With the Patriots dropping their first two games of this 2018-19 campaign, we have learned a few new things about what this team is – and what they are not. On Tuesday, Penn pulled out a win 72-71, followed by Friday’s 78-75 OT loss to American.
Both games were winnable, but both opponents were possibly better teams than anticipated going in. We knew Penn was the class of the Ivy last year – still, the chance was there to pull out the win if the Patriots could execute. It’s now apparent that AU has a much better team than last year’s record indicates with 4 players returning from injuries to join leading scorer Sa’eed Nelson. American could contend in the Patriot League if they play this well on the road all season.
Hel-lo Mr. Greene! Javon Greene’s breakout 18 pt / 12 reb performance was a welcome development. AJ Wilson also played well, 5 of 6 from the field is nice – even if he missed 3 FTs. Ian Boyd has been relatively solid as well and may deserve more playing time. Reuter has lived up to expectations, but his conditioning limits him. Still I’m loving having him on the team.
You can see the potential, and the buckets will come. This team looks to be working out who they are. Coach P seems to be trying to figure it out as well. As much ballyhoo was made about returning 100% of the scoring, adding new players to the mix changes the engineering of how this team runs. They will need more time to figure out who needs to be on the floor and when. Confidence in each other must be earned.
Turnovers. Ugh. I think this one will come around and is not representative of who this team really is. 25 turnovers in two games shows either neglect to take care of the ball, or a case of trying too hard to make the play – or maybe both. Coach P said in the AU post-game, “this is not the same team I have seen every day in practice so there’s some disconnect between practice performance and game performance.”
Otis, my man. Otis Livingston has had too many possessions where he dribbles the ball for 5 seconds and then tries to create his own shot, only to miss. Otis 10pt /10ast / 5 TO double-double is a good sign that he’s working out the rust and nerves of the Penn game. At least he better be.
Where has Goanar gone? Goanar Mar has been nearly invisible in these past two games, and against AU saw his time on the court limited. If Mar can make any offensive impact at all, I feel like Mason is 2-0. I don’t blame him for the losses (other teammates could have stepped up), but his lack of scoring and some lethargic defense contributes to the situation negatively. Is he under the weather or injured?
This team must learn to play better team defense. How many times over two games was a player beaten with a quick first step, and no one was there to rotate in to help defend an open layup?
Free throw conversion. Another area where the Patriots could have tipped the game in their favor. Missing 10 shots at the line every game will put you in a hole that is hard to work out of.
This team has definitely not lived up to the preseason hype and has probably screwed the pooch as far as any at-large talk goes. But, now we can all put that behind us. This team will get better as the season goes on and I still believe they will upset someone (Cincinatti/Baylor/OleMiss/KState) that we didn’t expect. I also still feel that this team will improve through conference play. It’s not time to get discouraged – it’s time to buy in while this team figures out its identity.