Point Blank – March 9, 2017
For Louisville, one win may mean so much…It was Madness indeed, already…Why was it so grisly for the Grizzlies (a playoff team just can’t lose a home game to the Nets)…
Wednesday brought the quick reminder of just what conference tournament play can be all about, the added pressure elevating some teams, while making weaker squads even more fragile, and if you were following the scoreboards over the course of the day there were some shocking moments. I’ll get to a few in just a bit.
First let’s set some background for the day, and now it is time to delve more deeply into why some folks remember Peter Green so well, despite his place in music history only being a footnote for others. It is so much about what could have been, those early flashes of a particular brilliance that ended up lost in a mist because of acid, which took a toll on so many across that generation. We will never know just what his particular genius could have turned into, but there are some archives that will live on, like the soulful blues from this version of “A Fool No Moore” -
That provides some good audio background on a busy work morning, and perhaps a theme for Rick Pitino, the title rather appropriate after the program’s inability to properly handle some issues left them home for the post-season last March.
Item: Louisville may really want to win a game today
It will not come as any surprise that I am in play on #714 Louisville (2:30 Eastern) today, a game that naturally found its way into the latter parts of the Wednesday thread, and even through the markets are now adjusting I believe it works up to -3, largely because the game allows one to play in play from both directions – both ON Louisville, and AGAINST Duke.
The issues for the Blue Devils have already been dealt with here a couple of times this week but let me go back to them because there was some added evidence from Wednesday’s sluggish win over Clemson. It wasn’t a case of Duke playing all that well but the Tigers not stepping up with a high level of execution, which was enough for Mike Krzyzewski’s team to move on, but there was something rather glaring – Grayson Allen is still nowhere near 100 percent.
Allen sat out Duke’s loss to Miami two weeks ago, and since then it has only been 51 minutes across three games, but instead of getting closer to full health he struggled mightily on Wednesday, going without a point on 0-4 across 12 minutes of action, with only one assist and one rebound. If that is all he had in the tank then, there is not much reason to expect all that much more today, and it becomes a major issue for a team that is do depth-shy – the Blue Devils reserves committed more fouls (6), than they had points, rebounds, assists and steals combined (5). Krzyzewski was right to the point concerning Allen in yesterday’s aftermath - “I think the injury is a huge part of it because he has not been able to really go after it in practice and he’s lost his timing, his rhythm.”
Now this afternoon’s problem for Coach K – not only is Louisville a deep and talented team that will bring pressure defense to tax that depth, but what is the upside of winning? Another showdown with North Carolina tomorrow. Does he really want to put his team through that, given the current roster limitations?
And then there is the flip side. I believe merely winning this game today means a great deal to Pitino and his players, and given how much energy means in the scope of their game, they will play hard. Hard should be enough to win, and if they also play well, it may be enough to win comfortably.
Here is the gist – Louisville has yet to win an ACC tourney game. The Cardinals were knocked out in the first round two years ago, and then had that post-season ban last March. I believe that creates an extreme level of hunger for this setting, especially given the particular opponent, and they could build up the intensity by sitting and watching Duke play yesterday. You know what the tactics will be – while it is not easy to force the Blue Devils into turnovers, or make them lose their poise via defensive pressure, there is the ability to wear them down. With Luke Kennard and Jayson Tatum both playing 39 minutes yesterday, they can be vulnerable to just that.
Item: You know it’s tournament time when…
To set the proper tone for today, and the rest of this frenetic cycle, may we offer up the following –
11:25 First Half – Air Force 25 Wyoming 0
Halftime: San Jose State 31 Utah State 31
Final: Utah State 90 San Jose State 64
Halftime: Washington State 41 Colorado 27
Final: Colorado 73 Washington State 63
17:30 Second Half - UNLV 37 San Diego State 16
End of Regulation – UNLV 50 San Diego State 50
Final – San Diego State 62 UNLV 52
14:30 Second Half – Duquesne 55 Saint Louis 39
0:20 Second Half – Duquesne 71 Saint Louis 66
Final – Saint Louis 72 Duquesne 71
10:30 Second Half – Texas Tech 42 Texas 31
Final – Texas 61 Texas Tech 52
Yes, it will get a little cleaner today, with some of the lower rungs of the totem pole, which bring such fragile aspects into play, having been eliminated. But the pressures of Win and Advance, the realities of Lose and Go Home, do create some unique game flows, and some challenges in the grading.
There is also a challenging setting in the NBA tonight, the current state of the Memphis Grizzlies…
Item: Why has this week been so grisly for the Grizzlies?
Among the more stunning results of the recent NBA board was a 122-109 win by Brooklyn at Memphis on Monday, the Grizzlies getting thumped 34-18 in the fourth quarter against the kind of team that they usually control (they were -10.5 at post-time). Admittedly Memphis had lost two in a row prior to that one, but there did not seem any cause for concern, yet there was a major change in the player rotation for the game against the Nets, Tony Allen and JaMychal Green out of the starting lineup and Andrew Harrison and Brandan Wright in. It didn’t work, one of the NBA’s best defenses getting exploited to the tune of 53.4 percent shooting, and 14-30 from 3-point range.
What was going on here? Let’s go to David Fizdale for his take -
“We’re stale. Right now we’re 14-14 since January 1. It’s my job to shake it up. There were some good things about it and overall, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who was on the floor for us. We couldn’t guard them off the dribble. That’s the bottom line.”
And when the first year HC was asked how long he would stay with the lineup -
“A couple of games and see what it turns into. If this isn’t getting it done, I’m ready to shuffle some more because that’s my job. I’m not going to be satisfied with mediocrity. Since January 1 that’s the best word I can use. We are a mediocre basketball team. That’s on me as well so I’m controlling what I can, which are minutes, lineups and all of that kind of stuff. Hopefully, it’ll have an impact over the long haul.”
Is this the right interpretation from Fizdale? If one would have projected back in October for this roster to be 36-28 after 64 games, might that have been considered a “win”? It raises the question as to whether he has the proper handle right now, which means time to go the players for a bit more. Like this from Mike Conley -
“He asked for our opinion and we just said ‘Do whatever is best, whatever you feel. We’re just trying to win. I thought guys handled it as good as they could. It was a shock for a lot of people involved in it. … We maybe let that distract us a little bit.
“We’re frustrated. We understand what we’re trying to build towards and that’s what’s frustrating. If we didn’t care about what was going on, if we didn’t care about winning a championship, if we didn’t think we’re capable, then morale would be fine. We’ve got a lot of competitors in here.”
Hence the Grizzlies go under the microscope tonight against the equally under-achieving Clippers (they’ll be a lead topic soon). Fizdale may have pressed a bit of a panic button when there was really no need, and there is a prospect that it could backfire.
In the Sights, NCAA Afternoon…
I don’t believe there has been enough adjustment made for the absence of Josh Jackson today, so it will be #754 Kansas/TCU Under (3:00 Eastern), with plenty of 149.5 available in the current trading, and this one good to 149.
Neither coach wants much tempo here – Jamie Dixon obviously knowing his best way to compete today is to make it a slow grinder, and Bill Self fully knowing what is ahead after this, a higher energy affair against the Iowa State/Oklahoma State winner tomorrow, and then a difficult challenge on Saturday if his Jayhawks are still alive.
How limited is Kansas without Jackson? Lagerald Vick would start for a lot of teams, but then what? Carlton Bragg played 13.3 minutes per game In Big 12 play, but across those 18 games all other players combined for just 76 minutes. That is all. Kansas will not have the same offensive efficiency without Jackson, but also has to be pace wary as well, yet this Total is sitting on the same spot as a matchup between these teams in Lawrence two weeks ago, which closed at 149.5.
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