Saturday, March 25, 2017

Maurius Hill

When I think of Hill, I think of Co Willis from a few years back. The only thing that saved him from being purely a role player throughout his career was his experience, dependability and versatility down the stretch.

Hill did a lot of things fairly well and was one of our most dependable players. He was undersized for a power forward, and not quite skilled enough for a top-notch 3. But he got the job done, and done pretty well, over the course of his career. He is the type of player that it takes several other players to replace. I hope they are out there.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Coach Rod Barnes

I have always liked Coach Barnes. His teams play hard-nosed defense. He took Ole Miss to the Sweet 16 in 2001, but then his teams fell on hard times, and he landed at Georgia State, where he never got rolling. At that time they were in the Colonial Athletic Conference, where the competition was at that time considerably tougher than in the SBC, where GSU later moved.

Finally, Barnes landed at Cal State Bakersfield, which was just about the bottom of the heap. At that time they were an independent, but after two years they found a home in the WAC. (Bakersfield has only been Division 1 since 2007.) In his fifth year, they made the NCAA tournament. In his sixth year there, he has taken his team to the Final Four of the NIT, and maybe more to come.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Jalen Jackson

It took him a while to get rolling in his Little Rock career, but Jackson eventually became our most reliable player for inside scoring. He ended up as a double-figure scorer this past season, and actually one of our better shooters. His 45.2% from the arc lead the team, albeit with a fairly small sample. He was third on the team in rebounds per game, third in steals and second in blocks. A  good all-round performance. Although at times he lacked a little in consistency, when his game was "on," he was a player.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Keep an eye on TCU

If you want a team on the move you can watch, keep an eye on TCU. This was the first season with alumnus Jamie Dixon as their helm. They did not make the NCAA (they were a bubble team), but they just hammered a good Richmond team to advance to the Final Four of the NIT. I am not saying that the Frogs will move into the top tier of the Big 12, because that is some pretty tough country; but considering how bad they have been in recent years, they are in for a very pleasant upgrade.

For the record, TCU has never been to the Final Four. They made the regional finals once (in 1968) and they have been to the Sweet Sixteen three other times, all in the 1950s. They have only made one NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 30 years (1998). So it has been a while since TCU basketball has been relevant; but stick around: that is about to change.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Not the best

The winner of the NCAA Tournament frequently is not the best team in the nation. Usually it is the best combination of skill and luck (avoid injuries, no bad calls by officials at the wrong moment, etc.). That is part of it's glamor, of course, that the best team may get beat out of the big prize, and an underdog may win it. And there is nothing wrong with that.

However, I do wish there were some reward for the team that did the best overall body of work for the season. As things stand right now, the best team gets nothing but a warm feeling.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Kemy Osse

Kemy Osse is a sterling example of a kid who came in, stuck it out through some difficulties, and became a key player on the team by his senior year. (I wish we had a lot more like that.) With the problems that Johnson had, Kemy was our most reliable perimeter shooter over the course of this season. Plus he was always a steady influence on the court. He won't be remembered as one of the great Trojans, but I think most Trojan fans will remember him with affection and respect. He was a player.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Will we sign someone else?

I am guessing that it is almost certain that we will. Wes has to be embarrassed and under pressure after this year's disappointing season, so he will move to upgrade the roster if he can in the late signing period. We already have news of a couple more offers in recent weeks. If I had to guess, Pippins and Marcus are the most likely casualties to make room for the other scholarships.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Is that player on campus?

Sometimes a single player can make a huge difference to a team. This is not speculation on my part. In our fabled 1985-86 season, we were 23-11 overall. Paul Springer started 23 of those games. In the first eleven games of the year we were 4-7. For the remainder of the season, with Springer starting, we lost only four games, two of them in overtime, and beat Notre Dame in the process. Sure, there were lots of good players on that team: Myron Jackson, Pete Myers, Michael Clarke, Ken Worthy, etc. But those great players were 4-7 without Springer at point guard. What might our record have been if things had continued as they were? Then one of our all-time great teams might have been very mediocre. It makes one wonder how good this year's team might have been if we had had that one player.

A really entertaining game

I loved the Dayton vs. Wichita State game in the NCAA tournament last night. Both teams are noted for hard-nosed defense and really getting after it with a physical style of play. Blue collar ball. My kind of basketball.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The NCAA owes an apology

Each year the NCAA ought to send an official letter of apology to all the teams that "get" to play in the play-in games. Those games exist just to allow a few more sub-par money conference coaches a chance to boost their resumes. They make no sense at all and are an insult to the teams that get bumped to the first day of the tournament. Oh, the NCAA  goes to great lengths to pretend they are really part of the tournament, but continual slips of lips show how people really view them, and logically should.

Reasons for optimism

We underachieved this past season; no denying that. It was very disappointing. Plus, we lose a lot of experience and maturity moving forward. Some will scoff, but notwithstanding those facts, I do see reasons for optimism looking ahead. Not sky-high optimism, but some of the more cautious sort.

First, Deondre Burns showed that he is going to be a good one. He led the team in 3-point percentage among those with over 50 attempts. If he starts for a full season he could put up some really nice numbers. If he can be a career 41% three-point shooter, he will be tied with Nick Zachery for third all-time.

Second, I still think Oliver Black is going to be one of the premier big men in the SBC. Even this year he shot 55% from the field, pulled  down 3.3 boards per game, and was third on the team in offensive rebounds. He should be ready to go from the starting gate this next year, and I think he is going to do well.

Third, we should finally get to see Dayshawn Watkins at the point. He was a 3-star recruit out of high school and was signed by a money conference school. He may take a few games to get the rust out of his system, but I am very eager to see how well he does. If he does solve our problem at point, that will be a huge step forward from where we were this last season.

We have a lot of holes to fill, but those should be three important cogs in the wheel. A bona fide point guard, a play-making scorer, an inside threat and board man. We  really lacked all three of those this year. There is just a chance we might have them next year.

Add to all the above the fact that Wes Flanigan will no longer be a first-year head coach. I don't know how well he will learn from his mistakes, but until I see otherwise I am going to assume that he is able to do what most people can do in that regard, and if so, he will be a better coach next year than last.

Not defending the three is not optional

Because the game is so disproportionately weighted in favor of the three-point shot, and because players have focused so predominately on shooting from that particular spot, and because the three has become so glamorized in today's game and other aspects of the game correspondingly neglected, teams today have no option but to focus their defenses on defending the arc. Occasionally a team will come along that is bad enough at shooting that it can be de-emphasized momentarily, but that does not happen very often.

How many times this weekend will we see a player on the backside of the defense cheat inside to provide help defense, only to have the opposition quickly reverse the ball or penetrate and kick out, and the man he was supposed to be covering make a wide open three? It happens all the time. It ought not to happen any time. You just cannot afford to leave shooters with more space than the defender can close in about half a second. Does that mean that your interior defense is going to get neglected to some extent? Certainly it does, but that is today's game. The rule makers have said, "Ignore everything but the three," and have shaped the game accordingly. I don't like it; in fact, I despise it, but there it is. You neglect to defend the arc at your own peril. The good news is that if you shut down the three these days, a lot of teams do not have a good Plan B.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Rooting for teams in the NCAA

Sometimes I root for teams in the Big Dance because they are "my" teams - ones that I follow regularly. Sometimes I do for quirky reasons, like perhaps just liking the sound of the name of the school (Quinnipiac, for instance). And sometimes I do like my 92-year-old father, who usually does not know one team from another: I just pick one at random and root for it for the fun of it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A pox on media timeouts!

Aaaaaarrrrgghhhh

Wide open NCAA tournament

It has been a while since we have had an NCAA tournament so lacking in a favorite. This one is really wide open. Several contenders, but a case can be made against any of them. Ought to be fun.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Logically optimistic

Sheer logic makes me think that we ought to have a pretty good recruiting class coming in. Wes Flanigan has been an assistant at Little Rock, UAB, Nebraska and Mississippi State. As an assistant he would have been involved in recruiting at each school, and should have learned something about evaluating talent from each of his head coaches. He would have had lots of practice at it, from several different perspectives. In addition, he grew up in a basketball family with a father who has coached a number of Division 1 players.

We had several slots available this recruiting season. We filled all the openings in the early period. Logically, that should mean that we got who we wanted. If we got who we wanted, and if Wes is as good as he ought to be at evaluating talent, then we ought to have a good group coming in. Now, logic does not always equal reality, but it is enough to make me optimistic.

Time to get hungry

When you go to post-season one season and miss it the next, the players who were involved in both years tend to be hungry to go again. Unfortunately, we do not have many of those, but we do have a few; and hopefully they will be leaders in spreading the hunger to the newcomers.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Almost unbelievable, if true

According to the video linked below of the 1956 NCAA Finals, Bill Russell had a 26/27/20 triple/double. Blocks were not recorded officially, but evidently someone counted them from the video. Twenty blocks! His sense of timing on defense was amazing.

LINK

2017 Regular Season National Champion

In our on-going effort to make the regular season mean more, this blog officially declares Gonzaga to be the National Champion of Division 1 college basketball for the 2016-2017 regular season.

Image result for gonzaga bulldogs men's basketball

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The NCAA committee frequently does this to me

Pitting Vandy against Northwestern in the first round. Two of my favorite teams. Probably I will have to root for Northwestern, given their historic situation this season, but I really like Vandy's new coach.