ACC M5: 12.06.12 Edition

Posted by EMann on December 6th, 2012

  1. ESPN: North Carolina guard/forward PJ Hairston has been playing a new position this year, the power forward spot. Robbi Pickeral discusses how in North Carolina’s small lineup (three guards plus Hairston with James Michael McAdoo), Hairston enjoys his new role because it creates mismatches and allows him to stretch the floor with his outside shooting ability, something atypical from a player at his position. Roy Williams expects to use this lineup often in the future, as it was successful against UAB last weekend. Hairston also plans to take the ball to the basket more to take advantage of his handling skills instead of settling for threes, and he has also gained some additional confidence because of this move. His numbers are so far much improved from last year, and if UNC continues to use this smaller lineup, they can stretch the floor with several three-point shooting options, something a bit out of the norm for a Roy Williams lineup.
  2. Washington Post: Maryland has a renewed focus on defense this season, as typical scouting sessions are focused on closely observing opponents’ offensive tendencies on film. Head coach Mark Turgeon said that the Terps’ victory over George Mason last weekend was the first time he has been happy with his team’s defense all season. One of the most important tasks Turgeon has undertaken is getting his freshmen on board with the team’s defensive focus. Alex Len and Dez Wells have especially bought into the defensive schemes that Turgeon hopes will become contagious amongst his younger players. At the moment, Maryland is ranked 78th in Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency ratings largely due to their opponents very rarely turning over the ball, so that is one area where the Terrapins will need to improve.
  3. While maybe not as important to the average Seminole fan as the triumph over the Seminoles on the gridiron two weeks ago, Florida’s evisceration of Florida State in Tallahassee last night was a sure sign that the Seminoles have a long way to go this season. Yes, Florida is one of the very best teams in the country but FSU was nowhere even near competitive with the Gators, something that they were even in 2006 and 2007 when Florida won their consecutive national championships. In the 25-point defeat (and it didn’t even seem that close), Florida State shot only 35% from the field and committed 22 turnovers, while Florida shot 49% and ran out on the Seminoles from the opening tip. Michael Snaer was the only Seminole in double figures, so if this game does not serve as a wakeup call for Leonard Hamilton’s team after the home embarrassments to South Alabama and Mercer, nothing will.
  4. Local radio voice Mark Thomas was inspired by NC State’s effort in its victory over Connecticut in the Jimmy V Classic two nights ago. The most important takeaway, according to Thomas, is that Mark Gottfried and his team appear to have realized that while they are a very talented, they are not good enough to just roll the basketball out there and out-talent the other team. The game against UConn showed the importance of topping that talent with strong effort, and NC State’s performance in the second half was certainly indicative of that. While it may be tough for NCSU to match Duke in the ACC this season, performances like this one will definitely remind observers as to why they predicted NC State to win the conference in the preseason after all.
  5. Duke extended the contract of athletic director Dr. Kevin White through the end of June 2019. White, since coming from Notre Dame in 2008, has overseen three national titles (including the 2010 men’s basketball title) and 12 ACC titles. Duke’s athletic teams have also been exceptional in the classroom, with only one team earning a GPA below 3.0 last semester. Duke’s athletics have also placed in the top 2o in the Director’s Cup (which measures performances in all sports) in each year during White’s tenure. While no one knows when head coach Mike Krzyzewski will step down, with White seemingly in place for much of the next decade, he may be the one officially making the extremely difficult call on who will replace the sport’s all-time leader in victories, a very difficult call indeed for even an AD with White’s pedigree.
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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume IV

Posted by jbaumgartner on December 3rd, 2012

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

  • I LOVED… the challenge that John Calipari has on his hands. He proved that he could win a title last year, but the question in coming years is whether his one-year-and-out philosophy can continue to bring home the hardware that UK fans believe should be the norm. Several bad losses in a row, however, are showing that this group is not at the talent level of last year’s champs. In many ways, this should be a great test – if UK is not the most talented team in the country, does Calipari have the coaching chops to keep them in the conversation? Stay tuned.
  • I LOVED… thinking about upcoming Louisville battles with Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse after the Cardinals were selected to replace Maryland in the ACC. While I’ve had about enough of this whole conference realignment fad in the last couple years, the addition of these two Big East powerhouses to such a basketball-crazy conference is definitely reason to smile (and the folks over at ESPN just might feel the same way).
  • I LOVED Larry Brown. There are only a few coaches out there who can walk into an under-the-radar (nice-speak for “not relevant”) program like SMU and declare that they’re going to be “pretty good pretty quickly.” Fortunately LB has the resume and personality to do just that. Do I think they will be? No way. But just hearing his enthusiasm made me smile and think – now wouldn’t that be something….

Larry Brown Is Off to a Good Start at SMU

  • I LOVEDRasheed Sulaimon’s assertiveness as a freshman. This kid is going to be good, but more importantly he’s exactly the type of wing playmaker that the Blue Devils have been missing all the way back to Kyrie Irving’s injury, if we’re being honest. Sure, he probably takes a few more heat checks than Coach K might like, but he puts constant pressure on the D with his quickness and aggressiveness, has a promising stroke from deep, and should allow Duke’s other guards (read: Seth Curry) to spot up and reap the benefits of inevitable double teams from penetration. Duke is very good this early in the season, and if they’re still around in April, Sulaimon will be a big reason. Read the rest of this entry »
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Night Line: Mason Plumlee’s Post Dominance Keying Duke’s Phenomenal Start

Posted by EJacoby on November 29th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Plenty of elite teams have impressed in the opening month of this season, but Duke is in a tier by itself when it comes to a complete resume. After exacting revenge on Ohio State from last season’s drubbing with a 73-68 victory over the Buckeyes on Wednesday night, Mike Krzyzewski’s team has now defeated three top-five teams in November. That doesn’t even include victories over Minnesota and VCU, as well, two other likely NCAA Tournament squads. In Wednesday’s win, Duke trailed by eight points at halftime to a tougher-looking Buckeyes squad while itself looking fatigued, and it needed a significant second half spark to change the tone of the game. That’s where it turned to Mason Plumlee, who turned momentum back on Duke’s side with two monster alley-oops from point guard Quinn Cook. Blue Devil fans have waited three long years for Plumlee to become a dominant post force who successfully harnessed all of his athletic potential, and tonight’s 21-point, 17-rebound effort in a comeback win over an elite opponent shows just how far the big man has come.

Mason Plumlee has Duke soaring up the rankings through victories over elite opponents (AP Photo)

We knew Duke had the depth, shooting, and coaching to remain an ACC contender this season, but Plumlee’s transformation into a dominant, All America-caliber forward gives the team a chance to reach greater heights than almost anyone imagined. Through seven games, the 6’10” senior is now averaging 19.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game on 65% shooting from the field; all good for top-five rankings in the ACC. But what’s most astonishing about Plumlee’s stats is his free throw percentage, which at 79% is an exponential improvement over his career 50% shooting coming into this season. Never mind the massive 8.8 PPG  jump; an increase of 30 points on a go-to player’s free throw percentage is enough to change the entire dynamic of an offense. As Jay Bilas consistently pointed out during Wednesday’s ESPN broadcast, Plumlee plays with improved aggressiveness near the basket this season now that he’s not afraid to get fouled. The senior converted 9-12 freebies tonight while also producing a game-high in scoring and rebounding.

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ATB: Duke Makes Statement, Gonzaga Rolls Through Old Spice, and Rethinking Officiating Fundamentals…

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 26th, 2012

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

The Weekend Lede. Battle 4 Atlantis Caps Terrific Set of Early-Season Tourneys. It is always a treat when two top five teams meet this early in the season. The high drama is typically saved for March, but the increasingly tasty match-ups served up by various exempt tournaments during Feast Week whet our appetites for the thrillers five months down the road. Saturday night brought us our first true marquee clash, with No. 2 Louisville meeting No. 5 Duke in the Battle 4 Atlantis final. The showdown in the Bahamas emanated a Tourney feel, and the backdrop – the sleek blue tridents, enveloped in darkness, overlooking the dim courts – only tacked on more intrigue to the proceedings. As these early-season tournaments wrap up, let us celebrate this season’s wonderful slate, and hope for a similarly tantalizing selection next season. And in case you somehow got the impression the B4A was the only big event around, think again: the nation is peppered with sneaky-good match-ups and draws. Shall we dive into the weekend’s tourney festivities?

Your Watercooler Moment. Did We Overestimate Louisville?

It’s far too early to make definitive statements about Lousville’s bottom-line. The Cardinals will be fine (Photo credit: Getty Images).

In the wake of Saturday night’s events, it’s certainly a legitimate question. Just as he did in that mostly forgettable 1992 meeting between Kentucky and Duke, when some Laettner dude hit some “shot,” Coach K got the best of Rick Pitino in the Blue Devils methodical deconstruction of the Cardinals hounding defense. Duke was no doubt the better team on the floor – Mason Plumlee has officially entered the National POY discussion; Quinn Cook proved he can be the perimeter sparkplug Duke needs him to be; Rasheed Sulaimon is a better fit system-wise than Austin Rivers was last season. There are plenty of things to like about this Duke team, and all systems were a go throughout their run in the Bahamas. Which is why I’m loathe to downgrade the Cardinals after the championship loss. The Cardinals clearly have some tinkering to do on the offensive end (it also doesn’t help when your defensive anchor and swatting connossieur, Gorgui Dieng, is sidelined with a wrist injury). Backcourt mates Peyton Siva and Russ Smith were out of sync. Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear were non-factors. Transfer Luke Hancock still needs to find his role. All of these are problems that need to be addressed – and they will be. Pitino’s Final Four team of last season wasn’t nearly the same team in November, and I expect a similar gradual development from this year’s bunch. It won’t be long before Pitino will iron out the kinks, find an optimal rotation and have his team firing on all cylinders. The Cardinals are taking their lumps early, and growing through tough losses against good teams. Saturday night’s result was more about Duke’s potential, and less about Louisville’s shortcomings.

This Weekend’s Quick Hits…

  • Mark Few’s Best Team Yet? Reclaiming sole possession of the WCC crown was an expected achievement for Gonzaga this season. But after six wins to begin the season, including two over Big 12 foes Oklahoma and West Virginia and one over reigning SoCon champion Davidson in the Old Spice Final Sunday, it’s time to set a new bar. Gonzaga has talent at every position, from floor operator Kevin Pangos to versatile forward Sam Dower to the recently eligible Kelly Olynyk. And if they can sustain this intensity into the league season, they’ll peak just in time for Tournament play. Let’s not rush to judge: The Bulldogs have Illinois, Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State on tap before they enter WCC play. Beginning with a home date with the Illini on December 8, the turn of the calendar will reveal the depths of Gonzaga’s potential. Read the rest of this entry »
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College Basketball By The Tweets: Champions Classic, #FREE Shabazz & UNC Cheating

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2012

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Aside from a great night of hoops at the Champions Classic, week two of the college basketball season was fairly tame, as hungry fans await the always entertaining Feast Week. There’s been a of talk lately about how college basketball is an eroding sport, but don’t tell that to Tim Brando, who was giving his undivided attention to the Champions Classic on Tuesday night.

https://twitter.com/TimBrando/status/268512307582226433

And Brando couldn’t be any more spot on, as the now annual event did not disappoint last Tuesday. Michigan State snuck past Kansas due to great late game execution on offense, while Duke’s experience was too much for Kentucky’s youth. A fantastic four hours of hoops.

Calipari, Duke & Flopping

The incident that sparked the most witty tweets this week? That would unquestionably be John Calipari‘s public indictment of Duke’s uncanny ability to flop around the basket. Cal dropped the zinger to Andy Katz while heading into the locker room at half time, when the Wildcats trailed the Blue Devils by two.

The tweets came in droves…

https://twitter.com/Mengus22/status/268557963688570880

https://twitter.com/BH_Orange44/status/268560524336324608

https://twitter.com/DanWolken/status/268562089164034049

Never one to back down, Coach K did not shy away from offering a response to Calipari during his post-game press conference.

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume II

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 14th, 2012

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED… a lottery pick play. They’re some of my favorite moments every year – the two seconds that make you go, “Ohh, OhhhhhhWOWWW!” as a talented underclassman goes to a level you weren’t sure he had – and one that definitely translates to the next level. I ventured down to Chapel Hill for Sunday’s UNC-Florida Atlantic game, and soph sensation James Michael McAdoo provided that moment in the second half when he drove baseline, took off from under the hoop and floated all the way to the other side before stretching back and stuffing it home. The season is young, but he definitely looks like a player ready for the next level after blooming during the final weeks of last season. And I can barely wait to see him go head-to-head with Indiana’s Cody Zeller on November 27.

I LOVED… Duke doing what they do in the early season – using superior coaching and discipline to beat a much more talented Kentucky squad. It seems like Coach K specializes in this – he uses the early-season schedule to prey on the highly-skilled but less highly-disciplined youth that comes into college basketball every November. They might not beat those Wildcats in March, but they certainly outplayed them on Tuesday night.

I LOVED… John Calipari saying what we all were thinking on a nationally-televised halftime interview: “They’re (Duke) floppin’ all over the place.” Preach the truth, Cal.

I LOVED… feeling like college basketball was back on November 13. Sometimes it seems like it takes a few weeks to get going, but as soon as Duke-UK heated up in the second half, the energy was there. We had a high level of play early in the year, Dickie V simultaneously trying (successfully) to jump on both bandwagons in the span of one telecast, Blue Devils flying through the air horizontally despite no contact…. ah yes. It’s back.

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Where 2012-13 Happens: Reason #2 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2012

And away we go, headfirst into another season heralded by our 2012-13 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured here what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back the goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head. The entire series from #30 to this point can be viewed hereEnjoy!

#2 – Where Greatness Personified Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12 seasons.

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ACC Team Previews: Duke Blue Devils

Posted by EMann on November 1st, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the ACC microsite will release a preview for each of the 12 teams.  Today’s victim:  the Duke Blue Devils.

The 2011-12 Duke Blue Devils will be remembered primarily for two things:  (1) Austin Rivers’ dramatic three-pointer at the buzzer to cap a miraculous comeback and beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill, 85-84, which will live permanently in the rivalry’s lore; (2) their stunning 75-70 loss to 15th-seeded Lehigh in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That Duke team, however, had a very strange portfolio for most of the season — mostly manifested through its porous defense (by Duke standards), which ranked 70th in the Ken Pomeroy rankings. It was also strange in that it featured a player in Austin Rivers who never quite fit into the Duke mold in many people’s eyes; while Rivers was certainly an extremely competitive player, the combination of his reliance on the ball for much of the team’s offense and individual success (and scoring incredibly inefficiently:  his offensive rating was the second worst on the team), along with the ensuing chemistry issues that his style of play seemed to cause, ultimately derailed the Blue Devils (along with Ryan Kelly’s injury). Duke also finished 8-0 in road play in the ACC, but lost three conference games (and nearly five – a 20-point comeback against NC State in the second half and an overtime victory against lowly Virginia Tech) at home, a shocking result for a generally good Duke team in Cameron Indoor Stadium. While it did defeat eventual runner-up Kansas and Michigan State at neutral sites, among others, in non-conference play, it was also destroyed by Ohio State. This year may very well feature addition by subtraction, and Coach K has clearly focused on teamwork and communication as the season gets underway as he sensed that as contributing at least partially to the team’s defensive woes last year.

Rasheed Sulaimon has a great chance to win ACC Rookie of the Year.

Newcomers

Duke has four new players eligible for this season, as the fifth newcomer, Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood, quite possibly Duke’s best player on the floor during Countdown to Craziness, must sit out this season. Two of these players are true freshmen, headlined by guard Rasheed Sulaimon. Although Rodney Purvis at NC State has gotten most of the headlines as the favorite for ACC Rookie of the Year, look for Sulaimon to heavily challenge for that honor. Sulaimon is a versatile player in the mold of many of Mike Krzyzewski’s favored guards over the years:  a solid outside shooter who can also attack the rim, as well as a strong perimeter defender. With Seth Curry’s undisclosed injury keeping him out for possibly another couple weeks, Sulaimon has been temporarily slotted into the starting lineup.  While Sulaimon may not start once Curry returns, he will definitely play a ton of minutes and should see the court at crunch time to take advantage of his opportunity. Forward Amile Jefferson, who chose Duke over NC State at the 11th hour, will provide high motor play and solid interior defense, though his offensive game is still a bit unrefined.  Look for him to contribute 10-12 minutes a game.

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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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