Wednesday, July 29, 2015

SEC will be better, but it is shallow improvement

The SEC will be better next season. They have the money to throw at basketball, and some of the schools are doing so. It will be a shallow improvement, however, because their fan base (except for Kentucky, Vanderbilt and maybe Missouri) does not care about basketball beyond their school. The rest will cheer because they have nothing else to do until spring football starts, and promptly forget about it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Bob Gibson - what might have been

I never saw film of his play, but Bob Gibson (of baseball fame) earned a full basketball scholarship to Creighton after his All-State high school career at Lincoln. Gibson graduated from Creighton having scored 1,272 points across 63 games (20.2 ppg). He played for a short while with the Harlem Globetrotters.

UIC's dress code

New UIC head coach Steve McClain was asked about this by Sports Illustrated.

"Well, just walk in and be a presentable student. I want professors to look at my players as student-athletes. I don't ever want one of my kids to walk into a class and have a professor go, "That one of the basketball players. I want them to look at my guys like, that 's a first-class organization."

I understand McClain's desire. On the one hand, he doesn't want his players looking like a bunch of thugs, and on the other hand he doesn't want them looking like jocks, either. Just students. On the other hand, when you are 6-9, as a couple of his players are, it is hard not to stand out in a classroom.

Money games next season?

Next year (2016-17) might be the year to load up on money games, because we might just have the talent to win a few of them. As things stand now, we will have seven scholarship seniors, and this year's big incoming class will have had a year to learn the system and each other. Normally you play those games understanding that you are probably going to get beat up, but wouldn't it be nice to get paid to beat them?

Monday, July 27, 2015

I wonder if there is any correlation

Of the top eight conference in the country (as ranked by RealTimeRPI), the best two were the two with only ten teams - Big 12 and Big East. I wonder if that means that less works better. (Of course, the Ivy League only has eight teams, and it was 15th.)

20 wins in a money conference: What does that mean?

How much does it mean when a money conference team wins 20 games. Of course, that all depends upon its schedule. But take Fayetteville for example. They won 27 games this last year, and that is a good season by any standard. However, they played 13 non-conference games. Of those, only three were against money conference teams. So, logically, that ought to translate to half the 20 wins right there. But say for example that a few of those non-MC games were against some of the better of those teams, which they were, i.e. SMU, Iona and Dayton. That still leaves seven “guaranteed” wins out of non-conference. Then they played 19 conference games, including the tournament. So they had to go 13-6 in conference games to get to 20 wins. Even though that does not mean they had to dominate, they still had to be decent. So, 20 wins in the money conferences is not hugely impressive, it still means something, as long as the team does not “buy” all 13 of those non-conference games.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Overlooked player

Somewhere on this vast roster is a player who will give us critical minutes this season and who will be a key to our success - unexpectedly. Most of us will have picked out the players we expect to start or to contribute in a major way. But we will miss someone. Someone will have developed in the off-season, or taken that next step up in his game, or just get playing time by sheer hard work. Who will he be? Don't ask me. If I knew, he wouldn't be unexpected.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How fast was Rapid Robert Feller?

The machine, called the "Lumiline Chronograph," used photoelectric cells to clock the object that passed through the device's opening. Feller's second pitch was the fastest one, clocked at 98.6 mph. Here's a photo of Feller throwing into the machine. Weintraub writes:
However, since the machine measured the speed of the ball as it passed through its sensors, unlike modern radar guns that clock the ball as it leaves the pitcher's hand, it actually flew much harder. Some estimates put the fastball at 101-103 mph, others as high as 107.6 mph.
Feller then started the game (and lost).
I have serious doubts about the 107 mph estimate. For one thing, if Feller threw that hard, or something close to it, I think that would be reflected more in the numbers. He didn't even have the highest strikeout rate in the league in 1946; that belonged to Newhouser, who struck out 8.46 batters per nine innings compared to Feller's 8.44. Now, Newhouser was no slouch, a two-time MVP who also finished second in the voting in 1946 (Feller was sixth). He probably had the second-best fastball of that era. But nobody asked him to throw into the Lumiline Chronograph. Plus, it's hard to know, 70 years later, how precise the Lumiline Chronograph was. On the other hand, it's also possible that Feller didn't throw as hard in 1946 as he did in 1938 or 1939. Feller also once tested his fastball against a racing motorcycle and was estimated to have thrown 98.6 mph that time as well (or 104 mph by some modern estimates).
There seems little doubt that Feller had one of the hardest fastballs of all time. I'll buy that he could throw 100 mph, although it's impossible to know whether he did that consistently within games.

The most for your money - Thomas Brandsma

Of all the types of recruits a team might get, perhaps those with which you get the most bang for your buck are players who come with coaches, who transfer to a new school when the coach gets a job there. Thomas Brandsma falls into that category. In cases such at this, the player already knows the coach and vice versa, and they presumably like each other, since the player went with the coach. The player knows the coach's system and the coach knows how the player fits into his system and what his strengths and weaknesses are. The learning curve is almost nil, and so those players can be instrumental in helping all the other players in the new system. I am glad we had a kid who thought enough of Coach Beard to come with him.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Basil Shabazz and curve balls

Shabazz is considered by many one of the most talented athletes ever to come out of the state of Arkansas. For some reason, he chose baseball to pursue. We got to see him play once at Ray Winder Field in Little Rock. His first time up, he roped a drive off the fence and if I remember correctly ended up at third  with a clean triple.

For the rest of the game, he saw nothing but curve balls. Well, whether or not he actually saw them I cannot say, but he did not hit any of them. He made it to the Texas League for a couple of seasons, and that ended his career. I do not know if curve balls played a part in the end, but his batting average was anemic at that level.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

We need to be patient on the name change

Within the basketball world, yes, we can be adamant that we be referred to as "Little Rock." But locally, we will have to use some forbearance. The school, after all, is not named Little Rock. It is  the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, or UALR. Little Rock is a city. And so when people refer to the school they are not going to give the name of a city, and it may be hard to break that habit when local folks refer to the athletic program.

But the sports media do need to get it right.

Keep an eye on Northwestern

Yes, Northwestern does have a national championship,  but that was back in 1931, before the NCAA tournament came into play. Today they could hardly be called a powerhouse, never having made the NCAA tournament - the only money conference team never to have done so. However, some pundits are saying that this could be the year for the Wildcats. Their talent has been slowly improving, and they were were at least competitive in the Big Ten last season. They had a Top 100 freshman this past season (the first in 20 years), and have another coming in this season. If things break right, we might watch a little bit of history this season.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Bellweather programs

Except to the fans of those programs, it gets a little boring to see the same names in the Top 25 of college basketball year after year. Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and North Carolina may be very good teams, but it does get a tiresome seeing them atop the polls year after year. A little variety is supposed to be the spice of life. So, it is nice, over the last few years, to see a few new names invading the elite programs. For example, here lately we have seen Wichita State and Iowa State in the headlines a lot, and that was not the case five years ago.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

So you don't think defense is important?

In 1999-00, our leading scorers were Stan Blackmon, Laverne Smith, and Alan Barksdale.  Opponents shot 49.3% overall and 37.7% from the arc. We won four games.

In 2000-01, our leading scorers were Stan Blackmon, Laverne Smith, and Alan Barksdale.  Opponents shot 40.4% overall and 29.3% from the arc. We won 18 games. Just because we got a coach who made the same kids play defense.

What will be the strength of this team?

I don't know at this point. Might be several things. But I hope it is toughness. If it is toughness, we win the SBC.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Dog days

We are into the hot days of summer. Dog days, they call them. Dog days for basketball fans, also. Nothing going on, other than occasional news of staff changes and rumors of recruiting.

Friday, July 17, 2015

You can take this principle too far

From the Atlantic-10 review by CBS' Jon Rothstein:
"[LaSalle Coach John] Giannini has always believed in putting his best guys on the floor regardless of position."

Well, I understand the principle, but you might carry that too far. What if your five best players were all big inside guys? Who would bring the ball down the floor?

Observations about recruiting from Maine coach Bob Walsh

"You know why recruiting is hard?  Because we are talking about a 12 day window in July where we are trying to see as many kids as possible.  You can watch the kids play, but you aren’t allowed to have contact with them, so it’s not as easy to get to know them.  And recruiting is happening earlier and earlier.  With 351 schools having 13 scholarships each at the Division I level, say you are talking about 3-4 scholarships per school per year.  You are really only talking about 1,000-1,300 D1 basketball scholarships for college seniors across the country.  It’s highly competitive.  So it makes sense that kids are grabbing them up quickly.  For that reason, it happens earlier and earlier, so you have to evaluate early and quickly."


The final test for Bo Ryan

Ryan's great team from last season lost a huge amount of talent to graduation and the NBA. Sure, he has a couple of key players returning, but will that be enough to continue his unbroken streak of never having finished lower than fourth in the Big Ten? National pundits are generally picking Wisconsin to finish in the Top 25 in pre-season polls, but I suspect a lot of those are merely "courtesy pick," mainly to honor the coach going into his final season.

However, Ryan has been through this scenario before - losing lots of talent and still doing well. The main reason is because he is a teacher, and because he teaches his philosophy and relies on good execution of that philosophy than upon overwhelming talent. So, we shall see. How will Coach do in his final try?