A Quick Non-Basketball Opening
As you may have noticed, our basketball preview coverage was non-existent this fall... and that was no accident. Our “wait and see” approach was very much a deliberate decision.
College hoops was (and still is) balanced on a knife edge due to its unique challenges unsuited to college football’s “plow ahead and deal with it” approach. Additional teams, additional conferences, compact schedules, and smaller rosters all combine to paint a realllly cloudy picture for our ecosystem. That’s something we’re struggling to reconcile a little bit, and when A&M pulled out of their season-opening tournament as cancellations started rolling in across the country, we were about to shut this sucker down.
Having said all of that... we had basketball yesterday. Where does that leave us?
In short, our coverage is going to look different this year. In the past, we’d do everything we could to introduce you to the new squad ahead of the opening tip. This year... well, this year we’ll learn together. And with a little luck, we’ll keep things rolling straight through March.
Thanks for your patience and understanding.
The Basketball People
On the surface, this may appear to be little more than a paycheck game stomping. But a quick glance around D1 hoops reveals that COVID (and the continued rise of small school basketball) makes these early season games anything but guaranteed.
In that context, this was a really positive afternoon of basketball.
With scorelines like this, people tend to assume that the winner opened with a giant run straight from the opening tip. That’s not exactly how things went down. Both teams started the game shooting poorly (which included a stretch with ten straight A&M misses), and New Orleans actually found themselves clinging to a 13-12 advantage with eight minutes remaining. Had Quenton Jackson (scorer of 13 of our first 16 points) not showed up, we may have found ourselves in a spot of trouble. It had the eerie, plodding feeling associated with many of the Buzz Williams non-conference slugfests from last fall, which made it all the more delightful when we turned on the jets.
Our perimeter defense started to create easy opportunities, and we started to...
hit some shots?
I can’t fully account for this wizardry where one attempts to shoot a basketball from 20+ feet, but we succeeded eight times in the first half. Apparently, you can receive an extra point for such shenanigans.
Halftime Score: Texas A&M 41, New Orleans 24
As is often the case, Buzz had these guys ready to play to start the second half, as we wasted no time extending the lead to 25. From there the game was little more than an exercise in injury management, as we were able to rest our starters while the new guys played out the string.
In all respects, it was everything you’d hope for in a season opener.
Final Score: Texas A&M 82, New Orleans 53
- Through one game, we lead the nation in defensive turnover rate (37.5%) and Free Throw rate (7.3%). Creating turnovers at an elite rate without sending teams to the line... seems good. We should chase that feeling.
- We were 12-27 from beyond the arc, good for a 44% clip and top 25 national ranking. Nobody move. Nobody breathe. Everyone keep doing exactly what you’re doing.
- Quenton Jackson was the star, scoring 28 points on 11-13 from the field. He added 7 rebounds and 3 steals to round out a stellar opening effort.
- Savion Flagg had an interesting afternoon. He only played 16 minutes, but his usage rate was an absurd 48% in those 16 minutes, which currently leads the nation. He filled out the stat sheet with 9 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists. It felt very much like a game where he opted to sit back and save his offensive energy for a different day.
- New guy alert! Hayden Hefner lived up to his billing as our shooter off the bench, drilling three threes in a mostly mistake-free introduction to D1 basketball.
- New guy alert! Hassan Diarra established himself as the freshman most like to see significant rotation time, scoring 14 points (and adding 6 steals) in a very involved 26 minutes.
We have to continue working on making sure the shots we shoot are the shots we ultimately want to be shooting. Which will help out our percentage. We have to continue to make sure on a daily basis we’re doing more than just shooting during practice. I think our staff and kids have done a good job of doing that. Is this what we want to see at the end of every game? Absolutely. Is this something we are going to be able to do each game? That is yet to be determined, but it was for sure an encouraging start today.
I think Q [Quenton Jackson] has been diligent in how he has handled the last eight months when he was away from us. I think since he has been back, he has been diligent in his time on the floor alone and in his individual skill work. I do think he has to be a catalyst for us. So much of what I think Q’s offense is derived from is his energy level and his discipline defensively. When he does what he is supposed to do defensively, I think it translates into his offensive game. Similar to what I said earlier, Q knows the shots he needs to shoot and how we play. When he doesn’t force up shots that we would consider bad, he is going to be even more efficient than he was last year. We are going to need him to be an efficient and efficient player from the perimeter.
I feel like this year’s shooting will be a whole lot better than last year’s. We have a lot more players who are considered shooters this year. Last year, we had people who could play basketball but weren’t shooters per se. I think our identity this year will be a little bit better overall. We’ll be able to play honestly, which means guys like me, Jay Jay (Chandler), Hassan (Diarra) and Andre (Gordon) can get downhill and force the defense to help so we can kick out the shooters who can knock down shots.
I can’t stress this enough — it’s important to view this game in the context of the national landscape. This environment is full of uncertainty and unhappy surprises, and we ignored all of it to put a thrashing on an overmatched opponent.
Next up is a visit from our old friend Billy Clyde Gillispie this Wednesday.
BTHO Tarleton State