As the day 1 outcomes in the 2018 MW tourney had no real surprises, the far-fetched Cinderella dream of an earth-shattering win by the Spartans over the Cowboys found me still with the same tattered clothing, cheap bourbon and dark alleys.
What can possibly be gleaned from the Spartan’s depressing season to help this article be worthwhile?
Well, I figure this Spartan coverage can also double as a quick season synopsis and start to point to things for next season. For starters, obvious scouting 101:
- Teams need to have skills (of course), competitive speed, athleticism and collective continuity
- Intelligence = court-smarts, vision, anticipation, etc.
- Flexible schemes, principles, motivation and energy
- More positionless players (as per Mr. Musselman)
Many of the consistent shortcomings stemmed from the lack of the above and most all of these attributes should ideally occur naturally. For example, it’s hard to believe you can practice your way out of committing turnovers. It would seem to be more a recognition, awareness and anticipation thing. If you’re constantly not thinking of turning the ball over, you’re wasting some game-thought bandwidth. But let’s stop there since, I’m in no way a coach.
The game was worthily entertaining for most of the first half with each team shooting about 50% from the field. The Spartans came out strong for the first three-quarters of the first half before the wheels came off in their 74-61 first-round loss in Las Vegas.
Ryan Welage and Jaycee Hillsman were the majority of the offense and the only offense that showed up in the first half. Welage and Hillsman finished with very good numbers; 25 and 24 points, respectively.
Wyoming’s Justin James notched 24 points and shot a remarkable 100% from the field and had some demoralizing steals, as well as a breakaway dunk that epitomized the Cowboy’s attitude of crushing all Spartan chances and hopes.
The game had been close up until about the two-minute mark of the first half when the Cowboys took advantage of one of the Spartan’s scoring droughts and lack of defensive attention to pull out to a 10-point halftime lead.
The first two-minutes of the second half saw the Cowboys immediately overwhelm the Spartans with the Cowboys extending their lead to 20-points. Coach Prioleau called a timeout to try and regroup, but the game essentially was out of hand at that point, considering the Spartans have never had the horsepower to play from behind.
When first-year head coach Prioleau first came on in 2017, it was a mad rush and he really had nothing going his way from the onset:
- The administration probably made things harder not being able to decide earlier who the head coach would be
- Prioleau basically had a couple weeks to try and come to speed
- Only a handful of returners
- The turbulence of the previous coach and star player suddenly leaving
Coach Prioleau’s inaugural season definitely wasn’t following his philosophy of uptempo offense and defensive soundness. But we can be certain his staff is on the recruiting trail among the local AAU and California high school circuits to find and convince under-the-radar players to come over to beef up the program. He’s off to a good start for next season already at the center and point with Michael Steadman and Brae Ivey.
Until well into next season, expectations will remain low and the glass slipper will be there for the taking.