What have we learned in November? It looks like this season is going to be a struggle for college basketball teams in Massachusetts. Every team is having problems. Some of it is befuddling, and all the coaches will be challenged.
■ Boston University — Within a week, BU went from what could have been a season highlight (winning at South Carolina) to losing three straight. The first loss, at West Virginia, is excusable, but then the Terriers had an awful, unlucky trip to Cancun, losing to Northern Colorado and Tennessee Martin.
The biggest problem in Cancun was food poisoning suffered by starters Walter Whyte, Javante McCoy, and Alex Vilarino, and substitute Andrew Petcash .
Against West Virginia, coach Joe Jones said he didn’t feel his team was ready to put forth the same energetic effort that helped the Terriers win at South Carolina, and they were physically overpowered.
Things got worse in Cancun.
“We were a shell of ourselves the first day,’’ said Jones. “The next day, the guys felt better but — no excuses, we’ve still got to get it done — I don’t think we were at our best.’’
Jones sees an area that needs to be improved.
“I know we’ve got to get tougher,’’ he said.
■ Northeastern — Coach Bill Coen said he would know what kind of team he had after the Huskies returned from the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Fla.
The results were mixed, with losses to South Alabama and Drake and a victory over Weber State. It might be how this season is going to be.
The Huskies were missing big man Tomas Murphy (sprained ankle), but that led to playing time for Illinois transfer Greg Eboigbodin . Coen said his play was one of the highlights of the tournament.
South Alabama shot very well and held Northeastern’s Jordan Roland to 9 points.
Drake is decent, but the game was statistically odd. Drake took 20 more shots than the Huskies. So, despite holding Drake to 32 percent shooting overall and 24 percent on 3-pointers, it wasn’t good enough. NU’s 19 turnovers contributed to the 59-56 loss.
Against Weber State, the Huskies finally found their shooting touch, with Roland scoring 24 in the 79-69 win.
“[The tournament] solidifies what you need to address in order to be successful in conference play,’’ said Coen. “I think we’re scoring efficiently, we’re shooting at a high level, but we’ve got to take better care of the basketball. And we’ve got to become a better rebounding team.
“I think if we address those two areas, that would make a huge impact in how far this team could go.’’
It’s also becoming obvious that the Huskies need Roland to score every game. Some teams are going to be able to defend him, and that’s when things get sticky.
■ Boston College — Coach Jim Christian might have the most difficult problems to solve coming off consecutive losses to DePaul, Saint Louis, and Richmond.
Two big problems have cropped up: turnovers and rebounding. There also have been some inexplicable offensive droughts; the shooting has been abysmal.
Against Saint Louis, the Eagles were outscored, 33-9, over the first 14 minutes of the second half, plus they gave up 17 offensive rebounds. Against Richmond, they had stretches of 6:22, 4:03, 4:33, and 6:52 in which they scored only one basket.
Point guard Derryck Thornton has 33 turnovers against 34 assists. He must have more positive production.
Big man Nik Popovich hasn’t been assertive enough.
“What’s more concerning is the stretch in the second half where it’s a 1-point game, 2-point game, and it goes to 15 because we become disconnected,’’ said Christian.
■ UMass — After five victories to open the season, there’s been a reality check in Amherst. It’s a talented group, but the best players are freshmen and it’s going to take a while. The Minutemen have lost consecutive games to Virginia, St. John’s, and Rutgers.
“We weren’t really able to overcome some unforced turnovers,” said coach Matt McCall after the loss to Rutgers. “We have to get that corrected because obviously our schedule doesn’t get any easier.
“Offensively, I thought we struggled with getting into a rhythm, and you have to give Rutgers credit for that. But this is what we’re trying to build towards, to be able to win Big Ten games on the road in a hostile environment. We’re not there yet, and we’ve got a long way to go. But I think a game like this today will prepare us.”
■ Harvard — The Crimson went 1-2 in the Disney World tournament, beating Texas A&M, then losing to Maryland and Southern Cal. Realistically, the Crimson should beat Texas A&M (which finished last in the tournament) and lose to Maryland (which is ranked third in the country and won the tournament).
USC was the key game if the Crimson were going to leave Florida feeling good about themselves. It didn’t happen, as the Trojans dominated the second half.
Coach Tommy Amaker has said defense is his team’s calling card, and that proved true in Orlando. They haven’t solved things offensively and are vulnerable unless Bryce Aiken scores a bunch of points. Aiken also needs to find the proper balance of scoring and playmaking.
“Bryce can score with the best of them,’’ said Amaker to reporters in Florida after the A&M victory. “He had a pretty efficient offensive game, but he can be better than that, certainly in other areas of quarterbacking our team and leading our team.’’
This is a team that’s still developing, but it always has to be said that the potential is there for great things.