Before each season, the basketball team usually holds a closed-door scrimmage against another school to get some live action against someone other than themselves. This year, that scrimmage took place against Montana in Spokane on Friday night. Details in mainstream media outlets have been light, because per NCAA rules, no media are allowed to attend.
That didn't stop us, however, from getting in touch with someone who was in attendance who was willing to share with us what he* saw transpire against the Griz.
* She? You'll never know! However, going with the generic male reference is just simpler, so we'll stick with that.
It's fantastic stuff from a guy who knows his hoops, and ought to give you a sense of what you'll see out of this team when it tips off for its exhibition game on Monday -- especially in how the team might look a lot different than what we've grown accustomed to over the past six years. Here's what he had to say.
First off, he said Klay Thompson and Nikola Koprivica didn't play. He didn't say why, but thought he heard someone say they were sick. So, any further analysis about style or pace of play has be interpreted in that context.
On offensive tempo: "The first thing you have to take into account is that Klay wasn't playing. They started two young guys, one of which was John Allen, and he was terrible. I mean, average at best. [he the other starter at guard was Marcus Capers, which would make sense]. Once Reggie Moore came in for (Allen), the tempo picked up a lot. That's one of the things Moore will change for the Cougs. He can push the tempo in a controlled fashion."
On whether the Cougs pushed the ball only at opportunity, or pushed with a purpose: "When Reggie got in, it was push with a purpose. When the other kid was in, they didn't push it at all. So I guess that gets back to my original point that with the right personnel in the game, they will want to push, and I think they can push."
On defensive style: "I saw a lot of pack, mostly just standard man to man. They didn't really have a call for it. They just ran it. [Meaning, it was their default, base defense.] Heels to the line, make you shoot over the top. They did do a little more trying to at least contest entry passes and wing passes versus just letting the opponent have it as in years past. They weren't in full denial, as they would still contest shots with their heels at 3-point line.
On mixing it up defensively: "I'd say about 10 to 15 percent of the time picked it up at three-quarter court. That seemed to be a little more of a tactical thing than a style-of-play kind of thing. Montana has a point guard [Anthony Johnson] who is real good, and they were trying to get the ball out his hands. ...
"The one thing I did notice is that they doubled the post every time it went in. Montana had a height advantage; not an athletic height advantage, but just a height advantage. It came right away, every time, and it was called from the bench, but I think his call was more to remind people that they needed to zone up on the back side than being the actual double team call."
On DeAngelo Casto: "He is huge. He's added 10-15 pounds of muscle since I saw him last. While he's yet to add the 15-foot jumper to his game, he's improved around the rim and can score without dunking. He scored six of the first eight points of the scrimmage. He seems to have really improved his touch around the basket to the point where he doesn't have to dunk everything."
On Moore: "Moore handled the opposing guards well on both ends. He was able to penetrate at times even when everybody knew he was going to go to the rim. He was definitely the only guy I saw who could do that for the Cougs. I can see Casto getting some monster dunks this year off of Moore's drives. ...
"I don't remember him taking anything more than a 12- or 15-foot jumper. I think there were two or three times where the shot clock got below 10 and they just went with a high screen and roll and it was his option to either pass or drive, and all three times he got to the rim and either made it or got to the line. He can definitely finish at or above the rim."
On Motum: "Motum was physically impressive in that he's legitimately 6-9 and might just have a 7-0 wingspan. He can step out and hit a three, and is strong on the defensive glass. He was very savvy for a young guy."
On Ken Bone: "I was also genuinely impressed with Bone. The kids seem to like him, and I like the stuff he's running. Everybody who stepped on the floor gave great effort on both ends. ...
"Style wise, it seems like he's trying to play athletically, but without athletes. Reggie fits into that, Casto fits into that ... but it just seemed like they were only one or two athletes better than Montana, who's a good Big Sky school, but certainly not Pac-10. Reggie was obviously the best guard in the gym, but (Montana's) two starters could have played for WSU and fit in -- at least, without Klay in there.
"The impression I left with of the roster as a whole is that they might be a guard short."
That was about it. If you're interested in the final score, he couldn't say exactly, but said the Cougs "won" by double digits. Just remember, though -- Grippi reported last year that the Cougs got run by Bone's Portland State squad. So take these scrimmages for what they're worth.
So, what in here do I think is of note? One of the big things is that Moore is the real deal. (I have no idea why he wasn't starting, but I wouldn't read anything into it.) Anthony Johnson is a very good guard, Big Sky or not, and to say that Moore was obviously the best guard on the floor is really, really saying something. This is a team that desperately needs not only a guy who can penetrate -- Taylor Rochestie could do that -- but a guy who can finish or draw a foul when he gets there.
It doesn't surprise me one bit that Bone would try to mix things up defensively to gain an advantage. For six years, we watched the Bennetts, who believed in their system the way Vince Lombardi believed in his sweep. Their teams were going to do what they do, and believed that their key to success was doing that one thing so ridiculously well that it was sufficient. Adding wrinkles would only confuse the lads and make the bread and butter less effective.
Well, Bone is much more of what you might call a mad scientist -- much more like a guy like Bill Walsh, if we're to continue the football analogy. He's going to look for any possible way to exploit a team's weakness and attack it. That can be both good and bad. When dealing with such a young roster, you run the risk of doing exactly what the Bennetts hoped to avoid: Confusing kids to the point that they become a jack of many trades, but master of none, and thus mediocre overall.
Lastly, the observation of Bone's style versus the roster he has I think is an astute one. Bone said from day one after watching this roster work out last spring that they need more Pac-10 caliber athletes. Coug fans might have bristled at that a bit, given the success we had under the Bennetts. But it makes sense in the context of the way Bone wants to play, although it certainly won't do anything to quell those who wonder if we can even be successful under Bone's system, or whether we need a Bennett-type system to compete in Pullman.
What do I think that means? I think it means that I'd be fairly surprised if you don't see a little bit of roster turnover at the end of this year. I'll be shocked if Patrick Simon is the only freshman next year. They desperately need another big man, and I wouldn't be surprised if they go after another athletic guard, too. I suppose it depends on how certain guys develop.