Morning Five: 09.17.12 EditionPosted by rtmsf on September 17th, 2012
- In the wake of last week’s announcement by Notre Dame that it was leaving the Big East to join the ACC in all sports except football, new Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said on Friday that his league is not dead, and as a matter of fact, is still “the strongest basketball conference in the country.” We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here and assume that when he made reference to conference strength he was talking about the upcoming season only — before he loses the likes of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame from his lineup of stalwart programs. At the end of the day, much will be written about the relative strength of the two leagues once all the realignment moves have propagated, but from our view a top eight of UNC, Duke, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Maryland, Florida State and NC State looks equal to or better than Connecticut, Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette, Memphis, Georgetown, Villanova and Temple. Of course, the bottom half of the Big East is where the ACC really increases its lead — UCF, SMU, Rutgers, DePaul and the rest have no business competing with programs like Virginia, Miami, Clemson and Wake Forest.
- Right on cue, Luke Winn last week analyzed a similar comment made by Aresco (“We’re still the strongest top-to-bottom basketball conference in the country.”) in his own inimitable way. Winn used KenPom efficiency data to compare leagues based on their current configuration and their new configurations, and with the caveat that past performance does not accurately predict future success, the Big East as a whole falls from the second-best basketball conference over the last 10 seasons to sixth. As he notes, “realignment has made the Big East the weakest top-to-bottom major conference, not the strongest.” He also shows a chart exhibiting that only four of the top 11 leagues have improved themselves on the hardwood through conference realignment — the WCC, ACC, Atlantic 10, and SEC. Each of these leagues has added at least one solid basketball school to its mix.
- Sam Cassell caused a commotion upon his entry to the ACC two decades ago with his brashness, outspoken demeanor, and his talent on the court. Late last week some of those same characteristics came to bear as the now-Washington Wizards assistant spoke to Jeff Goodman about the NCAA’s rejection of his son’s appeal to play as a freshman next season at Maryland. Comparing the organization to “neighborhood bullies” and accusing the governing body of wanting “kids to fail,” Cassell is clearly unhappy with the NCAA’s decision to invalidate courses his son took at Notre Dame Prep as a high school junior even though other players such as Pittsburgh’s Khem Birch and Marquette’s Todd Mayo took the exact same courses and were eligible to play last season. Cassell, Jr., has not made a decision on what his next step will be, but
- The other player hurt by the NCAA’s decision to invalidate those Notre Dame Prep courses may not have a famous father to speak on his behalf, but Myles Davis will sit out next year at Xavier — paying his own way — and he’ll have some additional company doing it. Jalen Reynolds, another member of Chris Mack’s incoming recruiting class, was deemed ineligible by the NCAA on Friday for a similar issue, and he too will have to sit out the entire 2012-13 season while paying his own tuition at XU. With these two losses and the recent expulsion of Dez Wells, Xavier is now down to only eight scholarship players — none of whom were significant contributors on last year’s Sweet Sixteen team. The Musketeers’ first season in a revamped Atlantic 10 boasting new instant impact programs Butler and VCU will certainly be interesting with such a young and inexperienced squad — Mack will need to find a way to work miracles on the banks of the Ohio River if he plans on keeping Xavier’s NCAA Tournament streak of seven straight seasons alive.
- College basketball is legitimately just around the corner, and what better way to get your juices flowing than to read an interview with Gus Johnson. Johnson, of course, is spending his time nowadays as the lead college football announcer on Fox while also doing some Big Ten Network work on the side. This Q&A with Johnson isn’t necessarily ground-breaking in its breadth, but there were two college basketball takeaways that came out of it. First, and perhaps unsurprisingly since Johnson is a Detroit guy and given his obvious enthusiasm during games, he said he has long admired Dick Vitale as a sportscaster. Next, out of all the great games he’s covered over the years, his favorite? The 1996 NCAA Tournament Princeton upset over the defending national champions, UCLA. Give us more Gus, anytime.