NIT Gut Punch

Raise your hand if you thought we had an outside chance at beating K-State.

Raise your hands if you are reevaluating everything you thought about this team.

This 0-2 start can be rationalized a number of ways.  Basketball is a funny game and sometimes the ball doesn’t want to bounce your way — let alone go in the basket. Those loose balls sometimes fall into the hands of the hungry underdog. Sometimes the ball just goes in for them and out for you. Sometimes the calls go against your All-American and you can’t hit free throws.

The thing about these losses — this one in particular — is the little things. Being out-rebounded by a D-2 school is all kinds of embarrassing. That shouldn’t happen and rationalizing can make it seem like it was okay that it did. I’m noone’s coach and you, dear reader, aren’t on the team. I’ll save any pretense at a Fire and Brimstone locker room speech. That won’t do anyone any good.

Only a win would do us good. Even if it was one of those ugly wins that the football team got over that other Alabama team. I’d take a comeback win that would catch criticism. Instead we have only a Lamar team that looks pretty damn formidible. If we can’t beat a D-2 team, who says we can beat a D-1 team with D-1 talent?

Let’s pause and be diplomatic. Let’s give Alabama-Huntsville credit. If they didn’t think they could beat the most hyped Sun Belt team they wouldn’t have won.

Okay. That’s out of the way. Let’s get back to that game. I had wondered aloud if the poor shooting against Creighton caused some of our hesitancy in that game. Guys were passing up makeable shots due to lack of confidence or something. It was a big crowd against a good team that could score in bunches. Maybe the team felt the pressure to light it up the same way?

So I was confident coming into this one even though we learned shooter Brandon Walton will be out until January. Clarke Overlander, Argyle’s own, is a shooter. Jordan Williams, Chris Jones, Tony Mitchell, and even Jacob Holmen can hit the open three so it’s no biggie right? Against a D-2 team?

Apparently it is a big deal. Chris Jones has yet to find the swagger that got him 14 points per game last season. Tony Mitchell fouled out again. The offense looked sounded out of sorts and the defense is giving up second-shot opportunities at the worst moments. They couldn’t overcome a well-coached team in Omaha, and they couldn’t finish the comeback against a good team in Manhattan. Jordan Williams played really well (career high in points) but everyone else was struggling. Can we win when only one or two guys are helping out the main offensive threat?

It might be best that we didn’t squeeze out a win tonight. Can you imagine the beat-down K-State would have put on us? *Shudder*

I didn’t bother checking the veracity of this tweet. It doesn’t really matter when the last time we lost to a lower-division squad was. We know we have been really good this last half-decade and that this roster is the most talented in that span. That means that we should be past losing to this kind of squad.

Or not. Maybe this is all on us. Maybe the fan base is misreading the cards in the hand here. After all, this is largely the same team that didn’t win back-to-back games from January 21 to March 5 last season. Perhaps we underestimated the learning curve for a first-year head coach.

I really don’t know the answers to these questions. We are all just trying to square the talent with the results and the hype with reality.

I know that I still think this team can do some great things this year for a lot of reasons. I also know that basketball games aren’t won by assembling really good players and rolling the ball out there. Tony Benford seems like a good guy and by all accounts a really good coach. I’m hoping he is all that and more. Right now? I won’t lie and say that I’m not wondering what Johnny Jones would have done.

Honestly, most of us out here listening to this thing don’t know nearly as much about basketball as even the worst coaches. I will say that you can always tell the guys that translate that knowledge into on-court performance.

Does that sound impatient of me? Yep. Only because mid-major programs don’t get lottery talent every year. Denton isn’t Austin. There isn’t another McDonald’s All-American lined up to come play here next year. It’d do my Mean Green heart some good if we could rack up some early wins and a couple of entertaining losses against good teams. These blow-outs and choke jobs? Eek.

All that now written, we must remember that we’ve only played two games. We missed a giant opportunity to jump up on the national stage early in the year and make a little noise. Remember though, this national stage isn’t as big as the one in March, nor was it going to do us much good when we were battling it out in the Sun Belt tournament.

Outside of an absolute romp through the Belt — we are talking 10-point margins here —  we likely were going to be a bubble team at best if we lost the SBC tourney anyway. A good gut punch early can serve as motivation. No one will be believing their own hype with two humblings fresh in their minds. (I’m not saying that was the cause for the loss — but it very well could have been).

So let’s take it for what it is: an missed chance at early season notoriety that falls back into a motivation tool in Tony Benford’s toolbox.

It is a long season ya’ll.