Saturday, November 1, 2014

"Unappreciated" chip

Here is an idea: Shields needs to get 16 small pieces of wood, write "UNAPPRECIATED" on each of them, and lay them on the shoulder of each player. The symbolism? No one ever thinks highly of Little Rock. They always go for the glamor teams. So we need to get a chip on our shoulders because we are only picked third, and then do something about it.

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Aggressors

When you have depth you can afford to be aggressive. It sounds like that is what we are going to be on offense, at least more so than usual. We know that Josh Hagins has always been that way a times, and Ben Dillard is much more so that appears on the surface, as exhibited in the number of free throws he shoots. Now that he is The Man in the middle, you have to think that James White is going to assert his leadership. Throw into the mix Roger Woods, who comes advertised as a player who is relentless in going to the basket on offense, and that is a nice combination, especially since at least three of those players should be on the court together a good bit of the time.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I am thinking

that Leeper-White-Woods or White-Isom-Woods will be a pretty solid Belt front line.

Stay healthy, stay healthy, stay healthy

Health is the one factor absolutely no one can predict. The Georgia State juggernaut already has been slowed down somewhat by an injury to one of their Big Three players. ULL's prospects definitely would take a devastating blow if their big guy were to get hurt. It is great to have star players, but they have to be on the court to help you.

Maybe we will stay healthy this year. As far as I know, at the moment we look to be in pretty good shape, but that could change at any moment. Last year we had a good bit of injury problems, and they hurt our performance noticeably. Let's hope for the best this time around.

Foreign connections

It is interesting how certain schools in certain sports develop connections to certain foreign countries. We have several Bosnian players on our volleyball team, and our women's golf team has a strong Scandanavian representation. I just noticed that the Troy women's soccer team has four players from England on the roster. I would love to see an article about how these various recruiting connections are established.

What will we do well?

To be a winning team, you have to do several things pretty well, or one or two things exceptionally well. Well . . . I think we will shoot FTs well above the average, but probably not exceptionally well, since Georgia State probably will do better than we will. Our defense should be above average, if Shields can get the intensity from the team that he normally requires. I think our assist/turnover ratio this year should be good, with essentially three point guards who will get lots of playing time. There is no reason we should not be a good 3-point shooting team, although we were not one last year. However, I think that since we have more good options from the arc those who do not produce will be more restricted in their shooting.

We still have things where we need to get better, but I think the 2014-2015 version of the Trojans will have lots of legs to stand on.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Calipari's two platoons

Even at Kentucky there has to be some significant differentiation in the ability of your #1 player and your #10 player. With the two hundred media timeouts per game that we have these days, why would you want to have your tenth player in the game that much of the time, since your best player should be well rested? Most normal college rotations would not even go that deep. And "first man off the bench" sounds way better than "second platoon."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fitting the Shields profile

We have a couple of players this year who fit what has become a common profile for players during the Shields era, those being Maurius Hill and Roger Woods. Stocky, muscular, undersized 3/4 combo types. We have had some pretty good players who fit that description over the years. Maybe the first of them was Co Willis, who was a real warrior.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Brooklyn-Iceland connection

What is it with the Brooklyn to Iceland recruiting tie-in? LIU Brooklyn has two Icelanders on their roster, and St. Francis Brooklyn has another. That might make an interesting media story.

And now the waiting

This is always a hard time of the year. We know a little about the team, but not nearly enough. We cannot see most of the practices. We have just about chewed all the speculation to death. It is only a few more days until "real" things happen, but it is SO hard to wait.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Where the volleyball spotlight shines

Volleyball is like other sports in that the spotlight usually shines, not where the greatest worth is, but upon that which pleases the fans most. The spectacular play in volleyball is the kill: the big players up front slamming the ball home for the points. To me, however, the much more impressive aspect of the game are the digs, which require amazing reflexes, and making really skillful sets for the striker. But, as usual, the home run hitters get the press, and the shortstops only get the appreciation of teammates.

Maximize your strengths

A really good coach puts the strengths of his team to the best advantage. Our, no doubt, is our depth on the perimeter. I am not smart enough to know how to put this to use, but Steve Shields should know. Georgia State, for example, will substitute very little for their guards. With all the media timeouts these days, that will be less of a disadvantage than it would otherwise be, but even at that we ought to be able to use it well.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

We lack a superstar

We were picked to be third in the Belt in the official preseason polls. That shows that the voters have a lot of respect for our team this were, but we do not have any superstars like Georgia State and ULL do. But that is OK. We have always emphasized team play, anyway. It is the sum of the parts that counts.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Proud to be a Trojan!

Under the best of circumstances this program would have to fight against the stream. This is a football state, and folks' attention is not going to be turned to basketball until the first of the year; so really, we really only get a half-season in the average public's mind.

But the bigger problem is in our outlook. We suffer from the "At" University Syndrome. The University of Arkansas AT Little Rock. Kind of an ugly step-sister. (The main reason I wish we would banish "Arkansas" from all our uniforms and logos and just let it be "Little Rock.) As long as that "at" is there we are being reminded by the Powers That Be to keep in our place. One reason older fans love Mike Newell so much was that he had a little "in your face" swagger, which is what it will take from those in the entire department for our program to be successful in terms of establishing its own identity in this State That Oinks.

I like what the Interim AD is doing relative to student involvement. We need to get the entire student body away from that old walk-on campus mentality. "This is MY university, and I am proud of it," is what the we need to get the students thinking.

We need to do as much as we can to get T-Shirts, bumper stickers, license plates, etc. into the hands of students and local fans. (Preferably these would emphasize the Little Rock instead of the Arkansas.) Whether a particular team is winning or not, we need to get the student body as a whole and that portion of them that are sports fans in particular thinking positively. Proud to be a Trojan!

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

When good players sign with slow teams

I love it when top tier players sign with teams that play at a slower pace. ESPN's #39 recruit just committed to Virginia, who are stigmatized for their deliberate pace.

Balance does not naturally occur

Water flows downhill, even if only gently. Even in Kansas there are rivers. So, purely for the sake of illustration let us suppose that Mareik is the real deal and our starters turned out to be Josh, Ben, Roger, Mareik and James. Good lineup. All of those would be scorers. But still they probably will not all score double figures, because the scoring load is going to drift toward certain players. Some of it will be how opponents react: they are going to put their best defenders on what they perceive to be our biggest threats. Second will be just the chemistry of the team, which will in itself force some players to the forefront. James is not a passer, and he is going to have to be a rebounder. If Josh were to be our main point guard (very unlikely), he would have to be worrying about those duties, not just scoring. The ebb and flow of team play is constantly changing, and because of that it will not and cannot stay perfectly flat.

Some teams have lots of double-figure scorers because they play at a fast pace and there are lots of points to go around. That will not be our case. I think we will have three players in double figures, and possibly even four, depending on the mix. But not five.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Moser/Shields era has not produced a lot of big numbers

Big individual totals have been the exception rather than the rule since the year 2000. There have been a few. Laverne Smith scored 36 points in 2000, and Brandon Freeman had 37 in 2004 and 38 in 2005. In rebounding, we had the privilege of watching Rashad Jones-Jennings, who had four efforts of 20-plus, including the all-time record of 30.


Freeman

Good schedule this year to peg the team

Last year we had had too many games that we either couldn't win or couldn't lose. This year's non-conference slate looks a lot more like the Sun Belt will be. The only team that might be beyond the Belt is BYU, but we shall see how that goes. The rest of them should at least be in the ballpark of SBC teams somewhere along the ladder. The advantage, of course, is that we will know a lot better how good we really are before we hit conference play.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

We should be good in tight games

As of the beginning of this season, we will have the #5 and #10 career FT% shooters in school history - Ben Dillard and Josh Hagins, respectively. That makes me feel pretty confident about close games, especially when we can throw in Gus Leeper, who is a very good FT shooter for a big man. In fact, the lowest percentage by a player who will be returning this season was .609 by Maurius Hill, which, while it is not particular good, is far from some of the awful percentages we have had in the past.

The familiarity advantage

Leeper 4 yrs
Dillard 3 yrs
White 3 yrs
Osse 2 yrs
Hagins 2 yrs
Billings 2 yrs

These are the players who have had multiple years in the program. We talk about the experience factor and the maturity factor, and those are very important; and we have a lot of both of them this year. However, there is one other factor, and that is the number of years that players have played together on the same team under the same coach. Each year playing together in the same system lets players get to know each other, know their habits, know how they react, coordinate their timing. If they mesh well enough, they soon begin to function like the wheels in a watch. Maturity and experience can help this process along, but it will not finally happen until players actually have played together over a period of time.

If and when this condition occurs, when players know each other and are functioned like a well-oiled machine, it can sometimes overcome superior talent. There is no way to know if this year's Trojans will have that sort of instinctive timing and teamwork, but the elements are there. For instance, suppose this lineup is in the game: 1-Hagins, 2-Dillard, 3-Billings, 4-White, 5-Leeper. Those guys have been playing together for at least two years, and three of them have played together for three years, at least in practice. They know each other, and that goes a long way.