Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Track and field - the elementary sport

Running the fastest, jumping the highest or the longest, throwing the farthest. Those are what athletes do in the sport of track and field. Just the basic, elementary functions of physical exertion. Nothing fancy. No trickery. Just do it better than the other guy. Sport at its most basic level.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Small blues

If neither Gus Leeper nor Mareik Isom is in the game, which is true a lot of the time, then we are playing with no one taller than 6-5. That is not very good for a lot of high school teams.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

February was fun

I do not know if Coach Shields will be back next season. Worrying about that is not in my job class. The team plays the games, not the coach, and I root for the team. What I do know is that the month of February was an enjoyable month. After a miserable conference start, we were 6-2 in February, and one of those losses was in overtime to possibly the best team in the league. The Trojans played well, and I enjoyed it. The staff coached well, and I enjoyed it.

Feeling for Ben Dillard

After 3 1/2 seasons of being one of the best 3-point shooters in school history, Ben Dillard has hit a very cold streak, and I feel for him. I do not know him personally, of course, but his public demeanor seems to indicate that he is a class act. But in the last four games he has gone stone cold from the arc. He is 2 out of 17 over that stretch, and 0 for 9 in the last two games. For whatever reason, his shot has deserted him, and it is painful to have to watch (or listen to, as the case may be).

What is interesting is that in the same four games, Ben was 11 of 12 from the free throw line, so he still can shoot. We really need for Ben to regain his stroke for the stretch run this year.

Where we stand down the stretch

We are currently alone in 6th place, 5 1/2 games out of first. We have one game left at Louisiana, where we will be a decided underdog. There are ten teams to make the eight spots for the Belt tournament. (App State is not eligible.) Troy is already out of the running to beat us, as they are 8 1/2 games out. So, we only have to beat one other team.

Ark State is now the 9th team. They are 7 games out, or 1 1/2 games behind us. They have two games left, both at home, against USA and Louisiana. Our magic number against ASU is one, meaning a win by us in our last game or a loss by them in either game guarantees us a place in the tournament.

USA and Tex State are tied with App State in 7th place, a half game behind us. USA has games at Ark State and at home vs. Troy. Tex State has games at App State and at Monroe.

So, at the moment the odds look pretty good of our making the Tournament. Three teams behind us in the running for the one remaining spot.


Arlington postgame

It is always tough to win in conference on the road, and Arlington is a pretty good team. Lonnie McClanahan had a monster night against us: a double/double in a non-conventional way with 18 points on 7 of 10 from the field, and 12 assists. We held them to 33% from the arc and shot 40% ourselves, but they shot 58% overall, and that is tough to overcome. You won't win many games against that number. Plus they beat us by 5 on the boards.

J. T. Thomas had a rough night at point with three turnovers against only four assists, so that did not help. Give the game ball to Mareik Isom with 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 of 5 from the arc. However, his three turnovers did not help our cause. Roger Woods chipped in with 16 points and 6 rebounds, and Josh Hagins with 14 points and 5 rebounds. One real problem for us was our 13 turnovers against 12 assists, not typical of us this season.

But the big story of the night was McClanahan. We just did not have an answer for him.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

UCA wins again

It has been a rough start for the Pennell era at UCA, but they just picked up their second win of the season tonight. Good for the Bears!

Could things end up about where we thought?

We have two games left. Right now we are alone in 6th place in the Belt. Arlington is a game ahead of us and Louisiana is two and a half games ahead. So, it is at least theoretically the case that we could end up in a tie for 4th place - not quite where we were predicted to be, but not far out of it. Now, this is unlikely to happen since our two remaining games are on the road, but at least possible.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Arlington pregame

They are 15-12 and 9-8 in conference. They are 8-5 on their home court. Since we played them last they are 3-5, with wins over Louisiana, Texas State, and App State. They have lost 3 of their last 4. They probably will start 6-9, 6-5, 6-2 across the front line. In our last game they beat us by 7 in Little Rock. However, at that time we were in the midst of a stretch in which we lost 5 of 7.

They have three players averaging double figures, led by Lonnie McClanahan at 11.4 ppg. Their defense is outstanding, holding opponents to 41% overall and 32% from the arc. Their rebounding is even. They have played a lot of players this season, so they have some depth. They have three 3-point threats.

Sagarin picks Arlington by 6. RealtimeRPI picks them by 11.

A really sweet win

Getting an underdog win is always fun, but under certain circumstances it is really sweet. Georgia State has players who transferred from Louiville and Kentucky, and Pitino and Sleezipari are two of the coaches I most dislike. So beating GSU was sort of like beating them by proxy - or at least as close as we are ever likely to get to it. A bunch of nobodies from and "At" school in Arkansas took on the Goliath with all the money-conference players and whipped them. Sweet!

A very nice number

Our two pure shooting guards (Ben Dillard and James Reid) have 1.84 and 1.82 A/TO ratios respectively. Pretty good for two players that are not known as ball handlers.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Georgia State postgame

HOW ABOUT THOSE TROJANS?!! What is happening with this team? All of a sudden we are the hottest team in the Sun Belt. All of a sudden. What is going on? I surely cannot figure it out.

Let's look at the stats. We shot 46% from the arc and held them to 25%. That will get the job done! We had 20 assists to 8 turnovers. That will get it done, too.

Lots of individual heroes. All of a sudden J. T. Thomas gets hot from the arc for 17 points. Maurius Hill 16 points and 6 rebounds. Rogers Woods only 4 points but 9 big rebounds. Mareik Isom 5 of 6 from the arc. Ben Dillard had another miserable night shooting, but he had 4 assists against only one turnover. Josh Hagins 10 points and 5 rebounds. Game ball to James Reid. 16 points on 3 of 7 from the arc, 4 rebounds, one steal, and 6 big assists against zero turnovers.

I must admit that I am completely in the dark about what is happening in Little Rock. The coaches are pushing the right buttons and these kids are just playing their hearts out. Five wins in the last six games, and that loss in overtime. I do not know how it is happening, but I like it!

Maybe Trojan Tough is back.

Keep an eye on Coastal Carolina

If you want an early dark horse to watch in post season, keep an eye on little Coastal Carolina. They already have 21 wins, and they play tenacious defense. Opponents shoot only 38.8% against them. They are plus-9 on the boards. That is a good formula for wins.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Georgia State pregame

Welcome to the showdown between two of the hottest teams in the Belt! Each team has won four of their last five, both taking a loss to Georgia Southern. This ought to be a good one (I hope).

The Panthers probably will start 6-10, 6-6, 6-6 across the front line. As always, they do a lot of things very well. Most of their scoring is done by Ryan Harrow (20.4 ppg) and R. J. Hunter (19.9 ppg). However, Markus Crider is close with 9.4 ppg. The Panthers shoot very well and defend very well. Their overall shooting percentage differential is is 10.9 percentage points. Any team will win a lot of games shooting that much better than the other folks. They shoot FTs very well, although that is mainly because Hunter and Harrow take most of the shots. In contrast to previous years, they are less than -1 in rebounding.

But the biggest number on the Panthers' stat sheet is the fact that their opponents turn the ball over a lot and they do not. They have almost twice as many steals as the opposition. So if we get sloppy, it could be a LONG night.

As usual in recent years, they do not have much experienced depth. Their rotation is essentially eight men deep, dropping from 15.6 minutes/game with Curtis Washington to 8.9 with Jalen Brown, the 8th man. Obviously, they are not the same team with Harrow or Hunter out of the game, but those two have fouled out only once between them this year, and neither of them averages as much as 3 fouls per game.

Sagarin has the Panthers by 8. RealtimeRPI has them by 3.

This is a big game for both teams, but for different reasons. GSU is trying to lock in post-season, and Little Rock is trying to make sure we make the Belt tournament. Both teams want to maintain their momentum. It sounds funny to say that this could be the biggest game of the year in a season when we swept Arkansas State, but if we were to win it, it would be just that.

I wish we could get the fan base excited, but the only team in Georgia that our myopic sports fans know anything about is that one that plays Fayetteville.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Could we still make a move?

Is it still possible to move up in the standings? Well, not likely. But we have three games left. If we could win two of them we could really help our chances of winning a game or two in the tournament. No time to let up.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Puzzled about this team

Of course, the Trojans may lose out and end up back toward the bottom of the heap. But at the moment they are on a hot streak, albeit not against the top tier of teams in the league. So what was the problem? Are we just having an overdue hot streak that will cool off quickly enough, or is this team finally playing up to its potential and good things are still to come? Beats me. Stay tuned.

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Ben Dillard - a crafty guard

One of the complaints some fans have had against Ben is that "he cannot create his own shots." Perhaps not. He is not the quickest player on the team. However, why is it that he is second on the team in FTs attempted? Somehow he manages to get open enough to get fouled a lot. By contrast, Josh Hagins, who has attempted 93 more shots than Ben and is heralded as one of the players on the team who can make his own shot, has attempted one less FT than Ben. Thankfully, both of them make most of their FTs.

Ben Dillard may not be quick, but he is crafty, and that will work.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

We will earn it if we get it

Georgia State (currently tied for 1st) at home. Arlington (5th) on the road. Louisiana (4th) on the road. This will not be easy. Go Trojans!

Nothing special about this team

There is nothing about this team that you can hang your hat on that would cause it to be out of the ordinary. Nothing special. We are OK at a lot of things, fairly good at a few, not very good at a few. We are not going to strike fear in the hearts of very many opponents. But here lately we have been winning. The stat sheets do not show anything that stands out, but we have four wins in the last five games. I'll take it, even if I cannot figure it out.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Looking better with three games to go

Not very long ago we were doubtful that the Trojans would even make the Sun Belt tournament. After today's games, we are tied for 6th. That leaves Texas State and Arkansas State a game and a half behind us and Troy two full games. We have to beat two of the non-App State teams to make the tournament, so right now we are looking MUCH better.