No easy answer for 20-loss season

By Jeff Kirik

When a team ends its season with an 8-20 final record, the obvious question is, “What went wrong?”

From the beginning, this season looked better than 1986-87, when the team hobbled its way to a 9-19 record. Four seniors returned and seven freshmen arrived on campus. Coach Jim Rosborough had a better cast of players because not only did he have his veteran leadership, he also had his hungry rookies and a bench.

The Huskies had also built a medicorce schedule, featuring strong teams such as Kansas State, Bradley and UTEP, all of which were ranked in the Top 20 at some point in the season. However, the lowly teams they played more than made up for the good. Teams like Wisconsin-Parkside, Beloit and Central Connecticut State probably should have been easy prey for the Huskies, but they were more than a mouthful.

So what happened?

One answer to the question is defense. Rosborough has said in the past his team must hold its opponent under 80 points to win. You know the team is in trouble when its opponents average more than that mark—the Huskies gave up about 81 points a game.

Turnovers are another answer. The Huskies had problems taking care of the ball all season, even though they improved later in the season.

Another solution to the problem is the lack of senior leadership. Rodney Davis was nothing short of awesome much of the year, but the senior guard couldn’t carry the whole load. Mike Grabner, Randy Norman and John Culbertson were too inconsistent and never seemed to want to take charge.

Once again, the Huskies had trouble on the road, although they did pull out wins at Drake and Northern Iowa. Rosborough said his team played best when it was on the road, but two wins in 13 attempts isn’t exactly successful. The fact is the Huskies still seem to be a lesser team away from Chick Evans Field House.

The season is over and four seniors leave with it. Three freshmen will arrive next season to take their place, but questions still remain about next year’s team.

Rosborough has two solid players returning in freshman muscleman Donnell Thomas and sophomore guard Brett Andricks. The rest of the lineup is not as clear.

Forwards Brian Banks and Andrew Wells and guards Jo Jo Jackson and Stacy Arrington will have to improve immensely if the team is escape another 20-loss season.

Assuming that none of the incoming freshmen crack the starting lineup, it appears the success of the team will depend a lot on how Antwon Harmon and Donald Whiteside perform, if they can make the grade. Harmon, a 6-foot-8 forward/center, was a Propostion 48 casualty and Whiteside, a point guard, became academically ineligible at midseason.

Rosborough will look to Harmon to fill a huge gap in the middle and will also look to Whiteside to fill Davis’ leadership role.

The second-year coach knows he will have to produce a better winning percentage than he did this year. It won’t be easy.