This is the kind of team that drives a coach crazy.
by Kayo (2019-02-08 19:24:46)
Edited on 2019-02-08 19:25:26

Turn it off. Turn it on. No problem. They kept winning.

It finally bit them in Chapel Hill, but they learned their lesson... for two games.

We talked about leadership at the beginning of the season. Kathryn Westbeld was an outstanding leader because every last player respected her, listened to her, didn't want to disappoint her. Neither Westbeld nor the coaching staff asked anything of another player that Kathryn wouldn't do herself.

I don't have any inside information, but I have been observing leadership professionally for more than 40 years. I have a well developed approach to leadership that has worked for me and has worked for managers I've groomed. I've observed some great leaders and some rudderless ND men's teams over the last 11 seasons. I teach the subject. I'm telling you all of this because I believe I can observe a lot from the outside looking in.

This team does not have a leader. It has a bunch of talented peers. They aren't bad teammates, but there isn't that one player the others follow. The players like each other, but they don't seem to push each other. That's where a leader comes in.

The leader pushes everyone else. Whether it's Tory Jackson with his lovable personality not hesitating to get in the face of a teammate who isn't hustling, Rob Kurz knocking teammate on his ass in a scrimmage because the guy is sleepwalking through the drill, or Pat Connaughton combining fun with badass toughness, someone has to earn the respect of the others... not the respect of a peer, looking up to and admiring the leader type of respect. I was able to observe the reverence for Westbeld last season. I haven't seen anything resembling that with this season's team. Likable, appealing young women. Tough competitors most of the time. But no leader.

A coach or a coaching staff can fill the leadership void, but it's difficult because players tend to tune out the coach after a while. Sometimes anger is the last remaining arrow in the coach's quiver, and that's never more than a short term fix.

This group is capable of winning a repeat championship, but it's just as capable of losing in the regional like the 2016-17 team did. Whatever happens, it's taking several years off of Muffet McGraw's life.

To me, it is pretty simple. You won the title last
by chicos bail bonds  (2019-02-09 09:17:48)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

year in unbelievable fashion. Not only did you persevere through a lot of injuries but you also won the final 2 games in the most exciting way possible. How do you top that and how do you find the desire to top that.

In some ways, Auriemma is a jackass but in other ways he is a genius. How he continues to motivate and achieve success on top of success is quite an example of elite coaching. As Holtz once said I believe, his biggest mistake was believing he needed to sustain success. In retrospect, he knew he needed to set new bars and do more than just sustain.

I can't stand the Yankees but I admired their run a number of years ago. I believe part of their answer was that they would tweak their roster every year just enough to bring in a few new guys which brought out the best in their leaders. When the Yankees moved to a model of just signing the biggest stars in baseball, they were sunk. They lost the chemistry and the role of the leader was diminished because they became loaded with stars instead of guys that did the little things.

We are in effect loaded with stars. Everyone is waiting for others to do the little things. It hasn't happened on any type of consistent basis. It could happen but I doubt it.

Geno has basketball philosophy that he gets players
by TerryND83  (2019-02-09 12:24:56)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

to fit. It is an energetic, pass first, dribble if you have to or to probe a defense's seam, rebound like hell, defend like a wasp defending its nest and run full force for the time you are on the floor. It is how they can defeat a team in the first 5-10 minutes of a game or at least psych the opponent out.

NDWBB is a dribble first, pass if you have to but lob if it will make the ESPN sports reel type of offensive game. This leads to a lot of standing around and a crowded key. Their defensive game can be energetic but often they forget to box out for rebounds or let too many players drive by them.

UCONN is about being efficient on offense, which is why passing is stressed over dribbling. Passing requires understanding basic geometry to get the best angles to pass to the player with the best chance to score.

If a player does not conform to his style of basketball, he will bench them. This usually happens in their Freshmen and Sophomore years. By end of Sophomore to beginning of Junior year, the players either decided to get with the program or leave UCONN.

Sounds good and reasonable, but it's not true.
by BabaGhanouj  (2019-02-09 13:27:05)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

If "NDWBB is dribble first, pass if you have to" and Geno's philosophy is "an energetic, pass first, dribble if you have to" then Uconn would greatly top ND in assists per game. ND would be driving, UConn passing.

Notre Dame, in fact, tops Uconn (slightly) in assists per game 19.6 to 19.4.
Both offenses are pass first.

If there is a difference, in my humble opinion, you are correct in saying Geno forces the team to play his way, while Muffet modifies her approach depending on the players, but it's always teamwork, high energy, and "pass first".

(By the way, I completely agree with your post on Jess.)

I'm not sure that a single statistic ...
by CJC  (2019-02-09 16:35:58)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

disproves his assertion.

Not that I'm asking you to try to come up with these numbers, but a simple comparison of two teams' average assists per game doesn't directly address a number of things, including: assists per baskets made; baskets made as immediate put-backs following offensive rebounds; assists on fast-break baskets (particularly since much of this conversation seems to focus on halfcourt offense); passes that aren't recorded as assists (comparable to secondary assists in hockey).

I'm sure there are more.

I can tell you, without any of that data, that UConn's offense, year-in and year-out, doesn't bear much resemblance to Notre Dame's 2018-2019 halfcourt offense.

I'm not sure it does either, but it makes it more difficult
by BabaGhanouj  (2019-02-09 17:46:32)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

to make the assertion, especially when frustration sets in over losses. A few weeks prior to our losses, Notre Dame was "a well oiled machine" "firing on all cylinders" and analysts talked about how they loved to watch the ND offense with all the selfless passing. How everything changes when you lose a couple of games. We tend to think in extremes.

As to your specific stats, I'm not sure what you mean by assists per baskets made (I believe that is what I used.). I'm not sure how "baskets made as immediate put-backs following offensive rebounds" are relevant to whether a team is passing or not. Would you expect them to be greater or lesser for a passing team? However, "assists on fast-break baskets" would be extremely relevant, as you say. That is why I asked FightingIrishRadio if he had such stats. I don't. Likewise, passes to passes that lead to baskets I think would be relevant.

But even those stats probably wouldn't go far enough. There is passing and there is effective passing. Many teams, including UConn, like to rapidly pass the ball around the exterior in hopes that they will find an open man or, at least, tire the defense. We would have to check how many of those passes were ineffective by wasting shot-clock time or resulted in turnovers. Watching a team rapidly pass the ball around can be fool's gold. The key is not just passing, but "effective passing". I think that is what Muffet's modified Princeton offense is all about.

I understand what you are telling the board, and I agree we need better stats. What we have shown thus far doesn't lend evidence that ND is dribbling more and UConn is passing more. Different people have different perceptions. Recently, few BoneYarders would agree that UConn had an efficient offense.

Statistics surely are not the last word, but they're helpful in clearing up perceptions when fans are overly jubilant or overly downhearted.

If I'm reading your "Sounds good and reasonable .." post
by CJC  (2019-02-11 11:00:38)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

correctly, you're using a single statistic (assists per game for both teams) to (1) refute Terry's observation ("it's not true") and (2) support your claim that the Notre Dame and UConn offenses are substantially similar ("Both offenses are pass first").

I don't want to speak for Terry, but I'm of the opinion that the two offenses are materially different, at least in their execution over the past few years. Without the benefit of supporting data, my observations lead me to conclude that Notre Dame's offense involves much more dribbling and much more dribbling that doesn't involve attacking the basket than does UConn's.

As I did originally, I acknowledge that I don't have any data at my immediate disposal to support (or undermine) my claim. You offered a single data point, which is certainly a step in the right direction.

However, I remain of the opinion that the data point you offered is insufficient in and of itself to declare Terry's observation "not true," and to definitively conclude that both offenses operate as "pass first."

To elaborate on the questions I previously posed, I think the raw number of assists (average assists per game) fails to take into account a number of factors that are relevant to the discussion at hand.

For starters, the percentage of teams field goals which are the product of an assist would be somewhat helpful. An average of 19.6 for a team that averages 100 field goals per game would paint a different (partial) picture than an average of 19.6 for a team that averages 20 field goals per game. (Obviously, those field goal numbers are made up for the purpose of illustrating my point.)

Further, for the purpose of this discussion, it's reasonable to exclude from the number of field goals examined those which are the immediate result of an offensive rebound (rarely an opportunity for a pass/assist) and also those that are the product of transition/fast breaks (assists are certainly important in that context, but that doesn't speak to the nature of a team's halfcourt offense).

At the end of the day, you've offered more data than Terry and I (infinitely more, I think). But we're all a long way from having enough data to make such definitive statements, as far as I'm concerned.

Someday, we'll have data like number of passes per possession; number of dribbles per possession; we'll be able to gauge productive possessions vs. non-productive possessions (interesting debate about those definitions) and compare passing volume and dribbling volume between those possessions; etc., etc., etc.

And I suspect we'll still want to hold on to "the eye test," no matter how much data we get.

I suppose the ultimate eye test is winning!

True - but MM also needs to stop assuming Kat exists
by Btd  (2019-02-08 23:19:45)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

We are running an offense that assumes someone is playing the role Kat played. We don’t have any starter than can play that role. We have turner and Jess both playing the same role so in effect one open spot and two playing one spot.

We need something that doesn’t need Kat and moves the ball around as similar speed and assumes we have two forwards down low and no one at the elbow. That should be doable - but we have a handful of games left to sort it out. If we don’t adapt we will die this year.

I think Jess can shoot the 12-15' shots
by Irishgambler  (2019-02-09 08:08:21)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

I seem to remember reading about how she even shot some 3s at Nebraska. Would like to see her try a few from the free throw area.

I have nothing but fond memories of Kat. She did so many
by sixtythreer  (2019-02-09 20:18:25)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

really good things. She was a great high post passer. She could shoot and hit about half of her 15 footers. If you got too close, and if she saw an opening, she'd drive around you for an easy layup. She could rebound. And once in a while, she even shoot a three.

Jess is a better rebounder. And I have no doubt Jess can hit the 15 footer and even some threes.
But right now she's a tad too predictable. She'll pass or drive from the high post, but she isn't
making her self unpredictable, by shooting both from about 15 feet and occasionally beyond the arc. If she'll shoot from out there even five time a game, it will keep her defender honest, and out of the middle a beat longer. Especially if she hits about half of her 15 footers - which she can do.

Of course, if she shoots from out, that reduces her effectiveness as a rebounder. But it may benefit our other four players' chances of pulling down rebounds by drawing away an opposing big. And with Jess and her defender out, few guards can out rebound Jackie.

Excellent Points in the Post.
by dillon77  (2019-02-10 07:52:37)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

I think Jess can take that foul line/elbow jumper when offered and nail it.
When/if(?) Dani P. gets in, she should do the same.

Otherwise, if you put your head down and go to the hoop all the time, you keep running into a wall (insert that running into a wall emoji), like we did against Hof and Mompremier. Take one to set up the other.

And you're so right...Jackie is such a fabulous offensive rebounder, she could come in from anywhere to clean up misses. And Bri is good at that, too.

Jess Does So Much for This Team ...
by dillon77  (2019-02-09 10:18:35)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

... that I think we get a bit spoiled by it all.

- She is a very technically skilled basketball player, both with her hands and feet. Many believe it was her weight (and strength derived from said bulk), that opened up space for her last year. I beg to differ: Jess sets one of the best seals in the business and that's about positioning.

- And once she gets the ball, it's lefty or righty layups, short jumpers from either side, or a fake and roll to one side of the other.

- As for getting blocked, I think that's a function of two things:
-- sometimes she gets too far down and is almost reaching back to get the ball to the basket. Easy to block those's coming to you.
-- and one of Jess' few "mere mortal" points is she simply does not jump that well.

- Even with the (over) publicized weight loss, Jess is still a sturdy post, don't fool yourself. Go the link below and look at the picture of her and Emese Hof, the Miami center that people now know. You'd pick Jess to the tight end, right?

- Oh, Shepard led all players -- Hof, Mompremier, Turner, Young -- with 17 rebounds on Thursday night. In a game with two sets of twin towers and a marvelous wing, she was the rebounding stud. Positioning, strength, will, talent.

- And we've covered the outlet passes, which have drawn praise from experts and comparisons to outlet kings like Wes Unseld, Dave Cowens and Kevin Love.

- Yes, I think she can shoot that 12-15 footer and would hope to see it. Everyone but Marina and Arike seemed to have a Pavlovian response to Miami's bigs: let's throw ourselves at that wall. Get them in foul trouble? I'll be next time we play them, we'll see more diversity in that attack.

- I watched and listened to the Muffet show, which featured Jess and Abby. Jess is plainspoken, direct but honest and caring. Funny, too. You can see the respect that MM has for her. I'll bet a bottom dollar that Jess defers a bit to her long(er) standing teammates (in ND terms).
Yet, reports are she took the loss very hard. Would think that she can take that will to succeed and express it in ways that can propel her teammates.

Go Jess. Go Irish!

Very good observations - I think she is extremely talented. *
by chicos bail bonds  (2019-02-09 15:47:34)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

Remember all the foot/ankle issues last year with Jess?
by NDLAW88  (2019-02-09 10:45:49)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

including the horrific looking one at the end of the first half of the Final 4 UCONN game, where for all the world it looked like she was not going to be able to play the rest of the game?

I don't think it's a coincidence that those issues have abated this year with the dedication to getting into better shape.

Moreover, I propose a moratorium on discussing any player's weight any more, especially with Jess - the issue has been discussed ad nauseum and it's certainly not as if she's going to wake up one day and say "ND Nation is right. I should add back those 40 pounds.".

For her health's sake Jess weight loss is excellent
by TerryND83  (2019-02-09 12:11:15)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

and it does not affect her play. She still leads in rebounding. It's Bri that is not as good a rebounder as she was before she tore her ACL.

You and I Are In Agreement on the Last Point...
by dillon77  (2019-02-09 10:59:21)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

..which is (part of) the reason I addressed some of those points. This is one highly skilled and determined athlete. And seems like a good person, to boot (the more I learn).

Total agreement. *
by NDLAW88  (2019-02-09 17:29:01)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

Wise, well said, and it may be appropriate…or not.
by BabaGhanouj  (2019-02-08 21:38:17)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

When times are tough, and the team is up against it, we all have an explanation. It's the lob. It's lack of focus. It's not hustling. It's lack of team chemistry. It's Shepard not heavy enough. It's time for Jackie to step up. It's the half court offense not dealing with the current personnel (currently my favorite). It's lack of leadership.

I like it, until I think of Marina Mabrey. She's not a point guard, but was made one because of her leadership. She takes command on and off the court. You can see her instructing players, and you know Marina's not backing down for anyone. She may be the most vocal leader the team has had since Skylar. "This team does not have a leader" may be true, but I think we should keep looking for more explanations.

As for CJC's questions, Kayo's thoughts would be instructional, but Muffet looks for leadership when she is recruiting. She has said that leadership takes toughness and intensity, at least in women's basketball, and intensity, she believes, is not something that can be taught.

Looking ahead....
by dillon77  (2019-02-09 10:25:48)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

...I noticed your comment on MM looking for players with leadership attributes (potential and/or kinetic) and intensity. One can easily see that in incoming 2019 players Sam Brunelle and Anaya Peoples. Ditto for Alli Campbell.

It's interesting how much of this leadership attribute can be shaped and learned as well. In the radio show, Abby admitted that she is a perfectionist and can get down on herself, which we often see on her doubting herself in taking shots. The striving to be perfect is a great motivator, but it can trip you up (hell, stuff happens in hoops, hockey, soccer, etc.). Interesting to see how Abby/coaching staff work on that with Abby, who was renowned for her leadership abilities at Lakota West. Her coach there listed that as her #1 attribute.

Lastly, back to the half-court offense, there are variations on what ND does depending on personnel, teams we play against, etc. A high post has traditionally been the inner spoke of a Princeton offense, but it can be generated in other ways; ie., various screens, back cuts, etc.

One reason I think Sam Brunelle is such a good fit here is she will be a natural or this type of offense, whether at the 4 or some other role.

A note about perfectionists
by Kayo  (2019-02-09 13:52:00)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

They often are hard on the people around them, but they are harder on themselves than they are on anyone else. Those in the "anyone else" group need to know that.

Are leaders ...
by CJC  (2019-02-08 19:57:38)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

born or made?

Can they be developed if the necessary "raw materials" are on hand?

What are those "raw materials?"

And perhaps of greatest interest in the short term ... how long does it take?

by Kayo  (2019-02-09 04:57:46)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

The late Warren Bennis, the most renowned leadership researcher and writer of my lifetime, said, "The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born – that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born."

I'll add that having a big personality that fills the room is not the same as being a leader.

Leaders have a vision of what the team must become, and he or she articulates it well. Leaders put their actions in context of the vision, and they make sure everyone knows how each of those actions moves the team closer to the vision. Most importantly, leaders are trustworthy. They are ethical and consistent. They do what they promise to do.

Leadersip is something done consciously, intentionally; and leaders are unfailingly optimistic. They always believe they and the team will overcome any obstacles that come their way.

Note that nothing above is a personality trait. It is learnable behavior. I saw Demetrius Jackson go from a display of poor leadershup in the NCAA Tournament game vs Butler when he was a so[homore to being a very good leader a year later. He had the leadership role thrust on him. He learned on the fly.

Jackson didn't hesitate when, about 8 games into the season, I asked him what he learned about leadership that he didn't know when practice started. Usually a guy who took a few seconds to formulate a thoughtful answer, he didn't hesitate on that question. "It's really hard," he said. Demetrius went on to talk about knowing when to push, when to put his arm around a teammate's shoulder, and when to show anger.

Jackson wasn't comfortable in the role at first, but he got there. He learned about motivation. He believed in himself. He intentionally worked to get good at it.

It doesn't take much time to learn about leadership. It takes a lot of work to put what's learned into practice. Jackson got good at it in the October to late January time frame.

What part did Brey have in helping DJ get there?
by 2ndstreeter  (2019-02-09 08:46:30)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

And then, is this something Muffet could have identified and helped develop in somebody?

Given the point of the season that they’re at I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Daily mentoring
by Kayo  (2019-02-09 13:48:43)     cannot delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

It's part of the program's culture. They know they are expected to become leaders, to be ready when the time comes.

Even with that ingrained in the culture, excellent leaders don't always emerge. VJ Beachem's and Steve Vasturia's senior season is an example. They were (and I'm sure they still are) outstanding young men, but that team was a lot like this season's WBB team in terms of leadership. There wasn't that one voice that pushed the others.

Ben Hansbrough was a leader in many ways, but he was hard on people especially the underclassmen. Brey once said Ben can light up a room or he can burn it down, and he worked on his captain to tone it down. The underclassmen didn't realize how much they needed to be pushed in addition to needing encouragement, so they let up the year after Hansbrough left. It showed.

I've had several conversations with Rex Pfleuger about leadership over the years. He was in line to be an excellent leader this season; and even though he is around and working with the young guys, it hurts that he isn't on the floor because what a leader does is as important as what a leader says.

I don't doubt for a minute that Muffet McGraw works with her players on leadership. She takes her role developing them as young women seriously. Kathryn Westbeld's and Natalie Achonwa's substantial growth as leaders over four seasons did not happen without their head coach's involvement. However, a mentoring relationship requires both sides' commitment; and sometimes the two who are working on personal development aren't the right pairing.

I have a hypothesis, but I can't speak definitively about why a leader hasn't emerged on this year's team. I wonder if these players have been equals so long that one of them stepping out to be the leader would change relationships in potentially uncomfortable ways. Along those lines, don't be surprised to see Jackie Young step into the leader role more easily next season because she will be the only scholarship senior and the only returning starter. That doesn't guarantee great leadership, but it does eliminate any question about who's an elder and who's a peer.

Great post.
by wearendhockey  (2019-02-10 11:21:39)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

Stuff in your post applies to a lot more than basketball too, by the way.

Thanks for sharing the process you've observed with Brey
by 2ndstreeter  (2019-02-09 14:21:12)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post

And like you, I can't imagine Muffet isn't also on that same level. I think your last paragraph makes a lot of sense for the dynamic we see on the court.

Your posts are always invaluable. Thanks *
by drmurray  (2019-02-09 14:07:02)     Delete  |  Edit  |  Return to Board  |  Ignore Poster   |   Highlight Poster  |   Reply to Post