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.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Rick Pitino says he is through coaching

Good riddance.

Interesting rivalry

Since they do not play in the same conference, I sometimes forget that Wisconsin and Marquette have a natural rivalry that has been going on for generations. Close together. Recruiting from the same base. The two premier programs in their state. Having a big-time intra-state rivalry that does not involve a conference connection has to be a huge boost for college basketball within the state.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018


A poll by CBS Sports of college coaches as to who is the most underappreciated coach in college basketball named Davidson's Bob McKillop in first place. This is a little bit of a surprise, since he is not from a power conference school. Still, he has been around a long time, so the coaching fraternity knows him well. McKillop is a poster child for what every lower-level school wishes they could do: bring in a really good coach and get him to stay. I am sure Davidson appreciates him.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Any challengers to Kansas?

Kansas has led a charmed life in their streak of Big 12 championships. It is just unlikely that a program would go that long and not have key injuries or off-court issues that would derail them, at least for one season. Are there programs that could challenge the Jayhawks dominance? In the Big12?! Of course! Lots of them. Kansas State is showing life. Beard has things going at Tech. West Virginia is always tough. Jamie Dixon is building a machine at TCU. And so on. Certainly there are teams that could challenge Kansas. But so far they are still on top. Amazingly.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Candid coach about cheating

CBS Sports asked college basketball coaches if they thought there would be more FBI changes in the cheating scandal. Here was the answer of one of them which I thought was extraordinarily candid: "Yes. This may sound cold, but I hope they charge anyone they find out to be cheating. It's not fair to those of us that don't. The cheaters that win have cost others their jobs that don't cheat."

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Volleyball needs a comeback

For a while a few years back volleyball was a powerhouse sport for us. Coach Compton had a recruiting connection to the Eastern European countries and it payed off big time. We need them to be really good again. The only really consistent sport at Little Rock in recent years has been women's basketball, and if the athletic program as a whole is to prosper, we need to have several sports that are in the conversation at the conference level. Volleyball is the obvious candidate.