Monday, December 31, 2018

Cav defense even better?

Fansided has an interesting article by Jacob Zinkula which notes that Virginia already-impressive defense may be even better this season in that they better at are limiting 3PT attempts against them. Opponents aren't getting off those shots. And as they learned in the embarrassing loss in the NCAA tournament last season, if you let other teams get off those shots, sometimes they go in. I have said for a long time that the SNA (Shots Not Allowed) is one of the most important non-measured statistical cagetories in basketball.


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Of those on the hot seat

Fansided lists five high-major coaches on the hot seat at the halfway point: Josh Pastner at Georgia Tech, Mark Turgeon at Maryland, Danny Manning at Wake Forest, Andy Enfield at USC, and Steve Alford at UCLA. I like Turgeon and Manning, and I hope they make it; but the other three fall into the "good riddance" category with me, whether or not they were winning.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

20/20 double/doubles

Double/doubles are common, but those where both numbers are in the 20s (or more) are fairly rare. For example, in the entire history of Trojan basketball there have been only three of them. Muntrelle Dobbins did it once, and Rashad Jones-Jennings did it twice, topping it off with a 23/30 double/double against UAPB in 2005. Quite a performance! (And one of my favorite Little Rock memories, since I got to see that one in person.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Did the non-conference finish where we thought it would?

Regardless of their schedule, I definitely did not expect Texas State to be 10-2 at this point. Georgia State, Georgia Southern and Louisiana tied for second at 8-4 was predictable - but not TSU. We shall see where they finish in conference play, but they have over-achieved to this point. I expected Troy to be further up the ladder with Jordan Vornado and Alex Hick as senior big men.

Where did I expect us to be? Probably about where we are. We have been good a few times and stinky several times. Maybe things are coming together, but I do not think we have much of a chance of penetrating the Big Four this year. Maybe next year.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Wish list for the New Year

1. Good health. Because of Walker's blunder in not filling out the roster, injuries have hurt us more this season than they otherwise might have. So, we badly need to keep healthy the players that we have.

2. Another outside shot maker or two. We have several that came in advertised as good shooters, but so far they have not been making their shots. Thus the burden has fallen on Tucker and Pippins, and in today's game two outside options are not enough.

3. More playing time for our big men. We are not a big roster to start with, and when Maric, Bankston and Johnson spend too much time on the bench because of fouls, it really limits our options.

4. MADE free throws. We are as good as anyone at shooting them; we just cannot seem to make them.

5. For Nowell to realize that he is a point guard, not a shooting guard. We have other shooters, and he is not making his shots, anyway. 5-8 is short for high school, and it is REALLY short for Division 1. No matter how good he is, there just are some things that are different in the big time, and he is going to have to adjust his approach.

6. More assists. Fewer turnovers.

7. More shots for Bankston, given how many of them he makes.

8. Better rebounding. We are barely holding our own on the boards.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The difference in polls

This week the AP has Duke #1 and Virginia #4. The coaches poll has Virginia #1 and Duke #2. Maybe the difference is because coaches better appreciate just what Tony Bennett does at VA.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Non-conference predictions

Pre-season predictions are pure guesses, but guesses toward the end of the non-conference season are at least a little better educated.

Going purely by records to this point, Texas State is in first place, with a three-way tie for second among Georgia Southern, Georgia State and Louisiana. (We are in next-to-last place.)

Sagarin has the same teams, but rearranges them: Ga State, Texas State, Ga Southern, Louisiana. (We are in 9th place.)

RealtimeRPI has it Ga State, Ga Southern, Texas State, Louisiana.

So all three methods have the same teams, but the order differs. But at least that serves to give a little consensus as to which are the top teams.

Monday, December 24, 2018

John Beilein deserves a title

Beilein is one of the class guys in college basketball - voted by his peers to be the most ethical Division 1 coach. And he came close to a national championship last season, going all the way to the finals. Same in 2013. Throw in a couple more Elite Eights, and a couple more Sweet Sixteens. So, he has been close. But not quite.

I love to see the good guys win. I love to see the sleezebags lose. I surely do hope John Beilein doesn't end up being one of those "almost" guys, who almost made it, but not quite.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Why is a lack of defense "exciting"?

I have heard several fans comment that Walker's team plays "an exciting brand of basketball." Well, if "exciting" equals a lack of defense, I would agree. The Georgetown game looked like a bunch of kids on a playground running back and forth and doing just about anything they wanted to do with only token resistance. For the life of me, I cannot see what is "exciting" about that. It may excite some people, but to me it is just bad basketball.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Playing a national phenom

From time to time we play big-name programs. However, it is unusual for us to play a team which has a player who has made the headlines to the degree that Mac McClung has made it. The kid is a rarity, in several regards. He has unusual athletic ability for a white kid. Plus, he is a white kid at a school that has not had very many white players since the 1972-73 season when John Thompson (the father) began patrolling the sidelines there. Plus, he is from a small school (Gate City, Va). Plus, the coach who recruited him (Patrick Ewing) was a legend as a player, both in college and in the NBA. All these factors made McClung a media darling even before he got to Georgetown. We will now get to see him up close and personal.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Our offensive rebounder

Kamani Johnson is Mr. Offensive Boards for us. He leads the team in that category with 22, with only 13.8 minutes/game playing time. It seems like every year we have someone who just has a feel for hitting the offensive boards. And every team needs that. Since he is a true freshman, you have to figure he is only going to get better.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Larry Johnson - Mr. Rebound

He played in Little Rock four seasons. In those four, he never averaged less than double figure rebounds per game. In this freshman season, he snared 15.5 per game. The next year he set the record for a single season at 16.8. Then he finished out his career with 12.9 and 11.2 his last two seasons. In his four seasons, he had four of the top nine single season rebounds-per-game marks in school history. That is a pretty amazing record.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

When does Anderson's time run out?

Mike Anderson is a favored son in Fayetteville because of his connection with the Richardson days, when he admittedly probably played a much bigger role in their success than most folks realized. (He did much of the work, Nolan got the credit.) And he has won a bunch of games as a head coach.

BUT, in Fayetteville he has never been further in the NCAA tournament than the round of 32. That despite having little competition for fans within the state, likely having his pick of any D1 talent from the state, having almost limitless financial resources, and being "bullet proof" to some extent because of Nolan's presence and the threat of considerable noise from his direction involving things legal and political should Anderson be fired.

Granted that the average sports fan in Arkansas is focused on football, but when March does eventually roll around, since they have nothing else to do, they finally begin to ask, "How are the Razorbacks doing in basketball?"  The answer is (once again), Not too badly, but not great. Sagarin has them ranked #42, which is sixth in the SEC. They are 7-2, with only one of those wins being outside of the "purchased" category, and it by only a single point. Plus, they lost to Arizona State at home. In short, they are not building the sort of resume so far that is likely to overwhelm the selection committee. That is the sort of season that has become far too familiar under Anderson.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Oh by the way

We are barely halfway through December, and Kentucky's Rent-a-Championship machine already has two losses, and are ranked 19th, below such stalwarts as Buffalo, Virginia Tech and Nevada. That is getting perilously close to "oh, by the way" status. That is a very satisfying situation, to my way of thinking.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Those special statistical seasons

I have always been a stat-nut. I love tracking statistics of teams and individuals. So, when one of those record-setting seasons is in the making, it is a lot of fun following it and anticipating getting to put the "done" stamp on it when the season is finished. Frequently those seasons pop up in years when the team is not doing well, and add a little bit of spice to a year that otherwise would be pretty dreary.

I remember the season that Rashad Jones-Jennings led the nation in rebounding (even though it did not set a school record). And I would love to have been there when the Johnsons (Larry and Charlie) outdid even JJ. Do you remember the year Ricky Davison blew the 3PT% record out of the water? He was amazing. Or the year Alan Barksdale missed only five FTs all season? Or the year Larry Johnson blocked 113 shots? Amazing! Or when Vaughn Williams handed out 259 assists? No one else has come even close to that mark, not even Fish.

Well, we may be having such a season this year with Bankston's shooting percentage. There is a lot way to go, but it is fun to watch his numbers every night and wonder if he is going to miss any shots.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

When a cupcake is appropriate

We have discussed the soft schedule of Texas State this season. They are 9-1, but Sagarin ranks their schedule at #345, which definitely qualifies as a cupcake schedule. However, I do not necessarily fault Coach Danny Kaspar for setting things up that way.

First off, it is unlikely that TSU would be in the running for an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament in any case, so scheduling the Gonzagas of the world would only serve to bring his team into conference play bloodied and possibly discouraged. So, the second possible motive to do it would be to toughen up his team in preparation for conference play. (If your non-conference opponents are tougher, they make conference look easy.) And, if you are competitive against a tough schedule, that is one thing; but if you are just getting your kids beat down night after night in games where they have no realistic chance, that does not accomplish much (unless you need the money).

It is nice to win. It feels good. It helps morale. And, with a weaker schedule you have the opportunity to get your offense and defense clicking, plus getting depth built up by getting the bench into the game more often. There are lots of things to be accomplished by a weaker schedule, just as long as you make sure your team realizes that fact and does not get an inflated view of how good they are.

Friday, December 14, 2018

When honored names are revived

I enjoy watching when programs begin to revive that once were bellweathers, but which have fallen on hard times for a while. We have a couple of examples this season. San Fransisco, of course, was a powerhouse team during the 1950s - indeed, THE powerhouse team, what with Mr. Russell swatting shots and dominating the boards. They had back-to-back national championships, three straight Final Fours, and the longest winning streak in the pre-Wooden days. Then they went to the Elite eight twice in the 1960s and twice in the 1970s. It has been a while since the Dons have been a factor, but there may be something in the works this year. Kyle Smith has them at 9-1 in the early going.

Likewise, DePaul has been just awful in recent years, the doormat of the Big East. However, they, too, had their heyday. They have been to two Final Fours, and eight Sweet Sixteens from 1953 to 1984. Before that, the great George Mikan made them a household name.  Coach Ray Meyer led the team for 40 seasons, notching seven straight 20-win seasons from 1978 to 1984. While the Blue Demons are not scaring anyone yet, they have started the season at 6-2, which gives some hope that things may be on the upswing somewhat.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

How To Get Better At Free Throw Shooting

I am sure there have been books written about this. I am sure it is much more of a science than many coaches would like to admit. Some teams shoot well; some teams get better. So why can some coaches teach FT shooting and others seemingly cannot? Don't look at me, because I do not know the answer; but I have to believe that somewhere out there are those Free Throw gurus who have made a specialty of teaching that part of the game.

I do know this much from my old music days: practice does NOT make perfect. Merely shooting free throws does not necessarily make you that much better at shooting free throws. First of all, what you are trying to do is not to shoot them, but to make them. Anyone can shoot them. If you shoot them badly, and practice doing whatever it is you are doing when you shoot them badly, then you are just practicing bad shooting. PERFECT practice makes perfect. Do it right; make the shot; then do it right over and over again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Little Rock - home of rebounders

It certainly is not that way today, but there was a time when Little Rock was Rebound City. In an eleven-year stretch, we had the leading rebounder in the SBC five times. (Muntrelle Dobbins, Ryan Moss twice, Rashad Jones-Jennings twice). I wonder if we could bring one of those gentlemen out of retirement to help our anemic rebounding these days.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The annual Heisman farce

Ron Yary. Forrest Gregg. Orlando Pace. Are you telling me that these and others like them were NEVER in the history of the sport good enough to garner the Heisman? Why don't they just tell the truth and change the definition of the award to be for the best skill position offensive player in the game?

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Room for improvement

The nice thing about being really bad is that there is lots of room for improvement. Well, we are bad, so we can get saddled up and start moving in the right direction. Any time now. Why hesitate? Let's get going.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Dixon's teams - still playing defense

You know Jamie Dixon's teams are going to play defense. For example, in the 2012-13 season, Pitt held opponents to 39% shooting overall and 30.4% from the arc. Pretty typical. But, of course, Dixon moved on to his alma mater. So, are the TCU Horned Frogs playing defense, too? Natch! Opponents shoot an anemic 37.6% overall and an amazing 27.8% from the arc. You won't lose many games playing like that - and in fact they have lost only one so far (7-1).

Friday, December 7, 2018

Rivalries we sometimes overlook

Tomorrow Pitt plays West Virginia. This seems like it might not be a big deal, since they are in different conferences and different states - but it is. It is The Backyard Brawl. The two cities are only 75 miles apart. Both have become known for a very intense, physical style. It is a bragging rights situation, and it is the type of rivalry that puts the real spice into college basketball.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Grading our recruiting class

Problem #1: Lack of size, especially size that will do the dirty work down low. Monyyong seems to fell into that category, although he needs to put on a LOT of beef. Besovic is very big, but how well he shrugs off his European background and becomes a banger remains to be seen. Grade: B

Problem #2. More gritty, blue collar defense, Little Rock style. If Monyyong becomes a shot rejecter, then we took a step in that direction. However, we are going to need ferocity on the perimeter to get back to our defensive roots, and I cannot tell that Stulic helps that at all. Grade: D+

Problem #3. Free throw shooting. Well, Stulic may help this in time, but I doubt he is going to get much opportunity to make a difference anytime soon, so the existing players are just going to have to get this fixed. Grade: F

Problem #4: A pass-first, high A/TO point guard. No help here. Grade: F

Problem #5: Rebounding. I am speaking specifically here about board work by the big guys. (Our perimeter guys do a good job.) We got size, and size ought to result sooner or later in rebounding. Grade: B

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Is the Big Ten back?

Last year only four teams from the Big Ten made the NCAA tournament, which was out of character for them. Was it the beginning of a longer-term lapse, such as the one the Pac-12 is suffering? Probably not. Currently RealtimeRPI has the Big Ten ranked #1, ahead of the Big 12 and the Big East. There are just too many places with rabid fan bases for the conference to stay down long.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Do we do anything well?

As I write we are 4-4, which is by definition mediocre, which means neither good nor bad. I spend (perhaps) too much time lamenting the things we do not do well. So, what do we do well? There must be something, or we would not be mediocre.

We shoot the ball pretty well. I especially like the 48.9% overall team shooting average. Give most of the credit for that to Kris Bankston, with solid help from Maric, Johnson and Tucker. They are taking shots they can make, and making the shots they take. That is a winning formula. From the arc we are at 34.7%, which is good, though not great. I'll take it for the time being.

For a team that does not have any dominant big man rebounding, we have done pretty well on the boards. We are plus-2, and that is with a 6-5 small forward being our leading rebounder. If Kamani Johnson starts earning more minutes and if Bankston can ever cut down on his fouls, our board work probably will improve.

Monday, December 3, 2018

In-state slugfest

Even in Arkansas there are five D1 schools in basketball, so we have options regarding who we want to have a rivalry with. But that is not always the case. If you want a D1 rival in Montana, there are only two choices. Likewise North Dakota. Likewise South Dakota. And so on.

This past week Providence whipped Rhode Island 59-50, and that is on the east coast, basketball country. The only other D1 option in the state is Brown. So they wait for conference play, but before they get to conference, there is the annual knock-down, drag-out within Little Rhody. It does not get a huge amount of play in the basketball world, but it is a big deal in Rhode Island.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

When you have The Man

Rayjon Tucker has been our  best scorer so far this season, although that has been in the absence of a couple other of our better scorers. That may adjust itself as the season goes on. He is also our leading rebounder, and our big guys have not been out with injuries. He also had the most assists of any non-point guard. It seems obvious that he has a green light from Coach Walker. So far he is The Man for the Little Rock Trojans this season.

What you always worry about when you have a player like Tucker is how that plays with the others. Some of them do not expect to be scorers, of course. Some of them know and accept their roles. But there are others who might be saying, "I could have made that shot if he had just passed me the ball." I hope we do not get into that sort of a situation. That is a chemistry-killer.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Satisfying, isn't it?

Don't you love it when one of the little guys (that many "fans" have never heard of) upsets one of the giants in the game? Like the other night when Radford beat Texas. Yes, that is as in Austin, Texas; the home of all the money and all the tradition (although admittedly not that much basketball tradition). And the Longhorns were ranked #17 at the time. Radford got it done. That just teaches the old lesson: never be afraid.

Friday, November 30, 2018

No slack

By running with a short roster, Walker has created a "no room for error" situation. We just have to hope that no one gets hurt. We probably were a year away, anyway, and that probably is what DW was counting on - that he has a mulligan year. However, you don't want the team to get into the habit of losing.

So far the minutes played by our top five players is about what you would expect. However, the minutes for the two big men is somewhat low. We need to keep them in the games. Aggressive defense is good, but it needs to be smart defense, also.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Finding an identity

A new coach typically takes a little time to bring a new identity to a team. Some are able to do it quicker than others. Chris Beard did it quickly, but it should be noted that the basic philosophy already in place was similar to his (tough defense, take good shots); he just did it a lot better. I am not sure what Walker's philosophy is. It doesn't seem to be anchored in defense. In fact, looking at the stat sheet, it is difficult to tell what it is anchored in. We shoot reasonably from inside the arc (thank you, big guys). Our defense is no better than average. Our FT shooting is horrendous. Our rebounding is solid, but not spectacular. We have more turnovers than assists. There is just not much yet that we do particularly well. Hopefully we will get there, and it make take a year or two - but we do need to pick up the pace of progress a little.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Battle Royale

Below is something that I got to see that my sons and grandsons never will: Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain going head to head. The Undeniable Force and the Immovable Object. There were fewer teams in the NBA back in those days, and so the average quality of the personnel was a lot better across the league as a whole. Plus, the teams played each other more frequently over the course of a season. The Celtics-Sixers clashes were epic battles. The whole nation would anticipate the Saturdays when these two giants of the game would go head to head. Wonderful memories!

Image result for bill russell vs wilt chamberlain

The agony of injuries

Injuries hurt. No doubt about it. But they hurt more than just physically. Consider the lot of Vanderbilt head coach Bryce Drew. Here he is, trying to get the program at Vandy rolling once again, a young coach in his first shot at a big-time program. So he works hard and keeps at home the local hero Darius Garland, a consensus five-star point guard. So what does Garland do? he tears a meniscus in his knee and is out for the season. Sometimes you just can't win.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Criteria for the polls?

There is a friendly discussion going on right now in the media about whether Gonzaga or Kansas should be ranked #1 in the country. Well, I don't know. Until you tell me exactly what #1 means, I do not know how to answer that question.

Are you asking which team would beat the others five out of nine times if they played right now regardless of what they have done earlier in the season? That could produce some nonsensical ratings if a David Robinson had been injured early in the season for Navy, but was now available. They would no doubt have lost several games without him that they would have won with him, but do you just ignore those games because of how good they would be right now? And with Robinson they would indeed be very good right now.

Are you asking which team has done the best body of work over the course of the entire season - all the way back to game one, ignoring when it was done? If that is the question (and I think it should be), then why do we have polls at all? Why not just let the computerized systems do the work for us?

All of this raises the question of why we have polls at all if the regular season means virtually nothing. Who cares, if the only "winner" is the last team standing, even if they lost ten games over the course of the season and the team they beat in the finals took their first lost? In a winner-take-all tournament system, rankings mean nothing - except giving us something to talk about. But if giving us something to talk about is the purpose, then why have the tournament? Let the fans argue about which team would have beaten the other one, despite their being no definitive answer. That is half the fun, anyway, isn't it? And even if the Seed Ticks beat the Wart Hogs in the finals, that still does not mean they are the better team, since the Wart Hogs might have beaten the Ticks eight out of ten times over the course of the season.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Pine Bluff exposes Walker's folly

Rayjon Tucker and Deondre Burns were both unavailable for the Pine Bluff game. That left us with only nine scholarship players available, which was enough, as it turned out. However, who knows if two more sets of fresh legs down the stretch might have made a difference. And when both the missing players serve the same basic function (perimeter shooters), it hurts doubly. Add to that the fact that Ryan Pippins, another perimeter player, ended up with four fouls, and we had two other players with four fouls, and it is easy to see how close we came to being in real trouble. Three little fouls in the wrong places, and we would have been down to six available scholarship players.

Pine Bluff played well, and might have ended up with a win regardless; but it is also true that Walker's failure to fill out his roster may have cost us the game. It is at least a possibility, and one that easily could have been avoided if we had at least fleshed out our roster with graduate transfers of some sort. This one is on you, Coach.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Future projects nicely

Our is a young team, having only one senior. And another nice thing about it is that there is a nice mixture of classes: four freshmen, three sophomores, three juniors. Good balance. Now if Walker can just keep them balanced . . . which is easier to say than to do, with the rapid turnover we have these days.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The old, old story

Who shoots the most 3-pointers on this team? Markquis Nowell - by a bunch. He has attempted 37, and the next most is Jaizec Lottie with 21. So that must mean Nowell is out best shooter, right? Right? Wrong again. He is shooting a lovely 27% from the arc. Tucker is at 46%, Burns 40%, Pippins 40%, Lottie 33%. And those are just the ones with double figure attempts. We have other options, but we let the undersized point guard blast away, even if he doesn't make them. How many times have we seen this song before? Granted it is early, and Nowell may correct the problem before long. But if Coach Walker goes all season letting Nowell shoot us out of games, then he is not doing his job.


Ugly losses sure have a way of dampening enthusiasm, don't they?

Redshirt City

I have long been an advocate of redshirting, especially by lower tier teams as a means of evening up the playing field somewhat against the big guys. However, CSU Bakersfield has taken the process to a new level. Among their list of redshirts are three freshmen, three sophomores, and three seniors. Masterminding the emphasis on experience in Bakersfield is our old friend Rod Barnes, who spent a stint at Georgia State a few years back.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Why Virginia's loss doesn't bother me

Like all fans of the little guys, I was rooting for some 16 seed to beat some 1 seed. I just hated that it was Virginia that got beat, because I like Tony Bennett and the program he has built. But really, that loss does not bother me too much, because Virginia had an outstanding season - good enough to get picked as a #1 seed. The Cavs play a pristine game, relatively free of mistakes and with the best defense around year in and year out. And their 2017-18 season was a classic. So why cry about it. We need to divorce the regular season from the Tournament, anyway. I have long said that we need to declare national champions each season. So Virginia needs to revel in their accomplishment and not let one loss ruin it.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Harbinger of good things to come?

Kris Bankston, Nikola Maric and Kamani Johnson are shooting a collective 39 of 58 (67%)after four games. If the big guys can keep up that pace, good things are going to be happening.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Now here is the way to do it!

I know it is only three games, but Wisconsin in the early going has 49 assists and only 22 turnovers. That a 2.22 A/TO ratio. Most players in the country would love to have that number, let alone entire teams.

A lot of success, but it's been a long time

Dartmouth basketball? Sure enough! The Big Green have a pre-tournament national championship in 1906, and two NCAA tournament runner-up slots in the 1940s. In all they have been to the Elite Eight four times. There is a large group of schools who cannot make those claims.

However . . . the last time Dartmouth went to the NCAA tournament was in 1959. That's right - 59 years ago. Anyone who could really remember that event would likely be retired by now. In fact, Dartmouth has not had a winning record since going 14-12 in 1999.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Another name adjustment

We became Little Rock. Several other teams have made some changes in their handle. Given that they had one of the most unwieldly of monickers, IUPUI-Fort Wayne wisely changed to Purdue Fort Wayne. (I wonder how long it will be before they slash the Purdue and become just Fort Wayne.)

Monday, November 19, 2018

"What's wrong with . . . ?"

When a program has a dominant run, but then hits a bump in the road, fans always ask the natural question, "What is wrong with (fill in the blank)?" This year, it is Villanova. After two or three years when they were the best team in the USA over that spread, they seem to have returned to something a little closer to normalcy. They lost more than they expected to the pros, and they are not quite the one-and-done machine that Duke and Kentucky are, so it hurt them. They will be back, and soon. But most things are relative, and compared to what they had been, their current two-game losing streak is a matter for concern. But they were saying the same thing when San Fransisco started losing during Bill Russell's days, or when UCLA came down from absolute dominance during Wooden's tenure. It is the way of life. Villanova just happens to be the current occupant of the blank to be filled in.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Porter's Proverb pays off

Remember what Coach Porter Moser used to say when he was coach at Little Rock? "Pass up a good shot in order to get a better shot." He took a little criticism for that one from the fan base. But Porter got the last laugh. Lindy's magazine says of the Loyola Ramblers: "In short, they had the willingness and the skills to make extra passes worthwhile." That word worthwhile meant going to the Final Four.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

I have moved the first step in optimism

I am satisfied that this team will not be awful this season (like they were last year). I am not yet sure what the upside is, but it seems obvious that 1) we have some talent, and 2) that Walker is not a total wash as a coach, at least. So, that bodes positively for the future - whether this season or further along I could not yet say.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Think we have attendance problems?

(per Lindy's) For the second straight season, Cleveland State drew fewer total fans for the season than the nearby NBA Cavaliers drew for one game. So . . . they are remaking their roster. That would be a tough market.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Can Tubby do it?

Coach Smith is no longer young, but he has proven himself to be a program builder deluxe. He has returned to his alma mater for what is probably his last coaching stop. Can he take High Point to the NCAA, and in so doing set the record for coaches? Lindy's picks them right in the middle of the 11-team conference, but says they have the firepower to climb further if they have better shot selection. I would love to see Tubby do it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Mac McClung

If you haven't heard the news, Mac McClung has started his first three games at Georgetown, as a true freshman. That's Georgetown, who has not had a white head coach since Big John Thompson began his career there in the 1972-73 season. The current occupant of that job is Patrick Ewing, also black, very big, and one of the greatest centers in basketball history. He saw and recruited this white kid from Gate City, VA (population 2034). He broke the Virginia High School League scoring previous held by Allen Iverson. Below is a link to a highlight video. Keep in mind that this is a white kid, only 6-2.


And you are not likely to get too much of a big-head when you have this guy scowling down at you from his 6-11 perspective.

Image result for patrick ewing

Our big guys are making their shots

I realize the sample is very small and the competition has been weak. Still, it is encouraging to see that Kris Bankston is 13 of 15 from the field, and Nikola Maric is 7 of 10. When your big guys make their shots, it automatically creates problems that the other team has to solve before they start worrying about your gunners. I like it!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


Campbell has the nation's leading returning scorer. They were 36th nationally in effective FG percentage. On the offensive side, everything is rosey. BUT they also were 294th nationally in adjusted efficiency on defense. Not good. You have to play the entire game, fellows.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Guard shallow

Lindy's says, "The [Weber State] Wildcats have become guard shallow in a guard-deep league." Of course, the expression "guard deep" describes most everyone these days, since 3-point shooting is the main focus of the game and big men, unless you can get one-and-dones, are rarely more than role players. But for a team in the Big Sky Conference, Weber State is indeed big:

6-10, 6-10, 6-9, 6-9, 6-9, 6-8, 6-8.

Three of them are from Europe.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Next time I hope it is Kentucky

I was glad to see a 16 seed finally beat a 1 seed, but I really hated it that it was Virginia. I really like Tony Bennett and I like his style (defense first). After another generation there probably will be similar upset, but next time I hope it is a team I really dislike, perhaps Kentucky?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

At what point does D1 become a farce?

For teams to be in the same classification, there has to be at least some comparison in ability. There has to be at least an outside chance, however vague, of an upset. High school teams and D1 teams are not the same classification for that reason (among others). Yes, we had the first 1 over 16 upset in NCAA history this past season; and yes, Texas Southern just beat ranked WV. Still, the bottom feeder teams of the bottom feeder conferences are just so much cannon fodder for the top tier of teams. Division 1 basketball has swelled to 353 teams. Sagarin says Duke would beat MVSU by 47 points, but the truth is that Duke could win by as many as they wanted to win by.

I realize that upsets are what makes D1 basketball interesting, and that every once in a while a true David does beat Goliath. But there are limits. Each season the better D2 teams are MUCH better than the bottom tier of D1 teams. At what point should there be an adjustment?

Friday, November 9, 2018

Walker's critical moment

I realize that it is the first game of the season, first game of a career. I realize it was against a D2 team. I do not expect things to be clicking like a clock at this point of the season.

HOWEVER . . . "on court discipline" is not a phrase that jumped out at me after watching the highlights of the game last night. And that is OK in the first game. BUT, it has to happen. It MUST happen, and soon. If not, this team will never reach its potential. If not, this team will never advance past the playground, past what pure athleticism will produce.

Probably the most outstanding aspect of Chris Beard's coaching style is that he demands on-court discipline: you play his way, or you don't play. Flanigan did not do that, and was a disaster. We did not do that last night, and narrowly averted a disaster.

It is NOT the head coach's job to be liked by his players. It IS his job to run the program in such a way that he will be respected by his players (if they have the proper attitude). Walker coached in the NBA, but the pros are not noted for disciplined play. I suspect the same is true of D2 basketball, where he also coached.

"You play the right way, or you don't play." Good coaches make players play the way they ought to play, instead of letting them play the way they want to play. Coach Walker is at a critical moment in his D1 coaching career. Is he going to be the players' friend, or the players' coach?

Will another great win streak start this season?

Here is an interesting article about the longest winning streaks in basketball history. We won't see that type of sustained success until one-and-done is eliminated.


UCLA basketball

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Never say "die"

Want to teach the kids you are coaching that you should never give up? Just point them to the Stony Brook-George Washington game from last night. They were down 22-0 to start the game (and the season, for that matter) and came back to win in overtime. That probably is not the biggest deficit ever overcome, but it will do for the time being.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Lovely to behold

I don't like Duke - at all. Coach K is one of those Rent-a-Championship sorts who ought to be coaching in the pros (since he is, virtually) instead of cluttering up the college landscape. However, just knowing that Kentucky got beat by 34 points? Ahhhhhh! Satisfying!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018


Obviously, we do not have any centers on this team, so we will be playing smallball this season. However, taking a look at who might fill the 5 position: Nikola Maric is the tallest player on the roster by two inches. After him there are four 6-8 players. Of those the two heaviest are Hadzic and Koljanin. That means that our three biggest players are all European, and they are famous for not wanting to work on the low post. Maybe these will. Or maybe that job will fall to Bankston. In the final analysis, the inside spots are going to be mix and match, anyway, this season, so it does not really matter.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Where Lindy's picked our D1 non-conference opponents

Tenn State - 7 of 12 OVU
Nevada - 5th in the nation
Tulsa - 9 of 12 AAC
Howard - 2 of 12 MEAC
UCA - 2 of 13 Southland
Sam Houston - 9 of 13 Southland
Bradley - 4 of 10 MVC
Memphis - 8 of 12 AAC
Georgetown - 9 of 10 Big East

By way of reference, they pick us 12 of 12 in the SBC.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Porter did not make a move

I have no way of knowing for sure what nibbles Porter Moser got after Loyola's remarkable season, but I think it is safe to say that he could have made a move to a power conference school if he had so desired. He is a known quantity, and has now shown he can win at the highest level. I assume that he was comfortable with staying at Loyola long-term, since he did not jump at the chance to leave. Maybe he is looking to rebuild the Ramblers program to its former glory (they were NCAA champs in 1963 and have been to the Sweet 16 four times). In any case, I consider him one of the good guys in the game and certainly expect more good things out of Loyola.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

This is getting ridiculous

CBS says that we have had six straight seasons in which a record has been set for the number of made 3-pointers in basketball. That does not surprise anyone who is paying attention. Basketball is turning more and more into a game of HORSE.

Friday, November 2, 2018

What coach would I want to be?

Tony Bennett is the coach that everyone in basketball tips his hat to when it comes to defense. He is The Man! Defense is the constant in every sport, usually the hardest part of the game to teach. But Bennett does it year after year. He may not be a recruiter like Sleezipari, but he does the harder work, and makes it work.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The PA guy's nightmare

Sacramento State guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa should present a challenge to their guy behind the mike this season. He hails from New Zealand, if you were wondering.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Power forward

Position designations are flexible, but this probably is the spot where we have the most potential depth. (I say "potential," because we do not know how good most of these kids are yet.) We have fully six players in the 6-7 to 6-10 range. What this means is that we will be playing mix-and-match between the 4 and the 5, without a real 5, but we will stay with the 4 spot for the moment for purposes of discussion.

Kris Bankston is a prototypical 4, and was a good one last year. I think he has the potential to be a great one if he stays 4 years in Little Rock. He rebounds well and makes a high percentage of his shots. In other words, he is a true inside player. I suspect he will be our leading rebounder this season. Hadzic and Maric are European-style players, which means they probably are not (by my admittedly prejudiced definition) true 4s, but they probably will play there a good bit. Kamari Johnson and Horace Wyatt are complete unknowns at this point.

I figure this spot is Bankston's to lose this year.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

"3-point shooters are soft"

I have made the statement that teams that rely on the 3-point shot rarely have a tough mentality. They are white-collar, and because they do not choose to mix it up down low and get their hands dirty, they just have a "soft" feel to them.

Here is a statement about a player from Northern Colorado from Lindy's magazine that supports my opinion: "Jonah Radebaugh is a rare combo of a 3-point deadeye and defensive ace." The two just don't go together very often. You have to be tough to play hard-nosed defense.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Sounds like a formula for success

"They defend, they take care of the ball, and now they're back to winning championships." That was Lindy's take on Montana for this season. Playing tough defense and limiting turnovers certainly is a good place to start. If the other guy can't score, and you don't give him the ball to get an extra chance at it, you are a big step ahead of the game.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Connor Vanover

I was really surprised to see this young man show up on the California roster this season (7-3 freshman). I saw him play, along with his brother, against Ozark a few years ago, and he had a nice shooting touch, but that was about all. They were so slow afoot as to be almost immobile. It appeared as though fast growth might have created some joint problems for them. Evidently Connor got better in the intervening period and became a legitimate D1 prospect, since he is with a power conference school. Not bad for an Arkansas kid.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Small Forward

We are a little thin here. I am assuming that this spot is Rajon Tucker's to lose. We had good reports about him in practice last season, and he is a good size for the 3-spot in the SBC. He put up some nice numbers at FGCU. However, if he doesn't cut the mustard and we have to play smallball (even smaller than it looks like we will have to play), Deondre Burns might slide over from the 2-guard position. Or, if we go the other direction, maybe one of the new guys can fill the bill when needed, but we have so little information about them that it is hard to speculate. We have a bunch of players in the 6-7 to 6-8 range. Hadzic came in advertised as a European-style big, but we had to use him otherwise. Maybe he slides out to the perimeter more this season if he can find his shooting stroke.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Yes, you can recruit height

San Jose State is definitely a mid-major, and not exactly a powerhouse, since they finished 4-26 last season. But this season their roster goes 6-11, 6-11, 6-11, 6-10, 6-9, 6-9. Whether they can walk and chew gum at the same time I couldn't say, but they are at least available.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

What Eustachy left behind

Larry Eustachy has left a trail of sleeze behind him in his coaching career. Niko Medved inherited the unenviable task of purging the Colorado State program of the negative atmosphere.

"New coaches inheriting struggling programs typically speak of 'changing the culture.' All Medved needs is industrial sized turbines to move out the toxic air." (Lindy's) Sometimes you have to fumigate.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

It starts with effort

"When you give good effort, all you need is a little better execution or a different philosophy in certain situations." (Charlotte coach Ron Sanchez in Lindy's)

The effort is on the team: the coach can lead them to water but he can't make them drink - up to a point. The execution is on the team: the coach can't do it on the bench - up to a point. The point is that the coach has to demand those things. "You give effort and you execute, or you don't play."

The philosophy is on the coach. The players cannot push the buttons. He sets the team's philosophy and recruits to that philosophy.

But it all starts with effort.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Zero tolerance. I like it!


The link above it to an article about Matt Painter's new Zero Tolerance policy toward turnovers at Purdue. I love it! Tolerating the sort of play that generally generates turnovers is one of the greatest weaknesses in the coach profession these days. "Let them be fancy, because they like being fancy, even though the attitude of trying to be fancy results in (fill in the blank) number of turnovers each game."

Saying "no turnover" is equivalent to saying "no playground ball." It is demanding intense focus on what is happening and what is about to happen ALL the time. It means you don't have so-called point guards with a 1.3 assist to turnover ratio. It means your kids forget about trying to look good in favor of being good. It means you watch Sports Center in order to find out what not to do. It means being willing to be boring, by today's standards.

Zero tolerance on turnovers means that you demand that your players play Good Basketball.

Monday, October 22, 2018

One tough kid

Wisconsin guard Brad Davidson battled through eight left shoulder dislocations, and needed surgery after last season. Said his coach, "We had to pull the reins back on him. He never wanted to take practice off."

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Shooting guard

This position ought to be one of the strengths of the team, and at this point I would hate to have to guess who will be starting. Last season Ryan Pippins led the team in 3PT% with 42.6%, as well as shooting 75% from the line. Season before last, Deondre Burns shot 41% from the arc and 80% from the line. So, we have a couple of bona fide shooters with experience (both will be juniors). And even though the 3 spot may be his more natural position, Rayjon Tucker is available, and he shot 45% from the 3-point line in his last season at FGCU. The 2-spot is in good hands.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Rutgers - I hope the AD is patient

Lindy's says, "Steve Pikiell believes solid programs are built on defense and rebounding and his team reflects that." I agree, and that is what made me an instant Rutgers fan when Pikiell was hired. For one thing, you can teach defense and rebounding; you don't have to recruit it, like you have to recruit size and high-flying athletic ability. And since you can teach it, that takes the pressure off your recruiting process because you don't have to recruit five-star players. Recruit teachable, hard-working three-and-a-half-star players, keep them in the program for four years (and redshirt them if you can get away with it), and by the time they are juniors and seniors they are superlatively good at doing the things your team is geared to do.

Pikiell's problem is that Rutger now plays in the Big Ten, and for years they have been famous for rugged, physical basketball. He also coaches a program that has been to the NCAA tournament a total of six times, and not since 1991. So he has a hill to climb. But I really like the way he is attempting to climb it. I hope his AD gives him time to do it.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Can Dixon do it?

If Jamie Dixon leads TCU to the NCAA tournament this season, it will be the first time since 1952-53 that they have appeared in back-to-back Dances. In fact, they have only been eight times, and three of those were before 1960. Lindy's is projecting them to go to the round of 32. We shall see, and it will be fun watching.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A passing center?

Back in the good ol' days when Wilt had moved to Los Angeles, he went from being the scoring star of the team to being just another scorer on a team filled with them. So, what did he do? He switched to being a passing center, leading the league in assists. I can remember him standing there, holding the ball with one huge hand, waiting for a cutter to get open.

Wisconsin center Ethan Happ led the Badgers in assists last season as a junior. You don't see that too often in college, either. And, that was while he was leading the team in scoring. Versatile kid.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

American female golfers?

Is there a lack of good American female golfers of college age? Or in America do they perhaps go a different path in their development than those from other countries? I doubt that either of those things is true. So, it seems strange to me that there are so many foreign-born athletes in women's golf. It is not like soccer, where the sport has not been popular: golf is a big sport in America. But out of seven athletes on our women's golf roster, all of them are from a foreign country. You will find the same situation (though perhaps not to that degree) in other schools. I have no problem at all with that; I am just curious why it is true. I do not have enough familiarity with the sport to know the ins and outs of its recruiting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Sports Illustrated about Wichita State

"They do things that win you games. They want to sit down and play defense and control the glass. That can win you a game."

Point guard

This is probably our strongest position (which is a very good thing to be able to say). We have some depth, and we have some experience.

First of all, we have a bona fide budding star in Markquis Nowell. It is not too often that we get legit 3-star talent in Little Rock, but this is one of them. The kid is lightning quick. Other players had better be ready, or his passes will hit them in the face.

Second, we have back Jaizec Lottie, last year's starting point guard, and he may not be ready just to cede the position to Nowell. He has something that Nowell does not have, which is D1 experience. His numbers last season were very underwhelming, but he showed enough ability in spots to make us think that improvement is likely with a good coach.

Third, Ryan Pippins and Deondre Burns both have some experience at point, at least enough that they could fill in if it came to that. Plus, both of them are experienced juniors.

Point guard is in good shape, at least relatively speaking.

The Hall likes bigs; I like bigs

"While other teams are exceedingly guard-oriented, the [Seton Hall] Pirates still like their bigs. Sure, Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez and Ismael Sanogo are all gone from last year's team, but Willard has reloaded with a deep crew of big men." (from Lindy's)

"A deep crew of big men" - how many teams can say that these days. How many teams even care about that these days?

Monday, October 15, 2018

Recruit the right type of player

"Something that I've learned is if you get the right type of kids who want to work, you can be successful." (Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard, as quoted in Lindy's)

Not necessarily the most talented, just the hardest working. Now isn't that a novel concept!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Butler Way

Plenty of replacement parts remain, but in Butler's small-school situation, players are matured over a longer period of time, and not just in how to play the game. "There's a leadership component to it," [head coach LaVall] Jordan says. "That's maybe harder to replace than the actual point production."

(from Lindy's)

Saturday, October 13, 2018

John Beilein: a true sports hero

(from CBS Sports)
"If you're not going to follow these rules, get the heck out of the game," Beilein said during an interview I conducted with him for CBS Sports HQ inside the Lambert B Room here at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare. "We'll survive."

"You don't have to [cheat] to win," Beilein said. "I think at some of the programs that have been able to be successful [without cheating], like a Michigan, you never even thought of [doing] these things. You just try to get the right kids and grow through them."

Friday, October 12, 2018

Just an old-fashioned basketball teacher

(from Lindy's) "Players get noticeably better under [St. Bonaventure head coach Mark] Schmidt, who is adept at unearthing hidden gems and developing them into stars. Schmidt's other sideline strengths include his ability to game plan and exploit opponents' weaknesses and his deep reservoir of plays, which make the Bonnies a nightmare to prep for."

Lindy's described one of the Bonnies' big men as "skinny as a Q-tip," which I thought was an interesting verbal picture.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Tip of the hat to this coach

"In today's quick-fix, transfers-for-everyone college hoops landscape, George Mason head coach Dave Paulsen has been building the old-fashioned way with four-year players. The approach worked for him during his seven years at Bucknell." (Lindy's)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Good move: we need to reverse the trend

Savannah State will be moving down to D2, it has been announced. I salute their honesty. The gap between #1 and #300+ in the list of D1 teams has become so wide that any pretense that they are remotely comparable is a complete farce. Top level D2 basketball is better than bottom level D1 basketball - but the money that can be made by selling your team as punching bags is not as good as what can be made at D2. We need a bunch more teams to face reality and move down to D2, where they can win some games.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

No time for a break

"We're still clawing and scratching and scratching and clawing. When you're climbing the mountain, you don't have any time to rest. There is never any down time." (Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton)

Monday, October 8, 2018

Go DePaul!

I enjoy watching programs that have been down and rooting for them to get things turned around again. DePaul has been on the bottom of the heap for a good while. However, 4-star recruit Markese Jacobs, who had committed to Kansas, changed his mind and will be returning to his home town to play for the Blue Demons. He is the second top-100 player to commit to DePaul this recruiting season.

The description of him reminds me a little of our own Markquis Nowell, and I figure expectations for the two point guards is about the same for their respective programs.

I have to believe Walker is taking a mulligan

Unless some other players show up late, it surely does look like that Coach Walker does not have big expectations for this first season and is holding back some of his cards against future seasons. Ten scholarship players just are not enough to be sure even of being able to scrimmage throughout the season. It doesn't make sense to me, in any wise, unless he is mentally writing off this first season. And, there is something to be said for slowing down and doing things right, including recruiting. It just looks strange, because most coaches do not approach it that way.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

A nice compliment

About Cincinnati, by Lindy's: "A Mick Cronin team will battle like a starving dog for table scraps." In other words, a team that nobody wants to play, and one that everyone feels like they have been through the mill after they play them.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

One of the reasons I like Clemson right now

I like blue-collar basketball teams: hard-working, no-nonsense, hard rebounding, smothering half-court defense - that sort of stuff. Here is what Lindy's said about this year's Clemson team:

"Clemson is a hard-working, middle-class everyman. It's not the easiest way to win games in the ACC, but coach Brad Brownell is pulling it off admirably."

With all those blue-blood teams with one-and-done players, it is fun to root for a team that brings their lunch pail.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Bring good out of misfortune

(from Lindy's comments about Arizona) "This roster gets Miller back to his grittier Xavier days, when it was more about defensive toughness and cohesion and less about getting a bunch of McDonald's All-Americans on the same page. This is Miller's kind of team, which is one we'll take a chance on."

I am guessing Miller will have a lot more fun coaching this group, too.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Seniors or freshmen?

We likely would never have a chance of picking up a one-and-done player, but just for the sake of discussion: is it better to have a very good player for one year or a pretty good player for four years? I think it is almost certain that coaching the four-year player would be a lot more rewarding to any coach who wants to do anything past recruiting. For the sake of the overall health of the program, I would think the four year player has to be better.

It would be interesting sometime to see how a direct match-up between a Kentucky-type school with five one-and-dones and a not-quite Kentucky with five not-quite-one-and-done seniors would turn out.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The tragedy of Hack Wilson

Hack Wilson holds the major leage baseball record for RBIs in a single season. At one point he was the highest-paid player in the National League. But he died penniless and his son refused to claim his remains. Here is what Wilson left on record:

"Talent isn't enough. You need common sense and good advice. If anyone tries to tell you different, tell them the story of Hack Wilson. ... Kids in and out of baseball who think because they have talent they have the world by the tail. It isn't so. Kids, don't be too big to accept advice. Don't let what happened to me happen to you."

Image result for hack wilson cubs

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

I hope they nail their hides to the wall

The cheaters in college basketball are in the cross-hairs of the FBI. If they are indeed guilty, I hope they lock them up and throw away the key. There is enough wrong with the sport under the best of circumstances without having cheaters being tolerated as they obviously have been.

Monday, October 1, 2018

When they cross that halfcourt line

I love half-court basketball, on both ends of the court. So, I was glad to see this quote in Lindy's: "Loyola-Chicago will again be an elite-level basketball team with tough-minded point guard Clayton Custer and burly Cameron Krutwig back to drown teams in the halfcourt."

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Worst twice in a row?

Arkansas 30
UCA 223
ASU 291
PB 307
LR 308 

Pine Bluff nudged us out last season for last place among the D1 teams in Arkansas. Given that UCA is surging and PB is in the discussion to win their conference this season, we might be last again. Worst in the state two years in a row. Now there would be something to hang your hat on!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Who is the big man genius?

Sleezipari is the "genius" of the dribble-drive offense. Jay Wright fills that slot for 3-point offense. Jim Boeheim is the guru of zone defense. Each facet of the game these days seems to have at least one coach who is an expert at it, who has hung his hat on that aspect of basketball. But wait! What about the poor goliaths of the game. Who is the advocate for the big men? Who these days is an "expert" at the use of big men? Who needs to be, since except for miscellaneous support functions they are almost irrelevant?

Maybe it will be big Patrick Ewing at Georgetown. He certainly knew how to do it himself. Maybe he will revive the big man in today's game and have the sort of success his old coach did. And base it around big man play. Wouldn't that be novel?

Friday, September 28, 2018

A problem that is simple to solve

(from NBC Sports)
The Golden Eagles have been a train-wreck on the defensive end of the floor for two years, and we’ve reached the point where the inability to get stops has turned into something of a calling card for the Wojo era.
Every year that he has been the head coach at Marquette, their defense has gotten worse. Last season, the Golden Eagles finished 182nd in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric. Only six high-major programs finished below them: Washington State, East Carolina, South Florida, Tulane, Memphis and Iowa. Only four teams reached the NCAA tournament with a worse defensive rating — Texas Southern, LIU Brooklyn, NC-Central, Iona — and Iona, a No. 15 seed, was the only tournament invitee that was not in a play-in game.
The only reason I can see why a team would be this bad on defense is if the coach just does not care. To a significant extent, defense depends on desire, effort and discipline. In other words, teams don't play defense because they won't play defense. If team's won't play defense it is because the coach will not make them play defense. Defense is harder work, both for the coach and for the team. Defense does not have the glitz and glamor of offense. It appears that Marquette is the poster child for bad defense.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Remove recruiting, and who is the best?

I would love to see a poll of coaches as to which of their cohorts is the best coach - minus recruiting. Just simply at teaching the game and game management. In other words, take away the sleeze, and who is best? I think it would be safe to say that some of the big names would fall off the ballot.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Bankston's niche in blocks

Kris Bankston led the team in blocks as a true freshman with 30. This makes me wonder how well he might do over the course of his career. Even if he did not progress over the course of his stay in Little Rock, that would project to 120 for his career, which would be third on the all-time list, behind all-time greats Larry Johnson and Muntrelle Dobbins. He would have to average 43 per year over his remaining three seasons to pass Dobbins, which would be difficult, but doable. Johnson's prodigious numbers would seem to be out of reach.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Wisconsin will be interesting this year

Their motto is, "Get old and stay old," showing that they value experience in this philosophical formula. However, last year they did not have a senior in the starting rotation for the first time in 20 years, and they missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in that span. This year, however, six of the players in the rotation will have a redshirt year under their belts. Also, this will be the senior year of the latest in a series of those Badger big men whose technique is virtually faultless. That would be Ethan Happ, their 6-10 forward. If you are teaching a kid to play inside, make sure he watches Wisconsin a lot on TV.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Reasonable expectation

What should we expect from this team. Obviously to work hard and listen to coaches, but what about in wins and losses, and position within the conference? Well, it would be nice not to finish last again, so let's set that as a goal. We always want to do better than Arkansas State, so there's another goal. Since we know virtually nothing about this staff and this team, let's set an off-the-cuff preseason mark to hit of .500 in conference. With everything that has been going on with this team, that seems reasonable. Let's try to be competitive, and then put the rest of the pieces in place after we see how this bunch does in their first go-round.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Coach Baker's Arkansas connections

If he has any kind of personality and work ethic at all, Coach Charles Baker ought to be a valuable in-state recruiter because of all his connections. He went to high school at NLR Ole Main, then at Westark (UAFS). He spent five seasons working with the Arkansas Wings AAU program, including one year as head coach. He had five years at Shorter Junior College in NLR and three years as head coach at Southwest Christian Academy in LR. All that in addition to being at six Division 1 colleges during his career. So, if he can recruit at all, he is hooked up to do it.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Guaranteed over-achievement

When you expect nothing, you are guaranteed to beat your expectations. That is about where the Trojans are this season. We could be downright awful. Who knows? Could anyone guarantee that we won't be? So, anywhere we finish above downright awful will be a plus. And who knows? We might be a good bit better than awful. I don't expect anything, but we know practically nothing - about the team and the staff. They might be wonderful. They might be pathetic. Who knows? We are bound to be better than I expect, because I don't know what to expect.

Friday, September 21, 2018

So what did Lottie do well?

I have been rough on Jaizec Lottie for his performance last season. His numbers were fairly pathetic. But in all honesty, they were made on a team that was awful and which gave evidence of a total lack of coaching. So, it could be that JL would have been a lot better under better circumstances. But away from the negative for a moment: what did Lottie do well last season. It wasn't much, but there had to be something.

For one thing, Lottie was durable. He played 25 minutes per game, which is not that much, but was enough to show that it was not a problem for him. He did have 33 steals, which was not enough to put him among the leaders in the conference, but it was enough to lead the team by a good bit. He also led the team in FTs attempted. Now, that is a good news/bad news situation, because he did not make very many of his attempts, but at least he has the knack of getting to the line, which is a useful skill to have. He was 11th in the conference in assists per game at 2.9, although that is not very many to be leading the team.

Given that he was thrust into a leadership role as a true freshman in a season that was an unqualified disaster, we can extend some sympathy to Jaizec Lottie. Honestly, I think he will do better next season, even if it may be in a back-up role.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Nowell will have to be good

I think every Little Rock fan is excited about the prospect of having Markquis Nowell on the roster. After all, he may just be the most highly-touted recruit ever to land here. I am very, very eager to see him on the court.

But, let's take a step backward look at this situation. Jaizec Lottie played 801 minutes last season, starting all but one game. That was second only to Oliver Black's 886 minutes, and accomplished as a true freshman. I realize that we were awful last season, but the staff obviously felt that Lottie was among the best of the talent we had. Add to that the facts that Lottie can be expected to get the normal sophomore jump in his performance, and that hopefully Walker is a considerably better coach than Flanigan was, and Lottie could turn out to be a pretty fair point guard next season.

What am I saying? Yes, we hope Nowell is the next Fish, but he is going to have to earn his minutes. Lottie is not just going to give them to him. And if Lottie improves enough that Nowell has to come off the bench, is that a bad thing?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A nice compliment to Krutwig

Writer Joe Boozell paid a nice compliment to Loyola center Cameron Krutwig:

"While the center position is evolving, Krutwig is a throwback in the most beautiful way. He establishes post position, catches the ball from a guard, and goes to work. Loyola’s advanced spacing concepts help Krutwig breathe."

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Baker AHC experience relieves my mind

One of the concerns I had early about this new staff was its total lack of D1 experience. However, the late addition of Charles Baker as an assistant has taken care of that concern. He was Associate HC at Campbell for four seasons. Add to that the fact that he has been an assistant at five other D1 schools and the head coach at Shorter JC, and he has a fairly extensive resume. Just that touch of experience to go with the youthful enthusiasm of Jordan and Wise and the broader experience of Walker. I like it.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Top conferences last season?

1. Big 12
2. Big East
3. ACC
4. SEC
5. Pac 12
6. Big Ten
7. Amer Ath
8. MVC

18. SBC

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Ten Trojan Questions

If I counted right, we have 52 days remaining until the tip-off of the Darrell Walker Era. And I must admit that right now curiosity is my main emotion regarding the new season. I just have no idea whatsoever what to expect. Many questions are unanswered at this point, but it will be very interesting and a lot of fun watching as they get answered.

1.       Can Darrell Walker coach at the D1 level? He did not do very well in the pros. He did quite well over a couple of seasons at D2. His recruiting to date has been underwhelming, but if he is a whiz on the bench, that could be overcome. How good is he? Can he motivate? Will he require good discipline on and off the court? Stay tuned.

2.       How good will Markquis Nowell be? It is not often that we get someone who was a top-40 player at his position nationally. I am not yet ready to start saying “the next Fish”, but wouldn’t it be nice if we were saying that at the end of his freshman season? If he is good, and if he can bring with him a little of that Harlem swagger, the kid could be something special and just what this program needs.

3.       Will we have some shooters? Ryan Pippins shot well last season, but on limited attempts. Deondre Burns shot well year before last, but he hasn’t been on the court for almost a year. Corcoran and Reedus were good, but they are no longer on the roster. These days any team has to have (at least) a couple of reliable 3-point shooters to have a chance.

4.       How good is Rayjon Tucker? He was a 3-star coming out of high school, and was a part of a high-octane offense at FGCU. But he also has laid out a year. Can he pick up where he left off?

5.       Will the lack of a true big man affect us? Lots of SBC teams have done pretty well without one. But someone has to fill that role, even if he is only a role-player on a perimeter-oriented team. Who will do it for us?

6.       Can Kris Bankston fulfill his potential? My gut feel is that this kid could be really, really good for us. As a true freshman he shot the ball very well, rebounded fairly well, and led the team in blocks. Can he pick up where he left off and continue to progress?

7.       Where will the locker room leadership come from? Our only senior so far is graduate student Dani Koljanin, and he will be in his only year with the program. Someone has to step up and be the “enforcer” if this team (or any team) is to be successful.

8.       At what degree of rotundity will Pippins be playing this season?

9.       Assuming we do not get any late additions, can we survive a somewhat short roster through the season?

10.   Who will be the “sleeper” on this roster. Who will surprise us by coming out of no where to contribute?

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Need to make transferring harder, not easier

I know I am a reactionary, but I think the transferring of scholarship players from one D1 school to another needs to be tightened up, not loosened. Oh, the pundits say it should be all about the player, and so we should make transfers easier. What about the fans?! We are the ones paying the bill. Basketball athletes are pulling down a financial package far beyond what most college students get, plus they get all the notoriety and publicity that goes with the sport. Sure, I think players ought to be able to transfer, but it ought to cost them to do so. Making transfers easier almost always benefits the big boys, so sure, they are for it. That way they can raid the little guys with impunity.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Better make the most of your chances

If you have a bad game in basketball, don't worry too much about it, because you will have about 30 other games in which to do better. Same in baseball. Even in football you will have double figure opportunities to do well. But if you are a Trojan cross country runner, you have only four events before the SBC championship, so you had better be good, because you won't get many chances.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Big year coming up for Pine Bluff?

Here is a LINK to an article about Martaveous McKnight, Pine Bluff's reigning SWAC POY. That is significant, since such situations usually involve seniors. If UAPB can piece together something to go with him, maybe the Golden Lions will make some noise this year. They finished in a 3-way tie for second in the conference last season.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Expect Frog to be on the menu

The Big 12 is a tough, tough place to do it, but I expect Jamie Dixon's TCU team to be in the national picture for the foreseeable future. Maybe not a perpetual Top 25 team - yet - but at least one that people begin to expect to make the NCAA tournament every year. Dixon is just a good coach. And there seems to be tangible momentum in the program right now. I think it is a safe guess that Dixon will keep it going.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Optimum arena size

Alltel (now Verizon) Arena was too big for us. We could have a nice-sized crowd, and it still had the feel of a pea bouncing around inside a jug. It was just too big. On the other hand, you certainly do not want to cut into your market by not providing enough supply (seats available). I suppose there is a formula that could be devised to determine about what size a team's facility needs to be to optimize the effectiveness of your normal crowds.

An arena does not have to be nearly full to have a "full" feel to it, especially if the fans are vocal. And if you are going to have a distinct home court advantage, it needs to feel full. I do not know where that threshold is, but I would guess that at about 60% full the facility begins to have that "full house" feel to it. So, for us, that would be somewhere in the 3500 attendance range is where we would like to be. I think that if our attendance were to average that, our administration would be thrilled.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Again - the non-measured stat (SNT)

SNT - "Shots Not Taken." Defense that prevents the opposition from getting off a shot, or at least from getting off any kind of a good shot. Because no stats cover it, it generally is an unappreciated feature of the game. You will almost never get your name in the media for prevent an opponent from taking a shot - not blocking it, but preventing it from being taken. But do you know what? opponents always shoot 0% on shots not taken. They NEVER score on shots not taken.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

At some point you have to laugh

How do you manage a team's psyche after the devastating historic loss that Virginia sustained in the NCAA tournament last season? Some people congratulate their opponent, but the majority put their focus on the ineptness of the Cavs down the stretch in that game. They looked like they were walking in a daze.

So, you are the coach: what do you do? I think at some point Tony Bennett just has to get his team to laugh about it and move on. We had our terrible moment in the sun. See the humor in it and get one with our lives. I mean, what else can you do?

Friday, September 7, 2018

I do not understand our logic

We have eleven players on our roster. I gather that one of them is probably a walk-on. Pictures have already been posted, which leads me to believe that that is all they are expecting, although I hope that is wrong. I understand the concern about not "wasting" next year's scholarships, but we have to survive this season in the meantime. Injuries, ineligibilities, suspensions: lots of things could happen. Then get a couple of players foul out in a game. Bang - we can barely keep a team on the court.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

You have to make it at least two

CBS has just published an interesting article about the scheduling troubles Loyola's Porter Moser is having after his team's remarkable Final Four run last season. That is to be expected. The royalty of college basketball have no interest in making the sport more competitive, only in protecting their own bailiwick.

There is a predictable pattern whenever this happens. Let a team come out of nowhere to be a national figure after a deep Tournament run, and power conference schools will avoid them like the plague. But do it two years in a row, or two out of three, and then it is OK to schedule them. For example, it is no shame any more to lose to Gonzaga or to Butler. But Loyola? Big money coaches are still gun-shy. Just hang on, Porter. Win 30 games again this season, and notch a couple of wins in the Dance, and you can begin to get some respect among the big guys. It is a process, not an immediate vault into the inner circle. One big year won't do it: you have to make it two.