Thursday, March 26, 2009

Grading Buzz Williams

Now that the bitterness has subsided a bit, I thought it made sense to hand out some grades to the new helmsman of the H.M.S. Avalanche/Hilltopper/Warrior/Golden Eagle/Gold/Golden Eagle.

Offensive Philosophy – B-
MU played a variety of ways offensively in 2008-2009. The season started with some crazy run and gun games, but then settled into a more standard MU tempo – running when available in the rugged Big East. In the first half of the Big East season, MU had great ball movement and some pretty passing out of Buzz’s motion(ish) offense. In the second half of league play, things started to devolve into more of a one or two man show with Wes or Jerel just driving and slashing. Nic’s injury further contributed to this approach. Buzz did a great job of getting Wes more involved in the offense and we saw a couple aborted post moves this year (sweet fancy Moses!). Overall, not a bad job, just getting rid of the dribble hand-off was huge. Next year will be interesting and getting a big will show Buzz’s full offensive philosophy.

Defensive Philosophy - F
The defense this year was atrocious, bar none. The lack of defense production was a glaring and often embarrassing. This goes beyond the James injury or the lack of an inside presence. Despite returning the core players from a solid defensive team, MU’s KenPom defensive ranking fell from #10 to #51. Methinks Ousmane wasn’t that important. Specific defensive breakdowns cost MU at the end of the game against Villanova and Missouri. Embarrassing ESPN beatdowns at the hands of Nova and Pittsburgh also stick out. Buzz is willing to switch defenses, which is a sound approach, but additional focus needs to be placed on solid, non-gambling man-to-man defense. As much as I hate to say it, we need to play Badger defense. Conservative, keep your man in front of you and force the opponent to take contested jump shots.

Player Development – B
The Big 4 all took major strides forward this year. ‘Nic was a better floor general. Wes’s overall game jumped forward. ‘Rel developed a solid jumper. Lazar was a rebounding machine. Additionally, Jimmy Butler really started coming on at the end of the year. Buzz certainly had a huge hand in all of this. Why isn’t the grade higher? Why/how did Cubillan suddenly suck? He was a spark plug off the bench the past two years, but he never saw the floor this year.

Game Preparation – C+
Too many slow starts for my taste. A common theme developed where MU dug a hole and expended too much energy to dig out of it – Villanova, Missouri. Many opponents had HUGE first halves, only to see MU bury them in the second half – Georgetown, West Virginia, Wisconsin.

In-Game Adjustments - B
The switching defenses were a nice change and Buzz held his own with timeout-to-timeout adjustments. The zone he threw against UW was crucial as was the small-ball against PC and ND. Good work.

Late Game Situations - D
Too difficult to recount, actually. Buzz needs to value possessions more in end of game situations. He seems overly concerned about the clock and bleeding as much time as possible off, sacrificing a potential shot. Buzz’s emotional outbursts are also a concern, does that lack of a cool, calm presence affect the players? That really appeared to be the case.

Recruiting – A-
I’m not the expert here. Recruiting keeps me out. A #18 recruiting class is impressive, but in all fairness, Buzz had a ton of playing time to sell. His 2010 class will be a much better indicator.

Public Relations – B
It’s such a bonus to have a coach that is respected by the general public in Milwaukee. People HATED Crean. Buzz doesn’t have the national media connections, but really, what did that bring Crean (outside of an annual, undeserved raise based off Andy Katz’s mancrush drum beat for Crean to take X or Y job)? I’ve tired of Buzz’s “aw shucks, humble” approach, but it plays well in general. His blow-up with Jimmy Mac is a concern, though it was overblown in the media and on the message boards.


Rubie Q said...

I know I've harped on this to death, but it's my only gripe with Buzz: throwing that three-quarters court, zone-trap defense out there after Dom went down was complete lunacy. At a time when 'Rel is forced, more than ever, to expend a tremendous amount of energy creating his own shots on the offensive end, we've got him sprinting from sideline to sideline on D.

For that mistake alone, he gets knocked down to a "C" in game prep and in-game (or, more accurately, in-season) adjustments.

Disagree with the developing players grade. I think he gets an A- there. The changes in Dom's game and Wesley's game were nothing short of remarkable. Jimmy Legs, billed as a scorer/shooter when he came in, developed into a menace on the offensive glass and defended players six inches taller than him on defense. Cubie doesn't bother me; that he wasn't recovered from his off-season surgeries was apparent from the minute he stepped on the court. He just got too far behind the curve this year. That happens with injury.

EMoney said...

Good topic D3. Overall I agree with yours and Rub's comments. In regards to defensive philosophy, I'm hesitant just to say that their droppoff in defensive efficiency was due to coaching. I think a HUGE reason for our dropoff was:

1. No depth - we started off the year playing really well. Got off to a 9-0 start in the Big East and was the #1 scoring team in the Big East at that point. Our tempo gave our opponents extra possessions, and therefore more points. Further, due to the large minutes that James, Jerel, Wes, and Lazar were playing each game cost them energy wise in my opinion. All of them increased their mpg by roughly 7-9 min's when compared to last year. Fresher legs means better footwork on defense. That can't be argued.

2. After losing Dom, our depth went from 0 to negative. Jerel and Wes (our 2 best defenders at this point) somehow increased their mpg, and as we all know expelled alot more energy on the offensive end trying to create for themselves.....again making them a more tired and therefore lazy on defense.

Conclusion - In my mind, this is a big part of why this team could not hold late game leads. I distinctly remember the last play of the Villanova game and the foul that put Mizzou up front for good....guys standing around watching the play happen. The Crean departure absolutely killed a team that already had little depth. Therefore due to all of the circumstances throughout the year, I give him a slight benefit of the doubt but still give him a C rather than an F. It's hard to judge until 1. he has a full roster and 2. he has his own players.