Saturday, May 31, 2014

If I am a college head football coach

The first player I recruit is the best punter I can get. The second is the best placekicker I can get. You get those two, and you are miles ahead from the get-go.

We need some leaders

Someone is going to have to step up and make this his team, preferably one of the seniors. Someone is going to have to fix his eye on the goal and let it be known to the team that no slackers will be tolerated. Teams tend to overachieve most frequently if they have strong upperclass leadership. Here's hoping.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Coastal Carolina - upset threat next season

They won 21 games last season, return all five starters, head the boards hard, play strong defense, and shoot the ball adequately. Might be an early "heads up" for some non-conference or tournament upsets for next year?

Minutes we can expect from Gus

Gus averaged 15.5 minutes/game last season, and that was playing behind Will and James. So he will get more minutes, presumably, this year. How many CAN he play, though. He is lugging a log of weight up and down the court, and will be where the banging is going on underneath. I think (hope) we can pencil him in for 20+ minutes/game, and if we can get that, we probably will be in fairly good shape underneath. For reference, Ben Dillard was 5th in total minutes last season, and he averaged 24/game. I expect we will have to spell Gus regularly, but if he can stay out of foul trouble, I think he can give the minutes.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Foreign players communication advantage

If you have a couple of foreign players who speak the same language, imagine the advantage they have on the court. They can talk openly to one another. A Serb can yell to his countryman, "Pavlov, when I yell, you cut for the basket, and I will throw the ball to such and such a place," and no one would know the difference.

Sometimes overtimes can start a trend

It is not unusual for team to win a couple of tough overtime games, discover that they can do it, gain a lot of confidence, and go on a run that makes the season.

However, the opposite can also be true. Butler started this past season 10-2, with the two losses being by 2 points. Then the started their conference season with four straight losses, three of them OT losses at home - and the rest of the season was a disaster. It can happen.

Georgia State and everyone else?

With the loss of Western Kentucky and Elfrid Payton at ULL, and Georgia State's pickup of Kevin Ware, it is looking like the Belt this year may be GSU and the battle for a distant second.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

All-time marks we might see next season

These players have a chance to make the media  guide list in these categories:

CAREER 3PT MADE Ben started with 66.

CAREER 3PT% Ben started 67 OF 162

CAREER FT% Ben started 190 OF 230



CAREER BLOCKS James has 54

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

SEC hypocrisy

Along with the other money conferences. Consider this quote by the SEC commissioner:

“I consider this period of time one of the historic moments that all of us are witnesses to — an evolutionary change where we put the student-athletes first and we build our philosophies on the student-athlete rather than the so-called level playing field,” Slive said. “I don't know how this comes out, but I'm optimistic the evolution will continue.”

This has nothing to do with the student-athletes. It has to do with being able to distance themselves from those cumbersome smaller schools under the NCAA umbrella so that the money schools can make more money. With all due respect, Mr. Commissioner, I believe you are a liar, by implication, at least.

Jake Yancey's numbers

I think our fans would agree that Jake Yancey was a solid center for us during his three-year career. So, what kind of numbers did he put up? His final (junior) year, he averaged 6.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, shot 55.4% from the field and had 18 blocks. Not at all eye-catching numbers,  but Jake did what he was called upon to do. From his freshman year under Coach Porter Moser, Jake's make job was to play solid post defense, get rebounds, and make shots when he got the opportunity. Which he did.

Now, will Gus Leeper have that sort of final season?

Monday, May 26, 2014

I hope we have a few money games this year

We need the money, and this is the kind of team with a little bit of offensive pop that might accidentally win one of them.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

We used to have Burn the Horse; now we have . . .

"Just wait and find out." Back to the good old days, when we waited for precious little from the UALR information blackout. I would try to do it here, but I just do not have the time nor the connections to do it like BTH did.

The good news? Steve Shields is evidently still giving us at least monthly updates on his blog, which is tons better than we used to get.

One bad thing about basketball

Of the major sports, it is the hardest on the voice. Both for fans and coaches. I have to watch it at close Trojan games to keep from stripping my voice. And Steve Shields has pretty well destroyed his, from the sound of it.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Get open, or make the shot?

We talk about players whom we want taking shots at crunch time. Usually these are players who are good ballhandlers who can get open to take the shot. But not always. There is a different between the ability to get open to take the shot and the ability to hit the shot once you are open. A few special players can do both.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Pity the poor PA man at Kansas next season

They just signed Ukrainian star Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. Say that ten times really fast.

Projecting Stetson's numbers

Let us assume for a moment that Stetson is the heir to the 3 spot next season (by no means a given, but he is the leading candidate at this point). Let us assume that he does not shoot better or take more shots. If we divide Leroy Isler's minutes/game (25.3) by Stetson's (9.5), we arrive at a factor of 2.663. Then, if we multiply that factor by Stetson's per game numbers from last season, we come up with 5.6 points/game and 6.3 rebounds/game. Now, the points are not impressive (although not that much below Leroy's 6.5/game), but the rebound number is VERY impressive for a small forward, since our leading rebounder last season (Will) had only 7.0/game. By comparison, James White averaged 6.0 rebounds/game last season. Pretty good board numbers for a small forward, if Stetson hits them.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Campus Confessions (1938)

This is a sports movie of a different twist from the ones we see today. Strictly lightweight, and not at all realistic, but enjoyable as a period piece. It starred Betty Grable.

From a sports standpoint the main interest is the role played by the great Hank Luisetti, who was a three-time All-American at Stanford and two-time Player of the Year. He is credited with the popularization of the running shot, as opposed to the standing set-shots and hook shots that had been used previously.

Don't go to OT with Pitt

This past season the Pitt Panthers were involved in four overtime games (one of them double overtimes). They won all four. Three of the four were on the road.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Just do it, NCAA. You know you want to.

Dear NCAA fathers,

You restricted defense last year in the name of "making the game more entertaining" (which is reportedly what "everybody" wants). This year you are toying with cutting the shot clock to 30 seconds and other tweaks to help the poor offense. Why don't you just have the guts to do what you really want to do? Just cut the shot clock to 10 seconds and legislate that ANY contact of whatever nature by the defenders is a foul. Just make it where offenses can score at will. That is what you really want, so just do it!

Scoring was not UCA's problem this year

They shot 36.7% from the arc, which is very good and had a stable full of good shooters. BUT, they could not make FTs, could not (or would not) rebound, and could not (or would not) play defense. So . . . they lost 21 games.

How did Slippery Rock do this year?

In my school days, "Slippery Rock" was used to indicate any school that was small and out-of-the-way. Actually, Slippery Rock finished was 20-11 this past season and finished fourth in the Western Division of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. So, they were a good way above sports mediocrity this year, at least.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Our strengths - if healthy

If this team is healthy, our strength will be in the 1 and 2 positions. James White might be the best player on the team, but depth behind him will not be as great as it will be at the two guard positions.

Bandwagon jumpers

A lot of people who like to think of themselves as "winners" are merely bandwagon jumpers. They pick out whoever is in the lead, and attach themselves to that team. They "like" a team because it happens to be winning at the moment; and then when that team hits a rough spot, they are personally offended because that team did not win for them so that they could be "winners."

I never have liked bandwagon jumping. It is a lot more fun for me to root for the underdog. Your team will not win as often, but when it does, it is a lot more fun.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Weight room - good medicine

Whether it is getting over a disappointing season or getting re-focused after a good one, the weight room is a good place to do it. Trainers are notoriously strict, and that is a good place for players to get ther heads back on straight, leave the past (whatever it was) behind, and start looking ahead to next season. Weight room therapy!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

How many wins have I enjoyed as a Little Rock fan?

237 wins. That is a lot of enjoyment.
Go Trojans!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Another key to consistency

In his 14 years at Wisconsin,  Bo Ryan has started only four true freshmen. And in those 14 years, he has never finished outside of the top four in the Big Ten, arguably the best basketball conference in the country.

SBC - short term loss

At least in the short term, next year's realignment will cost us more than we will gain. Outgoing Western Kentucky was 20-12 and has been the bell cow in the Belt in recent years; while the two incoming teams from the Southern Conference both had losing records (Georgia Southern 15-19 and Appalacian State 9-21). In fact, it has been 2011 since either team had a winning season (App State 16-15). You have to go back to 2008 to find a winning season by Georgia Southern, when they were 20-12.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Reaching potential

Some teams are just flat bad. They simply do not have the natural talent to beat other teams. But within a given conference, usually teams have the ability to be competitive and to beat other teams on a given night IF they play up to their potential.

Similarly, over the course of a season, if a team escapes crippling injuries, they have the ability to win games IF they play as they can play. Players and coaches together, over the off-season and the course of the season itself, are trying to find ways to be the best that they can be. Can they reach their potential, however good that may be?

I think this team has the potential to be pretty good, but like every season, everything has to come together. We have to stay healthy and every player has to be at the top of his game. I think we can be pretty salty if we can figure out a way to do that.

It's the system

“Coach [Bo] Ryan has a system and he recruits people into his system that are going to take their four years to grow, physically and mentally, into that system,” [center Frank] Kaminsky said. By the time you’re ready to play, you’re going to be effective in that system. It comes with a lot of frustrations and a lot of ups and downs, but he really demans the  best out of every one of his players.

Coaches who are good teachers keep the pipeline full

Yes, it helps to have talented recruits, but coaches who are good teachers tend to have players on the bench who are ready to step into primary roles when the time comes. Perhaps the best example this past season was Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky, who went from a 4.2 points/game sub to a star on a Final Four team. The players on the bench are prepared for their spot in the limelight because their coach was a good teacher.

We perhaps have our own example waiting in the wings. Stetson Billings has been the most invisible of role player bench jockeys for two seasons. Now our main defensive guy (Leroy Isler) is gone, and we hope Stetson will be ready to step into that role in a seamless transition. Will he be a big scorer? Probably not; I have seen nothing to indicate it. But he can be an adequate scorer, as well as an outstanding defensive specialist and rebounder.

What "new parts" do the recruits have to supply?

The main things Leroy Isler gave us was tough defense, and we already had on campus a successor to him in that role in the person of Stetson Billings. So, nothing to supply there.

In Will Neighbour we lost our principal inside scoring threat (although he did a lot of scoring from the perimeter). That has to be replaced. Obviously, James White is going to be our next Mr. Inside, but he will have to have some help. Someone is going to have to step into the role he filled. We badly need some depth at post, and that is where Andre Browncomes in.

Because of our injury situation, the recruits may also going to have to supply immediate depth at point. None of them is a pure point guard, but hopefully one of them can play point in a pinch.

One other thing we need from the recruits is instant offense off the bench, and I think we have that, particularly in in Reid and Roger Woods. In the past, when our principal scorers were out of the game, we were just marking time. Hopefully that will not be the case next season.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Big Ten got greedy

for more markets, and added Maryland and Rutgers. What did they gain there? A new market, and that is about all. It will drag down the conference, at least in the short term.

Leave his stamp now or later?

In all likelihood, an incoming first-time head coach will not have the same system as the coach that left. And, he is going to want to make his mark on the program - in a hurry. I wonder, however, if that is always wise. The players he has likely were recruited to fit the system of the out-going coach, and they are familiar with his system. Would he be wiser to phase into his new way of doing things? I guess it depends on the circumstances.

However, we got an up-close view of what evidently was an attempt at an abrupt change last season at South Alabama - and it did not turn out well at all. USA had been a post-dominated program. In fact, though they were under-sized, they had what I considered the top post tandem in the conference coming into last season. But Augustine Rubit shot 5 three-point shots season  before last, and he shot 64 this past season - and did not shoot them particularly well. He had been a monster underneath, and everyone had problems handling him. Something happened this season, however, and things did not click. I have no idea that the premise I put forth above was the reality at USA this past season, but it seems that it may have been. In any case, whatever the new coach did was not working - and now he has lost the leading rebounder in Belt history, and he went out with a whimper instead of a roar. His individual numbers were still very good, but the result was not the same.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

As always, health and depth will be key

How often do injuries shipwreck a season? Far too often, sadly. Even if you start off with all hands on deck, you never know who will go down during the battle. At this point we have too many question marks even on the first count.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A major possible off-season hit

I absolutely am not comfortable without having three players who can play point. We have DeVonte and Josh, and we have (at least at the moment) J. T. Thomas and Kemy Osse. These last two are hurt, however, and we have heard nothing definite as to when (or if) they might be returning. Either one of them would be adequate (J. T. would be much more than adequate) to fill the shortfall at point. Without both of them, we are limited to Ben or one of the newcomers. It is possible that we could make it all season with DeVonte and Josh both staying healthy, but you never want to be in that situation.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Not everybody loves up-tempo basketball

[Wisconsin  guard Josh] Gasser played excellent defense on Virginia standout Joe harris, holding him to two points on 1-of-10 shooting in a 48-38 road win. The 38 points were the fewest Wisconsin has allowed in a road game since 1957. "I love playing games like that," says Gasser." (from USA Today's Eric Prisbell)

And oh, by the way, Wisconsin went to the Final Four this year.

Have we passed the Golden Age of Arkansas high school track and field?

I was a great track and field enthusiast when I was in school. I followed the sport closely at all levels. Was track (relatively speaking) better quality in those days than now? It seems like track has been on the decline in recent years, but is there any evidence to support that? The best numbers I have are from the website through 2006. (They put in a conversion factor from yards to meters.) Keep in mind that facilities have improved over time, and today’s athletes have the benefit of years of accumulated experience in training methods and nutrition.

I ran track from 1967 through 1971 (one year off). Tacking five more years onto that to make a theoretical “my decade,” let’s use 1965 to 1974. How do my contemporaries stack up? Very well in some events; less well in others. I am looking only at events that were commonly run in Arkansas high school in my time, minus pole vaulting, where improvements in equipment make an inordinate difference.

In the 100 meter dash, in the Top Ten (ties included), only Henry Basey of Horace Mann is still there at 8th from 1968.

In the 200 meters, only Carl Lowe of NLR is there at 5th from 1969. (Lowe and Basey had a memorable series of battles in 1968.)

In the 400 meters, the inimitable Robert Owens from FS Northside is 2nd from 1970, and my decade rules this race. Pine Bluff’s Mike Carter is 5th in 1972, Rivercrest’s James Hawkins and Arkadelphia’s Luther Guinn are tied for 7th in 1971 and 1972, respectively; and Fordyce’s Otis Parham is 11th from 1974. My decade had some great quartermilers.

In the 800 meters, there are two in the Top Ten: John Feltner of Russellville is 2nd from 1970 and Wayne Roper from Stamps is 8th in 1965. I saw Feltner run in person, and he was unbelievably good: probably the finest middle distance runner the state has produced.

In the 1600 meters (mile), my decade has three of the Top Ten: FS Southside’s Brent Jones in 7th in 1971, Crossett’s Bob Leonarduzzi in 1967 and Bay’s Ron Davis in 1972.

In the 110 meter hurdles, only the amazing Phillip Herndon is there, in a tie for 10th from 1968.

In the 4X100 relay, only the 1971 Pine Bluff team is three in 10th place.

In the 4X200 relay, the 1972 LR Hall team is in 4th and the 1968 LR Central team is in 5th. (Central was VERY strong in 1968.)

In the 4X400 relay, the 1968 Central team is 4th and the 1969 FS Northside team is 5th (with Owens included). I remember vividly reading the Arkansas Gazette’s description of Central’s win in the state meet. They were among the top mile relay teams in the nation that year.

My decade also ruled the shot put, with the top three all-time performances: Russellville’s Paul White in 1974, Crossett’s Karl Salb in 1967 and Dollarway’s T. J. Humphreys in 1973. With all the emphasis on weight training in recent years, that domination from a couple of generations ago is amazing.

The discus has two entries, with Salb in 6th and Magnolia’s Paul McMahen in 10th.

The long jump had only a single entry from my era with William Tate of West Memphis in 5th. (I might note here the single greatest performance in Arkansas track and field history: Arkadelphia’s Win Whipple jumped 24’0” in 1933, which stood as the best performance in state history for 41 years. Even today, after 81 years, it is the 9th best mark in state history.)

The high jump? My decade had zero Top Ten marks.

So, the conclusion: I did run in one of the strongest periods of Arkansas high school track and field, but it was not uniform over every event. Very likely we will never see the quality we had then in the 400 meters or the weight events.

Why college basketball is better than football

A great quote from ESPN's Dana O'Neil:

"It doesn't seem right to call this group [lower level schools] Others, because in college basketball, the Others are what make the game so special. This is the crew that puts the madness in March, the slipper on Cinderella's foot and really just all the cliches into the sport.

"Without them, what would we have? Oh right, college football."

How lower level coaches can be successful

It is not the entire formula, but it is a start. Every coach has a system. Each coach's system differs, at least a little, from all others. This does not make one system right and another wrong, but the coach - and the team - have to know what the system is and buy into it. So . . .

1. Recruit to your system. Get the type players who fit what you are trying to do, even if they might not work as well in another system.

2. Teach you system. Make it second nature to your players. By the time they are upper classmen they need to be doing it without thinking.

3. Get experience in your system. You have to have some jucos, but you also need younger players who grow up learning your system until it is engrained in them, and they are then able to pass it along to the younger players almost by osmosis.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Better A/TO ratios

I noticed several teams this season that finished with positive assist/turnover ratios, which had not had them the season before. ASU and Drexel are just a couple of examples. It was frequent enough that it caused me to wonder if that was one of the unseen benefits of the handcheck rule changes that went into effect last year. Since ball handlers were not being physically harrassed on the perimeter, they were freer to make passes. Just a thought.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Can next year's team be better?

Certainly. In the first place, last year's team was not very good. But further, we have at least three players who are potentially major talents, if that potential blossoms. It is possible that we will have talent on the court next year similar to what we saw WKU have in years past. It has yet to happen: they were good, but will they be REALLY good? Who knows? But at least the potential is there, and that makes me eager for next season, just to see what happens.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Marshall Henderson in the NBA

Henderson ought to fit right in - and that is not a compliment to him or the league.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

"The NBA is flat-out boring"

Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky got that right!

Someone needs to develop an All-Time Arkansas HS team

This would take a lot of research and work to do it right. The people doing it would have to have the integrity to do the hard research about the old-timers to give them equal weight with modern players. And the compilers would have to make sure that what the players accomplished (or did not accomplish) in college had absolutely no bearing on the selection.

What Hagins has to learn to be great

He already has the ability to get hot and carry us, and to win games. He has to learn not to shoot us out of games. When he gets the discipline to do that, he will be hard to handle. Right now he has the No Fear aspect, but he has to learn to have just that little bit of fear that translates into good judgment.