The View from the Armchair (Game 2 vs FEU)

A season like no other

A 0-2 start to the season is unusual, but this is not your typical year. A second straight double-digit loss. Uncharted territory for a team mentored by Franz Pumaren.

The bad news

Another game where the Archers shot horribly. Threw the ball away several times due to errors or miscues. Passed up open outside shots, only to travel after the ball fake. Had 6 shots blocked, but was unable to block any FEU shots in return. Uncharacteristically made 18 turnovers to only 13 for the opponent.

Sure there were lapses. The Archer defense would make it difficult for FEU to get close to the basket, only to allow FEU to penetrate and score in the last couple of seconds of their shot clock. A botched defensive rotation allowed FEU to score on a Barroca triple off a baseline throw in with only 4 seconds left on the shot clock. The FEU guards also copied the UE tactic of taking their men on the dribble to penetrate the lane and either take it to the hoop or dish off to a waiting teammate under the basket.

There are still some deficiencies on defense, and miscues on offense. These showed the uncertainty and lack of familiarity of the players with each other, reflecting Franz’s statement that the team has not been able to practice as a complete unit due to illness and injury. The offense continued to be out of whack, with a very low shooting percentage from the field. FEU is a more mature team, and their players are probably more talented individually. They have 3 national team players and one national youth standout. They excel in one-on-one plays usually off the dribble. They have good outside shooters. And their inside game is better. The result was not unexpected.

That’s the bad news.

Is there any good news?

The good news? The Archers played better than they did in game 1. The defense showed up for long stretches, though it still wasn’t 40 minutes of the press from hell. The press netted some turnovers. The intensity picked up. Definitely an improvement over the first game.

One positive – defense. They held a strong FEU team to 65 points, the second straight opponent to score these few points. Unfortunately, our offense was misfiring for the second consecutive game, but with more practice time together, that will be quickly addressed. Another positive – the increased intensity of the team, as shown by some players like Ferdinand, Bringas, Marata, Tolentino, Atkins. Six steals, 3 by Ferdinand, showed that the hustle is still there. Foul shooting also improved, and this will have a major impact later on in the season during close games. And finally, the team is starting to show some teamwork.

What could be improved?

Much of the team’s inability to play the usual Archer game is due to their lack of confidence. It shows in the uncertainty on offense. Consistency. Familiarity with each other. Maintaining their focus and concentration throughout the game. Trust in each other. Learning how to play with each other.

It’s a crisis of confidence; the team doesn’t know yet how good they are together. As a result, they play more as individuals rather than as teammates who intuitively know what each will do on the court. Once they gain their confidence, it will be similar to turning on a switch, and the team will begin to play the way we know they can.

One area which will have a dramatic impact is for the team to have more confidence in their shots. We all saw how effective the long shots were during the pre-season, but so far they haven’t been shooting well. They’re missing shots they routinely used to make. Once they regain their confidence, the shots will start falling consistently, and their team’s play will radically improve. And the opponents’ defenses will suddenly look vulnerable.

These aren’t technical but soft skills. They already have the basketball skills, and the job of Franz and his staff is to harmonize these talents to extract the maximum from this young team. Build up their self confidence. Instruct them to ignore the so-called constructive criticism coming from the ranks of the supporters. Remind them of the reason that they’re on this Green Archer team. Get them believing that they will win games and fulfill the potential the coaches saw in the players. And make sure that belief is translated into reality following the plan.

Moving forward, we can probably expect the team to win more games than they lose. But this team is still a work-in-progress, so expect more tinkering by the coaches to fine tune the Archer game. It won’t be pretty, but the team will get the job done. The results will be apparent in the second round. Just in time to get the team into the final 4.