Wednesday, November 30, 2016

We'll take it

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Exceptional years help make exceptional years

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

It's even true in prison

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

Saturday, November 26, 2016


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

Friday, November 25, 2016

When we get both barrells going

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

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Once again the differentials are good

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

Proud of this team

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

We have GOT to get back to what brung us

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

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


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

A story of two games

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

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

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

Which team will show up from here on?

Unlucky from the get-go

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

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

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

This year, we have not been as lucky.

Rejoicing with our brethren

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Who will Watkins replace?

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

Free throws cover a multitude of sins

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

Rim protector

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

Monday, November 21, 2016

The SEC is at it again

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

Records breed records

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

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

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

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Reviewing a tough loss

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 18, 2016

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

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

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

The excitement before the first real game

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

You have to be consistent

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

Early attendance

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

Might be special

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Strong start for the seniors

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

Monday, November 14, 2016

The universal caveat

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

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Glue guys

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

The first win is behind him

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

Image result for wes flanigan

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Huge win for Staten Island

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

Recruiting class

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 11, 2016

Watch out for the Gak

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

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

The easy start

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

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Calipari's annual fizzle

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

How to take care of the kneeling during the national anthem

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

Image result for world war ii veteran

I wish they were like Saban

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

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


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

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Other conferences I like

Missouri Valley
Big East
Ohio Valley

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

Senior leadership

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

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

I used to be a Wisconsin fan

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

Monday, November 7, 2016

Social statements

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

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Will we stay with what brought us?

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

Chicago has had some good ballclubs

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

Growing up a Cardinals fan

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

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

Record for same starters?

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

The Cubs finally do it!

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

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The day that defense died

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

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A handy guy to have around

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

Consider the plight of Chicago State

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

Why white uniforms?

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

Hurry up, Biggie

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