Thursday, May 30, 2013

ULL's Shawn Long

Long is one of the players in the Belt who would appear to have the most upside. He is 6-9 and will be a sophomore next season. He averaged 15.5 ppg and 10.2 rpg as a freshman, which is pretty remarkable in itself. Throw in 65 blocks.

Long's main shortcoming is his tendency to try to shoot from the arc, where he is not very good (31.1%). Why their coach allows a talented big man to waste himself blasting away from the outside, I cannot understand. He need to stay with what brung him and be a beast underneath.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

SEC's problem?

ESPN article

Eamonn Brennan article on the SEC's basketball woes. Here is a quote:

"Is there a systemic flaw in league? What is the problem, exactly? "

Of course there is a flaw! The SEC does not care about basketball, except for Kentucky and Vanderbilt, and maybe Missouri. The average sports fan in the SEC would not lose one minute of sleep if their basketball team was horrible, as long as football was winning.

I was really proud of Will Neighbour this past year

For whatever reason, his 3-point would not fall consistently this year, and that greatly limited his offensive effectiveness. However, mainly through hard work, he developed his rebounding ability and was a force on the boards for us. It just goes to show that if Plan A is not working, switch to Plan B and get it done!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Be careful who you mug

In 1973, Jack Dempsey, at 78 years old, was leaving his famous Jack Dempsey’s Broadway Restaurant, in Manhattan, to go home, when a mugger hurried into his cab after him. Before he could demand money, Dempsey turned around, socked his left hook across the man’s chin, and knocked him sprawling out of the car, out cold in the gutter. Dempsey closed the door and the cab drove off.

James White

I think everyone agrees that James White has the most upside of anyone on the roster. He can be as good as he wants to be. He needs to work on his mid-range jumper so that it becomes as near automatic as possible, and he needs to work on finishing, so that when he gets down low he will either score or get fouled. In other words, he does not need to worry about being athletic or showy, but just good. He already has the athletic part.

Any help he can give on rebounding will be a plus. He is not built to be your classic rebounder, but his quickness and jumping ability ought to make him able to get his share of them.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Dead period

The time after the recruiting season ends until the roster is finalized has to be the deadest time of the year for a college basketball fan.

Friday, May 24, 2013

What I learned off the old Information Please radio show

A quiz show from back in the 1930's and 1940's.

If the Commissioner of baseball had to be replaced, and the owners were deadlocked, the deciding vote would be cast by the President of the United States. I do not know if that is true, but that is what they said.

Bob Gibson - workhorse

For the six years incompassing his first 20-win season through his last 20-win season, Bob Gibson pitched in 200 games and 1667 innings, or an average of 8 1/3 innings per start. Imagine someone doing that today! In that stretch he started 198 games and completed 129 of them, or 65% of his starts!

Although Gibson was known as a fierce competitor who did not hesitate to brush back hitters, his control was such that he hit only 102 batters in the 528 games in which he appeared.

Buzz Williams on establishing a culture

Marquette coach Buzz Williams:

"Culture is everything. . . . When what you say is schoed throughout, whether it be a manager of a guy off the bench or a starter, that's when it's working."

Which is a better recruiting pitch?

1. You ought to be able to play right away.

2. You are going to be on a team that is good enough that you probably are not going to play much right away.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Next year will tell

I am not surprised that we did not run off a lot of players this past year. Shields had a young team and thus had the luxury of playing a lot of people to see what they could do. Next year the pressure will be higher, however, and so he is going to have to keep his better players on the court a lot more of the time, so I expect the minutes/game of the top five to go up considerably. That could mean that we will lose some of those who end up on the short end.

Where do we hang our hat?

What has been the defining qualilty of Little Rock basketball under Steve Shields? The only thing I can think of at which we have been good consistently has been perimeter defense.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I like the new Belt tournament format

It goes a good way toward rewarding teams for quality regular seasons. Only eight teams going to the conference tournament, and four teams getting byes, the top two all the way to the semis. Good move!

Sometimes losing one player can make a big difference

Drexel lost only one player from the 2011-12 team that went 29-7, and looked like they were poised to make a big splash on the basketball scene this past season. Their talented point guard was back, and three of their top four scorers.

The problem is that the one player they lost was Samme Givens. He was only 6-5 - an undersized power forward - and scored only 11.6 ppg and garnered only 7.9 rpg; but he was the cog that make the whole machine run, evidently. This past year Drexel fell to 13-18.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Josh Hagins

Hagins was a solid point guard last year, very good for a freshman in fact. But he was not spectacular. He will get better, especially now that he has some strong competition coming in. His assist/turnover ratio was good (1.57), but it does need to improve. His 3-point shooting was acceptable (33.8%) was that definitely needs to improve. I expect to see him be considerably better next year.

Monday, May 20, 2013


The more I see of him, the less I like about Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson. I cannot see that he is the guy for the job.

Courtney Jackson graduated

We learned today that Courtney Jackson got his diploma. He was a quiet, no-nonsense, hard-working Trojan. One of my favorites. Congratulations to him.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Stan Heath needs to put a leash on Victor Rudd

South Florida admittedly is an offensively-challenged team, but they do not have to be as bad as they are. Victor Rudd was their leading scorer, but he killed them. He is 6-9, and when a guy that tall shoots 38.6% overall, you can be sure that things are not good, particularly when that same guy made the second-most 3-point attempts on the team and hit only 27.3%. Stan Heath needs to have a heart-to-heart with him, assign him a role and make him stick to it. He was not a great rebounder, but at least he was decent, and they will need him to do more of that with the loss of Toarlyn Fitzpatrick. Rudd needs to concentrate on where he can help the team and stop playing around with things that are killing them.

I hope we get top talent

but I am glad we don't have to prostitute ourselves to the extent the big boys do going after the one-and-dones.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

To run or not to run

You don't run the break because it is fun or because fans like it or because it makes easier to recruit a certain type of player. You run because sometimes it is good basketball and it helps you to win games. Obviously, sometimes it is NOT good basketball to run and it does NOT help you win ballgames.

A good coach knows the difference. A great coach is able to teach his players when it is the proper time to run and the proper time to hold up - and that evidently is a hard thing to teach. Basketball players by the nature of the game like to show off, and they get to show off when they run, so they like to run. When running leads to a high-percentage basket or a foul on the other team, it was good basketball. When it leads to turnovers and sloppy play, it is not good basketball. When slowing down misses opportunities for easy points, you are playing into the hands of the opponent and looking a gift horse in the mouth.

OK, coach, teach them the difference - that ain't my job.

Shields needs to be under pressure

He needs to win. Don't ask me what the measure stick is, but he needs to do it.

OK, I'll stick my neck out and set a standard. This year we need to win 20 games AND make it to the conference semi-finals at least. Either this year or next we we need to win either the NIT or the NCAA berths.

UMKC's lack of defense

When a player shoots 40.2% from the 3-point arc, he is a good shooter. When an entire team shoots 40.2% from the arc, that is really outstanding. When the “team” that shoots that is your opponents in the aggregate, that means that you play TERRIBLE defense. To some degree defense needs size and quickness, but the biggest part is intensity and focus, and proper teaching.

UMKC’s opponents shot 40.2% from the arc this year. That is inexcusable in a coach. They did not excuse it, and now they have a new coach.

The ACC is in for a rude awakening

when the Pitt Panthers hit town. Physical, intimidating. War zone in the lane.

Farewell, Taggart

We have learned from Burn The Horse link that Taggart Lockhart will not be returning due to medical issues. I hate to hear that, both for him and for the team. He is my kind of Trojan - tough, hard-working, physical, tough-nosed. We will miss you, Tag. Best wishes.

Vanderbilt will be better

At the beginning of this past season, Vandy was just flat awful! However, they improved markedly over the course of the season until at the end they were very competitive in the SEC. They are still one of those "soft," one-dimensional, white-collar teams, meaning that all they want to do it hover around the arc and shoot the three. They will generally get beat on the boards and outmuscled inside and basically "out-physicalled." But historically they have been able to shoot, and that covers a multitude of sins. Look for them to pick up next year where they left off and be a lot better over the course of the season, if for no other reason than that they return basically their entire roster.

Monday, May 13, 2013

One idea for the regualar season

One thing that would help college basketball is to award regular season AND tournament championships. Do not de-emphasize the tournament; just put more emphasis on the regular season. The NCAA could not do it, since it a regular season award would be subjective; but someone like the AP needs to do it. Have an awards ceremony and make it a big deal. Give a BIG trophy.

Defending the home court in Pine Bluff

As usual, Pine Bluff this last season took it on the chin in the non-conference season in order to raise money for the department. They played all twelve of their non-conference games away from home (three at neutral sites), and one only one of them. But when they finally got home, they were 9-0.

Some teams have that hungry look

They want to win, and you can tell it in their eyes, almost. What will this one have?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

You ALWAYS want a defensive stopper

You have to have a man whom you can put on the other team's most dangerous scorer and keep him under control, at least. If you can't do that, you can never force the other team into Plan B, and Plan B generally does not work as well as Plan A, or it would be Plan A. If you can force them into Plan B, you have a good chance to win, but without a defensive stopper you usually cannot get them into Plan B.

John Fowler

Friday, May 10, 2013

Trivia stat, for what it is worth

We are the only team who will be in the Belt next season who had three players with at least 30 blocks. Unusual distinction for us.

Pulling scholarships

I have mixed feelings on the subject of coaches pulling recruits' scholarships because of underperformance. (I have NO problems with them pulling schollys for misbehavior of whatever kind.) After all, many, if not most, academic scholarships are contingent on the student maintaining a certain grade point average. In other words, if the student does not perform to a certain level, the scholarship is gone. So to that extent, I understand.

The problem is that the basketball player was recruited. It was the coach that assessed his ability in the first place. That is not true in an academic situation. As long as the player is working hard, why should he be penalized because of the coach's inability to determine talent.

On the other hand, athletics is perhaps the only discipline in which the coach's livelihood is directly and immediately affected by the student's performance. So, if the coach is to be held responsible for the team's performance, should he not be allowed to upgrade that performance as a whole?

There are points on both sides.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I can identify with UIC

UIC coach Howard Moore: "We want to be Chicago's  blue-collar team, the team the city can identify with."

We are blue collar, and we would like to be Little Rock's team. Much the same.

Coach Moore

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Shields has to grow as a coach

There are some things I really like about Steve Shields as a coach. He has a defense-first philosophy, which I love. He apparently runs a clean program, which is a must for me. Most of the players who stick around in his program appear to be high-character individuals. I really like that. And there are other things.

There are a few things Shields is going to have to do better in order for the program to take "the next step," though. He is going to have to do more of his coaching in practice and less in the game. His players tend to be hesitant, and I suspect that is because of his coaching style. Especially at tournament time, that is a real problem. And even though I like the more disciplined game, he is going to have to teach his players to take advantage of fast-break opportunities more. There are easy baskets that we too often pass up.

They love The Mayor in Iowa

He was a hero when he played there, and now he is a hero as a coach.

Why have a regular season?

The way college basketball is currently organized, why even bother having a regular season. We have gone to great lengths to make it mean absolutely nothing - oops, well, it does affect seeding in the year-end tournaments. Well, you play the tournament for money. If that is the case, why do you go to such lengths to make it meaningless, so that fans will pay little attention to it?

The season starts in November. All of it is important. College basketball needs to stop rolling over and playing dead for football.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why we love Butler

"In a sport often stuck somewhere between a cesspool and a sewer, the Butler Way has become synonymous with the Right Way, above board and done with high-character playres who reflet their high-character coach."

from "Stevens continues to elevate Butler," by ESPN's Dana O'Neil

Will Neighbour

Will has  been our best player over the past two seasons, but he has not been as good as he can be. His health has hindered him a great deal, and it will be nice to see what he can do if completely healthy. Also, for some inexplicable reason, his 3-point shot went south last year. He had been one of the most dangerous long-range shooters around his sophomore year, and then became sub-par last year. What was the cause? That is the $64 question. If he can get his stroke back, and if he is completely healthy, he should be a candidate for Player of the Year. If he is, we will have a very good season. If he is only Above Average, then someone else on the team is going to have to step up considerably to take up the slack.

Part of Will's problem is that, even though because of his height the person guarding him is going to have to be tall, Will is not quick enough to take him off the dribble to any extent. That greatly limits his game. On the other hand, very often the person guarding him will be 3-4 inches shorter than he is, which gives him a clear look at the basket for his shots.

He needs to develop his offensive game to include something other than 3-pointers and fall-away jumpers. Opponents have him pegged because of his offensive limitations, and that makes him much easier to guard.

Monday, May 6, 2013

One of the most frustrating parts of the yearly cycle

Not knowing what the roster will be for next year. Hard to speculate without definite information.

So far, so good

I like what I have read about the three programs that will be entering the Belt next season. They may not completely replace in quality the teams that are leaving, but they do show promise.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Here's how Jeff Goodman grades Sun Belt hires

I included the "to be" SBC schools.

Georgia Southern

Hire: Mark Byington -- Was passed over for the College of Charleston job a year ago despite spending the previous nine seasons at the school as an assistant -- including a half-dozen under Bobby Cremins. Was with James Johnson at Virginia Tech this past season, but got the job at Georgia Southern largely due to the reputation he had within the Southern Conference.
Grade: B-

South Alabama

Hire: Matthew Graves -- Never got enough credit for Butler's incredible run to consecutive championship games, but Graves was a vital part of the program's success over the last few years. He is smart, has done a terrific job evaluating talent, and has watched and learned from Brad Stevens. He also made a terrific hire on his staff of Ronald Nored, the former Butler guard who grew up in Alabama.
Grade: A-

Texas State

Hire: Danny Kaspar -- He's one of the best X's and O's guys in the country, but few know it because he's been at Stephen F. Austin for the past 13 years. He has won at least 20 games in five of the past six seasons, went to the NCAA tournament in 2009 and left with a 246-141 record. This isn't a good hire by athletic director Larry Teis; it's a great one.
Grade: A


Hire: Phil Cunningham -- Was on Rick Stansbury's staff for a dozen years at Mississippi State before landing at Western Kentucky this past season. He worked with athletic director John Hartwell at Georgia State back when Cunningham was on Lefty Driesell's staff.
Grade: B-

A scowl to rival Sutton's?

Nah, not yet - but he is working on it.

Friday, May 3, 2013

I am still very proud of this
Sun Belt Men's Cross Country Champs

May be a good time not to have scholarship vacancies

Given our budget issues, this may be a good time not to have a lot of scholarship slots to fill. I have no idea how that would affect money for recruiting, but it cannot help.

Switched from baseball

Baseball is actually my favorite sport. It is a social game, a thinking man's game. However, I became so disgusted by the mega-bucks paid to major league players, the steroids scandal, and the way that home runs are the only thing that matters, that I have switched to college basketball.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Defense will matter at Texas State

Danny Kaspar is the new coach at Texas State. Over the last three years, his Stephen F. Austin team were among the top 3 teams in the nation in scoring defense. They were also in the top ten this past year in FG% defense.

Matthew Graves at USA

He was Brad Stevens' top assistant at Butler. Butler is one of those schools that has successfully installed a culture and a system that produces results every year regardless of the personnel involved. They teach disciplined and unselfish ball. If Graves bought into that system completely, and if he is capable of installing it at USA, they could be in for a good run.

Here is a question for Burn The Horse to answer

How did Jalen Washington end up in Little Rock as a walk-on? He appears to be a decent player - good enough to have at least one D1 offer.

Anderson needs to be careful

It sounds like Fayetteville's Mike Anderson may be getting a reputation as a coach that big men do not want to play for. He needs to try to counteract that immediately, because his mentor, Nolan Richardson, never won big until he had a dominant big man, notwithstanding his style.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

One reason that I am sympathetic to Steve Shields

is that he came up the hard way. He was not one of these pretty-boy assistants who was a member of a Final Four team who played for a legendary coach and had his way paved easy for him. He came up through the juco ranks, served his time as an assistant, and finally got his chance. Nothing glitzy about him.

Student section

If may have been just my imagination, but it seemed to me like the student section was better this year. Better attendance and more vocal. Good for them!

Shields used his bench too much this year

There has to be some differentiation in the ability between the first five and the second five, and the best five need to get starters minutes. Our starters did not get that sort of play time. In fairness to Shields, given the inexperienced nature of the team, this may have been by design, allowing the team to sort itself out in a year when we were not expected to do much. But if it continues next season, it will not make any sense. We do not play a fast pace of offense, and our guys should not get tired enough to prevent them playing the usual minutes.

Will just has to have a decent year from the arc

SBC coaches know about Will Neighbour. They know the sort of year shooting he had year before last. He does not have to return to that level of shooting to be effective: even if he makes the averages of one very good year and one bad year (36.6%), that will be enough to make coaches give high-level attention to him on the perimeter again.