Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Josh at the 3?

I do not think this will happen often, but since Josh Hagins is a good rebounder for a guard, and we look to be deep at the two guard positions, when we have the option of using a small lineup and need offense, it would not surprise me to see Hagins play a little at the small forward position this season.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Why I don't want to be a college basketball coach

You bounce around all over the place as an assistant, with your success largely tied to the efforts of the head coach. Job security is awful - no way to be a family man at all. Just not a good life.

Roger Woods - a physical 3 with some pop?

Steve Shields' small forwards have typically been physical, hard-working types whose main forte was defense and rebounding, with any offense being gravy. It appears that Roger Woods is physical, but he may also have some offensive bullets to boot.

Monday, April 28, 2014

NCAA: Easy to criticize

It is always easy to do something if you are not the one having to do it. I am far from saying that the NCAA gets everything right. But they are trying to manage an almost unmanageable situation, and I will give them credit for trying. The big money schools (evidently) would like to go back to the days when "every man did what was right in his own eyes," with very few restrictions. That will ruin college athletics as we know it today if that happens. For me, I am glad we have the NCAA, and I hope we keep it, and I hope the big money schools are forced to play by the rules - and not their own rules.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

When you are overbooked on scholarships

It does provide a little off-season diversion speculating which players will not be coming back. Sort of a negative type entertainment, though.

I wonder if NBA players are what they look like.

A bunch of thugs.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Every conference needs a bell cow or two

It just works better to have a pecking order. I do not mind not being the marquee team of the Sun Belt - I sort of enjoy being an underdog - but we do need one, and now with the big names of the past gone, someone is going to have to emerge. The obvious leader at this point is Georgia State, except for the fact that they are in a tough market. They averaged only 2059 attendance per home game, which was 5th in the league; but that could improve if they keep dragging in newsworthy transfers from money programs. ULL is the other most likely candidate. But, we shall see. Until we get the conference roster in place and static for three or four seasons, it will be hard to know.

Belt improves even though losing good teams

Even though MTSU, NTU, FIU and FAU all bolted for (supposedly) greener pastures, the Sun Belt Conference held its own this past season. We were ranked 19th in RPI (thus officially still a mid-major), up from 21st last season. In fact, the 19th spot ties us for our best finish since 2008,  when we were 17th, and well above our low spot of 24th in 2011.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Turnover? Sure. It is all around us.

Even as admired a program as Butler has already had three players transfer out since the season ended.

Northwestern - how times have changed!

In 1931, when Northwestern won the national championship in basketball, they beat Minnesota for the Big Ten championship in front of almost 15,000 fans. This past season they averaged 6700.

Recruiting class impossible to assess

Until we know the two players who will not be returning, this class will be impossible to assess. I assume all the starters were already on campus, so we were recruiting depth. However, if both the players to leave were the big men, or if both were point guards, then this class would be woefully inadequate. I do not expect that to be the case, but for the moment we just have to wait.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rivalry with UCA

Whether or not we get a basketball game worked out, I am glad to see us playing UCA in baseball. It is a natural rivalry and one that ought to be cultivated.

Trojan records not likely to be broken

Per the media guide, these are records (season or career) that are at least 20% above second-best, and therefore unlikely to be broken.

Larry Johnson 1315
Muntrelle Dobbins 1010

Larry Johnson 113
Larry Johnson 82

Vaughn Williams 259
Derek Fisher 184

Larry Johnson 265
Muntrelle Dobbins 158

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Playing at a higher level?

Who do we have on the roster who might play at a higher level? The most obvious prospect is James White. He would have to develop a lot to play in the NBA (small forward size with a power forward game), but probably will find a place overseas. We have several others who might end up at that level, but will need to hone their skills first.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Better lucky than good

The year we went to the NCAA tournament we were not very good, but we were lucky. We got hot at the right time and made some shots that we would not ordinarily make. The year we won 23 games we were pretty good, but not lucky. I value the good years much more than the lucky years, but it sure helps to be lucky.

How many redshirts will we have?

I really like redshirts. I believe that (especially at our level) maturity (both physical and emotional) goes a long way toward making a successful progam. These are the redshirts listed on our current roster: Mareik Isom, Gus Leeper, Andrew Poulter, J. T. Thomas, James White. Until we prune the two excess scholarships spots we have, the final number is in doubt, but it is possible that we could have 5/13ths (38%)  of the roster as redshirts.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

How good WILL we be?

That is a question that is impossible to answer. How good could we be? Pretty good, if every player plays up to his ability. We could be as good as anyone in the conference. But it is an unreasonable expectation that every player will be at his very best, so we are stuck with, "How good will we be?"

However, every once in a while a program has one of those wonderful seasons when everything seems to come together. The closest we have come to that is the 23-win season in John Fowler's senior year. We are due for another.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Could "One and done" be going away?

Even as the NBA prepares for a draft that could be headlined by freshmen, Commissioner Adam Silver remains committed to keeping them in college.
Silver is moving cautiously on potential changes to areas such as the lottery format and playoff structure, but makes it clear that raising the draft age limit to abolish the so-called ''one and done'' is one of his priorities.So much so that NCAA President Mark Emmert was invited to discuss his involvement with owners.
[The above if from Yahoo Sports from an article by Brian Mahoney.] LINK

UAFS coach mentions former Trojan Kelson Stewart

In describing the play of his new recruit, Brett Cannon, UAFS head coach Josh Newman referred back to one of his past players (and a former Trojan), Kelson Stewart:

Newman said Cannon is comparable in a lots of ways to current UAFS guard Seth Youngblood and former Lions guard Kelson Stewart. "He's a little bit like Seth in that he can score with the basketball and shoot from the perimeter, but he's going to be more physical than Seth," Newman said. "He might be a little like a Kelson Stewart, too, in terms of size and physicality. Brett's probably more athletic than Kelson. He's kind of the hybrid combo guard."

Attitudes toward recruiting

It is always nice to dream of that "home run" recruit who can come in and make an immediate difference to the whole program. It is more realistic, however, since we will not be getting any "one-and-doners," to think in terms of incremental steps. The players we get will be of material help in their upper-class seasons. Before then, anything we meaningful we get from them is just gravy. That means, of course, that jucos are going to have to be contributors from the get-go, and that is one of the risks of juco-only recruiting. Right now we have a nice mix. Our current class is all juco (probably because Shields is feeling the heat), but mixed with them are some nice players who were freshmen when they entered the program, and who are beginning to show signs of helping. Josh Hagins, of course, has been a player from the start, but Isom and Billings have come along more slowly. Same with Gus Leeper, who should be a solid force for us next season, even if not spectacular.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Will there be any depth problems?

Right now we have lots of depth - but our roster is two over the allowable limit. So, two players are going to be cut, and two players are currently hurt, who might not be cut. That combination could leave us shorthanded in certain positions next year. Hopefully not, but until we know the final roster, it will be impossible to tell.

Disappointing but encouraging run against ranked teams

(Baseball) How can it be both? Well, we lost four in a row against teams in the Top 20. However, we were within three runs in all but the first game with ULL. In others words, we did not get blown out against two very good teams.

Three point guards

We have four point guards on the current inflated roster. (Josh Hagins is probably more properly a combo guard and the 2 spots is his more natural position, but he can play a very good point. Kemy Osse is a shooting guard, but has played point at times.) This stood us in very good stead last season when J. T. Thomas was injured, and then later Kemy Osee. If we had not had Hagins in the wings, we would have been in a world of hurt.

Thomas is still hurt, but it appears that he would be back in service by next season. Kemy Osse can also play point in a pinch, but his recovery appears to be a little longer than J. T.'s'. We have two players who will not be back next season (assuming all the incoming players make it). We definitely need three point guards on the roster. Who will they be?

The Weird Olympics

What if we used a little imagination and changed up some of the events. For example, what if the shot putters had to throw for height instead of distance - over a bar like the high jumpers? What if the relay runners carried vaulting poles instead of batons - and could carry them any way they wanted? What if the hurdlers had to go under the hurdles instead of over? What if the steeplechase became a Winter Olympics sport, and the water jumps were iced over? Just think about it, and you probably can come up with some others - strange, even sadistic. For example, what if the finish line on the 100 meter dash was a wire instead of tape, so the runners have to slow down and duck or slide under the finish?

The time I saw Glenn Cunningham

For several years the Ground Hog Day Marathon had been the unofficial (may later have been official, not sure) state championship marathon in Arkansas. Under the leadership of local parts store operator Bob Wade, it was moved to Booneville for many years, then left, and now is back again. Because it was one of the last qualifying races for the Boston Marathon, it had excellent participation for a while. Winter marathons can result in some pretty disgusting sights, because when the weather is particularly cold, as it usually is in February, any fluids flowing from any opening in the face will freeze.

One year, as a special promotional effort for the face, Wade somehow was able to bring in Glenn Cunningham as a guest speaker in a pre-race event. Cunningham, of course, is an American legend, having had his legs badly burned in a childhood fire, but persevering to become one of the great middle-distance runners of his time. He took the silver medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and set several world records. Needless to say, this was a real coup for little Booneville to have him visit.

One interesting feature of his visit was his stance on the USA's non-participation in the 1980 Moscow Olympics because of their invasion of Afghanistan. Cunningham strongly supported the country's action, saying that there are things more important than sports.

We still have to play the season

If Georgia State's new Louisville transfer does get to play next season, it will be tough not to mentally cede the season to them. When a Belt team brings in ACC (Louisville is moving to the ACC) and SEC level talent, that is tough to compete against. But, you still have to play the games. And they avoided the injury bug last season, which can always jump up and bite you. We shall see.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Even though the BTH site is down

Trojan fans will always owe Jeff Slatton a great debt of gratitude. First of all, for the wonderful history of the 1986 team that beat Notre Dame, and also for the excellent "David's Day" article that he wrote in 2006 on the 20th anniversary of the win. Both were Trojan classics.

Coaches who buy slack

Steve Shields is a good example of the type of coach who buys himself goodwill with the administration and with some portion of the fan base. A coach who runs a clean program and has a minimum of off-the-court problems will get the benefit of the doubt from his bosses. That perhaps explains a lot about Shields' longevity at Little Rock.And a lot of fans appreciate being able to root for that type of program. Of course, there are also those fans who couldn't care less about a clean program, as long as it wins.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Roger Woods - maybe we got a good one

When Woods was being recruited out of high school, Rivals (LINK) showed that he had interest in Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss. ESPN shows that he had originally committed to Southeastern Louisiana. He is strong enough to make space for himself.

Instant offense

For some time we have longed for players who can come off the bench and give a quick boost to the offense. Assuming they do not start, it appears we have just that with incoming jucos James Reid and Roger Woods. Both have the ability to light it up, and from the comments, both were recruited specifically for their scoring.

Hagins compared with Fish after two years

Derek Fisher
Freshman 7.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.4 apg, 39 steals, 41.3 FG%, 29.0 3PT%, 77.2 FT%
Sophomore 10.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.6 apg, 45 steals, 44.3 FG%, 41.8 3PT%, 77.4 FT%

Josh Hagins
Freshman 8.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.1 apg, 38 steals, 45.2 FG%, 33.8 3PT%, 77.0 FT%
Sophomore 12.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.7 apg, 36 steals, 40.7 FG%, 35.4 3PT%, 80.6 FT%

More some places and less others, but a pretty favorable comparison so far to one of Little Rock's greatest players.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The symbol of basketball

Russell and Chamberlain. Their epic battles captivated a generation of sports fans and raised the competitive level to an classic peak. Their names will always be linked together.

Augustine Rubit - a sad end to a great career

He was the all-time leading rebounder in Sun Belt history, and for at least the last three years of his career he was a devastating threat inside - a double/double machine. Opposing coaches HAD to solve the Rubit problem - or lose. Then, in what was expected to be a banner year for South Alabama, they plunged off the slide and ended up near the conference - inexplicably. They had a new coach, and maybe he tried to change too much too fast. Who knows? In any case, it was a shame that his career had to end in an unexpectedly low plane.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Home run hitters get a free ride

They can swing for the fence and strike out with two outs and men in scoring position, and no one seems to care, as long as they hit home runs occasionally. Most any good hitter can cut back on his swing and meet the ball - but that wouldn't make him look good, so he swings for the fence. And they will get away with it as long as the fans don't see fit to penalize the big swingers when they fail. So the next time the big swinger strikes out - BOO.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Rain's effect upon different sports.

As long as there is no lightning, some sports can be played in rain, others cannot. Baseball just does not work too well when the ball sticks in a muddy infield, so it has to be played, for the most part, in the dry. Football is different. Some teams actually do better on a muddy field. Rugby is a famously muddy sport. Tennis does not work well at all in the rain, because if there is no footing, it is virtually impossible to play. Different sports - different criteria.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Golf - a positive sport

Of the major sports, golf is perhaps unique in that it is completely lacking in defense. No player does anything to keep the others from scoring. The goal is solely to be be better than your opponents, not to keep them from doing well.

Friday, April 11, 2014

I just want to have fun

That is why I am a Trojan fan. If that means I have to be like Cub fans, so be it. My being a fan is not about my ego, so that I can proclaim that "I root for a winner." I just enjoy the game and enjoy rooting for a team that is not a big money school.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

John Wooden meant more to basketball than just a coach

Wooden played his college ball at Purdue and was on the National Champion team there in 1932. He become the first player ever to be named consensus All-American three times.

Do you think basketball is important in Indiana?

John Wooden played his high school basketball in Martinsville from 1926 to 1928. The gym in which he played was constructed in 1924, and still stands (used by the Middle School). It originally had 16 locker rooms and enough seats for 5200 people – 400 more than the number of residents who called Martinsville home. (Thanks to ESPN’s Dana O’Neill)

What are the basketball states?

When you think of basketball, what states come to mind? Easy: Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How I pass the off-season

With the exception of a casual interest in the other Little Rock sports and following the two high school football teams where my son-in-law has coached, my basketball off-season is devoted to getting boned up with information, looking toward last year.

During the season I collect information on college basketball in general, and I read those articles. Plus, I have about 50 teams that I follow closely enough to keep their season stat sheets and collect recruiting information about them. So, during my “reading periods” at work, I work my way through the stack, analyzing the stats and boning up on the performance of the team, who they having coming back and who they are losing. I also watch their websites for new recruits and players who may be leaving the teams. Not much, but it helps the long off-season progress a little faster.

Best Arkansas HS backcourt?

In March of 2013, writer Evin Demirel did an article for Sporting Life Arkansas about the best high school backcourts in history. He discussed 16 different duos. Among those he listed were a couple with UALR connections later on: Derek Fisher and Kenneth Taylor 1992 LR Parkview and Alex Finger and Mark Green LR Central 1999.

Although he does not come right out and say it, his pick may have been Eddie Miles and James Nash 1959 Scipio Jones NLR. They won four straight state titles, and Miles was a future NBA All-Star.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Further proof that we need a regular season National Champion

Kentucky and UConn were far from being the two best teams in America this season. In fact, they probably were not in the top five. They simply won at the right time, that is all. There were better teams, who had better seasons, who deserved some recognition other than the ignominy of losing in the tournament. We need a regular season champion and a tournament champion. Those are two different situations, so we need two different awards.

How good was UCLA during the Alcindor years?

Freshmen were ineligible for varsity play during those days, so Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) would not play until his sophomore season. UCLA was coming off back-to-back national titles and were ranked #1 in the nation. They played the freshman team in an exhibition scrimmage. Alcindor had 31 points, 21 rebounds and eight blocks, and the freshmen won by 15 points.

Will Neighbour's legacy at Little Rock

One of the most heralded recruits to arrive at Little Rock in recent years, Will Neighbour's tenure here was one of frustration and versatility. It was frustrating because he was never quite able to achieve what we knew he could because of health issues. It was versatile because the program has not in recent years (perhaps never) had a player who could do as many thing well as he did.

Personally, my expectations for Will were not realistic. He had been advertised as a guard who grew quickly into a big man and retained many of his guard skills. Perhaps so in passing, but his ball handling never was good enough for him to play at the small forward position as I had hoped, where he would have hopelessly mismatched the opposition. Instead he was for the most part a post player, far too often having to play out of position at the center spot.

Two of the things that impressed me most about Will were his willingness to become what the team needed, and his ability to bounce back from injuries and a sub-par junior season. After the loss of Michael Javes, he took on the role of the principal rebounder, and did a more-than-satisfactory job. After his outside shooting slumped badly in his junior year, he bounced back this past season to be back among the conference leaders and to gain a place among the best 3-point shooters in school history.

No, Will Neighbour never did quite get over the hump to the level of play that we had hoped, but his career was outstanding and he was a sterling representative of the school, both on and off the court. He will be sorely missed, and those of us who were privileged to watch him play will always remember him as one of the all-time Trojan greats.

Defense about as good as it gets

In the NCAA tournament semi-final game in 1984, Georgetown held Kentucky to 3 for 33 shooting in the second half. Pretty impressive!

Monday, April 7, 2014

How good was Bill Russell in college?

He is one of five players to average at least 20 points and 20 rebounds per game for his career. In the two games of 1956 Final Four he had a total of 50 rebounds. He once had 13 blocks in a game.

Not sure which is the bigger problem

Is our bigger problem lack of talent or misuse of the talent we have? I do not know. But both need to be improved.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Time to focus on recruiting

That will last a few weeks, then into the long dry spell of summertime. Hopefully Shields will give us his monthly updates.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

This program needs to go to postseason

If we can't make the NCAA or the NIT, then the administration needs to find a way for us to go to one of the Pay To Play tournaments. It would be a huge boost for us. Even if we have to sell cookies door to door to raise the money.

Switching direction in recruiting?

We may have 6-11 and 6-10 players on our team, but we did not recruit anyone (so far) as a third option in the low post, and you need to have that. Are we seeing a switch back to the mid-size post players of years past? It is one strategy. South Alabama in the last few years had one of the most potent post tandems in the conference, and they were very undersized. But they were good. We'll wait and see.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hank Aaron's advice to Dusty Baker about Bob Gibson

"Don't dig in against Bob Gibson, he'll knock you down. He'd knock down his own grandmother if she dared to challenge him. Don't stare at him, don't smile at him, don't talk to him. He doesn't like it. If you happen to hit a home run, don't run too slow, don't run too fast. If you happen to want to celebrate, get in the tunnel first. And if he hits you, don't charge the mound, because he's a Gold Glove boxer."

Fights in team sports

It is bad to see fights in the team sports, but some of them really are illogical. Take football, for instance. Are you going to swing at a face mask or a shoulder pad? Makes no sense. You might break your hand. And in basketball, if you fall, you are going to fall on a hard floor, and the other guy might fall on top of you. Might break your head. Baseball makes more sense than the others, except that there are too many bats lying around loose for someone to pick up.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Were the 1954 Tar Heels tough?

In the NCAA semis, North Carolina beat Michigan State in three overtimes. Remember how exhausting our 4 OT game against ASU was this year, and how it evidently sapped the Red Wolves so that they lost their next game badly? Well, NC came back in the finals against Kansas (with Wilt Chamberlain) and beat them, ALSO in three overtimes.

Final Fours and political speeches

I am frequently amused by the over-analysis of political speeches by the media pundits. They spend more time telling us what the President meant than he took to say what he said in the first place. The four teams in the Final Four get analyzed upside down and backwards during the week leading up to the event. We even find out the brand of hair-color that the assistant coach's mother-in-law uses. (An overstatement, but not by too much.) Ah, well, the overkill helps us get college basketball out of our systems for a little while. After all, we need a rest just like they do.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How good was Bob Gibson in 1968?

He was 22-9 that season, but three times he lost games in which he pitched eight innings while allowing 4 hits or less. Remember that he may have been facing Don Drysdale or Ferguson Jenkins, etc. etc.

The dark side of the arc

As we well remember, Denver's Princeton offense lives by the 3 point shot. They shoot it a lot, and they shoot it very well. This past season, 42% of their attempts were from the arc, and they hit an outstanding 38.7% of those attempts. Pretty impressive. But, they were only 16-15 overall, 8-6 in the Summit League. Why no better than that with such outstanding shooting? Well, it is because the 3-point shot has an Achilles heel.

Denver shot 175 less free throws than their opponents, or 5.6 attempts per game. Three-point teams do not gather many fouls. Plus, on the other side of the ledger, they committed 120 more fouls than their opponents, which means their opponents were in less foul trouble than they were. Plus, 3-point teams usually do not rebound as well, and Denver (as always) did not. They were beat on the boards by 5.3 per game. Yes, the three-point shot gets half again as many points (IF you make it, which you do not as often as other shots), but it does not go to the line as much, it does not get your opponents in foul trouble as much, and it typically surrenders the boards more. There is a dark side to the arc.