Friday, June 27, 2008

Maybe one of these days

In the 1967 recruiting class for Western Kentucky, Jim McDaniels recalls that six of the Kentucky All-Star team agreed among themselves to go to Western, because they all wanted to go to the same school. That is pretty remarkable considering the domination of the University of Kentucky in college basketball in those days, and since. McDaniels said that he never really considered going anywhere else except WKU. They had a great team back then, of course, culminating in their double-overtime loss to Villanova in the 1971 Final Four.
All of us Little Rock fans live in hope that someday – soon – we will have a top-level Arkansas high school player who will go to UALR because that is where he has always wanted to go – his favorite team. He grew up a Trojan fan and always wanted to play there. By “top-level” I mean one that Fayetteville and comparable programs were pulling out all the stops to sign.
The SBC is a long ways from being Univ. of Kentucky, and so for WKU to get that kind of a recruiting class was a real coup. They have been among the class of the SBC for a long time, but for a brief time they moved up into the national elite.
We were a double-overtime win from moving into the Sweet 16 one time, but as anyone can tell you, even from being in the Top 16 is a long step from the Top 4. WKU got there with a huge recruiting class. It can be done. Maybe I will live to see it at Little Rock.
Getting a program to the next level is usually a series of incremental steps. WKU took a huge step forward with one great class. We may not get there like that, but we are coming off the first 20-win season in a long time. We can’t let that fall to the ground, but must take it and run with it.

I like our roster

This looks like a strong team going into next season. Four starters return (based on minutes played). We lose only Mr. Akins from last season's top five. Plus, Shane Edwards, Matt Mouzy, Derrick Bails and LaMarvon Jackson all return from the bench, all having a least 139 minutes from last year. We addressed two significant concerns in our recruiting, that being depth at point and rebounding. We ought to be even better defensively, since the main players will not have to get into sync with each other as was the case last season. So, the early problems with getting the line-up set shouldn't have to happen this year. How good we are will depend to a large extent upon whether or not someone steps up offensively. I will predict that if one of our major players takes a giant step forward in his play this season and the others improve as might be expected, this team will be in the hunt for post-season.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Defense gets overlooked

Good defensive teams almost always get under-rated because defense is much harder to quantify than offense. Maybe the coaches know, and vote accordingly in pre-season polls, but the fans hardly ever do. Stats such as "charges taken" or "shots not allowed" don't show up in fans' consciousness.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Why I like defense

Although I am not a coach nor a guru of the details of the game, in the two sports I follow to any degree, it is not the things that get on Sports Center that interest me. Take baseball: if I want to see home runs, I'll go to batting practice. Really exciting, isn't it, to watch a man jog around the basepaths? Not! Defense and the other subtleties of the sports are the things most fans don't catch very well - and thus do not clamor for - but the things which make the sports really interesting. A well-turned double play. The extra effort to stretch a double into a triple. Being in the right position on the field before the pitch it made, and on and on. Same way in basketball. That is why, to me, home runs and dunks are BORING. You can watch those on any playground.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The good old days - they really were

I have told my sons for years that they are not likely to see college basketball like I saw it unless something fundamental changes to keep players in college for four years. What is the likelihood of seeing Maravich and Calvin Murphy both averaging over 40 ppg in the same season? Can you imagine seeing Elvin Hayes and Alcindor go head-to-head twice in one season? Not likely.

In 2007 ESPN ranked the ten greatest college teams of all time. Two were from the 1990’s, none more recent than 1996 – 12 years ago. All the rest were 1982 or before. Seven of the Top 10 teams were 1976 or before. Doing the math, that is 32 years ago – an entire generation – and thus my contention that we probably will never see college basketball like that again.

In 1956, Bill Russell had FIFTY rebounds in the semi-finals and finals of the NCAA tournament. Imagine that today! The 1972 UCLA Bruins averaged winning by a margin of 32 points per game. All of the 1960 Ohio State starters played at least two years in the pros – including Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek and Larry Siegfried. Sometimes the good old days really were the good old days.

Starting games

I know that getting to be announced as a starter is a big deal to the players, but to me as a fan it is irrelevant, almost completely. I look at minutes played. Who was playing at the start of the game doesn't matter; it is who played the most.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The silence is deafening

Why do we have a complete information vacuum with this program the first half of the off-season every year? I realize the staff needs a vacation as much as anyone, but a human interest story every once in a while, or something, would be nice for us long-suffering fans.

Recruiting hype

I guessing that in a big majority of press releases about new recruits there is a line something like this: "He is a fine person and comes from a great family." Well, we hope so. That definitely would be best. But you wonder, if that is true, why seemingly so many of them (although a small number as a percentage) get into trouble with the law or the coaches. Wouldn't it be funny to see a press release: "He is one step away from being a thug and his family is totally disfunctional, but he is a great basketball player, so we recruited him."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Point guard

We have had some lively discussions as to who will play the most point guard next season. Hard to know. I think Stevie will see a lot more time at the 2 next year because of his shooting, but Patterson is not overwhelming at the point. He is steady and reliable, but just is not that key that really makes things happen. Matt Mouzy or James Scott might see a few minutes as the third option, which we do need, because an injury reducing the team to only one point guard is a major problem. I just don't get the feeling of the floor direction being in a lock-down under-control mode as it was back in the Graber days. We don't have a pure point guard yet.