Good evening fellow Hoyas. As a frequent reader who is a) mostly a lurker around here b) hasn't seen much live Hoya basketball in the last 6 years living in Cincinnati and c) needs therapy after sitting through today's game, I thought I'd share some observations from the game today. To preface this post, I haven't been home since the game until now, so I haven't read the gamethread, JGD's summary or any other post mortem - I'll do that right after typing this, but really wanted to through my as yet-unbiased opinions out there. This could be embarrassing if y'all saw this much differently than I did, but here goes nothing..
More quasi-incoherence after the jump...
1. Clearly I need to not go to any more games. Or my wife shouldn't. Or both. Since living here, I've seen in person last year's slop-fest at UC and this game. This loss may be in part my fault (and yes, I have 2 kids and a real job and still actually have some twinge of a feeling that I did something wrong - someone needs to help explain that).
2. I really loved watching this team all season. Their hustle and effort was outstanding all year. However, today, I feel like we got beat at our own game. Somewhat like Cincinnati, WVU or Pitt, NC State seemed to played a physical, grabbing, reaching, ugly style and it our guys just seemed to back off. This seemed to translate to poor rebounding, which I believe has been the crux of our success. Again, I haven't even looked at a box score yet, but time and again it felt like our guys were not in the right position - Nate, Markel, Henry, Greg and even Otto at times seemed to miss box outs or close outs or were slow to get in position.
3. Hollis is really hard to explain. In first half, I glanced up at the scoreboard and was surprised to seem him leading in scoring as he just seemed quiet - clearly receiving, shooting and scoring, but not commanding the game. I thought he had an outstanding second half and showed a lot more leadership and if that's how he goes out, that was a hell of a show he put on. I wish we could've seen a little more consistency down the stretch, but yet again, a great display in a clutch situation.
4. Jason gave it a good effort today, but there was one thing I've never been able to pick up on TV that was painfully obvious this afternoon. He can't go left. Period. From a baseline viewpoint, when Jason had the ball at the top of the key, I was stunned to see defenders lined up even with or off of his right shoulder with no help in sight to his left (defender's right). Maybe this isn't uncommon at the college level. Maybe other teams have done this and I haven't picked it up on TV. But Jason never made an attempt to drive to his left. Perhaps it's a skill-set he knows he doesn't have. Hats off to NC State if they picked up on this and others haven't. I do hope Jason gets to keep his playing career going someone, but he's got to work on his handle to the left. Other than that random observation, it felt like a fairly quiet game for him.
5. Otto was the MAN in the first half of the first half, but couldn't step it up as the game wore on. By an large, he seemed like the guy who was most capable of dominating play before Hollis stepped up in the second half. I hope he plans on sticking around for a while, because he could (big emphasis on could) be great. However, one again random observation is, if you're standing at mid court facing the basket, he'll only shoot jumpers from the right side (or at least it seemed this afternoon - someone has to have these shot charts or stats, right?). It seemed like every time he had the ball on the left, he dribbled across to the right to drive or passed. On the right side or from the top, he wouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger. On the next to last possession (down 2), this finally dawned on me. He was fairly open for a long jumper for 2 or a step back for 3, but rather forced the drive and pass to Hank in an awkward spot. But he was never going to shoot from there. Again, I could be wrong and would welcome some feedback from those of you who attend most of our games because you see this more than I do, but to me, this is something Otto needs to work on before next year.
6. Hank. Not much to say tonight, unfortunately. 2 quick fouls and never got in gear. The offensive fouls were the right calls and were just sloppy on his part. He's been fun to have around and it's been great to see the strides he's made to show flashes of goodness, but ultimately, tonight was indicative of mental lapses he's still prone to. He might win the award for the Hoya I'd most enjoying have a couple drinks with, but that was not what we needed in this game.
7. Whittington better get more composure quickly, because he needs to be a big time player next year. I love his energy and his willingness to scrap and not back down, and I have a feeling his development will dictate a lot of our success next year. He was a little ragged today, but was as good as you could expect based on the amount of run he had all season. This point will tie into touching on Nate. The guy plays hard and tries, but he's killing us on offense and not because of anything he does, but rather because we don't let him do anything any more. I'm pretty sure on every possession, there was no Wolfpack defender within 10 feet of him unless he had the ball in his hand because he never had the green light to shoot. I can't say he played poorly on offense - I didn't pick up a lot of turnovers by him (again, when I check stats we'll see), but all we use him as is a piece to move the ball around. JTIII needs to decide what to do with Nate by next year. Either we live with him taking shots and hope to God he learns to make them or he needs to sit. I'm not qualified to make that decision, but the way we used him today was not productive.
8. Nerlens, bring to flattop to the hilltop. With you in the fold, we're title contenders - I seriously believe that.
9. NC State fans, like most big schools, traveled well. We did not. I'm not sure how much of a difference it makes, but whatever it is, it didn't help. For all the times we talk about the arena and fans, this is one thing I don't think we've touched on much before, if at all. I don't think there's much to do about it, but I did feel a little bad for our guys about how loud the place got when NC State when on a run to come back and take the lead and how quiet it was when we pulled to within 2-3 down the stretch.
10. I love the Hoyas and, above all, I'm very happy with how our guys represent the school. This has been a really, really easy bunch to cheer for. In my 15 years of Hoya fandom, I don't think there's been as likeable a bunch - they're a little more emotional and more human than some of our better squads, which has positives and negatives, certainly and they come across as really caring about the results. I'm looking forward to the off-season to see how the program progresses and will be counting down the days to Midnight Madness before this tournament ends. But still, tonight hurts.
Thank you to the team for a thoroughly enjoyable season and thank you to Jason, Henry and Hollis for their career contributions.