As of today, I am a big fan of Savannah State University basketball.
The Tigers play in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and their coach is Horace Broadnax. If that name sounds familiar, it may be because Broadnax played for Georgetown during the glory years of Hoya basketball, winning a national championship in 1984. After graduation, he want on to earn a law degree, but signed on as coach of Savannah State in 2005.
(Note: all of the following statistical data comes from Ken Pomeroy’s excellent website kenpom.com. If you’re a serious college basketball fan (or a serious college basketball wagering fan), you should go there and subscribe immediately. In addition to all the stats, Pomeroy writes an entertaining blog about college hoops and provides a perspective you can’t get anywhere else.)
Saying that the Tigers have been defensive-minded under Broadnax is like saying Kentucky has attracted good recruiting classes. Over the past few years, Savannah has twice limited teams to fewer than 42 points – and still lost. They hold the NCAA record for fewest points in a half (four). They’ve accomplished these milestones by slowing the game down to a crawl, ranking 337th in the country in offensive tempo (possessions per 40 minutes of play) in 2013.
But it seems Coach Broadnax has, to put it mildly, had a change of heart. So far this year, they are playing at the second-fastest tempo in the country (82). If they keep up their current rate of three-point attempts, they will set an NCAA record. They rank 345th – out of 351 – in defensive efficiency.
I haven’t seen this team play (though I’m closely following the schedule, hoping they’ll pop up on one of the lesser ESPN channels (like maybe “The Ocho”). But I believe it’ll be like watching a pickup game at the Y, only with D-1 college athletes.
So why is Broadnax doing this? I sent him an email to ask for an interview a couple of days ago, but haven’t heard back yet. The Tigers are ineligible for the NCAA tournament this year due to a lack of academic progress. (There’s only one other school – Alcorn State – suffering this penalty in 2016.) So maybe he thinks this is a throwaway year, and he might as well experiment with a 180-degree change in his philosophy. It could be that he’s using it as a recruiting angle for future seasons; “Hey kid, look at all the freedom I give my players!”
But the old CYO coach in me thinks it’s just fatigue. It’s hard to get kids to work on defense. It’s kind of boring, and, in today’s immediate-gratification society, you don’t see the benefits of the other team missing shots until the end of the game. Casual fans often don’t appreciate the work on the defensive end; many would rather watch their team lose 88-86 than see them win 56-50. And you’re not getting on Sportscenter by working your way into good position, cutting off a drive, and making your man pass the ball.
So I wonder if Broadnax just said to himself, “I don’t need this. I’m working my ass off every day, trying to make these kids focus on the right things, and for what? So we can play in the MEAC tournament, get on ESPN 3 for the Tuesday morning final, then go home even if we win it? Let’s put up shots, let the kids have some fun, and get through this dismal season”.
In their last game, the Tigers scored 59 points, but gave up 128 to Oregon. Their next contest is December 11 at Oregon State. They’re not on the ESPN schedule, but sometimes games get shifted around. Still hoping to catch my Tigers on the Ocho.
A couple more book promotion events coming up:
On Monday, December 12 I’ll be on the radio at about 11:30 AM with Coach Ron Hecklinski on Indiana SRN sports talk radio at http://indianasrn.org/. Even if you’re tired of hearing me talk about the book, it’s always fun to hear Coach Heck. He’s the best!
On Tuesday, December 13 I’ll be on WCSI Columbus (1010 AM) at 8:30 AM to talk about the book and the signing on Thursday at Viewpoint Books in Columbus.