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You’ll have to meet Presbyterian basketball in the depths of despair

Here is another sports team that’s not good.

NCAA Basketball: Presbyterian at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

I gotta admit, this week is wearing me down emotionally. A man can stare down the horrors of bottom-50 D-I basketball programs only so long before despondence and basketball existential crisis sets in. Why do these people do this? What constructive personal truths could possibly be gained by such extended, extensive failure on a scale likely limited only by the duration of the sport’s existence?

Is this anarchy or rebellion? Maybe a basketball is in fact not meant to bounce from hand to floor and back, but rather to bounce from stanchions and big toes and heads and scorer’s tables to defeat and back again. I can’t tell.

I can say that when I really take in Presbyterian’s D-I history, the numbers disappear from the page and I am transported to a dark gym, the ancient lights overhead flickering as a side door creaks closed and dust swirls off the bleachers. A solitary old man sits in the third row behind one bench and gathers himself; when he looks up, he sees an apparition of himself as an eager teenager in a basketball uniform. Long before his death a decade earlier, long before he was stranded in this purgatory of his own making. His only sin, then as now, was thinking there could be a way out.

Presbyterian Offense

Presby Offense OFF_EFF (rank) eFG% TO% OR% FTR 3FGA/FGA 2FG% 3FG%
Presby Offense OFF_EFF (rank) eFG% TO% OR% FTR 3FGA/FGA 2FG% 3FG%
2017 88.9 (349) 45.5 (332) 23.3 (347) 29.0 (192) 27.7 (334) 32.3 (273) 43.2 (241) 33.6 (233)
2016 93.7 (329) 47.3 (280) 21.0 (323) 26.0 (287) 34.8 (224) 28.9 (316) 47.8 (213) 30.8 (316)

Presbyterian is in its 11th season as a D-I program and is searching for its first .500-or-better season. The Blue Hose finished 2017 5-25 overall, and the strain of trying to compete at this level finally grew too much even for coach Gregg Nibert, who resigned after 28 years as the program’s head coach. The school’s ambitious choice to move from D-II up to D-I has been a total disaster up to this point, at least from a wins and losses perspective. I’m sure it’s earned the school more money.

If there is a turnaround, if you accept that a turnaround is even possible for a tiny Presbyterian school at this level, it won’t be happening this season. Even if you have the means with which to escape a hole this deep—let’s say you’ve somehow procured a ladder tall enough to reach the surface 2,000 feet above—it’s still going to take you quite a while to climb. And anyway, Presbyterian is still digging downward in an effort to find this ladder.


Davon Bell (5-10, 175) — Bell was the lone bright spot in Presbyterian’s 88-53 season-opening loss to Tennessee, scoring 20 points on 6-10 shooting. Hard to tell if that’s a sign of progress or merely a fluke, since he’s a career 42.5% shooter inside the arc and a career 18.7% three-point shooter.

JC Younger (6-4, 200) — As a freshman, he hit 34.4% of his threes, which y’know, ain’t bad, but countered that by making only 36.9% of his twos. He also turned the ball over way too much. He should probably stick to the perimeter until the interior begins to look a little less like lava.

Reggie Dillard (6-4, 222) — Dillard figures to be a leader at the offensive end, since he’s the only returnee to start all 30 games last season. He was also the team’s second-leading scorer. To make a real difference, though, he’ll have to recover the outside shooting touch he showed in his freshman season. That year he made 41.2% of his threes. In the two seasons afterward, he barely cracked 31%.

Ruben Arroyo (6-8, 215) — Career 27.1% three-point shooter. There’s some other stuff in there; kid probably has some hobbies other than missing jump shots, I’d wager. Don’t really care to find out about them though.

Francois Lewis (6-9, 230) — Might actually be a reasonably efficient post scorer for Presbyterian, based on how he played as a freshman at Florida A&M in 2016 (59.1% on twos). Of course, he also attempted 68 threes that year and made only 28% of ‘em. Madness! This team is madness, I tell you!


Presbyterian Defense

Presby Defense DEF_EFF (rank) eFG% TO% OR% FTR 3FGA/FGA 2FG% 3FG%
Presby Defense DEF_EFF (rank) eFG% TO% OR% FTR 3FGA/FGA 2FG% 3FG%
2017 118.1 (346) 56.1 (341) 16.9 (274) 31.9 (288) 36.7 (206) 45.7 (346) 53.3 (314) 39.6 (338)
2016 110.2 (276) 52.5 (296) 18.9 (120) 31.3 (259) 38.8 (224) 42.5 (341) 53.3 (330) 34.2 (147)

Presbyterian hasn’t had the luxury of any basketball things, size included, which is why in the last couple years, the Hose opted for a zone-heavy defense that if nothing else drew out opponent possessions and served to slow games down. This was pointless, of course, but at least it gave the appearance of trying.

They extended their bench and put a lot of guys on the court, which is perhaps counter-intuitive given the style of choice—it certainly made no difference. Maybe it was just a desperate search for somebody, anybody to emerge as something approximating a replacement-level Division I basketball player. Whatever the case, none of this worked. The above is the definition of dead on arrival in numerical form.

KenPom likes State by 23 Thursday night.