Braves season a roller coaster ride

Bradley basketball coach Geno Ford’s first year on the Hilltop has been a roller coaster ride.

The season started with optimism like it always does for the Braves. With Bradley basketball the only game in town, expectations are going to be high. Predictions of a finish in the top half of the Missouri Valley Conference ran rampant with a run at the MVC title coming in 2013.

That was never realistic. Not even legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski could have taken this team from the basement of the MVC a year ago and made them into a contender this season. Not when you lose two senior guards such as Andrew Warren and Dodie Dunson, who carried the Braves a season ago.

This team has way too many holes. The roster lacks depth, a true point guard to run Ford’s high-tempo offense and generally lacks scorers.

But did anyone expect them to be this bad? Bradley was picked to finish last in the MVC in the preseason, but I never would have thought they’d be three games out of ninth place with one game left on the schedule.

Bradley is guaranteed to finish in sole possession of last place for the first time in school history.

With another loss tomorrow night against I-74 rival Illinois State, this will officially be the worst team in the history of the university. The Braves’ 64-55 loss at Northern Iowa Wednesday tied the 1991-92 Bradley team for the most losses in school history.

We are truly witnessing historically bad times for the BU basketball program.

“We don’t play like a last place team that’s disenchanted and doesn’t have any purpose to what they’re doing,” Ford said. “Sometimes we play like a last place team from the standpoint we just don’t score.”

Ford is right, the Braves don’t score. They rank dead last in the MVC in points per game and field goal percentage.

But it goes beyond that.

Bradley doesn’t always play defense either. The Braves rank second to last in the conference in points allowed per game.

We’re talking about a team that has given up 90 points three times this season at home.

We’re talking about a team that has been beaten by 30 points or more four times and lost 13 games by double-digits.

Three weeks ago, Bradley looked like a disenchanted team. In the midst of a six-game losing streak, the Braves lost games by 23, 24 and 30 points twice, including a despicable 92-62 loss to Evansville at Carver Arena.

The team lacked effort, intensity and any semblance of pride.

“If we can’t get stops we can look disenchanted,” Ford said. “If the other team has really got it going offensively, we just haven’t had enough fire power to answer that. With that in mind, I think there’s some games the other team really gets it cooking and then we can’t answer for a while. I don’t think it was ever a theme where they showed up to cash it in.

“It’s been the best practice group I’ve ever had. They come to practice and work. We’ve gotten better. You need to win and we aren’t quite able to do it. We’re hanging and we haven’t thrown in the towel. That’s all you can ask for as a coach.”

To Ford’s credit the team has rebounded. The Braves beat Indiana State 68-60 on Feb. 8 and have been competitive in their four straight losses.

I thought Ford was the right man for the job when the university hired him to replace Jim Les in April, and nothing this season has changed my opinion. He’s a tireless worker, is upbeat, has great personality and I think time will prove Ford is a great recruiter.

So give him time because I have no doubt that Ford will turn this program around sooner rather than later, but there can be no more seasons like this.

Bradley basketball should not be in last place in the MVC. The good news is I don’t think they will be for much longer.