Get Used To Souped-Up Court Designs

Posted by Chris Johnson on May 31st, 2013

College sports programs like to distinguish themselves in readily identifiable and often objectively hideous ways. Wacky uniforms are a micro-mechanism for audacious school-specific branding, and if we’re going to talk crazy uniforms….naturally, we’re going to talk Oregon, whose revolving door of Nike-conceived threads are as much a part of Ducks’ sports culture as athletic competition itself. OU expanded its reach into the aesthetic wilderness with its foliage-themed “Tall Firs” basketball court, which was unleashed to mixed (but mostly negative) appraisals from non-Oregon partisans nationwide. Innovative Nike architect Tinker Hatfield’s plan was ambitious, to apply the most minimal interpretation, and the real thing was gorgeous and repulsive and historic (the trees are meant to pay homage to Oregon’s 1939 national championship team, nicknamed “The Tall Firs”) and brand-inspired, all at the same time. It wasn’t the first time Oregon had jumped headlong into the avante-garde realm of program-patented design eccentricity, and it probably won’t be the last. I can’t wait to see what Phil Knight and his Nike braintrust henchmen dream up next. A duck-shaped Autzen stadium? Optionally-rotational field turf to match each game’s uniform alteration? Something insane. Something mind-blowing. Something Allianz Arena can’t touch in its most visually-arresting elegance.

Another new court design proves schools are taking artistic court stylings more seriously (Buffalo Athletics).

Another new court design proves schools are taking artistic court stylings more seriously (Buffalo Athletics).

Kind of like what Florida International and George Washington and, following Wednesday’s stunning reveal, the University of Buffalo, which plopped a New York State Silhouette around its trademark royal blue U of B-stamping text, implemented this offseason. The design itself is a conservative but fresh look for a program whose basketball program doesn’t typically make headlines for anything it accomplishes on the court, and you know what? Good for them. Attention grabbed. This floor plan caught my fleeting web-scanning attention span, even if I’m not particularly fond of the subtle state-owning intimation/appeal to territorial ownership located smack dab at center court. If dreaming up fancy court designs is about making a splash and giving your university an unmistakably unique and school-centric vibe, this court does exactly the opposite. “State University of New York” is an official part of Buffalo’s whole name-recognized branding description; it’s the little description that appears in size eight italicized text next to (wait for it) “University of Buffalo” on every hoodie and coffee mug and every last folder and pencil available in the official university library campus store. But did anyone stop to consider the possibility that making the word Buffalo, the actual university, bigger than New York, the state that houses it, might be a smart way to send a visual message for BUFFALO itself, and not state silhouette-contrasted NEW YORK? The text size contrast, and text placement, obscure the entire purpose of sports court design eye candy. They don’t even highlight the University’s own name.

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Morning Five: 05.31.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 31st, 2013

morning5

  1. It should not be a surprise that Katin Reinhardt has decided to transfer from UNLV to USC as was widely speculated the moment he announced that he was leaving Las Vegas. Reinhardt, who will have to sit out next season as a transfer unless he finds a way to get an exception that nearly every transfer seems to qualify, seems intent on playing point guard as he feels that is his best chance of playing in the NBA (we would argue that playing well would be a start). He should have plenty of opportunities to become a point guard on a Trojan team that lacks an established point guard. Having said that we are not sure that his skill set will translate into Andy Enfield’s offense as a point guard.
  2. We might joke about how irritating conference realignment is, but it is nothing compared to the scourge that is publicly-financed stadiums. We have already seen many ridiculous stadium deals for professional teams with the most egregious being the one that was given to the Miami Marlins, but now the trend appears to be extending to college athletics. We mentioned Chicago’s plans for DePaul‘s basketball arena when it was first announced and now that more information is available Andy Glockner has taken a critical look at the deal. As Glockner notes the entire thing is absurd. We are not sure how the people of Chicago are going to put up with doing this particularly for a private university and we are not sure how the people affiliated with DePaul are going to go forward with this when they have a deal to play at a professional stadium for free and would not become the subject of public anger for having fleeced the city.
  3. Many of our younger readers are familiar with much of Kentucky‘s history including the highs from Adolph Rupp to today, but they may not as familiar with the lows that the program experienced when it was put on probation by the NCAA. Many Kentucky fans still harbor a grudge against Eddie Sutton, who coached Kentucky when they were accused of committing violations that led to Kentucky being placed on probation for three years and receiving a two-year postseason ban. For that Sutton has become a pariah in Lexington, but John Calipari is trying to change that by extending an olive branch to Sutton and inviting him to return to Lexington as his guest. We are not sure how forgiving Kentucky fans will be, but if there is anybody who can convince them to soften their stance it is Calipari.
  4. With conference realignment the newly formed/aligned entities have had to decide how they want to position themselves for their conference tournaments. The biggest battle is in New York City over the rights to Madison Square Garden, but the Southeast could also become a hotly contested area with the ACC and Big XII possibly looking at sites in the area in the near-future particularly if the ACC loses out on New York City. After initially considering a plan where they would hold the SEC Tournament in a permanent site it appears that the SEC has decided to go with a hybrid approach where they will play in Nashville in 2015, 2016, and 2019 and play in Saint Louis in 2017, Tampa in 2018, and Atlanta in 2020. The plan is still in the preliminary stages and the SEC still needs to negotiate with the potential host cities before anything is final, but it looks like this might be an initial step towards making Nashville the permanent home of the SEC Tournament after 2020 if everything works out well with them as a host city.
  5. Speaking of conference realignment, the Southern Conference announced yesterday that it will be adding MercerVirginia Military Institute, and East Tennessee State for the 2014-15 season. Interestingly, VMI and East Tennessee State will be rejoining the Southern Conference after having left it in 2003 and 2005 respectively. We doubt that this move alone will have any effect on the landscape of college sports it will probably lead to another chain of schools shifting between conferences.
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Louisville Has The “Best” Fan Base In The Country: Says Who?

Posted by Chris Johnson on May 30th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

College basketball fan bases are a personal and intensely provincial point of debate. Fans of teams around the country take their passionate school fandoms more seriously than they ever should, and when one university’s supporting group dare make a definitive statement elevating its own team-endorsing fervor over others, tension is inevitable. Shouting matches and recriminations are a natural evolution of the conflict. Fans care about their college basketball teams, but more than that they care about their college basketball teams more than you care about your college basketball teams. You can imagine how these kinds of debates play out amongst college hoops’ insanely obsessive followers, the Dukes and North Carolinas and Kansases of the world. The antagonistic bite on the court – that intangibly rousing feeling you get while watching Duke-UNC or Syracuse-Georgetown (ugh) or Kansas-Missouri (double ugh) – cuts just as deep as the fan base bitterness. Naturally, these arguments cross over into the unnavigable ether of comment sections and message boards and Reddit. The result is almost always a solution no one feels satisfied with. Nobody wins.

An impossibly blissful offseason somehow got better for Louisville wonks Wednesday, who can now, even if mostly unfoundedly, proclaim their fan base superiority (AP).

An impossibly blissful offseason somehow got better for Louisville wonks Wednesday, who can now, even if mostly unfoundedly, argue their fan base’s unmatched stature (AP).

A new analytical authority tried to bring order to the psychological fan base warfare by ranking college basketball’s fanbases on a system that is…..completely unpsychological. Indeed, Emory Sports Marketing Analytics came out with its list of “Best Fan Bases” Wednesday and (drum roll, please) the Louisville Cardinals claimed the top spot. The logical next question – in what solar system is Louisville the “best fan base” in the country, and Kentucky, you know, not? – will not make members of the #BBN particularly happy; it took little time for this specific bit of information, the disparity in the rankings, to ruffle the feathers of internet-dwelling Wildcats fans. UK came in at seventh, behind the likes of Arkansas and Texas.

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Morning Five: 05.30.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 30th, 2013

morning5

  1. This Rutgers/Julie Hermann thing appears to be getting worse before it gets better. A couple bits of news released on Wednesday further impugned the university’s protocols for not properly vetting its new athletic director, and depending on how much more is still locked in the closet of this woman’s past, it could begin to spell the end of her short career there. ESPN.com obtained emails from the 26-member (seriously?) executive search committee at Rutgers that was tasked with interviewing candidates, including Hermann, and has found that the process was expedited to the point that committee members did not have time to “delve deeply into either candidates’ documents” or “ask follow-up questions.” Furthermore, a former Tennessee volleyball player named Erin Zammett Ruddy, who played under Hermann in 1996-97, validated the accusations made by some of her teammates in last weekend’s Newark Star-Ledger piece. As she writes on her personal blog, “After our 96/97 season, the team got together—sans coaches—to figure out why we were all so miserable and why we felt so much animosity toward one another. We quickly realized Julie [Hermann] was the common denominator.” She goes on to say that events from 16 years ago do not necessarily reflect the talents of Hermann as an administrator, but we’re starting to get the feeling that those feeling the most fire from this storm on high in New Jersey will not come to the same conclusion. 
  2. On to better news, as the positive effects from Jason Collins’ coming out are starting to take hold with college basketball the first beneficiary. Outsports reported Tuesday that an NAIA player by the name of Jallen Messersmith at Benedictine College (KS) had also come out to his coaches and teammates last fall, and is believed to be the first openly gay men’s college basketball player in US history. A rising junior, Messersmith is a 6’8″ forward who averaged 4.9 PPG and 3.6 RPG last season but was ranked in the top five nationally in blocks per game (1.9 BPG). There are many more firsts to achieve in this particular civil rights movement, but the more exposure to gay people that folks like Messersmith can bring to places like Atchison, Kansas, the better. As he put it so well: “I’m just one of the guys, who happens to like guys.”
  3. In a strange coincidence, there was actually quite a bit of conference tournament news released on Wednesday. First, if the SEC is indeed interested in moving its postseason tournament to a “primary” site in the future, Nashville has spoken up and is more than ready to take on the responsibility. The Music City already has the 2015, 2016 and 2019 tournaments locked up, but the CEO of the Nashville Sports Council believes that his city is well-suited for the event. Meanwhile, in the mid-major world of conference tournaments, the MAAC announced on Wednesday that it is moving its postseason event back to Albany, New York, from Springfield, Massachusetts, beginning in 2015 and lasting through 2017. The event enjoyed its best attendance year in 2010 at Albany’s Times-Union Center, where the total gate of 53,569 was nearly four times the average attendance in Springfield the last two years. Staying in the Northeast, the Patriot League also announced that with the additions of Boston University and Loyola (MD) to the conference, the postseason tournament would also be expanding to include all 10 teams in its membership.
  4. Today’s exercise in silliness comes from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, in yet another exhibit of eggheadedness getting the best of reasonableness. A group called Emory Sports Marketing Analytics decided to come up with a statistical model to rank order the “best fan bases” in college basketball by comparing team revenues with expectations of team performance. Louisville came out on top, with Arizona, Duke, Arkansas (?) and North Carolina following in the top five. Kentucky came in at #7, while Kansas, UCLA, Indiana, among others, were not listed. We’ll have more on this later today, but the problem with an analysis like this is that the metric simply doesn’t determine much of anything having to do with the quality of a fan base. For example, Louisville’s significant revenue stream has much to do with its exceptional lease deal with the Yum! Center, and little to do with the quality of its fan base (even though it is obviously very good). Mike DeCourcy agrees, as should anyone with half a brain who watches and enjoys this sport. The fact of the matter is that for something so ambiguous and difficult to define as “best fan base,” you simply cannot rely entirely on quantitative methods to get realistic answers. A holistic, qualitative component simply must be part of the methodology. To its credit, Louisville blog Card Chronicle went with the “hey, it’s a ridiculous premise, so let’s mock Kentucky fans” opportunity. Well played, sirs.
  5. Let’s end today with a discussion of Indiana‘s undefeated 1975-76 national championship team. The last team to run the table in college basketball history is now putting its cachet together for the purpose of the greater good — stars Kent Benson and Bobby Wilkerson will release a commemorative line of products to celebrate the team’s enduring greatness, which will go on sale at their 32and0 site today. All proceeds will be split among four Indiana charities, the Hoosier Oncology Group, Komen Central Indiana, Macon Mentor Academy and Help Indiana Vets. Fans will be able to purchase home and road jerseys (with player names!), DVDs, and other memorabilia. We might just look into getting a sweet road Scott May jersey if we find some dollars hidden in the couch.
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You Can Fix Hinkle FieldHouse, But Don’t Ruin It…

Posted by Chris Johnson on May 29th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Trying to toe the balance of preserving sports arenas’ quaint historical charm while ensuring things stay modern and cutting-edge enough to keep up with the day’s practical standards for an enjoyable game day experience is a tricky calculus. Fans love tradition. They admire the architectural vestiges of a bygone era. The Wrigley Field Ivy. The Green Monster at Fenway Park. Touchdown Jesus at Notre Dame Stadium. These traditional sports landmarks wouldn’t be the same without their share of antiquated and sometimes outmoded quirks. Embracing the modern age and installing Wi-Fi hotspots and turning your basketball arena into whatever this thing is, are all prudent and progressive moves, and it’s hard not to sympathize with head-scratching sports arena designers finding it harder and harder to lure fans away from their comfy home viewing confines. The modern HD flat-screen viewing experience, accompanied by a soft recliner with 45 different back reclining angles, your multi-purpose social media device of choice, in-sight kitchen convenience, free food and an unoccupied bathroom and most of all, reduced costs, are tremendously difficult to resist. Traffic stinks. Twelve-dollar popcorn tastes just as mediocre as microwave-brand bags. That screaming buffoon spilling Budweiser on your lap is really starting to bug you. I concur. I mean, even the hegemonically dominant NFL is struggling to fill the seats of its wildly popular teams’ state-of-the-art  arenas.

A few changes here and there are fine, as long as Hinkle remains distinctly Hinkle (AP).

A few changes here and there are fine, as long as Hinkle remains distinctly Hinkle (AP).

Some sports venues are better left untouched. Their distinctive visual features makes them what they are, and any radical changes would violate the essence of their lasting attraction. They are perfect just the way they are. Gradual attendance drain isn’t an existentially dizzying structural concern, like the NFL, because fans pony up ticket money and fill seats — being there, literally, beats being there through your pixelated mini Ipad retina display no matter how you measure the costs of attendance. If you’re a college basketball fan – and if you’re reading this page, what are the chances you aren’t? – the one thought rattling through your parietal lobe when you hear the words “renovations” and “Hinkle Fieldhouse” in the same sentence is nothing positive, or even nominally encouraging. You’re downright disappointed — turn Hinkle into a sterilized, plastic, artificial husk of corporatism? How could they?!

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Morning Five: 05.29.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 29th, 2013

morning5

  1. If you threw a dart at a map of the United States and it landed somewhere in the hills of Eastern Kentucky or Southwestern Virginia, then drew a circle around that location with a radius of roughly 500 miles in distance, you’d pretty much have nailed down the ‘fertile crescent’ of college basketball. With powerful and tradition-rich programs like North Carolina, Duke, NC State, Kentucky, Louisville, Indiana, Cincinnati, and Ohio State, along with other well-supported programs like Tennessee, Xavier, Dayton and Wake Forest all within that circle, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that nine of ESPN‘s top 10 rated television markets for college basketball fall within its boundaries. The top 10: Louisville, Greensboro, Raleigh/Durham, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Columbus, Charlotte, Knoxville and Nashville. KC, with Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State, Creighton and Wichita State all somewhat nearby is the only outlier among this group.
  2. You know it’s gotten out of hand if politicians are getting involved, and that appears to now be the case at Rutgers in the latest scandal enveloping the school’s athletic department. Or not getting involved. Or getting involved to say that they’re not getting involved. Whatever. New Jersey governor Chris Christie told listeners on his “Ask the Governor” radio show Tuesday night that he has no plans to intervene in the hiring of new athletic director Julie Hermann. While it’s no doubt true that Christie has much bigger fish to fry than micromanaging every hiring decision at the state university, it’s worth asking whether any senior athletic department staff is paying attention at all (certainly Christie’s political opponents are doing so). The Mike Rice situation followed by the flub with Eddie Jordan’s resume and now this debacle is highly suggestive of an environment where leadership can’t see what they don’t want to see. It’s incumbent on university president Bob Barchi to get this problem fixed, and soon.
  3. The SEC Tournament may seek to reproduce the success that its football and baseball championships have had at permanent sites — Atlanta and Hoover, Alabama, respectively — by moving to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena for good following the 2014 event in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. Commissioner Mike Slive was careful to avoid saying the word “permanent,” opting instead to call Music City the “primary” site, but the point is that SEC puppet-masters feel that the relatively central geographic location and easy access for large traveling basketball fan bases such as Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and home team Vanderbilt would merit this (as yet unofficial) decision. Can’t say we disagree. The best conference tournaments are generally in a city that really embraces the event every year, and Nashville seems to enjoy its status as a big-time basketball stronghold during the few times it has gotten to hold the event there.
  4. It’s not often we dig into Division II basketball on this site, but it’s also not common for there to be a formal indictment by a grand jury against a player for murder either. San Francisco State wing Decensae White – formerly of Texas Tech and Santa Clara in 2006-09 — was indicted in Georgia on Tuesday for his alleged role in gunning down a rapper named Lil Phat (nee‘ Melvin Vernell III) as he sat outside a hospital where his girlfriend underwent labor in Atlanta. White gained some degree of national notoriety for hitting a half-court game winner against Cal Poly back in February of this season, as the clip was featured on ESPN’s Sportscenter. White and four other men are due for presentment on these charges later this week.
  5. There was one notable bit of transfer news from Tuesday, as Oregon State’s Ahmad Starks has announced that he will spend the last year of his career at Illinois. He will apply for a family illness waiver to play immediately, as his grandmother is reported to be sick in Chicago. This is a good pickup for John Groce’s squad, as the Illini could use some experienced talent — Starks averaged 10.4 PPG and hit 62 threes last season for the Beavers — to pair in the backcourt with returnees Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand as part of a three-guard set. It may not be a group as talented as last year’s Paul/Richardson/Abrams trio, but it should work well within Groce’s trey-happy system.
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Don’t Assume the Obvious With Former UNLV Guard Katin Reinhardt’s Transfer

Posted by Chris Johnson on May 28th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Give a top-100 backcourt star enough touches and shot attempts, and he probably won’t find much of a reason to complain about his freshman season of college basketball. Using 19.2 percent of your team’s possessions, firing off 22.2 percent of available shots and logging 29.2 minutes per game seems like a pretty sweet deal for a rookie joining a preseason Top 25 team, all things considered, and after watching five of last season’s eight top scorers leave either through transfer or graduation, you’d think former UNLV guard Katin Reinhardt might find favor in the idea of returning to more shot-making opportunities, an even higher usage rate and a coach with no choice but to green-light his talented if mercurial returning sophomore shooting guard in a lineup relatively devoid of offensive firepower. Reinhardt wasn’t clamoring for more shot attempts, in other words.

A move to a new program could allow Reinhardt to jump into the point guard spot he opted not to compete for at UNLV (AP).

A move to a new program could allow Reinhardt to jump into the point guard spot he opted not to compete for at UNLV (AP).

Turns out, shots and individual scoring freedom weren’t what Reinhardt was interested in after all. All those shots and possessions – and the mediocre 98.6 offensive rating and 45.8 effective field goal percentage they partly created – didn’t accord with Reinhardt’s personal developmental hoops agenda. He wanted a position change all along, a switch from his shot-heavy off-guard spot to point guard, where he believes he has a more secure future at the next level. Head coach Dave Rice spun it that way to the Las Vegas Review-Journal Sunday night, and lo and behold, Reinhardt’s position-swapping desires were so pressing and so uncertain, that the rising sophomore two-guard has decided to transfer to another school.

Katin told me why he was leaving. He said that he feels his best opportunity to play in the NBA is to play more minutes at the point guard position. Katin would have had an opportunity to compete for minutes at the point, but I’ve never guaranteed anyone that they will start or play a certain number of minutes.

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Morning Five: 05.28.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 28th, 2013

morning5

  1. We have seen a lot of strange transfers over the years, but the decision by Katin Reinhardt to leave UNLV is among the more puzzling ones we have seen. Coming out of high school Reinhardt was a highly regarded shooter, but not considered among the truly elite members of his senior class. Reinhardt is hardly alone in his decision to transfer as it has become an epidemic not only within the UNLV program, but college basketball overall. The interesting aspect of Reinhardt’s decision to transfer is that he felt he needs to showcase his talents more particularly his ability to play point guard if he hopes to play in the NBA. It is true that Reinhardt did not get to play point guard much in his freshman season, but that does not mean he did not have the ball in hands enough to showcase his skills as he took the second most shots on the team last year despite making an atrocious 35.8 percent last season (that’s below the 38.1 percent that the relatively selective Marshall Henderson shot last season). The early buzz is that Reinhardt may be headed to USC and with their Dunk City offense he may be ideally suited to run the offense as his errant shots can serve as lobs for his teammates.
  2. The Julie Hermann saga continues to unfold at Rutgers and it seems to get more complicated with each passing day. It seems like there are more and more people from Hermann’s past coming out on both sides of the accusations from her days at Tennessee. Yesterday, Hermann came out and stated that Rutgers President Robert Barchi had assured her that her job was safe. That might be news to New Jersey political leaders who seem to be less than thrilled about the hiring at this time. At this point if Hermann and Barchi keep their jobs they will probably be on very thin ice.
  3. As part of their ongoing series on NBA Draft trends, CBSSports.com took a look yesterday at how the major conferences have done in the NBA Draft in the past 15 years. The fact that the ACC comes out on top should not be too surprising, but some of the trends in other conferences are interesting particularly the lack of first round picks coming out of the Big Ten, which has probably been the best conference in the country the past two seasons. The one caveat when looking at this analysis is that it keeps the picks in the conference that the school was in when the player was drafted so the relative strength of conferences in this analysis will shift when that is taken into account assuming that they were drafted because of the type of player they were and the school they went to more than the conference they played in.
  4. In the narcissistic world of prep recruiting, it isn’t all that often that young wunderkinds like Andrew Wiggins shun the over-the-top pomp and circumstance in favor of a short and sweet announcement to announce their college destination. Yet Wiggins’ subtle announcement two weeks ago, given in the presence of a single local Huntington, WV, reporter and some family members, characterized how far Wiggins is willing to go to eschew the typical circus atmosphere that surrounds a player of his caliber (some players a decade his elder would do well to take note). Wiggins one-upped himself on the understated but classy front on Sunday with a thank you note in the Herald-Dispatch to the citizens of the community of the small Ohio River burg who spent the last two years supporting him at Huntington Prep. It’s a gesture that many of us are taught to do at a very young age by our parents — the simple thank you note — but so few in his position actually remember. So far, if these early indications represent the true character of Wiggins rather than just another choirboy charade, he has an early fan in all of us here at RTC.
  5. For anyone who has ever worked in the confluence merging between politics and policy-making, what appears to be simple on its face may be quite a bit more complex behind the scenes. Such is likely the case in the matter of DePaul‘s promise from Chicago to partially fund a new home arena, and the near-simultaneous closing of over 50 city schools because of a lack of funding ($1 billion in the red). Mike DeCourcy tackles the topic as an exercise in juxtoposition, and again, on its face it sounds like another example of whacked-out priorities. But the fact of the matter is that city budgets are hugely complex organisms — a fact that DeCourcy notes in  his final paragraph — and there is likely to be a set of tradeoffs that makes substantially more sense when digging into the numbers of each initiatve. Still, the key takeaway here is that questions should be asked and the Mayor’s Office should explain those reconciliations. Otherwise, well, it just looks like misplaced priorities.
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Morning Five: 05.27.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 27th, 2013

morning5

  1. When the Mike Rice story broke last month it led to a Saturday Night Live skit, but at this point Rutgers is veering dangerously close to territory so ridiculous that South Park might consider the plot far-fetched (ok, maybe that is a stretch). The latest embarrassment for the school is the revelation that Julie Hermann, the athletic director the school hired to clean up the program after the Rice fiasco, has faced allegations of abuse from her players in the past too. Perhaps Hermann and the school hoped that these allegations (made just sixteen years ago at a small school named Tennessee) would never come up despite this thing called the Internet, which manages to find out almost everything about anybody in a matter of days. With the way this has gone we have a hard time believing that Hermann will be able to formally take the new job, which she is scheduled to start working at on June 17, and school president Robert Barchi should be looking for a new job too.
  2. Lost in the wake of the Rice/Rutgers fiasco was the continuing investigation into Wisconsin-Green Bay coach Brian Wardle who had been accused of abusing his players both verbally and physically. On Friday, the school announced that an outside investigation had cleared Wardle. Unlike Rice, Wardle had the support of many of his players and perhaps most importantly did not have a video of his alleged actions floating around for the world to see. Given what was released the school’s decision should not be that much a surprise. What is interesting is the concessions that Wardle will have to make despite being cleared–receive a disciplinary letter, have someone overseeing him, and not be able to renegotiate his contrast, which ends in 2017. Given those concessions it would seem like there was something happening at Wisconsin-Green Bay (perhaps something considered as benign in sports as cursing) even if it was not as bad as what Wardle was initially accused of.
  3. After setting off a round of speculation about where he would transfer to and briefly committing to play at Toledo, Kyle Vinales has decided to return Central Connecticut State. The rising junior, who averaged 21.6 points per game last season, initially stated that his decision to transfer was based on his desire to play in the NCAA Tournament–something his seventh place NEC team with 13-17 record didn’t seem destined to do–before deciding that he wanted to lead his team there rather than move onto a better situation. While we applaud Vinales for his decision to stick around (he had already transferred once in his college career) we wonder how easily he will transition back into the team concept at Central Connecticut where his coach has already stated that his role will be changed on the team due to a change in the abilities of his teammates. Given Vinales’ penchant for transferring we will be interested to see how long his decision to stay at Central Connecticut lasts or if he has another change of heart if they struggle next season.
  4. There were a few players who actually decided to follow through on their intention to transfer. The biggest news is the decision by Memphis transfer Will Barton to transfer to Tennessee spurning schools such as Maryland, Texas A&M, and Kansas State. Barton showed signs of promise early in his career averaging 8.2 points per game as a freshman before seeing his minutes and production fall the next two seasons. Barton, who will be eligible to play this fall as he will graduate from Memphis by then, will be a welcome arrival in Knoxville as the Volunteers are in need of a point guard with Trae Golden’s transfer. The addition of Barton makes them a potential top-three team in the SEC. The other transfer news is not quite as newsworthy on a national scale, but it may be more interesting as Stephen Hurt, the Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year, decided to transfer from Lipscomb to Northwest Florida State. The move is interesting for several reasons with the primary one being the decision by a player who would attract interest from high-majors to head to a junior college where he can play immediately and then be recruited to play for a high-major without having to sit out any time. The other interesting aspect of the case is that Northwest Florida State is coached by Steve Forbes, who has been mentioned before in this space for having started over at the junior college level after receiving a one-year show-cause penalty for his association and possible involvement with Bruce Pearl’s infractions. You should keep your eyes on Forbes as a potential candidate for a Division I job if he continues to land recruits the caliber of Hurt.
  5. It seemed to be just an off-the-cuff comment in a 45-minute press conference, but Mike Krzyzewski‘s declaration that the 2013-14 ACC would be the best conference ever raised a few eyebrows. On the surface it appears to be an absurd comment, but as several writers have pointed out that depends on how you define “best”. It almost certainly will not touch the Big East’s 1985 where it had three teams in the Final Four or the Big East’s 2009 where it had 11 teams make the NCAA Tournament including a ninth-place team that won the title. However, with a core that includes Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, and Syracuse the ACC is poised to be as good at the top as any conference in recent memory and will likely be in the same category for the next few years. The bigger question for the conference is what it will look like at the middle and the bottom of the conference where it is soft to put it gently. Certainly the addition of Andrew Wiggins to Florida State would have bolstered at least one of those teams. For the time being, the best ever comments may seem outlandish, but we will probably have to wait until February to make a better judgement on that.
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Why Kentucky’s Shunning Of International Basketball is Very Good, and Very Scary, News.

Posted by Chris Johnson on May 24th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

An obvious implication of the NCAA’s move two years ago to open up individual workouts to players enrolled in summer classes was an improved brand of non-conference performance. Teams would be better suited to kick off their schedules with gusto. Much of the sloppy rust that typically defines November and December would be cleaned up, replaced by a crisper and more cohesive style of play. There was little regard for what other rippling effects this new rule might have. Coaches seemed to love the idea, anyway, and for all the obvious reasons. A slightly disconcerting side effect of the NCAA cutting the tape on summer team workouts rose to the surface with Thursday’s release of USA Basketball’s list of accepted tryout invitations for the Under-19 Czech Republic-located FIBA World Championships. The list is not short on talent or, slippery as it is to define in today’s diffuse one-and-done landscape, star power – Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono and Arizona’s Aaron Gordon are among the accepted invites. But it’s missing an important and highly touted subset of players: the top players from the class of 2013.

Summer practice time has forced players and coaches to rethink how they approach preseason preparation (Getty Images).

Summer practice time has forced players and coaches to rethink how they approach preseason preparation (Getty Images).

With the exception of Gordon, the second-ranked power forward and fourth-ranked player overall, according to ESPN Recruiting nation, the list features none of the breathtaking talents that have national recruiting analysts in unanimous agreement over this class’s distinguished eminence. 2013’s top tier of talents is a rare collection of athletic wonder and refined skill and future lottery potential, and almost none of it will go into putting the best outfit possible on Eastern European courts this summer to represent the stars and stripes. Scan the list yourself, then peek back at any 2013 class rankings, and the absence of essentially every consensus top-20 player is hard to ignore. The Jabari Parkers and Julius Randles and Noah Vonlehs are all passing up the opportunity. Many of these players are scattered about the nation’s traditional blue-blood programs, but Kentucky – as part of building the best recruiting class of all time, Andrew Wiggins’ exclusion duly noted – owns six top-100 commitments in 2013, and none of them decided to join up with Team USA at this summer’s event. John Calipari spoke with The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy about his players’ collective rebuttal of national team participation, and when you dig beneath the image of Calipari’s nebulously slick media guile and accept his words at face value, their decision is perfectly respectable (and not at all unpatriotic – just in case you were ready to summon one of those tortured “what about the old days?! These kids have no sense of what it means to wear the stars and stripes!!” blusterings). It makes the most complete sense.

“Most of it is, they didn’t want to play. I’m not forcing kids to do anything,” Calipari told Sporting News. “I think the reason they all turned it down is, they want to get started.”

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Morning Five: 05.24.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 24th, 2013

morning5

  1. With the news coming out at mid-week that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski has agreed to coach the men’s basketball national team for three more years, the inevitable corollary question was how much longer is he planning to remain on the sidelines in Durham. Armed with his “lifetime” contract at Duke, he can presumably stay for as long as he wants, but the 66-year old legend said on Thursday that he won’t retire before the Olympics run is over in Summer 2016. That means he’s got a minimum of three more full seasons at Duke left, and the truth is that he probably will stick around even longer than that. His reasoning is that in order to stay sharp with the demands of the Team USA job, he needs to be coaching full-time the rest of the year. It’s a fair point. There’s also these little things called 1,000 wins (he’s 43 away) and five national titles (which would put him alone in second place all-time), which are without question drivers for the uber-accomplished coach who embraces competition (as a side note, he thinks the new and improved ACC will be the “best ever.”) 
  2. While on the subject of K and his ongoing role with Team USA, SI.com‘s Andy Glockner must have been working with the FBI to mine the RTC email boxes yesterday, as the very subject of “Duke: Better or Worse Off?” came up and was bandied about throughout the day. Glockner lays out a solid analysis that pretty much comes to the same conclusion that we had internally: Duke’s overall performance has dropped a notch in the period since Krzyzewski took over as the head coach of Team USA, but it’s specious at best to argue that the downtick has been a result of his focus on that team. Rather, our stance mirrors Glockner’s somewhat in that the corresponding one-and-done era (which began in 2006 as well) hasn’t helped Duke quite as much as it has some other schools, and to put it frankly, Duke’s recruiting (like everyone else’s) has taken a hit over the last five years in large part because of the Calipari Effect. While it’s certainly true that Duke’s 2010 national championship takes a lot of the sting out of a number of other earlier-than-anticipated exits from the NCAA Tournament, the fact of that matter from our view is that K by and large isn’t getting quite the quality of depth of talent as he was recruiting 15 years ago. A single Final Four in the last nine seasons is the longest such drought of his career, but it’s not because of USA Basketball — it’s because there have been too many Jon Scheyers and not enough Kyrie Irvings.
  3. The NBA Draft has been on everyone’s minds lately, with the lottery going off in favor of Cleveland earlier this week and a number of talented collegians vying for the #1 overall pick on June 27. Yesterday CBSSports.com produced an interesting historical perspective of how each team in the Western Conference has drafted over the last 15 years. For example, the San Antonio Spurs have tended to go with foreign players (48% of selections), while the Los Angeles Lakers have used more than a quarter of its selections (28%) on mid-major picks. The analysis comes replete with colorful pie charts, which shows that the guys over there have finally figured out how to use Tableau. For your Memorial Day weekend pleasure, they’ll be releasing the Eastern Conference rundowns later today. Check it out.
  4. Hopefully we’re at a point of stasis with respect to major conference realignment, but the mids are still actively crawling up the ladder at every available opportunity. Yesterday Elon University, a rising star in the academic world, announced that its athletic programs will leave the Southern Conference to join the CAA beginning next summer. The Phoenix have only been Division I participants since 1997, and this is already the school’s third conference affiliation — it was originally with the Big South followed by the SoCon and now the CAA — at this rate, Elon will be joining the ACC sometime around 2025. The men’s basketball program has enjoyed only two winning seasons since joining the big leagues, but one of those was last year when Mike Matheny’s squad went 13-5 in conference play and 21-12 overall. With a heavy emphasis on placement of alumni in the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern corridor, this is a very good move for the profile of the school.
  5. The last time we saw Eric Devendorf, he was standing on a press row table at Madison Square Garden after hitting  a “game-winning” buzzer-beater in the Big East Tournamant Game That Would Never End, also known as the six-overtime Big East quarterfinals thriller between the Orange and UConn Huskies. Of course, that’s not completely true, as Devo played in five more games that season; but the indelible image of the Orange’s 14th-leading all-time scorer was that moment. He was brash, loud-mouthed, cocky, but wildly entertaining — sorta like the SU version of Marshall Henderson. Well, if you’ve missed him after he headed overseas to play professionally after that season, you’re in luck — Devendorf is back in the Syracuse area doing a Friday night radio show with popular local ESPN affiliate host Mike Bristol. We can’t say that we’re going to be taking time out of our schedules to find him on the dial tonight, but maybe you will. Have a safe Memorial Day weekend, everyone.
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Big East Recruiting Superlatives

Posted by mlemaire on May 23rd, 2013

Sometimes it is OK to choose an arbitrary date in the college basketball recruiting process and take stock of things, using our Big East goggles of course. That said, this date really isn’t all that arbitrary. Most of the top basketball recruits in the Class of 2013 signed National Letters of Intent last week . Rather than break down and rank the Big East recruiting classes from top to bottom — which the guys at recruiting sites do much better than we would anyway — we figured to have some fun and bring you back to high school for some good old-fashioned superlatives. Again, we recognize the Big East is breaking up, but we are still looking back rather than forward.

He Didn't Have To Look Far, But Buzz Williams Reeled In Perhaps His Best Recruiting Class Ever (AP)

He Didn’t Have To Look Far, But Buzz Williams Reeled In Perhaps His Best Recruiting Class Ever (AP)

Most Likely To Earn Praise For His Recruiting Prowess: Buzz Williams, Marquette

In the always useless world of recruiting rankings, most experts have recruiting classes at Louisville and Syracuse ranked ahead of Marquette’s class, but that shouldn’t keep Williams from receiving the praise he is due. Williams hangs his hat on his program’s ability to develop talent, not in recruiting superstars, but this class could easily be his most ballyhooed yet. Of course it helps Williams look good when much of the talent is in the same city as the school, but he still had to beat out a number of high-major programs for those kids. Duane Wilson is a local point guard with size who may earn the first crack at replacing Junior Cadougan and fellow local product Deonte Burton is a physical and athletic wing who will rebound and defend. The third local product by way of junior college in Iowa is 6’8″ forward Jameel McKay who has everyone excited about his athleticism, rebounding, and motor. The real prize for the Golden Eagles is slashing guard JaJuan Johnson who Williams and his staff plucked out of Memphis’ backyard despite an offer from the Tigers. Everyone in the Southeast recruited the attacking guard who may be asked to step in immediately and replace some of Vander Blue’s now-missing production.

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