Tuesday, July 31, 2018

I am vindicated!

Back when I used to make predictions for the upcoming SBC season, one of the factors I weighted most heavily was returning starters. I took a little razzing because of that, especially when the starters the previous year had not been very good.

However. . . . ESPN just analyzed this year's pre-season BPI rankings, and had this comment: "The reason behind both Duke and Kentucky's lower-than-expected rankings is the fact the model heavily weighs returning production, as history shows returning starters do better than five-star freshmen in general."  Aha! The old man was right, after all.

We can afford that

Offensive talent is "expensive." There is high demand for it, and therefore it is scarce. However, defense and discipline are (relatively) cheap. There will be players available who fit those qualities. That is why teams like Loyola occasionally make it to the big time. They played good D. (Porter's teams always do.) They shot the ball well. Their big man played good fundamental ball. They did not have wall-to-wall five-star players, but they had good players who played good basketball. Little guys can afford that.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Damir Hadzic

I have to admit that I am not a fan of European-style big men. What is the benefit of having a big man if he plays like he is a little man? At the moment, Hadzic is the biggest man on the roster at 6-8, 227#. However, last season well over half his shots (57 of 95) were from the arc. However, we are back to the old problem of people shooting 3-pointers who cannot make 3-pointers. Hadzic shot an anemic 28%. Granted, he was a true freshman, and his shooting should improve with a year to mature, but that number is not very encouraging.

But he is a big man. He is our biggest man. If he is out gunning from the perimeter, who is rebounding? Who is working for position for an inside shot? Probably that is how he will have to play since that is the only way they know how to play these days, especially in Europe. But as things currently stand we are going to be considerably vertically-challenged, and I hate to see us wasting his height.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Being old and staying old

You might say that Jamie Dixon is the anti-Calipari. One of this pet phrases about his roster is, "Being old and staying old." In other words, he values experience and maturity. In a world filled with prima donna 5-star millionaire wannabes, that is a novel attitude for a power conference coach. I am sure Dixon would take a 5-star if he wanted to come to TCU, but loading up with short-timers is not the method by which he wants to build the program. Refreshing.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Jaizec Lottie

I continue to think that Lottie has potential, but his numbers last season were very disappointing. His 1.32 A/TO ratio was very low for a point guard, even one that was a true freshman. Maybe with a more exacting coach his performance will improve. (We can hope that up and down the roster.) Freshmen do not tend to be the most disciplined of players, and a coach who held the reins lightly did not help things. Lottie's shooting was downright awful. His one bright spot was on defense, where he led the team in steals by a good margin. This may be a good player in time; I have not given up hope; but he ain't there yet.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Those two, and then everybody else

In the realm of rebounding in the NBA, there is the Big Two, and then the rest of them. For his career, Wilt Chamberlain averaged 22.9 boards per game, and Bill Russell had 22.5. Far down the list at #3 is Bob Pettit at 16.2. When we old-timers dream about the good old days and the titanic battles down low, it was the real deal.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Deondre Burns

The big question about Deondre is whether or not he will come back at the level at which he played in the 2016-17 season (41% from the arc, 80% from the line). If he does, then expect to pencil him into the rotation immediately, probably the starting line-up. But it has been a while since he has played in a game, and who knows how he will bounce back? With our short roster (at least so far), we very much need him to be on his game.

Monday, July 23, 2018

The model of consistency

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar averaged over 20 points/game for 17 years. (For twelve of those years he also averaged double figures in rebounding.) I don't know if that is a record, but it has to be close. What is more amazing is that the last year he averaged 20 points was in the 1985-86 season. He turned 40 years old in 1987.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Markquis Nowell

On paper and on film, Nowell looks like the biggest recruit we have had since possible Will Neighbour, maybe ever. First off, his day-to-day competition has been in the basketball hot bed of New York City. Second, he is quick as a cat and has great court vision. He doesn't score a huge amount, but what can you expect from a guy who is probably really 5-7? Georgetown, Seton Hall, Rutgers, and Minnesota, among others, offered him a scholarship. He has not played a minute of college ball yet, but everything I have seen indicates that this kid is the real deal. So get ready, Little Rock.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Can Loyola pull it off?

Once again we have a mid-level school who had great success, and now faces the challenge of keeping its coach. The vast majority of the time they lose him. Wichita State has been an exception. There may be some hope for Loyola to keep Porter, though: usually, if he were going to move on, he already would have done so by this point. When coaches are a hot commodity they generally do not sit on the shelf very long. Naturally, I would love to see Moser stay at Loyola. It seems to be a good fit, and I would love to see how he goes about turning one-time success into a system that can perpetuate it.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Will anyone ever challenge Kansas?

Kansas' first Final Four was back in 1940, and they have had 14 of them since then. Will anyone ever challenge them for dominance of the Big 12? I am not talking about breaking their streak of championships, but knocking them off as the King of the Hill in the conference. Given how long they have been very good, it is hard to imagine. Basketball is THE sport at Kansas, and fans have come to expect winning, and evidently the administration is willing to support it. There are other teams that no doubt will keep the pressure on; the conference is exceptionally deep; but knocking them off as the dominant team in the league? Not anytime soon, I would say.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Golfer's names

I notice on the early leaderboard at The Open that there is a golfer named Na (Kevin, from the US) and one named An (Byeong Hun, from Korea). That is some solid progress in the direction of simplicity. Of course, we still have to stumble around Francesco Molinari, Louis Oosthuisen and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Ryan Pippins

I must admit that I gave up on Pippins after his slow start in the program. Then last year he came on to have a solid season. He wasn't the point guard we needed, but he did turn out to be a very good shooter, knocking down 42.6% from the arc and averaging 7.6 ppg, which was good enough for second in scoring on an anemic offensive team. If he can continue to make the 3, he will be worth a lot to the team under what hopefully will be better coaching. He still needs to lose some weight, but under the right circumstances I would say he has significant upside.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Can Dixon bring consistency?

I have long been a big fan of Jamie Dixon. Pitt found out very quickly just how foolish they were to have let him get away. He came to his alma mater and in his second season took them to the NCAA for the first time in 20 years. They had a good year last year, and probably would have been considerably better had not their star guard been injured mid-season.

So Dixon has started fast, but can he bring consistency? Let us not forget just how brutally difficult it is for anyone other than Kansas to be consistent these days in the Big 12. Most of the conference is good most years. So, in order to stay in the top tier of the league will take some doing. Coaching in the Big 12 will make any coach seem worse than he really is. Let us hope that the Frog fans do not make the same mistake of undervaluation that Panther fans made.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Who helps you more?

Most college coaches today fall all over themselves to sign a 5-star player, who is almost certain (under the current rules) to leave after one season. They barely have time to learn the system thoroughly and obviously never rise to their full potential while at the school. On the other hand, their talent is so great that it can sometimes carry the team.

Still, I wonder if that approach to recruiting garners the best return for the school. Are they better off constantly hiring and training highlighters, or recruiting 3-star or 4-star players who are much more likely to stay and contribute for their entire careers, developing a little school loyalty during their stay? Plus, by the time they are seniors, those players may be as good as the 5-stars were as freshmen. 1 X 100 does not total as much as 4 x 30.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

"Clutch shooters"

I have pondered much over this name. How is it that shooters become known as "clutch" shooters? Probably only because they took shots in late situations in game and happened to make them, became heroes, and got tagged as "clutch." However, that line of thought does not mean much to me because I know that no one remembers the times they missed those shots, so our memories are not a valid measuring stick. Neither does a shooter deserve the name "clutch" because he is a good shooter. If he makes a lot of shots, but makes the same percentage in late game situations as he does overall, then he is no better than usual in those situations.

The only way I can think of that a player really deserves the title "clutch" is if you tracked those late game situations and found that he shot a significantly better percentage at such times than he did at other times. If he shot 45% in the last ten seconds of close games, and only 38% for his career, then, yes, he is a clutch shooter. Aside from that, we are probably awarding him a bogus designation.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Hope he is a teacher

We see so little of what goes on behind the scenes in the program that our observations are almost meaningless. However, the sequence of the events makes me have some concerns that Walker is not a good administrator. Possibly so, but that is not a fatal flaw. He has to know his weaknesses and hire someone to compensate for them. If he is a good basketball teacher, that will go a long way toward making up for whatever deficiencies he may have.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Will they ever play defense?

NBC's "Pressing Question" about UCLA for the upcoming season is, "Will they ever play defense?" One understands why the LA celebrity mindset might tend away from the non-glamorous parts of the game; but still, don't you have to play at least a little defense to win? Kentucky has underperformed relative to their talent level in the Sleezipari Era, and I suspect that UCLA's relative accomplishments have been even less. All this has been through a period in which the Pac-12 has been less than intimidating as a whole, and UCLA might have been the big dog in a big way.

Monday, July 9, 2018

It just doesn't make sense

We just announced that the program raised a record $4.3 million last year. Doesn't it seem logical that a department that could raise that kind of money could fill out a basketball roster?

It will take a rule change

Players are not going to stop blasting away from the 3-point line by themselves. It is too easy. You don't have to get your uniform dirty. You don't have to endure the bumping underneath. It gets the big call-out from the PA announcer. They have no incentive to stop. In fact, it will only get worse.

So, the Powers That Be are going to have to change the rules to bring some sanity (and variety) back to the game. Probably the 3-point line will be moved back again. They should have removed the 3-shot penalty long ago. Maybe some other rule changes can be made to make the shot less appealing to coaches. Then, maybe, the coaches will make the players quit blasting away - but they will not do it by themselves.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Does the Mater matter?

There was a time when players played for the alma mater, identified with it, and were proud to be alumni of that school and program. They would come back home for events and be highly visible to help the morale of the program. With all the early departures and transfers, is the alma mater even a factor any more? Does anyone play for the school, or is it only about the players?

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Soft scheduling?

Fansided has an article asking if non-conference for power conference schools are too easy. For most of them, the easy answer is "yes." They can afford to pad the early games, and their conference schedules are going to be tough and will keep their SOS looking good. So why not? Of course, little guys don't have the option. Well, I guess they could schedule all non-D1 schools, but at some point there is not much lower that they can go and still be D1. Just ask the SWAC.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Pressure on Sleezipari

CBS says pressure is mounting on Calipari to win another national championship at Kentucky, and no wonder. Given that he has his pick of the talent every year and has a loaded recruiting class every year, he ought to be under pressure. He is making an obscene amount of money, not just to recruit, but to win ballgames.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Do they stay too long?

Coach K is 71 years old. It is hard for me to imagine someone having a life that is so limited in its scope that he wants to go on working to that age, but there you are. Maybe he did not have much of a family life. However, be that as it may, it is his choice to work or not to work.

The question is if legendary coaches who stay on way past the normal retirement age are doing their schools a disservice. Yes, Coach K is winning big, but the longer he stays and the more success he has, the harder will be the job of the man who follows him. Is the long-term health of the program helped or hindered by his staying? There is a "right" time to hand over the reigns of the program, and if a legend waits too long, there can be a scar - not to the man, but to the program. In the ten years after he retires, would the win total have been greater if he had left a little earlier?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Scott Cross: sometimes bad news is good news

The argument could be made that over the last few seasons, UTA's Scott Cross was the best coach in the SBC. Certainly his teams were among the more consistent in the league. Here is a LINK to an article arguing that getting fired at Arlington was the best thing that could have happened to Cross - and I do not know but what they were right.

Needed: a good administrator

When we think of a college coach, an administrator is not what we think of. But, in fact, the head coach is the CEO of that program. It is his job to make sure things happen. And some of those things are not glamorous, but are nonetheless very necessary to the success of the program. 

Walker's record so far in Little Rock is not one to cause me to think that he is a good administrator. Just the opposite. If I were his boss and were making entries on his employee record, I might put: "No sense of urgency. Let's things slide. Needs to prioritize." Still, the head coach is not doing it by himself; he has a full staff to whom he can delegate. But it still comes back on him to make sure that everything gets done, even if he delegates to someone else the job of making sure that he does everything he is supposed to be doing. Someone on this staff is going to have to do the unglamorous part. It would be a shame for this coach to fail simply because he just lollygaggled his way through the season.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Sunflower Showdown

Except for a brief recent uprising of Wichita State, Kansas has been the undisputed domain of KU. (For that matter, the entire Big 12 has been.) However, there actually is a possibility of a power conference legit rivalry this season, in the sense that there may be another team that has a shot at beating Kansas.

Kansas State is making a comeback. They went to the Elite Eight last season for the first time in eight years and the second time in a generation. Plus they have "every relevant player" returning from last season. Plus Bruce Weber is a pretty fair coach. Thus, for the first time in recent memory, the biggest roadblock to a Big 12 title for KU may be their in-state rival. Do you think there will be any tickets available for that game?

Monday, July 2, 2018

Amazing fans

It really does stagger the imagination. We have our least wins since the disastrous 1999-2000 season - and we still have the third best attendance in the Sun Belt. Another way of putting it is that there were eight teams that played better than we did but had worse attendance. I do not want to hear the administration complaining about fan support!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Defense works for the little guys

Iceland's recent success in soccer illustrates the validity of the premise above. When they played Argentina and Lionel Messi to a 1-1 tie, the Argentinian coach said, "“Iceland played very defensively, blocking all spaces but we did everything we could to win."

The Icelandic coach responded, "We are bluntly honest about our ability. We know how we can win football matches. It is just a fact that Argentina have superior individuals with superior skills and if we go one-on-one with them you don’t need to ask who will win the game. We have to play in a special way and we have a clear identity."

The big guys will get the players with the dazzling ability. Little guys have to do something different. Defense works with hard effort and discipline, and those qualities are not unique to players with dazzling ability. So little guys can play defense about as well as the fancy teams. You just have to get your players to buy into the system. "We have a clear identity."