Morning Five: 07.31.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 31st, 2013

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  1. Last year’s Armed Forces Classic between Connecticut and Michigan State on an air base in Germany may not have brought the same razzle-dazzle that the original aircraft carrier game in 2011 did, but it was easily the most compelling opening night game last season for any number of reasons. The weird midnight local time tip, the aircraft hangar setting, the wild military crowd in attendance, Kevin Ollie’s first game as a head coach, the start of UConn’s “lost season,” a Jim Calhoun appearance, and yeah, even a pretty good game. Next year’s event seeks to do us one better, as Andy Katz reported on Tuesday that the 2013 version will be held at US Army base Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, resulting in the first college basketball game to be played in Asia since Ralph Sampson’s Virginia group was about to lose to Chaminade. The participants will be Georgetown and Oregon, with both teams expected to be good next season and hoping to get an early non-conference quality win. Georgetown certainly hopes this trip goes a little better than the last time it visited Asia, while Oregon’s representation continues the Pac-12′s ongoing push to marketing its products on to the other side of the Pacific Rim. We can’t wait. 
  2. Speaking of Pac-12 schools in the Beaver State, Oregon’s rival could be coming apart at the seams. Already on the hot seat for a middling 77-88 (31-59 P12) record in five years in Corvallis, Craig Robinson was hoping to have his most talented and experienced team returning intact next season. With the news released on Tuesday that starting frontcourt mates Devon Collier (13/6) and Eric Moreland (9/10) were suspended indefinitely for undisclosed team violations, there is valid reason for concern that the Beavers are facing a meltdown 2013-14 campaign. The good news is that the pair will be allowed to continue their strength and conditioning training as well as summer workouts, so perhaps these suspensions are merely of the ‘send a message’ variety. There’s one thing we can bank on, though. If Robinson doesn’t have Collier and Moreland at his disposal next season, he’d best polish off that financial services resume for a pending move back east.
  3. How about some better news? The National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2013 earlier this week, and the names include some of the all-time greats in our sport. The headliners are 1968 NPOY Elvin Hayes (Houston) and 1975 NPOY Marques Johnson (UCLA), along with six-time NCOY Gene Keady (Purdue) and Villanova national championship head coach Rollie Massimino. Wichita State superstar Xavier “X-Man” McDaniel was also selected, in addition to Tom McMillen (Maryland), Bob Hopkins (Grambling), and a unique team inclusion: the entire 1963 Loyola (Chicago) national champions. That team was notable in that it started four black players on its title team, some three years before the more-ballyhooed Texas Western squad won its Brown vs. Board of Education game against all-white Kentucky. Former Washington State and USC head coach and Nike representative George Raveling was also chosen to the Hall for his work with the shoe company (a “contributor,” they call it). The ceremony will occur as part of the CBE Classic in Kansas City on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. A deserving group.
  4. Among the latte-sipping class, you’ve pretty much arrived if you’re mentioned in The Economist. The high-brow publication from the United Kingdom has long been considered one of the most cogent analytical voices on international economic matters in the world, and particularly so among US policy-makers and business leaders. Rarely do sports, especially college sports, find space on the magazine’s pages, but last week the rest of the world was introduced to Ed O’Bannon and his lawsuit against the NCAA. Many people reading this kind of material are likely clueless about the history and importance of the NCAA, but the tone of the piece again shows how, as a matter of public perception, the organization has already lost the coasts. People all across America still love college sports — the eastern and western edges of the continent included — but the growing consensus among the educated and wealthy concentrated in those areas is that the NCAA is exploiting 18-22 year olds for its unjust enrichment. The O’Bannon case has a long way to go still, but don’t think that the judge and principals involved didn’t notice The Economist’s wandering eye.
  5. Every once in a while Deadspin comes up with some sort of analysis that doesn’t involve genitalia jokes or athletes (and their wives, sorry, WAGs) doing dumb things on Twitter. Last week Patrick Burns wrote up a comprehensive analysis of watching an entire year (2012) of the 11 PM ESPN Sportscenter to see which sports, teams and personalities received the most coverage. There were no surprises at the top of the list, of course, with the NFL (23.3% of all available minutes) and NBA (19.2%) in dominant positions, followed by MLB (16.8%) and college football (7.7%). But perhaps surprisingly given how pigskin drives all the money-making decisions at the school and conference level, Sportscenter spent nearly as much time talking about college hoops (6.8%) as it did on the gridiron. The most talked-about team, as you can imagine that year, was Kentucky (0.9% of all minutes). True, Sportscenter is but a single proxy for the importance of American sports culture, but it’s an important one nonetheless.
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Don’t Forget about Bruce Pearl’s Former Tennessee Assistants

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 30th, 2013

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

Show-cause penalties are permanent stains on a coach’s resume. They don’t expressly prohibit coaches from moving on to a different program, but they do make it exceedingly hard for any such programs to even stomach the thought of hiring violators by (1) transferring that coach’s sanctions from his former job to any new position he may inherit, and (2) forcing the prospective new employer to stand in front of the NCAA’s infraction committee and explain its motives for making the hire. They must, in effect, “show cause” for hiring the equivalent of a modern-day coaching pariah. Basically, If you’re show-caused, don’t expect to re-enter the coaching profession until the penalty expires.

the carnage left in the wake of Pearl's NCAA bombshell, which diverges from his favorable post-scandal employment, is often overlooked (AP Photo).

the carnage left in the wake of Pearl’s NCAA bombshell, which diverges from his favorable post-scandal employment, is often overlooked (AP Photo).

For former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl – who was issued a three-year show-cause penalty for attempting to cover-up the barbeque he used to host then-high school junior Aaron Craft and members of his family – that expiration date comes in 2014, when he is widely expected to re-enter the coaching ranks after enjoying a multi-year stint with ESPN’s college basketball studio analysis team. Pearl wasn’t the only one penalized for his recruiting violations; three of his former assistants (Tony Jones, Steve Forbes, and Jason Shay) were also hit with one-year show-causes. Their comparatively low-profile status didn’t afford them the solace of a big-time TV job – a luxury Pearl, with his vibrant personality and witty commentary, was readily granted – which forced them to navigate the unforgiving coaching job market with one of the biggest black marks any job-seeking coach can carry. Pearl may have gotten the harshest punishment, but his dismissal landed him in a job (and, presumably, with a salary) most any fired Division I coach would jump at. His assistants weren’t quite so lucky. Pearl’s backup plan involved fame and fortune; his assistants’ fell into coaching purgatory. The comfortable and financially stable lives they once led were thrown into sharp distress.

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Rejoice: The NCAA Tournament As We Know It Is Unlikely to Change

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 30th, 2013

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

Nothing means more to college basketball fans than the NCAA Tournament. It is hallowed territory. The one three-week period of the year where college basketball dominates the national sports conversation. The best postseason of any sport in any country on any planet in any universe. Even pretentious NBA fans who typically spurn the college game for 11 months of the year – besides the sliver of college action they forcibly consume on YouTube clips leading up to the draft – usually tune in when March rolls along. As far as sports competitions go, there’s nothing better. So when talks of a new NCAA division surfaced across various football media days over the past couple of weeks, and the Tournament’s existing structure was thrown into the transformative discourse (right along with stipends and recruiting rules and bowl games and, ugh, yuck), it was fair to ask the question: Is the NCAA Tournament going to change? The short answer: probably not. I know, I know — I’m  just as relieved as you are.

We shouldn't see any changes to the Tournament's basic format or structure (US Presswire).

We shouldn’t see any changes to the Tournament’s basic format or structure (US Presswire).

There’s also little chance for significant change to the NCAA tournament. The one thing the NCAA does well is run championships, and unwinding the $10.8 billion CBS-Turner deal would be thorny. The most likely change will be in the NCAA governance structure, and while that isn’t particularly sexy, it’s still significant.

Those words come from Sports Illustrated reporter Pete Thamel’s column last week, and while one informed column doesn’t close the door on Tournament revision completely, at the very least it allows us to move through this period of NCAA tumult with the confidence that our sacred postseason ball is mostly immune to the doomsday transformation that crept into our minds when initial reports surfaced. The existential fears of bracket change will never subside – and not just because of the oncoming changes within the NCAA’s divisional structure. The fears of a 96-team field, particularly with the possibility of athletes earning a cut of the NCAA’s television revenues through the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit, will linger. But at least in the short term, the NCAA Tournament doesn’t appear to be changing. This is good news.

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Morning Five: 07.30.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 30th, 2013

morning5

  1. Yesterday for Vanderbilt might have been as bad of a day as a program could have without a NCAA investigation. The big news from the program was that Kedren Johnson, its leading scorer last season, was suspended for the upcoming academic year. Johnson averaged 13.5 points, 3.6 assists, and 3.5 rebounds leading a Commodore team that managed to go 16-17 last season despite losing its top three players from the previous season. The wording on Johnson’s apology (“It was a violation of the good conduct expected of all Vanderbilt students. I take full responsibility and now must begin working to regain the trust and respect of my school, the student body, our fans and especially my coaches and friends on the team.”) and the fact that this has not been reported in the mainstream media would argue against it being a serious legal matter and more likely something academic (perhaps like what Harvard experienced last season). If Johnson is able to atone for whatever he did, he should still have two more productive seasons remaining at Vanderbilt.
  2. One player who will apparently not be returning to Nashville is Kevin Bright, who has opted to pursue a pro basketball career in Germany after averaging 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season as a freshman. Normally we would consider such a move premature, but Bright was not your typical freshman. For one thing he is already 21 years old, but perhaps more interestingly he grew up in Germany and also played in a German youth program before coming over to Vanderbilt. Of course, that may not sit well with Vanderbilt’s staff as Kevin Stallings was not told by Bright of his decision to leave the school and to play internationally.
  3. Yesterday EA Sports filed a motion in federal court asking the judge to allow the company to respond to the plaintiff’s latest complaint in the notable Ed O’Bannon player likeness case. Using a recent Supreme Court decision as its authority (Comcast v. Behrend, decided in March 2013), attorneys for EA argued that the company has the right to “test the legal sufficiency of the complaint before a class is certified.” Since the court has not yet come to a decision on the issue of certifying the case as a class action (and correspondingly exposing the NCAA, EA and others to billions of dollars in liability), EA wants to have an opportunity to get out of the cross-hairs before that decision is made. According to the article, a sports law expert named Michael McCann believes that the judge will allow EA to make its response. Will it ultimately matter? Mostly this is a case of CYA, but given the huge potential numbers surrounding this case, it makes sense that EA Sports would give it a try.
  4. We would really like to be more excited about the announcement that Dereck Whittenburg is coming back to North Carolina State as an assistant coach, but it is kind of hard to do since this will be the third time he is doing so. Whittenburg is best known for the most famous air ball in basketball history also has served as an assistant at George Mason and Long Beach State before serving as a head coach at Wagner and Fordham. Although his head coaching career was less than distinguished he did manage to lead Wagner to the 2003 NCAA Tournament. It appears that Whittenburg’s primary role will be as director of player development at the school so we are not sure what his intentions are in terms of getting back into full-time coaching.
  5. It seems like show-cause penalties are not quite the death sentence they previously were as former Bruce Pearl assistant Jason Shay is on the verge of becoming the second of that staff to get a Division I job after receiving a show-cause. Shay has reportedly accepted a position at North Dakota. In Shay’s case like that of Steve Forbes (the first Pearl assistant to be hired again at the Division I level) the show-cause was only one year so he sat out an extra year before coming back to Division I. Pearl still has one more year left on his show-cause and although he is certainly a much bigger name than either of these two his hiring would attract much more scrutiny although we would not be shocked to see a desperate program go after him.
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Morning Five: 07.29.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 29th, 2013

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  1. We have no idea what is going through P.J. Hairston‘s head these days, but whatever it is it is not good. The beleaguered (we can use that word at this point, right?) North Carolina guard was suspended indefinitely on Sunday night after receiving a citation for speeding and reckless driving on Saturday afternoon. Hairston was reportedly pulled over in a 2008 Acura TL driving 93 mph in a 65 mph zone. Hariston, who has been under public scrutiny since a June arrest for possession of marijuana with a gun assigned to nobody that the legal system in North Carolina is apparently comfortable sweeping under the rug, has been under “investigation” for his dealings with Haydn “Fats” Thomas, but has managed to escape any punishment until last night. Our definition of punishment may differ from what Roy Williams has in mind as Hairston still has until October for Midnight Madness and November when regular season games start. We keep on saying this, but at some point it would appear that Roy needs to cut ties with Hairston or risk incurring punishment for the program down the road. If he decides to keep Hairston it will be interesting to see how long he sits Hairston given their early-season schedule.
  2. TCU got a big boost on Friday when the NCAA cleared incoming freshman Karviar Shepherd to play this season. Shepherd had been waiting to hear from the NCAA regarding his eligibility because of questions regarding his academics at Prime Prep Academy, but apparently whatever paperwork was submitted was good enough for the NCAA to sign off on him. Shepherd may not be one of the nation’s elite incoming recruits (77th in ESPN’s rankings), but the addition of a 6’10″ center should be a welcome addition for a Horned Frog program that finished last in the Big 12 last season.
  3. Late July might seem like a strange time to rework a college basketball coach’s contract, but that is what Loyola (IL) did as it extended Porter Moser through the 2017-18 season. We typically are a little bit leery of extending young coaches who just finished their second season (particularly if we are not aware of them being hot names for coaching vacancies), but Moser has done a nice job helping turn around the Ramblers who went 15-16 last season after going 7-23 in his first season. Of course some of this could be due to the increased maturity of his squad, which still ranks among the youngest in Division I. However, with 10 players returning this season and a new contract extension the pressure will be on Moser to perform soon.
  4. When we heard that Indiana State was building an on-campus statue for Larry Bird our first reaction was to wonder what took so long. Bird, who led the Sycamores to the 1979 NCAA Championship Game, will reportedly be in attendance as he will be honored with a 15-foot statute before the team’s first game of the season against Ball State on November 9. While there are certainly more iconic college basketball players we doubt that there is anybody who is intimately associated with a school as Bird is with Indiana State. With the relative resurgence the Sycamore program has seen in recent years it should be a nice added boost for the team to have the greatest player in the program’s history return to kick off their home opener.
  5. It has been 10 years since Lefty Driesell officially coached, but he made a return to the sidelines on Saturday to coach a team of former Maryland players in what is essentially a legends basketball league. Over the years supporters of Driesell have expressed their displeasure with how the school has treated his legacy in comparison to that of Gary Williams so it was nice to hear that Driesell is still associating himself with the school even if some of his supporters are still angry. We are rapidly approaching 30 years since Driesell last coached at Maryland so we are not sure that he will ever get his due there, but those who have actually followed the game and do not have an agenda are well aware of his contributions to the game and the school.
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Team USA Camp Provides Boost For Top Collegians Smart and McDermott

Posted by BHayes on July 26th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.

Come October and November, when Midnight Madness gives way to preseason games and then eventually the real thing, much of the narrative will center around how the summer was spent. A trip overseas will have brought a team together, leaving them poised to improve upon the season prior. A special opportunity with a particular team or clinic will change a coach’s perspective, or a new diet and workout plan gives the once-heralded recruit one last chance to pan out. We hear all these stories each and every fall, so consider yourself forgiven if you are left a bit skeptical with every summer update.  It’s because you are right — many will end up as irrelevant activities, artificial confidence boosters to help raise morale at the outset of a new season. But don’t discount them all. Countless players and teams will have improved themselves in the six months between One Shining Moment and Midnight Madness, and after their stay at the Team USA camp in Las Vegas, Marcus Smart and Doug McDermott look like two prime examples this go-around.

Between Leading The USA U-19 Team To Gold And Making An Appearance At Team USA Camp This Week, Marcus Smart Has Had Himself A Busy Summer

Between Leading The USA U-19 Team To Gold And Making An Appearance At Team USA Camp This Week, Marcus Smart Has Had Himself A Busy Summer

Smart has had an interesting offseason. He shocked the basketball world by deciding to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season, in the process tossing aside his presumed status as a top-five pick in this year’s draft. Before getting to Vegas he led the USA U-19 team to gold in Prague – a fine start to the summer, indeed. But his two days facing off against some of the best young players in the NBA provided a unique opportunity – one only afforded him and McDermott among those in the college ranks – and left him knowing he can play with NBA talent. Just listen to what Smart told SI’s Andy Glockner and tell me if you think his Team USA camp didn’t provide his confidence a shot in the arm – “It just lets me know that I decided to go back to college, but I can come out here and perform with these guys… Not trying to be cocky or anything, but I’m out here performing against top-level guys and competing and doing things that I’ve done in college and beyond, but I’m doing them on a bigger stage against guys who have competed against the LeBrons and Kobes.” Smart himself admitted to harboring loads of self-doubt in the weeks following his decision to go back to school, and with nearly everyone wondering aloud what he was doing, how could he not? But the NBA will still be there next season and the year after, and Smart should now know better than ever that he will be well-equipped to thrive there – no matter when he arrives.

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Morning Five: 07.26.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 26th, 2013

morning5

  1. It seems like just yesterday that Adam Morrison was engaged in a nightly duel with J.J. Redick before exiting the NCAA Tournament crying. The years since have not been much kinder to Morrison than the Internet was after his infamous exit. Now it appears that Morrison will be returning to his roots at Gonzaga where he will serve as a student assistant coach. Morrison may not be the most accomplished former player serving as an assistant coach, but he might be the most iconic given his recent fame and ridiculous mustache. This hiring will certainly make headlines, but we remain skeptical as to whether it will have any impact on Gonzaga or whether Morrison will ever become a legitimate coach, but it should be an interesting experiment.
  2. With all of the news swirling around the Rutgers program in the past few months we have grown kind of numb to much that comes out of the campus, but the news that new athletic director Julie Hermann revealed in her official school biography that she is a lesbian (the very last sentence) caught our attention. Now her sexual preference is none of our business and we do not particularly care, but we were surprised by the amount of attention the announcement has received. Ideally, we as I society would one day progress to a point where Hermann’s sexual orientation is not even a story. We all know she had plenty of other things going on at Rutgers to worry about and this should not be one of them.
  3. If you are looking for another reason to visit Las Vegas we have found one. Well at least for the next three years. Beginning this December 21 the MGM Grand will host a doubleheader for the next three years. This year’s event will feature Marquette against New Mexico and Oklahoma State against Colorado and will be broadcast on ESPNU and ESPN2 respectively with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society via Coaches vs Cancer. Outside of match-ups, which should be interesting we are somewhat surprised to see another big college basketball event being held in a casino (we have been to the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic at Mohegan Sun, which is not even in the same league as any of the Vegas casinos). If you are interested in attending any of the games, tickets are already available.
  4. We are a little less than four months away from the start of college basketball season, which means that it is time to start familiarizing with the incoming and returning players for various teams. If you are still struggling to figure out who is going to be good and bad this year (outside of the obvious teams from last season), ESPN.com has a decent recap of which teams are going to be vastly improved this season and which teams are going to be taking a step back. Outside of a few picks the predictions are not particularly revelatory, but Myron Medcalf and Jason King do a solid job of explaining their rationale and might even remind you of significant arrivals and departures since last season before we start getting flooded with college basketball previews.
  5. Both the NCAA and North Carolina may not be taking the academic fraud scandal at the school as seriously as we would like, but it appears that the White House is taking the matter a little more seriously. Sort of. A new petition was created asking President Obama to investigate the academic fraud at UNC because the school receives federal funds. We are not sure which fans (Duke or North Carolina State are our best guesses) created this and the lack of response so far speaks volumes to how ridiculous the idea is in theory, but it would be amusing at some level if this actually got enough votes to merit an actual response from the White House (aside from the fact that it would be a waste of the government’s time to address this issue when there are more pressing concerns facing our country.
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Morning Five: 07.25.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 25th, 2013

morning5

  1. Chalk this one up to history repeating itself. When Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford was still a sharpshooting little guard at Kentucky in the early 1990s, his mentor and head coach Rick Pitino sat his superstar forward Jamal Mashburn down before his junior season and told the smooth forward that he had no choice but to declare he was entering the NBA Draft the following summer (remember, these were the days when top players tended to stay in school quite a bit longer than they do now). It was an unusual move at the time, but it helped both Mashburn and the rest of Ford’s team focus on the matter at hand, which was to remove that recurring question from the press conferences and get the Wildcats back to the Final Four in 1993. Ford may have suggested a similar strategy with his current superstar point guard, Marcus Smart, as the consensus high-lottery pick announced on Wednesday that his upcoming sophomore season will be his last in Stillwater. He’s one of only two collegians at the Team USA Mini-Camp this week, and CNNSI.com‘s Andy Glockner caught up with him after practice to get a better understanding of his thinking on that topic and several others.
  2. The AP reported on Wednesday that legendary former UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian was released from a San Diego hospital after 11 days there dealing with clogged arteries and installing a pacemaker. The national title-winning head coach, now 82 years old, has suffered failing health in recent years but will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame later this fall. Tark the Shark is without question one of the most colorful and controversial figures in the history of the game, but there’s no denying that his program-building ability as well as his basketball contributions (“amoeba defense,” anyone?) far outweigh his irascible, contrarian nature. We wish Tarkanian all the best with his ongoing health battles, but with all the rumblings in college sports circles about Division 4, the O’Bannon case and the possible end of the NCAA as we know it, how much glee would the longtime rabble-rouser get out of seeing the hypocrisy of the NCAA finally brought to bear in a nuclear payload?
  3. Kansas freshman Brannen Greene is going to spend most of next season looking for a way to get people to remember his name. With classmate Andrew Wiggins soaking up all of the local, national and international attention focused on the 2013-14 Jayhawks, Greene will need to get creative to garner some of that oxygen in the room. He’s off to a decent start, as KUSports.com reported on Wednesday that Greene was cited last Wednesday morning for leaving the scene of an accident after a Chevy Trailblazer he was driving struck a parked Mercury Grand Marquis in a driveway. Notwithstanding the fact that it seems that no major college basketball player drives his own vehicle anymore (Greene was driving a car owned by an unnamed 25-year old Lawrence man), it begs the question as to why the 18-year old fled the scene in the first place. KU says that it will handle his punishment internally, which may or may not invoke the PJ Hairston rule. He will present in a Lawrence court on this charge in mid-August.
  4. Speaking of UNC, Hairston and the myriad academic/athletic issues that continue to become exhumed in the never-ending investigation done by Dan Kane at the Raleigh News & Observer, Mike DeCourcy addresses the matter in this week’s Starting Five column. We’ve been on record throughout this saga that UNC has done its very best to uncover the very least while taking accountability for the bare minimum… despite an increasingly clear and sinister connection between its athletic department and certain academic courses dating back two decades. With every new unveiling of information that makes the university look even worse, the school seems to further bury its head in the sand in hopes that nothing will stick. The mantra “nothing to see here” comes to mind, and DeCourcy comes to the same conclusion, but can we put the cards on the table here once and for all? UNC will do anything to protect the legacy of Dean Smith, period.
  5. Some people seemingly can’t catch a break, and while it’s difficult to make such a statement about someone who has gotten a free education at Stanford, we have to feel like Andy Brown is one of those unfortunate ones — at least on the athletic side of the equation. Johnny Dawkins reported on Wednesday that Brown, who has already suffered three ACL tears in his left knee while on The Farm, tore the ACL in his right knee on Tuesday during a workout, effectively ending his basketball career as a member of the Cardinal. Because of the injuries, he only managed to see action in a total of 54 games over the last three years, with 33 of those coming in his only full season in 2012-13. Brown will finish up his master’s degree in communications this year, which means that even though his athletic career didn’t turn out as well as he (or anyone) would have hoped, he’ll still end up with over a quarter-million dollars worth of academic sheepskin to his name. Not terrible.
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“Division 4” Has Potential To Permanently Change College Basketball

Posted by BHayes on July 24th, 2013

In the game of musical chairs that has dominated the college sports landscape for the last decade, there is little question as to which sport is driving the frantic conference realignment. For all the interest that college basketball creates, football is the clear money-maker – clear enough that conference affiliation decisions are made primarily with just one sport in mind. We have already seen a number of classic college basketball rivalries die off (Syracuse-Georgetown and Kansas-Missouri to name two) in the carnage that football created– but brace yourself that damage may be just the tip of the iceberg. CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd has reported that a number of BCS conference commissioners are getting comfortable with the idea of a “Division 4”, where the Big Five conferences – the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, ACC, and SEC (bye bye Big East/American Conference, as the Big Six loses one) – would create their own college football division, effectively shunning any non-BCS program from the highest level of college competition. The idea is far from a finished product and exact ramifications on college basketball are unclear at this point, but the threat of this “Division 4” has to cause concern for those on the basketball side of things.

We May Never Have Visited Lob City With FGCU If Division 4 Was Already In Place

We May Never Have Visited Lob City With FGCU If Division 4 Was Already In Place

If the Division 4 model becomes a reality, college football’s non-elite, those lovable “BCS-busters”, will find a sharp and sudden extinction. But what happens in this scenario to the non-BCS basketball programs?  Dodd doesn’t hypothesize on the larger impact that Division 4 would have on athletic programs, but with the model now allowing BCS schools to operate in a for-profit model (and no longer looking to the NCAA for their rules), college basketball’s competitive balance would be dealt a heavy, heavy blow.

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Morning Five: 07.24.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 24th, 2013

morning5

  1. Tuesday was the day for the Louisville Cardinals to visit the White House to celebrate their 2013 national championship, and perhaps the very best part of the entire proceeding was the extremely lukewarm applause at the top that Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) received when introduced by the POTUS. Obama gave his standard spiel of light-hearted remarks during the 10-minute event, referencing how Rick Pitino’s motivational technique of promising to get a tattoo “busted” his bracket and avoiding mention of the “other” school where the head coach won his first of two national titles. Pitino, to his credit, exalted the president while hitting on the themes of loyalty and perseverance that have come to define his teams at Louisville — giving Obama a Louisville Slugger engraved with his name to handle any future disruptive press conferences. For a much more detailed description of the Cards’ visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, check out Eric Crawford’s report from WDRB.com; and The Dagger has some great pictures that the players and entourage took while there. The entire press conference is at the bottom of this post.
  2. While Barack Obama has certainly taken his share of sniping in accordance with his lofty geopolitical position, the NCAA’s Mark Emmert may have taken even more concentrated vitriol from a unilateral perspective  (at least the Democrats support Obama; few seem to like Emmert). “One misstep after another,” as one administrator in this ESPN.com piece from Mike Fish and Dana O’Neil describes his three-year tenure as president of the organization. The accusations against the NCAA boss are lengthy, including not only mishandling of both the Penn State and Miami (FL) investigations, but also a general misunderstanding of the desires of his membership and a combative, at best, relationship with the media. It’s a really interesting read about the travails of the organization under his direction, and points again to a burgeoning restlessness among everyone that the NCAA’s days as a serious player on the American sports scene are effectively numbered.
  3. One school that certainly has no love lost for Emmert is Connecticut, given that the NCAA banned the Huskies from last year’s postseason as a result of its low APR scores. But, as Adam Zagoria at Zagsblog writes, Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier are back in Storrs and ready to make up for a lost season with a major postseason run in 2013-14. Louisville has to be considered the favorite in the spanking-new AAC, but the Huskies are a very interesting second banana. Kevin Ollie returns most of his key pieces from a 20-10 (10-8 Big East) squad that will no doubt enter next season with a major chip on its shoulder. If the chips fall into place for Boatright and Napier next season, there may not be a better backcourt in America. Only time will tell.
  4. What’s good for Duke is good for Team USA? That seems to be the correlation, as SI.com‘s Ben Golliver relates that Mike Krzyzewski‘s original decision to retire as USA Basketball’s head coach was more about reaching another four-year milestone at Duke than it was about international hoops. Basically, Coach K asked himself at the end of the 2012 Olympics whether he felt that he’d still be coaching at Duke in 2016, and at the time, he wasn’t sure of the answer. Since he believes that Team USA’s head coach should be actively involved in the sport — as he put it, “on the firing line” — he thought it would be best to give up the gig. USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo may have sensed Krzyzewski’s eventual 180, as he kept the job in waiting until Coach K decided last spring to return (stating that he is “sure he’s going to coach for a while.”). Given K’s 62-1 record and uncanny ability to get multi-millionaires to play team basketball for the USA jersey, this is a great, great thing.
  5. In our sport, summer is the time for testing out new things and the statistical wizardry over at KenPom is no exception. Yesterday the vaunted statistician announced a new metric to his suite of team data points yesterday: average possession length (APL).  As always with KenPom, the beauty of this new metric lies in the detail. Tempo is a measure that tracks efficiency, but APL simply tracks how long you are either holding the basketball each possession, or defending the basketball each possession. The 2013 listing is here (subscription required), but as Pomeroy notes, the correlation is already clear in viewing the last four years of data. Great defenses tend to correlate well with high defensive APLs — it’s harder for an offense to find a good shot — which begs the question whether faster-paced offensive coaches may be incentivized to slow things down to make their teams better overall. An interesting intellectual exercise, no doubt.

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Pac-12′s Stance Against Grand Canyon Is Laughably Ironic

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 23rd, 2013

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

In a letter signed by league presidents and directed to the NCAA’s Executive Cmmittee on July 10, the Pac-12 voiced its unanimous opposition to the Division I promotion of Grand Canyon University, the first for-profit institution to, in essence, enter the college sports big leagues. The presidents laid out their opinion in clear, unmistakable, vehement tones. They want Grand Canyon out of Division I because Grand Canyon isn’t like other Division I schools. “Our major concern is how athletics fit within academic missions of for-profit universities,” read the letter. The presidents’ concerns are not unfounded – Grand Canyon is on the vanguard of for-profit schools entering Division I (the school began its transition process from Division II on July 1, and will be eligible for the NCAA Tournament as a member of the decaying WAC conference in 2017-18; Grand Canyon does not have a football team.) Anytime something new breaks into the college sports lexicon – or any major field of interest, really – there are going to be questions. There’ll be detractors, too, and the Pac-12 is leading this particular faction with a determined conviction to block Grand Canyon’s move. There’s no going back now.

Division I's first for-profit institution has incited protest from Pac 12 schools (Credit: ShermanReport.com)

Division I’s first for-profit institution has incited protest from Pac 12 schools (Credit: ShermanReport.com)

I just have one question: Did all of the Pac-12’s presidents just sleep through the past three years of conference realignment? Because it almost seems that way. I mean, how else can you rationalize a group of D-I presidents who, in the wake of almost three years of non-stop financially-driven realignment, openly question whether a program is doing something in the service of its own “academic mission?” What did the recent realignment frenzy tell us, if not that schools have absolutely zero regard for their “academic missions” or decades-old rivalries or cultural fit or geographic common sense or anything else not related to a program’s bottom line, when making major decisions about their place in the college sports landscape? Did the constantly shifting allegiances, the explicitly discussed dollars-fueled realignment moves, the near-implosion of a Big Six conference, not say anything about the incentives of major college sports programs? Money, bundled in TV contracts and broadcast rights deals, was the wind blowing conference realignment’s sails, and while the league-hopping drama may have reached a temporary stasis, the whole ordeal left a distinct impression about the way modern college sports are governed. The motivation is clear: Get money now and deal with everything else later.

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UNC Athletic Program’s Woes Deepen With Latest Wrinkle

Posted by BHayes on July 23rd, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.

The investigative process into the UNC athletic program’s academic scandal may be all the way into year four, but there are still brand new damning details to be found. The latest, and perhaps most damaging, nugget is news that Faculty Council Chairman Jan Boxill offered a last minute rewrite of the council’s report into academic fraud (a report that was sent to the NCAA) in an obvious effort to minimize potential penalties on the athletic program. Email correspondence between other members of the committee revealed a firm disagreement with the final changes submitted by Boxill – alterations that appear to minimize the relationship between those teachers involved in the academic transgressions and the athletic department. While slightly reassuring to know that the rest of the committee was fully committed to fact-finding, this newest revelation is yet another sobering reminder of the lengths some administrators will go to protect their beloved (and lucrative) athletic programs.

There Is More Trouble In Tar Heel Land

There Is More Trouble In Tar Heel Land

After more than three years into the investigation, questions still far outnumber answers. This newest development resonates for a few reasons. As it pertains to UNC, the changes obviously hint at more involvement from the athletic program than we previously suspected. At a time when things were supposed to be winding down with the university making their reparations and finally moving on, it now appears things may be just getting fired up again. Not welcome news for anyone in Chapel Hill. Furthermore, the incompetence of the committee built to figure it all out (most notably the Chairman) certainly does the public image of the school no favors.

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