Biggest Disparities Between Men’s & Women’s NCAA Basketball Programs

When it comes to dual success at the highest levels of men’s and women’s college basketball, the Connecticut Huskies are in a class of their own. The university’s two programs have combined for a total of 166 NCAA Tournament wins, higher than the totals from the men’s and women’s teams of any other university. Still, though, the disparity between these two powerhouses is larger than many would expect.

The Connecticut men have won four national titles and been to seven Elite Eights since 1999. That’s really good, but it’s nowhere near good enough to keep pace with coach Geno Auriemma’s juggernaut. Since 2000, the women Huskies have won nine national titles and made 15 or 16 Elite Eights. This kind of extraterrestrial success translates into the fourth-largest disparity in Division I NCAA when it comes to women’s program success relative to their male counterparts.

The highlighted column in the below chart shows the difference between the Connecticut men’s NCAA tourney all-time total in wins (58) and women’s all-time total (107) is 48. In terms of gender success gap, that trails only Stanford (57), Louisiana Tech (61) and Tennessee (104)

sports seer 2

*Above data, drawn from NCAA.org, is current through April 1, 2016.

If you’re interested in parity, it appears no major college program does the Title IX thing better than the Maryland. The men Terrapins have an all-time NCAA Tournament record of 41-25 while the women clock in at 42-23. Both have exactly one national title.

So, what about the men-dominant programs?

Good question, arbitrarily inserted headline.

It’s no surprise that the blueboods of college basketball are at the top of the list when it comes to men’s program-to-women’s program win disparity. Much of this is a function of the fact that the men’s NCAA Tournament started in 1939 while the women’s version started in 1982. A four-decades-long head start in winning usually builds pretty large gaps.

So we see a situation in which some very good women’s programs like Duke and North Carolina are still in the Top 7 in terms of disparity because of the strength of their counterparts.

Biggest Gaps Between Successful Men’s Programs and their Female Counterparts

Sports Seer Graph

It may surprise some fans that so many of these men’s juggernauts have not yet been able to find a way to cultivate more success for their female counterparts. Some female programs, like Kentucky’s, have made strides in recent years but it’s hard to close the gap when

a) the men’s program’s even higher levels of success widens it year by year

b) In the 1980s, much smaller programs like Louisiana Tech and Old Dominion took up a disproportionate share of the available NCAA Tournament wins

c) Since then, Tennessee, Stanford and Connecticut have swallowed up a much larger share of all available tourney wins. That trio of programs has been far more successful than any men’s trio over the same amount of time.

In essence, the women’s teams at the top of my first chart play a big role in making it so hard for almost all other women’s teams to develop serious momentum.


“I’ll tell you how far you can go” – Geno Auriemma

Perhaps that begins to change this weekend. The Syracuse women’s team has made it the Final Four. This marks the first time that an historically sub .500 NCAA Tournament program (e.g. Indiana, Michigan, Arizona, Villanova, Cincinnati) has made it this far. To win the title, though, the Syracuse women would likely have to beat Connecticut in the championship round. That’s a very tall order, but doing so may create enough shock waves and recruiting momentum to help start closing the chasm between the Syracuse men’s and women’s teams.

Unless, of course, the Syracuse men steal said thunder and win it all this year, too.


 

For more about the juggernaut Huskies, check out my BestOfArkansasSports.com piece on the first Arkansan to receiver a scholarship offer from Auriemma’s program. 

How Will Arkansas-Little Rock Handle Purdue’s Size?

The biggest question heading into today’s Arkansas-Little Rock–Purdue matchup is a question of bigs: How will the Trojans, whose starting center is 6’11” and 210 pounds, will handle a powerful Purdue front line that goes 6’9″, 7’0″ and 7’2″? How quickly both sides’ bigs get into foul trouble will play a large role in deciding this NCAA Tournament first-round game in which almost every online college basketball sportsbook lists Purdue as a favorite.

“We’re going to have to double team some,” Trojans head coach Chris Beard told Dan Dakich this week. “We’re going to have to take some chances with some single guards. We do have two big kids on our roster. Lis Shoshi is our starting center. He’s a junior college transfer, he’s a good player. He had an offer from Minnesota and Texas Tech, so we beat some big schools on him.”

Beard added, “Then we’ve got a big fifth year transfer, Daniel Green, who played at Wake Forest for four years. Daniel’s about 6’10” so we’ve got 2 guys that I think can match up decently, but other than that, now we’re starting to play 6’4″, 6’5″ undersized guys … so we’re going to really try to help our guys in coaching and game planning.”

For perspective from the Boilermakers’ corner, check out these excerpts from Purdue beat reporter Nathan Baird. Baird spoke with Trey Schapp of the Buzz 103.7 FM earlier this week:

Q: If there is a recipe for Little Rock to try to beat Purdue, what should they try?

Nathan Baird:“[Purdue] came into the season I think with some cautiously high expectations. They had a lot of talent back from last year and added a really good power forward freshman in Caleb Swanigan, who was a national recruit for that mix. I think that this season played out about how I expected. I thought that they would be about a 26-, 27-win team, and that’s right in the ballpark they’re at. Some of the things that you would traditionally associate with Purdue basketball in terms of a blue-collar work ethic, tough man-to-man defense, those sort of things — at least here in the Big 10 sometimes that’s kind of what they’re known for.

What they’ve sort of flipped the script with is adding that power forward in. They play a traditionally big lineup. They’ve got two 7-foot centers. They’re kind of interchangeable. One’s better than the other, but the backup is pretty good, too, and  Swanigan next to that as power forward. That’s a really tough combo for a lot of teams to try to match up with. That’s the really big thing going into a tournament like this is how are these other teams … Very few teams are going to have that kind of size and skill combination in the front court. How are teams going to try to match up with that?”

Q:Nathan, with all that length, do they have much athleticism?

Nathan Baird: A little bit. They’re not a very fast team and they’ve gotten in trouble a couple times against teams that are throwing zone press or something out there. They’ve got a couple guys that have some athleticism. Their starting point guard, or most of their point guards are probably two of the more athletic guys they have – P.J. Thompson and Johnny Hill.

They’ve got a guy named Vince Edward who’s the “3” 6’8″ forward. He played the “4” last year as a freshman and has moved over this year. They’ve got some of that athleticism, but they’re not an essentially quick team. They pick their spots as far as transition. They like to get out and attack and be opportunistic that way. But they don’t really necessarily push the tempo as a matter of their identity.

At the same time, the 7-footers they have aren’t stiffs. A.J. Hammons was a first team All Big 10 player. He’s the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year. Really athletic around the basket, has really become a lot more skilled, has a lot of post moves there, has even pulled the team out more toward the perimeter this year for the first time.

His backup is a sophomore who’s 7’2″, 285 pounds — a kid named Isaac Haas from Alabama. As [Purdue coach] Matt Painter said the other night, if I played him 35 minutes a game, he’d be first team All Big 10. Unfortunately, he can’t play that much. He’s probably a 16-18 minute player at the most, usually, because Hammons gets the bulk of those duties just because he’s such a defensive player, especially in the second half. It’s not necessarily that they’re especially athletic, but they’re pretty skilled and they do a lot of little things right.

Q: How deep is Matt Painter’s bench and how do you think the Denver altitude might affect the game?

Nathan Baird: They go about nine deep and they’ve really got multiple options at each position. Again, they are a bigger team. They rely on those big guys to play a lot of minutes. What’s an interesting angle here is some of those guys I’ve already mentioned – Vince Edward, who’s a 6’8″ guy, Caleb Swanigan, the 6’9″, 250 power forward, and Isaac Haas, the behemoth that they have as a backup center – all of those guys played in Colorado Springs last year in various camps, Swanigan and Edwards with USA Basketball and Haas as part of the PanAm Games tryouts.

Some of their biggest guys, ones who would be maybe the most vulnerable to the altitude, you would expect, all have some experience playing at altitudes. Even if it’s just limited experience. I think that’s going to help them a little bit this week.

All four of these teams are going to have to adjust to it. I don’t know how much of an advantage it’s going to give anybody. The fact that those three guys in particular, for themselves, know how to adjust to it… I was talking to them after the game yesterday and basically said, ‘That first day, you’re out there running, and man it burns. It hurts. You can definitely feel it.’ It’s going to be a matter of just playing through that and not letting it affect you, getting it out of your mind. That could be an advantage for Purdue, just because those guys know what they’re feeling, know how to get through that.

Some of your big guys can shoot the ball a little bit, and that can be an advantage. If you can take those seven-footers and Swanigan and pull them away from the basket by being able to make shots from the perimeter, teams have done that and won.

Iowa was a tough matchup with Purdue that way. They beat them twice. The first loss of the year was at Illinois and Illinois did some of those same things. Some other teams have done that. If you can take one of those 6’9″, 6’10”, 6’11” kind of guys and those guys can hit shots from the perimeter and make Purdue’s seven-footers come out, it opens things up for the whole offense, because now you don’t have that guy protecting the rim and you can get in there other ways, too. You don’t have to score just from the perimeter that way.

That would be one way. The other way is Purdue has been susceptible to high turnovers. It’s not necessarily just one thing, it’s they’ll have travels and a moving screen and then just throw a ball out of bounds… Teams have not only turned them over, but then created offense off of those turnovers. If Purdue wants to make a run in the tournament,  against most teams, they’ll be the first ones to tell you, they’ve got to take care of the ball better than they have in some of their other big games this year.

Q: What was Matt Painter’s reaction to the 5 seed and going up against a 12 in a team like Little Rock?

Nathan Baird: He was pretty nonchalant about it. He’s a really pragmatic coach. He’s not the guy who’s usually very demonstrative. There’s times where we’ll ask about something that’s going on in college basketball and he’s very quick a lot of times to say, ‘Well, I haven’t studied that myself. I don’t want to say something.’ I give him credit for that. Here’s part of his reasoning: If we were a few spots higher up on the seed list, then maybe you could swap us and Iowa State and then we’d still be the 4. There’s not really a difference there.

He and a lot of other people, and obviously up here we’re going to say this, but they think the Big 10 as a whole was underseeded. In fact, Painter said, ‘I think Indiana should have been a 3 instead of a 4.’ I had to say, ‘Actually, they were a 5.’ He was like, ‘Oh, really? Wow.’

Then he really got bummed out. Everyone thought Michigan State was going to be a 1 and they ended up a 2. Again, it’s razor-thin between a 4 and a 5 on the seed list. I think sometimes fans don’t necessarily look at that.”

Groupies, Drugs & Unbending Love: London Crawford’s Story

Former Razorback receiver London Crawford recently gave one of the more open and raw interviews I have ever heard with a Hog. The 29-year-old didn’t shy away from a single hardball question sports radio host Carter Bryant lobbed his way. Take the following exchange, for example:

Q: You are a handsome guy. Were the girls all over you in college?

 Yeah, sort of. I did my thing when I was in college, man, and you know it was fun. I’m glad I got it out of my system. Now I’m at the point where I need to to be focused on trying to find marriage. That’s what I’m looking for now. In college I did my share of bad things and rip and ran, and went to parties and hung out with girls — like, with a lot girls. I carried myself well so I was liked a lot, but thank God I made it out of there the right way.

Q: What’s it like having groupies?

Man, in that state of mind when I was in college, it was great to have woman all over you — women to love you or women to want to be with you or do whatever but as you grow mentally you think, “Is this worth it? What are you really benefiting from it? What are they giving you that’s going to make you really care or think about them beyond that time?”

Q : I feel bad, London, because I do radio and when people see me they’re like, “Oh my god, you look like this?!” Though I have a lot of listeners, I don’t have groupies man. What do I need to do to step my game up?

It’s not about how you look man, it’s about how you carry yourself. You carry yourself high, you carry yourself with confidence and you dress well, you smell well, you live well, you live clean. A lot of woman are drawn to the mind frame now. It’s not the old days where they’re drawn to how you look or what you got at the time because back in the day it was about, like “Oh, he got this amount of money.” But now it’s like what is his brain like? What kind of mind frame does he have? They want that longevity… They want the guys with the degree, the guy with the secure job, so things changed man.

Bryant also catches up with how Crawford is doing these days as a professional arena league football player. They talk about his young son — “he’s a very smart, handsome guy, love sports, loves video games” — and how grateful Crawford feels to have the opportunity to mentor him, to be the involved dad he did not have at the same age.  Crawford’s childhood was far from stable, but he nonetheless credits the early gang-related activity and street temptations as a source of strength. “Growing up in that tough environment, and growing up going through the drugs, and the fighting, and all of that stuff, it made me a better person. It made me a better man today.” He adds:

I’m happy my father has gotten himself to be able to be the dad in my life that I needed him to be and he’s a great grandfather in his grandson’s life. My mother she’s still having her struggles but I’m not ashamed of her struggles. The drugs are strong man, they take over people, and it’s hard for some people to come back from it… crack addiction is tough and I’ve watched it my whole life within my mother. She had bouts where she gets off of it but she relapses. I know it’s her because she’s asked me for help and I’ve tried, and she just relapses. It’s just something that is hard to control. A lot of people don’t have a strong mind frame like I have. A lot of people can’t overcome a lot of things. With that being said, regardless of what she does, she birthed me. I wouldn’t care if she goes through it for the rest of her life and I would love my mother like she’s always been in my life.

Q: Did it make you want to do drugs? Did you do drugs in high school?

To be honest with you man, I had a time where I went through where I wanted to sell it but for me to use it, to watch my mom go through the things that she went through and to watch me not have the things that other kinds had, to see my mom how bad she was looking when she was on that stuff … Man, I steered away from that.

Carter Bryant also spoke with Crawford about a white couple who essentially adopted him in high school and college. More insight about this unique  situation, often compared to Michael Oher and Lee Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side, is provided in an accompany Fox Sports Arkansas piece.

Q: Janice Givens and her wonderful husband Bryan Givens took you in. They’re white, you are black – was there racism? Was there pressure with them to take you in? 

… They treated me as if God never gave any human a color, he gave us a name, that’s how they treated me. They treated me exactly like they treated their two kids, Jonathon Givens and Thomas Given, if not sometimes better to be honest. Anything I needed, they were there. Every football game in high school, once they got in my life, every football game in college after they dropped everything — their jobs, everything to move to Arkansas because they felt like I needed someone to be there for me, they were there. Anytime I needed to talk to them about anything, advice wise, family wise. When I didn’t want to forgive my dad they told me “Look, we love you regardless of what you do. Your mother is your mother, your father is your father. You have to forgive in order to forget.” And I forgave.

janice givens Q: I guess I should rephrase the question. Did they face racism? Were people chirping about them?

Oh man! When I was in high school, there was a lot of people asking “Why is she trying to help him? What is she trying to get out of this?” A lot of doubters man. I’m talking about people that was close to me doubting. And when I got to college it was like, “Okay, they see that he’s a great athlete. They trying to get this, they trying to get this and that, doing this for a payoff for when he goes to the NFL…” Ya-da-ya-da-ya-da. Okay, I went to the NFL. I got hurt. That hindered me. I’m here now, living a wonderful life. I’m happy and they’re in my life everyday now. Where’s the payoff? They’re still the same people they were. It’s not this. They love me more now than they did then. So, no. They faced a lot, a lot of ups and downs. I’m talking about through the media, through social networks, everything. They faced a lot, man, but the love that they had for me never showed that it bothered them, ever. They always told me no matter what goes on them, that “We love you and we’re going to always be here for you.”


Like these “Where Are They Now” type articles with former Razorbacks? I write plenty more at my main site BestOfArkansasSports.com. Sign up for my once-a-week newsletter and never miss another new post:

Dallas Super Bowlers vs. Houston Super Bowlers: Kickoff and Punt Return Edition

 

Here is a list of all-time Super Bowlers who attended a high schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas, broken down by position. Make sure to check out my upcoming piece in the Dallas Observer to see how each metro area’s all-time Super Bowlers stack up against each other.

DFW High School Super Bowlin’ Kickoff Returners

Super Bowl W/L SB Year Team Player Kick (Yds) Kick (Rt) Kick (Y/Rt) Kick (TD) City of High School Name of High School
XVIII (18) Loser 1984 Washington Redskins Alvin Garrett 100 5 20 0 Mineral Wells Mineral Wells
XXVIII (28) Winner 1994 Dallas Cowboys Kevin Williams 50 1 50 0 Dallas Franklin D. Roosevelt
XI (11) Winner 1977 Oakland Raiders Carl Garrett 47 2 23.5 0 Denton Fred Moore
XVII (17) Winner 1983 Washington Redskins Mike Nelms 44 2 22 0 Fort Worth O.D. Wyatt
XXX (30) Winner 1996 Dallas Cowboys Kevin Williams 24 2 12 0 Dallas Franklin D. Roosevelt
II (2) Winner 1968 Green Bay Packers Tommy Crutcher 7 1 7 0 McKinney McKinney
II (2) Winner 1968 Green Bay Packers Doug Hart 0 0 0 0 Fort Worth Handley
XXXVII (37) Winner 2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Karl Williams 0 0 0 0 Garland Garland

In the Super Bowl punt return category, three Dallas Super Bowlers are in the books. Mike Nelms stands atop this knoll with 52 yards on six returns. Next up is former Buccaneer Karl Williams, of Garland High School, who returned a single punt for 25 yards in Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl XXXVII win.

The Cowboys’ Kevin Williams also returned one, for a meager five yards.

Houston Metro Super Bowlin’ Kickoff Returners

Super Bowl W/L SB Year Team Player Kick (Yds) Kick (Rt) Kick (Y/Rt) Kick (TD) City of High School Name of High School
I (1) Loser 1967 Kansas City Chiefs Bert Coan 87 4 21.75 0 Pasadena Pasadena
XLIX (49) Winner 2015 New England Patriots Danny Amendola 44 2 22 0 The Woodlands The Woodlands
XVIII (18) Winner 1984 Los Angeles Raiders Greg Pruitt 17 1 17 0 Houston Elmore

In the punt return department, two Houstonians have done it on the Big Stage. In Super Bowl XVIII, former Raider Greg Pruitt returned one eight yards in Los Angeles’ win over Washington. On the other side of the ball, speedster Darrell Green returned one for 34 yards in the Redskins’ loss. He returned another one four years later for a goose egg in Washington’s XXII win.

Now we go to the folks who so politely provide all those returns:

All-time Super Bowler Kickers & Punters, a la DFW

Super Bowl W/L Team Player XPM XPA FGM FGA City of HS Name of HS
XXXV (35) Winner Baltimore Ravens Matt Stover 4 4 2 3 Dallas Lake Highlands
XLIV (44) Loser Indianapolis Colts Matt Stover 2 2 1 2 Dallas Lake Highlands
XXII (22) Winner Washington Redskins Ali Haji-Sheikh 6 6 0 1 Arlington Arlington
XLIV (44) Winner New Orleans Saints Garrett Hartley 2 2 3 3 Southlake Southlake Carroll
XIX (19) Loser Miami Dolphins Uwe von Schamann 1 1 3 3 Fort Worth Eastern Hills
XVII (17) Loser Miami Dolphins Uwe von Schamann 2 2 1 1 Fort Worth Eastern Hills
XX (20) Loser New England Patriots Tony Franklin 1 1 1 1 Fort Worth Arlington Heights
XV (15) Loser Philadelphia Eagles Tony Franklin 1 1 1 2 Fort Worth Arlington Heights

Dallas’ sole punter representative is Curley Johnson, a Woodrow Wilson alum who kicked it at the University of Houston before heading to the NFL where he played for the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. He knocked out four of ’em at nearly 40 yards per pedi-pop.

Oh, and “Greater” Houston? Pssshh. This metro has only produced one Super Bowl field goal kicker. That would be Curt Knight, of Mineral Wells, who missed his only FG attempt for Washington in a losing Super Bowl VII effort.

All-Time SB Houston Metro Punters

Super Bowl W/L Team Player Yds/Punt Punts Yds City of HS Name of HS
XXIII (23) Loser Cincinnati Bengals Lee Johnson 44.2 5 221 The Woodlands McCullough
XXXVII (37) Loser Oakland Raiders Shane Lechler 39 5 195 Sealy East Bernard
XLIV (44) Winner New Orleans Saints Thomas Morstead 44 2 88 Pearland Pearland

For more DFW vs. Houston rankings, check out my BestOArkansasSports.com* post where I rank both areas’ all-time Super Bowler rushers and receivers.

If you really dig this kind of thing, make sure to sign up for my Texas sports stats email newsletter below. You’ll get all my future Texas-related posts. Sign up now and in your first blast I’ll send you something very similar to the above, except it will include all-time Super Bowl Texans regardless of native city.

 

 *OK, so I ventured a little out of state topically. So soooie me.

Best Regular Season Games In NBA History

The “biggest” regular season NBA games are often the result of flux. Sometimes, it’s the reappearance of a superstar returning to the court after a long time away (e.g. M.J. returning from retirements in 1995 and 2000), or the pro debut of a long-awaited phenom (think LeBron’s first game for Cleveland in 2003) or the return of a superstar to his former team’s home court (Miami Heat Shaq going back to Los Angeles, or Heat LeBron going back to Cleveland).

Very rarely, though, does a regular season NBA generate hype because of continuity and stability. Those aren’t exactly the kind of words which drive ticket sales and storylines. In 2016, though, Golden State and San Antonio are forcing precedence takes a backseat to excellence. Both franchises feature star players who have been on the team for at least four seasons and have created distinct cultures based principles of teamwork, unselfishness, high basketball IQ and highly versatile skill sets. Both teams spread minutes and shot attempts to “non-star” bench players like few if any teams in NBA history.

As they head into their first matchup on January 25, 2016, never before have two teams this good met at midseason.

Below is a list of midseason* games involving teams with at least 75% win rate previous to the game:

Year Combined Win % Home Team Visitors Home Team Wins Home Team Losses Visitors’ Wins Visitors’ Losses Home Team Win % Visitors’ Win % Home Team Score Visitors’ Score Home Team’s Final Wins # Home Team’s Postseason Status Visitors’ Final Wins # Visitors’ Postseason Status
2016 88.6% Golden State Warriors San Antonio Spurs 40 4 38 6 90.9% 86.4%
1993 87.8% Seattle Supersonics Houston Rockets 20 3 23 3 87.0% 88.5% 112 97 63 Lost First Round 58 Won NBA Finals
1972 85.9% Milwaukee Bucks Los Angeles Lakers 35 8 38 4 81.4% 90.5% 120 104 63 Lost NBA Finals 69 World Champions
1966 85.3% Philadephia 76ers Boston Celtics 33 3 25 7 91.7% 78.1% 113 108 68 NBA Champions 60 Lost East Finals
1972 83.2% Los Angeles Lakers Milwaukee Bucks 44 7 45 11 86.3% 80.4% 118 105 69 World Champions 63 Lost NBA Finals
1967 80.7% Boston Celtics Philadephia 76ers 44 14 52 9 75.9% 85.2% 113 112 60 Lost East Finals 68 Won NBA Finals
2009 80.5% Los Angeles Lakers Cleveland Cavaliers 31 8 31 7 79.5% 81.6% 105 88 65 World Champions 66 Lost East Finals
1986 80.5% Boston Celtics Los Angeles Lakers 30 8 32 7 78.9% 82.1% 110 95 67 World Champions 62 Lost West Finals

I expect the Warriors to win tonight. They are simply too good at home, Tim Duncan isn’t playing and Spurs Gregg Popovich famously undervalues regular season games. Even if the Spurs lose, though, it will be fascinating to see if they can maintain their current rate of success and continue to push Golden State toward a projected 74-win season. These teams will play another three times by early April.

Heading into those remaining three games, do you think they will maintain their current stratospheric all-time rankings — as seen below — on both sides of the ball?

***

The below metric, adjusted offensive rating, takes a team’s offensive production and measures it against the league average:

Same recipe as above, but on the defensive side:

In case you missed it, here’s a good piece by Dan Favale elaborating on the historic number above. And here is my piece for SLAMOnline about the game.

Bret Bielema On Jeremy Sprinkle’s Future As a Potential First-Round NFL Draft Pick

Below is the second of a two-part transcription of Bret Bielema’s 2015 season recap. You will learn about an emerging Chicago-Arkansas recruiting pipeline, injury updates on Josh Williams and Dominique Reed and Bielema’s dream of opening Ye Olde Egg Nog Shoppe  (above photo is courtesy of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.).

On the recruiting reach of the Hogs’ new offensive line coach, a native Chicagoan: 

There’s a lot of good players in the Midwest that have been very successful. Not only in the Midwestern colleges, but also in the SEC. I think we play against Alabama and there’s a [Ross] Pierschbacher kid that I remember came out of Iowa that we all wanted. He’s a very good player for Alabama right now. There’s players up there, Frank Ragnow comes out of Minnesota.

I think about our offensive line. Someone thought they’re all southern kids. You had a tackle from Miami, a guard from California, a center from here, a guard from Minnesota and a tackle was Denver. We’ve got them all over the country and that’s just what we’ve got to continue to do.

On the appeal of playing for Arkansas to kids in Chicago

Bret Bielema: I do. I think the kids love the SEC. We wen 8-2 in bowl games. Kids realize that stuff. There’s more kids playing in the Senior Bowl from the SEC than any other conference. Those things matter and it makes a difference.

On how many new scholarship players Arkansas will likely sign:

Bret Bielema: I think we’re going to get to 24 for sure. I think I’ll probably go to 25, to be quite honest. The by-product of having 3 juniors come out is you have 3 more scholarships become available. We had a couple scholarship players graduate early like Reeve Koehler. When he leaves out that presents an opportunity. All those things I couldn’t forecast a year ago at this time.

Bret Bielema: My vision is to do 12 offense, 12 defense and 1 coach’s discretion. The last 3 coach’s discretion have been 3 kids from Arkansas that have been — Korliss [Marshall] obviously loved to indulge in some things we couldn’t — but he was a good player. The next one was Josh Liddell. I think those guys have proved their worth and what they’re capable of doing.

On his starring role in the new reality TV-style series “Being Bret Bielema”

Bret Bielema: Really, the presentation. Thad and some people had kind of gotten together. I think it started with Chris, did it not? Some people said, “Coach, there’s some things about you that don’t ever get out there.” I haven’t done anything. All I do is slip on a mic and just be me. I’m getting beaten up left and right with my college buddies. Recruits love it. The amount of hits that I’ve gotten and the responses that I’ve gotten from recruits and coaches and donors. It’s amazing to me, but it’s also been a lot of fun. I don’t know where it’s going to end. I think they’re going to pop on the road with me for a couple days. We’ll make sure to follow the … because there’s certain things that you’ve got to do.

I watched the first one a while ago. I hadn’t seen the second one until I had enough people telling me all about it, so I watched it last night. They’d cut some things. I was just having some fun with some K State people there. Just different things. They’re doing a really good job with it…. I’m a big guy in the eggnog thing. If you’d ask my wife, I just think it’s ridiculous we can only have eggnog one month out of the year. Anybody that’s been around me knows that’s one of my pet peeves in life.

I am going to open an eggnog store. I think that’s a good thing…

On Josh Williams‘ health

Bret Bielema: Unfortunately, Josh had another procedure. He’s lost a pretty significant amount of that calf muscle. It’s unfortunately one of the bad parts of our profession and part of our job. He’s really going to struggle to get back to a point of walking and doing things functionally again as a normal person. Hopefully, he’s going to be able to play football again someday, but it’s probably a long ways away from that being able to happen. We’ll address it.

He wasn’t able to go home until last week. He had been in the hospital again when we were in Memphis. He didn’t join us until Wednesday or Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately, just a lot of by-product off of that surgery.

Right now, he’s not ready for Spring ball and I don’t expect it to be for Spring. Let me tell you if he could get cleared for Fall football I’d be the biggest, happiest fan of Josh’s in the world. I just don’t know if it’s going to be possible. It’s a bridge that we’re going to have to cross together. If he can’t do, I’d be the first to hire him as a linebacker assistant and let him be involved in every way possible. He has truly been one of the greatest blessings for us. He’s a A-B student. He does everything right. He can play all 3 positions. He’s an absolute coach’s dream.

On tight end Jeremy Sprinkle’s potential:

Bret Bielema: Well, [Jeremy] Sprinkles going to be the first to tell you. He hasn’t even scratched the surface. He’s probably the most creative touchdown celebration, but that’s about all he’s got as a No. 1 spot right now. I think we can get him to 260. I think he could be 10 pounds heavier than he is. I think he’d be the first to tell you he was committed 75% of the time. I need a full 100% commitment out of him because if he can give me a year of his life like he’s never had, I’ll give him the next 30 that are pretty good.

I was talking to one NFL coach who had watched our game the day before and their head coach and him and a couple other of their VP’s were there with their GM and they said, “Can we get both those tight ends to play for us tomorrow in the NFL?” Hunter and him have got all the things that you want. I think we could probably have two of the best tight ends in back-to-back years that anybody could produce, but I need a bigger commitment out of Sprink. I mean from diet to sleep to behavior to accountability to responsibility to everything. He’ll get it. His dad and I will get it. I guarantee it.

On overall position depth:

Bret Bielema: I think linebacker depth is a concern of mine in the Fall and Spring so one would tell you that an ideal shooting number for us is 4. I’d love to get 3 high school and a JUCO. The magic number on defense for sure is kind of 3 to 4 at every position. On offense, even though we lost only 1 tight end, he’s a great one, but we signed a number of tight ends a year ago. Wide receiver, we got a fix number. Running back is intriguing because obviously losing 2 backs in the NFL draft — it’s fun to talk about but it’s really not great to live through.

But Kody, Rawleigh, I think the emergence of hopefully J-Day, I think we’ve done a nice job in recruiting. We’re in some of the most elite backs I’ve ever been involved with and they’re saying a lot of really good things. Those things are yet in front of us. It should be a fun two weeks. We’re fixing ready to hop in the last two weeks of recruiting. It’s probably one of the more enjoyable times for me as a head coach – just to get some finality to certain situations.

Continue reading Bret Bielema On Jeremy Sprinkle’s Future As a Potential First-Round NFL Draft Pick

Home Basketball Attendance for Arkansas In 2015-16

Arkansas’ first 10 home games of the 2015-16 season have seen an average attendance of 6,700 people. That’s about 1/3 capacity of Bud Walton Arena.

First 10 games

Source: HogStats.com

In December, sports radio host John Nabors wrote that the crowds earlier this season haven’t even been as good as in the mediocre John Pelphrey years:

I was the “leader” of the student section in my time at the University of Arkansas. I rocked my Hog headband and a Brandon Dean #13 jersey for every game I could. Most of the seasons where I was a student were pretty average. Minimal success. No postseason. No excitement. Nothing. But we in the Trough built up a pretty good group of kids that showed up and brought hell. The two front rows were filled every game except the ones where most of the kids went home for Winter Break. We were innovative, motivated, and dedicated to giving our team an edge over the opponent. The rest of the Bud Walton Arena spectators fed off of us.

It may not have been as impactful as the mythical mid 1990’s Trough, but by God we did our best.

I thought about all of that during the Evansville game. So when I saw the pathetic excuse for a student section, it infuriated me.

Read the rest of Nabors’ take on Bud Walton’s plummeting attendance at Arkansas Fight.

Nothing Posterior About Little Rock’s National Standing In Tight End Production

I recently wrote a piece for OnlyInArk.com supporting the theory that my hometown of Little Rock is the “tight end capital of the world” (in football, not fitness). My theory is supported by four* great college and/or NFL players: Keith Jackson, D.J. Williams, Hunter Henry and Charles Clay. I realize Williams is technically a Fort Worth, Texas native, but for the purposes of this piece he should be considered a Little Rocker — especially since he still lives there.

Little Rock has a population of about 200,000. That means one out of every 50,000 of its native sons is a world-class tight end!

Not just wanting to rely on blind hometown pride, I decided to drop a little research my theory’s way. Thanks to sports-reference.com, I gathered the hometowns of the best NFL tight ends in history — first-team All-Americans since the late 1970s and winners of the John Mckey Award for the nation’s best collegiate tight end (those winners are asterisked below).

The spreadsheet helps Little Rock’s case** by showing how the town produces so much more on a per capita basis than anywhere else. A few places vie for second place. Torrance, Calif. for instance, produced the greatest TE of all, Tony Gonzalez, and a great collegian in Daniel Graham.

St. Louis doesn’t go quietly into the positional night, either, not with Hall-of-Famer Kellen Winslow and three-time Pro Bowler Paul Coffman to its name. But according to the list, at least, these towns don’t have more than two great tight ends. Sure, it’s possible someone moved into the town as a child or young teen (like D.J. Williams did with Little Rock), but I will need to see those cases first before I admit the slightest of doubts that my theory could be wrong.

Continue reading Nothing Posterior About Little Rock’s National Standing In Tight End Production

Steph Curry’s Legacy Isn’t Complete Until He Shoots 11-for-11 On Threes

With Stephen Curry deciding to manifest as a full-fledged shooting god this season, I thought it would be worth exploring what his as yet-to-be-accomplished greatest game will look like.

In a recent piece for SLAM Online, I explain why Curry’s signature game won’t come in the form of an all-out Points-mageddon as it did with Wilt, MJ and Kobe. Instead, it will be a tour de force in efficiency since he’s reaching combinations of production (averages 11 three-point shot attempts a game so far in 2015-16) and accuracy (hitting about 44% of them) never before seen.

Given these numbers, which actually could rise in the coming months, I predict Curry will become the first NBA player to notch a perfect shooting game while going over 40 points. With an all-time hot streak, I want to believe* it’s likely he will one day go something like 11-11 or 12-12 on three point attempts in a single game.

An 11-for-11 game isn’t asking for much, Steph.

It’s only a single made shot basket better than what Ty Lawson accomplished in 2011. And it can’t be that too much harder than the 9-for-9 games Ben Gordon has apparently trademarked.

Below are the most accurate, high three-point attempt volume games in NBA history**. These are the guys Curry (whose career accuracy high for threes is 6-for-6) has to surpass:

Because, hey, sometimes you just gotta highlight a Jet's name.
      Because, hey, sometimes you just gotta highlight a Jet’s name. (via basketball-reference.com

As you can see, Sam Perkins is the only player to attempt more than seven three-point shots yet not miss a single shot from the field or free throw line.

Perkins’ college teammate has gone down as the greatest scoring guard in the game’s history. If Curry one day knocks that teammate from his throne, expect him first to knock Perkins from his.


*What are the actual chances Curry will actually hit all 11, or all 12, or all 13 of three-point attempts in a single game? I don’t know. But if you can some calculations and figure this out, let me know. 

** Well, at least since 1985-86 according to basketball-reference.com. But I’m willing to bet there wasn’t a more prolifically precise game in the five years before that and after the three-point line was instituted. 

Mike Irwin on Difference Between Archie Goodwin and Malik Monk Situations

Here’s part two of Arkansas sportscaster Mike Irwin’s jeremiad for the ages against the circumstances Malik Monk’s decision to attend Kentucky instead of Arkansas. He delivered it on The Forum with radio talk host John Nabors, and it didn’t take too long for him to start talking about the last Arkansas prep star to head for Kentucky – Archie Goodwin….

That whole situation didn’t use people like this one did. He didn’t move to some other part of the state. People didn’t get jobs. There wasn’t a guy running an AAU program that was getting favors from everybody to try and keep his AAU thing going. There wasn’t all that stuff… How long did Marcus work with the basketball program? A year?

There wasn’t that with Archie Goodwin. You’re going to come on and take a position with the staff for a year to give you something to do, and give you more credibility at a school that you went to and graduated from, and then at the end of that, you’re going to look all those people in the eye and say, ‘Thanks for all the help, but there was too much pressure.’ I’m sorry. But if you think that people are going to grin about this and go, ‘Oh, well, yeah. Okay. Cool.’

Ronnie Brewer is tweeting out, “Come on, have some class.” Okay, Ronnie. You didn’t do this. Nobody did this to you. Put yourself in Mike Anderson’s position. You’re doing everything within the NCAA rules, because you understand the need and the pressure to get an in-state kid into your program, and you do all these things, and this is what happens? Not only is it an insult that it happened, but he went to the one place that is just unacceptable, which is ‘I’m a one and done.’ Okay. Stand up two years ago and announce that you’re a one and done. Do that. You better move because, look, I know how this stuff works. I’ve seen it.

I had a brother-in-law that was a number one running back in this state 25 years ago. He went to Baylor when Arkansas recruited the fool out of him. And when his NFL career went to crap, he moved back here and tried for three years to work, and he got nothing. And he ended up having to move to Texas. That’s what I told him one day. He was moaning to me about all this stuff. I said, “Go ask Baylor for help. That’s where you went to school.”

John Nabors: That’s’ the thing that I feel like a lot of people overlook and kind of minimize, in a way. There’s truth to be said about going to the University of Arkansas and having that type of defense*, and having the type of protection as your career goes on, because not everybody can make it in the NBA. Not everybody can have that elongated career. A lot of things can happen. Heaven forbid something does happen. When those things happen, look at Greg Childs for instance. He battled injuries. His NFL career is still yet to take off. He’s been going through a lot, but the fact that he is a Razorback, if he came back to the state, people are going to welcome him with open arms.

It always gives you opportunities. I think that’s really what this is about. 

It’s important to note that although what John Nabors is saying here is generally accepted wisdom in Arkansas, there are a significant number of former Razorbacks who do not feel this way. If you’re interested in the topic of life after pro football for star Hogs, make sure you read this in-depth piece I wrote. 

This was the second of a two-part piece. Click here for the first at my more regularly updated blog BestOfArkansasSports.com here.  Never miss a BestOfArkansasSports.com post by signing up below. As a bonus, I’ll send a transcription of a long conversation I had with Ronnie Brewer about the Monks, whom he knows well.