Our team is constantly improving. We will be deeper and better than last year in all phases, except for one glaring problem.
Defensive rebounding and protecting the paint.
We can mask this issue against 75% of our opponents. A10 schools and other smaller programs are generally undersized anyway, so a skinny perimeter oriented lineup won't hurt us. It's against the high major schools where the size differential really comes into play. Remember Memphis last year? They crushed us on the glass in the first half. If we play a team with a couple of big 6'10" guys we might be in trouble.
KevLar: While he is highly skilled and we are super lucky to have him, has never really been a prolific rebounder. He's more of an offensively minded back to the basket finesse power forward than a backline eraser. Zeke last year did the dirty work inside. KevLar has the size and strength to be that defensive and rebounding presence, but it's a lot to put on his plate if he has to do all that alone, while putting up double figure points. This year is really going to test him. If he picks up two quick fouls or gets hurt, there's no one to replace him. With Zeke he never had to shoulder defensive and rebounding responsibilities like he will the next two years.
The 1-3-1: Our length and glut of skilled perimeter small forwards and physical guards really makes this defense a perfect fit. We can cause serious matchup problems and take teams out of their game. However, anyone savvy in basketball 101 knows zone defense's biggest flaw,
Rebounding. With no set matchups rebounds become 50/50 balls, and when we have a skinny undersized lineup grabbing those boards will be problematic. You can play your tail off for 35 seconds, but if you can't board, it doesn't matter.
Kopriva: John seems to set a great example and is a great locker room guy. His skills are improving and like I mentioned above, he should be fine against 75% of our opponents. The A10 and bottom feeders in the non-conference. However, from the cold hearted perspective of an uninformed GM, he lacks the physical tools to compete at a high enough level for our program to beat upper eschelon opponents. Can he finish at the rim in traffic against a team with legitimate size? I haven't seen it? Can he seal the glass? Can he preotect the rim when the zone breaks down? John, you seem like a nice guy, I wish you all the best. Stick this on your bulletin board and prove me wrong. I hope you do.
The Biggest Concern: We don't have anyone coming in who I view can fix the "Rim Protector Problem." We don't have any open scholarships to fix this void for our big year in 2015-16. All of our big men who can help KevLar anchor the paint for that year, Cimino, Cavanaugh, and Goss aren't the "Rim Protector Types." (I excluded Yuta becaus he seems more like a SF than a PF) Goss is a project who will take years to develop. He likely won't see the floor much as a freshman. As for the other three, they are all really perimeter players, who are rail thin and most importantly, have never had to shoulder rebounding/paint protection responsibilties. Expectations for that year will be high and if we play a tough high major opponent with a three or four 6-10, 7 foot guys, which is not uncommon, it would take a heck of a coaching job by ML to fix that problem. When we recruit bigs it takes them a couple years to develop. That's the reality of the kids we can get. There's no real plug and play option for us for big men. Any 5th year transfer who can do that will have serious high major offers. To make an NCAA run that we all dream about, we have to be able to beat teams that will be much bigger than us. We don't have to be as big, I just see our current roster for the next couple seasons and wonder if the size gap is simply too large.
I love this team and don't want to rip them. I hope they prove me wrong. That's just an objective analysis I wanted to share. This has been a big concern of mine regarding this team. I wanted to hear from you all on this topic as well.