Morning Five: 05.11.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 11th, 2012

  1. One of the last remaining longtime traditions in Division I college basketball will stay intact with the news released Thursday that the venerable Ivy League will keep its automatic NCAA Tournament bid reserved for its regular season champion. The league had been bouncing around the idea of adding a conference tournament (as every other D-I league has now done) in pursuit of the marquee ESPN broadcast slot during Championship Week and obvious revenue boost. Reasonable minds prevailed this time — after all, the Ivies aren’t exactly hurting for dollars — but Dartmouth was so angry about the decision that the boys from East Hanover are reportedly contemplating a move to replace Butler in the Horizon League.
  2. The NCAA is a tradition-rich organization, but in recent years we have to give them credit for exploring ways to make the NCAA Tournament on its 75th anniversary more fan-friendly. Their latest idea to move both the D-II and D-III championships to the same location as the Final Four (Atlanta in 2013) is a good one. The Sunday between the Final Four and National Championship game is a long, empty one for college basketball junkies, so adding another element of competitive hoops to help fill the time will without question be a success. On the same topic, if you’re interested in leading the direction of the NCAA Tournament for years to come, they’re now accepting applications for the VP of the men’s and women’s tournaments. We’re sure that they’ll get a surplus of strong candidates, but if you care about the future of the best event in all of sports (and we know you do), get creative and throw an app their way.
  3. We’re written about this topic so many times that we’re frankly just exhausted thinking about it any more. But on Thursday the NBA Player’s Association responded to NBA commissioner David Stern’s prior comments about the NBA Draft eligibility rule — colloquially known as the 1-and-done rule — and in summation, they want something in return for raising the age to 20 years old. In other breaking news, water is wet, the sun shines, and gay North Carolinians still can’t marry each other. Snark aside, the NBAPA seeks an increased rookie pay scale and some kind of incentive system for players who stay in school longer, with the argument being that 18- and 19-year olds are giving up two prime wage-earning years if they’re not allowed to play on bad teams mired in the draft lottery. The reasons are obvious why such an increase is good for the NBA, for college basketball, and for the players themselves, but if you’re really interested, here’s our missive on the topic from a couple of years ago.
  4. We all heard a couple of nights ago about the NCAA taking a closer look at the eligibility of Nerlens Noel before he heads off to Kentucky later this summer, another stark example of a player with a coterie of followers surrounding him that may or may not have his collegiate eligibility at the forefront of their minds. In a well-argued piece, Jeff Borzello at CBSSports.com writes that the NCAA/Noel situation is simply another in a long and ongoing string of inquiries that the governing organization must deal with in an era where so many people handling/helping/assisting/counseling/advising elite prospects are difficult to track. “Nearly every high-major recruit could fit in that category,” he writes, and fans of schools who recruit elite players really should give up the persecution act and recognize that the system of AAU basketball combined with a 1-and-done mentality has created this particular, unfortunate reality.
  5. The NCAA released its attendance figures for the 2011-12 season yesterday, and there were a few notable tidbits from last season’s action. John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats set a new record for total attendance in a single season (including home, road, and neutral games), with 885,953 fans watching the team over its 40 games. This total defeated a 23-year old record by 1989 Syracuse, when 855,053 fans over 38 games watched the Orangemen led by Sherman Douglas and Derrick Coleman rumble to an Elite Eight finish. The usual suspects remained as the top home crowds (#1 Kentucky, #2 Syracuse, #3 Louisville, #4 UNC), but the biggest year-over-year increase last season belonged to Creighton, who, with All-American sophomore Doug McDermott as a draw, added over 3,000 more fans per contest at home in 2011-12. For all the numbers, check out the NCAA’s report here.
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One-and-Done Rule: Status Quo With Several (Not Good) Options…

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2011

An interesting thing happened last weekend. The NBA lockout came to a close and the single most impactful aspect of the labor negotiations on the sport of college basketball was left on (or under) the table without a decision yet made. It had been widely speculated for months, even years, that NBA ownership was heavily in favor of changing its draft eligibility rule from the current much-maligned one-and-done format  — where players are eligible for the NBA Draft one year after their high school class graduates and when they turn 19 years old – to the more brand-friendly two-and-through/20 years old format. The general idea behind this proposal is to protect owners from themselves in drafting unproven prospects with the dreaded ‘upside’ moniker attached, as well as to allow players to develop from both a maturity and basketball standpoint. And don’t discount the ever-important marketing perspective — it’s far easier for a team to promote a Derrick Williams after he destroys Duke in the NCAA Tournament than a Monta Ellis who nobody has ever seen play before.

Williams is a Name Brand Draft Pick (Getty/Kevork Djansezian)

This issue, along with several other “B-list” considerations such as drug screening and D-League assignments, will have to be sorted out prior to finalization of the collective bargaining agreement between players and owners tentatively scheduled for next Friday, but perhaps the most intriguing development is that, according to this Yahoo! Sports report, the league may in fact simply come to terms with the players in formulating a committee to study the matter further. Say what?

The shelving of the age minimum debate buys the league more time to deal with the high-profile and impactful issue.

How much more time does the NBA need? Not only has one-and-done been in effect since the 2006 NBA Draft (over five years ago), but couldn’t someone have put a few hours toward researching this topic during the 149-day lockout period? The league and players know what the issues are here, and they’ve known for a considerable amount of time. Yet, what’s perhaps even more perplexing is that one of the apparent motivators for studying the options available is to look at the tried-and-true MLB model where players can enter the draft after high school, but if they choose to enter college, they must stay for two or three years.

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NBA Lockout Speculation: Two-and-Through All But Certain?

Posted by rtmsf on November 1st, 2011

Today the RTC preseason All-America Team was announced, and it contains three sophomores on its first team who could have been viable 1-and-done prospects last spring had the NBA’s labor situation not been so tenuous. Those players are Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Kentucky’s Terrence Jones, and North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes. The second team has two more — Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb and Baylor’s Perry Jones, III. The third team has two players who may declare for the NBA Draft after this, their freshman, season — Duke’s Austin Rivers and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis.

Battles Like These Between Barnes & Jones Could Become the Two-Year Norm (Getty/C.Trotman)

It’s no secret that the top talent in college basketball these days tends to skew younger, as our inclusion of seven freshmen and sophomores to our three preseason All-America teams clearly exhibits. In a different year assuming those five sophomores were already in the NBA, we might have included more freshmen such as Connecticut’s Andre Drummond or Oklahoma State’s LeBryan Nash on our list. But we didn’t have to, and the reason for this is that the pool of talent is deeper this season than it has been for the last five years, in the same way that the last half-decade was more talented than the prep-to-pros era of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Now, imagine if the following players were also back: Duke’s Kyrie Irving, Texas’ Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, Kentucky’s Brandon Knight, Tennessee’s Tobias Harris, Kansas’ Josh Selby. You see where we’re going with this. And the NBA brass, always thinking about its own worldwide marketing of star players and its bottom line, does too. According to Chad Ford over at ESPN Insider, one of the few areas of consensus among the key folks in the ongoing NBA owner and labor negotiations is that 1-and-done is likely on its last legs. Two-and-Through appears to be the new standard. From Ford’s piece:

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Morning Five: Groundhog Day Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 2nd, 2011

  1. Indiana’s Christian Watford broke his hand over the weekend against Michigan State and had surgery on it yesterday; he will be out indefinitely.  This is just another gut-punch to the stomachs of Indiana fans everywhere, as Watford, IU’s leading scorer, represents the third Hoosier starter to miss significant time (Maurice Creek and Verdell Jones III are the others).  This comes on the heels of what was the most promising week for Indiana basketball in quite some time — a win over Illinois and an overtime loss to Michigan State.  Say what you want about Tom Crean as a head coach (and we’ve said a lot), but it’s especially difficult to get wins in the Big Ten when you don’t have your full hand to play with.
  2. A couple of other significant players suffered injuries recently.  Tennessee’s Scotty Hopson sprained his ankle at practice on Tuesday and is considered uncertain for Thursday night’s game at Auburn.  According to this story, it was bad enough that he had a protective boot on and he left the arena after practice in crutches.  UT has won its last four games and part of the reason for their improved play has been Hopson, so if he isn’t at 100%, even a trip to Auburn could be troublesome.  Meanwhile, St. John’s announced that forward Justin Brownlee had suffered a fracture of his left thumb during Sunday’s huge Red Storm win over Duke, a game in which he had 20/9/6 assts.  He will wear a splint on the thumb, though, and is not expected to miss any time from practice nor games.
  3. Mike DeCourcy writes that Auburn’s Tony Barbee believes that the NBA will go back to the preps-to-pros route as a result of next summer’s collective bargaining agreement between the NBA Players Association and the owners.  He says that he’s been talking to “people” who seem to be in the know, but we question if those people are tied into the owners, management and David Stern — the group that will ultimately drive this decision.  We’re on record stating that both the preps-to-pros and the so-called “baseball rule” are bad for the game of college basketball, but the NBA’s self-interest will rule the day and ensure that names like John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Jared Sullinger have value and cachet behind them prior to entering the league as rookies.
  4. We thought this was an interesting article from the Cleveland State Cauldron lamenting that CSU basketball is a consistent winner in a town that traditionally has not had many of those, yet it still has significant trouble getting any kind of attention from anyone in the community at-large.  The Vikings are currently 20-3 overall and 9-2 in the Horizon League with second-place Valpo and traditional power Butler coming to town this weekend.  We agree, Cleveland… get out there and support this team.  They just might end up being one of the best mid-major stories of the year in all of college basketball again.
  5. In the inaugural year of this blog, we took SI writer Grant Wahl (who has since moved on to cover soccer) to task over his Magic Eight selections for leaving UNC off his list of teams that would win the title.   That season was 2007-08 and, if you recall, he was right.  Both Kansas and Memphis were on his list, but the Jayhawk obliteration of North Carolina in the national semifinals validated his concerns.  Consider our crow eaten.  After what sounds to be significant negotiations, Luke Winn has revitalized the Magic Eight this season, and his choices are a combination of obvious and bold, as such:  BYU, Duke, Georgetown, Kentucky, Ohio State, Texas, Tennessee and Washington.  As he acknowledges, leaving Kansas, Pittsburgh, UConn and SDSU out are rather huge gambles, but we’ll see how he does as things develop over the next month.
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That’s Debatable: New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2010

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This Week’s Topic: You have one New Year’s resolution to make and you can choose it on behalf of any figure in the world of college basketball.  What is that resolution and who is it for?

John Stevens, RTC editor/contributor

I’m going to take the low road and use this space to tell everyone what I they think they should do, because I know people love hearing that, especially when it’s unsolicited. But as I visit various gyms and arenas in my travels around this part of the country doing RTC Lives or whatever, I will beg as many college basketball fans as I can to resolve to come up with a NEW AIR BALL chant, if there really has to be one, and to abolish the “overrated” chant. Everyone knows why “overrated” is ludicrous. But the air ball chant is about 30 years old, and it’s time to upgrade. I tweeted about this a few nights ago and got GREAT responses, so I’m confident that a better idea exists out there. There are a few student sections who tout themselves as the best in the nation — Duke, Xavier, Utah State, Kentucky, this means you – and I specifically challenge you to rise to your claims and come up with something new and humorous, but doesn’t involve insulting the shooter’s mother or use a “clap, clap, clap-clap-clap” at the end (liked those responses, but there are too many of those). Send your proposals (or insults) to me at JStevRTC@gmail.com, or just use them during games. I’ll be listening. Happy New Year.

Danny Spewak, RTC contributor

Here’s a New Year’s resolution for Randy Bennett: get over the hump in 2011 and knock Gonzaga from the West Coast Conference throne. The Bulldogs’ streak of 10 straight league titles is the second longest in the history of college basketball. In six of those seasons, Gonzaga finished either undefeated or 13-1 in the WCC, and it hasn’t lost more than three conference games since 1998. St. Mary’s has established itself as the Zags’ main rival, though, with three straight second-place finishes. If they can ignore the scary numbers mentioned above, the Gaels may have a shot to win this league. They’ve got great guards to lead their efficient, unselfish offense, and former San Diego forward Rob Jones is a valuable frontcourt contributor with NCAA Tournament experience. St. Mary’s may not have many quality wins, but its only losses came at San Diego State and in the final seconds to BYU. Despite an 8-5 record, Gonzaga’s probably still the favorite to capture an 11th straight regular season championship, especially now that Elias Harris appears healthy and more comfortable on the court. But it’s a brand new year in 2011. The gap in the West Coast Conference is quickly closing– and St. Mary’s will need to take advantage of the opportunity.

Tom Wolfmeyer, RTC contributor

This year’s New Year’s resolution is reserved for Kyrie Irving, Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones, Harrison Barnes, Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones.  Be smart about your future.  There’s about a 99.9% chance that the NBA is headed for a long impasse beginning next summer, and if you decide to take your chances with the June draft, you’ll certainly be rewarded with a high selection.  But you won’t play (nor will you get paid a dime) until well into 2011 in what would have been your sophomore years.  Please don’t listen to the agents who will tell you that they’ll float you financially until the lockout ends or that two months of a season is better than no season at all.  The last time things looked this ugly between ownership and labor, nobody played a professional game until February, and there’s no guarantee that this dispute will be shorter this time around.  Do your due diligence, of course, but if it looks as if both sides are settled in for a long negotiation, head back to college and continue to develop your games in a college hoops season that would boast the most talent among its players in the last fifteen years.

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Revisiting Mark Emmert’s Baseball Model Quote

Posted by rtmsf on August 23rd, 2010

Last week we wrote a piece outlining the reasons behind our opinion that NCAA President-Elect Mark Emmert had made a mistake in publicly supporting the MLB model of amateur player draft eligibility.  Emmert stated on a local radio show in Seattle that he believes that the NCAA should work with the NBA to enact a model mimicking baseball whereby high school players could choose to go pro immediately after their senior year, but those who went to college would have to remain there for three years.  As we clearly stated at the time, all of this discussion from the perspective of the NCAA is merely for the sake of argument because the NBA is going to do what the NBA thinks is best for itself, and if that means requiring one, two or fifteen years of “experience” out of high school before player entry, so be it.  The NCAA is virtually powerless in this regard.

Emmert's Top Job is to Protect This Brand

Nevertheless, taking the position that it is the mandate and duty of the NCAA President to act in the best interests of his organization, we outlined a number of reasons why Emmert is mistaken with the baseball solution.  Without delving into all of them again, the basic gist is that NCAA basketball needs marketable stars to support and enhance its product, recruiting will become even more difficult than it already is for coaches and schools, and players need the extra time to develop their games because so very few are actually ready to perform at a professional level immediately out of high school.   Response to this piece has been mixed.  Eamonn Brennan at ESPN.com seemed to understand the point we were making about Emmert and his role, but he expanded it to a more philosophical argument about whether forcing prospective NBAers into NCAA apprenticeships is “right.”   

Rush The Court is right to say that’s not in the best interest of college basketball fans, or coaches, or universities, all of whom benefit from the compulsory one-year apprenticeship currently being served by even the game’s most League-worthy talent. It’d be much better if all players had to stay for three years; we’d get John Wall for two more years! Awesome! Where do I sign? But that’s wrong. John Wall should be free to pursue his NBA career. He should have been free before he ever stepped foot on Kentucky’s campus. College, as they say, isn’t for everybody. In proposing a baseball-esque system for college hoops, Dr. Emmert did two things, both of them inadvertent: He made an argument against the well-being of college basketball, and for the professional freedom of college basketball’s prospective athletes. What it comes down to is: Which is more important?

We’ll answer.  From the perspective of Dr. Emmert as (soon-to-be) President of the NCAA and Supreme Chief Protector of the Game, the overall interests of the sport and its continued success trump the “right to work” component of a handful of high school basketball players each year.  His new job is to advocate for the NCAA as an entity, carefully weighing options to ultimately move the enterprise forward.  Since 96% of the NCAA’s operating budget comes from the NCAA Tournament (media rights + revenue), he needs to remember where his bread is buttered.  If he pushes for a baseball model that ultimately makes college basketball less interesting to casual fans and, therefore, the media, he’s not successfully performing his job.  This is a classic example of where academic arguments about what is right/wrong fail to properly mix with advocacy, and once again gives us pause about Emmert’s ivory tower worldview.

Webber Was Right: Elite College Athletes are Exploited

All that said, and as Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue expands upon, we certainly agree that the entire house of cards is exploitative from the player perspective.  Mitch Albom’s book Fab Five (People You Meet in Heaven) recounts a much-repeated incident where Michigan star Chris Webber found himself without enough money at the mall one day to purchase food.  As he walked by a sporting goods store and saw his own #4 UM jersey hanging in the window for sale, he became frustrated by the fact that seemingly everyone (Michigan, Steve Fisher, NCAA, Nike, etc.) other than himself was earning money as a result of his prodigious talents.  This anecdote seems humorous now in light of later findings that Webber took hundreds of thousands of dollars from agent Ed Martin during those years, but the story illustrates how one-sided the system remains, even nearly twenty years later.  Elite players are still generally no more than serfs for the one or two years they’re under the auspices of the NCAA (three years for football), contributing mightily to the billions of dollars of revenue they’re enabling while seeing very little in return.  This is unlikely to change. 

The larger point we’re trying to make here with respect to President-Elect Emmert is that it is not his job to suddenly make NCAA sports just, equitable and fair to the players whose talents are being exploited.  He will not be called upon to advocate for the Chris Webbers of the world because the Chris Webbers of the world didn’t put him in that position – rather, the college presidents did.  Therfore, his duty, much like the CEO of a major company, will be to protect the organization’s assets and push the enterprise forward so that in 2020, the NCAA can ask for two or three times as many billions of dollars in media licensing fees.  We’ve explained to him how he should go about getting there (hint: making things more like college baseball isn’t the answer); it’s up to him to decide whether to listen. 

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2010 One-and-Dones: Was It Worth It?

Posted by rtmsf on July 22nd, 2010

After another summer of loud belly-aching, moaning and groaning about how the NBA’s one-and-done rule is methodically destroying college basketball as we know it, we’re left with the fact that, in reality, only eleven players from the prep class of 2009 found their way into the 2010 NBA Draft pool.  As it turns out, approximately 90% of the RSCI Top 100 players from last year’s freshman class will return to play another season of college basketball in 2010-11.  And this is not unusual.  In the four NBA Drafts where one-and-doners were forced to attend at least one year of college (2007-10), there have been a total of 35 such players, or around nine per season.  There are obvious problems with the NBA’s one-year rule that we won’t get into here, but we shouldn’t be losing our heads over what amounts to a handful of players each season.

And what about those players — how did it go for them?  We can safely presume that if you’re good enough to be one-and-done, a year in college probably worked out well enough for you (ahem, Tommy Mason-Griffin excepted).  But we’re more interested in the schools.  How did recruiting and ultimately matriculating a one-and-done player work out for those institutions?  Put in real terms, was bringing a player like Derrick Favors on campus at Georgia Tech for one year worthwhile?  What about Calipari’s den of young Cats?  You may recall that we did this school-centric analysis in each of the last three summers (2007, 2008, and 2009), and the basic conclusion that we’ve found is that one-and-done players have generally benefited their schools in the two areas that matter most: 1) wins; and 2) marketability.  Let’s take a closer look at this year’s group.

2010 One-and-Dones

Kentucky – Well Worth It. Say what you want about the meltdown of Calipari’s Cats in the Elite Eight against a tougher, more experienced West Virginia team, but the fact that Kentucky brought in the #1 recruiting class of 2009 and delivered on the implied promise that Cal’s system develops NBA draft picks is why his cadre of one-and-dones (John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton) was well worth it.  And here’s the what behind the why: four five-star prospects arrive in Lexington next year (Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones) and two more are signed on for 2011 (Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague) with several others lurking in the wings.  Not every one of these players will become a one-and-doner, so eventually Calipari will be able to season some experienced talent around his annual lottery pick arrivals (see: 2008 Memphis) to give himself a great chance to win that elusive national title.  As far as the difference in Q rating from the Gillispie era to now, it’s like that $22M/year Tiger Woods lost in endorsements since last November somehow ended up in Lexington as gold-plated streets.  UK has become the program du jour for the young, moneyed and hip, and when the head coach infamously stated that this year’s NBA Draft night was the greatest night in the history of Kentucky basketball, he’s referring to marketability.  The pitch: come to Lexington, play a fun style of uptempo basketball, win 30-35 games, market your brand on television through our deals with CBS and ESPN, have a shot to win a title, meet celebrities such as LeBron James and Drake, and end up shaking David Stern’s hand in a year or two…  not exactly fraught with hard decisions.  If Calipari can keep his program in the headlines for the right reasons, this class will be looked at as the tipping point for a whole new era of Kentucky basketball.  Definitely well worth it.

John Wall Was Only the First of Many Cats to Meet Stern

Marshall – Well Worth It. If you recruit a player who wasn’t even ranked in the RSCI top 100 and he ends up dominating your league as a freshman center to the point of becoming the Conference USA defensive POY and leading the nation in blocked shots, it was well worth it.  Hassan Whiteside’s one year in Huntington led the Thundering Herd to its best season in over two decades, culminating in a fourth-place finish in CUSA, big late-season wins over UAB and Tulsa, and a quarterfinal appearance in the CIT.  For a program that hasn’t been to the NCAAs since 1987, any postseason appearance is a great year, and Whiteside’s patrolling of the paint had no small part in it.  The unfortunate part of Whiteside’s meteoric rise is that the Herd had such a good season that as a result it also lost its head coach Donnie Jones, which may impact the long-term marketability aspect of Whiteside’s year there.  Nevertheless, we doubt anyone at Marshall regrets the year that both Whiteside and Jones resided in Huntington together, so we think that this was a huge boost for a mid-major program not used to having such players around.

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Coach Animosity of 1-and-Done Rule Forgets How It Was…

Posted by rtmsf on June 22nd, 2010

We ran across an interesting article from Fanhouse’s Brett McMurphy over the weekend that delved into the continuing discomfort that many college coaches have over the 1-and-done rule in light of an NBA Draft on Thursday night that will see anywhere from eight to ten freshmen selected among the lucky few.  We understand their complaint.  They want continuity in their programs.  They want to be able to plan ahead without having to wonder each and every offseason who is staying and who is leaving.  Most importantly, they want to be able to hang onto a stud for two or three seasons if it turns out he’s first round material.

The ideal, as proposed by Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Villanova’s Jay Wright, Notre Dame’s Mike Brey and DePaul’s Oliver Purnell in the article, is that the NBA would adopt the existing MLB model.  If a player is good enough to go preps-to-pros, let him go; if he’s not, then he will not be eligible for the draft again until three (or at worst, two) years later.  Brey in particular echoed the popular cry amongst the coaching fraternity:

Let them go out after high school [to the NBA] if they’re special and see if we can get at least two years out of them [in college].  I think the baseball rule is the best rule given that we are academic institutions. I don’t know if we can get it to [three years in college], but could we at least get it to two years?  And I think two years on a college campus is going to help ‘em. He’s going to get an education. But the really special ones, let ‘em go after high school. Cut them lose. There’s a handful of them. Let’s at least get two years [before they leave for the NBA]. I’d love to get three years, but I don’t think we can. But let’s at least get two years.

This is the same kind of self-serving thinking (program continuity, fear of re-recruiting players, etc.) by coaches that inspired the NCAA to drastically reduce the amount of time that underclassmen had to “test the waters” this past May.  The result was that 28% more early entries (50) jumped headfirst into the draft pool this year even though there was no corresponding increase in the number of draft spots (60) available.  The problem is that if the NBA adopts a model similar to major league baseball (and there is no sign that Stern and company are even considering it), we’re only trading one set of problems for another.

The Completely Forgettable Jackie Butler

 The coaches are forgetting how it was before the 1-and-done rule was instituted.  From 2003-05 (the last three drafts prior to the rule going into effect), 23 high school seniors entered the NBA Draft directly out of the prep ranks.  Some you may have heard of — Lebron James and Dwight Howard, for example – while others are vague memories in the mind’s distant recesses — like James Lang and Jackie Butler.  Even though they never made it on campus, most of these players were recruited to play college basketball somewhere.  Resources were spent, trips were made, text messages were sent, and letters were delivered.  And yet, even though the majority signed to play for coaches like Izzo, Wright, Brey and Purnell, by spring of their senior years they began to see dollar signs in their eyes and bailed on the notion of playing college basketball.  Consider, by way of a few prominent examples:

  • 2003: Travis Outlaw (Mississippi State); Ndubi Ebi (Arizona) 
  • 2004: Shaun Livingston (Duke); Josh Smith (Indiana); JR Smith (UNC)
  • 2005: Martell Webster (Washington); Gerald Green (Oklahoma State); Louis Williams (Georgia)

Is that what the coaches want to go back to — spending 1-2 years recruiting star players and ultimately getting nothing but a thank-you call out of it as the players move on to NBA riches?  By 2005, an average of eight prep-to-pro players were coming out each season.  That was with no restriction on draft eligibility once you got to college — a fence-sitting player could still leave after one year of college if he chose to do so (see: Carmelo Anthony).  What happens if the coaches get what they want and players are forced into choosing zero years or three years of college under the MLB model?  Our best guess is that roughly the top twenty draft prospects would go into the draft each season and the coaches who recruited, caressed, and whispered sweet-nothings at them would be screaming bloody murder that something else needs to be done to protect their interests.  And that doesn’t even address what would happen to the quality of play of college basketball when the very best players are barely even first-round worthy.     

Of course, none of this debate from the NCAA side matters a whit, because the NBA is going to do only what it thinks will help sell its product in the best possible way.  And from our reading of the tea leaves with David Stern over the past five years, we think that if anything, he wants 1-and-done to become 2-and-done, which will have the corollary effect of giving the coaches more continuity anyway. 

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07.25.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on July 25th, 2008

Some things we’ve missed while lounging in a pool of indignant contempt (and mineral hot springs)with Lute Olson, Kevin O’Neill and friends the past few weeks…

  • It’s Extension Season! - Davidson’s Bob McKillop (3 more yrs until 2015-16), UCLA’s Ben Howland (7 yrs at approximately $2M per until 2014-15), Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl (1 more yr until 2013-14, but with a raise that will average out to $2.3M per over that span), Notre Dame’s Mike Brey (2 more yrs until 2014-15), Temple’s Fran Dunphy (2 more yrs through 2013-14), and Oregon’s Ernie Kent (3 more yrs until 2012-13) all got their wives a new car last week.
  • UCLA’s AD Dan Guerrero is the new NCAA Tournament Committee chairman for 2009-10.   Expect UCLA to play in Pauley and the Staples Center during its first four rounds that year.
  • Tim Floyd breathed a sigh of relief when he learned last week that Demar DeRozan passed the ACT and will be eligible next season for his Trojans.  DeRozan is a likely 1-and-done, which means Lute Olson has vowed to not recruit players like him for the rest of his career (still feeling the burn of Jennings and Bayless, Lute?)
  • Gonzaga forward and RTC fav Austin Daye both tore and didn’t tear his ACL at the Lebron Skills Camp recently.  He should be ok for the upcoming season. 
  • Welcome to the Kyle Taber Hoosiers.  Speaking of which, ex-Hoosier Jordan Crawford is transferring to Xavier. 
  • Memphis guard Doneal Mack has decided to return to Calipari’s squad after all – he had previously stated that he was transferring to the University of FEMA New Orleans. 
  • This is interesting.  Georgia Tech center Ra’Sean Dickey has decided to forgo his senior season so that he can begin his professional career in Ukraine?  Wow, thie Euro thing is starting to heat up, eh?
  • The fall of former Florida gambler guard and gunner Teddy Dupay is now complete.  He was recently charged with rape, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping of a Utah woman, according to court documents. 
  • It’s sayonara to the Top of the World Classic in Alaska.
  • The extremely poorly situated Kentucky Basketball Museum closed its doors in the face of large financial losses. 
  • We wanted to get a take in on the Brandon Jennings Experiment, as articulately described by N-Bug upon BJ’s announcement that he’ll spend his “1-and-done” year playing in Europe.  Generally, we think this will be a disaster and wouldn’t be surprised if Jennings absolutely submerges his draft stock during the season (that is, until he returns next spring and excels in the 1-on-1 workouts given by teams).  Gottlieb nailed it when he pointed out that EuroLeague ball is of a much-higher quality than what Jennings probably thinks it is (and certainly well above college hoops).  Lots of risk of exposure here for Jennings.  Bad decision. 
  • Gary Parrish makes a compelling point about the inherent conflict of interest in referees working for schools calling games on international trips and scrimmages, then turning around and calling games for those same teams during the season.  As you may recall, we wrote exactly a year ago that the Donaghy situation happens way more than anyone thinks, and this is just another loophole that encourages it. 
  • Maybe we’re cynical, but there has to be a Shawn Kemp is Broke story somewhere in this tender piece by Luke Winn.
  • Davidson’s Stephen Curry has noticed that his life has changed after his spectacular March run.
  • Where does Super Mario’s shot rank in the all-time great NCAA shots pantheon?  His former teammate Sherron Collins won’t have to worry about watching the highlight from the pokey, as prosecutors stated there was not enough evidence to substantiate allegations against him stemming from an alleged incident in an elevator with a woman on the KU campus. 
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2008 NBA Draft Musings

Posted by rtmsf on June 27th, 2008

Thanks to N-Bug’s liveblog of the NBA Draft last night, we felt like we were almost in the building sniffing David Stern’s manscent and Darrell Arthur’s ire.  What’s the record for lowest pick of someone in the Green Room?  The best we can muster is Rashard Lewis at #32 ten years ago.  Anyone got a lower pick left stewing in the Green Room all night?

Unfounded Rumors of a Kidney Problem Sunk Arthur’s Stock (photo credit: AP)

Darrell Arthur’s Kidney.  The story of last night’s draft, of course, was the unsubstantiated rumor of a serious undisclosed kidney problem that arose during Darrell Arthur’s medical tests.  Luke Winn details the report much better than we can here, but suffice it to say that it now appears that this kidney issue was a complete red herring, and the Memphis Grizzlies (through two subsequent trades) got an absolute steal at the #27 slot.  Winn suggests that the whispers about Arthur’s health could have cost him in the neighborhood of $1.3M over the course of his rookie contract.  Shouldn’t we just go ahead and put Slim Shady at the top of next year’s ROY contenders (Paul Pierce-style) based upon this slight alone?  He’ll have gobs of additional motivation, that’s for sure. 

One-and-Done Redux.  We’ve written about 1-and-dones until we’re blue in the face, but let’s face it, the Class of 2007 is arguably one of the greatest HS classes of all-time.  Four of the top five picks, seven of the top fourteen, and a record ten of the thirty first-rounders were freshmen.  Throw in the eight sophomores chosen in the first round, and that means 72% of the guaranteed contracts that went to American players were to players with 2 years or less of college experience.  Only five seniors were chosen in the first round, and the first at #12 overall, Jason Thompson from Rider, resulted in a perplexed “who?” from much of the crowd and viewing audience.  Again, there is no question that the NBA rule helped in terms of marketing these players.  Thanks to the Season of the Freshman, every basketball fan in America is now intimately familiar with the games of Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, OJ Mayo, Kevin Love, and so on.  If they’d all gone pro after high school, we’d have little to no clue what those teams were getting.

Mayo Posing as Stringer Bell (photo credit: SI.com) 

Beautiful Disasters.  Two of the one-and-dones who were bound and determined to stay in the draft no matter what anyone told them were DeAndre Jordan and Bill Walker.  (note: we were happy to see that our feelings of overratedness (see: HoopsAddict podcast at 34:30) with Jordan and Anthony Randolph were corroborated on draft night, although not so much with Russell Westbrook, chosen fourth!)  Both got drafted in the second round (#35 and #47 respectively) but last night had to be severely disappointing to both players, as Jordan was being talked about as a lottery pick earlier this draft season, and Walker last year (before blowing out his knee again).  Does Walker with his former #1 player in his class pedigree and seemingly constant knee injuries remind anyone else of Randy Livingston?  But the prize for biggest clowns of the draft go to USC’s Davon Jefferson and Mississippi State’s Jamont Gordon, both of whom were undrafted last night.  As for Jefferson, this one-and-done prospect declared early, signed with an agent (assuring he couldn’t return to USC), and then proceeded to float his way through the pre-draft camp.  He was a possible second-rounder at that point, but his uninspired effort in Orlando ensured that he would be left on the outside looking in.  Gordon’s situation was even worse, as he completely skipped the pre-draft camp (incredulously assuming he was a first-rounder), also signed with an agent, and otherwise did nothing to show that he was a serious candidate for the draft.  Ok, we get it, you reallyreallyreallyreally want to play in the NBA, and you reallyreallyreallyreally think you’re good enough… but you guys really need to start doing some listening when people who make these decisions (scouts, GMs, draftniks) are telling you otherwise.  Good luck in the D-League, guys.   

Katz discusses some of the other early entry disappointments in last night’s draft. 

Sideshow Bob Was Drafted by the Suns Last Night (photo credit: SI.com)

Conference Call.  A year ago Pac-10 coaches were telling us that they had far and away the most talent in the nation, suggesting that there are as many as a dozen first-round picks on their squads in 2007-08.  Well, it turns out they weren’t that far off, as there were seven first rounders last night, including three of the top five (#3 Mayo, #4 Westbrook, #5 Love, #10 Brook Lopez, #11 Jerryd Bayless, #15 Robin Lopez, #21 Ryan Anderson), and twelve players chosen overall.  Also keep in mind that several other probable first rounders from the Pac-10, such as Darren Collison (UCLA), Chase Budinger (Arizona) and Jeff Pendergraph (Arizona St.) elected to stay in college another year.  The Big 12 was next with nine players chosen, including four first rounders and five (!!) players – tying the 2006 UConn Huskies and 2007 Florida Gators - from the National Champs (#13 Brandon Rush, #27 Darrell Arthur, #34 Mario Chalmers, #52 Darnell Jackson, #56 Sasha Kaun).  Throw in former Jayhawk JR Giddens (#30) and an astonishing six players passed through the KU program en route to this draft.  The SEC had six draft picks, and the Big East and ACC had four each.  The usually-pathetic Big 10 once again finished last among the BCS conferences with only three picks.  See table below.

 

Not NBA Material.  We reserve this spot to formally bid adieu to some of the notable collegians who have entertained us for the last four years, but whom the NBA has decided are not worthy to play in their league.  Drew Neitzel (Michigan St.), Demarcus Nelson (Duke), David Padgett (Louisville), Josh Duncan (Xavier), and Pat Calathes (St. Joseph’s) are but a few of the names we’ll probably never see again unless they become coaches someday.  The honor of the biggest undrafted name, though, goes to Tennessee star and cancer survivor Chris Lofton, who holds the all-time mark in the SEC for three-pointers, and ranks third in NCAA history on that measure.  If there’s one guy we’d bank on finding his way to an NBA court near you in the next couple of years (even for a cup of coffee), it would probably be this kid.  He stares toughness and grit directly in the eyes before they walk away in shame. 

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05.30.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on May 30th, 2008

Taking a break from NBA Predraft Camp news…

  • Notre Dame got another major transfer pickup to go along with Ben Hansbrough (from Mississippi St.) – Scott Martin – a freshman forward who averaged 8/4 for the Boilers will be heading north on US 31 to ND.  Suddenly the Golden Domers are looking really good for the 2009-10 season.
  • UConn coach Jim Calhoun is reportedly facing skin cancer on his neck for the second time, and will undergo six weeks of radiation therapy this summer to remove it. 
  • Syracuse’s Donte Greene has decided that he’s a 1-and-done player, as he recently signed with an agent and will not be eligible to return to the Orange next season.
  • Joey Dorsey made the claim in Orlando this week that he has the inside track on who the Bulls will select as the #1 overall draft pick, and he says Michael Beasley.  Jeff Goodman writes about the maddening mind that is Dorsey.
  • Clemson’s head man Oliver Purnell got an extension to 2014 and a raise to $1M per annum.  Still significantly below Tommy Bowden ($1.8M), but hey, who’s counting. 
  • Luke Winn has a nice piece on Chris Lofton’s tumultuous senior campaign, as he is now finally starting to get his legs back after beating testicular cancer. 
  • In his first public interview since the Rodney Guillory scandal hit, OJ Mayo was more upset that the news hit on Mother’s Day than the fact it made him look like a cheat and a liar. 
  • In some sad news, Louisville center Clarence Holloway was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, which has effectively ended his basketball career.  We wish him all the best fighting this disease. 
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More Mayo 1-and-Done Nonsense…

Posted by rtmsf on May 14th, 2008

We keep reading all of these arguments in light of the OJ Mayo controversy about how the 1-and-done rule is a joke, about how it punishes the athletes, about how it makes unwitting (or is it witting?) accomplices of the schools in the whole charade, about how peace and prosperity and all things good and holy are tied into the elimination of this silly rule… and we stop and wonder.  Why the uproar?  Actually, what we meant to say is, why the uproar now?

If all of these pundits maligning the 1-and-done rule haven’t noticed, OJ Mayo isn’t the first kid who was being handled by an agent throughout his college career, and guess what, he won’t be the last.  We already know that Rodney Guillory was handling Jeff Trepagnier and Tito Maddox in the early 2000s, well before the 1-and-done rule was implemented.  We know that Reggie Bush played at USC for three collegiate years and the agents still got their hooks into him.  If writers such as this guy, or this guy, or this guy, really believe that by letting the Lebrons and KGs and Odens go pro straight out of HS eliminates the problem with agents and runners contacting and influencing college players, then LOLOLOLOL on them. 

Their complaints aren’t flat wrong, but they’re misattributed.  Why?  Because there are players right now on nearly every major D1 school across the country who have been contacted by and have talked to agents.  Guaranteed.  Some of them have probably taken a few gifts here and there.  Does eliminating the handful of 1-and-dones from college campuses each year solve that problem?  Not at all.  The agents will then just focus on the next tier of college players – the Chris Douglas-Robertses, the Deron Wiliamses, the Jordan Farmars.  The problem isn’t solved, it’s merely shifted.   

 

The Commish Loves the Free Marketing the NCAA Provides

Look, here’s our point.  The 1-and-done rule is stupid for certain, but it’s not stupid because of the OJ Mayo problem.  It’s stupid because it places all of the risk on the players and colleges for the benefit of the NBA evaluation process.  Nevertheless, it’s not going anywhere until 2011, and early indications are that Comandante Stern wants to tack another year onto the age minimum and the NBAPA is unlikely to battle that point.  So then we’ll have 2-and-dones, which isn’t all that dissimilar from the NFL rule currently in existence (3 yrs).  But whether there’s a 1-year rule, 2-year rule, 3-year rule or 4-year rule, the problem begins with the corrupt and criminal AAU basketball system in this country and the agents that feed off of it.  These folks will not remove their grimy hands from the pockets of college basketball until there are no longer players on which they think they can ride to fortune.  In other words, never.  While there have been dozens of players drafted in the first round in the preps-to-pros era (the current 1-and-dones), there were far more early-entry sophomores and juniors over that same period.  It won’t go away, no matter what these people are saying (well, at least one commentator gets it). 

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