Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Big Jake Yancey

I frequently wonder how good Jake Yancey might have been had he been able to stay for his senior year. He was a solid post man. Did his job, and did it well, if not spectacularly. He was on the first Trojan team I ever saw play. He is in the middle of the back row in the picture below.

Here is link

Monday, April 29, 2013

Scholarships to walk-ons

Occasionally in college basketball you will see a walk-on player be awarded a scholarship. It is rare, but it does happen. In a few cases, the player simply shows that he is indeed D1 caliber and the coaching staff does not want to let him get away. A player’s parents may have the financial means to pay for his college costs, and so he can go to the school where he wants to play, and take a chance on getting a scholarship. Sometimes a scholarship will be unused for whatever reason and a senior walk-on will be put on scholarship in a more-or-less honorary fashion to recognize and reward his dedication to the program, even though, all things being equal, he probably would not have been given a scholarship.

The hard fact is that players who are not signed at some level of D1 out of high school usually did not have D1 skills, and it is very rare that they play their way onto the roster. Any time it does happen, though, it is a very nice story that inevitably leaves a warm feeling with the team and the fan base.

"To win: Defend, Rebound"

That was what Rick Majerus would write on the blackboard in the dressing room before games at St. Louis. Anyone who follows college basketball knows how well it has worked for SLU.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The most underrated player ever?

Ask fans today who are the top five all-time college or pro players, and likely his name will not be thought of, let alone mentioned, and that is totally unfair.

Oscar Robertson. In his NBA career, he averaged 25 ppg, 9.5 assists/game, and 7.5 rebounds/game.

Why I like SLU basketball

"The Billikens are a defense-first team, built on grit, toughness and sharing the ball" (ESPN's Dana O'Neill). In other words, they play good basketball.

Even Mike Newell could not make it happen

Jim Harris, in his 2012 article remembering when ASU almost beat Fayetteville in the 1987 NIT, recalls that Mike Newell was very frustrated that even though his team had beaten Notre Dame the previous season and was good enough to go to the NIT Final Four that year, they still could not get any media attention. If it was not going to happen then, it probably never will happen. (At least, not without three things: a sustained run of success, a promoter deluxe involved, and a coach who has a chip in his shoulder and is not willing to play second fiddle to Fayetteville. It won't happen.)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Every reason for optimism

There is lot of reason to be optimistic about next season. We do not know who is not returning, and that could be a problem. But I see plenty of upside for every returning player, and that includes Will Neighbour. Every player just has to concentrate on being better next year. Some will whine that Steve Shields is an impediment too big to overcome, but Shields coached a team with 23 wins and another one that went to the NCAA, so his teams have had success. I grant that he needs to improve in some areas, but I do not think his shortcomings are an automatic dismissal of our capabilities next year. There is so much turnover in the league next year that it is difficult to guess where we will finish, so all we need to do is just to get better – every player, every coach.

Most fun, but not most significant

Our win in the SBC tournament in Hot Springs and trip to the NCAA probably was the most fun we have had in my tenure as a Trojan fan, but it certainly was not the most significant accomplishment. We were very mediocre that year, and really did not deserve to go to post season at all. I would consider our back-to-back 20-win season to have been a much greater feat.

Will Neighbour is going to have to step up

He has been pretty good his first two seasons here, but we felt he could have been better. "Health issues and mis-use by the coaching staff," we have said, and gave him a pass.

Well, it is his senior year, and it is time for the excuses to go away. Last chance. He needs to get healthy bring a well-rounded game next year.

We remember John Fowler as Mr. Defense, but . . .

Matt Mouzy said, "There's not a better rebounder his size anywhere." His game was far from one-dimensional.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"Mitch Mustain, this is not."

Here is the link to this story.

This is a great sports article about Rashad Jones-Jennings. If you haven't read it, you need to.

For the record, Mitch Mustain was the top high school quarterback in the country, who signed with Fayetteville, but transferred after his freshman year because his mommy did not think he was being treated with the respect he deserved.

I actually was in the crowd the night JJ got those 30 rebounds mentioned in the article. One of my favorite all-time Trojans.


Someone was after Newell's head

On January 7, 1986, the day after we had lost to Hardin-Simmons to go 4-9 on the season and only scored 56 points doing it, I will guarantee you there was someone hollering for Mike Newell's head because he was "a loser." It just goes to show how wrong fans can be.


According to Harry King, one of Steve Shields' nicknames to his friends is "Jamie," because of his similarity to actor Jamie Farr (Cpl Klinger on the M.A.S.H TV program).

A great line from Harry King

From an article of 19 March 2005:

"In his job, Steve Shields needs to be able to laugh. He is the coach of a team that doesn't onk in a state where the pig is omnipotent." Pretty well sums it up.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Good fan support in Pine Bluff

UAPB had by far the best announced home attendance in the SWAC this year (3060). This was 26% more than second-place Mississippi Valley and 77% more than the average for the league.

Neighbour's rebounding

I have never thought of rebounding as one of the strong points of Will Neighbour's game, but he will be the third-leading returning in the SBC behind Rubit and Shawn Long of ULL. Brandon Peterson is graduating and Tony Mitchell will not be in the league.

High A/TO ratios

When an teams collective opponents' assist/turnover ratio is high, the thing it tells me is that this team is not very good at taking other teams out of their offenses. They are able to get open and able to hit the open man without too much of a problem.

Did we establish a good home court advantage this year?

We had a mediocre year, but we were 13-3 at home, which is pretty good. So that, at least, was right.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Just be wrong

One of the greatest benefits of being a sports fan is the privilege of being wrong. My opinion is not worth much, but since they are generally valued as "a dime a dozen," it is worth as much as most.

Bill Self on conference reglar season championships

"I tell them, 'Why would you want to make a big deal about winning a national championship when you're not even the best team in your league?'"

Great quote from ESPN's Jason King

"The best team doesn't always end up with the national title.  But the best team always emerges as the champion of its conference."

The NCAA's biggest task

in college basketball is to make the regular season mean something.  They have marketed that one event wonderfully, but the problem is that the main thing that makes it such a huge event is the attention it gets from people who care nothing about the sport.

Are the seniors in the NCAA

so bad these days that incoming freshmen classes can by themselves allow a team to be picked #1 in pre-season polls before those kids have played a minute of D1 ball?

I am glad the recruiting season comes right after the season.

At least that way we can wind down into the off-season instead of having to go cold turkey.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

We will lose two players, at least.

But at the moment we do not know who they are. I realize that "running off" players is a common practice, but I do not like it, as long as the player is working hard. If the coach mis-evaluated him, then that is the coach's problem. But it is a common practice, evidently. Life in the fast lane.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


We want to Fayetteville so see a game last night. The temp was in the 30's. Even though we were dressed warmly, it was just uncomfortable. You expect that with football, but not with baseball.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Where basketball matters

Thirteen of the nation's 16 largest high school basketball gyms are in Indiana.

Football would not help

A lot of folks would like to have football at UALR, but I do not see why it would be a positive. Fayetteville already has the ground staked out there as far as fan loyalty is concerned. At best LR would be a sad second-best. And I think folks grossly underestimate the level of attendance that is necessary to make a program profitable, or even close to it.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Big Bluey

Kentucky and Sleezipari's crash and burn this year was one of the very most satisfying aspects of the season. I love it.

Incoming freshmen

I do not understand why people think that if incoming freshmen are not good enough to start immediately then they are not worth having. What does that say about your seniors?

Rick Reilly remembers John Wooden

(from "A Paragon rising above the Madness," one of the best sports articles ever written)

"So, sometimes, when the Madness of March gets to be too much - too many players trying to make Sports Center, too few players trying to make assists, too many coaches trying to be homeys, too few coaches willing to be mentors, too many freshmen with out-of-wedlock kids, too few freshmen willing to stay in school long enough to become men - I like to go see Coach Wooden. . . . There has never been a coach like Wooden, quiet as an April snow and square as game of checkers; loyal to one woman, one school, one way; walking around campus in his sensible shoes and Jimmy Stewart morals."

Wooden and Reilly


It is hard to assess this class accurately because we do not know who is leaving. For example, if Will Neighbour is leaving, then it doesn't matter who we bring in, it will be a net negative. Based on what we have heard, however, I think we did a good job of recruiting to our needs. We needed a reliable true point guard to spell Hagins (or vice versa). And we needed rebounding. It looks like we got both of those.

Plus, we technically have redshirt Mareik Isom and redshirt walk-ons Jalen Washington (who originally committed to a D1 school) and Mike Evans who will be playing for the first time.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The most-watched college game?

Try Michigan State and Indiana State in the 1979 NCAA tournament finals - Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

Bill Russell in 1956

"Russell could have led Topeka YMCA to the Final Four. He was that good." (Myron Medcalf of ESPN)


Why is physical, half-court basketball so frequently described as "ugly" by so many people? No matter how efficient and fundamentally sound it may be, it is "ugly basketball."

To me, that sloppy, wide-open, playground style is what is ugly. (Faster-paced ball is not always sloppy, and that is not what I am talking about - but the vast majority of the times it will be.) But you will never hear it described as ugly by the pundits, no matter how sloppy it gets. It is always "exciting." Humbug! To me it is just bad basketball.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The War Zone

My philosophy of basketball? When the opponent passes the halfcourt line, they enter The War Zone. No prisoners taken. Our end of the court is OURS. Make the other guys groan and say, "Oh, no, not again!"

Soft big men - one of my pet peeves

I realize that there are players who are 6-9 and yet are legitimate small forwards. That having been said, one of the things that irritates me most is to see a big man who is a 4 or a 5 who plays 25 minutes a game, shoots lots of 3's, and gets only 3-4 rebounds per game. What's the matter, big guy - afraid to get your hands dirty?

Doing it the hard way

The 1957 North Carolina Tarheels were one of the greatest college teams in history. They were 32-0 for the season - but played only eight home games.

Not knowing who will leave

We reportedly will sign two players, which means two players will be leaving. Until we know who they are, it is difficult to know how the changes will affect us. The best guesses at this point are Javes and Taggart, but there are conflicting reports.

Assuming that the reports are true, how will that affect us? Javes is our best shot blocker, but beyond that, his contributions have been ordinary. For the most part he is an offensive liability, shooting far more often than he should given his shooting percentage - and his free throw shooting is a national disaster. Gus Leeper is experienced and can very easily slide into the 5 spot. He is not as agile as Javes, but probably is a good bit stronger; and he is a MUCH better shooter. Will Neighbour does not need to be playing the 5 much, but he can fill in there when needed, and presumably Poulter can give us a minute here or there is needed. Plus, even James White could fill in there when we play small ball. We will be OK.

Losing Taggart will hurt more than losing Javes, and not just because of stats. Taggart is a battler. He embodies the Shields style of play. And he is versatile. We have some depth at the 3 spot, so we can fill his minutes, but I do not know how losing his leadership will affect us.

Now, if those are not the two who are leaving, all this means little.

Monday, April 15, 2013

How good were the 1972 UCLA Bruins?

Swen Nater was the back-up center - behind Bill Walton. He is the only first-round NBA Draft pick as a big man to never start a game in college.

Another successful Masters

Always a success if Tiger Woods loses.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Looks like we have a new player

Undersized power forward. Another in a LONG line of undersized power forwards. Nothing new for us.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Just my opinion

I had rather have sustained "pretty good" than flash-in-the-pan "great."

Friday, April 12, 2013

More offense!

The folks who are always hollering for more and more offense so that we can have "exciting" ballgames are the people who like to see pro golfers shoot 23 under par. Why make things difficult? Why make them work for it?

There is no right nor wrong in this. It is merely personal preference, of course, and each man has a right to his own - but I like to see offense have to work at it.

Sure, I root for the Trojans

but when the game is over I get on with life. It is a game. It is entertainment, and if entertainment keeps me frustrated, then it ceases to be entertainment.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

How much better?

Hope always springs eternal during the off-season, but I think most observers expect us to be better next year. How much better? That is the big question. I do not think it is a stretch to think we will be considerably better, and that should translate into several more than the 17 wins of this season. Will it mean post-season? Forget it. Don't even worry about it. Just make the team the best we can, and hope it is our year. The team will be better. We shall see if it is our year.


The 1971-72 undefeated (32-0) UCLA Bruins averaged winning their regular season games by 32 points.

How does the team feel about the year?

I know the team wishes it had done better - you always do unless you are undefeated. But still I wish I knew if the team had a sense of satisfaction about the season. We fans are always complaining, especially because we see things over the long run. But the team, especially this young team, basically saw only this season. How did they feel about it? Were they encouraged or embarrassed?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Lester Hudson's big night

The only recorded quadruple-double by a D1 player was by UT-Martin's Lester Hudson in 2009. Granted it was not against a D1 team, but that still is a remarkable feat.

School for pickpockets?

The two highest career steal totals are by players from Providence, John Linehan and Eric Murdock. Something in the water, perhaps?

Chico in the record books

Arkansas State's Chico Fletcher still has the 8th-best career assists/game average in D1 history.

He should be a teacher

Blake Ahearn shot  94.6% from the FT line over his career at Missouri State. He ought to become a consultant teaching how to make free throws.

Furman's place in history

Even today, Furman has two of top eight career scoring averages in NCAA history: Frank Selvy (32.5) and Darrell Floyd (32.1). Furthermore, from 1956 to 1970, those were two of the top three in history, behind only the great Oscar Robertson in 1960.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Automatic double-double

In 1964, Mel Counts of Oregon State played in 29 games and had double-doubles in all of them. That is not the record for DDs in a season, but it is the record for having the most in all of a player's games in one season.

Schoolboy Rowe and Edna

With his southern charm and eccentricities, Schoolboy Rowe became a fan favorite in Detroit. He was known as a superstitious player who carried amulets, talismans, and charms in his pockets, always picked up his glove with his left hand and even talked to the ball.

Rowe was loved particularly by female fans for his good looks and public devotion to his high-school sweetheart, Edna Mary Skinner. During a September 13, 1934, nationally broadcast interview on the Eddie Cantor radio show, Rowe asked his fiancee, "How'm I doing, Edna honey?" The line became famous, as Cantor recycled the line over and over on his broadcasts. The incident endeared Schoolboy to women across the country, but led to relentless heckling from fans and opposing players, who enjoyed taunting him with his own words: "How'm I doing, Edna?"

During his 16-game win streak in 1934, a reporter asked him for his secret, and Schoolboy responded that he would "just eat a lot of vittles, climb on that mound, wrap my fingers around the ball and say to it, 'Edna, honey, let's go.'"

Prior to the 1934 World Series, the Detroit News brought Edna to Detroit to write about baseball, Schoolboy, cooking or whatever she pleased. Pictures of Edna and Schoolboy or Edna posing with Babe Ruth were published in the newspapers, as the nation became caught up in the courtship of Schoolboy and Edna. The couple married shortly after the 1934 World Series.

Keep an eye on Wright State next season

They return all five starters from a 23-win team. Play very tough defense.

The most important focus of a coach

I do not like the three-point shot. I think it is very bad for the game, making it almost entirely one-dimensional. Fans like it; it may be good entertainment, but it is not good for basketball. Watch warm-ups and see what the players are practicing if you want proof of that.

That being said, the 3-pointer is not going away, and since it has come to be disproportionately important in the game, any coach who wants to survive has to make defending the three the main focus of his preparation. Three-point shooters are a dime a dozen these days; three-point defenders and defenses are not.

Teams are so focused on the 3 these days that many of them do not even have a Plan B if you take away that part of their game. All they know to do is keep blasting away, and the risk/reward ratio is so tilted in favor of the three by the rules of the game today and the current officiating practices that you really cannot blame them. So any team that cannot defend the three is going to be dead meat against most teams.

It seems like the bad guys always win.

I would not root for Rick Pitino to be dog-catcher because of his personal ethics (or lack thereof), but it seems like it is always those kind of guys who win ballgames, isn't it. Oh, well, maybe it just seems like it right now.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Pretty good start

Wilt Chamberlain had 31 rebounds in his first college game.

You knew he was going to be good

Lew Alcindor scored 56 points in this first varsity game. And it was not against a slouch opponent, either (Southern Cal). Pretty impressive debut.

The first college national champs?

Do you know? It was Yale in 1901. Before the NCAA tournament (and for a while after it began), the Helms Foundation designated national champions. Other national champs that you might not think of: Columbia, Dartmouth, Chicago, Navy, Montana State - and Northwestern. That's right: Northwestern, who has never been to the NCAA tournament, was the national champ back in 1931. (And that was based on their whole season's work, not on a short tournament - which is the way it ought to be.)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Wichita State showed up well for the little guys

It is getting to be a regular event for non-Big Six teams to be in the Final Four. Go little guys!

Saturday, April 6, 2013


I do not like the chaos that all this moving about causes, but it does give us something to talk about in the off-season.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Gibson in 1968

In his 19 starts from 2 June 1968 through 2 September, Bob Gibson pitched at least nine innings in each. I mean, would you want to be the manager who pulled him?

Make a note to see UAFS next season

Shooting guard Jake Toupal will be in his senior year of a sterling career. Worth seeing.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Wisconsin ball care

Of the nine players on the Wisconsin roster who logged at least 100 minutes of playing time this season, only one had an assist/turnover ratio of under 1:00. That is almost unbelievable.

It is research season

Time to study stats, study recruiting, read about teams. No games, but still lots of fun.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What I look for in stats

I look at a lot of basketball stat sheets in the course of a year, and here is how I evaluate teams.

1. Overall shooting percentage. I like to see them over 45%, and over 50% as a team is outstanding.

2. Three-point percentage. I like to see a team at least 35%, and over 40% is really hard to defense.

3. FT% should be at least 70%, and when a team gets over 75% they are exceptional.

4. I like to see at least a 3-rebound margin over opponents, and a plus-5 really pleases me.

5. A positive assist/turnover ratio as a team means that they find the open man and take care of the ball.

6. I like to see the opponents' FG% in the low 40% range, and hopefully below 40%.

7. Opponents' 3PT% needs to be below 33%, and hopefully below 30%. In today's game this is a critical number.

8. If the opponents' A/TO ratio is positive, it means that they are not doing much to disrupt their perimeter game.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tough defense - check out Savannah State

Opponents shot only 39.1% overall and 28.5% from the arc against them.

New York baseball in the old days

Must have been lots of fun with the Dodgers, Giants and Yankees in the same metro area.

Arlington rivalry?

There is every reason for UTA to develop into a nice rivalry with us. Fairly close proximity. No football. "At" school. Lost in the bright lights of other teams so that getting publicity is a problem. Lots of things in common.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Moving on up

All this moving up to higher-ranked conferences does not make the programs better programs. All it accomplishes is diluting the value of what is already there.

"Replace the coach" doesn't always work

Samford replaced their coach before last season. They were 11-19, and they did not like the deliberate style he played. So their new coach had them in post-season, right? No, they were 11-21 this year. Granted, they were very young this year.