What is wrong with the basketball team? I honestly dont know. It's a mystery to me how what looked to be a good basketball team by the end of the season went south and has really floundered this past week.
Is it coaching?
A lot of people will tell you that yes it is, but this is the same coach that had won 86 games the last five years at Marshall and had only one losing season in those five years. This is the same coach that recruited J. R. VanHoose, Tamar Slay and Ronald Blackshear. This is the same coach that took the Herd from the weak Southern Conference into the much- tougher MAC and had moved into a position of being considered one of the conference's better programs.
What MAC coaches are better? Heath at Kent and O'Shea at Ohio look good right now but they are both playing with someone else's recruits and we won't know for two to three years if these two men can stand on their own merits.
Brinkley at Ball State is also a coach who is still playing with another coach's players and while he was the darling during December when he was beating UCLA and Kansas, he's also the same man who has lost five MAC games including losing to Marshall. Witherspoon of Buffalo has slightly turned the Bulls around, but even though he has two wins against Marshall he still had lost seven of his last ten conference games going into Saturday night.
Hipsher of Akron has really experienced bad seasons for the last two years after having his team completely collapse the year before and quite frankly, I would be surprised if he is still the coach at Akron next year.
Coles of Miami is generally considered to be one of the finest coaches in the MAC but if you look at Miami they are a yo-yo: They beat Boston College and play Georgia, Southern Cal and Notre Dame close, and then turn around and lose six games in the MAC and only score 23 points against Wright State. Joplin at Toledo gets more heat from the fans (proving i'ts really hard sometimes to come home and coach at your Alma Mater) than does Greg White and he has a team that plays good defense but is really challenged offensively.
Boone at Eastern Michigan is a coach that has done very little to turn the Eagles around and if he doesn't do something by next year he better get his resume ready.
Smith was a coaching genius last year in his regular season championship season, which I believe is his only winning season at Central Michigan, but the team turned up lousy in the MAC Tournament and has been equally as lousy this year.
The coaches at Northern Illinois and Western Michigan are in their first and second years, respectively, and are still playing with someone elses players and really haven't done anything earth-shattering with them.
Dakich at Bowling Green has done a good job there but he took over a team that had challenged for the MAC Championship, had played in the NIT and put a player in the NBA under the previous coach. And, Dakich hasn't come remotely close to achieving what his predecessor had accomplished at BG.
So, coaching doesn't seem to be the whole problem and it's really debatable as to how much a problem it really is.
Some people tell me it's the players, there just isn't enough talent. But haven't VanHoose and Slay been first or second team All-MAC players and nominated for national honors? Wasn't Blacksear one of the top players in the country when he came out of high school?
Let's look at the best players in the MAC as I consider them: Campbell of Buffalo; Mitchell and Hoffman of Kent; Juby Johnson of Miami; Matela and McCloud of Bowling Green; Jackson, Smith and Jones of Ball State; Hunter, Flomo, Sonny Johnson and Esterkamp of Ohio; Reynolds of Toledo; Rodgers of Northern Illinois; Webber of Central Michigan and Slay, VanHoose and Blackshear of Marshall. Of the top nineteen basketball players in the MAC, Marshall has three.
So talent isnt the problem.
Some people say the team had all the adversity of NCAA sanctions and coach White missing early practices due to his house burning down, and therefore didn't develop chemistry. I always thought that when times are tough that's when players become closer as a unit and bonded together. When your back is against the wall and everything looks dim is when you should work your hardest and work closer together to fight through your problems.
So, chemistry could be a problem.
But if all the players are on the same page and fighting hard to win for the name on the front of their jersey instead of the name on the back of that jersey, then chemistry shouldn't be a problem.
Some tell me the facilities aren't up to par. To that I just say, bull! Marshall may not have the best basketball facilities in the MAC but they are in the top five with Ball State, Miami, Ohio, Eastern Michigan, and Marshall and Northern Illinois will be added to those five next year with their new arena.
So, it's not facilities.
Some say it's the lack of a large and loud crowd. This may have a little merit. Crowds are down this year but remember, they have gotten smaller and quieter as the team has played at a less-than-expected level. At times when the team is playing very good the crowd gets loud, but I think the team is picking the crowd up more than the crowd is picking the team up.
Now I will admit that the student attendance has bordered on pathetic and this is probably due to four reasons:
1. A lot of Marshall students are older and non-traditional students, which means they may have families to support and therefore must work as much as possible. Work is a higher priority than attending basketball games.
2. Marshall offers a lot of night classes and several students take night classes and therefore find it hard to attend some games (now, I find this hard to imagine myself because I never let a night class interfere with going to a ball game).
3. Marshall students sometimes aren't the most wealthy and with the cost of a college education these days, some students may find themselves living at home and driving to Marshall from such places as Winfield, Hurricane, Nitro, St. Albans or Wayne. And while none of these is a long trip, it can be tough to attend games after going to school during the day and having to drive home and do class work.
4. And the last is, Marshall students don't have the best student seating arrangement. Somehow, it must be figured out how to get the students on the sideline close to the action where they feel like a part of the game. Other schools have done this and really helped their student attendance. So, MU needs to develop a plan before next season to get those students involved in the game. As a whole, the crowd factor could be better for Marshall, but I really don't think you can blame the teams woes on the crowd.
As you can see, there are a lot of theories as to what is wrong with the basketball team. But I don't know and I'm not sure anyone can put a finger on the precise problem, but I bet that Coach White and his staff are trying real hard to figure it out. I would also bet Lance West and the Athletic Department are trying to figure it out. But there is one group who really needs to look down inside of themselves and ask if they are giving everything they have and if not, why, and look and see what they can do extra to turn this around and that group is the players.
If the season is to be salvaged, it has to come from their effort and no one else's. Wednesday is Senior Night, so let's hope the players dig a little deeper and give 100% from the opening tip, because the Herd can still get a home MAC Tournament game if they win the last two games against Central Michigan and at Akron. Both of these are very winnable games, but it's going to take a lot more effort than the team has shown in the past week.