Saturday, May 25, 2019

How Nowell compares historically

Little Rock has had some outstanding point guards in our history. How does Markquis Nowell compare with them in his freshman season? We have enough data to do a little research. I am somewhat hampered doing this because I do not know which of them actually played point most of the time. For example, James Scott is on our career assists list, but never made the single season leaders list. So, I am taking those players who were among the single season leaders in assists. The only place I can get their freshman year numbers is from the 1000 point club, so they necessarily also will be on that list.

Nowell - 11.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 105 assists, 36 steals, 38.2 FG%, 35.4 3PT%, 79.2 FT%

Josh Hagins - 8.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 96 assists, 38 steals, 45.2 FG%, 33.8 3PT%, 77.0 FT%
Derek Fisher - 7.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 92 assists, 39 steals, 41.2 FG%, 29.0 3PT%, 77.2 FT%
Vaughn Williams - 7.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 80 assists, 44 steals, 46.7 FG%, 71.0 FT%

The bottom line is that Nowell compares favorably up and down the line. He did not shoot nearly as well overall, but that can be attributed somewhat to his very small size. Hopefully maturity will improve his shot selection. Considering that the three players he is being compared to are all in the top ten scorers of all time, and they are the top three career leaders in assists and steals, there is not much more you could expect of him. Statistically they qualify as the top three point guards in Little Rock history, and he goes toe to toe with them. Mark him down as a 3-star who did not disappoint.

(Now if, if, IF Nowell and Maric will stay with the program for four years and improve as they go - ah, that is sweet to think about.)

Friday, May 24, 2019

Fans at a distance

Big money programs are on television all the time, so they have no trouble keeping the interest of those fans who live at a distance - far enough that they cannot attend games regularly. But how can schools do it a little further down the food chain? Today, that is an easy answer - via the internet. You can "reach out and touch people" easily. You can keep them informed, make them feel like they belong. And it is not all that difficult. The problem is that schools just don't do it.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Walker feeling the heat

Darrell Walker ought to be feeling a lot of heat about now after the disaster that just ended. We had a lot more talent than we had wins last season, and that is not the sort of thing to inspire confidence in a head coach. Now we get to see if DW is able to learn from his mistakes. Can he improve? He should have six upperclassmen on the roster this year, so maturity will be less of an issue.

The #1 issue for me is whether or not Walker is willing to enforce on-court discipline. Is he going to allow the players to be NBA Junior, or is he going to make them play right? Is he going to let them play like they want to play so they will like him as a coach, or make them play the game right whether or not they like it? Keep an eye on the assist to turnover ratio of our point guards as an indicator of that problem.

If we don't finish next season above .500, I would be in favor of letting Walker ease back to the NBA. If it was fully Chasse Conque's decision to hire Walker, then that would make two disasters in a row under his management and he needs to cut his losses quickly. If it was not fully his decision to hire, then he may not have the full authority to fire, either. We shall see.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Tucker's tenure

Rayjon Tucker got a great deal from Little Rock. Little Rock got very little from him. There, I said it. Tucker was able to come into a situation where his abilities would get the greatest spotlight. Then he would transfer out as a hot ticket, able to go to a bigger stage. What did Little Rock get in return? Why, we got 21 losses.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Assessing recruiting

OK, so this is a stab in the dark. But it is better than nothing. What did we having coming out of this season? Nowell, Lottie, Pippins and presumably Curtis covering the point. Should be in good shape there. Lottie and Pippins at the 2. Problem. Wyatt at the 3. Problem. Bankston and Johnson at the 4. Good, but need some depth. Maric at the 5. Problem.

We who is it that we assume we having coming in.
Besovic - 5
Evans - 2
Lukic - 2
Monyyong - 4
Stulic - 2
Palmero - 3

Since these 2s are tall 2s, they can easily swing over to the 3, and Monyyong is plenty big enough for a Sun Belt 5. So we covered our immediate problems, it appears. And we may still sign another player. Monyyong appears to be the plum of the picking so far, but that is purely on paper.

Monday, May 20, 2019

That magic combination

We have had lesser coaches who were willing to stay and a couple of (later) Final Four coaches who wouldn't. Do you reckon we will ever get a coach at that level who wants to stay? Really, really tough to do, especially in these days of mega-money.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Their spots won't be handed to them

Notwithstanding the gaudy statistics that Maric and Bankston put up last season, they can't take for granted that they will have starting spots next season. The guys competing for those slots (Besovic and Monyyong) are even taller than they are, and put up some pretty good numbers themselves. And you can add Kamani Johnson into that mix.

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?