Morning Five: 08.14.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 14th, 2013

morning5

  1. There’s perhaps nothing more frustrating (yet printable) than good ideas gone bad. Several years ago the Big 12 and Pac-10 tried to capitalize on the popularity of the ACC/Big East Challenge by staging its own “Hardwood Series” event. The only problem was that it started sometime in November and ended around Christmas. It was no more a real “event” than Congress is the voice of the people these days. That same year, the Big East and SEC got into the act, staging a somewhat better neutral-site series that at least took advantage of proximity in time (the games were usually on back-to-back days, but didn’t include enough teams). Still, it was tough to jazz big state school SEC fans up about playing small (mostly) Catholic schools like Villanova and St. John’s — the match-ups just didn’t make for a good fit. The SEC and Big 12, however, represent like upon like. Both leagues are full of mostly rural states that care a lot about college athletics, even if football will always trump basketball in most of those places. An SEC/Big 12 Challenge, at least on paper, had real promise. Alas. The 2013 schedule was released yesterday, and the powers-that-be have fallen into the same trap that the Pac-10 and Big 12 engineered back in 2007 — the games begin on November 14 (Texas Tech @ Alabama) and end December 21 (Oklahoma @ Texas A&M), some 37 days apart. Furthermore, the two best games — Kentucky at Baylor on December 6 and Kansas at Florida on December 10 — were already scheduled regardless of this event. Memo to SEC and Big 12 bigwigs — if you want people to really care, get it right next year.
  2. From a possible good idea gone bad to a possible bad idea gone good, Andy Glockner of SI.com used his Twitter cachet to put together a pretty phenomenal list of “rappers taking stage names that include small D-I basketball programs” last night. The derivation of the list came from a social media-fueled hubbub surrounding a rapper named Kendrick Lamar, who apparently decided to bring back some of the gangsta vibe of one-upmanship prevalent to the genre two decades ago, long before Jay-Z, Kanye and Dre completely monetized the industry. Our two favorites from the list were, without question, Big Daddy Duquesne and A Tribe Called Quinnipiac, although Florida Gulf Coastface Killah is damn good too. What, no Wichi2pac Shakurs? No Beastie Boise? Dayton La Soul? OK, we’ll stop now, but hey, it’s August.
  3. There was actually one piece of substantive news yesterday in the college hoops universe, and if this the entirety of this saga is any indication, absolutely no one will notice. The NCAA ruled on Tuesday that San Diego will not face any additional sanctions related to the Brandon Johnson game-fixing charges, and there’s no reason why it should have. The school had already admitted a secondary violation based on his efforts to point-shave and later solicit teammates to help him during the 2009-10 season, and there was no evidence that any additional staff members or other athletes had any knowledge of the criminal activity. Johnson is currently serving a six-month sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to a solicitation charge, while his former assistant coach TJ Brown is serving out a one-year sentence for his part in the scheme. Meanwhile, similar crimes are without a doubt being concocted and/or facilitated throughout the game, but all you’ll hear from the media and talking heads is a whole lot of crickets. It’s a very strange phenomenon.
  4. If you have unlimited funds lying around in an offshore account somewhere, you might want to take a look at this offering. Former Ohio State Hall of Famer Jerry Lucas is auctioning off all of his prized memorabilia, including his 1960 Olympic gold medal (considered one of the best basketball teams ever assembled), his 1960 OSU national championship ring, his 1973 New York Knicks championship ring, and his 1979 HOF induction ring. According to Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger, Lucas’ haul at the minimum auction prices along would total over $500,000 — and there’s no doubt that a collection of such rare pieces will fetch quite a bit more than that. If you do have money to burn, the items are located here, and we have to admit that the 1971 SF Warriors practice jersey for only $500 looks rather enticing.
  5. Let’s finish with some recruiting news, or quasi-news, as it were. The consensus top player in the 2014 class, Jahlil Okafor, and a top five player in his own right, Tyus Jones, have talked extensively about playing together in college. Many of the recruiting pundits seem to believe their package deal is a strong likelihood. On Tuesday, Jeff Borzello reported that Jones released his list of official visits, which included three crossover visits with Okafor at Baylor, Kansas and Duke, but visits at different times at Kentucky. Is there meaningfulness behind the shared visits — does it mean that Scott Drew, Bill Self and Coach K are the finalists for the duo’s services? Or is it all simply much ado about nothing, something to pass the time as we slowly slide toward fall. We’ll find out soon enough.
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Calling All College Sports Fans: Point Shaving Is A Problem, And We’re Not Paying Nearly Enough Attention

Posted by Chris Johnson on June 6th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

College sports’ problems cannot be hemmed in around one single issue or theme. There is a vast array of various issues eating away at the very core of the intercollegiate athletic landscape, loath as we are to discuss them all in equal measure. The usual discussions about the usual problems tend to fall under one of two hot-button umbrellas: the NCAA and conference realignment. Mentioning either tends to boil the blood of all fans; not even the dividing lines of team or conference or regional loyalty can’t break up the unifying hate. Conference realignment talk has cooled off in recent weeks thanks to the ACC’s landmark grant of rights deal, which should halt the league-shifting turnstiles among major conferences. The NCAA knows no relief from outside vitriol, though, and you can rest assured the scorn will continue to rain down as long as “amateurism” and a crookedly impractical rulebook and Mark Emmert remain visible parts of the organization. We talk about these things a lot because they make it easy to do so, and because we – fans, media, whoever – understand the moving parts, the underlying tectonic plates, the incentives. We get this stuff. It’s practically straightforward, and morally persuasive (and if you have a lot of friends that enjoy watching and talking about college sports, almost by necessity a part of your cocktail hour conversation arsenal) to shake our firsts and raise a hellstorm about.

The underrepresentation of point-shaving among the biggest and most enduring issues afflicting college sports is startling (Getty).

The underrepresentation of point-shaving among the biggest and most enduring issues afflicting college sports is startling (Getty).

It’s time we pay more attention to another issue: point shaving. You’ve heard of it before, yes? The supposed-to-be subtlety of intentionally performing below your capability to artificially doctor a game’s final score for a financial reward. If it sounds simple, that’s because it is. An ill-intentioned money-hungry go-between reaches out to an influential player on a low-profile mid-major team, offers a relatively small sum (say, $1,000) to back-rim a few jumpers and commit a couple not-unintentional turnovers, just enough to stay under the posted point spread. The player, a typical college student with typical college student financial constraints, happily agrees to consciously muddle his performance. Who wouldn’t take that deal? With little rhyme or reason for unprompted external suspicion, and a near-impossibly onerous burden of proof to demonstrate a sustained effort to manipulate a given game’s point spread, of course I’ll make that happen. That shudderingly simple and coherent line of thinking is what led San Diego star Brandon Johnson, the perfect real-life fit for the prototypical point shaving target-manna athlete, to cast his lot with bookies and an assistant coach with nefarious motivations and intentions.

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Morning Five: 05.22.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 22nd, 2013

morning5

  1. Perhaps feeling green with envy that Louisville’s Rick Pitino (championship, tattoo, Derby) and Kentucky’s John Calipari (recruiting, NCAA) were receiving all the offseason college basketball attention, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski got himself back into the conversation this week with his comment to SI.com‘s Pete Thamel that he is considering a return to coach USA Basketball’s men’s national team again in 2014 (Worlds) and 2016 (Olympics). We’re kidding about the jealousy bit — sorta — but coaches gotta coach, and everyone has trouble stepping away from doing the thing they love most. Mike DeCourcy writes that the numerous Duke haters who simply cannot endure anything associated with the four-time national championship head coach miss the point — Coach K (and certainly Jerry Colangelo) made the concept of preparing and competing for Team USA cool again. Prior to their involvement, players showed up and expected to win simply because, well, because they thought they could. Miserable performances in the 2002 Worlds (sixth) and 2004 Olympics (third) led to the system we now have in place, and for that Krzyzewski should absolutely be lauded and celebrated by every American who cares about USA basketball.
  2. It certainly doesn’t have the ring or cachet of its predecessor at the Garden, but the inaugural AAC Tournament is beginning to look a lot like the old Conference USA Tournament (and the old Great Midwest Tournament; and the old Metro Tournament) in that it may be headed to Memphis. Don’t get us wrong, the city of Memphis has a tremendous local fan base that loves college basketball and will fill the FedEx Forum with their beloved Tigers now in the new league. But can we liven this thing up a little bit in its first go-round — how about slotting in the top four seeds into the conference semifinals and leaving it at that? A semifinal round of Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis and Connecticut next March wouldn’t be awful, and we’ll even allow you to throw in Temple in place of Cincy if the Bearcats falter. Deal?
  3. We’re a big believer in second chances, especially when someone who has done wrong can show that they’ve learned from their previous mistakes. Still, we believe there should be limitations to those reprisals, and we’re having a little trouble swallowing the Zay Jackson story at Murray State. You remember Jackson — he was the Racer guard who rather infamously ran over a man with his car in a Walmart parking lot last September – according to Andy Katz’s report earlier this week, after serving 49 days in jail for hit-and-run, MSU’s athletic department has decided to allow him back on the team. The school apparently (?) did not have a protocol to deal with situations like these, but how about a protocol of redemption and common sense? Again, we support the concept of a second chance. The young man served his time and by all indications hasn’t caused any problems since his release. But wouldn’t this be a situation where both parties would be better served by shaking hands with each other and walking away? Wouldn’t Jackson want to have a fresh start at another school? Does Steve Prohm really want to endure the endless mocking and jeering his team will suffer as a result of this decision? At a minimum, how about ensuring that Jackson can keep his nose clean for an entire year (just school and practice) before allowing him the privilege of playing college basketball again? Poor form here, we’re afraid.
  4. Depending on whom you ask, the voluminous and growing number of transfers is destroying the integrity of the collegiate game or finally shifting the balance of power back to the producers of all that money flowing to the schools — the players. But the coaches still have several dirty tricks up their sleeve when needed, and the power to “block” transfers from alighting to certain schools is one of the more nefarious ones. Sometimes the notion derives from a misguided but legitimate attempt to protect “trade secrets,” but more often it just seems that the coaches are vindictively limiting the players simply because they can. Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings’ blockage of freshman Sheldon Jeter from transferring closer to his hometown school of Pittsburgh has the look and feel of exactly that. Pitt and Vandy are not in the same league, nor are they scheduled to play next season; in fact, they haven’t played in over two decades. So what’s the deal here? Why on earth would Vanderbilt care if a mediocre freshman wanted to play closer to home for the rest of his career — what possible reason could Stallings have other than “because he can.” Remember, college athletics is about the student-athletes.
  5. Remember the San Diego/Brandon Johnson bribery incident a couple of years ago? That’s OK, nobody else does either. For something that supposedly destroys the very integrity of a sport by its very existence, it sure seems as if incidents like these are quickly reported and summarily swept right on under the rug so as to not get in the way of moving right along. As this FBI narrative reports, Johnson was convicted of point shaving during four games in the 2009-10 season, and he was ultimately outed when the criminal enterprise that had recruited him was investigated for drug trafficking. The FBI report states that “tampering with sports events strikes at the integrity of the games; this kind of betrayal is not merely disappointing—it is criminal and worthy of prosecution,” but the greater public has largely not seemed to care all that much. They still attend and watch games, fill out brackets, and enjoy all the other accessories of being a college sports fan. Maybe we’re all so ambivalent to scandal that we’ve become accustomed to it — as a sort of new normalcy. Oh hey, IRS. How’s it going?
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Morning Five: 03.04.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 4th, 2013

morning5

  1. With top ten teams falling everyday it seems like we are the verge of finally seeing Gonzaga rise to #1 in the rankings. As we pointed out nearly a week ago Gonzaga’s likely rise to #1 will be met by skepticism in many corners as evidenced by the fact that they might not get a #1 seed even if they enter the NCAA Tournament as the #1 team in the polls. However, that shouldn’t diminish how impressive the program’s rise from the archetypal mid-major power to one that has become such a national force that even The New York Times stopped by Spokane for the annual story about the program with a piece by Greg Bishop appropriately titled “Nothing ‘Mid’ About Gonzaga”. We tend to find the “mid-major” label argument tiresome, but the growth and continued excellence of the program has been nothing short of remarkable regardless of whatever moniker you want to afix to them.
  2. Gonzaga might be reaching their post-Casey Cavalry peak later today, but their West Coast Conference rival Saint Mary’s certainly is not after the NCAA handed down some substantial sanctions on Friday (full report PDF here). We have a longer breakdown of the story from Friday afternoon, but the primary charges against the school and its coach, Randy Bennett, are that they failed to monitor an assistant coach in his recruitment of three international prospects as well as Bennett conducting impermissible training and coaching sessions. The assistant coach who was not named in the report, but is believed to be Keith Moss, was hit with a two-year show-cause.  The school was hit with four years of probation, a reduction of scholarships from 13 to 11 in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, elimination of foreign trips until the 2017-18 season, no skill instruction during the next two seasons, and they cannot participate in multi-team events for the next two seasons. Bennett will serve a five-game suspension next year (doesn’t make any sense to us why this should wait until next season) and is prohibited from recruiting off-campus next season. We are sure that St. Mary’s fans are having difficulty finding anything positive from the situation, but this should guarantee them that Bennett will not be leaving them for a higher profile job in the very near future. Of course that is operating under the assumption that administrators care about NCAA violations, which may not be the case.
  3. If Moss is looking for hope after his show-cause he can look to Steve Forbes, who shook off the NCAA’s one-year show-cause (part of the Bruce Pearl investigation) in an unusual way–going to the NJCAA. Forbes’ route is an unusual one in that he did not sit out at all and went straight into another college coaching job. Given his recent coaching success and his success at recruiting at the Division I level we would not be surprised to see his name mentioned in another month when more than a few positions. Still if Forbes is able to make it back to the Division I level (especially as a head coach) he would be joining a very short list of coaches to have done so (Todd Bozeman is the only head coach to have done so, but we are not certain on assistants making the leap).
  4. The decision by St. John’s to suspend D’Angelo Harrison for the rest of the season is one of the more interesting ones we have seen as the Red Storm were still on the bubble when they made the announcement on Friday and we still have not heard a good explanation for why Harrison was suspended for the rest of the season. Having said that we have to give Steve Lavin some credit for making the tough call as it would have been much easier just to put up with whatever Harrison was doing (assuming he isn’t in legal trouble) and finish out the season with a potential NCAA Tournament trip on the line. On top of that there is always the risk that this move will help push Harrison out the door at St. John’s whether that is to another school or (a dumb) decision to enter the NBA Draft.
  5. The University of San Diego bribery case appears to be nearing an end (at least for those of us concerned with the basketball aspect) as the school’s all-time leading scorer, Brandon Johnson, was sentenced to six months in prison for his role in the scandal. Johnson was charged with fixing four games, but continues to deny everything except that he unsuccessfully tried to recruit another player to throw games despite the fact that the FBI has a recorded conversation where Johnson stated he wished he had thrown every game and even offered to throw a NBA Developmental League game. Johnson will begin serving the sentence on May 31 after being granted a delay in sentencing so he could finish out the rest of his season as a youth league coach in Houston. Johnson says he hopes to play professional basketball again at some point, but given the evidence against him we cannot imagine any league taking him with his background.
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Morning Five: 10.15.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 15th, 2012

  1. Most of the college basketball world has been preoccupied with the reloading job that John Calipari manages to pull off every year, but the work that Dave Rice has been doing to stockpile talent at UNLV has gone largely unnoticed at the national level. The latest piece to the Rebels’ burgeoning bench is Jelan Kendrick, the former McDonald’s All-American who has already made brief stops at Memphis and Ole Miss. Kendrick will spend this season at a community college in Iowa before coming to UNLV for the 2013-14 season as a redshirt junior. Kendrick has obviously had more than his share of off-court problems, but talented 6’7″ perimeter players are hard to find and if Kendrick can keep his head on straight he could be a key piece in the Rebels making a deep NCAA Tournament run in future seasons.
  2. Trevor Mbakwe has managed to brush off several legal issues in his past including felony assault charges and violating a restraining order to become one of the feel-good stories of the upcoming season coming off a torn ACL. On Friday, Minnesota announced that Mbakwe added a DWI arrest over the summer to that resume. Mbakwe was arrested on July 1 at 2:30 AM with a blood alcohol level of 0.12 and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor DWI on September 10. He received a sentence of 16 hours of community service and one year of probation. Interestingly, Tubby Smith cited Mbakwe’s likely career as a professional basketball player as a reason for allowing him to remain on the team (hello, double standard). While it appears as if Mbakwe dodged a bullet here he still has to attend a hearing in Miami on September 17 for violation of his probation where he could receive a harsher penalty. We are assuming that probation is for the violation of a restraining order, but at this point there are so many charges that we aren’t sure which arrest that probation is for.
  3. By now you are wondering why we haven’t talked about Midnight Madness. The reason is that we already made several posts and tweets about it over the past few days. However, there was one even that is still worth discussing – the stabbing at Syracuse. While most events went off without a hitch, for some reason the Syracuse event was reportedly filled with several fights, one of which resulted in a 25-year-old man getting stabbed. The man is reportedly in stable condition at a local hospital (and presumably has been discharged by now), but has refused to cooperate with police. Based on that we doubt that anybody will be arrested in this case, but it will certainly change the atmosphere or at least the security at events like this in the future, particularly at Syracuse.
  4. In one of the more controversial recent trials involving a college basketball player, former Oklahoma State player Darrell Williams received a one-year suspended sentence and avoided any additional jail time as he had already spent that much time incarcerated. Williams, who continues to insist that he is innocent, will have register as a Level 1 sex offender (the least dangerous level) for the next 15 years. Williams’ team insisted that the case was one of racial profiling and had asked for a new trial citing a number of racial factors at play (two Caucasian women accusing an African-American in front of a largely Caucasian jury–11 Caucasians and 1 Asian-American), but was denied. For their part, the prosecution appears to be slightly more pleased although they expressed their thoughts that Williams was merely trying to put himself above the law.
  5. On Friday, Steven Goria, one of the leaders of a gambling ring accused of fixing a San Diego game in February 2010, was sentenced to more than two years in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of sports bribery. The sentence is the longest that any of the 10 defendants have received so far. Goria reportedly made $120,000 off of a game that he allegedly paid the Toreros’ Brandon Johnson to influence. USD, a  team that was favored by 3.5 points over Loyola Marymount, lost the game 72-69 despite holding a lead late in the game. Goria and many of the other defendants have also been implicated in a marijuana distribution ring, which to our knowledge Johnson has not been involved in. All that appears to remain in the case is the trial of four more defendants (including Johnson) who have not yet reached plea agreements — that trial is set to begin on December 3. We expect that case will generate significantly more press from the sports media as it will involve a former college basketball player.
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RTC Summer Updates: West Coast Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 5th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our first update is from the West Coast Conference and comes courtesy of Will Green, an editor and writer with The Slipper Still Fits.

Readers’ Take One

Summer Storylines

  • Brigham Young University Joins The Conference: When this story was first reported back in September, it was largely forgotten. BYU’s move was a football one with basketball repercussions, not the other way around. If anyone was talking about the Cougars, the dialogue was centered around how much money it would receive from it slew of nationally televised football contests this coming fall, and how many years the vaunted program would remain as an independent before choosing to join another league, securing even more lucrative contracts. The move, however, might make a greater impact on the collegiate basketball landscape than the football one, competitively speaking. For one thing, resident king Gonzaga’s streak of conference championships – which is older than most of your children – or at least its general reputation as the WCC’s top dog, is seriously endangered.  With Jimmer Fredette seizing all available national attention like a Venus flytrap, lost on many fans last year was the fact BYU was not merely a fortuitous program enjoying an unusually good year. The Cougars have been a top 40 RPI team since 2006, with a pair of top 20 finishes. That’s not a second Gonzaga — that’s better than Gonzaga. They also bring by far the largest student body and largest fan base that the league has ever seen. Indeed, the league can leverage BYU’s prominence to grow its influence and scope (more on that later). Despite being a “football move,” BYU’s departure from the Mountain West Conference is not, as so many of the recent realignment moves have been, a casualty of circumstance. The aforementioned “repercussions” became a mutually beneficial improvement for both the Cougars and the league. Credit alert diplomacy and geographical convenience to why commissioner Jamie Zaninovichwas able to lure a team into his league that’s also, statistically speaking, better than any team in his current league.

    Brandon Davies, if Reinstated by BYU, is an X-Factor for the Cougars in 2011-12 (Getty/E. Miller)

  • The League Gets A New TV contract: Over the course of the 2000s, the WCC did a remarkable thing: It became the most widely televised college basketball league of all the leagues in the West, while being only the fourth highest-rated league by RPI of the six in the region. Resident behemoth Pac-12 trusted its games to the insipid hands of Fox Sports’ cluster of regional networks. The Mountain West conference was largely marooned out on “The Mtn,” a network that truncated both its name and its audience by being available in a far more limited number of homes than the heavy-hitting Pac-12. The Western Athletic Conference enjoyed the occasional ESPNU game. The WCC, on the other hand, had its most intriguing matchups beamed into peoples’ living rooms in prime time on Thursday and Saturday nights (and for a time, on Big Monday) via ESPN or ESPN2. Both sides had such a good time putting the whole mess together that when their previous contract expired on June 1, it took exactly one week to renegotiate an eight-year extension. The new deal increases the amount of ESPN games featuring WCC teams by an average of at least five per year, possibly much more, and is spread across Thursday, Saturday and select Monday nights. While some critics contend the new ESPN contract isn’t much of an improvement over the previous one, their voices were provoked loudest during the rather dwarfing aftershock of the Pac-12’s mammoth deal with the same network. While this upcoming season could mark the first time in a long while that the WCC won’t be the most-watched west coast league, the league strengthened its relationship with ESPN and is poised to showcase what should be its most successful year ever in front of its widest audience to date.  In an era of scrambling realignment and a fragile economic landscape, this is a still a huge win.
  • The University of San Diego Suffers A Bribery Scandal: In April, this story looked crippling. San Diego had just finished one of the worst seasons by any WCC team ever when news broke that Toreros’ all-time leading scorer and current Memphis Grizzlies protégé, Brandon Johnson, was allegedly used to solicit current USD player Ken Rancifer on behalf of a delinquent named Steven Goria and several others to fix a game against the University of Portland on February 24. Also revealed was the news that Johnson himself had allegedly fixed a game during his senior season one year earlier. The good news for USD is that the story is quickly losing momentum, due in large part to the recent news that the 2011 team has largely been cleared of wrongdoing (Rancifer turned down the bribe from those attempting to fix the game) Repercussions from the 2010 game will ensue once the FBI is done investigating the entire case, and could involve recruiting sanctions or a postseason ban. Frankly, the Toreros are so deep in the throes of rebuilding that they might not enjoy any such postseason for the NCAA to ban in the first place. All told, this could have been much, much worse for USD. The true damage of the scandal is neither physical nor fiscal, but is still potentially very heavy. While it’s growing steadily, the WCC is not yet a national brand and one dominant negative story can define the WCC and USD for a large group of fans who aren’t very familiar with a non-power six league that’s on TV after they go bed. Show-stealing years from perennial contenders like Gonzaga and BYU, as well as postseason disruptiveness by the likes of St. Mary’s and Santa Clara, would be a good first step toward taking casual fans’ focus off of the scandal. Of course, if USD itself can somehow bounce back from a 6-24 record and win a few games they’re not supposed to, they just might turn themselves into national feel-good story.

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Morning Five: 04.26.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 26th, 2011

  1. George Washington University fired longtime coach Karl Hobbs on Monday, and it appears to have been a complete surprise to him.  In ten seasons at the helm in Foggy Bottom, he went 166-129 (84-76 A-10), but after a nice run in the middle part of the decade where GW averaged 24 wins and made three straight NCAA Tournaments, his teams have been consistently mediocre for the last four years (averaging 13 wins and finishing near the bottom of the Atlantic 10 in three of the four years).  Given its academic and international focus in addition to its location in the heart of DC, GW isn’t the easiest school in the world at which to build a great basketball program, but Hobbs did as well as could be reasonably expected for a little while.  He eventually wore out his welcome, though, with a tendency to recruit academically questionable kids and a stubborn refusal to fix a strained relationship with both fans and the local media — it’ll be interesting to see who GW brass gets to replace him.
  2. Former San Diego star and current accused pointshaver Brandon Johnson made his first appearance in federal court yesterday as a result of his arrest for allegedly fixing a 2010 game and soliciting a former teammate to do the same in a 2011 contest.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, he pleaded not guilty to all charges and informed the judge that he could not afford his own counsel and would need an appointed one.  He will remain free on a $25,000 bond until trial is set for later this spring — he may want to spend his time in the next month or two prepping for routines.
  3. From players facing time to those who have already done it, Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery announced over the weekend that his team would add JuCo transfer player Anthony Hubbard to its roster next season.  The reason this is a little different than your typical offseason transfer is that Hubbard spent four years in prison as a result of a robbery conviction that he suffered as an 18-year old in Woodbridge, Virginia.  The 6’5 wing will start at small forward, but according to McCaffery, he has a versatile skill set that will allow him to play multiple positions as a Hawkeye.  From what Hubbard is saying, it appears that his head is on straight and is thankful for the opportunity he has to play Division I basketball — still, he should expect to hear all kinds of things on the road in places like West Lafayette and East Lansing next season.
  4. As we mentioned yesterday, the NBA Draft deadline came and went on Sunday night.  The early entrants who have not yet signed with an agent will have a grand total of two weeks to decide if they’re going to stick with the draft or head back to their college campuses for another year.  Luke Winn breaks down the ten schools with the most to lose in the next two weeks, and unsurprisingly, Kentucky with its possible loss of three starters is at the top of the list.  Mike DeCourcy names his four schools who have been hit hardest thus far (with players not returning), and it might surprise you the school he has listed at the top.
  5. This article by the Louisville Courier-Journal’s Rick Bozich takes a look at the NBA Playoffs from the perspective of a college hoops fan.  While we take issue with his choice of “top fifty playoff scorers” as the only metric to determine playoff performance, he still found some interesting results from the analysis.  For example, which school do you think has gotten the most scoring bang for its buck in this year’s playoffs so far?  Any clues?  Would you believe… UCLA, with Russell Westbrook, Trevor Ariza and Jrue Holiday?  Yeah, go figure…
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More Thoughts on the USD Scandal and the NCAA’s Response…

Posted by rtmsf on April 12th, 2011

With the news released today that former University of San Diego star Brandon Johnson was allegedly a co-conspirator in an ongoing criminal scheme involving point shaving, illegal bookmaking and marijuana trafficking, the NCAA was once again sideswiped by the harsh reality that its games are particularly vulnerable to these and other such enterprises.  This is the second such conspiracy uncovered by federal authorities in the last three years — remember that former Toledo guard Sammy Villegas admitted in 2008 to attempting to fix games during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons and is currently awaiting sentencing in Ohio.

Johnson is Toast -- Are There Others?

As we’ve been on record stating through educated inference and others’ statistical analyses examining betting tendencies, we believe that this sort of thing happens a whole lot more than the NCAA would like to believe.  Here’s what we know.  We know that approximately one percent of games (~30) per season fall into a statistical outlier against the spread that does not appear to be explained through the normal ebb and flow of the game.  We know that the NCAA itself says that 1.6% of its men’s basketball players self-report illicit solicitations to influence the point spread in their games.  We know that these players are not paid beyond room, board and incidentals.  And we also know that with the proliferation of offshore gaming and the ubiquity of legal gambling in our society (lotteries, card rooms, casinos, horse racing, etc.), the stigma of gambling is probably at an all-time low in American history.  With all of these factors working against the NCAA’s stated core value of preserving the integrity of its contests, how is it that we’re only seeing one of these scandals pop up every few years?  The easy answer is that the non-existence of such scandals proves that education and enforcement is working, but color us mighty skeptical.  We fear that the more truthful answer is that it’s happening repeatedly right under our noses, but the NCAA and federal law enforcement simply do not have the resources or focus to catch it until it gets out of hand (e.g., an absurd ten people were involved in this!).

In a formal statement this afternoon, NCAA President Mark Emmert had this to say:

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University of San Diego Implicated In Point-Shaving Scandal

Posted by nvr1983 on April 11th, 2011

Earlier today federal authorities named a former San Diego assistant basketball coach and two former players among a group of 10 individuals indicted for an alleged point-shaving scandal. The former Toreros named were assistant coach Thaddeus Brown and players Brandon Johnson and Brandon Dowdy. According to the filing, Johnson, who scored 1,790 points and handed out 525 assists for the Toreros, was paid to influence the outcome of a game in February 2010 and solicited someone else on the Toreros in January of this year to do something similar. The indictment also claims that the three tried to similarly influence a game in February of this year involving UC-Riverside, which is where Dowdy played after transferring from San Diego.

Johnson was a star at San Diego, but now his career will come under scrutiny (Credit: Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Along with the charges of point shaving the 10 individuals arrested were reportedly involved in running an illegal gambling business and distributing marijuana. The investigation has apparently been ongoing for the past year under the code name “Hook Shot” (the full indictment is available here). The connection for the three former Toreros to the illegal gambling business and marijuana distribution is unclear as they were only named in the point-shaving operations while other individuals were named in the parts of the indictment referring to gambling and marijuana. Eight of the individuals named have already been apprehended in San Diego and will appear before a judge tomorrow while Johnson was arrested Saturday in Houston and will appear in front of a judge there later today. Jake Salter, the individual who is still at-large, does not appear to be directly associated with the point-shaving or San Diego basketball.

The federal government has not identified which game was reportedly fixed, but Johnson’s game log from last season might give us some clues as there are a few awful performances in there that might be suspect in retrospect. We will have a more extensive post on this subject later today as more news comes out.

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Checking in on… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on December 17th, 2009

checkinginon

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the WCC.

Standings (through games of 12/16/09)

  1. Saint Mary’s       8-1
  2. Gonzaga        8-2
  3. Portland         6-3
  4. Santa Clara      6-5
  5. San Diego      5-6
  6. Loyola-Marymount    4-7
  7. USF      3-7
  8. Pepperdine    3-8

Mysterious Doings

Although the overall conference landscape didn’t change much within the week, a mystery team has emerged in the form of Loyola Marymount. After stumbling through some early-season highs and lows, including a 67-59 win over cross-town rival USC on Nov. 21 that followed a deflating 84-78 home loss to UC Irvine, the Lions pulled off a stunning 87-85 upset over Notre Dame on Dec. 12 behind a Jared DuBois 3-pointer with eight seconds remaining. To say the Fighting Irish don’t often lose at home to non-Big East teams is a bit of an understatement – the last time it happened was four years and 41 victories ago.

Loyola had been hinting at a major turnaround from last year’s injury-plagued three-win disaster, but had been the epitome of close-but-no-cigar until the Notre Dame game. First of all the Lions restocked with high-profile transfers Drew Viney, a 6-7 sophomore forward from Oregon, and Larry Davis, a 6-4 guard from Seton Hall, and recruits Edgar Garibay, a 6-10 forward from Compton, CA, Alex Osborne, a 6-7 forward from Los Angeles, Given Kalipinde, a 6-3 guard from Zambia, Africa, and Ashley Hamilton, a 6-7 redshirt freshman forward from London. Combined with returning standouts Kevin Young, a 6-8 sophomore forward, Vernon Teel, a 6-4 junior guard, and DuBois, a 6-3 sophomore guard, coach Max Good had a strong nucleus to improve the Lions’ fortunes.

Besides the soul-satisfying win over USC, however, Loyola’s other games were mostly heart-breakers: a 90-87 squeaker to Boise State to open the University of Montana Tournament, topped by an even-closer 64-63 loss to the host Grizzlies; an 89-84 home loss to UC-Santa Barbara, then another crushing 76-70 defeat by Wyoming. Garibay then went down with a torn ACL, Davis missed four games with a heel injury and Kalipinde missed the Notre Dame game with a leg problem, but there is a lot of talent to make WCC foes wary of Loyola as the season moves ahead. With five winnable games (including two with Cal State Bakersfield) before conference play begins, the Lions could be well over .500 by then and ready to cause some serious trouble.

Steady as She Goes

Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga continued to coast atop the league standings, each winning two games in the week. The Gaels got additional bragging rights for the WCC by stopping Oregon 81-76 in Eugene for their third win in three years over the Ducks, and then revenged the league against Portland State of the Big Sky Conference with a 101-80 pasting in Moraga on Dec. 15. Portland State had upended the University of Portland and Pepperdine, both on their home courts, in earlier games, and posted perhaps the biggest upset of last year with a victory over Gonzaga on the Zags’ court.

The constant for the Gaels was center Omar Samhan, who scored 22 against Oregon and 31 against Portland State to go with 25 rebounds in a good week’s work against the state of Oregon. Samhan is averaging over 20 points and 12 rebounds per game in an All-American-caliber season for the Gaels. He became the first player in Saint Mary’s history to have a 30-pt, 15-rebound game, and only the second in all of college hoops this season to record 15 field goals and 15 rebounds in a game. Samhan and his mates have a shot at another WCC-slayer Friday night (Dec. 18) with a home game against Pacific, then head to Honolulu for the Diamond Head Tournament over Christmas.

Gonzaga breezed to wins over a struggling Davidson in the Battle in Seattle and over the NAIA’s Augustana College in Spokane. The only event of note was a knock on the noggin suffered by the Zags’ nonpareil guard Matt Bouldin in the Augustana romp, which kept him out of the Davidson game. Gonzaga made no official announcement about Bouldin’s status but most observers expect him back as the Zags take on #7 Duke Dec. 19 in New York, a chance to improve on their #15 ranking. The Gonzaga-Duke game will be televised nationally at 1 p.m. Pacific time on CBS.

Portland had a quiet week, posting a 72-62 win over Denver University and gearing up for a showdown with 24th-ranked Washington in Seattle on Saturday (Dec. 19). After attaining its first top-25 ranking in 50 years with early-season wins over UCLA, Oregon and Minnesota, Portland dropped out of the rankings with losses to Portland State and Idaho. A win over the Huskies would re-start its once red-hot hopes and set up the Pilots for its final four non-conference games before a conference-opening barn-burner against Gonzaga at home on Jan. 9.

Has Santa Clara turned the corner and readied itself for a run at the conference leaders? With two wins over lightly-regarded foes (Dominican, Houston Baptist), the Broncos headed for Rice in Houston Wednesday with high hopes. The streak stopped there, however, as the Owls hung a 70-57 loss on them. Another question mark team, San Diego, had an up-and-down week that didn’t settle anything as far as the Toreros’ ultimate success. They suffered a tough 82-78 loss to undefeated and #19 New Mexico on Dec. 9 at the Jenny Craig Pavilion, then bounced back with a 59-56 road win over Boise State. It must have seemed like old times for Bill Grier’s troops, as Brandon Johnson drained a jumper with 29 seconds left to seal the win. San Diego heads to Las Vegas for the weekend, with games against Southern Illinois and South Florida in the Holiday Hoops Classic.

For Pepperdine and San Francisco it was more of the same last week. Pepperdine surprised even its harshest critics by managing to lose to an NAIA team, Cal Baptist, by a score of 67-65, to go with an 80-72 loss earlier in the week to Fresno State. USF came close but went down 66-63 to Loyola of Chicago on the road.

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ATB: Weekend Cheers & Jeers

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2009

atb

The sports world may have told us that this was a college football weekend, but we know better, right?

CHEERS

That Kentucky vs. UNC is Meaningful Again.  Now that John Calipari is at Kentucky and his Cats are ranked in the Top 10 with a legitimate shot at postseason glory for the first time in a long while, it’s good to have this game on the early-season schedule.  UK rode a masterful 28-2 run to build an early 19-point lead behind John Wall’s 16/5/7 assts even though he spent much of the game cramping up, and the record crowd of 24k+ at Rupp Arena loved it… until UNC got their young legs settled in the second half, and a late 12-1 run got the Heels within one bucket with 0:33 remaining.  Eric Bledsoe and John Wall made five pressure-filled FTs to close it out 68-66 and UK moved to 8-0 on the season while UNC fell to 7-2.  One thing was clear, though — both of these teams are going to get a lot better before March – can we set a rematch in Indy on Semifinal Saturday four months from now?

Oregon State.  For putting an end to the discussion that was already gurgling (ahem) about the Pac-10 getting swept in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.  The Beavers defeated Colorado 74-69 on Friday night to give the Pac-10 its first win in the Series, and through the weekend games, only Cal’s dominant home victory over Iowa State was the other.  The Big 12 now leads 8-2 in the matchup, and with two games remaining at Pac-10 venues, we’re still not coinvinced that the league will get another win (Oklahoma State @ Stanford & Texas A&M @ Washington).

Reggie Jackson. It didn’t count, but lordy…  Jackson damn near brough the entire world down with this ridiculous dunk (below) at the end of the BC-Miami (FL) game on Sunday.   Still, Jackson dropped 18/9 in a conference opener for both teams that showed both of these teams will be heard from in the ACC this season.  BC dominated the glass 43-19, but it was Jackson’s FTs (not a dunk) with three seconds remaining that gave BC the home win to go to 1-0 in league play.

Dunk to Win.  How about a dunk that did count?  On Saturday afternoon, Ole Miss’ Eniel Polynice broke free for a throwdown right before the buzzer that ended up being the winning margin, 81-79, over Southern Miss.  This was the capper on a wild game that saw the 7-1 Rebels come back from six pts down in the final minute to take the lead and win the game on that dunk.  We’ve yet to find online video of this play but it’s really impressive, so if someone finds it a link to the dunk only, please let us know.  Chris Warren added 20/6 assts for Ole Miss, while Gary Flowers contributed 20/8  for Southern Miss.  Afterwards, USM coach Larry Eustachy found time to throw Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury under the bus for not playing his team.  Good times.

JEERS

Gravity.  If you haven’t heard by now, Ohio State superstar Evan Turner took a nasty spill after attempting a dunk in the first few minutes of the Buckeyes’ 111-60 mauling of Eastern Michigan on Saturday afternoon.  He landed on the small of his back and broke two vertebrae which will shelve the early-season leading candidate for NPOY for at least eight weeks.  Ohio State will undoubtedly have trouble recovering from his loss during that time.  For a more detailed description and video of the fall, see our report from Saturday.

A 22-point Half.  You probably missed this on Friday night, but we didn’t.  Pitt and New Hampshire tried their best to set the game back fifty years with a wretched offensive performance during a 15-7 first half.  You read that right.  15-7.  The 22 combined points was the lowest for a half in the shot-clock era, which began in 1985.  It may as well have been 1955, though, as Pitt won 47-32 with the two teams combining for 31% shooting and Pitt in particular getting almost all of its points from two players — 23 from Ashton Gibbs and 19 from Brad Wanamaker.  In fact, the entire Pitt front line contributed a total of three points.  We’re not sure what exactly caused this, guys, but let’s please not let this happen again, ok?

She Looks Different With the Lights On.  Nouveaux-riche WCC powers Portland and San Diego are learning what it’s like to be Gonzaga after all these years.  Just one week after one of the most successful weekends in both schools’ basketball history, the giant red target that was placed squarely on their backs is weighing down both teams.  On Sunday, both teams took blowout losses at the hands of schools that were clearly fired up to get a shot at a team playing with the big boys into their arena.  Portland, the media RTC darling of a week ago,  lost its second straight game to a middie after finishing as the runner-up to West Virginia in the 76 Classic.  Idaho ran out to a 16-pt first-half lead and never looked back, holding Portland to 32% shooting and 6-22 from deep.  Things have been even worse for San Diego since returning as the runner-up in the Great Alaska Shootout.  The Toreros have dropped three straight games, including Friday night’s loss to UC Riverside and a 37-pt  (19% FG) stinker on Sunday at Fresno State (note: Brandon Johnson did miss the game for disciplinary reasons, but SD was still down 38 pts in this one at one time – ugh).  It was Idaho’s first win over a ranked team in 27 years and Fresno’s first win in five tries.  Both of these WCC teams are going to need to right the ship in home games this week (Denver and New Mexico, respectively) or be considered irrelevant by Christmas after such good starts.

Weekend Upsets.

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Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2009

checkinginon

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Standings

  1. Gonzaga     5-1
  2. Portland      5-1
  3. San Diego      5-2
  4. Saint Mary’s     3-1
  5. Santa Clara     3-3
  6. Pepperdine    3-4
  7. USF    2-4
  8. Loyola-Marymount    2-5

Looking Back

Zags, Pilots, Toreros Notch Tournament Wins to Lead WCC Teams

It has been a tournament-heavy pre-season for the WCC, and it was in venues ranging from Maui to Anchorage to Anaheim that the early-season leaders made their marks. Gonzaga led the charge by winning the venerable Maui Invitational with victories over Colorado (76-72), Wisconsin (74-61) and Cincinnati (61-59) in a hard-fought tournament championship in overtime on Thanksgiving eve. The Zags had padded their resume with early home wins over Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne and Mississippi Valley State, and put the college hoops world on notice that 2009-10 is not a rebuilding year by taking second-ranked Michigan State to the wire in a 75-71 loss in East Lansing, MI on Nov. 17.

In battling Michigan State evenly and winning in Maui, Gonzaga answered the question of how it would replace departed front-line stars Austin Daye and Josh Heytvelt. Seven-foot redshirt sophomore Robert Sacre moved commandingly into the post position for the Zags with an eye-opening performance against Michigan State – 17 points in 19 minutes of play limited by foul trouble. In case no one noticed that, they certainly took note of Sacre’s front-line counterpart Elias Harris, who notched 17 points of his own against Michigan State in the first big-game college appearance for the 20-year-old freshman forward who has logged considerable time internationally with the German national team. Harris has emerged as the early star of Mark Few’s collection of international players, which includes Sacre, freshmen Kelly Olynk and Manny Arop from Canada and Bol Kong, also from Canada by way of Sudan.

As much as Sacre and Harris elicited oohs and aahs, it was the Zags’ veteran trio of guards Matt Bouldin, Steven Gray and Demetri Goodson that led them. Bouldin has emerged in his senior year as the indispensible hub through which all things offensive pass for Gonzaga. An intimidating 6-5 guard, Bouldin stage manages the entire offensive show, plus contributes double-figure scoring from both outside and inside. He can spot up for a three-point jumper or take his man off the dribble. Gray, who has struck many observers as a marvelously talented but under-performing member of the Zags offensive show, evidently decided that his junior year was the time to answer the nay-sayers. He has been virtually unstoppable, moving constantly without the ball and receiving Bouldin’s pinpoint passes anywhere from beyond the arc to under the basket. His jump shot is as sweet as ever, but he is infinitely more aggressive and confident this year.  If opponents somehow limit Bouldin and Gray, Goodson might steal the show as he did in the Zags’ impressive win over the fearsome Cincinnati Bearcats in Maui. On a night when Bouldin was struggling on 1-7 shooting and totaled only 6 points, Goodson made key baskets in clutch time to rack up 12 points. Bouldin and Gray shared the MVP trophy in Maui, but Goodson was an unsung hero.

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