Morning Five: 08.21.13 Edition
Posted by rtmsf on August 21st, 2013
- It’s never too early — repeating, never too early — to begin talk of undefeated seasons. After all, all 350 Division 1 basketball schools are unbeaten in August, and September, and even October. A fair number will make it through November unscathed, but by the time we hit the new year, roughly a dozen or fewer will be standing. To make it to February without a blemish is rare indeed, while standing with a zero in the L column at the start of March is just short of impossible. Still, it makes for fun speculation no matter the time of year, and with the release of Kentucky‘s 2013-14 schedule on Tuesday, the chatter has already become rampant on the likelihood of John Calipari’s team running the table. The marketing guru himself uses the opportunity to “chase perfection” in his pitch to elite recruits, and he’s certainly got enough raw talent on board next year to at least entertain the question. Of course, dozens of more experienced and talented teams than next year’s Wildcats have proven unable to win every game on the schedule, so you’ll forgive us if we, along with a few other veteran watchers of the sport such as TSN’s Mike DeCourcy, collectively roll our eyes at the very notion (DeCourcy gives five reasons why UK won’t do it). Not only will UK not go unbeaten next season, it says here that they’d best be served by losing a couple before heading into March Madness — the last team to lose fewer than two games en route to a national title were those same legendary 1976 Indiana Hoosiers.
- Sticking around the Bluegrass State, the UK Athletics Hall of Fame announced its 2013 incoming class on Tuesday, and one of the names on the list makes you wonder whether enough time and water under the bridge has passed for Kentucky fans to again embrace one of their five national championship coaches, Tubby Smith. When Smith alighted north for Minnesota in 2007, the attitude among the majority of Wildcat faithful was one of good riddance. Smith’s recruiting struggles had manifested in a series of disappointing seasons in the mid-2000s, and while the head coach was almost universally liked and respected as a person, he had unquestionably worn out his welcome in Lexington. A harrowing subsequent two years with Billy Gillispie led to the John Calipari era and all the riches that followed, but six years of (mostly) success isn’t really all that long to heal old wounds. It will be interesting to hear the partisan crowd’s response to the announcements at the school’s football game versus Florida during induction weekend on September 28 — will they cheer Smith for his accomplishments (one national title and a boatload of SEC championships); will they boo him for his lack of recruiting and postseason failures (several first weekend NCAA defeats); or will they politely applaud him, in much the same way that a crowd respectfully recognizes an academic speaker at a conference? We shall see.
- A somewhat weird story came out of Austin yesterday, in that returning Texas forward and leading scorer Ioannis Papapetrou has decided to leave school to sign a contract with a European professional team. The deal is reported for approximately $2 million over a five-year period, which, no disrespect to UT-Austin, is still quite a bit more in monetary value than the great state university can provide. Where this puts Rick Barnes’ team for next season, and by extension, his program, is in quite a quandary. Despite a strong number of elite recruits who have passed through Texas in the past five years, the program only has two NCAA wins to show for it. Furthermore, last year’s CBI squad that finished with an overall losing record of 16-18 has been completely gutted. Three other players transferred and/or left for pro contracts, and with an annual contract for Barnes ranking among the titans in the sport, you have to wonder how long the leash is that he will have this season with such a young, inexperienced squad.
- It seems like every summer some key player gets injured during a team’s international trip and this year is no exception as TCU rising star Devonta Abron tore his Achilles tendon and will miss the entire upcoming season. Abron averaged 7.4 PPG and 5.9 RPG for Trent Johnson’s moribund team last season, but the future appeared bright for the rising junior who had developed into a nicely efficient player around the rim. The Big 12 is tough enough for a program like the Horned Frogs; they certainly could have used some better news as they move into their second full season as a member of a major conference basketball league.
- Speaking of international summer trips, let’s finish this one with an odd what-comes-around-goes-around story involving the Iowa Hawkeyes and a long lost but very divisive footnote to its hardwood past. While on a five-game tour of France, former Hawkeye Pierre Pierce (where else would he be with a name like Pierre?) showed up as an opponent on a French professional team, and somewhat unbelievably, hit the game-winning shot against his old school in overtime. If you’re new to the story, Pierce got into quite a bit of trouble involving allegations of sexual misconduct while at Iowa from 2002-05 (ultimately getting tossed from the team and serving nearly a year in prison), and the impassioned defense of his star player by then-head coach Steve Alford still upsets more than a few people around the sport. Alford in fact had to answer questions about it again upon taking the UCLA job this past spring. Still, the serendipity of Pierce getting his own shining moment against his old school a decade later from pure unadulterated happenstance is simply astonishing. Whether Hawkeye Nation appreciated the pure comedy of it, we’ll have to let you be the judge of that one.
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