Sunday, January 31, 2016

Maurius fits the pattern

Maurius Hill is third on the team in offensive rebounds, even though he is 8th in minutes played. But he fits the mold of our good offensive rebounders from the past. Not tall, but gritty and dependable.

Three-point shooting just in time

We are not a big team. Shoshi is not a big scorer, and Green has yet to show what he can do. That leaves us to undersized power forward types. We have accomplished amazing things so far this year mainly by grit and defense, because our shooting was not anything special. But in the second half of the season our shooters have stepped up and have added an extra dimension to our game - just in time, because we are starting to play teams for the second time this year, and it always helps to have seen a team firsthand.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The pressure is on

We are 18-2 with eleven regular season games left. If we lose one more regular season game, that would put us at 28-3. I assume that would give us a bye to the semis, so if we won there and lost in the finals, we would be 29-4. I just do not know if that would get us an At-large or not.

As things stand now, we have wins over San Diego State (RPI #50) and Tulsa (#62) - good, but not great. The toughest opponent remaining is Arlington at #102. Our loss to #32 Texas Tech won't hurt us, but the one to #204 Arkansas State will. Right now our schedule ranks 226th according to Sagarin, which will really hurt us.

If we win out to the finals, we might stand a chance of an at-large. But if we lose another one, I am afraid we need to plan on winning the tournament (which I hope we do, anyway, of course). Louisiana Tech had a similar situation a couple of years ago and missed out, and their conference is a little more highly-regarded than ours. The Bubble Watch sites will be cranking up here before long, so we will get some more expert opinions. It will be a nice compliment even to be on those watches.

One of Beard's most appealing characteristics

is that he is always very careful to go out of his way to compliment the opponents. No trash talking with this guy.

Friday, January 29, 2016


One of the constant slams against Steve Shields with many fans was that he did not play an "exciting" brand of basketball. In the recent Sports Illustrated article about the Trojans, it notes that we rank 345st in the country in adjusted tempo. That means that only six teams in the country play at a slower pace than we do.

We are winning, but we are NOT winning because we play a so-called "exciting" style of basketball. Sometimes boring works quite well, thank you.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The invisible statistic

Shots Opponents Were Not Able To Take
Sometimes known as The John Fowler Stat.

Another Alcindor

St. Francis-Brooklyn freshman forward Marlon Alcindor has a famous name, to say the least. I suppose he wishes he had a dollar for every time he has been asked if he is kin to college basketball's greatest player ever, especially since both of them hailed from NYC-area high schools.



Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Immediate impact recruits

I doubt we will see nearly as many of them in future years as we did this season. Where would we be without Johnson, Jackson, Shoshi and Ruttley? We had some big holes to plus, and to his credit Beard did it exceptionally well. Hopefully we will not have future holes that are quite as gaping, and so there will not be the need for it.

We will take a hit

The good news is that we have players who will be experienced waiting to step in and fill the slots, but notwithstanding that fact, we are going to take a hit when we lose this year's seniors. As things stand right now, three of our five top players in terms of minutes played will be gone. One of them will probably be First Team All-SBC, one is our glue guy, and one is one of our better inside players and clutch scorers. That has to hurt. And besides the statistics, there are the intangibles that will be leaving.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The most spectacular unspectacular player in America

Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes. No wasted motion, no unnecessary effort, no grandstanding, not even any facial expression. But he just put 31 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals on #19 Indiana, not to mention a whole string of clutch free throws down the stretch.

Ethan Happ - the next in a long line

If you want to follow one of the emerging stories in NCAA basketball, keep an eye on Wisconsin 6-9 redshirt freshman Ethan Happ. He is cut from the same mold as Frank Kaminski, Jared Berggren, John Leuer, etc. They were all broad-shouldered, gangly-looking white kids who at first glance look like they just came in out of the cornfield and couldn't walk and chew gun at the same time. But my, how looks are deceiving!

Ethan Happ

Hey, Trojans: we are not bored

You don't have to spot the other team ten points or get way ahead and then let them come roaring back in order to keep us interested. Go ahead and jump out to a nice, comfortable lead and maintain it. We will be just as happy. You would not be boring us with easy wins.

More impressive stat

By itself, the fact that we lead the nation in scoring defense is not particularly impressive, since that number can indicate simply that a team plays at a slow pace, and says more about their offense than their defense. However, when you combine that number with the fact that we are third in the nation in FG% defense, then it gets validated and becomes very impressive.

When big men get in foul trouble

The big men are the last row of defense on a basketball team. When they get in foul trouble and have to be taken out of the game, it changes the entire complexion of the defense. That is one reason that teams have to attack the middle of the defense. If they just stand around on the perimeter playing HORSE with 3-pointers, the big guys will never get in foul trouble, and the complexion of the game will never be changed.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Navy having a good year

The Middies are 15-5 this year, and 6-1 in conference. Given their history, this is pretty remarkable. Obviously, the military academies do not attract many one-and-done types. (It is not likely that those sorts would be willing to endure military discipline.) Plus, the rigorous academic standard at these schools further narrow their pool of potential recruits. The Middies are led by Head Coach Ed DeChellis, who formerly was at Penn State, where he had a decent record (by their football-dominated standards). Slowly he has turned the program around, and they are currently in second place in the Patriot League, one game out of first place.

My father served in the Navy during World War II, and that is the reason I follow that program.

Little Rock - the land of shooters?

I have no idea how our records compare with those of other teams, but we have had our share of great shooters here in Little Rock (talking about 3-pointers). Fully six players have averaged 40% or better for their entire careers: Alan Barksdale, Nick Zachery, Robert Greene, Tony Martin, Carl Brown and Brandon Freeman.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Taking out the slop

Coach  Beard was able to pick up some very valuable transfers and a couple of sterling jucos. But mainly what he has accomplished this season has been to take the slack out of the Trojans' game. You play tough defense, or you do not play. Take care of the ball, or you do not play. Sloppy play keeps you from having a chance to win. He appears to have some foundational principles in his game that put the team in a position to win. Of course, it has helped greatly that this team happens to be good FT shooters, and I am not sure how much the coach can affect that in a short period of time, so that was probably to some extent a gimme, but we will take it.

The good news is that if what Beard has done mainly is to shore up the negatives (cut out turnovers and slack defense), what can he accomplish when he has time to bring in the talent and develop it to move forward on the positive end. Good coaches put their teams in a position to win most years. To win championships, you have to have a little luck to go along with it, and that is beyond the coach's control. Coach is doing his job, and we will have to wait for the luck.

Poor UIC

I sort of keep up with the Illinois-Chicago Flames because they are an "At" team, and I have a soft spot in my heart for those folks. However, they are pretty bad this year. They have only two wins so far, and both of those were over non-D1 teams. I saw them on television once, and they are just awful. They play a bad brand of undisciplined street ball. I really did not see what function the coach played, because the players appeared to be doing pretty much whatever they wanted to on the court.

It has been a while since they were much good. They were 10-24 last year, 6-25 the year before. In the 2012-13 season they were 18-16 with a win over Big Ten Northwestern, but except for that year, you have to go back to 2008-09 to find a year when they did not lose 20 games. Oh, well. Go Flames!


Friday, January 22, 2016

Three point shots - the easy way out

We seem to have this mentality developing in basketball that if you are a great 3-point shooter or team, then you can afford to sort of neglect the other aspects of the game. "He doesn't defend much, and he can't rebound, and is not a great ball handler, but he really can knock down the three!" It really disgusts me the extent to which high school players are ignorant of all the little things that used to get taught to players that helped them win games. But you don't have to do those things now. Just make threes!

You still have to play the game. The whole game.

Missouri State has a good one coming up

6-7 freshman Obediah Church is averaging 7.2 ppg and 6.3 rpg, shooting an outstanding 61% from the field and leads the team (by far) with 29 blocks. They are having an off year (8-11), but it looks like help is on the way.

Robert E. Lee and the Trojans

In his four-volume, Pulizter prize-winning biography of General Lee, Douglas Southall Freeman gives his assessment of the reasons that the South lost at Gettysburg. The biggest, of course, was that Stonewall Jackson had been killed at Chancellorsville, but there were others. One of them was this: over and over again Lee's under-supplied army had performed the miraculous against seemingly impossible odds, and Lee evidently had just come to expect it of them. There was no reason to think that Pickett's Charge would be successful, but then there had been no reason to think they would be successful when Lee divided his army against a superior force at Second Manassas and Chancellorsville, or that they could have stood their ground against the onslaught at Antietam when the enemy knew that A. P. Hill's division had been dispatched to Harper's Ferry - but they had done it. So why not again at Gettysburg? But this time they failed.

This team seems to specialize in digging holes and climbing out of them. They have done it so often that we just come to expect it. They are down ten points? Don't worry: they will come back, no matter who the opponent is. It is almost like the game would be boring to them if they didn't spot the other guys a few points. But we went to the well too often against Arkansas State and got burned for it. That hill we could not take.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Beard's substitution patterns

I must admit that on the surface, Coach Beard's substitution patterns seem illogical to me. It appears that we have lower-tier players on the court far too much for the team's performance to be at its optimum level. However, there are factors other than those that are most readily apparent. In the first place, he knows the players, and he knows what motivates them, and how quickly they tire or lose focus. He seems to be a good motivator, and playing time may have a lot to do with that. So, while it puzzles me, I have to assume there is a logical reason to what he does and fits his overall scheme of things.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

So close

Twice this year we got a sniff of possibly reaching the national Top 25 polls, and both times we lost. Discouraging, especially since one of those losses should not have happened.

Got to get back to what brung us

Quickly - as in NOW - we need to get our game back to Trojanball- tough defense and low turnovers. You cannot change the personnel of your team mid-stream, and what we had been doing had worked fine, so we need to keep doing that. We got out of it in Jonesboro and got embarrassed.

Lesson learned, I HOPE

This is not D2 and it is not juco. This is the Sun Belt, and you cannot go on the road, even against teams that are not as good as you are, and hope to win if you only play for one half.

At-large scuttled?

There was little chance we could have gotten an at-large berth in the NCAA, given our schedule, but I would suspect the loss to ASU pretty well did us in, since the committee will look at it as a "bad" loss. I hope the team realizes what they may have kicked away by taking a half off. Not good!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Playing time

There are a lot of factors that go into determine the starting lineup and who gets the most playing time. Who works the hardest in practice, for example. All else being equal, a coach would want the most effective combination of players on the floor for as much time as they can and still stay fresh enough to play flat out. (The best combination is not necessarily the same thing as the five best players, because the five best players might all be shooting guards.) That being true, barring foul problems, you could probably have them on the floor 25 minutes per game, because most college players are in good enough shape to play that much.

However, you need to get the other players some time in case you need them when you do have foul trouble or injuries; plus team morale will require that playing time is spread around a little. So, there are several other factors other than conditioning that come into play. Coaches get paid to make those decisions, and they are impossible to make from a distance.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Returning experience

Seven players returning next season with 300 minutes PT this year. Plus Burns with about 100. That has to help.

Three-point shooting alone will NOT get it!

Drake is 5-13, and one of their wins is non-D1. They are 0-6 in conference. In other words, they are terrible! Yet, they shoot 41.2% from the arc. As a team! A lot teams would be thrilled to have one player who shoots that well, but they do it as a team. And yet they are 5-13.

A wasted title

Oklahoma will be ranked No. 1 in the country this week. If they were to win the NCAA, it would be a wasted title. The fan base would say, "Hurray, hurray, hur . . . . . Isn't it time for spring football practice yet?"

These seats are not hot - but they ought to be

Duke and Kentucky have each lost four games. For teams that can generate the kind of talent they can to have lost four games at this point in the season ought to be inexcusable to their fans. When you can buy a championship there should be no excuses.

The hardest triple/double

Has anyone ever had an assists/steals/blocks triple-double? I seriously doubt it. Those are hard to come by even if you throw in points and rebounds. It is that third category that is the tough one. In fact, I do not remember ever having heard of a double-double with those categories. Possibly assists/steals might happen, but the players who get a lot of blocks are not likely to get a lot of steals, and especially not assists.

Success through recruiting or through development

I never have liked the idea of freshmen coming into a program and being able to play a lot immediately. That just does not say much for your program. If a true freshman can do that, how bad are your upperclassmen? With the one-and-done culture in college basketball today, recruiting has become everything and player development practically nothing. (I am overstating the case on purpose, obviously.) If a coach is doing his job, then a player ought to get better, both physically and mentally, during his years in a program, and if that span is four years, considerably better. If a program is constantly upgrading its talent base, then the freshmen ought to be pushing the veterans, but unless four years of development and maturity mean nothing, it ought to be a real struggle for them to get much playing time. Recruiting is the sizzle of college basketball; player development and real coaching is the steak - the substance.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The south side of 60

Only five opponents have scored as many as 60 points against us, and two of them exactly 60. Pretty good record. It has gained us a little national attention.

This was a good week to be off on Saturday

All we had to do is sit back and watch the other teams lose over the weekend.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Nice to be hated

With the possible exception of Ouachita/Henderson, I doubt there is a college rivalry involving an Arkansas college any more bitter than Little Rock/ASU. And that is nice. Fayetteville has some schools that they really dislike, but whether or not that intensity is reciprocated is arguable.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

One game at a time

You always should take the season one game at a time, but it is especially important when you are having an exceptional season in which your margin for error is a little thin. Sooner or later we will lose, but we have to leave behind what is behind and move onto the next one. The season is always one game long.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Maurius Hill from the arc

Maurius' function on this team is not to be a three-point shooter, so I do not expect him to be blasting away from the perimeter. However, he is 5 of 10 this season, which makes a very respectable 38% over his career. Maybe he ought to be taking a few more from out there.

Lis Shoshi, and big men by Sun Belt standards

After over a decade as a fan within the bounds of the SBC, I have about come to the conclusion that 6-7 or 6-8 is about all you can expect to sign as "big" players on any sort of a regular basis. If you can get a 6-8 kid who can really play, be thankful for him. A good percentage of those taller than that will be "projects." We have had a number of players who were taller than that, but not all of them panned out. Some did not stay, some could not play. A few stayed, and could play, and we were glad to have them.

Lis Shoshi can play, and every indication is that his ceiling is high (speaking of ability, not size). We need to enjoy him, because it is not every day that we will get a 6-11 player who can get the job done from the get-go.

Transferring back home

I am not a huge fan of building a team via transfers. It is just more satisfying to me to do it with kids who wanted to be here in the first place. However, when players do come home, like Dayshawn Watkins, it is nice that they think Little Rock. (Now, if we can just get kids like him to think Little Rock out of the gate.)

Injury survival

Some teams are more suited than others to survive injuries to key players. At first glance, I would think that this team might be able to weather the storm fairly well, depending upon which player it was. If it is Shoshi, look out, because I think we would be in big trouble. Losing Josh Hagins would be a blow, also. Likewise Marcus Johnson.

Past the obvious players, sometimes there are hidden icebergs. A player may not jump out at you from the stat sheets, but losing that player may throw off the team rhythm and chemistry to such an extent that it becomes like a ship with a damaged rudder. Players like Kemy Osse or Jermaine Ruttley.

Coach Beard's practice of playing a long rotation does create insurance against injury, in two ways. Players are less likely to be playing fatigued, and thus less likely to get injuries, but also you have more players who are used to getting substantial minutes and so are ready to step up at any given time.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Good news for the Belt - bad news for the teams

Arlington should return every player of consequence next season except one, and he is averaging only 12 minutes per game. Their strength? They play very tough defense and really pound the boards.

It's early, but it still looks strange

At the moment the two undefeated teams in SEC play are Texas A&M and South Carolina - not Kentucky, not Florida, not LSU or Porkland or even Vandy. Sort of interesting to see a couple of new names at the top of the heap.

Revisiting Johnson and Hagins

It has been very interesting to me watching the contrast between Marcus Johnson and Josh Hagins. Johnson came in advertised as one of the top juco point guards in the country, with a very good A/TO ratio. On the other hand, Hagins had been a true combo guard throughout his first three years, playing both positions fairly well  but not superlatively. This year, Hagins has played point almost exclusively, and his A/TO is an outstanding 3.09 at the moment, with 4.7 assists per game. On the other hand, Johnson's A/TO has plummeted to 1.17. It is a classic illustration of a player being really good at what he is concentrating on at the moment. Both are doing that.

The question is out there as to who will replace Hagins at point next season. Johnson would seem to be the most likely candidate, but I am wondering if Beard will want to tinker with what has worked very well, and will let Johnson stay primarily at the 2 spot, assuming he can find someone else to play point.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Cajuns' problem

Louisiana cannot shoot this year. BAD they cannot shoot. But they are their own worst enemy. Their opponents have attempted 237 shots from the arc, and made 36% of them. The Cajuns have attempted 294 shots from the arc (almost a fourth more), but they have made only 27.2% of them. Why shoot threes more if you are making them less? (We are losing money every truck we ship, so let's get more trucks.) That makes no sense at all, especially when you have the conference's best big man sitting there in the middle. Go figure!

Those non-ho-hum double-doubles

Double-doubles are not awfully impressive, since scoring ten points is not that big a deal, and the best rebounder on any given team is going to get ten occasionally. However, a D/D in any combination other than points and rebounds is a big deal. Getting ten assists in a game is pretty rare, as attested by the fact that the current leader in assists in the SBC averages 6.1 per game, and totals for blocks and steals would be much less even than assists. And if someone gets a non-standard TRIPLE/double (without either points or rebounds), that is a big, BIG deal.

Defense Belt?

One constant you see in the SBC this season is some really outstanding defensive teams. As I write, fully five of the eleven teams are holding opponents to under 40% overall shooting percentage and six teams hold the opposition to under 33% from the arc.

Substitution patterns

I think we all thought Shields was a little quick in his substitution patterns, but he was slow compared to Beard. Not a criticism, just an observation. Whatever he is doing is working, whether it is for fatigue reasons or correction reasons.

The good news

We are 14-1, but there is still LOTS that can be done to make this team better. We are far from being as good as we can be. Lots of things to be tweaked, or even outright overhauled. Our shooting is no better than OK. Same for our 3-point defense and our rebounding. If we keep getting better, we might be good enough by the end of the regular season to get a sniff at an at-large berth. I surely do hope we are not reading our press clippings.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Go Clemson!

Pitt is the main team I follow from the ACC, but I also keep an eye on Clemson because I like Brad Brownell, their coach - that and the fact that they have been out of the limelight for a while. So, when I saw that Clemson had defeated Rick Pitino, I was thrilled, because I dislike him even more than I like Clemson.

The defense is just better these days

I have watched the film of the Trojans' 1986 victory over Notre Dame, and of the great UCLA teams of the 1960's and 1970's, and of Pete Maravich's days. I hope it will not wound the feelings of my fellow fans of those days, but the defense today just seems a lot more intense than it was back then. There was not that in-your-face, physical, challenging feel to defense back then. Perhaps it was more than merely symbolic - I would not go that far - but the better half-court defenses these days are like a war zone, and take no prisoners. I do not get that impression while watching the play from a of generation or two ago. Just one man's impressions. Perhaps that is in fact what the Powers That Be in NCAA basketball are trying to reverse by decree these days.

When the ball bounces right

Championship teams generally have to be lucky as well as good. We were not awfully good last night against Monroe, but we got very lucky at the critical moment and come off with a win. Nothing wrong with that. We will get our share of bad bounces over the course of any season. Over time they will break about even. Good teams put themselves in a position so that bad breaks do not make the difference. Most of the time that has been true with us this year. Last night our bad shooting and sub-par defense put us where we might have lost. But we didn't. Sometimes it works out that way. Let's enjoy it when it does. There will be enough of the other kind.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The time to get emotional

Why get mad after the game is over? Some players stomp around the locker room, kick the furniture, etc., when their team loses. But what can they do in the locker room after the game to change the outcome? Not a single thing! The time to be emotional is while it will still do some good.

Georgia Southern will be back soon

They are way down this year, but they are starting two freshmen and three sophomores; and some of they look to be pretty good players. Expect them to be climbing the ladder fairly quickly.

"I also root for" - critically important

This year maybe we can do some switching on fans' "also root for" team. For too long it has been, "I am a Razorback fan, and I also root for UALR." Maybe now we can get a few switched over to, "I am a Little Rock fan, and I also root for the Hogs."

Primary fanship. We have got to capture some of that.

Revisiting Ruttley's value

After the Monroe game, Jermaine is only scoring at 4.1 points/game. However, he is averaging 4.1 rebounds, and is third on the team in assists, only one behind Marcus Johnson. His A/TO ratio is 2:1, which is really outstanding for a swing player. If you only look at his scoring, you will miss completely his importance to this team.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Hard times at Drexel

I follow the Dragons. I like their school name, their coach's nickname (Bruiser) and the style of ball they play. And they had a pretty good run up until the last couple of years. They lost a key player to transfer, and evidently their recruiting has not kept pace, because they are 2-11 so far this year. Not good.

When Fayetteville's policy will change

Fayetteville will begin playing in-state schools when they think it is to their advantage to do so. I think their policy is very petty and completely self-serving (forget anything that might be for the good of the sport in the state), but those are the facts of the case. When there is a Gonzaga or a Butler, or even a Davidson in the state, then things might change. Only when it begins to appear that Fayetteville is afraid to play the other school will there be any motivation to change. It is almost impossible that that will happen in football given the immense resources needed to be successful in that sport, but it could conceivably happen in basketball; and before something happens, it must be conceived.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Game by game

We keep learning a more and more about this team. Each group of games let's us see how they perform under new circumstances. Kind of fun watching them develop.

The Louisiana teams come to town. Neither is as good as we thought they might be, but both are plenty good enough to be trouble.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Kansas-Oklahoma: the right team won

If Oklahoma had beaten Kansas, the fans would have rejoiced - and then promptly would have forgotten about it as football recruiting and spring practice rolled around. Basketball does not matter at OU. It does at Kansas. The right team won; it was not a wasted win.

Which was more impressive: Buddy Hield's 46 points, or Frank Mason guarding him for three OTs with four fouls on him? And since we tend only to remember big shots and big scoring totals, let us not forget Hield's two big turnovers when the game was on the line. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Sure, he score 46 points in a big game, which is remarkable.  But he also coughed up the game when the game was on the line - but no one will remark about that, because few care about anything but offense.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Road wins

Are our road wins this just the result of a well-coached team playing well, or is there something in particular that Coach Beard does to prepare the team to play away from home? If the latter is true, he ought to patent it, because a lot of coaches would love to know how to do it.

UCA's problem

The Bears are 1-10. Bad as that sounds, it is a marginal improvement over last season, when they did not win their first game until 17 February. They have players who can score: that is not the problem. The problem is that they cannot (or will not) defend. Opponents shoot 50.4% overall and 43.1% from the arc against them. Game after game, that is what they average. You won't win many games when the other guys are always hot.

Head scratcher

We have to be one of the most impressive unimpressive teams I have ever seen. We definitely do NOT pass the eye test. Most fans do not look any further than scoring, and we are not a great scoring team. Our forte is subtraction (from the other guy's scoring), not addition. Most fans skip over that figure. We make FTs. Most fans pay little attention to that. If you are not raining 3-pointers of slamming down dunks, you just do not register on the public's meter. But Coach Beard seems to be smart enough to know that it is the little things that win ballgames, not necessarily the things that please fans.

Why Jermaine Ruttley is starting

Jermaine has started every game, playing what in the traditional scheme of things would be the small forward spot. In Steve Shields' system, the 3 spots was usually the defensive stopper. And, it appears that it may be that way at least this season with Ruttley. He is only scoring 4.1 ppg, even though he was a big-time scorer at FAMU. This makes me believe that he is playing a different role here  by design, since he has demonstrated he can put points on the board. But we have scorers here (three guys in double figures), so evidently Ruttley is sliding over to the defensive stopper role. Otherwise, I can't see why he would be playing the minutes he is. And, no matter how much some people downplay it, every team needs a defensive stopper.

Plus, Jermaine is tied for 2nd on the team in rebounding. Plus he has a 1.67 A/TO ratio, which is very good for someone at his position, and is considerably better than Marcus Johnson, who used to play point guard. Jermaine is playing a role, which does not happen to  be scoring, and he is playing that role very well.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Some pretty fair board men

We have had three players who averaged double figure rebounds over their entire career: Larry Johnson (14.1), Rashad Jones-Jennings (12.20), and Michael Clarke (10.2). Given the paltry numbers coming out these days, those are pretty impressive.

Looking back at Courtney Jackson

Jackson was consistency itself for the Trojans. Three years in a row he led the team in rebounding, but never averaged more than 5.7 rpg - solid, but certainly not impressive. However, he presently stands tied for 11th on the career Total Rebounds list at Little Rock. He was there, game after game over a very nice four-year career.


The stakes are higher this year

In a close conference race (And it looks like this will be one), every game counts. But this year, as long as it looks like there might be even a remote chance for an at-large berth, every game's value quadruples. For us this season, any losses from here on place an at-large chance in dire jeopardy.

Friday, January 1, 2016

What took him so long?

Chris Beard is obviously a very good basketball coach, which we know not only from his work here so far, but also from his track record. He was head coach at five different schools before he came to us, plus Assistant and Associate Head Coach at Texas Tech. And, he had the best connections there are at Texas Tech: one of the all-time winning coaches in NCAA history. But he did not leave there to coach at a lower-level D-1 school, which one certainly would think he could have done with his experience and connections. Instead, he made three more stops before he arrived at D-1. The outshoot of all this was that he came to us as an unusually well-experienced and well-traveled coach, with connections at the juco, D-2 and D-1 levels, not to mention semi-pro.

So much the better for us. We do not have a coach who has to train on the job. He has looked at the game from every angle. I have no idea why he did not land a D-1 head coaching gig before us, but it doesn't matter, because someone else's loss was our gain. He came to Little Rock not as a half-baked, fair-haired boy getting basically a free ride because of the coattails of a big-name coach, but as a guy who had paid his dues in the business. Someone missed out on a good one, Glad we didn't.

Tempering expectations

You never know when a key injury will hit, but outside of that, what ought my expectations to be for this team for the remainder of the year? They have proven they can win the close ones, and win on the road, and that says a lot. However, sometimes close games can rise up and bite you, so you don't want too many of them. The top half of the Belt this year is good enough to beat anyone in the league on a given night. We are easily good enough to win the regular season title, which has been my ambition ever since I have been a fan. That is the championship that matters to me. But it won't be easy. We definitely need to find some more shooters.