Saturday, December 31, 2016

Turnovers and perimeter defense

Those need to be the top two items on Wes' agenda for the foreseeable future.

Friday, December 30, 2016

We shall see what we shall see

Obviously, one object during the non-conference season is to determine what holes need to be plugged before conference play stops. We have seen a lot of things that are definite positives. Our starting line-up is solid and versatile. We have a lot of offensive weapons. We have several shooters. Our main deficiencies are that we do not have a true point guard currently playing, and that our defense is spotty at best. We might be able to get buy with the point guard situation, but we will not survive with our defense like it has been lately.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Height by committee

Pitt does not have a big line-up this year, at least by ACC standards. Their tallest starter (Michael Young) is only 6-9. However, the other four starters are 6-8, 6-8, 6-7, 6-6. They start relatively small, but they do not slack off much.

Nice turnaround

It is always nice to see a kid turn his game around. Steve McClain is in his second year as head coach at UIC (Illinois-Chicago). Last year the Flames were a pathetic 5-25. Their leading scorer was 6-7 freshman Dikembe Dixson, who averaged 19.8 points per game, but took a lot of shots to do it. He shot only 36.9% overall and 30.4% from the arc. His number of attempts from 3-point range were almost twice as many as any other player on the team. In other words, he was jacking up a lot of shots, making enough of them to score a lot of points, but the team was suffering as a result.

This year? A different result. Dixson is averaging 20.3 ppg,but he is shooting 47.7% overall and a nice 36.7% from the arc. He is only fifth on the team in 3-point attempts, but is making a far better percentage of them. In addition, he is getting to the line a lot, and making his free throws. In other words, this kid has cleaned up his act and is making a player. Tip of the hat to the coaching staff for developing his game. And the bottom line is that UIC is 7-6 on the year - already more wins than last season.

Favorable schedule

We could not get a much better start to the conference schedule. Two home games, with the first of the two being against one of the weaker teams in the league. We really, really need to go 2-0.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

From NBC about Texas

10. Texas: How about this? Seeing the Longhorns struggle so mightily in Year 2 under Shaka Smart is pretty shocking, especially given he’s bringing McDonald’s All-Americans to Austin, but the total lack of guard play has been crippling to Texas. The Longhorns can’t really shoot it, either, which in basketball is a problem, I’m told. It’s hard to see them being able to correct that enough to climb the conference ladder.

Ever seen this implied (or maybe even stated) from just to the north of us? "All we need are athletes. We press, and that is all we need to do."

Time to step up

Our shooters have to start making their shots. Our ball handlers have to quit turning the ball over and start distributing better. We have to start playing defense - at least a little bit. This is a senior-laden team with more than adequate talent and size. Just do it!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Time for self-examination

It always helps to have a chance to step back mentally and assess why things are not going as well as they might be. That applies to us, because things are not going as well as they might be. This can be a good team. This might even be a very good team, but we are a long way from being there so far. Lots of holes to plug up. The biggest one is on the defensive end. Recently we have been just AWFUL on defense. Our shooting needs to come around, but it probably will. Defensive downturns often are the result of a lack of focus and effort, and that CAN be fixed easily, if the coach will, if the team will.

Money alone won't work

The media calls them the Power Five. I call them the Money Five, because in college sports money is power, and football means money. Since the realignment turmoil, the new Big East (no FBS football) has ranked 2nd and 4th among the conferences, and so far this year has fluctuated between first and second. The SEC is throwing a small fortune at basketball, but thus far it has not moved them up much in the rankings. Money alone doesn't equal success in basketball. You also have to have a fan base that cares.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Watkins will tell us a lot when he gets back

First off, it will tell us how good he is. And we need him to be at least pretty good. Second, it will tell us if playing point was at least part of the problem with Johnson. If he has been playing out of position all year, it ought to make a considerable difference.

I don't envy Wes having to figure out how to distribute minutes at the guard spots if Watkins is indeed pretty good.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A lot of work to do

This team can get turned around. We have a lot of talent, but there will be a lot of work to be done before we will be competitive in the top tier of the Sun Belt. We might get by playing only OK defense, but we cannot get by playing abysmal defense, which is where we are right now.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Still my two favorite Trojan pictures

John Fowler and Rashad Jones-Jennings. Defense and rebounding. Trojan tough!
Image result for john fowler ualr

Image result for rashad jones-jennings ualr

The best thing about a Kentucky-Louisville game

is that you know one of them is going to lose.

Barney Fife teams

Barney only had one bullet, because that was all Andy would let him have. Some basketball teams are one-bullet teams, even when they shoot that one bullet extremely well. A good coach, who has the horses to do it, will design a plan to take away that team's bullet, and then all they can do it throw the gun at the opponent. It really helps to have a few other cartridges in your belt.

Grayson Allen - basketball's spoiled brat

Allen apologized after the game, so evidently that makes everything OK.

 "I think ultimately, I just made a mistake -- two mistakes -- and they were big ones and mistakes I regret," Allen told ESPN.

It wasn’t a mistake: he did it on purpose.

This team used to hang its hat on defense

That has been true over three coaches over a decade and a half. We have gotten off the track somewhere.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Right, Malik. Sure.

From an NBC article: "Sharpshooting Malik Monk chose Kentucky because he felt it was the best place to hone other basketball skills beyond his impressive offensive talents."

Now, does anyone really believe that? Hmmm?

USA's defense

South Alabama is holding opponents to 39.8% overall and 29.5% from the arc. Pretty salty. Points won't come easy against them. Thankfully their offense is not too strong.

Stats you won't see very often

At this point, South Alabama's Georgi Boyanov is shooting 67.6% from the free throw line, but 68.2% from three-point range. You won't see that very often.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

It isn't always height

Louisiana does not have a player over 6-7 in its regular rotation, and yet they are crushing opponents on the board by 9.5 per game. Bryce Washington is 6-6, but he leads the Sun Belt - by a bunch - with 12.0 rebounds/game.


As I write, RealtimeRPI has the Big East rated as the top basketball conference in the nation, ahead of all the money conferences. That is a very satisfying chart to see, since the Big East teams do not have FBS football, and so basketball is the premier sport with them.


How can a team shoot 0 for 15 from the arc in a game? I mean, if you shot with your eyes closed you ought to get one of them to go in. Right?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Brief excitement

We see it happen so often: the little guy plays their hearts out in the first half against an uninterested opponent and are leading or at least close at halftime, then the big guy blows them out in the second half. At least they have their brief moment of euphoria in the locker room. Occasionally, however, the big guy will let the little guy hang around too long, and then anything can happen, and sometimes does.

Winning with defense

Virginia does not have a single player averaging double figures. They're pretty bad, huh? Think again. They are 9-1 and ranked 12th in the country. Opponents shoot an unbelievably low 33.9% overall and 30.9% from the arc. And just because the Cavaliers do not have a scoring hoss, don't think they can't play offense. They shoot 51% overall as a team and 39% from the arc. They just spread the scoring around.

Basketball is surely different from football

There are three non-money conference schools in the AP Top Ten this week: Villanova, Gonzaga and Creighton. Imagine that happening in football? Not a chance!

Keep an eye peeled toward Evanston

Northwestern holds the dubious distinction of being the only money conference school never to have made the NCAA tournament. (They did win a national championship back in 1931 before the Tournament started.) At this point, however, they are 9-2 after beating Dayton on the road. This could be the year history is made.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Ten deep

Right now we are pretty much an eight-man rotation. On the assumption that Watkins and Billings make it to the rotation, that would make ten, and that probably is about right.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Kentucky vs. North Carolina

Defense? Purely optional. Of course, that will be regarded by the experts as "exciting."

Not impressed

I am not impressed by your getting off a shot, not matter how athletic you may have been in doing it. What impresses  me is if you make the shot. I just watched Texas A&M get thumped by Arizona, in large part because they could not make shots from right under the basket. Again and again they could not make a two-foot chip shot. Billy Kennedy had to be frustrated. I know I was just watching it, and my livelihood doesn't depend on it. Give me a kid who consistently can make a gimme shot and he is worth his weight in gold.

It is working, but I don't like it

This is a very good 3-point shooting team. We are putting up a lot of shots from the arc and making them at a high rate. Still, I don't like that very much. I like it that we are making them, but not that we are shooting so many of them (almost a third of our attempts). I can never forget that maxim, "Live by the three; die by the three." Some nights your shots don't fall, and then what do you do? If we get too accustomed to jacking up the bombs (a.k.a. not having to work hard for our points), we may get out of the habit of taking the other course. No Plan B. This particularly is a problem come tournament time, when you do not get a second chance.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Nonchalanted the game

Once, after muffing a routine fly ball in the outfield in the World Series, Yogi Berra gave this explanation: "I nonchalanted it." He took it for granted - too much so.

I am very much afraid this team is nonchalanting the first halves of ballgames. "We can always come back  in the second half." And, our offense is high-powered enough that most of the time we have been able to do that. But to have games down to the wire with Pine Bluff and Northern Arizona? Come on! Out of 351 Division 1 teams, they are  currently ranked 339th and 346th. Feeding right on the bottom. And we let them make close games of it.

History has been restored

Villanova, UCLA, Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana. These are all in the AP top ten this week. All among the nobility, the bluebloods, of college basketball. A huge amount of basketball history in those names. Of the top ten, probably only Baylor, Gonzaga and Creighton could lay claim to such exalted status - at least so far.

Johnson's quickness

For some odd reason (just a quirk of my brain), I do not tend to think of Marcus Johnson first and foremost as a 3-point shooter, even though he well could end up as the best career percentage shooter in program history. He is so quick that I just visualize him getting past other players and getting off shots that way. Odd how the mind plays games with us.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

He could help his own cause

B. J.  Gladden of Georgia Southern leads their team in FT attempts with 49. This is not because he is a particularly dangerous shooter, because in fact he is a pretty bad shooter. Nor is it because he plays a lot of minutes, because he is only fifth on the team in that category. Nor is it because he is a gigantic post player, because he is 6-6. The key fact in discovering the reason for this statistical curiosity is no doubt the fact that he shoots only 46.9% from the line. He could solve his own problem, if he doesn't like shooting so many charity shots.

So what is the strength of this team?

It isn't defense. Our defense is OK, but nothing to write home about, at least so far.  Our rebounding is very solid, with a plus-6 so far this year.Our shooting is pretty good, both overall, from the arc, and from the line, and I am thinking that is what we have hung our hat on so far. Interestingly, our starters shoot the 3 exceptionally well as a group. On the other hand, Jones, Black and Marcus are shooting 55% overall as a group. So we have some pop inside and out. Of the eight players who are averaging double figure minutes, only Johnson and Burns are shooting less than 46% overall.

Welcome opportunity or rude awakening

Our schedule has been mediocre at best thus far. But here in a little bit we will run into Florida. We will either get ourselves a good old-fashioned spanking, or we will acquit ourselves well and get some confidence. We will learn a lot that day, one way or the other.

Monday, December 12, 2016

We OUGHT to be a good road team

Veteran teams often are, and we have a lot of seniors. The next two games are ones we ought to win if we take care of business. We'll see if the road has any effect.

"Defense is bad"

This from ESPN's Eamonn Brennan: For the rest of us -- for the average college basketball fan who enters into any given broadcast hoping for a good game -- it isn't just that the Bruins are winning. It is how they are winning: with unceasing, up-tempo, unrestrained offense.

"Unrestrained offense." That is fun? Meaning that anything that slows down the offense, whether by the team doing it or the team defending it, is bad? Why not just go down to the local playground and save your money. You will see completely unrestrained offense there.

This needs adjustment

According to Sagarin today, we have the 338th toughest schedule in the country. That means that only 13 teams have weaker schedules than we have. Obviously, not much can be done about that at this point, but we do need to upgrade in future years.

Very interesting strategy

It is generally acknowledged that Buzz Williams can coach. In all nine games so far this year, he has brought his leading scorer, Zach LeDay (17.1 ppg) and also Seth Allen (10.7 ppg) off the bench. That is a different twist. It must be working, because they are 8-1.

One of our better shooting teams

Since the 3-point shot was instituted, the best team average we have had for a season was in 2000-2001 when we hit 40.7% with Barksdale, Nick Zachery and Mark Green, etc. At the moment we are at 39.2%, which would be in second place.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Impressed with Shoshi

I really like Lis Shoshi's improvement in rebounding this season. He was OK  last year, but not a great deal better than that. At the moment he is second in the Belt in rebounds per game at 8.7 (although a good way out of first place). If he finished there, that would be our best total since the days of Mr. Jones-Jennings.

Johnson is back

It took one record-setting night for Marcus Johnson to get his shooting average back up to where it ought to be. He had been lurching alone in a territory that was pretty pathetic, to be candid. Then, out of the blue, he goes off for 9 out of 11 against UCA, sets the arena record for made 3-pointers in a game, and lo and behold, his average on the season is now 39%, and the Trojans now have a double-barrelled perimeter attack. Kemy Osse has been consistent all season long, and is still at 43.9%. Throw in Andre Jones, who is 6 of 14, and we look to be in good shape from the arc.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Win the ones we ought to

We have a four-game stretch here of weaker opponents that we ought to beat. If we do win those games, we would be 10-2 heading into the Florida game, which would feel pretty good. A record of 10-3 going into conference is not bad. Last year we were 11-1 at  that point, so that is not too far behind. Of course, we still have to win those games.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Non-primary 3-point shooters

Johnson and Osse are our main shooters from the arc. Each has 48 attempts on the year, and no one else has more than 16. However, Jalen Jackson, Maurius Hill, Evan Moorman and Andre Jones are a collective 16 of 36 for 44.4%. So our back-up wave of shooters does pretty well. We are shooting 36.4% as a team, which is very solid. If Marcus Johnson had not gotten off to such a slow start shooting, it would be better than that.

Remember Tom Lawless?

He was a utility infielder and third-string catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals during their pennant-winning 1987 season. During the regular season he had only two hits in 25 at bats. Yet in the World Series he hit a game-winning home run. Lots of fun!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

About where I thought we would be

6-2 is about where I had predicted we would be at this point in the season. I must admit that the losses might have been against other teams than where they occurred. I figured we would beat Idaho at home, but I thought we might lose to Tulsa. And I was not sure that we would win 2 of 3 in the Texas tournament. So, I am fairly happy with the way things stand. We need to sweep the next four.

Lots of Brodericks

Broderick as a given name is not unheard of. There was a fairly well-known actor named Broderick Crawford, for example. An honorable name if ever there was one. However, it is not exactly a garden-variety name. Certainly it does not denote 16.1875% of the male population of the country. That is exactly how much of the UMKC roster that has the first name Broderick: Robinson, Newbill and Ross. Go figure.

Has to be a satisfying win

Creighton just beat Nebraska. A non-football school defeats a football juggernaut who has no D1 competition in the state. That is what we Trojan fans see in our dreams!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Watching the playground

Watching high school and junior high basketball can be very frustrating. At least as often as not, the players must think they are performing for ESPN highlights. Fancy is the only thing that counts. Good, fundamental basketball is purely optional.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Time for some momentum

We got off to a rocky start, losing at home to Idaho, which should not have happened, and losing at a neutral site to Pepperdine, which could have gone either way. But we have won three in a row now, including a very nice win over Tulsa, so hopefully we are hitting our stride. Now we have Pine Bluff, UCA and Northern Arizona, all of which we ought to beat easily. (Easy to say, obviously a little harder to do, given our performance at UCA a few days back.) Still, we should be heavy favorites in all these games. If there are any kinks in our system that need to be worked out, now is the time. We need to get in rhythm, get some confidence, and get in the habit of winning.

Monday, December 5, 2016

We tend to forget

With modern-day hype, we tend to forget how really great some past athletes were. Sure, times are faster today, but Paavo Nurmi won gold medals from the 1920 through the 1928 Olympics at 1500, 5000 and 10,000 meters. That would be unheard of today. Also, Emil Zatopek won the 5000, the 10,000 and the marathon in the same Olympics. Ditto the unlikelihood that that could happen today.

Kemy's value

Kemy Osse is a non-spectacular player. He is not flashy. But just look at the stat sheet. He is averaging 12.3 ppg, which is pretty average for a shooting guard. However, he is shooting 45.2% from the arc, which is very good for anyone. And . . . he is shooting 49.3% overall. All too often SGs who shoot high percentages from the arc do not shoot all that well overall, but Kemy does. He doesn't shoot a lot of FTs, but he makes them (78.6%) when he does. Plus he is averaging 4.1 rebounds per game, which is excellent for his position, and his A/TO ratio is 2.5, which is considerably higher than Johnson, who usually plays point, so far. Kemy is just getting it done this year, all over the court.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Most balanced Trojan team I have ever seen.

Four of five starters are averaging double figures, and Hill is just a tick below it at 9.1.

Is the NBA so bad

that every year several players can go from their freshman year in college right into the league, and stick? I realize that the proliferation of teams in the league has watered down the available talent, but it still does not make sense. I understand that a Lew Alcindor or Moses Malone might have gone early to the pros, but we are getting NBA talent down into the dime-a-dozen category.

I agree, Wes

On his Facebook preview of the Tulsa game, Flanigan said, "I think the main focus right now is defensively. We've got to figure out a way to try to get some more stops more consistently." He hit that nail on the head. We are a pretty good offensive team, but our defense has been sub-par, especially for Little Rock.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Role reversal

When UAFS was junior college, it used to be a major feeder of D1 programs, including Fayetteville. Now they are a four-year school at D2, and the situation is just the reverse. Now they are getting players from the D1 schools. On their roster they have players from Georgia, SLU, Air Force, New Orleans, SEMO, and UTSA.

A peek at next season

True freshman Andre Jones is 18 of 27 from the field so far. Redshirt sophomore Ben Marcus is 10 of 15 from the field. Sure, both of those are very small samples, but they are encouraging that the pipeline won't be completely empty after this year's large senior class leaves.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

It's early, but we are making progress

At the moment, Sagarin has six Sun Belt teams in the Top 150: Georgia State, Arlington, Arkansas State, USA, Louisiana and Little Rock.

Patience rewarded

Maurius Hill labored for three seasons largely in the background in Little Rock. He was a role player, one of the glue guys who would get a few minutes, but never was a headliner. But he was patient, and his senior year is being rewarded. He is second on the team in minutes played. He leads the team in assists and is second in rebounds. His time finally came, and he is making the most of it. Good for him, and good for Little Rock.