So we keep getting off to slow starts against crappy teams and then having to come back. It's been three weeks since we stomped someone. Are we scuffling? What's going on here?
I’d immediately point out that Marquette is actually a really good team, not a crappy one. Beyond that, we almost look disinterested against the ETSU’s of the world. It reminds me of Tu’s senior year against Vandy and Purdue. Fall behind, flip the switch, break hearts. It worked all the way until we couldn’t come all the way back against Baylor.
Yeah, I don't think that is a good formula in the Big East. You just can't count on double digit comebacks against anyone but DePaul. That said, it was DePaul today, so not showing up for 25 minutes didn't kill us in the end. Against Nova or Creighton or Seton Hall, it would've.
And it did that team as well. Looking back, we closed down the stretch by losing to Dayton, SLU twice, Memphis, Temple, and UMass. (Not all in a row, obviously). I’m hoping Coach Mack learns from what may have been the misplaced hubris of that team and bears down on this one, because right now they look like they think they can just turn it on at winning time. Naji said it after ETSU, and Q said it today.
I mean, they were right both times. Against Marquette the effort was there throughout for the most part, it just looks like this team takes the foot off the gas sometimes.
Yeah I'm not quite ready to turn this into a big deal, although its worth keeping an eye on. I think making the Elite 8 after having a bad regular season last year could make you a little more apathetic about games against DePaul in late December. One of the hallmarks of CM teams is being able to hit their peak late February and into March, and I dont see any reason we shouldnt expect that this year as well. Its not ideal, but I would argue there isnt necessarily any great correlation between success in late January and early December and success in March.
The bigger deal to me is that something looks a little off with Bluiett. This is his 5th straight game where he's looked a little lackluster from the field. He's made up for it from the line, but I think he's battling some injuries. Hopefully he can get healthy because we need him at full strength down the stretch.
The taped shoulder, the rumors about his back, and his general gait all are a bit concerning. It’s like the team in general, not a huge worry yet, but something worth keeping an eye on. 3-15 from behind the arc in the last two games is far short of ideal.
Now all of that said, XU heads into the new year 14-1 ranked as high or higher than they have ever been. In the spirit of New Years, what resolutions does this team need to make to become a legit FInal Four contender? I think I'm going to go defense. We have seen this team play tough defense for stretches, but they have yet to really prove they can lock down a team for 40 minutes. On Tuesday they go up against a team they are very familiar with in Butler, a team without a ton of scoring options (short of shooting 68% from 3.) I would like to kick the New Year off right by locking down Baldwin and Martin, holding Butler to under 70, and taking control of first place in the BE.
I'm gonna say consistency over 40 minutes. Kind of dovetailing with Paul's point, this team seems to lose focus at various points throughout a game and sometimes only regain it when a loss seems imminent. I would really like to see them put together a complete game of focus and effort against Butler. Don't need to blow them out, just look like you want to win the entire game.
I’d settle for getting our post guys involved more. O’Mara and Jones are second and third on the team in ORtg but eighth and sixth in FGA. The team shoots 57.6 times per game; Big Sean and Tyrique - despite shooting a combined 70.1% on the year - account for 9.6 of those attempts. We tend to go away from the post for long stretches; maybe keeping those guys central in our game might help avoid the occasional 16-point deficit against a mediocre team.