get Jeff Jenkins free. He's the best shooter on the team and was 4-9 from the field, including 3-6 from downtown (numbers that were sterling compared to the rest of the team). How about running him off some screens? Something.

Now, to the comments from the open-thread. I think VandyGold28 is pretty dead on. Specifically, the press didn't work because it didn't force turnovers, and force got us playing at a tempo where we were out of control. I thought the 1-2-2 zone was much more effective and actually gave us several chances to get back in the game. The problem was our inability to rebound out of the zone and capitalize on good defense and slowing down the pace of play. The Bearcats were not comfortable in the half-court, but if when we gave them multiple shots, they almost always made us pay.

Eric Adams, who has a very good blog that you should check out, is right. I lobbied Mrs. O'Shea for a trip to Maui, I think she was right to veto (and since she never reads this, I can admit that without hearing "I told you so").

Thomas, the answer is no, the Bearcat defense is not that good. But when you miss lay-ups (at least 7 or 8 within 3 feet), fail to run an offense, and play too fast, you're going to miss a lot of shots.

Colin, Anonymous, and Joseph's takes are really, however, the inspiration for this post. Tonight's loss was bad. This was a great change for Vanderbilt to look good on ESPN2, show off their top 25 ranking, and demonstrate that this team was for real. But, the fact that we lost to a pretty good Cincinnati team is not reason to panic. Besides Jenkins forcing an offensive foul on Taylor (at least I think it was Taylor) and turning the ball over in the second half when Vanderbilt was making a mini-run, I thought he played well, especially given he's played 3 games in college. He didn't force the issue,took good shots, and hit some big threes. I do agree 100% about Beal who I thought played a terrible game, despite leading the Commodores in scoring. He's the senior leader on the team. He's the point guard. And the fact that we were never able to get into an offensive rythm and were playing out of control for much of the game is a direct reflection on him. Colin's take on A.J. is fair, but also (perhaps) premature. There's no doubt A.J. has to be a bigger part of the offense for this team to be successful. He's playing timid out there at times, and other times isn't taking good shots. Worse, sometimes when he is playing aggressively and taking good shots, they just aren't falling. He suffered a concussion that might have affected him more than we realize. He hasn't been impressive and needs to step it up, but I really think the Dawid comparisons are extremely pre-mature and completely unsupported by the facts.

This game should have been a wake-up call. Cincinnati is a good, athletic team who really did take it to us all night. They are the kind of team we are going to be facing night in and night out in the SEC. But, we also beat a good St. Mary's team who is also probably going to be in the conversation come March. We are 2-1 with a chance to get 2 more wins in games against opponents from either the Big 12, the PAC 10, or the Big 10 depending on how the Arizona/Wisconsin game ends up. Is it what we came for? Absolutely not. But it's also not the end of the world. Vanderbilt teams under Coach Stallings have had a tendency to start slow and lose games they shouldn't have. Remember the 2006-07 season where Vanderbilt started out 2-3 with losses to Georgetown, Wake Forest, and Furman, only to squeak by Toledo in OT? We were a shy referee on a Jeff Green 3-step from being in the Elite Eight. There is reason to be upset, but I think a modicum of perspective is needed before we start lamenting the missed opportunities of a season less than 10 days old.

Vanderbilt plays Chaminade today at 1:30 eastern, 12:30 central on ESPN2. We lose that game, and ignore everything I've said above. The sky, will in fact, be falling.


Anonymous said...

Bobby - Great insight, and so glad to find this site. I'm a Vandy fan for 15+ years, and was in the stands for both the loss to Georgetown at the Meadowlands in the Sweet 16 and in Tampa for the NCAA Tournament loss to Siena.

Looking at Vandy's non-conference schedule it is clear we'll know if this team has what it takes to compete in the SEC and beyond by the 1st of the year. That's a major departure from years past when I'd be disappointed if, in the course of first 10-11 games, Vandy lost more than 1.

You're absolutely correct on the rebounding issue. What concerns me is that last year both lack of rebounding and turnovers were issues throughout the season. They don't seem to have solved those problems in the off-season. Another disturbing habit that reared its ugly head yesterday was the tendency (for large chunks of a game) to allow the opponent to drive the lane at will. A couple of times, sure, but were talking 4-5 minute intervals at a time. No adjustments were made, and as you pointed out, the press didn't generate turnovers.

Unknown said...

Here's to hoping we blow out Chaminade. We need to get our confidence back by posting a huge win.

Unknown said...

Although there were a lot of things last night that weren't pretty (i.e. poor shooting, bad turnovers, an ineffective press), the most disconcerting aspect of Vandy's performance was the inability to rebound. While we are more athletic than Vanderbilt teams have historically been, we aren't going to out-jump teams like Cincy (or UK, UT, etc.). These guys have to learn how to box out. Unfortunately, that is tough to do when you are pressing and/or running a half-court zone. As long as we try to press and run the zone, athletic teams are going to continue to get a lot of second chance shots. If we are going to run the zone, then Taylor needs to get involved in the rebounding efforts. Putting him at the top of the zone is great if we are getting steals and giving him an opportunity to get out and finish on the fast break, but last night that didn't happen. Instead, Taylor sat at the top of the zone and watched the other team throw up ugly shots until they got the offensive rebound close enough to dunk the ball back in. 2 defensive rebounds from Taylor isn't enough.

Colin said...

Bobby, I agree largely with what you said, and do not in fact believe the sky is falling, but it most certainly will be if the Dores can't find some intensity and effort. I think in large part we made Cincy look better then they are, and gifted them points by sticking to the press, their offense went as cold as ours when we actually played half court defense. That however leads me to Jenkins and Beal who were killing our press. It was their man who was regularly getting rid of the ball and then beating them down court only to get it back and convert easy points. If they aren't athletic enough to rotate over and get back, then we shouldn't press and that's on K-Stall, who i think should have given up on the press early regardless. What seemed more the case though was that those two forced the initial pass figured their job was done and loafed back, which lead to points for cincy. You can give Jenkins the benefit of the doubt and say maybe he doesn't get it yet, but Beal doesn't get that free pass as far as I'm concerned. My particular point about Jenkins giving up on plays though was highlighted by the play where he got stripped on the wing, and started pouting even though it was a loose ball which eventually got saved in to exactly where he should have been had he been trying. He made similar plays after getting beat on defense when he should have been boxing out. He may not get all of the schemes yet, but I'd rather see someone hustling and getting after it and making mistakes in the process, then what I saw last night. Side Note: I don't think I called out AJ after last night's game, if anything I thought AJ played better, and warranted more playing time, and was confused when K-Stall sat him down after he hustled to get that block. It wasn't what we'd love to see from him yet but he at least looked like he wanted to be out there and not out at the luau or beach.