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.

Share this story

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. 

Share this story

Morning Five: 07.27.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 27th, 2010

  1. The extortion trial of Karen Sypher began Monday in Louisville, and the blockbuster allegation of the day came from the defense.  Sypher says that Rick Pitino threatened to have her “put in concrete in a river” if she didn’t keep quiet about their affair in 2003.  It’s going to be educational to see how the defense tries to spin this so that Pitino is viewed as the guilty party considering the amount of evidence that the feds already have in this case.
  2. The second installment of the Flourishing Five came out yesterday, and the Wisconsin Badgers are the #4 pick.  As a reminder, CBS Sports is picking the five collegiate programs with excellent basketball and football programs.  #5 Pittsburgh was named last week.  The Badgers are a solid choice.  We’re going to predict that the next three (in order) are: Florida, Ohio State and Texas.
  3. This is an interesting article from Dennis Dodd about how the ACC hasn’t shut the door on future expansion, having mocked up 14- and 16-team scenarios.  The ACC has to know that as a lesser football conference, it behooves them to be more proactive in this arena rather than waiting to get raided by the Big Ten and/or SEC at some future date.
  4. The thing is, when Tom Izzo says that he believes Purdue is the Big Ten favorite next season, he realizes that his team (not the Boilermakers) will probably be standing later into March and April.  Would you bet against this guy in the postseason given what he’s been able to accomplish the last two with much the same cast of characters?
  5. The Ivy League is still the Ivy League, regardless of the success of Cornell making the Sweet Sixteen and Harvard’s Jeremy Lin getting signed by the Golden State Warriors.  But there are some league insiders who believe the added attention that the conference has received will only help recruiting the type of players who would have otherwise gone to BCS schools.
Share this story

Recruiting Makes For Strange Bedfellows: Kentucky v. Washington

Posted by rtmsf on July 26th, 2010

You’d be hard pressed to find two major state research universities with as little in common as the Seattle-based University of Washington and the Lexington-based University of Kentucky.  UW is an urban university located in the gorgeous setting of the wet and wild Pacific Northwest, filled with faculty and students who intravenously inject java into their arms and generally fall on the crunchier side of the political spectrum.  UK, on the other hand, is a suburban school located in the heart of America’s unparalleled horse country, just as proud of its southern hospitality and bourbon as its staid conservativism.  To call these two schools separated by 2,450 miles burgeoning rivals on the basketball court seems as weird as offering Florida v. Minnesota or Arizona v. Rutgers as reasonable comparisons.

A New Rivalry on the Horizon?

Yet over the last few months, the two basketball programs have made up for their lack of on-court rivalry (Kentucky leads the all-time series 1-0) with one in the hideaway gyms and family rooms of blue-chip prospects.  The long arm of UK coach John Calipari’s recruiting prowess has collided squarely with the growing hotbed of talent residing in the upper left corner of the country, resulting in several high-profile head-to-head battles over recruits and most notably impacting Lorenzo Romar’s UW program.    The latest in that string of faceoffs has come in recent weeks over the services of Seattle guard Tony Wroten, Jr., a 6’5 lefty guard and rising senior who missed all of last year due to a football-related knee injury, yet whom most scouts believe has top ten talent

Wroten (@ToneTone13) is a Twitter phenomenon, playing up his ongoing recruitment with re-tweets of others’ speculation, but despite a recent statement that all the schools on his list have an equal chance for his services, the smart money suggests that he’s down to his hometown school and the lure of the bluegrass.  Part of the reason for this is that he’s good friends with two other UK commitments in the Class of 2011 — top ten prospects Michael Gilchrist and Marquis Teague — but seeing John Wall and Eric Bledsoe coexist and excel in UK’s dribble-drive offense last season is another big carrot.  Nevertheless, the pressure is on Romar to hang onto a local product who grew up playing pickup ball on the Washington campus and who is the second cousin of former Husky star Nate Robinson, especially in light of the fact that only a few months ago Calipari recruited two players to Kentucky — Enes Kanter and Terrence Jones — after both had verbally committed to play in Seattle.  In many UW circles, Wroten is a must-get for Romar. 

After losing out on two big-time prospects and potentially a third to Kentucky, Washington fans are in no mood for another sucker-punch to the gut from Calipari on the recruiting trail, but there could be an opportunity for Husky supporters to exact revenge where it really counts — on the basketball court.  Both teams are participants in the 2010 Maui Invitational this coming November, and although the brackets are not yet set, we have to believe that ESPN and the Maui officials will bend over backwards to make a UK-UW game happen.  Washington guard Isaiah Thomas is apparently ready for it, as he has already gotten snippy with his comment over the weekend that Kentucky fans (along with regional rival Oregon) are “both kinda stupid.”  Regardless of whether Wroten eventually commits to UK or UW later this summer or fall, the heat in this bizarre intersectional rivalry stands to increase and we as the impartial onlookers will just sit back and enjoy it. 

Share this story

Sypher Extortion Trial Against Pitino Begins Today In Louisville

Posted by jstevrtc on July 26th, 2010

As if the drama of conference realignment and the fate of the play-in games wasn’t enough for your summer, the college basketball world now turns a reluctant eye to Louisville, where the Karen Sypher extortion trial begins today.  It’s been about seven years since whatever happened between Sypher and Rick Pitino in that Italian restaurant happened, and the sorting out of this whole mess started earlier this morning in the U.S. District Court in Louisville.  The trial is scheduled to last a couple of weeks.

In addition to the extortion charge, Sypher is accused of retaliating against Pitino after he went public with the news of the single-night affair, and then lying to federal agents about it.  The linked article above from Louisville’s Courier-Journal describes how, even though it might seem like prosecutors have a pretty sweet breakaway dunk in this business, they’re not making the mistake of just assuming a win.  They’ll have to prove everything we’ve been hearing about in the media — the false rape claim, the lies to federal prosecutors, the exchange of money and cars, and so on — to get a victory, here.

July madness begins in Louisville.

That Sypher may have had some experience with this extortion stuff even before her dealings with Pitino doesn’t help her cause.  And the very first page of the Courier-Journal’s article notes how prosecutors will introduce evidence that Sypher had sexual relations with both of the men whom she used to make the actual threats against Pitino, including performing “a sexual act” for one of them — a guy named Lester, and honestly, how can there not be a guy named Lester involved in all of this? — on the very same day that he made the initial threatening call to Pitino.  Also, according to this update from the Courier, in Sypher’s attorney’s opening statement, he alleges that Pitino “suggested something involving concrete and a river” after Sypher said that she didn’t want an abortion.  Feel that?  That’s your skin crawling.

While it will be interesting (and a little gross) to watch the events play out in Louisville over the next two weeks, we’re even more intrigued by the possible effects this could have on the Cardinals when the time comes to actually play basketball again.  Will Pitino’s players respect him as a coach or look at him more as a man who dishonored his wife?  Will the added media attention (because even though the trial might be over in two weeks, this all won’t just end in two weeks) be a distraction from basketball?  Will these legal issues and the increased rumblings in the city of Louisville about the absence of a national title under Pitino have him wondering if it’s time to move on? Or will his players rally behind their coach, buy into his system more than ever, and return Louisville to the later reaches of the NCAA Tournament?  If he makes any statement to the media over the next two weeks, be ready for Pitino to rhapsodize about how these are the greatest days of his life and how he’s never been less stressed than he is right now.  Which means that he’s in hell, and can’t wait to get back to basketball.  Can you blame him?

Share this story

Drexel’s Leading Scorer Busted For Armed Robbery

Posted by rtmsf on July 26th, 2010

We know that Philadelphia is a tough town, but this is ridiculous.  Stories like this always amaze us given the risk/reward matrix, but Drexel University’s starting point guard (Jamie Harris) and a backup forward (Kevin Phillip) spent the weekend as fugitives from justice while Philly police searched for them in light of a videotape showing the pair leaving an apartment after an armed robbery (with a third accomplice named Devon Bond) last Wednesday night.  The two surrendered to the authorities today, and if the allegations that the Dragon teammates were involved in the robbery turn out to be true, it’s two more lives destroyed in an incomprehensible way. 

Bonehead Brothers (AP/M. Perez)

As the story goes, the pair (along with Bond) allegedly busted in on a woman (also a Drexel student) in her apartment whom they thought was holding a “big stash of cash.”  They brandished handguns and ordered the woman to hand over the money, but it turns out that their carefully-begotten information was bad — the woman was not in fact flush with cash, so they instead stole her iPhone (and another cell phone of unknown origin).  Based on information later supplied by the woman to the police, Bond was arrested last Thursday, and she then fingered Harris and Phillip from a photographic lineup over the weekend. 

So we ask, again — what kind of mental processes must go through people’s heads to ever think that this was a good idea?  The victim saw the players’ faces during the robbery.  Bond, Harris and Phillip all live in the same apartment complex.  The entire thing is caught on videotape (including Bonds’ ridiculous attempt to act as one of the victims by lying on the floor during the robbery).  Not to encourage criminal behavior of any kind, but it is shocking that people will put their entire lives on the line with such limited forethought. 

Drexel coach Bruiser Flint commented that he’s “trying to figure this thing out,” but there doesn’t seem all that much to figure other than the fact that his top returning player (Harris), a rising senior and the anticipated centerpiece of a team looking to move into the top echelon of the CAA next season, will likely not be available to him.  Nor will he have the rising junior Phillip, a hustle guy who fit nicely into the rotation last season.  What he does know for certain is this: his two knuckleheads combined for 44 steals last year while on the playing court, but it’ll be two steals from last week on a hot, dark night in Philly that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. 

Share this story

Recruiting Rumor Mill: 07.26.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 26th, 2010

This week’s action was mostly centered around Las Vegas (and we will certainly talk about Vegas), but there as always there was news from across the rest of the nation. Based on the way that these AAU tournaments run most of our “news” comes from tweets from courtside observers, but we do have a few articles sprinkled in here. If you have a hot recruiting tip or news that you want to share with us, e-mail us at

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 07.26.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 26th, 2010

  1. We’re starting to become concerned about the fall that Bob Huggins endured on Friday that sent him to the hospital with four broken ribs.  Initially it was believed that he would released on Saturday, but as of late Sunday night, Huggins was still being held in a Las Vegas hospital for observation purposes.  Doctors were apparently concerned about bone fragments that could cause other problems, and anyone who has had such an injury says that there is a great deal of pain while breathing.  Regardless, we hope that Huggins can get out of the hospital soon and resume his normal activities of recruiting, coaching and scowling at people.
  2. This article at Fanhouse argues that USC basketball got off fairly easy in light of the OJ Mayo scandal and the subsequent penalties (or lack thereof) handed down by the NCAA.  Um, we guess?  What seems to be missing in this analysis is that the athletic department unsuccessfully threw Trojan basketball to the wolves in an effort to save the football program from harsher sanctions.  But at least they were proactive in getting in front of the problems and making the organization think that they were serious about self-policing in at least one sport.  If USC had been as cooperative with punishing themselves over Reggie Bush’s indiscretions as they were with OJ Mayo, the gridiron Trojans may not be facing a two-year ban from the postseason.
  3. The Pac-10 coaches are discussing how the league plans to handle dividing up the new twelve team conference and everyone seemingly agrees on one thing — they don’t want to lose out on the fertile recruiting grounds of Southern California.  And with good reason, as the ten teams last year had 33 players from SoCal on their rosters, nearly 25% of the entire league’s cache.
  4. This article on Dan Beebe, the “Savior of the Big 12,” paints a much different picture than the one that was being bandied about when it appeared the implosion of that league was imminent.  A good lesson learned here.
  5. Former Oklahoma all-american and jazz musician Wayman Tisdale, who passed away from cancer in 2009, will be honored in perpetuity as the namesake for an award handed out by the USBWA to the top freshman player in America.  Given that nowadays the top rookie is often the best collegiate player in America as well (John Wall, Kevin Durant), this is a great way to remember the gentle giant from Tulsa.
Share this story

Bob Huggins Trips and Breaks Four Ribs

Posted by rtmsf on July 24th, 2010

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins tripped over a coffee table and broke four ribs last night in his hotel room in Las Vegas.  As Gary Parrish first reported on Friday night, Huggins was taken to the hospital and treated with the expectation that he will be released today.  [Update: reports are that he will spend Saturday night in the hospital for further observation.]  The 56-year old coach had a heart attack some eight years ago, but the reports coming out on this story are that this accident had nothing to do with his ticker.

Who Was Huggs' Da'Sean Last Night?

Nevertheless, this incident is the second known situation in a span of just over two years where Huggins has lost his balance and fallen hard enough to be taken to the hospital.  In May 2008, the curmudgeonly coach tripped in the Charlotte airport, hitting his head on the pavement and causing a brief scare although he was ultimately fine.  We hesitate to fall back on the easy “What Happens in Vegas” joke, but considering how far Huggins has come since his DUI arrest in 2004, a little public scrutiny won’t hurt him.  For the sake of his personal and financial health (there is a substance abuse clause in his WVU contract), we hope that these incidents are the result of general clumsiness and nothing more sinister.    After all, given his redemption, we’re actually starting to like the guy.

Share this story

Anthony Davis Narrows It Down To 3 Schools

Posted by nvr1983 on July 23rd, 2010

Earlier this week we brought you a short feature on Anthony Davis, the star power forward recruit out of Chicago who has been lighting up the AAU summer circuit. With his rise up the recruiting rankings we expected the number of offers for Davis to be rising by the day. Instead, as Adam Zagoria reported earlier today, Davis has been narrowing down his list and after eliminating UNC from consideration the list stands at just three schools: Syracuse, Ohio State, and Kentucky. Although his father Anthony Davis Sr. states that his son “should have a decision hopefully soon” he adds that the family “doesn’t have a timetable.” So at this point we don’t know if Davis will commit before his senior season starts (Davis will reportedly take “a couple looks” at each of the three schools so don’t expect an announcement in the next week or two) or this could drag on to be another Terrence Jones situation. In any event, this announcement will only make college basketball fans salivate even more over the potential for Davis playing alongside Fab Melo, Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine, and Dion Waiters at Syracuse or alongside Jared Sullinger, William Buford, and Deshaun Thomas at Ohio State or alongside Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight, Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, and Terrence Jones at Kentucky when the 2011 NBA lockout happens.

Share this story