Any talk of making the NCAA tournament last week as an at-large was nuts. Let's manage expectations people. An RPI in the 80s with 0 quality wins is not going to happen. If we somehow beat a Cal their RPI would have plummeted below 50 anyway. The reality is the PAC 12 will be lucky to have 2 teams at this point much less our having had any chance of an at-large. 16-2 or 17-1 in conference was our only shot and those dreams died somewhere in Oregon.
This team is more frustrating than our crappy team 2 seasons ago. We were just bad then. This team is less than the sum of its parts. How else can you explain our record and our kenpom of 46? My eyes tell me the reason for this is we lack composure.
We look great at times almost like a tournament team. But when we get punched in the mouth or we faceadversity we melt down like chernobyl. I really think it's part system and part players. Howland's systemsdemands a guards that are NBA caliber. Our success came having guards like Farmar, Afflalo, Collison, and Westbrook.
Although I believe we have enough talent in Jones, Anderson, Lamb, and Powell to be more competitve the Howland system places too much pressure on them to make plays. Jones and Anderson simply lack the composure necessary to win games. They have played well when we are rolling as a team, but they lose it on the road and when we face adversity. Jones is a hot head and resorts to 1-on-1. Sure Anderson can make a shot down 10 to cut it to 7 with 3 minutes to play then get overamped like he did something special, but the reality is he is mediocre at best. He is the poster child for this last era of Howland basketball. They are seniors that don't lead.
I think this creeps over to the rest of the team. We complain on every foul call. Bad call or not one should reserve complaining to the head coach (who incidentally never does.. had he ever been T'd up?) Only on rare occasions should our players be glaring at refs. That is a loss of focus and mentally allows you to make excuses. It also leads to a team that can't win on the road.
Josh Smith not only needs to lose weight, but gain composure. Honestly I think with composure he would be great tomorrow more than the weight. Howland has brought up his going too fast which I agree with it. He also lets hard fouls on him go to his head. Some people play better mad, but Smith is not one of them. Smith always need to maintain his composure. He needs to not get mad, but also to not be so nice. Get that spot in the lane son without feeling sorry for that 220 lb boy guarding you. And get 4 players on the court that know how and when to deliver that ball to you.
So we are only an NCAA team if we win the PAC 12 tourney which was basically true a month ago. I am ambivalent about the NIT. I would watch, but leave that decision to go to the players.
More pressing is can this coach get it done and if not can this AD get a better coach? Howland is not terrible and this team is much closer than they look to being a top team. The addition of Anderson and Drew next year gives the squad 5 McDonalds All-Americans. If we added Shabazz that would give us a magical 6th in my opinion, Parker as a 7th I think next season is a non-factor. I definitely given the circumstances would not fire Howland if he lands Muhammad. Howland earns a year to prove with top talent that he can build a contender. 6 McDonald's all-americans with the type of unique talent Anderson and Shabazz provides a put up or shut up season for the coach. Howland should be able to stumble into a great season even if Drew does not prove to be an NBA caliber talent. Anything short of a Final 4 caliber team would be time to move on for me.
Sadly without Shabazz I think it leaves us short because I do not have faith that Howland will figure out how to get enough guard/wing play to do exactly what he wants to do. He would accidentally look brilliant with Anderson and Shabazz on the court, but just Anderson and I think his defense gets exposed.
I would love to take the higher road position to say we should move on to get a great coach. Howland has proven to me so far he is not great, but I also understand our immediate reality with Chianti. I would keep him with Muhammad and move on without. We all know that is not going to happen however. We did have Lavin for 7 seasons, so I am guessing with Guerrero here we can expect at least a few more.