Monday, December 16, 2013

The Good, the Bad and the Silly: GW vs Boston U.

By Giovanni Scarcella

Things that worked well, things that need improvement, and things that were endlessly entertaining as GW improved to 9-1 over the BU Terriers.

The Good
-Down by 8 at the half, GW again showed great resilience at home, outscoring the Terriers by 18 in the second half. Wins from behind are great for the team but bad for my blood pressure. How the Colonials found themselves down so much against a decent team needs explaining, but we’ll take the win and the continued national attention that comes with it. GW has begun to find itself in articles with titles like “Teams to Look out For” or “Teams We Underestimated” or “Teams I’m Going to Bring Up Now as Possibly Making the Tournament so that I Seem Like a Genius When They Do And Aren’t at Fault When They Don’t.” The publicity has, dare I say it, stirred a sense of school spirit within me? #RaiseHigh (and without a hint of irony!). 

-Speaking of school spirit, GW students filled up the entire lower section of the Smith Center’s south side on a weekday, during Finals, uphill both ways. Look, I can dedicate an entire post to the weird lack of a GW-wide sense of identity. I could sit here and theorize over the possible causes. Maybe it’s a result of GW’s being a city campus. Maybe a large portion of the student body places more importance on gaining professional experience afforded by the school’s prime location in America’s political center. Maybe students identify more with their smaller organizations (Greek Life, ROTC, Young *Insert Political Party Here*) than with the community as a whole. Regardless, the basketball team’s success has energized the student body, and as the wins pile up so too will the crowds in the Smith Center. Even the old people section (sorry old people) was unusually full. Everyone’s hoping to catch a glimpse of the best team in the DMV. 

-Defense, as usual. The Terriers turned the ball over 16 times, shot under 40% from the field, and only took 8 free throws. GW has a tendency to get into foul trouble, as Zeek did this game, and BU opted not to attack the rim frequently, but keeping the numbers low is a positive sign. The transition defense looked as good it as it possibly could be, with Armwood and Savage starting the block party. Sports Reference lists Savage as 6’3’’ but he has major ups. Nice to see that athleticism put on display at both ends this season. 

- More on the defense. The 1-3-1 zone has become a staple of this team. You would think that opposing teams would start planning for it, right? Time and again, the zone has shut down the opponent’s offense, and GW seems really committed to running it to cut a lead or extend their own. Great stuff getting guys to buy into zone defense, as it’s more difficult to convince someone to guard an area than a man. 

-The Zeek and Creek Show took a back seat to Macho Man Has a Farm, E-I-E-I-O…you know? Because of Macho Man Kethan Savage? And Joe McDonald has a farm, like Old McDonald…nevermind. No catchy names here, but the sophomore guards combined for 42 points, 17 rebounds, and 6 assists. Superior guard play, rim protection, and strong defense make up the traditional recipe for tournament success. 

The Bad
Not everything smells of roses in Foggy Bottom (pun not intended but totally intended). How did the team go down by so much at home? Obviously BU deserves some credit. They took a ton of threes, and got those looks in creative ways off of flare screens and pick-and-roll action. They needed to, since everyone in the arena took one look at the matchup and saw the clear height difference, but BU game-planned well. D.J. Irving dropped 23 and Dom Morris, who looks less three-point shooter and more human wall, had a few daggers from distance. BU ran plays to get their shooters open, a lesson GW needs to learn going forward. Mo Creek did not get a good look off of any movement until the second half. It seemed like Mikic had none, save a breakdown along the baseline that allowed McDonald a nice skip pass to the wing. 
Part of this was the defense of BU, but part of it was also the lack of adjustments made until the second half. Even then there were too many isolation plays. In the first half, GW looked to go inside. I get it. The post-up draws a double team, and lo and behold Zeek or Larsen (good passers for their position) can find the open man. But on Wednesday, BU did a great job denying the post, and the offense did not merely stagnate, it practically died. BU really took the forwards out of the game. Larsen and Armwood finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds combined. Both are capable of that stat line by themselves. No one knew what to do. On any given night, this philosophy on offense might be the Colonials’ undoing. Post play is being re-examined at the professional level. The nerds will tell you how post-ups yield fewer points per possession than attacking the lane or shooting a three. Some teams, such as Carlisle-coached Mavericks and Portland (coached by Carlisle disciple Terry Stotts) rarely bother to double team the post at all. Dwight Howard has bullied both teams down low and absolutely gone off in a limited three-game sample size, yet the Rockets are 1-2 against the Blazers and Mavs. It might be more prudent to focus less on the post play and get the guards involved early. We certainly have the personnel for it this season. 

The Silly
Not too much silliness on display this week. The big heads in the crowd are a nice touch. A few guys got robbed in the tater-tot competition. Seriously, is there an appeals process? Otherwise, the only thing silly was BU’s decision to switch to zone. GW has no dearth of shooters, and enticing the team to shoot only allowed Mo Creek to find some rhythm. GW plays UMBC on Saturday, unfortunately in a time where campus will have already emptied. If you live in the DC area, definitely check it out.  

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