Morning Five: 09.24.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 24th, 2014

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  1. It wouldn’t be September (or August; or July; or any month, really) without basketball drama in the Bluegrass State, as the hoops hotbed that never rests continues to churn out storylines to keep the residents buzzing and the links clicked. The latest and greatest kerfuffle involved a Louisville Courier-Journal story by Tim Sullivan late last week that analyzed the hyper-competitive world of recruiting at the most elite programs — including, of course, Kentucky — and tying it back to some of the commentary among John Calipari, Jim Boeheim and others weighing in on Mike Krzyzewski’s perceived recruiting advantage as the head coach of Team USA. The firestorm that ensued among social media users and the rest didn’t stem from the article itself, though; rather, it was the accompanying photo of a “crybaby” hybrid Calipari/infant image that set the world ablaze. On Monday, the newspaper published an apology from Executive Editor Neil Budde, effectively stating that their internal editorial controls should have, but didn’t, catch the “mistake.” Was it a mistake, or was it calculated clickbait meant to drive readers to the website (even though the picture only made it into print editions)? Only a few will know the answer to that, but Calipari tweeted that he accepted the apology, putting a tidy bow on the entire proceeding until the next blow-up (probably early next week, if our timing is right).
  2. Since we’re on the topic of #BBN, there were a lot of Kentucky fans feeling a little punchy over the weekend when it was reported that former Wildcat star and current media personality, Rex Chapman, had been arrested in Arizona for allegedly shoplifting over $14,000 worth of Apple electronics and fencing them through pawn shops in the area. The day-by-day details of the scheme are troubling, especially for someone who made over $22 million during his playing days and seemed to be doing well working as a broadcaster for Turner Sports as recently as April. His notorious pre-title game tweet about John Calipari supposedly taking the Los Angeles Lakers job (#donedeal), however, had left a bad taste in the mouth of many Wildcats’ fans, and although his 14 felony counts of stealing headphones and the like do not rise to the level of bad behavior from athletes in the news lately, there was a vocal minority who felt some karmic retribution had been had.
  3. The NCAA will host the Final Four in Indianapolis next April and in Houston (ugh) again in 2016, but dates beyond the next two years have yet to be set. One of the candidates vying for position among the crowd is Glendale’s University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals and the Fiesta Bowl, as well as the future site of the 2015 Super Bowl and the 2016 college football national championship game. Glendale is part of the Phoenix metropolitan area — although the stadium is located 15 miles northwest of downtown — and NCAA officials are spending time there this week to scope out the quality of the city’s bid for one of the 2017, 2019 or 2020 Final Fours. Given that Phoenix has proven capable of handling other high-profile sporting events, this should be a no-brainer, and it would nice for the NCAA to have its marquee event on the West Coast once again (the last Final Four west of Texas was in 1995 in Seattle).
  4. Speaking of the NCAA, president Mark Emmert recently addressed the issue of domestic violence among student-athletes in light of the NFL’s Ray Rice fiasco, and although he took the easy way out by punting back to the schools, it was also the right call. With schools of all shapes and sizes scattered through all 50 states (and correspondingly, 50 different penal codes), it would be exceptionally difficult for the NCAA to try to police something like this. And the NCAA simply isn’t any good at equitable justice anyway. Emmert is correct — other than to say that the organization strongly opposes domestic violence of any kind and encourages schools to educate its players about the dangers, they should pretty much stay out of it.
  5. Well, this is just weird. Maryland’s Dez Wells Instagrammed and tweeted out a picture of himself playing basketball at Xavier that a friend of his found in an anatomy textbook called “Biomechanics of Sport and Exercise.” In a post-O’Bannon environment where the public tide has clearly shifted to support of revenue-sport players sharing a piece of the multi-billion dollar pie that their talents create, a stock photo of Wells skying for a dunk in an obscure textbook seems like relatively small potatoes. Still, it’s just one more example of athletes like Wells getting the short end of the stick when it comes to the fairness of use of their likenesses. As Wells said through social media, #ShowMeTheMoney.
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Morning Five: 09.18.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 18th, 2014

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  1. We mentioned on Tuesday that rising senior and five-star shooting guard Antonio Blakeney had backed out of his verbal commitment to Louisville, citing a “quick decision” as his reason for second thoughts, but also leaving the door open for a possible recommitment down the line. Now it seems that Rick Pitino’s program, bemused and bewildered by the young man’s waffling, has decided to take its ball and go home. According to the Courier-Journal‘s Steve Jones, Louisville has no plans to continue recruiting the bouncy Florida shooting guard, preferring instead to focus its resources on adding one more elite piece to its highly-rated 2015 recruiting class. For a composite listing of how the Class of 2015 is shaping up at this early point, take a look at this table of the ESPN, Rivals, Scout and 247 ratings as collated by SBNation.
  2. Another former Louisville recruit, Oregon’s JaQuan Lyle, was not on Oregon’s updated roster that was released on Tuesday night, and as Rivals.com reported yesterday, he has not been admitted to the university. The issue appears to be related to his completion of a summer course that would make him eligible, but Lyle, for one, doesn’t appear to be too concerned by it. Even if Lyle makes it into school and onto the Ducks’ lineup, this is going to be an interesting transition year for Dana Altman’s program, with four of last season’s five starters either graduated or booted from the team.
  3. Michigan‘s Fab Five basketball legacy, even 20 years later, remains a complicated one. Issues of class and race and media coverage and privacy and amateurism and professionalism and a whole slew of other interrelated variables have followed these guys along ever since they collective hit the national consciousness way back in 1991. One thing, however, that isn’t that complicated, was that notorious Wolverines’ booster Ed Martin paid the likes of Chris Webber and several others to matriculate and play for the blue and maize. There’s really no disputing it (Webber himself copped a plea for lying to a grand jury on that very issue in July 2003). Yet Webber has spent the better part of the last decade-plus holding a grudge against his alma mater for what he felt was unfair treatment — some of it arguably meritorious, some not — and refusing to come to terms with the notion that, setting aside all the other indignities, he still is responsible for some of the darkest days in program history along with the sunniest ones. HoopsHype recently interviewed former Fab Fiver and current NBA analyst Jalen Rose, who called out Webber for his simple failure to say “I’m sorry” to the fans of the program who were ultimately let down by those actions. We’ve said it in this space and on social media many times before, but it remains spectacularly impressive that the most thoughtful and mature member of the Fab Five turned out to be Rose — he remains completely on point.
  4. Once upon a time here at RTC, we wrote a silly but fun post evaluating the worst college basketball floor designs in America. It is still today the post that received the most traffic in the history of this site. ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil might be feeling similarly today after her recent post ranking the top 10 mascots in college basketball went viral all over the interwebs. Of course, the fun in these lists is that they’re eminently arguable, especially through social media, but we were pleased to see the likes of the Stanford Tree and the St. Joe’s flapping hawk on the list. We’re not sure how you leave out a walking banana slug, such as what is found at UC Santa Cruz, or a scare-the-bejeezus-out-of-you-with-a-stare friar, such as what they have at Providence.
  5. And then there is this. Madness is in 30 days.

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Morning Five: 09.10.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 10th, 2014

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  1. As we descend the back end of the calendar year, slowly but certainly inching toward cooler weather and the magical return of college basketball, the 24/7/365 behemoth that is Kentucky Basketball continues to play chess while the rest of its competition is playing checkers. John Calipari announced on Tuesday that he plans to offer a first-of-its-kind scouting combine for NBA personnel to assess his boatload of prep All-Americans in a structured environment (and in lieu of endless in-season scouting visits to practice). Several college football programs do something similar for their future professionals, but these so-called “pro days” typically come after the season has completed but before April’s NFL Draft. And if you think there won’t be a recruiting component to this October 10-11 event in Lexington, keep dreaming. Coach Cal continues to think creatively, and his success is to show for it.
  2. The rest of the SEC‘s basketball programs have enough trouble keeping up with the Caliparis on the recruiting trail as it is, but as CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish notes in this article, a little-known league rule about junior college transfers further limits the SEC’s 13 other schools from attracting local players who could have been good fits. Marquette’s Jae Crowder — originally from Georgia — is his prime example, citing that the Peach State native and 2012 Big East Player of the Year was precluded from enrolling at any SEC school (including the one in Athens) because he had not spent at least three semesters at his junior college prior to matriculation. It’s an exceptionally odd rule — especially in the loosey-goosey SEC — but it is one that limits the talent pool by a sliver and gives other leagues a bit of a competitive advantage in certain instances.
  3. New Jersey governor Chris Christie hasn’t had the best year-plus in his role as the chief executive of the nation’s favorite drive-through state, but he may have turned the corner in many sports fans’ minds with his announcement this week that the Garden State would allow sports gambling in its race tracks and casinos. This is an obvious last-ditch response to the ongoing implosion of the Atlantic City gaming industry, but the timing of this initiative with the NFL and college football getting under way couldn’t be any better from a quick revenue perspective. The NCAA is on record as very much against this, and it’s unclear as to the ultimate legality of the directive, but Christie is willing to take a shot at it. Could Jersey finally be on a path to become the East Coast’s Vegas through sports gambling? Stay tuned on this one over the next few weeks and as we push on toward the start of college hoops in November.
  4. While in the legal realm — hey, it’s the offseason — the plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon name and likeness case announced earlier this week that they would not seek an appeal of any part of district court judge Claudia Wilken’s decision that mostly fell in their favor. The NCAA, of course, is appealing the antitrust holding of the decision — the core issue that will require schools to compensate players for the use of their images — so you may be wondering why the winners would even consider an appeal. The reason is because the O’Bannon plaintiffs didn’t get everything they were hoping for, but they got enough. Now on to the appellate court…
  5. Finally, we’d like to once again put out a feeler to any of our readers — long-timers or newbies — who might want to give a shot at writing about college basketball this upcoming season. We need national columnists in addition to knowledgeable writers for each of the major basketball leagues — the ACC, American, Big Ten, Big East, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, along with the Other 26 — to fill out our roster. We invite anybody with an interest to send us some information about yourself and a writing sample to rushthecourt@yahoo.com. Thanks for your interest.
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Morning Five: 07.23.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 23rd, 2014

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  1. The dog days of summer mean that the Morning Fives in July and August typically consist of a somewhat mind-numbing combination of three things: 1) hot air (people saying things that they shouldn’t be saying, or saying them without the benefit of tact); 2) player movement (transfers; injuries; arrests); and 3) organizational movement (strategy pivots and programmatic shifts, in the hopes that nobody notices while they’re on vacation with the family or otherwise not thinking about college athletics). Today’s M5 will address each of these areas, for your thoughtful consideration and bemusement. October can’t get here soon enough.
  2. From the organizational movement department, the NCAA — which, due to its academic calendar construct, loves to release key information during the summer months, and especially on Fridays — announced late last week that its Board of Directors is set to take a vote next month that would ultimately give the five power conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12) greater autonomy over the future structure and workings of the NCAA. Let’s call this move what it is — administrative extortion, designed to give the revenue-producing schools more weight commensurate with their power and influence in return for keeping the NCAA in one piece. The power leagues have long chafed at the notion that 300 low-level schools could band together to prevent them from doing what they want to do (i.e., institute the $2,000 full cost of attendance stipend proposal that was DOA in 2011), and know that the NCAA (the organization itself, not a grouping of schools), overwhelmingly funded by the NCAA Tournament’s broadcast agreements, wouldn’t have much of a financial leg to stand on if those five conferences decided to do their own thing. The Yahoo! article linked above explains many of the proposed details, but the objective is clear here: the coup d’etat has begun in Indianapolis; just make sure to look up from your beachy pina colada to witness the culling.
  3. Speaking of the NCAA Tournament, a $700 million (annually) behemoth that the NCAA cannot afford to screw up, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione was recently named the Chair of the Selection Committee for the 2015-16 season. So, a year away, as Utah athletic director Scott Barnes will hold the reins for the upcoming 2014-15 season. As Matt Norlander notes in the article, although the NCAA has done a solid job of moving away from the consistently white maleness of the Committee Chair in recent years (2009 Chair Dan Guerrero is Latino; 2010 Chair Gene Smith is African-American), it still hasn’t managed to cross the gender divide. Two members of the current committee — Conference USA’s Judy MacLeod and UNC-Asheville’s Janet Cone — would ostensibly have the inside track at the Chair in the next couple of rounds, but there are obviously no guarantees.
  4. The hot air department brings us to Castiglione’s conference commissioner, the Big 12’s Bob Bowlsby. During the conference’s football Media Days event on Monday in Dallas, Bowlsby expounded on the dirty little secret that anyone who closely follows collegiate athletics already knows but avoids discussion publicly: as he said, “cheating pays presently.” Noting that the NCAA Infractions Committee has not had a meeting in over a year, Bowlsby pounded the point home that if a school “seek[s] to conspire to certainly bend the rules, [it] can do it successfully and probably not get caught in most occasions.” He went on to defend the NCAA’s overall business model as a sustainable enterprise only in its current or near-current form, but the damage was done with respect to his pointed comments on cheating. While it’s difficult to test the veracity of Bowlsby’s overarching claim, it is much easier to determine how often the NCAA is doing its job with respect to policing infractions. A brief search of the organization’s Legislative Services Database shows that only two Division I schools — Howard and New Hampshire — have received NCAA penalties since January 1, 2014. Neither play FBS football, of course, and the sports involved were cross-country, gymnastics, volleyball and track and field. While again, it’s very hard to prove a negative, the absence of higher-profile and frankly, more, revenue-producing schools on that list, is more indicative of willful ignorance than of active compliance.
  5. And now, on to player movement. After eschewing a year at SMU to play with his older brother, Emmanuel Mudiay has reportedly signed a one-year deal worth $1.2 million to play in China. Brandon Jennings had trouble adjusting to the lifestyle of a professional and the culture shock of a new country (Italy) in 2008, but he turned out to be a fine player upon arrival to the NBA a year later. Mudiay’s year overseas will also be worth watching, but his international childhood (born in Zaire, speaks French) will surely help him adjust. As for players still in the US, Florida junior Devon Walker tore his ACL in practice late last week and will miss the entire 2014-15 season as a result. Notching seven starts on last year’s Final Four squad, Walker was expected to log significant minutes for a Gators team that has numerous holes to fill. His depth will be valuable to have a year from now too, though, and we wish him a speedy recovery.
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Morning Five: 06.19.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 19th, 2014

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  1. Most college sports fans probably aren’t following the day-by-day action in the Ed O’Bannon vs. the NCAA case taking place in Oakland, California, this month, and why would they? First of all, there’s no nifty “doink doink” Law & Order plot mover to let us know we are moving on to a more important part of the proceedings, and secondly, many people probably don’t believe that the outcome will amount to much change in their annual sports viewing habits anyway. Fair points, both, but if you’re interested in summarily catching up through the better part of two weeks of proceedings and following along in the future, SI.com‘s Stewart Mandel and Andy Staples have you covered with their daily updates. The big fish scheduled on the line this week, of course, is NCAA president Mark Emmert, who will be called to testify today and possibly beyond (if necessary). Emmert has been a staunch public supporter of the NCAA’s amateurism model throughout his four-year tenure, and you have to wonder if he will fall victim to fits of hubris while on the stand defending what is widely becoming disparaged as an indefensible system. His testimony could be a key tipping point in the ultimate outcome of this case, so keep an eye on it.
  2. The underlying force driving the O’Bannon case, of course, is money. It’s always money, and specifically, who is getting their grubby little hands on it. To most Americans just getting by, the division of tens of millions of dollars between the NCAA, schools and the television networks doesn’t much move the needle — in their view, it’s just a case of rich people enriching other rich people. But even their fur gets a little raised when a clearly successful business model that can produce a third of a billion dollars (“B”) in a single year doesn’t give a taste of the steady stream of money to those whose backs on which all those dollars were made — the athletes. And yet, the Pac-12, as Dennis Dodd reported this week, produced $334 million in 2012-13 — the most of any conference in college sports history — disseminating around $18.5 million back to each school as a result. Once you start to add ticket sales, bowl games, NCAA Tournament shares and other revenue producers to each school’s athletic pie, you start to see some very large numbers generated at the bottom of the spreadsheet. Good luck with your arguments for amateurism, NCAA.
  3. Kansas basketball got some really interesting news earlier this week when it was announced that Bill Self’s team will represent Team USA in next summer’s 2015 World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea. Typically, the WUG teams have consisted of some of the top rising stars in college basketball, but the all-star model with limited practice time for players to get to know each other has resulted in only one gold and two bronze medals in the last seven events (Team USA won six straight golds from 1989-99, for some perspective). The Jayhawks have another loaded team coming into next year’s college basketball season, but a number of those players such as Cliff Alexander and Wayne Selden, are unlikely to still be in uniform for international competition a year from now. Still, perhaps the knowledge of Self’s system and the resultant familiarity among the remaining players will allow Team USA to improve on its ninth-place finish in 2013. We can only hope.
  4. It wouldn’t be summer without some transfer news, and there were a couple of name-brand players who found new destinations this week. First, LSU guard Anthony Hickey, a solid if not spectacular player whose senior-year scholarship was not “renewed” by head coach Johnny Jones in Baton Rouge, has resurfaced at Oklahoma State and was deemed eligible to play for the Cowboys immediately. This is a major boon for an upcoming year where head coach Travis Ford is in dire need of a reliable point guard after the losses of both Marcus Smart and Stevie Clark from his team. It may not save Ford’s job in Stillwater, but it gives him a fighting chance. In other news, Maryland guard Nick Faust has decided to finish his career across the country at Long Beach State. Unlike Hickey, who took advantage of the NCAA’s “run-off” rule to become eligible for next season, Faust will have to sit out 2014-15 before playing his senior year with The Beach. We wish both the best of luck in their new environments.
  5. You probably heard about the too-soon passing of the late great baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn earlier this week, and while every American sports fan recognizes the ridiculous batting prowess of the man who hit safely 3,141 times with a .338 average over two decades in the majors, they may not realize that Gwynn was a college hoops star before he ever became one of the friendliest and most beloved faces of Major League Baseball. As SI.com‘s Brian Hamilton explains in this piece, Gwynn to this day remains one of the best point guards to have ever played at San Diego State, a two-time all-WAC selection on the hardwood that featured the best single-season assist average in program history (8.2 APG in the 1979-80 season). We never saw him play hoops, but we have to imagine that he brought the same passion and respect for our game as he did to the baseball diamond. RIP, Tony Gwynn.
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Morning Five: 06.06.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 6th, 2014

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  1. Paging Rex Chapman… Two months ago, in the tweet that rocked Big Blue Nation to the core, the former Kentucky star and media presence (he had just finished doing color commentary for the Wildcats on the Final Four Teamcast) unloaded what he termed a #donedeal on Wildcats’ fans. Head coach John Calipari was supposedly going to take the open Los Angeles Lakers job, “win or lose,” as he put it, in the national championship game against Connecticut. Well, either the Lakers job moved to Lexington or Rex hit the sauce a little too hard in the pregame that night, because Calipari on Thursday signed a seven-year extension worth $52.5 million that will ensure Kentucky stays atop the heap for many years to come. After four Final Four appearances and a National Championship in just five years at the helm, and given the size and passion of the Kentucky fan base, the scary thought is that Calipari is still probably quite a bit underpaid relative to the value of the program. Not that he cares about that — he’s quite happy with where he is, in fact, and that’s a good thing for college basketball.
  2. Calipari doesn’t miss out on many recruiting targets, but nobody can bat 1.000 either, and one of the best players of the past several cycles that the Kentucky coach whiffed on was SMU freshman Emmanuel Mudiay. In this SI.com piece on Mudiay, Luke Winn explains that Larry Brown’s appeal for Mudiay to stay close to his family — including older brother Jean-Micheal Mudiay, a rising senior on the Mustangs — was one of the major factors in his decision to commit to SMU. With Mudiay in the fold to lead a team that returns most of its talent from a 27-10 team that was one of the first left out of the NCAA Tournament, SMU is poised to make a major leap in national status next season. 
  3. We mentioned in the M5 earlier this week that a $40 million settlement between EA Sports and a class action of former and current NCAA athletes had been finalized, and now the lawyers and all the highly-paid administrators who handle such things are figuring out who will get what. It probably would have shocked nobody in America if the NCAA (still in a battle with the Ed O’Bannon class action, remember) had gone into full pettiness mode and decided that the minuscule payouts to its current athletes would constitute an impermissible benefit. Full credit to the NCAA for not going there, however, as the organization announced on Wednesday that payouts (which could range from as low as a couple hundred bucks to a couple grand) in no way represent “pay” and therefore will not be in violation of any NCAA amateurism rules.
  4. And now, about that Ed O’Bannon lawsuit. As you have no doubt heard for months, even years now, the case is set to begin on Monday morning in Northern California. Still, how many people can accurately state what the whole thing is about — is it amateurism? Video games? The very core of the NCAA itself? The truth is that there are elements of all of these things, but as with most complex forms of litigation, there are plenty of nuances and considerations beyond the sound bites. SI.com‘s Andy Staples separates truth from myth in a Thursday piece that gives a nice overview (along with a video explanation) of what is really on the line in this landmark case.
  5. With the NBA Finals starting last night, the NBA Draft is just a few weeks away (you hopefully noticed that we’ve been rolling out Bennet Hayes’ draft profiles). But while the players in this year’s draft are no longer eligible to play college basketball, the top prospects in the 2015 draft class will lead our sport next season. SI.com‘s Brian Hamilton breaks down his list of the top 15 prospects who are likely to be high selections in next year’s version, and a few of the names may surprise you. Have a great D-Day anniversary weekend, everyone.
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Morning Five: 05.22.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 22nd, 2014

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  1. As we head into Memorial Day weekend, the long summer of college basketball purgatory awaits — June, July and August are fun months for many other reasons, but getting your college hoops fix isn’t one of them. Message boards and social media will remain active, of course, and we’ll do our part here from time to time as well, but at the end of the day, we’re all daydreaming about how next season will play out. The Sporting News waited a little longer than most outlets to release its post-early entry Top 25 for the preseason, but the timing works because it gives us something to chatter about. Perhaps the most surprising selection here is that TSN went against the grain in choosing a team not named Kentucky as its overall #1 team, but there are a few other surprises scattered about the list (particularly at #5). If you need a comparison Top 25, here’s RTC’s version from about a month ago.
  2. One of the teams looking to reload after losing Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins to next month’s NBA Draft will be Kansas. With another elite recruiting class headed to Lawrence, however, headlined by star forwards Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, the Jayhawks populate most pundits’ preseason top 10s. Bill Self’s squad might find itself rising in everyone’s mind by October, as Kansas on Wednesday added another impressive piece to the class in Ukrainian guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk – good luck pronouncing that one — a tall but talented shooting guard who has been favorably compared with former Michigan star Nik Stauskas. With a ton of frontcourt talent on board as well as Wayne Selden and now Mykhailiuk joining the program, Self only needs to figure out his point guard situation in order to roll out another big-time National Championship contender.
  3. Speaking of one-and-dones, seemingly everyone who has a stake in the game is sick of them. Whether you’re in favor of going back to the preps-to-pros of the multi-year NFL model, people seem to agree that something needs to change. For the good of the game and all that. The Pac-12 on Wednesday took its own shot across the bow of the NBA’s dominion by releasing a letter addressed to ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC schools suggesting as one of its key reforms the following admonition: “Address the “one and done” phenomenon in men’s basketball. If the National Basketball Association and its Players Association are unable to agree on raising the age limit for players, consider restoring the freshman ineligibility rule in men’s basketball.” Of course, the NBA, under the new leadership of Adam Silver, appears to have prioritized a two-and-through model for its next round of player negotiations, but there’s certainly no guarantee that such a change in rookie eligibility will occur. But freshman ineligibility as a measure of pushback? It would only serve to further marginalize college basketball as a major American sport. 
  4. Remember Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA’s former VP of Enforcement who was run out of the organization on a rail after the disastrous investigation of Miami (FL) athletics and the influence of Nevin Shapiro? After a 14-month hiatus doing consulting work, she’s back in college athletics, now as the new Deputy Commissioner of the Horizon League. Her new responsibilities will include oversight of the league’s 19 championships, student-athlete development, finances, corporate sponsorship and branding, all interesting and important aspects of an organization that has little to do with her previous role involving enforcement. Still, her breadth of experience and without question also her ties to the inner workings of the NCAA right down the street from HL offices are attractive qualities, and everyone deserves a second chance to prove their value and integrity. We wish her and the conference well on their new endeavor.
  5. Some transfer news from the midweek: Creighton picked up Cal transfer Ricky Kreklow; Michigan State’s Russell Byrd plans to play at NAIA school Master’s College; and the nation’s top returning scorer, Niagara’s Antoine Mason, is on the move for his final season of eligibility. All three will be eligible to play next season (Kreklow and Mason are set to use the graduate transfer exception next season, while there is no transfer penalty for Byrd to drop to the NAIA), but it is the free agency of Mason that might be the most interesting of this group. The 6’3″ guard and son of former New York Knick Anthony Mason will no doubt be a hot commodity in coming weeks for schools seeking to add some immediate scoring punch to their backcourts. The caveat with Mason, of course, is that he’s a high-volume, low-efficiency guy who took as many shots as he liked for a 7-26 MAAC team last season. If a high-major coach can get through to him to cut way back on his three-point attempts (28.6% on 168 attempts last season) and focus on driving the lane to draw fouls and get to the line (where he shoots a much nicer 72.8%), then Mason could become a key contributor on a contender next season.
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Morning Five: 05.20.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 20th, 2014

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  1. National Championships have their benefits, especially for second-year head coaches whose name has been recently bandied about NBA circles with the word “Lakers” involved. Reports surfaced on Monday that Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie, a man who was fighting for a long-term contract from the university as recently as 18 short months ago, is set to sign a new five-year deal that will reportedly pay him more than twice his current salary (nearly $3 million per year). It goes without saying that a coach in his early 40s who already has a title under his belt is a hot commodity, and Ollie will join many of his elite peers in take-home pay in very short order, as this deal will put UConn’s leading Husky among college basketball’s top 10 coaching salaries, according to USA Today.
  2. From one end of the coaching spectrum to the other, as Oregon State announced on Monday its hiring of Montana’s Wayne Tinkle as its new head basketball coach. Tinkle heads to Corvallis with a solid resume, having led the Grizzlies to three NCAA Tournament appearances in his eight seasons and never finishing below .500 while there. He will inherit a program that has proven to be one of the absolute toughest at which to win in Division I basketball. The Beavers last made the NCAA Tournament in 1990 (!!!), and have not achieved a .500 Pac-10/12 record in over two decades (1993). Further compounding the difficulty that Tinkle will face is that all five of last season’s starters from an 8-10 squad have moved on. Perhaps Tinkle is the guy to finally lead Oregon State out of the basketball wilderness, but it will be no easy task.
  3. One of the starters who left Oregon State this offseason was shooting guard Hallice Cooke, a rising sophomore who logged the second-most percentage of available minutes for the Beavers last season and nailed a team-high 45.6 percent of his threes. Cooke announced on Monday via Twitter that he will transfer to play for The Mayor at Iowa State for the rest of his collegiate career. Fred Hoiberg’s 12th transfer in his fourth season in Ames exhibits again just how well the popular coach has used the free agency transfer market to fill the holes on his roster (UNLV transfer Bryce Dejean-Jones will hold down Iowa State’s shooting guard spot during the intervening year). Although Cooke will not become eligible to play for the Cyclones until the 2015-16 season, his three-point prowess figures to eventually fit very well into Hoiberg’s spread-the-floor offense.
  4. Kevin Ollie wasn’t the only head coach to receive an extension this week, as Xavier’s Chris Mack — a coach who was reportedly considered as a top candidate for several other jobs this spring — signed an extension that will keep him at the school through the 2019-20 season. In Mack’s five years at the school, he’s compiled an impressive 111-57 overall record that includes four NCAA Tournament appearances and two trips to the Sweet Sixteen (2010 and 2012). Although Xavier has had a multitude of excellent coaches over the years from Pete Gillen to Skip Prosser to Thad Matta — it was in no small part due to Mack’s recent success that Xavier was invited to become a member of the new basketball-centric Big East. It will certainly be tough for Xavier to keep a talent like Mack on campus all the way through the term of his new contract, but the commitment is worthwhile for a coach who has proven he has the chops to win at a high level.
  5. Even on a busy Monday of college basketball-related news, the most interesting nugget of the lot may have come from a decision by the State Employees of North Carolina public workers union to allow student-athletes at the state’s 17 public universities to join its collective bargaining organization. Players at schools like North Carolina, NC State, Charlotte and others would be affected, but the bigger picture question is whether this move represents another arrow directed at the disintegrating notion of athletes as amateurs. This of course comes on the heels of the NLRB’s recent decision to classify a group of Northwestern football players as employees with the right to organize its own union, and although any holding in that case would only apply to private schools like NU and others, the sea change is coming whether the NCAA likes it or not.
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The RTC Podcast: UConn Championship Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 10th, 2014

After nearly six months of basketball, from practice to the podium, the 75th and final RTC Podcast of the 2013-14 season is here. It’s been quite a run, filled with analysis, wild predictions, #cheerfortheears, more analysis, numerous fantastic guests, a bunch of informative correspondents, and even a few t-shirts thrown in. While we exhausted ourselves in some respects by plowing through at least a couple pods per week, we feel like it was well worth the time and energy, and we certainly appreciate all of the listeners that tuned in along the way. For the offseason, we expect to check in at least once every few weeks, depending on when there are enough things to talk about, but we’ll definitely be back when the NBA Draft deadline has passed. In this week’s podcast, we break down the National Championship game, consider UConn’s future and talk about some of our memories from the preceding season. The full rundown is below. Give it a listen.

Make sure to subscribe to the show on iTunes so that you’ll get all of the episodes immediately downloaded to your listening device.

  • 0:00-22:01 – Breaking Down UConn Capturing Championship #4
  • 22:01-26:10 – Shabazz Podium Comments
  • 26:10-31:09 – UConn’s Place Among The Elite Programs
  • 31:09-35:11 – A Brief Conference Realignment Interlude
  • 35:11-37:28 – UConn in the AS (After Shabazz) Years
  • 37:28-44:20 –  Future of John Calipari
  • 44:20-49:13 – Derrick Gordon Comes Out
  • 49:13-56:29 – Evaulating the 2013-14 College Basketball Season
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Circle of March: Connecticut Edition (Animated)

Posted by rtmsf on April 8th, 2014

From 340 teams down to a solitary C, and it turns out that the blue glow behind Connecticut‘s logo held some sort of supernatural meaning after all. And with that, the 2014 Circle of March has completed. We started on this journey some five weeks ago yesterday, and once again the beauty was in the process. Click the image to see the entire procession all the way down to one team standing. See ya next year.

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Teams Eliminated From National Title Contention (04.07.14)

  • Kentucky
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Rushed Reactions: #7 Connecticut 60, #8 Kentucky 54

Posted by rtmsf on April 8th, 2014

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Rush the Court is covering the Final Four from Arlington, Texas, this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

Kevin Ollie is a First Time Participant and National Champion

Kevin Ollie is a First Time Participant and National Champion

  1. Shabazzketball. Shabazz Napier said after the game that he told his teammates back in a January home loss to Louisville — the first of three to the defending national champs, none of which were close — that he believed in his team and that they were going to make a run to eventually win the National Championship. While there’s no way to know if Napier is joshing us or simply retelling a tidbit that the team probably repeated many times during the season, the salient point is that Connecticut fulfilled the prophecy to once again raise the gold trophy for the fourth time in 16 seasons. The brash, cocksure point guard from the Boston area is the primary reason why. Napier’s 22 points (including four big threes), six rebounds, and three steals have become par for the course throughout Connecticut’s run to the title, but on a night when the team needed a first half lift because DeAndre Daniels was slow getting started, Napier’s 15 points allowed the Huskies to build an early cushion to put the pressure on Kentucky to make yet another second half comeback. The comeback happened twice, but each time that the Wildcats had whittled the lead down to one point, Napier had an answer. His first response was right out of the half, when he drove into the lane to earn two free throws (both makes, of course); the more important second instance was with six minutes remaining, when it appeared that UConn was wearing down and the Cats were surging forward. Napier put an end to that notion with a calm and accurate three-pointer to push the lead back up to four. After a subsequent Randle two and Giffey three, Kentucky never got closer than four points for the rest of the game. There aren’t many players these days who stick around long enough to win two national titles, and especially three years apart, but Napier has certainly proven that he belongs among the list of greats for his performances in March Madness.
  2. Kevin Ollie Bum Rushes the Tourney. The last time a coach won the national title in his first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the year was 1989 and Michigan’s brand-new head coach Steve Fisher led Glen Rice and friends on a magical run to victory. Kevin Ollie had a little more experience coming into this year’s Dance than Fisher was awarded some 25 years ago, but he should absolutely be commended for the belief that he instilled in his players and the resolve that they exhibited on the court during this Tournament. They beat teams bigger than them, more physical than them, deeper than them, better shooters than them, and more experienced than them. What you’re going to read about a lot in the next 24 hours is how it was UConn’s defensive commitment and resolve that won the school its fourth championship. While the Huskies played excellent defense in the gut-check games against the likes of Michigan State, Florida and Kentucky over the past 10 days (holding the three teams to 0.90, 0.93 and .90 points per possession), it was actually the hyper-efficiency of UConn’s offense that made the difference. Over the six-game NCAA Tournament run, Kevin Ollie’s team never dipped below a 1.00 PPP average (vs. Michigan State and Kentucky), and it maxed out with a necessary 1.24 PPP mark against St. Joseph’s and a 1.23 PPP mark against Iowa State. It’s not a true calculation because every game is different, but some back-0f-the-envelope math suggests that the Huskies averaged about 1.11 PPP in its six wins while holding opponents to 0.99 PPP on the other end. And it did so against five of KenPom’s top 20 teams, with the strange outlier the game against St. Joseph’s that UConn very well could have lost. Crazy.
  3. Kentucky’s Magical Run Ends One Game Short. This Kentucky basketball season was without question one of the strangest that we’ve ever experienced. The highs and lows of it were simply astonishing. From a preseason #1 ranking and at least mild entertainment of the idea of an unbeaten 40-0 season, to the harsh reality of non-conference losses to Michigan State, Baylor and North Carolina, to head-scratching but not awful SEC losses to Arkansas, LSU and Florida, to end-of-season disasters vs. Arkansas in Rupp and on the road at South Carolina and Florida, to The Tweak before the SEC Tournament and a solid performance there, to the subsequent three weeks of phenomenal play — especially at the end of games against high-quality competition — that ran all the way to the verge of a National Championship. Life is stranger than fiction, and it certainly felt coming into tonight that all the jabbering about 1-and-done and right way/wrong way and the rest of the related nonsense surrounding John Calipari and how he runs his program was going to be finally put to rest. Alas, UConn had other ideas. Regardless of tonight’s outcome for the Wildcats, there’s absolutely no shame in a runner-up finish, and most Kentucky fans would have taken that in a heartbeat in early March. As for Calipari, this was without question one of his finest coaching jobs — he very nearly lost this team at the end of the season, but he was able to use his magic wand to get their attention, buy into his conceptual framework of team and selflessness, and damn near ran his team to another National Championship. Because of his recruiting prowess, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves, but he’s a top-five coach in this game no matter how you slice it.

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The RTC Podcast: National Championship Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 7th, 2014

It’s here. For the better part of five months, teams around the country have worked their tails off to prepare for and compete in the NCAA Tournament. Sixty-eight hopefuls were invited three weeks ago; only two remain standing today. It’s all about getting a chance to play on Monday night, and Kentucky and Connecticut, two of the top basketball programs in America for decades running, have earned the right to compete on that stage. In this week’s RTC Podcast, the guys reflect on the Final Four games — what went right, what went wrong — for each of the four teams, take an aside to investigate the final outcome of #cheerfortheears, and break down the National Championship that will played in Arlington, Texas, later tonight. It’s a long but worthwhile listen this week, and we hope, as always, that you’ll join us.

  • 0:00-15:17 – Kentucky Wins Another Thriller
  • 15:17-28:53 – UConn Hands Florida Another Loss
  • 28:53-32:40 – #CheerForTheEars
  • 32:40-37:42 – Postgame Reactions From the Winners And Losers
  • 37:42-46:23 – What a Win Means For Each Program’s History
  • 46:23-1:07:51 – Championship Game Preview
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