@ Miami 12/20/2022

My initial gut reaction after watching this one was frustration and to recoil, but there’s a lot to be learned from this one that I hope we do moving forward. This was also the manifestation of some of the things I’ve expressed worry about earlier in the season. A really ugly first 25 minutes or so and then an imperfect but hard fought and crafty final 15 where we had a chance to tie the game or take the lead on the final possession despite playing our worst game to date. On the road. Against the #22 team in the country. So let’s put all of this into some perspective and collectively exhale. As I’ve said before, seasons ebb and flow with regard to mental fatigue, travel, personal lives, injuries, confidence, shooting (often tied to confidence but also often tied to injury or just straight variance), etc. The fact that our collective low point was a 2-point loss on the road against a quality ACC opponent is much better than what we were showing last year when we didn’t have our best games.

That being said, there’s a lot to learn from this, a lot to clean up and, hopefully, some misconceptions that we can address as well. Let’s go:

A Lengthy Defense of Kadin Shedrick, aka, An Analysis of What Led to the Deficit

The most common takeaways that I’ve seen on the wide interwebs after this game were threefold:

  • Ryan Dunn should have been put in the game earlier, ahead of Taine and instead of Taine (I agree).
  • Armaan Franklin has been hurting us on the whole and we should consider starting McKneely (Disagree but do agree with sitting him after a while in this game).
  • Kadin Shedrick was a primary party of fault in this loss and we had to bench him because he was playing so poorly (Fully disagree and that’s what we’ll dive into now).

Bare with me now because while I am going to show clips, but I want to approach this section a little bit differently than I have some of these in the past. Shedrick played a total of 11 minutes in this game, just over 25% and his lowest total of the year and less than half of his season average. Ostensibly, you’d think it was because he played a major role in Miami getting ahead (heck, he only played about a minute and a half in the second half so he wasn’t part of the comeback, he had to be the reason!), made a disproportionate number of mistakes, and couldn’t hold up against the 6’7″ Norchad Ormier. I’m here to tell you that he did not have his best game, there were a couple of very visible mistakes, but pretty much EVERYONE was making very visible mistakes and generally speaking, he was contributing in a positive way and should have been afforded the opportunity to get back into the game and make an impact like many of the others were.

I mean, I know there are those who only believe the anecdotal eyeball test from watching the game once live and don’t like people telling them what “metrics” say. Lots of problems with that – watching the game live people tend to ball watch and miss a lot of what lead to certain developments in the game. They also tend to be watching emotionally, so they latch onto the things that look especially good or bad and over-value them and, oh by the way, he leads the team in pretty much EVERY advanced metric by a decent margin (PER, BP/M, Offensive Rating, Defensive Rating, and Adjusted Team Efficiency Margin (second in Bayesian). So, I hold that, of anyone on the team right now (as long as Reece is hurt), he’s probably the player who should have the longest leash when it comes to mistakes, not one of the shortest. If your argument is that he should have taken over the game vs. a player 4 inches shorter than him, I’d say, then we should have been more intentional about running plays inside (which we’ll talk about later and we SHOULD have) but, also, philosophically, just because something isn’t as good as you want it to be doesn’t mean that the worse alternative is better.

An alternative theory is that he actually got hurt when he took the shot from Omier in the first half and that was bothering him – but I don’t believe that for reasons and haven’t heard anything about that.

In any way, I want to walk through the majority of the flow of the first half of the game to highlight just how Miami got out to such a good lead. As much as this may surprise everyone, I’m not going to clip the entire first half, but I will clip the most notable parts of the Shedrick debate, you’ll need to take my word for the other parts or follow along yourself here:

So, Miami started off the game on a 12-2 run that put us on our heels. Gardner hit the first shot of the game, which we’ll see later, after a post up/face up on the block. Miami scored the next 12 and here are how their buckets came:

Gardner didn’t box out his man and allowed a tip-in rebound.

Gardner got caught behind Omier in transition and couldn’t pass him off to Shedrick/couldn’t get out to his man in transition and/or contest the shot (this was probably a lose-lose situation but he really was not alert re: how the play was developing and wasn’t able to make a good effort to contest at all.

Armaan is flat-footed when he recovers to Poplar and, even though he’s pretty close, isn’t able to get a good contest on another made three.

Nijel Pack backs Kihei down on the baseline and shoots over him.

Isaiah Wong posts Kihei on the baseline and shoots over him.

For those keeping score at home, we’re already down by 10, Gardner is responsible for 2 points and for giving up 5, Armaan is responsible for giving up 3, and Kihei is responsible for giving up 4. Meanwhile, Armaan has missed an open three and missed a hard contested layup in the lane that he forced, (which he was pulled almost immediately after at the 17:12 timeout), Clark has missed a wide-open midrange jumper and a push shot in the lane, McKneely has been blocked taking a three, Beekman has had a bad turnover and been blocked on a layup.

By this point in the game, Kadin was the ONLY one of the starting five who hadn’t made a multiple significant mistakes and forced offense, and was one of only two starters who hadn’t allowed points. Meanwhile, he was quietly turning in defensive possessions like this where he’s hedging, sagging, recovering, and stopping the drive:

And like this where he switches out on the 6’5″ Wooga Poplar on the perimeter, offers him nowhere to go, and gives a quality contest that bothers a step back shot:

Side note (not that important but something to look for in other clips): also when people talk about rebounding rate. So often (and we’re going to see this) Kadin takes his man out of a play and allows another player to come in and clean up the rebound. Right here, he could have easily made a point to grab this one, but it was also just as easy (and more advantageous) for a primary ball-handler like Clark to take it and for Kadin to start running up the court.

Kihei comes down after the 12-2 run and hits a three to put us within 12-5 and then the next possession down we get this possession where Kadin hedges to stop the drive, is able to use his size to obscure passing lanes enough while he recovers to Omier, gets behind him, and boxes him way out of the lane, leaving the board for Reece:

BVP hits a three to make it 12-8, Kadin defends a drive and Gardner steps in to take the charge to get the ball back, and that’s where Kadin misses the bunny layup on the other end (his first shot of the game). I want you to turn your sound up for this:

YOU CAN HEAR THE AUDIBLE SLAP FROM OMIER ON HIS ARM FROM THE BROADCAST!!! Ahem. Yes, I’d have preferred he just gathered himself and dunked it too, or power through the contact, or have the foul called, but this was literally his first “mistake” of the game. Everyone else was conceding points, turning it over, or forcing bad shots in traffic. Then we come back the other way and there’s this play by Wong which, contrast with the no call above, but, wither way I’m sorry, this is a clean block!

And that’s it! He leaves the game in the middle of the free throws at 13:36, Wong sinks both to go up 14-8… and he doesn’t return until 5:04 left in the first half!!!!! The score was 30-18 at that point, we’d been down 26-12, Kadin only had 1 personal foul and he sat for over 8 straight minutes, watching our deficit grow. For what? Good defense, missing a layup he was hacked on the arm on, and getting called for a foul for a clean block.

Now, I could sit here and say that it doesn’t make any sense at all. My theory is that CTB was just so exasperated at the way the team was playing, he kind of associated it toward Kadin after the missed layup and foul; felt like he needed a change of energy, last straw sort of a thing… but even that explanation seems impulsive and not very satisfactory.

Meanwhile, as soon as he leaves the game, Franklin gets blocked at the dunk at the rim and the next possession down, Omier almost gets an offensive rebound right over Jayden. Really the first one he’s sniffed all night to this point. Then, the next time back down the floor, we get this display of offensive rebounding from Omier with BVP trying to figure out something to do to stop it:

Look how overmatched we are!!! There was absolutely none of this prior to this point in the game. It got going with Kadin off the floor. And it’s still 16-10 at this point and Taine Murray is making an entrance!

A Pause to Discuss Taine vs. Dunn

This would have been the perfect time in the game to put Ryan Dunn in. Shedrick was on the bench, and the collective of BVP, Gardner, and Franklin were just pretty much helpless to stop Omier on the glass. If you put Dunn in at the SF, you have that added length to help them on the glass and can add some additional disruption into the mix. The only two hypothesis that I have on this are either that Dunn was in the doghouse for some reason or that CTB decided prior to the game that Taine had earned a shot and he wanted to put him into the rotation. We have no line of sight into any kind of off-the-court speculation.

But purely from a tactical on-court perspective, I think we can all agree that this was a mistake, especially with the hindsight of watching Dunn bring reliable defense and athleticism to both the 3-4 position for the entire last 16 minutes of the game.

It’s not that Taine was terrible in his first run on the court; he drew a non-shooting foul and made a driving layup at the rim, but he also fouled a three-point shooter for a four-point play, turned the ball over by dribbling off of his foot, and just didn’t offer you that athleticism or reach that you needed to defend well, especially without Kadin playing. Here’s one example of him on the wing help-side that illustrated the huge issues with this line-up from a size and athleticism standpoint. When you watch it, freeze frame on each of 12:09, 12:10 and 12:11. The team is playing pretty darn good positional defense. Franklin, on Wong, has to fight through an Omier ball-screen. BVP rides Wong down to the baseline, keeping him from being able to drive while Franklin attempts to recover. Gardner switches such that he stays in front of Omier, keeping him from diving down the lane, and then passes him off (not really to anyone but the timing was such so that either Franklin or BVP would recover – he probably left a little early). But now you have Clark directly under the basket, charged with trying to make the cross-court pass into the corner to his man difficult while also ideally being able to help deter a pass to Omier? Taine is also on the off help side and has the primary responsibility of either reading and intercepting a long pass, or recovering and contesting to the man the pass gets to. Instead, Wong makes a really easy pass, not that high over Kihei, and Taine is not quick enough to recover to the ball or long enough to bother the shot.

Now I’d ask you to rewatch that play and imagine that one, some or all are true: Kadin is in the game on Omier, hedges and makes Wong’s sight lines and passing way more difficult, Reece is under the hoop reacting to that pass, or Dunn is in Taine’s spot recovering to the shooter and contesting. Hopefully this is a good illustration of what a bad defensive lineup this combination was considering our options on the bench.

Kihei pushes the ball down the court and takes a bad shot in traffic early in the shot clock, Caffaro gets into the game for BVP and scores on a sweet pass from Kihei, and then we get this play. You’ll notice here, Franklin doing a pretty good job of keeping Wong in front, and then the ball going to the 6’6″ Harlond Beverly for Miami who played 4 minutes in the game. Taine covers his attempt to dribble and actually does a pretty decent job of closing out the angle and forcing him to the baseline. The problem is that Kihei has decided to help on the drive, leaves his man entirely in the opposite corner, and isn’t able to bother the pass out to him for another wide-open three and another 10 point lead:

This was a really poor strategic decision by Clark because Harlond was averaging 2 points per game, he wasn’t able to do much to disrupt him anyway, and Murray was never in that bad of a position, but I will say this: I also can’t really blame him for seeing Murray one-on-one off the bounce against Miami and thinking he might need some support.

Then, the next points of the game, this play where Taine fouls Wong as a three-point shooter:

It’s not just that you don’t foul a three-point shooter, it’s also that Wong rocked Taine so far on his heels because he was worried about the blow by, which in turn led to the over-compensation on the contest.

If I could just reiterate – all three of these plays were, together, a 9-point swing in the game, creating the second largest deficit they’d face all game and all of them were, to varying degrees, because of the defensive disadvantages of Kihei, Taine, and no Kadin all working together. But after this 4-point play, CTB left Taine in! Meanwhile, Kadin is still sitting after his, let me go back and re-read my thoughts here: good defense and one missed shot.

Meanwhile, much later, Ryan Dunn was bringing the energy and making defensive plays like this, back-to-back:

I thought both of those could have been our ball, but he enveloped the first drive and caused a deflection and then just erased the second shot even after getting beat… because he’s huge and athletic and giving you insane effort on the offensive glass like this:

How can you not get fired up watching that? He kept the ball alive 3 out of 4 consecutive offensive boards and was just pumped up at the end.

Trying him out is one thing, but sticking with him after those plays above, before Dunn and, the cardinal sin, putting him BACK in the game in the second half while we were playing better defense to try to get back in the game! All decisions that left us with suboptimal lineups for long stretches and certainly were one factor that cost us this game, IMO.

Here’s that second half possession, by the way. We had just climbed to within 9 on IMK’s only three of the game and this was their possession – isolate Taine on his first defensive possession and watch how far back on his heels he goes and how much space is created for that look:

It was already my opinion but this game confirmed for me that you simply can’t use Taine in competitive contests. There’s nothing that he’s bringing to the table that’s better than what you can find in either Armaan, IMK, or Dunn and the defense (especially with certain other pairings is a liability).

Conversely, you felt the energy shift (and saw it on those two clips above) immediately as soon as Dunn got into the game and he offered such a defensive advantage. In fact, Dunn came in the game at the 15:22 media time out. Miami had 41 points. They didn’t score until 11:55, which was that bucket against Taine above taking them to 43. Taine came out a little less than two game minutes later – Miami didn’t get to 45 until 8:27. From the time Ryan Dunn took the court for the first time, Virginia held Miami to 2 points over almost 7 full game minutes!

We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Program, Already In Progress (Talking about Kadin!)

So, let’s rewind from our Taine/Dunn tangent. There are about 5 minutes left in the first half. We’re down 30-18. You’ll recall, when Kadin left, it was 14-8, 8 game minutes earlier and he sat on the bench for… no visible reason compared to how everyone else was playing. Okay, we’re back. He returns to the floor, we get a bucket off of a two-man game with Reece and Jayden, then we get this possession here where he blocks Wong (after his offensive foul on Reece) but the deflection goes to Omier, who scores:

Kind of a net-neutral here because Wong was probably scoring if he wasn’t there and it was an unlucky bounce to his man who he correctly helped off of in this instance.

Reece gets another bucket and Kadin gets a wide-open drunk slipping a screen on a two-man game, and we’re getting back in the game off of some really good defense like this just enduring offensive foul after offensive foul and forcing the miss/cleaning it up:

I like this one as well for the “Kadin doesn’t play physically” crowd:

He full on slammed into and moved Omier under the hoop on that shot, taking him out of the play. Contrast all of these with the offensive rebounds that you saw earlier.

Anyway, he takes the hard foul from Omier that isn’t called with around 2:18 left in the half and exits around 1:40 with the team back to within 6 at 32-26 and doesn’t return for the rest of the half. The team was down 6 when he left at first, and gained 6 when he returned the second time, and all-in-all, he’s played very good defense and Omier hadn’t been a factor on the offensive glass while he was in the game in the first half.

But the half didn’t end when he left, we still conceded 4 more points to head into the break and look at these! On this one, BVP is right there but doesn’t come over to try to contest Wong’s layup:

It almost looks like he doesn’t see Wong driving at first, because he’s so worried about trying to body Omier, but he can’t get over to the shot. And then you have this one where Omier just collects the drop off and gets both BVP and Gardner to jump into the air because they’re not comfortable being able to stop him otherwise. He easily slips through both and scores:

And that’s the journey through the half. A full half of play, Kadin played only about 9 minutes of it despite doing a solid job of defending throughout and being under-utilized on offense. His absence was felt, not only as Miami grew the lead multiple times, but dominated the paint on the offensive end when he was out.

Now, fast forward to the second half. He picks up a foul for pushing Omier in the back after trying to recover from a hedge here:

Gives up an offensive “rebound” on an unlucky airball from Wong where Omier more alertly goes over him for the ball while he’s being boxed under the hoop, here:

And then he missed Gardner on the dive thru the lane here:

And that was it. He didn’t play the rest of the game. I mean, I get it, I’m sure there was an intense conversation in the locker room about playing hard and clean and smart and with effort, etc., so coming right out of the half and have all of this happen back-to-back-to-back isn’t the foot you want to start off on. CTB probably felt like he wasn’t heard or needed to make a point, or was frustrated… or whatever it was. But I’m saying; there were plenty of times in the second half of this game where Shedrick could have been huge for us even if he just played like he did in the first half. Certainly, considering how most of the others were shooting and how many mental/sloppy mistakes were made (I’ve shown so many, but also Reece getting his pocket picked, Frankling, Gardner, Clark, and BVP missing shots inside and/or forcing shots and getting blocked around the rim, bad defensive rotations, conceding a lot more offensive rebounds… it seems odd to have the harshest reaction toward one of your most impactful players.

There’s also the point that since BVP was shooting so well in the second half, Dunn (and to a lesser extent, IMK) was giving a defensive boost and playing a lot of 4, and Clark and Beekman were creating buckets/fouls, that CTB didn’t want to disrupt that.

But, while Gardner played well in spurts down the stretch, he wasn’t irreplaceable, Taine came in, IMK was shooting very poorly, certainly there was some room to Try Shedrick again, keep BVP at 4, play Dunn at 3.

When we closed to within 1 point in the second half, Miami hit a jumper from the elbow but the majority of the points thereafter – points around the bucket – for about 5 minutes of game time from around 7:30 to 2:30 all of their points came around the rim or getting fouled around the rim. Heck, some of our guys were just straight up gassed by the end – IMK played a career high in minutes and Dunn played 16 straight, either of them could have used a spell. Omier actually fouled out of the game with still about three minutes to go. Kadin couldn’t have helped to punish that? All of these developments are things that Shedrick could have been very helpful with without taking your key comeback engine of BVP, Dunn, and two of a PG and IMK off the floor. And if you tried him and didn’t like the way he was playing, you could always sit him again. But pretty much everyone else had that chance to rebound from their mistakes and stay in it – and he really didn’t, which cost us because he’s so valuable.

Bottom line: Not many of our guys had great or clean games on Tuesday – but many had the leash to play through it and build confidence, where Kadin did not. We need to start treating him like the program staple that he is, because he is that valuable when he’s playing on the whole. Effort was the key word from many of the post-game pressers, and rightly it should be. We played a sloppy, sloppy game, and I loved the effort and belief that the Reece, Kihei, IMK, Dunn, BVP lineup played with to help get us back into it. But if we had just stayed true to our seasonal rotations, not played so many suboptimal lineups for so long, and given Kadin some more leash than he got, it’s hard to think we wouldn’t have netted more than two points along the way.

Quick Hitters:

I kind of want the above to stand alone for this one so I’ll keep these brief and trim the clips:

Dislike: Not Going Into The Post Very Often

Collectively, our guards not named Reece Beekman shot 4-27 from the floor and our three paint-focused players (Shedrick, Caffaro, Gardner) went a collective 6-9 from the floor. The offense, especially in that two man pick and roll game, but also just posting up with our big men and designing set plays for them all seemed to come pretty easily, but we didn’t prioritize it even when most of our perimeter players were struggling to put the ball through the hoop. Here are some good examples of some of these easy buckets:

We need to get back to prioritizing feeding our big men when the outside shots aren’t falling. Certainly, 9 to 27 attempts between those two groups I mentioned above isn’t an ideal ratio when they’re shooting like they were. Force the two man game even more… or even just throw the ball into the post more often and clear out. We did do this some, and it resulted in open threes… that we missed, but we need to work more balance into where the points are coming from on offense and be intentional about plays like the above more often than settling for jumpers or having a guard force a shot in the lane in traffic.

Dislike: Armaan’s Confidence and Playing Time

I’ve been writing for a few games now about my concern re: Armaan’s minutes. Specifically, as long as Beekman and Clark are eating between 32-35 minutes per game, when we do play either IMK or Dunn, it more often than not comes out of Franklin’s time, even when he’s playing well. I especially noticed the increase in this after the Michigan game where he missed the free throws down the stretch. Every game since, his minutes have been lower, regardless of whether he’s on or not. He was getting between 33-35 mpg in our competitive games prior to Michigan, got 26 in that one when he was having an off night, but hasn’t played more than 26 minutes since, bottoming out at 13 on Tuesday.

I lamented after the Houston game that he especially seemed to have it working in that game, finishing well around the rim and going 2-3 from outside, but his minutes still slid and he didn’t play down the stretch. What’s weird is yes he went 0-7 in this one, but the announcers were talking like he’d been cold prior. He shot 66.7% from three against Houston, 40% from outside vs. JMU, and 50% against FSU, going 6-12 over that span – 50% from three. Meanwhile, McKneely has gone 40%, 20%, and 25% over that same span in those games, 4-14 for 28.5%. Yet after this game, when Franklin went 0-7 for the game and IMK went 1-9, there’s been clamoring for him to replace Franklin in the starting lineup, which is mind boggling. I loved what IMK brought to the table on defense on Tuesday, his energy and how he’s looking more confident both taking his shot and driving – but he’s just not the player Franklin is at this point in their careers, nor should he be expected to be.

Regardless, Franklin seemed firmly in his head by the end of the Miami game… but he actually looked like he was pressing a bit from the jump. It was good to see IMK look the part, but I’m not so sure that we’re not helping Franklin to get in his head by how we’ve been playing him kind of irrespective of how he’s been playing. If we’re going to be the team we can be, we DO need to give both Dunn and IMK run now – but I don’t think that so much of that run can come from Franklin’s time as it has been. He’s too mental of a player and he’s also normally too good to sit so much. Heck, he’s still 10% points higher than his three point % last year and is almost at 40%, even after Tuesday.

Like: Team Heart

As I said at the beginning of the piece, the sky isn’t falling… and then I proceeded to be mostly critical of our approach to Tuesday’s game, strategically. But those things are fixable and adjustable. What you did love to see is the heart that we put on display to close out that game. It was the most uncharacteristic and mistake-ridden game I can remember this season, and yet we still almost pulled it out. And it was because the guy who went 0-7 LAST game caught fire and shot with confidence, the guy who was 2-10 from the floor and kept getting lost in the lane, forced the issue, got crafty, and drew a lot of fouls, the guy playing on 1.5 legs was still one assist and one rebound away from a triple double and was our best perimeter defender among our starters on the game, the first year who sat for the first 25 minutes came off of the bench with all of the defensive energy in the world… it was gutty, and admirable, and something to be proud of. It shows how talented we are as a program right now and how hard we work that we can, both on and off the court, shoot ourselves in the foot so many times in one game and still be right there in the mix against a very good team on the road.

That part was very encouraging!

Blog Scheduling Note:

Okay, I wanted to take the time to thank everyone who reads some or all of these, talk about it, engage with me. The feedback has been great, as has the support and the community and the discussion that’s come out of it. This blog certainly isn’t for everyone; it’s a lot, but I started this just thinking I’d be mostly shouting into a vacuum by myself for fun and I’m very grateful for those of you who have been coming along with me!

I’ll be travelling some for the holidays so won’t have these for the Albany or GT games, should be back after the Pitt game. Hope everyone has a happy holiday season and New Year! Go Hoos!

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