Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hoops - What are we playing for now?

Well, I'm not exactly sure what to say about the hoops team these days. I'm really trying hard to figure out what they will be playing for. Usually when you run out of things like National title, ACC title, NCAA tourney bid, NIT tourney bid, beat UGAg..................... what's left? Tonight the Jackets lost to the mutts from Athens by a final score of 79-72. We've worked ourselves down the totem poll of expectations in fairly quick order. We're only 0-1 in the ACC, yet what from this team really gives us an inkling of hope of winning 8 ACC games? I'm coming up empty. What about you? Help me folks. Maybe I'm missing something.

  • We don't have a point guard to lead the team, provide tempo and make plays
  • We promote strong defense and yet we have the worst statistical defense in the conference. Realistically our actual defense is one of the ACC's worst.
  • We promote rebounding and yet we are probably the worst rebounding team in the conference.
  • We promote a motion offense and yet "motion" is such an ironic word for what we see much of the time.
  • We hear from our head coach about things "clicking" and making progress and learning, and yet we are team with lots of upperclassmen? How long does it take to "click"? At this rate, it's going to click when half these guys are playing pro ball in Europe.

I just don't get it. I absolutely believe this team has talent and athletic ability. So, if I believe that premise, then some of the following conclusions must be true:

  • Our players are fundamentally unsound. How can I conclude anything else? If they are "talented" and yet we turn the ball over a lot, play "olee" defense, don't box out, get 5-second calls, are easily trapped, can't shoot free throws or can't bring the ball up court, then they must not have a good grasp of fundamentals
  • Our players lack focus. Clearly there are stretches where this team plays amazing ball. Short stretches for sure, but it happens. So I guess our guys must just not be focused. Their minds must wander at times.
  • Our players do not hustle. I really don't believe this one, but there must be some truth there, you think?
  • Our coaching staff are great recruiters but not great teachers. There are many Tech fans that are starting to embrace this idea. It's not hard to believe it when you see the way these guys play at times. We get highly rated guys to come to Tech. But why aren't our juniors and seniors significantly better players than when they arrived? We talk about how the one-and-done guys are killing any momentum in the program. However, Hewitt has his share of 3 and 4 year guys - and the fact that they're staying doesn't seem to be resulting in progress either. I guess I seriously believe that losing our last two assistants, who became head coaches at mid-level programs, is having a toll on teaching.
  • Hotel Hewitt doesn't work. Many fans are tired of Coach Hewitt's constant rotations, which completely disregard a particular player's hot and cold streaks. Hit two in a row? You're out. I honestly have no idea if this is a hinderance to the team, but many fans do - and of course, fans know best.
  • Poor team chemistry. Our Final Four teams had dynamic and amazing chemistry. Take away Ed Nelson (& Chris Bosh), add Clarence Moore, and all-of-the-sudden a soph point guard helps take that group to the NCAA final. Chemistry is extremely underrated and also extremely vague and unquantifiable. Does this group get along? Do they communicate well in practice and games? It's hard to know, but seems to be an issue.

I was listening to an interview with UNC Head Coach Roy Williams the other day and he called out a particular player for something. The interviewer asked him about his philosophy on calling out individual player performance when they do the wrong things. He said he only asks two things of his players - FOCUS and HUSTLE. He said if his guys make a mistake, he's not going to get called out as long as he is focused and hustling. He said that when you focus and hustle, your natural talent and ability ends up being applied doing the right things more often than not.

That's why I put both focus and hustle in the list above. I have no idea which items above are dominating factors, and I'm sure it's a combination of all. At this point, I don't know what to expect. Can my expectations get any lower? Is "not finishing worst in the ACC" something to aspire to? Where do we go from here? There's a big part of me that still thinks this group can get it together and go on a winning streak. But let's be realistic. There's nothing we've seen this year to give us ANY hope of that happening. Going on a winning streak would be a completely out-of-character thing to do. Finishing games consistently would be completely out-of-character.

You know, I'm not really in an overly frustrated mood. My ramblings are really just serious head-scratching. I don't get it and I don't see the hope. It's not there for me. Is it there for you? Before you answer that - I'm not interested in hearing more "fire the coach" stuff. That's the cheap, non-constructive way out. What can Coach Hewitt do here?