Thursday, May 24, 2018

Tubby has something to work with

The cupboard at High Point was not left bare for Tubby Smith in his quest to set the record for the number of teams taken to the NCAA Tournament. He should return four starters and two of the top three in scoring, rebounding and assists.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

When the little guys win

I love it when the "little guys" of college sports win big. And, one of the places where that happens is in the "lesser," lower-profile sports. Take lacrosse, for instance. In this year's Final Four, two of the participants were Yale and Albany - not exactly sports powerhouses these days. Johns Hopkins is a perennial lacrosse powerhouse. And Denver and Loyola MD made the Elite Eight. (Denver, of course, is one of the true giants in NCAA ice hockey.) So three-fourths of the best eight teams in NCAA lacrosse are not household names to those who follow only football and basketball in the college landscape. That makes it sort of fun for those of us who love to root for the little guys.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Does one-and-done REALLY work?

From ESPN: "Duke and Kentucky have now produced the top two recruiting classes nationally in each of the past five seasons." Interesting. In that same five-year period those two teams had one NCAA championship and one runner-up. Two for ten. Hmmm. Villanova had that many in the top two spots by themselves, as did North Carolina.

"Good coaches will succeed"

The excuse for firing coaches that do not win is built into the motto above. And the problem with it is that there is an element of truth in it. On the whole, all else being equal, as with all endeavors, we can expect that the better coaches will win more games than those who are not as capable.

The problem is that in the D1 money sports, we expect success so quickly that often not enough time is given for the adage to hold true, and so coaches are tempted to bend the rules to succeed quickly to save their jobs. The emphasis is put on bringing in talent as opposed to developing talent, and recruiting is where the sleeze is found in college sports.

Probably in the sports that are not so visible and so tied up with big budgets, this saying is much more true; but in football and basketball we have changed it to read, "Coaches who are willing to cheat will succeed." And that is our fault, to a large extent. At least we fans are a contributing factor.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Hollywood's most versatile athlete?

It is a fairly commonly-known fact that actor Chuck Connors of The Rifleman fame played in the major leagues in baseball and in the NBA in basketball. He had athletic scholarships from two dozen schools.

What is not as well known is that Connors was drafted by the Chicago Bear of the NFL, but never played for them.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

One more bit of Gaedel trivia

Eddie Gaedel met his death after spending the evening at a bowling alley. He was followed home and beaten by unknown assailants, and died from the effects of the beating and/or a subsequent heart attack. The only major league figure to attend his funeral was Bob Cain, the pitcher who had walked him in his only plate appearance.

Bob Cain 1953.jpg

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Whose autograoph is worth more?

The autograph of one-at-bat midget Eddie Gaedel is reportedly worth more than that of Babe Ruth, due to its scarcity. That is a situation similar to the relative worth of the signature of Button Gwinnett versus those of some of the more famous signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Just go ahead to do it!

The ACC is reportedly going to propose expanding the NCAA tournament field to 72 teams from the current 68. They have their reasons, but let's be honest: the coaches want it because it helps them with job security. Everyone is (wrongly) measured in college basketball by whether or not they make the tournament. So, they want to make it easier to make the tournament, and I can't blame them for that.

So will we be chipping away, making the tournament a little bigger every few years to help the coaches who just missed the tournament the last time? Little by little we water it down. Why not just bite the bullet and have an all-inclusive NCAA tournament? Go ahead and do it! Eliminate the conference tournaments, since they would then be pointless anyway, and include every team that is eligible in the NCAA tournament. Make it like Indiana's state championship used to be. Then it would truly be the Big Dance. I do not like that option, but it is better than killing the significance of the tournament by inches.

Little Eddie was not the Gaedel family's only ballplayer

Real baseball fans know the name of Eddie Gaedel, the midget who came to the plate one time and drew a walk. What they probably do not know is that Gaedel's grandnephew Kyle Gaedele [sic] played baseball at Valparaiso and made it as high as AA in the minor leagues.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Recruiting is tough on the little guys

In ESPN's current ranking of the recruiting classes, we do not find one out of the Power Five conferences until we get to Villanova in 12th (and they are the defending champs). Then we do not find another one until Providence in 23rd. And, of course, those two are from the Big East, which is better than most Power Conference schools in basketball. Recruits follow the money.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Rent-a-Title is alive and well

Duke and Kentucky are still hard at it. Get a player for one season, and then let him go. Don't keep him; just use him and send him on. Don't buy him, just rent him. Sometimes we call it One and Done, but we just as easily could call it Rent-a-Title.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Tubby trivia

Tubby Smith did, of course, coach Kentucky to the 1998 national championship. And, as is well known, he is one of only two men to take five teams to the NCAA tournament. You may have known that, but did you know these facts?

He was one of a family of 17 children.

His legal name is Orlando Henry Smith. He got the "Tubby" name because he loved to stay in the big galvanized bath tub.

He is one of only a few men who has coached against his son in D1 college. G. G. Smith was the head coach at Loyola-Maryland in the 2014-15 season.  (Tubby won.)

His style (slower paced) has won the name "Tubbyball."

Monday, May 14, 2018

They do more with less

Logically, Duke and Kentucky ought to play in the finals of the NCAA tournament each year, since year after year they get the best talent. But they don't. Other coaches do more with less, year after year. Oh, sure those two schools win occasionally, but no where near as often as their disproportionate share of talent would indicate that they should. They do less with more. Their ADs ought to call them on the carpet for squandering talent.

I love to watch the coaches who do more with less. Coaches who can really coach, not the Guy Lewises of the world who recruited dazzling athletes who could have won a lot of games even if the coach hadn't shown up. This year it was Porter Moser, of course, who wins the More With Less award, with John Beilein a close second.

Then there are coaches who bring in very good talent, but who resist the temptation to bring in talent just because it is talent, and concentrate on bringing in players who might not be five-stars, but who fit their system. And then they teach their system and make sure their players stick with it. Jay Wright at Villanova is the current master at that trade.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Cameron Krutwig - a unique opportunity for basketball fans

Really good big men are so rare that teams at the mid-level seldom get their hands on them. (The case of Navy with David Robinson was a notable exception to that rule.) What the lower levels can do, however, is to recruit a kid who is big and who works hard and is coachable, and then develop him so that he can be of real use to them by his upperclass years.

Loyola's Cameron Krutwig is ahead of the curve. Porter Moser got his hands on him this year, and the true freshman (6-9, 260#) became a major factor in the Ramblers' Final Four run and place in history. He did what big men are supposed to do: 59.8% from the field, lead the team in FT attempts and make 73% of them, pull down 6.1 rebounds per game, block a few shots, and keep his turnovers at a reasonable level. All as a true freshman. Plus, since he did not attempt a three-pointer all year, he did not have the delusions of  grandeur and glamor that so many big men suffer these days when the perimeter shot is everything. He knew his role and did it well.

Look for this kid to become one of the headline big men in college basketball over the next three years. He has a good coach who insists that his players play the right way, and he evidently listens to him. Basketball fans have a unique opportunity to watch a good player become a really good player, perhaps even a dominant player.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Which returning player has the most upside?

Well, we do not have many players returning, but of that small group, which of them has the most upside? Obviously since none of them averaged even double figures, there is lots of room for improvement. Pippins, Burns, Lottie, Hadzic, Bankston.

My vote would go to Kris Bankston, I think. He came in and did much better than true freshman big men sometimes do. He shot a very high percentage from the field (NOT from the FT line) and was third on the team in rebounds per game with only 15 minutes playing time. He is an impressive looking young player, and I think he is way below his potential as he matures and gets experience.

Friday, May 11, 2018

When basketball states do well

I operate on the premise that it is good for college basketball when teams from states where basketball matters do well. Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana: those are the Big Four states when you are discussing basketball - states where folks in the off-season are more likely to be discussing basketball than other sports.

One indication that my theory is correct is the recent jump in the SEC's success. Except for about three schools, basketball only garners significant attention in this conference in March - and then is promptly forgotten. However, the SEC, even with all its money, has been SO BAD in recent years that the Powers That Be became embarrassed and started spending some of that money to bring in big name coaches, and it has helped. But it was the fact that they looked so bad when compared with other conferences that made them take that drastic step.

A rising tide lifts all boats. We should not grumble when teams from the Big Four States do well. It helps all of us, because it forces a reaction - eventually.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

NBA, Jr.

I like college basketball. I do not like the NBA, at all. If the NCAA starts paying their players, then the NCAA becomes the minor leagues for the NBA. I don't like the NBA.

Understand what, but don't like why

I can understand why Wally Hall would prefer not to call us "Little Rock." Because we are local, saying "Little Rock" means almost nothing because it means everything. Everything in Little Rock is "Little Rock." It would be more informative to say "Trojans," because that is more specific. Within the larger college basketball world, Little Rock is specific, but not in the city itself.

However, Wally's disdain for the Trojan program is well known. If he is not on the payroll at Fayetteville, he might as well be. So, his resistance to using the new name for the program is highly suspect. I figure that he knew we did not like being the weaker stepsister of Fayetteville and were making a big to have our own, unique identity; which, of course, he did not like, since being a Porker fan he wants everything else in the state to be subservient to Fayetteville.

No, I do not like the "why" at all.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Ernie Kent can coach

One of the really down-and-out programs in power conference basketball these days is Washington State. We have discussed how difficult it is to recruit to eastern Washington, especially now that they are in the shadow of Gonzaga. However, Kent's lack of success in Pullman is not an indicator that he cannot coach. He had a winning record at St. Mary's, and ended his stint there with a 23-win season. Then he moved on to Oregon, where he took them to two Elite Eights and a 29-win season. So the guy can coach when he has something to work with.

However, getting something to work with in Pullman is a task. The only coaches who have had any real success there in recent memory are the Bennetts, father and son, and they both quickly moved on to greener pastures.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Will Tubby have the last laugh?

For some reason, the basketball population in general really came down on Tubby Smith while he was at Memphis. I did not understand it. Yes, some kids left, but if you kept up with the general sort of players that have been recruited over the years at Memphis, that was not surprising. And Memphis had a solid season this past year and was headed in the right direction. But, Tubby got the ax, because Memphis wanted to bring in a glamor boy; they really like glamorous coaches in Memphis.

But Tubby may get the last laugh. At the moment, he and Lon Kruger are the only men to have taken five different teams to the NCAA Tournament. If High Point should get there, he would have that record all to himself.

Program Builder Extraordinaire.