Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The first national champion?

Before there was the NCAA tournament or the AP poll, there was the Helms Athletic Foundation, and they awarded national championships WAY back. Their first national college basketball champion? Yale, in the 1900-01 season, with a record of 10-4.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Over and under

My impression is that the best and worst case scenarios for this team vary widely. I think we have enough talent to win it all, although everything would have to break just right. We have more perimeter offensive firepower than we have had in a while, and if the post game can just hold its own, we could be really good. On the other hand, we have a LOT of incoming upperclassmen, most of whom were The Man at their previous stops, and that can be a formula for a train wreck if things don't mesh just right. Of course, that is the coach's job to take care of such things, but the players have to buy in, and put way their egos, and there is no way of knowing whether or not we will have a couple of problem players in the locker room. Hope not, but it has happened before. If it does happen, it is not hard to envision a second-division finish.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A system slanted toward the rich

There are 351 D1 teams with 13 scholarships each = 4563 college basketball players. How many of those realistically have even an outside shot at the NBA? And yet the whole system is geared toward teams that are able to attract NBA talent who for all practical purposes never have to attend class. Why are those players even in the college game? They do not want to be in college, or they would stay in college. Why do we make them be in college? And the players who do stay in college, go to class, stay eligible, and who learn the game and work as a part of a team to win games - they are penalized by a system that only really focuses upon maybe 1% of the college basketball population. The system is broken!

The "Bum of the Month" Club

Old-timers will remember this name for a series of opponents of heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis. From 4 Jan 1938 through 23 May 1941, he defended his title fifteen times, winning all of them, nine of them in the first five rounds, and three in a row in the first round. Calling the opponents "bums" certainly does an injustice to the prowess of the champ. Two of them were Max Schmeling, a former heavyweight champ, and light-heavyweight champ john Henry Lewis.

"Of the twelve fighters Louis faced during this period, five were rated by The Ring as top-ten heavyweights in the year they fought Louis: Galento (overall #2 heavyweight in 1939), Bob Pastor (#3, 1939), Godoy (#3, 1940), Simon (#6, 1941) and Baer (#8, 1941); four others (Musto, Dorazio, Burman and Johnny Paycheck) were ranked in the top ten in a different year" [quote from Wikipedia].


Two pipelines to Fort Smith

The UAFS Lions are beginning to see a couple of patterns in their recruiting. The first is through Serbia. Djordje and Dusan Stojanovic were both stalwarts for the Lions in recent years. This year's class includes Dusan Ranitovic and Ognjen Vasiljevic, both also from Serbia. If the two new guys contribute as much as the first two, they will be good ones.

The Lions are also getting more than their share of D1 transfers. Returning players Kenny Martin (Ariz State) and Dominique Raney (Canisius), plus new signees Richie Spiller (Florida A&M), Edwin Olympio (UTSA), Darrius Parker (Air Force) and Hunter Ball (UCA) all have been on D1 rosters previously. Plus Dalton Glapion (New Orleans) reportedly will redshirt and be available for the 2016-2017 season.

"What might have been" with David Robinson

The Admiral is acknowledged as one of the best big men ever to play the college or professional games. However, as far as college is concerned, one wonders how he might be regarded had he played for one of the elite programs. He carried Navy to the Elite Eight. The recruiting limitations that afflict the military academies are well known, so his supporting cast was not what he might have had at a big-name school. For myself, I am glad he went to Navy. He did not win an NCAA title, but he stands high (literally and figuratively) in my estimation for doing what he did.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A nice compliment to Cincinnati

From ESPN's "Looking Ahead" series:
"The fact is this is what Cincinnati is: a team whose looks are frequently deceiving. The Bearcats play bigger than they are because they usually play harder."

What the Belt needs now is stability

It is nice to see some new faces in the conference from time to time, but we (like the rest of college athletics) have been overdoing it the last two or three years. What we need right now is a little normal, stable life so that we can get used to our new stablemates and develop some rivalries.

Monday, June 22, 2015

I do not know who I would pick right now

Although my prognostications have been notoriously off the mark, I suppose I will do my Pappy's Predictions again this year. However, I will have to give it some study before I do. Quite honestly, right at the moment I do not know who I would pick to win it all, or even to be the top tier. Looks like another season of tough picks.

Players who bond with the school

We have had players, including several jucos, who really identify with the university and become familiar figures at games and on the campus even when they are no longer playing. That is what you like to see. It just gives a nice feel to the program when the players "stick."

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Another big man

I think we are OK on the roster and I do not know that I would spend another scholarship just to be doing it. But if we do, I hope it is another big man. Daniel Green's health appears to be fragile, and you just never can have too much height, especially at our level.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Experiment in factoring

We need to pay close attention this season, because we actually have an interesting and informative experiment going on on how to put windage on statistics at lower levels. Juco. Low-level D1. D2. All of them are in the mix this year. What does 18 points per game in juco mean in the Belt? Get out the calculators and get ready to put in the various multipliers for future reference.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Our offense will be perimeter-oriented

These days that is no great revelation, for it is true of almost all teams. But our two big guys (Green and Shoshi) have not been known for their offensive prowess. They look to be mainly role players - defense and rebounding. The scoring will come from the smaller guys. (Pretty much a self-evident post, I would say.)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Isom as a rebounder

Mareik does not appear to have the instincts to be a great rebounder like JJ did, but he does have the advantage of height on the perimeter, so he should pick up some boards from other players because of that. He is a shooter with a shooter's mentality, and that is his role on the team.

On offense, he probably will be on the perimeter, which will hamper his rebounding, especially since many of the smaller guards will be quicker than he is. However, on defense he may play more on the inside because of his height, and he could be a big help on the boards there. I don't think anyone is going to be looking very closely at his rebounding stats, because that is not his reason for being on this team. However, last season he averaged .182 rebounds per minute, as compared with Gus Leeper's .175 per minute - and Gus' role definitely included rebounding. So Mareik can play a  big role on the boards, even though looking at him you do not automatically think "rebounder."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Iceland Connection continues

St. Francis Brooklyn has one Icelandic player on their roster now - Gunnar Olafsson, a 6-3 Freshman guard. In their incoming class next season will be another player from the island nation, Dagur Jonnson, a 6-1 guard.

More jucos in the future?

I predict that Coach  Beard will continue to lean heavily toward jucos and transfers in his recruiting. I assume he will want to make his mark quickly and move on up the ladder - quickly meaning sooner than the five years it takes to get your freshman recruits to seniors. Thus - jucos. I have zero inside information. Just a guess.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The best coach?

I wonder who is the best coach in D1 college basketball if you take recruiting completely out of the formula. Who is the best at teaching the game, motivating players, and game management? In the glitz of today's game, so much of it depends on recruiting that we sometimes forget to look for the best coaches of the game.

Guess hitters and no-hitters

Guess hitters try to anticipate what the pitcher will throw and take advantage of it. They "sit on a pitch." As a result, they have a lot of spectacular successes and spectacular failures (counting on the tendency of fans to remember home runs and forget strikeouts with the bases loaded).

I love to watch a pitcher when his stuff is really working, and has the batters baffled - when a no-hitter is on the way, for example. But one thing that makes it really difficult to throw a no-hitter is the fact that there are guess hitters out there. The pitcher may throw the right pitch in the right place, but that was what the hitter was waiting for, and a fluke hit results - "fluke" because the batter would not have hit it nine times out of ten under those circumstances. Baseball really is a game of inches, and that is what makes it really tough to throw a no-hitter, even when a pitcher's stuff is really good.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Porter Moser has a good season

Porter finally had a  breakthrough season as a coach. The Loyola Ramblers were 24-13 and won the CBI championship. Not bad! They were only 8-10 in the tough Missouri Valley, but that could not take the bloom off the rose for a fine season. Good for Porter. Glad to see our old Trojan friend having a good year.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


It does appear that this will be a more "athletic" team than we have had in the recent pass. (I do not like that term, but it is convenient.) That in itself does not solve problems, because I have seen a lot of athletic players that were not necessarily good basketball players, couldn't shoot, etc. But speed and jumping ability do cover a lot of shortcomings, and if they go along with basketball smarts, all kinds of good things can happen.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Back to the point guard situation

I have been thinking some more about point guard. Hagins, Johnson, Burns and Ruttley are all advertised as point or combo guards, and Osse played a little point for us year before last and did OK.  And that is not even counting the walk-ons. So we are pretty well fixed as to depth. How good the top couple of players are remains to be seen. I think we would be in fine shape if Josh were the starting point all year, but I just think we would be in better shape with him playing most of his minutes at SG. So if he gets beat out at point, that is a good sign. Similarly, we have enough depth at SG that if Josh were forced to play point exclusively because of injuries, we still would be OK.

My best guess (with not much information to go on) is that the expectation is for Johnson to be the man at point, but that may change as things get going.

How long the honeymoon?

We all hope that Coach Beard will be immediately and notably successful. It appears that the expectations of the fan base are sky-high, and perhaps he will meet them, maybe even exceed them. Wouldn't that be something! However, when our aims are that high, if things fall even somewhat short of what we thought would happen, we tend to be disappointed. For example, suppose we were to finish a strong third in the conference next year, and then second or third the next four years, but do not go to the NCAA tournament. In all honesty, that would be a very good record for a rookie coach, but a lot of people appear to be absolutely sure he is going to go to the Dance from the get-go, and I assume they would be very disappointed.

I have always thought that any coach ought to be given five years to be successful in a rebuilding situation - long enough for his freshmen recruits to be seniors, and then logically all the blame or credit must be his; but most fans are not that patient. I wonder how long Coach Beard's honeymoon will be? That is, if he needs one, and he may not even need one, which would be the best of all situations.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Having trouble assessing this roster

It is hard for me to get any sort of a feel for how minutes might get divided among this roster. Players from a higher level coming down and others coming up from lower levels. Players who were pretty good college players - somewhere. Players who were mediocre players in the Sun Belt. Is a really good nickel better than an OK dime or a sub-par quarter? About the only given at which I can arrive is that Josh Hagins will get a lot of minutes.

A family with a flair for names

Nicholls State has long had a pipeline to Australia, with four players on the current roster from that country, and another from New Zealand. One of this year's recruits, Jay Weldon, likewise hails from Down Under. He has three siblings: Whatu, Malu and Yoorooka. No idea of the gender. One wonders why Jay had such a non-spectacular name, or if it perhaps is short for something more colorful.

Copying Knight

Coach Beard worked for Bobby Knight for several years. I have no use whatsoever for Knight personally, being the hypocritical jerk that he is, but he did know basketball and insisted that his players play good fundamental ball. I wonder if Beard adopted Knight's approach.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Recruiting - the bane of college basketball

High school coaches do not recruit. They get judged solely on what they do with what they have. Pro coaches do not recruit: they get judged on what they do with what they have. Only in college basketball is recruiting directly involved, and recruiting is the biggest cause of the dark side of the college sport. Coaches who might not be very good coaches end up being "successful" because they are good recruiters.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mixed feelings about redshirting

I have very mixed feelings about redshirting. In theory I am heartily for it. In fact, I would love to redshirt every player, swapping a 5th year for the first year, which is a very good swap. However, especially in today's world of "if I can't play I am going to leave," players have so little patience that unless they completely buy into the redshirt, you may only lose a year of their service.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A lot depends on point

As always, our success this year will depend a lot on how good we are at point. We have had good success with juco point guards in recent years, and hopefully Johnson is another one. Hagins plays a very creditable point guard, but he is not (in my opinion) a true point guard, and there is a difference. Shooting guards and point guards just think differently, and ought to. Josh makes the switch very well, however, and gives  Beard lots of options in mixing and matching lineups. The big plus is that with both of them in the game, we essentially have two point guards playing, and that is always an advantage. IF Johnson is the real deal, it will be one big step in the right direction.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

How will Coach use his big men?

It will be interesting to see how the new coach uses his big men. These days with the dominance of the 3-point shot, a lot of coaches just make them an asterisk with the relative importance of utility infielders on a baseball team. Others use them, but use them wrongly. We have plenty of height, if we stay healthy. Outside of of Mareik Isom, who is a big man, but an outside player, I have no idea as to the relative skills of our players. Ought to be interesting.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Waiting for the last shoe to fall

Coach Beard may decide to save his last scholarship and go with what he has. However, assuming that he does award it, this one recruit might tip the balance of the season. If he is at or below the average ability/work ethic of the roster, then all he adds is depth. However, if he is above the average in either of those qualities, then what we hope is a good team just gets better, and that might end up being a huge deal down the road.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Baseball tournaments

Of all the sports, baseball most demands that the results not be based upon a single game. Several factors enter into this, but suffice it to say that over a season, even the very good teams will not win much over 60% of their games. It is interesting that the further down the baseball ladder you go, the shorter (and therefore less valid) the tournaments are. The major leagues play the best of five and best of seven. The NCAA at least has double elimination. But in Arkansas, one game and you are gone. Nothing right about that, but circumstances being what they are with high school students, that probably will never change.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Hagins' minutes

Although he did not start much, Josh was second on the team in minutes only to Roger Woods. I assume he will get lots of time in the new regime, although how much remains to be seen with all the new players. He is a true combo guard, and has the most experience at this level of competition of anyone on the team, so those factors would indicate that he will continue to play lots.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Let's not break our arms just yet

patting ourselves on our backs because of our nice recruiting class. I think we have a good one with lots of potential, but I can tell you that the other Belt teams are bringing in some good players, also. One thing that makes ours look better is because this class is so large, which may mean we have helped our depth, and that could pay off down the line.

How did the Penmen do last year?

My son-in-law is pursuing his degree through Southern New Hampshire University. Their mascot is the Penmen, oddly enough. So how did they do this past season? Well, thank you, they went 24-8 and lost in the Division II Elite Eight. Go Penmen!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Reclamation recruiting

Fred Hoiberg made a pretty good living at Iowa State the past few years by taking in transfers from other programs - players who sometimes did not leave their last post under the best of circumstances. Evidently he was a pretty good judge of future returns. A lot of coaches have done that, and quite a few have had spectacular successes, because when they do click, sometimes they click big-time. The problem is that the downside risk is considerably higher than it is with normal recruits, especially if the reason for the move was related to behavior.

Young men sometimes learn their lessons and turn over a new leaf, and anyone would be glad to give them as second chance if they truly do that. The problem is that some of them just rustled that leaf and did not get it turned all the way over. Then they can become real cancers in the locker room and totally destroy the chemistry of a team. The upside on these players may be high, but they have a downside that generally is far past that of normal recruits. Coaches are well advised to make sure their risks in such cases are carefully calculated ones.

Sometimes the reclamation projects are related to health, and those are less of a problem. All they usually cost the team is a wasted scholarship. In other words, they might be a zero, but at least they are not a negative.

Fans are all about themselves. They want their team to win so they can feel good about themselves. Generally speaking. So, they are quick to forget the disasters as long as there are occasionally spectacular successes. They cheer the one 3-pointer a shooter makes to win the game and forget the six he just missed that had made the game close in the first place. So, coaches have some leeway to work with projects, but they need to remember that when the team starts making the front page of the paper instead of the sports page, the administration's patience with them will become shorter, and the required win total to keep their jobs gets that much higher. As we said, there is a risk involved. Of course, a coach takes some risk with every recruit, and in each case he has to estimate how much risk he is willing to endure.

Planning a program? How?

With the transfer situation like it is today, with players coming and going so fast that you have to have a program to keep up with the roster, how can coaches actually plan the future of the team with any success at all? Even at a high level, what with one and done. It has become somewhat like rolling the dice. Of course, when circumstances prevent coaches from following the course they ought to be following, they turn to other methods, and those will never be as successful, even though someone is going to win every year. Greed and a lack of patience have turned the sport into a dizzy carousel.