Greg Shaheen is in a Much Better Mood These Days

Posted by rtmsf on April 30th, 2010

You may not have heard because it was such a formality, but yesterday the NCAA Board of Directors approved the recommendation made by its basketball committee to expand the NCAA Tournament to 68 teams.  The committee will now spend the next two months reviewing possibilities as to how to structure the expansion, but one of the key criteria they will consider is to design a system that will remove the stigma of teams who are invited to the play-in game.  Doug Gottlieb interviewed NCAA Senior Executive VP Greg Shaheen on his radio show yesterday, and you may recall that Shaheen was the mouthpiece who set the world on fire with his discussion of 96-team expansion during the week of the Final Four.  It’s good to hear considerably less stress in his voice as he discussed several of the options on the table; not bad for a suit who has morphed from one of the most despised men in American sports to one that everyone now praises.  Gottlieb said at the end of the piece, “thank you,” and we’d be remiss if we didn’t say likewise.  In an era where the almighty dollar seems to always win out, thanks for listening to the fans, Greg. 

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Impact Of Undecided Early Entries On The College Hoops Landscape

Posted by zhayes9 on April 30th, 2010

With the NBA Draft deadline moved up to May 8 this year, we’ll be able to formulate next year’s college basketball landscape sooner than ever before. The decision of many on the fence could dramatically alter the style, roster and makeup of everyone from Kentucky to Richmond. For many of these super-talents such as North Carolina’s Ed Davis, the decision was probably made a long time ago. But for those like fellow ACC foe Malcolm Delaney of Virginia Tech, their status is very much up in the air for 2010-11. He’s just one of many upcoming decisions that could change the outlook of an entire conference.

Many columns dealing with early entries dissect whether the decision was smart or short-sighted, whether the choice to enter their name was the proper call for their careers. Personally, I don’t care so much about their personal career paths, but about how their decision affects college basketball. Instead, the focus of this column will be on how each early entry to put their name in the draft changes their respective schools’ chances when winter approaches.

Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe (Kentucky)- Many around the Kentucky program believe Orton and Bledsoe are history, but refraining from signing with an agent leaves the door slightly ajar. If one or both return to Lexington, the Wildcats vault ahead of Tennessee as the SEC favorites. Returning to school would be even more beneficial to Orton, a player that didn’t establish himself playing behind Cousins and Patterson, but only showed glimpses of his superb athleticism, defensive prowess and developing low-post moves. Pair Orton in the post with Swiss import Enes Kanter and John Calipari is in business. Put Bledsoe with Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb or Darius Miller and the same holds true. Calipari’s loaded class certainly screams reload rather than rebuild, but the returns of Bledsoe and/or Orton would vault expectations even higher.

Gordon Hayward (Butler)- The “babyfaced assassin” (h/t Gus Johnson) might have the toughest call of any early entry this spring. A relative unknown to casual fans just one year ago, Hayward burst onto the scene with a stellar NCAA Tournament, leading the charge behind Butler’s miraculous run to the national title game. Thanks to a late growth spurt, Hayward possesses guard skills in a 6’9 frame and may even go in the latter half of the lottery should he keep his name in the field. Butler would also drop to a ranking similar to the one they enjoyed in October last year. If Hayward returns, it would be a crying shame if Butler isn’t the #2 team ranked preseason behind Duke. The only starter departing is glue guy Willie Veasley. That’s right: Hayward, Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored and Matt Howard would all return to school for another March push.

Avery Bradley (Texas)- Sources told Fox Sports’ Jeff Goodman that Bradley was likely to stay in the Draft, and quite honestly I can see why. Teams that are looking for a backup point guard with the ability to defend and attack the basket will be flocking towards Bradley near the mid-first round. Findlay Prep point guard Cory Joseph committing to Texas last week takes some pressure off of Rick Barnes if Bradley should opt to stay in the draft. The Longhorns grossly underachieved with Bradley, Dexter Pittman and Damion James; with all three departing, expectations can’t possibly be sky high for Texas, although Kansas, Texas A&M and Baylor should all take steps back this season. Texas is a top-15 team regardless of last season should Bradley, Joseph, Dogus Balbay, J’Covan Brown and Jai Lucas round out a loaded backcourt. I suspect Bradley has played his last game in burnt orange, though.

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Morning Five: 04.29.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on April 29th, 2010

    1. We asked the question in yesterday’s Morning Five, and today we got the answer — well, not really.  New NCAA prez Mark Emmert simply said (despite the headline of the linked article) he’d reserve comment about tournament expansion until the current 68-team proposal is approved.  That approval will likely come today, so we’ll be on the lookout for Emmert’s tabled comments on the matter, that’s for sure.
    2. You won’t be hearing anything about PTPers or dipsy-doo-dunkeroos or the Bald Dome Index on any of the Turner stations when they start covering the NCAA Tournament.  Dick Vitale has no interest in ditching his analyst’s seat in the studio at ESPN for a color commentating spot at Turner.  No matter your opinion on his announcing style, you’ve got to hand it to the guy: his enthusiasm for this game is still unmatched, he’s still adored by coaches and players, and, considering he’d be 84 the next time he could possibly do color for an NCAA Tournament game at ESPN, his loyalty to his current employer is admirable.
    3. C. J. Leslie has decided to stay at home and play for North Carolina State, disappointing reported fellow finalists Connecticut and Kentucky in doing so.  Leslie, a 6’9 and 205-pound power forward, is ranked 11th in the ESPNU-100 list of high school seniors, and happy Wolfpack supporters are beaming about the prospects of how he’ll meld with point guard prospect Ryan Harrow, ranked at 39th in the same list.  Add underrated 6’4 shooting guard Lorenzo Brown into the mix, and you’ve got an NC State squad that’s gong to be a lot of fun to watch next season.
    4. Chuck Driesell has decided to bid a fond farewell to his assistant coaching position at Maryland to become the new boss at The Citadel.  And if the last name and the Maryland ties didn’t clue you in…yes, it’s Lefty’s son.  Despite a 20-13 (15-5) record in 2008-09, the Bulldogs slipped to 17-16 and 9-9 in a tougher-than-expected Southern Conference last season.  After four years at the helm in Charleston, Ed Conroy now departs for Tulane, so it’s now on Driesell to lead The Citadel to their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid.
    5. More on this as it comes in, but Seton Hall forward and recent NBA Draft declarer Herb Pope fell ill and then actually collapsed during an afternoon workout at the school, and was rushed by squad to a local hospital.  The initial AP report (understandably) did not comment on Pope’s status or diagnosis, though one New Jersey-based site states he is indeed listed in serious condition.  We hope for the best and we’ll have more info as it’s available.
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      Morning Five: 04.28.10 Edition

      Posted by rtmsf on April 28th, 2010

      1. Iowa State is set to hire former Cyclone star Fred Hoiberg as its new head coach after Greg McDermott took off earlier this week for greener pastures in Omaha.  “The Mayor” is a legend at ISU, but he’s never coached at any level of basketball before so this hire is raising some eyebrows.  The Big 12 is no place to learn on the fly, after all.  Gary Parrish thinks this move is either brilliant or imbecilic, but he makes a comparison to John McCain picking Sarah Palin as his veep and we know how well that gamble worked out.
      2. In an effort to increase Pac-10 representation in future NCAA Tournaments, the University of Washington got its man into the catbird seat at the NCAA yesterday, as UW president Mark Emmert will take over for Jim Isch as the next president of the NCAA.  We were obviously joking about the above comment, but now, how does he feel about expansion?
      3. We’re going to see a lot of these types of articles in the next two weeks discussing  those players who are in the NBA Draft pool who should return to school next season.  Here are a couple that are already out — Mike DeCourcy’s five players who should return (M. Delaney, M. Davis, J. Crawford, S. Samuels, G. Hayward) and Luke Winn’s ten teams awaiting decisions (with a healthy implication that most should return).
      4. UNLV’s Matt Shaw, a key junior forward who started a handful of games for Lon Kruger’s NCAA Tournament team this year, has tested positive for a banned substance and has been suspended for the entirety of next year, his senior season.
      5. Are there NCAA violations pending at UConn this spring?  According to this Wall Street Journal article, an NCAA source has stated that the university is facing a report on violations which is due to be released soon.  Furthermore, despite repeated admonitions to the contrary, head coach Jim Calhoun still doesn’t have a signed and sealed contract.  His current deal is set to expire at the end of June.
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      On Conference Realignment and the Consolidation of Power

      Posted by rtmsf on April 27th, 2010

      Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor.


      College sports fans dodged a major bullet last week when the NCAA announced that the men’s basketball tournament would only be expanding to 68 entrants, rather than the 96-team field that had been widely rumored. However, the face of college sports as we know it is still in jeopardy, as the specter of widespread conference realignment still looms, with the much-speculated-upon expansion of the Big Ten as the key domino that could start a wave of changes leaving the college sports landscape drastically altered.

      The elephant in the room issue is the consolidation of power away from the existing six BCS conferences and into a smaller number of “superconferences” with the possibility looming that once any realignment sorts itself out and we’ve got four 16-team conferences, those conferences break away from the NCAA and form their own structure. As Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins puts it: “At some time, the major conferences are going to have their own quasi-NCAA. They’re going to do their own thing.” Former Syracuse AD Jake Crouthamel was even more specific, saying that eventually the Big Ten, ACC, SEC and Pac-10 would expand and ultimately leave the NCAA, even to the point of forming their own competing basketball tournament: “If you look at the history of what’s been going on for the last decade, I think it’s leading in that direction.”

      We Promise It Won't Get This Complicated

      The potential expansion of conferences detailed below is not the first shot fired in the consolidation of power, but the next step in an already-existing series of moves that has widened the financial gap between the biggest athletic departments and the rest of the supporting cast. And, as those at the top get bigger and bigger, the underdogs not only fall behind in terms of funding, but they may ultimately be left completely behind: no more Boise State and Utah to steal BCS bowl spots from big-money institutions during the winter, and no more Butler and George Mason sneaking into the Final Four in the spring. While that type of doomsday scenario is still several decision points down the line, what happens in the Big Ten over the next twelve months or so could be the monumental tipping point to drastically move things in that direction.

      At present, the most widely rumored targets for Big Ten expansion are Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse from the Big East and Nebraska and Missouri from the Big 12, although as always occurs when the Big Ten thinks about expansion, Notre Dame is in the mix and likely their number one choice. With the Pac-10 also in the midst of contemplating expansion within the next year, these moves could send a ripple effect throughout all of the Division I conferences causing some conferences to get bigger, others to contract, and even some to disappear.  While the specifics remain conjecture and speculation at this point, there are enough common-sense scenarios out there to fuel theories to create one of the most helter-skelter flowcharts ever seen. We’ll take a look conference-by-conference at what could happen, and what kind of fallout might be created by each move, starting with our eleven midwestern friends.

      Big Ten

      Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany confirmed last Wednesday that his conference is considering not only expanding to 12, but also perhaps even 14 or 16 teams. While some of the rationale for the expansion would be the addition of a football championship game for more revenue, the accumulation of more content and more markets for the Big Ten Network is probably more important to their plans. Delany noted that while discussions for this expansion are ongoing, the 12-18 month timetable that was originally announced in December is still the current framework.

      Starting with the first domino, there is little doubt that the Fighting Irish would be the Big Ten’s first choice and the most logical fit for the conference, in terms of geography, academics and, frankly, football. Notre Dame and the Big Ten have flirted with each other many times in the past, but there is likely a greater chance that they will consummate their relationship this time around than any time before. For the Big Ten, the attraction is obvious: a huge fan base in historic “Big Ten country,” a ton of athletic history, and excellent academics. For Notre Dame, however, the question is a lot tougher. The Irish have been a football independent throughout their history and current athletic director Jack Swarbrick recently said that their “highest priority is maintaining football independence.” Notre Dame is currently in the middle of a television contract with NBC for the rights to broadcast home football games, a contract that runs through 2015 and an issue that will need to be confronted somehow if the Irish are eventually invited and accept Big Ten membership. The amount of the NBC deal (about $15 million annually) is not prohibitive enough to prevent them from considering membership in the Big Ten, whose member schools currently receive about $20 million annually from their television contracts. It is even possible that if the Big Ten and Notre Dame can come to an agreement, all this expansion talk will end right there: Notre Dame joins up, the Big Ten stops at 12 teams, the Big East poaches a team from CUSA like Central Florida as an additional football school and geographic partner to South Florida or a basketball-only school from the A-10 like Rhode Island or Massachusetts and the end-of-the-world scenario is averted. At present, however, it is being reported that Notre Dame is not being considered in the Big Ten’s expansion plans (a report that nobody in their right mind believes), but if Notre Dame is interested, the Big Ten will certainly be interested as well.

      Figure 1: Big Ten Best Case Scenario

      However, it is also realistic that with or without Notre Dame, the Big Ten is aiming for 14 or 16 teams to become the first superconference. While the addition of teams such as Missouri and Nebraska makes the most geographic sense, this expansion thing is not really about logic but about dollars, and Delany seems most interested in all the potential viewers that the bigger east coast markets present — notably Rutgers and Syracuse, but also Pittsburgh and potentially Connecticut. Adding three or even all four of those schools would effectively kill Big East football as we know it and potentially damage the Big East basketball enough to persuade a fence-sitting Notre Dame to leap off onto the Big Ten side as well. Swarbick himself admitted in March that “there are things that are large enough to challenge our ability to remain independent and remain in the Big East.” All four (or even three) of those flagship Big East programs bolting for the Big Ten could be one of those “large enough” things.

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      Morning Five: 04.27.10 Edition

      Posted by rtmsf on April 27th, 2010

      1. It’s not often that you see a BCS-level coach leave his position for a mid-major job (even a very good one), but that’s what will happen today when Iowa State’s Greg McDermott takes over for the departed Dana Altman at Creighton.  McDermott was clearly on thin ice with a 59-68 (18-46 Big 12) record in four seasons in Ames and little prospect for improvement in the near future, so this has every hallmark of a pre-emptive strike.  McDermott of course was at Northern Iowa in the MVC for five years prior to taking the ISU job, and he did very well there, going to three straight NCAA Tournaments from 2004-06.  He said that one of the primary reasons he wanted to take the Creighton job was for an opportunity to coach his son, an incoming freshman who had signed with UNI but will be allowed to move on to Creighton to play for his dad.
      2. As for Altman’s move to Oregon, it became official yesterday.  He’ll roughly double his annual salary to $1.8M per year in a seven-year contract that will include some seriously high expectations.  As we said before, though, we expect he’ll do very well there.  Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman give their takes.
      3. Good weekend in the Big 12 for a couple of Texas teams — Baylor picked up UCLA transfer center J’Mison Morgan, a talented but enigmatic player who never seemed to be able to find a role in Westwood; and the Horns got a commitment from highly touted point guard Cory Joseph, the #7 overall player on the Rivals rankings in 2010.
      4. Well, DePaul’s Oliver Purnell is off to a rousing start with the Chicago Public League high school coaches.  You know, the ones who control all of the great talent coming out of that city every year.  We’re sure this is all going to work out famously.
      5. Love this stuff.  A well-done photo montage from the 2009-10 season from CHJ.  What is your favorite?  Gotta say that the Randy Culpepper dunk attempt is ours, with the second-prize going to the Lebron photo at Kentucky.  Creepiest pic?  The Jon Scheyer one in the Carolina-bluish warmups.  Great stuff — check it out.
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      Morning Five: 04.26.10 Edition

      Posted by rtmsf on April 25th, 2010

      1. As of Midnight ET last night, the NBA Draft early entry deadline had passed.  Most of the big names had already thrown their hats into the ring, but there were a few last-minute additions over the weekend.  Most notably, Florida State’s Solomon Alabi entered his name on Friday, representing the last likely first rounder who had remained on the fence.  Temple center Lavoy Allen has decided to test the waters, choosing to not sign with an agent while gauging what he needs to work on next year.  These two and all 758 of the others will now have fourteen days (until May 8) to make a final determination as to whether they’re staying or leaving, which is great for us but a little tight during exam time for them to get reliable information.
      2. Oregon fans are coming to terms with the arrival of Dana Altman in Eugene and his high-intensity, pressing style of play.  As we said on Saturday, we believe this is a good hire for the next seven years for the Nike Duck program, even if not everyone was initially thrilled with this decision.  Altman may get an early shot to build good will with a win over visiting #1 Duke at the Rose Garden in the pre-conference schedule, it turns out.
      3. And this is yet another example of why we shouldn’t allow people who don’t understand the game of basketball (and college basketball in particular) anywhere near our game (see: Malcolm Gladwell).  We love March Madness because it’s like American Idol?  Just.  Stop.
      4. We hope to have something more substantial up about all the potential conference realignment spurred by the Big Ten’s rapacity soon, but for now many others have plenty to say on the matter.  One commentator points out that the league has been the butt of jokes in recent years, but nobody is laughing at it now, while another points out that four sixteen-teams conferences from sea to shining sea could result in a football Final Four for the ages.  Speaking of the gridiron, one thing is crystal clear to everyone — whatever happens, basketball tradition and rivalries will be an afterthought, a real shame given how hoops powers with little to no football tradition are being forced into decisions based on a sport that matters less to them.  Meanwhile, to really cap off your Monday morning, how about discussing a future doomsday scenario where those four super-conferences break off and hold their own version of March Madness someday.  Honestly, we’re not even sure we could continue RTC if that were to happen.
      5. Michigan State is breaking out new unis starting next year.  The “State” we’ve all become accustomed to on the front has now been replaced with “Spartans.”  What do you think?

      We Always Thought That "State" Thing Was Presumptuous Anyway

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      The Long Duck Nightmare May Be Ending…

      Posted by rtmsf on April 24th, 2010

      If the reports we’re hearing are true (and every indication is that they are), Oregon will finally hire a head coach soon, ending a 37-day search that focused on unattainable coaches and resulted in raises for each one from coast to coast.  Creighton’s Dana Altman is the choice, and although Phil Knight and company may not have lassoed the ‘big name’ that they wanted, the Duck program may have ended up with a better coach.  Altman has been a program-building winner at both of his major jobs — K-State and Creighton — with eight NCAA Tournament credits on his resume and a wide recognition as one of the best x & o coaches in the business.  From the 1998-99 to 2008-09 seasons, his Bluejay teams won 20+ games every year, finished first or second in the Missouri Valley Conference eight times and even won a couple of NCAA games in the process.  Duck fans should be pleased with this hire.

      Assuming He Can Recruit There, Oregon Scored With This Hire

      Considering that the last month-plus has been embarrassing to the Oregon basketball program as it reportedly whiffed on Gonzaga’s Mark Few, Minnesota’s Tubby Smith, Butler’s Brad Stevens, Missouri’s Mike Anderson and Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny didn’t panic and make a face-saving hire just to do so (ahem, Sidney Lowe).  Although we thought that UO would eventually settle on local coaching meteor Eric Reveno (Portland) or fellow WCC rising star Randy Bennett (St. Mary’s), Altman has a much more impressive resume than either of those coaches.

      Assuming Altman shows up and actually accepts the job in Oregon this week (remember the Arkansas debacle in 2007), the big question for him will be recruiting.  Isn’t it always?  His coaching roots are midwestern in nature, having been born in Nebraska and spending his entire life in the general footprint of the area.  At 51 years old, Eugene, Oregon, and Pac-10 basketball will certainly represent a different challenge than what he faced in Omaha, Nebraska, and the MVC.  Three returning reserves have already decided to transfer out of the program, and two national top-50 Portland high school stars — Terrence Jones and Terrence Rossare reportedly looking out-of-state.  If Altman can convince those two players to stick around to become Ducks, then he’ll be in a much better first-year position in 2010-11 than not.  Even without the two Terrences, though, he comes into a situation where five of the top six players return.  With a new arena and new coach, Oregon could be poised to surprise in the Pac-10 next season even despite the last month of futility.

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      Early Entry: High School Edition

      Posted by THager on April 24th, 2010

      In a potential trendsetting move, Florida recruit Scottie Wilbekin could be heading to Gainesville a year early.  This is not the first time a recruit has left early for college, but his possible early entrance could spark a rise  in high school juniors heading for the greener pastures of the NCAA.  Wilbekin is leaving college early to fill a specific need for Florida coach Billy Donovan, who could use some depth in his backcourt next season.  In addition to missing out on key perimeter recruits Brandon Knight and Ray McCallum, Donovan may also be looking at losing forward Alex Tyus, who is testing the waters of the NBA and is doubtful to come back next season.

      Will Wilbekin Play in Gainesville in 2010?

      The move would require approval by the NCAA over SAT scores, but according to Wilbekin’s high school coach, he is ready for the challenge.  The 6’2 guard is not only smart enough, but this wouldn’t be the first time Wilbekin has played above his age group.  According to the Orlando Sentinel, Wilbekin was playing for his high school basketball team as a middle school student.  He also played for Nike’s under-16 Florida team against players two years his elder.  Fortunately for the junior, he is a perimeter player and won’t have to go up against more physically mature players in the post.

      Insiders have compared the 17-year-old to Andre Dawkins, but the current Duke freshman’s case is different.  Dawkins was technically a HS junior when he bolted for Duke, but he had actually completed four years of high school before going to college.  Dawkins went to a public school for one year before transferring to Atlantic Shores Christian School, a private academy, for three more.  His first season was not ideal, but much of that was out of his control.  The first half of the season was promising, as he actually saw a decent amount of playing time and scored in double figures in six games.  However, after his sister tragically died in a car accident and the ACC season started, Dawkins’ minutes and  production decreased drastically.  Nevertheless, Dawkins proved that leaving early could work, especially considering that his best performances came in the first few weeks of his career.  If Florida starts out the season against some weaker non-conference opponents like Duke, it may be just enough to give Wilbekin some confidence heading into SEC play.

      Early entrance like this is already a common practice in college football, but those recruits often enroll for just the spring semester to get some spring practice repetitions.  Louisville’s Amobi Okoye even had success as a 16-year old in college football, but the two sports are hardly comparable when there only five players on a court and the ball is shared more often among the players on the court.  It is a lot of pressure to put on a 17-year old, but Wilbekin is embracing the challenge.  Florida needs more good news like this to get back to the elite status that the Gators enjoyed five years ago.

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      Conspiracy Theorists, Unite…

      Posted by rtmsf on April 24th, 2010

      It’s the weekend and it’s late April, so news is a bit slow around here, but this is just funny.

      The below screenshot represents a FAKE John Calipari Facebook post directed at new UK recruit Marquis Teague.  His response, however, is authentic.  The hilarious part is how he acknowledges and responds to faux-Calipari’s representations about keeping things quiet for the sake of their mutual impropriety.

      Opposing fans of unnamed schools are already all OVER this…  it’s meaningless in the grand scheme, but still kinda amusing.

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