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.