I’ve tried really hard to be optimistic about this year’s UC Davis men’s basketball team.
I’ve made all the excuses: they’re a very young team, they miss Mark Payne and Joe Harden, it’s the first year with a new coach, they’ve been close to winning in a lot of their games.
But there’s no excuse for the new low this team has reached over the past few weeks, culminating in the 84-80 come-from-ahead defeat to Cal State Northridge on Saturday — in which the Aggies blew a 11-point lead in the final 6:40.
It’s true that we didn’t expect much of this team — and rightfully so — but we certainly expected better than this.
The Aggies are currently 1-16 this season, and 0-5 in Big West Conference play.
To make matters worse, they’re a miserable 0-16 against NCAA Division I schools, as their lone victory came by a narrow margin against Division III UC Santa Cruz — in a game eerily similar to the Academy of Art debacle last season. And even in the victory over the Banana Slugs, the UCSC coaching staff could be heard during the end of the game shouting that they would be embarrassed to be a part of a Division I team as bad as UC Davis.
I think at this point we should all be a little embarrassed.
Even the abominable Gary Stewart years look like an NCAA Tournament appearance when compared to this season.
After being ranked dead last of the 344 schools in the NCAA Division I RPI rankings last week, UC Davis somehow found a way to move up to 343 despite losing twice this week (take that new No. 344, 0-17 Binghampton!)
And UC Davis is going to remain in danger of falling back into that last spot until it beats a Division I opponent.
What makes matters even worse is that, as a team that claims to pride itself on its defense, UC Davis doesn’t seem to play a lot of it.
The Aggies are currently last in the Big West in scoring defense, allowing 75.7 points per game. That’s good for 319th in the nation.
And the other defensive statistics are comparably bad.
UC Davis is allowing opponents to shoot 48.2 percent this season (324th in the nation), has a -3.5 turnover margin per game (315th) and commits an average of 20.5 fouls per contest (293rd).
There’s no real reason to think any of this will get better anytime soon; after all, UC Davis couldn’t even cover the 25.5-point spread against Long Beach State Thursday, despite being within six points at halftime.
This team appears to lack the experience and leadership necessary to carry it through a rough stretch like the one it currently finds itself in, and the core group of freshmen and sophomores need to learn how to win close games before they can expect things to get any better.
So I have now come to one conclusion: If we’re going to stink, let’s go all the way with it.
Don’t get me wrong, I would love for this team to rise from the ashes to make some noise in the Big West, but that looks like a long shot, so I am wholeheartedly in support of the next best thing: a 1-29 season.
After all, thanks to CSU Northridge’s academic violations, UC Davis is guaranteed a spot in the Big West Tournament, so we might as well get there in the most ridiculous way possible. Entering the conference tournament as the last-ranked team in RPI would be a remarkable feat, and the perfect way to top off a historically bad season.
And as Gary Stewart would be keen to remind you, once you’re in the tournament anything can happen.
Although with this team, “anything” will probably consist of a 30-point loss to Long Beach State and a long bus ride home.
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at email@example.com.