We've already covered in some detail what exactly went wrong down in the Bahamas. (Hint: just about everything). That didn't keep us from delving further into the debacle down there and what may fix it. This conversation is a bit more winding and a little longer than usual, so we'd love to hear your input down in the comments.
Was fatigue a factor?
Joel: If there's two things I hate, it's being sick and having my phone die, and I nailed both of them over the weekend. We're back to full strength, but Xavier was awful while I was down and out. I was counting on two wins from this weekend; zero was an absolute nightmare. I know you're writing right now on what went wrong, so I'll just throw out a couple of things that it wasn't. A certain Enquirer reporter kept tweeting about this being a four-game week for X; that didn't have anything to do with it. Abilene was less strenuous than the average practice, and it's not like the other teams had been sitting on their hands. That's weak stuff; all of these guys have played more minutes in less time during AAU events.
It also wasn't Erik Stenger. God bless him for what he does, but Xavier's complete stagnation wasn't going to be solved by one forward without defense-breaking skills.
Brad: Yes, blaming fatigue is just stupid. These guys are supremely conditioned athletes who are purpose built to do this. USC surely didn't look tired as they ran all over us, essentially at a whim, and we didn't look tired when we all of the sudden came back alive. Frankly, I just don't want to hear that excuse from anyone. If you aren't in good enough shape to hack it, that's your fault. Anyone who played ball seriously coming up played in more strenuous tournaments than that.
The immediate future
Joel: I'll leave the rest of the autopsy to you. The question now is: what is X, and where do you think this leaves them going forward?
Brad: Going forward? God knows. All I know is that the next two games tell us absolutely nothing unless we somehow lose one of them. Then, joy of joys, it's the Shootout.
Joel: Well this is very "hello darkness, my old friend" stuff from you, which I guess I anticipated. Let me see if I can expound just a hair. The tendency of the modern world is to take in less than enough information and then extrapolate some laughable hyperbole. Instead, here is what I have.
We haven't Paul Walkered (God rest his soul) [ed. note: stay classy, dude] our at-large hopes just yet, but we did just wet down our leg when given an opportunity to do something nice for ourselves. Like you said, we obviously should win the next two. If we don't, say hello to the CBI. From there we have two big opportunities in UC and @'Bama. If we split those and can pick up a win in the BE tournament, I stand by ten conference wins getting us an at-large. If we win both of those, we don't even need a conference tournament win to get us there.
Joel: What do we need to do? Really glad you asked. Obviously, we're a crap free throw team; all of my optimism is this regard has vanished, and it cost us probably two wins last week. The only way forward I see is being a dominant rebounding team at both ends. I would like to see our lineup featuring three - yes three - of Stainbrook, Farr, Reynolds, Stenger, and Philmore - about 70% of the time. Throw bodies at the boards, make other teams defend us twice and know they're only shooting once.
Brad: I like your lineup, but teams with an athletic three will kill it dead. Reynolds can't guard in space, and I'm not sure Farr can either. Maybe Stenger can, but he can't play offense.
I'm not all doom and gloom here, I'm saying that was a gut punch that we absolutely have to recover from. We need to beat BGSU by 20 and look good doing it for me to be confident again.
Joel: There are plenty of ways to cover for a perimeter defender who consistently gets baked (source: spent basketball career as perimeter defender who consistently got baked). This one is easy though. If Farr is your 3 and he gets toasted, have him abandon any attempt to recover and just sprint to the rim. The four or five steps up to challenge the driver. If the driver dumps, Farr and the other big are there to contest. If he shoots, we still have two monster rebounders in the middle and a big man challenging the shooter. On the other end, there aren't many teams who can withstand a continual attack on the offensive glass from three of those five guys. I know it's not an orthodox approach, but it will give a chance to dominate inside while we try to get the perimeter figured out.
Brad: That defensive scheme is just asking for trouble. With the new foul rules and the way they are called. Poor Farr is going to play about three minutes before he's on the bench. What about a 2-1-2?
Joel: I don't think Mack will go zone, do you? A 2-1-2 seems to address our problems, but it's hard to install a scheme when you're already in the season, though I'll cop to my suggestion being hardly less seismic of a change.
Joel: The less Martin I see, the happier I'll be. Let him see if he can remake himself as a microwave gunner off the bench. Get him out of his own head and just tell him to look to score for four minutes and then return to the pine. I think we demonstrated over the weekend that we can't win if we don't board
Brad: You seem to forget Martin had 15 against Iowa. I forget that too, because he's like some sort of ephemeral presence out there. I swear we could play six most of the time and if he was one, people wouldn't notice. Sending him to the bench finishes him as a player I think, but I'm not sure that matters.
Joel: As far as Martin goes, I'd pitch it to him as a good thing. I'd say, "Look, son, I've noticed you're really bad at thinking, so I'm going to remove that obstacle for you. When I put you in, shoot. If you chuck up a couple airballs, or run heedlessly into a guarded lane like some terrified woodland creature, don't get inside your own head. Just keep pulling. When I want you to stop shooting, I'll take you out. When I want you to start again, I'll put you back in. In the meantime, go out there and do what God meant for you to do, and you don't need to glance furtively at the bench after every awful miss because it's all part of the plan."
Would that actually work? I don't know. Is it going to be any worse than the JRob, Jr we're getting out of him right now? I doubt it. Plus, it gives his fragile psyche a shield as I take the heat in the media if he throws up a couple 1-8 in 11 minutes kind of performances.
Brad: I love the quotes to Martin. We had a comment that he needs to get to the rim more. I agree with that in principle, but he's just not going to do it. Maybe if he knew his job was to shoot and only shoot, he'd take a game over. He started to against Iowa, but then he just backpedaled into the smoke again.
Joel: I hate to see Martin's talent wasted by the rest of Martin. I feel like there's enough special going on there that it's at least worth trying something extreme. Also, how much money in ink do you think he's sporting? He must have a great summer job.
Brad: Martin is more frustrating to me than Robinson ever was, because he's obviously talented. I honestly don't know if he doesn't care, freaks out, or is just a warm-up all american. As for the ink, I'm currently sporting about $200 worth, so by extrapolation I can conclude he's spent way more than that.
Joel: I mentioned this to you Saturday, but do you feel like we desperately lack for balls? Who on the team has both the talent and the demeanor to be the man for the big occasion? Myles? Stainbrook? Nobody?
Brad: Balls? I would've said Semaj, but he just missed 17 minutes with cramps. That's decidedly not at all ballsy. I don't care how much it hurts, at least try. You know who I want to have the ball late right now? Farr. I think he's got some dog in him.
Joel: I like Myles. He's not afraid of the big shot, he has enough skill to make it happen off the bounce, and he's practically old enough to drink. The pecking order clearly favors Semaj right now, but he shoots FT worse than I do with my off hand and spent the most important minutes of the year so far sucking down Powerade with the trainer. I hope you're right about Farr, too, because he keeps possessions alive. I'm not sure I would draw up a play for him, but you could do worse than having a guard take the shot and telling Farr to go get it on the glass.