Floriani At Jersey City’s Hamilton Park League

Posted by jstevrtc on July 31st, 2010

JERSEY CITY, NJ — I can’t really file this under “How I’m Spending My Summer Vacation,” because for those of us devotedly fanatic about this game there is no time off.  No college games are contested, but there are other items such as the NBA Draft in June, the NBA playoffs, and of course, on the college front, the summer circuit and recruiting.

The City Game.

Players who want to take it to the proverbial next level also realize there is no extended down time. Summer is a time to work on your game and improve. A place where players can do both is the Hamilton Park Summer League in Jersey City, one of the most popular leagues. As you’d suspect, it derives its name from the Hamilton Park location (the late Al McGuire always said, “keep it simple, stupid”).

For officials, it is a great way to stay sharp and work on deficiencies. Games are fast, competitive, and a test to one’s judgment and game-management skills. To yours truly, on the officiating and reporting end it is a virtual Nirvana, an opportunity to work and write about some excellent games and programs putting it all out there.

We're betting Mr. Floriani plunked down a few bucks to sample the cuisine. And we don't blame him.

The past few seasons saw the HP league operate with a grade school, girls’, and boys’ high school divisions. This summer saw a shift as the girls are at Dickinson High School while the grade school relocated to High Tech about six miles away in North Bergen. The action this season is limited to the boys with a strong 17-team contingent.

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Summer School in the WCC

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 30th, 2010

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

St. Mary's Will Again Have Something to Say About This

Around The WCC

  • Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s have finished first and second in the league standings for six of the last seven seasons (Santa Clara finished second in 2006-07).
  • Saint Mary’s won its first-ever WCC Conference Tournament in 2010, crushing the Zags 81-62 and earning an NCAA Tournament bid that saw them sweep through two rounds over Richmond and Villanova before crashing and burning in the Sweet 16 game against Baylor.
  • The Zags received an at-large bid to the NCAAs, and beat Florida State before losing in the second round to Syracuse. Both will be back with strong squads in 2010-11.
  • It has been a relatively quiet off-season in the WCC, with no head coaching changes or game-changing player transfers. All teams recruited well, and all are jockeying for position in the upcoming season.

Power Rankings

  1. Saint Mary’s, with its WCC Tournament victory over Gonzaga and success in the NCAA Tournament, has established itself as the team to beat in the league. Although the Gaels return five of the top seven players who propelled it to a 28-6 season, questions will arise over the candidates to replace the two who won’t be back – dominating 6’11 center Omar Samhan, who compiled a 20-10 season, and his frontcourt sidekick Ben Allen, the 6’11 Australian who contributed 10.7 PPG and 7.6 rebounds per contest.  Creighton transfer Kenton Walker, who stands 6’9, will be Samhan’s replacement in the post, and Walker is credited with giving Samhan all he could handle at practices during his mandatory year on the Gaels’ bench. Gael insiders expect him to surprise a lot of teams with his athleticism and defensive quickness. Saint Mary’s returns starting guards Mickey McConnell and sophomore Matthew Dellavedova, who combined for nearly 26 points and 10 assists per game last year. McConnell was the nation’s leading three point shooter last season. The duo will also make for tough practice competition for prized incoming freshman guard Stephen Holt.  At the power forward spot, coach Randy Bennett will most likely start Rob Jones, the San Diego transfer who, like Walker, sat out last season after changing schools. The Gaels are also looking for a big year from junior small forward Clint Steindl, who showed flashes of three-point shooting brilliance the past two years, and will be called upon to contribute more consistently on offense while avoiding foul trouble.
  2. Gonzaga: The Zags’ decade-long dominance of the WCC showed signs of weakening last year, with losses to Loyola Marymount and San Francisco in the regular season and a shellacking by Saint Mary’s in the conference tournament. If they are to win the regular season conference championship for the 11th straight year in 2010, the Zags must answer questions about backcourt leadership. Marquise Carter is a talented plug-in for the departed Matt Bouldin, but it will be a challenge for him to provide the leadership and all-around court presence that Bouldin did. Senior sharpshooter Steven Gray will be asked to help fill the leadership void, and the Zags could get a major boost from Mathis Keita and Mathis Monninghoff, two European players whose addition to the roster has yet to be made official.  Stepping into a strong frontcourt will be Sam Dower, a 6’9 center from Minnesota who red-shirted last season. Dower will add depth to a lineup that includes the spectacular Elias Harris, ever-improving Robert Sacre and promising sophomore Kelly Olynyk.  The Zags suffered the largest rash of player defections, with four highly-touted players leaving – Bol Kong, Andy Poling, G.J. Vilarino and Grant Gibbs. Turnover is also taking place on the coaching staff, with Few breaking in a new assistant, Donny Daniels, from UCLA.
  3. Loyola Marymount: The biggest news for Lions fans is the return of 6’10 center Edgar Garibay, who redshirted last year after tearing his ACL in the team’s seventh game of the season. When he went down, the Lions lost a strong, young player who was poised to make a major impact as a freshman.  With everyone back from last year’s Lions squad except starting forward Kevin Young and substitute guard Given Kalipinde, it may be time for the Lions to roar. They are balanced, as Garibay’s return will be coupled with an experienced backcourt of Vernon Teel and Jarrod DuBois (15.4 PPG and 12.3 PPG last season, respectively). They also will benefit from Drew Viney’s polished moves and accurate shooting at small forward. If head coach Max Good can keep the injury bug away, LMU’s depth will lead them to contention for a top spot in the WCC and a post-season tournament berth, so they’re my Dark Horse for 2010-11. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the SoCon

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 30th, 2010

Justin Glover is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference.

Mike Young's Terriers Look to Lead the SoCon Again

Around The SoCon

  • Former Citadel coach Ed Conroy moves on to coach Tulane University. The Bulldogs hired former Maryland assistant coach Chuck Driesell, who was with the Terps for four seasons under head coach Gary Williams.
  • The Mountaineers hired former UNC star forward Jason Capel, who becomes the youngest head coach in Division I at 30 years old, to replace Buzz Peterson, who departs for UNC-Wilmington.
  • The Georgia Southern Eagles made a splash in its recruiting class coming in, ranking sixth among mid-major programs, according to ESPN.com.
  • Asheville, North Carolina, has been awarded the league’s men’s and women’s basketball tournament for 2012-14, to be held in the Asheville Civic Center, just a stone’s throw away from the Western Carolina campus. The facility will undergo a considerable renovation to prepare for the event.

Power Rankings

The Southern Conference will likely be a one-bid league in 2010-11, but the recent NCAA tournament expansion will certainly add motivation for teams on the rise to perform. With the return of forward Noah Dahlman (16.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG last season), Wofford is the early favorite to repeat as SoCon champs next season.

North Division

  1. Western Carolina – The Catamounts lost some very good talent from a team that won 22 games in 2009-10, including an impressive 14-2 home record. WCU lost its top two scorers in Brandon Giles and Jake Robinson, but return former freshman of the year Harouna Mutombo. Also, the Catamounts bring back spark plug Mike Williams, who contributed 9.4 points off the bench last season. Starting center Richie Gordon returns after posting 8.5 ppg and 4.6 rebounds per game last season. WCU welcomes four newcomers, including 6’4 guard Brandon Boggs, from Greenville, South Carolina. Boggs averaged 16 PPG in his senior season, earning him a spot on the South Carolina all-star team. Boggs scored a game-high 24 points in the contest.
  2. Appalachian State - The Mountaineers lost Buzz Peterson to UNC-Wilmington and welcome a new era with Jason Capel, who becomes the nation’s youngest head coach heading into the 2010-11 season. ASU won an impressive 24 games en route to the North Division crown last season. To repeat as champs, they are going to need Donald Sims to perform at a level similar to last season, when he averaged 20.4 points per game and was a sure thing from the stripe, with a league-leading 95 percent. Also returning is Isaac Butts, who led the team in rebounding, grabbing 8.1 rebounds per game last season. Two newcomers for the Mountaineers are Anthony Breeze, who transferred from Coastal Carolina last season, and Omar Carter, who transferred from Charleston Southern.
  3. Chattanooga – The Mocs have three starters returning from a team that went 15-18 last season. Chattanooga went 6-12 in conference play, tying UNC-Greensboro for third in the north division. Rising junior guard Ricky Taylor returns after putting up 11.4 points per game in 2009-2010. Keegan Bell, who averaged 7.6 points per game last season, is another starter from a year ago. Together, Taylor and Bell will look to provide the Mocs with a 1-2 punch in the backcourt. Three newcomers round out the roster, including some size in the frontcourt in Philip Jurick, who stands 6’11 and played at Chattanooga State Community College last season.
  4. Samford – The Bulldogs head into 2010-11 returning three starters from last year’s team, including leading scorer Josh Davis, who averaged 12.5 points per game and netted a team-high 85 three pointers. Also returning is starting center Andy King, who posted 6.6 points per game last season. The Bulldogs struggled on the road last season, going 4-10 away from Birmingham, and the team hopes that more veteran leadership will change their fate this season. Three newcomers will join the squad, including two in the frontcourt in Levi Barnes (6’10) and Drew Windler (6’9). Guard Greg Wooten rounds out the recruiting class for Samford.
  5. UNC-Greensboro – The Spartans return rising sophomore Kyle Randall, who was second on the team in points per game with 9.5. Also returning is fellow guard Brandon Evans, who averaged 8.5 points per game last season. The Spartans had a tough non-conference slate containing six ACC opponents, which contributed to a 2-11 record before conference play started. While overmatched in most of those contests, they hung around with Virginia Tech until late in the game Six of those losses came at home. Three newcomers join the team this season in Aaron Brackett, David Williams, and Aloysius Henry, who hopes to contribute right away.
  6. Elon - The Phoenix return their leading scorer in Drew Spradlin, who averaged 13.3 points per game last season as a sophomore. Also returning is starting guard Chris Long, who posted 9.9 points per game in his junior season. Sixth man Terrance Birdette returns as well, after scoring 6.8 points per game and seeing court time in all 32 games last season. There are five newcomers who join the Phoenix hoops squad in 2010. Incoming freshmen include Ryley Beaumont, Jack Isenbarger, Sebastian Koch, Lucas Troutman. Sophomore transfer Egheosa Edomwonyi from Rice will be a part of Elon’s quest for a Southern Conference championship. Isenbarger was a McDonalds All-American nominee and could be the prize in the recruiting class.

South Division

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20 At The Top: Big 10 Player Rankings

Posted by zhayes9 on July 30th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

For the entire 20 At The Top series, click here.

Just two seasons ago, the Big Ten was far from the premiere conference in college basketball. Yet Midwesterners that follow the conference religiously could be optimistic about the future. A number of super-talented sophomores permeated the eleven teams and those loyal fans knew that when this crop of players became seniors- should they stick around for four years- the Big Ten would be special again. A combination of  injuries keeping kids in school, consistently improving talent and teams looking for one last shot at cutting down the nets have created what should be the nation’s most competitive conference in 2010-11.

If healthy, Lucas is the best the Big 10 has to offer

1. Kalin Lucas, Michigan State- Last season was a mixed bag for Lucas, who battled leadership issues part of the season, excelled early in Big Ten play with clutch shots and witnessed his Spartans advance to another Final Four with the All-America candidate watching from the sidelines. Lucas is again dealing with a Michigan State squad that has aspirations of playing on the first weekend in April. A blur in the open floor that excels in transition, Lucas performs well in the team-oriented Spartan attack, although it might take a month or so for Lucas to ease back into tip-top shape. He’s a gifted floor general with outstanding court vision that loves finding teammates Durrell Summers and Chris Allen off screens for open threes. He’s also capable defensively and last year posted a career high 45% FG. There’s no debate who is the captain of this Michigan State ship, and both Izzo and Lucas would much prefer a smoother ride as a senior. If Lucas has an outstanding season and leads his team to a national title, expect the Mateen Cleaves comparisons to begin.

2. Robbie Hummel, Purdue- With Chris Kramer graduating, Robbie Hummel now takes the role as the heart and soul of a Purdue team that has similar expectations as rival Michigan State. Hummel’s ACL tear last February at Minnesota devastated the Boilermakers, and although they rallied to reach the Sweet 16, Hummel’s loss was a crushing blow on all fronts- scoring, rebounding, defense and leadership. Hummel could be cleared for full-contact basketball as soon as August, meaning he’ll soon team with JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore for another shot at glory. Hummel isn’t the most athletic forward on the planet, but he makes up for that with constant toughness, intelligence and effort on both ends. He excels in catch-and-shoot situations around the perimeter, generating good lift with a smooth stroke that can lead to first half performances like Ohio State witnessed last January. Hummel is a very productive rebounder grabbing almost seven boards a game at just 6’8 and only turned the ball over once every 30 minutes during his junior season. The Boilermakers need Hummel’s back and knees at 100% to cross the rugged terrain of the Big Ten and emerge as a favorite to cut down the nets in Houston.

3. Jon Leuer, Wisconsin- Leuer is another typical developed Wisconsin star in the making. He’s a tall, versatile, inside/outside scoring threat who rarely played as a freshman while learning the swing offense, yet gradually develops into an all-Big Ten player by his senior season. Jay Wright raved about Leuer’s game while coaching him at USA Basketball this summer, exclaiming he can shoot, pass, put it on the floor and has great size. Sounds like a complete player to me, and one that Bo Ryan is expecting to take on a larger role with Trevon Hughes no longer patrolling the Kohl Center hardwood. By all accounts, Leuer posted a very impressive junior season, nearly doubling his PPG production, grabbing six boards a game, shooting 52% overall and featuring a solid mid-range jumper. And in typical Wisconsin fashion, Leuer almost never turns the ball over or makes mental mistakes on the floor. His 43 points on 16-28 FG in Wisconsin’s two NCAA Tournament games showed the world his fractured wrist was a thing of the past. Much like Lucas and Hummel, if Leuer stays healthy, he’ll be a candidate for Player of the Year honors in the conference.

4. JaJuan Johnson, Purdue- The Indianapolis native enters his senior season looking to help lead Purdue to a national title and impress NBA scouts in the process. Johnson dabbled with the NBA Draft before electing to return to a loaded Boilermaker team as their anchor in the paint. When Johnson is motivated like he was during the NCAA Tournament, he’s an absolute force. Johnson has utilized his long wingspan and superb instincts to mold into one of the best pure shot blockers in the nation. His offensive repertoire has expanded significantly since arriving on campus both on the low block and in the mid-range game. He also picks up a good chunk of his points by attacking the glass and finishing pick-and-rolls. During a mid-January slump that included three straight Big Ten losses where Johnson scored a total of 18 points and took 19 shots, Matt Painter made it clear the team had to go back to the drawing board and re-evaluate. Most of that frustration was intended for Johnson, who would finally screw his head on straight and peak with a 24/7 at Ohio State and a 23/15 against Siena in March. The allure of capturing an NCAA title in his senior year should be sufficient for Johnson to play motivated.

5. Talor Battle, Penn State- Other than an NIT run as a sophomore, Battle’s name hasn’t been nationally recognized throughout his career, mostly because the Nittany Lions have mostly been mired in losing seasons. Big Ten followers know Battle all too well, probably because he’s torched their own team at one point or another the last three years. Battle will need some more help from his supporting cast if Penn State wants to shock the world and contend in what should be an ultra-competitive Big Ten. He’s a prototypical scoring point guard- evident by his 16.7 and 18.5 PPG the last two seasons- but does a capable job distributing the ball and finding open teammates. Ranking third in the Big Ten behind Evan Turner and Manny Harris in possessions used last season and playing 92% of his teams’ minutes, Battle is the focal point for Ed DeChellis’ offensive attack. When Battle has to put on the Superman cape and do everything, rarely do the Nittany Lions have the same success as when his teammates are also performing at a high level.

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Pitino’s Preparation Evidently Pays Off — The Cross-Examination

Posted by jstevrtc on July 30th, 2010

Thursday was the fourth day of the Karen Sypher extortion trial in Louisville, and it brought the cross-examination of Rick PitinoWe predicted yesterday that there would be some heated exchanges between Sypher’s defense attorney and the Louisville coach (not exactly going out on a limb, there), and that since he’s a master of preparation when it comes to coaching basketball, he’d be confident and ready to roll — or at least appear so — when it came time to talk about some harrowing and even downright embarrassing stuff, especially with an extra night to prep.  Our information below comes from the summaries written by Louisville’s Courier-Journal and the point-to-point breakdown and analysis at Kentucky sports blog KentuckySportsRadio.com (KSR).

Pitino started the day on the stand and was done by noon, totaling six hours on the stand between today and yesterday.  According to KSR, Pitino was an effective witness for the government/prosecution, though things did get a little testy between Pitino and Sypher’s defense attorney — who started his cross-examination by reading a quote from one of Pitino’s books (that’s cold!) — at a couple of junctures when the details of the fateful night at the Italian restaurant were discussed.  It does not, however, sound like there was any particular incident that resulted in huge verbal volleys or anger above what one would expect.  Pitino knows that he can’t allow it to appear as if the defense attorney is getting to him, and we’d expect that his skills at readying himself for opponents served him well.  Still, a few items from today’s witnesses caught our attention.

Tim Sypher testified today, and said things that helped and hurt both his former wife and Pitino.

First, there’s something we haven’t heard mentioned in any discussion, and that’s the fact that Pitino’s motivational speaking days are gone, and according to KSR he was pullin’ down anywhere between a grand to $40,000 per speech.  You could even assume that figure would have climbed if Pitino claimed a national title or a couple more Final Fours, so there’s no telling how much income Pitino cost himself because of a few drinks at a bar and a grave mistake involving a woman who, in our eyes (as we rely on the reports of others), is coming off  like she had an agenda all along.  Mind you, all we’ve heard so far is the prosecution’s case.

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NCAA Comes Down On Arizona (Sort Of)

Posted by nvr1983 on July 29th, 2010

Earlier today the NCAA announced that it was increasing the self-imposed sanctions that Arizona had issued itself back in February for violations that involved former Wildcat coach/legend Lute Olson regarding his association with the Cactus Classic, GoAZCats.com Showdown, and potential recruiting during a “quiet period” in the recruiting calendar. At the time, Arizona put itself on two year post-season probation immediately, took away one scholarship for the class of 2011, and reduced the number of visits that recruits could take to Tucson. Today the NCAA added to those penalties by further reducing the number of on-campus visits that recruits could have, taking away one scholarship for the class of 2012, moving back the probation to start today instead of this past February, and vacating the Wildcats’ 2007-08 season for having two ineligible players. Let’s go through the impact of each of these points one by one:

  • Reducing the number of recruit visits: This is the one with the most teeth, theoretically. The NCAA reduced the Wildcats’ number of potential visits from their self-imposed limit of eight and 12 (the max) to six and six over the next two years. I am not deep enough into recruiting to know what impact losing two additional visits this year will do to the program, but the combined impact with losing half their visits the following year could put the Wildcats in a hole with recruits and negatively affect their program for the next few years. Still, it just means that Sean Miller and his recruiting team will have to use those visits more selectively.
  • Taking away one additional scholarship: Not a huge deal because this would probably be spent on some second- or third-tier recruit or even a former walk-on as a token of appreciation for carrying everyone’s bags and water for three years.
  • Moving back the probation: All this means is that the Wildcats will have to be on their best behavior for an extra five months. The Wildcats will not have to deal with a TV or post-season ban, so it is essentially the NCAA taking a meaningless punitive shot by saying that the punishment starts when they say it starts.
  • Vacating the Wildcats’ 2007-08 season: Although the NCAA did not say who the two players were, a little detective work suggests that they are Jamelle Horne and Zane Johnson as they were the only Wildcats on that team who played in the 2006 Cactus Classic. While Horne has had a solid if unspectacular three years at Arizona (Johnson transferred to Hawaii after his sophomore year), we will always remember him for his pair of bone-headed decisions as a sophomore against UAB and USC. As Dana O’Neil noted, the new trend towards vacating wins is essentially meaningless unless it takes away a title (looking at you, Pete Carroll) or moves a team/coach down the all-time rankings. This does neither. In fact, in an ironic twist, this gives Olson the opportunity to stab his long-time assistant turned interim successor Kevin O’Neill in the back one more time as the wins are not taken away from Olson, but instead from the acting head coach at the time (O’Neill) even though it was Olson who committed the wrongdoing. As an added bonus (h/t Dauster) we get to ask the following question: if two teams that never existed played a game, did it really happen?

O'Neill gets the shaft again

What does all this mean? Essentially a whole lot of nothing (or hot air, if you prefer). The Wildcats lose one more scholarship, a few more recruiting visits, are on double-secret probation for a few more months, and have to put another asterisk behind their 25 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. Given the relatively minor nature of the crime it seems appropriate that the NCAA handed down a relatively minor punishment.

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Morning Five: 07.29.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 29th, 2010

  1. Fifteen seconds to infamy.  Rick Pitino took the stand yesterday and will likely do so again today in the extortion trial of Karen Sypher in Louisville.  The twitterati are all over this in a big, huge, ridonkulous way.  Like here, or here, or maybe here.  We’re thinking that perjury where the only person on earth who could impeach you is also the defendant might have been a better option.
  2. Good news from Vegas as West Virginia head coach Bob  Huggins was released from the hospital yesterday.   In less good news, former Missouri State, St. Louis and UNLV head coach Charlie Spoonhour is at Duke University hospital waiting on a lung transplant.  He is on the list, and we’re hopeful that he gets the procedure that he needs, as we’ve always been a fan of his.
  3. And even sadder news from Memphis, as the body of former Tiger all-american Lorenzen Wright was found in a wooded section of the city yesterday nine days after a 911 call went out from his cell phone followed by at least ten gunshots.  He leaves behind six children and a legacy of being a great father and never having a harsh word for anyone.  RIP, Lorenzen.
  4. On Tuesday, Seth Davis gave us the best of his interviews with eleven college coaches about next season; yesterday he followed it up with part two which consisted of his assessments of various college and high school players that he saw play in Las Vegas last week.  The truth is that few of the returning players that Davis saw seemed all that impressive (Kyle Singler and Shelvin Mack excepted).
  5. We admit that we know as much about NASCAR as we do about geophysics, but Jim Boeheim and driver Tony Stewart enjoyed a shooting contest at the Melo Center on the campus at Syracuse University yesterday.  Boeheim quipped about his penchant to speed, but you can watch the whole interview for yourself below.
  6. Boeheim and NASCAR Star Tony Stewart

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The Loss of Kevin Coble Doesn’t Kill Northwestern’s NCAA Hopes

Posted by rtmsf on July 28th, 2010

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.  He is also very familiar with the Chicago area basketball scene.

By now you’ve heard that Kevin Coble will not play for the Northwestern Wildcats during the 2010-11 season, or ever again. The recovery from his broken foot is taking longer than expected, and instead of continuing through grueling rehab with the chance of injuring it again during the season which would come with possible life-altering implications, Coble has decided to hang up his basketball shoes. Of course, this story is getting a lot of national attention because of Northwestern’s NCAA Tournament drought and the fact that “everyone” thought that Coble returning was the magic elixir that was going to solve all of the Wildcats’ problems.

Coble Will Be Missed, But He's Not the Tipping Point

I’m here to tell you that “they” were wrong. Coble’s return wasn’t going to fix the thing that Northwestern has to work on more than anything to make the NCAA Tournament — defense. The Wildcats had one of the most efficient offenses in the country last season. They scored 1.12 points per possession, which ranked 33d in the country according to Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency statistics. Being the 33d best offense in the country is more than enough to make the NCAA Tournament. The problem was Northwestern’s 169th ranked defense.  If Coble had been able to return at full strength this coming season he still wouldn’t have provided the defensive presence that the Wildcats need. A foot injury is exactly the type of problem that hinders your lateral movement, and it is the key to staying in front of people cutting with the basketball. Even when the doctors say you’re fully recovered, these types of injuries aren’t over. So even if Coble had completed his rehab he’d probably be wondering, “What happens if I try this?” on the basketball court. If you’re taking time to wonder, you’re taking too long.

When Coble was healthy he led the Wildcats in scoring and rebounding, and while his rebounding would be nice to have next season, his scoring wouldn’t have been necessary. Coble was essentially the same player his first three seasons at Northwestern with an offensive rating around 110 in approximately a quarter of the team’s possessions while he was on the court. He also had a rebounding rate of 2.7% on the offensive boards and 15.5% on the defensive boards.  But you know whose numbers were better than that last season? John Shurna. Shurna replaced Coble in the lineup last year and became an even better offensive threat. He’s still improving too. His national team experiences appear to have helped him elevate his game. It’s also worth noting that Drew Crawford as a freshman put up an offensive rating of 107.5 and Michael Thompson put up a ridiculous 115.9 last season. With JerShon Cobb coming in and Alex Marcotullio improving, the Wildcats are surely going to be just as good, if not better, on offense next season.

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Pitino Takes Stand, But Sparks Could Fly Tomorrow

Posted by jstevrtc on July 28th, 2010

This was the day that Louisville supporters and scandal followers — and likely Rick Pitino himself — have been waiting on.  Sort of.

Pitino took the stand as a witness for the United States side of things today in the Karen Sypher extortion trial in Louisville.  Under direct examination, Pitino testified that Sypher’s motivation “from the day this all started…was to blackmail me.” He described how he received a pair of voicemail messages from an unknown caller alleging that he had raped Sypher, and that he subsequently met with her to try to identify the caller.  Pitino added that Sypher even accused him of making the phone calls as a ruse.  This information comes from coverage by Louisville’s Courier-Journal, but we’ve got to give props to Matt Jones and KentuckySportsRadio.com, here, too.  Jones, a lawyer himself, is there watching the whole thing, tweeting updates, and updating his site with a nightly breakdown and analysis that all but puts you in the courtroom.

Pitino got to have his say against the accused (above) today.

By far the most popular soundbite to emerge from the day’s testimony was when Pitino revealed that, after Sypher initiated their sexual encounter by undoing his fly and asking Pitino if he had a condom (he didn’t), the whole thing lasted “no more than 15 seconds.”  We’ll not touch that one with, say, a shot-clock joke, but suffice to say that there have been some outstanding resultant tweets (we’re lookin’ at you, @DanWetzel and @ClayTravisBGID).

The reason we added the “sort of” above is because Pitino only had to go through direct examination today.  We’re sure he relished the chance to take the stand and clear his name (even though the trial is really about whether or not Sypher attempted to extort him) as best as he can, but if there are going to be fireworks, they’re likely to come tomorrow when Pitino faces cross-examination by the defense.  According to the breakdown from Jones/KSR linked above, the defense has been effective at crossing potentially damaging witnesses so far, so this could get heated.  Consider, however, what we know about Rick Pitino’s coaching style.  Above all, he’s a preparation coach.  His biggest asset is how much work he invests in getting ready for an opponent ahead of time, and even though he’s surely been prepped like mad for this by his attorneys already, now he’s got another full evening to get ready for the hardest part.  If the defense is able to put together a jewel of a cross-examination, though, it will also be interesting to see if the US can stack him back up on re-direct.

Though no infectious agents have ever been discussed in this whole business and we can assume none ever came into play, that description of the brief event by Pitino reminds us of one of the several great lines from Band of Brothers:  “Remember, boys…flies spread disease.  So keep yours closed.”

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Morning Five: 07.28.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 28th, 2010

  1. From the we are completely and utterly shocked, shocked we tell you, department, the two Drexel players who were arrested on Monday on suspicion of armed robbery were suspended indefinitely from the team yesterday Jamie Harris and Kevin Phillip will find it awfully tough to play basketball next year while in lockup anyway.
  2. Additional information from the WVU program yesterday revealed that head coach Bob Huggins actually broke seven ribs (#3-#9), not four as was originally reported.  He is still having trouble breathing without pain and will continue to be held in a Las Vegas hospital until that pain subsides.
  3. Northwestern’s Kevin Coble indicated yesterday that he is retiring from basketball after a summer of worse-than-expected rehabilitation on the foot he injured prior to last season’s first game.  This is obviously very sad news for Coble and Northwestern in their hopes that the all-Big Ten second-teamer in 2008-09 would be back next season to lead the Wildcats to their first-ever NCAA Tournament.  The silver lining for Wildcat fans: Coble is on track to graduate from the elite school in December, and four starters including star John Shurna (18/6) will return from an NIT team next year.
  4. Day two of the Karen Sypher extortion trial was Tuesday in Louisville, and jurors were rewarded with a previously unseen video of her making allegations of rape to authorities in April 2009 after the extortion plan fell through when Rick Pitino reported her to the feds.  Testimony was also given by patrons and workers on the infamous night at Porcini’s that suggest Sypher and Pitino were getting along very well throughout the encounter.  Pitino could testify as to his side of the story as soon as today.
  5. Seth Davis checks in with a summer report from Las Vegas, where he spoke to eleven prominent coaches about the status of their programs going into next season.  Always good stuff from one of the class acts in the business.
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Not Smarter Than The Average Bear(cat)?

Posted by jstevrtc on July 27th, 2010

We know about the on-court tradition of the University of Cincinnati men’s basketball program — two titles, six final fours, ten conference titles, and so on.  Mention the program in any conversation, however, and most people will, by reflex, immediately think of a place once known as “the UNLV of the East.”  The unflattering legal history of players and sometimes coaches involved with this team over the last 25 years could fill an entire series of law journals, and there’s been little progress made in rehabbing the program’s public image in recent days.  Imagine our surprise, then, when we saw this tweet from UC’s Cashmere Wright yesterday, evidently about a little soiree happening…well, as we post this:

According to Wright’s bio on the UC website, his birthday is 1/9/1990 — making him 20 years old.

Now, there’s been no crime committed, here, but the implication of that reference to “ALCOHOL ON US” is that there will be one committed, since Wright can not lawfully buy or consume alcohol, or (even if he was 21) be responsible for other persons under 21 drinking it.  And this comes not even two weeks after that incident at Notre Dame, where 41 individuals were arrested for underage drinking, including ND’s leading returning scorer, Tim Abromaitis, and ten other athletes.

We’re not saying anything untoward happened, or is happening, at this party.  Maybe he was tweeting this for his housemates who are all at least 21.  And maybe everyone drinking at this bash, assuming it happened, is also at least 21.  Considering the team Wright plays for, though, was that your first thought?  We understand that college kids do this kind of thing all the time.  They have house parties and, yes, that law about the drinking age is often violated, and it happens at almost every college in the country, not just Cincinnati.  We just thought that maybe the folks at UC would at least like to appear to be trying to mend their basketball team’s public image.  Wright’s tweet just makes it look like he doesn’t care, or he hasn’t been made to care enough by people in charge.

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Pac-10 Officially Rebrands Itself – A Nation Yawns

Posted by rtmsf on July 27th, 2010

The Pac-10 today formally announced several wholesale changes to its league at its annual football media days held in New York City this year.  You read that right — New York City – a mere 2,400 miles from its nearest current institution.  Attempting to rebrand itself after its June power grab of two additional schools who will begin conference play in 2011 (Colorado and Utah), Commissioner Larry Scott (a New Yorker himself) brought the league to the east coast in an outreach effort not seen in those parts since Oregon’s unsuccessful effort to market QB Joey Harrington as Joey Heisman on a 100-foot NYC billboard in 2001

It Takes More than Marketing

Does marketing a west coast league with predominantly west coast players who cater to west coast fans in the media capital of the world have any effect on the national conversation about the Pac-10?  Maybe if we were talking about the Lakers, but otherwise, probably not.  We submit that this is a largely symbolic move by Scott to signal to his constituents that he’s willing to try somewhat unconventional methods to further market the league and reach new fans.  He said as much in his comments today:

It seemed to be a bit of an excuse and that the Pac-10 in my estimation was very laid back and passive in terms of how it went about telling its story and promoting itself.  To me the disconnect was people worried about that but they were not really doing much about it.

The league has been solid if not spectacular in football over the past five years, and a couple of tremendous basketball seasons in 2008 and 2009 was followed up with an epic stinker last year.  Given the three-hour time difference, the league will always have an inherent disadvantage against early-to-bed types in the east, but there are fans of both sports everywhere who will tune in if there is a product on the field or court worth watching.  The Pac-10’s television contract is set to expire next year, and one of the major hurdles for Scott and his crew will be to figure out how to handle the Fox Sports Net problem.  FSN is the primary television broadcaster for Pac-10 sports, yet in many localities, the NBA or MLB or NHL will pre-empt Pac-10 out of area broadcasts.  A big weeknight game between Arizona and UCLA may only be visible to half of the country, with the result being that even if people wanted to watch it in New York, they might not be able to do so.

New Logo Featuring Mountains and Sea

Unless your name is King James, however, focused marketing usually helps, and Scott seems intent on maximizing the league brand prior to those television contract negotiations next year.  Some of the re-branding changes:

  • Starting next year, with Colorado and Utah on board, the league will be “mathematically correct” in calling itself the Pac-12.  It doesn’t roll off the tongue, but we do appreciate the attention to the laws of arithmetic in taking shots at the soon-to-be twelve-team Big Ten and ten-team Big 12.  We’re crossing our fingers that they’ve thought through the natural consequence that everyone is going to start calling the league the “12-Pac” now, though.  
  • The conference has a new, modern logo (see above) that features the natural beauty and outdoorsy lifestyle that the region is known for.  The old one seemed like something out of the 60s, and what was that thing behind the Pac?  The sun? 
  • A re-designed website that will feature streaming video called the Pac-10 Digital Network, including this marketing video that sorta scared us with its intensity

Of course, without a quality product and the ability to get it aired nationally from coast to coast, all of this is mere window dressing.  Props to Larry Scott for recognizing that the viability of his league will require some creative thinking and a proactive approach, but next year’s television deal is where the water will hit the sand.   Otherwise, those east coasters and midwesterners who already don’t care will continue to not care, and even with the West Coast adding people hand over fist, it alone still only represents about one-fifth of Americans. 

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