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Effort v. Talent

Another great post from BruinBlue on the current doldrums re. our hoops team - which I received via email. BB wrote this up the day after the debacle in South Central. -N

No question but that we were not at an emotional peak for last night's game. But I usually feel that the emotional aspect is overemphasized. I remember how analyses of Lavin's losses were often about how we were "not ready to play," when the truth was that we were so fundamentally unsound that well-coached teams could break us down over 40 minutes. When you have talent and yet play badly, it usually looks as if you are not playing hard.

I'm sure we underestimated USC because we had beaten them so easily before. But even so, remember we were up six with 14 minutes to play. Surely by that point we were taking the game seriously. So I'm looking more toward our personnel deficiencies as the cause of the loss. Floyd is a much better coach than Kent or Johns or Evans, and he was able to exploit them.

Our point guard looks as if he is playing with lead weights in his shoes, because his ankles are so sore. And Howland must feel as if he simply can't play him 35 minutes, which we need him to play; because our backup PG has gone from promising-but-erratic, to problematic, now to a definite liability. If Collison continues to play this badly, we can't afford to play him over ten minutes a game. It is not coincidence that when Farmar was taken out with the six-point lead, we immediately lost the lead. That is one time when I would have left Farmar in as long as I could, because of the momentum we had; and where Howland seems to ignore that aspect. If Collison has to play 25 minutes, we have real problems.

Our shooting guard is such a competitor, but he has lost his outside shot. Bozeman brings some steadying influence, but his offense is so limited. Luc is a phenom, but can't yet create a shot beyond a layup. Hollins continues to be an immense disappointment; his previous signs of improvement seem like occasional blips in a basic flatline of non-contribution. I didn't look at the box, but I would guess that Hollins had no points, maybe two rebounds, three or four balls which he lost out of could a starting center do worse? Aboya's still struggling physically, and has a long way to go fundamentally. Wright is a non-factor at this point. Roll so far is a one-dimensional player, and except for his two late threes, he hasn't even been doing that in the last few games.

The truth is that without Shipp, we don't have that much overall talent. Virtually every one of our players is one-dimensional, and too many of them are projects, including the now-missed Mata. That's the cost of having Lavin decimate our talent base and our prestige--we are struggling mightily in trying to bring in top-twenty players, which a program which seeks national prominence simply has to do. You can't have an entire team of HS All-Americans (though Duke and Carolina come close to it), but you are really asking a lot if you expect that teaching solid fundamentals is going to elevate a group of top-100 players (and a couple of legitimate prospects) into a top ten program. And with that, we still have almost managed to do it; but we can see how our deficiencies show up against most of the better teams we play.

No team plays its best every night, but the teams with the best talent (assuming they have good coaching) can usually overcome lesser efforts. We need to bring in a complement of players who can physically match up to almost anyone; and we need to do it consistently, so that the inevitable NBA defections won't set us back two years. Next year we will certainly be better, but one wonders about the year after that, if Farmar and Afflalo leave. What I saw out there last night was a team with limited physical capability, which has overachieved all season, not having enough offensive capability or quality depth to overcome a fired-up opponent which does not lack quickness. "Coming to play" is part of the equation, but certainly not all of it.