Sunday, April 30, 2017

Down, but not awful

Our 3-point was down significantly this past season, from 38.4% to 34.6%. Still, that mark is not too bad, and was better than 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons.

A bigger casualty on the arc than our shooting, however, was our defense. It exploded from a 31.3% mark by opponents to 36%.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Most likely an upgrade

The signings of Wadly Mompremier and Cezanne Carson are not the sort of stuff that makes fans stand up and cheer. However, most likely they will replace a couple of players who haven't played much and are not likely to. So, we upgraded our roster with those moves, if they turn out at all like we hoped. Mompremier is a proven rim protector, and you definitely need one of those. Carson comes advertised as a defensive specialist, and no matter how uninspiring that is to some fans, we sorely needed one last season. We helped ourselves with the signings. How much remains to be seen.

Friday, April 28, 2017

So what specifically are we losing?

Stetson Billings - defensive specialist
Jalen Jackson - scorer, rebounder
Lis Shoshi - best big man
Marcus Johnson - combo guard, scorer, shooter
Maurius Hill - all-round player
Kemy Osse - shooter

In other words, we lost substantial part from all over the vehicle. Facing a full-scale overhaul.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

TV logic

"In a democracy, the umpire is always wrong."

(from The Donna Reed Show on television)

Possibly in good shape at guard?

Dayshawn Watkins is advertised as a pure point guard. Deondre Burns came to us as a combo guard, but played more SG than point. Presumably he could do either in a pinch. Camron Reedus is listed by Verbal Commits as a point, but his stats suggest he may really be more of a SG. The long and short of it is that in these three we hopefully will have three players with some experience (if even at the juco level) who among them should be able to cover both the guard positions if we mix and match them, with occasional minutes from the other players.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

WKU bouncing back

Our old friends, the Hilltoppers, fell on hard times last season (15-17), but don't grieve for them. They have a monster recruiting class coming in, with a 5-star and a 4-star among them.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Who gets the most from his talent?

To me, recruiting is the "oh by the way" part of coaching. I do not really judge a coach by his recruiting, since that is a part of the college game that is distasteful and lends itself most to cheating and unscrupulous methods. I wish one of the experts would do a study to see which D1 coach gets the most from his talent. Surely there must be a way to do that statistically. The recruiting services pretty much rank all the recruits (although their "rankings" at the lower levels are pretty much token marks). So, someone ought to be able to somehow incorporate those rankings with  RPI or Sagarin and see who did the most with what he had. To me, that is the real measure of coaching.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A shortage of seniors

One thing we won't have much of next season is seniors. Assuming the Verbal Commits announcement of Wadly Mompremier is correct, he will be our only senior. True, Dayshawn Watkins will be a redshirt junior, but that still does not amount to three previous years of playing.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Evaluating this next season

For unbiased observers, evaluating the job Wes Flanigan will have done after this next season will be tricky, because of all the new faces. If it is glaringly evident that there is no talent there at all, then it is easy. Wes didn't get it done.

However, good talent is not always obviously good right off the bat. Take Deondre Burns for example. For a season and a half he was an also-ran; then he caught fire and ended up as one of our best shooters, all of a sudden. I absolutely would not have predicted that at the first of the year. The same could be true of some of the large group of "new hires" for next year. We may not set the house a-fire early in the season, but if in the second half the new faces are starting to show that they are getting the idea, then there would be reason for optimism.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A positive observation from a new Trojan

We are so accustomed to hearing negative comments on the message board that it is refreshing to hear a new voice chime in about the Little Rock program and its fans. This is from a post on the official website that involved an interview with new recruit Damir Hadzic.

"I think the passion for basketball here is great. Even this year, when we lost a few games, people were still showing up and still supporting us. That really got my attention and I thought that was really cool. Not all schools are like that. The people here love basketball."

When someone is not determined to be negative, it is not hard to be positive. Good for you, Damir!

"Sophomore bump"

It is a saying that players make their biggest improvement in their second season at the D1 level. And, there probably is some truth to that just given the nature of things. If that is so, our candidates for that jump would be Ryan Pippins, Andre Jones, and Shandon Goldman. I do not know how much impact those players can be expected to have, or even if they will all survive to next season. So, it does not look like we will get much benefit from the Sophomore Bump this next season.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Returning minutes

With two more commitments in the spring period, we do not know how things will fall out, but for the sake of argument, here is what we should have returning from last season in terms of minutes played, as things stand right now.

Burns 606
Black 587
Jones 324
Marcus 191
Pippins 59
Goldman 23
Moorman 19
Brady 3

That is 1812 minutes, or 28% of the total minutes played last season, and none of the top five. That ain't much. The sky is the limit for any players who want to step up and make a place for themselves. Ought to be interesting.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

In defense of the media

I complain (and I am not the only one) that the media knows virtually nothing about the lower-level schools that are not named Gonzaga. They affect expertise, but except for a few exceptional situations, they are, for all practical purposes, uninformed about basketball below the power conference level and especially below the top third of conferences.

In fairness to them, it is an almost impossible task to be well-informed on all of college basketball. After all, there were 351 D-1 teams this past season. If a reporter watched only one game for each team, he obviously would not make it. Even with modern recording technology, he would have to be watching games virtually round the clock to have even a passing knowledge of all the teams. It is just too much.

So, we are left out in the cold. Bloggers and message boards are beginning to close the gap somewhat for the truly die-hard college basketball fans. To get solid information about the little guys today, you have to go to those who are not "experts," but who probably know more than the experts, at least about one particular niche of the game.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Perfect practice

One of my old music teachers used to say, "Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. If you repeat mistakes, you are only practicing how to be wrong."

In basketball there is not much time to think, just time to react. So, if you have not practiced the motions - doing it right - over and over and over, you will not do what you need to do when you need to do it. You have to program your brain, almost at a subconscious level, to do the right thing. You cannot so program your brain by doing the wrong thing (being sloppy) in practice.

Monday, April 17, 2017

How did Porter do?

Our old friend Porter Moser is still holding down the bench (when he sits on it, which wasn't often while  he was in Little Rock) at Loyola (IL). The Ramblers had a pretty good year. They finished 18-14 and 8-10 in the tough Missouri Valley Conference. They were 13-3 at home. Porter should have four starters returning for next season, so the future looks bright.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Successful transition back?

I asked this question on 9 June 16: "Could Johnson successfully make the transition back to point if he had to?" We know now that the answer is mixed. Yes, he could, but No, he could not with unqualified success with the mix of players we had this past season. The result was less than sterling.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

How did Slippery Rock do?

All America just be on the edge of their seats to learn how fared that symbol of the out-of-the-way, Slippery Rock University, this past season. Mediocre, in a word. The Rock finished 14-15, and 10-12 in conference play. They did have a loss to Indiana (that's Indiana University of Pennsylvania), and a win over California (that's California University of Pennsylvania), and they got blown out by Tennessee (the one in Tennessee). Furthermore, they had a win over Seton Hill (that's Hill, not Hall, in Greensburg, PA).

Friday, April 14, 2017

Looking back at Arkansas State's year

Considering a 20-win season is always pleasant. ASU's contemplation might be a little muted because they did not go to any sort of post-season, but I figure that was a result of an administrative decision, since they probably would have qualified for one of the pay-to-play gigs. We figured the Wolves might be pretty salty when they beat Georgetown in DC in November. In fact, that defeat might have played a significant role as a straw that broke the coaching back of John Thompson III. Losing to cellar-dweller Monroe in the first round of the Belt tournament had to have been painful.

But still, 20 wins is 20 wins. We would have loved to have that problem in Little Rock.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Looking back at Pine Bluff's season

It was a rough year for the Golden Lions. They finished 7-25, and 6-12 in conference, next-to-last in the SWAC. Their only non-conference win was against non-D1 Ecclesia College. They even lost in triple overtime to non-D1 Blue Mountain College. They did actually play a non-conference D1 game at home, against UT Martin, which is a little unusual for them. (They lost it.) As they lose several seniors, the Lions need an immediate upgrade in talent.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Looking back at UCA's season

The Bears finished 8-24, which is rough, but better than two years ago, when they were 2-27. They played us pretty tough again. They moved out of the cellar in the Southland, beating out McNeese and finishing in a five-way tie for eighth place. I still think Russ Pennell was  a good  hire and that the administration in Conway just needs to be patient. Things  are moving in the right direction, albeit slowly.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Przemek Karnowski

It is hard to miss Przemek Karnowski under any situation, but it was impossible to do so in the NCAA tournament. He was a big man playing on the biggest stage. He reportedly finished his career with the most wins of any player in NCAA history. And, while he probably was not the biggest player in history, he certainly was right up there on the list. Then he grew that beard to further add to the man-mountain effect. Throw in his consonant-laden name, and he was memorable, no doubt about that.

Image result for przemek karnowski

Monday, April 10, 2017

Whither CCSU?

In 2015-2016, the worst basketball team in the country ( #351 according to Sagarin) was Central Connecticut State. It is always interesting to me to track the worst team and see what happens to it. Well, I am happy to report that CCSU moved up several notches, all the way to #339. That is still not very high, but significantly better than where they were.

This year the cellar-dweller was Alabama A&M. We'll see where they end up next season.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Will this basketball player make it to the movies?

Purdue center Isaac Haas bears somewhat of a resemblance both physically and facially to actor Dolph Lundgren, who played Ivan Drago in the movie Rocky IV. And from the picture below, I am not the first person to notice that fact. Whether or not Mr. Haas goes cinematic, he is an imposing physical specimen.

Image result for isaac haas

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Less fun

It is excruciating for fans of those teams who get knocked off, but for the generality of basketball fans (and for those who watch, but who are not really basketball fans), the NCAA tournament is a lot more fun when there are a bunch of upsets. This year the tournament was fairly "boring" in that regard. True, there were lost of heavyweights still in the ring in the late rounds, but no Davids to take on Goliath.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Where we finished in SBC stats

Scoring offense - 10th
Scoring defense - 2nd
FT% - 1st
FG% defense - 10th
3PT% defense - 11th
Blocked shots - 3rd
Assists - 11th

Scoring - Johnson 17th, Jackson 29th (tie)
Rebounds/game - Hill 19th
Assists/game - Johnson 10th
FT% - Johnson 1st
Steals/game - Hill 14th
3PT% - Osse 10th
Blocks/game - Shoshi 1st, Jackson 15th (tie)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

It takes more than a coach

It takes more than just a good coach to win championships. Certainly a head basketball coach has more impact upon the outcome than a head football coach, who these days is generally just the CEO of the business. A basketball coach is CEO and the foreman on the floor. But he still has to have the players. A really good coach can make the results with the available talent be better than they would have been, but there is a limit to what he can do. In one sense college coaching must be more gratifying than coaching in the pros, because in college you can actually coach, as opposed to being an arbitrator for the outsized egos of millionaires, many of whom in another context would be behind bars. On the other hand, in the pros you do not have to recruit, and I feel sure that for most coaches that is the least pleasant function of the job.

In any case, whether the talent comes from recruiting or through the draft, the talent has to be there. And a coach cannot force players to come to his school. He can only sell, as best he can, what the school and staff have to offer. How many superb coaches did not make the grade purely because they were not good salesmen?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Final conference RPI rankings

The top ten were:
Big 12
Big East
Big Ten
Atl 10
Mtn West

Not much of note there. The ACC replaced the Big 12 at the top and there was some shuffling among the other big boys. The Pac-12 dropped from third to sixth. The American replaced the Atlantic 10 as the best of the rest. The WCC moved up five spots to 9th from 14th, presumably in part because of Gonzaga's great year. Interestingly, CUSA, to which several of our SBC brethren bolted, moved down from 21st to 23rd. The poor MEAC maintained their spot on the bottom of the list.

The Sun Belt had a very good year. We moved from 17th to 13th, so it was a significantly tougher place to play this year than last. That is a good trend. It would be very nice to climb into the top ten one of these days.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Profound 15-minute lecture by John Wooden


It is interesting to hear the person he mentions as the most complete ball player to play for him.

Image result for john wooden

Revisiting Chasse Conque and the Flanigan hiring

Butler promoted Brad Stevens from assistant to head coach and he took Butler to back-to-back championship games. Gonzaga promoted Mark Few from assistant to head coach and everyone knows that story. It is worth noting that the two biggest recent success stories for non-Power Conference schools have come from internal promotions. My conclusion? Promoting from within is NOT a defective or ill-advised method of procedure for an athletic director to use when filling a vacancy. Sure, he is gambling that the assistant becomes what he thinks he can become, but he knows the assistant well, so it is at least a calculated risk.

Wes Flanigan had a rough first year. He may prove not to have been the right answer. I have no idea about that. But if, two years from now, the Trojans are on the right track, Conque will be looking like a genius - again. He is the one who has the responsibility. He is the one in the best spot to know the answers to the questions that have to be asked. He may have made the wrong choice this time, but I see nothing to indicate that his methodology was wrong. 

A year ago Conque hired a man without ANY Division 1 head coaching experience. To be honest, I sort of wondered about that. If Josh Hagins has been lost for the year to an injury and our season had come apart at the seams, we might all have been questioning the Beard hire on that basis. It was a risk, but it paid off handsomely. EVERY hire is a risk. Good ADs will beat the average on their hires, but none of them will be right every time. Time may prove that Conque was wrong on his second hire, but I am thinking that he will be right more often than not.

Might not be the year

Given the fact that we will have at least six newcomers on the roster next season, it might not be the year to load up on a bunch of money games. (Of course,  I would have though last year was that sort of year, and it wasn't.)

Monday, April 3, 2017

My kingdom for a shot finisher!

I have heard people belittle big men with high shooting percentages because "most of their shots were close to the basket." That is completely bogus in my book. Just watch basketball players and see how many point-blank shots they miss. Even college players. Even high-level college players. Even NBA players. A player who can finish a shot close to the basket, even in traffic, is worth his weight in gold. And considering what he is likely to do to the other team in terms of foul count, his worth is doubled.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Interesting trend in our recruiting

Of the six recruits we have signed, four are in the 6-5 to 6-8 range, and three are either 6-7 or 6-8. It looks like Wes may be edging toward the old Louisiana-Lafayette formula of having a big slug of players in that  6-5 to 6-8 range.

One reason I am liking this title game

This will be a national championship game which has one feature we have not seen in a while: big men will really matter. Indeed, that might be where the game is determined.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Flanigan's recruiting will get tested quickly

Given the fact that we are losing so many players, Wes Flanigan's ability to recruit is going to be put to the test more quickly than usual. We should have seven returning players (including Dayshawn Watkins), and not all of them played meaningful minutes this past season. That means some of the new guys are going to get thrown into the fry from the get-go. It won't take long to see the quality of Flanigan's recruiting.