For this basketball season, I will be starting a new post, “After the Buzzer,” to hopefully give a different perspective on how the game went. I am not claiming to be Brad Stevens (yet), but heading into my seventh year as a high school basketball coach at Holy Cross High School (did you know Christi Mack went there?), I’d like to think that I view the games a little differently.
Now, with football, I am watching those games as a fan. I can’t tell you much about technique or the line getting off their blocks and all of that good stuff. I am just the casual fan there. For basketball, I watch from a different viewpoint. Did he slip the screen? Are they denying the post? Are they taking away baseline or middle? You will already find a game recap on this site, so this needs to be a little different, and hopefully it is and also worth your time. Let’s talk about Chris Mack’s opening game as Louisville head coach.
You earn your spot in practice
Before the game even began, we got a glimpse of the accountability that Chris Mack holds his guys to. Jordan Nwora was set to start the game. He had a great offseason and is primed for a big sophomore campaign. Fans are really excited about his offensive ability. But what does all of that mean if you aren’t bringing it in practice? Not much, and I love it. It’s one thing to earn a spot, but it’s another thing to keep that spot. Nwora had a bad week of practice and he even said that he didn’t deserve the start. He didn’t make excuses or complain to the media about it. He owned it. He held himself accountable. If he doesn’t practice well and Mack lets it slide, it sets a bad precedent. Nipped that one right away. This will keep guys on their toes and give them an edge where they can’t relax. Don’t just earn your spot. Fight to keep it.
Enoch provides a true post presence
Steven Enoch brings something that the Cards have not had in quite a while: a big guy that wants to play on the block, who has a big physical body to go along with it. A lot of guys today want to play on the perimeter whether they are 6’0 or 6’10. Enoch camps out on the block and wants to make a post move when he gets the ball. His jump hook looked really smooth. And he definitely is not afraid of getting fouled and going to the line, where he was 9-9 on Thursday night. Physical, post moves, and can shoot free throws. I loved what I saw out of Steven Enoch in the opener.
The fanbase will need a lot of this during the season. Just expect it, and remind yourself of it. It’s a new coach. The players are learning his system. Not only that, you are adding in three guys that have not played together with the rest of the team in games: Steven Enoch, Christen Cunningham, and Khwan Fore. There is a nine-man rotation, and one-third of that are new guys. I know, Enoch was here last year, but not in games.
There was a play in the game where Darius Perry gambled for the steal and did not get it, and his man knocked down the three. That’s not the kind of defense they are supposed to be playing, so that was a mistake where Perry just got caught up in the old way of things. Deflections, all out pressure defense, denying the passes. Even the guys that have been here must make adjustments.
-I like Christen Cunningham. He only had one assist, but could have easily had at least three if guys knocked down wide open shots. He looks to be a true point guard that is looking to distribute, make the open pass, and find the open man. Assists are always a weird stat because you rely on the other guy to knock down the shot, so that can look skewed. But I liked what I saw from his play.
-There was a lot of switching on defense. We got caught in some big mismatches in the post. Better teams will make us pay if we continue to switch so much.
-Malik Williams has a role on this team, and it’s important. I don’t think he needs to score a lot, but he did other things in this game. He got a steal, blocked a shot, made passes. He dove on the floor multiple times, which was my favorite thing to see. He fell in love with the three-pointer last year. If he can just accept his role of doing the dirty work and filling those other stat lines, he will be just fine and the team will be better for it.
-I’d like to see V.J. King stop and shoot a pullup on his way to the rim. When he starts to drive, he goes all the way. Head down, going to the basket, no matter what. If he can stop and hit a midrange shot, or even stop right before he takes off and take a five-footer, it will make the defense respect that and then the drives to the rim will be there for him. If I am scouting him, I am telling my guys that if he doesn’t shoot the three, be ready to take a charge.
I’d like to start adding this into the post as well. I will take a few clips from the game and try to point out things that may be easily missed while watching the game. Hopefully you will see something that you didn’t before and it will be somewhat beneficial.
Malik Williams doesn’t exactly sprint to set it, but Jordan Nwora doesn’t even wait for the screen to be set. Still has a defender on him and forces a challenged shot. Defense had to do no work here. pic.twitter.com/X76d3J3ont— Justin Renck (@JustinRenck) November 9, 2018
Perfect opportunity for Darius Perry to take the charge here. Instead he goes to the line for two free throws. pic.twitter.com/gVtn8C1Bwc— Justin Renck (@JustinRenck) November 9, 2018
Malik Williams makes a great hustle play and steal, and this is the risk when post players dribble by the way. Sutton forces the issue and the entire defense collapses on him in transition, leaving McMahon open for three. pic.twitter.com/bbMGe5cAsb— Justin Renck (@JustinRenck) November 9, 2018