Thursday, December 01, 2005

John Smoltz, you are dead to me (and other observations)

Seriously, Smoltz is one of my favorite Braves of all time - but did we have to show him all the time last night to rub in the fact he wasn't supporting the Atlanta team? Ugh. Other than that and the fact that Buck's 3 went off the back of the rim instead of in, there's almost nothing for me to gripe about. Heck of a game all the way around.

Bright spots from last night:

  • Dukie V. didn't do the game, so we didn't have to listen to him talk about Izzo's best friend "Mooch" Mariucci and how they were best men in each other's weddings and how unfair his firing by the Lions was. This might have reduced me to homicidal rage by the 10 minute mark of the first half had it happened.

  • Anthony Morrow is agressively looking for his shot. Last year he often seemed tenative and deferred to his teammates too much, this year he looks extremely confident. The dude is going to be a stone cold killer before his career is over - 6'5" with that stroke and release is almost unfair. The 3 he hit along the right baseline in the last minute where he caught the ball, dribbled once to sidestep the oncoming defender and then effortlessly drained the shot was just ruthless. How we pried him out of NC away from the Big 4 amazes me, but I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth.

  • Jeremis Smith is an ox. All the athleticism we were promised last year is on display now, and his attitude is going to be a huge boost for the team. All good teams have that interior player who's not afraid to bang and bruise, scores garbage buckets and in general takes care of the dirty work. Smith is that guy for the next 3 years at GT, and is easily my favorite player. I love the fact that in the second half we needed a bucket a couple of times and he either scored on an offensive rebound, or he just backed his man down under the basket and scored over him.

  • "Little Dickey" is the lamest chant I've ever heard. Seriously, if there's a game at the Thriller Dome this year and I can clearly hear GT students chanting anything that stupid over and over at a player who's just owning us, I'm throwing something at my T.V - way to go "Izzone" could you possibly try to be Duke any harder?

  • Speaking of Dickey, he was a manchild last night. Props to the slick interior pass to Smith for the easy layup when he was double teamed, that's a huge improvement in his game. He also played under control the entire game, and showed that when he gets the ball in the low block he's basically impossible to stop. Nice array of post moves with both hands, and he catches the ball very well. He's kind of a Sean May type player, wide body, good hands, nice soft touch around the basket. If he can develop anything close to May's rebounding instincts, he's going to be terrific.

  • Zam Fredrick II. You know, he had a nice game. 11 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds. If he plays this well all year, we're going to the NCAA tournament. Neitzel is no slouch, and while Fredrick wasn't blowing anybody off the court, he did a very nice job. Yes, those two bad turnovers around the 3 minute mark hurt and he could play better defense, but he hit a couple of tough shots in the lane, and showed off a pretty nice all around offensive game. He's never going to be a pure PG, I don't think - but I'm not sure that's a terrible thing. Hewitt seems to like running that amorphous offensive with several ball handlers, and the offense was clicking with all of the perimeter players contributing.

  • Turnovers. We turned it over less than 20 times, and actually had good success turning MSU over. I was afraid that with Brown and Neitzel we might turn it over 25+ times and get blown out, but that didn't happen. Now, the turnovers we did have were at terrible spots on the floor (mostly up top of the key) leading to really easy baskets for MSU - our guards have to be bit less sloppy on the perimeter.

  • Watching the guys crumple to the floor after the shot at the end missed. They really thought they were going to win. This team doesn't think they aren't good, they truly believe they are a tournament team, and if they play like this ... they are one.

  • Paul Hewitt. The dude can flat out coach, and he had this team believing they could win and refusing to let them fold whenever MSU ran the lead out to 8-10 points. I'm sure our defensive lapses are giving him fits - but there's nothing to complain about with Hewitt. I'm not in Dave Braine's corner right now, but Hewitt was a tremendous hire and I'm proud to have him associated with the Institute.

Things that need to get better before the ACC season:

  • Lewis Clinch is extremely talented and athletic, but he's struggling a bit right now. Everything just seems a little bit rushed, he's not quite squaring his body on jumpshots and just seems to be forcing things a tad too much. As he matures, we should start seeing game by game improvement from him and I fully expect him to explode for 25+ at least once this season. The guys too much of a natural scorer to struggle all season. That being said, last night wasn't a very strong game for him - he was clearly a bit out of sorts in his first huge road game.

  • Boxing out. This is a broken record with GT teams, but other than Smith we just don't rebound the ball well right now. Dickey needs to be as assertive in putting a body on his man for rebounds as he is when he has the ball in his hands and he's looking to score. Too many times Davis had a putback with 3 GT guys watching him grab the board.

  • Defense. I bet Hewitt peels some paint off the walls this week after the last two defensive performances. We aren't stopping dribble penetration the way he likes, and we're giving up too many easy shots. It's no mistake people are shooting over 50% against us recently, they are wide freaking open. Fredrick, Morrow and Dickey are all very good offensive players, but they need to buckle down on the defensive end and start taking pride in their performance there. Hewitt's teams have always been built on the defensive end, I have the utmost confidence this one will be as well.

Overall, I was thrilled with the performance last night. I would have liked to win the game obviously, but the performance of the sophmores was very encouraging. That class wasn't as highly ranked as it probably should have been because it lacks a true "big time NBA" prospect, but Dickey, Smith and Morrow are going to be terrific players for GT over their careers. Hewitt is building an extremely solid foundation for what is becoming a top flite basketball program. Oh, and they are a heck of a lot of fun to watch.


Blogger Dan said...

Man, we had some similar thoughts vis a vis last night. I swear to god I almost ended this post with "John Smoltz, you are dead to me."

10:41 AM  

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