Other Draft Withdrawal Deadline Decisions…

Posted by rtmsf on June 15th, 2009

Other than Jodie Meeks (see post below), we promised to keep an eye on several other all-americans who were considering leaving school early, but who had put off the decision until the very last minute, i.e., today.  Here’s a list of their decisions, and how it will impact their team…

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  • Austin Daye, leaving Gonzaga – we said yesterday that we seriously questioned his reported decision to be leaning toward the draft, and it remains so.  Someone will take him due to his size, length and shooting ability, but he’s proven softer than Charmin, so we’re not sure about his long-term prospects.  As for Gonzaga, this is a substantial blow, as the Zags are already losing Josh Heytvelt, Micah Downs and Jeremy Pargo.  It’s never truly a ‘rebuilding’ year for Gonzaga, but Matt Bouldin will have a load to carry in the Pacific NW next season.
  • Luke Harangody, staying at Notre Dame – this is a good decision, as Harangody stands to have a good nucleus of players surrounding him at ND next season, and with the Big East not as strong as it was in 2009, the Irish will likely be able to ride ‘Gody and Tory Jackson to an NCAA berth after their disappointing campaign last year.  He’ll also have a legitimate shot at becoming the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in ND basketball history – he needs 730 pts and 370 rebounds, both totals less than he got this season.
  • Jeff Teague, leaving Wake Forest – we’re of the opinion that whoever drafts Teague in the late first round will get a steal on par with the Celtics selecting Rajon Rondo several years ago.  In much the same way as Rondo at Kentucky, he mentally checked out of college hoops once he decided he was going pro, but the talent and athleticism is there.  Wake will still have Ish Smith to run point and a decent supporting cast led by Al-Farouq Aminu, but Teague certainly was a difference maker and he will be missed.
  • Greivis Vasquez, staying at Maryland – this is another good decision because a more composed senior campaign from Vasquez could easily push the Terp PG into the top twenty of the 2010 draft.  This is huge news for Maryland because the Terps have an experienced team returning to College Park, losing only Dave Neal, and Gary Williams’ team should compete for third place in the ACC next season.
  • Ater Majok, staying at Connecticut – this was a pipe dream to begin with, but Majok may end up playing in Europe anyway due to his peripheral association to the ongoing Nate Miles recruiting investigation at UConn.  If he does end up playing for Jim Calhoun next season, there’s no telling how productive he’ll be, so it’s questionable what impact he could have.
  • Texas A&M TrioChinemelu Elonu is leaving the Aggies, but Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis are returning.  None of these three leaving made any sense whatsoever, and the 6’10 Elonu was clearly talking to the wrong people because he has no shot at getting drafted.  A&M should still be solid with the returns of Sloan and Davis, however.
  • Taj Gibson, leaving USC - probably a good decision given his age and the apocalypse going on at USC in the wake of the OJ Mayo scandal.  Do we really need to rehash how this will impact USC next season?  No, we don’t.

We’ll try to do some additional analysis on this year’s draft class later this week, but don’t hold us against it if we don’t.

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Meeks Leaves Kentucky

Posted by nvr1983 on June 15th, 2009

In one of the more secretly important deadline decisions of the day, Kentucky junior Jodie Meeks has decided to stay in the NBA Draft and forgo his senior year in Lexington. Although many draft pundits would question the decision because Meeks is only projected as a late first to early second round pick (Insider access required), Fran Fraschilla brings up the point that this year’s class is extremely weak and Meeks might not rise any higher even if he comes back for another year. Normally I would agree with the dogma that an underclassman shouldn’t leave without a first round guarantee (I’m assuming Meeks hasn’t received one), but I have to agree with Fraschilla on this one. For all of Meeks’ talent and scoring prowess, NBA scouts just don’t seem that interested in him. He’s unlikely to jump more than a few spots, but could drop as well depending on which players declare next year.

However, since this is a college basketball site we’re more concerned with the effect it will have on next season and John Calipari‘s Kentucky Wildcats. When asked about Meeks’ decision Calipari simply said, “We’ll be fine.” Not to go Bill Clinton on Calipari, but I’m curious what he means when he says the Wildcats will be “fine”. The Wildcats will certainly exceed last year’s poor performance, but after the summer they had the folks in Lexington were probably already booking hotel rooms in Indianapolis to watch their beloved Wildcats cut down the nets. While the current iteration  of the Wildcats (featuring Patrick PattersonJohn WallDeMarcus CousinsDaniel Orton, and Eric Bledsoe) certainly has the potential to do so, but if Calipari had been able to lure Meeks back the Wildcats would have been the prohibitive favorites to cut down the nets. With Meeks leaving the Wildcats are still a top 5-10 team, but the lack of a proven perimeter scorer puts them a level below Kansas. The Wildcats will still have the ability to beat any team in the nation, but the lack of a proven perimeter threat will make them a much easier out in the tournament unless Wall, Bledsoe, or Jon Hood can develop into that threat by next March.

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You Have Until 5pm Monday, Jodie Meeks…

Posted by rtmsf on June 14th, 2009

Well, we’re down to the wire again this year – the NBA’s early entry withdrawal deadline is 5pm EDT Monday – and there are still several notable players who haven’t made up their minds yet.

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Before we take a look at the stragglers, let’s take a quick peek at a few who made up their minds over the last few days.  It should be noted that, by and large, these are good decisions.  It will be interesting to see if that holds through Monday’s deadline.

Players Returning to School

  • Gani Lawal, Georgia Techinteresting decision, as Lawal was probably a late first round pick.  Tech may be this year’s Wake Forest (mucho talent on an underachiever) with Lawal and Iman Shumpert returning with superfrosh Derrick Favors coming in.
  • Damion James, Texasanother great decision, as James was staring second round or undrafted square in the face.
  • Tyler Smith, Tennessee – Bruce Pearl has to be thrilled as he couldn’t have expected to have the hard-working Smith back for a third year in Knoxville.
  • Devan Downey & Dominque Archie, South Carolina – neither of these players were ever serious about leaving because they weren’t going to be picked, but their return will make South Carolina a formidable presence in the SEC East next year.

Players Officially Leaving

  • Jrue Holiday, UCLAno big surprise as Holiday has been moving up the boards  in recent weeks.  Maybe Holiday is another example of a player who blossoms at the next level (he sure didn’t at this one).

The one player whose name is on everyone’s mind due to the fact that it will significantly impact next year’s rankings, however, is Kentucky’s Jodie Meeks.  If he decides to return, and there’s nobody in Lexington who seems to know definitively what he’s going to do, then Kentucky is your preseason #1 team without question.  If he does not return, then it’ll probably go to Kansas with Kentucky and several others coming in closely behind.

Here are a few of the names of other players who have waited to the last minute to let the world know their decisions…

There are quite a few smaller names, but we feel as if this year most of the impact players who should be returning have made a good decision to do so.  We’ll try to update things tomorrow as the news flows in.

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Calhoun in “Good” Condition After Collapsing

Posted by nvr1983 on June 13th, 2009

As you may have heard by now, everyone’s favorite state accountant, Jim Calhoun, collapsed after a 50-mile charity bike ride in his own “Jim Calhoun Cancer Challenge Ride”. The fall was actually Calhoun’s second of the event as he finished the ride in a replacement helmet after cracking the other one during a fall just 12 miles into the ride that broke 5 ribs. [Insert joke about how much tougher he is than the UConn players were in the Final 4.] Calhoun was taken to the UConn Health Center in Farmington, CT where he was listed in “good” condition according to hospital spokesperson Maureen McGuire. [Ed. Note: Fortunately for Calhoun and the UConn basketball program the new interns haven’t arrived at the medical center yet.]


Given Calhoun’s history of health problems (previously diagnosed with prostate cancer and squamous cell carcinoma) everyone was probably concerned about the cause of the episode, but according to the hospital it was simply due to dehydration and trauma from his first fall. Despite the seemingly benign cause the fall will inevitably lead to more questions about how long Calhoun will be coaching the Huskies. Calhoun recently spoke about his health and the health of his program and briefly even touched upon the Nate Miles issue. While some pundits will speculate that Calhoun’s days in Storrs are numbered, the thinking here is that Calhoun will not want to go out with the pending NCAA investigation hanging over the program he worked so hard to build. Expect at least another 5 years out of Calhoun at UConn before he retires. Health permitting of course. . .

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What’s Going On With Pitino?

Posted by rtmsf on June 10th, 2009

Ok, we’re going to put our tin foil hat on here for a few minutes.  It’s summer, and nobody is reading this anyway.  But we’re really having trouble understanding the news today that Holy Cross head coach Ralph Willard (and longtime Pitino buddy) will leave his successful, self-made program in Worcester, Mass. to become an assistant coach at Louisville.

Read that again: assistant coach at Louisville.

ralph-willard

To open our conspiracy theory, let’s consider all the reasons that Willard shouldn’t have so much as considered this job, much less taken it.

  • Willard’s been a head coach for the last 19 years, first at Western Kentucky, then at Pitt, and spending the last decade at Holy Cross.
  • Holy Cross is Willard’s alma mater (Class of 1967), and he’s turned down other head coaching opportunities at higher profile places to stay there.
  • Willard is arguably HC’s best coach ever.  In ten seasons he’s taken the Crusaders to four NCAA Tournaments as Patriot League champions, won 20+ games five times, and has gone 192-117 (.621) in his career there.  It’s safe to say that he could have held on to this job as long as he wanted it.
  • It wouldn’t be unfathomable to believe that his salary, even at a Patriot League school, was higher than what Louisville can afford to pay its top assistant.  At worst, we’d expect the two to be comparable.

So in the spirit of 9/11 was Saddam’s Bush’s Israel’s doing paranoids everywhere, we have to wonder what the hell is going on here?

Then we started thinking… a lot has gone on at Louisville in the past few months.  To recap:

Throw that in with the persistent rumors of a nameless medical condition dogging Pitino, and it wouldn’t be outside a reasonable realm of possibility for us to think that Ralph Willard has been promised something to become Pitino’s insurance policy.  What if Pitino’s legal battles, familial problems and/or medical issues require him to take a leave of absence for a bit, similar to what Lute Olson did at Arizona?  Wouldn’t it make sense to have a friend he’s known and trusted for 40+ years ready to move in at the helm if necessary?  Or what if Pitino is once again feeling his well-documented propensity for wanderlust, and although he wasn’t interested in taking the Kings job this spring, he would be interested in other more high-profile NBA/college jobs should they open up?  In that situation, he could essentially pull a Dean Smith/Bill Guthridge and leave the Louisville post to his top guy.

Or this could all be nonsense, chalked up to people sometimes doing irrational things, and we’re completely off base in our analysis.  You’ll excuse us as we now go watch the Apollo 11 space landing in Arizona from the comfort of our alien-built spaceship in Area 51 while riffing some fresh beats with 2Pac and Biggie.

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Coach K Considering a Return to Team USA Sideline

Posted by nvr1983 on June 10th, 2009

After bringing back the gold from Beijing and watching his Duke teams slide back to the pack, it was widely assumed that Coach K would hand over the reigns to Team USA so he could focus on his Blue Devils. However, Krzyzewski announced late last week that he was interested in coaching Team USA in London in 2012. Although he did not say definitively whether or not he would be pursuing the position, it seems unlikely that he would need to do much campaigning to keep his spot as head coach with the success of the team and the apparent lack of disharmony on the team despite several big names playing sparingly. For us, there are two big questions about the situation:

(1) How will this affect the Duke program?

It will probably hurt them. I don’t really buy the notion that coaching Team USA gets Coach K’s face out there in front of more 5-star guys. I can’t imagine any high school basketball players not knowing about Duke and Coach K. Coaching Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James will certainly give you more street cred than coaching Greg Paulus and Josh McRoberts, but I’m assuming most recruits are aware of the fact that Carmelo and LeBron were really, really, really good before Coach K decided how to tinker with the rotation and their minutes. The bigger impact on Duke will be the absence of Coach K from the recruiting trail. Committing to Team USA will mean that Coach K won’t be on the summer circuit and the guys at ABCD and every other crazy camp out there won’t see him in the stands. While Coach K and the Duke name are still able to land highly touted recruits like Paulus, McRoberts, and Shavlik Randolph (yes, they were all projected to be stars coming out of high school) in recent years he has been unable to land some major targets that he used to land (John Wall comes to mind although it could be argued that it is that he is simply against having one-and-dones).

(2) If Krzyzewski does not seek the position, which coach would be the most likely to replace him on the sideline?

Our top choices would be Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim, John Calipari (no entrance exams required here), Mike D’Antoni and Gregg Popovich. Other than D’Antoni and Popovich, I can’t think of another suitable NBA coach who would be willing to give up his summers to coach a bunch of players that he might be coaching against during the regular season. If Coach K turns down a chance to repeat in London, the question is who Team USA would target as its top choice. Given the standardized test fiasco at Memphis it’s unlikely that Team USA would go with Calipari if other comparable coaches were available. Boeheim is probably the logical choice after serving as an assistant under Coach K, but personally I would like to see Pitino employ a pressing defense with the athletes and depth Team USA could field that would destroy international teams (despite what Malcolm Gladwell thinks).

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Filth Flarn Floyd…

Posted by rtmsf on June 10th, 2009

The news came out early this evening that USC head coach Tim Floyd has formally resigned from his post as top Trojan.  In a one-paragraph letter written to his AD, and interestingly, released to the Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger, Floyd stated:

As of 1 p.m. today, I am resigning as head basketball coach at the University of Southern California. I deeply appreciate the opportunity afforded me by the university, as well as the chance to know and work with some of the finest young men in college athletics.  Unfortunately, I know longer feel I can offer the level of enthusiasm to my duties that is deserved by the university, my coaching staff, my players, their families, and the supporters of Southern Cal. I always promised my self and my family that if I ever felt I could no longer give my full enthusiasm to a job, that I should leave it to others who could. I intend to contact my coaching staff and my players in coming days and weeks to tell them how much each of them means to me. I wish the best to USC and to my successor.

And richest young men.  When reports surfaced last month that Floyd paid cashmoney directly to OJ Mayo’s handlers in order to get him to Troy, his fate was pretty much sealed.  And for lack of a better word, how retarded must he feel now after he turned down a lucrative offer to coach at Arizona this spring?  Or his alma mater LSU a year ago?  Like Kelvin Sanctions before him and John Calipari at present, Floyd clearly hasn’t figured out that the key to long-term success along the blurred edges is to stay one step ahead of the NCAA gumshoes.

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Instead of Floyd’s lasting legacy at USC becoming a deep tournament run led by OJ Mayo and  his SuperFriends, it will now instead be sullied ruminations of the urchin Rodney Guillory and a stack of benjamins handed over on a corner in Beverly Hills, just another soulless transaction like so many others on LA street corners in a given day.  But  if you think about the whole sordid affair, who ever believed that Mayo, a kid who had never expressed a bit of interest in the Pac-10 throughout his prep career, suddenly became enamored with the City of Angels without so much as a recruiting visit?  Who out there bought into that yarn that Floyd often related about Guillory showing up at his office one day ‘offering’ Mayo, and letting the coach know that ‘ OJ will call you,’ not the other way around?  The whole thing was farked from the get-go, and anyone with any sensibility about how this sport works knew it.

USC fans don’t seem very surprised, and they’re already pushing several names – Jamie Dixon (with his SoCal ties), Craig Robinson, Mark Few, Lon Kruger, Randy Bennett – but whoever takes this job will be entering a post-apocalyptic war zone, not unlike what Tom Crean found at Indiana last season, with  little to no hope and even fewer players.  The key difference between the situations, of course, is that there’s an awful lot more things to do in LA than there are in Bloomington, and this particular school isn’t exactly known for its hardwood glory (as IU is).  Still, the resources are there to become successful and god knows there’s enough prep talent in LA (even after UCLA takes theirs) to support another top 25 program.  But it’ll take the right person to get the job done there, someone who has the charisma and personality to sell the program to a fickle crowd as well as an ability to genuinely interest recruits on the school for reasons that don’t involve payment plans.  At least one commentator isn’t sure that it can happen.  He’s probably right.

Now, about that Reggie Bush thing…

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06.08.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on June 9th, 2009

Another week has started, and we’re within one week of the NBA Draft withdrawal deadline, so let’s see who’s returning…

  • LSU’s Tasmin Mitchell will return to Baton Rouge for his senior season (smart move).
  • Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds is leaning toward a return to the Main Line for his senior year (also a smart move).
  • Arizona’s Nic Wise will also return for his senior season (a wise move, indeed).
  • Miami (FL)’s Dwayne Collins has wisened up and will also be back for his senior season (yep, these guys are getting it).
  • Memphis players continue to jump ship, with Shawn Taggart now deciding to forgo his senior season (not a great move, but he’s already 24 and who knows what penalties Memphis may face next season).
  • Tennessee’s Tyler Smith is still thinking about returning, but he’s also considering going to Europe to start his professional career.  While on the subject of collegians moving to Europe, Luke Winn explores the issue a little further in the context of Nick Calathes’ decision to play in Greece.
  • Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague injured his knee in a workout last week, but is expected to remain in the first round and therefore will most likely stay in the draft.

Some other news bouncing around the early summer months…

  • Memphis made its defense to the NCAA on Saturday, and we pretty much agree with most of what Gary Parrish writes here.  Details are scarce as to what was actually said at the hearing, but Kentucky’s John Calipari did phone in from China, and Memphis official stated on the record that they feel that they’d made their case to the NCAA.  Not sure what else they could say in that spot though.  Memphis should hear something from the NCAA in 6-8 weeks.
  • The Shane Battier Memorial Rule will be in effect beginning next season.  Wonderful.
  • We really don’t have a good feeling about the long-term prospects of Josh Pastner at Memphis.  Nothing against the kid, but Calipari is just too tough of a situation there to follow.  He’s showing his recruiting chops already, but can he coach?
  • In a cost-cutting measure, three Big Ten schools (Michigan, Ohio St., Wisconsin) are eliminating their annual media guides for their sports teams.  We’d expect this to be a major trend in the next few months nationwide.   The NCAA is also lending a hand by suspending members’ dues this upcoming year.
  • A Tennessee congressman named Steve Cohen is petitioning the NBA to change its “one-and-done” rule.  Interesingly, his district includes Memphis, who is of course dealing with the Derrick Rose fiasco.  Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt took offense at some of Cohen’s comments about his former player, Thaddeus Young, and is now demanding an apology.
  • Former Razorback Patrick Beverley threw Arkansas under the bus in an interview with DraftExpress when he said, “Someone from Arkansas was doing papers, was doing me and some of my teammates’ papers…”
  • UK countersues Billy Gillispie.  This could be really fun.
  • Gary Parrish explores Billy Donovan’s thoughts on the Orlando Magic making the NBA Finals two years after he backed out of his commitment to coach that team.
  • In a bit of a shock, Fairleigh Dickinson fired head coach Tom Green after 26 years of loyal service, including four NCAA Tournament appearances and 407 wins at the school.
  • UT-Martin’s head coach, Bret Campbell, resigned after an internal audit found that he had deposited $20k in basketball camp checks directly into his personal account.
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Questionable Test Scores Piling Up At Memphis

Posted by nvr1983 on June 3rd, 2009

As we mentioned in an update to yesterday’s column about how Memphis was handling Derrick Rose‘s questionable test scores, more reports of questionable test scores out of Memphis are surfacing. As Gary Parrish reported earlier today, Robert Dozier‘s SAT scores were questionable enough that Georgia refused to admit him. What most of the media has missed is that a third member of that Memphis team (Doneal Mack) that lost to Kansas in one of the most exciting title games of the past 20 years also had a suspicious ACT score that led Florida to deny him admission too.

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While Memphis claims to be innocent in Rose’s case because the actions took place before he enrolled at Memphis and that they were unaware of potential inconsistencies in his test scores, the fact that they admitted two other players who had already been denied admission to other schools because of questionable standardized test scores makes the school’s claims of innocence more laughable unless they are going for another version of “don’t ask, don’t tell” with regards to SAT scores. Since John Calipari has already headed to Kentucky the administration at Memphis is left handling this mess.

The question is what kind of punishment, if any, will be handed down by the NCAA. Given the fact that they have done absolutely nothing with the mess at USC, it seems unlikely the Tigers will face any major sanctions particularly since there probably will not be any money trail like there was at Michigan where the Fab 5 played. It will be interesting to see if the NCAA and Kentucky police Calipari more closely than usual to avoid a Kelvin Sampson situation where he committed several violations at Indiana after committing similar violations at Oklahoma.

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Memphis Responds… and Guess What, Everything Was a Big Misunderstanding!

Posted by rtmsf on June 3rd, 2009

Memphis responded to the NCAA’s allegations against their basketball program, and surprise of all surprises, the UM athletic department doesn’t believe that it should be punished even if the NCAA stands by its position that Derrick Rose cheated on his SAT exam to gain his collegiate eligibility.

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In a wide-ranging letter dealing with allegations involving both the women’s golf as well as the men’s basketball program, University Counsel Sheri Lipman revealed that there were rumors involving Rose’s ACT test score being fraudulent (remember, the NCAA’s allegation involves the SAT) prior to his only season as a Tiger.  This is what those lawyer types might call “notice.”  Yet, the Memphis athletic department determined through undoubtedly probing interviews with Rose himself and the coaching staff (whaaa??) that these rumors were unfounded.  Furthermore, the school claims that it attempted to get copies of materials from the applicable testing service, but was “unable to do so.”

Here’s an idea.  You could have had Rose produce the ACT information, and if he is unable to do so, as it were, suspend him until he does so.  That could have, at worst, solved the issue involving the rumor, and at best, put the issue to bed AND provided considerable cover in the form of due diligence when Mr. NCAA came knocking on the door a year-and-a-half later.  But Memphis didn’t do that.  We’d be very interesting in learning why not.

Getting back to the invalidated test score at issue here – the SAT – according to Memphis, the NCAA’s sole evidence that Rose had a stand-in take this test for him comes down to a forensic examiner’s review of his handwriting.  This review determined that Rose “probably” did not write the paragraph that the ETS uses to verify identity.  But according to Dana O’Neil’s reporting at ESPN.com, ETS only invalidates scores when two of the following three pieces of evidence are present in an examination: 1) handwriting comparisons; 2) comparisons to people seated nearby during the exam; and, 3) substantial jumps in scores.   We already know that the ETS (and the NCAA) is relying on #1, so we’re probably also looking at #3 as the other piece of evidence, and if you know anything about statistical probability, there’s virtually no chance that if Rose scored something like a 600-650 on a previous SAT administration, he then jumped up to a 950-1000 to gain eligibility.

sat-test

All that said, Memphis is taking the painted corner position that, even if Derrick Rose cheated on his SAT, the program could not have known nor should it have known about such a fraud perpetrated on humanity.  In other words… sorry if Rose cheated in high school, but how were we to know? – we didn’t find out about the allegation until after he was already gone.  If Memphis is acting in completely good faith here, this is a fair argument.  But the only way we’re going to presume good faith is if we see more credible evidence that the university made attempts to get to the bottom of the ACT issue, and if they did no such thing, then they don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt here.  Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and if Memphis only scratched the surface of investigation in order to get Rose into school and eligible, then we don’t want to hear any complaining later if they’re nailed for looking the other way.

As for the other allegation involving the Memphis program, of particular comedic value is the Memphis response that the free hotel and plane trips provided to Derrick Rose’s brother, Reggie, were inadvertant administrative mistakes that “could have occurred for any member of the public traveling with the men’s basketball team.”  Right, because universities and athletic departments in particular are in the regular business of accidentally allowing thousands of dollars in freebies to be given to members of the public – especially, as it happens in this case, when the public is none other than the star player’s brother!  This is the less hot-button of the two major basketball allegations in this complaint, but there’s not much defensible here.

It’ll be very interesting to see what evidence the NCAA presents to combat these responses from Memphis.  Saturday is the hearing, and the university should expect to hear something later this summer.  It says here that UM isn’t going to like what it hears.

Update: Gary Parrish is reporting that Robert Dozier also had a “fishy” SAT which precluded his entrance into Georgia in 2004, and we’ve already discussed Doneal Mack’s rejection from Florida based on a test score issue.  Are there others?

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