As aggravating as last year's squad (loaded with NBA talent and senior leadership) was, I was satisfied with this year's team and think they even overachieved a little. Though not totally devoid of a bench, this was a 5-man team with some specialty players. It was also loaded with underclassman at key positions. I think it was pretty obvious that this team wore down as the year progressed, regressed on the offensive end, which lead to more missed baskets affecting the level of defense. The losses of Shawn Williams and Varez Ward before the season started could not be understated and greatly weakened the bench and limited Barnes' options.
Jordan Hamilton & Tristan Thompson were big plusses this year and presented a mismatch in nearly every game. The next best players were freshman Cory Joseph (playing out of position at point) and Gary Johnson (an undersized power forward). J'Covan showed flashes of brilliance but was largely inconsistant and needs to dominant the basketball. Outside of those players, it gets pretty slim.
Dogus (my favorite) was suitable for an uptempo team (Barnes did not commit to this) and was a defensive stopper, but I think his legs wore down as the season wore on. Matt Hill's game eroded as did Alexis Wangmane. Neither offered a consistant low-post presence. Jai Lucas played OK in spot-duty but has limitations in his game. In a perfect world, both Dogus & Gary come off the bench.
The handwringing on Barnes after yesterday's debacle is understandable but undeserved. Zona was truly a 10-deep team, which forced Barnes to swap offense-for-defense down the stretch. We lost by one-point to a very good basketball team. It happens. Does Barnes need a proven offensive coach on his staff? Sure, but he also coaches awesome defensive basketball.
This team was one post player away from being elite. Once Matt Hill lost confidence (Nebraska game), we lost our edge. Prior to the year, we were not considered a Top 25 team. We petered out at the end, but that's what happens when you only have 5 basketball players on a team, then offer up two soccer players, a smurf (no disrespect), a Mojoless big, and 3 Westlake kids as your complimentary players. Barnes did a great job and the team's solid efforts fell just short. Thanks guys.