Last post-mortem of the season, so we've got that going for us, which is nice.
Just a few thoughts on the game. I'll do a season wrap up and preliminary preview in the next few days to tie everything in.
First off, it's a challenge to continue to write these and not repeat what's already been said. If you've read one of these post game summaries after January 1st, I'm sorry to admit, you've read them all. The nuances of the story change, but the theme remains the same.
Simply put, this team continues to not do the little things it takes to win basketball games.
Defensively, this has to be the worst team Barnes has ever fielded during his tenure at Texas. They're horrible. They don't stay in front of dribblers, they don't play good positional defense off the ball, they don't know how or when to help to penetration or step-in to stop drivers, they don't rotate correctly, etc. and so forth.
If you see anything sound that Texas does on the defensive end, then I'm all ears.
If it were up to me, I'd have these guys do the four man defensive shell drill every day until October, practicing simple ball-you-man defense until it was second nature. I wouldn't even introduce a post or the dribble penetration aspect of the drill for at least a month.
They're that bad.
So bad, that it effects rebounding. Our lack of any kind of team defense kills the ability to board because our players are never in favorable position to rebound the ball. We have good athletes, size, and strength inside, all the ingredients needed to be a good rebounding team.
To that point, there's no reason Wake Forest should be playing volleyball on the glass against us like we're an Ivy League school. It's pathetic, and, along with defense, the two go hand in hand in a pathetic marriage.
Offensively, we have virtually zero identity/system/sets, etc., to fall back on when we're having a cold shooting night, or teams have figured us out as individuals.
Our offense last night consisted of Jordan Hamilton hitting deep three's off of a modicum of dribble penetration, Damion James driving past a power forward 20 feet from the basket, or J'Covan Brown on a screen and roll. To score against solid defensive teams, we usually need heroic efforts; otherwise it looks like we're swimming upstream.
Thank God Wake was as disinterested to guard anyone last night as we were. I shudder to think what Kentucky would have done to us.
As for situational specifics, I railed on Barnes in the Open Thread for not making it perfectly clear to Brown that, as the team's best foul shooter, he's not to give up the ball with under 15 seconds to play. When you break the huddle or dead ball, even the simplest things are repeated.
Shit like, hey we have a timeout left if you're trapped, or we don't have any timeouts so don't Webber, or no three's here, or don't foul here, or don't pass it to your 50% foul shooter, or hey, you can't run the baseline here. Seriously these "little" things are emphasized in every game on every team at every level. You'd laugh at how much elementary stuff is repeated out of a timeout or dead ball.
Well, my apologies to Rick Barnes. In the post-game Barnes explained that he did remind Brown out of the dead ball to keep the rock and take the foul that Wake was certain to give.
Calling a spade a spade here, but that's a total mental breakdown on Brown's part if his coach truly told him, only seconds earlier, to hold on to the basketball and take the foul. What a mental rock to give the ball up in that situation after you've been reminded. And, yes, I get it, it was Gary's fault for not hitting his foul shots. That's not the point.
In the plus column, I was happy with the players' efforts for most of the game. Rebounding is tough if you're always out of position so it's not necessarily an effort issue, but defensively, especially in the last part of the second half, I thought we played with an intensity and effort on defense that had been missing for about a month. We weren't always sound, but we played hard and that can cover up some of those defensive warts.
There was a four or five possession stretch where we really got in their jerseys, harassed dribblers, and got into passing lanes. I'm mostly talking about Brown, Bradley, and Hamilton so I hope that carries over to next year.
Speaking of those three, if they can continue to build on the chemistry they showed flashes of last night, they'll be a solid group next year and beyond. Brown showed some quickness off the dribble, Bradley attacked the rim better than he has all year, and Hamilton proved he's not only unflappable on the big stage by shooting us back into the game in the first half, but he's also mature enough to defer as he did for most of the second half.
These guys are going to be really good if they stay together for a year or two.
So, certainly a disappointing game to cap off a disappointing season, but there are some positives to take away from this performance. We'll continue to be who we are, which is a top 25 team with a special run in the tournament every decade or so.
Unfortunately, any higher level of expectation or emotional involvement beyond that point is folly in my humble opinion. As a fan if you're okay with that, then good for you, because that's where we'll continue to be as a basketball team. We're not ever going to be bad, but after watching this season, it's doubtful we can ever be consistently elite.