Q&A with Duane Grasmick of Mountain West Connection
Thanks to Duane who writes for MWC about the Air Force sports teams for answering a few of my questions! Texas Tech plays the Falcons at 1 PM on Sunday. You can check out MWC for my Q&A with Duane this weekend. Let's get started...
Tubby Smith mentioned that the Falcons execute the Princeton style offense “as well as anyone in the country”. Can you describe what it is that makes the offense run by Air Force so hard to defend?
Air Force still includes a lot of Princeton principles in their offense, but they play at a faster pace than they have in the past. The reason this current team has found some success this season is due to their outstanding shooting. Before the Colorado game, the Falcons were shooting over 50% from the three point line. Colorado is long and athletic and really disrupted the entire flow of the Falcons offense. That has been the only time this season where the team wasn't able to produce points, including a horrible stretch where they went 10 minutes without scoring and having the Buffaloes go on a 25-0 run to put the game out of reach in the first half. The key for the Falcons will be getting their 6'9 forward Marek Olesinski going. He hasn't played up to his normal caliber early in the season. His game is built around pulling the best post defender away from the basket with his outside shooting. Once he gets going, the Falcons will be even more dangerous on offense.
Max Yon was on fire to start the season up until the Colorado game. It looks like he can make a shot from anywhere on the court. What makes him such a special player?
Yon entered the game with Colorado averaging 17.5 point a game and leading the Mountain West Conference in scoring. The good thing about Yon is he is not a volume scorer, meaning he doesn't need a lot of shots to score. He plays within himself and takes what is available. He is just as willing to lead the team in assist as he is be the leading scorer. He only took 5 shots against Colorado, and while in a lot of ways that hurt the team, he really is an unselfish player. He played really well off of Tre' Coggins last season, but Coggins transferred this summer and Yon is breaking in some freshman guards who will be really good in the future of the program, but right now the team is still trying to find itself and its identity.
What can we expect to see on the defensive side of the ball from Air Force in the game against the Red Raiders?
Air Force is pretty vanilla on defense. They mostly play man but do mix in a match-up zone from time to time. They are undersized in the paint, and against Colorado they double and triple teamed Josh Scott. They have struggled defensively, twice giving up over 50% shooting from the three-point line to opponents (Army and Colorado). They have incorporated some full and three-quarter presses into their attack this year. They played a good second half against the Buffaloes by pressuring full court so that is something they might put their hat on more as the season progresses.
After the Loyola-Maryland game...
Texas Tech's bench outscored the Greyhounds 38-19...
"That's our strength, we have to do it as a team. We play a lot of guys. We try to wear them down." - Coach Tubby Smith
"Just getting a body on people, just boxing out and rebounding, that was key because they were killing us on the board... Once we got more physical, we got better." - Norense Odiase
After the LSU game...
"We made some very costly mistakes at the end of the game when we had the chance to put them away... We still had a shot to win the game, and we settled for a 3-point shot. We have some things to work on and improve on. I was very impressed with LSU. They kept their composure." - Coach Tubby Smith
"We came out and weren't shooting well so we had to turn it up on defense... You can't ever have a bad night if you keep playing defense." - LSU PG Josh Gray
After the Missouri State game...
“We shot it well... That was the key to winning the game. We shot the ball in the first half, 52 percent, is the most consistent shooting we’ve had.” - Coach Tubby Smith
“If you see a loose man, go find him and put a body on him,” Williams said. “Box him out. If he’s close to the rim, push him under the backboard. If he’s on the perimeter, keep him on the perimeter.” - Devaugntah Williams
After the Northwestern State game...
You were in control for most of the game, but it was pretty sloppy here and there. How did you handle it with the young team after?
"I just told them you must have been thinking too much about the butterball turkeys cause you weren’t concentrated on the game. A lot of it has to do with your opponent. I got to give it to Northwestern. They got a big kid that’s sitting out right now and once he’s eligible, they’re going to be a tough team to handle. I tried to warn our players that I was watching the Oklahoma game and it was a twenty point game and before you bat an eye it was down to 12. So I know they were capable of doing it. Whenever you play a game at this stage, right before you break before Thanksgiving, over the years I’ve found it’s hard to keep players focused." - Coach Tubby Smith
What was so tough about defending their three-man-weave offensive setup?
"Those guys are good, taking the ball off the bounce, you can tell they practice that a lot. Like we said they get up and down and you really have to contain their guards – they have really good guards. So you always have to be on your toes to play defense, it really forces you to play some on-ball defense, have some heart, and stop a guy." - Rob Turner
What forced you all to shoot a little bit better in the second half than the first half?
"We just attacked more. We got easy buckets, dunks – I mean you’re going to shoot a higher percentage if you’re dunking the ball. We just attacked and were aggressive from the start." - Randy Onwuasor
Out of all the stats through these first few games there is one thing that sticks out to me the most and that is our free throw percentage. We rank #232 in all of the country and that is something we must improve on. Maybe it's just early season jitters that are messing with the young guys heads, but shots from the charity stripe should be just repetition from practice for the team. If we are in close contests and are looking for any type of advantage our free shots need to be makes. We should get better in this category as the season moves along and the guys get more settled into the flow of the college basketball games.
Also, our shooting percentage is still worrisome from the fact through 4 games we are only hitting 42% of shots from the field. That is ranking us at #212, and again maybe some of this is the rust from the offseason. Or it could be nerves from the young guys gaining experience in real live D-1 games. I look forward to the squad to get more into a rhythm as the season goes on with their shots.