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Sunday Conversation: 12/2

While Joel and I weren't ranting about the status of our favorite European football clubs (seriously, why is Chelsea still playing Fernando Torres?) on Saturday we had the opportunity to go back and forth about Xavier v. Purdue. Semaj's breakout game was obvious to everyone, but it is difficult to see who his wingman will be this year. It didn't take long to turn that into an argument.

Brad: We got called good cop/bad cop last week and I suspect I was the bad cop. In an attempt to be positive, here's what I loved this week: 1. Semaj attacking late in the game. He's fearless and he wants the ball, that's a good combination when you make free throws at an 80+% clip. 2. Travis Taylor took 11 shots. I know he only made two, but on a team so guard reliant, it's good he's trying to generate some offense. 3. I'm loving Martin's new swagger. He's aggressive to the rim and not at all afraid to shoot.

Joel: Not afraid to shoot? Did you see him demanding the ball down the stretch? I can answer that for you: no. His last bucket came with more than 17 minutes left in the game. He had that one burst to keep us in the game at the beginning of the second half, and then he disappeared into the Justin Martin zone of listless offense and inexplicable decisions. I will say this for him, though, he stuck with it defensively. Same with Taylor, really. We got crushed on the glass. That's not excellent.

Brad: He missed time right after his personal six point run to give us the lead due to foul trouble. After that, he took a three pointer with six to play, but mostly just fit into the flow of the offense. Are you seriously complaining about 12 timely points on 5-7 from the floor? He wasn't demanding the ball because Christon is the man come crunch time. You don't need two alpha dogs out there.

We did get destroyed on the glass. Taylor was active, but our lack of actual girth is alarming. We do not have a big guy that really bangs down low. I found Philmore unimpressive yesterday. He seemed off balance an awful lot of the time and not really into the flow of the game.

Joel: Here's the thing with Martin: he's the perfect third-best player on a team. Semaj is obviously our best player, and he does the usual "best player on a team" things. Martin does the third-best player on a team things: takes the shots presented to him, fills in the gaps in the squad (in our case, extra rebounding and wing defense) and never really tries to tear a game up. His 12 on 5-7 is a perfect example of a "third banana" line. A player like Semaj would take 5-7 as a sign to get some; I don't think Martin has shown any sign of working that way. We need a guy we know will show up, make an imprint on every game, and be able to carry the load is Semaj is off. Right now, if Semaj has a bad game against a decent team (or a good game against a team that shoots 3-17 from deep), we lose.

Brad: It looked like Dee Davis was going to be that second guy, but since the Pacific game he has not been impressive. He's currently getting turned by everyone he guards, turning the ball over, and he shot terribly yesterday. He needs to rededicate himself to his defense, or he's not worth a whole lot with Semaj clearly capable of running the point. (Of course, Dee is going to play no matter what, because we are thin everywhere). His regression has been disturbing to me.

I still don't agree on the Martin thing. When was he supposed to go get some? He missed time because of his (partially self imposed) foul trouble, and he deferred to Semaj down the stretch. Yes, he could have shot himself back into the game, but the team didn't need him to. If he had, you'd be comparing him to Mark Lyons when he would take the ball out of Tu's hands to try to get his. Sometimes, you score your 12, you play some defense, you attack the glass, and you play for the team win. Martin also pointed at some fans that had been on him after he buried one shot, I loved that.

Joel: Say we're in a game where Semaj is sick/injured/suspended/fouled out/triple teamed and it's getting to a time where we need a basket. Does your heart really tell you "That's okay, we'll just get it to JMart and let him go to work?" Mine doesn't. I'm not saying we need a Cheeks(z) to Semaj's Tu, but he doesn't have a Chalmers to his Sato or a Lumpkin to his Brown. Imperfect analogies, but you get the idea.

Who could be the number two? Dee you already covered. I think we can agree that it's not Redford (fun but too limited in getting his own shot), Robinson (talented enough, too Jeff Robinsony), Farr, or Stenger. It can't be Semaj, because he is already our best player. That leaves Martin, Philmore, or Taylor. Martin has showed he can get buckets off the bounce or catch-and-shoot. Why he doesn't more often, I'm not sure. If he's going to be plan B, he needs to. Philmore I haven't seen enough of to know for sure. He was good at Towson, so I'm going to give him some more time to get up to game speed. Taylor can get his own shot on the post and he has a motor that doesn't quit, but he is frightfully thin and can be bullied out of a game offensively. I think he has the right mindset to be that guy, though. As you pointed out, his 2-11 shows he's not backing down from being our post option and he believes the next one is going to fall.

Brad: It's a bit unfair to assume that Martin can't fill that role. He hasn't really been called on to do it yet. We undoubtedly need him against Robert Morris, and he poured in 17 on nine shots. Other than that, he's just filled the spaces he needs to. His usage rate is 17.3% right now, Davis is at 22.9%, Christon is at 29.7%, and Taylor is at 19.5%. Even Jeff Robinson is at 18%. that means of our starting five, martin's usage rate is the lowest. If we adjust the offense a bit to maybe get Robinson to quit taking moronic three pointers or Taylor to look high opposite, that usage number, and JMart's other numbers are going to go up. As something of an aside, Martin has the second highest DR% on the team. That's amazing given last year he seemed allergic to contact.

Joel: That's pretty much where our two points come together. In terms of offensive rating, Martin is the most efficient player in our starting lineup, yet his usage rate is fifth of those five guys. That's obviously hurting our overall output. We've basically established that he is deferring to Semaj, and I'm okay with that. Other than Erik Stenger, nobody on the team takes a lower percentage of the team's shots while he's on the court. His true shooting percentage is 11th in the nation, but he's letting Dee Davis, Travis Taylor, Jeff Robinson, Isaiah Philmore, and Brad Redford take on a larger portion of the offense than he is. His rebounding rate is also fairly impressive. If he'd be a bit more assertive in looking for his in the offense, he'd be a breakout star and we wouldn't have to look for Semaj's running mate any longer.

We're now 6-1. The defense is just barely above average, but the offense is borderline elite based almost entirely on limiting turnovers and taking good shots. Our rebounding on the offensive end has been fairly poor, but other than that we've looked like a real basketball team. With home games against Vandy and Kent State (both of whom couldn't defend a stump), there's a good chance we go into the Crosstown Shootout Classic at 8-1. Did you see that coming? I didn't.

Brad: I'll conceded that, Martin needs to be more assertive for this team to really coalesce. Part of that needs to be done by the coaching staff funneling him some shots early in the game to get him going though. It's clear he is going to defer down the stretch, so we have to establish him before that. 8-1? I'd be tempted to pass out.