It’s exhibition time!
Basketball season begins tonight against Indiana Wesleyan, who based on everything I’ve read is a very good NAIA team. But good NAIA team or not, this is going to be a blow out. Or at least it should. So, knowing that, what should you be watching for tonight?
I wouldn’t presume to tell you what you should be focused on, but I’ll tell you what I’m looking for.
1. Is it a blowout? It damn well better be. When you’re the #1 team in all the polls, the exhibition game should be a farce. It should be a 40 point margin of victory where we never trail. If it’s not, you’ve got a problem. I want to be a little bored tonight. I’d like for my attention to wander at about the 14 minute mark of the 2nd half. That’s the type of victory margin I want to see.
2. Yogi. From what little I’ve seen, Yogi’s impact has not been oversold. This kid pushes pace, looks to deliver the ball to people in position to score and forces defenses to react to him. But I’ve not seen it against another team. The biggest change between the way the 2012 team played and the what you’ll see on the court tonight and all season is wearing #11. And I’m excited to watch him play.
3. Maurice. Of all the things that go into making this team the #1 team in the nation, the thing that should scare opponents most is this. What if Mo Creek is 80% of what he was as a freshman and he’s our 8th man? What if he’s 90%? This is what excites me most this year. That may sound crazy with Cody, Yogi, Jordy, Will, Christian and Victor, but a near full strength Mo Creek without the expectation that he is the leading scorer on the team is as exciting to me as a chili cook-off is to Homer Simpson.
4. Rebounding. This will not be a true test of either of these areas. Unless we get out rebounded, which we’ve seen happen in the past against lessor competition. Rebounding is possibly the easiest statistical category to lose to an opponent if it’s your weakness. The 2008 team was more talented than many teams and continually got out rebounded. I’ll be watching not just for the total number of rebounds, but also how well we’re boxing out all five men on the floor.
5. Defense. I’m not as interested in the deflections number that Coach Crean talks so much about for two reasons. 1. I have no idea what counts as a deflection. He tried to answer that question last year and I was more confused than before he started and 2. We’ve gotten really good deflection numbers the last two seasons and it hasn’t translated to us having a good defense. I’m more interested in our off-the-ball positioning, how well we close out on shooters, and again, how well we box out. We’re going to get some things done on pure athleticism this season, but athleticism does not equal defense. It’s the boring fundamental stuff I’ll be paying attention to.
6. Let up. Or more specifically, lack of let up. I want to see us get up by 10 and push for 20. Get up by 20 and push for 30. Up by 30 push for the walk-ons to get into the game at 40.
It’s hard to learn a lot from an exhibition game, but these are the things that will tell me the things I’m most interested in learning.