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A Glance at St. Mary’s

Regardless of result, today’s game will look very different from Middlebury’s loss to Stevenson on Friday. Stevenson was relentless in its defensive pressure, so much so that Jeff Brown said after the game that his team wasn’t able to reverse the ball around the perimeter. The Mustangs also essentially negated Middlebury’s transition game, both by crashing the offensive boards and getting second chance opportunities and also by tracking Middlebury exceptionally well in transition. St. Mary’s, on the other hand predominantly utilizes a 3-2 zone defensively that tat times the extend into the backcourt to provide three-quarter court pressure. Cabrini exploited St. Mary’s’ zone in many of the same ways Stevenson did to Middlebury, pulling down 15 offensive rebounds and outrebounding the Seahawks 41-27 in their win on Friday night.

Offensively the Seahawks are very polished and run a number of effective sets that get open looks for a variety of different players. Offensively they don’t look dissimilar from the past two Middlebury teams that relied on excellent offensive execution to score efficiently, if not at a break-neck pace. Middlebury does not want to play a half-court game with a St. Mary’s team that has more experience and has been more effective than the Panthers early in the season. Where Middlebury can exploit the Seahawks is on the boards and in transition, which Cabrini demonstrated Friday night. From the tape, Middlebury appears to be the more athletic of the two teams, which should give them a rebounding edge in a matchup of two susceptible teams in that area. The Panthers have played better defense than many—see our comments—seem to think, but they have not been able to close out defensive possessions by securing rebounds. In Friday’s loss, Stevenson shot 41.7 percent from the floor, a good mark by any defensive measure and one that would be far better if you consider only first-shot opportunities. In so far that rebounding is the final act of a defensive possession, Middlebury needs to improve defensively, but their base defense—and it was particularly notable when they played zone—was very effective.

On the offensive end, Middlebury needs to turn the ball over at a drastically lower rate. 25 turnovers doomed the Panthers as much as the 19 offensive rebounds they allowed and it remains somewhat remarkable that they had a chance to tie the game with 97 seconds left. Leadership, man.

To pull of the upset today, Middlebury needs to get out in transition and execute offensively, both of which can only be accomplished if Middlebury rebounds the ball effectively on the defensive end and doesn’t turn the ball over on offense. St. Mary’s has the size and polish to compete with anyone in the country, but I don’t think they will overpower Middlebury. They have the potential to be ruthlessly efficient on the offensive end and will undoubtedly take advantage of mistakes the Panthers make, but this game is more within Middlebury’s reach than the outlook of many Middlebury fans would suggest.

To Stevenson’s credit, they matched up incredibly well with Middlebury and executed a strong game plan Friday. St. Mary’s does not match up nearly as well and, given their approach defensively, cannot game plan as effectively for the Panthers as Stevenson did. Having Jensen available for this game would help tremendously—the Seahawks are led by 6’5”, 230-pound forward Brendan McFall, who is averaging 25 points per game this year—but with the exception of McFall, Middlebury matches up far better against St. Mary’s from a systematic point of view. Early in the year as the Panthers find their identity on both ends of the floor, playing two vastly different opponents like Stevenson and St. Mary’s will help Jeff Brown and his staff manage the team going forward. Don’t be surprised if today’s result and output from Middlebury looks very different from Friday.

One Comment

  1. wrote:

    After weighing the comments in the “what ails..” section, let’s get one thing clear- it’s way too early to be posting obits on this season’s Panthers. From the skybox, my take is based on the following factors and you can weigh them according to your preference or disagree if you like. (1) Joey did not have his best game with him at Stevenson. My assessment. Maybe he tried to do too much, maybe you don’t like his attitude. This culture of winning that Midd now has has been spear-headed by like-minded guys, who hate to lose a game, they want to prevail on every possession. They all- Mike, Aaron, Ben, Kyle, Timmy, Big Ryan, Ryan, the Andrews, Jake, Nolan, Pedro, and Joey and James-got it and somehow passed their feelings along to their teammates, so now there’s years of not-even-thinkin’-of-losing. When things weren’t going well they did what they felt best. That what the floor leader’s do. His attitude is more than alright by me. He may have tried to pick us up because we were having a less than effective night. (2) Daley had a young soph-type outing(s). Until his intensity matches his talent on a daily (no pun intended), that will happen. The brilliance is there and it will be on display more often as he grows into his game this season, and the comparison to Big Ryan will come out. He’s on that path. LongJack has had games where he is not as effective as he can be. But Alvernia was a gem, not so much this weekend, but he can be a big presence inside. And based on what happened at Stevenson, we need better rebounding. Somehow, maybe Churchill can insert himself into the discussion. wee saw a long time ago that he is capable of solid efforts. Now he’s just gotta believe.(3)No Dylan. No James. Is there anybody out there that thinks 15 and 6 from Dylan wouldn’t have made a difference? My hope is he gets back. The reality may be another thing. Knowing that James’ medical clearance was going to be close(close in proximity only, he is well and fine), my hope was that if JeffB. got to use him for 10 minutes a night, he’d provide intensity, good ‘D’, and a few boards. Given how both games played out either would have been preferable to neither. And then the obit writers on the morning news wouldn’t be in the coffee room pouring JackDaniels’ in their java. (4)Consider the positives. And there were several. Everybody now knows Jake Brown and ‘The Saint’ can be big time contributors. Nidenberg is a load, in my eyes- ahead of Pedro Lynch at this time in his soph campaign. Pedro worked out pretty good for Midd if you recall. Hunter is impressing on all fronts- putting the ball on the floor and finishing, and contesting a lot of rebounds. Nate B. looking like he can give us 15-18 minutes a nite. That’s not terrible. There are others that are on the fringes of the mix who aren’t far away. Joey is the blender, the QB, the triggerman. He’s going to run the game and despite what the detractors think, my take is that there are few in the country who you might to want to have with the ball instead of him down the stretch.

    Now for the reality. There is not a lot of room for any stumbles prior to the nescac season, and not a lot after that. Consider that Castleton- always an automatic gimme, beat #9 WPI the other nite. then we get Skidmore at Saratoga this year. They either won the Liberty last year or lost in their conf. finals. They’ve already beaten RIC at Providence. And then we have Plattsburg at home. They were an ncaa team last year. One final positive that we’ve learned in the last ten days is that this team can play and win on the road. And can compete with top teams. Glad that we didn’t have to play Cabrini yet, because they looked like a very good team with all parts already meshing well. There’s a lot of ground to cover, but we definitely know more as to how the Panthers measure up than either Williams or Amherst does. Being tempered in the heat of big games is preferable to being stoked up in the press. Be well. Clubbo.

    Monday, November 25, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

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