Monday, November 19, 2007

Loss Numero UNO for the pack

So many things to talk about after the University of New Orleans upsets NC State.

The game was a little too reminiscent of State's collapse against Vanderbilt a few years back in the NCAA Tournament. With a little over a minute to go and a 5 point lead, Degand misses a free throw, UNO pushes the ball up, and Courtney Fells grabs to cut off the penetration. You could make an argument that Fells holds on to make sure the kid doesn't fall, but it really was an intentional foul. Moments later the lead is 1. 45 seconds later, State is down 1 with the ball and about 14 seconds. Gavin Grant does exactly what a senior should, he goes length of the floor to score. Then a bit of luck, magic, or destiny steps in as New Orleans banks in a 3 with 2 seconds to go to win the game.

Sometimes it just happens, sometimes you can make an argument that things like this should happen. When Sidney Lowe got the NC State job, University of New Orleans head coach Monte Towe left the UNO job to become Lowe's assistant. After Katrina the team had to leave New Orleans for Texas. That program and those kids have been through a much different few years than they ever expected. You've got to believe this will be the best memory of their college careers, and sometimes a story like that makes a loss like this a little easier to take.

About a month ago I talked about Pack Basketball and Expectations.
I talked mostly about the pressure to perform when you are expected too. The angle I missed, and shouldn't have is, what happens when players go into a game thinking they are so much better than the opponent that they aren't mentally ready for a battle. I don't think it is a case where you don't try as hard, where you don't give the required physical effort. I just think that mentally at times teams aren't really prepared for the possibility that they will be in a close game that they could lose. And if they face those thoughts with a minute to go in the game, rather than having that mindset from the start, it just isn't possible to get the best results you are capable of. I'm guessing among several other things, that is one thing that happened here.

Friends and I often speculate about whether a coach ever "lets" his team lose. There have been times in the past where I really thought Coach K didn't give a game his all, because he wanted to show the team what could happen when they try to do things there way instead of his. I have no way of knowing if it really ever happens, and I'm certain Lowe didn't let the Pack lose last night. BUT, having said that, I do think there can be such a thing as a good loss. State is very much a work in progress. As good as the talent and some performances have been, there is very little team chemistry yet. They have a lot of work to do to get better, for players and coaches to learn new roles with new personnel. And as much as we all have enjoyed being a ranked team, doing the hard work required might just be easier without rankings, unrealistic expectations, and quite so much JJ hype. We may never truly know if this turns out to be a "good loss", but you can bet Coach Lowe will remind players for the next few years of what happens when they think they are entitled to the win just because they are bigger, stronger, faster, and ranked in the top 25.