Looking at the narrow victory last night, it might be easy to play the pessimist. After all, we were one point away from a three game losing streak that would have made us potentially 1-4 against top-100 RPI teams (with the 1 W being against number 93 Stoney Brook).
Instead, I look at the last three games and think that we could have very easily been 2-1 or even 3-0. The FSU game was hard to take, but we had a last minute shot to win that game. Even at (ACC-leader, number 4 RPI) Miami, we were in that game to the bitter end. When you play good teams close, you'll win some and you'll lose some. To some extent, the outcome of those games is simple luck. One of the keys to putting together a good season is put yourself in that position against good teams as often as you can and play the numbers.
If nothing else, our ACC games have shown that our defense is for real. In four games, our opponents have shot 88-251, or 35.1%. That's outstanding and reflects the fact that these teams aren't just having bad shooting days or making poor shot selections. Our defense is denying them high probability opportunities to convert and forcing them to take bad shots.
At the same time, it's obvious that our offense is a work in progress. We've not shot much better than our opponents at 92-248, or 37.1% (and even that would look much worse, but for our 50%+ shooting versus VTech). In each of the last three games, we've gone on multiple 5+ minute scoring droughts. That makes for some rough looking games.
Despite our offensive woes, though, our defense has kept us in games. Last night, we had roughly 10 minutes of good offense (basically the first 5 minutes of each half). And we still eked out a victory. If just a few more things go right on offense (if we can play, maybe 20 minutes of good offense), we win going away.
I don't think we'll ever completely overcome our offensive issues this year because we're too weak at the point guard position (at least on the offensive side). But this team doesn't need to be great offensively . If we can even score 65 ppg, that will likely be enough for us to win most of our games. Given the youth on this team, I don't think it's unrealistic to expect at least some incremental improvement offensively.
And the crazy thing? Improving our offense might even make our defense better. The easiest way to score points on these Terps is to go on the break after a turnover or long rebound. If we can limit those opportunities, we can make it even harder to score against us.