Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Porter finally rolling at Loyola?

After three solid years in Little Rock, Porter Moser left for a less-than-overwhelming stay at Illinois State, then a stint as assistant at St. Louis. He is back in head coaching now at Loyola Chicago, and seems now to have the program on its feet. They are 11-2 so far this year with nice wins at Kent State, over Texas Tech and Boise State at neutral sites, and over Bradley at home.

While we are suffering through an awful year in perimeter defense, the Ramblers excel there. Their opponents shoot an anemic 28.7% from the arc.

Porter Moser

More scholarships available?

I could be very wrong, but I just do not see Andre Brown's and Jerron Washington's scholarships being renewed. They have played hardly at all this year, and this team has some holes it desperately needs to fill. It is a shame they have not had a chance to play, but that is the lot of jucos who come in to an upper-class-heavy team.

Looking back at the Louisiana game

We did not think we were in the Top Two in the league, and now we know we are not. If we cannot win the tough games at home, it may be rough on the road.

When you let the opponents shoot 38% from the arc and you get killed on the boards, you do not give yourself much chance of winning.

This team has a suicidal tendency to allow one player to go crazy shooting from the arc. Last night it was Kasey Shepherd. We just do not seem to be able to stop hot players. We really, really miss having a defensive stopper.

James White appears to be back. Nice game. We badly need him on his oats. Tip of the hat to Josh Hagins. Just a huge all-round game. A real stat-stuffer effort.

We just do not have the horses to play against NBA talent, and that is what Louisiana and Georgia State have.

Nice effort by our team coming back to force overtime, but we cannot seen to get over the hump. Things do not get any better because two of our next three games are Georgia State and Texas State on the road.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Discouragement is understandable

Outside of one tie for the regular season championship (which we lost on a tie-breaker) and one trip to the NCAA, this program has had little to cheer about in the last decade and a half. We have had some pretty good teams, but few exceptional teams (the 23-win group might be one). I can understand why the fan base is losing interest. Most folks do not have to have the blue ribbon every time out, but they need a little encouragement every once in a while so that they do not lose heart. Hope deferred turns to little hope, which turns to hopeless, and that is about where we are right now. We need something to cheer about. Tonight's game with ULL would be a good place to start.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Rough start for UCA's Coach Pennell

When you come to a new program you sort of hope for a little glimmer of something good to come, but the Bears are 0-10 so far. They have some shooters and decent size, but that is about all. Hammered on the boards, no defense, lots of turnovers. They had one fairly good loss (if any of them are): by 6 to SEMO at home. Other than that, things have been pretty bleak. However, there is not a senior on his roster, so you have to figure the team will only get better as they mature and get used to Pennell's system.


One sure thing about the conference season

If our defense continues to be as atrocious as it has been, our offense and rebounding had better be awfully good if we hope to win anything.

Late in the season to be adjusting

Coaches never stop coaching, never stop adjusting, trying to make the team better. But it seems like this is pretty late in the season to be doing surgery as major as we are evidently undergoing. Of course, we do not know how things will end up. Next game we may be back to our old lineup and strategy. Who knows? Sometimes pushing a new button can be a good thing and bring out the best in a team; sometimes it only upsets things and makes them worse. Questions should be answered soon.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

How good was Oscar Robertson?

I nominate the Big O for the most under-appreciated player of all time. How good was he? In the 1961-62 NBA season he averaged a triple-double: 30.5 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 11.4 apg. Has anyone else ever done that?

In his three-year college career he averaged 33.8 ppg, 15.2 rpg and 4.8 apg. A college player averaging 15 rebounds per game over his whole career, and he was only 6-5?!


Little guy Stony Brook whips #13 Washington !!!!

Another great win for the little guys. Beat Washington 62-57. Half the "sports fans" in America never even heard of Stony Brook.


Louisiana preview

This team is a head scratcher. I definitely figured them to be better than they have been. They are 6-5, with two of their wins against non-D1 teams. However, they have good wins against Oral Roberts and Louisiana Tech. Hard to figure.

They are likely to start 6-9, 6-7, 6-5 across the front line. They have another 6-9 on the bench. Three scorers in double figures.

Shawn Long is still a force inside for them, averaging 14.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg, shooting 55% from the field, with 17 blocks. He is always a handful. They shoot the ball very well - 49% overall and 37% overall. At the same time their defensive numbers are strong (40% and 30%). They dominate the boards plus-6.

It is hard to see how a team with this kind of stat sheet is only 6-5, so you have to assume that they may have fattened their numbers on the weaker teams. They did have a "quality" loss against Milwaukee.

Here is a LINK to the ULL official site preview to the game.

Sagarin has us a 2-point favorite.
RealtimeRPI has us as a 13-point favorite. (Go figure.)

My "official" prediction going into conference

We are a couple of days away from our conference opener, so I guess I need to stick out my neck and make a prediction.

For a while I thought we would have the talent to be in the Top Three in the Belt, and in some areas we do have some outstanding strengths. Our array of 3-point shooters is more than solid, and our three point guards have been above expectations so far in their A/TO ratios. So our guard play ought to be good. In fact, with the exception of Georgia State, we should be able to hold our own with any of the teams ("should" being the operative word). We have a lot of weapons on the perimeter.

Our front line, however, is in shambles. In the first place, James White, who was expected to be All-Belt caliber, has suddenly lost his shot. Completely. Averaging 33% over the last five games, which is disastrous for an inside player. He is still rebounding fairly well, but as an offensive force he has disappeared. Roger Moore is still dependable as an undersized four, but after that things just fall off drastically. We are just so undersized among our forwards. Mareik Isom is tall, but he is essentially a perimeter player. Gus Leeper is big, but he is getting little playing time lately.

So my prediction (drumroll): we will finish in the middle of the pack, maybe above .500, but probably not, and Steve Shields will be VERY nervous going into his post-season evaluation with the new AD.

Obviously, if we beat ULL and Georgia State in the first two games, I will be tearing up this prediction, but hindsight predictions are not worth anything, and I definitely do not expect that.

The SWAC is at it again!

What is going on this year?! The perennial doormat is rising up and biting its old oppressors. The professional losers (literally, since they are being paid to come in and provide "guaranteed" wins) are becoming far less reliable. If this keeps up they may lose their jobs.

Texas Southern beats Kansas State. Last time I looked the Big 12 was the top conference in the nation. I will tell you: for kids who have been downtrodden for so long, these wins have to be sweet, sweet, sweet.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Green Bay over Georgia State

Well, I would have liked the win for the Belt, but at least it gives a little glimmer that maybe Georgia State is a little vulnerable. Harrow and Hunter played 39 and 38 minutes. They were 2 of 13 from the arc; Green Bay's defense was good against them, too.

Pressure on Shields

If he does not finish toward the top of the Belt, at least, I figure his job is in definite jeopardy. If we are going to make a statement about our place in the league, the first four games are a good time to do it. If we come out of those four games 0-4, or even 1-3, Shields will need to start looking for some dirt to fill that hole he has dug for himself.

Is this a Steve Shields team?

So far this season in the Sun Belt:

Scoring defense - last
FG% defense - last
3PT% defense - last

What is going on?!

Another interesting Bradley wrinkle

We go to a four-guard, trey-shooting lineup and score the third-fewest points we have all year. No idea why it should have turned out that way, because you would expect it to be just the opposite.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Another thing about the Bradley game

We started four guards and a small power forward. That is unusual for us. Another thing that is unusual for us is the number of minutes the starters played: 36, 36, 33, 31, 24. I have not checked specifically, but I think that is the first time this year that we have had as many as three starters with 30+ minutes. If not, at least it is far out of the ordinary.

So how is the Belt doing so far?

Sagarin has us as the 19th-ranked conference (factoring out their irritating practice of breaking out the divisions seprately in some conferences). However, RealtimeRPI has us ranked as the 30th conference, above only the SWAC, MEAC and WAC. That is quite a discrepancy, but I am inclined to think that Sagarin has it right. Not sure why the glitch with RealtimeRPI.

Anton Waters Update

According to Rivals, the only player to which we currently have an outstanding offer is Gulf Coast State's Anton Waters, a 6-6 205# forward. So far this season he is averaging 11.1 ppg and 7.1 rpg and is shooting 52.9% from the field.

However, says we also have an offer out to 6-7 Justin Leon.

We have to become very good at "what we do"

Few teams will be good at everything (unless you are Kentucky, who can buy All-Americans at every position). A few teams become good enough at a few things that their strengths far outweigh their deficiencies. This team does have some outstanding strengths. What we do well is 3-point shooting and ball handling. It looks like Shields is experimenting with a way to maximize their impact. A little late into the season to start it, in my opinion, but better late than never.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Who has the toughest schedule?

According to Sagarin, at the moment the #1 in Strength of Schedule is Texas Southern out of the SWAC. #2 (Grambling) is also from the SWAC. So are #6 and #7. In fact, the weakest schedule so far in the SWAC is Jackson State at #98 (out of 347 D1 teams).

Will the long breaks do any good?

When the conference season starts, we will have had three straight week-long breaks between games (not counting the back-to-back games of the South Point Classic). I do not know if the staff did that on purpose, or if that is just the way it worked out. But I do think it has to reap some dividends. The team can get healed up if there were any aches and pains, and there was teaching time to sharpen the team for the conference season. And just as the right spot in the season. We know what our weaknesses are now, and our strengths. The coaches need to tweak the strategy (they did more than just tweak, it looks like) and get the team focused on where they need to improve. Whether the scheduling breaks were for that purpose or not, I have to believe it is going to help us.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

We will find where we stand in a hurry

Louisiana, Georgia State and Texas State are three of our first four conference games. They also happen to be three of the top four teams in the conference according to Sagarin.

Bradley surprise

I must admit that I was surprised that we beat Bradley. I had become accustomed to our being unable to get over the hump against comparable teams, and being a full step behind the better teams (BYU and Green Bay) that I just figured this would be another day of frustration. But it was not. It was a very pleasant surprise. I do not think we have "turned the corner," because I think Shields' new lineup was somewhat of a desperation move on his part (just a guess), and it has yet to prove how it will do long term; but it definitely showed a new wrinkle to this team, if nothing else, and that is a wrinkle we can put to good use going forward.

So how are the non-money schools doing so far?

This week's poll shows six teams from non-money conferences in the AP Top 25:
Wichita State
St. John's
Northern Iowa
Colorado State

Six of the top 25. Not too bad. Plus the next three vote-getters are from outside the Money Belt.

Any team should go with its strength

That is a self-evident statement. It is stupid to cling to a theory when you do not have the players to execute it. We have a platoon of three-point shooters this year, and finally Steve Shields is starting to use them. Don't get me wrong: I hate the 3-point shot; I think it is ruining basketball. But that is our strength this year, and we must play to our strength. Certainly our size is not our strength. We could claim that, even without size, our inside game was somewhat of a strength until James White's shot went south big-time. The three-point shot is what we have, so we need to use it.

A Top 25 team in Little Rock

We have a Top 25 team in Little Rock. I wonder how long it has been since that has happened before? The women's volleyball team got the honor. Good for them!


Plan B?

If indeed the new smallball look becomes Plan A, I suppose that means that the previous look with James White, Roger Woods and two or three guards, playing more predictable style is Plan B? Well, it is good at least to have a back-up plan, because Plan A is a high-risk plan. Offensively, we have enough shooters that someone should be hot on a given night. But good coaches will figure out a way to neutralize Woods to some extent, and then that leaves us with nothing but 3-point shooting. And the real risk is on the defensive side, where we could see our guys regularly guarding players 5-6" taller than they are.

"Don't shoot!"

When the cops bust into the room, guns drawn, the bad guys sometimes throw up their hands and shout, "Don't shoot!" That is what coaches sometimes have to do with players who are shooting but not making.

Forced into adaptability

Lack of recruiting for big men and a lack of offensive production by the big men we have has forced Steve Shields into adaptability - probably kicking and screaming. Still, credit where it is due. The lineup against Bradley was creative, and it worked - at least once. Whether it can work again remains to be seen. But at least circumstances forced Shields to get "outside the nine dots," as the saying goes.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

SWAC with teeth?

The lowly SWAC is showing some spunk this season. Tonight Prairie View beat North Texas, and Texas Southern came within a point of Auburn. Something is going on!


Cut down your opponent's margin for error

No team plays a perfect game. They all miss some shots, etc. But one team or the other is going to have enough margin for error that they come out on top. The secret to winning is to cut down your opponent's margin for error. Force them to have to play a nearly-perfect game in order to win. For example, if they get zero offensive rebounds, then they get zero second-chance points. They miss the shots and do not get another opportunity on that possession. Turnovers give your opponent a possession without your having taken a shot, so it gives them more margin. Cut down on turnovers, cut down on their margin. Stupid fouls obviosly increase their slack, as do missing your own free throws. All these factors cut down on their margin and increase yours.

Can Shields (or will he) use this new strategy consistently

It is one thing to win a game because your three-point shooters are hot and you throw a wrinkle at the opposing coach that he was not expecting. It is another thing to incorporate it into your overall approach for the season and make it work consistently night after night. We have a lot of good guards. We are short of quality size. So, what Shields did makes sense. However, it is a strategy with a razor-thin advantage. If the least little thing goes wrong, the tables can turn in a big hurry. It will be very interesting to see how things progress. If James White turns around his game, it would be pointless to continue with a four-guard attack.

Monday, December 22, 2014

An historic win in Pine Bluff?

Pine Bluff just won their third game of the season. "Why is that important?" you ask. It is significant because they are still in the non-conference season, and a year in which they beat even one D1 team in non-conference team historically has been a pretty good one. You see, like other teams from the lowest-level conferences, Pine Bluff plays a brutal non-conference schedule, almost entirely on the road, in order to raise money for the program. They get beat up night after night. So to win, not one, not two, but THREE games from the teams who are paying them to get beat up is like one of the "Bums of the Month" who used to fight against Joe Louis rising up and knocking out the Brown Bomber. It just is not supposed to happen, and here it has happened three times in the same season. Times are good in Pine Bluff, and we couldn't be happier for them. They have earned it!


Trojans win a headscratcher over Bradley

In one of the boldest strokes of Steve Shields' career in Little Rock, he started four true guards and an undersized power forward against a team from the respected Missouri Valley Conference, and came away with a scrappy win. It was ugly, but it counts.

The strength of this team is 3-point shooting, and so presumably Shields decided to go with his strength. The result was a solid 36.4% from the arc, with the team taking over half their shots from outside - something that is hardly ever seen from a Shields team. In the meantime they perhaps found their stride in perimeter defense and held Bradley to a respectable 33%. Predictably, we got killed on the boards 50-33, but also predictably, since we started two point guards, we committed only 8 turnovers. One of the most interesting stats of the game was the Trojans' ten blocks distributed among six players. Roger Woods, as the only quasi-big starter, had a very solid all-round game with 17 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks.

Shields stayed away from the size on his team. James White played only 19 minutes, Mareik Isom only 6, Maurius Hill only 3, and Gus Leeper did not play at all. It was a head-scratcher as to why this total reversal of strategy, but evidently Shields was committed to playing smallball, and stayed with it since it was working. Now, Bradley is not a very good team, but they are from a pretty good conference, and a win is a win, however it comes.

The most puzzling issue is why James White did not start and only played 19 minutes. Maybe a look at the results will tell the story. White has been off his game. In the last five games (counting Bradley), he is shooting a miserable 33%, and when you have a team full of good 3-point shooters, post players who are not shooting well are a problem. James is going to have to turn his game up a notch.

I thought Steve Shields would survive this season

but right now I am not so sure. We are not showing the signs of being a well-coached team.

Oh, good - we get to play Little Rock.

That ought to REALLY fatten up our 3-point averages.

Making the case

This team at this point is hard-pressed to make a case that we are anything above mediocre. I just hope we can make that case. The recent evidence points to a verdict considerably below that.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Want to see an absolutely awful number?

42.4%. That is the percentage our opponents - collectively - are shooting against us from the 3-point line. I don't care what your defensive philosophy is, to have that kind of a number after nine games is absolutely inexcusable.

Scouting Bradley

Well, they won't be very scared of us at this point, so maybe they are underestimating us. We have that much going for us (he said, tongue firmly planted in cheek).

They are 4-7, with one of their wins non-D1. The only win of any note was Central Michigan. The probably start 6-9, 6-8, 6-7 across the front line, so once again we will be at a size disadvantage. They have three players averaging double figures. They shoot reasonably well from the arc (34.8%), but very poorly overall (38.5%). However, their defense is good, holding opponents to 39.6% overall. They shoot badly from the FT line (64.3%). They are about +3 1/2 on the boards.

Sagarin has Bradley as about a half-point favorite.

Looking at the Green Bay stats

Roger Woods and James Reid had pretty good games, and that was about it. We knew going in that Green Bay was a very good defensive team, and they proved it. Most of our 3-point shooters went cold at the same time, and they probably gave us some help getting there. Josh Hagins, J. T. Thomas and Ben Dillard were a combined 0 for 12 from the arc. Won't win many games that way. We got murdered on the boards, but we knew we would have trouble against their big front line. Throw in that we had 15 turnovers, and it was a pretty dismal box score for us. Josh Hagins did contribute 4 assists and 3 steals, but his offense was poor. Just a poor performance against a better team.

And, of course, we let them shoot 38.5% from the arc, but what is new about that?

This team is teetering on the brink of falling down into the "not very good" category. Not very encouraging heading toward the conference season.

Quinnipiac over Oregon State - Go little guys

Another nice win by a lower level team over one from a money conference. Good win for the Bobcats!


Saturday, December 20, 2014

When is the last time a SWAC team beat a ranked team?

Talk about the little guys rising up! Texas Southern takes down #25 Michigan State. Granted MSU has had some rough times lately, but the SWAC has been the bottom feeder in conferences for some time. One of the great things about basketball is that it is easier for a little guy to beat a big guy. I love it!


Mighty SEC goes down again!

Mississippi State goes down to USC Upstate. Now there is a household name. But since MSU is not in Kentucky and the ball they are playing with was round, probably no one cares.

Arkansas State picking up speed

Nice win tonight against Marshall from Conference USA. They started very slowly, but finally may be getting their rhythm. At least in time to get a couple of wins to help the conference.

Another big man prospect


Ramses Sandifer 6-8. Several offers.

Ever seen two 7-footers on the same high school team?

I saw that last night when Arkansas Baptist played at Ozark. At least that is how they were announced in the starting lineup for Arkansas Baptist. 7-2 and 7-0. Neither is going to play college ball. Both were extremely slow and looked liked their bodies had outgrown their joints. However, they had a nice touch around the basket and when they did get the ball down low, there was little Ozark could do about it. And they made breaking the press easier, because when the guards got in trouble, all they had to do was lob it up to the big guy standing at mid-court. And it definitely changed Ozark's offense, because they were always conscious of the big guy standing in the middle.

Wearing the uniform into enemy territory

I love it when I get a chance to wear my UALR apparel when I go to northwest Arkansas. Flaunt it in their faces. Show them that not everyone bows at the altar.


Are we improving?

OK, so we have pretty well established that this not a special team. We might be pretty good, but we are not really good. That means, then, that the conference season is the only thing that matters, as usual. So the question becomes, Are we getting better? Are we ironing out the wrinkles and shoring up the holes in the dyke? We have had two golden opportunities to do that, with back-to-back week-long breaks between games. That gives several days to concentrate on teaching instead of purely game preparation. We shall see if it reaps results.

Little guy Eastern Kentucky wins big

It is fun when a money school loses to a little guy, and even more fun when that big schools is ranked. And when the little guy THUMPS the money school. Whoopeeee! So, Eastern Kentucky beats #18 Miami by 28. FUN! And what seals the deal as great fun is that the little guys is from a state where basketball matters and the big guy is from a school and state where it does not matter.


Friday, December 19, 2014

They grow them big in Key Largo

The Sikora brothers play basketball for Stetson. They hail from Key Largo, Florida. Senior Kyle is 7-0 and freshman Wyatt is 6-11.

Scouting Green Bay

This is a good mid-level ballclub. They are 8-2, with both of their losses being "good" losses at Wisconsin and Georgia State. (GaState whipped them by 24.) So, they can be had. Two of their wins were against non-D1 teams. Probably their most impressive wins are over Miami and Florida Gulf Coast.

They will start 6-9, 6-8, 6-7 across the front, so we will be at a decided disadvantage on size.

Keifer Sykes (6-0 guard) is their star, and he is a good one. He averages 18.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg and 3.3 apg. He shoots a respectable 34.1% from the arc, but what is most impressive for a small guard, he shoots 48.9% overall, so he gets inside and makes his shots when he gets there. He makes his FTs, also (85.7%). After Sykes their scorers are Greg Mays (10.2) and Carrington Love (8.2). After that it drops off to 5.8 ppg.

This is a superb defensive team. Opponents average only 38.4% overall and 28.1% from the arc. They are plus-2 on the boards. They have a positive A/TO ratio as a team.

One thing they do not do very well is shoot FTs. The team averages only 63%, and if you subtract Sykes, the rest of the team shoots only 57%.

They have committed 22 more fouls than their opponents, and have had 6 foul-outs so far this season.

We will have to earn it if we beat this bunch. I do not know enough about Xs and Os to know what the keys to this game are, but I know our margin for error is pretty slim.


A shame to waste this schedule

It is a shame that we have not been able to do better against this non-conference schedule, because it is a good one. Even the "stretch" game (BYU) was not so good that it was inconceivable to win (although not likely). But we have not done very well. Probably as well as we might have expected, but we did not exceed expectations. Disappointing.

Following a team is supposed to be fun

If it becomes such a negative experience that you cannot have fun doing it, then drop it! Why bother if it is not entertaining?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

When shooters were MEN

Remember back in the old days, when bad shots were treated like bad shots? Back then an outside shooter had to be a man. He was only going to get two points for his effort, no matter how far back he was, and he was only going to draw two shots if he got fouled, not this ridiculous three-shot rule we have today. That allowed the defensive player to be more aggressive defending him. Back then he really took a risk when he shot and the reward was not as great. Back then, if he missed, he took the risk of being chastised for taking a low-percentage shot. Now he is applauded for being a "gutsy player who is willing to take the big shot" - and after all if he makes it, he gets THREE points, so it is worth the risk, and no one blames him if he misses. Back then players took shots from all over the court; now there is a groove worn from players clustering around the three-point line waiting for the ball. Ah, for the good old days! (I am overstating the case somewhat, but you get the point, I trust.)

Josh gets assists

Josh Hagins still needs to tighten up his play. It is still a little too reckless. However, it is much improved this year over last year. One things Josh does bring is assists. Even though he is the "third string" point guard, he is within two of J. T. Thomas, the team leader, even though Josh plays shooting guard or even swing guard most of the time. He does have a knack for making things happen. Now if he can just learn to be a little more careful . . .

Defense is effort

This is not strictly a true statement, of course. Some defensive systems work better than others. However, much of the time when defense is not working it is the result of a lack of effort or focus. I hope that is not our case. It is hard for me to imagine someone playing much for Steve Shields if he is not giving full effort on defense. I think this year Steve is placing a premium on help defense and rebounding, and the necessary result is that the perimeter defense is suffering. At least I hope that is the reason.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

When Coach should say, "Enough!"

My acquaintances know that one of my pet basketball peeves is players who blast away from the three-point line when they are not making shots. A prime example is Nicholls State's T. J. Carpenter. He has attempted 35 treys this year, and has made a whopping FIVE of them. That is a pitiful 14.3%. If he only shot every once in a while, it would be one thing, but the next most attempts on the team is 25. And if the team had no good shooters it might be in his defense, but they have a couple of 48% shooters from the arc. But he blasts away. Coach, make him stop!


Maurius Hill's absence

Against Kent. It appears he had some sort of injury, but we have received no definite information. Whatever the reason, we need him healthy and playing. He is by no stretch of the imagination a "big man," but he does provide a little bulk up front on a team that is lacking in depth there. We need him.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ought to do well in the Belt

We have held our own against teams from quality mid-level conferences. The wins have not been forthcoming, but we were in all the games to the end, except for BYU. That is a good sign. The last three teams are from better conferences than the Belt, and so if we are competitive against them, we ought to be more than competitive in the SBC. At least I hope so.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Next three games critically important

We want to go into conference season with some confidence, not with our tails tucked between our legs. If we want to be big time we have to play big time, and time is running out in non-conference.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

How to schedule to be undefeated

Check Kentucky's schedule so far. They have had four significant opponents. Three of them (Providence, Texas, North Carolina) were home games. The other (Kansas) was on a neutral site (Indianapolis), but was only three hours from Lexington. That is what you call a "brave" schedule.

The attendance knife

It may well be time for Steve Shields to move on to some other endeavor; he has been here a long time. However, I totally reject the idea that the coach is primarily responsible for the attendance. The coach is responsible for the team; others in the administration have to do the things it takes to draw and maintain crowds. True, some fickle sorts only come to see a "winner," and the coach is responsible to recruit and train winning teams, but placing the bulk of the burden on him because crowds stay away is illogical and unfair. Furthermore, I completely reject the idea that style of play affects attendance. That is an excuse, not a reason. Wisconsin's play has been slow during Bo Ryan's tenure, but their attendance is good.

I do not know who makes the final scheduling decisions, but this year's non-conference schedule was terrible. Terrible! Did someone just sit down and say, "Let's see when we can play the games that will draw the least number of people"? Even the moving of conference games to 7:30 was a bad idea. Our non-conference opponents are good ones. We brought some good programs into Little Rock this year; but we played them at horrendous times. Wrong days. Wrong times of the day. Just terrible scheduling!

When men's basketball is the lead sport at a school, then the AD has to try to keep good attendance at men's basketball. If Shields is stabbed with the attendance knife it would be ironic, for this year, at least, it was largely of someone else's making.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Free throws help our cause

We have made thirty more free throws this year than our opponents, or about 4.28 per game. Since our points per game is at a virtual tie with our opponents, you have to assume that free throws have made a big difference for us this year. And, as you might guess, Roger Woods has attempted eleven more FTs than anyone else on the team.

Roger Woods 1875043

We need a confidence win - soon

We are running out of chances for a nice, confidence-building non-conference win. Any of the next three could be it, but we have to get over the hump. It will be tough to go into the conference season on a losing streak.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How good a shooting team are we this year?

At this point in the season we are averaging 38.9% from the arc. If we finished the year like that, we would be the third-best 3PT team in Little Rock history, behind only the 2000-01 Trojans (40.7%) and the 2010-11 team (39.3%). The 00-01 team had Alan Barksdale, Nick Zachery, Mark Green and Bryan Crislip leading the way. 2010-11 had Solomon Bozeman, Alex Garcia-Mendoza putting up the best numbers.

The bad news? This would be the WORST 3PT% defensive team in school history - by a wide margin.

Not the only one with perimeter problems

We are not the only team with problems defending the perimeter. Illinois-Chicago  gives up 38.5%. Duquesne 38.7%. Colgate 36.2%. To name just a few. It seems like we are seeing more high shooting percentages from the arc this year and in the past few.

One huge problem

We have noted before that superlative performance in one or two areas can sometimes serve to overcome sub-par performance in other areas. We have a few things on this team that we do very well - point guard play, for example. At the moment all three players who might possibly work the point have at least 3:1 A/TO ratios, which is remarkable. Another is 3-point shooting. This is one of the best shooting teams Little Rock has ever had. However, we cannot let our sinkhold (defense) continue to be as bad as it is, because at some point we will have an off day in those other areas, and then our poor defense will rise up and bite us. We have one huge problem. We need to get it fixed.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Kentucky ought to be ashamed

They beat Columbia by ten points! Columbia! from the Ivy League. Kentucky, with all the All-Americans, all the talent, all the press - they beat Columbia by TEN POINTS! With the talent Calipari gets in there, any year in which he does not go undefeated ought to be considered a failure.

Rhode Island removed from a unique group of states

Have you ever thought how small is the group of states that have a school from a power (money) conference which has no other money conference schools in the state nor any professional teams from major sports. Arkansas is one, of course. Nebraska is another. There may be a few more. Rhode Island used to be one when Providence was in the old Big East, but now that that conference has broken up it no longer has football in the conference and so no longer has the huge train of money from ESPN moving in. So it is not a power conference and Rhode Island moves out of that peculiarly elite group.

A day late and a dollar short

Missouri State and Tulsa have been two programs that were out of our reach before - at a somewhat higher level, seemingly. This year, we came close to beating them, but not close enough. Frustrating. I guess it means we are a little better than we have been. (Maybe they are not as good.) It is hard to know whether to be encouraged that we are possibly improved, or depressed because we still cannot get there.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Drake: a fellow non-defender

Drake is 1-7 so far this season. Not very good. And there is a very good reason why. They do not play defense. Opponents shoot 48.9% against them overall and 35.3% from the arc. Plus opponents have a very good 1.40 assist/turnover ratio against, which means they are not disrupting the other folks' offensive patterns much. Drake shoots very well, but they do not defend much. And they are not winning.


Point guards

Our three point guards have A/TO ratios of  3.28, 3.25 and 3.00. Show me any other team that can say that.

Is Hagins playing better?

Josh Hagins is shooting 35.5% this year compared to 40.7% last year. However, he is shooting 38.5% from the arc compared to 35.4% last year. And he is shooting 85% from the FT line compared with 80.6% last year. So, some improvement in some areas there. One improvement I am really happy to see is in his turnovers. He had a 1.65 assist/turnover ratio last year when he was playing a lot of point guard. He is playing more at the shooting guard this year and his A/TO is an excellent 3.28. He is averaging one turnover per game this year compared with 2.3 last year. So, overall I would say Josh us playing cleaner and more under control this year. Good for him!

Monday, December 8, 2014

How good is the Sun Belt this year?

Georgia State is the only team in the top third of the 351 Division 1 teams (89) as ranked by Sagarin. ULL is the only other team in the top half. Only one team (App State) is in the bottom third. The rest are truly "mid-major" teams in the middle third of the world of D1 teams.

Our defense is not just bad

It is awful, horrendous, embarrassing, laughable, non-existent. How did a Steve Shields team get so bad on the defensive end?

No bad losses

The three games we have lost so far were not bad losses. Two of them were on the road against good teams from stronger conferences. The other was against a good Tulsa team. Beating BYU was not very realistic, but the other two were at least possibilities, and we did come close. So, we are not too far from where we would like to be. But we are definitely not there yet.

Attendance problems

The attendance plummet at Little Rock is puzzling and discouraging. We have a chance to have a pretty good team this year, but the fans are staying away in groves, and I cannot figure out why, all of a sudden, that is true. I hope the powers that be have better minds than mine and can solve it.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The BYU loss

It is looking better. Sure, we should not have lost as badly as we did, but they are currently 33rd in RPI. RealtimeRPI projects them to finish the season with 23 wins.

Jersey Tech strikes a blow for the little guys!

I love it when a nobody beats a somebody. At the moment NJIT is the only independent in Division 1 NCAA basketball. They just took down #17 ranked Michigan 72-70. That is a great glow for mom, apple pie and the underdogs of the world. Let the rejoicing begin on Main Street!


How good was Sam Snead's golf swing?

"The most fluid motion ever to grace a golf course," Jack Nicklaus said. "Watching Sam Snead practice hitting balls," another golfer said, "is like watching a fish practice swimming."

If Brown and Washington want to play this year

Andre Brown and Jerron Washington have not played much this year, and probably will not the way things are going. However, if they want to play, then what they need to do is to work hard at being good in the areas that are a concern for us. Brown is a good rebounder, and that is one thing we need. Washington is the right size to be a mid-range, all-purpose lockdown defender in the John Fowler mold, and that is something we desperately need right now. No guarantees, of course, but if they want to play, then they need to provide the products that the market is calling for right now. There will be spots when the regulars are in a little foul trouble or are tired, and Shields will need a rebounder or a defender, and if they have shown they can do it in practice, he may throw them into the fray.

Jerron Washington 1875242

Andre Brown 1875247

We are learning about this team as we go.

We have learned that they are at least fairly good. Ought to be at least a top half team in the SBC, which we expected. Any team that can play with a top half MVC team (Missouri State) ought to be a top team in the Belt. We are also confirming that we have a few pretty remarkable talents on the team. James White and Josh Hagins we knew about, and we suspected as much of Roger Woods. Those three certainly are among the better players in the conference. We are confirming that we have very good depth on the perimeter - enough that some pretty good players are not going to get to play much.

And, somewhat to my surprise (pleasantly), we are learning that Shields seems to be willing to let the team have a few new wrinkles. That shows growth in him as a coach. As of this date, we are the highest-scoring team in the conference, even a tad ahead of Georgia State. That is something new for us.

Friday, December 5, 2014

We still have one to sign

It almost has to be a big man, it seems to me. But then, what do I know? It will be interesting, and I was a little surprised that we did not sign one in the early period. We have a pretty good roster already that will be returning, especially with the redshirts coming back into the system. But we are still very short, and it will be worse with Gus leaving.

Ball handling

This is the first year since 2010-2011 that we have had a positive A/TO ratio as a team. The years since then have been considerably in the red. That is a good sign. Sharing the ball. Valuing the ball. Usually the turnovers come at the hands of the post guys, since they generally are not good ball handlers and tend to get mugged in the post. But having two outstanding point guards this year, plus Josh Hagins doing a fine job as a combo guard, has been a big plus.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Missouri State loss

Tough loss. One we could have and should have won. Several lessons to be learned. Don't make over-aggressive, grandstanding fouls, because they might hurt the team. Don't mouth off so that the other team gets free shots and possessions in a close game. FIND THE SHOOTER! For crying out loud, do not let the other team's red-hot shooter keep taking shot after shot.

First rebounding, now defense

Shields stated that rebounding was one of his major concerns going into the season, and logically so. We are a short team, with no one except James White who had any resume as even a passable rebounder. But no doubt the staff has concentrated on this aspect of the game and the Trojans are currently plus 0.8 in rebounding: not much, but enough if the other parts of our game are in place.

Now the coach has indicated that the current concern is perimeter defense, which was very obvious. Let us hope that when the staff concentrates particularly on defense that they will be as succcessful at fixing that problem as they have been at shoring up the rebounding.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Our weakness?

Well, right now it is perimeter defense, hands down. Nothing else stands out as glaringly as that one stat. Opponents as a group are shooting 39.8% from the arc. That would be very good for an individual player, let alone a whole team, especially let alone a group of teams. Our pathetic defense is letting other teams get their shooting averages up. How we won four games so far is a mystery to me.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Our strength?

I thought it might be 3-point shooting, and it still may; but after seeing the team play and watching the stats unfold, I do not know but what it is our inside play. White and Woods are a potent pair, at least at the Sun Belt level. They should be very good. They could not handle BYU's big men, and that was not unexpected, but the ones they will see in our conference should be, for the most part, another matter.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Mareik's minutes

Mareik Isom has great potential, and late last year we saw why. So why is he not getting more minutes this year? because we have a deep and mature team where minutes are hard to find at some positions. Is he going to take minutes from Roger Woods or James White? Forget that! In fact, both of them need to be playing more minutes than they are now, if they are in shape to do it. So who might Mareik play in front of at the two swing spots (2 and 3)? Ben Dillard is one of the best career 3PT shooters in school history. We all know what a talent Josh Hagins is. James Reid has been our best 3PT shooter to date this year. So who does Mareik bump? He is a 23.9% career 3PT shooter - not the sort of stuff that forces a coach to play you. So far this year he is 2 of 8. We all think he will shoot better than that over the course of the season, and when he does undoubtedly his minutes will increase. But right now he just has to do something that is going to force Shields to play him more - and he has not done it.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Things to fix

We are 4-1, and have some things about this team that are going very well. However, we also have some outstanding problems that are going to jump up and bite us if we do not improve them. It may sound contradictory, but that is very encouraging. We have a long way to go, and still we are 4-1. We have beaten the teams we were supposed to beat, and did it with big holes in our game. Plug those holes, and who knows how good we might be this year. Nice thought.

Maurius Hill, remembering Columbus Willis

Maurius Hill reminds me of Co Willis, one of my all-time favorite Trojans. Willis was 6-5, 215#. Hill is listed this year as 6-5, 220#. Both were undersized post players who made up for their lack of size by hard work and good fundamentals. The difference was that Hill is more versatile than Willis was, but Co was a very effective pure post player.  He was a career 53% shooter, attempting only seven 3-pointers in his career. He was a hard worker on defense, regularly defending players several inches taller than he was. The style of the two players is somewhat different, but their physical stature was almost identical, and their approach to the game appears to be the same. At least I hope that Hill rises to the mark. It is a tall order. Willis is #2, first row on the right in the picture below.

Rivalry games that we do not think about

New Hampshire is playing Dartmouth today, and it is a 2-point game with about 6 minutes to go as I write. Of course, it is not a big deal on the national scene, but as the only two D1 teams in the state, no doubt it is an intense local rivalry.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

James White and Roger Woods are impressive

I saw this year's version of the Trojans for the first time tonight. We still have some issues to fix, but James White and Roger Woods are as good as advertised. They are impressive, and I am sure the Sun Belt is going to have their problems dealing with them. And I think White is just learning how dominant he can be.

This is a UALR blog

I do not apologize for it. I have it set so that there are no replies on this blog, because its purpose is not conversation: that can be had on the message board. This board is for opinions - my opinions, however much or little they may be worth.

I do not apologize for being a Little Rock fan. I like the team; I like the program. So far, at least, the staff and team have kept their noses clean much better than those people on the hill. I do not apologize for making negative comments about The Mighty Ones on the Hill, because this is a Trojan blog. I am not obligated to root for Fayetteville. I am not obligated even to like Fayetteville.


Not enough minutes for the best players

Even with two players redshirted, there will not be enough minutes this year to get deserving players on the court as much as they are going to think they deserve. We seem to have a 10-man rotation, and the second five (whoever they are on a given night) has some pretty fair players. Still, we need to have the best five on the court as many minutes as they can play at full speed, and that is not happening. Our top players in terms of minutes are James Reid and J. T. Thomas as 26.5 per game, and that is not enough minutes for your top players. Almost every team will have a couple of players with 30 or more minutes, and this team does not play up-tempo very much.

Seeing the team for the first time

Getting to see each version of the team play for the first time in the season is a special treat. Then the statistics and speculation become tangible. Then you begin to see if you guessed wrong or right regarding particular players. That is when all the "work" as a fan in the offseason pays off. Payday for the fan.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Think there is no disparity in college basketball?

According to Sagarin, Kentucky would beat Mississippi Valley by 41 points on a neutral court - and that is probably an understatement.

Little Rock vs UCA: A rivalry?

Well, certainly not yet. We have not played in twelve years. However, several of the components for a genuine rivalry are there. These are the two teams in central Arkansas, and both of them would love to lay claim to the hearts of the fans (not to mention their money). So there are some high stakes here, because presumably, in time, there should be pretty good attendance for the games (provided they are moved to sometime other than Thanksgiving weekend).

But, in order to have a genuine rivalry you have to have a few close games. That could start tomorrow, although I do not expect it and certainly hope not. However, Russ Pennell comes with a good resume, and I assume that he will have the program moving in the right direction soon.


Depth does not help much by itself, since it usually will not play. But quality depth does help. It appears we have 12 of 14 players on the roster not redshirted. Of the 12, ten are playing on a regular basis. Counting Josh Hagins, we go three deep at the point with good quality. Likewise at the SG spot. Among Roger Woods, Maurius Hill and Mareik Isom, we can mix and match at the 3 and the 4. At the 4 we have James White, and all of the above if we need them there, plus Gus Leeper. At the 5 we have Leeper and White, and after that the size drops off. So the traditional center spot is where we are thinnest. Everywhere else we are as deep as we have been.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

When players hit the road

There can be several reasons, of course: family or personal issues that have nothing to do with the school, grades, the player just not being good enough to make the grade, etc. However, if I had to guess, a majority of the cases involve an inability of the coach and the player to get along. Maybe the coach is unreasonable: that does happen. However, right or wrong he is the coach, and he is going to win. Sometimes the player may be uncoachable, however talented he may be. He will not listen, will not follow instructions, he thinks he knows how to play and is going to do it his way no matter what the coach says. We see that a lot in life in general, and I see no reason why it is not the case on the basketball court as well.

Measuring rod: tough stretch coming up

We ought to beat UCA, but then after that we have the final portion of the non-conference slate. Those five games will tell us where we stand going into the conference season. All the teams are solid squads at our level. Each of them is someone we have a realistic chance to beat. As of this writing only one of them (Bradley) has a Sagarin rating lower than ours, and we might not play Bradley if Irvine beats them in the South Point Classic.

I do not know how good we are yet. We were not nearly good enough to play with BYU, but all these teams are somewhere below them. At the moment our Sagarin is right in the middle of the Sun Belt, so if we can play with these teams, we ought to be able to compete with the better teams in the SBC.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Google it. I am not the only one using that name for him.

Dropoff at the point

Our point guards may not be as good as Georgia State's, but I am guessing that we have less drop-off in performance going from the starter to the back-up than most teams. Two good ones.

J.T. Thomas 1559137
J. T. Thomas

DeVonte Smith 1391238
DeVonte Smith

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

This team will hit a groove sometime this season

That is to be expected when you have a veteran and mature team. They learn each other, react like they should, and the team begins to function as a well-oiled machine. When that happen the sum of the parts becomes greater than the whole. When the happens, it is a lot of fun to watch.

The Reliability Factor

On message boards, arguments continually rage about who should be starting and who should be getting more or less minutes. One aspect that I seldom hear in these discussions is The Reliability Factor. Coaches, like any managers, need to know what they have. Sure, a player might play like Lew Alcindor one game, but if he played like Shrimp Shuffelmeyer the next, he could create a disaster. Coaches have to project; they have to put together game plans and strategies if they hope to win. They have to give their players the best chance to succeed, and if they are to do that, they have to know what they are going to get when they put a player on the court. If a player wants to play, he has to provide the coach with some sort of constant that he can plug into the equation of the moment. Coaches do not like a lot of "maybe's" on the court. Maybe the player will take good shots. Maybe he will play good defense. But the player that is more likely to get on the floor, especially at crunch time, is the player who will bring a reliable (predictable) level of play.

ULL off to a rough start

The Cajuns have been a disappointment so far. They were supposed to challenge Georgia State for the league title, and have the talent to get a few big wins for the conference. But their only win so far is non-D1, and they have loses to Tulsa and Auburn, which might have been some nice Ws for the Belt. Particularly Shawn Long seems to be off his oats. From a double/double machine his first two years, he is averaging 9.7 ppg and an enemic 4.0 rpg. The Sun Belt needs the Cajuns to pick up the pace!

Ray "Stump" Asbury

In 1970, Booneville went 9-2, won the district championship, and lost to Alma in the first round of the playoffs. We ran the Wishbone offense that year, and our fullback was a very intereresting player named Ray Asbury. He was about 5'6" tall, and weighed about 190 pounds, thus his nickname "Stump." He was not going to outrun anyone, but he was always good for a few yards up the middle. He made the middle of the defense stay home, and that is the first step in making the Wishbone work. He could thump you.

We played the game against Alma in water standing on the field. It was awful, and it took away pretty much all of our offense except for Asbury. We were a good passing team for a Wishbone offense, having three reliable receivers in the regular starting lineup. After the game, Marvin Daily, Alma's fullback/linebacker who signed with the Razorbacks, made a special trip to our dressing room to meet Ray. "He really hits hard," he said.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Biggest surprise so far?

To me, probably  James Reid, simply because I did not figure he would be starting at this point. But he is, and has been shooting very well. Someone else will have to evaluate his overall game, but his shooting is excellent.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Shooting more, enjoying it more

Last season 27.4% of our field goal attempts were from the 3-point line. We made 32.5% of them. Through three games this year, 31.5% of our attempts have been from the arc, and we are making 34.6% of them. Shooting more, making more. We are going with our strength, and that is a good formula.


I like Maurius Hill's game

He does several things well. He hits the boards, has several assists, he can score. Versatile player that can fill several roles for us. Good man to have on the roster.

Maurius Hill 1391237

Reviewing 3-1

Outside of the manner in which we lost to BYU, I have been satisfied so far. This is where I had hoped we would be. We still have some kinks to get worked out (like 3-point defense), but our performance at crunch time late in the last two games has been outstanding.

James White at 13 points/game and 9 rebounds/game, and 9 total blocks, is where we wanted him. Roger Woods at 12 points and 8 rebounds has been a nice plus, especially in the rebounding. We thought rebounding was going to be a problem for us this year, but we are only one board total behind the opposition.

What is most encouraging is that the three players with 12 or more 3-point attempts are all shooting at least 35%.

The rest of the non-conference schedule has a nice mix of mid-range teams from across the country. We need to get it done.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Outstanding comeback win against UMKC

We did not look very good early on in the UMKC game, but finally we got it together and came roaring back to pull the win out of the fire. James Reid has been an amazing shooter so far. You have to wonder when he will cool off. Maurius Hill had an outstanding all-round game. For an undersized post player he is putting up some nice stats.

Historically, Shields teams have had a history of slow starts. We need to get out of that habit. It did appear that Roger Woods absence made it hard for us to get started. We need him in the game, for sure.

Is the Sun Belt improving?

The SBC has not had many notable wins thus far in the season, so making a case that the league is better this season might be hard. However, we are seeing teams that in the past would have been complete patsies for body bag games making surprisingly good games. Monroe's overtime loss to #8 Florida last night is an example. Is it a trend? Time will tell, but I am encouraged.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pick out an underdog

Every fan ought to have an underdog to root for. A little guy. A hard case. Someone who just never seems to get the breaks. Pick one out and wave its flag. It is lots of fun. You do not get to pat yourself on the back and say you are a "winner" just because you link your name to someone on top of the heap, but you can have a great deal of enjoyment from it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Is it a requirement for citizenship in Arkansas

that you have to root for Fayetteville? Surely not! But some (most) of their fans act like they think it ought to be. I guess that is the single biggest factor that keeps me from rooting for Fayetteville - the attitude of their fans. They think it is their birthright that everyone in the state has to root for their team.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Shields needs a Plan B on offense

We are just in a rut offensively. Steve needs to come up with a few new wrinkles. We just do the same thing over and over, even if it isn't working, against D2 teams and teams hugely taller than we are. Sure teams get hot and cold, but the coach has to be ready to adjust.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

UMKC had to have helped their recruiting

Kansas City sits on the border of two states where basketball does matter. They are mainly an asterisk on the basketball landscape, however, because they are not in a money conference and they are an "at" school. However, a multitude of youngsters follow Missouri and Kansas State basketball. And every one of them now knows that UMKC beat Missouri and was leading KSU at the half, and stayed close. They made a statement of legitimacy. So kids who are not good enough for a money confererence scholarship now might think of staying close to home instead of moving off. Plus, those two games almost have to help attendance in Kansas City when they get to their home schedule.

This year we may have the equalizers

Much as I dislike the 3-point shot, it does give lower-level schools an outside chance against better teams if they happen to get hot on a given night. This year, we may have enough outside shooters in order to pull off a few upsets. That would be sweet. And, James White is good enough underneath that he could make them pay if they forget to pay attention.

Monday, November 17, 2014

James White will be a handful

for the Belt to handle. Watching the clips from the UAM game would have convinced me of that, if I weren't already.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The win over Monticello

The main thing we learned from the game is that we can shoot the 3, but we cannot defend it. Jamal Peterson lit us up for 27 points including 8 threes. That was not critically important this time, because we had a talent advantage - but what about against BYU? That is a problem that has to be fixed NOW.

Roger Woods can rebound: 13 is a nice total even against a D2 team. But he is two inches shorter than Monticello's tallest player. That will not be the case at BYU. He will get his real test there.

One of the best things we saw was validation of our hopes that we would have several three-point threats. We shot 45%, and had four players who made multiple 3s.

The point guards took up where they left off last season, with 8 assists against only one turnover.

The bottom line? There were several things that were encouraging, but we let a poor team stay in the game when we should have put them away. And that perimeter defense issue has to be fixed or it will kill us.

How is this for an unusual name?

Monticello (in the Univ of Ark system) has a player with the given name Xkeem Jones.

Wisconsin over Chattanooga

When your starting center and starting small forward are 5 of 9 from the arc, that is hard to overcome, especially when your starting power forward pulls down 13 rebounds. Granted that Chattanooga is not a real test for Wisconsin, but that is a pretty impressive start. Their front line did pretty much as it wanted.

Game Day!

Finally it is here. The season begins momentarily. Will our Trojans be fairly good, very good, outstanding? We will not know for a while, but at least the answer starts percolating today.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Shields' (last) chance to shine

Steve Shields has taken a lot of flack because of his mediocre record: not great, but not bad. (Personally, I think much of the griping has more to do with style of play than with his record, but that is just a guess.) This year is a chance for him to prove that he can really coach. He has a good team, probably not the best in the league, but good. Now he needs to get it done. He has to mold the character of the team, get them to play together, and be a good game coach. We shall see how he does. If he does not get it done, he probably is not going to get many more chances.

A tough job

It is hard to root against ALL the teams in the SEC, especially when they are playing each other. (Actually, there are a couple of them I like.)

Difference maker

What will be the difference for us this year? I am guessing it will be James White. Most teams do not have a post natural talent like him, and he is just beginning to come into his own. He should be requiring double coverage this year, and that gives us an advantage if we can take it.

James White 770165

Career win for UMKC

We in Little Rock dream of beating Fayetteville - in anything. We are the little brother "at" school that (so far, at least) is not allowed to have its own identity by being "Little Rock," but has to tack on that "UA" so that Fayetteville gets their due. Add to that the high-handed monopolistic practices of the Fayetteville administration and the arrogant attitudes of Fayetteville fans, and it is just hard to take.

But UMKC scored a big one for all the little guys last night, for all the "at" teams that are forced to play second fiddle. They beat Missouri. That means they beat all that money, an army of fans, a mountain of media support and years of discouragement. They did it! Don't ask me how, because I did not see the game, but I watched the score as it progressed. Missouri made a run late, but the Kangaroos fought them off and took off what probably will be the biggest win in the history of the program.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Why I don't think it is bad to schedule D2 teams

All else being equal, of course we had rather have D1 opponents. But some D1 teams are really bad, and if you are buying a win, D2 costs a lot less.

For instance, right now North Texas is up on D2 Monticello by 12 with 3 minutes in the half. With almost exactly the same time left on the clock, Duke is up over D1 Presbyterian by 33. Granted that NTU is no Duke, but they could have found a bad D1 team to beat up if they had wanted to. But instead they beat up on Monticello for a lot less cost, and they are actually giving NTU a fairly good game so far, at least so far.

Finally! the season has started

Not our season; we are still a couple of days off. But the college basketball season is here. Now we can start watching scores, analyzing box scores, criticizing coaches, griping about officials, etc.

Come on little guys! Beat those big money conferences!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tyson Batiste signing

His numbers look OK, especially for a junior. It is always hard to tell about point guards because their job has to do with so many things that do not show up in stats. But I do like that we signed a high school point. My theory is that you must have three point guards on the roster at all times, and DeVonte Smith is a senior. So this was a must signing to my way of thinking.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Signing day is special

The opening days of the two signing periods are some of the special times in college basketball. It is sort of like opening presents: you have some idea what may be there, but you are not entirely sure. The future of your program is in the balance, and all the diehard fans are holding their collective breath. Lots of suspense, and because of the suspense, lots of fun.

How much do first game D2 opponents show?

I suppose that if your team has a glaring weakness that gets exposed, that is a good thing. And if a D2 team shows it, then you need to fix it - quickly. Outside of that, it is largely a tune-up game, letting your players  get the feel of playing in a "real" game, getting into the rhythm of things before the D1  games. Honestly, not much to be gained.

Of course, I have already seen a couple of D1 teams who have lost exhibition games . . .

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Slap fouls and the press

Teams like VCU that live off the press have to hope that the officials are not calling slap fouls. You do not have to slap to press, but players inevitably do that; and if the refs are calling them, they can eat into your depth in a hurry. And most teams who press have to go deep into their bench to be able to do it.

What makes this team special?

Assuming that it is indeed special, that is. I think it probably will be the breadth of offensive weapons we have. I do not recall a roster that was this deep in players who can put up points. I hope this does not mean that we are going to neglect defense, but we have more options on the offensive end than we have ever had.

Michael Javes - what a pity!

It is a shame that Michael Javes' could not get over whatever hump caused him to leave the program. He was a prodigious talent. He could have been as good as he wanted to be, at least from the standpoint of natural tools. I do not know for sure why he left, but we had a lot invested in him.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The "other" military academies

Sports fans are generally familiar with the Army, Navy and Air Force as Division competitors. There are two other military academies, however, that are at a lower level and generally escape the notice of the sports public. The Merchant Marine Academy and Coast Guard Academy both field a full slate of athletic teams.

The "mighty" SEC

CBS this year projects the SEC to have four (4) NCAA berths. That is the same as the American, Atlantic 10 and Big East conferences, none of which have those truckloads of football money rolling in. For the record, they project the Big Ten to have 8, ACC to have 7, and  Big 12 to have 6.

How much risk does Shields carry?

We will have a new AD at the first of the year. That means he will get to watch Shields as coach for one conference season, plus he will have the data from his previous seasons. I feel sure that no AD is going to want to come in and start firing people right off the bat, but then he may also want to make a statement. So how much risk does Shields have? Does a Top Three finish keep him on the job? He has a veteran roster, so I am guessing that anything much below that will put him in jeopardy. A Sun Belt coach could recruit his entire career and not get the talent that Georgia State has, so I am guessing that he does not have to beat them to keep his job. My gut feel is that Steve will have a little bit of slack since the AD is new - but not much.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

HS Track and field: where friendship are formed

In a small school, athletic opponents come to know one another very well after a while, especially the ones who play multiple sports. For three-sport athletes, they will be seeing the same faces throughout perhaps five full years of school. It is in track and field, however, where the friendships are most likely to be formed. In contrast to other sports, in track there is a certain amount of "loafing time" between events, and whether on the infield or in the stands, it is a good chance to visit with the athletes from the other schools, swap stories (true or otherwise), talk about the football and basketball seasons, and get to know one another in general. It is a much more social than the other high school sports. Furthermore, in the other sports you will play each other once or twice during the year, but in track you will see the other teams at several meets throughout the season.

This social factor is an aspect that the other major sports do not afford. In them you are either on a sideline or a bench or in a dugout. In track, you generally can sit anywhere you like as long as your coach approves. Furthermore, although the competition in track can be very intense, it is usually not acrimonious as it can be in the other sports. You try to beat the other fellow, but your effort is entirely on offense; there is no "defense" in track. You try to achieve, but not to keep the other fellow from achieving. It was a unique and very pleasant experience for me in my high school career that I look back on with considerable fondness.


Fant could rebound.

WKU's George Fant has been a good rebounder for them, even though he is listed as only 6-6, and I think that is stretching it. Of course, he is also listed at 250#, and he knows how to use his bulk. So, that ought to be encouraging to our rebounders.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Loads of firepower

Have we ever had this much shooting potential at the shooting guard spot? Ben Dillard, Josh Hagins, James Reid, and if needed, Mareik Isom could perhaps even play that spot if we wanted to go big. Bombs away!

Defense or offense

Steve Shields is going to have more mix-and-match opportunities with this year's roster than he perhaps has ever had before. No better example is at the small forward position, where he has an excellent defender in Stetson Billings, and a potent offensive force in Roger Woods. All that presents some problems for the coach, but it is a lot better than not having those problems to solve.

Friday, November 7, 2014

I am tired of massaging stats. Time for some games!

I study recruiting and statistics all through the long off-season. It keeps me entertained, but this time of year there is nothing much left to look at. We creep - slowly - toward the start of the season. It cannot come too quickly for me.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Relaxed, but intense

That is what I want to see us be this year. Focused and confident. Smoldering, pent-up aggression.

Stars have to twinkle first

We have no "star" players with the glamor of Georgia State's three or the big man at ULL. We do have two or three that could be close to breaking out into that league. However, when a player is already playing well, it is difficult to take another giant step forward. Usually by that point the increases are incremental. However, if indeed one of our better players has the stuff to move into that class of player, that would make a huge difference on this team. A "monster year" always helps.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

We will stake our claim to what?

Geogia State has big time guards. ULL has a big-time post man. What will we be staking our claim to this year? It has to be something, or we are out of the hunt. Three-point shooters? Possibly. James White inside? Possibly. Killer defense? A good chance of that. In any case, we have to do something well enough to be a blood pressure factor to the opposing coaches.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sufficient warm-up

I would have liked one more game other than Monticello to get into sync before we travel to BYU, but it is what it is. We have it to do.

Woody Hayes was a loser

Oh, he won lots of games as a coach, but who cares?! As a person he was a complete cull - the very definition of the word "loser" to any thinking person. He had no self-control at all, and a trail of ugly incidents followed him all his career until finally it ended with the infamous punching of an opposing player. Good riddance!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Belt teams on the national scene

The only SBC teams that you figure could possibly make a noise on the national scene are Georgia State and ULL, because of their high-powered talent. Beyond that, not so much. Outside of BYU, which would not be a major upset, we really do not have any opportunities to make noise, unless we were undefeated going into conference play - not likely. The conference hopefully will pick up a few notable upsets. We need to, because they were scarce last year.

Who will win SOY?

That is, Surprise of the Year? Someone will. Obviously, it will not be anyone that we expect to do well, unless that player just skyrockets beyond all reason. So, that pretty well eliminates James White, Roger Woods and Josh Hagins from the list. Anyone else might be on it. The other newcomers might take hold and become major factors in spite of being on a veteran team. Stetson's offense might suddenly ignite. Even Ben Dillard might win it if he finally shoots like we all figure he can, and shoots often enough. But someone will surprise us. Maybe more than one someones.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sounds like Andre Brown's role has been defined

From the official site:
A 6-6 left-hander, Brown can put the ball on the floor and shoot, but won’t look to do either as often as Woods. He proved himself as an excellent rebounder last season at Southwest Tennessee Community College, averaging 6.9 rebounds in 21.1 minutes per game. 

Sounds like he may be our designated rebounder. That's OK. We need one.

Andre Brown 1875247

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Come on, Arlington!

I hope we beat them, but I hope they do really well in the Belt since they are a non-football school. I despise that arrogant, condescending "football is the only thing that matters" attitude that so many so-called "sports fans" have in the South. Because of that, I love it when non-football schools win over football schools.

"Unappreciated" chip

Here is an idea: Shields needs to get 16 small pieces of wood, write "UNAPPRECIATED" on each of them, and lay them on the shoulder of each player. The symbolism? No one ever thinks highly of Little Rock. They always go for the glamor teams. So we need to get a chip on our shoulders because we are only picked third, and then do something about it.



When you have depth you can afford to be aggressive. It sounds like that is what we are going to be on offense, at least more so than usual. We know that Josh Hagins has always been that way a times, and Ben Dillard is much more so that appears on the surface, as exhibited in the number of free throws he shoots. Now that he is The Man in the middle, you have to think that James White is going to assert his leadership. Throw into the mix Roger Woods, who comes advertised as a player who is relentless in going to the basket on offense, and that is a nice combination, especially since at least three of those players should be on the court together a good bit of the time.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I am thinking

that Leeper-White-Woods or White-Isom-Woods will be a pretty solid Belt front line.

Stay healthy, stay healthy, stay healthy

Health is the one factor absolutely no one can predict. The Georgia State juggernaut already has been slowed down somewhat by an injury to one of their Big Three players. ULL's prospects definitely would take a devastating blow if their big guy were to get hurt. It is great to have star players, but they have to be on the court to help you.

Maybe we will stay healthy this year. As far as I know, at the moment we look to be in pretty good shape, but that could change at any moment. Last year we had a good bit of injury problems, and they hurt our performance noticeably. Let's hope for the best this time around.

Foreign connections

It is interesting how certain schools in certain sports develop connections to certain foreign countries. We have several Bosnian players on our volleyball team, and our women's golf team has a strong Scandanavian representation. I just noticed that the Troy women's soccer team has four players from England on the roster. I would love to see an article about how these various recruiting connections are established.

What will we do well?

To be a winning team, you have to do several things pretty well, or one or two things exceptionally well. Well . . . I think we will shoot FTs well above the average, but probably not exceptionally well, since Georgia State probably will do better than we will. Our defense should be above average, if Shields can get the intensity from the team that he normally requires. I think our assist/turnover ratio this year should be good, with essentially three point guards who will get lots of playing time. There is no reason we should not be a good 3-point shooting team, although we were not one last year. However, I think that since we have more good options from the arc those who do not produce will be more restricted in their shooting.

We still have things where we need to get better, but I think the 2014-2015 version of the Trojans will have lots of legs to stand on.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Calipari's two platoons

Even at Kentucky there has to be some significant differentiation in the ability of your #1 player and your #10 player. With the two hundred media timeouts per game that we have these days, why would you want to have your tenth player in the game that much of the time, since your best player should be well rested? Most normal college rotations would not even go that deep. And "first man off the bench" sounds way better than "second platoon."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fitting the Shields profile

We have a couple of players this year who fit what has become a common profile for players during the Shields era, those being Maurius Hill and Roger Woods. Stocky, muscular, undersized 3/4 combo types. We have had some pretty good players who fit that description over the years. Maybe the first of them was Co Willis, who was a real warrior.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Brooklyn-Iceland connection

What is it with the Brooklyn to Iceland recruiting tie-in? LIU Brooklyn has two Icelanders on their roster, and St. Francis Brooklyn has another. That might make an interesting media story.

And now the waiting

This is always a hard time of the year. We know a little about the team, but not nearly enough. We cannot see most of the practices. We have just about chewed all the speculation to death. It is only a few more days until "real" things happen, but it is SO hard to wait.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Where the volleyball spotlight shines

Volleyball is like other sports in that the spotlight usually shines, not where the greatest worth is, but upon that which pleases the fans most. The spectacular play in volleyball is the kill: the big players up front slamming the ball home for the points. To me, however, the much more impressive aspect of the game are the digs, which require amazing reflexes, and making really skillful sets for the striker. But, as usual, the home run hitters get the press, and the shortstops only get the appreciation of teammates.

Maximize your strengths

A really good coach puts the strengths of his team to the best advantage. Our, no doubt, is our depth on the perimeter. I am not smart enough to know how to put this to use, but Steve Shields should know. Georgia State, for example, will substitute very little for their guards. With all the media timeouts these days, that will be less of a disadvantage than it would otherwise be, but even at that we ought to be able to use it well.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

We lack a superstar

We were picked to be third in the Belt in the official preseason polls. That shows that the voters have a lot of respect for our team this were, but we do not have any superstars like Georgia State and ULL do. But that is OK. We have always emphasized team play, anyway. It is the sum of the parts that counts.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Proud to be a Trojan!

Under the best of circumstances this program would have to fight against the stream. This is a football state, and folks' attention is not going to be turned to basketball until the first of the year; so really, we really only get a half-season in the average public's mind.

But the bigger problem is in our outlook. We suffer from the "At" University Syndrome. The University of Arkansas AT Little Rock. Kind of an ugly step-sister. (The main reason I wish we would banish "Arkansas" from all our uniforms and logos and just let it be "Little Rock.) As long as that "at" is there we are being reminded by the Powers That Be to keep in our place. One reason older fans love Mike Newell so much was that he had a little "in your face" swagger, which is what it will take from those in the entire department for our program to be successful in terms of establishing its own identity in this State That Oinks.

I like what the Interim AD is doing relative to student involvement. We need to get the entire student body away from that old walk-on campus mentality. "This is MY university, and I am proud of it," is what the we need to get the students thinking.

We need to do as much as we can to get T-Shirts, bumper stickers, license plates, etc. into the hands of students and local fans. (Preferably these would emphasize the Little Rock instead of the Arkansas.) Whether a particular team is winning or not, we need to get the student body as a whole and that portion of them that are sports fans in particular thinking positively. Proud to be a Trojan!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

When good players sign with slow teams

I love it when top tier players sign with teams that play at a slower pace. ESPN's #39 recruit just committed to Virginia, who are stigmatized for their deliberate pace.

Balance does not naturally occur

Water flows downhill, even if only gently. Even in Kansas there are rivers. So, purely for the sake of illustration let us suppose that Mareik is the real deal and our starters turned out to be Josh, Ben, Roger, Mareik and James. Good lineup. All of those would be scorers. But still they probably will not all score double figures, because the scoring load is going to drift toward certain players. Some of it will be how opponents react: they are going to put their best defenders on what they perceive to be our biggest threats. Second will be just the chemistry of the team, which will in itself force some players to the forefront. James is not a passer, and he is going to have to be a rebounder. If Josh were to be our main point guard (very unlikely), he would have to be worrying about those duties, not just scoring. The ebb and flow of team play is constantly changing, and because of that it will not and cannot stay perfectly flat.

Some teams have lots of double-figure scorers because they play at a fast pace and there are lots of points to go around. That will not be our case. I think we will have three players in double figures, and possibly even four, depending on the mix. But not five.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Moser/Shields era has not produced a lot of big numbers

Big individual totals have been the exception rather than the rule since the year 2000. There have been a few. Laverne Smith scored 36 points in 2000, and Brandon Freeman had 37 in 2004 and 38 in 2005. In rebounding, we had the privilege of watching Rashad Jones-Jennings, who had four efforts of 20-plus, including the all-time record of 30.