Saturday, September 30, 2017

The best pure hitter ever?

It is a matter of opinion, of course, but my vote for the best pure hitter of all time goes to Ted Williams. Not the best player - that would be Babe Ruth with his Hall of Fame quality pitching - put purely as a hitter.

Want proof? Here is just one stat. Since Williams retired in 1960, only four players have had single-season on base percentages as Williams had for his entire career (.482).

Friday, September 29, 2017

Good riddance, Rick Pitino

Rick Pitino has left a trail of slime behind him throughout his history in college basketball. But win-at-any-cost programs kept giving him a job, regardless. Finally it has caught up with Louisville, "and it couldn't happen to nicer folks." And their football coach is Bobby Petrino, who has operated with a similar cloud over him.

Maybe, maybe the NCAA will impose the death penalty on Louisville. Pitino was a cancer that should have been removed years ago. Louisville wouldn't do it. The NCAA wouldn't do it. So the FBI is doing it. Good riddance!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Flawed logic

In the media today, you see a lot of writers pushing for college athletes to get paid. They do get paid! They get a considerable scholarship, plus room and board and other things. All in all, it amounts to a considerable amount of money.

"But (these commentators say), the schools are profiting hugely by the work of these students, so they ought to be compensated." So what?! If a man signs up to work for a company as a designer for $100,000 and is involved in developing s product that makes billions of dollars for the company, he still gets paid his salary. That is what he agreed to work for, and that is what he gets. Why should a college athlete be any different?

I will grant you that a lot of these college athletes' educations do not really do them much good, because they are phoney-baloney educations and no employer in his right mind is going to hire them to do an actual job. But if the kids would work hard and go to class, they would get their degree and be prepared to hold down a job.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

It takes the fun out of it

Bill Self has said he may not coach past 60. The reason? Recruiting. The sleeziest part of college basketball is also the least enjoyable for the coaches.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Whining quarterbacks

Quarterbacks had better not complain about receivers dropping passes or not getting the protection from the line that they want - until they are putting every pass right on the button. (I never had much sympathy for those pretty boy types, anyway.)

Monday, September 25, 2017

Blown call of the year?

The ref who gave the out-of-bounds call against Texas A&M in the Arkansas game gets a strong nomination for Blown Call of the Year. That wasn't just bad: it was awful. Refs have a tough job and miss calls all the time, but there is no excuse for missing one that badly.

Who would have believed it?

I saw a pre-season poll this week that had Northwestern listed at #23. Who would have dreamed that could be true? The perennial doormats of the Big Ten and, indeed, all of college basketball are now among the elite, at least for the moment. And what does that mean to us? Why, Little Rock has a win over Northwestern in our program history!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Here's to pressure

I hope Wes Flanigan is really, really feeling the pressure. In a positive way. This will be a rough year because we have so many new faces, but it needs to be a good year. Positive things need to happen. Young kids need to take big strides forward, if not for a ton of wins this season, at least as a springboard for next year.

All that starts with Wes. He needs to have an edge, and communicate it to his staff, and they need to communicate it to the roster. They all need to feel the pressure.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Great names for fullbacks

Occasionally in the sports world a player has a name that fits him perfectly. A couple of examples are football fullbacks Bronko Nagurski and Larry Csonka. Maybe Eastern European surnames fit that position somehow. (Nagurski's parents were from Ukraine and Csonka is a Hungarian name.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

An acronym that just does not work

My dad and I watched a soccer game the other day between Texas and UT-Rio Grande Valley. UTRGV. That just does not roll off the tongue very well. I would think they would be miles ahead to just do like we have done, and even go one better, and just call themselves Rio Grande. In looking at their logos on Bing Images, I see some that have UTRGV, some with RGV, and some with just V, which is what the official athletics site displays. That one works a LOT better.

Image result for utrgv

Monday, September 18, 2017

No wonder coaches like to coach offense

I have no use whatsoever for Rick Pitino, who pretty well sums up "sleeze" in today's college basketball scene. But he ought to understand the game, and so his assessment of certain aspects of coaching should be accurate. Here is a LINK to a CBS article in which he discusses the future of one-and-done.

Notice particularly this comment by Pitino: "It's tough to play with freshmen. They have so much to learn at the defensive end." The defensive end of the court. He did not say that about the offensive end of the court. Kids coming to college know now to play offense to a much greater degree than they do defense, because playing defense is harder. Harder to do. Harder to teach. Not as much "fun." Doesn't make the headlines. No wonder some coaches just load up on offense and do not seem to care particularly about the defensive end of the court. It is a lot harder work to coach defense.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Too small to play center?

Dave Cowens was 6-9, and was said by many to be too small to play center in the NBA. However, no less an authority than Mr. Bill Russell (himself 6-9) urged Boston to draft him. All he did in his rookie season was to average 17 points and 15 rebounds that first year.

Image result for dave cowens

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Then who will be inside?

One of the major websites had a lengthy article this week about the fact that the current crop of big men are "inside-out" players (which, I gathered, means they shoot a lot of 3-pointers). The article seemed to think this was a good thing. All of which raises the question, however: If perimeter players are playing on the perimeter, and inside players are playing on the perimeter, who is playing inside?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Realistic optimism

I usually am optimistic as a fan. After all, it costs nothing and it makes my "job" much more enjoyable. If my enthusiasm doesn't pan out, so what? And (my last-place prediction notwithstanding) that is how I am approaching this season. We could have one of those really special seasons where everything just comes together - but probably not. So, if not that, what might actually happen that would be on the positive side. Let's take it alphabetically: what might happen this year - realistically.

1. Oliver Black could break out. He has some impressive physical tools and just needs to refine his game a little and get more confident. Having Mompremier available can only help him.

2. Deondre Burns shot 41% from the arc last season - but the focus was not on him. This year it will be much more so, but he rises to the challenge.

3. Cezanne Carson/Khari Harley/K. J. Gilmore. I look at these guys as gravy. Anything we get from them is a plus. But let's suppose that they do turn into significant contributors, and maybe even a starter from among them.

4. Damir Hadzic. Being a coach's son and having international experience and a semester with the team, he is ahead of the curve for a true freshman.

5. Andre Jones. He gets his considerable athletic ability under control and learns to play better basketball - particularly to take better shots - and becomes a consistent offensive force.

6. Jaizec Lottie. He is only a true freshman, but let us suppose he compares, even loosely, to Josh Hagins' freshman season, which was solid but certainly not overwhelming.

7. Ben Marcus. He shoots 57% from the field again and forces Wes to seriously consider putting him on scholarship to keep him on campus.

8. Wadly Mompremier. He is as advertised: a veteran shot-blocker and rebounder who leverages Black's ability inside.

9. Ryan Pippins. He demonstrates why he is still on the roster.

10. Camron Reedus. He is a legit juco scorer who complements Burns perfectly to make a potent tandem at guard.

None of these things is a stretch. I can see any of them happening. It would be a big stretch to see ALL of them happening, and that is why we probably won't win the league. But some of them will happen. Anticipating which ones and how many will happen is what makes this time of year lots of fun.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Bob Hope's revenge

Old movie fans will remember the "Road" series of movies made by Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. They were lots of fun and totally without any other merit except for a few very nice songs. Once that series began, Hope and Crosby became one of the biggest cash cows that Paramount had, and the running gag from those movies carried over into their radio and television spots.

Crosby bought a stake in the Pittsburgh Pirates and Hope had a small interest in the Cleveland Indians, so that played right into their comedy routines. As the comic member of the team, Hope was more often the butt of the jokes, so if Old Ski Nose were still alive, he would be having a blast right now with the Indians' winning streak.

Image result for bob hope cleveland indians

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Coaches do not win games

I have to remind myself of this fact occasionally. Coaches do not score a single point or grab a solitary rebound. Neither do single players win games. They may score the final basket, but someone else scored others and prevented the opposition from scoring. It wasn't the "winning" basket, because all the other ones counted just as much as it did in the total score. It was just the final basket.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What I think happened last season

The main thing that happened was that Josh Hagins was not there. He had been the heart and soul of the program - a four-year player, leader and clutch shooter who did a little bit of everything and ended up as one of the great players in program history. You just do not lose someone like that without having a big hole. Then Johnson had to move to point, and he was not an outstanding point guard. The rhythm never was there, and frequently it felt like things were out of control.

It may be that Wes Flanigan just simply is not a very good coach. Time will tell. It may also be the case, however, that he got caught in a difficult scenario and simply did not handle it very well. We had come off the most successful season in program history, and while some key seniors were gone, we still had a very large senior class of key returners. Given the emotional nature of that season, it likely would have been a formula for disaster for Wes, having been an assistant under Beard, to have tried immediately to install another system. The problem was that Wes is not Beard: Chris was very intense and Wes is much more laid-back. Even with the same functional system, you necessarily were going to have a different motivational system. When players have had success under a coach at the extreme end of the personality spectrum and have to go immediately to someone on the other end, it sometimes does not work right off the bat.

The team last season still belonged to Chris Beard. You do not have a season like we had had without the outgoing coach casting a long shadow over the program for at least a year. If we had had one or two holdover seniors it might have worked - but we had six.

Just because Wes is not as demonstrative as Beard is absolutely not a negative. There have been any number of really outstanding coaches who have been quite reserved on the sidelines. Brad Stevens, who took Butler to back-to-back championship games, wore a mask on the bench. And then there was that old gentleman named Wooden.

Now this team fully belongs to Wes, for better or worse. This particular season we may not win as many games as we might like because of our youth, but Flanigan needs to show that he has the team under control - and that he can coach.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Foreign recruiting

Since we do not have football, it is likely that our recruiting will have a foreign flavor more than some other schools. Even baseball (Latin America) and basketball (Eastern Europe) draw as sports from foreign countries. Golf, soccer and volleyball do so heavily. Football is about the only one that does not.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Who will be The Player?

In order for this team to be much good this season, at least one man on the roster is going to have to show up big time. There are several candidates for the job. Burns or Black, maybe? Perhaps Reedus or Gilmore. Who knows. Certainly the opportunity is there. Someone just needs to step into the void created by the graduation of all those seniors from last year, and take charge.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Staying off the bandwagon

I have a deep-seated dislike for bandwagon jumpers - people who check out who is in first place and immediately become "fans." Likewise with players who just sign up with whomever is most likely to win the national championship. Here is a LINK to an article about some players who chose to take a somewhat different route. More power to them!

Friday, September 8, 2017

The next Fish?

It is difficult to get a freshman player of superlative ability to come to Little Rock - and stay. Derek Fisher did it. So did Josh Hagins. In both cases the results were exceptional.

And now Jaizec Lottie arrives in town. He has nothing in common (yet) with the aforementioned pair except that he is a freshman with nice credentials. But every time such a player shows up, it makes us wonder, "Is this another Fisher?" Wouldn't it be nice!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

What do I require from this team?

We may or may not win many games this season. I do not yet know just how good our talent level is, nor do I know if this staff can properly develop and manage a team, which they did not get done last season. But regardless of all that, there are certain things I want to see, and I will be at least somewhat satisfied this season if I see them.

1. As always, good effort and good attitude. I want to feel like the players are giving the full effort and are listening to the coaches. I did not always feel that last season. I sort of had the feeling some of the players had their own agenda last year.

2. Improvement over the course of the season. This is a young team. I do not know where we will start, but we definitely need to be moving forward at a steady pace throughout the year, and considering where we are starting, that should happen if the players listen well and work hard. This is a season where the total record for the season is less an indicator than how good we are at the end of the season. There may be a few hiccups early on, but the team needs to grow up as it goes.

3. PLAY DEFENSE!!! Little Rock Trojan basketball teams have been known for their defense as long as I have been following them - through three different coaches. Last year we were laughably bad on defense. It was embarrassing. Wes needs to have a rule: If you don't play defense, you don't play.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Re-examining the point situation

Given the fact that we have seen hardly any of the current crop of possible point guards play at the point position, it is almost impossible to assess our situation at that critical position. However, never daunted by the illogical, we shall launch forth.

Anthony Black
Brandon Brady
Ryan Pippins
Jaizec Lottie
Deondre Burns'
Camron Reedus

That is a good-sized sample from which to piece together the position. Surely we can come up with a workable combination of players. My best guess is that Lottie was brought in with the expectation that he will be the Point of the Future. The "coachspeak" language that was used and the situation surrounding his recruitment seem to indicate that, as well as the fact that he was rated a 3-star. If indeed this kid is what we hope he is, then to a significant extent he represents the future of the program.

However, should he not pan out immediately (and, after all, he will be a true freshman and maturity does count for something), then Burns and/or Reedus seems the next likely candidate, probably Reedus. This is not because either of them appears to be a true point, but because they have some miles behind them and because both have played point earlier in their careers.

Anything we get from the other three players will be gravy at this point. Black comes from the cream of the crop in Arkansas high school basketball, so who knows? He definitely has been a winner so far in his career, and that counts for something. I have pretty much written off Pippins as too lazy and/or undisciplined to play college ball, but the fact remains that when we had the opportunity to "gracefully" reduce the roster to 13 and cut him in the process, we did not. So, there must be some reason that the coaches have kept him around. Maybe they can light a fire under him.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Never was a record, and we didn't notice

Bob Beamon made his legendary long jump of 29' 2 1/2" at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968. It was not until 1980 that Lutz Dumbrowski jumped 28 feet. Imagine that! How would you like to be the first person in history to jump 28 feet-something - and no one noticed? To this day, almost 50 years later, Beamon's jump remains the second-longest in history. It still stands as the Olympic record.

Image result for bob beamon's long jump record

Monday, September 4, 2017

Three late guards might make a difference

Wes Flanigan brought in Rayjon Tucker, Anthony Black and Jaizec Lottie late in the recruiting process. (I still cannot figure out who is on scholarship and who is not.) Those three might just make the difference between a total "rebuilding" year and a decently competitive season. (Rebuilding from sub-.500 is not much, but that is where we are, sad to say.)

Lottie looks like the real deal, and with the loss of Watkins and the ballooning weight of Pippins we were desperate for a point guard. Black played at a low level, so there is no telling how much he can contribute, but he put up good numbers at Arkansas Baptist and will at least provide some depth.

Tucker did not put up big numbers, but FGCU has had a lot of firepower in recent years, and he did shoot 45% from the arc, which we badly needed. He will have a year to get accustomed to our system and to prove that he left his off-court baggage in Florida.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The number that MUST be fixed

Last year opponents shot 36% against us from the 3-point line. In this era, a team that allows that kind of perimeter shooting leaves itself with very little room for error in other areas. That is something that has to be fixed, and fixed from the get-go.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Lots of unanswered questions, BUT . . .

How good a coach can Wes Flanigan be? How good are our new recruits? How quickly will they come together as a team? Will we have the leadership we need?

There are a lot of questions to be answered about this team this season. However, if we will just play Trojan Defense, then the rest of the answers will not be quite as critical. Defense is that constant that gives you just a little slack to solve the other problems.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Who are the good guys?

Who are those college coaches that you can actually root FOR, at least as far as their ethics are concerned? CBS did a poll of coaches and Michigan's John Beilein won the title among the high major schools. And he won by a bunch. Here is a LINK to the entire article.