Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Quote from ESPN's Myron Medcalf

(about the biggest factor in UCLA's lack of sustained success post-Wooden)

I think UCLA is a victim of an era that defines every team according to its performance in the NCAA tournament. . . . There were eight consecutive seasons of 20 wins or more after Wooden left his post but only two trips to the Final Four before the 1995 national title run. Folks don't value regular-season consistency as much as they emphasize the results in the crapshoot known as the NCAA tournament. And UCLA is the poster child for that reality.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Kris Bankston

I would love to have this kid on my team, as a coach (which I am not, but if I were, I would love to coach him). I know nothing of his attitude or anything of that nature, but having someone with a nose for the basket would be wonderful in these "don't get your hands dirty" 3-point days. My only criticism of his shooting would be that he does not do enough of it. He needs to be more aggressive offensively, because he is money in the bank.

Bankston's rebounding, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired. With Maric having that European attitude, Bankston is the logical candidate to be the Chairman of the Boards. I can understand why he might have been a little passive on offense, given the number of offensive threats we had on this team, but we did not have any rebounders, so the field was his. He needs to get the attitude that Jones-Jennings had: "Every rebound that comes of the backboard is mine." He has enough hops and agility: all he needs is the aggressiveness and the want-to.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

How good?

I am sure Chris Beard must have his shortcomings as a coach (although I can't think of many offhand), but one thing he does superlatively well is to demand that players do like they ought to do while on the court. He insists that they play right. "Play my way, or you don't play."

That one fact raises a question in my mind as I consider various players in our Little Rock program: "How good could he be if he were playing for Beard?"

Friday, April 26, 2019

Jaizec Lottie

Lottie has yet to fulfill the potential he has shown. As a freshman he played like a freshman: not awful, but not great. This past season he was limited by injuries, but still had a decent season. He was second on the team in minutes per game, although he played in only 23 of the 31 games. His shooting was awful: 29% from the arc and a head-scratching 39% from the FT line. That has to improve if he is going to fulfill his value to the team. On the other hand, his 1.57 A/TO ratio, while still not great for a point guard, was significantly better than Nowell's.

I keep waiting for this kid to have a break-out season. The ability is there. The intangibles are there; his minutes show that he was one of the key players on the team this year, and with the players leaving, he will be even more important next season. Now he has to improve in the factors that show up on the stat sheet. Shooting obviously has to be a point of emphasis in the off-season.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Nikola Maric

Maric is as promising a freshman big man as this team has had in a long time, perhaps ever. His game has some rough spots, but then when is that ever not true with young centers? He was durable - played in all 31 games, starting 30, averaging 24.4 minutes. He shot 51.7% from the field. In limited (49) attempts from the arc, he led the team in 3PT% at 42.9%. He was second on the team to Tucker in FT attempts, and he 64.5%, which is not bad, but leaves room for improvement.

He led the team in turnovers with 99, and even though that is to be expected from the guy who is getting mugged down low on a regular basis, he can do better there. Maric does have some work to do on the boards. He certainly has the strength for it, but does not seem to have the quickness or the nose for the ball that he needs to have. That is something the coaches can work on; rebounders can improve a lot with hard work and good instruction.

The ceiling for this kid is very high. If he improves some each season, he could (should) be the best big man in the conference by his senior year.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Markquis Nowell

This kid obviously is a spectacular talent. The problem is that he was neither fish nor foul this past season. He tried to be a shooter and a facilitator, and ended up doing neither of them very well. He hit 35.4% of his shots from the arc, which is not bad, not great; but he shot only 38.3% overall, which is awful. He made 79% of his FTs, which is good, but he only went to the line 53 times, which was 6th on the team, and that is not very many for a kid who was 2nd on the team in FG attempted. He led the team in assists at 4.2 per game, which is normal for the starting point guard, but his A/TO ratio was an anemic 1.27. He led the team in steals, which bodes well for the future.

As Zack Graber used to say, a point guard's statistic is wins. His own personal stats are irrelevant. He makes his team win, because he triggers both the offense and the defense. Obviously, in that statistic Nowell failed. As was typical for this team which wasn't a team, HE scored a lot of points, but he did not make his team a better team. On a team with as many scorers as we had this year, a point guard should have been licking his chops and having a field day as a distributor.

All in all, Nowell did not have an awful season for a true freshman. Not good, but not awful. But in the one statistic that matters, he failed abysmally. I know I am a reactionary curmudgeon, but Nowell needs to forget about the playgrounds of New York and worry about becoming an efficient, reliable distributor on a college team. What we need is a fundamentally-sound point guard, not one that is fancy. And it is the coach's job to make that happen. I am not going to hold my breath.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Darrell Walker - end of the year assessment

I was dubious when we hired Walker to be head coach of the Trojans, and my doubt were confirmed by his performance. To be blunt, he just did not get the job done, and it was not because of a lack of talent. It was because of a lack of coaching. We had an ex-NBA coach, and that is what it looked like. It looked like he thought his job was to make big stars out of a few players, but winning ballgames was purely optional. We had the hyper-athleticism this season, but it did not sell tickets.

Each coach has a different system. Walker's may not prove to be my favorite, but he has a right to install whatever system he chooses. But whatever game he teaches, the Head Coach's job is to make sure the players operate under that system. It appeared that Walker's "system" was to throw the ball to Rayjon Tucker and Markquis Nowell, and tell everyone else to get out of the way and let them play. When you have four players averaging double figures and one player averaging over 20 points per game, you ought to win more than ten games with even a modicum of coaching. We had plenty of offense, and our defensive numbers were not terrible as a whole. We just did not do those little, unspectacular things that make for a good basketball team. We had a group of good basketball players. And the fault for that situation falls directly on the coach. Walker did not do his job.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Hiring home runs and whiffs

I will leave alone the in-betweens. Just my personal opinions.

California: Wyking Jones out. Mark Fox in. Home run. Fox is a good pick to stabilize this program which had become the laughingstock of the power conferences. Whether or not he can take them to prominence, even in the anemic Pac-12, is another question; but he is a good pick to stop the bleeding.

Nebraska. Tim Miles out. Fred Hoiberg in. Home run. Hoiberg showed at Iowa State that  he was a master at quick-starting a program, even though he did not have college experience. This is another mid-western team, and now Hoiberg is coming in not being a rookie. Expect big things at Nebraska, even though it is a tough conference.

Texas A&M. Billy Kennedy out. Buzz Williams in. WAY out of the park. Billy Kennedy was a good coach, but it always appeared he was not emotionally engaged, which might have had something to do with his health: I don't know. In any case, Williams has Texas ties and has shown he can really coach in the toughest basketball environment. This will get the TAMU base fired up, and even if basketball is not big in Texas, Texas A&M is BIG in College Station. The cadets will turn out next season.

UNLV. Marvin Menzies out. T. J. Otzelberger in. Home run. Otzelberger is one of the hottest names in the mid-major ranks and had South Dakota State playing at a high level.

Vanderbilt. Bryce Drew out. Jerry Stackhouse in. Strikeout. Why do this? It makes no sense at all: in other words, about as much sense as the Darrell Walker hiring made. Drew had the bad luck to have a big-time recruit blow out his ACL, so they give him the axafter only three years  and bring in a pro player with no college coaching experience?

Virginia Tech. Buzz Williams out. Mike Young (Wofford) in. Home run. See UNLV above.

Georgia State. Rob Hunter out. Rob Lanier in. Home run. Lanier was a Tennessee assistant. Getting an assistant from a hot power conference program with an experienced coach is about as good a move as an SBC school can make.

Niagara. Chris Casey out. Pat Beilein in. Home run. Beilein's father, John, is one of the best coaching minds in the game today. Niagara went to the right tree to pick this apple.

St. Joseph. Phil Martelli out. Billy Lange in. Strikeout. Phil Martelli is a legend, and they replaced him with an NBA assistant? Hmmmmmm.

Troy. Phil Cunningham out. Scott Cross in. HOME RUN!  This might be the steal of the year. Anyone want to guess that Cross will make it to the Dance before his successor at Arlington does?

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Which SBC pairing was the best?

The SBC currently has the best rivalry pairings we have ever had: two teams from each of five states and two teams from the Carolinas. So which pair did the best this past season?

Georgia 25-11
Texas 24-12
Louisiana 19-17
Carolinas 15-21
Alabama 13-23
Arkansas 12-24

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Anderson could be a good hire for St. John's

It is not a match that catches the eye, this hiring of Mike Anderson by St. John's. The institution ended up with egg all over their face. And there will be some obstacles. Anderson does not know the NYC recruiting circuit, and likely does not have many connections there, which will be a definite shortcoming. However, the system he runs makes use of athleticism and depth, and those are qualities that should be in plentiful supply up there. Anderson has been in the national scene for a long time, and so he will be a familiar face to anyone who follows the game. Furthermore, the Richardson pressing system works best where people have never seen it before, and it will be the new kid on the block in that section of the basketball world. So, after a couple of years to get his recruiting ramped up (assuming he is able to do that), Anderson might have some degree of success. After all, he has won 369 games as a head coach.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Trojans in the SBC record book

Josh Hagins - tied for 24th

Muntrelle Dobbins - 4th

Muntrelle Dobbins - tied for 22nd

Alan Barksdale - 8th
Nick Zachery - 12th
Matt Mouzy - tied for 14th

Rashad Jones-Jennings - 1st

Steve Shields - 5th

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Porter turns down St. Johns

The fact that Porter Moser turned down the job at St. John's is not in itself such a big deal, since that job is not exactly at the top of everyone's list. However, the way he did it was classic and classy. He reportedly is making $900,000 per year (plus bonuses) and he said, "You can be rich without the dollar signs." Of course, I have long believed that. I raised six children on considerably less than that figure, and I feel to be better off than all those coaches who never have time to spend with their families. If indeed Porter is where he wants to be, then adding to his overwhelming wealth means nothing, and he turned down nothing that he really wanted or needed. Besides, Porter has been to a Final Four more recently than all but a handful of D1 coaches, so the argument could be made that he is already in a better place than they are. And since St. Johns has not been to a Final Four since 1985, Loyola definitely has a leg up. And all that is only if you measure the job by recent on-court success.

Porter is a good coach. He will win more games at Loyola, and may even win some on the biggest stage. If he is happy, then we know he is also wealthy (by most men's standards), so only ego would make him go somewhere else.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Where the Belt finished

Now that the season is completely over, we can assess where the Sun Belt Conference landed among its peers. RealtimeRPI had us finishing as the #17 conference, right after the Mountain West and right before the Colonial, two conferences that have historically been very solid. Since there are 32 conferences, we would be slightly below the halfway point, but solidly in the "mid"-major range.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

1986 was a golden year

Not only was 1986 the first year that the Little Rock Trojans advanced beyond the first round of the NCAA tournament, but it was also the second time (and the most recent time) that Brown has gone to the tournament. The first time was in 1939, the original year of the Big Dance.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Almost good

This past year's team was not all that far from being a good team. We could score points with several different players, we were very quick, and we had adequate size. But yet we were not a good basketball team. There are some things that are just necessary to be a good team, and sometimes teams neglect those things. We did, and so we weren't. Oh, we were exciting (as if that were the end in view in basketball), but we weren't good. I hope Darrell Walker watched the NCAA tournament this season and noticed that the two teams in the finals did those little things.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

In the trenches

I watched a video of an Indiana State vs. DePaul game this weekend. Some of the fans were wearing hard hats, and that looked to me like a very good idea for teams that play that sort of basketball. I don't think we will under Walker, but we did under Shields and Beard, and for a long time blue collar basketball was the heartbeat of Trojan teams. If we ever get back to that style, I think that would be a very good symbol for fans to wear to the game.

Image result for fan wearing hard hat

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Who does the dirty work?

If Maric is a typical European big man who loves to shoot from the outside, who does the dirty work down low for us: inside offense, blocks, rebounding? For a freshman, his numbers weren't bad, but they were not the sort that reflect a commitment for blue collar work. Only 4.5 boards per game is not going to impress anyone from your tallest player.

Bankston is the logical nominee for a hard hat power forward, and he certainly does the low down offensive work and the blocks. But there again, 4.5 boards per game needs to go up. It was obvious on this team that no one instinctively thought rebounding first.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Virginia's regular season

They were not the #1 team in the nation at the end of the regular season, but they did finish that portion of their schedule at 27-2, with their only loses to the pre-season national champion favorite Duke. That means they beat all the rest of the ACC heavyweights, plus Wisconsin, Maryland, VCU and South Carolina in the non-conference portion.

I was probably more impressed with their regular season than I was with their tournament run. They do the same thing week after week. This year, that "same thing" just happened to be good enough to win the NCAA Tournament, as well.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Diakite about Virginia's title

“We told ourselves we were going to come back and do it, and do it with Tony Bennett’s system,” Mamadi Diakite said after Virginia’s 85-77 overtime victory against Texas Tech. “Now, if you don’t believe it, I don’t know. I guess you’re on another planet.”

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Will defense get its day?

Two of the top defensive teams in the nation went toe to toe this week, and the result was one of the classic finals in NCAA tournament history. Do you suppose that will get anyone's attention, to convince them that defense is not dull? I doubt it. "We've got to make the game more wide-open to attract more fans," will probably be the continuing cry. I would say that the fans got more than their money's worth this year.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The ultimate vindication

When you go from being the first #1 seed in history to lose to a #16 seed on year to winning the national championship the next year, you have stamped in steel that the first loss was a fluke. Case closed.