A lot has changed since this post, where I explained that UT Arlington may never had had this level of success. The men are on a three-game slide, and have lost four outof five. The women are struggling unexpectedly as well, losing five out of six, with a four-game skid in the mix.
I'll start with the men, where there's an obvious reason, but I think the slide is beyond that.
A deep pit in my stomach occurred when I found out sophomore Kevin Hervey had "tweaked" his knee in warm-ups prior to the Arkansas State game. As a guy who has torn an ACL before, I knew exactly what tweaked can lead to. Sure enough, the forefront of the Mavericks rise was out for the season.
After beating the Red Wolves without their star, UTA suffered, losing to Little Rock at home, the first home loss this year, then dropping road games in Monroe and Lafayette. It isn't that they lost, as the loss of Hervey combined with playing three of the top teams in the Sun Belt Conference isn't a recipe for success. It is how they lost. I'm getting flashbacks of last year, where the teams run up and down the floor, the opponent shoots lights out, especially at the three, UTA gets down early, makes it close late, but just doesn't have enough in the tank to close it out.
Surprisingly, the offense has played well. I guess in retrospect, that isn't that surprising given the talent. Erick Neal has the ability to be one of the best point guards to don a Maverick (and Rebel) jersey. He runs the O really well. There is no shortage of shooters, as anyone has the ability to score in double digits on any night.
What has surprised me is the lack of defense. The general school of thought is that offensive game needs to have cohesion of teammates playing together, working together, knowing where each other is going to be, etc. On the other hand, defense is more reaction to seeing what the other team is doing. Talent certainly plays a part, but scheming and coaching are just as important. But for what ever reason, the defense has not been getting the job done without Hervey.
They have rebounded. The two things Hervey really excelled at, the Mavericks still do well now.
The struggling actually started to happen before Hervey left. UTA lost to South Alabama on the similar formula I listed earlier. They struggled early against Troy, before finding the gas pedal and throttling those Trojans. That Troy team is 1-9 in SBC play.
So minus playing Texas State, UTA is halfway through conference play before resuming in Georgia on Thursday. At 5-4 (1-3 without Hervey) dreams of a possible at-large bid are destroyed. UTA is still a very talented team and if they can find rhythm defensively, then they will be near the top. As it stands, they are 1-4 against teams in the top half and will need help in getting tiebreakers and a favorable seed in the conference tournament.
As for the women, I have no clue. They are playing with the same group all year, but have not had success. 3-6 in SBC play is far below everyone's expectations. Maybe they are struggling with the four quarters rule change, they can't sneak up on teams like they did last year, or they are really missing the leadership of the two departing seniors from last year. The schedule gets a little more favorable with teams coming into College Park Center.
I'm still optimistic that both teams can turn it around or have success, but I'm not gonna lie. January sure has felt like a punch to the gut after what I saw the previous months.