Green Bay dropped a tough season opener 81-77 to a visiting Indiana State on Tuesday. This was a good test for the young phoenix who showed much more than the preseason predictions would have anticipated.
It was disappointing to see them ultimately lose a home game that saw 19 different lead changes, but we learned a lot about Will Ryan’s new look team.
So, without further ado, these are my observations from the season opener.
Green Bay played with purpose:
Take this one with a grain of salt, because much has already been made of Green Bay’s new look roster having players that better fit the system. However, last night the new look phoenix were on full display, and let me tell you – this group looked bought in.
Offensively they ran their half-court sets with purpose, setting good screens, and most importantly playing selfless basketball that we didn’t always see last season.
It’s also worth noting that GB took care of the basketball – only turning the ball over 9 times which is going to be critical for this group. Overall, the offense looked much improved and all the pieces looked like they fit.
Defense still needs work:
It’s just one game, but the defense did little to inspire confidence – allowing Indiana State to shoot 51.8% from the floor. Sometimes, these things happen and teams just shoot the lights out – but that’s not my impression of what happened. Last night Green Bay was struggling a to prevent dribble penetration and was often observed making mistakes in their defensive rotations.
A group with this many new faces is going to need time to mesh, but these are things that need to be cleaned up. Anyone who follows Wisconsin basketball knows how intricate and specific this defensive system is, so it’s going to be an uphill battle much of the season. Green Bay needs to improve on the defensive end of the floor if they’re going to win these close games.
Emmanuel Ansong is going to be a PROBLEM:
I’m inclined to believe that Emmanuel Ansong hitting three shots from downtown was an anomaly, but in the event, it isn’t, watch out. The threat of an outside shot is enough to draw defenders further away from the basket and promote better spacing.
Ansong was terrific on offense end all night long, and looked great on his post touches (this is going to be where he becomes a mismatch nightmare) in route to posting an efficient 19-point, 8 rebound stat-line.
Emmanuel Ansong is someone that has a chance to push for All-Horizon league honors this season and will be a difference maker for Green Bay. His ability to impact games with the level of efficiency he does is a luxury for this young phoenix team.
Donovan Ivory is a Swiss-Army knife:
In my article breaking down the Green Bay incoming transfers, Donovan Ivory was a player I thought had a chance to make a major impact for the phoenix. Against Indiana State, Ivory posted a stat line of: 16 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists. And while it’s just one game, fans were able to catch a glimpse of what the 6-foot-6 guard could bring to the table this season.
His size and athleticism give Will Ryan a ton of lineup options, which is important for a roster that most predict with have a fluid rotation early.
Donovan Ivory has the makings of being an impact scorer in this GB offense. Not to mention, with Green Bay’s “gang rebounding” style of play – he’ll be able to help quite a bit on the defensive glass as well.
It’s no mistake that Ivory played a team high 30 minutes last night. The starter designation is unimportant because he’s going to play a ton of minutes this year regardless, at multiple spots none the less.
Lucas Stieber looks improved:
Lucas Stieber mentioned spending much of the off-season working on two things: his jumper, and improving his body/explosiveness in the weight room.
To my untrained eye, I’d say he looked notably more fluid and confident on Tuesday. There is nothing sexy about Stieber’s game, but he’s just a perfect team first point guard that shows great control of the offense. Stieber keeps his head up and is always scanning the floor looking to pass up a good shot, for a great one. In short, he’s a coach’s best friend.
He’s clearly comfortable in this system, and will be a leader for this young Green Bay team.
Kamari McGee is going to be really, really good:
Anyone who has bothered to read my breakdown of Green Bay’s incoming recruiting class already knows how strongly I feel about freshman point guard – Kamari McGee. And after last night, I can assure you nothing I saw in the opener changed my mind.
McGee played 26 minutes and showed good control of the offense, while playing great on ball defense. The true freshman played with confidence and will assuredly be an important member of the rotation all season long.
I’ve said it time and time again, McGee is the phoenix point guard of the future. His development will be fun to monitor as the season wears on.
It’s also worth noting, that after finally seeing this team take the court, I feel confident in saying the Phoenix will be a tough match-up every night in the Horizon League and most certainly has the potential to surprise people later in the year.