NCAA To Announce USC Decision On Friday

Posted by nvr1983 on May 31st, 2010

Over the past two weeks three of the premier college basketball programs in the country had been hit by scandals (Kentucky with the ongoing Eric Bledsoe saga, Kansas with a ticket scam, and Connecticut with…we don’t even know where to begin). The latest college powerhouse — USC — may not be in the same realm of those schools  in terms of basketball heritage, but it may send bigger shock waves through the NCAA landscape than any decision by the NCAA in years  when the NCAA announces its decision on punishing the school on Friday. While the headlines of this proceeding will center around alleged improprieties involving Heisman Trophy-winning running back Reggie Bush, the case of O.J. Mayo and the infamous Rodney Guillory could also be be brought up. The Trojans have already self-imposed sanctions on themselves stemming from the Mayo case, but are continuing to contest the allegations against Bush and his family. Although any punishments levied would be against the football program as “repeat offenders” since they were sanctioned in 2001 and the Bush era (2003-2005) falls within the 5-year window the sanctions might have significant ramification for all Trojan programs. Beyond the obvious direct impact of taking back the 2004 BCS title, Bush’s 2005 Heisman trophy, and essentially erasing the highly-controversial USC dynasty from the record books, a harsh verdict would be a blow to all USC athletic programs and provide strong ammunition for every team recruiting against the Trojans in the coming years. While many readers are undoubtedly convinced that the NCAA will only impose superficial sanctions on the Trojans there is a chance that they may come down harder than expected particularly now that both USC programs have fallen on (relatively) hard times and the NCAA would not be losing as much of a cash cow as it would have had they sanctioned the Trojans two years ago.

They may not even have that one soon.

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Bledsoe May Take This To Court Of A Different Kind

Posted by jstevrtc on May 31st, 2010

Since the New York Times published its story on Friday about the NCAA checking into Eric Bledsoe, it’s been the top college basketball subject through this long holiday weekend.  True, that’s not saying much for this time of year, but, as usually happens with stories of this kind, the day-to-day evolution has been as interesting as expected.

The latest wrinkle is that, according to the boys (and girl) over at, Bledsoe might sue whoever let his high school transcript end up in the hands of the national media.  The NCAA has certainly had copies of the transcript for some time, since that’s something any prospective student-athlete at the NCAA level has to submit as part of the process.  But it seems like pretty much everyone’s now privy to what was supposed to be confidential as of three days ago, and — given what people would find on the college transcripts of a couple of the guys around here if they were ever made public — we can see how Bledsoe would be pretty ticked.  We doubt Bledsoe has family members who have copies of his high school transcript, and certainly none who would just hand it over to anyone, so if and the like all have copies of his transcript from both his junior and senior year high schools, it seems that documentation of that nature could have only come from either the senior-year school, the colleges to which Bledsoe applied (watch for this possibility to gain speed in the near future), or the NCAA itself — all entities he should be able to trust.  We can certainly understand Bledsoe’s anger.

Bledsoe back on his decision day.  (J. Songer/Birmingham News)

Whether or not Bledsoe moves forward with a lawsuit could tell us a lot about this situation, though, because whoever he names as a party in the suit could then subpoena his high school transcripts and any supporting documentation.  In other words, if — and yes, it’s still an “if” — there’s any impropriety there, it will come out in discovery.  If he and/or his handlers on this think that there’s something there that they don’t want to come to light, it would be better for Kentucky if Bledsoe didn’t go ahead with his lawsuit.  And let’s be honest, Eric Bledsoe is about to be a multi-millionaire.  He’s days away from being drafted into the NBA, and he has no reason to concern himself with any of this.  Assuming this isn’t a PR move of the Roger Clemens/Barry Bonds variety, if Bledose files his lawsuit against people who leaked his transcript or obtained them by suspect means, then he and his advisors must like the cards they’re holding.

The other aspect of this that we find interesting is that, no matter what websites, newspapers, or blogs you read, no matter whose Twitter feeds you follow, the lines on this are being drawn not so much by the details of the whole scenario, but rather by how each writer/blogger/tweeter feels about John Calipari, who hasn’t yet been implicated in any of this.  We’re not apologizing for the man, but the fact remains that he hasn’t been brought up in any of this so far.  There are many facets of this story that we find intriguing — how does a kid go from a 1.9 to a 2.5 in a year? How can the NCAA be investigating but not formally alert the school?  Who leaked the transcript? If this non-investigation has been going on since February, why has it dragged on until well after the season was over?  How will UK fans feel about their program if the NCAA wields the pimp hand? — but those are being largely ignored by all but a select few, with people seemingly letting their opinion of Calipari determine how they feel about a matter in which his name hasn’t surfaced.  If Bledsoe is ruled ineligible and the NCAA says that Kentucky has to forfeit its 35 wins from last season, that would be the time to examine how it might affect Calipari’s coaching career, because it would be one heck of a debate.  But, to be honest, there are other areas in this matter that are more compelling right now.

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Lil’ Romeo Takes A Shot At USC On His Way Out

Posted by nvr1983 on May 30th, 2010

When Percy Miller (aka Lil’ Romeo) announced that he was leaving the USC basketball team earlier this month it was more of an entertainment story than a college basketball story. The rapper/actor currently has already released six albums with a 7th album coming out later this year, but his college basketball career, which we never expected to amount to much, has been significantly less profilic. In two seasons with the Trojans, Miller (a Tim Floyd “recruit”) appeared in nine games for a grand total of 19 minutes scoring five points on four field goal attempts (1.25 PPS!!!). After Miller left USC, Trojans coach Kevin O’Neill issued the following statement: “Percy thought it was in his best interest that he pursue his (entertainment) career rather than play basketball. . . I was able to evaluate him. I think his future is more off the court than on the court, which I think he understands. . . He’s a great guy and was a pleasure to have around. I think he made a decision that was in the best interest of his future.”

While that seems like a fairly benign (and true) statement, Miller was a little less than graceful when he issued the following Tweet: “College Bball is all politics…I’ve never quit n never will.If my scholarship is wanted thats wat Yahoo should clarify.” [Ed. Note: We don’t even know where to begin with grammar on Tweets so we’ll let this [sic] cover the entire Tweet.]  Although that may be the final shot that Miller fires in his college basketball career (bringing him down to 1 PPS) we would be remiss if we did not provide you with what will be our lasting image of Miller playing “defense” against J.R. Smith at Vince Young’s Celebrity All-Star Game.

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Is This What Calipari’s Detractors Have Been Waiting For?

Posted by jstevrtc on May 28th, 2010

In a story on the New York Times website, college basketball writer Pete Thamel and contributor Thayer Evans dropped a big Memorial weekend bomb on the Big Blue Nation, as the legions of University of Kentucky basketball fans around the world are known.  According to the article, the NCAA is looking into former UK shooting guard Eric Bledsoe possibly having received improper benefits while in high school, specifically having his rent paid by his senior-year high school coach, Maurice Ford.  The article also brings up the question as to whether or not Ford, in attempts to gather money to make such rent payments for Bledsoe and his mother, solicited money from at least one college coach in order for Bledsoe to sign with that coach’s school.  Also raised is the matter of Bledsoe’s academic improvement after his original high school had shut down and he transferred to a private school; evidently the NCAA is inquiring as to how Bledsoe’s high school GPA could have dramatically jumped from 1.9 to 2.5 during his senior year, thereby putting him over the minimum NCAA standard to be eligible for a scholarship.

There's been no comment from Bledsoe or UK as of yet.

Mr. Ford, as Thamel and Thayer note, has denied all of the accusations.  And according to Matt May of, the folks at Kentucky haven’t even received a letter of inquiry about these issues.

If something actually comes from this, the bigger question will be how much the Kentucky program — and specifically John Calipari — actually knew about what was happening.  Fans of the UK coach will note how, regarding the “troubles” at his former jobs at Massachusetts and Memphis, Calipari was never specifically dinged with any wrongdoing, and that the mistakes made by Marcus Camby and Derrick Rose were out of the realm of what Calipari could realistically police.  On the other hand, Calipari-haters are about as giddy as Keith Olbermann watching George W. Bush fall down a flight of stairs.  They’ve already tried the man and handed down a guilty verdict long ago, and have just been waiting for something on which they could pin it.  Both sides would be well-advised to keep calm for now.

Unfortunately for Kentucky fans, it’s the program, and not necssarily the player or coach under investigation, that usually takes the hit if penalties are deemed necessary.  If something comes from this — and again, we don’t know if anything will — could Kentucky be stripped of its 35 wins from last year, which would put them back behind that 2,000-win mark?  Could those UK2K shirts become collector’s items?  Or would the NCAA rule that Bledsoe simply has to pay back whatever money was borrowed?  Since Bledsoe is no longer under the thumb of the NCAA, that might be tough to enforce.  To be sure, even if there is something to be found here, the accusations will be tough to prove.   Academic fraud at a high school is not as easy to verify as you’d think, and this matter of rent payments would be even tougher.  Again, unfortunately for Kentucky supporters, the NCAA is detective, judge, jury, and executioner, and they get to determine what constitutes good, hard, believable evidence.  And even if the NCAA finds something and says that the guilt lies totally with Eric Bledsoe and not with John Calipari or anyone at the University of Kentucky, it’s likely that the UK program would still feel the NCAA’s pimp slap while Bledsoe skates.  IF that happens, you can bet that the Calipari-to-NBA talk will heat up again, and you’d have to figure that the UK recruits who didn’t sign letters of intent would suddenly start to reconsider.

We’ll see what happens.  It’s still early days, yet.  Considering the recent news out of Kansas and Connecticut…it’s been a tough week for some of college basketball’s leviathan programs.

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Big East: We Won’t Sit Idly By and Wait For the Big Ten Pillagers

Posted by rtmsf on May 28th, 2010

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

There was plenty of news that came out of this week’s Big East spring meetings: elimination of the double-bye in the Big East basketball tournament and the approved use of high-definition monitors for football replays (consider me amazed that this wasn’t the norm already), but there was also the underlying issue of the looming Big Ten expansion and how that will affect the Big East.

The most interesting line of the week came from rookie Big East commissioner John Marinatto, who said he is playing the Bud Fox to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s Gordon Gekko (two characters from the 1987 movie Wall Street). “I feel like I’m Bud Fox and he’s Gordon Gekko,” Marinatto said. “He’s always honest and helpful with me. He’s brilliant and creative — just like Gordon Gekko — he knew all the corners to cut. He understands the landscape.” While the quote comes across as mostly complimentary towards Delany, it also underlines the fact that this is a high-stakes business situation, and begs the question as to whether greed is indeed good for the NCAA and its conferences.

Greed is Good?

But, despite Marinatto’s respect for his sparring partner here, he also made it clear that with all that is at stake for the Big East, they are not just sitting idly by and waiting to see what the Big Ten is going to do.  When the Big East lost Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC in 2004 and 2005, the Big East was able to respond by adding all-sport schools Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida and basketball-only schools DePaul and Marquette to create a new and improved version of the conference, one that morphed into arguably the best basketball conference in the country. But with the Big Ten rumored to be interested in current Big East schools like Connecticut, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse (amongst others), once again they are on the defensive. “I look at this situation as another threat certainly,” Marinatto said. “It would be irresponsible not to be concerned about it. We’re trying to position ourselves as best we can. In my mind, you always play out what it is you might do, but we certainly can’t do that in a public forum.”

Fortunately, we, and others, can do that in a public forum. The New York Post has reported that representatives from the Big East have already had discussions with Atlantic 10 schools like Dayton, Duquesne, St. Joseph’s and Xavier about possibly joining up in the event of the Big East losing teams to the Big Ten. There has been speculation elsewhere about schools like Buffalo, Central Florida and East Carolina as all-sport replacements in case of the potential loss of, for instance, Pitt and Syracuse. And there is even continued talk about the Big East laying down an ultimatum to Notre Dame: join us in football or leave us in the rest of your sports. The thinking here is that even if Notre Dame decides to leave and is left without a home for its non-football sports, it would be more apt to join up with the Big Ten, perhaps saving schools like Syracuse and Pitt from its elongated reach.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Evan Turner

Posted by rtmsf on May 28th, 2010

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night.  There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Evan Turner

School: Ohio State

Height/Weight: 6’7, 214

NBA Position: Shooting Guard

Projected Draft Range: Top 5 pick

Overview: Evan Turner had one of the most productive college seasons in recent memory during his 2009-10 campaign in Columbus. The versatile National Player of the Year averaged a Big Ten-leading 20.4 PPG and 9.2 RPG despite a horrific back injury in December. Counting their Sweet 16 loss, the Buckeyes lost just five games last season in which Turner participated. In desperate need of a point guard to orchestrate the Ohio State offense, the 6’7 Turner took over the position for head coach Thad Matta and, like everything else he tried during his breakout junior season, excelled tremendously. Turner kicked off the season with two triple-doubles in his first five contests, putting on display his scoring ability, rebounding skill and outstanding court vision all at once. The Buckeyes’ season ended with another virtuoso Turner performance in St. Louis in a 31/7/5 effort against Tennessee. Asked to carry the load for most of the season, Turner responded to every call. While his athleticism isn’t off the charts, his high basketball IQ and knack for making the right play when the chips are on the table will endear him to his NBA team, much like it did the Buckeye faithful for his three seasons in Columbus.

Turner is All Smiles Heading into the Draft

Will Translate to the NBA: Turner’s versatility and ability to guard a variety of positions are his greatest strengths. His ball handling proficiency is as strong as any point guard in this draft, but he can penetrate efficiently and features the mid-range game of a two-guard. Turner can even guard a small forward at the next level if needed. He is an extremely strong finisher at the rim and maintains top-notch body control in the process. He can seemingly get to any spot on the floor he needs to operate effectively.  Turner’s 6.0 APG as a junior show he’s been blessed with above average court vision and passing skill.

Needs Work: Turner is an acceptable athlete, but he won’t stun any NBA scouts in workouts with leaping ability or quickness. His catch-and-shoot game could also use improvement; he operated nearly all the time with the ball in his hands at Ohio State, so the jury’s still out on whether he can pop quickly off screens. Turner’s three-point percentage plummeted about 8% from his sophomore to junior seasons. A lot of that has to do with the opposing defense keying on him, but some extension of his shooting range certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Comparison Players: The most common comparison to Turner that we’ve heard is Brandon Roy, and it seems eerily accurate. Both players had decorated college careers at their respective schools and feature a very similar game. They possess a high basketball IQ, can fill up the stat sheet and are excellent ball-handlers that can create shots without the help of teammates or screening. Both Roy and Turner love to penetrate and draw fouls and even spent time at the point for Washington and Ohio State, respectively. Neither player is otherworldly at any certain skill, but they seem to do everything at a 9 out of 10 level.

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Morning Five: 05.28.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 28th, 2010

  1. Fall guys?  Two UConn assistant coaches resigned last night in light of an announcement that UConn will make later this morning (10am) about its findings with respect to the Nate Miles scandal from two seasons ago.  Pat Sellers and Beau Archibald will undoubtedly be implicated as possible violators in that press conference, which will outline the allegations that the program is facing as a result of Miles’ recruitment.  This will be very interesting to observe, as UConn just handed Jim Calhoun a contract extension a few weeks ago, and it wouldn’t make sense they would have done so unless they believe that his hands are clean here.
  2. One of UCLA’s leading returnees, Malcolm Lee, will have arthroscopic surgery soon to repair cartilage in his right knee.  He is expected to be out for 4-6 weeks and it should not impact his play for next season.  Ben Howland’s team has suffered numerous injuries, transfers and the like in the last calendar year, so the news that Lee will be back better than ever for 2010-11 has to be welcome to UCLA fans.
  3. In light of the Kansas ticket office scandal, as expected, no other major program in America has any problems whatsoever with their ticket policies.  In other news,  BP has this thing under control.
  4. Sometimes it pays to get nailed with a scandal or two under your belt.  Just ask Kelvin Sampson.
  5. Andy Glockner gives us a list of the players we should be watching outside the BCS programs next season.  It’s a great list, and he definitely nails it in starting with San Diego State’s uber-talented Kawhi Leonard.
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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Ekpe Udoh

Posted by rtmsf on May 27th, 2010

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance that night to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round.  There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Ekpe Udoh

School: Baylor

Height/Weight: 6’10, 240

NBA Position: Power Forward

Projected Draft Range: Late Lottery

Overview: Ekpe Udoh began his college career at the University of Michigan, but transferred to Baylor after one season under John Beilein in search of a better fit. With the Wolverines, he was little more than a tall, skinny shotblocker, but when he re-emerged last season in Waco, he was a far more complete player with a range of skills that had been previously unseen. Udoh’s presence turned the Bears into a legitimate contender on the national scene, providing balance to a team that had previously been over-reliant on perimeter players, and resulting in a first-ever Baylor run to the Elite Eight. Udoh averaged 13.9 PPG and 9.8 RPG while blocking a sizzling 3.7 shots per game on the way to taking second-team All-Big 12 honors, a Big 12 All-Defense team spot and receiving honorable mention on the AP All-American team. Udoh is 23, and that is something of a knock against him, but given his size, his 7’5 wingspan and his versatile skill set, he has the potential to be a very productive pro.

Udoh is Long & Lean With Some Serious Upside

Will Translate to the NBA: Udoh’s biggest strength throughout his career has been his shotblocking ability, and that will surely carry over to the NBA. He can not only block the shots of the man he is defending, but he can come from the weak side and help teammates. He is also a very good rebounder (11.1 total rebounds and 4.1 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes last season), but it is his improved offensive skills that make him such a valuable commodity. He can score in the post with both hands, knock down jumpers out to 18-20 feet, face up and put the ball on the floor, and beat bigger defenders off the dribble. He also showed improved court awareness, handing out 3 assists per 40 minutes last season, and displayed a strong basketball IQ.

Needs Work: Despite Udoh’s improvement, he was still somewhat inconsistent as a junior. While he was certainly capable of putting up lines like the 18 pts, 10 rebs, 6 asts, and 5 blks he had in Baylor’s season ending loss to Duke, he also could put up just 8 pts and 4 rebs like he did against Old Dominion in the second round. Perhaps the first step for Udoh to become more consistent could be hitting the weight room. While he was never in bad shape in his college career, and he came back much stronger after his transfer season, he will need to bulk up in order to compete against NBA fours every night. And finally, while he was a very effective interior defender in college, he may face a different breed of power forward at the next level, so he’ll need to prove his ability to stay with guys with an offensive game outside of the paint.

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Duke Visits White House

Posted by rtmsf on May 27th, 2010

First of Several Meetings Between O & K?

In the annual ceremony for the NCAA Champion at the White House Rose Garden, Duke’s 2010 title-winning team visited with President Barack Obama today in a jocular proceeding where the CiC quipped that the Blue Devils won it all in an effort to stick it to him after he picked UNC to win the crown in 2009.  Other than starting off by calling Coach K’s team the “Bluke” (presumably) Due Devils, his best line came later in the speech when he ragged on his assistant (and former Dookie and teabagger extraordinaire — but not that kind) Reggie Love for shooting too much during pickup games.  If you remember Love’s game at Duke during the early 2000s, you’re aware that the bruising forward’s few minutes were meant for hustle, defense and rebounding — his career total of 75 points attests to that fact. 

The entire ceremony is below.   

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Tubby And UM On Wrong Side Of Verdict, But Who Really Lost?

Posted by jstevrtc on May 27th, 2010

Former Oklahoma State assistant coach Jimmy Williams won his lawsuit against the University of Minnesota and head basketball coach Tubby Smith on Wednesday, with $1.25 million awarded to Williams as compensation for lost and presumptive wages.  In 2007, Smith allegedly hired Williams as an assistant coach but the school then rescinded the offer after UM athletic director Joel Maturi alerted Smith to NCAA violations in Williams’ past.  Thinking he was headed for Minnesota, Williams had resigned his post at Oklahoma State in the meantime — then found no job waiting on him on Smith’s staff.  Williams then sued Smith and the school, feeling that Tubby had misrepresented himself in terms of his authority to hire Williams.

To Tubby and UM, it may have been worth it.

According to the cited AP story, Williams states that he hopes this victory means he can get back to coaching.  We wonder if that’s really possible, at least at the level which he’d like.  We’re thinking it might be tougher than Williams figures.  If you’re a coach or athletics director, how enthusiastic would you be to hire a coach who has a history of suing other coaches and schools — especially one who had a hand in wrongly giving players financial help twenty years ago? And if you look at it from Tubby Smith’s point of view, this doesn’t appear to be that big of a loss.  Sure, nobody likes forking over $1.25 million, but the reason Smith and Maturi didn’t want to bring Williams into the fold was because they simply didn’t want to hire anyone who had even a hint of NCAA violations in his past.  Consider also that Williams’ wrongdoing happened back in the 1980s, while he was an assistant coach — at Minnesota.  Tubby Smith is widely known as one of the great men in the game, a man who values his integrity and that of the program of which he’s at the helm far more than any dollar amount.  If he (and his AD) felt that not hiring Williams — a man who has been slapped by the NCAA while working for the very school to which he’s re-applying — was the best thing for the UM program…well, that just might be worth $1.25 million.

Williams remarked that he hopes the win will vindicate him.  But that’s not what this lawsuit was about.  This was about whether or not Smith and Minnesota owed him the wages he lost after quitting his Oklahoma State job and the wages he would have made if he had been allowed to continue in his appointment at Minnesota.  As far as vindication, this had nothing to do with Williams’ guilt or innocence in terms of those recruiting abnormalities back in the 80s.  His culpability in those matters was decided upon long ago.  If the jury felt like it had enough evidence to find that Tubby Smith misrepresented himself and/or that Minnesota really did officially hire Williams, and they were to blame for Williams’ lost wages, then they had no choice other than to rule in Williams’ favor.  So, Williams may have won his lawsuit, but in addition to the question of impropriety he carries with him, he now has the reputation of a guy who sues coaches and schools for which he’s worked in the past.  By not settling, Minnesota has told him, “Based on information we have, we’d rather risk losing a lawsuit and paying you over a million dollars than actually hire you.”  Smith and Minnesota did what they thought was best for their basketball program.

Who really won and who really lost, here?

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