Billy D… isney World?

Posted by rtmsf on May 31st, 2007

Billy Donovan 

Breaking news on all the major sites today is that Billy Donovan has been offered $42M over seven years to leave the University of Florida to become the new head coach of the Orlando Magic.  According to team officials, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel, the wunderkind is expected to take the job.  This comes on the heels of a week-plus of speculation as to why Donovan had not yet signed an extension worth reported $3.5M annually with the Gators.

We’ve been down this road before with Billy D. - a mere six weeks ago, in fact.  But somehow with the ridiculous dollars being mentioned and the “nowhere to go but down” aspect looming at Florida, we think this might be the situation where he makes the jump.  The Magic certainly isn’t in terrible shape, with a young beast Dwight Howard and, lest we forget, JJ Redick, to build around. 

From our perspective, this would also change the balance of power in the SEC in a hurry.  Florida has the #1 ranked recruiting class coming into Gainesville, but it’s apparent that the new blood at Tennessee and Kentucky are hot on its tail.  The big question for us – who would take over for Billy D.?  Would the Gators gamble Stan Heath-style with one-year wonder Anthony Grant from VCU?  Or speaking of Heath, would the Gators make a play for former recruiter extraordinaire and current Arkansas coach John Pelphrey?  Or would they go outside the family and find someone like Gregg Marshall from Winthrop?  Stay tuned… 

Update:  Yahoo.com is now reporting Donovan will be introduced as the Orlando Magic head coach tomorrow morning at 9am.  Terms are $28.5M over five years. 

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Does March Madness matter in May and June?

Posted by rtmsf on May 31st, 2007

Mike Wilbon 

Wilbon, as usual, is up in arms. 

Today we wanted to take a moment to examine an idea put forth by the inimitable Mike Wilbon in Monday’s Washington Post.   Wilbon’s essential take (written after game 3 of the Detroit-Cleveland series) was that much of Lebron’s struggles in late-game situations of the NBA playoffs is directly attributable to his lack of “big game” experience, which his predecessors (Magic, MJ, Bird, etc.) honed and developed during the crucible of March Madness.  He wrote:

LeBron’s bigger problem is never having learned how to play these kinds of high-stakes games in college — and now having to learn against a recent champion. Most every iconic player in NBA history, particularly the triumvirate of Magic, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, learned to play big games during March Madness. For every Kobe (who had Shaquille O’Neal), there’s an Isiah Thomas or Dwyane Wade or Richard Hamilton, guys who learned how to deal with the enormous pressure of big games in college, then successfully transitioned into the NBA playoffs. It’s no coincidence that Tracy McGrady and Kevin Garnett, who also skipped college, struggle so mightily in the playoffs. Without Shaq, Bryant is 0 for 2 getting out of the first round of the playoffs.

Since the high school-to-NBA era began in 1995 with Kevin Garnett, there have been 28 first round picks used on US kids a month removed from their high school graduations.  It’s too early to say for many, but early returns suggest that only seven were definitely worth the pick – KG, Kobe, Jermaine O’Neal, T-Mac, Amare, Lebron & Dwight Howard.  Others such as Shaun Livingston, Al Jefferson, Andrew Bynum and the two Smiths – Josh and J.R. – may end up being stars in a few years, but for now it’s too early to tell.

Of that group of high school-to-NBA superstars, and with the very notable exception of Kobe as first lieutenant second banana to Shaq, how many of that group have led their teams to postseason NBA success?  The struggles of KG (2 playoff series wins in his 12-yr career) and T-Mac (0 series wins in 10 yrs) are well documented, although Jermaine O’Neal (3 series wins in 7 yrs as a starter in Indiana) may soon also warrant inclusion on that list.  Still, Amare (5 series wins in 5 seasons in the NBA - assist to Steve Nash) and Lebron’s (3 series wins in 4 seasons) rather quick starts confound Wilbon’s blanket theory a bit.  It’s too early to say with Dwight Howard.

For now, we think there is some validity to Wilbon’s theory, but it’s not as clear-cut as he suggests.  The NCAA Tournament’s knockout format eliminates pretenders from contenders very quickly, and the teams with gamebreaking talents who can keep their cool and make plays at the end of games are usually the ones last standing.   But where we feel Wilbon’s argument fails is that it’s very difficult to go deep in the NBA playoffs for just about anyone, whether a four-year college player or one who skipped it altogether.  During the era of which we’re speaking (96-07), only five franchises have won NBA titles (Chicago, San Antonio, LA Lakers, Detroit, Miami), and it appears that one of those same franchises will win again this season (SA or Detroit).  History tends to show that only age and collapse from within creates a vacuum by which a different NBA franchise can rise to the top of the heap.

Shaq Graduation Laettner at Duke

Shaq & Laettner have had different degrees of success in college and the NBA.   

With so few historical opportunities for superstars to elevate their teams to the highest level of the sport, we find it somewhat unfounded to correlate the amount of time spent playing in March Madness as an indicator of future NBA playoff success.  After all, didn’t Shaq (4 NBA titles and 123 playoff wins) flame out early every year at LSU, winning a grand total of two NCAA Tournament games in his three seasons in Baton Rouge?  Conversely, Christian Laettner won 21 NCAA Tournament  games at Duke, but his NBA teams only won 11 playoff games where he was a significant contributor (note: he also averaged 2.2 ppg in 11 more playoff wins with the Heat in 2005).  There are undoubtedly other examples that will support both viewpoints.  We tend to believe that the those who are destined to become superstars will ultimately use their talent and drive to work their way to that level, and whether those players learned how to do that in college or on the job in the L  doesn’t really matter.  Tonight Lebron will have his biggest opportunity yet to prove us right.      

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05.30.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on May 30th, 2007

A lot of piled-up news to get to today…

  • The biggest story: Brandon Rush tore his ACL, withdrew from the NBA Draft, will have surgery this week, and will likely be ready to play at KU next season. The 07–08 Jayhawks just got a lot better.
  • Florida A&M’s coach Mike Gillespie was placed on paid leave after his recent arrest on misdemeanor stalking charges. Wait, the FAMU coach is white??
  • Apparently Glen “Big Baby” Davis has slimmed his way to 280 lbs for the NBA Draft workouts… begging the question, why wasn’t he using this regimen throughout his career at LSU?
  • Greg Oden and Kevin Durant were asked to join Team USA – size up your bronzes now, boys.
  • Dane Bradshaw wrote a book (“Vertical Leap“) about his senior season at Tennessee, which of course presupposes that Vol fans can actually read the thing.
  • In an espn.com piece by Pat Forde, we learned that Arkansas is actually paying three head basketball coaches at the same time. Does George Steinbrenner run the Hawgs now? Nah, just the very recently retired Frank Broyles, another senile 80-year old.
  • After years of vile homerism, John Feinstein commits treason in Monday’s Washington Post – Coach K’s dark angels are already moving into the DC area on a seek-and-destroy mission. A must-read for all Duke haters.
  • Oh, and Maryland fans hate Duke also. We particularly enjoyed the Jon Scheyer portion.
  • Some industrious UCLA fans paid homage to uber-scrub Michael Roll in an epic video.
  • Finally, we reserve a moment of silence for the Charlotte Coliseum, the site of many outstanding ACC Tournament battles as well as the 1994 Final Four. It will be destroyed on Sunday.
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Jeremy Foley should be fired immediately

Posted by rtmsf on May 29th, 2007

Ahhh… the long weekend is over, and in case you missed it, the College World Series brackets came out this weekend.  This ingenious concept – an on-the-field tournament to crown a college champion – just might catch on after all!  Although this blog is devoted to college hoops, we also recognize that each team is part of a larger athletic program in terms of all the normal considerations – fans, dollars, merchandising, and the derivative feedback loops - which merit occasional reflection beyond the hardwood.

As such, it’s interesting to see which programs had the most successful 2006-07 in a different light than the Stanford Sears Director’s Cup rankings, which the Cardinal dominates every year (twelve in a row going into the 2006-07 academic year).  Recognizing that football and basketball comprise the vast majority of athletic revenues and expenses at Division 1 schools, it still might be interesting and informative to see which programs are also successful at America’s third major sport, baseball.  To start the ball rolling, we took a look at the 2006-07 academic year in the three major college sports. 

Stanford logo

Stanford always wins the Sears Cup, but how does it perform in the big three major sports?

In our analysis, we only considered schools invited to the postseason.  In college baseball and basketball, this is a fair indicator, as roughly 20% of schools are selected for the postseason (NCAA Tournament or CWS) in a given year.  In college football, over half the teams are selected annually for postseason bowls, which skews the definition of ”success” somewhat; but we couldn’t figure a way to reliably eliminate some bowls while including others, so we kept them all in.  

Still, even with those rather broad parameters, only six Division 1 schools were invited to the postseason in all three major sports -baseball, basketball and football.  If you guessed large state institutions in (mostly) warm-weather areas, you had a decent chance of naming these six – Arkansas, Louisville, Ohio St., Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA.  Interestingly, Florida won both the football and basketball titles, but was not invited to the College World Series – clearly they should fire an incompetent like Jeremy Foley immediately.  Stanford, who will undoubtedly win the Sears Cup again this year, had a short-lived stay in the NCAA Tournament (for about one tv timeout, as we recall), but did not make the CWS or a bowl game, proving that their emphasis on smaller, non-revenue sports makes all the difference in those standings.

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05.24.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on May 24th, 2007

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NBA Draft Lottery

Posted by rtmsf on May 23rd, 2007

 NBA Draft Lottery Logo

As we watched the NBA Draft Lottery last night, we wondered if the ultimate settling and selection of the envelopes in the hopper represented another cruel fait accompli to long-suffering NBA fans in cities like Boston and Atlanta; or whether it would manifest as the final piece to the puzzle in renaissance projects ongoing in cities like Chicago or Phoenix.  Chalk one up for the French. 

The shot on ESPN of Celtic fans in that pub that looked like a place Sam Malone would frequent, heads in hands with despair, was one that will not soon be forgotten – missing on Duncan a decade ago; and Oden/Durant now.  Bill Simmons is probably just stirring awake from the Southie gutter where he chose to rest last night.  (update: he crawled out of the gutter to post this article by 3pm EDT)  Instead, the clean and green cities of the Pacific Northwest should enjoy a basketball rebirth, not unlike that of the area in the past several years of college basketball (Gonzaga, UW, Wazzu, Oregon).  Oh, and the Varsity Conference just got that much tougher.

Boston Draft Logo

Sign us up for Xi Xianlian!!

It’s not always the case that a #1 pick from the draft lottery guarantees success.  In the lottery era, only Ewing (85), David Robinson (87), Shaq (92), Duncan (97), and Lebron (03) were considered no-brainer dominant picks who could carry a franchise from day one.  Shaq and Duncan have had the most success, whereas Ewing and Robinson were somewhat constricted by the pure brilliance of the MJ era.  Lebron is TBD.  Oden is expected to follow the career arc of these players, considering his skills and athleticism as a 19 yr old 33 yrs old.  As long as the Blazers go for the big man over the guard this time, just as  they did in 1984 (that one didn’t work out so well), they should be fine.  Will Oden lead Portland to championships?  Nobody knows for certain, but Portland fans are ready to take that gamble after a long period of “jail blazer” sucktitude, crashing the team website twice last night amidst all the giddiness over their good fortune. 

Oden/Durant

What about Durant going to Seattle?  Will he become the next T-Mac or KG, or someone who can actually win something once in a while?  He is undoubtedly a spectacular talent, someone who has a presence about him (even at such a young age) that makes you ashamed to avert your eyes.  He also may be the golden cow that inspires Seattle voters into approving a new arena so as to keep the Sonics from eventually moving to Oklahoma.  And as much as the Oklahoma City fans were supportive during the Hornets’ exile there after Katrina, the NBA needs to keep its presence in an internationally-focused and culturally important city such as Seattle.

Draft News:  Roy Hibbert has announced he is returning to Georgetown for his senior campaign.  His frontcourt mate Jeff Green is entering the draft.        

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Columbia has as many titles as Duke??

Posted by rtmsf on May 22nd, 2007

One thing that a casual fan of college basketball may never hear about unless he makes a practice of sifting through the detritus of message boards is the curious case of Helms Foundation titles. Everyone knows about NCAA titles – UCLA has 11, Kentucky 7, Indiana 5, UNC 4, and so on down the list. But not everybody is aware of these Helms championships, and with good reason.

Helms National Champ

National Champions?

In 1936, Bill Schroeder and Paul Helms created the Helms Athletic Foundation (now defunct) in Los Angeles, a panel of experts in college basketball and football who were tasked with designating retroactive “champions” and all-america teams for each year since the inception of the sport (football in 1883; basketball in 1901). Keeping in mind that this group formed in the mid-1930s, they had very little in the way of substantive evidence on which to make their decisions, other than personal recollections and (perhaps) newspaper clippings of the games. This is a surely a long way removed from the modern analysis involving strength of schedules, efficiency ratings and RPIs – analytical tools that results in an invitation for a chance to win the national championship!

We won’t even get into the ridiculousness of the modern BCS rankings in college football, but suffice it to say that given the evidentiary limitations of the times, a Helms title that was given retroactively is at best a loosely educated guess of who may have been the best team during a particular year. Who can honestly say that the Helms Champion 1906 Dartmouth (16-2) squad was better than every other team that season (irrespective, it’s always Drinking Time at Dartmouth)? It’s difficult enough to make such an assessment in today’s environment, even with bountiful video and statistical data on every team available in seconds – imagine doing it without ever seeing a team or their opponents play a single game! Which is, of course, essentially what the Helms Foundation did when making its selections.

Keggy the Keg

Is Keggy the Keg aware of Dartmouth’s National Championship?

So why is this relevant to today’s game, and by proxy, this blog? Ten years ago it wouldn’t have been. But nowadays, this has become a fairly contentious issue amongst some of the game’s bluebloods. Most notably, UNC has inarguably been touting its retroactive 1924 Helms title as a championship on equal footing with its four NCAA titles in its media guides and other media outlets (ESPN, CBS, etc.). It also has a banner celebrating this championship hanging next to its NCAA championship banners in the Dean Dome (see the 1:00 minute mark). And Heel fans can also purchase replica banners, including one honoring the 1924 champions, at a store on Franklin St. in Chapel Hill. In a sport that has always crowned its champions at every level in a tournament format, this does not sit well with members of other traditional powers, especially at Kentucky and Kansas, where the message boards enjoy periodic states of delirium over this issue.

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05.21.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on May 21st, 2007

  • Is Billy Donovan reportedly set to become the highest paid college basketball coach in history?
  • Larry Eustachy is definitely not. Still, $135k will buy a lot of Natty Lite for the Southern Miss coeds.
  • Apparently the Arizona assistant coaches should keep their resumes fresh upon Lute’s retirement.
  • John Pelphrey says his Razorbacks are out of shape. Somewhere Stan Heath chuckles.
  • Tubby Smith is enjoying his “rock star” status over the “pariah” status he previously enjoyed.
  • Speaking of Kentucky, Billy Gillispie has no use for games in Boston.
  • Purdue’s Mackey Barn Arena will cost $82M to reduce its capacity by ~800 seats. Oh, and it’ll also be renovated.
  • USC guard Gabe Pruitt has signed with an agent and is staying in the NBA draft.
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Is Duke losing its cachet?

Posted by rtmsf on May 18th, 2007

With the news Wednesday that Duke whiffed on PF Patrick Patterson (who opted for Kentucky over Duke and Florida), combined with yesterday’s news that Roy Williams has extended his contract with UNC through the 2014-15 season, we started to wonder if we’re seeing an unusual blip in Durham, or if last season and the presumed immediate future signal a larger problem there.

Duke logo

Be-Deviled?

The last time Duke had such a blip was in the mid-90s. In 1995, with Coach K’s back hurting and Pete Gaudet at the helm for two-thirds of the season, Duke went 13-18 (2-14) and did not make the NCAA Tournament. There has been considerable harping over the years about whose record (K’s or Gaudet’s) all those losses should fall on, but at the time, it wasn’t a leap to see that even when Duke was 9-3 in early January 1995, a team led by the likes of Cherokee Parks and Jeff Capel (as opposed to Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley or Christian Laettner) was flawed. This was especially true in light of a stacked ACC that season (Each of Duncan, Wallace, Stackhouse, Childress and Joe Smith were all-americans in 1995).

The next season, when K was back on the bench, shows just how far the talent level at Duke had fallen. The 1995-96 team only performed five games better than its predecessor, going 18-13 (8-8) and losing both its first round ACC Tourney game and its first round NCAA game (by 15 pts) to… Eastern Michigan? The following year, 1996-97, Duke only got marginally back on track. The Devils finished with a 24-9 (12-4) record and won the ACC regular season, but they flamed out early again in the postseason, inexplicably losing to #8 seed NC State in the quarters of the ACC Tourney and barely scraping by Murray St. in the first round before losing to #10 seed Providence (by 11 pts) in the second round of the NCAAs. Does this sound familiar at all? It should, as Duke just finished its 2006-07 campaign with a 22-11 (8-8) record, culminating in a first round ACC Tourney loss and a first round NCAA loss to… VCU.

Is there cause for concern among Devil faithful, or is last year’s mediocre regular season and short-lived postseason just an anomaly?

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Vegas Odds: Check-In

Posted by rtmsf on May 16th, 2007

Now that the all the recruits in the Class of 2007 have been tidily gift-wrapped for their respective schools (Patrick Patterson, the lone remaining unsigned star of the class, announced for Kentucky today), we can take a look to see how that impacts the public (read: Vegas) perception of how good teams will be in 2007-08. Granted, we won’t have a true snapshot until the early entry withdrawal deadline has passed next month (June 18), but this should give us a bit of insight into how each team is being evaluated in light of their existing losses and incoming classes (for entertainment purposes only, of course).

05.16.07 Vegas Odds Source: sportsbook.com

Undervalued – with the two best bets at 11:2, it’s obvious that Vegas doesn’t believe there is a prohibitive favorite at this point. Still, getting those odds on UCLA or North Carolina seems like a solid play – we’d expect both of those to go lower as the season progresses next year. If you’re willing to bet that Hibbert & Green return to Georgetown next year, getting the Hoyas at 20:1 is a steal. Tennessee, with a maturing trio of stud sophomores (R. Smith, J. Smith, Chism) and everyone else – ahem, Chris Lofton, returning, is a joke at 40:1. Same with Oregon at 45:1 – yes, they lost Aaron Brooks, but the core of this elite eight team with Hairston, Leunen and Porter, is back. Texas at 60:1 is another steal – they lost Durant, but they keep a young and very talented nucleus of Augustin, Abrams and James in Austin. A couple of SEC schools – Arkansas and Alabama – also jump out at us at 100:1 because they each return a lot of young talent.

Overvalued - what was first noticeable was Ohio St. at 35:1, even allowing for the possibility that Daequan Cook returns to Columbus. Cook + Lewis and Lighty, even with another top five (but clearly lesser) recruiting class coming in, simply isn’t enough to substantiate odds this low. Duke and UConn at 40:1? Seriously? Yes, they’re both returning a lot and Duke at least has an excellent recruiting class incoming, but did anyone watch these teams this year? – this is a “name” pick all the way. We don’t mean to pick on the Big Ten, but Wisconsin loses several of its starters, including its all-american Tucker, and it’s at 75:1? Sell that one if you can. Same with Florida at 75:1 – no way on earth Billy’s kids make a run next year, but check back in 2009. Virginia Tech lost its best two players and its top recruit – 100:1 seems kind here. Another ACC squad – NC State – Vegas realizes this team was 5-11 in the conference last year, and loses its best player (Atsur), right? Maybe they got confused and were putting odds for NCSU winning the NIT, although I didn’t see South Carolina on the list. And everyone knows that no NIT list is complete without the Cocks. (correction: South Carolina is listed at 200:1 odds for the NCAA, not NIT, championship)

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05.15.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on May 15th, 2007

  • Jai Lucas signs with Florida; Patrick Patterson to follow tomorrow? 
  • We knew it!  Majerus will be living in a hotel this year at SLU. 
  • The Cuse’s next curmudgeonly coach will be…  Mike Hopkins
  • Fear not Cat fans: Tevye Anatevka is on the way.
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Gus Gilchrist: “Once I commit to something, I am committed.”

Posted by rtmsf on May 14th, 2007

When we first saw the story that Augustus “Gus” Gilchrist was reneging on his LOI (login required) to Virginia Tech because of their shootings last month, stating that he was not “mentally prepared” for dealing with it, our initial reaction was probably like everyone else’s who is unfamiliar with the situation. “Poor kid doesn’t want to deal with the pressure of coming into a tough situation where everyone on campus is mourning.” “I can understand not wanting to feel like some kind of sports savior after what has gone on there.” Etc.

Augustus Gilchrist

Unfortunately, the empathy with which we felt for Gilchrist, a 6’9 jumping jack out of Clinton, Maryland, who was the MVP of the Capital Classic, quickly gave way to skepticism and then, outright disdain for the kid’s rescission. When Gilchrist committed to the Hokies in November, he was pretty much a nobody on the recruiting lists; but after a strong senior campaign and excellent performances in the all-star games (supposedly playing Patrick Patterson to a standstill at the AAU Nationals), his stock has risen to the point where he is now considered a major sleeper in the class of 2007. We believe there’s more to this story here than meets the eye.

The way we see it, Gilchrist is pulling one of two stunts. Either a) he really is feeling conflicted over attending Virginia Tech after the tragedy there this spring, showing a degree of selfishiness and callousness that surprises even us (what kind of person avoids being part of a healing process?); or b) he is using the events of April 16 as a convenient pretext to get out of his commitment so he can trade up to another school, capitalizing on his “rising star” status. Either way this kid is a complete tool.

Bob Huggins

Huggins growing horns?

According to Josh Barr’s Washington Post blog, Gilchrist’s personal trainer – the fact that he has a personal trainer making statements for him is a red flag in itself – is saying that he will be attending a prep school next year instead of Virginia Tech. This makes absolutely no sense because Gilchrist is already academically eligible to play D1 next season, and prep schools are solely used for ineligibles. This is undoubtedly a leverage play to try to get Virginia Tech to release him from his LOI, so that he can go elsewhere. And rumors are swirling that the Man in Black, Bob Huggins, is somehow involved in this mess. If so, please remember to tip Lucifer on your way out of the stadium, WVU fans.

Update (June 2008):  Gilchrist is on the move again, this time leaving Maryland before even playing a single game.

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