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.