This season is not over. If things don't change, it will be soon. I could list 100 problems, but thought I would focus on the biggies. Here they are and what I think should be done.
1. Dudley and Smith are not getting the ball enough. Although they accounted for 34 shots against NCSU, the ball needs to go to Dudley and Smith more! Every possession should get the ball to one of them in a scoring opportunity in the high post or low box. When the defense collapses, it will be on Smith and Dudley to find the open man.
2. The Flex. Some are saying scrap it. I disagree. I think it just needs to be stretched. We have guys working the perimeter, but our players are so ingrained to look for the cutter and/or open shot closer to the basket. This worked like a charm last year as we won despite our aversion to attempt threes. Now the defenses are collapsing. We are not getting good shots and we are not getting rebounds.
3. Hinnant is too slow to guard many ACC point guards. Louis won’t make mistakes on offense, but he is proving to be overmatched defensively. Watson was the substitute last season. Rice and Haynes are the answer this year. They can be on the court at the same time as Louis. Yes, it forces us to go small. But constant ball pressure from Rice will help the overall defense more than an extra big man.
4. Rebounding. The Tech disparity was obvious. The State difference was a little more subtle. Either way, we are getting killed on the boards. I think spreading out the flex will help Smith and Dudley grab more, but Oates, Williams, McLain, and to a lesser extent Marshall need to be given refreshers in boxing out. Put playing time on the line: whoever works the boards gets stays in the game.
5. Rotations. This is the deepest bench Al has had at the Heights -- and it is causing problems. In previous seasons he knew what he had and how to patch it together. Now we have no cohesiveness. Williams and McLain’s return was supposed to provide a spark. Instead it has sent us adrift. They are both talented and limited. Yet the guys who are getting their minutes (for the most part) -- Marshall and Oates -- are equally limited…just in different areas. Al and the staff need to find a balance that works and stick with it.
6. Players don’t know their roles. Is Sean Marshall a scorer or spot up shooter? What is Sean Williams supposed to do on the offensive end of the court? Is Rice a 2 or a 1? What about Haynes? Rotations are a problem, but I also see a lot of guys trying to be something that they are not. Against a team like Rhode Island, this is masked by superior athleticism. Against an ACC team we just look like we are forcing things or players are getting in each other’s way.
7. Tired players. I don’t think the in-season travel is the issue. But I do think that Dudley and Smith’s extensive USA basketball tours and training camps this summer could be hurting their stamina.
8. Press clippings. Everyone -- including a certain BC obsessed blogger -- is guilty of this. BC cannot just show up and expect the conference teams will just fold in their presence. BC cannot just turn it on or off. Las Vegas might have created some bad habits for these guys. In those games they coasted and still pulled out victories. You can’t do that in the ACC especially when you are preseason favorite and especially when you are coming off a strong season. We get everyone's A game.
9. Free Throws. This team lived on the line in key games last year. Dudley has been off of late and it is beyond a rut. Someone needs to work with him and get things straight. While they are at it, give Smith some pointers too.
10. Perimeter defense. This always gets me because it predates Skinner. I remember Jim O’Brien teams getting killed from the outside. What is it? I would say slow teams, but that is somewhat of a cop out. I think, like the transition defense, it is about effort. Losing your man, late getting over, slow feet, it all adds up. I don’t see Skinner changing defenses. More time for Rice and Haynes should help somewhat.
11. Coaching. I love Skinner, but he is not doing his best job this season. As I mentioned, the rotations are the big issues, but I also think he needs to get this team focused. When they were getting blown out by West Virginia in the Big East tournament last year, he leveled with them at halftime. The comeback came up short, but they played with fire the second half. He needs to do that again in some form or another.
12. Attitude. This team quit against NC State. They were really whiny to the refs against Tech and flat in many other games. This all needs to stop. Whether they are not comfortable with the new league or tired or disillusioned or something else going on behind closed doors, it is visible in their body language and in the results. Someone needs to give them a dose of reality. Based on the quotes it sounds like it is sinking in...they have four days to change the mind-set.
Florida State is the first step in the long road back to significance. We’ll see a lot about the character of the team and the ability of the coaches in how they play.