Column: Men’s basketball had a heartbreaking end to its season, but there's a lot to be learned from this year

This season brought out a lot that the Eagles can take away from

Column: Men’s basketball had a heartbreaking end to its season, but there's a lot to be learned from this year
AU Eagles in a game against West Point Army on February 8.

The Eagle’s season came to an abrupt and heartbreaking end in the quarterfinals of this year's Patriot League tournament. With the loss to the No. 7 Bucknell Bison, AU was no longer in contention for the now-canceled NCAA tournament. 

“Bucknell is a tough matchup for us,” graduate student forward Yilret Yiljep said post-game. “It’s always tough playing against them. … We did everything we were supposed to do, shots just didn’t fall tonight.”

The loss is especially tough for AU, as this was the last year of eligibility for senior guard Sa’eed Nelson and Yiljep, both of whom have been key to the program during their times at the University.

Nelson has been the face of the men’s basketball team throughout his four years, and this season he cemented his place in school history by becoming the University’s all-time leading scorer. Losing Nelson is a massive blow to the program, but it was inevitable.

However, like every season, this one brought out a lot that the team can learn from. This season especially should be looked at as the team considers how to move forward without its primary offensive creator, Sa’eed Nelson.

First, the explosive appearance of sophomore forward Connor Nelson played a key part in AU’s success this season. Nelson finished the season averaging 7.9 points per game, shot 36 percent from three and totaled 42 steals, yet he only started nine games this season. With stats like this in his first year at AU, I believe that next season a lot of the offense should move through Connor Nelson.

Beyond that, the team should look to take more shots from three in the coming season. AU’s squad has some very talented shooters within it, specifically junior guard Jamir Harris, who shot up to 39 percent from three this year. Despite AU’s impressive shooting, many of the plays being run did not lead to shots from deep. This is something that should be changed in the upcoming season, as the team must run more plays to get Jamir Harris and other shooters open.

As with any basketball team’s season, there are a countless number of things to analyze and learn from. I have no doubt that the team will learn a lot from this season and adjust accordingly. Though this season did not go as planned, the goal still remains the same — to win a Patriot League championship.

lclarke@theeagleonline.com

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