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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Thoughts On Team USA

I thoroughly enjoyed the Redeem Team's performances in Beijing. The national team's success was much more gratifying knowing that teams like Spain and Argentina are absolutely loaded with talent -- NBA talent -- and (usually) play like it.

Ironically, it was pointed out that after winning the gold medal, Team USA actually dropped to second in the FIBA world rankings behind bronze medalist Argentina. So America's return to the top of the international heap does not come without a touch of controversy. Even so, TrueHoop looks ahead terrificly to see how Team USA can stay on top of its game as a national institution. For what it's worth, both our U19 and U18 teams took home silver mdeals recently.

Did you know that newly-acquired Milwaukee point guard Luke Ridnour is still listed on the national team's 30-man squad. That makes two players now from the lowly Bucks. Hilarious. As TrueHoop's Henry Abbott speculates on the future look of Team USA's roster, he fails to mention one particular speedy former Badger.

I am wondering why Devin Harris would not get a sniff from Jerry Colangelo & Co. over someone like Ridnour or Kirk Hinrich. Harris has world-class ball-in-hand speed and is a very capable defender. Though he remains slight of frame and might get banged up in international play, I suspect we will see Harris get an opportunity soon enough as the powers that be shuffle the 30-man squad.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Anderson and Adidas Nations

Since noting that Evan Anderson was invited to the adidas Nations Experience as a member of the 2010 team, I had not heard anything that confirmed he made the trip until now.

DraftExpress posted its first evaluation of Anderson after following the adidas event extensively. The author, Jonathan Givony, did not have anything unusual to say, but at least understood the "intrigue" regarding Eau Claire's big man. The article praises Anderson's frame and defensive instincts but labeled him a project worth monitoring at this point. Keep in mind that DraftExpress evaluates prospects based on their pro (draft) potential.

One thing the article touched on that I also noticed this summer -- looking at any AAU box scores I could get my hands on -- was the volume of free throw attempts Anderson generates. At this point, Anderson seems to get the majority of his points from the line and apparently he could have shot a little better on freebies during the competition.

Anderson and his Class of 2010 mates actually chewed up the competition, beating their older brethren from the Class of 2009. Ohio State-bound Jared Sullinger again proved to be the real deal at the 4-spot.

As long as we're talking recruiting once again, Rivals just released an updated Top 150 for 2009 prospects. The Big Ten checks in third on the list, with 15 commitments, behind the ACC and Big East. It's too early to tell, but maybe the region is beginning to see a small renaissance of talent. Among member states, Illinois leads the way with eight players on the list.

Individually, Wisconsin's two verbals sit outside the top 100. Diamond Taylor, continued his "slide" from #67 overall (4 stars) last year to #118 (3 stars) currently. I will be interested to see how playing his senior season for his father at a new high school will affect his perceived value. Meanwhile, Mike Bruesewitz maintained his relative position, though Rivals reclassified him as a power forward this time.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Worst. Bench. Ever.

The other shoe finally dropped on Mo Williams in Milwaukee the other day, as he found himself as the next player in a long line of LeBron-sidekick hopefuls. The three-team trade involving Milwaukee, Cleveland and Oklahoma City cost the Bucks Mo and Desmond Mason for a return of Luke Ridnour, Damon Jones and Adrian Griffin.

This begs the question: What are the Bucks doing?

Remind me again why they signed Tyronn Lue? After the latest move, Milwaukee's roster shows a net gain of two point guards, none of whom are a established starter in the league. In addition, this offseason Milwaukee has managed to bring in the four oldest players on its current roster through trades and free agency.

I see the intent, which is to acquire players that are willing and able to do the little things/dirty work (ie: scant playing time and no touches). But again, I question the execution of the plan. None of these bench guys are any good.

It's true, the Bucks now feature a formidable starting five of Bogut, Villanueva, Jefferson, Redd and Sessions. Ridnour is capable off the pine, and Charlie Bell has his moments. Jones can make the occassional big shot and does well on camera, but he's worn out. The two rookies face a learning curve and I do not expect too much. Heck, Joe Alexander never dominated at West Virginia until the final postseason run of his college career.

The frontcourt depth is a mess, considering "serviceable" might be overrating Dan Gadzuric, Francisco Elson, Malik Allen and Griffin. Making a run at restricted free agent Carl Landry would have been a fantastic alternative, however fruitless it turned out to be.

On the bright side, the Mo trade cleared a big contract and helped alleviate the small forward log jam. Who would of thought three years ago before Michael Redd got his max deal from Herb Kohl that it would be a different Buck from the backcourt winding up in Cleveland?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The New "Downtown"

Will bricklayers be out in record numbers now that the NCAA has moved the men's three-point line back one foot to 20'9"? Or will a select few sharpshooters separate from the pack and earn the green light from the new distance?

As Andy Katz detailed last month, the changes are mental more than physical, not just because of the longer distance, but due to the presence of multiple different three-point lines painted on the court. The head coach at Mississippi even wants to see a one-foot-thick line painted on the court, though more for the referees' sake than the players.

If confusion is a real issue for some players, it will add reaction time and diminish the instincts of these top-shelf athletes, who have grown up shooting treys from the same distance for years.

Spectators are sure to be even less accustomed to the new line when the season starts; perhaps even chiding a player for taking such a deep shot before coming to their senses. Still to be determined is if fans will notice a difference in gameplay. It is hard to see the new line affecting teams that play a run-and-gun style of offense. Some shooters on those rosters regularly pull up from well behind the arc already. Furthermore, the difference can be overcome for just about anyone just through repetition. If a player works enough in the offseason during game conditions, he will become comfortable with the new distance and from which line to fire.

Again, it's not like the new distance is out near NBA range (23'9"). The thing to watch for then is which players actually put in that extra work before the season starts to stretched their range and get accustomed to the new length. Will that big man who has developed his outside game start jacking up 20-footers rather than refine a couple more post moves? Or take a tweener, like Marcus Landry, for example. I am sure Landry can hit the longer shot in practice. But from what I have seen in games past, his range extends as far as him toeing the line. It will be interesting to see if Landry's three-point attempts reach the 54 he tried last year.

How might the new distance affect the Badgers
The rule change could actually be coming at a good time for the Badgers, as Brian Butch and Michael Flowers have both just graduated. We saw Butch sink a long 3-pointer to beat Indiana, but it wasn't pretty. Flowers wound up as a very good spot-up three-point shooter, but it took a lot of work.

Wisconsin's starting guards this year, Jason Bohannon and Trevon Hughes, definitely have plenty of range on their outside shot--though Pop needs to improve his shot selection in general. Beyond the surefire starters, I think Jon Leuer and Tim Jarmusz should be able to handle the transition. On the other hand, Keaton Nankivil probably won't be putting up any threes even though his ability to hit from outside was touted as a bonus for a power forward prospect.

If the returning junior guards are a push and Landry is not a candidate to put up any more threes than he did last year, you have 200 attempts combined vacated by Butch and Flowers. We can expect a rise in attempts from Leuer and Jarmusz based on playing time. I have not seen enough of any incoming freshmen to comment on them, but none are known as sharpshooters at this point and there is sparse playing time available in the backcourt anyway.

In my eyes, the Badgers may not attempt as many three-pointers as last year and Bo Ryan may be happy with that. Wisconsin's average margin of victory has been significantly higher (+12.9 in '08, +12.3 in '07) as the team has reduced its average three-point attempts by about two per game. The Badgers averaged over 18 3-pt FGA/g the two years prior to their back-to-back 30-win seasons.

Defensively, I have heard people say that the new distance could harm the Badgers because they have been burned by hot three-point shooting in the past and now they will have to extend even further, opening up the middle of the lane. To that I say, maybe so. That is the point, isn't it? But Wisconsin will be in the same boat as everyone else in that regard and traditionally the Badgers possess one of the most stout team defenses in the land. Plus, take one look at UW's future rosters--seeing more room for big men to maneuver looks pretty darn good, doesn't it?

For now, we'll just wait and see how all the extra lines look on the new court ...

- Here's to bright futures, Michigan State!
- Rundown on some of the talented backcourt players from Illinois in the Class of 2009. Wisconsin getting one was key, but having that many prospects in your backyard is almost silly.

Do you like the NCAA tournament's new 8-team "first-round" format?

What should Wisconsin do with the newly vacated scholarship?

Poll: Who will win the Big Ten?

Poll: Who was Wisconsin's first-half MVP (thru 16 games)?

Poll: How Many Regular Season games will wisconsin win in 2009-10?