Saturday, May 18, 2019

Royal basketball fan

The  queen of the little nation of Bhutan is a lovely 28-year-old named Jetsun Pima. She was educated at Regent's College in London. Somewhere along the line she developed an interest in basketball and was the captain of her school team. She still maintains an interest in the sport.

Dragon Queen of Bhutan (cropped).jpg

Friday, May 17, 2019

How did Maric do for a Trojan freshman?

Nikola Maric certainly had a solid season, especially for a freshman. It would be interesting to know how he did against some of our better big men at a comparable stage in their careers. The problem is that we do not have many records for a comparable season. The only two inside players for whom we have freshman stats are Larry Johnson and Muntrelle Dobbins.

NM - 10.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 51.7%, 20 blocks, 52 assists
LJ - 13.3 ppg, 15.5 rpg, 48.1%, 113 blocks, 53 assists
MD - 7.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 46.3%, 29 blocks, 9 assists

Perhaps this is not a fair comparison, but it does give us a little idea about Maric's potential. Johnson and Dobbins are two of the giants in Trojan history, #6 and #8, respectively, on the all-time scoring list. Johnson dominates the rebounding and blocks stats. Dobbins was one of the better rebounders in Sun Belt history.

Maric comes up short in rebounding and blocks, but compares very favorably in the other categories. Plus, he made 42.9% of this 3-point attempts. That shot did not exist in Johnson's day, and Dobbins was a pure low-post man, attempting only one shot from the arc in his career.

The bottom line? If Maric stays in Little Rock and stays healthy, there is no reason to doubt that he will end up among the elites. That is something to look forward to.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

APR ban finally has some teeth

Reportedly UCLA is very close to being banned from post season play because of APR numbers. Currently they are at 933, and if the number dips below 930 next spring, they would get the ax. I am glad to see that. Maybe it will get someone's attention - but I doubt it. I wonder if Mick Cronin knew about that before he took that job.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Do it in non-conference

I have long been an advocate of the proverb, "If you don't play right, you don't play." Too many coaches do not seem to have any control over what is transpiring on the court because the players are just doing what they want to do. The time to get that fixed is early in the season. Yes, if you bench players who are not playing right, it may cost you some games, but at least they won't be conference games. Pay the piper early, and you may not have to pay later on. Convince the team you mean business, and maybe they will listen.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

College to pros or pros to college?

It was just reported that John Beilein is going to coach in the pros. He certainly has earned the right to have a shot at it, even though I would think he is much better suited to coach in college. Anyway, it raises the question as to which direction of movement works best. I don't follow the NBA, so I could not comment on that, but the college coaches I have seen come to the college ranks have been a mixed bag at best. In the first place, one wonders if their hearts are really in it, especially since they have to take on the unpleasant duty of recruiting.

Monday, May 13, 2019

John McDonnell - astounding

What Coach McDonnell accomplished at Fayetteville is almost unbelievable. 40 national championships. Five national triple crowns. (No other school has ever won one.) 20 conference triple crowns, including eight straight. 46 SEC championships out of a possible 50.

Granted that the number of national championships is inflated when compared with other sports, since he had three chances each year to win one. Still, divide 40 by 3 and you still come up with 13.3. And the five national triple crowns (winning CC, indoor and outdoor in the same year) is a staggering accomplishment, because you have three chances not to win a title. And the eight straight conference triple crowns is a level of dominance we may not ever see again at the D1 level.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Did the pros hurt?

It is strongly my opinion that they play an inferior grade of basketball in the NBA. Not inferior in talent, of course, but sadly lacking in basketball basics. Just my opinion, of course. But if it is true, did it help Darrell Walker to have coached in the pros? One wonders.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Where can Chasse hang his hat?

First, let me say that I realize that on-field performance is only indirectly the responsibility of an Athletic Director. He is an administrator, not a coach. How he does his job as an administrator is largely beyond the view of the average fan. We are not in a position to judge, and ought not to try to judge. His boss can take care of that.

However, at this point in his career at Little Rock, what can Chasse Conque hang his hat on as an administrator in terms of what is visible to us? He has inaugurated the wrestling program, but it is difficult to see Arkansans getting very excited about that, without an established in-state high school program to support it. Women's basketball remains good, but it was good before he came. Baseball seems to have improved some. He is perilously close to having made consecutive bad choices in a men's basketball coach. There may be marginal improvements in the other sports, but nothing that catches the eye.

Hopefully Chasse has the program on a solid foundation financially and academically. Those are things he can control. There is only so much he can do about what goes on competitively, but at this point I would say we are just about treading water during his tenure.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Obvious points of emphasis for the off season

FREE THROW SHOOTING. We were last in the conference. I have no idea how to teach this skill, but we have several players who are inexplicably bad at it. One of them, Ryan Pippins, shot worse last season from the line than he did from the 3PT arc. Lottie, Johnson and Bankston are also weak. Lots of low-hanging fruit to pick in this one stat.

TURNOVERS. We were last in the conference. This one is on the coach. Players will take care of the ball if you MAKE them take care of it. If you allow them to stay on the playground, that's what they will do, because it is a lot easier and a lot more fun.

OFFENSIVE REBOUNDING. This one is a little bit of a head-scratcher, because we were second in the conference in defensive rebounds per game, but dead last in offensive rebounds. We just do not hit the offensive boards. Perhaps it has something to do with Walker's philosophy. Maybe he puts a premium on guarding against the break. I don't know why, but we were not any good at doing it.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

An epidemic of whiffs

Season home run leaders:
Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, McGwire, Sosa.
All of them since 1998.

Season RBI leaders:
Wilson, Gehrig, Greenberg, Foxx, Gehrig
All of them 1938 or before.

Season strikeout leaders by batters:
Reynolds, Dunn, Davis, Moncada, Carter.
All of them are since 2009.

Anyone see a trend? Maybe an explanation?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Sherlock Holmes at the fights?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was, of course, the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and many others. What is not as well known is that he was also an avid sportsman. He played cricket at the first-class level and was elected captain of his golf club.

Sir Arthur was also an amateur boxer. His connection with that sport led to his being asked to referee the James Jeffries-Jack Johnson heavyweight fight in Reno, which at the time was dubbed The Fight of the Century. He said, "I was much inclined to accept . . . though my friends pictured me as winding up with a revolver at one ear and a razor at the other." Other obligations prevented him from accepting the invitation, but it was a nice tribute.

July 4, 1910: Black challenger Jack Johnson defeats White world heavyweight boxing champion James J. Jeffries in 15th round at Reno

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

We were a prime example

This past season's version of the Trojans was a prime example of why many coaches insist that their teams play a slower pace. Too many turnovers. WAY too many turnovers. We were last in the SBC in turnover margin, and averaged the most turnovers per game by a bunch. (We had 16.3 turnovers per game; UTA was closest at 14.2.) We were next-to-last in assist to turnover margin.

Turnovers lead to empty possessions - when you do not even get off a shot. That is a sure-fire recipe for losing ballgames. Players like to win, but they also like to have fun and to look good. It is the coach's job to MAKE the players forget about looking good and make them concentrate on BEING good. In other words, to force them off the playground and onto the basketball court.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Graduate transfer nonsense

There is nothing right about this graduate transfer business. I don't know who made up the current rule, but it is a complete farce. It sanctimoniously proclaims to be about helping players further their education, but how many players do you think actually transferred in order to get a graduate degree that was not offered where they had been?

Sure, players transfer both directions, and lower-level schools do frequently get good talent from big time schools that helps them considerably. But that virtually never happens under the graduate transfer provisions. Always the players are using the rule to help them vault to a higher level school, after the smaller school had devoted three or four years of cost and effort into developing the player.

I will go right on record: that rule is a joke, and I hate it. Any questions?

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Financial pain

Winning games helps attendance, and attendance directly impacts the bottom line in a basketball program, even if it is not the only factor. That is self-evident. Our play was awful this season, and our attendance was awful, to go along with it. And the problem was that attendance was dropping during the Flanagan regime even before Walker got here. I wonder how much the AD will put up with. I wonder how much the AD can afford to put up with.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Horace Wyatt

Other than some valuable playing time, there was not much here to shout about. He did shoot a nice percentage (48.6%) overall. Outside of that, he did not really play enough to be able to demonstrate too much of what he might bring in the future. He did start 17 games, so he must have brought something that the coaches noticed. And he is 6-7 with 263 minutes of D1 college experience under his belt now, so he will be valuable to us

Friday, May 3, 2019

VERY wrong, but what was it?

Obviously, something was very wrong with this team last season, but it is difficult to put a finger on just exactly what it was. I have a sneaking suspicion, but I could not prove it, so I will let that lie.

But consider some statistics. We shot 48.4% overall, compared to 44.0% for our opponents. We shot 35.4% from the arc compared to 35.3% to opponents. We averaged 34.2 boards per game while the other guys got 34.5. We had more assists and more blocks than our opponents. And especially look at this stat: we averaged 74.23 points per game and our opponents averaged 75.90 points. That is a difference of only 1.67 points per game. And yet we lost 21 games.

Those numbers would suggest that we should have been in a string of very close games, and we logically would have won our share of them. The stats say we ought to have been 15-16, or maybe even 13-18 or somewhere along there. Instead we lost TWENTY-ONE games. In other words, we were AWFUL!

Something was not right with the Trojans last season, and it showed up in our record, but it did not show up on the stat sheet. Now, I am no Sherlock Holmes, but that suggests to me personnel issues, sometimes called locker room problems. This team was not a team. A team wins its share of close games, because it plays together. Several players from last season are now gone, and that may have fixed the problem. If it did not fix the problem, then the problem was not with the players, but with the staff.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Kamani Johnson

This kid has some potential. While we were being dazzled by Kris Bankston's gaudy numbers, Johnson was quietly shooting "only" 55% from the field. And, he was a better rebounder per minute than Tucker. He stuck to his job, only attempting one 3-pointer all season (he missed it). And he was third on the team in blocks. Not spectacular, but steady; and the way things went this last season we could have done with a lot less of the spectacular and a lot more of the steady. He was fifth on the team in FTs attempted, but shot only 50.8% from the line, so that is a place he needs to improve.

I really like Mr. Johnson's upside. If he sticks it out here in LR and gets some decent coaching, he could end up being a good one.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Ryan Pippins

Pippins' numbers don't overwhelm you. First of all, he played in only 21 games. However, he averaged 20.5 minutes in those games, although he started none of them. He shot 45% from the field, which was the best of any of our guards. And he shot 39.3% from the arc. Inexplicably, however, he only shot 38% from the line. (Maybe he and Lottie caught the same disease.)

But what Ryan brought that was most valuable was something that doesn't show up in the stats. On a team that seemed to be trying to be NBA Jr., Pippins was a mature and steadying influence, something we did not seem to have much of last season. We need him back next season, and we need him healthy.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Quote from ESPN's Myron Medcalf

(about the biggest factor in UCLA's lack of sustained success post-Wooden)

I think UCLA is a victim of an era that defines every team according to its performance in the NCAA tournament. . . . There were eight consecutive seasons of 20 wins or more after Wooden left his post but only two trips to the Final Four before the 1995 national title run. Folks don't value regular-season consistency as much as they emphasize the results in the crapshoot known as the NCAA tournament. And UCLA is the poster child for that reality.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Kris Bankston

I would love to have this kid on my team, as a coach (which I am not, but if I were, I would love to coach him). I know nothing of his attitude or anything of that nature, but having someone with a nose for the basket would be wonderful in these "don't get your hands dirty" 3-point days. My only criticism of his shooting would be that he does not do enough of it. He needs to be more aggressive offensively, because he is money in the bank.

Bankston's rebounding, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired. With Maric having that European attitude, Bankston is the logical candidate to be the Chairman of the Boards. I can understand why he might have been a little passive on offense, given the number of offensive threats we had on this team, but we did not have any rebounders, so the field was his. He needs to get the attitude that Jones-Jennings had: "Every rebound that comes of the backboard is mine." He has enough hops and agility: all he needs is the aggressiveness and the want-to.