Lady Vols continue to cover for Ariel Massengale's absence

Tennessee's Ariel Massengale (5) is shaken up during the game against Florida at Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday, January 23, 2014. Tennessee defeated Florida, 89-69. 
  
 (SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Saul Young, 2014 Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee's Ariel Massengale (5) is shaken up during the game against Florida at Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday, January 23, 2014. Tennessee defeated Florida, 89-69. (SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)

While Tennessee’s Cierra Burdick isn’t a doctor, she makes house calls for Lady Vols teammate Ariel Massengale.

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Comments » 9

CaptainPicard writes:

I watched a replay of the Tenn-Ala game. It seems to me that the high number of turnovers and inconsistent play on offense and defense is directly related to frequent player substitutions. I am soliciting comments on this observation. Also, why does Holly continue to follow this scheme of frequent player substitutions since it is not working? What is she trying to accomplish? One of UConn's strength is limited player substitutions. Watch any UConn game if you don't believe me.

RLL59 writes:

First, related to Ariel's injury, it must be far more incapacitating than it was thought for this competitive young woman to keep herself out of the games. Best wishes to her.

Regarding Coach Holly's substitution policy, you're right. While fans are not privy to what goes into substitution decisions, we can see what doesn't work. The upside of the current tactics are: players should develop less fatigue; lesser players should be happy with their extra time on the court; and the team is better prepared to adjust to injuries or foul problems. The downsides are: players and team don't develop a cohesive game with so much variability among the 5 playing at any one time; the better players are, or should be, less happy about their diminished time on the court; and less experience on the court hinders the development of the better players.

The Lady Vols have many quality players, unlike nearly every other team in the country, so playing time decisions are much more difficult. That is why, in my opinion, two teams of 5 alternating on the court should at least be tried. If it works, this would maintain the positives of spreading playing time around while minimizing the impact of the negatives. Interestingly, the supposed big change in the women's game of instituting the 10 second rule has not made any difference that I can perceive. Perhaps the close calling of hand checking has made teams afraid of pressing in the back court. It seems like the Lady Vols have enough quality players to employ a pressing defense, and at a minimum, tire the opponent out as the game wore on.

Others will have differing or additional opinions on substitutions, but it seems clear that player and team development, including reduction of turnovers, increased number of assists, and consistency, aren't now at acceptable or expected levels.

johnlg00 writes:

Excellent observations. The perennial LV problem of "too much" talent on the same team is not one many teams face. I think you correctly summarized the factors Holly has to consider in making these decisions. And of course, we all know the problems of consistency and precision that seem to stem from the lack of cohesion. Finally, I love the idea of two separate teams and substituting them as a unit. I proposed that the men's team do the same thing for many of the same reasons. I don't see any chance of either team doing that, mostly because of the conservatism of the staffs, but I think it would be a great idea and can't imagine why more teams haven't tried it.

I also agree that Massengale's situation may be more serious and have more dimensions than we have heard about so far. Let's keep our fingers crossed!

MaxVolFan writes:

The main reason Uconn doesnt substitute as much is they have a very short bench . They only have 8 scholly players and two non. Banks and Chong rarely see the court unless its a blowout which they have been doing often in the weak AAC. Lately we have been substituting better for situation purposes. The fact we have a deep bench works in our favor down the stretch.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to MaxVolFan:

The main reason Uconn doesnt substitute as much is they have a very short bench . They only have 8 scholly players and two non. Banks and Chong rarely see the court unless its a blowout which they have been doing often in the weak AAC. Lately we have been substituting better for situation purposes. The fact we have a deep bench works in our favor down the stretch.

Very true. UConn makes a virtue out of necessity. Although, come to think about it, it just could be a conscious choice on Geno's part to go with a short roster for all the advantages of cohesion and accountability already cited. That may also be why the LVs almost never have as many scholarship players as they are allowed. Depth is an unnecessary luxury when fouls, injuries, and fatigue remain at manageable levels, and too much of it can also cause unhealthy competition for minutes and roles among the players and lead coaches to "churn" their lineups to try to keep everybody happy. On the other hand, it never hurts to have reinforcements on hand when misfortune of one sort or another whittles the roster down.

CaptainPicard writes:

in response to RLL59:

First, related to Ariel's injury, it must be far more incapacitating than it was thought for this competitive young woman to keep herself out of the games. Best wishes to her.

Regarding Coach Holly's substitution policy, you're right. While fans are not privy to what goes into substitution decisions, we can see what doesn't work. The upside of the current tactics are: players should develop less fatigue; lesser players should be happy with their extra time on the court; and the team is better prepared to adjust to injuries or foul problems. The downsides are: players and team don't develop a cohesive game with so much variability among the 5 playing at any one time; the better players are, or should be, less happy about their diminished time on the court; and less experience on the court hinders the development of the better players.

The Lady Vols have many quality players, unlike nearly every other team in the country, so playing time decisions are much more difficult. That is why, in my opinion, two teams of 5 alternating on the court should at least be tried. If it works, this would maintain the positives of spreading playing time around while minimizing the impact of the negatives. Interestingly, the supposed big change in the women's game of instituting the 10 second rule has not made any difference that I can perceive. Perhaps the close calling of hand checking has made teams afraid of pressing in the back court. It seems like the Lady Vols have enough quality players to employ a pressing defense, and at a minimum, tire the opponent out as the game wore on.

Others will have differing or additional opinions on substitutions, but it seems clear that player and team development, including reduction of turnovers, increased number of assists, and consistency, aren't now at acceptable or expected levels.

Thank you very much for your comments.

CaptainPicard writes:

I thank everyone for their incisive comments on player substitutions. Also, my prayers are with Ariel on a speed recovery from her injury.

wn#1414709 (Inactive) writes:

On the substitution front, I would offer the following. LV have significant speed and defensive and perimeter shooting problems at the 2 and 3 spots as a team . They are set at the 4 and 5 positions with the combinations of Harrison, Russell, and Graves. Until recently Burdic played more like a 4 rather than the 3 for which I think she was recruited. She seems too be to slow to match up with the 2 and 3 players on the opposing team, and until recently have had trouble making any perimeter shots. Think of all the 2 and 3 players that have torched the LV this year. Simmons is a streaky shooter and to my eye a below average defender. I think Tucker was recruited along with Kalea Davis who went to GA Tech to solve that problem. My guess is Holly makes numerous subs at the 2 and 3 positions depending on the situation at hand. Jones goes in when they need defensive stops, Burdic for rebounding, and Simmons for offensive punch when they need it. Carter is really a natural point guard, and can pay the 2 in a pinch. Reynolds seems to have a similar skill set to Carter but by my eye not as fast. I think Holly is making subs situationally to make up for skill shortfalls at the 2 and 3. That shows I think in their recruiting effort. Top Recruit Aja Wilson plays the 3, No 5 player in country is a wing from Oregan, and Tucker who I hear is the best shot on the team will be available next year as a redshirt freshman.

CaptainPicard writes:

in response to wn#1414709:

On the substitution front, I would offer the following. LV have significant speed and defensive and perimeter shooting problems at the 2 and 3 spots as a team . They are set at the 4 and 5 positions with the combinations of Harrison, Russell, and Graves. Until recently Burdic played more like a 4 rather than the 3 for which I think she was recruited. She seems too be to slow to match up with the 2 and 3 players on the opposing team, and until recently have had trouble making any perimeter shots. Think of all the 2 and 3 players that have torched the LV this year. Simmons is a streaky shooter and to my eye a below average defender. I think Tucker was recruited along with Kalea Davis who went to GA Tech to solve that problem. My guess is Holly makes numerous subs at the 2 and 3 positions depending on the situation at hand. Jones goes in when they need defensive stops, Burdic for rebounding, and Simmons for offensive punch when they need it. Carter is really a natural point guard, and can pay the 2 in a pinch. Reynolds seems to have a similar skill set to Carter but by my eye not as fast. I think Holly is making subs situationally to make up for skill shortfalls at the 2 and 3. That shows I think in their recruiting effort. Top Recruit Aja Wilson plays the 3, No 5 player in country is a wing from Oregan, and Tucker who I hear is the best shot on the team will be available next year as a redshirt freshman.

Very astute and incisive comments.

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