Good lord. I hate to give him the clicks, but fine, here you go. Read this. I’m glad to see he didn’t just cut and paste Scott Hood’s earlier post, and so in the same spirit, I’ll not simply re-post my same piece responding to that post. But this has to stop. So let’s take it down, line-by-line.
“You know you got me on the edge of happiness and despair.”
By the way, before we start, I’ve heard from multiple people that David Cloninger is a nice guy, and this is generally not meant to be a personal attack on him, but rather on what he represents by writing this type of stuff. He’s one of many, but a very high-profile one.
That said, I hate both Cloninger’s habit of opening his opinion pieces with music quotes, and I hate Everlast. I normally don’t point this out when discussing the man’s work, but since David’s written an article that’s forced me to respond like this, I feel like at least one or two ad hominem attacks are in order.
It was right there, again.
And it was lost, again.
South Carolina could start to gain a complex.
That complex can’t be any worse than the complex that certain media members seem to have about fabricating stories about why they’re losing. Cloninger pretends here that the Gamecocks simply can’t win close games. Of course, he ignores probably the best indicator of that fact – WHETHER OR NOT CAROLINA HAS WON OR LOST CLOSE GAMES.
At this point, the Gamecocks have played 11 close games. Let’s look at those, briefly.
W 82-75 (OT)
W 74-67 (OT)
W 82-73 (OT)
Notice how we’re 6-5 in those games? Holy hell, you’d almost think one of two things were true: (1) we’re exactly average at winning close games; or (2) this is all random.
(And before anyone even starts one, a road game argument is pretty silly, given that we’re 1-1 on the road, 2-1 if you count Manhattan as a road game, and 3-1 if you remember we won an overtime game in Puerto Vallarta).
But it must be that Carolina just can’t play well DOWN THE STRETCH against these teams, right? I’m sure if we only looked at the last 10 minutes of regulation (plus any overtime periods) we’d reach the conclusion that Cloninger desperately desires:
|Last 10 Minutes|
So in 11 close games (games with a final margin of victory of 10 points or less), the Gamecocks are 6-5 on the season, and they’ve outscored their opponents in the final 10 minutes by an average of 2.45 points per close game.
Now if you cherry-pick a subset of those games (i.e., the last four), you can show that the Gamecocks don’t play well in close games, as they’re 1-4. Of course, you’d also have to concede that they’ve only been outscored in the last 10 minutes of those games by an average of 0.6 points per game, so it’s hard to call them shrinking violets in the late minutes. You could throw out the LSU game to help prove your point, but it’s a little suspect to throw out only one of five observations:
But why that subset? Why doesn’t Cloninger make another argument – BRUCE ELLINGTON DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO WIN BASKETBALL GAMES.
|Games w/ Bruce||Last 10 Minutes|
This is a confusing chart, because it indicates that we play exactly even in the last 10 minutes with our competition in close games for the games where we’ve had Bruce. And yet, we’re only 2-5 in those games, mostly because our team doesn’t play well in those late minutes where we just discovered they play better than their opposition?
I’m confused, David. Help me here.
The Gamecocks lost another close game, 71-65, at Missouri on Tuesday, leaving them 1-4 in the SEC and making the goal of at least five more wins (thus leaving them with a winning regular season for the first time in four years) look further and further away. A corner was thought to be turned after USC squandered leads with five minutes to go in its first two SEC games and lost, then fought back to tie a game at LSU and win in overtime.
No one thought this but the people constructing this narrative. We called it bullshit then. It’s bullshit now.
But then came Vanderbilt, where the Gamecocks shot so poorly that they hardly had a lead, and then missed a set shot to give them a late lead.
Wait, so you’re now proving your point that the Gamecocks don’t have the mettle to win by citing a game where they came back from a deficit to nearly win? It’s this one missed shot that proves your argument. THAT’S YOUR ARGUMENT?
And then came Tuesday, where a 13-point lead was first frittered away, and then a two-point lead with 2:25 to play turned into an 8-0 game-ending run for the opposition, including two 3-pointers when the Tigers had made just 3-of-25 beforehand.
Right, because we were choking, not playing a far better team than ours on the road. Also, you have no control over the other team’s ability to make 3-pointers, so I’m not sure what you’re proving here other than you know less basketball than you think you know.
USC is right there. It’s so close to tumbling over the peak into winning these kinds of games that it can smell, touch, taste and see it (not sure if you can “hear” a win).
I’m not sure you can smell, touch, taste, or see them, as they’re intangible, but yeah, let’s stop with hearing, because that seems the right place to draw the line.
But every time the Gamecocks get that close and don’t get it, there’s harm being done.
OK David, here’s your chance. You’ve got us teed up. You’ve identified a “harm” that’s being done. I look forward to seeing you identify and prove that harm in the coming paragraphs. I’m buckled in – take me there.
How much harm is up to the team, and how it handles it.
OK, so we are still certain there will be SOME harm, we’re just not sure how much there will be, and that’s dependent on the team. Alright, fair enough – sometimes things are dependent variables. So, what you got?
The games are only going to get tougher, the season only going to get longer, the legs only more tired. If another game gets to the final five minutes and USC either loses a lead, or doesn’t convert on a possession to take one, folks will have to wonder how much damage is being wrought.
Folks will have to wonder? Again, no one has to – you just choose to by constructing false narratives like this because you need to fill column inches and analyzing the game takes longer (that, or you know this is bullshit but just think there’s an audience for it, in which case, I won’t judge how another man chooses to make a living).
But no, David. No one has to wonder that. It’s not compelled of a single one of us. You can choose to think it’s the case even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. But that’s a choice. It’s not a requirement.
Winning is as much about the mentality as it is about the talent.
David Cloninger, noted basketball statistician, just gave us the formula for success:
(Talent/2) + (Mentality/2) = Winning.
We need to start recruiting mentality.
A team wins enough games, answers the bell in the final frantic seconds, it knows that it can do it and would never doubt it. Doesn’t happen, hey, it was the one that got away. We’ll get it the next time.
Again, there’s that study I just linked up there that proves your just making shit up at this point, but hey, you’re on a roll, why stop here? Also, where’s the part where we identify and quantify the harm being done every time we lose a close game? That’s still coming, right?
The irony of me using this many rhetorical questions, given what’s about to come in this piece, is not lost on me.
But when a team that hasn’t won much, like these Gamecocks, keeps having this happen, who knows how much doubt seeps in when the same situation pops up? Sure, players can say that they pay it no mind, that they don’t think about it, that it doesn’t happen. But do we truly know? Can we really see if there’s a “Here we go again” thought bubble that pops into the brain when that go-ahead 3-pointer rims out?
How can they be sure lazy writers won’t keep beating the drum through rhetorical questions? Will the team have to start citing these statistics themselves? Will the reporters ever do the research to learn how full of it they are? Am I going to have pizza for dinner tonight? Where’s my belt – no, the black one?
I’m reminded of a book I recently read.
I can guarantee what book it wasn’t.
In Al Featherston’s “Tobacco Road,” he discusses Duke’s horrifying 1994-95 season, when Mike Krzyzewski sat out most of the season after having back surgery. Under interim head coach Pete Gaudet, the Blue Devils finished 13-18 and 2-14 in the ACC.
Pete Gaudet’s career record as a head coach is 16-56. He was 4-15 with Duke and 12-41 at Army. Are you really arguing that head coaches don’t matter when it comes to ACTUALLY PLAYING, but that they only help a team’s mentality? Because there’s a really good argument to be made here that the problem is simply that Pete Gaudet is just a really shitty coach.
This is actually the closest Cloninger comes to having a point – Duke went 5-14 in games decided by 10 or less that year, and 2-9 in games decided by five or less. They were also a legitimate top 25 team that had just lost Grant Hill and had some bad luck, at least some of which could be attributed to coaching.
Of course, the next season, K went 9-9 in close games and lost in the first round of the NCAAs to Eastern Michigan, so maybe both the 1993-94 and 1994-95 teams just weren’t very good.
There was still talent on that team – it had played for the national championship the year before. But without Krzyzewski on the bench, there wasn’t that confidence anymore. Duke couldn’t win by being Duke, like it once had.
“There must have been eight to 10 games that followed where the game was tied or we led in the last two minutes,” said then-player and now assistant coach Chris Collins. “We lost them all. Those were the kind of games we always seemed to win when Coach K was there.”
This is where the lazy internet comment about correlation and causation not necessarily being the best of friends comes in.
Without that confidence that he and his teammates were going to find a way, Collins and the Devils suffered through an awful season. They eventually regained it, of course, as Krzyzewski returned and raised the ship that had nearly been scuttled.
So this article just included a long aside about how Mike Krzyzewski is a better coach than Pete Gaudet. Something I think we were all curious about after last night’s game.
I’m not suggesting that USC and Duke are on the same plane, or even the same galaxy, when it comes to basketball tradition and talent.
But the situation is the same
You literally just said the situations were not the same. Right there. The very sentence right above this one. We’re not in the same “plane, or even the same galaxy,” and yet the situations are the same.
- until the team finds a way to get over that hump, the doubt will always be there.
You’ll notice here there are zero quotes from Carolina players that say “we’re doubting ourselves” or “we’re not sure we can win,” probably because no player would say that, and also because they don’t think that. These guys have spent their whole lives being the best, and they’ve won a lot of games at every level of competition. I have no doubt they believe they can win, because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be playing SEC basketball.
The Gamecocks have absolutely played their tails off this season. There is no problem, none whatsoever, with the effort. This team is so much more fluid, collected and together than last year’s that it’s almost like the returnees have been reborn.
This is an entirely separate point, so I won’t chase it too far, but Bruce is having almost the exact same season he had last year. Leonard is the same guy who can’t hit 2PAs to save his life, just playing fewer minutes.
Lakeem has absolutely improved, and it’s a credit to him what a great job he’s done shooting on the inside. Eric Smith has traded off some of his shooting for his assist rate, and Brenton Williams has been a revelation offensively.
But Malik Cooke busted his ass last season, and while it didn’t work out here with them, the problems with Damontre Harris and Anthony Gil weren’t effort. Rather, we didn’t have enough talent, and we didn’t use the talent we had efficiently enough.
But don’t go back and spit on the effort these same guys gave last year. That’s garbage, especially if you didn’t write an article last season questioning their commitment and hustle.
It’s not paying off with many wins, though,
We have won one more game this season than we did last season, and are already halfway to our SEC win total from last year, but you’re on a roll, so I won’t stop you.
and the more losses like Tuesday’s that come around, the harder it’s going to be to get to that point. The Gamecocks deserve to win one of these, no question, but deserve, as Clint Eastwood so famously said, has nothing to do with it. They have to believe they can win it, then go do it.
We’ve identified literally zero evidence that the team doesn’t believe it can win. You just made it up so you could write this piece. You’ve also never identified that harm that we were told about earlier that’s going to devastate the team going forward.
Michael Carrera summed it up after the game, Tweeting, “Hasta cuando DIOS mio porfavoooooooooor.” Roughly translated, that means, “How long my GOD please.”
I’m pretty sure he was referring to his annoyance at reading shit like this.
Lot of others are feeling the same way.
We sure are.