AAC M5: 10.25.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on October 25th, 2013

AAC_morning5_header

  1. At this point, the Chane Behanan saga has me feeling like Michael Corleone. After reporters in Louisville were able to extract Behanan’s side of things while he was in a downtown Starbucks, I figured that would be the last we would hear of Behanan and his suspension for at least a few weeks, maybe even a month if we were lucky. But no, Rick Pitino can’t stay away from publicity for long, so of course there were going to be media members at his book signing on Thursday and of course Pitino was going to open his mouth and gently walk back the harsh words he had uttered about Behanan at a press conference just one week before. When Pitino had first said it “was not probable” that Behanan would rejoin the team, most people called his bluff, but no one could have expected him to call his own bluff this quickly. Now Pitino is feeling better about Behanan’s chances of returning to the team because he told the truth or something and Pitino said Behanan would be back on the team “in a short period of time”. He tried to clarify that “short” was a relative word, but at this point, no one is even listening.  What a giant unnecessary charade. Behanan will be back on the team, his absence probably won’t affect Louisville much in the long run unless Hartford and Louisiana-Lafayette have some players none of us know about and this whole suspension nonsense will fade from everyone’s collective memory.
  2. In a story that is bound to make you say, “Wait…what?” and since not a day can go by without us talking about multiple stories involving Louisville, back in April some guy tried to extort Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich by claiming he had knowledge of a point-shaving scandal and threatening to go public if he was not paid $3.5 million. Apparently totally unfazed, Jurich basically called the bluff and immediately notified the NCAA and the state’s Attorney General, who then looped in the FBI. This was undoubtedly a smart move as the blackmailer was later found to be a guy who had previously been convicted of trying to extort Best Buy and the guy was promptly arrested again yesterday. I am no expert on extortion, but it’s probably more effective when you try to blackmail a team that didn’t just win the National Championship. It’s not a foolproof defense of point-shaving, but it’s a pretty good one. This story basically materialized out of thin air and is now about to disappear again. If only we could be so lucky with the Behanan suspension.
  3. Between 2003 and 2006, 12 players entered the Connecticut basketball program and only one of those players actually graduated. For the mathematically challenged, that is a graduation rate of roughly eight percent — the national average was 74 percent for this time period — which is confirmed by numbers the NCAA released Thursday. Now, to be fair to the Huskies and its former oach Jim Calhoun, the GSR is a flawed rating system and players that leave early for the professional ranks count against the school’s GSR.  The article doesn’t say who the one player who graduated is, but it is probably safe to assume that players like Marcus WilliamsCharlie VillanuevaRudy Gay, and A.J. Price all counted against the school’s graduation rate despite the fact that all four of them ended up playing in the NBA. This doesn’t absolve the Huskies and Calhoun from blame. According to the article, the program’s graduation rate got worse and worse before bottoming out at eight percent, and the NBA is only partially to blame as UConn is hardly the only program that deals with early departures and those schools didn’t make headlines for their embarrassingly low graduation rates. The good news is that Kevin Ollie seems to have stabilized the program and helped get the team on track academically, so hopefully the rating will start to return to respectability soon enough.
  4. Our first three stories have all been centered around less than savory topics, so let’s switch gears for a minute and talk about the remarkable story of Iowa State transfer and now Rutgers guard Kerwin Okoro. Last November, Okoro’s father died of a stroke in Nigeria and two months later his older brother Idiongo died from colon cancer. Okoro transferred home to be closer to his mother who apparently works 16 hours per day, but because the NCAA is the NCAA, they initially denied his waiver to play immediately. Luckily for everyone involved, the Internet exists and outrage quickly spread across the country as Okoro’s story became well-known and people called out the obvious hypocrisy in the NCAA’s decision. The NCAA finally caved to public pressure last month and now Okoro is eligible to play immediately and should be a key contributor in coach Eddie Jordan‘s backcourt. The more detailed version of the story is on Adam Zagoria’s blog and it is definitely worth the read.
  5. Veteran Cincinnati reporter Bill Koch mulls over some questions about this season’s Bearcats, a team with as much to prove as any in the conference. Mick Cronin has done an excellent job of bringing the program back to constant relevancy, but despite plenty of talent, none of Cronin’s teams have yet to make the leap from good to great. Unfortunately for Cronin and the Bearcats’ fanbase, this season looks more like a rebuilding year than a contending year as the team needs to replace starting point guard Cashmere Wright and needs to find a few live bodies to play in the frontcourt and maybe score a basket or two. They do return star guard Sean Kilpatrick and brought in highly touted freshman Jermaine Lawrence, and there is more talent and athleticism on the roster. But, as Koch pointed out, there are a lot of important questions that need to be answered and those questions may be too much to overcome.
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Morning Five: 09.20.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 20th, 2013

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  1. Yesterday, the NCAA announced that it was opening up the bidding for the 2017-2020 Final Fours. Cities have until October 11 to submit their bids. The obvious major criteria is that the event will be hosted in a dome with a capacity of at least 60,000 and be able to provide at least 10,000 hotel rooms within a reasonable distance of the venue. We have expressed our distaste for playing basketball games in giant domes, but we understand the NCAA’s reasoning–greater access for fans and more money for the NCAA. Final Fours have traditionally been held in a select group of cities so we will be interested to see if the NCAA steps outside of its usual rotation.
  2. One of the reasons that we tend to stay away from recruiting stories is the random speculation that seems to follow many recruits. Yesterday was another example of this with Isaiah Whitehead, who eventually announced that he was committing to Seton Hall, but not before Twitter managed put out a variety of rumors about where Whitehead was going, what kind of package deal was involved, and if another package deal would be voided by this package deal. In the end, Kevin Willard was able to land a five-star point guard and the most highly touted Seton Hall recruit in recent memory. The questions regarding how he got Whitehead (almost certainly because Willard agreed to hire Whitehead’s high school coach as an assistant), which we will discuss separately, are another issue, but despite how shady it may seem it is still within NCAA guidelines.
  3. It has been four years since Michigan star Rumeal Robinson was arrested on fraud charges and it appears that another star of that era–Tate George–may soon be joining him. George, who hit a turnaround desperation game-winner in the 1990 Sweet 16 (only to be outdone the next round by some guy named Laettner), is accused of wire fraud totaling $2 million including $250,000 that he reportedly stole from fellow former Connecticut star Charlie Villanueva. According to reports, George convinced Villanueva and others to invest in a project in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but was never able to return the money on their investments and when it started falling apart fired his accountant then sent fraudulent letters claiming to be the accountant. The size of the fraud may pale in comparison to some more famous recent cases, but the fame of the individuals involved–especially in Connecticut–should make this front page news there for some time to come.
  4. We have posted quite a few links to articles about the relationship between higher education and the NCAA’s mission during our six and a half years of running the site, but I don’t think we have ever posted anything about the same relationship between high school education and sports. That is until The Atlantic published an article questioning how we as a country distribute our money and focus in high schools. The primary focus of the article is on high schools since they are a bigger part of American culture and learning, but the same argument can probably be made about college sports and how we allot our educational resources. As the article notes, organized sports are offered to school-aged individuals, but in the form of a club system rather than being integrated into schools. We have seen some suggestions of moving college sports to a club model and with the reported push towards a “Division 4″ model we would not be surprised if this model is advocated in the future.
  5. Grantland’s feature on Korleone Young might fall outside of our usual realm of college basketball, but as one of the more prominent prep-to-pro busts in history it is certainly worth a read if only as a cautionary tale. Perhaps the most interesting part to college basketball fans is the part in the middle of the piece about Myron Piggie, who has become an infamous figure in AAU and NCAA lore. Piggie is most well-known for his relationship with Corey Maggette and JaRon Rush and his payments to the team’s players. You may remember Piggie from the prank that Maryland pulled on Duke in 2005 or the outrage at Duke walking away from the scandal unpunished.
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Team of the 2000s: #6 – UConn

Posted by nvr1983 on August 13th, 2009

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Ed. Note: Check the category team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

As we mentioned in our earlier posts, when we were putting together our list of the top teams of the past decade it became pretty clear that there were definable clusters of teams meaning that a solid case could be made for moving a team up or down a few positions depending on how much weight you put on various elements of a program’s resume (overall excellence versus a big tournament run or 10 years of excellence versus 1 year of greatness). As we mentioned yesterday, now that we have moved into the top seven we have crossed into the truly elite programs.

#6 – UConn

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Overview. In a little over two decades, Jim Calhoun has turned the Huskies from an also-ran into one of the premier programs in the country. In fact if the parameters of our decade were shifted just one year to include the 1999 season, the Huskies might end up in the top 3 with the inclusion of their 1999 title. Even without that title, the decade has been a solid one for Husky fans even if some of Calhoun’s teams haven’t lived up to expectations. The Huskies get the nod over UCLA because of the fact that they won a national title (and haven’t had a losing season), which makes up for the fact that they have 1 less Sweet 16 and Final 4 appearance than the Bruins. The thing that keeps the Huskies out of the group right above it is that they failed to make the NCAA tournament twice including one season where they didn’t even make the NIT (more on this in a bit).

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Pinnacle. This one is pretty simple. As much as we like to act like college basketball gurus, we aren’t going to try to outsmart ourselves here. The answer is the 2004 national championship. Even though the team did not live up to the preseason hype in terms of how it would rate all-time (“only” going 33-6), this team beat Duke and Georgia Tech in the Final 4 to claim Calhoun’s 2nd title.  While we normally would celebrate  a team  that wins a national title unconditionally, we have this weird feeling that a group featuring Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, and Charlie Villanueva should have been more special. Having said that, the group managed to pull it together at the right time winning its last nine games to capture the Big East and NCAA tournament titles. During the NCAA title run, they only had one truly competitive game, which happened in the national semifinal against Duke in a game that the Huskies won 79-78 following a spread-busting 3-point heave by Chris Duhon at the buzzer. All three of the previously mentioned Huskies from that team have gone on to have solid if not spectacular NBA careers.

Tailspin. There are actually more choices here than you would expect for a program of this caliber, but our pick is the 2006-07 season where the Huskies went 17-14, losing in the 1st round of the Big East tournament as the 12th seed. That’s right. The 12th seed in the Big East Tourney. This was one of the worst teams of the past 20 years for Calhoun. When you compound that with the fact that the previous year one of Calhoun’s most talented teams ever lost in the Elite 8 to George Mason it is enough to “top” two other low points in the program’s history: losing in the second round of the 2001 NIT to Detroit-Mercy and the Nate Miles scandal.

How Much More Does Calhoun Have in the Tank?

How Much More Does Calhoun Have in the Tank?

Outlook for the 2010s: Grade: B-. Speaking of that scandal, that is just about the last thing we heard about the Huskies other than their flop against Michigan State in the Final 4 (and Calhoun’s bicycling adventures). We don’t have that much faith in the NCAA following up on the outstanding work by Yahoo! Sports, but there is always the possibility that the NCAA may come to its senses and actually punish a program for once (ok, I didn’t expect this to happen to a midwestern titan as I was writing this post). As for more realistic threats, we are concerned about UConn’s ability to stay at this level in the next decade. Even though the Huskies have a solid incoming class, we aren’t that confindent in the program’s ability to succeed AC (After Calhoun). Although Calhoun hasn’t set a definitive retirement date, given his well-documented health concerns and his age (67 years old), we can’t imagine that he’ll be coaching all that much longer. When he retires, we doubt that UConn will be able to find somebody to replace him in terms of status and recruiting prowess on the sidelines in Storrs. Nothing against the good people in Storrs, but without Calhoun the program (and the area) would appear to lack the appealing factors a recruit would look for when deciding where they want to spend the next four (ok 1-2) years.

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Where are they now? (Championship Edition)

Posted by nvr1983 on March 24th, 2008

We found an interesting piece in ESPN.com’s Daily Dime last week. They decided to list players from recent championship teams that are still in the NBA. They happened to miss a few players who we added. We might have missed a player here and there. If we did, leave a comment with an update on their status since it’s hard to keep track of all these leagues around the world.

You may notice that the number of NBA superstars from championship teams has decreased in recent years with the exception of Carmelo Anthony. We feel it is pretty clear that this is becasue a lot of guys who are NBA stars decided to skip college or not stay around long enough to win a title. We’re pretty sure Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and Dwight Howard (he would be a senior now!) would have affected the NCAA tournament a little.

The list:
2006-07 Florida: Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, Taurean Green, & Chris Richard.
-All of the UF guys seem like they could end up being solid pros. Even Richard who is spending time in the NBDL could end up being a decent bench guy. Horford has exceeded expectations and is challenging the much more hyped Kevin Durant for Rookie of the Year honors. The real question is whether any of them other than Horford will become stars in the league. Noah and Brewer have a chance, but we aren’t sold on them yet. We think Noah will end up being a solid contributor if he can keep his mouth shut.

2005 North Carolina: Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton, Sean May, & Marvin Williams
– All of the Tar Heels have turned into respectable NBA players, which isn’t surprising to anybody who say this team play. May hasn’t played this year due to injuries, but was putting up respectable numbers when he was healthy. Felton and Williams are definitely the studs of this group although McCants does show flashes of brilliance up in Minnesota not that anybody sees the Timberwolves play.

2004 Connecticut: Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Hilton Armstrong, Josh Boone, & Charlie Villanueva
– While this group has turned out 3 solid NBA players (Okafor, Gordon, and Villanueva), we get the suspicion that none of these guys will turn into the superstars they were expected to be. It seems hard to believe that a lot of people thought Orlando made a mistake drafting Dwight Howard ahead of Okafor in 2004. However, this is a solid group of pros that will probably end up being the equal of the last 2 championship teams (UNC and UF).

2003 Syracuse: Carmelo Anthony & Hakim Warrick
– While Melo has lived up to the hype and is a perennial All-Star, it appears that Warrick is going to stay in the 10 PPG and 5 RPG range, which is probably worth a $8 mill/yr contract or a max contract if Warrick can wait for an offer from Isiah. Having seen this team play at the East Regional in Albany that year, this is one of our favorite championship teams particularly because they were the last team that was a big surprise winning the tournament. We knew that Gerry McNamara’s game wouldn’t work at the NBA level, but we always liked him and often thought that he was closer to Jameer Nelson in college than a lot of analysts were willing to admit.

2002 Maryland: Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, & Chris Wilcox
– The players from this team, which won the ugliest Final 4 in recent memory, have done just about what we expected as pros. Dixon has been a solid player who is often underappreciated by his team and has floated around the league but contributed everywhere he has gone. Steve Blake has provided solid if unspectacular point guard play and won a starting job in Portland for a time over the uber-hyped Sebastian Telfair. Wilcox has been somewhat of a disappointment. He puts up solid numbers, but has never turned into the star that his athletic ability suggests he could be. Of course, he was the same way in college so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

2001 Duke: Shane Battier, Chris Duhon, Carlos Boozer, & Mike Dunleavy
– It amazing that on this team with several college superstars (including Jason Williams), that Boozer turned out to be the stud of the group. While Casey Sanders’s lack of development forced him to play the center position more than he probably should have, he was a guy who was routinely abused by Brendan Haywood. Somehow, Boozer grew a pair of huevos; so much so that he stabbed a blind man in the back. Just imagine what Boozer could have become if he had stayed in Cleveland to play with Lebron James. Battier, Duhon, and Dunleavy are all solid NBA players even if they haven’t lived up to their draft status (Dunleavy) or hype (Duhon-“What a man!”). To be fair, Battier was selected after Kwame Brown and Eddy Curry, so maybe he wasn’t taken too early. The most disappointing thing about this group is that we never got to see what Jason Williams could have become. Although he struggled adjusting as a rookie with the Bulls, he showed flashes of brilliances including a triple-double against a still-in-his-prime Jason Kidd.

2000 Michigan State: Charlie Bell, Morris Peterson, & Jason Richardson
– Jason Richardson has put up solid numbers even if we have a hard time considering him a star. He’s a phenomenal athlete who has never really made the transition to the superstar (except in fantasy basketball) that many projected for him. Morris Peterson had a solid run as a consistent double-figure guy in Toronto before going to New Orleans this year. As for Bell, we never expected much out of him, but he has had a nice little career and actually averaged 13.5 PPG last year. That championship team’s heart and soul was Mateen Cleaves who had a couple of nice seasons where he was one of the top cheerleaders in the league particularly when he was on the Kings. However, he never stuck and according to Wikipedia he is now playing for the Bakersfield Jam of the NBDL.

1999 Connecticut: Richard Hamilton & Jake Voskuhl
– This team, which we ranked as the best team of the past 10 years, knocked off an unbelievably loaded Duke team that might have been in the top 10 of all-time had they won that night in St. Petersburg. While Hamilton has been an excellent NBA player and one of the few guys in the league who can hit a mid-range jumper, the rest of this team has been a disappointment. We had no idea that Voskuhl was still in the league and barely noticed him when we knew he was in the league. The team’s other star Khalid El-Amin played for a short time in the NBA before finding his way to the CBA and Ukranian Basketball League before end up with Türk Telekom B.K. of the Turkish basketball league. We weren’t able to find much information about Ricky Moore, the star of the title game. We’re assuming that he had a rather undistinguished career after that night in St. Pete.

1998 Kentucky: Nazr Mohammed & Jamaal Magloire
– The Wildcats, who weren’t expected to win the title this year, were fueled by a big comeback against a very young Duke team in the South Regional finals. Looking back at this team’s roster, we couldn’t see anybody else on this team making a big impact in the NBA. Magloire had a run from 2002-2006 where he averaged around 10/10 and made an All-Star team (more the result of the lack of centers than his exceptional play) while Mohammed has had a slightly less distinguished career. His most notable achievement was helping the San Antonio Spurs win the 2005 NBA Championship (with an assist from Isiah Thomas).

1997 Arizona: Mike Bibby & Jason Terry
– Both Bibby and Terry have had excellent careers as was expected for them coming out of college. The more intereresting story is that of the team’s star Miles Simon. Simon was never considered a top NBA prospect, but we at least expected that he would stick around the league because he could make plays. Instead he spent a year in Orlando then traveled across the globe, before ending up in the CBA where as his Wikipedia page states he became “the most decorated player in CBA history”. Not exactly what we expect out of the MOP.

1996 Kentucky: Antoine Walker, Derek Anderson & Nazr Mohammed
– This was likely the last of the all-time great teams. This team was incredibly deep with 6 guys who had significant NBA careers (including Tony Delk, Ron Mercer, and Walter McCarty). This team just crushed the teams they played utilizing Pitino’s press with their superior talent and athleticism. None of the players ever became a superstar, but all of their studs had solid NBA careers including a handful of All-Star appearances and awards. We’ll leave Rick Pitino’s stint in Boston for another post.

1995 UCLA: N/A
– This team didn’t really have as many superstars as other championship teams did, but they played very well together finishing an impressive 32-1. They had 2 first-round picks (Ed O’Bannon and George Zidek) who had short-lived NBA careers. The team’s other stars were Tyus Edney, Toby Bailey, and Charles O’Bannon, but none of them ever did anything notable in the NBA.

1994 Arkansas: N/A
– Nolan Richardson’s “40 Minutes of Hell” team used a late Scotty Thurman rainbow 3 to knock off Grant Hill’s Duke team, which basically consisted of Hill and a bunch of nobodies. Corliss “Big Nasty” Williamson had a nice career first in Sacramento then in Detroit even winning the NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2002. Thurman ended up leaving school early, going undrafted, and playing in the CBA.

1993 UNC: N/A
– This team didn’t really have any guys we considered potential NBA All-Stars back in 1993. Of course, we were 10 at the time and were already learning to hate the Tar Heels. We’ll let you look at the starting lineup and make up your mind: Eric Montross, Brian Reese, George Lynch, Donald Williams, and Derrick Phelps. Not exactly a murderer’s row of talent there. To be fair, Montross, who hails from the same high school as Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. (Lawrence North in Indianapolis), was selected 9th overall by the Celtics and had a decent rookie season before falling off the map. George Lynch was also considered a solid prospect coming out as 12th overall to the Lakers. He only had a mediocre pro career never averaging over 8.6 PPG and his main NBA achievements on Wikipedia are wearing 3 numbers (#24, #30 and #9) while with the Lakers and being traded to the Grizzlies to clear up cap space (and buffet space) for some guy named Shaq. Phelps played briefly in the NBA. And when we say briefly we mean 3 games and 1 shot, which he missed. Donald Williams, who is best remembered for being the MOP and having a huge game against the Fab 5 in the title game, spent his professional career floating around every league on the planet except for the NBA. The more interesting thing is that the Tar Heels actually had more talent the next year when they added Jerry Stackhouse and a young Rasheed Wallace (who in a sign of things to come got tossed from the McDonald’s All-American game) to this nucleus. However, the 1994 team never really came together and lost to Bill Curley and the Boston College Eagles, which was famously captured on this SI cover.

1991-92 Duke: Grant Hill
– Along with the 1996 UK team, Christian Laettner’s Blue Devils were the last of the teams that we consider truly great. To consider how big/great this team was, you have to remember that before this team, Mike Krzyzewski’s boys were the lovable losers who couldn’t win the big one despite multiple Final 4 trips. After this team, Duke became Duke. This team was really built around their 3 superstars: Laettner, Bobby Hurley, and Grant Hill. Everyone knows their college accomplishments: Laettner (#12 on ESPN’s list; maybe the top college player since 1990); Hurley (NCAA all-time assist leader); and Hill (also led Duke to the title game with a YMCA team around him in 1994). Laettner actually had a decent pro career, which most people would realize if he hadn’t been so great in college or if he wasn’t the most hated college player of all-time (multiply Joakim Noah by 100 and you get Laettner). His career highlights include an All-Star appearance as well as being an original Dream Teamer (ok, I can’t type that with a straight face). Hurley was selected 7th overall by Sacramento, but had his career derailed early with a car accident (signs of things to come for another great Duke point guard). However, we don’t think he would have ever become a great NBA PG as evident by how Jason Kidd destroyed him in the 1993 NCAA tournament. Hill actually had the best NBA career of the bunch and was considered one of the top 5-10 players in the league before multiple foot/ankle injuries eventually turned him into a shell of the player that he once was. Antonio Lang was taken 29th overall by Phoenix, but never did much in the pros. Brian Davis played a season in the NBA before floating around the basketball planet and settling on running a Duke-based group that tried to buy the Memphis Grizzlies with Laettner (the deal fell through). Thomas Hill (best known for being the guy crying after Laettner’s 1992 East Regional shot) was drafted 39th overall by Indiana, but never played in the NBA as he played in the Australian National Basketball League for a few years.

That’s all I have on these guys/teams. If you have any more information or comments, feel free to leave them in the comment section.

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