Welcome to the Bulldawg Illustrated Hoops Report. We’re like a cheap bourbon. You may grimace early, but when you run out we leave you wanting more.
The Dawgs lost to really good and experienced Chattanooga team 92-90 in overtime last week. Chattanooga will not only make the NCAA Tournament, in my humble opinion, this year, but I beleive they will win a first round game. So while it looks bad on paper, it was not a bad loss. I cannot stress that enough. The only bad thing about it is we have another mid-major powerhouse in Murray State up next and I promise that’s no day at the beach either. The last thing a program fighting to make the Big Dance wants is to start off 0-2 against teams you can beat. The big picture is still bright at the moment. However, a second loss would put an inordinate amount of pressure on a team that will rely heavily on young guys to step up. So let’s look at the good and bad before we dissect how to beat The Racers!
The season opener had a number of bright spots. First, four of the five starters were in double figures lead by the explosive JJ Frazier’s 22. Yante Maten had his first double-double of the season. Please remember we think he’s going to average a double-double this season. Freshmen William Jackson, E’Torrion Wilridge, and Mike Edwards also had major contributions. All that is good news. However, the bad news outweighed the good. Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann, both All-SEC preseason, got into foul trouble and neither finished the game. Gaines was bounced with approx four minutes left in regulation and Mann was gone early in OT. So we finished the game with two FR on the floor. Charles Mann also had seven turnovers which is way too many. Lastly, and this is critical, the Dawgs must hit FTs. If the team, and especially Charles Mann because of his proclivity to get to the line, can hit at 70%, we should have a successful season. Unfortunately in this game, Mann was 10 of 16 and the team was 28 or 45. That’s right around 62% both. If we hit 70%, we’re 1-0. We said last week Mann must limit the TOs and hit over 70% at the stripe for the Dawgs to take the next step. If he does either of those, it’s a win. And I’m not saying Mann lost the game. Gaines only played 16 minutes due to whistle happy refs. Mann and Gaines are the leaders. We need them doing things that help us win as opposed to contributing to losses. If that makes sense. We didn’t get it done on Friday and the team that played the better game won.[su_spacer size=”40″]
Now it’s time to right the ship against Murray St. These guys were 29-6 last year and 16-0 in their conference. They played in the NIT and lost in the quarter finals. They may not be as good as Chattanooga, but they’re dangerous and can beat anyone in the SEC save Kentucky. So we have to limit the turnovers and hit our free throws. Sorry to keep hammering down on that. As you may have heard, there’s a lot of emphasis this year on allowing offensive players more space. Basically defenders can’t guard as closely as they have in the past. I’ve read college basketball is doing this to increase scoring. If that’s the case, Fox must figure out how to move forward with Gaines and Mann on the floor. He’ll need to look at going to more zone or putting Gaines, who always had the other team’s best scorer in the past, on lesser player. That could cause other issues but we can’t afford to lose one of those guys on most nights let alone both. But I’ve got confidence in this Mark to figure things out and make whatever adjustments are needed. So while last Friday hurt, in the big picture it really just made this game very critical. If you’re free, head on down to Athens tonight. Go Dawgs![su_spacer size=”120″]