Tuesday, December 3, 2013

News and Notes: Tuesday Edition

Below, news and notes for Tuesday...
Notre Dame topped the century mark for the first time in regulation since 2011, as the Irish dominated Cornell at Purcell Pavilion en route to a 101-67 win Sunday... The Irish had a slow start against Cornell, opening 2-for-10 from the floor and falling behind 8-0 before taking a 41-32 lead into halftime. Notre Dame exploded in the second half, which included a 17-2 Irish run to push the Notre Dame lead to 81-56 with 6:26 remaining.  The 101 points is the most for the Irish since Notre Dame’s five-overtime 104-101 victory over Louisville last season and the most in a non-overtime game since a 106-65 win over Sacred Heart on Dec. 19, 2011. The Irish finished Sunday’s game with 28 assists and only five turnovers.
The [Harvard] Crimson doesn’t meet a single top-15 opponent this season. While Columbia faced at-the-time No. 2 Michigan State and Cornell faced then-No. 3 Louisville, Harvard was playing MIT and Howard and didn’t even schedule a game with the one other really good Boston team, undefeated top-25 surprise UMass.
So setting aside that one game with UConn, it will be more interesting to keep an eye on the rest of the Ivy League, which this year loosely breaks into three tiers after Harvard. The first group this season includes perennially strong Yale, Princeton, and Penn, along with surprising Brown....Regardless of what happens, the bottom-tier eighth place clearly seems to be reserved for Cornell.
The winless Big Red started its season by opening up a 14-point lead more than 15 minutes into its first game at Syracuse, but it has been all downhill from there, thanks to a historically poor defense. Come January, the Lions need to beat their Empire State rivals if they want to avoid the conference basement. That bad first half against Cornell at Levien last year signaled the beginning of the end.
Hatter Captures Second Ivy Rookie of the Week Award

ITHACA, N.Y. – Cornell freshman guard Robert Hatter has been named Ivy League Rookie of the Week for the second time in four weeks when the conference announced its weekly award winners on Monday morning.

The 6-2 freshman guard provided plenty of offense in the Big Red's three games last week. While shooting 48.8 percent from the floor and 44 percent from three-point range, Hatter scored at least 15 points in each game and matched his career high of six assists in two of them. He opened the week with 18 points, six assists and two rebounds in a loss to Radford, then netted 22 points, including a career-best six three-pointers, at Western Michigan. Hatter ended the week with 15 points, six assists, three rebounds and a steal at Notre Dame.

Hatter leads all Ivy League freshmen in scoring (13th, 11.8 ppg.) and is second in assists (sixth, 3.2 apg.) and is also averaging 2.6 rebounds per contest. He ranks second on the squad in scoring and is tied for the team lead in steals.

Hatter and the Big Red return to action when it closes out the fall semester at home against Saint Francis on Saturday, Dec. 7 at 4 p.m. at Newman Arena.
  • The Cornell Daily Sun writes:
Two second half runs by Western Michigan and Notre Dame downed the men’s basketball team this weekend, as the Red took a Thanksgiving road trip out west to Michigan and Indiana.
In Friday’s matchup against Western Michigan, the two teams traded buckets for much of the first half.
The Red was able to keep pace with the Broncos in large part due to its efficient shooting from beyond the arc. The squad connected on 10 of its 25 triples in the half, with freshman Robert Hatter and sophomore Nolan Cressler combining for seven of them. With 15 seconds left in the half, Cressler nailed a three that left the visitors trailing by two heading into the locker room.
Though the Red continued to put up a flurry of threes after the break, the story of the second half was one of rebounding and play in the paint. The Broncos went to the free throw line 28 times in the second half, compared to the Red’s just seven. Western Michigan also crashed the boards every offensive possession, grabbing seven offensive rebounds in the half.
“That game we were starting to hit our shots, we were shooting the ball well, but we just have to be more aggressive overall,” senior guard Dom Scelfo said. “They pressured the glass a lot on us. They had twelve offensive rebounds.”
Though the Red was able to stay in the game because of the long ball, the Broncos’ ability to connect on their free throws hurt the Red midway through the second half. After a fast break layup by junior guard Devin Cherry cut Western Michigan’s lead down to five with 1:40 to go, the home team went on an 8-0 run, all of those points coming off free throws. The Red went stagnant on the offensive end during that run, turning the ball over once and giving up an offensive rebound that allowed Western Michigan’s Tucker Haymond to get to the line,where he nailed both shots.
“It was evident in the [Western Michigan] game that we didn’t make it to the free throw line that much because we were able to make open threes,” senior forward Dwight Tarwater said. “However, we do need to attack the basket to be more successful.”
The Red then headed to South Bend, Ind. to take on a new addition to the ACC in Notre Dame. Still looking for its first win of the season, the Red once again hung with the Fighting Irish in the first half. Five three-pointers by five different Cornell players left the Red trailing by only nine at the end of the first twenty minutes. However, Notre Dame took control midway through the second half, after two free throws by Cherry cut the deficit to ten. That was as close as the Red would come, as the Fighting Irish were able to muscle their way into the paint and hurt Cornell from the inside.
“They really started making shots, and every shot they missed they were getting the rebound for. We were letting them get in the paint and they were able to kick our for wide open threes,” Scelfo said. “The first five or six possessions of the second half, both teams scored, but they hit a three on every one of those possessions and we hit a two, so that hurt us as well.”
Notre Dame outrebounded the Red 41 to 27, the second time in two games Cornell was outrebounded by more than ten. The Irish also grabbed eleven offensive boards, and was led by junior Pat Connaughton, who had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds on the day.
“We need to be tougher on the glass,” Tarwater said. ‘There are no fundamentals to rebounding; you just have to want the ball more than the other guy. We will definitely be working on blocking guys out and going to get the ball this week in practice.”
The Red will take a relatively short break this week with no mid-week contests. It will kick things back into gear Saturday in a home matchup with St. Francis. Now nine games into the season and with just give games left before the start of Ivy play, the Red has yet to find that elusive first win. According to Scelfo, the effort is there, and if that persists, the results should not be far behind.
“A lot of people are doing everything they can do to win, but we just need to keep at it. We know we need to get better, but we know we have the potential,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to get at it in practice this week and get that first win on Saturday.”
  • OFD Films breaks down film of Cornell0-Notre Dame and writes, "[we decided to] take a spin in the film room to look at some offensive and defensive basics for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish men's basketball team. Let's take a look at ND's 'one-big' and 'two-big' offensive principles as well as two different zone looks the Irish demonstrated Sunday vs. the Big Red of Cornell."
Notre Dame handed Cornell their 15th consecutive defeat on Sunday. In a very complete and efficient performance, Mike Brey's team handled their business and managed to experiment with some newer looks. In this post, we'll take a look at how Brey coaches some basic fundamentals in his offense, and look at a little experiment he ran on the defensive end.

New Starting Line-Up

Demetrius Jackson made his first start for the Irish on Sunday. Mike Brey opened the game in a 1-big look with Garrick Sherman being surrounded by Jackson, Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant, and Pat Connaughton playing a "stretch 4" role. With the sheer talent ND has on the perimeter, I think you're going to see this type of lineup more often. While there will be times where some combination of Knight, Auguste and Sherman play together, the majority of the minutes at the 4 position will be logged by Connaughton and Austin Burgett.
4 Out, 1 In

This line-up put ND in a "4 out, 1 in" offensive set. Four perimeter players with a single post presence. While Garrick Sherman isn't a dominant force on the block, he does have an array of post moves and plays well with both hands. I know we'd all love to see him develop a bit more toughness and finish stronger, but he does make for an excellent passer out of the post, as indicated by his 4 assists on Sunday.

Here's an example of what Brey is looking for in the 4 out, 1 in look...  Weak_side_spot_up-19_medium

Early in the 2nd half, Jackson gets the ball to Connaughton on the wing, and Sherman has his man on his back. When the ball goes in to the post, you can see all 3 weak side defenders turn to face the ball. Grant (#22) is alone on the weak side as Atkins (#0) rubs his man across the elbow. After throwing the entry pass, Connaughton correctly cuts to the baseline to create space. Streaming_online_-_watchespn-10_medium

Sherman, turns to face, but not really looking to score. He's confident he's got a man on the back side, and Grant is there. Grant's defender hedged to the post and now has a long way to recover as Sherman hits the diagonal pass out of the post to a wide open shooter on the weak side. Grant has an easy look at a 3 that he knocks down to put the Irish up 13.

"Spacing" is a word you'll hear a lot of coaches talk about, and here's a great example of it with Pat Connaughton jumping in to the high post. This is an amazing look for the Irish. Connaughton's size and versatility make him a tremendous weapon at the high post position. He can look high-low to Sherman and has 3 shooters surrounding him. Pc_high_post1_medium
This is a great representation of the Brey "offense." I put it in quotes, because the Irish don't rely on an array of different sets or a specific motion pattern. Notre Dame's offense is founded on great spacing and maintaining consistent weak side options. Whether the Irish throw it in to the post or play screen & roll, there's always a strong-side corner option and a weak-side option to look for. Spreading teams out and putting them in to "scramble" situations is what drive's ND's offensive efficiency.
3 Out, 2 In
Game circumstances might dictate ND playing 2 big men at the same time. Here's a typical look when ND goes with three perimeter players and 2 bigs. Rather than focus on getting a touch in the paint with a post-up, the bigs here are looking to be screeners and create space. In the first shot, Tom Knight has offered Connaughton a rub screen on the wing to get him the ball while Sherman is coming up to offer a back screen to Atkins. 2_bigs_screen_1_medium
Grant is off camera, running the baseline from the near side to the far side of the shot. Knight turns his head and continues along the 3 point arc, ready to set a screen for the cutting Grant. 2_bigs_screen_2-5_medium
Grant is looking to be aggressive coming off the great screen from Knight while Sherman gives Connaughton a ball screen option if Grant doesn't come free. Atkins is headed for the corner to clear out the near side of the floor. 2_bigs_screen_3_medium
Here we can see, Grant recognizes that ND's spacing and screening action have left the lane entirely unguarded. Atkins' man is leaning the wrong way and Sherman's screen for Connaughton has occupied both their defenders. Grant is able to leverage his quickness and drives for the uncontested layup.
When you see Brey go to the "2 big" line-up with some combination of Knight, Sherman and Auguste, expect to see a lot of screening action from the bigs. In this case, the combination of Knight setting 2 down screens (the screener faces the basket) while Sherman sets a weak side back screen (screener faces away from the basket) creates a wide open lane for the dribbler. With Grant, Jackson, Atkins, and Beachem all showing tremendous ability to finish off the dribble, expect to see a lot of this look.
A Defensive Experiment
Mike Brey's "bread and butter" defensive scheme is man-to-man. The Irish play good help-side defense and with their versatile back-court players, tend to switch every perimeter screen very effectively. With the athleticism in the Irish back court, I hope we see even more ball pressure in that man-to-man defense, but you still need some other looks to keep the opposition off balance. Traditionally, for Mike Brey the "change-up" defense has been a 2-3 zone. While no one will confuse the Irish for Jim Boehiem's Syracuse 2-3 zone (great breakdown here), ND has effectively used this defense over the years. Here's a look at the Irish 2-3. 2-3_zone_medium
The Irish have the athletes to be very disruptive in this defense. Atkins and Jackson are up top to harass the ball with Grant and Connaughton as the baseline wings. With their athleticism and length, they'll be able to effectively recover to shooters when the Irish play this 2-3.
In this case, however, Cornell is showing the perfect look to beat the Irish 2-3. With great spacing in a very flat 1-3-1 set, Cornell is stressing the ND defense. Jackson has to respect #3 on the wing and Grant is pulled up by Cornell's wing man in front of their own bench. Sherman has to respect the man in the short post, so Connaughton should be coming up to handle the threat at the free throw line. However, if he does come up, Cornell sends #3 to the baseline for an easy skip pass. In this case, Pat is late to react and Cornell was able to get the ball into the "soft" spot in the zone behind the 2 guys on top. The Irish get in to trouble vs. disciplined offensive teams when they show the 2-3. In this case, either Atkins needs to supply stifling ball pressure to make that entry pass to the free throw line very difficult, or he needs to pack it back in and force the ball out to the wings.
Sunday marked the first time in recent memory the Irish also showed a 3-2 zone. Some people like to call this a 1-2-2 zone, but I save that term for half or full court pressure zones. The Irish were playing back in a more traditional 3-2 look as you see here. 3-2_zone_medium
With their 2-big lineup, the idea of the 3-2 makes sense. Connaughton's length and ability to step back and deal with the high post also makes sense, but I find this to be a very difficult defense to use at the college level. In youth basketball, the 3-2 is very effective because you can pressure the ball and don't deal with many teams that can put 3 point shooters on both sides of the floor. You also don't deal with great passing from big men. On Sunday, Cornell was able to cut the Irish lead from 11 to 7 pretty quickly when the Irish showed 3-2. The announcers mentioned Brey was working on this in practice on Saturday, and from what I can see, it needs more work.
As you see in the screenshot, Cornell uses spacing to match the shape of the zone, but is bringing a man to the soft spot right in the middle on the ACC logo. In a 2-3, it is much easier to react to that pass, but in a 3-2, the tendency is to have everyone collapse to that spot. In this instance, Cornell brought the ball to the high post, then ran guys to the baseline for an open look. The Irish bigs don't have the athleticism to deal with the corner 3 in this defense and without well-defined block-out responsibilities, Knight and Sherman often struggle on the boards. I don't think we'll be seeing much more of the 3-2 this year.
Game Summary
ND put on a very complete performance on Sunday. Despite their struggles in the zone defense, they managed to hold Cornell to 67 points and only 44% shooting from the field. They also forced 10 turnovers. The Irish were most effective in their switching man-to-man looks. The help side defenders frequently got in to passing lanes, and many of those turnovers were converted into fast-break opportunities. It is great to see this team get out and run against a struggling opponent.
Offensively, despite a very slow start, the Irish heated up as the game went on. Ten ND players scored in the game, six of them in double figures. Led by "Good Jerian," the offense was incredibly efficient. Grant picked his spots, let the game come to him and ended on 8-10 shooting, including 2-3 from deep. He looked every bit the all-ACC performer against Cornell. It was an afternoon of solid offensive efficiency. Driven by great spacing and motion, the Irish offense mustered 54% shooting from the field, and 48% from behind the arc. With 28 assists on 38 made FG's and only 5 turnovers, the Irish are showing the offensive efficiency it is going to take to go in to the ACC/BigTen match-up with Iowa and the most daunting portion of their non-conference schedule. It was great to see it vs. Cornell, now we just need to see more vs. top flight competition.
  • Cornell RPI Watch: The RPI (Rating Percentage Index) is a measure of strength of schedule and how a team does against that schedule. It does not consider the margin of victory, but only whether or        not a team won and where the game was played (home/away/neutral court). The formula is 25% team     winning percentage (WP), 50% opponents' average winning percentage (OWP), and 25% opponents' opponents' average winning percentage (OOWP). (See: CollegeRPI.com for a further explanation of the formula.) The RPI may be the most influential factor in NCAA Tournament seeding. Cornell's RPI rank as of December 3, 2013 is No. 312 out of 344 total Division I teams. While neither the Ken Pomeroy or the Sagarin Rankings (USA Today) are used by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, the KenPom.com site ranks Cornell No. 332 in the nation, while the Sagarin Rankings (USA Today) have Cornell at No. 339. Both sites are predominantly used by fans and the media.

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Unknown said...

Why would a team full of "athletes," coached by a "defense first" coach, be "historically poor?" In principle the easiest thing for athletes to do is play defense, where they can use their athleticism to overwhelm the offense. Where did 40 minutes of Ivy League hellfire go? Are they playing a different defense this year? Why are the opposition's 3-pt shooters always wide open? Anyone who has been watching the games care to chime in? Defense should be the easiest thing to fix.

Anonymous said...

As a Cornell bball fan I am so frustrated! If you watch these games you see that we have talented players, but what becomes evident is that the coaching is terrible. The defense is out of position the entire game. Our players always react (slowly) and never anticipate what the offense will do. Our offense is messy. Ever since BC took over we've gotten worse each year. And now finally we are 0-9. Yes 3 losses were against great teams, but still!

CBB you are much closer to the team than I am, any idea how hot BC's seat is right now?

Anonymous said...

Appears to me that a lot of the players are not playing defense so as not to foul to stay in the game. A team cannot play defense afraid to foul. BC should start sitting players down until better effort is given on defense period. Find out who wants to play by finding out who wants to play defense first!

This team is deep enough if it gets in foul trouble, there is someone to come in and do an adequate job until they are able to be inserted back in the game.

The bigs are getting in foul trouble helping out on blown assignments and poor defensive efforts by most of the guards. I can say that Cherry appears playing the best defense of the guards followed by Smith. Hatter's scoring should not excuse him of playing defense, same with Scelfo and Cressler.

Everyone needs to pick it up on the defensive side of the ball otherwise an 0 for season is quite possible. Why does it appear that every team we've played are excellent three point shooters, thats just against all odds. Poor perimeter defense is more to blame than everybody can shoot threes at or above 40% as a team!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Uh oh, CBB, you're going to want to sit down for this one.

The Ivy Basketball blog has updated its list of the best Ivy teams of all time, expanding its evaluation set back to include the early 1990s. Now, Cornell 2010 is no longer the second best Ivy team, it's the THIRD best team, behind Princeton 1998 and Princeton 1991.

Are you okay, CBB? Do you need an aspirin?

Anonymous said...

"Fact is,Bill Courtney is still playing with his predecessor's senior class and he lost eligibility of Errick Peck and injury to Shonn Miller" - CBB tweet

STOP blaming Donahue's recruits. After 10/11 season there was an increase in wins every season (even if it wasn't by much) due in large part to Donahue's recruits. If it weren't for injuries last year the record would have probably been even better. I also recall you saying in some previous posts that losing Errick (Donahue recruit) wasn't that big a hit and now he's a starter for PURDUE! You constantly talk about how Courtney generously gave those kids minutes. In my opinion they earned those minutes, played well, DEFENDED, and found ways to help Cornell win despite Courtney's coaching.

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

Mike James can print whatever he wants. His calculations are just that... HIS calculations.

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

Errick's best games last year were arguably when Shonn went out with an injury. And Cornell played its worst basketball at the same time.

Errick also vanished against BCS competition last year.

Is he a good player? Yes.

Does he make Cornell better? I guess, yes.

Does he make Cornell significantly/substantially better? Definitely not.

Anonymous said...

Tonight, at 9PM Eastern on ESPN2, we get the chance to see one game with a couple blasts from the past for Cornell Bball fans.

Boston College @ Purdue in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

Errick Peck wears #32 for the Boilermakers. CoachD and the old Cornell coaching staff plus Ryan Wittman will be at the head of the bench for BC.

I'll be there. It should be a very competitive game. Painter is also a very good X's and O's coach.

Anonymous said...

Well, let's see how he does with pretty much full time BCS competition this year.

We can have this conversation again at the end of the season.

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

He's a 5th year senior. He's older than everyone. Hell, he's 3 years older than the NBA sophomores. He better be decent in the Big 10. No excuse not to be.

Anonymous said...

I think regular readers of this blog would know how you would react if Peck had played 3 years at Purdue (or elsewhere) and was joining Cornell for a 5th year season.

'nuff said.

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

Yeah, what would I say about a 6'5" tweener forward who has no stats to back up his defensive abilities? Just how would he help the nation's worst defensive team?

Should we sit Nolan and play Errick at the 3? Should we bench Dwight at the 4 (who has played as well as Errick ever has)?

Errick would have added depth. He's make Cornell marginally better.

As I have said for months, he does NOT address Cornell's problems, which is DEFENSE and interior play.

Anonymous said...

I was so irritated when I saw that stupid comment about "still playing with his predecessor's seniors" on Twitter.

It's not just that Donahue's recruits were fine and were probably making Courtney look better the previous few years. It's also because Courtney now has THREE FULL YEARS of his own recruits playing for him and yet this blog is still complaining that just one year of another coach's players is part of why Courtney has produced one of the bottom 20 teams in the country.

All sorts of teams find themselves with no or just one seniors in their lineups, much less someone else's seniors; it doesn't mean they fail to show improvement. Many coaches that have to gut their teams completely show a large, significant leap once they have just 2 full years of the new coach's recruits. No one but YOU continues to make excuses when the coach has three years of his own players playing for him, because that is just so ridiculous.

You are really reaching people's limits. I don't know what you think your constant excuses accomplish, or who is falling for them.

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

"Courtney now has THREE FULL YEARS of his own recruits."

Oh really? Where is Shonn Miller?

You may dislike Bill, but your twisting of facts is improper.

Bill had to rebuild this program with young talent. What was left behind by Donahue was mostly kids who had Division III and NAIA offers.

The lone exceptions were effectively Wroblewski, Peck and Groebe (and maybe Coury).

Let's not pretend Steve Donahue left Bill Courtney a Sweet 16 team. He left virtually nothing... and Peck was injured in Bill's 2nd year.

Anonymous said...

If you have THREE FULL YEARS of recruiting under your belt but you can't survive without one player, you are recruiting badly. Don't blame your predecessor. Recruiting was supposed to be one of Bill's strong suits, and yet we're looking at an average of one reliable player per class so far. Other Ivy teams also face huge injuries to key players, even to all Ivy guys, and yet they don't end up becoming one of the worst teams in the country because guess what? Their entire teams does not depend on one person.

Donahue supposedly left no talent, and yet every year with less and less of Donahue's players, this team has gotten worse and worse. Like I said, there is a trend for teams that were truly left with a completely bare cupboard and no talent: they start off as one of the worse teams in the country and show a big leap in the coach's third year with two full years of recruits under his belt (see Amaker, Cormier, even Donahue at BC). This is not the trend you're seeing here. They just got worse each year, Shonn or not. In fact BC's best year so far, his first, featured no Shonn Miller at all. Last year, with a healthy Shonn and all the people you're now claiming we can't live without (including Peck, was one of Donahue's supposedly lousy recruits), were all around when good mid-majors were blowing us out like they were BCS schools.

The top AE teams couldn't blow out Ski, Wire, Coury, and Peck. Narrow losses maybe, but with those guys gone it turned into routs on our own home floor against teams like Stony Brook. Stop acting that Shonn and Peck made us a dynamite team least year, we still sucked. We just suck even more now with Shonn gone; we're not suddenly a good team if he's healthy. Shonn, Peck, and Galal were all present last year when our asses were being handed to us by good Patriot League and American East teams.

And you want to claim that Donahue left a cupboard with nothing but Div III kids. No, he also left former rotation players on a Sweet 16 team, a bunch of Division 1 transfers, and kids with offers from St. Louis and Butler.

What are you accomplishing making excuses for why Bill Courtney has produced a complete mess in year 4 and has gotten worse every year since he took over? Seriously, what is the point of defending this?

Anonymous said...

And what about, for example, Mike Martin at Brown and Mitch Henderson at Princeton?

Unknown said...

Interesting questions about coaches and classes: The seniors are a weak group (no offense...or defense for that matter). Tarwater is a serviceable Ivy player. Scelfo is limited but somewhat useful. Mathews is a bench guy. Blair is just happy to be there.

There are five juniors who should be contributing (and another walking around campus). That's 6 guys (one injured) out of a possible 18 slots (including Cancer departure). Using Harvard as a comparison, they are considered a dominant team with 7 out of 20 junior class, and 5/20 seniors.

That's roughly the same percentage of upper classmen as Cornell (granted seniors are "Donahue's"). But Courtney's juniors are essentially the same. They are killin' it, and we suck.

That's just a pretty straightforward look at it. Examples abound of third year couches dramatically improving their teams. Courtney isn't doing it, to say the least.