Sunday, June 17, 2018

SCU Men's Basketball - The Changing of the Guard(s)





Everyone's asking - what's up?  

While it's no Buckingham Palace, the changing of the guards within SCU Men's Basketball and the University is major for our so labeled "mid-major" program.  Big changes.  New President, eight new players and two new coaches.

Let's go full Chaos Theory:

Chaos:  When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.

Got that?

Some say, "With Fr. Engh leaving, the University will back off Athletics and decomitt just like some of our recruits."

No doubt Fr. Engh made a number of both courageous and strategic decisions with regard to Athletics and Men's Basketball.  Much Cred for that.  With a year to go before the new President, I'm sure he will be fully engaged in the SCU 2020 goals.

With all due respect, this isn't a deal breaker for MBB.  In fact it's another huge recruiting opportunity to bring aboard a President that not only shares the vision, but also has the much needed  experience in Athletics.  A President who will leverage our location and academic reputation on top of a rising Athletics plan to take us to National on BOTH fronts.  Big...

Outside the "U" it just seems to be pure Chaos.  I love it!

I'm tired of the "deterministic" rut we logical Santa Clarans have succumbed to.  I.E. - provide more funding + bring in a new A.D. + hire new Coach + get better players = within two years get WCC titles and NCAA berths.  How's that working for ya?  Not.

Ergo, the changing of the guards is both positive and needed.  On the roster, we seem to find ourselves with a glut of guards, about seven including the non-scholies.  As of now, on paper, we have  too many scholarship players with 14.  However, it looks like Tai Wynard from Kentucky will not be coming to SCU getting us on the number at 13.  Should be announced soon.

Underneath it all, we have what it takes to create Chaos in the WCC.   How so?  IMHO, we have a Coaching staff who have an extremely deterministic "process" that can create the small changes that can become big changes to our play and deliver results that can make the bitter taste of last season go away. 

Our new roster has size, speed, and experience that can make an impact that's not a thud...More on those details soon.

The strategic plan Fr. Engh will leave behind declared National relevance in Athletics by 2020.  Women's Soccer and Volleyball are already on that National map.  This means Men's Basketball has to make the jump for the plan to mean much of anything.

We all hope this happens.  If it doesn't, then there will be much more changing of the guards - on and off the bench.





Saturday, May 12, 2018

Santa Clara University Athletics - Are We on Track to National Relevance?




Nearly three years ago, Santa Clara made a major commitment to Athletics.  The President's Commission and Trustees gave the green light to invest in SCU Athletics becoming more competitive and nationally relevant in major sports.
  
Renee Baumgartner was hired to lead the effort to "stampede ahead" with the stated goal of success by 2020.  

So, where are we?  

If you view it as investors, you would be disappointed in your three year R.O.I. after the 2017-18 results in the "Major Seven" sports.

Women's soccer kept its deep NCAA tournament runs rolling and Women's Volleyball finished a .500 season following two prior winning seasons and another NCAA bid.

Men's Basketball regressed with an 11-20 meltdown. Women's Basketball was 9-21 and had its last winning season in 2015-16; going 23-9 under coach J.R. Payne.  

This season Men's Baseball is 23-24; with about seven games left, but next to last in the WCC.  This follows nine consecutive years of losing seasons.  Women's Softball was 7-36; continuing to flounder. 

Men's Soccer was 3-13 to mark three out of the past four seasons under .500.

At face value, with two winners and five losers in your portfolio, you might be pulling the plug afraid to stay the course.  That's where many of our fans and season ticket holders are.  

Certainly justifiable.

But, much like stock market swings, those who bail may miss the upside.  Savvy investors know that investing in undervalued stocks and staying the course beats other methods handily over time.

At SCU, the level of investment in Athletics is the most significant in our history.  Not just the obvious - replacing four of the seven Major Sports Coaching Staffs, but more importantly the investments in the foundations for sustained success, are happening as well.  More staff, top flight facilities, and marketing to create awareness to the Bronco brand.

Our investments aren't just into the "M7" sports.  For example, both Women's and Men's Golf now have more scholarships to start to compete.  Both teams won three events this season and the Men are off to the NCAA regional for only the second time in SCU history.

The Trustees aren't investing for one "lightening in a bottle" season.  They want sustained success - like Women's Soccer is producing as the model.  

As great as Women's Soccer has been on the national stage, to meet the goal of being "nationally relevant" the bulls eye is on Men's Basketball to produce in the WCC and make NCAA's.  The NCAA Men's Tournament generates huge world wide notoriety and money for the teams that earn bids.  Hands down, nothing gets close to generating buzz than NCAA success.  

Right now, MBB is in fast break mode to rebuild a roster after coaching and scholarship departures.  Coach Hodge is moving on.  Players Roche, Turner, and Walters from last season are transferring.  Omar Silveiro de-committed to go back east.  Looks like when the smoke clears, there will be at last eight new to the roster with perhaps adding another size 15 shoe or two in the mix.  For many, not the chaos expected, but it may be just what we need to get this program moving up.  Now.

For SCU fans and season ticket holders, it's hard to judge which is greater, the frustration of 20+ years of Athletics anonymity or the angst that the past three years has yet to show enough traction and success in major sports.  

After all, three years in Silicon Valley culture is three entirely new product cycles - an eternity.  Sounds crazy, but, IMHO it's easier to develop technology than competitive athletes.  I'd love it if we could write some software to reprogram KJ Feagin into Kryie Irving!!  

It feels like we've become a "pin cushion" Athletics' community.  We have been strung along with so many unfulfilled promises that by now its hard to believe/feel anything.  Students don't seem to care, season ticket holders are afraid to cheer, and now constant questions about everything are spreading like a virus.  

It's time to dump the "Eeyore" it's all for naught tude.  Let's go Freakanomics - the conventional wisdom is wrong.  

Why?  The investment is too big and the commitment from Fr. Engh and the Trustees is too public.  Failure to meet the goal of nationally competitive in major sports will seal the fate of SCU as just another nice regional Catholic college while our competitors overshadow us on the national stage - a monumental wasted opportunity.

Maybe the progress is too slow.  Along the way A.D.'s and Coaches may change, but the University Leadership must remain steadfast.  EVERY success story of Catholic universities garnering national academic and athletics accolades has been done with a strong steady hand at the top.  

Do I want success by 2020?  Absolutely.  What I really want is a program that is on the national map forever.  To as good as we were in the 1950's when it's 2050...






















Wednesday, April 11, 2018

SCU Men's Basketball - "Horse" Trading in a Restless Corral





Last season's results created a lot of unrest among fans and season ticket holders. The hope of a better season went down in a barrage of three pointers. 

While we lament and chirp, the coaching staff has been on a "restless" mission to revamp and rearm our roster.

That means managing the ins and outs and having a pipeline to do some horse trading to get us back in the race.

To that end, Matt Turner and Julian Roche have decided to leave and seek playing time elsewhere.  In addition, Omar Silverio has opted out of his commitment to SCU.
   
That gives the staff three more scholarships to add some beef to a skinny lineup.  And it's beef they are seeking.  Close to adding two bigs 6'9 to 7'0 to plug the freeway in the middle.  With these additions, plus newcomers Wertz, Ducsasse, and Justice, it will bring the Sendek roster picks to nine.  Significant.

Starters KJ Feagin, Matt Hauser, and role player Henrik Jadersten come back in the hopes of getting better production from veterans.

I expect another change or two may also happen.

What does it mean?

I think it means we'll really see if the "process" works or not.  
Recruiting is more about fit and feel vs stats.  It's about guys who have a "chip" on their shoulder to compete.  There are a few home runs and a lot of strikeouts.  This upcoming season will be a test of the coaching staff's R.P.I.  Recruits Performance Improvement.  

Vital.  

In the next few weeks the Adidas, Nike, and AAU prep tournaments will be played; where high school talent is showcased.  International looks are also in play.

Some may say that the transfer out and in from SCU is worrisome.  I think it's normal.  The NCAA MBB transfer traffic has surged in the past five years.  It's become a freeway loaded with kids and parents expectations waiting to be fulfilled.  

Expect some new signees in the next four to five weeks.  Think BIG.  

BIG men in the middle, BIG rosters changes; which hopefully leads to a BIG improvement on the floor.


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Friday, April 6, 2018

SCU Men's Basketball - "Nova" Knows How to Get it Done





With the Villanova Wildcats winning the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship twice in the last three years, it leaves no doubt that a "small" Catholic University can play and win on the biggest national stage.

Getting to the pinnacle of college basketball, and winning, is no fluke.  It has been 50 years in the making.  In the process, it has not only made them the premier MBB program in America, but at the same time vaulted, them to elite levels as a premier academic and research institution as well.  

"Nova" Nation knows how to get it done! 

How did they do it?  The parallels with Santa Clara are striking:  
location, size, Catholic, strong academics, and a commitment to excellence.  How did they create this separation from Santa Clara both as a University and Athletic powerhouse?  

Vision.  

While Santa Clara focused and invested in academic infrastructure, the Villanova leadership team believed 50 years ago in a model that to become a truly nationally relevant institution that excellence in both Academics AND Athletics was the best strategy.  Success on both fronts would create success on ALL fronts.

Villanova's numbers are staggering.  Applications have soared to nearly 23,000 this year.  Endowment has grown to nearly $700 million. Their recent five year fund raising goal of $600 million raised over $750 million in the fourth year and is still going.  Academic rankings have also dramatically risen.  If you're so inclined, you can Google their Carnegie Classification that now compares them to elite schools in the nation.  Their MBB APR and GPR's which track graduation rates are 100%.  One of only three NCAA division one teams in the tournament to do this.  Their overall Athletics GPA's are above 3.2 for the 29th consecutive measurement period.

On and On...

The above is not to brag or make you gag over their success, but to reflect that they've been at it for 50 years.  

Can Santa Clara become a Villanova?  Probably not.  BUT, we can be a top 20 team given resources and dogged determination to do so.  It probably isn't going to happen fast.  

Here we are all complaining that we had a poor season and can't beat the big three in the WCC.  We're piling on the A.D. and coaches for lack of a quick fix.  It's always someone else's fault.  
Well, maybe most of it is our own?  Self-inflicted.  

Our past leaders thought "small."  A few didn't like Athletics.  In fact, some would rather have done away with the whole program rather than just football.  Choices...

So now, we wake up and want be an elite team in the WCC and top 20 in MBB after making our first significant effort and investment in 50 years?  Really?  Not.

Our feelings of angst and disgust are visceral and deep.  There are stark differences of opinion about our current direction in the Corral.  Some feel Coach Sendek is the proven turnaround horse to ride and others feel his best days are in the past and we should have gone all in for a top, young gun.  We may get a quick bump up in winning and contending in the next few seasons, but sustained success is a marathon, not a sprint.  

After Rollie Massimino's NCAA title in 1985, Nova MBB was not an NCAA machine, missing 5 straight dances from 1999 until Jay Wright came on board.   Even Wright had his issues, losing his way and the Nova culture in trying to recruit 5 stars over the right "fit" players.  Today, they have the highest wining percentage in MBB over the past five years. 

You can read the details by clicking this link.
Villanova MBB Success

Hats off to "Nova" for their success and their determination to deliver their vision of the past 50 years.

And "Hard Hats" for all Broncos as together we build a new culture and make sure we demand progress in our new vision to be national in MBB.  We are just getting started and have a long way to go. 

I don't want to be the horse that wins once.  I want us to be the horse to ride in every race!



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Monday, March 12, 2018

SCU Men's Basketball - There's Not Much Defense for This Season






Season ticket holders find it hard to defend what happened this season...just as hard as it was for our team to defend on the floor.   

After last season, expectations were high.

We fell hard from a solid defensive 2016-17 season in FG% defense and points/game, to the worst FG% defensive performance in the past 20 seasons.   

We all watch and think "we can't shoot the ball."  Yes, it would be nice to shoot it much better.  However, the real answer is we couldn't defend - stop our opponents.  

Here are the realities.  

Historically, on offense, we shoot about 43% from the field, 35% from 3pt and score 67 points per game.  Last season, spot on with those numbers.  So how can the results be so dramatically different falling to 11-20???

Our opponents shredded our defense where we allowed 50% FG% and 40% from 3pt for the season!  The 71.7 ppg we gave up was our fourth highest in the past 20 seasons.  The worst:  the 2011-12 debacle of eight wins and an 0-16 WCC when we allowed nearly 75 ppg.  Our 11 wins is also tied for the fewest in 20 years other than the 0-fer season above.    

It just a head scratcher, particularly when you consider we had seven experienced players on the roster including Henry Caruso.

Bottom line, has it been a failure of overall performance OR a failure of the "process"?  The difference is a BIG deal.

Let's review.  Coach Sendek's process has four pillars.  To Learn, Improve, Connect, and to Serve.  It has produced outstanding results in the past.  But this is Santa Clara...not NC State or ASU.

The process works a lot better when you have a Wally Szczerbiak shooting or James Harden running the show.  Those type players are both hard to find; let alone get in an SCU uniform.  That makes development of players critical to our success.
  
Pillar one:  Learn
With a team G.P.A. of over 3.0, it's not a matter of mental horsepower to learn a system.  It was apparent, we just didn't "get it."  The games when we had it, like the recent three game win streak got us all thinking - OK, just in time for the WCC tourney.  Then LMU happened.  Could it be somehow, the coaching messages got lost in translation?  Not sure.

Pillar two:  Improve
We all know athletic performances can have big variability.  Even the Stephs and Durants can go off the rails.  The 2016-17 season set a bar to expand on with visible improvement everywhere.  Unfortunately, hopes for performance growth this season in both the veterans and recruits, save one, didn't happen.  Only one of the SCU returners had a better overall stats season than last year.  Some drop offs were precipitous, despite a full year of "reps" in Coach's system.   Hard to figure.  Is it possible those players hit their "ceiling" after the 2016-17 season and just stalled?  Tough to answer. 

Pillar Three:  Connect
No doubt the coaches care a great deal about our players.  The specific individual attention they get as people first and then players is outstanding.   However, the constant reminders and repetitions during practices and in game assignments can be daunting; maybe overwhelming.  It felt like the "how many times do I have to tell you" rant, we all hate.  Did this cause some "disconnect" as the long, hard season wore on?  At times there didn't seem to be much will or much fight in us, especially against the WCC elites.  Our average loss margin to them was was 28 points.

We seemed to be going through the motions the last two games of the season.  Flat-lined.  

Pillar Four:  Serve
The team are great SCU ambassadors.  Impressive individuals.  An SCU education is a foundation few receive.  There is also a principle to serve each other.  Take ownership, challenge each other to be better.  Lead by example, do the harder work, meet and exceed expectations of each other.  Be resilient.  Those qualities were there at times - but not on a consistent basis - much like our season.  I'm not saying there was a rift of any sort, but I just didn't see an emotional leader, a motor, a Draymond Green type and I think it was a factor.  

We closed the season with a bust in the WCC tourney.  

So which was it, process or performance?  We all have our opinions, but for me it was both.  A failure of the process by not getting the most from what appeared to be a better roster and also performance in that we lacked the ability or desire to turn things around. 

The success of the process going forward will be the linchpin of making it to national or falling short.  The Coaches will have perhaps up to six new additions anchored by three seniors and Taj Eaddy available from his transfer year.  

One thing I know for sure.  It will be hard to "process" another season like this one.  A chance to accelerate our growth - squandered.  While the Trustees are looking for R.O.I on their basketball investment, we're looking for an R.P.I. that affirms we will be contenders, not pretenders.


Don't forget to Pass along to other interested Broncos.  
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Saturday, February 17, 2018

SCU Men's Basketball - Are We Half Way There?






For Bronco fans, the second half comeback last Saturday vs San Diego and the closeout win Thursday at Portland was the SCU team we thought we'd see all season.  Shots falling when needed and stops on "D" to finish games.

We're half right. 

Two halves still make a whole, but this season it seems we have different Bronco teams each half.  In the first half, we just can't get started.  It's like the old excuse the dog ate our game plan.  In fact, we've either been even or behind at half in 18 of our 27 games.

It's hard to win a half when you make a lot less than "half" of your shots.  Add to that, it seems that half our shots come late in the clock; leaving more difficult shots to try to convert.  

In the second half, we've been much better in most games.  However, our 10-17 record indicates how hard it is to fight the uphill battle in the second half and win.  

At 7-8 in the WCC, we're not half wins, half losses.  

But that's only half the story.  

Based upon our schedule, the season script would have been to have won 10 games in the first part of our schedule leading up to the Gonzaga game.  10-3 was very doable and frankly expected.  In the WCC, or second half of our schedule 10-7 would have been acceptable.  Add it up, and that's a 20-10 season and with an upset along the way; NIT eligible.

Unfortunately, the first half of our season was a precursor to the first half of our game performances - off.  It just doesn't add up.

More than half of our roster are experienced veterans expected to provide stability to the lineup; especially on defense.  The red-shirts and newcomers offered size and speed.  The opportunity for a better season was evident until Alaska; when a whole lot went wrong.

This season half of our veterans have played about half of the minutes per game they played last year.  We've had key players out with injuries for half our games this season.  

Even with our shooting woes, we are averaging the same number of points per game as last season - 66.8.  Unfortunately, on defense our opponents are making more than half their shots and scoring 72 points per game.  Do the math.

We all wish we played the first half of our season like last two games - solid.

Our last three games are winnable.  St. Mary's has been vulnerable after the pummeling from Gonzaga.  USF showed that the other night.  

The future again offers promise.  With the new recruiting class and returners, three quarters of the team will be Coach Sendek's handpicked players - not half and half.

So, my question - are we "half" way there to becoming more competitive?  Not yet.  

But three season ending wins and the infusion of newer, hopefully better talent, sounds a "whole" lot better than where we are this season.


Don's forget to send along to other Bronco fans.  
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Thursday, January 25, 2018

SCU Men's Basketball Forecast - Cloudy







Since September, the forecast for MBB has gone from envisioning a hot start to the 2017-18 season to cold and cloudy.  

The new recruits arrived, the veterans were coming off an improved season, and the new schedule seemed to be inviting.

Hate to say it, but so far this has been an "El Nino" season.  Erratic, irregular, and, in some cases, downright chilly.  

How chilly?  We have shot better than 50% from the field in only two of our 19 D1 games.  In our eight WCC games, we have shot 50% from the field just once.  We have more games with a FG% in the 30's than in the 40's.  By contrast our opponents this season have averaged more than 50% field goal shooting against us.

Not a good combo.
  
Erratic in that what coaches thought they could rely on has been unreliable.  Irregular in that the improvement expected from both the "regulars" to the recruits has yet to show up on the court.

Considering the above stats, a record of 4-4 in league is pretty remarkable.  I can assure you everyone is giving their all.  The roster reality may be that "all" is not yet enough. 

However, there is some potential good news ahead!  

Eight of our ten remaining games are against the middle WCC teams.  Six on the road and four at Leavey.  I'm not saying they're easy, but they are winnable if our El Nino play turns into a warm front and the fog clears out from our offense and defense.   

A chance to reverse this cold and cloudy season into one with more W's comes with:  more warmth in our shooting, wearing out our opponents with our defense, and showing the will to finish strong vs weak. 

It's a forecast that would make everyone happier.  So, I'm going with the Farmer's Almanac for February 2018:  Sunny and Seasonable...Sounds delightful. 

A win versus San Diego tonight would be a welcome start to the forecast. 

If we can establish the above W's on the court, it will not only lead to more wins, but ending the season with some momentum and all of us wanting more...