My goodness, wasn’t that terrible.
That was the only thing I could think last night, as I left Rupp Arena.
There were a lot of terrible things about that game, and last night they were all just tumbling through my mind, willy-nilly. Allowing an opponent to make 52% of their shots. 19 turnovers. Being out-rebounded 52-27. Only drawing 9 fouls (though on the bright side, EMU was 4-4 on free throws).
I want to focus, however, on one specific issue that has a lot of EMU basketball fans concerned. 24% shooting.
Just looking at this aspect of the box score from last night makes me depressed. Austin Harper went 3-5, including 1-1 beyond the arc. Jalen Ross was 2-4, including 1-2 outside the arc. From there it goes downhill. Fast. Jamell Harris was 2-5. Glenn Bryant was 4-13. Derek Thompson was 2-10. Daylen Harrison was 2-14. Da’Shonte Riley was 0-3. J.R. Sims was 0-6.
24%. That’s the bad news.
Here’s the good news. EMU is not really a 24% shooting team. They’re not great, but they’re not that bad. For the season, they’re at 38.6%. Before last night, their worst shooting game of the season was at Syracuse, where they shot 29.5%. At Michigan, arguably the best team the Eagles have faced, they shot 35.5%. Not great, but not so terrible either.
Here’s the other good news. None of their game results to date matter.
This was never a team that was going to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. From the start of the season, the only way they’d realistically get in is by winning the MAC. Neither the win over Purdue, nor the loss at Kentucky, nor anything else that’s happened so far has any impact on the MAC race, except one thing.
After playing at the Carrier Dome, after playing at the Crisler Center, after playing at Rupp Arena, do you think this team is going to be even the slightest bit intimidated when they go to Bowling Green on January 12, or Ohio on January 30, or any other MAC road game? After facing Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein, do you think Riley and Balkema will find Zeke Marshall intimidating? Not a chance.
The one thing that matters so far this season — the only thing that matters so far — is what the team has learned. How they’ve grown. We won’t know for sure for a few more weeks, but my sense is still that this team is entirely capable of getting the job done in the MAC.
From here on out, there are three goals: repeat as MAC West Division champions, finish in the top four overall in the MAC, and then win the MAC tournament. If the team manages that, yesterday’s 90-38 drubbing, yesterday’s 24% shooting, yesterday’s 19 turnovers, all will be forgotten.
The real season starts January 9.