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The PTL Lifestyle, Game 7

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It was a dark and stormy night in North Liberty yesterday as the final "regular season" games of the PTL commenced, and the basketball was as loose and imprecise as a bad simile, or size ten shoes when you should really be in a nine.* This recap will be a little shorter on game detail, because we've kind of seen all the new players now, but I did want to talk/gauge opinions later about a secondary issue: what will the line-ups look like next year?

* Sorry, I'm working on my entry for the Bulwer-Lytton contest.

Game #1: Iowa City Ready Mix/Vinton Merchants 99 (4-3), McCurry's/Gatens 84 (2-5)

This was Bryce Cartwright and Gabe Olaseni (Ready Mix) versus Eric May, Josh Oglesby and Andrew Brommer (McCurry's). May's team lost, but I was once again impressed with Oglseby's ball-handling and passing skills. He ran the pick and roll quite well with Brommer on two occasions, and dealt with harassing pressure from the opposition's smaller, quicker guards very well for a guy 6'5". He's maybe not quick enough to play point guard full time, but he's a niftier dribbler than any of our other stopgap point guard solutions. He finished with just five points on 2-7 shooting, but did have 9 assists.

Olaseni had another strong defensive game, sending back several shots (including one where he caught up to Oglesby as he went in unmarked for a lay-up and erased a sure shot) and altering many more, but also showed a little offensive ability. He finished with 14 points on 5-5 shooting and went 4-6 from the line, and on one play displayed considerable skill by nailing a perfect turnover free-throw line jump shot. That could be just a flukey kind of thing, but it shows that the concepts of footwork and shooting form are not entirely alien to him. Someone suggested in the comments that Olaseni's nickname should be "Kurt Looby", but Olaseni shows more offensive polish now than Looby did even at the end of his Iowa career. Plus, Looby nearly made the NBA solely as a shot-blocker, so if that's all Olaseni does, fantastic.

Game #: Monica's/L.L. Pelling 87, Coach's Corner/Two Rivers Bank 85

I just caught the second half of this Anthony Hubbard/Devyn Marble match-up, and it was a half of Anthony Lee and Wes Washpun in particular (and Marble to a lesser extent) doing just enough to hold off a huge comeback by Hubbard et al. Lee had his best game so far (13-16, 2-9 FTs, 28 points, 13 rebounds), finishing adeptly inside and even stepping back for a few jumpers. He frankly looked much better than Archie, who had some problems figuring out what to do with the ball inside and missed a couple point-blank shots because of indecisiveness (he scored 4 points on 2-12 shooting). Washpun helped with his lightning-quick speed and good leaping ability. Washpun had two crucial plays toward the end, one where he went coast to coast, evaded a defender with a deft behind the back dribble, then dropped off a pass for a lay-up, and another where he surprised a taller player by elevating to block his jump shot from behind and then started the break. He can't shoot all that well, and he's probably 5'9", but the dude is fast and can jump.

Hubbard was his usual self, getting down in the paint and drawing fouls (9-16, 9-14 FTs, 27 points, 13 rebounds). He showed no fear going in among the trees in Lee and Archie, and used hesitations and feints to generate space and draw contact.

Marble had a pretty poor game, at least when I was watching, forcing shots and dominating the ball, but he did finish with a decent line (9-15-, 1-2 FTs, 19 points). There was one scary moment when, with 1:47 left, he took a long three with time running down and collapsed in a heap after the release. It looked like he came down on his opponent's foot and sprained an ankle, but it must not have been very serious, because he sat out all of 12 seconds before coming back. The room got pretty quiet when he first went down, though.

Game #3: Falbo's/Culver's 104 (4-3), Jill Armstrong 86 (3-4)

I didn't catch too much of this game (it was supposed to be on KCRG-2 but was pre-empted by some BS "severe weather" alert (thank you very much, power-mad, safety-obsessed meteorologists).

That wraps up the regular season for the PTL, and the playoffs start Sunday. Here is the schedule:

  • Gatens/Basabe/White team vs. May/Brommer/Oglesby team, 3 p.m. (winner plays Cartwright/Olaseni team in next round)
  • Marble/Archie/Washpun team vs. McCabe/Farokhmanesh team, 4:30 p.m. (winner plays Hubbard team in next round)

So those were the scores. My bigger question for today is how, realistically, Fran McCaffery will split up minutes next year. There are 200 minutes a game to split up. Three of the starting positions seem set in my view, which probably means 30 per starter, or 90 total:

200 -

30 (PG Cartwright)

30 (SG Gatens)

30 (PF Basabe)

= 110 minutes

(and if this strikes you as unrealistic, remember that this trio averaged 89.1 minutes combined last year)

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I would pencil in Brommer at starting center, as he really is much more versatile on O and D than Archie, but the foul issue could cause real difficulties for him and the coaches -- even if he starts, he may not play starter's minutes. So we may see a situation where 50 minutes (the 40 center minutes plus the 10 back-up power forward minutes) are split haphazardly between Brommer, Archie and Olaseni.

---------------

- 50 (C/PF Brommer/Archie/Olaseni)

= 60 minutes

Sixty minutes. Sixty minutes to split up amongst Devyn Marble, Eric May, Anthony Hubbard, Josh Oglesby, Aaron White and Zach McCabe. Do you see the problem here? If any one of those players takes on a prominent starting role, five people are going to be unhappy. This is the result when you assemble Basketball Voltron -- you have a lot of similar players fighting for time at one position.

There are a few possible solutions to this problem as I see it:

  1. Rest Cartwright, Gatens and Basabe more -- this sounds appealing (Cartwright and Gatens played heavy minutes last year), but it's hard to see Fran benching his one real point guard for substantial minutes in a meaningful game. And as far as Gatens and Basabe go, they are clearly the best players at their positions, and Iowa suffers too greatly when they go out.
  2. Play small line-ups -- this is possible, I suppose, and could be fun (imagine a line-up of Cartwright, Hubbard, May, Marble and McCabe at center, for instance). I would actually love to see Fran try this kind of thing, just as an experiment. It might make our offense slightly less stagnant, but the defensive and rebounding problems would probably be too extreme for this to be anything more than a stop-gap measure. The Dallas Mavericks tried some small-ball experiments in these playoffs, and those line-ups did not fare so well.
  3. 40 minutes of hell -- In other words, pick up the pace and play everybody for short bursts. The number of minutes in the game are constant, but the number of possessions and the number of calories expended by the players are not. Fran had some pretty fast teams at Siena (his 2008-09 team was 16th fastest in the country, and his 2009-10 team was 39th fastest), and certainly has the depth to play a fast tempo this year. He could make the case to the players that, even if their minutes may seem short (15 per game, say), by playing extremely fast and very hard, each player would wind up playing close to the same number of possessions and expending the same amount of energy as a 20 minute/game player on a more conventional team.

I really have no idea which way Coach McCaffery will go with these players, but I'm a little worried that the team will fall into a familiar hierarchy, with two of the six subs getting the lion's share of the minutes and the rest getting frustrated and bored. The main choice will be who among May, Marble and Hubbard gets minutes at small forward, and whoever gets the short end of the stick in terms of minutes will not be pleased. If Hubbard comes out and immediately reproduces his production from the PTL (especially drawing those sweet, sweet fouls on the opposition), then it will be no contest -- he'll start -- but otherwise it's a tough choice. Do you want Marble's defense, even if it means you lose May's three-point shooting? Or May's shooting, but not Hubbard's all-around game? Figuring out who plays and for how much at small forward seems like it will be the key line-up question for the team next year. Looking at some of McCaffery's old Siena teams, he apparently like to play a standard five-man starting unit (25-35 minutes each), and then a four to five-man bench (10-15 minutes each), so I wouldn't be surprised if he returned to that practice. But would it go over well if Hubbard, say, played 25 minutes, Marble 15, and May 10 (not to mention McCabe, White and Oglesby all getting, say five minutes each)?

Anyway, just some idle speculation for the summer time. There are several months and some kind of tackling sport to get through until basketball even starts, but Fran's got a conundrum on his hands, and it's fun to think about how he'll solve it. What say you?