Wednesday, January 21, 2009

in which we are basically the Charlotte Bobcats

The frustrating thing about trying to make any sense of what's going to happen in the next basketball game is that I tend to think in terms of what our players are capable of, instead of what's likely to happen or taking into account the extreme freshmanitude of this lineup. Inside my own head I'm guilty of occasionally taking this to absurd extremes, as in, "well, Sammy and Tucker can each bring about 12 points to the table, and Mike Scott seems like he's good for 12 as well, and Sylven is Sylven, so, 20," and by the time I'm done with the lineup I've given us about 120 points. This is pure fantasy and doesn't make it through the still-developing filter between brain and keyboard when I'm trying to do Serious Writer Stuff.

But I still take certain things for granted. Like Sammy Zeglinski. I did not even consider the possibility, let alone the effects, of a really bad game from him when I wrote up the Maryland preview, but, duh, he's a freshman, and played a total stinker of a game last night. I make this bold prediction now: we will never win a basketball game when our point guard scores no points and has one assist. Sammy has been visited during these last two games by the Bad Decision Fairy and the assist-to-turnover ratio takes a beating because of it.

He's not alone. Just when I think (and write) that certain players need to have more minutes, they get them - and one (Tucker) totally vindicates me and the other (Farrakhan) goes thhpppbbbtttt. And we wonder why Dave Leitao can't settle on a rotation.

Here's the problem with this team. Kris at TheSabre writes today asking us to try looking at this season (and specifically, Dave Leitao) with Year One goggles on. Good article - doesn't go far enough. It's not just Dave Leitao - everyone's in Year One. The leading scorer is a freshman. The point guard is a freshman. The leading defender is a freshman. Scott is playing 10 more minutes a game than he did last year. By season's end, Meyinsse will have doubled his minutes played over last year's total and Farrakhan will have tripled his. Over 57% of the minutes played last year were played by someone no longer on the team, and Diane and Jones struggled so badly early on that they've lost minutes, too.

The closest thing I can think of to describe this team is an expansion team. It looks like an expansion team. Plays like one. So many brand-new pieces all thrown onto the same court. There are 10 players in what you might call our rotation, and on the face of it the breakdown looks like this:

3 freshmen (Landesberg, Zeglinski, Sene)
3 sophomores (Scott, Farrakhan, Jones)
3 juniors (Meyinsse, Tucker, Baker)
1 senior (Diane)

Which is a young enough group as it is - how many other ACC teams are starting three freshmen? But in practice, it's more like 5 freshmen (Meyinsse and Farrakhan are in their first year with actual responsibilities), 3 sophomores (Baker's second year on the team - one year at W&M and one year sitting doesn't really prepare you for the ACC), and two upperclassmen, both of whom come off the bench.

Which means that patience is not only a virtue, it's a must, whether or not you think Leitao should be given more time. (And I do.) This team is not going to be much good all year. The experience they gain, every game, is going to be nullified by the grind of the long season as the extra minutes catch up to the players not used to playing so much. Leitao has generally been able to squeeze unexpectedly good results out of patchwork teams, so when this team is fully developed a couple years from now it's going to be a joy to watch. It's just, this year, you should mentally add the word "if" to any predictions of success.

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