Emmanuel Mudiay Could Represent a Turning Point for SMU

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 26th, 2013

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

None of the 15 victories SMU tallied last season were quite as important as the massive recruiting win it scored Saturday night. That’s when Emmanuel Mudiay, a consensus top-five player and arguably the top point guard in the 2014 class, subverted the natural college hoops recruiting food chain by announcing at halftime of the Under Armour Elite 24 game that he would spurn scholarship offers from Baylor, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma State, among others, to attend SMU. The natural reaction? Woah. Why would a player as talented and with as clear a path to the NBA Draft lottery as Mudiay, turn down not only the sport’s most proven preps-to-pros pipeline (Kentucky), but a Big 12 juggernaut (Kansas) that’s won nine-consecutive conference championships and is welcoming the most celebrated high school prospect since Kevin Durant (Andrew Wiggins) to its campus this fall? Mudiay answered that very question on the ESPNU airwaves:

With Mudiay making his verbal commitment, the arrow is pointed up for SMU (Getty Images).

“I prayed about it a lot, and this is what I felt was the best fit. My family is here, and they can see me play, and I will learn from a Hall of Fame coach in Larry Brown. He has done it in college and the pros. He knows what it takes to get there, and I think we can do some special things at SMU.”  

The allure of Larry Brown is one thing. Brown is considered one of the greatest coaches in basketball history, the only one (it should be said) to have won championships at both the college and professional levels. Brown is a tremendous coach, but if Mudiay’s decision was exclusively the product of a longing to reap the benefits of Brown’s individual tutelage, the commitment wouldn’t feel as important as it does. There were other factors involved. Mudiay is the biggest recruit SMU has ever landed, but he is not the only highly-ranked player to choose the school. In fact, just this year, the Mustangs are bringing in Keith Frazier, a McDonald’s All-American from Dallas, along with a group of well-regarded transfers, including former Illinois state guard Nic Moore, former junior college big man Yanick Moreira, former Villanova forward Marcus Kennedy, and former Illinois guard Crandall Head. Make no mistake: Mudiay is a better player and a more esteemed prospect than any of those guys. But the point is that he is the best of several; he is not the only one. Mudiay’s commitment is the rousing culmination of a recent uptick in recruiting, and if his decision prompts other top-ranked players to follow suit, that uptick could calcify into an accepted recruiting standard.

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Morning Five: 08.26.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 26th, 2013

morning5

  1. The biggest news of the weekend was the announcement by Emmanuel Mudiay that he was committing to Southern Methodist. Outside of being a shock to the fans of the top schools–Baylor, Kansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State–that were reportedly in the running for his services, it is also surprising that he would choose SMU and may validate to a degree the decision by the school to hire Larry Brown, who may not even be there when Mudiay arrives on campus. Many in Big Blue Nation are still in shock that a second top recruit in a few months would spurn them (Andrew Wiggins being the other) as Mudiay had reportedly narrowed his choices down to SMU and Kentucky, but for us the bigger story (outside of the fact a top-5 recruit in the class of 2014 is headed to SMU) was the fact that Texas was not even a consideration for a top Texas recruit and it speaks volumes about the state of Rick Barnes’ program.
  2. For all of Gonzaga‘s success over the past 14 years they have often remained off the radar for many elite recruits for a variety of reasons (location, offers from bigger names, etc) so when Josh Perkins, a class of 2014 point guard who is ranked in the top 25 overall in his class, commits to Gonzaga it is pretty big news. Perkins, who was also seriously considering UCLA and Minnesota, has been Mark Few’s #1 target for this coming season and should fit in well when Kevin Pangos is ready to leave Spokane. Although there have been some other Gonzaga commits over the years who have been as highly sought after (Austin Daye comes to mind), but it is still quite a coup for Few.
  3. We are just a few weeks from the start of the college basketball season, but Texas Southern has managed to pick up one of the best available transfers on the market as the school announced that  Aaric Murray will be headed there. Texas Southern will be Murray’s third school as he transferred from La Salle, where he averaged 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game during the 2010-11 season, to West Virginia, where he averaged 8.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last season, but battled disciplinary issues as he was arrested in December 2011 for marijuana possession and was suspended in a separate incident for an undisclosed disciplinary violation. Murray, who is eligible to play immediately as he graduated from West Virginia this past spring, should make Texas Southern, which went 16-2 last season, but was barred from postseason play, a strong contender for the SWAC’s automatic bid.
  4. Dave Rice’s job of keeping UNLV competitive this season despite the loss of several key players just got a little tougher as the school announced that Savon Goodman will not play this season after news surfaced that he was facing two felony charges of first-degree burglary and grand larceny. Despite Goodman’s paltry production last season–3.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game–he was expected to be a much bigger part of the team’s game plan with the departures of Anthony Bennett and Mike Moser. Now Rice and the UNLV staff will have to scramble to find a replacement for Goodman, who would have been the team’s starting power forward. That role will probably fall to Jamal Aytes, a three-star recruit who committed to the school just one week ago.
  5. We are not sure how D.J. Haley, who averaged 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game at VCU last season, will fit in with “Dunk City West” after it was announced that he will be transferring to USC, but we guess playing in the Havoc defensive scheme should be good preparation for a frantic style of play. The 7-footer will be eligible to play immediately after graduating early from VCU and will be enrolling in USC’s engineering school. Despite his limited production last season Haley does have quite a bit of experience and actually started for the Rams during their run to the 2011 NCAA Final Four and his experience should help a Trojan frontcourt that is not very deep and lacks experience.
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Gonzaga Needs Przemek Karnowski to “Break Out”

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 23rd, 2013

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

The sophomore breakout formula Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn has been using over the past few seasons to highlight players expected to dramatically improve in their second years is not like any old fuzzy, subjective, qualitative preseason guessing game. It is grounded in a precise statistical methodology, designed to identify players who evince star potential in limited sample sizes and, in turn, realize that potential over more minutes by putting up big numbers in the coming season. Here’s his explanation: “To qualify, a player cannot have averaged much more than 20 minutes per game as a freshman. But while he was on the floor, he had to use a go-to-guy’s share of his team’s offensive possessions (around 24 percent or higher) with a respectable level of efficiency (an ORating of at least 100.0, or one point per possession). The underlying theory, as first proposed byBasketball Prospectus, is that go-to-guys tend to act like it from the start of their careers, even in limited playing time. “Players who are not very involved in the offense,” Ken Pomeroy wrote for BP in 2007, “tend to stay that way.” Winn’s track record is terrific; most of the players he highlights make good on their breakout promise – from Malik Waayns at Villanova in 2010-11 to Terrell Stoglin at Maryland in 2011-12 to Andre Hollins at Minnesota last season.

A breakout season from Karnowski is exactly what Gonzaga needs to win another WCC championship (US Presswire).

This year’s No. 1 breakout candidate, according to Winn, is Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski. Last season, Karnowski averaged 5.7 points per game, posted a 102.5 offensive rating while using 27.0 percent of his team’s possessions, and logged 26.1 percent of available minutes. Karnowski’s minutes and shot opportunities are expected to increase next season – a fundamental criterion in Winn’s predictive method – largely because last season’s dominating frontcourt duo, Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk, are now playing in the NBA. The Zags need a dominating frontcourt presence to help make up for their lost production and Karnowski, a highly-touted international recruit last season, is the perfect candidate. Picking him as college basketball’s biggest breakout candidate doesn’t just pass the tempo-free smell test; it makes intuitive sense. Karnowski is in excellent position to make the proverbial sophomore leap.

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Morning Five: 08.23.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 23rd, 2013

morning5

  1. With each passing day more and more of the college basketball schedule is revealed. Yesterday’s big news was the release of the ACC schedule (the full schedule is available in PDF format). The schedule is highlighted by the conference’s two ESPN GameDay match-ups: Duke at Syracuse on February 1 and North Carolina at Duke on March 8. Outside of that there should be considerable interest in match-ups involving the newcomers to the conference–Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame–as ACC teams travel to and host them for the first time. Other than that the one thing that really sticks out to is how Maryland does not get a single home game against any of its traditional rivals. Clearly this is the conference’s way of getting back at them for leaving for the Big Ten.
  2. Staying on the topic of the ACC and its schedule it appears that Syracuse will not be moving its basketball court to the center of the Carrier Dome for its game against Duke. Earlier this summer there was quite a bit of speculation that the school might do so in order to create the possibility of having 50,000 fans in attendance for the game, but after considering many of the logistical factors involved in doing so they nixed the idea. The school also noted that this would not preclude the possibility of surpassing the on-campus attendance record of 35,012 set this past February when Syracuse hosted Georgetown. It also has not ruled out the possibility of moving the court to the center of the Carrier Dome in the future although we have a hard time seeing which event there would warrant it if this does not.
  3. After a three week hiatus, Luke Winn is finally back and this time he is trying to pick six players primed for a break-out season as sophomores. The selections are based on playing sparingly as a freshman (not much more than 20 minutes per game), having a high usage rate (24% or higher), and having an offensive efficiency rating over 100. The selections–Przemek Karnowski, Michael Carrera, A.J. Hammons, D’Andre Wright, Mike Tobey, and Sam Dekker–are all players that the casual fan might not be aware of, but people who follow college basketball have been waiting to take the next step especially Hammons and Dekker. If you doubt the utility of this strategy, which is admittedly a little arbitrary especially when Winn bends the rules to get Dekker in, check out last year’s selections.
  4. In our interview earlier this week with Steve Alford we asked him about the need to regain control of recruiting in California and specifically the Los Angeles area. Alford suggested that while it was important they were also taking a national approach. However, as Myron Medcalf notes, if UCLA is going to become a national power again it needs to lock up its own backyard. We think it goes without saying that a national-level program needs to recruit nationally, but in the same way that Miami needs to control southern Florida in order to become a football power again, UCLA needs to become a major player in the movement of players from its own region (ok, maybe not to the same degree) if it is to even reach the heights it saw under Ben Howland much less John Wooden (the latter is never happening again).
  5. We will call yesterday’s edition of CBS’s Candid Coaches series the “Sean Miller question” as they asked coaches if they feel that their team has been targeted by an official or an officiating crew. The impetus for the question was clearly the controversy in the Pac-12 last season where there remains some suspicion that Ed Rush essentially directed a crew to give Sean Miller a technical so the results are somewhat surprising: 53% said yes, 38% said no, and 9% said yes, but not to that extent. Honestly, we are surprised by the 91% that either said that they felt like they had been targeted like Miller or that they had not been targeted at all. We don’t think that officials always target one team, but to think that they never do or that officials have specific agendas against a certain team seems a little naive. Now if we were forced to pick we would probably question the 38% who think they have never been targeted the most because that just seems to be a little too PC for an anonymous poll.
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Morning Five: 08.22.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 22nd, 2013

morning5

  1. When you have the facts, pound the facts. When you have the law, pound the law. When you have neither, pound the table. The NCAA would do well to remember this old legal axiom as it enters a dangerous stage of its lawsuit over image and likeness rights collectively known as the Ed O’Bannon case. On Monday of this week, the organization requested a 15-month continuance of the opening date of the trial — currently scheduled for June 9, 2014 — in a shamelessly transparent attempt to solidify its position by distancing itself from one of its most embarrassing gaffes in the past few years. Jay Bilas, anyone? EA sports and Collegiate Licensing Co., co-defendants in the case along with the NCAA, interestingly enough only requested a five-month continuance for the start of the trial. The federal judge overseeing this lawsuit, Claudia Wilken, had requested that the defendants come to a mutual agreement on trial date by Monday, but their inability to come to simple terms on that question may only serve to anger her as she weighs a number of important motions on class certification and other items that will seriously impact the case.
  2. And the hits just keep on coming. Mere days after a social media-fueled firestorm over the NCAA’s initial decision (subsequently reversed) to deny former US Marine Steven Rhodes from walking on to play football this year for Middle Tennessee, another controversy has enveloped the organization over an eligibility question that strains the limits of common sense. As The Star-Ledger‘s Tom Liucci writes, Iowa State transfer Kerwin Okoro was recently denied a waiver to play for Rutgers in 2013-14 because his medical hardships — Okoro’s father and brother each passed away last winter — are not current. The rule on receiving a medical hardship waiver states that the player must show “medical documentation of a debilitating injury or illness to a student-athlete’s immediate family member that is debilitating and requires ongoing medical care,” technically precluding Okoro from the benefit. But how about some big picture common sense here? While it’s true that Okoro will not be required to care for his now-deceased relatives, there are other compelling reasons involving his family’s overall healing process that should also be considered in such a decision.
  3. We’ve long known that Division I college basketball players are some of the best all-around athletes in the world, what with the core components of elite “athleticism” — speed, agility, strength, flexibility, stamina — all very well-represented in our sport. Several athletes who perhaps weren’t skilled enough for professional basketball found their way into other athletic sports — we’re thinking about NFL tight ends such as Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates here — but, as The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg writes, a lesser-known version of football played in Australia is looking at college basketball as a nice pipeline to find its next generation of ruckmen. A what, you say? Well, a ruckman is someone in Australian Rules Football who is tasked with securing possession for his team after dead balls and scores through a modified jump ball situation. Who better than to fit that need for our friends Down Under than undersized big men with explosive hops and a knack for getting their hands on the ball. As the world becomes flatter in economics and sport, we imagine that we’ll start to hear more stories like these as the rest of the planet discovers just how athletic our basketball players — even those outside the NBA — actually are.
  4. One of the most discouraging stories of last offseason has resurfaced in a big way with the news on Wednesday that former Xavier-turned-Maryland guard Dez Wells, he of the rape allegations so absurd that the local prosecutor publicly stated they were “fundamentally unfair,” has decided to sue his old school for damage to his reputation and a good old-fashioned apology. In an environment where seemingly every semi-public figure claims that he will sue to protect his good name after getting blatantly caught telling bold-faced lies, it’s encouraging to see a situation where the justice system will be used to mete out some actual justice. Xavier expelled Wells from its school last summer, citing a decision made by its Conduct Board (and upheld on appeal) that predated the related criminal grand jury investigation; as a result, Wells has since suffered mightily from the school’s rush to judgment. That he’s bringing this case while he’s still playing NCAA basketball is rich with storyline possibilities — could he somehow face his legal adversary in a postseason match-up for the ages between the Terps and Musketeers? We can only hope…
  5. A lot of schedules have been releasing over the past couple of weeks, and the most notable in the last 24 hours were from a couple of conferences. First, the SEC released its conference-only schedule, featuring a bunch of mediocre teams that nobody pays attention to until February a solid balance of Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday night games with the standard Saturday smorgasbord but lacking the Kentucky-Tennessee battle in Knoxville that has produced so many great contests over the years. A special thank you goes out to Texas A&M and Missouri for that omission. On the other side of the continent, the WCC also released its conference schedule, which means that the only two games of true importance in this league — Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary’s, Acts I and II — should already be inked into your calendar (January 2 and March 1). Many more of these releases to come in the next few weeks.
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Unfairly Judged, Dez Wells Continues Quest To Reclaim His Good Name

Posted by BHayes on August 21st, 2013

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

With the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit pending and the “should college athletes be paid?” debate becoming increasingly commonplace at the water cooler, the American public is acutely aware of the supposed slights facing college athletes (particularly those playing football and basketball). The absence of stipend or salary for players, who are obviously the main contributors to this multi-billion dollar industry, will always be seen by most as the least fair element of the whole college athlete gig. Without forgetting all the benefits to being a college athlete – scholarships and exposure prime among them, let’s also make sure we remember how challenging sudden fame would be for any young adult.

Dez Wells Is Happy At Maryland, But His Controversial Expulsion From Xavier A Year Ago Continues To Linger

Dez Wells Is Happy At Maryland, But His Controversial Expulsion From Xavier A Year Ago Continues To Linger

Dez Wells knows better than most. Wells, now a junior at Maryland, was the victim of his own campus celebrity at Xavier a year ago. Even putting aside the fact that it was likely his status as a basketball player that induced an allegation of sexual assault (by all accounts and actions, the claim has been dismissed as a fabrication), Wells’ public figure prompted the Xavier administration to take a hard stance on the issue (for PR reasons), with Wells’ right to a presumption of innocence being thoroughly ignored throughout the process. Tuesday, almost exactly a year to the day he was expelled from XU, Wells filed a lawsuit against his former school, as first reported by Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports. A year ago, it didn’t take long for many to come to the conclusion that Wells got a raw deal, but the escalation of the matter still left his name in national headlines next to the words “sexual assault”.

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Morning Five: 08.21.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 21st, 2013

morning5

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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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#notjustforplayers – College Coaches Are Starting to Figure Out Benefits of Twitter

Posted by BHayes on August 20th, 2013

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

Twitter may be just seven years old, but the social media tool has already found ubiquity in the world of college athletics. Rare is the college athlete (particularly in the revenue sports of football and basketball) without a Twitter handle, and rarer still is the day that passes without a major college basketball or football headline breaking from the Twitter-verse. College hoops recruits and transfers often use their 140-character snippets to announce their first, or next, college destination, while current players are keen to keeping their followers aware of breaking news from their program, summer plans, and even personal injury statuses. Quite simply, Twitter fuels the college basketball rumor mill. But for as much relevance as the platform has found within the game, one group that has failed to universally embrace it has been the head coaches. Coaches have no accepted industry standard to follow on how much to tweet, what to tweet about, or even whether to tweet in the first place. Their wide variety of approaches to the tool prompted The Sporting News to take a deeper look at how the head men in the Power Seven (AAC included) conferences use Twitter. Their findings make for a fun read – and should prompt a follow or two, but also provide an entrée into an emerging topic – how exactly are coaches using Twitter as a tool for growing their program?

Tim Miles May Not Be A Household Name Yet, But He Is Getting Closer With Every Tweet

Nebraska’s Tim Miles May Not Be A Household Name Yet, But He Is Getting Closer With Every Tweet

Back in 2009, Twitter was considered so toxic that Mike Leach banned his entire football team (Texas Tech at the time) from using it. Four years later, that very same Mike Leach has over 40,000 followers and uses his feed to inform Washington State fans of happenings both relevant (“practice went great in Lewiston”) and irrelevant (“one of my favorite TV shows was Magic City on Starz. Wish they hadn’t cancelled it.”). Leach’s college hoops coaching brethren have made a similar discovery. Leading the way in the Twitter world, as he does in many other categories, is Kentucky’s John Calipari. Coach Cal’s 1.2 million followers are more than nine times as many as the second most-followed college coach (Indiana’s Tom Crean), and he uses his Twitter notoriety in exactly the way a solid front-runner should. Befitting his on and off-court personality, Calipari tweets often and honestly, mostly making sure that UK fans are privy to all the happenings around his program. When you are speaking to a fan base as populous and interested as his Wildcat supporters, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Goal number one should be making program information easy and accessible, and Coach Cal does that as well as any college coach in the Twitter business.

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The First Four Doesn’t Need to Leave Dayton, But Maybe It Should

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 20th, 2013

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

The first thing I think of when reading, writing or listening to anything having to do with the “First Four” is the NCAA’s frustrating semantical insistence that it be referred to as the “First Round.” Technically speaking, it is the first group of games qualified NCAA Tournament teams play, but to imply First Four teams and the other 64 all enter the Tournament needing to survive a “first round” – whether by playing games or not, which is what everyone except First Four teams do – is a confusing mischaracterization casual fans and writers alike could do without. We know what the real first round is, so let’s give it its proper nominal recognition. Sorry, First Four teams, but you can’t merely waltz into a spot in the first round of the NCAA Tournament; you need to earn your way there by winning your – gasp! – play-in game.

VCU

Until the NCAA resolves that issue, I will have trouble looking past any non-branding-related First Four storylines. Today, I’m making an exception. Numerous reports from Dayton Friday brought word that the NCAA rejected the city’s proposal to extend its First Four hosting rights beyond 2015. Dayton, as you probably already know, has hosted the event since its inception, including back when it only involved two teams and was called, whether formally or not, the one and only play-in game. Twelve years later, the NCAA appears to be exploring alternatives. Or maybe it just has commitment issues. The Dayton Business Journal got NCAA spokesperson David Worlock on the record:

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Morning Five: 08.20.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 20th, 2013

morning5

  1. You know the NCAA has done something incredibly dumb when it completely reverses a decision it just made, but when the public was made aware of the NCAA’s decision to take away a year of Steven Rhodes‘ eligibility because he participated in games on a military base while serving as a Marine it became clear that the NCAA had to reverse its decision. We are going to assume that the original decision made by someone who was just reviewing the case and following the letter of the law without looking at the bigger picture and definitely without consulting his or her superiors. We will give the NCAA some credit for reversing course quickly, but we suspect that there was some external pressure placed on the organization to reverse its prior decision.
  2. We are still anxiously waiting for the release of full schedules, but the powers that be have decided to release the schedules in bits and pieces. The latest part of the schedule to be released is ESPN’s Super Tuesday schedule. As you would expect given the relative strength of the two conferences the Big Ten slate is more compelling and the SEC one features a lof of Kentucky. Obviously the SEC slate is banking on Kentucky rebounding from last season’s collapse and the solid play of this year’s incoming freshman class, but it is hurt quite a bit by the lack of either Florida-Kentucky game since both will probably be featured CBS weekend broadcasts.
  3. When we saw that there was news about the First Four we were initially excited by the possibility that the NCAA had finally gotten rid of the farce that is the First Four. Unfortunately, the news was merely that the NCAA was considering alternatives to Dayton as the site of future First Fours. Dayton already has the rights to the next two First Fours secured, but the bidding for the 2016-18 iterations remains open. According to David Worlock of the NCAA, the issue is not so much that Dayton has not been a suitable host, but instead is reflective of conference realignment. Honestly, we have no idea what that means unless the NCAA is planning on changing the format of the NCAA Tournament because of the changes in conference structure since it should not affect the location of what essentially amount to play-in games.
  4. Yesterday we mentioned the ongoing issues around Chris Walker’s eligibility at Florida and how it remained one of the major outstanding issues heading into the season. While Jamal Aytes would not be classified in the same category as Walker he remained one of the top uncommitted players in the class of 2013. That is until he committed to UNLV yesterday. A 6’6″ power forward usually does not attract a lot of attention, but Aytes managed to crack the top 100 for most recruiting services. His addition will not be enough to make anybody in Las Vegas forget about Anthony Bennett or Mike Moser, but he could help ease the transition by committee.
  5. As those of you who are on Twitter are aware there are some coaches who seem to get social media and those who do not. With that in mind Sporting News put together a list breaking down the best and worst of college basketball coaches on Twitter. Most of the names on the best/worst lists should not exactly surprise you although the names on the worst lists might have such a minuscule presence online that you might not have even been aware that they were on Twitter. We have no idea if this type of stuff has any influence on potential recruits, but we will say it does not hurt to be able to speak their language.
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The RTC Interview Series: One on One with Steve Alford

Posted by WCarey on August 19th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

The great history and tradition of UCLA basketball hit some bumps over the past couple of seasons, so after an embarrassing loss to Minnesota in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, Bruins athletic director Dan Guerrero and the school’s administration decided to make a coaching change. Just six days after Ben Howland was relieved of his duties as the head coach, the school announced that it had reached an agreement with then-New Mexico coach Steve Alford to take over the reins of the program in Westwood. Alford is what one would call a basketball lifer. Growing up as the son of a high school coach, he was always around the game which helped him develop into one of the best players in Indiana high school history. Following an illustrious prep career, Alford went on to play at Indiana where he was the team MVP for all four of his seasons in Bloomington under Bob Knight and a star as a consensus 1st team All-American on the 1987 National Championship team. After a four season NBA career, Alford began a coaching career that has seen him make stops at Division III Manchester College, Missouri State, Iowa, and New Mexico. With a 463-235 career record and seven NCAA Tournament appearances under his belt, Alford and his style of basketball were just too attractive for UCLA to pass up in its coaching search. After speaking with the new USC coach Andy Enfield last week, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to the other new coach on the Los Angeles college basketball scene — UCLA coach Steve Alford — about his career, his new team at UCLA, and his outlook on the future of Bruins basketball.

Rush the Court: You accepted the UCLA job on March 30. How has the transition to the new job been and what have you been able to accomplish since that date

Only 48, Alford Came to UCLA With a Long Coaching History Already Behind Him (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

Only 48, Alford Came to UCLA With a Long Coaching History Already Behind Him (Don Liebig/ASUCLA Photography)

Steve Alford: We have just hit the ground running. When you go from having a real experienced team coming back at New Mexico – probably my best team. We were not going to have to do a whole lot of recruiting of the team and the classes in the future because we had everything in line with guys coming back and those type of things. It looked like it was going to be a casual offseason, but all of a sudden you make the transition and you start recruiting not just the 2014 class, but you also start recruiting your current team because they do not know you and they do not know your staff. We may have spent more time with our current team than anywhere else. We needed to go in and build that trust – and that takes time. I think over the last four months it has been a balance of all of us as families making a move to the Los Angeles area and that is transition, building trust and recruiting the players on the UCLA team, and getting a move on recruiting the 2014 and 2015 classes.

RTC: UCLA’s history and tradition is arguably the best in college basketball. How much was that a factor in you deciding to make the move to Westwood?

Alford: Probably a lot. It is not just the tradition, but what UCLA stands for as an institution. I have been here four months and no matter what building you walk into or what people you bump into – whether they be administrators, faculty members, students, athletes, or coaches – the whole campus just embodies excellence. The ability to come to a place where excellence is stressed in training, preparation, and taking care of the student-athletes (both academically and athletically) to prepare for an incredible future was very, very intriguing. Additionally, growing up in the state of Indiana and I was obviously a huge Indiana fan because of Coach Knight, but I also had an incredible understanding of John Wooden and the four letters of UCLA, which exposed me to their history and tradition. Growing up in Indiana, the two programs I followed the closest were probably Indiana and UCLA.

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Attention Fans and Media: Kansas Is More Than Andrew Wiggins

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 19th, 2013

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

This is going to be one of the most fascinating seasons of Bill Self’s Kansas tenure. Over his insane nine-consecutive-and-counting Big 12 title run, Self has largely resisted the compressed process of recruiting and bidding adieu to one-and-done players after a single season. Instead, he has turned gradual multi-year development into an art form, recruiting program-dedicated players willing to hack it on the practice courts and bide their time on the bench for a season or more, then enter the starting lineup as upperclassmen with plenty of experience, a solid understanding of the physicality of the college game, and great familiarity with their teammates. This cycle has worked for years, and Self would be crazy not to keep running his program and his player development process the same exact way. That old “why change something?” metaphor applies here. Slow developmental curves are Self’s trademark; John Calipari at Kentucky he is not.

The players surrounding Wiggins could be just as valuable to Kansas’ national title hopes as Wiggins himself (USA Today).

This season, for the first time in recent memory, Self is expected to play at least two true freshmen in the starting lineup (and quite possibly three), one of whom is considered the best high school prospect to enter the college game since Kevin Durant. You know his name: Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins has many titles – basketball destroyer of worlds, modern “Monstar” of college hoops (if you haven’t seen “Space Jam”, well, sorry), face-melting athletic freak, guaranteed franchise-altering NBA superstar – and he is the main reason why, in a matter of seconds, Kansas went from tenuous Big 12 front-runner to legitimate national championship contender when Wiggins, one of the best-kept commitment secrets of recent memory, announced he would play his one year of college basketball with the Jayhawks. Wiggins, it was widely said, would make Kansas great. He was the most talented player Self would ever coach, an instant star capable of lifting any team with any coach – let alone a nine-times-running conference champion with a surefire Hall of Famer patrolling the sidelines – into the national championship discussion. Kansas was going to be good, and Wiggins was the reason why.

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