Why does Crews lose?

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Why does Crews lose?

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After the loss to VCU, the Billikens dropped to 10-16 overall and 2-11 in the conference. So who is to blame for this relatively unsuccessful season? Expectations at the start of the season were considerably lower than last year, since SLU lost all five of its starters, including powerhouse guard Jordair Jett. Even so, the team started the season off strong with back-to-back wins against Southern Illinois and Indiana State. The first sign of SLU’s downfall was made apparent when the Bills dropped a home game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, which should have been an easy victory. The rest of the season slid downhill from there.

   Possible scapegoats are the eight freshman that make up much of the 17-man roster, but freshman guard Marcus Bartley, freshman forward Milik Yarbrough and freshman guard Davell Roby have been in the Billiken lineup for most of the schedule, and Yarbrough leads the team in scoring and rebounds. Even Coach Crews has stated multiple times that the freshmen have had more than enough play time to not be considered a hindrance to the team.

So where is the problem?  The Billikens have had a ridiculously hard time protecting the ball, with 22 turnovers in the game against Rhode Island, as well as 19 in each of the two games before that, and have been getting burned in transitions back on defense. These statistics make a great case that players are struggling to execute the basic fundamentals of basketball, but a deeper insight into the players and the actions of the man that coaches them reveals that there is much more at play here than ball-handling skills.

   Whispers criticizing Jim Crews’ coaching ability have been circling around campus, especially after losing three games in a row against Fordham, Dayton and Rhode Island. The Billikens should have easily dominated Fordham, as it sits at the bottom of the A-10 conference, with an overall record of 7-16 and a conference record of 2-10.

Coach Crews has been quoted in multiple postgame press conferences, stating that the team just needs to find the right combinations, but with only five games left in the regular season, there is still no sign of a combination that is going to take charge of the game when the Billikens need it the most. Even when a combination does work, the odds that these same five players will return to the court again for any substantial amount of time is slim. This prevents the team from finding its rhythm or building any sense of cohesiveness because any run that five men put together is shortly stopped by a change in the lineup. CBSN broadcasters have also commented multiple times that there is nobody to take charge for the Bills when they are down, or when they need to finish the game. How is there supposed to be a leader when players do not stay in for more than a couple of possessions?

   There are also times when a player will go a long period of time – spanning games, even weeks – before seemingly being randomly inserted into the lineup. For example, sophomore forward Tanner Lancona  had minimal playing time for most of the season and did not play at all in the games leading up to the thriller at home against Dayton. Yet, he would play 10 minutes in that game before returning to the bench and only playing three minutes against Rhode Island. The same goes for Miles Reynolds, who had played fewer than 10 minutes in the games before the Rhode Island matchup and would then go on a scoring rampage with a career-high 21 points in 25 minutes.

 

There does not seem to be any method to Coach Crews’ lineup-changing madness, and the Billikens’ record reflects his indecisiveness. If the Billikens have any hope at advancing past the first round of the A-10 tournament, Coach Crews needs to stop with the lineup changes and let someone like redshirt junior Ash Yacoubou, Milik Yarbrough or junior guard Austin McBroom step into the leadership role and build the offense around them, instead of trying to find the right “combination.”