Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Slumping offense leading to closer games

New Mexico  State is 1-1 in its last two games, scoring 60 points in a loss to Nevada and a win over Fresno State.

Three games ago, the Aggies scored 87 points in a four-point loss at Hawaii. So what is the ideal pace for this team, which seems to have leveled off a bit from an offensive standpoint.

"We just want to run all day," NMSU junior wing Tyrone Watson said. "We emphasize not running a set or offense. We just want to get the ball and go. If we can score off the fastbreak or transition. I think we let a lot of outside things get to us. Just the fact that we are playing in big games. We kind of fear our opponents a little bit too much and don't play our necessary defense. We don't emphasize it enough to each other, player to player."

Opposing teams have been able to dictate tempo to the Aggies recently, forcing NMSU to play from behind.

"That's how things have shaken out lately. It's tough to play how we want to play when they aren't playing that way. It's hard to force them to play that way when they are playing 3-4-5 different defenses a game," Watson said.

Offensively, it all starts outside, where the Aggies are shooting 28 percent from 3-point range in the WAC. We all knew coming into the season the Aggies weren't going to be a great shooting team. But for whatever reason, the Aggies aren't converting offensive rebounds, opposing turnovers or chances at the free throw line (at least against Fresno State, where NMSU was 7-18) into offense.

NMSU got back into the Hawaii loss and the Nevada loss by increasing the pressure.

"That's our style of play, getting turnovers and forcing them to take quick shots," Watson said. "We are waiting for them to make mistakes but if people are making shots, it's tough to do so we have to just grind it out."

I understand that NMSU doesn't have depth across the board to be able to play that way for an entire game, but I also think NMSU could have pulled away from Fresno earlier by extending their pressure early and then banging away at them on the interior. My first thought, and I doubt that coaches would talk about it, is that the Aggies are saving certain things in the arsenal for the second round through WAC play. Saving legs, saving certain looks.

"I don't know if we have that luxury anymore without the depth that we had earlier in the year," NMSU coach Marvin Menzies said. "Having the two guards out who were quick defenders who could score in the open court. We will still push when we can and look to do that. The full court pressure back to man to man, I think we will have to mix some things up and do some things a little differently and play to our strengths. We still have to make shots. We are trying to pound the ball inside and take advantage of our physical size."

In the meantime, NMSU is facing some variation of zone defense every night, clogging the paint and taking away the drive for players who thrive on it like Watson and Daniel Mullings.

"We add stuff game to game, day to day according to how teams play us," Watson said. "Practicing that stuff has helped. Seeing film and the open spots and how we can be more effective rather than taking early outside shots. When they back down and give us shots, you want to shoot the ball. They are just baiting you. I think we have seen all the defenses that is in basketball so I don't think anything else is going to surprise us."

The Aggies are shooting the ball 46 percent from the field for the season and Wendell McKines (35 percent from 3) and Hernst Laroche (44 percent from 3) are actually decent options from outside. The Aggies need at least one more guy who needs to heat up from here on out.

"I say we have to shoot the ball and that's a given," Menzies said. "The other thing is the free throw line and the turnovers. There are other areas we can shore up I think to give ourselves an advantage."

I asked about Remi Barry on Tuesday, who seems to have taken steps to be able to contribute. Another option is Bandja Sy, who is streaky at best, but is on a downward trend at the moment, shooting 0-10 from 3 prior to the Hawaii game (3-6) and is 1-8 since. The flip side to Sy, is he is much better defensively than Barry at this point.

"Remi still has a ways to go," Menzies said. "He's out of place a lot and is still getting familiar to the system. ... He's getting there. He's not to that point yet where he has a total comfort level but it's coming. I've always said that if he can get on a roll of being consistent of going hard in practice, in the classroom, and get that discipline going, he could be somebody maybe we could look to in the second round of league games. ... There is no doubt. He is in the mix now. We are going to look to, like Tyrone, Bandja, Mullings. Which is good. He's another weapon. The underclassmen are kind of an x factor for us and I think maybe the driving force of how far we go."

To their credit, the Aggies have remained solid defensively, which will keep them in games. But it's hard to count on their ability to win close games when the reality, a lack of offense recently has made some games closer than they should have been.


Anonymous said...

"We emphasize not running a set or offense." --T. Watson

No kidding. It's cringe-inducing watching this team stand around and run nothing that resembles an offense. I'm sure that on Saturday, Coach Lou Henson sat on the Aggies' bench wondering, "This guy makes more than twice the salary I ever made with NMSU? He hasn't taught them to run basic offensive sets because he's convinced they can run off other teams' mistakes? Are you kidding me? In order to do that, you have to teach your team to force the opponent into taking a bad shot, throwing a bad pass, or to be in position to run off of their miss. This $400,000-a-year-coach thinks he has the bigger team therefore the better team. This is not a great coach."

Tonight there are about a dozen of televised NCAA basketball games broadcast (on my cable package, at least). Tune in to any of those games and watch how every team runs different offensive sets. Passing, screening, movement without the ball. If you were watch closely, you'd see that some teams run sets so as to position players for better opportunities at the offensive rebound.

Compare the sets you'll see tonight from the likes of Air Force, UNM, Vanderbuilt, Arkansas, Michigan State, and the University of Northern Iowa against those offensive (pun intended) sets of the NMSU Aggies. There is no comparison. The Menzies-coached squad doesn't run an offense.

Here. I'll prove it to you. The next Aggie you watch, simply train your eyes on Bandja Sy when he's in the game. He'll occupy the left side of the floor. And that's it for his responsibility. The only real action is a high ball-screen.

Now, if you're on the opposing team's coaching staff and you have NMSU upcoming on your schedule, putting together a game-plan ain't exactly rocket surgery (I meant to mix my metaphors). You'd cause all sorts of confusion for this Menzies-led team, if you showed a man defense and feel into a zone. If Watson's in the game, you dare him to shoot; the same holds true for everyone else but LaRoche and McKines.

Again, I'm not here to dishearten the kids. They play very hard and genuinely seem like they want more from their coaching staff. But I've watched Menzies' teams over these last four and a half years, and once the transition game is tempered, they are hard-pressed to score baskets. For YEARS now, his teams look like a group of guys who met a couple of hours before the game, hand out uniforms, and decide who will start and who'll come off the bench. That is, they look like taller versions of the players you'd find participating on the intramural squads.

I hope other people grow tired of Menzies and his highly paid staff robbing the taxpayers of New Mexico of close to a million dollars annually.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:38 - Couldn't have said it better! Anyone who sees it differently isn't paying attention or doesn't know much about basketball.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Anons 7:38 and 10:14, I am tired of this unsubstantiated crap you continue to throw out. Last night Michigan State could not run any set plays, mostly because they were missing Green for most of the game, and we are missing two players. Perhaps that game was not on your cable, but it was on mine. You also state that NMSU basketball is squandering a million dollars a year. Back up these figures or shut up. Sign your rants as well. You also speak like the Aggies have not won any games, check it out they are 15-7 with a good RPI. I am just tired of these inaccuracies and poor posts.
Big Al

Anonymous said...

1. Missed free throws 2. Poor outside shooting. 3. Turnovers.

Do two of three and the games will be close. Do three of three and you are going to lose most all of your games.

Anonymous said...

Big Al,

vs. RPI 1-100 14-41
vs. RPI 101-200 25-19
vs. RPI 201-300 30-4
vs. RPI 301+ 16-0

First, of all one can build a "good" RPI by playing a bunch of good teams, but losing to them all. Yup, 15-7 with wins against a bunch of bad teams. Beat the Lobos, UTEP, and Utah St. and haven't beaten anyone else of merit this year (and UTEP and Utah St. have an RPI of 155 and 143, hardly good). And from the stats above good wins are few and far between.

The bottom line is that Menzies has a winning record because he beats a lot of bad teams, but flops 75% of the time against good teams.

Maybe, Marvin will be prepared for the zone he will face tonight. I doubt it though because the previous 2 games he wasn't.

Did I substantiate it enough for you?


Anonymous said...

Using the RPI opponent figures above, it appears that we are better (over the last 5 years) than almost all of the 200+ squads, better than about 60% of the 100-200 squads, and only successful about 30% of the time against teams 100 or better. I would guess that our peers, those we are roughly equal with performance-wise cluster in the 80-120 range. So Aggie basketball is somewhere around a top 100 program. From the most recent data, we spend 2.5M on basketball, good for 108th in the country. It appears we are getting what we pay for. Imagine that.

Anonymous said...

Just like the cancer that Kabango was, we have alot of fair weather fans that are cancer. Kabango is gone now you cancer negative fans be gone.

Anonymous said...

So I guess I should be satisfied with beating bad teams and rarely beating good teams. Because you know... you get what you pay for.

The problem with anon 1:24's logic is this. The hope was that at "bargain" price Marvin could take that next step. I think it is now clear that won't happen. So, it is time to try to find that bargain guy that will eventually take that next step because 5 years in we are still the same poorly coached team.

I realize we can't go get a high priced coach, but settling for a guy that has proven he can't take the program to the next level makes no sense. Time to move on to the next guy. And yes I realize there is no money for a buyout, but for the life of me I cannot figure out why Marvin got a 1 year extension following last year's losing season!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Anon 1:41 has spoken.

When you can back up your words, come back. Otherwise, the Aggies are what they are, underachievers with a coach who can recruit but can't coach.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:38,
Opposing coaches don't even have to watch film. What are you doing detailing how to beat the Aggies on the internets (mispelling intended)? Google "Shatner" and "1986 SNL Host."
How much is it worth to have Tony Freaking Delk sitting on the good guys bench?

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:56,

Twenty-one points ought to be enough for anybody.

-Bill Gates

Was last year a losing season (w/o Wendell). Was it?

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:56 last year's record 16-17, and next year will be without Wen too. So, should I expect a losing season next year too?

Anonymous said...

My point was not that you should be happy with losses or wins over bad teams (though we will be playing plenty of bad teams going forward just due to conference affiliation, and I'd rather beat them than lose to them) but that our performance under Menzies is entirely in line with what would be expected given the resources available.

Of course, we can always hope for more as basketball fans, and we could even move forward with a new coach hoping for that next-level performance, but when one compares basketball expenditures with winning, the clear suggestion is that we are looking at a 10-15% chance that the next coach is better, a 30-40% chance that the next coach is worse, and 35-40% chance that the results are essentially the same.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:05,

We do wish for more. Maybe the reality is the team is what it is. Occasionally it wins the WAC or WAC tourney. Once in 10 years it makes to the NCAA tourney.

Maybe its the football team that drives the desire for more. That team has been so bad for so long that even moderately bad is a breath of fresh air. Maybe our hopes are being raised because of the possibilities there...

Anonymous said...

I get tired of people describing anyone that doesn't praise Menzies as "fair-weathered fans." I'm 40 years old and grew up in Las Cruces and I have been a lifelong Aggie fan and I think Menzies is a horrible coach. I don't live in Las Cruces anymore but I still spend a small fortune traveling home to Las Cruces every year, using my vacation time from work on supporting Aggie athletics....the thing that really annoys me the most is the people that describe others as "fair weathered fans" are 19, 20 year old punks that aren't even natives of Las Cruces or NM for that matter. Most of you aren't even old enough to know what a real Aggie fan is. You can't even remember who was coach before Reggie Theus. You think because you spend a few bucks for a couple semesters of classes at NMSU that all of the sudden you are experts on NM State basketball and the tradition.

Anon 7:38 is 100% right and I am not a fair weathered fan!!