While players have been participating in individual workouts off and on since the summer, official practice begins this Friday for the NCAA Division I men’s basketball season. As always, the onset of the new season is ushered in by Midnight Madness on many campuses throughout the country. Here’s a look at what’s going down on October 12 and beyond to ring in 2012-13 in the Pac-12:
October 12 Events
Oregon will be having its Matt Knight Madness at the conclusion of the Ducks’ 6 PM women’s volleyball contest. If the past and this year’s promo video is any indication, it looks like there will be some snazzy introductions for both the men’s and women’s teams, followed by a slam dunk contest, a scrimmage and perhaps even a little dancing. As only Oregon can do, the Ducks will be raffling away custom Pit Crew Air Jordans and jackets, in addition to giving away t-shirts and autographed basketballs from both Paul Westhead’s and Dana Altman’s squads.
Midnight Madness events kick off with the start of practice on Friday.
There will be ZZUMania at Bohler Gym for Washington State with activities starting at 9 PM. Included in the festivities are a three-point contest for the women’s team and a scrimmage and dunk contest for Brock Motum and Co. If you’re a current Coug, you have a chance to win $500 for spring semester books; if not, you still have a chance to win a couple of courtside tickets to the Gonzaga game on December 5.
Colorado will be holding Buffs Madness immediately following the finish of the women’s volleyball match against Arizona, so things should get started there around 8:30 PM. In addition to the men’s and women’s team introductions, scrimmages and contests, the Buffs are giving away arguably the second best prize of any Pac-12 school: A trip for two to accompany Tad Boyle’s boys when they play at Kansas on December 8.
It seems like all we talk about in these M5s are player eligibility issues, but something new is released almost every day. The latest release involves the other half of the top two players in the incoming freshman class (depending on whom you ask). With UCLA”s Shabazz Muhammad sitting in Westwood yesterday as his team flew off to China without him, SI.com‘s Pete Thamel published a piece revealing that the NCAA is taking a closer look at the recruitment of Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel, visiting his former high school for the second time in three months to inquire about some of the associations he has with various prep basketball hangers-on, and specifically, how Noel paid for some of his unofficial recruiting visits. As expected, Kentucky fans have been quick to play the victimization card by their media public enemy #1, Thamel, but the truth of the matter is that this is becoming NCAA standard operating procedure for elite recruits in today’s environment. Just this offseason, Noel, Muhammad, Providence’s Ricardo Ledo and NC State’s Rodney Purvis have been more carefully vetted by the NCAA, and in the era of players frequently jumping high schools, more and more powerful AAU basketball, and vast coteries of agents and runners looking for a piece of the action, these careful evaluations of elite recruits is going to continue.
It was therefore superb timing on CBSSports.com to release another of their Critical Coaches series Wednesday asking a question along these lines. They asked their coaching contacts which player’s recruitment from the last decade was perceived (there’s that word again) to have been the dirtiest? Recall that a couple of weeks ago, John Calipari, Scott Drew and Ben Howland were perceived to be the biggest cheaters in the sport — among the group of players named in this follow-up question, the top four named and six of the top 10 were recruits under either Calipari or Howland. Interestingly, none of Drew’s guys — from Quincy Miller to Isaiah Austin to Perry Jones — were named in this poll. But boy, both Calipari and Howland’s guys sure were — the top four: Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Davis, John Wall, and Kyle Anderson. The next two on the list? OJ Mayo and Derrick Rose — two players who, you know, were proven to have committed serious violations during their recruitments. A number of other players received votes but it’s clear that, with nine of the 24 players named (Terrence Jones, DeMarcus Cousins, Enes Kanter, and J’Mison Morgan were also named), the Kentucky and UCLA head coaches are perceived to be playing a different game than everyone else.
Sigh… While on the subject of the shamelessness of some of the questions in this Critical Coaches series, would it be too much to ask the CBSSports.com gentlemen — all of whom are good and capable dudes — to follow up with some of the hundreds of coaching contacts they have and do the proper journalistic legwork to prove (or disprove) these perceptions? If Shabazz Muhammad’s recruitment is perceived to be the dirtiest in the last 10 years of college basketball (or Anthony Davis’… or John Wall’s… or Kyle Anderson’s… you get the point), how about spending some of that energy nailing the people responsible; or, alternatively, clearing those mentioned from that perception? It all just feels a bit too US Weekly, which as John Clay suggests, is fine if that’s what the site wants to be — but unlike most college basketball portals, that group has the resources, the time, and quite clearly the contacts to find out where the bodies are buried. Instead of pure sensationalism, how about digging up a few bones here and there along the way?
Let’s continue a theme with today’s M5 by mentioning that UNC has “quietly” moved its director of academic support services for athletes into another position at the university. Specifically, Robert Mercer, the department’s leader for 10 years, has become a “special assistant for operations” at the school’s Johnston Center for Academic Excellence (where everyone who wants an A, gets an A!). Sorry. UNC of course went to great pains to lay blame at the feet of Mercer for the problems that occurred under his watch, but it’s clear to anyone watching that he’s falling on the sword in return for an opportunity to keep his job (current salary: $81,900 + bennies). One note on this story — outside of Tobacco Road, it’s not well-known just how much vitriol exists between NC State and North Carolina. Take a read at some of the 15 pages of user comments under this Raleigh News & Observer article, and you’ll understand very quickly that the hatred between those two fan bases runs very, very deep.
Back to basketball. One of the best ongoing columns if you’re looking for insightful information about the sport is Mike DeCourcy‘s Starting Five piece. If you can get past DeCourcy’s floating head at the top of each article, it’s really an excellent read, and this week was no different. He doesn’t get cute with it, but the insight is that the questions he answers are often a step or two beyond the typical “how do you see XYZ next year?” type. In this installment, he discusses the paucity of elite point guards in college basketball, Keith Clanton’s loyalty to UCF, and the possible upside for a number of non-power conference teams, among other things. There are few regular offseason columns that we’d describe as must-reads, but DeCourcy’s Q&A is definitely worth a few of your minutes each week.
How many Gasols does it take to win a championship? That might be the question asked by basketball-loving Angelenos who are not only Laker but also UCLA fans now that Adria Gasol, the 18-year old younger brother of NBA stars Pau (Lakers) and Marc (Grizzlies) is walking on to the Bruins’ roster. According to all reports, expectations for the 6’10” player should be tempered, as he is far behind his two older brothers in terms of on-court skills at the same age. Still, the bloodlines are there and Marc in particular took some time to develop into an effective player, so Ben Howland stands to lose nothing by giving the young center a chance to learn the game with minimal pressure on him. He certainly wouldn’t be the first big man prospect who has trouble with the fundamental basics of the game at his age.
Indiana athletic director Fred Glass made some interesting comments over the weekend in a piece from the the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel that compared the problems of cheating that go on in college football versus college basketball. His perception is that because of AAU/summer league basketball, cheating is more of a problem in hoops (“It’s terrible, man. I mean, it’s gross.”), and he would go considerably further than the NCAA has in getting control over it. To wit: “I would encourage the NCAA to hire a bunch of former FBI guys that know how to follow the money. […] I think you need to hire guys that know how to find bad guys and that know their way around tracking money. That’s what I’d do. If we’re serious about cleaning that up, we need to have some people who have a real ability to track money and require people to give them the information they need to do that.” This kind of strong language from someone in a position of power at one of the nation’s pre-eminent basketball schools is what we like to see — otherwise, the pressure will never reach the tipping point needed to make significant changes.
Central Florida may have been facing a lost season in its final tour in Conference USA with a postseason ban hanging over the program’s head, but with the weekend news that its best player, Keith Clanton, has decided to return for his senior year, next year may not be so bad after all. As a result of the NCAA sanctions, Clanton and his senior teammates CJ Reed, Josh Crittle and Marcus Jordan were allowed an opportunity to transfer elsewhere to play immediately, but so far only Reed, heading to Georgia Southern to play for his father Clifford, is jumping ship. According to CBSSports.com, Jordan is set to return to UCF too, although he appears to only be taking classes and is not expected to suit up for the Knights again.
Over the weekend, former UNC two-sport star Julius Peppersconfirmed that a leaked transcript purported to be his on a North Carolina portal last weekend was in fact his own, and that all of his grades were earned, “whether good or bad.” In light of his admission, the Raleigh News & Observer outlined its ongoing two-year saga in requesting aggregated and de-identified transcript data from the university — needless to say, the newspaper feels as if it’s been stonewalled, and according to legal professors familiar with the student privacy laws the school is hiding behind, UNC is purposefully misinterpreting the law to protect its own interests. Will the Martin Commission, put in place by UNC chancellor Holden Thorp last week, have the power to get to the bottom of this growing scandal? Or as one commenter notes below the piece, have all the bodies already been buried?
We’ll have more on this in a piece later today, but the New York Times over the weekend published a tremendous article on the whereabouts of former high school starJonathan Hargett, a Richmond, Virginia, uber-athlete who was compared favorably in the early 2000s with Allen Iverson for his size, crossover dribble, and unbelievable hops (reportedly at 44 inches). Hargett had offers from everywhere, but he told the Times’ Pete Thamel that he chose to attend West Virginia (then coached by Gale Catlett) based on a promise of an assistant coaching position for his older brother and a guaranteed annual “salary” of $20,000 per year. He only survived one season at the school before leaving and becoming involved with drug trafficking on the streets — he is now in prison in Chesapeake, Virginia, and eligible for parole in January 2013. These sorts of cautionary tales about legends who never made it seem to pop up all too often, but if we have to believe that the SIDs in Morgantown are burning the midnight oil with statements and talking points for Monday.
International basketball has a number of differences from the US game, ranging from the legal goaltending rule to the trapezoidal lane to a much higher tolerance by officials of cheap shots during game action (see: Anthony, Carmelo vs. Argentina). While Team USA’s core group of players has gotten used to FIBA rules by now, Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks are learning on the fly while they’re touring around Switzerland and France. According to this Lawrence Journal-World report, in KU’s first game on Tuesday night, Swiss forward David Ramseier lost his s#&% after a technical foul call went against him in the second quarter. From Bill Self: “He went nuts. He went absolutely nuts. I’ve never seen that. I saw Bill Romanowski do it in football one time, and I saw Roberto Alomar do it in baseball one time. But this guy went and actually did it twice. He’s going after the official and did it twice.” A physical assault that may have resulted in expulsion from the team (or at least a suspension) in America apparently held no weight overseas — Ramseier was back in the Swiss lineup on Wednesday. For what it’s worth, KU won both exhibition games but not without working for it; the Jayhawks outlasted the Swiss team by three points on Tuesday and four points on Wednesday.
Moving stateside to poor treatment of officials, the NCAA on Wednesday publicly reprimanded Cincinnati head coach Mick Croninfor his “profane and abusive language toward a game official” during UC’s Sweet Sixteen loss against Ohio State last March. The NCAA had previously censured Cronin for this same incident, but UC had appealed it on his behalf — that appeal was denied. For the record, Ohio State was tallied with 11 total fouls in that game versus 21 for the Bearcats, resulting in 27 free throw attempts for OSU (making 19) against eight for UC (making five). That 14-point difference in foul shots made essentially accounts for the difference in the game (81-66) — no wonder Cronin was so hot. Does anyone know what he actually said to warrant such a strong reprimand?
CBSSports.com has been crushing it this week with its series revealing what coaches really think about a number of topics. We learned Tuesday that Temple’s Fran Dunphy is considered the most underrated head coach in the land, a fact not too surprising considering how well his teams have done at both Pennsylvania and now Temple. On Wednesday, the most overrated head coaches were listed and the “winner” is a man who 98% of programs around the country would love to have on their sidelines — North Carolina’s Roy Williams. In nine years at UNC, he’s won two national titles and taken the Heels to three Final Fours and six Elite Eights. Everyone knows that he always has great talent at his disposal, but come on… should Williams have gone to six Final Fours and won four titles in the same period — would that make him accurately rated? Rick Barnes, the second-place “winner,” on the other hand…
While on the subject of Roy’s alma mater, ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil wrote a piece Wednesday excoriating the NCAA for its seemingly (ok, definite) inconsistency in refusing to further investigate North Carolina for an academic scandal featuring athletes getting pushed into certain courses for easy As. As she clearly writes in the article, it’s certainly no secret that college athletes and students alike know where to find the easiest professors and courses, but there’s a clear distinction between “equal-opportunity baloney classes” and those that exist as fraudulent academic portals for athletes (Jim Harrick, Jr., on line two). She correctly points out that the NCAA would have no problem calling such grades into question at the high school level; but, when it involves its member institutions, it says it has no jurisdiction? It sounds like a really weird mandate, but Robbie Pickeral takes the time to explain in detail how the NCAA defines the issue: If players are clustering in certain classes as a result of academic-related counseling, then the NCAA defers to the university in handling it. If players end up in those courses as a result of the athletic department steering them there, then and only then does the NCAA get involved. What’s left unsaid here, of course, is what happens when there’s an unspoken pressure — even a wink/nod agreement, perhaps — for academic counselors to push players to those classes in the spirit of what’s best for the university (largely influenced by UNC sports).
While we’re piling on the NCAA today, we may as well use this opportunity to check in on the Ed O’Bannon antitrust lawsuit against the organization and its licensees regarding the ongoing usage of his and other players’ names and likenesses in video games, published materials and so forth. The three-year old case is working its way through the system, but on Monday the O’Bannon group of plaintiffs convinced a judge to agree with them that the NCAA must “turn over information relating to revenue that its members receive from broadcast television, radio and Internet rights as well as reports tied to income from sponsorships, licensing, sales of advertising.” Clearly this sort of information is highly sensitive, but it’s a key victory for the athletes in that it shows that their case is meritorious enough for a federal judge to require the NCAA to release such documentation. In a nutshell, this case isn’t going away.
CBSSports.com: Gregg Doyel hits the nail on the head in this column (by the way, Doyel covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer before going to CBSSports.com and wasn’t exactly close with Mike Krzyzewski over the years) on Duke‘s Cameron Crazies. The one caveat is that he didn’t really offer a solution to the boredom and lack of ownership. For comparison’s sake Coach K offered his thoughts (courtesy of Duke Hoop Blog):
“Our crowd sometimes becomes fans instead of part of the game. Overall, our crowd has been part of what we’ve done. They haven’t come there to watch us play. They’ve come there to compete with us. I think this year it’s more of watching us play and cheering us on. When you do that you don’t really understand the game situations as well. You don’t have a feel for the game. You can’t be as on point. That doesn’t mean we don’t love them. But, this team needs it more and would benefit from that support.”
I think both Doyel and Krzyzewski are probably right. The Cameron atmosphere was developed as Duke got more talented. It gradually became more and more controlled in the 1990s and eventually morphed to its present state. Other than big games (I’m thinking of Maryland and North Carolina recently) and big-time players, the Crazies don’t seem as connected with the game as in the past. It has started to feel like more of a show. Basically, I think Coach K describes the current issue that led to the problem brought up by Doyel. Author’s Note: As a side note, Coach K gave a pretty scathing press conference after Duke beat St. John’s at home. It’s worth a watch.
ACC Sports: Adrian Atkinson (normally our North Carolina defensive-charting connoisseur) took a look at Duke’s most used lineups this season. Remember, he’s only using Duke’s conference games so the sample size is fairly small, meaning you should take the efficiencies with a grain of salt. That said, I think his overall conclusions are fairly interesting. Duke’s most effective lineup is Tyler Thornton, Seth Curry, Austin Rivers, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly. It’s a little surprising to me that this lineup isn’t used more often given the fact that its defensive efficiency is so outrageous. It’s also worth noting that Duke’s defense drops off dramatically by just replacing Thornton with Andre Dawkins. Even worse than that (shockingly) is replacing Ryan Kelly with Miles Plumlee (which leads me to believe that both Plumlees are good defenders at the five, but horrid defenders at the four). Anyways, these numbers are fascinating and worth a look.
Fox Sports South: Apparently, Harrison Barnes isn’t a fan of pink shoes. At halftime against Georgia Tech Sunday, Barnes switched from the team’s pink kicks to the normal ones. Andrew Jones makes it sound like Barnes really struggled in the pink footwear, but Barnes was 4-8 from the field with 11 points at the half. More interestingly, Barnes shared his pregame soundtrack and meal. Tunes: John Legend. Food: “I always eat mashed potatoes, rice, spaghetti, chicken and steak […] Two pieces of chicken, one piece of steak, [and the] steak’s cooked medium.”
Palm Beach Post: If you told me one ACC coach would get a midseason contract extension I wouldn’t have been surprised. Pretty much all but two coaches appear to be doing strong jobs; Jeff Bzdelik and Jim Larranaga are the outliers (I also would probably hold my horses on Steve Donahue and Brian Gregory until I see them recruit, but that’s different). But it was Larranaga who got himself a three-year extension through 2019. Larranaga looks older than many of his coaching brethren, but he’s only 62. My guess is that the extension came (at least in some part) indirectly associated with the current NCAA investigation of Miami athletics.
Charleston Post and Courier: It’s not directly related to the ACC, but former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins is taking a short medical leave that will probably last until the end of the season. Cremins did a terrific job putting College of Charleston on the map the last few years, though his trip to the Final Four at Georgia Tech stands as his career’s crowning achievement. Assistant coach Mark Byington will take over in his stead. The details of Cremins’ medical issues weren’t announced, though it’s reportedly not life-threatening and may be sleep-related.
EXTRA: Dan Wolken thinks college basketball should push its season back to January (moving March Madness to May) in order to shirk college football and the NFL, attempting to keep casual sports fans from ignoring the regular season. It may be in the NCAA’s best monetary interest, but I can’t see something this drastic happening without a big push. Still it’s an interesting piece.
It was a busy day in the ongoing Bernie Fine investigation. The District Attorney investigating the case at Syracuse has come out and said that the allegations by Zach Tomaselli, the third alleged victim of abuse, do not match up with the evidence. While the District Attorney did not give many details about the potentially exculpatory evidence, he said it challenged Tomaselli’s claims about his whereabouts at the time of the alleged abuse and would be handing it over to Fine’s defense team. He also added that the claims by the other two alleged victims appeared to be credible while criticizing The Post-Standard for not handing over the recently released tape that many point to as the tipping point in Fine’s firing even though it would not have led to a prosecution of Fine at the time because the statue of limitations had passed.
One of the strangest traditions in college basketball will occur again this Friday night when Taylor University takes on Ohio-Midwestern in what is known as the “Silent Night” game. As part of the tradition, which is nearly two decades old at this point and is held on the Friday before finals week, the Taylor fans are to remain silent until the team scores its tenth point of the game at which point they will finally cheer. Then at the end of the game they will sing “Silent Night”. Fortunately, the Trojans are pretty good (#21 in the NAIA D-II poll) or the silence could go on for a long time. If you are interested in watching this, the game is available online for $4.95 (hey, we just bring you the news; we aren’t telling you to actually buy it).
Oregon suffered a major blow when Jabari Brown decided to transfer, but they will be getting a boost in the form of Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph, who will finally get to play for the Ducks this Saturday against Fresno State. Joseph, who averaged 11.3 PPG and 3.5 APG in his last season at Minnesota before deciding to transfer after being suspended, should immediately be one of Oregon’s top offensive threats and could be the piece that helps them stay towards the top of the Pac-12 despite the early season defections.
This season has been an unmitigated disaster so far for UCLA and yesterday it got a little worse as freshman guard Norman Powell had to be taken to the hospital after suffering an allergic reaction at practice and will remain in the hospital overnight for observation. According to reports, Powell broke into hives and had trouble breathing during practice before being transferred to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center where he was stabilized. Given the severity of the reported symptoms and the fact that they are keeping him overnight for observation, we would be surprised if Powell played in the team’s next game, which is against Penn on Saturday.
Finally, we don’t typically find mailbags that interesting, but Seth Davis manages to make his worthwhile by finding a handful of good questions and making some interesting points. This week’s edition is no different as Seth talks about tempering expectations for freshmen including those of a fan who compares Ryan Boatright to Kemba Walker and delves into the Scott Machado debate. As usual we agree with Seth on most of the stuff he says and as we have pointed out before people tend to overreact to the performance of freshman as well as many other things. As for Machado, we agree that he is a great college point guard, but it will be tough to glean too much from his performance the rest of the regular season due to a mediocre remaining schedule so in the end most of the nation will be forced to judge him based on his NCAA Tournament performance.
Early Season Performances – The Oooh Aaaah Variety (Teams & Individuals)
The A-10 evened the record versus the six power conferences again last week, largely on the strength of performances by Xavier and Richmond. Xavier needed overtime to beat Vanderbilt in Nashville. Down by two with just under four minutes in regulation, Xavier held Vanderbilt scoreless and managed to tie on a Mark Lyons jumper with six seconds remaining in regulation. In overtime the Musketeers took the lead for good 68-66 on two Dezmine Wells free throws and Tu Holloway put a large enough margin between the teams (about eight points) when he hit two threes in successive possessions to absorb a Commodore mini-run. Vanderbilt chipped the Musketeers’ lead down to four, but could get no closer. Forced to foul, Holloway and Travis Taylor went a perfect 6 for 6 from the line to stretch the lead to 10 and suck the life out of the Commodore comeback.
Hosting Purdue five days later, Xavier again went down early, allowing Purdue to take the lead at the 18:49 mark of the first half and hold it for the next 37 minutes of play. The Boilermakers took an 11-point lead into the intermission and stretched it to 15 in the first 6:30 of the second half. Over the next 12:24 Xavier outscored Purdue 29-13 to take the lead for only the second time in the game. Once in control, the Musketeers did not let the Boilermakers back in, pushing their lead out to three in the last minute of the game.
Those numbers are more interesting, however, when you break up the game. For example, with 3:30 left in overtime against Vanderbilt, Holloway had just 14 points on 4-17 shooting. That stat line looks much more impressive after he hit back-to-back threes on the next two possessions and four straight free throws down the stretch to seal the win. Likewise, against Purdue, Holloway had just 10 points and six turnovers in the first 38 minutes of the game, but in the final two minutes he hit a three on three consecutive possessions (video of the last two below) and followed that up with two free throws, completing the most impressive comeback of the young season…in the final three minutes against Vanderbilt and the last two minutes against Purdue, Holloway had 21 points, went 5-6 from beyond the arc and knocked down all six of his free throws attempts.
The Richmond squad had to replace 59% of their minutes and 68.6% of their scoring from the squad that won the A-10 conference tournament and ran to the Sweet Sixteen last March. Freshman point guard Kendall Anthony, three times designated Rookie of the Week by the conference, has picked up a load of time and scoring responsibilities for the Spiders so far. Richmond leaned heavily on Anthony along with sophomores Cedrick Lindsay and Derrick Williams for offense. Both chipped in double digit points to complement Anthony’s production. Lindsay was a serviceable back-up to senior point guard Kevin Anderson last season, but Williams, who has started all eight games for the Spiders, saw very little action as a freshman.
Overlooked Temple off guard Aaron Brown turned heads the summer before coming to North Broad, but had few opportunities to show Temple fans and the A-10 what he could do. Brown scored 21 points in 22 minutes in a display during Temple’s 86-74 win over Central Michigan. Ken Pomeroy would find hard to ignore his performance, as he hit 7-11 (4-7 from three point land, 3-4 from inside the arc) shots from the floor while getting to the line for five free throws, of which he hit three. That computes to an 81.8% eFG% with a 1.57 points per weighted shot, an outstanding outing for the sophomore, who was pressed into action due to the injury-depleted squad.
Early Season Performances – The What the !@#!@@!# Variety (Teams & Individuals)
After winning their early season invitational tournaments, beating four power conference opponents (two each) during the tournament, both Dayton and Saint Louis stumbled in post tournament games. The losses are puzzling because for both teams, the games were winnable. Saint Louis took an “and-one” game with Loyola Marymount of the West Coast Conference, losing by seven with a performance that had team observers scratching their heads. Dayton compounded the first post tournament loss (by 29 to Buffalo of the MAC) with a second loss, this one by 17, to Murray State of the Ohio Valley Conference. The opponents were beatable, making the scoring margins downright consternating. Dayton was pegged to finish in the middle of the conference, but the two unexpected losses (albeit the Racers will most likely contend for the OVC title this season) could damage the Flyers chances for a post season NIT bid. Other inexplicable losses go to Saint Bonaventure’s home loss to Arkansas State of the Sun Belt Conference, a 3-4 team no one expects to make noise this season. The Bonnies were not helped by a lackluster six-point, nine-rebound effort from Andrew Nicholson.
The Power Rankings are shuffled again this week in response to the Ooohs, Aaaahs and What the heck games listed above. For the Atlantic-10 the post season margin for error is exceedingly slim. Three losses going into the first or second week of December can take a school off the RPI short list pretty quickly.
1. Xavier (6-0) #8 AP – Xavier took down two more power conference programs last week in fashion impressive enough to climb three more spots in the AP poll. I listed many of the impressive details in the impressive performances section above, but in addition to the video link below that shows two of Tu Holloway’s three “last two minute” three point field goals below (h/t to Dana & Victory Blog for the link). I should also mention that in Nashville Mark Lyons (19 points) and Travis Taylor (11 points) chipped in more than 10 apiece to go with Holloway’s 24 point performance, while Antoine Walker collected 14 rebounds in his return to Vanderbilt where he played for three years. Versus Purdue three Musketeers, Lyons (14 points), Walker (10 points) and Kenny Fraese (10 points) chipped in double digit points to complement Holloway’s 21 point outburst.
Xavier will travel to Indianapolis Wednesday for a game with Butler, then return home to host this season’s Crosstown Shootout versus Cincinnati on Saturday. Win these next two and Chris Mack’s squad deserves something special, like Christmas in Hawaii…wait.
2. Saint Louis (7-1) –Their top 25 ranking proved surprisingly short, the penalty for stumbling against the Lions last Tuesday. St. Louis recovered to beat another WCC team, Portland by 20, 73-53 at the Chaifetz. The Billikens’ defense limited Portland to 0.90 points per possession, much as they had Boston College and Oklahoma. Scoring centered on Brian Conklin and Cody Ellis, with Kyle Cassidy and Mike McCall providing efficient long-range scoring. They will host Vermont on Wednesday and Division II Illinois-Springfield on Saturday.
The Pac-12 Basketball Media Day took place on Friday in Los Angeles. Here is part two of our coverage, where we will take a look at the top three quotes from each of the six southern schools. Yesterday we covered the northern schools.
Coach Sean Miller on the results of the preseason media poll: “There’s no way in the world we’re the third best team in the Pac-12. You can say every coach says something like that. I didn’t say that last year. Hopefully I won’t say it next year, but I’m saying it now. There is no chance at all that’s where we are.
Miller on Kevin Parrom: “Not having him hurts us. His status, I really believe he’ll return to the court this year.We’re pointing towards late November, early December if he continues to experience the same progress that he has.”
Parrom is Key to Arizona's Post-Derrick Williams Success
Miller on freshman point guards Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner: “I’ll start with Nick Johnson. To me he’s shown early on he’s the most ready [of the team’s four freshmen]. Playing in the high school program that he played at the last two years, to me, has given him a leg up. He was one of the bright spots in last night’s game. He played in the game the way he practices. To me, continuing to develop and give Nick a bigger role was something that we have to do. Josiah, the hardest position, I think, to transfer from high school to college is point guard. With continued work, he’s going to be a much better player four weeks from now, two weeks from now, than he is right now, and I’m confident in saying that.”
Thoughts: Miller’s right when he says that the Wildcats aren’t the third best team in the conference right now. But as Turner, in particular, gets his legs underneath him, and once Parrom returns, the Wildcats will be very good.
The Pac-12 Basketball Media Day took place Friday in Los Angeles. Here is part one of our coverage, where we will take a look at the top three quotes from each of the six northern schools. Tomorrow morning we’ll cover the southern schools.
Coach Lorenzo Romar on the importance of playing schools like Duke and Marquette in nonconference play: “I think as we’ve seen over the last several years, our conference usually is evaluated based on our nonconference schedule in terms of a national perception. Sometimes an opinion is formed in the preseason, and then sometimes the nation doesn’t look back to see what teams are doing. So, again, we’re faced with it. There are a number of teams in our conference that have high profile, non-conference games. I think it’s important that we do well in those games.”
Coach Romar on Seattle Pacific-Arizona: “My thoughts are that in an exhibition game, it’s a time to experiment. It’s a time to teach. It’s a time to learn. I am very fortunate. We’re fortunate that we didn’t have an exhibition game last night, trust me. The way I see it from a coach’s perspective is I’m sure they got a lot out of it. Seattle Pacific went in there and obviously gave them a great ballgame and challenged them. That they have some new players as well. Some young players. That gives them a perspective of what level you have to be at at this level. So a game like that can do a lot more good for a team than if they were to play someone and blow them out by 50 or 60 and give them a false sense of who they were.”
UW Fans Are Hyped About the Arrival of Local Hero Wroten
Coach Romar on freshman point guard Tony Wroten, Jr.: “Tony Wroten, I can almost guarantee you, not a hundred percent, but I can — I’m willing to say that people will be surprised at Tony Wroten, and I’m not talking about the level of player he is, he’s an exceptional basketball player. But when they see how he will get on the floor and dive for a ball. How they can see that playing defense and things like that are really some of the intangible things that are important to him. When people see that, I think people have a different impression of what they thought he was going to be like. I think he’s been labeled somewhat of a show boat, show man, and that’s all he cares about. I think if you’re a Husky fan, people will be pleasantly surprised but that’s not totally him. He has fun. He enjoys the game. But at the same time, he’s a really tough competitor. So he’s done well.
Thoughts: Wroten, Jr., sounds even better than originally advertised, which is still pretty great. Definitely has the potential to be the next Isaiah Thomas or Brandon Roy for the Huskies.
Despite rumors that Missouri would withdraw from the Big 12 on Monday, the league’s Board of Directors meeting passed without an official decision last night. Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas told the AP that MU has not yet joined the SEC, but we’ll still keep an eye on this developing story over the next few days. For now, we’ll just have to deal with those top-secret sources and the rumor mill to keep us occupied.
Speaking of that rumor mill, the Kansas City Star suggests that the Notre Dame/Big 12 talk may be heating up. That would be an interesting scenario, though more so from the Fighting Irish’s standpoint. Apparently, a move to the Big 12 would require ND to also bring its national football program into the league. The Star published this article just weeks after a document mentioned the Irish as a possible candidate for the Big 12. Again, this is all speculation, but it’s pretty juicy stuff.
And finally, in your last realignment news of the day: West Virginia also appears to be a top target of the Big 12, and one league official is more than thrilled at that possibility. He’s so happy, in fact, that he issued the following quote, which deserves an entire block of text: “West Virginia has better football than Missouri, better basketball than Missouri, a better budget than Missouri and more passion among its fans than Missouri. They’re better, anyway you turn ‘em. The travel’s not good (to Morgantown, W. Va) but that’s it.” Tell us how you really feel, right?
If you’re interested in hearing some expert opinion on the upcoming Big 12 hoops season, check out this interview with ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla. Even without Ron Franklin by his side, Fraschilla’s one of the best commentators in the business, and he’s covered the league extensively as a color man. He admits that Kansas and Texas are the two premier programs at this point in time, but he says the major graduations and NBA defections will open the door for the rest of the league this season. That’s hardly rocket science, of course, but Fraschilla’s got an interesting perspective on things. The interview is worth a look.
Billy Gillispie has probably had enough of the public eye after his tenure at Kentucky, but he gave a candid interview to the Associated Press about his troubles. Regarding his much-publicized alcohol issue, Gillispie said he “made some stupid decisions,” but he said getting back into coaching at Texas Tech has helped him cope. One of the most interesting things about this hire for Tech is Gillispie’s roots in the state of Texas as a successful former coach at UTEP and Texas A&M, and the article touches on this aspect of his hiring as well.
We mentioned this over on TumblRTC a little while ago, but thought it was interesting enough to bear repeating here. Duke great Bobby Hurleyis set to enter the school’s athletic hall of fame on Friday afternoon, and although we think he’s on the short list of the greatest collegiate point guards to ever lace them up, we’re not sure that many people under the age of 30 remember much about him because his professional career was a bust (in large part due to a serious car accident he sustained during his rookie season). Here’s what you need to know:
Four-year starting point guard on Duke teams that went 119-26 (.821) overall and 18-2 (.900) in the NCAA Tournament
Won two national championships (1991, 1992)
Played in three national championship games (1990, 1991, 1992)
In addition to these honors and accomplishments, his head coach Mike Krzyzewski says in the below clip prepared for the induction ceremony that it was Hurley who nailed what he considers “the biggest shot that [he’s] seen a Duke basketball player make.” As far as we can remember, Coach K was also present on the sideline for this relatively minor bucket at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, so he’s either completely BSing us in elevating Hurley’s late trey in the 1991 national semifinals against UNLV over Laettner’s “Shot of the Century,” or he’s genuinely making a point about a school finally getting over the hump. See for yourselves…
From the perspective of a coach who, at the time, was burdened with the weight of multiple Final Four flameouts (prior to 1991, Duke was the classic college basketball bridesmaid, having been to eight Final Fours and four under Krzyzewski without yet bringing home a trophy), Hurley’s long-range bomb to bring Duke back to within two points against the same team that had incinerated them the previous year probably felt massively important (for a detailed look at this game, check out our Greatest Games piece). And K’s selection of this moment belies a fundamental truth about sports, and frankly, life in general. When you’re the underdog fighting for recognition and a piece of the title, that unequivocal breakthrough moment (in K’s mind, Hurley’s 1991 three) where you finally and ultimately slay the dragon feels better than the moments where you’re already on top and merely seeking to protect that status (Laettner in 1992). Heavy is the head that wears the crown, indeed, and it’s obvious that even after all of these intervening years and unbelievable successes that Krzyzewski has enjoyed in Durham, he still looks back at that one moment late in the 1991 UNLV game as the pivotal point between Duke’s oft-disappointing past and its bright future.
Over the weekend, we were once again regaled and entertained by a conference realignment passion play, this one involving the forlorn and lost souls of Texas A&M, veritable auslanders in their own backyard, and the biggest, baddest bully on the football block, the Southeastern Conference(SEC). The brass in College Station, you see, is legitimately chafed that the monolithic academic and athletic powerhouse located 100 miles west in Austin — the University of Texas — will soon be rolling out its very own Longhorn Sports Network, a cable and satellite channel that can be beamed coast to coast to tens of millions of interested eyeballs while TAMU is stuck with its online channel, 12thManTV. Their anger is understandable — not only do the Horns regularly whip the Aggies on the gridiron (10 of the last 15 games) and the boardroom (Texas athletic department’s operating budget was $60M more than A&M’s in 2009-10), but they’re now positioned to permanently write their own ticket for the foreseeable future. That gap is unlikely to narrow.
No Doubt It Feels Like This at A&M
As of Monday afternoon, a Texas A&M move to the SEC was still on hold. A&M’s regents need to first formally agree to approach the SEC, and then the Texas state legislature would have to be involved in some capacity as well. But whether it happens this week, next week, or even a couple more years down the road — this, and other moves like it, are inevitable. The astronomical number of dollars available to schools through BCS bowl payouts and television contracts ensures further positioning; in some ways, the search for a bigger and better deal is capitalism at its finest. But like any marketplace unfettered by regulation and common sense, individuals acting rationally for their own best interests can ultimately lead to irresponsible and undesirable outcomes. Two pieces published this morning hit on such a distinct future possibility.
Gary Parrish at CBSSports.com and Eamonn Brennan at ESPN.com both write that if realignment continues moving in such a way where each school and conference continues to chase dollars at the trough of football exposure, we’re ultimately faced with an endgame of the 65 or so biggest schools doing an end-around on the NCAA by breaking off and starting its own governing organization. We’ve discussed this rather apocalyptic possibility before here, and from a purely football (and financial) perspective it makes perfect sense, but Parrish and Brennan’s argument is a salient one. Such a conclusion would effectively end the mythical David/Goliath beauty of the NCAA Tournament as we know it. As Parrish states: