Monday, January 31, 2011

Jimmy Christian's A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Never seen the movie, but I imagine it was a lot like Saturday's game.

Immediately after writing Friday's half-hearted preview post, I pretty much mentally sketched out how this was going to be. Potentially playing another game without Ronnie Moss was sure to yield another lackluster effort from our guys and, after the loss, we were pretty much going to be able to stick a fork in the TCU Men's Basketball program under Jim Christian. Then after getting the official from from Stephan Stephenson prior to tip that Moss would not only sit out this game but would be indefinitely suspended from the team for the remainder of the season, I considered writing and posting the article before the game even started so as to be on the cutting edge of declaring another season down the drain. But then a couple of things happened and I changed my mind

For one, I actually had no intention of watching this game. Since the Senior Bowl wasn't going to finish until around 6, and the basketball game started at 5, I knew I likely wouldn't see the first half under any circumstances. On top of that, I had tickets to the Mavs game Saturday night and a dinner reservation prior to, so that definitely ruled out the second half. But apparently the Ghost of Billy Tubbs had other plans because Dalton got assigned to clipboard duty so harshly that he probably has papercuts from flipping the pages, and I got the flu. And when I say I got the flu, I mean I got the mother effing INFLUENZA. Like, the kind where you can't get out of bed for fear that you might lose control of your bowels or crumple to the ground like a toddler taking its first steps. So in other words, TV was my #1 ally over the weekend, and since the Senior Bowl had been rendered unwatchable in regards to my rooting interests, I decided I'd give the Frogs game a go.

For anyone that watched the game, and I can't imagine a situation where many of you would be lounging around on a Saturday night watching TCU basketball without a debilitating virus, the first thing you had to notice was that Ronnie Moss was not only at the game, but he was on the bench. Yes, he was in street clothes, but the fact that he was still allowed to be a part of the team on the very same day that he was suspended indefinitely from basketball related activities was puzzling to say the least. What kind of message is Christian trying to send? Would the players see this as the coach exercising his authority and showing that he puts respect for the team above his own job security? Or would they simply see it as a broken man grasping at any and all straws to right the ship and note the inconsistencies as I was as to why Sammy Yeager, a good player but not the best, was completely booted from the program while Moss, the team's best player, was simply moved to the end of the bench? For the first half when the Frogs came out sharp only to fall behind before halftime due to sloppy play it seemed the latter. For the second, when the Frogs went through the entire spectrum of their play this year to date, from high flying dunks and great passing to ridiculous turnovers and missed layups, and gave away a game they absolutely had in the bag, he almost looked like a genius.

For those who did not watch it, which is most of you, here's the series of unfortunate events I referenced in the title: With less than three minutes remaining, TCU was down by 5 and looked to be pretty much done as they'd given about all they had. But then the tides turned as they took advantage of some a couple of untimely Air Force misses, started going to the basket where Garlon Green came up big with two free throws and Nikola Cerina converted a three point play. Then, the coup de grace came following another Air Force miss as Garlon Green hit a long jumper to tie the game and seemingly force it into overtime.

And then came unfortunate event one.

After yet another Air Force miss, this time a silly three point attempt, TCU held the ball for the last shot, which ended up being a Thorns drive that resulted in Air Force committing the foul that should've kept their 20 game road losing streak firmly intact. Except Thorns missed the front end of the one and one... only to have the ball go out of bounds off of an Air Force player and give the Frogs one last gasp at winning the game before overtime.

And then came unfortunate event two.

In typical TCU form, the inbounds pass was stolen as time expired. However, the Frogs had the clear momentum edge heading into the extra five minutes and, as they came out and ran off five quick points while holding Air Force scoreless, it was looking like Christian's ploy of getting the players to put the team first was going to pay off.

And then came unfortunate event three.

With a minute remaining and the Frogs up by 4, Air Force went to the line to shoot two and ended up missing both... only to have two TCU defenders go for the same rebound and knock it out of bounds. The very next play? Air Force nails a three and, after a Garlon Green miss, Air Force makes the easiest layup of the game for either team until that point to take the lead. Remember that.

Which leads me to unfortunate event four, the final one.

With 15 clicks left, TCU inbounds the ball to Thorns and runs pretty much the exact same play they ran before overtime, except this time Thorns forces a poor shot in the lane and Air Force rebounds it while TCU hopelessly fouls... only to have to give the ball back to the Frogs on a very questionable no foul/stepping on the baseline call. So with 3 seconds left and trailing by one, the Frogs yet again have an opportunity to close it out. And, believe it or not, they run the PERFECT in bounds play, with Greg Hill circling underneath the basket and taking the ball right outside the lane for what should have been the EASIEST layup of the game. And when I say the easiest layup of the game, I mean Air Force completely blew their defensive coverage and left Hill with a wide open look at the basket for a shot that 10 year olds make in their driveway 100 times out of 100. It was so easy that our entire team was jumping in the air and running onto the floor in celebration. It was so easy that Hill looked like the Nintendo64 kid he was so excited to be given such a gift. It was so easy that...

Hill clanged it off the rim and watched as it cruelly bounced into the backcourt. And that right there should pretty much summarize the current state of the TCU Men's Basketball program.

To get one thing straight, TCU is shockingly inconsistent once the schedule switches to conference play. I'm not sure what it is, but the same team that can run an SMU team that sits near the top of the CUSA standings, or a USC team that knocked off Top 10 Texas, out of the gym does not exist anymore. Sure, part of it is because of the level of competition, and also you're missing Yeager and Moss, which accounts for about 25 points per game, but the fact is, Air Force is a glorified intramural team that a self respecting basketball program should never lose to. I don't mean that disrespectfully, but it's true that none of those guys have next level aspirations; the days of David Robinson coming out of Navy are long gone. But in all truth? Air Force was probably better than us. And that's the reality we have to face - TCU is just not that good, and we need to adjust our expectations accordingly.

As recently as last week I suggested that Christian had lost control of the team and needed to go, but in all honesty I don't think Coach K could do much better than he has with the assortment of players we're trotting out there every night. But on the bright side, some of the younger players are actually semi-talented and could be difference makers in the upcoming years. Amric Fields is undersized weight wise, but he's a 6'9" jump shooter who creates all sorts of mismatches. He has the physical tools, but as a freshman he just as to develop the all around game that comes with experience. Consider him the Braylon Broughton of the basketball team. Nikola Cerina, as inconsistent as he may be, at points looks like he's finally figuring things out and could have a major impact next season. And Garlon Green has the athleticism befitting of a man with as many tattoos as he has, but in the NCAA you can't rely on athleticism alone to be successful.

In all fairness, TCU might not win another game this season. The schedule is daunting from our perspective, and the only games you can potentially argue are against Air Force and Wyoming, but since those are road games there is no guarantee. But, to have a game where you're missing 25 points of offense that you started the season with come down to one of any four plays making a difference should be viewed as a positive. I saw a team that, despite being undermanned and left with nothing to play for, playing hard and giving their best effort, which reflects well on how they feel about Christian. I think the best thing is for Christian to stay the course he laid out there Saturday, keep Moss on the bench to send a message to the team that talent doesn't outweigh behavior, but also send a message that he's all for giving someone a second chance. And having Moss close to the team for the next month will at least keep him in the proper frame of mind going into next season. It's not going to be pretty, but perhaps it's not time to completely write off Christian just yet.


buffalo said...

any idea on why he is suspended?

Lyle Lanley said...

My guess: chinese food.