Morning Five: 11.10.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 10th, 2014

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  1. The 2004 USC football team might have some company soon after Dan Kane’s latest piece on the North Carolina academic scandal showed just how pervasive the academic fraud was on the 2005 North Carolina basketball team that won the national title. According to Kane, five members of that team–four of whom are labeled as “key players”–enrolled in 35 bogus classes with nine of them in the fall semester and 26 in the spring semester when they were on their way to winning the national title. The names of those five individuals have not been released, but we think it is safe to assume that Rashad McCants was one of them since he has come clean with his involvement in it. As for the other three “key players” they would have to include at least one other pretty big name as that UNC team only have seven players other than McCants even score 100 points the entire season. Regardless of which players were actually involved we cannot imagine the NCAA handling this any other way than to vacate that national title.
  2. Three teams–Virginia, Mississippi, and San Diego State–will be without significant pieces to start the season. At Virginia, junior forward Evan Nolte (2.8 points per game last season) and sophomore guard London Perrantes (5.5 points and team-leading 3.8 assists per game last season) were suspended for two preseason scrimmages and the team’s season-opener at James Madison for violation of team rules over the summer. At Mississippi, senior forward Aaron Jones (team leader with 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocker per game last season) was suspended for three games–an exhibition game and the first two regular season games–following a violation of team rules. The issue at San Diego State is not a suspension instead it is an injury as sophomore forward Matt Shrigley (5.2 points per game last season) will be out for a month after suffering a “small fracture” in his left elbow after being on the receiving end of a flagrant foul during an exhibition game.
  3. In this space we talk a lot about players getting suspended. What we don’t talk about very often is coaches having the sit out suspension. So that makes the decision by Kennesaw State to suspend Jimmy Lallathin for one game for a self-reported violation by the program interesting. What makes it even more interesting (or amusing depending on your point of view) is that Lallathin’s has not even coached a game as the official head coach yet. He did go 3-13 over the final two months of last season acting as an interim coach following the departure of Lewis Preston on January 3. And just to make the suspension a little more bizarre, the Kennesaw State administration decided to suspend Lallathin for the second game of the season–against California–so he will be available for their season-opener–against Syracuse.
  4. It always seems like the NCAA comes down to the wire with its decision regarding the eligibility of certain players. The case of Louisville freshman Shaqquan Aaron appears to be no different as he is still waiting to receive a response from the NCAA with the Cardinals opener coming up on Wednesday. Aaron, a top-30 recruit, reportedly submitted the final documents for the NCAA to review on Friday (truthfully, in most cases the timing of these decisions is probably more the fault of the player and his family than the NCAA) and is hopeful that he will get a (positive) response in time for Wednesday’s game against Minnesota. Even if he doesn’t start for the Cardinals, his presence should add some depth to the Cardinals in an area they need some more help.
  5. With all this talk of who won’t be available to start the season and who shouldn’t have been able to play nearly a decade ago, we do have one bit of positive news on Monday as BYU forward Kyle Collinsworth was cleared to play again after tearing his right ACL at the end of last season. Collinsworth, who averaged 14 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game last season while being named All-WCC, is a huge addition for the Cougars even if he is not back to full strength when the season starts. He probably won’t be enough to make the Cougars competitive with Gonzaga this season, but should make them a threat for second place in the conference and a possible NCAA Tournament bid.
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Morning Five: 11.07.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 7th, 2014

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  1. We have been focusing quite a bit on the academic scandals at North Carolina and Syracuse quite a bit recently, but the one that is reported to to have occurred at Southern Mississippi might lead to more immediate repercussions. According to Jason King, current Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall is alleged to have used a scheme where “Prop 48″ recruits were reimbursed for tuition, living expenses, and other fees prior to qualifying for scholarships. At issue is the way these recruits were reimbursed. As Gary Parrish points out it would be relatively easy for a program to pull something similar off, but it would require more subtlety. While potential NCAA sanctions against Southern Mississippi are obviously a concern, we are almost more interested in what will happen at Tennessee where they hired Tyndall in the wake of Cuonzo Martin’s departure and are still in the shadow of Bruce Pearl’s NCAA violations. We wouldn’t put it on the level of Rutgers’ inability to vet candidates, but it might not be that far off.
  2. If you are a regular reader of the Morning Five, you are already somewhat familiar with our opinion of the graduate transfer waiver. The rule essentially allows a player who completes an undergraduate degree with eligibility remaining to transfer to another institution without having to sit out a year as long as they are enrolling in a graduate degree program that is not available at their previous school. The NCAA decided to look into how often those individuals actually complete the degree and the numbers are not pretty. Of the graduate student transfers they were able to track between 2011 and 2012, only 32% of men’s basketball players graduated from those programs and 59% withdrew as soon as their eligibility expired. We would be interested in seeing more details on this, but these statistics add ammunition to those who question the true intent behind many of these graduate student transfers. This is not to say that the waiver should be eliminated, but that schools and coaches who claim to oppose it should probably take a better look at the apparent intents of these transfers if they want to keep talking about being educational institutions.
  3. Many consider Ivy League sports archaic, but few would consider their rules as being detrimental to education. That is except in the case of Columbia forward Alex Rosenberg, who will miss the upcoming season after suffering a Jones fracture in his right foot and withdrew from school this year due to an Ivy League rule that makes it essentially impossible to get a medical redshirt. On some level we understand the theory that the student-athlete should be there for school first and staying a fifth year just to play basketball seems to be a fairly trivial thing, but in a situation like this it is actually hindering his educational experience. On the bright side, it will mean that Columbia should get Rosenberg, who was a first-team All-Ivy selection last season while averaging 16 points per game on 43 percent from 3-point range, for the full 2015-16 season rather than just part of this season at most. Given the way that the Ivy League awards its automatic bid–regular season champ–this solution might work out for the best for Columbia.
  4. We can always count on the NCAA to make rulings much more complex than they need to be. Yesterday, Wisconsin put out a press release saying that forward Duje Dukan had regained a year of eligibility and would be able to play this season. As Eric Clark points out, the issue is more complex than that as Dukan was denied a medical redshirt for mononucleosis during the 2012-13 season, but played in a secret scrimmage and an exhibition game that year before shutting down for the season. Although the NCAA is giving Dukan his season back they are saying that he will have to sit out for two games this season (basically two games for every game he played that year with the secret scrimmage apparently not counting toward that total). In the end, Dukan missing games against Northern Kentucky and Chattanooga will not matter in the overall picture for Wisconsin’s season, but it does serve to highlight the absurdity of some of the NCAA’s rules.
  5. With the way that everything in sports are being commercialized, we do find it a little interesting that Bill Raftery is just getting around to filing a trademark for some of his (not quite yet) trademark phrases. Raftery is applying for trademarks for the phrases “Onions” and “With a kiss” when used during a sports broadcast or on athletic apparel. Given how well Raftery is associated with those phrases it certainly makes sense for him to cash in and collect a little money for himself and his family going forward. We are a little surprised he didn’t apply for a trademark for “Send it in, Jerome”, but we guess there are not that many situations where you could use that.
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Morning Five: 11.05.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 5th, 2014

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  1. It was less than a five days ago that everything seemed calm at Indiana. Then early on Saturday morning, sophomore Devin Davis was run over by freshman Emmitt Holt, who was charged with driving under the influence. Davis, who was rushed to the hospital in critical condition and now appears to be on his way to recovering, was cited in the police report as being primarily responsible for the accident. Not much after news broke of Davis’ recovery, Tom Crean announced that sophomores Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson had been suspended for four games each in what has been reported as being the result of multiple failed drug tests. These incidents combined with a couple of earlier arrests for alcohol use led some individuals including former Hoosier guard and coach Dan Dakich to question Crean’s job security. We agree that Crean’s job shouldn’t be that secure after all these off-the-court issues, but doubt that this would be the primary reason for his dismissal as schools have shown on many occasions that they care more about the bottom line than the optics of their school.
  2. With yesterday being election day across the country, there were plenty of political pundits voicing their opinion to anybody who would listen (and many who wouldn’t). What we did not expect was for Mike Krzyzewski to voice an opinion–that President Obama was mismanaging the ISIS crisis–that would make national headlines. To be fair to Krzyzewski, the comments were made last month in front of an audience of military officers, defense contractors, and others in reference to the President’s pledge to not use ground troops in the fight. This is not the first time that Krzyzewski has been critical of President Obama as he has chided Obama for spending time on a NCAA Tournament bracket (that doesn’t pick Duke to win) instead of focusing on fixing the economy. While those comments were more in jest we would be interested to see the interaction Krzyzewski and Obama have if the Blue Devils win the NCAA title this year and are invited to the White House.
  3. It turns out that North Carolina might have more than just the NCAA to worry about in the wake of its recent academic scandal. While some UNC fans have been worried about the NCAA handing down its version of the death penalty, they (at least the ones who care about the institution more than just the sports programs) should probably care more about an upcoming review by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges. The group that does not deal specifically with sports had already issued a report about the academic scandal in 2012 suggesting that the school offer courses to make up for the fraudulent one many students took. Now with the findings of the Wainstein report public they are taking another look given the findings of the unprecedented scope. The sanctions can range from a warning (essentially a slap on the wrist) to removal of accreditation (a real death penalty that means a school can no longer receive accreditation). We are not sure how often the group has decided to remove accreditation, but it would typically lead to a school having to shut down. Now we doubt that the group would do something that would make such an institution as significant as UNC essentially die, but as the group noted the scope of the scandal is unprecedented.
  4. With the season about to get started we will start hearing more from people like Ken Pomeroy since they will have new data to analyze, On Monday, we mentioned how useless preseason polls were. It turns out that we were only partially right. Looking back at the AP preseason poll since 1990, Pomeroy found out that the order of teams ranked above 15 matters to a degree, but below that the order is essentially meaningless in terms of its predictive value. The analysis compares a team’s preseason ranking to its NCAA Tournament seed, which is probably more reflective of the quality of their season overall than just how far they advance in the NCAA Tournament. So while we still question the degree of interest in preseason polls it turns out that they do have some value.
  5. The hits just keep coming for Hawaii. Fortunately for the school’s athletic director and everybody associated with it they are still located in Hawaii. Less than a week after the school fired head coach Gib Arnold and assistant coach Brandyn Akana, star forward Isaac Fotu announced that he was leaving the school to play professionally after the school had ruled that he was ineligible to play pending the results of a NCAA investigation. Given how slowly the NCAA typically works on these matters we do not necessarily fault Fotu, a first team All-Big West player who averaged 14.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, for leaving rather than wait for the NCAA to hand down its judgement and look forward to playing for an interim coach if he was even cleared to play. We are not privy to the details of what Fotu is being investigated for (reportedly impermissible benefits), but Fotu has stated that he has hired an attorney to clear his name, which at this point is somewhat inconsequential since he will be off somewhere getting paid to play basketball.
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Morning Five: 11.03.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 3rd, 2014

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  1. It was a scary weekend at Indiana after sophomore Devin Davis was run over by a car driven by freshman Emmitt Holt early on Saturday morning. The details of what exactly transpired are unclear, but it appears that Holt dropped off Davis and soon afterwards Davis walked onto the road where Holt ran him over. Holt, who is 18, was charged with illegal consumption of and operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content above 0.02  (the Indiana legal limit is 0.08, but 0.02 for those under 21 even though it is technically illegal for anybody under the age of 21 to have alcohol–yes, we know underage kids drink). After initial concerns about how serious Davis’ injuries were it appears that he is doing better as he is able to talk and use all of his extremities. It is way too early to speculate about when or even if Davis can return to the court, but we wish him the best of luck in his recovery. As for Holt, we are not sure what the future holds for him in Bloomington, but we doubt we will be seeing him playing a game for the Hooisers any time in the near future.
  2. Arizona may have picked up a big piece in its quest for a national championship late last week when the NCAA announced that Dusan Ristic had been cleared to play this year. Ristic had played in the Adriatic League and Eurocup, which led to questions about his amateur eligibility, but never signed a contract. The Wildcats who were already loaded now add a 7′ center who was the MVP of the Nike International Junior Tournament in 2013 after averaging 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Even if he doesn’t replace Kaleb Tarczewski in the starting lineup he will add depth to a frontline that will be one of the best in the country.
  3. On the surface, the announcement that Conner Frankamp is transferring from Kansas might seem like a minor issue (and it probably is), but as Brian Goodman points out it does raise some issues with the Jayhawks’ backcourt depth early in the season. Frankamp, who was actually the #34 recruit in his class according to Rivals, left due to concerns about playing time. After averaging just 2.5 points and 0.6 assists per game as a freshman last season at a program that loads up on talent like Kansas does, we can understand his concern. As for Kansas, although there are certainly some questions regarding that backcourt we know better than to question Bill Self.
  4. On Friday, Syracuse completed its initial hearing with the NCAA Committee on Infractions regarding allegations of violations of internal drug policy and academic issues. While the school offered very little in the way of clarity about the allegations or what was discussed/revealed at the hearing, the school did point out that no current student-athletes are part of the investigation. The school is expected to hear from the NCAA in 30 to 60 days, which is probably the next time we will hear anything about this story. Now if only that other big investigation in the ACC could move to this stage.
  5. We are not sure what the big deal about preseason polls is other than to serve as bulletin board material and fodder for message boards (yes, we will have one out pretty soon too), but the AP released its preseason poll on Friday and as expected it did not contain any surprisesKentucky, Arizona, and Wisconsin topped the poll taking all 65 available first-place votes. While these are interesting at some level they serve even less purpose than the useless college football ones that at least used to affect the BCS system. The one purpose they do serve is that they offer writers an easy reference for a column when a team is a surprise or disappointment.
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Morning Five: 10.31.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 31st, 2014

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  1. Zach Lofton‘s time at Minnesota was very short-lived. The Illinois State transfer, who would have had to sit out this season as a transfer after averaging 11.3 points and 3 rebounds per game last season, was kicked off the team yesterday. The reasons for Lofton’s dismissal are unclear, but he is still on scholarship at the school and can remain at the school to pursue his undergraduate degree so we are assuming it was something that wasn’t too serious as in it was not due to an arrest. We are not sure what Lofton’s plans are, but we are assuming that he won’t be staying at Minnesota.
  2. Yesterday, Florida announced that John Egbunu, a transfer from South Florida, will have to sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules. Egbunu, who averaged 7.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as a freshman last season, was a top-60 prospect coming out of high school. We are not sure what basis the Florida staff was hoping to use in order to get Egbunu a waiver, but they should be able to survive without him this season as they already have a deep frontcourt.
  3. Connecticut junior guard Omar Calhoun is expected to miss at least a week after spraining the MCL in his right knee. Calhoun injured the knee during a Sunday practice, but a subsequent MRI revealed that there was no significant structural damage. Calhoun has reportedly recovered completely from the bilateral hip impingement surgery that limited his production as a sophomore. The Huskies appear to be set for their starting backcourt with Ryan Boatright and Rodney Purvis, but Calhoun could be a key reserve for the team.
  4. St. John’s announced yesterday that junior college transfer Keith Thomas would not be academically eligible for this season. Thomas, who was an honorable mention NJCAA All-American while averaging 15.3 points and 15.7 rebounds per game last season, is the third player from Westchester Community College to either be ruled academically ineligible as the school’s academic credentials are being questioned (where have we heard this before?). The loss of Thomas is a big hit for the Red Storm as they lack many legitimate big men outside of Chris Obekpa.
  5. We aren’t exactly sure how much to read into Jeff Goodman’s report that several college basketball referees had accessed unauthorized information on a refereeing site. While some of that information like game schedules and how much certain referees were paid probably did not affect the way games were called, other information like comments that coaches made about certain officials certainly could have impacted the outcome of games. If this might seem a little far-fetched, it was just a year and a half ago that where the Pac-12 had a controversy because there were reports that the head of officiating attempted to get other officials to target Arizona coach Sean Miller. We doubt that this will lead to a similar revelation, but it should be the primary concern in a situation like this.
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Morning Five: 10.29.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 29th, 2014

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  1. With all of the talk about scholarship reform and of power conferences moving towards creating a separate division the news that the Pac-12 has passed a measure that would lead to significant reforms in scholarships is certainly noteworthy. Beginning with next season, all athletes receiving scholarships will be guaranteed four-year scholarship, be able to return to complete their degree if they do not graduate in four years, increased medical support, removing many of the restrictions on intra-conference transfers, and increased representation in conference governance. The conference also stated that it intends to provide cost of attendance stipends, which are expected to range between $2,000 and $5,000 per athlete. While we will need to see this in action to fully embrace it as reality, it appears to be a significant step towards scholarship reform and might lead other major conferences to follow suit.
  2. We are less than three weeks away from the college basketball season starting, but Central Connecticut State might have suffered a big blow with the news that Kyle Vinales had been suspended indefinitely following his arrest on Friday for disorderly conduct and third-degree assault. According to reports, Vinales is accused of hitting his girlfriend in the head as he was exiting her car slightly before midnight. Vinales was the team’s leading scorer last season at 17.3 points per game, which was actually a career low. While we normally brush off these indefinite suspensions the fact that Vinales is not due in court until December 5 could indicate that he could be sitting for at least the first three weeks of the season.
  3. At this point we are not sure how much further we can go with this recruiting announcement culture. On Monday night, Skal Labisserie, a five-star recruit in the class of 2015, announced that he would be attending Reach Your Dream Prep, a school that does not even exist yet, for his senior year. Labisserie’s story is a little more complex than committing to a non-existent school this late in the academic year. He will actually be attending Memphis’ Lausanne Collegiate School, but he was declared ineligible by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association. Now Labisserie and his legal guardian are trying to circumvent the system. While this might work to get him to play high school basketball we are not sure that it will fly with the NCAA.
  4. One of the things we have been looking forward to this season is how John Calipari would implement his idea of creating “platoons” for his deep Kentucky roster. On Monday, Calipari revealed his first draft of the platoons prior to the team’s annual Blue-White scrimmage with one group consisting of he Harrison twins, Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Derek Willis and the other made up of Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee, Dakari Johnson, and Dominique Hawkins. At this stage it appears that the former is well ahead of the latter as that group won the scrimmage 94-66. Although these groups intuitively make sense as the starting and second lines we would expect them to be dynamic as Calipari tinkers with them to make them more effective.
  5. Every year the NCAA’s report on the graduation rates of student-athletes are picked apart by many analysts eager to criticize the organization. This year is no different especially with several schools dealing with very public academic scandals. The headline numbers in the NCAA’s latest release show that student-athlete graduation rates have increased from 82% graduating in six years to 84% doing so (full searchable database here). The men’s college basketball numbers are less impressive with just 74% graduating, which is actually up by one percent from last year and a record for the sport. As critics point out these numbers just scratch the surface as some of these athletes who graduate are just kept eligible so they can produce for the university and sometimes are able to graduate without getting an education. Now an argument can be made that the diploma itself has some value as a signal mechanism that goes beyond just an education.
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Morning Five: 10.27.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 27th, 2014

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  1. Once North Carolina released the findings of the independent investigation into the widespread academic fraud at its institution the next obvious step was to hear from Roy Williams, who spoke about the issue at a press conference on Friday. Williams stated he “thought we were doing the right thing” at the time and noted his reported initial concerns about the high number of players from his 2005 title team that were so many African and Afro-American Studies majors. We aren’t sure whether we believe that Roy (or any other coach involved in this type of scandal) actually cared to know about what was going on or just preferred not to worry about the details of how the sausage was made in his program. The next step in this process is what the NCAA will do with the school. Dennis Dodd has already come out in favor of  the death penalty, but acknowledges that it won’t happen.  Given the widespread nature of the scandal we understand the sentiment, but find it unlikely that the NCAA would touch one of its sacred (cash) cows. Not to be outdone by their new ACC rivals, Syracuse already has its day(s) in (NCAA) court set for October 30 and 31. These allegations go back 10 years and involve both the men’s basketball and football programs with the biggest charges revolving around extra benefits and academic issues with the basketball team. We can’t wait for the weekly ACC conference calls.
  2. We knew that we would have to deal with teams losing players to the professional ranks at some point this season we just figured that it would be after the season actually started. Charlotte junior shooting guard Shawn Lester is leaving the program to pursue a professional basketball career. Carter, who was second on the team in scoring last year at 11.9 points per game, is reportedly looking for an agent with a plan on signing overseas. Even with the loss, the 49ers will still have four returning starters and ad Florida transfer Braxton Ogbueze as well as freshmen Keyshawn Woods and Torin Dorn Jr. Although Lester’s reasons for leaving are unclear (reportedly under the pretense of supporting his family financially), he is the fifth player to leave the program early since the end of the 2012-13 season.
  3. We are just a few weeks away from the start of college basketball season so we can only imagine the panic in Madison when it was reported that Sam Dekker sprained his left ankle at a Friday practice. Dekker, who averaged 12.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season and is a potential All-American, sprained his ankle during a 4-on-4 drill and is only expected to miss one to two weeks as he recovers. Fortunately Wisconsin has a relatively easy start to the season before they play Green Bay on November 19 at which point we would expect Dekker would be back at full strength based on the information that Wisconsin is providing.
  4. It won’t make up for the loss of Emmanuel Mudiay or (possibly) Markus Kennedy, but Southern Methodist got a boost when the NCAA ruled that Virginia Tech transfer Ben Emelogu had been granted a transfer waiver and would be eligible to play this season. Emelogu, who is from Dallas, averaged 10.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists as a freshman last season. Emelogu could also provide some stability to the team, which has been in flux the past few month as he actually was a team captain last season despite being only a freshman. If they can get Kennedy back, the Mustangs have the potential to be a dangerous team even if the person who was going to save them is on the other side of the planet.
  5. With all the crying about the rivalries lost with conference realignment a number of schools have figured out ways to keep those rivalries intact at least temporarily. The latest two school to do so are Connecticut and Georgetown, which will renew their rivalry for at least two years beginning with the 2015-16 season. The first game will be played on January 23, 2016 at the XL Center with the return date at the Verizon Center on January 21, 2017. While the rivalry might lack the history of others (remember Connecticut was nothing before Jim Calhoun got there), the Hoyas only lead the series 35-29 with the two schools each having a record seven Big East Tournament titles (something the Hoyas should be able to reclaim now that Connecticut is in the AAC). We are sure that we will be seeing plenty of clips of Allen Iverson and Ray Allen going at it in the lead up to these games.
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Morning Five: 10.23.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 23rd, 2014

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  1. It seems like every time we are almost about to forget about North Carolina‘s academic scandal another report comes out. The latest comes from a report commissioned by the school that alleges that the school’s academic counselors directed “student”-athletes to the sham courses. The courses, which have already been well-described in this space and many others like it, were designed to keep players eligible with a minimal amount of work. According to the report (all 136 pages of it), the classes were available to all students, but 48% of those enrolled were athletes in what has been described as an 18-year scheme that dates back to 1993. The school and the independent report appear to be shielding the coaches from this (you can figure out who the coach was back in 1993), but it seems like this would certainly fall under the “lack of institutional oversight” that the NCAA has used to nail schools to the wall in the past. It remains to be seen whether the NCAA will actually go after the school, but it would seem like they have plenty of ammunition to do so.
  2. Social media is great for making viral, but it is not very effective in correcting errors that have gone viral. One prime example of that were reports that Texas had decided to give its student-athletes a $10,000 stipend to cover their cost of attendance and for using their likeness. That was based on many people misreading an article from The Dallas Morning News that referenced a conversation the school’s athletic director had speaking hypothetically about the possibility of it if the NCAA lost its appeal on the Ed O’Bannon case. Some publications were cognizant enough to temper their reports of it, but many essentially wrote that the school was already set to begin the payments. The school has subsequently clarified the reports to say that those were just hypothetical plans, but we wouldn’t be surprised if you woke up today believing that Texas was going to give its student-athletes a $10,000 stipend.
  3. It doesn’t seem like that long ago when there were reports that opposing coaches were using Billy Kennedy’s reported early-stage Parkinson’s as a tool to convince recruits not to go to Texas A&M. Now it appears that he has put together what will likely be a top-five recruiting class for 2015. With Elijah Thomas‘ announcement that he was committing to play at Texas A&M, the Aggies now have three players in Rivals.com”s top 35 recruits (Thomas, D.J. Hogg, and Tyler Davis) with a fourth who is ranked #64 (Admon Gilder). It is a rather remarkable accomplishment when you consider that Kennedy is barely above .500 overall at Texas A&M (49-47) and an abysmal 19-35 in the conference play. Despite his poor on-court record at Texas A&M, Kennedy’s job is likely safe as long as this class still plans on matriculating.
  4. There was quite a bit of news in the past few days on the injury front. Wyoming got a big piece back earlier this week when Larry Nance Jr was cleared to begin practicing again. Nance, who tore his ACL on February 18, led the Cowboys in scoring (15.4), rebounding (8.4), blocks (2.1), and steals (1.4) so his impact was obvious even before you consider that the team was 17-9 with him and 1-6 after his injury. Wyoming does return four starters so they should be competitive in the Mountain West if Nance can stay healthy. As for Nance, who was first-team All-Mountain West and All-Defensive team despite missing the last month of the season, it appears that the Mountain West media certainly believes he will come back at full strength as they named him the Mountain West Preseason Player of the YearMemphis sophomore Austin Nichols suffered a shoulder sprain (confirmed by a MRI yesterday) that is expected to keep him out of practice for a week. Nichols, who averaged 9.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season while picking up American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year honors, is expected to be 100% for the team’s season-opener against Wichita State. Houston guard L.J. Rose was not as fortunate as he will be out for two months as he continues to recover from surgery for a broken foot. Rose (8.9 points and 5.5 assists as a sophomore) broke his foot in the summer and underwent surgery in early July, but his recovery has not gone according to plan and instead of being ready to play at the start of the season he will likely miss the team’s first 11 non-conference games. The Cougars are expected to start junior college transfer Cavon Baker in Rose’s place until he returns. Meanwhile, Oregon continues to wait on the return of junior college transfer Michael Chandler from a nagging knee injury. Chandler, a top-50 recruit coming out of high school, has yet to be cleared to practice even after having an arthroscopic procedure on his knee back in July.
  5. New York’s Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s ruling to dismiss a lawsuit by Bobby Davis and Mike Lang against Jim Boeheim. Davis and Lang, two former Syracuse ball boys who accused former Syracuse assistant Bernie Fine of molestation, had sued Boeheim for slander after he accused them of being liars out for money (comments he subsequently backed off of) when their allegations against Fine were made public. The lower courts had ruled that Boeheim’s comments did not assertions of fact, but were instead a matter of opinion, which would not be subject to defamation laws. The Court of Appeals ruled that the lower courts erred in that assumption. It is unclear if and when the lawsuit will be brought back to court or if Boeheim and the school might try to settle out of court.

EXTRA: Make sure to check out rushthecourtTV on Youtube for video M5s as well as plenty of other coverage throughout the season.

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Morning Five: 10.21.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 21st, 2014

morning5

  1. The NCAA’s next big fight appears to be drawing near after Chris Christie signed a sports gambling bill essentially legalizing it in New Jersey. That move would enable New Jersey to start offering sports gambling. One location, Monmouth Park, is reportedly looking to start offering it this coming weekend.  It should not come as a surprise that the NCAA and various professional leagues filed a lawsuit yesterday attempting to block such a move and will reportedly file for immediate injunctive relief today. At issue is the 22-year-old Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that barred sports gambling outside of a few select areas in the country. According to some state officials that decision should be up to the individual states and not the federal government (yes, the issue of “states’ rights” does come up outside of the Deep South). Our guess is that the injunction will be granted and this will be dragged out into a long and fairly messy affair.
  2. We have heard about so many investigation in college sports that we had almost forgot about the one involving Syracuse. Unfortunately for them, the NCAA has not and has invited school officials to attend a hearing later this month regarding the findings. While neither Jim Boeheim nor other school officials would speak to the case directly it appears to revolve around Fab Melo’s academic record and presumably others from around that same time period as well as an alleged sexual assault case in 2007. Given the way the NCAA operates (slapping schools on the wrist if at all and crushing student-athletes) we wouldn’t be surprised to see the school leave the investigation unscathed.
  3. On Thursday, ESPN released its Coaches Poll on Thursday and it should not come as much of a surprise that Kentucky came in at #1 followed by Arizona, Duke, Wisconsin, and Kansas. While the order of top five should not be surprising, Kentucky’s margin might be grabbing 24 of 32 first-place votes. As Mike DeCourcy notes despite all of Kentucky’s depth they do have some issues they will need to deal with including four particularly problematic ones. Some of the issues are clearly bigger than others ones, but we are sure Kentucky fans are aware the team will have to deal with these issues once the season starts and hopefully expectations are reasonable in Lexington. Well at least as reasonable as they can be there.
  4. Injuries at this time of year are always a concern, but Maryland might consider itself lucky that Evan Smotrycz will only be out for 4-6 weeks after fracturing the fifth metatarsal on his left foot. Smotrycz, who averaged 11 points and 6 rebounds per game last season, is expected to have surgery later this week.  Based on his estimated return to action he could miss as little as two games, but could potentially miss games against Arizona State, Iowa State, and Virginia if his recovery time is prolonged. Loyola might not be as fortunate as Milton Doyle, who lead the team in basically everything last year–scoring at 14.9 per game, assists at 3.6 per game, steals (38) and blocked shots (23) as a freshman–is out indefinitely with a torn labrum. Doyle, a Kansas transfer, will undergo five to six weeks of rehabilitation at which point he will be evaluated for the possibility of season-ending (7-9 month recovery) shoulder surgery. Southern Methodist doesn’t have an injury issue, but they do have an eligibility one with Markus Kennedy, who according to reports might not be academically eligible at the start of the season. The loss of Kennedy (12.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game) would be another massive blow to the Mustangs, who are already dealing with greatly diminished expectations following the departure of Emmanuel Mudiay to China. Losing Kennedy would likely eliminate any hopes of the Mustangs making the NCAA Tournament this season.
  5. We have heard about players getting homesick after leaving high school, but apparently transfers can get homesick too very quickly (or at least it seems that way). Just a few months after transferring from Loyola Marymount to Marquette, Gabe Levin has decided to head back west as he is transferring to Long Beach State. Levin, who averaged 11.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game as freshman last season was going to sit out this season as one of the rare transfers who did not have a waiver. Now with his transfer to Long Beach State we are assuming he will not have to sit out any additional time, but it does raise questions as to his reasons for leaving Marquette so quickly (saw the writing on the wall with the incoming recruiting haul?).

EXTRA: Make sure to check out rushthecourtTV on Youtube for video M5s as well as plenty of other coverage throughout the season. 

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Morning Five: 10.16.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 16th, 2014

morning5

  1. Like last year, Chris Walker will be watching the start of Florida‘s season from the sidelines. Unlike last year, Walker is only suspended for three games for an unspecified violation of team rules compared with having to sit out the first semester last season due to academic eligibility issues. Speaking of eligibility issues, four-star shooting guard Brandone Francis will have to miss the entire season as he was not approved for collegiate competition by the NCAA Clearinghouse. The loss of Walker should not be a huge issue as he will sit out an exhibition game and two regular-season games (William & Mary and Miami), but Francis’ absence could hurt them in terms of depth in the long-run even if we was only projected to be a reserve guard. If Francis improves his grades enough to become eligible, he could practice with the team in the spring semester even if he cannot play for them.
  2. Mississippi State‘s chances of being competitive in the SEC this year took a big hit with injuries to Craig Sword and Johnny Zuppardo. Sword, who led the Bulldogs in scoring with 13.7 points per game last year, is scheduled to undergo surgery on his back today due to a herniated disc and is expected to be out for 4-6 weeks. Zuppardo, a junior college transfer, will be out for the season after suffering a torn meniscus and ACL in his left knee. Although Zuppardo will be out for the entire year and is expected to seek a medical redshirt, Sword should be back in time for the start of SEC play, but his level of fitness at that time could be another issue.
  3. It has been quite a while since we feature a piece by Luke Winn in this column, but with the season rapidly approaching (never fast enough), he teamed up with Dan Hanner (another Morning Five favorite) for a project where they try to predict the top players this upcoming season by simulating the season 10,000 times using models that Hanner has created over the years (think of it as a college basketball Monte Carlo simulation. The project is being revealed in pieces, but so far they have given us their projections for leaders in scoring, rebounding, and assists and who they think the top freshmen will be. As Winn mentions in an accompanying video with David Gardner there are some issues with projecting how good freshmen will be since many times they have played against vastly inferior competition in high school, but it does provide some interesting analysis while we wait for the season to start.
  4. We actually have quite a bit of basketball arena news. The biggest news was the announcement by Arizona that former Wildcat guard Steve Kerr and his wife planned to donate $1 million for McKale Center renovations and upgrades to the academic facility. We are sure that Kerr’s five-year, $25 million contract for his first head coaching job certainly made that $1 million figure a little easier. UCLA, the other traditional power in the Pac-12, might need its own wealthy donor in the near-future for the recently remodeled (at a cost of $136 million) Pauley Pavilion because reports indicate that it is still not ready for play almost 2.5 months after it was flooded. The Bruins have been forced to play in the nearby Student Activities Center, but are expected to be back in Pauley in time for their season-opener, an exhibition against Azusa Pacific on October 31. In Chicago, the plans for DePaul‘s controversial Rosemont-based arena appear to be on schedule with the team expecting to play there starting in 2016-17 season. When the plans were first reported they drew a great deal of criticism because of the arenas distance from the school and the fact that the fan base has been largely apathetic.
  5. Mike Slive’s name might not carry as much weight in the college basketball world as it does in the college football world due to the relative strength of the conference in each sport, but his announcement that he will be retiring on July 31, 2015 to deal with a recurrence of prostate cancer could still be significant for the college basketball world. Slive will continue on as a consultant for the conference which is already beginning its search for his replacement. Even though the conference has been underwhelming on the basketball court (outside of Kentucky and Florida), his departure after 13 years at the helm of the SEC raises the possibility that the next commissioner of the SEC could have ambitions to expand it beyond its current reach and set off another chain reaction of conference realignment.
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Morning Five: 10.13.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 13th, 2014

morning5

  1. The hits just keep coming for Providence. After dealing with issues related to injuries, suspensions, and eligibility in the past few years, the Friars will now have to deal with the loss of Rodney Bullock to a knee injury. Bullock injured his knee in practice last week, but the school is still awaiting additional tests to see how long he will be out. You may remember Bullock from his suspension (along with Brandon Austin) a year ago on accusations of sexual assault. Austin transferred to Oregon where he was kicked out after another charge of sexual assault.
  2. Northeastern‘s hopes of rebounding from an atrocious 11-21 record last season took a hit over the weekend when they announced that starting senior guard Demetrius Pollard had left the program. The Huskies had expected to return all the pieces from an admittedly bad team, but that experience gave them the chance to be competitive in the Colonial Athletic Association this year especially with the return of Quincy Ford, who missed much of last season with a back injury. Now they will have to do it without Pollard, who averaged 8.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game last season. Pollard remains enrolled at the school so his future plans remain unclear at this point.
  3. When we heard that Old Dominion had suspended three players indefinitely for an August 30 altercation we immediately assumed that they would all be players for the men’s team. It turns out that only one of the three players (Javonte Douglas) plays for the men’s team as the other two involved (Galaisha Goodhope and Chelisa Painter) are women’s players. According to reports the three got into a fight at a party leading to the subsequent (much-delayed) suspensions. We don’t follow women’s basketball that closely even a program as good historically as Old Dominion (yeah, we’re guessing you probably didn’t know they had a good women’s program), but it appears that the women’s team will be disproportionately affected as Douglas is a junior college transfer while Painter is the team’s top returning scorer and rebounder and Goodhope led the team in assists last year. Having said that Douglas is quite talented himself as he was named a second-team junior college All-American and has some ridiculous athleticism (as illustrated by this putback dunk, which is part Vince Carter and part Tom Chambers). All three are appealing their suspensions with Goodhope facing a possible expulsion from the school.
  4. We are just getting used to looking through the 2014-15 schedule, but programs have to plan out their schedules well in advance. One example of this is Indiana, which appears to have already committed to the 2016 Armed Forces Classic in Hawaii. The game is expected to be played at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in advance of the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor that led to the involvement of the United States in World War II. The other three teams expected to compete in the two games have not been announced yet. By the time this game rolls around the Hoosiers should be well-acquainted with Hawaii as they will play in the 2015 Maui Invitational.
  5. With many of the top college coaches entering their final years we expect to see an onslaught of biographies or autobiographies with a lot of ghostwriting. One of the books that has the potential to be more interesting comes from Jim Boeheim who is releasing “Bleeding Orange”, which was ghostwritten by Jack McCallum. The reason that we think the book has some potential is that Boeheim has a tendency to speak his mind and unlike many college coaches seems to pay attention to more than just his upcoming opponents. The book does not come out until November 4, but Chris Carlson put together a list of 11 topics in the book that he found interesting. He doesn’t cover the reports about Carmelo Anthony’s grades, but we found the anecdote about Derrick Coleman not wanting to go to the 1987 Final Four because it was during Spring Break and he wanted to visit his grandmother to be particularly amusing.
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Morning Five: 10.10.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 10th, 2014

morning5

  1. He has not coached a game yet, but the Steve Wojciechowski era is already off to a great start. Prior to yesterday, he already had three four-star recruits for his 2015 recruiting class and then he topped it off with the commitment of Henry Ellenson to Marquette. We will point out that Wojciechowski had a huge edge in this recruitment–Henry’s brother Wally transferred to Marquette earlier this summer and that they are from Wisconsin–but he still managed to beat out Michigan State and Kentucky for Henry, a top 10 recruit in the class of 2015. There are already some who are criticizing the commitment saying that this is a package deal since Wally, who averaged just 2 points per game at Minnesota, received a scholarship, but package deals are hardly unique in college sports although they typically involve someone getting an assistant coaching job or something along those lines and while Wally is certainly not a star he did play for a legitimate high major program last year.
  2. After having to back out of his transfer to UCLA when he was not accepted into the school, Jon Octeus has found a new home with his decision to transfer to Purdue. Octeus, who averaged 13.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game at Colorado State, had originally attempted to transfer to UCLA as a graduate student, but was denied admission to the school, which was a huge blow to the Bruins and might have been the first time we had heard of a graduate student basketball transfer being denied admission. Although the school’s press release does not officially say that he has been admitted (just says that he is pursuing a “Master’s degree in the school of technology”) we are assuming he would not make the same mistake twice. Operating under the assumption that he got admitted this time, Octeus, who would be eligible to play immediately with a graduate transfer waiver, should provide the Boilermakers with a steady influence to balance out what should be their strength inside with A.J. Hammons, 10.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game last year, returning.
  3. With the way that things appeared to be going for suspended Texas guard Martez Walker the announcement that he had withdrawn from the school should not be that surprising. Walker, who was arrested a month ago for what was described as a domestic violence incident and was arrested again a week later for violating an order not to be in an on-campus residence hall, had been suspended indefinitely and at the time of his first arrest we noted that he probably would not be back any time soon given all of the media attention around athletes and domestic violence in the wake of the Ray Rice video. In the end, Walker, a reserve who averaged 4.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game and was not expected to see a significantly increased role, opted to leave the school. We have no idea where he will end up next, but we hope he can get his life together.
  4. The commitment of Doral Moore to Wake Forest might not make headlines like Ellenson’s commitment to Marquette, but it was still big for Danny Manning. Moore, a four-star center, committed to Wake Forest after a visit to Winston-Salem this past weekend. He had also been considering Illinois and Kentucky before deciding on Wake Forest. As Jeff Borzello notes Moore has the potential to develop into a much better prospect than he is currently rated and unlike Ellenson and more highly touted prospect he is much more likely to stick around for a few years.
  5. We mentioned the transfer of Jon Octeus earlier and although he is not on Jeff Eisenberg’s list of impact transfers (presumably due to the timing of his announcement) he is just one example of how important these transfers can be. Eisenberg’s list covers many names that you should be familiar with including a few you may have forgotten about (especially if they had to sit out that dreaded one year instead of getting the now ubiquitous exemption). If you  haven’t kept up with transfer movements or just need a little refresher this might be a good place to start before you get caught off guard at the start of the season.
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