The State of the Hoyas: Waist Deep in the Big Muddy

This is the latest opus by Casual Wiseman sleepyhoya:


There is little in life more depressing than walking the streets of NYC surrounding by Big East fans knowing that you've been sent home.  Worse still is trudging over to Amtrak in the pouring rain, going downstairs to push and shove through a crowd, knowing that upstairs real live basketball is being played, history is being made and by tipoff of game 1, I'll be pulling into Trenton, New Jersey.  Hoya fans are fleeing NY because as Pete Seeger famously wrote, "we're stuck, with no place to go... we're waist deep in the Big Muddy"

After watching the Hoyas at the Garden, it is painfully evident what our problem is.  Without Chris Wright, our offense is unable to generate more than about 50-55 points per game.  That's not just against one Big East opponent, its against all of them we've played since the injury.  We've had plenty of time to adjust, but we simply can't.  The real problem is we can't really guard people.  No matter who we play in our conference right now, they are going to score somewhere north of 70 points because of our defensive liabilities that include poor rebounding.  That means we will lose and keep losing because the formula just doesn't work for us right now.  We are stuck.

In a pretty remarkable comment after the Cincinnati game last week, Oldhoya said clearly there is something wrong with the Hoya program.  This is coming from someone whose loyalty to the team is beyond reproach and who has seen so many games that he's not prone to a hyperbolic outburst caused by a losing streak.  And I think many of us  know he's right.

To find the reason, look no further than one of Bashful Hoya's first posts.  He highlighted a fundamental difference between the JT Jr. program and that of JT III.  Bashful rightly said that everything Jr. did started from defense and rebounding.  He was right when he pointed out JT III's system starts on the offensive end.  It seems, and the Wright situation brings it into clear focus, that its hard to go deep in the tournament or win national championships with an offensive designed coaching scheme.

In my humble view, there are three ways to win in college basketball.  First is cheating, or what is more accurately known as the Calipari way.  Second is getting first crack at all the prize recruits because of reputation of the program. We'll call that the Duke method.  The third is build a system around tough defense and rebounding getting players that fit that system.  Let's call that the Michigan State plan.  They rarely get the top recruits, but are almost always there at the end of March.

Well we're not going to take the first route and the second isn't available to us right now.  So to win consistently and go deep into the tournament we have to take the third.  The key point in the last sentence is consistently.  Defense and rebounding can cover the inevitable one or two game shooting slump or offensive breakdown.  When you don't have a tough defense to fall back on you're vulnerable to lose to anybody and any night.  That basically describes our experience in the NCAA tournament for the past few years.

The good news in the short term is with Chris Wright back, and if he's healthy, our offense will run again and we can beat any team in the country on any given night.  All is not lost for this year, this group of seniors is capable of surprising us all with a deep run.

But I hope the broader point isn't lost.  To avoid getting stuck in this mud in the future we are going to have to field a different kind of team.  One that is tougher, stronger and better defensively.  A team that can survive losing a key offensive threat because they depend on defense, not offense.

And that toughness starts at the top.  JT Jr. said on the radio yesterday that he told his son after the Huskie loss that he (JT III) was a better coach than him.  Thompson said there is no way he could have won 21 games with this group of kids.  "Either they would have killed me or I would have killed them."  Those who have been listening to JT Jr. for a long time will all probably hear the backhandeness of that compliment.  In praising his son he couldn't help but point out there was no way he could have ever tolerated the lack of toughness, lack of defensive effort and scared looks you saw on the Hoya player's faces especially in Cincinnati.

Let's enjoy the tournament.  It could bring great things.  But then its time for a great debate about the future of the program.  I guess that will give some of us something to do over the summer.

Stay Casual, my friends.