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.