@ Pittsburgh 1/3/2023

For anyone wondering – I have been back to the old format for the past two but that’s just because I haven’t been able to start recording real time and the resource from last year has been prompt and on it. Will return to old formatting as able/needed.

Rather than my typical format of ad hoc likes/dislikes, I want to use this game to have a broader discussion about a trend we’ve been discussing, really all season, but especially in the games since Reece got hurt; lineup utilization. I’m going to have a wholistic discussion about the topic and then will use some examples later on to illustrate some of the points directly related to the topic.

There is a natural resistance within the fan base, among many (maybe even most) to level any criticism toward CTB. After all, as I’ve said many times, I believe he’s the best thing to ever happen to any Virginia major sport, certainly within my lifetime. His arrival and ongoing presence has been amazing, not just because he won a title and has established us as a perennially relevant, competitive, and sometimes downright dominant program; but also because of how well he represents the institution with class, character, and skill. We’ve had good teams and leadership in the past under Terry Holland and Jeff Jones, but CTB is in a class of his own and really IS the program. He’s been transformative in the same way that many of the historic greats have been for their programs. His ability to get the most out of and improve his players (along with Mike Curtis), and to use his knowledge of the game/system to improve the ceiling of his teams, is practically unrivaled (Jay Wright could have some words). It’s unclear, if he ever does retire or leave (note to self: never write these words again), whether the program would maintain any appeal or ability to sustain (although Carla Williams has done a pretty darn good job on the Coach Mox front, so I’d remain optimistic). So, we need to collectively view criticism of specific instances, moments, trends, as just that. They aren’t attacks on his overall ability, they aren’t unhappiness with the state of the program… none of that. Similar to how saying we wish Reece would have gotten a shot up at the end of the game against Miami is a criticism of the moment and it’s clear he’s still a great player who we’re grateful for, the same should be true of discussing potential coaching mistakes.

Whenever this topic comes up, there’s always the general pushback of “you think you know better than CTB?” or “I trust Tony.” And, sure, in terms of broadly steering the program for the next indefinite number of years (lifetime contract, please!), so should we all. But that’s not a microtransactional philosophy. No one is perfect and every single person whether it be future HoF coaches, professional coaches, etc., have blind spots sometimes. Sometimes it’s leaning too heavily on established preferences, sometimes it’s just actually challenging to process everything that’s happening within a game from courtside and implement a real-time solution to combat the issues. It’s the same reason it’s often easier to accurately digest the causes for a loss on re-watch or after the fact and why coaches always want to “watch the tape” to find takeaways before commenting too freely post game.

We also may not have the full context for every decision being made (we don’t). Sometimes decisions are made around player development for long-term gains or for rewarding players (or punishing) for work in practice or off the court. So, it’s really impossible to say many coaching decisions in this vein are concretely wrong. For example, in 2019 there were multiple controversial decisions throughout the season surrounding the amount of playing time both Jack Salt and Kihei Clark were getting over other talented players like Mamadi Diakite, Jay Huff, and Braxton Key. In retrospect, we can pretty clearly say that the Salt playing time was probably a mistake. He could have been used as a more situational player (and there were many times where he was the right piece), but he didn’t need as many minutes as he got as a veteran on the team to play the role for which he was needed. Conversely, we can also pretty concretely say that the Clark time was both necessary and brilliant because we needed to rely on his quickness, ball-pressure and ball-handling for the Gardner-Webb, Oregon, and Auburn games (not even to mention THE PLAY against Purdue, though that matchup as a whole wasn’t ideal for him). Without getting him as much run as we did when he did, a strong case can be made that we don’t win the championship (there’s a counter argument to be made but, having broken down every game in that tournament when writing my piece on him, I feel very confident with that assertion – although I do think we were too slow to go away from him at times in bad matchups, it worked out for the best and the guy was awesome for us so many times!). The decision to value and give Clark minutes on THAT team was, flatly, pretty genius. It gave us the exact skillset that we were lacking to field the kind of well-rounded team you need to win a tournament like that.

Similarly, I believe this is similar to what he is doing with IMK this season and we’re starting to see the dividends of it with more confident shot taking/making in big games, more confident playmaking, and still volatile but defense that’s trending toward improvement/is generally solid. I think he views IMK’s shooting ability as an x-factor that could swing some big games in February/March in the right moments and he wants to have him ready/willing to take those opportunities. I think he’s also doing this with Dunn, but to a much less purposeful/intentional extent. The problem is, most of this development is coming at a cost to Armaan’s playing time, even when he’s playing well. More on this to come.

Either way, we do have the benefit of outside observation and retrospect, and there is certainly merit to discourse and challenging points of view when the situation calls for it. Generally speaking, CTB historically tends to coach to win each individual game more than anything else (which is why I think he’s so rigid about Beek and Clark’s PT, because he views them as the best chance to win any given game, really no matter the situation), which is where I think some mistakes have been made recently.

Not Deviating From The Framework

It’s become clear, to me, that CTB is coming into these games with a general plan/framework for how he wants to use his lineup in that game – experimenting, giving experience, and also rewarding players. For example, among the bench players, he wants to get IMK and BVP significant run each game (both averaging more than half the game at 22 mins). This is not true of Dunn, or Caffaro, and VERY much not true of Murray. He plays Dunn and Caffaro situationally (with Dunn extremely preferred) and will stick with Dunn when he’s playing well. Taine, correctly, is on the outside looking in for minutes in most circumstances (as is Caffaro). The next two points are subsets of this point below, but the problem is that because he plays both Clark and Beekman 33 minutes plus (in games where Reece is fully healthy), there isn’t much time to go around. The time comes from Armaan, Jayden, and Shedrick, mostly, and that rotation remains fairly consistent no matter how any of the three are playing. Sometimes they sit more if they’re not playing well or are perceived to be, but they still have a ceiling to their minutes even if they’re playing really well. Jayden’s down almost 8 minutes per game this year, Shedrick is actually up 2 minutes per, but he’s a much better player this year and he’s still only playinig barely over half the game at 22 minutes (almost exactly the amount as BVP), and Franklin is down about 3 minutes per game to 26, despite shooting 13% better from three than last season, improving his rebounding rate, scoring almost the exact same amount of points on fewer attempts, and lowering his fouling and turnover rate. Again, more on this to come, please bare with me.

I would argue that this philosophy should change fairly dramatically, distributing some of the IMK minutes across all of Beekman, Clark and Franklin, depending on who is playing well (also reducing IMK’s minutes, as needed and likely as the primary option in tight games if the three starters are all on – also integrating Dunn as the situation dictates from all four of their time). We should likely also distribute BVP’s time mostly as the hot hand one-for-one with Gardner unless the small ball matchup proves to be favorable when attempted (which we should most games) if Kadin needs a breather/gets in foul trouble and Caffaro isn’t a viable option. Shedrick’s skillset is the only one on the entire team that doesn’t have a similar replacement (Reece at 100% also doesn’t have a similar replacement), so we should be much more rigid about keeping him in the game, even through mistakes, just as we would the guards who we actually view as irreplaceable.

Against Houston, it was clear that CTB thought that BVP would be a valuable asset stretching them out and shooting from outside, but he was 0-6 from outside. Nevertheless, CTB put him back in the game down the stretch when the game was in striking distance. Clark was shooting poorly and struggling against Shead on defense and Beekman was providing similarly to what he was on offense but was a plus matchup on Sasser on defense. Nevertheless, despite shooting well for the game, Franklin sat as IMK ran through his minutes (Dunn didn’t show well in this one). IMK was also shooting and defending pretty well, so the best play would have been to run Reece at point with both Franklin and IMK, keeping Gardner at 4 and Shedrick at 5. Replacing BVP’s misses with another guard who was on, and improving the defensive matchups.

Against Miami, CTB had clearly decided to give Taine an opportunity in the game and not play Dunn (at least early). But, despite the bulk of Miami’s big run coming with Taine on the court and struggling to create on offense and to guard on defense, he was kept on for 9 total minutes, including being reinserted in the second half (giving up the points that ended Miami’s scoreless drought). It was a game where Dunn’s skillset was obviously worth trying out, and when he finally was with about 16 minutes left, he never game out. Similarly, Shedrick played a season low 11 minutes despite Miami killing us inside whenever he was out (which was almost the entire second half). BVP was on fire and Shedrick made a visible mistake at the worst time, but I showed in that article the value he was adding when he was in the game so getting him back in for Gardner or IMK (who was defending well but shooting horribly) would have been huge. It was clear in this one that CTB wanted to give Taine run no matter what, even though it likely cost us a win.

Against Pitt, both Franklin and Shedrick were playing well in the first half especially (will illustrate more below), and BVP was playing horribly on both sides of the ball. He was shooting poorly, he was defending poorly, he was rebounding poorly, and he was ineffective in the post. Gardner was sitting for BVP during a significant portion of their run during the comeback, and Shedrick sat from about 10 minutes to go until 3 minutes to go, as they routinely killed us on the glass and around the basket, mostly at the expense of BVP. Similarly, Armaan sat from about 8 minutes to go until about 3 minutes to go, despite IMK not playing as well on defense and not offering as much in other areas. Simply put, the issue was this – From 14:35 left in the game until the end our starting 5 were only on the court all together for about 1 minute, where they finished net positive 1 point. We were up 9 at the start of that span, were down 5 when Kadin re-entered the game with the 4 guards at 3:10, quickly tied the game, and then that ending happened. BVP’s play with or without Kadin on the floor was the biggest part of the lead eroding but, regardless, it’s odd that as the tides were turning, the strategy of simply reinserting all of the starters and sticking with them wasn’t implemented.

That’s not to say that Kadin or Armaan played perfectly, certainly not. And both were on the floor for good portions when Pitt was starting to cut the deficit. But neither were the primary reasons for that and both were still our best options in the game. Let’s get into it:

Sticking With Small BallOffense

This section is going to focus a lot on BVP’s struggles in this one so I want to say up front that I’m still very high on what he brings to the team. We’ve seen how effective he can be as recently as against Miami, and also earlier in the year on both ends of the floor. There’s been some speculation that he’s working through an injury with all of the heating pads along the sidelines. He looks more ginger and less mobile on the floor lately, which would support that theory. This isn’t a referendum on his overall game or ability to contribute to the team long term. I think if he can get healthy, or even if that’s not an issue just though the progress of a long season, he’s definitely going to have games like he has in the past. This is more just to point out that in THIS game, he was playing very poorly and still had an incredibly long leash, and that sometimes small ball just isn’t a good option.

CTB’s hands were also tied in this one because Caffaro was not available due to a foot injury, so it was inevitable that this lineup was going to get some run. But where it’s become an issue are the long stretches that we stick with it (18 minutes to close the game in the Miami game). In that game, BVP was on fire, and it was Jayden we could have spelled some to get Shedrick back in. In this one, we really just needed to sit BVP much sooner than we did. So, let’s get into some discussion about how this was impactful on both ends, starting with the offense.

We ran a lot of our triangle offense in this one, which is still a motion based offense that looks to put two guards on each wing with the 3-5 continuously setting screens for each other (and sometimes the ball handler) in an effort to create open looks. Shedrick, Gardner, and Franklin were most effective at running this together as the three screeners, but it also worked fairly well with BVP in for Gardner as long as both Kadin and Franklin were also on the floor.

Here if you freeze frame between 1:04 to 1:06 or so, you can see the triangle that Shedrick, Franklin, and Gardner are forming. Shedrick sets a ball screen for Beekman, who passes to Clark, Franklin is going up to set a back screen on Gardner, which opens up a lot of space that Clark uses to exploit on the blowby dribble. Kadin dives from the opposite side as help goes toward Clark, and is available for the catch and dunk.

Here’s a great look at the offense with the motion eventually generating a clear out for Kadin in the post who makes a good pass to Armaan curling around a screen from BVP, keeping his man in the trailing position. The space created by where Kadin has the ball allows that space around the rim to be vacated so that Armaan can easily dunk it.

This is in the second half when the starters were still in. Watch the screening motion inside with the triangle which gets the ball to Jayden in the post. A double team comes and he has to pass it out, but then both he and Armaan vacate and Shedrick is able to come from the offside and duck in for the seal and the easy score with no one else around to contest. Note here, that he’s sealing and scoring over the also 6’11” Federiko Federiko. This is a finish that would be much harder (and might be blocked) with either BVP or Gardner.

Outside of the triangle, we still ran sides this game and he similarly did a good job being available and easily being able to finish opportunities like here where there’s really nothing the opposition can do to get back into the play:

Here’s a different look entirely but where he gets the ball in the post, is himself a big mismatch with Federiko out of the game, draws three defenders into the post, and hits an open Beekman with a perfect pass for three.

He just drew a lot of attention down there, won a few over the back calls on the defensive glass, got fouled going to the offensive glass and got some free throws out of it. In general, when he was in the game, we were much more threatening in and around the rim, Pitt had to adjust to that, and that made many of the outside looks more clean as well.

Conversely, when he was out in the second half, we got more possessions like this one. The line-up is Clark, IMK, Franklin, Dunn and BVP. They are running the triangle, even though it doesn’t look closely similar with IMK and Dunn on the wings and Franklin, Clark and BVP running through screening motions. Notice how there’s really no threat inside at all with that group and Clark and Franklin pretty quickly abandon the screening to pop back out to the perimeter. This play is pretty similar to the one where Kadin sealed and scored, but BVP is no threat to do this here so there just isn’t anywhere to go with the ball. Clark ends up trying a pump fake to draw a foul and when that doesn’t work, throws a desperation pass toward BVP that goes out of bounds. Compare this directly to that seal play from Kadin earlier to see how who is running the offense changes its effectiveness so distinctly.

Here’s another look, this time with Clark, Beekman, IMK, Gardner, and BVP on the floor. BVP feigns a screen for Beekman on the wing and then flares toward the hoop, securing a mismatch with the 6’4″ Jamarius Burton now guarding him in the post. Beekman clears out, drawing the defense, but all Federiko has to do is sit there in the middle of the lane to threaten help and still negate Gardner, deterring BVP’s ability to take anything toward the rim without having to commit to helping. The “mismatch” then becomes BVP dribbling in the post without many options. It looks as if he’s about to spin to the baseline, away from Federiko, but he loses the ball, resulting in having to kick it back out to Beekman who has to create a poor quality midrange jumper that misses.

What should stand out when watching that play is just how non-threatening it looked, even when we got a guard switched onto our post player. Pitt didn’t have to send help, they just held their ground, the offense bogged down, and forced a bad shot. Compare this to the Kadin kick out to Beekman earlier where they collapsed three players onto him because of his size.

We had to resort to a ton of mid-range jump shots like these in the second half. Poor quality shots in general that weren’t falling, because we weren’t threatening to score much inside (and when we did, it was usually Kihei making a hero play). With BVP 0-3 from outside and Gardner 2-7 from the floor as well, Tuesday was a great example of why Kadin’s offensive metrics are what they are and how important it was to have him on the floor.

Sticking With Small Ball – Defense

This is where things shifted. 14:35 left to go in the game after this possession, we’re up 9, mostly trading blows with Pitt since the start of the new half. Franklin’s man rejects a ball screen and beats him baseline. Gardner comes over to help, but too aggressively because he leaves his man entirely despite the fact that Armaan was still in the play and his man ended up shooting a fade away on the baseline that missed. If Gardner just shows there and retreats, the same thing probably happens but he’s in better position to help rebound. Either way, Kadin who is guarding the opposite wing, comes down to help on the rebound and gets called for a push in the back. He leaves, BVP enters.

From here, BVP is in the game for 10 of the next 11 minutes, briefly out when we played the starters from about 11:25 to 10:11 (the game was tied when the starters returned and we were up one when they left after the short span), and then back in again until 3:10. This represents a -15 point swing when he was on the floor during this stretch.

Now we know what Kadin brings to the table on defense, that’s been a big focus of this blog recently and there are a lot of highlights. But that was no different in this one. He got a couple of fouls fighting for rebounds, but only had 3 for the game in total (and one was the screen at the end), he gave up one long offensive rebound early, but otherwise he did a good job of clearing out their biggest man, hard hedging, and protecting the rim. Here are a few examples:

Showing on a screen, following his man into the post, playing good one-on-one post defense and forcing a bad shot, clearing his man out and allowing the board to go to Kihei:

Here Gardner simply gets blown by on the perimeter and Shedrick is there to force the miss. They don’t secure the board here but this whole play is on Gardner for both getting beaten so badly and also not recovering into position to help secure the glass when Kadin contests:

Here’s a great example of his hedging and activity, which we should directly compare with what we see from BVP later. This is just great anticipation and support of Kihei. He shows and stops Cummings’s attempt to curl off of the screen, and then shows two more separate times in succession to cut off the ball handler’s options every time. Oppressive. Pitt ends up having to swing the ball around and take a three through a Beekman contest. This clip highlights how effective he’s gotten at both playing AND reading the hedge. Compare, again, to last year where he was often picking up fouls in these scenarios.

We can draw a direct comparison with BVP on that with this play. Kadin hedges and is incredibly disruptive, deflecting the ball and forcing it into the back court. BVP hedges and delivers a hip check that immediately gets called. The comfort, mobility, and disruptiveness a stark contrast.

BVP looked unnatural and struggled to hedge all game. It wasn’t as noticeable to me in the first half because the defense, as a whole, was playing well and he was still playing with most of the starters in support. But here are some early looks:

This was one of the more tame examples compared to what we’ll see later. His man still has to hit a contested mid-range jump shot, and we’ll live with that. But notice how he slightly over-commits on the hedge and has a hard time stopping his momentum, changing direction, and recovering back. Reece effectively deters the drive help side, but BVP is just a beat slow.

Here Pitt actually misses the shot, BVP does a good job with his on-ball defense and Kadin draws an over-the-back call so, again, the issue isn’t going to draw as much attention. But if you watch the hedge part of the play, BVP over-extends far too far out, and is slow to change direction. When he catches it, his man is wide open with a ton of open space between he and the hoop. He hesitates as I don’t think he was expecting it or wanted to shoot, and lets BVP get back into the play.

Pitt either noticed this, or it just came to the front with their general desire to speed the game up and attack in the two man game in the second half, but those hints of issues early on were glaring and exploited during the big run.

Here look how intentional Pitt is being about putting BVP specifically as the hedger and on the final iteration he hedges so hard that he throws himself off balance, stumbling even and being way out of position to recover. Dunn is in good help position but isn’t able to stop the much bigger Federiko that deep.

This play is one that makes me think there’s some merit to BVP’s core area not being right, specifically because he looks to be moving so gingerly at times and struggling to change direction, but there’s also the mental aspect of this play. He’s supposed to hedge, but he doesn’t need to fly out that hard or far. The ball handler was dribbling directly toward his own sideline well beyond the three-point line.

Pitt doesn’t get points from this possession but it’s still an example of really bad defense. BVP just gets juked on the hedge direction, and oddly so, because his man was presenting on the other side. Maybe he thought the ball handler was going to reject the screen as Pitt had been doing some, but you don’t need to hedge a screen rejection because there’s no body impeding the defender (in this case, a very good one in Beekman). The result is confusion with Burton utilizing the screen and BVP being out of position to stop it. He flies right down the lane and misses the dunk attempt, but despite all of this BVP still doesn’t put a good box out on Federiko who collects the board and extends the play.

One more look at the hedge defense, these were not one offs. Some of this is that the backside help needs to help deny this pass and actually threaten to stop it, and Clark’s not going to do that here (the go ahead by Pitt late in the game is very similar as absolutely no one helps and they’re all guards), but again, look how out of position and off balance BVP makes himself with no chance to recover.

Quite a few mental errors from him like some of the above, but also on plays like this where he just loses track of his man entirely cutting to the hoop after Shedrick does a good job helping on a driver that beats IMK off the dribble and still recovering to his man.

And then, there was the rebounding. We saw it was an issue near the end of the first half when Kadin was out here where BVP just doesn’t get a good box on his man and isn’t athletic enough to compensate:

But it cropped up quite a bit during that second half stretch:

The first one is just not being big enough and the second is just not being alert enough and being sloppy.

Now, most of these second half plays above all came in pretty close proximity during a significant run in the game in which Pitt evaporated our first half lead and we allowed around 1.5 points per possession. I didn’t even highlight the lack of rim protection much. That hedge I highlighted in the first half where BVP was able to get back into position after his man hesitated? His man hesitated because Kadin was camped under the hoop. You’ll see a couple of clips later where it’s clear more rim protection could have helped. Lots of mistakes, mental errors, and just signs that we didn’t have enough size on the floor and that BVP was struggling on both ends. But he still played 10 of those 11 minutes and Kadin played 3 of those 11 minutes, including sitting for the last 7 straight. So, the question has to be asked rhetorically, why did BVP have such an almost infinite leash when Kadin gets pulled so aggressively and for such long stretches? There might be answers that people will give, but the correct answer, IMO, is that he shouldn’t, and we need to keep him on that floor when we can. Yes, he’ll have to rest, sure, pull him quickly if he makes a mistake we don’t like, but we cannot afford to sit him for long stretches, especially in these kinds of matchups.

Heck, when he came back in and we were down 5, he immediately scored with a strong finish:

Forced a turnover helping to deter a shot, and had this elite-level rim protection to get the ball back without fouling:

Yes, the final minute was tough. He got called for the illegal screen (refs were a real thing I’m not going to spend time on, but wow), he bobbled a ball when we were down 4 late and scrambling, but I’d argue we never would have been in that situation if we’d just gotten him back out there during the collapse (and gone away from BVP for Gardner along with the other starters). He led the team with +5 plus/minus on the game, BVP was worst on the team with -11.

Guard Rotation

I’m not going to spend as much time on this one because, IMO, it wasn’t quite as impactful or sustained for quite as long. But Franklin did finish +3 and IMK finished -8 and didn’t leave the court much down the stretch of the game. CTB obviously values IMK’s ability to shoot from outside, and he hit 2/5 (and would have been 3/6 if not for the negated one) from that range in this game. But when all of our three starting guards are shooting well from outside as well (Franklin 2/3, Beekman 3/5, Clark 2/5), then there’s much less of a reason to force run him minutes. In 23 minutes, IMK was basically an empty statline – 2/5 from the field, all from outside, 1 steal, 2 fouls, no assists or rebounds. Meanwhile, Franklin had 4 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals and 1 foul in 30 minutes, and shot 50% from the field on 12 shots. We saw the dunk earlier off of the curl, and some of his efficacy in the triangle. He hit a couple of threes out of it when open, for an efficient 66%. But, he also adds this on offense:

When he’s playing with confidence, as he was on Tuesday, Franklin has a quality three point shot, but he also has the ability just to be a scorer within the offense; either immediately launching the open mid-range opportunity out of the triangle or just creating a sweet pull-up off of the bounce in the second clip.

Defensively, he wasn’t perfect either, but he was solid and played with a physicality that IMK does not yet bring; a presence when helping and on the glass as well.

Here’s a good example of his one-on-one D and his ability to physically bother the driver after the spin move into the lane:

Here’s a good example (one of quite a few in this game) of his help side defense being bothersome. Shedrick, on the wing at the time, doubles to help Dunn in the post. Franklin is there to disrupt the big on receiving the ball and his physical presence is relevant. In the end, he comes out with the steal.

Meanwhile, IMK dealt with a lot more of this; more frequently allowing clear driving advantage and either requiring help or conceding points. This probably could have been an and-1 and I was surprised it wasn’t given how the refs were calling the game. But compare to the Franklin on-ball defensive clip above and how IMK is more behind the play and also less able to bother the driver physically on the shot (it was a quality finish, though).

Here (another not great example for BVP but I digress) we see him just get caught off balance on the cut from his man, creating the driving land and forcing BVP to help, allowing for the pretty easy dump off.

This one they just cleared out and isolated him underneath with a lob on the inbound play. It was a push off, sure, but it was a pretty subtle one that is very rarely called. Elliott was able to draw the foul and you can see here again just the meaningful difference in physicality.

Main point here being, I don’t think we should or need to play IMK over half a game in these kinds of contests when guard shooting isn’t an issue. He’s a valuable stretch piece, an improving defender, and has shown glimpses of improving his ability to create, but when we give him significant run, especially over Armaan when Armaan is shooting well, we lose out on all of these other intangible things that help the team. The physical defense and help defense, the veteran savvy within the offense, the ability to hunt his shot off the bounce rather than primarily taking open looks, the impact on the glass, etc.

As I’ve pointed out previously, it’s become a trend (really ever since the Michigan game) that IMK sees an uptick of minutes in the second half, often crunch times, and Armaan is often the odd man out, even when he’s playing well; full circle to the earlier “Not Deviating From the Framework” point. That was again too often the case Tuesday.

In Conclusion:

In this game, the simple solution of “just play the starters” would have probably carried the day, but that’s not always going to be the solution even though it is our most efficient lineup with a big enough sample size. More specifically, I think two simple changes to approach would go a long way in the short term:

#1. With this roster composition, view and play Kadin as indispensably as we have Reece and Kihei. If he makes a mistake or needs rest, sure, pull him a minute or two but then get him back out there. Don’t go long stretches with him off the floor unless we’re playing a smaller team or both BVP and Gardner are just lighting it up and aren’t obviously conceding much on the defensive side.

#2. View both IMK and Dunn similarly (I didn’t talk much about Dunn because he only played 5 minutes and the were mostly at the 4, but he was oddly one of only four players to finish positive in +/- for the game) in that both should be played and tried out in each game but neither have to be played a certain amount of time. Rather than getting their lion’s share of run from Armaan and the few Beekman/Clark rest minutes, they should get their time for ANY of the three, depending on who is playing well and what we need in any specific contest. Dunn for length and defense, IMK primarily for shooting and if Armaan is cold, or if KC is struggling with a defensive assignment but we still need to stretch the floor. Much of the time that might mean that IMK gets fewer minutes than he has been and we run the three starters more (Dunn may still get some time at 4, but not ideal), and that’s fine too. We don’t have to play IMK 22 minutes per game, we can play him 10-15 minutes some games if Beek, Clark, and Armaan are all playing well like they were on Tuesday.

Saturday will be a different challenge against the Syracuse zone, so we probably will want more IMK minutes and to test BVP’s hand, but we can’t fall in love with the idea if it’s not working. Will be very interesting to see how it continues to evolve and play out!

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