It’s December Already?!

Where have the last few months gone? I feel like just last week our players were arriving on campus to start the school year, I was preparing not to sleep anymore in anticipation of my baby being born and Randy Moss was still in New England enjoying their catered team meals prior to being traded and cut to his 3rd team this year. I can’t believe it’s December already!  Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? My wife is going today to, as she says, “Shop till she drops.” I on the other hand, told her she better be careful because if she is at the mall too long she’ll have been shopping till she gets dropped!

Anyway, last night we capped off the month of November with a solid win over a quality Middle Tennessee State University team. Coming off a good win vs. Villanova and our players preparing for finals, this game was the perfect “let down” game. You see it all the time. Shoot, ask UConn if they wish they would have had a better focus during their preparation prior to barely beating New Hampshire last night. It’s human nature to relax just a little bit and not have the same level of urgency when going from playing a highly ranked opponent on a national stage to a non-ranked mid-major opponent. Thus, prior to last night’s game Coach Pearl addressed this concern with the team.

He pointed out to the team that a player can’t survive and our team can’t be successful in this system if they do not play with energy and passion. The defensive principles and fast breaking offense we teach relies greatly on our players commitment to constantly slide, sprint and cut to the right position. Our players are taught to give it their all when they are out on the floor knowing that the other guy playing their position will come in for them, give them a breather, give it their all while they are on the court and then sub out when they get too tired. Our starters might not be the best player in the country at their position BUT we believe if everyone gives their ultimate effort and mental focus while they are on the floor our combinations of Melvin and Trae at point guard, Scotty and Skylar at the 2, Cameron and Renaldo at the 3, Tobias and Steven at the 4 and Brian, John and Kenny at the 5 can compete with anybody in the country. Coach Pearl went on to talk about how it only takes one guy on a possession to relax, get out of position and enable our opponent to score because of their breakdown. The question was asked, “Do you really want to be that guy?”

Our guys had pretty good energy last night. We dominated them on the boards, shot more than 50% from the field and gave good effort defensively holding them to just over 40% shooting from the field. However, there are always things that we need to improve on. Re-watching the game from last night, it’s apparent that we need to be sharper with our offensive execution. Our movement over all was decent but our spacing and screening was atrocious. For our offense to be successful we need each guy to execute their role in every play call. If their role is to set a down-screen, they better set a physical down-screen. If their role is to come off the down-screen and shoot, they better wait for the screen and sprint off the screen for the shot. If their role is to simply stand in the corner, they better stand in the corner in the exact spot we have taught, ready to shoot if the ball comes their way or ready to go get the offensive rebound if their teammate shoots it. In addition, we still need to get better at communicating on the defensive end. When referring to communication we always say it must be done “Early, Loud and Continuous.” It’s amazing how many mistakes can be erased if we communicate in that manner. Bottom line is we need to keep moving forward and working to build upon the improvements we have made over the last few weeks.  If we don’t, our opponents will and come March we will be left behind wondering what happened, where did the last few months go?


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About Mark Pancratz's Blog

A native of Schaumburg, Ill., Mark Pancratz played Division I basketball at UW-Milwaukee, earning his degree in marketing and finance. He joined Tennessee's staff in 2006 as a graduate assistant, earning his master's degree in sports management later that year. Serving as a G.A., director of video scouting and assistant to the head coach, Pancratz was an integral part of Tennessee's six-consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. At 26, Pancratz boasts an impressive 18 games of NCAA Tournament experience as a player and/or administrative staff member. He is a member of the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame and voted one of the 100 Legends of Illinois High School Basketball. Pancratz resides in Knoxville and is married to the former Brooke Waddell.
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