Morning Five: 05.03.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 3rd, 2012

  1. Round and round and round we go… coming on the heels of Tuesday’s announcement that Butler will join the Atlantic 10 beginning in the 2013-14 season, the Mountain West leaked on Wednesday that Utah State and San Jose State are set to join its ranks on Friday of this week. While bolstering the MW in light of its pending losses of TCU, San Diego State and Boise State, this move may effectively finish off the WAC, a high-mid major conference with just shy of 50 years of history behind it. The league may be left with only two football-playing members (New Mexico State and Idaho) and it appears that the remaining schools are likewise off to greener pastures. Such is the natural consequence of every school acting in its own self-interest.
  2. While on the subject of conference realignment, everyone has had a little time to digest the Butler move to the Atlantic 10 by now, and Luke Winn writes that much of the media got it wrong in suggesting that the “Butler Way” will need to change in order for the Bulldogs to find success in their new conference. His argument makes total sense — while the Atlantic 10 as a whole is a clearly better league than the Horizon, it’s really only better at the top. Now, instead of having to rely on non-conference play to build its overall NCAA resume, the Bulldogs will have enough games against the likes of Xavier, Dayton, Richmond, St. Louis, et al, by which to impress the selection committee. As Winn notes, efficiency metrics suggest that Butler would have finished in one of the top two positions of the A-10 standings in five of the last six years, and while those metrics don’t actually play the games, there’s not a compelling piece of evidence we’ve yet seen that would suggest Brad Stevens or Butler will have trouble in their new league.
  3. The 2012 Jimmy V Classic matchups were announced on Wednesday and the event will have a decidedly nostalgic feel next season in Madison Square Garden. The school where Jim Valvano became famous, NC State, will headline with its strong squad heading to New York to face Connecticut, while Texas and Georgetown will play in the other game. It’s only been 31 days since we last saw a college basketball game tip off, but simply reading about these matchups has already caused a marked increase in our heart rate and blood pressure.
  4. The 2012-13 version of ESPN Gameday will have a decidedly lower pitch next season, as the hyena-like laughter of Hubert Davis will no longer be a regular part of the show. Davis has agreed to take Jerod Haase’s open assistant coaching spot at his alma mater, North Carolina, after Haase decided to accept the head job at UAB last month. Roy Williams noted in previous comments about the position that a number of his former players were interested in the spot on his bench, and although Davis never played for the Kansas/UNC coach, his claim that the new assistant would have Carolina ties was clearly a factual statement. At the ripe age of 41, Davis is getting into the collegiate coaching game a bit late, but he’s certainly well connected and could use his seven years as an ESPN personality to help with recruiting and name recognition.
  5. Stanford’s basketball program may not be among the elite, but we’re becoming increasingly convinced that the university through its deep connections with tech giants such as Google and Facebook is well on its way to taking over the world, one terabyte at a time. In the Moneyball world of sports analytics, a Stanford senior named Muthu Alagappan recently developed an entirely new (and award-winning) way of looking at positions in basketball, based on the actual production of NBA players regardless of size or favored spots on the floor. Using data visualization techniques, he came up with 13 basketball positions with such descriptive names like the “Defensive Ball-Handler,” the “Paint Protector,” and the “One-of-a-Kind.” By grouping players into similar buckets and showing how they interact in a visual way, the concept is that value between similarly situated players will be easier to discern and effective balance between players on a team will be more easily achieved. It’s really interesting stuff — if you want to see the entire presentation, click over here.
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Morning Five: 04.27.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 27th, 2012

  1. Yesterday we mentioned that Luke Winn had written a piece handing out eight different coaching awards based on efficiency metrics from the entire season. His follow-up article published on Thursday broke down six more awards based on the data from the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Several of the usual suspects populate this list, but you might be surprised at which head coach had the best after-timeout numbers in the Dance this year — he’s widely considered a very good coach, but probably not to the extent he deserves.
  2. Assistant coaches around the country must have thrown up in their mouths Thursday after it was reported that Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich would leave his position to become a “coach-in-waiting” at SMU under new top man Larry Brown. The reported salary that Jankovich will earn while he waits for the itinerant 71-year old to get bored and retire again is over $700,000 per year, nearly double his pay at ISU. Jankovich went 104-64 (.619) in five seasons as a Redbird but despite four 20-wins seasons, he never broke through to the NCAA Tournament there (settling for four NIT appearances instead). The sound that you now hear murmuring in the background is the collective scrum by the nation’s top assistants clamoring to renegotiate their compensation packages. Wow.
  3. It’s the offseason and although we’re still only about three weeks removed from the national championship game, some of the key questions heading into the 2012-13 season are already apparent. In this piece by Mike DeCourcy, you get a double-dip of the Cincinnati Kid (replete with goatee) through both his writing and a video clip discussion of some of those issues. Will UCLA improve its defense with their additions? Can Louisville find a reliable shot-maker? Can Thad Matta find someone to replace Jared Sullinger in the post? These and a couple other answers await if you click on over to TSN.
  4. Roy Williams did a Q&A with UNC fans in Charlotte on Wednesday night, leading to some interesting comments from the venerable coach who is heading into his 10th full season as the head coach of the Tar Heels. Of note: his team considered cutting down the nets in Cameron Indoor Stadium after winning the ACC regular season title, but thought that such a display “might cause a scene” (ya think?); recruiting the Wear Twins over Mason Plumlee was “one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done” (um…); and he has not completely bought into the 1-and-done methodology for winning a championship, making “some decisions over the last four or five years to not recruit certain kids, because it’s just going to be a one and done” (hey, John Wall).
  5. Finally, we’d be remiss as we close out this week if we didn’t at least mention the strong possibility that the BCS will move away from its incomprehensible system of choosing a football national champion and finally, inexorably, move toward a four-team playoff system beginning in 2014. There aren’t many policy decisions in public life that are complete no-brainers, but this is one of them. A decade from now people will mostly wonder why such an elementary solution to a complex problem took so long to implement. They’ll find the answer in the pocketbooks and vacation homes of bowl executives, but once January Madness takes hold and they realize that the real dollars lie in capturing casual fans (see: Bowl, Super), they too will realize the error of their ways. Congrats to our college football brethren for finally joining the 20th century.
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Morning Five: 04.24.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 24th, 2012

  1. The news of the day on Monday was without question the surprising firing of Virginia Tech’s Seth Greenberg. Our ACC Microsite covered the news yesterday, ultimately coming down on the side of this being a very dangerous move for the Hokie program, and we can’t say that we disagree. If this move were made a month ago, Virginia Tech may have been in a stronger position to make a run at a John Groce, Frank Martin, Trent Johnson, or even (gulp) Larry Brown. By pulling the trigger on Greenberg now, Athletic Director Jim Weaver has put himself in a position where a home run hire is just short of impossible — the objective now must be to not completely soil the bed with the next choice. Dana O’Neil writes that Weaver’s resolve broke when yet another Greenberg assistant, James Johnson, became the sixth to leave the staff in the last four years.
  2. One of the top unsigned players remaining in the Class of 2012, Tony Parker, a 6’9″ forward from Lithonia, Georgia, announced that he will join UCLA’s star-studded class in Westwood next season. Parker joins top five prospects Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson along with top 75 player Jordan Adams to form the nucleus of a group that will ultimately decide head coach Ben Howland’s fate as a Bruin. Recall that it was Howland’s top-rated Class of 2008 — full of transfers, headaches, and bad decision theater — that laid the groundwork for the disappointing string of seasons from 2009-12 after a run of three straight Final Four appearances. With a massive front line returning along with transfer Larry Drew and this incoming crew of elite prospects, expectations will be sky high in the a renovated Pauley Pavilion next season.
  3. Remember when Kentucky’s Terrence Jones went wide receiver on a long pass against Louisville in the Final Four, resulting in his plowing through a tiny Cardinal cheerleader in the end zone? After the UK victory, Jones went on record saying that he would find the girl later and bring her some flowers to apologize for the mishap. Showing his gentlemanly side, Jones on Monday kept to his word in bringing a bouquet of flowers to the young miss, Jerica Logue, and you can see their immediate interaction in this photograph taken by WHAS-11’s Maggie Ruper. We’ve noted this sort of strange bedfellows thing before on this site, but Kentucky and Louisville fans are sure making it hard to buy their bitterest rivalry meme when we keep seeing examples of class, mutual respect and decorum from both sides.
  4. It’s not every day you’ll read a college basketball column referencing the Stephen Sondheim Theater in New York City in addition to student-athletes and the 1-and-done rule, but Mike DeCourcy shows his range by doing just that in this piece examining NCAA president Mark Emmert‘s lack of clarity on the issue. Of course, we’ve grown long in the tooth arguing that Emmert and others who think eliminating 1-and-done is better for college basketball in the long run simply don’t see the big picture. It’s a bit disconcerting that, as DeCourcy points out, Emmert’s message has proven not only incapable of staying on point — what does he really believe? — but the hype and hysteria surrounding what amounts to a small handful of players leaving after one year each season shows that facts aren’t all that important to those decrying the rule. Everybody knows that 1-and-done is not an ideal situation for anyone involved — the players, coaches, programs, and the NBA — but if it’s the necessary rest stop on the way to a two-year rule that will satisfy both Emmert and the NBA Player’s Association (who is currently holding up the deal), we’ll take it.
  5. To close things out today, we’re a little less than a week from the official NBA Draft early entry deadline (April 29), so we won’t know the final list until then, but that didn’t stop Dick Vitale from dropping his latest Top 40 for the 2012-13 season. RTC will release its post-deadline Top 25 next Monday, but it says here that Louisville, Kentucky and NC State are overrated, while Michigan, Baylor and UCLA are underrated.
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Morning Five: 06.23.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 23rd, 2011

  1. It’s NBA Draft day, and depending on where you stand in the American basketball landscape, one of the best or worst days on the calendar.  As college hoops fans, we’re obviously very disheartened to see players we’ve watched closely for the last one/two/three/four years moving on to the next phase of their lives, but as people who like to root for good kids following their dreams, we have nothing but love for the players who will hear their names called by David Stern or Adam Silver tonight.  Hopefully every one of them will realize just how amazing an opportunity they’re receiving to play this beautiful game for big-time money and will make the most of it.  The very best of luck to all the draftees tonight.
  2. To that end, here’s a link to our 35 NBA Draft profiles of the top collegians who are most likely to hear their names called tonight.  From Kyrie Irving to Iman Shumpert and everyone in-between, they’re all there.  We break down their games, discuss their strengths and weaknesses, predict how they’ll be doing in three years, and project which teams would be best served picking them.  As writers who have followed these players as closely as anybody the last several years, we bring a somewhat different perspective on these prospects than your typical NBA-centric sites.  Take a look.
  3. If you don’t like our profiles, or don’t have the patience to wade through nearly 25,000 words this morning, head on over to Seth Davisannual breakdown of the top 40 prospects as relayed to him from six anonymous NBA scouts and one coach at the next level.  As always, there’s some insightful stuff in this piece, but it’s up to the players to perform — not the scouts to evaluate — after tonight.
  4. Former Binghamton head coach Kevin Broadus has found a place to land after his ugly resignation in the wake of a program meltdown under his watch in 2009 — John Thompson, III’s Georgetown staff.  Previously an assistant under JT3 from 2004-07, he will become the Hoyas’ fourth “assistant coach” even though his actual title is “aide” and he won’t be able to “coach, attend meetings involving coaching activities, or scout opponents.”  What exactly Broadus will be doing other than acting as a “sounding board” to Thompson is currently unclear, but the local product who grew up in the DC area will undoubtedly help the Hoyas work the fertile talent pool there.
  5. Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar stated unequivocally to Percy Allen on Wednesday that he is not a candidate for the Minnesota Timberwolves job despite persistent rumors to the contrary.  With the talent pipeline and relative job security that Romar has up in Seattle, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for him to take a dead-end NBA job like Minnesota, unless, of course, he has lingering memories of Kevin Love spurning his Huskies for the sunnier skies and warmer climate of southern California and wants another shot to coach him.
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Morning Five: 05.11.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 11th, 2011

  1. Might there be a Gus Johnson reprieve?  Yesterday we wrote about how incredibly disappointed we were that Gus had decided to take his talents to Fox Sports in coming years, effectively ending his career with CBS and seemingly eliminating any more future chances for Heartbreak City! Michael Hiestand of USA Today writes, though, that his new employer would have no problem with ‘loaning out’ Gus to CBS/Turner during future NCAA Tournaments should they want him for their wall-to-wall coverage (see: ESPN’s Jay Bilas, for example).  That last bit is the key part, right there.  As popular as Gus was among college basketball fans under the age of 40, his departure was in some ways political in nature, and we figure it would be tough for CBS to bring back someone who rejected their final offer and left for another network (jilted girlfriend theory).  Still, a glimmer of hope in what appeared to be cavernous darkness…
  2. Now that the Maryland job search is over, it’s Texas A&M’s turn.  Athletic Director Bill Byrne has quite a tough job ahead of him given the success of his two previous hires, Mark Turgeon and Billy Gillispie, but according to TSN, native Houstonian and Memphis head coach Josh Pastner is not available.  The Houston Chronicle reported on Tuesday that Marquette’s Buzz Williams was now A&M’s primary target, but his buyout and salary were probably too rich for TAMU to match.  This leaves a reported list of three intriguing names — Nebraska’s Doc Sadler, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, and Colorado’s Tad Boyle.  Of the three, Marshall would appear to be the kind of coach in the Gillispie/Turgeon vein to seem the best fit, with demonstrated success at the mid-major level and the requisite ambition to make it at the highest level.
  3. Luke Winn breaks down the somewhat embarrassing coaching searches that went on at four ACC schools so far this offseason — NC State, Miami (FL), Georgia Tech, and most recently, Maryland.  Among the four schools, roughly eight to ten candidates (depending on who you ask) turned these  programs down in favor of their current schools that, by and large, would have represented stepping stones to bigger things in the not-too-distant past.  Mark Few at Gonzaga began this trend last decade: an absurd notion that a coach could build an A-list program at a non-BCS school, short of the pressures of insane fan bases but with nearly as much exposure, recruiting penetration and success as many of the big boys.  More recently, Brad Stevens at Butler, Tommy Amaker at Harvard, Shaka Smart at VCU and Chris Mooney at Richmond have decided to stick with the devil they know rather than the one they don’t, and we can’t truly say we blame them.  This is especially true in a league like the ACC, where the twin titans of Duke and Carolina lord over the league nearly every year and it’s extremely difficult to challenge and (even temporarily) overcome them.  Gary Williams did it as well as it’s been done in the last twenty years, but we don’t blame coaches who think they’d be walking into situations where they’re mostly set up to fail.
  4. A bit of transfer news from Tuesday… Kansas State forward and overall disappointment Wally Judge has decided that he will play his final two seasons at Rutgers, ultimately betting on the future of Mike Rice’s program rather than to take a chance at Maryland with new head coach Mark Turgeon.  The 6’9, 248-lb former McDonald’s All-American averaged 6/4 in around fifteen minutes per game last year before leaving the K-State program in late January.  Meanwhile, NC State point guard Ryan Harrow has announced the schools he will visit in coming weeks, including Kentucky, Louisville, St. John’s, Georgia and Texas.  The odds-on favorite is SJU, as both of Harrow’s folks are products of Queens and consider the Johnnies their hometown school.  Whoever gets the freshman will be getting a talented floor leader, as Harrow averaged 9/3 in 23 minutes per game and started most of the Wolfpack’s contests at the end of last season.
  5. Love or hate the man as a comedian-cum-superstar center or lazy, out-of-shape impresario who wasted some of his best playing years getting involved in things other than basketball, but there can be no question that Shaquille O’Neal possesses a heart of pure gold when it comes to his generosity.  Anyone who has watched his Shaq-a-Claus bit each winter, or has heard the numerous off-record stories about his many random acts of incredible kindness to regular Joes, knows this truth.  So when we read that Shaq was resisting the placement of a life-sized statue of himself outside the new LSU practice facility that he helped pay for, consider us completely unsurprised.  It turns out that the Big Aristotle has been anonymously putting millions into LSU infrastructure for years, including to help pay for an on-campus hotel and an academic center, contributions to the point that two LSU Board of Supervisors members demanded that Shaq’s statue go up first — even ahead of the man whose name adorns the arena, Pete Maravich.  We’ve said for a long time that we’ve never seen another player at 19 years old who could do the things at his size that Shaq could do, but we were always referring to his athleticism and stature; it turns out we might have been unwittingly also referring to the big fella’s ticker, and we didn’t even know it.  Here’s what the statue will look like, if Shaq ever approves its completion.

Best Collegian We've Ever Seen At His Size

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Morning Five: 05.10.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 10th, 2011

  1. As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Maryland has itself a new head coachMark Turgeon may not be the sexy name that many Terp fans were hoping for, but the fact of the matter is that the guy has throughout his career put a consistently solid product on the floor regardless of talent.  His teams are tough-minded, they play sticky defense, and they win — he averaged 24 wins per year at Texas A&M and 22 wins in his last four seasons at Wichita State.  Not everyone agrees, but the general consensus is that Maryland AD Kevin Anderson made a solid if not spectacular hire, but that Turgeon’s chops will ultimately be earned by how well he learns to recruit in the fecund DC/Baltimore prep basketball scene.  We certainly won’t disagree with that, but if Turgeon’s recruiting matches his demonstrated competitiveness, the rest of the ACC is not going to enjoy visiting College Park any more than it did much of the last twenty years — the only difference is that instead of wondering how they scored 75 points and lost by double figures, visiting teams will come out perplexed in how they ended up with bloodied noses, bruises all over their bodies, and put up only 50.
  2. CBS, CBS, CBS… what on earth are you doing?  Last week it was prematurely reported that Gus Johnson was leaving CBS Sports (and by proxy, the NCAA Tournament), when in reality he had only received an offer from Fox Sports that CBS would have an opportunity to match.  Many, ourselves included, presumed that CBS would make the smart decision and keep Gus, the vox populi of college basketball, on board.  And this is why we weren’t business majors… because CBS did no such thing.  The Blinking Eye network let him walk (apparently, politics, in addition to dollars, was involved), and Fox Sports and the NFL are the major beneficiaries.  All we know is that Pac-12 games just got 1000% more interesting next season, and it’s not because Jorge Gutierrez and Trent Lockett are returning to school.  For a very insightful piece examining the ins and outs of  his employment situation, read Awful Announcing’s excellent analysis on the paradox of Gus Johnson here.
  3. We stumbled across this interesting post from Rock Chalk Talk about the state of college basketball, at least as viewed from a partisan Kansas writer.  While we understand where he’s coming from in terms of this statement: “We’re at a point now where the best teams still get the best talent, but they never become a team,” we have trouble seeing the natural consequence of parity as a bad thing.  The beauty of the NCAA Tournament (along with the World Cup and the NFL Playoffs, to name two other worldwide favorites) is that top seeds can be beaten if they don’t bring their absolute best game every given night; underdogs and upsets are what keep the casual fans interested.  He seems to fail to recognize that the transformation of the NCAA Tournament to March Madness began in the 1980s when NC State (1983), Villanova (1985) and his very own Kansas Jayhawks (1988) captured the imagination of American sports fans with their rags-to-riches Cinderella stories.  While it’s true that the quality of college basketball has been hurt by the onslaught of early entries to the NBA Draft every single spring, that problem is not a recent phenomenon.  It began nearly twenty years ago and  accelerated throughout the 1990s to the point where the top 8-10 high school players each year were skipping college altogether by the middle of last decade, thereby hurting the overall product.  The piece makes some good points, but it reads a bit like someone decrying parity and a bad product to explain his team’s #1 seed meltdowns to Cinderellas prior to the Final Four the last two years.
  4. Robert Morris sophomore guard Karon Abraham was suspended for the entire 2011-12 season as a result of his second alcohol offense (underage drinking) in the last six months (he also had a DUI conviction last November).  According to head coach Andy Toole, the Colonials’ best player was “shocked” by this decision, and given that he will not be allowed to work out with the team next season, we have to wonder if he’ll consider transferring to another school that will give him  an opportunity to stay on the court (even as just a practice player in 2011-12).  He definitely needs to get his head on straight here, but RMU’s decision is punitive enough to make us think that he might consider it.
  5. VCU head coach Shaka Smart continues to live the dream, fresh off his first Final Four appearance and a nice contract extension, by throwing out the first pitch in a weekend game between the Cubs and Reds at Wrigley Field.  Perhaps sensing that he hadn’t done enough, he also sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh inning stretch.  Let’s hope he hangs on to his day job for a little longer, eh?

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Morning Five: Cinco de Mayo Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 5th, 2011

  1. Former UNLV star and NBA veteran Stacey Augmon joined Dave Rice’s brand-new UNLV staff as an assistant coach on Wednesday.  The Plastic Man is the Runnin’ Rebels third-leading all-time scorer with over 2,000 points and is widely regarded as one of the best collegiate defenders of his era (a three-time national defensive player of the year selection).  A popular player both during his playing days and afterward, he, along with other stars Larry Johnson and Greg Anthony, helped compose one of the most fearsome collegiate lineups of all-time; while Augmon was in Vegas, UNLV went 126-20 including back-to-back trips to the Final Four and winning  a national title in 1990.  With his #32 jersey hanging in the rafters of the Thomas & Mack Center, Augmon will certainly have the adequate standing to convince potential recruits of how a few years in Sin City can further a young players’ career.
  2. Wednesday’s NBA Draft news focused on another somewhat questionable decision in that Michigan’s Darius Morris has decided to keep his name in as an early entrant despite projected by most observers as a second round pick.  An interesting byproduct of several elite players staying in school — namely, Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, and Perry Jones — is that the meme of “weak draft” has been repeated to the point that many second- and third-tier players  now think they have a good shot at reaching the first round’s guaranteed money.  Sigh.  Sometimes you can’t win for losing with these guys, right?  In equally relevant news, Maryland’s Jordan Williams has also decided to chase the dollars, having signed with an agent and making his announcement to leave school on Wednesday.  He’s projected as a late first-round or early second-rounder, but remember, folks… it’s a weak draft.
  3. We mentioned yesterday in the M5 that Kentucky’s “pro day” allowed NBA GMs and personnel to watch several Wildcats work out all at once rather than having to travel all over the country in a very short window of time.  We also mentioned that forward Terrence Jones’ decision would end up being “predictably unpredictable,” and if DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony’s tweets today are any indication, you should count on it.  His mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader yesterday that her son would take until ‘the last minute’ to make his decision about whether to leave school.  And if we know anything about this guy, he’ll do whatever he feels will surprise the maximum number of people.
  4. The Shane Battier Rule is finally near enactment at the collegiate level.  The NCAA Rules Committee on Wednesday recommended that all levels of men’s basketball add the semi-circle known as the “restricted arc” to eliminate secondary defenders taking charges directly underneath the opposing basket.   For the last two seasons, the NCAA has utilized an imaginary arc under the basket, but referees often had just as much trouble deciding how far out the restricted area extended away from the basket to apply — this will make things much cleaner and easier on everyone.  As a fan, there’s nothing more infuriating than to watch an excellent offensive move taken away by an off-ball defender perching himself directly underneath the basket well after the ball has left the driving player’s hand, so we’re particulalrly thankful for this legislation.  The rule change will still need to be approved by the Rules Oversight Panel on June 9, but we should expect it to accept the recommendation.  As a brief aside, the committee also recommended that coaches next season have the ability to ask for a monitor review at any time during the game (for example, to contest a two-pointer counted as a three).  The tradeoff is that if the coach’s request for review turns out to be incorrect (keeping with the example, the two-pointer actually was a two), he risks losing a timeout.  Interesting idea.
  5. Set your DVRs now.  Ohio State alumnus Bob Knight will be honored at an OSU-Lamar game on December 20 for his time as a player in Columbus and general contributions to college basketball.  Why Lamar?  Well, his son, Pat, you may recall, took over as the head coach down in Beaumont, Texas, a month ago.  By that point in the season, Coach K (with 900 wins) will likely have surpassed Knight (902) as the all-time wins leader, but it will be interesting to see if Buckeyes fans will think of the longtime Indiana coach as one of their own, or if they’ll still harbor resentment from a number of years of losses at the hands of the General.  We’d imagine it could get interesting on the mic if OSU fans decide to get creative that evening.
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Morning Five: 04.28.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 28th, 2011

  1. We didn’t get to this on Wednesday, but Seth Davis checked in this week with a piece analyzing the offseason coaching carousel thus far.  There’s not much there to quibble with, as it’s been a relatively quiet year in this regard.  We completely agree with his take that Tennessee hiring Cuonzo Martin was a very smart play, while Missouri going after (and getting) Frank Haith was perhaps the most questionable.  At the mid-major level, Richmond’s Chris Mooney and VCU’s Shaka Smart choosing to stick on the banks of the James River was the most surprising (how often will runs like theirs at those schools happen?).  Jim Larranaga to Miami (FL) (with Kenny Anderson?) and Sydney Johnson to Fairfield?  Those two situations were just weird.  As of this writing, there are only five jobs left open — Mason, George Washington, UC Davis, Alabama A&M, and Florida A&M.  The Patriots have an excellent team returning next season; that opening left by Larranaga is clearly the true remaining plum of the group.
  2. Perhaps mad about John Calipari’s possible gig with the Dominican Republic (joking), Louisville head coach Rick Pitino has canceled his dalliance with Puerto Rico to coach their national team.  Citing conflicts with trying to manage both head coaching duties as the primary reason for his withdrawal, what was left unsaid in his statement on Wednesday was that he was trying to use the summer period to get some great practice time and competition for his Louisville squad against legitimate international competition.  The NCAA allows international summer trips for college teams once every four years, but they’re often against vastly inferior competition and, in this case, the governing body told UL that Puerto Rico, as a US territory, wasn’t “foreign” enough.
  3. Just prepare yourself for roughly one or two of these stories per month until we hit October — it never fails.  Two Winthrop players, including its leading scorer and a key reserve, have been accused of criminal sexual misconduct involving a 19-year old former student.  Sophomore guard Robbie Dreher and freshman center Julius Francis, according to the police report on the matter, allegedly assaulted the woman by restraining her in Francis’ room as the two performed sexual acts on her despite her claim of repeatedly saying, “no.”  Dreher is the team’s top returning scorer at 12.7 PPG in over 31 minutes per contest last season, while Francis played much more sparingly but has great size and considerable promise.  Needless to say, the two have been suspended from the team indefinitely.
  4. It was Huskies Day in Hartford, as the UConn men’s basketball national champs, the women’s Final Four team, and the Orange Bowl football team all visited the Connecticut State Capitol on Wednesday in a combined celebration of their successes.  Kemba Walker took the opportunity to address his comment made last week about only reading one book “cover to cover,” clarifying his academic prowess at the school (graduating in three years) fby stating that he was referring specifically to loving a book so much that he sat down to read it in one sitting.  Jim Calhoun said that he’s still considering retirement, but there’s no timetable on a final decision — we have a feeling he’ll be back on the sideline next year.
  5. All Jimmer, all the time.  That’s what we might have coming soon with the report that a television show production company named Tupelo-Honey Productions will be creating a reality show involving The Jimmer and his family in the weeks leading up to the NBA Draft on June 25.  They plan on shooting over 100 hours of film over 30 days, and the question on everyone’s mind is whether anything Jimmer does or says when he’s not making 28-footers will be, you know, interesting.  Not to go too far down this path, but he’s Mormon — we shouldn’t expect anything resembling baby-mama drama or wild forays to the clubs with his agent.  Drinking a caffeinated soda might be the biggest taboo we’ll see from the guy.  It’ll be interesting to see how this company finds a storyline within its footage to make this something that the general public will want to see.
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Morning Five: 04.26.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 26th, 2011

  1. George Washington University fired longtime coach Karl Hobbs on Monday, and it appears to have been a complete surprise to him.  In ten seasons at the helm in Foggy Bottom, he went 166-129 (84-76 A-10), but after a nice run in the middle part of the decade where GW averaged 24 wins and made three straight NCAA Tournaments, his teams have been consistently mediocre for the last four years (averaging 13 wins and finishing near the bottom of the Atlantic 10 in three of the four years).  Given its academic and international focus in addition to its location in the heart of DC, GW isn’t the easiest school in the world at which to build a great basketball program, but Hobbs did as well as could be reasonably expected for a little while.  He eventually wore out his welcome, though, with a tendency to recruit academically questionable kids and a stubborn refusal to fix a strained relationship with both fans and the local media — it’ll be interesting to see who GW brass gets to replace him.
  2. Former San Diego star and current accused pointshaver Brandon Johnson made his first appearance in federal court yesterday as a result of his arrest for allegedly fixing a 2010 game and soliciting a former teammate to do the same in a 2011 contest.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, he pleaded not guilty to all charges and informed the judge that he could not afford his own counsel and would need an appointed one.  He will remain free on a $25,000 bond until trial is set for later this spring — he may want to spend his time in the next month or two prepping for routines.
  3. From players facing time to those who have already done it, Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery announced over the weekend that his team would add JuCo transfer player Anthony Hubbard to its roster next season.  The reason this is a little different than your typical offseason transfer is that Hubbard spent four years in prison as a result of a robbery conviction that he suffered as an 18-year old in Woodbridge, Virginia.  The 6’5 wing will start at small forward, but according to McCaffery, he has a versatile skill set that will allow him to play multiple positions as a Hawkeye.  From what Hubbard is saying, it appears that his head is on straight and is thankful for the opportunity he has to play Division I basketball — still, he should expect to hear all kinds of things on the road in places like West Lafayette and East Lansing next season.
  4. As we mentioned yesterday, the NBA Draft deadline came and went on Sunday night.  The early entrants who have not yet signed with an agent will have a grand total of two weeks to decide if they’re going to stick with the draft or head back to their college campuses for another year.  Luke Winn breaks down the ten schools with the most to lose in the next two weeks, and unsurprisingly, Kentucky with its possible loss of three starters is at the top of the list.  Mike DeCourcy names his four schools who have been hit hardest thus far (with players not returning), and it might surprise you the school he has listed at the top.
  5. This article by the Louisville Courier-Journal’s Rick Bozich takes a look at the NBA Playoffs from the perspective of a college hoops fan.  While we take issue with his choice of “top fifty playoff scorers” as the only metric to determine playoff performance, he still found some interesting results from the analysis.  For example, which school do you think has gotten the most scoring bang for its buck in this year’s playoffs so far?  Any clues?  Would you believe… UCLA, with Russell Westbrook, Trevor Ariza and Jrue Holiday?  Yeah, go figure…
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Morning Five: 04.25.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 25th, 2011

  1. At Midnight ET last night, the NBA’s draft entry deadline passed.  Although we won’t know for certain all the players who announced their intentions to test the waters until the league releases its certified list later this week, there were a few others over the weekend who announced they’re going to give it a shot.  Texas stars Jordan Hamilton and Cory Josephannounced that they would join teammate Tristan Thompson in the draft pool, with the latter two electing to not sign with an agent.  Thompson (along with Hamilton) is projected as a top 20 pick and is expected to stay in the draft, while Joseph is in a more precarious spot.  If he doesn’t appear to become a first-rounder, we’d expect to see him back in Austin next season to team with Myck Kabongo to form one of the best backcourts in all of college basketball.  Another late addition to the draft pool was Georgetown small forward Hollis Thompson, a bit of a surprise to most observers but one which nearly everyone expects will be a temporary situation — he has not signed with an agent and is not projected as a  first or second round pick on any major draft board at this time.
  2. Miami (FL) confirmed on Friday evening that Jim Larranagawould be their new head coach, taking over for Frank Haith.  While some have derided the age of Larranaga as a major barrier to the rebuilding project in Coral Gables, Mike DeCourcy doesn’t believe that will matter much.  He cites Jim Calhoun, Coach K, and Roy Williams as the last three national championship coaches, all of whom are in Larranaga’s age bracket, but we think he fails to adequately recognize that it will take the 61-year old coach at least a year or two to get his feet wet recruiting in South Florida.  While it’s true that he’ll inherit a solid Hurricane team with most of its top players back, the group finished ninth last season in a historically bad ACC, and we’re of the opinion that younger go-getters such as Steve Donahue (BC), Brad Brownell (Clemson) and Brian Gregory (Georgia Tech) are better positioned to move up the conference ladder in coming years.
  3. We know that you were waiting with baited breath on the ruling from the Indiana Supreme Court on how the NCAA handles its public ticket sales for the Final Four, and the decision came down Friday.  You will be thrilled to learn that the court found in a unanimous ruling that the NCAA’s lottery method of selecting the chosen few to dole out $150 for ducats to the sport’s marquee event is not illegal.  A similar case currently sits at the federal level in the 7th Circuit US Court of Appeals, but no ruling has been made in that one yet.
  4. UConn sophomore Jamal Coombs-McDanielwas arrested along with two other individuals for possession of 5.6 grams of marijuana in a dorm room on Thursday night.  That night was the kickoff to an annual UConn rite known as Spring Weekend, a campus-wide party prior to final exams in coming weeks, and JCD apparently was doing his part to liven the place up.  He faces both a possession and a drug paraphernalia charge for his role in the crimes, and we’d expect to see him doing some hardcore community service in and around Storrs in the near future.
  5. Speaking of players behaving badly, BYU’s Brandon Davies, he of the school honor code violation involving premarital canoodling, is expected to “meet conditions so he’ll be eligible” to return to school for the fall semester.  This is great news for a BYU program facing the losses of NPOY Jimmer Fredette and secondary stars Jackson Emery, Kyle Collinsworth (Mormon mission), and two other players as it moves to the WCC in basketball next year.  Still, Davies’ foul-up (the getting caught part, not the canoodling part, in our estimation) may have cost BYU a trip to its first-ever Final Four, so we’ll be interested to see just how forgiving the Cougar faithful will be when he suits up again.
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Morning Five: 04.21.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 21st, 2011

  1. It wouldn’t be a random mid-April Wednesday without NBA Draft comings and goings, and not one, but two, SEC teams announced the draft intentions of three of their stars yesterday.  First and foremost, John Calipari’s talented trio of Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and DeAndre Liggins are all going to test the waters over the next few weeks, and by all indications, it appears that next year Kentucky fans will face a third straight season of uber-talented but inexperienced freshmen leading their team.  Knight and Jones are projected as lottery picks, whereas Liggins, a second rounder if chosen at all, probably wouldn’t be in any better position after returning for his senior season.  Jeff Goodman argues that, despite all of Calipari’s martyrdom last year about his five first-rounders (“best day in Kentucky history” and all that nonsense), he actually wants his players to return.  It’s no leap of faith to state that a coach, if forced to do so, would admit to wanting his best players to stick for two, three, or even four years, but Calipari certainly didn’t expect them to — after all, why recruit a Marquis Teague if you already have a Brandon Knight; or, why recruit a Michael Gilchrist if you already have a Terrence Jones?  The truth is that those players are going to Kentucky with an expectation that minutes at their positions will be available, and they didn’t get those impressions through a careful reading of the tea leaves.
  2. Moving on to the SEC team that announced on Wednesday that its three stars would be returning, Vanderbilt’s all-SEC trio of Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli will be back in Nashville next season.  The Commodores went 23-11 overall and 9-7 in the rugged SEC East before losing a heartbreaking opener in the NCAA Tournament against a much-lower seed for the second straight year.  Kevin Stallings’ team will have the weight of enormous expectations on it next year, as this news gives him as talented and experienced a team he’s ever had in his twelve seasons at Vandy.
  3. We’ve got space today for one piece of significant transfer news — Wake Forest’s Ari Stewart will reportedly resurface at USC in the 2012-13 season.  The 6’7 Demon Deacon forward suffered a bit of a sophomore slump in his first year under Jeff Bzdelik, but he has the tools and the jumper to become an all-conference level player at his next destination.  USC picked up a good one as Kevin O’Neill continues rebuilding with his own players in Troy.
  4. Princeton again decided to keep it within the family by reaching out and hiring Class of 1998 graduate Mitch Henderson to take over for the departed  head coach Sydney Johnson.  Henderson has spent the last eleven years working under Bill Carmody at Northwestern, and said upon his hiring that when junior Doug Davis’ shot fell through in the Ivy Championship game this year against Harvard, he “jumped off his couch” with excitement.  His era as a player (1994-98) was one of the best in program history, as the Tigers made three NCAA Tournaments, reached #7 in the national polls in 1998, and defeated defending national champion UCLA in his sophomore year.  As with Johnson, it’s a lot to live up to for a fan base with rather big expectations.
  5. Just when you thought you couldn’t be more impressed by Derrick Williams’ sophomore All-America season, we learned Wednesday that his “sprained right pinky” had actually been a broken one all along.  Yep, a broken digit that he decided to tough out and play with after suffering the injury in a late January game against UCLA.  Without question, Williams’ field goal percentages of 59.5% and 56.8% (from three) must have really taken a hit by virtue of D-Will’s injury — he likely would have been in the mid-60s in each metric had he not been hurt (we’re only partially kidding).  This exhibited ability to play through pain can only serve to elevate his draft stock come June.
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Where 2010-11 Happens: Reason #21 Why We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 14th, 2010

Shamelessly cribbing from the clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present you with the 2010-11 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we ramp up to the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube.  If you want to have some fun while killing time, we encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.  Enjoy.

#21- Where Great Decisions Happen

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