One step forward, one step back. Hard to see a way in for us now that doesn't involve beating two of UC, Nova, and Butler.
There's always the chance for good wins in the conference championship, but yeah, we hurt ourselves badly today. Still, all three of those games are winnable. We aren't in full panic mode yet.
I saw the score about an hour ago, and have refrained from commenting until I formulate my thoughts a bit, but it would seem like this is a team whose identity is found in the inconsistency with which they have struggler all year. There is still hope because there is a lot of talent that has shown up at various times this year. That being said, it is hard to see this as anything other than harmful, especially considering we now have a lost two out of three at home with Butler and Nova as our remaining home games. Will we really go 1-4 at Cintas down the homestretch? I don't know, but if that is indeed the case, we can't really complain if NIT is all we get.
Matt Stainbrook held the line on not being in panic mode yet and having opportunities ahead of us, but those opportunities come with a real threat of kicking our butts. Gagging on the Creighton game really put us behind the eight ball. If we win that one, losing to St. John's is maybe not so grave a wound.
What concerns me is the apparent lack of toughness on this team. We have some of the toughness that leads you to chest up on someone after you dunk or exchange dirt looks after a hard foul, but I'm not seeing the toughness that digs in and gets the job done.
It gags me to say it, but that's what worries me the most about Butler. I think we're more talented than they are, but they have dudes who give the impression that they'd dive across an asphalt court for a loose ball. I'm not sure I see that mentality in our team right now. Call me crazy, but that could be why we fade out of so many close games down the stretch.
I think the gap with this team is the difference between recognizing areas for improvement and actually improving. As soon as we lost to UTEP and LBSU back to back, everyone and their mom could see that this team struggled to stay engaged for 40 minutes on the defensive end. After the Creighton loss, Myles even pointed it out, and yet there has not been any marked improvement as the season goes on. I recognize the fact that these are 19-22 year olds, but I think they owe it to themselves to examine why, despite knowing where they need to get better, they can't seem to put it together where the rubber meets the road.
I do think toughness/scrappiness/whatever other words were used to describe the fact that David Eckstein sucked and kept a job factor in to losses like this, but my greater point is: didn't it factor in to the early losses, too? I am not under the illusion that I am owed some type of explanation or that I take losses even remotely as hard as the players do, but how are these things still not at least improving?
That being said, as long as there are games to win, I still have hope this team can win them. I can't help it.
Looking forward, who do you guys think we are most likely to beat out of the three potential resume helping wins?
Butler. Rivalry games on the road are never easy and Nova shoots the three too well. I think we could win all three, but Butler is the most likely.
Cinci. Butler is just tougher than we are, and Nova will rain threes on us because they're really good at basketball. I know UC thinks they're tough, but they're not effective-tough. I think we win the Shootout because UC doesn't do the things that beat us very well.
Then again, we lost to Creighton at home.
I am going with Butler as well since Nova matches up well with us and UC is exactly the type of environment where we have struggled. In terms of the game, I think we match up best with Cinci, but I am just not sure how this team will play in that environment. Hope I'm wrong and we stomp them by 20, but there is just too much inconsistency to be very sure right now.
Realistically speaking, we probably need three of our last five to put ourselves on the right side of the bubble going into the Big East tournament. Gun to your head, do you think we get it done? I'm saying yes: the Shootout, @Creighton, and at least one of Butler, Nova, and @St. John's.
I wouldn't be much of a fan if I said no, but realistically, I think these guys can and will answer the bell now that there is pretty much no margin for error. Need a must-win attitude for at least the next 2 games, but I think there is just enough urgency to keep us at least at .500. Who knows what happens at MSG, but if we get there with any type of momentum, it will be exciting.