Morning Five: 08.22.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 22nd, 2013


  1. When you have the facts, pound the facts. When you have the law, pound the law. When you have neither, pound the table. The NCAA would do well to remember this old legal axiom as it enters a dangerous stage of its lawsuit over image and likeness rights collectively known as the Ed O’Bannon case. On Monday of this week, the organization requested a 15-month continuance of the opening date of the trial — currently scheduled for June 9, 2014 — in a shamelessly transparent attempt to solidify its position by distancing itself from one of its most embarrassing gaffes in the past few years. Jay Bilas, anyone? EA sports and Collegiate Licensing Co., co-defendants in the case along with the NCAA, interestingly enough only requested a five-month continuance for the start of the trial. The federal judge overseeing this lawsuit, Claudia Wilken, had requested that the defendants come to a mutual agreement on trial date by Monday, but their inability to come to simple terms on that question may only serve to anger her as she weighs a number of important motions on class certification and other items that will seriously impact the case.
  2. And the hits just keep on coming. Mere days after a social media-fueled firestorm over the NCAA’s initial decision (subsequently reversed) to deny former US Marine Steven Rhodes from walking on to play football this year for Middle Tennessee, another controversy has enveloped the organization over an eligibility question that strains the limits of common sense. As The Star-Ledger‘s Tom Liucci writes, Iowa State transfer Kerwin Okoro was recently denied a waiver to play for Rutgers in 2013-14 because his medical hardships — Okoro’s father and brother each passed away last winter — are not current. The rule on receiving a medical hardship waiver states that the player must show “medical documentation of a debilitating injury or illness to a student-athlete’s immediate family member that is debilitating and requires ongoing medical care,” technically precluding Okoro from the benefit. But how about some big picture common sense here? While it’s true that Okoro will not be required to care for his now-deceased relatives, there are other compelling reasons involving his family’s overall healing process that should also be considered in such a decision.
  3. We’ve long known that Division I college basketball players are some of the best all-around athletes in the world, what with the core components of elite “athleticism” — speed, agility, strength, flexibility, stamina — all very well-represented in our sport. Several athletes who perhaps weren’t skilled enough for professional basketball found their way into other athletic sports — we’re thinking about NFL tight ends such as Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates here — but, as The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg writes, a lesser-known version of football played in Australia is looking at college basketball as a nice pipeline to find its next generation of ruckmen. A what, you say? Well, a ruckman is someone in Australian Rules Football who is tasked with securing possession for his team after dead balls and scores through a modified jump ball situation. Who better than to fit that need for our friends Down Under than undersized big men with explosive hops and a knack for getting their hands on the ball. As the world becomes flatter in economics and sport, we imagine that we’ll start to hear more stories like these as the rest of the planet discovers just how athletic our basketball players — even those outside the NBA — actually are.
  4. One of the most discouraging stories of last offseason has resurfaced in a big way with the news on Wednesday that former Xavier-turned-Maryland guard Dez Wells, he of the rape allegations so absurd that the local prosecutor publicly stated they were “fundamentally unfair,” has decided to sue his old school for damage to his reputation and a good old-fashioned apology. In an environment where seemingly every semi-public figure claims that he will sue to protect his good name after getting blatantly caught telling bold-faced lies, it’s encouraging to see a situation where the justice system will be used to mete out some actual justice. Xavier expelled Wells from its school last summer, citing a decision made by its Conduct Board (and upheld on appeal) that predated the related criminal grand jury investigation; as a result, Wells has since suffered mightily from the school’s rush to judgment. That he’s bringing this case while he’s still playing NCAA basketball is rich with storyline possibilities — could he somehow face his legal adversary in a postseason match-up for the ages between the Terps and Musketeers? We can only hope…
  5. A lot of schedules have been releasing over the past couple of weeks, and the most notable in the last 24 hours were from a couple of conferences. First, the SEC released its conference-only schedule, featuring a bunch of mediocre teams that nobody pays attention to until February a solid balance of Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday night games with the standard Saturday smorgasbord but lacking the Kentucky-Tennessee battle in Knoxville that has produced so many great contests over the years. A special thank you goes out to Texas A&M and Missouri for that omission. On the other side of the continent, the WCC also released its conference schedule, which means that the only two games of true importance in this league — Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary’s, Acts I and II — should already be inked into your calendar (January 2 and March 1). Many more of these releases to come in the next few weeks.
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Morning Five: Columbus Day Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 8th, 2012

  1. Does anyone even celebrate Columbus Day, and how would you do so if you had a notion — pull out some vials of smallpox and spread it around? At any rate, Happy Columbus Day, everyone. If nothing else, the holiday means we’re on the verge of the start of official practices around the country, and that nip in the air we felt over the weekend was a very welcome sensation. One player almost exactly one year away from competing in his first college practice is Chicago’s Jabari Parker, and the multifaceted big man on Friday announced the five schools who are most likely to earn his services next year. The quintet includes BYU, Duke, Florida, Michigan State, and Stanford, with the Blue Devils and Spartans widely considered the two favorites. BYU and Stanford are outliers with Parker’s faith and interest in academics driving those decisions, but a wild card school here we should keep an eye on is Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators. Donovan has already received commitments from two top 10 players in this class and the pressure that he’s feeling from Calipari’s hauls in Lexington has clearly pushed him to double down on his persuasive sales pitch.
  2. News leaked late last week that the Battle of the Midway, a showdown of preseason Top 25 teams Syracuse and San Diego State on the USS Midway in San Diego harbor, was in danger of cancellation because of a lack of financial support. While we are still on the fence about the need for multiple aircraft carrier games per season (others are planned for Charleston, SC, and Jacksonville, FL), this game projects as the best matchup of the trio so we were hoping it would find a way to continue. With the financial assistance of Fox Sports San Diego agreeing to cover any shortfall, the showcase event will go on as scheduled on the evening of Veteran’s Day (also known as Opening Night). Syracuse definitely will have some holes to fill but Jim Boeheim has considerable talent returning; still, Steve Fisher’s Aztecs no doubt will have this one circled on their calendar as a major seed-line enhancer in front of a home crowd in a very cool environment.
  3. Kansas State put a ribbon on its brand-new $18 million basketball practice facility on Friday, as the arms race in college sports continues to search for bigger and bolder solutions to problems that were arguably never there. According to this article from the Topeka Capital-Journal, K-State had in fact been the only school among Big 12 members without such a facility in place, and new head coach Bruce Weber will surely use its state of the art characteristics to his advantage on the recruiting trail in coming years. Much like Louisville within the state of Kentucky, the Wildcat program runs at a natural disadvantage through its close proximity to the basketball behemoth just a few miles down the road — but, at the same time, a rising tide lifts all boats, and the KU sphere of influence can serve to help Kansas State’s on-court aspirations, even if it is unlikely to ever reach the standard of excellence achieved in Lawrence.
  4. A common refrain around Pac-12 circles is that if three-bill center Josh Smith ever gets serious about his weight and effort on the court, UCLA becomes a much different team. Much has been written over the last two seasons about Smith’s problems with motivation and over-eating, but this weekend article by the LA Times suggests that the gifted big man, while not yet anywhere near where he needs to be, may have at least turned a corner. His body fat is now at 17% (down from 25%) and he is talking the talk about following a better diet protocol and giving maximum effort on the floor. Hey, it’s a start, and for Bruins fans salivating at the possibility of an energized Smith to go along with their super freshmen and other returnees (one of those players, Tyler Lamb, will have arthroscopic surgery and be out 4-6 weeks), the realization is that a player with his gifts giving only 50% is still a valuable asset to a team gunning for a national championship.
  5. We’ll finish off this M5 with a report from Jeff Goodman on a most curious career path for a former college basketball journeyman named Eric Wallace, a player who bounced around between three different schools in his five-year career. The 6’6″, 230-lb. forward enjoyed his best season at Seattle University last year, averaging 9.4 PPG and 7.9 RPG through a combination of grit and athleticism, but it is his next career choice that makes this story interesting. DraftExpress‘ Jonathan Givony recommended Wallace to an Australian Rules Football combine in Los Angeles based on his athletic gifts, and he did so well there that he was subsequently invited to the AFL Combine in Melbourne, Australia. Despite no previous experience with the game whatsoever, he earned the “Best International Performer” award there, and he hopes to use his newfound ‘talent’ to get an invitation to a team’s rookie list allowing him to stay in Australia and learn the game in a more focused manner. So many players end up chasing the NBA dream when they have no realistic shot, it’s great to see someone like Wallace perhaps finding an entirely new way to use his gifts without fear of too much disappointment.
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