Monthly Archives: October 2009

Pens 1 Wild 2

 

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Game Recap

This game was so close to being a win.  We had our chances.  But, I guess that’s always the reaction to a one goal loss.  With a 35-15 advantage in shots, however, I think it’s justified this time.  That wasn’t 35 softies into the belly pad, either.  There were a lot of good chances in there.  Luck just wasn’t on our side.  But, I guess this is karma for stealing a game last night.

Looking over the stat sheet, there’s one thing that sticks out at me.  We had 9 giveaways in the game.  Minnesota played terrific defense, to be sure.  Those were heavily influenced giveaways.  But, I’ve noticed a trend.  We keep trying to stickhandle through trouble in the neutral zone instead of finding a teammate.  I don’t think it’s a selfish thing.  When it works it generally ends in a pass instead of a shot.  I think we’ve just got some guys that are such gifted stickhandlers that they think they have to create an opportunity for their teammate instead of their teammate creating an opportunity for the both of them.  It makes us really easy to slow down.  All you have to do is poke check and lift sticks and you can create a ton of turnovers against us.  It’s not a huge problem.  Heck, our record proves that.  But it’s something else to keep an eye on.

Also of note, we had a goose egg on the power play again.  That’s 8 straight power plays without a goal.  Not panic mode yet, but it’s a liability.  Overall, though, I’m taking a positive feeling away from this one.  We played a great game.  You can make a strong argument that we out-played the Wild.  But hockey’s a funny game sometimes.  Things just don’t always go your way and you just have to keep on trucking.  The best team doesn’t always win.  A long road trip with a big west coast swing is coming up for us in the coming weeks.  It starts Tuesday night with a game in Anaheim.  Homecoming for Chris Kunitz.  Ryan Whitney plays his old team again.  Should be fun.

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2009 Big East B-Ball Preview

#9 Marquette Golden Eagles

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Previous Posts

#16 DePaul

#15 USF

#14 Providence

#13 Rutgers

#12 St. John’s

#11 Cincinnati

#10 Seton Hall

Last Year In A Nutshell:

25-10 (12-6 Big East)

Lost in Second Round of NCAA Tournament to Missouri (was #6 seed)

Coach: Buzz Williams

If I Were Coach Williams I Would Start:

Lazar Hayward (F, Sr.) – Only returning starter from last year. Can score around the basket, and is very good with rebounds. He’s also a bit foul prone at times.

Dwight Buycks (G, Jr.) – JUCO transfer will be the 2 guard. Scored over 1,200 points in two years of junior college.

Jimmy Butler (G, Jr.) – Only other projected starter besides Hayward who was on the team last year. Will play the wing. Definitely a stronger shooter than a slasher.

Junior Cadougan (G, Fr.) – Will start at the point in his freshman year. One of the top 100 recruits in the country. Can be a scoring threat at the point. Out for the year with injury.

Jeronne Maymon (F, Fr.) – Another top 100 recruit who will start as a freshman. Named Mr. Basketball in the state of Wisconsin.

Other Key Contributors:

Darius Johnson-Odom (G, So.) – JUCO transfer. Coach Williams says he’ll play both the 1 and 2 guard positions.

David Cubillan (G, Sr.) – One of the few experienced players on the team. Career reserve always hustles. Very high energy player.

Youssoupha Mbao (C, Fr.) – Built like a twig (7’2″ 215 lbs.). Everyone seems to think he’s a really raw talent that may take some time to develop.

Brett Roseboro (F, Fr.) – Really long body. Looked at to provide some frontcout depth, but may need to add some strength, first.

Overall Thoughts:

Marquette is going to be the team I watch the closest this year, because how this year turns out will determine a lot of how the next few years will go in Milwaukee. Marquette lost 5 players and 4 of 5 starters from last year (Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, Dominic James, Dwight Burke and Patrick Hazel. If you follow Big East hoops, there are a lot of names you recognize in that bunch). They replaced them with one of the best recruiting classes in the conference. They reloaded in the backcourt with two junior college transfers (Buycks and Johnson-Odom), and a stud freshman (Cadougan). They added some depth in the backcourt that they’ve never had before, but most of it is still a bit undeveloped from the scouting reports I’ve read. This should be a learn on the job type year for Marquette, and consequently they’ll struggle a bit. However, they’ve got enough talent (not to mention they’re not the only team ravaged by graduation) to remain in the middle of the pack in the conference.

Marquette has always relied on playing small, but being scrappy and going after rebounds harder than the other team. If you don’t rebound in the Big East, you will fail. There’s no way around it. So Marquette (and Villanova also does this) recruit guards who not only are quick, but have a knack for finding the ball. That way, they have an advantage in quickness without giving up a rebounding edge. It remains to be seen if the new guys in the backcourt will be able to go after rebounds like their predecessors, but I think it’s more of a staple of who Marquette looks for now, so I’d assume so. It’s like defensive minded players at Pitt. We actively recruit kids who play defense, so it’s a quality that sticks with the program more than its players. Defensively, Marquette employ a lot of man defense to take advantage of their quickness and it works. It also puts them in a better position for rebounds.

Overall, no one knows exactly how this Marquette team will turn out. I can tell you how Marquette has traditionally played, and assume that the trend will continue, but I could very well be dead wrong. I do know that the Golden Eagles are extremely young and will go through some growing pains, and that they’re extremely talented so they’ll win some games. Taking both those statements into account, I thought #9 in the conference was just about the right place for them. But, like I said: this is an important season for Marquette basketball. If they really excel this year (and I wouldn’t be surprised), they’re stacked for the next 2 or 3 years. If they flop (and I again wouldn’t be surprised), they’ve destroyed the confidence of their young base and they’ll have to work on gaining it back. Keep an eye on it.

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2009 Big East B-Ball Preview

#10 Seton Hall Pirates

 

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Previous Posts

#16 DePaul

#15 USF

#14 Providence

#13 Rutgers

#12 St. John’s

#11 Cincinnati

Last Year In A Nutshell:

17-15 (7-11 Big East)

No Postseason Play

Coach: Bobby Gonzalez

If I Were Coach Gonzalez I Would Start:

Jeremy Hazell (G, Jr.) – Averaged over 20 points a game last year (maybe that’s because he took over a quarter of the team’s shots).  Fantastic shooter with some range.

Eugene Harvey (G, Sr.) – Senior point guard.  Is a threat to drive the lane at all times.  Has a bad habit of making dumb mistakes.  Scrappy player who can grab rebounds.

Herb Pope (F, Jr.) – New Mexico St. transfer.  Grew up in Pittsburgh.  Very gifted athlete.  No trouble playing down low for the Aggies, but can he hang in the Big East?

Robert Mitchell (F, Jr.) – Another player with local ties (former Duquesne transfer).  Very athletic wing player.  Very good shooter, but can go inside and get some rebounds as well.

John Garcia (F/C, Sr.) – Really big and strong.  Provides a solid  presence down low, but is still a bit uncoordinated.  Struggles to make post moves to manufacture points, and could use his size to rebound better.

Other Key Contributors:

Keon Lawrence (G, Jr.) – Mizzou transfer.  Extremely athletic guard.  Loves to run the floor.

Jordan Theodore (G, So.) – Backup point guard.  More of the classic distributor point guard as opposed to  Harvey who likes to be more of a scoring threat.

Jamel Jackson (G, Jr.) – JUCO transfer.  Scouting report says that he’s a terrific 3-point shooter.

Jeff Robinson (F, Jr.) – Memphis transfer.  Won’t be eligible until the second half of the season.  Coach Gonzalez says he’ll use him mostly on the wing.

Melvyn Oliver (C, So.) – Huge big man.  Like, enormous.  Like listed as 340, but touched 400 pounds at points last year enormous.  Which is even big on a 6’11” guy.  Sat out last year (and possibly some of this year) with academic issues.  Can’t be moved in the post, but is slow as molasses.  I don’t see how he fits into this year’s up-tempo team.

Overall Thoughts:

I  keep a couple of notebooks every year on college basketball.  When I watch games I take notes on player strengths/weaknesses, offensive and defensive strategies, and overall team strengths and weaknesses.  What I write is generally what you’re reading in these posts.  I keep past years notebooks, but I’ve never known why (maybe I’m just a pack rat).  But this year I found out.  I really gave the notebooks from two years ago a workout on this post.  Bobby Gonzalez went crazy with transfers, and I had to dig into the archives to research what they’ll play like.  I mean, just look at how many times I had to type transfer up top.  These weren’t some leftovers, either.  Herb Pope and Keon Lawrence both averaged over 10 points last year.  These were some serious gets.  Seton Hall will be interesting to watch this year because they’ve got talent, but will that talent be able to gel?  Bobby Gonzalez seemed to just go out and get the most athletic guys he could find.  But they’ve all got different strengths that don’t mesh.  Some are better creating a shot.  Some are better in transition.  Some are better at a snail’s pace.  This is really on Coach Gonzalez to create a game plan that allows everyone to shine.  And also allows everyone to score.  There are a bunch of guys that are used to putting up numbers, and there’s still only one ball on the court.  It should be very interesting.

If I were Gonzalez, I would play more of an up-tempo game this year.  It seems like the overall trend in this team is backcourt depth and athleticism.  The best thing to do is turn them loose and let THEM play to their strengths.  My only concern would be to watch carefully and make sure no one is hogging the ball.  The major weakness on this team is definitely the frontcourt.  They’re bringing in Pope to compliment an already strong Garcia, but there is absolutely no depth behind them.  You could see it last year.  They almost never used the post as an offensive weapon.  Garcia was pretty much down there by himself and STILL only managed 8 points a game.  Last year, Seton Hall played a game that was similar to a lot of other teams in this tier of the conference (Cincy, St. John’s, etc.): they used their defense to manufacture offense.  They play both a man and a 2-3 zone with no favoritism to either one.  But, in both cases, they are extremely aggressive.  They’re quick on the double team, and they force a lot of turnovers.  They’re also very aggressive about coming out to play you away from the basket.  However, the flip side to this is that if you’re patient, and you have a point guard who can handle the pressure, theres usually someone wide open down low.

Seton Hall really struggled with rebounding last year.  I think it will improve this year, but I still see it being a problem.  That’s the price you pay with a guard-oriented team.  I think this is a deeper team than they ever have been before.  They’re brought in some guys who aren’t freshman anymore, and have some collegiate experience.  They’re going to make some strides this year, but I still think they’re a bit too undisciplined to join the upper crust of the conference.  I also can’t shake the idea that there will be some issues with all the guys on the roster used to getting big minutes.  But that remains to be seen.  Really, it’s the same story with all 3 New York area teams (Seton Hall, St. John’s and Rutgers).  They’re all improving and getting very athletic, but they’re not strong enough or disciplined enough to win quite yet.  Having the best New York area team at #10 in the conference is a problem for the Big East, but at least all 3 teams are headed in the right direction.

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Pens 4 Blue Jackets 3 (SO)

 

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Game Recap

My first reaction to this game was that it was extremely exciting, and I was fortunate to catch it.  My second thought was: wow.  We in no way deserved to win this game.  But we did.  That’s the best sign I’ve seen from this team all season.  If we can win on our worst night like we did tonight, we’re a powerhouse.  No doubt about it.  And Columbus isn’t a bad team, either.  They were a playoff team last year, and are improving every season.  The only problem is that their fan base just hasn’t caught up yet.  It seriously sounded like a Penguins home game at the end.  Just goes to show what winning does to a fan base (are you taking notes, Pirates?).

But, back to my original point, we played awful tonight.  With the exception of about 5 minutes after the first goal, we looked like we were skating around in cement.  We weren’t moving our feet at all, and we took 8 penalties because of it.  Couple that with the amazing night that Steve Mason and Rick Nash were having, and it should have been a long night for the good guys.  But, we managed to keep it close, and found ourselves down 3-1 towards the end of the game.  We then proceeded to score 2 goals in the last 3 minutes of the game to send it to overtime.  We dominated the overtime period but came up empty, Johnson made 3 pretty good saves in the shootout, and we go home with a totally undeserved “road” win.

I think Columbus’ big mistake was packing it in early.  They played the equivalent of the prevent defense in football for the last 10 minutes or so.  They made almost no attempt on offense, and were just content to stack the blue line.  Well, that let the Pens speed up the tempo, and the got some momentum because of it.  Even without Malkin, we’re a very gifted hockey team in open space.  And we’re fast.  I don’t know when coaches will learn that taking your foot off the gas when you’re winning is a losing strategy.  Ken Hitchcock knows better.  Or at least he should.  But, hey, I’m not going to argue.  It gets my team 2 extra points.

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2009 Big East B-Ball Preview

#11 Cincinnati Bearcats

 

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Previous Posts

#16 DePaul

#15 USF

#14 Providence

#13 Rutgers

#12 St. John’s

Last Year In A Nutshell:

18-14 (8-10 Big East)

No Postseason Play

Coach: Mick Cronin

If I Were Coach Cronin I Would Start:

Lance Stephenson (F, Fr.) – Most highly rated freshman in the Big East.  One of the best in the country.  All time leading scorer in New York State high school basketball history (just think about that for a second).

Deonta Vaughn (G, Sr.) – Senior leader and leading returning scorer.  Averaged over 15 points per game last year.  Can score in a number of different ways.  Handles the ball really well.  Played some point last year, but won’t have to this year, so expect his numbers to go up.

Larry Davis (G, Jr.) – Pretty good defender, and good ballhandler.  Dead-eye shooter from beyond the arc.

Rashad Bishop (F, Jr.) – Not a great scorer, but specializes in lockdown defense in the post.  Very strong and physical.

Yancy Gates (F, So.) – Big physical center.  Terrific rebounder.  Pretty good post up moves.  Averaged over 10 points a game as a freshman last year.

Other Key contributors:

Steve Toyloy (C, Sr.) – Yet another big post player, but not as physical as the others.  Specializes in rebounding, but can finish as well.

Cashmere Wright (G, Fr.) – Very highly rated freshman will play the point.  His presence will let Vaughn play the 2 guard spot a lot more.  Pure point guard who’s got good court vision.

Dion Dixon (G, So.) – Very fast guard.  Really excels in transition.  Mostly a slasher guard.  Can shoot the ball, but is a bit streaky.

Sean Kilpatrick (G/F, Fr.) – Very athletic wing player.  Will give the Bearcats a dimension they haven’t had yet, and could see some playing time as a freshman.

Overall Thoughts:

Cincinnati is a lot like St. John’s.  They have their entire starting lineup back, a really really deep backcourt, and a ton of depth.  Just like St. John’s, however, that returning talent hasn’t done much of anything as of yet, and there’s no reason to believe they made vast improvements during the offseason.  Unlike St. John’s, however, Cincy is still very young and brought in some very nice recruits.  Tops on that list would have to be Lance Stephenson.  You read right up top.  He’s the all-time leading high school scorer in New York history.  More points than Chris Mullin.  More than Sam Perkins.  More than some guy named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (you might have heard of him).  So, the big question is: how the heck did Cincinnati land him?  And why isn’t this bigger news?  Well, the answer is that he’s got some serious baggage.  He was accused of sexual assault earlier this year and plead guilty to a lesser crime.  He may not be able to play because of some questions about his armature status (he filmed a reality TV show earlier that may air on MTV, and also had a tour of the underarmor factory that’s a bit sketchy).  He’s been called selfish by former coaches.  His father is rumored to be a controlling jerk.  In short: he’s a big head case.  Nobody wanted to touch him.  Even St. John’s who’s desperate for a New York kid backed off a scholarship offer.  Lot of schools wouldn’t go near him.   So, Cincinnati took a chance.  That might be a great move, or it might be a huge headache.  We’ll see.

If he pans out, Cincy could be dangerous.  They have a lot of size and strength.  Enough to really go at a lot of the physical Big East schools.  They’re a bit slow in transition because of it, but that’s not a huge flaw.  Rebounding is definitely a strength, but they get out-hustled for the ball a lot.  That has to change.  They really slow the tempo-down and have traditionally run a basic motion offense.  They get the ball down low at every chance for high percentage shots, but they have some guys that can shoot and bust zones if you try that tactic.  The offense may change this year with the influx of athletic guards, however.  That’s yet to be seen.  Defensively, they play a man that really strives to take away the inside.  Once again using that frontcourt depth.

I think Cincy is an extremely dangerous team.  They have a lot of returning players, and they’re going to be more balanced this year than they ever have before.  But they’ve shown some lack of hustle in the past, and Lance Stephenson might turn into a distraction, so I’m dropping them a bit.  It comes down to the same principle that held with St. John’s.  Sure, they have a lot of returning players, but what have those returning players done?  Not much.  I can’t see Stephenson making that big of a difference.  He may even turn into a hinderance if he hogs the ball and takes them away from their strength down low.  This will be one of the more interesting teams to watch this year.

 

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2009 Big East B-Ball Preview

#12 St. John’s Redmen Storm

 

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Previous Posts

#16 DePaul

#15 USF

#14 Providence

#13 Rutgers

Last Year In A Nutshell:

16-18 (6-12 Big East)

No Postseason Play

Coach: Norm Roberts

If I Were Coach Roberts I Would Start:

D.J. Kennedy (G/F, Jr.) – Schenley High grad.  Wing player.  Very long.  Has a shooting touch, but is strong enough to play around the net.

Paris Horne (G/F, Jr.) – Very quick on defense, but not the best slasher around.  Really good shooting touch.  Very athletic.

Anthony Mason Jr. (F, Sr.) – Coming off of a medical redshirt.  Streaky shooter, but always puts up points.  Averaging 14 points per game over his career.  Great mid-range game.

Malik Boothe (G, Jr.) – Point guard.  Doesn’t take many shots, but he’s got a great handle on the ball, and he doesn’t turn it over.

Sean Evans (F, Jr.) – Very athletic build.  Runs the court well.  Gets caught out of position on defense a lot.  Can’t play away from the hoop.  But when he’s around the hoop he’s very strong with some good finishing moves.

Other Key Contributers:

Justin Burrell (F, Jr.) – Was a starter last year.  Very strong with decent finishing moves.  Averaged 9 points a game last year.

Malik Stith (G, Fr.) – Will mostly be looked at as a point guard.  Yet to be seen if he can make snap decisions in a faster college game.

Dele Coker (F/C, Jr.) – Provides some size inside.  Pretty good scorer down low.  Also a very good rebounder.  Has a pair of stone hands.  Also, he could use his size a little bit better.

Quincy Roberts (G, So.) – Not really a factor last year, but I’ve read that he may not have reached his potential yet.  Is very athletic, though.

Dwight Hardy (G, Jr.) – JUCO transfer guard.  Terrific shooter from outside.

Overall Thoughts:

There is a huge gap between Rutgers and St. John’s in this ranking.  The gap between these two at least is easily explained: experience.  You can just see by scanning that list of players above that St. John’s has a lot of upperclassmen.  Due to some bad luck with injuries in the past few seasons, St. John’s has stockpiled the vets.  They have 6 starters back this year.  That’s right.  6.  All 5 from the end of the year plus Anthony Mason Jr. who had a medical redshirt.  The better news for St. John’s is that only Mason is a Senior.  So they’ve got another run in them next year.  So with all that playing time returning, why are they #12?  Well, as I’ve mentioned before, experience isn’t good by itself.  You need experience and talent.  And St. John’s still has a lot of old, but mediocre talent in my opinion.  They make a ton of mistakes and defense is a weakness.  So, we’ll have to see.

They are an extremely athletic squad and are by far the most balanced team that I’ve written about yet.  They have Evans, Burrell and Coker all providing some strength and inside scoring.  They have Kennedy, Horne and Mason Jr. who can all score from outside.  They love to use that speed and athleticism every chance they get.  When they’re in an offensive set they’re always trying to drive the lane, or get an inside touch.  It looks disorganized because everyone is running at a mile a minute, and it also makes for some mistakes.  St. John’s has a bad habit of forcing plays.  They’ll drive the lane even when 3 guys converge on them, so they often struggle to finish.  They also try to push the tempo on defense.  They play a man defense, but it’s very aggressive.  They don’t give you any room on the perimeter.  Or back by halfcourt.  Or in the backcourt, even.  They’re always hounding you, always trying for a steal.  And when they get one, they’re running the other way at full speed.

St. John’s is one of a lot of Big East teams that has a reason to believe they can challenge in the conference.  It’s a down year, and the Red Storm have a ton of returning players.  The problem I see is twofold.  One, they don’t have any returning stars.  Maybe you could make a case for Anthony Mason Jr., but the rest of the team is a bunch of mediocre talent.  The other problem is their style of play.  Against bad teams, the up-tempo pressure style that the Red Storm play will do a lot of damage.  But the Big East has a ton of players that won’t get phased by the pressure.  You saw that last year.  They were 10-6 out of conference and 6-12 in conference.  Next year they will have a huge senior class and some more backcourt depth, so this isn’t the last hurrah for St. John’s, but the alumni are getting restless.  I would love for them to make a push back to contention in the conference, but I don’t think they have the parts/system to do it.  We’ll see, though.  They just might surprise.

 

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Pens Catch-Up

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Pens 3 Panthers 2 (SO)

Pens 1 Devils 4

Pens 6 Les Habitants (Canadiens) 1

I apologize for the delayed post here.  It’s been a long week around here, and I’m way too psyched about college basketball starting.  Anyway, the Pens had a tough pair of games over the weekend, and then turned around and got a laugher against the Canadiens tonight.  I’ll take 2 out of 3 in any stretch.  That will absolutely get you to the playoffs.

The weekend started out a bit rough with a tough win against Florida.  We went into the third period down 2-0, and came back to tie it, and eventually win in a shootout.  I don’t think there’s anybody who thinks we need overtime to beat the Panthers.  They had a decent year last year, but they seem to be going right back to the basement this season.  However, they play a real tight trap defense, and it worked to perfection.  That’s the variable in sports.  If you can out-scheme your opponent, you can overcome a talent gap.  I like the fact that we battled and came back in the third period.  That shows a team with a lot of confidence.  A lot of the mistakes we were making were just poor passes.  We stopped that, and good things happened.  What do you know?

New Jersey came out and gave us more of the same trap game, except they were better at it.  Much better.  We really struggled to get an offense set up, and consequently  only scored one goal.  The mistake was made early.  We let them score in the first 10 minutes, and New Jersey will just choke you when they score first.  That’s exactly what happened.  The first goal is extremely important with the Devils.  We did get some shots, especially in the third period, but Brodeur came up big with 33 saves.  When a goalie of his caliber is hot, there’s not much you can do.  I would have like to see some variation with how we attacked the press.  But, in reality with the way the Devils were playing, I don’t think much of anything would have helped.  At least after those two games, we know what the achilles heel of this team is.

Against Montreal tonight, we finally got a break from the press, and took full advantage of it.  To the tune of 37 shots.  Phew.  The Canadiens had 24, by the way.  Talk about tilted ice.  The story of the game was that Crosby got a hat trick.  Nice to see.  Maybe that will spark a scoring streak for him.  I hate seeing Ovechkin run away with the scoring title (even though it’s only because he’s a one man team out there).  Chris Kunitz also snapped his goal drought, which was nice to see.  The best news, though?  We were 2 for 5 on the power play.  I really want to see us play well without Gonchar.  Just because I have a sneaking suspicion that he won’t be around next year.

You’ve gatta love the continued success of this team.  But with the condensed season, and most of the roster in the Olympics, you have to wonder if they can keep this up through the entire season.  I almost want to tell them to pace themselves.  It’s only October yet.  Oh, well.  Columbus is on Friday.  Lets keep this gravy train rolling!

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