Florida Forward Chris Walker isn’t Sitting Out Because of Academics

Posted by Chris Johnson on January 15th, 2014

Two Southeastern Conference games took place on Tuesday night. If you’re reading this site, you probably watched one of them. Arkansas beat Kentucky in double-overtime on one of the craziest finishes you’ll ever see. The other game wasn’t nearly as interesting – not in a competitive sense, anyway. Florida beat Georgia, 72-50, to move to 3-0 in conference play and 14-2 overall. The Gators look Final Four-good, and they showed why by thrashing a plucky but overmatched Bulldogs team. It was the kind of beatdown you expect elite clubs to lay on lower-tier outfits like Mark Fox’s group. Ho-hum. The game, however, did provide a reminder of an issue most college hoops fans don’t seem to understand. A few members of Florida’s Rowdy Reptiles student section were wearing white T-shirts with the words “FREE CHRIS WALKER” plastered across the fronts. The students also started a “FREE CHRIS WALKER” chant after the forward came on the court to help officials adjust the net.

(USATSI)

It doesn’t look like Chris Walker is going to hit the court anytime soon. (USATSI)

The first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the name Chris Walker is academics. Walker endured an unstable family environment and attended a high school that does not have a long history in putting high-level athletes on an academic path suitable for Division I eligibility. Walker took online classes over the summer and had enough credits by December to be declared academically eligible by the NCAA, and he was admitted into Florida and has practiced with the Gators for about a month. Walker still hasn’t played in a game, but the reason why has nothing to do with academics. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rushed Reactions: #13 Florida 77, #20 Memphis 75

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 17th, 2013

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Brian Otskey attended the Jimmy V. Classic on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden and filed this report. 

Three Key Takeaways from the second game of the Jimmy V. Classic.

  1. Rebounding made the difference for Florida. The strong Gators front line absolutely dominated Memphis on the boards, out-rebounding the Tigers by 11–37 to 26. This allowed Florida to overcome 17 turnovers and come away with the win. It was an evenly played game in most areas but Patric Young, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Casey Prather were the difference makers on the glass for Billy Donovan’s team.
  2. Despite the loss, Memphis proved it is legitimate. It is rare for a team to impress in a loss, but the Tigers did just that tonight against Florida. While its win over Oklahoma State earlier this season certainly stands out, the Memphis showed once again that it can go toe-to-toe with one of college basketball’s best teams. Josh Pastner’s non-conference slate, which has included two games against Oklahoma State, one against Florida, and one against LSU, has done its job in preparing the Tigers for the rigors of conference play in their new league. Memphis has the talent to battle Connecticut for second place in the American assuming Louisville will win the league.
  3. Florida has so many weapons. The balanced scoring and overall talent on this team is scary. Billy Donovan has six capable scorers on his roster and can mix and match with a variety of different lineups that feature speed, perimeter shooting, interior dominance, or any combination of the three. I especially like what Dorian Finney-Smith brings to this team. The Virginia Tech transfer scored 14 points but his presence defensively and on the boards is what stood out. He changes the dynamic of Florida’s lineup because of his versatility. With Chris Walker possibly joining this already loaded unit, which Donovan significantly downplayed after the game, the Gators have the look of a Final Four contender yet again.

Star of the Game: Casey Prather, Florida. Prather’s terrific improvement from his junior to senior season continued on Tuesday night as the Gator senior led all scorers with 22 points on an efficient 8-of-13 shooting while connecting on all six free throw attempts. Prather was good on the defensive side as well, a key piece of a talented Florida front line that limited Memphis’ Shaq Goodwin to only four field goal attempts in 35 minutes of play. Prather has been among the most improved players in the nation and a key reason why Florida continues to improve, even after two close losses to date in non-conference play.

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AAC M5: 12.17.13 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 17th, 2013

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  1. Tonight is a big one for the AAC as two of the name-brand programs that will actually still be in the conference next season are playing in New York as part of the Jimmy V Classic. There are few stages at this point in the season that are bigger than the Jimmy V Classic and to represent half of this year’s field is a big deal. Both games are big tests for Memphis and Cincinnati but there is one team with a lot more at stake at Madison Square Garden — Mick Cronin’s Bearcats. Cincinnati hasn’t beaten anybody worth talking about and they were mildly embarrassed in the Crosstown Classic by Xavier over the weekend. We have harped on the Bearcats’ offensive struggles, but perhaps surprisingly, the team’s biggest issue is an apparent lack of toughness. I am still putting the finishing touches on my white paper Advanced Methods of Quantifying Toughness, so it’s easier to just say they weren’t great on either end of the floor against the Musketeers. Still, toughness is ostensibly supposed to be one of the Bearcats’ hallmark competencies and they didn’t do a great job on the glass or defending the three-point line, so it would probably help if they toughened up in those areas.
  2. As a college basketball fan, it would have been awesome to see Florida’s much-hyped freshman Chris Walker suit up for the Gators tonight, but I bet Memphis fans are breathing a sigh of relief. Well okay, so it wasn’t likely that Walker was going to light the world on fire, but Memphis only plays two real big men in Austin Nichols and Shaq Goodwin (and Florida already had a size and athleticism advantage to begin with). The game will obviously be competitive, but it will be especially interesting to see how the personnel decisions on both sides shake out. Memphis will want to play three guards and the Gators will probably want to rotate Casey Prather and Dorian Finney-Smith at small forward — both of whom are too big and athletic for the Tigers’ guards. Josh Pastner is going to have to bring his A-Game to face a coach as good as Billy Donovan, and it will be fun to watch them match wits tonight.
  3. Although it will have no effect on the 2013-14 season, the news of UConn guard Rodney Purvis‘ shoulder surgery still made headlines on a slow news day. Purvis transferred from North Carolina State and is sitting out this year anyway, so it makes sense to fix a torn labrum in his left shoulder now so he can be ready for next season. I know… fascinating stuff. But it gives us an excuse to talk about Purvis, a former McDonald’s All-American who started 23 games as a freshman for the Wolfpack. He transferred without much fanfare but he is an athletic 6’4″, 200-pounder, who scored in double figures in 12 games last season. Granted, most of those games came before conference play and he was a bit more inconsistent as the competition improved, but he will be expected to take on the lion’s share of the load Shabazz Napier leaves behind. I don’t really know how what I just wrote has anything to do with his impending surgery, but that’s fine. Just log those few sentences away for now and call me out when I self-plagiarize for an impact transfer preview for next season.
  4. The conference’s banner program will also be in action tonight as Louisville hosts Missouri State. The Bears aren’t the same mid-major headache they once were, but they are 8-1 on the season and their only loss was on a neutral floor to Virginia, so they will be dangerous. Head coach Rick Pitino is especially worried about their potent three-point shooting ability, and while he is overstating their offensive brilliance a bit, he would be wise to make sure his team defends the three-point line. In the end, there is little chance that Missouri State has enough defensive ability to hang with the Cardinals on the road, even if Louisville is still missing scoring point guard Chris Jones. The bottom line is that the Bears will probably make it interesting in the first half but Louisville has more than enough horses to pull away in the second 20 minutes.
  5. The South Florida Bulls play host to Dunk City tonight as Brett Comer, Chase Fieler and the rest of the Florida Gulf Coast will be in town for an intrastate match-up. Although they are probably the less recognizable team, the Bulls will play as the favorites as the Eagles are struggling to recapture the magic from last season and have lost three of their last four games. Of course they are still the more compelling storyline for ESPN.com and thus Myron Medcalf wrote a worthy profile of life after last season’s NCAA Tournament run that is worth reading. It’s not AAC news necessarily… or like …at all. But we are equal-opportunity providers and when we see a good story with some connection to the league, you better believe we are posting it.
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SEC M5: 12.16.13 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on December 16th, 2013

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  1. John Calipari has some coaching to do after Kentucky‘s deflating loss to North Carolina. “We’re not a good team because our emotion is all based on our individual play instead of our team play,” Calipari said. CBSSports‘ Gary Parrish also noticed some bad body language from the Wildcats. He writes, “I watched guys check-in and out without touching hands, which isn’t a big deal except for that it rarely happens with close teams. I saw Julius Randle roll his eyes at his guards — specifically Andrew and Aaron Harrison — whenever they failed to even think about getting him the ball on the block.” It could be that this edition of the Kentucky Wildcats is not a particularly close group. Calipari was on ESPN‘s college basketball podcast with Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg last week and said he needed to “teach” the team how to huddle during free throws and high-five teammates heading to the bench. Can camaraderie be built over the course of a season? Who knows? Does a team need to be buddy-buddy to win a national championship? That’s another intangible-based question that no one can honestly answer. But there’s no question that team bonding can’t hurt, and the Wildcats need to start working together better than they have been to reach their goals.
  2. Jarnell Stokes had been on a roll coming into Tennessee’s game against Wichita State — posting four straight double-doubles — and the Volunteers needed it to continue to beat an excellent Shockers team on the road Saturday. But Stokes was bothered by Wichita State’s length and never got going (eight points on 3-of-7 shooting). On the other hand, Jordan McRae kept Tennessee in the game with 26 points, impressively putting his name on the “Dunk of the Year” list, but it wasn’t enough as the Volunteers lost by nine points. Part of the blame for Stokes’ offensive struggles must fall on Tennessee’s guards: He rarely received the ball close enough to the basket to operate. And it doesn’t show in the box score (two assists), but Jeronne Maymon looked good facilitating the offense from the high post. Antonio Barton is not a true point guard and Darius Thompson is a freshman, so Maymon’s passing ability could come in handy in finding McRae off screens as well as Stokes in the low post.
  3. For a time on Saturday it looked like Middle Tennessee might knock off Ole Miss for the second straight year. The Blue Raiders took a 50-48 lead midway through the second half and the teams traded baskets for the next few minutes until the Rebels finally pulled away. This was a good day for Ole Miss because they didn’t let last week’s close loss to Oregon beat them twice by being discouraged. The Rebels also got the win without a Herculean performance from Marshall Henderson (15 points on only 11 shots). Jarvis Summers was the scoring star (25 points), and he showed a versatile offensive game by shooting well from the outside and getting to the free throw line 11 times. Ole Miss, however, was abused on the glass, getting outrebounded by 21 boards.
  4. Georgia took three tough losses in the Charleston Classic and it dropped them to an unsightly 1-4 to start the season. But a return home and a dip in competition has gotten the Bulldogs back to .500 after a win over Lipscomb on Saturday. The latter two wins came largely without Bulldogs’ leading scorer Charles Mann, who suffered a bone bruise against Appalachian State at the end of November. “Charles has an injury that just needs rest to heal. He hasn’t practiced in 12 days,” [Mark Fox] said. “I got no idea of a timetable [for his return], to be honest with you.” The sophomore played only nine minutes against Chattanooga and not at all against Lipscomb. The development of Mann and fellow sophomore guard Kenny Gaines as an offensive duo could be a positive out of another rebuilding season in Athens. Yet another sophomore, forward Brandon Morris, scored a season high 17 points against Lipscomb, and looks to emerge as another offensive weapon going forward.
  5. Chris Walker has enrolled at Florida, but is not yet eligible to play, and Billy Donovan has ruled him out for the Gators’ Tuesday night game against Memphis. This is still good news for Florida, as Walker began practicing last Saturday and is expected to ramp up quickly once he gets the go-ahead. According to the Gainesville Sun‘s Kevin Brockway, “Walker was rated as a consensus top-15 player in the nation by most recruiting websites because of his ability to play in the open floor, finish around the rim, rebound and block shots.” He should make for a very good fit sliding on the wings of the Gators’ 1-3-1 zone and running with Scottie Wilbekin and Kasey Hill in transition.
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Morning Five: 12.16.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 16th, 2013

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  1. After a rough first month of the season things are finally starting to turn around for Billy Donovan. Last Tuesday they knocked off a Kansas team that is still struggling to finds its identity, but that may pale in comparison to the impact of the announcement that McDonald’s All-American Chris Walker has enrolled at the school and is waiting on the NCAA Clearinghouse before he can play for the team. The addition of Walker should make the Gators a legitimate Final Four contender as their two losses have come in close road games and adding a 6’10” power forward will only make them tougher by adding to an inside game that is severely lacking in depth. Walker will almost certainly miss tomorrow night’s game against Memphis and while we have no idea how long it will take the NCAA Clearinghouse it looks like Walker won’t be needed for quite a while as the Gators do not play another ranked opponent after tomorrow night until February.
  2. It didn’t take long for Greg Whittington to find a new home. Whittington, who was dismissed from the Georgetown basketball team late last month, made his first official visit this weekend when he went to Rutgers and apparently Piscataway was impressive enough to convince him commit to Rutgers without visiting any other schools. As we have stated before, Whittington has the potential to a building block for a very good team as he averaged 12.1 points and 7 rebounds per game in the first 13 games as a sophomore before being declared academically ineligible. Whittington is currently rehabbing after tearing his ACL, but if he recovers and is able to become academically eligible look for him to best big men in the Big Ten.
  3. As if losing to St. Peter’s was not bad enough, Seton Hall will be without Sterling Gibbs, its leading scorer, after he injured his right knee towards the end of regulation on Saturday. Gibbs reportedly had imaging tests on his knee on Sunday, but the school had not released the results as of last night. With Gibbs out, the Pirates are without their top three scorers as Fuquan Edwin (ankle) and Patrik Auda (foot) are still recovering from injuries. When you combine this with Tom Mayaan departing last week to rejoin the Israeli army for his mandatory service, Kevin Willard is left with an increasingly shaky roster. Fortunately for Willard, the Pirates face a light slate before they begin Big East play on New Year’s Eve.
  4. North Carolina might be turning the corner on the court, but it seems like the program cannot get out of its own way off the court. On December 6, former UNC forward Will Graves was arrested on one count of possession of marijuana and one count of drug paraphernalia at a home owned by Tar Heels coach Roy Williams. According to the school, Williams was renting out the house to Graves who was finishing his degree at UNC and working as a part-time video coordinator for the basketball team. Williams renting out the house to Graves might not be surprising at some level, but it is interesting that he is doing it and has Graves on staff even though he dismissed Graves from the team three years ago. One of the more unique points in the case is that Graves was only charged after an electric worker noted that the supposedly vacant house was using more energy than expected and called the police to investigate. When the police arrived, Graves invited the police to enter the house where they found the marijuana/drug paraphernalia. As Sean Newell points out, Graves probably did not even have to let the police enter the house, but may have felt compelled to do so.
  5. Things have not worked out quite as well for this young Kentucky team as Big Blue Nation may have hoped and it appears that fans are not showing up at Rupp Arena in quite the numbers that they have in the past. As John Clay points out, attendance at Rupp Arena has dropped since 2009. This is certainly not a phenomenon unique to Kentucky as nearly every school has seen it, but it still an interesting trend given that the Wildcats boast the most rabid fan base in the sport. There are plenty of reasons for this (our personal favorite comes courtesy of Chester), but the most likely ones are a weak home schedule and the fact that nearly every game is available on TV. At this point, we have no idea how to reverse this trend (at least the TV part) and it seems like this will only continue, but it is something worth watching and might be a consideration for schools looking to build new arenas.
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Morning Five: 12.09.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 9th, 2013

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  1. When we hear about Allan Chaney‘s latest setback (a misfiring defibrillator) we hoped that it would be a minor issue, but unfortunately it appears this latest setback led Chaney to announce his retirement. It is an unfortunate end to Chaney’s career given all that he has battled back through (viral myocarditis before being denied medical clearance by Virginia Tech then going to High Point where he was allowed to play) before collapsing on November 24 in a game against Wofford when he defibrillator misfired. We have no idea how much the respective parties — Chaney, his family, and the school — played in him making his final decision, but we wish him the best of luck in his post-basketball life.
  2. We typically do not go for gimmicks, but every year that we fall for Taylor University‘s Silent Night and this year’s edition was no different. For those of you who are not familiar with the tradition, it is held the Friday before fall semester finals week begins. The students at the school remain completely silent until the team scores its tenth point at which point all sorts of craziness happens. To some it may be a little over the top to some, but we will never criticize people showing their enthusiasm for basketball especially when it is done in a constructive way.
  3. With the way that Oregon has been playing so far this season they are going to start to get national recognition. And things could get even better with the new additions to the roster that could make them even more dangerous. In addition to sophomores Dominic Artis and Ben Carter who only have one more game remaining in their nine game suspensions for selling school-supplied shoes, the Ducks may also be adding 4-star power forward Jordan Bell who qualified academically and can start practicing immediately, but might redshirt. Regardless of whether Bell plays this year, the Ducks appear to be one of the top teams in the country and might end up as Arizona’s biggest threat in the Pac-12.
  4. It was a rough week for Stanford and senior guard Aaron Bright. Last week, Bright dislocated his right shoulder during practice and will require season-ending  surgery. That brings the Cardinal body count to three (players out for the year with season-ending injuries). To add insult to injury it appears Bright, who is taking a medical redshirt year to preserve his eligibility, may have to transfer as Stanford’s roster for the 2014-15 season would already be full. Even though we understand it is a numbers game at some level we have a hard time believing that the Stanford staff would not be able to find a way to keep Bright on the team next year.
  5. Heading into an important perception-building home game against Kansas tomorrow night, Billy Donovan appears to finally be turning the corner on getting his roster settled for this season. First, point guard Scottie Wilbekin is due back from the ankle injury he suffered in last week’s loss at Connecticut, offering the Gators some stability at a position that has been nothing short of a headache all season long. Next, according to Gator Country on Sunday, Damontre Harris and the program have officially parted ways. The South Carolina transfer had not suited up at all this season as he tried to fulfill obligations related to his suspension during the offseason, but it appears that he was unable to meet those expectations. The final piece of the puzzle concerns the eligibility of star freshman Chris Walker, who is expected to start practicing with the team as soon as final exams are over next week. With all the players shuffling in and out of the Florida lineup (and roster), we’re sure Donovan will be pleased to see some stability in that regard so he can focus on improving the team he actually has this season.
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Morning Five: 12.04.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 4th, 2013

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  1. Over the years we have heard many preflight announcements asking for passengers to give up their flights when the airlines have overbooked the flights, but we have never heard of an entire plane getting bumped for a different set of passengers. Apparently that is what happened in Gainesville on Sunday as Delta decided to give the Florida basketball team use of a plane scheduled for a commercial flight after the team’s charter flight had to be taken in for repairs. The commercial passengers were told that their aircraft needed maintenance, but noticed the basketball team getting on their plane (sort of hard to miss in a three-gate airport). Those on the commercial flight had to be rebooked on other flights with some not leaving until the following day and one individual even missed a passenger. Delta has offered a vague explanation saying that they tried to make everybody leave as close to on schedule as possible, but since the Gators did not play until the following night it seems like the company could have used a little better foresight in deciding who to bump.
  2. We won’t call it karma because it appears that the Florida staff had no idea that Delta was bumping regular customers so they could get to Connecticut a day early, but the team’s injury woes are continuing to pile up. The latest to join the walking wounded is senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who injured late in their loss at Connecticut, will be out indefinitely with a high-ankle sprain. As we mentioned yesterday when discussing Eli Carter’s redshirt, this leaves the Gators without a point guard. The Gators may have a bit of good news on the horizon as Andy Katz reports that Chris Walker could be eligible by as early as December 10 and could play as early as December 17 against Memphis if he gets cleared by the NCAA. This won’t do anything for the Gators’ backcourt issues, but would make them much more formidable if they ever get healthy.
  3. We just finished Feast Week, but it is never too early to begin planning for next year. Although reports about the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis field have been floating around for a while, the official field was released yesterday. Normally we would feature the headliners, but the field (Florida, North Carolina, UCLA, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Butler, Oklahoma, and UAB) is so deep that three-fourths of the field could be considered headliners in most tournaments. At this point we would the Battle 4 Atlantis, which is only three years old, the premier in-season tournament over Maui and with its proximity to the East Coast we assume it will only maintain that dominance for the foreseeable future.
  4. We have heard a lot about the deals between shoe companies and universities, but it is not that often that we see the details behind them. So when we were interested to see the details of Nike’s “$18.5 million deal” with Ohio State. The numbers appear to be in line with what we have seen cited for other big-name programs. As you can see from the figure there is a lot more involved in the deal than just a simple cash transaction as Nike will be paying a licensing fee (12.5% with a minimum of $200,000 per year then escalating to $300,000 per year), providing equipment and apparel (over $2 million per year), direct compensation (over $1 million per year), and consultation fees ($50,000 per year). We don’t know where exactly that money will go particularly the direct compensation, but assume it would be split fairly generously between the football and basketball coaches with the administrators getting a sizable chunk and the rest getting the leftovers.
  5. Devonta Pollard, a former five-star recruit who left Alabama after he was arrested in connection with a kidnapping, had his plea for deferred prosecution in connection with the case approved by judge yesterday meaning that if he will not be prosecuted if he stays out of trouble for the next two years. Pollard, who claims he had no idea about the kidnapping before it took place, testified against his mother, who is still awaiting formal sentencing, in court as part of the deal. Pollard is currently enrolled at East Mississippi Community College and has three years of eligibility left so with this cloud somewhat lifted it will be interesting to see if a major college takes a chance on him even if his production–3.9 points and 3.1 rebounds per game–as a freshman last season was uninspiring.
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Morning Five: 08.19.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 19th, 2013

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  1. New Butler coach Brandon Miller was probably already facing an uphill battle replacing Brad Stevens. Not only did he have to contend with a conference change from the Atlantic 10 to the Big East and the departure of several key seniors, but he was also facing Stevens’ considerable shadow. Now he will have to do all of this without Roosevelt Jones, who was perhaps the team’s top returning player, is out for the season after tearing ligaments in his left wrist during the team’s trip to Australia. Butler was going to have a tough time dealing with all the changes and now doing so without Jones might be too much for Miller (or even Stevens if he had stayed) as the Bulldogs seem destined for the bottom of the Big East this season.
  2. The NCAA has found itself in quite few politically unpopular situations over the years, but they may have topped themselves with their latest act–taking a year of eligibility away from a Marine veteran for playing games on the base. The latest poster boy for the NCAA’s ongoing quest for bad publicity is Steven Rhodes, a 24-year-old freshman at Middle Tennessee State, who just finished a five-year stint with the Marines and was planing on coming back to play college football. Unfortunately his plans have been put on hold as the NCAA has ruled that Rhodes has to sit out this season. Although Middle Tennessee State is not the typical site for major NCAA stories, we have a feeling that this will turn into a national story in the near-future.
  3. The start of the college basketball season is getting very close, which you will be reminded of with the onslaught of college basketball previews that you will see online once the college football season starts and we are pretty much ready for the season to start, but one name–Chris Walker–remains in limbo. Walker, one of the top players in the class of 2013, is still waiting for clearance from the NCAA, but it appears that the NCAA Clearinghouse is reviewing his grades now. We have no idea how long it will take the NCAA to review his grades, but they will need to clear him by this coming week for him to be eligible to play this fall, but if he is eligible by December he could enroll at Florida and play the second half of the year. If neither of those options work, we get the feeling that he might pursue the Ricky Ledo option.
  4. When Shivaughn Wiggins announced that he was transferring from Mount St. Mary’s we figured it would not take long before he found a new home and it only took a few weeks as he announced that he was transferring to Coastal Carolina. Wiggins, the NEC Rookie of the Year, averaged 9.6 points per game last season and should be a huge pick-up for Coastal Carolina when he is eligible to play in the 2014-15 season. If you are looking for a more in-depth evaluation of Wiggins’ potential impact on the team, check out the breakdown put together by Big Apple Buckets.
  5. Out of all of the Candid Coaches questions that CBS has released the one about which elite 2014 prospect will struggle the most in college is certainly the most controversial. We won’t pretend to know much about any of the 2014 prospects at this point outside of recognizing a few names, but it will be interesting to see if these anonymous comments will affect their ranking at all and whether it might scare off a few coaches. We doubt that it actually will, but we imagine that several of the prospects listed here (and more specifically their parents) will be concerned about that. While this is interesting on some level and will certainly make its way around the message boards we are actually more interested in seeing this come out for the incoming freshman since we will be able to judge those evaluations right away.
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Morning Five: 06.13.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 13th, 2013

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  1. Another day, another mob with pitchforks standing outside the gates. ESPN.com‘s Darren Rovell reported yesterday that a group of former NCAA athletes has filed a $5 million suit in federal court against a company that sells photographs of college athletes without their express permission. Although the claim does not list the NCAA nor some 90 schools alleged to sell images to the defendant company, it wouldn’t be much of a leap to eventually go after them as well down the line. Under current NCAA rules, the schools have the right to promote their own games using player images, but the legal question will center around whether they also have the right to sell or transfer those images. This lawsuit is of course unrelated to the Ed O’Bannon likeness case also working its way through the system in federal court, but the underlying issue — that players are not compensated for their work and corresponding brand — is very similar.
  2. While on the subject of the mission of the NCAA and its member institutions, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a piece yesterday from a professor at Ohio State University named Steven Conn. Conn, an American history scholar, took his soon-to-be-former boss, OSU president Gordon Gee, to task not so much for his forced retirement based on a series of verbal gaffes; rather, for helping to create and propagate the “athletic-industrial beast that defines higher education now.” The point he’s ultimately making is that college presidents nowadays have to spend so much time dealing with their athletic programs because of the money and prestige associated with them, that they’ve completely lost sight of what the true mission of an institution of higher learning is supposed to represent. Interesting read.
  3. With all the pressure on programs to succeed in the revenue sports, it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that the average D-I men’s basketball coach has been at his current job for a total of 38 months — just over three years. This information and plenty of other coaching longevity tidbits comes courtesy of D1scourse, Patrick Stevens’ site examining college sports in the mid-Atlantic area. Although it was news to us that only one coach has survived at one school since the ’70s (Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, 1976), and only seven since the ’80s, the real takeaway from his analysis is that over 55 percent of true seniors who signed a letter of intent in November 2009 have experienced a coaching change in their careers. And yet we continue to penalize them for transferring, why, again?
  4. While on that topic, a really odd situation has developed involving DePaul forward Donnovan Kirk, a player who spent the first two years of his career at Miami (FL) before transferring to Chicago for the last two seasons. Given Miami’s success under Jim Larranaga especially relative to the train wreck at DePaul, Kirk has now decided to use his graduate transfer exception to head back to Miami for his final season. That’s right: a double-transfer where he is ending up at the same school where he originally started. He only averaged 6/4 last season for the Blue Demons, but he’s a great leaper and was among the Big East leaders in blocked shots per game (1.6 BPG). He’ll move right into a lineup in Coral Gables that is extremely lacking in experienced size, so this appears to be a win/win for both parties.
  5. The fortunes next season for another major basketball school in Florida — not FGCU, sorry — are still somewhat up in the air at this early summer point of the offseason. There are always a number of players finishing up coursework and dealing with standardized test scores to become eligible for next season, but in the case of Florida’s Chris Walker, there are serious concerns about his eventual eligibility. Not only does he still need to pass the ACT, which he has now taken three times, but he has to finish three core course requirements over the summer before he can enroll at the university in Gainesville. With most players these days getting themselves on campus for the early summer term to start prepping for next season, it doesn’t appear that will be an option for Walker very soon, if ever.
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Big 12 M5: 03.28.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 28th, 2013

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  1. Your move, Texas Tech. Five-star recruit Keith Frazier just tentatively committed to play for the Red Raiders, but he wants to play for interim head coach Chris Walker. That means Tech might need to keep Walker on as the permanent coach for Frazier to stay true to his word. Is it worth it? Frazier is, after all, a consensus top-25 recruit with the potential to change the entire landscape of this program. The shooting guard from Dallas is a McDonald’s All-American. Fan interest in Lubbock could be at an all-time high if he does indeed step on campus, but it appears that will hinge on Walker’s status. As the interim coach, Walker didn’t win very many games, but don’t judge him on the mess he inherited from Billy Gillispie. He kept things together fairly well, knocked off Iowa State at one point and avoided a complete catastrophe. Frazier or no Frazier, Chris Walker isn’t a bad candidate as the permanent head coach of this program.
  2. Amath M’Baye‘s short stay at Oklahoma is over. The swingman announced he’ll skip his senior year to enter the NBA Draft, a decision made partly because he needs to financially support his family overseas. He also feels he’s mature enough to make the move, considering he’s now almost 24 years old. The former Wyoming transfer was a solid addition for Lon Kruger this year, but he wasn’t an elite player and a few heads were scratched with his decision to forgo his senior year. M’Baye has a life to live, though, and his choice makes sense on a lot of levels. It’ll leave the Sooners looking for a versatile wing to fill the void, since M’Baye did a lot of different things with his blend of size and athleticism in the frontcourt.
  3. You’ve probably heard of Andrea Hudy before. She’s already been featured on ESPN, but here’s another look at the woman behind the magic at Kansas. Hudy is the strength and conditioning coach for the Jayhawks, and she’s built quite a reputation as a fierce motivator and frightening trainer. In the background of all this is her role as a female trainer in a largely male world of men’s college basketball. It’s admirable that she’s able to do her job — and do it well — without complaint from either the players or Bill Self’s staff. It’s proof that regardless of gender, a trainer’s a trainer. And they’re almost all as scary as Andrea Hudy. Judging by Self’s dominance of the Big 12, it looks like Hudy’s a step above her competition.
  4. Oklahoma State‘s roster will depend on whether Markel Brown, Le’Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart all return to school. That’s huge. But here’s a more detailed look at exactly what Travis Ford might have to work with next year. We know Philip Jurick is gone. Ford will miss that big body, but he ran into legal trouble before the season and isn’t irreplaceable. Michael Cobbins could be primed for a big year up front, as could Kamari Murphy, who’ll be a sophomore. Oklahoma State returns a good group of guards, too, including Phil Forte and Kirby Gardner. Beyond that, the Cowboys will welcome five newcomers who could get big minutes if the OSU Big Three decide to leave for the NBA.
  5. Let’s get this over with. You probably don’t like the NIT, but you need to know that Baylor knocked off Providence to advance to the semifinals at the Garden. The Bears will now face BYU, a team it defeated in Waco earlier in the year. That was an odd game, as it turned out — Baylor fell behind early, then went on a masterful run to seize control of things and win fairly easily. At that time, it seemed like that might be the win that could turn the season around. Instead, Scott Drew’s team is playing BYU in the NIT. So much for that.
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Big 12 M5: 03.26.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 26th, 2013

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  1. The search has begun for Texas Tech‘s next head basketball coach, but this is hardly a typical situation. One of the top candidates for the job is, um, the guy who coached the team this year. Chris Walker won only 11 games at the helm with the Red Raiders this season, but the league’s coaches praised him often for the way he dealt with the aftermath of the Billy Gillispie fallout. It would be silly to judge Walker based solely on his performance as an interim, so you’d have to think he’ll at least get a fair shot at landing the full-time position. The other names listed in the early portion of the search are, at the very least, intriguing: Scott Sutton (Oral Roberts), Doc Sadler (current Kansas staff member and former Nebraska head coach), Steve McClain (former Wyoming head coach and highly-regarded, longtime assistant currently with Indiana) and Barry Hinson (Southern Illinois). Sutton’s probably the best candidate of those choices, but he seems to have made a lifestyle choice to stay at Oral Roberts. Sadler didn’t fare well at Nebraska, McClain’s tenure at Wyoming ended poorly, and Hinson’s team finished in last place in the Missouri Valley this season. Surely, other names will emerge. You would have to hope so.
  2. Imagine this: Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, and Le’Bryan Nash playing another year together in Stillwater. Banners would be hung. Numbers might be retired. Championships might be claimed. But for that to happen at Oklahoma State, the trio would need to skip the NBA Draft this summer. That might be a tough proposition. Smart’s projected as one of the top picks in the 2013 NBA Draft. Brown’s considered a first-rounder. And Nash might be a second-rounder. If for some reason they did all return, we’re talking about a team with limitless potential. “It’ll be scary,” Nash told The Oklahoman. 
  3. Texas had a bad season. Then it played in the CBI and lost to in-state opponent Houston. Rick Barnes obviously wasn’t very happy, so when reporters asked him whether he would ever consider scheduling the Cougars during the regular season, he took a bit of an elitist tone. He said he’d only play them at home in Austin, which is unfortunately a sentiment you often hear muttered by power-conference college basketball coaches. The aforementioned link is pretty snarky and critical, but it has a point. Teams like Texas often say they have nothing to gain by playing a team from a perceived “lesser” conference on the road, but it makes life impossible for non-BCS schools in terms of scheduling. It hurts potential rivalries, kills fan interest, and deprives people of solid basketball during non-conference play.
  4. Sorry, awkward teenagers in Lawrence, Kansas: your middle school dance has been cancelled during the Kansas Jayhawks’ Sweet 16 game against Michigan. Probably a good idea, since there surely wouldn’t have been anybody there. Now, they will need to make sure they don’t reschedule the dance for Sunday, when a possible Elite Eight game could be played. Oh, and don’t schedule it for April 6 or April 8, either. You know, just in case.
  5. We leave you on one final note: former Kansas State basketball player Dick Stone has passed away. He was a star in the 1950s, but at the age of 78, he was killed on Thursday in Florida when a man driving a pickup truck swerved into his parked car. Very tragic and very sad, and not the best way to end the Morning Five.
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Rushed Reactions: Kansas 91, Texas Tech 63

Posted by dnspewak on March 14th, 2013

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Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He’s covering the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City this weekend.

Three Thoughts:

  1. Big Day For Ben McLemore: The show began early for McLemore. The redshirt freshman threw down two of the nastier dunks you’ll ever get to see in person, all within the first five minutes of the game. He finished with 24 points — and didn’t even play during garbage time in the second half. It was another vintage performance for one of the best players in this league, and it came on a day where his teammates struggled offensively. The first half was ugly at times, as the Red Raiders recovered from an early 13-2 hole to at least make the game somewhat competitive. Thanks in large part to McLemore, though, the competition didn’t last long. By the first media timeout in the second half, the game was all but over.

    Ben McLemore threw down two incredible dunks against Texas Tech Thursday afternoon. (AP)

    Ben McLemore threw down two incredible dunks against Texas Tech Thursday afternoon. (AP)

  2. Good Job, Good Effort: You never want to belittle a team for “playing hard” when it loses in a blowout, but Texas Tech has a nice collection of young players. They appear motivated yet simply inexperienced, and freshman point guard Josh Gray might be the best example of that. He did not play particularly well on Thursday, but throughout the season, he’s exemplified that “flashes-of-brilliance” cliché in college basketball. As for his teammates, Dejan Kravic followed up his game-winning tip-in to beat West Virginia by leading his team in scoring against the Jayhawks with 20 points. The 6’11’’ center was the team’s most assertive offensive player. He’s a little lanky, sure, but he has a great blend of size and offensive skills. He finished the season scoring in double figures in three straight games, and he’s got that buzzer-beater to build off for next year, too. With the bulk of this team returning, including leading scorer Jaye Crockett and Jordan Tolbert (the 2011-12 leading scorer), it’s a start for Texas Tech to have at least reached the quarterfinals in Kansas City.
  3. Chris Walker’s Future: That’s been the talk all week surrounding Texas Tech — will it retain Walker? He’s been tagged with that interim position after the departure of Billy Gillispie last summer. He’ll have a lot of continuity in his roster next year if he is indeed the head coach, and he’s earned praise from his peers for the difficult job he inherited this year. The Red Raiders won three Big 12 games and finished nine games below .500. That’s bad. But the effort has been a little better than last year, and it may be unfair to judge him based on this year’s results alone, considering the Gillispie disaster. It’s up the Red Raiders to figure out how they want to proceed.

Star of the Game: Ben McLemore takes this award, and it’s not even close. The thing that’s so impressive about him is how efficiently he works as an offensive player. He rarely takes bad shots, and he fits well within the framework of Bill Self’s offense. Kansas is lucky he was on his game today. Otherwise, with the lack of offensive support from other scorers, maybe things would have shaken out differently here at the Sprint Center. Or not. It was a 28-point win, after all. Either way, kudos to McLemore.

Wildcard: Kansas got to empty the bench in the second half, which apparently started a three-point barrage. Freshmen Andrew White and Rio Adams combined to knock down four three-pointers. You’d have thought they were McLemore. Tyler Self also got to play, but he turned the ball over twice. His father was not very pleased on the bench, reacting only by putting his hands in his face.

Quotable: “There’s a lot of controversy. It’ll be a fun game.” — Kansas’ Jeff Withey, regarding the semifinal matchup against Iowa State.

What’s Next: Part Three of the Iowa State vs. Kansas showdown in Friday’s semifinal round. No word on whom the officials will be.

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