Monday, April 30, 2018

Back to the days of non-information

Ah, those golden days when we had Burn The Horse supplying us with all sorts of reliable inside information. It was only for a short time, but how sweet it was! Now we are back into the Dark Ages of Trojan non-information. Who knows what causes this? It is frustrating, but after a while we get used to it, sad to say.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Casey Stengel on Ryne Duren

Back in my childhood, I had a Ryne Duren baseball card. He was noted for his very thick glasses and blazing fastball - not a combination that made hitters want to dig in. In his inimitable manner, Casey Stengel, the great baseball sage, said, "I would not admire hitting against Ryne Duren, because if he ever his you in the head you night be in the past tense."

Image result for ryne duren

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Golf was just more fun in those days

Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, and throw in Trevino and Watson. Every weekend the big boys of golf would go head to head, and especially in the Majors. It was the Golden Age of Golf, and it was a ton of fun. Arnie's Army rallying when he made a charge. Nicklaus' look of the eagle in crunch time. Player's impeccable demeanor. Trevino's sheer joy of the game. It was really fun.

See the source image

Friday, April 27, 2018

Criteria for GOAT lists

This is an interesting subject to me: how do you make an honest evaluation when constructing Greatest Of All Time lists? How do you compare players from different eras? To a certain degree, it is an impossible task. Sure, modern players are much more imposing physical specimens; but would not the oldtimers have been likewise if they had lived today? Would modern players have been so muscular if they had lived back then? Oldtimers did not have the advantage of the collective learning that each generation accumulates from the preceding ones. Do you penalize them for that? Do you penalize modern players because they do have that advantage? You can compare each player to his contemporaries, but it still is a fact that some periods just had better players than others.

One thing is sure: every time we tinker with the rules, it makes it just that much more difficult to compare eras. And like it or not, that is one of the great joys of following sports.

* * *

"What do you think Ted Williams would have batted today?"
"Oh, I don't know - maybe .280."
"You think he would have batted only .280?!"
"Yeah, but keep in mind he's 80 years old."

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Why no more bloodhounds?

Bulldogs, greyhounds, etc. There is a fairly good list of team mascots taken from the dog world. But the only school that I could find that has the bloodhound as its mascot is the John Jay School of Criminal Justice in New York City. Appropriate, I would say. But I am a little surprised that there are not more bloodhounds in the sports world.

See the source image

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Why not a 4-star?

When coaches recruit players that they figure are pretty certain to be one-and-dones, they do not get much bang for their buck. What if, instead of that strategy, they recruited players who were mere four-stars (assuming fewer of them would go after one year) and even very good 3-stars. Then there would be a reasonable chance that those players would stay for multiple years, maybe even all four, and the program would get a lot more good out of them. I would think that a lower-tier 4-star, with four years of development, would be as good as a 5-star who still has kinks in his game and immaturity issues.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Walker's timing is good

Darrell has lost a lot from the roster, but he has most of the impact players returning, including two who could not play last season. Plus he is coming in after one of the worst seasons in program history. Plus the vacancies give him a chance to bring in his own players immediately, instead of having to wait a year or two, as sometimes happens to new coaches. It would be very difficult to look very bad in such circumstances. If nothing else, our new coach has a very good sense of timing.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The motivation behind rule changes

Rule changes are sometimes made to correct a perceived imbalance in the game. That was the case when Lew Alcindor appeared unstoppable in his early years. However, sometimes rule changes are made to try to make the game more popular. That is an entirely different motivation.

Almost inevitably rule chances for the second reason degrade the game. By definition, true basketball fans do not need to have the game made more popular for them, so those changes are made to try to broaden the attendance base. In other words, those changes have a dollar $ign attached to them, and when money is attached, an action very often has a corrupting influence.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Bright lights can obscure a sickly body

The AD is in charge of the entire athletic department. All the men's sports, all the women's sports. One is no less his concern than the other. The scope of the financial involvement may dictate that he spend more time on one than the other, but he is not less responsible for them.

In some high-dollar programs, success in the most visible money program sometimes obscures a lack of success in most of the others. Thus fans get a very tilted concept of the success of the AD in his overall job. For example, if the football team wins the national championship, but all the other sports are second division, then the AD has done a really second-rate job, even most fans will not realize it because most "fans" follow nothing but the big money sport.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Loss of variety

What makes basketball a visually interesting sport is the endless variety of scenarios that can unfold. However, the more the Fathers of the Sport tinker with it to take away the variety, the less interesting it becomes. That which is predictable is prone to be boring, and that is the way we are headed.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Pat Boone, basketball fan

A few of you may remember Pat Boone, a crooner who was really big in the 1950s. What you may not know is that he was a big basketball fan. He owned a team in the Hollywood Studio League called the Chooga Moogas (how about that for a name!). When the old ABA was founded, he became the majority owner of the Oakland franchise, who won the 1969 ABA title. Boone now plays for the Virginia Creepers, an 80-84 age group Senior Olympics team.

Image result for pat boone

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Basketball's linemen

Pity the plight of the poor offensive lineman in football! He never gets to touch the ball (unless it be to recover a fumble), and so his name never gets called over the loudspeaker - unless he is the one who committed the penalty. He never gets recognized unless he does something wrong. Why would anyone want to be an offensive lineman in football?! They are the epitome of "team players," because they rarely, if ever, get any positive individual public recognition.

It is not quite as bad in basketball for inside players, but it is edging steadily in that direction. As the game becomes more and more perimeter oriented, big men are more and more relegated to the position of role players. Yes, they get rebounds, but they do not get their name called out for that. They do get announced when they make baskets, but fewer and fewer baskets are being scored by big men - and those baskets to not receive the special pizzazz (THREEEEEEEE POINTS!) that the hotshot guards receive as they blast away outside with no danger of anyone pounding them when they take the shot.

Take heart, big guys - your team appreciates you. (I guess they do. You wouldn't know it by the number of times they feed the ball inside to you.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Champions - or the best?

I finally figured out the difference between the weight of a winning a regular season title and a tournament title. (It is no secret that I put vastly more weight on the regular season.) The tournament crowns a champion. Nice to be a champion, no doubt. Trophies are nice to have. But the regular season determines the best team. The best team does not always win the tournament championship. What do I mean by the best team? If the teams played 99 games on a truly neutral court, who would win at least 50 of them?

Monday, April 16, 2018

Big 12 Era

Well, maybe four years does not qualify as an "era," but for the time being the Big 12 is firmly on top of the basketball world. For the last four seasons, Sagarin has ranked them as the best conference ins college basketball - and they were 2nd the year before that.

It could be that the Big 12's reserve during the feeding frenzy of realignment is paying big dividends for them. By sticking with only ten teams, all of whom were already established as power conference worthy, they avoided taking on a stratum of bottom feeders to pull down their numbers.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Early test for Walker the Recruiter

If Darrell Walker is going to make a strong early impact in Little Rock, it will hinge greatly on how good a recruiter he is. He is going to have to rebuild most of a roster that was not all that good to start with - and the early signing period is already over, so he is working with leftovers at this point. Still, there are a lot of good leftovers out there, plenty good enough for us.

Chris Beard did a masterful job of filling in the chinks by bringing in a few key players for his championship team. Somehow or other he found Lis Shoshi and Jermaine Ruttley, who were real keys for us. They fit like a glove with what we had coming back and the result was a record season. However, Walker does not have anything like the talent Beard had coming back; most especially he does not have Josh Hagins returning. He is building on a much more rickety structure. If he can piece together a respectable season, I will say he has done a decent job in his first year.

We still could have a pretty fair starting lineup

Camron Reedus, Cezanne Carson, K. J. Gilmore, Cameron Corcoran, plus a recruit or two. Losing them hurts. However, the only ones of them who stood much of a chance to be a starter were Corcoran and Reedus, and they started only nine games between them last season.

Oliver Black, Kris Bankston, Jaizec Lottie, Ryan Pippins, Ben Marcus. These will not be the starters because their minutes would overlap, but there is some talent in that group - talent that Wes Flanigan just was not able to tap. The cupboard is not bare, and the defections give Walker a chance to show what he can do as a recruiter.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Heavy international flavor

South Alabama men's tennis


Oh, by the way, one from Florida and even one from Alabama.

Where we ended in final Sun Belt stats

I am including only categories where we were in the first or last three.

Scoring offense - 12th
FT% - 12th
FG% - 11th
3PT% - 12th
3PT% Defense - 10th
Assists - 10th
Steals - 12th
A/TO Ratio - 10th

Statistical proof of what we already knew: we were just really, really bad.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Bragging rights

In this year's ESPN Tournament Challenge game, I won over 26 other entries from younger relatives, inlaws and prospective inlaws.

"Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill!"

An interesting recruiting season after all

It had looked like the only drama in this recruiting season would be who of the current batch did not get scholarships. But now it looks like someone dropped a bomb on the roster. There ought to be lots of drama. We shall find out very quickly is our new HC can recruit. But he is going to have to get his staff in place fairly quickly.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Finally, a breakout season

It is fun to see a program gain traction after being down for a number of years. For example, DePaul has been a doormat for a good while. The last time they had a winning season was the 2006-07 season. Since then they have had nine 20-loss seasons. But you figure sooner or later they will get going, and that will be nice to watch. They do have a fairly rich history, having been to the Final Four a couple of times. This same scenario gets acted out somewhere or other most seasons.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Nevada starters

I would venture to guess that the Nevada Wolf Pack had the shortest bench of any team in the country this season. All their starters averaged at least 27 minutes per game, and three of them averaged  at least 33 minutes. They had a seven-man rotation, and then the minutes per dropped off to under seven.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The advantage of contrarian offenses

Naturally, coaches are going to concentrate their efforts of the biggest threats. These days in football, it is the wide-open passing attack that is encountered the most, so that is what defenses are geared to defend. A team that runs the Wishbone, for instance, is going to run into teams every week that are not, for the most part, accustomed to facing their offense.

There is something to be said for being anachronistic. Offenses that are out of style generally get to deal with defenses that are not prepared to face out-of-style offenses.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Overall athletic department needs a boost

Basketball is the headliner sport at Little Rock, and with good reason. It raises the most money and is the most popular sport, at least at the college level. However, Chasse needs to give some attention to the other sports, because we are just not very good across the board.

Baseball is making a presence this season, finally. Volleyball was very good a few years ago, but has fallen on hard times lately. Cross country won the SBC title a few years back, but also is weak now. We just need to do better everywhere. Little Rock athletics is not scaring anybody these days.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Records ahead for baseball?

Our current record is 17-11, for a .607 winning percentage. Our program baseball records go back to 1975. Only twice in that period have we had a better winning percentage (1977 and 1990). The best we have had since we joined the Sun Belt was .589 in 2000. So, as far as our time in the Belt is concerned, we are on a record pace so far this season. In conference play, we have had only two seasons over .500. Our best season in the SBC was .567 in 2016. At the moment in conference play, we are 6-3 for .667.

Winning has been a rare commodity for the diamond Trojans. Maybe this year will be the start of something positive. Our athletic program certainly needs a sport other than women's basketball to do something good.

Villanova embraced smallball

Villanova has become a powerhouse because they have accepted the reality of today's basketball - nothing matters but the 3. They put (at least) four players who can shoot the 3, and shoot it well, on the floor at all times. The basketball fathers have created a deformed monster, so Villanova decided to make the monster work for them. That philosophy made them good. Add to that the fact that they have very good players running that philosophy, and it made them great.

Just mark it down that the percentage of shots being taken from the arc will continue to climb until the rules are changed to do something about it. Nothing else matters. Why pretend otherwise?

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The worst team?

Who was the worst power conference team in the country? California at a 207 Sagarin ranking. That still leaves a large number of the smaller schools who were worse than Cal.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018


Can you imagine how exhausted the national basketball media is right now?

Who do they think they are kidding?!

"No team in Division I basketball history has been as good as the Wildcats have been since 2014." This is from the ESPN article following Villanova's victory in the finals of the NCAA tournament? No team in history? Have they forgotten John Wooden? Villanova lost four games this season. In the five years from 1968-69 through 1972-73 UCLA lost a TOTAL of four games and had guys like Alcindor and Walton playing for them. Come on, ESPN, don't let the enthusiasm of the moment lure you into unwarranted hyperbole.

Interesting ranking of pitchers

Just one man's opinion, of course, but interesting nonetheless.


How long does it last?

When a program has a big winning season, or even a sustained period of success, they can milk that for a time with their fan base. Tradition and history are important in the building of a program, and fans very much like to borrow the glory of the team: "We won a championship."

But even the greatest success begins to fade in time. Yes, UCLA totally dominated college basketball for a generation, but now it has been 23 years since they won a nation championship. The kids who were born that year are college graduates now. And even good fans do not always research the history of a program, and so it means very little to them. History and tradition are important, but how long do they last?

Monday, April 2, 2018

Picking up speed in track and field

At the moment Little Rock has these top 10 performances in the Sun Belt:

100 - #2, #6
200 - #2, #3
1500 - #8
5000 - #6
10,000 - #7
110 H - #9
3000 S - #8
4X100 R - #2
4X400 R - #5
LJ - #9

This is not the stuff that championships are made of, but it is evidence that we are moving in the right direction. And right now our strength obviously is in the sprints, and our top two performers there are both juniors. In fact, of the eight sprinters on the roster, only two are seniors. It appears that Coach Williams is building the program from the sprint side, which is not a bad idea.

He got that right

Said Michigan sophomore Charles Matthews: "The mid-range game is a lost art in basketball."

Beilein gets it

from CBS:

"Coach Beilein hates 3s," senior guard Jaaron Simmons said Sunday, a day before Michigan faces Villanova in the national title game. "He hates when other teams make 3s."
This has been drilled into the heads of the Wolverines since this team's first practice in fall. They are told to not give up 3-pointers. They are told to stay high in the gaps. Sure, you should sprint out to the 3-point line to contest any time an opponent has an open 3-pointer. But more important is not allowing an opponent to get that open 3-pointer in the first place: Keep your man in front of you, don't allow your man to make an easy pass to another 3-point shooter, execute your individual defensive role in order to make your team's defense shine.

Hurray for good catchers

A long-time friend of mine is a veteran high school baseball umpire, and we have spent many pleasant hours visiting about his experiences. One of the things he has emphasized is how much he appreciates good catchers. Especially at the lower classifications, frequently the catcher is a complete novice at this trade, and so he misses many balls - and the ump catches them on some part of his anatomy or another. Sure, he has his armor, but it can still smart.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The NCAA needs to fix this problem

And it is a problem! Last night against Kansas, 40 of Villanova's 65 shots were from beyond the arc. Of course, it is logical. No, I do not blame them. The way the game is set up now, why not do that? But more and more teams are going to follow the Wildcats' lead, and the game is going to turn into a glorified game of HORSE. And how is that exciting? The variety and beauty of the game are being dismantled.

Not a trendy name

Back in the 1960's, actress Jean Willis was a familiar face on television (see below), although very few would remember her name. She was married to Gerard Finley Cowhig, who played in the NFL for five seasons. I know nothing about him, except that he had what might be called the anti-trendy name. Certainly an honorable name, but it is of the sort that usually spawned some sort of nickname very quickly.

Jean Willes 1960.JPG