This past weekend was brutal for Red Raider nation. Football embarrassed itself one last time, and more worrying Basketball was swept by “inferior” competition. The results in Vegas has rocked the confidence of the fan base. I was happy to see many are still trusting Beard to coach this team up, but there is no doubt that even that crowd is wondering if the team is just too young to compete this year.
Expectations for this season were sky high, a testament to Beard’s ability, and no one saw a sweep in Vegas coming. But throw the panic button in the trash, this team is just getting started. The team struggled, but context is needed to understand how these losses happened.
Kyler Edwards was still ice cold, Ramsey did not play at all against Creighton, and both Iowa and Creighton shot the lights out of the gym. If Iowa or Creighton do not have fantastic shooting nights, the odds are high that despite playing bad basketball you win one or both games. There is no doubt the team has some issues, but they are not stemming from a lack of talent which means Beard and his staff can fix them.
One reason for alarm was the lack of defense. With rotations breaking down and both Iowa and Creighton feeding the big men to great effect the defense looked out of sorts. This team does not have a real shot blocker, and that is going to hurt at times. However, the rotational issues are a fix that will come with time. This team is very inexperienced and against real competition they struggled to maintain defensive discipline. Now with this experience and film to fall back on, I expect a drastic turn around coming in that department.
The team had been hitting the three ball with consistency, but turned into a brick factory in Vegas. This is not a reason to worry. While we would love to see more drives inside, how many times is Davide going to miss at that rate? And while Edwards is slumping, there is no doubt in my mind he is due for a break through.
Ramsey has shown the ability to get hot from deep as well, which will open the offense up. Do I think this team is going to lead the nation in three point percentage? No, but I see the potential for a top three percentage in the conference.
While Holyfield struggled, Clarke was able to pick up a lot of the offensive slack. When both of these guys are in the zone, this offense is lethal. Clarke in particular is a mid-range jumper away from being almost unstoppable. Right now teams are comfortable playing off his hands and that is making him less effective. He has found ways to produce despite that, but this defensive style is clogging the lanes for the other guards. If he can combine his court-vision with a mid-range jumper, teams will have to come out to meet him and the driving lanes will open up. Holyfield just had a weekend to forget, he will be fine going forward.
All of these problems are correctable. The only real problem I see for the future is the lack of a true shot blocker, but I bet Beard and Adams are scheming to make this a moot point. The talent on this team is so raw, but it is everywhere. I didn’t even mention Shannon or Big Russ or McCullar. Still, a lot of people are asking themselves is this team a true national title contender?
We all doubted last year’s team could make an actual run after a slump in January. But the team kept grinding, and the result speaks for itself. This year’s team is a lot more talented, so the ceiling is just as high. Trust the process, getting wins over DePaul and Louisville will cover up the ugly showing in Vegas. We may not be Final Four bound, but this team is going to be fun to watch. Enjoy the ride, manage your expectations, but trust that Beard will get the most out of this group.