Saturday, November 15, 2014

Colorado U - Learning From Our Mistakes

Final:  Colorado 65, Drexel 48

Player of the Game:  Rodney Williams
Key to the game:  Shooting
Next Game:  Monday Nov 17 vs Saint Joseph's at the DAC

The Dragons went on the road last night to play against what might be the best frontcourt in the Pac-12 in Colorado University.  Josh Scott will be a contender for the leagues Player of the Year this season, and the Dragons answered with a lineup that had no forwards with more than a season of college basketball playing experience.  That is a bloodbath in the making and if you look at Josh Smith's 21 points (on only 11 field goal attempts!) and 11 rebounds then it's easy to think that it was.  

The young Dragons frontcourt actually held their own though.  They were outrebounded but not considerably - the Dragons grabbed 19% of offensive rebound opportunities to the Buff's 24%, and the DU forwards received almost zero help from their guards there, who only provided 1 offensive rebound (Freddie Wilson) as they concentrated on stopping the CU transition game.  Also, they held forwards not named Josh Smith to just 6 shots, and the DU players actually had less turnovers than their CU frontcourt counterparts.  For an area of the game where they should have been crushed, the Dragons did what they needed to do, avoid getting blown out and give the guards - an area where DU looked to possibly have an advantage - a chance to win the game.

There is a scientific term for the Dragon guard play last night and it is Stunkus Upus The Jointus.  This would be the dilemma.  People will look at the 29 three point attempts and say they settled or that the shot selection was the problem, and they won't be wrong, as the ball just never seemed to go inside all night.  Still, I see hope in the shot selection from last night.  After shooting almost 40% of their shots as jump shot 2's last year, that number was 20% last night, almost halved from the year before.  Which is great news, since the Dragons shot 9% on 2 point jumpers.  That's not a typo.  They didn't set their feet inside the arc, they looked to get rid of the ball too quickly and the result was a disaster, but only half of the disaster that it would have been last year.  

Yes, three point shooting hurt the team, but they were shots worth taking.  Of the 29 attempts, almost none were strongly contested shots.  These were good choices that didn't go in the basket.  The Dragons should have gone inside more, but knowing that inside was where the strong Buffaloes advantage was, it's hard to judge whether or not Bru's preseason promise of getting the bigs the ball more is totally out the window yet.  With that caveat, the Buff's could have played Shaq, and there's still no way that Bah, Austin Williams and Sooren should have combined for zero shots.

The DU Player of the Game goes to Rodney Williams, who undertook the first step in making the voters in the CAA preseason POY ballot look like fools.  An 8 and 7 performance against this CU frontcourt, showing continued development and a willingness to go to a hook shot, and staying out of foul trouble while playing extremely good defense (including 1 block and 2 steals) was great to see.  Bru was down on his turnovers, but one was on a ridiculous behind the back pass that was fumbled away by Mohamed Bah (pretty bad night for Bah, although asking him to guard Josh Smith was... not great).  Underrated note on Rodney:  He also led the Dragons in minutes.

So what are the takeaways from this one?  One we already knew, this is a team with 2 legitimate stars.  Besides Rodney holding his own against one of the nations best frontcourts, Damion Lee showed enough signs to make us think he can be back to his old self this year.  The turning point in this game came on a controversial charge call that was turned around by the officials and called a block, Lee's fourth, with just an 8 point Colorado advantage at the time.  Lee had to sit for a few, and when he came back he was ice cold, not making a shot.  We still want to see more out of Damion than we got today, but it would have been interesting to see his final line had that call not been turned around.

The other big, and perhaps more concerning takeaways were the freshman.  Tough to judge them on their first game, but Rashann London looked not ready for prime time, and the point guard walked out of the arena with zero assists.  Mojica didn't get many minutes but looked a little smoother.  Give them some time before you push any panic buttons, but it is an area worth watching.  If the freshman can contribute on the ball, then Freddie Wilson can continue to play off the ball and just catch and shoot, a roll he continues to look much, much better in.

It's one game and one game only.  As noted in the pregame, the first game of the season is always a bit flukey.  On the balance, its hard not to be encouraged by the DU performance.  The Dragons frontcourt won't face a bigger challenge this year, and they held their own in Boulder.  Half the midrange jumpers from last year from the guards.  These are relevant takeaways.  Let the team get back to the home court, and see how they shoot in the friendly confines of the DAC.  If the outside shooting comes, this team will become a pretty tough beat.

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