Thursday, January 31, 2013

Rice's post woes

When your leading rebounder is your shooting guard and you are minus 12 per game on the boards as a team, you pretty well know that you need help inside.

Want to start a new conference?

According to ESPN's Andy Katz, here are just a few of the things on your "to do" list:

"There is so much to be done before the Big East 7 can start their own league, likely in the summer of 2014 when the fall sports start practice. The group has to exit the conference; deal with the financial issues; pick a commissioner; decide on which schools to invite and how many; cut a TV deal; hire staff; pick a location; create bylaws; and make schedules, to name just a few line items."

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Can Will make 1000 points?

He has 572. At a minimum, let's say he has 9 games left this year and 32 next year. He needs 428 points in 41 games, which means he needs to average 10.5 ppg for the balance, which he should do.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Neighbour stepping up

Will Neighbour is showing signs of becoming the "go to" guy offensively that we had hoped he would be. He is our leading scorer, although not by much. However, over the last five games he is averaging 13 ppg and had 24 against Florida Atlantic.

Corners still to turn this year?

What other improvements can we get out of this team this season. We are beginning to show that toughness we needed, especially on the road and when behind. Gillon is back, and so we are full speed again. Hagins has carved his place as the point guard.

Obviously, the biggest place for improvement is at the 5 spot. For whatever reason, Gus Leeper is not playing very much, and Michael Javes is not playing very well. If we can just get consistent play from this position, we might be positioned to make some post-season noise.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Leeper and Javes

As the season progresses, and presumably Gus Leeper's medical issues continue to improve, it is not clear why he is not playing more than he is. Based on limited minutes, he is the most efficient offensively of our post players, although not the most mobile. He has experience and is strong. He has had 8 minutes in the last three games. Given the fact that the non-Neighbour minutes are being divided among Javes, White and him, that may be all that are available. But given Javes' absolutely atrocious shooting from the field and at the line, it is hard to see why he is getting at least twice as many minutes as Gus.

Maybe Gus just does not have the mobility to handle the defensive assignments. Maybe his medical issues do not allow him to play more than that. Maybe Javes' defense is good enough that we are willing to endure the offensive deficit he brings in order to have it. I have no idea.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Greatest comeback?

I don't know if it was the greatest of all time, but last night's victory over FAU has to rank among the best comebacks ever by a Trojan team. Hats off to the staff and the kids.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

You expect young teams to be inconsistent

but this group has carried it to an art form.

We need a win streak

What this teams needs right now, to get some confidence headed down the stretch and to close the gap on Middle Tennessee, is a nice little win streak.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dartmouth - another youth program

They start three sophomores and two freshmen, and three of the other four players in the rotation are freshmen.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


It is early yet, but I think this team may have just a little bit of that swagger that is necessary to be a tough, good basketball team. Players like Gillon, Hagins and Isler do not appear to be daunted by much.

Monday, January 21, 2013

What makes Butler good?

What makes Butler such a good team? They are a good-shooting team – but not great. They are a good defensive team – but not great. None of their stats there are overwhelming.

They do rebound very well as a team (plus 8), but their leading rebounder has only an underwhelming 5.7/game. They also protect the ball well, having 12.2 turnovers/game and having a 1.1 A/TO ratio.

Still, nothing on their stat sheets would convince you that they were one of the top ten teams in the country. So it must be something else. They do a lot of things pretty well, but nothing superlatively well. Their strength is something intangible. Maybe their coach can tell us what it is.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The best quote about Musial

“I throw him four wide ones, then try to pick him off first base,” pitcher Preacher Roe famously said, describing the best way to attack Musial.

Maybe Stan's most impressive stat

He never struck out 50 times in a season.

Remembering Stan the Man

To those of us who grew up listening to Cardinal baseball on KMOX when the Cards were the only team in central USA, Stan Musial was indeed "The Man." One of the most consistent players in the history of the game, he has earned his place in baseball lore. But the thing that most endears him to me is that he was a true gentleman of baseball. He was a class act all the way. In professional sports there are so few today for whom you can root with a clear conscience. Jerks. Selfish. Immoral. I never heard any of that about Stan, though. To all of us from my era, at least, Stan Musial IS Cardinall baseball.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

If you are being double-teamed

then it is a mathematical certainly that someone else will be open, UNLESS said individual is standing around, or unless two or your teammates are standing so close together that one opponent can guard both.

Friday, January 18, 2013

This team needs to be ASHAMED

The Middle Tennessee game was just flat disgusting. No excuse for it. It is not shame to get beat by a better team. It is totally a shameful thing if we don't even get off the bus.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Troy illogic

Why would 38% of your shots be from the 3-point line if you are shooting only 31.1% from there as a team?

Big guys can make FTs, too

Texas State 6-10 senior center Matt Staff is 35 of 37 (94.6%) from the line this year.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why I quit following major league baseball

Too much emphasis on home runs. The steriods scandal. Outrageous salaries. I just lost interest.


Augustine Rubit of South Alabama is having a monster season. He is shooting 49.8% from the field and averaging 19.3 ppg and 10.9 rpg. And he is just a junior so presumably we will have to deal with him again next year.

Josh Hagins

He may be the best freshman prospect we have had at point during my years following the team. Now if we can just get him to stay four years - and stay healthy.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Will on the offensive boards

Neighbour leads the team by a good bit on the offensive boards, which is another tribute to his effort this year.

Monroe - hopefully improving

We need for Monroe to improve. They would be a very nice natural rivalry for us because of their proximity. They were pretty awful last year, and not a great deal better  this year. Of course, they are recovering from some neglect of the previous staff. They have some decent players, and their perimeter game is not too bad. But the tallest player who has played so far is only 6-7. Still, they have two conference wins already, including one on the road, so maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, January 14, 2013


You can sort of feel this team beginning to get a little momentum going. But that tough road trip to MT and WK could snuff it out easily enough. Wouldn't a win on that trip be wonderful!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Alone in first

This far into the conference season and we are along in first place in the West - with a bunch of freshmen, and two players injured. Pretty impressive. We may not end up there, but this is enough to make any observer say that the upside for this program in the next few years is huge.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

We finally got it!

Back to back quality games. Maybe it is a sign of good things to come.

My kingdom for a rebounder!

Got to have one. Will is doing it, but he needs to be concentrating more on his offense, because he is our most reliable offensive threat. Who will step up?

Friday, January 11, 2013

I am impressed with Will Neighbour

Certain parts of his game have not come around this year (notably 3-point shooting), but he has picked up his game in other areas such as blocks and rebounding. Without him we would have been in BIG trouble in the post. I am still concerned about his scoring effectiveness, but maybe enough help can come from other areas so that will not be critical.

Two in a row?

What I am looking for now, as a sign of maturity in this bunch, is two complete games in a row. We have been good at times, but not consistent.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

North Texas - one of the most complete games

Maybe the best game we have played so far. Who can figure out this team? Great one night, horrible the next.

Harry Caray's home run call

"It could be. It might be. IT IS!" No telling how many of those I heard growing up.

Predictions about on target

I figured we would be about a .500 team in conference play - maybe not even that good - so I have not been too disappointed with this season overall. What bothers me is that we seem to have leveled off in our improvement. We need to get moving again.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Poor Grambling

The worse of 347 Division 1 teams this year -  by a significant margin. I feel for them.  The lot of SWAC teams is a tough one. Very low budgets. Having to be the sacrificial lambs in the non-conference season to raise money for the program.

Teams that worry me

There are a couple of teams that really worry me come tournament time, those being North Texas and Western Kentucky. North Texas has a lot of talent, but just have not come together, and that could happen at any time. Western started very slowly, but have begun to shoot much better, even though they have been hindered by some key injuries.

I suppose that other teams might put us in that same kettle, although probably not to the same degree, because of our youth.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

SEC el stinko

The SEC reigns in football, and football reigns in the SEC. Their basketball is pretty bad. They are the 7th ranked conference according to Sagarin, WAY behind the Mountain West in 2nd place, and not very far ahead of 8th place Atlantic 10. Pretty sorry for schools with such a huge money base to work from.

Drexel - no

One of my biggest disappointments this year has been Drexel. Bruiser's guys just have not gotten it done. I do not know why, but they were supposed to be right at the top of their conference, and perhaps even a national factor.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Slowing improvement

I thought this team improved at a high rate of speed over the first few games, but it certainly has levelled off lately, or maybe even regressed. Not sure what has happened, but unless we want the conference season to be a complete bust, we had better get it moving again.

Beating ourselves

This team has been beating itself lately - losing games that they ought to be winning. It is not shame when you just get beat by superior talent or by a team that happens to be hot on a given night, but it is bad when you ought to win and do not because you do not play like you should play.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

This team needs to grow up - fast.

They have had 17 games now to get used to the college game. The bright lights should be old hat by now. Time for excuses is over. Time to get it done.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Josh Hagins

After a somewhat shaky start, Josh is coming along nicely. His assist/turnover ratio is up to 1.52, which is not where you would like it to be, but not bad for a true freshman. I think he is our point guard of the future, and could end up being one of the better ones in Little Rock history. I am high on Josh.

Tackling - a lost art?

I don't follow football, but I have watched a few of the bowl games. Don't they teach kids to tackle any more?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Nick Zachery - interesting stat

Zachery certainly was not known for his defense while at  Little Rock. He was one of the more prolific three-point shooters we have had during his abbreviated stay. However, he is sixth on the career steals list with 116, even though he did not have any single season that made that list.

Deepest team

This is far and away the deepest team we have had in my tenure as a fan. Not even close.

Players who love to play defense

I love watching players who obviously enjoy playing defense. Good basketball.

Passing the eye test

Steve Shields’ teams typically do not pass the “eye test,” that is, they tend not to look flashy and athletic and thus fans (and hopefully opponents) underrate them. I suspect opposing coaches who are familiar with his teams do not underrate them. All this is in keeping with Steve’s defense-first philosophy, of course.

One downside to this has been that “eye test” teams typically do better at tournament times than non-eye test teams, because they have crunch time scorers. However, this group may have overcome that deficiency. James White is as impressive an athlete on the court as I have seen in Little Rock, and John Gillon has the same quickness/shooter combination that Solomon Bozeman had. What we are lacking at the moment is a go-to post-up scorer. Javes does not seem willing to it, and presently without his 3-point shots falling, Will Neighbour has been reduced to fade-away jump shots and is not effective at all offensively. It is possible that Gus Leeper can fill this role. He is strong enough, and has a nice touch. In limited play, he is 4 for 7 from the field so far. But we have to get the ball to him in the post for him to do it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Not many ballhawks lately

One thing we have not had much of in Little Rock lately are ballhawks - experts at getting steals. The only entry in the Top 11 single season steals list since '95-'96 is Zack Wright in '05-'06 in sixth place.

Everyone seems to love playground ball.


A new year. Time to get in gear.

This team has half a season under their belts, with lots more play time than freshmen normally get. Time to drop the excuses and get with it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The State of the Program

It is January 1, so perhaps it is time for a State of the Program entry. Little Rock is comfortably situated as a slightly-better-than-average mid-level program. We are a clean program, with no controversy, not making the headlines for the wrong reasons, and I really appreciate that, because I would not want to root for the other sort of program. Better to be OK and clean than good and dirty.

That having been said, we need to improve. Everyone on the roster is a first or second year player, so right now we are looking at the future, assuming most of them stay around. You would expect that with experience and maturity, the accomplishments of this group the next two or three years should be excellent. So, in terms of talent, the future looks very bright. I expect us to be in the top tier of the conference for the next three years at least.

My main concern about this program is the high turnover in the roster. We have far too many players who do not stay around, and I do not like that, no matter what the reason. Even if it is epidemic among most programs these days, I still do not like it. Steve needs to address that, and the AD needs to make him address it.

I think our coaching staff is excellent. I do not think that Shields is a good tournament coach, and to this point he has not recruited many good tournament players. He is a good regular season coach, and he recruits good regular season players, and I put MUCH more stock in the regular season than on tournaments, so I do not mind that so much. Tournaments are just gravy. However, a lot of fans look only at the tournaments, and they are frustrated, and I do not blame them.

Where should this program be? It is reasonable to expect that if we are not in the top three of four teams in the Belt we consider that to be a bad down year. I would expect that we would win the tournament more often than the average Belt team. What I most want us to do, and what we have not done since I have  been a fan, is to win the outright regular season championship. It is time for that. We need to move to the next level, and that is my main measure of the "next level."

Where will we end up?

At out level of competition, the big question for a team is whether or not it continues to improve throughout the season, so that it peaks at tournament time. This team is not very good right now, but I think we are better than when the season began. However, we seem to have hit a plateau, and I am concerned that we need to pick up the pace again in the conference season. The talent is there. The problem will be from the neck up - or in the heart.