Poise Wins

If you look at a team in any recreational basketball league, you’ll probably discover an eclectic group of players. You’ll surely find some peculiarity, but you’re even more likely to find that each of those teammates probably fits into some sort of umbrella group predetermined by the rec basketball gods. Saying that each player is unique might be a proper way to describe the greats, but it definitely doesn’t depict a group of unskilled men aimlessly flopping around a court. When you go to those games, you’ll probably see some selection of these guys:

  • The Useless and Out-of-Shape Guy
  • The Useful for the First Half But Still Out of Shape Guy
  • The Just There To Have Fun Guy
  • The I Played JV For Two Years In College And Never Got My Real Shot Guy
  • The Guy Who Knows He Is There Bring the Orange Slices and Sit on the Bench
  • The Crazy Hothead That Argues Every Call
  • The Guy Who Thinks He’s in an And1 Mixtape
  • The Shooter
  • The Glue Guy
  • The Poise Guy

College hoops and the NBA tend to have their own versions of these caricatures. Joshua Smith fits nicely into the Useless and Out-of-Shape Guy mold. Mark Lyons can be your Crazy Hothead That Argues Every Call. Phil Pressey is certainly the Guy Who Thinks He’s in an And1 Mixtape. And clearly Brian Scalabrine is bringing the orange slices.

Roster makeup in the college game is actually depressingly similar to that of those rec leagues for 45-year-old men that you see around the corner. We’re down to 64 teams, 64 rosters, and 64 coaches fighting for a national championship. You can look through most of those rosters and find a Just There To Have Fun Guy. You can find a Crazy Hothead That Argues Every Call or a Useful for the First Half But Out of Shape Guy. It’s sad that the lineups that are made up of some of the most talented 18-23 year olds in the country share those traits with the gloominess and hopelessness of playing intramural ball. But it’s reality.

Now let’s move onto the actual bracket. The First Four/First Round is done. If we assume that each of these teams has a similar general makeup, then aside from talent and coaching, what is the biggest characteristic to set them apart? What is the one part of the game that can set one squad ahead of another seemingly, evenly matched one? The answer is the Poise Guy.

The Poise Guy is your leader. He is not only the one you want taking the last shot, but he is also the one that wants to take the last shot most. He is the one that does all the work to get the credit, but never actually takes it. He takes charges on defense. He defends picks and rolls. When his teammates describe him on the defensive end of the floor, the first thing they say is that he is always talking, always communicating.

The Poise Guy carries his team on his back. He has loads of experience, but hasn’t always been in the peachiest of situations. At some point in either his life or his playing career, he has faced adversity and he hasn’t backed away. His teammates respect him as much as any other player. They may not always love him as a person, but they love that he is on their side.

Look at the NCAA Tournament and it is relatively clear that the postseason is loaded with Poise Guys. But some are just on the next level. Those types of players deserve an acknowledgement (even though their character says they don’t care about it). So here it: the players you don’t want to pick against in this year’s NCAA Tournament, the 2012 All-Poise Guy Team.

Let’s set some rules first:

  • Using no scientific research at all, let’s estimate that a usual NCAA champ plays with at least a 7-man rotation. So we’ll do the same with this roster: seven players who mesh well together.
  • The player’s team must currently be in the NCAA Tournament. (Yes, I am now completely despondent that Scott Machado was just eliminated.)
  • He must have at least two years of playing experience at the collegiate level. A guy like Anthony Davis just doesn’t have the experience under his belt to be referred to as a Poise Guy.
  • He has to have shown the ability to take over games on either side of the court.

G Isaiah Canaan (Jr.), 6-feet, 171 pounds, Murray State

The junior from Biloxi, Mississippi just comes up big when his team needs him the most. It’s no coincidence that Canaan’s best games have come against Murray State’s best competition. Against Southern Miss, Canaan had 36 points on 22 shots in a double-overtime victory. He had 21 points on 13 shots against Dayton, 23 points on 13 shots against St. Mary’s and helped the Racers dominate in a revenge game against Tennessee State, the team that handed Murray State its only loss of the season, with a 24-point, 12-shot performance.

Canaan has come out of the gate shooting at times when he feels like he needs to. He scored the first 16 points of a midseason contest against Austin Peay, a performance in which he hit 7 threes in the first half. He has come up in seemingly every big game this season. Why should the NCAA Tournament lead to anything different? Besides, who better to lead your team to the promise land than a guy named Canaan?

G Scoop Jardine (Sr.), 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Syracuse           

Jardine’s numbers have come down this season, which is part of the reason why he absolutely deserves to be in this list. Scoop has taken a reduced role in his senior year and hasn’t peeped about it once to teammates or the media. There aren’t many 22-year-olds in existence that can claim that type of maturity. He has helped take a team that probably won’t have a first round pick in this season’s NBA Draft to a No. 1 seed. And if you’re still not sold, Scoop is now reportedly dating Michael Jordan’s daughter. That means he is so fearless at this point that he might actually consider walking into Michael Jeffery Jordan’s home as his daughter’s boyfriend.

G Casper Ware (Sr.), 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, Long Beach State

Did you watch the Big West Tournament? If you didn’t go find highlights of the championship game and be witness Ware putting on 40 minutes of the most primitive basketball you will see all year. There was simply no chance he was letting his team lose, and he didn’t. Ware took 16 threes in that game. Yes, a 5-foot-10 point guard took 16 (16!!!) threes in a championship game. Except, he was dominant. He hit eight of those long-range shots and had 33 points in only 31 minutes. He was Nick Cage-pumped every time his team scored or got a stop. He openly wouldn’t lose to a UCSB team that was the league’s defending champion.

Ware’s attitude isn’t going to change in the first round of the tourney. If he chucks up less than 20 shots in Long Beach State’s second round game against New Mexico, the world should be shocked. There is no chance he isn’t hurling up a double-digit number of threes. But don’t bet against him. The thing about Ware lately is that those shots are going in and he’s carrying his team with him.

G Kim English (Sr.), 6-foot-6, 200 pounds, Missouri

English is another guy that has thrown his team on his back. Fresh off a Big 12 Tournament MOP, he should be feeling right heading into the Tournament. English is a unique personality. He genuinely only cares about winning and it seems like he will do anything to make sure his team doesn’t come out on the wrong end.

Kim changed positions at the beginning of the year. A natural shooting guard, he switched over to the power forward spot after Laurence Bowers had a season-ending ACL injury. Essentially learning on the job, he leads Missouri in defensive charges and only takes good, smart shots on the offensive end. He hit 26 of his 33 field goal attempts and 10 of his 15 three point attempts over a three-day span in the Big 12 Tournament last weekend. He’s on fire and he doesn’t want to lose. That’s not a good combination for the other 15 teams in the West Region of the bracket.

F Robbie Hummel (Sr.), 6-foot-8, 228 pounds, Purdue

Most people need good knees just to excel in everyday life. Hummel doesn’t seem like he needs them simply to dominate a basketball game. The Purdue senior is a tough man’s definition of tough.

Hummel’s junior season ended when he tore his ACL. He was expected back for the start of his senior year, except he tore that same ligament once again in an October 16th practice and was forced to miss the entire year. After returning as a fifth-year senior, Hummel has turned the energy back up. He is averaging 16.3 points per game and is shooting 37.1% from beyond the arc. Most importantly, it always seems like Hummel is there to make the big shot.

Purdue team is a weak free throw shooting squad, so watch for the ball to be in the hands of Hummel, who shoots 83.1% from the line, late in close games. He’s been in West Lafayette long enough. You can tell he wants to win after missing out on a big chance last year with E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson still on the roster. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the heart of Purdue basketball doesn’t come up strong.

F Andrew Nicholson (Sr.), 6-foot-9, 250 pounds, St. Bonaventure

Nicholson has been an incredible talent rotting away as part of a historically subpar basketball program. But he started to help change his school’s reputation in his senior season. He worked on his shooting to the point that he actually hit 39.6% of his threes this year. In the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament, he carried a team that wasn’t even on the bubble to a conference championship while averaging 23.3 points per game, 10 rebounds per game and shooting 55.3% along the way. Beware when picking Florida State in that second round game. Nicholson will give the Seminoles all they can handle.

F Draymond Green (Sr.), 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, Michigan State

Along with Ware, there isn’t a player in the country that is more man crush-friendly. I just can’t imagine any circumstance in which someone could ever watch Green play a game of basketball and not walk away loving absolutely everything he does on and off the court. Day-Day is the clear physical and emotional leader of a No. 1 seed that has as good a chance as anyone else of winning a national championship. He will always take the big shot and somehow, he will always be involved in the biggest defensive stop of the game.

He knows how to expose opponents’ weaknesses. It’s a cliché, but he is one of the purest players at the collegiate level, a guy who just has a sixth sense of where to be at all times. He is a player that can sense before anyone else how a play is developing on both sides of the court. He is as wholesome a leader as there is in the sport. Whatever you do, just don’t let him touch the ball on a Spartan final possession.