Men's Basketball: Welcome to The Abyss

I have avoided writing about the men’s basketball team for some time now. That was because there wasn’t really anything to say. We aren’t good, and the players we have aren’t talented enough to consistently win in the Big East Conference. As Bill Parcells says, "you are what you are." And what we are simply isn’t good enough.

I will exempt Ron Anderson from everything written below. He plays hard (though even he didn’t have his best game against Notre Dame, and I hate to think the toxicity of this team got to him as well), and seems to give a damn. He’s also a legitimate threat on both ends of the floor, and is a good enough player to compete to win in this league. But he is the only exception to the rule, and the rest of them have shown little to nothing in conference play.

Anthony Crater is not capable of handling the point guard position for even a mediocre basketball team. And we aren’t anywhere near mediocre. Gus Gilchrist isn’t consistent enough, nor does he work hard enough, to be a first option. His offensive chemistry with his teammates is atrocious. Jawanza Poland is a nice piece to have, but isn’t good enough to be a starting guard in a good conference. Hugh Robertson is a nice piece to have, but isn’t good enough to be a starting small forward on a good basketball team. Jarrid Famous is not much more than a big body that can give you spurts of offense when his opponent can’t defend their backboard.

And everyone else just flat out isn’t good enough.

Keep in mind everything is relative. Last season I worked in media relations at Delaware State University, a historically black college in the MEAC. Crater might be a starter on that team. Famous is one of the better players in that league, and a perfect fit for that team’s system. Fitzpatrick would give coaches fits when he shot a three-pointer, because most teams in that league don’t have anyone near tall enough to guard him. But our relative is Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Notre Dame. And the student-athletes we have now just can’t compete.

That doesn’t mean they’re bad people or bad kids or don’t deserve to go to college. It just means they’re not good enough to compete and win in one of the toughest basketball conferences in America. And that’s a problem I can accept. Sometimes prospects simply aren’t what you thought they would be. Sometimes injuries play a factor. Sometimes you recruit a kid for years, and at the last second he changes his mind and signs somewhere else, leaving you with a position hole on your roster. Things happen.

But what is completely unacceptable is not even trying. And this team looks like it doesn’t give a damn.

The rest after the jump.

They flat rolled over and died against Syracuse. They flat rolled over and died against Notre Dame. It’s pretty easy to get baskets when no one even considers following a cutter to the rim, running the floor, or staying in front of an opponent. They have shown no sign that this even bothers them on any level either. Guys fail to run the floor over and over, getting beaten down the floor repeatedly. The standing around on offense is a pretty big crime as well, as we could have at least 8 minutes of tape per game of Crater standing around 28 feet from the basket with the ball and the team in a 3-out-2-in look. Losing is acceptable. Laying down and not giving the effort necessary is not.

And I still don’t have a solution, because "fire the coach" isn’t a realistic option, and Stan Heath didn’t forget how to coach basketball when he arrived here.

I don’t know if John Wooden, Dean Smith, or Henry Iba could win at USF. The problems with men’s basketball run far deeper than the head coach. It’s the lack of bodies in the stands. The complete and utter apathy throughout the community for this team. And that apathy comes with a good reason: it’s been 20 years since this team was relevant. With the exception of the Dominique Jones led run at the end of last year, and some teams in 2000-02 that completely fell apart at the end of the season, there hasn’t been any realistic reason to think we might make an NCAA Tournament at any point since we played in the Sun Belt. And we haven’t even had a reason to watch the Selection Show in two decades. That is absolutely pathetic.

And it looks like that complete and utter apathy has made its way onto the court. We’ve got a good coach that’s in a bad situation. He’s recruiting the best possible talent he can get, unable to even consider how it fits together on the court because he needs talent to even consider having a chance to win. Well this year, it didn’t fit. At all. I think some heavy off season roster turnover is coming. And Heath will retool and try again.

The Muma Center and a remodeled Sun Dome will help that recruiting, but those are band-aids when it’s possible we need a tourniquet. There needs to be a fundamental shift in emphasis from the athletic department, the community, and the current fans to make this team competitive. It’s going to take tons of resources, and a lot more people that care than they do now.

I’m guilty here as well, as I don’t even go because this team has frustrated me so much. Exempting 2010, I’ve been at every conference tournament since 2002. I usually travel with this team as much as possible during the year. I love USF Basketball as much as anyone. And right now this team is so bad, and such an affront to the values of team and hard work that make me a basketball fan in the first place, I won’t even get off my couch to go watch them play. And if you’re losing me, you sure as hell aren’t going to get anyone else in the tent with the product that's currently on the floor.

It’s going to take a group of young, talented players that are willing to put the work in to grow and get better together. Hopefully those players will fire up and engage a forlorn fan base. Hopefully the students will begin to once again embrace this team, and the days of camping out at the Sun Dome and coveted tickets in the best sections will return. And it’s going to take burning some shoe leather. Say what you will about Seth Greenberg’s record in February and March, but if there was an event where he could go promote his team, he was there. The bond of trust between a potential fan base and the institution is totally broken when it comes to basketball. Something dramatic is going to have to happen to get that back. It’s going to take a serious commitment of time, money, and other resources. USF Basketball needs a new vision and direction. Not just from the head coach, but from every single person involved from the administration on down, including the ones currently on the team.

They need to find some pride in themselves. Because losing is acceptable. But making a mockery of the uniform is not.

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