First off, I haven't done much posting on this site (or in general really), but have read through pretty much every article and fan post in the last 4 years. The banter surrounding Coleman, in particular, is some of the most polarizing analysis and opinions I have seen outside of "can few win tournament games." So it's my turn to throw my hat in the ring.
Coleman is incredibly good and some things, and not good at other things! Ground breaking, I know! But let's run through some scenarios. Down 5, 2 minutes to go, Coleman's havoc defense, athleticism in the open court, and length should be in the game. Perfect example is the Portland game, he forced turnovers, got steals, and gave us a general hope we might rescue that game from down 17. The exact opposite scenario, up 5, 2 minutes to play, Coleman's strengths don't play to this situation. The offense needs spacing with shooters around a Kevin Pangos or Gary Bell, they also need to take care of the ball. These are weaknesses we have seen from Coleman so far this year, but do not necessitate him riding the pine all game long.
One of the reason that Coleman is so polarizing is he is a complete "change of pace" player from the line-up few likes to play. Almost every non-shooter few has had over his tenure (or struggling shooter) gets fewer minutes as the rotation shortens later in the season. Demetri Goodson, marquise carter, Ira Brown in recent memory. But here's the thing, just about the shooting, it's about ball rotation in Few's offense. Stockton may not be a good shooter, but he keeps the ball moving quickly towards either our bigs or the shooters around him. He understands spacing and passing better right now that Coleman, which masks his shooting liability less of a factor, especially when we have 2 bigs in the game. Mike Hart was the same way. If Coleman can learn to mask his shooting deficiency by improving ball movement, spacing and flow within the offense, then he will see more time.
The defensive end is a whole different story. The Coleman gambles to much is a cliché for his speed that sometimes gets him out of position, but it also allows him to recover. He has all the tools to be a great defender, but doesn't necessarily fit in to Few's defensive scheme. Few protects the rim. You can see it by the way we collapse to stop dribble penetration, over-rotate and give up open threes. It happens every year where over rotation kills us. When Coleman does get out of position it forces someone to rotate and so forth. When few sees that tape he sees the gamble as the catalyst for an open three. When it works for a steal, its a steal. It just seems as if Few would rather play for shot an rebound then go for a steal.
So basically Coleman is not a complete player on either end of the court (very few Zags are), but his weaknesses are necessary strengths within Few's system. Few's offense thrives on spacing. His defense relies on putting a wall-up around the rim. This very simply is what limits Coleman's PT.
Is it just me, or did someone in the WCC office graduate from St. Mary's recently? 4 home games when student are out to start, and 4 road games to finish culminating with a trip to Moraga, for what could decide the league title. If we could flip that scenario wouldn't we all just be giddy. Crazy to me how unbalanced you can make it.
So 18-3, where do we go from here. 7 of 10 on the road, with trips to Memphis, St. Mary's, BYU left on the table. Let's assume 3-0 at home. Play potential trap games at USF and USD, and still have the three aforementioned games. Yeesh!! If we can get to 26-5 it will be a huge victory for this team, and should guarantee an at large bid. If we run the table it would be an incredible feat. Realistically, I think we get 7 out of 10, likely hiccups at Memphis, at BYU or SMC, and maybe USF (stupid War Memorial) or USD. The schedule is a bit daunting but I think we will still emerge WCC champions.
A lot of people talk about this teams chance during the NCAA tournament and consensus is 2nd or 3rd rounds (first weekend). I'm going to throw out some stats. In our 6 tournament wins since 2007, opposing teams are 43-123 from 3pt (39%). In our losses opponents are 71-146 (49%). 49 freaking percent!!! The six wins no team shot over 50%. The six losses so 4 teams at 50% at better, with 3 at exactly 50%. BYU and Wichita both were 14-28. 3pt defense determines how this team will do in the tournament. If we can play 2 games of good 3pt defense in a row, its very likely we will find our way in to the sweet 16. We can be that team that gets in rolling from deep and do to other what has been done to Gonzaga for 6 years now!!! (and probably before that). Small guards lacking length hurts 3pt defense. Few's strategy hurts three point defense. If we want tournament success, take away the three point shot.
I mean Georgetown has 5 losses in those six years as well. They overachieve during the regular season with no tourney success. Teams against them in those losses 44-106 (41%). GU almost matches them in their WINS. Until we either A. Get lucky and people miss wide open shots, or B. Fix our systematic bad three point defense, upside in the tournament is limited. Few's defensive strategy works well during the season, but for some reason it gets torched in the tournament.
I remain cautiously optimistic that one year we will catch lightning in a bottle defensively and get back to the second weekend. This time I hope the greatest college basketball team in the last 20 years isn't waiting for us... To anyone who made it all the way through, Congrats and Go ZAGS!