Monday, August 31, 2015

All senior starting line-up


Not too bad. Of course, Brandsma is not supposed to be playing this year, so someone else would have to be plugged in at the 3, but still not bad at all.

More bullets

It appears that we may have more options on offense this year than we have had in a while. Hagins and Woods have both scored in double figures at the SBC level. Jackson, Johnson and Ruttley scored well up into double digits at their last stops. And then you have Evan Moorman, who evidently can put up points by the truckload if someone is not right on him. It gives Beard lots of mix-and-match opportunities.

Go ahead and hack him!

Last season, Duquesne's Dominique McKoy show a blazing 36.9% from the free throw line. Considering that he shot 54.4% overall, it would not be hard to figure out what to do in his case. Hack him! He is going to miss it, anyway.

Maurius Hill

I have no idea how Maurius is going to fit into Coach Beard's scheme of things, but I figure there will be situations when he is glad he has him on the roster. There will be times when we will need some muscle, and Hill provides that. However, that is not all he brings to the table. He did not shoot a lot of 3-pointers last season (24), but he made 33.3% of them, which is at least respectable. Furthermore, he averaged 4.4 rebounds/game in only 16.8 minutes, so for his size he is a very capable man on the boards, which we probably are going to need at times.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

I like the versatility of this roster

If we need size, we have it. Shooters, check. Ball handlers, several, thank you. "Junk" players, got those, too. Rebounders, looks like we are covered there.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sum of the parts

It is still a team game. The bottom line is how the parts come together, not so much what the parts are individually.

Friday, August 28, 2015

I don't know how they did it

but they did. Drake shot 41.3% from the arc - as a team - and still managed to lose 21 games.

Jem Mace - bareknuckle fighter

Readers of the Louis Lamour novels will find multiple references to Mace, who was a historical figure, and the English boxing champion. Originally, Mace had aspired to be a violinist and evidently was fairly good. One can imagine that bareknuckle fighting probably did not do his playing any good.

Jem mace.jpg

Mareik Isom

Isom is an intriguing player along the lines of Will Neighbour. Both have post size but the shooting ability of guards. It took Mareik a long time to find his stroke, but once he did, he has been excellent, and I expect big things of him. He creates match-up problems on the offensive end, especially if he is in the 3 spot. Obviously, the same problems exist on the defensive end if Mareik were to give up some quickness, but I am guessing that we will be the winner on that exchange most times: we will give up less quickness than they will give up size.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The benefit of non-D1 games

Well . . . they ought to be wins - cheap wins. After that it depends upon the quality of the opponent. The better D2 teams should be able at least to keep the game interesting and not be a total pushover. After that, it allows your players to get into a game rhythm and work through kinks in the system without too much pressure. What you do not want to see is a  60-point blowout that turns completely sloppy, and nothing positive is gained. On the other hand, you may learn something you hoped not to learn - that your team is not (yet?) very good and there is a lot to work on. Most of the knowledge we as fans get from non-D1 games is negative knowledge.

Non-conference helps conference

"At our level, conference games are the only ones that count." We say that frequently, but it is completely true? The reason that only conference games count is that we are so lousy as a conference. Thus, once conference season begins, the RPI of the league is, for the most part, locked in place: one team goes up while another goes down. It is only in the non-conference portion of the schedule that we, as a league, can help ourselves as a league. Every meaningful game that a Belt team wins helps everyone else in the league, at least indirectly. Sure, non-conference games count - unless we want to be a bottom feeder forever.

The arc's effect on shooting percentages

There is no doubt that basketball has learned how to shoot well from one narrow strip around the perimeter of the basketball playing area. But how has that fact affected the shooting from other places on the court. The Rules Committee has dictated that players must shoot from THERE (well, not actually dictated it, but it amounts to that). However, in the regular ebb and flow of the game, THERE might not be the best and most natural shot to take. So, the players take a shot from the wrong spot, and get in a groove shooting from that spot, because it is about the only spot they ever practice (and if you don't believe that, just watch pre-game warmups). But what about their overall game? It seems logical to me that if other facets of shooting are neglected with the fixation on the 3-point line, then shooting percentages from other spots might be going down as shots from the line are going up. No way to prove it, I guess, but it is a thought.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Stetson Billings

In the patchwork quilt that is Trojan basketball this year, who knows where Stetson Billings will fit in? He has had a year away from game time to hone his skills, but he did not know during that time what system he should be honing for. Will he fit Beard's system? Has he improved enough to gain playing time under any system? He was a spot player under Shields, and it seemed obvious that he was being groomed to be a defensive specialist. Beard brought his own defensive specialist with him, so will he have any need for Stetson in that role? Or maybe Stetson worked hard and did improve his offensive skills to the point that he can contribute significantly on both sides of the ball. We are just speculating blind at this point.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


I do not know how much of an emphasis rebounding is in Coach Beard's scheme. (Before you jump on me, strange as it sounds, it is not a major emphasis in some of them.) However, he has the players at hand for this to be a solid-rebounding team. Lis Soshi was a fraction away from double figure rebounds in juco. Roger Woods had adequate numbers for a small forward playing power forward. Josh Hagins is a very good rebounding guard. Maurius Hill had good per-minute numbers for a small forward. Likewise Stetson Billings the last year he played. Daniel Green certainly ought to get his share of boards. I am not worried about our rebounding as long as we work at it.

Fort Smith lands another one

UAFS has added Teris Bourgeois, transfer from New Orleans. That makes six D1 transfers now on their roster out of 13 players.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Why RBIs went down as home runs went up


Look at the pattern. Of the single season home run totals, the top six have been since 1999. Of the top 13 RBI totals, the most recent was 1938. Also, remember that the home run hitters had a longer season in which to get their totals. Why did home runs go up while RBIs were going down? Hmmmm?

Best teams, or best tournament teams?

By this I mean that the teams that might win 6 out of 10 meetings during the regular seasons might lose 6 out of 10 times to the same team under tournament conditions. Some schemes seem to fare better in tournaments. For example, teams that depend solely on 3-point shooting or defense usually go down, because they do not have a Plan B. On the other hand, teams that are tough defensively AND have something on offense to go with their shooters usually do well.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Low teams in high conferences

I have advocated for years that one of the best strategies for teams at our level is to get low-ranked teams from money-conferences to pay us to come play them. This gives us a higher-profile name that we might stand a chance of beating if things fall out right. We have two of those this year. Texas Tech was the last-ranked team in the first-ranked conference. Just exactly what we would like to have. Couldn't have picked a better one. DePaul is an also-ran from the Big East, which is not a money conference because they do not have football, but it is a powerhouse basketball conference that is better than most of the money conferences. Nice scheduling!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

We have an attractive non-conference schedule

It is just that the attractive part is mainly on the road.

Late signing big men

There are lots of reasons why this principle will not hold true in every case, but I am guessing that it is true more often than not.

If a big man holds out until the late signing period, it is usually because he is not very good, or has health questions, or because he is waiting for one particular school that has not yet offered a scholarship - playing Russian Roulette, in other words. The logic behind my statement is that good big men are so scarce that they are going to be snapped up quickly. Colleges can afford to be pickier in their perimeter recruiting because there simply are a lot more choices out there. (What percentage of the general population is 6-8 or taller?) Any good big man (or even decent big man, or even really promising project) who wants to sign will have plenty of offers early. Here is hoping our new signees fall into the exceptions category.

Watch the bigs

I think the development of the inside guys will be the difference between whether this is a fairly good team or a very good team this season. Good guards are easy to get because there are so many of them, and we have a nice collections of talented perimeter players. No problems there. However, even if it plays out that the big guys will only be role players in this system, they still have to fill their role. If our inside players are more than just adequate, then this team could be more than just good.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Balkan connection

This year's 2015 Trojan roster for volleyball includes three from Bosnia and two from Serbia. Our official site goes all the way back to 2005, and in each of those years (with the exception of 2010), there has been at least one player from a Balkan nation on the team. I would be very interested to see when and how this connection began.


Josh Hagins

I know we have a lot of talent coming in, but I really think this is Josh's team this year. He is a fourth-year senior, has played a ton of minutes throughout his career, will finish on the all-time lists in several statistical categories, and has been an emotional leader throughout his time in Little Rock. Of course, most of the players have not been here for his accomplishments, but I think his play on the court will speak volumes. Unlike the newcomers, Josh HAS done it at the Sun Belt level, and done it well.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The 30-second clock

I do not expect this rule change to have a material affect on the game. Count off five seconds, and that is just not enough time to make much difference. It should increase scoring incrementally because (theoretically) there will be a few more shots because there will be a few more possessions. However, I suspect that there will also be a few more bad shots taken as time runs down. This is just another desperation attempt by the all-wise NCAA, which is desperate to get more offense into the game because they assume that will help attendance.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

In a roster rut?

South Alabama lists six players on its current roster that are 6-8.

Kemy Osse

It is hard to know where Kemy might fit into the scheme of things this season. He showed himself to be a versatile guard when he did get to play, but that seems like a long time ago at this point. He appears to be very strong. But minutes at guard may be hard to come by this season.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

You know it is going to be a long season

when you are defeated at home by the University of the Sciences. Drexel had that dubious honor this past season, and yes, it was a LONG season for them.


Division II vs. Division I

I have no idea what it would be, but I would guess that the percentage of Division I teams that would be defeated by the best Division II school in the country on a given night would be significant. It would not be a majority or anything like that, but significant. I like the breadth of Division I, because it creates so many David and Goliath situations, but that does not mean that the bottom tier of teams are very good.

The press is offense

Technically, the press is defense, because it is the other team's possession. But at the same time, the ball is on the defensive team's end of the court and thus  the object of the press is not (at least immediately) to keep the other team from scoring, but to get possession of the ball and convert defense into quick offense. I hear teams sometimes described as good defensive teams mainly because of their press, and I understand that that is correct according to the "letter of the law," but it is difficult for me to think of it as defense.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Day had to come

You knew Jason Day was going to start winning big sooner or later. He has been close too often. The Guard is changing in golf. Even Rory McIlroy is on the outside looking in, for the moment, at least. I suspect he will be back.

Roger Woods

Woods is the best we have at a slot that is crowded - undersized power forwards. I do not know Xs and Ox enough to know how he will fit into the motion offense, but he has made a pretty good career driving into the lane and getting fouled. He shot by far the most FTs on the team last season. He did not attempt many threes, but actually shot a very good percentage (44.8%) when he did. It will be interesting to see how his unique game matches up with the athleticism that Beard has brought in with the new recruits. But I do think that he is good enough that he will get his playing time, plus he has a year in the trenches at the SBC level under his belt.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

I predict we will be 2-0 to start the season

Against two non-D1 teams, if we are not, we are in trouble.

How our schedule shapes up

Here are the final Sagarin ratings of our non-conference opponents this year:
(Little Rock 241)
San Diego State 33
East Carolina 226
Tulsa 82
UCA 348 (twice)
Idaho 240
DePaul 131
Northern Ariz 164
Texas Tech 146

It would be very iroic

if the two walk-ons, both of whom appear to be somewhat specialists at one aspect of the game, turn out to be the key cogs that fill in the gaps to make this team something special.

Making pre-season predictions is easy

because hardly anyone remembers what you predicted. Plus, you can always plead that injuries messed up things.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Prospects for Arkansas schools

UCA is way down, but improving.
Pine Bluff has been in the upper half of the SWAC and will return three starters.
Hopefully, we will be among the better teams in the Belt.
Arkansas State returns all five starters from a team that was 6-14 in the Belt.
Fayetteville lost a lot of talent and has been mired in controversy, but should be competitive in the SEC.

The state is better than the last couple of years, but still nothing to write home about.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Returning starters in the Belt

Assuming my calculations are correct, here are the returning starters by team in the Sun Belt, in terms of minutes played:
Little Rock - 2
Ark State - 5
App St - 4
Ga So - 1
Ga St - 2
UL - 5
Monroe - 4
USA - 4
UTA - 3
Tex St - 3
Troy - 3

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Steeling for the bruises

Likely I will begin my annual Pappy's Predictions next week, and I can already feel the stings of righteous indignation from the fans of various teams. And I do not blame them. This year will be VERY difficult to predict, from top to bottom. Difficult for me, at least.

Adaptable defenses

Like any other sport, but more so than many, basketball has a chess game with regard to defensive schemes. If you recruit and train for speed and agility, you are vulnerable to power. If your defense is strong but slow, you have a hard time defending a mobile offense. Not many teams run a power offense today, but some will still have a post player or two who are on the squad mainly for defense and rebounding who are able to fill a spot if muscle is needed, just for that reason. You can only have 13 scholarship players on the roster, so a team cannot be all things to all situations. A coach just has to pick his scheme and train the team to adapt as well as possible when adverse situations arise. A parallel today would be defending the Wishbone offense in football. Not many teams run it today, so not many defenses are geared to defend it; and when they do see it, they may have trouble with it because they have a defensive team full of pass rushers. Offensive schemes change to suit the fashion of the day, and the defenses change to stop the offenses.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Artificial sight

So much of the time, I have to "see" the Trojans with my mind. A game or two or three are all I will get to attend each year, so I must listen to them on the radio, or follow the thread on one of the websites, or just look at the stats of the game after the fact and try to figure what happened. Not a great substitute, but definitely better than nothing. The vast majority of baseball fans of my generation in Arkansas grew up rooting for the Cardinals, but never got to attend an actual game. Most of the time we lived it through the voices of Harry Caray and Jack Buck, or checked the box score the next day.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

No independents

In one aspect, this upcoming season will have a strange feel to it: there are no longer any Independent teams in D1 college basketball. NJIT has joined the Atlantic Sun Conference. In 2007-08, NJIT finished the season 0-29 and was one of ten independents. (Naturally, liking underdogs, that is when I became a Jersey Tech fan.) Little by little, they all found conference homes - except for NJIT. Now they finally have a home. And, probably it was their shocking win over Michigan that started the ball rolling seriously for them. Sometimes a really big win can do that for a program.

What will Beard be particularly good at?

There are many aspects to coaching college basketball: recruiting, teaching the game and player development, motivation, game management, overall management of the program (including hiring of assistants). Although many coaches are pretty good in all of them. It seems clear that Beard is an above-average recruiter, and the reports of his other abilities are encouraging. It will be interesting to see what the greatest strengths of his coaching are.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Cautiously optimistic

I can't help but be optimistic about this team, because there are so many nice pieces added to the puzzle. But so many of the pieces have asterisks by them that I have to be cautious. Still, I think the pluses outweigh the minuses.

Nice to see unfamiliar faces

Sure, four of the top six in ESPN's just-updated pre-season Top 25 rankings are North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas and Duke - the bluebloods of college basketball. However, it is nice to see Maryland as the #1 pick, and Virginia at #4, even if those two names have been up there at times in the past. Also, such teams as California, Utah, Vanderbilt, SMU and Texas A&M show up as you move down through the rankings. Nice to see some variety.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

When the fast break is working

Far too often fast breaks quickly degenerate into hot-dogging and sloppy passes. However, when it is done right, it is a thing of beauty. Start with a dominant rebounder who throws a quick outlet pass to the perimeter players who have released. The breaking players make sure they are properly spaced, and the guy with the ball makes the right decision based upon the response of the defender. Two points! Or at least foul shots. Easy offense.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Charleston Southern wins the High-toned Name Contest

Head Coach Barclay Radebaugh. Absolutely nothing wrong with his name. An honorable handle if ever I saw one. But it does seem like one that would be more likely to appear on the door of a Wall Street brokerage firm or a corporate legal office than on a basketball court.

Danny Kaspar

Kaspar came into the league with a reputation for being a tough, defensive-minded coach, and he has established himself in that role very quickly in the Sun Belt. Opponents shot an anemic 41.1% overall and 30.1% from the arc against the Bobcats last season. If he can get their rebounding and ball handling fixed, their win total will start moving upwards. Then if he can get their offense going, they could really be tough. One step at a time, but he seems to have taken the first one already.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Pick the low-hanging fruit

The one ugly stat the jumps out at you from last year's totals is our opponents' 3-point percentage. It was a very ugly 37%. What at one point had been one of the strengths of Shields teams just collapsed over the last couple of seasons. That is one defect that Coach Beard can fix quickly and make a vast improvement over last year.

Hungriest players

It is always interesting to see which players want playing time the worst. How hungry are they? How hard will they work? How much will they listen to the coaches? Someone will rise above where he otherwise would have been because of it.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Where will we hang our hat?

I am not familiar with Coach Beard yet, but just based on what I have heard and looking at the talent on the team, I am guessing that this will be a pretty well-rounded group (with the possible exception of interior offense). We will be good at a lot of things. But most teams, even good teams, have something at which they are particularly good, and I have no way of knowing what that will be at this point. It will be interesting to see where the 2016 Trojans hang their hat, so to speak.