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

Sunday, July 14, 2019

How the mighty has fallen!

Remember when Dennis Felton was riding high? WKU was dominating the Belt and had had three straight years of at least 24 wins, going to the NCAA each season. He parlayed that success into a job at Georgia, but the best he could do there was a .480 winning percentage and a single trip to the Dance. But, he landed on his feet and got a gig at Cleveland State. His record there was 22-44, and he was just let go by the Vikings. College basketball is a brutal way to make a living.

It does not make much sense that Cleveland State waited until this point in the summer to fire Felton, but the timing of move and the wording of the statement would lead one to believe there was something involved other than just wins and losses.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Want to find the best coach?

Here is a test to find the man who is the best at coaching basketball. Just give him a roster with nothing on it but 3-star prospects - players with talent, but not overwhelming talent. That way he has someone to teach, but he still has to teach. He doesn't just win on recruiting. Does anyone really think Sleezipari would win that contest?

Friday, July 12, 2019

Recruiting in the Big Apple

"But he does have a track record of consistently solid teams and coaches an uptempo style that could make up for his lack of established recruiting connections."

Thus says Sports Illustrated in their preview of Mike Anderson and St. John's and the Big East. Isn't that about what we have been saying since the Nolan Richardson days? His style doesn't have to have a lot of great basketball players - just good athletes. And those are a lot easier to recruit.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

For my birthday

I have a birthday coming up in a few weeks. What would I like? Just give me one honest-to-goodness back-to-the-basket post-up blue-collar hard-nosed look-inside-first in-your-face I'm-going-to-slam-it-and-you-can't-stop-me type big man. Anywhere. He doesn't have to be in Little Rock, just anywhere in the country. Give me some basketball like it used to be when men were men and weren't afraid of getting their hands dirty and butting heads down low, instead of launching don't-touch-me 3-pointers, and then flopping like they do now.

I would think that would be a strategic advantage, since one hardly ever sees those any more and consequently probably does not know how to defend them.

That is not too much to ask for an old man's birthday, is it?

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Lottie is a point

Jaizec Lottie is NOT a shooting guard. His career shooting percentage from the 3-point line is 28%. However, since both he and Markquis Nowell averaged 30 minutes per game last season, it stands to reason that they were on the court together a good bit of the time. I wonder how much that will happen this year. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a double-point set-up some of the time. It gives you a distinct advantage in some aspects of the game. However, Walker went to great lengths to increase the height of his perimeter players and brought in three 6-6 players who are listed as shooting guards. So, why go to that trouble if they are going to sit on the bench, because that takes away an advantage he was working hard to achieve? In short, it certainly looks like the minutes of either Nowell or Lottie are going to decrease this season - either that or DW wasted some of his recruiting efforts.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

All 3-star starters?

Nowell, Lottie, Palermo, Coupet, Monyyong. How about that for a starting line-up made up of (at least) 3-stars? Have we ever had that before? If we under-achieve next year it is going to be glaring.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Juwan Howard

Michigan's hiring of Juwan Howard as head coach made even less sense than our hiring of Darrell Walker. Howard had never been a head coach at any level and had never worked in the college game, that I can find.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Wouldn't it be refreshing?

The scene is a press conference at a school that is not Duke or NC or Kansas or anyone close to them. The young man at the microphone is a 5-star prospect. "I am here because I have been a Tiger (or whatever) fan all my life, and here is where I have always wanted to play. I realize their program is not a national powerhouse right now, but we are going to see what we can do to change that. But it doesn't matter, because here is where I want to play. Go Tigers!"

We are not likely to see that in these days of "grab the money and run."

Thursday, July 4, 2019

NBC asks an interesting question

After all the upheaval at UCLA, Mick Cronin moved there from Cincinnati. Here is what NBC had to say about that move:

But what makes UCLA’s decision to hire him to replace Steve Alford such an interesting storyline is that he is the polar opposite of the kind of coach that you would think the flagship program in Southern California would need to hire. Cronin is tough, he’s no-nonsense, he’s intense and he preaches a brand of basketball that resembles rugby more than it does the pace-and-space era. He’s Ben Howland, only shorter and angrier, and Howland was run out of Westwood despite reaching three Final Four in ten years and winning the Pac-12 the year that he was fired.

Should be fun to watch. Who will win this stylistic battle? Will Cronin win ballgames and play his own style regardless and force the LA crowd to accept it? Or will he eventually wilt before the cultural shock? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Good recruiter, bad coach?

I hope we have not gotten into one of these situations where we have a good recruiter but a mediocre coach. Basketball has a lot of those. They are masters at the glitz and glamor side of the game, but they do not know how to discipline players (or are unwilling to) and are not good at teaching the game. Obviously, the clock is still running with Walker; time will tell, and one season is not enough of a track record to get an answer. We do have about as much on-paper talent as we have had in my tenure as a fan. Now we have to see if Coach can coach.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Will moving the line help?

I am doubtful that moving back the 3-point line will help much in bringing about better shooting. The players are accustomed to blasting away from there, and a little lower shooting percentage is not going to deter them much. If there is any shooting discipline as a result of moving the line, it will have to be because coaches enforce it. Besides, shooters could do pretty well even from halfcourt if they shot from there all the time, such as is the case with the 3-point line. Muscle memory can be an amazing thing.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Get out the wet wipes

Having lost in all five attempts against other Arkansas schools last season, we have a long row to hoe just to get back to the Acceptable mark, let alone Exciting. What had been unthinkable happened, believe it or not - and at times I still cannot believe it. We were just really, really bad. We have a lot of egg on our faces, and it will take a lot of wiping to get it off.