04.Dec.2011 Montana @ Oregon State
Montana has had a weird season thus far. But I looked a little closer, and I think I understand what’s happening with this team.
I watched their game against North Dakota, and I was surprised at how poorly the Griz protected the ball against pressure. Wayne Tinkle’s teams aren’t usually that sloppy, and they just couldn’t hold on to the ball whenever they were challenged.
Their defense last year was based on junior G Will Cherry’s (6’1″) aggressive perimeter skills backed by Brian Qvale and fellow big Derek Selvig (7’0″) in the paint. But Qvale was the meat in that dish, and he’s gone. Selvig looks to do much of what he did last year by stepping out to try to block or alter shots, and that leaves him in poor position for defensive boards. Cleaning the glass was Qvale’s job, and now it’s left to senior SF Art Steward (6’4″) and soph PF Eric Hutchison (6’9″). And it seems that Stewart is the more proficient rebounder. Soph G/F Kareem Jamar (6’5″) provides some spark to the offense, but his defensive skills are a little shaky in man.
Tinkle will throw the bench on the floor if only because he’s looking for something or someone to make the team click. Senior G Shawn Stockton (6’1″) and junior wing Mathias Ward (6’7″) seem to be the more frequent bench contributors. But frosh big Billy Reader (6’9″, and yes… from Lake O) contributes some nice interior defense, though his offense needs more work to even be called serviceable. And two other frosh contribute to the rotation in G Keron DeShields (6’1″) and F Mike Weisner (6’7″), with Deshields showing up more consistently. Senior G Jordan Wood (6’3″) will also make an appearance, but I have yet to figure out why.
Of course, now that I say that, he will be all-world at Gill. Right?
The formula for Montana’s success thus far has been size advantage coupled with Cherry shutting down an opponent reliant on a perimeter star. San Diego rolled into Missoula with two bigs and a frosh scoring guard named Johnny Dee. Long Beach state came with the same two bigs and Casper Ware. As in all of Montana’s games this year, any bigs with any appreciable skills had career games. But Will Cherry was able to marginalize any damage done by the smaller opponents Dee and Ware.
The effect was a de facto box and one type defense… whether the Griz were in man D or a zone. That’s how weird this team has been this year. Their execution makes them look like they’re doing something different than waht they’re actually doing. If it was intentional, then it would be more effective, like Rick Pitino’s ability to teach his team to switch from man to zone and back to man in the same defensive possession. But it’s not. It’s so helter skelter that I could feel Coach Tinkle reaching through my screen to pull my hair out during the USF loss on Thursday that saw a six point UM lead with three minutes left at home turn into a three point loss.
So now a roller coaster rolls into Gill to face the Beavs, and they’re looking to steal one. But I don’t see this as a good match-up for the Griz. The Beavs are bigger and faster, and they will pressure the ball all afternoon. Cherry will likely draw Cunningham as his assignment, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jamar take Jared and leave Cherry on Ahmad to try to disrupt the offense on the set-up. Angus should be keyed up for a big game since Selvig will always answer a call to try to block any shot by taking himself away from the rim. And if he doesn’t use shot fakes to move Selvig off him, he can join Joe by racking up the assists to Devon or Eric at the rim or any of the guards on the kick-out.
The Beavs returned home last weekend, and they’ve had time to find their legs. Little birdies have told me that they have looked very good in practices this week, and they will likely look even better in today’s game. With a week’s rest and some good home cookin’ I expect our boys to come out of the gates on fire. I don’t think Montana will have the will to play up to the same tempo and intensity the Beavs will force from the outset.
Montana does have a habit of making runs in the second half after Tinkle has a chance to make some adjustments. But he won’t have the pieces necessary to fix what will look broken today. I figure the game will end fairly close to season averages for both teams… something like 83-67 for the home team… if the Beavs take their foot off late.
When I think of Montana, Will Cherry comes to mind. Reading JackBeav's writeup, it sounds like they have a legit 7 footer. I'm curious to see how the Beavs handle that guy if Montana feeds him inside–Beavs haven't had to face that challenge yet.
Again I'll be watching for the Beavs to sure up free throws and defensive rebounds/boxing out. I don't watch much Montana basketball, so I can't really add more than that. Gut feeling is this will be a close game, I'll take the home team by 2.