Bumped. GO BRUINS. -N
Ok, so this is an extremely long fanpost, but if you hate logical reasoning as to why people are being irrational on team expectations, you can stop reading.
I've posted similar thoughts elsewhere before, but after this past game, I've read a lot of bashing on the freshmen on message boards (what a mistake visiting them), and some comments here. I know that Jrue has struggled mightily in the last 4 games, and JA has had some hiccups, but I'm still shocked at how unreasonable people were with expectations.
Yes, the consensus #1 recruiting class ranking meant some lofty expectations, and I was certainly a believer in the hype, but took a step back and realized that they weren't very valid.
Look at the history of recruiting classes and tell me who's made a huge impact that puts a team over the top. The fact of the matter is that only Carmelo Anthony joined a team and became the impact player to win a championship as a freshman. And seeing how he has NBA Hall of Fame-level talent, I think it's unreasonable for people to expect those things out of a recruiting class.
The other team you might have a valid argument is UConn's 2003 class that played as freshmen on a championship team. Josh Boone, Charlie Villanueva, and Marcus Williams were all great talents and contributed to the championship, and all 3 are in the NBA now of course. But that ignores the fact that UConn had juniors Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor, and senior point guard Taliek Brown. They were the primary contributors to that championship team, and they barely made it too (last second shot against UW to send the tourney game to OT iirc).
Also, all 3 of them stayed at UConn for 2 or 3 years before jumping to the NBA. Their play certainly gave UConn a national championship, but I don't think too many people can compare the talent levels of Okafor and Gordon to Aboya, Collison or Shipp and that's not a slight to our players either, its just that Okafor and Gordon are big time talents.
Lets dig deeper into this. Think of freshmen that have taken their teams to a national championship game. And by taken, I mean they were the key piece. Recently, we had Greg Oden and Derrick Rose. By all accounts, these guys are once-in-a-decade type of players and were awarded with the #1 pick in the draft (and they would've been #1 as well, had they been able to jump straight to the NBA).
But that also ignores the contributions by the rest of the team. Rose came into a team who's style of play meshed well with his immense athleticism and playing ability - and they were veterans of 3 straight elite 8's and were athletic beasts and certainly a great team even without him. Of course, they couldn't shoot free throws for their life and they lost to a very talented Kansas.
That also ignores the fact that Greg Oden came into Ohio State with 2 other 5 star's (in the top 2-3 at their position as well) and the fact that Ohio State won the Big 10 the year earlier, so its not like the team wasn't lacking talent. By all accounts, while our team was ranked #1, you can't reasonably compare our classes impact (even without hindsight) compared to names like Greg Oden, Daequan Cook and Mike Conley.
Look at all the great players that have come into college basketball over the years. Kevin Durant? Bounced in the 2nd round to SUC. Michael Beasley? Bounced in the 2nd round after beating down SUC. OJ Mayo and Jerryd Bayless? First round knocked out.
Lets look at these other supposed "great" recruiting classes over the years from other teams. I'll list the school, the year, the recruiting team ranks, and their big name recruits:
Kansas 2005 (#1 on scout, #4 on rivals): Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, Julian Wright, Micah Downs
Kansas 2006 (#4 on scout): Darrel Arthur, Sherron Collins, Brady Morningstar
And what did Bill Self have to show for having 2 great classes?
2005-2006: Eliminted in first round
2006-2007: Eliminated by UCLA in the elite 8
2007-2008: National Championship
So yes, it took Kansas the 3rd year for their #1 class to win a championship, which might never have happened had Brandon Rush not tore his ACL the year earlier and missed the NBA draft.
How about big old UNC? They seem to ooze with talent:
UNC 2005 (#4 on scout, #9 on rivals): Bobby Frasor, Marcus Ginyard, Danny Green, and the ESPN-immortal-Tyler Hansborough
UNC 2006 (#1 on scout, #1 on rivals): Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Brandan Wright, Deon Thompson, Alex Stepheson, William Graves
So lets see what Roy Williams did:
2005-2006: Eliminated in 2nd round
2006-2007: Eliminated in elite 8 by Georgetown by 12
2007-2008: Blown out by Kansas in final 4
So it took 3 years of Tyler Hansborough's-the-greatest-ever-per-ESPN to even get UNC to the final 4 - where they were soundly crushed. Obviously, this is their 3rd year playing together and they have a legit shot at the title this year.
But what did Kansas and UNC all have in common? The two teams had back to back recruiting classes that were in the top 10 but they didnt make that jump to the final 4 until they had played together 2 years. By the way, I had a great chuckle reading the Rivals 2006 recruiting class rankings on UNC:
No wonder they are already being called one of the favorites to reach the 2006 Final Four.
Oops! Not so fast!
So what was the point of this long post? It's that expecting our freshmen to come in and send us to another Final 4 is downright ridiculous. Getting a sweet 16 would be better than what most schools do with their freshmen class. And if you lose 3 players that are starters as rookies in the NBA right now, you are going to undoubtedly struggle as you rely on freshmen.
Undoubtedly, these expectations aren't just on the freshmen - but also the team as a whole. However, when we consider that Aboya was a backup to LMR and LRMAM for 2 years (and of course, LMR backed up Love last year as well), that Shipp has always been the 3rd option on the team, that Dragovic barely had minutes before this season and isn't a great defender yet (and has skillsets more fitting of a 3, but has to play the 4 for us) - it should be no doubt that we'd have inconsistent play as we try to fit a convert a bunch of former roleplayers to starters and integrate 5 freshmen into a defensive system.
It kills me also to hear people bash Jrue, for instance, for not living up to the hype of being Gatorade National Player of the Year and all that. For one, what kind of impact do you think he should have? Put up 20 ppg? Cryin out loud, look at his season line so far (not including today): 9.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.4 apg to 2.1 turnovers per game (1.6 assist to turnover ratio is incredible for a freshman).
He's filling in for Westbrook, who was amazing last year, but look at Westbrook's freshman year: 3.4 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.7 turnovers per game for a 1.0 assist to turnover ratio. Yes, Westbrook played far fewer minutes than Jrue, but even if you normalize it out in stats per minute played, Jrue would still have double the rebounds per game, double the assists per game, and score 30% more points per game. That's amazing production from a freshman, especially one that has started from day one, and didn't have the benefit that RW did of being a backup to DC and of course, Afflalo!
All this bashing of him for being NPOY also ignores the fact that talent for previous high school NPOY awards were given to some once in a generation talent: Kevin Love, Greg Oden (2x), Dwight Howard, Lebron James, etc. Even before we saw Jrue play, no one was going to confuse Jrue with the likes of Oden, Howard, James etc. so why expect him to have the same impact? And with this being a down year talent wise for freshmen, it's utterly unreasonable for people to expect him to make the same impact as Oden or Love (who, even as amazing as he was, was coming to a team that was talented enough it could probably have made the final 4 even without him).
So my point is that we need to sit back and enjoy watching these guys develop, not wonder why they havent brought us a championship in one year. If 4 years later, they don't develop like the Lavin-era players did, then yes our criticisms on them and CBH might be valid. But for me? Knowing how much players advance within a year of playing collegiately, while having the benefit of senior leaders to learn from, I cannot wait to see what these guys do playing together for the next few years!