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Morning Five: Opening Day Edition

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  1. We can appreciate the arguments made by people advocating for athletes to receive compensation beyond their scholarship even if we question the economics of it, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t think that Dominic Artis and Ben Carter acted irresponsibly when they sold their team-issued shoes. For their transgression, Artis and Carter have been suspended for the first nine games of this season. Artis and Carter had to have known the rules and chose to break them. We would have a hard time filing this one under civil disobedience or whatever ridiculous idealistic phrase some writers may choose to defend then. Unfortunately for Oregon, the length of that suspension means that they will also miss key games against Ole Miss and Illinois in addition to the season opener against Georgetown. Now, if you want to debate why selling your shoes is worth a suspension that is 80% longer than lying to the NCAA about paying off a booster who had reportedly committed multiple NCAA violations…
  2. We have seen plenty of ridiculous headlines over the years in college basketball, but the one stating that Illinois State junior guard Daishon Knight pleaded guilty to punching a woman in the face and resisting arrest and was reinstated to the team soon after that ranks pretty high. Now the actual story is a little more complex: Knight reportedly punched to woman in the face on August 25 and was able to get the charges decreased from a felony to a misdemeanor with the stipulation that he complete 24 months of conditional discharge and 100 hours community service. Illinois State coach Dan Muller says that Knight has done what he needed to be reinstated, but we have a hard time believing that unless that means being a player that Muller needs to win. On the bright side for Illinois State they were mediocre last year so there is a decent chance nobody in the mainstream media will pick up on this to rip them apart.
  3. There has been plenty of hype about the return of Dunk City in Lincoln tomorrow night as Florida Gulf Coast takes on Nebraska, but the bigger story might be what is happening in the Cornhusker locker room where the team, which will already be without Deverell Biggs for three games (the result of a DUI) will be without Ray Gallegos, the team’s leading scorer last year, for two games after he was suspended for “behavioral issues.” If Tim Miles can get his team back on track they could still be an interesting team in the Big Ten (certainly better than last that they were picked in the media poll), but right now they seems like a team on the verge of falling apart.
  4. With the season officially starting in a few hours we have a lot of quick injury updates to get to before the season starts. Michigan will open the season without Mitch McGary as he continues to deal with a “lower back condition.” Louisville will be without Final Four MOP Luke Hancock as he will sit out the first three games of the season while he recovers from an Achilles tendon injury. UNLV still does not know the extent of Bryce Dejean-Jones‘ hamstring injury, but he will not play in their opener against Portland State. David Pellom, a George Washington graduate transfer, is expected to be out for five weeks after undergoing arthroscopic debridement surgery on his left knee. Washington will not have the services of Desmond Simmons for 6-8 weeks after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. Sam Mills will play for La Salle in their opener against Manhattan on Saturday despite injuring his ankle recently.
  5. As we predicted yesterday, the NCAA quickly reversed its ruling on Nathan Harries and says that he is eligible to play immediately. Harries, a freshman at Colgate, was ruled ineligible this year by the NCAA after admitting that he had played in three church league games while he was on his two-year Mormon mission. As we suspected this appears to be a case of eligibility decisions being rubber-stamped and much like the case of Steven Rhodes, the Marine who was temporarily ruled ineligible for his freshman year of football for games he played while on a military base, the decision was reversed as soon as the public became aware of the decision. The NCAA gets plenty of criticism for a wide variety of dumb decisions, but at least they have been quick in correcting their missteps in these cases.

Big Ten M5: 11.07.13 Edition

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  1. In the first regular season contest for Nebraska in its brand new arena, the Cornhuskers’ leading returning scorer won’t be playing due to a suspension. Head coach Tim Miles announced yesterday that senior Ray Gallegos has been suspended for two games for a violation of team rules. Miles said he learned of the infraction before Monday’s exhibition game, but that Gallegos did not play in that game because of a hip injury. The suspension length was a coach’s decision and has Gallegos missing the season opener against Florida Gulf Coast tomorrow and Tuesday’s game against Western Illinois. The opening game loss of Gallegos, along with guard Deverell Biggs serving a three-game suspension for a DUI, could provide a problem against “Dunk City” and returning guard Brett Comer. The Eagles have a new coach, but some of the players who helped them get the moniker and upset top teams last season are back. It certainly doesn’t help Nebraska to be without its top returning scorer against a team that likes to score and run.
  2. There seems to be a consensus about the top teams and players in the Big Ten this season. NBCSports came out with its preseason report on the conference yesterday and Michigan State and the Spartans’ Gary Harris were seen as the top team and player. It also sees at least six teams–Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa and Indiana–joining the Spartans in the NCAA tournament and potentially up to nine with Purdue, Illinois and Minnesota on the bubble. The most interesting question this piece raises, though, is whether Indiana‘s Yogi Ferrell might be the most important player in the conference. Ferrell certainly will play a big role in the Hoosiers’ success or struggles this season, but the team will also need improvement and solid play from guys like Will Sheehey and Jeremy Hollowell. Plus, there are lots of guys coming back to teams that have vastly bigger roles or need to have huge seasons for their team to be successful (see: Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III for Michigan just to start).
  3. Thad Matta has something new this season in his 10th year of being Ohio State’s head coach. Not only will he have to find some different scoring threats, but he’ll also have an experienced squad. Of course, this is something Matta is more than happy to have, as he exclaimed, “Thank god, huh. Two seniors! We’ve got two seniors this year!” With big question marks surrounding exactly who will score for the Buckeyes this season, it certainly helps to have guys around who have been in the program for years to fill that void. Outside of the two seniors in Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith, Jr., Ohio State also has seven juniors on the roster. This is the most experienced squad Matta has ever led, and we will get a good assessment of how far experience can go in helping a team without a surefire NBA lottery picks on its roster.
  4. Illinois has a young and new team, with only five players returning from last season’s squad. With this influx of freshmen and transfers, it appears John Groce is finding leadership and consistency from one of the newcomers. Graduate student Jon Ekey, a 5th year transfer from Illinois State, has proved he can provide the squad with an example on the court and in practice for the freshmen and others to follow. Ekey, a 6′ 7″ forward, is a career 36.5 percent 3-point shooter, so he shows versatility on the court, but his ability to help the freshmen adapt to the college game could be his biggest asset to this team. He wasn’t a star at Illinois State, averaging 6.4 points per game last season, but his ability to play multiple positions and lead will get him time on the court. With a lot of question marks surrounding exactly how much this team will need to grow and improve, it certainly is a good sign they have a player others can model themselves after.
  5. From unknown to hero to footnote, Spike Albrecht had quite a game in the NCAA Tournament Championship for Michigan. Now, following up his 17 point first half barrage, the Wolverines sophomore is trying to follow-up his momentary celebrity status by earning a starting spot in Michigan’s lineup. He’s currently in a battle with top-40 freshman Derrick Walton to see who gets the starting nod as both started one of the exhibition games. It’s tough to see the Spike the sensation maintaining the starting position over a potential All-Big Ten Freshman, but if he can provide leadership, push Walton and give solid minutes of the bench once again, Albrecht will have a chance to make some other memorable moments.

2013-14 RTC Conference Preview: Colonial Athletic Association

Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can also find his musings online on Twitter @markrselig.

Reader’s Take

 

Looking Back

Since the last CAA game — a James Madison championship that its fans waited nearly two decades to see — the league has officially said goodbye to perennial powers George Mason (off to the Atlantic 10) and Old Dominion (now in Conference USA in a football-driven move), and hello to intriguing newcomer College of Charleston (formerly of the Southern Conference). Based on last year’s RPIs, the CAA won’t immediately suffer, but Mason — with a Final Four appearance last decade — is obviously a more high-profile program than Charleston. ODU is too. The swap is just the latest in the CAA’s geographical shift. The league is losing its Virginia members (VCU exited before last season) and seems to be trending south.

New Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich is just one of several newcomers to an ever changing CAA. (AP)

New Niagara coach Joe Mihalich is just one of several newcomers to an ever changing CAA. (AP)

The league also said goodbye to Mo Cassara, Hofstra’s hard-luck coach who took the job in tough circumstances (replacing Tim Welsh after a DUI) and was let go in equally difficult ones. His replacement? Longtime Niagara coach Joe Mihalich, who said he’ll have to donate all the purple wardrobe accumulated from 15 years with the Purple Eagles to JMU coach Matt Brady (ironically, Mihalich and Brady both have wives named Mary, and both have three sons, including a set of twins — with the same May 30 birthday!). Brady, meanwhile, parlayed his CAA title into a four-year contract extension, although the talks were a bit drawn out, nearly lingering until his previous contract expired. As for a new coach joining Mihalich in the league, second-year Charleston coach Doug Wojcik becomes every CAA reporter and copy editor’s worst nightmare. Wojcik (I’m already getting the hang of it), is no stranger to the CAA, having played with David Robinson at Navy in the 1980s.

The final goodbye from the CAA was to the city of Richmond — home of the league’s last 24 postseason tournaments. The league offices are still located in Richmond, but the CAA will host its annual playoff in Baltimore this year. Trying to establish Charm City as a sort of hub for CAA hoops, the conference held its media day at the Renaissance Baltimore, a swanky hotel overlooking the Inner Harbor. “Crab Cakes and basketball. That’s what we’re going to do here in Charm City,” Towson coach Pat Skerry, channeling a Wedding Crashers line, said during a lunchtime speech at media day.

Power Rankings

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Morning Five: 10.24.13 Edition

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  1. The last time anyone saw UCLA’s mammoth center Josh Smith, this equally hilarious but also pathetic GIF was the result. To everyone else, the Airball Layup Incident may have been just another amusing moment during a somewhat meaningless Bruins’ home opener against Indiana State, but to College Basketball Nation it was a spot-on encapsulation of Smith’s disappointing career. In two up-and-down years in Westwood, nobody had denied the 6’10″ center’s soft hands and nice touch around the basket — the problem was that, because of his — how should we put this? — excessive weight problem, he simply could not get up and down the floor. In his freshman and sophomore seasons, he hovered around 20 MPG despite logging solid offensive ratings and commanding the offensive glass (top 15 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage both seasons). Shortly after the ALI, Smith decided to transfer to Georgetown, and yesterday the NCAA handed down its decision on his eligibility request to play immediately. Shockingly, despite that fact that Smith played in six UCLA games before his transfer and didn’t move closer to home to care for an ailing family member (he’s from Seattle), the governing body decided to give him two full years, effective immediately, to play for the Hoyas. As Gary Parrish writes in comparing the Smith decision with NCAA precedent, “For now, though, I’ll just sit here baffled.”
  2. Speaking of baffling, the narrative coming out of preseason practices and scrimmages is sounding off like a fog horn at this point. The new officiating points of emphasis suggest that hand-checking on the perimeter will be called early and often, and if you believe the buzz around the country, some coaches are downright terrified. ACC microsite writer Brad Jenkins wrote last week that his viewing of the scrimmage during Duke’s Countdown to Craziness was “foul-plagued,” and if this box score from a recent secret scrimmage between Xavier and Ohio U. is any further indication — there were 71 fouls and 91 free throw attempts in that game — they should be. It got so bad that two players were whistled for seven fouls in that contest, while a third was called for six. The process of re-learning how to defend on the perimeter is not something that many players can solve overnight, so although the college basketball product should be more free-flowing and ultimately better in the long run, the first month of this season could have more than a few games where the second units are playing in crunch time.
  3. It’s the classic deal with the devil: At what point does a person’s value to an organization no longer outweigh the trouble that he causes? In the case of Maryland assistant coach Dalonte Hill, the answer has until now remained on the positive side of the ledger. After Hill’s third DUI arrest in the last five years (and second while employed under Mark Turgeon at Maryland), the 34-year old who is reportedly the highest-paid assistant coach in the country, is certainly testing the integrity of that question. Since Hill’s Sunday night car crash and arrest, he is taking a leave of absence from the program, but the underlying issue that is surely on the minds of his employer is that he is one of the very best (and connected) recruiters in the sport. His ties to the Washington-area AAU program called DC Assault has allowed the Terps to get involved with local prep products that simply weren’t available to them under Gary Williams. It will certainly be interesting to see how Maryland brass decides to handle this, but there’s absolutely no way that they’ll completely remove him. He’s not quite below the horizontal line just yet.
  4. Notre Dame is one of the three new teams joining the ACC this season, and the whole conceptual framework behind it still feels a little unreal. But playing the likes of Duke, North Carolina and Maryland to go along with former Big East foes Syracuse and Pittsburgh will certainly feel real enough to Mike Brey in short order. In this article from Matt Fortuna at ESPN.com, Brey discusses the hoop-jumping and maneuvering that his program had to do to get into the basketball league of his wildest dreams, the ACC. Dreams do come true, apparently, as a rumored possible move to the Big 12 a couple of years ago would have been Brey’s “worst nightmare.” With an experienced and talented backcourt returning for the Irish to go along with Brey’s proven ability to get the most from his players, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see him challenging those schools near the top of his new league’s pecking order as soon as this winter.
  5. To most fans in today’s college basketball environment, a scheduled game three years away between Kentucky and UTEP would be virtually meaningless. But to fans of the sport who know their history and are aware that in 1966 UTEP was called Texas Western, such a potential game raises more than a few eyebrows. Current UTEP head coach Tim Floyd told a tipoff audience on Wednesday that his school and Kentucky are exploring a rematch of the most historic college basketball game of all-time — the Brown vs. Board of Education of college basketball — Texas Western vs. Kentucky, in 2016. The date would signify the 50th anniversary of the first game where an all-black Texas Western starting lineup knocked off favored and all-white Kentucky in the national championship game in College Park, Maryland. If things go right with this idea, they will hold the game on MLK Day in Cole Field House, the exact site of the start of the cultural revolution in college basketball.

ACC M5: 10.23.13 Edition

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  1. Miami Herald: The biggest news out of ACC country yesterday was the conclusion of the NCAA’s investigation into Miami. We will have more on that later today, but Michelle Kaufman has an interesting perspective. Rather than looking at the punishments, she asks, “Where are they now?” The answers are damning to say the least: Nevin Shapiro is in prison, two lead NCAA investigators moved on, and Frank Haith and Cecil Hurtt are still in coaching positions. It’s not hard to figure out why the NCAA didn’t hammer the Hurricanes.
  2. Wilmington Star News: It’s no secret Roy Williams’s system develops elite college point guards. The Tar Heels have three of the ten Bob Cousy Award trophies on campus. This year Marcus Paige joins fellow ACC floor generals Quinn Cook, Devon Bookert (an interesting choice), Eric Atkins, and Tyler Ennis on the preseason Cousy Award watch list. None are considered the favorites for the award (ahem, Marcus Smart), but all are point guards to watch in ACC play.
  3. Raleigh News & Observer: While Mark Turgeon didn’t seem concerned about recruiting to Maryland once he moves to the Big Ten, Mike Brey is. Brey is considering scheduling Georgetown in the future to keep his in with the DMV. On a side note I think Laura Keeley underestimates the difference in media money between Big Ten and ACC schools. It is true that it is only a few million this year, but the ACC just renegotiated its deal. Also Maryland’s athletic department was facing fiscal crisis, which made the money that much more important.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Speaking of Maryland, some tough news out of College Park yesterday, as Terrapin assistant Dalonte Hill started a leave of absence following his third DUI charge in the last five years. Hill’s importance to Maryland recruiting cannot be overstated, as he has close ties to the premier AAU team from the area.
  5. Syracuse Post-Standard: You want a dark horse rookie of the year candidate? Look no further than Tyler Ennis, who is Jim Boeheim’s only point guard this season. That means Ennis will have a large role for Syracuse this year, potentially a more integral role than Duke’s Jabari Parker who will have his playing time eaten into by a roster chock full of athletic wings.

Morning Five: 10.23.13 Edition

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  1. Yesterday, the NCAA released its long-awaited report on its investigation into the alleged violations committed at Miami. While those involving the football program were the primary focus of the national media, in many ways the ones involving the basketball program were more interesting and we don’t just say that because we are a basketball site. The men’s basketball program was hit with a reduction in three scholarships (total) over the next three years, but otherwise escaped harm. If you want to hear our take on reducing scholarships, check out Mike DeCourcy’s column on why the idea is idiotic. In addition, the NCAA also issued assistant coach Jorge Fernandez a two-year show-cause, which basically amounts to a four-year ban since he has been untouchable while in limbo. Of course, the biggest news for us is that Frank Haith was only given a five-game suspension for his role in this. Normally we would use quotation marks to modify the only, but in this case he got very lucky. Gary Parrish did an excellent job describing how ridiculously light Haith’s punishment is in comparison to the three-year show-cause penalty that Bruce Pearl got for lying about hosting a cookout (it is a little more complex than that, but not to the degree that the NCAA made it out to be) and, as Andy Glockner pointed out repeatedly yesterday on Twitter, Todd Bozeman got an eight-year show-cause for doing essentially the same thing Haith did (to the point where we wonder if Glockner’s new job is being Bozeman’s PR guy). At this point, we think all the parties involved will be glad to just put the entire thing behind them.
  2. Haith was not the only coach making the wrong kind of headlines yesterday as Maryland assistant Dalonte Hill announced that he will be taking a “leave of absence” after being arrested over the weekend for what is at least his third DUI in the past five years. Hill, who is best known for essentially being an assistant who is essentially a package deal to bring in recruits, has been receiving a seemingly exorbitant $300,000-a-year salary at Maryland, but that is actually a significant drop from the $423,000-a-year he was making at Kansas State for helping bring Michael Beasley to Manhattan. Both Mark Turgeon and Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson expressed their support for Hill and we would expect that he will be back on the sidelines (or recruiting trail) in the near-future. One more interesting twist on this is that Hill’s pipeline has largely come from the famed D.C. Assault AAU program that came into the national spotlight this August when its founder Curtis Malone was indicted on federal drug charges so we are not sure how that dynamic will affect Hill’s ability to recruit down the road.
  3. Villanova fans got an explanation for the mysterious photo that junior forward JayVaughn Pinkston temporarily posted on Instagram of himself on crutches back in August. It turns out that Pinkston had developed a MRSA infection of his right leg that required incision and drainage and eventually what has been described as “emergency surgery” as well as what is likely a prolonged course of antibiotics. By now, you have probably become familiar with MRSA infections due to the news media hyping it up over the past few years or perhaps the recent spate of infections on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If you are not, essentially it an increasingly common bacteria that does not respond to older antibiotics that were previously used to treat the organism, but can generally be treated fairly easily with antibiotics (even oral forms). With competent medical care, superficial MRSA abscesses like what Pinkston appears to have had respond well to treatment and as expected (although maybe not as Pinkston and his family, coaches, and teammates feared) it appears that he will be ready to play when the season starts.
  4. Yesterday, we mentioned how West Virginia was waiting on the NCAA to rule on the eligibility of freshman forward Elijah Macon. Well, it appears that Macon might have other issues affecting his eligibility to play after he was arrested for disorderly conduct during a court hearing involving his sister. According to reports, Macon became upset during the hearing and after leaving the hearing hit something loudly enough for it to be heard in the courtroom. He was asked to leave the building which he did, but continued yelling and was then arrested. We have no idea what triggered Macon’s reaction, but we doubt that Bob Huggins will take too kindly to it.
  5. It is really early to start w thinking about Player of the Year awards, but yesterday The Bob Cousy Award committee released its preseason watch list. All of the big names that you would expect–Aaron Craft, Jahii Carson, and Marcus Smart–are on there as well as a handful of the more heralded incoming freshmen–Andrew Harrison, Kasey Hill, and Tyler Ennis. Interestingly, two schools–Harvard and Memphis–have a pair of point guards on the watch list, which seems unusual, but we don’t make a habit of memorizing these lists. We don’t see any particularly glaring omissions although we are sure fans of some schools will be able to muster up sufficient outrage over some perceived slight.

American Athletic Conference Offseason Capsules

We are a little less than a month away from the start of another college basketball season and as teams start to get in to the swing of things, we here at the AAC microsite will be doing the same things. The offseason in college basketball can be a tedious stream of coaching changes, arrests, transfers, recruiting, and injury news. But it is still an important part of the game and since we know you have had better things to do than sit at home and track the minutiae of each AAC team’s offseason, we figured we would do it for you as the perfect way to launch our coverage for this season. Look for a full conference preview in the next week as well as the standard Morning Fives, some other fun coverage, and maybe even a new writer or two, who knows. 

Louisville

When your team is fresh off a National Championship and looking like a legitimate candidate to repeat, the last thing you want as a coach is an offseason full of distractions. Luckily for coach Rick Pitino, the distractions and bad news have been very limited this summer. Tragedy struck as Luke Hancock learned he lost his father to cancer while trying out for USA Basketball in Colorado and there was a late-summer scare over a knee injury suffered by Montrezl Harrell which turned out to be much ado about nothing. But the team also got to visit the White House in July, learned that guard Kevin Ware hadn’t been secretly suspended over the summer and has now been cleared for practice.

Rick Pitino Has Nothing To Complain About, Although We Doubt That Will Stop Him From Doing It Anyway.

Rick Pitino Has Nothing To Complain About, Although We Doubt That Will Stop Him From Doing It Anyway.

In fact, the most controversy surrounding Louisville from the offseason came when a pair of Boston radio hosts hung up on Pitino during a promotional interview after telling him that, “he ruined the Celtics.” Hilarious stuff, really. Pitino also gave a struggling assistant coach a job in the coolest way possible. Put it this way, if you are Pitino and the worst press of the offseason is that you were hung up on early during a promotional interview, you can live with that. The bottom line is that the Cardinals are loaded with talent and could be insanely deep if Ware makes it back to the court quicker than expected.

Connecticut

If it wasn’t for forward Tyler Olander’s DUI idiocy and suspension, it would have been a nice, quiet offseason for coach Kevin Ollie and his Huskies – especially when compared with previous offseasons. But the DUI charges against Olander have since been dropped and the forward has been reinstated, which is a huge boon to team with major frontcourt issues. Also, freshman guard Terrence Samuel cleared up eligibility concerns over the summer, adding more depth to an already loaded backcourt. The only remaining question is whether another key freshman, Kentan Facey, will be cleared to play with the team as he deals with eligibility concerns stemming from his time at a high school in Jamaica. The 6’9″ Facey is a prized recruit and will be an important frontcourt contributor if he is cleared to play. The Huskies look poised to quickly return to the NCAA Tournament this year.

Cincinnati

As far as interesting news goes, there is no team in the conference that has had a quieter offseason than the Bearcats. The offseason started with a bang when senior guard Sean Kilpatrick announced he would return for his senior season, but since then, it’s been all crickets. I guess you could count gangly forward Justin Jackson putting on 20 pounds or highly-touted 2014 recruit Qadri Moore’s commitment to the Bearcats big news, but that would be stretching the definition. In some cases the lack of news might not be such a good thing, but coach Mick Cronin still needs to break in a new starting point guard and find anyone who can be a legitimate anchor in the post, so Cronin has probably welcomed an offseason without distractions of either kind. Kilpatrick’s return makes life a bit easier for Cronin and the team has plenty of athleticism, but points will be hard to come by and rebounds may be harder to come by still.

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Morning Five: 10.04.13 Edition

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  1. UNLV may have lost Anthony Bennett to the NBA Draft and Mike Moser to Oregon, but that has not stopped Dave Rice, who got a commitment from Goodluck Okonoboh yesterday. Okonoboh, who is the #21 overall prospect in ESPN’s rankings, is a 6’9″ center with good defensive skills, but with a raw offensive game. We are not privy to the details of his recruitment, but are a little surprised that he chose UNLV over more established programs like Duke, Florida, Indiana, and Ohio State, which were his other finalists. If Okonoboh follows through on his commitment (see below), he would join Dwayne Morgan, a top-10 power forward, to give the Rebels an imposing frontline.
  2. One of the many reasons that we do not get too worked up about recruitment is the inevitable early commitment/decommitment. The latest example of this is Trevon Bluiett, who backed out of his one-month-old commitment to UCLA yesterday. Blueitt’s official reason for backing out of his commitment was the distance from his home state of Indiana to UCLA, but we would not be surprised if UCLA’s surplus of wings may have played a more significant role. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Bluiett’s decision is that the Bruins has already hired Ed Schilling, Bluiett’s former high school coach, as an assistant coach. Package deals like this are not unusual in college basketball, but it is unusual to see one part of the package fall apart like this.
  3. As we mentioned last month when he had his DUI charge reduced to a driving without a license charge, it did not take long for Connecticut to let Tyler Olander back on the team as Kevin Ollie announced yesterday that Olander, a 6’10″ senior who has been arrested twice since March, was back on the team following his September arrest. We won’t pretend to know how to run a basketball team/program, but we are a bit surprised with how quickly Kevin Ollie let Olander back as he cited Olander’s “responsibility and maturity” as well as time management skills and academic work. We understand that Connecticut is in need of an inside presence, but we have a hard time believing that doing so for less than a month after his (second) arrest really demonstrates that.
  4. When the NCAA made its controversial decision to not allow coaches to attend practices for schools that do not participate in scholastic associations we assumed it was a backhanded attempt at questioning the legitimacy of the academic credibility of those institutions. If the case of Illinois State freshman MiKyle McIntosh is any indication, they may have targeted the wrong school. McIntosh, a 6’7″ forward from Canada, was ruled academically ineligible after the NCAA determined that some of his high school coursework could not be used. Of course, this is not an infrequent occurrence, but it is notable that McIntosh spent part of his time at Christian Faith Center Academy in North Carolina, the same school that Florida State non-qualifier Xavier Rathan-Mayes attended for part of his career. We do not have access to the details of what courses these two took that the NCAA deemed unworthy of meeting its requirements as both players appear to have bounced around high schools, but much like Prime Prep in Texas when multiple players who graduated from the same high school are ruled academically ineligible you start to wonder what is going on there.
  5. Ken Pomeroy writes some of the best publicly available analytic work available, but sometimes it takes someone else to put it into a format that makes others recognize its value. One example of this is the work of Dan Hanner who looked at two Pomeroy metrics–possessions per game and average possession length–to determine which teams had the biggest differences between perception and reality in terms of their tempo. The basis behind this is that a team that plays suffocating defense that leads to their opponent using up a large percentage of the shot clock will tend to have fewer possessions per game as their opponent will be consuming significant portions of the overall game time with their offensive possessions. We won’t get into the specifics of the analysis (you can check out the link for that), but it is interesting that teams that play faster on offense than standard metric suggest tend to be much better than teams that play slower on offense than standard metrics suggest.

Morning Five: 09.24.13 Edition

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  1. With the college basketball season getting closer by the day now is good time to start getting familiar with the new faces coming in. RTC’s own Chris Johnson with the help of Evan Daniels of Scout.com has a solid take on the ten biggest impact freshman this season. Most of these rankings have a tendency to regurgitate the recruiting rankings and while there is usually some truth to that the better ones (like what Chris produced) feature some players who did not necessarily at the very top of the recruiting rankings, but could play key roles on their teams and influence the college basketball season because of the situations that they are placed in.
  2. Few things inspire as much outrage as ranking programs and most of those rankings tend to be poorly thought out, but given Andy Glockner’s track record we are going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Over this week, he will unveil his top 20 programs (presumably in order since he isn’t Jeff Goodman), but yesterday he began with the honorable mentions. Most of the teams in the honorable mention seem like they would be worthy candidates of inclusion in the top 20 (particularly Marquette, Pittsburgh, and Xavier) although if you look at all of his criteria, which are not necessarily 100% based on on-court success, you can understand why those programs might fall out of his top 20. We will be interested to see how Glockner’s top 20 compares to one that we would be put together (as long as he doesn’t ruin this by doing a dumb slideshow).
  3. It appears that Connecticut and Tyler Olander have dodged a bullet  as prosecutors in Connecticut dropped a DUI charge against him after he pleaded guilty to driving without a license. Olander, who was charged with a DUI on September 7, failed field sobriety tests, but passed two breath tests after he was taken into custody. As The Courant notes, Olander claims that he was merely serving as a designated driver (presumably for someone more drunk than he was), but this was his second arrest in six month (the other was trespassing during Spring Break in Panama City, Florida). This second arrest led Kevin Ollie to suspending him indefinitely. It remains to be seen whether Ollie will let him back on the team, but given the lack of interior talent the Huskies have on the inside and the reduced charges we suspect that Olander will be back before the season starts.
  4. Mark Emmert’s statements yesterday that he expects “a lot of change” in NCAA governance structure during the upcoming year led to quite a bit of debate about what those changes will be. Having read plenty of articles like this over the years you will have to excuse us if we are waiting for something more substantial before we start singing the praises of the NCAA. And if you expect this “change” to be about the overall structure of college sports and how revenue is generated Emmert’s comments from last week (see our Morning Five reaction the following morning) should make clear that is not on the NCAA’s agenda at this time. Still we would support any more towards transparency by the NCAA. We are just waiting to finally see it.
  5. We are guessing that Mike Krzyzewski will not be a fan of the Missouri Valley Conference’s unique solution for Deontae Hawkins and his transfer dilemma. Hawkins initally signed with Wichita State, but failed to qualify academically so he went to prep school for a year before signing with Illinois State. This would be fine except the MVC has a rule prohibiting intra-conference transfers within two years of attending college classes. In the end, the MVC agreed to let Hawkins, who never actually went to classes at Wichita State, play for Illinois State in the 2014-15 season except when they play Wichita State. While we can appreciate the attempt to make Hawkins eligible to play earlier, the uneven application of the rules is part of what drives administrators, coaches, and fans crazy.

Morning Five: 09.10.13 Edition

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  1. We are still trying to piece together the news about BYU coach Dave Rose, who reportedly had “cancerous spots” removed during a semi-annual screening that he has after being diagnosed with a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor in 2009. By its nature, this finding was likely asymptomatic and given the vague nature of the description we do not even know where these “cancerous spots” were located in his gastrointestinal tract. However, based on the report the intervention appears to have been successful and Rose is expected to be back with the team by October 7 when they officially start practice.
  2. After a year spent in NCAA Tournament purgatory for their low APR scores Connecticut seems primed to potentially make a run this coming March. Those plans appear to have taken a slight detour after the school announced that forward Tyler Olander had been suspended indefinitely for what was initially reported to be a violation of team rules (later found out to be a DUI). Although Olander put up modest numbers last season (4.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game) he was expected to play significant minutes for a team that is lacking on depth on the inside. We are unsure of how long Olander’s suspension will last, but we suspect that it will be for at least a few games since Olander was also arrested in March for trespassing while on Spring Break in Panama City.
  3. One would think that being the head of a program that was embarrassed in front of a national audience less than half a year ago would you a pariah, but that does not appear to be the case of recently disgraced Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti. Pernetti, who was widely blamed for the school’s failure to react to Mike Rice’s actions, has somehow landed a job as Chief Business Officer of New York City Football Club. Now we have no idea how prestigious the job is (obviously it is a step down from Rutgers), but the fact that he was able to land a job with a professional sports team (ok, they don’t start playing until 2015) speaks volumes for how easily administrators and business people are willing to overlook such ridiculous behavior.
  4. We have been critical of the ways that colleges recruit and get commitments out of kids who are often still in middle school. So it may come as a surprise that we support the decision by Bradley to sign two brothers who are still in elementary school. The decision to sign the brothers–Johnah and Jarrett Sahrs–is not the result of some ridiculous YouTube video or even some coach looking to make a recruiting splash, but instead it is the result of five year-old Johnah’s 18-month battle with a high-grade neuroblastoma that he has fought with Jarrett, his nine year-old brother by his side. Obviously, these two have much bigger things to deal with than being part of the Bradley basketball team, but it was a nice touch by the school to help lift their spirits.
  5. If you are a Louisville fan and/or want to support a good cause, the school is selling pieces of this past season’s Final Four floor with proceeds going towards pediatric cancer research. With prices ranging for $99.99 for a 9″ x 12″ plaque with a section of floor on it to $499.99 for a 18″ x 13″ piece signed by Rick Pitino (“limited” to only 1,000 pieces) there is a pretty good chance that this sale will top the $200,000 that Kentucky reportedly earned last year for a similar sale. While the $499.99 price might seem ridiculous to some it is going towards a good cause and given the state of the economy (or at least the stock market) we wouldn’t be surprised to see many of those pieces sell.

Morning Five: 07.22.13 Edition

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  1. After initially reconsidering Kyle Wiltjer has decided to leave Kentucky and will transfer to Gonzaga. The rising junior came to Lexington as a top-25 recruit and played well at times, but was largely overshadowed by his teammates and was relegated to a role coming off the bench. Despite his limited playing time Wiltjer has shown flashes of brilliance and with his 6’10″ frame and ability to shoot from the outside (36.7% from 3-point last season) he should become a featured part of the Gonzaga offense during his two remaining years of eligibility. Although we are sure that many in Big Blue Nation (like any fan base) will be quick to criticize Wiltjer for leaving it is probably the right decision for him as it will allow him to showcase his ability instead of being stuck behind a revolving lineup of lottery picks.
  2. We have seen a lot of awkward transfers over the years, but the way Trae Golden left Tennessee is one of the more unique ones (check Google if you want the background). The two-year starter, who averaged 12.1 points and 3.9 assists per game last season, is headed to Georgia Tech where he could make the Yellow Jackets a potential NCAA Tournament team if he is granted a family hardship waiver to play next season. The basis of Golden’s waiver is that his father, who is in Georgia, is “severely ill”. Although the Yellow Jackets finished 16-15 last season they return their top two players and if Golden is eligible to play this season the addition of Golden should do a lot to stabilize their backcourt, which was their biggest weakness headed into this season.
  3. They often say that the cover-up is worse than the crime and if that’s the case North Carolina should be very concerned with the latest need to come out over the weekend. Dan Kane of The News & Observer has continued his pursuit of the truth in this case even if neither UNC nor the NCAA seem particularly interested. The latest bombshell to come out is that Faculty Council Chairman Jan Boxil sent a series of emails advising the authors of the investigation to rewrite their findings to try to prevent the NCAA from investing further. We are not sure what they were told to rewrite, but the optics of this look horrible for the school. Perhaps the only amusing aspect of this case is that Boxill actually wrote a book on sports ethics. At this point if the NCAA does not step in to punish UNC for its actions we will assume it never will because you won’t find many more clear smoking guns than this.
  4. The battle between the NCAA and athletes of various generations has been stealing most of the headlines, but apparently there are also smaller battles being waged. One of those battles involves Leslie McDonald (actually North Carolina) and Iceberg Guards, which had been using McDonald’s image on its website to promote its designer mouth guards. In response the school has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the company asking it to take McDonald’s image off its website. The company appears to have taken McDonald’s image off its website so we would assume that the matter is settled for now and although we are sure that some people will use this as another knock against a Tar Heel program that has much bigger issues this appears to be a simply a company acting on its own to utilize someone’s image that they had no right to.
  5. Starting your career at a new school being suspended is never a good thing, but that is the situation Nebraska guard Deverell Biggs finds himself in after he was suspended for three games to start next season as the result of his arrest for driving under the influence last December. Biggs, who redshirted last season pleaded no contest to the DUI charge, will miss the team’s two exhibition games and the season opener against Florida Gulf Coast. For his part, Biggs has apologized for his actions, which may not mean much because almost everybody does, but we are guessing that Biggs will be watched very closely by the Nebraska staff with his career starting this way.

Season In Review: Pittsburgh Panthers

If you are one of those glass half-full type of people, then you could easily point out that a season which saw Pittsburgh finish 24-9 and 12-6 in the Big East is a giant step forward from the year before when the Panthers went just 22-17 and 5-13 in the conference. But chances are that if you are a Pittsburgh basketball fan, you aren’t one of those glass half-full type of people and that is because all of Pitt’s regular season success has never translated into anything more than a single trip to the Elite Eight and a few Sweet Sixteen appearances. The Panthers were good enough to make it back to the NCAA Tournament, which likely saved coach Jamie Dixon from a wave of criticism this offseason, but it wasn’t exactly a triumphant return to the Big Dance. Advanced metrics loved the Panthers because of the team’s exceptional efficiency on both ends of the floor, but that didn’t stop them from shooting 35.1 percent from the field in a first-round clunker against Wichita State and departing from the NCAA Tournament in unceremonious fashion.

Preseason Expectations

Most pundits were cautiously bullish on the Panthers’ chances of rebounding from the 2011-12 debacle. Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson were both gone, but the team returned basically every other contributing player and also added Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler (15.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 46.1% FG as a sophomore with the Chippewas) and ballyhooed freshman center Steven Adams, a seven-footer from New Zealand who was universally considered an NBA talent. No one expected the Panthers to shock the world this season, but both the coaches and our writers had Pitt pegged as one of the top five teams in the conference, and during the regular season at least, they made us look smart.

It Will Be Another Long Off-season For Jamie Dixon After Another Disappointing Early Exit From the NCAA Tournament.

It Will Be Another Long Off-season For Jamie Dixon After Another Disappointing Early Exit From the NCAA Tournament.

The Good

Despite the disappointing finish, there are plenty of team-wide positives Dixon can point to this offseason. For starters, the Panthers’ trademark defense returned with a flourish. After finishing outside the top 150 in adjusted defensive efficiency in 2011-12, the Panthers leaped all the way back into the top 20 in that category by creating turnovers and contesting shooters on every possession. The offense was even more efficient, finishing just outside the top 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency thanks in large part to the team’s terrific offensive rebounding, taking care of the basketball, and insistence on scoring inside of 20 feet. Also, he very much looked the part of a freshman point guard at times this season, but James Robinson (6.1 PPG and 3.5 APG in just 26.6 MPG) is going to develop into an excellent floor general for Dixon as quickly as next season. Neither Woodall nor Lamar Patterson took their games to the next level, but they were still the only two consistent offensive threats on the roster. Even Adams (7.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 57.7 FG%) proved himself to be an excellent prospect, although he didn’t exactly set the conference ablaze like so many had predicted.

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