Instead of our regular Five Key Plays, for American’s 63-51 loss at Northwestern we are using this video compilation put together by the Big Ten Network with some analysis in written form below. We will return to 5KP for the home opener vs. New Hampshire on Saturday.
1. Teams will key in on Sa’eed Nelson
This should come as no surprise, but Northwestern swarmed Nelson all night long — often throwing two or three defenders at him. The Wildcats’ length really bothered him, creating deflections and resulting in seven Nelson turnovers — AU hurt itself with 16 overall. Watch the clip at 3:52 for a prime example of this. I thought Nelson’s decision-making against George Mason was near-flawless. Northwestern was a reminder that there’s plenty of room for improvement.
2. Gasperini comfortable shooting with either hand.
In one of the most promising developments of the first two games, Mark Gasperini’s jump hook is golden with both of his hands. Think back to his freshman year and you’ll realize how big of an improvement he’s made in this department. Watch the video beginning at 3:03 for back-to-back clips of him scoring in the post — first going to his left and then his right. Gasperini has scored 14 and 17 in two games and is clearly a high-percentage option for the Eagles.
3. We’ll have to see about the rebounding
The video shows a couple examples of Northwestern beating AU for second-chance points. American got torched by Wildcats big Dererk Pardon, who beat the Eagles for a whopping eight offensive boards — NW had 12 total (on 37 misses, good for an ORB rate of 32%). This comes after 16 ORBs given up to George Mason. AU won’t face many rebounders like Pardon in league play or the rest of non-conference play, for that matter, so while it’s worth watching this my guess is that AU gets its boards cleaned up.
4. Eagles solid defensively, but need to help better
Overall, American was pretty good defensively against a Big Ten team. The Wildcats shot just 36 percent from the field and 4-for-22 on 3s. The play that hurt AU repeatedly — besides Vic Law (26 points) being tremendous — was a player curling off a down screen and getting a pass at the top of the paint en route to the basket. As Brennan gets more practices with his team, I think they’ll get better at adjusting to such looks and stopping them.
5. Is this an eight-man rotation team?
C.B. Diallo played just two minutes as American’s ninth guy Monday, with Marvin Bragg (30), Stacy Beckton Jr. (13) and freshman Jacob Boonyasith (13) the other bench players. This begs the question — will American be an eight- or sometimes nine-man rotation going forward? I don’t think so. Brennan has hinted that he wants to play Boonyasith more (hey, 13 minutes in game 2 isn’t bad at all) as well as forward Josh Alexander, but that they’re not necessarily ready for games American’s trying to win. My guess is that by the last couple non-conference games in five weeks, Alexander will be getting some minutes here and there — 5-10 a game depending on foul trouble for Gasperini and Y.Y. The guard situation is trickier. Beckton has clearly shown more than C.B. thus far, and with Sa’eed playing close to 40 every night, it’s hard to envision more minutes coming C.B.’s way unless Beckton’s decrease — which is possible. At this point, Jesse Little and Matt Cimino seem stuck to the bench.
More to come Friday night after American’s home opener vs. New Hampshire. Find more content and thoughts on Twitter: @AUHoopsPodcast