Congratulations to colominer on winning the Haskins Award 2013-14 Basketball Official Prediction Thread Championship.
Welcome to the new Den.
The previous version of the Den was old and had become a problem with being able to make needed updates. I had been dreading the day I would have to make the change, but it is done. I will be working on getting settled in for some time, and I appreciate all of those who have already made the move. Members of the old Den will need to re-register, including creating a username and password. Old ones will not work. If you are a guest who has never been a member, and are a UTEP Miners fan, please jump in with your two cents.
March 15, 2014, 10:24:45 AM by kyyote | Views: 862 | Comments: 38
When it comes to basketball one player, one star player can take a team from obscurity to legend. If any team can get one of those special players they can automatically become a contender for a national championship. I am going to refer to those players as Stars. It doesn't matter whether the player plays in a top tier league or a low mid major conference. In their league, this is the standout player. Within that group is a subgroup I will call Superstars. Think Bird at Indiana State, Barkley at Auburn, Shaq, you get the idea. The mid majors Stars usually play professionally and the Superstars get to the NBA.
I listened to an analyst this morning say that the Kentucky team is a team of future NBA players. They aren't nearly as good a team as they should be considering the talent. They can be beat by a team that plays well together with a couple of Stars or a Superstar. VCU, Butler and the Shockers are perfect examples. In basketball, one player can make all the difference in the world.
For the top teams, Stars pile up. The rich are so rich that the poor have a feast with their table scraps. Derrick Caracter. At the mid major level coaches work to land Stars. Superstars are out of reach, or stolen. But sometimes the difference between a good player a Star and a Superstar is a matter of coaching.
I say we just need a Star or two here at UTEP. Tim Floyd has the ability to land Stars and create Stars. He can take a really good player and make a Star player out of him, and he can take a Star and turn him into a Superstar. Players know it and that is why he is able to compete with the big boys in recruiting wars. Fans know it and that is why we watch and wait. I think it is safe to say that we are getting impatient, which is natural. Take heart. I think we may have been so concerned with the forest that we haven't paid enough attention to the trees. The team was dealt a blow when Hamilton backed out. The team was dealt a blow when it lost three players. The team pulled together. This season we were all watching the team closely, so closely that I think we may have lost sight of the players. We are all so disappointed that a team we had come to love, a team that seemed to have overcome all of the obstacles placed before it and was coming home to play in The Don and lost that we may not be seeing what we have.
Julian Washburn is either a Star or is flirting with it and we forget that his best ball awaits him-and us-in 2014-15. Vince Hunter was the conference Freshman of the Year. He is poised to be a Star. So, next year the Miners will have two players that may just be Stars. Remember that a Star can make a huge difference, and a couple of them can be a ticket to success. Cooper will be steady, but playing at his natural position could be the difference from him being solid and flirting with Stardom. But, I think one of the trees we have not really paid enough attention to is Matt Wilms. He was not at full strength, and he was a freshman. The chance he becomes a Star is about as big as he is himself.
So as the season has come to a close and we wait to see if we play post season ball I see Tim Floyd beginning to pile up the Stars. I see next year starting the season with the Star or two we need already here. I see Hunter and Wilms being the Stars and the two will only be sophomores. The fact is, this team is going to be really fun to watch develop. I think Matt Wilms caused us to forget that Hooper Vint is just a kid. The Mexican food here in El Paso will put some meat on those bones, and that kid is a baller. He just doesn't have heft to bang the way he did in high school. But the kid isn't just tall. He has skills.
So, let's enjoy whatever basketball the team has yet to play this next week or so, and let's all keep up with the recruiting battles taking place, but let's not lose sight of the fact that in a world were "Wait until next year" is the mantra of the faithful, I am looking forward to next year already, and we haven't even finished this one.
February 16, 2014, 11:47:52 AM by kyyote | Views: 352 | Comments: 4
Looking at the rpi this morning, I found that Southern Miss, even with the loss at MTU, still has an rpi of 44. Losing to Middle Tennessee, at their place didn't hurt them much at all, and the win gave MTU an RPI of 74. Meanwhile, LA Tech continues to win, blowing Rice out like a Sumo wrestler after an E-lax chocolate shake enema, giving them an RPI of 78. UTEP's win Saturday night got the Miners' RPI back under 100, but barely at 98.
There are still a lot of games to be played before the end of the regular season, but at this point let's just say for arguments' sake that S. Miss. is able to stay in the low 40's in RPI and makes it to the championship game of the tournament before losing, I would say that they have made a case for an at large bid. Perhaps losing to one of the teams mentioned above would be the only way the loss wouldn't kill their chances. Then there's the natural sucking vortex created by the team from Tulsa. This is probably the one team in C-USA that figures the conference sucks and they really should be gone-and they will be. Trust me, nothing would make those fine folks feel better than to give each of the conference leaders a gut punch back to reality. Take notice of what they just did to Rice.
Like I said, there are really too many games, and too many chances for all of this to change to spend too much time with it yet.
One more thing I found looking at the RPI stats, and this one is troubling if you are a Miners fan. There is one stat that gives team's RPI for neutral and away games. Yeah, Buddy, let's see how the team does when they don't have that home cooking. Starting with Southern Miss, their RPI of 44 falls to 87 when they have to pack a bag. How about Middle Tennessee and LA Tech? They go from 74 and 78 to 104 and 85, respectively. Yes, but what about they Miners!?, you say. Ah, our Miners go from 98 at home to an RPI of 53 when we take our game on the road. Well, that would be really cool if the conference tournament wasn't being played in El Paso, this year. But, once again, like Kobayashi an hour after ten minutes of competition eating of maggot riddled road kill, I have to bring up Tulsa. Their RPI is 119 at home and 124 on the road.
So, there is a chunk of fat to chew on while we wait for our trip to The Big Easy.
February 05, 2014, 03:15:08 PM by kyyote | Views: 624 | Comments: 16
The National Championship has been played, the Super Bowl crowned another champion and with that game the 2013-2014 football season came to an end. Yet, even though the couch still smolders in Seattle and the Seminoles have barely stopped chopping, the 3014-2015 football season has officially begun. The National Signing Day signals the coaches have returned from town with seed for this season's crops. It is still too cold and the ground is still frozen in many places so the actual plowing and planting is yet to come.
But, I am going to take this day to get started right up with the players and coaches and get the conversation started about this year's Miners football team. To talk about this year's team we have to go back to last year's team. For perhaps everyone except the coaches, last season was a head scratcher.
Most Miners fans felt like the team would win a minimum of four games and winning six games didn't seem completely unrealistic. What happened shocked most fans. Dozens of players left the team, either as their choice or the coaches. In the switch from one coach to another 25% of our kids, our young men, our players were gone, we were told they were up to our standards to even be on the team. Then there were those that were at least decent people but not talented enough to play at this level. That, and a little trouble keeping brand spankin' newly hired coaches from throwing their boss and new team under the bus. A commitment to employers and the young men that have given their words of honor and blood sweat and tears to learn from you doesn't seem to mean much to a coach given a chance to make some more money. And we let 25% of our players go because we thought they were too low rent for our new coaches? O.K.. But, that is the subject for another time.
When the season ended we had some answers and some questions. For answers, we knew that Sean Kugler chose to force the change on the players rather than adjust his philosophy to suit his players. We knew that he had changed the tone. We knew those things and each of us probably have our own thoughts on these and other things we may have learned. As for the questions, many still remain. So, as we begin the new season, with our second group of recruits we may have some hints that might help answer some questions. After years of watching anxiously to see which three star skill players would be able to ad their explosive play to the Miners explosive offense, some of us are somewhat stunned to have seen Coach Kugler literally pile up linemen on both sides of the ball by the ton.
Having spent so many years watching the Miners get humiliated by the Wacky WAC it was more than just fun to see us put up big numbers under Coach Price. It was spiced up with a dash of revenge-even though most of the real culprits had already moved on to the MWC. Then last year we ground gamed ourselves to a grinding halt. And our defense which under CMP had been let's say flexible to be kind under Kugler was just flat out inexplicable. Well, It was confusing, frustrating, maddening, and while we are at it, let's have the entire campus under construction. It will be very interesting to see just how much damage last season will have done to season ticket sales for the upcoming season. There is no stopping progress, but it can be messy.
When I began, I mentioned the Super Bowl. It was supposed to be the classic match-up between the old master quarterback orchestrating his offense against the other team's number one defense. Experts were pretty sure it would be close but the old man and his offense was just too much to be kept in check. Instead, we saw a power team beat up a finesse team. Beat up is being kind. It was more like watching the Ladies Bridge Team from the Good Samaritan Retirement Home tossed into the mosh pit at a Limp Bizkit concert. Brutal.
Well, anyway, those of you who hated last year's Miners football season, take heart. If you liked what the Seahawks did, that is what Kugler is trying to do. Whether or not he can do it is a different story. I just want those who felt so disoriented last season a picture of what the future could be like. The Seahawks did what they did to the Broncos because of one thing. Man for man, in the trenches, the Seahawks linemen dominated. The old master was invisible, except for when he was turning the ball over fighting for breath as he was taken under by wave after crashing wave of Seahawk linemen breaking on his head. Noshawn was Noseen. Brilliant receivers? I heard the Broncos had some on the team. I didn't see them, though.
Last year, Sean Kugler stockpiled his first recruiting class. Go back and look. He now has what he said he wanted. He said he wanted to be able to have nine men on the line to be able to constantly have fresh linemen on the field. So, you have at least seen what Kugler is shooting for. You have two recruiting classes worth of players, and they have had a whole year to get the first wave or two ready. He now has the players he needs and it is a matter of experience at this point. Now, experience should not be the factor it might be for those finesse teams. Power is power.
Going into the upcoming spring drills the biggest question I will have is how many of Kugler's red-shirt freshmen linemen will be starters. He told us the players weren't there when he got there. He had a huge recruiting class to get his. He red-shirted them last year. Let's see what we have. Soon.
January 24, 2014, 12:33:08 PM by kyyote | Views: 240 | Comments: 1
The Bear, and I suppose most great coaches are masters of psychology. The Bear had his way. CTF has his, and although he is a student of The Bear, he is a newer, more able to relate to today's player, kind of coach/psychologist. At a time when his team had just taken a punch to the gut, he pulled them together, rallied them and just at the moment when everything was on the line they made the choice to dive into what the coach had brought for them-the knowledge of how to show them how to win these games, and in the process become a better team, and through that is where their personal growth would come. They went out and got a couple of really solid road wins, reinforcing the wisdom of their decision.
Now, he is building. He is cementing into place the hard won gains. Listen to the music coming from his lips as the Pied Piper with the cow-lick on the hardwood play a tune for his charges;
First, a little underplay the wins. Then the no room for error statement. Translate that to nothing less than all out effort nd smart play are required. Then, the positive reinforcement.
"We really haven't done anything other than have two really nice road wins and given ourselves a chance in the league," he said. "Our margin of error is small. We've got to play tremendous defense regardless of who we play, and we've got to play really smart to keep guys in games and not foul out because of our lack of depth. But I'm really proud of this team right now, their effort and ability to game plan, to share and the fact they're acting like they like each other. They like coming to work every day."
Then, a brilliant statement designed to reinforce and set the tone. A subtle compliment.
"I think our players came out with legs and we've had some inspired practices," Floyd said.
More subtle messages to players here;
"Everybody is playing a position removed," he said. "Centers are playing power forward, power forwards are playing small forward, small forwards are playing off guard. Even our backup point guard, Aaron Jones, was a two guard at Burges.
This is not to give them an excuse. It is to tell them that they have to broaden their games, but it also lets them know that they are all in it together. TEAM. Then the one in the red print is so sweet!
"That's where we are right now. We're in transition. We're learning how to play with each other and it has been fun to work with this group because they're attentive and at this point they have their heads in place. They're not delusional about how difficult this is going to be to fight through this season. There are going to be ups and downs. We have been able to win close games, which is a real credit to our players."
Then, there is perhaps the very best of all;
“John is a guy who I’m as proud of as anybody I’ve coached in a long, long time,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “Early in his career, there were times when John was his own worst enemy. But I’ve just seen so many strides in terms of effort. Now, John has never been a trouble maker or some guy who was in trouble with the law. He’s a good guy.
“But he’s just grown — off the floor, on the floor,” Floyd said. “He’s learned what rebounding and his length and size can do. He’s not making the same mistakes. He understands the importance of playing smart, in not trying to be Babe Ruth and hit a home run every time. He has led us in scoring when he needed to and he has even led us in assists at times.”
Yes, sir. Drop off another pallet of bricks and a few more sacks of mortar at The Don. Coach Floyd is building.
January 19, 2014, 11:57:56 AM by kyyote | Views: 493 | Comments: 7
The boil has been lanced. I saw a Bo I had been waiting to see for years. And Vince Hunter, the first time I ever saw him play it was obvious that he was already a player on a different level and he just needed to adjust. He has. It has just begun, and it is going to get crazy good. Bo waking up and taking charge has lifted so much pressure off of Cooper's shoulders. He can play and shoot without the weight of having to be the leader on his shoulders. I have also watched the facial expressions of Flaggert and he plays like he is scared/pained. Bo taking charge and Hunter taking charge in his way has also allowed him to play with much less pressure both from within and from opponents. Of course the real key to all of this is ...? Defense! Duh. CTF, Don Haskins' boy hanging his hat on defense? Shock. Bo is getting it. Hunter just wants to play beast mode basketball. Ced "You Ain't In My Paint" Lang. Opponents don't have to get off the floor, but they can't stay in his paint. Oh, and let some poor bastard sub 200 pound guard try and take it to the hoop and run into Lang. It is comical. Did I mention Bo is getting it? The mysteries of the universe are unveiling themselves to him in the form of a game. The game makes sense for once. Everything is falling into place for him.
What is so fantastic is that their success has come because they played the way CTF has been trying to get them to play (Bo). So, Bo is getting it, and the young players are learning it right off. I believe we may be seeing the beginning of the turn around we have all been waiting for.
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