Wednesday, October 31, 2012

For a change

The strength of this team has to be its post players - the first time in recent memory that that can be said.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Easier said than done, BUT

Among the things basketball players ought to be able to do are:
1. Break the press
2. Make free throws
3. Box out for rebounds
(just to name a few)

It is distressing to see how many of the fundamentals are absent in college basketball today.

If

IF we stay healthy, we should be fair. IF our point guards are reliable, we should be pretty good. IF a couple of our post guys take a giant step forward, we might be quite good.

Given Shields emphasis on defense

I will be very surprised if four of the starters in the first game are not returning players. It takes a little while to learn the system, and Steve places a premium on defense. If you don't play D, you don't play.

Martin

UTM is a good pick for our first game. We ought to be able to beat them, and maybe our point guard situation can get sorted out a little in that game before we move on to more potent rivals.

Bold statement

I do not really expect all of this to happen, but IF one of our point guards is the real deal, and IF Will Neighbour and Gus Leeper get and stay healthy, and IF Michael Javes' game takes the step forward it should - we could challenge North Texas for the division title. Now, getting all that done is a large bite to chew.

Another good year for the little guys?

One thing that makes college basketball such fun is the possibility of big upsets. Much more so than football, because there are so many less players involved. The last few years lower-level teams have made some noise at a high level. Can they do it again this year? The A-10 looks poised. Who else?

Freshman points

The success of this team probably will come down to two factors. First, will they stay healthy? Second, will one of the true freshman point guards get the job done? That question cannot get answered too soon.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Programs I love to see lose

Kentucky (anyone who would even let Calipari on campus)
UNLV
Memphis (see above)
We will add to the list later.

Wisconsin took a hit

Starting point guard out for the year.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Zeller

I swear that Cody Zeller of Indiana looks like he is about 14 years old!

CBSSports.com experts tab Indiana's Cody Zeller as the best big man in the country. (US Presswire)

The face of the Trojans

For most of the long time fans, Fish is the "face" of the Trojans, and with good reason. But since I was not following them back then, that "face" for me is Rashad Jones-Jennings or John Fowler.

I know we are young

But if Kentucky's freshmen can put it together well enough to win a national championship, our freshmen ought to be able to do it at the Sun Belt level. Or at least be competitive.

No credit

The players who won't get the credit are the "junk" players - who dive for loose balls, take charges, block out, keep their man from getting off his shot by fierce defense. They win championships, but it will be the dunkers and the three-point shooters (the "white collar" players) who will make the highlights.

How well can they teach?

With the pressure to win, modern day coaches are generally not valued for how well they can teach the game. (Recruiting is much more important.) But that will be exactly what our coaches are going to have to do this year - in a big hurry.

Whatever we do

Please do not play the kids until they are completely healthy. Better to have them late than re-injured and never.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Post

Assuming everyone stays healthy, this team definitely will have more talent and depth at post than any Trojan team since I have followed them.

Great program to root for

Clean program. Some degree of success. Great fun, and great program to follow. Go Trojans.

Health

Get healed up! That is going to be critical to this season.

Not just the players

Burn the Horse called practice a "baptism under fire" for the players, which is very true. But the same is true for the coaches. They have a lot to teach - in a hurry. Pulling the conference season this far forward really is tough on the younger teams. Not sure if I like that.

Hats off to Burn the Horse

http://burnthehorse.blogspot.com/

This is our main source of reliable information about the program. I don't know what we would do without him. Great resource.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Javes

I am expecting Michael Javes to make a big leap forward in performance. He is in his second year of D1, typically the year of the most improvement. Plus he was raw to start with, and he will have had a year with Big Joe to help him.

Ignorance is bliss

It is wonderful to have lots of opinions on basketball, but no one to hold you accountable, since you do not know anything to start with.

Little credit?

Burn the Horse points out that in the last few years we have had only two players on the Pre-season First Team, but have had four on the post-season list. I guess our guys just get underrated. It figures with Shields' approach, and what he gets out of his players.

One thing I do not understand

Noel


If you can jump this high, why do you try to get fancy, and let the big guy block it? Go up with both hands and slam it home!

Drop step and dunk! Drop step and dunk! Wilt and Bill R. made a good living at it.

Brooklyn

In Leroy Isler the Trojans have one of those storied NYC players who are supposed to have a playground toughness about them, a real edge to their game, a no-fear swagger. If he fits the mold, he ought to fit right into Shields' blue-collar philosophy.

Injuries and walk-ons

I hope it doesn't come to that, but with all the injuries we have been having, this may be a good year to have four walk-ons on the roster.

Odd as it sounds

All of a sudden I am not in a hurry for the season to start, because we need all the time we can get in order to get everyone healthy and so that all our freshmen can learn all they can before game time.

Injuries

The number of injuries this team is having this year is starting to worry me.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How good a coach has Bo Ryan been?

Wisconsin has not had a Final Four during his tenure, but:

They have made five Sweet 16 appearances in the last ten years. The only teams with more are Duke, Kansas, Michigan State and NC.

They have finished fourth or better during all eleven of Bo's years. The only longer streak was from 1920 to 1932.

Pitt - is it back

Watch closely this year to see if the the toughness returns to the Pitt basketball team. They have been known for hard-nosed defensive basketball. The lane was a war zone. Will they get the swagger back?

The Achilles heel of the 3

Tulsa's Scottie Haralson shot 40.7% from the arc last year (good in anybody's book), but shot only 26 free throws. That is the weak shot of teams that live by the 3: they generally don't put the opponents in any foul trouble.

Where Joe will matter most

Joe Kleine's real value  to this team this year will be with Javes, Leeper and Poulter. Those are the back-to-the-basket types. If he can help them develop a legit post game, that will be a huge plus for the team.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Neighbour - get healthy!

Will Neighbour's history in his relationship with Little Rock has been one of injuries. Now they tell us he has an ankle sprain. Hurry up and get well, Will. With all the young kids, we need you full speed.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Somewhere

Somewhere in Little Rock a team is developing into a force. Wish I knew what was going on.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Recruiting and drafting

Recruiting and drafting are the lifeblood of sports. In baseball, get pitchers, catchers and shortstops. Nothing else matters. If you have quality there, you can make the rest of it work. In basketball, recruit centers and point guards. The rest of them you can find anywhere.

Speculation

In many spheres of life, speculation is a dangerous thing, because we need to deal in truth - in hard facts. But in sports, speculation costs nothing. "What will happen? Who was best?" Endless questions that flesh out the game.

Martin starting lineup

Just mark it down. Listen for the Little Rock starting lineup in the Martin game, and if a freshman starts at any position other than point guard, the talent level of this team is what we had hoped it might be.

All coming together?

A while back Steve Shields hired Joe Kleine as an assistant coach. But Joe has had little talent to work with, especially true big-man talent. Maybe, just maybe, this year we finally have the talent. Teams at our level have to get talent that is undeveloped most of the time, but that does not mean the natural instincts are not there. We have already seen what Will Neighbour can do. Michael Javes could turn out to be a dominant big man - he seems to have those sort of natural skills. Andrew Poulter has a nice touch and true center size. Gus Leeper has the size and has already shown a few indications of what he might be capable of doing. James White is said to have unusual athleticism. The raw material seems to be there now. All right, Joe, let's let it done!

SBC

I have the feeling that the Belt will hold its own among the conferences, but I do not have any idea that it will make a big upward move.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Speaking of defense

Speaking of defense, if college basketball teams care as little about it as college football teams seem to this year, we may be seeing games of 130-120 on a regular basis.

Alabama

I don't follow college football much at all, and I don't like Alabama, but I hope they win it all because they are one of the few teams around that really care about playing defense.

Best newcomer?

Who will be the best of the newcomers? My best uninformed guess would be James White or one of the point guards.

Fundamentals

Shields teams generally have emphasized good fundamentals, although he has not always been able to get the great athleticism. Hopefully one of the reasons the staff seems to be so high on this unheralded class is that they were taught good fundamentals in high school. Throw in a couple of players who seem have have above-average athleticism, and the class could be ahead of the curve. We certainly need for them to be.

Pitt

Watch Pitt come roaring back this year. Last year was an aberration. Count on it!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Anticipation

The arrival of a new baby is of vastly greater importance than the arrival of a new basketball season, but the feelings of anticipation do have some degree of similarity.

For fun

I follow college basketball (especially Little Rock) for fun. It is recreation for me. I am an avid fan, but my happiness does not depend upon their winning games. Win or lose, I root for them, and enjoy the games, and help satisfy my penchant for orderliness by keeping up with the stats. When sports becomes more than just fun, then it ceases to be fun, and has moved out of its sphere of usefulness (if it has any).

Friday, October 19, 2012

The shame

There is no shame in getting beat; sometimes you play teams that are better than you are. No need to hang your heads for losing. You should be ashamed, however, if you beat yourselves. If you play less than you are capable of playing, then you beat yourselves, and that is a shame.

Butler better

Rivals picked Butler to finish 5th in its first year in the A-10, but I think it will beat that. I think they underestimate the impact of Rotnei Clarke's arrival (whom they don't even pick on the all-conference first team).

ACC winner

Rivals declares the ACC the biggest winner in the realignment battles because of thea ddition of Syracues, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame (in all but football), and that is hard to argue with. And it is good to see a league in which basketball really matters be the winner in a battle caused solely by football.

What's in a name?

Due to the realignment nonsense, the Atlantic 10 now has 16 teams, but then, what's in a name, anyway?

Speaking of the A-10, it is one of my favorite leagues, because it is a baskeball conference, and one that is rapidly threatening to move into the territory of the Big Six conferences, which it probably would do if the bottom of the league were better.

Tough times for the academies

The last season in which Army had a winning record was 1984-85. Navy's current losing streak stands at 22.

Final Four

I guess I had better go out on the line and pick my Final Four before the season begins. I'll go with Indiana, Louisville, Kentucky and Baylor. Baylor would be my dark horse pick; the other three would be popular choices. (I don't like any of them, but there you are.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Surprise team

I think it is logical to assume that we stand a pretty good chance of being the surprise team in the Belt this year, if for no other reason than the large number of new players we have. Without a big-name recruiting class, no one would have any idea how good we might be.

Think about it

You reward a player for taking a low-percentage shot by protecting him with a 3-shot foul. It makes no sense at all.

Back to 3-point defense

Once again. There is just no getting around it. The biggest feature in modern basketball is the fact that the 3-point shot is valued far too highly. Given the fact that good shooters are a dime a dozen, and that a low-percentage shot is being rewarded with a 50% premium, and that the shooters are protected from being challenged by the completely unjustifiable 3-shot free throw - by far the biggest challenge facing coaches must be perimeter defense. The rules committee has got the game skewed all out of proportion.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Free Throws?

We have had players who could get to the line, and some of them could make FTs when they got there (Courtney a notable exception). Last year it was D'Andre. Who will it be this year? Probably not Will; his style does not lend itself to that. Probably not Dillard, because he also is more of a perimeter shooter. Maybe one of the freshmen point guards, both of whom are reputed to be good at the line, or maybe Gus underneath.

Will

I am especially eager to find out how much better a healthy Will Neighbour is than an injured one.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Small and big?

Michigan coach Beilein: "I don't like preparing for teams that can go small or big quickly, and do them both effectively."

This might be the first year since I have followed the team that we will be able to do that - and it would be a huge plus. Javes, Gus, Will - and switch quickly over to Will, White, Taggart.

Offenses

The 3-point shot is where the wide-open passing offense is in terms of defenses being able to handle it. Some day some basketball defensive genius will come up with the answer to the 3-point shot, and it will immediately become much less of a factor - but we haven't got there yet.

I still say that as long as basketball rewards the taking of bad shots (which the 3-point shot does), basketball will focus on that and not on the full range of basketball skills. It is bad for basketball.

Another great name

Illinois center Nnanna Egwu

If healthy

If this team stays healthy, we will surprise some folks this year. Mark it down.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Next year

I am eager to see how this team comes together, but in all reality, next year is probably the year when we should be really good - if the new guys are the real deal. Will will  be a senior, and the team will have at least a little experience on board by then. IF we can stay healthy.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Notre Dame - again

It must be in the charter of Notre Dame that they are required to have a big, broad-shouldered, red-headed post player on their basketball team. Again this year. Jack Cooley.

Jack Cooley

Practice starts in two days!

I am READY.

Lowest Sagarin

I always kind of enjoy watching to see how the team does that had the worst Sagarin ranking the previous season. So . . . keep an eye on Grambling, who was #345 in 2012-13.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

WAC/Great West

Rumors of the possibility of the WAC combining with the Great West conference. Sort of makes sense. The WAC is just trying to survive at this point.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Realignment

Basketball (and all the other sports) have really gotten a raw deal from all the greed brought on by swarming for football TV dollars. I hope every school that prostituted itself in this process loses its shirt because of it.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Football

I am not a huge football fan and do not follow it closely at all - except for Lamar and Magazine high schools. Go Warriors! Go Rattlers!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Who Is the Best? interesting question

Burn The Horse has a "Who was the best" group of polls going right now. Interesting how different people view that poll. Is it asking who had the greatest career, or who was the best player at the peak of his career?

Defense

I am glad there are coaches out there who insist that players play defense, if they expect to play.

Better this year?

Last year we were 3-10 before conference play started. It was a decent, but not an overwhelming schedule. Only one "non-winnable" game in that stretch (Michigan State). I hope we can do better this year, but with the injuries and the inexperience, it will be tough

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

St. John's names

St. John's wins the prize this season for interesting given names:
God'sgift Achiusa
Sir'Dominic Pointer.