ACC M5: 10.24.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on October 24th, 2012

  1. USA Today:  Miami Heat forward and former Duke star Shane Battier, recently offered some very high praise for his teammate, LeBron James. Battier said, “LeBron could have played at Duke, and I don’t say that about a lot of guys.” What Battier means is that few NBA players, particularly those of James’ caliber, would have been mentally tough enough to play for Coach K. Even though LeBron would likely have played at Ohio State if the one-and-done rule had been in effect when he was entering the professional ranks, it certainly can’t hurt Duke that one of its all-time greats is considering the game’s best player an honorary Blue Devil.  Additionally, James and Krzyzewski have enjoyed a great relationship during Coach K’s seven-year stint as the head coach of Team USA.
  2. Washington Post:  Despite Virginia Tech only having eight scholarship players this season, first year-head coach James Johnson is still intent on running an up-tempo offense. This would be a massive change from the Seth Greenberg era, when Virginia Tech regularly played one of the slowest paces in the ACC (aside from Tony Bennett’s glacial Virginia squads). During the team’s opening scrimmage, a larger percentage of the offense came in transition than from half-court sets. While it may be difficult for Virginia Tech to have success with this style in this season, Johnson wants to make this a long-term staple of his system. With some success this year, this could become a great recruiting tool up in Blacksburg.
  3. ESPN:  From the world of the bizarre: While on their overseas trip to Paris this offseason, most of Virginia’s basketball team managed to get trapped in a hotel elevator. In something that seems ripped from a bad movie or a claustrophobic person’s worst nightmare, head coach Tony Bennett narrates a video that describes this ordeal. It appears as though the players didn’t realize that the elevator capacity needed to be taken seriously, while also failing to adjust for the fact that basketball players are generally quite a bit larger than the average human. At the very least, it should have been a bonding experience for the team.
  4. Raleigh N&O:  The saga involving Tyler Hansbrough’s mother, Tami, continues. The university’s audit of Hansbrough (the former gifts officer) and her boyfriend and former boss, Matt Kupec, who was the head of UNC’s fundraising department before his resignation, has been completed. North Carolina determined that Kupec misspent $17,000 on a total of 13 trips under investigation, with much of it used on trips that he took with Hansbrough. Some of these trips were to go see the Tyler’s younger brother, Ben, play at Notre Dame, and several involved the use of UNC Medical Air planes. Kupec could potentially face criminal charges for his misconduct, and this scandal was just one of many likely responsible for UNC chancellor Holden Thorp’s recent resignation.
  5. Sports Illustrated: SI ran an interesting piece about the most influential college basketball teams of all-time.  Following the usual suspects (Texas Western in 1966, and the 1979 Michigan State and Indiana State teams led by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, respectively), only one ACC team made the cut:  the 1974 NC State national champions. This team, led by David Thompson — the player who introduced otherworldly athleticism to college basketball — Tommy Burleson, and Monte Towe, broke UCLA’s streak at the time of seven straight national titles. NC State hopes to rekindle some of its past glory with this year’s squad.  Even if they can make a run, they will obviously not hold a candle to the unbelievable team that brought the Wolfpack its first national title.
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Lance Thomas Reaches a Settlement Deal: Is the NCAA Rendered Powerless In Its Investigation?

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 19th, 2012

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

The chances that former Duke forward Lance Thomas did not commit some kind of NCAA violation when he purchased $98,700 worth of jewelry on a December road trip to New York City during his senior season are, shall we say, doubtful. Thomas, a starting role player on the Blue Devils’ eventual National Championship-winning team in 2009-10, walked into world-renowned jeweler Rafaello & Co., dropped a $30,000 down payment on a host of diamonds and other trinkets, then promised to pay the remaining $67,800 within the next 15 days. His spending spree – the specifics of which were released last week when word leaked of the firm’s lawsuit against Thomas – raised many eyebrows. It is not every day that student-athletes – from the most well-off to those struggling to stay afloat on hefty financial aid packages/scholarships – walk into celebrity-hotspot jewelers and splash nearly $100,000 on buckets of iced-out swag; not without drawing the analytical glare of NCAA staffers, not without an explanation as to how or where the money came from, nor whether any third parties were involved in the transaction. Given the bare facts, it was hard not to come away thinking Rafaello & Co would entrust someone like Thomas with such for any other reason than an assumed stipulation of future NBA riches and the subsequent jewelry spending they prefigure. Thomas never made good on his promise, and so Rafaello & Co., after waiting more than two years for him to repay the loan, demanded he break even on his credit. On Tuesday, the Raleigh News and Observer reported that the two parties had reached a settlement on the matter.

If neither Thomas nor Rafaello & Co. come clean with specifics, the NCAA may be impotent in pursuing the case (Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images).

Now that Thomas’ outstanding debt has been settled, there are legitimate concerns that NCAA investigators will have no grounds on which to pursue information regarding the former Duke player’s involvement in this transaction. The NCAA cannot compel members outside its jurisdiction to cooperate, meaning neither Thomas nor Rafaello & Co. can be forced to speak with the organization about his purchase. There’s one caveat. A conversation between ESPN.com’s Andy Katz and Indianapolis attorney Stu Brown, a legal specialist focusing on NCAA cases, shed some light on the NCAA’s procedural wherewithal.  The terms of the settlement – which may or may not ever become public – may permit Thomas or Rafaello & Co. to speak with NCAA investigators, but if the legal ramifications mandate either or both to keep quiet on the specifics of their transaction, the NCAA will likely have no substantial recourse to find clarity in what on its face appears to be a blatant violation of amateurism. From Katz’s story:

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Morning Five: 09.18.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 18th, 2012

  1. The NCAA eligibility train rolls on, and NC State’s Mark Gottfried was Monday’s recipient of the excellent news that superstar freshman Rodney Purvis is eligible to suit up in a Wolfpack uniform next season. The issue in Purvis’ case revolved around the legitimacy of his high school — Upper Room Christian Academy, in Raleigh, whose first-ever class to graduate included Purvis — but during an 80-minute deliberation on Monday, an NCAA core course subcommittee saw enough evidence that the big guard is adequately prepared for the rigors of a college education and made the right decision to let him play. We’ll have more on this later today, but the early buzz is that this makes NC State the favorite to win the ACC for the first time in… how long?
  2. Speaking of getting a college education, UNC chancellor Holden Thorp announced on Monday that this academic year would be his last at the university in that position. Even though the academic scandal that has rocked the university in recent months most likely started prior to his tenure as chancellor of the school in 2008, the most recent black eye involving fundraising director Matt Kupec and Tyler Hansbrough’s mother, Tami, taking personal trips on the university dime, happened on his watch. One member of the Board of Governors said that Thorp, as “captain of the ship” at UNC, had become “the face of damage control” and lauded him for sacrificing himself for the good of the school. It doesn’t take an insider to see the writing on the wall that more changes are likely to come in Chapel Hill as additional details about the academic scandal are revealed by the upcoming Martin Report, due to release next month.
  3. Everybody is well aware of the near-mutiny that occurred in Lubbock earlier this month at Texas Tech (side note: Billy Gillispie has been ordered by his doctors to avoid stress for the next 30 days), but what is going on on the other side of the state at Rice? Ben Braun’s team lost four transfers over the summer and followed that up by losing two more players in just the past week — notably, Omar Oraby (USC), and most importantly, Owls star Arsalan Kazemi. The 6’7″ senior who averaged 12/10 last season en route to all-CUSA honors, was roommates with Oraby and no doubt must have missed their nightly games on the PlayStation. Jeff Goodman reported Monday that Kazemi is looking at six schools including Texas, Oregon, Cincinnati, Florida, Ohio State and Kentucky. He will have to sit out the mandated transfer year per NCAA rules, but the talented Iranian would provide a very nice one-year punch to any of those schools in 2013-14.
  4. Louisville may have found its replacement for preseason All-American Peyton Siva in 2013-14 and perhaps beyond, as 5’11” waterbug Chris Jones committed to the Cardinals out of the junior college ranks on Monday. The rising sophomore, originally from Memphis, averaged 18/5/4 APG in leading his Northwest Florida State team to a 26-1 record and an appearance in the NJCAA Division I championship game last year. According to Jones, Rick Pitino does not want the reins of his offense in a freshman point guard’s hands, so if things work out properly he’ll have upperclassman leadership at that position for the next three seasons.
  5. Speaking of Pitino and in light of Jim Calhoun’s recent retirement, CBSSports.com‘s Matt Norlander took a look at the 11 current college basketball coaches with at least one national title and handicapped each one’s probable date of retirement. Be sure to take a look at his entire list, but he’s got more than half of those guys — six, to be exact — retiring within the next four years. The exercise here is one that depends on so many different and volatile factors (health, family, motivation, recruiting, etc.), but it says here that Pitino won’t hang up the whistle until he gets that elusive and self-validating second championship, while Krzyzewski is only likely to do so after he wins his fifth. Time will tell.
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Will Lance Thomas’ Jewelery Purchases Endanger Duke’s 2010 National Championship?

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 10th, 2012

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

The following names are listed as “clients” on the website of Rafaello & Co. Jewelers: Drake, Jay-Z, T-Pain, Lil Wayne, Rihanna, Justin Bieber. I’m barely scratching the surface of the illustrious canon of entertainment superstars and hip-hop moguls associated with the famous New York jeweler, but you get the point. This is not your average knock-off thrift shop. You don’t walk into Rafaello & Co. unless you have some serious cash to splash. So it’s not at all surprising that Lance Thomas, a starting forward on Duke’s 2010 National Championship team and a current member of the New Orleans Hornets, needed nearly $100,000 to purchase a black diamond necklace, a diamond-encrusted watch, a pair of diamond-stud earrings, a diamond cross and a black diamond pendant in the shape of Jesus’ head. No, what’s surprising is how Thomas was able to pony up $30,000 just two days after Duke defeated then-No. 15 Gonzaga at Madison Square Garden, in the midst of the Blue Devils’ title-winning season. And how Thomas was extended a nearly $70,000 loan to complete the glamorous spending spree. Even more puzzling is the fact that Thomas was expected to repay the loan within 15 days, and that Rafaello & Co. waited over two years to file a suit against him demanding he break even on the very credit he sought when he made purchase.

The NCAA will likely investigate Thomas’ involvement in a potential improper benefits scandal, endangering Duke’s 2010 National Championship (Photo credit: AP Photo).

There’s plenty to be resolved here, and it’s far too early to draw conclusions. But unless Thomas somehow managed to accumulate $30,000 (and was expected to raise nearly $70,000 on top of that within the next 15 days) while undergoing one of the more rigorous academic curricula in the nation and, mind you, the added time spent practicing, lifting, studying film and playing basketball at Duke, this situation has the looks of a hanging curve ball, slowly arching its way into the heart of the strike zone, awaiting its bludgeoning from the NCAA’s sanction-laced Louisville Slugger. If college athletics’ ruling body is determined to achieve one mission with its quirky and vaguely byzantine rulebook, it is to sustain the notion of amateurism. Student-athletes are not to use their extra-curricular activities as leverage to obtain financial benefits or other gifts unavailable to non-athletes. Which means Thomas must have received no outside assistance in making a five-figure lump-sum payment at a world-renowned jeweler. He had to have made the money himself. Nor could he have used his status as “Duke forward” to persuade the jeweler into giving him the loan. That’s the baseline assumption we’re making for his innocence. However, if an outside source provided aid when Thomas completed his transaction nearly three years ago, things could get ugly for one of college basketball’s marquee programs and the patron saint that bosses its sidelines.

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ACC Weekly Five: 08.14.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on August 14th, 2012

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: NC State finished up its preseason trip to Spain with a 15-point win over CB Gran Canaria. The win means the Wolfpack head home undefeated. While Rodney Purvis couldn’t play as the NCAA reviews his eligibility, Lorenzo Brown was back from knee surgery sooner than expected and in time for all four games. CJ Leslie led all scorers with 19 in the final game and incoming freshman point guard Tyler Lewis finished with 14 points and eight assists. Probably more in response to the high expectations for this team, Mark Gottfried noted: “There were positive things even though we know we have a long way to go.”
  2. VirginiaSports.com: Speaking of preseason trips to Europe, Tony Bennett‘s squad is getting a head start too. The Cavaliers lost a heartbreaker with controversy to boot. Apparently, the scorekeeper gave AMW Team France an extra basket in the middle of a run that would eventually tie the game. To put things politely, Bennett wasn’t amused by the gaffe:

    “I understand when you come here, you’re going to get some questionable officiating — I can handle that — but what I don’t appreciate is when they take two points away from us. Two points in a game like that, that changes the whole game, and that’s frustrating, because we were there for the win, and that’s just not the way you do it. I don’t care if you’re international or in the States, you gotta keep the right score. But it’s a mistake, it was done, and I just want our guys to understand what the blueprint is for us to play competitive basketball.”

    Virginia went on to lose by four after a late run by AMW Team France.

  3. Associated Press: Important news out of Clemson this week. Tigers athletic director Terry Don Phillips announced he plans to retire next summer to enjoy more time with his wife. Phillips played an integral role in upgrading Clemson’s facilities and spearheaded the hiring of Brad Brownell (along with football coach Dabo Swinney). Keep an eye on names that pop up during the search process, as athletic directors are more important than most give them credit for — especially when it comes to rebuilding (or building in this case) programs like Brownell is trying to do.
  4. CBSSports.comCBS Sports drew some heat (along with plenty of page views) for its recent series “Critical Coaches” where they polled nearly 100 coaches on topics  like “Who is the most overrated coach in the country?” The answer? Roy Williams. Yep, the guy with two national titles in the last decade, to go with more conference championships than you can count with two hands between his time at Kansas and North Carolina. Jim Young of ACC Sports Journal has a thoughtful interpretation of the argument.
  5. ESPN.com: Surprising no one, Coach K added another gold medal to his resume as Team USA took down Spain and the Gasol brothers in the Olympics last week. Krzyzewski announced this would be his final Olympics, leaving his Team USA record an astounding 62-1. Unfortunately his dry humor didn’t translate as well to the international game as his coaching abilities, as a media member apparently thought Krzyzewski was serious when he stays out till 6 AM, “drunk as a skunk” because Team USA doesn’t really need much coaching.

EXTRA: In weirder news, North Carolina forgot to scrub former two-sport star Julius Peppers’ transcript and made it visible to the public. Needless to say NC State fans on PackPride.com found the transcript and went to work researching to confirm it was a real transcript. It’s hard to tell exactly what the repercussions of this will be, but suffice to say North Carolina’s academic issues may go back much further than previously thought.

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Morning Five: 08.14.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 14th, 2012

  1. After making numerous people mad over the weekend with its ‘top perceived cheater’ query of a sample of the nation’s college basketball coaches, CBSSports.com kept the hits coming on Monday with its follow-up question asking those same coaches whether everyone’s favorite Team USA head honcho, Mike Krzyzewski, has “earned a recruiting advantage” by virtue of his association with the star-studded Olympic squad. Note for the record that the group of writers did not ask if Coach K has a perceived recruiting advantage here — nope, they wanted to know if this is an actual, real-deal, verified by Visa advantage. Accordingly, 71 percent of the respondents affirmed that there is a definite recruiting advantage as a result of Coach K’s association with the Olympic team. On its face, in terms of name recognition and marketing/branding of the Coach K/Duke product with the best basketball players on the planet, the answer should have been 100% — this part is without question. But in terms of actual production on the recruiting trail, Coach K’s last top-rated class (as calculated by RSCI) was in 2002 (Shelden Williams, JJ Redick); prior to that it was in 1999 (Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer); and before that in 1997 (Shane Battier, Elton Brand, William Avery, Chris Burgess). Since 2006, the first full recruiting year after Krzyewski took over for Team USA, his recruiting classes have been good to great (#3, #3, #11, #8, #9, #2, #10), but none have matched the pinnacle that the Duke head coach was regularly signing a little over a decade ago. So, does Team USA give Krzyzewski an actual recruiting advantage? The intuitive answer is assuredly yes, but the counter-intuitive one — that it makes no difference, or egads, could be a bit of a detriment — certainly has evidence supporting it as well.
  2. The Big East may be on shaky legs as a BCS league these days, but its announcement of its engagement with Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures, a sports media business that most recently negotiated a $3 billion multi-platform deal for the Pac-12, shows that the league doesn’t see it that way. Starting on September 1, the conference will retain an exclusive 60-day negotiating window with ESPN, and after that, it can field offers from other networks. Clearly the league believes that its new and unprecedented bi-coastal setup will be valuable to somebody — they’re already touting the fact that the new conference footprint resides in 13 of the 50 largest television markets holding a population base of 32 million people (reportedly twice that of any other league). Of course, there’s no mention made of penetration into those markets (does anyone in Orlando really care about UCF?), or if anyone will care to watch a San Diego State – Rutgers game, but that’s why the expensive firm was brought in — to deflect those questions. One thing is certain: The bubble of collegiate sports properties is still blowing up, so don’t be surprised if a few months from now we’re all sitting around scratching our heads wondering how the Big East is worth more than the ACC.
  3. The UNC football academic scandal appears to have finally crossed over to the basketball program, at least tangentially. Former two-sport star Julius Peppers‘ academic transcript was (mistakenly?) published on the school’s website Sunday night, where some enterprising NC State fans found it and passed it around like wildfire on the Internet. The transcript is no longer on the site, but assuming it is a legitimate document, it appears that Peppers would not have been eligible to play football or basketball during much of the three academic years when he suited up at UNC. Many of the courses that made him eligible were in the now-infamous African-American Studies major which has been the focus of NCAA investigators. The question that is on everyone’s minds — and frankly it has not yet been satisfactorily answered — is whether the holy grail of Tar Heel basketball was substantially involved in these academic shenanigans (apparently dating back over a decade), and if UNC’s obstinance in thoroughly (and publicly) reviewing this problem represents willful obstruction to protect the program or something much less sinister. Whatever the case, if Peppers turns out to have been an academically ineligible player from 1999-2002, would that mean UNC’s 2000 Final Four (of which Peppers was a key contributor) would be vacated? We’re certain that NC State and Duke fans in the Triangle will stop at nothing to make that happen.
  4. With more schools taking international trips during the summer to build team cohesiveness combined with the ubiquity of worldwide media access and coverage, we should expect to hear increasingly more bizarre stories like the one involving Missouri in The Netherlands over the weekend. According to a school release, during the third quarter of a physical game against the Dutch National Team on Saturday, Frank Haith was ejected for arguing with a referee on what he perceived to be a no-call elbow to the head of freshman Stefan Jankovic. Fearful “for the safety of his players,” and perhaps overreacting a bit, Haith decided to pull his team off the court and call the game over at that point. The Dutch head coach was diplomatic in his response, stating that he “understood” why Haith stopped the game because his technical foul “so suddenly came out of the blue” during game action. As a new league entrant to the SEC next season, we hope that Haith realizes that he’s unlikely to get a single favorable call from January to March 2013 — so he’d probably do well to get used to it.
  5. Jumping to news that will please Missouri fans a little more, Bill Self’s Kansas team just finished its European exhibition tour and to say it went poorly might be putting it a bit too mildly. The Jayhawks finished the trip by losing its last two games to a French professional team, but the second game was interesting in that Self chose to “rest” his upperclassmen for the game’s entirety. This gave his remaining extremely young group of players, led by Perry Ellis’ 16/12, to take center stage, but we also wonder if Self wasn’t using the opportunity to send his veterans — Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, and Travis Releford — a clear message that he expects more from them in this, their senior, seasons. As he states in the linked interview, he was willing to live with the second short-handed loss, but he felt that the first loss was “inexcusable” and that his team is “not any good right now.” If we know anything about Self, he’s probably right; but he’s also without a doubt going to have the Jayhawks whipped into shape by January so that they’ll be right at the top of the Big 12 standings once again.
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Morning Five: 08.13.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 13th, 2012

  1. The buzz throughout the sport over the weekend was directly attributable to the Friday release of the latest in CBSSports.com‘s Critical Coaches series, this time squarely taking aim at the perception of the coaches responsible for the most wrongdoing within the game. In other words, who is perceived as the biggest cheater(s) in college basketball? The results at the top — Kentucky’s John Calipari (36%) and Baylor’s Scott Drew (34%) — are completely unsurprising in that fan perception in this regard probably isn’t markedly different than those of the coaches, but in reality you probably could have simply switched out the question with “Who is the best recruiter in the game today?” and gotten the same result. Proxies notwithstanding, the guys at CBS asked the question they did for a reason, and they’ve spent the intervening three days getting blasted by media and fans alike. A sampling: Mike DeCourcy lays into the coaches for answering the question in the first place (“disgraceful… tacky…”); Kentucky Sports Radio summarizes it succinctly as such, “Haters Gonna Hate”; BaylorFans.com commenter JXL sarcastically notes “if a school was bad and then becomes good, they are by definition cheating“; UCLA’s Bruins Nation calls the poll “ridiculous and insulting” for it’s choice of Ben Howland as the third-worst offender (12%). We could go on with this, but we’ll stop right there. The perception is the perception because once narratives are constructed in the public consciousness, they’re awfully difficult to change; while on the flip side, fans will defend their guy regardless of what comes out against them. Assuming they’re winning, of course — they have to keep winning.
  2. In much more uplifting news over the weekend, Team USA’s men’s basketball team won its second straight gold medal on Sunday by defeating a pesky Spanish team by the final score of 107-100. This team, led by the gleaming supernovas of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant , Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant, wasn’t as dominant as their Dream Team forebears two decades ago, but they were equally instrumental in rebuilding the American basketball brand after the colossal disappointment at the Athens Games in 2004. The other name that deserves as much credit as anyone in restoring USA basketball to the top over the last seven years since he came on board is someone who did not even receive a medal: head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K announced prior to the game against Spain that the gold medal match would be his last game as Team USA’s coach, and that proclamation perhaps inspired the 65-year old to jump for joy as the Americans wrapped up the championship in the waning moments yesterday. It’s back to Durham full-time for the Duke head coach as he tries to finish off a superlative career with a fifth national title, but as usual, he performed his job impeccably during his tenure as the man in charge. Thank you for helping to restore American pride in basketball, Coach K.
  3. It’s hard to believe now, but when Krzyzewski took the Team USA job in 2005, more than a few commentators who cover the sport thought that K might be making a mistake with respect to his Blue Devils. The theory then was that his involvement with USA Basketball (particularly during the summers) would take him away from the recruiting trail and allow other programs to make inroads on Duke while he was focused elsewhere. That seems somewhat silly after Duke cut the nets down in 2010 for K’s fourth national title and the top recruits keep rolling in, but is it possible that Krzyzewski could get enjoy even more of a halo effect from the ubiquitous images of him high-fiving and embracing the very best basketball players in the world? Mike Kline at DukeReport.com thinks so, and it’s hard to disagree. Elite recruits care about two things — 1) getting to the NBA, and 2) coolness. Coach K has always had a tremendous amount of the former, but with the association with the winning ways he instituted with Team USA, he also has plenty of the latter.
  4. It’s now only 60 days until Midnight Madness, which means coaches are already carefully examining their schedules to find any possible advantage heading into the 2012-13 season. Like Krzyzewski, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has been busy as an assistant coach for Team USA too, but he already has some ideas about how to prepare his Orange squad for its season opening game — the Battle of the Midway — against San Diego State. The Veterans Day tip-off for both teams will take place on the USS Midway in San Diego Bay (similar to last year’s Carrier Classic on the USS Carl Vinson), and Boeheim is determined to prepare for the possibility of wind and other elements by having his team practice and run some drills outdoors. We’re guessing that whatever weather conditions the Orange players face in October in upstate New York will more than prepare them for anything balmy San Diego has to offer.
  5. We’ll have more on this later today, but over the weekend brand new Villanova assistant coach Doug Martin was forced to resign based upon certain “inaccuracies” on his resume. The primary point of contention is that Martin had claimed that he played college basketball from 1991-95 under legendary coach Dick Bennett at Wisconsin-Green Bay. Dana O’Neil’s cursory fact-checking on the matter quickly revealed that neither UWGB nor Bennett had any record or recollection of Martin at the school, and in fact, he may have actually played limited minutes at a Wisconsin NAIA school called Viterbo instead. It begs the question, though. Surely Martin’s hiring at Villanova was not contingent on having played for Bennett at Green Bay, so why not correct the resume before submitting it — that’s a fairly impressive job to obtain only to lose it over something that seems so inconsequential.
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ACC Weekly Five: 07.17.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on July 17th, 2012

  1. ACC Sports Journal: Props to Robbie Harms over at ACC Sports Journal for putting together this exhaustive mass of links on ACC alumni playing in the NBA summer league. Who would’ve thought Miles Plumlee would be named to the Orlando All-Summer League team? A lot of former ACC stars are participating and this page is sure to catch you up on all of the latest.
  2. Winston-Salem Journal: Jeff Bzdelik is adding seven freshman to his roster for this year. The group is already on campus, prepping for the upcoming season, and without question expectations will be high for this bunch. Wake Forest was a major disappointment the last two years, so everyone is expecting some level of progress this year. In news not directly related to basketball, none of the new additions have cars — so they’re getting plenty of off-court bonding time getting rides from Travis McKie — and Codi Miller-McIntyre can bench 300 pounds.
  3. Run the Floor: Michael Rogner is cautiously bullish on the Hurricanes, as they return more talent than anyone else in the ACC. Assuming Reggie Johnson is back to 100% healthy, Shane Larkin makes the leap towards more consistency and Rion Brown continues to develop, the Hurricanes should be an ACC contender this year. To be fair, many writers have been fooled in the past by a good Miami roster (I submit this quote from my article from January 11 as evidence: “Every year I overrate the Hurricanes.”), but this year feels different.
  4. ESPN: Andy Katz recently sat down with Brian Gregory, who’s keeping expectations for next year, his second season at Georgia Tech, realistic. Gregory talked a little about freshman impact and where his team needs to improve this season. Namely, he put the weight on the guards to become better distributors, naming Mfon Udofia, Brandon Reed and Daniel Miller as the guys who need to step up for the Yellow Jackets. Most interestingly, Katz asked Gregory about whether we can expect this year’s team to look more like his old Dayton teams. Gregory responded by saying that this team would be more like those teams, but still not totally there. All three answers from the head coach emphasize that this year as a rebuilding year.
  5. USA Today: Mike Krzyzewski took a lot of flak for supporting Joe Paterno in the days and weeks after he got fired. Not surprisingly, Coach K updated his comments about Joe Pa with the release of the Freeh Report.

EXTRA: Incoming North Carolina freshman JP Tokoto can dunk.

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Unibrow & Other CBB Entrants Are Snubbed But Watford Wins at the ESPYs

Posted by EJacoby on July 12th, 2012

Last night were the ESPYs, and somehow, neither of the #15 over #2 shockers during last year’s NCAA Tournament won ESPN’s award for “Best Upset” of the year, and Anthony Davis‘ epic season wasn’t even enough to win over voters in the “Best NCAA Male” category. Not even legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was rewarded for breaking Bob Knight’s all-time wins record. In general, college hoops was vastly overlooked during Wednesday’s 2012 ESPY Awards, but one shining moment came in the form of Indiana forward Christian Watford‘s wild shot to beat Kentucky back in December. “Watford For The Win!” was crowned with the “Best Play” award from the past year in sports; a very deserving honor for one of the defining moments of the 2011-12 college hoops season. ESPN announcer Dan Shulman’s call on Watford’s game-winner over the top-ranked Wildcats sticks as one of the great broadcasting moments in recent memory, as does Dick Vitale’s incomparable reaction and IU head coach Tom Crean’s shocked celebration. It’s hard to find a singular more significant or lasting moment than that one, as Watford beat out a field of 31 other nominees through a lengthy tournament vote. Unfortunately, John Calipari, Anthony Davis, Kentucky, Coach K, the final Border War, Lehigh, and Norfolk State were unable to seize any hardware against their considerably thinner fields of competition.

Watford’s buzzer-beating three-point shot marked the official return of Hoosiers basketball. One of our sport’s bluebloods, Indiana had struggled at the bottom of the Big Ten for several years, and the victory over UK symbolized a resurgence. Indiana quickly jumped into the top 15 of the polls and stayed there much of the season, eventually making a run to the Sweet Sixteen before falling to those same Wildcats in a rematch not played in the friendly confines of Bloomington. But Watford’s shot isn’t forgotten for Hoosiers or Wildcats fans, both of whom were heavily invested in that December game as part of a longstanding border rivalry (which was sadly not renewed for 2012-13), nor the entire world of college hoops, which sent off an explosion of posts and tweets on social media across the country.

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Morning Five: 07.12.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 12th, 2012

  1. Last night featured the annual ESPYs in prime time, and although the host of the event, Rob Riggle, struggled through numerous cricket-chirping moments, we still managed to sit through it. College hoops had a number of good candidates as potential winners (as we handicapped last week), but the crowdsourcing style of the event ensured that few were were validated. The Unibrow was up for several awards, including Best Breakthrough Athlete (which went to Jeremy Lin), Best Male College Athlete (Robert Griffin III, which is reasonable even if we disagree), and Best Team (even Big Blue Nation couldn’t overcome the Miami Heat). Perhaps the two awards that bothered us most were Coach K’s snub in Best Record-Breaking Performance (sorry, but a single-season NFL passing record doesn’t trump 900+ wins over a career) and Best Upset (how do the LA Kings outdo Norfolk State, a MEAC team, downing a team in the conversation for a #1 seed? Ridiculous.). The one silver lining for our game was that Christian Watford’s game-winning three to lift Indiana over #1 Kentucky back in December was chosen as Best Play of the Year.  Oh well — that’s the nature of the event — fan voting. The women’s game, as an aside, cleaned up with Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award (well deserved) and Baylor’s Brittney Griner winning both Best Female Athlete and Best Female College Athlete of the Year.
  2. We know that Mike Krzyzewski may not have had a good enough year to win Best Record-Breaking Performance, but he’s more than good enough to lead Team USA into the 2012 Olympics in a matter of a few weeks from now. Interestingly enough, Team USA will scrimmage John Calipari’s Dominican Republic team tonight, but the real test for him and his charges is to come together as a team in the next few weeks so as to bring home another gold medal for USA Basketball. Dan Wolken writes that Coach K has had to take a different tack than he has at Duke in coaching the elite group of players he has on this team, and that, frankly, he’s a much more likable person in this setting than he is in Durham. It makes sense when you listen to Krzyzewski in any interview talk about his “kids” — his Blue Devils — but he also knows that the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and the rest are grown men who don’t need to be publicly protected or coddled. He’s not been so successful over these many years by not having a keen sense of that very thing — this is yet another example.
  3. It’s been a week of coaching extensions, and Wednesday kept the rally going with the news that Quinnipiac’s Tom Moore recently received a one-year extension to his deal that will keep him under contract until 2016-17. In five seasons in Hamden, his teams have performed admirably well, going 93-65 with three invitations to postseason tournaments. At a NEC school, any postseason appearance is a cause for celebration, so even thought there haven’t been any NCAA bids in that period, a series of NIT/CIT/CBI isn’t too bad. Of course, if or when Jim Calhoun over in Storrs ever retires, the former Connecticut assistant Moore would already have his vehicle GPS set with the directions.
  4. The nation’s top recruit in the Class of 2013 has narrowed his list down to only 10 schools. Jabari Parker used Twitter (what else?) to announce his revised list on Wednesday night, and here are the lucky suitors (he says they’re in no particular order): UK, Stanford, Michigan State, Kansas, Florida, Duke, BYU, Georgetown, DePaul, UNC. The Chicago native certainly has an interesting mix at play here, and perhaps most notably Illinois is no longer on his list. Aside from four of the top six programs of all-time (sorry, Indiana and UCLA), Michigan State, Florida and Georgetown are unsurprising choices. Stanford is clearly the academic choice, BYU is the religious one, and DePaul is throwing a bone to the homeys. If he really is the best high school prospect since LeBron (or Greg Oden), the school that gets him will have a tremendous shot at the Final Four during his only season on campus.
  5. Finally, ESPN announced its 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon lineup on Wednesday, and although the Champions Classic games involving Michigan State-Kansas and Duke-Kentucky are the monsters, there are as always a number of other interesting matchups. WVU visiting Spokane to tip things off, followed by a Davidson trip to The Pit will be fun, but Harvard going to Amherst to take on UMass and a battle of blue-blooded mid-majors in Cincinnati are also well worth skipping out on work. Maybe there’s more coming in the next few months, but in past years there were multiple games broadcast in the evening hour slot, so hopefully ESPN will fill in the blanks a little more just in case one of those Champions Classic games isn’t worth the time.

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College Hoops at the ESPYs: Handicapping Each Nominee

Posted by EJacoby on July 3rd, 2012

The 20th annual ESPY Awards take place on Wednesday, July 11, and college basketball is well represented at this year’s show. Eight different men’s college hoops players, coaches, teams, or moments are nominated in major awards categories, such as “Best NCAA Male” or “Best Record-Breaking Performance.” Winners are selected through fan voting, which is accessible by clicking here. Besides encouraging all our readers to ‘get out’ and vote for the college basketball nominees, we’d also like to break down why each selection was significant in the world of sports over the past year.

Anthony Davis is nominated for two ESPY Awards (AP Photo)

  • Best Breakthrough Athlete: Anthony Davis - It’s hard to argue against Davis in this category, as the Kentucky forward became the first basketball player since Lew Alcindor (later-to-be-named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) in 1969 to win a National Championship as the National Player of the Year and become the #1 overall NBA Draft selection in the same season. And Davis is the first to ever do it as a freshman. AD is also a true breakthrough performer since he wasn’t even on the radar as a major prospect until as recently as two years ago. Nonetheless, he faces stiff competition, mainly in the form of New York Knicks guard and worldwide phenomenon Jeremy Lin.
  • Best Record-Breaking Performance: Coach K’s Wins Milestone – Back in November, one of the great images of the sports year took place when Mike Krzyzewski passed his mentor and former coach, Bob Knight, for first on the all-time wins list.  Even better, he did so at Madison Square Garden with Coach Knight in attendance and awaiting Coach K with a congratulatory hug. Krzyzewski is widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all time in any sport, and the wins record confirms his spot in history. However, he’s up against Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in baseball history, who also broke a milestone mark this past year with the saves record. Read the rest of this entry »
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Projecting Duke in Two Years: How Does Rodney Hood Fit In?

Posted by EJacoby on July 3rd, 2012

As we mentioned in Monday’s Morning Five, the biggest name on the transfer market has made his decision. Former Mississippi State guard/forward Rodney Hood is headed to Duke, where he will sit out next season before gaining eligibility in 2013-14. Hood narrowed his options to Duke and Ohio State last week but chose the Blue Devils to become just the fourth major transfer accepted into the program during Mike Krzyzewski’s tenure – joining Roshown McLeod, Dahntay Jones, and current rising senior Seth Curry. With Duke having just suffered a painful upset in the NCAA Tournament to #15 seed Lehigh as well as losing two first round picks to the NBA, the Blue Devils are in need of a new talent infusion into the program. After four-star signee Amile Jefferson chose Duke in May and Hood has also chosen the Devils, Coach K’s team suddenly has a much brighter future. But why did Hood choose Duke? “[Coach K] told me what he saw for my future. He was specific and to the point,” said Hood on his decision. “He said he can make me a better basketball player and one of the best in the country.” Alongside a bevy of other talented wing players, Hood would become the most experienced of the bunch in 2013 and help lead a star-studded roster.

Rodney Hood is bringing his smooth game to Duke (HailState.com photo)

Hood will be a redshirt sophomore when he joins Duke the year after next with a year of SEC experience as well as a full season of practice time with the Blue Devils.  A top 30 recruit when he arrived in Starkville, Hood had a solid year for the Bulldogs, averaging 10.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game for a team that experienced a rollercoaster season and missed the NCAA Tournament. He was a steady contributor who played the fifth-most minutes in the SEC (32.8 MPG), compiled a 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio that ranked fourth in the league, and showed an ability to hit the three-point shot (36.4% on 129 attempts). His all-around game as a smooth, 6’8″ wing player should translate well in the future for a Duke team that severely lacked athleticism on the wing last season.

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