Wednesday, March 25, 2009

UTSA almost shocks the world!

The UTSA Women's Basketball team almost made history. No #15 seed has ever beaten a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the Lady Roadrunners came extremely close. The eventual loss in overtime was a great showing on the national stage and should do wonders for recruiting. The main topic of discussion by the announcers was the play of UTSA guards, Monica Gibbs and Amber Gregg.

Gregg finished with 23 points and Gibbs ended up with 16. Coach Fran Franshilla spent a considerable amount of time talking about how strong the two guards were with dribble penetration. The UTSA backcourt wreaked havoc on the Baylor defense by constantly attacking. Franschilla mentioned a very obvious strategy in guarding Southland Conference Player of the Year, Gibbs. He repeatedly encouraged the Bears defense to force Gibbs to her right hand. Any UTSA basketball fan or observer will know that Gibbs favors her left hand. Franschilla continuously praised Gibbs and her ability,but questioned the Baylor strategy of not forcing Gibbs to her right . Here are a few thoughts on that:

-Gibbs Can Play- Monica Gibbs can play. Every Division 1 coaching staff in the country has numerous assistant coaches on its staff. These coaches are responsible for providing scouting reports of future and potential opponents. Video, TIVO, Internet Streamlining, and many technological advances ensure that there are no secrets at that level. You can be sure that the Baylor coaching staff had thoroughly scouted the Lady Roadrunners and their strategy included forcing Gibbs to her right hand. The problem with that plan is that, Gibbs has spent more time working on her left hand than the Bears defense has spent on forcing her right. To say Gibbs is athletic is an understatement. At 5'10, she jumps center and wins tips on a frequent basis. She reportedly runs in the 50 second range in the 400 meters and has been rumored to dunk on occasions. I do not know if that is true but I saw how the easily she blew by the Baylor guards and imposed her will. Admittedly, she did not have the best shooting night but if a few more of her forays to the basket were finished, the Bears season would have been over. Every NBA team during the late 80's and early 90's knew that Michael Jordan favored his right hand when driving. They also knew that he loved to get to the elbows and elevate for his jumper. This so-called knowledge did little to help them stop Jordan. Great players impose their will and Gibbs showed the basketball world that she is a great college basketball player.

-Rae Rippetoe-Blair can coach- For those of you who do not know, Leon Barmore (assistant Women's Basketball Coach at Baylor) is a coaching legend. He still holds the NCAA record for best winning percentage and is a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. Baylor Coach, Kim Mulkey was unfortunately hospitalized for the game against UTSA and Barmore took over. Mulkey, also a member of the Womens' Basketball Hall of Fame, left her team in the hands of a legend. Coach Rippetoe-Blair had her team ready for the upset. Coach Blair ran her usual sets of high pick and roles to help free Gibbs but also ran the Dribble Drive Motion. The DDM, made famous by the Memphis Men's Basketball team, was originated by Vance Walberg and capitalizes off of players that can put the ball on the floor and create. Coach Blair incorporated this offense to use the strengths of Gibbs and Greggs to get to the basket. One of the philosophies of the offense is , 3's or dunks. The offense is designed to open up the driving lanes for finishes at the rim or wide open 3 pointers. UTSA sophomore sharpshooter, Jordan Starks, excelled in this game because of her ability to hit from deep and Coach Blair putting her in a position to succeed. The ironic thing is that Commentator/Coach Franschilla has a version of the DDM himself and yet I barely heard a mention of how well UTSA ran this offense to almost upset Baylor. Coach Blair, Southland Conference Coach of the Year, and her staff did a great job in preparing her kids. On that night, she matched wits with a legend and more than held her own. Blair did a wonderful job of adjusting her system to fit her players. She does not have a dominant post, no disrespect to Onika Anderson, she adopted a system that suited her players. Some may say, what is the big deal about that? Some coaches refuse to tweak their system to highlight the strengths of the players that they have. They are system coaches. Coach Blair's name will probably be on the lips of more than a few AD's this April.

-The dribble is a great equalizer- Dribble penetration allows good players to compete with great ones. No one can claim that Steve Nash is athletic or physically gifted in regards to basketball. Of course he is big, strong and fast when compared to the average man but in NBA terms, he is quite the opposite. His hand eye coordination and basketball IQ is among the best but, it is his mastery of dribbling that allows him to shine. Nash can see plays develop before they actually happen partly because of his ability to anticipate. His anticipation skills are a direct result of him being able to dribble effectively. Nash is a master of multi-tasking. Great ball handlers can concentrate on other things around them because the dribbling of the basketball has become second nature to them . Dribbling is almost an afterthought to Nash and this allows him to focus on player movement, defensive strategy and other important facets of the game. Good ball handlers are like running backs in football. They get from point A to point B by using the dribble. They attack, advance, and dictate the game with their ability to put pressure on the defense through the dribble. The UTSA guards and coaching system showed the nation that effective dribbling can help Davids slay Goliaths. Unfortunately, the Lady Roadrunners needed a few more stones.