This isn’t some desperate plea for Travis Ford to come to his senses and save a season that’s going (or went) down in flames faster than you can say “it sure would be nice to have Eaton right now.” And trust me, I’m the last person on earth to be saying something like that.
It is, rather, a question of what’s best for this team, both on the whole and for the future. Technically you can’t mail the season yet, although Ken Pomroy and his extensive bank of numbers draw a different conclusion. A pair of home L’s to Mizzou and OU at home this week though? Yeah, put the nail in the coffin, start prepping for 2012.
So what I’m suggesting isn’t contingent upon whether or not OSU can get those two victories in the next four days but, as I just mentioned, what might be better and more beneficial in the end to the team anyway.
John Helsley had an interesting post yesterday about what OSU’s point guard situation looks like going forward from here. He mentioned that even with Gulley coming back next year OSU is on the recruiting hunt again for a floor general.
That’s good too because this team needs help. Every time I look at the roster to try to piece together a new-fangled lineup I always think “man, I have to be missing somebody, who am I not seeing? Is somebody (besides Gulley) hurt?” But really, this team is just skeletal in depth.
I don’t know what the deal with Ray Penn is either. People have asked me from “is he one of the assault perpetrators?” to “does Ford just hate him?” to “do you think Gulley put a chloroform rag in his bathroom trashcan so he appears high and/or on another planet every day at practice and games?” OK, maybe nobody asked me the last one but dang it, it’s in play, everything’s in play at this point! Except for Penn himself.
The bottom line is that Ford isn’t giving him minutes and doesn’t appear likely to do so in the near future. So that leaves us with some holes in the lineup. As Samuel at CowboysRFF pointed out yesterday, this team has positional issues. I think we’re all aware the “what position does Keiton really play?” debate has been going on since he was in 7th grade, but the issues extend beyond that. What is Moses? What is Darrell Williams? Why does Jarred Shaw look like a skinny, short Chris Bosh and where does he fit in? How can anyone be thin enough to be referenced ‘a skinny Bosh’? And, finally, where in the world does Markel Brown assert himself in all of this.
My thought (and I’ve been pushing this for nearly three weeks): don’t ever have Keiton bring the ball up. In fact, just spot him up somewhere on the wing and let him set his feet the entire possession like Jason Kapono used to do at UCLA. I don’t think he’s been bad at the one, just that Ford kind of defaulted to him after the exile of Penn because he didn’t know what else to do. Well now he does, play Markel Brown there. Every minute, every possession the rest of the year.
Bethlehem Shoals, he of the freedarko.com creation that dually lucid in detail and murky in overall impact (if that’s even possible), wrote an unbelievable article a few years back about the positional revolution. His argument was, basically, that the traditional method in which we think about the bodies and skill sets of athletes and thus the positions they play is no longer applicable. Kevin Garnett changed everything. So did Dirk. Then Gilbert. Now LeBron. Durant is up next. It’s a great read and provides a true backing for my argument.
Markel Brown’s high school coach, Charles Smith once said, “[Markel’s] the best, in my opinion, and I can’t slight Paul Thompson, who made it to the NBA. I was an assistant coach when Paul played (at Peabody), and he was a tremendous player, a tremendous competitor, a great athlete, shot the ball well and could jump exceptionally well. But he couldn’t put the ball on the floor very well. Markel is a great competitor and can jump and score, but the big difference is his ball handling. Markel could easily play point-guard, whereas Paul could play the 3 position.” (neworleans.com) And that’s Paul Thompson, Tulane basketball player not OU quarterback. In case you were wondering.
So there’s at least a pedigree there of him handling and distributing the ball. Will it work in the Big 12? I’m not positive, but it has so far. In seven conference games Markel is posting a non-Freshman-like 9-3-2-1-1 line, with the assists (2) and blocks (1) both being team highs. Yes, a 1.5 guard averaging 2 assists a game is leading Oklahoma State in that category, and it’s not really that close. He’s been even better as a starter, and the de facto point, in the last three games bumping those numbers up to 13-5-3-1-1. So I propose that Ford just come out and say it: Markel is running the show now, let’s go get seven more wins.
If he’s great at it, awesome, you make a late run at the tournament and go into 2011-12 with Markel, Page, JPO, Nash, and Darrell as your starting five, and Gulley, Penn (?), Shaw, Cobbins, and Karron Johnson (if by some miracle he makes it to Stillwater) backing them up. Now you’re starting to look more like a serviceable Big 12 contender. If it doesn’t work, who cares, you got Markel a ton of conference experience and can slide him back to the two with Gulley, at the one, JPO, Nash, and Darrell rounding out the starting five. And then you’d have the best sixth man shooter in the history of the league.
This situation is kind of like 2001 when you had Mo Baker running the point and Vic Williams at the two even though Baker was the taller and more talented scorer of the two. It seems weird when you think about it but for whatever reason it just works on the court. That’s how I view the Page/Markel on-court relationship, even though Page is only 1/90 as quick as Vic was.
This team lacks continuity and an identity of any kind. Ford has a chance to correct that by cementing a congruent lineup the rest of the way starting tomorrow against Mizzou. Markel doing his Penny Hardaway-ish impression at the one, Keiton launching bombs from the two, JPO carving teams up at the three, and Moses and Darrell banging around in the paint. It seems like such an easy formula, that’s why I’m a blogger though and Ford gets paid $1.3M more than me.