Saturday, June 29, 2019

Big guys had solid years

Think about the percentage of the time last season that either Tucker or Nowell had the ball in his hands. And they weren't thinking "get the ball to the big guys" for most of that time. The numbers that our big men put up last season in face of the above face were really very good, if you think about it.

Friday, June 28, 2019

TAMU-Texas rivalry renewed

Some of the schools are beginning to rebuild the historic rivalries that were interrupted by conference realignment. Texas and Texas A&M have announced that they will be playing in basketball again, which will be huge for the sport in the state. (Not that anything but football was ever very significant in Texas, but it is a step in the right direction.)

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Who's Back?

NBC just came out with an updated Preseason Top 25. They list the usual cagetories: Who's Gone, Who's Back, Who's Coming In.

They have Virginia picked #8 and Texas Tech #9. Now, I doubt that either of those teams has top ten talent, considering the other powerhouses involved. If the pickers told "the whole truth," they would have had Tony Bennett and Chris Beard in the "Who's Coming Back" category, and that would be all that was needed to explain their being picked that high.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Why are the throws lagging?

What are the three oldest world records in track and field?
Discus 1986. Hammer 1986. Shot 1990. Plus the javelin record has stood since 1996.

Did we have a Golden Age of Throwing in those days? German Jurgen Schult holds the Granddaddy of records in the discus, throwing for what was then East Germany. I have no notion why the throws were so good in that brief period of time (or perhaps not so good today).

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Enhance your enjoyment: pick a new team to follow

Every few years I will jump on the bandwagon of a new team and begin following it. My current new project is Rutgers. I like their coach and their hard-nosed style. As a program they have been down for a long time, and playing in the Big Ten they have a rough hill to climb. They went to their only Final Four back in 1976, but have not had a winning season since 2006. However, they did win seven conference games last season, the most since they have been in the Big Ten.

Monday, June 24, 2019

UConn back to the Beast?

UConn reportedly has been invited to rejoin the Big East. That would be huge for college basketball. Not only would this put a basketball program back in a basketball conference (possibly THE basketball conference), but it would restore some traditional rivalries.

One thing that realignment ignored were traditional rivalries, much to the hurt of the game. As NBC's Rob Dauster put it, "Ask any UConn fan if they care about watching their team play the likes of Tulsa, East Carolina or Tulane and you’ll get laughed at."

Here is hoping this happens. It would be good for the game.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Can't plead lack of talent

If we do not do well this season, Walker & Co. cannot claim that they did not have enough talent on the roster. Monyyong, Palermo and Lottie were all 3-stars, and Nowell was 3 1/2 star. By that measuring stick, the most talent we have ever had.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Bring back the little guys

The College World Series is a lot more interesting when you have some of the non-power conference schools involved. This year was boring. Not even Cal State Fullerton was in the mix. Almost always there are one or two of the little guys involved, which adds some spice to the event.

Friday, June 21, 2019


Yes, we do have a player who is listed on the roster as a center. That has not happened many times in the last generation (only two that I can remember). Unless we are playing smallball, the candidates for playing time here are Admir Besovic, Ruot Monyyong and Nikola Maric. Kris Bankston could see a little time here in a pinch.

Maric averaged 24.4 minutes per game last season, so logic would say that he has the inside track for the starter's minutes. And, they were quality minutes. He averaged 10.7 ppg and 4.8 rpg. He shot 51.7% overall and 42.9% from the arc in limited attempts. Not bad numbers for a true freshman, with room for improvement.

Monyyong averaged 16.1 ppg and 10.4 rpg in juco. He shot 53.1% overall and 30.8% from the arc. Perhaps most importantly, he had 90 blocks on the season.

Besovic averaged 11.1 ppg and 5.9 rpg in juco, with 33 blocks. He has had limited D1 experience at Montana in his freshman season.

This is the most height we have had on the roster during my tenure as a fan. We will see if Walker knows how to use it.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Power forward

This is the position that really has me excited for this season. Kamani Johnson, Kris Bankston, Nikola Maric, Ruot Monyyong. That is a lot of talent available for the power forward slot. Maric played the 5 last season and may again this year. However, if Monyyong and Besovic pan out in the low block, that might free up Maric to slide over. In any case, the competition for playing time ought to be fierce, and that is a very good thing.

I assume that this spot is Bankston's to lose after the eye-popping season he had. However, it is one he could easily lose if he does not crank his game up a notch. He was not nearly aggressive enough offensively, and ought to be a much better rebounder than he was. What he did well he did superlatively well, but there are some glaring weaknesses in his game that will have to be shored up if he is to keep his spot.

Johnson is potentially that go-to rebounder that we need so badly. He was considerably better in rebounds per minute than Tucker, Maric or Bankston. Plus he was the leading offensive rebounder on the team, even with considerably fewer minutes played than the other principal board men. Plus, Kamani shot a high percentage (55.2%). His upside is very good.

However things work out, I figure the two best big men will be in the two inside spots. Considering the seasons that the three returners had, if Monyyong ends up being one of them, that would be huge for this team.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Small forward

The 3 spot is the most nebulous of the starters. What it usually amounts to is the perimeter player who is the worst ball handler and best rebounder. Big Guard might be more descriptive than Small Forward.

One of Walker's stated goals in this recruiting season was that he was going after tall guards, and to his credit he got the job done. Evans, Lukic and Stulic are all listed at 6-6. Throw in Horace Wyatt at 6-7, and that is a pretty good crop. BUT there is very little experience among them. Wyatt started 17 games, but played only 263 minutes, and his statistical contribution was negligible. With the wealth of size we have, we might see Kamani Johnson sliding over to the 3 to create a mismatch, with two big guys up front.

However, I am going to take a stab in the dark and say that Isaiah Palermo will be our starting SF, at least by the end of the season. He is a 3-star recruit who had ten other D1 schools watching him, and offers from Ole Miss and MTSU. VC lists the 3 spot as his natural position. His video shows him to be a slasher more than a shooter.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Shooting guard

This position probably has more question marks than any other. Pippins and Lottie both slid over to the 2 spot at times last season and are always available there. And Pippins shot 39.3% from the arc last year, which was third on the team.

Jovan Stulic, Alsean Evans, Isaiah Palermo and Marko Lukic could also get a look at that position. Evans shot 33% from the arc last season at Polk State College. Stulic comes advertised as a pure shooter. Palermo is a 3-star recruit, although Verbal Commits says his more natural position is the 3 spot.

In any case, that makes six candidates for the spot, and surely we can find someone who can fill the bill out of that many. However, the 2 spot is usually one that you count on for scoring, and when there is a big question mark by that spot, that means there are some things that will have to be worked out.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Am I the only one?

Am I the only person who felt like the overriding purpose for this team last year was to get Rajon Tucker a shot at moving up to a big-time program or the pros? We have got to get back from being Tucker's Supporting Cast to being Little Rock's Team. That is Walker's first job in the off-season. Read the Riot Act.

Point guard

You can never have too many point guards, but it appears that we are in good shape at this critical position. First off, Nowell averaged 30 minutes per game last season, and you figure he will log at least that this year. And if he is in there he likely will be playing point because he is too short to play anything else effectively. So that only leaves ten minutes to account for among the other points.

Ryan Pippins and Jaizec Lottie are both veterans who are able to play effective point, even if that might not be considered their primary position. And walk-on Terrell Curtis is always there if needed, with a season under his belt in the system. And who knows if one of the newcomers might be able to play a little point guard if needed. Probably Lottie will be the primary back-up.

The problem is that none of our point guards last season put up acceptable numbers. You want your main point guard to have at least a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio. Lottie was the best of the main three at 1.56. That is not awful for your back-up point. The problem is that our starting point guard had only a 1.24 ratio, which is not at all acceptable, even for a true freshman. A point guard just ought to take better care of the ball than that. His problem was not on the assist end of the ratio. He just had way too many turnovers.

Nowell's strength seems to be his weakness. He is fearless. However, there are times when discretion is the better part of valor, and he needs to learn that. A point guard's ultimate statistic is always the win column. His job is to make the team better - as a whole. Markquis obviously has a long way to go to play point for even a mediocre team. He won't get there by trying to BE the show. He has to run the show, and make the show run right.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Bird's eye view of the team

So, just stepping back to look at next year's team, what do we see? The first looming question mark is Darrell Walker. Can he coach? Is he willing to coach (as in crack the whip)? I saw little sign of that last season, but it was his first in D1, and people do learn, so we shall see.

The front line of this team ought to be its strength. More size than this program has ever had. And we know that even though they are not as well-rounded as they need to be, Maric and Bankston do a few things superlatively well. Throw in Johnson, Besovic and Monyyong, and we look to be in very good shape. There is no reason that our big guys should not be among the better crews in the conference. Now, whether or not Walker will use them for anything other than setting screens remains to be seen.

On the perimeter we are to some degree starting over. Everything else on the team took second fiddle to the Rayjon Tucker Lose Twenty-one Games Show last season, so it is hard to say how well we will be a basketball team once again. We know what Nowell can do. Pippins and Lottie are veterans. The leadership is there. But none of those so far has been the sort of knock-down shooter that you have to have in the 3-point era. Maybe one of the new guys will fill that bill. Stulic comes billed as a shooter.

And will we play defense? And will we rebound?

Saturday, June 15, 2019

We will learn much about Bennett

Last season was the storybook run for Tony Bennett and the Virginia Cavaliers. Everything came together at the right time. But three of the main pieces from that group left, and the Hoos are heavily into the rebuilding mode. This season will test Bennett's mettle as a coach. Will they slide back some? Undoubtedly. Will they crash? Not much chance of that with Bennett at the helm.

Friday, June 14, 2019

One of your more interesting transfers

Loyola Maryland's Patrick Spencer is the nation's top lacrosse player. He will be transferring. To Northwestern. To play basketball. All I can figure is that he got bored with lacrosse.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Jimmy Demaret - how soon we forget

My wife and I recently watched an old episode of I Love Lucy in which golfer Jimmy Demaret was a guest star. I had forgotten about him. But Demaret was a 3-time winner of the Masters, and won 31 PGA tour events. I am not exactly a golf historian, but I should have remembered someone who won the Masters three times.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Transfers - what you might be getting

Coaches need to consider what they may be getting when they sign a transfer. The reasons may be completely legitimate.  Life situations do occur. On the other hand, when you take on a transfer, the odds are reasonably good that what you are getting is not a team player, but a whiner or a self-centered opportunist. Be careful.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Lou Gehrig's amazing run

From 1927 to 1931, Lou Gehrig drove in 803 runs. That is an average of 160 per season. In 1929, his "down" year in that stretch, he drove in "only" 125. That "down" year would have placed second in the major leagues this past season. Only 17 times in major league history has anyone else driven in as many runs as he averaged over that stretch. Only one player since WWII has driven in that many runs in a single season.

Let me say that again, and you think about it. Only once in the last 80 years has any player driven in as many runs in a single season as Gehrig averaged over that five-year stretch. And, of course, there were four other seasons not in that stretch when he drove in 150 or more runs.

Let's make that number even more amazing. In 1961 and 1962 the two major leagues expanded their schedule to 162 games per regular season. When Gehrig played, the regular season was 154 games, so for the last 56 seasons major league players have had an extra eight games per season to take a crack at Gehrig's numbers. Let's go even further. Do you know who batted in front of  Gehrig in the line-up all those seasons? Babe Ruth. He drove in 780 runners over that stretch himself, so that left a lot less opportunities for Gehrig to do it.

Monday, June 10, 2019

We will be considerably better, or else

I think you can mark it down that we will be significantly improved this next season or Coach will be looking for a job. And that is the way it should be. Walker did not do much with the talent he had.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

He loves his Huskers

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has stated publicly that he loves his Nebraska Cornhuskers - especially the volleyball team. He did not attend the University and is not from there, but his wife is.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Today's centers get a bum rap

Are the big men of today as good as those of the 1960s? Perhaps so, but they will never get a chance to prove it. Their role has changed so drastically that they are now the bit players of basketball. The first option used to be to toss the ball inside to the center; now that is about the last option.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The ultimate taunt at the umpire

Multiple Emmy-winning and double Oscar-nominated Oscar was able to get the consummate dig at an empire. His right eye was surgically removed when he was three years old because of retinoblastoma. Despite this, he participated in sports, especially baseball and basketball. According to Falk, "I remember once in high school the umpire called me out at third base when I was sure I was safe. I got so mad I took out my glass eye, handed it to him and said, 'Try this.' I got such a laugh you wouldn't believe."

Given the problems in depth perception that is caused by losing an eye, it is amazing that he was able to play baseball at all.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The job of defense

What is the defense supposed to do? Force turnovers, for sure. Keep the opposition from taking shots, certainly. But the less visible aspect of defense, because it is less spectacular, is that the defense is there to make sure the opposition always takes a bad shot. Always. Never give up a good shot.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Where is the most upside

Where does this team have the most potential to improve? Interesting question. The answer that jumps out is among the big men. We have two players 6-11 or over who are entering the D1 fray for the first time (if you don't count Besovic's 31 minutes at Montana). Another of our promising big guys (Maric) is only a sophomore. So you have to figure there is a lot of room for improvement there - IF Walker will use the big men. Monyyong is rough, but he looks like he might be a real talent.

The other place where we might get a real jump up is with our sophomores. Markquis was good, but I personally think he can be a lot better than he was, especially now with the distraction of Tucker being gone. Maric was good, but there were some glaring rough spots in his game. There is no reason that he cannot be dominant in the SBC, and he is not there yet. I think we only scratched the potential of Johnson and Wyatt.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Headed the way of the offensive line

Thanks to the direction the game is headed because of the three-point shot, big men are becoming the offensive linemen of basketball. You remember offensive linemen, don't you? You do remember them. Can you name more than one? They are the Anonymous Many, the guys who do the work but who don't get credit for anything. Why would anyone want to be one?

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Reversing the trend?

CBS has an article noting that college basketball is losing more players every year to the NBA, and wondering if the NCAA can reverse the trend. I don't know that we really want to reverse the trend. The problem is not players not playing college ball, but the disruption that is caused for college programs by the constant movement of players in and out of the program.

If a player is ready for the NBA out of high school, let him go. If economic factors force him to go to Europe out of high school, more power to him. But college basketball is a separate entity from the NBA. Pro players are employees. College players are students. There IS a difference. If the players don't want to be students, don't make them. But if they want to go to school, and the schools are going to shell out a tremendous amount of money in scholarships, etc., then there needs to be some commitment from the players to the school. Obviously, they cannot be forced to stay, but if the leave, then there needs to be a significant penalty regarding any future college play.

I agree that we need to stop the trend of players leaving college basketball. My point is that a lot of those players ought not to have been in college to begin with, for any of several reasons. We have forced a situation that ought not to be, and like any such, it has had a disruptive effect.