Despite my fatigue, you have guilted me back into blogging.
Let's revisit our now finished basketball season:
High Point: Beating Missouri in the Big XII Conference Tournament -
This was the game that showed legitimate improvement over last year, something that we needed after a very disappointing year (record-wise). Not only did we set the Big XII record for shooting percentage in the tournament, but we beat the #6 seed by 14 point. We attacked, we pressed, and we showed how explosive we could be.
Low Point: Losing to Iowa State -
Not only did we lose, but we dropped this game to a team that was on a 5-game losing streak in conference and we looked really bad doing it. Aaron Bruce, Henry Dugat, Mark Shepherd, and Tweety Carter combined to go 1 for 20 from the field for 4 points. That's 5% shooting from players contributing 90 of 200 total minutes in the game. Oh, and they also combined for 13 of the teams 20 fouls.
Most Improved Player: Kevin Rogers
Kevin nearly doubled his points and rebounds production over last year, was the teams leading scorer and improved throughout the year. He showed that, in spurts, he could be a very good rebounder and scorer. He needs to continue to improve his consistency as he matures, but he did show us a glimpse of the promise that he has.
Team MVP: Curtis Jerrells
I might be basing too much of this off the conference tourney, but the kid was amazing and showed what he could do. Early on it looked like Jerrells was having some trouble adjusting to the new rotation, but as he became more comfortable, he ratcheted up his performance. Despite averaging 1 point per game less than last year, Jerrells improved his rebounds, assists and reduced his turnovers per game.
Biggest Reasons to Look Forward to Next Year:
There are a lot of reasons to get excited, but I'll talk about three:
- We return all our contributors from this year
- We get healthy
- We add another great recruiting class
Next year, we'll be a team full of upper-classmen and guys that have been through a full season of games. That means that 10 of the 12 players on our roster will be back, including 7 of our top 8 scorers(including the top 5), 6 of our top 7 rebounders(including the top 4), and our top 5 assist leaders. The guys we do lose (Fields and Bush), were both injured much of the year, and they only averaged 33.2 mpg (out of 200) combined. There is no doubt that as our current roster matures, we will become a much more dangerous team.
2. We get healthy
Curtis Jerrells is the only BU player to play in every game. Rogers, Bruce, Thiam, Diene, Fields, Shepherd, Bush all suffered some sort of injury that caused them to miss games. Thiam and Bush suffered season-ending injuries (Thiam after seeing the court for only 28 minutes). Fields missed significant time early, and never really recovered from his injuries which kept him from being the player he could have been. Not many teams experience the injury trouble the 2006-2007 Bears did, and it's unlikely that we'll see a repeat of it next year.
3. We add another great recruiting class
Our highest rated recruit ever is on his way in and it would be hard to find a player that fit the bill for our team more. Dunn is a 6'5" SG/SF that can slash to the hoop, hit the 3 and will give us a great deal more versatility on the court in our multi-guard set. Fred Ellis will add some bulk under the hoop, and with the recent commitment of 6'8" PF Simpson, we will add some maturity (he's a JUCO) and some more dependable hands in the paint. Expect him to be a 6'8" more athletic Tim Bush-type player. I doubt we'll run many plays for him, but he'll get his points on the effort plays.
We are still trying to pick up Mamadou Diarra, a 6'10" 235lb PF, who has an advanced offensive game and could help us immediately. Baylor is in a battle with USC for his services, and we'll have to wait and see what he decides, but he could be a key part of the puzzle if he decides to head to Waco.
Was the season a disappointment? It's hard to admit it, but yeah it was. The 4-12 conference record was the same record we had last year with no non-conference, and the only reason it wasn't a total nightmare is that (with a few exceptions) we played very competitive basketball. 12 of our 16 losses came by 10 points or less. Half of those came by 5 points or less. We had a bad stretch in the second half of January, dropping 4 straight by an average of 12.5 points per game, including a 26-point romp by OU, and our last 6 losses came by an average of 6 points.
And despite the disappointment, there is a lot to look forward to next year. We should really expect a .500 season in conference play and a postseason tournament berth, either the NIT or NCAA.