In the "Advance Look" series, Yahoo Sports will ask coaches who have faced some of the nation's top teams in preseason exhibition games to share their post-game thoughts and a scouting report. Up next: Augustana College coach Tom Billeter on Arizona.
For a guy whose team lost by 32 points at Arizona on Monday night, Augustana College coach Tom Billeter flew back from Tucson feeling unexpectedly good about his team's performance.
Augustana was missing three starters due to injury and had only practiced eight times prior to Monday's game yet it managed to remain competitive into the second half until Arizona pulled away later for an 84-52 victory.
Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell was Arizona's most impressive player, scoring an efficient 12 points, dishing out eight assists and notching three steals in just 23 minutes. Wings Gabe York and Nick Johnson both had 14 points apiece, while highly touted freshman forward Aaron Gordon had seven points and five rebounds in his college debut while also nursing a groin injury.
Below are Billeter's thoughts on Arizona. The former longtime Division I assistant coach spoke about the value of having a pure point guard in McConnell, the need to get York on the floor because of his outside shooting and the effectiveness of Gordon on the perimeter rather than in the paint.
Augustana coach Tom Billeter:
1. You know what's funny. They've got four or five guys who could be NBA players. I don't know if McConnell's an NBA player, but he's an awfully good college player. That's not a negative. He might play in the league, he might not. But he's definitely one of their best players. He's such a good play-making point guard. The other guys can do what they do best and know he's going to get them the ball. We've played them three times in the last five years, and I thought he makes them a different team. ... The other thing is he can also shoot the ball too. We started the game doubling off him because of their size and he made us pay. He can knock it down.
2. You've got to give Aaron Gordon time to learn to play on the perimeter. I don't know how much he's been able to play out there before, but he has an ability to penetrate, a great first step and he can rebound from the three, both offensively and defensively. ... Obviously, he needs to continue to work on shot preparation, early readiness to be prepared to shoot or ball fake, take one hard dribble and pull up. He needs to work on scoring as a perimeter wing so he'll be as effective as what he's able to do inside.
3. The way they play, I think it would be very easy for them to take Kaleb [Tarczewski] out, put [Gordon and Brandon Ashley] inside and be incredibly effective. That's an incredibly athletic group. That was the lineup we feared most. ... Part of the recruiting for Gordon might have been that they'll make him a three. I think that would appeal to him and I think he'll get to that point, but he has some work to do. He just has to get better at a couple things.
4. One of the ways we had success against Arizona was to use a quicker face-up big man against [7-foot Kaleb] Tarczewski. (Forward Daniel Jansen had 18 points). That's what we thought we had to do. I don't know at their level if there are as many bigs that will be able to do that because all the centers are big like Kaleb, so when he plays those teams he'll be fine. I think they'll play some teams when Tarczewski is going to be huge for them, defensively and rebounding. He had 12 and 7 against us and I think he has improved in the last year.
5. I thought Gabe York came in and really lifted them. I thought he played well. He shot it well. His feet were set. It looks like he knew his role, and he's still a pretty athletic kid. ... The only Achilles heel they have a little bit is Nick Johnson is a little bit streaky from the perimeter. They need a couple kids who can shoot it, and Gabe really gives them that to go with everything else.
6. They're very, very good defensively. Their ball pressure, we can't emulate that length or quickness. I'll go 6-on-5 or 7-on-5 in practice, and I didn't think our double-team drills were as effective as what they were doing 5-on-5. They play hard. They pick you up and bother you and it's pretty easy to be aggressive when you know you've got those big guys behind you to clean up your mistakes.
7. They've got some combinations that are really effective. He can almost throw a combination out there that does anything he needs to do against what people do against them. He's got enough kids who can play enough minutes that they'll continue to get better. They're going to be a much better team in January and February than they will be in November and December.
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