Playground Notes

Danny Schoenbaechler

Why does this team keep losing?

It doesn’t make any sense why Darrin Horn’s men’s basketball team keeps losing.

After an 0-5 start, the reason was a treacherous early season schedule.

But now that Arkansas State and South Alabama have tackled the Toppers there must be another reason for the 5-8 record.

It’s not the backcourt.

Mike Wells, Anthony Winchester and Antonio Haynes have combined to average 42 points a game.

They even have a backboard-breaking center, Nigel Dixon who is averaging 15 points and almost 10 rebounds a game.

If it isn’t the guards or the Everest-sized big man, then who is it?

The power forward spot was supposed to be a strength as the season began.

Program insiders were sure Todor Pandov was ready to dominate Western’s foes.

His versatility is obviously strong, but his reconstructed knee isn’t. After missing last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Pandov has struggled in his return.

He even missed two weeks with another, so-called non-related knee injury.

That’s it. It has to be that.

But wait a minute. I thought this Topper program was used to overcoming injury-induced adversity.

Last year’s team was primed to make a run deep into the NCAA tournament. That didn’t last as Chris Marcus and Pandov fell to injuries.

This year’s team appears to have all the pieces needed to be successful.

Every piece except the most important piece of all – the winning piece.

The routine seems like an aging pool shark, trying to hustle the same people time and again.

The problem is that this shark may not have the teeth to tear out of this Sun Belt hole.

The hole has already been dug, as Western has started the Sun Belt Conference season 0-2.

The team appears to be staying calm, but not as calm as in recent year’s struggles.

The team has already lost one player, with sophomore Jamaal Brown transferring.

Then again, those teams had a veteran coach to lean on.

Maybe that is the missing piece.

It is possible that the team is having problems with the power shift. But that doesn’t make it Horn’s fault.

The young first-year head coach has gone 5-3 since the strenuous opening five-game frame.

He also has what appears to be an excellent recruiting class waiting for next year.

But he can’t wait for next year. He can’t waste Big Jelly and Mike Wells. Those two alone make Western a contender in the conference, not to mention the fact that the Toppers have won three-straight titles.

Besides, this year’s campaign will ultimately be determined by the postseason. When Horn returned to Bowling Green he knew that advancing in the NCAA Tournament was all he needed to do in order to advance the program past what Dennis Felton could manage.

Now just qualifying for the tournament would probably suffice as a successful first season.

And with the Sun Belt tournament being held in Diddle Arena, it just might happen. As long as Horn keeps turning the puzzle pieces until he finds which one fits.

Danny Schoenbaechler is the sports editor and a sports columnist for the Herald. Reach him at [email protected]