COLLEGE BASKETBALL More teams eager to flood floor with guards, not centers
Post moves seem to have all but vanished.
By SKIP MYSLENSKI
CHICAGO -- College basketball is a guard's game. That truism is as obvious as a black eye and supported by the choreographers of the most recent national champions. Last year it was Maryland's Juan Dixon and, before that, Duke's Jay Williams and Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves.
But this season that adage has taken on even greater meaning as any number of ranked teams feature three- and four-guard lineups. Consider, for example, Notre Dame. It is most effective with Chris Thomas, Matt Carroll, Chris Quinn and Dan Miller on the floor, and it hardly matters that the 6-foot-8-inch Miller is nominally listed as a forward. He is an adept outside shooter with a guard's skills.
Indiana's starters include legitimate big men George Leach and Jeff Newton. But when one of them goes to the bench, the Hoosiers' lineup then includes a quartet culled from the mix of Bracey Wright, Tom Coverdale, Marshall Strickland, Kyle Hornsby and A.J. Moye, guards all.
Kentucky uses Gerald Fitch, Keith Bogans and Cliff Hawkins together, and Duke uses Chris Duhon, Daniel Ewing and J.J. Redick.
Part of the reason for this phenomenon is that ancient truism, but there's more to it now.
"No one wants to be a post player anymore," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "It's almost illegal. They think they'll get stuck there. In the NBA, everyone tells you if you're 6-9, you've gotta be a small forward. If you're 6-4, you've got to be a point guard, you can't be a (shooting) guard. They want to move you one position."
"There's a lack of quality big men throughout every level of basketball," DePaul coach Dave Leitao added. "If a guy's a (power forward), you have to tell him in some respects, 'I'll work to get you to play (small forward).' They see the NBA, they see guys 6-8 and 6-9 on the perimeter and they envision themselves there. ...
"If you look at what's happened to basketball with the three-point shot, everyone thinks it's so valuable. But individually, you're at your best when you can score points, whether it's two or three. They think if you're standing out there making shots, you'll be especially valuable, so you've got 6-8, 6-9 guys weighing 240 pounds out there trying to do that when they should get their rear ends on the block and muscle through people.
"But there aren't that many guys who do that. Nobody teaches that. The game is played at 20 feet or at the rim, and by the rim I mean spectacular plays, drives. It's not post moves, it's not 15-footers, it's not those kinds of fundamental things, which is the art of basketball. We don't have the fundamental guys like we used to have."
For an example, Leitao pointed to former Notre Dame and NBA star Adrian Dantley as someone "who made a career out of being a 6-4 post player. There just aren't those kinds of guys anymore."
School of hard knocks
While preparing for its Horizon League season, to say nothing of its Thursday game with DePaul, Loyola stepped up in class and took on Charlotte of Conference USA, Colorado of the Big 12 and, most notably, Michigan State of the Big Ten. One reason for that type of scheduling, of course, is the money to be made. But there is another.
"When you play teams like this, you get a lot of your weaknesses exposed," explained Ramblers coach Larry Farmer, whose team lost all those games. "When you play a team like Michigan State, it helps a coach reinforce things like, for example, rebounding, valuing the ball, good shot selection, getting back on defense, all those things. So from our standpoint, I think our guys get a valuable education with a game like this."