We've all heard the talk about how NFL teams break a full season into quarters. With a 16 game season they put heavy emphasis on every block of 4 games. I'm going to attack this year in review in a similar fashion and break it into thirds: Pre-conference, Front End of Conference, Back Half of Conference.
After a disappointing football season the Red Raider diehards were in desperate need for a team to pick us up off the mat and renew our optimism. This team did just that. Under the leadership of Tubby Smith and with assistance from a heavy home slate of games the team raced out to a 10-3 start. All 10 victories were at home and we posted an 0-3 record on the road and in neutral site games. It was difficult to get upset with the losses. A loss at LSU against a very solid SEC school was expected and then the losses in Vegas weren't surprising. The team was missing Pogostick Smith and I'm sure the bright lights of Vegas, as much as you don't like to hear this, were a distraction on a team littered with youth. Overall it was what I expected. The team was protected by staying at the friendly confines of the USA and were able to gain some confidence headed into conference.
High Point: The 19 point comeback victory against Air Force. A team full of pups like ours wasn't suppose to be able to erase that deficit. It was awesome to watch. The game winning point was anti-climatic but the game-tying bucket was a dunk by DWIll that brought all 451 in attendance to their feet (and me at home).
Low Point: Everything about the end of the game in Baton Rouge. We showed our youth and puckered up. We couldn't inbound the ball and when we did we threw it right to wide open LSU players who then made layups. Mix in the mystery timeout turned 5 second call and I had about as sour of a taste in my mouth as I had all season.
Front End of Conference:
Bye bye aforementioned confidence. The struggle was real and it was often. Our Fab Five became our Frightened Four (Justin Gray only played 3 games). We witnessed a historic blowout in Norman and were blown out in 4 other games. To say the team and the fanbase came crashing down to Earth may be an understatement. The team went 1-8, lost 5 games by more than 15 points and on average were outscored by 17.6 points. That's absurd! All commentators could say about our team was "they are building a foundation". I hated hearing that over and over and over again but ultimately it was the truth.
High Point: Pretty obvious when you only win 1 game that will be the high point. The team knocked off #9 Iowa State in Lubbock in one of the biggest upsets of the year. A great shooting performance coupled by an awful first half by ISU led to Tech holding off the Cyclones and getting their most memorable win of the season.
Low Point: We made history in Norman for all the wrong reasons. An 81-36 blowout at the hands of the Sooners set several Big 12 records. I won't go into them. We don't need to relive that evening. The silver lining in that loss was that it might have allowed all of us, temporarily, to forget the football team going up there in 2009 and sleep walking through a football game.
Back Half of Conference:
The results weren't necessarily there but the team showed significant improvement. I think the shock of Big 12 competition subsided and the team was able to compete. A 2-7 record isn't much of an improvement but we reduced the average scoring differential to 9.4 points per game. We saw our Freshman step up and players like Rob Turner and Randy Onwausor take a backseat. Whether that was an effort to get more minutes for the Freshman or because of erratic or non-existent performance is neither here nor there. The team matured. The team showed some grit and fight. We saw flashes of what the future holds for Keenan Evans. DWill and Toddrick Gotcher had great individual games and hit big shots. The once thought flash in the pan Norense Odiase proved he might still have a bright future in this league. Despite losing, the team was once again enjoyable to watch.
High Point: DWill's redemption! Went from goat to hero in a matter of seconds in the victory against Oklahoma State. An ill-timed turnover had us cussing at the tv..specifically him and then he TOTALLY REDEEMED HIMSELF with the game winner.
Low Point: The loss at Baylor was incredibly difficult to swallow. I mean Stidham..(get back on track Matt)...8 of 21 at the charity stripe and our upperclassmen really struggled when it mattered most. Turner had 2 turnovers in crunch time and he and Gotcher missed assignments on defense that led to multiple 3-point makes by Baylor that more or less sealed the deal.
For whatever reason I'm always overly optimistic about Tech hoops which is very different then everything else in my life. I'm not pessimistic but very much a realist. Pre-conference was fools gold and had me thinking we could compete for an NIT berth. I was wrong. Looking back and putting on my realistic lenses it's plain as day to see that this team had no shot of competing in the Big 12 and ultimately pushing for postseason consideration. The season turned out to be exactly what we should have expected. We beat up on some sisters of the poor and then stepped into the best conference in basketball with one of the youngest teams in the country. It's tough to walk away from this season upset about the past few months. In reality we were just building a foundation for the future!
Please stay tuned for upcoming posts on a "Why we will win the NCAA Tournament" season preview next week as well as reviews of the guys that will lead us there in the coming weeks.