One and Done (2007) – was it worth it?

Posted by rtmsf on May 14th, 2007

In the hypercompetitive world of college basketball recruiting, last year’s new NBA rule requiring a player to be one year removed from his high school class prior to declaring for the draft sent repercussions throughout the game. Coaches at the elite programs generally fell into two camps – you either recruit players who you expect will stick around for more than one season, hoping to keep stability (and consistency) within your program; or, you recruit the very best talent available year over year, hoping to catch lightning-in-a-bottle Carmelo-style without experiencing the program volatility that such a strategy may entail. Now that we have one season of one-and-dones behind us, let’s take a look at how the programs employing that strategy fared. We considered the top twenty players in the Class of 2006 (login required) as the most likely one-and-dones.

Greg Oden

Looks like one and done worked out for Greg Oden.

Ohio StateWell Worth It

This program, along with UNC, had the most players listed (3) in the 2006 top twenty – Greg Oden, Daequan Cook, Mike Conley, Jr. As of today, they’re definitely losing Oden; Conley is likely to leave, and Cook is a tossup. However, even if they lose all three, it would be fair to say that OSU got its money’s worth. A 35-4 (15-1) record, NCAA runner-up, Big Ten championship, and the best season in Ohio State’s post-UCLA history will do that. Essentially, this group of players made Ohio State relevant as a national powerhouse again. For many programs, losing a group like this would equal the NIT or worse next season; but with Matta bringing in another group of blue chippers next season (and the season after), OSU won’t take a terrible hit. This gamble definitely paid off, and will continue to do so, long after these players have moved on.

North Carolina Well Worth It
Brandan Wright, Tywon Lawson and Wayne Ellington were all potential one-and-dones when they were recruited by Roy Williams to Chapel Hill. UNC dodged a substantial bullet by losing only Wright to the draft. Led by these three rooks (+ Tyler Hansbrough), Carolina played itself into a 31-7 (11-5) record, an ACC championship and a run to the elite eight where they were simply out-executed by a game Georgetown squad. Still, with Lawson and Ellington returning, Carolina’s gamble came in like Ari Gold at the blackjack table – they’re set to be preseason #1 next year.

Georgia Tech Not Worth It
Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton were the two jewels of Paul Hewitt’s class last year, and both have declared for the draft this year, but neither has yet signed with an agent. It remains to be seen whether one or both of these players will return, but with Young projected in the low lottery and Crittenton in the mid-low first round, it is likely both will stay in the draft. So how did Georgia Tech fare with these guys? Not as well. A maddeningly inconsistent 20-12 (8-8) record with a first-round NCAA loss versus UNLV isn’t the type of season that the teams above enjoyed. Hewitt has a couple of decent players coming into Atlanta next season, but the 2007-08 campaign will be made or broken on the decisions of these two players. This was clearly a tenuous gamble that may actually set the program back if both fail to return.

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Make Way for the Man… the Footballers are coming.

Posted by rtmsf on May 11th, 2007

Reviewing today’s ESPN article on the ten programs to watch during the next decade, it crystallized a trend that we’ve been noticing and tracking over the last couple of years. Sure, the traditional six superpowers – Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina and UCLA – were all on that list, and why wouldn’t they be? Any “down” period will not be tolerated very long by their alumni and fans, which ultimately means that these schools will always provide just enough resources at their programs to be considered elite. But what really struck us as interesting is that Florida, Ohio St. and Texas – all traditional football powers – were ranked in the top seven to watch in basketball. Throw in USC as an a school in “others receiving votes,” and we’re left with four of the giants in college football also being considered as major players for the next decade in basketball. When did this shift happen?

Florida Texas LonghornsOhio St. Buckeyes

Ten years ago, or even twenty, what football-first schools could we have said this about? Probably Michigan in the 90s, and perhaps Oklahoma in the 80s, and if you want to go way back, undoubtedly Notre Dame in the 70s. But who else? Using Final Four participants as a rudimentary barometer of program success, we find that only five of the forty F4 participants (12.5%) in the 1970s could be considered football-first schools (Florida St. – 72; Michigan – 76; Notre Dame – 78; Arkansas – 78; Michigan St. – 79). Moving into the eighties, we don’t see much improvement, with only six of the forty teams (15%) in the F4 focusing foremost on football (Iowa – 80; LSU – 81, 86; Georgia – 83; Oklahoma – 88; Michigan – 89).

Things began to change a little during the 90s, as more SEC and Big Ten teams who traditionally considered basketball as a nice little diversion before spring practice began pouring resources into the sport. Eight of the forty F4 participants (20%) were teams from traditional football schools (Arkansas – 90, 94, 95; Michigan 92, 93; Florida – 94; Michigan St. – 99; Ohio St. – 99). Cut to this decade where through eight seasons football school participants have already made up eleven of the 32 F4 participants (34%) – Michigan St. – 00, 01, 05; Florida – 00, 06, 07; Wisconsin – 00; Oklahoma – 02; Texas – 03; LSU – 06; Ohio St. – 07. This is a definite trend over time, and it is no accident.

As the traditionally football-focused schools have figured out that there is a benefit, both financially and in terms of program cache, in having a successful basketball program in addition to their gridiron brethren, schools such as Florida, Texas, Ohio St. and USC have started making inroads in basketball. In fact, over the last two seasons, the football schools have outmanned the traditional basketball schools in F4 representation four to three (with little guy George Mason thrown in for good measure). Since the athletic department budgets at these collegiate goliaths, driven by football, are pushing nearly $100M/year, there is no shortage of top-rate facilities and resources available at these places now. The idea that Florida or Ohio St. could have a better practice facility than that at Kentucky or UNC sounds ridiculous, but that’s become the reality in today’s NCAA. How much have things changed? Look no further than Billy Donovan’s decision to stay at a football school as second banana to Urban Meyer rather than going to Kentucky and become a veritiable deity this spring. We should expect more of this in the future.

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The basketBollettieri school?

Posted by rtmsf on May 10th, 2007

One interesting piece of news that came out this week was that Der Commisar of Hoopdom, David Stern, is floating the idea of building and maintaining a “basketball academy” of elite high schoolers, similar to those that already exist in tennis and golf. The obvious impetus for this idea is the embarrassing performances of USA, er, NBA Basketball in recent international competitions, which has been (rightly or wrongly) excoriated in the national media as predicated on a glaring lack of player fundamentals such as shooting, boxing out, and solid defense.

David Stern

While there is absolutely no question that the current system dominated by AAU basketball is a broken one, we’re not sure that Stern’s basketball academy is the answer. For starters, the academy would only take “several dozen” underclassmen in a given year, which begs several questions: who would be selecting these 8th, 9th and 10th graders as the chosen ones? What role would politics play in getting a certain kid into the program (see: McDonalds All-American game)? Since scholarships are not tied to performance on the courth, how do we handle the late bloomers (Tracy McGrady) and the early phenoms who don’t progress past age 16 (Schea Cotton)? Would these kids then be pressured to attend certain “most-favored” schools by virtue of their newfound pedigree? The larger question is left unsaid, but Arn Tellem touched on it in his thoughtful LA Times op-ed this week. This program seeks to help the top 30 or so players in a given year to keep their heads on straight, but what about the hundreds of other kids who end up at NCAA programs every year as well? Is this a basketball-based or an education-based decision? There are so many questions that would need to be answered before we could definitively state whether this is a good idea or not.

What we like about this idea is that someone on high is finally addressing the problems that exist in the cesspool that is known as the AAU and summer basketball circuit. We’ve had the privilege of attending a few of these events and can say without reservation that many of the same problems derives directly from the me-first mentality of this scene. Maybe Stern’s basketball academy or something similar can help to emphasize education and basketball fundamentals amongst the very best players. Maybe not. But the key point here is that there is recognition of the existence of a problem, and important people are talking about how to fix it, which is a start.

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05.10.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on May 10th, 2007

  • Slow week in college hoops news, so let’s all review recruiting lists for fun!  USA Today (2007), Scout (2008) and Rivals (2008) all have new top 100s out this week (login required for Scout and Rivals). 
  • As everyone suspected, Greg Oden is actually 33 years old. 
  • Jim O’Brien is eligible to destroy your team’s program in 2009 now rather than 2011.
  • We’ve lost patience with this.  ESPN’s most overrated and underrated programs of the last decade are now out.  It seems that ESPN was actually asking/answering two different questions (overrated isn’t the same as underachieving, and vice versa, but we digress), but if we define the rating system as performing above or below your talent level, no question that Cincinnati is a major omission from the overrated list, and likewise Utah from the underrated list.    
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Top 10 Teams 1998-2007

Posted by rtmsf on May 9th, 2007

ESPN put out its top ten individual teams of the last decade, and we see some definite problems with some of their choices. First of all, only fourteen teams received votes, and we figure that at least four others – Kentucky 1998 (a champion, mind you), Arizona 2001 (runner-up), Duke 2002 and Arizona 1998 – deserve to be mentioned. As it stands, here is our list of the best teams of the past decade:

El-Amin and the Huskies shocked the world

El-Amin and the Huskies shocked the world

Team of the last decade?

1. UConn 1999 (34-2) – Nobody on this list had a better season from start to finish as this Huskies team. People tend to forget this team because it was considered at the time a bit of a fluke that they had beaten a loaded Duke team for the title, but they actually had held the #1 position for more weeks that season than Duke. Make no mistake about it, this team was legit across its lineup (Voskuhl, Freeman, Hamilton, El-Amin, Moore), and simply went about its business methodically winning game after game on its way to the championship.

2. Duke 1999 (37-2) – The primary reason UConn 1999 is #1 is because they proved their mettle by beating the sickest team of the last decade in a knockout championship game. Duke 1999 was the last “great” team of its era – along with its counterparts UNLV 1991, Duke 1992, and Kentucky 1996. This Duke team destroyed just about everyone they played all season long, but for a miraculous finish against a very talented Cincinnati squad in Alaska and the UConn “shock the world” game in the title match-up. A couple more baskets by Trajan Langdon and this team would be considered in the top five or ten of all-time.

3. Florida 2007 (35-5) – In terms of effectuating a repeat championship, and the manner in which they did it (virtually unchallenged in the NCAAs for two consecutive years), the 2007 Gators will be mentioned as one of the greatest teams of all-time. Horford, Noah, Brewer, Humphrey and Green were a true definition of “team,” with someone different stepping up in the clutch every time they needed it. However, a mind-boggling (albeit forgivable, considering the pressure on this team) mid-season hangover including ugly road losses against Tennessee and LSU are all that keeps this team from jumping to the top of the list with UConn 1999.

4. (tie) Duke 2001 (35-4) – This Duke championship team exhibits the type of team that wins titles in the 2000s – those with versatile inside/outside players, a solid core of experienced veterans, but not much depth. Battier, J-Will, Dunleavy, Boozer, and Duhon were an all-star cast that makes you wonder what has happened to K’s recruiting in the last few years.

4. (tie) UConn 2004 (33-6) – A belief in our eyes that this team was better than its record is based on Emeka Okafor’s back problems during this season. Coming from behind and closing out a scrappy Duke team in the final three minutes of the semifinals was a testament to just how good this team could be. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mark Cuban’s Little Shop of PEDs

Posted by rtmsf on May 8th, 2007

In June’s Men’s Journal magazine, Mark Cuban has created a bit of a stir by saying that, as long as performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) do not cause harm to the athletes, he doesn’t see anything wrong with their use in sports. Maybe his reaction is a response to the Mavs’ somnambulant appearance last week during the Warriors – if anyone needed an “upper,” it was those guys – but it is an interesting proposition.

Again, the assumption here is that a PED of the future would not cause physical, mental or emotional harm to the athlete – we can all agree that any substance that does so should be banned from sports. But what about a safe substance that can be prescribed and monitored by a physician that would put an extra 2-3 mph on that fastball; or allow your vertical to increase a couple more inches? Some might say we already do this, with our GNC-driven supplements, antioxidants, and other mystical powders and analgesics. And what about treatment of injuries? Science has made leaps and bounds with its ability to get athletes back on the field or court at a high level and quickly – is that not another form of constantly evolving performance enhancement? Read the rest of this entry »

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Top Ten Programs 1998-2007

Posted by rtmsf on May 7th, 2007

The WWL today began a thought-provoking series of articles about which college hoops programs have been the “best” over the last ten years. We’ll track this over the next few days, chiming in where appropriate. Their expert panel apparently consisted of Katz, Bilas, Forde, Glockner and Lunardi. Good thing that the human smegma known as Dick Vitaletrick wasn’t involved or Duke would have held all ten positions.

Duke came out on top anyway, with Michigan St. and UConn tied for second. Florida, Kansas, UNC, Kentucky, Arizona, Maryland and Syracuse rounded out the list – all eight schools who won titles during this period + Arizona and Kansas. While we tend to agree with the ten programs listed, we would re-arrange the order a bit. Our criteria for excellence is fairly set: first and foremost, NCAA Tournament success matters most. To be considered the best program, you must make it almost every year, you must win while you’re there, and you must go to Final Fours and win championships. Since every one of these programs starts each season with one primary goal – to win the national championship – that must be the foremost consideration. Here’s the ultimate arbiter – would any team’s fans trade their decade of success, however it is measured, for another championship? Of course they would, which is why UConn and Florida with two titles each have been the “best” programs of the last decade in our analysis.

Calhoun NCAA title Billy Donovan title

Calhoun’s Huskies and Donovan’s Gators lead our list.

Multiple Titles

1. UConn – two different titles with two different teams (1999 and 2004), and they beat ESPN’s #1 Duke both times en route to the titles.

2. Florida – we pick UConn over Florida because it is harder to win with two completely different teams than a stacked one which comes back to do it again. But as of now, Florida is without question the Team of the 00s.

Now, we consider the teams with one title during this period. Sorry Kansas and Arizona, but again, their fans would happily trade all their conference titles and #1 seeds for just one Maryland 2002 or Syracuse 2003 run. Especially KU – how long has it been now – coming up on 20 seasons, right? At least Arizona just missed their 1997 title by this rather arbitrary ESPN time frame.

One Title

3. Duke – this is where the Blue Devils belong over the last decade. They have the best resume of the one-title teams, and have avoided significant “down” seasons compared with the other schools (nine straight NCAA Sweet 16s or better from 1998-2006).

4. Michigan St. – the Spartans have been to one additional F4 than Duke, but have mostly been pedestrian (three first round NCAA losses) since their glorious run from 1999-2001.

5. North Carolina – the Doherty years of 2000-2003 (one NCAA win and an 8-20 debacle) aren’t compensated enough by three F4s and one title to overcome Michigan St.

6. Kentucky – we’re talking about one F4 leading to one title in 1998, but the Cats were consistently good, if not great, throughout this period (ten straight NCAA second rounds and four elite eights).

7. Maryland – cf. with the Terps, who although they went to back-to-back F4s in 2001-02 and won their first national title in the latter, they have really fallen hard in recent years – only two NCAA wins in the last four seasons.

8. Syracuse – the other one-title teams would have a decent argument to be included in the top eight even if they’d not won a title , but Syracuse probably would not, having numerous middling seasons surrounding that magical run in 2003.

Best of the Rest

9. Kansas – this would probably have been true for almost any ten-year period throughout the 90s and 00s that you choose because they’re always very good. Kansas just cannot seem to get back over the hump and win another national title despite multiple F4s and several absolutely loaded teams.

10. Arizona – of course, if this list was created last year, Arizona probably would have finished in the top five because of their 1997 title; nevertheless, the Cats have had several excellent teams like Kansas that were good enough to win it all without a truly bad season during this period.

Others considered: UCLA (two F4s), Ohio St. (two F4s), Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Stanford, Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma St.

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05.07.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on May 7th, 2007

  • But for Winthrop (doh!), Mike Brey might have been given an extension at Notre Dame through 2023 (instead of 2013).   
  • Rick Pitino has also signed an extension with Louisville through 2013.  Six more seasons at Louisville??  The Vegas over/under is three.   
  • The Big Ten is looking to bring future thrillers such as Northwestern vs. Iowa to homes from Malibu to Manhattan (currently starved for midwestern basketball) with its deal to place the Big Ten Network on DirecTv & AT&T cable providers.   
  • There were a host of rumors floating around the message boards this weekend that Billy Donovan had interviewed with the Memphis Grizzlies last week, and was seriously considering their offer of $5M per annum.  Yahoo Sports corroborated this story on Sunday, but it has since been completely debunked, as Donovan did not interview with Memphis and has no interest in the job. 
  • From the looks of it, UCLA is the very early leader for the best class of 2008, already receiving commitments from three of the Rivals top fifty players (login required) (Jerime Anderson, Malcolm Lee and Drew Gordon) and the possibility of two more. 
  • NBA Second Round Predictions – a 5-3 record is pretty pathetic for the first round of the NBA Playoffs, and yes, we realize we’re late, but here are the predictions for Round Two:
    • Pistons over Bulls in 7 – the aging Pistons hold off the young Bulls for one last season 
    • Cavs over Nets in 7 – if we watch more than 5 minutes of this series, have us exported immediately to a country where soccer is watched for fun
    • Spurs over Suns in 6 – this would have been the pick even prior to Nash’s bloody nose Game 1 on Sunday
    • Warriors over Jazz in 6 – the magic carpet ride for Nellie & Co. continues for one more series
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A whole generation of kids will now have their foot on the line…

Posted by rtmsf on May 3rd, 2007

If you didn’t already catch it, the NCAA was busy again today.  After taking away our text messages and putting the whomp down on academic rogues in the last week, it decided that beginning in the 2008-09 season, college basketball will move back its three-point line by a foot to 20 feet, 9 inches.  This remains three feet shy of the NBA range at the top of the key, but inexplicably, it is three inches longer than the international distance.  In keeping with NCAA decisionmaking, this extra three inches makes almost no sense, considering that a given court could have as many as four different three-point lines on it – women’s NCAA (staying at 19’9), international (20’6), men’s NCAA (20’9) and NBA (23’9).

Three pointer

Notwithstanding the playing surface chaos we anticipate at the likes of UC-Santa Barbara and other schools that use their home floors for volleyball in addition to men’s and women’s basketball (so… many… lines…), some coaches have chafed at the change because it did not also address the width of the lane.  Their complaint is that if you are trying to open up the court and reduce physical play by extending the three-point distance, you need to also expand the width of the lane to compensate for the post men’s strength inside.  In our worldview, though, anything that provides for less bumping and grinding in the paint is without question a good thing.  See: Suns, Phoenix, for a template on this style.     

Although we question the confounding extra three inches, we actually believe this is a good rule change for player development purposes as well – and overdue, at that.  When the 12 year olds at your local rec center (or this kid!) can consistently hit the current three-point shot, it’s probably a little too easy for college athletes.  Plus, every additional inch will provide a disincentive for guys who shouldn’t have been shooting threes in the first place – do you hear us Jacque Vaughn/Wayne Turner/TJ Ford? 

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Huggins still screwing Cincy 2 yrs later…

Posted by rtmsf on May 2nd, 2007

If those cries of agony you heard today coming from AD offices across the land, originating at the fair universities at Cincinnati, Fresno State and Iowa State (among others) had you bewildered, wonder no more.  Today the NCAA released its Myles Brand-inspired bugaboo, the Academic Progress Rate (APR), to hordes of facepainted denizens ready to storm the castle at these bastions of academe and throw the louts (coaches) out.  Now that academic performance, er, progress, is tied to reductions in scholarships, practice & game time, and ultimately postseason eligibility, a coach cannot (should not?) simply round up the three nearest Lloyd Daniels and Skip to my Lous and call it a class, can he?

Myles Brand 

Myles Brand is coming after your school!

Well, he can if he moves on to another school before the APR kicks in.  None of the head coaches at these three schools for the years considered by the APR (2003-2006) – Bob Huggins (Cincinnati); Ray Lopes (Fresno St.); Wayne Morgan (Iowa St.) – are still around at their respective universities, having left academic quagmires in their wake that the new coaches and administrators must now sort out.  Much like hepatitis A after a bender to Laos, it’s the gift that keeps on giving!   

We don’t mean to pick on these coaches, as 44% of their peer institutions in Division 1 basketball also had three-year APR averages under the NCAA minimum requirement of 925 (out of 1000), and the national average was only 927.   Fresno St. (787), Cincinnati (838) and Iowa St. (852) just happen to be the three worst “name” schools.  If these and other schools don’t get their acts together, they could face what the NCAA calls “historical penalties,” which assesses major restrictions on a team and a program if their academic progress is not at an acceptable level.  Cincinnati (1) and Iowa St. (2) are already losing scholarships this year for its transgressions under their former coaches who got away scot-free, which once again shows the hyprocisy of the NCAA (another topic for another time).  It’s a good thing this measure didn’t exist during the Tarkanian days – does the APR score go as low as zero?     

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05.01.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on May 1st, 2007

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