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.