Monday, June 30, 2014

Want to bat against Walter Johnson?

In this link, it says that Johnson's fastball came in at 99.7 mph. Sidearm. And the batters had no helmets or any other of the modern day armor.

Friendly competition in the Belt

My son and one of my best friends are ASU grads. My son-in-law's sister is a Texas State grad. A close friend of mine is an Appalacian State grad. A young man of my acquaintance is a Georgia Southern grad. We are going to have some lively but friendly competition in the Belt this season.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Emil Zatopek - one of my favorite runners

Back when I followed track and field closely, one of my favorites was Emil Zatopek, one of the greatest runners ever. He won four Olympic medals, including the 5000 meters, 10,000 meters and marathon in the 1952 Games, breaking the existing Olympic record in each event. The marathon was his first ever attempt at that distance. He was known as The Beast of Prague because of his contorted facial and upper body motions. He was known for his killer training regimen.

Height next year.

I was a little concerned about our size going into next season, but if Isom is indeed 6-9, we will go 6-10, 6-9, 6-8, and that is plenty for the Belt.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Toughness will tell

Shields teams are good when they are tough. This year I think we have a little more talent than usual, so if we have the toughness, we ought to do well.

Payoff time with James White

Any time you bring in a big man at our level, you figure there will be some time to wait before the big payoff. We started to see it this past season (his third, including his redshirt season). But with Will Neighbour out of the picture, he will be our #1 post threat, and he needs to have a big season. Not just a good season, a BIG season.

Who will jump up?

As always, if a season is to be a special season, someone has to take a giant step forward. You expect all the players to improve, but someone has to improve a bunch. The most likely candidate this year is Mareik Isom, who showed us some flashes of brilliance toward the end of the season. J. T. Thomas might qualify, although when he played last year he was very good. Getting a full season out of him at top form would be a big plus. And then there is always Gus Leeper. If the big guy can throw his weight around, he might do some nice things for us.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Best teachers among the coaches?

I wonder which of the D1 college coaches are the best actual teachers of basketball, which is only one small aspect of head coaching. In other words, the guy you would hire to give a clinic. We might be surprised at the answer. I have no idea who it would be, but there is a good chance all the big name head coaches would not be high on the list, and many of the best teachers may be coaching at a lower level. In fact, I would guess that many of the best teachers are coaching at lower levels specifically because they enjoy the teaching and do not want to have to mess with the things that go with a higher-level job. Just a guess.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The shadow of Will

Will Neighbour left some impressive numbers on the Little Rock landscape and will be remembered fondly by our fans. Often a team lets its star player carry the mail, so to speak. He has proven he can do it, and the system of the moment requires that he be the lead man. Will cast a long shadow, but now the team has to step out from under it. Losing him was a big hit to the program,  but who can say that there is not more than enough firepower waiting in the wings to make up the difference? It is hard to see in the shadows; there may be talent and leadership there that we just have not yet seen.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The traditional designations still matter

Today many poo-poo the historic position designations in basketball, whether by name (point guard) or number (1). May I make the case that they still matter. Someone on the team will be better than anyone else at handling the ball, breaking the press and setting up the offense. That is the point guard - whatever you may call it. Someone else is also going to be a ball handler, but not as good at it as the other guard, and therefore probably out there for his shooting ability. That is your shooting guard. Logical, huh? One player is going to be the best person at playing close to the basket, in the low post. That is your center. The other player who is big enough to bang inside will be the power forward. The remaining player, by default will be your small forward or swing man or off guard or whatever you want to call the 3 position.

Obviously these positioins are fluid, but unless the team lines up around the perimeter and basically plays HORSE, you will see these functions during the game. Unless the offense is in streetball chaos, there will order to it, and that order results in a role for each player. The designations, by name or number, simply define the roles each player has in the offense.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What are the bogies?

What do we need to expect from each player for this next season. Hard to tell. We have several newcomers, and a couple of players who came on strong late in the season but who have yet to demonstrate just how reliable they can be. But here is a random shot at it with the veterans.

James White/Josh Hagins. We need 30 points per game between the two of these. Doesn't matter about the mix and match.
James White has to give us 7 rebounds/game.
We need double figures scoring from Ben Dillard.
9 rebounds a game from Stetson Billings/Gus Leeper. Again, mix and match.
We need a composite 2:1 A/TO ratio from our point guards.
Team bogies: Shoot 45% overall, 35% from the arc. Hold opponents to under 42% overall and under 33% from the arc.
Positive A/TO as a team.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Can GSU be good - and lucky - again?

The talent level on Georgia State will be far above that of any of the other Belt teams this next season. And they will be the prohibitive favorites starting the year, as they should be. On paper no one should be able to stay with them. Last year demonstrated that. However, as the old saying goes, it is better to be lucky than good. Last year GSU was very good, clearly the class of the SBC. However, they were also lucky. By that I mean the many things that can happen to throw a monkey wrench into a team's season. There is always the possibility of injury to key players, but there can also be chemistry issues, off-the-court problems, etc., etc. There is a whole laundry list of things that can happen to throw a team off its oats and cause distractions. Georgia State did not have those last year. That is the "lucky" part (although some of that is not merely luck). They will be good this year. Will they also be lucky? Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Pappy's very early gut feel

There is no reason why we should not be right in the hunt for second this year. First is a little problematical, given the talent GSU has. So all we can do is control what we can control and hope that Georgia State stubs their toe somewhere alone the way. What we have to do is to give ourselves a chance. If they beat us, they beat us, but we cannot beat ourselves.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Reality in preseason assessments

We know our own teams better than we know others. That tends to make our predictions lopsided - one way or the other. Most fans tend to be optimistic, I think, because it is more enjoyable and it makes us feel better. But the other factor is that we know how well our players can play on a given day, and we hope against hope that they will play at their capability all season long. Occasionally it happens, but not very often. But it makes us shoot high with our home team. Occasionally (though not often) familiarity breeds contempt, however, and we shoot too low.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Will a walk-on lead the nation?

Wisconsin has added  T. J. Schlundt to its roster as a walk-on. I know nothing about his basketball skills, but he just might lead the nation in consonant-to-vowel ratio in his last name.

Martin signs 7-2 recruit

Tallest player in UT-Martin history. He will be a project, but with that size, if he can put on some weight and strength and just learn positioning, he will be tough to handle in the Ohio Valley Conference.


Attendance: I told you we were not the only ones hurting

CBSSportsline has released their survey of attendance in college basketball. An average of 4817 people attended each game which down an average of 104 people per game, or down about 2.1%. The fact is that entertainment of every sort of everywhere - and very cheap in most instances. It is hard to compete, even with a good product.

Conference-wise, the Big Ten staked its claim to being Basketball Country. Teams there averaged 13,354 per game, far outdistancing second place ACC with 10,661.

How bad was the SEC?

I do not mean bad as compared with smaller schools, but bad considering that they are a major (probably the richest) conference. They have ALL the advantages. And yet they were 7th in RealtimeRPI. SEVENTH! Behind all the other five money conference, and also behind the Big East (no football) and the Atlantic 10 (no football). Little bitty Atlantic 10 beat the mighty SEC! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! With household names like Duquesne, Fordham, La Salle, etc. I love it!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Stetson Billings - doing things right

I have long been convinced of the principle that if you do things the right way, good things will happen in due time. I think Stetson Billings if an example of that. Far too often players (expecially true freshmen) are thrown into the fray too early and are expected to deliver before they develop to that point - and their future gets stunted as a result. They do not have time to learn the right way. That has not been the case with Stetson. He has not been asked to score in his first two seasons, but from everything the coaches tell us, he is soaking up their teaching and developing nicely in his game. Sure, he is coming along very slowly, and sure, he may never be a great scorer; but there is every reason to believe that over the next two seasons he is going to be good at what he is supposed to be doing - and the team will be the gainer because of it. When you do things right, good things happen. Expect it.

Just win 20 games

Go to the Big Dance. Win the conference regular season. Lots of standards for what constitutes a good season. But here is one that will work all of the time. Just win 20 games each season. If you do, the rest will take care of itself.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dodo birds and the post game

The 3-point shot has pretty well killed the post-up game in basketball, and what it might have left, One-and-done drafting by the NBA and ESPN Sports Center destroyed. After all, who ever made Sports Center by making a skillful entrance pass to the post?

There just is not much of a post up game any more in college basketball. Some would say good riddance, because the post-up game is "boring." I am not one of them, but the situation is what it is, so I had better get used to fullcourt pressing, dribble-drive offenses, and lot and lots of long-range shots, because that is about all college basketball has left. The post game has gone the way of the dodo bird.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Talk about cleaning house!

Of the 13 players on UCA's roster next season, twelve are newcomers.

A solid season for a coach's son

Sometimes coach's kids get the benefit of the doubt because of who their father is. But Lucas Nutt, son of Southeast Missouri head coach Houston Nutt, had a good season for his senior year. He had a 2.69 assist/turnover ratio - good in anyone's book - and shot 81.6% from the free throw line. While he only scored 7.3 ppg, he did shoot 35.4% from the arc, and threw in 25 steals for good measure.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Defense and effort

There are times when lack of quickness or size genuinely keeps a team from playing defense at the level it needs to. But my observation has been that when teams do not play defense usually it is because they will not play it, not because they cannot play it. Defense takes effort, and buying into the system.

SLU's Crews

St. Louis University's Jim Crews has done a marvelous job with the team following the death of Rick Majerus, to the point of making them a national factor. But he loses Dwayne Evans, Jordair Jett, Jake Barnett, Rob Loe and Mike McCall, Jr., for next year. That would be a huge hit for any team. Crews' coaching mettle will be tested to the fullest next year. Do they rebuild, or reload?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

For us to have a chance against GSU this year

we will have to make up in teamwork and toughness what they have in talent. Money conference talent is hard to overcome in the Sun Belt. But we are due for one of those special teams that makes it work. Could this be the year?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Porter and Shields get criticized for this, BUT

Here is a quote from ESPN's Tom Haberstroh about the San Antonio Spurs:

"The Spurs always have made a living by giving up a good shot for a better shot. This has been their modus operandi for more than a decade. But against the Heat, they've taken it to another level."

One more year of unsettlement

Two more schools this year in the SBC, and then maybe we will get to settle down to some sort of normality for a few years. Conference play is a lot more fun when you know your opponents and some rivalries have been developed. Conference realignment is rough on rivalries.

Friday, June 13, 2014

How badly do you want it - when?

The basketball season runs a long time and the players deserve a break. But they will be back after it before things have gone very far. And I suspect that the off-season is when skills development largely takes place. No doubt the coaches tell the players what they need to work on during the off-season; but how hard do they work at it? They all play basketball because they enjoy it, and when the coaches are not around they can play purely for fun, but if they do not display the discipline to work hard on their games between the end of school and the time the coaches get involved again, they are not going to take that big step forward that so often makes the difference between a winning team and one that isn't.

If the NCAA were running the PGA

the winner of the U. S. Open would shoot 18 under par every round.

Heart and focus

Teams go from being good teams to better teams if they have heart. Won't give up. Always relentless. Don't take off possessions. The Fowler teams seemed to have that quality. At times last year we had it. This teams has the talent so that if they have that heart and focus all the time, they could be very good.

Trojan defensive great John Fowler

Thursday, June 12, 2014

St. Francis Brooklyn - shooting discipline

Perhaps the ultimate we saw last season in discipline in 3-point shooting was in Brooklyn. Senior guard Ben Mockford shot 214 times from the arc, and shot very well, making 40.7% of his attempts. That was over a third (34.6%) of the team's attempts. (By comparison, our most frequent shooter, Hagins, took 26.9% of our attempts.) And it was a good thing, too, because the rest of the team was awful (26.7%).

One of Steve's better teams?

Steve Shields’ better teams have had some common threads: experience and upper class leadership, solid point guard, a “go to” scorer, toughness. This year’s group looks like it might have those factors again. The toughness issue remains to be seen, but the others appear to be there.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

South Arkansas fans?

My experience is that usually it does not pay off much, but I wonder if having Stetson Billings on the team and playing regularly over the last two seasons has picked us up a few fans from that region. Strong is not a very big town, but with our attendance, we cannot sneer at any new faces.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Looking for offense in Savannah

When your leading returning scorer will be one who averaged 6.4 ppg, and was a terrible shooter to boot, you have to be looking for some offensive pop - quickly! That is the plight of Coach Horace Broadnax of Savannah State. Thankfully he does have several seniors leaving who could make room for some quick fix jucos, if that is the route he chooses to take.

Sean Obi: remember that name

Last season as a freshman at Rice, he was just a tick below averaging a double/double (11.4 ppg, 9.3 rpg). Plus he shot 59.1% from the field. He will have a new coach this year, so we shall see how that affects him, but if he continues to improve, he could be really good by his senior year.

The good news? Hagins can improve

Josh Hagins was our most explosive scorer last season, able to put up a lot of points in a hurry in different ways. The good news is that even after two years in the league he still has lots of room for improvement on the offensive end. First, he can get to the foul line more. He played 830 minutes last year compared to 672 for Ben Dillard, and yet Ben shot half again as many free throws as Josh. Also, he can be much more efficient offensively. Last year he shot 334 times compared to 126 for Ben Dillard (2.65 times as many attempts), and yet he scored 12.3 ppg compard to 7.4 for Ben (1.66 times as much). Third, there is room for improvement in his 3-point shooting. He averaged 35.4% last year, which certainly is acceptable, but I am far from thinking that that is the best he can do.

I think Josh Hagins has a lot more topside potential. There is no telling how good he can be.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Do you think there is any pressure?

Just look at the numbers. Unless something unforeseen happens, we will have two sophomores on the roster next season - and TWELVE upperclassmen. (Obviously, these numbers are one over the limit because we do not know the other casualty on the roster, but the point still stands.) That is a very top-heavy roster. It is structured for the present, not the future. When that happens, you have to assume that the coach is focused on the present, not the future, and the only reason he would do that is if he has to survive the present in order to have a future.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

We have to have some integrity in the game

Many folks do not like the NCAA, and would like to see college basketball as an unfettered quasi- professional system. But if the game is to have any legitimacy, it has to have at least some degree of integrity. If we are to have any integrity, we have to have someone to enforce it.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

No impact recruit

This is one year when I do not think we really needed a recruit who can make a huge impact immediately, and that does say something good about our prospects this year.

Friday, June 6, 2014

3-point defense

We were almost exactly average in our 3-point defense this year. The Sun Belt as a whole shot 34.6% from the arc, and our opponents averaged 34.5%. We we were not good, but not bad. But we need to improve. You cannot hope to win much with opponents shooting up close to 40% from the arc, not in today's world where the 3-point shot rules so completely. A team that can defend the arc is a giant step ahead in the game. We need to get better.

"Go to" guys

Here is a quote from ESPN's Myron Medcalf: "That’s the fabric that links America’s best programs each year. They all have one or more players who are capable of rising above the rest." He is talking about teams' "go to," players, the ones who are able to deliver come crunch time, from whatever position. Will we have one or two of these? If so, it could be a very good year.

Being successful with low budgets

I cannot imagine that we are a high-budget program. We do not have the football cash cow, and our attendance in basketball could not be making the dough roll in. So, how are you successful without a lot of money to work on?

Well, we got someone who does have a lot of money to help us build a wonderful facility. That certainly is a good start. We will have to recruit smart instead of flashy. Maybe more phone calls to people whose judgment we trust instead of a big travel budget. We may have to play body-bag games. Tough, but there it is. It is not the end of the world. We have plenty of good, winnable games to schedule within a fairly economical travel radius. Coaches? We will have to be smart and lucky there, because we will not be able to hire the big money coaches, complain about it all we want.

But I still say that some of the best bucks a low-budget program could spend is a smart public relations program.

Rebounds per minute played

White .256
Billings .254
Neighbour .224
Leeper .171
Hill .168


Thursday, June 5, 2014

It is easy for Calipari to fail

With the money and facilities and history and fan base that he has and the talent that swarms to him because of it, there is no reason why he should not be in the Final Four every year. If he doesn't go, he has to be accounted a failure.

The skyhook

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's skyhook was the most unstoppable shot in basketball history. Nothing else even close. It was amazing how accurate he was with it, and from as far out as he sometimes shot it. When he got position for it, it was all over.

Attendance - it can be done

UIC (Illinois-Chicago) were 6-25 this season and are in a major media market, and yet they averaged a reported 3010 per home game last season. Hard to imagine how, and I do not know how good their numbers are, but there you are. Evidently it can be done.

The Belt in a quick rebuild juco mood?

I may have missed a few, but I counted 26 jucos who will be joining Sun Belt teams next season, plus a transfer or two. It looks like there are some programs wanting to take a jump forward in a hurry. Maybe some coaches under pressure?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"International" indeed

The Florida International University women's volleyball team lives up to the school name. Of the 13 names on the roster, seven hail from outside the States: Italy (2), Puerto Rico, Poland, Croatia, Switzerland, Russia.

You don't have to be tall to rebound well

Idaho State's Jeffrey Solarin averaged 8.5 rebounds/game this past season, and he is only 6-4.

Roger Woods stats are pretty impressive

We already know he averaged 19.5 ppg and 6.8 rpg, and shot 213 FTs, and that he appears to be bull strong. But what else can we glean from his state? He shot 52.2% over all and 39.6% overall. He made 65.7% of those free throws, which is not great, but certainly not terrible. So, he is hard to keep away from the basket (which appears to be his strength), but he can knock down 3-pointers, also. Granted that juco defense is notoriously suspect, but it appears that the ability is there.

Get them in foul trouble

With James White's agility and Gus Leeper's strength, and Roger Woods reported skill at driving to the basket (he shot 213 FTs last season - far more than anyone on the Trojans), and Ben Dillard's proven ability to get to the foul line, there is no reason why we should not keep opponents in foul trouble this year.

Not quite time for prognostication just yet

We learned one thing this week: Andrew Poulter will not be with the team this season. But we still have ten players listed on the newly-begun 2014-15 roster on the official site. That means that either one more has to be culled, or that one of the new recruits is not going to materialize. And we do not know which is true. Obviously, the identity of the mystery absentee is critical. If it should be James White, that would be entirely different than if it were one of the newcomers. Patience is a virtue.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

It takes more than shooting

This past season Drake shot 39.6% from the 3-point line. Most teams would be very happy to have one player who shot that well, let alone the team average. So they blew everyone out, right? Wrong! They were 15-16 overall and 6-12 in conference.

National champions most folks never realized

Before the NCAA tournament became the recognized national championship, the Helms Athletic Foundation awarded a national championship, beginning in 1901 with Yale. I suspect a lot of people who consider themselves big college basketball fans would not recognize some of our national champs. For example:

Since the NCAA tournament:
Holy Cross
Loyola (IL)

Before the NCAA tournament:
Montana State

Yes, basketball fans, Northwestern if famous for being the only Money Conference school that has never been to the NCAA tournament, but nonetheless they have had a national championship.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Do teams that press handle the press better than teams that don't press?

I don't know the answer. It is possible that, since you know what you do when you press, you are better able to react when other people press you. Possible, but it does not automatically follow. Sometimes pressing teams may be no better than non-pressing teams at breaking the press. Houdini said it was easy to break out of a safe, because safes were not built to keep people "in." Pressing schemes are built to attack the ball, not to break presses. Someone ought to do a study on this.

Next season's picks will be far easier than last

GSU will start a length and a half ahead of everyone else. Not as many new faces.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Small but tough

Depending on who ends up on the roster, it is looking like it will be considerably smaller than last year. If you are smaller, you have to be tougher. And, I think we have some guys who look like hard-nosed types.