Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Prejudice against defense?

Offense sells tickets; we all know that. But people who are supposed to know the intricacies of the game ought to appreciate defense. So why was Ruot Monyyong not Player of the Year in the SBC? He was good enough on defense to garner DPOY, and his offensive numbers were not shabby. So why was he not POY? Is the top offensive player just automatically granted the POY title automatically, and no one digs any deeper to see if there was anyone more deserving? I think Ruot got robbed.

I also think John Fowler got robbed his senior year when the same thing happened. Again, it was not as if Fowler was useless on offense. His numbers were very respectable. And his on-the-ball defensive abilities were widely admired. But he did not get POY? I wondered why not back then, and I still wonder. Why this prejudice against defense?

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Where did we improve?

Obviously we were a much better team this season than last, but exactly where did we improve, statistically speaking.

Our opponents' FG% went down, so our overall defense improved.
Our FT% was significantly better.
We had two legitimate rebounders, against only one (sort of) last season.
We had more steals and blocks.

So, boiling it down, our defense improved, and it showed. At times we were very good defensively.

Friday, April 3, 2020

GOAT bleed-down

One interesting phenomenon to observe during this offseason is the large numbers of GOAT polls and conversations. That is natural, since we are currently in a vacuum as to what will happen and when.

One thing I have noticed when there is a GOAT poll regarding the greatest college players is that people frequently color their assessment of a player's college career by his pro career. The prime example is Michael Jordan. Certainly he would be in the discussion as the NBA GOAT, but college? He averaged 17.7 ppg and 5.0 rpg. Are these the sorts of numbers that would qualify a player to be the Greatest of All Time? But fans quickly forget that, although he was good in college, he certainly was not the Greatest in college.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The ultimate embarrassment

Kentucky lost a recruit to - Rutgers? Four-star center Cliff Omoruyi is going to the Scarlet Knights, and Kentucky Sports Radio says he was a "one time Kentucky prospect." I am sure Sleezipari will object that the grapes were sour, but that was his own folks saying that.

Rutgers is the anti-Kentucky. They are blue-collar. They emphasize defense and rebounding. In addition to Omoruyi, next year's recruiting class contains a trio of lowly three-stars who fit Steve Pikiell's system. But Omoruyi is a New Jersey kid, and he stayed home. He took the steak over the sizzle. Let's hope he makes the KY folks live to really regret his choice.

Monday, March 30, 2020

The forgotten aspect of recruiting

From reporter Jerry Carino on SBNation:

"The most underrated, misunderstood behind success in college basketball is fit. I don't think the casual fan who gets caught up in recruiting rankings appreciates how vital that is. Rutgers was a monument to fit this past season, because [Coach] Pikiell puts the concept first and foremost in his program-building."

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The silver lining

We all had rather have skipped The Virus this year. But there was a silver lining. It inadvertently emphasized the regular season, because that was all there was to emphasize. There are even conversations about who was the National Champion, just like folks used to argue about the Helms Foundation title. That is a rough way to have to go to accomplish it, and it likely will not last, but it has happened.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Jay Bilas got it right

He named Lew Alcindor as the greatest college player ever, and indicated that it was not really even a close vote. I agree. Those of us who watched him play saw firsthand just how dominant he was.

"Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) is the greatest college player EVER. Period. No reasonable debate. To even suggest otherwise is foolish."

"He's the greatest offensive weapon in the history of the game," Bilas said. "He led UCLA to three national championships and let's be blunt, it wasn't because the other players were so great. They were very good, but it's because they had Lew Alcindor and everybody else didn't. Wherever Lew Alcindor went to college, they were going to win three championships and he was going to be the most outstanding player, wherever he went."

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Steve Pikiell COY

Rutgers' Head Coach Steve Pikiell has been named Coach of the Year, and it is hard to see anyone else deserving it more. They finished 20-11 this season, and would have had a chance to win more games if the post season had happened.

Consider the magnitude of this accomplishment. The Scarlet Knights last went to the NCAA Tournament in 1991 - that is 19 years if you are counting. The last time they had a winning season was 2006. The last time they had double-figure conference wins was 1991. He turned the RAC into one of the most intimidating home court advantages in the nation.

And he returns 8 of his top 9 players for next season.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Good year for the little guys?

Pre-season polls are very unreliable, particularly in this surreal off-season. However, NBC's first offseason poll lists four teams not from the Big Six conferences: Gonzaga, San Diego State, Houston and Richmond. So, looks for the little guys to make some noise this season, since they did not really get a chance to do it this past year.

Monday, March 23, 2020

It's always the coach

Last year after their national championship, virtually all the pundits picked Virginia fairly well up in the pre-season rankings. This is not usual. It is hard to forget the year before. However, I thought they were unduly optimistic. When a team loses three players of the caliber of those the Hoos lost, who were not freshmen, it is going to take more than a raw freshman to replace them. The rankings, it seems, were a tribute to Coach Tony Bennett. "Any team coached by him is going to be good, no matter who is playing," the sages were saying.

As it turned out, they were perfectly right - it just took a while for it to come true. Virginia is like Wisconsin in that they develop players. Their recruits are generally not one-and-doners, and they stay, and they get better under some of the best teachers in the game. By the time the final AP Top 25 poll was issues in this truncated season, Virginia was back up to 16th, after having tanked out of the poll earlier in the season. Jay Huff started playing like a monster in the middle, and the Hoos went on a late-season winning streak.

So, pundits, I will say that you were right, and I was wrong. Virginia was that good, but we just had to give Coach Bennett time to do what he does best, which is to teach basketball.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Double disappointment

It could be possible that the virus will not only have knocked all of us out of the enjoyment of the post-season, but it may do considerable harm to certain programs. Key players may move on before their eligibility is finished. It may hinder recruiting significantly. We are poised upon the possibility of one of the best seasons we have ever had, and possibly THE best team we have had. So far we have lost a couple of subs, but what if a couple of key starters decide to move on because of all the uncertainty? That would be a blow we would not likely soon forget.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Grim resolution

This year's team got robbed - of the chance to do something special. We did half of it, i.e., being regular season champs. But we had a chance to go to the Dance and maybe even make a little noise there. It won't happen because of the virus.

So, we were robbed. The team might become depressed, or we might get a fire in our guts because we were robbed and come out determined to make it happen next season. And since we return all five starters, we should be the heavy pre-season favorites. And this time no excuses - unless we all catch cholera.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Why this team was special

I think we can accurately say that this team was special, at least within the context of Little Rock. After all, we do not have many regular season championships to our credit. But what made us special?

If have often said that you cannot have too many true point guards or centers on a roster, simply because they are the hardest players to find. By the end of the season, we had the strongest complement of big men I have ever seen in this program. I think we can safely say that we were dominant inside, at least on most nights. We did not have any too many point guards, but the ones we had were good.

So, we had a good bracket on both ends of the roster, and that was our strength. These days shooters are a dime a dozen, and athletic mid-height sorts likewise. But a big man who can actually play is hard to find.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Some solace to the Hoos

Yes, the season did get cancelled. Just when they were getting going. But at least the Virginia Cavaliers can grab a silver lining out of the current confusion: they get to be The Reigning Champs for TWO years.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Bad programs with a good sport

Some schools are just not known as being sports powerhouses, for whatever reason. University of the Ozarks is such a place. I was told that their enrollment this year was around 900, which is up considerably from the 600 that it was for years. Obviously, even at the D-III level, there are just not many bodies to choose from.

But occasionally an inept sports program will have a pretty good sport. That was the case with Ozarks baseball, until the Bug axed all college sports. They were 11-5 overall and 6-3 in conference in the early going, which is a pretty good record by baseball standards.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Load up the schedule!

At our level, there are two ways of getting to the NCAA tournament: win the conference tournament (which is unusual) or get an at-large invitation (which is downright rare). Even in a good year the odds of winning the tournament are against you, but they are much better than those of getting an at-large. Those have been at a real premium from the Belt.

So . . . if you think you have even an outside shot at an at-large berth, then load up your non-conference schedule as heavy as you can, even if you have to play on the road, play 3 for 1 swaps, or whatever. You can't win them if you don't play them, and the times to play them are the times you think you might actually win them.

This next year is one of those years. Let's do it.

Monday, March 16, 2020

National Champion - Kansas

This blog officially declares Kansas to be the 2020 Regular Season National Champion. And this particular season, I am as official as anyone. So there!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Residual attendance effect

I will be very interested to see what this virus shutdown does to next year's attendance at college basketball games. I will not predict, because I do not know. Will folks come out of the gate in a rush because they were deprived of March Madness. Or will they shrug and say, "Oh well, I had to miss last season, and I survived it, so I'll try it again"?

The thing we forget is that for a large percentage of people, the Tournament IS college basketball to them, because that is the only time they pay any attention to it. So they just skipped the entire season.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

The virus

OK, I will be the jerk, that politically incorrect individual who says it. I think a panicked reaction is always the wrong reaction, and, like the rest of the country, the NCAA acted in a blind panic with regard to the NCAA tournament, and especially about cancelling everything for the spring. If this had been the black death or cholera, then maybe, but it is not. There, I said it, and I meant it.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Rutgers got the rawest deal

The Scarlet Knights had not been to the NCAA tournament since 1991. That is 19 years. None of the players could have remembered that far back. And it looked likely that they would get an at-large bid. And then the panic-mongers shut down the tournament. Life just isn't fair sometimes.