Friday, June 30, 2017

We have to have more from Black

Most of the time last season Oliver Black played behind Lis Shoshi, and so he averaged only 4.2 ppg and 3.3 rpg in 18.3 minutes per game. Obviously, those number have to increase this year. He shot 55% from the field, so he has no trouble making shots, but he is going to have to be more aggressive. Black appears to me to have the necessary agility; it is just a matter of doing it. It's your turn, Oliver.

I am curious to see if Black and Mompremier will play together very much.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Another PA mouthful

As a basketball PA announcer, I enjoy watching for players' names that I think would be lots of fun or a problem to call out during a game. For example, former Oklahoma star Bak Bak would have been a big problem. (How would you say it without sounding like a duck or a sheep.) This week I saw the name of Samford's presumptive leading scorer for the upcoming season, Demetrius Denzel-Dyson. You could do some interesting things with the call, but it would take a while to do it. Eight syllables is a lot for a name.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

How good was Sandy Koufax?

I absolutely would not make the claim that Koufax was the greatest of all time, or anything like that. His career was cut short by arthritis, and twelve seasons, no matter how good, could not get him that designation. However, I will say that I never saw a more dominating pitcher than Koufax at the peak of his career. He was amazing.

For example, from 1962 through 1966, he led the league in ERA, and in three of those seasons it was under 2.00. Over those seasons he struck out 1444 batters and walked only 316. In 1965 he struck out 382 batters. Over his career he had more strikeouts than innings pitched. And I could go on and on about how dominant he was in that period.

Here is a LINK to a video of the 1965 World Series that shows just how much his curveball broke. Here is another LINK of Pete Rose discussing what it was like to hit against Koufax and some other Hall of Fame pitchers.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

One advantage the "lesser" sports have

College baseball, football and basketball are high-profile sports, and as a result get lots of press, lots of support and lots of money. However, their pro parallels are also high-dollar endeavors, and so the college game regularly loses lots of talent to the pros before the players complete their college eligibility.

The lower-profile sports in the college world don't get the publicity and money that the big three get, but they do have one compensation in that they also do not lose nearly as many players to the pros.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Newcomers making a statement

Georgia Southern and Arlington are making big noises in the Belt these days. That tells me that, at least from a basketball perspective, the SBC was a big winner in the last round of conference realignment. Several of the traditional powerhouses have fallen on hard times or are at least going through extended rebuilding modes. Nice to have rich new blood when it was needed.

Sunday, June 25, 2017


From Verbal Commits, it looks like our staff is out hard on the recruiting. Apparently juco SGs and high school PFs are the focus so far. This is interesting since we should have only one or two scholarship seniors next season, and neither of them is a SG or a PF.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Definitely the dog days

Nothing going on. Very little news. Just marking time. Glad to see that 144 Teams in 144 Days has started up again. That will help. Traffic on the board is terribly slow. Sigh.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The NBA draft (yawn)

I follow college basketball pretty closely. I do not follow the NBA at all - at all. They look like a bunch of millionaire thugs who, if they weren't playing basketball, would probably be in jail. So, once the deadline for pulling out of the draft is past, and there is no more possibility that it will affect college teams for next season, I have zero interest in it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

USF - more than just Russell

It is interesting to note the rise and fall of dominant programs. Led by Bill Russell, San Fransisco won back-to-back NCAA championships and won 60 games in a row. Then in the season after Russell left, they went to another Final Four. Through the 1960s and '70s they went to four more Elite Eights and four additional Sweet Sixteens, making them one of the nation's  most consistent and dominant teams over a three-decade time span.

Then in 1982, after a period of scandals and recruiting violations that started in the late 1970s, the University President decided to shut down the program completely. It was resurrected in 1985, but has been to the NCAA Tournament only once since that time. Hard times at a once-proud program.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Where does the scoring come from?

Whenever you have a big roster turnover, one of the big question marks regards who will be your go-to scorers for the next season. Since Deondre Burns is our leading returning scorer at 7.0 ppg, that means that new blood will have to be providing the spark this year.

Obviously, Burns' strong finish makes him a leading candidate. He had eight double-figure efforts during the conference portion of the season. Hopefully Oliver Black can up his scoring. He shot a decent percentage last year, but did not shoot much. Andre Jones has the athleticism, but his shooting percentage is going to have to improve a bunch for him to be of much help to us offensively. So, it looks like we will have to have a couple of scorers from among the new faces. And it looks like we have some good candidates.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The hammer throw

One of the most interesting athletic events is the hammer throw. It requires the strength of a weight lifter and the agility of a dancer. I saw this event live at the NAIA championships held at Henderson back in the late 1970s. It was obvious that most of the participants were shot putters or discus throwers who had been signed up just in hopes of getting points. It was a dangerous place to be. If there hadn't been a cage around the throwing area there would have been some casualties.

Here is a LINK to the finals of the hammer throw in the 2008 Olympics.

Image result for yuri sedykh

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Louisville got off easy

I agree with ESPN's Mark Schlabach:

"Pitino and the Cardinals weren't the only ones who looked bad Thursday. The NCAA infractions committee once again looked toothless, at least when it comes to punishing high-profile coaches. To almost anyone who still puts value in doing the right thing, the NCAA's punishment seems to be a slap on the wrist. A five-game suspension feels like an endorsement for looking the other way, rather than a deterrent to college coaches who don't monitor their programs closely. A significant penalty -- like a one-year suspension -- might finally convince coaches that they're responsible for what happens in their programs, whether they were directly involved or not."

And let's be clear: head coaches are responsible for what goes on in their programs.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The AD's job (a fact we frequently forget)

(from an article on NBC Sports site): "A lot of revenue is generated for the athletic department by playing games at home, and most ADs require a specific number of home games on the schedule to bring in that revenue; and AD’s job isn’t just to get make their school’s sports teams competitive, it is to make sure the athletic department operates in the black or as close to it as possible."

Yes, sports fans, it is true: the job of the Athletic Director involves a whole lot more than just winning ballgames. That may be all we care about, but it certainly is not all that he has to care about.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"Good shooters"

I never have understood why "good shooters" can only be three-point shooters. Granted that they take the majority of their shots from a longer range, but they also take them generally wide open, since they are protected by the ridiculous 3-shot foul. Inside players are likely to be enduring a mugging when they shoot. Furthermore, that particular designation for measuring shooters is purely arbitrary, based upon a stripe on the floor. Are players who were proficient at pull-up mid-range jumpers in the days before the 3-pointer not to be counted as "good shooters"? Just one more reason not to like the 3-point shot: it is even interfering with our language.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Blending in a leftover system.

When he took over as head coach, Wes Flanigan indicated that he intended basically to continue with the systems that his predecessor had used so successfully, with maybe a few adjustments. Given the strong year we had had and the unusually large number of returning upper-class players, that made sense. Why try to make a drastic change in direction under those circumstances? I thought it was the right call on Wes' part. Beard had left abruptly after a hugely emotional season, and Wes did not need to be rocking the boat any more than was necessary.

The problem is that that system is not necessarily the Flanigan system. (I have no idea what his preferences are, but it is not likely they are the same as Beard's.) He played for his father and Charles Ripley in high school. He played under Cliff Ellis at Auburn. He was an assistant under a string of coaches at NW Mississippi CC, Little Rock, Mississippi State, Nebraska and UAB. He has seen what he likes and what he does not like, what worked and what did not and why, both in the systems that were used on the court and in the approaches the coaches used in  handling players.

To be successful, a coach needs to use a style that he can teach and with which he is comfortable. That "style" of play will be a composite of all that he has experienced, and probably will be a work in progress during the first few years of his head coaching career, and maybe indeed throughout his career. Next season Wes should have his system fully in place. It may work and may not, but at least it will be his and the players will be his, and he will have had a year of head coaching under his belt. So, his comfort level should be higher and that alone is a positive factor.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

First year is usually not the best year

How have our coaches historically done in their first year compared with their best year? In other words, have our coaches usually gotten better? Below is a list of the coaches at Little Rock (under whatever name) who coached four years or longer, their record in their first year, and their best year. ("Best" is based on winning percentage.)

Alvin Longstreth - 8 seasons - first season 9-9 (.500), which was also his best
Bill Ballard - 4 seasons - 6-10 (.375), 15-14 (.517)
Happy Mahfouz - 12 seasons - 2-23 (.080), 18-6 (.750)
Ron Kestenbaum - 5 seasons - 16-10 (.615) - 23-6 (793)
Mike Newell - 6 seasons - 17-13 (.567), 24-7 (.774)
Jim Platt (4 seasons) - 10-20 (.333), 18-12 (.600)
Wimp Sanderson - 5 seasons - 17-12 (.566), 23-7 (.767)
Steve Shields - 13 seasons - 17-12 (.586), 23-8 (.742)

The bottom line is that only one of these coaches did not go on to a better season than his first, and that was in the heart of the Great Depression back in our junior college days.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Rejection Row

When Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo were together at Georgetown, their rooting section in the stands was known as Rejection Row. Together they formed one of the most imposing defensive structures ever in college basketball. See this LINK.

In the three years they played together as Hoyas, they averaged a combined 7.3, 6.3, and 7.1 blocks per game.

Image result for mourning mutombo

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The haves and have-nots

Kentucky just released their non-conference schedule. The only true road game on it is January 27 at West Virginia. On the other hand you have the killer schedules of the SWAC and MEAC teams. Consider that Pine Bluff played only one D1 non-conference home game last season - and that is an improvement from most years. How big is the gap between the top and the bottom in D1 basketball? Broader than the Grand Canyon.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Self summed it up

Kansas coach Bill Self pretty well summed up one-and-done, and why I don't like it. 

"I would say, for [Kansas], the rule has worked," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "But we have to figure out what's best for our sport."

One and done works for the big guys. It hurts the little guys. It hurts the sport.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Waiting for the roster

This is the time of year when, between current roster members and announced incoming players, we have too many players. We fans do not know who will be on the official roster for the season. (Maybe the coaches don't, either, if there is some yet-to-be-determined factor.) What all this does, of course, is to kill speculation, the fan's favorite pastime. Who will start? Who will be in the rotation? Who, if anyone, will redshirt? None  of those come into play at this point. It is the awkward time of the cycle.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Serving notice to the Naturals

We will be attending another NWA Naturals game this evening. Should be a lovely evening for it. But I am serving notice to the home team now that here is one fan who does notice when you strike out with men in scoring position. That is bad baseball. They taught us way back in grade school that when you get two strikes you should cut back on your swing and just try to meet the ball. And players at your level ought to be able at least to meet the ball against any pitcher, if you do that. But no, you big pros have to swing from the heels and try to hit a home run - and strike out. It is a low-risk strategy,  because people only notice when you hit a home run, not when you strike out trying to hit a home run. Well, here one fan who notices, and who might even boo when you do it.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Remember Dikembe Mutombo?

His full name was Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean Jacque Wamutombo. He spoke a half-dozen languages.

From a Chicago Tribune article:
Besides his wife, Rose, Mutombo also brought to the U.S. other family members he cares for, including five children, four of whom belonged to two deceased brothers. One brother, who always wanted to come to the U.S., named his children Reagan and Nancy.
Mutombo, a three-time All-Star who is a free agent after this season, has adopted all the children--even though their mothers survive--under tribal custom of the eldest or wealthiest male caring for the children of the family if the father dies.
Mutombo said all are now learning English in private schools, and one of the children, 6-year-old Herouna, has learned to say "Do not bring that in here" when blocking a shot in basketball.

Image result for Dikembe Mutombo Finger Wag

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A more democratic sport

Five of the final 16 teams in the NCAA baseball tournament are from non-power conferences. And since Long Beach State plays Fullerton, we are guaranteed that at least one of them will make the College World Series. And, of course, our own Coastal Carolina Chanticleers are the reigning national champs, at the time they won from a conference even further down the list than ours. Baseball just has a way of making things equal, since it frequently does literally depend on "how the ball  bounces."

Monday, June 5, 2017

He was not that Harry

I grew up listening to Cardinal baseball on KMOX when Harry Caray and Jack Buck were the announcers. When I first encountered a movie listing in the cast an actor named Harry Carey, I couldn't believe my eyes. Harry just did not seem like the actor type. Well, needless to say it wasn't the broadcaster, but an actor whose name was pronounced the same, but spelled slightly differently. He made a ton of cowboy movies, and is said to have been one of the earliest superstars of silent movies. But, as far as I know, he had no connection to baseball. In fact, at the top of his spot in Wikipedia, there is a note: "Not to be confused with Harry Caray."

Image result for harry carey

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Illogical conference members

I just do not have much sympathy for contrived, illogical conference alignments. For example, how does West Virginia belong in the Big 12? A conference ought to bring together logical rivalries. It is just difficult to see that ever happening with WVU playing a group of southwestern and mid-west teams. I hope their travel costs kill them.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

How can it be?

Last season Texas was 11-22 and Oklahoma was 11-20. Two of the richest athletic programs in the country, with huge bases of donors and rabid fans. Both probably will bounce back - it is hard to keep that much money down for very long - but it is a little odd to see both of them so down in the same year.

Friday, June 2, 2017

A rough assignment for a stunt man

Miami Undercover was a short-lived television series from 1961. The sidekick of the star was a former boxer who turned restaurant owner, and was played by Rocky Graziano, the world middleweight boxing champion in 1947-48. Graziano is considered one of the great knockout artists in boxing history. His three "wars" with Tony Zale are a boxing legend. (See below.)

In a few spots in the series Rocky would be called in to help Jeff Thompson (played  by Lee Bowman) out of a difficulty, and would mix it up with the bad guys. Watching it, I feel a little sorry for the stunt men who played the heavies. I mean, sure, Graziano  was past his prime and he was pulling his punches, but there was only so far that would go. And he might always forget to do that in the heat of the battle.

Image result for rocky graziano

Image result for rocky graziano tony zale fight

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Early Top 25 surprises?

We'll use Fox's list. When I say "surprises" in the subject line, I don't mean unexpected as much as out of the ordinary.

We'll include Northwestern at #21 just for the sake of history. The Wildcats have not seen themselves in the pre-season big time discussion very often.

Seton Hall at #18 is nice to see. We need to get some of the old-time east coast powers back into the hunt.

Alabama at #17. Getting basketball to be in any way relevant in that state is a monster accomplishment.

USC at #5. I don't like the school and I don't like their coach and I don't like their style. But they have won some games.