From the Basement | Men’s basketball: What went wrong?

Jeremy Rosen, Staff Reporter

While Tulane men’s basketball showed some promising signs during their 2021-22 season, there was also plenty of disappointment. (Parker Waters)

By all accounts, the 2021-22 men’s basketball season was the best season this team has had in years. After being projected to finish ninth in the conference in the preseason, Tulane defied expectations and reached the fifth seed. 

Three different players were named to the All-American Athletic Conference teams, the first time the Green Wave has accomplished this. Jalen Cook was the first player in program history to be named to the All-AAC first team, while Kevin Cross won the AAC Most Improved Player of the Year award.

While there were a lot of great moments from this season, the final game of the season revealed the many flaws with this team. In the semifinals of the AAC tournament, Tulane lost in embarrassing fashion to the No. 18 Houston Cougars. Losing to Houston was not particularly surprising. They went on to win the AAC Championship and reached the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. However, it was the way that Tulane lost that’s concerning. 

The Green Wave was unable to box out the entire game, allowing the Cougars to grab a staggering 17 offensive rebounds. The extra possessions rapidly added up, and the Cougars scored an astonishing 30 second-chance points. 

By comparison, Tulane grabbed just three offensive boards and scored 0 second-chance points. In the 20 point loss, the team simply looked lost and was unable to compete against the basketball powerhouse.

This rebounding problem occurred throughout the whole season. The Green Wave allowed 351 offensive boards all season, while grabbing just 198 offensive rebounds themselves. Giving their opponents extra opportunities to score is very costly in games, especially in close matchups where the tiny mistakes add up fast.

This problem can be explained by the team’s general lack of size. Besides Cross, no one on the roster above 6 foot 6 plays more than about 10 minutes a game. The players that get the most minutes, like Jaylen Forbes and Cook, are smaller guards that don’t contribute much to the interior rebounding game.

This is due in part to coach Ron Hunter’s game plan, who has adopted a fast-paced small-ball style of basketball for this team. It works great for getting the most out of the team’s three stars, but it leaves a glaring weakness for other teams to exploit.

If Tulane is able to clean up the rebounding problem, then the team can look to build off of this season’s success. With a starting lineup of all underclassmen and another year of experience under coach Hunter, expect the team to make some noise next year.

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