Morning Five: 09.12.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 12th, 2012

  1. Another day, another scandal involving the, ahem, good name of college basketball. With all the allegations getting tossed around the sport in recent months, we’re starting to wonder if the best course of action is simply to burn the whole thing down and start completely over. After Tuesday’s disappointing news that even the nation’s top academic institution, Harvard, isn’t immune from student-athletes behaving badly, you’ll forgive us if we’re feeling a little more than down about our game. The skinny: SI.com’s Luke Winn has reported that senior co-captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry — two of the Crimson’s best three players — have been implicated in a cheating scandal along with over a 100 other students for acts in a class about Congress “ranging from inappropriate collaboration to outright plagiarism, on a take-home final exam.” With the fall semester enrollment deadline pending this week, Casey and Curry are expected to withdraw from school for the entire 2012-13 academic year in an effort to preserve their final year of eligibility after their cases have been adjudicated. And with those withdrawals goes much of the hope surrounding the Crimson basketball program next season — the Crimson had more than enough talent and experience to win the Ivy League again and make the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years. More to come on this later today…
  2. How’s about some better news to focus on with your coffee this Wednesday morning? Mike DeCourcy has us covered with his column discussing six important factors that could shape the upcoming season. Most of his points revolve around the significant loss of elite talent from last season, but keep in mind that going into 2011-12 many people thought that the return of the likes of Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones would dominate discussion throughout the year. Although each player’s team made it to at least the Elite Eight, such a notion turned out to not be true. The talk last year mostly revolved around Kentucky’s precocious freshmen, Syracuse’s deep and athletic juggernaut, the resurgence of Indiana, and both Bill Self and Frank Haith’s coaching mastery. DeCourcy’s comment that “we’ll find something to enjoy” is absolutely spot on — predicting what that will be is the hard part.
  3. The NIT Season Tip-Off is one of the few remaining marquee preseason events that actually handles itself like a basketball tournament should, in that, it actually holds a tournament where winners advance and losers go home. And this is why it remains one of our favorites. The NCAA, who runs the event, announced yesterday that the top four seeds in this year’s Thanksgiving week event will be Michigan, Kansas State, Virginia, and Pittsburgh. Although John Beilein’s Wolverines will be the clear favorite in this event, there’s always some room for potential upsets — in a cursory review of the bracket, one intriguing subplot might be CJ McCollum’s Lehigh squad disposing of a revamped Pittsburgh team before heading to NYC to once again grab the national stage.
  4. It wouldn’t be a Morning Five this month without some mention of Billy Gillispie, so here’s the latest on the wild saga involving the Texas Tech head coach. On Tuesday two new pieces of information were released. First, an ambulance was called to Gillispie’s house on Monday of this week after a 911 call was made from the residence, but local hospitals had no record of Gillispie getting admitted anywhere. Next, in a text message sent to the AP Tuesday night, Gillispie himself stated that he plans on a treatment plan for high blood pressure “amongst other things” at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. In the meantime as he deals with his health issues, Texas Tech has named associate head coach Chris Walker as the man in charge of the day-to-day operations of the team and told Gillispie in no uncertain terms that he is not to engage with the program in any way until he’s ready to sit down with the administration and discuss his future.
  5. If you’re a fan of the chaos theory of sports — that basically, the best possible scenario is the worst possible scenario — you’re going to love where the Lance Thomas case at Duke appears to be headed. According to the Raleigh News & Observer, not only is the New York City jeweler who extended Thomas nearly $70,000 in credit three years ago not talking to much of anyone, but in order for the NCAA to actually pursue what appears to be an obvious violation, they will have to do so by the end of 2013. So there are twin pressures building on the organization, but unless some degree of on-record information comes out through trial (highly unlikely), the NCAA will have to find a rat or some other documentation willing to assist them in this investigation. Chaos theorists loves this stuff, because it (mostly) leaves everyone outraged and upset.
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Morning Five: 09.11.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 11th, 2012

  1. In the span of four days, Lance Thomas has become a much bigger name some two years after his graduation from Duke than the role player ever was during his time attending Duke. Everyone who follows college basketball in any capacity whatsoever has an opinion on how and why Thomas got himself embroiled in a jewelry purchase and loan during December 2009 that could ultimately cause the Blue Devils’ 2010 national championship to come under duress if he was in fact ineligible at the time. Here’s a smattering of written opinion on the matter from Monday: ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil does a good job framing the debate, but the jewel (ahem) in her piece openly refers to the dilemma that the NCAA faces in pursuing information and potential sanctions against one of its sacred cows. Bylaw Blog‘s John Infante describes the leverage that the NCAA could have over Thomas in order to force him to talk to them (namely, that the jeweler is likely to give his side of the story, forcing Thomas to respond). Over at CBSSports.com, Matt Norlander examines the Thomas case through the prism of troubles surrounding each of the four major programs on Tobacco Road, but the most compelling point in his story is that Thomas at Duke was apparently known as someone not at all prone to flash. Yet… we know that he purchased nearly $100,000 worth of jewelry. So many questions…
  2. Meanwhile, the hits keep coming at UNC. A report from the Raleigh News & Observer on Monday evening disclosed that former Tar Heel quarterback Matt Kupec, who had returned to the school to become its chief fundraiser, tendered his resignation when presented with evidence that he and Tami Hansbrough (the 2008 NPOY Tyler’s divorced mother, also a UNC fundraiser) took personal trips together on the university’s dime. Hansbrough was placed on administrative leave from her job at the school, but given her already tenuous job history at the school and allegations from school chancellor Holden Thorp that some of these trips were to watch her other son, Ben Hansbrough, play at Notre Dame, we’re wondering just how many other surprises there are hiding out on the various servers and job descriptions tangentially related to football and basketball at this university? More to come, we’re sure — welcome to 2012, the year that integrity in college athletics came home to roost.
  3. The Billy Gillispie saga continues to churn along, with additional news on Monday reported by ESPN.com that the Red Raiders’ leading returning scorer, Jordan Tolbert, hasn’t heard from the head coach in two or three weeks and doesn’t want to play for him again. In addition to that, CBSSports.com reported on Monday that Gillispie was not actually on sick leave as many outlets had reported; he is instead using accrued sick time to recuperate and has allegedly told athletic director Kirby Holcutt that he is not well enough to meet. While this very space has all but declared Gillispie’s head coaching career in Lubbock to be over, our Big 12 microsite’s Danny Spewak makes a compelling argument that the media’s general rush to judgment without hearing his side of the story is journalism at its worst – and you know what, he’s right.
  4. Connecticut may not have a lot to play for next season, and depending on the mood of its head coach, they may be looking at a complete programmatic overhaul, but the returning backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright will ultimately determine the Huskies’ ceiling. The Napier half of that equation underwent surgery late last week to repair a nagging stress fracture on his right foot that doctors felt was not healing quickly enough for the point guard to be ready for the season. The rising junior is UConn’s most talented returning player and a legitimate candidate for Big East postseason individual honors, so they absolutely will need his production next winter to avert a massive cliff dive in both record and status.
  5. Larry Brown is well into his first year as the head coach of the SMU Mustangs, but the sad truth is that the rebuilding process will take some time in light of the paucity of talent left at the Dallas school. With that in mind, perhaps Brown’s open tryout scheduled for September 18 at the Crum Basketball Center will yield a diamond or two in the rough. You never know when a future Hall of Famer like Chicago Bulls great (and Central Arkansas walk-on) might literally stroll through your door. For those of you looking to get some instruction by the only dual NBA/NCAA coaching champion, the deadline to enroll in classes at SMU has unfortunately already passed. Maybe next year.
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Right on Cue, Gillispie’s Defenders Tell The Other Side of the Story

Posted by dnspewak on September 10th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 microsite staffer and an RTC correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

Three days ago, the loss of Billy Gillispie‘s employment at Texas Tech seemed like a formality. On the heels of a series of articles from a local Lubbock newspaper, ESPN.com and CBS Sports — in which former and current players said he violated NCAA practice regulations and forced a player with a stress fracture to run stairs — it seemed he’d probably never coach college basketball again, especially in light of his “second chance” following the whole Kentucky fiasco. On Friday, I defended Gillispie’s right to tell his side of the story, arguing media reports had smeared him as he sat in a hospital without any way of responding to the accusations. No reporter had even attempted to write a balanced story, and Gary Parrish of CBS called for the school to fire Gillispie because “there’s no reason to believe” the allegations against him aren’t true. Since then, Deadspin has already reported the school will dismiss Gillispie, though no other outlet has confirmed that claim at this time. It’s bad, folks. Real bad.

So thank goodness for Jason King.

ESPN.com’s senior writer used his connections over the weekend to write a brilliant piece on the Gillispie situation, offering an entirely different side of the tale from the coach’s supporters. On Friday, I asked somebody to call Robert Lewandowski. Apparently, King already had: By Saturday, he appeared in King’s lead, and he stood behind Gillispie by describing him as a tough-love leader, not a madman. Former Texas A&M star Acie Law and forward Joseph Jones said the same thing about their former coach, as did Josh Harrellson (Kentucky) and Deron Williams, who signed at Illinois during Gillispie’s time as an assistant in Champaign. King also garnered a response from Bill Self, a former coaching partner of Gillispie’s, along with Texas Tech color commentator Andy Ellis, who serves as perhaps King’s strongest and most outspoken source. “Somebody needs to tell the other side of the story,” Ellis said.

The Coverage of Billy Gillispie Has Been One-Sided to Date

That’s all we’re asking for, and Jason King does a heck of a job doing just that. To be clear, he does not exactly exonerate Billy Gillispie. Ellis points out that former players would of course have a vendetta against Gillispie after transferring, but current players still met with the athletic director about their coach’s conduct and the situation is far from resolved. Lewandowski partly disputed the troubling tale of Kader Tapsboa crying as he ran stairs with a stress fracture, but he offered a fairly vague statement in an effort not to undermine his teammates. Gillispie still may have violated NCAA rules, but after King’s story, at least he’ll get a fair shake. The piece even led to a follow-up from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, shedding even more doubt on the matter.

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A Contrarian Viewpoint: Back Off Gillispie Until He Gives His Side of the Story

Posted by dnspewak on September 7th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 microsite staffer and an RTC correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

Billy Gillispie, the gruff, divisive dictator in charge of Texas Tech’s basketball program, suddenly finds himself as helpless and powerless as ever. Stuck in a hospital in Lubbock, current and former Red Raider players have turned on him publicly, telling CBS Sports he violated NCAA rules, punished them in practice and made their lives a living hell for an entire season. They’re saying nasty things — things that could all but end Gillispie’s coaching career, which already needed saving on one occasion after that messy divorce with Kentucky. They’re saying he forced a player with a stress fracture to practice despite needing serious medical attention, and they’re saying he routinely held practices for hours and hours at a time during the season, much longer than the 20 hours per week allotted by the NCAA. After Jeff Goodman’s investigative work blew the door off the situation, CBS colleague Gary Parrish then penned his own piece.

If the allegations against Gillispie are true — and there’s no reason to believe they aren’t — then he’s a man who didn’t learn from his downfall at Kentucky and probably shouldn’t be coaching college basketball anyway.

Goodman and Parrish cite several sources, one of which confirmed a tale of Kader Tapsoba running stairs with a stress fracture as he sobbed from the pain. We’re hearing about Bear Bryant kind of shenanigans, outdated tactics used by tyrants in the 1952, not 2012. Put it all together, and Parrish, quite matter-of-factly, says the following: “Gillispie must go.” ESPN’s Andy Katz and Jason King spoke to several unnamed current players, and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal managed to actually speak to Gillispie and get a no comment: “There will be an appropriate time to talk about that,” Gillispie told reporter Nick Kosmider. “Right now I’m trying to get better.”

Billy Gillispie Finds Himself in Trouble

Problem is, his superiors may not wait until his health recovers to make a decision on his employment. With the public now united against him, there’s almost no way Gillispie can overcome this sort of PR hit. It’s a shame we’ve come to this conclusion so early. It’s a shame we’re essentially ending his career before he even gets out of the hospital. Like Parrish alluded to, it’s hard to believe that all of these players would simply fabricate stories about Gillispie out of thin air, but that’s not the point here. The man at the center of this whole fiasco needs to have the opportunity to defend himself. It doesn’t matter how many sources CBS Sports cites or how many times it tries to text him. He’s in the freaking hospital. That’d be like Woodward and Bernstein taking information from Deep Throat and then texting Richard Nixon’s staffers, only to give up and still write the Watergate story for The Washington Post when they did not respond. Ridiculous, right? Billy Gillispie may not be Richard Nixon, and his alleged transgressions may not be a matter of national security, but the consequences are serious nonetheless.

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Morning Five: 09.07.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 7th, 2012

  1. Thursday’s buzz revolved around two head coaches who are no strangers to controversy — let’s start with the much more successful of the two, Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun. In a piece provided to SI.com by Mark Blaudschun about the venerable head coach, Calhoun said that he plans on making a decision whether he will return for his 27th season in Storrs in the next couple of weeks. And according to the author describing his body language in the interview, Calhoun may be leaning toward hanging up his whistle. We plan on looking deeper into Calhoun’s legacy a bit later today, but our stance on his retirement has always been one of ‘we’ll believe it when we see it.’ Of course, his team in 2012-13 is shut out of both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments (although the school is still lobbying for inclusion in the conference tourney), so the motivation that he had which caused him to come back last season might be missing this time around.
  2. The other head coach (for now) who has been in the news cycle all week long is Texas Tech’s Billy Gillispie. After six days holing up in a Lubbock hospital as he dealt with stress-related health issues, the much-maligned head coach was released on Thursday afternoon and presumably headed home. We actually don’t have a very good feeling about all of this, but we’d expect that the university will be speaking with him as soon as possible and will announce its position regarding his term of employment very quickly. Regardless of what happens with respect to Gillispie, the reeling program received more bad news this week when it learned that transfer forward Aaron Ross has torn his ACL and will miss the upcoming season. Too soon to joke that Gillispie will have him running stairs tomorrow?
  3. After two years of domino-tipping, could conference realignment be reaching a sort of stasis? The reason we say this is because the Big 12 is reportedly set to announce a new monstrosity of a $2.6 billion television contract with ABC/ESPN and Fox that will cover the next 13 years of broadcasts. So what, right? The difference is that this deal — similar in scope to the Big Ten and Pac-12 contracts  — in that each member institution must sign over its “grant of rights,” which is essentially a legal term that gives the conference ownership over each school’s media properties. So if, say, Texas or Oklahoma were to go sniffing around for a better deal elsewhere in the next 13 years, their media revenue in the new league would stay with the Big 12. This extreme disincentive to give away one’s media rights should all but ensure that those three stalwart leagues keep their members from jumping ship. Given that the Big 12 in particular has already been very close to disintegration, their newfound steadying influence in the nation’s mid-section may ultimately put an end to some of the craziness of the last couple of years.
  4. Remember that Rick Pitino guy? The Louisville head coach must have enjoyed his 2012 Final Four team so much that it left him (mostly) speechless over the summer. We’ve gotten used to the guy making news pretty much year-round, but there’s been nary a peep out of him lately. Yesterday he made the national news circuit with his comments to WDRB.com that, in light of the fact he has a veteran team with national championship aspirations returning, he wants his players to avoid playing pick-up basketball and only spend 45 minutes per day working on their games. If you read the article, Pitino goes into a long-winded explanation about how he implements his system as a whole versus its parts, but what’s unsaid here is that his teams over the last several years have been often walking M*A*S*H units. The message between the lines here is that Pitino wants his players to be fresh and healthy for the 2012-13 season, with the knowledge that if his group can remain that way into March, the Cardinals will have a great chance at cutting the nets down in Atlanta. This is actually a solid strategy, even if Pitino has trouble coming right out and stating it that way.
  5. While on the subject of Louisville, Lindy’s has released its preseason Top 10 and the anti-pick-up Cards sit at the top of the heap. Indiana, the other team that will probably share with UL the top spot in many polls, came in at #2. The surprise pick was at #3, with John Beilein’s Michigan Wolverines getting the nod, but we have to ask the question whether the choice of St. Louis at #9 was made before or after the news of Rick Majerus’ layoff. No disrespect to interim head coach Jim Crews, but that’s a lot to ask from a guy who has never so much as sniffed the Top 25, much less the rarefied air of the Top 10.
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Morning Five: 09.06.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 6th, 2012

  1. The NCAA has ruled on the eligibility of one of the high-profile recruits in the Class of 2013, and it appears it’ll be “see ya next year” for Providence guard Ricardo Ledo. The star prospect who bounced around between numerous high schools in his prep career has been deemed a ‘partial qualifier,’ which effectively means that he can practice with the team during the upcoming season but will have to wait until 2013-14 to put on the Friar uniform and play. Ledo said earlier this week that he planned on staying at the school regardless of the NCAA’s decision, but if things change between now and next spring for the 6’6″ guard, he would of course have the option of entering the NBA Draft pool. Ed Cooley’s talented recruiting class — along with Ledo, point guard Kris Dunn is out until January with an injury — isn’t off to the best start, but the season after next could end up being PC’s long-awaited return to prominence. Here come the Friars, indeed.
  2. It it weren’t so sad due to his current hospitalization for high blood pressure, the outrage about Billy Gillispie‘s treatment of his Texas Tech players and staff would without question be much less muted. The story keeps getting weirder, though, as Texas Tech disclosed on Wednesday that it had reprimanded the head coach earlier this year after it was discovered that he was holding practices last December that were much longer than allowed by NCAA. The school self-reported the violations to the NCAA in January, and the governing body accepted the penalty as a result (docking itself twice the number of hours of practice). There’s almost no way that this story ends well for Gillispie or Texas Tech, and Gary Parrish writes what everyone around the college basketball world has been thinking: “Bottom line, this [Gillispie] is done.” How someone can blow the next chance he receives after self-immolation at a blue-chip job is a trajectory we have trouble reconciling, but that appears to be the only possible outcome here.
  3. Every year one of the most fun preseason exercises that a college basketball fan can go through is to attempt a prediction of the next group of breakout stars. Luke Winn’s annual Sophomore Breakout column, meticulously supported by their freshman efficiency numbers, is one of the better such examples that you’ll find. His group of five breakout players last season, for example, yielded Maryland’s Terrell Stoglin, Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick and Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas. And while his choices for this year’s group of next-gen stars definitely leans to the mid-major level, just consider it homework that you can drop on your buddies sometime during the holiday season. Oh, you don’t know about VCU’s Treveon Graham? — amateur hour.
  4. While on the subject of efficiency numbers, NC State‘s Backing the Pack published an interesting article this week examining the question of what the profile of a power conference champion looks like. The premise, of course, is to project just how much better Mark Gottfried’s Wolfpack squad needs to improve to have a reasonable shot to take the ACC regular season championship next season. Basically, the post concludes that the magic number of efficiency to have a reasonable shot at a league title is around a +10.0 points per 100 possessions differential. What’s not discussed here, though, is that the competition at the top in NC State’s league — ahem, Duke and North Carolina — have regularly blown past that differential into the range of +20.0 points per 100 possessions in the five-year sample. With those two schools poised to take a bit of a step back next season, it’s certainly possible that the top of the ACC could fall into Wolfpack hands, but it’s sorta like KU losing the Big 12 championship — we’ll believe it when we see it.
  5. Remember the tragic and hard-luck story of the Fort Wayne, Indiana, prep prospect, Austin Hatch, who lost his father and stepmother and nearly killed him in a small-engine plane crash last summer? The 6’6″, 210-pound wing did not play in what would have been his junior season as he rehabilitated from his injuries, and with the blessing of the Indiana High School Athletic Association, he has been approved to reclassify to the Class of 2014. This will allow him two years to graduate high school and also find his game again (assuming he wants to go in that direction, and who would blame him if he doesn’t?). Michigan has already agreed to hold a scholarship for him, but his reclassification means that John Beilein’s excellent 2013 class will now have an open scholarship. We certainly wish Hatch nothing but the best in trying to piece together a semblance of a normal high school existence this year and next — he certainly deserves it.
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Morning Five: 09.05.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 5th, 2012

  1. Reading the tea leaves in the case of Dez Wells‘ whirlwind tour of several prominent basketball schools over Labor Day weekend turned out to be advantageous, as the rising sophomore wing on Tuesday decided to commit to Maryland. If you recall, Mark Turgeon’s program was the only school among the three he visited — Memphis, Oregon, and Maryland — where he tweeted out transparent clues such as #terpnation while he was on campus. The Terps will without question file a petition with the NCAA for an immediate waiver that would allow Wells to suit up next season rather than having to sit out the typical transfer year. Although we’re uncertain if there is a precedent for a player arguing as a basis for the waiver that he was wrongfully expelled from a school, the NCAA may face a veritable uproar if Wells is forced to sit out a season because of what an Ohio grand jury has decided is no fault of his own. And regardless of which year Wells actually suits up at Maryland, the news on Tuesday that the elite Class of 2013 Harrison twins will spend Midnight Madness at the Comcast Center has things looking up for Terp Nation indeed.
  2. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, the NCAA’s compliance and eligibility staff sure doesn’t seem to have much of an opportunity for vacation time right now. Providence super-recruit Ricardo Ledo told GoLocalProv.com on Tuesday that he expects to have a decision in place on his eligibility sometime this week, and if you take the new college enrollee at face value, he says that he’s sticking around PC no matter what decision the NCAA makes. The site makes reference to three likely scenarios involving Ledo’s eligibility, but it doesn’t seem to contemplate what to us is the likeliest scenario: that Ledo is allowed to practice with the Friars this season but must sit out a number of regular season games as a fair punishment (think: Josh Selby). Guess we’ll find out soon enough.
  3. We mentioned yesterday that Texas Tech head coach Billy Gillispie remains in a Lubbock hospital relating to a medical incident he experienced when his blood pressure reportedly spiked to dangerous levels last Friday. Nothing appears to have changed on that count, as Gillispie was still a patient at the facility as of Tuesday night, but with the report released by CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Goodman exposing to the world the many shenanigans that the head coach has allegedly pulled, he may as well not pass go nor collect $200 on the way back to his campus office. You really need to read the article thoroughly to understand the breadth of the problems and the climate that Gillispie has engendered there, but they range from a musical chairs of hirings, firings and player transfers, forcing players to practice for as many as eight hours a day, and making them practice or play while nursing severe injuries. We’re really trying to figure out how this guy could have been so successful at UTEP and Texas A&M if he was using these or similar coaching tactics at the time, but perhaps these recent problems are isolated manifestations of his Kentucky debacle.
  4. The Athlon Sports College Basketball Yearbook won’t be out on news stands for another three weeks, but Rick Bozich of the Louisville Courier-Journalalready has a bead on the top three teams in this year’s publication and they have a rather lower midwestern/upper southern feel. Coming in at the top of the list is Tom Crean’s Indiana Hoosiers; moving southeast 90 miles, we run into Athlon’s #2 team, Louisville; then, moving east another 70 miles you hit their #3 team, Kentucky. It’s a solid trio, as each team will no doubt do some damage this season. Still, we have considerable trouble with the placement of a team in the preseason top five when quite literally more than 90% of its scoring is now playing in the NBA. Apparently the good folks at Athlon do not care to recall that last year’s Wildcats team returned experienced talent in Darius Miller, Terrence Jones, and Doron Lamb to join all those fabulous freshman, two of whom were better than anyone entering college basketball in 2012-13.
  5. We’re honestly not sure why anyone outside of the punditocracy watches the snoozefest known as political conventions these days, but if you happened upon the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last night you may have caught Michelle Obama’s brother-in-law, Oregon State’s Craig Robinson, make a quick recruiting pitch at the start of his dual speech with Barack Obama’s sister, Maya Soetoro-ng: “Any seven-footers out there, give me a call.” Obviously, the sheen of Robinson’s status as the First Bro-in-Law has worn off by now, but you never know where you might find unexpected leverage — maybe some young political-minded player out there will remember Robinson’s request in a few years and choose to make a visit to Corvallis one of his stops.

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Morning Five: 09.04.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 4th, 2012

  1. Here’s hoping everyone had a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend, wherever you may have spent it. By now, most colleges are back in session, and the weeks leading up to Midnight Madness (October 12 this year) are often fraught with tales of players getting into all sorts of trouble as the combination of free time and warm weather results in a devilish concoction — let’s cross our fingers that the next six weeks are clean. One player who recently found himself unjustifiably in hot water to the point of school expulsion (at least according to an Ohio grand jury) is Xavier’s Dez Wells. The rising sophomore star spent his holiday weekend flying around and visiting potential new schools — specifically, Oregon, Memphis and Maryland — according to several published reports. Earlier contenders Louisville, Ohio State and Kentucky had been removed from his list for various reasons, and it now appears that Mark Turgeon’s program may be the clubhouse leader as Wells is expected to make his decision in coming days. According to the Washington Post, Wells’ trip to College Park seemed to produce a level of excitement that he didn’t experience (or at least, share) while touring the others. Regardless of where he ends up, that program will receive an unexpected yet instant infusion of talent into its backcourt.
  2. This UCLA situation involving its top recruiting class remains interesting. We mentioned in yesterday’s M5 that the big news over the weekend involved the NCAA investigating potential violations in the recruitments of Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker. Athletic director Dan Guerrero fired back at this report on Monday, suggesting that such an investigation is “misleading and inaccurate” but offering little in the way of specific details beyond the simple statement that two Bruin players had yet to receive their amateur certification. A separate Monday report from Peter Yoon at ESPNLosAngeles stated that the two players not yet certified are Muhammad and Anderson (interestingly, Parker has been cleared, according to his source). Whether something substantive actually sticks to one or both of these elite recruits certainly must have UCLA fans nervous right now — the program’s resurgence depends almost entirely on the NBA-quality talent that these two are bringing to Westwood. If they are not available in 2012-13, UCLA likely drops from a top five team to a top 35 team, and Ben Howland’s job would correspondingly be in jeopardy.
  3. No doubt Howland’s blood pressure has risen over the last few days, and with good reason — acting as CEO of a major college basketball program is a stressful job. This is especially true in the midst of a crisis, such as the strong likelihood of a player mutiny that could threaten one’s reputation as well as his employment. Billy Gillispie, as we all now, has been hospitalized since Friday in a Lubbock hospital, and he is not expected to leave the premises soon as he receives ongoing treatment for high blood pressure. An early-morning episode Friday where his BP spiked to “dangerous” levels left the second-year head coach feeling the “worst” he’s ever felt. Presumably aware of what faces him once he returns to campus — to be certain, nothing short of a serious inquiry into how he runs his program — the salve for his long-term health might be to stay in the hospital for as long as possible. We certainly wish him the best in recovery on both his medical and professional counts.
  4. Some vacant assistant coaching positions were filled over the holiday weekend on both coasts, as Arizona State added two new members to Herb Sendek’s staff and Steve Lavin brought on a former one of his players to assist him at St. John’s. As Andy Katz notes on ESPN.com regarding ASU’s new hires, Sendek is clearly trying to make a bold statement in bringing former Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors head coach Eric Musselman in addition to Portland Trail Blazers assistant coach Larry Greer into his program. Three thousand miles away in Queens, Lavin hired former UCLA point guard Darrick Martin to help him with recruiting and coaching up their backcourt. Martin played under Lavin — then an assistant to Jim Harrick at UCLA — in the early 90s, leaving the program as the then-all-time leader in assists and steals before moving on to the NBA for 15 years. He also has ties to the NYC area, having played prep basketball across the Hudson River at Bob Hurley’s famed St. Anthony’s program in the mid-1980s.
  5. It’s not often that the media publishes an in-depth report essentially stating that nothing happened, but that appears to be the case with the bizarre yet compelling story that San Diego State‘s best-ever 34-3 season in 2010-11 was targeted by those involved with the University of San Diego point-shaving scandal as another viable option. FBI agents who at the time were monitoring the key individuals associated with the USD case were also keeping a very close eye on a number of SDSU players — and when we write “close eye,” try this on for size — several players were subjected to “physical and electronic surveillance, GPS tracking devices on cars, phone logs, infiltration of the team by an undercover agent, even recruitment of a player to be a confidential informant.” Uh, yeah — that’s serious stuff. Thankfully, the outcome of all of this surveillance was the aforementioned ‘nothing’ — whether because SDSU players from that illustrious season were never actually approached by point-shavers, or because they were smart enough to turn down those doing the asking — we’re not sure. Still, the FBI never accused any Aztec players of wrongdoing, and the school has been adamant in stating that none of its players were involved in any of the shenanigans that went on across town. Crazy story.
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Morning Five: Labor Day Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 3rd, 2012

  1. What appeared to be a rebirth of basketball at UCLA is quickly turning into a potential nightmare as reports of a potential NCAA investigation into the recruitment of the Bruins top three incoming recruits has surfaced. We have known for a while that the NCAA was investigating the recruitment of Shabazz Muhammad, the star of the incoming class, but what is new is that the NCAA is also investigating the recruitment of Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker, both top 20 recruits. Details on the investigation are sketchy at best–it is not even known if this is tied to the Muhammad investigation or if this is a separate case. Whatever it is it is not good news for the Bruins who were hoping to become relevant nationally for the first time since 2008.
  2. UCLA’s crosstown rival USC had its own issues this weekend as the investigation into the Trojans own scandal revealed evidence that implicates former basketball player Davon Jefferson as well as football star Joe McKnight. One of the individuals being investigated reportedly admitted that he gave Jefferson $3,700 in cash. With the other issues the school has had they could be facing a fairly harsh penalty from the NCAA if there is sufficient evidence to substantiate the claims. If that wasn’t enough bad news, the school also announced yesterday that Maurice Jones, who led the team in scoring, assists, and steals last season, would miss the upcoming season after being declared academically ineligible. While the Trojans should be much improved from last season (read: not absolutely atrocious) this will clearly be a big blow to any NCAA aspirations they may have had.
  3. The Trojans weekend was probably only topped by the one that Billy Gillispie just experienced.  Not only did the Texas Tech coach have to deal with reports of what some have called a “player mutiny” he was also hospitalized for an undisclosed medical condition. The news of the so-called mutiny should not be a shock given Gillispie’s reputation as the alleged injustices involved the hours they were practicing and “mental games” that Gillispie was playing. As for the hospitalization it appears to have been a hypertensive emergency where Gillispie’s blood pressure rose to dangerous levels, but from reports he seems to be doing well at this time. Even with that good news Gillispie has a lot on his plate when he gets out of the hospital.
  4. Wagner got a boost on Friday when the NCAA granted Dwaun Anderson a waiver allowing him to play for the Seahawks at the start of this season instead of January as some expected. Anderson, who was Michigan’s Mr. Basketball, had enrolled at Michigan State last summer before transferring to Wagner, which raised some question as to when he would be eligible. Anderson provides an already solid Wagner team with a level of athleticism that could bring the team, which is led by first-year head coach Bashir Mason, to another level assuming they can integrate him into their current group of players.
  5. If you are not familiar with Kansas forward Justin Wesley you may be hearing a lot about his exploits in the near-future even if it is not on a basketball court (well at least a real one). The Jayhawk junior, who averaged 1.2 points and 1.6 rebounds in 8.6 minutes per game last year, has been selected to portray the legendary Wilt Chamberlain in an upcoming independent film titled “Jayhawkers”, which looks at Chamberlain’s impact on race relations in and around the Kansas campus. There is a chance that this film will not get made due to a legal dispute with the Chamberlain family not to mention some questionable funding issues. Given the nature of the film, which is being made by a Kansas professor, we suspect that the film would not spend too much time on the court where the only part of Wesley’s game that resembles Chamberlain’s is his free throw shooting (49.9% for Wesley and 51.1% for Chamberlain) or the Big Dipper’s prodigious appetite for, uh, extracurricular activities.
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Big 12 Weekly Five: 08.29.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on August 29th, 2012

  1. Because it just wouldn’t be a Big 12 Weekly Five without the dreaded conference realignment talk, new league commissioner Bob Bowlsby said last week he’s happy with 10 teams in the, uh, Big 12, for now. Naming inconsistencies aside, he has a point. Bowlsby told the Kansas City Star that a 10-team league allows for more flexible scheduling, and from a basketball standpoint, the idea of a true regular-season champion is appealing. Ten teams affords the Big 12 the rare opportunity in hoops to allow for home-and-homes with every opponent, so although an expansion may drive more revenue into the Big 12, we’re perfectly content leaving things the way they are.
  2. Hold on, folks: The Darrell Williams case isn’t over yet. The defense says it has new evidence in the case, and it’ll now try to convince a judge to grant the former Oklahoma State forward a retrial after a jury convicted him of rape this summer. There’s no word on what evidence the defense will present, according to the Associated Press, but Williams’ conviction is beginning to gain national notoriety after staying under the radar throughout the original trial. Reverand Jesse Jackson is now fighting on Williams’ behalf, and his supporters claim the lack of DNA evidence and possibility of misidentification means he got a raw deal. One of the victims in the case doesn’t see it that way, telling the AP that she is “infuriated” and that “they don’t know what happened to me and the other girl.”
  3. Kansas returned from its trip to Europe with two losses, which seems mildly concerning but probably affects little in the long run. Kansas State lost two games in Brazil, after all, and it’s August, not March. But Bill Self is never one to mince his words, and he ripped his team in an interview with CBS’ Gary Parrish recently. Parrish asked who stood out on the trip. Self’s response? “Really nobody. Nobody really impressed me. Everybody was just OK. [Senior guard] Elijah [Johnson] wasn’t great. [Senior center Jeff] Withey wasn’t great. [Senior guard Travis] Releford wasn’t great. I’d say [freshman forward] Perry [Ellis] showed as much promise as anybody in terms of scoring. But he has a lot to learn.”
  4. Iowa State has rewarded athletic director Jamie Pollard with a five-year extension, and he’s got Fred Hoiberg to thank in part for that. The deal provides a little more stability to Hoiberg’s staff, who can now work under a solid administration with excellent school support. When Pollard first hired Hoiberg, it wasn’t met with a lot of optimism around the nation. Sure, bringing The Mayor back to Ames fired up the fan base at home, but he had no coaching experience and seemed like a major risk. A disastrous stretch in Big 12 play during his first season didn’t calm any fears, but Hoiberg’s breakout year in 2011-12 made Pollard look like a genius.
  5. Let’s end this Weekly Five with some kind words for one of the league’s doormats. Laugh at Texas Tech all you want, but as this blog astutely points out, there’s more talent for Billy Gillispie to work with in 2012-13. The assessment is overly optimistic, sure, but there’s reason to believe that Gillispie’s second season could be a significant stepping stone in this rebuilding project. First of all, Tech will have a fresh roster after several transfers this offseason and a giant group of Class of 2012 newcomers. Most importantly, that recruiting class includes several new point guard options, including Josh Gray, who just might be one of the league’s most important freshmen next year. That position plagued the Red Raiders a year ago. Gillispie knew that and immediately went and found new options. Look at the bottom of the article, though, and you’ll really see why Red Raiders fans should feel decent about their situation. Billy Gillispie has done this before. It didn’t work at Kentucky, but he was a proven winner before that — a tough-nosed overachiever with the ability to sap every bit of talent out of his roster. That’s why he’s a perfect fit in Lubbock.
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Big 12 Summer Update Summary

Posted by dnspewak on August 8th, 2012

With two months remaining until Midnight Madness officially kicks off the 2012-13 season, there’s no telling how the rest of the summer will shake out in the Big 12. We’ll watch intently as the NCAA rules on the eligibility status of TCU’s Devonta Abron, Texas Tech’s Blake Nash and Oklahoma State’s J.P. Olukemi, and we’ll cross our fingers each day not to log online and read of a new injury, suspension or arrest. A lot can happen between now and mid-October, but it’s already been an eventful summer in the Big 12. The league added two programs in West Virginia and TCU, several teams picked up late signees from both the high school and junior college ranks, and the coaching carousel spit out the old and welcomed Bruce Weber and Trent Johnson to the fold. Here’s a look at the major happenings from around the Big 12 during the past four months, incorporating both the good and bad this summer (click through for the complete summary):

  • Iowa StateRoyce White made the unsurprising decision this spring to leave after a season for the NBA, but coach Fred Hoiberg signed an extension and Utah transfer Will Clyburn is tearing up summer league. The Mayor will be just fine.
  • KansasSo there’s a minor scandal involving an alleged drug dealer running around the 2010-11 Kansas basketball team. This could turn messy eventually, but for now, Bill Self is celebrating the late additions of freshmen Milton Doyle and Rio Adams, both deemed eligible by the NCAA to play this season.
  • Kansas State: We’re still not exactly sure why Frank Martin left a rock-solid program for one of the worst jobs in the SEC, but it’s Bruce Weber’s team now. He assembled a staff of familiar faces this summer, including former Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery, to lead a team returning almost every key piece from last year’s NCAA Tournament squad.
  • Oklahoma: All is quiet in Norman. Thank God. After Kelvin Sampson and Jeff Capel dragged Oklahoma’s basketball program through enough scandal to last a lifetime, Lon Kruger dealt only with a transfer from reserve point guard Carl Blair. Besides that, he’s using the summer to mesh a team with several individually talented returners, a few stud freshmen and impact transfer Amath M’Baye.
  • Baylor: Even amidst mass defections to the NBA, legal trouble from a former player, and an NCAA punishment/probation for impermissible phone calls and text messages, Scott Drew is still sitting pretty with a loaded roster for 2012-13. A few summer roadblocks won’t be enough to derail what he’s built in Waco.
  • TCU: The Horned Frogs hired Trent Johnson to lead them during this time of conference transition, and he’s fighting an uphill battle in almost every respect. His facilities still lag behind the rest of his league, as does his overall fan support and, most importantly, his sheer level of talent on the roster. He’s still waiting to learn the NCAA’s ruling on Arkansas transfer Devonta Abron, who’s appealing to play immediately.
  • West Virginia: Bob Huggins added a third major transfer last month in Boston College guard Matt Humphrey, who used the graduate school loophole to gain immediate eligibility. He’ll join Juwan Staten (Dayton) and Aaric Murray (La Salle), and together they must lead a group of fairly unproven but improving returners.
  • Texas: J’Covan Brown left school a year early, meaning Rick Barnes must now rework his roster this summer without his do-it-all scoring guard. Good news is that point guard Myck Kabongo decided to stay in Austin, and everybody’s already raving about the early performances of freshmen big men Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh.
  • Texas Tech: Six players transferred this offseason, allowing Billy Gillispie to ink nine newcomers for the Class of 2012. With questions still lingering about the scholarship situation, we’re not exactly sure who’s going to suit up for the Red Raiders in October. One freshman already left the team, and top recruit Wannah Bail’s academic issues forced him to briefly leave campus. Plus, South Florida transfer Blake Nash is waiting to hear about his hardship waiver, so this team is really a mystery right now.
  • Oklahoma State: All other problems in this league seem trivial compared to Oklahoma State. A jury convicted former forward Darrell Williams of rape in front of a courtroom full of teammates and head coach Travis Ford, the latter of whom testified on Williams’ behalf. Adding to those woes, Ford suspended center Phillip Jurick after a marijuana arrest last weekend, so it’s been a difficult summer for the Cowboys. On the plus side, freshman Marcus Smart’s performance at the U-18 Championships this summer already has coaches buzzing about his potential.
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Big 12 Summer Update: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Posted by dnspewak on August 6th, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writer Danny Spewak (@dspewak) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. Next on the list — Texas Tech. 

2011-12 record: 8-23, 1-17

Billy Gillispie knew he had a major reclamation project on his hands at Texas Tech when he took over prior to the 2011-12 season. The program, which has always traditionally lagged behind the rest of the Big 12 in attendance and overall support, had slowly faded from a perennial NCAA Tournament team under Bob Knight to a cellar-dwellar under Pat Knight in just a few seasons. So when Gillispie landed in Lubbock after Knight’s firing and brought in a boatload of junior college transfers and freshmen, it was no surprise his team finished with eight victories and showed almost no signs of life in his first season. Apparently, that did not sit well with half the team, since six players decided to transfer during the offseason. Gillispie had originally oversigned with his 2012 recruiting class, so it’s not certain what exactly transpired this spring, but it wasn’t strong publicity for Gillispie. Before you accuse him of losing control of his program, though, look at the actual defections that occurred. He’s not losing his entire team by any means. Only one starter (Javarez Willis) transferred. That’s not good, obviously. But the others? As harsh as it sounds, they’re replaceable. And the fact is, Gillispie’s best player and leading scorer returns for his sophomore year in Jordan Tolbert, and he inked eight — yes, eight — newcomers, a class with decent potential on paper. There are still roster questions and other potential defections to worry about this summer, so much that the team hasn’t even officially published its roster online yet. But minus Billy G’s tumultuous tenure at Kentucky, the rest of his track record affords him the benefit of the doubt at Texas Tech. It might not be all that pretty in 2012-13, but the rebuilding process has entered its critical first steps here. Now, we just need to figure out who’ll actually play on the team next year.

Billy Gillispie’s Program Can’t Go Anywhere But Up

Summer Orientation:  As much potential as this Class of 2012 may have, it already lost one member when juco forward Rodrigo Silva left the team this summer to pursue a pro career in Brazil. It’s important to note that the move isn’t yet official, but the word around Texas Tech circles is Silva’s father is ill, and his family has serious financial needs. Understandable. On the court, it’s difficult to lose a 6’10” forward with the largest frame of any recruit in the class, and he’s not the only one who might not make it back to Texas Tech. Fellow forward Wannah Bail, one of the most highly-touted freshman in this bunch, had problems in the classroom this summer and had to temporarily go home. Gillispie said he expects to see him on campus for the fall semester, but this situation poses a serious problem for everybody involved. Bail, a 6’8” tweener and a top-150 prospect, needs to add considerable strength but has the athleticism and defensive potential to log a lot of minutes in his first season– if he plays. That’s why this is such an important development for Gillispie right now. He played high school ball with Michael Carey, who also committed to Tech in February but may not qualify. To be quite frank with you, we’ve attempted to look into Carey’s status for the 2012-13 season, but it appears completely unknown at this point. We know he signed, and we know there’s questions about his eligibility, but that’s all we know. Again, that’s a trend this summer. Who in the heck will really play for this team this season? Here’s another example: Blake Nash, who did officially transfer to Texas Tech but may or may not play in 2012-13. The former South Florida guard wants a hardship waiver after logging decent minutes as a backup during USF’s NCAA Tournament run in March. If he’s eligible, he’ll likely find his way into the rotation in some capacity for Gillispie in his first season and will help stiffen that point guard battle in off-season and fall practice even more.

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