Morning Five: 05.09.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 9th, 2013

morning5

  1. As CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Goodman reported yesterday, the NCAA Rules Committee is meeting in Indianapolis this week and as of now it appears unlikely that the governing body will recommend a change to the 35-second shot clock. Given that scoring has reached its lowest point in over a half-century of college hoops, many have been clamoring for the pace of the game to increase through a shortened clock. What those rabble-rousers of course fail to realize is that because of advanced scouting and technology, defensive strategies are vastly more robust than they were even 10, or certainly 20 or more years ago. The game is also significantly younger than it was when the shot clock was first introduced, which creates a likely devil’s potion of unintended consequences whereby a shortened clock will simply lead to more rushed (read: ugly) possessions that will not at all improve the overall level of play across the game. Good on the NCAA to recognize this and keep the wolves at bay. Some of the other anticipated rules changes are to mimic the NBA’s achievement in using the monitors at the end of games to get possession, time and score calls correct, while also placing a much-needed emphasis on the removal of hand-checking and bumping on cuts through the lane. Hopefully these measures will help to make the game a bit more free-flowing, because the NBA’s product right now in that regard is fantastic and the collegians could stand to learn from it.
  2. The match-ups for the 15th annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge were released yesterday and everyone is giving their takes on which games stand out as the best. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of next year’s event, of course, is that the three new ACC schools — Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame — will be a part of the action next December 3-4. The Orange will take on Indiana in a rematch game from this year’s Sweet Sixteen; the Panthers will host rising program Penn State in a Keystone State battle; and, Notre Dame will travel to Iowa to face another Big Ten team hoping for big things next season. As for longtime ACC teams Wake Forest, Clemson and Virginia Tech? Welcome to your new reality — there are three newer and prettier girls moving to town. For what it’s worth, the Big Ten has won three of the last four events, with last year ending up as a 6-6 tie.
  3. The national runner-up, Michigan, will travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium in the marquee game of the first night of the Challenge, which brings back great memories of the days when Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and the Fab Five would knock antlers with Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill and the rest down in Durham two decades ago. While on the subject of Michigan’s most famous player, Webber’s 10-year ban from association with UM as part of his punishment for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars while in school there, is now over. Technically, this means that if Michigan someday wants to honor him with a jersey retirement ceremony or some other shrine in Crisler Arena, they will be allowed to do so. Whether Webber ultimately wants something like that is open for debate — he’s reportedly remained very cool in his relationship with the university (and some argue that he’s right to be angry) — but it says here that Webber is a sensitive guy who was very hurt by many of the things said about him within the Michigan community, but as evidenced by his attendance at the National Championship game last month, he’ll never stop loving the school that made him famous. He’ll be honored there within the next five years.
  4. By now everyone knows and has an opinion on the mercurial rise of wunderkind head coach Andy Enfield from Florida Gulf Coast to USC. Now that he’s been on the job for a few weeks in Troy, the New York Times caught up with him to see how he’s handling the transition from the low-density glare of Fort Myers, Florida, to the red-hot limelight of Hollywood. No stranger to hard work, Enfield has been putting in 16-hour days getting organized in everything from recruiting strategies to travel plans, all from the relatively comfortable haven of his nearby Raddisson hotel room. As the article notes, the Fighting Enfields are already focusing very hard on dominating the Los Angeles talent scene, a sentiment that is going to be very interesting with Steve Alford just a few miles away in his new digs mapping out the very same plan. USC may not ever become a basketball school, but there’s really no excuse for it to be awful, either. Enfield might just be the guy to make USC basketball relevant again.
  5. SI.com‘s Andy Glockner has been beating this drum for a while now, but we’re not sure he’s ever done so outside the conversation-friendly auspices of Twitter. The idea? A college basketball Champions League arrangement, first espoused by Bylaw Blog‘s John Infante, which would essentially use the non-conference friendly months of November and December to create non-stop excitement by crafting big game after big game between talented teams before heading into the heart of conference season and, ultimately, March Madness. We’re not smart enough with respect to the nuances of the Champions League format to determine whether this sort of thing might be feasible, but if the ultimate goal is to improve the game as a whole through more compelling match-ups when most sports fans are generally only worried about football, then we’re all for it. Glockner does an excellent job explaining how the pairings would work as well as rebutting some of the arguments that are sure to arise — it’s well worth a read and some consideration.
Share this story

Morning Five: 02.21.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 21st, 2013

morning5

  1. After nearly two years of investigations and countless missteps the NCAA finally sent Miami and people who left the school their notice of allegations. All of the reports that we have at this point are from sources as nobody outside of the school’s administration has access to the official notice, but the primary allegations are for “lack of institutional control”, which is amusing given the lack of institutional control that the NCAA has shown in controlling their own investigators. While most of these allegations are around the football team, at least a few of them involve the basketball staff under former coach Frank Haith, who has moved on to Missouri. According to reports Haith is facing a failure to monitor charge rather than the more serious unethical conduct charge that could have carried a show-cause penalty.
  2. When NCAA Selection Committee Chairman Mike Bobinski claim that the RPI was the best computer predictor of NCAA Tournament success we were stunned, but unlike many of us who just laughed at the suggestion John Ezekowitz decided to take a look at the data and found that Bobinski was wrong. As you would expect Ken Pomeroy’s rankings outperform the RPI (of course every college basketball fan knows that Pomeroy is the most amazing thing ever), but what is more interesting is how much Ezekowitz’s Survival Advantage model (explained here) outperforms both the RPI and Pomeroy in predicting the NCAA Tournament. This is something that you should remember in a month when you are filling out your bracket.
  3. As usual Luke Winn’s weekly power rankings have their usual wealth of great information packed into the most concise format this side of Twitter. While Luke always makes great use of graphics and charts his weekly column typically focuses on one or two major themes. This week’s themes (outside of enraging every single college basketball fan in the state of Michigan) are Winn’s analysis of three players (Trey Burke, Tyler Zeller, and Kelly Olynyk) having exceptionally efficient high-usage seasons and two players (Kenny Kadji and Erik Murphy) who have become much more perimeter-oriented later in their college careers.
  4. The success of a few individuals (most notably Mike Leach in football before his closet fiasco) has led some to speculate that there could be a change in the way that sports are played. One of the latest examples to make the media rounds is the style of play from West Liberty, a Division II school, that has been highly successful in playing an up-tempo style of basketball. While we have had our issues with gimmicks in basketball (see our takedown of Malcolm Gladwell from 2009), but this attack and others like it are obviously more nuanced than what Gladwell espoused. We doubt that any power conference schools (read: athletic directors) would be willing to try it, but we would love to see a mid- or low-major try it out.
  5. Since the Fab Five, which technically didn’t exist (we’re still going with that, right), Michigan has experienced relatively little success in the NCAA Tournament. However, this season the Wolverines have realistic Final Four aspirations and with the NCAA’s dissociation of Chris Webber and the school ending in May, the school has been reaching out to the former members and with Juwan Howard now on board it seems like only a matter of time before the school has some big event to celebrate the group. Frankly we cannot see the downside of it other than irritating the NCAA, which will still leave a black mark next to the team’s accomplishments. However the administration has expressed some reservation in celebrating the group so it will be interesting to see what they decide.
Share this story

Michigan Will Not Re-Hang Its Vacated ‘Fab Five’ Final Four Banners: Why It Makes Sense

Posted by EJacoby on May 22nd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

Sports fans worldwide recognize The Michigan ‘Fab Five’ team from 1992 and 1993 as one of the most talented and fascinating teams in college hoops history, but 20 years later, the Ann Arbor university wants no part of the infamy. The Fab Five comprised a starting lineup of all freshmen (before it was in vogue) and became famous in equal parts for its revolutionary style, brashness and incomprehensible talent.  Those two, along with four other Wolverines teams in the 90s, were erased from the NCAA history books thanks to admissions of players accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from recruiting booster Ed Martin. In addition, Michigan received a 10-year penalty from the NCAA requiring disassociation from the guilty players and teams, leading to the removal of the ’92 and ’93 Final Four banners from the Crisler Center. That ban will end in 2013, but the news from over the weekend is that the university doesn’t plan on doing anything about it. Despite an upswell of support, there are currently no plans to re-hang the Final Four banners or recognize anything from the Fab Five era, a decision that’s clearly irked the former players but one that makes a lot of sense from a publicity standpoint. The stance taken by UM upholds the school’s integrity, and it knows that all sports fans will regardless still remember the Fab Five.

The Fab Five Will be Remembered Forever, Even if Michigan's Crisler Center Says Otherwise (Detroit Free Press photo)

No vacation of wins, removal of banners, or lack of contact with former players is going to cause college basketball fans to forget about the Fab Five era. Even Wolverine recruits who were not yet born when Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, and company changed the college game in the fall of 1991 are aware of the Fab Five and its legacy. This is something that UM administrators fully understand and can take advantage of when handling the issue of historical recognition. Continuing to withhold association with the Fab Five teams on campus in Ann Arbor sends a strong message, and yet it will never erase the great memories from those teams in the eyes of fans worldwide. “What happened was not good, and I don’t think they’ll ever go back up. I don’t,” said Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman in reference to the vacated banners. And why should she feel any differently?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten Morning Five: 03.28.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 28th, 2012

  1. One coaching vacancy in the Big Ten has been filled as Nebraska welcomed Tim Miles as the newest leader of their basketball program. Miles comes with a solid resume from Colorado State, but some former players have expressed disappointment that the school wasn’t able to get a coach who moved a needle a little more. Miles was able to guide Colorado State to the NCAA Tournament this year, which is something the Huskers were unable to do, but his lack of experience at the helm of a big-time program has given some fans pause knowing that competing in the Big Ten is different than the Mountain West.
  2. Meanwhile, it appears that Illinois will soon have their man, as a deal appears imminent with Ohio head coach and former Ohio State assistant John Groce.  However, since Illinois publicly courted other candidates, including VCU’s Shaka Smart and Butler’s Brad Stevens, and came up empty; many who have been following the hiring process are wondering whether becoming the head man of the Illini is still a premiere position. Some have used the term “national embarrassment”, and while I think that is harsh, it is true that Illinois has been publicly rebuffed by a number of candidates.
  3. Michigan State has a storied basketball program, and that has led to the Spartans honoring nine former players by retiring their jersey numbers. Tom Izzo thinks that there should be a tenth jersey hanging from the rafters, and he wants that jersey to belong to Draymond Green. Green was honored as an AP All-Amerian first team member this week, and his leadership off the court and skills on the court certainly would qualify him to join Spartan lore. Izzo has noted that the leadership and chemistry from this team is not lost on the younger players, and State will be looking for a couple of leaders to fill the void left by Green come next season.
  4. With the Final Four back in New Orleans, ESPN.com decided to reminisce about some classic moments when college basketball’s premiere event was held in the Big Easy. Two Big Ten moments made the list, one being Keith Smart’s epic shot against Syracuse in 1987 and the other being Chris Webber‘s infamous timeout against North Carolina in 1993. The best and the worst of the NCAA tournament, both taking place at the same site, six years apart.
  5. Though their NCAA Tournament exit was heartbreaking, Wisconsin gave Syracuse a run for their money, and while senior point guard Jordan Taylor will certainly be missed, the Badgers will bring back four starters from a team that won 26 games this year.  It is never easy to replace a leader at the point guard position, but Wisconsin will return 71% of its scoring and 84% of its rebounding next season. The future looks good in Madison for the Badgers to again be a factor in the Big Ten.
Share this story

Study: What’s the Value of an Elite CBB Player? At Duke, Over a Million Bucks Annually…

Posted by rtmsf on September 12th, 2011

An AP report released on Monday provided an interesting insight into the actual fair market value of ‘amateur’ athletes at the Division I football and men’s basketball level. The report, a joint venture between an advocacy group for athletes called the National College Players Association and Drexel University professor Ellen J. Staurowsky called “The Price of Poverty in Big Time College Sport,” outlines a methodology that results in the assignation of six-figure values for each and every D-I athlete in the two major revenue sports. The average college football player, for example, is worth approximately $121,000 per year while the average men’s hoops player is worth roughly $265,000 annually. At particularly high-exposure schools, those numbers look like chump change:

The report argues that playing big-time football and basketball is a full-time job, and an NCAA study released this year backs that up. It found that players in the Football Bowl Subdivision — the highest level — reported spending 43.3 hours per week during the season in athletic time commitment, while Division I men’s basketball players reported 39 hours a week in season. The report said that players at the most powerful programs are worth far in excess of even the average athlete. The report estimates that Duke’s basketball players are worth the most, at around $1 million each, while Texas’ football players top that sport at $513,000 each.

Is Each Duke Player Worth Over a Million Bucks?

Of course, such an accounting of fair market value in a professional-style format is anathema to the foundation of amateurism that the NCAA relies upon. The governing organization has long argued that it has no interest in paying players a dime above and beyond the value of attending college and its room/board incidentals, but the report argues that this stance leaves most players several thousand dollars short and living “below the [federal] poverty line at around 85 percent of schools.”  Not having enough money around to order a pizza, fill up the car, or worse, make an emergency trip home leaves student-athletes even more susceptible than they already are to taking illicit benefits from boosters. Even if you question how an athlete living large on a pretty campus with food, room, and board can be living below the poverty line makes sense, the logic behind pocket cash is clearly a solid contention.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 08.12.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on August 12th, 2011

  1. On July 23, Preston Anderson, a former BYU student and current basketball player for Hartnell College in Salinas, California, jumped on his motorcycle at five o’clock in the morning and drove away from his apartment, his roommates assuming he was headed off to a morning workout. Until three days ago, Anderson’s whereabouts have remained a total mystery. He left his cell phone behind and has contacted none of his family or friends. A credit card transaction at a hotel in Corozal, Belize from August 4 — about which his family learned on Tuesday — is the only way any of them know he’s still alive. Hotel staff confirmed that the guest/cardholder was a 6’9” American, same as Anderson. Preston’s father Corey assumes his son is en route to South America, given the current travel vector. We don’t cover a lot of community college basketball around here, but this has sort of a Chris McCandless vibe about it, only more tropical. We hope it ends better, with more of a Ewan McGregor/Charley Boorman-esque resolution.
  2. In the title to his article yesterday, Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy describes the changes the NCAA wants to make to college athletics as “a mixed bag of genius and idiocy.” Contained within is a fine summary of the new provisions the NCAA wants to implement, not to mention a tasty little UCLA dig. Have to say, here…we’ve been fans of the idea of tougher punishments for a long time; currently, the risks of cheating just don’t sufficiently outweigh the possible benefits, and while no set of rules can eradicate all the rascals, cranking up punishments could at long last have presumptive rule-breakers wondering if it’s really worth it. [Ed. Note: 3 of 5 days of M5 goodness for MD this week! Don't think any writer has ever had that many in a M-F cycle. And MD and Luke Winn continue to battle for the all-time lead.]
  3. Can you believe that Facebook and Twitter now comprise 50% of recruiting interactions between recruiters and prospects? It is without question the best way for coaches to make contact with players nowadays, especially since the latter group seems reluctant to even pick up or open a ringing cell phone. Before you write that off to an alleged aloofness among high school recruits, first consider (as Pete Thamel of the New York Times did in his article from Tuesday) the case of Nerlens Noel, a top prospect who attends a prep school in New Hampshire. He has one hour of free time a day. You think he’s going to spend it all on his phone talking to coaches giving him their sales pitches? He says of Facebook: “It’s a great way to contact me.” He’s not alone.
  4. We hope that Chris Webber, Ray Jackson, and Juwan Howard are somewhere laying low and playing it cool right now, since the fates are evidently cracking down on the once-Fab Five. And by the fates, we mean the cops. Jalen Rose is halfway through a 20-day stretch in the pokey after pleading guilty to DUI, and now Jimmy King has been arrested and housed in the same facility (actually, we assume he’s out on bail by now) for failure to pay over $17,000 in child support. As if that wasn’t bad enough, King was arrested on his 38th birthday at a church after authorities saw his name on a basketball camp the church was holding. Whew.
  5. SI.com’s Luke Winn is back with another crop of sophomores likely up for big seasons as predicted by his Breakout Sophomore Formula. In addition to his usual clever and well-evidenced insights, two things in particular that we like about this offering from Winn are 1) the formula is designed to avoid insulting your intelligence by making obvious picks like, say, Jared Sullinger or Jeremy Lamb, and 2) Winn takes the time to examine how last year’s prognostications did. In doing so here, he also got in one of the great phrases we’ve seen in any sports article in some time: “libidinous malcontents.” You should already want to do so, but if that doesn’t make you want to click on the above link and check the article out for yourself, nothing will.
Share this story

NCAA Gets Change Out Of Kentucky, But Will It Go After The Rest?

Posted by jstevrtc on June 17th, 2011

On Thursday, the University of Kentucky issued a statement claiming that it was in error in celebrating John Calipari’s 500th win on February 26 after beating Florida, and that in future media guides and any published material it would depict Calipari’s career win total with the vacated wins from his time at Memphis and Massachusetts subtracted.

Behold, the Statistic In Dispute, From Kentucky's 2010-11 Factbook

Here’s what happened. At the beginning of the 2010-11 season, Kentucky considered Calipari to have logged 480 wins (vacated wins not removed), while the NCAA officially listed him with 438 (42 wins removed). The NCAA evidently considered it to be a slap in the face when Kentucky had its small post-game display to mark what UK considered Cal’s 500th win on February 26, as well as the fact that its media guides and website ignored the NCAA’s removal of the wins from Calipari’s record. It asked UK to change it and alert the media that the celebration of Calipari’s 500th was erroneous. Kentucky’s compliance office responded to the NCAA, but they were unmoved and sent another missive, again  pressing for the change. And the reason the NCAA knew about this and went down this road was…a tip from a fan of a rival program.

[Ed. Note: You can read the correspondence between the NCAA and Kentucky here. It's pretty interesting. And we're not sure how Lexington Herald-Leader sportswriter Jerry Tipton could ever comfortably show his face in Lexington again.]

This was the right move by Kentucky. It wouldn’t make any sense for the program to go out of its way to position itself on the NCAA’s bad side, and 42 wins is simply too small a prize to justify the continued poking of that bear. At some point John Calipari will move on and either coach somewhere else or retire. Kentucky won’t care how many wins John Calipari has then, but we guarantee the NCAA would remember it if Kentucky decided to openly defy them. As we all know, the NCAA is still judge, jury and executioner in this biz, and if anything should come up in the future, you’d rather they have a more favorable opinion of you. Kentucky noted the error, didn’t apologize — one really wasn’t warranted, though it sounds like that’s what the NCAA wanted — but promised to make the adjustment the NCAA asked for. And let’s be honest — if those are the rules everyone has to play by, then justice really was done here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Past Imperfect: When the Fab Five Changed the World

Posted by JWeill on March 11th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a series focusing on the history of the game. Each week, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBossEmail) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: Michigan’s revolutionary Fab Five.

We fear change. Change can be unannounced, even unwelcome. Or, sure, sometimes we may ask for it, beg for it, look to the heavens for it. But however it comes, when it actually does come, change straight freaks us out. Whether it’s something as small as a job change, as defining as a new child or as big as the first black president, change is maybe the most aggravating salvation there is. Because we curse and are disappointed by that which we once sought and rue the day we begged for what we now fear. So we then ask for change from our change.

In 1991, college basketball was ascendant. Fans were tuning into the annual tournament in record numbers, new modes of media were creating a whole new spectacle out of the Final Four and it was a age before the annual exodus of underclassmen to the pros. This meant that teams were both NBA talented and upperclassmen experienced, and the play on the floor showed that. The tournaments in the last half-decade of the 1980s seemed ever-increasingly better. It was a Golden Age for college hoops. No one was particularly asking for things to get shuffled around.

But you can’t always predict when things will change. And in the fall of 1991, change came to college basketball in the form of five supremely talented freshmen. In particular, five supremely talented freshmen came to the same place at the same time. And with them came change without ever being asked for. Or, rather, it snuck up on everyone. All Michigan coach Steve Fisher was looking for was a change in the fortunes of his basketball team. Two years removed from redefining “interim coach” by winning six straight games and the 1989 national title, Fisher’s team had struggled its way to a losing mark, lacking star power. Michigan needed players, so Fisher went out and got the five best he could get. They just so happened to also be five of the best in the whole country.

Chris Webber was the jewel of the golden ’91 Fab Five class.

Two of them were no brainers, local wunderkinds Fisher  – or whomever would have been the Michigan coach — had to lock in. Chris Webber was the nation’s best high school senior: the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game and a three-time Michigan state champion at Detroit Country Day. Webber was the biggest of the big-time. Michigan had to make sure he was heading to Michigan. There was nothing wrong with Webber; he was the kid everyone wanted. You don’t touch that kid’s game, you just turn him loose and watch.

Jalen Rose was also playing in Fisher’s backyard. Himself a Burger Boy All-American at Southwestern High in Detroit, Rose was as loquacious as Webber was brooding. Rose would be Fisher’s floor general, a tall Magic-like playmaker with moxie coming out his ears. Rose had bloodlines, too, being the kid of Jimmy Walker, a former #1 pick. But Rose didn’t know his father, and besides, Rose wasn’t going to be just someone’s kid. He wouldn’t play in anyone’s shadow, and he wasn’t going to change for anyone. No, you’ll be the one to adapt to him. He was the kind of kid who’d tell you that straight up. Proof? When he was being recruited by Temple he asked John Chaney to change the time of Chaney’s notorious 5 a.m. practices. Chaney, unsurprisingly, said no. Rose ended up at Michigan.

But recruiting kids in your neighborhood, even the ones everyone else is recruiting, is one thing. Going into other people’s territory and landing big fish is a real task. And diving into Chicago to nab the best player there, too? Well, that was quite a feat indeed. But that’s what Fisher and his staff did when they got Juwan Howard, a 6’9” beast with quick feet, soft hands and a sharp mind. Howard was everyone’s top target, particularly Illinois, who had grabbed four of the last five Chicago Players of the Year. But Howard had other plans. His main rival, the one he measured himself against, was now Illinois’ star freshman Deon Thomas, a year older than Howard. Going head-to-head with Thomas twice a year was how Howard would show everyone that he was the best player to come out of Chicago in years, not Thomas. Howard was going to change the way people thought about him. And he was going to do that at Michigan.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Past Imperfect: The Long Road To Humility

Posted by JWeill on January 27th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a new series focusing on the history of the game. Every Thursday, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBoss) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape.  This week: in a week BYU and San Diego State meet for a top 10 matchup, a look at two key figures in each school’s basketball history.

It’s June 1991, and Steve Fisher is in a good mood, a really good mood. It may seem odd, given he’s just emerged from coaching Michigan to a 14-15 record, his first losing season in his brief stint as a head coach. To add to it, he’s just graduated his leading scorer and captain. And yet, here is Fisher, serene and smiling in his bespectacled, professorial way. If it looks as if he knows something the rest of us don’t, that’s because he does.

What Fisher knows is that he’s just signed the best freshman class in school history – maybe in NCAA history. Combined, Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King will go on to win 97 games for the Wolverines, coming within reach of back-to-back national titles. It’s also a crew that will have most of its wins expunged. But Fisher doesn’t know any of that yet. All he knows right now is that after a trying season, the cavalry is coming in baggy shorts and tall black socks, a group of young men who will change college basketball and the coach who brought them together. Forever.

* * *

It’s July 1991, and a 7-foot-6 Mormon basketball player – one of the tallest men on the planet, probably the world’s tallest Mormon — is giving up the game that is going to make him a millionaire someday. Well, maybe not exactly giving up, because what Shawn Bradley is really doing is taking a break to spread the word of God. For two years.

That he’s just finished an All-American freshman season in which he set an all-time record for blocks in a game is immaterial right now. The game-changing giant is heading to Australia to take a break, not knowing if he’ll ever play the game he’s loved his whole life again. It will be a confusing, often frustrating time, but one that will change him. Forever.

* * *

In many ways, Fisher is an unlikely spark for the basketball revolution that’s coming. A former high school coach in Park Forest, Ill., Fisher was on the slow track. For 10 years an assistant coach, Fisher was never the lead guy. Like all college assistants, he was the brains and hard work behind the scenes. He went on recruiting trips, sure, but the glory, and of course the headaches, ultimately went to the man in the seat beside him.

Interim coach Steve Fisher led Michigan to the 1989 championship.

Then came March 1989, and the man in the seat beside him, Bill Frieder, was fired for taking another job before Michigan’s season has come to an end. The NCAA tournament is one day away and now Fisher is the one responsible for wins or losses. Of course he is nervous. So what does the accidental head coach go out and do? He wins the whole damn thing. In a matter of three weeks, there’s more glory than Steve Fisher ever imagined, and all after just six games. It’s a story too remarkable to be believable, but believable because it is true. Six games and Fisher had just reached the pinnacle of the job he’d only just joined by accident. Six games and a mountain of glory you can only tumble down from.

Because what can Steve Fisher do to follow up six-and-oh my God?

* * *

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 11.22.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 22nd, 2010

  1. It looks like this whole Bruce Pearl ordeal just got a whole lot more interesting as the SEC suspended the Tennessee coach for the first eight games of SEC play. The suspension means that Pearl will not be able to coach the Volunteers in their SEC games between January 8th and February 5th nor will he be able to coach them during practices in the hours preceding/following those games BUT (emphasis intended) he will be able to coach against UConn and Jim Calhoun, someone in a bit of hot water with the NCAA, on January 22nd, and against Kentucky and John Calipari, someone who always appears to be at the edge of the hot water with the NCAA, on February 8th. Pearl still has to go in front of the NCAA infractions committee in early February. Some pundits are calling for Pearl’s head (figuratively, we think), but Pearl himself does not think it will be such a big deal.
  2. The other piece of big news over the weekend was the NCAA clearing Josh Selby to play for Kansas this season. They suspended Selby nine games, of which he has already missed three, for receiving $5,757.58 (or $4,607.58 if you believe Kansas) in impermissible benefits. Of course, some Kentucky fans are up in arms about Enes Kanter being ruled permanently ineligible for taking $33,033 (technically a little over 51 games worth if it was matched to Selby’s suspension) from his Turkish club, but it appears that the NCAA is differentiating between taking money on the side and being a professional.
  3. There’s some important injury news to get to, as two teams were hit hard this weekend. NC State will be without the services of Tracy Smith, who led the team in scoring (16.5 PPG) and rebounding (7.5 RPG) last season, for three weeks after he had to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Friday. Smith’s absence will only put more pressure on beleaguered head coach Sidney Lowe (can that be his new title: “beleaguered head coach?”). Meanwhile, a few hundred miles up the Atlantic coast, new coach Kevin Willard will have to search for more scoring from his Seton Hall team as gunner extraordinaire Jeremy Hazell will be out for 4-6 weeks with broken bone in his left wrist.
  4. Over the weekend, Michigan brought back three-fifths of the Fab 5, which according to the NCAA never existed, to Crisler Arena. Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson were all on hand for the Wolverines’ rout of Gardner-Webb. Juwan Howard was not available as he is currently “playing” for the Miami Heat (8.3 minutes per game in four appearances this year). Chris Webber…well, according to the NCAA, Chris Webber never attended the University of Michigan. At least not for a few more years.
  5. Coming into the season we knew that UNC freshman Harrison Barnes would face unrealistic expectations. Now, we didn’t expect him to go 0-for-12 as he did against Minnesota on Friday, but our expectations were significantly lower that his hometown paper (see the headline).
Share this story

The RTC Interview Series: One On One With Lefty Driesell

Posted by nvr1983 on October 14th, 2010

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the year. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Few college coaches have had careers with as much success at as many different venues as Charles “Lefty” Driesell. After playing at Duke under Harold Bradley, he coached a few years of high school basketball in Virginia finishing with a 57-game winning streak at Newport News High School before accepting a head coaching position at Davidson where he coached for nine seasons compiling a 176-75 record leading the Wildcats from the bottom of the Southern Conference to the Elite Eight in back-to-back seasons (yes there was basketball at Davidson before Stephen Curry). Following the 1969 season, Driesell moved to Maryland, which is where most basketball fans associate him with. After a rough start his first two years in College Park where his teams went a combined 27-25 (10-18 in the ACC), Driesell quickly turned things around making it to the NCAA Elite Eight twice more and winning the NIT in a span of four seasons at a time when only the ACC Tournament champion was awarded a bid to the NCAA Tournament.  This hit the Terrapins especially hard in 1974 when they were a top five team who lost what many consider to be one of the greatest college games of all-time, a 103-100 loss in overtime to David Thompson and eventual national champion North Carolina State. It was just prior to the start of that run in 1971 that Driesell instituted what would come to be viewed as the predecessor of Midnight Madness when he gathered his team a few minutes after midnight on the first day of practice for a training run around the track. In the subsequent 39 years, the tradition has transformed from a humble event into a media spectacle. Following that four-year run, Driesell’s most notable success came in the mid-1980s when the Terrapins re-emerged in the national consciousness with the play of Len Bias and his subsequent passing just after he was drafted by the Boston Celtics. After leaving Maryland in the wake of the Bias scandal, Driesell was away from the sidelines for two years before returning to coach at James Madison and later Georgia State, making the NCAA Tournament three more times including a 2001 win at GSU over Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. For his contributions to the game, Driesell was inducted into the University of Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002 and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008. Earlier this week we caught up with him to discuss the origins of Midnight Madness and other issues relating to the current state of college basketball.

Driesell Helped Build Progams at Four Schools

RTC: You started “Midnight Madness” in 1971 based on a 1.5 mile run, which it seems like you continued all the way through your Georgia State days. Could you talk a little bit about your motivation for coming up with the idea and what your thoughts are on what it has become today?

LD: My thought at the time was to make sure that the guys, when practice started on October the 15th [were ready]. We didn’t have all this conditioning and weightlifting like they have now. Until October the 15th you couldn’t have anything to do with the players. Right now they start conditioning with four hours per week for team practice or something. You know what I’m saying. Back then you couldn’t do anything until October the 15th. You couldn’t hold meetings. You couldn’t lift weights with them. You couldn’t run or condition them. It was a way for me to encourage them to get in shape for October the 15th when practice started. I always ran them a mile on October the 15th. That kind of messed up my practice on that day. So George Raveling and I were talking and we said why don’t we just run the mile at 12:01 and then we can practice at 3 o’clock that afternoon. So that’s what we did for the first year. You know we had cars on the track with lights on so nobody would cut the course, but I heard that [Len] Elmore did. So I don’t know if we did that one year or two years, but Mo Howard said, “Hey Coach. Why don’t we just have a scrimmage at midnight next year?” because they wanted to get out of the running. So I said, “Yeah. Alright we can do that.” So we did the next year. We had a scrimmage and had seven or eight thousand kids. . . In fact we had a lot of kids watching us run that night [in 1971]. It was like my second year at Maryland. We were going to have a good team. We had [Tom] McMillen and Elmore coming up as sophomores. We had our undefeated freshman team the year before so everybody was excited. We had a lot of people just watching us run that first year so Mo said “Let’s have a scrimmage at midnight next year” so we did and we had about ten thousand people show up and from then on we filled it up. So that was kind of the way we got it started. It let us get a jump on everybody. I told them we’re going to practice before anybody else in the country and we’re going to be playing on the last day in the NCAA Finals. You know just a little motivational thing.

From the Oct 16, 1971 edition of The Virgin Islands Daily News

RTC: Could you talk a little bit about its evolution and what it has become now? It’s on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, all of the ESPNs, and a lot of other channels. What are your thoughts on that?

LD: I think it’s great. It has helped promote basketball. It gets the students and the fans thinking basketball in the middle of football and baseball and everything. I think it’s great. The only thing that I don’t like is that they let them have it at 5 o’clock in the afternoon instead of midnight. I think midnight created more interest because kids like to stay up late. I think one of the best teams I ever had was at James Madison and we played a game at midnight. I see that a couple teams play games at midnight this year. I think that’s great because college kids like to stay up late when they should be in bed. At least they are better off at a basketball game than somewhere else. I wish it was still at midnight. A lot of people call it “Basketball Madness,” but it really is “Midnight Madness.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Revisiting Mark Emmert’s Baseball Model Quote

Posted by rtmsf on August 23rd, 2010

Last week we wrote a piece outlining the reasons behind our opinion that NCAA President-Elect Mark Emmert had made a mistake in publicly supporting the MLB model of amateur player draft eligibility.  Emmert stated on a local radio show in Seattle that he believes that the NCAA should work with the NBA to enact a model mimicking baseball whereby high school players could choose to go pro immediately after their senior year, but those who went to college would have to remain there for three years.  As we clearly stated at the time, all of this discussion from the perspective of the NCAA is merely for the sake of argument because the NBA is going to do what the NBA thinks is best for itself, and if that means requiring one, two or fifteen years of “experience” out of high school before player entry, so be it.  The NCAA is virtually powerless in this regard.

Emmert's Top Job is to Protect This Brand

Nevertheless, taking the position that it is the mandate and duty of the NCAA President to act in the best interests of his organization, we outlined a number of reasons why Emmert is mistaken with the baseball solution.  Without delving into all of them again, the basic gist is that NCAA basketball needs marketable stars to support and enhance its product, recruiting will become even more difficult than it already is for coaches and schools, and players need the extra time to develop their games because so very few are actually ready to perform at a professional level immediately out of high school.   Response to this piece has been mixed.  Eamonn Brennan at ESPN.com seemed to understand the point we were making about Emmert and his role, but he expanded it to a more philosophical argument about whether forcing prospective NBAers into NCAA apprenticeships is “right.”   

Rush The Court is right to say that’s not in the best interest of college basketball fans, or coaches, or universities, all of whom benefit from the compulsory one-year apprenticeship currently being served by even the game’s most League-worthy talent. It’d be much better if all players had to stay for three years; we’d get John Wall for two more years! Awesome! Where do I sign? But that’s wrong. John Wall should be free to pursue his NBA career. He should have been free before he ever stepped foot on Kentucky’s campus. College, as they say, isn’t for everybody. In proposing a baseball-esque system for college hoops, Dr. Emmert did two things, both of them inadvertent: He made an argument against the well-being of college basketball, and for the professional freedom of college basketball’s prospective athletes. What it comes down to is: Which is more important?

We’ll answer.  From the perspective of Dr. Emmert as (soon-to-be) President of the NCAA and Supreme Chief Protector of the Game, the overall interests of the sport and its continued success trump the “right to work” component of a handful of high school basketball players each year.  His new job is to advocate for the NCAA as an entity, carefully weighing options to ultimately move the enterprise forward.  Since 96% of the NCAA’s operating budget comes from the NCAA Tournament (media rights + revenue), he needs to remember where his bread is buttered.  If he pushes for a baseball model that ultimately makes college basketball less interesting to casual fans and, therefore, the media, he’s not successfully performing his job.  This is a classic example of where academic arguments about what is right/wrong fail to properly mix with advocacy, and once again gives us pause about Emmert’s ivory tower worldview.

Webber Was Right: Elite College Athletes are Exploited

All that said, and as Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue expands upon, we certainly agree that the entire house of cards is exploitative from the player perspective.  Mitch Albom’s book Fab Five (People You Meet in Heaven) recounts a much-repeated incident where Michigan star Chris Webber found himself without enough money at the mall one day to purchase food.  As he walked by a sporting goods store and saw his own #4 UM jersey hanging in the window for sale, he became frustrated by the fact that seemingly everyone (Michigan, Steve Fisher, NCAA, Nike, etc.) other than himself was earning money as a result of his prodigious talents.  This anecdote seems humorous now in light of later findings that Webber took hundreds of thousands of dollars from agent Ed Martin during those years, but the story illustrates how one-sided the system remains, even nearly twenty years later.  Elite players are still generally no more than serfs for the one or two years they’re under the auspices of the NCAA (three years for football), contributing mightily to the billions of dollars of revenue they’re enabling while seeing very little in return.  This is unlikely to change. 

The larger point we’re trying to make here with respect to President-Elect Emmert is that it is not his job to suddenly make NCAA sports just, equitable and fair to the players whose talents are being exploited.  He will not be called upon to advocate for the Chris Webbers of the world because the Chris Webbers of the world didn’t put him in that position – rather, the college presidents did.  Therfore, his duty, much like the CEO of a major company, will be to protect the organization’s assets and push the enterprise forward so that in 2020, the NCAA can ask for two or three times as many billions of dollars in media licensing fees.  We’ve explained to him how he should go about getting there (hint: making things more like college baseball isn’t the answer); it’s up to him to decide whether to listen. 

Share this story