SEC M5: 03.19.14 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on March 19th, 2014

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  1. The SEC’s 2014 NCAA Tournament action is now upon us. Cuonzo Martin will makes his NCAA debut against Iowa and its high-powered offense this evening in Tennessee’s third-ever game in Dayton (losses in 2001 and 2009). The Hawkeyes ranked fourth in KenPom’s offensive efficiency ratings, and are headlined by all-Big Ten first team selection Roy Devyn Marble (17.3 PPG, 22.2 PER). If the Vols need some confidence in keeping elite scores in check, they need not look very far. In recent poundings of Auburn and Missouri, Tennessee held the SEC’s top two scorers (Jabari Brown and Chris Denson) to 1-of-10 shooting nights. Do something like that to Marble tonight and the Vols have a great chance to keep on playing through the weekend.
  2. If there was any question about Arkansas’ motivation for the NIT, it was answered with a 54-point second half in the Razorbacks win last night over Indiana State. In an ideal world, the NIT can be used as a confidence-builder and springboard to next season for young players. If that’s the case, Anthlon Bell will have something to feel good about this offseason. The sophomore scored 28 points on 11-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-8 from three-point land. This was only the second time he has hit the 20-point plateau this year (23 points against Ole Miss). With Fred Gulley and Mardracus Wade graduating, Bell will be in a position for more playing time on the wing, and Mike Anderson has to hope he can become a more consistent offensive option. The Razorbacks play the winner of California and Utah Valley in the NIT next.
  3. Missouri was shorthanded, both on its roster and in the stands, but still found a way to erase a 13-point second half deficit and beat Davidson in its NIT opener. The Tigers weren’t able to bully Davidson on the glass like it first appeared, grabbing only one more rebound than the Wildcats for the game. But they were able to attack the basket on the smaller Davidson team, shooting 58.0 percent from the field and getting to the line 34 times. Jabari Brown’s 30 points were the headline, but also notable was Frank Haith giving a good chunk of playing time to junior forward Danny Feldman (four points, four rebounds), who had seen the court for only 19 total minutes all season. This could have been a message to suspended freshmen Wes Clark and Shane Rector about the value of doing things the right way. The Tigers will play the winner of Toledo and Southern Miss next.
  4. The SEC’s other two NIT squads open the tournament this evening. LSU takes on a San Francisco team that finished third in the WCC and is making its first postseason appearance since an appearance in the CBI in 2011-12. This may be the last chance to see Johnny O’Bryant in a LSU uniform, and he should have ample opportunities against a porous Dons’ defense (KenPom #145). Georgia tips off its NIT campaign at home against Vermont, a team that briefly grabbed the nation’s attention with a near-win at Duke in November. The Catamounts are an experienced team (five of their top six scorers are seniors), and face a much younger Bulldogs squad in Athens. It’ll be interesting to see how the two juxtaposed teams approach this game.
  5. Auburn made a giant splash by hiring former Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl, bringing the accomplished and controversial coach back to the conference in which he excelled for six years. David Changas had a great take on the hire, pointing out what it could mean in a larger context. He writes, “after seeing the coup that [Auburn AD Jay Jacobs] was able to pull off, perhaps other SEC schools that have not shown they are serious about basketball will renew their commitment to the sport.” For the conference’s profile to improve, it only takes a few schools to become consistent NCAA Tournament threats. Consistently elite programs are great, but they’re not the only way to respectability. Pearl’s hire is a long-term step in this direction.
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Morning Five: 03.19.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2014

morning5

  1. Bruce Pearl still has a few months left on his show-cause penalty, but that isn’t stopping Auburn from hiring him to a six-year deal worth $14.7 million. Since it appears that the NCAA won’t raise any objection with the hiring (the lead investigator on the case works for Auburn now) it seems like a great move by Auburn. We would be tempted to question Pearl’s decision to take the Auburn job, but when you have been blacklisted by the NCAA for three years and technically still are you have to take what is available. Our only question is that now that the door has been opened by Auburn, how long will Pearl stay there before moving on to a better job. The school appear to be weary enough of that they included a clause where he will have to pay $5 million if he leaves within two years meaning that he will actually lose money on the deal if he does so.
  2. We would not have considered Boston College’s decision to fire Steve Donahue that surprising if not for Pete Thamel’s recent report that they were retaining Donahue. Assuming that Thamel’s sources were good it is a pretty abrupt change of course for the program. Having said that it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before Donahue was gone as he was 54-76 in four seasons with his first season being by far his most successful. Boston College is one of the more interesting job openings because many people consider a spot with great potential because of its proximity to several great AAU and high school programs, but nobody has been able to tap into that potential.
  3. Donahue was not the only big name who was shown the door yesterday as Washington State fired Ken Bone yesterday. Bone went 80-86 in five seasons and had a difficult task of following up Tony Bennett, who went 69-33 in his three seasons there while leading the Cougars to two NCAA Tournament appearances including a Sweet Sixteen (and is also doing an ok job in Charlottesville). Pullman might not seem like a great destination to the outside observer, but it is still in the Pac-12 and has quite a bit of talent in the region to draw from. If they are able to lure one of the names mentioned in the link above they could be competitive in the Pac-12 in the not too distant future.
  4. We had almost forgotten about the strange circumstances under which Providence suspended Rodney Bullock and Brandon Austin. The pair of prized freshmen were suspended on November 6 for “not upholding their responsibilities as student-athletes” and nobody paid much attention to it after that except when Austin transferred to Oregon. Now it appears that a woman is claiming that the pair sexually assaulted her on November 3–three days before they were suspended. We aren’t going to say that the two events are related, but the optics don’t look good. Outside of the obvious legal implications we have to wonder what this will mean for Austin, Bullock, and Providence administrators.
  5. The transfer market is starting to heat up as two big names–UNLV’s Bryce Dejean-Jones and Temple’s Anthony Lee–entered it in the past few days.  Dejean-Jones was UNLV’s leading scorer this year, but had some off-court issues that likely led to his decision to transfer for his senior year. He is on pace to graduate this summer so he will likely be able to play next season with the graduate student transfer waiver. Lee averaged 13.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game and has also decided to transfer for his senior year. Lee has already graduated and is expected to use a graduate student transfer waiver.
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Bruce Pearl to Auburn Sends Shock Waves Through SEC

Posted by David Changas on March 18th, 2014

Talk about hitting a grand slam. As first reported by ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman, Auburn hired former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl as its new head coach this morning. Pearl, who is still subject to a show-cause penalty until August and will not be able to have contact with recruits over the summer, inherits the reins of the program from Tony Barbee, who was fired last week after four seasons at the school. Needless to say, the hire is a major splash for a program that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2003 and has essentially been an SEC also-ran throughout the tenures of Barbee and his predecessor, Jeff Lebo.

For Bruce Pearl, a Different Shade of Orange Coast is in Store at Auburn

For Bruce Pearl, a Different Shade of Orange Coast is in Store at Auburn

Pearl’s hiring has to be considered a surprise. Many thought Auburn was overreaching when there were indications that Pearl was going to be considered for the vacancy, as the former Milwaukee and Tennessee head coach figured to be a candidate for several higher-profile jobs. But Pearl obviously felt the challenge was the right one for him at this time. He led Milwaukee to two NCAA Tournament bids before landing his first major job at Tennessee in 2005, where he resurrected the Volunteer program by taking it to the Big Dance in each of his six seasons in Knoxville, including its only Elite Eight appearance in 2010. As evidenced by their reaction on Twitter and message boards, many Tennessee fans see the move as a punch in the gut. Dissatisfaction with Cuonzo Martin had led many to believe that it was possible Pearl would return to the school, and a petition for his rehire had garnered over 36,000 signatures among Volunteer fans earlier this year.

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SEC M5: 03.14.14 Edition

Posted by David Changas on March 14th, 2014

SEC_morning5

  1. Given the way Auburn AD Jay Jacobs fired Tony Barbee an hour after the team’s loss to South Carolina, the job got a lot of attention today among those covering the SEC Tournament. On the broadcast, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, who is handling sideline TV duties at the tournament, listed four candidates he has heard are on Jacobs’s list. They are former Tennessee coach and ESPN analyst Bruce Pearl, Duke assistant and former Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel, Southern Miss coach Donnie Tyndall, and Louisiana Tech coach Michael White. Goodman joked that Pearl, who is his colleague at ESPN, would not give him any hints about whether he is interested in the job. While it’s certainly possible that Pearl will show interest, it doesn’t make sense to us. Auburn is a very difficult job, and it stands to reason that Pearl will have other options, either this year or next (his show cause expires in August). Of the four candidates Goodman named, we think Tyndall and White would make the most sense.
  2. There has been much discussion about how mediocre the SEC has been this year, and the tournament does not present many opportunities for quality wins. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi thinks that Kentucky has very little to gain from the event. He points out that the Wildcats, who come into the tournament with only one win against a top 50 opponent – a December victory over Louisville – and the only opportunity for one that will help their seed this weekend will come against Florida on Sunday, should both teams get there. Otherwise, Lunardi thinks Kentucky is stuck in the 6-7 seed range, and could drop if it were to drop a game against a lesser opponent. The Wildcats take on LSU, which defeated Alabama Thursday night, in Friday’s quarterfinal round. The Tigers beat Kentucky in Baton Rouge and should have duplicated that feat in Lexington a few weeks ago, as they dropped an overtime decision to the Wildcats. If Kentucky can make it to Sunday’s championship game, it likely will not hurt its seeding, but it’s hard to see the Wildcats beating Florida to jump up a line or two, given how they’ve performed against the Gators so far this year.
  3. Much has been made of Casey Prather‘s improvement for No. 1 Florida, and this piece from Franz Beard at GatorCountry.com chronicles the senior’s rise. Prather was recently named to the first team of the all-SEC squad, and he talked about how he persevered through difficult times early in his career. He even thought about transferring after his freshman season, but after talking every day with teammate and newly-minted SEC player of the year Scottie Wilbekin, Prather stuck it out in Gainesville. Now, as his career draws to a close, he has a chance to compete for the national championship on arguably the nation’s best team. It’s quite a turnaround for Prather, and his and the team’s testament to the bond the Gators’ senior class has formed.
  4. Missouri got by Texas A&M in overtime on Thursday to advance to Friday’s quarterfinal round, where the Tigers will take on Florida. But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Bernie Miklasz talked about the future of the Missouri program, and didn’t pull any punches. Miklasz was less than complimentary of head coach Frank Haith and the way he has run the program, and he has serious questions about whether Haith is capable of turning things around. He suggests that Haith has one more year to do so, and if he can’t, it’s time to move on. Miklasz cited KenPom.com‘s offensive and defensive efficiency ratings in the column to support his point that Missouri hasn’t been particularly stellar on either end of the floor since Haith arrived. It’s a worthwhile read, and it’s likely plenty of Missouri fans agree with Miklasz’s points.
  5. Most people expected Tennessee to play Arkansas in a Friday quarterfinal, in what many anticipated would be a de facto play-in game for the NCAA Tournament. However, after the Razorbacks almost certainly blew their chance for an NCAA bid with a loss to South Carolina, the Volunteers will now take on the lowly Gamecocks for a chance to most likely get another shot at Florida. Tennessee comes into the game as a double-digit favorite, but anyone who has followed the Volunteer program knows the SEC Tournament has been less than kind to them. Despite their recent failures in the event, this year’s team comes into the tournament playing well, and they are aiming to reverse the program’s trend. Tennessee is clearly a bubble team, and a win over RPI No. 150 South Carolina certainly won’t help its resume, but it would give it an opportunity for a third shot at Florida (assuming the Gators beat Missouri). Even with a loss there, the Volunteers would be in good shape to sneak into the Big Dance.
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SEC M5: 02.26.14 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on February 26th, 2014

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  1. Maybe Florida just plays down to its competition, or maybe the Gators’ grind-it-out defense lends itself to close games. Either way, Florida ran its winning streak to 20 against Vanderbilt in yet another game that had to be gutted out late. Vanderbilt outshot Florida 48% to 40%, but – as they have done so often this year – the Gators won the rebounding and turnover battles. You can have a less than stellar offense and put yourself in games if you limit your opponent’s chances by taking care of the ball and grabbing defensive rebounds. Florida has the second fewest turnovers per game in the SEC (11.2) and third best team rebounding percentage (54.2%). Pair that with an elite defense and it’s no surprise you’ve got a team that can rack up wins and rise to number one in the rankings. But as Luke Winn pointed out, the Gators offense can be more effective if Dorian Finney-Smith expands on the two made pick-and-pop he had made in conference play. It wasn’t of the pick-and-pop variety, but Finney-Smith found space and drilled a three with under 30 seconds left against the Commodores. It was the junior’s third three of the game, and the finishing touches on his game high 19 points. If that performance jump starts Finney-Smith, Billy Donovan suddenly has another offensive option to play with.
  2. Put a fork in the Tigers, they are done. Short of winning the SEC tournament, I don’t see a way Missouri can salvage a bid after losing by 15 in Athens. The Tigers will almost certainly drop out of the RPI top 50, and they’re a perfectly pedestrian 7-7 against the RPI top 100. That’s just okay, and just okay teams do make a 68 team field. But the Tigers don’t have the high-quality wins to punctuate a resume, going just 1-2 against the RPI top 25. Can that UCLA win from way back in early December stand up? Teams Missouri is competing with for a final spot, like Oklahoma State (Memphis, Texas) and St. John’s (Creighton), have eye-popping wins to spice up a mediocre resume. The Tigers didn’t execute well on defense against Georgia (allowing the Bulldogs to shoot 52.1%) and it could be that Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown are wearing down. The two shot a combined 9-for-29 and Brown in particular had no lift on his shots. Georgia, on the hand, continued its surprise run through the SEC with its sweep of Missouri. Per Wildcat Blue Nation’s Corey Price, the Bulldogs are the first SEC team to reach 10 or more conference wins after finishing .500 or worse in the non-conference since 2007-08 Kentucky. With a RPI North of 80 the Bulldogs still aren’t in the bubble picture, but at the very least Mark Fox should’ve assured himself a NIT bid.
  3. Your first thought might “yeah right,” but the Bruce Pearl to Tennessee talk is gaining steam. There’s an online petition signed by thousands of people, and Gregg Doyel writes that as unlikely as it seems, rehiring Pearl makes too much sense for the Vols. “Tennessee should do it. If Tennessee has an opening, it should hire Bruce Pearl. Go ahead, Tennessee. He paid his price. You paid yours,” Doyel writes. “Bruce Pearl is a good coach who made a bad mistake and had to be fired — I was calling for his dismissal months before Tennessee finally did it — but who served his time and surely, surely learned from his mistake.” Sure, a reunion seems highly unlikely and against the norm, but there might just be the pieces in place to make it a reality: Pearl won big at Tennessee, still lives in Knoxville, and the program hasn’t taken a clear step forward in Cuonzo Martin’s third year. There’s also the matter of ticket sales, and from afar it seems like rehiring Pearl would spark the fanbase. Those are hard points to argue against, especially since college basketball in general is far from holy. The problem is that is that letting Martin go is not a no brainer. While the Vols are dancing around the bubble again, the bottom has not fallen out in the former Missouri State coach’s three years in Knoxville. But if Louisville can bring back Bobby Petrino, is the Pearl-Tennessee dream so ridiculous?
  4. It’s put up or shut up time for Arkansas, at least as far as the regular season is concerned. Winning at Rupp Arena is the last chance for Razorbacks to improve on their 65 RPI and grab the attention of those on the selection committee. Can Arkansas actually sweep the Wildcats? In the win at Bud Walton Arena, Kentucky missed a ton of free throws (26-of-40) and the Razorbacks, as they always do at home, won the turnover battle (17 to 6). While the Wildcats will probably miss a few more free throws (team 68.5% FT%) they probably won’t have a similar turnover binge without 20,000 screaming people in red against them. The Razorbacks will in all likelihood lose the rebounding battle in this game, so they’ll need to hit a higher percentage from three than they did in the team’s first meeting (28.6%). If Arkansas isn’t able to win this game and go on a run, barring a miracle weekend in Atlanta it looks like Mike Anderson will miss the tournament for the third straight year in Fayetteville.\
  5. There was a time not so long ago that Rick Ray was enjoying a very positive second season in Starkville. It was January 22 and the Bulldogs had just beaten Auburn to move to 3-2 in conference play. They also picked up their 13th win of the season, three more than they had gotten in 2012-13. But the positivity ended that day, and Mississippi State hasn’t won since. Its nine game losing streak could very well stretch to 12 with upcoming games against Tennessee, Missouri and Georgia. So, now that the bad part has set in, how are things really going in Ray’s second season on the whole? Their RPI is currently 204, which in no world is anything but dreadful. It is, however, less dreadful than the 292 the Bulldogs finished with last season. The good news for Ray? He’s got only one senior in the rotation (Colin Borchert) and his leading scorer (Craig Sword), rebounder (Gavin Ware) and assist man (I.J. Ready) are either sophomores or freshmen. Ready is good to go against Tennessee after getting poked in the eye against the Arkansas. The freshman point guard not only leads the team in assists, but is shooting 40% from three and has a respectable 1.5 assist to turnover ratio for a first year player. A strong finish from him would be a bright spot in another rebuilding year for the Bulldogs.
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ACC M5: 01.21.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 21st, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: Here’s a good brief context piece on where Syracuse is this season. The national media has started paying attention to college basketball again, and not surprisingly, as one of the best teams in the country, Syracuse has been getting its fair share of love. So has Tyler Ennis. But we’re just now getting to the point in the season where people start talking about undefeated seasons. Here’s where I (mostly) side with Sean Keeley: Syracuse isn’t going undefeated. Trips to Pittsburgh, Duke, Virginia and Florida State all but guarantee that. In fact, four of the team’s last five games are on the road. My only disagreement is that I think Wichita State has a reasonably good chance to finish the regular season undefeated. Not a great chance, but not zero either. Keeley nails everything else.
  2. Charleston Post and Courier: Don’t look now but Clemson is 4-1 in conference play. Yep, the same Clemson we picked eighth and the conference media picked –gulp, 14th — is tied for second in the loss column (along with Pittsburgh and Virginia). That said, it’s about to get real for the Tigers. They play five of their next six games on the road, including trips to Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Florida State and Syracuse. Yeesh. The most winnable game there looks like — double gulp — at North Carolina? Clemson has to find a way to keep its collective head over the next couple of weeks, or our 7-9 finish with a trip to the NIT prediction might not look too far off.
  3. Tallahassee Democrat: Florida State’s Boris Bojanovsky and Michael Ojo are totally different players this season, but Tony Bennett did a good job shutting the pair down by doubling them every time they got the ball in the post. I’m not sure how long the tactic will be effective though because both players measure over seven feet. So long as they keep their heads about them when doubled, they should be able to pass out to an open player. But if this proves an effective strategy for other teams (which admittedly won’t have double-teams as readily accessible as Bennett’s pack-line), it could spell trouble for the Seminoles.
  4. Real GM: Awesome stuff from Dan Hanner, who took a look at how teams have fared with and without different players in the lineup. From the ACC, he has stats for Notre Dame, Maryland, North Carolina, NC State and Georgia Tech. Most surprising was Jordan Vandenberg‘s defensive impact: Without him in the lineup NC State’s defense is 11.1 points worse per 100 possessions. That’s a huge difference. By comparison, Georgia Tech is only 2.1 points per 100 possessions worse on defense without Robert Carter, and Notre Dame is 3.7 points per 100 possessions worse without Jerian Grant. The sample size for a lot of this is pretty low, but still great to see the trends.
  5. Sports Illustrated: Seth Davis spends a good amount of time discussing Bruce Pearl to kick off his weekly “Hoop Thoughts” column. He notes several things of interest: (1) Pearl is a Boston College alumnus; (2) Pearl “has received several serious inquiries from Division I schools to be a head coach, but as he put it, ‘the opportunities were not at the level that I would be interested in.'” The first we already knew, but it is worth a reminder that Boston College sits at 5-13 on the year. The second point is interesting because Pearl’s show-cause doesn’t expire until August this year. That makes me think that the offers were from low-major schools hoping to hit a home run. And while the Eagles probably wouldn’t pay Pearl quite what Tennessee did (partially because his market value dropped with the NCAA business), that’s somewhere where “at the level” makes more sense. Food for thought.
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ACC M5: 12.06.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 6th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Duke Chronicle: Unsurprising news out of Durham as Duke’s student newspaper was the first to report that redshirt sophomore Alex Murphy will be transferring at the end of the semester. Despite starting his first two exhibition games last season, Murphy never found a consistent spot in the Duke rotation. Rumors are that he may head to Florida (his brother’s alma mater) or back to New England (he’s from Rhode Island). Murphy’s departure might open a few more minutes for Semi Ojeleye, though we are talking about very limited minutes.
  2. The Sporting News: Speaking of Duke, I don’t understand Mike DeCourcy’s grade for the Blue Devils after the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. He docks the Blue Devils half a letter grade because of Rasheed Sulaimon‘s DNP. Call me crazy, but if we are evaluating a team’s performance–which was by far its best of the season–maybe there’s good reason for the DNP. I definitely agree Duke with Sulaimon has the potential to be more dangerous than without him, but that doesn’t take away from Duke’s dominant performance against Michigan. Speaking of bones to pick, Boston College isn’t good, but it’s also not anywhere close to winning the “worst major team” title–or even the “worst ACC team” title (assuming Miami and Virginia Tech are still in the league).
  3. Alaska Dispatch: Your somewhat regular reminder that Devon Bookert is from Alaska (and the first non-Duke Alaskan ACC star). Bookert is an efficient shooter (and was incredibly so last season)–largely thanks to his shot selection–but sounds like he wants to continue making strides forward. But the increased offensive load has hurt his overall efficiency this season, as his three-point field goal percentage and assist rate have fallen significantly, while his turnover percentage remains high. All that said Bookert is one of the best players people tend to overlook in the ACC, and his play has a lot to do with Florida State’s early season success.
  4. BC Interruption: And everyone off the Steve Donahue bandwagon. While I stood up for Boston College’s pride earlier, this team is still a big disappointment. It’s offense improved compared to last season, but it’s defense is truly abysmal. Combine the slow start with an underwhelming early signing period and what do you get? Hot seat talk! I’m all for this proposal, which calls for Boston College to hire alumnus Bruce Pearl to turn the program around despite his show-cause, which remains in effect through next August. Though, I think there’s little downside giving Donahue one more year (so you can get the un-sanctioned Pearl immediately).
  5. Chronicle of Higher Education: Looking for more insight into the initial backlash to Maryland‘s move to the Big Ten? Freedom of Information Act requests have you covered! It’s interesting how when the initial rumors leaked out, Maryland fans were up in arms, as it feels mostly the opposite at this point (the PR firm may have paid off). It’s also amusing that John Swofford fired off a quick “we need to talk” email from his iPhone. Together with this article from the Baltimore Sun, we now have a good feel for Maryland’s actions and tone leading up to and immediately following its announcement to leave for the Big Ten.
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AAC M5: 11.26.13 Edition

Posted by CD Bradley on November 26th, 2013

 AAC_morning5_header

  1. Rodney Purvis can’t play this year, but he’s still helping the Huskies get off to a hot start. The former highly-touted recruit who transferred to UConn after a year at NC State has been the star member of the scout team, helping one of the nation’s top backcourts prepare for the likes of Dez Wells and Yogi Ferrell. The full year of practice will be crucial for Purvis, who likely will have to step into the sizeable shoes of Shabazz Napier next season. Of course, it may also be playing a pretty big role in Napier’s blazing start, which will have him in consideration for a number of postseason awards if he can maintain it. Based on the early returns, luring Purvis to Storrs looks to be a pretty major win-win for both he and head coach Kevin Ollie.
  2. Sean Kilpatrick was angry when coach Mick Cronin redshirted him due to a crowded backcourt and a mechanical flaw in his jump shot four years ago. Both he and Cronin have to be pretty pleased with how it worked out, though, as Kilpatrick now ranks #13 on the school’s all-time scoring list as a fifth-year senior. If he keeps up his current pace – he’s averaging nearly 20 PPG through five games – he could end up second on the list to some guy named Oscar Robertson. And while Cronin might have had some inkling that the little-recruited guard would help more down the road than right away, he almost certainly couldn’t have understood just how much. Kilpatrick is posting a ridiculously high 155.2 offensive rating through five games, vital for a mediocre offensive squad like the Bearcats. If he can approach that number during a key three-game swing next month – at New Mexico, then neutral court games with Xavier and Pitt – both he and his team will earn some rightful attention.
  3. Kevin Ware‘s eventful year (life?) continued with a plea deal involving a $268 fine, bringing the latest kerfuffle over a speeding ticket and missed court date to a merciful end. This follows Rick Pitino’s rather pointed press conference on the topic last week after he was apparently blindsided by the news. That all followed on the heels of, shall we say, some colorful tweets from Ware’s Twitter account to Anthony Davis, quickly deleted and attributed to hacking. That followed denials from Ware and Pitino of summer “reports” that Ware had been secretly dismissed from the team. All of that, of course, follows the gruesome injury in last season’s NCAA Tournament which catapulted the quiet reserve to national prominence. That followed an indefinite suspension last spring that lasted one game. Even that followed a recruitment which included a commitment to Tennessee, later withdrawn when Bruce Pearl was fired in the face of an NCAA probe, then a commitment to UCF, later withdrawn in the face of an NCAA probe, then a commitment to Louisville, delayed by a semester due to the NCAA probes. Seems like quite a bit of drama for a junior with a career high of 11 points, no? Whew.
  4. When Louisville went way off the board for the fifth member of its signing class last week, no one knew much of anything about Matz Stockman. He wasn’t ranked by any of the major recruiting watchers, nor had his name been tied to the Cardinals publicly before his papers came through the fax machine. Not even Rick Pitino had seen him play. Now that his team has played a few games on American soil, word has started to trickle out. Jerry Meyer of 247Sports says the seven-foot Norwegian will be a three-star recruit, one who has a good scoring touch near the basket but “will likely need a couple years of development before he is ready to compete at a Louisville type level.” A year ago, Louisville’s thin backcourt ended up with a walk-on as its only reserve in the Final Four, so the recruiting class featured three guards. It’s no coincidence that this year’s Cardinal frontcourt, which got exposed by North Carolina on Sunday, has led to Pitino bringing in three recruits 6’9” and taller.
  5. Another night, another couple of blown opportunities for AAC teams to earn a much-needed yet impossible to find quality win. First, Oklahoma State continued its roll through the conference with a 93-67 win at USF. Then Houston gave Stanford a tough test before falling in Brooklyn. And now the AAC nears the end of November with UConn’s two wins over a mediocre Maryland, and a young, inconsistent Indiana, and that’s about it. This is nice for the Huskies, but less great for the other teams that hoped for a few chances for quality wins in conference play to make up for weak non-conference slates. Now those opportunities might not be there, making it tougher to build an NCAA Tournament-worthy resume.
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SEC M5: 10.24.13 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on October 24th, 2013

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  1. The hype is so great around Kentucky that it seems newsworthy when someone doesn’t pick the Wildcats to win the SEC. Five voters in the preseason SEC media poll picked Florida to win the league, and one of them was former Wildcats assistant coach Joe Dean Jr. Dean likes Florida’s veteran edge, and anticipates two great games between the teams this season. Kentucky cruised to the SEC regular season crown in 2011-12 with a six-game lead, and Florida won last season with a two-game margin that was never really in doubt. Having both programs at the level they are expected to be at this season should make for a tighter race. This isn’t to say Tennessee, LSU or another school won’t be in contention too. Dean also had an interesting take on the potential risk of John Calipari adding Kentucky high school stars Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis to the class: “When I was there, there was a train of thought with Kentucky high school players that if you were going to bring them to Kentucky, they had to be capable of starting at Kentucky at some point in their career. If they were not, then the fan base in Maysville, Paducah, Danville, Pikeville would be upset because they think those kids are the greatest thing in the world.”
  2. Several national college basketball voices have highlighted the drastic difference in penalties handed out to Frank Haith and Bruce Pearl for what appears to be similar misconduct (lying to NCAA investigators). No one will likely ever know what happened in those respective meetings with the NCAA, and it’s possible Haith’s behavior wasn’t as comparatively bad as Pearl’s. Still, there’s no denying that Haith’s five-game suspension looks golden compared to Pearl’s multi-year show-cause penalty and subsequent absence from the sport. But Haith might not be totally free and clear of this scandal once he returns to the Tigers’ bench. His record at Missouri is excellent but he has yet to win an NCAA tournament game, and the lingering stigma of a #15 seed (Norfolk State) over a #2 seed is hard to escape. Haith is by no means on the hot seat, but if his teams continue to disappoint in postseason play, the Miami scandal could resurface as ammunition for boosters and fans that want him gone.
  3. Jarnell Stokes is taking to heart the feedback he received from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee after last season. “It wasn’t anything like you’re too short to play in the NBA or you just don’t have skills,” Stokes said. “They were basically saying you have to be able to run the floor better and find different ways to score, be able to show you can shoot the ball and improve my overall skills.” DraftExpress has Stokes as a late first round pick in its current 2014 mock draft. Like all coaches who have pro prospects on their teams, Cuonzo Martin faces the difficult situation of allowing his players to showcase the skills and development NBA scouts want to see while keeping with the overall team scheme. This is a fine line coaches must deal with since the statement “I can help get you to the next level” is undoubtedly a common refrain on recruiting visits.
  4. Julian Terrell will return to Vanderbilt to serve as the director of video operations on Kevin Stallings’ staff. Terrell played at Vanderbilt from 2002-06 and was a member of the Commodores’ 2004 Sweet Sixteen team. Since then he’s made numerous stops playing abroad. Kentucky video coordinator Tim Asher said that five SEC schools still don’t have positions dedicated to video operations, instead relegating these duties to graduate assistants. Given its importance to scouting, it seems almost irresponsible to not have a full-time staff member doing this type of work nowadays. One would think teams would want every possible advantage, and video wouldn’t seem to be the philosophical jump advanced metrics is for some coaches. However, this could also represent a budget issue for some schools.
  5. Kentucky and UTEP are set to play at Maryland in 2016 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1966 NCAA championship game between the two schools (UTEP was Texas Western at the time). The 1966 game, also the focus of the 2006 movie Glory Road, was historically significant because Texas Western started five African-American players versus the Wildcats, representing the first all-black team to play in a championship game. If it all works out, the game may even take place on Martin Luther King Day three seasons from now. Kudos to both schools for putting this game together; it’s a well-deserved homage to a college basketball game that transcended the sport. Pat Riley (a Kentucky forward in 1966) is the most famous person to have played in that game, so it’ll be interesting to see if he gets involved.
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NCAA Closes the Book on Miami Scandal as Frank Haith Skates

Posted by Matt Patton on October 23rd, 2013

Yesterday, over two years after Nevin Shapiro contacted the NCAA with allegations of wrongdoing throughout the athletic department, Miami finally got closure from the Committee on Infractions in a scathing 102-page report that confirmed nearly all of the substantive allegations from Charles Robinson’s initial report. More specifically, the NCAA found that Miami “lacked institutional control” in both overlooking Shapiro’s violations and actively covering them up after the fact.

Mark Emmert and the NCAA seemed bigger than life before handing down Miami's judgement. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Mark Emmert and the NCAA seemed bigger than life before handing down Miami’s judgement. (AP/LM Otero)

The most serious punishments were reserved for some of the coaches implicated — Frank Haith (“former head men’s basketball coach”), Jorge Fernandez (“former assistant men’s basketball coach B”), and two former assistant football coaches — each of whom received punishments ranging from  a five-game suspension for Haith (now at Missouri) to a two-year show-cause for Fernandez. The football team will lose three scholarships per year over the next three years, and the basketball team will lose one scholarship per year over the same time. All of this comes on top of the university’s self-imposed punishments, which were significant. But the penalties are a far cry from two years ago when Mark Emmert threw around the phrase “death penalty” with various major media outlets.

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Don’t Forget about Bruce Pearl’s Former Tennessee Assistants

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 30th, 2013

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

Show-cause penalties are permanent stains on a coach’s resume. They don’t expressly prohibit coaches from moving on to a different program, but they do make it exceedingly hard for any such programs to even stomach the thought of hiring violators by (1) transferring that coach’s sanctions from his former job to any new position he may inherit, and (2) forcing the prospective new employer to stand in front of the NCAA’s infraction committee and explain its motives for making the hire. They must, in effect, “show cause” for hiring the equivalent of a modern-day coaching pariah. Basically, If you’re show-caused, don’t expect to re-enter the coaching profession until the penalty expires.

the carnage left in the wake of Pearl's NCAA bombshell, which diverges from his favorable post-scandal employment, is often overlooked (AP Photo).

the carnage left in the wake of Pearl’s NCAA bombshell, which diverges from his favorable post-scandal employment, is often overlooked (AP Photo).

For former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl – who was issued a three-year show-cause penalty for attempting to cover-up the barbeque he used to host then-high school junior Aaron Craft and members of his family – that expiration date comes in 2014, when he is widely expected to re-enter the coaching ranks after enjoying a multi-year stint with ESPN’s college basketball studio analysis team. Pearl wasn’t the only one penalized for his recruiting violations; three of his former assistants (Tony Jones, Steve Forbes, and Jason Shay) were also hit with one-year show-causes. Their comparatively low-profile status didn’t afford them the solace of a big-time TV job – a luxury Pearl, with his vibrant personality and witty commentary, was readily granted – which forced them to navigate the unforgiving coaching job market with one of the biggest black marks any job-seeking coach can carry. Pearl may have gotten the harshest punishment, but his dismissal landed him in a job (and, presumably, with a salary) most any fired Division I coach would jump at. His assistants weren’t quite so lucky. Pearl’s backup plan involved fame and fortune; his assistants’ fell into coaching purgatory. The comfortable and financially stable lives they once led were thrown into sharp distress.

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Sights & Sounds From Midnight Madness, Vol. I

Posted by rtmsf on October 12th, 2012

We’ve been scouring around the web tonight to find some of the best sights and sounds submitted through various forms of social media. Much more will undoubtedly pop up in the next 24 hours, but this is what we’ve found so far…

Pittsburgh dusted off Midnight Madness for the first time in a number of years and seemed to have won the night with its outdoor court, Jamie Dixon’s impersonation of Jackie Moon, and a Bill Raftery re-enacting his iconic “SEND IT IN JEROME” call from the wayback machine. But Kentucky‘s Big Blue Madness was epic as usual, Syracuse brought in Wale to rock the house, and Mizzou fans gave us our first sorta-RTC of the nascent season. More to come over the weekend!

Pitt’s Outdoor Madness Was Certainly Unique (credit: @laurenwalheim)

Jamie Dixon’s Getup Was Ridiculous… and Awesome (credit: @andrew_salesi)

Remember This Guy? (credit: @brucepearl)

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