The Santa Clara men's basketball team has not been anything to write home about through the first 15 games of the season, but there are still a few months of basketball left to be played.
After winning 24 games, defeating Gonzaga at home and winning the CollegeInsider.com Tournament last season, the Broncos currently sit at 8-7 overall and 0-2 in West Coast Conference play.
In December, they lost close games to out-of-state opponents Houston Baptist and Wagner. However, not all of their losses in December were close, as evidenced by a 93-55 drubbing at the hands of Washington State.
With an at-large bid to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament in March out of the question, Santa Clara's only option now is receiving an automatic bid by winning the West Coast Conference.
The first step for the team is to play well in conference in order to earn a favorable seeding in the WCC Tournament.
The Broncos' first conference game: an 84-74 loss in Portland.
Their second: an 82-60 blowout at Gonzaga.
In Keating's words: "At Gonzaga, we played a lot better than we played at Portland, where we had a very poor defensive performance and found ourselves climbing out of a hole in the end."
Keating on the Hot Seat
During his five seasons at the helm, his teams have not only been plagued with injuries (Kevin Foster and Marc Trasolini both have missed a season under his watch), but also by defection of high-profile players (Decensae White, Robert Smith and James Rahon).
Trasolini injured his anterior cruciate ligament during an exhibition game and will miss the entire season.
"(He) was primed for a great senior year," said Keating.
"At the time he went down, he was probably our best player."
The result of the injuries and departures has left the team in a state of perpetual youth.
Not counting Phillip Bach, who is averaging three minutes per game this season, Santa Clara will not graduate anyone from this year's team.
That means that the Broncos will not graduate a senior that has made significant, on-court contributions for two of the past three years.
"There's no experience coming off the bench," said Keating, "and it puts pressure on those guys who start the game."
The result is inconsistency.
"We're really young, so we're going to make mistakes," said Foster, who broke Steve Nash's three-point record in a loss to Oklahoma five games into the season.
The bright side is that the team will have another year to grow together.
"We're only going to be the better for it when Marc (Trasolini) returns and we have all those guys come back," said Keating.
"That's the caveat, but these guys are competitors and would like to be good now."
Therein lies the problem: It may take a year for this team to put it all together, and that gives Foster, Trasolini and Co. only one year to work their magic.
Another slip-up next season, and it'll be back to the drawing board for Mr. Keating.
The Silver Lining
The team's home/road split. The Broncos are 7-1 at home, but 0-5 on the road.
"We've had great success at home, with the exception of the one blown call and missed opportunity against Wagner," said Keating.
Fortunately for Keating and the Broncos, the team will play four of their next five games in the Leavey Center.
"We need all our students to give us that support, coming back energetic after break ready to go, knowing that this is a team that is fully capable of winning all of our home games," said Keating.
"It's all about confidence being at home."
Tom Schreier is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3
Special thanks to The Santa Clara Staff for editing the article.
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