I guess for the purposes of this post, we'll start out with Brown as he is no longer with the team. I wrote several things about Brown when his transfer was announced, including several of his statistics and his tenure with the Hokies:
"Brown, a sophomore, started 29 games in his two year career with the Hokies, 25 of which in 2012-13. While Brown improved his point, rebounding and assist totals, all of his other statistics save his free throw percentage dropped from his freshman to sophomore years. Brown shot an unreal 33 percent from the floor and an underwhelming 24 percent from deep in 2012-13, though as mentioned above, improved his free throw shooting percentage from 62 to 64 percent."
So we have statistical drop-off;
"Brown was ineffective for long periods of time in 2012-13. After scoring double figures in seven of the team's first eight games (the only game he did not score double figures was a 9-point effort against Appalachian State), Brown was only able to reach double figures eight times in the remaining 23 games in which he played. He also suffered through one of the longest shooting droughts in recent memory, going 17-82 (or just under 21 percent) from the floor over a nine-game stretch between December and January."
Poor shooting and inefficiency;
"Coming in, Brown was touted as a long-range ace and all-around scorer offensively, and occasionally lived up to those expectations. But too often Brown was trigger-happy and even shot his team out of games. He was eventually exposed as more of a volume-shooter/scorer, despite showing good form from deep as a freshman and early as a sophomore. Despite these inadequacies, Brown finished the season as the team's third-leading scorer with 8.3 points per game, behind only Erick Green and Jarell Eddie."
and last but not least, a guy who proved to be a bit of an enigma. But to fully understand Brown's struggles, we have to get into statistics:
You see the obvious problems with Brown's 2012-13 year (as mentioned above), but let's compare Brown's stats before and after the 7-0 start and West Virginia game, as he still put up good numbers in that one:
|First 8 games||8||8||31.3||14.4||2.9||3.1||.9||.63||2.1||.45||.37||.67|
|After first 8 games||23||17||25.9||6.2||2.3||1.8||.1||.61||2.5||.27||.16||.62|
If you were to do a Player A to Player B comparison (obviously assigning A to the guy in the first 8 games and B to the guy in the last 23 you doof), A would fit the bill of a fringe all-conference level player (though not in the ACC because he doesn't play for Duke or UNC). Player B would be among the most inefficient players in all of the nation offensively. That's how stark a difference we're talking about.
So how did this happen? How do you make that seismic of a drop as a player almost instantly? Well, we may never know exactly why for Robert, but I have some theories I'm willing to trot out.
1. Confidence- This is the most likely scenario to me, and likewise, it is the hardest to explain and understand. You're telling me a guy like Brown, a shot-happy, former 4-star recruit, who is lighting it up as a sophomore starter on an undefeated power conference team all of the sudden completely and irreversibly loses confidence in his ability to make shots? I don't buy that for a second, but yet, I kind of have to. When the evidence is presented right in front of me, that's really the only logical conclusion I can come to, even if I don't understand how I reached it. Have I seen weirder things in basketball and sports in general? Sure. But this would be in that ballpark. After all, usually a guy who is struggling with confidence in his shot is completely adverse to taking a shot. Just look at what Gerald Wallace is doing since the All-Star break and what he said to reporters recently about his confidence. So it would be hard to imagine Robert struggling with confidence issues and not being bashful to fire shots up. That's why NBA guys like J.R. Smith, Jamal Crawford, Stephen Curry, Jordan Crawford and collegiate guys like Russ Smith and Seth Curry are the way they are. Confidence be damned, they're shooting the ball and they know that eventually it's going to go in. They also don't worry about it when they miss. Robert Brown is a guy, through the first year and eight games in a Tech uniform, had more or less fit that bill. So that argument doesn't make sense, but when compared to some of the others, it might make the most sense. The one thing to keep in mind though, is that the funk that Robert Brown got in didn't only affect his shooting. Looking at the chart, you can see that he was worse in EVERY SINGLE area statistically after the first eight games. So to accept this argument, you're accepting that not only did he lose complete confidence in his shot, but complete confidence in his ability to play basketball.
2. Fatigue- We all know that James Johnson said all camp long that he wanted to run, despite only having eight eligible scholarship bodies. But midway through December, the Hokies' pace was slowing considerably and by the end of the year, they were nothing more than a half-court basketball team. At the end of the season, I could hardly remember that at one point this team liked to run you up and down the floor. Was this a result of a young coach making a naïve decision and saying, "well this is going to work really well or fail really badly, but at least it will be interesting"? Perhaps. But regardless, it played a part in the slowing of the pace at least, and probably to some degree the missed shots and poor defense. But to think that a player or players in Division I basketball would be so gassed in a season that they could never recover, even when missing a game and playing fewer minutes down the stretch is tough to come to grips with. If Brown regressed so far, how come every other player on the team didn't take the same dive (though most did)? I'm sure fatigue played a part in Brown's demise, but to what extent I can't say.
3. Level of competition- This is important to remember here. In the Hokies' first eight games of the season they faced exactly ONE team that went to the NCAA Tournament in Oklahoma State. They did however face and beat the team that made it to the NIT Championship (Iowa). Other than that though, there's not much to write home about, as the remaining six teams were some of the worst in their conferences and in some cases the nation. If you're a great player, you're a great player no matter who you play. So the fact that Brown struggled so mightily against the meatier part of the schedule seems to suggest that maybe we weren't seeing the REAL Robert Brown. That being said, strength of opponent fails to explain how Brown began to fall apart in the three following games against one of the worst teams in the nation and two teams that finished sixth or worse in their low-major conferences, especially after pouring in a career-high the game directly before his unfathomably-bad cold streak.
So that closes the book on Robert Brown for this site...for now. We'll now move on to talk about Jarell Eddie's struggles post-Oklahoma State in 2012-13.
Eddie upped his averages in points, rebounds and blocks in 2012-13, but also regressed in many statistical categories, including assists, steals, turnovers and his shooting across the board.
So again, we see some good things and some bad things, but to get an even more stated example of Eddie's start to the season and the way he played for the remainder of the way, let's compare Eddie's stats before and after the 7-0 start:
|First 7 games||7||7||33.9||17.1||7.4||2.4||1.1||1.1||2.6||.51||.53||.92|
|After first 7 games||25||18||29.3||10.9||5||1||.7||.1||2.1||.36||.26||.81|
Again, across the board (save his average turnovers per game, which was alleviated some originally by having nearly a 1-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio), Eddie saw significant drops in every category. While his shooting percentages weren't friendly, they were considerably better than Brown's during that same time period. The difference between the two Jarell Eddie players above (we'll go Player A and B again just in case that was confusing for you), is that Player A is an All-American (yes, even playing for Tech), while Player B is a below-average ACC player who happens to score at a pretty good clip because he plays on a bad team. That's also a pretty big difference folks.
While Eddie never looked to be in as dire straights as Brown, he did suffer through periods of ineffectiveness, particularly in shooting the 3-ball, his forte. This included a 3-13 night from deep, several 0-6's and an 0-5, something uncommon for a guy who shot 44% from deep a year ago and was shooting 53% from beyond the arc in the first seven games of 2012-13 (even if that was due to come down some). Unlike Brown, however, Eddie still managed to score in double figures in 13 games after his slump began. He also began to get better shots by getting into the lane and sometimes to the rim, which in turn helped his 3-point shot when he got the opportunity.
So what caused Jarell Eddie's shooting (and again like Brown, all-around playing) funk? Well, I also have some theories on this outside of confidence, fatigue and competition. So here they are:
1. Mechanics- Eddie's shot release will never be feature on a basketball instructional video, but that's not to say it isn't sound or isn't pretty when it goes down. Or, well, I need to amend that a little. That's not to say that it wasn't sound. Whether by fatigue, bad habit, or bad instruction (or by a combination of those causes), Eddie began to turn sideways violently during the motion of his shot soon after the losing began. This threw most of his shots off-line, clanking off the rim or drawing air. If you don't remember seeing the motion or need to have it explained in greater detail before taking the time to look it up, it's a twisting motion between the time Eddie leaves the floor and puts up a shot. In basketball, you're always taught to get set, plant your feet, square them toward the basket and go straight up for a shot so that you have the best chance of getting off a good shot and one that is easily repeatable. For Eddie, who is very much a set shooter from deep anyway, this shot does not meet either of those criteria. I know that a beat writer mentioned to me on Twitter during the season that if the two of us (and countless others) saw the twisting motion that seemed to be throwing off his shot, for sure the coaching staff did. I absolutely accept that analysis. With all the video technology at their disposal, they HAD to have seen it, right? But unfortunately, in the remaining half of a season, I never saw it corrected, which tells me that either the coaches didn't see it, or didn't think it was a big deal. The coach in me however says it is.
2. The water bottle incident- When Jarell Eddie was pulled out of the game early in the second half and down 20 points against Georgia Tech, he had just picked up his second foul in 30 seconds and was 0-6 from the floor and 0-4 from deep. Unfortunately for him, and for his team, he compounded those issues by slamming his water bottle on the sideline, which proceeded to bust and spray all over the floor. The game had to be stopped momentarily for the spill to be cleaned up, and Eddie was never put back into the game with over 17 minutes remaining. You can absolutely understand the frustration from Eddie there. He couldn't hit a shot, his team was being blown out at home by a team they were probably better than and he had just been assessed two quick fouls. But Johnson was concerned (and daresay infuriated) with Eddie's emotional reaction, and made him ride the pine the rest of the game. Where he probably took his punishment too far (and for me, I'd rather have to calm a kid down that to have to try to rile him up, so even after a mistake like the one he made, he wouldn't have sat the rest of the second half for me if I thought it would help the team) was when he did not start Eddie for four of the next five games, and played him sparingly. He was replaced by Will Johnston in the starting lineup, a 3-point shooting specialist, walk-on who had cooled considerably from earlier in the year and who had proven the inability to guard anyone in the ACC. I know Johnson was looking to make something happen by making a change, but this sent the wrong message to Eddie, whose struggles continued for nearly a month before he got on track, scoring double digits in his last three games.
When it comes down to it, it doesn't really matter why Brown and Eddie's decline happened, it just matters that it happened. But as a sports fan, I like to try to analyze and understand things, which is what I have done here. I don't know that I have positively proven any of my theories, but I may have shed light on a subject that is pretty hard to understand. I may still be right yet. I don't have any way of knowing until I see what happens. But what I do know is this: Erick Green had a tremendous individual season in 2012-13, quite possibly the best season in school history. However, the inability for guys like Brown and Eddie to hit open shots or create for themselves allowed other teams to hone in on Erick Green, pressure him up the floor, deny him the ball and double or even triple team him at the time of the shot. That is what turned the team's 7-0 start and chance at a tremendous season into the Erick Green show, and ultimately ended any chance that the team would be competitive.
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