Why are the Stags struggling? Let us count the ways

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The way things have gone for the Fairfield Stags this season it wouldn’t be anything of a surprise if its fans are looking forward to these final eight regular season games and a one-and-done MAAC tournament game because this nightmare of a season will then, mercifully be over.
Unless the Stags can win at least three of their last nine games, they will set a record for futility unequalled by any previous Fairfield team in Division I history. Fairfield needs three wins to reach seven, which would tie Mitch Buonaguro’s 1988-89 team that went 7-21 as the squad with the fewest wins ever as a Division I program. If they don’t win three games, Sydney Johnson’s 2013-14 Stags will go down in history as the worst Fairfield team since the move to Division I back in 1964-65.
And they need to win at least one more game to tie the all-time lowest win total – set when the Stags were a Division II program – at five, in 1949-50 and in 1956-57.
Fairfield (4-19) and 1-11 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference just tied its worst-ever 12-game MAAC start with Monday’s loss at Rider. No Fairfield team EVER has started 1-12 in MAAC play. In 1988-89 and 1996-97, the Stags went 2-11 before finishing 2-12 in the league. In fact, since that ’96-’97 season, Fairfield has won no less than seven MAAC games and 11 times, finished at .500 or better.
Why is this season so bad? Let us count the ways.
Go to the NCAA website and pull up the stats from previous seasons. Fairfield is shooting 38.9 percent from the field through its first 23 games. Since 1999, no Fairfield team has shot worse than 41.0 percent but this Stags team seemingly can’t hit the board side of a barn.
Free throws: Fairfield is shooting just 67.9 percent from the line, missing 134 out of 418 attempts. In 2011-12, the Stags shot 65.1 percent and in 2010-11 they shot 65.4 percent. But then you have to go all the way back to 1999 (59.6) to find a team that shot worse from the charity stripe.
Fouls: Fairfield has committed 525 fouls – that’s an average of 22.8 fouls a game. Are you kidding?? That’s just dumb. Period. And 19 times a Fairfield player has fouled out. Going back to the 2005-06 season (the NCAA numbers are kind of piecemeal after that) the most Stag players to foul out in a season were 14. And there are still nine games left, who know how much higher those foul numbers will go.
Turnovers: Fairfield has turned the ball over 361 times in 23 games, an average of 15.7 a game. Opponents have just 253 turnovers, meaning the Stags have committed 108 MORE TURNOVERS than their opponents. Ugly. Awful. Terrible are the words that come to mind.
Opponents also have 190 steals to the Stags 90. You can do the match. Again, Ugly. Awful. Terrible.
Marcus Gilbert (36-69), Maurice Barrow (29-36), Coleman Johnson (18-33), Justin Jenkins (18-24), Amadou Sidibe (21-28), Sean Grennan (29-32), Doug Chapell (12-18), Steve Smith (5-11) and Malcolm Gilbert (5-12) all have more turnovers than assists.
Sidibe has spent much of the season battling tendonitis in his knees but how can a 6-foot-8, 215-pound power forward, who averaged 6.2 points and 5.7 rebounds as a freshman en route to earning co-MAAC Rookie of the Year honors, struggle so badly as a sophomore? Sidibe is averaging just 4.8 points, has fouled out of four games and hasn’t scored in double figures in the last 33 games dating back to his freshman season.
And Malcolm Gilbert. This kid is 7-foot and in his very first game in a Stags uniform, he blocked eight shots against Sacred Heart, grabbed 11 rebounds and scored five points in 24 minutes. Since then, Johnson has barely played the kid. Why?
Several times this season Johnson has said that playing time is based on work in practice but does that mean that Malcolm Gilbert is dogging it in practice every day? I wonder. And Justin Jenkins. He didn’t even play in nine of Fairfield first 14 games and in those five games he did play, Jenkins got just 16 minutes. Suddenly, over the last nine games, he’s averaging 7.8 points a game and playing almost 21 minutes a game. For two-plus months he didn’t work hard and just like that, the light bulb pops on over his head and he starts busting his hump? Again, I wonder.
And now, Steve Johnston, a walk-on, is getting quality minutes at the two-guard over scholarship players Doug Chappell and Lincoln Davis. Apparently, four months into the season, Chappell and Davis have decided they don’t want to work hard anymore in practice. Yet again, I wonder.

Now to the schedule. Can they win any of these games?

Thursday is Monmouth at the WBA. Fairfield lost to Monmouth 63-60 on Jan. 23, getting outscored 7-1 over the final three-plus minutes. (MAYBE)

Feb. 10 – at Siena. Fairfield lost to the Saints 64-56 on Jan. 26. Siena used a game-ending 24-14 run over the last eight minutes to win. (MAYBE)

Feb. 13 — Quinnipiac at the WBA. Bobcats defeated Fairfield 83-79 on Dec. 6. Mistakes killed Fairfield down the stretch. (DOUBTFUL)

Feb. 15 — Rider at the WBA. The Broncs defeated Fairfield 73-65 on Feb. 3. (MAYBE)

Feb. 20 – at Niagara. The Purple Eagles defeated Fairfield 67-63 on Jan. 16. The Stags missed their last five shots. Niagara makes a basket with 29 seconds left to break a tie game. (MAYBE)

Feb. 22 – at Canisius. The Golden Griffins defeated Fairfield 84-58 on Feb. 1. The Stags were blown off the floor. Enough said. (NO)

Feb. 25 – at St. Peter’s. The Peacocks defeated Fairfield 56-55 on Jan. 8. Desi Washington hits a 3-pointer at the buzzer to win it. (MAYBE)

Feb. 28 – Marist at the WBA. Marist defeated Fairfield 75-56 on Jan. 2. The Red Foxes outscored the Stags 32-11 at the free throw line. (DOUBTFUL)

If those five “maybe’s” can turn into victories, then nine wins would ease the pain of what has been a nightmare of a season and create a little hope heading into next season. Because that’s what this team needs, some hope. And some wins. Because no one wants to be remembered for being on the worst team in Fairfield history, do they? But this team is getting closer to that unwelcome achievement every day.

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