So, I mentioned in the last postgame thread that I was sort of, as I put it, "emotionally spent" with this team. It's one thing to follow a team that finds different ways to win, yet another thing to follow a team that finds different ways to lose ... but it's just draining to cover a team that pretty much loses the same way every time, you know?
Anyway, I also mentioned on that thread that to expect much of anything different from this team down the stretch probably wasn't very wise.
But then I listened to an interview with assistant coach Curtis Allen on KJR, and he noted that Ken Bone's teams at Portland State always seemed to be playing their best ball at the end of the year. So, I decided to take a little closer look at Bone's four-year-tenure at PSU, digging up the Vikings' conference record (since overall records in small conferences get skewed by "guarantee games" early in the year), their regular season performance in February and March, and their performance in their conference tournament:
|Year||Conf. Record||Feb/March||Conf. Tourney||Notes|
|2006||5-9||4-3||0-1||Ended regular season with a four-game win streak|
|2007||9-7||4-3||1-1||Ended regular season winning three of four; lost in conference tournament semis|
|2008||14-2||9-1||2-0||Big Sky regular season and tournament champs; lost in first round of NCAAs vs. Kansas|
|2009||11-5||6-3||2-0||Big Sky tournament champs after finishing 2nd; lost in first round of NCAAs vs. Xavier|
|2010||6-10||2-5||?||Bone is guaranteed first losing Feb/March in his career|
It certainly appears Allen's anecdotal recollection is correct -- Bone was 23-10 in February and March, was 5-2 in the conference tournament and twice won it to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
At first blush, his "worst" end of the season -- prior to this year anyway -- was his first at PSU. But even that run was reasonably successful, especially considering they were 1-9 before finishing with that four-game win streak. (Cynical fans will point out that all four wins came against the 4th, 6th, 7th and 8th place teams in an eight-team league.)
It's probably also worth noting, by extension, that his final two teams were the most successful late, but that also begets a chicken/egg argument: Those also were his two best teams overall -- in 2008 they were 5-1 and then 9-1, and in 2009 they were 5-2 and then 6-3. (Similar deal in 2007.)
They did win their conference tournament in those two years, which is great. However, one time they were the best team in the league, and then last year they got a gift when the first place team -- Weber State, which had beaten them twice -- lost in the semis to Montana State, whom the Vikings would then defeat in the championship. So, I just don't know how much you can read into that.
To bring it back around to this year, the natural question is this: Should we expect some kind of significant improvement, some kind of "click" to kick in with this team?
I'm skeptical. Although his February/March track record is good, most of it isn't too far out of line with what his teams were doing beforehand. The lone outlier is that first season, which, in retrospect, looks like his best February and March when compared to what his team was doing earlier.
Anyway, just some food for thought. Or, for hope ... if you're in need of some of that.
Besides -- all it would really take for this team to "click" is for Klay Thompson to turn five of his misses into makes. If that had happened, we would have already at least beaten Washington and Stanford in the last month. So maybe it's just that simple, anyway.