The biggest news on Monday was that UNC’s Harrison Barnes announced that he would return to Chapel Hill for his sophomore season. His decision makes UNC the presumptive #1 team in most prognosticators’ preseason top 25s, but the real winner of his and others’ (notably Perry Jones and Jared Sullinger) returns might just be the sport of college basketball in general. With these stars joining a strong freshman group from the Class of 2011, many teams will be considerably stronger than they otherwise might normally be in a year without an NBA lockout looming, and if you’re not already excited for a possible blockbuster rematch of bluebloods UNC and UK in Lexington next December, then you should have your motor checked.
In keeping with the theme of Barnes return to the Research Triangle, Luke Winn goes one step further (when doesn’t he?) and analyzes the relative impact of the player who got progressively better as the year went on in 2010-11. He points out that the Heels with Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson and James McAdoo in the lineup next season could join only 1999 Duke and 2005 UNC as two schools with four lottery picks on the roster — it says here that while an extremely impressive feat if it occurs, the 2012 Heels will be nowhere as good as either of those other two teams were (and he points out why in the later part of the column, weaknesses of their guard play).
Over the weekend, Winthrop mascot Big Stuff — a bird representing the Winthrop Eagle — walked “basketball-mad” fan Johannes Schneider down the aisle of his wedding to marry bride-to-be Michelle Waters. While mascots getting involved in superfan nuptials is nothing new, the best part of this story relates to the mascot asking a date to the wedding and how he tried to describe that he would be acting as Big Stuff in the proceedings. Great stuff, Big Stuff.
SEC Commissioner Mike Slivespoke in an informal Q&A on Monday about the logic behind the unprecedented eight-game suspension he placed on Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl last season as a result of NCAA and SEC violations. He also said that the conference had no role in Pearl’s dismissal from UT (“sole purview of the institution”), and that he still keeps a good relationship intact with the now-unemployed coach. Obviously, you can believe what you want, but a quick review of the comments at the bottom of that article certainly relates a general feeling that most UT fans do not particularly care for Mr. Slive nor his logic.
As top dog at Indiana for three decades, Bob Knight was rarely on the Christmas list of the blue-and-white faithful living one state to the south. But the Sweatered One has reserved a special place in hell for John Calipari, as he has used his bully pulpit as Crotchety Commentator in Chief to repeatedly goad and rip the current Kentucky head coach as pretty much a horrendous person with no ethical compass whatsoever. The latest incident occurred during a speech over the weekend in Wabash, Indiana, where Knight referred to UK’s 2009-10 team as having “started five players…who had not been to class that semester.” He’s referring in vague terms to the four one-and-done players (plus junior Patrick Patterson) whom Kentucky put into the NBA Draft last summer. UK fired back almost immediately, stating that “every starter from the 2010 season finished the spring semester in good academic standing,” but the damage was once again already done. Whether fair or not, Knight expressed the perception that many (most?) sports fans around the country have about Calipari, and it’s an open question to us if he or Kentucky can do anything to change that (erroneous?) sentiment. Here’s the clip from the speech: