Wednesday, February 15, 2012

basketball thoughts: a season on the brink

Editor's Note: This was originally sent as an email to my brother Whit and will likely be updated later in the day with his take. For now, you're stuck with cynical old me. Apologies in advance.

Photo via
This is what I deserve for feeling positive about the basketball team.
• My thought that we might survive without JaMychal Green because of Nick Jacobs has been demolished the last two times we've taken the court. Jacobs looks lost on defense, and as the primary post man on offense he looks overwhelmed. There was a moment in the LSU game — when the game was still taut — where he came free off a screen-and-roll, had an uncontested basket ... and fumbled the ball away like me in a pickup game. I realize he's only a freshman. But we need him to be more than he's been thus far, particularly since Engstrom and Gueye are simply not reliable options against good teams.
• Does anyone know what happened to Randolph & Lacey? Again, they're just freshmen, but how did they lose their confidence so quickly? Lacey was supposed to be a combination guard with a reliable enough handle to allow us to spell Releford and play a more flexible lineup; he looks lost out there. Randolph has been slightly better, but he too appears afraid to shoot — last night their combined line: 47 minutes, 4-9 FG (1-5 on 3s), 0-2 FTs (2 FTs!!!!), 9 rebounds. Is there any way to repair this?
• This one really isn't so much a question as an oft-repeated rant, but this team wastes SOOOO many possessions, it's appalling — turnovers, missed layups, missed short jumpers ... turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Last night, against a top-20 opponent, we shot 12-24 from the line, and turned the ball over 18 times. And that doesn't include the number of easy shots we missed. And we lost by 9. Yeah.
• If you subscribe to the theory that an NCAA Tournament team must finish 8-8 in conference, then all is not lost. We are, currently, 5-6 in conference. We have 3 home games left, even if 2 of them are against 2 of the better teams in the SEC (State and Tennessee). So ... it ain't over, even if it feels that way.

Now ...
Here's the part where I must (grudgingly) credit coach Grant and his staff for making a very difficult choice. Grant knows a) his fan base expected a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2012; b) that suspending 4 of his starting 5 at this point in the season would possibly stick a dagger in those expectations. But here is where coaching takes over: Coaches, particularly college basketball coaches, are supposed to be teachers — not just teachers of basketball, but teachers of life. And the life's lesson we are currently (painfully) learning is that our players will be required to do the right things and be accountable, wins and losses be damned. In the larger picture, I think we can all live with that.
(In the short term, I'm going to pull out all my hair.)

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