With a five day break coming up, I thought I’d give my unscientific assessment of where Pat is with the program right now:
Effort - close to where Pat wants to be.
Hustle - close to where Pat wants to be
Defense - we’re getting there; still too many open three’s and late in possession breakdowns.
Foul Shooting - huge improvement; poor at the beginning of the season, much better now - we’re typically over 75%
Rebounding - close to where Pat wants to be. We generally win the rebounding battle
Turnovers - need some work on this; still too many unforced errors, although we generally win the turnover battle.
Offense - for a young team, we seem to be doing pretty well running Pat’s offense and getting open shots. We do need Jon and Sasa to be more active in the middle.
Shooting - this is our Achilles heel. If we shoot close to 40% we’re in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. We’ve missed an awful lot of layups this year. That has to turn around next year.
Home - I think we’re starting to get a home court advantage. We are tough at home. Need a few thousand more butts in the seats.
Away - Actually, I think Pat is probably OK with this. We seem to play a poor first half and then a good second half on the road. As Steve said today, the only guy on this team who played meaningful road minutes the last two years is Tim Frazier. Play on the road is all about familiarity and most of these guys are doing it for the first time. The key is that they get better in the second half of just about every road game. Next year, there will be no first time road venues except Illinois and Minny.
Players - it really is a shame that Jeff Brooks wasn’t red-shirted his freshman year. I think Jeff was the best pure athlete PSU has recruited in decades. It took him three years to put his game together. I would have loved to see him on this year’s team. Tim is a bona fide excellent - great player. Billy showed flashes as have Marshall and Woodyard. The rest of the guys are just learning their roles. One thing I note is that they all have desire. I expect them all to come back next year as better shooters. I think that’s what they’ll work on all off-season. Jamelle Cornley made himself into a better outside shooter between his junior and senior years; Jeff Brooks became a legitimate three point threat his senior year; Stanley Pringle emerged as a three point guy. I see Sasa and Jon improving - which is important because you need some bigs who can score. We’re bringing in some talent in the next two classes and hopefully Trey Lewis can find his way back to the lineup.
Record - throw out the non-conference schedule; the team was just beginning to get used to each other. So far, we’ve got Big Ten wins against Purdue, Illinois and Nebraska. We’ve got a win against a ranked team (Illinois). If Pat can get a road win this year, I think I’ll consider the season a success.
For the record, Steve Jones said earlier this year that John Beilein was exactly 0.500 in his first four years at Michigan (67-67). Of course, he got into the NCAA tournament his second and fourth years - I’ll be really impressed if Pat can do that. The bottom line is that it takes a while to turn things around and get your kind of players into your system. At any rate, Beilein was 10-22 (5-13) in his first year. I believe Pat started a lot farther behind than did Beilein. Michigan always recruited well in the Detroit area and in other midwestern areas; PSU just never had that pipeline from Philly or Pittsburgh into State College. Also UM had a much broader fan base than PSU.
Overcoming Inertia - The BIG is notorious for somehow having the favored schools in the conference always get the controversial calls because they are expected to win. In football, we’ve all seen OSU and UM benefit from receptions that were drops, inbounds calls that should have been out of bounds, phantom holding calls calling back an opponents TD run, etc, etc. In basketball, it seems the BIG wants Indy, Purdue, MSU and Wiscy to be the winners. I even heard the broadcast team refer to this predilection on the part of the BIG. I have to hand it to Pat - he really, really works the refs whenever one of those “huh?” calls goes against PSU. If he can level the playing field in Big Ten hoops, I’ll be really, really impressed.
Pat, Bill O’Brien, Cael, Coquese, Guy Gadowsky. I really like this quintet of young, passionate, aggressive, smart coaches. I think the future is bright.