<strong>LOGAN—</strong> Easy there Aggie fans … don’t hit the panic button just yet.
Yes, that was USU’s third straight loss Thursday. Yes, they’ve lost three starters – two for the season, and yes they are soft and sloppy.
Before you signal that the sky is falling though, and before you wave the white flag, take a step back and give this team a minute to figure things out. Sure, the early schedule was soft, but nonetheless, this team started 14-1 and was the favorite in the conference. I’m not going to pat them on the butt and tell them great job, but I’m not ready to drive the season off a cliff just yet either.
This team has had to change its identity multiple times this season, first with the loss of Danny Berger and now with the losses of Kyisean Reed and Preston Medlin. It is going to take some time for the remaining guys to figure things out, and learn how to play off of each other. It’s not always going to be pretty, as was evidenced by the Aggies home loss to UT Arlington Thursday.
We fielded a lot of calls last night when I joined John Russell for the Xfinity Aggie Call regarding the lack of talent on this team and how they wouldn’t be able to compete in USU’s future conference – the Mountain West – with the players that they have now.
I’ll agree with that to a point, because with the starting lineup the Aggies currently have right now, that is a true statement. However, one needs to remember that the starting lineup right now includes a true freshman, two JUCO transfers who are in their first year of Division I ball and were expected to come off the bench, and a player who is playing after sitting out a year.
The majority of the Aggies current starting lineup started the season as bench players, and was expected to maintain that roll throughout the season. Marcel Davis was impressive very early and moved into the starting lineup, but he is a true freshman and he will have growing pains. He will also get better.
I had high expectations for Jarred Shaw. After a hot start to the season, he has not lived up to them. Much like Kyisean Reed last season, he is not used to or was not expecting the physical style of play he gets inside. Teams do seem to be getting away with a lot of physical play with the Aggies, but nonetheless, when Shaw encounters it, it affects his game and he responds negatively with bad shots, bad shot selection, and poor rebounding and effort.
There are two keys to Utah State being competitive in the second half of the season with a depleted lineup. Fortunately, I think both of those things are attainable.
First, Jarred Shaw must emerge and assert himself as a legitimate threat inside. He has the skill and ability to be dominant the post in the WAC, but he needs to toughen up and find a warrior mentality. USU will not win games with him taking jump shots from just inside the 3-point line and grabbing only three rebounds a game.
The other thing the Aggies must do is find some consistent play at the point guard position. Davis appeared to be a revelation just a few short weeks ago, and I was amazed by his poise as a freshman. Stew Morrill joked about Davis avoiding the “freshman wall,” and all that seemed to do was point Marcel right at it. He’s being pressured by teams right now, and doesn’t seem to be playing with the carefree attitude he had earlier in the season. He will get out of his funk and he will be a great point guard for Utah State. The faster that can happen though, the better for the Aggies.
Where USU really needs production is from TeNale Roland. This guy looked great in the preseason, began the season as the starter, and was expected to be able to add an offensive punch after averaging 21 points per game in JC ball.
At this point, if he could consistently add 10 points a game that would drastically alter what the Aggies could do. Reportedly, he shoots lights out in practice. Whatever is going on, he needs to fix it, and be able to contribute in the game.
If the Utah State can get some consistent play from its point guards, and if Jarred Shaw can establish himself as a premier post player in the conference, than the Aggies can hang around until WAC Tournament time. There’s a decent chance a guy named Preston Medlin could make it back a couple of games before that. Then things could really get interesting.
The run of 22-win seasons may very well be over, but I think there is still some fight left in this team. The schedule isn’t easy the rest of the way, but I’m willing to wait a few more games to throw in the towel. You should to.