BYU Leaves For the WCC in Hoops: Two Perspectives

Posted by rtmsf on August 31st, 2010

We asked two of our best contributors to take a look at today’s news that BYU has decided to go independent in football while joining the WCC in all other sports.  As he’s done all summer, our Mountain West correspondent Andrew Murawa breaks down all the moving pieces here in a simple, understandable way.  Additionally, our WCC correspondent, Michael Vernetti, stops by with a profile of the architect of the biggest coup of realignment summer, WCC Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich.

What Does It Mean? by Andrew Murawa

The wait for the next step in conference realignment is over, as BYU announced today its intention to forge ahead as an independent in football while joining up with the West Coast Conference in most other sports, beginning in 2011-12. In the process, the last hopes for the Western Athletic Conference to remain a viable entity have vanished, and the Mountain West Conference has turned its gaze from perhaps earning an automatic bid to the BCS for its conference champion to simple survival.

Jimmer Fredette Won't Get a Chance to Play in the WCC, but We Savor Future BYU-Gonzaga Matchups

A look at the news from the perspective of all the major entities in this move, BYU, the WAC, the MWC and the WCC:

  1. BYU – it appears all along that BYU was set on going independent in football, and just needed to find a soft landing spot for its other sports. In football, they’re working with ESPN on a deal for their television rights and they’ll make a viable schedule out of the remnants of the WAC (Utah State and Hawai’i are already on the schedule for 2011) and whoever else ESPN can convince to play them.  Regardless, they’re certainly not getting a Notre Dame-style sweetheart deal from the BCS and they’ll likely have trouble filling out a schedule decent enough to regularly put them in BCS contention. As for the move to the WCC, this is an excellent destination for a good basketball program, putting the Cougars into a spot where they should be able to compete with Gonzaga for conference supremacy immediately. Given St. Mary’s steady rise, Portland’s continued improvement, Loyola Marymount’s potential and the success of schools like Pepperdine, San Diego and Santa Clara in the past, the Cougars will definitely find some worthwhile competition there. And given that every other school in the league is a religious institution, BYU at least has something in common with its new conference mates (never mind the fact that BYU has a student body of 33,000, while the biggest school in the WCC has an enrollment of less than 9,000). But, the big key for BYU is getting away from what they found to be a limiting television package in the MWC. Now, they’ll be able to make use of their state-of-the-art media center and use it as a nice carrot to make sure that they are able to reach an agreement with ESPN. And, given that the WCC already has a television deal in place with ESPN for basketball and will reportedly retain broadcast rights for games not aired by the WWL, this is likely a big upgrade in terms of the television package for BYU.
  2. WAC – goodbye. If BYU had agreed to join the WAC in its non-football sports, at least there would have been some reason for the continued existence of the conference, but now standing at six teams with schools like Hawai’i and Utah State already considering other options, this venerable conference is on its deathbed as it approaches its 50th birthday. Right now, about the only reason for the remaining schools to stick together is in the hopes of getting the $10 million in buyout money from Fresno State and Nevada, money over which there will clearly be an epic legal battle. WAC commissioner Karl Benson insists that Fresno State and Nevada will have to remain in the conference through 2011-12, but the schools so far beg to differ. With six remaining members, the conference still holds a claim on an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for a couple of years, but the defection of one more school (whether it be Utah State to the MWC or Hawai’i to independence) would be the final nail in the coffin.
  3. MWC – saved from extinction a few weeks back by Fresno State and Nevada’s agreement to join the conference, the MWC is certainly hurt by the loss of BYU but it was going to happen sooner or later anyway. The hope of an automatic bid for its conference football champion to the BCS is now a distant memory and the conference is left with its meager television deal with Versus, CBS College Sports and its own network, The Mtn., now minus the Salt Lake City market  (the regional hub of the conference). In order for the conference to remain a viable entity for the future, it will need to fix its issues with its television contracts, but in the short term, it is still a strong league. However, given that the television contract is locked in until 2015-16, the conference may find itself having to fight off other suitors for some of its strongest members. TCU has already been mentioned as a possible target for the Big 12, and there has even been talk of a merger or some kind of alliance between the Mountain West and Conference USA (talk fueled by meetings between the two conferences in the days after the MWC added Fresno State and Nevada). Finally, there is the possibility that the MWC would be interested in adding more teams. They could certainly finish off the WAC by stealing Utah State (a move that would probably thrill Fresno State and Nevada because it would immediately end the $5 million buyout talk) and maybe even New Mexico State. There have been hopeful rumors of adding some of the western CUSA teams (Houston, Tulsa and UTEP, for example), but the MWC’s television deal probably precludes that, so it will be interesting to see what the next move is for a conference that was very recently thought to be a significant up-and-comer.
  4. WCC – first, you have to wonder what Gonzaga thinks of this. They’ve been the alpha dog in the conference for years as the school casting shadows on the rest of the league, and now, they’re potentially just another tiny school bouncing about in behemoth BYU’s wake. Certainly Gonzaga basketball isn’t going anywhere, but they’re no longer the program that can be immediately penciled in as the favorite in the conference every single year. Looking at it from the Zags’ perspective, the addition of BYU adds a couple more high-quality games during the conference season to bolster its strength of schedule and maintain a high RPI -– perhaps they don’t have to go so nuts with their non-conference schedule anymore. As for the conference as a whole, BYU’s presence in basketball is nothing  but good -– more high-profile games, stronger schedules and a big new market.  The league – now at nine teams with the addition of BYU – will go to a 16-game full home-and-home round robin schedule (although they’ll need to figure out the logistics of that, since there is no longer an easy way to schedule travel partners with an odd number of teams) and they’ll need to rearrange their conference tournament (tournament semifinals have been on Sunday and BYU will not play on Sundays). And there is even the potential for further expansion. Pacific had been considered for possible conference membership in 2008, and the Tigers would be a good fit along with the existing Bay Area schools (St. Mary’s, San Francisco, Santa Clara), but Denver and Seattle have also been mentioned as possible new invitees, given that those schools would add new large markets to the conference.  Denver, in particular, would be a natural travel partner for BYU. All things considered, this is an exciting day for fans of schools all around the WCC, even if the size and particular religious affiliation of BYU may give brief pause.

What’s next?

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A Police Blotter Tuesday

Posted by jstevrtc on August 31st, 2010

As if the start of classes and a looming new season weren’t enough for players and coaches across the nation to think about as we put August behind us, a few players from two of last season’s Final Four squads just added to their own worries and those of their coaches.

Mazzulla, Leaking Through UK's Defense in the Regional Final.

Mazzulla and Lucious were, of course, vital to their teams’ successes in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Lucious hit the buzzer-beater that put paid to Maryland in the second round and Mazzulla stepped in for an injured Truck Bryant and provided an incredible lift in the Mountaineers’ win over Kentucky in the Elite Eight.

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2010-11 RTC Class Schedule: Florida Gators

Posted by rtmsf on August 31st, 2010

Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.  To see the entire group of 2010-11 Class Schedules, click here.

Two NIT berths and one questionable NCAA bid following the first back-to-back title run since the Laettner and Hurley-led Dukies of the early 1990’s, Billy Donovan can finally approach a season without the sour taste of an early NBA/overseas defection, instead focusing on the welcomed expectation of an SEC title. Just as we did with conference rival Kentucky last week, here’s a breakdown of the Florida Gators schedule in their quest to return to the pinnacle of college basketball.

Team Outlook: The moment 6’8 junior forward Alex Tyus opted to complete his four years in Gainesville rather than enter the NBA Draft early, Billy Donovan knew he had a team that could compete for an SEC crown on his hands. Blindsided by the sudden departures of Marreese Speights and Nick Calathes in recent years, Donovan’s only loss would be that of role player Dan Werner. Adding a talented recruiting class led by rugged forward Patric Young and versatile wing Casey Prather to a core returning all five starters meant Donovan finally had some continuity with his program. The group returning isn’t exactly that of Duke, Purdue or Michigan State, though. After all, the Gators finished a mediocre 9-7 in SEC play and lost four of five down the stretch, putting their eventual NCAA Tournament bid in serious jeopardy. Donovan hopes that another year of development for blue chip recruit Kenny Boynton will pay dividends, Tyus and Vernon Macklin can hold down the middle, Erving Walker continues to dish out assists at a high rate and Chandler Parsons pulls some more late-game heroics out of his hat. A successful season followed by Mike Rosario and Bradley Beal entering the fray in 2011 could vault the Gators back to the hoops elite after a three year hiatus.

Donovan Returns All Five Starters From an NCAA Team

Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 8. Coach Donovan struck an appropriate balance of challenging non-conference games and SEC warm-ups for his Gators. Florida will participate in the ESPN College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon with a primetime battle at home against Ohio State. They might be drawing the Buckeyes at the right time with their point guard situation in flux and the Buckeyes looking to form an identity post-Evan Turner. The Florida-Florida State series continues in late November with the Gators traveling to Tallahassee to take on a talented Seminoles team with, once again, NCAA Tournament expectations. Chris Singleton should be a difficult matchup for the Florida frontline. Similar to their December contest with Syracuse in Tampa last year, Donovan scheduled a top-five preseason team in Kansas State in what should be one of the most anticipated non-conference games around the country. A New Year’s Eve trip to the Queen City to face a Xavier team that returns three starters from a Sweet 16 qualifier should prove another stiff test.

Cupcake City: The Gators did apply some frosting to their schedule, but they didn’t go overboard. A few of the games should be relative cakewalks — UNC-Wilmington, North Carolina A&T, Florida Atlantic, Jacksonville and Radford have the makings of easy Gator victories (don’t tell Donovan that after Florida’s stunning home loss to South Alabama last season). There are some sneaky challenges thrown in, too. Morehead State and double-double machine Kenneth Faried will be Murray State’s biggest challenger in the OVC again; they visit Gainesville on November 21. Kent State recoups three of their top four scorers from a team that won the MAC regular season title. With Siena losing talented seniors and their coach, it is Fairfield expected to take the crown in the MAAC. Rhode Island returns enough of a core to contend in the competitive Atlantic 10. The Gators also have tricky road trips to nearby Orlando to take on UCF and Washington, D.C., to face American.

Toughest Early Season Test: The neutral site meeting with Kansas State on December 18 has all the makings to be Florida’s toughest non-conference test and a meeting of two top-ten teams. The Wildcats enter the season with some questions, notably how Jacob Pullen will handle pulling double duty with Denis Clemente no longer around to run the offense and how much the loss of Dominique Sutton to transfer will affect their interior presence and physicality. Even so, most prognosticators would peg K-State to take the Big 12 title with Pullen returning and a breakout expected from forward Curtis Kelly. Frank Martin also trots out a deep frontline that will test Parsons, Tyus, Macklin and the freshman Young inside early in his college career. How Erving Walker defends Pullen on the perimeter could also determine the outcome in front of what should be a primarily pro-Gator crowd.

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HSAC Analyses: Time Out Before Last Possession Benefits Defense

Posted by jstevrtc on August 31st, 2010

Those folks from the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective have been at it again, continuing what will apparently be a series of analyses of close basketball games. They’ve released two more sets of data, one that says the defense benefits from a time out being called before a team that trails by two points or less takes its last possession, and another that verifies this defensive advantage in situations where the score is tied. The benefit comes from the fact that a foul on the leading/defending team is less likely to be called because a coach has time to communicate with his players and set his defense. This is important because their data from last season also shows that offenses which draw fouls on the defense in these situations score almost twice as much (1.62 points per last possession) on the average than offenses that do not draw fouls (0.878 points).

As college basketball fans, we’re all familiar with the scenario. Close game, just a few seconds left. Team A is up on Team B by two points or less. A time out is called. The last possession then follows, and Team B wants to either score or draw a foul on Team A. The HSAC says that Team A benefits from a time out because if they can set their defense, they’re less likely to have a foul called on them (the actual numbers are below).

Murray State's Danero Thomas says the T.O. did not help Vandy. (MJ Sanchez/AP)

When we first read their write-up about situations where a team trails by two points or less, we wondered if the analysis had been based on the time out being called by the team about to play defense (Team A above). From their site:

Teams were much more likely to draw a foul if they did not call a timeout before that possession. Teams drew fouls on 13 percent of end-of-game possessions when they did not call a timeout. Teams that called a timeout only drew fouls on 8 percent of their possessions. This difference was strongly statistically significant (p=0.001).

We took that to mean that the defense had just called the time out, which would have been a problem, since that’s not usually how it happens, from our experience. If Team A scores late in a game and takes a one- or two-point lead, it’s almost always Team B, the team who just got scored on, who calls the time out. If the HSAC analysis would have only considered the scoring team having called the time out, to us it would have meant a lack of real-world generalizability. If the benefit is that the defense is able to set itself, it shouldn’t matter who calls the time out. We contacted the HSAC about this, who confirmed to us that the analysis was based on either team calling a time out, not just the leading team (Team A).

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Morning Five: 08.31.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 31st, 2010

  1. Checking in on the latest conference re-re-realignment talk from Utah, the current word is that BYU is still intent on going independent in football but is looking more and more like a candidate to move to the WCC in basketball and all other sports.  Yes, you read that right.  The West Coast Conference, the tightly-knit eight-team conference of tiny private religious institutions that max out at nearly 9,000 students (Loyola Marymount and San Francisco, whereas BYU at 33,000 students is nearly four times that enrollment) and has remained at eight teams for three decades.  Andy Katz makes the case that this move makes sense in basketball, and we can’t really argue with his logic, except for one little thing — you know what makes more sense?  Staying in the Mountain West, where, with recent additions of Nevada and Fresno State to go with San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico, the league is on the verge of overtaking the Pac-10 for hoops superiority out west.  We should know something very soon — the deadline for BYU to leave the Mountain West is Wednesday.
  2. Getting back to the conference that BYU originally threatened to move to prior to its implosion, the WAC, feeling jilted and unloved after Nevada and Fresno State’s unceremonious dumping earlier this month, is threatening to sue the two schools if each refuses to pay a disputed $5M exit fee each by the October 25 deadline.  Furthermore, the WAC says that they have the contractual right to not release the two renegades until after the 2011-12 academic year, an interesting assertion given that Fresno and Nevada’s stated positions are that they’re leaving next summer.  This is going to get more interesting before it dies down, because there’s no question that this particular tussle has gotten personal among key players at some of these schools.
  3. There’ll be a boatload of these player profiles coming out in the next two months, but it just means that the season is slowly approaching.  Here are a few from the last few days: Texas’ Jordan Hamilton, Mizzou’s Kim English, Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore, and Louisville’s Preston Knowles.
  4. Jeff Jacobs, a UConn columnist at the Hartford Courant, suggests that Ater Majok’s presumed leaving of the program has nothing to do with impending sanctions that may have involved his recruitment, as we wrote could be possible yesterday.  But in the same paragraph, he also says that there have been “whispers” in the program involving Majok, so we’re not sure what to believe here.  UConn is expected to announce its response to the NCAA’s allegations later this week.
  5. Austin Rivers is the #1 prospect in the Class of 2011, according to Rivals, and he showed the skill that he possesses in a recent summer league game where he crossed over and scored on #1 pick John Wall, followed by ripping him clean on defense on the other end.  One blogger makes a reasonable case as to why Rivers will end up playing for Coach K at Duke in the fall of 2011.

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Bernie Madoff Sleeps in Clemson, Safely Away From Maryland Rapists…

Posted by rtmsf on August 30th, 2010

We caught this clip during an encore presentation of a CNBC show called American Greed: Madoff Behind Bars over the weekend, and we just about fell off our couch laughing during it.  It turns out that the federal minimum-security prison located in Butner, North Carolina (nicknamed Camp Fluffy because of its pleasant amenities and surroundings for the inmates), utilizes a hilariously inappropriate labeling system of housing units that involves many of the original Atlantic Coast Conference schools.   Check it out:

As you heard in the video, Madoff is housed in Clemson as part of the general population (“gen pop”) grouping, along with the other two gen pop schools, Virginia and Georgia Tech.  Can there be any doubt that the contractor/designer/architect of this prison had a clever yet brilliantly deranged sense of humor?  Let’s quickly recap:

  • NC State & Wake Forest – these two dorms house drug addicts
  • Duke - houses mental health patients
  • Maryland - houses sex offenders
  • Clemson, Virginia & Georgia Tech - these dorms house all the other general population inmates
  • UNC – notably absent

Isn’t it peculiar that North Carolina, the flagship state university located a mere 21 miles to the south of the prison, is notably absent from the Butner dorm system?  Consider the groupings.  Duke, UNC’s biggest rival by far, gets stuck with the crazy people.  You can almost read it in big bold letters between the lines — you’d have to be nuts to go to Duke.  Fellow Tar Heel state schools NC State and Wake Forest get all the druggies — you must be on drugs to end up at those places.  Among the original seven ACC teams, Maryland always had the reputation for being an outsider, a quasi-northern school filled with rude, obnoxious Yankees.  In Butner, the Terps are the worst of the worst — weirdos who can’t control themselves and their proclivities.  Clemson, Virginia and Georgia Tech were never really strong rivals of UNC, so they’re left with the average criminals — bad, but not at all like the others

This can’t all be pure coincidence, can it?  Of course not.  This prankish long-term thinking makes the Boston Red Sox jersey hidden in the bowels of Yankee Stadium a couple of years back look like child’s play.  Whether it was a local contractor or architect or whoever, we’re quite sure this person goes to sleep every night content that he has left a lasting legacy far beyond what he anticipated when he originally got that job.  Well played, Mr. Whoever You Are.  Well played.

(h/t – Dr. Saturday – we’re not first on this, but we were unaware of it until this weekend)

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Is Ater Majok Leaving the UConn Program a Sign of Things to Come?

Posted by rtmsf on August 30th, 2010

It was easy to overlook on a Friday afternoon filled with various comings and goings, but the Hartford Courant reported that several sources expect UConn center Ater Majok to head to Australia to play professionally in coming weeks, ending a collegiate career that was long on hype but short — very short, in fact — on production.  The well-traveled player who entered UConn in the fall of 2008 projected as the next great Husky big man will leave Storrs having scored a grand total of 59 points and secured 80 rebounds in less than one season of action.  According to the piece, Majok hasn’t yet formally made the decision to leave, but head coach Jim Calhoun certainly hinted at the possibility:

“We’re talking to Ater about his future, yeah,” Calhoun said. “That’s all I can say. … He hasn’t made any decision yet, but he could certainly go back and play in the Australian professional league. Nothing’s been determined yet, but there’s a chance that kind of thing could happen.”

Majok Was a Major Disappointment in Storrs

You undoubtedly know Majok’s story — the family that fled war-torn Sudan to land in Egypt; the questions about his NCAA eligibility resulting in a one-year layoff in 2008-09; the declaration and subsequent withdrawal from the 2009 NBA Draft; and the far less than stellar rookie season last year.  But the timing on this news is weird.  UConn begins fall semester classes today, and all indications over the summer were that Majok was ready for his sophomore campaign (as a 23-year old) as a member of the Huskies.  Yet on Thursday night last week, the big man tweeted that “life can take unexpected turns” and Calhoun followed it up on Friday with his quotes discussing Majok’s possible departure.

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Morning Five: 08.30.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 30th, 2010

  1. It’s been a rough summer for Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, and things haven’t gotten any better as we head into the upcoming Labor Day weekend.  Two players expected to contribute on the wing for the 2010-11 Cardinals will not be eligible.  The biggest hit comes in the form of Memphis transfer Roburt Sallie, who was attempting to take advantage of a transfer rule that allows a player to play immediately at his new school if he has already graduated and his school does not offer post-graduate training in his area of study (see: Alabama’s Justin Knox to UNC as but one example).  Well, Sallie failed to graduate from Memphis over the summer in time to enroll at Louisville, so he will not be allowed to utilize the rule.  Additionally, incoming freshman Justin Coleman, a top fifty scoring guard from Huntington, WV, is also ineligible.  Louisville clawed its way to a mediocre season by its lofty standards last year (20-13, 1st round NCAA loss), but frankly, we’re having trouble seeing how Pitino is going to coax his current roster back into the Big Dance.
  2. Meanwhile, a little farther east on the interstate, John Calipari continues to enjoy the Midas touch with his recruits.  Despite Mike Gilchrist’s tweeting about taking three official visits on Friday night, conventional wisdom is that he’s still strongly committed to Kentucky and will end up in Lexington a year from now.  On Saturday, UK received a commitment from another elite player in the Class of 2011, Kyle Wiltjer, a 6’9 forward from Oregon who proves that Calipari is keeping that Pacific Northwest pipeline greased and fertile.   Additionally, 6’11 transfer forward (and former Florida Gator) Eloy Vargas was declared eligible over the weekend and will have two seasons remaining with the Wildcats.  The only missing piece for Cal’s 2010-11 team remains the eligibility limbo that Enes Kanter is in over questions about his amateur status.  The way things are going in Lexington these days, expect him to be declared eligible by Midnight Madness.
  3. Ray Holloman at Fanhouse deconstructs the Big East’s decision to continue with the double-bye system for the top four seeds of the Big East Tournament.  The basic premise: the Big East is loaded in positions one through eight, much more so than any other conference.  No wonder the coaches unanimously voted for a sixteen-team bracket scenario — it gives those at the top an opportunity for an easy first-round win before getting down to serious business among the quarterfinal teams, most of whom are NCAA-caliber in a given year.  Great analysis.
  4. LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary (OH), Dru Joyce, stated late last week that Xavier University is now his “enemy,” and that the school would no longer be allowed to recruit his players after what he describes as the unnecessary pushing of one of his stars to a prep school for 2010-11.  JaKarr Sampson is a rising senior who shot up the summer recruiting rankings after a strong showing at LeBron’s Skills Academy, but according to his mother, it is she, not XU, who is responsible for sending her son to prep school Brewster Academy (NH) because of his lackluster academic record.  Weird situation, there.
  5. This BYU to the WAC or WCC thing is getting even more fascinating than we thought possible.  As the Salt Lake Tribune reported on Sunday, BYU is expected to announce complete independence in football and a move to one of the other “W” conferences in all other sports as soon as today.  The deadline that the school has to inform the Mountain West Conference if it plans to leave is Wednesday of this week, and all indications are that it will take that step despite the MWC’s counter-poach of two of the more valuable properties in the WAC, Fresno State and Nevada.  Open records requests revealed that “The Project” to target BYU was originally a WAC retaliatory measure for the MWC’s nabbing of Boise State during the early-summer conference realignment madness.  Ironically, Nevada president Milt Glick was the first person to use the code name to target BYU on the record, yet it was his school in Reno that jumped at the chance to join the MWC within mere hours of the offer.  Wild stuff going on out there in the Great Basin.
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Nevada Gaming Control Board Investigating Marcus Jordan

Posted by jstevrtc on August 30th, 2010

Ahhh, yes, the permanence of Twitter combined with the immaturity of (near-) teenagers. Central Florida’s Marcus Jordan is now being investigated by the Nevada Gaming Control Board to determine what laws, if any, were broken last week when the 20-year old Jordan tweeted about spending $35,000 at Haze and Liquid Pool Lounge (a nightclub and pool in the Aria complex at Vegas’ CityCenter) and $56,000 during an entire day in Las Vegas.

Jordan now has this distraction to think about in addition to classes and hoops.

Jordan, who averaged 8.0 PPG and 3.1 RPG last season as a freshman at UCF, made news close to the beginning of last season when he found himself caught between allegiance to his famous father and the contractual obligations of the school. UCF was an Adidas-sponsored school, but Marcus understandably wanted to wear the Nike Air Jordans that his father immortalized. When Marcus stuck to his guns, Adidas ended their association with the school. UCF now has an agreement with Nike that started back on July 1.

Most people with whom we spoke at that time sided with Marcus and were surprised that a more creative solution couldn’t have been worked out with UCF and Adidas in what was certainly a bizarre set of circumstances. Regarding this new incident, we hear almost as much talk about the amount of money spent and the gambling habits of the Jordan men as we do about Jordan being under 21. This is yet another strange set of circumstances, since Jordan isn’t doing anything wrong by coming from a wealthy family. He’s allowed to have and spend as much money as he wants — as long as he isn’t buying alcohol and gambling while underage, of course. The NGCB obviously couldn’t care less about the amount spent or who spent it, and will surely focus more on the fact that, yes, even in Nevada, both drinking and gambling — and the commensurate loss of wads of cash — are still the exclusive domain of adults aged 21 and over.

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C.J. Henry Leaves Kansas For The NAIA

Posted by nvr1983 on August 27th, 2010

The past six years have been nothing if not an interesting journey for C.J. Henry. The former Yankee prospect/Memphis-Kansas recruit announced yesterday that he would be transferring to Southern Nazarene, a NAIA school. A year ago Bill Self was being congratulated for adding C.J and his brother Xavier Henry after they had initially committed to Memphis before John Calipari decided to head to Kentucky. Although the subsequent transition to Lawrence were complicated by what appeared at times to be a soap opera the Jayhawks had an exceptional season before being cut down by Ali Farokhmanesh and the brothers performed at the level that everybody expected them too.  Now after just one year Self is left without either Henry as both have become one-and-dones in an unusual fashion. Xavier did it the traditional way by entering the NBA Draft following a solid, but uneven freshman campaign. On the other hand, C.J. was confined primarily to the end of Self’s bench as he played just 5.6 minutes per game in 13 games and only played double figure minutes in three blowouts. Although C.J. had been a fairly highly rated prospect coming out of high school he had spent 4 years (2005-2008) playing minor league baseball and redshirted the 2008-o9 season so most people did not consider his minimal production particularly concerning especially given reports that he had battled injuries all season long.

C.J. in one of his many uniforms (Credit: NJ.com)

However, in a surprising move, Kansas announced last week that Henry had decided to transfer from the school with some speculating that it was due to the amount of competition at the guard position potentially limiting his ability to get playing time. Still many in the Kansas area ripped him apart for his decision (not surprising given the allegiance of many writers/fans in the area). Given Henry’s limited basketball experience in the past 6 years, his injuries last year, and relatively advanced age (24 with 3 years of eligibility remaining) many programs would undoubtedly have reservations about taking on Henry, but we assumed that his basketball pedigree and athleticism would get at least  several major programs interested in his services. Instead Henry has opted to go the NAIA route and not forgo a year of his eligibility, which is not a small thing for a 24 year-old sophomore who still harbors NBA aspirations (unlikely since he would be 27 if he goes straight through college). For their part, the coaches at Southern Nazarene, who won the NAIA title in 1981 and made it to the NAIA championship game in 1998, say that their conference is chock full of Division 1 talents [Ed. Note: We can’t confirm since our knowledge of the Sooner Athletic Conference is limited to this post.] that should give Henry the competition he needs. At the very least he will have someone to text in Taylor King (formerly of Duke/Villanova/USC) who is currently enrolled at Concordia (at least the last time we checked).

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Is Michael Gilchrist Waffling on His Commitment to Kentucky?

Posted by rtmsf on August 27th, 2010

Update: Coach Calipari must have taken our advice, as Gilchrist’s follow-up tweet later this evening said, “Just had a long talk to Coach Cal.. Ill be on campus next weekend.”  If Calipari knows one thing, he knows how to protect his assets.  That didn’t take very long at all.  Still, it doesn’t settle the issue of if or why Gilchrist wants to take three official visits.

Perhaps superstar recruit Mike Gilchrist is just playing with us on a late summer Friday evening, or perhaps he’s having some second thoughts about his early commitment to play his college ball at Kentucky.  Either way, the below tweet (now deleted), sent at around 9 pm ET tonight, is sure to set the recruiting world afire short of a strong statement to the contrary by the consensus top five player in the class of 2011.

Kyle Anderson, a star forward from North Bergen (St. Anthony’s), NJ, in the class of 2012, asked Gilchrist directly on Twitter whether he had de-committed from UK, to which Gilchrist responded with a simple “no.”  But there are hints that the rising senior may be having some cold feet, given the above quote referring to taking three official visits (we have to assume he’s not talking about Kentucky, Transylvania and Lexington Community College) in addition to some other chatter on his Twitter page about not leaving his mother by herself [presumably in New Jersey].

Paging Coach Calipari… coach John Calipari.  You may want to keep Gilchrist handy on your speed-dial.  Stay tuned on this one…

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2010-11 RTC Class Schedule: Kentucky Wildcats

Posted by zhayes9 on August 27th, 2010

Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.  To see the entire group of 2010-11 Class Schedules, click here.

After dissecting a trio of Big 12 teams in prior weeks, more and more elite programs are releasing their 2010-11 schedules to the masses. Let’s continue with Kentucky, a squad that reloaded following the departure of an astounding five first round draft picks.

With so much turnover, Calipari has another tough coaching job on his hands

Team Outlook: A fan base as rabid and fanatical as Kentucky’s surely awaited this week’s announcement with tremendous anticipation. Big Blue Nation has expectations for their Wildcats that perennially surpass any other program in the nation. Their point guard and this April’s #1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, John Wall, will be replaced by Brandon Knight, whose high school accolades and ranking matches those of his predecessors under John Calipari. If deemed eligible by the NCAA, Enes Kanter will fill the post presence left by the ultra-productive DeMarcus Cousins. Similarly to Kanter, Terrence Jones spurned Washington and headed to Kentucky, a 6’9 wing very capable of matching the offensive production provided by Eric Bledsoe a season ago. The key word for Kentucky and Calipari since he took the helm: replenish. And if Knight, Kanter and Jones are history next April, three more top-ten recruits will fill the void. It’s a tall task for Knight and Kanter to match the contributions of Wall and Cousins, two of the top three players in the sport last season. Still, with such talent abounding, a wide open SEC, and the true dribble-drive offense back into high gear, to expect a giant step back from Big Blue and underestimating the coaching prowess of Calipari would be a grave mistake.

Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 7.5. A program with the visibility and significance of Kentucky should challenge themselves at every chance. Forced out of necessity more than choice to load up in November and December at Memphis, Calipari has utilized that same strategy in Lexington. The potential is there to face fellow powerhouses at least in terms of college basketball history: North Carolina, Michigan State, Louisville, Indiana, Notre Dame, Washington and Oklahoma, although these teams remain at varying degrees of competitiveness. Kentucky will surely attract an enormous contingent to Maui where they could face a top-ten team in the semifinals in Washington and a top-two team in the finals, Michigan State. North Carolina is still working its way back up to elite status following last year’s NIT berth, but the young Wildcats’ trip to the Dean Dome won’t be any sort of cakewalk. The same theory applies to Louisville on New Year’s Eve, the next chapter of one of the fiercest rivalries the sport knows. A matchup with possible NCAA squad Notre Dame should also prove competitive. Kentucky gets everyone’s best shot, and it’s no relief for Calipari that up to seven non-conference contests will be either on true road or neutral floors.

Cupcake City: Two notable cupcakes travel to Lexington when Mississippi Valley State and Coppin State make the trip for what should be 40-point blowouts, but other than that Calipari did a solid job limiting the scrubs. East Tennessee State returns their top three scorers from an NCAA Tournament team that was blown out in the first round by, you guessed it, Kentucky. I’m not saying the Wildcats are vulnerable to lose to the Buccaneers, but they will not be a total walkover. Winthrop rode a Big South Cinderella run to an NCAA bid and is on the slate. Boston University with John Holland and Jake O’Brien is halfway decent, while a Maui tune-up in Portland against the rebuilding Pilots will provide a raucous atmosphere. Last season, Kentucky did struggle a bit early in the campaign against Miami (OH), Stanford and Sam Houston State while Calipari determined roles and rotations for a plethora of new players. If the same holds true a year later, Portland and BU could be pesky opponents.

Toughest Early Season Test: It’s far from a guarantee that Kentucky downs Washington in the Maui semifinals. After all, the Huskies return the majority of their backcourt led by Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy with a frontcourt anchored by Matthew Bryan-Amaning and a talented newcomer in Terrence Ross. Plus, they should have plenty of motivation to knock Kentucky down a few pegs following the Kanter and Jones situations that have been rehashed continuously. If the Wildcats can survive Washington, and I have a sneaking suspicion they will, Michigan State awaits in the final if the Spartans can knock off Connecticut or Wichita State (unless they pull a Virginia against Chaminade). The Spartans return their entire Final Four squad with the exception of Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen. Containing Kalin Lucas is baptism by fire for green Brandon Knight, while wing Darius Miller may have the unenviable task of chasing around three-point bomber Durrell Summers. The Spartans will likely be ranked number two in the nation behind Duke at this point. Win or lose, the learning experience will certainly be valuable for the young Wildcats.

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