As I said on the air during the final post game - I hate the end of the basketball season. When you do pre and post game shows beginning with football in early September, it's odd when it ends in mid-March. I just realized that today was my first day off in a month but I guess that means I loved what I was doing too much to notice.
Here is my review of the 2006-2007 Bluejay basketball season:
Let's start where it ended - New Orleans and the overtime loss to Nevada. I picked Nevada to win the game because I didn't think the Jays could keep up with the Wolfpack in the scoring department. I was right. Once the game got into the 70's - they were in trouble. They needed a game in the upper 50's, lower 60's and they had that before the OT. Fazekas vs. AT = Wash. Nate vs. Kemp = Kemp. Sessions vs. Porter = Sessions THUS 77-71 win for Nevada.
I love Dana Altman, yet when you lose, there are things to talk about. The only issue I have with the game plan was the call to give the ball to Nate Funk again at the end of regulation. He didn't do it vs. Wichita, didn't convert vs. SIU and now he didn't get it done in the NCAA tournament. EVERYONE in the New Orleans arena knew what was coming including Coach Mark Fox of Nevada. Did they foul? Yes. Is this the tournament and the whistle goes away unless you draw blood - Yup.
Anthony Tolliver was a First Team ALL MVC selection. Yet he didn't get one end of game look this year. Unlike last year vs. Wichita St at home, the A-Train wasn't given the chance to be the hero. I wish Dana trusted him more to make a play if Nate's option wasn't available. It was sink or swim with the Jays best player and he was following orders. I get the call but I just wish AT was given the chance to make a play given the fact that the D was all over Nate.
2006-2007 ended in a game that was symbolic of the year. Competitive, aggressive play that came up just a bit short on the national level. The lack of size and depth came back to hurt the Jays yet a great coach kept them in the game right to the end. Dana Altman can't make shots for Dane Watts. He can't rebound for Nick Porter and he can't make the officials call a foul at the end of the game. All he can do is put his players in the best position possible and he did that on Friday and all year long. Anyone who can't see that is just blind. The coach can only do so much and ultimately, the players have to make plays. Going 0 for 8 on wide open 3's is not Dana's fault.
What would this team have looked like with Ty Morrison playing 15 minutes a game? What would have happened if Josh Dotzler didn't regress faster than any player I have ever seen? What would have happened if the team had a better 3 point shooter who could get his own shot unlike Nick Bahe? They were missing key components of a successful team. However, defense and rebounding kept the team in many games including the NCAA tournament loss to Nevada. You can question their skill but not their heart.
Overall, it was a roller coaster of a year that ended where everyone expected the Jays to end up. The Big Dance is a major accomplishment yet the fans want more and I don't blame them. For CU to become the next Gonzaga or even Nevada - they have to win in March. Dana is now 2-8 and the losses have been heart breaking. Being the higher seed and losing to Central Michigan, the end of game dunk win for West Virginia and now the Overtime loss to Nevada - the Jays seem to be just on the edge ever single year. This is not Dana Altman's fault - this is basketball and sports in general. Eventually, this team will get the breaks but they need better players to make their own breaks. I think they are on the way.
The Jays all of a sudden need a point guard. Josh Dotzler is not the answer and has lost all confidence in his game. Coach Altman has stuck with Josh for long enough. I know he loves Josh but Dana's system just doesn't work without a solid player at the point. I would expect the team to go after a JC point guard to be able to fill the void by the middle of next season.
Kenny Lawson, Dane Watts, and Keyton Walker will roam the post and the Jays will have some depth there unlike this year. Scorers like Chad Millard, P'Allen Stinnet, and Isaac Miles will try to replace Nate Funk's punch. And the bench will have guys like Kaleb Korver and Pierce Hibma to add some energy. But as you can see...the team will be VERY young and inexperienced. They will need to find leadership and Dane Watts can't let the game vs. Nevada wreck his Senior season.
I will remember the year for the games vs. SIU. The early season swoon and then the recovery. The 4 seniors who lead the team to the MVC Tournament Championship and the celebration in St. Louis. I will remember Dana Altman having to figure out how to win without a point guard and no help off the bench. The Qwest Center filled up with white for Wichita and the noise they made at the end of the game. Jobber's Canyon pre and post game shows and road trips to Des Moines, St. Louis and New Orleans. Year 2, overall, was a blast.
There won't be nearly the buzz for next year that Omaha experienced this year. However, by the end of next year - another NCAA tournament appearance isn't crazy to think about when you look at the rest of MVC. It will be a more interesting team to watch with all the questions going into the year but it's time to start over and rebuild around a new set of Jays.