Morning Five: 09.20.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 20th, 2010

  1. Christmas in September?  Remember when Kansas forward Tyshawn Taylor was banned from The Facebook mid-season by Bill Self after a series of embarrassing screeds that put himself and the program in a bad light?  Well, he’s back.  Bill Self has allowed the talented but enigmatic guard back on the social networking medium (also on Twitter!), and America flutters in anticipation of what will happen next.  He says he’s grown up after several diarrhea of the mouth incidents last year and now “thinks about it” before putting something online.  Taylor has the skills to become a fantastic player at KU, but his immaturity and inconsistency has to date held him back; it’ll be interesting to track his social networking accounts throughout the next few months to get a sense as to his mood, as he doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy to handle adversity well.
  2. The Pittsburgh Panther team, from top to bottom, believes that they are on the verge of a special 2010-11 season in the Steel City.  And they might be right.  Although it’s true that, historically speaking, NBA-level talent almost unquestionably wins national championships, a team like Pitt can get to the Final Four with a bunch of really good college players.  With Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown leading the way, Jamie Dixon’s team has plenty of those.
  3. More Bruce Pearl: Gary Parrish suggests that Pearl wasn’t necessarily acting out of turn in lying to the NCAA about hosting recruits at his home, but rather in choosing what would otherwise be a fairly minor issue over which to lie about.  In other words, when you’re going to lie to the NCAA — make it count (academic fraud, paying players, etc.).  Meanwhile, Gregg Doyel believes that the lie should cost Pearl his job at Tennessee, although it seemed that the target of his ire was more focused on UT athletic director Mike Hamilton than Pearl.  We’re of the opinion that Pearl should be heavily sanctioned here, but he shouldn’t lose his job over this.  This, of course, assumes that there isn’t more evidence of significant wrongdoing lurking around the corner.  But nobody asked, least of whom, Mike Hamilton.
  4. This article is a little old, but it represents a home run of a thought: Bob Knight (when not being roasted for charity) should use his loud mouth and irritable persona to get on the pulpit and clamor for changes impacting the betterment of the game of college basketball.  We don’t always agree with some of his tirades, but people will listen to what he has to say, and generally speaking, his heart is in the right place.  The game needs a saber-rattler-in-chief, and right now Knight is as good a candidate as any.
  5. Bobby Hurley may be broke, but he still knows a thing or two about the game of basketball.  He’s now helping his younger brother Danny rebuild Wagner College from the bottom up, as Seth Davis wrote about in a piece on Friday.  And bottom up is no exaggeration — Wagner was 5-26 last year and ranked in the bottom twenty teams in America in both KenPom and RPI.  The Hurley boys have their work cut out for them.
Share this story

The ESPN-U Midnight Madness Locales

Posted by jstevrtc on September 17th, 2010

Earlier today, ESPN-U let the world in on their plans for the evening of Friday, October 15th, otherwise known as Midnight Madness (see clock, above right). Like last year, ESPN-U will crank out four hours of coverage starting at 9 PM ET, with Lowell Galindo anchoring alongside Andy Katz and Adrian Branch, and of course they’ll have all the live peeks at several schools’ festivities.  This year’s featured schools:

  • Duke
  • Connecticut (women’s team will be featured)
  • Kentucky
  • Gonzaga
  • Kansas State
  • Memphis

Last year we BGtD’d during the broadcast, and we were surprised at how high the talk-to-hoops ratio was, but to be fair it looked like a lot of that was because the analysts and commentators were vamping as they waited for things like volleyball matches, relay races and raffle drawings to finish at the various sites — in other words, as they waited for something interesting to happen that was covering. Still, even though we have no problems with listening to Lowell, Andy, and Adrian talk hoops, even after things like the dunk contests and scrimmages started, there were several instances last year where viewers would be treated to a shot of two or three people talking at a media table or in a locker room while crowds were cheering at what was actually happening on the unseen basketball court. We bet that ratio will change this year.

This debuted during Midnight Madness last year. Wonder what Harrison Barnes and Brandon Knight have in store.

Given the program’s achievements last season, we were hoping to see Butler on the list of coverage sites. Seems to us like some Madness footage from Hinkle Fieldhouse would be a lot of fun, but then we realized — Butler does not do Midnght Madness.

Last year’s Madness coverage brought us the birth of the John Wall Dance and Tom Izzo riding into Michigan State’s party in an Indy car (since the Final Four was to be in Indianapolis). That turned out to be prophetic, so this time around we’ve got our money on Izzo referencing the 2011 Final Four in Houston by descending from the ceiling in some sort of space capsule. Only 27 days, 22 hours, 35 minutes (again, see clock) and change before we find out.

Share this story

Morning Five: 09.17.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 17th, 2010

  1. Andy Katz reported that Tennessee has its hands somewhat constricted by the clauses in Bruce Pearl’s contract that protects him from termination short of an NCAA “finding” that he had committed a “significant” violation.  Given that the NCAA is currently in the early stages of its investigation of the UT basketball program, any such finding would not likely come until well into 2011; and even then, there would have to be a finding involving a “significant” violation.  It’s unclear whether hosting recruits at his home and later lying about it rises to that standard of significance, but the key point here is that even if UT wanted to get rid of Pearl, they would have a difficult time doing so presently.  Interesting wrinkle unearthed by Katz, there.
  2. Seth Greenberg’s Virginia Tech Hokies are prepping for what could possibly their best season in his tenure there, but they received bad news yesterday when it was learned that sixth man JT Thompson had torn his ACL and will miss the entire season with that injury.  The senior forward averaged 7/5 last season as the first player off the bench, and he was expected to provide strong front court depth again this year.  With Malcolm Delaney, Dorenzo Hudson and Jeff Allen returning, Tech still has plenty of talent, but Thompson will surely be missed in the wars of the ACC this winter.
  3. Luke Winn checks in with a piece examining the twelve BCS conference coaching changes during the offseason, evaluating which coaches are stepping into the most favorable and least favorable situations.  We couldn’t agree more with his assessment that Oliver Purnell is walking into a nightmarish scene at DePaul (other than the hefty paycheck, of course).  We seriously doubt that will ever work out for anyone involved.
  4. Is John Calipari a good thing for college basketball in general?  Dan Wiederer writes that he’s not, essentially arguing that there’s too much nonsense, if not outright cheating, associated with the man.  And, the response.
  5. The Big East Conference and ESPN simultaneously announced the Big Monday matchups for the 2010-11 season, which means that we’re that much closer to actually watching some meaningful games again.  Officially, the first three games on the list below are not “Big Monday” games, but they’re Big East matchups on ESPN on Monday nights, so… whatever.  It’s difficult to say which teams will step up in the always-brutal Big East, but the Syracuse-Villanova game on February 21 looks mighty tasty.  Here’s the lineup:

Share this story

The RTC Big Four State Tournament: Championship Game

Posted by rtmsf on September 16th, 2010

We’re down to the final two of the RTC Big Four State Tournament, and this is pretty much where we all expected to be when the brackets were released, right?  #1 Indiana will take on #2 North Carolina in a classic battle of roundball states chock full of schools who take their hoops very seriously.  There are several interesting storylines here, not least of which is the unusual circumstance that Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Butler’s Brad Stevens will once again face off with a national title on the line and several of the same players in tow (Duke’s Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler; Butler’s Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard).  Look at these lineups!  There are potentially five to seven 2010-11 all-america candidates on these rosters — wouldn’t you pay top dollar to see this game?  Our current bracket is below, so let’s tip this one off…

Championship Game (Semifinal fan vote pct. listed)

#1 Indiana (76%) vs. #2 North Carolina (78%)

These two teams come into the final having not really been tested much throughout this tournament.  #2 North Carolina has won its three games by an average of 18.7 points, while #1 Indiana sports a 13.7 point scoring margin, although the Hoosier State had a tough semifinal game against an athletic and scrappy #4 Texas squad.  Nevertheless, no one will argue that these two teams shouldn’t be here — it’s fitting that the two most talented teams have generally bulldozed their way to the championship game.  As for venue, both coaches eschewed the sellout crowd of 75,000 fans in a football stadium they could have filled for this game, instead agreeing to meet in a seedy high school gym on the south side of Chicago with three refs and a couple of television cameras. 

Stevens’ team draws first blood, as Mack and Robbie Hummel work the two-man game to perfection for a couple of early threes, and for the first time in the tournament, future NBA lottery picks Harrison Barnes and Kyrie Irving appear a little rattled by the pressure of the situation.  Coach K, always tuned into his players’ emotions, senses their nervousness and decides to go primarily with his experienced guys for the remainder of the half.  That helps stem the tide somewhat as Smith, CJ Harris and Singler start finding their spots, but Indiana has figured out that the interior defense of Tracy Smith and Tyler Zeller is not fleet-footed enough to deal with several quick catch-and-shoots by Matt Howard and JaJuan Johnson in the post.  The rest of the half falls into a back-and-forth affair where both teams have trouble consistently scoring, but Indiana heads into halftime with an eight-point lead.

Stevens & K Meet Again, This Time in an Empty Gym (AP/A. Sancetta)

The second half opens in a reversal of the first, with North Carolina’s Barnes and Irving showing that missing confidence and exploding to the rim on drives for several easy buckets off turnovers.  Before you know it, when Tracy Smith corrals an offensive rebound and powers back up through a sea of arms for a basket and-one, NC has tied the game and has all of the momentum.  The problem for Coach K’s team is that his big men simply cannot stop Howard and Johnson in the post.  Every time it appears that North Carolina is putting together a big run, Stevens smartly calls for the ball to go inside to one of his post players and good things continue to happen.  As a result of this strategy, Smith and Zeller find themselves in serious foul trouble with four each heading into the last ten minutes of the game. 

The game tilts back and forth throughout the remainder of the second half until Indiana has the ball in Shelvin Mack’s hands with just under a minute to play, down two.  Working the high-screen and roll with Tim Abromaitis, Mack finds a seam in the lane and floats a runner through the net as the shot clock expires to tie the ballgame.  Coach K has been here a million times, so he calls timeout and sets up his final possession.  He looks at his offensive options and his first inclination is to go with one of his own tried-and-true stars in Singler; but he also remembers his experiences with USA Basketball and, recognizing that Barnes has come on strong in the second half, he gives the ball to rival Roy Williams’ player (and the most talented on his team).  Smith will run the play — the first option will be Barnes on the wing, looking to create, with Singler ready for the kickout and everyone else crashing the boards. 

The plan to kill clock until around six seconds remaining works perfectly, although Stevens surprises K by throwing a matchup zone at North Carolina, perhaps hoping and anticipating an overpenetration mistake by the still-wet-behind-the-ears Barnes.  The UNC freshman receives the ball on the right wing and wastes no time in using his explosive first step to get into the lane.  As the Indiana defense predictably collapses, Barnes elevates and somehow twists his body in the air to avoid slamming into Howard and Hummel, who had created a wall of long arms, pasty skin and hair to stop the soaring Barnes.  He adjusts his shooting arm to recover from the mid-air change of direction, and gently lofts a lefty layup over the outstretched arms of Abromaitis coming over to help.  Bodies hit the floor in unison as the ball falls through the net, and everyone across America watching the game on television waits for the inevitable block/charge call.  But there is no call to be had today — the refs let them play, and North Carolina takes a two-point lead with a mere 1.2 seconds remaining.

Brad Stevens is no dummy.  He knows that 1.2 seconds is an eternity if executed correctly.  After Indiana’s timeout, Hummel throws a strike to his teammate E’Twaun Moore just beyond halfcourt on the right side, who immediately calls timeout again.  With 0.8 seconds remaining, Indiana has a reasonable attempt to put up a good last shot.  Who do they go to?  Stevens draws up a clever play that nobody, not even Coach K, seems to have ever seen used before.  He runs Mack off of a triple-screen to get him open for the final shot, but when the ball is entered into play, he is only the decoy — as everyone for North Carolina rushes to stay with Mack and Hummel as the secondary option on the perimeter, the ball sails over everyone’s head into a camped-out Howard (the original screener who had leaked away in the maelstrom) who has a wide-open twelve-footer from the left baseline.  The shot looks pure in the air, but maybe he was a little shocked to be so open at that juncture, because it ultimately rattles out, giving North Carolina the two-point win and the championship.

What a game, and what a tournament.  How do you see it turning out? 

Ed. Note: thanks to everyone who participated in this feature.  We had a blast putting it together and playing it out.  Maybe we’ll bring it back next year, although we suspect that Indiana and North Carolina will be two of the top several seeds just about every year. 

Share this story

Morning Five: 09.16.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 16th, 2010

  1. The son of one of the most dominant scorers we have ever seen play college basketball, Glenn “Trey” Robinson, III, has verbally committed to play at his dad’s  Big Ten rival Michigan.  He’s only beginning his junior prep season, but the 6’6, 195-pound slasher whom Rivals ranks as its #112 player in the Class of 2012, thinks he’s still growing and has the potential to break out during the next two years.  He averaged 16 PPG during his sophomore year in high school for St. John (IN) Lake Central HS, just a tick over half of what his dad dropped on everyone in America (30.3 PPG) during his NPOY season at Purdue in 1994.  He’s also the second former NBA star that UM coach John Beilein has attracted to Ann Arbor — former all-star point guard Tim Hardaway’s son, Tim Hardaway, Jr., (these guys aren’t very original, are they?) is currently a freshman at Michigan.
  2. As we all know, Tennessee head man Bruce Pearl is having a tough week, but his fellow members of the Tribe still have his back.  Pearl has been quite supportive of various Jewish-related charities over the years, so they’re not about to leave him hanging now that he’s run into some trouble with the NCAA, according to this article from the JTA.
  3. Speaking of Pearl, there’s been quite a bit of speculation as to whether his job is ultimately in danger as a result of his admitted NCAA violations, but according to at least one prominent Tennesseean, Knoxville mayor and Republican nominee for Governor, Bill Haslam, accepted Pearl’s apologies and will not ask him to rescind his previous endorsement.  As potentially the most powerful person in the Volunteer State, this could ultimately end up saving Pearl’s job if push came to shove down the road.
  4. Washington took a hit to its frontcourt depth as 6’7, 255-lb forward Tyreese Breshers announced his retirement from basketball as a result of ongoing health issues with his knee and shin.  The former four-star recruit from Los Angeles missed his freshman season in 2008-09 rehabbing from surgery; despite being out of shape and having to play through the pain, Breshers came off the bench in 2009-10 to give Lorenzo Romar 3/3 in about ten minutes per game spotting starter Matthew Bryan-Amaning.  We hate to see what must be a huge disappointment for the young man, but we hope that he’ll take advantage of the other possibilities a full scholarship to UW bestows and he finds peace with the decision.
  5. MaxPreps reports that several mid-major programs — notably, Xavier, Dayton, VCU, Central Florida and Delawareare making noise among the Class of 2011 hotshots.  The real surprise team in this group is Delaware, a school coming off a 7-24 season in the CAA last year.  Yet head coach Monte Ross has already received four commitments from a quartet of well-regarded players in that class.  It probably doesn’t even matter how well he does in 2010-11; he can point ahead to a bright future with more talent coming into the program.
Share this story

Morning Five: 09.15.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 15th, 2010

  1. If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin‘ is a quote that’s tossed around a lot in the NCAA, but it may have come to an offseason head yesterday as no fewer than three separate reports came out in the world of college basketball that has us wondering… is anybody clean anymore?  Anybody at all?  Or has the sport been so dirty for so long that now that the NCAA actually has an investigative arm with some sharp teeth and halogen flashlight, we’re finally seeing all the roaches scurrying around underneath the mat?
  2. The biggest news was that another allegation came to light with respect to Tennesssee’s Bruce Pearl, merely four days after he begged forgiveness in front of the world for misleading NCAA investigators in their investigation into his recruiting practices.  CBSSports.com reported on Tuesday that Pearl initially told the NCAA that he never hosted recruits Josh Selby (currently at Kansas) and Aaron Craft (currently at Ohio State) at his home during their junior-year visits to Knoxville, but apparently the NCAA had in its possession a rather probative piece of evidence — a photo of Craft standing with Pearl in the coach’s living room.  If that’s not a smoking firearm from hypocrisyville, we’re not sure what is.  Pearl owned up to it in a second interview with investigators, but if this is the misleading piece of information that he was referring to last week, but we openly wonder why he wouldn’t have been more forthright about it then.  The final question on everyone’s minds, though — how did Jimmy Collins sneak inside the Pearl household sight unseen with a digital camera?
  3. Moving down a state to Alabama, another report that came out on Tuesday from the Birmingham News revealed that there may have been tomfoolery going on with respect to former Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe’s high school transcript.  We already know that the NYT’s Pete Thamel unearthed suspicious circumstances back in May in Bledsoe’s academic career, but yesterday’s news suggests that the suspicious circumstances may have risen to the level of grade-fixing so that Bledsoe would be eligible to play college ball.  If the NCAA finds that Bledsoe was never eligible and Kentucky is held to the same standard of strict liability that it held Memphis to in the Derrick Rose scandal, then UK’s 35 wins in 2009-10 could be completely erased from the record books.  Thamel anonymously spoke to three compliance officers in light of this latest information, and all three thought that was a realistic possibility.
  4. And next, we move out west to Oregon, where new head coach Dana Altman may have walked into a situation in Eugene quite a bit more complicated than he bargained for.  According to OregonLive.com, recently-departed center Michael Dunigan and at least four other former players may have been involved in receiving improper benefits over the last two seasons at the school.  This is especially hilarious considering just how bad the Ducks have been during that period, but we’re sure that the NCAA is already involved and has the 2-0 and rather dominant-looking football program feeling a little nervous.
  5. Whew.  What a Tuesday.  Well, we may disagree with incoming NCAA president Mark Emmert in other ways, but at least he’s already talking tough about levying harsh penalties on cheaters.  And finally, we’re actually talking about big-time schools in big-time conferences with slaughterhouses full of cash cows at their disposal.  The game is only at its greatest when the playing field is level, and there’s no way to approximate that when the moneyed schools can do whatever they want with reckless abandon.  This could be Emmert’s greatest accomplishment if he has the will and buy-in to do so.
Share this story

WAC Fires a Shot Across Bow of Nevada & Fresno State

Posted by rtmsf on September 15th, 2010

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

The standoff between the Western Athletic Conference and the Mountain West Conference over Fresno State and Nevada has come to the next logical stopping point: a lawsuit, perhaps just the first in a string. WAC commissioner Karl Benson confirmed today in a conference call that last week the league filed suit against Fresno  and Nevada in an effort to prevent the schools from joining the MWC for the 2011-12 athletic seasons. Benson and the WAC contend that WAC bylaws require a school to give notice to the conference by July 1 if it plans to leave the conference in the next two years. Both schools accepted the MWC’s offer of membership on July 18 of this year. However, there is a discrepancy between the conference bylaws and the WAC Code Book which claims that the deadline to withdraw from the conference is instead September 1. The MWC is included in the suit in an attempt to prevent the conference from adding either school to its 2011-12 scheduling. All parties named in the suit have 30 days to respond after which the Jefferson County District Court in Colorado will likely issue a ruling within another month.

Fresno & Nevada Are Gone, But at What Cost?

According to Benson during today’s teleconference, “the WAC is simply seeking to protect its interests and insure that all member institutions are protected from a potential and threatened violation of the bylaws. Such inappropriate action would make it impossible for member institutions to schedule athletic events and thereby would adversely affect the WAC, the WAC member institutions and the student-athletes.” Benson specifically cites the difficulty the remaining WAC institutions would have in filling out its 2011 football schedule, the potential impact on the conference’s bowl agreements, the negative effect on its existing television contract and the impact on the WAC basketball tournament as areas that would be damaged by Fresno State and Nevada leaving after this coming season.

For Fresno State and Nevada’s part, they still seem determined to leave the conference after this season in order to play in the MWC in 2011-12. If they were to remain in the WAC for an additional year, they would forfeit their shares of any postseason money earned by the conference because of their lame duck status. They’ll lean heavily on the discrepancy between the conference bylaws and the WAC Code Book in an effort to bolster their claim that they are allowed to leave the conference without penalty after the 2010-11 season.  The MWC being included in the suit seems more of a scattershot inclusion, a hail mary attempt to prevent the conference from making any scheduling plans involving the two schools, although the likelihood of the MWC having to play by the WAC bylaws seems untenable at best.

A completely separate issue still remains: the possibility that Fresno State and Nevada will each owe a $5 million buyout fee for their decisions to leave the WAC. Both schools were given 60 days notice that payment was due and when that deadline expires on October 18, another lawsuit featuring liquidated damages is likely.  With actual games being played on the field and with college basketball practice just a month away, this courtroom drama rightly takes a backseat to more athletic competitions, but this should remain an interesting story throughout the fall as we learn the fate of the WAC, Fresno State and Nevada. In the end, this likely gets settled out of court between the three main parties with some compromise agreement likely allowing the two schools to head to the MWC in 2011-12 while paying somewhere south of the $5 million buyout.

Share this story

Bledsoe, Kentucky, And The NCAA’s “Strict Liability”

Posted by jstevrtc on September 14th, 2010

The online arm of the Birmingham News, AL.com, reported earlier today that former Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe’s official high school transcript and the “grade reports” from two of his Algebra III courses showed differing final grades. Specifically, the transcript states that he earned a grade of A in both sections of two nine-week long Algebra III courses, but the grade reports from those sections of the course show that Bledsoe was credited with a C in the first section and a B in the second. The reason this is a problem is, as the AL.com article explains, if you calculate Bledsoe’s GPA using the grades on his official transcript (the A’s), you get a 2.5, which makes him NCAA-eligible. If you calculate it with the C and B from the grade reports, Bledsoe’s GPA comes out to a 2.4375 — just short of the minimum score required for qualification.

If this grade discrepancy is true, the NCAA will want to know who knew about it, and when.

This allegation evidently comes ahead of a report that’s supposed to surface soon from an independent law firm hired by the Birmingham school system to investigate Bledsoe’s eligibility, and specifically the documentation of his academic performance at two high schools in the area. We’ll obviously have a lot to say about that when it appears. For now, though, we feel this new information brings up a few interesting questions:

  1. What is a “grade report?”
  2. How and when could there be a discrepancy?
  3. Is Kentucky (or any other school) expected to go beyond looking at official school transcripts of players when assessing their eligibility, and should the school be punished if information later emerges that implicates the player?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The RTC Big Four State Tournament: Final Four

Posted by rtmsf on September 14th, 2010

We’re now down to the Final Four of the RTC Big Four State Tournament.  Last week was the quarterfinal round, and we saw as three of the favorites (#1 Indiana, #2 North Carolina, #4 Texas) advanced to the Final Four while #3 Pennsylvania was downed at the buzzer by upstart #6 Florida.  There was a very strong public consensus among the top two seeds advancing (85% and 90%, respectively), while the fan vote was a little less confident in Pennsylvania (70%) and Texas (72%).  Of course, we here at RTC had the Sunshine State (with afternoon rain) squad coached by Billy Donovan springing the upset over PA, so it’ll be interesting to see how far we think they can continue to their run.  Here’s our current bracket, with the F4 breakdowns below. 

Final Four Matchups (Quarterfinal fan vote pct. listed)

#1 Indiana (85%) vs. #4 Texas (72%)

Nitpicking is the only way to find weaknesses on the rosters of Indiana and Texas, two hoops-loaded states with a great deal of pride on the line in this anticipated semifinal matchup. The raw talent level of Texas should prove Indiana’s stiffest challenge thus far in the tournament. From the Nate Robinson-style leaping ability of UTEP’s Randy Culpepper to the physicality and shooting prowess of Texas’ Jordan Hamilton to the Kevin Garnett comparisons that Baylor’s Perry Jones is receiving before he makes his Bears debut, Indiana’s status as tournament champion favorite is in serious jeopardy. This especially rings true when Texas comes out of the gates sprinting up and down the floor, boosted by the red-hot shooting of LaceDarius Dunn, the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year candidate and the school’s all-time leader in threes made. Gary Johnson takes Robbie Hummel to the hole on a spin move and the foul. Dunn throws an alley-oop to Jones that gets the crowd on their feet and forces Indiana to use a timeout. Culpepper races from end to end for the flush. A ten-point halftime lead gives the top seed a moment of pause in the locker room.

Here’s the point where Indiana’s senior-laden roster and big-game experience becomes a factor. The collected demeanor of Brad Stevens in the locker room calms his troops, the gameplan is slightly tweaked to force Texas into a halfcourt game, the physicality of Indiana’s Shelvin Mack and Hummel is asserted, and Indiana slowly but surely drains the deficit. The steady and levelheaded Mack leads the force, hitting clutch mid-range jumpers as the shot clock winds down. Just when Texas is about to corral the momentum once again, a JaJuan Johnson rejection of Jones effectively punks the youngster. As the score inches closer and the pressure mounts on such a monumental stage, it’s Texas taking their fair share of poor shots while Indiana lives at the free throw line, led by Hummel at 90%. His four consecutive makes seals the deal and Indiana escapes by a slim margin for a spot in the finals.

RTC Choice: Indiana 68, Texas 65

#2 North Carolina (90%) vs. #6 Florida (30%)

In an all-too-familiar situation when a Cinderella makes a run to the national semifinals, they usually come up against a seasoned, experienced and talented team who expected to be there all season long.  The result is not often pleasant for the underdog, who quickly realizes that it’s in over its head and needs to make hasty plans for a return flight later that evening.  This is what Billy Donovan’s team faced in matching up against the boatload of NBA lottery pick-level talent that North Carolina threw at them.  Predictably, the game was over in the first ten minutes.  The offensive firepower of Kyle Singler, Harrison Barnes and Tracy Smith got off early inside the paint, but it was a quick whistle (actually, series of whistles) on Florida’s Chris Singleton that set the tone early.  Three quick fouls meant that the inside defensive presence that Florida was relying upon to slow down the North Carolina bigs was no longer available.  Gus Gilchrist and Chandler Parsons, while capable offensive players, are not known for their ability to stop people, especially players the caliber that NC brings to bear. 

By halftime, Florida was already down 22 points and not only looked demoralized but also emotionally and mentally exhausted from their previous nailbiters in this tournament.  From that point on, Coach K put his guys into a cruise control situation, running clock but finding their spots, as Florida tried desperately to cut into the lead.  A couple of times Donovan’s team had cut the margin down to a 12-point game, only to watch helplessly as Nolan Smith or CJ Harris drained a three or Barnes slashed his way to another dunk.  There was no confusion as to who the better team was in this particular game, and North Carolina moved on to the tournament finals to play the top overall seed Indiana in an upcoming battle of epic proportions.  Coach K vs. Brad Stevens; Nolan Smith vs. Shelvin Mack — where have we seen that before? 

RTC Choice: North Carolina 77, Florida 62.

RTC State Tournament Championship: Thursday 9/16

Share this story

Morning Five: 09.14.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 14th, 2010

  1. Delving into the phone call issue in the wake of Bruce Pearl’s self-reported violations last week, Gary Parrish anonymously interviewed ten NCAA coaches across the spectrum, and guess what, they all admitted to making impermissible calls themselves.  We certainly understand the point that several in the article make about the difference between fifteen and two hundred impermissible calls, but with so many of the coaches also agreeing that the calls make little difference in the recruit’s ultimate destination, why do they continue to do it?  Someone in this game once said not to mistake activity for achievement, and we think it might appropriately apply here.
  2. That didn’t take long.  On the Monday immediately following Wake Forest center Tony Woods’ arrest for various kinds of assault, the school suspended him indefinitely.  If the allegations against him are even remotely true, it’s doubtful we’ll ever seen him in the ACC again.
  3. Former UCLA underachiever J’Mison Morgan will be eligible to play at Baylor this winter after the NCAA approved his waiver to be closer to his ill grandmother, his legal guardian.  Normally, a player transferring in who averaged a grand total of two points and one rebound per game over two seasons wouldn’t be cause for celebration, but few players bring the high school pedigree of the 6’10 Morgan — he was a top 25 recruit in the class of 2008 and has the physical tools to be a very good player.  If the new environment suits him and he can get his head out of the clouds, Morgan could legitimately become a major contributor on a very talented Bears front line along with Perry Jones and Quincy Acy in 2010-11.
  4. Steve Lavin is settling in nicely at St. John’s, as this article from the LA Times examines from the perspective of a California boy gone east.  Maybe we’re just suckers for the boyish good looks and eloquence of Lav, but we think he’ll actually be quite successful in NYC.
  5. Would you believe that March Madness darling Northern Iowa could be on the verge of a decision to eliminate all of its D1 sports?  Mere months after the greatest moment in the school’s athletic history (Farokhmanesh!), president Ben Allen stated on Monday that with additional anticipated cuts to the athletic program budget, the school could find itself unable to compete in Division I and would consider such a seemingly drastic move.  It all comes down to dollars (always), but it’s hard for us to believe that a school with a strong basketball program and a nationally competitive football program in 1-AA would be in such dire straits.  Let’s hope the Panthers avoid armageddon on this one.
Share this story

Da’Sean Butler’s Short Story, Now In Living Color

Posted by rtmsf on September 13th, 2010

This thing was floating around last week, but we never got around to posting it.  Originally, former WVU star and postseason tragic hero, Da’Sean Butler, delivered a series of tweets to tell a children’s story that could only be described as equal parts terrifying and genius.  After all, it’s not often that you read a story about a 22-year old “young boy” named Da’Sean who befriends a purple dinosaur named Barney, only have to it all come crashing down when Barney leaves a giant pile of scat on the kitchen table.

The entire bizarre story is reprinted below (h/t Sun-Sentinel via Deadspin), but the good people at Tauntr have done us one better.  They’ve come up with an animated version of Butler’s fairy tale.  We don’t have the video embedded, but if you click the image below it will take you to their site, where you can watch the entire two-minute production.  Strangely, when reading the story for the first time, this is almost exactly who we envisioned it in our heads.  Enjoy.

Click the Image to View the Video (credit: Tauntr)

”A SHORT STORY,” by Da’Sean Butler

Once upon a time there was a young boy named Da’Sean. Da’Sean was 22 years old and lived in Newark, NJ. While walking home from school one day, a Purple Dinosaur jumped out from behind a Brick Wall and tackled Da’Sean to the ground. But just when he was about to let out a scream for help, Da’Sean realized that the Purple Dinosaur was only licking his face, not trying to bite it off. At that moment, Da’Sean decided to keep the Purple Dinosaur as a pet. And on the way home he decided to name his pet Purple Dinosaur “Barney.”

When Da’Sean and his new pet finally got home, guess who was standing on the front porch? That’s right, it was Da’Sean’s mother, Koreena. And boy was she surprised to see a Purple Dinosaur following Da’Sean into the yard! “What in world is that?” shouted Koreena. “It’s a Purple Dinosaur,” answered Da’Sean. “Dah, I can see that, Da’Sean, but what on earth is it doing here?” said Koreena. “It’s my new pet!” answered Da’Sean. “Oh you think so do you?” remarked Koreena. “I wouldn’t get your hopes up. You know how your father hates Purple Dinosaurs. But, well, I suppose you can keep him until your father comes home.” And with that Da’Sean grabbed Barney by the scruff of the neck and led his new pet into the house–even though he knew his father was probably going to disapprove.

Once in the house, Da’Sean and Barney played and played, that is until Da’Sean’s favorite television show, “Family Guy,” started. At that point Da’Sean forgot all about Barney having an unsupervised run of the house. That is until half way through “Family Guy,” when Da’Sean was brought back to reality when he heard his father shout, “OMG!! Da’Sean! Get your whoopie cakes in the Kitchen…NOW!!” With that Da’Sean rushed into the Kitchen to see what all the fuss was about. When he entered the Kitchen, there stood his father, Da’Sean Butler, pointing toward the Table. “Will someone please explain that?” asked his father. Then, as Da’Sean followed his father’s finger to where it was pointing, he instantly knew what his father was so upset about. There, smack dab in the middle of the Table, the biggest pile of Dinosaur doo-doo he had ever seen! “I don’t EVEN want to know how that got there,” said Da’Sean Butler. “But you had better get it cleaned up now! And you had better get rid of whatever it is that could have done such a thing!”

Well, knowing his father as well as he did, Da’Sean knew there was no sense even asking his father if he could keep Barney for a pet. So without hesitation, Da’Sean set out to find where Barney was hiding. After a few minutes of looking, Da’Sean discovered Barney crouched beneath the table that Da’Sean did his Playing X-Box and reading books.

“Come on, Barney, it’s time to find you a new home. And hey, don’t look at me that way, I’m not the one who did the dirty deed on the Table!” scolded Da’Sean. “Thanks to you I’ll never get to have my own pet Dinosaur!! And with that Da’Sean led Barney out of the house and down to the local Game Stop. They had a pet section and Da’Sean knew the owner would find Barney a good home. Da’Sean cried a deep cry. he had lost his only friend in the world.

So after saying good-bye to Barney, and thanking the owner of Game Stop, Da’Sean walked backed home and attempted to drowned his sorrows by slamming down a half dozen Root Beers. But Da’Sean’s pity party came to an abrupt end when his father reminded him about the mess he had neglected to clean up. And low and behold, midway through the clean-up, Da’Sean suddenly became thankful that someone else was going to have to do it from now on.

The End.

Moral of the story: Sometimes you best friends can get your “whoopee cakes” in a lot of trouble be sure to listen to your parents they know what’s best.

Share this story

College Basketball’s Unmentionable: the Issue of Point Shaving?

Posted by rtmsf on September 13th, 2010

It’s not often that we stumble across academic research papers these days, but last week we happened upon one from the Department of Economics at Temple University in Philadelphia entitled, “Point Shaving in NCAA Basketball: Corrupt Behavior or Statistical Artifact?”  In the paper, Professors George Diemer and Mike Leeds use various statistical analyses to conclude that not only does point shaving regularly occur in college basketball, but it occurs in two specifically defined situations.  Their conclusion builds upon prior work by Professor Justin Wolfers at Penn’s Wharton School, who found a few years ago that approximately 1% of lined NCAA basketball games fell into an outlier suggestive of gambling-related corruption (the math works out to approximately thirty games per year).

This is the Only Shaving the NCAA Wants to See

Using data from a comprehensive sample of 35,000+ lined games from 1995-2009, Diemer and Leeds confirmed Wolfers’ underlying finding — statistical indicators suggest that point shaving in college basketball exists — while giving us a richer explanatory context of when it happens.  So when does it happen?  According to the authors, the data shows that the higher a point spread goes, there is greater statistical evidence of an increased incidence of point shaving.  In other words, there is a greater likelihood of favorites shaving off a few points when they’re favored by twenty points than there is when they’re favored by fifteen, ten or five points.  The intuitive logic behind this premise is that in games with large point spreads, the favorite (a far better team) can afford to give up a couple of meaningless buckets to its opponent at the end of the game because it will not impact the primary outcome — the favorite still gets the win, regardless of whether it wins by nineteen or fourteen points.  Conversely, in games with  increasingly smaller point spreads, players (or coaches, or referees) trying to shave points would have to walk a very fine line between trying to still win the game while simultaneously staying under the point spread threshold.  Given the thousands of confounding factors facing any one person trying to manipulate a final score in such a way at the close of a game, this scenario would seem much more difficult to pull off.

The second qualifier that Diemer and Leeds found was that the statistical tendency for the incidence of point shaving to increase along with the betting line only holds during regular season games; during the postseason (conference tournaments, the NIT, and the NCAA Tournament), there is no such effect.  The logical premise supporting this contention is similar to the above —  in postseason games, there is a much greater level of importance from all parties involved (not to mention public attention) to perform at peak capacity from start to finish throughout the game.  During the regular season, where presumably every team lives to play another day, this underlying motivator is less so.

Economists Are Better At This Than Us

You’re probably wondering how the authors can know something is fishy simply from looking at a bunch of excel spreadsheets of point spreads and game results over fifteen years.  After all, it’s not like they can show specific instances of point shaving by anyone in particular (such as Toledo’s Sammy Villegas), nor can they isolate which individual games were the most likely candidates of corruption.  They can only tell us that, given a normal expectation of how data aggregates in a gambling market, there are some trends that cannot simply be explained by random chance.  Similar to determining that numerous Chicago public school teachers were helping their students cheat on standardized exams or any number of other economic studies to explain human behavior at the macro level, the answer is that this is what economists do.

Obviously, just because it’s their job doesn’t make it sacrosanct.  Anticipating some criticism of the study, we asked Diemer and Leeds specifically about two possible issues with their findings.  First is whether the concept of line shading — when bookmakers move their betting lines one way or another to maximize their own profits — impacts their findings.  After all, if the assumption is that a gambling marketplace seeks to establish equal wagering from bettors on both sides of the point spread, then movement away from that magical 50/50 nexus could sway performance (i.e., the point spread doesn’t represent the true market odds).  The authors refute this by suggesting that if bookmakers were manipulating the line in such a manner, then the data would still represent as a symmetrical distribution — but it doesn’t.  No matter where the data falls on the curve, it shows the same result: as point spreads increase, there is a greater incidence of point shaving.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story