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.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Injuries and fatigue

I do not generally like rotations quite as long as Beard had them last season. It makes sense to me that throwing players in and out of a game tends to disturb the continuity of the team on the floor. However, if fatigue makes players more injury prone, it might have definite benefits there. We did stay injury-free last season except for Daniel Green. So there are benefits on both sides. And I am no physicial therapist. Nor a coach.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

We need a fast start

Our schedule is geared for success this year. No "unwinnable" games  except Florida. This team needs a  fast start to pick up where we left off last season. We do not need to lose the winning rhythm. The first few games will be critical.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Not hardly fair

Can you believe that we had Alan Barksdale (44.9% from the arc) and Nick Zackery (46.6%) on the same team in 2000-01? Two of the all-time great Trojan shooters on the same court. And throw in Laverne Smith (35.2%) for good measure.

It just is not right

The football players who handle the ball can get their names called over the PA, and even  the defensive players. The only ones who will never get noticed EXCEPT for a penalty are the offensive linemen. Nothing right about that.

The "what if?" factor

If things progress normally, then we can project who will get the most playing time among the returning players. However, every once in a while a player takes a giant step forward between years and vaults ahead of someone ahead of him, and that is very good for a team. What if Osse beats out Johnson? or Stetson beats out Hill? or Black beats out Shoshi? or one of the true freshman beats out anyone? Then the whole team takes a big step forward.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Can the Big East do it again?

Since realignment, when the Big East became a conference without FBS football, it has maintained its place among the elite basketball conferences. Without the huge football television revenue that conferences like the $EC rakes in by the carloads, they are consistently beating at least one of the five money conferences in basketball composite RPI rankings. Since they became completely basketball-centered, they have beaten the mighty $EC each year.

Can they do it again? Who knows? Those are some mighty good basketball schools with a rich history in the game. The SEC is throwing all kinds of money at basketball because they have been embarrassed by how bad they have been, relatively speaking. (Their fan bases, for the most part, could not care less, of course.) The Pac 12 has been improving of late, all the way up to second last season. So we shall see if a basketball survives among the elite.

Definitely international

In addition to the U. S., Davidson's roster has players from Serbia, Nigeria, Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Greece

Trickle down from the NBA

We are prone to remember what a player did lately, and if he had a great NBA career, that tends to color our opinion of his college career, and vice versa. Michael Jordan is a great example of that. He had a fine college career, but he was far from being one of the all-time greats, which is where he gets ranked all too often. He averaged only 17.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists over his career - very good numbers, but hardly the stuff that legends are made of. And, he made the one shot at the end of the NCAA Championships. If he had not played in the pros, only basketball historians and hard-core North Carolina fans would remember much about him.

Jerry Lucas - how soon we forget

Time dulls our memory as to how good certain players were. I remember Jerry Lucas in the NBA, but I was too young to take notice when he was in college. But he led the nation in FG% all three years he was eligible (62.4% for his career). He averaged 17.2 rebounds per  game over his career. (Most players today would consider that many rebounds in one game to be a career accomplishment.) And, just for good measure, he threw in 24.3 points per  game over his career. It is ridiculous to overlook those sorts of numbers, but most of us do today. Sad.

Image result for jerry lucas

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Starting lineup?

A couple of spots are easy, but in a couple there is room for speculation.

1 - I am assuming Dayshawn Watkins until further info emerges. A couple of other candidates, but I have to say he is the leading one at this time.

2 - Johnson. Easy.

3 - My guess (and only a guess) is that it will be Maurius Hill, because my guess is that Wes will go with experience and a small starting lineup, at least early. Otherwise, I would guess Jackson.

4 - Jalen Jackson. Ditto above.

5 - Shoshi. Easy.

I am assuming that true freshmen Goldman and Jones will not be in the mix early, but I would be thrilled if they prove that wrong.

That gives us a starting lineup of 6-11, 6-6, 6-5. Not huge, but pretty typical for a Belt team. Especially since Hill plays bigger than he is. The good news is that we can quickly go to 6-11, 6-9, 6-6, which is big by Belt standards. IF everyone stays healthy.