Morning Five: 07.26.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 26th, 2013

morning5

  1. It seems like just yesterday that Adam Morrison was engaged in a nightly duel with J.J. Redick before exiting the NCAA Tournament crying. The years since have not been much kinder to Morrison than the Internet was after his infamous exit. Now it appears that Morrison will be returning to his roots at Gonzaga where he will serve as a student assistant coach. Morrison may not be the most accomplished former player serving as an assistant coach, but he might be the most iconic given his recent fame and ridiculous mustache. This hiring will certainly make headlines, but we remain skeptical as to whether it will have any impact on Gonzaga or whether Morrison will ever become a legitimate coach, but it should be an interesting experiment.
  2. With all of the news swirling around the Rutgers program in the past few months we have grown kind of numb to much that comes out of the campus, but the news that new athletic director Julie Hermann revealed in her official school biography that she is a lesbian (the very last sentence) caught our attention. Now her sexual preference is none of our business and we do not particularly care, but we were surprised by the amount of attention the announcement has received. Ideally, we as I society would one day progress to a point where Hermann’s sexual orientation is not even a story. We all know she had plenty of other things going on at Rutgers to worry about and this should not be one of them.
  3. If you are looking for another reason to visit Las Vegas we have found one. Well at least for the next three years. Beginning this December 21 the MGM Grand will host a doubleheader for the next three years. This year’s event will feature Marquette against New Mexico and Oklahoma State against Colorado and will be broadcast on ESPNU and ESPN2 respectively with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society via Coaches vs Cancer. Outside of match-ups, which should be interesting we are somewhat surprised to see another big college basketball event being held in a casino (we have been to the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic at Mohegan Sun, which is not even in the same league as any of the Vegas casinos). If you are interested in attending any of the games, tickets are already available.
  4. We are a little less than four months away from the start of college basketball season, which means that it is time to start familiarizing with the incoming and returning players for various teams. If you are still struggling to figure out who is going to be good and bad this year (outside of the obvious teams from last season), ESPN.com has a decent recap of which teams are going to be vastly improved this season and which teams are going to be taking a step back. Outside of a few picks the predictions are not particularly revelatory, but Myron Medcalf and Jason King do a solid job of explaining their rationale and might even remind you of significant arrivals and departures since last season before we start getting flooded with college basketball previews.
  5. Both the NCAA and North Carolina may not be taking the academic fraud scandal at the school as seriously as we would like, but it appears that the White House is taking the matter a little more seriously. Sort of. A new petition was created asking President Obama to investigate the academic fraud at UNC because the school receives federal funds. We are not sure which fans (Duke or North Carolina State are our best guesses) created this and the lack of response so far speaks volumes to how ridiculous the idea is in theory, but it would be amusing at some level if this actually got enough votes to merit an actual response from the White House (aside from the fact that it would be a waste of the government’s time to address this issue when there are more pressing concerns facing our country.
Share this story

The Other 26: This Is Not Mark Few’s Best Team… Yet

Posted by IRenko on February 16th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

After a 17-point win at St. Mary’s on Thursday night pushed Gonzaga’s record to 24-2 and cleared its biggest hurdle to a regular season record tainted with just two losses, some are wondering whether this is the best team that Mark Few has put together in his 14 years at the helm. It’s a fair question, given the way they’re playing. But the best ever? Sure, not since Adam Morrison was dragged off the court after a heartbreaking loss to UCLA ended his college career, have the Zags had a player with the combination of star power, All-American credentials, and curious hairstyle that Kelly Olynyk has brought this year. And, true, moreso than the Morrison-led team of 2006, this squad is a well-balanced offensive machine, with a multitude of frontcourt and backcourt options. They proved that on Thursday, when Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, who have deferred most of the scoring load this year to Olynyk and Elias Harris, dropped a combined 38 points on St. Mary’s.

This Gonzaga Team is Good, But Not Mark Few’s Best … Yet (James Snook / USA TODAY Sports)

This Gonzaga Team is Good, But Not Mark Few’s Best … Yet (James Snook / USA TODAY Sports)

But Few’s best team ever? They have a ways to go before they can claim such an honor. Take, for example, the 2004 team, which also dropped just two contests heading into the NCAA Tournament.  That squad was led by All-American senior guard Blake Stepp, and like Olynyk, he had lots of help. Junior Ronny Turiaf, sophomore Morrison, and senior Cory Violette shared the scoring load, with all four players averaging in double-digits. They coasted through league play undefeated, never winning a game by less than double digits, and ended the season on a 20-game win streak en route to a 2 seed in the Tournament, Gonzaga’s best ever. Their two pre-Tournament losses were to St. Joe’s and Stanford, both of which went on to earn 1 seeds that year. By contrast, this year’s Gonzaga team lost to Illinois, a bubble team, at home by 11 points.

Of course, this year’s squad could prove itself a superior to the 2004 team — or any team that Few has coached — if it can get past the Sweet Sixteen. Since Gonzaga burst onto the college hoops scene 14 years ago with a Cinderella run to the Elite Eight, they’ve yet to get reach the brink of a Final Four, much less a Final Four itself. The ballyhooed ’04 squad was upset by 10th-seeded Nevada in the second round, the ’05 team squandered a 3 seed with a second round loss to Texas Tech, and the ’06 Zags memorably collapsed against UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen (a game to which one cannot refer without remarking that it was perhaps the finest moment of Gus Johnson’s illustrious career). This Gonzaga team stacks up well with those predecessors, but unless it breaks through to the second game of the second weekend, it won’t prove to be their clear superior.

What’s undisputed, however, is that the Zags have been dominant enough to remain at the top of this year’s Top 10.  On to that, our Honor Roll, and this week’s games to watch  . . .

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Re-Drafting the NBA Draft: Top 10 Players From Recent Years

Posted by EJacoby on June 25th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft takes place this Thursday, June 28 in Newark, and now that the NBA Finals has come to an early conclusion (just five games), New Jersey becomes the center of the basketball universe. No other professional sports amateur draft can have as much immediate impact as the NBA’s, witnessed by Oklahoma City’s rise to prominence with a core consisting of four first-round picks from the previous five years. While we await Thursday’s selections, the words ‘upside’ and ‘potential’ run rampant, as teams are selecting from a pool filled with unrefined prospects. Lottery picks (top 14 selections) are mainly underclassmen who scouts hope evolve into long term superstars, and that’s why the draft presents so many early busts and late sleepers that evaluators miss out on. The NBA Draft is more art than science, and that is no more evident than when you look back at many of the selections made in previous drafts.

After slipping on draft night, Tony Parker has led the Spurs to multiple championships (AP Photo)

Today we take a look at four recent NBA Drafts to give you a clear idea of how difficult it is to nail the top picks. We wanted to choose mostly older drafts whose players’ careers have longer sample sizes to evaluate, but also included a more recent draft since the implementation of the current ‘one-and-done’ rule that disallows high school players from the pool. Here are our revised top 10 picks from 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2006, with each player’s original selection in parentheses. Who ended up becoming the best players from drafts of the 2000s, and where were they selected?

2001

  1. Tony Parker (28, San Antonio)
  2. Pau Gasol (3, Memphis)
  3. Joe Johnson (10, Boston)
  4. Zach Randolph (19, Portland)
  5. Gilbert Arenas (31, Golden State)
  6. Gerald Wallace (25, Sacramento)
  7. Jason Richardson (5, Golden State)
  8. Tyson Chandler (2, LA Clippers)
  9. Shane Battier (6, Memphis)
  10. Richard Jefferson (13, Houston)

A fairly strong draft, 2001 is also scarred by the fact that #1 overall pick Kwame Brown was an enormous bust. Brown, selected first by Michael Jordan out of high school, is a great example of why it’s risky to draft young, unproven bigs. But that was also during the era when high school players were eligible for the draft, which is no longer the case today. Even though the current ‘one-and-done’ rule makes it difficult to assess young prospects, at least we get a full season to watch players compete at the highest level. The 2001 draft was full of quality sleepers late in the draft, highlighted by the three-time All-Star, Arenas, and three-time NBA champion and four-time All-Star, Parker, both falling past pick #27. Parker likely fell because he was such a young, foreign player; yet Gasol was a similar prospect who scouts nailed with the #3 overall selection. The 2001 draft proves how difficult it is to differentiate players of varying positions, ages, and levels of play.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 11.23.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 23rd, 2011

  1. Arkansas will have to learn to adjust to life without Marshawn Powell this season after the school announced that the junior would be out for the rest of the season as a MRI of his knee revealed torn ligaments, which will require surgery with an expected return to play in six to eight months. Powell injured his knee during a practice last Thursday, but the extent of the damage was not known until the MRI was performed on Sunday. The loss of Powell is a huge blow for the Razorbacks who are full of young players and could have used Powell’s presence inside and veteran leadership against a SEC that looks much stronger than it has in recent years despite some early losses.
  2. Steve Lavin opted to sit out last night’s game against St. Francis, which St. John’s won, as he adjusts to a modified schedule after his prostate cancer surgery on October 6. According to the press release Lavin is trying to “enhance his stamina and energy level” and this does not appear to be a complication from the surgery, which is a good thing because complications are a not uncommon occurrence. Instead, it appears that Lavin was simply exhausted from coaching back-to-back games and then going on the road for recruiting the following two days. The school has not released any information on when Lavin will return to the sideline, but from the information given in the press release we expect to see Lavin back fairly soon. If Lavin does not return for Saturday’s game against Northeastern, we would definitely expect to see him back for next Thursday’s game at Kentucky although he might want to sit that one out.
  3. Over the past few weeks Luke Winn has been focusing on defense, but this weekend he took a break to check out some of the most talented scorers in the nation: J’Covan Brown, John Jenkins, and Jared Cunningham. By now you probably know what happened with each player’s performance and the outcome of the game, but Winn provides an interesting look into how each player’s game affected his team and the outcome of the game. Since most of us were either at games over the weekend or flipping back and forth between games from home Winn’s analysis, which isn’t the typical number-heavy advanced metric stuff he has become known for recently, provides a good insight into what actually happened at the Izod Center and what to expect from these three and their teams this season.
  4. Over the past few days we have speculated on how Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim would react to the media, particularly ESPN, with the ongoing Bernie Fine investigation. At a press conference yesterday morning for the Preseason NIT Boeheim threatened to leave if anybody asked a non-basketball (read: Fine-related) question before briefly discussing the matter in a much more measured tone than he had last Thursday night. Later in the day, Boeheim went on-camera with ESPN’s Andy Katz to discuss the Fine investigation, which is surprising to us because he very easily could have held a grudge against ESPN for the way that they handled the report. So basically, nothing has changed–Boeheim remains cantankerous, but is always willing to talk.
  5. The NBA may never work out for Adam Morrison, but the former Gonzaga star appears to have had a rebirth of sorts with the NBA lockout and his move to Serbia. While Morrison still isn’t playing at the level that many expected him to be at coming out of college he is showing signs of becoming the player he used to be. Obviously, this is against vastly inferior competition, but it is nice to see Morrison playing some quality basketball and it is interesting to read about the struggles that Morrison has gone through off the court since he left Gonzaga.
Share this story

20 Questions: Why Can’t Gonzaga Make Another Serious Run in the NCAA Tournament?

Posted by nvr1983 on November 9th, 2011

Question: Why Can’t Gonzaga Make Another Serious Run in the NCAA Tournament?

It seems like a strange question to ask. Every year ESPN hypes up Gonzaga as a Cinderella team, but a strange thing happened between 1999 and 2011–the Bulldogs failed to advance past the Sweet Sixteen. While the school has had its share of stars in the intervening 12 seasons (Adam Morrison being the most notable) much of its NCAA Tournament reputation is built on the work of Casey Cavalry from the 1999 NCAA Tournament. It is a fact that lost is lost on many casual college basketball fans and college basketball analysts, who at best choose to ignore it to help build a compelling narrative. Much like Duke has been made out to be the symbol of all things right in college basketball by certain media outlets there has been a tendency by many in the media to paint Gonzaga as the perennial Cinderella that always makes a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. That may make for a nice story line and the video of Cavalry flying in to tip in the game-winner against Florida makes for a nice clip (as well as creating the name for the best Gonzaga blog out there), but recently they have been surpassed by Butler as the mid-major du jour. The question is what happened to Gonzaga and what can it do to get back to the Elite Eight and beyond?

Few Has Racked Up Regular Season Accolades, But Not In The Postseason Yet

To start off, we should point out that Gonzaga has been far from a total failure during the Mark Few era, which also happens to coincide with the stretch where Gonzaga has been unable to get beyond the Sweet Sixteen, a fact that is probably not lost on Gonzaga fans. During his 12 seasons as head coach at Gonzaga, Few has compiled a 315-83 record (79.1%, which is 6th all-time in Division I and 2nd among active coaches trailing just Roy Williams) while winning the West Coast Conference regular season title 11 consecutive years and making the NCAA Tournament every season he has been a head coach. However, that success has not translated to the NCAA Tournament where after two consecutive trips to the Sweet Sixteen in his first two years as head coach Few has only been able to guide the Bulldogs out of the opening weekend two out of ten seasons including three years where they lost in the opening round.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Who’s Got Next? Huge Halloween Commitments, More In the Works…

Posted by Josh Paunil on November 2nd, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Arizona Secures Top 2012 Recruiting Class

Next Year These Heads Will Be Of Gabe York, Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett And Kaleb Tarczewski (C. Morrison/US Presswire)

Tarczewski Takes To Tucson. This is something I’m not used to, this is something you aren’t used to, this is something no one on the recruiting circuit  is used to. For the first time in four years, a head coach has assembled a downright dirty collection of talent into one recruiting class and his name isn’t John Calipari. Arizona head coach Sean Miller has beautifully crafted his 2012 recruiting class so it will resemble North Carolina’s group of big men this year when center Kaleb Tarczewski committed to Arizona pm Monday. Not only do the Wildcats have commitments from three of the top nine recruits in the senior class [according to ESPN] in addition to a top shooting guard in Gabe York, but they have two of the top three power forwards between Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett and the second best center in Tarczewski. This front court talent is scary considering the versatility and skill level of the players. If Miller doesn’t want to sit one of his star recruits, he could possibly slide Ashley to small forward since he’s a combo forward who likes playing on the wing as well. All of these big guys can move and get up and down the court and can be game-changers in so many ways. Here’s another thing to think about, the Wildcats got two of the top guards in the Class of 2011 with point guard Josiah Turner (#13) and shooting guard Nick Johnson (#28) and both players will definitely be staying longer than one year. I’m not going to go around and start predicting 2013 NCAA tournament Final Four teams, but I wouldn’t bet against Arizona.

What They’re Saying

  • Senior standout Dominic Artis on committing to Oregon: “I really thought it was the best fit style-of-play wise after watching practice and I liked the athletes that are already in the program. [Class of 2011 shooting guard] Jabari [Brown] and I have been together since fourth or fifth grade. Him being there sure didn’t hurt. It gave me a nice comfort level and someone I could relate to.”
Share this story

Morning Five: 09.08.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 8th, 2011

  1. This Texas A&M to the SEC thing has certainly gotten interesting.  Despite previous assurances from the Big 12 that none of its ten institutions would create a legal barrier to TAMU leaving the conference, Baylor, perhaps seeing the CUSA or WAC writing on the wall, has other thoughts in mind.  Mike DeCourcy is correct in writing that Big 12 schools (and really, all of the schools around the country) are being extremely shortsighted in their our-time, right-now mentality, but the SEC has been clear in that it will only take a school into its league if it is free and clear of any legal liabilities.  Texas A&M was all set to join the SEC on Wednesday, but Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe stated in an email to the SEC on Tuesday night that previous conversations in fact only referred to conference obligations, and that individual schools would still need to waive their rights in order for A&M to move to the new league. Apparently eight of the nine remaining conference members, with Oklahoma as the lone exception, are currently unwilling to waive their rights. “We are being held hostage right now,” TAMU president R. Bowen Loftin said on Wednesday.  So what next?  Our best guess is that Texas A&M will negotiate some kind of settlement agreement with Baylor that will ultimately destroy the Big 12, but the truth is that nobody really knows at that point.
  2. Washington announced that its junior point guard and former McDonald’s All-American, Abdul Gaddy, has been cleared by his doctors to go 100% back on the court in practices.  The much-maligned player tore his ACL on January 4 last season during a Husky practice, and after 13 games at 21 MPG, he appeared to be slowly adjusting to his role as a pass-first point guard on a deep and athletic Washington team.  His 3.1 assist to one turnover ratio was very promising, though, on the heels of a freshman season where it was much closer to even (1.3 to 1).  Lorenzo Romar’s team lost a huge amount of its production from last season’s NCAA Third Round squad, but big things are expected from sophomores CJ Wilcox and Terrence Ross so the Huskies will need Gaddy at full strength to get them the ball on the wings in the right spots.  Most every analyst believes that the 19-year old Gaddy has some talent, his problem has been simply a matter of harnessing it.
  3. Yesterday Luke Winn brought us a list of the top ten most efficient guards of the so-called ‘efficiency era.’  Today he moves on to the wings.  If you are in the business of guessing who the top players are in the last decade from an efficiency standpoint, you probably won’t do a lot better than JJ Redick, Adam Morrison and Brandon Roy in 2005-06 season.  These three players in that single year represent three of the top five seasons from the wing in the last ten years — perhaps you’re not surprised by Redick and Morrison as a college hoops fan, but Roy’s 2006-07 NBA ROY season perhaps was a clue to just how good he was in college too.
  4. Unfortunate news from the WCC, but Santa Clara senior star Marc Trasolini will miss his senior season after tearing his ACL in an exhibition game in his hometown, Vancouver, British Columbia, on Tuesday night.  He came down awkwardly just a mere two minutes into the game and doctors diagnosed his injury soon thereafter.  Trasolini was the second leading returning scorer for the Broncos at 13/6 and his absence in 2011-12 definitely puts a crimp in plans for Kerry Keating’s team to make a run at Gonzaga and St. Mary’s in the league next season.
  5. There’s been a lot of discussion about how schools might try to game the APR/930 system now that they can actually lose scholarships, and eventually, postseason opportunities, as a result.  This article from the off-the-beaten-path of the Dakotas suggests that even at that level, schools might use their last few scholarships to load up on high GPA students in order to make sure they reach the written threshold.  As South Dakota head coach Dave Boots states, “all three of the [international] kids that we signed are really good students.”   Mid-major games but big-time grades — is that what we’re heading toward?  Rest assured that if a marginal couple of D-I schools like South Dakota and South Dakota State are already doing this, the power conference schools have institutionalized it.  As we wrote several weeks ago, this is not a good thing.
Share this story

Fear The ‘Stache!

Posted by jstevrtc on February 17th, 2011

Congratulations are in order for the University of Vermont, who wrapped up the America East regular season championship on Wednesday night with their 73-57 win over Maine. The Catamounts are the first team to clinch a conference championship this season. Evan Fjeld (file photo below) hit nine of 13 shots and finished with 19 points and seven rebounds in the victory.

Also clinching a conference title on Wednesday were the Fairfield Stags, sealing up the Metro Atlantic with a 61-54 win over Marist. They’re attempting to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 14 years, and have put themselves in the best possible shape to do it by becoming the top seed in the MAAC tournament. Incidentally, they beat Vermont, 67-59, back on December 20th.

Behold, and genuflect.

One of the reasons we were happy to inform our readers of these developments was the chance to put up a photo of Evan Fjeld and that glorious moustache of his. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that Fjeld is an outstanding player (15.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.0 BPG) and the main weapon on a Vermont team that’s won ten straight and truly excels on defense — 7th nationally in FG% defense (38.7%) and 20th in defensive points per possession (0.898) — and you can check them out for yourself this Saturday. They’ll play at Charleston at 5 PM ET as part of ESPNU’s BracketBusters series.

But seriously, look at that thing. It’s fantastic. A full-on Prefontaine. It’s the Cadillac of college basketball facial hair in the modern era. We were huge Adam Morrison fans, but come on. If Fjeld’s is a Cadillac, Morrison’s was at best a Toyota Tercel in need of an oil change. As far as this match-up is concerned, Morrison will have to be content with his Player of the Year awards.

Share this story

The RTC Interview Series: One on One with Dave Telep

Posted by rtmsf on October 29th, 2010

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the year. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Scouting high school basketball players is a task that probably ranks just above weather prediction and winning trifectas at the track in terms of its certainty, but there are several folks out there who are among the best in the profession.  Dave Telep, former National Recruiting Director for Scout.com and current Senior Basketball Recruiting Analyst for ESPN, is one of those guys.  As a young college graduate in the mid-90s, he helped launch PrepStars before quickly rising up the ladder and developing his name at both Rivals and Scout, two of the pre-eminent recruiting services in existence today.  In the intervening decade, Telep built a sterling reputation for his workhorse approach to scouting, going from game to game in state after state to see players with his own eyes so as to fairly evaluate them.  He also founded Dave Telep’s Carolina Challenge in 2007, a one-day camp for 80 hand-picked North Carolina high school players in who want to learn what it takes to become a top college basketball player.  Some of the recruits who have attended this camp have been Duke’s Mason Plumlee and former Kentucky star John Wall.  The recruiting aficianado was in fact driving to a game in Virginia at the time of this interview — he never stops moving when there are players to be evaluated.  You can find Telep on both Facebook and Twitter — we’d recommend you friend/follow him to stay on top of all of the latest recruiting and scouting news.

Telep is a Scouting Mastermind

Rush the Court: Let’s start with the most newsworthy item in your life right now, the move from Scout.com to ESPN. Can you tell us a little bit about how this all came about and what the plan is for the immediate future there?

Dave Telep: Yeah, you know, I could not be more thankful and more grateful for the nine years I spent with Scout.com and Fox. My contract came up for renewal this summer and ESPN presented a really unique opportunity to do some things in the recruiting world on a bunch of different media platforms. It’s something where, to be honest, I’ve always wanted to work for ESPN. When I realized that I wasn’t going to be a professional athlete around the age of twelve, I realized one of the things I wanted to do with my life was to eventually work for ESPN. It’s really been a fun time for me and my family, and we’re having a great time with it. We have such a really neat team of guys there from the scouts to the guys who operate the database, that it’s really exciting to have so much support of a bunch of guys who are really woven into the fabric of college basketball. It’s awesome!

RTC: To many in this business, getting the call from ESPN is a dream come true. Is this the Dave Telep equivalent of seeing your name at the top of a recruiting list?

DT: The cool thing for me as the father of two boys is that I can someday look at those guys and say “if there’s something in your life that you really want to do, and you have the ability to, through hard work and luck and people helping you out, you can make that happen.” That’s been the neat thing for me with ESPN so far, just sharing and talking about it with my parents. You set these goals when you’re younger, and to see one of them come to fruition on a personal level is really cool. It’s not just a job for me. This is something I’ve always kinda had my eye on. I never knew what I would ever do at ESPN someday; I just knew that I always wanted to be around people who were excellent in their field. I knew from a young age that I would love to do that someday. This is definitely a dream come true for me.

RTC: Let’s move into some scouting questions.  Everyone has predictions from their career they’re proud of and a few they’re not quite as ready to shout from the hilltops. What are some of your most notable ones both ways?

DT: Great question. I was very excited the first time I saw Chris Paul, and I was happy to be one of the first people who spearheaded that charge. That worked out really well for me. You know, recently a couple of years ago we had DeJuan Blair in the top twenty, and the reason why I ranked Blair in the top twenty was because six or seven years before that I totally whiffed on Emeka Okafor by ranking him in the 80s. I was bound and determined that if a guy averaged as many rebounds as Blair did to not make the same mistake that we made with Okafor. I screwed up with Okafor but I’d like to think I learned something from it. Some others — I’ll never forget the day I saw Adam Morrison go for 30+ in a packed gym in Las Vegas, and I totally whiffed on that one. I learned a lot from the evaluation of Stephen Curry. I watched him all through high school. I evaluated him as a low-major player, a mid-major player, and at the end of his HS career, I rated him the highest level mid-major player possible. But if I could have stuck him into the top 100, that would probably be one of my bigger regrets in not doing so. My real job is to learn from all these mistakes and try to avoid them [in the future]. You see a situation like Emeka Okafor – he averaged 18-19 RPG in high school – that is a freaky number, to be frank. Then to see Blair come around and be that same kind of a rebounding force… they’re two different players, but although we screwed up Okafor it taught me a little more on the back end with Blair. When you see a guy with such a freakish skill set and such a knack for doing something extraordinary, your radar definitely goes up.

Telep Was Onto Chris Paul Before Anybody Else

RTC: You’ve talked in the past about ‘balancing potential with production’ when evaluating prospects. Which is harder – figuring out where a prospect can top out or figuring out where he will top out?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Welcome, Dr. Emmert: Please Don’t Mess Up…

Posted by rtmsf on August 18th, 2010

Yesterday on Seattle radio station KJR, NCAA president-elect Mark Emmert gave an interview with host Mitch Levy where he discussed his thoughts on some of the hot-button topics impacting collegiate sports.  Dr. Emmert, who will assume his post on November 1 of this year, is currently the president of the University of Washington and the former Fulbright winner is widely recognized as one of the savviest up-and-comers in the world of academic administration.  His rise up the ranks from an assistant professor (Northern Illinois) to Vice-Chancellor (Colorado) to Provost (Montana State) to Chancellor (UConn and LSU) to President at UW is impressive on its face, and his skill at political maneuvering and fund-raising should be obvious.  The concern we have, however, in all situations where administrators move from an academic to an athletic environment is whether such a transition will be seamless — in other words, will that person “get it?”  The danger in the application of ivory tower customs and norms to the world of athletics is that you can find yourself in troublesome spots if you haven’t gauged the environment correctly, such as when Emmert badly overreached in asking for public funding for a new Husky Stadium in the midst of a massive nationwide recession.  While that example represents a single misstep in a career full of home runs, it gives us pause when taken in concert with the following quote he made on the KJR radio broadcast.  In discussing the much-maligned one-and-done rule in college basketball, Emmert said:

I much prefer the baseball model, for example, that allows a young person if they want to go play professional baseball, they can do it right out of high school, but once they start college they’ve got to play for three years or until they’re 21.  I like that a good deal.  But what you have to also recognize is that rule isn’t an NCAA rule.  That’s a rule of the NBA. And it’s not the NBA itself, but the NBA Players Association. So to change that rule will require me and others working with the NBA, working with the players association.  We’ll be having those conversations, because I think it would be good for young people and good for basketball.

Emmert Seems a Smart Fellow, But the MLB Model is a Mistake

Before we get to our argument against this idea, let’s briefly touch on the reality of this proposition.  You hear this frequently stated among coaches, fans and pundits, but what all of these folks fail to recognize is that the NBA wants nothing to do with this on either the management or the players’ side.  Commissioner David Stern and his owners do not want untested teenagers who are virtually complete unknowns coming into their league because they are unmarketable, while players do not want untested teenagers who are virtually complete unknowns coming into their league because they take away veterans’ jobs.  The NCAA acts as a veritable minor league for the NBA, providing a competitive environment to fully vet and scout players for at least a year before some 80-year old owner throws sixteen million dollars and the viable future of a franchise at them.  Think of it this way — were Washington Wizards fans more excited about #1 pick Kwame Brown (who nobody outside of rural Georgia had ever seen play) or #1 pick John Wall (who was on national television about 4,000 times last year)?  As a point of fact, the NBA powers-that-be seem more interested in extending the one-and-done rule by another year than rolling it back in any way.  And why not? — it’s better for business.

Now, as to Emmert’s proposal itself, we’re going to explain why this is not a preferred option without regard for what the NBA wants or will agree to.  The remainder of this post represents pure advocacy for the college game and the college game only.  We see three compelling reasons that the NCAA should not bother to explore this MLB model possibility, as tempting as it sounds to an educator/administrator such as Emmert.

What Say You, UK Fans? One Year of Wall or None of McGrady?

  1. The NCAA Needs Marketable Stars Nearly as Much as the NBA Does.  This is the dirty little secret of college basketball in the 21st century.  The hardcore fans of the elite programs at Duke, Kansas, UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana, et al, aren’t going anywhere.  These folks would watch their teams play if they suited up four skinny 12-year olds and a rented donkey.  But the casual fan won’t.  The casual fan wants to see star power, and he wants to learn who the next big basketball talents will be through the crucible of the best postseason in all of sports, the NCAA Tournament.  When players like Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, John Wall and many others are on college campuses building considerable buzz throughout the season and heading into March, this collective must-see component to the game takes on a much different meaning than when the player names are instead Jameer Nelson, JJ Redick, Adam Morrison and Tayshaun Prince.  All great collegians, but do you see the difference?   Who does Mr. Office Drone/Bracketeer tune in to watch more readily?  Furthermore, CBS/Turner Sports just signed a fourteen-year, $10.8B deal to broadcast the rights to the NCAA Tournament, in case you’d already forgotten, and there will be none-too-subtle pressure on the puppet-masters of the sport to ensure that the best possible product is placed on the floor.  For the maximum amount of interest to take hold, that product without question must include the top 18- and 19-year old basketball players in the world. 
  2. When High School Seniors Make Their Decisions, Coaches Bear the Brunt of It.  We talked about this back in June, and nothing has changed in the interim.  We saw what happened to recruiting from 1995-2005 when coaches had to compete not only against rival schools for the talents of a player, but also the siren call of the NBA.  Whether it was Kentucky and Tracy McGrady, Florida and Kwame Brown, Duke and Shaun Livingston, or North Carolina and JR Smith, the fans and (more directly) coaches of those programs where agonizingly forced to endure a late spring phone call to learn that, after many hours spent recruiting the player to their campuses, it was all for naught.  And those were the elite players!  Imagine the situations where the player was fully expected to go to college but still was lured away — Jackie Butler (Mississippi State), Ndubi Ebi (Arizona) and Louis Williams (Georgia) all come to mind.  How does a coach go about finding a suitable replacement for a star recruit so late into the signing period?  Short answer:  he can’t.  We certainly understand that it’s frustrating to a lot of people (coaches included) to have to lose a star player as a one-and-done, but to have spent the same amount of time recruiting him and not receive even a single season of his talents is far worse, isn’t it?  That’s what would happen if the MLB model were implemented — recruiting would once again become a two-phase process.   
  3. For Better or Worse, NCAA Basketball is the NBA’s Minor League.  It’s not the NBDL (although it has found a nice niche as a training ground for older players), and it’s not Europe (similarly).  Rather, college basketball remains the NBA’s minor league, and where the MLB example fails is that college baseball is not.  Each professional baseball franchise has several levels of minor league teams beneath it by which to develop its prospects, whether they come directly from high school or after three seasons of college.  This is a HUGE difference.  The reason is that, as Mark Stein notes in this article, the vast majority of prep-to-pros players during that ten-year period were nowhere near ready to impact the professional game on a regular basis, and there remains no true professional minor league in basketball available by which to develop them.  NCAA hoops is it.   The list of players who came right into the NBA and contributed immediately is much shorter (Dwight Howard, LeBron James) than the list of those who took a few years to develop (nearly everyone else, including superstars Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal and Amare’ Stoudemire).  If Mark Emmert is worried about the players (and his quote above seems to imply that he is), then he needs to push for an environment that will foster player development for the next level, in much the same way as he would inspire any student with soaring dreams.  This tact dovetails nicely with what we described above that college basketball should be selling — Watch the greatest sporting spectacle on earth — the NCAA Tournament — where the stars of tomorrow are on stage today. 

We obviously recognize that there are no easy answers here.  Any model implemented will have someone complaining.  But beginning in November, it will be the obligation of Emmert to push the game of college basketball forward in popularity and interest.  After all, NCAA Tournament dollars fund nearly the entire operation there in Indianapolis.  The way to do this is not to push college hoops down a path that makes it even more like college baseball, a sport that nobody cares about in large part because there is no direct connection between those players and the pros; but instead,  Emmert should work with the NBA to pursue a model more like college football, an incredibly popular sport where everyone knows that today’s Heisman Trophy candidates are tomorrow’s NFL all-Pros. 

Share this story

30 Days of Madness: The Night Adam Morrison Cried

Posted by rtmsf on March 23rd, 2010

We’ve been anxiously awaiting the next thirty days for the last eleven months.  You have too.  In fact, if this isn’t your favorite time of year by a healthy margin then you should probably click away from this site for a while.   Because we plan on waterboarding you with March Madness coverage.  Seriously, you’re going to feel like Dick Cheney himself is holding a Spalding-logoed towel over your face.  Your intake will be so voluminous that you’ll be drooling Gus Johnson and bracket residue in your sleep.  Or Seth Davis, if that’s more your style.  The point is that we’re all locked in and ready to go.  Are you?  To help us all get into the mood, we like to click around a fancy little website called YouTube for a daily dose of notable events, happenings, finishes, ups and downs relating to the next month.  We’re going to try to make this video compilation a little smarter, a little edgier, a little historical-er.  Or whatever.  Sure, you’ll see some old favorites that never lose their luster, but you’ll also see some that maybe you’ve forgotten or never knew to begin with.  That’s the hope, at least.  We’ll be matching the videos by the appropriate week, so all of this week we re-visited some of the timeless moments from the regionals of the NCAA Tournament.  Enjoy.

NCAA Regionals

Dateline: 2006 NCAA Regional Semifinals – Gonzaga vs. UCLA

Context: You knew it was going to show up on here sooner or later.  How can it not?  In a game that pitted the two biggest western powers of the era in an Oakland Sweet Sixteen showdown, Gonzaga and NPOY candidate Adam Morrison had run out to a 37-20 first half lead to put Ben Howland’s UCLA Bruins on the brink of a disaster.  But in typical UCLA fashion, the Bruin defense kept them within reach, having closed the gap to nine points with just over three minutes to go in the game at 71-62.  Things weren’t looking good, but the Bruins started chipping away.  Luc Richard Mbah a Moute made two free throws, then followed that up with a layup a little while later.  After a JP Batista and Adam Morrison miss on the other end, Jordan Farmar’s layup brought the game to three points with just under a minute remaining.  We pick it up below as Gonzaga takes the ball out up three with 40.8 seconds remaining.  The amazing finish and the accompanying call from Gus Johnson makes The Night Adam Morrison Cried one of our favorite March Moments of all-time (note: no disrespect intended toward Morrison or the Zags, but the emotion of the moment shows just how incredibly lifting and devastating the Tournament can be).

Share this story

March Moment: Morrison And The Zags

Posted by jstevrtc on March 17th, 2010

Few college basketball fans are born with their love for the game. For most aficionados, at some point on the way from infancy to college hoops fan, there is a moment. A single play, shot, player, game, or event at which point they say to themselves, “I will always have this in my life.” Because it is the time of the season that carries the most gravitas, these things often happen in March. We asked some of our friends and correspondents: what was the thing that turned you into a lifelong college basketball fan? What was your…March Moment? We’ll be posting some of their answers for the rest of the month.

In this submission, RTC Big 12 correspondent Patrick Sellars illustrates one of the great aspects of being a college basketball fan — how a team with which you have no rooting interest or affiliation can somehow find its way into your heart:

It was my freshman year in high school, and I would say I was a modest college basketball fan at best. I watched the big games, the conference tournaments, and of course the “Big Dance” but I wasn’t a diehard like I am today. The team, but more importantly the player, that changed this all for me was Adam Morrison and his 2005-06 Gonzaga Bulldogs. The first game I watched the Zags play was the 3OT thriller against Michigan State in the EA Sports Maui Invitational, Morrison put up 43 points in the Gonzaga win. After this game I was hooked on Morrison, this shaggy haired, awkward, lanky, peach fuzz mustache flaunting kid with diabetes was draining NBA range threes over athletic guards, and he did it with passion and intensity that I haven’t seen in college basketball since.

Over the course of the season I saw every single game they played, I even talked my parents into buying the Fox College Sports West TV package so I could stay up late for all of their WCC contests. I lived and breathed Gonzaga basketball, and as a kid from Wisconsin with no affiliation to the school all my peers called me a “fair-weather-fan”. However, I didn’t care, because I was so enticed by the Gonzaga team.

As the rest of the season unfolded there were many great moments. Everyone remembers the Oklahoma State game with Morrison’s bank in three, Gus Johnson screaming at the top of his lungs “LARRY BIRD!!!! BABY!!!” I was euphoric, ironically Gus Johnson would make another call later in the year that still haunts my dreams to this day.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story