Morning Five: 07.03.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 3rd, 2013

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  1. It’s conference realignment absolution week around the land, with the ACC, Big East and AAC all welcoming new members in their own imitable ways. The ACC did so with considerable hoopla, unveiling Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame as new members at the NASDAQ headquarters in lower Manhattan on Monday. Everyone is toeing the party line at this point, of course, (“best basketball conference of all-time,” etc.) but the sticking point is going to eventually hit some of the old-timers in this league when the ACC Tournament is no longer always held/incarcerated in the friendly confines of the Tar Heel State. The new Big East just hired a commissioner last week, and was last seen traipsing through midtown Manhattan trying to find some office space. Regardless, Butler, Xavier and Creighton are now on board with the Catholic Seven, and at least one mammal is ready for the transition. In the meantime, here’s the top five storylines facing the basketball-centric league as it sets out on its own path. The AAC is a little further along, even if the conference has not yet changed the sign on the door in Providence or has a crystal clear notion of its ultimate direction in both the BCS and college basketball. Dan Wolken writes that the league’s advantage is that it is finally able to move forward with a “clean slate,” even if it is mocked at “Conference USA 2.0″ for a while. This is the world we now live in; we may as well get used to it. 
  2. One of the new Big East schools, Creighton, received some great news on Tuesday when guard Grant Gibbs was given a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA (his reaction to the news in this video is priceless). Gibbs applied for the sixth season based on the fact that he missed his true freshman season with an injury and his transfer season for a different injury. Next season will give him a full fourth year of action, and with teammate Doug McDermott’s return in lieu of heading to the NBA Draft, the Bluejays again look like a serious contender on the conference and national levels next season. And as for where the scholarship for next year will come from? Doug’s dad, of course. Head coach Greg McDermott will pony up the $38,000 tuition plus expenses for his future millionaire son next season, surely a small price to pay for a team with a reasonable shot at crashing the Final Four party in Arlington next April.
  3. One of the former Big East and new ACC schools (confused yet?), Syracuse, put one more piece of the Bernie Fine saga to bed yesterday with the news that the former Orange assistant was dropping his defamation suit against ESPN. You recall that Fine was investigated but never charged by federal authorities in response to allegations that he molested two former ball boys some time ago. He was fired regardless, and later brought suit against ESPN for airing the allegations that included a secret tape made of his wife, Laurie Fine, discussing the allegations with an accuser a decade ago. His wife still has a defamation suit pending over the release of that tape. ESPN says that no settlement was reached, so the elephant in the room question is why would Fine — who has maintained his innocence throughout — drop the case? The only reasonable explanation is that it simply wasn’t winnable on the merits, and in fact, could expose him to further embarrassment and/or damage to his reputation, right?
  4. This is an odd story, but let’s not make a federal case of it. The FAA is apparently investigating the practice of leasing the state of Michigan’s four passenger jets to Michigan State’s head football and basketball coaches for the purpose of recruiting visits. Of course, that means Spartan head coach Tom Izzo and his 55 recruiting trips in the last five years are also under scrutiny. The current reports are unclear on what the organization is looking for, specifically, but “it is known that the billing documents and receipts for many of these trips are being sought-out by investigators to determine whether the use of the planes violated any laws or incurs any cost to the common taxpayer.” MSU, like many major players in the college athletics world, pays for such costs from a self-sufficient fund separate from taxpayer dollars, so we’re not really sure what the objective is here. But it’s worth following at this point.
  5. This came out last week, but as we’re heading into the heart of the summer recruiting circuit, it’s worth mentioning here now. The Rivals150 recruiting rankings for the Class of 2014 have been updated, and Chicago center Jahlil Okafor remains at the top of the list. He and Rivals’ #2 prospect, Minneapolis’ Tyus Jones, are allegedly looking to become a package deal, which would make one of the group of  Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan State or Ohio State very, very happy. It appears to be a very strong year for the Midwest, with six of the top 11 players in the nation playing in the Big Ten footprint. For the complete list, check it out here.
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