So I handed him my bottle
And he drank down my last swallow
Then he bummed a cigarette
And asked me for a light
And the night got deathly quiet
And his faced lost all expression
He said, “If you’re gonna play the game
You gotta learn to play it right
You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done
Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away
And knowin’ what to keep
‘Cause every hand’s a winner
And every hand’s a loser
And the best that you can hope for
Is to die in your sleep”
Gambling and getting out of position is the death knell of quality halfcourt defense. It’s like warm Stella. It’s still there, but it is distractingly not good. However there’s a certain amount of gambling that goes with havoc–it MUST go with havoc–and understanding that line of knowing when to hold ’em, and knowing when to fold ’em is what this team is still learning.
It’s particularly tough for Briante Weber, whose aggressiveness and willingness to count his money at the table–and your money, too–is the most critical facet in his effectiveness. Mo Alie Cox represents its alter ego. If Cox tries to block every shot in sight, he is in the air and out of position to box out for rebounds.
Quick feet and quick hands are the assets, and the line of demarcation in every hand being a winner and a loser resides between the ears.
This particular group of marauders beat VCU last year. My memory tells me it was the most listless game I saw VCU play, Jordan Burgess not included. However Rams were able to put a short-stint whoopin’ on Northern Iowa and took a three-point lead in the middle stages of the second half. The Panthers were tough and up to the challenge, and pulled away for the win.
Northern Iowa enters That Animal 9-0 and ranked 23rd nationally. The most impressive wins: Richmond, Virginia Tech, and Northwestern.The Panthers are a top 15 offensive team so understanding that line of holding and folding will be critical.
The star is Seth Tuttle, who wasn’t particularly devastating in last year’s game. Tuttle is the real deal. He averages 16ppg and has pure basketball skill: he can pass; he can shoot; he is quietly effective with his body; and he has a good head on his shoulders. The guy I think is the wild card is combo guard Wes Washpun. This kid is very athletic and can score–he matches up physically with VCU. However Washpun has both struggled from the field this year, and he can get reckless.
The backcourt duo of Deon Mitchell and Matt Bohannon play well off of each other. Mitchell plays low-to-the-ground and is strong, while Bohannon is a toe-the-line three-point shooter. Containment is the key here. Marvin Singleton is a hard-nosed post player at 6-6 and the ultimate 6 points, 7 rebounds guy. Nate Buss dropped 16 on us last year and plays a role.
Jeremy Morgan hit three threes in last year’s game, and I remember one of them being a particularly big shot. He was a freshman then, and even though Morgan is 5-21 from three this year, look out. Virginia transfer Paul Jesperson is similar: he is a big time shooter who has averaged 11ppg in his past three games for Northern Iowa. Jesperson is shaking off that transfer rust.
In many ways, this game is the ultimate test of defensive progress. Northern Iowa is an offensive juggernaut, really, and has the ability to take advantage of defensive lapses. Similarly, when VCU has the ball the Rams should be able to push pace and more importantly find its own holes to get great shots.
The secret to survivin’ is knowin’ what to throw away, and knowin’ what to keep. In basketball terms: toughness wins out.