Few observations watching this game (and some rambling on JTIII)
- A couple of people have pointed this out as well so I don’t totally feel like I’m being a bright-eyed optimist here, but this team shows flashes of play where they look like they can play with just about anyone. They have talent and when they’re playing within themselves (i.e. focused on D, playing uptempo, but not too fast, making smart passes, playing crisply on offense) they really look like a capable and even good basketball team. It’s made the losses really frustrating, but man it just feels like if they could just put it together for a couple games that they can really get rolling and be a tournament team. To be very clear, I do not expect this to happen or even really hope that it might. But there are glimpses in most of these games when this team is both really good and really fun to watch.
- This game was a perfect microcosm of this season. Off to a fast start and looked like they could compete and even win, a long stretch of hopelessness and confusion, a flurry of really good basketball to get back into it, followed finally by just not having the juice to make up for the earlier errors. As with the season overall, they just gave themselves no margin for error and that killed them in the end.
- Coach gets a lot of (deserved) blame around these parts and I largely agree with most of it. But there is one area where I have to give him some semblance of credit: it doesn’t seem like he’s lost his players as much as I would think he would have at this point. After the Providence game, I was convinced that he’d lost the team and they’d look mostly like that team the rest of the way. Since then, however, the team has (for the most part) at least played hard, looked (again, for the most part) engaged, and they still seem to enjoy each other. Obviously, this is from a distance and I don’t have any idea what’s happening behind the scenes, but during the Chris Wright-Jessie Sapp saga it was clear that something was up. It really doesn’t feel that way to me. When the getting is good, the team is celebrating on the sidelines, smiling, and always up for their teammates. Even during the Seton Hall game, which was arguably where they looked the most "listless" or "like they did against Providence," at the end the entire team was standing and altogether engaged for their guys. It’s not worth much of course, but it is kinda surprising given how the season has gone.
It’s also one of the reasons I think JTIII is going to keep his job at the end of the season. I’ll go on record as saying that I think it’s time for a change and that, in my mind, the reasons I think he’ll keep his job aren’t good enough for me personally. But, I do think he’ll keep his job this offseason. (Though I do think it’s overstating his security to say "he’s here for life" or whatever. I just don’t think that’s true anymore.)
That said, I think he keeps his job for three reasons:
- This was the first season with the new practice facility. I think the administration will give him at least one more with the new facility that he played a major role in building.
- The offseason coaching changes from last year. There were calls for change in style and substance after last season and in hiring new coaches, JTIII moved in the direction of changing some of that style and substance. I think the willingness to change will benefit JTIII when the administration is considering their approach to his job this offseason. (It is entirely debatable how much has really changed, how willing he really is to change, and whether either of those things should matter; I’m just saying the appearance of and willingness to work towards change will help him.)
- As mentioned above, that he doesn’t seem to have lost the players. Again, on this one I could be totally wrong and the team could be in shambles. But, we haven’t heard anything of the like and I’d have to think that if the players are happy/still responding to JTIII, the University will see that as a positive.
Personally, these reasons aren’t enough for me. I think it is probably time for a change and would absolutely support one (though, unlike others, I’m less bullish on who we can hire to replace him). I just think that a combination of those reasons is going to add up to JTIII getting one more year.