Tuesday, December 31, 2019

That is what got us in this mess

This quote from The Athletic's Seth Davis: "It is concerning, but not particularly surprising, that scoring is down this season." 

Why is that "concerning"? If it is "bad" for scoring to go down, then just make major rule changes that make scoring easier and defense more difficult. Fix it where 100-point games happen all the time. Good grief! That attitude is what got us into our present mess. Keep tinkering with the game until you totally ruin it.

Monday, December 30, 2019

When rivalries aren't quite rivalries

For a rivalry actually to be a rivalry, there has to be a burning desire in each team to beat the other. If one of the team's hasn't beaten the other in a decade, it is difficult for that desire to be there. Georgetown and American fit that bill. They are both from Washington, DC, and there is not a long list of schools in the District to play. So it is a natural opponent for Georgetown, if not a particularly inspiring one. It is one of those games for which you have to prepare seriously because it would be very embarrassing to lose so them, but not one that you fear very much. The two teams have played 54 times, and the Hoyas have won 46 of those.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Is DW a good coach?

A good coach makes his players better, from season to season, and within seasons. Granted there are other things that coaches have to do, but that is perhaps the most important. Now that we are heading into the conference season, we shall see if Darrell Walker continues to mold this team into what it ought to be. I like what we have seen thus far. Will it continue?

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Mr. Offensive, Mr. Defensive

We have an interesting statistical abnormality this season. Looking at the SBC stats, Kamani Johnson is 2nd in offensive boards per game, and Ruot Monyyong is tied for first in defensive rebounds per game. Usually if you have a strong rebounder he will be toward the top in both. (Monyyong is tied for 7th in offensive rebounds.)  I have heard of "designated rebounders," but never "designated offensive rebounders."

Friday, December 27, 2019

Why isn't Gonzaga respected?

I mark it down to big-conference arrogance, but even with that, why doesn't Gonzaga get much respect from the average fan? It could be because the average fan doesn't even start thinking about basketball until after the Super Bowl, and by then Gonzaga is already into their conference schedule, which is admittedly not as tough as the power conferences. Maybe their games don't get watched on TV as much because they are on the west coast.

Right now the WCC is ranked #9 by Sagarin. Not bad, but not impressive when you are talking about the elite in the game. Only three other WCC schools are ranked in the top 100 teams. And that is a problem for Gonzaga in obtaining respect.

But when it becomes Dance time, conference rankings go out the window. Granted they have not (yet) had a national championship. But in the past five seasons, the Zags have been the Runner-up once, Elite Eight twice, and Sweet 16 twice. How many teams in the country have been as consistent over that period? Duke did not make it out of the Round of 32 in 2017. Ditto North Carolina in 2018. Ditto Kentucky in 2016. Ditto Kansas - twice. Ditto Villanova - thrice. UCLA's recent troubles are well documented, ditto Indiana, ditto UConn. Louisville did not even make the tournament in 2016 and 2018.

The bottom line is that of the ten programs with the most NCAA championships, NONE of them has been as consistent as Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament over the last five seasons. So why doesn't Gonzaga get respect from the average fan?

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Wish list for 2020

#1. Obviously, get the entire roster healthy and on the court in time to get integrated so that they can make a difference.

#2. Control turnovers. I am beginning to doubt that this will happen as long as Nowell has the ball in his hands as much as he does, but it certainly needs to happen. Empty possessions do not produce points.

#3. Better perimeter defense. Opponents are shooting 35.7% from the arc against us, and are taking a lot more shots from there than we do. So they are shooting more and enjoying it more. I have no problem with their taking bad shots from there, but they evidently are taking good shots.

If we could get those three things, life would be rosey in Little Rock.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

We got to follow them all

According to Wikipedia, Porter Moser now has 254 wins as a head coach. That puts him over halfway to the 500 wins mark, and there are not many active coaches with that many. The nice thing is that we presumably will have been able to follow his entire career (if we live long enough) and say, "We were there when it started." We got to see them all. The same is true for Chris Beard, although he is a little behind Porter's pace for the moment.

Won't it be nice fifteen or twenty years from now when the two of them are moving into the "senior" category of coaches, and we can look back on their careers and know that they got their start with us, in little old Little Rock. I hope they remember their roots.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Big guys, go to a big guy coach

Omer Yurtseven transferred from NC State to Georgetown. He averaged 13.5 ppg and 6.7 rpg. Then he transferred to Georgetown, and had to give up his junior season in order to do it.

What did he get in exchange? He got an honest-to-goodness big man coach, who likes big men and knows how to use big men and is a (very) big man himself, that being Patrick Ewing. So this season he is averaging 18.3 ppg and 10.3 rpg, with 24 blocks to boot, and shooting 58.6% from the field. And he has attempted only 6 three-pointers all season. (He made one.)

If you are brain surgeon, go take lessons from a good brain surgeon. If you are a big man, go play for a coach who actually knows how to coach big men and who actually cares about big men. They are pretty rare these days.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Jump on the Rutgers bandwagon

When you think of Rutgers, you don't think of championships, because they have not had many of them, at any level. Certainly not in basketball. They have been to the Final Four once, in 1976. They have been to the round of 32 only four times, most recently 1983. They had had 13 straight losing seasons. Not the stuff of legends.

However, before the 2016-17 season, they hired Steve Pikiell from Stony Brook, and although the progress has been slow, there has been steady progress. Last season they won 7 Big Ten games, the most since they entered the league in the 2014-15 season. So far this year they are 9-3, and have split their two league contests so far.

Pikiell's teams are known for strong defense and toughness, qualities that effort can provide even when talent might be sub-par. It is unlikely they will make their way into the top half of the Big Ten this season, but they are moving in the right direction. It is nice to see teams who work their way to success instead of buying their way. I'll take blue color over blue blood every day.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Bring Back the Dunk!

I know I am Old School (and not ashamed of it). I know I am reactionary (ditto). Sometimes I am even very illogical. But if college basketball is wanting to compete in the shrinking market for fans in the stands, it needs to tweak the rules to emphasize dunking.

Remember Doctor J? Julius Erving. Taking off from the free throw line, hanging in the air seemingly forever until he finally swooped down with a thunderous, crashing slam? Remember when the big guys ruled the roost, slamming home dunks with regularity? Then the crowd would explode, folks jumping up and slapping one another on the back. Ah, those were the good old days. Now we get to sit around waiting for someone to (yawn) shoot a three-point shot.

Obviously, the game has changed, but it has not changed in a way that makes it more exciting. The Game Fathers have operated the last few years under the assumption that more points means more excitement. But the main thing they have done to accomplish that is to award more points per event (3PT shot), and the event they awarded is a less-exciting event.

Let's do some sort of a fix that brings back the dunk, all the time, in every game, big guys muscling into the lane and powering home a hammerslam. I don't know if that will bring back fans, because electronic media probably has stolen them permanently, but at least now Junior will say to Dad, "Let's go down to the arena and see how many dunks they get," instead of "Let's go count the number of three-pointers" (which they could do during warmups with about the same amount of excitement).

Tweak the rules so that the dunk comes back to prominence, and at least make the games more exciting for the fans who do show up.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Virginia's D must be good

Virginia's offense this season has been bad. Really bad. They are shooting an anemic 39.5% overall and 25.4% from the arc. They have one players averaging double figures. Those are numbers usually reserved for the bottom tier of D1 teams. But no, those are stats for the #9 team in the country. Thus, it does not take a Sherlock Holmes to deduce that, if their offense is that awful, then their defense must be pretty good.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Basketball historians?

When I was a kid, I could quote statistics from all sorts of sports figures from the generations before mine. And I was not alone in that. I wonder how many kids today are sports historians? Of course, they have a lot more history to learn than I did. But I suspect they have little appreciation for the old timers because they do not read about the old timers.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

"We're Number Two! We're Number Two!"

"We're Number One!" That used to be the chant that teams would use to celebrate being Top Dog. But the way #1 teams have been losing this season, maybe they ought to change the cheer to try to avoid being a target. A few years back there was a supposed jinx that came with being on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Maybe we have a new jinx.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

When your Coach could do this

Patrick Ewing was good. One of the best centers to play the game. And there was nothing at all fancy about him. It was power, power, power. He may not be as agile nor durable now - but he is still that big, and in fact a little bigger around the girth.

So, if I were the Georgetown powers that be, I would have this little film clip running constantly in the locker room.


Sunday, December 15, 2019

Classic addition by subtraction

Thee games ago the Georgetown Hoyas lost to Greensboro, and their season hit a new low. Then two of their top players left the team after an ugly off-court incident, with two other players having a cloud over them. Those other two players left before last night's game.

So what do the Hoyas do in that three-game stretch, when they were down two, and then four, of their roster? All they did was to win at Oklahoma State, at SMU and home against Syracuse. None of those teams were ranked, but OSU is now 7-2, SMU is now 8-1, and Syracuse is a traditional rival from their old Big East days, who happen to have a Hall of Fame coach.

So you lose four players, and you go 3-0? How do you do that? Well . . . Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who had nothing to lose (except a chance at some transfer players he didn't want anyway), summed it up: "They got rid of a guy that wouldn’t pass the ball to anybody and just shot it every time. That’s why they’re good now." Unusual candor for a coach, but probably right.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Great quote about recruiting at second-tier schools

(Seton Hall Coach Kevin Willard): "The biggest thing is making sure you find your type of guys. It's more about getting guys that fit your personality and the way you want to play versus what your fans want or what people say about four-star kids. It's the reality of recruiting at a place like Seton Hall or Rutgers - you've got to find your type of kid, and you can win with that."

Friday, December 13, 2019

Million dollar move, ten cent finish

This phrase is not original with me. I heard it from a TV commentator, but I thought it was very apt. Basketball is infected with this disease currently. Look good, look good, don't worry about being good. Make a great move to the basket; don't worry about whether or not you make the shot. It will look good on TV.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Rooting for Mick Cronin

I am rooting for Coach Cronin to do well at UCLA. Mainly because I like his style of blue-collar basketball, but also because college basketball needs UCLA to be good. They are the wheel-horse on the west coast, and it has been obvious that no one is going to step up and replace them since they have fallen on hard times. Gonzaga has tried, but they have yet to win their first championship. Arizona has won some, but they are not exactly west coast. We need an anchor in the west.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

What Virginia does to people in Moser-speak

Going all the way back to Porter Moser, Little Rock fans remember the motto: "Pass up a good shot for a better shot." We complained about it some: if they give you a good shot, why not take a good shot?

Vermont's Anthony Lamb is one of the best players to have faced the Wahoo's defense this season. He said teams drive themselves crazy waiting for a better shot - and then get lazy and resort to 24-footers. In other words, that "better shot" they were taught to wait for rarely comes.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Good on the boards

One of DW's main off-season emphases was to get more size on this team, which he was very successful in doing. And at least in the rebounding stat it has paid off. We are second in the SBC in rebounding margin, just barely behind Coastal. We lead the league in the percentage of defensive rebounds we get, and are third on offensive rebounds. And all that has been with two of our main big men out for at least much of the season so far.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Infectious Smile Award

This trophy goes to the Sacramento Kings' Kyle Guy. I'm sorry, but he looks like he is about 16 years old, or maybe even younger than that. And it seems like he is smiling all the time. Sort of gets under your skin.

Image result for kyle guy

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Krutwig still at it

We all remember Loyola's storybook run to the Final Four. Remember the big kid in the middle who was far from athletic, but who just got the job done? Kyle Krutwig. Well, he is still big, and he is still getting the job, and he still is not athletic.

Krutwig is 6-9, 255#. He is not going to lead your fast breaks. However, he leads the team in scoring at 16.7 ppg and pulls down 7.1 boards per game. He shoots 65% from the field and hits 88% of his attempts from the line. And what is really amazing for a big man, he has 42 assists against only 26 turnovers. No, he is not one of your five-star players who can leap out of the gym and who gets on Sports Center regularly. But I assure you that virtually every coach in the country would love to have him right now.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Has to be defense for Irvin

Second-year Chicago State coach Lance Irvin had been happy with the offense coming from new juco transfer Xavier Johnson, but . . .

"You have to be able to guard, and I'm not really happy until you guard."

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Go Cougars!

Chicago State beat Edwardsville 89-81 for their first D1 win of the season and their first D1 road win in three years.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Pack Line Pledge

Virginia runs the Pack Line defense, which at least so far this year has been stifling. Hoos fans are so bought into defense that they have a charitable function called the Pack Line Pledge:

For those of you who don’t remember, for every Pack Line Pledge game — that is, for every game that the Cavaliers hold their opponents to under 55 — Pack Line Pledge participants will donate a set amount to the One Love Foundation in honor of Yeardley Love. The better the Hoos’ defense over the course of the year, the more money gets donated towards raising awareness of relationship violence.

In case you are wondering, Virginia has missed the Pledge mark only once, and then only by a point. They beat Vermont 61-55.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Three questions

When you go to hire a coach, there are three questions to which you must have answers.

1. Is he a good basketball teacher? Can he convey to the players the right way to play the game?

2. Will he enforce discipline, on and off the court?

3. Can he identify a first-class recruiter to put among his assistants?

Fine someone who gets a "yes" answer to all three, and you have a good coach.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Turn Coupet loose

On a team that is distinctively challenged from the 3-point line, we have only two players at present shooting well enough to have anything approaching the Green Light from the coach: Nowell and Coupet. Nowell evidently has had the go-ahead to shoot any time from any where since the first time he stepped inside the Little Rock city limits. At the moment Coupet is 13 of 29 for 44.8%. Granted that that is a fairly limited sample of attempts, but it is second-most on the team.

Ben Coupet is 6-7, which means he is tall enough to shoot over most of the perimeter players who will be guarding him. Nowell, obviously, is not. I hope that Walker is encouraging Coupet to cut loose when he has a shot from outside, because right now we do not have many options.