About now, you’re expecting me to rip Paul Hewitt for losing to Dayton in Puerto Rico. But here’s where I throw the ol’ changeup and say: Losing to Dayton is not a bad loss.
Dayton is good. (Indeed, the Flyers were ranked higher and were favored by a point.) Dayton is expertly coached by Brian Gregory, whom I’d have preferred Georgia had hired over Mark Fox, who managed to lose to Wofford on Tuesday, which was a bad loss. And Tech, as talented as it is, is going to need some time to coalesce.
Yes, this assumes it will coalesce, and after some dud seasons with loaded teams — 2002-2003 with Chris Bosh remains the not-so-shining example, with 2006-2007, when a team with four players who would work in the NBA managed to lose 12 games, not far behind — there’s cause to wonder if this will be any different for Hewitt. I’m willing to extend the benefit of the doubt. But I’m not willing to extend it forever. This team has all it needs to reach the NCAA tournament and play deep therein, and if it doesn’t … well, it won’t be for lack of manpower.
Certain aspects of the Dayton game were familiar. Twenty-six turnovers. Nine missed foul shots. A late lead squandered. But I say again: It’s early. And Kansas, which is ranked No. 1, nearly lost to Memphis, and Kentucky, which I consider the nation’s best team, needed John Wall’s jumper to override Miami (Ohio), which hasn’t had Wally Szczerbiak for a while now. Nobody ever wins a national championship in December, let alone before Thanksgiving.
I expect Tech to get better. I expect it to be no worse than third-best in the ACC. I expect Hewitt to maximize resources. But I have, as we know, been wrong before.