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

Monday, September 7, 2015

Potential upside

You have to say that the Trojans have as much upside potential as any team in the league just because so little is known about them. "They are probably about this good," the prognosticators say - with heavy emphasis on the "probably." The more they know about a program, the more reliably they can forecast how they will do. So, we could be worse than they think, but in all likelihood they will all put a healthy fudge factor into their predictions about us.

Watching scores from the first weekend of the football season

Some teams, both winning and losing, go home with things they need to work on to get better. Some teams (the ones on the end of the 60-0 scores) just say they were so hopelessly outclassed that nothing was going to go right regardless, and they go home and wait until the first opponent comes along against which they have a fighting chance.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

One-dimensional teams

In the heyday of Creighton's coach's son, they were amazing on offense, but sad on defense. Each year reveals several teams that are brutal on defense, but just can't score. Some teams can shoot the lights out, but never met a rebound they liked. Some teams can run and press, but are hurting when they have to play a half-court game. Some teams live by the 3, and die by it, because they do not have a Plan B for those cold shooting nights

Teams cannot afford to be one-dimensional. It is OK to hang your hat on a particular aspect of the game in which you excel, but you cannot put ALL your eggs in one basket.

Checkpoints along the schedule

#1 - San Diego State. It will not be any surprise if we lose badly to this very good program, nor should it be a cause for alarm if they handle us easily. However, if we are able to play with them, it will be a very hopeful sign.

#2 - Idaho. East Carolina, Tulsa and Idaho are programs that are more on our level. All three of these games are on the road. I we hold our own here, we ought to be able to hold our own in the Belt.

#3 - Texas Tech. End of non-conference season. Given the fact that we only have one significant game at home, if we come out of this portion of the schedule over .500, we can feel pretty good about our chances in the Belt.

#4 - Georgia State on the road. This will be the third in a killer road swing. Monroe, Louisiana, Georgia State - the Big Three, all on the road. If, after this, we are toward the top of the conference, we can feel pretty confident about the post-season.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Marcus Johnson

I think this could be the most important recruit of the year. It is hard to have a successful team without a really good point guard. And Johnson appears to be one. He is a good shooter and can score, but the number that jumps out at me is the 4.9 A/TO ratio he had last year in junior college. This would indicate that, despite his scoring, he is at the basis of his game a true point guard. He protects and distributes the ball. Granted, the defenses he saw in juco were not as good as what he will see in the Belt,  but his numbers could be a good deal worse and still be pretty good. I think Johnson will be The Man that makes the Trojans go this season.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Daniel Green

I absolutely do not know what to think about this player. Reports are that he insists he is healthy and ready to go. He must have had potential, or else an ACC school would not have recruited him. Still, he comes to Little Rock as a senior, and has played only a whopping total of 203 minutes of college basketball in which he has scored 39 points and pulled down 46 rebounds. And that is no slam on the kid: he has been injured. Maybe this is the year he gets things going and shows why Wake Forest was willing to invest three years in him. If he plays much at all, one would think that he ought to be a able to compete at the SBC level. Until I actually see some competent performance on the court, I am not going to assume that he will be a major force for us. However, I am completely open to being pleasantly surprised, and if Green gets it together this season, he could easily be the most impactful surprise on the team.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The end of the Big Dance


Andy Katz says the thing that college coaches outside the Money Conferences fear most is the end of the NCAA Tournament as we know it now. They have a right to be worried. The college athletics landscape is totally controlled by TV football money these days. Basketball does not matter, and especially basketball at schools that are not in those five conferences. The elephants are not going to be inclined to put up with the gnats forever.

Watching history

Josh Hagins is already on the all-time lists in 3-pointers made, assists, and steals. He is on a pace to be on the list in FT%. It is likely he will make the list in games played, FG made, and points.

Jalen Jackson

Jackson is either going to be a huge negative, or one of the more outstanding players ever to come through Little Rock. That is my prediction. If you look at his history, red flags pop up as to "Why?" Why didn't he sign with a higher level program out of high school, since a good list of them were recruiting him? Why did he leave UCA after a decent freshman season and go to juco? After the outstanding season he had last year and the level of his initial recruiting, why could he not sign at a higher level this year than the Sun Belt? Fairly or not, these are the sort of things that whisper doubts in the back of your mind. I have absolutely no idea as to the answers to any of those questions and there may be entirely logical reasons for all of them. Regardless, all of that is in the past, and if whatever issues there may or may not have been are now gone, Jackson is a prodigious talent. He has a size/skill combination to play probably three positions if needed. He can put up points in a hurry. He has good hands and instincts on defense. He is big enough and athletic enough to give lots of help on the boards. Absent any off-court issues, Jalen Jackson will be very hard to keep off the court this season.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

If Beard needs to play muscle


They ought to be able to handle anything the Belt could throw at us.

If Josh Hagins does not get starter's minutes

then this will be a very good team. (Or maybe a very bad coach, but I don't think that is likely.)

Eamonn Brennan's campaign for bad basketball


ESPN's Brennan is among those who want to see basketball played at a fast pace - a very fast pace. Like so many of his colleagues, and evidently most of the NCAA fathers, he wants "entertaining" basketball. The problem is that he evidently does not care whether or not it is good basketball, as long as it is entertaining. Fast is good; slow is bad.

Lest you think I am falsely accusing the gentleman, note this quote from his spot on LSU in the article above. "Here's a fun fact: In 2014-15, Johnny Jones' team averaged 69.7 possessions per game -- 14th most in the country. Playing that fast was arguably counterproductive, at least offensively. It probably unduly stressed LSU's dual-NBA-prospect frontcourt and almost certainly worsened its guards' penchant for turnovers. In the end, the Tigers underachieved." That is a direct quote. Playing fast made them play badly, but he hopes they do not change. He hopes they keep playing fast, even if they play badly, because he loves fast, and fast is good. Good basketball be hanged!

Deondre Burns

Burns is a nice-looking prospect. He came advertised as a point guard in the official announcement, but the numbers he put up indicate he is a combo guard and could play the 2 spot, also. The problem here is playing time. In the best of worlds, freshmen would not expect to play immediately because there would be talented upperclassmen ahead of them, but in the tinsel world in which we live, coaches frequently promise the world in order to get prospects on campus, and then hope they can keep them. If Hagins plays mainly at the 2 and Burns is the back-up point, then he will get quite a few minutes. On the other hand, if Hagins slides over when Johnson needs a rest, then minutes for the freshman may be hard to find.