Two letters that could define the 2011-2012 season … T-U

Every game with Tu is special this season ...

Harrison Barnes, Marquis Teague and Austin Rivers. These names will resonate throughout the 2011-2012 college basketball season. But if you are looking for something special? Check out Tu Holloway and the Xavier Musketeers.

Ramblings by DJ

Last Saturday featured a Final Four caliber matchup between two historical giants in college hoops – North Carolina vs. Kentucky. These happen to be two out of the four or five best teams in the country right now … on paper at least. Only because it is too early to start thinking about Final Four until we get into late February when there is some clarity around the potential seeding of the top ten teams.

The scouts were salivating over the NBA talent on the court in Lexington. Few key scouting reports include:

1. John Henson’s wingspan.
2. Marquis Teague’s quickness.
3. Anthony Davis’ unibrow.

Everything was being analyzed about these players and their potential in the NBA. Todd McShay and Trent Dilfer would have exploded on TV if they were calling a college football game where 75% of the players on the field could be picked in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. Fortunately, this game was on CBS and Jay Bilas wasn’t around to talk about the “upside” of these kids over and over again.

As the rest of the country was interested in the SEC championship game or other meaningless championship games (UCLA vs. Oregon??), I was pumped to watch the most exciting player in college basketball later that afternoon:

Terrell “Tu” Holloway

Here’s how his scouting report goes with the NBA folks: He isn’t too big for a guard (only 185 lbs.). He is too short for a point guard. Only listed at 6’0 but we all know the listed height is usually two inches more than the actual height. So he is about 5’10.

Wingspan?? Upside?? These don’t even come into play when you analyze this guy.

But guess what? None of them matter when he goes head to head with other teams stacked with talent. Four years of experience make him a fine whiskey in college hoops. There is no other player in hoops today that can control the tempo of the game like he can. We are only seven to eight games into the season so most of the country still cares about NFL and College Football. The only hoops coverage goes to the big names such as Kentucky, UNC or Duke. And that’s fine but Tu will get his due in mid-February. Mark my words … unless he gets hurt, the media should be all over him in mid to late February as the nation starts to follow college basketball in preparation for March Madness. Why does he have star potential? Here are my reasons … a few of them for now b/c this won’t be the last time you hear about him on this site.

Everybody loves the little guy

And I am not just referring his size when I say “little guy.” I am referring to Xavier’s place in college basketball. The program is not and should not be considered a “Cinderella” in the true sense. Cinderella’s include Stephen Curry’s Davidson from three years ago or the VCU Rams from last year but not Xavier. Anybody who has followed the hoops scene over the last ten years knows that The Musketeers are a solid force and usually a top eight seed in March. The program has been a passage for the next generation of coaches such as Thad Matta and Sean Miller. Having said all of that, Xavier hasn’t made it to the Final Four … yet. Chris Mack’s team is ready for that next step this year with Holloway and it shows in their scheduling. This “little guy” is not shying away from any challenges. They want to play on the big stage not just in March or for their perennial matchup with Cincinnati … they want the spotlight from Day One. Look at their non-conference schedule:

Butler, Vanderbilt, Purdue, Gonzaga and Cincinnati.

All of these teams will finish in the top 40 at the end of the season (calm down, Butler will get there by the end of February). They stacked their non conference season b/c they are confident about their chances in the A-10. 2011-2012 is their best shot to go for the Final Four. Separating themselves from the occasional Sweet 16 will launch this program into great heights. Xavier needs the seeding and the bright lights will be on them throughout the season because they play top 40 teams unlike the past few seasons.

Holloway’s composure on the court

Vanderbilt was up by 10 with four minutes left in the game at home against the Musketeers. Purdue led the whole game by at least nine or ten points until the last three minutes of the game on Saturday. Holloway never shies away from the game plan despite the deficit. The message sent is loud and clear … take it to the rack, get to the free throw line. Keep going to the rack to get the opposing team in foul trouble.

Tu shoots about 45-50% from beyond the arc but he NEVER settles for the jump shot. Both Vandy and Purdue flexed their muscle in the game consistently against Tu as he came down the lane. They didn’t get the calls until the last five minutes of the game against Vandy. But his relentless intensity to get to the paint wears down the guards. John Jenkins and Jeffrey Taylor who are considered to have “length” by the scouts glued themselves to him the whole game but he kept going down the lane off the dribble until he got the calls in the 2nd half. The guards stepped back in the 2nd half by respecting his dribble penetration but he started nailing his pull up 3 off the dribble.

In both games during last week, Holloway’s production in the 2nd half doubled. He gets his teammates involved the whole game but knows exactly when to take over. I realize this is very cliché but the numbers so far prove that statement. Most other guards would chuck three pointers after being down 12-13 points most of the game against Purdue … but not this kid. He stuck to the game plan, wore down the opposing guards and nailed three 3 pointers within the last couple minutes to ice the game.

The offense flows through him every possession BUT it doesn’t stop with him.

The perfect backcourt mate for Tu: Mark Lyons

Holloway’s buddy in the backcourt

Tu understands what he has next to him this year … Mark Lyons. Lyons has the same exact mentality and it shows in his patience on the court. Jimmer mania swept the nation last year and was definitely one of the top three themes of the season. But Jimmer didn’t have another guard next to him like Lyons … no offense to Jackson Emory. Emory was a clutch shooter but could not create his own shot. Lyons’ ability to take his opponent off the dribble creates more opportunities for Tu during the last ten minutes of a game. And Lyons buys into the philosophy. With nine seconds left against Vanderbilt and the ball in his hands, what does he do?? Spin move against Jeffrey Taylor to bank a shot off the glass in the paint.

Holloway wouldn’t have chucked a 3 pointer either!! Teams need not just one, but two defensive studs to contain this backcourt during the 2nd half. Jimmer and BYU didn’t have that last year … that’s another reason why Holloway and Xavier will break out on the national scene soon.

The nickname … Tu

Kobe … LeBron … Tiger. No, I am not comparing Holloway to these great athletes but he has the catchy nickname. Jimmer had the same catchy nickname as well. The name improves his marketability within the sports media come March, ESPECIALLY if you factor the underdog nature of Xavier within college hoops.

Couldn’t you just see a Sports Illustrated cover in March – “Tu ready for March??”

Get it?? “Tu” means “you” in French. I think it does, I may be wrong … took two years of French in High School which was a while ago.

Gus Johnson NEEDS to call a Xavier game in March. Just imagine the call at the end of the game …

“Tu, with the ball. Swings it around to Lyons. Lyons looks for the opening, doesn’t find it and send it back out Tu. Xavier down by 1 and needs to get off a shot within seven seconds. Holloway crosses over!! Pulls up for the shot!! Aahn;klahsd;lfkahjsd;fklajhsdl;fk;slfdkja … COLD BLOODED!!”

“Teach me how to Jimmer” started to spread on YouTube around late January last year. Most of the country cares about NFL playoffs until the first week of February. That is followed by most sports fans being pissed off that there is no more Football. It takes another week to forget it and their gambling juices lead them towards college basketball around the end of February because fantasy football is done.

Until then most of the media won’t focus on the non-traditional names in hoops. And that’s fine. That’s around the time Holloway and Xavier will start to get their due. Now I may be completely off on my prediction. They might choke away most of the non-conference games. But you know what?? They won’t be blown out in any game as long as Tu has something to say. Stay tuned …

2 Comments to “Two letters that could define the 2011-2012 season … T-U”

  1. T-U is trouble — he has really put some doubt in NBA teams I think about whether or not he can stay out of trouble.

  2. Yea, he jabs a little too much on the court. I still think Xavier finishes strong this season b/c of that backcourt. The brawl on Saturday was nuts. Yancey Gates should have been suspended for 10 games at least.

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