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.  


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?  


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...

Thursday, January 11, 2018

SCU Men's Basketball - It's A "Con" Game

That's right, a con game.  

Not that we've been conned into believing our coaching staff are miracle workers, but it's a "con" of different sort.  IMHO, it's the lack of "con" that is missing.  CONFIDENCE.

Our 3-1 start to WCC play looks good, but we all know is hasn't been easy.  Maybe gritty, but not pretty.  Wins against lower echelon teams is expected, but the road ahead gets continually harder facing the "big three" and a revived USF team.

The biggest of all the "cons" is confidence; which comes from learning consistency, concentration on the game plan, and getting contributions from every team member.   When you successfully add all those "cons" together, you end up with a lot of "pros."  

So far, it seems the connection from strong practice performances to strong game performances has been inconsistent. There is confusion from the assignments on the white board to what happens at the backboard.  It's confounding to all of us.

The other day, I asked Women's Volleyball coach Jon Wallace (14 NCAA's in 19 seasons) how he deals with the above scenario.  His answer:  details.  He continually works on the skills and details that allows his players to be in the best position to be successful.  When they connect those details in game situations, boom, they build.  You got it, CONFIDENCE.  

That's where we are now with MBB connecting those details on the floor.  You can see it when players miss a good shot or are unable to finish at the rim or are out of position on D and give up an easy 3-pointer.  

The next four games vs St. Mary's, BYU, USF (road) and Gonzaga will be full frontal confrontations on our journey to put all our "cons" together as we try to contend in the WCC.

I know we're all concerned.  Rightfully so.  None of us, coaches and players included, will be content until NCAA's happen.  

The investment in the MBB program has a confirmed goal to be nationally relevant - by 2020.  Instead of of being adrift the past 20 years, we have a plan for a steady continuum of being better.

We have a coaching staff with considerable skills and track records.  Once they get all our "cons" going in the right direction, it will breed confidence, creating a winning culture that will become contagious with success on the court and throughout the University.

When that happens, I'll be the first to offer congratulations!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

SCU Men’s Basketball - We Need Some “Tude”

I woke up this morning with a big case of “tude.”

After the Gonzaga humiliation, the level of my “tude” isn’t at its maximum amplitude - but it’s close.  Total servi-tude to the Zags on the road in Spokane.

Got me thinking that at this point in our MBB season this team needs a monster case of tude.  Aptitude, attitude, altitude, and a big dose of fortitude.

Lets start with aptitude.  For whatever reason, it seems our team just isn't getting it.  Players out of position on offense and defense and "blanking" on where they should be.  The translation from practice to the game plan on the court gets lost.  The stat sheets against D1 opponents are not pretty if you dare to peruse.  

Let talk about attitude.  We all can use a reboot here.  As fans, we were feeling upbeat over the magnitude of improvement last season.  Now it's morphed into definite incertitude.  Doubt...

The coaches and players now face a stark season outcome and a real test of character.  Can they answer the call?  I say take the attitude of we've got nothing to lose and just play basketball.  Coaches might look at the stale pieces of our play and maybe take some risk with the "process" by trying some of the talent on our bench.

The altitude piece is evident.  We don't have enough bigs to stop the conga line into the middle.   It's hard to ask your smaller guys to play "big" when your bigs are playing small.  Out rebounded by an average of 10 per game so far in the WCC, our shots our getting rejected by a 3:1 margin.  

The last is fortitude.  Some toughness.  We've been pushed around by better teams like USC and the Zags, but we've also lost five games where we were either in the lead or close in the final minutes.  Teams have imposed their will on us; one game making their last 14 shots and another their last 7 of 8 to finish us off.   

We need all the "tudes" to right the ship over the next 16 games. 

If we can finish at .500 in the WCC, it will show we have a great plentitude of tudes.   It will vanquish the streak of ineptitude and for season ticket holders, fans, and alums, allow us to express some real gratitude!

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