OK, Nestor who usually dominates with analysis was unable to watch the game and so I thought I would add my first hand experience to his read of the box score.
Overall, his read is just about right: Delaware State was just overpowered and undersized. As a team our performance was not outstanding, but this was the first live view I've had of this years team in person I was left with a different (and marginally better) impression.
Three observations about the team: there is a lot of learning on the job; consistency is this team's biggest problem; they're improving.
More after the jump.
1. Learning on the job. It's no secret how young they are, and in this game I was more surprised by the disappearance of Lee than Anderson's six turnovers. Delaware State had very good guard play, and pressed for about the last six or seven minutes of the second half in an effort to pick up the pace of the game and get some turnovers. Except for Roll and Dragovic, however, they are all basically learning on the job. From Lee and Nelson (who clearly have potential) to Honeycutt and Lane (who both had very productive days) and the much-maligned Anderson they are all having to figure it out pretty quickly. Our youth was evident today in some of the offensive sets, several easy backdoor layups (a particular problem all season), and turnovers when Delaware State started to press.
2. Consistency. This is connected to number one, and the most frustrating thing about this team. Anderson is a perfect example. He had a very nice six steals and six assists, and played a very good defensive game. But he only had four points and six turnovers. I'm sure Howland is loosing what little hair he has left with Anderson's flashes of brilliance followed by moments of breakdown. Lee is another example. After the monster day against the Irish, he went for 7-5-3 today. Dragovic and Roll - who should be the role models on this team - stunk it up from downtown again.
3. They're improving. But I'm not sure if it's fast enough or not. Honeycutt, Nelson, and Lane are the story of this game. Honeycutt seems to be developing into a true sixth man with 27 very good minutes (especially defensively) and eleven points. So far this season, and again today, Nelson has been the most consistent of all of our players. Lane looked smooth inside and outside with the ball, and made a couple of very nice passes. Throw in five points, three blocks and a steal, and it adds up to a very productive 14 minutes.
Overall, I rate this win at about a B. Delaware State was a valiant and well-coached opponent. The win was overpowering without being truly dominant.
I also have a few observations on the players:
Drago. He's thinking too much, the cold streak has gotten to his head. While he had a few points on junky stuff inside (which I keep hoping will help him get it going from outside, but hasn't yet) his jump shot looked terrible. He's trying to guide the ball into the basket instead of shooting it, and his balance is terrible. Even when Delaware State left him wide open and he had all the time in the world to set his feet, he never jumped straight up and down when shooting. Howland apparently gave him a recent lesson on looking at the rim when you shoot (something Drago should know already) and he needs to keep practicing these kind of shooting basics until he gets his touch back. I do think he will. I've never been infatuated with Drago as a player, but he's got a very good set of skills and if he puts it all together he could be real dangerous.
Roll. Roll is the opposite of Drago. Even when he off (1-7 tonight) his shooting form is perfect. I like that in the last two years he has begun to attack the hoop a little bit more, but he needs to finish consistently around the rim. Today he missed several easy ones right around the basket.
Anderson. Anderson's six assists and six steals led the team. He's starting to show some good leadership on the floor. More than anybody, he's been asked to shoulder a big load on short notice and hopefully that means his learning curve will be a bit quicker. The faster he improves, the faster the team overall will improve. His defense and distribution are actually very good, but his ball handling and shooting need work. I don't want to engage in an extended apology for Anderson, but from watching our point guards up close and personal, I think it's pretty clear Anderson gives us the best chance to win. Considering Howlands track record with point guards, I think he's going to develop into a pretty decent one. How good I can't say, but I would say that right now his growth is evident, even if it's not as much as would be preferred. Just did a quick check, and a comparisons of JA and DC's freshman and sophomore numbers look like this: DC: 19 min/game, averaging 5.5 pts and 2.3 ast. He also averaged almost two turnovers a game in those twenty minutes for an assist to turnover ratio of about 1:1. Anderson only played 8 minutes or so as a freshman, averaging 2.3 pts and 1.2 assists, with 1 turnover. In his sophomore season in which he started and averaged 33 minutes a game, Collison averaged almost 13 points and also had an assist/turnover ration of almost 2:1. Anderson is averaging 28 minutes, his turnover ratio has improved but right now is at about 1.5:1. (4.1 ast, 2.7 turnovers). What this tells me is that he's getting better, but that he still needs to improve. Today he had six assists, and six turnovers. If he starts to figure it out (and if he develops a jump shot) he has a chance to be a very good player.
Lee and Honeycutt. They are both actually coming along pretty well. Lee needs to be more consistent but his game today was not as bad as Drago or Roll. Honeycutt really showed his versatility today with a lot of very productive minutes.
Nelson, Lane, Morgan. Nelson had the best game of any Bruin today, Lane gets the 'where have you been my whole life' award for his balanced play and sweet passing, and Morgan still has a lot of developing to do.
Finally, I'll sign off with prediction. There have been some bad losses early this season, but also a few that could be termed good losses (Kansas, Notre Dame, Butler) and another in which we didn't have our starting PG. IF they can start to get some things going and continue to improve, IF Dragovic can figure out how to shoot, IF Roll can start to finish consistently around the hoop, IF Anderson can continue to improve his ballhandling and decision-making, THEN this team could actually be decent by the end of the year. Not great, decent. I see the upside to this team, I only fear that there won't be enough time in the season for them to be able to figure it all out.
We all know that when it rains it pours, but we sometimes forget that when our luck turns events can begin to snowball in our favor. If we continue to improve and show well in the PAC-10 tourney then who knows?