Friday, November 29, 2013

Big Five, Big Six, or Big Seven?

It will change as the season progresses, but right now this is the ranking among conferences according to Sagarin:
Big Ten
Big 12
Big East
Amer Athletic
Atlantic 10

With the big money football conferences gobbling up everything in sight, the question remains to be answered as to who are the power conferences any more. Obviously Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, SEC and Pac-12 have to be included. Can the American Athletic (the old Big East) be thrown in there? Probably not, because they never really were a power football conference anyway, and are even weaker now.

Do you include the new Big East? Remember that none of those schools has football, so they do not have any of the vast wealth that ESPN throws their direction. Yet they are currently ahead of three of the money conferences. Interesting question.

Don't beat yourself

If Podunk High School plays UCLA, the result is a foregone conclusion because UCLA has vastly greater talent. Sometimes the other team beats you, and there is nothing you can do about it. What I hate to see, though, is teams that beat themselves - by not hustling, but not concentrating and being focused, by being out of position, by stupid turnovers, by pointless fouls, by a hundred different ways that can easily be avoided - in short by not playing good basketball.

One of the things that makes college more enjoyable than college football is the likelihood of upsets. Since there are fewer people involved, it is much more likely that those few for the little guy may get hot and win the game. What I particularly love to see are smaller schools with a good coach (teacher) who just play good, fundamental basketball and sometimes beat the fancy-Dan, big money schools who can blow people away with their talent, but who are undisciplined and uncaring. Sometimes those big schools will beat themselves, and it is a huge amount of fun to watch.

There is no shame in getting beat. There is a lot of shame in beating yourself.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Every money game an opportunity

to make a big statement in the basketball world. But it is hard to do, beating one of the big guys. We have done it only twice in my tenure as a fan. Even bottom feeders in the money conferences have so much more resources than we do.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Josh Hagins will be a very good player

If he stays here four years and keeps his head on straight, he could be one of the all-time great Trojans. You can see it in his game already. He makes a lot of mistakes, like trying to be too fancy, but the game is there. If he listens to the coaches and works hard, the sky is the limit for this kid.

Revealing stat

Our opponents collectively have 77 assists against 65 turnovers. Now, that is four more turnovers than we have, which is good, but we have only 48 assists.

I would assume that when over a five-game stretch your opponents are able to make their passes for assists and are being forced into a relatively small number of turnovers, your defense is not obstructing the flow of their game very much.

Is Will Neighbour versatile?

He leads the team with 9 steals. Next best is 4.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

James White's minutes will be limited

until he learns to make some adjustments. His fouls will limit his minutes early, and his free throw shooting will limit them late.

GREAT quote about Pitt defense

LINK to article

“We outscore people by defense,” Wright said. “That's how you win the game."

Monday, November 25, 2013

There is no post-up game in college basketball

It does not exist at all. I spent the evening watching college basketball, and I could have counted on one finger (and had one finger left) the number of times a pass was made to a posted-up big man. Why bother? The guards are going to jack up three-pointers regardless. Why even have big men?

Anyone for a win streak?

OK, so it would be only two games, and it is against a SWAC team and a non-D1 team, but it is a streak. Better than no streak at all.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

More about Izzo's views on the rules

Izzo believes that’s the crux of the issue in college hoops right now. No contact is allowed, which means that defense can’t be played. The best offense, as a result, is to simply isolate your team’s best penetrator, allowing him to drive headlong into the lane and wait for an official to bail you out. That’s not entertaining. That’s not basketball. It’s a free throw contest, one that results-minded coaches are going to be forced to play to.

(from NBC Sports, College Basketball Talk)

Izzo doesn't like the new rules


And he makes a good case.

What seems undeniable is the central thesis to Izzo's complaint: that college basketball players could soon be coached as if they were rocks out of a slingshot. Hurtling players into the paint for the sole purpose of drawing contact, going to the foul line, getting points that way and repeatedly using that technique isn't basketball. But coaches will do whatever they can to win, and if this becomes the ramification of new points of emphasis with physical play, Izzo has a point. The nature of how the game is played could be changed in a way many won't find inviting.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

You will watch basketball a long time

and not see too many finishes like there was last night. Obviously a tremendous effort on the part of the Trojans, but you have to get a few breaks, too. We did, and we did, and we won.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Trojans come roaring back!!!!

14 points in the last 1:16. Then pull it out with clutch plays in OT. Outstanding win by this team. Just what we needed to get things jump-started and give us some confidence.

Larry Eustacy on the new officiating

I do not like Eustacy, but I think he got this one right.


Don't have to live by the three, BUT

if you can't make some of them, you  certainly will die by it. At least in today's game where making threes is about the only thing that counts.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I love it when run-and-gun teams get thumped

Florida State takes down VCU and their "Havoc" pressing style. VCU scores only 67 points. FSU pounds VCU on the boards 39-20.

More on recruiting focus

I still think we should go after good high school recruits when we can, but we need to be very careful about the attitude factor.  Ben Dillard, Courtney Jackson, Co Willis, Richard Hardman: all of these have been solid contributors who have stayed the full term (assuming Ben does). When you get a high school kid with a chip on his shoulder, he may be a good player, but he is going to want to be treated like a star from day one, and usually that just does not work out. If the attitude factor is not there, I had rather have a juco, who already has been through the fire.

Slower starts than finishes since D1

Started 2-6.
Finished 15-16.

Started 2-10.
Finished 10-20.

Started 4-9.
Finished 23-11

Started 1-6.
Finished 17-13

Started 3-7.
Finished 13-13

Started 1-4
Finished 16-10

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Better times ahead

As long as this team’s malaise is not because of a lack of effort, there is ever y reason to think things will turn around, at least to some degree. If the players shoot even as well as they did last season, it will be a huge improvement over where we have been so far this year. In Steve Shields’ weekly blog post, he seemed to indicate that the players were hustling and that they had been getting good looks. If that is the case, better times are ahead. It remains to be seen how much better, or how soon.

Just get better

If history means anything, the chances of our getting an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament are remote. So, to those to whom the only thing that matters in college basketball is the Big Dance, none of the non-conference mean anything other than to help the team get better for conference season. (That is not my opinion, because I am not hung up on the NCAA tournament, but a lot of folks think that.)

To folks of that persuasion, it absolutely does not matter if we win a single game in non-conference, as long as we are getting better so that we can win conference games so that we can get a better seed in the conference tournament so that we can have a better chance of going to the NCAA.

Now, I agree with the "get better" part. We have to continue to improve, game by game, week by week.

Early read on Appalachian State

(Very early). They are 1-3. No player has played taller than 6-8. They do not shoot the ball well at all. Like us, they are bricking from the arc (29.2%), but they cannot hit FTs either (56.7).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ryan Moss' monster year

In the 1997-98 season, Ryan Moss put together one of the most impressive years for a post player in Little Rock history. He averaged 14.5 points/game and 9.7 rebounds/game. He shot 65% from the field – still the all-time UALR record. For good measure, he threw in 55 blocks , which is 3rd on the all-time list.

Our best FT shooting team?

Could this be our best FT shooting in recent memory?  The best team percentage since at least 1779-80 was in 2004-05 at 72.7%. After three games we are at 78.7%.

My first time to see a Trojan game?

February 14, 2001. We played South Alabama, and lost 84-31. It was during Porter Moser's first year as a coach. The two things I remember was that their big guy from somewhere in eastern Europe ate our lunch, and that Porter drew our the last two minutes into about 30 minutes. And it was great fun.

Smaller school to watch this year?

St. Francis-Brooklyn already has wins over Miami and FAU, plus they played Syracuse to within 6.

Hired of hot dogging

Those who criticize coaches who keep things slowed down should have been at the high school game with me last night. Just a classic example of bad basketball. Sloppy. Turnovers. Bad passes. Bad shots. But we were fancy. We ran up and down the court. We probably impressed the girls.

Monday, November 18, 2013

You know you have a real fan

when your two-year-old son wanders around the house chanting, "Here we go, Warriors, here we go!"

(Ryan Jones, son of head football coach Josh Jones at Lamar, Arkansas HS)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Will's 3-point shot is back

Not much good to report so far, but that was the single biggest concern I had before the season started.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Really hard to assess this team so far

North Florida may be a little better than we thought they were, but we still did not play particularly well. We hung with Florida in the first half, but probably that had more to do with their poor play than our good play. Our perimeter players have not been able to hit the broad side of a barn so far.

The most promising things so far? The two point guards have had very few turnovers. Will Neighbour and James White had great games against Florida. We have not been able to keep Isler in the games because of excessive fouling, and our shooting guards have been downright anemic so far. If we get those kinks worked out, maybe good things will begin happening.

Interesting name

Florida has a player named Lexx Edwards. I don't think I have ever seen that one before.

If this team is injury-prone, we are in trouble

We do not have enough depth at post to fight through that. We'll see. Maybe we will be able to keep the team on the court, but this was not the year we wanted two front-liners limping.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Redshirt city

Of the 12 players on Northwestern's roster, seven are redshirts.

Non-conference toughening

There is little in our non-conference schedule to excite fans about home games, but hopefully it will go a long way toward getting the team toughened up for conference. If so, I am willing to pay the price. It will help if the team responds to it. If they do not, all it will have done is to deny the local fans of good home games.

Non D-1? Lots of folks do it.

None of us likes non-D1 games on the schedule, but a large percentage of D1 teams play them. One day this week I saw games against Chowan, Florida College, Warren Wilson and Champion Baptists. Just in one evening along. Really tough competition.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Want to know the kind of basketball I like?

See below:

South Florida

Stetson as a back-up

It looks like Stetson Billings is solidly positioned as the main back-up at the small forward position. The staff seems to have enough confidence in this defense to throw him in there just like they do Leroy Isler on the other team's primary scoring threat. And that is good. Very good. However, Stetson needs to get his offense going enough that he is not a total drain on the team from a scoring standpoint.

Good FT shooting team

We hit 18 of 21 free throws in our first game. Who knows if that rate will continue - probably not quite that good - but in the new environment in college basketball, being able to make FTs is a big plus. More fouls are going to be called this year, so teams need to be able to take advantage of it.

Isler in double figures

If Leroy can average double figures, that would be a huge plus for this team. Shields' small forwards have not been known for their offense, and that is not Isler's main role, but if he can be enough of an offensive force to draw some attention away from the primary scorers, good things will happen.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

James Reid, UALR recruit

Through four games he is averaging 63.6% from the 3-point arc and 95.2% from the FT line.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How significant is the first game?

Probably not very. Lots of teams come out of the gate sputtering and later right the ship. This loss to North Florida was disappointing, though, because it was a game we should have won. NF exposed our weaknesses and took advantage of them. We have to fix those things, or we are in for a long season. It looks to me like Gus Leeper needs to be on the floor more. James White provides offense, but he cannot stay out of foul trouble. (Couldn't last year, either.) Until he learns to play defense under control, his time will be limited.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Exciting zone offense?

The NCAA's all-wise pontiffs decided that basketball needed "more freedom of movement," so they brought in the new rules on fouls. They forgot, of course, that every opposing coach does NOT want the offense to have more freedom of movement. So how do they stop it? They switch to zone. The old rule of thumb is that against a zone you don't dribble, you pass. Is the "freedom of movement" they were wanting freedom of passing? I don't think so. They wanted freedom of dribble/drive. So coaches take away that freedom by switching to zone, and we get to watch games of passing around the perimeter and then taking 3-point shots. Spine-tingling!

Every team needs a defensive specialist

Teams that do not want to play defense and take pride in it usually do not play good defense, and it is hard to win ballgames with only a one-sided game. So every teams needs a stopper - someone who has a chip on this shoulder and is willing to do the dirty work (which usually gets little praise outside of the coaching staff).

Uniform colors

Have you ever noticed that you almost never see brown?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Very interesting - Sagarin top ten

They are not dazzled by Kentucky's All-Americans. They have them ranked 9th.

Keys from the first game

Reading too much into the first game of the season is dangerous, but I am very eager to see how this team plays right out of the bat. Especially interested in how loose we are and the flow of the game.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Just a guess - but look for even more 3s

No way to tell yet, but it may be that coaches will react to the new rules by telling their players to back off just a hair in order to react in time. And, they will play more zone in order to stop the driving. So . . . look for lots of 3-point shots. Can you spell H-O-R-S-E?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Let's be blunt, again

The rule changes were designed to penalize those teams that played tough, physical, hard-nosed defense. Pure and simple. Because the Big Wheels in power made the unilateral decision that high scoring is "good for the game."

The new season feeling

As I write, the start of the official NCAA D1 season is 35 minutes away. Feels good. The long off-season of speculation is over.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wes Unseld - "too small"

I remember distinctly reading an NBA pre-season magazine before the 1968-69 season. In previewing the Baltimore Bullets, it said that Wes Unseld was a good player, but he was just too small to play center in the NBA. Well, they missed that one. All he did was to average 10.8 points and 14 rebounds per game over a 13-year career. In that first "too small" season, he was the Rookie of the Year and also the MVP of the NBA. Sometimes the experts are just flat wrong.

Expect to see a lot more zone this year

at least until the teams get fully adjusted to the new rules.


Some might assume that I like slow-paced basketball. Not true. I like disciplined basketball. The problem is that fast-paced ball, especially with younger players, almost always turns into sloppy ball. Basketball lends itself so easily to hot-dogging, and it is just more than they can resist to start doing that. I figure that is why a lot of college coaches just keep the pace slower to keep the players under control.

There have been very disciplined running teams. Russell's Celtics. Wilt's Lakers. Reed's Knicks. Unseld's Bullets. Of course, they all started with a dominant center getting the ball out to the guards. It also required that defensive stopper in the middle so that the guards could afford to release a second earlier.


No surprise that seniors Isler and Neighbour were chosen captains. But adding J. T. Thomas was a surprise. Evidently he has some real leadership qualities.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I don't want to wait until next year

This is the year. The pieces are there. The talent is there. Just get it done!

Why I like SLU and not VCU

"SLU is everything that VCU is not - methodical, patient, and definitively unsexy."

(from a Bennet Hayes article in Sports Illustrated)

"Get back to basketball"

That is the supposed goal of the rule changes. If they want to get back to baskeball, why not eliminate the 3-point shot, so players will do something more than stand on the perimeter and bomb away. Might accomplish the same thing.

Better 3-point shooting

I know that a game of HORSE is not a real game, but from watching the Meet the  Trojans event, it looked like our 3-point shooting should be better this year. It appears that Will Neighbour has his stroke back, and if Mareik Isom can shoot under game pressures, he will be really good. Osse also shot pretty well. Again, it means nothing at this point, but it was encouraging, because last year it didn't seem like we even made them warming up.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Who will the new rules affect least and most?

It makes sense: the ones who will be affected least by the rule changes are the ones who did not foul much to start with. The ones who did foul a lot - they may be in trouble. According to The Sporting News, here are the teams with the most fouls called against them in 2012-12 who made the NCAA tournament:

Kansas State
Oklahoma State
Wichita State

Here is why I like Pitt basketball


"The names may change at Pitt, but the movie remains the same.

There's unselfishness blended with a culture of toughness, defense, and rebounding."

My kind of basketball! Blue collar. That is exactly what I want Little Rock to be.

Pitt's Jamie Dixon on the ideal point guard

From CBS Sportsline:
"James (Robinson) gives you two things  that are always going to be there. He takes care of the ball and he plays defense. That's what you look for from a point guard."

Players always look small on the court

but 6-7 is a right strapping lad up close.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Preparing for conference

I think you need a good, competitive non-conference schedule to prepare you for conference. However, I have some doubt as to how much good "body bag" games do to help a team. My experience is that game plans break down very early in such games - on both sides of the ball. The lesser team cannot carry out their game plans, and the stronger team does not have to.

Interesting year

This will be an interesting year in many respects. Can Will Neighbour finally reach the level of play we had hoped for when he arrived? How good will the incoming schools be in Belt competition? Will Steve Shields coach himself onto or off the hot seat? Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

One breakout player

All this team has to have is one break-out player to go from pretty good to really good. Not knowing who (or even if) is one of the things that causes so much hesitation in our enthusiasm and predictions. Who will it be? Will Neighbour, James White, Josh Hagins, one of the new players? Stay tuned, but if it happens, this could be an exciting year.

Friday, November 1, 2013

We will have defense problems this year - like everyone

Shields is talking about "shrinking the court." In order to defend without hands, players are going to have to help out, which, of course, will leave someone else open if the opponents are properly spaced. If we pack inside to stop the driving, opponents will have a field day from the arc. And now we do not have Javes back there as an eraser to cover up mistakes and gambles on the perimeter.

But we won't be alone in this. Everyone will be facing similar problems if they do not have a shot blocker in the middle.

Maturity is worth something

Suppose a child starts to school when he is 6 1/2 years old (many are younger than that). He would be 18 1/2 when he begins college, 19 1/2 he begins his soph year, 20 1/2 junior, and 21 1/2 when he begins his senior year. All 13 players on the roster are at least their academic age. Over half of them (Thomas, Poulter, Osse, Neighbour, Leeper, Isler, and Hill) are at least a year older than that contrived "academic age."

The Trojans need an identity

Successful basketball teams get an identity that "clicks" with their fan base. Duke is white collar. Pittsburgh is blue collar - tough, steel country. Just a couple of examples. Many could be named.

We will never be the "in" team in Arkansas, but we need to find what we are. Embrace an identity.

The most intimidating basketball face ever?

Wes Unseld

He averaged 18.9 rebounds/game over his college career.