16.Nov.2011 Hofstra @ Oregon State
We're starting a new feature today where Jack Beav gives an opinion, and then I counter it. Sometimes we will agree, sometimes we won't. This feature will only apply to basketball since I consider Jack Beav the expert on the subject, and I admittedly have only a cursory knowledge of x/o's, and rely more on my eye and human psychology when analyzing hoops. You can check out JB's blog (http://orangeexpress.wordpress.com/) for recruiting info, post game commentary, etc.
Mo Cassara had some questions about his Pride going into this season. Hofstra’s leader for the last several years, All-American guard Charles Jenkins is gone. And Cassara is looking to fill all the roles left in the void. The answer for the second year head coach seems to lie with his two 6’5″ senior swing men, Nat Lester and Mike Moore. Lester sat out last year due to injury, so he’s been itching to get back on the court. And he did it in a big way on Friday in Hofstra’s home opener against Long Island University with 33 points in 36 minutes, both game highs. Moore was pegged as the heir apparent to Jenkins at the 2, and he turned in a 23 point, 35 minute effort of his own.
But how much can be read into this game? LIU is a diminutive team in a lower D1 league, the Northeast Conference. They stand to have decent success within that league, but they’re a soft defensive team who looks to run you off the floor. Unless you have Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble, that’s a tough task against bigger teams from bigger conferences. And the Colonial Athletic Association is a bigger, tougher league.
But Hofstra didn’t win with size and interior mismatches. They won with an active match-up zone where their back court mismatches created a ton of TO’s. And they slowed the game down to their pace midway through the first half to take control of a game which looked like it might run away at the start. LIU invited the outside shot by sitting in a zone of their own, and Hofstra killed them with it.
So the Pride comes to Gill planning to slow the game and look for perimeter opportunities on long possessions. They lack interior depth with only 6’7″ junior David Imes and 6’7″ frosh Moussa Kone being spelled occasionally by 6’8″ soph Stephen Nwaukoni. So Cassara will run with a small line-up when he has to do so.
5’9″ junior PG Stevie Mejia is good at times. But he does not use his smaller stature to create on offense or to bother perimeter handles on defense. His handle is loose, and he doesn’t create space for his own shot. And 6’3″ soph Shemiye McClendon is still trying to find his way, though he does seem to possess better quickness and uses his length to make plays on either end with some good hustle.
Other than the two stars, the player to be concerned with is 6’0″ senior Dwan McMillan. He provided an instant energy when he came off the bench on Friday. And Hofstra used that energy to get themselves moving. He’s disruptive in the zone D, and he gets enough space to create on offense. He didn’t shoot much against LIU, but he had Lester and Moore open on cuts and perimeter kicks all night. So why bother?
So these are the games the Beavs have lost in the past which make us as fans scratch our heads. They’re smaller, slower and not nearly as deep. They’re still putting the pieces together, but their coach has them playing tough and smart. And their senior leadership has the ability to pick up the pieces if nothing else is working.
I think this match-up greatly favors the Beavs new style. If we were to sit in a zone on this team, they would take those opportunities and run up some ridiculous numbers on us. But a man D with an interior advantage should make for another quick game. Active feet on the perimeter will invite cuts and dribble entries looking for interior holes. And active hands and feet… oh, and length… will stymie those attempts.
Hofstra will attempt to slow the pace by trying to beat a Beavs man D which forces a pace of its own. If they try to hold the ball for too long, they just won’t be able to do so. Every pass, every dribble is an invitation to take the ball away. And our boys are pretty damn good at doing just that. So a slow start for the Pride will not force the same from the Beavs.
But they are a better team than the previous two teams the Beavs have faced. They will find spells where they will control pace if allowed. When that happens, the Beavs need to learn to dig deep and push through those runs. They need to hustle that extra step on D, and they need to find that extra burst at mid-court when running in transition. Then they need to find the mismatches and the hot hand on offense. And those will be there if they look.
I can see several scenarios where the Pride come into Gill and take this game. They’re skilled enough with the players they have to beat any team who takes them for granted. But this year’s Beavs aren’t taking anyone for granted. They will be all over Hofstra from the tip, and they won’t stop.
At least I hope they won’t stop, because Hofstra is not a team who will lie down just because they’re behind. It will take a complete game effort to win a game which the Beavs should win. I think Hofstra will succeed in slowing the pace a little bit. But I also think this game will be played at the speed the Beavs want to play. We’re not going to see the same 90 point efforts we’ve seen the Beavs fall on in the last two games. If we push 90 tonight, it will be because of a complete game effort and a Hofstra let down. I guess that’s possible, but I don’t expect it. This is a Hofstra team who scored on an alarming percentage of their second half possessions against LIU. So if they get hot, they can win the second half and the game.
I do not expect the home team to allow this. I expect a comfortable win.
Beavs 82 – Pride 67
Having grown up in NJ, I frequently watched Hofstra athletics. While they're never physically gifted (think Wayne Crebet, the prototypical Hoftra athlete), they're always gritty, smart, well-coached, and make up for a lack of speed and size with positioning. The Beavers, meanwhile, use rangy, fast athletes to try and overwhelm their opponent. This game should be a contrast of styles.
My feeling is that Hofstra will play an efficient and deliberate half court offense. The (slow) pace will disrupt the Beavers' tempo, ultimately frustrating them into turnovers and sloppy play. Now that the Beavers are 2-0 and facing a decent opponent, the home attendance should improve. With that, the pressure increases. Are they ready for the semi-prime time?
The Beavers have better athletes and depth, but I'm not convinced they have the mettle to beat an intelligent, gritty opponent. Granted, part of this opinion derives from last year's team, so it is probably not entirely fair. However, part of the opinion comes from knowing OSU athletics never move both linear and upward. Therefore, the smart money says this is a "one step backward" game. Last year I wrote that until I see the Beavs do it on the court, I'd continue to bet against them.
As always when betting against the Beavs, I hope to be wrong.