Trick or Treat: RTC Hands Out Halloween Goodies

Posted by rtmsf on October 31st, 2011

It’s Halloween night across college basketball nation and all the ghouls, goblins and ghosts are out trolling for sugary goodness. Whether Gary Williams shows up on your doorstep requesting a chicken wing or it’s an exasperated Jay Bilas wearing VCU garb from head to toe, Halloween is the only night of the year where everyone can act how they really want to act if there were no social mores, norms or YouTube. With the start of the season only one week away, RTC has put together a list of five tricks and treats for some of college basketball’s most notable people, places and things. Here’s our list of Halloween night goodies for all of college basketball’s kiddies, but don’t blame us if the bullies from over at Chapel Hill Street or Lexington Avenue jump out from behind a bush and steal all of your candy.

  • Treats to Purdue’s Robbie Hummel & Arizona’s Kevin Parrom– in the form of  confident minds and an even more explosive sets of wheels. The good-guy Hummel returns for his senior season after rehabilitating his knee from a second ACL injury last October. He’s taking it slowly, wearing a massive knee brace and practicing only on second days, but the obvious fear is that he’s one of those hard-luck cases who simply can’t get healthy (he has also experienced back issues in the past).  Parrom, on the other hand, found himself a victim of a shooting in September as he was home visiting his mother with terminal cancer (who has since passed). The versatile wing is projected to be back in the Arizona lineup in about a month, but despite his positive attitude and diligent rehabilitation of a leg pierced by a bullet, both he and Hummel will have to overcome the mental hurdles necessary to compete at the highest level of college basketball.  Let’s hope both players find all kinds of treats as two of the biggest success stories of the season.
  • Tricks to Connecticut Basketball – for using a wink-and-a-nod to find a scholarship at the last minute for superstar freshman Andre Drummond, while former orphan Michael Bradley volunteered to give his up for the good of the team.  No matter what the courageous Bradley says publicly, we still find the whole thing rather smelly. The NCAA may have stepped in and already provided a nasty little trick for the Huskies, though, in the form of an APR ban from participation in the 2013 NCAA Tournament — which, incidentally, is likely to impact Bradley rather than the one-and-done Drummond. Oy.

Treats to These Two For Finding Their Confidence in 11-12

  • Treats to Kansas’ Thomas Robinson — this kid more than any other deserves a breakout 2011-12 campaign. After a nightmarish year in Robinson’s personal life where he lost both of his maternal grandparents and his 37-year old mother in a span of a mere month, the talented big man is on the credit side of karma in a huge way and hopefully ready to cash it in. We’d like nothing more than to see Robinson become an All-American this year by leading Bill Self’s team to its eighth consecutive Big 12 regular season title, before heading off to the NBA Lottery as a superstar in the making. 
  • Tricks to the NCAA’s $2,000 Optional Stipend -- although we agree that football and basketball student-athletes are vastly underpaid relative to their value to the schools, making the stipend optional at the leisure of the conference only opens the door for even more of an inequitable distribution of talent than already exists. The power conferences can easily weather the extra couple million bucks such a measure will require, but as for the mid-majors… they’d best keep scouring those patches for the Great Pumpkin of Mid-Major hope to find their future stars.
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Are Graduation Rates and the APR Good Metrics?

Posted by mpatton on October 26th, 2011

As you probably know, the Academic Progress Rating (APR) has made the news a lot lately largely because of a new NCAA rule that would exact postseason bans for teams not up to snuff academically (in the form of a 930 threshold score). Defending national champion Connecticut wouldn’t have made last year’s tournament with the stricter guideline and there was some speculation that the Huskies might not be allowed to defend their title as a result (this has since been resolved; the new threshold and punishments will go into effect next season).

Basketball writer Joe Giglio started tweeting North Carolina schools’ relative graduation rates Tuesday afternoon, sparking quite a conversation on the merit of graduation rate as an acceptable method for evaluating a school’s worth. Duke led the ACC in both general population graduation (94%) and overall athlete graduation (81%), which are phenomenal numbers. However, Giglio’s alma mater NC State only graduated 72% of its general population and 54% of its athletes (worst in the ACC in both categories). All percentages were calculated using a six-year window.

Are NC State's Low Graduation Rates Cause For Concern?

On a national scale, these numbers actually aren’t low. According to a USA Today study from 2009, the national average for four-year colleges is to graduate 53% of its students in six years — which is roughly on par with NC State’s average for athletes and much lower than its overall student body. That number is shockingly low. Even compared with fellow BCS schools, NC State compares favorably (#35 out of 67 schools) and the Wolfpack would be ranked third and fourth in the Big 12 and SEC, respectively.

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RTC Conference Primers: #30 – SWAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 4th, 2011

For our complete list of 2011-12 conference primers working backward from #31 to #1, click here.   

Reader’s Take I

Top Storylines

  • Southern & Grambling APR Victims.  When the NCAA released its annual Academic Progress Rate report in May, the SWAC contained two of the five basketball programs facing a postseason ban in 2011-12 as a result of consistently poor scores over several years.  While this news shouldn’t surprise anyone who has followed the APR since it was implemented several years ago, the teeth of the rule is finally taking hold on individual institutions.  Southern and Grambling probably were not going to be in a competitive position to make the NCAA Tournament this season anyway, but this is something that each school must take seriously in order to secure their D-I existence.  The two institutions submitted APR improvement plans to the NCAA over the summer, and with good reason — without a considerable short-term jump in scores,  the next penalty is restricted membership in Division I.
  • Will the APR Eliminate HBCUs in Division I?  Southern and Grambling’s APR predicament highlights a harrowing situation among the two Division I basketball leagues comprising historically black colleges and universities.  With the APR cut line increasing from 925 to 930 as of next year, and a corresponding postseason penalty for programs failing to make that cut in the future, the SWAC  and MEAC could face an untenable situation where every one of its members is ineligible for postseason play, and ultimately on restricted status.  If the 930 threshold had been in effect last year, for example, only one school — the SWAC’s Alcorn State, with its 4-24 overall record and 944 APR score — would have been eligible for the NCAA Tournament.  The APR has been shown to correlate strongly with African-American enrollment, and at the low-budget HBCUs that comprise the SWAC and the MEAC, this development presents tremendous cause for concern.  Whether this is purposeful or not, we’ll leave for you to decide.
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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.
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930 And You: The 2011 Tournament Under The New APR Rule

Posted by jstevrtc on August 17th, 2011

The new APR rule is a fact. 930 Or Bust is happening. So let’s talk about it.

On the ESPN blog last week, Diamond Leung, a gentleman we’re happy to file under Official Friend Of RTC, posted an article in which he listed the 12 teams that would not have been eligible to compete if the new APR standard had been applied to the 2011 NCAA Tournament. #1-seed Ohio State? Watching from home. Kawhi Leonard and San Diego State? Sorry, they’d have been studying for finals and not playing basketball. Leung also noted how eventual champion Connecticut would not be invited to the 2012 edition to defend its title since, according to the latest numbers, over the 2006-07 to 2009-10 academic periods the Huskies managed an APR of just 893. They could go undefeated throughout the entire 2011-12 season and it wouldn’t matter. In that scenario they’d win as many NCAA Tournament games as Centenary.

Bill Carmody and Northwestern (18-13) May Have Been Dancing Last Year, Had the New APR Rule Been In Play

Mr. Leung’s article got us thinking: if there would have been 12 fewer teams in the Dance last March, who would have replaced them? Among the unlucky 12, seven were automatic qualifiers through conference tournament titles and five were at-large entries. A quick examination of who would have replaced the disqualified teams shows how putting a binary, all-or-nothing, you’re-in-or-you’re out emphasis on a specific number would have affected the Tournament; as you’ll see, the reverberations go deeper than just the aforementioned 12 teams.

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NCAA Releases Coaches’ Academic Progress Rating Database

Posted by jstevrtc on August 6th, 2010

The NCAA unleashed the database for academic progress ratings (APRs) for coaches in six different sports on Thursday.  While it’s fun to plug in coaches from a few other sports — anyone surprised by Pete Carroll’s 971, 24 points higher than the college football average in 2008-09, and six-for-six over 925? — the most fun for us comes from plugging in the names of college basketball coaches and seeing how they did each year.

First, though, just a little background.  The NCAA uses this little metric to determine how a team’s athletes are moving toward the ultimate goal of graduating, and the formula they employ to come up with the number is pretty simple.  Each semester, every athlete gets a point for being academically eligible, and another for sticking with the school.  You add those up for your team, then divide by the number of points possible.  For some reason, they decided to multiply those  numbers by 1,000 to get rid of the resulting decimal point (otherwise, it would have been as confusing as, say, a batting average), so if you get a score of .970, that means you got 97% of the points possible, and your APR score is 970. If you fall below the NCAA’s mandated level of 925, you get a warning, and then penalties if you don’t improve.  Keep in mind, though, that if a coach changes schools, he shares his APR with the coach he replaced.  And, the database only goes through 2008-09 right now.  That’s why if you search for John Calipari, you’ll notice he has two APRs — a 980 that he received at Memphis which he shares with Josh Pastner, and a 922 for the same season at Kentucky which he shares with Billy Gillispie even though Calipari technically didn’t coach a game at Kentucky during that season.  Because he was hired in 2009, he shares the APR with the preceding coach.  You get the picture.

Why is this man smiling? How about two straight perfect APRs?

A couple of the numbers that people have been talking about the most since the database was released are the two perfect 1,000s put up by Bob Huggins‘ last two West Virginia teams.  Most college basketball fans like to point the dirty end of the stick at Huggins when it comes to academics, and he’s been a lightning rod since his days at Cincinnati; rightly so, since his last three years as Bearcat boss saw APRs of 917, 826, and a eyebrow-raising 782.  But his scores in Morgantown have been excellent, so he’d appreciate it if we all found a new poster boy for academic underachievement.

An AP report today specifically mentioned Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun, who, in the six years the database covers, has had teams better than the national average — and over the 925 cutoff — only three times.  In fact, the APRs of his last three teams have steadily declined, posting scores of 981, 909, and (ouch) 844 from 2006-2009.  The same AP report fingered Kelvin Sampson as having even more harrowing results, having only two years in which he topped 900 (his 2004-05 Oklahoma squad scored exactly 900) — his 2003-04 Oklahoma team posted a 917, and his final roster at Indiana in 2007-08 turned in a downright hurtful 811.

With a new toy like this, there was no way we could keep from checking all of the APRs of the Ivy League schools.  The most impressive tally was by Columbia’s Joe Jones, who posted six straight perfect scores of 1,000 but will now evidently become an assistant on fellow Ivy man Steve Donahue’s Boston College team next season.  Only two teams in the league didn’t score a perfect score for the 2008-09 season.  The two bad boys of the league were Glen Miller, whose Penn team from that season put up — gasp! — a 950 (he had two straight perfect scores before that), and Tommy Amaker’s Harvard squad from that year, which posted a 985.

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Prepare Yourselves, Duke Fans

Posted by jstevrtc on May 13th, 2010

This should make for some interesting in-game chants next season for opponents of the Duke Blue Devils, especially if Butler, Michigan State, or West Virginia is the opponent.

Of the squads taking part in the Final Four in Indianapolis this past March, three of them — Butler, Michigan State, and West Virginia — achieved Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores good enough to put them in the top 10% of all men’s college basketball teams, and therefore earn themselves an NCAA Public Recognition Award.  Yes, you read that right.  The only Final Four team not earning the award this time around:  Duke.

Da'Sean and his 'Eer teammates are in the Top 10% of the NCAA's APR scores, which should silence some of Huggins' detractors. (K. Binder/Blueandgoldnews.com)

At this moment, if you’re a Duke fan, you are probably positioning yourself at your computer, ready to fire off to us what’s sure to be a nasty e-mail or comment, indeed.  Well, sheathe your keyboards.  The APR is one of the tools used by the NCAA to monitor academic progress of each individual student-athlete, but keep in mind that it’s not perfect.  According to the linked AP article above from ESPN.com, each student-athlete earns a point for his program by simply staying at the school, and another point for doing well enough academically to stay eligible.  Each graduating player also earns a point.  The team loses a point for each player who transfers, and another for each player who leaves for the NBA, though we’re not sure what those things have to do with academic performance.  If a player isn’t in good academic standing when they leave/transfer, that’s another point lost.  All these points are then thrown into some mathematical formula, and every team in every sport is given a score.  A score of 1,000 is perfect, and 925 is considered the “minimum level of academic success.”  Fall below 925 for a semester or two, and you could be facing a slap from the NCAA’s pimp hand of sanctions.

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Tough Day in College Hoopdom…

Posted by rtmsf on September 16th, 2009

A series of unfortunate events came down the pike to ruin what had previously been an exciting day when ESPN released it’s 24 Hours of Hoops schedule for November 17.  Let’s briefly cover each so that we can move on to more pleasant things (hopefully tomorrow).

  • We woke up to the news that Pitt’s best returning player, Jermaine Dixon, broke his right foot for the second time this summer while playing in a pickup game.  Given that it’s already mid-September and the doctors are telling him that it’ll take at least eight weeks to heal, this news clearly puts Jamie Dixon’s squad behind the 8-ball going into October practice and the first few games of the season.  We would be completely shocked if Pitt fell off the map this year because Dixon is such an excellent coach, but on paper the 09-10 team already appears to be the weakest of his seven-year tenure.  Losing their only returning starter for a while near the start of the season cannot help.  And what’s up with that right foot – is this mere coincidence or does he have a problem there?
  • From the crime blotter, Wisconsin freshman guards Jeremy Glover and Diamond Taylor are now off the team (Glover was dismissed; Taylor withdrew) after their arrest for allegedly stealing ipods, a cell phone and $400 in cash last week from a UW dorm.  The two players were expected to provide backcourt depth this season for Bo Ryan’s team, but he’ll need to lean more heavily on returnees Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon than anticipated.
  • Finally, as you’ve probably heard by now, NCAA President-cum-Reformer Myles Brand died today from pancreatic cancer.  As the head honcho of the NCAA over the last six years, we’ve certainly had our fair share of criticism directed at his leadership, mostly with respect to investigations of alleged violations and selective enforcement of the rules.  But there can be no question that we completely respect and admire the work that Brand did in terms tying academic performance of athletes at the sport-level (and soon, coach-level) to key athletic assets such as scholarships and postseason appearances.  The Academic Progress Report (APR) that Brand initiated to achieve this end definitely contains some loopholes, but at the very least, he has schools, ADs and coaches thinking about performance of their players in the classroom, which is a far, far cry from where it was ten years ago.  RTC lauds Myles Brand for this impressive and hopefully lasting achievement, and we hope that to honor his legacy, his replacement will continue to tweak the APR, giving it teeth, so that schools will take it seriously.  RIP, Mr. Brand.
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01.21.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on January 21st, 2009

We have a pretty nice set of links for you today.

  • Thayer Evans and Pete Thamel of the New York Times with a great piece about the influence of Skip Prosser on the current Wake Forest team. Many people don’t realize that Prosser was actually the architect of this team as he recruited all of the current players. However, a great deal of credit has to go to Dino Gaudio for keeping the team together after Prosser’s death in 2007. I’m guessing this will become a bigger story if Wake Forest can stay near the top of the polls late into the season.
  • We have touched on the APR issue before, but now it looks like the NCAA is looking at extending APR ratings to include coaches. I am not sure if this is necessary since coaches rarely switch schools over short periods of time and I have a feeling the methodology will be questioned on how a student-athlete’s academic performance at a school will affect a coach’s APR after the coach has left that school.
  • Arkansas freshman forward Brandon Moore has been suspended indefinitely on DUI charges. I’m not naive enough to believe that underage college students won’t drink, but getting a DUI while being underage. . .
  • Another story out of the SEC as Alabama’s Ronald Steele has decided to forgo the remainder of his senior season citing ongoing injury issues. It is a sad end to what was a promising career. I still remember some of the hype coming out of the South about this explosive guard. We wish Ronald the best and hope he at least got a good education at Alabama.
  • Pete Thamel with an interesting piece on Arinze Onuaku, who will likely be the key to Syracuse’s chances of making a run deep into the tournament in March.
  • An interesting account of Bill Self‘s recent interaction with John Wall, the #1 recruit in the nation. I’m amazed that Self could be this reckless, but to be honest this seems like a rather minor infraction compared to other stuff that goes on.
  • Seth Davis with his take on NCAA’s policy regarding the length of time a player has to enter the NBA Draft and come back to college.
  • A depressing article about former West Virginia star Kevin Pittsnoggle. I’m sure there are several NBA teams who could use a big man who can shoot.
  • Vegas Watch with a mid-season look at the best odds for his top 10 title contenders and the odds he would take them at. Although it is not as exact (calculating the likelihood they would win each round based on their expected seed) as some of his other work, it is still an interesting read.
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Breaking Down ESPN’s Prestige Rankings

Posted by nvr1983 on August 4th, 2008

Ed. Note:  Don’t like ESPN’s Prestige Rankings?  Provide your comment on how to improve them here.  We’re going to take this information and create a new set of rankings based on additional factors (and getting rid of the moronic NIT appearance = NCAA appearance (1 point) criterion). 

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that ESPN was trying to fill the dead space between the NBA Finals and the Olympics with yet another list. Normally I wouldn’t have even bothered to look at it because ESPN’s lists have been getting progressively more ludicrous (hitting its peak–or nadir–when John Hollinger put Dwayne Wade’s 2006 “Fall down 7 times, shoot 14 free throws” performance above every single one of Michael Jordan’s masterpieces). However, when I noticed that ESPN was trying to rank the most prestigious programs for college basketball in the 64-/65-team era, I was intrigued and figured it was worth some analysis.

Your #1 team of the era
Your #1 team of the era

The first thing I always do when looking at any list is to see the scoring system used and ESPN sure picked an interesting system. I’ll break it into segments with some analysis:

• National title … 25
• Title game loss … 20
• National semifinal loss … 15
• Elite Eight loss … 10

- All four of these things seems pretty reasonable. I think that most fans would value the post-season performances in a way that is pretty close to the points awarded although it seems like a Final 4 berth is considered a great accomplishment for any program (even for the Duke’s and North Carolina’s of the college basketball world). I probably would have bumped up the national title, title game loss, and national semifinal loss by 5 points to give a 10 point spread between an Elite 8 loss and a national semifinal loss.

• Best W-L record in conference’s regular season … 5
• 30-plus wins in a season … 5
• Sweet 16 loss … 5

- This is where the scoring starts to get questionable. I’m assuming the “Best W-L record in conference’s regular season” is lawyerspeak for regular season conference champion. I’m glad that ESPN has decided that the America East regular season champion deserves more points for their in-conference performance than the regular season runner-ups in the ACC, Big East, and SEC. The 5 points for the 30-plus win season may seem like a lot, but in fact they are very rare (Duke leads with 9 such seasons and I could only count/remember 16 programs with any 30-win seasons since the start of the 1984-85 season) so that seems reasonable (as does the 5 points for a Sweet 16 loss although 16 programs achieve are awarded this each season while approximately the same number have achieved it for a 30-win season during the entire era). My main question with the 5-point awards is if they really consider all regular season conference titles the same as it is easier to win certain titles than others. One interesting note about this methodology is that Princeton with 10 regular season Ivy League titles is awarded 50 points with this methodology while Duke with 9 30-plus win seasons is only awarded 45 points for that feat (ignoring the fact that Duke probably won the regular season conference title most of those years).

• Conference tournament title … 3
• AP first-team All-American … 3
• Losing in NCAA second round … 3

- I’m assuming that the Ivy League regular season champ automatically gets the 3 points for winning the conference tournament title since they don’t have a post-season tournament. This only further skews the points Princeton and UPenn get in this system as they receive 80 points and 96 points respectively for their Ivy League titles not to mention the 20-win seasons they racked up beating up on Cornell, Columbia, Harvard, and Brown. I’m perfectly fine with the AP 1st-team AA points as at most 5 teams a year will have a player earn that distinction. Perhaps they should have thrown in a National POY bonus as that player is the one who usually defines the season (Ralph Sampson, Christian Laettner, etc.). Likewise, I’m in agreement with the 3 points for the 2nd round NCAA tournament loss.

• Player in top 10 of NBA draft … 2
• NCAA first-round win as a 12-16 seed … 2
• NIT title … 2
• AP second-team All-American … 2

- This is where it starts to get really weird. Let’s get the reasonable things out of the way first. Top 10 pick worth 2 points? Ok. That seems fine even if the draft was dominated by high schoolers and Euros for a few years. In the future, the one-and-done rule might make this benefit the schools that are willing to take the one-and-done guys even if it does hurt their APR. That is unless those guys start going to Europe. Cinderella getting 2 points for a 1st-round upset? Fine with this too even if we will all remember the Hampton upset of Iowa State more than we will remember the annual 5-12 upsets. AP second-team AA worth 2 points? Ok with this one too even if I think once you start getting to the 2nd team the players selected start getting more dependent on the voters. I’m too lazy to check this out (perhaps rtmsf can do it), but I’d be willing to venture there is a lot more variation in the guys selected to the 2nd team by various publications/groups than there is with the 1st team. Now for the crazy one. . .Awarding 2 points for a NIT title? Maybe in the 1950s, but today winning the NIT only makes you the butt-end of every more successful team in your conference. How many message board threads have trolls made mocking the 65th (now 66th) best team in country? I’ll admit that the NIT champs would probably beat the 13-16 seeds most of the time, but is there really any pride in being the small fish (mediocre team) in the big ponds (power conference) that can beat up on the plankton (13-16 seeds)? I’d give the NIT champ 1 point overall, which leads into the next big problem. . .

• 20-29 wins in a season … 1
• NCAA tournament berth … 1
• Postseason NIT berth … 1
• AP third-team All-American … 1

- Let’s get the easy ones out of the way. No problems here with the 20-29 wins or AP 3rd team AA getting 1 point. I would probably differentiate between 20-24 wins, which is usually a solid season, and 25-29 wins, which usually will put you into consideration for a top 4 seed if you’re from a power conference. Like I said before the further down the AA list you go, the more variation you will have by publication/group, but it’s not really worth arguing about for 1 point. The thing worth arguing about is giving the same number of points for a NCAA tournament berth and a postseason NIT berth. To borrow an over-used phrase from John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious!” While I recognize that in this system the NIT team can only receive 2 points from the tournament (if they win), it is ridiculous to even consider invitations to the 2 tournament similar when the entire selection special is based on camera crews camping out in rooms with bubble teams to see if they got into the NCAA tournament. Maybe the ESPN stat whizzes have access to different camera feeds than I do, but it seems like the players, coaches, and families are happier when they get into the NCAA tournament than when they find out they are going to the NIT (even if Madison Square Garden is a slight upgrade from Boise, Idaho–unless we’re talking NBA). That’s just one man’s interpretation of the reactions I see although I could probably point out that a few years ago Georgetown declined an invitation to the NIT because they wanted to give their players more time to study for exams. . .in March. I wonder why Georgetown didn’t turn down its #2 seed this year. Do John Thompson III and the Georgetown AD not care about those same exams any more?

• NCAA first-round loss to a 12-16 seed … -2
• Losing season … -3
• Ban from NCAA tournament … -3

- No problem with the first two although I wonder if a losing season is counted against you if you have it expunged from your record and throw your long-time assistant coach under the bus? Also, I’d consider a 15-16 season a disappointment while I would consider 8-20 a complete embarrassment, so I’d probably make the less than 10-win season a significantly bigger penalty. I think the NCAA tournament ban should be a much larger penalty in this scoring system as the public (and press) reaction tends to be pretty bad (see below).

This is only a 3 point deduction per year?
This is only a 3 point deduction per year?

>> Minimum 15 seasons in Division I
** Ties are broken by overall winning percentage since the 1984-85 season

- After all the issues with the scoring system, I’m not going to complain about these minor qualifiers and tiebreakers. Both of them seem reasonable and none of the top 50 teams were tied.

Now that we’ve looked the methodology it’s time to pick apart the rankings to see what ESPN got right and what they screwed up. Duke is the run-away winner as even the most ardent Duke-hater (feel free to chime in here rtmsf) would agree that Coach K’s Blue Devils have been the most dominant program of the era even if their results have been underwhelming the past few years. The Blue Devils are followed by the Jayhawks in 2nd and the Tar Heels in 3rd. I’m not going to argue much with this although I would have UNC in 2nd just because I consider Kansas a team that historically underperforms in the tournament (Mario Chalmers’ shot and Danny and the Miracles not withstanding). Now onto the rankings I am utterly confused by.

Overated:
UNLV: 8th?!? I loved Jerry Tarkanian’s Runnin’ Rebs, who may have been one of the best college teams ever even if they lost/threw the 1991 national semifinal against Duke, but there is no way this has been the 8th most prestigious program in the country over the past 20+ years just like Memphis isn’t in that category. ESPN provides a pretty clear summary of why UNLV shouldn’t be in the top 10: “2 NCAA sanctions; 10 coaches since 1984-85; 0 NCAA tourney wins between 1992 and 2007″. I’d keep UNLV in the top 20, but they definitely don’t belong in the top 10 with that track record.
Xavier: The Muskeeters (at #17) have a nice Atlantic-10 program, but the fact that they have never made a Final 4 should automatically keep them out of the top 25. The Musketeers are buoyed by 21 combined conference titles, but have not really been a threat in the NCAA tournament having only racked up 15 NCAA tournament wins. Interestingly, Xavier came in 2 spots ahead of Cincinnati even though Xavier is widely considered the red-headed stepchild in the city.
Temple: I don’t mean to sound like Billy Packer ripping on the mid-majors (sorry, if you’re not a BCS conference, you’re a mid-major in my eyes), but the Owls never made the Final 4 despite five trips there under John Chaney. I think they’re a very good program, but like Xavier, Temple shouldn’t be in the Top 25 without a Final 4 appearance.
Murray State: Now this is the point where I rip the little guy. I was absolutely stunned when I saw this one. The Racers always seem to be one of those teams you see at the bottom of the bracket and maybe every once in a while you decide to take a chance on them to pull off the huge upset. Unfortunately, if you’re one of those people, you’ve only been rewarded once (1988 against 3rd-seeded NC State). The Racers piled up the points by dominating the Ohio Valley Conference racking up 22 (or 24 depending on your addition skills) conference titles and twelve 20+ win seasons (thanks to an easy conference schedule). Somehow this manages to put them above Villanova, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest.

Underrated:
Maryland: The Terps (28th) are killed by the fact that they play in the ACC and have lost out on a ton of points thanks to playing in the same conference as Duke and UNC. Although Gary Williams hasn’t had good teams the past few years, the Terps run especially in the Juan Dixon era should have been enough to propel them into the top 20. How does this program only rank 2 spots ahead of Murray State?
Utah: I don’t think the Utes would be able to move up much higher, but it would be interesting to see how high they would be on this list if they didn’t have the misfortune of playing Kentucky so many times in the 1990s. While the Utes benefited playing in a softer conference than some of their peers on the list (SEC and ACC), the Mountain West has been a fairly strong conference in recent years.
Florida: I’m not sure how much higher the Gators could move up because of their relative lack of success (not counting Lon Kruger’s 1994 Final 4 run) before Joakim Noah and company ran off back-to-back titles, but it seems like that alone should be enough to crack the top 20 especially when programs like Xavier and Temple are ranked ahead of them despite not making a single Final 4 appearance. The Gators probably belong in the top 15 although that may be more of a recency effect, but it just seems that there recent run puts them at a level that isn’t that much different than UNLV with its run with Larry Johnson.

Other points of interest:
– Coach K’s current program (Duke) ranks #1. The program he left (Army) comes in tied for 298th, or as it is more commonly referred to “DFL”. Hopefully the Duke athletic department program has a better succession plan in place than Army did when Coach K decides to leave the sidelines.
– I found this rather amusing from personal experience. Boston University comes in at 108th ahead of programs such as Clemson, Providence (with a Final 4 appearance), Washington, and USC.
– In the current SportsNation voting, Kentucky is in the lead (good work out of the Sea of Blue crowd) with Duke in 4th even though they have the most #1 votes (something tells me they were left off a lot of ballots or voted 25th). The three teams I singled out as being overrated in the top 25 were moved down quite a bit. Note: I thought they were overrated even before I saw the online voting.

No bonus points for Dream Teamers?
No bonus points for Dream Teamers?
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What’s Your APR?

Posted by rtmsf on May 6th, 2008

No, not Annual Percentage Rate for all you creditworthy folks.  We’re talking about the Academic Progress Report (APR) for men’s basketball (who is regularly the lowest rated sport in D1).  Today the NCAA released the numbers that track athletes’ success (2003-07) in the classroom through retention, eligibility and graduation, and it appears that things are going to get a little dicey for some name-brand programs over the next twelve months. 

The APR has two classes of penalty – immediate and historic.  Immediate penalties are levied when a program is below the cutoff score of 925 (approximating a 60% graduation rate), and one of their players withdraws from the institution, does not return the following fall term and would not have otherwise been eligible to compete during the regular academic term following his departure.   This year, Kansas St., Purdue, Seton Hall, South Carolina, Tennessee and USC were the BCS programs subject to a one-scholarship loss due to this penalty (see Table A below).  K-State, Purdue, UT and USC are particularly on notice, as each of these programs could lose as many as two scholarships next year should their APRs not improve. 

Historic penalties are levied upon programs that have trouble consistently reaching a threshold of 900 on the APR metric.  The sanctions associated with these penalties are far more severe, and can ultimately result in reduced practice time, banishment from postseason play and restricted membership in Division 1 athletics.  This year among the BCS programs, only Colorado and USC were placed on public notice that their historical profile is lagging.  Should their poor APR scores (<900) continue another year, then the Buffs and Trojans could face a scholarship and/or practice time reduction in the 2009-10 season.  As an example of what not to do, the basketball programs at New Mexico St., Centenary and East Carolina are already one year away from facing a postseason ban based on three consecutive years of failing scores on the APR.  While Colorado doesn’t seem to care much about hoops, USC, with its high-profile coach and the sparking new Galen Center, certainly wants to avoid this fate if it can (note: OJ Mayo and Davon Jefferson’s early exits will not help the Trojans’ APR in 2008-09). 

Table B below shows some of the other notable non-BCS basketball programs and how they fared on this year’s APR.  Memphis, who is already on the cusp of the threshold, could end up getting slammed by this season’s exodus.

We also thought it might be somewhat informative to see how the BCS conferences do individually.  See Table C below.  The ACC is clearly doing the best of the big six conferences, with only Clemson and Maryland under the 925 cutoff (neither are below the 900 threshold).  The SEC, while managing to avoid last place, has seven teams under the 925 mark this year (58.3% of its teams).  The Big East has five, but that only represents 31.3% of its members.  As far as we can tell, there isn’t much of  a correlation with our 2007 Athlademic Ratings from last summer.   

The NCAA appears to be holding fast on its promise to hold schools accountable for keeping its athletes eligible.  AAZone’s Josh Centor, for one, thinks that the APR is working.

For the skeptics who believe the penalties are soft, look at the 26 teams that have entered the historical phase of the structure this year. Those programs have failed to change their behavior and will face restricted scholarships, recruiting and practice time. If the academic performance of those teams doesn’t get better, the penalties will become more severe. Next year, postseason bans will be in the mix and along with the scholarship reductions, those penalties are as strong as the ones doled out for major infractions cases.

It’s going to be interesting to see how these programs that are already on the cusp of sanctions respond to these challenges.   

Update:  Seth Emerson reports that critics of the APR system are wondering if there’s any teeth to it at all, citing the fact that 69.3% of institutions that were eligible to be penalized were given waivers this year.  Our favorite exception – let’s call it the South Carolina St. Rule – allows a waiver if a team’s APR is above that of the general student body.  Yeah, we’d agree that if a team is outperforming the rest of the students, then either the whole school needs to be shuttered; or, the APR is rendered rather meaningless. 

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Huggins still screwing Cincy 2 yrs later…

Posted by rtmsf on May 2nd, 2007

If those cries of agony you heard today coming from AD offices across the land, originating at the fair universities at Cincinnati, Fresno State and Iowa State (among others) had you bewildered, wonder no more.  Today the NCAA released its Myles Brand-inspired bugaboo, the Academic Progress Rate (APR), to hordes of facepainted denizens ready to storm the castle at these bastions of academe and throw the louts (coaches) out.  Now that academic performance, er, progress, is tied to reductions in scholarships, practice & game time, and ultimately postseason eligibility, a coach cannot (should not?) simply round up the three nearest Lloyd Daniels and Skip to my Lous and call it a class, can he?

Myles Brand 

Myles Brand is coming after your school!

Well, he can if he moves on to another school before the APR kicks in.  None of the head coaches at these three schools for the years considered by the APR (2003-2006) – Bob Huggins (Cincinnati); Ray Lopes (Fresno St.); Wayne Morgan (Iowa St.) – are still around at their respective universities, having left academic quagmires in their wake that the new coaches and administrators must now sort out.  Much like hepatitis A after a bender to Laos, it’s the gift that keeps on giving!   

We don’t mean to pick on these coaches, as 44% of their peer institutions in Division 1 basketball also had three-year APR averages under the NCAA minimum requirement of 925 (out of 1000), and the national average was only 927.   Fresno St. (787), Cincinnati (838) and Iowa St. (852) just happen to be the three worst “name” schools.  If these and other schools don’t get their acts together, they could face what the NCAA calls “historical penalties,” which assesses major restrictions on a team and a program if their academic progress is not at an acceptable level.  Cincinnati (1) and Iowa St. (2) are already losing scholarships this year for its transgressions under their former coaches who got away scot-free, which once again shows the hyprocisy of the NCAA (another topic for another time).  It’s a good thing this measure didn’t exist during the Tarkanian days – does the APR score go as low as zero?     

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