Happy Friday, Cougar Nation. Hope you all are ready for your weekend.
As for Ole Brinkhater, I am nursing a MAJOR hangover from the loss of my perfect season. So, forgive me if it seems as if I am on the "Rome is Burning" bandwagon.
But first, let us all spend a moment taking a long, good look at our beacon of hope moving forward:
(It makes you feel better, doesn't it?_
You see, there was a reason why Dick Bennett was the perfect choice to turn our program around. And, yes, there was a reason (other than Ivory Clark) about why last year's team went 26-8 (or whatever) and made more talented teams go nuts the whole darn season long. And that reason was....
Yep, the drag down, drag you out, work-fest that makes only Cougar fans excited: the world of 51-49 basketball.
At its core, Bennett ball is about defense and control of tempo. On defense, the name of the game is help defense that takes at its base a systematic unwillingness to give up the middle of the floor. The idea: make other teams take contested jump shots all game long. Although there are some exceptions, the bottom line of the defensive philosophy is that a) most college teams don't have shooters that are good enough to beat you in a jump shooting contest over 40 minutes; and b) you don't have to be outrageously athletic to be good defensively if you play good position defense and get a lot of help.
On offense, the name of the game is control tempo and get easy shots. As most know who played the game of basketball, ANY TEAM can play great defense for 20-25 seconds, but it takes a special, disciplined team to complete each possession by playing defense for the FULL 35 seconds. As Pete Carrill and Bennett showed consistently, a patient offensive team gets easy buckets IF it makes the defense work long enough.
The thing that was and has been GREAT about Tony Bennett is that he has not been as rigid as his Dad when it comes to offense. For the most part, his kids have been able to keep the general Bennett philosophy without succumbing to the type of passive play that can make a conservative team downright awful. That's to his credit.
Tony Bennett has also been WONDERFUL up until recently of keeping his dad's defensive philosophy. We've been mean in the middle and have had a really nice shot-blocking presence from both the weak and strong side. UNTIL recently.
But for whatever reason, the last two games have largely represented a RADICAL departure from who we are and what made us a good to great team. Make no mistake about it Cougar Nation, if the Oregon game had been at Mac Court, we would have lost by 25 points last Saturday. Defensively, we are in shambles.
As I noted last night, the Defense that you are seeing right now is a dummy version of the defense that the Sonics used during their great years in the 1990's. Unfortunately, our Cougar team doesn't have Gary Payton or Vincent Askew to run it. Instead we have four guys who look and play like this:
Moreover, the ENTIRE reason for the Sonics trapping style was to SPEED UP TEMPO and create more possessions. IN our case, our entire system has been the exact opposite: we wish to slow down tempo and create FEWER POSSESSIONS in the game.
In my view, the result of this change in scheme could be a disaster for us and our lofty hopes. No longer are we seeing Cowgill or Baynes asserting themselves from the weakside. The reason: they are too busy running to their next rotation to be in possession to challenge turnaround jumpers from the strong-side block. No longer are we seeing Kyle Weaver tip-block opponents' three point shots or stealing entry passes into the post. The reason: he's running at three point shooters because he is too busy chasing rotations. No longer are we seeing defensive rebounds from Rochestie and Low. The reason: they are running out at three point shooters instead of sealing off the outside part of the paint and are giving up the middle of the floor because their pressure is extended out too high.
And rest assured: All of this is happening because of that damn trap that they are running with Baynes up top.
THE HIGH TRAP DOES NOT AND WILL NOT WORK WITH THIS TEAM.
Moreover, it SPEEDS UP tempo, when we need it to be slower. It makes atheleticism of premium value, when we need to make basketball intelligence and TEAM BALL the deciding factor.
And so I say, GO BACK TO BENNETT BALL Tony Bennett!!!
If teams like Oregon and Arizona are going to beat us from three, then fine. But make them do it with contested shots with a guy who is standing squarely in front of them in stead of scrambling to run AT them...If teams are going to cut through the lane, then fine, but make them shoot over a shot blocker coming from the weakside in order to earn it.
And make teams play OUR stinkin game, gosh darnit. You saw the results in the last 5 minutes of the Oregon game; a 12-1 run (or whatever). Remember, that the ONLY time we run is when we get the ball in transition following a steal. Otherwise, make teams endure the 51-49 slug fest that only we as Cougars can love and 18-22 year olds across the country can't stand to play.
ASU is our first shot of returning to who we are: A great basketball TEAM born out of a great basketball SYSTEM.
I am hoping and praying for a 49-39 victory.