On Saturday, Mike Arespo, the commissioner of the American Athletic Conference, said that the member schools were committed to matching other power conferences when it came to giving student-athletes stipends. Although Arespo did not specifically state how much the schools would be willing to spend it appears that it would likely be the often-quoted full cost of attendance. As Arespo notes, there are a myriad of other political and legal issues that have to be addressed, but this could be another step in further separating the haves from the have nots.
Indiana suspended sophomore forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea indefinitely after he was arrested on a DUI charge (technically an operating while intoxicated charge). Mosquera-Perea, who has struggled to live up to the hype generated by his ridiculous YouTube clips coming out of high school, was arrested on Friday morning just after 3 AM. Normally we would figure that a coach would make an indefinite suspension go away rather quickly, but with the way that Mosquera-Perea and the Hoosiers have been playing there might even be the possibility that Crean keep him out for a prolonged period of time. We doubt that it will happen, but it would be nice to see a coach hold a player accountable for doing something like this for once.
We have mixed feelings about the decision by Lamar to fire Pat Knight on Sunday. On one hand, Knight has been awful at Lamar going 3-22 so far this year after going 3-28 last season. The lone bright spot during his nearly three-year run at the school was a NCAA Tournament appearance in his first season that was sparked by his epic rant. On the other side, we have no idea what the school is getting by firing a Knight a month before their season will end. For some schools we can understand the idea that you can get a better coach, but when you are Lamar you really don’t have a shot at the real big names. So unless there is something that we are missing like an issue with Knight behind the scenes it seems like a strange time to fire him.
We should probably be more familiar with new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, but we mostly know him as the guy who typically gets the big standing ovation when he takes over for David Stern at the NBA Draft between the first and second round. It appears that Silver could be making a name for himself more quickly than we anticipated. In an interview in USA Today, Silver stated that he would like to raise the age limit by one year and get rid of the one-and-done rule. We understand that there will be some legal issues with doing so, but we think that those are likely the same philosophical issues that people have had with the current age limit. On a selfish level, we would love to see this because it would mean that players would most likely have to stay for two years. Frankly we are not sure why this would not be something that the Players Association would be in favor of too since it would give the current members an extra year of job security.
Jay Bilas has made a habit out of poking fun at the NCAA for its many hypocrisies. One of his more popular stunts from last year was exposing how the NCAA was selling player jerseys by advertising the player’s name on their website even though they claim it is team jersey not a player jersey to bolster their assertion that a player should not receive a portion of the profits. On Friday, someone in control of Syracuse’s social media accounts made the mistake of advertising a Syracuse #11 jersey as a Tyler Ennis jersey. While it was already obvious to every fan who wears that #11 jersey for the Orange this season in theory this should be a NCAA violation and more importantly a legal problem for the school and the NCAA since they are not supposed to profit off a player’s likeness. You can be sure that the O’Bannon legal team appreciated this gift.
Coming into the season we knew that the only thing that DePaul fans had to look forward to was debates over the proposal by Rahm Emanuel to build them a new stadium. What followed has been a 10-14 record overall and 2-9 in the Big East. To be fair they are tied with Butler and we suspect that any DePaul fan would have taken that part coming into the season. Now the Blue Demons will have to complete the rest of the season without Cleveland Melvin, who is no longer enrolled at the school. Melvin, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, has been suspended since January 25 for unspecified reasons so perhaps his departure should not be viewed as much of a surprise. We would suspect that Melvin’s next stop will be a trip to an international destination out of O’Hare.
Toledo was dealt a huge blow in what should be a very big game in the Mid-American Conference as it announced that it had suspended Justin Drummond, its leading scorer, for one game after he was arrested for a DUI on Saturday night. Drummond will be held out of Wednesday night’s game against Ohio, which is in second in the Eastern Division of the MAC (Toledo is in first in the West). Drummond is averaging 14.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. Toledo will still have a shot at winning the game particularly since it is at home and fortunately for the them they will still be in control of their destiny with regards to getting an automatic bid with a favorite seed for the MAC Tournament so hopefully Drummond can learn from this mistake.
We have heard a lot of takes on the Marcus Smart incident. Many of them have been good. Some of them have been ridiculous, but we are not sure that we have heard one quite like Tom Izzo‘s where he puts part of the blame on social media. If you have seen our Twitter feed you should be aware that we are not against social media so our view might be slightly biased, but to pin (at the very least) some of the blame for the actions of Jeff Orr and Marcus Smart on social media is borderline ridiculous. Do people say dumb stuff online? Of course. They also say dumb stuff in person. Players today might get bombarded with more direct criticism via online access, but to use that as a crutch for Smart’s action(s) is really letting him and others who have behaved badly in the public eye off the hook way too easily.
The long-awaited renovation to Rupp Arena was unveiled yesterday when Lexington mayor Jim Gray revealed plans for the $310 million renovation. Gray is defending the expense as a key piece of economic development for the city. One interesting aspect of the project is that the city still has not revealed how it intends to pay for it. While Big Blue Nation is certainly passionate about its basketball it is interesting to see how apprehensive the quoted residents are about the project and how it will be funded. Having said that we have not seen many municipalities reject a stadium being built or renovated, but the Lexington residents do have the benefit of the school not being able to move.
We are just about a month away from fans starting to look at their rosters and try to figure out who is coming back. In general fans view a high percentage of returning players as a good thing and it certainly seems like sound logic, but as Dan Hanner points out experience is not a guarantee for success. Given the state of college basketball where most of the top programs lose players to the NBA after a year or two it should not be surprising that most of Hanner’s examples involve lesser-known programs, but it is still interesting to see how many teams have struggled despite returning so much from the previous season.
We were treated to another great match-up last night when Michigan State came into Iowa and defeated the Hawkeyes 71-69 in overtime. For the Spartans, it was another impressive performance as they registered a big road win with many of their key players out or playing injured. As for the Hawkeyes, this loss may reintroduce some concerns that basketball opinion makers have about this team. As of today, Iowa’s best win is against Ohio State – a win that looked better two weeks ago than it does today. Against top tier teams, the Hawkeyes have consistently fallen short. However, they have performed extremely well against teams they are supposed to beat, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. The bottom line is that we may not have a good handle on how good the Hawkeyes are until the end of the season.
In their 80-75 win at Michigan State this past Saturday, Michigan put the country on notice that they had no plans in making this a rebuilding year after losing several key players from last season’s National Championship runner-up squad. Now, the Wolverines are alone atop the Big Ten standings and have college basketball experts revising their expectations of them. But, don’t expect John Beilien to buy into the hype; he’s already moved on from their big win and is looking ahead to Thursday’s game against Purdue. “We’ve basked enough, no more basking,” Beilien told a local Ann Arbor radio station on Monday. Michigan’s head man may not want to concentrate on what he’s accomplished this season, but Big Ten fans should. With him at the helm, there is no reason to think Michigan can’t be a dominant force for years to come.
Another surprising team in conference play has been Minnesota. Despite having a first-year coach, Richard Pitino, and losing some significant pieces from last year’s team, the Golden Gophers have kept their own in league play and have impressive wins against Ohio State and Wisconsin. But on Sunday, Minnesota lost some of its momentum when it dropped a game at Nebraska. A major reason for the loss may have been the poor play of DeAndre Mathieu who had 13 points, but also had 9 of the Gophers’ 13 turnovers. While he is not Minnesota’s best player, Mathieu’s steady point guard play has allowed other players, such as likely All-Conference teammate Andre Hollins, to be productive on the offensive side which has led the team to have an adjusted offensive efficiency of 1.18 points per possession (top 15 in the nation). With Hollins out indefinitely, Mathieu will get a lot more attention from defenses and he’ll need to improve his play for Minnesota to continue battling for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Speaking of the Cornhuskers, bad news came out of Lincoln on Monday: Deverell Biggs, Nebraska’s third leading scorer, was dismissed from the team. Although no specific incident or cause was given for his release, Biggs has had disciplinary issues in the past including a DUI in 2012. The Cornhuskers had been playing the role of spoiler throughout conference play, upsetting both Ohio State and Minnesota within six days. Without Biggs, upsets will be more difficult to come by which could rob Tim Miles of some needed momentum going into the next few seasons as he continues to try and build a respectable program in Lincoln. If either Ray Gallegos or Tai Webster can step up their production, there may still be a shot for Nebraska to make some noise in the conference.
After a six-game losing streak, one thing is apparent in Champaign: this Illinois team is not like last season’s squad. Last year’s team was able to come back from a poor start in conference play because of talented senior guards that led them back to postseason form. This year, Illinois’ offensive woes do not appear fixable. They are last in the conference in eFG percentage (40.5%) and second-to-last in adjusted offensive efficiency (0.92 point per possession) and three-point shooting (25.8%). Despite all this, John Groceadmires the fight his team has put up through its slump. While Groce’s enthusiasm is admirable, this can’t be where he thought his team would be when they were 2-0 in the conference and had wins against Missouri and UNLV. He’s been playing his freshmen more often in games, which may be a sign that he is looking towards the future as he grips with the reality his team faces in the present.
The announcement that a group of Northwestern football players are asking to be represented by a labor union probably will not elicit the amount of attention it deserves from the general public because… well, they are Northwestern football players, but it could be one of the biggest sports stories of this year. With the backing of the National College Players Association the football players filed a petition to be recognized as employees with the National Labor Relations Board and filed union cards for an undisclosed number of players. Before we get ahead of ourselves we should point out that this is just the first step of the process (“getting a seat at the table” as they say), but it is an important one. As you can imagine the NCAA is not a fan of the idea and has issued a statement essentially saying that athletes do not meet the definition of employees and thus should not be awarded rights typically given to unions. The scope and details of the case go well beyond what we have the space to cover here so we would recommend you check out the excellent Outside the Lines piece we linked to earlier.
We all knew it was coming, but Dante Exum came out and announced it yesterday: he will be entering this year’s NBA Draft. The Australian point guard, who is projected by most to be a top-5 pick in this year’s Draft, had reportedly been considering playing college basketball and even had come up with a list of finalists. Basically it was a list of top programs with no real shot (even UNC where his father played) since Exum is guaranteed NBA millions. Multiple players including Andrew Bogut, a fellow Australian and #1 pick who actually went to college, came out publicly and urged Exum not to go to college. Now college basketball fans can bring back their dreams of landing a star recruit to American high school players.
According to Tim Miles it was not a single incident, but rather a series of them that led him to dismiss Deverell Biggs from the team. Biggs, who redshirted last season after coming to Lincoln as a first-team junior college All-American, was the team’s third-leading scorer at 9.9 points per game despite being a reserve playing just 20.5 minutes per game. We do not know the full extent of the series of incidents that led to Biggs’ dismissal, but he was cited in April 2012 for suspicion of DUI and in December 2012 for leaving the scene of an accident then was suspended in July for a violation of team rules. We do not know what happened to make Miles finally decide to get rid of Biggs, but we imagine that there will be somebody else out there to take a chance on Biggs.
We are not sure what “medical and personal reasons” have led Kennesaw State coach Lewis Preston to take off from his coaching duties since January 2, but the school announced that he will return to his coaching duties at the end of this season. Preston, who is 7-61 (not a typo) as a head coach at Kennesaw State, was replaced by Jimmy Lallathin, who did not do much better going 3-12 as the interim coach. As we said we have no idea what the specific reasons were for Preston’s absence were and it would be reckless to speculate on what those reasons could be so we will just wish Preston the best in his return.
Normally the loss of a player who is averaging 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game would not even merit a mention here (ok, maybe if they did something really dumb), but Xavier’s frontcourt is so thin that the indefinite suspension of freshman forward Jalen Reynolds might have an impact on the team. Despite his limited playing time (partly the result of his propensity to foul) Reynolds is one of the top rebounders on the team and as a freshman one would expect him to improve as the year goes along. Based on the reports on nearly every site it appears that this is an academic issue so we doubt that we will see Reynolds back this season.
It’s no secret that a good portion of the country (myself included) has marveled at the eye-popping numbers Marcus Smart has put up this season for Oklahoma State. But Run The Floor’sMichael Rogneroffers the other side of Smart’s play and gives a compelling argument as to why he might not be the leading candidate for National Player of the Year honors. Going into Sunday morning and the Cowboys’ rematch with Memphis, Smart had two games where he turned the ball over five times. His line last night: 12 points, 4-of-13 from the field (0-of-5 from three), four assists and five turnovers. Rogner might be on to something here.
TCU is having a tough time in its first year-plus in the Big 12, but some of those troubles are out of their control. Stefan Stevenson of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports more injuries for the Horned Frogs in 2013-14. The most recent setback has to do with junior Amric Fields(12.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG), who suffered a broken hand in their loss to Harvard on Saturday and will be out for the next two to six weeks. This was only Fields’ fourth game of the year after missing all but three games last season due to knee surgery. Freshmen Brandon Parrish also suffered a sprained thumb in the Harvard loss and Hudson Price is recovering from a concussion. Both are listed as day-to-day. If Parrish and Price were both available for Thursday’s game vs. Mississippi State, Stevenson says TCU would have just seven scholarship players in uniform. If you’re a believer in a TCU turnaround, you’ll have to come to this realization: It’s hard to get a program off the ground if you don’t have the bodies to do it.
Tonight’s Oklahoma-Mercer game is a homecoming of sorts for Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman. Hoffman, an Oklahoma City native, coached at Oklahoma Baptist in Shawnee, Oklahoma, where he accumulated 243 wins over a long tenure there. Then Hoffman headed to Southern Nazarene in Bethany to be the women’s basketball coach, where he won 88 more games. He was also an assistant at Oklahoma for Kelvin Sampson from 2004-06. If you rewind to last season’s conference tournaments, his Mercer team lost in the Atlantic Sun title game and as a result introduced Florida Gulf Coast to the college basketball world. In five-plus seasons, Hoffman has won 104 games at Mercer but might have trouble getting No. 105 against a Sooners team averaging nearly 88 points per game.
In the last two seasons, Iowa State has been seen as a solid team that usually got hot late in conference play to surge into NCAA Tournament at-large bids. This season has gone a little differently: they’re hot early. The Cyclones have already scored a home win over then top-10 Michigan and persevered in a tough road environment against BYU. Heading into their Big 12/SEC Challenge match-up vs Auburn, Iowa State has had a week since its last game and Fred Hoiberg has decided to add plays to an already bulky playbook. It must be a nightmare as a Big 12 coach to game plan for a brand new Iowa State team every year, but to also be thrown off balance with the new wrinkles they use. It’s probably a good thing the other nine Big 12 coaches have quite a bit of patience on the sidelines.
Former Kansas State and Maryland assistant Dalonte Hill has decided last week to resign from his post on Mark Turgeon’s staff. In October, Hill was charged with his third DUI in five years, dating back to his tenure working under Frank Martin. He took a leave of absence from the Terrapins to “focus on his personal life,” according to Turgeon, and this is probably the best move for Hill. He feels that he must help himself before he can help others again, and who’s to say he can’t? Hill’s only 34 years old and he’ll have plenty of time to jump back into the coaching ranks whenever he feels like he’s ready to. All the best to him going forward.
When Andy Enfield made his statements criticizing Steve Alford and Tim Floyd we figured that he would hear about them. We just never figured it would be in a public place in front of journalists. As Seth Davis detailed, Floyd approached Enfield and began yelling at him in front of Enfield’s wife and a group of onlookers. Assistants for both schools had to step in to separate the two. It’s unfortunate that the two had to air out their differences so publicly, but Enfield had to expect some blowback after his arrogant comments.
It appears that the Chane Behanan 2012 Final Four controversy has come to a rather abrupt end. Upon hearing about the auction Behanan’s mother called his grandmother, who he had given the ring to. She said that she had put it in a box in her bedroom, but when she checked she discovered that it was not there. When the family contacted Gray Flannel saying that the ring had been stolen the company promptly returned the ring to Behanan. While it is a plausible story it does seem strange that the company gave the ring to Behanan so quickly if they did any investigation at all into his claims.
Floyd and Enfield may have embarrassed themselves with their actions, but they were not the only ones in the college basketball community to embarrass themselves. Craig Neal‘s wife, Jean, has been accused of attacking a school administrator and could be heading to court as a result of it. Former El Dorado High School assistant principal Susana Stanojevic has filed a lawsuit claiming that Janet Neal assaulted her after a high school basketball game in February in which Janet’s son played. Stanojevic is claiming that the school board knew that Janet had a history of such outbursts and did not protect Stanojevic from her. It is worth noting that this is not the first time that Stanojevic has filed a lawsuit against the school board.
When Dalonte Hill was arrested for the third time for a DUI we figured it was only a matter of time before he stepped down (or was forced to do so). On Wednesday, after having taken a leave of absence from the team from quite some time, Hill finally officially resigned. Hill’s primary role was to help the team in recruiting in the D.C. metro area, which is something that he did to a degree, but not at the level that was needed to make the Terrapins competitive in the upper echelon of the ACC (and soon to be Big Ten). Although the news is certainly negative for Maryland as they attempt to increase their reach in recruiting, they did get one positive as they announced that Maryland legend Juan Dixon was joining the staff as a special assistant to Mark Turgeon.
We have heard a lot of strange excuses for why a player is not eligible, but that of two Egyptian players–Aly Ahmed and Ahmed Hamdy–is a new one. They claim that they were misled by former Rice and FIU assistant Marco Morcos who told them to spend a second year in prep school prior to entering college despite NCAA rules arguing against that. For his part, Morcos denies any influence. Although the schools where the two players are waiting at now (Cal State Bakersfield for Ahmed and Houston for Hamdy) appear to be confident that the NCAA will change their mind based on the report that Morcos misled the two players we tend to agree with John Infante that the two are out of luck because they need to know the rules.
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…
We have seen plenty of ridiculous headlines over the years in college basketball, but the one stating that Illinois State junior guard Daishon Knightpleaded 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.
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.
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 Millswill play for La Salle in their opener against Manhattan on Saturday despite injuring his ankle recently.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can also find his musings online on Twitter @markrselig.
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.