Thursday, December 31, 2015

They count the same

The fanciest dunk in the world counts 2 points, same as the simplest lay-up. Players ought to remember that. Fans ought to, also.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Some rivalries might go unnoticed

Tonight Rhode Island beat Brown by 3 points in overtime. Close in-state game, in a state that has only three D1 teams.

We will know we have arrived as a program when . . .

As long as we have the mentality that "only the conference season matters," we can know we are still small-time basketball, because in the by-ways of college basketball that is true. In fact, we are so low down that only the conference tournament matters. Teams from non-money conferences that have arrived in the national conversation care very much about the non-conference season, because that is where they make their statement. No one cares much if Gonzaga beats a West Coast Conference team (at least most seasons). No one will care if we beat a Sun Belt team, but if we beat someone who appears at least from time to time in the Top 25 (and there are none in the Belt), then that makes at least a small statement of where we are.

Where is the Coach?!

Pine Bluff junior guard Ghiavonni Robinson has played more minutes than anyone else on the team. He also has taken 56% more 3-point attempts than anyone else, even though he is shooting an abysmal 19% from the arc. And it is not like this is a kid who is just off his stroke a little, because he also is shooting only 55% from the FT line. To be brutally frank, he can't hit the broad side of a barn, and hasn't all year. Apparently he keys their offense, because he leads the team in assists; but he has more turnovers than assists, and twice as any turnovers as anyone else on the team. Maybe he is in there for his defense, because he does lead the team in steals, but if that is so, why is he shooting so much. I don't understand these things.

Need to get the big Belt wins early

At the moment, Arlington and Georgia State are both Top 100 RPIs. I don't know where they will end up, but the SBC will tend downward as the quality of our opposition falls off.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Non-role-player big men

At our level these types are hard to come buy. You know what I mean by a role player big man: play good post defense, grab a few rebounds, score a few points, block a few shots. Nothing statistically that is impressive. We have had a few who went beyond that. Rashad Jones-Jennings and Will Neighbour obviously come to mind. Mike Smith probably was there and definitely would have been had he stayed healthy. When you get one of those in the Sun Belt, it makes a big difference. Then, if you can put a decent team around him, you have a chance for a really nice year. Unfortunately, we were not able to do that during the careers of JJ and Will.

Monday, December 28, 2015

We don't boo failures

When a slugger swings from the back lot and hits a home run, we  cheer wildly. But if he swings from the back lot and strikes out (when he should have been shortening up on his swing and meeting the ball), does anyone boo? Of course not. We reward, but we do not punish. So when shooters throw up ill-advised shots that happen to go in, we cheer wildly and call them "gutsy shooters who are not afraid to take the big shot." But what if he misses? Do we boo? Then why not take the bad shot? No one is going to punish you for doing so, except maybe the coach. Basketball fans need to be a little more discriminating.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Three-point shooting

Mareik Isom and Josh Hagins are shooting several percentage points below their capability. The "why" I do not know. I do know that one of them needs to get going quickly. So far this year this team has been OK offensively, but no better than that. That has been good enough, because we have been brilliant defensively and handling the ball. But for post season success you need several shooters. Right now we have two, and that won't be enough.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

21 games left

At least. Counting the Belt tourney as one game at this point.

We have ten wins thus far, much better than any of use expected, I suspect. If we stay healthy and play our game, I think we will win the lion's share of those 21 games. But let us be very pessimistic and say that we win only thirteen (60%) of them. That still gives us 23 wins. Even that ought to get us into one of the tournaments, especially with some solid wins in non-conference.

The program record of 26 wins in 1986-87 is within reach.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The only score that would please me

in tomorrow's Louisville/Kentucky game is 0-0. But I suppose I will win either way, because one of them will lose.

A quick study

This next week will be critical to this team. After the holiday break, we are going to have a few days to fix the things that are wrong heading into the conference season. Assuming the AD is willing to and can afford to send us to one of the pay-to-play post-season tournaments, it seems obvious that we are likely still to be playing after the SBC tournament one way or the other; and that is very important to this program at this juncture.

This is a veteran team. Our only scholarship players who are not upper-classmen are Deondre Burns and Oliver Black, and Black is redshirting. So these guys have been "around the Horn" already. All the upperclassmen have played for at least one other head coach previously. Plus, unless some of them are just unusually hard-headed (which I have not seen), by this point they ought to be convinced that Coach Beard knows what he is talking about. Whatever points he emphasizes this next week, I think they will acknowledge and learn, and so we ought to go into conference play with a few of the holes in the dike plugged. Our roster is what it is, but we ought to be able to compensate successfully for the few deficiencies we have if we follow the Doctor's prescription.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Beard started where it matters

Defense is the bedrock of basketball because it is perhaps the most predictable factor. Shooting sometimes goes cold, but defense is much more likely to be "on." We are not yet hitting on all cylinders offensively, but our defense has been outstanding, and we are 10-1. Coach started where he needed to, and it paid off. The rest will come.

Life in the minor leagues in Arkansas

Do you think anyone in the state of Alabama expects Auburn fans to feel like they ought to be obligated to root for the University of Alabama in sports? Do you think Alabama fans feel like it is their birthright that everyone in the entire state ought to be Tide fans? But that attitude is regularly exhibited by Razorback fans. "We are THE University - of the entire state. Anyone in the state of Arkansas who does not root for us is just flat unpatriotic. It's their duty as a citizen." I run into that mind-set regularly. Indeed, it permeates the power structure of sports in the state. AAAAAAARRGGGGHHHH!!! And then they can't understand why some of us have such a deep-seated distaste for Fayetteville.


Among the things that really irritate me

Players who make the upward motion with their arms asking the crowd to become more vocal. You players stick to playing and we fans will take care of the cheering. If your playing were without fault there might not be any need to be try to get the fans ramped up.

Could this be the year of a non-football finals?

Right now Little Rock and Arlington are first and second in Sagarin ratings in the Sun Belt. We are the only two schools not to have football. The odds are against it because everything has to fall out just right (including the brackets), but one of these years, we could have a non-football final in the SBC basketball tournament. Could this be the year?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Chasse's real test

If Chasse Conque hope to list his name among the really fine Athletic Directors in Division 1, his test will come next season, or a few years down the road. Chris Beard appears to be an exceptional coach. If that is true, he likely will be moving on fairly quickly. When he does, if the program is to maintain the level to which we (hopefully) will have become accustomed, he will be under tremendous pressure to hit a second home run, and that is the tough one. Almost any AD can luck onto a really good coach from time to time (even a blind hog finds an acorn occasionally), but only a really good one can put a string of them together.

The Big East's success story

When realignment siphoned off several of the old Big East's football schools, the non-football group, with a couple of new additions, got permission to use the Big East name, leaving the remainder of the old Beast (plus a few) to form the AAC. They wanted to go with their strength - basketball - and they have succeeded. Last year the Big East was the 2nd-ranked league, behind only the Big 12. All that football TV money couldn't get the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 or the SEC ahead of them. So far this year the Big East is in 3rd place, behind the Big 12 and the Pac-12. They have proven that basketball without football can still be big-time.

A simple matter of math

Wagner is our case study. When your two most frequent 3-point shooters are both shooting 40% or better, but your team is shooting 31.1% overall, it doesn't take a doctoral candidate to see that those other guys need to lay off and let the players shoot who can make the shots.


Living on the edge

The Trojans have been living an unrealistic life. Due to some brilliant play when we needed it, we succeeded in walking along the edge of the cliff (or walking the tightrope) for ten consecutive wins. That habit finally caught up with us. Statistics are brutally frank. You cannot shoot a low percentage AND get  beat on the boards AND have a lot of turnovers and expect to win very often. Most of the time we only did the first two and got by with it because we did some other things very well. We dodged the bullet successfully, but a team is only so light on its feet, and sooner or later it will stub its toe, and we did.

Our season stats mask our rebounding problems. We are only down 0.6 boards per game overall. However, taking out the two non-D1 games, we are down five rebounds per game. That is not uncommon with teams that shoot a lot of 3-point shots, like the Princeton Offense teams, but they usually shoot a high percentage from the field to make up for it. Yesterday we shot very poorly, and paid the price: we finally got shoved over the edge.

Because Coach Beard insists on good fundamentals, we  can walk the tightrope most of the time - but (as we know know) not every time. If (when) Mareik Isom and Josh Hagins find their three-point strokes, we will make more slack for ourselves.

Ruttley's value

Jermaine Ruttley was a big-time scorer at Florida A&M. Here in Little Rock he is starting, but averaging only 4.8 points per game. However, he is tied for the team lead in rebounds (at only 6-3) and is third in assists.

Ten-game win streaks

This year's season-starting win streak is unique in school history. However, it is not the only ten-game streak Little Rock has had. In 1942-43 under Herman Bogan, the Trojans started with a win, then a loss, and then reeled off ten wins in a row. In 1987-88 under Mike Newell, the team also had a 10-game streak. They then lost two in a row and went on another eight-game streak.

Our best non-conference win?

We finally whiffed, but we had had a 10-game hitting streak, so that isn't bad. I'll take it any day. In my humble and frequently-faulty opinion, our best win in terms of prestige was DePaul. They are a program with a lot of tradition, plus they are from the conference that was ranked second last season and are current third in RPI. However, from an RPI standpoint, our best win would have been Tulsa (using the rankings of the moment), who stand at 57 as I type. In terms of personal satisfaction, it probably was San Diego State, who was picked to be pretty good going into the season. At the time of the win, it was huge.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

So close

The Trojans made game of it against Texas Tech. They just ran out of gas. They had an uncharacteristic 14 turnovers, and that might have been the nail in the coffin, since they went with a low shooting percentage and a horrendous pounding on the boards. Really, looking at the box score, I do not see how we stayed as close as we did.

A little reality check sometimes helps in the long run. We are "only" a pretty good Sun Belt team, and we do not belong on the national stage yet. We may not be that far away from it, but I think we probably have been over-achieving somewhat. We have played pretty good fundamental basketball, but that cannot always make up for poor shooting and lack of rebounding. All the negative factors finally just caught up with us today. It was at a bad time. A real opportunity slipped away to do something on the national stage, and those chances to not come along too often to teams in our situation.

Total rebuilding job at Tulsa next year

Of the 12 players who have appeared in games so far, nine are seniors. One, Pat Birt, is a starter. One if a freshman who averages eight minutes per game. One is a freshman who has a total of 18 minutes. They had better get it done this year, because next season may be tough.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Our most significant game in a while

It has been a while since we had a game with as much riding on it as the Texas Tech game. With our win streak, if we win it, we will move onto the national scene. If we lose it, we will be in that category of "one of those nice mid-major programs that are close, but not quite there."

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Do well what you do well

Play to your strengths. Shore up your weaknesses. Obviously, this team does a few things superlatively well. We shoot FTs, we defend, we take care of the ball. We do those things well enough to win most games. So why have we won ALL our games so far? Because we do those things well enough to make up for the other things we do not do as well, and we are making progress in our weaker spots. Rebounding is improving. Our shooting is (slowly) beginning to come around. Our weaknesses are not fatal, and our strengths are considerable.

Ten is a nice round number

We may not beat Texas Tech (although the odds are about even that we will). But even if we "only" beat NAU, ten straight wins to start the season is a nice number for history. Easy to remember. I expect we will all remember this stretch.

Now . . . how about a few more numbers that might make the number in the streak a little harder to remember, but would be even more fun? Hmmmm?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Don't take "win now" too far

We have put together a winning roster with transfers and jucos. That is fine for short-term success. However, I hope Coach Beard at some point starts moving back toward freshmen. There just is more of a sense of ownership for fans when they have "invested" in a player for four years.

A word of caution

We have had a remarkable start to this season. However, a little bird in the back of my mind keeps cautioning me that starts are not seasons. I remember when Will Neighbour threw out his shoulder, and when Mike Smith tore his ACL. We have a good coach, and good coaches keep their teams in the midst of the fray; but in order to have one of those really special seasons you have to be lucky as well as good. So far we have been both.

Will Neighbour did not disappoint

I think back to how excited we were when Will committed to us, and then how disappointed we were when he was not eligible, and then how impressed we were when he stood by his commitment. He was a class act, and it was a real joy to watch him play. His name is scattered through the all-time lists, and certainly he will go down as one of the better players I saw during my tenure as a Trojan fan.

Will's arrival was anticipated more keenly than any recruit in recent memory, and he did not disappoint us.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Pitt's A/TO

Pitt is 8-1 so far this season. That is not very impressive in itself, because the only team of major consequence that they have played (Purdue) beat them handily. What is impressive is their assist/turnover ratio. They are 1.83 as a team. (A lot of individual point guards would love to get to that number.) This number is helped materially by the absolutely ridiculous number of 8.80 put up by their superb senior point guard, James Robinson. In nine games so far this season he has only FIVE turnovers.

There is logic to Beard's substitution pattern

Our top four scorers (by points/game) are Marcus Johnson, Josh Hagins, Jalen Jackson, and Lis Shoshi. Hagins and Shoshi start. Johnson and Jackson do not. So, why not? Why would you not start your 1st and 4th leading scorers? A couple of reasons. First, because there are many other aspects to the game than scoring, and the players starting may do better in those aspects. More likely, however, is the fact that with this combination, Beard can have two of his top four leading scorers on the court at all times. So, however he mixes and matches the rest of the rotation, he does not sacrifice offense to any noticeable degree as long as two of those four are on the court. That is a nice option to have.

Notoriety equals distractions

We are getting some press these days because of our undefeated start to the season. However, one things that always comes with fame are distractions. Where there is the press, there will be things that do not relate directly to success. Here is hoping Coach Beard is as able to keep the team focused as he has been able to do everything else so far.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Roster explosion

I do not know for sure, but it is my understanding that members of the military academy athletic teams are not on scholarships as such, since all students at those schools get a full ride, anyway. Therefore, they can have an unlimited number of "walk-ons," so to speak. On the current Naval Academy roster there are 25 names. Sixteen players have played so far this year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A new twist on foreign players

Montana State has two foreign players on their roster: one from Turkey and one from the Netherlands. Both are big men by way of juco. There are a lot of foreign players on college rosters these days, but I do not think I have seen that particular combination before.


Monday, December 14, 2015

We play bigger than we are

Some players play bigger than they are, i.e., they make up for their lack of height by an effective use of other factors. A couple of notable examples that come to mind are Charles Barkley and Wes Unseld. Both gave up 3-4 inches to their typical opposition, but both went down as all-time greats, especially in rebounding, where Barkley is 18th all-time. He, of course, was known as the Round Mound of Rebound, and knew how to use his 252 pounds to good purpose underneath the basket.

Unseld played center at 6-7, and finished 12th all-time in rebounds. He was bull-strong and regularly guarded and out-rebounded much taller players. I remember distinctly an NBA pre-season publication saying that, though Unseld was good, he would never play center in the NBA because he was just not tall enough. All he did was to become the second player (after Wilt) to win the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in the same season.

We, also, have several players who play bigger than they are. Naming three particularly: Maurius Hill, Roger Woods and Jermaine Ruttley. All of them do things players their size are not usually able to do. Sometimes heart and skill can make a big player out of a short player.

Senior leadership: Hagins doing what needs to be done

Josh Hagins is not shooting well this year from the floor. I am sure that is frustrating to him, and probably also to the staff, because he has been a decent shooter throughout his career. But right now Josh is doing the thing this team critically needs to be done: taking care of the ball and distributing it to his teammates. This team is not going to be a dominant rebounding team, and so far, at least, we have been only an OK shooting team. So we are not going to win games that way. How we are going to win games is by keeping turnovers to a minimum and making our offense as efficient as it can be and by playing suffocating defense, and that is exactly what Josh is doing. Josh is our only four-year senior, and he is our starting point guard, so this is his team in a sense.

What we do NOT need Josh to do is to think that he has to be The Man offensively, even though he is scoring at a good clip. This team has lots of weapons, and it is Josh's job to make sure we have lots of firepower; and he has done that superlatively well so far. Nice job, Mr. Hagins!

Good years, and good programs

Like all of us, I am very excited about the year we are having. It is a happy time for Trojan fans. However, I get a little amused as the enthusiasm begins to bring forth comparisons that are totally unwarranted - at this point. We are not Gonzaga or Butler, we are not even Western Kentucky or Davidson - at this point. In order for that to happen, a program has to have sustained success over some considerable period of time, at least to the point that people come to expect them to be good each year. There is a difference between a good season and a good program.

It looks like we hit a home run with Coach Chris Beard, but since he is just beginning his D-1 career, unless he just happens to really love Little Rock and wants to stay here, he is not likely to be here long. It is possible that this could be his only year here if we do really well. So then we have to go through the whole roll of the dice on a new coach all over again, hoping that the next one will turn out as well as the last one. Not many programs at our level are able to get a coach of the quality of Davidson's Bob McKillop to stay for a generation, or to replace a Dan Monson with a Mark Few like Gonzaga did. That does not happen very often, and that is why it is so hard for a team at our level to maintain success. Big money programs can become final destinations for coaches, and if they get there they may stay there. Very few really good coaches will hunker down in a situation like Little Rock.

We are having a good year, but there is a big difference between an outstanding year and an outstanding program.

Weak points

Every team has its weak points, and we have ours, although they are harder to notice with some of the outstanding stats this team is putting up. We are shooting only 42.9% overall, which is not great, and without Marcus Johnson would be a couple of points lower. We still are getting beat on the boards, just only by one per game at this point. But none of that is much to complain about.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

One lesson from the DePaul game

Schedule bottom feeders from the highly-ranked conferences.

Ugly is beautiful

This team is becoming very adept at winning "ugly." In fact, it doesn't seem to matter to them at all if their shots are off or that they are getting pounded on the boards. What they do they do very well, and well enough to compensate for their deficiencies.

What they do well is taking care of the ball, making free throws, and playing very good defense. Not flashy. In fact, the same plain old blue collar basketball that has been identified with the Trojan name over the last few years. Oh, there are some different twists, to be sure. The offense is different, but we still are not scoring baskets in bunches. We just score more than the opponents. When you win, "ugly" is downright beautiful.

One thing that matches up is that "ugly" basketball usually does not have an off night, and so teams who can win that way are more likely to win on the road, where shooting percentages often are lower.

Rarefied air

Right now Sagarin has us ranked 94th in the nation. Not overwhelming, but we are ahead of such teams as Okla State, Alabama, Tennessee, UMass and LSU. In fact, we are ranked ahead of five of the SEC teams.

Beard took two chances

Coach Beard took a couple of risks in his recruiting this year. One was behavioral and the other was physical. Jalen Jackson's track record was not one to inspire confidence, but Beard took a chance on him, anyway. He had a hiccup early in the season, but appears to have gotten the message. We shall hope he keeps it, because he has a lot of talent. Daniel Green had a history of physical ailments. He supposedly was healthy, but we got five games and 44 minutes out of him before he went down again. Hopefully he will be back by season's end, because he could help us down the stretch.

Two risks. Mixed results so far.

We are doing what we can

We did not have any really heavy hitters on our schedule this season. San Diego State was close, but has been fading. Texas Tech might end up getting there, but is not there yet. So we have not had the opportunity to make a big splash. But we have beaten everyone we played, and that is all we can do. Consistency will win the day.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Achilles heel

Even very good teams have an Achilles heel: that aspect of the game in which they are less than stellar, and which, if exploited by the opponent, puts them in danger of losing. One of the main functions of coaches of good teams is to make that heel area smaller so that opponents' opportunity is that much more difficult. We are not a good rebounding team, and probably will not be this season; but what we have to do is to cut down the rebounding deficit as much as possible, shoot a good percentage so they have less rebounding opportunities, and make sure that our turnovers are kept to a minimum so that the net effect is in our favor.

Oscar Robertson's stats were ridiculously good

In a three-year college career, he averaged 33.8 points, 15.2 rebounds, and 4.8 assists. He shot 53.5% from the field and 78% from the FT line. Remember that he was a 6-5 small forward. A guy his size should not have been able to average 15 rebounds per game. If he averaged that many rebounds, he should not have had that many assists. If he had that many assists, he should not have scored that much. Oscar just did everything superlatively well.

My favorite Trojan picture of all time

Mr. John Fowler locked in on the offensive player.

The Belt needs to step up the pace

Most of the teams in the league do not have even one win against a higher-ranked conference member. To move up the list, that has to change, and time is running short.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

And now Green is gone

They are saying he will be back in five weeks, but I am not going to hold my breath that he comes back at all, at least not with any effectiveness, especially given his history. Mentally I am assuming he is done.

What does this mean to the team? First of all, it means we will struggle on the boards. In rebounds per minute played, Green was better than Ruttley, Shoshi or Woods - considerably better. He did not play many minutes, but while he was in there he did something well that this team does not do well at all. Second, we will be forced to play really smallball a lot. There will be times when the tallest person we have on the court is 6-6, and even 6-5. It is OK to play smallball, because in certain situations it works well, but it is not good to be forced to play that way. It takes away one of the coach's options. Third, depending upon what course Coach chooses to take, it may mean that Isom will be forced to play out of his natural position. Fourth, it may mean that Shoshi will have to play more minutes than he can play at full effectiveness.

Can we win without Green? Of course. We have not lost yet, and he only played in five of seven games. We will win most of our games without him.  But what it does is to cut down on our margin for error, and that is never good, especially come tournament time.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The case for the Big O as the greatest


Oscar Robertson was one of the more overlooked great players in both NBA and college history.


Denver is still up to their old tricks

Nothing has changed. They shoot lights out, take care of the ball, and get pounded on the boards. Likely that will be the status quo as long as Joe Scott is there. They are 5-3, but have not played any money conference foes. They have a win over South Alabama.

One of the baseball DiMaggios you may have missed

One of the regular characters on the Jack Benny radio show was Mr. Kitzel, who had a wonderful, heavy Yiddish accent.

Kitzel: I have a cousin on Fisherman's wharf.

Benny: What's his name?

Kitzel: DiMaggio

Benny: Which one of the DiMaggios is your cousin: Joe, Vincent, or Dominic?

Kitzel: Morris. You know, he plays baseball with the San Fransisco Schlemiels.


Surprise of the year?

With all due respect to our own Trojans, I think the surprise of the year in the Belt has been Arlington. They lost their top four scorers, and certainly did not look to be the powerhouse they have been so far. Hats off to UTA!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


There is just something about seniors, or at least most of them. They may not be any better than the younger players, but they have an air about them. They have arrived. They made it. The other guys are still just potential; they actually have done it. “This is our team.” Historically teams with a good senior class over-achieve more frequently than younger teams. Sleezipari’s and Coach K’s rent-a-championships notwithstanding, mature and experienced players will accomplish more than younger players, all else being equal. This is one reason that it behooves coaches to strive to keep their classes somewhat balanced, so that they will have that senior leadership year in and year out.

Daddy and Bob Pettit

My father got his Master's Degree from LSU in the early 1950's. This also happened to be the time period when Bob Pettit began his career there. Pettit went on to average 27.8 points per game during his three-year varsity career. His senior year he averaged 31.4 points and 17.3 rebounds. Daddy probably could not remember it now that his memory has started to slip, but I recall him mentioning being at LSU while Pettit was there, and what a big deal that was.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Here is a great quote from ESPN

From Myron Medcalf:

     If Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Arizona fail to meet expectations this season, they won't receive much sympathy because they don't recruit. They just pluck the best from the prep basketball crop each season.
     The schools that can't afford a house on Lake Sign Whomever You Want? Well, it's more difficult to reload and rebuild.


Josh Hagins is a clutch shooter, not a great shooter

(I am speaking about shots from the field, not FT shooting, because he is one of our all-time greats in that category.) Josh was a career 33.9% 3PT shooter at the beginning of this season, which is certainly respectable, but not good enough for me to call him a great shooter. By way of reference, Laverne Smith and Will Neighbour are tied for 14th on the all-time career percentage list at 37.1%. Josh has made some great shots for us over the years, but he has not made shots consistently enough to be a great shooter. He came to Little Rock as a point guard, and he has been a good one. Probably his point play has been hindered because he was forced into duty at the shooting guard spot a good bit of the time. Perhaps his shooting has been hindered because he had to play so much point.

In any case, Josh will go down as one of the great point guards in Little Rock history. He currently has 336 assists, good for 6th on the all-time list. At his current rate of 4.7 per game, with (at least) 25 games remaining, he could add 117 more to that total, which would put him third in Little Rock history, behind only Fish and Vaughn Williams, which is some pretty select company.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Holding my breath regarding injuries

We are deep in most spots, but very thin right now in one. With Green out,if Lis Shoshi should get hurt, we would have some problems. We have been pretty good at smallball so far, but at some point height becomes more than you can make up.

Texas Tech will be the non-conference plum

Tech is not a powerhouse, but the Big 12 was the highest-ranked conference last season, and Tubby Smith does have a national title to his name. That is the game where we might get a little more press.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Another game, another record

I doubt even our most optimistic fans would have bet the farm that we would be 7-0 at this point. It has been close, because we have had a lot of tight games. But we are showing the ability to win ugly, to win close games, and to win on the road. Those are all very good signs.

Friday, December 4, 2015

What would a sixth foul do?

Some are advocating going from five to six fouls per player. This would have the benefit of allowing your star players to stay on the court longer, which might encourage attendance, since people come to see the stars, and this is all about money, after all. However, a negative affect it might have is to aggravate the already high transfer rate. If players six through nine are getting to play less because players one through five are staying in the game longer because they have an extra foul, players six through nine are more likely (maybe) to look someplace else for more playing time. Just a thought.

Hill and Johnson

Maurius Hill is the prototype of your reliable but unspectacular player. Marcus Johnson is excitement personified. So why does Hill start and Johnson does not (at least so far)? I am no coach, but I can speculate about it. Every coach wants to start the game well. No one wants to dig a hole for himself by careless play before things even get going. So, to have a player on the floor at the beginning who is predictable and reliable and who seldom makes mistakes is a  big asset. Then, when Johnson is thrown into the fray, to say that he jump starts the offense is an understatement: he is more like an explosion on the court. Each player fills his role almost perfectly.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A good schedule to predict conference

As I write, the range of Sagarin ratings for Sun  Belt teams is 77.19 down to 63.28. Of the nine D1 non-conference games, four of them are against opponents within that range. Two more, (Tulsa and Texas Tech) are just barely above the top end of the Belt range. So, this was a pretty good schedule to show how we might do in conference play.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Free throw shooting - maybe historical?

At the moment we are shooting 80.7% as a team from the FT line. If we are able to maintain that for the whole season, it would be our best performance - by far - since at least 1978-79. (The media guide does not go back further than that.) The best in recent history is 73.7% in 2013-14.

Dodging bullets

Each game this year we have had something that we did very well and something that we did not do well. Cold shooting, poor rebounding, an off defensive night - all of these have popped up at one time or another. However, we have done other things well enough to offset those weaknesses. One of these days one of those is going to jump up and bite us when we cannot overcome the weakness in another area. It is inevitable. However, the team is doing what it takes to win, and it is encouraging that it is not the same thing every night.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Roger Woods still gets to the line

Some have wondered how Woods may fit into Coach Beard's offensive scheme. Well, one thing may be when we need points without moving the clock. As we know from last year, he gets to the line a lot. He is tied for the fourth-highest FT attempts this year, but has the eighth-highest total minutes.

Going for a record

It is downright encouraging to be going for a program record this early in the season. Who knows what the balance will bring. An injury to a key player could be very disruptive. So, it is nice to cut a few notches on our guns early on.

Great article about Little Rock basketball


Monday, November 30, 2015

Historic start in Pine Bluff?

I do not know their history very well, but I would expect that this year is one of the Golden Lion's best starts since they  became D1. They have two non-SWAC D1 wins against Seattle and this last game against Southeastern Louisiana.

Where Jalen Jackson will help us

He only has 41 minutes so far (11th highest on the team), but he has the third-highest FT attempts (10), and has made nine of them. He gets to the line and makes the opponents pay for the foul.

Marcus Johnson for Sixth Man of the Year

He has not started a game, but he has the third-highest minutes played total on the team. He leads the team in 3-pointers made. He leads the team in FTs made. He is second in steals.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Come on down, UCA!

My youngest son-in-law and I at last year's UCA game grudge match. Unfortunately, his bunch had to return home after the long holiday weekend, so he will miss it this season.

'UALR vs UCA grudge match'

Saturday, November 28, 2015


       I like what I have seen in Coach Beard so far. The program has an enthusiasm it has lacked for a while, and it looks like Beard insists on a solid brand of basketball. It was time for a coaching change, and I have supported the change.
       However, it is ironic to me that a large portion of the enthusiasm at the announcement of the new coach appeared to be because it was assumed he would bring in a more wide-open, high-scoring offense than what had been seen under Steve Shields. I do not yet know about the wide-open part, but the high-scoring part has yet to be seen (and, of course, that is OK with me, being the reactionary curmudgeon that I am). Through five games, we are averaging 67.6 points per game, and two of those games were against non-D1 teams. In twelve seasons under Shields, the Trojans averaged at least 67.6 ppg four times, and barely missed it another. And what is more to the point, in our three games against D1 opponents so far this year, we have averaged 55.7 ppg., well below our lowest average (61.9) under Shields. Even against Tulsa, when we shot lights out, we only scored 64 points. Furthermore, the totals this year are under the new 30 second clock instead of 35 as in the Shields era, which means this team should have a few more possessions in which to score.
       There are come caveats here. The team is learning a new system and it is logical to assume that we will get better at it as we go, and our scoring will go up as a result. Second, half of the pace of a game is controlled by the opposition, and it is entirely possible that one of the reasons for the lower scoring is that the small sample of opponents so far just play at a slower pace, and that our average will come up as we go further into the season.
       We may play a more exciting offensive style now than we did under Coach Shields. We certainly are starting off winning games. Excitement about the program has taken a sharp uptick over previous years. All that is true and is reason for real optimism. However, at least so far, whatever positive vibes there are about the program this year are not because we immediately began scoring at a vastly higher rate.

The offense will come around

We have too many scorers and shooters on this team for our offense to stay off-track the way it has been. We just have to be patient. We have several guys who can be explosive and could burst out at any time. I am more concerned about our rebounding, because I think that problem may be harder to fix.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Good guards

One thing that is apparent even at this early date is that we have a strong corps of guards. Johnson, Hagins, Osse, Ruttley. Maybe not the absolute best in the Belt (time will tell), but it has to be among the top groups.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thoughts on the East Carolina game

     Just for the record, I love this kind of win. "Ugly" wins, where the team has to reach down deep, play killer defense, never say die. My kind of basketball. Blue collar basketball. Knowing that we are able to win these kinds of games is one of the most positive things we could learn about this team at this point in the season. If we only win when we are hot shooting, then we will lose a lot of games. Coach Beard has done first things first, and being able to win these type games will give the team a toughness and swagger that will serve it well down the line. "We don't care what you throw at us: we can handle it. We can win pretty; we can win ugly. We just get it done."
     Marcus Johnson, Jermaine Ruttley and Josh Hagins are going to play a LOT of minutes this season.
     It is a good thing we are keeping our turnovers low, because we are getting killed on the boards. Of course, you do not have to do everything well if you do a few things superlatively well. We shot lousy, we rebounded lousy - BUT we defended great and we took very good care of the ball. Good teams do what they have to do to win. We did, and we won. Chalk it up!
    Now the bad news. We cannot count on things coming together just right to allow us to win without any offense. Even against good defense, teams sometimes shoot well, and our opponents will sooner or later. We are going to have to find an answer to the rebounding issue. That is a formula for disaster if we do not get it fixed.
     The point is that Coach Beard is getting the first things in place first. I like that. We are winning on defense and taking care of the ball. The offense will come. I hope the rebounding gets better. The point is it will only get better from here, and even with several cylinders not yet firing, we are 4-0.
     Now to the game stats. Big tip of the hat to Mareik Isom and Jermaine Ruttley for six big rebounds each on a night when their shots were not falling. We hit our FTs, and that is huge when we are cold from the floor. Marcus Johnson 6 for 6 from the line. Lis Shoshi is still blocking shots. With a small line-up we are going to need that.
     Good win for the Trojans. The offense is going to break loose any time, and it should be something to see when it does. In the meantime, a win is a win.

Why coaches get migraines

Colorado's Tory Miller was kicked out of their game with Air Force for biting another player. And, of course, now it is spread over all the major websites. Great advertising for your program, huh?

Who is our Glue Guy?

Every team needs that player who will not lead the team in scoring, or any other stat, but who shows up all over the box score doing the little things: a steal here, a block there, an assist at the right moment. And further, he makes the hustle plays that do not show up in the stats at all. Who is our Glue Guy? Those that most fit the description are probably Maurius Hill and Stetson Billings. But that is just a guess.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Everybody says it, but few define it

"We are going to the next level." Meaning what, exactly. Few say specifically what they mean. That is convenient, of course, because you can put a definition on it later that fits wherever you happen to be at the time.

The mystery of walk-ons

I understand that if a walk-on is a Physical Education major or is planning on becoming a coach there is a direct relationship between the experience of being on a team and his career path. However, absent those two scenarios, a kid must really love the game to do everything necessary to be a walk-on in college basketball. It takes a tremendous amount of time - time that could be spent studying or working at a paying job. There is not even a realistic expectation of actually getting onto the floor during a game for a significant amount of time. So, why the expenditure of time and effort on something that would appear to yield very little reward? If it is just playing the game that is involved, then the kids could play pick-up games, or get involved in some sort of community league. A mystery to me.

Georgia Southern will grow up in a hurry

Their top eight scorers are freshmen or sophomores, and only two upperclassmen have played three games into the season. Youth movement big time.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A long season for App State?

From their numbers after four games, things are not looking too rosy for Appalachian State this year. They are 1-3. Their defense is bad; their shooting is even worse. They are getting beaten on the boards, and they do not even shoot free throws well. They do actually have a couple of pretty good guards, but their bench is pretty sad. The non-starters are shooting an abysmal 30% overall.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Marquette over LSU - a satisfying result

Marquette, from the Big East (where basketball matters and where they do not have television football dollars) edged out LSU, who roll in SEC football money, and their one-and-done star Ben Simmons. Very satisfying!

The numbers I like best so far

I realize we are only three games into the season, and two of those were of the "gimme" variety, but I still like a couple of the numbers I see. First off, we have held opponents to 33.1% shooting overall. That is outstanding, even if the opposition is sub-par. Second, we have a 1.16 team A/TO ratio, which is very good. If we hold those two numbers, we will win a lot of games this season.

What has impressed me most about Beard so far

He has not put up with whatever nonsense is going on with Jalen Jackson. Jackson fits into a range where we are very thin (only two players between 6-5 and 6-10), and losing his services hurts; but Coach did not hesitate to set him down.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Early returns on FTs

Only three games into the season, but it looks like this is going to be a good FT shooting team. We are at 73.5% at the moment, which is pretty fair. And that is a solid number, because the quality of the competition would having nothing to do with it.

Thoughts on the San Diego State game

This will be one of our toughest opponents all year - maybe the toughest. What really impressed me is that we beat them with Plan B, and that is encouraging. A lot of teams really do not have a second option. Some teams that play perimeter-oriented offenses cannot win when the game turns into a slugfest, low scoring, with shooting percentages low; but we did. A lot of 3-point shooting teams just do not know to play blue collar (or are not willing to), but we did, and we did it well enough to win. That showed me a lot.

Our rebounding needs work, obviously. Point of emphasis in the weeks ahead. But with the size disadvantage we had, that was to be expected. The point is that we rolled with that punch and gave back one of our own by avoiding turnovers, which SDS did not do. We will win most games when we only turn the ball over six times.

Still a lot of things to work on. This is still a work in progress. But we showed something of our toughness Saturday, and that goes a LONG way toward a winning season.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Izzo in November

According to ESPN, Tom Izzo of Michigan State is 56-0 at home in November. That is not quite as impressive as it sounds, because an awful lot of home games for teams at that level are buy-a-win sorts. Still, he hasn't lost one, and they have not all been cupcakes.

Ruttley appears to be the real deal

Small sampling so far, but Jermaine Ruttley appears to be a legit talent. He is versatile and ought to complement Josh Hagins very well.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The highs and lows of Josh Hagins

Josh is one of the most versatile players you will ever see. He is a stat sheet stuffer - big time. Even if he is not scoring, look over on his line in the box score and you will see rebounds (lots of them for a guard), assists, steals, blocks - all the little things that help win ballgames. He does lots of things to help his team. The downside to Josh's game is that sometimes it appears that he forces a lot of shots. It looks like he feels like he ought to be doing more offensively, and so his shooting percentage is sometimes lower than it could be. Of course, the next game he may break out with a huge game, so you just never know about him on the shooting part of the game. But in everything else he will be right in there, making things work for the team.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Marcus Johnson Show

Sure, it was against a D-3 team, but Marcus Johnson put on a show tonight. How long has it been since anyone scored 30 points for us? He came in advertised as a high-quality point guard distributor, but he was shooting like a 2 guard tonight. Coach Beard will have to be re-evaluating his playing time decisions, I predict.

It's all relative

Vanderbilt won their first two games over Austin Peay and Gardner-Webb by 39 and 36 points respectively, playing everyone but the waterboy. We played two non-D1 teams. Same difference, except that they can afford to bring in D1 teams to beat up, and we cannot.

All the bad news

Between news about players being hurt and players and coaches getting into trouble, there is not much room left on the national basketball sites for any good news.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Getting a feel for the team

The first three games this year will tell us virtually nothing about this team. However, the stretch from East Carolina through Northern Arizona ought to be somewhat comparable to what we will be facing in the Sun Belt this year, so we should get a pretty fair read on how the team ought to do in conference play.

The temptation of depth

When a roster is deep, there always exists the temptation for the coach to play too many players. A college kid who is in game shape can play 30 minutes a game, or maybe 25 if he is a big man. The  balance is all the rest he needs. By skillful rotation, the coach can keep his best players fresh, and at least three or four of them on the floor at any given time. The rest of the time gets divided among the rest of the players - and that isn't much time.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Talk about a killer start!

Siena's first two games this year happened to be Duke (defending national champ) and Wisconsin (national runner-up), the first time that has happened since 1985, according to Rivals.

Coach Beard's first win as D1 coach

Congratulations on the start of what I am sure will be a sterling career.

Obviously, this Trojan team is a work in progress. That is to be expected when Coach was putting together so many diverse parts into a new system. Logically, we ought to have won by as many points as we wanted to, but I will take any win.

Our scorers scored and we shot good percentages. We controlled the boards, once we got going. Our overall defense was good, holding them to only 37.3%. So some good things are happening.

The two most glaringly bad stats from the game were CBC's percentage from the arc and our turnovers. We will not win many games when we have 18 turnovers and allow the other team to shoot 53.3% from the 3-point line. Thankfully, we did other things well enough to make up for those lapses.

All in all, a nice win. It showed us some places we need to work, and got that all-important first big W in the books for Coach Beard.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Good start for the Belt

Troy wins over South Florida from the American. Good start for the Sun Belt non-conference season; now the rest of us have to keep it going.

While I am on non-conference wins, Alabama A&M got things going for the lowly SWAC with a win over Tulane.

Friday, November 13, 2015

More evidence - quality does not matter

CBS' Gary Parrish's column, "68 things to get excited about for the 2015-17 college hoops season"

The Keydets are the team least likely to even notice the shot clock change because they play so fast anyway and are rarely bothered by it. They ranked first in tempo last season and have been in the top 10 every season since 2006. They often don't win as much as they lose. But they're always going.

And "always going" is good. Whether or not you win. Whether or not you limit turnovers. Whether or not you play good basketball. Just run and gun. Already we are hearing the clamor to reduce the shot clock to 24 seconds, and I feel sure that will happen. Because good does not matter. Fast is the only thing that matters. Because the concern is not the good of the sport, but the entertainment value of the sport.

I think I will go throw up.

The excitement of the signing periods

We get a glimpse of the future of the program, for better or for worse. It sets in motion rampant speculation, and that is a  good bit of the fun of being a fan.

A T-shirt I would buy

(We don't oink)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

What I want to see

               When we enter a new season, it is natural to ask yourself, “What do I want to see from this team this season?” Here are a few items on my wish list.

1.      Coach Beard’s optimism will infect the team – genuinely, and not just superficially.

2.      Defense and rebounding – always, perpetually, intensely, no prisoners. Be a team opponents dread playing.

3.      No big egos on the team, even if there are a few players scoring the most points. Team first. We have a new name this year, and that name needs to be foremost, not the players’ names.

4.      A genuine maturity stemming from the large number of upper-classmen on the roster. Bounce  back quickly from defeats. Keep the valleys from being too low. Focus on the task at hand. Listen to the coaches, and always get better.

5.      Stay on the sports page, not on the front page.

You won't keep Hill off the floor

I am predicting that Maurius Hill will be in the rotation, and may even have starter's minutes when the season is over. The reason is that he does a lot of those little things that help a team win. He is undersized for a 4, and not built for a 3, but he just gets the job done. He rebounds exceptionally well for a player his size, shoots the 3 well enough to get by, and evidently brings a lot of energy to his role. He won't be a star because he is not the flashy type and won't be a primary ball-handler, but if you want to see Ws on the schedule, keep your eye on Hill.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Belt might make some noise and get a little press this year

Shawn Long is getting mentioned a good bit on various websites as one of the best non-money conference players in the nation. Likewise Georgia State about all their high-powered transfers. Monroe is coming off the CBI finals last season. Any of those teams could pull some nice upsets in the non-conference season. Likewise our Trojans, we certainly hope. The top tier of the Belt is pretty salty this year.

Can Josh equal Fish?

What kind of a year will Josh Hagins have to have to equal the career numbers of Derek Fisher?

Fish played in 112 games. Josh already has 93, so he ought to beat that number.

Fish shot 41.3% overall for his career. Josh currently is at 41.9%, so all he has to do is hold his own.

Fish shot 38.0% from the arc. Josh currently stands at 33.9%, so he would have to have a monster year to equal that.

Fish shot 74.7% from the FT line. Josh stands at 80.8%, so he just has to hold his own.

Fish had 488 rebounds (4.4 per game). Josh has 344, or 3.7/game. His best season was his sophomore year, when he had 138 boards. He would need 144 to match Fish's total, and probably does not have a chance to match his average.

Fish had 472 assists. Josh has 303. Even if he matches his best year, he would still be well short of Fish.

Fish had 184 steals. Josh has 127. Last season was his best (52), so he will have to beat that a little bit to match Fish's total.

Fish had 1393 points (12.4 per game). Josh has 1012 (10.9 per game), or 381 short. His best season was 385 points his sophomore year, so if he matches that, he would pass Fish's total points,  but his average is likely out of reach.

Hope for the big guys

I liked what I saw in the stats from the exhibition game in that Shoshi and Green both had some good numbers. Maybe the inside game will be a factor for us this year. We certainly have the size. Maybe we are going to use it after all. Hope so.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Revisiting one-and-done once again

I realize that with all the transfers going on - at all levels - school spirit is somewhat a thing of the past. But I trust it is not obliterated entirely just yet. Except among the one-and-done crowd. They certainly do not go to a school because of school spirit, since they do not intend to stay there. What minor connection they might have with the school is merely with the head coach personally. No "win one for the maroon and silver" for them.

Easy living on the perimeter

               I have commented on this before, but I’ll say it again. I have absolutely no statistical proof, but it just seems to me that teams that lean on the 3-point shot seem to be “soft.” Offense from the arc is so protected (3 free throws per foul), that there is little risk of having to get your hands dirty when you are bombing away from the arc. And, since you are scoring at a 3:2 ratio, there is little incentive (so most think) to venture into the trenches. The trouble is that that mental softness seems to carry over into other parts of the game, notably defense and rebounding. It takes a bulldog to do those well. The PA guy never yells “THREEEEEEEEEEE” for the blue collar guys doing the dirty work.

It does not have to be that way. Three-point teams are not forced to be white-collar, “soft” teams, but it just seems like far too often that is the case. I firmly believe it is a mental attitude fostered by the “easy  pickings” of the 3-point arc.

Hagins and Ruttley

I am curious to see how this pair works together when they are on the floor at the same time. Both are versatile, well-rounded players who do a lot of things well. Ought to be fun.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Junk Man Supreme

I really liked what I saw in Maurius Hill's numbers in the exhibition game. Typical performance from him - doing it all, and doing it well. Maurius is a stat-stuffer type. He rebounds exceptionally well for his size, shoots the three well enough to get by, makes lots of hustle-type plays. The type of player coaches love, guys who do the little things that win games.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

UAFS exhibition game

Hard to tell much from this type of game. But it does look like Shoshi and Green are the real deal, assuming they can maintain the pace against D1 competition. Maurius Hill pulled down 12 boards, plus a block and three steals, which confirmed his toughness from last season. Ruttley gave more evidence that he is a good all-round player. Unexpectedly, Kemy Osse was our best 3-point shooter. A few nice things from the game. Our perimeter shooting was not very good. Take away Osse and we were 1 out of 10, but that will improve, especially when Isom gets healthy.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

One and done just leaves me cold

The "One and Done" phenomenon is college basketball at its worst. It demeans the game into being merely a minor league for the NBA. It relieves coaches of having to do much teaching over time, since they do not have the players for very much time and are basically renting their talent as it is for a year. It penalizes coaches and programs who do things the right way. There is just nothing good about it.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Belt needs some wins

For several seasons the Sun Belt has been slogging around in the lower half of the middle third (mid-majors, strictly speaking) of the RPI/Sagarin rankings. Holding our own at best. Now that realignment seems to be finished for the time being, we need to begin to claw our way up the basketball food chain, and the ONLY way to do that is to get some wins against teams from higher-ranked conferences. This is the year to get it done.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Get set for a special season

It is not often that we get to watch a really special player in the final year of a four-year career at Little Rock. That is the opportunity we will have this season as Josh Hagins closes out one of the great careers in Trojan history. Every game will see him moving up in multiple categories on the all-time lists.

And remember: Little Rock was where he wanted to play.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Looking forward to Ruttley

First off, Jermaine Ruttley is a senior, so he has been to the wars. Second, he is accustomed to being a Go-to guy. He averaged 17.4 ppg last year, but that probably was because he was the best player on a horrible team. He is not a bad shooter overall for a guard (45.1%), but was a terrible shooter last year from the arc (29.5%). I suspect a good bit of that was because no shooting discipline at all was imposed upon him, since even that poor number was second-best on the team. He probably had a green light and just kept blasting away regardless of the outcome. I doubt that will be the case with Coach Beard. He may have a green light, but he will be expected to make shots, since we do have several other very good options.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Educated height

At our level (sorry, no 5-stars), we are not going to get any big men that do not need some work. Lower levels of basketball are guard heavy because six-footers are common and seven-footers are not, and any big men who can play are snatched up by the money conference teams. Most lower level coaches just are reluctant to invest the time and attention that it takes (2-3 years) developing a big man on the hope that he will stay and the program will get a pay-back. They had just rather play small-ball with dime-a-dozen perimeter players; they are much easier to find and man of them come ready to play. In those rare occasions where a decent big man is developed, the team can become a real force for a season or two; but it does not happen every day.

Friday, October 30, 2015

A few interesting facts about the 1986 team

Unbelievable as it might seem, at one point early in the season, the Trojans lost eight out of nine games. On January 6 we had a 4-9 record. After that we lost only two more games.

The leading shot blocker was Pete Meyers, with an anemic 16 - an amazingly low total for such an athletic roster.

We shot a poor 64.2% from the FT line, but we did shoot a lot of free throws - 227 more than the opposition.

We were dominant on the boards, mainly thanks to Michael Clarke, who averaged a double/double.

Two players (Meyers and Myron Jackson) took over 46% of the shots the team took.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Big men on the perimeter

I realize that there are times when a big man does belong on the perimeter. Our own Mareik Isom is a case in point. He is a perimeter player who just happens to be big. Also, there is some value to pulling the other team's shot blocker out of the lane to open it up for other players. However, in most cases, there usually is someone else who is at least as good at perimeter skills who does not do nearly as well what the big guy can do underneath. So, under ordinary situations, why waste your size outside?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

My favorite money conference? The Big Ten

Little interest in the Pac 12 or the ACC, except for a couple of specific teams. I like the Big 12 a little better because a few of their schools actually consider basketball important. I have a positive dislike for the SEC, again, except for a couple of teams. But the Big Ten has basketball tradition, honest-to-goodness basketball schools, and consistent results. Plus, for the most part, styles that I like. Big Ten it is.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Seven-foot JC transfer Legend Robertin is now at Clemson. The question remains whether he will be remembered for his name or his game.

The Butler Way

They call it "The Butler Way." Actually it is just a general philosophy, but as it translates onto the court it is another name for it is just plain good basketball. Low turnovers, good rebounding. rugged defense, taking high percentage shots. What is remarkable is not that they play that way - several teams do - but that they have been able to keep that philosophy through at least three coaches.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

When time stands still

This is one of the times of the year when things REALLY start to drag. The roster is set, the predictions are in, and now we wait, and wait, and wait. At least we are getting a few reports from practice.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Why some coaches keep it slow

USA head coach Matthew Graves:

Before last season you wanted to play faster - did we accomplish that and how will that style be adjusted this season?Statistically, we were the 21st-fasted team in the country, so we certainly checked the box on that. To be quite honest, it was probably a little too fast because our turnover percentage was really high. We still want to be a top 50-75 team with the pace of play because it fits our personnel really well, but it goes back to taking care of the basketball. We still plan on playing just as fast, just a little smarter with the ball.

It is just a fact, that so much of the time fast equals sloppy.

The forgotten returners

Maurius Hill, Kemy Osse, Stetson Billings. With all the hullabaloo about all our new recruits, these three guys have been somewhat lost in the shuffle. All have played important roles in spots at some points in their careers, although not as stars. None of them have been offensive juggernauts. They pitched in where they were needed and at times did a creditable job. I just have no feel for how all, or any, of them will fare in the new regime. They were recruited for their skills in a different system, and they are not Beard's own recruits. I am glad we have them, because there are certain situations where they could be very helpful.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The 68-team NCAA tournament - a BAD idea

All the play-in games do it give a life to mediocre money conference teams who do not deserve to be there and demean small conference teams who do. It is a bad idea and ought to be scrapped;.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

An old-fashioned football truth

Skill positions get on ESPN. Lines win championships.

Recruiting skepticism

"Everybody looks like an all-star in those player highlight videos. . . . I still prefer seeing a player in a 'live' game in order to fully assess his ability on the court in all areas."
(Coach Glenn Braica of St. Francis Brooklyn)


Butler's Roosevelt Jones: an attitude I love

"Defensively, it really bothers him when guys score points. When arguably one of your top players gets that at a high level, it bleeds right into everybody else." (Butler Coach Holtmann)

"It wouldn't bother me if I didn't score a point as long as we win. And my guy doesn't score." (Jones)

(from Fox Sports)

What makes Wichita State good?

"The Shockers don't make mistakes and harass you on the defensive end." (NBC Sports)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Give a coach five years. Bona fide.

If he is going to do it right, a coach needs five years to get a program established, meaning that he needs to be able to have his own recruits as seniors. If, at that point, he hasn't got the job done, then bring down the ax. But each coach has his system and his personality, and he is going to recruit players who fit both. Sometimes it takes time for things to come together. Short of some ethical lapse or other really glaring deficiency, a school ought to be willing to be that patient with a man whom they entrusted with their program. Four years before his first national championship team, John Wooden's Bruins were 14-12, culminating a three-year run with 16 wins or less each year.

If a coach feels like he is under pressure to win in too big of a hurry, he may be tempted to take shortcuts. At best that makes him  build a team in some way other than the best way. At worse it may tempt him to compromise his (and the school's) ethics.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

One reason I am optimistic

Few teams have much of a chance without a reliable point guard. My guess is that Marcus Johnson is going to prove to be an excellent point, judging by his numbers in juco. My guess is that he is going to be the starting point - but what do I know at this point? Reports are that Deondre Burns has a lot on the ball for a freshman, so he may be able to contribute. And we know that Josh Hagins is a very competent point. So we have quality and depth here, and that is the FIRST key to a good year.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


If we can get and keep everyone healthy, this ought to be a fairly deep team. Coach Beard reportedly plays a lot of players, and so we ought to be ready to go come conference time.

Friday, October 16, 2015

One and done: the scourge of college basketball

We are NOT the minor league for the NBA, even though we seem content to act like it. Something MUST be done to fix this situation, because it is destroying whatever small amount of integrity the game may have remaining. Players go to college for one semester (because they do not have to study the second semester, since they know they won't be staying anyway). All they have to do is get a minimal grade in the Underwater Basket Weaving curriculum for one semester, and then move on. I am heartily in favor of going back to having freshman ineligible for the varsity if that is what it takes to fix the situation, and I think it would. WHATEVER it takes - because it MUST get fixed, or college basketball will become a complete farce, if it is not already.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Pine Bluff's annual road trip marathon

Because their first three conference games are on the road, the Pine Bluff Golden Lions do not play a home game until 16 January. Rough! Included in their non-conference opponents are Oklahoma State, Michigan State, Cincinnati, Nebraska, Virginia Tech, Iowa State, Missouri and Texas Tech.

The good news? One of their road trips is to Hawaii.

Pitino shouldn't dodge this bullet

Given Rick Pitino's past personal conduct, I assume he did at least know about the prostitution going on in his program's recruiting. However, even if he did not, he ought to have known about it, because he is responsible for the program. And if you are responsible, then the blame is yours.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Here is your glamor name for the year

Arizona freshman Chance Comanche.

It just isn't fair!

Arizona's roster this year goes 7-0, 7-0, 6-10, 6-9, 6-9. And you assume they are all good. Teams at our level do well to find two that size who can do more than walk and chew gum at the same time. Maybe, just maybe, we have them this year.

Defense: the buy-in

It is a fairly universal rule that you will not play defense if you do not want to play defense. Defense does not make headlines, does not the big cheers, does not stuff the stat sheets, does not make All-Conference teams. And all that is what 20-year-old kids want. So why play defense? That is logical. Some coaches take the easy way out and cater to that natural inclination of youth, ignore defense, and build their programs on high-octane offenses with defense strictly as an afterthought. Others, however, tell players that if they do not play defense, they are not going to play - and then make them believe it. The kid has to buy stock in Defense, Inc., or sit on the bench. Any coach who goes that route (the right route) has to build a strong support system within the team for defense, because they likely will not get it from the crowd, unless it is an exceptionally well-educated basketball crowd, of which there are not very many.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Looking ahead to Tulsa

Get ready. They return their top seven scorers, and they are all seniors. They are being mentioned in the same breath with SMU and UConn this year.

Uniform color schemes

Some colors work well together; others do not. Some colors catch the eye, or rather catch the mind; and others do not. There is probably not much teams can do about their school colors, but there is a lot they can do about how they use them.

Pity the poor school that has red and white as its school colors - doomed forever to ho-hum uniforms. Purple and gold work very well together, and thus they are common. Green and gold really catch the eye. Personally, I like our maroon and silver - a lot - and there are a lot of uniform designs we could get that would really reach out and grab the viewer. I hope whoever makes that decision at Little Rock has the imagination to get the job done right.

Monday, October 12, 2015

More like Ozzie and Brooks

They are rare - VERY rare - but occasionally there is a player in sports who is regarded as an all-time great primarily because of his defense. Ozzie Smith and Brooks Robinson were two examples. Both were competent all-round players, but it was their defense that dazzled us.

The problem with defense is that it deals not with what happens, but with what does not happen - what you kept from happening - and people tend not to notice what did not happen. It still rankles me that the year John Fowler was voted Defensive Player of the Year in the SBC he did not make the All-Conference team. How can that be?! The very best defensive player in the entire league, and yet he is not good enough to make All-SBC! It was not like he never scored. He averaged double figures and was a good rebounder for a small forward. But folks just do not value defense.

We need more like Ozzie and Brooks.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Enough size, but is it quality size?

This is one of the larger Trojan teams in my tenure as a fan. Green, Shoshi, Isom - all 6-9 or over. You probably cannot count Isom, since he is essentially a perimeter player. Shoshi looks like he might be the real deal, especially if they can put a little more muscle on him. Green? I don't know. He is an impressive looking physical specimen, but there just are no numbers to tell us how he may play. But Wake Forest had to have seen something when they drafted him, so hopefully we will, too.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Senior leadership

We have a nice mixture of perspectives among our seniors this year. Josh Hagins has been a Trojan his entire career - maroon and silver all the way. Roger Woods has been here a year. Jermaine Ruttley and Daniel Green will be here this year only, but both have D1 experience. A nice mixture.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A clean program

I realize there are lots of fans out there who really do not care how much mud is attached to their program as long as they win games. I am sure Louisville is loaded with them right now. But I do not want to win at that cost. I realize that coaches cannot control absolutely the conduct of their players, either on or off the court; but they can read them the Riot Act as to what will happen if they do act like that. I had rather have a losing program - or no program at all - than to have one like Louisville's, if the current allegations are true. And even if they are not the point still holds true.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Big man coaches

Sometimes I get the feeling that most college coaches would not know what to do with a good big man if they had one. I know that is not true; it is an unfair indictment. And, even if it were true, who can blame coaches? The rules of the game have skewed so far in favor of a perimeter game that an inside game (unless it is dribble/drive) is almost irrelevant.

Slimmer pickings

The teams I follow closely have had a couple of good years, in part because of the heroic exploits of Wisconsin in back-to-back Final Fours. It looks like this year's crop will be considerably thinner, however. Wisconsin and Vandy are getting pre-season attention, but generally way outside the Top Ten.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Where Athlon picks our non-conference opponents

San Diego State - 1st  of 11 Mountain West
East Carolina - 8th of 11 AAC
Tulsa - 4th of 11 AAC
UCA - 13th of 13th Southland
Idaho - 9th of 12 Big Sky
DePaul - 9th of 10 Big East
Northern Arizona - 4th of 12 Big Sky
Texas Tech - 8th of 10 Big 12

Monday, October 5, 2015

What about the defense?

We have heard lots about Coach Beard's motion offense, and the offensive skills of the players he has recruited. However, I saw at least one report that called him "a defensive-minded coach." I am not sure what that meant, even if it is true, and I certainly hope it is.

But what about the defense? Is it going to be a priority, or just an afterthought. These days the Powers That Be evidently consider defense to be something subversive and counter-productive. I do not think most coaches buy into that, but everything is being done in high places that can be done to neutralize defenses. I am very curious to see how Coach Beard's defenses play. I hope they will be a hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners, combat-zone defense, but that remains to be seen.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Talent vs. work ethic

I will root for the hard-working, less talented kid (or team) every time. There is just something satisfying in seeing the average overcome the fancy because they invested enough sweat equity.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Keep an eye on Vandy

Watch out for Vanderbilt this season. I predict they are going to be one of the surprise teams in the SEC, as well as nationally. Things started coming together for them late last season, and look for it to carry over this year.

Looking forward to seeing Johnson

I really am anticipating getting to see the play of Marcus Johnson, Jr. at point guard. Little Rock has had a fine tradition of finding outstanding juco point guards who have been, really, the backbone of the program as much as any other factor. Hopefully Marcus will continue that trend.

Friday, October 2, 2015

5 spot

Daniel Green and Lis Soshi can both fill this spot. Both are tall enough. Mareik is tall enough, but is not that type player. Outside of those two, that is about it; but two who can legitimately play the 5 is more than you usually have in the Belt.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Power forward

That is largely a misnomer on this particular team, but we will use it for convenience. The only players we have who would be prototypical 4s are Daniel Green and Lis Soshi, and we might see them in games together if we need to go big, but I doubt it. Mareik Isom has the height, but if he played in that spot he would be more of a "stretch four" because of his shooting ability, and that is a nice option to have. I saw the term "power wing" in a magazine recently, and that somewhat describes Roger Woods and Maurius Hill, who are really too short to be 4s, but whose bulk and skills may suit that position somewhat more than the 3 spot. And then there is Jalen Jackson, who appears to be very versatile, and could spend a good bit of time in this slot. Suffice it to stay that there is a wide variety of skill packages at Coach Beard's disposal that he could throw into the fray from this position. The bottom line is that we have it well covered.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

If I were an inside player

If I were a post player, I would rebound as hard as I could. My observation is that the average perimeter player these days had much rather shoot a 3-pointer than make a good feed to the post; so the main way inside guys are going to get their hands on the ball is to catch it off the boards.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Adults who act like children

We expect children to lose control of themselves, because they have not yet learned to keep their emotions in check. But when adults act like children, especially in a public arena, it is particularly disgusting, especially when they are being compensated monetarily on an obscene scale.

It is particularly frustrating to have to watch adults act like children when you are trying to teach children how to act like adults.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Football trivia fact you may not have known

While at Shreveport Woodlawn High school,  NFL great Terry Bradshaw set a national record for throwing the javelin 245 feet.

Small Forward

Again, this position probably will be largely interchangeable in Beard's system, but we will isolate it for the sake of discussion. This could be the deepest spot on the team. We have perhaps a half-dozen players who could hold forth here depending on the situation. The most likely candidates for minutes are Roger Woods, Jalen Jackson,, Maurius Hill and Mareik Isom. That is some pretty tough competition for minutes! and someone is going to get left out who is pretty good. However, all of them could just as easily slide over to the 4 spot, so they will be in the discussion there. The good news is that we are well covered in the mid-size positions. And then there is Stetson Billings, whose most natural position is the 3. Has he improved in his year off? Stay tuned. This ought to be interesting.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Eric Braeden - an athlete?

His face is a fixture to all soap opera fans of The Young and the Restless. What they might now know, though, is that he was a very good athlete in track and field and soccer. In fact, he attended the University of Montana on a track scholarship (discus, javelin, shot).


Friday, September 25, 2015

Where Kemy Osse might help

Kemy's career in Little Rock has been undistinguished, and he may get buried in the wave of incoming talent. However, one thing he has done well is to rebound. He averaged 2.1 rebounds per game over his career, but that was in 13.6 minutes per game. If he had averaged 25 minutes a game, it would have translated into almost four boards a game, which is very good for a guard.

Shooting guard

Positions sometimes are interchangeable, so for the sake of discussion we will define Shooting Guard as "the perimeter player who handles the ball the most except for the point guard." Given the fact that Josh Hagins is here for his senior year, this position is automatically in very good hands. If he stays healthy, Josh will end his career at Little Rock as one of our all-time greats. Who will be his back-up is hard to say. Jermaine Ruttley comes in with gaudy statistics, which admittedly got inflated because of the level at which he was playing; but even so he appears to be a legit talent. However, he was not a good 3-point shooter. Likewise, Deondre Burns was a big scorer in high school, but it remains to be seen how he will do at the D-1 college level. Another option is Kemy Osse, who has the advantage of experience and maturity, but it has been a while since he has played in games. In all likelihood Josh is going to be playing a lot of minutes, and it will not be a problem to piece together the rest of the time at this spot. There are also several players whose more natural position would be at the SF spot who could slide over to the 2 if needed. Barring injuries, we appear to be in good shape here.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Three-quarter press

With the institution of the 30-second clock this season, I wonder if more teams will go with a three-quarter-court press: not pressing for turnovers as much as to compress the time in the offensive end to the point that it becomes uncomfortable. More teams may look at the shortened clock as a real weapon that can be employed to hamper opponents out of their normal offense. After all, if you can hinder the other guys for five seconds longer than otherwise would have been the case and keep them from getting into their offense, then all of a second it is a 25-second shot clock – and that is short enough that it becomes a problem, because teams may not have enough time to reset their offenses if there is a momentary breakdown.

The underdog factor - what makes college basketball great

According to the Sagarin ratings, last year Yale was a better basketball team than either Auburn or Tennessee. So was Valparaiso. So was Buffalo. It happens every year. There will be a whole list of teams from no-name conferences that will be better than some teams from the big money conferences. It occasionally happens in football, but a lot less frequently. The nature of basketball, and the lower number of players involved, makes it much more upset-prone than football. And thus more fun, at least in that regard.

Leverage your fun: pick a team to follow

There doesn't have to be any logic to it. Pick it because it is close geographically, because you like the coach, or the style of play, or because they have an interesting name, or a lot of tradition, or no tradition. The reason is irrelevant. Just pick on, and then follow it closely. Just for fun.

Several years ago, when KMOX still carried Cardinals baseball, I would listen to Charlie Spoonhour, the SLU coach, who was a frequent guest on the talk shows because he was just an interesting talker. I liked to listen to him, and so I started sort of keeping up with Billiken basketball because of Charlie. And I have kept up with them ever since. Lots of fun.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Interesting comment on motion offense

Athlon quotes Kansas State coach  Bruce Weber as being concerned that the new 30-second clock will have a negative effect on his motion offense.

Kenny Saylors as a ref

It was a good many years ago. I think I was out of school at that time, but I do not remember distinctly. In any case, for some reason I was at a high school basketball game at Waldron. Between games or at half, the refs were out on the court just relaxing and goofing around, and one of them  started shooting the ball. He was fairly tall, and he was making most of his shots. In fact, his shooting was very impressive. It was obvious he had been on a court before. I asked someone, who he was, and I was told that he was Kenny Saylors.

Saylors was a two-time Little All-American for Arkansas Tech, playing from 1959-1963. He led the league in scoring. In fact, he hung 30 points on Little Rock University on one occasion. In a game against Arkansas College he scored 47 points and had 18 rebounds. He was All-Conference four times and was the all-time leading scorer in Tech history with 2470 points. One season he averaged 30.8 points per game.

I was also privileged to see Tech Hall of Famer E. C. O'Neal coach at Booneville and play in the annual faculty/student games. They were not much of a contest when he was there.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Remembering Steve Prefontaine

Steve Prefontaine graduated from high school in 1969, so he was the runner most high school middle-distance and distance runners wanted to be like during my career. He was a tough kid from a tough logging town with a swagger about him that caught the public eye.

In a very real sense, Prefontaine WAS American track during his college years. After setting the U. S. high school record in the two-mile, he won three NCAA cross-country championships and four straight 3-mile/5000 meters titles in track. In his four years at Oregon, he never lost an NCAA race at 3 miles/5000 meters or 6 miles/10,000 meters. From 1968 through 1975, he set 13 American records at distances from 2000 meters to 10,000 meters. He died in an auto accident at the age of 24.


Let's see more DePauls and Texas Techs

For a long time I have been a proponent of scheduling the bottom feeders in major conferences. That is exactly what we have done this year, and of course I applaud it strongly. DePaul is not from a "money" conference (they do not have football), but they are in the Big East which is one of the best basketball conferences in the country, including the money conferences. We need a couple of those every year. Get them to pay us to play there, in a situation where we might actually have an outside chance at pulling an upset.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Point guard

Point is the one position where you absolutely cannot afford to get caught short, and thankfully we are in very solid shape there. Marcus Johnson looks to be a pure point guard and a juco All-American. Josh Hagins plays a very solid point. Deondre Burns is a freshman, but comes in with some nice numbers. He is probably rusty, but Kemy Osse did fill in at point a little when he played. And, I figure that Jermaine Ruttley could play point if needed, even though he apparently is mainly a scorer. We have a lot more depth here than we have had some years.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

I really miss the periodic blog posts

Hopefully Coach Beard will start something along that line soon. It is very helpful to get the coach's perspective on how things are progressing, even if it is "sanitized" for public consumption. It appears we are back to the old days of information blackout. The exception to that are the few spots on players that have been on the official site. Good job on those.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Counting your chickens too soon

The press anointed Tiger Woods as the greatest golfer in history almost from the start. But I kept saying, "Yes, but he has to stay healthy, and he can't get distracted by personal problems." He hasn't, and he didn't. Michael Jordan might have ended as the greatest pro basketball player in history - but he didn't stick it out. He got bored with basketball and instead became a bad baseball player. And he fell short.

You have to cross the finish line before you start putting on the medal.

Ignorance is frustration

There are some things in which the old adage, "Ignorance is bliss," is applicable. Some things we do not need to know and we will be much better off if we do not know them. However, with a new coach and a whole list of new players, it is very frustrating not to be able to get some direct information about them other than the sanitized press releases. Mid-November seems a long way off at this point.

Friday, September 18, 2015

How to look at conference opponents

"I root for Scrimshaw Tech and anyone who plays Opporknockity U." You know the attitude. It shows up between Alabama and Auburn. It used to between Fayetteville and Texas back in the good old days.

I want the Sun Belt to do well - at least a lot better than we have been doing the last few years. In order for that to happen, our fellow Belt teams are going to have to win some non-conference games. But sometimes we build up such a distaste for certain programs that it is hard to root for them even if it will do the conference good.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Offensive rebounding

Every basketball scheme has its strengths and its weaknesses. What you gain on one hand you likely give up on the other. For instance, Princeton offense teams routinely get hammered on the boards. They are tough to defend, but their precise offensive scheme and emphasis on 3-point shooting draws players away from the spot where they might be in another scheme.

How does offensive rebounding fit into Coach Beard's motion offense scheme? I am not enough of an X's and O's man to know. All I can do is look at the stats and draw some conclusions.

Last year, Steve Shields' Trojans averaged 10.6 offensive rebounds per game. Beard's Angelo State team averaged 11.0 (as did his 2013-2014 team, interestingly), and they had a plus-6 margin over the opposition. So far, so good; they did rebound well. However, last year's Little Rock team was pretty poor on defense overall, allowing opponents to shoot 44.4% overall, while Angelo only allowed a stingy 39.3%, so there were more offensive rebounds for them to get.

I am not sure what this stat means particularly, but it is interesting. Last year 31.0% of Little Rock's rebounds were on the offensive end, while only 28.8% of Angelo's were. (For comparison, 30.9% of Arkansas State's board were offensive, UCA 30.2%, SLU 29.6%.) All of this might seem to indicate that while Beard's teams hit the boards pretty well overall, their rebounding is weighted heavily on the defensive end. Maybe the nature of the motion offense tends to limit offensive rebounding somewhat? Just a guess.

Team weaknesses

If the strengths of a team are hard to know, its weaknesses are doubly difficult. On paper, at least, it appears that the perimeter functions are pretty well covered. We will know nothing about defense until we see the team play.

One thing that does concern me, however, is rebounding. None of the returning players could be described as a dominant rebounder. Shoshi did very well on the boards last season in juco, but how he matches up at the D1 level remains to be seen, not to mention how much playing time he will get. We have plenty of players who ought to be able to rebound, but how well they do it remains to be seen. We may be fine on the boards, because we have some legit big men and some undersized power forwards who gave us some good efforts last season.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

How to tell a real college basketball fan

Before the season begins, he knows a good bit about a number of teams that are not his main team. In other words, he is a fan of the sport, not just of his main team.

Team strengths

What will this team do best? That is hard to say, because we do not yet know the personnel or the coach. Obviously the main talent will be on the perimeter, and it appears that Beard's offense is perimeter oriented (as are most offenses these days).  I do not see this team  being a fearsome rebounding team.We have some shooters, but I am going to take a (largely blind) guess that the best feature of the team will be its ability to penetrate the other team's defense. We have several players who look like they will be mobile and quick who will fit that scheme, and the motion offense ought to create opportunities along that line.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

No way to go but up

According to Sagarin, Grambling was the worst (351st) team in Division 1 basketball last season. In fact, they were 6 points per game worse than the 350th team (Florida A&M). ANY improvement here would make a huge difference.

Why I like Pitt basketball

“Rebounding and defensive tenacity – two areas where [Jamie] Dixon-led teams typically flourish.” That is from the Athlon preview of the Pitt Panthers in this year’s pre-season magazine. It pretty well sums up why I am a fan of the program. Hard-nosed, blue-collar basketball. I love it!

Sadly, the Panthers are off their oats and out of their normal pattern of play the past couple of seasons, and I am not sure why. I feel sure Dixon will have them back in their groove soon.
My son-in-law got me a Pitt T-shirt a few years back, and I wear it proudly.

Common seven-footers

In my youth, seven-foot basketball players were a rare thing. In fact, it caused quite a sensation when Jacksonville put two of them on the floor against UCLA in their NCAA tournament finals game. Today they are fairly common. This year, Florida State has players 7-4, 7-3, and 7-1. Several teams have multiple 7-footers, and that is not considered a big deal.

Why the proliferation of these tall men? Well, the population as a whole has increased, so we are pulling from a bigger pool. Also, athletic training is better, so boys who once would have been ignored because they were awkward are now taken under some coach's wing and developed. Thirdly, there has been a considerable increase in the number of foreign players coming into the U.S., and since good big men are the rarest of commodities in basketball, it follows that it is big foreign players who are the most likely to be sought out by recruiters.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Coach Beard

Going into the season, Coach Beard has pushed all the right buttons. He appears to have been a good choice, and certainly has put together what looks like a competitive roster for this season. Personally, I have been cautiously optimistic, but not euphoric, about the situation. He did a good job piecing together a team during the late signing period, but the other coaches were able to address recruiting during the early signing period, and that is where the real deals usually are signed. How good an X's and O's guy he is, I could not say, but his teams have done well, so I assume he is competent there. I think he will do well over time, but we might be expecting a little too much to say he will vault us immediately into the elite of the conference. It could happen if everything comes together, but it is more likely that we will be "more than competitive" this season, and then look to be among the leaders next year. Just a guess. Hopefully I am wrong on the low side.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The difference in predictions

I predicted us to finish 4th in the Belt. Athlon picked us 9th. Perhaps the truth will be somewhere in between. A program's diehard fans get too much information about it to be really objective. Things have been happening, and it is natural to be excited, even if those things happening have yet to be proven to be really good things. But I think enough of them will be good things that we will not be 9th in the SBC.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Lis Shoshi

I like what I have read about this player. He appears to be a workaday post man who does his job: makes his shots, hits the boards, plays defense. That is probably about all he will be asked to do in  Beard's system, and if he does it well, he will be invaluable to the team. He could stand to put on a little more muscle, but maybe that will come. I think Shoshi will be a key player the next two seasons.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Watch Monroe - a team of the future

I know nothing about Keith Richard personally, but I do admire what he has accomplished with the Monroe program. They were at low ebb when he came in, and in a relatively short time he has them among the better teams in the conference, with a strong recruiting class coming in this year. Plus, they are an “at” team, and, of course, I have a soft spot in my heart for those schools. I look for more good things coming out of Monroe, and it would not at all surprise me to see them win it all this year.

Jermaine Ruttley

I expect Ruttley to be one of our main offensive cogs, but  I do not expect him to put up nearly the numbers he did last season. He was by far the main factor for a very bad team, and that will not be the case this year. He is not a great shooter. In fact, if he doesn't shoot any better from the arc than he did last season, he just needs to lay off the long ones. However, he does get to the free throw line - a lot. He will need to take the slop out of his game, and I have no doubt Coach Beard will get that done, and when it happens, Jermaine Ruttley ought to be a considerable offensive weapon for us.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

He couldn't hear, but he could score

Bennie Fuller of the Arkansas School for the Deaf scored 4896 points in his career 1968-71 - the most ever in Arkansas high school history. No one else is within 1200 points of his record.

SBC map is filling out nicely

If we can just keep the same teams for a while, we are getting some nice in-state/regional rivals:

Carolinas - App State, Coastal
Ark - Arkansas State, Little Rock
GA - Ga Southern, Ga State
LA - Louisiana, Monroe
AL - USA, Troy
TX - Texas State, Arlington