At the beginning of the year, I got the chance to interview the players and coaches at media day. Phrases like "Sweet 16" and "Deep NCAA tourney run" were thrown about like loose change at a suburban cocktail party. It was almost a given. The theme in October was to surpass last year's accomplishments and possibly compete for a Big 12 title. Nowhere was that optimism so evident than with Shawn Taggart. Wayne Morgan said, "Shawn is a special player but he's only a freshman….one night he'll score 25 and the next night he'll score eight."
Apparently the eight was a bit more realistic. That's what burns you. Not only the fans, but also the coaches and players set the bar at lofty heights. Especially Taggart.
You got the impression from
Taggart he meant business during that same media day. When asked about his plans
to stay for four years at
Taggart was obviously hampered by that illness that caused him to drop 30 pounds off an already frail body. Not a good omen. But, he also was hampered by those same high expectations. Anthony Davis said he was already better offensively than Jared Homan. Tasheed Carr called him the best big man he had played with and said, "He's already better than most of them guys in the Big 12." Maybe he was depended on too much? Maybe he didn't adjust well to Big 12 basketball? Maybe he read his press clippings? Whatever the case, Taggart received a donut in the minutes played column in the 2nd half of the last game of the season. Coincidentally, he scored 12 points in the first half of his first game of the season. Great start. Sputtering finish.
It's funny if you look back on the prognostications from November. Here's a sample of what I wrote back then:
"Gone are Jared Homan, Damion Staple and Aaron "Big Ags" Agnew. Those three guys weighed a combined 880 pounds. The four guys that are filling their shoes weigh a combined 860. That's a difference of one and a half Olsen twins.Shawn Taggart, Jessan Gray, Jiri Hubalek and Mike Evanovich are highly skilled and tremendous athletes, but the Big 12 is no prep school. Even the best newcomers take a while to adapt.
It took Staple and Jackson Vroman
until February of their first year to finally look comfortable. If these guys
can combine to average 30 points and 20 rebounds,
The surprises of the first weeks of practice have been guard Tasheed Carr and small forward Anthony Davis. If these two, along with John "the forgotten one" Neal, can give the Cyclones a legitimate outside threat, it will open up the offense for Stinson, Blalock and Rahshon Clark to showcase their East Coast flavor. The Cyclones made nearly 100 fewer three-pointers than opponents last year. They can't afford to do that again.
Post defense is also a concern. It's often not appreciated, but Homan and
Staple were solid defenders and didn't back down to the likes of Kevin Bookout, Taj Gray and Brad Buckman. So, look for teams to attack the Cyclone interior like drunken White Sox fans attack first base coaches. Not literally, of course.
Regardless of the questions, this will be the most electric and athletic team
I was correct in some parts, but way off in others. It's kind of like looking back at the girls you used to date in high school. You look like a genius sometimes, and like a fool the rest.
Tasheed provided a whole different surprise. By the way, those four post guys combined to average 20 points and 9 rebounds. Needless to say, the "magic number" wasn't reached. The highly skilled and tremendous athlete Evanovich scored a whopping 5 points all year.
I think we should be glad this season is dead and gone. It would have been great to make another NIT run, but I think we all can agree nothing can make up for the unfulfilled feeling we all have.
I guess I will sit back and root