Monday, March 31, 2014

Off season without Burn the Horse

The excellent UALR basketball blog, Burn the Horse, appears to be defunct. We do not know that for sure, but it has not been running for a good while now. That will be a real blow to Trojan fans during the off season, for while the blog was not overly active through the summer, it did provide about our only source of solid information about recruiting.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Backfired NCAA interference. I love it!

The NCAA did all they could to tweak the rules to penalize defense. And here in the regional finals, Michigan State is leading UConn 25 to 21. And that is far from the only example this year. Backfired strategy. I love it!

At least I have someone to root for in this Final Four

Go Badgers!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Steady improvement

One thing you look for in a player is improvement. That means he is listening and learning and working hard. And that he has more upside. It does not have to be spectacular improvement, like you see sometimes between the first and second years at D1, but just steady improvement. A player who does that is worth the investment, even if you do not get big returns until his upperclassman years.

The real fun is in the little guys and underdogs

One thing that makes college basketball so much more interesting than college football is the fact that upsets are so much more likely. Football (these days) requires 24 players (23 if your punter does your placekicking), not counting substitutes. Basketball still requires only five. The odds of five men getting hot on a given night is a lot greater than of 24 getting hot.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Can Gus do it? Why you don't give up on big men.

Most of the time, at our level, big men must serve an apprenticeship. They are not good right off the bat. They have to mature and learn to play their position. Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky is a prime example. Last year he was a sophomore back-up center, out of the limelight and usually on the bench. He averaged 10.3 minutes per game, 4.2 points and 1.8 rebounds. This year he has burst onto the national scene, and this week completely dominated Baylor's athletic team in Wisconsin's Sweet Sixteen win. He is averaging 13.7 points and 6.2 rebounds and is the focal point of the offense of a Badger team that has made it (at least) to the Elite Eight.

Gus Leeper has been a steady, if unspectacular, post player for the Trojans in his three years here. He has battled injuries, which has not helped the situation, but no one would call him a star. But who knows about next season? He has a good work ethic and attitude, and certainly is bull strong. Why not a breakout year for Gus?

One key to Wisconsin's offense

"Nobody makes more ball fakes or pump fakes than Wisconsin," Ryan said. "Shot fakes and ball fakes work. It's not that hard, yet it's amazing how many people do not use them."

Great Wisconsin quote from CBS' Dennis Dodd

"Come armed with chain mail because the Badgers toughness isn't a cliché."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

After EVERY game

the coach needs to ask, "What did you learn today that will make you a better basketball team?" If they played well or if they played poorly, they can get better, and they must get better; and it is the coach's job to hold up before them the lessons of the game.

How stupid can coaches and AD's be?

How dumb did Steve Masiello thing South Florida was? Did he think they would not check up on the facts he gave them? And how dumb was the USF Athletic Director to announce that he was hired before he had checked those facts? Egg all over everyone's faces.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How good? Two factors

How good teams are depend on the quality of the incoming talent and how much the continuing players improve. I like what we have coming back, and I think the crew we have is of the sort that will work hard to get better. Kids like Stetson Billing and Gus Leeper and Josh Hagins, and I could mention many more, are the sort that work hard and that listen to the coaches. I think next year's team could be better.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How good was Lew Alcindor in college?

Over three varsity seasons, he averaged 26.4 points/game, 15.5 rebounds/game, and shot an almost unbelievable 63.9% from the field.

I hope Stan Heath lands somewhere good

He seems like a class act. I always thought he got a little bit of a raw deal at Fayetteville, and the South Florida job is a really tough spot.

What is football?

(This is from the Texaco Star Theater radio program, starring comedian Fred Allen.) According to Professor Emeritus Quince, it is "twenty-two men in the process of being educated committing mayhem to retain possession of one cubit foot of wind encased in the epidermis of a swine."

Entry pass

You can deduce how little post play means to basketball today by how little attention is spent on making a proper and timely entry pass. If it is done at all, it is done at the wrong time and in the wrong spot.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Interesting stat from Montana State

They had seven players who had from 20 to 31 steals.

The SEC is still lousy

We knew Florida and Kentucky would be good. (They usually are.) And Tennessee got hot at the right time after a less-than-dazzling season. But the rest of the conference was lousy. And as of the 19th, RealtimeRPI still has them ranked as the 7th-best conference, even behind non-football (and thus non-money) conferences Big East and Atlantic 10. Don’t let the bright lights of the  Big Dance blind you: the SEC is still bad in basketball, even with all that football TV money to buy coaches and build facilities.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Just one more reason to dislike Sleezipari

He brings in this soon-to-be-millionaires class of recruits, and then they sand bag and play like the pampered prima donnas they are all season and end up with a lousy record for a team that was talking "undefeated season" at the beginning of the year. So, they go into the tournament with a low seed, FAR lower than their talent level, and decide to start playing ball at last, and send a deserving Wichita State team home because they get the last basket in a back-and-forth affair. A crying shame. Rich kids and big guys move on, little guys go home.

Saturation point

One good thing about tournament time is that it does allow us to get to the point where we are willing to set aside basketball for a while. Wall to wall roundball for a few weeks. There is a saturation point, even for fans.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What makes a good tournament team?

There are exceptions, of course, but there are two basic things: you have to be able to stay close, and you have to be able to close strong, because it is the final score that counts.

If you don't play defense, if you have a cold night, the other team will take off and leave you. You have to play defense to stay close even when you are cold.

If you don't have someone who can make plays at crunch time, it doesn't matter if you stay close, because you won't be able to finish on top.

When in Lamar . . .

do as the Warriors do. I am headed to Lamar, so I am wearing my Lamar Warriors T-shirt. It is bright orange. VERY bright orange.

I wonder how much basketball history today's players know.

Do they know that Bill Russell's San Fransisco Dons won back-to-back national titles, and that one of those years, in the last two games, he had FIFTY rebounds? Do they know just how good and how dominant Lew Alcindor was? Do they know that THE tournament was once the NIT, not the NCAA? Do they realize just how good some of the teams were in the days before players began leaving early for the NBA? I wonder.

Very nice win by Stephen F. Austin

Sure, they got lucky on a stupid foul by a freshman, but they played their game, and were vindicated. VCU's vaunted Havoc defense did not rule the day, but deliberate half-court offense and tough defense did.

The pain of non-post-season has been doubled

with the addition of the two pay-to-play tournaments and the expansion of the two holdovers. There are so many schools in the post-season now that not making it really hurts.

Friday, March 21, 2014

"Basketball season is finally here"

To an alarming number of "fans," basketball season did not start until this week.

What if basketball had this twist?

The team is the winner who is ahead when time runs out. If they were ahead two seconds earlier, or if they would have gone ahead two seconds later, neither of those matter. There is a specific time to be ahead. What if the game were divided into quarters, and the winner was the team who won the most quarters, or who had the greatest aggregate points ahead from the combined quarterly leads. If the totals were the same, then they would go into overtime.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Great comeback by the SLU Billikens tonight

I think everyone thought they had lost it. It was great to see Rob Loe's parents and brother there all the way from New Zealand and see him have a tremendous game.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

CBS gives credit to Danny Kaspar

They had an article today about a few lower-level teams who could pull an upset. One of them is Stephen F. Austin.

"All these guys were conditioned to play like they do under Danny Kaspar, who was all about defense and grit." Kaspar did not take them to the NCAA, but CBS, at least gives him a substantial portion of the credit for their being there.

The play-in games are a disservice to basketball

The NCAA proclaims loudly that the teams in the infamous play-in games actually are in the tournament, and they really are - but the fans are not buying it. All the NCAA had done is to cheapen the tournament. The reasons must be two-fold: more money, and giving coaches of mediocre teams a shot at preserving their jobs. They need to reverse that move, and immediately.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Biceps and baseball

I have often wondered about so many of today's baseball players who have bulging biceps. Certainly they play some part in the motions of baseball, but a major part? In hitting, it is the forearms and legs that provide most of the thrust.

Speaking of muscles, I remember Ted "Big Klu" Kluszewski, who was muscled up a lot like you see today. He was an imposing physical specimen at the plate.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Getting ready for the off season

As soon as the frantic postseason is over, we can start the analyzing, speculating and all that goes to make the off-season enjoyable.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Winners have to equal losers

If the player who hits the last shot "wins the game," then to be consistent, the player who misses the same shot "loses the game." If he doesn't lose the game, then he doesn't win it, either.

This time the tournament worked out

This time the Belt tournament worked out about like the regular season. ULL was not the #2 seed, but a good argument could have been made that they were the second-best team.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Games like last night make fans

I know we lost, but when a team plays that hard, they deserve loyal fans. Put me down as one.

The kind of game I enjoy best

When under-talented teams reach down deep and win games or come close just due to hard effort and grit.

Josh needs to learn from Ben

Josh Hagins is quicker than Ben Dillard and can handle the ball better. And Josh had 876 minutes of playing time compared with 714 for Ben. And yet Ben shot far more FTs than Josh (91 to 63). Josh is "settling" for a 3-point shot too often. perhaps because it is the easier choice. He shot 34% from the arc on the year, but he can be a far better shooter than that if he would make the defenders more wary of his driving to the basket. Ben Dillard is not a slashing type guard, but he knows how to do it, and he shoots FTs very well, and he can help get the other team in foul trouble. He will shoot the 3 (maybe he ought to do it more), but he also makes the other team pay with fouls.

Classic game

Sometimes truly memorable games come along. Usually LR/ASU is a tough, competitive game, but never have I seen it like last night. On the conference tournament stage, with eyes of the whole league on them, they go through overtimes in one of those "whoever makes the last shot wins" games. Five players fouled out, and a couple more in danger. Back and forth. Just a classic college basketball game.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Don't diminish the tournaments, just make the season mean more

The tournament season used to be one of the unique features of basketball. That is no longer true, since now all sports at all levels do it. However, because of the compressed schedule of most basketball tournaments, it still remains a special time of year, and no one would wish to diminish it.

But what basketball MUST do is to find a way to make the regular season mean more. "Regular Season Champions" means very little these days, and there is no reason for that. Basketball has two distinct seasons, and both of them ought to mean something. Some nationally recognized entity ought to establish a National Champions award for the regular season. The conferences ought to make much more of the regular season champions. The trophy ought to be awarded every year, and it ought to be a big one.

Basketball has rolled belly-up and surrendered to football the entire season except for tournament time. We do not have to compete with football during the tournaments, but we CAN compete more with them during the rest of the season - if we want to. It just take a little attention and creativity - and the will to do it.

Lots of officials

Football has six or seven officials. Baseball has five (or seven for the Series). But did you ever stop to think how many officials it takes to bring off a track meet? Several just for the running events, while multiple field events are also going on at the same time.

Don't try to predict Troy next year

They will return only three players with more than ten minutes of playing time, only one of which was a starter. Even if they bring in a lot of talent, how do you predict concerning them?

What do basketball fans do in the off-season?

What might have been?
What could be?
Who will get better?
Who is coming in?
Study stats.
Study recruiting.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Things are bright in the Belt

The All-SBC honors are out, and there are some impressive players in this group. When Augustine Rubit gets relegated to Second Team, those above him are really good.

What looks good for the future of the conference is that 8 of the top 15 players in the league should return next year, including four of the top five. The fact that two teams (Georgia State and ULL) have those four means that the competition at the top should be fearsome.

Things look bright in the Belt.

What holes to we have to fill?

Reliable 3-point shooter. Check.
Rebounding help. Check.
Depth at post. Check.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Frustration with Shields

He has done a good job. But when you do a good job year after year, but never a great job, we become accustomed to it and long for better. The problem at this point is that there is no evidence to think that he can get us over the hump.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Florida Gulf Coast goes DOWN!

Ha, ha. Dunk City gets dunked.

Steve Shields failed this year

I like Steve as a coach. I like him a lot; but he did not get the job done this year. Even with the injuries, we should have done better than we did.

I think we saw a few good things this year. I think Steve loosened up on the offensive reins a little; we were in the top half of the Belt in point/game. But we still tend to play too often like we are hesitant and afraid - except for Josh Hagins, who is not afraid, but too often does stupid things.

Hard to be a Trojan fan

It seems like our history is one of "almosts." We are so close so often.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Disappointing season

Even if we win tonight, this will have been a very disappointing season. Will Neighbour has been a special player for us, and we all hoped we would have a good season when he was a senior. It has not happened. Injuries happened at the wrong time, but more importantly, we just did not get it done.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The band needs to learn Gonna Fly Now

The theme from Rocky. Every pep  band needs to play that.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

When will the stars shine?

This team has some potential bona fide offensive stars on the roster: James White, Josh Hagins, Ben Dillard. Sooner or later they are going to break out, and if they all do it at the same time, it could be explosive.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Arrogant money-conference whining

There is a doubt that Wichita State deserves a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament? Really? They went to the Final Four last season and have not lost a game since the Final Four. What do you have to do?!

Coaches should get five years

Unless there is something out-of-the-ordinary wrong, coaches need to be allowed five years to demonstrate success. They need to be able to have their recruits playing as seniors.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Wilt Chamberlain Volkswagen ad


20 win seasons

Those are not such a big deal to the money schools, since they can buy so many wins in the non-conference season. But to someone at our level, a 20-win season is pretty significant, regardless of the schedule. They make a nice benchmark, anyway.

Here is who we need to schedule

Temple (2-14 American)
Virginia Tech (2-14 ACC)
TCU (0-16 Big 12) A natural. Wouldn't have to travel far.
Butler (2-14 Big East)
Northwestern (5-11 Big Ten) We beat them once years back.
Southern Cal (1-15 Pac 12)
Miss State (3-13 SEC) Another natural.

We get paid to play them, and the odds of actually getting a win against a team from a top-level conference is much better than if we are playing the Kentuckys of the world.

Two three-point shooters

In today's game you need to have (at least) two 3-point shooters on the floor at all times, except perhaps in special situations. You just cannot survive with today's rules without it.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Player of the Week

You could make dazzling defensive play after dazzling play, but you would never get player of the week for it. Just ain't right.

Getting a view of next season

Playing these late games without Will has been valuable in giving us a look at what the team will look like next season, and how good it at least has the potential to be. And I think that is pretty good. We lack a little depth at post, but the juco coming in should help that. We will be at least solid at every position, and probably very good at three of them. I am optimistic.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Little Rock vs. stAte is a great sporting event

One of the best in the state of Arkansas. Very few teams both within the state have the passionate confrontations that this match-up has. Possibly Henderson vs. Ouachita.

Fayetteville certainly has nothing to compare to it.

GREAT shot of Steve Shields

Saturday, March 1, 2014

I love this team's blue collar wins

Just dig down deep and do it! Against all odds.

Southern Cal is LAST!

Andy Enfield's USC team is dead last in the Pac-12. I love it!

How do coaches judge work ethic?

Physical skills you can measure. Game skills you can observe. But how do you measure work ethic? You can talk to the coaches, but unless you have a special relationship with that particular person, he is not going to "talk down" his own player. So they are going to say the kid works hard, regardless. However, there are players who will improve more than other players simply because they have good character, are teachable, really listen, and work very hard at the things the coaches tell them to work on. Those players obviously will improve much more than the players who are cocky, self-centered and impressed with themselves. But self-confidence (which you want) is not always the same as being unteachable. Sometimes, but not always.

When good players get better, that is just gravy. But what about the players who are not quite good, but have the work ethic to get there? Do you take a chance on those kids? Someone back down the line took a chance on Rashad Jones-Jennings, and it paid off big-time, because he was that kind of player. Those of the players I love the most, and I am sure coaches love to coach them. But how do you evaluate that particular quality before you sign them?