The problem with expectations is that they carry with them burdens. And the greater the expectation, the heavier the weight. Three games into a college basketball season might be a bit early for heaviness to build, but a once-in-a-generation start tends to bring with it certain magical thinking.
Our Wrens kicked off the 2012-13 campaign with a trio of reasonably impressive victories against three largely underwhelming foes. The fact of the wins was much less relevant than the quality of the Tribe's performance. In vanquishing Hampton, Liberty, and High Point to start 3-0 for the first time in 20 years, W&M won by an average of 17.3 points. The Tribe tallied 46 assists to 34 turnovers in the wins, shooting a cool 50% from the field. Each of the team's big three (Marcus Thornton, Tim Rusthoven, and Brandon Britt) led all scorers once, and each topped the 20-point mark in doing so. Newcomer Terry Tarpey went for 14 and 8 in the win over High Point, while Kyle Gaillard had a team-leading 8 boards in the opener at Hampton.
In all, there wasn't much wanting in W&M's opening week of action, which gave the futile superfans more than a little hope of a perfect 4-0 start as middling Miami (Ohio) came to Williamsburg for W&M's first nationally televised home game in, well, ever*. Instead, the Wrens offered up an effort that Daily Press scribe Dave Fairbank described as 'comprehensively lackluster'. Fairbank's drily cutting assessment accurately covers the Tribe's 9:18 assist to turnover ratio, 4-15 three-point shooting, and errant 9-17 free throw accuracy.
* - possibly not true, but our research staff is off for the holiday and it sounds plausible.
W&M watched a two-point halftime deficit balloon to nine in the first two minutes of the second half, and never got closer than four after that. Britt led with 17 points, while Thornton tallied 15 and Gaillard 12. Rusthoven only managed 5 points on 2-7 shooting, though he did manage to grab 9 rebounds.
We said in our season preview that the Tribe would go where Marcus Thornton took them, and the sophomore guard's early efforts have been impressive. Even with a 3-8, 11-point effort against Liberty in the mix, Thornton's averaging 17.8 ppg on 54.3% shooting from the field. His assist to turnover ratio has improved to 0.8 - still not great, but definitely heading the right direction. His increasingly selfless play (he's getting his 17.8 on an average of 11.5 shots/game) is a significant key for the Tribe - if he can get his while helping others get theirs (Britt's averaging 17.0 and Rusthoven 15.3 ppg), good things will keep happening for our guys.
At least one win in this tough swing is certainly possible, if not necessarily likely, and if the team that took the court in W&M's first three games shows up, they could beat any of their next three opponents. In any case, we'll have a much better sense of how to calibrate our expectations by next Saturday.