So, I've posted the reports on the offensive and defensive elements of the team, but now, the questions before us are:
- Where are we now?
- What is the future prognosis?
- Are we achieving as we should?
To start, I would refer you to the last "Ask the AD," where Greg Christopher said that he thought the men's basketball program was going in the "right direction."
We have to keep in mind that given that Coach Orr is staying, there isn't a lot else for him to say. Could he have said something more like Coach Clawson usually says ("We are making progress but our goal is to win championships and we aren't there,"), sure, he could have said that and still be supportive of the program, because that's what they should all be saying. He's not a guy on a message board, and if you are staying the course, you can't be half-hearted about it. You're either in or out.
Before you can get irate about the statement, though, you have to know what the direction is.
I feel the same where here as I do about our stats...the only thing that matters is the relative conference rank. How are we compared to the teams we are designed to compete with? I don't care if we beat Michigan State or Malone.
Here are our MAC finishes during the Orr years. Right direction? For the Nation, this is a sort of ink blot test. You can see what you like. Yes, we have finished 6th or below in 4 of Orr's 5 season and little reason to think we are going to break through next season. On the other hand, if you view the 09-10 season as a natural crater built on empty Dakich recruiting classes, than we have steadily built on that.
A couple of thoughts. The last two Dakich years were pretty grim, though I believed all the time that BG would let him ride the last two years out in his contract, and they did. And, I think that people would be expecting the same thing this year, if BG hadn't pulled a complete shocker and bought out Brandon with time left on his deal.
I'm not comparing the situations, but other people are. We saw how mismanaged the football program was under Brandon during Clawson's second year. Also, the football program had APR issues, and (here I am strictly inferring) people didn't respect Brandon....both of which are not true for Orr.
A lot of people said that Brandon was fired while he had a winning record and we shouldn't fire a coach with a winning record. He was the exception that proved that rule.
Now, another thing I said when Dakich was here was that you can't hide from the results. Somebody might be a "good coach" and we might be moving in the "right direction," but is the person a successful coach who wins in a way we can be proud of? Good is a judgment. Success is not. Those are things you cannot hide from.
And the results are just average.
You cannot hide from this fact: There are 3 elite programs in the MAC that are good year in and year out: Akron, Kent and OU. If there's a candidate to break in, it is Buffalo, not BG.
So, if that's our goal, and it almost has to be, then after 5 years we aren't there. Not only is BG not good every year, but we have only had one season over .500 in the Orr years.
I also think that people felt like this was a year we had a shot. BG had the 4th most experienced team in the MAC, and Orr's first full recruiting class. And we finished 6th. Only 28 D1 teams were as experienced as BG or more and finished .500 or below.
And I have already showed that we under-performed based on our stats.
And those are the facts, as I see it. Regardless of whether we are going in the right direction, we are not where we should be.
Will next year be better? Because the whole "right direction" argument does rest on whether the line on that chart keeps moving up.
BG loses quite a bit. Our two wings are gone, as well as a guy who provided badly needed strength and toughness on the inside. The guys who are coming up have showed promise at times--Sealey for certain periods, for example, and Clarke if you want to remember individual drives to the basket, but I think it is fair to say that if next year's team is going to be better, we are going to need a lot of production from guys who haven't shown it. Doesn't mean they can't or won't, just means they haven't. (We do expect Kraus back and we have seen what he can do).
On the other hand, this was a senior-dominated year in the MAC. Two years ago, it seemed like everyone had a lot of guys back. Not so much this year. WMU loses 5 guys AND Stainbrook, 3 teams had 4 seniors and 4 teams had 3 seniors. That's 8 of 12. CMU only lost 2 seniors, but they lost Zeigler and could lose McBroom.
I know, OU has everyone back except Groce (apparently). I'm just saying, maybe the bar is a little lower. Still, it isn't like we lost nobody and they all lost people. We riding the tide, and those teams started better than us.
I find it hard to believe next year's team will be much better than this year's team was. I hope that proves to be wrong.
Which leaves us with two years left on Orr's contract. I'd really like to see what we hope for--that Clarke, Sealey and Henderson (not to mention Calhoun and Black) jump in and become really good players and the team is better next year and we start to be good consistently. I just don't see that next year, which leaves Orr trying to do all this in his last year.
Some people have said that he has only had one year to recruit to the Stroh. I never really accepted the idea you couldn't recruit to Anderson, but to say we have to be in the Stroh for, say, 3 years before we can expect to compete in the nation's 20th ranked conference, that's going to be tough for people to swallow.
Teams just seem to get better faster. UT, for example, was one of the worst teams in D1 for two seasons, and they would look to be better than BG next year. EMU was better than BG in one season.
I don't think it is the recruiting, honestly. It just feels like our guys develop into above average players and maybe into good players but not into great players, and that good teams can figure out ways to beat us even when we play well enough to win. I believe that observation is supported by the facts.
Certainly, as a collective, our team has gotten the results of an above average and sometimes good but not great program. I'm sure that's supported by the facts.
Anyway, if you want the state of the program, I would say that I fear the word is "languishing." I hope that's wrong, because come whatever might come, I'm going to be in my seat again starting in November. But, for where we are today, that's what I see.