Thursday, February 28, 2019

Bankston's upside

If he works hard, Kris Bankston is going to be a lot better player than he is now. Granted that he is already in the all-time lists for blocks and shooting percentage, but his best play is at a considerably higher level than he is now playing. He is still very rough on both sides of the ball. I hope he never loses his "Just Flush It" mentality, but there are a lot of moves offensively that are not yet in his repertoire. And with his physical skills he could be much more intimidating on defense. Bankston as a senior could be an impressive talent if he wants to badly enough.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

How to tell a well-coached team

If you want to identify a well-coached team, you have to look at the things that players don't naturally want or know how to do. You might say the things they won't pick up on the playground. What are they? defense, rebounding, taking care of the ball. Even without seeing a team play, to a large extent you can tell whether the coach is earning his money by looking at the stats that indicate those three factors.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Not all that long of a shot

I just saw an article that listed Texas Tech as a March Madness long shot. I suppose they meant to win it all. And, sure, compared to the Dukes and Kentuckys of the world they would be a long shot. But not all that long. They have decent firepower. And they do that one thing you have to avoid in March: they don't beat themselves. So TTech going to the Final Four is not a stretch at all.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Porter must have liked it there

Porter Moser is a good coach and I am sure he is well-respected in the coaching fraternity. But coaches usually make the jump to high-major jobs after they make some noise on the national scene. Last season was when Porter made his noise - but he stayed at home. I have to guess that he really likes being there. He is a midwestern guy, and I am sure his family is in that general part of the country. No doubt he is not starving, so maybe he stayed where he wanted to be. Not a bad thing to do. Bob McKillop did it at Davidson. I wonder why more coaches don't do it. He has notched 236 career wins and is only 50 years old. It is easy seeing him building Loyola into a mid-major powerhouse and becoming a local legend. If that is what he wants to do.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Basketball nerves

Teams that slow down the pace of the game play a nervy game of basketball Chicken. They are betting that they can do what they are supposed to do better than you can, and so they are willing to decrease the number of chances both of you have, since they figure they will have less reason to need to recover from mistakes.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

In the middle of the Beast

It has been several years since DePaul was anything but terrible. In their five seasons in the revamped Big East the best they have finished is 7th. In the eight years they were in the old Big East the best they finished was 8th. Nine of those 13 years they finished last. The Big East is just a very tough conference. And they may finish near the bottom again, but at least there is a sign of life. Currently they are in a three-way tie for last at 5-9 in conference play, but they are only a game and a half out of fifth. And that is progress.

Friday, February 22, 2019

How good was Wilt Chamberlain?

Well, first of all, watch this LINK for a video of his defensive highlights, setting aside his unbelievable offensive numbers. Second, consider that in the 1967-68 season, he averaged 8.6 assists per game - not a stat you usually associate with high-scoring centers. To put that in perspective, this current NBA season, that number would be third in the league, behind only a couple of point guards. Some folks said Wilt could only dunk the ball and block shots - but you don't dish out that many assists by dunking. Would he be dominant today? Who are you kidding! Look at this video and decide for yourself.

The strategy of fouls

Why go inside? Why have a post-up game? Obviously, one of the big reasons is that it gets the other team in foul trouble. Three-point shots, protected as they are by the ridiculous 3-shot penalty, are much less likely to result in a foul. Inside is where the traffic is, where the heavy lifting is done, where the blood is shed - where the fouls are called.

Foul trouble throws off the other team's entire strategy for the game. You have to go with the players that you have, but if you don't have them, you have to go with something else - change horses in the middle of the stream. Obviously, your second strategy is not likely to be as good as your first one was. Particularly if it happens to the opponents' better players, fouls take away the opponent's bullets. His sixth best player presumably is not nearly as good as his best player, so if his best player is on the bench because of fouls, his team becomes significantly worse. There are very good reasons to pound the ball inside, because it chips away at your opponent's ability to do what he wants to do. Why not do it?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Want to make basketball exciting again?

Scuttle the three! Bring back the dunk! Remember the good old days before the three point shot came along? Basketball was exciting. Fast breaks, and dunks - lots of dunks (once they made them legal again after the Alcindor era).

Kris Bankston has made the dunk popular in Little Rock once more. I don't know how many he has so far this season, but it is a bunch! He doesn't mess around: he just goes up and slams the ball. Do you know what his shooting percentage is? 81.4% !!! He has missed 21 shots all season, in 26 games! Why would a coach not want a player to emphasize dunks? High percentage shots, getting the opponents in foul trouble. You have heard the expressing "settling for a three"? Well there is no "settling for" in a dunk. You are bringing it home with a vengeance!

FLUSH TIME! A dunk is visually exciting. The difference between three-pointers and dunks is the difference between watching paint dry and watching a dog fight, between watching patty-cake and watching a boxing match, between a gentle shower and a thunderclap.

So, isn't it time for the Game Fathers to tweak the rules (which they are so fond of doing) to de-emphasize the three-pointer and re-emphasize the dunk? Sure, there are rule changes and refereeing emphases that they can make to bring that about. The most obvious would be to change the rules to encourage aggressive defense on the perimeter and aggressive moves inside. Encourage pressure on the ball, which will result in more exciting breakaways and less boring rainbows. Right now they have the guards afraid to breathe on an opposing player outside the arc.

Attendance is a problem most everywhere in college basketball. Here is a way to fix it.


Tuesday, February 19, 2019


The one thing I enjoy seeing perhaps more than any other in basketball is halfcourt defense. For years I have been searching for just the right adjective to describe precisely what I am looking for. Blue collar? not bad.  Stingy? OK, but lacking something. Intense? very good, but not quite colorful enough. And then finally it dawned on me recently. The word is "murderous." What I love seeing is a mass assassination when the other team crosses the half court line. Take no prisoners. Line them up against the wall. Stack up the bodies.

Monday, February 18, 2019

They need to dock the coach's pay

According to ESPN, in the five recruiting classes from 2014 through 2018, Duke was ranked #1 four times and #2 the other time. And yet during that period they only had one national championship to show for it. I would say Duke fans are not getting their money's worth.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Keep an eye on Nate Reuvers

John Leuer, Jared Berggren, Frank Kaminsky, Ethan Happ. Wisconsin has had a long run of good big men who just happened to be white. You might call him the Head SWK. The current holder of the title is Ethan Happ, who does everything well - except shoot. Nate Reuvers looks to be his successor at the center spot for the Badgers. The 6-11 sophomore has started every game this year, but is playing in the considerable shadow of Happ, who averages a double/double. Reuvers gets 8.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, but expect those numbers to go up considerably after Happ is gone next season. Reuvers also leads the team with 49 blocks. We shall see how he does, but expect that he will be another in a lengthening tradition of fundamentally-sound Badger big men.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The resurrection of posting up

I got to watch Wisconsin play Michigan State this past week. It was refreshing. Ethan Happ is one of the best players in the country, and he is utterly without a perimeter game. So, the Badger's first option on offense is to get the ball to him in the low block, and let him go to work. And he does indeed know how work down low. His footwork is textbook, and he makes shots from every angle. It was really nice to see a team in this era who thinks "post up" first instead of "jack it up."

Friday, February 15, 2019

No more realignment - Please!

After years of having an imbalanced, lopsided and illogical league, we finally have one that makes perfect sense and is tailor-made to develop real rivalries. In the Sun Belt we have two teams each from Texas, Georgia, the Carolinas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama. Made to order! It makes the travel issue easier. It gives fans a reasonable chance of traveling to the big rivalry games. And it just makes sense! (All of which gives me a strange feeling that it soon will be changing, for why should we do anything that makes sense?)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Instant fans

When a school hires a coach that you have really liked for a long time, it can make you an instant fan. I had followed Tony Bennett since he and his father brought Washington State (briefly) to relevancy. Then, when Virginia hired him, I became an instant 'Hoos fan. He appears to be a really class act, and his teams play the kind of basketball I like. I had never followed Virginia before, but I do now.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Choosing assistant coaches

When a coach is secure in his legacy and is at his terminal gig, he might pick an Associate Head Coach with the idea that that would be his replacement. However, coaches who are anywhere below that level, those who are not absolutely secure in their jobs, are hiring assistant coaches for what they can do for me right now. And the fact of the matter is that not all great assistant coaches are also great head coaches. Probably very few Assistant Coach hires are made because the HC thinks he might be a good head coach. They are hired because they will be a good Assistant Coach and provide what the program needs at the moment, not somewhere down the road.

One of the problems of having consistent success at our level is that we cannot keep good coaches. Good coaches do not stay, and we have not had huge success promoting assistant coaches. And that is not hard to figure, since they weren't hired to be HCs, but to be ACs. IF the AD hired the assistant coaches, he might be looking at continuity, but the Head Coach will not be to any real extent, and it is the HC to picks his assistants.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Would you make the trade?

Wisconsin senior center Ethan Happ does almost everything well - except shoot. He has attempted five 3-pointers this season, and missed all of them. He shoots 47% from the free throw line. BUT - he averages 18.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg, and has 30 blocks. Nice stats by any standard. But what is most amazing is that he leads the team in assists - by a ton - from the center position. He is averaging 4.9 assists per game! As a center! Yes, that leads the team. In fact, it is almost double (118 to 61) anyone else on the team. In fact it is third in the entire Big Ten, and they have some pretty fair point guards in that conference. His assist to turnover ratio is 1.74, which ties him for 9th in the Big Ten.

Now, the question is: If you are a head coach, and your center is putting up numbers in assists and turnovers that most point guards would be happy to have, are you willing to swap that for his deficiencies in shooting? (I seem to remember a fellow named Chamberlain who got traded to a team full of Hall of Fame scorers (guys like Elgin Baylor and Jerry West), so he switched his role and became the only center in NBA history to lead the league in assists. In fact, he had a 22/25/21 triple-double game in which the third number was ASSISTS!)


Monday, February 11, 2019

Now that is a rotation!

Believe it or not, New Mexico State has twelve players who average double figure minutes - and that qualifies for being in the rotation. It is a unique approach, and Coach Chris Jans says it is not a philosophical thing, but something that just happened. The normal separation in skill levels between players did not occur. So he decided to use the situation instead of fighting it. There are advantages and disadvantages; but the advantages include high team morale, low fouls per player, and a lack of injuries normally caused by fatigue.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

If they are making progress, give them time

An AD has to be a judge of whether or not a coach can coach. Is he making progress? Is the program moving in the right direction? If you are, you probably would be wise not to mess with the coach.

Here is a case in point: in his first three season as head coach at Davidson, Bob McKillop was 4-24, 10-19, 11-17. Three straight losing seasons. Should the AD have axed him for that? Well, if he had, he would have fired a coach who now has 570 wins, all of them at Davidson.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Measuring basketball players

I have long assumed that some of the official heights of basketball players are bogus. For example, I do not believe that Markquis Nowell is really 5-8. And do they measure the players in their bare feet, or in their shoes? I assume it is would be in their shoes, since that is how they play. Still, the roster is saying "He is 6-8," not, "He and his shoes are 6-8." And back in the days when black players wore 'fros, did they measure to the top of the 'fro, or press the ruler down to the scalp? It surprises me that more players do not wear their hair like that today, because there was a definite psychological effect to it.

Friday, February 8, 2019

You say you want diversity?

Here is what you get from the roster of the South Alabama women's tennis team:

Czech Republic
and, of course, USA

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Take one - they're free

In the basketball world, defense and rebounding are essentially "free." By that I mean that a player does not have to be exceptionally athletically-gifted in order to do them well. Certainly it helps to be taller in order to rebound, but Charles Barkley and Wes Unseld made a good living as under-sized rebounders because they knew how to use their strength and how to position themselves. Yes, it helps to be quick in playing defense, but to a great extent a player who is not can overcome that by anticipation, positioning, and smart play.

So defense and rebounding are free. Delaware State can do them just as surely as Duke can, even if not quite to such an elevated degree. All they "cost" is desire and effort and discipline. The question then is, Why not do it? Why mess around? Pick the low-hanging fruit. Does anyone think Virginia is Top Ten in the country in athleticism? Of course not! But they definitely are Top Ten in defense.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

So close, but still so far

I have studied a ton of team stat sheets in my day. When I look at ours, I would immediately conclude that this team has won a lot more games than we have. Our statistics are not terrible; in fact, they probably are above average.

Little things win ballgames. Sometimes they are things that do not show up on the stat sheet (and a lot that goes to make up good defense does not). The little things that make the difference are usually not things that will get you on Sports Center. This team seems to have an NBA attitude, and that is not a compliment.

We are close to being a fairly good team. I think Porter Moser or Chris Beard could make this into a good team fairly quickly because they would have taken the slop out of the system immediately - and probably would have lost some flashy, selfish players in the process. Walker may get there yet, just at a slower pace, and I am willing to be patient. But at some point any coach has to let the team know that he is the head coach - the only head coach.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Where Loyola stands at this point

After Loyola Chicago's amazing run to the Final Four last season, many pre-season prognosticators were putting them in the Top 25. I didn't believe it. I figured they would be good, but not that good. And so they have moved off the national spotlight to some extent.

The Ramblers are tied for first in the Missouri Valley Conference, which is saying something, but not quite as much as was formerly the case before Wichita State existed the league. They are 14-9 overall, which is underwhelming. Sagarin ranks them #117 in the nation, which basically puts them in the top third. That is better than a poke in the nose, but hardly the stuff that legends are made of.

Loyola might indeed make the NCAA tournament again this season, since several of their key players have played on that big stage under the bright lights and they should be tough in their conference tournament. However, the odds are against it, since they can make no claim to being at-large worthy at this point, and they will have to get  hot at the right time.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Freshman mistakes

This team has been plagued with turnovers. Who leads the team in turnovers? Nikola Maric (71) and Markquis Nowell (69). It also just happens that they are both true freshmen. There is an old saw about "playing like a freshman" and "freshman mistakes." We are seeing it this year.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Larry Johnson, Mr. Consistency

Larry Johnson played in Little Rock for four seasons. In those seasons, he averaged 15.5, 16.8, 12.9 and 11.2 rebounds per game, in that order. Think about it. How would you like to be a coach that had a freshman come into your program and average 15.5 boards a game - and then did even better the next season - and then finally "slacks off" down to 11.2? That last number was his "bad" year as a senior. By today's standards, those numbers are downright staggering.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Still insisting on the tough D

Remember when Rod Barnes was leading Ole Miss to the Sweet 16? (Granted that was a long time ago.) He made his mark with tough, physical defense. He went on to four years at Georgia State, and then to Cal State Bakersfield. Here is what Jordan Sperber said about the Roadrunners on Greg Mitchell's column on Mid Major Madness:

“When playing Bakersfield, you’re always hoping for a tight whistle from the referee crew that night. They play extremely physical and totally take you out of your comfort zone. That 2016-17 team I mentioned that got to MSG in the NIT was as ‘annoying’ as any defense I got to scout against - and I say that with respect!

Coach Barnes’ teams always rank towards the bottom in the country at fouling. This year they are actually 352 out of 353 in defensive free throw rate. Obviously in a vacuum fouling is a bad thing - an easy way for an offensive to get efficient points. But it also creates plenty of turnovers and just prevents you from running your normal stuff on offense. The thing that made that 2016-17 different was their ability to defend the paint even when the guards got up and extended. Opponents shot just 41 percent from two that year which was third in the country behind Gonzaga and UCF (Tacko Fall). They haven’t quite been able to replicate that since losing the Basile/Pride/Airington/Smith senior class, but regardless are probably not a defense you’d prefer to play against.”

Friday, February 1, 2019

Why have cutters?

How many basketball offensive schemes involve players cutting to the open spots in the interior? How often do you actually see someone hit them at the precise moment they reach the open spot. The idea, as I understand it, is for the initiative the offensive player should have to create a situation where he either gets a good shot or draws a foul. The defender is in motion, and IF the ball arrives at the precise spot at the precise time, it gives the offensive player a real (but very momentary) advantage. I watch high school basketball games all the time. Players are out there running their offensive, and players are cutting hard for the open spot just the way the coach taught them to do. The problem is that the coach never drilled the guards (usually) how to put the ball on the mark at the right moment, and so the advantage is lost. Usually, it arrives too late, and so the receiver gets caught in a traffic jam, or the throw if off the mark, and results in a turnover. It looks to me like a skill that, if it were taught, would result in a major offensive advantage. Why have cutters if you are not going to hit them?