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.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Enforcer

Shields' teams have been good when we had a physical, no-nonsense defender on the team (the "Fowler factor"). His teams have been better when they also had a scorer (Solo, Shane Edwards). Isler is the enforcer on this team, the irresistible force that moves everyone forward. Who will be the scorer? Maybe Will Neighbour, but more likely Neighbour plus someone else. Remains to be seen who steps up.

Every dog has his day

This is our day (year)!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Texas State

They lost 22 games last season, so they will be rebuilding. However, they do return four starters. Plus, they have a highly-regarded new coach.