I wore my frustrations on my sleeve a little too much last night, so hopefully I can make some better points today.
1. We need to stop this losing streak on Monday.
The last time we lost three in a row was 2006. We had a losing streak as long as five that year. That is certainly possible with a loss to Marquette. Good teams don't let losses turn into losing streaks. Tournament teams keep losing streaks from derailing their entire seasons. We'll find out if this is a tournament team in less than 48 hours.
2. Time for Coach Brey to shakeup the rotation.
Ayers and Hillesland were decent last year as a rotation for the small forward slot. Unfortunately, Hillesland will never be a Big East power forward and Ayers is nothing but a (very) streaky shooter. They should spend as little time on the court together as possible.
Enter Ty Nash and Carleton Scott. While I half-heartedly called for more playing time for the two while we were winning, it has become apparent that one or both now need to be serious rotation guys. Not just to keep the starters from getting fatigued, but because our top seven players are not getting the job done. When your point guard is the second best rebounder on the team, a hard-nosed guy like Nash should be able to solve the current Hillesland/Zeller problem. Scott brings an added deminsion to the team, an athletic guy who doesn't just drive towards a turnover or wild shot in the paint (see Zach Hillesland). The perimeter offense we ran in the second half (a good idea to take Thabeet out of the game on defense) just does not work without players who can create their own shots.
3. Our defense was significantly better last night, a very good sign.
The Irish held Connecticut to an offensive rating 20 points below their season average. That's huge. It was hands down the best defense we have played against a topnotch team all year. 11 turnovers forced, 41% opponent shooting percentage, good pressure all around. If we played that kind of defense every game with our normal offense, we're a Final Four team. Obviously that's a pipe dream right now.
4. Why we lose.
In every loss except UNC, our offense has been terrible. Obviously, a higher emphasis on consistent defense would ameliorate some of problems with offense in big games. Still, you have to look at what went wrong last night as being consistent with out other losses. Poor shooting, little ability to create open looks, and pathetic rebounding from the 4 will make you lose more often than not.
5. We could have won against a very good team last night. The ability is there as it has been all year, the execution is not.
Connecticut is ranked 5th by Ken Pomeroy. Their statistics back up the high AP and Coaches rankings. 10th on offense, 16th on defense, strong rankings to demonstrate a good well-rounded team.
And we should have beaten them.
The Irish had plenty of open looks in the second half last night. Kyle McAlarney and Ryan Ayers, our dead-eye shooters, combined to go 4 for 25. Zeller was 2-6, Hillesland was 1-5. Only Harangody and Jackson shot above their season averages from beyond the arc. Though the Huskies took away a lot of shots under the basket, we had plenty of chances from the outside. Had we just made our open chances, this game was a win.
6. What lies ahead.
Could Go Either Way-
@ West Virginia
3-4 in the conference right now. Best case scenario is probably 11-7, but we could finish poorly enough to invert that record.
Solidly in the Tournament- 11-7 Big East record or 10-8 with at win at UCLA
On the bubble, leaning in- 10-8 (I think every Big East team with a winning conference record will make it)
On the bubble, leaning out- 9-9