Not really. USI men’s basketball still has the same weaknesses it has always had this season, namely a lack of height and a lack of depth. But the team has found a way to make up for that with a humongous abundance of grit, I think. I don’t want to fall into the hole whereby I say that a loss to a bottom-dwelling team such as McKendree was the spark the Eagles needed. But I do think it showed them what happens when they don’t play hard.
Really, that’s where success in college basketball stems from. You don’t play hard — no matter how much talent you have — and there’s a good chance you’ll lose. Why USI wasn’t playing hard is something I can’t explain. Team dynamics are mysterious. Players either do or do not get along, but that doesn’t always affect winning and losing. I’ve always heard that some of Bruce Pearl’s teams in the 1990s had players who actively loathed each other, yet they still managed to win and win big.
Really, the best thing about USI men’s basketball right now may be Bobo Drummond. I’d even go so far to say that he is the key to the rest of the season. It took him more than half the season to get into a rhythm, as coach Rodney Watson likes to say. But now that he has, he’s amazing, often at the most opportune moments in a game — like the seven 3’s he hit last Thursday night at Missouri-St. Louis or the 3 he hit to tie the score against Maryville (after sinking a couple of 3’s earlier in the second half after doing almost nothing in the first half).
This season probably won’t end well. But it could be a preview of seasons to come with Bobo running the point. He could end up becoming one of the greatest players in USI history. He’s got two years left to get there. We may be watching a preview of coming attractions.