New Memberships in the A-10 and Mountain West: Can These Leagues Sustain Success?

Posted by BHayes on October 10th, 2013

Bennet Hayes (@HoopsTraveler) is an RTC national columnist.

The tumult of conference realignment has hit few conferences harder than it has the Mountain West and Atlantic 10, but as we prepare to set sail on the 2013-14 season, both leagues again loom as the best college basketball has to offer outside the now “power seven” conferences. We touched on each league a little bit in yesterday’s Morning Five, but storylines abound in two leagues that have generated plenty of national buzz in recent years. Both are expected to maintain holds in the upper echelon of the mid-major hierarchy, but offseason membership changes have left things less certain than usual, especially in the A-10. The constant churn of programs jumping from conference to conference has left leagues in varying states of disarray, and 2013-14 finds both the Mountain West and Atlantic 10 at a crossroads. The challenges are different in each situation, but with the relatively uncertain future of today’s college basketball’s climate, another strong season in comparison with the high-majors would go a long ways towards stabilizing each of these traditionally strong conferences.

Kendall Williams And New Mexico Are Just One Of Many Teams With High Hopes In The Mountain West

Kendall Williams And New Mexico Are Just One Of Many Teams With High Hopes In The Mountain West

This season’s iteration of the Mountain West is bigger, but is it better? The preseason poll released Tuesday offered confirmation of the general consensus surrounding newcomers Utah State and San Jose State: Stew Morrill and the Aggies should be a factor in the top half of the conference, while the Spartans, despite their eye-catching new floor, are likely to be MW doormats. But even if Utah State matches or exceeds expectations in their conference debut, the conference as a whole will struggle to replicate the success of 2012-13 – those good old days when the MW was number one in conference RPI (no typo). The trio at the top of this year’s preseason poll all have a chance at replicating, or even improving upon, their successful campaigns of a year ago.

The return of preseason MW POY Kendall Williams and first teamer Alex Kirk has left New Mexico as the conference’s presumptive favorite: the Lobos earned all but one of 24 first place votes. A talented but overhauled UNLV squad scooped up that final first place vote, while Boise State’s return of nearly every key contributor earned the Broncos enough acclaim to tie for second with the Rebels in the poll. The Morning Five highlighted another talented San Diego State roster that sits behind those three teams in the eyes of the media, and let’s face it — it’s probably time we start giving Steve Fisher the benefit of the doubt – the Aztecs are an annual factor out west. But behind the Aztecs and Aggies (Utah State was picked to finish fifth) lies much of the intrigue in this year’s MW. A season ago, the four non-Tournament teams (Air Force, Wyoming, Fresno State and Nevada) were all extremely competitive, especially on their home floors. Their strength was a big reason for that heady conference RPI. This year’s bottom half again appears feisty, with a couple of teams – Nevada (#9) and Fresno State (#8) appearing especially undervalued in the preseason evaluations. Nobody – inside our outside the league — is expecting the MW to finish atop the conference RPI again this season. But another solid campaign, on the heels of that banner season of a year ago, would be awfully sound validation of a league unprepared to leave the national consciousness anytime soon.

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Bill Self’s Coaching Plus Elite Talent is a Scary Proposition

Posted by BHayes on October 9th, 2013

Bennet Hayes (@HoopsTraveleris a national columnist.

Tweets that end with a hashtag of “#RockChalk” are not hard to find in the Twitterverse, but one in particular had to bring a smile to the face of Bill Self and Kansas fans everywhere on Tuesday. Kelly Oubre, one of the top prospects in the prep class of 2014, announced his commitment to Self and KU yesterday morning via social media.

The Findlay Prep (NV) wing, who now looms as the natural replacement on the wing for presumptive one-and-done Jayhawk freshman Andrew Wiggins, is another huge get for several reasons. Oubre (#10 in RSCI’s summer rankings for the class of 2014) is a significant coup for Self, a coach whose recruiting efforts – at least in terms of the star power at the top of the rankings – haven’t always matched up with the prodigious success his teams have enjoyed on the court. This isn’t to say the Jayhawks have been winning multiple Big 12 titles and making Final Fours with two-star recruits from western Kansas, but with the Wiggins/Wayne Selden/Joel Embiid class now on campus and this commitment from Oubre for next season also in the books, Self and Kansas should be taken more seriously than ever as major players in the recruitment of the nation’s top prospects.

Kelly Oubre, A Consensus Top-15 Prospect In The Class Of 2014, Is The Latest Highly Regarded Prep Star To Commit To Bill Self And Kansas

Kelly Oubre, A Consensus Top-15 Prospect In The Class Of 2014, Is The Latest Highly Regarded Prep Star To Commit To Bill Self And Kansas

According to RSCI Hoops, prior to this year’s incoming class, Kansas had landed just two consensus top-20 recruits (Xavier Henry and Josh Selby) since 2007. Of course, that number may as well have been one, as class of 2010 guard Selby never realized the potential he flashed during his high school days, averaging only 7.9 PPG in one disappointing season in Lawrence. For an interesting frame of reference, intrastate rival Kansas State — a program with nowhere near the hardwood history as KU — has recruited just as many top-20 players in that span. For (mostly) better or worse, Self simply hasn’t chosen to draw from that group of elite talents as often as the other national programs — granted, part of the reason for that may be some light reluctance on the side of the blue-chippers — but he has seemed pretty comfortable building winning teams without so many prep superstars dotting his roster.

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Five Years Later: Has Longer Three-Point Line Achieved Desired Results?

Posted by BHayes on October 3rd, 2013

With five full seasons of college basketball’s 20-foot, 9-inch three-point line under our belt (formerly 19’9″), now would seem like a good time to take inventory on the impact of the rule change. There was ample debate back in summer 2008 on just how much of a difference the extra foot would make, but believers, and more importantly, the enforcers (the NCAA) trusted that the new line would promote better offensive spacing, and again make the three-pointer an option for only the finest of shooters. Those on the other side of the debate refused to believe that a measly 12 inches would alter a whole lot, with common refrains ranging from “players will be able to adjust very quickly” to “most three-point attempts came from well beyond the arc anyways.” So which group gets to say “I told you so” now? We have a large enough sample size to draw legitimate conclusions, but if we recall the initial objectives of the rule change – increased floor spacing and a decrease in non-shooters attempting the shot —  it’s  hard to argue that the evidence shows anything but mixed results.

Former Blue Devil Greg Paulus Was One Of Many Who Preferred The Three-Point Line Back At 19', 9" ; After Shooting 42% From Three Point Range As A Junior In 2007-08, Paulus Shot Just 34% From Beyond The Arc As A Senior (Photo Credit: Spokeo.com)

Former Blue Devil Greg Paulus Was One Of Many Who Preferred The Three-Point Line Back At 19′, 9″ ; After Shooting 42% From Three Point Range As A Junior In 2007-08, Paulus Shot Just 34% From Beyond The Arc As A Senior (Photo Credit: Spokeo.com)

At the simplest level, the new line served its purpose: Three-point shots have been harder to make since 2008-09. In the last decade, the peak of three-point shooting proficiency came in the final year of the 19’9” line, when players shot 35.02% from distance. That number immediately plummeted to 34.18% in the first year with the new line — a significant drop when you consider that the largest shift in percentage in the five years prior was just .21%. Also worth noting is that the overall percentage in each of the last five years is well below even the lowest percentage (34.49%) in the five years before the change. StatSheet has some wonderful visual representations of this data, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that college players are simply not making as many threes as they did when the line was shorter. No PhD necessary to deduce that they are also taking fewer threes – another desired outcome for the rule book authors back in 2008. Total attempts saw a drastic decline between 2007 and 2008, as the average of 38.25 3FGAs per game fell to just 36.73 in the year after the change. That number has experienced a relative flatline in the four years since – a sharp interruption to a decidedly upward trending graph in the years prior.

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With Little Pomp or Fanfare, Practice is Underway: Is Earlier Better?

Posted by BHayes on September 27th, 2013

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

Aaand we’re back. Sort of. Today marks the official return of practice for college basketball players across the country, but unlike in years past, there will be no festive Midnight Madness celebration to announce that we are underway – at least not yet. A new NCAA initiative to allow programs more practice time before their opening games was passed this offseason, and teams are now able to use their 30 days of preseason practice over the span of six weeks, instead of the four weeks it had been in preseasons past. Great, you say — perhaps we will have a cleaner, more efficient brand of basketball ready for opening tip? That has to be the hope, as the extra time should allow for a smoother transition into the year, at least on paper. But in a sport where tradition and ceremony often delivers much of the impact, will the extra weeks of practice improve the play on the floor enough to offset a potential depreciation to the meaning of Midnight Madness?

Will Midnight Madness Suffer As A Result Of The New Early Opening To Practice?

Will Midnight Madness Suffer As A Result Of The New Early Opening To Practice?

It’s hard to know how direct a response this rule change is to the game scores that are getting lower and lower and the accompanying grumblings that are getting louder and louder, but it feels like an effort by the NCAA to raise early-season quality of play. While the actual practice time (30 days) remains the same, stretching it out over the course of six weeks should help keep players from feeling overwhelmed, and also offer them the chance to recover and work on individual skills on off days. Nobody is claiming these two weeks will advance basketball 10 years worth of quality, but there’s no way the extra time can’t help improve the product of November and December basketball.

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Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun – Are Package Deals With Top Recruits Just The Flavor Of The Day Or Are They Here To Stay?

Posted by BHayes on September 25th, 2013

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

With the recent news of a potential Cliff Alexander-Jaquan Lyle package deal, can we officially label the recruiting season of 2013 as the summer of bromance? An Alexander-Lyle pairing would mark the second duo of top-25 recruits in the class of 2014 to make the college decision a joint one, as Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones (both top-five recruits according to a number of outlets) have long marketed themselves as a package deal for college recruiters. We may not be witnessing Bigfoot here – package deals like this have certainly gone down in the past – but are these examples proof of an emerging trend? The most frequent iteration of the phenomenon in years past had to be the brother package – see Harrison, Andrew and Aaron (Kentucky) or Barton, Will and Antonio (Memphis) – or if we were stretching, close friends who either grew up together or played their high school ball with one another. But now we are beginning to push the definition of proximity even further, as high school basketball players from completely different parts of the country are forming relationships strong enough to consummate these package recruitment deals. It’s a testament to the growing reach of the AAU circuit, the increased facility of long-distance communication in today’s world, and last, but not least, an eerie imitation of the current dynamics within NBA free agency – the professional equivalent of the recruitment process.

Kentucky Has A More Common Version Of The Package Deal Arriving On Campus This Fall In the Harrison Brothers --Emphasis On Brothers

Kentucky Has A More Common Version Of The Package Deal Arriving On Campus This Fall In the Harrison Brothers –Emphasis On Brothers

The modern high-major college recruit simply isn’t afforded the same summer vacation  he used to have. Even a decade ago, there simply were not as many mandatory (in the sense that every other high-level recruit will be there) camps, AAU tournaments, and international competitions as there are today. We could spend a lot of time discussing the many negatives of this current grassroots setup, but one positive to grow out of the arrangement is that recruits have the chance to spend more time with their peers from across the country. Especially for kids not playing their high school ball at the hoop factories (Findlay, Oak Hill, Huntington, etc.), I would imagine finding peers in your native surroundings can be a challenge, so having the chance to spend time with those facing the exact same circumstances as you has to be a welcomed opportunity for these star recruits.

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Goodbye Old Rivals, Hello New Ones — Five New Rivalries To Keep An Eye On

Posted by BHayes on September 17th, 2013

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

One of the many consequences of the past half-decade’s conference realignment frenzy has been the loss of cherished rivalries. Two seasons ago we saw our final Big 12 Border War, as Missouri bid farewell to old rival Kansas en route to the SEC. Last season we witnessed the final edition of Georgetown-Syracuse in the Big East, as the Orange split for the greener pastures of the ACC. And while the ACC will benefit from the arrival of Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame, the conference will still be losing what could be considered their rivalry of this century, as Maryland heads for the Big Ten next year, in the process leaving behind their bitter feud with Duke. Oh, the memories! And while many of these divorcees have vowed to reunite in non-conference series down the road, it’s hard to always take their word for it (although Georgetown and Syracuse are starting to sound pretty serious…). So goodbyes there have been, but what about the hellos? We have been made acutely aware of every dying rivalry (jumping conferences tends to elicit just a little bit of emotion from rival fan bases), but seemed to have forgotten that the reshuffling allows for the potential of plenty of new ones to emerge. Circumstance will have its way in molding many new rivalries (who, besides the man capable of seeing overtime before it happens, could have foreseen Louisville and Notre Dame carving out a nice little rivalry in the Big East?), but here’s a shot at five new conference match-ups with a shot at becoming annual headliners.

While Syracuse Bids Old Rival Georgetown Goodbye, Many New Rivalries Loom On The ACC's Horizon For The Orange

While Syracuse Bids Old Rival Georgetown Goodbye, Many New Rivalries Loom On The ACC’s Horizon For The Orange

Syracuse-Duke: Little explanation needed here. Two of the most decorated programs in the game led by two of the most iconic coaches in the sport’s history, and two teams that have been an annual factor in the national title chase for most of the last decade.  This season’s two favorites in the ACC should take an immediate shine to each other, and for some added fun, how about the contrast in home floors at play here? Needless to say, cozy Cameron Indoor will offer a slightly different stage for the match-up than the cavernous Carrier Dome will.

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Coach K Is Not Interested In Playing Maryland Anymore, But He Should Be

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 17th, 2013

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

Sometimes conference realignment is unforgiving. When the motivation is to get paper now, or position oneself better in a changing FBS football landscape, or cash in on a lucrative television deal, switching leagues is the obvious move to make – no matter how much long-standing tradition or geographical or cultural common sense gets bulldozed in the process. This is the brutal calculus schools were forced to assess in the latest round of realignment moves, and the result – for college hoops, at least – wasn’t always a happy ending. When Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC, it ended one of college sports’ best rivalries (with Kansas). Texas A&M’s move to the same conference ended a great annual football game (with Texas), and an underrated and desultorily good hoops match-up. Syracuse’s leap to the ACC closed the curtain on its decades-old Big East feud with Georgetown. Fortunately, it appears the Hoyas and Orange are on the cusp of locking in a home-and-home series to continue one of the sport’s great games outside of its traditional Big East-tethered form. The two schools came together, understood their games were just too bitterly competitive, and too fun, to simply give up just because football and TV money forced them to part ways. Syracuse and Georgetown will benefit, because it adds another quality opponent to one another’s non-conference schedules, and college hoops as a whole will benefit, because the Hoyas and Orange typically play some of the most entertaining, hotly-contested, dramatic games in any given year. Perhaps other schools can take Syracuse and Georgetown’s lead, work through whatever logistical hurdles exist and spark up their rivalry hate in this post-realignment world. Keeping these sorts of rivalry games churning across newly configured leagues is important for the long-term health of the sport.

Kicking aside the Duke-Maryland rivalry is a huge disappointment (AP Photo).

Kicking aside the Duke-Maryland rivalry is a huge disappointment (AP Photo).

Or you can be like Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who apparently wants nothing to do with future Big Ten member Maryland, who will only play the Blue Devils once in the regular season this year before leaving for its new league. Kryzewski spoke out against Maryland’s motivations for leaving the ACC when the news broke last fall. He expressed many of the same concerns most college sports purists do when lamenting the products of realignment: an attack on tradition, prioritizing monetary gain over cultural and geographical fit, the destruction of rivalries. None of that is particularly novel, but coming from Kryzewski, it felt like one of the stronger harangues we have heard against the recent whirlwind of shifting league allegiances. Maryland was completely frank about its move to the Big Ten – its athletic department, struggling to stay afloat financially, saw an avenue to steady its economic future through a broadcast rights windfall, and predictably jumped at the opportunity. It was the smart financial move for Maryland, and probably the best hope for curing its still-unenviable financial state, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the ACC welcomed the switch with rousing acclaim. Duke, a team Maryland has waged some truly memorable conference games against in recent years, won’t even think about scheduling the Terrapins as an annual non-conference fixture.

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ESPN, College Sports Programming Face Uncertain Future

Posted by BHayes on August 29th, 2013

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

If you love college athletics, you have little choice but to love ESPN. The “Worldwide Leader” has long dominated the broadcasting of college athletic events, especially in the two sports that matter most – football and basketball. Earlier in the week, the New York Times released a three-part series of investigative reports that examined the central role ESPN has played in the rise of college sports programming. Many of their discoveries pertaining to the past, present, and future states of the industry fall very much outside the scope of common knowledge, and we came to find out that university athletic officials are actually not all that that different from fans when it comes to ESPN. The network’s value to the world of college athletics is so prodigious, and their monopolizing grasp sufficiently expansive, that whether they like it or not, conference representatives and university athletic departments have been forced to embrace and cater to the network and their needs. Just like us, there is no alternative: They must love ESPN. But in this age of ever-evolving broadcast media possibilities, where cable networks are suddenly finding themselves on perilous footing, the question of the day is whether ESPN will be able to maintain that firm grip on the college sports programming market moving forward.

Jay Bilas Is Just One Of The Many ESPN Personalities We Have Come To Know Well Over The Years; What Is The Network's Future When It Comes To College Sports Programming?

Jay Bilas Is Just One Of The Many ESPN Personalities We Have Come To Know Well Over The Years; What Is The Network’s Future When It Comes To College Sports Programming? (Getty Images)

Through the 1990s and early 2000s, ESPN built a swath of broadcasting rights to football and basketball games in most of the major conferences. They had no real competition in the space, and were able to get away with accumulating rights for more games than they had time to broadcast. This sort of “warehousing” did not sit well with conference and university athletic officials, who naturally sought maximum television exposure for their conferences and teams. But with no other key players in the marketplace, they had no other option but to stick with the all-powerful ESPN. A 2004 Justice Department investigation into the practice of warehousing prompted the creation of ESPNU as an accommodation to some of those complaints, but while other networks have attempted to beef up their college sports programming volume – Fox, CBS, NBC most notable among them – ESPN still maintains a stranglehold strong enough to force schools to accede to their every demand.

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Five More Additions to ESPN’s College Basketball Bucket List

Posted by BHayes on August 26th, 2013

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

Last week ESPN released a “college bucket list”: a compilation of must-see stops in the world of college athletics. Naturally, the bulk of the list consisted of requisite college football and basketball experiences. The hoops portion contains visits to a number of storied hardwoods — Cameron Indoor, Allen Fieldhouse, and Rupp Arena, among others. We certainly can’t find any issue with any of ESPN’s 10 listed selections, but to round out the list, we can think of a few more pilgrimages that college basketball fans simply have to make in their lifetimes. Consider these five the appetizers to go along with the entrees that ESPN already listed.

Vegas in March is Like Nothing Else

Vegas in March is Like Nothing Else

Spend the First Weekend Of NCAA Tournament At a Vegas Sports Book (Las Vegas, NV) – It’s a marriage made in heaven: the most exciting, frenzied weekend of American sport paired with a manic city loaded with the most prime of sports viewing stations – a Las Vegas sports book. It may sound strange, but gambling is entirely optional for this Vegas trip. No place better captures the emotional pendulum of the NCAA Tournament’s first weekend than a packed sports book, and every college hoops fan – even those not inclined to wagering money on the games – should take in March’s first dose of Madness from Sin City at least once.

Attend a Game at the Kennel (Spokane, WA) – The Cinderella phenomenon has long been a crucial piece of college basketball lore, and no program is more synonymous with the role than the Gonzaga Bulldogs. As “mid-major” schools like Butler, Creighton, and VCU continue to cultivate programs that look built to last, it’s important to remember that it was the Zags who first drafted the blueprint. They are “America’s Team” to some but Spokane’s team to all, and the rabid support of their school and city has quickly made the Kennel one of the most feared home courts in all the land. Don’t be fooled — if you make the trip out to Eastern Washington you will not find the tradition of a Kentucky or a Kansas waiting there for you. But what you will find is a city, a program, and a team that, in the most populist of senses, embodies what college basketball is all about.

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Gonzaga Needs Przemek Karnowski to “Break Out”

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 23rd, 2013

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

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

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

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

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Unfairly Judged, Dez Wells Continues Quest To Reclaim His Good Name

Posted by BHayes on August 21st, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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#notjustforplayers – College Coaches Are Starting to Figure Out Benefits of Twitter

Posted by BHayes on August 20th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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