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Davis, California

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Column: Future not so bright

Basketball can be a frustrating sport.

It can be frustrating for both players and fans.

For a player, sometimes you can get really lucky with shots going in or incredibly unlucky with your shots rimming out and the opponent’s finding a way in.

As a fan, watching a team struggle and continually make the same mistakes can be just as frustrating.

The UC Davis men’s basketball team is pretty frustrating. Whether it’s their need to shoot contested threes or their inability to drive to the hoop, this team can be somewhat torturous.

While some squads still find ways to win these types of games, the Aggies don’t. They, on the other hand, find ways to lose. That is the most frustrating part of it all.

Take Saturday night’s loss at Pacific. UC Davis hung with the rival for a majority of the contest, but went scoreless for two minutes near the end of the game. The Tigers went 6-6 from the line to ice the game and UC Davis fell once again to a team it has only beaten once in over half of a century.

The glass half-full person would look at this game as a positive, saying the Aggies stayed with the Tigers for as long as they could. UC Davis will use this game as a jumping off point for its next four Big West Conference games. Freshman Josh Ritchart has had a hot hand for the past couple games, giving the Aggies another scorer without the initials M.P. or J.H.

Coach Gary Stewart is one of these people.

“I’m really proud of our kids in terms or their resiliency,” the eighth year coach said. “Tonight was so disappointing but in some ways it has to be encouraging. There are a lot of areas that if you make one or two plays, maybe the outcome is different.”

I, on the other hand, am glass half-empty when it comes to UC Davis men’s basketball. The reason is, simply stated, the future.

The Aggies sit in dead last in conference, a game out of eighth place. The top eight teams make the Big West Tournament for a shot to play in the NCAA National Championship. This means that the Aggies will need to play top-notch basketball in their final four league games.

I do get a little optimistic about whom the Aggies play down the stretch. UC Davis is 3-1 against its next league opponents with two wins decided by double digits.

If one were to play the odds, UC Davis does have a pretty good shot of squeezing into the tourney. But at the same time, the Aggies shouldn’t have to hope to get lucky and find a way into the postseason. When a team has talent like Joe Harden and Mark Payne, it shouldn’t have to hope to make the Big West tournament. Making the postseason should be a guarantee.

Now granted, Payne was out for a good part of the conference schedule. Both Payne and Harden play better with both of them on the court. Without Payne, one could see Harden trying to do too much. This was most apparent in his 20-shot night against Long Beach State on Jan. 12.

Not making the postseason tournament isn’t the scariest part of the team. It’s what lies in the future.

UC Davis is too reliant on its key seniors – Payne, Harden and Todd Lowenthal. The three players account for almost 50 percent of the teams average scoring and 50 percent of the Aggies’ rebounding.

When the trio leaves, UC Davis will be in trouble. They will need to somehow find the scoring and defensive the three will leave behind.

What frightens me is that if UC Davis struggles to make the Big West Tournament with this Harden, Payne and Lowenthal, they sure as hell won’t come close without them.

And lets face it; not making the Big West Tournament is like losing to the Academy of Art. Wait…

JASON ALPERT was going to write his column on Cal cutting baseball for good, but can only call the decision mindless so many times. Prediction, Cal WILL win the College World Series this season. On a happier baseball note, San Francisco Giants pitchers and catchers reported today. To talk basketball or baseball, e-mail Jason at sports@theaggie.org.


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