Tuesday, December 31, 2019

That is what got us in this mess

This quote from The Athletic's Seth Davis: "It is concerning, but not particularly surprising, that scoring is down this season." 

Why is that "concerning"? If it is "bad" for scoring to go down, then just make major rule changes that make scoring easier and defense more difficult. Fix it where 100-point games happen all the time. Good grief! That attitude is what got us into our present mess. Keep tinkering with the game until you totally ruin it.

Monday, December 30, 2019

When rivalries aren't quite rivalries

For a rivalry actually to be a rivalry, there has to be a burning desire in each team to beat the other. If one of the team's hasn't beaten the other in a decade, it is difficult for that desire to be there. Georgetown and American fit that bill. They are both from Washington, DC, and there is not a long list of schools in the District to play. So it is a natural opponent for Georgetown, if not a particularly inspiring one. It is one of those games for which you have to prepare seriously because it would be very embarrassing to lose so them, but not one that you fear very much. The two teams have played 54 times, and the Hoyas have won 46 of those.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Is DW a good coach?

A good coach makes his players better, from season to season, and within seasons. Granted there are other things that coaches have to do, but that is perhaps the most important. Now that we are heading into the conference season, we shall see if Darrell Walker continues to mold this team into what it ought to be. I like what we have seen thus far. Will it continue?

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Mr. Offensive, Mr. Defensive

We have an interesting statistical abnormality this season. Looking at the SBC stats, Kamani Johnson is 2nd in offensive boards per game, and Ruot Monyyong is tied for first in defensive rebounds per game. Usually if you have a strong rebounder he will be toward the top in both. (Monyyong is tied for 7th in offensive rebounds.)  I have heard of "designated rebounders," but never "designated offensive rebounders."

Friday, December 27, 2019

Why isn't Gonzaga respected?

I mark it down to big-conference arrogance, but even with that, why doesn't Gonzaga get much respect from the average fan? It could be because the average fan doesn't even start thinking about basketball until after the Super Bowl, and by then Gonzaga is already into their conference schedule, which is admittedly not as tough as the power conferences. Maybe their games don't get watched on TV as much because they are on the west coast.

Right now the WCC is ranked #9 by Sagarin. Not bad, but not impressive when you are talking about the elite in the game. Only three other WCC schools are ranked in the top 100 teams. And that is a problem for Gonzaga in obtaining respect.

But when it becomes Dance time, conference rankings go out the window. Granted they have not (yet) had a national championship. But in the past five seasons, the Zags have been the Runner-up once, Elite Eight twice, and Sweet 16 twice. How many teams in the country have been as consistent over that period? Duke did not make it out of the Round of 32 in 2017. Ditto North Carolina in 2018. Ditto Kentucky in 2016. Ditto Kansas - twice. Ditto Villanova - thrice. UCLA's recent troubles are well documented, ditto Indiana, ditto UConn. Louisville did not even make the tournament in 2016 and 2018.

The bottom line is that of the ten programs with the most NCAA championships, NONE of them has been as consistent as Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament over the last five seasons. So why doesn't Gonzaga get respect from the average fan?

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Wish list for 2020

#1. Obviously, get the entire roster healthy and on the court in time to get integrated so that they can make a difference.

#2. Control turnovers. I am beginning to doubt that this will happen as long as Nowell has the ball in his hands as much as he does, but it certainly needs to happen. Empty possessions do not produce points.

#3. Better perimeter defense. Opponents are shooting 35.7% from the arc against us, and are taking a lot more shots from there than we do. So they are shooting more and enjoying it more. I have no problem with their taking bad shots from there, but they evidently are taking good shots.

If we could get those three things, life would be rosey in Little Rock.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

We got to follow them all

According to Wikipedia, Porter Moser now has 254 wins as a head coach. That puts him over halfway to the 500 wins mark, and there are not many active coaches with that many. The nice thing is that we presumably will have been able to follow his entire career (if we live long enough) and say, "We were there when it started." We got to see them all. The same is true for Chris Beard, although he is a little behind Porter's pace for the moment.

Won't it be nice fifteen or twenty years from now when the two of them are moving into the "senior" category of coaches, and we can look back on their careers and know that they got their start with us, in little old Little Rock. I hope they remember their roots.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Big guys, go to a big guy coach

Omer Yurtseven transferred from NC State to Georgetown. He averaged 13.5 ppg and 6.7 rpg. Then he transferred to Georgetown, and had to give up his junior season in order to do it.

What did he get in exchange? He got an honest-to-goodness big man coach, who likes big men and knows how to use big men and is a (very) big man himself, that being Patrick Ewing. So this season he is averaging 18.3 ppg and 10.3 rpg, with 24 blocks to boot, and shooting 58.6% from the field. And he has attempted only 6 three-pointers all season. (He made one.)

If you are brain surgeon, go take lessons from a good brain surgeon. If you are a big man, go play for a coach who actually knows how to coach big men and who actually cares about big men. They are pretty rare these days.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Jump on the Rutgers bandwagon

When you think of Rutgers, you don't think of championships, because they have not had many of them, at any level. Certainly not in basketball. They have been to the Final Four once, in 1976. They have been to the round of 32 only four times, most recently 1983. They had had 13 straight losing seasons. Not the stuff of legends.

However, before the 2016-17 season, they hired Steve Pikiell from Stony Brook, and although the progress has been slow, there has been steady progress. Last season they won 7 Big Ten games, the most since they entered the league in the 2014-15 season. So far this year they are 9-3, and have split their two league contests so far.

Pikiell's teams are known for strong defense and toughness, qualities that effort can provide even when talent might be sub-par. It is unlikely they will make their way into the top half of the Big Ten this season, but they are moving in the right direction. It is nice to see teams who work their way to success instead of buying their way. I'll take blue color over blue blood every day.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Bring Back the Dunk!

I know I am Old School (and not ashamed of it). I know I am reactionary (ditto). Sometimes I am even very illogical. But if college basketball is wanting to compete in the shrinking market for fans in the stands, it needs to tweak the rules to emphasize dunking.

Remember Doctor J? Julius Erving. Taking off from the free throw line, hanging in the air seemingly forever until he finally swooped down with a thunderous, crashing slam? Remember when the big guys ruled the roost, slamming home dunks with regularity? Then the crowd would explode, folks jumping up and slapping one another on the back. Ah, those were the good old days. Now we get to sit around waiting for someone to (yawn) shoot a three-point shot.

Obviously, the game has changed, but it has not changed in a way that makes it more exciting. The Game Fathers have operated the last few years under the assumption that more points means more excitement. But the main thing they have done to accomplish that is to award more points per event (3PT shot), and the event they awarded is a less-exciting event.

Let's do some sort of a fix that brings back the dunk, all the time, in every game, big guys muscling into the lane and powering home a hammerslam. I don't know if that will bring back fans, because electronic media probably has stolen them permanently, but at least now Junior will say to Dad, "Let's go down to the arena and see how many dunks they get," instead of "Let's go count the number of three-pointers" (which they could do during warmups with about the same amount of excitement).

Tweak the rules so that the dunk comes back to prominence, and at least make the games more exciting for the fans who do show up.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Virginia's D must be good

Virginia's offense this season has been bad. Really bad. They are shooting an anemic 39.5% overall and 25.4% from the arc. They have one players averaging double figures. Those are numbers usually reserved for the bottom tier of D1 teams. But no, those are stats for the #9 team in the country. Thus, it does not take a Sherlock Holmes to deduce that, if their offense is that awful, then their defense must be pretty good.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Basketball historians?

When I was a kid, I could quote statistics from all sorts of sports figures from the generations before mine. And I was not alone in that. I wonder how many kids today are sports historians? Of course, they have a lot more history to learn than I did. But I suspect they have little appreciation for the old timers because they do not read about the old timers.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

"We're Number Two! We're Number Two!"

"We're Number One!" That used to be the chant that teams would use to celebrate being Top Dog. But the way #1 teams have been losing this season, maybe they ought to change the cheer to try to avoid being a target. A few years back there was a supposed jinx that came with being on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Maybe we have a new jinx.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

When your Coach could do this

Patrick Ewing was good. One of the best centers to play the game. And there was nothing at all fancy about him. It was power, power, power. He may not be as agile nor durable now - but he is still that big, and in fact a little bigger around the girth.

So, if I were the Georgetown powers that be, I would have this little film clip running constantly in the locker room.


Sunday, December 15, 2019

Classic addition by subtraction

Thee games ago the Georgetown Hoyas lost to Greensboro, and their season hit a new low. Then two of their top players left the team after an ugly off-court incident, with two other players having a cloud over them. Those other two players left before last night's game.

So what do the Hoyas do in that three-game stretch, when they were down two, and then four, of their roster? All they did was to win at Oklahoma State, at SMU and home against Syracuse. None of those teams were ranked, but OSU is now 7-2, SMU is now 8-1, and Syracuse is a traditional rival from their old Big East days, who happen to have a Hall of Fame coach.

So you lose four players, and you go 3-0? How do you do that? Well . . . Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who had nothing to lose (except a chance at some transfer players he didn't want anyway), summed it up: "They got rid of a guy that wouldn’t pass the ball to anybody and just shot it every time. That’s why they’re good now." Unusual candor for a coach, but probably right.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Great quote about recruiting at second-tier schools

(Seton Hall Coach Kevin Willard): "The biggest thing is making sure you find your type of guys. It's more about getting guys that fit your personality and the way you want to play versus what your fans want or what people say about four-star kids. It's the reality of recruiting at a place like Seton Hall or Rutgers - you've got to find your type of kid, and you can win with that."

Friday, December 13, 2019

Million dollar move, ten cent finish

This phrase is not original with me. I heard it from a TV commentator, but I thought it was very apt. Basketball is infected with this disease currently. Look good, look good, don't worry about being good. Make a great move to the basket; don't worry about whether or not you make the shot. It will look good on TV.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Rooting for Mick Cronin

I am rooting for Coach Cronin to do well at UCLA. Mainly because I like his style of blue-collar basketball, but also because college basketball needs UCLA to be good. They are the wheel-horse on the west coast, and it has been obvious that no one is going to step up and replace them since they have fallen on hard times. Gonzaga has tried, but they have yet to win their first championship. Arizona has won some, but they are not exactly west coast. We need an anchor in the west.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

What Virginia does to people in Moser-speak

Going all the way back to Porter Moser, Little Rock fans remember the motto: "Pass up a good shot for a better shot." We complained about it some: if they give you a good shot, why not take a good shot?

Vermont's Anthony Lamb is one of the best players to have faced the Wahoo's defense this season. He said teams drive themselves crazy waiting for a better shot - and then get lazy and resort to 24-footers. In other words, that "better shot" they were taught to wait for rarely comes.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Good on the boards

One of DW's main off-season emphases was to get more size on this team, which he was very successful in doing. And at least in the rebounding stat it has paid off. We are second in the SBC in rebounding margin, just barely behind Coastal. We lead the league in the percentage of defensive rebounds we get, and are third on offensive rebounds. And all that has been with two of our main big men out for at least much of the season so far.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Infectious Smile Award

This trophy goes to the Sacramento Kings' Kyle Guy. I'm sorry, but he looks like he is about 16 years old, or maybe even younger than that. And it seems like he is smiling all the time. Sort of gets under your skin.

Image result for kyle guy

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Krutwig still at it

We all remember Loyola's storybook run to the Final Four. Remember the big kid in the middle who was far from athletic, but who just got the job done? Kyle Krutwig. Well, he is still big, and he is still getting the job, and he still is not athletic.

Krutwig is 6-9, 255#. He is not going to lead your fast breaks. However, he leads the team in scoring at 16.7 ppg and pulls down 7.1 boards per game. He shoots 65% from the field and hits 88% of his attempts from the line. And what is really amazing for a big man, he has 42 assists against only 26 turnovers. No, he is not one of your five-star players who can leap out of the gym and who gets on Sports Center regularly. But I assure you that virtually every coach in the country would love to have him right now.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Has to be defense for Irvin

Second-year Chicago State coach Lance Irvin had been happy with the offense coming from new juco transfer Xavier Johnson, but . . .

"You have to be able to guard, and I'm not really happy until you guard."

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Go Cougars!

Chicago State beat Edwardsville 89-81 for their first D1 win of the season and their first D1 road win in three years.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Pack Line Pledge

Virginia runs the Pack Line defense, which at least so far this year has been stifling. Hoos fans are so bought into defense that they have a charitable function called the Pack Line Pledge:

For those of you who don’t remember, for every Pack Line Pledge game — that is, for every game that the Cavaliers hold their opponents to under 55 — Pack Line Pledge participants will donate a set amount to the One Love Foundation in honor of Yeardley Love. The better the Hoos’ defense over the course of the year, the more money gets donated towards raising awareness of relationship violence.

In case you are wondering, Virginia has missed the Pledge mark only once, and then only by a point. They beat Vermont 61-55.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Three questions

When you go to hire a coach, there are three questions to which you must have answers.

1. Is he a good basketball teacher? Can he convey to the players the right way to play the game?

2. Will he enforce discipline, on and off the court?

3. Can he identify a first-class recruiter to put among his assistants?

Fine someone who gets a "yes" answer to all three, and you have a good coach.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Turn Coupet loose

On a team that is distinctively challenged from the 3-point line, we have only two players at present shooting well enough to have anything approaching the Green Light from the coach: Nowell and Coupet. Nowell evidently has had the go-ahead to shoot any time from any where since the first time he stepped inside the Little Rock city limits. At the moment Coupet is 13 of 29 for 44.8%. Granted that that is a fairly limited sample of attempts, but it is second-most on the team.

Ben Coupet is 6-7, which means he is tall enough to shoot over most of the perimeter players who will be guarding him. Nowell, obviously, is not. I hope that Walker is encouraging Coupet to cut loose when he has a shot from outside, because right now we do not have many options.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Nowell at the line

As might be expected for someone as quick as he is, Markquis Nowell shoots a lot of free throws. Thankfully, he shoots them very well - 86.4% so far. He and Kamani Johnson have been real weapons for us at the line so far.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Coupet as advertised

We were told that Ben Coupet was going to be a big plus for this team, and that is how it has worked out. He has started from Day One, averaged almost 35 minutes per game on a short roster. He shoots 48% overall, leads the team from the arc at 44%, and pulls down 6.4 rpg. Plus he averages double figures scoring at 11.8 ppg. Not much more we could ask from the kid.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Duke goes DOWN!

The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks put away #1 Duke. And what is even more amazing is that they only attempted ten 3-pointers in the entire overtime game - and only made two of them. The entire nation (except for a little corner of NC) is rejoicing.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Turnovers are going to kill us

This bunch has the potential to be a pretty good team, and Walker is showing signs of actually coaching. At times our defense and rebounding have been good. We don't shoot the 3 well, but we shoot well enough overall to make up for it to some extent. Nice things have been happening.

But turnovers are going to kill us. Is Walker going to have to take a 2X4 to Nowell to convince him that he is a point guard? Or, if he is not willing to run the team, pass the job to someone else and just let Nowell be a (hugely) undersized shooting guard, since that is what he is playing, anyway. Way, way too many turnovers. It looked like early on that he might have gotten that out of his system after his freshman season.

As I write, Nowell has 25 turnovers against only 32 assists. Now, that admittedly works out to 5.3 assists per game, which is very nice. But that is an assist/turnover ratio of only 1.28. Assists are fine; turnovers are way out of line. And the problem is that there is no one sitting on the bench who has shown any sign of doing better. Lottie is even worse.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Cavs give opponents the Boo-Hoos

It happened once again. Arizona State is averaging 42.9% overall, but they shot 40.5% against Virginia. They are averaging 30.6% from the arc, but they shot 26.3% against the Hoos. Time after time, with very few exceptions, teams shoot less than their average against Virginia. And it is not because of dazzling athleticism, either.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Shooting more and enjoying it less

Back in the old days when cigarette commercials could be on the airwaves, there was one jingle that went, "Are you smoking more and enjoying it less? Have a real cigarette, have a Camel."

Some players and teams could almost change that to, "Are you shooting more and enjoying it less?" Easy answer to that one: take good shots. Have the right people shooting in the right situation, not forcing their shots. And dunks are good medicine for anyone enjoying shooting less. (Just ask Kris Bankston about that.)

Friday, November 22, 2019

A big night at the Garden

Patrick Ewing played for the New York Knicks, and he went back to Madison Square Garden for one of the biggest wins of his young college coaching career. He has a talented team that has not quite put things together, but they took a big step in the right direction by beating #22 Texas. The Hoyas got some timely help off the bench when starting big man Yurtseven got in foul trouble and hung on for an 82-66 win. There is a compelling story unfolding in the nation's capital, and Ewing is showing the ability to actually coach, helping this team get better.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Examining Nowell's shooting

He is 5-7 (and probably not really even that). Yet at the moment he is shooting 47.3% overall, a number that most coaches would be satisfied to have from their centers. And he is shooting 32.3% from the arc, a number that most coaches would expect to have from their centers. He is 5-7, and he is more adept shooting inside than he is from the outside. Strange.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A tribute to defense

Virginia is #7 in the latest AP poll. You say that is not surprising for the defending national champs. True. However, they are shooting a miserable 39.8% overall and an absolutely pathetic 20.3% from the arc. How can you shoot that badly and be #7 in the nation?

The answer is defense - so far this year defense and rebounding. Opponents are making one out of every four shots they attempt. Virginia has a staggering Plus-13 margin on the boards. Plus they have turned the ball over an average of less than 12 times per game. Yes, they do need to get their offense straightened out, but in the meantime they are doing the other things SO well that it is more than overcoming their offensive deficiencies.

Monday, November 18, 2019

What happened to Oral Roberts?

We used to play them, but it hasn't happened in a while. Why? That is a natural rivalry, and we have had some good, close games. I particularly remember one buzzer-beater in which one of their post guys just threw the ball at the goal as time ran out - and it went in. Sutton, their coach, just shrugged his shoulders and spread his hands as if to say, "Sometimes it happens." Good non-conference rivalries are a big plus to a program, in my opinion.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Johnson will be a good one

I don't think I will have to go very far out on a limb to predict that Kamani Johnson is going to be a good player for us. Through three games, he is leading the team in rebounds per game (7.7), and he is averaging twelve minutes per games less playing time than the person in second place (Coupet). You have to go back to the Jones-Jennings days to find a player who had a better rebounds per game average for a season. The good news is that he is only a sophomore. And keep in mind that JJ was here only for his junior and senior seasons. It might be a stretch, but Kamani might just be in his class before he leaves Little Rock. We can hope so.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Heath is better than that

Stan Heath is currently the head coach of the Lakeland Magic in the NBA G-League (which means that he is a minor league coach).

I realize that Heath was not the most successful D-1 head coach, but I think he deserves better than that. He took Kent State to the Elite Eight in his only year there, which earned him the Arkansas job. He was not very successful there, but he did take them to the NCAA Tournament his last two seasons there, with back-to-back 20+ win seasons. But, he did not play Nolanball, so he got canned.

He moved on to South Florida, where he lost more than he won, but he did have two 20-win seasons, and they had not had one in 20 seasons before that, and have only had one in five seasons since he left. Looks to me like having the only 20 win seasons in a generation ought to mean something.

I just think Heath deserves better than being a minor league coach. I am sure he is not starving, and he may be on the waiting list for a step up to the NBA itself. Or maybe another D1 job will come open for him. I hope so.

Friday, November 15, 2019

The McClung disease

The Mac McClung story is a great one - an athletic small-town white kid who gets recruited by a legendary black coach to a predominantly black school. And McClung has the athleticism to go head-to-head against the inner-city kids and more than hold his own. I hope the kid does well in his career there, and Big Patrick is to be congratulated for signing him. He is a prodigious talent.

BUT McClung has started from day one, and Georgetown has little to show for it. Sure, he scores a lot of points, but he takes a lot of shots to do it, and he is not making his teammates better (not many assists), and he turns the ball over too much for his position. To put it proverbally, he is more exciting than he is good.

So far this season he is averaging 8.0 ppg, which is third on the team. But his shooting has been pathetic: 30.8% overall and 18.2% from the arc. He has had only five assists in three games, against six turnovers. Last year McClung averaged 13.1 ppg, but again he shot only 39.2% overall and 27.7% from the arc. And he had 59 turnovers against 58 assists.

Those are numbers that would get most players benched. And Casual Hoya blogger Whipple said after the embarrassing loss to Penn State, "It seems like the only way to fix Mac McClung and James Akinjo is with a dose of their classmate in the starting lineup. It can’t hurt." In other words, sit them on the bench until they learn how to play.

There is a lot of McClung Disease in college basketball these days. Forget fundamentals, as long as what you do looks good. Try to be like the guys on ESPN Sports Center. Don't worry about whether or not your college team wins, as long as you make it to the NBA. I wish I had a vaccine for it.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

DePaul used to be pretty good

Last season was DePaul's first winning season in 12 years - and that just barely. When programs really stink up the gym for an extended period, sometimes it is easy to forget that they used to be really good, and DePaul is a case in point. They have been to two Final Fours and once had seven consecutive 20-win seasons, not to mention a coach (Ray Meyer) who won 724 games.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

A good day for basketball

Kentucky lost to an unranked mid-major team, and joy reigned across basketballdom. And then Memphis lost to Oregon. Calipari and Hardaway both lost. Life is good.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Hoos will make some noise

Virginia lost the three main players off their 2019 national championship team. It was reasonable to expect that they would take a large step back, and to be candid, they are not at all in the championship talk so far this year. But, in the last poll, they moved up to #9, which ain't bad.

What is amazing about this team is the defensive numbers they are putting up. OK, everyone knows that Tony Bennett's teams always play tough defense. No surprise there. But in their first two games their opponent scored the exact same number of points - 34. Thirty-four points in a modern basketball game?! Twice in a row? Granted their opponents are not Final Four likelies, but Syracuse is from the ACC, year in and year out one of the top two or three conferences in the country, coached by a Hall of Fame coach. And James Madison was predicted to be fourth in the Colonial, which is one of the better mid-level conferences. And, after all THIRTY-FOUR points? Even the local high school team could jack up enough threes to make twelve of them and get that many points, couldn't it? Pretty amazing stuff.

I don't figure Virginia's opponents will average that for the season, and they probably will not return to the Final Four. But people tend to be dazzled by five-star athleticism and forget about fundamentals and defense. And Virginia has those. And they have Tony Bennett.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

D allows ugliness

Defense allows you to win ugly. Your offense can have an off night, and you still can win if your defense is good. Virginia started off their season with a 48-34 win over Syracuse. Holding an ACC team to 34 points? That is impressive no matter who it is. They held Syracuse to 24% overall and 17% from the arc. And that is with a team that lost their three leaders off the national championship squad.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Refreshing win

One win does not a season make, but winning the first game over a good team is very encouraging. What is even more encouraging is that we won because we did some important things right: rebounding, defense, taking care of the ball.

First, the most significant number to me was Markquis Nowell's 4:1 assist to turnover ratio. That was not there last season. If he can keep that up for the year, all sorts of good things are going to happen. And we had 17 assists against 13 turnovers as a team. Second, our big guys were getting the boards, with Coupet, Monyyong and Johnson grabbing 8, 7 and 6 respectively. (Three of Coupet's were offensive boards.) And we were +6 versus Missouri State. Third, MSU came out determined to live by the three, and we made them die by it. Over half their attempts were from the arc, and we held them to 28.6%.

I hope Walker emphasized the positive. "See what happens when you do things right?"

Two of the starters did not end up with starters minutes. Bankston could not stay in the game because of fouls. I don't know what happened with Palermo. Ben Coupet had an outstanding, well-rounded game.

Sure, we have room for improvement. We won't win many games in which we are 3 of 14 from the arc, and our FT shooting can still improve. And we have to keep up the good things for more than just one game. But it definitely was a nice start.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

New season. Same old sleeze.

Is college basketball to be forever mired in corruption? Evidently so. We even went a step further this past season: we got the FBI involved. The rules change, the faces change, the coaches change, but the slime never seems to go away.

Monday, November 4, 2019

TTech overrated?

CBS has Texas Tech listed as one of the "overrated" teams going into this season. Believe it or not, that is a compliment to Chris Beard, and I tend to agree with them. It is almost a ritual among the gurus of college basketball to give too much credit to any of the over-achievers from the previous season. We saw it with Loyola after they made their Final Four run - and that was a compliment to Porter Moser. When teams overachieve, it usually is the result of excellent coaching. Moser and Beard are good coaches. But that does not mean they can make it work every season.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Would Walker stay?

The biggest problem lower-level programs face in raising their status on the national basketball stage is getting - and keeping - a good coach. The good ones are out there, but the really good ones are really hard to keep. Some higher-level school will pick them off after a few years (or after even one year, as we know only too well).

Whenever you hire a coach with some sort of connection to the general area, you always hope that this might be the one who would stay, even if he were successful, just because this is where he wants to be. Darrell Walker has Arkansas connections. He has yet to be even moderately successful, but it is worth wondering, if he did make it, would he stay? Would he be the one?

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Someone has to be last

Sports Illustrated just ranked all the Division 1 basketball teams from 1 to 353. In last place is UMES (Maryland-Eastern Shore). They are in the MEAC, one of the HBCU conferences (along with the SWAC). The difficulties those teams face is already well-known: having to sell their souls to bigger schools to get the stuffing beat out of them for a big paycheck, traveling last class, short on facilities, etc.

So, to add to the indignity, UMES is now predicted to be the worst team in college basketball. Rough. Well, someone had to be last.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Farewell, experience

To read the media, you would think that experience means nothing anymore in college basketball. All the attention is on incoming 5-star freshmen. But no one ever puts stars on the second, third and fourth years of a player - or even the 5th year. Which had you rather have: a 5-star freshman or a 3-star 5th-year senior? Interesting question. The 5th year kid did not get any further stars as he gained experience, even if his play improved dramatically. But, then, experience doesn't matter.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Not always, Mr. Norlander

CBS' Matt Norlander  just released a ranking of the teams within each state, and here is his comment on Arkansas:

"The Hogs always should and always will be the top team in the state."

Now, wait just a minute, Mr. Norlander. Fayetteville was not the top team in the state the year in 2016. Sagarin ranked the Razorbacks #71, and had Little Rock at #63. I grant you that with the disparity of resources which they possess, they should be the best team in the state, but there was at least one year when they were NOT the best team. Get it right, bud, if you are going to masquerade as a reporter.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The day that coaching won

Virginia and Texas Tech were in the NCAA Finals last season because they had the two best coaches in the game. Not because they were the best recruiters; not because they had the best talent: they had the best coaches.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Aggies won't be down long

ESPN picks Texas A&M to finish 12th of 14 teams in the SEC this season. SEC teams had better enjoy it while it lasts, because Buzz Williams will have them back in the hunt sooner rather than later.

Monday, October 28, 2019

The one question

Teenage boys (and even those a little older) as a rule are grossly lacking in self-discipline. That is why coaches exist. Legally and physically the players are men; in most other ways they are not.

I honestly think this team has the talent to be in the top third of the SBC this season. There is only one real question to be answered: Is Coach Walker tough enough to make them play like they ought to play, or will he let them play like they want to play? Because, mark it down, guys their age are NOT going to play the way that will win ballgames. Is he going to be a "please do it" coach, or an "or else" coach? Last year he was a "please do it" coach.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Season's Almost Here Dance

As we get within a few days of the regular season each year, I begin to get a little excited. The anticipation is half the fun, of course, and the close we get to reality, the keener the anticipation becomes. Are my predictions correct? Will we maybe be better than I thought we would? Could this just possibly be one of those special seasons? You just never know until the season actually begins - and it is just about here. Go Trojans!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Four walk-ons

Seventeen players on the roster, assuming everyone gets cleared. That means four walk-ons. Have we ever had that many? At least that means we can put three complete teams on the court at practice if we need to. I am glad kids want to be a part of the program.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

This team's upside?

What is this team's downside? about like last season. But let's move on from that.

What is our upside? Considerable, I think. The talent is there. Now, if the coaching staff will exercise some on-court discipline and make them play like they ought to, I think this team can be pretty good. Here are the question marks:

1. Turnovers. That MUST get better. We have to get off the playground onto the court.

2. Defense. Our defense was not terrible last season, but it was not great, either. Defense has always been a hallmark of Little Rock teams, and it needs to be of this one, also. Whether or not Walker can get this bunch to buy into that concept remains to be seen.

3. Rebounding. We have the size. This ought to be a great team on the boards.

4. Three-point shooting. We were not awful last season, but Rayjon Tucker is gone. Who is going to replace his 41% shooting from the arc?

Check all the boxes above, and this team is in the hunt for the title. The talent is there. Will the discipline and the desire be there?

Tuesday, October 22, 2019


One of the major problems with this team last season was the high rate of turnovers. The nice thing about that fact is that it is one problem that is easily fixable; all you have to have is a coach that says, "Or else," and then makes it stick. For the most part it comes down to a matter of on-court discipline.

We have enough depth this season that Walker should be able to lay down the law to every player on the team. And he had to lay it down early in the season. What is a teaching moment early can become a discipline moment if it is held off until late. Set the culture from Day One. "Do it right, or you don't play."

Monday, October 21, 2019

Nowell starts where he left off

I realize it was only a pre-season game, which means nothing. But Markquis Nowell had 5 turnovers against 4 assists. Might be just a blip; but if this season is going to be just more of the same freshman mistakes and playground attitude, we probably will end this season where we finished the last one.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Records we might see this year

As mentioned previously, if Ryan Pippins makes a couple more 3-pointers and just maintains his career average, he would finish his stay in Little Rock 8th on the all-time list, just behind Solomon Bozeman. After Kris Bankston's amazing season last year, we could reasonably expect him to end up on the single-season FG% list, since it would take "only" 55.3% to get there.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Daddy Pippins

We have two seniors on the roster this season: Ryan Pippins and Sam Dunkum. This will be Dunkum's first year at Little Rock. This will be Pippins' fourth year here. He is the Old Man of Little Rock basketball this year, and he needs to fill the bill. I have always liked his game. He is very composed on the floor; doesn't get in a hurry. He needs to be the enforcer on this team, or at least the conscience of this team. And what people may not realize is that Ryan is a career 39.3% three point shooter, which, if he finished his tenure there, would make him #8 all-time at Little Rock.

Daddy Pippins needs to take hold and make this his team, even if he doesn't play a huge amount, which he probably will not.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Would a Designated Rebounder work today?

I have read that one of the reasons that individual rebounding numbers were so much lower beginning sometime in the 1970s (causing the NCAA to break out the records separately since that time) is that the philosophy of the game changed. The knee-jerk reaction is to say that it was because of the three-point shot, but that won't work because the change came before the advent of the three-pointer.

The official explanation is that in those days the 4 and 5 spot players were expected to clean the boards on their own, and the perimeter players released to defend the fast break. These days rebounding is considered more of a team responsibility, especially since the 3 was instituted. Of course, with that shift in philosophy there has been a de-emphasis on rebounding, and I honestly do not think coaches teach it as much or as well these days.

But would a Designated Rebounder function work today? Certainly not unless you had a kid who loved to do it and was taught how to. We probably had one in the days of Rashad Jones-Jennings. He did not leave many rebounds for the other players. His senior year, when he led the nations in boards at 13.1 rpg, our second-best board man was Byron Ray with only 4.9. JJ pulled down 36% of our rebounds that season. So, yes, it can be done, but I would say it is not likely to happen. That day has passed. We are not going to see players average 20 boards a game over the course of their career.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Coaches I root against

If he were not at Little Rock, I would be rooting hard against Darrell Walker. I just do not like the practice of bringing pro players into the college game without their having "paid their dues" in some respect along the way. But, DW is at LR, so I do root for him. Chris Beard is, of course, the poster child for "paying dues" in the coaching development ladder.

But not Juwan Howard at Michigan. I hope he crashes and burns. I hate it when programs try to buy glamour instead of substance.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Tall Rainbows

Hawaii can throw some size onto the floor this season. They have three 7-footers, including two from Australia. And they have a couple more guys at 6-9 for good measure. Can they walk and chew gum at the same time? I don't know; but they should look very impressive in the pre-game huddle.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

How quick for Mick?

The preseason speculation is discussing how quickly Mick Cronin will be able to turn around the program at UCLA. I am guessing it won't take long. The returning players will be in for a culture shock. They are accustomed to Hollywood, and what they are getting now is Blue Collar U. I suspect they will play Mick's way, or they won't play. But there may be some hiccups in this first season until he gets the deadwood weeded out.

However, I figure he also is going to do what Chris Beard did at Little Rock. Beard made a big leap just by taking the slop out of the system, making the players play his way, or else. The fact that he is an excellent coach added to that, but even without his coaching skill the program would have improved significantly just because of his on-court discipline. I figure that, at least, will happen in this first season at UCLA. They may not be great, but they will play Mick's way.

Monday, October 14, 2019

The poor PA guy!

Sacramento State has on their roster Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa, Osi Nwachukwu and Chibueze Jacobs. I hope he makes it through the season without a sprained tongue.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Champions of the Look Abroad league

Maine has twelve foreign players on their roster. However, their top player going into the season is from Maine - Andrew Fleming, a senior forward.

Canada - 2
Sweden - 2
Serbia - 2

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

What is our "Non-negotiable"?

Here is a quote from the Virginia basketball blog concerning big man Jay Huff:

"His defense as part of the Pack Line [defense] has to improve. His struggles on that end of the court are what kept him on the bench (to the chagrin of the fans), but that’s a non-negotiable for Bennett-led teams." 

It suggests the question: What is the non-negotiable factor for a Darrell Walker-coached team?

Monday, October 7, 2019

The CEO is responsible for it ALL

The fact that Bill Self had to publicly apologize for their pre-season entertainment show illustrates why he is in trouble with the NCAA. He does not take responsibility for the things for which he is held responsible. "Lack of institutional oversight," I think they call it. Out of control, I call it.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Two Lazars

According to Street and Smith's, Loyola Marymount will be the only program in the country this year with two players named Lazar: Lazar Zivanovic and Lazar Nekic, both from Serbia. Not much of a distinction, but hey, it's something.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

The indoor advantage

I attended the Lamar/Paris football game last night and the weather was almost ideal. Very pleasant. But it won't be most of the time. Pretty soon the temperature will be down there, and there is always the possibility of precipitation. That is one advantage that basketball has: dry seats and controlled temperature.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Baby steps first

This year's pre-season Big Ten poll was the first time since they joined the league six years ago that Rutgers was not picked to finish last (or so said the site I read). Well, you have to walk before you can run. And in a league as tough as the B10, it will be difficult to claw their way toward the top. But at least they have started.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Just Dunk It! - some more

This team is going to have plenty of size and athleticism not to have to worry about taking cutesy shots around the basket. Just dunk it! Kris Bankston taught us how last season. We need to make that the program identity. Phi Slamma Jamma II.

First of all, you aren't going to miss many dunks. High shooting percentage. Second, you are going to get the other team in foul trouble, or they are going to back off completely. Third, monster dunks are intimidating to the other team. Fourth, nothing gets the fans involved more (or quiets the home fans if you are on the road) than a great slam. So just do it! Dunk it! Every time you get a chance. Make it the identity of the team.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Just call him Sleezipari, Jr.

No, wait, Josh Pastner has that title, so I guess it will have to be Sleezipari III. I am talking about Andy Enfield at Southern Cal.

Here is what NBC said about them: "Andy Enfield has proven that he knows how to get it done on the recruiting trail. He has two five-stars enrolling at his program this season. He has the top player in the Class of 2020, Evan Mobley, enrolling next season. The issue with USC is that the Trojans have not been able to have the success on the floor match what their potential is on paper."

Translated? High-powered recruiter; but can't coach.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Hey, I like this guy!

from Street and Smith's pre-season magazine:

Mark Turgeon wants his teams to play physical defense and hammer rivals on the boards. While he embraces the three-point shot and wants to spread the floor, he is also a fan of tough big men who can lock down the inside.

Go Terps!

Monday, September 30, 2019

Tony's proverb

"First comes discipline, then comes freedom." "You have to build the habits as an individual player and a team, and then there's freedom to do things." Thus says Virginia head coach Tony Bennett.

I suppose you might paraphrase his proverb, "You play the right way, or you don't play."


Davidson is the textbook on how to build a perennial winner below the Power Conference level. Get a good coach, and get him to stay. Davidson got Bob McKillop in 1989 and he has been there ever since. It is the only place he has ever been a college head coach. He liked it, and he stayed. And he has won 578 games along the way.

Friday, September 27, 2019

The sleeze trickles down

Calipari never got investigated, but it always seemed to be a few months after he left. Josh Pastner was his assistant at Memphis, now at Georgia Tech, and guess what? Georgia Tech is banned from post-season. 

We talk about the "family trees" of successful coaches. Calipari has one like every one else. Is anyone surprised that his turns out to be a little slimy?

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Would you have guessed this?

According to Street and Smith's, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan State, and North Carolina - and one other school - have this in common. What is it? They are the only schools to have appeared in the past nine NCAA tournaments. That is a fairly exclusive group. (Notice Kentucky's absence?) Who is that other team? Cincinnati. No wonder UCLA nabbed their coach.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

An illusion

No, Kentucky and John Sleezipari do not win the national championship every other year. They won in 2012, but that has been Kentucky's only championship since 1998. We think they surely must have a whole case full of trophies, but there is just that one. They bring in lots of high-powered recruits who undoubtedly sell tickets, and win lots of games, but they have not won "lots" of championships, at least not recently. It is just an illusion. I wonder when Kentucky fans will begin to see through the farce.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

He has his work cut out

Ron Hunter went from SBC powerhouse Georgia State to Tulane, which, on top of everything else, has had to recover from a hurricane, and hasn't done so. Street and Smith's picks them last in the AAC. Hunter obviously has his work cut out for him, but he had to have known that going in. I hope he got an assurance from the AD that he had plenty of time to get the job done, especially since he has to go against the likes of Memphis, Cincinnati, Houston and Wichita State.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Fairly simple

"Eighty percent of the game is that you have to play hard, play smart and play together. Then, it's a matter of talent and strategy."  (New UCLA head coach Mick Cronin)

Friday, September 20, 2019

"Old" wins

Every year, some media outlets cover themselves in drool over the latest five-star phenoms who gather together. Fabulous freshmen such as Duke's Zion Williamson last season dominate the airwaves and web pages from November through February. Once March comes, the teams that have created environments that serve a consistent ethos - one that players adopt and demonstrate as they stick around for two, three and even four years and pass on to the next generation - tend to take home the big prize. Or, as Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann puts it: "Old wins."

(Michael Bradley, in Street and Smith's)

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Watch for the size of the rotation

Darrell Walker was very successful at bringing in size quickly to Little Rock, both on the perimeter and inside. In fact, we only have two scholarship players under 6-5. However, three of the most experienced players on the team will be Ryan Pippins, Jaizec Lottie, and Markquis Nowell (due to the large number of minutes he played last season). If the three of them are collectively averaging a ton of minutes, then the short guys are still on the court, and the tall guys are on the bench, and all that recruiting did not amount to much, at least so far.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Could be enjoyable for fans of old style basketball

Busting Brackets says that Georgetown has the best crew of  big men in the Big East. They also just happen to have a head coach who was one of the best big men ever. Now, not all doers are teachers, but they at least have a leg up in having done it. Patrick Ewing was one of the best, and he was taught by one of the best. Now we hear that he has some of the best on his roster. It might be an enjoyable combination to watch.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Bennett turns down his raise

The more I see of this guy, the more I like him. He turned down a raise in his new contract, and asked that the money be used to pay his staff more and for other improvements within the department. 

“[My wife] Laurel and I are in a great spot, and in the past, I’ve had increases in my contract,” Bennett said in a statement. “I have more than enough, and if there are ways that this can help out the athletic department, the other programs and coaches, by not tying up so much [in men’s basketball], that’s my desire.”

Monday, September 16, 2019

Watch the drama at Georgetown

There is a very nice story line developing in Washington, DC. All-time great Patrick Ewing returns to his alma mater to don the mantle of the Thompsons there, to try to restore the program to its glory years in the brutally tough Big East. He starts slowly, but has gained speed each year. Now he is to the point where we find out if he can really coach. He has a talented pair of sophomore guards who might be among the best in the country IF they can be as good as they are fancy. Can a coach from the pros accomplish that? He has some big men to work with, and if anyone knows big men, it ought to be Ewing, who developed under arguably the best big man coach in college basketball. The pieces are coming together, but can Ewing take them from "potentially" to "really are"?

Sunday, September 15, 2019

When fans face a moral dilemma

It would be nice if teams we hate only hired coaches we hate. However, it does not always work that way. Sometimes teams we hate hire coaches we really like, or vice versa. What would I do it Kentucky hired Tony Bennett, for example. That would take some soul-searching. Of course, the team will always be there, and I can come back to it after the coach inevitably leaves, for one reason or another.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

"Just assume" coaches

There are certain coaches that we have come to assume will be in the hunt for a national title every year, either because they are good at gathering talent, or at teaching talent, or occasionally both. However, there is only room for so many of those "assume" coaches. Really, to qualify I would say you have to be in the Sweet 16 more often than not, and not many coaches do that. Sure, a few of them have enough talent that they ought to be able to do that with their eyes closed, but not too many. Some of them are such brilliant basketball teachers that they seem to be able to do that no matter what sort of talent they have, but not too many.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Record year for blocks?

The most blocks we have had since 1979 is 125 in 2014. Given the size we have this season, we ought to be able to give that mark a run for its money. Seems logical.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Tough enough?

Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans pretty much define the basketball term "tough." Hard-nosed. Physical. They are the consensus pick to win it all this season, and the main reason is point guard Cassius Winston.

Winston started all 39 games last season, averaging 33.5 minutes per game. He is an excellent shooter, had an outstanding 2.55 assist/turnover ratio, and led the team in steals. His pre-season MVP credentials are very solid. As is always the case with teams in the hunt for a national title, toughness enters into it, both physical and mental. At times Winston will have to carry MSU on his shoulders. He will be tough, without question. Will he be tough enough?

Monday, September 9, 2019

Unintended consequence

At least in Arkansas, the 3-point line is ridiculously close. And with the movement of the college line this season, it will be even "closer," relatively speaking. That will make evaluation of high school shooters just a little bit harder, since they will shooting from that much closer than they will be in college.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Consensus favorite

Some seasons there are several favorites for the national title, but this year Michigan State appears to have the front-runner slot all to itself. A veteran team under a hall-of-fame coach and a proven floor leader: all the elements are there. Plus MSU has that hard-nosed, physical style that takes it to the other team. It is hard not to like them.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Which of our recruits is the sleeper?

Alsean Evans
Marko Lukic
Jovan Stulic
Ben Coupet
Isaiah Palermo
Ruot Monyyong
Admir Besovic
Sam Dunkum

Those are the new names on the roster. Who is the sleeper in that group? Well, a sleeper is by definition an unexpected result, so we probably could not list any of the 3-stars there.

I am going to say Alsean Evans. He is a juco so he ought to have a little more maturity. Plus he was advertised as a good defender, which we badly need.

Friday, September 6, 2019

"How many starters returning?"

I used to ask this question when I did my pre-season predictions, and I leaned heavily on it. Granted, if those starters are not very good, then the fact that they are returning does not mean too much. However, in this age of one-and-done and constant transfers, it means something. And it means more with each passing year as the situation gets worth. Having someone who has a year in our system and who has been through the wars is a big deal anymore.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Sorry, Andy, you got it wrong

Hold on, Andy Katz, one year of Zion Williamson does not qualify him for an All-Decade team. There were plenty of players who were not quite as good as he was, but who played for three or four years; and that automatically makes their performance better than his. 4 X 2 equals more than 1 X 4.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The pieces are there

Walker has done a good job of recruiting. He got a high-powered point guard and greatly increased the height of the team up and down the roster. Now he just has to get the job done. It would be a crying shame if he were to fail because he couldn't coach. I do not think that will be the case. But DW cannot be a "Daddy" to these kids, not matter what their home life has been like. He has to be the coach, the CEO of the team. He has to give directives and then follow up to make sure they are followed. Step One is done; now we have to learn if we can walk.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Top recruits? So what?

So you bring in a one-and-done player? What have you gained? For one thing, whatever you have is for only one year. You get no long-term value, and then you have to expend all that energy and money all over again. Second, it is very likely that you brought in an ego with the talent. There may be some character issues that you had to overlook in order to get the talent.

My point is that talent is not everything. It is the team that is going to win, not the player. So, the player's contribution toward winning, all things considered, needs to be the biggest net positive. So, you have to factor in character and work ethic. You have to factor in how good a teammate he is going to be. Then you have to evaluate him according to how effective he is going to be in your particular system. What Beard requires in his system are not going to be the same things that Huggy Bear requires.

When all those factors get factored into the player's evaluation, it may turn out that a three star net out better than the higher-ranked players. Plus, the three-star may stay for four years. Plus, if he is a coachable kid, the three-star may actually improve during his stay at your school. I think that the factors I have mention, plus others, are the reason that the two teams we saw in the NCAA finals last season were not nearly the most talented teams in the tournament - but they were the best teams. It is not about the best recruits; it is about the best recruits for you.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Foreign hats

This year's version of the Stetson Hatters roster has six players over 6-6. Five of those six come from foreign countries: Mali, Ivory Coast, France, Congo, and Canada. Someone at the Florida school had some connections overseas, I would say. Interestingly, none of the players 6-6 or shorter is of foreign citizenship.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Discrimination against smaller schools

In the "Candid Coaches" feature on the CBS site, they just did a poll of coaches on the question, "What is your No. 1 issue with the selection process?" Fully 32% said mid-major discrimination, far ahead of second place. Here are a couple of quotes that stood out:

"Scheduling is incredibly different for us. We are trying to play anyone and everyone, and we can't get any games. We have been told no by essentially every high-major in the country with the exception of the ones we are playing. Makes it very difficult for a school like us to get an at-large bid."

"As a mid-major assistant my biggest gripe is mid-major leagues getting one bid. They probably have to find a way to get regular-season champions into the NCAA Tournament." 

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Will they and can they respond

Basketball coaches tweak their game plans constantly during the game. That means nothing, of course, if the team is not able to execute those changes. First of all, the coach has to have enough on-court control of the team that they do what he tells them to do. Second, they have to have the basketball smarts to understand what it is he wants them to do. When both those are present, it makes a team exceptionally hard to prepare for.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Two things that are there every game

From a comment by an opposing coach about Tony Bennett's Virginia Cavaliers:

"When you watch them on film, everything they do looks so simple, so you think it's easy to prepare for. Then you get out there and realize you can't prepare for how hard they play, how they don't beat themselves."

"Play hard. Don't beat yourself." Pretty simple. And those two things are there every game.

Thursday, August 29, 2019


Andy Katz has Virginia #12 in his latest rankings: "The more I think about the Cavaliers, the more I want to continue putting them higher. They don’t fade under Tony Bennett."

"They don't fade." That is just another way of saying that Bennett is a great coach who has his system entrenched. I love it! Let the fancy dan programs get the press. Virginia just wins.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Bluegrass grumbles?

I see where a few notable people are beginning to question how much value per buck Kentucky is getting for John Calipari (as in, who couldn't win with the talent he gets?). He gets players, but he doesn't keep players much.

I would be complaining if I were a Kentucky fan. Sleezipari has been at KY for ten years, with billion dollar talent every year, and has ONE national title to show for it. One year he did not even make the NCAA tournament. It has been four years since he has made a Final Four, and with the talent he gets, a FF-less stretch that long will get Wildcat fans asking, "What have you done for me lately?"

Monday, August 26, 2019

Cronin's first big recruit

Mick Cronin has a culture war ahead of him, but he has proven early on that he can land a big-time recruit from the west coast, a 5-star point guard from Alaska by way of Las Vegas. Cronin is famous for his "intense" coaching style and hard-nosed, physical style of play - none of which are things that have been noted in LA lately. So much remains to fall out in the new arrangement, but at least one blue chip has been reeled in - and he knew what he was getting into when he committed.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Multiple foreign players

I do not know if it is deliberate or not, but I like it that we have multiple players from many of the foreign countries from which we get student-athletes. Germany, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, South Afrida and Canada all have multiple athletes in Little Rock. I figure that has to be a help when you are that far from home, to at least have someone you can talk to in the home language, or reflect about things back home.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Turnovers: the MUST IMPROVE stat

We were dead last in turnover margin in the SBC last season. We were next-to-last in assist to turnover margin. We led the league in turnovers.

Your shooting percentage on possessions where you have turnovers is always .000. If I had to put a finger on how we could have such high-powered scoring last season and still lose 20 games, turnovers would be the reason. Our defense was not great, but not completely awful. But our ball handling was AWFUL.

It was as though Walker just was not willing to do what it took to get us off the playground and onto the basketball court. Markquis Nowell is the heir apparent at point and has the tools to be one of our greatest at that position. BUT he has got to take much better care of the ball. And that is all on the coach. Tough love is obviously going to be needed.

It would be a CRYING SHAME to squander all the talent there is on this team just because the coach is not willing to make the team play the way they ought to play.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

I agree with the coaches

CBS took a poll of coaches as to who was the best off-season hire.
#1 - Fred Hoiberg, Nebraska
#2 - Buzz Williams, TAMU
#3 - Mick Cronin - UCLA

All three of those are quality hires. Expect Hoiberg to do at Nebraska what he did at Iowa State, although it might take a little longer, which is not a bad thing. Buzz Williams at Texas A&M was a home run in every respect. Cronin in Tinseltown is a little more problematical, given the culture there, but I am betting that he will win over the fans, bring a new look to west coast basketball, and get the job done. There again, it may take him a while to get a roster of players who buy into his philosophy of take-no-prisoners defense.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Cronin gets a good start

Lots of folks are doubting that Mick Cronin can get the job done at UCLA because of stylistic factors. But he just landed a 5-star point guard into a program that likely will be defense-first.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Don't belittle the code

Steve Shields used to take a lot of flack from run-and-gun fans because he would teach his players, "Pass up a good shot to get a better shot." But after all, that is Coachspeak. He is talking to a bunch of kids who are hungry for the bright lights and ready to jack it up at the first opportunity. Good is good to the players. "Better" is better to the players. A lot of players never saw a shot that wasn't a good shot, so you have to by-pass that one in their thinking to get to an acceptable shot. "Pass up a borderline shot to get a good shot," is what the coaches really mean.

If the coaches were blunter, they might say, "Don't just jack up a 3-pointer the first time you are open for a split second." It is all code talk, and what the coaches meant in their code was good basketball.

Monday, August 19, 2019

DW has to play his best defender

Overall, our defense last season was not horrible, but it also was not very good. Certainly nowhere near outstanding. "Mediocre" comes to mind. It was a team that had the athleticism to be an excellent defensive team, but just did not have the desire to be that, nor the coaching.

I do not know who the player is, but Walker has to have his best on-ball defensive player on the floor as much as possible next season. We have to have a culture change. Alsean Evans might be that player. We need someone who is physically and mentally tough, someone who thinks "defense" all the time. I just don't know if Walker is the man to make that happen. I don't know if he really cares if it happens.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The problem the little guys present

I get a strong feeling that the power conferences in college basketball would love to be rid of the myriad of little guys who muddy up the water. They win an occasional game in the NCAA tournament and mess things up. They embarrass big money programs with regular season upsets. They occasionally pick off a recruit that the bluebloods wanted (although with the transfer rule these days, they probably will get him back before long). They really give off the aura that they would love to create their own super-division, such as football has, and let the little guys scrap among themselves.

The problem, of course, is that if there are no little guys, then the opportunities for buy-a-win decrease dramatically. If they had to go down to a lower division, those wins presumably would not be counted in the ranking calculations, and any occasional upsets would be all the more embarrassing.

I will have to admit that 350+ teams in Division 1 basketball seems like a few too many. The gap between the Dukes and the Gramblings is so huge that any games between them become totally irrelevant, except for the money that the little guys get for getting beat up. And all this is, after all, a money issue, both for the big guys and the little guys. I do not know the answer, but however things get adjusted, if and when they do, you can rest assured it will be to the advantage of the Dukes of the world, and not for the Gramblings and Little Rocks.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Sure-fire answer to Who Is The Best Coach?

Do it by lottery. Put the names in a hat and draw them completely without bias. Then make the coaches play with what they get. The better coaches will overachieve, over time, and the ones that make it on bright lights and sizzle will not. Of course, the possibility is that a coach playing at some lower level will be the best. Many of the top coaches get where they are because they can coach (more so in basketball than in football), but many are also successful because they are great recruiters, not necessarily great coaches. So make the playing field completely level, and then pick the best.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

What we need from the recruits

1.  REBOUNDING, DEFENSE. We need Ruot Monyyong to be a big man. He shot 91 three-pointers last season and made only 30.8% of them, and that was before the arc was moved back. On the other hand, he shot an excellent 60% on his shots from inside the arc. He averaged 10.4 rebounds per game, and 11.9 during conference season, so he can be a force down low. And, he had 90 blocks, so he already has a nice touch on the defensive end. Guys who are 6-11 and can actually play don't grow on trees. Ruot needs to stick with he does well and forget about what he does not do well.

2. DEPTH, EXPERIENCE. Here's hoping that Admir Besovic surprises us on the high side. He does have a little bit of D1 experience. The good news is that he is content to be a big man. He shot 52.5% from the field last season at Santa Fe College, and did not attempt a single three-pointer. He pulled down 5.9 boards per game. The good news is that he blocked 33 shots. So, at the very least he can give us some solid minutes inside, make his shots, and be a rim protector.

3. DEFENSE, VERSATILITY. We need Alsean Evans to pick up some of the scoring that left with Rayjon Tucker - but not to try to shoulder the whole load. Even more so, we desperately need a defensive stopper, and maybe he can play that role for us. He needs to be the glue guy for this team - a little scoring, a little rebounding, a whole lot of defense. (Think John Fowler.)

4. SHOOTING. Hopefully Marko Lukic can provide some shooting to replace Tucker from the arc. He put up 20 points per game plus in the last two seasons in Europe.

5. SHOOTING. Jovan Stulic. See Lukic above.

Wouldn't it be something?

If Virginia and Texas Tech were in the finals again next season? Or either of them for that matter. But, of course, they play boring basketball. Defense and all that. No one wants to watch them. Right? Right?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Why Pippins is critical

Ryan Pippins is on the roster, so I am assuming he is going to be available this season, and I think that is critical for several reasons.

1. He is our only senior on a fairly inexperienced team. Throughout his career, Pippins has given off an aura of quiet confidence, and that is going to be important. Last season we had lots of sizzle, but very little steak. We need someone with less flash, but someone who delivers.

2. He is our best returning perimeter shooter. Nikola shot the three better, but on very limited attempts, and I certainly hope he is not spending all his time out on the 3-point line. Pippins shot 39.3% from the arc. Everyone else on the team was mediocre at best.

3. He is our third experienced point guard, and can play both guard positions. Nowell will play the lion's share of the minutes at the point, and Lottie will get most of what remains. But as we have seen so many times before, all it takes is one injury and we have a crisis. Pippins is our insurance policy.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Could be a brilliant stroke by DW

One of Darrell Walker's stated goals in the last recruiting season was to bring in more tall guards. This he did, with three at 6-6: two from Serbia and one juco. If any of the three has a really strong season, he will look like a genius. Here's hoping he does.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Just go to the local gym

Some guy has introduced a Wachability Index, which ranks teams by how "exciting" their offense is. That means, don't work down into the shot clock, don't be patient for a good shot, just jack up a three-point shot, or live off the fast break. That is "exciting." Defense is not "exciting." Virginia is not "exciting." They just win.

Hey, bud: the reason Virginia can run down the clock each possession is that they are confident that their offense is more efficient than yours and that their defense is better than yours. They are going to make better use of the shots they get than you will, so they are not afraid to play the basketball version of Chicken. "We can stop you better than you can stop us, and we will score more points per possession than you will." Isn't that what basketball is all about? Evidently not. Evidently the only thing that matters is how points you score, even if the other team scores more points.

This guy needs just to go to the local gym or playground where defense doesn't matter at all and they all shoot as soon as they cross the halfcourt line. He makes me tired.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Dance is brutal

In the history of the NCAA tournament, 19 teams have finished the regular season. Only 7 of those have won the tournament, and none since 1976.

Among the teams who have made the regular season gauntlet unscathed are some surprising names: Columbia, St. Bonaventure, Rutgers. Those who do not study basketball history probably would not have guessed any of those (and some of us who do). Those three teams have fallen on hard times lately, but at one time they were powerhouses.

Interestingly, John Wooden had four undefeated teams, but if he made it unscathed through the regular season, not once did he fail in the Tournament. Some other pretty good coaches cannot say that: John Calipari, Jerry Tarkanian, Gregg Marshall, Bob Knight, Al McGuire, and Guy Lewis all had undefeated teams that stubbed their toes in the Big Dance.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

How recruiting should be done

The vast majority of college coaches are looking to stockpile the most elite talent they can, any way they can — just add bodies to the pile and then figure out how they fit together. As the saying goes, “It’s not the Xs and Os, it’s the Jimmys and Joes,” which is just another way to say that even a bad coach can look good with enough talent ... and vice versa. (from an article by Jeff Nusser)
I think this guy nailed it, and pretty well summed up one of the main things that is wrong with college basketball. Some coaches, the good ones, recruit with a rifle, not a shotgun; and they bring in their type players who can play their type game. These may not be the most talented players, but they are good firs for their system.
The quote above was about the effort of Kyle Smith to build the program at Washington State - one of the most difficult campuses in the country to recruit to. Here is hoping he gets it done; and with his approach, he might stand a chance. He is looking for multiple-tool players, who sometimes tend to be under-recruited by more successful programs.

One other factor: Smith wants players where his scholarship offer is the one the player really desires; he wants to be the school of choice rather than the fall back. Those kinds of players are hungry to prove they belong.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Replacing the points has to be an orderly process

With Rayjon Tucker and Deondre Burns we lost 30.3 points per game. That is a lot of offensive firepower to replace. Two 15-point players (averaged) would be a hit to any program. What I am afraid will happen is that Nowell is going to try to be the next Tucker. Hopefully not, but it would not be the first time that sort of thing has happened. DW is going to have to make SURE that the distribution of points is an orderly process. It is not as though we do not have any other weapons. Even among the returning players Maric averaged 10.7 ppg, and Bankston averaged 8.2 ppg on FAR fewer shots than the others. And that is not even taking into account the newcomers. The scoring potential is there; now Walker just has to make sure Nowell gets the ball there.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Five things on DW's "must do" list

(Maybe they are, and maybe they aren't, but they ought to be.)

1. Fix the A/TO ratio among the point guards. It isn't enough to make things happen. We have to make the right things happen.

2. Identify the shooters. Among our returning perimeter players, Pippins is the only one who was impressive. We have several new kids who are supposed to be good shooters, so we need to get them into the system quickly.

3. Emphasize rebounding. That was a glaring weakness last seasons.

4. Get our inside players more aggressive. Maric has the European tendency to float toward the perimeter, and Bankston and Johnson do not shoot enough.

5. Set up a free throw clinic. Pippins, Lottie, Bankston and Johnson were awful last season. That is a quick way to nudge scoring upward.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Dry up, Lebron!

One again Lebron James gives us his unsolicited royal pronouncement concerning something the NCAA has done. For someone who never played a minute of college basketball, he takes a lot on himself to have appointed himself the one-man review board of NCAA actions. He needs to go soak his head.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Buy what you can afford

Defense is always cheap, because most coaches and practically all fans pay minimal attention to it. Supply and demand. Therefore, players who are really good defensively, but only OK offensively, are not going to be as highly recruited, and you can pick up a real bargains "at closeout prices."

Monday, August 5, 2019

Rebounding ought to be a strength

Height certainly is no guarantee of good rebounding, but it certainly helps. Height we have plenty of this year. Besovic and Maric have pretty good bulk. That helps in rebounding, if you know how to use it. Several of our big guys have pretty good hops, which definitely helps. So, the factors are there. What is left? Teaching and desire. Some coaches can teach rebounding, and some evidently do not do so well. Part of teaching is insisting that players do it, and do it right. Some players place a priority on rebounding, and some do not. Last year none of ours did. Maybe that will change this season. I certainly ought to. There is no reason that this team should not be a good rebounding team.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Which new faces will we see?

Nowell, Lottie, Wyatt, Bankston, Maric. We could piece that starting lineup out of our returning players, but those were part of the group that lost 20 games. There is going to have to be some new talent, new energy, new leadership - something - injected into the team if we are going to be appreciably better. And we could be significantly better than last season and still not be very good.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Revive the Pac-12

Basketball needs for the Pac-12 to be better than it has been in recent years. I realize those teams are a long way off, and that we rarely stay up to see them play on television, etc., but UCLA and Arizona, to name a couple, have been a big part of basketball history. And when the west coast is not doing well, it is like a horse hobbling on one leg. Even if they only play the role of hated opponents, basketball needs the West to perk up.

Friday, August 2, 2019

The same old faces

CBS Sports just came out with their bracketology for next year. Michigan State, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas. Pretty boring. I really with there was some new blood among the bluebloods of college basketball.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Wooden's consistency

The thing that was staggering about John Wooden was his consistency. Oh, sure, he had tremendous talent playing for him, but so have other coaches. So did other coaches in his day. And even the best of coaches have hiccups somewhere along the way. But when you win ten out of twelve, and seven in a row? That requires something beyond mere talent.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Andy Katz' early NCAA predictions

I found a few points interesting in Katz' predictions. He has Illinois returning to the Dance. It has been a while since the Illini were a factor.

He did not pick Kentucky for the Final Four (but close).

Michigan State's Cassius Winston must really be good.

Get ready. This year, or maybe next, Georgetown will be back. Big Patrick is getting the job done.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

I still say, invest in Bryce Drew

Sure, he had back-to-back 20-loss seasons at Vanderbilt, and the AD may had no choice but to fire him, but I still think Bryce Drew is one of the best young coaches in America. In five years at Valparaiso, his average record was 25-10, and he went to the second round of the NCAA tournament twice. He showed he can recruit by bringing in a local 5-star point guard to Vandy (who promptly blew an ACL, and the season disintegrated from there).

Drew is only 44 years old. He has basketball in his blood, and he will land somewhere, and wherever he lands will probably win big.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Is this the most size we have had?

I have been saying that, but is it actually true? All I know to do is to go to the rosters listed on the official site. Here is a list of the number of players 6-9 and taller that we have had each season.

2020 - 3 - Besovic, Monyyong, Maric
2019 - 1 - Maric
2018 - 3 - Mompremier, Black, Harley
2017 - 3 - Shoshi, Black, Goldman
2016 - 4 - Lis, Green, Black, Isom
2015 - 2 - Leeper, Isom
2014 - 3 - Poulter, Neighbour, Leeper
2013 - 4 - Poulter, Javes, Neighbour, Leeper
2012 - 3 - Javes, Neighbour, Leeper
2011 - 2 - Bails, Leeper
2010 - 1 - Bails
2009 - 1 - Bails
2008 - 1 - Bails
2007 - 0
2006 - 0
2005 - 2 - Korolev, Eason

That is as far as it goes on the electronic rosters on the official site. Obviously, it has only been in recent years that we got any consistent size. Also obviously, our best rebounding was when we did not have any true big men - of course, we had a guy named Jones-Jennings.

So, the bottom line is that I was wrong, if you use the arbitrary cut-off of 6-9 to define "big man." However, we do have a 7-footer, which the program has rarely had. Also, we have two 6-8 players. If you averaged the height of the tallest half-dozen players on the roster, I am guessing this would be our tallest roster in history.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Shooters needed

Nowell was a decent shooter last season, not great. He was an OK point guard. We need some of our new guys to really find the range so that Nowell can concentrate on being a distributor (if he will). We need him to be a lot better than OK.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Pressure for Bankston?

I don't know the young man, but my impression of Kris Bankston last season was that he was just a little too laid back. Mind you, when he dunked, he did so with authority, but I thought he should have been much more dominant than he was, especially on the boards.

Even with his impressive numbers, I figure Bankston is going to be pressed some for PT this next season. Kamani Johnson showed good potential last season, and was a better rebounder than Bankston. Ruot Monyyong had impressive numbers in juco and could end up at the 4 spot if Maric successfully defends his place as the 5, and his minutes likely will effect Bankston's.

In any case, whereas last year Bankston's only real competition was a raw freshman in Johnson, this year the battle should be much tougher, and that is a good thing for Little Rock.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Give him the slack, AD

Just think how much easier a head coach's job is if he had the slack from his boss to do the job right, and recruit only high-character individuals, instead of having to take chances to get quick results. Of course, if the coach himself is not a high-character individual, it would not make much difference, I suppose.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Now the monkey goes to Hoiberg's back

In 2017 Chris Collins led Northwestern to the second round of the NCAA tournament and thus removed the label that had dogged them for years of being the only power conference team never to have made the NCAA tournament. So who has that monkey now? Well . . . new Nebraska HC Fred Hoiberg inherits the title as the only power conference team never to have won an NCAA game. But Hoiberg rebuilt the Iowa State program - quickly - and I am guessing he will do the same thing at Nebraska.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Stars going in or coming out?

"He is a 3-star player." Well, fine. That is what he is ranked going into his college career. Will he still be a 3-star coming out of his college career? Some head coaches are excellent basketball teachers, or at least they assemble a staff of excellent basketball teachers. Some coaches hold their players accountable, both on and off the court. Some make the sum of the parts to be greater than the whole. Obviously, that is not true of all programs. Maybe they need to add a column headed "Star Progression." The number of stars (or perhaps we should say the value of the stars) is going to increase when you play for a coach like Tony Bennett or Chris Beard.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

So what is our strongest position?

To some degree the answer to this question is determined by whomever you figure is your best player. However, depth is a big component of the quality of the position.

I am tempted to say that point guard is our best position, but so far Markquis Nowell has been more flashy than good, and Jaizec Lottie and Ryan Pippins have been more steady than good. Still, that is probably the best three-deep combination of players we have at a position, so point probably wins the prize.

After Kris Bankston's jaw-dropping season, and with Monyyong and Johnson available as back-ups (or maybe even shove-asides), the power forward position is in a strong position for the "also rates consideration" prize. Certainly the potential at that position is through the roof, and maybe internal competition will help us realize that potential.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Tough way to start

I hope ex-Georgia State coach Ron Hunter is satisfied with his move to Tulane, because he is going to be building from the bottom up. NBC picked them 12th (last) in the AAC.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Watching the Hoyas

Keeping an eye on the slow resurgence of the Georgetown Hoyas has been enjoyable. First of all, their bringing back of Patrick Ewing as head coach was an interesting move, and one, if it works, that will prolong the John Thompson Story. But also having James Akinjo and Mac McClung in the same backcourt with a year's experience under their belts is going to be fun. The interesting picture of having a hotshot white guard playing for a black coach at a program that has been overwhelmingly black for a long, long time is in itself compelling.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Maybe quote of the year

Virginia coach Tony Bennett was asked about whether or not players want to come to a program that emphasizes a half-court offense and suffocating defense. His answer?

"There is plenty of freedom in this system; you learn how to play the right way."

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

What transfers can do to you

As everyone knows these days, transfers can really hurt a program, especially when they double up on you. The Hauser brothers left the Marquette program after last season. NBC has had them ranked 4th prior to that, then dropped the all the way out of the Top 25. Ouch! All the way from legitimate contender to bubble team.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Roster by position per Verbal Commits

How VC lists a player is not necessarily where they end up playing in college, but here is what we look like in their book:

Point: Pippins, Lottie, Nowell, Curtis
SG: Evans, Lukic, Stulic
SF: Coupet, Wyatt, Johnson, Palermo
PF: Monyyong, Bankston
C: Dunkum, Besovic, Maric