Nice Coup for Coach Cal

Posted by rtmsf on August 27th, 2008

Memphis coach John Calipari got some great news recently when former Kansas recruit and New York Yankee minor leaguer CJ Henry decided to return to college at Memphis this upcoming season to play basketball.  From the Sporting News

C.J. Henry said Tuesday he is enrolling in classes at Memphis and will join the Tigers for the 2008-09 season. His contract states the Yankees will pay for his college, so he will be a walk-on for coach John Calipari at Memphis. It will be Henry’s first competitive basketball season in more than three years. He is 6-3 and was a successful high school player with big-time college ambitions before turning pro in baseball.

So why is news about a walk-on important? 

Come on, Coach Cal… Get Excited!! 

Well, because Henry’s brother is superstud class of 2009 recruit Xavier Henry, a 6’6, 210-lb shooting guard with deep range and the ability to aggressively finish at the rim (Rivals ranks him #3 currently).  In other words, the type of 1-and-done player who could orchestrate another deep run by John Calipari in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.  Guess who his final two schools are…

Kansas and Memphis

Somewhere John Calipari is toasting himself with a snifter of brandy in one hand and a cigar in the other. 

Check the kid’s lefty game…

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Who’s Driving the Ford Now?

Posted by rtmsf on August 26th, 2008

For Carolina basketball fans, the title of this post has significant meaning beyond the city of Motown and its crappy cars.   Some of our younger readers may recall that in 1996 Jeff McInnis was the hotheaded starting point guard for the Tar Heels.  That version of the Heels was decent, with a nascent Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter as freshmen, but the ”star” of the show (at least in his mind) was clearly the junior McInnis.

According to rumors flying around the Triangle area that year, McInnis was more than just a star on the basketball court.  You couldn’t go a Harris Teeter in Cary or Hillsborough without hearing that he had procured some extra practice time with assistant coach and Carolina legend Phil Ford’s wife.  Duke fans, in all their ribald ingenuity, queried on signs whether Jeff had “driven a Ford lately?”  From Josh Levin at Slate:

Sometimes the whispers get so loud that one of the subjects goes public to defend his reputation. In 1996, practically everyone in North Carolina had heard the gossip that University of North Carolina point guard Jeff McInnis had been sleeping with Phil Ford’s wife. In his book A March to Madness, sportswriter John Feinstein delicately alludes to Duke fans razzing McInnis about “personal animosity between him and assistant coach Phil Ford.” As that year’s NBA draft neared, McInnis broke the official silence when he told the Charlotte Observer that Orlando Magic staffers had quizzed him about the allegations that he was leaving school early due to the fallout from an affair with Ford’s wife. His answer: “Nothing ever happened. She is often hugging players. … The Duke people blew the whole thing up.”

That was over a decade ago.  Since then Phil Ford had a couple of well-publicized DUIs and was released by the Fiasco Otherwise Known as Matt Doherty, and has spent the last couple of years working in an education fundraising capacity for UNC, and now, the Charlotte Bobcats.  So why is this all relevant today? 

Well, because now you too can purchase a piece of Phil Ford history (nagging not included)!  His 2000 Final Four ring earned as an assistant coach is on Ebay, and it costs five g’s.  Mewonders whether McInnis ever spent that much on Mrs. Ford (h/t AOL Fanhouse).   

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The First and Only Mississippi Valley St. Post You’ll Ever See

Posted by rtmsf on August 25th, 2008

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is RTC’s Big 12 correspondent and occasional contributor.

During the off season for college basketball, about the only real exciting thing to look forward to is speculation on the schedule for next year–like will a large conference team go on the road to play at a smaller team home court or will teams be playing RPI killers that will hurt them come Selection Sunday?  College basketball scheduling is a little different than college football scheduling in that it is almost an up to the last minute thing to develop a schedule.  Most college football fans have a pretty good idea who is on the schedule up to four years or more in advance.  Most college basketball fans have to wait until a month or two before the current season to find out that season’s schedule.  This probably is more exciting for a small college fan to speculate and wait for, but nonetheless interesting. 
 

Being a fan of the Creighton Bluejays, I was perusing some schedules that have been posted on CollegeHoopsNet.com to see if there were any teams having Creighton on the schedule that we as fans did not know were there yet.  But as I looked a little closer, there was a schedule developing that caught my eye—Mississippi Valley State.

The AD or coach or whoever does the scheduling for the Delta Devils must either dislike the basketball program as a whole or just want to throw the team on the floor because they know they are getting a lot of guaranteed money.  Check out this schedule so far for their month of November:

·         November 17th–@Oklahoma in the first round of the Preseason NIT

·         November 18th–@Oklahoma to play either James Madison or Davidson in winner or loser round of Preseason NIT

·         November 20th–@Montana

·         November 22nd–@Arkansas State

·         November 23rd–@Washington State

Are you serious?  I know SWAC teams are notorious for lining up all of these guaranteed games at schools to help fund other sports and things at their schools, but this makes no sense and you are creating a team that will definitely be tired.  Going from Mississippi to Oklahoma, then three days later go to Missoula, Montana, back towards home to Jonesburg, Arkansas and then back the other way again to Pullman, Washington in the next three days.  Now mapping out it would made a heck of a lot of sense to actually go to Missoula, take the bus ride to Pullman and then fly back to Jonesburg.  But, to cover both coasts back and forth over a couple day period and logging over 6000 miles doesn’t really make sense to me.  Doesn’t that destroy your profit margin? That is absolutely ridiculous.  BTW, the Delta Devils come into Omaha to play the Jays on December 2nd.  They should be a tired team.   

I am also excited to mention that I am taking the challenge of a conference correspondent with Rush the Court this winter.   Though I am a Creighton fan and would love to cover the Valley, I am right smack in the middle (well sort of) of Big 12 territory.  This season should be an intriguing one as we have several questions to answer.   Can Kansas reload and vie for a championship repeat?  Will Texas finally answer the hype machine and be in contention for a run in March to the Final Four?  Will Pat Knight be able to step out of his dad’s shadow to lead Texas Tech to the tourney?  And will Doc “Slingblade” Sadler be able to get Nebraska to the NCAA and notch that first tournament win in program history?  This will be a fun year and an exciting time to be a college basketball fan.

 

 

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Is Patty Mills Next Year’s Stephen Curry?

Posted by rtmsf on August 25th, 2008

Quick…  see if you can name the only NCAA college basketball player to perform in the 2008 Olympics.  There’s obviously nobody on Team USA’s Redeem Team, and the rest of the world’s best players tend to move into their own pro leagues before coming stateside for the NBA, but if you said speedy Patty Mills from tiny St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA, by way of Australia, you’d be correct.

 

Mills is arguably already the best college player you’ve never heard of, or if you’ve heard of, you’ve never actually seen play.  In a quarterfinal game where Team USA obliterated Australia 116-85, the 20-year old Mills established himself as one of the best players on the floor among perennial NBA all-stars.  How do we know this?  Well, ask Chris Paul

“He’s good.  Man, he’s fast. I read something that says he’s faster than me. They’re probably right.  He can move.”

Or Redeem Team head man Coach K:

“I’m glad my Duke team doesn’t play St. Mary’s.  He’s a great guard. He’ll be an NBA guard. I’m very, very impressed. He really has great quickness. And I love him defensively.  I’ve been a defensive coach my whole life and there aren’t very many people who stay with the guard, like right on him, when he has the ball, and if he’s beaten, he doesn’t retreat, he continues to play the play.  He’s got to be an extremely tough-minded kid. But as good as he is offensively, he’s got a chance to be a great defender. I think the kid has got a big-time future, quite frankly.”

For the tournament, the rising Gael sophomore averaged 14/2/2 on 52% shooting, including the eye-opening 20 pt, 2 asst, 3 steal performance against the Americans.  This comes on the heels of a mid-major all-american 15/3/4 rookie campaign that was largely ignored outside of the tiny bandboxes of the WCC.  St. Mary’s had its chance at a Davidson-like run, leading Miami (FL) at halftime of its opening round game, but quickly disintegrated in the second half under a barrage of threes by Miami’s Jack McClintock. 

With four of its top five players returning from a 25-6 team, Patty Mills and St. Mary’s could become the west-coast version of a name everyone will be paying attention to in next March’s brackets.  Channelling Stephen Curry and Davidson…

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08.20.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on August 20th, 2008

Is anyone else a little Michael Phelpsed out?  Apparently Amanda Beard is…  on to the hoops news…

  • Remember the Toledo kid (Sammy Villegas) who the FBI busted for pointshaving?  In a shocking (!!!) turn of events, the FBI is now saying that it was related to the football pointshaving scandal from last season!  (heavy sarcasm alert for you analog types)   So…  how deep does this mire go at Toledo?
  • Former Johnnie and Dookie Roshown McLeod, last seen fumbling a ball out of bounds in the 98 regional finals in St. Pete, is back on the radar as a new assistant for Tom Crean at Indiana (yes, we’re aware he got a little run in the NiBbA).  Too bad he can’t suit up for the new $24M man
  • Former UNC big man Alex Stepheson will transfer to USC and will attempt to get a waiver from the NCAA (similar to what Tyler Smith did last year at Tennessee) so that he can play this season for the Trojans.  His father is suffering from an undisclosed illness. 
  • Get ready to see a LOT of Stephen Curry this year (not a bad thing).  The Preseason NIT will feature Curry’s Davidson squad in addition to other NCAA teams Purdue, Oklahoma, Cornell, Georgia, Mississippi Valley St., and Arizona.   We like the Boilers vs. Curry in the finals.
  • So Ty Lawson ends up with 26 hours of community service (working on his crossover?) and the city of Chapel Hill still has its celebrated point guard in light of his “drinking while driving” arrest back in the spring.  Something doesn’t seem too right about that. 
  • The NCAA denied Pitt forward Mike Cook’s request for an extra year of eligibility.  He played in eleven games last season before suffering a knee injury, and according to the NCAA rules, a player is only eligible for a redshirt season if he played in less than 30% of his team’s games.  Pittsburgh played 37 games last year – Cook played in 11.  That’s 29.7%, so what’s the problem?  The problem is that the NCAA qualifies ALL postseason games as ONE game, which means, by their fuzziest of math, Cook played in 11 of 32 games, or 34.3%.  Ridiculous.  Did you guys know that Kansas won its title in only one game last March/April?
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What Will Give (i)U Peace of Mind?

Posted by rtmsf on August 19th, 2008

Ok, we’ll be the first to recognize that the administration at Indiana University has had an apocryphal six months with its basketball program.  There’s no need to rehash all that’s happened (see here, here and here for some of our previous posts), but much like a regular dude on the prowl after a particularly crazyeyed Stephanie Ragusa girlfriend experience, the administration may have gotten a little peepee in the pants over its next flavor of love – Tom Crean - he who represents a seemingly austere return to normalcy.

 

Harding’s Presidency Didn’t Go So Well Either

Hey, we like Coach Crean.  Seems like a nice fella who can coach a little basketball.  Had a superb March run at an urban Catholic school a few years ago with a wiry guard named Dwyane Wade, as we recall.  Of course that run in 2003 was followed by only one NCAA win in the next five years, which was subsequently followed by Crean taking the Indiana job and watching as pretty much everyone who could play basketball in Bloomington exited stage left (regards to Kyle Taber, we’re sure he’s quite talented – after all he does shoot 78% from the floor). 

In full panic mode, the IU brass today approved a 10-year, $24 million contract for Tom Crean to coach their beloved Hoosiers.  This comes on the heels of national championship coach Bill Self recently signing a 10-year, $30 million deal with Kansas.  Now we know that over ten years, a $6 million dollar difference is a lot of money, but we still have trouble seeing Tom Crean anywhere near the same coaching stratosphere as Bill Self (see comparison table below).  This appears to have every mark of an administration that is desperately seeking stability (which they’ll probably get) without any clue as to how good (and how fast) Crean can will make Indiana. 

 

But hey, they’ll have peace of mind about the recruiting violations, right? 

More:  Crean’s contract, for your reading pleasure. 

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Desperately Seeking… Correspondents

Posted by rtmsf on August 13th, 2008

Ed. Note – this is a sticky.  The new posts are immediately below this one.

Wanted: great writers or bloggers who are intimately knowledgeable with the hoops ins and outs of a conference of their choice.

                            Even Dick is On Board With RTC

Yes, we at RTC are looking to expand our breadth and reach.  With the season fast approaching (only 58 days until Midnight Madness), we are looking to broaden our exposure for the 2008-09 season by facilitating a mutually beneficial relationship with a conference correspondent from each of the 31 D1 leagues (we’d even consider an Independent correspondent if one exists…). 

If you already have a conference blog, great!  We’ll cross-post content that you may have already been doing anyway (in some capacity).  If you’re simply an interested writer looking to create a name for yourself as an expert in a conference, also great!  We’re interested in everyone. 

Depending on the conference the correspondent is covering, we envision a maximum of 2 posts/week that will summarize for our readers what they may have missed while they were keeping an eye on the team(s) or conference(s) they like best.  For the little guys, this is an opportunity to sell the readership of a national blog of the merits of your league and the teams/players to watch throughout the season.  For the money leagues, this is a chance to focus on details that only conference fans are knowledgeable about (i.e., rumors about playing time, local rivalry trash-talk, etc.). 

If you know of someone who would make a great conference correspondent, send us his name/blog/contact info. at rushthecourtATyahooDOTcom or leave the information in the comment section below.  If you are someone with those characteristics, do likewise.

We look forward to hearing from you.   

Update (9/11/08) :  the revised list of needed conferences is here.

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John Pelphrey’s Job Just Got Harder

Posted by rtmsf on August 11th, 2008

Not a full week after John Pelphrey signed a nice one-year extension and received a ‘we have full confidence in you’ raise, he was hit with news that his talented but confounding PG Patrick Beverley has effectively been dismissed from the program.  Privacy concerns limit what school and team officials would say on the record, but Friday was the last day of summer classes at Arkansas and it doesn’t seem a major reach to think that Beverley’s dismissal involved academic problems. 

The Hawgs Have Some Rebuilding Ahead of Them

Arkansas was already facing a rebuilding year next season, having lost four starters from an NCAA second-round casualty squad.  Beverley stood to be the leading returning scorer (12 ppg) and rebounder (7 rpg) and overall team leader despite his diminutive size (6’1).  As Hawg blog Razorback Expats put it, this kinda sucks:

John Pelphrey’s incoming recruiting class is highly regarded, but you can’t like the fact that the player who is now the Hogs’ leading returning scorer – that would be junior guard Stefan Welsh – averaged a whopping 5.3 points per game last year. Only a few days before Beverley was ruled ineligible, Pelphrey told the media that “our basketball team is only going to be as good as our three juniors.” Oops.

Looks like Alabama’s (the presumptive 2009 SEC West champion) seventeen basketball fans are collectively rejoicing right now.

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08.08.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on August 8th, 2008

So who’ve ya got beating the Redeem Team this time around?  Spain?  Greece?  Argentina?

  • Arkanasas head coach John Pelphrey got a nice raise to just south of $800k per annum and extended his contract one year until 2013.   Maybe he can now afford a courtside seat to the games ($10k per season). 
  • The 2008 Maui Brackets are set – uber-#1 UNC will play Chaminade, Texas v. St. Joe’s, Oregon v. Alabama, and Indiana v. Notre Dame in an interesting Hoosier State matchup.  We’d expect to see UNC v. Alabama and Notre Dame v. Texas in the semis, with UNC v. Notre Dame (who is already practicing in prep for a trip to Ireland) in the finals. 
  • Bill Self gettin’ PAID.  His national title earned him a new 10-year contract worth $30M.  Still think he could have gotten more from Boone. 
  • The NCAA in its eternal wisdom tacked another allegation onto Indiana’s menu (“failure to monitor”), which the school said it will respond to in writing. 
  • Alcohol and college sports?  No way!
  • Get ready for the next OJ Mayo agent/runner scandal now. 
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Sammy Villegas’ Story of Woeful Shooting and Pointshaving

Posted by rtmsf on August 7th, 2008

If you remove the “ill” from Sammy Villegas’ name, you’re left with a moniker straight out of central casting for some cheesy 50s Sin City flick – Sammy Vegas.  You can easily picture Sammy sliding in and out of cocktail lounges up and down Fremont Street, looking for the next mark on his latest hustle.

 

Sammy Vegas’ Hustle Just Flew

Unfortunately for the University of Toledo and the game of college basketball in general, Sammy V(ill)egas may just be the latest black eye on a sport that periodically must deal with the ugly spectre of organized crime’s influence around the margins of the game.  In other words, another pointshaving scandal.  A little over a year ago, in reference to the Tim Donaghy officiating scandal in the NBA, we wrote the following in a piece called It Happens More Than We Think:

A recent statistical analysis from the Wharton School at Penn suggests that one percent (~500) of NCAA basketball games from 1989-2005 fell into an outlier that suggests gambling-related pointspread corruption.  This dovetails with a 2003 NCAA report that states that 1.1% of NCAA football players and 0.5% of NCAA basketball players accepted money to play poorly in a game (extrapolating from the sample suggests that this affects ~21 basketball and ~112 football players annually).   

Well, it appears that we now know two of those players from the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.  Sammy Villegas has been indicted by federal prosecutors for conspiracy to influence sporting events by bribery, and all indications are that he is now cooperating with the government to help bring down the Mafiosos who were supporting this endeavor.  Villegas is also alleged to have paid an unnamed teammate to help him pointshave.  According to published reports of the indictment:

On Feb. 4, 2006, Villegas placed a call to a conspirator in Michigan at about 12:15 p.m. Villegas made another call to a conspirator in Michigan at 12:29 p.m. He made another at 3:57 p.m. On that same day, according to the indictment, Villegas is accused of intentionally missing two free throws in a game against “Central State University.” The box score for Feb. 4, 2006, however, shows that Toledo beat conference rival Central Michigan 78-62 that day.  The home game tipped off at 7 p.m. Villegas came off the bench to play 21 minutes, hitting his only shot of the game, a 3-pointer, and missing two free throws.

What’s odd about that game is that, according to RJ Bell at Pregame.com, the final Vegas spread on it was Toledo -15 points.  Despite Villegas’ alleged best (er, worst) efforts, Toledo ended up covering the spread by one point anyway, which would have blown a lot of money of some dangerous folks.  Since the indictment only mentions this one game, we don’t know how often or how deep Villegas got himself into this mess, but just looking at his statistics for those two seasons compared to the previous two, it is apparent that something was seriously weighing on his mind (or his wallet).

As you can see, his numbers during his last two years are down across the board, which is unusual for an upperclass player who isn’t injured or recruited over.  Shooting is precipitously worse in every area, and minutes, scoring and rebounding are also down, as expected.  What really caught our eye, though was Villegas’ assist numbers.  He’d shown a decent propensity for finding open teammates his first two seasons, but in his last two he hardly ever passed the ball to a teammate in a scoring position.  Is this circumstantial evidence that he was wilfully not seeing those openings like he was?  We think so.  The USAO for the E.D.Mich. can send it payment to us COD.   

For what it’s worth, his coach doesn’t believe the accusations.   

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Improving ESPN’s Prestige Rankings: Public Comment

Posted by rtmsf on August 6th, 2008

On Monday RTC’s East Coast field office submitted a piece that has driven considerable discussion, both internally and externally, as to the legitimacy of ESPN’s Prestige Rankings of college basketball programs in the 64-team era (since 1985).  While we have the utmost respect for ESPN interns researchers Harold Shelton,  Nick Loucks and Chris Fallica for plowing through mounds of college hoops data in the interest of the greater good,  Nvr1983 noted in his post that there were several areas where he (and by proxy, we) take issue with how they attributed their points (their NCAA appearance = NIT appearance is just killing us) and ultimately, the rankings.  Don’t get us wrong – overall, we think ESPN did a solid job with their effort.  We just think it could be better. 

 

Graphic Credit (The Hype)

With that in mind, and with the full realization that we don’t have all the answers ourselves, we took a stab at creating a new attribution of points that more accurately reflects what college basketball fans really care about.  The key difference between us and them is that we want to hear from you, the readers, what should be added, eliminated, changed, revised, re-scored, or whatever else.  Feel free to leave a comment below or simply fire us an email at rushthecourtATyahooDOTcom.  It’s not guaranteed that we’ll take every suggestion to heart in our final analysis, but in the spirit of web 2.x, we want to hear your thoughts. 

In Table A below, we show ESPN’s attribution of points, our suggested revision, and any justification as such where we felt it was necessary.  Criteria that we changed or added are represented in blue font.  Items that we removed are in gray shading.  The list is also stored on a separate Google Docs page, so you can copy/paste if you like and we can publicly update it as we move forward. 

We now submit this revised scoring attribution list to you, the readers, for public comment. 

 

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Breaking Down ESPN’s Prestige Rankings

Posted by nvr1983 on August 4th, 2008

Ed. Note:  Don’t like ESPN’s Prestige Rankings?  Provide your comment on how to improve them here.  We’re going to take this information and create a new set of rankings based on additional factors (and getting rid of the moronic NIT appearance = NCAA appearance (1 point) criterion). 

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that ESPN was trying to fill the dead space between the NBA Finals and the Olympics with yet another list. Normally I wouldn’t have even bothered to look at it because ESPN’s lists have been getting progressively more ludicrous (hitting its peak–or nadir–when John Hollinger put Dwayne Wade’s 2006 “Fall down 7 times, shoot 14 free throws” performance above every single one of Michael Jordan’s masterpieces). However, when I noticed that ESPN was trying to rank the most prestigious programs for college basketball in the 64-/65-team era, I was intrigued and figured it was worth some analysis.

Your #1 team of the era
Your #1 team of the era

The first thing I always do when looking at any list is to see the scoring system used and ESPN sure picked an interesting system. I’ll break it into segments with some analysis:

• National title … 25
• Title game loss … 20
• National semifinal loss … 15
• Elite Eight loss … 10

- All four of these things seems pretty reasonable. I think that most fans would value the post-season performances in a way that is pretty close to the points awarded although it seems like a Final 4 berth is considered a great accomplishment for any program (even for the Duke’s and North Carolina’s of the college basketball world). I probably would have bumped up the national title, title game loss, and national semifinal loss by 5 points to give a 10 point spread between an Elite 8 loss and a national semifinal loss.

• Best W-L record in conference’s regular season … 5
• 30-plus wins in a season … 5
• Sweet 16 loss … 5

- This is where the scoring starts to get questionable. I’m assuming the “Best W-L record in conference’s regular season” is lawyerspeak for regular season conference champion. I’m glad that ESPN has decided that the America East regular season champion deserves more points for their in-conference performance than the regular season runner-ups in the ACC, Big East, and SEC. The 5 points for the 30-plus win season may seem like a lot, but in fact they are very rare (Duke leads with 9 such seasons and I could only count/remember 16 programs with any 30-win seasons since the start of the 1984-85 season) so that seems reasonable (as does the 5 points for a Sweet 16 loss although 16 programs achieve are awarded this each season while approximately the same number have achieved it for a 30-win season during the entire era). My main question with the 5-point awards is if they really consider all regular season conference titles the same as it is easier to win certain titles than others. One interesting note about this methodology is that Princeton with 10 regular season Ivy League titles is awarded 50 points with this methodology while Duke with 9 30-plus win seasons is only awarded 45 points for that feat (ignoring the fact that Duke probably won the regular season conference title most of those years).

• Conference tournament title … 3
• AP first-team All-American … 3
• Losing in NCAA second round … 3

- I’m assuming that the Ivy League regular season champ automatically gets the 3 points for winning the conference tournament title since they don’t have a post-season tournament. This only further skews the points Princeton and UPenn get in this system as they receive 80 points and 96 points respectively for their Ivy League titles not to mention the 20-win seasons they racked up beating up on Cornell, Columbia, Harvard, and Brown. I’m perfectly fine with the AP 1st-team AA points as at most 5 teams a year will have a player earn that distinction. Perhaps they should have thrown in a National POY bonus as that player is the one who usually defines the season (Ralph Sampson, Christian Laettner, etc.). Likewise, I’m in agreement with the 3 points for the 2nd round NCAA tournament loss.

• Player in top 10 of NBA draft … 2
• NCAA first-round win as a 12-16 seed … 2
• NIT title … 2
• AP second-team All-American … 2

- This is where it starts to get really weird. Let’s get the reasonable things out of the way first. Top 10 pick worth 2 points? Ok. That seems fine even if the draft was dominated by high schoolers and Euros for a few years. In the future, the one-and-done rule might make this benefit the schools that are willing to take the one-and-done guys even if it does hurt their APR. That is unless those guys start going to Europe. Cinderella getting 2 points for a 1st-round upset? Fine with this too even if we will all remember the Hampton upset of Iowa State more than we will remember the annual 5-12 upsets. AP second-team AA worth 2 points? Ok with this one too even if I think once you start getting to the 2nd team the players selected start getting more dependent on the voters. I’m too lazy to check this out (perhaps rtmsf can do it), but I’d be willing to venture there is a lot more variation in the guys selected to the 2nd team by various publications/groups than there is with the 1st team. Now for the crazy one. . .Awarding 2 points for a NIT title? Maybe in the 1950s, but today winning the NIT only makes you the butt-end of every more successful team in your conference. How many message board threads have trolls made mocking the 65th (now 66th) best team in country? I’ll admit that the NIT champs would probably beat the 13-16 seeds most of the time, but is there really any pride in being the small fish (mediocre team) in the big ponds (power conference) that can beat up on the plankton (13-16 seeds)? I’d give the NIT champ 1 point overall, which leads into the next big problem. . .

• 20-29 wins in a season … 1
• NCAA tournament berth … 1
• Postseason NIT berth … 1
• AP third-team All-American … 1

- Let’s get the easy ones out of the way. No problems here with the 20-29 wins or AP 3rd team AA getting 1 point. I would probably differentiate between 20-24 wins, which is usually a solid season, and 25-29 wins, which usually will put you into consideration for a top 4 seed if you’re from a power conference. Like I said before the further down the AA list you go, the more variation you will have by publication/group, but it’s not really worth arguing about for 1 point. The thing worth arguing about is giving the same number of points for a NCAA tournament berth and a postseason NIT berth. To borrow an over-used phrase from John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious!” While I recognize that in this system the NIT team can only receive 2 points from the tournament (if they win), it is ridiculous to even consider invitations to the 2 tournament similar when the entire selection special is based on camera crews camping out in rooms with bubble teams to see if they got into the NCAA tournament. Maybe the ESPN stat whizzes have access to different camera feeds than I do, but it seems like the players, coaches, and families are happier when they get into the NCAA tournament than when they find out they are going to the NIT (even if Madison Square Garden is a slight upgrade from Boise, Idaho–unless we’re talking NBA). That’s just one man’s interpretation of the reactions I see although I could probably point out that a few years ago Georgetown declined an invitation to the NIT because they wanted to give their players more time to study for exams. . .in March. I wonder why Georgetown didn’t turn down its #2 seed this year. Do John Thompson III and the Georgetown AD not care about those same exams any more?

• NCAA first-round loss to a 12-16 seed … -2
• Losing season … -3
• Ban from NCAA tournament … -3

- No problem with the first two although I wonder if a losing season is counted against you if you have it expunged from your record and throw your long-time assistant coach under the bus? Also, I’d consider a 15-16 season a disappointment while I would consider 8-20 a complete embarrassment, so I’d probably make the less than 10-win season a significantly bigger penalty. I think the NCAA tournament ban should be a much larger penalty in this scoring system as the public (and press) reaction tends to be pretty bad (see below).

This is only a 3 point deduction per year?
This is only a 3 point deduction per year?

>> Minimum 15 seasons in Division I
** Ties are broken by overall winning percentage since the 1984-85 season

- After all the issues with the scoring system, I’m not going to complain about these minor qualifiers and tiebreakers. Both of them seem reasonable and none of the top 50 teams were tied.

Now that we’ve looked the methodology it’s time to pick apart the rankings to see what ESPN got right and what they screwed up. Duke is the run-away winner as even the most ardent Duke-hater (feel free to chime in here rtmsf) would agree that Coach K’s Blue Devils have been the most dominant program of the era even if their results have been underwhelming the past few years. The Blue Devils are followed by the Jayhawks in 2nd and the Tar Heels in 3rd. I’m not going to argue much with this although I would have UNC in 2nd just because I consider Kansas a team that historically underperforms in the tournament (Mario Chalmers’ shot and Danny and the Miracles not withstanding). Now onto the rankings I am utterly confused by.

Overated:
- UNLV: 8th?!? I loved Jerry Tarkanian’s Runnin’ Rebs, who may have been one of the best college teams ever even if they lost/threw the 1991 national semifinal against Duke, but there is no way this has been the 8th most prestigious program in the country over the past 20+ years just like Memphis isn’t in that category. ESPN provides a pretty clear summary of why UNLV shouldn’t be in the top 10: “2 NCAA sanctions; 10 coaches since 1984-85; 0 NCAA tourney wins between 1992 and 2007″. I’d keep UNLV in the top 20, but they definitely don’t belong in the top 10 with that track record.
- Xavier: The Muskeeters (at #17) have a nice Atlantic-10 program, but the fact that they have never made a Final 4 should automatically keep them out of the top 25. The Musketeers are buoyed by 21 combined conference titles, but have not really been a threat in the NCAA tournament having only racked up 15 NCAA tournament wins. Interestingly, Xavier came in 2 spots ahead of Cincinnati even though Xavier is widely considered the red-headed stepchild in the city.
- Temple: I don’t mean to sound like Billy Packer ripping on the mid-majors (sorry, if you’re not a BCS conference, you’re a mid-major in my eyes), but the Owls never made the Final 4 despite five trips there under John Chaney. I think they’re a very good program, but like Xavier, Temple shouldn’t be in the Top 25 without a Final 4 appearance.
- Murray State: Now this is the point where I rip the little guy. I was absolutely stunned when I saw this one. The Racers always seem to be one of those teams you see at the bottom of the bracket and maybe every once in a while you decide to take a chance on them to pull off the huge upset. Unfortunately, if you’re one of those people, you’ve only been rewarded once (1988 against 3rd-seeded NC State). The Racers piled up the points by dominating the Ohio Valley Conference racking up 22 (or 24 depending on your addition skills) conference titles and twelve 20+ win seasons (thanks to an easy conference schedule). Somehow this manages to put them above Villanova, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest.

Underrated:
- Maryland: The Terps (28th) are killed by the fact that they play in the ACC and have lost out on a ton of points thanks to playing in the same conference as Duke and UNC. Although Gary Williams hasn’t had good teams the past few years, the Terps run especially in the Juan Dixon era should have been enough to propel them into the top 20. How does this program only rank 2 spots ahead of Murray State?
- Utah: I don’t think the Utes would be able to move up much higher, but it would be interesting to see how high they would be on this list if they didn’t have the misfortune of playing Kentucky so many times in the 1990s. While the Utes benefited playing in a softer conference than some of their peers on the list (SEC and ACC), the Mountain West has been a fairly strong conference in recent years.
- Florida: I’m not sure how much higher the Gators could move up because of their relative lack of success (not counting Lon Kruger’s 1994 Final 4 run) before Joakim Noah and company ran off back-to-back titles, but it seems like that alone should be enough to crack the top 20 especially when programs like Xavier and Temple are ranked ahead of them despite not making a single Final 4 appearance. The Gators probably belong in the top 15 although that may be more of a recency effect, but it just seems that there recent run puts them at a level that isn’t that much different than UNLV with its run with Larry Johnson.

Other points of interest:
- Coach K’s current program (Duke) ranks #1. The program he left (Army) comes in tied for 298th, or as it is more commonly referred to “DFL”. Hopefully the Duke athletic department program has a better succession plan in place than Army did when Coach K decides to leave the sidelines.
- I found this rather amusing from personal experience. Boston University comes in at 108th ahead of programs such as Clemson, Providence (with a Final 4 appearance), Washington, and USC.
- In the current SportsNation voting, Kentucky is in the lead (good work out of the Sea of Blue crowd) with Duke in 4th even though they have the most #1 votes (something tells me they were left off a lot of ballots or voted 25th). The three teams I singled out as being overrated in the top 25 were moved down quite a bit. Note: I thought they were overrated even before I saw the online voting.

No bonus points for Dream Teamers?
No bonus points for Dream Teamers?
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