Friday, February 28, 2014

"It is my watch now."

Sometimes the reason that players are not outstanding is that it is not their turn to be outstanding. They have older, more experienced players ahead of them, and they fill their role and wait their time to be the stars. It is not that they are not capable of doing it; it is just not their time to do it. Will Neighbour was the player around which this team was built this season, and for good reason. He was one of the unique players in this history of this program, if not in league history. He does a lot of things well. But now Will is hurt. For all practical purposes, his season is finished. That means it is someone else's turn.

Machines run well when each part functions as it is supposed to. Players like James White, DeVonte Smith, Ben Dillard, etc., have played in Will's shadow. They did not lead the team in scoring because that was not their role - this season. But this season ended early as far as the established order of things is concerned. Next year is here now. Will is gone, so the parts of the machine have to take on new functions. And most D1 players have the ability to step their game up a notch when it is their turn to shine.

In the Navy, sailors take "watches," that is, their turn being responsible for the security and safety of the ship. They strive to make sure that nothing detrimental happens "on my watch." Will's watch is over now. It is time for the rest of the team to step up. They all need to say, "It is my watch now."

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Want to know how Wichita State is 30-0?

They play good, fundamental basketball. First of all, they play impressive defense: opponents shoot only 39.7% against them overall and 30.9% from the arc. They dominate the boards with a plus-8 margin. They take very good care of the ball, with a 1.30 team A/TO ratio.

UALR's staff of assistants

This has to be the best staff of assistant coaches I have seen at Little Rock in my tenure as a fan, and probably as good a collection of assistants as you could ask for at our level. I really have been impressed with them.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

He doesn't shoot much, but when he does!

Idaho State's starting center, Ayibakuro Preh (#55), has taken only 46 shots this season so far, but he has made 33 of them, for 71.7% from the field.

The worst shot in basketball

Commentators will say the player had guts, or ice water in his veins, or knows no fear, but it still is a terrible shot. When a player pulls up on a fast break and shoots a three-pointer, unless he has some rebounding help breaking with him, that is a TERRIBLE shot. He is just hotdogging instead of driving in for the layup or the dunk and the sure two points. Awful shot.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Denver is still up to their old tricks

Shooting lights out, taking superb care of the ball - and getting murdered on the boards.

One advantage we might have in the tournament

No one will expect anything of us, and teams like that sometimes play  very loose, and loose teams sometimes surprise people. Here's hoping.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Where there's not a Will, is there a way?

We can have a good team without Will Neighbour. The question is, How quickly can we get there? Can we realign immediately as be good in the last few games of the season? That will be tough, but stranger things have happened. Sometimes players stand around waiting for the #1 guy to take charge, and do no assert themselves until they have to. I do not think the talent on this team is overwhelming, but we have some good players who can win some games. We just need to adjust very quickly.

Done in by injuries?

It would be ironic if Steve Shields were done in by a year hampered by injuries. For the most part, a coach cannot control that, but sometimes it becomes the straw the breaks the camel's back. When you have a year like that, you have to have a backlog of success to get you over the hump, and Steve does not have much of that. He may survive, but he may not, and if he does not, he can look back down the path, not just at this season, but at all the years in the past when we did not get it done.

Just getting started on next year

From here on out, we are just getting a head start on next season. There is no salvaging this disastrous season. Even if we should get hot down the stretch and even go to the NCAA again, it will be meaningless because we had such a bad season and did not deserve it. Take our losses and move on.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

This program is in free fall

Painful to watch. Not awful, but definitely not good.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

This program does not have any shot-makers

Clutch shooters. Josh Hagins has done it a few times, but he has to take so many shots to make what he does, it doesn't help in the long run.

One thing you will never see on ESPN

A player locking down another player with outstanding off-the-ball defense.

This program just cannot seem to get off dead center

We have had some above-average years recently, and a couple of pretty good ones. But most years we fall into the "somewhat above average" category. Not bad, but not very satisfying, either.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Why I like SLU basketball

"The Billikens aren't going to regularly be on highlight reels but they're regularly going to win." (Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Not in a good spot, but schedule favors us

Looking ahead, we need to get into the top four before the tournament. Right now we are fifth, behind GSU, WKU, ULL and stAte. However, of our four remaining games, three are at home, and the only game we play against teams ahead of us is against the one directly ahead of us (the one we need to pass in the standings), and that game is at home. So, the schedule is in our favor.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

It's time to get fired up

We may or may not like how we have done so far. We may or may not like the administration and the staff. But it is crunch time, and this team has played hard, and it deserves our support.

Programs regaining success

It is fun to watch when programs that have had success in the past, but have fallen on hard times, regain some degree of prominence. One of the current ones is Iowa State, where Fred "The Mayor" Hoiberg has revived that team into national relevance again.

Sometimes the switch doesn't work

South Alabama got rid of a long-time coach and went to a high-profile assistant from a national powerhouse program (Butler). And immediately plunged from one of the pre-season favorites to the Disappointment of the Year award. Things may straighten out in time (I hope it does, because USA should be one of the Belt's better programs), but it was obvious that in this case the switch was not an immediate fix.

This program needs a chip on its shoulder

In the State of the Hog, when you don't oink, you have to have a little attitude, and our administration definitely does not.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bad news, good news come tournament time

With reference to the tournament, the bad news about this team is that we are only an OK 3-point-shooting team, and these days it usually is getting hot from the arc that gets teams into the Dance. Furthermore, we are not a terribly good team at defending the arc against those type teams, so they are likely to go on a team and blow us out of games.

The good news is that a lot of teams that get hot from the arc and blow people out that way are fairly one-dimensional teams, and we are a notch above that. We have size. We have a good-shooting big man. We are at least competitive rebounding. While our perimeter defense is not great, it is not horrible, either, and we do have a reliable lock-down defender, and another in the making. We have a couple of very quick guards, and multiple three-point threats. We are not overly strong in any one factor, but we are reasonably good in several. That could stand us in good stead, especially if we can somehow manage to get into the semifinal bye.

A formula for frustration

Teams at our level have built-in frustration factor. We see the success of the money programs, who can afford to buy talent we cannot. And we see occasional successes by teams below that level, and that makes us hungry - and it should. What we forget is that 98% of the teams are about like we are, on again and off again. By definition most teams are mediocre or below, but knowing that fact does not make it any easier to stomach.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Understated, I hope

“We struggled to get going offensively,” said head coach Steve Shields following the loss. 

It would appear that our coach is a master of understatement. 

I am not going to worry about who the coach is

As long as he runs a clean program and is not a sleezebag. I have no control over that and I am not going to lose any sleep over it. Besides, it is about the team, not the coach, anyway. I might have my opinions, but I am not going to let that spoil my fun as a fan.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

How is this for a stat?

Wisconsin beats Michigan at Michigan, and they have two (2) turnovers. That's right - two. One plus one. I wonder if it is possible to play a basketball game without ANY turnovers. They certainly are getting close.

Year of unfulfilled potential

Ah, it could have been so much better!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

If you play just as hard at the first of the game

as you do at Crunch Time, there might not even have to be any Crunch Time.

Not a successful season

Unless possibly if we win out, there is no way this is a successful season. Part of it is the administration's fault with the scheduling; part of it was due to injuries; and part of it falls to the team for just not getting it done. Not an awful season, but certainly not satisfying. Should have been much better.

Friday, February 14, 2014

This is one tough bunch of kids

Hats off to a coaching staff who can get them to play as hard as they do. I had a thousand times rather watch Little Rock than the talented prima donnas that a lot of other schools have.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Poor Stan Heath

I like Stan and think he is a good coach, but South Florida just looked AWFUL against UConn last night, on both ends of the court.

What do college baseball and football have in common?

You get to watch both outside in the cold.

Heartbreaking losses

It is painful to lose a game when some hot shot, hotdogging guard throws up an unlikely shot at the last second and sinks it. But if you cannot hit free throws standing still with no one is guarding you, you really cannot complain if the other guy makes a shot on the run.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I hate quick whistles

I hate it when basketball refs blow the whistle on a shot before the shot has even been made. They just know there is going to be a foul and make up their minds about it ahead of time. Well, maybe they are right. Maybe there would be a foul 99% of the time. But why not be honest and wait until it actually happens first? This might be that 1% instance and they then penalize a good defender because of their pre-judging.

Looking ahead to the 5 spot

There is a lot of season left this year, but looking ahead to next year for a moment: it is the 5 position that has me the most concerned. Gus Leeper is a decent player, and could be just fine for us at the post - but he cannot stay on the court because of foul trouble. If he does not conquer that, we are really hurting there. And, we just have no idea at this point if Poulter is going to be of much benefit. He could come along nicely, but he also could be a dud. He has not played enough for us to know. We hear rumors that we will be signing one more post player, but that has yet to happen. Lots of uncertainty.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Deer in the headlight

This team has a bad habit of seemingly getting shell-shocked at times in games, especially at the start. (See ASU and Georgia State as examples.) When that happens we have taken ourselves out of any realistic chance of winning. We really do not need that to happen in any or the remaining games, because we probably have to win 4 of 6 to stay in the second pair of byes.

Not dominant, but effective

I would not describe Will Neighbour as a dominant player. His stats and his game are not of the nature that allows him just to take over a game. However, because he does so many different things well, he is a very effective player, and the team does better while he is in there, not just because of his shooting, but also because of his rebounding, passing, and defense.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Nothing against our departing friends from the Bluegrass State

But I hope a team that is remaining in the Belt wins the tournament this year.

What have you done lately?

Basketball is a game in which memories are short. A player makes a last-second shot and he “won” the game for his team. No one remembers that earlier in the game he made costly mistakes without which his team might have been comfortably ahead and there would be no need for heroics. Come NCAA time and it is the wins late in the season that loom large, far less than the losses in the first few games. All this tends to trivialize the game, encouraging the flashy and the unsubstantial. But that has been the nature of the game, at least since the NCAA tournament became the monster of the sport, and since ESPN arrived on the scene to sensationalize everything. It is not likely to change any time soon.

Getting to watch an all-time great

As Will Neighbour continues to climb higher on the records charts at UALR, I hope we all appreciate that we are getting to watch one of the all-time Trojan greats. Not among the very greatest at any particular thing, but I do not know that we have ever had this versatile a player.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Fans in our situation have to be patient

We saw last night a glimmer of hope with Mareik Isom. Finally we saw what evidently the coaches have been seeing since they recruited him. Hopefully it will be the same with Poulter, although the time frame for return in his case will be longer. In many cases, the freshmen we have are going to have to develop. We will not recruit One-And-Done types. We have to recruit potential. Not so, of course, with jucos, you expect more immediate returns, but in most cases the jucos we bring in will be role players - point guards, rebounders, or pure shooters. They will fill a role, but even with jucos we are not likely to get the kind of dominant, all-round players like the money schools get.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose

WKU made the final shot. If the game had lasted another 30 seconds we might have won. Nature of the game. Painful when you are on the losing end, but we enjoyed it at Diddle this year when we won.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Dillard and Hagins need to meet in the middle

Ben Dillard is the consumate "within the system" player. He knows his job and does it very well. He rarely gets "outside the box." So, he avoid the negatives, but forfeits many pluses. Josh Hagins plays outside the box much of the time, and thus he misses a lot of shots and creates quite a few negatives - but he finds some big positives at times that might otherwise have been missed. The two need to meet in the middle somehow.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The lack of leadership in this program

So, so, frustrating. It is like we are determined to be nobody. This could be a nice little program, carving out a niche for ourselves as Central Arkansas' Team, with a small but devoted following. Our success on the court has been limited, but even small success can be leveraged by a creative and aggressive (and not necessarily expensive) promotional campaign. But we just REFUSE to do it. Are we determined to fail?! Are we dead set on being nobodies and second best? I just do not understand it.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

This program badly needs some marquee wins

Not many to be had in a conference as low as the Belt, but anything would help. We have had enough of the marquee losses.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Come on, UALR. Get busy and promote yourself!

Even when we are not very good we ought to aggressive in our marketing and promotion, but when we are having a halfway decent year we ought to be beating our drum. No one else in this Pork-dominated state is going to do it. It is like we are ashamed to stand up and be counted. Burn the Horse nailed it right on the nose. It is almost like we are ashamed. LINK

Come on, UALR. Be Trojan proud for a change!

At the top of their game, Belt can't match Georgia State

The talent level at the top of their roster is just too good. They are very good at what they do, and Sun Belt teams, talent-wise, just cannot match up with them.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Credit to the staff for recruiting

We give our staff a lot of grief because of their recruiting, but I think anyone would have to admit that we hit a home run in the last off-season at the point guard position. To have your starting point go down four games into the season, and then have his back-up come in and be one of the better point guards in the conference is pretty amazing. Hats off to the staff!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

What about basketball do I like best?

Physical, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners half court defense.

Shoot more FTs than they attempt

That is the goal of every coach, I suppose. (Well, maybe of all coaches except those who live by the three-point shot.) Shields has said that a lot, but it definitely is not happening this year. This is a good FT shooting team, and logically we should be wanting to shoot a lot of them, but we are not. We have attempted 535 free throws compared with 565 for our opponents. That is not doing a very good job of leveraging one of the strengths of your team. Will Neighbour has shot 155 times, logically, since he is our leading player. But it drops off drastically after that. Leroy Isler is next with 59.

We shoot 73% as a team, which is at least very respectable, and we have four players shooting at least 80%. If I were Shields, I think I would be trying to get this group to be more aggressive on offense.

Just a little bit of success

Isn't it amazing how cocky some fans can get after only a smidgen of success? I suppose we are all alike in that, but our memories are sometimes very short about the hard times in the not-too-distant past.

Leveraging post season success

Even if we were able to get back to the post season in the next few seasons, I would be surprised if that alone gave any appreciable to our program. In the first place, our administration does not know how or does not care to take advantage of it. In the second place, we are not Fayetteville, so the vast majority of the fan base would simply shrug and say, "Oh, is that right?" A single trip to post season does little good by itself.

Almost time for basketball (as the nation thinks)

It is Super Bowl time, and even though the basketball season has already been going for three months, it will only be after today that the nation condescendingly bestows a token nod toward the "other" sports. We will get our month in the sunshine, then spring football practice will come along and, like the groundhog on a sunny day, back we will go into our den of obscurity.

Why all the focus on freshmen?

Why does the media spend such a disproportionate amount of time discussing freshmen? Why not seniors? The seniors have paid their dues; the freshmen have not. Why, if they are planning to leave after one year, they don't even have to attend class the second semester (if they ever do).

"Fun to watch"

I keep hearing everyone just assume that everyone likes to watch run and gun basketball because it is "fun." Here's one who does not like it. Please count me out.

Winning hurt

We placed the same caveat on our predictions at the first of this season that every team places every year: "If we stay healthy." We have not. We lost our starting point guard early in the season, but we dodged that bullet because our backup point was at least as good. We lost our starting power forward for four games, expecting to have him back next week - just in time to lose our starting center and leading player. Tough. Oh well, it is what it is, and all we can do is square our shoulders and keep going.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

This is a tough team

We may not do much good for the rest of the season, but this bunch already has shown me enough to say they are a tough bunch. Scrappers. They aren't going to dazzle anyone, but they just put their heads down and stay after it.

You have to be consistent to be successful

You may not win all the big games (where you are underdogs), but you have to win the rest of them. If you do that, you put yourself in a position to be successful when it is your turn to get hot. Lose the "little" games, and winning the big ones does not matter nearly as much.