Friday, January 31, 2014

This might be a better tournament team

Especially if our perimeter defense improves some, this just might be a better tournament team than some we have had. We have a top point guard, and a couple of players who can score in a hurry if needed. Tournament teams have players who can create their own shots at crunch time, and Josh can do that, and DeVonte, also, if he has to. One other thing we could have going for us in tight games is the fact that we can put players at every position that are good FT shooters. What goes against us is the tendency of a few key players to get in early foul trouble, plus Shields' tendency to over-coach.

But this year, with Georgia State being there, I think all that may  be beside the point.

Basketball "experts" are pretty stupid

Remember a few weeks ago how the basketball website experts were falling all over themselves speculating about whether or not Kentucky's fabulous freshmen could go undefeated? Well, already they have lost FIVE games, and the season has a good way to go. Glamor sells, though, and Sleezipari is the glamor boy of basketball these days.

ULL - a gutsy win

We swapped absent post stars with them, and came out the winner. They started strong, but in typical Little Rock fashion, the Trojans scapped and clawed their way back into the game and took control down the stretch. Will Neighbour was outstanding as he bounced back from his dismal showing against ASU, but it was a complete team effort, with one of the best showings of the season  by the bench.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chris Collins on team unity

Northwestern head coach Chris Collins after their upset of Wisconsin: "Our identity is defense - there's no question. For me in basketball, defense is the time when you're most united."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Belt squeezed toward the middle

At the start of the year, it had seemed as if there would be a definite two-tier system in the Sun Belt, with the winners and losers being very difficult to call. Things haven’t gone quite like I expected. Georgia State has broken loose from the pack, of course, and appear to be in a class by themselves. Their two headliner players are just a cut above the normal Belt talent level. But the next four have not been quite as good as I thought they would be. ULL, WKU, ASU and Little Rock have all shown they can be beaten on a given night. On the other hand, Monroe has been  better from the get-go than I thought they would  be, and lately the two new Texas  teams have been showing signs of life. By far the biggest disappointment has been USA, and I cannot figure that one out.

I love to go to ballgames

It is the only place I can go and shout insults a people bigger than me. (with apologies to Wallace Wimple)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

UT Martin: How bad can defense be?

After 23 games, opponents are shooting a collective 51.6% against Martin. Not only do they not stop the other team, they do not even slow them down. And evidently they do not even try, because if they gave half an effort they could do better than that.

Will has something to prove now

After his dismal performance against ASU, Will Neighbour has something to prove. Is he one of the elite players in the league, or just one who fattens his stats against weaker opponents and folds when the going gets tough. I don't believe that for a moment, but I think he will want to make sure everyone knows that it is not true.

Monday, January 27, 2014

This is a frustrating team

We have some firepower on this team this year, but once again they are playing like a team that can win only on grit and determination. We gut out 2-point wins, and get blown out in our losses. We just do not have any flair, and seem to play like a team that is afraid of losing.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

One more reason to root for Northwestern

I have followed Northwestern for several years, since they are the prototypical underdog team, never having been to the NCAA tournament. I liked Bill Carmody, but he never could get them over the hump, though he got close. I liked Carmody's deliberate offensive style, but I did not like the fact that it was purely white-collar. It was very non-physical, based almost entirely on three-pointers. They just never would get their hands dirty under Carmody.

Norwestern is an elite academic school, and Carmody's white-collar style reflected the school. Well, Carmody is gone, and Chris Collins is the new coach. I did not expect him to take this route, but evidently he has decided for Northwestern to be the Chicago blue-collar team, much like Pitt has become for that city. The team will now reflect the city instead of the school. I like it! That is my kind of basketball. Physical, in-your-face.

Here are a couple of links to articles about Northwestern's transition:

Here is a great name for a PA call

Iowa State's Bubu Palo.

"Bu-buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu Palo!

ASU vs. UALR basketball

One of the best rivalries and most entertaining sporting events in the state of Arkansas. I have only been able to attend one of them, but I have listened to many, and they are great. Intense emotion and effort.

ASU has a big advantage in the location of the two schools. Lots of ASU grads live in Little Rock, so their crowds at our place are very good - usually almost as many as we have. On the other hand, there are far fewer UALR grads in northwest Arkansas.

Let's not discriminate against pretty

I like wins, even the ugly ones. This team has tended to win ugly. But let's not discriminate against the other type of win. It wouldn't hurt us to do everything right once in a while and open up a big lead and hold it. Every once in a while?

Friday, January 24, 2014

How many scorers?

Certainly it is not universally true, but most teams will have three main scorers among the starters, and out of an 8-10 man rotation, a couple more players whose role off the bench is to provide offense. Right now we have the two scorers among the starters in Will and James, and one off the bench in Josh. We have other offensive threats from both places - players who can score - but not players who can be counted upon to score consistently. We need to find a couple more reliable offensive factors.

DeVonte steps up

DeVonte Smith is becoming the best point guard we have had in a while. He just does not turn over the ball, and he showed against TSU that he can score when he needs to, although his instincts are a pure, pass-first point guard. What a steal!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

We need an ugly Trojans logo

If we are going to win every game ugly, then we need to scrap that noble-looking Trojan head and get us to design a logo that matches our play. If you are going to win ugly, then be proud of it.

Bring in John Fowler

Let him give a pep talk to the team on perimeter defense. And I'm not joking.

Records add spice to a season

When there are significant season or career marks being set during the course of a season, it helps to make the year more fun, regardless of the team's record. This year, for instance, it has been a lot of fun watching Will Neighbour move into the elite 1000/500 Club.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Lack of roster turnover the exception

These days roster turnover (except for graduation) seems to be the rule. Most teams will lose someone for one reason or another. Kids tend to think the process is about them instead of about the team and the program. Instant gratification is rampant in society. I expect recruiting is so competitive that coaches (many of them, at least) tend to exaggerate the realistic opportunities for playing time. Players are less receptive to disciplinarian coaches. Lots of factors.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I am still confused by our recruiting.

Ben Dillard
Kemy Osse
Josh Hagins

add Jeron Washington and James Reid.

Josh Hagins was recruited as a point guard, but if J. T. Thomas comes back healthy, it is likely he will spend most of his time at the 2.

Five shooting guards is a few too many.

We are in good shape for next year

I do not know who is coming back, of course, but if all the current players return, we should have another team in the top tier of the Belt. Smith is one of the best point guards in the league. Among our group of shooting guards we have plenty of talent and depth. James White will be a star, and Gus Leeper is at least adequate at center. How the support group breaks out remains to be seen, but there is enough coming back to get it done.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Butler consistency

The same five players have started all 18 games this year. And their rotation only goes eight deep.

Can Georgia State capitalize on success?

Georgia State has a unique situation this year. They have a high-D1 transfer and the coach's son who are their two main players. Nothing wrong with doing it that way, but it is pretty hard to sustain. I mean, a coach only has so many sons, and there are not too many Top Ten team transfers floating around that want to come to the Sun Belt. G-State should have two or three really good years here, but in the meantime their recruiting is going to have to make hay while the sun shines.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

We will take our lumps this year

We are not going to blow everybody out, maybe not anybody. But we should win more than our share and should end up in the top three or four in the league.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Teams that move away from their roots

I just read a very good article that discussed the troubles Wisconsin has had over the last couple of games because they have moved away from their characteristic defensive-minded team. The single biggest thing Steve Shields' teams have been known for over his tenure is perimeter defense. They defended the 3 with bulldog tenacity. This year we do NOT do that, and it has killed is a few times this year. I do not know what has changed, but we need to get it fixed. We are getting away from our roots, and that is never good. You can add good things, but you cannot desert what brung you.

We had better learn again to defend the perimeter

Or we will be a sitting duck for everyone, because everyone has 3-point shooters these days.

Playing after emotional games

The Western Kentucky game this week is a prime example of an emotional high. This has been a rival for many years, and we really needed this win to make a run for the conference title, and this was the last time we would be playing at Diddle arena as a conference member. So, it was a big, big game, And we won on overtime. Obviously a very emotionally-draining game. Then we have to pick up and go into Georgia State's arena, where we have never played before, to play the league leader and presumptive favorite (at this point) to win the conference this year.

The coaches have a tough, tough job. They do not want to rob the players of the enjoyment of the WKU win, but actually, they can only let them have a few hours (overnight) to do it. Then they have to completely turn their attention to Georgia State, completely start over on the emotional side, and hope they have some juice left to play another close game. There just is no let-up in the Sun Belt this year.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

How good was Oscar Robertson?

Let Kareem tell you.


You don't think Chamberlain would be dominant today?

Every game is a big game

In a year when there are several about-equal teams in the league, or at least several pretty good teams, every game is tough. You cannot afford to stub your toe and lose games you were supposed to win, because you might never catch back up. And the further you go the more critical they all seem.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Why won't Ben Dillard shoot more?!

He is having a stellar season, but he just won't shoot. Can't figure it.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Trojan Tough!

This team is showing signs of that old swagger and toughness that some of the earlier teams had. I like it!

James White and free throws

If James White's recent offensive effort is indicative of things to come, then he really needs to work on his FT shooting, because he is going to get fouled a lot.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What number are the South Alabama coaches looking at most?

I imagine is is James White's shooting percentage over the last four games.

Better not fall behind

I have a feeling that this conference season teams had better not have any bad losses, particularly losses at home. If you fall behind in the race, you may never catch up.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Better protect the home court

As competitive as the Belt promises to be this season, especially at the top, teams had better not lose at home. It will be really, really tough to get road wins against the better teams.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Making excuses with terminology

Isn't it amazing when we apologize for an undisciplined jerk by saying that he is "competitive"?

Do poorly coached teams tend to play well as teams?

Just food for thought.

Southern Cal's glamor coach goes down thump!

To UCLA. I love it!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The pieces are starting to fall into place

With James White's emergence as an effective offensive force, this team is beginning to look a lot more complete. Will Neighbour is a tall player who is an offensive force, but his strength is not really in the post. White is not a perimeter player all, and now we have a Mr. Inside to compliment our outside threats. Add to that the fact that Gus Leeper continues to be a reliable (if unspectacular) post player, that Josh Hagins is showing signs of becoming the Crunch Time scorer you have to have in big games, that Poulter is at least available for minutes now, and the fact that a few of the subs are showing a few signs of life, and we look a lot better for league play.

James White is heating up

25 of 33 from the field over his last four games (75%).

Turning college basketball into a game of HORSE

With the ridiculous and unreasonable promotion and protection of the three-point shot, college basketball is slowly but surely degenerating into a glorified game of HORSE. Watch the players warming up. Even a lot of the post guys are standing out at the arc shooting 3-point shots, like that is the only thing that matters. And the way the rules are skewed these days, it is virtually the only thing that counts. We reward the taking of a low-percentage shot by making it count more and exacting a greater penalty for guarding it (the 3-shot foul). It ought to be the other way around. If you are dumb enough to take a low-percentage shot, then you should be on your own. Make fouling a shot from the arc to be a one-shot foul, and see how it changes the game. Perimeter defenses would immediately become must more aggressive - and THAT would encourage ball movement and penetration. Instead, we once again changed the rules this year to take away hand-checks, forcing perimeter defenders to back off just a hair and giving three-point shooters that much more leeway to blast away.

All this from the old American Basketball Association. Thanks guys! I wish you had given us the red, white and blue basketballs and kept the three-point shot.

We won slow; can we win fast

The pace should be significantly faster against Arlington than it was against TSU. Can we win on the road against both styles? Stay tuned.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Good quote about Wisconsin

(from Sports Illustrated's Brian Hamilton)  "Wisconsin moved to 14-0 because it mostly does what it is expected to do, which is to leave the other team entirely clueless about what will happen."

Winning teams make plays in the crunch

That is what we did at Texas State, both on offense and defense. We shot 63% in the second half, 3 of 4 from the arc and 15 of 17 from the line. I still would not call this a good team, but I will take a tough team over a good team any time. We shall see if this one qualifies for either as the season goes on.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Now the part that counts

Sadly, because of the nature of things in college basketball, unless you are in that thin layer of non-money-conference teams that have a shot at an at-large berth in the NCAA, the non-conference season means virtually nothing except getting in shape for conference season. Now we are to the part that counts. Make it count, Trojans!

"Depth" in college basketball

With all the timeouts there are in basketball these days, and considering the condition most players are in, "depth" in college basketball is not so much a factor of fatigue as of quality. A good coach can shuffle his rotation to keep his players fresh without any problem. (A few years back we had a player play every minute of a five-overtime game.) His problem is whether or not his shuffling leads to a drastic dropoff in ability. Likewise, if a starter gets into foul trouble, is his replacement going to be able to hold his own, or does it force a major shift in the coach's strategy because of the personnel change? Quality depth gives a coach options. Lack of it causes him to have to take his team away from what it does best.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Southern's Roman Banks: Talk about a phoney coach!

After Southern beat Champion Baptist 116-12 and kept pressing the whole way, Southern head coach Roman Banks said, "We want to play to set the record straight and show people that there was no intent to hurt anyone or embarrass them." For crying out loud! What kind of fools does he think we are?! He ought to know how it feels, since SWAC teams get beat up all the time by higher-ranked teams. I can spot a liar when I hear one.

It is all relative

I don't mind my basketball team missing a few shots, but I surely do not want my brain surgeon to miss any.

Fouls as a factor in basketball

Whether we like it or not, fouls are a major factor in basketball. (That is why officiating is more crucial in basketball than in any other major sport.)

Most teams have two or three players that are their "go to" guys, who are significantly better than the rest of the roster. Then again, if a team has to go past its normal rotation, you obviously have another dropoff in play. If your #2 player is half again better than your #6 player, and your #6 player is in the game because your #2 player is in foul trouble, that is a major advantage to the opponent.

 It is a statistical fact that most teams that rely primarily on the 3-point shot do not get fouled very much, so their opponents do not have to go down into their less-productive players as often. The new 3-point play is flashier than the "old-fashioned three," but the old way has the advantage that after you make it, your opponent may have to go to the bench, while the new 3 costs him nothing but the points. If you can make 3's in a manner that are more costly to your opponent, why not try that way first?

We have to get the edge now

Tough teams have an "edge" to them. Shields good teams had an edge. Hard-nosed and blue collar. I liked those teams - a lot. I like this team, also, but it is a different sort of team. It evidently does not hang its hat on defense as much as in the past. It is easy to have an edge when you focus on defense; less so when you are more an offensive team, and especially less when that offense is 3-point shooting. My observation is that in most cases, teams that live by the 3 tend to be "soft" teams. There are exceptions, of course, but that is a fair generalization in my experience, because teams that live on the perimeter tend to think they do not have to be as physical, and teams that are not physical usually are soft. However, there are those exceptions, which show that it can be done. Wisconsin is one of them. They are a 3-point team, but no Bo Ryan team is going to be soft. And that is what we are going to have to do now that conference has started. We need to play better defense than we have been, but especially we have to get that "crisis management" mentality - the ability to step up when the going is critical.

No one, looking at the stats, would pick us, at this point, to win the Belt. So if we are going to win it, we are going to have to play better than our stats, and to do that you have to be tough. We have to play so that after the game, someone looks at the stat sheet and says, "How did they win that?" We just made plays when we had to make plays, and to do that you have to be tough.