Sunday, December 31, 2017

How much would Nagurski have weighed today?

Bronko Nagurski was a powerhouse football player of the 1920s and 1930s. He was 6-2 and weighed 226 pounds. Fans today would tend to downgrade him because he was not nearly as big as today's players. The question, however, is what Nagurski would have weighed had he played today with modern nutrition and training techniques.

See the source image

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The case of Wes Flanigan

I held off my final opinion until I had seen this year's team in person. Now I have.

Unless something happens that I do not at all foresee, Wes Flanigan will not survive this season. RealtimeRPI projects us to finish the regular season 7-24. I just cannot see Chasse being willing to have another try at 24 losses. Attendance will be poor at best. I do not know anything about our financial situation, but surely we can afford to buy out one year of Wes' contract. If so, we need to do it and move on. And we need to be ready to move the day the season is over so the next coach can have time to get things ready.

We are not just bad, we are AWFUL. We are embarrassing. I will say here what I have said many times: if we were losing ballgames just because we are outclassed, that is OK. It happens sometimes and I can live with that. But we are just not playing good basketball, and there is no excuse for that. Wes has had a semester to get this team whipped into whatever kind of shape they are capable of playing, and we still look like a junior high team.

Many excellent assistant coaches cannot translate into a decent head coach. Wes evidently could not bridge that gap. Too bad. It would have been very nice to have had a Little Rock coach for Little Rock's team, but things do not always turn out the way we wished.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Basketball has become boring

Predictability makes any endeavor uninteresting. Now that the 3-point shot has totally changed the offensive landscape in basketball, offenses have become petrifyingly predictable. All shots are going to be from a thin strip of landscape outside the arc, or right under the basket. The rest of the court goes neglected. So, we bring the ball across the halfcourt, pass it around the perimeter for a while, and about half the time end up jacking up a long shot. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

We got an F+

Our mid-term grade? Well, we definitely did not do well. It was a failing grade, but I will give us an F+ as a nod to the injuries. But the sad fact is that our talent did not pan out and we did not do much with the talent we had. A few players did reasonably well - better than an F+ - but the program overall failed. It is not just that we lost, it was how we lost. I can forgive a team for losing, but not for playing bad basketball. We shot poorly, we defended poorly (that improved somewhat as the season went on), we turned the ball over too much, our rebounding was sub-par. The coaches let players do what they wanted to do instead of making them do what they should do. There just was not much to cheer about in the first half.

Is there a glimmer of light? Sure. We get probably our best shooters back at some point. Our defense has improved markedly. The Sun Belt is not so good a conference but what we should win a few games, and maybe even surprise a few folks. But we have to do it. It cannot be just theory, or what "might be."

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

What has to happen?

So what has to happen for us to have a decent conference season? (I don't think we would have been in the running with Arlington this year in any case: they are very good.)

1. One thing already has happened. We have learned how to defend the perimeter. Checkmark to Wes on that one.

2. We have to find a couple of bona fide 3-point threats. Corcoran may be one, but we need a couple more. Hopefully the two injured guys will provide this factor.

3. We have to have some interior scoring. Whether it comes from Oliver or Wadly or Marcus, someone is going to have to step up.

4. Wes has to learn to crack the whip. If these guys won't do what they are told, then they shouldn't get on the floor. We have eleven guys who have averaged 12 minutes per game, and that is too many.

5. Andre Jones has to quit shooting 3s.

6. We have to cut down on turnovers.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Wadly has been a disappointment

My expectations for Wadly Mompremier were not high, but evidently they were somewhat higher than reality. I knew he would not be a scorer, but I thought he could come in and be a valuable role player for us - shot blocking and rebounding. Actually, he has not done too badly in either for the minutes he has played, but he does not get on the court much. He leads the team in blocks (although 13 is not many to be leading a team) and his rebounds per game would not be awful if he were playing more minutes. But he only gets on the court for 14 minutes a game, causing us to have to play smallball most of the time. He actually has shot the 3 fairly well (5 of 14). It would be nice if he could ramp up his production a little for conference play.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Jones needs to accept his role

In Andre Jones' defense, we have been without two of our best shooters so far this season, or for most of that time, and he may have felt compelled to try to do what he is not best at doing. However, as we move forward, he needs to accept the fact that (at least so far) he is not a shooter. That is not my opinion: the statistics over two seasons prove it without doubt. However, Jones is very quick and has great hops. He is an above-average rebounder for a perimeter player. We need him to rebound, penetrate, get to the basket. He needs to be a physical, slashing 3 for us. If he will stick to his role, he could be a very effective player. A shooter, he is not. His FT shooting is not awful, but could stand some improvement, because he should be a player who gets fouled a lot.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Jones wins MFP award

Most Frustrating Player. Definitely goes to Andre Jones. So much potential. So little discipline. So much athletic ability. So many shots taken, so few made. What could be, what might be, but isn't.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Miss Hathaway nailed it

"Jethro, you are like a magnificent skyscraper with an uncompleted penthouse." (Miss Jane on The Beverly Hillbillies) That sounds like a description of a lot of high school basketball players I know.

Difficult not to play "what if"

You will drive yourself crazy lamenting over injuries. Still, it is difficult not to think a little about what might have been this season if we had stayed healthy. Our defense was terrible at first, but to his credit Wes has gone a long way toward getting that fixed. But our offense is anemic, at best, and it is bound to have been at least somewhat better with Reedus and Burns available.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Anthony Black came out of nowhere

A tip of the hat to Flanigan for landing Anthony. He has been a valuable player for us. He is undersized, of course, but he has got things done. And I think he will do even better when our shooters get back from the injured roll. He leads the team in made 3-pointers and steals, and is third in assists.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Pippins is going to make a difference

I never would have thought it based on his history so far, but Ryan Pippins has made an immediate difference in this team. Don't ask me what it is, but it is there. One thing is that he has only turned the ball over once in 41 minutes of playing time. That in itself is a rarity on this team.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The secret to Arlington's success

It is real simple: they somehow have been able to keep Scott Cross on campus. In his term as head coach they had won 204 games in 11 seasons going into this year. Given their success, I have to believe that he has had several attractive offers to go elsewhere, but he has stayed. And Arlington is not exactly a high-visibility situation, being as they are in a saturated metroplex sports environment. How have they done it (getting him to stay)? I wish I knew.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

If Wes is to last, he must learn

Wes has to get better as a coach if he is going to make it as a coach. And I am not saying that he cannot do that, or is not doing that. There are some signs that some good things are happening in the program. But that WILL have to happen.

Monday, December 18, 2017

A few good things happening

Very quietly, some good things are happening. Nothing that is producing headlines yet, but that might do so on down the line.

1. Suddenly we have a couple of 3-point threats, those being Anthony Black and Cameron Corcoran. Just that one simple fact could make a major difference in our offense.

2. Ryan Pippins is suddenly a factor, maybe. Who knows? One game does not necessarily mean much, but he did more in one game than he had done in his entire career. Maybe that indicates something. If so, it could be huge.

3. In his last four games, Andre Jones has been 0 for 4, 0 for 4, 1 for 7, and 0 for 4 from the three-point line. To do the math for you, that is 1 out of 19 in his last four games. He did not play against Bradley and had only 15 minutes against Ozarks. I have no idea why his minutes went down, but maybe Wes is trying to get his attention. Someone needs to. He has been killing us! And if Wes is finally realizing that he is killing us, maybe he is doing something about it.

4. All of a sudden, we have become a very good team at defending against the 3. In our last six games, only Bradley shot over 30% against us. That sounds like the old Trojan defense!

5. Ben Marcus is for real. We are eleven games into the season and he is still shooting 76% from the field!

It has taken a long time to happen, but maybe things are slowly turning in the right direction.

What might get Wes

If we get our roster healthy and the team starts to do a little better, Wes might survive the full term of his contract. In fact, he probably will, for financial reasons if for no other. However, right now we are 7th (amazingly so) in Sun Belt average home attendance, which is not surprising considering how bad our record is and how badly we have been playing. However, the 1554 attendance per game we are averaging is well below what we have had in the past, and since men's basketball is the department's big revenue producer, that has to be a matter of concern to Chasse.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Why so little of Ben Marcus?

This team is very offensively-challenged. Putting it more bluntly, we can't hit the broad side of a barn. So why is Ben Marcus not playing more? He is shooting 73.5%, for crying out loud! He has missed only nine shots all season. Granted, I have not seen him play, and his game may be very deficient in other respects. But the kid makes his shots. Right now what we desperately need is someone who can MAKE SHOTS!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

One game at a time

In a season like this, each game has to be an entity in itself. Fans will get depressed otherwise. We have not lost the game until we lose it. You just have to forget the immediate past and move on. Being a fan is supposed to be fun, and at times in order to do that you have to have a poor memory.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Does the advantage disappear?

Does whatever homecourt advantage a team has disappear during bad seasons because of fan apathy? I am assuming that it does, at least to a large extent. If fans get to where they just do not care, then they don't come to games, and if they do, they are not as vocal as they might otherwise be. Since Little Rock's homecourt advantage has never been fearsome to start with because of its somewhat geriatric make-up, that is really bad news for the Trojans.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Determined to persevere

I still say that in a year like this fans need to have a sense of humor and just ride out the rough spot. Things will eventually change, one way or the other. I do not intend to let our ineptness spoil my enjoyment as a fan. I am going to be a good Trojan fan even if the Trojans are not very good players. (That's my story, and I'm sticking with it.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

I know we are pretty bad this year

but I still love Trojan basketball.

Why "football"?

Have you ever wondered why football is called "football"? Yes, we do occasionally kick the ball, but not much as a percentage of the activity in the sport. The rest of the world, of course, reserves that name for what we call soccer. I wonder if they wonder at the logic of what really is a misnomer. We throw and we carry, but we do not kick a great deal. So why "football"?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Finish the shot!

I get tired, tired, tired of watching young players (including college) charge into the lane and throw up a shot at the basket. As if making a great move was all that was required. Finish the shot!

Monday, December 11, 2017

More offensive fouls?

I have not seen the statistics, but it seems clear to me that the officials are calling a lot more offensive fouls this season than in the past, both charging and pushing off. To me that is a very good thing. Almost every rule change or point of emphasis in recent years has been in the offense's favor. ("Scoring is good; defense is bad.") This new point of emphasis, however, has really made a difference. It appears to have given back a portion of what they took away a few years back when they clamped down on hand checks by the defenders.

Go defense! Go Trojans!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

ESPN comment about Kentucky under Sleezipari

"He has had arguably the most talent every season since he has been in Lexington and has just one banner hanging at Rupp Arena."

Some folks have worse trouble

Drake did not have a winning season from 1987 through 2006. That is pretty tough. Not that they did not win any championships through that period - they did not even have a single winning season. Their fans would have been die-hard of necessity.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Why pull players in foul trouble?

We all know the answer to this, but it does make for some interesting theorizing.

Every shot counts the same no matter when it is made in the game. (The only difference in that would be shots made after 1-and-1 is in effect.) Let's assume that a player is as likely to make a shot at the beginning of the game as at the end of the game. What difference does it make when he makes it? Assume you pull your best player with five minutes left because he gets his fourth foul, and put him back in with one minute left, on the theory that the score at the end of the game is the only one that counts and you want him in the game when it comes time for the final score. The other side of the coin, though, is that in the four minutes he was out of the game he might have accounted for several points so that your team would be in better shape on the score board when it did come to crunch time. You want him in the game when the game is tied, but if you had left your better player in the game you might be several points ahead. Six of one and half a dozen of the other.

The answer, of course, is psychological. A coach is taking a gamble to do that, and most of them are not willing to make that gamble. Sort of like always going for it on fourth down in football.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

3-point shots and home runs

The three-point shot in basketball is the logical equivalent of the home run in baseball. They get the most cheers, but in reality they are boring. What is exciting about watching a man swing a bat and then jog around the bases? Big deal! I do not get worked up about a bunch of players standing around the arc launching 3s in warm-ups, either. Pretty mundane stuff.

But put the fences back to 500 feet, and baseball immediately and automatically becomes exciting. Lots of running. Lots of action. And take away the 3-point shot, and you would take a big step toward restoring the entertainment value that the fathers of college basketball keep trying to restore by their continual tweaking of the rules. As long as players will be rewarded by 50% for falling back on threes instead of playing the game, why shouldn't they stand around and play HORSE?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

It will be late, if it happens

If this team accomplishes much this season, it will be late. We are very young, and there are lots of kinks to get worked out. Presumably our injured players will be back at some point, and if we have any 3-point shooting it will come largely from them. I have little hope of Wes improving much as a game coach, but the team may come along despite everything. We do have pretty good athleticism, and sometimes that will rise to the surface. So, we need to stick around as fans. We might get a surprise later on.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Sit back and enjoy the ride

It is frustrating when your main team, the team you root for, is pretty bad. But, hey, even Kentucky has off years, relatively speaking. Why, not so long ago they got beat in the first round of the NIT, even with all their high-powered, high-dollar talent.

But basketball is a great sport. It is fun to watch, even if your team doesn't win (as long as it is being played well). Trojan basketball will be back. Wes seems to be a good guy, even if he is not a very good coach. I can root for him, which I couldn't do for a jerk or moral degenerate who happened to win a lot of ballgames.

So just settle in, fans. Have a sense of humor. Don't take things too seriously. If you are able to go to the arena, then you are a lot better off than a lot of folks who cannot get out of bed. Enjoy what we have. Go Trojans!

Not acting like his seat is warm

Wes is not coaching like his seat is warm. Whether Chasse has given him any indication that it is, I could not say. A coach whose job is on the line is really getting on the kids who may be costing him his job by their shabby, sloppy play. I realize that that may not be Wes' style, but if my job were on the line, I would at least be cracking the whip a little.

Monday, December 4, 2017

We do not have a track record for Chasse

Since he has hired only two coaches and has not yet fired one that he hired, we do not know what our AD's criteria are for dismissing a coach purely for performance reasons. My guess is that he would be reluctant to fire Wes before he has served the three years of his contract. If when he hired him he theoretically gave him three years to get things going, then he probably will allow him that much at least.

However, if we do have another Moncrief-type season, all that might go out the window. Chasse is much closer to the program than any of us. (He can watch practices.) Thus he is in a much better position to know to what extent Wes can or cannot coach and to what extent he is just unlucky. (Imagine year before last without Josh Hagins.) If he decides that the program is just out of control and is not likely to improve, he might pull the plug regardless of the contract and probably should - IF we can afford to do so.

I have no earthly idea how much pressure big donors bring to bear on the AD at Little Rock. I cannot imagine that it is anything like the situation at Fayetteville, but still it is possible that there might be some heat on Chasse to make a move.

A more potent force than contributors, however, may be attendance. In the first four D1 games last season we drew 12,179. This year we drew 7771. That is a 37% drop in attendance, assuming we are accurately comparing apples to apples. If every one of those 4408 customers who did not attend this year bought a cheap $6 ticket and $4 worth of refreshments, that alone is $44,000 gone from the till in only four games. Granted, much of the attendance decline may be circumstantial and not connected in any way with the team's performance, but that really is beside the point. Revenue loss is revenue loss.

Big guys doing their part

Offensively, our big guys have been chipping in. Ben Marcus, Wadly Mompremier and Oliver Black are shooting 76%, 57% and 53% respectively, and even Kris Bankston is 5 of 7 from the field. They are not shooting much, but they are scoring when they shoot. (One cannot say the same for our guards.)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Oh, well

The next year or two may be painful if we let them be. I am just going to lighten up, take it as comic relief, and wait until the next shoe falls, hopefully in a positive direction.

Why no more fros?

Back in my youth, the fashion was for black folks to wear "afros" which rose well above the level of the scalp. I liked them considerably more than some others I see today. And I do not understand why black basketball players are not wearing them. If you appear two or three inches taller than you are, it is bound to have a psychological effect upon the guy guarding you. For example, Artis Gilmore was 7-2 anyway, and did not really need any psychological assistance, but when he wore a fro, he was even more intimidating.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Go with what we have

This team does not have much in the plus column yet - not much that we could call strengths. However, by all accounts we are pretty quick, and our inside guys do shoot a very good percentage. So let's go with our strengths. Drive to the basket and dish to the big guys or take it to the rack. At least at this point in the season, outside shooting is not a strength.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Pick a team from each conference

My dad has a system for watching sporting events (which is about all he can do these days). He will pick out which of the teams he wants to root for - and then promptly go to sleep. It works very well for him.

I have at least one team in each conference that I root for, just for the sake of having one. In some cases I just picked one out because it sounded good.  For example, in the West Coast Conference I root for Portland. Don't ask me why. That does not mean that I follow Portland, but that is my team in that conference if the subject ever comes up.

Adopt a team from each conference. It spices up being a fan.