The Texas State men’s basketball team under Danny Kaspar is, obviously, a work in progress. Two games into the new season, the Bobcats still are searching for their first win, and they really don’t figure to come that often for a while.
The Bobcats already have played two very respectable opponents in Houston and Stephen F. Austin (SFA). Next, they’re going to Oral Roberts, then to Southern Methodist (SMU).
According to form, they’ve got their best chance for an early win on Nov. 25, when South Dakota drops by Strahan Coliseum. And that’s not a cinch, either. Taking last year’s final RPI as a baseline early this season, South Dakota was 239th and Texas State was 273rd (out of 342 teams). SFA, the team Kaspar coached last year, was 70th, which is the highest on Texas State’s schedule.
If a Southland Conference team can hit 70th, one supposes the ceiling should be higher for a team in a bowl-level football conference, and that’s the kind of outcome Texas State fans anticipate with Kaspar’s arrival. But the Bobcats are definitely starting near the bottom, and they’re probably not moving up in the football world until they have a credible men’s basketball team, so that’s the journey, and it begins with a single step.
Kaspar’s SFA team last year finished seventh nationally in defensive field goal percentage, holding opponents to 38 percent. Again, one supposes he can do the same in a bowl-level conference, but it involves a self-consciously technical style of basketball that has to become second nature, and it’s being taught to a team that finished 11-22 last year playing a very different style. Last year, Texas State finished 297th in opponent field goal percentage (45.5 percent).
The anticipation surrounding Kaspar’s arrival is real, and so is the state of this basketball team. We look forward to the day when the light comes on and the Bobcats begin to resemble Kaspar’s team in results as well as style. But between now and then lies much instruction, repitition, reinforcement, motivation, all the coaching stuff.
There does figure to be some losing to go with it. Kaspar’s first couple of years at SFA were rocky, and it was seven years before SFA became a consistent power in the Southland. The Bobcats stand to become more successful in the new style than in the old style, and there will be times when it clicks. But it has to click all of the time, and there were periods in the first two games when the Bobcats lost control of the situation and fell behind by double digits.
In the loss at Houston, 76-70, on Nov. 8, the game was tied, 26-26, with 7:46 left in the first half, then Houston took a 40-29 lead less than three minutes later. For the other 45 minutes, the game was pretty even, but the Bobcats could never fill the ditch they made in those three minutes that got away. Runs of 15-3 will happen even against good teams in a running style, but they should be a rarity against a good Kaspar team.
SFA played from ahead, often seven or eight points, for the first 15 minutes in their 64-57 win against the Bobcats at Strahan Coliseum Tuesday night. The Bobcats put themselves back in the game on the defensive end. Down, 24-16, with 5:08 left in the half, they forced three straight turnovers, an offensive foul, a missed layup and a missed three-pointer before Reid Koenen’s three-pointer gave them a 26-25 lead with 2:31 left in the half.
The teams stayed pretty close together until 8:20 remained in the game and SFA took a 45-42 lead. Then, during the next 2:22, SFA scored from inside and outside while Texas State turned the ball over about half the time, giving SFA an 11-4 run and a 56-45 lead, which is hard to surmount with 5:58 left against a good defensive team.
If we’re treating 38 percent opponent field goal percentage as some kind of ideal for the Bobcats, one imagines that kind of performance will keep other teams from breaking games apart with big runs. The Bobcats haven’t even approached it in their first two games. Houston shot 52.3 percent, and SFA shot 45.2 percent.
As those numbers go down, Texas State’s chances of winning go up.
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