Anim making Big East pay for leaving him open

Sacar Anim’s transformation from deep bench role in 2016 to unquestioned starter in 2018 caught a few people by surprise after his redshirt season, but could realistically be attributed to Haanif Cheatham’s departure as well as Jamal Cain and Greg Elliot’s youth.

No one thought Sacar would go back to a deep bench role, but with the additions of Brendan Bailey and Joey Hauser, and judging from most of the conversations I saw, no one quite saw his minutes increasing from last season.

And yet there he is, playing 72.3% of possible minutes, up from 66.7% of minutes in 2018. His tenacious defense on the opponent’s best player makes it easy to see why Wojo is so reluctant to take him out. Night in and night out, he chases the Myles Powells and Kamar Baldwins of the world around the court, using his speed and strength to make life difficult for them.

Anim’s offense has always seemed like an added bonus, something to treasure when you see it, but not something this team could or should rely on. Sure he has had a couple of outstanding days, like dropping 26 at Creighton last year or 16 against Kansas St. earlier this season, but those were outliers. And yea, having him be able to attack the rim and finish at a higher percentage would definitely open up the floor more for the the Howards and Hausers of the world.

I even had a little rant on Twitter earlier this year fleshing out some frustrations with his hesitation near the rim that I think can still apply today.

And again, this particular team doesn’t need Sacar to score much or often to play well.

However, there is one aspect of his game that has taken an unexpected leap this season during Big East play, and something that I really do think could put this offense into another gear: his 3-point shooting.

His first two seasons, Anim was 10-39 from beyond the arc, a paltry 25.6% made only palatable by the fact that he was taking only .76 attempts per game. He knew his limitations and his role and he didn’t push the envelope. In the non-conference season, without a Rowsey to either draw in defenders or spread the floor, opposing teams felt comfortable enough leaving Anim completely unguarded, knowing even an uncontested shot from the perimeter was a better option than giving Sam or Markus any daylight.

Although Sacar did show more willingness to pull the trigger, he shot a true to form 25% from distance on 20 attempts. Of those 20, 9 came off unguarded catch and shoot situations where he hit an ok 33% of attempts. It’s well below average nationally, but within the range where teams will have to start thinking about it.

Big East teams probably saw this data, then saw the havoc Howard and the Hausers were causing and decided it was worth the risk.

Boy has Sacar made them pay.

Sacar has shot 40% from three in Big East play on 20 attempts, well above his percentage and 3-point shot rate for his career. But of those 20 shots, a whopping 12 of them have been unguarded catch and shoots and Sacar has hit a robust 46% of those. We are talking about small sample sizes, sure, but Sacar had never shown this kind of accuracy in any kind of sample size.

Sacar unguarded.JPG

His shot has always looked fine in terms of technique and release, it just hasn’t been shot with any sort of confidence. Against Butler, Anim splashed two home from the corners and didn’t hesitate to pull on a third, even though it resulted in a miss.

Now that’s not to say Sacar will make multiple 3s every game for the rest of the year. I doubt he even attempts multiple 3s every game for the rest of the year. But having this type of performance in his arsenal on a regular basis can take this offense to the next level. You can try to help off a Howard drive or double on a Hauser post up, but if you do so with Anim’s defender, he can and has made you pay.

As the old saying goes, if you don’t cover Sacar, he’ll hit you with that air guitar.





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