By Michael Saenz
Between the musical chairs of the center position for the Broncs and the near victories over top-tier teams, the men’s basketball team and Coach Ryan Marks is still searching for a few things before they shift their focus towards Great West Conference play.
First things first. Each of the three centers on the roster for the Broncs (Josh Cleveland, Ruben Cabrera and Enrique Mason) have had their shot in the starting lineup. But none of them have been consistent enough to maintain it, but that’s not all bad according to Marks.
“All three know they need to make progress, but it really comes down to who is practicing well at the time,” Marks said. “There’s no reason in determining a starter just for the heck of it. We really don’t need any one of them to be the best center in the Great West, but we believe that collectively they can create a great force.”
This is all true, if all three together can average between 10-15 points and 12-15 rebounds per game, then that would be equivalent to one really good center. Right now they are close but not exactly there. Combined they are averaging 14.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
Now about those close losses. On Dec. 18 the Broncs fell to Army by two points, then to St. Johns by five on Dec. 21 — two gut-wrenching losses that killed momentum, if in fact there was any. The Broncs stand at 5-15 and the way the season has gone, it is really a testament to the mental toughness that this team hasn’t completely given up.
“The nature of our schedule is very challenging to keep our spirit,” Marks said. “Lots of road games and quality of opponents. That has really been a great challenge so far this season. In general we have made good strides defensively, but on the offensive end we’ve been erratic.”
By erratic he means that the Broncs are only averaging 59 points and shooting 40 percent per game. They’ve had games where they shoot it really well, only to come out flat the next time out. For example, the Broncs shot 48 percent from the field against California State University Bakersfield in a Ja. 7 loss and then shot just above 40 percent during the next game against Air Force Academy on Jan. 9 which resulted in a loss as well. It may not seem like that much, but every percentage point is huge when it comes to winning and losing basketball games.
Determining whether a season is a success or not is always tough, but at the beginning of the year Marks said that he believed that this team had the talent to compete in the GWC. Through all the struggles they’ve faced this season it would be dubious to just give up now.
“We felt like this year we could make a competitive move in the conference,” Marks said. “Realistically we want to finish anywhere near or above .500.”
It’s not clear where this Broncs team will finish in the GWC, but the team’s physical and mental toughness will definitely be tested and just maybe they can finally come together.