First off, I’d like to say that I think that was a really good win last night. Was it pretty? No. But winning a neutral site game against a team that is going to finish well in the Pac 12 with no Mitch McGary cannot be called anything except a good win (especially with that officiating, holy cow was that bad).
I was thinking this morning about our season-to-date and I found myself thinking about how the other teams in the B1G would’ve done with our schedule. We’re likely going to finish the non-conference schedule at 8-4 with our losses @Duke (#8 ranked team), @Iowa State (#17/#13 ranked team), Arizona (#1 ranked team) and Charlotte (uhhh…yikes). In my opinion, no one in the B1G is going to Duke and winning. I personally don’t believe that anyone in the B1G, at least the way the teams are playing right now, would go to ISU and win. I do think that MSU, OSU and Wisconsin would have a fair shot to beat Arizona at home. The Charlotte loss, simply put, is a very bad loss and I think most respectable B1G teams would’ve beat them in that setting. So, what’s the point of all of this? My point is that I don’t think there’s a single B1G team that would have a better record than 10-2 with our schedule. At 8-4, with a young team who is learning how to win without their go-to guys from last year, I think we’re right on schedule and I look forward to very good things in the B1G portion of the schedule. Last night was huge because it shows me that this team is learning how to win close games. Again, I think we’re right on schedule and I’m looking forward to big things yet this season.
sucks that we couldn’t pull out a win over Duke/Arizona/Iowa St but we were close and those are Top 15 teams.
Charlotte - I’m interested to see how they finish their season. That loss can’t be worse than last year’s loss against 10-21 Penn State.
The Big Ten looks pretty even across the top. Outside of Penn St, Nebraska, and Northwestern, the rest seem to be pretty competitive.
Being young and playing a tough schedule up front…hopefully means we’ll come into the BT season with the most “gains” from the start of the season.
As far as youth is concerned, we are not significantly younger than we were last year. We had five freshmen last year, all of whom played, and all of whom are now sophomores. This year we have only two true freshmen who are playing, and we are not depending heavily on either. As far as upperclassmen, last year our only two seniors barely contributed, one junior left, and one junior is now a more experienced senior. This year, among our top nine guys in minutes played are 5 sophomores, 2 freshmen, 1 senior and 1 junior. Last year it was 5 freshmen, 2 juniors and 2 sophomores. Not sure how anyone concludes that we’re “younger” or “less experienced” than last year.
What are our real problems so far? McGary’s injuries, of course, but that’s out of anyone’s control. The fact that Robinson has not upped his game nearly as much as a projected top 10 NBA pick should have from his freshman to sophomore year. The fact that our two most experienced players, Morgan and Horford, have been very limited contributors on both ends of the floor when it really mattered. The fact that our team defense has not improved at all over last year, and in fact has gotten worse. And the fact that we still do not have a true floor leader. You hate to put too much blame on a true freshman, but Walton has not developed as well as either Morris or Burke did. We’ve basically got three guys trying to get the minutes filled in at point guard, but until we have one guy who is the clear leader, our offense is going to struggle.
As far as the Big Ten, MSU, Wisconsin, OSU and Iowa are all clearly better than us to this point, and Indiana and Illinois are about even with us. With no impressive NC wins, to have even a chance at the NCAA tournament, I don’t think we can finish any worse than 5th place and 10-8. That’s possible, but we have to win pretty much every game we should win, and more than our share of close ones.