Skip to content

The most disappointing team in the country: UCLA or Memphis?

Nov 26, 2012, 4:00 PM EDT

Ben Howland

The craziest part about the beginning of the college hoops season is the number of teams that are already being labeled disappointments.

Baylor is back to their old tricks, failing to live up to the talent they have on the roster. That’s what happens when you barely beat a team that lost to Bryant or try two two-pointers in the final ten seconds of a game you’re losing by three at home. (Should I mention the latter came against Charleston?) UNLV was thought to be a potential Final Four contender, and they lost on their home court to an Oregon team that is still unproven. NC State, a title contender according to some pundits, got drubbed by Oklahoma State — who nearly got beaten by UC-Davis in their home opener — before hanging on against a rebuilding UNC-Asheville team. West Virginia, St. Mary’s and Drexel can all be lumped in there as well.

But without a doubt, the two most disappointing teams in the country are UCLA and Memphis.

If you didn’t stay up late last night to watch it, the Bruins, who were ranked No. 11 in the country last week, lost at home. To Cal Poly. (Yes, they’re a real team.) After blowing an 18 point lead with 12 minutes left, losing when Norman Powell fouled a Cal Poly player with the scored tied and 14 seconds left because he thought they were down. After losing to Georgetown, barely holding on to beat Georgia and getting taken to overtime (at home) by UC-Irvine.

And frankly, I’m not so sure that UCLA’s problems are fixable. Ben Howland is a defensive-minded coach. That’s how he took the Bruins to three consecutive Final Fours. Those teams never finished worse that third in Kenpom’s defensive efficiency ratings. We all remember how critics of Howland used to say he’d never be able to land recruits because his star players don’t get a chance to shine offensively, right?

Well, this group simply is never going to be good on that end of the floor, and it’s not simply a matter of ability; they have guys that are athletic enough to be good defenders, but do they pride themselves in being able to get stops? It hasn’t looked like it yet, and it certainly didn’t look like it as Cal Poly scored 37 points in the last 12 minutes on Sunday night. A zone won’t work, either, as this group isn’t active on the defensive end of the floor.

My advice? Accept it. Embrace the fact that you’re not going to be beating anyone 62-58 this season and instead try to break the century mark every time out. Use Kyle Anderson at the four, rotate the three wings (Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams, Norman Powell) and Larry Drew II as the three players joining him on the perimeter and let the Wears take turns manning the paint. Run the floor, score as much as possible, and hope that it’s enough.

At the very least, the Bruins will be having fun and into the game. That’s more than can be said for last night.

The issues that Memphis has seem to be more systemic than anything.

Is there an issue for Pastner when it comes to recruiting local kids? Is that why, after turning his team around for the stretch run last season, he team has regressed back to playing timid, mistake-prone basketball? Is that why his team looks like a group of freshmen that lack confidence and understanding?

The bigger question: is that Pastner’s fault? Local columnist Geoff Calkins believes so:

This isn’t about X’s and O’s, either, though plenty would criticize Pastner for his. This is about Pastner’s ability to lead and reach and inspire a team.

[…]

But all good coaches have one thing in common: They get their players to play hard and together and well.

Pastner does not. Or has not, with any consistency. And don’t blame the players, either. Pastner recruited every one of them. It is his team, from the first man to the last. There is nobody to hold responsible but the coach.

I disagree with Calkins here.

I watched quite a bit of Memphis from the Battle 4 Atlantis, and I don’t think their issue is effort. I legitimately believe that the kids on that team, for the most part, played hard. Yes, Joe Jackson sulked when he didn’t play well, but I think that sulking is more of a lack of confidence and frustration issue — understandable — than it is an indictment of Pastner. And to be fair, they lost to a very good VCU team and to Minnesota when a kid from Memphis that got passed over by Memphis went for 41 points.

Neithe of those losses equate to blowing an 18 point lead at home to Cal Poly.

My take: the Tiger’s problems stem from a) poor decision-making, which manifests as silly turnovers and forced shots; b) problems with their preparedness, as I’m not convinced the Tigers really knew what they were getting into against VCU’s pressure; and c) offensive and defensive execution.

Those issues, however, are more problematic than an inability to motivate.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Latest Posts
  1. San Diego hires New Mexico assistant Lamont Smith as new head coach

    Mar 31, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT

    Lamont Smith, right, is San Diego's new head coach (Getty Images) Getty Images

    San Diego turned to a former player to lead the basketball program.

  2. Washington State losing three players to transfer

    Mar 31, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    Jackie Davis, Brett Boese, Lucas O'Brien AP

    Head coach Ernie Kent is losing three first-year players after his first season at the helm.

  3. Report: Murray State guard Cameron Payne heavily considering NBA Draft

    Mar 31, 2015, 7:50 PM EDT

    Cameron Payne, Reece Chamberlain AP

    Could Murray State guard Cameron Payne enter the NBA Draft?

  4. UNLV’s Rashad Vaughn signs an agent and enters NBA Draft

    Mar 31, 2015, 6:40 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    UNLV officially loses Rashad Vaughn to the NBA Draft.

  5. Rhode Island lands impact transfer from Towson

    Mar 31, 2015, 5:35 PM EDT

    BB&T Classic Getty Images

    Rhode Island landed an impact transfer on Tuesday.

  6. Georgetown’s D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera heading to NBA Draft

    Mar 31, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Georgetown takes a major hit with the loss of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera.

  7. Southern Illinois loses five to transfer, coach rips the decisions

    Mar 31, 2015, 3:22 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Barry Hinson is not happy about losing the players he brought into the program.

  8. Highlights of the McDonald’s All-American dunk contest (VIDEO)

    Mar 31, 2015, 2:44 PM EDT

    Dwayne Bacon, Jalen Rose Dwayne Bacon, Jalen Rose

    It wasn’t as good as the last two years, but there were still some impressive dunks.

  9. Kentucky, Wisconsin join short list of Final Four rematches

    Mar 31, 2015, 1:55 PM EDT

    So we meet again... (AP Photo) AP

    Teams that won the first meeting have won three of the four Final Four/title game rematches, with Duke (1990-91) being the lone exception.

  10. LSU’s Jordan Mickey to enter the NBA Draft

    Mar 31, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Mickey is the second player from LSU to declare this month.

  11. Indiana’s 1976 undefeated team is rooting for Kentucky to go 40-0

    Mar 31, 2015, 12:09 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Bobby Knight would probably not approve of that.

  12. Cleveland State to lose Trey Lewis to transfer

    Mar 31, 2015, 10:01 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Lewis will have some well known suitors this offseason.

  13. Rick Barnes will be the next head coach at Tennessee

    Mar 31, 2015, 9:57 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Barnes spent the last 17 seasons at Texas.

  14. UConn, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Maryland, all No. 1 seeds, advance to women’s Final Four

    Mar 30, 2015, 11:10 PM EDT

    Brianna Turner AP

    UConn, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Maryland make up the 2015 women’s Final Four.

  15. Sources: Johnathan Williams III expected to transfer from Missouri

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:24 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Williams was the leading scorer and rebounder for the Tigers this season.

  16. Nebraska forward giving up basketball for senior season

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Nebraska forward Walter Pitchford is giving up basketball for his senior season.