Archive | January, 2013

Examining Seattle University’s difficulties at the end of games (and at the line)

29 Jan

7 points, 9 points, 5 points, 1 point, 13 points, 7 points, 3 points and again 3 points.

Those are the margins of defeat for Seattle University in conference play.

The Redhawks have been outscored by a total of 31 points with a record of 1-8. For a comparison, 7th-place San Jose State lost to Denver by more than 31 points in one game.

And those small margins of defeat could easily be avoided. In many of those losses, Seattle led with six minutes or fewer left in the game, only to watch the win slip between their collective fingertips.

This is obviously a pattern, and can mean one of three things. The Redhawks could be a decent-to-solid WAC team that has been undone by bad luck at the ends of games. The players could be lacking a kind of “killer instinct” to put teams away at the end of games. Or there could be some fault on the coaching end.

Don’t scoff at the notion of bad luck. For example, against New Mexico State, Prince Obasi created space and let an open 15-footer go at the buzzer of the first overtime. It rimmed out. Had it gotten a better bounce and fallen in, the Redhawks would have won.

There has been evidence to the “killer instinct” theory, too. Clarence Trent not knowing how much time was left on the clock at the end of the UT-San Antonio loss proved that. But had Cameron Dollar saved a timeout, he could have stopped the game to draw up a play to give his team one last chance to tie it all up.

But I’ve uncovered a fourth theory, one that statistics back up – free-throw shooting.

Free-throws are never more important than at the end of games, when play slows down and trips to the line become more common. If it seems to you like the Redhawks are subpar from the stripe, you have no idea how right you are.

Seattle University shoots 58.5% from the free-throw line as a team. That’s abysmal.

In fact, it’s so bad, only 5 teams in the nation are worse (Vanderbilt is tied with SU). Out of the 347 Division-I schools, Seattle ranks 341st in free-throw shooting. That number is a black mark on the whole team, and has a lot to do with the late-game struggles.

Everybody knows the Redhawks have had trouble finishing games. The coach, the fans, the team, the blogger. What they do in the second half of the season to overcome this trouble will be a testament to what these players – and this coach – are made of.

And if what they do is practice 200 free-throws every single day, so much the better.

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Preview: For Redhawks to finally score a home WAC victory, they need a leader

26 Jan

Who is going to be the man for this Seattle University team?

Who is going to be the seasoned veteran guy who wants the ball in crunch time, who rallies his teammates, who can step up and lead this team?

Because right now the Redhawks don’t have that guy. They only have one player with that kind of veteran experience, just ONE player who has been on the team for more than a year and a half. That guy is Chad Rasmussen, and while he’s a good shooter, he’s extremely limited in what he can do on the court.

All of the seniors were transfers into the program. All of them played basketball somewhere else for a year or two. None have been able to truly take ownership of this team the same way Aaron Broussard did last year.

It could be Prince Obasi, the guy who plays the most minutes of anyone, if he can start being a more vocal leader. It could be Clarence Trent, the most talented player on the team, if he can start playing with some sort of consistency. Heck, the closest thing the Redhawks have to a go-to guy is Deshaun Sunderhaus, and that’s an awful lot to ask of a freshman.

When the game tonight against Texas State gets tight – and it will, the Bobcats just beat Idaho on the road and will be high on confidence – someone will need to take over for Seattle to avoid another disheartening loss. The real question is who it will be.

Recap: Finishing woes again plague Redhawks in narrow defeat to UTSA

25 Jan

The curse of the six-minute mark struck again for Seattle University.

D’vonne Pickett hit a layup with 6:03 left on the clock to tie the game at 65-65. The Redhawks would not make a field goal for the next five and a half minutes, allowing UTSA to build a 7-point lead. The Roadrunners would hang on to win 78-75, marking another frustrating WAC loss for Seattle U in a season full of them.

In that fatal five and a half minute timeframe, the Redhawks missed layups, three-pointers and free-throws (4-8 in that stretch, 14-23 for the game). And they fouled UTSA over and over again, sending the Roadrunners to the line for 14 free-throws in a five minute span.

The person who they fouled the most? Michael Hale, a 5’9″ guard who put up 35 points, aided greatly by 16-17 shooting from the free-throw line. At a certain point, they probably should have tried to foul someone else.

All of that speaks to a team that has just not yet learned how to win.

The talent is most definitely there. That much is evident every time the Redhawks went to their hustling, pressing defense and forced turnovers.

But the discipline has just not developed. That much is evident, too, like when TJ Diop leaped into (and nearly over) Hale to foul him on a 3-point attempt, or when Luiz Bidart did the same thing minutes later.

It especially was evident at the end of the game. Down 3 with 2 seconds left and UTSA shooting a free-throw, Seattle needed a miracle to win. So Cameron Dollar called his last two timeouts to ice the shooter. Sure enough, the UTSA shooter missed, and Clarence Trent grabbed the rebound. But he appeared not to know how much time was left and didn’t take a halfcourt heave, instead passing the ball as time expired.

Would the 60-foot shot have gone in? Probably not. Should Dollar have saved a timeout for that instance, to draw up a play? Probably. Should Trent know how much time is left on the clock in a 3 point game? Definitely.

It’s just frustrating, and has to be doubly so for the team. They have to know they could very easily be 4-4 in conference play right now if they played the final few minutes how they played the rest of the game.

We’ll see if they can learn from this against Texas State on Saturday. Sooner or later, the Redhawks have to learn how to win in close games.

Preview: Redhawks must win tonight against reeling UTSA

24 Jan

Is it hyperbolic to call a January conference game a must-win? I don’t think so, especially because this is the most winnable game Seattle U will have all season.

UT-San Antonio is the conference doormat. They’re 0-7 in WAC play, and have actually only won one game in their last 13 contests. They rank below the Redhawks in just about every statistical category. And they’re on the road – Seattle is a long way from San Antonio.

This game is also crucial for the Redhawks if they want to have any chance of finishing in the top 6 WAC teams, and getting a bye in the conference tournament.

Getting that bye means only having to win 3 games in 3 days in Las Vegas to advance to the NCAA tournament. A long shot, yes, but not nearly as long as winning 4 games in a row away from home.

To do that, the Redhawks are going to have to catch two of Idaho, San Jose State and UT-Arlington in the standings. And to do THAT, they’re going to need wins against the teams they should take care of.

Those teams are UTSA and Texas State. Seattle U has four games against the two worst teams in the conference left. Winning those is a must. The odds look good for a win tonight, as well, with the Redhawks playing some of their best basketball of the season on their two-game road trip to Arlington and Louisiana Tech.

UTSA has little depth, so Seattle should be able to wear them down with their defense and constant substituting. They need to be able to make buckets in the second half and pull away from the Roadrunners, not letting them have a chance to hang in until the end.

I like their chances of doing that, especially if Louis Green continues his recent outstanding play. But with these Redhawks, you never know what team you’ll get on any given night. Let’s hope it’s the same squad that trounced UTA and hung right with the best team in the conference on the road. If that team shows up, Seattle should win by 20 tonight.

Despite struggles on the court, Redhawks are doing well in the stands

23 Jan

As it turns out, the Redhawks have pretty good fan support.

This year’s home attendance so far is 2767 – which was dragged down by home games against minnows Campbell and Jackson State during winter break, and boosted by the crosstown showdown with UW.

Last year’s home attendance was a notch higher, at 2974 fans per game. Fewer home games, plus two big contests against Stanford and Virginia, might account for that difference.

But when you compare those numbers to those of Seattle’s peers, the teams new to Division-I, they look incredibly solid. Of the 7 schools that were reclassifying to D-I last year, Seattle had the highest attendance by nearly 900 fans per game.

Seattle’s attendance even stacks up well against its new WAC brothers. Here’s a table of last year’s attendance, by school.

Utah State – 8406

New Mexico State – 5572

Denver – 5460

Louisiana Tech – 3165

Seattle – 2944

UT Arlington – 2131

Texas State – 2020

San Jose State – 1655

UTSA – 1530

Idaho – 1517

Seattle University actually would have finished in the top half of WAC attendance last year. Since there’s only been a slight drop in fans this year, it’s safe to say that the Redhawks have some of the better fan support in the conference. If home games appear otherwise to the naked eye, it’s probably because they play in gigantic KeyArena which makes even good crowds seem small.

When compared to next year’s WAC schools, the Redhawks look even better.

New Mexico State – 5572

Utah Valley – 2952

Seattle – 2944

Grand Canyon – 2278*

CSU Bakersfield – 1613

Idaho – 1517

UT Pan American – 611

Chicago State – 429

It is awfully impressive that GCU is pulling in more than 2000 a game for Division-II basketball. That addition to the WAC could prove to be a brilliant one. Chicago State and UTPA though… not so much. In fact, last year Chicago State ranked dead last in all NCAA D-I teams for home attendance.

Finally, WAC tournament averaged just 1871 fans a session, which wasn’t quite dead last, but it was close. (Only two tournaments out of 30 had fewer fans.)

Maybe get rid of that neutral-site idea? Vegas is nice and all, but the WAC could do better financially by hosting it at an arena with a conference team already there. One that has good fan support to ensure that tickets get sold. One like…. hmm. Perhaps Seattle?

Preview: Redhawks carry momentum into matchup with first-place Louisiana Tech

18 Jan

Remember that huge win over UT-Arlington? Great, wasn’t it? It was a sign of better things to come for the Redhawks, including more conference victories.

Just maybe not tonight. Because there’s a couple obvious reasons that this will be a tough game for Seattle U.

Louisiana Tech is really good, and Ruston, Louisiana is a long way away from Seattle, Washington. It would take 36 hours of non-stop driving through 9 states to get to Ruston from the 206.

The travel isn’t that difficult for the Redhawks, thankfully. (Hooray for planes!) But a two-days-in-three-games trip is difficult, especially when added to the 4 hours of plane travel. Few teams in any conference have to go so far for a conference game.

Added to that is Louisiana Tech’s Raheem Appleby, who might very well be the most talented guard in the conference. Appleby can get to the rim and he can score. Although he’s not a great 3-point shooter, he’ll be a tough mark for either of Seattle’s two starting guards.

What’s even scarier is that Tech is how young they are. For the WAC, they’re such a good team, at 15-3 and 62 in the RPI – borderline at-large NCAA tournament bid territory. But they run out just two seniors who average 9 points per game between them. The Bulldogs could be serious contenders in Conference USA next season.

Could Seattle contend with them tonight? It’s possible, if they play the same type of intense defense as they did against UT Arlington. But that type of effort is hard to maintain on the back half of a road trip. A loss against the conference leaders would be far from the end of the world.

Preview: Redhawks begin 2 game road swing with Arlington showdown

17 Jan

With Seattle University making its first conference trip to Texas tonight, it provides an opportunity to see how the one-and-dones from the Lone Star State are doing in the WAC.

The short answer is not well. UT-Arlington, tonight’s opponent, is the only respectable team at 3-2 in conference and 8-6 overall. Of course, two of those WAC wins came against the conference bottom-feeders – the other two Texas schools.

UT-San Antonio and Texas State are 4-12 and 3-14 against D-1 opposition, respectively. Both have 0-6 conference records and have been, unlike Seattle U, less than competitive.

And yet UTSA will be balling in C-USA next season, a huge step up for a relatively poor basketball program.

This is just another painful reminder that these days, conference affiliations are driven by football money and nothing more. In a world like this, basketball-only schools tend to be left in the cold… schools like Seattle and UT-Arlington.

But both have promising futures. Both are programs on the rise, moving into new conferences, in major media markets that are recruiting hotbeds. Seattle just has a little to do to catch up with UTA in terms of basketball talent.

That could be on display tonight. Seattle to Dallas is a long road trip for a team that just lost twice at home. Let’s hope the Redhawks have short memories, strong legs… and maybe a little dose of hot shooting, too.

Preview: Time for Redhawks to win a conference game

12 Jan

It doesn’t matter how. It simply has to happen.

The Redhawks simply must beat Denver and break their 0-4 WAC losing streak.

Because although they’re mired at the bottom of the conference currently, the season isn’t over.

Over?

Recap: Double-overtime makes SU loss to New Mexico State twice as painful

11 Jan

It’s almost incredible how many chances Seattle had to win last night’s heartbreaking 83-82 double-overtime thriller of a loss.

They could have won in regulation by not allowing New Mexico State an open, game-tying three with less than 10 seconds left.

And not to be too harsh, but, Chad? Chad Rasmussen? You’re a senior, right? You should know better than to leap at a shooter’s fake, fly past him and leave him wide-open.

They could have still won in regulation had Coach Dollar called a timeout immediately after that to set up a final play, or had D’Vonne Pickett Jr. not instead dribbled and dribbled and finally forced up a contested shot that was easily rejected.

And not to be too harsh, but, D’Vonne? You’re 5’10”, right? You should know better than to try and shoot over like three defenders. Or to dribble in circles every other possession.

Finally, Seattle U could have won in the first overtime if Prince Obasi had just a little more oomph on his last-second shot – which, it should be added, was a great shot to take in that scenario.

But they didn’t. And it hurts. Again.

To have a victory in your grasp so many times, only to let it escape repeatedly until it finally flutters away for good, is the most painful feeling in the world of sports.

It has to be especially painful for guys like Deshaun Sunderhaus, who fouled out with 4 minutes left in regulation and had to watch both overtimes from the bench. And for Louis Green, who is contributing more and more each game in WAC play, only for it to not quite be enough in the end.

The Redhawks have to be proud for staying in the game in the overtimes. They came back from 6 points down to tie the game in the first overtime by scrapping and forcing turnovers.

And their offense executed at times, too. With 20 seconds left, Seattle with the ball under their own basket and down 3 points, they ran an inbounds play for Chad Rasmussen. The senior rubbed off a screen, received the ball in the far corner and drilled a game-tying three.

But they also have a lot to work on. And a long way to go before they can compete with the elite teams in the WAC. Because those teams win games like this.

Preview: Redhawks need to get back on track against New Mexico State

10 Jan

This isn’t a classic New Mexico State team the Redhawks will be facing tonight.

The Aggies don’t have the talent level on offense that carried them into the NCAA Tournament last season. They also don’t really have a good outside shooter (leading scorer Daniel Mullings is 11-24, but that’s a very small sample), and are statistically one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the nation.

That means the big key tonight will be interior defending. Seattle has allowed opposing forwards/centers to go off during each conference game, something which obviously has to change.

If I were Seattle’s coach (which I’m not, and for good reason), I’d try a zone defense some of the time. Maybe press on made baskets, and a packed-in zone all other times. NMSU isn’t going to beat Seattle U by shooting over them.

Really, though, anything Coach Dollar does tonight is ok as long as the Redhawks get a win. They’re currently mired near the bottom of the conference at 0-3. Losing another home contest and dropping to 0-4 would be a major hit to morale among both players and fans.

The recent news about Sterling Carter leaving the team has only further contributed to the cloud over the program right now. This needs to be a “turn the page” game to get away from some of that. Seattle needs to come out and play both smart and hard.

By now, it’s probably become apparent that the Redhawks aren’t going to win the WAC this regular season. And that’s ok! But they do need to continue building momentum, continue getting victories at KeyArena, continue to energize this fan base, continue to grow as a team.

If they do that, they’ll end up with a respectable record in the WAC and a decent seed in the WAC tournament. Finishing in the top 6 would give Seattle a much better chance at upsetting their way into the Big Dance.

It all starts tonight. This game has to be a victory, and I bet everyone on the team, from the head coach to the equipment manager, knows it.

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