Friday, April 29, 2016

Did the worst get any better?

In the 2014-15 season, Grambling had the worst Sagarin ranking in the country. They were still very bad this past season, but they did make some improvement. They beat out Delaware State and Florida A&M to avoid the basement in Sagarin, and they were 7-19 overall and 4-10 in conference. So, some progress.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Time for money games?

With a talented roster loaded with seniors, next year might be one of those years when we want to load up on money games against higher-level programs. If we hope to stand any chance of an at-large bid, we learned last season that you have to play some big boys. Plus, we would get paid to do it. If we do not win them, we are no worse off than we were, since we would have had to win the Belt Tournament, anyway.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How good could Lis Shoshi be?

We may not be quite comparing apples to apples here (I doubt Shoshi will ever have biceps as big as Robinson's), but even a general comparison gives us food for thought.

David Robinson did not begin playing basketball until his senior of high school, when he was 6-7. He did not hit seven feet until his sophomore college season. He went from 7.6 ppg and 4.0 rpg one season to 23.6 and 11.6 the next.

How good can Shoshi be? Just possibly as good as he wants to be.

Red Auerbach, concerning Bill Russell's shot-blocking ability

"He brought a new sound to basketball," Red Auerbach once said, "the sound of his footsteps."

Who improved most over the course of last season?

This is always an interesting question. Lis Shoshi, being as inexperienced as he was, probably gets the nod. But Jalen Jackson also came on strong late, and Deondre Burns, being a true freshman, made the strides you like to see in someone in that position.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Success is relative

In the announcement of Zach Spiker as the new head coach at Drexel, the official release says that he is the first coach at Army to win 15 games in four consecutive seasons since 1924. (Keep in mind that two of their coaches in that period were named Krzyzewski and Knight.)

That seems like a very modest accomplishment, and compared so some lofty programs it is; but consider that at Little Rock only Newell, Sanderson and Shields were able to do that. At the lower levels, it is tougher than it appears.

Another name for blue collar

You know that I love "blue collar basketball," that style that is not fancy and showy, but that gets the job done through the little things that make winning basketball. On the Northwestern team, Sanjay Lumpkin is their glue guy. Coach Chris Collins says of him, "He's got that hard hat mentality." I like that description.

Knight and Trump

Not much surprised that Bobby Knight supports Donald Trump. Very similar personalities and approaches to life's issues.

How my teams did

A few of the teams I followed had pretty good success this past season. Obviously, my main team, the Little Rock Trojans, had their best year ever, but you already knew that. A few other bright spots:

Tennessee  Tech went to the Las Vegas post-season tournament.
Several of the other Sun Belt teams had very nice years.
Louisiana Tech won 23 games.
UT Martin won 20 games.
Navy won 19 games.
Southern Illinois was 22-10.
Stetson had a terrible season, but went to the finals of their conference tournament.
Texas A&M, obviously, had a great year.
Wagner won 23.
William & Mary won 20
Wisconsin won 22 after a horrible start.
Wright State won 22

Pretty good year all the way around. I enjoyed it.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Where we ended in SBC stats

Scoring defense - 1st
Scoring margin - 1st
FT% - 2nd
FG% - 2nd
FG% defense - 1st
3PT% - 1st
3PT% defense - 1st
Assists - 3rd
Turnover margin - 1st
A/TO ratio - 1st
Attendance - 2nd

Hagins - 13th
Johnson - 17th
Woods - 30th

Shoshi - 14th

Woods - 3rd
Johnson - 11th

Hagins - 4th

Hagins - 3rd
Johnson - 12th

Hagins - 5th

Johnson - 1st
Isom - 4th
Osse - 6th
Hagins - 8th

Shoshi - 5th

Hagins - 1st

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Baseball continues to roll

The season is not over, but I think we can say that the diamond Trojans have been turned around. They are more than competitive in the Sun Belt, and as of this instant are only a half game out of second place. Good job!

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Gatorade Gang

I attended Booneville public schools each year except for my sophomore year, when we lived at Alma. For some reason, after we moved back to Booneville just before my junior year, I got asked by the Editor of the Booneville Democrat, the local weekly, to write the stories about the football games. It was a lot of fun.

My by-line was continued into my senior year, in which I was persuaded to play football by one of my  close friends, even though I had not played since my freshman year. Beginning in summer practice, Head Coach Gene Bradley had bought Gatorade mix in bulk and provided it for us at breaks, to be drunk out of a large barrel with dippers or cups. In one of our earlier games (I think it was the second), we won a tough contest against Danville, which featured a fullback who went on to play for Arkansas Tech. The defense played a key part in the victory, and so I dubbed them the Gatorade Gang in my story about the game. That got a good bit of comment locally, so I continued to use it throughout that year. If I remember correctly, the name even stuck a little while after I graduated.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Charlie Johnson's monster game

It was a long time ago, but on January 27, 1972, the Trojans' own Charlie Johnson had a game for the ages against College of the Ozarks. He had 39 points and 24 rebounds. Granted, C of O was not the toughest opponent we have faced, but those kind of numbers are impressive regardless. Johnson has six of the top 17 single-game rebounding totals in school history, but that was the only one of those nights that he put in an exceptional number of points at the same time.

Home court advantage

This past season the Jack was a definite advantage, given that we did not lose a game there. However, we did not lose many games anywhere, so that still leaves the question of how much of a home court advantage the Jack is. We had record crowds down the stretch, and when that happens, obviously it helps the team. But if we have a "usual" 3000-3500 crowd, how daunting is our crowd to the other team? In years past, ours was not a very vocal crowd. They did not know how to cheer at a basketball game. Maybe we are getting a little better educated in that regard. I hope so, because that will be needed for us to have a bona fide home court advantage, i.e., one of those places opponents really dread visiting.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Revisiting the coaching decision

I do not know for sure, of course, but I think I can guess what Chasse's thought process was in his decision to cut through the process and proceed with hiring Wes.

All-conference Player at the highest level
Assistant Coach at two money conference schools
Assistant at two mid-level schools
Assistant at the juco level
Already familiar with the Little Rock program and the SBC from having been here before
Intimately familiar with our recruiting market

Then Chasse sat down with Wes and was convinced that he had a passion for the program that went beyond being just salesmanship. At that point, he said, "What is there that might be on his resume that is not on his resume? Well, not having been a head coach is about the only thing. Other than that, his resume is ideal. He knows us, he knows our recruiting market, he knows our level of play, he has played and coached at the highest level. Plus, I know him personally, know his family, and have watched him coach up close. I do not have to guess at his character or his ability."

Then, Chasse says to himself, "If I bring in someone with head coaching experience that I do not know intimately, there is always that risk that I bring in some sort of hidden personality quirk like an ungovernable temper, or some character defect, or some sort of personal side-issues that will detract from the team. Yes, he might win a championship, but he might also get us on the front page instead of the sports page. I know what I have with Wes. With virtually everyone else, I can only assume what I have. Right now the risk incurred by shopping further is not worth the potential benefits, which at this point would not be large in any case."

Wes may not pan out to have been a good choice, but I do think that Chasse's decision is entirely logical.

Beard did us a favor by when he left

I had hoped Chris Beard would stay for three years. In so doing, he would have replaced the large senior class of next season and would have provided some badly-needed continuity in the recruiting process in order to perpetuate the momentum the program had gained from this season's 30 wins. He didn't stay; but if he left, I am at least glad he left after one year instead of after two, which would have been the worst-case situation. At least now Wes Flanigan has the large senior class to work with this season (which hopefully also will be successful) while he recruits to replace them. If Beard had stayed only one more season, he would have left the next coach in the lurch, scrambling to fit together a roster which would have lost at least a majority of its players. Sometimes that works, but more often it does not work very well.

Scheduling non-D1 teams

I have mixed feelings about this subject. It seems a little cowardly to be scheduling teams that are not even D1, but the object of those games is to have "guaranteed wins" in which the coach can see the team in a real game that does not pose any substantial threat of a loss. So, one team actually will do as well as another from that standpoint, and the non-D1 teams are cheaper to bring in. In actuality, quite a few of the better D2 teams are better than the bottom tier of D1. Plus, non-D1 games do not count against you on RPI Strength of Schedule, as do the D1 teams. So it is logical to do it that way - but it still seems like the chicken way out.

Monday, April 18, 2016

How will Wes use our size?

Shoshi 6-11
Isom 6-9
Black 6-9
Corbyn Jackson 6-7, 250#

That is as much size as we have had during my tenure as a fan. I am very curious to see how Wes will make use of it. In all candor, it did not appear to me that Beard's system depended very much upon big guys. Wes supposedly is not going to overhaul the system wholesale, but still he may make some tweaks that will take advantage of the size we have. Plus, these guys are not mere asterisks, as some big guys are. We know what the returning players can do (don't know about Jackson yet). This ought to add a dimension to the team that was not there last year.

Trojan baseball looking good

It is nice to see the diamond Trojans doing well this year. All alone in third place in the conference at the moment. We have had some down years, so it is nice to see us bouncing back. Looks like the coach has us moving in the right direction.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Flanigan's big challenge begins right now

The 2016 recruiting season is, for all practical purposes, over. We might sign another player or two, but they will in essence be gravy, i. e., not critical to the success of the team next year. However, with nine seniors on the roster now, our recruiting team MUST be working overtime from the get-go. We expect to be good next season, but the question after will be a question mark.

Based on the current roster, Oliver Black, Dayshawn Watkins, Deondre Burns will be the only players on the roster with more than a full year of D1 experience. Ryan Pippins, Andre Jones and Corbyn Jackson will be available next year, but it is anyone's guess how much (of if) they will play given the wealth of upperclassmen available.

We will not be signing one or two players, or even three or four. There are currently SEVEN scholarship seniors on the roster who will have to be replaced. The represents a ton of work for the staff, so we had better get after it.

Not a great year for rebounders

This year Lis Shoshi led the Trojans with 5.3 rebounds per game. That is the same average achieved by Courtney Jackson in 2011 to lead the team, and a tenth higher than Jake Yancey's 5.2 in 2002. Outside of those, no other team-leading total was that low at least as far back as 1979.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Promoting from within

I would only point out that Gonzaga and Butler, two of the prototypes of successful non-money-conference programs, both followed the practice of promoting an assistant, thus perpetuating the successful culture that had been established in the program. It has worked. There is no reason it cannot work here.

Final conference RPIs

The Big 12 was the best conference against this year. However, the big news was that the Pac 12 moved all the way from fifth to second. Once again, the SEC was the worst of the money conferences in sixth place, behind even non-FBS Big East.

The SBC finished the year in 17th place, moving up three notches from last year. That is the Belt's best finish since the 2008 season.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

How Hagins compares with Fish

Josh Hagins was an all-time Trojan great. So was Derek Fisher. So how do their careers compare?

F 112
H 128

FG Made
F 432
H 525

F 41.3%
H 42.9%

3PT Made
F 125
H 175

F 38.0%
H 35.2%

FT Made
F 399
H 250

F 77.6%
H 81.7%

F 472
H 468

F 184
H 179

Points per game
F 12.4
H 11.5

Monday, April 11, 2016

Deceptive calculations

On paper, I figure Arlington logically ought to be the favorite going into next season, at least at this point. However, I do think that Chris Beard's substitution patterns make us look a little worse than we will be (not that we look bad in any case). We lost two of our top three players in terms of minutes (Hagins and Woods). Those two also happened to be two of our top three scorers. However, we have six players returning who averaged double-figure minutes, and also some of our better shooters, who logically will turn into better scorers as their minutes go up. For example, Jalen Jackson averaged 8.5 points/game, but then he only averaged 15.3 minutes per game. If his minutes go up to 25 per game, his points proportionally go up to 13.9, which would be higher than anyone on the team had this past season. Shoshi, Isom and Osse's numbers all suggest that their scoring could easily increase significantly. And, all that does not even take into account to high-D1 transfers who are lurking in the wings. I still say that next year's team may be more talented than this past one was. Plus, we will have a TON of senior leadership.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Height shouldn't be a problem

6-11, 6-9, 6-9. Have we ever had that before? Certainly not many times. I hope the new coach knows how to use them.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

We will be good, but

How much will we miss Josh Hagins? That really is the big question. This was Josh's team this year. We will have tons of seniors next season, but someone is going to have to be the take-charge guy. Who will it be?

Friday, April 8, 2016

We will never know

We were keenly interested to know how Beard would do in a full, normal season of recruiting. He did an amazing job throwing together a good roster in a hurry-up way. But how would he do going head to head with the big dogs in our market in a full recruiting cycle? We will never know, although I have a sneaking suspicion he would have done fine.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

My kind of champion

I do not follow Villanova, but in the contest with NC, they definitely were my pick. Here is their description from ESPN's Dana O'Neill:

They are everything that Philadelphia embraces -- a blue collar, schoolyard-tough, defiant bunch that wins because of its attitude and work as much as its skill and talent. Wright might be pretty, but neither he nor his team play like pretty boys.

Remember the pass

Yes, Kris Jenkins hit the shot heard 'round the country to beat NC in the finals, but it was Arcidiacono's perfect pass that set it all up. He got to Jenkins at precisely the right time in precisely the right place. Perfect.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Just how dumb is the North Carolina team, anyway?

"I would never criticize somebody about something that they know a heck of a lot more about," [Roy] Williams said. "Bill (Guthridge) has the best statement; 'Do not condemn thy neighbor unless you've walked in his moccasins for two full moons.' I have to explain that to my guys to explain what moccasins are and how long a full moon lasts."

Holding the course

I think Wes Flanigan showed wisdom when he announced that he would be keeping the same general systems that Beard used, but with some minor adjustments. This year is in place; the players know the system and most of the key faces will be returning. So,we will be ahead of the game if the team already knows what is ahead of them. It will save a lot of time in the pre-season. However, Wes has to put his individual stamp on the program, so he has to change a few things. Just not a complete overhaul.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Scoring will not be our problem next year

We may still play at a lower than average pace, but we will have plenty of guys who can put the ball in the hole and who can get open to do it. We will have plenty of firepower.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The three-point shot LOSES !!!!!

Oklahoma goes DOWN. Buddy Hield and his perimeter shooting go DOWN. I love it! Live by the three and DIE by the three.

Buddy Hield as the poster child

Hield is a tremendous player, no question about that. But his game illustrates what is wrong today with the game of basketball. Several times during the Oklahoma-Texas A&M game they flashed on the screen a schematic of Hield's shots. He had taken a lot of them. A bunch of them were 3-pointers and a bunch of them were right under the basket. ABSOLUTELY NONE OF THEM were anywhere else. I don't fault Hield; he is just a master of doing what the high muck-a-mucks of basketball have dictated is to be done today. However, it does illustrate how the game has disintegrated. The mid-range game has all but disappeared. We have devolved into nothing but 3-pointers (bad shots which get rewarded) or layups/dunks.

Buddy Hield did not create the problem, but he is the poster child for the problem that has been created.

Friday, April 1, 2016

We need to keep some perspective

The Trojans probably will not win 30 games next season, and probably will not beat a Big Ten team in the NCAA tournament, but that would not necessarily mean that their season was not successful. We need to be careful not to hamstring Wes Flanigan before he even gets started. In 1986 we beat Notre Dame, and in 1987 we won 26 games, which before this past season was the program record. Then in 1988 we won "only" 24 games, did not make the NCAA tournament, and lost in the first round of the NIT. Big letdown after the previous two seasons, but still one of the very best seasons in program history. After all, we have had only eleven 20-win seasons in our history.

Thoughts on GOAT lists

Greatest Of All Time. Greatest team, greatest players, greatest coaches. The problem is that you are rarely comparing apples and apples. The factors were different. The young have an arrogant bias toward modern players, and the old have a nostalgic bias to the good old days, and the point can never be proven. That is what makes it so much fun. By instituting the playoff system in almost every sport, we have taken away the delightful pastime of arguing about who was the best in a given year, but we can still argue about who was the best in different years. Sure, Babe Ruth did not look particularly athletic, but what would he have looked like had he lived in the era of modern training. What would modern musclemen look like had they lived in the era when no one worked on weights? It is great fun.

One thing I am certain of, however: unless there is a change in the rules, my grandchildren will never see college basketball teams as good as the ones I saw. Any GOAT list is weighted very heavily toward teams of the past, and for good reasons because of the early exits to the pros. Can you imagine Lew Alcindor playing four years in college today? Similarly, individual players rarely have the opportunity to make a case as a GOAT in college, because one year just really does not get it done when compared with guys who did it for three or four years.

How coaching is different

Though similar to some others, coaching is different from most professions because of the seasonal aspect of it. There are no Vice Presidents to carry on the work while a new President is being appointed - VPs who presumably know what they are doing and who will all be retained under the new boss. Most businesses have a continuity factor built into the design of the company. Not so with basketball. Except where there is a Head Coach In Waiting that has been previously approved, when the head coach leaves, things come to a screeching halt and hang in limbo until the next guy can get on the job and get his staff into place. Time is of the essence, especially since recruiting is such an important part of Division 1 sports.