Monday, February 10, 2014

Diamond Cup Breakdowns: A&M-LBs

Texas A&M vs. The Lost Boys
Pool Play

Can Offense Win Championships?
In the weeks leading up to Diamond Cup, the Eighth Man published an article showing how Texas A&M tore apart UTSA defense. The Lost Boys were ready for Texas A&M's terrific offensive positioning, matching it with two to three hoop defenders and tight defense. As expected, Texas A&M moved the ball well, challenging the Lost Boys at the hoops. In response, the Lost Boys contested A&M's shots, drives and alley oops, but Texas A&M was just (in the spirit of the Olympics) higher, faster and stronger in the chaser game. The Lost Boys put up a good, organized defensive effort and didn't get blown out of the water like UTSA, but Texas A&M was clearly more athletic.

If the Lost Boys are going to win World Cup VII, they are going to win it with offense and seeking. During their World Cup VI run, UT went into games looking for total domination, including shut outs. That kind of performance doesen't look likely for the Lost Boys, even with a complete roster. Against teams like Texas A&M with close to perfect execution on their passes, there is only so much that Chris Seto, Peter Lee and company can do. Delivering big bone-crunching hits around the hoops just isn't the Lost Boys' thing. What's important is that they stay organized and contest these shots, drives and alley oops like they did against Texas A&M. If they do this in the chaser game, they will likely be able to stay in snitch range of any team in the country for Steve DiCarlo.

Key Performers
The obvious first choice as a key performer in this game is Alex Browne. Browne shined all tournament long, but his performance in this game kept the Lost Boys within snitch range of the number one Aggies. Texas A&M looked very human on defense when Browne was in control of the offense and the Lost Boys beaters would clear out the point defender. For more, check out what I wrote about Browne in this week's Weekend that Was.

Overshadowed this season by the addition of Peter Lee this summer, beater Michael Mohlman has been playing at the same high level of his teammates while receiving way less attention. At the beginning of the game, the Lost Boys failed to take bludger control and Mohlman anchored the defense with the one bludger. Keeping A&M in check for the duration of his shift, Mohlman came in later in the game as a keeper. With a full roster, the Lost Boys utility players like Mohlman have been sticking to their main position, but at Diamond Cup many were forced to play their alternate positions. Mohlman will definitely be a key piece in the beating rotation in April, but he could also be a valuable weapon at keeper and chaser.

Texas A&M's most effective beating pair against the Lost Boys was Casey Faulhaber and Maddie Franklin. Playing the majority of the middle of the game, Faulhaber and Franklin held bludger control adding support to Texas A&M's defense, and more importantly, decreasing the influence of the Lost Boys beaters. Faulhaber and Franklin are looking like the perfect back-up beating pair for Texas A&M. With seven years of experience combined, they are reliable and smart. Faulhaber has an absolute cannon and Franklin is comfortable in the front or the back providing lots of versatility. What this means for the rest of the country is that when A&M's first line comes out of the game, there's no dropoff in ability or talent. In addition, two distinct beater lines are pretty much a necessity for a World Cup title run and the fact that Faulhaber and Franklin have been excelling is only another sign that Texas A&M is well positioned for April.

Also, Texas A&M chaser Joe Wright would have certainly been among the rising A&M players I wrote about recently if an injury hadn't kept him out of Lone Star Cup. Wright came back strong at Diamond Cup--especially during a mid-game shift against the Lost Boys--and I also wrote about him in this week's Weekend that Was.

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