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Mustang men break the mold with unselfish play

March 14, 2009
David Griswold

In an era of all-stars and egos, it is exciting to see a team that exudes the attitude and the personality that all coaches continually preach.

It seems everyday I turn on the television, I see teams like the L.A. Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers putting their entire season - scratch that, their entire franchise - in the hands of one superstar.

If LeBron doesn't put up 30 points, the Cavs lose. If Kobe is cold from the perimeter, the Lakers are doomed.

It's refreshing to see that there are still teams that can find a way to win the way teams deserve to win - with teamwork.

The SMSU men's basketball team was picked to finish seventh in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference preseason coaches poll, but SMSU rattled off 25 wins during the regular season, including 17 against NSIC opponents, to win the conference and go on to host the NCAA II Central Regional Tournament, which begins today at the R/A Facility in Marshall.

In today's style of basketball, it's a phenomenon to see a team succeed the way SMSU did this year.

The Mustangs fail to have a single player averaging double-digits in any category outside of minutes played. Yet, the Mustangs still average over 70 points per game.

So how does a team average 70 points without a consistent double-digit scorer?

I am going to say something that a lot athletes hear, but don't comprehend - it's called teamwork.

Yes, teamwork. It actually still exists.

The No. 12 ranked Mustangs have turned a lot of heads this season and it's not because they have one standout athlete, it's the fact that they can win without one true standout.

SMSU has five players averaging eight or more points and behind that five others that average five or more points per game.

Those 10 players are part of a 10-man rotation who see a considerable amount of time on the court in each contest. Each have averaged over 14 minutes of playing time throughout the season.

At times throughout the season, it looked as if SMSU head coach Greg Stemen was making a hockey line-change - sending in the power-play unit to try to capitalize on the one-man advantage.

But with a bench that is putting up 31.4 points per game, why not utilize the extra guys. SMSU's bench has outscored opponents 29 out of the 31 games played thus far.

With the deep bench, the Mustangs have an advantage over almost every other team they've faced.

As a result of SMSU's depth, the Mustangs are able to rotate in players at will. The players out on the court can work hard for five minutes and then rest on the sideline while the bench picks up where they left off.

There isn't a time throughout the course of the game where a player on the court isn't competing at 100 percent.

And that's why the Mustangs win games.

It's not a result of one man's performance but the result of 10 men's efforts throughout the course of 40 minutes.

That is what basketball is all about.

It's a team like the Mustangs that prove that the concept of a team still exists. Not every team is going to have an all-star and not all teams are going to be able to put up 85 points a night, but it doesn't take all that to be able to compete with the nation's best.

I know, the odds of this to become a nation-wide trend are about the same as Alcorn State winning the NCAA Division I Championship this season, but there's always hope.

Maybe someday the all-stars will take step out from under the spotlight and finally realize that individual statistics don't always measure a player.



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