Adding Two More Final Four Telecasts is An Interesting Move

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 19th, 2013

Watch or listen to enough of your favorite team’s games, and it’s easy to get attached to a particular announcer, play-by-play man, or both. For better or worse, fans get comfortable hearing the same voice every time they turn on their radio or television to watch their teams play. Sometimes fans discuss what they like or don’t like about their team’s radio or television broadcasts. Being a fan of a team is – whether you like it or not – being a fan of the radio and television announcers that call that team’s games as well. You may not like what they have to say all the time, but those guys are people you sort of just learn to deal with – lest you begin pressing the mute button on your TV remote anytime you watch your team play, or neglecting games in favor of listening to music on long car rides.

Adding two separate telecasts, tailored specifically to each team, to the national product seems like a good idea (USA Today).

A lot of people actually enjoy their favorite team’s radio and TV broadcasters. I happen to find Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez entertaining and informative (As for the team they cover… that’s a different story). That’s the idea that CBS and Turner Sports had in mind, one would think, when they decided they would air three different telecasts for the two 2014 Final Four games. There will be a standard broadcast airing on TBS that will likely feature CBS’ top announcing crew of Steve Kerr, Greg Anthony, Jim Nantz and Tracy Wolfson. The other two broadcasts will use announcers and “camera angles” to accommodate the fan bases of the competing teams (The national championship game will still be carried solely on CBS). Who will be selected to call the TNT and TruTV telecasts is yet to be determined, according to a report from Sports Business Journal, but it should also be noted that Turner and CBS expect to air one set of advertisements at the same time across the three productions.

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RTC Preseason Awards: National Player and Freshman of the Year

Posted by Chris Johnson (@chrisdjohnsonn) on November 6th, 2013

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Among the horde of talented players entering and returning to college basketball this season, arguably none of them will be more entertaining to watch than Marcus Smart and Andrew Wiggins. There are plenty of names worth tracking, to be sure. Julius Randle at Kentucky, Doug McDermott at Creighton, Russ Smith at Louisville and myriad others deserve recognition. But if forced to single out two players, two guys to follow intently from November to March, you should pick Smart and Wiggins. Rush the Court’s preseason awards panel did exactly that when it elected Smart as college basketball’s preseason National Player of the Year and Wiggins as its Freshman of the Year. But not even those awards – which, in case you weren’t aware, are the two most prestigious individual honors college basketball players can receive in the preseason – capture what will make watching Smart and Wiggins so interesting this season. They tell us that Smart and Wiggins are projected to light up college hoops with their transcendent talent, but they don’t account for the dynamic that exists between the two players. RTC panelists might not have factored this into their thinking when casting their votes, either, but I’ll attempt to lay out precisely why this interplay, this wavelength that exists between two preseason All-Americans, is going to be so fun to watch this season.

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The NBA

Though Wiggins will enter college basketball one season after Smart did, both will be selected in the first round of the 2014 draft. Why am I able to make that statement with such certainty? For one, Smart already admitted he will jump to the pros after this season, telling Yahoo! Sports Mark Spears in July, “It’s safe to say that if, by the grace of God I’m healthy and everything, this will be my last year at Oklahoma State.” Wiggins made nearly the same admission last month when he told ESPN The Magazine’s Elena Bergeron that two of his goals this season were to “win another championship, a national championship,” and “follow in Anthony Bennett’s footsteps of going No.1.” Wiggins also, in responding to a question about what he’s enjoyed most since arriving at Kansas, said, “I would say just being able to enjoy my last year of school.” So that just about settles it, right? Wiggins and Smart will be selected in next June’s NBA Draft, both of whom likely going in the top-half of the first round. There are a score of NBA teams that believe this draft class is so good – that believe players like Wiggins and Smart, among others, can be so transformative and uplifting at the next level – that they are actively trying to lose games to better their chances of landing one of the first few picks in the lottery. Don’t believe tanking is real? Can’t quite comprehend what all this “Riggin’ for Wiggins” nonsense is about? One acclaimed NBA Draft analyst has devoted an entire feature to categorizing the statuses of various teams’ tanking strategies. Throwing away seasons – and, in the process, willfully disregarding the interests of most fans, people who would rather not be shown an inferior product 41 nights a year and couldn’t care less about cap space and shedding payroll and smart, long-view personnel blueprints – might sound crazy, and when you really think about it, the fact the system is constructed in a way that not only does not deter, but actually encourages intentional losing, is sickening.

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Can Tennessee Emerge as a National Player This Season?

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 6th, 2013

The top two finishers in the SEC this season are easy to project: Kentucky and Florida. The Wildcats, who welcome in arguably the greatest recruiting class of all-time – one built on the backs of six McDonald’s All-Americans and three players ranked No. 1 at their respective positions – are the odds-on favorite to win the league, while Florida, with its potent mix of veterans, freshmen and transfers, should pose a fierce challenge for first place. The SEC is more top-heavy than every other major conference (other than, maybe, the Big 12); no objective observer truly believes anyone other than Kentucky or Florida will win the regular season championship. But is there a third team that can at least make some noise on the national scene? A squad that can give Florida and Kentucky fits in conference play, if not knock them off once or twice over the course of the season?

With Stokes and Maymon anchoring the Vols’ frontcourt, Tennessee will be a tough out in SEC play (AP Photo).

Let’s name some candidates. LSU brings back first team all-SEC forward Johnny O’Bryant III, junior guard Anthony Hickey and adds six players, including five-star forward Jarrell Martin, from a top-10 recruiting class. Frank Haith has Missouri positioned for another upper-tier league finish thanks to a host of transfers, the best of them Tulsa import Jordan Clarkson, who averaged 15.6 points per game for the Golden Hurricane two years ago. Arkansas and Alabama will win their share of games. But none of those teams are as promising as Tennessee, a team that has yet to qualify for the NCAA Tournament since a flurry of recruiting violations resulted in Bruce Pearl’s firing in 2011. Left to pick up the pieces was Cuonzo Martin, the former Missouri State coach who, while fielding competitive, talented, dangerous teams in his two years at UT – the Vols have finished at least .500 in SEC play, and won at least 19 games overall, in consecutive seasons – has not elevated Tennessee to the lofty national stature it enjoyed under Pearl (lest we forget: It was only five years ago that the Volunteers briefly inhabited the No. 1 spot in the polls). Tennessee should make the NCAA Tournament this season. Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes comprise one of the best frontcourts in the country, wings Jordan McRae and true freshman Robert Hubbs III offer more perimeter firepower than most teams could ever hope to wield, and Memphis transfer Antonio Barton should fill in capably at point guard for Trae Golden, who transferred to Georgia Tech. That’s a talented starting five, and while Tennessee may lack depth, there’s no reason it shouldn’t crack the SEC’s top three this season.

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20 Questions: Does Michigan’s Mitch McGary Deserve to be a Preseason All-American?

Posted by Chris Johnson (@chrisdjohnsonn) on November 6th, 2013

seasonpreview-1There is nothing objectively wrong with the five names selected for the Associated Press Preseason All-American team. You can argue the merits of every selection, I suppose, but that’s probably not the best use of anyone’s time. The poll is an inherently subjective entity. A group of writers see teams and players they believe deserve special recognition and vote accordingly. Preference – not a secret formula or wins and loss records or point averages – explains selections. And in the preseason, speculation about which players and teams will perform well is the single biggest factor involved in poll selection. So when lists like these are revealed, disagreeing with a player or team here and there is totally reasonable. That’s why so many media outlets publish “power rankings.” But saying one team’s placement on a poll is flat-out wrong doesn’t really make much sense. Selections can be questionable – baffling, even. But can they be wrong? Like, 2 + 2=5 wrong? No. No, they can’t.

Arguing for or against McGary’s spot on the preseason All-American team inevitably leads to a dead end. (Getty)

Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to Michigan forward Mitch McGary, the most controversial selection on the AP’s team released Monday, which also includes Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins, Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart, Creighton senior Doug McDermott and Louisville senior Russ Smith. (And no, Wiggins’ spot on the preseason team is not more controversial than McGary’s. If this guy made it without playing a single minute of college basketball beforehand, then Wiggins – perhaps the most highly touted player to ever enter the modern college game, one all but guaranteed to be a top-three pick in the 2014 NBA Draft – deserves a spot. End of discussion. Welcome to the recruiting news-infused college hoops news cycle of 2013).

There are plenty of folks that think McGary, who received the lowest number of votes (34) of the five players chosen, doesn’t belong on the team. They see McGary as a flash in the pan, someone who got hot in March but doesn’t have the regular season numbers to back up the media love he’s getting. Someone America saw on the big stage and, with scant evidence to dispute the legitimacy of the 14.3 PPG, 10.7 RPG numbers he averaged in six NCAA Tournament games (thanks in large part to the casual sports fan’s general apathy toward every college hoops game before March), fell in love with. McGary can’t hold a candle to Wiggins, McDermott, Smith and Smart, the argument goes, because McGary barely existed before the NCAA Tournament started, and because there are so many other players more qualified than him.

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The NCAA is Changing — With or Without a Division IV

Posted by Chris Johnson (@chrisdjohnsonn) on November 4th, 2013

Division I college athletics are entering a period of change. Anyone who pays attention knows this to be true. And those who don’t, well, surprise! Acknowledging the prospect of change is one thing; knowing exactly how the NCAA will change is entirely another. As recently as this summer, conference commissioners hinted at the possibility of the formation of a new NCAA subdivision. It was to be called Division IV, reports suggested, and it would be created with the express purpose of allowing wealthier schools with more resources to operate under a different set of rules. The idea that all of Division I – whose institutions range from penny-pinching programs like Grambling State to, um, Texas —  should be forced to abide by the same rules always seemed silly. Conference commissioners were simply airing the obvious truth that’s been kept below the surface over years of clunky, uneven, inefficient NCAA governance.

Momentum behind the Division IV concept seems to have subsided. The possibility the NCAA will change remains high. (AP)

The big boys wanted their own sandbox to play in, somewhere the little guys couldn’t impede the passage of important measures such as cost-of-attendance stipends or unlimited training table meals. They wanted to be able to make decisions about rules and regulations without having to worry about smaller schools with comparatively microscopic budgets – including one so far removed from the major conference realm it asks its students to fork up extra money to help allay the “financial emergency” within its athletic department – getting in the way. All of this made sense. A new subdivision of college athletics was coming, and we were all going to need to learn how to live with it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Joseph Young Makes Oregon the Top Pac-12 Threat to Arizona

Posted by Chris Johnson (@chrisdjohnsonn) on October 28th, 2013

This is not the first time Dana Altman, Oregon’s fourth-year head coach, has used a one-year transfer to improve the Ducks’ roster. It happened in 2011-12, when guard Devoe Joseph and forward Olu Ashaolu, formerly of Minnesota and Louisiana Tech, respectively, combined to average 27 points and nine rebounds to help lead the Ducks to a 24-10 record. It happened last season, too, when former Rice big man Arsalan Kazemi gave Oregon a tough frontcourt complement to its deep backcourt while leading the nation in defensive rebounding percentage (29.0%). Using one-year transfers on a yearly basis might not seem like a viable long-term strategy, but it doesn’t have to be. At some point, Altman ostensibly hopes, Oregon will have won enough games and wooed enough elite high school basketball players with its glimmering facilities and Nike-sponsored “Tall Firs” court, that it won’t need to tap the transfer market to repopulate its roster with top-end talent. It can just recruit those players straight out of high school, because Oregon will be a destination program, because prospects will value the campus in Eugene as harboring one of the top programs in the country. Altman is pushing Oregon in that direction, but the Ducks aren’t there yet. So in the meantime, the former Creighton coach will continue to welcome one-year transfers with open arms.

The addition of Young makes Oregon one of the top contenders in the Pac 12 (AP).

The addition of Young makes Oregon one of the top contenders in the Pac 12 (AP).

The latest additions are former UNLV (and UCLA) forward and Portland native Mike Moser, former Detroit guard Jason Calliste and former Houston guard Joseph Young. All three should play a big role in helping Oregon push Arizona at the top of the Pac-12 this season, and two of them, Calliste and Moser, knew they’d be able to play for the Ducks right away this season thanks to the NCAA’s graduate transfer clause. Young was a different story; he needed the NCAA to grant a hardship waiver – based on the claim that his father, Michael Young, a member of Houston’s great Phi Slama Jama teams from the early-1980s, was reassigned from his position as director of basketball operations with the Cougars, a decision that prompted his departure from the program. Joseph argued that his father’s exit was a “hardship” sufficient to forgo the one-year holdover penalty most undergraduate transfers face – in order to play for the Ducks this season. On Friday, two days after the governing body settled one of the most baffling transfer waiver cases in recent memory, the NCAA declared Young eligible for the upcoming season. In 32 games for Houston last year, Young averaged 18.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 42 percent from three, 87.5 percent from the free throw line, and posting a 124.1 offensive rating, which ranked one spot outside the top-25 such marks in the country. He joins what was – already without Young – one of the best backcourts in the country, as point guard Dominic Artis, wing Damyeon Dotson and Calliste form a deep and athletic group. Young and Calliste’s additions also address one of the Ducks’ main flaws from last season: three-point shooting. Oregon shot just 33.3 percent from deep, a number Altman’s two backcourt transfers – and possibly Moser, if he can shoot more like he did two years ago (33.1 percent) than last season (26.7) – should improve.

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20 Questions: Where Does Gonzaga Go After Last Season’s Highs and Lows?

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 22nd, 2013

seasonpreview-11

Throughout the preseason, RTC national columnists will answer the 20 most compelling questions heading into the 2013-14 season. Previous columns in this year’s series are located here.  

At certain moments last season, Gonzaga looked like a team that could make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. It had all the necessary pieces: a great backcourt (Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell), a talented frontcourt (Elias Harris, Sam Dower, and Kelly Olynyk), a gritty defensive specialist (Mike Hart), and enough role players, it seemed, to bang with the sort of deep and athletic teams that had occasionally overwhelmed Mark Few’s teams of years past. The Bulldogs also had an impressive stack of non-conference wins to stick on their resume, victories over Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Davidson, Kansas State and Baylor (no, Baylor didn’t make the NCAAs, but that win sure looked good at the time!). It felt like this was the Gonzaga team that would, for the first time since Few replaced Dan Monson as head coach in 1999, roll on past the Sweet Sixteen. The 2012-13 Bulldogs, which had earned an NCAA #1 seed after obliterating the West Coast Conference competition – the Zags finished 16-0 in WCC play – seemed well-positioned to take the next step. Some believed Gonzaga had National Championship potential. Others were less optimistic. The consensus, though, was that this Gonzaga team was, for lack of a more descriptive word, good. Not just good like most of Few’s Gonzaga teams, but good enough to hang with the very best teams in the country.

One of the nation’s best backcourts is is led by Pangos, a two-time All-WCC honoree.

The subset of college hoops fans that believed Gonzaga was undeserving of its No. 1 seed were validated just two games into the NCAA Tournament when the Bulldogs fell to No. 9 seed and eventual Final Four participant Wichita State. In fact, charges that Gonzaga was overrated surfaced even before it lost to Wichita State; the Bulldogs’ narrow six-point win over Southern in the round of 64 was proof enough, for some, that Few’s team wasn’t a real national championship contender. Whenever you happened to jump off the bandwagon – if you jumped off it in the first place – there’s no denying that part of the reason Gonzaga lost to Wichita State had less to do with its own capabilities than it did an insanely well-timed shooting hot streak from the Shockers, who scored 23 points in nine possessions during a ridiculous second-half run. Maybe Gonzaga could have played better defense, and maybe a team like Louisville, whose swarming traps last season (0.83 points per possession) was some of the finest work on that end of the floor that any team has produced in the past decade, would have short-circuited the Shockers’ run. But when a team gets as hot as Wichita State did in that pivotal stretch, and three-point shots start dropping like free throws, you basically have no choice but to tip your cap and go home. In the moment, of course, the same old Gonzagian critiques flooded the national conversation: Just like I predicted! Gonzaga can’t play with the big boys! I knew it! Which, OK. Gonzaga was knocked out earlier than it should have been, but if we’re going to label last year’s Gonzaga team like the others that came before it – like the ones that stacked up easy regular season wins but weren’t prepared to handle the heat of the NCAA Tournament – can we at least acknowledge the circumstances surrounding the Bulldogs’ early NCAA Tournament exit? Is it really fair to paint Gonzaga with such broad strokes, if the team that bounced it from the NCAAs was, 1) a couple possessions away from beating eventual National Champion Louisville in the Final Four; and, 2) the beneficiary of a crazy run of long-range shooting? Introducing some nuance would be nice.

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Don’t Forget About Me, America… Signed, Jabari Parker

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 21st, 2013

There are a few names that stand out among the loaded crop of freshman talent entering college basketball this season. Kansas signee Andrew Wiggins is the one you’ve heard most about. Kentucky’s Julius Randle is another headliner. And Aaron Gordon, who made waves this summer while winning MVP with Team USA at the Under-19 FIBA World Championships, has so many YouTube dunk reels that any college basketball fan with even a marginal interest in the art of the slam (and there are a lot) must have seen him on tape by now at least three times. There’s one other name that hasn’t received anywhere close to as much publicity as his looming impact on the upcoming college basketball season – and the ACC and national championship pictures – merits: Jabari Parker. It’s a strange thing, really, that Parker is being overlooked in conversations about this year’s top freshmen. Don’t get me wrong, college hoops diehards and recruitniks have known about Parker for years. Most casual sports fans should remember him, too. He was only on the front cover of, like, the most popular sports magazine in the United States – his 6’8″ frame draped in a yellow Simeon high school uniform, plastered in front of a murky Chicago skyline, the words “The best high school basketball player since LeBron James is… ” printed beside him. (Perhaps Wiggins’ recent appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated distracted attention from Parker’s placement in the same magazine?)

Don't Forget About Me, America. (credit: RNO)

Parker Introduced Himself at Duke Friday Night (credit: RNO)

That edition came out less than two years ago (May 2012, to be exact). People should remember. Instead, most of the hype about this year’s insane freshman class has revolved around Wiggins, Gordon and Randle – with a late push from Kentucky wing James Young, a player Wildcats coach John Calipari believes has a chance to be the No. 1 pick in next summer’s draft, according to ESPN college hoops writer Jason King. None of those players is expected to flop in their first respective (and probably last) seasons of college hoops. These aren’t ordinary top-ranked recruits; they are recruits ranked near the top of one of the greatest recruiting classes of all-time. The guys being talked about most frequently should be great – tremendous talents with bright professional futures. To use standard recruiting terminology, none of them, most experts assure, will be “busts.” Not Wiggins, not Randle, not Gordon.

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20 Questions: Can Michigan Remain Great Without Trey Burke?

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 18th, 2013

seasonpreview (1)

Throughout the preseason, RTC national columnists will answer the 20 most compelling questions heading into the 2013-14 season. Previous columns in this year’s series are located here.   

Replacing Trey Burke will be hard. Michigan fans have no doubt heard this statement plenty of times since the Wolverines’ exhilarating national championship game run ended in Atlanta last April, and they’re going to hear it a few more times before the season tips off in three weeks. Not only was Burke the best player on his own team, he was, according to most national award voters, the best player in the country. It is impossible to replace a player that good, that impactful, in the span of one offseason; all Michigan can hope to do is to mitigate his departure. But before we get into how the Wolverines will attempt to recreate Burke’s production, let’s have a statistical look back at his incredible 2012-13 season. While playing 87.5 percent of Michigan’s available minutes, Burke posted an offensive rating of 121.2 (52nd in the country), assisted on 37.3 percent of his team’s buckets (23rd) and used up 29 percent of available possessions (66th). All of which translates thusly: Burke played a lot, scored a lot, had a lot of assists, and did all of it efficiently.

The Wolverines should adjust to life without Burke while maintaining their status as a top-tier BIg Ten outfit (Getty Images).

The Wolverines should adjust to life without Burke while maintaining their status as a top-tier BIg Ten outfit (Getty Images).

There is no Michigan player capable of replicating that statistical profile – which ranked second in Ken Pomeroy’s final player of the year standings, behind (believe it or not) Louisville guard Russ Smith. That’s fine, because the Wolverines don’t need an All-American point guard to remain one of the best teams in the Big Ten. They have plenty of firepower returning at other spots. For a few weeks after the season, as the NBA Draft loomed and several Michigan players – including Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, both in position to parlay the momentum of standout March performances into likely first-round selections – debated leaving school, it appeared as if John Beilein might need to hunker down for a bit of a rebuild. Then Robinson and McGary announced their respective returns, and the repercussions of Burke’s departure didn’t feel quite as drastic. That duo’s decision ensured Michigan would stay relevant in what’s almost sure to be another brutal Big Ten. The matter of replacing Burke, of course, can’t be addressed by Robinson or McGary, nor does Michigan have a star point guard waiting in the wings, another surefire first-round pick capable of reprising Burke’s ridiculous production from last season.

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20 Questions: Can Andrew Wiggins Possibly Live Up to the Hype?

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 14th, 2013

seasonpreview (1)

Throughout the preseason, RTC national columnists will answer the 20 most compelling questions heading into the 2013-14 season.  

The spotlight Andrew Wiggins will face over the next six months will be unlike anything any college basketball player has ever experienced. Not only is Wiggins being hyped as the best college player since Kevin Durant, he is doing so in an age where a powerful combination of social and online media has – before Wiggins ever plays a single minute of college basketball – catapulted the already insane expectations about his first season to stratospheric heights. Wiggins is, by all accounts, an exceptional talent. Scouts rave about his athleticism, versatility and defensive potential. They see the most physically gifted high school basketball player since LeBron James. And over the next six months, maybe Wiggins will prove to be everything smart basketball people think he can be: a generational, franchise-altering, cant-miss superstar.

The hype surrounding Andrew Wiggins will be deafening (Getty Images).

The hype surrounding Andrew Wiggins will be deafening (Getty Images).

Or maybe he won’t. The expectations are already so high, it’s almost impossible to think he can be what everyone expects. Early reports out of Kansas are that Wiggins may not even be the best player on his own team right now. Drawing conclusions from preseason practice is silly; Wiggins should, and probably will, be Kansas’ best player in 2013-14. That title carries its own set of expectations: Can Wiggins extend the Jayhawks’ nine-year conference championship streak? Will coach Bill Self be able to use Wiggins to help elevate a team replacing five starters deep into March? More challenging is how other teams and players will view Wiggins. Every time Wiggins takes the floor, the guys lining up on the other side of the court will have one goal in mind: stop Andrew Wiggins. It’s inevitable; everyone will want a piece of the “next LeBron,” will want to guard him, to shut him down, to dunk on him, to jeer him every time he touches the ball. It will become something like its own game-within-the-game: Everyone will be coming after Andrew Wiggins.

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Is Rick Barnes a Dead Man Walking at Texas?

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 10th, 2013

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

By the start of next college football season, two of the sport’s most high-profile jobs will have new coaches. One of them (USC) already fired its former coach, Lane Kiffin, and has presumably begun searching for a replacement. The other (Texas) has yet to dump longtime coach Mack Brown, but unless the Longhorns can engineer a miraculous midseason turnaround and win the Big 12 – and even that may not be enough to save Brown’s job – it’s all but guaranteed he too will be gone by the end of the season. That seems even more likely after former Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds, a longtime supporter of Brown, resigned last week. Both of these job searches will be fascinating to observe; it’s been a long time since two true titans of the sport have undergone head coaching changes. We’re more concerned about the college hoops side of things here, but that doesn’t mean we need to stop talking about coaching turnover. USC hired a new head coach, Dunk City orchestrator Andy Enfield, in April, and Texas enters the season with Rick Barnes’ coaching hot seat simmering. That was the general consensus following Texas’ 16-18 finish (and NCAA Tournament miss) last season, but the possibility seems even greater after comments published in Sports Illustrated reporter Pete Thamel’s recent article on the Texas athletic department shined a critical light on Barnes and Longhorns basketball. One damning assessment came from an unnamed high-ranking Texas official: “I can’t imagine [Barnes] turning it around.”

Will Rick Barnes last beyond this season? (Getty Images)

Will Rick Barnes last beyond this season? (Getty Images)

There were other harsh statements regarding Barnes included in Thamel’s piece (along with a number of unquoted characterizations from Thamel himself), and taken together, they seemed to paint a picture of a program in desperate need of a coaching change. Over 15 seasons at the school, Barnes has led the Longhorns to three Big 12 regular season championships, made four Sweet Sixteens, two Elite Eights and one Final Four. He has brought in elite high school players like Kevin Durant, Avery Bradley, Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph and Damion James. His teams almost always – even last season, when it ranked sixth in effective field goal percentage defense – play some of the toughest defense in the country. As C.J. Moore of Basketball Prospectus points out, Texas has finished in the top 10 of Ken Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency rankings in 10 of the last 11 seasons. If that’s all true, why have the Longhorns struggled so much lately?

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Jim Boeheim’s Stance Toward Paying Athletes is One Side of a Controversial Topic

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 4th, 2013

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

When people disagree about whether student-athletes should be compensated for their performance, rarely is there room for compromise. Either student-athletes should be paid, because the NCAA is exploitative and a price-fixing mechanism that precludes its laborers from realizing their true market value, or they should not, because getting a “free education” at an esteemed university is a sweet deal most non-athletes are not entitled to. What most people don’t seem to understand, is that the argument is not a zero-sum game; there is plenty of room between both sides of the debate, latitude for mediation and making concessions. Student-athletes can be compensated without signing contracts, for instance. More often than not, people are so fixated on their own position, they are unwilling to listen to even the mere suggestion of the opposite one. Advocates of a change to the college-athlete economic status quo are, by and large, resistant to hear out arguments for why amateurism is an essential, ironclad part of college sports. And vice versa. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is not a member of the former group. He made that clear while talking at a meeting of Associated Press meeting of New York newspaper editors.

It's clear Boeheim doesn't believe student-athletes should be paid (US Presswire)

It’s clear Boeheim doesn’t believe student-athletes should be paid (US Presswire)

“That’s really the most idiotic suggestion of all time,” Boeheim said. “I don’t believe players should be paid. I believe they are getting a tremendous opportunity.”

To defend his position, Boeheim cited former Michigan star and five-time NBA All-Star power forward Chris Webber’s high-profile two-year stint with the Wolverines, where he received a free education from an elite university and benefited from untold amounts of national exposure. He also posited a solution for the most common argument for student-athlete compensation, saying players in need of financial assistance are entitled to multi-thousand-dollar Pell Grants. Boeheim has been around college sports a long time. Since joining the Orange as a walk-on guard in 1962, Boeheim has been involved with Syracuse in some capacity, from his seven-year assistant stint (1969-76) to his current 37-year run as one of the sport’s all-time great head coaches. In his earlier years, discussions of athlete compensation did not happen anywhere near as frequently as they do now – if they even happened at all. Amateurism was an accepted part of college athletics. The discourse has irrevocably changed since, and it appears the NCAA – if Ed O’Bannon and his plaintiffs are, as expected, granted class certification – will be forced to at least revise its stance toward denying student-athletes compensation beyond grants-in-aid. That probably won’t make Boeheim very happy, but then again, there is a chance the 68-year-old coach will have retired by the time the NCAA’s policy toward student-athlete compensation is tweaked (or overhauled completely).

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