There’s one word buzzing around this team… “injuries.” Well head coach Suzie Merchant seemed to have a few things figured out against Grand Valley State in the Spartan’s final exhibition game. Instead of looking at the scoreboard, let’s take a look at the stats sheet and beyond.
First things first, I noticed a sophomore forward coming up big time for the Spartans in scoring 16 points. Jasmine Hines is a good player for this team, but what will be key for MSU is if they can keep her playing like she did against GVSU. That statement goes further than just dynamically executing the fundamentals of her position… because she wasn’t playing her usual position.
Like many of the players, Hines had to adapt to a new system – one that did not highlight usual guard-play. Merchant, faced with a lack of healthy guards, took Hines and put her often at the two-guard spot. Now, there are many small-forwards who switch back and forth between the two and the three spot, but Hines did a very nice job of playing defense on top and then switching down low when she needed to.
I get the impression that a lot of people who aren’t quite as educated on the sport seem to find basketball simply a matter of running to get open based on a play’s coordinated routes and making sure you don’t let your assignment break free from your defense. Well, more or less, that is a true statement, on the surface at least. Here’s what Hines was facing that day: Being switched between responsibilities where one play she could be setting screens and rolling off of them to try to get an open lay-up or hook shot against one of GVSU’s forwards, and another play where she’d be swinging around the perimeter for an open jumper.
That kind of versatility is hard to keep consistent at Big Ten level of play, but if Merchant can find a way to get her players to consistently play that versatile, they could have a promising season.
I don’t anticipate this team winning the national title by any means, but I could see them in contention for a Big Ten title. A hybrid lineup like Merchant’s could possibly stump a few teams this season.