Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Big man projects

A team at our level needs to have one big man project on the roster at all times. Either someone who has a nice touch, but needs to learn positioning and the tricks of the trade (Poulter), or someone who is a good physical specimen, but who is raw (Javes). Having a good big man at our level can make such a huge difference in the team that you just cannot afford not to be constantly working with one.

Nice win over Grambling. Now let's get it done.

Conference time. The time that counts. We will see pretty quickly how  good this team is, or is not. Only one player out with injuries, and we have options to replace him. Poulter is now healthy. We should be ready to go. No excuses. Just get it done!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Kemy Osse

Whatever might be true of his game, he is an impressive-looking physical specimen. I doubt anyone is going to be muscling him out of position.

Turnover, then a foul

How often does it happen? A player makes a turnover and then immediately fouls, trying to make up for it. But it only makes it worse.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Pity the poor post men

Post players are not generally ball handlers. They do not bring the ball down court, set up the offense or distribute the ball. Unless they get a steal or a rebound, they are entirely at the mercy of the perimeter players as to whether they ever touch the ball. Today, with driving and 3-point shooting being rewarded and protected as it is, it is a wonder that the poor post players ever get to touch the ball. They ought to form a union and go on strike.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Undefeated Kentucky?

Remember before the season when all the so-called "experts" were speculating about whether or not Kentucky's hot-shot freshmen would go undefeated? Well, we are not even to the conference season yet, and they already have three loses. So much for the experts! When they get to be a little more objective and spend a lot less time slobbering over glamor, their opinions will mean a lot more.

Looking forward to James White

I see absolutely no reason that James White cannot be one of the dominant big men in the Belt his final two years here. I expect him to be that.

Dillard and Thomas

If we can get J. T. Thomas healthy and Ben Dillard playing like we know he can play, I feel pretty good about the conference season. Without that, it is a much bigger question mark.

Friday, December 27, 2013

How to ruin your RPI

Load up your schedule with money conference and non-D1 games. You don't win the money games and the others don't count.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Good time to have an easy game

If you are going to have an easy game, a good time is before you start a tough stretch. Since our first two conference games are on the road against new members of the Belt, getting to get tuned up against Grambling might be a good idea. (Assuming it does turn out to be an easy game.)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Not where I had hoped we would be

But Texas State and Arlington on the road will tell us more about this team than all the games we have played so far.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

FT shooting

This is one of our better FT shooting teams in recent years, and that gives the coaching staff advantages. Especially down the stretch in close games. With the exception of James White, our main players shoot FTs well enough to stay in a close game.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The NCAA needs to add one position

Call him the DIG. Defender of the Integrity of the Game. He has veto power over any proposed changes that would undermine the game itself in pursuit of more popularity.

Two shot blockers

With the new rules, having scorers will not be a problem. But every team is going to need TWO shot blockers. Two - because they will have to be aggressive and you have to have a back-up for foul problems.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Why would anyone coach basketball there?

At Auburn or Alabama? Sort of like being a sand salesman in the Sahara. No market.

St. Francis (NY)

As this is written, St. Francis is 6-5 on the season. This is more remarkable when one considers that they play their home games in the Generoso Pope Athletic Complex, which has a seating capacity for basketball of 1200, surely one of the smallest D-1 arenas in the nation. In their three home games so far this season they have had an average announced attendance of 365. One wonders how anyone could recruit to such a situation.

One more bench player

Our starting lineup appears to be fairly competitive at the SBC level. What we are short is one more bench player to step up and become reliable. You expect some drop-off after the starters, but ours is too steep.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ben Dillard will be a key

Ben has contributed very little so far, what with being injured for much of the season and really not hitting his stride since he has been back. But he is a veteran, knows the Shields system, and historically has been an excellent shooter. We need him back full speed.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Thoughts on our recruiting: Who is at risk?

The 1 and the 2 are in very good shape. Depth and quality.

However, with Isler graduating and Hill, Isom and Billings not doing much, the 3 is a real concern. So, that is where Jerron Washington fits in: insurance at the 3.

With White at the 4 we are in good shape for a starter, but again, Hill and Isom have yet to prove themselves, so depth here would be a concern. (Gus could slide over to the 4, but he probably will be busy at the 5.) So, that is where Andre Brown comes in: insurance at the 4.

Makes sense so far, but what about Reid? We have plenty of shooting guards. I suspect that we recruited him not because of need but because he was the best player we could get, and he certainly looks to be a great shooter. Since we are a player over, logically who we will lose will come from where we have the biggest surplus, which would be the 2 and 3 – so I would say someone there is at risk. There is always a chance that Poulter could be the player on the block, but unless we recruit yet another big man, we are so thin at the 4 and 5 that I do not see that happening. Poulter might go, but he will not be the one pushed out by the three recruits we have so far.

Best point guard tandem

I would not make the claim that we have the best point guard in the Belt: that would be claiming a lot, especially this early in the season with two newcomers. However, I think you might make a good argument that (if J. T. Thomas gets healthy) we have the best point guard corps in the conference, especially considering that Josh Hagins can play a good point when needed, and even Kemy Osse has chipped in there in the past.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Create his own shot

Every year I see tons of kids who are quick and good ball handlers who get a step on the opponent and get off a shot - and miss it. I am not impressed. Shooting the ball earns zero points, unless you can get fouled in the process and make the free throws. Someone who can create a shot AND make the shot is invaluable, but athletic kids who get open and jack up shots are a dime a dozen.

Egg on Kentucky worshippers faces

The press just fell all over themselves anointing Kentucky's freshman class as one of the greatest teams of all time. The only question evident in their minds was whether or not they would go undefeated. Well, that has fallen apart right off the bat, and I love it!

Our top seven players are producing

The problem is that once you get past those seven, there very little production at all, and those non-producing players are getting too many minutes.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Minutes have to go down

Shields is going to have to tighten up the minutes on this team at some point. There are too many people playing who are not producing. He may be waiting until conference to address it.

Just keep getting better

Game after game, win or lose. Conference season is what counts.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Great quote from the Memphis board

"If you hate the coach, whine after a win. If there's really nothing to whine about, make something up."

I drive the car I have

Since my contributions to the program could not exceed pocket change, I have zero input into who our coach ought to be. As long as the coach is not a sleezebag and runs a clean program, I do not worry about the coach. I play the hand I am dealt, and try to make the best of it. I follow the Trojans for fun, and it is not much fun being negative.

Where is the kick off the bench?

Most teams have players whose main role is to come off the bench and deliver instant offense. If the team has hit a lull, they come in and get things going again. We are really hurting for that this year. Kemy Osse does it at times, but he is so streaky offensively that he is just as likely to shoot us out of a game as to shoot it into one. Ben Dillard can shoot, but he has not found his stride yet after coming off his injury. Gus Leeper is dependable, but not an offensive force. When J. T. Thomas comes back, he is not primarily a scorer. Mareik Isom was supposed to have been that type of player, but he has not shown it yet.

We badly need a spark plug.

Turning point?

Every team that is better in the second half of the season has a game where the light comes on. Maybe last night was ours for this year. Statistically, we did not play very well, but we were playing a very good team. But mentally we were outstanding! We got after them big-time and kept coming at them until their talent and the home-crowd advantage just took over. We now know what we can do, so let's keep doing it. We need to have a week of good practices and then come out with an edge on the island trip.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Gritty performance against Memphis

The game was closer than I had expected it to be. I figured they would make a run after halftime, but we held them off until late in the game. This team is coming around. I am optimistic about conference play. We need to close out non-conference strongly.

Great description of slow-paced ball


The [Northern Iowa] Panthers want their opponents to feel like they're spending two and a half hours at the dentist. I like it!

Has this team progressed?

It is hard to tell because of the frustrating schedule with its mix of body-bag games both directions. I tend to think we are better, but not by leaps and bounds. We definitely have improved in rebounding. Our three-point shooting has recovered. Where we are getting killed is in our transition and perimeter defense. So, yes, we are better, but a long way to go.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Steel and redshirts

Pitt is one of my favorite teams because they play hard-nosed, blue collar basketball. But there are a lot of interesting things about this basketball team so far this year. First, although their schedule has not been very tough, they are undefeated. Second, of the 14 players on their roster, exactly half of them have been redshirts. Third, they have an absurdly good 1.80 team assist/turnover ratio. Who knows how they will do against conference talent when they get into the ACC season, but so far they have given us reasons to think they are pretty good.

Nicholls' team development plan

Nicholls State has not has much success in recent years, but apparently Coach J. P. Piper has come up with a program to try to get things headed in the right direction. First off, there are 18 players on the roster, so at least 5 of those are walk-ons; so he may be trying to get some "free" talent. Second, of those 18, eight are redshirts, so he is letting his talent mature before he throws it on the court. Third, since Piper is from Australia, he has always had a strong Australian connection in recruiting. Six of the players on the roster hail from down under, and several have some size, which is something he has badly needed in the past.

Why wouldn't you pad the schedule?

If I am a new coach at anything but the highest level, why wouldn’t I find a patsy schedule for the first few years? Winning creates fan interest, and most fans don’t keep up with it enough to know the quality of the schedule, anyway. Winning gets the team in the habit of winning, which is critical. Winning allows you to teach your team your system instead of being a punching bag for teams that are able to impose their system on you. Later, when you have a good culture in place, then start ramping up the schedule.

Looking forward to conference play

I still think we will be all right come conference time. This team has some talent, and we have improved since the first of the year. We are not good enough to run with higher-level teams, obviously, but I think we can compete in the Sun Belt. No one in our conference is blowing anyone away at this point, so the field should be wide open. We just need to get healthy and stay healthy.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It's about the kids

It is not about the coaches.
It DEFINITELY is not about us fans. Who cares if we are satisfied or dissatisfied?

Go Trojans!

We seem to have trouble stopping runs

When an opposing team goes on a run, we seem to have trouble bringing them out of it. Not sure why.

In Shields' system the 2 has to score

With Steve Shields' small forwards usually being rugged, defensive-minded players, it is critical that the shooting guards get some points. We absolutely cannot survive offensively if our 2's just disappear.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

You still need post players

The powers that be have done all they can to legislate post players completely out of relevance in college basketball. First there was the three-point shot, which rewards taking of lower-percentage shots, protected by the three-shot foul. Then there was the no-charge zone, which takes away the defense's option, even if they wish to sacrifice their bodies. Then there was the No Hand Check rule, which encourages perimeter players to drive with abandon. The game is being custom tailored for perimeter players. "Post players need not apply."

Well, I think you still need post players, even if they do not contribute to the so-called "exciting  basketball." The goal is still ten feet tall.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Maine International

Maine has 15 players on their roster. Of those,  seven are from foreign countries: Canada, Serbia, Nigeria, Lithuania, Germany. Interesting recruiting strategy. Might take a year two to bear fruit, though because they have no seniors and two juniors on the roster. Everyone else is an underclassman.

The NCAA does not want defense

Here is the logical proof. They changed the rules to get scoring up. They admit that. But they claim, "Oh, we want you to play defense; we just want you to do it non-physically, play 'good defense,' like they used to." Well, let us suppose that teams do that. Let us suppose that they adjust to play defense just as effectively as last year, and that scoring does not go up one bit. (Not likely to happen, but just suppose.) Would the NCAA be satisfied? No, because they want scoring up. If the change to "good defense like they used to play it" results in keeping the scores as low as they were last year, do you think they will sit pat? No, they would tweak the rules again in order to get scoring up, because THAT is what they want. They don't care a whit about "good defense like we used to play." What they want is more scoring. They want less defense.

When you have a good FT shooting team

obviously you need to get to the line as often as you can. We do, so we should. But so far we are shooting fewer FTs than our opponents. The new "no defense" rules reward players who drive, so we need to be driving, so we can get fouled, so we can take advantage of our good FT shooters.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Well-coached teams

Well-coached teams get better over the course of the year. They may have difficulties early on, but as they go they get those things worked out, and they improve.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Don't fall behind on Wisconsin

Because it is hard to catch up. They keep the pace slow, which means there are less possessions for you to work with. Plus they don't turn the ball over much. And even if they are not making their shots, because of their defense you probably are not going to be making them, either.

Body bag games do not help much

(Obviously, we are talking about non-conference games particularly here.) This is true whether we are in the bag or putting the body in the bag. There needs to be at least a little competitiveness in the game, because otherwise the team does not progress any. Even if the team you are playing is at a lower level but it very good at one particular aspect of the game (3-point shooting, e.g.), they will challenge your team to defend the three, and that is progress. If you are ahead by 30 after ten minutes, the teams totally lose focus and nothing is gained of much value.

Friday, December 6, 2013

I really like what I am seeing in James White

Mainly that he is getting rebounds. He is not the physical-looking player that you usually think of as a rebounder, but he seems to have the knack. A lot of years 6.7 rpg would have lead the team. He is shooting a pretty good percentage, and playing his position (not trying to be a 3-point shooter).

Where does he need to improve? Defensively he needs to avoid foul trouble, especially early in games. He has averaged 21.4 minutes, and we need him in there more than that, especially in critical situations in the second half of games. Also, his FT shooting could stand improvement. He is not awful, like Michael Javes was, but he can help himself and us by sharpening up his skills there.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Glue guys - they make a difference

Because of our inability as fans to notice the things that do not end up on the stat sheet, normally we do not fully appreciate what are sometimes called "glue guys." These are those players who do all the little things that produce wins but that do not make the box score - taking charges, denying the ball, being in position, etc. Furthermore, they are leaders who are hard-nosed ballplayers who by example force their teammates to greater effort. Sometimes we will look at a new season's team and say, "They did not lose much," but then they underachieve according to our estimation. Sometimes the problem is that our estimation did not include the glue guys and the qualities they bring to a team.

How are we at ice-ball?

Might get the chance this weekend at Tulsa. That reminds me that when my father played for Magazine in the early 1940's they did not even have an indoor court.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Devonte is a big plus

The injury to J. T. Thomas has forced more playing time into the lap of Devonte Smith, and it may  be a good thing in the long run, because he seems to be coming into his own. That is a big plus for us, needless to say, because every indicating coming in was that he was a top player. And we need him to be that.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

ACC/Big Ten: What could the Belt do?

Could the Sun Belt Conference set up something similar to this event? A series of games between two conferences on an annual basis, all in the same week. Ought to be fun. I don't know who the foe should be, but there are lots of candidates.

Denver is down this year

They are young - only one senior has played so far - and it shows. They can still shoot the 3, but their defense is terrible.

It's about the kids, not the coach

We seem to spend an inordinate amount of time complaining about coaches, when they do not play a single minute. It is about the kids. They are the ones being educated. Forget about the coach, for better or for worse. Leave him in the background, where he ought to be.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I just love it

when one of the schools that cares about basketball beats the dog out of one of the schools that only cares about football.

Will is 1st Team SBC

If Will Neighbour keeps playing like he has been and doesn't make First Team All-SBC, something is wrong in Dodge City.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

This team will be better come conference time.

If everyone can get healthy,we will be all right come conference time. The Belt is showing that it is not very good this year, despite our hopes. We should be competitive.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Big Five, Big Six, or Big Seven?

It will change as the season progresses, but right now this is the ranking among conferences according to Sagarin:
Big Ten
Big 12
Big East
Amer Athletic
Atlantic 10

With the big money football conferences gobbling up everything in sight, the question remains to be answered as to who are the power conferences any more. Obviously Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, SEC and Pac-12 have to be included. Can the American Athletic (the old Big East) be thrown in there? Probably not, because they never really were a power football conference anyway, and are even weaker now.

Do you include the new Big East? Remember that none of those schools has football, so they do not have any of the vast wealth that ESPN throws their direction. Yet they are currently ahead of three of the money conferences. Interesting question.

Don't beat yourself

If Podunk High School plays UCLA, the result is a foregone conclusion because UCLA has vastly greater talent. Sometimes the other team beats you, and there is nothing you can do about it. What I hate to see, though, is teams that beat themselves - by not hustling, but not concentrating and being focused, by being out of position, by stupid turnovers, by pointless fouls, by a hundred different ways that can easily be avoided - in short by not playing good basketball.

One of the things that makes college more enjoyable than college football is the likelihood of upsets. Since there are fewer people involved, it is much more likely that those few for the little guy may get hot and win the game. What I particularly love to see are smaller schools with a good coach (teacher) who just play good, fundamental basketball and sometimes beat the fancy-Dan, big money schools who can blow people away with their talent, but who are undisciplined and uncaring. Sometimes those big schools will beat themselves, and it is a huge amount of fun to watch.

There is no shame in getting beat. There is a lot of shame in beating yourself.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Every money game an opportunity

to make a big statement in the basketball world. But it is hard to do, beating one of the big guys. We have done it only twice in my tenure as a fan. Even bottom feeders in the money conferences have so much more resources than we do.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Josh Hagins will be a very good player

If he stays here four years and keeps his head on straight, he could be one of the all-time great Trojans. You can see it in his game already. He makes a lot of mistakes, like trying to be too fancy, but the game is there. If he listens to the coaches and works hard, the sky is the limit for this kid.

Revealing stat

Our opponents collectively have 77 assists against 65 turnovers. Now, that is four more turnovers than we have, which is good, but we have only 48 assists.

I would assume that when over a five-game stretch your opponents are able to make their passes for assists and are being forced into a relatively small number of turnovers, your defense is not obstructing the flow of their game very much.

Is Will Neighbour versatile?

He leads the team with 9 steals. Next best is 4.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

James White's minutes will be limited

until he learns to make some adjustments. His fouls will limit his minutes early, and his free throw shooting will limit them late.

GREAT quote about Pitt defense

LINK to article

“We outscore people by defense,” Wright said. “That's how you win the game."

Monday, November 25, 2013

There is no post-up game in college basketball

It does not exist at all. I spent the evening watching college basketball, and I could have counted on one finger (and had one finger left) the number of times a pass was made to a posted-up big man. Why bother? The guards are going to jack up three-pointers regardless. Why even have big men?

Anyone for a win streak?

OK, so it would be only two games, and it is against a SWAC team and a non-D1 team, but it is a streak. Better than no streak at all.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

More about Izzo's views on the rules

Izzo believes that’s the crux of the issue in college hoops right now. No contact is allowed, which means that defense can’t be played. The best offense, as a result, is to simply isolate your team’s best penetrator, allowing him to drive headlong into the lane and wait for an official to bail you out. That’s not entertaining. That’s not basketball. It’s a free throw contest, one that results-minded coaches are going to be forced to play to.

(from NBC Sports, College Basketball Talk)

Izzo doesn't like the new rules


And he makes a good case.

What seems undeniable is the central thesis to Izzo's complaint: that college basketball players could soon be coached as if they were rocks out of a slingshot. Hurtling players into the paint for the sole purpose of drawing contact, going to the foul line, getting points that way and repeatedly using that technique isn't basketball. But coaches will do whatever they can to win, and if this becomes the ramification of new points of emphasis with physical play, Izzo has a point. The nature of how the game is played could be changed in a way many won't find inviting.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

You will watch basketball a long time

and not see too many finishes like there was last night. Obviously a tremendous effort on the part of the Trojans, but you have to get a few breaks, too. We did, and we did, and we won.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Trojans come roaring back!!!!

14 points in the last 1:16. Then pull it out with clutch plays in OT. Outstanding win by this team. Just what we needed to get things jump-started and give us some confidence.

Larry Eustacy on the new officiating

I do not like Eustacy, but I think he got this one right.


Don't have to live by the three, BUT

if you can't make some of them, you  certainly will die by it. At least in today's game where making threes is about the only thing that counts.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I love it when run-and-gun teams get thumped

Florida State takes down VCU and their "Havoc" pressing style. VCU scores only 67 points. FSU pounds VCU on the boards 39-20.

More on recruiting focus

I still think we should go after good high school recruits when we can, but we need to be very careful about the attitude factor.  Ben Dillard, Courtney Jackson, Co Willis, Richard Hardman: all of these have been solid contributors who have stayed the full term (assuming Ben does). When you get a high school kid with a chip on his shoulder, he may be a good player, but he is going to want to be treated like a star from day one, and usually that just does not work out. If the attitude factor is not there, I had rather have a juco, who already has been through the fire.

Slower starts than finishes since D1

Started 2-6.
Finished 15-16.

Started 2-10.
Finished 10-20.

Started 4-9.
Finished 23-11

Started 1-6.
Finished 17-13

Started 3-7.
Finished 13-13

Started 1-4
Finished 16-10

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Better times ahead

As long as this team’s malaise is not because of a lack of effort, there is ever y reason to think things will turn around, at least to some degree. If the players shoot even as well as they did last season, it will be a huge improvement over where we have been so far this year. In Steve Shields’ weekly blog post, he seemed to indicate that the players were hustling and that they had been getting good looks. If that is the case, better times are ahead. It remains to be seen how much better, or how soon.

Just get better

If history means anything, the chances of our getting an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament are remote. So, to those to whom the only thing that matters in college basketball is the Big Dance, none of the non-conference mean anything other than to help the team get better for conference season. (That is not my opinion, because I am not hung up on the NCAA tournament, but a lot of folks think that.)

To folks of that persuasion, it absolutely does not matter if we win a single game in non-conference, as long as we are getting better so that we can win conference games so that we can get a better seed in the conference tournament so that we can have a better chance of going to the NCAA.

Now, I agree with the "get better" part. We have to continue to improve, game by game, week by week.

Early read on Appalachian State

(Very early). They are 1-3. No player has played taller than 6-8. They do not shoot the ball well at all. Like us, they are bricking from the arc (29.2%), but they cannot hit FTs either (56.7).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ryan Moss' monster year

In the 1997-98 season, Ryan Moss put together one of the most impressive years for a post player in Little Rock history. He averaged 14.5 points/game and 9.7 rebounds/game. He shot 65% from the field – still the all-time UALR record. For good measure, he threw in 55 blocks , which is 3rd on the all-time list.

Our best FT shooting team?

Could this be our best FT shooting in recent memory?  The best team percentage since at least 1779-80 was in 2004-05 at 72.7%. After three games we are at 78.7%.

My first time to see a Trojan game?

February 14, 2001. We played South Alabama, and lost 84-31. It was during Porter Moser's first year as a coach. The two things I remember was that their big guy from somewhere in eastern Europe ate our lunch, and that Porter drew our the last two minutes into about 30 minutes. And it was great fun.

Smaller school to watch this year?

St. Francis-Brooklyn already has wins over Miami and FAU, plus they played Syracuse to within 6.

Hired of hot dogging

Those who criticize coaches who keep things slowed down should have been at the high school game with me last night. Just a classic example of bad basketball. Sloppy. Turnovers. Bad passes. Bad shots. But we were fancy. We ran up and down the court. We probably impressed the girls.

Monday, November 18, 2013

You know you have a real fan

when your two-year-old son wanders around the house chanting, "Here we go, Warriors, here we go!"

(Ryan Jones, son of head football coach Josh Jones at Lamar, Arkansas HS)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Will's 3-point shot is back

Not much good to report so far, but that was the single biggest concern I had before the season started.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Really hard to assess this team so far

North Florida may be a little better than we thought they were, but we still did not play particularly well. We hung with Florida in the first half, but probably that had more to do with their poor play than our good play. Our perimeter players have not been able to hit the broad side of a barn so far.

The most promising things so far? The two point guards have had very few turnovers. Will Neighbour and James White had great games against Florida. We have not been able to keep Isler in the games because of excessive fouling, and our shooting guards have been downright anemic so far. If we get those kinks worked out, maybe good things will begin happening.

Interesting name

Florida has a player named Lexx Edwards. I don't think I have ever seen that one before.

If this team is injury-prone, we are in trouble

We do not have enough depth at post to fight through that. We'll see. Maybe we will be able to keep the team on the court, but this was not the year we wanted two front-liners limping.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Redshirt city

Of the 12 players on Northwestern's roster, seven are redshirts.

Non-conference toughening

There is little in our non-conference schedule to excite fans about home games, but hopefully it will go a long way toward getting the team toughened up for conference. If so, I am willing to pay the price. It will help if the team responds to it. If they do not, all it will have done is to deny the local fans of good home games.

Non D-1? Lots of folks do it.

None of us likes non-D1 games on the schedule, but a large percentage of D1 teams play them. One day this week I saw games against Chowan, Florida College, Warren Wilson and Champion Baptists. Just in one evening along. Really tough competition.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Want to know the kind of basketball I like?

See below:

South Florida

Stetson as a back-up

It looks like Stetson Billings is solidly positioned as the main back-up at the small forward position. The staff seems to have enough confidence in this defense to throw him in there just like they do Leroy Isler on the other team's primary scoring threat. And that is good. Very good. However, Stetson needs to get his offense going enough that he is not a total drain on the team from a scoring standpoint.

Good FT shooting team

We hit 18 of 21 free throws in our first game. Who knows if that rate will continue - probably not quite that good - but in the new environment in college basketball, being able to make FTs is a big plus. More fouls are going to be called this year, so teams need to be able to take advantage of it.

Isler in double figures

If Leroy can average double figures, that would be a huge plus for this team. Shields' small forwards have not been known for their offense, and that is not Isler's main role, but if he can be enough of an offensive force to draw some attention away from the primary scorers, good things will happen.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

James Reid, UALR recruit

Through four games he is averaging 63.6% from the 3-point arc and 95.2% from the FT line.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How significant is the first game?

Probably not very. Lots of teams come out of the gate sputtering and later right the ship. This loss to North Florida was disappointing, though, because it was a game we should have won. NF exposed our weaknesses and took advantage of them. We have to fix those things, or we are in for a long season. It looks to me like Gus Leeper needs to be on the floor more. James White provides offense, but he cannot stay out of foul trouble. (Couldn't last year, either.) Until he learns to play defense under control, his time will be limited.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Exciting zone offense?

The NCAA's all-wise pontiffs decided that basketball needed "more freedom of movement," so they brought in the new rules on fouls. They forgot, of course, that every opposing coach does NOT want the offense to have more freedom of movement. So how do they stop it? They switch to zone. The old rule of thumb is that against a zone you don't dribble, you pass. Is the "freedom of movement" they were wanting freedom of passing? I don't think so. They wanted freedom of dribble/drive. So coaches take away that freedom by switching to zone, and we get to watch games of passing around the perimeter and then taking 3-point shots. Spine-tingling!

Every team needs a defensive specialist

Teams that do not want to play defense and take pride in it usually do not play good defense, and it is hard to win ballgames with only a one-sided game. So every teams needs a stopper - someone who has a chip on this shoulder and is willing to do the dirty work (which usually gets little praise outside of the coaching staff).

Uniform colors

Have you ever noticed that you almost never see brown?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Very interesting - Sagarin top ten

They are not dazzled by Kentucky's All-Americans. They have them ranked 9th.

Keys from the first game

Reading too much into the first game of the season is dangerous, but I am very eager to see how this team plays right out of the bat. Especially interested in how loose we are and the flow of the game.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Just a guess - but look for even more 3s

No way to tell yet, but it may be that coaches will react to the new rules by telling their players to back off just a hair in order to react in time. And, they will play more zone in order to stop the driving. So . . . look for lots of 3-point shots. Can you spell H-O-R-S-E?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Let's be blunt, again

The rule changes were designed to penalize those teams that played tough, physical, hard-nosed defense. Pure and simple. Because the Big Wheels in power made the unilateral decision that high scoring is "good for the game."

The new season feeling

As I write, the start of the official NCAA D1 season is 35 minutes away. Feels good. The long off-season of speculation is over.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wes Unseld - "too small"

I remember distinctly reading an NBA pre-season magazine before the 1968-69 season. In previewing the Baltimore Bullets, it said that Wes Unseld was a good player, but he was just too small to play center in the NBA. Well, they missed that one. All he did was to average 10.8 points and 14 rebounds per game over a 13-year career. In that first "too small" season, he was the Rookie of the Year and also the MVP of the NBA. Sometimes the experts are just flat wrong.

Expect to see a lot more zone this year

at least until the teams get fully adjusted to the new rules.


Some might assume that I like slow-paced basketball. Not true. I like disciplined basketball. The problem is that fast-paced ball, especially with younger players, almost always turns into sloppy ball. Basketball lends itself so easily to hot-dogging, and it is just more than they can resist to start doing that. I figure that is why a lot of college coaches just keep the pace slower to keep the players under control.

There have been very disciplined running teams. Russell's Celtics. Wilt's Lakers. Reed's Knicks. Unseld's Bullets. Of course, they all started with a dominant center getting the ball out to the guards. It also required that defensive stopper in the middle so that the guards could afford to release a second earlier.


No surprise that seniors Isler and Neighbour were chosen captains. But adding J. T. Thomas was a surprise. Evidently he has some real leadership qualities.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I don't want to wait until next year

This is the year. The pieces are there. The talent is there. Just get it done!

Why I like SLU and not VCU

"SLU is everything that VCU is not - methodical, patient, and definitively unsexy."

(from a Bennet Hayes article in Sports Illustrated)

"Get back to basketball"

That is the supposed goal of the rule changes. If they want to get back to baskeball, why not eliminate the 3-point shot, so players will do something more than stand on the perimeter and bomb away. Might accomplish the same thing.

Better 3-point shooting

I know that a game of HORSE is not a real game, but from watching the Meet the  Trojans event, it looked like our 3-point shooting should be better this year. It appears that Will Neighbour has his stroke back, and if Mareik Isom can shoot under game pressures, he will be really good. Osse also shot pretty well. Again, it means nothing at this point, but it was encouraging, because last year it didn't seem like we even made them warming up.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Who will the new rules affect least and most?

It makes sense: the ones who will be affected least by the rule changes are the ones who did not foul much to start with. The ones who did foul a lot - they may be in trouble. According to The Sporting News, here are the teams with the most fouls called against them in 2012-12 who made the NCAA tournament:

Kansas State
Oklahoma State
Wichita State

Here is why I like Pitt basketball


"The names may change at Pitt, but the movie remains the same.

There's unselfishness blended with a culture of toughness, defense, and rebounding."

My kind of basketball! Blue collar. That is exactly what I want Little Rock to be.

Pitt's Jamie Dixon on the ideal point guard

From CBS Sportsline:
"James (Robinson) gives you two things  that are always going to be there. He takes care of the ball and he plays defense. That's what you look for from a point guard."

Players always look small on the court

but 6-7 is a right strapping lad up close.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Preparing for conference

I think you need a good, competitive non-conference schedule to prepare you for conference. However, I have some doubt as to how much good "body bag" games do to help a team. My experience is that game plans break down very early in such games - on both sides of the ball. The lesser team cannot carry out their game plans, and the stronger team does not have to.

Interesting year

This will be an interesting year in many respects. Can Will Neighbour finally reach the level of play we had hoped for when he arrived? How good will the incoming schools be in Belt competition? Will Steve Shields coach himself onto or off the hot seat? Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

One breakout player

All this team has to have is one break-out player to go from pretty good to really good. Not knowing who (or even if) is one of the things that causes so much hesitation in our enthusiasm and predictions. Who will it be? Will Neighbour, James White, Josh Hagins, one of the new players? Stay tuned, but if it happens, this could be an exciting year.

Friday, November 1, 2013

We will have defense problems this year - like everyone

Shields is talking about "shrinking the court." In order to defend without hands, players are going to have to help out, which, of course, will leave someone else open if the opponents are properly spaced. If we pack inside to stop the driving, opponents will have a field day from the arc. And now we do not have Javes back there as an eraser to cover up mistakes and gambles on the perimeter.

But we won't be alone in this. Everyone will be facing similar problems if they do not have a shot blocker in the middle.

Maturity is worth something

Suppose a child starts to school when he is 6 1/2 years old (many are younger than that). He would be 18 1/2 when he begins college, 19 1/2 he begins his soph year, 20 1/2 junior, and 21 1/2 when he begins his senior year. All 13 players on the roster are at least their academic age. Over half of them (Thomas, Poulter, Osse, Neighbour, Leeper, Isler, and Hill) are at least a year older than that contrived "academic age."

The Trojans need an identity

Successful basketball teams get an identity that "clicks" with their fan base. Duke is white collar. Pittsburgh is blue collar - tough, steel country. Just a couple of examples. Many could be named.

We will never be the "in" team in Arkansas, but we need to find what we are. Embrace an identity.

The most intimidating basketball face ever?

Wes Unseld

He averaged 18.9 rebounds/game over his college career.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Let's be blunt: the NCAA does not want defense

Let’s be blunt: the NCAA does not want teams to play defense. If they wanted teams to play defense, they would have the rules to make playing defense easier. They are doing everything they can to make defense more difficult. “Defense is bad. Defense is ruining the game. Defense is keeping crowd size down.” That is the conclusion of a few men who are mandating the game for the rest of us. Makes me mad!

Coaches I would love to see fail

Add to the list Andy Enfield at Southern Cal.

I'll love it if the NCAA shoots itself in the foot

In their blatant attempt to force high-scoring games, the NCAA may indeed make games more boring by dictating many more foul shots. They decided for themselves (and for us) that more scoring equals better basketball. If the actual result is more boring basketball (watching FTs is not very exciting), I am going to laugh and laugh and laugh.

Very unattractive non-conference schedule

This is the least appealing non-conference slate we have had in several years. Really, only four games have any zip, and only one of those (North Florida) is at home. Of course, if we should win one of the money games, that opinion would change immediately. But on the other hand, should we lose to Southern, that opinion would become even worse.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Go ahead - pick them ahead of us

But they do not have a Leroy Isler.

Heyday of Fayetteville punt returners

I doubt that very many Fayetteville fans know that the all-time single season leader in punt return average was Johnny Cole in 1950. He was followed by Aubrey Fowler in 1947 and Lance Alworth in 1960. Former coach Ken Hatfield's name is sprinkle through the record  book, also.

Mareik Isom at the 4

"He may be able to play some three for us depending on what happens, but his best position is a stretch four.“ That was Coach Robert Lee's assessment of Mareik Isom's place in our plans going forward.

That surprised me a little bit. His strength all along appears to have  been his 3-point shooting, and it would be a real weapon to have a 6-7 swing man. That would be a tremendous strategic advantage in a league at the level of the SBC. However, thinking about it, we have scads of perimeter players right now, but we are thin in the post. Not that Isom will be doing much posting up given his slender build, but he can slide over from the 3 and play a perimeter 4 to spell the post guys at times. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NCAA - desperate for fans?

Attendance is down all across sections of college basketball. There are just too many easier ways to be entertained these days, especially in the middle of winter. No doubt the NCAA has noticed that. So, what do they do? They go on the principle that lots of offense equals lots of fans. We shall see, but I doubt it.

New rule - changing methods or whole schemes?

Will the new defensive rules just make coaches teach different methods of defending, or will they require the coaches to revamp their entire defensive systems? I am not smart enough to know that, but coaches build systems to take advantage of the rules. I am guessing there is some revamping going on.

Defense is bad

Evidently that is the attitude of the NCAA and the media these days.

Recriting questions

Granted that we have actually signed no one yet, but if the three who have announced commitments to us do in fact sign, it makes no sense to me. True, we are losing a 3 (Isler), and the 6-6 kid could be a replacement for him.  But we also signed two shooting guards, and we have those running out our ears. Particularly with the loss of Neighbour, we will be needing help at the post  badly. Granted that Gus and James probably are the starters for next season, but where is the depth?

Mark it down

Our shot selection from the arc will be better this year. We now know who can shoot and who cannot.

Basketball is for fun

Basketball (all sport) is recreation. It is supposed to be fun. If it is not fun, then don't do it! If I cannot follow a team and enjoy it, win or lose, then I won't follow it. If the team has a coach I cannot root for, then I do not root for them. There is nothing about sports that makes or breaks my life. If my team loses, I am still free and healthy and have fifteen grandchildren. It is amazing (somewhat distressing) that so many people make themselves miserable over something that is supposed to be enjoyable.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ben Dillard makes shots

He is a step slow, and cannot create his own shots as well as some others. But when he gets them he makes them, and at a high rate. We just need to get him more shots. Same with Will Neighbour.

The invisible stats

The stats that are not kept, and therefore are not appreciated, but are nonetheless critically important are these: Passes Not Received and Shots Not Taken. How many times did the player who was being defended want the ball, but could not get it because of the defender, or wanted to take a shot, but could not get it off because of the defender. Hugely critical factor in the game that is almost entirely ignored.

How bad do we want it?

Typically teams do not lose because of a lack of desire to win come game time. They all want to win. Typically they lose because they are not willing to show the discipline needed on the practice court. The "want to" has to be during the drudgery.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Jucos: Dan Hanner on ESPN

Statistically, top 100 juco recruits are the highest variance players. They are often stars (think Pierre Jackson), but they are also often complete busts.

This should be an interesting year

in the Belt, regardless of the outcome in the standings. With new teams in the league, and more on the way, we will be learning the landscape of the future, and that should be fun.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The start of every season is exciting

No matter what the talent level, there is always the chance that every player will play at the top of his game, and the team will over-achieve. Someone does it every year, usually several teams. Fans can start the season thinking that this might be our year. We start off undefeated.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Marquette's Buzz Williams on judging recruiting classes

"You can't judge [how good a class is] until four years from now." People forget that. Stars by a recruit's name never won a single ballgame. A player may ride the bench for two years (or even three if he redshirts), then be a significant contributor his junior year and a starter his senior year. By then, however, most fans will have forgotten what recruiting class he came from. With the dazzle of the one-and-done bunch, if a player does not lead the team in scoring from the get-go, a lot of fans are all too ready to hang him as a failure.

SEMO on the rise

After being absolutely awful just a few seasons ago, Dickie Nutt has Southeast Missouri looking better. Sporting News has picked them to win their divisin in the OVC this year.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

ESPN's Jimmy Dykes talks to UALR basketball team


He makes a really good speech. Good stuff! If this team really listened to him, that could make a big difference in this year.

New recruits

One of the announced commits looks like a swing perimeter player, which is logical with Isler leaving. The other one is 6-6. If he is a physical type, that may be OK, but with Will leaving and Poulter still a totally unknown quantity, I would have liked to see a taller player. Of course, that could be still to come.

World Series rewind to 1967

Bob Gibson was in his prime when Boston and St. Louis played in the World Series. He was one year away from one of the greatest seasons a pitcher ever had.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More discipline from the arc

Once again last year we had too many people shooting 3's who were not hitting 3's. We seemed to have become much more disciplined in our shooting for a while, and then last year it fell backward. There were some reasonable explanations. First was Will Neighbour's frustrating and unexpected shooting collapse. Second was the fact that we had so many new faces that we did not know who would be the good shooters. But we should be able to designate the shooters this season, and so we ought to be much better from the arc.

Will Neighbour's bulk and strength

In his three seasons here, Will's weight has been listed as 209, 219, and 225 this season. He still is not a heavyweight by any means, but the extra 16 pounds will serve him well as he bangs with some of the bigger post men in the Belt. Assuming most of that weight is in his upper body, he should be OK.

Regarding Steve Shields

I have become somewhat dissatisfied with Steve's performance. He has reached a point where he needs to learn a few things about coaching and expand his horizons a little. However, the thing that stops me from joining the crew that are clamoring for his dismissal is that I do not know who would replace him. It could be a Huggins or a Calipari or a Pitino, and then I would be an ex-Trojan fan for a while. The best case would be for Steve to examine the weaknesses of his coaching and do better and for us to win a few more games.

Even the "smart" experts are baffled this year

We have been picked first and seventh in the Belt this year, and practically every slot in between. Admittedly the SBC is very difficult to predict this year with all the realignment turnover.

What is interesting is that there are two predictors who look as though they actually put a little thought and genuine research into their picks - those being Blue Ribbon magazine and College Sports Madness. Here is what is really puzzling: BR picks us 7th and CSM picks us first. Go figure. I can see us being first without too much trouble, but I just do not anticipate the type of collapse that would put us 7th (barring injuries, of course).

James White MUST be better this year

Everyone who has seen him agrees that James White's potential is off the charts. However, we need his potential to become reality - very quickly. With the loss of Javes and with Poulter inexperienced and injured, the post players we have must get the job done. We cannot have James just filling a gap. He has to step up and be a force inside.

Monday, October 21, 2013

If Ben Dillard had made two more 3-pointers last season

he would be the second-leading returning shooter in the Belt, behind Trent Mackey of Monroe. A lot of people just willingly ignore the fact that we have some talent on this team.

Will needs to shoot his average

It would be wonderful if Will Neighbour shot as well this year as he did his sophomore year. However, if he can just match his career average (36.6%), that should be good enough to keep opponents honest. But he cannot be below 30% like he was last year.

How good was UCLA?

back during the Wooden days? Just picture this year's Kentucky team as seniors. And they don't have an all-time great at center.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Competition at the 2

The spot which seems the least settled and potentially weakest is the 2. We pretty much know what we have at the other positions (assuming the coaches' assessment of our talent at the point is correct). Ben Dillard has been a decent 2; can he be a really good one? We shall see. But we have Ben, Hagins, Isom, and Osse, all of whom might come into play at the shooting guard position (even though Isom has been mentioned at the 4). Surely one of those will be at least reliable this year, and competition will be a good thing. We do need a 3-point shooter at that position.

Steve Shields has been slightly above average

Steve Shields has been the head coach at Little Rock for ten years. In them he has one NCAA appearance and one tie for the regular season title (lost the tie-breaker for the NIT). During those years the conference has had eleven or twelve teams, so Shields has produced both benchmarks in just better than the average. "Barely better than average" usually does not do much to excite fans. Shields needs to step up the pace. He is doing some things right. He has one of the better groups of assistant coaches around. Recruiting seems to have improved over the past couple of years. So things are looking up from several standpoints. However, Shields needs to prove that he can be adaptable in his coaching style to get the best results from his talent, instead of trying to force his talent to fit his style. If Steve can learn as a coach, some very good things could happen this year.


I am an eternal optimist. Until we lose, we are undefeated. Optimism tells me that if about four important factors break right this could be a really good team. And none of those factors is far-fetched. No one of them is a stretch to imagine happening. That is what optimism tells me.

On the other hand, realism tells me that the odds of all four of them happening in the same year is much greater. That is what has to happen for good years to become memorable years. I think this will be a good team. We would have to really shoot ourselves in the foot or suffer some critical injuries for that not to happen. Whether we can be an elite team in the Belt this year with all the quality teams that look to be at the top of the league, only time will tell. Realism tells me it will be tough.

Pessimism has no place in my thinking in sports. I do it for fun. Sometimes the worst happens, but why worry about it? If it does happen, it absolutely will not affect my life much one way or the other. From the time the pre-season magazine come out to the end of March is about six months. I spend the other months speculating, and my speculation tends to be optimistic. Why not? Why make myself miserable? If I wanted to avoid misery (and I do), I certainly would not put any importance on such an inconsequential thing as sports.

Blue Ribbon's prediction

They picked us 7th for the year. There is nothing logical about that at all. It does not make sense to me whatsoever.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

How hard did Walter Johnson throw?

At the Aberdeen Proving Grounds he was measured using the ever-popular speeding motorcycle test, once used in 1914 with Walter Johnson who reached 99.7 mph, and Feller reached 98.6 mph. 

And remember, he was coming in side-arm, and the batters did not have any of the batting helmets and other armor they wear today.


Why Little Rock will usually be underrated

They forget this.
These two pictures, along with the one of Rashad Jones-Jennings, sum up Trojan basketball to me.

Senior John Fowler is the second player in school history to receive the Sun Belt's Defensive Player of the Year award.

Sad state affairs

It is a sad commentary on the state of college basketball that six of CBS' top college big men are incoming freshmen who have never played a minute of college ball. Not arguing their picks, but if the upper-class ranks are that depleted, then one-and-done is sucking talent out of college ball by the handfuls. And the pros must not be very good if such a big number of college freshman can go directly to the NBA. Something is out of kilter here.

Speaking training

We spend no telling how much money on weight training for the players for months at a time. It seems to me that a couple of hours invested in speaking lessons would pay big dividends for the program from the public relations standpoint. Most of us are not eloquent as young men, and it is not expected that these athletes will be. But just a few simple pointers would make a world of difference.

1. Stand still, and look at your audience.
2. Speak slowly and enunciate clearly, no matter what your accent is.
3. NEVER say "you know" or "like" unless that is specifically what you intend to convey.

And a few other obvious things - but probably things that these young men have never though about, unless they are pointed out to them.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Wealth of height in Bama

Auburn has THREE seven-footers on its roster this year.

Belt media days predictions

Just a guess, but I think the coaches will pick us higher than the other experts. A couple of reasons why. We are a known commodity, and there are a lot of lesser-known schools coming into the league. Second, I think the coaches who know us respect us more than people who do not.

Quote from Georgetown's Markel Starks

“I’d rather win ugly than lose a game 80-79.” Me too, Markel, me too. But I think there are a lot of people out there who would not mind losing as long as it was higher scoring. “More entertaining basketball,” they say.

I wish they would change the transfer rule in Arkansas

Almost the only reason students transfer from one district to another is for athletics, and that is not what the law was designed to accomplish. Make the student have to make a case to the school board that there is a legitimate (non-athletic) reason for the transfer.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Will Neighbour could join an exclusive club

The 1000-Point Club is pretty exclusive, but the members who made it in less than four years is even more so. These are the players who were here for three years or less:

Pete Myers
Tom Brown
Alan Barksdale
Tony Martin
Soloman Bozeman
Johnnie Bell
Tom Butler

Before he got here, we had hoped Will would be a special player, and that definitely would make him one. Will has 646 points in two years, so he needs 354 more. We will have at least 31 games this year (assuming we make the tournament), so watch the number 11.5, which is the points per game average Will needs to have. He averaged 10.7 last year, so that would certainly seem to be within reach.

We will not be a "sexy" pick to win the conference

We never are. We play blue collar basketball, and that is never sexy (unless you live in Pittsburgh).

Myopic evaluation

The tournament-only view of evaluating basketball programs leads to tunnel vision. I have always maintained that accomplishment over the couse of an entire season is vastly more important than over a short tournament. That is something that needs to be fixed in college basketball. But I doubt it ever will be.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

John Barron

If you  follow Little Rock basketball, you see the name John Barron pop up over and over. And from the tone of the comments the players make, they seem to respect him and are willing to follow his direction. Whatever success we have, you have to assume Mr.  B. deserves a significant part of the credit.

A World Series record to remember

In 1905, Christy Mathewson pitched THREE complete game shutouts - in space of FIVE DAYS. In the three games he allowed a total of only 13 hits.

Play the best point

We have two new point guard that Steve evidently thinks are pretty good. But we need a point guard who is REALLY good. So . . . once things get sorted out and we determine who is the best, that man needs to be playing lots of minutes. Whoever is the best, keep him out there. Steve has to get over his "over-rotation" habits.

Get Ben more shots

For his career, Ben Dillard is 41 of 96 from the 3-point arc, or 42.7%. He needs to make nine more baskets to qualify for the UALR record book. When he does, if he holds that percentage, he would be the all-time leader. Alan Barksdale currently holds the record with 41.1%.

It would seem to me to be a no-brainer that we need to get Ben more shots.

Shields 3s

One common thread in Steve Shields teams has been a rugged, defensive-minded juco small forward.

John Fowler
Alex Garcia-Mendoza
Leroy Isler

Perhaps more than any others, these three players are the face of Shields' tenure as coach. They give a window into his philosophy and sum up the character of his teams. To a large extent, they are what makes his system work.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A unique player

Will Neighbour will not end his career being regarded as one of the all-time great Trojans, in all likelihood. He will be the best player over the three-year span he was here, and one of the better all-round players in my tenure as a fan. But I doubt he will make anyone's All-Time list. (That could change if his numbers are really good this season.)

It is without controversy, however, that Will is one of the more unique players we have ever had. In the first place, we have not had that many 6-10 players of any stripe, and even fewer who could actually play. To have one who can shoot, who is a good passer, and who has developed himself into a good rebounder is remarkable.

Quite frankly, the player Will has become is not the player I expected. I expected a 6-10 guard, and he definitely is not that. He shot like a guard his first year here, and his passing is above average for a big man; but his mobility and dribbling are not at all what I expected.

So, he hasn't been quite what I expected. He has still been very good. He stands a good chance of becoming one of the few 1000-point scorers in school history, and in only three years. He has skills that we may never again see in a man his size. It has been a good run. Let's hope Will finishes with a flourish!

A class program

I think Little Rock is a class program. Oh, there are some things I wish would change, but we have had very little in the way of scandals, NCAA investigations and off-court drama. Our two basketball coaches seem to be men who conduct themselves with cordiality off the court. It is a good program to root for. It is a program I am not ashamed to bring my grandchildren to root for. Go Trojans! If you have to be a Rick Pitino or a Calipari in order to have a winning program, then here's to losing! At least as far as I know, whatever we have won, we have done it right.

There is no way this is not one of the better Belt teams

Where we finish regular season or in the tournament I would not guess, but we will be toward the top of the league.

Will's 3-point shooting creates problems

For the opposing coach, that is. He has to bring someone out to guard Will. If he puts a small, quicker 3 on him, Will can shoot over him. If he puts a big man on him, he clears out the middle of one of his stoppers. Nice problem for him to have.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Poor defense

Do they EVER make a rule change to help defense? Or do we just assume that defense is bad.

Trojan basketball is fun

I have enjoyed it the whole time I have been a fan. Alltel arena was a fun place to attend games. The Jack is a GREAT place to attend games. Fan friendly. An easy place to take the family.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Golf invented in China?


Maybe the Scots don't have a claim on it.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

I love the new Big East!

A conference where basketball is king.

It helps to have seniors on a team

It just makes a difference. You could tell it last year for us. Yes, we had some leaders on the team, but when you have that "SR" by your name on the roster, you can claim some ownership.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Better get ready in a hurry!

The Little Rock men's cross country team has only three events before the Belt meet.

Just play the cards

To me, being a basketball fan is like playing a hand of cards. You have no control over the cards you get, but it is a lot of fun to see how well you can do with the cards you are dealt. I realize that in college basketball we do have some control over the "cards" we get, but recruiting is the least attractive (most sordid) aspect of the game, and the part I like the least. So I follow it, but I don't worry too much about it. Then, get the most out of the players you have - and that is the real enjoyment to me. How well did we do with what we had to work with?

It galls me

It blisters me the way the media is just anointing Kentucky with all their freshmen as the national champ before the kids have played even a single game. I hope they fall flat on their faces - again!

It can be done

The A-10 sent five teams to the NCAA tournament last season without having a single NBA draftee in the league. Pretty good use of their talent. You don't have to have super-stars to have a good team.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Non-conference season observations

We could very well come out of the non-conference season with a losing record, and still be a better team at the end of it than we were last year at the same point. This is an atypical schedule, with lots of hard game and some easy games and not nearly as many in between as the last few years. So, we will probably get our heads handed to us a few times, and win some blowouts. But this is a more mature team than last year, and we had the Canada trip to jump-start the season, so I am hopeful we will see some good things. Go Trojans!

Versatile teams

Someone on the internet pointed out that VCU's vaunted Havoc defense was impressive, but that their half-court defense was one of the worse in the country. Under Carmody, Northwestern was noted for being slavishly devoted to a single offensive scheme.

We tend to stigmatize teams as being of one type or another. That may be true of some, but a wise coach does not put all his eggs in one basket. He may prefer a particular style, but when the situation calls for it, a team needs to be prepared to change that style, at least for a while, to react to circumstances. A one-dimensional team, of whatever nature, is a team without a Plan B, and therefore is a vulnerable team.


One advantage of having the same coach for several years is that you learn how to read his non-verbal clues and how to interpret what he says. Everyone says things "between the lines," and coaches are no different. You learn how to tell if he thinks this is an OK recruit, or if he thinks this guy will be really good.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

I am not giving up on this program

We have not won as many games as I would have liked, but I have had a TON of fun following the Trojans. I will stay a far as long as we run a clean program and don't start recruiting a bunch of thugs or bring in a sleeze-bag coach.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Reading between the lines

I think we are  going to be pretty good on the perimeter this year, even though I still think the post will be the strength of this team. What makes me think so is the pre-season move of Josh Hagins to playing (at least some) shooting guard. Josh was not bad at the point last year; in fact, he was pretty good for a true freshman. So, for the usually-cautious Sheilds to make the move before even the first game tells me that he thinks the two new point guards are pretty good, and potentially even better than Hagins. Furthermore, that makes the competition at the 2 spot even stronger than it would have been, with four players competing for time there. Ought to be a good year.

Paying college athletes? It's a smoke screen.

The big money schools want it because it is another way for them to be able to shove the irritating lower-level competition aside.

Play time problems will be on the perimeter

Everyone who is healthy on the inside will get plenty of playing time. The battle will be on the perimeter, and it remains to be seen who will get it, and where.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The annual "if these players do not start" yardstick

Josh Hagins
Ben Dillard
Leroy Isler
Will Neighbour
Gus Leeper

If someone beats out any of these, it is a good sign. Someone is really stepping up.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

An idea to make the regular season mean more

The NCAA now owns the NIT. Why not declare a regular-season national champion and Final Four, and then bring that four in for the pre-season NIT the following year and really put on the dog for the mini-tournament?

Glad Shields is aware of it

With the early Canadian start, Steve Shields has specifically expressed a concern that the team could be burned out by the end of a long season, and he said he will be taking steps to prevent that. It would not be the first time that has happened, and so I am glad the coach is watching it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Why is bad baskeball "fun"?

All over the place you hear pundits singing the praise of up-tempo basketball styles because they are "fun to watch." Why is bad basketball fun to watch? Not all up-tempo is bad basketball, but very frequently it is - the tempo covers up the faults in the system. Fans seemingly will forgive anything of a team as long as they play at a fast tempo.

ESPN's Eamonn Brennan just spent a page singing the praises of VMI because their style is "thoroughly entertaining basketball," "a joy to watch" and an "immensely enjoyable system?" Yet he admitted that it results in "awful defense." In other words, it is BAD BASKETBALL. Why would I want to watch that? Why would I consider it "fun"? I can see undisciplined kids running up and down the court on any playground, jacking up shots and hot-dogging all over the place.

Lots of good teams play up-tempo, but just because a team does play up-tempo does not make it a good team, and if it plays bad basketball it is NOT fun to watch, at least not for me.

By the way, in the seven years of Digger Baucom's tenure at VMI, they are 111-107 - not exactly setting the world on fire - and in four of those seven years they have had losing records.

It's not the shot: it's the BASKET!

How many times have we seen it? A player makes a great move, gets a half-step on the man  guarding him and gets open to make his shot in the lane. He goes up, reaches the apex of his jump, knows he is going to get off a great shot - and then his brain switches off, because what his brain had in mind was to make a great shot. The problem is that the goal is not making a shot, but making a basket. Sure, you would like to get fouled, but three points is 50% better than two points. Finish the shot! - and you have to do it mentally before you can do it physically. The goal is the basket, not the shot!

Come out swinging

This team cannot afford a slow start, and we have no excuse for one. We had the Canada trip to help us, and we have upperclassmen now. The front end of the schedule is loaded with games that we likely will not win, but we cannot let that get to us. We have to come out swinging.

Monday, September 30, 2013

If nothing else

the fact that we have two seniors this year and got the Canada games ought to give us a quicker start on the season.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I hope a continuing team wins

For this one year, at least, I hope the title is won by one of the teams which has been in the Belt and will continue to be here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Once a school gets a strong pipeline

to a particular foreign country, good things can really happen. Look what McDonnell did with Ireland in track. If you can get a couple of top players from a certain country, and they have a good experience, they sometimes will tell others over there.

No defense, no play

One of the things that makes Shields' teams and his coaching methods hard to read is that he insists upon defense. His system is built around it. If you don't play defense, you don't play.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Focused but loose

That is the formula for a good tournament team. Some coaches can't get the focus. Some can't get the loose.

Steve Shields can't get the loose.

Shields' teams will always be underrated

Even by our own fans. That is just the nature of the beast as things stand now.

Who will shape the character of this team?

It is usually the case that one player is the factor that gives a team its character. He may not be the leader on the team - he may not say much - but his presence is such in the locker room and on the practice court that it permeates the roster. Who will it be here? I think we are agreed that Isler is the enforcer on this team, but will his attitude be the attitude of the team? It could be one of the point guards. It could be one of the new guys that we just do not know not. It should be interesting to see. But I am guessing we will be able to spot it as the season goes along.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Win "Skinny" Whipple - long jumper supreme

When I ran track in high school, I always kept up with the statistics. The oldest state record was in the long jump (called broad jump in the old days). It was held by Win Whipple of Arkadelphia - 24'0" - and had been in place since 1933. It stood for fifty years - perhaps the single greatest track performance in Arkansas high school history, especially when you consider that he probably really jumped several inches farther.

Whipple graduated the same year as Jesse Owens, and jumped within two inches of Owens' mark that year. Sadly, he was not able to compete much past high school because of cancer in his leg, which cost his life in 1937.

Here is a LINK to an excellent article about Whipple. Well worth the reading about an important part of Arkansas sports history.

Surely would like to beat CUSA

With four former Belt teams having bolted for Conference USA, presumably because they would be moving up in the football food chain, I really would like to see the SBC finish better than CUSA in the ratings. It will be tough. Our only hope is that that bottom of CUSA is pretty bad.

Whence the anger?

There is some genuine anger from the fan base regarding this program, and I am not really sure where the anger is directed. The “official” reason is that we have not won enough ballgames, or at least enough championships; and our accomplishments in that regard have been average at best, probably less.

However, I am going to make a guess that there are a couple of other factors that have made the anger stronger than it otherwise would have been. First is the fact that a lot of fans only like run-and-gun basketball, and so their patience naturally will be shorter with a coach who plays a style they do not like. If Steve Shields had won big, they probably would not care that much about his style; but he has been only slightly-better-than-average, and so is fair game for the critics whose patience has run out.

Second is the perceived attitude of Chris Peterson, the Athletic Director. I say “perceived” because I have never met the man and have only seen him at ballgames. There is a very real perception, however, that he only cares about big donors and is completely apathetic toward the “little” fans. Who knows if that is true, but it is how he is seen.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Steve Shields is an above-average coach

He has a way to go to be a good coach. But it is within reach if he will just lighten up a little - in the right spots - while keeping the course in the right spots.

K-State's Bruce Weber on transfers

"The mind set today is instant gratification. If they come in and it's not perfect, they transfer. It's become a sad part of college basketball."

Look for Vandy to surprise this year

I am not saying they will be among the better teams in the SEC, but they will not be as bad as you might think. They lost five starters from the good team year before last, started from scratch last season, and closed fast. Then they lost two key players from the roster during the off-season. Still, Kevin Stallings is an excellent coach, and he has some talent returning. This year will be better than last, I am thinking.

Reverse conference championships

I would LOVE to see the conference reverse the results of the regular season and the tournament. Let the regular season champ go to the NCAA, and let the tournament champ get the guaranteed NIT bid. If they would do that, I suspect the lower conference would have more success in the NCAA.

Shields' record

Steve Shields has been very close to having a memorable record in Little Rock. He has the trip to the NCAA, and two 20-win seasons. If a couple more of those 18-win seasons had been up to 20, and if he had won the regular season championship at least once, he would be on top of the heap. But as it is, he is still short.

Ben Dillard is to passive

He is a good team player, and does a lot of things fairly well, but his big value to us is his shooting. He needs to shoot more and be mroe aggressive with it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I would like to forget about the drama

in the administrative end of the program and just concentrate on the upcoming season. But quite a few loyal fans have felt like, since they were not big contributors, that they were treated as second-class citizens. Can't say I blame them.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Good quote from The Sporting News

Here is a quote about Ohio State from The Sporting News’ preseason basketball magazine: “To survive in the tournament, teams need scorers who can produce outside of the framework of a structured offense.” This is absolutely true. We had it when we had Solomon Bozeman, and we made it to the tournament. This is one things Shields does not to do well, either in recruiting or coaching.

There is another side of that coin, though. Coaches who rely too much on players’ creativity on the court often underachieve in the regular season. Fans tend not to notice that, though.

It will be fun tracking Will this season

as he heads for 1000 points.

It is a shame

that Steve Shields' generall positive public personna is being overshadowed by the greater negative aura of the athletic department in general.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Rashad Jones-Jennings

He was the best rebounder I have ever seen in person. Although no more than adequate on offense, he did work hard and got better in his second year. I remember how excited I was when we signed him, and he certainly did not disappoint.

No excuses

If this team stays healthy, there is no reason why we should not win the conference. We have the talent. Even though we are relatively young, we have enough experience now so that that is not an excuse. We just have to do it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

I know I am strange

but I get a lot more pleasure out of seeing a lock-down halfcourt defense than a slam dunk.

Basketball courts - an art form?

A lot of creativity here lately.


Fun in the Big East

The coaches in the Big East have to feel good about their situation. They are the big dogs at schools that do not have football. Even in the ACC, a large amount of the decisions that are made are controlled by football TV money. Not in the Big East. Their fan base is already talking about basketball.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Leroy locked in

Post minutes

Neighbour, Leeper, White, Hill, Poulter- those probably are the players who will see minutes at the 4 and 5 spots this year. We need Will on the court all the minutes he can stand. I hope it is 30 plus this year. With 80 minutes to use up, that leaves 50. Leeper needs to give us 20 minutes per game - I hope he can give more, but I would be satisfied with that. That leaves 30. James White needs to be on the court a lot - at least 20 minutes, maybe more. He might play a little at the 3, so let's leave it at 20. That leaves 10 minutes for Hill and Poulter. Poulter won't play much, probably, and Hill will play some at the 3, so that gives us a little wiggle room. If someone gets hurt, though, we have issues. We really need a little more depth here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lack of depth hurts on defense

You can dictate the pace on offense, but if your defensive scheme demands high levels of intensity for the entire game, it is hard to maintain that without depth. Plus, if you get players in foul trouble without depth, you have to back off for that reason. Maybe we have that depth this year. It appears as though we might on the perimeter. Less so inside.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Interesting SMU trivia from The Sporting News

The last time SMU went to the NCAA tournament was 1993 - before some of the current players were born. However, they have been to a Final Four, where they were beaten by Bill Russell & Co.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fans like me are not a motivation to the program

one way or the other. I make two or three games a year, so they are not making much money off me. On the other hand, if I quit going, it does not hurt much. I root hard, but I do not get to spend much. It appears that this administration is more concerned with the spenders than the rooters.

Who will step up?

You know someone on this team is going to take a big step forward this year. It happens almost every year on every team. That is what makes speculation intriguing. Who will it be. You figure Will and Leroy will be solid seniors, doing well the things that they do. But we have to have someone to go along with them, and there are several other players that have the potential to have a breakout year.

Big men usually come into their own in their junior years. If so, Gus Leeper is due, and that would not surprise me. James White has the physical tools to go through the roof in performance. He could very easily be an All-SBC type - soon. Ben Dillard is a pure shooter who just needs to shoot more. Kemy Osse is a physical player who could suddenly become assertive on the perimeter. Josh Hagins has the ability to be one of the best point guards this team has ever had. It absolutely would not surprise me for any of those to become a star for this team next season. And even some of the others who have not yet shown that much to their games, or the newcomers. But someone has to do it. Maybe several someones.

It would be a farce

The football conferences have a small problem. If they break away and form their own governing body, it presumably would not include the Big East, since they do not have football. But then if they have their own basketball tournament, any "championship" that did not include the Big East schools would be a complete farce.

Counting on a big year from Isler

We have had several jucos in our program over the Shields years who had really good second seasons: JJ, D'Andre Williams, Garcia-Mendoza, Shane Edwards - and the list could go on. Isler looks like another good one, and I am expecting a huge year from him.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

As long as this team stays healthy

I think they have to be one of the top two or three favorites in the league. Our fan base right now is pretty discouraged, and there is some reason for it. But I think reality tells us that this is a pretty good team. They just have to get it done.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Augustine Rubit

Here is why I am so impressed with Augustine Rubit. Anyone who averages a double/double is impressive, but  his was doubly impressive  because it was almost a 20/10 double/double. And his scoring numbers are legitimate – not high just because he is shooting a lot. He averaged 48% from the field on the year. Furthermore, he is an excellent FT shooter – just a tick below 80% last year. When they played us, our guys did a good job of keeping him pushed out in the lane, keeping him off the low block. So, he just killed us with mid-range jumpers and free throws. The guy is just lethal!

Shields is capable of lightening up

He likely will always coach too much from the sidelines. That is his style and he is not alone in that - lots of coaches do it. However, I do think he sometimes gives his players more leeway. Solo and Matt both pretty much had the green light to shoot their senior years. D'Andre did not lack for confidence on the floor his senior year.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Coaches win?

Curious when we say that a certain coach "won 500 games" in his career. He did not shoot a basket or pull down a rebound, and yet he "won" the game.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

James can help Will

James White’s potential is off the charts. If he improves enough to become a distraction for opponents in the lane, that is going to make a huge difference for Will Neighbour, because they will have to do more helping on James.

The face of the program

I know that to a lot of people, Mr. Fish is the face of UALR basketball, and certainly for good reason. But I came along as a fan after he played here, and to me these are the faces of the Trojans.

Rashad Jones-Jennings NBA

Something to work with

Yes, I do like Steve Shields as a coach – very much. But yes, I am getting impatient with Steve Shields. His inflexibility is costing the program at this point. But we shall see about that. Maybe we will win big this year and we will be happy and he will be a hero.

But even if we do not quite get over the top again and Steve moves on, voluntarily or otherwise, I think we will look back and be forced to admit that while the program has not excelled under him, it did not tank, either. We were usually in the top tier of the conference. In other words, Steve will have left a good base for the next coach to proceed from. It is easier to build from 4th place in the conference than last place.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I hate egos

I hate huge, out-of-control egos. Humility is a virtue, and I like to see it in all fields and at all levels. The UALR athletic program has the atmosphere of a huge ego involved. This is nothing I know from first-hand knowledge: it just has that feel to it. The basketball program gives off the feel that "we do not need the fans (except for the ones with deep pockets)." This is not the players nor the coaches, who have always been uniformly polite in my contact with them. It is at another level, and it needs to stop - now.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Team leaders

This will be Will's and Leroy's team this year: they are the seniors and they seem willing to accept that role. But I think the vocal leaders will be Josh Hagins.  That seems to be his personality. Just a guess.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Basketball advantage over football

Per Eddie Jordan, head coach at Rutgers: "You  couldn't play football by yourself. I had basketball courts up the street and you could always go on your own and shoot by yourself."

Free throws - the forgotten stat

Steve Shields frequently tells us that he wants his team to make more free throws than the other team shoots. I suspect most of us scoff at such a goal. After all, FTs are hardly a glamor stat like dunks or three-pointers. No one ever makes ESPN for free throws, and that automatically makes them irrelevant to most of America in today's lopsided world.

But FTs can make a huge difference in a game. Take last season. We lost 15 games, and we averaged 0.1 points/game less than our opponents. That means that we had a razor-thin margin of error. We missed 240 free throws, and we took only 3 more FT attempts than our opponents. It doesn't take a math genius to see where the opportunity lies. That was over 7 points/game that we did not take advantage of. That would have resulted in how more wins?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Breakout year?

Someone on this team will have a breakout season this year: someone almost always does. You expect Neighbour, Leeper and Isler to be steady, and they are proven quantities. The most likely candidate to step up is James White, since he has such physical skills. He just needs to be consistent.

Records that might be reached in 2013-14

Will Neighbour may make the media guide statistical lists in several categories next season.

Career Points: He would need to get 1011. He has 646 so far, so he would need 365. If we play 31 games next season, he would have to average 11.8 points/game, which would be a little more than he averaged in his first two seasons.

Career Rebounds: He has 378 and would need to get 542 to make the list. That would be 5.3 per game, which he should do.

Career Free Throws: He has 151 and would need 271 to make the list. That would be somewhat of a stretch, but it could happen.

Career Blocks: He has 58, which is already tied for 8th on the list. If he has the 32 he got last season, he would end with 90, which be tied for 5th all time.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Disgusting. He should have been booed.

Before the NWA Naturals game Saturday night, the PA announcer had one of their players take a bow for having set the franchise record for home runs in a season. During the game, that player had no hits, and came to the plate twice with the bases loaded - and struck out both times. He should have been booed roundly, but he wasn't, of course. There is no penalty for striking out. Be a bad batter. Don't do your job. Go up there swinging for the fences trying to be a hero instead of just meeting the ball and doing your job - it doesn't matter.

Oh, by the way, the Naturals lost by one run. All that batter had to do was poke the ball through the infield and his team probably would have won - but he had to swing for the fences, trying to hit a grand slam - and his team lost. That makes my blood boil!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Shields was smart

It was obvious that Steve Shields viewed the Canada trip purely as a learning experience. He was not there to win meaningless games. This team has the potential to be the best he has had since the 23-win team, and this was a great opportunity to get a jump on the season. Everyone who was healthy played a lot, which means the staff is way ahead on their assessment of where everyone fits in - a big plus. Now they can go home and fine-tune what they need to be working on. Shields was smart. He did not get side-tracked like so many of us know-nothing fans who were complaining that we did not win the first two games. Steve did not put his best team on the floor, but the team he puts on the floor come November will be better because of it.

Luck, grit, talent

There are so many factors in any championship season that it is almost impossible to predict with any confidence. Will the team stay healthy? Will there by off-the-court issues that will be distractions that are beyond your control? Luck plays such a big part. Then there is just the determination factor. Do we have the backbone for it? Can we maintain the intensity over the course of a long season without burning out come tournament time? Can we play through the inevitable "down" stretches of the season? And you have to have talent - no denying that. Is your talent good enough that IF you have good luck and IF you can stay focused you will be better than the other guys, who are trying to do the same thing?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ben Dillard - an undervalued player?

From the first time I saw him on the court, I have liked the looks of this young man. I like his manner, and I like the way he plays. His is one of those understated games. He is a long way from being flashy, but he gets the job done. I would guess that he is coachable (being a coach’s son). He is not cocky, but he looks like he is tough mentally.

The second thing I like about Ben is that he makes shots. When he makes nine more 3-pointers, he will qualify for the career list in the UALR media guide. And at his current career average (42.7%), he would be in first place by a good bit. Who knows if he will hold that average, but the kid can make shots, and he does not get near enough credit for it, in my opinion.

5 redshirts out of 13 scholarships

I like the trend  because I am in favor of redshirting, but most of those were because of injuries, so I do not like the reason for it.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tournament coaches

"His greatest strength is his ability to pace his team's development throughout the season. By March, MSU is (usually) firing on all cylinders. That's not a coincidence."

That is what ESPN's Eamonn Brennan said about Tom Izzo, and that is a compliment. He is a "tournament coach." What I regret is that a lot of very good coaches do not get the recognition they deserve because  basketball is so skewed toward end-of-the-year tournaments, as if nothing else in the season matters.

Franz Klammer - 1976 Winter Olympics

I remember vividly watching Klammer's amazing performance in the downhill in the 1976 Olympics. He was the last of the big names to ski, and was starting well behind the leader. He threw caution to the wind and skied on the edge of disaster all the way. It was something to watch. You can find it on Youtube. It is worth the watch.  Youtube link

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Investment in Poulter

Poulter likely will not play much this year, and possibly not much next year with Gus still around. However, his junior and senior years he could be a good player for us. If he is listening to Kleine and progressing, he will be worth the time and effort.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Neighbour's value

Will Neighbour led the team in minutes played last season, but it certainly was not because of his shooting. He hit only 44% from the field (not horrible but not great), but only 29% from the arc, which is pretty bad. But Will led the team in rebounding, was second in blocks and steals and third in assists. In short, he did a lot of things well and that was why he played as much as he did.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Style is not the problem

I do not believe that the style of play is the factor creating our attendance problems at Little Rock. I do not think people come out to watch a particular style of basketball. If they are Trojan fans they come out to root for the team, or else the administration makes the overall experience entertaining enough that it is worth the money. I do not know what the problem is. Hopefully if we won big for several years running a few more folks would come out, but I doubt even that would fix it. We are non-pork in a state where you have to oink. Plus, there is just so much competition for entertainment time and dollars these days with all the electronic devices. You can literally keep up with three or four games simultaneously from the comfort of your home at zero expense. That is hard to compete against.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Gus on the boards

On of the few really encouraging things on the Canada trip was the rebounding of Gus Leeper. He is hitting the boards hard, and that is one thing we had to have.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Triple doubles are really hard

Double-doubles happen all the time. Double figures in scoring only requires four baskets, and ten rebounds is not all that rare. But getting ten steals or ten assists is a little harder. Putting three of them together is difficult, especially since players that get assists and steals do not tend to get rebounds, and vice versa.

Another nightmare name for PA announcers

Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The investment in freshmen will pay off

We loaded up on freshmen in last year's recruiting class, and this probably resulted in last season being less satisfying than it might have been. But I am strongly of the opinion that this calculated risk is going to pay big dividends in the long run. Teams at our level typically rely heavily on jucos - and we went back to that pond late - but we made a statement with our freshmen. I think we will live to say it was the right choice.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

5 spot

Figure that Gus Leeper, even if he stays healthy and is as good as we hope he can be, will play about 25 minutes per game. It is just rare for a heavy big man to log more than that. With Javes gone, that leaves 15 minutes to be filled at the 5 spot. Figure that Will Neighbour slides over for 5 minutes per game when someone else plays the 4. Figure that James White slides over for 5 minutes when we play small ball. Figure that Poulter gets 5 minutes, if for no reason than to help him develop. That makes the 15 minutes Gus is not playing, and that is OK. We can handle that. Where we could have a big problem this year is if someone is having to play there more than those minutes out of necessity because of injuries or because someone is not getting it done. That could throw our whole system out of sync.

Having Neighbour play somewhere other than the 5 is one of the unique features of this team, and if he has to play more than fill-in minutes there, we will be hampered materially. James White is too small for the 5, but if he plays with the energy we have seen him have, he could be an effective undersized 5. But the idea situation is for Leeper to get it done. We really, really need him to get it done.

Gus - third year post man

Assuming he stays healthy, one reason I expect to see good things from  Gus Leeper this year is that his type of big man usually do not come into their own until they become upperclassmen.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Marshall Henderson

Why would any coach, no matter what his job situation, take a chance on this nut?

4 spot

This is Will Neighbour's domain for this year, and it is in very good hands. The do-everything forward should have at least a solid senior year. Behind him there is some talent and depth. Gus Leeper could slide over if we need to go big, and James White has a ton of talent. If we go short, Maurius Hill could fill in here. So we are in good shape. But Neighbour will get the lion's share of minutes here unless he has to move to other positions to fill gaps.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Absolutely nothing but gut feel, BUT

I think this team is going to have a little different feel from past Shields teams. They are going to be able to do more things, and do them well. I think Shields will loosen up because he can afford to loosen up.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bad time in Arkansas

College basketball in the state of Arkansas has been awful the last few years. Fayetteville has been shooting itself in the foot routinely, Pine Bluff has been on academic suspension, and UCA, Little Rock and ASU have not been blowing anyone out. Of course, all of this is irrelevant, because nothing but football matters in Arkansas, but it is discouraging for the few of us who are  basketball fans.

Small forward

We have more depth a this position than any, with fully six players who could play here, at least in a pinch. Presumably Isler will start here, but he will have lots of help. Billings got valuable experience last year and should provide some steady, if not spectacular, minutes. If we want to go big, Neighbour or White might slide over. Shields' 3's have generally been defensive-minded, rugged players, and Isler fits the mold.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It is ironic

Coaches know that they are judged almost entirely by what they do in post-season. So, it is natural that they are the most intense about post-season. However, more often than not teams will play better come tournament time if they are relaxed and loose, and the coach’s intensity can be counter-productive to that. All this logically means that the coach has to somehow act like it is not a big deal when in reality making it the biggest deal of all.

Who will the "power conferences" be this year?

The landscape has changed in college basketball (and it may be totally disrupted in the next few years). In the past there were six "money conferences," but with the evolution of the Big East, it would appear we are down to five now. But in college basketball, things are not the same as in the rest of the world. Sure the SEC has all the money, but it is entirely possible that the new Big East - which does not even have football - may be a better basketball conference. It remains to see how things will shake out, but I will be watching the Sagarin conference rankings closely.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Shooting guard

If we get a big boost offensively this year, there is a good chance it will come from the 2 spot. I look for Ben Dillard to have a big year, brought on by his experience, the fact that he is an outstanding natural shooter, and improvement at the point guard spot. The bulk of the minutes probably will be split between him and Isler when he moves over. However, Osse will get his minutes, and who knows what Isom will bring? This is one of the critical positions for the coming season.