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.