Saturdays tremendous win over the Midshipmen of Navy had many wondering if the Bulls overachieved, and last nights performance against Youngstown State supported that opinion. Game 1 showed tremendous high points, game 2 of the season showed how bad they can actually be. Get ready for a roller coaster ride this season Bulls fans, because that's probably what you're going to get.
I have a tendency to over react and get extremely frustrated when the Bulls lose, but last nights performance is well deserving of that. I think the fact that they started on a 10-2 is what makes the loss so much more painful. The first 3 minutes showed great intensity, adrenaline, emotion, and athleticism. The Bulls threw down 2 thunderous dunks in the first 8 points, and made it look like it was going to be a route just like the first game. Turns out that start was only a tease.
Issue #1, foul trouble/dumb fouls- When the Bulls play defense, they tend to be extremely hot and cold. They're good at getting a lot of pressure and trapping, and getting good results. Problem is that very few of them realize that a lot of pressure leads to picking up fouls. That's not what bothers me. What bothers me is when a player already has a foul on them, and they decide its a good idea to reach in when the person with the ball is no threat to shoot or do anything besides kick it out. I also get frustrated watching players foul when the opponent is already forced into shooting a hard shot, so the foul just bails them out. My favorite is when a player just gets into the game, and picks up 2 fouls back to back, not giving yourself or your own team a chance to get into an offensive rhythm. Now you're on the bench for the rest of the half, you had one minute of playing time in the half, so when you get on the court 7 minutes into the second half that's pretty much the first time on the floor if you're thinking about getting warmed up and into a rhythm. Watt is the worst offender of this, with Titus coming in at a close second, and soon too follow will be Javon McCrea (sadly those are 3 of our top 4 scoring threats in my eyes, or at least have the most potential).
Issue #2, foul shots- Many of us play basketball to some degree. Whether it was youth league, high school, pick-up games, or just shooting around with your piers, foul shooting is exactly the same at all levels. The rim is always 10 feet high, and 15 feet away. Its rim is not moving, the rim is not shrinking, its not brain surgery. A very common way that players can use to validate poor free throw shooting is by saying we don't know what it's like being in a college basketball game. Well in case the players have forgotten, they've played in games ever since they were little, they've shot free throws in high school games, AAU games, etc. 9 for 27 is not acceptable for anybody, at any level!!!! You are D-1 college basketball players, you practice and shoot basketballs for how many hours a week? And how many free throws do you have to make at the end of each practice? If the Bulls would have shot 14 of 27 they would have won the game, and that's barely above 50%. The only reason for the score difference being the way it is was because of garbage time points, having to foul, rushed possessions, etc. The Bulls looked terrible, and if they would have made 56% from the line for the game they would have won. That is extremely frustrating for all fans.
I'm usually the last man to call out Reggie. I love his offensive sets, his recruiting class is great this year, he is a very smart coach, but when you're players are staring at the rim like a deer in headlights then its a problem in practice. The Bulls looked flat out lost at the line, like it was something extremely foreign to them. It reminds me of the first time a teenage boy saw a pair of...well, fill in the blank. Most of the free throws weren't even close, and anyone who watched that game would agree with me. Guards, swingmen, forwards, everybody was just terrible from the line, and that is something that has to be fixed off the court. Everyone knows how to make free throws, but right now its just all mental with the Bulls, and untill the players find some sort of confidence at the line they're going to continue to struggle.