Morning Five: 07.05.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 5th, 2013

morning5

  1. Brad Stevens, Brad Stevens, Brad Stevens. The talk of the college basketball world has been centered on the Wednesday afternoon announcement that the Butler head coach was leaving his post for the glamour and riches of the NBA’s Boston Celtics. Everyone, of course, has an opinion on this bold and very surprising move, so let’s sum up what folks are saying. First, from the Brad Stevens/Celtics side: Adrian Wojnarowski writes that Stevens represents the “changing face of [NBA] coaches” in its new era of statistical analytics; the Indy Star‘s Bob Kravitz says that he can’t blame Stevens for jumping to the league; Fox Sports‘ Reid Forgrave calls the move a “gutsy” one on the part of Danny Ainge and the Celtics; while SI.com‘s Ben Golliver argues that the Celtics’ decision to pluck a successful college head coach with no NBA experience is a worthwhile risk. As we tweeted when we heard the news on Wednesday, the move makes sense from a logical standpoint, but it just doesn’t feel right. Stevens embodied our perhaps romantic notion of a college lifer, and in the NBA, coaches are hired to be fired. It’s hard to see him not coming back to our game sooner rather than later.
  2. The other angle in this story is what will happen to Butler without Stevens now leading the program? As our own Chris Johnson writes, the loss of a superstar like Stevens cannot be overstated — the program will absolutely take a hit, regardless of who is chosen to replace him. The most recent report suggests that either Butler assistant Brandon Miller or Michigan assistant Lavall Jordan will get the job, with Miller presumably holding the inside track given the school’s 24-year run of promoting coaches from within the program (although Jordan has more Butler experience). The general sentiment among the hoops cognoscenti is that Butler will figure out a way to still be Butler. SI.com‘s Andy Glockner writes that Butler is in great position to remain relevant and successful, regardless of who they hire to take over for Stevens. The Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy thinks that the program may have a bit of a rude awakening with a new head coach suffering the indignities of a brutal Big East round-robin schedule next winter. But both Pat Forde and Matt Norlander move beyond that angle, arguing that college basketball as a whole is the real loser in Stevens’ move to the Celtics. Can’t disagree with that at all.
  3. From a coach on the way out of the college game to one sticking around, Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton received an extension through 2016-17 (and a $750,000 raise, to boot) to remain in Tallahassee as the head coach of the Seminoles. The timing is somewhat surprising given that FSU last year suffered its worst season (18-16) in nearly a decade under Hamilton’s tutelage, but his previous four years of NCAA Tournament appearances and an ACC Championship certainly show that Hamilton has his program in overall good shape. His new salary of $2.25 million annually puts him second behind only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in terms of salaries among ACC coaches.
  4. We’re 51 weeks away from next season’s NBA Draft, but Mike DeCourcy took time during his Starting Five column this week to break down how he sees the top five picks going for 2014 (let’s just say that one-and-done is prominently featured). He also takes time to rip both FIBA — for its appalling lack of television broadcast options for the U-19 team — and Georgetown recruit LJ Peak, whose “psyche-out” trick using the school hats of suitors South Carolina and the Hoyas left a really bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths (ourselves included).
  5. Let’s finish the holiday week with some really good news on the health front: ESPN’s highlighter aficianado Digger Phelps has been declared cancer-free related to his bladder cancer diagnosis earlier this year. In just over one 12-month period, Phelps had survived both prostate and now bladder cancer, so it’s been a wild but ultimately successful year for the 72-year old television personality and former head coach. Phelps takes a lot of heat for some of his takes on ESPN’s Gameday show, but he’s always entertaining and we certainly hope that these health problems will remain behind him so that we can all enjoy many more years of green tie/highlighter pairings from January to March each season.
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Forget Dunk City, Andy Enfield Is Off to a Great Start at USC

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 17th, 2013

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

For all the high-flying showmanship and unexpected brilliance of Florida Gulf Coast’s NCAA Tournament run, and the commensurately growing coaching legend of Eagles head man Andy Enfield, there were skeptics, and most of those skeptics brought forth the same boring but altogether legitimate grievance. Are we really supposed to believe a one-week wonder from Fort Myers, Florida has all of a sudden, by virtue of a fluky Cinderella run, morphed into a prime candidate for a high-profile power conference job? Who made Enfield the next great on-court tactician, something more than a laissez faire personality who unleashed a group of young and brash and under-recruited athletes on an unsuspecting NCAA Tournament? Wasn’t Dunk City more about Brett Comer and company than Enfield himself?

If there are any misgivings about USC hiring Enfield, he's on the right track toward proving why the Trojans made the right choice (Getty Images).

If there are any misgivings about USC hiring Enfield, he’s on the right track toward proving why the Trojans made the right choice (Getty Images).

It is easy to see how Enfield could get tabbed with the “one-week wonder” label. The NCAA Tournament can accomplish many things. One of the most timelessly pervasive is the elevation of otherwise lesser-known coaches into consideration for more prominent jobs. Steve Alford’s No. 3 seed New Mexico lost to Harvard in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament; UCLA paved the way (forcing Alford to renege on his 10-year contract extension almost immediately) for his arrival. Florida Gulf Coast beat Georgetown and San Diego State; Enfield got a pay raise, a basketball program with promise (if not actual historical success) and a new California lifestyle to boot. March is a magical time.

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Challenges Aplenty for Chris Collins at Northwestern

Posted by KTrahan on April 1st, 2013

Northwestern announced the hiring of Duke associate head coach Chris Collins as its new head coach last week, and on Tuesday, the Collins era will officially begin in Evanston with an introductory press conference. There was little drama in this coaching search — everyone knew all along the job was Collins’ if he wanted it, and he took it, citing the chance to come home (he’s a Northbrook, Illinois, native) and lead a high-major program. But Northwestern isn’t just any high-major program. Truthfully, it could be the toughest job in all of college basketball. The Wildcats have never been to the NCAA Tournament, and while their last coach, Bill Carmody — a terrific coach in his own right — got NU to heights it had never seen before, the program still lagged far behind most of the Big Ten as far as sustained success goes. Carmody was in Evanston for 13 years and the challenges got even tougher for him throughout his tenure, as he explained in his final press conference.

Collins Has Been a Fixture on the Duke Bench For Years

Collins Has Been a Fixture on the Duke Bench For Years

“There’s not much different now about what Northwestern offers than it was when Kevin O’Neill was here and (Ricky) Byrdsong and Bill Foster and all those,” he said. “So everyone knows, people have talked about it, it’s sort of like an arms race. So the gap might be widening that way.” These challenges — particularly the lack of good facilities and Northwestern’s stringent academic standards — will still be there for Collins. The question now is if NU is willing to do anything to change them, or if Collins will have to work around them. Facilities-wise, the football program is currently receiving its long-awaited face-lift, so it’s unlikely that basketball will get a similar upgrade in the near future. But what about academics, which could potentially be changed right away? Nobody is expecting NU to accept everyone who applies, but right now, the perception is that the Wildcats won’t bend for good players like Duke, and maybe even Harvard, will.

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Did Minnesota Make a Mistake In Firing Tubby Smith?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 26th, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g. 

After six seasons in Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota fired its head basketball coach Tubby Smith. The firing certainly comes as a surprise to the hoops world because the Gophers just finished their best season under Smith: an overall record of 21-13 with a convincing win over UCLA in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. Smith led the Gophers to the NCAA Tournament during three out of his six seasons there but only won once in the Big Dance and never finished in the top four of the Big Ten during the regular season. A 124-81 record (60%) may not seem to support the firing but a closer look at Smith’s six seasons and the future of the Big Ten shows that the Gophers could stand to benefit with a coaching change. The following are three reasons why this move is a beneficial one for the Gophers.

Tubby Smith, Minnesota

Tubby Smith is out at Minnesota after six seasons.

  • The Big Ten regular season matters just as much as the postseason. Three appearances in the NCAA Tournament and a finalist in the NIT last season may work for many programs but the Minnesota athletic department has clearly sent a message that it expects to be at the top of the best conference in the nation. Smith finished with a record of 46-42 within conference play, and his teams were never a consistent threat to win the league. Big Ten programs take pride in winning the regular season championship and perennial contenders such as Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State are household names every year from January through mid-March. Without a more competitive team in league play, the Gophers will never be able to shed an image of a bubble team that frets on Selection Sunday.
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Should Northwestern Head Coach Bill Carmody Be on the Hot Seat?

Posted by WCarey on December 22nd, 2012

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Friday evening’s game between Stanford and Northwestern.

Eleven of the current Big Ten schools have appeared in the NCAA Tournament. The only school from the conference that has not appeared in the Big Dance is Northwestern. The history of Wildcats basketball is marred with futility. The team has not won a Big Ten title since 1933 and has consistently finished in the bottom half of the league ever since – the Wildcats have not finished higher than fourth place since 1968. In its home at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern has a lone banner honoring its seven National Invitational Tournament appearances amidst many other banners honoring NCAA Tournament appearances in other sports.

BCarmody1

Bill Carmody And Northwestern Seem to Always Come Up Just Short (image: P. Velasquez/Chicago Tribune)

In an attempt to change the course of its basketball history, Northwestern hired Bill Carmody in April 2000 to replace Kevin O’Neill. Carmody came to the Wildcats following a highly successful four-year stint as the head coach at Princeton. While at Princeton, Carmody led the Tigers to NCAA Tournament appearances during his first two seasons and NIT appearances in his third and fourth seasons. Since arriving in Evanston, Carmody has found out that winning consistently in the Big Ten is much harder than it was in the Ivy League. Now in his 13th season, Carmody’s overall record with the Wildcats is just 187-192, while his Big Ten mark is a lackluster 66-136. The best Carmody has ever finished in the Big Ten was in a fifth-place tie in the 2003-04 season – a season where the Wildcats still finished 14-15 overall and out of the postseason.

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Morning Five: 10.25.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 25th, 2012

  1. UCLA is lately starting to challenge Kentucky in terms of its news-making prowess as it seems like we’re discussing some new twist with Ben Howland’s team virtually every day in this space. The latest news out of Westwood is that still-ineligible superstar freshman Shabazz Muhammad injured his right shoulder in practice on Wednesday and underwent an MRI last evening to determine if there is any damage to the joint. He’ll be re-evaluated as a matter of course today, but at least so far, sources around the Bruins have been mum on the possible extent of his injury. This comes on the heels of an injury to David Wear’s ankle that has kept the big man out of practice for the last several days, not to mention the continuing dark cloud hovering over the program as a result of the ongoing NCAA investigations of Muhammad (the best wing in college basketball, according to CBSSports.com) and Kyle Anderson. Is there a turning point coming soon or are this year’s Bruins simply doomed from the start?
  2. One school that has found clarity on the eligibility of one of its key players is Murray State. School administrators have made the difficult but correct decision to suspend guard Zay Jackson for the entire 2012-13 season as a result of his dastardly actions last month in using his car as a human battering ram in a Wal-Mart parking lot. We wrote in this very space last week that athletic director Allen Ward had no reasonable choice other than to bring the hammer down on Jackson, and it appears that in light of the shocking video showing Jackson’s rage, he certainly acceded to public pressure. Ward stated that Jackson could earn his way back on to the team next season, but it would take a showing of steps “above and beyond… [those] of an exemplary citizen” to prove to Ward, head coach Steve Prohm, and his teammates that he deserves a second chance. We’ll say this — the legal system will have its pound of flesh (Jackson will be sentenced next week for wanton endangerment) and now the school will have its penance as well. If Jackson wants to atone for his sins, he’ll have what should be a one-time opportunity to make things good in the next 50 weeks until the start of the 2013-14 season.
  3. Don’t you hate when you read a piece that you wish you had already written? That’s exactly how we felt yesterday when we became aware of a fantastic article from The Atlantic‘s Stephen A. Miller that discusses an eminently reasonable solution to much of the perceived and actual inconsistencies in the NCAA‘s application of its rules. Outsource it. Miller argues that the NCAA carries so many inherent risks with its existing enforcement structure — conflicts of interest, inadequate funding, arbitrary and capricious rulings, a perception of playing favorites — that paying an outside entity to build a fair, transparent and consistent body of case law would result in growth in the one thing that the NCAA has trouble selling to the public right now: a strong perception of integrity. Miller’s piece is well worth the time for a read, but in the protect-your-own environment that we live in today, this has about as much chance of happening as Mark Emmert sprouting wings and delivering papers to Shabazz Muhammad’s dorm room.
  4. A really interesting bit of news was released as part of a SiriusXM show Wednesday hosted by Mike Krzyzewski (“Basketball and Beyond“) with Louisville head coach Rick Pitino giving some insight as to how he ended up back in the Bluegrass State after an unsuccessful stint with the Boston Celtics. According to Pitino, it was his wife, Joanne, who talked him out of his commitment to become the new Michigan head coach by — are you ready for this? — challenging him for being “afraid to go back to the state of Kentucky to coach at Louisville, his old school’s arch-rival.” Now, we don’t claim to listen to or read every single comment that the loquacious Pitino has made over the last 10 years, but we’re pretty sure about one thing — the Louisville coach has gone on record dozens of times stating that he expected those same Kentucky fans to embrace him after his return to collegiate coaching. If this is in fact true — and, of course, we know it is not — what would he possibly have been afraid of? As a side note, props to Coach K for his investigative reporting in getting such a jewel of honesty out of Pitino — maybe he has a career on 60 Minutes ahead of him, as even in his 70s, he’d certainly mesh with the median age of its reporters.
  5. Let’s close today with a list, as those are always fun for some debate no matter how ridiculous they turn out to be. Luckily, SI.com‘s Andy Glockner does his homework year-round, so his opinions are on the positive side of the cut line. He ranks all the Division I conferences from #1 to #33 with brief descriptions explaining why, for example, the Pac-12 ended up at #8 (ouch!) or the Big East shows at #2 in its last season as we typically think of it. Keeping in mind that people generally rate conferences based on the quality of their better teams — nobody really cares if your conference’s worst two teams would beat another league’s worst two teams — Glockner chooses the Big Ten as the top conference for the second year in a row. As we discussed on our Big Ten Preview Podblast yesterday, the top five teams in this league are legitimately good-to-great basketball teams. The four or five below that group are all good enough to threaten to make the NCAAs, although not all of them will do so; and so you’re left with just a couple of bottom-feeders whose fans are already thinking of next year. That’s an excellent and talented basketball league.
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Morning Five: 10.11.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 11th, 2012

  1. The NCAA this week released its annual financial report on on the spending patterns of its member institutions’ athletic departments, and the results, while not groundbreaking, are certainly interesting. The report (found in its entirety here) deals in aggregate numbers — meaning individual schools are not named — but the data from 2011 is still valuable. For example, among FBS (I-A) schools, the median revenue for a basketball program approached $5 million with profits of $812,000. By comparison, football programs created over $15 million of revenue with profits of around $3.5 million each. Because every other collegiate program from rifle (-$26,000) to women’s basketball (-$1.26 million) operates at a significant loss, only 23 of 120 FBS schools had a net positive revenue stream in 2011 (one more than 2010, but nine more than 2009). You don’t have to see their names on a report to more or less guess who the lucky ones are. 
  2. ESPNU’s Recruiting Nation may end up with its highest rated October ever if it keeps this up. According to the Detroit News, elite Class of 2013 wing James Young will announce his college decision on the 5 PM episode this evening, and his choice will once again make for a very happy weekend in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Young has been considered a UK lock for some time, especially after his home state Michigan State program discontinued his recruitment when a trip to East Lansing never materialized. Young is in everybody’s top 10 and is rated as the overall #7 player in his class, according to RSCIHoops. Along with the top five Harrison twins, John Calipari is well on his way to grabbing an entirely new starting five quite possibly filled with only top 10 prospects (Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, and Andrew Wiggins if he reclassifies are still possibilities). Like him or not, the man has quite simply redefined college basketball recruiting. 
  3. Down the road an hour in Louisville, the Cardinals’ head coach Rick Pitino would be wise to push his loaded squad to the Final Four in Atlanta and cut the nets down this year. But even if Louisville falters along the way, it appears that the 60-year old Pitino will have several more opportunities as he is now backing off his previous statements that he expects to retire in 2017. On a SiriusXM radio show with Jeff Goodman on Wednesday night, Pitino said that he expects to sign a contract extension and plans on staying on board as a head coach “for as long as [he's] healthy.” We’ll say this, from personal experience — the Pitino we saw during last year’s Final Four run was as light-hearted and as happy as we’ve ever seen from the guy. He seemed to actually enjoy what he was doing again.
  4. From the top of the heap to the bottom… only two days before the start of practice, UMBC head coach Randy Monroe resigned his position, effective immediately. It was no secret that Monroe had struggled there in recent years — going a disastrous 13-77 in his last three seasons — but the timing of his resignation is incredibly odd. Monroe was the head coach at UMBC for eight seasons, taking the Retrievers to the NCAA Tournament in the 2007-08 season. His top assistant coach, 33-year old Aki Thomas, will take over this season on an interim basis. We’ll not speculate further as to the precipitating cause for such a weirdly-timed resignation, but we figure that if there’s a story here it’ll come out eventually.
  5. Finally, we have fresh news of an NCAA investigation of a player and it doesn’t involve an incoming recruit! CBSSports.com reported on Wednesday night that Texas point guard Myck Kabongo may have accepted impermissible benefits while working out in Ohio over the summer. You may be wondering what Kabongo, a Canadian who goes to school in Austin, Texas, was doing in the Buckeye State, but the answer relates to his former teammate (and countryman) Tristan Thompson, a current employee of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The question is whether Kabongo paid his own way for his travel and stay there, or if Thompson’s agent, someone by the name of Rich Paul (also LeBron’s agent) may have chipped in on his expenses. It’s probably not a huge problem even if Kabongo dipped into the pool a bit, as the preseason all-Big 12 selection likely would have to pay the money back and miss a handful of games as a result. But we’ll have to wait to see where this goes. 
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Morning Five: 10.05.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 5th, 2012

  1. It’s amazing how a single press conference where a couple of 17-year olds announce a decision can simultaneously cause Twitter to explode as well as create a serious butterfly effect for the rest of an entire sport for the next couple of seasons. Yet ESPNU’s airing of Andrew and Aaron Harrison‘s formal announcement of their college choice on Thursday afternoon did just that. The verdict: John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats, setting in place the opportunity now for the national championship coach to quite possibly bring in the most talented (on paper) haul that the sport has ever seen. The Wildcats are still in heavy pursuit of Julius Randle, and the rumors that the overall #1 player in the Class of 2014, Andrew Wiggins, might re-classify to play with this group aren’t diminishing. Presuming that Kentucky keeps a substantial portion of the class that entered school this fall, UK could possibly have a 2013-14 squad with more and deeper talent on the floor than the team that just cut down the nets in New Orleans. As for Maryland, their fans are devastated with the twins’ decision, but Calipari has built a self-sufficient success/marketing feedback loop that hasn’t been seen in the sport since — dare we say it — Duke’s run of five straight Final Fours two decades ago.
  2. Maybe it wasn’t a great day for Maryland, but Thursday was a fantastic day for North Carolina, the ACC, and the game of college basketball. The black cloud that has been hanging over Roy Williams related to an unknown mass on both of his kidneys has now extinguished in the best possible manner. Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com reported on Thursday evening that a biopsy on Williams’ left kidney came back as non-cancerous, matching the diagnosis of his previous biopsy on his right kidney from a couple of weeks ago. Not only will this allow Williams considerable peace of mind heading into the start of official practice next week, but he will not have to endure any further medical procedures as a related outcome. Just great news all around.
  3. We mentioned this might be coming in yesterday’s M5, and sure enough, Texas Tech pulled the trigger on Thursday. The school hired its current day-to-day interim head coach, Chris Walker, as the 2012-13 interim head coach, which we guess is more or less like being promoted from a day worker to a temp. Hey, whatever works; there’s not much job security in coaching anyway. It’s certainly no secret that Walker ambles into a difficult situation this season — last year’s Red Raiders squad was an unmitigated disaster, going 8-23 with only a single win (vs. Oklahoma) in Big 12 play. He inherits a group that not only has no concept as to how to win at the high-major level, but who also was near mutiny level just over a month ago. If there were ever a situation designed for a coach to fail, this might be the one. Nevertheless, we wish Walker well as he takes on what will no doubt be a very stressful season.
  4. A couple of leagues released some preseason predictions on Thursday, with the Big 12 coaches giving their very early awards for first team. Baylor’s Pierre Jackson was chosen as the preseason POY, with Kansas’ Jeff Withey, Kansas State’s Rodney McGruder, Oklahoma State’s Le’Bryan Nash, and Texas’ Myck Kabongo rounding out the team. The Atlantic 10 also released its preseason media poll and awards yesterday, with St. Joseph’s and St. Louis virtually splitting the top spot, and VCU, Temple, Massachusetts and Butler also getting some first-place love. With all its transfers and turmoil, Xavier, typically in one of the top two preseason spots in this league, was picked ninth. The first-team recipients were: Kevin Dillard (Dayton), Chris Gaston (Fordham), Chaz Williams (UMass), Kwamain Mitchell (Saint Louis), and Khalif Wyatt (Temple).
  5. President Barack Obama has had a busy week preparing (or not preparing, depending on whom you ask) for the first presidential debate with Mitt Romney and flying around the country giving stump speeches. On Thursday, after numerous Twitter solicitations from Wisconsin forward Zach Bohannon, Obama stopped by the school in Madison and met with the team for a few minutes before heading on to, you know, run the country. Bohannon’s reaction was pure joy, as he tweeted out: “What an honor to talk and get a picture w/ President Obama! He even promised to come play with us once the election is over!” In such a polarized and disrespectful political environment that we currently live in, it’s great to see that some people are still excited about the honor that the position bestows. Good on you, Mr. Bohannon. You either have a great career ahead of you in PR or politics, or both. Keep on keepin’ on.
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Morning Five: 09.24.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 24th, 2012

  1. Andy Katz reported on Friday that the Saint Mary’s men’s basketball program is currently under investigation by the NCAA for potential recruiting violations of an as-yet unknown variety. Few additional details were forthcoming over the weekend, but what little smoke that there appears to exist is surrounding former assistant coach David Patrick (currently an assistant at LSU), an Australian who was instrumental in recruiting former star guard Patty Mills to the campus. The tiny school that is coached by Randy Bennett has become one of the pre-eminent mid-major programs in America in large part due to its Australian talent pipeline — defending WCC POY and Olympian Matthew Dellavedova is only the latest and greatest Gael product of Oz — it makes you wonder if the attraction to Moraga, California, involved incentives beyond a beautiful campus surrounded by verdant hills. We’ll have more on this topic later this morning.
  2. Now that the Billy Gillispie era has officially ended at Texas Tech, the university is left picking up the pieces of its reputation and trying to figure out what to do next. It’s not like there’s a lot of tradition or much fan support for the basketball program anyway, but the danger of making a poor decision now is that it could realistically embed the program at the bottom of the Big 12 for the next half-decade. Nevertheless, the school hopes to name an interim head coach for the upcoming season within the next two weeks, and assistant head coach Chris Walker by virtue of his association with Gillispie’s antics may not be the choice for the permanent job. Andy Katz suggested three viable candidates last week — Rob Evans, Doc Sadler, and Reggie Theus — all of whom have significant and successful head coaching experience along with ties to the region that would help the program transition to a new, and hopefully, better era.
  3. Oregon received great news over the weekend as Dana Altman’s program reportedly has received a transfer commitment from former Rice star Arsalan Kazemi, a double-double machine who will apply for a hardship waiver to play immediately. Kazemi is notable as the first Iranian to play Division I NCAA basketball, but the “Beast of the Middle East” is certainly more than a demographic footnote — the 6’7″, 220-pounder consistently pounds the glass as one of the best defensive rebounders in America, and his free throw rate is annually one of the best in the nation. We’re not sure the basis for Kazemi’s waiver request to play this season, but if approved, an all-senior front line of Tony Woods, EJ Singler, and Kazemi would be one of the best in the Pac-12, if not the nation.
  4. It’s not very often that you’ll read a piece from a national columnist encouraging his readers to rise up as one and not let an issue drop out of the collective consciousness. And yet, that’s exactly what CBSSports.com‘s Gregg Doyel does when he outlines what he calls the “hypocrisy of the NCAA” in predicting that absolutely nothing will happen to Duke as a result of the Lance Thomas jewelry loan situation. Doyel is a flashpoint writer — pretty much every major fan base thinks he has a specific beef with them, when in reality being critical is his style — but he has the status to make something his crusade if he chooses to do so. We’re guessing that many of the enemies he’s made over the years would turn on a dime and become his biggest fans if he actually was capable of nailing the Blue Devil program on this one.
  5. We’re willing to root for Northwestern to finally make the NCAA Tournament as much as the next guy, but the storyline gets a little tiresome when every piece of news surrounding the program is viewed through that particular prism. Still, the weekend news that junior guard JerShon Cobb has been suspended for the entire 2012-13 season because of a violation of team policy has to be disconcerting to Wildcat fans. Cobb has been a part-time starter who offers solid offensive production (career 7.3 PPG) in around 20 minutes per contest; his removal from the lineup changes the complexion of a team already anticipating the replacement of the offense of its former star, John Shurna. In a loaded Big Ten conference where a .500 record is a reasonable goal, Bill Carmody will need to find additional offense from unexpected places if his team is to have any shot at getting the NCAA albatross off its back.
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Morning Five: 06.15.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 15th, 2012

  1. You’re probably reading this post approximately 8-12 hours after textapocalypse went into effect in college basketball last night. As the midnight bell tolled, a new NCAA rule went into effect allowing coaches to bombard high school sophomores and above with as many phone calls and text messages that they can muster. You might recall that one of the very first posts on this venerable site back in 2007 suggested that the NCAA’s decision to ban text messages in light of news that Billy Gillispie (then at Kentucky) was knocking out 8,000 messages a month was a good idea. Even in those short five years, how people communicate with one another has changed significantly (texting has essentially replaced phone calls between young people), but that doesn’t mean that middle-aged coaches will do any better with it now than they did then. One thing is certain — with social media like Twitter and Facebook today existing side-by-side texts on everyone’s smart phone, there’s bound to be lots of texting hilarity that will ensue from just the auto-correct function alone.
  2. Cincinnati and Xavier decided on Thursday that all the on-court fun the players have had at the Crosstown Shootout (now re-branded as the Crosstown Classic – lolz) in recent years shouldn’t be limited to the student-athletes punching each other on the floor. With the choice to move the game to a neutral site downtown and tickets split down the middle, this two-year move will allow fans to get in zip each other up while enjoying the game from the stands. Look, we understand the logic behind moving the game away from home sites where the vitriol heaved upon the visiting team produces a volatile situation, but is college basketball turning into a sport where only games at neutral sites are those worth having? Between the Kentucky-Indiana ridiculousness and now this, we have to wonder if the sport is losing one of the very things that makes it special (home-and-home rivalry games). What’s next — Duke and Carolina on a Charlotte/Greensboro/Raleigh rotation?
  3. It didn’t take long for former Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler to find a landing spot. Kansas announced on Thursday that Sadler, who has a 149-107 record as a Division I head coach, would take over as the Jayhawks’ Director of Basketball Operations. He replaces Barry Hinson, who left KU after the season to become the new head coach at Southern Illinois. Sadler continues a trend of high-major college coaches keeping their name fresh in the industry by taking assistant positions when they come available. For example, former Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey is currently an assistant at Florida, biding his time until another choice job comes available and an AD is willing to take another chance on him.
  4. Speaking of the Gator program, Florida fans received some excellent news on Thursday when Virginia Tech forward Dorian Finney-Smith announced that he would transfer to Gainesville in light of Seth Greenberg’s firing. Finney-Smith joins Damontre Harris as transfers heading south to play for Billy Donovan, giving the two-time national champion head coach a leg up already on his 2013-14 roster. The 6’8″ player averaged 7/7 last year in 30 minutes per game for Virginia Tech, but he clearly needs to spend the off year working on shot selection (33.2%) and bulking up. Finney-Smith is already an elite per-minute rebounder, but with another 30 pounds on his frame he could easily average double figure boards in two years for the Gators.
  5. The biggest knock on Bruce Weber at Illinois was his recruiting (or lack thereof), especially in the talent-rich Chicago area. As the new head coach at Kansas State, he faces a more difficult recruiting situation in that the nearest major city is Kansas City, a town not exactly known for its prep basketball talent in the same sense as the Windy City. As a result, Weber went on record Thursday stating that he plans to branch out to more places, even as many as all places. Well, except the West Coast. Weber said during a Big 12 coaches’ teleconference that he wants to recruit the Midwest, Texas, the East Coast, and of course, Chicago. All we can think is that Illinois fans must be snickering in their cereal this morning.
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Morning Five: 05.25.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 25th, 2012

  1. It wouldn’t be the Morning Five without a John Calipari mention, as the sport’s biggest newsmaker spins the media like a top with his almost-daily appearances, interviews, and social media missives. Yesterday on his website the Kentucky head coach wrote that his new scheduling strategy — pushing for more neutral site appearances against marquee opponents — will result in a one-year hiatus in the Kentucky-North Carolina series, but the home-and-home battle between two of the best programs in the country will return in 2013-14. The purpose of this move according to Calipari is to alternate years where the Wildcats will have to travel to Chapel Hill and Louisville, meaning that UK will play at least one tough non-conference road game each year. The Wildcats have also picked up a home/neutral series with Baylor starting next season that will allow them to play in Cowboys Stadium in 2013-14, the site of that year’s Final Four. Perhaps most interestingly, though, is that Calipari says that he’s in negotiations with Duke to begin an annual rotating neutral site game that he says would be on the same weekend each year and become “THE GAME” to watch. We certainly can’t argue with that.
  2.  What we can argue with was a curious comment that Calipari made in his post explaining why he’s so gung ho on scheduling future neutral site games in football stadiums: “I’m convinced we would have won the title two seasons ago if we would have played in a dome during the regular season. Our guys weren’t prepared for it.” At first blush, this sounds reasonable on its face. But closer examination suggests that the head coach is tailoring the facts of his argument to justify what he wants. First of all, the Wildcats lost to West Virginia in the Elite Eight in Syracuse in 2010, which means of course that they had to win a Sweet Sixteen game in the Carrier Dome two days prior — on the same floor, in the same dome, only against a different team (Cornell). Did John Wall and company forget what they’d learned about playing in a dome environment just 48 hours before the loss to WVU? Next, the 2012 team that just won the national championship in the Superdome didn’t play in a dome environment at all in this year’s regular season or in the SEC Tournament. Still, without that ‘necessary’ experience, the Wildcats successively rolled through Indiana, Baylor, Louisville and Kansas to win it all. All in domes. If Calipari wants to play the lack of experience card to forgive the failure of the 2010 Wildcats, he probably should be looking at the ridiculously soft schedule that his Wildcats ran through on its way to a 35-3 record that year. When both teams matched up in the Elite Eight, the Mountaineers were by far the best team UK had faced all season. Kentucky’s lack of experience in playing good teams was the problem; it wasn’t that they hadn’t played in a dome. [Ed. Note: It is unclear which team Calipari was referring to, but the 2010 team was a far superior team if he was talking about winning a national championship.]
  3. From a coach spewing nonsense to players doing likewise… Deadspin published a really interesting piece on Thursday examining in great detail documents from the cottage industry of companies who are tasked with monitoring college athletes’ social networking accounts. The article describes how it works: First, the schools get access to each player’s account through a special tracking mechanism that scans their pages regularly. Then, “once the computers gather all that data, the firms’ software searches it for trigger words and reports back to coaches and athletic department functionaries. This happens in near real-time.” It wouldn’t be Deadspin-worthy unless the examples were equal parts hilarious and horrifying, so we’d just suggest you set aside a few minutes of your time and get over there to poke around. Of particular interest is one company’s documentation and definition of many of the most common trigger words and phrases that could get players in trouble. Let’s just end this by saying that if you’re over 30 years old, you’re probably going to learn a few new slang words or acronyms to test on your buddies during the long weekend.
  4. More conference realignment! And it doesn’t involve yet another rumor about Florida State, Clemson or Miami. No, UT-Arlington, a Southland school who is (we’re not kidding) joining the WAC on July 1, will spend one year in that league before movin’ on up to the Sun Belt, effective next summer. You read that correctly — in a span of 366 days (from June 30, 2012 to July 1, 2013), UT-Arlington will be a member of three different conferences. At the mid-major level, it’s just short of impossible to keep up with who is heading where, but we think that the Sun Belt will also pick up Georgia State and Texas State to replace the losses of FIU, Denver, and North Texas to the WAC and Conference USA. Whether the WAC survives all of this re-shuffling remains to be seen.
  5. A couple of head coaching positions at the mid-major level were filled on Thursday, with Rider and Binghamton inextricably connected through the transition. Binghamton hired Rider head coach Tommy Dempsey to take over for Mark Macon, a former star player at Temple who was unable to dig out of the morass left by his predecessor, Kevin Broadus. Rider acted quickly to fill the vacuum, promoting assistant coach Kevin Baggett to the helm for purposes of continuity. Rider has averaged 18.5 wins per season in the six years that Baggett was an assistant for Dempsey, so it makes sense that the administration wants to keep the momentum moving forward.
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Morning Five: 05.10.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 10th, 2012

  1. The biggest news to release on Wednesday was that the ACC has renegotiated its television rights deal with ESPN in light of the fact that it has added two additional members. The twin poaching of Pittsburgh and Syracuse from the Big East last year will result in a 32.9% increased annual payout for each school — from an average of $12.9M to $17.1M — proving that the new reality of cable channels willing to pay exorbitant amounts for college sports isn’t drying up anytime soon. The total amount ESPN paid for the rights to ACC football and basketball through 2026-27 is $3.6 billion, ensuring that Dookie V. will remain in his catbird seat at Cameron Indoor Stadium for the rest of his life.
  2. Realignment has allowed the ACC and the Big 12 (reportedly) to re-negotiate their television deals in their favor this week, so it’s unsurprising that further positioning is already under way. Chip Brown at Orangebloods.com floated a scenario yesterday that suggests the ACC’s Florida State could find a better deal over in the Big 12 ($19M per year), a conference that might also allow the Seminoles to develop its own Longhorn-style network (worth another estimated $5M per year). Very little would surprise us at this point, and the dollars talk — for the better part of two decades, FSU has seemed a strange fit in the basketball-centric ACC, so a jump to the Big 12 with no invitation to the SEC forthcoming seems just as reasonable as anything else. Maybe they could go west as a package deal: According to Andy Katz’s report from the new Big East commissioner’s conference call on Wednesday, Louisville has informed the other schools in its league that they’re gone at the first decent offer (presumably from the Big 12 or ACC). We’re sure there will be no shortage of this chatter for the next, oh, four months.
  3. Open and notorious solicitation of a school wanting to join a new conference isn’t confined only to the power leagues, of course. Oakland University (located in metro Detroit, not northern California) is hoping for consideration to replace Butler in the Horizon League when the Fighting Brad Stevenses move on to the Atlantic 10 after next season. A decade ago local rival Detroit, not wanting to share geographic space within the same league, managed to keep Oakland out — whether they’ll be able to turn down a program out of the Summit League that has made the NCAA Tournament three times in the last eight years remains to be seen. But it appears to be a natural fit if Detroit can find a way to play nice.
  4. With the coaching carousel winding down (only three jobs open currently), Jeff Goodman rates some of the notable coaching hires of this offseason. Although he doesn’t give actual grades to the decisions thus far, it’s interesting that he writes that the Larry Brown hire at SMU is the one where he’s “Not sold… yet.” In reading through this list, though, perhaps the most striking thing in a year where there have been 43 coaching openings so far, is that brand-name jobs have quite simply not been available. Which was the best opening — Virginia Tech? Kansas State? It has definitely not been a good year for aspiring young coaches to trade up — at least, not yet.
  5. It wasn’t a 1500-word missive to make his case for ‘nontraditional’ scheduling for a ‘nontraditional’ yet tradition-rich program, but Indiana’s Tom Crean on Wednesday gave his side of the story in the Great Scheduling Debate involving Kentucky and IU’s terminated home-and-home series. Crean basically argues that Indiana is already playing several neutral site games with the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis and whichever exempt tournament that it is invited to in a given season (e.g., next year’s Legends Classic), so it doesn’t make sense for the Hoosiers to play yet another neutral site game with Kentucky. He also reminds everyone that it was the Wildcats, not the Hoosiers (both under different head coaches at the time, who moved the game back on campus in the mid-2000s after a 15-year run at neutral venues. As we argued on Tuesday, though, the notion that teams should play as many as a quarter of its pre-NCAA schedule in neutral venues seems a bit ridiculous to us, but we’re mostly bitter about the loss of one of the best regional rivalries in college basketball, so don’t mind us.
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