Maui Invitational Debrief: What We’ve Learned after 3 Games

We wrote about this briefly in our PC-Alabama post game article, but there were some themes that arose in the Friars disappointing trip to the Maui Invitational in Asheville (can’t wait to not use Asheville and Maui in the same sentence). BOC and myself decided to provide you some themes of the squad’s third ever trip to the event.

BOC Takeaways

Shooting is a major concern: The Friars will never be mistaken for a Villanova or Creighton who have a free flowing offense that is aesthetically pleasing to watch. It is what it is and not in their DNA. The Friars have also never been known for their three point shooting. Unfortunately, this perception rings true again after 4 games this year. The Friars are shooting a putrid 24% from 3 this year. More specifically, Bynum and Reeves are 4-31 from 3 on the season.

At some point, the law of averages will take into effect and the shooting will revert somewhat back to the mean, but it begs the question why Cooley is allowing the green light for so many shooters.

Nate Watson needs to be the focal point of the offense: For the past 3 years, the Friar group chat I am in would always have some iteration of a comment like “If only Nate realized how much bigger, stronger, and athletic he was than the competition…”.

Well, that time has come, and Watson has arrived. Not only is Nate producing at an incredible level (averaging 18.5 points/game this season), the lightbulb seems to have gone off mentally. He now realizes there aren’t many opponents who can match him when it comes to the height, weight, and speed in which he possesses. That’s a huge development.

Moving forward, it is clear the offense needs to run through him in order for the Friars to have the greatest probability of success. The shooting isn’t there, and I question if it ever will be this season. The Friars are best served continually feeding the ball into the paint and getting Nate a touch every offensive possession. Even if he isn’t making a bucket every trip, he can draw fouls on the opposition and/or kick it out for an open look. We just need to hope the players around him are ready to hit those wide open looks after he gets doubled in the paint.

Defense is Lacking: To be clear, I think Davidson, Indiana, and Alabama are quality teams, potentially all NCAA tournament teams. With that said, the Friars got the doors blown off them in 2 of the 3 games they played in. Cooley was always able to claim his team’s defense would keep them in every game, even if the offense wasn’t there. That wasn’t the case in Asheville.

If the Friars are going to turn this around, they need to step up their defense in a massive way. It is the only way they can secure an NCAA bid because, at this point, it is foolish to expect an offensive revitalization.

Rotation Clarity is Lacking: Who deserves more minutes? Who deserves less minutes? Does anybody have more confidence in the role players after Maui?

Folks will say Breed earned more minutes, but it is easy to come into a game down 20 with no pressure when the other team knows they’ve already secured the W.

The only consistents in the starting line-up should be Duke and Watson. From there, you can make an argument that any of Bynum, Reeves, or Gantt should be relegated to the bench for somebody else due to their lackluster play. The question is, “Who?”. Nobody has that answer, and that is concerning.

Crier Takeaways

All About The 3: The Friars shot a putrid 17% from downtown in 3 games in Asheville. Yet the Friars still averaged 19 three point attempts a night. Despite fans thinking our offense is terrible, we still rank a respectable 60th in adjusted offensive efficiency per KenPom. Certainly, that ranking is lower if you don’t include the Fairfield game but still it’s significant. So to me this says the Friars just have to shoot a few less threes (didn’t this happen last year??). The 3-point shot attempts have truly hurt what can be an efficient Friar offense and it has a trickle down effect.

Inconsistent Defense: Defense is usually an Ed Cooley coached basketball team hangs their hat on and this current roster should be no different. Yet the Friars have shown to be an inconsistent defensive team. Believe it or not their adjusted offensive efficiency is higher than their adjusted defensive efficiency right now, as KenPom has them ranked 69th (nice). The Crier thinks their 3-point shooting his contributing to the lack luster defense. Missing threes leads to long rebounds and opportunities for transition offense for opposing teams. Remember I mentioned them being tired? They played an unusual amount of zone in the finale because they were gassed and it’s probably because they’re constantly trying defend in transition.

Looking for a 3rd Option: Nate Watson and David Duke have shown us they can consistently produce points for the Friars but they need to find a third option. AJ Reeves and Jared Bynum are our two most likely candidates, yet they’ve been wildly inconsistent. Oh and did I mentioned they’re a combined 4/31 from three this season, cause that’s kind of important. I told you it’s all about the 3 for the Crier.

Get a Turnover, Give a Turnover: My last theme is a dumb one and doesn’t have to do with the 3 but it is driving me nuts. In every game this season and it happened a handful of times in the Maui the Friars get a steal only to instantly throw it back to the other team. If it happens against Fairleigh Dickinson Saturday I’m just going to lose it.

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