Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What would the progression be?

We are lousy this year. We are bound to get better because we cannot get much worse. If we get better, the first step is to get back to .500 (which doesn't sound like much, but right now it would look pretty good.) Then we have to get back to the top few teams in the league. Then we have to get to where we are consistently within the top few in the Belt. Then we have to get to where we are post-season consistently. That is the progression. Right now we would have to get better to get to be mediocre.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

No pity

I shed no tears for teams that won't guard the perimeter. With the 3-point shot dominating basketball as it does today, almost everyone has shooters, and they will gladly knock them down if you will let them. Failure to guard the arc is the equivalent of handing whisky to a drunk.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Monopolies are not healthy

I think we would find that in most cases where one player becomes the offense for a team, it is not a healthy trend. As in Tre Young. As in Pete Maravich. Sure, it sells a lot of tickets and gets a lot of press. But is it good for the team? Do those teams win big? What do the other players think when they become asterisks on the roster? "The Oklahoma Sooners, starring TRE YOUNG! (Also featuring . . .)" The other half of that is that defending the team becomes fairly predictable. Shut down the star, and you shut down the team. Or just slow down the star. Frustrate the star.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Forgive me if I remain unconvinced

The opinion of the elite in college basketball seems to be to make the players what amounts to professionals. Throw more money at them. And that is going to solve anything? We already have professional leagues.

Maybe we need to abolish college basketball and go to a "club" system like they have in England, and make college a minor league for the NBA.

Ed Cooley - underrated coach?

The Big East is a brutally tough league: everyone knows that. Providence has not risen into the top crust of the Beast, and for that reason are not considered an elite program. However, in his stay at Fairfield, his win total increased each year, topping out at 23 and 25, before he got the Providence job. At Providence four out of the seven seasons have been 20 wins, and he has been to the NCAA Tournament four times. So far this season the Friars have 18 wins.

No, Cooley may not be an elite coach - yet - but he is a very good one.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The ultimate bombers?

To date, Washington State has shot 51% of their attempts from the 3-point line. Ordinarily I would make disparaging comments about such a strategy. However, given the strategic disadvantages under which the Cougars operate, they have to have something to give them a little leverage against the other teams that can bring in more talent (assuming they don't get arrested by the FBI). So, they let fly and hope for the best. "The best" so far consists of an 11-16 record; but who knows? maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Work hard, or stand around

I watched two teams in the regional tournament who had different styles. One would run their offense, work hard, get the ball inside, and get two points. The other would pass the ball around the outside, then finally take a shot, and get three points. Maybe I am just strange, but I enjoy watching players work hard a lot more than watching them stand around.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Toughest Power Five jobs in the country

Which ones of the big money schools has the toughest jobs? That would be difficult to say without being there, but we can speculate, just for fun.

Put Washington State near the top of the list. Their location in eastern Washington and the lack of much basketball tradition make this a tough sell.

The ACC is basketball country, so it might be said that any job there is a good job. However, I will put Wake Forest into the basket if for no other reason because of having to compete head-to-head both for fans and players with Duke and North Carolina. And, for all their immersion in basketball, Wake has been to only one Final Four, way back in 1962.

Let's list TCU in the Big 12. Jamie Dixon is off to a good start there, but this is, after all, the state of Texas, where basketball is an afterthought when they get through with football recruiting. And TCU has been to one Elite Eight only once, in 1968.

Picking a school from the Big Ten is tough, but let's go with Rutgers. They are in the heavily-populated eastern seaboard where there is huge entertainment clutter. They have little historic success (or even interest) in basketball, having been past the Sweet Sixteen only once, in 1976, when they went to the Final Four.

Money generally is not a problem in the SEC, but lacking a fervent fan base definitely is. I have lived in Mississippi, and I can tell you that basketball there does not even make it to the level of afterthought. In it long history, Ole Miss has made it past the first round of the Dance only three times, so we will give them the nod here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

K-State trying to recapture past glory

In the state of Kansas, the University of has long reigned supreme, except for a recent incursion by Wichita State. Kansas State has been almost an asterisk for a good while. They have been to four Final Fours, but the most recent one was in 1964. Indeed, since 1988, the only time they have made it as far as the Sweet Sixteen was in 2010. So, they have not been scaring many people lately.

In my opinion, Bruce Weber was a good hire for K-State. And he has had a couple of 20-win seasons since he has been there. However, he has not taken them past the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and he will have to do that to stay much longer, I suspect.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Different answers to different questions

If you were asking me who as the GOAT (Greatest of all Time) in college basketball, or of the NBA, then my answer probably be Alcindor/Jabbar (although I might give the pro nod to Wilt). However, if you were asking me the MVP, then it would be Russell, without any doubt. He was not the greatest individual player, but he was the player who made his team better by the biggest margin, thereby making himself invaluable to them. Russell could make the sum of the parts be greater than the whole better than anyone I ever saw.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Lacking a home court advantage

I watched a little of the Northwestern-Michigan State game on television. I really felt sorry for Northwestern. They really lack any home court advantage. As with us when playing ASU, so many off their grads find jobs in the biggest market in the state that for that one game, at least, the arena will have as many ASU fans as LR fans. Of course, it does not work the opposite direction because Jonesboro is not the major market in the state. There is no telling how many Michigan State fans live and work in the Chicago area, and they were out in force. It honestly sounded like a game on their home court, not Northwestern's.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

It feels good!

It does not make a bad season into a good season, but no matter how bad the season is, beating Arkansas State always feel so good. With the exception of possibly Ouachita-Henderson, it is the best college rivalry in the state. The blues may come back tomorrow, but the sun is shining for a while, at least. Go Trojans!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

I love it when hot-shot guards get beat

Come on, blue collar big guys!

Self-evident fact

Providence is playing at Butler on television.

Commentator #1: Good ballgame. Physical ballgame.

Commentator #2: It's Big East basketball.

'Nuff said. I love it!

Finally, a tribute to Chasse and Wes

Perhaps the thing that concerns me most about Wes is that it does not appear that he learned a great deal from his experience last season. "Fool me twice, shame on me." That definitely is cause for concern, at least in my feeble mind.

All the negative things having been said, I will say this about Wes. I think he genuinely was glad to be here. Sure Chris Beard was glad to be here because it gave him a chance finally to be a D1 head coach, but he was not particularly glad to be in Little Rock specifically (obviously, since he left). It was an opportunity, and he appreciated it, and made the most of it, and there is nothing wrong with that.

However, Wes is glad to be in Little Rock because it is Little Rock. And since we are buried in one of the most-maligned states in the country, that is saying something. And, I do think Wes would have stayed with us for a good stretch, even if he had been successful. So, to that extent, hats off to him. And if Conque's gamble had worked, we would have had a best of all worlds - a successful coach who genuinely wanted to be here. How often are you going to find that?

Everyone wants to be "the next Gonzaga." Well, I will tell you right now that you will NEVER be Gonzaga - located out in the desert as it is - unless you do like they have done and find a way to get a successful coach to stay. Getting an endless series of win-and-leave coaches is fine, but it is almost impossible to sustain.

Sure, Chasse took a gamble with hiring Wes. But if it had worked, it would have been the biggest home run in Little Rock history.

Friday, February 16, 2018

On-court discipline

The way to get players to play like you want them to play is very simple. Kids want to get on the court; that is the "pay day" in basketball; that is the great motivator. That is how the coach gets them to play his way: if they do not do it right, then they do not do it. Play the wrong way, and out you come. Chris Beard used that method with great success. Don't yell at them; don't glower at them; yank them out and sit them down for a little while. If you don't play right, you don't play.

Go back to the formula that worked

Whatever criteria Chasse Conque used for hiring Chris Beard worked. He needs to go back to that formula. How do you "know" that this person is the best candidate? I wouldn't know; I am not in that position. But somehow Chasse did with Beard, and he left that track when he hired Wes Flanigan, at least on the evidence so far. If something works, stay with it.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Coach Wooden makes Bill Walton get haircut


Fun year

The Big East is brutal. The Big 12 is really brutal. This year, even the SEC is really tough. All that makes for a lot of uncertainty, and a lot of fun.

Scrambling for talent

Coaches on the hot seat (and Wes definitely is there now) generally leave no stone unturned to bring in some talent to shore up their situation immediately. I assume Wes will do the same, and indications are that is exactly what he is doing. We have three seniors on the roster. It is hard to know with our enlarged roster who is scholarship and who is not, but I assume that Brady is not, and that Wadly is. Harley I have no idea. So that means that we will have one or at most two scholarships coming available.

Verbal Commits says that we already have verbal commitments from three players (in addition to Rayjon Tucker, who is already listed on the roster). Plus, we have made three offers in the last couple of weeks beyond those. Add to that the fact that Tucker, who does appear to be talented and is the only 3-star recruit we currently have, was busted on a marijuana change while he was at FGCU, which would put him into the "risky" category. All that taken together says that Wes is scrambling to get his talent base upgraded. That being the case, I would assume that no one on the roster is necessarily safe.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Pretty good percentage

Rutgers has been far from a basketball powerhouse. However, by one number they do fare pretty well. They have only been to the NCAA tournament six times, but those resulted in a Final Four and a Sweet Sixteen. Pretty good mileage out of their opportunities.

Cut for nothing

I am sadly amused watching college and (even more so) high school players cutting hard through the middle of the paint, just like they are supposed to do - and almost never receiving the ball. It seems like a futile exercise. Why draw up a system that uses a cutter if you are not going to teach your players to hit the cutter? Sure, it takes exact timing, but it can be done. Just another symptom of our offensive system that operates entirely from the outside these days. Inside the perimeter is No Man's Land.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Missouri resurgence

It is nice to see Missouri having a little success these days, because Missouri is a state where basketball might actually matter (as opposed to just throwing money at it, as in many of the other SEC situations). They have had some success in the fairly recent past (two Elite Eights since 2002).

What if he only scores?

"Role player" - that quasi-derogatory description for a player who is good mainly at one thing. If he is a rebounder, he is a "role player." If he is the best defensive player on the team, he is a "role player." It is a semi-insult: "He is not a real player, not fully a player, just a role player."

But what if he is a scorer, but is mediocre at rebounding and defense? Isn't he still a "role player"? Why is it that scorers who sluff of the other parts of the game are not labelled with this title? If you only score, you are a real player, but if you only rebound, you are a "role player."

Monday, February 12, 2018

The ultimate injustice

Basketball (and most sports) are fairer than football because there are stats (and thus recognition) for all the players. In football the poor lineman are just out there as far as glory is concerned. However, basketball's built-in injustice, from way back, is its reliance on season-ending tournaments. Thus we have built into our system automatic irrelevance for the body of work a team does through the year, and this is at all levels. You can vanquish every foe by 30 points through the regular season, and end up with nothing. You can be far and away the best team in the country, and immediately be forgotten. And sadly, other sports are being infected with the fever for end-of-the-season tournaments and playoffs. Ah, the good old days, when you played the season and whoever was best was best - and thus got credit for what he did over the entire season.

The good news is that we here at Michaelspappy's UALR Blog do indeed recognize a Regular Season National Champion. And since practically no one else does so, our award is as legitimate as anyone's as THE National Champion Award.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Not good odds

I have absolutely no inside information, but I would say that there is no better than a 50/50 chance of Wes Flanigan surviving this season.

On the plus side is the fact that he still has a year remaining on his contract, and Chasse may be reluctant to fire him before it runs out. For that matter, the AD may figure to give him the full run of his contract just as a matter of principle. Also, Flanigan, Sr., evidently has a lot of pull in the community, and it is always tougher to fire a local figure, especially with several central Arkansas players on the roster.

On the minus side is the fact that we have already lost 21 games (including one to a non-D1 team), with at least six games remaining to play. If we lose them all, we would be 5-27, and that is UGLY, especially with one of those wins against a non-D1 team. Attendance has held up better than I thought it would, but retaining Wes would almost guarantee that it would fall off next season even further, and I do not know how much the budget could stand that. Plus, Conque already has egg on his face, and another season like this one might change the projectiles to hard-boiled eggs. It feels like a "cut your losses" situation.

A few wins down the stretch might change the landscape, but I would say as things stand now I would not be planning a new wing on my house, if I were Wes.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Johnny Mack Brown - cowboy halfback

Johnny Mack Brown was one of the more famous of the legion of cowboy movie actors back in the days when movies were fit to watch. He appeared in more than 160 movies between 1927 and 1966 for the Universal and Monogram studios, of which the biggest part were westerns. Thus his was a household name for a couple of decades.

What film fans might not know is that before he was an actor, Johnny Brown was a halfback for the University of Alabama, which earned the national championship in 1925. He was the MVP of the Rose Bowl that year. He earned the nickname "The Dothan Antelope."

Friday, February 9, 2018

Will big men ever be relevant again?

Remember when Wilt and Russell and Alcindor and Walton ruled the paint? Remember the classic clashes of big bodies as the behemoths jockeyed for position? Ah, the good old days. Big men ruled the game back then. Now they are an asterisk, unless they have added to their repertoire a 3-point shot. What that says is that inside players are irrelevant these days. You shoot 3s, or you run some sort of offense that allows your players to get loose for layups. Everything else is passe. Thus big men, because they are big, are not on the screen. They are only relevant if they can shoot the 3. Otherwise they are (at best) role players.

Will big men ever be relevant again? Not without a rule change.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Press at LSU

Press Maravich (Pete's father) remains a legendary coach at LSU, but almost entirely because of his remarkable offspring (whose career arguably might not have been quite as remarkable if his father had not been his coach).

Petar Maravich came to LSU after six losing seasons at Clemson, and then two strong years at NC State. To his credit, after being a disastrous 3-23 in his first season with the Tigers, he was 14-12 the next year. However, they won 22 games in 1970, and never won more than 14 in any other year. He left with a 76-86 career record in Baton Rouge.

Interestingly, Maravich's last head coaching stint was at Appalachian State, where he saw them through their start in Division 1, compiling a 14-63 record.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Uneven journey

Every program has its ups and down, both within a season and over the years. UCLA was a juggernaut for many years, but this year it is still not a given that they will make the Tournament. Kentucky's latest loss likely will knock them out of the Top 25, which for them is a real blow, given the level of talent they have. The ebbs and flows are all relative, but every program has them.

Little Rock is no different. We had the good runs with Mahfouz, Kestenbaum, Newell, Sanderson, Moser/Shields, and the one year with Beard, but some lean times in between. 

One thing about it: loyal Trojan fans are not bandwagon-jumpers - those folks who look for the team in first place and root for them so they can be "winners." We stick with the program, and, thankfully, from time to time we are rewarded by some good stretches with some nice seasons. And it feels doubly good when it happens.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Great quote about Virginia's defense

"A disciplined Virginia squad that approaches defense like an angry beehive." (ESPN's Myron Medcalf)

Fairly exclusive company

Since we became entered the TAAC in the 1979-80 season, we have had only two seasons with single digit wins. One was Sidney's legendary 4-win effort in 1999-00 and the other was the 8-win season under Shields' leadership in 2009-10. If we don't pick up the pace quickly, that will put Wes in some exclusive company this year. (There were quite a number of single-win seasons before that time frame.) Sidney, of course, rode into the sunset after that year. Shields' eight wins were sandwiched between 23- and 19-win seasons, so he lasted longer.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Our bad FT shooting

Most teams will have one or two "clunkers" for FT shooters. For some reason there are some players who cannot seem to make those relatively easy shots even when they are not defended. However, we seem to have more than our share this season.

Among those who have shot at least 40 FTs:
Lottie 52.9%
Oliver Black 52.3%
Bankston 47.5%
Marcus 43.2%

We have a couple of factors that make us worse than usual. First, usually the clunkers are post players, whereas we have a point guard (of all things!) who can't make free throws. Second, we have a couple of players who are not just bad, but are downright awful, as in cannot make even half of their FTs. And, sadly, those two who fall into the "awful" category are among the top five in FTs attempted.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Bad, but not this bad

That we are a long way from having the best talent in the SBC any objective observer would admit. However, I doubt that we have the worst talent in the league. Still, we are in last place.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Like the other turkeys in the yard

This season is sort of like being one of the other turkeys in the yard, waiting to see if the ax will fall on the fattest one. "Will he or will he not be fired?"

Friday, February 2, 2018

Five wins won't do it

Probably all of us have speculated about the status of Wes Flanigan's job - as in will he have one next season? Only one man knows the answer to that, of course; and probably even he does not completely know the answer because the season is not over. (If we were to win out we would all feel a lot better.)

However, I cannot see any reason to think that five wins saves Wes' job. I know we are young and all that, but especially given the fact that our non-conference schedule was not particularly difficult, five wins (one of them non-D1) is not going to get it done.

I think we have some nice talent on this team, and I think someone will be able to make them into a competitive squad, but Wes has not proven that he is the man to do that. I think we have some nice talent on the roster. I think we are making progress; we have improved in some phases of the game over the course of the season. But some coaches are just not good game coaches, and Wes appears to fall into that category. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

How many keepers?

Out of our first year players, which are "keepers?"

Anthony Black, Camron Reedus, Kris Bankston, Jaizec Lottie, Cameron Corcoran certainly. Each has filled an important role for us this year and will be needed next year (no matter who is coach). Bankston and Corcoran are potential stars. Maybe also Lottie if he knocks some rough edges off his game.

K. J. Gilmore, Damir Hadzic perhaps. Gilmore has had some good moments, but is inconsistent. Hadzic has provided important depth up front, but has been a disappointment with his shooting.

Cezanne Carson and Khari Harley, no.