It’s been a bizarre off-season for Billy Gillispie and Texas Tech. After a disastrous last-place finish in 2011-12 during Gillispie’s first season, the Red Raiders have now lost six players to transfer. The latest player to depart, Kevin Wagner, is heading to a community college. Seriously. It’s interesting to note that Texas Tech’s main contributors are staying aboard, though. Gillispie has signed nine freshmen for 2012-13, and he’ll have leading scorer Jordan Tolbert and point guard Ty Nurse returning. Losing six players in the span of only a few months is never good publicity, but Gillispie may be able to survive this situation.
Patrick Beilein never played in the Big 12, but West Virginia‘s basketball program is a part of this conference now. So it’s important for us to point out that Beilein, the son of former WVU coach John Beilein, is the new head coach at West Virginia Wesleyan.The former sharpshooter with the Mountaineers helped his team to an Elite Eight in 2005 under his father’s methodical and perimeter-oriented style of play, and something tells us the West Virginia Wesleyan players might be learning how to A) play a 1-3-1 zone and B) how to light up the scoreboard from beyond the arc. But that’s just a hunch.
Lon Kruger has jumped from job to job his entire career, so he’s probably used to being the bad guy. After all, the current Oklahoma coach is now with his sixth college program and also enjoyed a stint in the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks. But after his most recent departure from UNLV, it sounds as though the Vegas people still appreciate him. Kruger can still be found in Las Vegas with his family during the off-season, and the tone of the article paints a picture of peace — not animosity. If only every coaching change could run this smoothly.
In many ways, CBS has become indistinguishable from the game of college basketball. It represents everything about it: the NCAA Tournament, the Madness, the emotion, the drama. Now, Big 12 fans will get to see a few more games on the CBS Sports network after it reached a recent new deal with ESPN. At the very least, we’ll get to hear that catchy CBS jingle a few more times in 2012-13.
And in your realignment news of the day, Clemson‘s athletic director is trying to do some damage control about reports his school will bolt from the ACC for the Big 12. Right now, officials at both Clemson and Florida State are being careful not to make any missteps, and they’re trying to stress that all of these realignment rumors are just that — rumors. We’ve heard this before, that’s for sure. At least we know what to expect after two years of the Realignment Apocalypse.
Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.
With an upcoming four-part show coming on the CBS Sports Network that will highlight the 16 greatest teams in college basketball history, the guys at CBSSports.com decided to put together their own lists for fans to see. You can see their full ballots laid out here, as voted by Jeff Goodman, Gary Parrish, Matt Norlander, and Jeff Borzello. The show is still a month away from broadcasting, but the discussion has already begun. To make things easier for you, we’ll give a rundown of the consensus rankings they chose, along with some trend analysis about their selections.
See above for a readable spreadsheet of the CBS rankings. By consensus, the guys rated the 1968 and 1973 UCLA teams as the two greatest teams ever. Hard to go wrong there, as both teams were National Champions as part of the Bruins’ streak of seven consecutive titles. The ’73 team went undefeated in Bill Walton’s junior year, while the ’68 team lost just one game in Lew Alcindor’s junior year, a game midway through the regular season against Houston at the AstroDome in which Alcindor was recovering from an injury. The Bruins got their revenge that season by blowing out Houston in the Final Four by over 30 points en route to the title.
The network will televise the following three games: Kansas at Texas (Jan. 21), Texas at Baylor (Jan. 28) and Missouri at Kansas (Feb. 25). CBS, of course, is no stranger to either of Kansas’s rivalries with Missouri or Texas. The Border War is the more traditional rivalry for the Jayhawks — and the network has covered that contest for the past three seasons — but the KU/UT match-up has gained steam during the past several years. The two programs have battled for Big 12 supremacy both in the regular season and in the league tournament, and this year should be no different.
It Hasn't Taken Scott Drew Very Long to Put Baylor on the Map.
The most important thing to note here, though, is CBS’s decision to cover Baylor’s game with Texas in Waco. Since leading the Bears to their first NCAA Tournament in 20 years back in 2008, coach Scott Drew continues to put his team on the map. Although his program hasn’t been perfect (take underachieving 2008-09 and 2010-11 campaigns, for example), he’s brought more exposure to Baylor men’s basketball than anyone could have ever imagined.
ESPN’s College Gameday came to campus last year, and getting CBS to Waco is another terrific way to showcase the school. After the Patrick Dennehy scandal in 2003, would you have believed national outlets would ever flock to the Ferrell Center less than a decade later? Somehow, that’s exactly what’s happened under Drew.
Indianaself-reported a violation to the NCAA yesterday, specifically the contacting of recruit Gary Harris by head coach Tom Crean on October 6 even though the period for allowable contact ended on October 5. The university report said that one of Crean’s assistants told the head coach that the contact was permitted and they didn’t realize the error until the communication had occurred. Self-imposed penalty: loss of two recruiting days, loss of an allowable contact, and no further contact with that recruit. That’s probably all that will be necessary to appease the NCAA, but this is just odd to us. We’re confident that in time Crean can bring the Hoosiers back to prominence, and we know that head coaches delegate so much to their assistants, but at a school with a recent history of improper contact with recruits like Indiana, it’s difficult to believe that the man who’s most responsible for what goes on there doesn’t know when the contact period ends.
Notre Damewill be without fifth-year senior forward Tim Abromaitis for the first four games of the upcoming season as a penalty for playing two exhibition games before his sophomore season — yes, this happened three years ago — officially began. Abromaitis had taken that year off after the exhibitions to give himself an eventual fifth year of eligibility, but NCAA rules say that only freshmen are allowed to do this, not sophomores. Head coach Mike Brey took responsibility for the faux pas, and both he and Abromaitis knew this was coming, so it’s not like the team is caught off-guard on this one. According to the NCAA, Abromaitis’ fifth year is green-lighted because of a waiver that takes the program’s misunderstanding of the rule into account. An NCAA waiver that considers misunderstandings? Somewhere, Enes Kanter and his parents offer a bemused glower…
Homer Drew was the designer of one of March Madness’ greatest upset moments. Actually, it’s just as accurate to eliminate the word “upset” in the previous sentence. The tip-pass play executed by Drew’s Valparaiso squad that resulted in Homer’s son Bryce drilling that jumper to beat Mississippi in the 1998 NCAA Tournament’s first round has become a lasting reminder of hope for all small-conference teams who find themselves in the Dance. Hope…is exactly what Drew and his wife now need, more than ever. The school revealed yesterday that both Drew AND his wife were recently diagnosed with cancer. No further details. Awful, awful, awful news. Our best wishes and prayers go out to both of them and the entire Drew family.
At a couple of spots on this site yesterday we covered Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo’s comments about the ACC’s power grab in snagging Pittsburgh and Syracuse from the Big East a while back, as they appeared in an article in Sunday’s Boston Globe. Now DeFilippo has apologized, saying that he was wrong to have his personal feelings appear to come off as the stance of the entire department. That might work for the comment about blackballing Connecticut from the ACC, but that surprised few. As for the assertion that ESPN nudged the ACC into making the play for Syracuse and UConn, he said he spoke “inappropriately and erroneously” about that. So, now we’re to believe that ESPN didn’t have a hand in it after he brought it up without prompting? Because his denial is of the non-denial variety, this matter won’t be put to bed until Mr. DiFilippo specifically states that ESPN was not involved at all — if then. If you believe the prevailing mood among journalists, bloggers and fans on Twitter, his first takes are still considered as the truth, and there’s nothing inappropriate or erroneous about speaking the truth.
Listen, we don’t like the lack of Gus Johnson on CBS any more than you do, and we’ve expressed our sorrow here and over our Twitter feed more than a lot of our readers/followers probably ever hoped we would. It might still come up from time to time (especially about five months from now), but it’s real and there’s nothing more that we can do about it. In the spirit of moving on, we give you, via Sports Media Journal, the entire CBS college basketball schedule. From December 3 (North Carolina at Kentucky) to February 26 (Big East/Big Ten doubleheader), here it is in all its glory.
As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Maryland has itself a new head coach. Mark Turgeon may not be the sexy name that many Terp fans were hoping for, but the fact of the matter is that the guy has throughout his career put a consistently solid product on the floor regardless of talent. His teams are tough-minded, they play sticky defense, and they win — he averaged 24 wins per year at Texas A&M and 22 wins in his last four seasons at Wichita State. Not everyone agrees, but the general consensus is that Maryland AD Kevin Anderson made a solid if not spectacular hire, but that Turgeon’s chops will ultimately be earned by how well he learns to recruit in the fecund DC/Baltimore prep basketball scene. We certainly won’t disagree with that, but if Turgeon’s recruiting matches his demonstrated competitiveness, the rest of the ACC is not going to enjoy visiting College Park any more than it did much of the last twenty years — the only difference is that instead of wondering how they scored 75 points and lost by double figures, visiting teams will come out perplexed in how they ended up with bloodied noses, bruises all over their bodies, and put up only 50.
CBS, CBS, CBS… what on earth are you doing? Last week it was prematurely reported that Gus Johnson was leaving CBS Sports (and by proxy, the NCAA Tournament), when in reality he had only received an offer from Fox Sports that CBS would have an opportunity to match. Many, ourselves included, presumed that CBS would make the smart decision and keep Gus, the vox populi of college basketball, on board. And this is why we weren’t business majors… because CBS did no such thing. The Blinking Eye network let him walk (apparently, politics, in addition to dollars, was involved), and Fox Sports and the NFL are the major beneficiaries. All we know is that Pac-12 games just got 1000% more interesting next season, and it’s not because Jorge Gutierrez and Trent Lockett are returning to school. For a very insightful piece examining the ins and outs of his employment situation, read Awful Announcing’s excellent analysis on the paradox of Gus Johnson here.
We stumbled across this interesting post from Rock Chalk Talk about the state of college basketball, at least as viewed from a partisan Kansas writer. While we understand where he’s coming from in terms of this statement: “We’re at a point now where the best teams still get the best talent, but they never become a team,” we have trouble seeing the natural consequence of parity as a bad thing. The beauty of the NCAA Tournament (along with the World Cup and the NFL Playoffs, to name two other worldwide favorites) is that top seeds can be beaten if they don’t bring their absolute best game every given night; underdogs and upsets are what keep the casual fans interested. He seems to fail to recognize that the transformation of the NCAA Tournament to March Madness began in the 1980s when NC State (1983), Villanova (1985) and his very own Kansas Jayhawks (1988) captured the imagination of American sports fans with their rags-to-riches Cinderella stories. While it’s true that the quality of college basketball has been hurt by the onslaught of early entries to the NBA Draft every single spring, that problem is not a recent phenomenon. It began nearly twenty years ago and accelerated throughout the 1990s to the point where the top 8-10 high school players each year were skipping college altogether by the middle of last decade, thereby hurting the overall product. The piece makes some good points, but it reads a bit like someone decrying parity and a bad product to explain his team’s #1 seed meltdowns to Cinderellas prior to the Final Four the last two years.
Robert Morris sophomore guard Karon Abrahamwas suspended for the entire 2011-12 season as a result of his second alcohol offense (underage drinking) in the last six months (he also had a DUI conviction last November). According to head coach Andy Toole, the Colonials’ best player was “shocked” by this decision, and given that he will not be allowed to work out with the team next season, we have to wonder if he’ll consider transferring to another school that will give him an opportunity to stay on the court (even as just a practice player in 2011-12). He definitely needs to get his head on straight here, but RMU’s decision is punitive enough to make us think that he might consider it.
VCU head coach Shaka Smart continues to live the dream, fresh off his first Final Four appearance and a nice contract extension, by throwing out the first pitch in a weekend game between the Cubs and Reds at Wrigley Field. Perhaps sensing that he hadn’t done enough, he also sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh inning stretch. Let’s hope he hangs on to his day job for a little longer, eh?
Clearly the massive news of Thursday, and really, the entire offseason thus far, was the announcement that longtime Maryland coach and ACC curmudgeon-in-charge, Gary Williams, is retiring. We covered his career impact in our story on him earlier this morning, but our lasting memory of his body of work will be how for a period from the late 90s to the early oos, from Steve Francis to Juan Dixon, from Joe Smith to Lonny Baxter, he made Maryland basketball must-watch television. Along with that, the Duke vs. Maryland battles were at the time the best rivalry games in the entire game. Here’s some of the reverent commentary on Williams’ retirement from around the web: Mike DeCourcy, Seth Davis, John Feinstein. Happy trails, Gary — you will be missed.
As for the future of the Maryland program, we have a prevailing sense that this could go either way. The resources, fan support and conference affiliation in the basketball-centric ACC are all major positives, leading some to argue that the Terrapin head coaching job is one of the top 15 or so in the country. We agree with that sentiment, but the hire will need to be the right one — the DC area is a fertile recruiting base, but Williams ran a clean program that stayed away from much of the AAU nonsense that passes as prep basketball these days. Whoever the new coach is will need to find a way to circumvent the agents, runners and hustlers with their hands out on the east coast playgrounds; or, like Williams, find enough diamonds in the rough whom he can coach up. No easy task in a league where you have to deal with Duke, Carolina and a group of promising young coaches elsewhere. Some early names being thrown around for the job include Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, Villanova’s Jay Wright, Arizona’s Sean Miller, and several others. Of that group, Brey, from the DC area, makes the most sense; but could Terp fans tolerate having a former Dookie as their head coach?
Not so fast on everybody’s favorite March Madness play-by-play guy leaving CBS. According to the New York Daily News, Gus Johnson has an offer on the table from Fox to do NFL and Pac-12 games next year, but the Blinking Eye Network will have up to a week to match the offer and retain one of the best assets it has for its NCAA Tournament coverage. Seriously, we can’t believe that CBS wouldn’t open their checkbooks for this guy — the anticipation among anybody under 45 years old when a “Gus game” is scheduled is off the charts, especially when it involves two evenly-matched teams. Make it happen, Sean McManus.
Last year’s offseason was headlined by seemingly constant chatter about conference realignment, and with the new television deal that the Pac-12 signed this week for $3 billion over twelve years, we now see more clearly what all the fuss was about. Utah joins the reconfigured conference on July 1 of this year, and their TV windfall will begin soon thereafter, with expected payouts in successive years of $2M (2012), $10.5M (2013), $15.75M (2014), and $21M (2015). The Utes made a relatively paltry $1.2M last year as a member of the Mountain West; in four years, they will have vigupled it (go ahead, look that one up). Simply… amazing.
There was some interesting transfer news on Thursday, with two notable players from NCAA Tournament teams possibly losing a key contributor. First, UConn wing Jamal Coombs-McDanielhas decided to leave the Husky program to seek more playing time elsewhere. The sophomore forward averaged 5/3 in just over sixteen minutes of action last season, but after a three-game stretch in mid-February where he scored 64 points, he only contributed 62 more the entire rest of the season (15 games). He was also arrested for marijuana possession two weeks ago, so perhaps a fresh start somewhere else is best for everyone. The other big transfer news yesterday came from George Mason, perhaps still reeling a little from the loss of longtime coach Jim Larranaga last month. Luke Hancock, the hero of Mason’s second round win over Villanova, has requested permission to talk to other schools about transferring. He averaged 11/4/4 APG last year in a promising sophomore campaign, and it appears that new head coach Paul Hewitt will have his work cut out to get him back to Fairfax next season.
According to Mr. Deitsch, Johnson has been in talks with Fox Sports to work college football games, given the network’s move to increase their profile in that sport. There is no mention as to whether Gus’ position calling college basketball for the Big Ten Network is affected by this. As Deitsch points out, Fox owns a nice big chunk of the BTN, and they’re also (obviously) a player in the recent deal between themselves, ESPN, and the Pac-10, a package that includes 68 college basketball games.
Johnson is by far CBS’ most popular announcer. Again…it is not close. The convnetional wisdom among college basketball fans was that the network would and should only work to increase Johnson’s presence wherever they could, especially when it comes to college basketball, and it would do anything possible to keep him. His departure has hoopheads everywhere wondering what on earth CBS could be thinking, though admittedly we haven’t heard either side of the story, and no details of the failed negotiations are mentioned in Mr. Deitsch’s article.
Nevertheless, college hoopheads are left with no Gus Johnson for March Madness. We’re certain he’ll be around, and we’re praying someone at Turner will scoop him up and find a way to get him back where he belongs by Tournament time, because March won’t be the same until he’s calling Tournament games again. If you’ll excuse us, we’re going to go transfer our old The Cure CDs to MP3 and listen to them until we’re dehydrated. Life is unfair.
As we head into the Sweet Sixteen round, let’s take a look back at some of the key questions and moments of the first two, er, three rounds…
RTC Take: It was more interesting than it was the last nine years when it only involved two #16 seeds, but the only way to make it truly compelling is to pick teams with a little more national oomph than USC, VCU, UAB and Clemson.
RTC Take: The fouls at the end of Butler/Pitt offset each other and the two no-calls appeared to be play-on situations in those games. The Kalin Lucas travel probably wouldn’t have impacted the outcome anyway. But the Texas five-second call seemed to be a fast whistle, and it essentially gave Arizona the daylight it needed to win the game.
RTC Take: We really liked the ability to surf between games without too much trouble, and the free online platforms worked great. We did not like having entire afternoons on Saturday & Sunday limited to one game per window, though. That could end up poorly in future years with blowouts.
RTC Take: It’s true that Barkley/Jet don’t do their homework, but the scene where Barkley razzed Pitino about Louisville losing in their first game and clowning the Big East was priceless, well worth putting up with the rest of it. We’ve never seen someone so openly disdainful and dismissive of Pitino in his presence. Awesome.
RTC Take: Was Jimmer, still Jimmer. His performance against Gonzaga was phenomenal, and although Kemba was equally awesome, we still think BYU would essentially be Air Force without Fredette in the lineup.
In case you missed it over the weekend, Saturday Night Live spoofed CBS’s NCAA Tournament Selection Show with a five-minute skit where they broke down brackets for the Actual Madness (as opposed to the March kind), “the tournament to determine who is the craziest person in the world.” It’s not the funniest thing we’ve ever watched on that show, nor is it the worst, but the Jim Nantz “golf whisper” quip and the Charlie Sheen bit are respectably funny. We won’t be offended if you only watch the first twenty seconds of it before turning to something else, but we felt obligated to make sure those of us who were completely inundated by hoops over the weekend have the option. Here it is:
It’s always exciting to see when the tip times comes out on Sunday night after the NCAA Tournament field is announced. As you can see below, every game will be televised live, so there’ll be no more of a need to wait on Greg Gumbel to move you around to the better game. If you haven’t already moved four TVs into your living room for next weekend, we can only assume that you’re: a) lazy; or b) waiting on the other flat screens to arrive. Either way, get on this, and soon. You’ll also note the new staggered tip times throughout the day so that there will literally be games on for 12-13 consecutive hours — this is also known as heaven. Enjoy.