Sunday Conversation: 11/18

Part of the allure in Banners on the Parkway joining SB Nation was that Joel and I could continue to work together. As anyone with a brother can tell you, there is a connection there that cannot be faked. Frequently, this leads to collaboration and chemistry on the stories we hope that you want to read. Sometimes, though, it just turns into an argument. One game into the season and there is already plenty to talk about during those brief moments at work when a surreptitious Facebook message is possible.

Brad: The book on how to beat us has to be out now. 1. Hope we don't shoot some otherworldly percentage. 2. Pressure Davis. 3. Change looks, play some zone. Robert Morris isn't bad, but they shouldn't have been that close. We looked very rattled late.

Joel: It's also instructive to remember that Robert Morris is a very veteran team, especially at guard, and we're a very young team, especially at guard. We missed some shots that we normally make, rebounded like girls, turned the ball over too much, and still came away with the win. Still, we don't feel like a 31-0 team anymore.

Brad: No. Semaj and Dee looked like what they are, not what they had been. I'm trying to decide how much of that I attribute to the defense they just faced and how much I attribute to a crash back to earth.

Joel: Just like I didn't think Dee was a 22 PPG, 15 APG guy, I think it's a little harsh to say that he showed what he is today. Even so, he scored efficiently and hit a couple of threes. His mistakes came early and he adjusted a little as the game went on. These are the first extended minutes he's getting at this level; I think he'll continue to get better at recognizing the adjustments in-game as the season goes on.

Brad: I didn't mean he's always going to be harried and sloppy, I just meant he looked inexperienced today, and he is. The more we tried to speed things up that game, the more RMU was on us, but Davis and Christon weren't feeding the post in the half court either. So, when we went fast we were sloppy, when we slowed, we were stagnant. I think that is fixable, but it very nearly bit us today.

Joel: Yes it did. Robinson drifted in and out of the game today, but Takeoff Trav was good in the touches he got. He's rebounding like a man. They were getting guards to the glass, too; that makes it hard. I think he's looking like the real deal. What did you think of Martin, and what do you think he is going forward?

Brad: It's hard to argue with 17 points on 6-9 from the floor. I really wanted to see him take that game over late though, and he didn't do it. He still looks timid to me. I'm afraid that one bad night or one really good hiding and he is going to disappear again. That 17 today wasn't authoritative. He has to show just a little bit of that killer to get teams to really fear him. He took his last shot with 6:12 to play.

Joel: I couldn't help but notice that. The guy with 17 on 6-9 should be a threat at the end of the game. Instead, I had to remind myself he was on the floor when the game was tied with our last possession coming up. Thank goodness Redford got to the line. If that ball didn't get into Taylor, where was the basket going to come from? Could Dee have gotten to the tin? Semaj was cramping. Martin didn't seem to want it; Jeff Robinson bleh. I think penetrate and kick was the only way Martin was taking that shot. We could have used Semaj and Philmore (I think).

Brad: I'll give Dee credit, he set that last play up beautifully. I went back and rewatched it several times. He cleared the offense all out of lane like he was going to drive for the win, showed his defender the ball for just a second up top, took one look at Redford, and then buried his head like he was going for the rim. As soon as he caught Red's man step into his peripheral vision, he kicked it out. He never looked back outside, but he clearly had a plan in mind. That play was solid.

Joel: I like Dee. I hate it when people say things like this, but I think he's a winner. He knows how to make the little plays that make the difference in games like that one. Obviously, talent trumps winnerness every time, but fortunately he has both. 3-0. What kind of odds could you have gotten on that a couple of weeks ago? This team may not be the most talented iteration of the Muskies, but - as I was telling my boy/girl Flagship in the game thread - they're a lot less dire to watch than I was afraid they might be.

What are your initial thoughts on the DirecTV Classic of Anaheim or whatever they're calling this tournament now?

Brad: You think they were less dire to watch because you got to listen. That second half was an exercise in bad basketball both ways. You're right though, it really could be far worse. Dee may be a "winner," whatever that means, but he cannot afford to be off against better competition. That may be a lot to ask of him, but that's reality. As far as this tournament, I have no idea. I'm not even sure where I will be for that first game. I'm assuming tip will be at Mom and Dad's. [Ed. note: In case you were wondering where we spend Thanksgiving] If Christon can't play one game without cramping, how will he handle three in four days?

Joel: You've taken a negative turn here. Dee has shown the ability to handle and shoot fairly well. He had a rough game against the team that was 19th in the nation in forcing turnovers last year. I'm not denying he was bad at points tonight, but I don't think he's our biggest concern going forward.

First game is at 2pm on Thanksgiving. I think we beat Pacific. I don't think we have the depth to win three games is four days. If we beat them, we get the winner of Saint Mary's and Drexel, which is dodgy at best for us. I think winning two on that road trip makes it a success. We'll see what Philmore can bring to the table.

Brad: I'm not being negative, I'm saying Dee has to bee good when we play good teams. I think he can be, because he showed that against Butler. Our biggest concern going forward is that we played seven guys today in a game that was so frenetic we lost a dude to cramps. Where has James Farr gone?

Joel: He got an almost minute tonight. He was the biggest project of the class before Reynolds and Davis got declared ineligible. I don't think he's a piece that is going to be a big part of our success this year. I think he'll give us some good minutes and have a couple of games that show flashes, but he'll be fifth on the depth chart at forward when Philmore is back. Semaj is still getting back to game shape; we're going to need him to be ready this weekend.

3-0 with two fairly impressive performances plus whatever that was tonight. Has that recalibrated your expectations for the rest of the year?

I looked at our schedule before the season and saw maybe 17 wins, tops. I looked at our roster and saw a ton of question marks and literally no sure things. Stunningly, some of the answers to those questions have been positive. Taylor and Martin have been legitimate revelations. Dee Davis took a huge step forward over the summer. Semaj came in and was as good as advertised. Now if Philmore can come in and get 10 and 4, we might actually be decent. I'm not seeing a Sweet 16 run, but I think - if everything goes perfectly - we might pinch a 20-win season and maybe even sneak into the tournament. If we win two of three out west, we're looking at needing to go 15-10 the rest of the way to win 20. That's not out of reach, but that's about as far as I'll go in terms of a best-case scenario right now. Get back with me in another week and we'll see what I think. It will probably be something different.

Brad: I still think 20 is pipe dream level. I do think we beat Pacific, but that road trip is brutal. If we do win two, then this team is just flat out better than anyone thought. UMass hasn't looked amazing, but they have won. St Joe's gave FSU all they could handle last night, and VCU, Saint Louis, and Butler aren't going anywhere. Even URI has looked decent early. The Atlantic 10 is going to be a mess from top to bottom this year, because every team can beat any other on a given night. 15-10 isn't going to be easy, no matter how you look at it.

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