Saturday, December 31, 2016

Turnovers and perimeter defense

Those need to be the top two items on Wes' agenda for the foreseeable future.

Friday, December 30, 2016

We shall see what we shall see

Obviously, one object during the non-conference season is to determine what holes need to be plugged before conference play stops. We have seen a lot of things that are definite positives. Our starting line-up is solid and versatile. We have a lot of offensive weapons. We have several shooters. Our main deficiencies are that we do not have a true point guard currently playing, and that our defense is spotty at best. We might be able to get buy with the point guard situation, but we will not survive with our defense like it has been lately.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Height by committee

Pitt does not have a big line-up this year, at least by ACC standards. Their tallest starter (Michael Young) is only 6-9. However, the other four starters are 6-8, 6-8, 6-7, 6-6. They start relatively small, but they do not slack off much.

Nice turnaround

It is always nice to see a kid turn his game around. Steve McClain is in his second year as head coach at UIC (Illinois-Chicago). Last year the Flames were a pathetic 5-25. Their leading scorer was 6-7 freshman Dikembe Dixson, who averaged 19.8 points per game, but took a lot of shots to do it. He shot only 36.9% overall and 30.4% from the arc. His number of attempts from 3-point range were almost twice as many as any other player on the team. In other words, he was jacking up a lot of shots, making enough of them to score a lot of points, but the team was suffering as a result.

This year? A different result. Dixson is averaging 20.3 ppg,but he is shooting 47.7% overall and a nice 36.7% from the arc. He is only fifth on the team in 3-point attempts, but is making a far better percentage of them. In addition, he is getting to the line a lot, and making his free throws. In other words, this kid has cleaned up his act and is making a player. Tip of the hat to the coaching staff for developing his game. And the bottom line is that UIC is 7-6 on the year - already more wins than last season.

Favorable schedule

We could not get a much better start to the conference schedule. Two home games, with the first of the two being against one of the weaker teams in the league. We really, really need to go 2-0.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

From NBC about Texas

10. Texas: How about this? Seeing the Longhorns struggle so mightily in Year 2 under Shaka Smart is pretty shocking, especially given he’s bringing McDonald’s All-Americans to Austin, but the total lack of guard play has been crippling to Texas. The Longhorns can’t really shoot it, either, which in basketball is a problem, I’m told. It’s hard to see them being able to correct that enough to climb the conference ladder.

Ever seen this implied (or maybe even stated) from just to the north of us? "All we need are athletes. We press, and that is all we need to do."

Time to step up

Our shooters have to start making their shots. Our ball handlers have to quit turning the ball over and start distributing better. We have to start playing defense - at least a little bit. This is a senior-laden team with more than adequate talent and size. Just do it!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Time for self-examination

It always helps to have a chance to step back mentally and assess why things are not going as well as they might be. That applies to us, because things are not going as well as they might be. This can be a good team. This might even be a very good team, but we are a long way from being there so far. Lots of holes to plug up. The biggest one is on the defensive end. Recently we have been just AWFUL on defense. Our shooting needs to come around, but it probably will. Defensive downturns often are the result of a lack of focus and effort, and that CAN be fixed easily, if the coach will, if the team will.

Money alone won't work

The media calls them the Power Five. I call them the Money Five, because in college sports money is power, and football means money. Since the realignment turmoil, the new Big East (no FBS football) has ranked 2nd and 4th among the conferences, and so far this year has fluctuated between first and second. The SEC is throwing a small fortune at basketball, but thus far it has not moved them up much in the rankings. Money alone doesn't equal success in basketball. You also have to have a fan base that cares.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Watkins will tell us a lot when he gets back

First off, it will tell us how good he is. And we need him to be at least pretty good. Second, it will tell us if playing point was at least part of the problem with Johnson. If he has been playing out of position all year, it ought to make a considerable difference.

I don't envy Wes having to figure out how to distribute minutes at the guard spots if Watkins is indeed pretty good.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A lot of work to do

This team can get turned around. We have a lot of talent, but there will be a lot of work to be done before we will be competitive in the top tier of the Sun Belt. We might get by playing only OK defense, but we cannot get by playing abysmal defense, which is where we are right now.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Still my two favorite Trojan pictures

John Fowler and Rashad Jones-Jennings. Defense and rebounding. Trojan tough!
Image result for john fowler ualr

Image result for rashad jones-jennings ualr

The best thing about a Kentucky-Louisville game

is that you know one of them is going to lose.

Barney Fife teams

Barney only had one bullet, because that was all Andy would let him have. Some basketball teams are one-bullet teams, even when they shoot that one bullet extremely well. A good coach, who has the horses to do it, will design a plan to take away that team's bullet, and then all they can do it throw the gun at the opponent. It really helps to have a few other cartridges in your belt.

Grayson Allen - basketball's spoiled brat

Allen apologized after the game, so evidently that makes everything OK.

 "I think ultimately, I just made a mistake -- two mistakes -- and they were big ones and mistakes I regret," Allen told ESPN.

It wasn’t a mistake: he did it on purpose.

This team used to hang its hat on defense

That has been true over three coaches over a decade and a half. We have gotten off the track somewhere.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Right, Malik. Sure.

From an NBC article: "Sharpshooting Malik Monk chose Kentucky because he felt it was the best place to hone other basketball skills beyond his impressive offensive talents."

Now, does anyone really believe that? Hmmm?

USA's defense

South Alabama is holding opponents to 39.8% overall and 29.5% from the arc. Pretty salty. Points won't come easy against them. Thankfully their offense is not too strong.

Stats you won't see very often

At this point, South Alabama's Georgi Boyanov is shooting 67.6% from the free throw line, but 68.2% from three-point range. You won't see that very often.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

It isn't always height

Louisiana does not have a player over 6-7 in its regular rotation, and yet they are crushing opponents on the board by 9.5 per game. Bryce Washington is 6-6, but he leads the Sun Belt - by a bunch - with 12.0 rebounds/game.


As I write, RealtimeRPI has the Big East rated as the top basketball conference in the nation, ahead of all the money conferences. That is a very satisfying chart to see, since the Big East teams do not have FBS football, and so basketball is the premier sport with them.


How can a team shoot 0 for 15 from the arc in a game? I mean, if you shot with your eyes closed you ought to get one of them to go in. Right?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Brief excitement

We see it happen so often: the little guy plays their hearts out in the first half against an uninterested opponent and are leading or at least close at halftime, then the big guy blows them out in the second half. At least they have their brief moment of euphoria in the locker room. Occasionally, however, the big guy will let the little guy hang around too long, and then anything can happen, and sometimes does.

Winning with defense

Virginia does not have a single player averaging double figures. They're pretty bad, huh? Think again. They are 9-1 and ranked 12th in the country. Opponents shoot an unbelievably low 33.9% overall and 30.9% from the arc. And just because the Cavaliers do not have a scoring hoss, don't think they can't play offense. They shoot 51% overall as a team and 39% from the arc. They just spread the scoring around.

Basketball is surely different from football

There are three non-money conference schools in the AP Top Ten this week: Villanova, Gonzaga and Creighton. Imagine that happening in football? Not a chance!

Keep an eye peeled toward Evanston

Northwestern holds the dubious distinction of being the only money conference school never to have made the NCAA tournament. (They did win a national championship back in 1931 before the Tournament started.) At this point, however, they are 9-2 after beating Dayton on the road. This could be the year history is made.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Ten deep

Right now we are pretty much an eight-man rotation. On the assumption that Watkins and Billings make it to the rotation, that would make ten, and that probably is about right.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Kentucky vs. North Carolina

Defense? Purely optional. Of course, that will be regarded by the experts as "exciting."

Not impressed

I am not impressed by your getting off a shot, not matter how athletic you may have been in doing it. What impresses  me is if you make the shot. I just watched Texas A&M get thumped by Arizona, in large part because they could not make shots from right under the basket. Again and again they could not make a two-foot chip shot. Billy Kennedy had to be frustrated. I know I was just watching it, and my livelihood doesn't depend on it. Give me a kid who consistently can make a gimme shot and he is worth his weight in gold.

It is working, but I don't like it

This is a very good 3-point shooting team. We are putting up a lot of shots from the arc and making them at a high rate. Still, I don't like that very much. I like it that we are making them, but not that we are shooting so many of them (almost a third of our attempts). I can never forget that maxim, "Live by the three; die by the three." Some nights your shots don't fall, and then what do you do? If we get too accustomed to jacking up the bombs (a.k.a. not having to work hard for our points), we may get out of the habit of taking the other course. No Plan B. This particularly is a problem come tournament time, when you do not get a second chance.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Nonchalanted the game

Once, after muffing a routine fly ball in the outfield in the World Series, Yogi Berra gave this explanation: "I nonchalanted it." He took it for granted - too much so.

I am very much afraid this team is nonchalanting the first halves of ballgames. "We can always come back  in the second half." And, our offense is high-powered enough that most of the time we have been able to do that. But to have games down to the wire with Pine Bluff and Northern Arizona? Come on! Out of 351 Division 1 teams, they are  currently ranked 339th and 346th. Feeding right on the bottom. And we let them make close games of it.

History has been restored

Villanova, UCLA, Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana. These are all in the AP top ten this week. All among the nobility, the bluebloods, of college basketball. A huge amount of basketball history in those names. Of the top ten, probably only Baylor, Gonzaga and Creighton could lay claim to such exalted status - at least so far.

Johnson's quickness

For some odd reason (just a quirk of my brain), I do not tend to think of Marcus Johnson first and foremost as a 3-point shooter, even though he well could end up as the best career percentage shooter in program history. He is so quick that I just visualize him getting past other players and getting off shots that way. Odd how the mind plays games with us.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

He could help his own cause

B. J.  Gladden of Georgia Southern leads their team in FT attempts with 49. This is not because he is a particularly dangerous shooter, because in fact he is a pretty bad shooter. Nor is it because he plays a lot of minutes, because he is only fifth on the team in that category. Nor is it because he is a gigantic post player, because he is 6-6. The key fact in discovering the reason for this statistical curiosity is no doubt the fact that he shoots only 46.9% from the line. He could solve his own problem, if he doesn't like shooting so many charity shots.

So what is the strength of this team?

It isn't defense. Our defense is OK, but nothing to write home about, at least so far.  Our rebounding is very solid, with a plus-6 so far this year.Our shooting is pretty good, both overall, from the arc, and from the line, and I am thinking that is what we have hung our hat on so far. Interestingly, our starters shoot the 3 exceptionally well as a group. On the other hand, Jones, Black and Marcus are shooting 55% overall as a group. So we have some pop inside and out. Of the eight players who are averaging double figure minutes, only Johnson and Burns are shooting less than 46% overall.

Welcome opportunity or rude awakening

Our schedule has been mediocre at best thus far. But here in a little bit we will run into Florida. We will either get ourselves a good old-fashioned spanking, or we will acquit ourselves well and get some confidence. We will learn a lot that day, one way or the other.

Monday, December 12, 2016

We OUGHT to be a good road team

Veteran teams often are, and we have a lot of seniors. The next two games are ones we ought to win if we take care of business. We'll see if the road has any effect.

"Defense is bad"

This from ESPN's Eamonn Brennan: For the rest of us -- for the average college basketball fan who enters into any given broadcast hoping for a good game -- it isn't just that the Bruins are winning. It is how they are winning: with unceasing, up-tempo, unrestrained offense.

"Unrestrained offense." That is fun? Meaning that anything that slows down the offense, whether by the team doing it or the team defending it, is bad? Why not just go down to the local playground and save your money. You will see completely unrestrained offense there.

This needs adjustment

According to Sagarin today, we have the 338th toughest schedule in the country. That means that only 13 teams have weaker schedules than we have. Obviously, not much can be done about that at this point, but we do need to upgrade in future years.

Very interesting strategy

It is generally acknowledged that Buzz Williams can coach. In all nine games so far this year, he has brought his leading scorer, Zach LeDay (17.1 ppg) and also Seth Allen (10.7 ppg) off the bench. That is a different twist. It must be working, because they are 8-1.

One of our better shooting teams

Since the 3-point shot was instituted, the best team average we have had for a season was in 2000-2001 when we hit 40.7% with Barksdale, Nick Zachery and Mark Green, etc. At the moment we are at 39.2%, which would be in second place.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Impressed with Shoshi

I really like Lis Shoshi's improvement in rebounding this season. He was OK  last year, but not a great deal better than that. At the moment he is second in the Belt in rebounds per game at 8.7 (although a good way out of first place). If he finished there, that would be our best total since the days of Mr. Jones-Jennings.

Johnson is back

It took one record-setting night for Marcus Johnson to get his shooting average back up to where it ought to be. He had been lurching alone in a territory that was pretty pathetic, to be candid. Then, out of the blue, he goes off for 9 out of 11 against UCA, sets the arena record for made 3-pointers in a game, and lo and behold, his average on the season is now 39%, and the Trojans now have a double-barrelled perimeter attack. Kemy Osse has been consistent all season long, and is still at 43.9%. Throw in Andre Jones, who is 6 of 14, and we look to be in good shape from the arc.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Win the ones we ought to

We have a four-game stretch here of weaker opponents that we ought to beat. If we do win those games, we would be 10-2 heading into the Florida game, which would feel pretty good. A record of 10-3 going into conference is not bad. Last year we were 11-1 at  that point, so that is not too far behind. Of course, we still have to win those games.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Non-primary 3-point shooters

Johnson and Osse are our main shooters from the arc. Each has 48 attempts on the year, and no one else has more than 16. However, Jalen Jackson, Maurius Hill, Evan Moorman and Andre Jones are a collective 16 of 36 for 44.4%. So our back-up wave of shooters does pretty well. We are shooting 36.4% as a team, which is very solid. If Marcus Johnson had not gotten off to such a slow start shooting, it would be better than that.

Remember Tom Lawless?

He was a utility infielder and third-string catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals during their pennant-winning 1987 season. During the regular season he had only two hits in 25 at bats. Yet in the World Series he hit a game-winning home run. Lots of fun!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

About where I thought we would be

6-2 is about where I had predicted we would be at this point in the season. I must admit that the losses might have been against other teams than where they occurred. I figured we would beat Idaho at home, but I thought we might lose to Tulsa. And I was not sure that we would win 2 of 3 in the Texas tournament. So, I am fairly happy with the way things stand. We need to sweep the next four.

Lots of Brodericks

Broderick as a given name is not unheard of. There was a fairly well-known actor named Broderick Crawford, for example. An honorable name if ever there was one. However, it is not exactly a garden-variety name. Certainly it does not denote 16.1875% of the male population of the country. That is exactly how much of the UMKC roster that has the first name Broderick: Robinson, Newbill and Ross. Go figure.

Has to be a satisfying win

Creighton just beat Nebraska. A non-football school defeats a football juggernaut who has no D1 competition in the state. That is what we Trojan fans see in our dreams!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Watching the playground

Watching high school and junior high basketball can be very frustrating. At least as often as not, the players must think they are performing for ESPN highlights. Fancy is the only thing that counts. Good, fundamental basketball is purely optional.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Time for some momentum

We got off to a rocky start, losing at home to Idaho, which should not have happened, and losing at a neutral site to Pepperdine, which could have gone either way. But we have won three in a row now, including a very nice win over Tulsa, so hopefully we are hitting our stride. Now we have Pine Bluff, UCA and Northern Arizona, all of which we ought to beat easily. (Easy to say, obviously a little harder to do, given our performance at UCA a few days back.) Still, we should be heavy favorites in all these games. If there are any kinks in our system that need to be worked out, now is the time. We need to get in rhythm, get some confidence, and get in the habit of winning.

Monday, December 5, 2016

We tend to forget

With modern-day hype, we tend to forget how really great some past athletes were. Sure, times are faster today, but Paavo Nurmi won gold medals from the 1920 through the 1928 Olympics at 1500, 5000 and 10,000 meters. That would be unheard of today. Also, Emil Zatopek won the 5000, the 10,000 and the marathon in the same Olympics. Ditto the unlikelihood that that could happen today.

Kemy's value

Kemy Osse is a non-spectacular player. He is not flashy. But just look at the stat sheet. He is averaging 12.3 ppg, which is pretty average for a shooting guard. However, he is shooting 45.2% from the arc, which is very good for anyone. And . . . he is shooting 49.3% overall. All too often SGs who shoot high percentages from the arc do not shoot all that well overall, but Kemy does. He doesn't shoot a lot of FTs, but he makes them (78.6%) when he does. Plus he is averaging 4.1 rebounds per game, which is excellent for his position, and his A/TO ratio is 2.5, which is considerably higher than Johnson, who usually plays point, so far. Kemy is just getting it done this year, all over the court.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Most balanced Trojan team I have ever seen.

Four of five starters are averaging double figures, and Hill is just a tick below it at 9.1.

Is the NBA so bad

that every year several players can go from their freshman year in college right into the league, and stick? I realize that the proliferation of teams in the league has watered down the available talent, but it still does not make sense. I understand that a Lew Alcindor or Moses Malone might have gone early to the pros, but we are getting NBA talent down into the dime-a-dozen category.

I agree, Wes

On his Facebook preview of the Tulsa game, Flanigan said, "I think the main focus right now is defensively. We've got to figure out a way to try to get some more stops more consistently." He hit that nail on the head. We are a pretty good offensive team, but our defense has been sub-par, especially for Little Rock.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Role reversal

When UAFS was junior college, it used to be a major feeder of D1 programs, including Fayetteville. Now they are a four-year school at D2, and the situation is just the reverse. Now they are getting players from the D1 schools. On their roster they have players from Georgia, SLU, Air Force, New Orleans, SEMO, and UTSA.

A peek at next season

True freshman Andre Jones is 18 of 27 from the field so far. Redshirt sophomore Ben Marcus is 10 of 15 from the field. Sure, both of those are very small samples, but they are encouraging that the pipeline won't be completely empty after this year's large senior class leaves.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

It's early, but we are making progress

At the moment, Sagarin has six Sun Belt teams in the Top 150: Georgia State, Arlington, Arkansas State, USA, Louisiana and Little Rock.

Patience rewarded

Maurius Hill labored for three seasons largely in the background in Little Rock. He was a role player, one of the glue guys who would get a few minutes, but never was a headliner. But he was patient, and his senior year is being rewarded. He is second on the team in minutes played. He leads the team in assists and is second in rebounds. His time finally came, and he is making the most of it. Good for him, and good for Little Rock.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

We'll take it

Very few teams that win a lot of games in a season won't have a few squeakers. They win when they are supposed to win, but not by very much. We were expected to handle UCA. We did beat them, but by the narrowest of margins. We'll take the win, hopefully we'll learn from it, and be thankful for one that almost got away, but didn't.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Exceptional years help make exceptional years

It is a self-evident statement,  but it certainly helps for a team to have an exceptional year if its main scoring threat has an exceptional year. It is not absolutely essential, but it certainly makes things easier. Josh Hagins picked a good time to have a career season, for example. Marcus Johnson is scoring well - 15 points/game is nothing to sneeze at - but he is not shooting well. An anemic 23% from the arc is not going to get it done for one of your main 3-point threats. What has saved Marcus' bacon (and ours) is that he is getting to the line a lot and making his FTs. But if he can get his stroke going from outside it will make a huge difference (I predict) to this team's offense.

Monday, November 28, 2016

It's even true in prison

Up The River (1938) is a great old movie starring Preston Foster and the incomparable Arthur Treacher and a sterling cast of character actors. Early in the film, as Treacher and Foster return back to prison after being pinched once again for pulling bunko tricks, Slim Summerville, the coach of the prison football team, comments, "You read about them high-powered coaches, but I've coached at Atlanta, Levenworth and Sing-Sing, and a coach is no better than his material."

Saturday, November 26, 2016


We are 2-2 in D1 games. One of those losses was by one point when we played  absolutely terribly. Basically, when we have played well, we have won. When we played badly, we have lost. Conclusion, we are pretty good, but not good enough to win when we play badly.

Friday, November 25, 2016

When we get both barrells going

We have shown good shooting discipline so far this season in that our two "designated" 3-point shooters are taking most of the shots. Almost 60% of our attempts from the arc have been taken by Osse or Johnson. Our shooters are doing the shooting. The problem is that one of our shooters is only shooting 23%. Presumably that will change over time, and then things should begin to really click.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Once again the differentials are good

FG%: LR 57%, Opponents 41%
3PT%: LR 36%, Opp 34%
Rebounds: LR 38, Opp 32
Turnovers: LR 12.3, Opp 14.7

Proud of this team

This team is not as good as last year's team, at least at this point. We lost some key players, and have two players who presumably will be in the rotation who are not available. However, it can be pretty good, even with those who currently are available. I was very proud of the way the team bounced back from the tough loss to Pepperdine. They played good ball last night. They took good shots and it showed in their shooting percentage. MUCH improved from the night before. I don't know how the season will progress, but this team has the potential to be good.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

We have GOT to get back to what brung us

1. Play under control
2. Good shot selection. If it ain't good, don't take it.
3. Punishing half-court defense

We did not have any of those last night against Pepperdine.


The good news? We have several players who can score this year. Three in double figures and two more with 9-plus.

A story of two games

Game One. The Trojans bounce back from a disappointing loss with a clutch win over a team from a higher-ranked conference. They shoot 50% from the arc, make almost as many FTs as the other team shoots, and hold the opposition to a paltry 19% from 3-point range. Lis Shoshi hits 12 of 14 FTs. Forward Maurius Hill has three assists and zero turnovers.

Game Two. We shoot 36% overall and 25% from the arc. Our opponents shoot 51% overall and 53% from the arc. Only one player with double-figure minutes shoots over 33% from the field. Our main back-up at center scores one point on a FT, has four fouls and a turnover in 11 minutes played.

What a difference a day makes - in the wrong direction.

Which team will show up from here on?

Unlucky from the get-go

We have noted that you have to be lucky as well as good to win big. Last year we were both. Chris Beard dodged the bullet. This year the bullet hit us before we even took a step. Imagine playing a stretch of several games last season without Josh Hagins. Think it would have made a difference? You can count on it! And even worse, when a team gets out of rhythm because of a missing player, sometimes it is difficult to get back in rhythm. But we had no injuries, and we won 30 games.

I think one of the biggest factors in our difficulties thus far this season is that Marcus Johnson is playing point guard. Sure, he played point in juco and had gaudy stats, but it is a different game down there. The point guard's single biggest stat is the bottom line. He may score some, even quite a bit, but he stat he looks for is the one that shows how well the collective group for which he is the floor manager is doing. Does he make the other players better? Marcus does not appear to be as good at doing that as Hagins was as a senior. (It is worth mentioning that Hagins was not as good at doing it before his senior year.)

Johnson appears to think like a 2 guard - score first. That is understandable, since that is what he was expected to do last year, and did it very well, and he is our main scoring threat this year. What we need is someone with a point guard's mentality who can take that away from Marcus and allow him to do what he did so well last season. But that player is hurt.

This year, we have not been as lucky.

Rejoicing with our brethren

I love it when "at" schools beat the big schools that don't have to wear the "at." Fort Wayne (IPFW) knocked off #3 Indiana last night. I like it! Give Tom Crean a lot of credit for scheduling the game, although he probably wishes now that he had not. He has tons more courage than the Sausage Factory to the north of us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Who will Watkins replace?

I assumed (and it appeared many others did, also) that Dayshawn Watkins would be the starting point guard from Day One this season. But then he got hurt. Presumably he will return before long, but then where do you put him? Johnson is averaging 16 points per game, and Osse is shooting 48% from the arc and has only one turnover for the year.

Free throws cover a multitude of sins

Lis Shoshi and Marcus Johnson are having very poor shooting years so far. Shoshi is at 36% overall, which is horrible for a big man. Johnson is at 29% from the arc, which pales in comparison to the 46% he shot last season. However, both of them are averaging double figures, in part because of the fact that both of them are shooting a lot of free throws, and making them at a high percentage.

Rim protector

I have long felt that having a bona fide shot blocker in the middle allows teams to pressure the perimeter more than they otherwise could. We have one this season in Shoshi, with Black to back him up. Unless something unforeseen happens, Shoshi will end up among the career leaders in blocks in only two seasons here, so we ought to be able to be very aggressive defensively along the 3-point line.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The SEC is at it again

The new AP poll is just out. Kentucky is #1 - no surprise there. And the SEC has how many other teams in the Top 25? ZERO. Not one. In fact, if you go down to the "Others Receiving Votes" category, you have to go to 32nd to find Florida. Those are the only two SEC teams that even received votes. Arkansas did get two votes in the Coaches' Poll.

Records breed records

When you have an exceptional year, that makes it easier to have exceptional stretches. We set the program record for wins last season. So, what will it take to set the record for wins over two years and three years?

1987 (26) and 1988 (24) was the best two-year stretch in our history. With 30 wins last season, if we get 20 this season we will match that.

The '87 and '88 stretch was bracketed by 23-win years in 1986 and 1989, so either of those combinations would yield 73 wins over three years. With 13 wins year before last, it would require another 30-win season to match it.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Reviewing a tough loss

Last night against Idaho we could not hit the broad side of a barn. Our shooting was horrendous. I suppose it will come around in time. I hope. It was one of those nights when everyone was cold at the same time. That sometimes happens. Often our defense is good enough to bail us out when we go cold, but that was not the case last night. We are going to have to be tougher on offense. "Soft" teams settle for the perimeter shot; tough teams make good things happen in other ways.

Our rebounding was good, especially Lis Shoshi, who had a career night with 16 boards. That was good to see, because Lis' board work was OK last season, but not outstanding. A  few more nights like this one and he will be a sterling rebounder.

Marcus Johnson may need to be more selective with his shots until he begins to heat up. And he will. But he is also very good at getting to the line, and he may have to do more of his scoring that way. It is obvious that either something is mechanically off on his shot, or he is not mentally handling the switching back to point guard along with the burden of being the primary scorer. On the other hand, Kemy Osse has been hot as a fire poker from 3-point land at 11 for 22. He needs to be shooting more, I would say.

One  thing I do like is that we kept our turnovers down to ten. And Johnson's A/TO is at 2.25 for the season, which is very solid.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Sometime the previous guy should get part of the "credit"

From Wikipedia about Porter Moser: The architect of the greatest turnaround in Sun Belt Conference history, Moser turned a 4-24 team into an 18-11 outfit in just one year.

Without question, Porter did a phenomenal job in his first season as a head coach and deserves a ton of credit. However, he had much of the same players as Sidney Moncrief had the previous season, so part of the differential between the two season may have been that Moncrief was just such a bad coach.

The excitement before the first real game

The non-D1 games notwithstanding, the real season starts tonight when Idaho comes to town. How good will we be? Idaho is no slouch, though not a powerhouse. They should give us a decent test in any case.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

You have to be consistent

In order to make the all-time list in one of the shooting percentage categories, you have to be consistent across your career. One bad year can ruin you, as Ben Dillard found out. As an illustration, the 15th place on the season percentage is 41.3%, and no telling how many others were above 40%. However, on the career list only six players in the history of Trojan basketball have averaged 40%.

Early attendance

If the attendance numbers on the first two games are legit (actually bodies in seats), then the gate was very encouraging. 2363 and 1781. Not bad at all for early-season non-D1 opponents.

Might be special

It is early, and the competition has been weak, but so far it is looking like Andre Jones might be something special.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Strong start for the seniors

They were only non-D1 opponents, but Kemy Osse and Maurius Hill have put on a show in the first two games. Really nice numbers. Good senior leadership.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The universal caveat

"I we stay healthy." That little black cloud always hangs over the expectations and hopes of fans. We should be good - IF no one gets hurt. Here we are one game into the season and already have two casualties. Well, that is when depth pays off. I hope we have enough of it.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Glue guys

Kemy Osse and Maurius Hill are two guys who make a team go. They just do the things that help teams win. They are not fancy players - not spectacular, just steady. Solid seniors.

The first win is behind him

Congratulations to Coach Wes Flanigan on his first win as a D1 head coach. Let's hope there are many more to follow, and this is the beginning of a long and successful run in Little Rock.

Image result for wes flanigan

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Huge win for Staten Island

Wagner, located on Staten Island in New York with an enrollment of about 2200, took down #18 Connecticut. Go Seahawks!

Recruiting class

I would have to give Wes Flanigan's first recruiting class a B, at least to this point. Solid, but not great.

Wes gets points for going more heavily for freshmen than for jucos (and one of those will have three years left). All else being equal, I am heartily in favor of that approach. I also think he plugged exactly the holes we were needing to fill. We will still have two 6-9 players for the next two years, so we have size on the topside, but as I have frequently commented, we had little in the mid-range - the size you would expect the 4 spot to be. We picked up at least one player for every spot except the 5. And we added a freshman point guard, and you have to keep points coming into the system. Thirdly, we signed all six spots in the early signing period, which presumably means we got who we wanted, so if our evaluation was on, it should pay off.

On the downside, we do not appear to have hit any home runs with this class. There is not a Will Neighbours in it. However, that usually is the case with schools at our level. Rating services don't spend much time looking at the lower levels; plus, they are looking at what players are, while coaches look for what a player can be.

So, time will tell. One thing for sure, given our large turnover after this season, some of these recruits are going to get a larger-than-usual amount of playing time for newcomers.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Watch out for the Gak

Florida has a 6-11 freshman named Gorjak Gak. Being the PA announcer for the Magazine Rattlers for the past several years, I am frequently intrigued by how I might call a particular name after a score. This one might be a little difficult, assuming it is pronounced like it sounds. It would be hard to keep from sounding a little like you had just swallowed your gum or were about to throw up or something. Nothing against the young man's name, but it would present some interesting problems at the microphone.

Incidentally, he is a nephew of Longar Longar, who played at Oklahoma.

The easy start

Loading two non-D1 schools at the start of the schedule pretty much guarantees that the season will start with a yawn, but hopefully it will serve one very good purpose. With the high roster turnover we are going to have after this season, we definitely need to get as much playing time as possible for the underclassmen, and that may be hard to do when the meat of the schedule comes up. So if we can get a lot of minutes for the down-benchers in these first two games, we need to. Non-senior scholarship players got 65 minutes against Monticello, and four of them had double-figure minutes, so that is a good start.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Calipari's annual fizzle

John Calipari has  been at Kentucky since 2009. Every year he rakes in tons of one-and-done "rent-a-championship" style talent. Every year they automatically are in the Final Four prediction.  But once - ONLY ONCE - have they won the national championship during Calipari's reign. Sure, other teams get one-and-done level talent, but usually not in droves like Kentucky does. I would say Kentucky is probably not getting a very good return on their coaching dollars investment, at least in production. Recruiting, certainly. But (perish the thought!) recruiting is not all there is to coaching basketball.

How to take care of the kneeling during the national anthem

When the team lines up for the Star Spangled Banner, have a WWII veteran in uniform facing the team. Better yet, let it be one who won a purple heart, and announce that before the Anthem.

Image result for world war ii veteran

I wish they were like Saban

Wouldn't it be nice if all college coaches and players were like Nick Saban in this regard?

"I don't really make political comments," Saban said. "If I say I like one person, that means that everybody that voted for the other person doesn't like me. So why would I do that? I want what's best for our country. I'm not sure I can figure that out. I want what's best for people who want to improve the quality of their life, and I hope whoever our leader is will certainly do all that he can do to make our country safe and improve the quality of life of a lot of people in our country -- and I don't think I'm qualified to determine who that should be."


One would not think that this would be a great rebounding team. We were not last season, and have much of the same personnel this year. However, as has been proven many times, it does not take height to make good rebounding. Mainly it takes desire and good fundamentals. After all, our own Rashad Jones-Jennings led the nation in boards without being a great leaper. He just wanted ALL the rebounds and assumed they were his. The Round Mound of Rebound was listed as 6-6, but was said actually to be around 6-4, and yet he led the SEC in rebounding and still holds the Auburn record for FG percentage. It will all come down to how much emphasis Coach Flanigan puts on rebounding and how well his staff teaches it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Other conferences I like

Missouri Valley
Big East
Ohio Valley

For various reasons. Several teams in the MoVal I really like. Ditto Summit. Ditto Ohio Valley. Southland is close at hand. Big East doesn't have football.

Senior leadership

It was only an exhibition game against Monticello, but I liked what I saw in senior leadership. We started five seniors - no surprise there - and with the exception of Lis Shoshi, who had foul trouble, all of them had good games (and even Shoshi was 2 of 2 from the field). A team does not often have as many upperclassmen as we have this season, and we need to make the best of it. This was a good start.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

I used to be a Wisconsin fan

but all this social activism stuff coming out of their team has just about soured me on them.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Social statements

I watch basketball for the fun of it. I would just as soon not have the sport weighted down with social statements, whether or not I agree or disagree with them. If players have a right to free speech, so do I. Basketball is fun to me, but it is not important enough for me to have to switch from booing one minute to cheering the next. I'll just stay home if it comes to that.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Will we stay with what brought us?

This team did a lot of things well last season. When you are in the top 30 teams in a category, you are among the elite in that specific aspect of the game. We won 30 games last season because of our Scoring Defense (#4), FG Defense (#15),  Turnovers Per Game (#20) and 3-point FG% (#28). (All this is per College Sports Madness.) I can tell you that very few teams ranked that high in four separate categories. In short, the Trojans did a lot of things well last year, and it paid off in the win column, which it generally will. What makes these things even more remarkable is that except for the 3PT%, the other categories are not of the sort that makes kids excited,  because they are generally seen as contributing to a “boring” style of play. But we have six seniors who know that those things produced wins, and hopefully they will stay bought into what brought them to the Dance.

Chicago has had some good ballclubs

It wasn't as though the Chicago Cubs had not had some good teams back down through the years. Back in the days of Ferguson Jenkins, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo, they had some outstanding talent. But somehow they just could not get over the hump.

Growing up a Cardinals fan

When the steroid controversy flared up back when home runs became a dime a dozen, I stopped followed major league baseball. However, like a legion of other boys of my generation living in the middle-USA, I grew up a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. Before expansion began in 1961, there were not really any other teams to compete for fans over a huge section of real estate. No Kansas City, no Texas, no Atlanta, etc. It was the Cards, or nothing. Generations of middle-Americans grew up rooting for the Cards, mainly because they were the "only game in town." The other big plus they had going for them was the fact that their games were broadcast on KMOX, which could be heard at night over most of their fan base. We had a beat-up old radio that stayed in our room, and I would turn it on at night at a very low volume and listen to Cardinals games surreptitiously. Way back then the announcers were Harry Caray and Jack Buck, both of whom went on to become “legendary” broadcasters. It made for some very pleasant memories.

I first really took hold as a Cards fan during the 1964 World Series, which St. Louis won in seven games over the Yankees. One of my best friends was a big Yankee fan, and it was fun to rub it in to him.

Record for same starters?

I do not know what the record is for a team having the same starters in consecutive games, but Wisconsin might have a go at this season. The same five players started all 35 games last year, and all of them return for this season.

The Cubs finally do it!

The pig was on Social Security by this time, but the Cubs finally brought home the bacon. I gladly became a Chicago fan for their historic run. Lots of fun! I love rooting for underdogs, anyway, and the Cubbies definitely have been that. They almost managed to cough it up one more time, but for once my gut feeling was correct, and they pulled it out.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The day that defense died

It is painful to see people die a slow death. Sometimes we feel it would be much better if they would die quickly and do away with the agonizing decline.

The fathers of college basketball seem determined that defense shall die. "Defense is bad" seems to be the motto these days. "We have to have more scoring." Well, why piddle around about it? Just change the rules to where players cannot play defense - at all. That obviously is what they want. Oh, they give lip service to it, but they really do not want it. They want to see games of 110-108, because those are "exciting." Ok, fine. If that is what you want, then at least have the courage to go ahead and admit it and change the rules to where defense cannot exist at all. Just do it. That is obviously where you are trying to take the game. If you are determined to murder defense, then put a bullet in its head.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A handy guy to have around

Kwanza Johnson's undergraduate degree was in economics, and then he went on to get his Juris Doctor at Tulsa College of Law. Pretty good load of gray matter, obviously. And if Wes needs some quick legal or economic advice, he doesn't have to go very far.

Consider the plight of Chicago State

This WAC school has been facing some dire financial straits recently. They do not play a D1 opponent at home until January 5.

Why white uniforms?

Why do teams wear their white uniforms for home games?! Almost always the colored uniforms look light years better than the white ones. So why waste the drab uniforms on the home crowd? Wear the blah uniforms on the road.

Hurry up, Biggie

Here is hoping that Shandon Goldman develops quickly, at least enough that he can give us a few quality minutes by conference time. As long as Black and Shoshi stay healthy, we should be OK inside, but if something happens to Jalen Jackson, then we would not have anyone between 6-9 and 6-5, meaning we would be VERY small at the 4 spot.

Monday, October 31, 2016


I must admit that I was not overwhelmed by Flanigan's choices, collectively considered. Given the fact that he had no head coaching experience, it would have been nice to see at least one assistant who filled that bill. However, Mitch Cole was a successful head coach at a lower level, so that should help. Kwanza Johnson has been an assistant under several head coaches (including Porter Moser) and has seen a lot of different styles and situations, plus he played for Tubby Smith. He probably will be a head coach one of these days. And even John Wooden at one point had no experience, so that fact alone does not tell the whole story. The question is, Can they teach basketball? More so than in football, the head coach in basketball controls the game situations, so the assistants are mainly there for teaching and recruiting. We shall see how they did.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Nine days. Time for excitement to build.

The season is almost upon us! This could be and should be a pretty good year. We need to put two of them back to back. That would be a big boost to the program. There should be a lot of pressure on Wes Flanigan, which I hope translates to urgency with the team. This is a veteran group and we have adequate size, so there should be no excuses, barring injuries.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The post game is boring?

People who say that power basketball that thrives on getting the ball down low to the big guys is boring never saw the epic battles between Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. Back then there were fewer teams in the NBA, and so they faced each other more often over the course of a season than would be the case today. Their match-ups were eagerly anticipated by sports fans, and when they were on television they drew a large audience. Those were epic battles. Boring? Hardly!

Image result for bill russell  chamberlain

Coaches just cannot coach big men!

I suppose it is the influence of the three-point shot, but coaches today just do not know how to develop big men, or for that matter to teach guards how to play with big men. Last night I watched a team with 6-8 and 6-5 big men play a team that probably did not have anyone over 6-3, and maybe not even that. The 6-8 player was a legitimate talent and was athletic, but only ONCE in the game did he post up low. He could get enough higher than anyone else on the court that the other team could not have denied him the ball if it were lobbed to him properly, and once he got the ball down low there was little they could do to keep him from scoring, because he was mobile and had a pretty good touch. But, they would get him the ball up in the high post, and ended up having to play like a guard, which he wasn't. What a waste!

Friday, October 28, 2016

What kind of team will this be?

I wish I knew. There are three indicators that come to mind.

1. What sort of player was Wes Flanigan in his college days? That one I cannot answer. I know he was pretty good, but I know nothing about his style. He was not a great shooter at all, averaging 26.8% from the arc in each of his last two seasons there. He led the team in steals both those seasons.

2. What style does Cliff Ellis (his coach at Auburn) prefer? His teams at Coastal Carolina have been notable for very tough defense.

3. Flanigan already has indicated that he does not intend to make a lot of major changes from the approach the team had last season. Although he has a lot of seniors, and it would not be overly smart to rock the boat too much, I would assume that that means that he is in agreement with the Beard style for the most part.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Dillard at the line

Ben Dillard's place among the great shooters in Little Rock history was submarined by an abysmal senior year, but the guy could shoot free throws! His career mark of 82.4% ranks fourth all-time.

Image result for ben dillard ualr

Scoring should not be a problem this year

There is Johnson, of course. But Jalen Jackson almost certainly will be in double figures, and it would not surprise me to see Shoshi there, also. Outside of that depends on playing time. Three double-figures is about all you can expect from a team that does not play at high-octane speed.

Bulky this year?

We will not be a big team this year (as in Derrick Bails or Mike Smith), but we will have some players who look to be strong, particularly Oliver Black, Maurius Hill, Ryan Pippins, and Kemy Osse. I think we will be able to hold our own when the head-butting starts.

Another team sheds the "AT" designation

IPFW will now be branded "Fort Wayne." Welcome to the club, Mastadons!


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Who might be the surprises in the Belt?

Who are the teams that may overachieve from what we expect going into the season? Well, first off, our own Trojans. I think most expect we will take a step backward (hopefully only a small one), but who knows? Maybe we pick right back up where we left off. Yes, we lost some talent, but yes, we have some new talent in the wings.

Coastal Carolina is another possibility simply because we do not yet know them very well. They have been pretty good in a somewhat lower-ranked conference, and they may be able to translate that to the Sun Belt.

Louisiana lost Shawn Long, and so I assume they will go into rebuilding - but will they? Sometimes very good players are waiting in the wings until the current star leaves the picture, and then they emerge in a hurry. If UL solves their woeful 3-point shooting, they could be a big surprise.

Georgia Southern was 10-10 in conference with a VERY young team last year. It is logical to think that they are still a year away from breaking into the cream of the Belt, but their guys may grow up quicker than expect, and tomorrow might end up being today.

Arkansas State. New coach with a bunch of new players. Who can say? Coach Beard threw together a lineup in a hurry last season and it was very successful. ASU might do the same.

This could apply to a lot of different players

"O'Brien needs to work on his outside shot still, or at least stop taking them."

This was College Sports Madness' comment on Southern Illinois senior Sean O'Brien. But, hey, who can blame him? The wise fathers of the sport have decreed that three-point shooting is the only thing that matters these days, so why not blast away?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The pressure will be this year

In an ideal world, a new coach's first year would have lesser pressure, followed by increased pressure in subsequent years as he gets his feet on the ground. Sadly, Wes Flanigan will not have that luxury. The pressure will be this year. After everything broke just right last season and we won 30 games, and with a load of seniors this year, the heat will be on for us to do well, however "well" might be defined. Next year we will lose a ton of talent and experience, and Wes will get some slack as we rebuild, but this year - the future is now.

Tubby's promise

New Memphis head coach Tubby Smith: "They are going to play so hard and they are going to play together and they are going to play smart and they are going to defend. I promise you that." My interpretation? They are going to play good basketball.

Keen interest about negligible skill

          The President's Cup, for all its high-sounding name, was one of the lowliest and mot humble trophies offered for competition to the members of our club, ranking in the eyes of good judges somewhere between the Grandmothers' Umbrella and the Children's All-Day Sucker (open to boys and girls not yet having celebrated their seventh  birthday). It has been instituted by a kindly committee for the benefit of the canaille of our little golfing world, those retired military, naval and business men who withdraw to the country and take up golf in their fifties. The contest was decided by medal play, if you could call it that, and no exponent with a handicap of under twenty-four was allowed to compete.
          Nevertheless, there was no event on the fixture list which aroused among those involved a tenser enthusiasm. Centenarians sprang from their bathchairs to try their skill, and I have seen men with waist lines of sixty doing bending and stretching exercises for weeks in advance in order to limber themselves up for the big day. Form was eagerly discussed in the smoking room, and this year public opinion wavered between two men: Joseph Poskitt, the First Grave Digger, and Wadsworth Hemmingway, better known in sporting circles as Palsied Percy.

(from The Letter of the Law, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Interest from the get-go?

The department says that season ticket sales are up 25% this year. That is a good sign. Our (once again) weak home non-conference won't help interest early, but maybe by conference time things will be picking up. Wouldn't it be nice if interest was high from the very start?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Good for Marquette's Duane Wilson!

In response to the "I'm broke" stunt by Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes:

Wilson tweeted: "Don't say you're broke unless your account says $0.00... I know people that's really out here struggling for a meal yet a dollar."

"It's a shame seeing people do these stunts for social media attention. That's really corny and sad. Our generation so unappreciative."

"I got a son and I'm a student athlete yet I'll never complain or say I'm broke. Where I'm from it's a blessing to even get a free education."

A scholarship is a contract, just like any other. If I sign up to be an engineer for Microsoft and invent a product that makes them millions of dollars, I have no complaint because that is what I signed up to do. Athletes are no different. If they do not want to play in college under those terms, then let them go pro.

No stampede on this trail drive

With six scholarship seniors, two of them redshirt seniors, all with an NCAA victory and the bright lights that go with it under their belts, I would assume that this should be a steady, battle-tested team that will not panic under pressure.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

John Fowler - mathematical proof

I have long maintained that most basketball fans and observers have faulty mathematics: they can add, but they cannot subtract. In 2009, John Fowler proved my point. He was named the Defensive Player of the Year in the SBC for that season, and the reward was richly deserved. He was one of the very finest defenders it has ever been my privilege to watch. When he locked in on an offensive player, he was in trouble. However, Fowler was not named to the All-SBC First Team. And it was not as though Fowler was a one-dimensional player, because he averaged 10.5 points per game, and 5.6 rebounds. He was more than solid in all aspects of the game. What were the odds that all of the First Team players were even close to being as good as Fowler was on defense? And yet the voters ignored his defensive prowess when the voting for the big prize was done. They could add - but they could not subtract.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Import your big men

It is a pretty good strategy if you can identify them. Rutgers' roster shows 7-0, 7-0, 6-10, 6-9, 6-9, and all but one of them are from a foreign country. Plus a 6-6 kid from Canada.

Three burning questions

1. Will Watkins (or someone) step up to run the team in the absence of Hagins?

2. Can we get by with a lack of sufficient depth up front?

3. Who will emerge as the second and third scoring options to replace Hagins and Woods?

Monday, October 17, 2016

My, how things have changed!

I found this quote from College Sports Madness' preview of Rhode Island: "Iverson is a beast on the glass and averaged 7.1 rebounds per game." Seven rebounds a game makes you a "beast" on the boards? I remember a quote I once read from Oscar Robertson. I can't render it exactly, but he said something to the effect that if a power forward averages 8 rebounds per game these days, he is all-league. In Oscar's day, if he averaged that, he sat on the bench. There are several factors in that change, of course, but it is significant.

Point guard - the unsettling factor

As much as any factor, what will keep a program unsettled is uncertainty at the point guard spot. Several of us have said that you need three legitimate point guards on the roster, and I would amend that by saying that you also need a shooting guard or two who could handle the role in a pinch. If you don't have a point guard who can run the offense and who is a disruptive factor on defense, it is like having a car that is missing: things just do not run right. The team and the staff may know by this point, but as fans the uncertainty at the point guard position is the main thing that tempers optimism about the upcoming season.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The sad lot of linemen

On ESPN's NCAA Football Scoreboard sight, they have a summary of "Top Performers" on the right hand side of the screen: the top passer, the top runner, the top receiver.  Mind you, one of the offensive linemen might be having the single greatest game in the history of NCAA football,  but his name would never be mentioned.

Friday, October 14, 2016

I am not a coach . . . BUT

seeing that Cal State Northridge finished 334th in the country last season in 3PT%, I think even I could figure out where they need to improve. Ouch!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The future looks Biggie

I do not know how much Biggie Goldman will play this year. If his case is typical of most true freshman big men, probably not much. But that is not the main question. How good will he be by the time he leaves Little Rock? That is what interests me. He has some skills, and he has size. The staff will add strength, and if he listens to them, he will add even more skills. Until we see him on the court, it is hard to say, but I think the future looks bright for Mr. Goldman.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Go Scarlet Knights!

I am going to watch Rutgers a little this season. New coach Steve Pickiell says the Scarlet Knights will go with a foundation of defense and rebounding. I like it!

Greatest or best?

Asking who was the greatest player in your program's history is entirely different from asking who was the best player. Take our own Little Rock situation, for instance. Back in the old days we were not Division One. For that matter, if you go far enough back, we were not even a four-year school.

A player who was completely dominant in our early days would not be the best player ever to have played in Little Rock because our talent level was not as good back then - but he might have been the greatest player. For example, the stats put up by Larry Johnson back in the mid-1970s were absolutely astounding. He averaged 14.1 rebounds per game over his career. We have only had three players (he was two of them) to average that over a single season. Furthermore, he had 265 career blocks. Second place is 158. No one is even close to him in two career categories. The best player ever to be in Little Rock? No, probably not by a good bit. But he might just be the greatest player ever.

The Ivy League caves in

The Ancient Eight have had about as much success in the NCAA tournament as any conference at their level in recent years. Maybe, just maybe, that was because they sent their best team to the Dance each year.

But, caving into the pre$$ure of having a post-season tournament, they now have modified their NCAA qualifier to be like everyone else, so that potentially they may be sending their worst team to the Tournament. That ought to really help their success!

Where Athlon picked our non-conference opponents

Idaho - 2nd of 12 Big Sky
St. Bony - 8th of 14 Atlantic 10
Pepperdine - 4th of 10 WCC
Central Mich - 6th of 6 Mid-Am West
UCA - 12th of 13 Southland
Tulsa - 9th of 11 AAC
Pine Bluff - 9th of 10 SWAC
Northern Ariz - 11th of 12 Big Sky
Oral Roberts - 8th of 9 Summit
Florida - 3rd of 14 SEC

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Watkins at the 2?

The interview with Dayshawn Watkins on the official site said that he "will be looked to for minutes at both guard positions." That was a little bit of a surprise to me. I had assumed he was a pure point guard, but evidently not. It does give us that much more versatility, and probably opens up a few minutes for the younger point guards.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Talk about the Royal Three!

(from Rivals)

No program [in the WCC] besides Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s or BYU has reached the WCC title game in the past eight years. San Francisco’s second-place finish in 2014 is the only time any other team has cracked the top three in the WCC standings since BYU joined the league in 2011.

The Jones Indicator

There are benchmarks by which you can measure a team. One of them is the quality of incoming recruits - if there was an upgrade. Watch closely for the playing time of Andre Jones this year. He is the highest-ranked of the incoming recruits. If he does not get much time, that is not necessarily a bad thing given the number of upperclassmen we have. However, if he does get a lot of time, that means we lured in a good one. If he plays with all the veterans we have, then he is pretty good.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Better get started has Moses Moody of Parkview as the #2 player of his class in the state. Since we have definite Parkview connections, we need to get started recruiting this kid right now. Maybe we are.

The devastation that is Rutgers

I have not investigated it, but I am sure Rutgers must be fairly good in some sports. However, they are horrible in football and basketball, and thus their national profile is pretty bad. I assume their Athletic Director has ulcers.

Ah, great fun during college football season

Watching the scores, rooting for SEC teams to get beat.

Mercy rule

Last night Two Rivers traveled to Charleston in football. Charleston is #1 in the state with D1 talent on the roster. Two Rivers has 14 players on the roster. They started mercy rule before the first quarter was over, obviously by common consent of the coaches since that usually does not start until the second half. Now, basketball is a different situation. The bench will be chock full when Two Rivers comes to town, and they are usually pretty good.

I feel for Two Rivers, because my son-in-law faced a similar situation in his first three years at Magazine. . His first year (2010) they were 0-10. In three years they won five games. It was a very discouraging period. Of course, he hung in there and eventually some talent came up through the system and in 2010 the Rattlers were undefeated State Champs.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Hey, recruits

Come to Little Rock, where basketball matters! It is the lead sport at the major college in the state's biggest market. Beautiful, fan-friendly arena. Consistently among the better attendance records in the conference. Lots of reasons to be a Trojan.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Arlington, and who else?

UTA is the solid favorite to win the Belt this season, and rightly so. They are loaded. The only other teams I see with a reasonable chance to challenge them are Little Rock, Georgia Southern, CCU and Louisiana. Other teams might surprise the pundits with a high finish, but those are the teams I see having a realistic chance to win it all.

The happy balance

Like all head coaches promoted internally with a large number of key returning players, Wes Flanigan has had to strike a balance between continuity and change. By leaving most things in place, the veterans can concentrate on getting better instead of learning a new system. However, he wants to leave his stamp on the program from the get-go, so he has to tweak a few things. Some change, but not too much change.

Andre Jones' family

In his interview on the official site:

What's your favorite thing about living in Little Rock?   My family. Everybody in my family lives around the same area, so I get to see them whenever I want.

I hope he has a large family and that they attend all the games.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The stats prove why

I have taken my share of belittling because of my habit of trying to delve into the statistics to see why a team does or does not play well. "Just score more than the other team" is a frequent smart-aleck reply. But in the case of Wichita State, there is no doubt why they have been as good as they have.

National rankings out of 347 teams:
Scoring defense - #1
FG% defense - #7
Rebound margin - #51
Turnovers per game - #8

The bottom line is that they just played good basketball. Tough defense. Good rebounding. Take care of the ball. Yes, you still have to out-score the other teams, but when you do those things, the other guys are going to have to be very efficient indeed in their offense in order to out-score you. It puts a lot of pressure on the other team's offense, and most of the time they were not up to the task, and Wichita won.

Know any golfers like these?

"His gaze, passing from the lemonade which he is sucking through a straw, rests upon the Saturday foursome which is struggling raggedly up the hill to the ninth green. Like all Saturday foursomes, it is in difficulties. One of the patients is zigzagging about the fairway like a liner pursued by submarines. Two others seem to be digging for buried treasure, unless - it is too far off to be certain - they are killing snakes. The remaining cripple, who has just foozled a mashie-shot, is blaming his caddie. His voice, as he upbraids the innocent child for breathing during his up-swing, comes clearly up the hill."

(from Ordeal by Golf, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Dirigible ball

I remember an old B. C. comic strip in which Wiley, the character with a peg leg, is visiting his pitcher on the mound, and asks him if he can get out one more batter. "Sure, Skipper. I'm going to throw him a doozy." The next frame has only the giant letters "BAT!!" In the last frame, the manager caustically asks, "Since when is the ol ' dirigible ball a doozy?"

Monday, October 3, 2016

Best name of the year?

Pancake Thomas of Western Kentucky (formerly of Hartford). I have no idea if that is his legal name or just a nickname, but it is the name they use on the roster.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The great humbler

[Golf's] great service to humanity is that it teaches human beings that, whatever petty triumphs they may have achieved in other walks of life, they are after all merely human. It acts as a corrective against sinful pride. I attribute the insane arrogance of the later Roman emperors almost entirely to the fact that, never having played golf, they never knew that strange chastening humility which is engendered by a topped chip-shot. If Cleopatra had been outed in the first round of the Ladies' Singles, we should have heard a lot less of her proud imperiousness.

(from The Magic Plus Fours, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Quick study

We have a new coach, but he was here last year and so he knows most of the players and was involved in the recruiting of the rest of them. Most of the players are upper-classmen and so should be quick studies on anything new wrinkles that Wes wants to bring in. Logically, we ought to be ahead of the curve of where teams normally are at this point in the season.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Does anyone want to play inside any more?

Down low, where the dirty work is done, where the dress code is blue collar? Or does everyone want to stand around on the arc shooting 3s? My kingdom for an honest-to-goodness big man.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Performance or potential

Coaches at our level try to recruit the best players they can get. You have to. However, they know they are not going to get the best talent that is available. So, where they cannot get immediate performance, they have to recruit upside. Potential. Do you remember just how raw Akeem Olajuwon was his first year at Houston? But his potential - obviously - was through the roof. Some guards at our level are good shooters or good ball handlers, but their games are pretty much one-dimensional. It is not that they cannot do the other things; they just never have had to, or perhaps never tried to. A good coach can take such a player under his wing, round out his game, make him more consistent, and make a much better ball player out of him - if they kid is willing to work hard. So, where our coaches cannot get performance, they have to recruit attitude and physical tools, or in other words, potential.

This class is a MUST

I realize that rating stars for recruits do not mean all that much - just the opinion of someone who probably does not follow recruits at our level all that closely. Furthermore, a player may not be ranked highly, but may fit a coach’s scheme exactly and thus may be the ideal recruit. None of the three commitments we have thus far are ranked higher than a 2-star, but that does not concern me too much. After all, Marcus Johnson shows as a 2-star.

Regardless of all that, we do not have the option of having an “OK” class this next year. It has to have both quantity and quality. Wes is reputed to be a good recruiter, and he needs to prove it, because the time is now. If we have a good season this time, but then we whiff for two or three years in the future  because our recruiting was sub-par, Wes will be looking for a job not too far down the line.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Two years of relevancy?

Last year the relevant college basketball team in the state of Arkansas was Little Rock, not Fayetteville. It will be extremely difficult for us to duplicate last year's accomplishments, and Fayetteville has some high-powered weapons, plus they can afford to buy a lot of wins. Being #1 in the state two years in a row would be very tough - but wouldn't it be fun?!

Akron - another example to emulate

According to Athlon, Akron has won 20 or more games eleven seasons in a row, and are expected to do it again this year. That is a pretty good strategy - just win 20 games and let the rest take care of itself (which it probably will if you win that consistently).

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Who will the shooters be?

With today's game being weighted so heavily toward the three-point shot, you really cannot survive very well without it. So who will our gunners be? Obviously Johnson. Obviously Osse. Jalen Jackson and Maurius Hill shot pretty good percentages last season, but they did not shoot often enough to get much of a track record. Evan Moorman can shoot lights out, but will he get in the games enough to do so? Past that we are just shooting in the dark.

Monday, September 26, 2016

What have we not done lately?

What statistical categories have fallen on hard times lately? Say, since the year 2000.

No one has made 190 or more FGs

A couple more were close.
Only Stan Blackmon averaged at least 17.7 points per game.
Only Blackmon shot 55.3% from the field or more

Outside of these, every statistical category had at least two entries since 2000.

It can be proven: 3-point shooters are a dime a dozen

Even Division 2 schools have shooters - LOTS of shooters. UAFS shot 39.6% as a team from the arc. Even Division 3 schools have kids that can nail 3-point shots all day long. Even high school kids can do it. Everyone can play HORSE. Finding a post player who can shoot 60% is much more rare than one that can shoot 40% from the arc. And find one who averages 10 rebounds per game, and then compare that to the number of sparkling 3-point percentages. I stick by my statement that shooters are the plain vanilla ice cream of the college basketball world.


Even though my father never golfed, I had a keen interest in professional golf in my youthful days. And one picture that will ever be etched in my memory is that of Arnold Palmer striding down the course in that forceful, intense manner of his. He was not the greatest golfer - not quite - but to me he is the most memorable. Jack Nicklaus won more tournaments and defined excellence in the game, but Palmer was Mr. Golf. He was the heart and soul of the sport. And the battles that were waged by Nicklaus, Gary Player and himself over several years were epic.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Another side of Johnson's game

Because he had  such an outstanding year shooting 3s, I have tended to forget that Marcus Johnson was  second in the team in attempted free throws, behind only Roger Woods. And he made 78% of them, which is more than respectable. Since he will be even more of the focus of opponents' defenses this year, expect that he will go to the line even more.

Recruiting vs. development

          Sleezipari can keep Kentucky in the hunt by his rent-a-championship tactics, and under the current environment, it will work year after year. We cannot snag that sort of talent; but a coach who is as good at developing talent as he is at recruiting it can keep his team at a high level IF he can get players to stay, which can be a problem in today's world.
          "You will play if you get better, and if you stay here you will get better."
          "But I want to play right now, even if I don't get better."    
          Sad, but true - that is often the way it is these days. Still, if a coach can recruit the right type of players (with good attitudes), and gains a reputation as a developer of talent, he should be able to get enough of the right sort to maintain a high level of accomplishment.

The evolution of "bogey"

If you read P. G. Wodehouse's collection of comic short stories about golf, you will find that they are mostly set in the time when players made a small mound of sand for a tee; in other words, they are from a long time ago. Another thing you will find strange is his use of the word "bogey." He uses it in the sense that we now use "par," and at first it is tempting to think that he just does not know what he is talking about and is using the term wrongly. However, the website tells us that in the 1890s, course managers began to develop standard stroke expectations for their courses, and called that the "bogey" for each hole. It was not until the mid-20th century that the term "par" began to be used for the expected score for each hole. So, Wodehouse got it right.


Friday, September 23, 2016

We need a few blowout wins

so the younger players on the end of the  bench can get some significant minutes. We do not need to go into next season with a roster as inexperienced as it might  be if that factor is not managed.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

WAC is still BIG

Draw a line from Bakersfield, CA up to Seattle, then across to Chicago, and then down to Brownsville, TX. That is the scope of the current WAC. Travel costs still have to be horrendous.

Following multiple teams

I admit that I have overdone it the last few years, but I think the enjoyment of college basketball increases tremendously when you follow several teams closely. In the first place, that gives you an increased chance of having one of your teams be successful in any given year. In the second place, it gives you a  broader perspective on the sport as a whole. After my impending retirement, I doubt that I will be following the sport as closely, but I will still have several teams that I will keep up with.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Where's the height?

We have six seniors we presumably will have to replace.

If is correct, we have three commitments so far: 6-4, 6-2, 6-1. So far we are getting significantly smaller.

Who will get the minutes?

With one or two exceptions, this is not too hard to figure. Marcus Johnson, Lis Shoshi, Jalen Jackson and probably Dayshawn Watkins will get all the minutes they can stand. They will be on the floor a lot. All the upper-classmen will get significant minutes, plus Oliver Black. That doesn't leave much for the freshmen and the rest of the sophomores. Any of them who gets significant minutes (and Andre Jones might), will earn them.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What do I say to Officer Black?

Oliver Black is a criminal justice major. Do you know what I would say to him if he stopped my car? "Yes, sir, Mr. Black." He will be an imposing officer.

It seems evident

that this will be a perimeter-oriented team, judging based on the personnel. I hope we have the horses for it, because the fewer dimensions you have to a team, the less options you have.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A pretty good legacy

According to Athlon, during their term at Wichita, Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet played in NCAA Tournament victories over Pitt, Gonzaga, Ohio State, Indiana, Kansas and Arizona. Not many players at any level can say that over the last four years.

Work down low?

We have three big men on our roster - plenty for our level - but Shoshi likes to do most of his work facing the basket, and it appears that Goldman is a similar type player. That would leave only Oliver Black to do the dirty work inside with his back to the basket, and he may well spend the season as a back-up to Shoshi.

Friday, September 16, 2016

I really, really wish

that the NCAA would get out of politics and stick with sports. I have seen nothing to indicate that Mr. Mark Emmert is such a paragon of moral wisdom that he should have the right to use his financial leverage to foist upon individual states his own personal ethics, or lack of same.

Speaking of Rutgers' woes

Last season they were the worst money-conference team in the country (#267 according to Sagarin). That is pretty awful, especially when you consider that they ranked behind Jackson State from the SWAC, where athletic budgets are miniscule.

Will it generate any excitement?

I will be very curious to see if having a local product coaching the team will generate any additional interest from the local sports fan base. Probably not too much, but anything helps.

Talk about hard times!

I just read in Athlon that Rutgers has had just five winning seasons since 1991.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Who will be the Chemistry Master?

Star players sometimes are the locker room leaders, but not always. Sometimes it is a lesser-used player who just has a way with people. Players may respect his character and personality even if his skill is not overwhelming. Normally the player who forms the team chemistry is an upperclassman, and so it is easy to pick the candidates for the job. With this team being chin-deep in upperclassmen, however, it is a little harder to predict.

If you want to attract foreign students

Then just start a men's soccer program. Lyon College has one. Of the 27 players on the roster, twelve are from foreign countries, Germany, Chile, Brazil, Spain, Mexico and Ivory Coast.

No comparison

Football has nothing to compare with the Big East - a non-money conference which competes on a par with the Big Five on a regular basis. Last year the Beast was the third-ranked basketball conference, finishing ahead of the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC. Last year there was a big drop from the Big Five down to the AAC, the highest ranked conference outside the Big Five.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

School egos

It is interesting how certain schools feel certain that they are “above” their current conference and certainly deserve to be at a higher level. This (along with greed) is the underlying motivation with all the realignment mischief that periodically inflicts itself on college athletics. Everyone thinks they are equal to the Joneses and therefore think they ought to keep up with the Joneses. And, of course, the real plum is in the big five conferences where the real money is. “We belong there,” they all contend.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Free throw machine

Wisconsin's junior Nigel Bruce has made 411 free throws in the three years he has played there - with a year to go as presumably the focal point of the Badger's offense. If he maintained his average, he would have 548 charity baskets at the end of his career. This compares with 399 for Derek Fisher, the Trojans' career leader.

Who is the coach?

Enthusiasm for teams frequently stems from who the coach is. For example, I cared absolutely nothing about TCU basketball before this year, but now that Jamie Dixon has moved there from Pitt, I will at least keep an eye on them, because I like Dixon. Similarly for a lot of Little Rock fans with Texas Tech. And, I absolutely hated Memphis, but now that Tubby Smith is there, I have a little bit of a soft spot in my heart for them, and I hope Tubby gets to take another team to the NCAA Tournament.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Tubby Smith: his will be the greater accomplishment

Assuming his health holds out, very few would doubt that Tubby Smith eventually will take a team with Memphis' history to the NCAA Tournament. Tubby has a national championship at Kentucky, but circumstances dictated that he did not do like Coach K or some of the others who got a gravy job and camped out there, raking in wins with one-and-done talent. Tubby has gone to schools that were down, and has brought them up through good coaching. Over and over again. He has not gone to where success was pretty much guaranteed if he avoided shooting himself in the foot. He went to where he had to work at recruiting, and actually develop the talent he brought in.

You can keep Coach K. When Tubby Smith takes Memphis to the NCAA, that will be the sixth team where he has done that, and that is a much greater accomplishment than the others.

Wodehouse and golf

Many Americans are familiar with the duo of Jeeves and Wooster, even if they do not recognize the name of their creator, Sir Pelham Grenville (P. G.) Wodehouse (pronounced Wood-house). I have not read everything in the field, but it is hard for me to imagine anyone surpassing Sir Pelham in his ability to humorously describe the persons and lives of the British nobility. His novels are hilariously funny, especially those that deal with the theft of Earls' and baronets' prize pigs, or that inimitable bon vivant, Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, 6th Earl of good old Ickenham.

However, Sir Pelham was also a golfer, and his short stories about golf are also side-splitting, especially to those of us whose only efforts at the sport must be placed in the "Atrocious" category. When my excellent father-in-law was still living, he would frequently take me golfing, and it is a tribute to his patience that he did not in frustration decapitate me with a 3-iron. So, when Wodehouse describes a golf match between two thorough foozlers on the links, and says that one of them "romped home with a solid thirteen on the final hole," that is something with which I can readily identify.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

So why am I worrying about height?

I know: I am a worry wort. We have three players 6-9 or taller, which ought to be enough for any Belt team - and ordinarily would be. However, Shoshi and (evidently) Goldman appear to be more perimeter players than the typical big man. If true, that would leave us with only Black as a true inside player. Also, we only have one player between 6-5 and 6-9, which leaves a gap in filling our roles. We will need Hill to play bigger than he is a lot.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Only if you like crawling

This is the time of the basketball cycle that is very exciting to people who cannot stand traveling at any pace faster than a slow crawl. Zzzzzzzzz.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Not a bad place to start

The consensus of opinion that I have seen so far places us somewhere from 2nd to 4th in the conference, which. is in line with my own humble judgment. That is a step back from our solid first of last year, but not a huge step back. We would still be in the hunt at that level. Considering the talent we lost, that is to be expected; and even without it still being in the top tier of the Belt is not a bad place to start.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Two keys to this year

#1. Dayshawn Watkins has to be the real deal. It is really tough to have a good season if you are "just getting by" at point. I do not think that will be the case, and we have other options if Watkins does not, but if we should have a hiccup here, we could have problems.

#2. Jalen Jackson has to at least approach his potential. With the departure of Roger Woods, we lost our primary inside scoring threat. Jackson is the most likely candidate to replace those points. Shoshi's scoring should improve, but likely a lot of his will be from the perimeter in the tradition of European big men.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Creighton did it. Can we?

In some ways it is inaccurate to compare Little Rock and Creighton. Creighton is a private school, they are not related (shackled) to the largest school in the state, and they play in a highly-ranked conference that is definitely basketball-oriented, in contrast to the Sun Belt. Creighton has an advantage in that they are the option for people who want to see quality basketball in the state, while in Arkansas that designation still resides in Fayetteville.

However, there is some similarity. Both schools are in a football-crazy state with a large university that has at least one national football championship in their history. Therefore, both schools have to swim against the stream to some extent. After all, even a first class  basketball program is still somewhat of an asterisk in the college sports landscape of a football-dominated state.

But Creighton’s case does provide us with some hope. They did it, however similar or dissimilar their case may be to ours. We might not be able to duplicate their accomplishment, but we certainly ought to be able to do something that resembles it, at least to some degree.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Lots of beef in Spokane

Gonzaga's roster includes
7-1, 290
7-1, 287
7-0, 230
6-10, 240

Football old-timers, I wonder what this indicates

In the NFL record book, there are six records listed in the "Average Passing Yards" category. The most recent holder of any of them is Greg Cook in 1969 for "Highest passing yards per attempt, rookie, season." Others are held by Sid Luckman, Otto Graham, Tommy O'Connell and Sammy Baugh. I wonder why, as passing became more and more dominant in pro football, that the records in this particular category are all at least 47 years old. All of them. Maybe, as teams passed more, they became more cautious in their passing? I don't know.

Significance of the number "8"

That is how many out of the 112  games Derek Fisher played in Little Rock that he did NOT start.

He defined "non-gunner"

The legendary Muntrelle Dobbins played here at Little Rock for four season and 115 games. He was a work horse down low, pulling down a school-record 1010 rebounds. In those four years he attempted 502 shots from the field, and ONLY ONE of them was from the three-point line. (Incidentally, he missed it.)

History being set?

Here are the best two season 3PT% in Trojan history (not necessarily back to back). I am not talking about the average, but having two seasons of AT LEAST a certain percentage (min. 25 made shots).

Nick Zachery

Alan Barksdale

Tony Martin

Malik Dixon

Marcus Johnson has a chance to enter a very elite group. He shot 46.9% last season, the second-best ever, behind only Ricky Davison's remarkable 51.4%. If he shoots at least 41.4% this year, he will rise to the top of this very arbitrary (but very exclusive) list.

Foreign-born golfers

Our women's golf program is keeping up its tradition of having a goodly percentage of foreign students on the roster. Four of the eight roster members this season are from New Zealand, Sweden and Norway (2), including our only freshman, Thea Wakeford-Wesmann.

Expansion again? (groan)

It looks like the Big 12 is going to expand. We can only hope that this does not set off the domino effect which so confused/demoralized the national sports scene.

Worried a little about depth

We are very deep at some positions, not so much at others. We have bodies, yes, but not players whose main position would be where they might end up playing. Especially if Black and Shoshi do not play together, we will be shorthanded at the 4. We can mix and match enough to get by, but throw an injury or two in the wrong spots into the mix, and we could have problems. Oh, well. Worry about that when it happens.