USA TODAY Sports
Well, that was a letdown. Congratulations due to CSU. Better team tip to whistle, period. No one at RMN was so delusional to think CSU could not win, but that was a very disappointing performance.
Emotionally, this reminds me so much of the tournament loss to Cincinnati. (Norfolk State was just fluky.) We got dominated, even if the scoreboard doesn't exactly say that. The game was never really in doubt. The Rams were the better, tougher team. As a fan, that's aggravating. Colorado State ran better stuff, and just couldn't miss in the first half. That leaves a bitter aftertaste.
Laurence Bowers, you will be missed. We all wish you could have played a more memorable final game. None of the seniors played especially well, apart from Alex Oriakhi. You hate to be manhandled in your final game. Sometimes those are the breaks.
1. CSU ran better stuff. This isn't Larry Eustachy's first rodeo. He had his players ready to go at the tip. Missouri, on the other hand, came out comatose. I'm a Haith fan without reservation, but he got pantsed tonight. Although CSU hit difficult shots throughout the first half their sets were even more impressive. On defense they flattened out against our screen roll and took away Flip's passing lanes. That's a big reason why AO couldn't get more touches. No space. Eustachy isn't dumb. He was going to make Phil Pressey shoot jumpers or finish in the lane, not create easy passing lanes for AO. (All things considered, Flip didn't play a bad game.)
2. Missouri should have been better defensively all season. The game wasn't an exact microcosm of the season. (It was never that close.) The big issue is that our perimeter players, apart from Keion Bell (as the season wore on) were not as committed as they should be at that end of the floor. Missouri has consistently been an under-the-screen club under Haith, in large part because guys don't always bust it over screens. That killed tonight. We fought over screens for stretches but the Rams beat us to death on ball screens that got their guards into the paint, and they all seemed to have an "old man's" mid-range pull up game using the glass. Having said that, this poor defensive performance wasn't only about inconsistent effort. Even when Missouri plays hard on defense, we don't make a lot of opponent-specific adjustments. Haith, like a lot of college coaches, emphasizes execution over doing a lot of different things. So that's not a criticism, as such. For example, Missouri doesn't really hedge on high screens with Oriakhi or Tony Criswell. There are tons of effective ways to play the screen but you have to do it well. We never did.
The point here is that I think it's fair to say, after a mildly disappointing season, that I expect to see a better defensive club in year 3 of the Haith era. Two tournament games, two layup lines is not a good look. That's not all on Haith. I've heard him complain about the defense like I'm complaining about it. But, he's the general manager; not just the coach. HCFH has to make defense a focus moving forward.