Friday, April 29, 2016

Did the worst get any better?

In the 2014-15 season, Grambling had the worst Sagarin ranking in the country. They were still very bad this past season, but they did make some improvement. They beat out Delaware State and Florida A&M to avoid the basement in Sagarin, and they were 7-19 overall and 4-10 in conference. So, some progress.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Time for money games?

With a talented roster loaded with seniors, next year might be one of those years when we want to load up on money games against higher-level programs. If we hope to stand any chance of an at-large bid, we learned last season that you have to play some big boys. Plus, we would get paid to do it. If we do not win them, we are no worse off than we were, since we would have had to win the Belt Tournament, anyway.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How good could Lis Shoshi be?

We may not be quite comparing apples to apples here (I doubt Shoshi will ever have biceps as big as Robinson's), but even a general comparison gives us food for thought.

David Robinson did not begin playing basketball until his senior of high school, when he was 6-7. He did not hit seven feet until his sophomore college season. He went from 7.6 ppg and 4.0 rpg one season to 23.6 and 11.6 the next.

How good can Shoshi be? Just possibly as good as he wants to be.

Red Auerbach, concerning Bill Russell's shot-blocking ability

"He brought a new sound to basketball," Red Auerbach once said, "the sound of his footsteps."

Who improved most over the course of last season?

This is always an interesting question. Lis Shoshi, being as inexperienced as he was, probably gets the nod. But Jalen Jackson also came on strong late, and Deondre Burns, being a true freshman, made the strides you like to see in someone in that position.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Success is relative

In the announcement of Zach Spiker as the new head coach at Drexel, the official release says that he is the first coach at Army to win 15 games in four consecutive seasons since 1924. (Keep in mind that two of their coaches in that period were named Krzyzewski and Knight.)

That seems like a very modest accomplishment, and compared so some lofty programs it is; but consider that at Little Rock only Newell, Sanderson and Shields were able to do that. At the lower levels, it is tougher than it appears.

Another name for blue collar

You know that I love "blue collar basketball," that style that is not fancy and showy, but that gets the job done through the little things that make winning basketball. On the Northwestern team, Sanjay Lumpkin is their glue guy. Coach Chris Collins says of him, "He's got that hard hat mentality." I like that description.

Knight and Trump

Not much surprised that Bobby Knight supports Donald Trump. Very similar personalities and approaches to life's issues.

How my teams did

A few of the teams I followed had pretty good success this past season. Obviously, my main team, the Little Rock Trojans, had their best year ever, but you already knew that. A few other bright spots:

Tennessee  Tech went to the Las Vegas post-season tournament.
Several of the other Sun Belt teams had very nice years.
Louisiana Tech won 23 games.
UT Martin won 20 games.
Navy won 19 games.
Southern Illinois was 22-10.
Stetson had a terrible season, but went to the finals of their conference tournament.
Texas A&M, obviously, had a great year.
Wagner won 23.
William & Mary won 20
Wisconsin won 22 after a horrible start.
Wright State won 22

Pretty good year all the way around. I enjoyed it.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Where we ended in SBC stats

Scoring defense - 1st
Scoring margin - 1st
FT% - 2nd
FG% - 2nd
FG% defense - 1st
3PT% - 1st
3PT% defense - 1st
Assists - 3rd
Turnover margin - 1st
A/TO ratio - 1st
Attendance - 2nd

Scoring
Hagins - 13th
Johnson - 17th
Woods - 30th

Rebounding
Shoshi - 14th

FG%
Woods - 3rd
Johnson - 11th

Assists
Hagins - 4th

FT%
Hagins - 3rd
Johnson - 12th

Steals
Hagins - 5th

3PT%
Johnson - 1st
Isom - 4th
Osse - 6th
Hagins - 8th

Blocks
Shoshi - 5th

A/TO
Hagins - 1st

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Baseball continues to roll

The season is not over, but I think we can say that the diamond Trojans have been turned around. They are more than competitive in the Sun Belt, and as of this instant are only a half game out of second place. Good job!

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Gatorade Gang

I attended Booneville public schools each year except for my sophomore year, when we lived at Alma. For some reason, after we moved back to Booneville just before my junior year, I got asked by the Editor of the Booneville Democrat, the local weekly, to write the stories about the football games. It was a lot of fun.

My by-line was continued into my senior year, in which I was persuaded to play football by one of my  close friends, even though I had not played since my freshman year. Beginning in summer practice, Head Coach Gene Bradley had bought Gatorade mix in bulk and provided it for us at breaks, to be drunk out of a large barrel with dippers or cups. In one of our earlier games (I think it was the second), we won a tough contest against Danville, which featured a fullback who went on to play for Arkansas Tech. The defense played a key part in the victory, and so I dubbed them the Gatorade Gang in my story about the game. That got a good bit of comment locally, so I continued to use it throughout that year. If I remember correctly, the name even stuck a little while after I graduated.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Charlie Johnson's monster game

It was a long time ago, but on January 27, 1972, the Trojans' own Charlie Johnson had a game for the ages against College of the Ozarks. He had 39 points and 24 rebounds. Granted, C of O was not the toughest opponent we have faced, but those kind of numbers are impressive regardless. Johnson has six of the top 17 single-game rebounding totals in school history, but that was the only one of those nights that he put in an exceptional number of points at the same time.

Home court advantage

This past season the Jack was a definite advantage, given that we did not lose a game there. However, we did not lose many games anywhere, so that still leaves the question of how much of a home court advantage the Jack is. We had record crowds down the stretch, and when that happens, obviously it helps the team. But if we have a "usual" 3000-3500 crowd, how daunting is our crowd to the other team? In years past, ours was not a very vocal crowd. They did not know how to cheer at a basketball game. Maybe we are getting a little better educated in that regard. I hope so, because that will be needed for us to have a bona fide home court advantage, i.e., one of those places opponents really dread visiting.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Revisiting the coaching decision

I do not know for sure, of course, but I think I can guess what Chasse's thought process was in his decision to cut through the process and proceed with hiring Wes.

All-conference Player at the highest level
Assistant Coach at two money conference schools
Assistant at two mid-level schools
Assistant at the juco level
Already familiar with the Little Rock program and the SBC from having been here before
Intimately familiar with our recruiting market

Then Chasse sat down with Wes and was convinced that he had a passion for the program that went beyond being just salesmanship. At that point, he said, "What is there that might be on his resume that is not on his resume? Well, not having been a head coach is about the only thing. Other than that, his resume is ideal. He knows us, he knows our recruiting market, he knows our level of play, he has played and coached at the highest level. Plus, I know him personally, know his family, and have watched him coach up close. I do not have to guess at his character or his ability."

Then, Chasse says to himself, "If I bring in someone with head coaching experience that I do not know intimately, there is always that risk that I bring in some sort of hidden personality quirk like an ungovernable temper, or some character defect, or some sort of personal side-issues that will detract from the team. Yes, he might win a championship, but he might also get us on the front page instead of the sports page. I know what I have with Wes. With virtually everyone else, I can only assume what I have. Right now the risk incurred by shopping further is not worth the potential benefits, which at this point would not be large in any case."

Wes may not pan out to have been a good choice, but I do think that Chasse's decision is entirely logical.

Beard did us a favor by when he left

I had hoped Chris Beard would stay for three years. In so doing, he would have replaced the large senior class of next season and would have provided some badly-needed continuity in the recruiting process in order to perpetuate the momentum the program had gained from this season's 30 wins. He didn't stay; but if he left, I am at least glad he left after one year instead of after two, which would have been the worst-case situation. At least now Wes Flanigan has the large senior class to work with this season (which hopefully also will be successful) while he recruits to replace them. If Beard had stayed only one more season, he would have left the next coach in the lurch, scrambling to fit together a roster which would have lost at least a majority of its players. Sometimes that works, but more often it does not work very well.

Scheduling non-D1 teams

I have mixed feelings about this subject. It seems a little cowardly to be scheduling teams that are not even D1, but the object of those games is to have "guaranteed wins" in which the coach can see the team in a real game that does not pose any substantial threat of a loss. So, one team actually will do as well as another from that standpoint, and the non-D1 teams are cheaper to bring in. In actuality, quite a few of the better D2 teams are better than the bottom tier of D1. Plus, non-D1 games do not count against you on RPI Strength of Schedule, as do the D1 teams. So it is logical to do it that way - but it still seems like the chicken way out.

Monday, April 18, 2016

How will Wes use our size?

Shoshi 6-11
Isom 6-9
Black 6-9
Corbyn Jackson 6-7, 250#

That is as much size as we have had during my tenure as a fan. I am very curious to see how Wes will make use of it. In all candor, it did not appear to me that Beard's system depended very much upon big guys. Wes supposedly is not going to overhaul the system wholesale, but still he may make some tweaks that will take advantage of the size we have. Plus, these guys are not mere asterisks, as some big guys are. We know what the returning players can do (don't know about Jackson yet). This ought to add a dimension to the team that was not there last year.

Trojan baseball looking good

It is nice to see the diamond Trojans doing well this year. All alone in third place in the conference at the moment. We have had some down years, so it is nice to see us bouncing back. Looks like the coach has us moving in the right direction.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Flanigan's big challenge begins right now

The 2016 recruiting season is, for all practical purposes, over. We might sign another player or two, but they will in essence be gravy, i. e., not critical to the success of the team next year. However, with nine seniors on the roster now, our recruiting team MUST be working overtime from the get-go. We expect to be good next season, but the question after will be a question mark.

Based on the current roster, Oliver Black, Dayshawn Watkins, Deondre Burns will be the only players on the roster with more than a full year of D1 experience. Ryan Pippins, Andre Jones and Corbyn Jackson will be available next year, but it is anyone's guess how much (of if) they will play given the wealth of upperclassmen available.

We will not be signing one or two players, or even three or four. There are currently SEVEN scholarship seniors on the roster who will have to be replaced. The represents a ton of work for the staff, so we had better get after it.