Unfairly Judged, Dez Wells Continues Quest To Reclaim His Good Name

Posted by BHayes on August 21st, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.

With the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit pending and the “should college athletes be paid?” debate becoming increasingly commonplace at the water cooler, the American public is acutely aware of the supposed slights facing college athletes (particularly those playing football and basketball). The absence of stipend or salary for players, who are obviously the main contributors to this multi-billion dollar industry, will always be seen by most as the least fair element of the whole college athlete gig. Without forgetting all the benefits to being a college athlete – scholarships and exposure prime among them, let’s also make sure we remember how challenging sudden fame would be for any young adult.

Dez Wells Is Happy At Maryland, But His Controversial Expulsion From Xavier A Year Ago Continues To Linger

Dez Wells Is Happy At Maryland, But His Controversial Expulsion From Xavier A Year Ago Continues To Linger

Dez Wells knows better than most. Wells, now a junior at Maryland, was the victim of his own campus celebrity at Xavier a year ago. Even putting aside the fact that it was likely his status as a basketball player that induced an allegation of sexual assault (by all accounts and actions, the claim has been dismissed as a fabrication), Wells’ public figure prompted the Xavier administration to take a hard stance on the issue (for PR reasons), with Wells’ right to a presumption of innocence being thoroughly ignored throughout the process. Tuesday, almost exactly a year to the day he was expelled from XU, Wells filed a lawsuit against his former school, as first reported by Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports. A year ago, it didn’t take long for many to come to the conclusion that Wells got a raw deal, but the escalation of the matter still left his name in national headlines next to the words “sexual assault”.

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Morning Five: 06.05.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 5th, 2013

morning5

  1. In what turned out to be a rough Tuesday in terms of college basketball-related news, a federal grand jury in Alabama unsealed an indictment that alleges former Auburn guard Varez Ward of attempting to throw a game against Arkansas in the 2011-12 season. Ward, a junior at the time, is accused of two counts of sports bribery (or more commonly known as point-shaving) where he allegedly conspired with gamblers and tried to solicit other players to throw the game. (full indictment here) Ward only played 19 seconds in that contest against the Hawgs, suffering a thigh bruise very early that kept him on the bench for the rest of the game in an eventual three-point loss. Last year the FBI said that it was also looking into a February 2012 game against Alabama where Ward scored three points and committed six turnovers, but that game was not referred to in yesterday’s indictment. According to this report from last year, Ward was suspended by Auburn assistant coaches in late February after another player blew the whistle on him; another teammate originally under suspicion was later cleared. Ward never suited up for Auburn again, but he may very well be wearing the orange (jumpsuit) full-time if these charges stick. He faces five years in prison on each count. We’re not going to get preachy on this issue, but we will refer back to one of the first articles we ever wrote on this here website: This sort of thing happens a lot more than anyone cares to admit
  2. Meanwhile, more discouraging news from the great state of Alabama came out on Tuesday as Crimson Tide forward Devonta Pollard was charged by local authorities with conspiracy to commit kidnapping related to an April 30 abduction of a six-year old girl named Jashayla Hopson. The details are somewhat murky at this point, but it appears that Pollard may have been assisting his mother, Jessie Mae Pollard, in antagonizing the youngster’s mother who was caught up in a land dispute with her. But this is no trumped-up charge where someone was held against their will for a minute or two — if the allegations are true, Hopson was picked up at her elementary school and held for a full day before being dropped off on the side of a road unharmed. Pollard, his mother, and four others have been charged so far in this crime, with at least one other still pending. What a crazy world we live in.
  3. Ohio State president Gordon Gee has had himself quite a week, as reports of his insensitive comments made in December about Catholics, SEC schools, and Louisville have been making the rounds. The “pompous ass,” according to Cardinals’ head coach Rick Pitino, announced Tuesday that he is taking his volatile opinions into the sunset, choosing to retire from his post effective July 1. Gee says that he made his decision last week during a vacation, feeling that he needed time to “re-energize and re-focus.” Whether he was encouraged to retire or came to the decision on his own volition, the 69-year old president certainly has a fund-raising and bottom line resume that is unmatched within the industry, so if he chooses to continue his work elsewhere, we doubt he’ll have much trouble finding a place to land. He may not want to send any resumes out to Notre Dame, Louisville or any of those SEC schools, though.
  4. How about some better news? One of the problems with the John R. Wooden Classic played every December in Anaheim was that the stature of the lineup often didn’t seem to fit the stature of the name headlining the event. Naturally, UCLA was almost always involved, but usually the three other teams invited were a mixture of solid mid-majors (i.e., St. Mary’s, San Diego State) and some other mid-level programs (i.e., USC, Washington, Texas A&M). It was also just for one day, and it often fell during a period in the college basketball calendar in early to mid-December when viewers were getting much better match-ups during the same period (think: UNC-Kentucky or Kansas-Ohio State). The decision announced Tuesday to rebrand the event as the John Wooden Legacy and merge it with the Anaheim Classic during Thanksgiving weekend is a good one. Although the 2013 field is not great, featuring Marquette, Creighton, San Diego State and Miami (FL) as its marquee names, the four-year cycle of exempted events and ESPN’s coverage will no doubt encourage bigger-name programs to take the trip to SoCal in future years. We’d expect this to become one of the better such events during Feast Week starting in 2014 and beyond.
  5. Finally today, Andy Glockner at SI.com digs deeply through the KenPom statistical buffet and gives us what he calls “the extremists” — those returning players who are the best of the best in each of a number of key statistical categories. If you can name the top returnee in the nation in shot percentage at 40 percent, more power to you (answer: Wofford’s Karl Cochran), but certainly a couple of these names are on the short list for breakout seasons next year: Oregon State’s Eric Moreland (tops in defensive rebounding percentage at 28 percent); St. John’s Chris Obepka (tops in block percentage at 16 percent); and, VCU’s Briante Weber (tops in steal percentage at 7 percent). There’s more to the article than this, of course, so check it out on a lazy summer Wednesday.
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Morning Five: 05.29.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 29th, 2013

morning5

  1. If you threw a dart at a map of the United States and it landed somewhere in the hills of Eastern Kentucky or Southwestern Virginia, then drew a circle around that location with a radius of roughly 500 miles in distance, you’d pretty much have nailed down the ‘fertile crescent’ of college basketball. With powerful and tradition-rich programs like North Carolina, Duke, NC State, Kentucky, Louisville, Indiana, Cincinnati, and Ohio State, along with other well-supported programs like Tennessee, Xavier, Dayton and Wake Forest all within that circle, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that nine of ESPN‘s top 10 rated television markets for college basketball fall within its boundaries. The top 10: Louisville, Greensboro, Raleigh/Durham, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Columbus, Charlotte, Knoxville and Nashville. KC, with Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State, Creighton and Wichita State all somewhat nearby is the only outlier among this group.
  2. You know it’s gotten out of hand if politicians are getting involved, and that appears to now be the case at Rutgers in the latest scandal enveloping the school’s athletic department. Or not getting involved. Or getting involved to say that they’re not getting involved. Whatever. New Jersey governor Chris Christie told listeners on his “Ask the Governor” radio show Tuesday night that he has no plans to intervene in the hiring of new athletic director Julie Hermann. While it’s no doubt true that Christie has much bigger fish to fry than micromanaging every hiring decision at the state university, it’s worth asking whether any senior athletic department staff is paying attention at all (certainly Christie’s political opponents are doing so). The Mike Rice situation followed by the flub with Eddie Jordan’s resume and now this debacle is highly suggestive of an environment where leadership can’t see what they don’t want to see. It’s incumbent on university president Bob Barchi to get this problem fixed, and soon.
  3. The SEC Tournament may seek to reproduce the success that its football and baseball championships have had at permanent sites — Atlanta and Hoover, Alabama, respectively — by moving to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena for good following the 2014 event in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. Commissioner Mike Slive was careful to avoid saying the word “permanent,” opting instead to call Music City the “primary” site, but the point is that SEC puppet-masters feel that the relatively central geographic location and easy access for large traveling basketball fan bases such as Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and home team Vanderbilt would merit this (as yet unofficial) decision. Can’t say we disagree. The best conference tournaments are generally in a city that really embraces the event every year, and Nashville seems to enjoy its status as a big-time basketball stronghold during the few times it has gotten to hold the event there.
  4. It’s not often we dig into Division II basketball on this site, but it’s also not common for there to be a formal indictment by a grand jury against a player for murder either. San Francisco State wing Decensae White — formerly of Texas Tech and Santa Clara in 2006-09 — was indicted in Georgia on Tuesday for his alleged role in gunning down a rapper named Lil Phat (nee‘ Melvin Vernell III) as he sat outside a hospital where his girlfriend underwent labor in Atlanta. White gained some degree of national notoriety for hitting a half-court game winner against Cal Poly back in February of this season, as the clip was featured on ESPN’s Sportscenter. White and four other men are due for presentment on these charges later this week.
  5. There was one notable bit of transfer news from Tuesday, as Oregon State’s Ahmad Starks has announced that he will spend the last year of his career at Illinois. He will apply for a family illness waiver to play immediately, as his grandmother is reported to be sick in Chicago. This is a good pickup for John Groce’s squad, as the Illini could use some experienced talent — Starks averaged 10.4 PPG and hit 62 threes last season for the Beavers — to pair in the backcourt with returnees Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand as part of a three-guard set. It may not be a group as talented as last year’s Paul/Richardson/Abrams trio, but it should work well within Groce’s trey-happy system.
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Morning Five: 05.23.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 23rd, 2013

morning5

  1. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Draft lottery for the second time in three years on Tuesday night, which means that the team that selected rising superstar Kyrie Irving #1 overall in 2011 will get a chance to pair another potential star next to him. Will it be Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, Kansas’ Ben McLemore, Georgetown’s Otto Porter, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, or some other prospect who hasn’t yet risen up the draft boards? Whoever it is, and this is a solid mock with explanations from NBADraft.net, keep one thing very much in mind. If you redrafted the 2010 NBA Draft right now — just three years later — the top overall pick would probably be an overlooked athlete from Fresno State who never so much as sniffed a winning season in two years in the Central Valley, Paul George. So no matter what anyone says between now and June 27 (including ourselves), take it with a healthy dose of NaCl. 
  2. While on the subject of George and his Indiana Pacers, his head coach Paul Vogel took quite a bit of heat last night for removing center Roy Hibbert from the game in the closing seconds, allowing the freight train known as LeBron James to power his way into the lane for an easy layup to win the game (beating George badly to his left, incidentally). Still, Vogel appears to be a rising star himself with the way he has developed this Pacers group, but we’re betting that you didn’t know that his dream job was actually to become a college basketball coach. He got his first start by basically begging then-Kentucky coach Rick Pitino for a spot on his staff as a student manager in the mid-1990s, eventually becoming UK’s video coordinator and alighting to the NBA ranks when Pitino left Lexington for the Boston Celtics. It’s a rags-to-riches underdog sort of story, and one well worth familiarizing yourself with. If Vogel continues to play his cards right in the NBA, he may find that elusive major college head coaching job available to a guy like him after all.
  3. It was open secret for most of the week, but SI.com confirmed on Wednesday that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski will in fact return as the captain of the Team USA men’s basketball ship for the next three years (which includes the 2014 World Championships and the 2016 Summer Olympics). We’ll have more on this decision later today in a separate post, but while on the topic of international basketball, USA Basketball invited 24 rising freshmen and sophomores to try out for its U-19 team that will compete later this summer in the World Championships in Prague. The most recognizable candidates who will battle for one of 12 roster spots next month are Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon, Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes, and Oregon’s Damyean Dotson. Notably missing from the two dozen players are any of Kentucky’s impressive haul from the Class of 2013, several of whom already have had international basketball experience. But John Calipari says that the group as a whole is itching to get to Lexington and would rather spend their summer months working out to prepare for what everyone believes could be a phenomenal year.
  4. Last week we mentioned that a Brown University player named Joseph Sharkey had been assaulted on the street and put in the hospital with critical head injuries as a result. As of yesterday he remained in a Providence hospital, but the better news is that local authorities have arrested a suspect for the brutal crime, a reserve Marine who served in Afghanistan named Tory Lussier. We’re in no way going to loft unfounded accusations at this “hero” without a full accounting of the details of the night in question, but it’s worth noting that Lussier was already under suspicion for assault of an elderly person from an incident in a Connecticut parking lot last fall. Whether this is the guy who committed such a senseless crime or it was someone else, we really hope that justice is served in one way or another.
  5. There were a couple of notable comings and goings yesterday. In some bad news, Florida’s Will Yuguete had his right knee scoped on Wednesday and is expected to miss the next four months of action. The French wing had suffered numerous injuries during his career in Gainesville, so the hope here is that this particular course of treatment and rehabilitation will allow him to have a strong, injury-free senior season in 2013-14. Up the coast a bit in Storrs, Connecticut announced on Wednesday that center Enosch Wolf‘s suspension for an on-campus domestic dispute has ended. He is cleared to return to the team if he likes, but here’s the catch — he no longer has a scholarship. With the school’s announcement this week of the transfer of GW’s Lasan Kromah, there simply isn’t an available spot left. Funny how things like this work themselves out. Wolf expects to make his decision in the coming weeks.
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Morning Five: 05.22.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 22nd, 2013

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  1. Perhaps feeling green with envy that Louisville’s Rick Pitino (championship, tattoo, Derby) and Kentucky’s John Calipari (recruiting, NCAA) were receiving all the offseason college basketball attention, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski got himself back into the conversation this week with his comment to SI.com‘s Pete Thamel that he is considering a return to coach USA Basketball’s men’s national team again in 2014 (Worlds) and 2016 (Olympics). We’re kidding about the jealousy bit — sorta — but coaches gotta coach, and everyone has trouble stepping away from doing the thing they love most. Mike DeCourcy writes that the numerous Duke haters who simply cannot endure anything associated with the four-time national championship head coach miss the point — Coach K (and certainly Jerry Colangelo) made the concept of preparing and competing for Team USA cool again. Prior to their involvement, players showed up and expected to win simply because, well, because they thought they could. Miserable performances in the 2002 Worlds (sixth) and 2004 Olympics (third) led to the system we now have in place, and for that Krzyzewski should absolutely be lauded and celebrated by every American who cares about USA basketball.
  2. It certainly doesn’t have the ring or cachet of its predecessor at the Garden, but the inaugural AAC Tournament is beginning to look a lot like the old Conference USA Tournament (and the old Great Midwest Tournament; and the old Metro Tournament) in that it may be headed to Memphis. Don’t get us wrong, the city of Memphis has a tremendous local fan base that loves college basketball and will fill the FedEx Forum with their beloved Tigers now in the new league. But can we liven this thing up a little bit in its first go-round — how about slotting in the top four seeds into the conference semifinals and leaving it at that? A semifinal round of Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis and Connecticut next March wouldn’t be awful, and we’ll even allow you to throw in Temple in place of Cincy if the Bearcats falter. Deal?
  3. We’re a big believer in second chances, especially when someone who has done wrong can show that they’ve learned from their previous mistakes. Still, we believe there should be limitations to those reprisals, and we’re having a little trouble swallowing the Zay Jackson story at Murray State. You remember Jackson — he was the Racer guard who rather infamously ran over a man with his car in a Walmart parking lot last September — according to Andy Katz’s report earlier this week, after serving 49 days in jail for hit-and-run, MSU’s athletic department has decided to allow him back on the team. The school apparently (?) did not have a protocol to deal with situations like these, but how about a protocol of redemption and common sense? Again, we support the concept of a second chance. The young man served his time and by all indications hasn’t caused any problems since his release. But wouldn’t this be a situation where both parties would be better served by shaking hands with each other and walking away? Wouldn’t Jackson want to have a fresh start at another school? Does Steve Prohm really want to endure the endless mocking and jeering his team will suffer as a result of this decision? At a minimum, how about ensuring that Jackson can keep his nose clean for an entire year (just school and practice) before allowing him the privilege of playing college basketball again? Poor form here, we’re afraid.
  4. Depending on whom you ask, the voluminous and growing number of transfers is destroying the integrity of the collegiate game or finally shifting the balance of power back to the producers of all that money flowing to the schools — the players. But the coaches still have several dirty tricks up their sleeve when needed, and the power to “block” transfers from alighting to certain schools is one of the more nefarious ones. Sometimes the notion derives from a misguided but legitimate attempt to protect “trade secrets,” but more often it just seems that the coaches are vindictively limiting the players simply because they can. Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings’ blockage of freshman Sheldon Jeter from transferring closer to his hometown school of Pittsburgh has the look and feel of exactly that. Pitt and Vandy are not in the same league, nor are they scheduled to play next season; in fact, they haven’t played in over two decades. So what’s the deal here? Why on earth would Vanderbilt care if a mediocre freshman wanted to play closer to home for the rest of his career — what possible reason could Stallings have other than “because he can.” Remember, college athletics is about the student-athletes.
  5. Remember the San Diego/Brandon Johnson bribery incident a couple of years ago? That’s OK, nobody else does either. For something that supposedly destroys the very integrity of a sport by its very existence, it sure seems as if incidents like these are quickly reported and summarily swept right on under the rug so as to not get in the way of moving right along. As this FBI narrative reports, Johnson was convicted of point shaving during four games in the 2009-10 season, and he was ultimately outed when the criminal enterprise that had recruited him was investigated for drug trafficking. The FBI report states that “tampering with sports events strikes at the integrity of the games; this kind of betrayal is not merely disappointing—it is criminal and worthy of prosecution,” but the greater public has largely not seemed to care all that much. They still attend and watch games, fill out brackets, and enjoy all the other accessories of being a college sports fan. Maybe we’re all so ambivalent to scandal that we’ve become accustomed to it — as a sort of new normalcy. Oh hey, IRS. How’s it going?
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Morning Five: 05.14.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 15th, 2013

morning5

  1. Yesterday was Andrew Wiggins Day in college basketball, as the precocious Canadian wing who some have claimed is the best prep player since LeBron James came out of Akron in 2003, made his collegiate choice. You’ve undoubtedly heard by now that Wiggins is headed to Kansas to play for Bill Self, so let’s take a look at some of the reactions from around the country. The Kansas head coach himself was ecstatic, saying that Wiggins “brings athleticism, length, scoring ability and [...] an assassin, an alpha dog’s] mentality to his game. Mike DeCourcy emphasizes that not all #1 players are created equal (a true statement), and breaks down some of the most heated recruitments of the modern era (from Ewing to Oden), while also arguing that if Wiggins really sought to shun the glare of a white-hot spotlight, he probably should have gone elsewhere because the pressure will be on him in Lawrence. On the other hand, during the SVP & Rusillo radio show Tuesday, Andy Katz said that Wiggins is walking into a near-perfect situation where he join a team with enough talent around him to win but where there is no question who will be the top dog on campus. So where does this put the Jayhawks next season? The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg thinks that KU is now a title contender, while at least one writer believes the Jayhawks should be elevated into the post-recruitment top four of next year’s power rankings. Twitter of course weighed in as it tends to do in these situationswhile one national writer thinks Wiggins made a mistake in going to college at all. It’s all very exciting stuff, because Wiggins’ decision to join KU balances out the ridiculous incoming class at Kentucky along with the returning talent at places like North Carolina, Louisville, Duke and Arizona. The game is in solid shape for 2013-14, that’s for sure. What’s next for Wiggins? According to Self, perhaps a summer spent playing for Team Canada in some international events. Let’s just cross our fingers that he remains healthy.
  2. Lost amid all the Wiggins news yesterday was that the SEC and Big 12 announced a new basketball challenge in light of the transitions that hit the Big East which makes it no longer an attractive interconference option for something like this. The SEC/Big 12 Challenge will begin on November 14 with a yawner of a game between Alabama and Texas Tech, and will continue on for the next five weeks with highlighted contests including Baylor vs. Kentucky at Cowboys Stadium on December 6 and Kansas vs. Florida in Gainesville on December 10. Look, we love the idea conceptually. The SEC and Big 12 are very similar leagues and this sort of match-up makes a lot more sense than the Big East/SEC event ever did. But the Big 12 tried the same thing with the Pac-10 a few years ago and it was a failure because nobody knew when the games were happening — they were simply too spread out. For events like this to work, they must (capital MUST) be confined to a tight spacing of games so that fans can actually invest in the concept and keep up with how each league is doing. To have games literally spread out over more than a month like they’ve done here is incredibly short-sighted and incomprehensible. As an aside, Missouri will take part in the Challenge, but they’ll play West Virginia, the school that replaced them after leaving the Big 12 last year.
  3. Something ugly appears to be going down at Tennessee involving the bizarre Trae Golden dismissal/transfer that occurred last week. According to numerous published reports, the rumors of Golden’s academic issues in Knoxville may have involved more than originally met the eye after the school terminated its head of judicial student affairs, Jenny Wright, late last week. We’re not going to speculate as to what exactly may have happened here until more information is released, but as Andy Glockner notes in SI.com, the merging of possible academic impropriety with unprofessional relationships in the context of a judicial student affairs setting isn’t one to take lightly. And certainly nothing that the school needs after already suffering through the Bruce Pearl and Derek Dooley foibles in their two revenue sports.
  4. From the world is a strange and sometimes awful place department, Brown guard Joseph Sharkey, a sophomore who averaged about 12 minutes per game last season for the Bears, was approached and struck in the face by a random stranger over the weekend, putting him into the hospital where he is in critical condition. As CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Goodman writes, the attack appears to have been completely unprovoked and ultimately resulted in the young man’s head hitting concrete as he fell down. It sounds like a horrible story and one that we hope doesn’t have a lasting negative outcome for the player. We’re wishing him well on his recovery from this senseless crime.
  5. Finishing up with some comings and goings, Andrew Wiggins must be scaring the rest of the Big 12, as not one but two Baylor players are leaving the program — most notably, Deuce Bello, along with LJ Rose – and Texas’ Julien Lewis, the top returning scorer for the Longhorns, is also on his way out. Lewis is the most accomplished player of the three, averaging 11/3 APG in his sophomore season in Austin, but Bello probably has the most name-brand recognition from his prep days when he was considered the most athletic player in his class. Bello has only seen about 10 minutes per game of action in his two seasons in Waco, but perhaps a change of scenery will allow him to develop his game beyond occasional Highlight of the Night quality dunks. Already more than 400 players are on the transfer wire this offseason, averaging out to a little more than one player per D-I team. Wow. We hope these guys find what they’re looking for.
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Morning Five: 01.31.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 31st, 2013

morning5

  1. Basketball took a back seat at Ohio yesterday after an armed robbery (reportedly over $5) at 9:30 AM at an apartment complex near the campus led the school to suspend classes and cancel last night’s game against Eastern Michigan. Interestingly, the school remained open for another 2.5 hours with the suspect loose before the administration chose to close the campus. In the aftermath of the announcement there appears to have been quite a bit of confusion regarding the school’s intent, but fortunately it appears that nobody was harmed and no further incidents took place although the suspect was still at-large as of this writing. The school has announced that the game will be made up on February 20, which works well for both teams as they both have their preceding game on February 16 and next game on February 27.
  2. Much of the early part of this week in the blogosphere was spent discussing Marshall Henderson‘s various, shall we say, peculiarities, both on and off the court. After a rough shooting outing against Kentucky on Tuesday night, much of that talk has died down, but on Wednesday USA Today‘s Nicole Auerbach published an insightful piece about the life and history of the controversial Henderson that included a revelation that the junior college transfer once violated his probation in Texas for failing a drug test because he had cocaine (along with marijuana and alcohol) in his system. Both Henderson’s father and his head coach, Andy Kennedy, believe that the guard has moved past his personal demons at this point in his life, but with his on-court demeanor sure to set Twitter ablaze again soon, we’ll have to wait and see if the pressure and infamy carries over to the Oxford after-parties.
  3. The Wednesday news didn’t improve for Ole Miss fans, as the Rebels also learned that sophomore forward Aaron Jones will miss the rest of the season after injuring his ACL in Tuesday night’s game against Kentucky. The bouncy Jones was only averaging 4/4 in about 17 minutes per game this season, but his loss will be a shock to an Ole Miss lineup short on quality size. As if that weren’t enough, senior guard Nick Williams will be out an indefinite amount of time with a foot injury suffered in the same game. The timing on all of this misfortune is not the greatest, either — the Rebels on Saturday will visit a team, Florida, that is winning SEC contests so far by an average of 28.7 PPG. Good luck with that.
  4. The Big East will draw the curtains on what can only be described as a college basketball goliath in less than two months, but unlike some of the other bitterness that has infused divorcing programs in other leagues, Syracuse and St. John’s specifically are looking for an amicable split. It makes sense. Syracuse has been NYC’s flagship college basketball program for a long time now despite its location several hundred miles upstate, and without question the Orange wants to keep its presence in the New York market strong after joining the ACC. St. John’s certainly wants to keep a marquee opponent on its home schedule as Steve Lavin tries to rebuild that proud program as well. The contract begins next year at MSG with a return trip to the Carrier Dome in 2014-15, but for now the series is only scheduled for those two games. We’d expect that it will be extended indefinitely at a certain point.
  5. In this week’s edition of Luke Winn‘s Power Rankings he spends a lot of time focusing on teams in transition (literally, not figuratively). With the nerdtastic tool of Synergy Sports Technology at his disposal, Winn can find statistically enlightening nuances to explain the game in ways that both tease and titillate. In this week’s edition, he examines some of the best players in the country at shooting jumpers off the dribble (hint: two of them play each other Saturday night in a semi-important game), discusses the best transition guys in the game, and a mention of Kelly Olynyk’s “awesome hair.” Memo to Winn, though: It’s not Olynyk’s hair itself that creates the awesomeness — it’s the ropey-looking headband (color coordinated!) that he adds to the ensemble that truly elevates his look from simply Tim Lincecum cool to Andre Agassi spectacular (in his hirsute prime).
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Morning Five: 12.17.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 17th, 2012

morning5

  1. The fields and arenas of play were more reserved than usual this weekend as Americans’ hearts remained heavy in the aftermath of the inexplicable and incomprehensible massacre that took place in Newtown, Connecticut, Friday morning. Moments of silence were observed at games from coast to coast for the fallen children, teachers and administrators whose lives where brutally taken from them much too early. Here at RTC, we generally try to stay above the partisan bickering that passes for national political discourse these days, but enough is enough — whatever we’re doing with respect to national firearm policy isn’t working. We don’t claim to have a reasoned and fair solution to this problem, but our leaders who presumably work for we, the people, need to figure out something better, and now.
  2. The good people of the state of Connecticut of course are feeling more pain and heartache than anywhere else during this tragedy, and Kevin Ollie‘s Huskies will return to the court tonight with that burden in tow (with videos). It’s a bit more than an hour’s drive southwest from Storrs to Newtown, and many of the UConn players expressed their grief in terms of the connection to their own family members and loved ones: Tyler Olander’s mother is a sixth-grade teacher; Kevin Ollie has a school-age daughter; Shabazz Napier has a two-year old niece whom he adores. The school plans on wearing some sort of commemorative patch on its uniforms honoring the victims — perhaps as soon as in tonight’s game against Maryland-Eastern Shore — and the team will travel to Newtown soon to lend some additional support for the townspeople. As the most high-profile team in the Nutmeg State, these are necessary moves by the Husky program.
  3. Sigh… on to the rest of the weekend’s news. In a completely expected announcement Saturday, the so-called Catholic 7 Big East schools voted unanimously to leave the conference and set out on its own course as a basketball-centric league. Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Providence and DePaul have decided that the race to the bottom that its football-playing peers have forced them into during all this conference realignment madness is no longer palatable. Apparently, the RPI anchor that schools like Tulane and East Carolina represented was the final straw. Now, the details on the when and how the exit of these seven universities will happen needs to be settled, but the other major elephant in the room is which schools the New Big East will target to fill out its roster — early reports suggest that Xavier, Dayton, Creighton, Butler and Gonzaga — all or some of them — are on the wish list. Regardless of who this new conference grabs, it’s nice to finally see proud basketball schools pushing back against the football behemoth.
  4. While on the subject of Butler, Brad Stevens’ plucky squad knocked off the nation’s top-ranked team (per the AP/Coaches, not RTC) on Saturday afternoon at the Crossroads Classic, engendering another round of breathlessness (ourselves included) at just how excellent a head coach the 36-year old wunderkind already is. In a game that was must-watch television throughout, the final outcome hinged on a floater from a sophomore walk-on named Alex Barlow who had made a grand total of six buckets all season. The player who became a Bulldog so that he could apprentice under Stevens with a goal of becoming a head coach, added himself to the lore of a giant-killing school that has already scalped hoops titans North Carolina and Indiana this year. The overtime victory was Butler’s first ever win over a #1 team, and as the Indy Star‘s David Woods writes, it represents just another chapter in a program’s history where reality is better than fiction. Seriously.
  5. The Syracuse Post-Standard is reporting additional details regarding star guard Michael Carter-Williams’ odd situation last Sunday where people tweeted pictures of him appearing to be under arrest at a local mall. According to sources with knowledge of the situation, MCW was detained and fined after a shoplifting incident at a Lord & Taylor store where he allegedly placed a Polo Ralph Lauren bathrobe and pair of gloves valued at around $120 into his backpack and walked out of the store. He was stopped by loss prevention staff and offered a deal where he could avoid arrest by paying a “civil demand,” wherein he could pay five times the value of the merchandise up to $500 and walk away. One source stated that Carter-Williams paid the fine with his credit card and left the scene freely. After Saturday night’s game versus Canisius (where MCW went for 12/14 assts), Jim Boeheim had little else to say about the matter other than to say that everyone “is satisfied with the result.”
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Morning Five: 10.22.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2012

  1. Most schools held their Midnight Madness extravaganzas more than a week ago, but a couple prominent schools around college basketball nation didn’t get in on the act until this past weekend. At Indiana, Hoosier Hysteria on Saturday night was just that — a standing room only celebration of Indiana basketball past and present, replete with a three-point shooting Cody Zeller (he made 10 in one round of the contest) and even a Bob Knight sighting (in photo form, on the big screen). For a nice highlight reel from IU’s event, check out this video put together by CityLeagueHoopsTV from the event. Over in Durham, Duke‘s Countdown to Craziness began a festive on-campus weekend (Duke’s football team defeated UNC on Saturday night), as Coach K emphasized “togetherness” among his players and the fans while debuting his squad for the first time this season. For more Coach K hugs than you can possibly imagine, check out this video running along this theme played at the conclusion of the event. Jeff Goodman spent Friday with the Blue Devils, and reports back with 11 thoughts and observations about Coach K’s latest team (including who he thinks will take over for the all-time great upon his eventual retirement). At this point, most every school is finished with the pomp and circumstance and moving into the harsh realities of practice, but more on this in a moment.
  2. Practice makes perfect, so the saying goes, but it also provides opportunities for the imperfect to rear its ugly head in the form of injuries. Two prominent players on teams with high hopes for this season were hurt recently — Oklahoma State’s Brian Williams and UCLA’s David Wear. Williams is the more serious injury of the two, as he injured his left wrist in a fall after dunking in practice last week and needed to have surgery to repair the damage done. He’ll have to wear a cast for three months and go through rehabilitation after that, essentially rendering Williams unavailable to build upon a very promising freshman campaign this season. Wear, on the other hand, suffered an ankle sprain during practice on Sunday and will have an x-ray on his foot today. Hopefully this injury isn’t as serious as Williams’ and we’ll see Wear back on the court very soon.
  3. Wear might be sidelined with an injury, but his UCLA teammates Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad have now entered their second full week of practice with no timeline as to when the NCAA plans to make a decision on their eligibility. This report from the LA Times suggests that neither player may be close to becoming eligible as the governing body has not given the players any feedback on the status of its investigation nor a timetable for its resolution. According to the piece, Anderson’s issue relates to the relationship between his father and an NBA agent named Thad Foucher, while Muhammad’s problem involves money given to both himself and his AAU team from friends of the family. There’s nothing new here, obviously, but one caveat from the piece must irk UCLA fans hopeful that things are progressing at a reasonable pace — with only 35 days left for the duo to continue practicing with the team until they must sit out, the NCAA has yet to formally interview Muhammad’s parents about any of this.
  4. If you consider yourself at all versed in the analysis of college basketball, you are familiar with KenPom‘s numbers. What you may be less knowledgeable about are the occasional yet insightful blog posts that he publishes from time to time. On Sunday night he presented the results of his analysis of the validity of the preseason AP poll (which has yet to release this season). His finding is that, at least with respect to NCAA Tournament seeding in March, the top half of the AP poll is highly predictive. As he writes: “The chances of being a one-seed get really slim once you get past the top 12 or 13, while the chances of missing the tournament altogether are very real for the teams in the bottom half of the poll.” There’s a better than half chance that a preseason top 10 team in the AP poll will receive a top three seed at the end of the season — that makes sense. What we’d be interested in knowing, though, is what are the common factors that allow us to predict why the other half of teams fall from those original estimations. Great analysis by Pomeroy.
  5. Finally, today, let’s talk discipline. Tubby Smith’s son and Minnesota assistant coach, Saul Smith, has been placed on administrative leave by the school related to his Friday night arrest for suspicion of DWI. Meanwhile at Maryland, senior forward James Padgett pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving stemming from his arrest back in June for driving while impaired. Under the school’s code of conduct for alcohol-related driving arrests, he will not be suspended from the team since he is not guilty of a DWI — a true example of legal hair-splitting if ever there was one. Over at Louisville, Chane Behanan must sit out the Cardinals’ first exhibition game this season and has been banned from talking to the media (this is punishment?) for the rest of the semester. Head coach Rick Pitino didn’t specify what led to Behanan’s restrictions other than to say that there were “incidents” over the summer, but he did say that further slip-ups could cause the talented forward to miss more game action.
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Morning Five: 08.27.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 27th, 2012

  1. Worrisome news was released on Friday from Saint Louis University when the school announced that its head coach, Rick Majerus, will be taking a medically-related leave of absence next season, leaving top assistant coach Jim Crews in charge. According to SLU, Majerus is currently hospitalized in California “undergoing evaluation and treatment for an ongoing heart condition.” As we wrote after the news was released, this is the sort of thing that could mark  a turning point in the longtime head coach’s professional career. Majerus is well-known as a guy whom you can only keep out of the gym by padlocking its doors, so it’s no joke that he’s choosing to give up the thing he loves most in order to take care of his health. We wish him nothing but the best on this latest twist in his journey, and certainly hope that even if he never coaches another minute of college basketball, he has a number of productive and fulfilling years still ahead of him. As for his Billiken program, with the core of a Round of 32 team returning to St. Louis, Andy Glockner writes that Crews will inherit a squad with both significant expectations and the added specter of Majerus’ health hanging over the team. Crews had some success at Evansville a decade or more ago, but there is reason to question whether he’s up to the task of running what is undoubtedly a team with Top 25 talent.
  2. The other big news on Friday was the announcement from Marquette that assistant coach Scott Monarch had been dismissed and that head coach Buzz Williams will suffer a self-imposed one-game suspension for what are admittedly rather mild recruiting transgressions — Monarch gave team gear and transportation to an unnamed recruit. To be clear, there is no evidence that Williams himself knew about the illegal recruiting benefits — his suspension derives from the coach’s duty to monitor staff compliance. According to the Marquette athletic director, Larry Williams, Monarch’s mistakes became compounded when he allegedly lied about them during the school’s internal investigation — had he been truthful from the beginning, he’d probably still be employed at MU today. This shows once again that the old adage is almost always true — the cover-up is more damaging than the underlying crime. Maybe someday someone will actually find themselves in such a situation and take this sage advice — it might end up saving his job.
  3. In recent days, the conviction of Oklahoma State forward Darrell Williams for allegedly sexually assaulting two female students at a party in December two years ago has come under fire by some in the non-sports national media. In the especially tense arena of national racial politics, a case like Williams’ where a black man was accused of heinous felonies by two white women and convicted by a nearly all-white jury is bound to raise some eyebrows. On Friday, an Oklahoma judge delayed Williams’ sentencing hearing on those convictions, citing a defense motion that new and possibly exculpatory evidence has been found that could force the judge to throw out the convictions and order a new trial. There’s no way of knowing whether the claim of new evidence has any merit, but with Jesse Jackson, Jr., in town and many commentators outside the sporting realm taking a curious interest in this case, it will be very interesting to watch how this unfolds.
  4. The NCAA made its ruling on former Connecticut and current UNLV forward Roscoe Smith‘s transfer waiver request on Friday, and the decision to deny the waiver — meaning Smith will become eligible in 2013-14 — could be a blessing in disguise for both the Runnin’ Rebels and Smith himself. UNLV already boasts a loaded lineup next season and the 6’8″ big man, who has two years of eligibility remaining, would be well  situated to slide into a starting spot in the frontcourt most likely vacated after Mike Moser’s presumptive last season as a collegian. Smith, as you recall, was a frequent starter on the 2011 UConn championship team (averaging 6/5 in 25 MPG), but like many of his Husky teammates, backslid a bit in his sophomore season (5/3 in 18 MPG). Still, there’s no questioning his talent when bought in and completely focused, so Dave Rice’s team will look forward to Smith’s leadership and skill in what they hope are the immediate years following UNLV’s first Final Four run in two decades.
  5. UNLV’s Smith may not see the court for another year, but another offseason transfer, Memphis’ Charles Carmouche, has enrolled at LSU and will join the Tigers for his senior year next season. This is actually Carmouche’s third transfer — the wiry guard from New Orleans began his career at hometown University of New Orleans, but decided to transfer upriver to Memphis when it appeared that UNO would downgrade from Division I athletics. After a solid junior season at UM in 2010-11, though, Carmouche’s senior season was derailed because of problems with his knees. Still, despite receiving medical clearance in January, he chose to not suit up again, and after graduating he was then free to use the grad-transfer loophole to go anywhere who would take him. Enter LSU, where new head coach Johnny Jones will welcome the scoring punch that Carmouche brings to Baton Rouge. It’s been a wild and woolly ride for Carmouche over the past four years, but we’re guessing that he’ll need to make the most of this final season, as his eligibility is unlikely to extend to yet another transfer destination.
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Morning Five: 08.08.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 8th, 2012

  1. For college basketball fans over a certain age watching the Summer Olympics, an oft-repeated nickname uttered by the likes of Bob Costas, Mary Carillo, Ryan Seacrest and others probably grates a little more than it should. The gold medal-winning US women’s gymastics team, as we all now know, has been labeled by someone lacking any institutional sports memory with the nickname “The Fab Five.” The five girls aged between 15 and 18 didn’t memorialize themselves with the name, but others — most notably former Fab Five mouthpiece and current ESPN commentator Jalen Rose — may stand to make bank from the trademarked name as the team rides its 15 minutes of fame on a barnstorming tour throughout the US this fall. As we saw mentioned on Twitter last week, the Olympics are fundamentally sports for people who don’t typically like sports, and there is no better example of the two groups weirdly crossing paths than this one. If anyone’s wondering, nobody will be talking about this ‘new’ F5 two decades from now — we think the iconic maize and blue legacies of Webber, Howard, Rose, Jackson and King are still safe.
  2. It’s taken much of a couple of decades for Michigan basketball to get back to an elite status, as the Wolverines will be a preseason Top 10 team next season. Another local school, Oakland University, has as a matter of fact been to just as many NCAA Tournaments under head coach Greg Kampe in the last decade as Michigan. On Tuesday, Kampe started the first day of a fast where the longtime Golden Grizzlies coach will imbibe nothing but juice for an entire month in support of Coaches vs. Cancer. Um, we just drank a glass of orange juice over here, but, wow. Seriously, though, this is a herculean task for someone no doubt accustomed to eating solid, and undoubtedly, good food — Kampe tweeted last night that his first day of fasting was complete and that “even a yogurt commercial” makes him hungry. To donate to Kampe’s fast in support of CvC, make sure to hit this site. We always make sure to donate around the time of the Jimmy V Classic, but the CvC is getting a double dip from us this year.
  3. Team USA’s men’s basketball team will play Australia this afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament, which will allow one of the two college basketball players in the event to take a shot at a team he no doubt idolizes. As Jeff Goodman wrote yesterday, St. Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova is looking forward to the challenge of matching up against NBA All-Stars Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul. The rising senior and current WCC Player of the Year is one of the two SMC starters in the Aussie backcourt (playing off the ball with Patty Mills), and his 8.2 PPG and 4.6 APG have helped his country reach the medal round. For a complete look at his Olympic statistics, check out the FIBA page on the shaggy-haired star. The only other collegian in the basketball Games, College of Charleston’s Andrew Lawrence, played roughly 18 minutes per game for host Great Britain, but he was only able to convert 4-19 field goals and committed nearly as many fouls (15) as he scored points (16). His Olympic experience — engaging though we’re sure it was — is now over as the Brits did not advance to the medal round.
  4. While on the subject of Dellavedova, his college coach at St. Mary’s, Randy Bennett, was voted by his peers as the second most underrated head coach in college basketball. The most underrated was Temple’s Fran Dunphy, who garnered a commanding 14% of the votes (Bennett got 9%). A couple surprises on the list were two of the most prominent names in college basketball — Kentucky’s John Calipari (7%) and West Virginia’s Bob Huggins (5%). With tomorrow’s release of the most overrated coaches in the game, is it possible that one or both of those two will also show up on that list? Check in tomorrow at CBSSports.com to find out.
  5. Finally today, it is clear that Oklahoma State center Phillip Jurick has little to no interest in playing college basketball again. Just two months after an incident where he was cited for driving on a suspended license, the 6’10” player who was already dealing with recovery from an Achilles tendon tear was arrested over the weekend for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Predictably, he was suspended by head coach Travis Ford and will not accompany his team on a 10-day exhibition tour to Spain, which begins today. A transfer from Chattanooga State who averaged 17 MPG in 26 games prior to the injury, he’s certainly piling on the hurdles that he must overcome to ever see another day in an OSU uniform again.
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Morning Five: 07.02.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 2nd, 2012

  1. It came a few days later than we expected, but the biggest college basketball news from the weekend was that Mississippi State guard Rodney Hood is heading to Duke. Hood told ESPN.com on Saturday night that Coach K said he could develop the 6’8″ wing into one of the best all-around players in the country. He’s already quite impressive, averaging 10/5 last season in 32 MPG for the Bulldogs while earning all-SEC freshman team honors. If it seems a little weird that he’s transferring to Duke, that’s because it is — Hood marks only the fourth transfer player that Krzyzewski has accepted during his long tenure in Durham. The other three — Roshown McLeod, Dahntay Jones, and Seth Curry — were all key contributors on good Duke teams (Curry, of course, is a rising senior), and McLeod and Jones both parlayed their time as Blue Devils into becoming first round selections of the NBA Draft.
  2. It was something of a rough weekend for college basketball in the nation’s midsection this weekend, as a prominent player and program were put on the defensive and will have some damage control to implement this week as a result. First, Central Florida’s Marcus Jordan, allegedly “animated, intoxicated and uncooperative,” was arrested early Sunday morning in Omaha, Nebraska, for getting into a fracas with two women outside an Embassy Suites hotel. He was released on Sunday night after being charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and obstruction. What on earth Jordan was doing in Omaha over the weekend is anyone’s guess, but he might be better served by mimicking his old man’s drive and determination on the court rather than in hotel parking lots.
  3. Forgive us for thinking that the feds spending valuable taxpayer dollars pursuing low-level marijuana traffickers is a complete waste of everyone’s time and energy, but occasionally an amusing anecdote spills out of one of these investigations and that’s what we have here. A federal prosecutor charging a miscreant named Samuel Villareal, III, of selling dope in the Kansas City area stated in an open hearing recently that his client list included a number of players on the 2010-11 Kansas basketball team. No specific names have yet been released, but we’re sure that both KU fans and their rivals have their inklings of who the offenders might have been. KU policy requires three positive tests before a player is suspended from action, and the NCAA does its own testing as part of the NCAA Tournament — still, what this situation proves more than anything is that there will always be hangers-on associating with prominent athletes around an elite program. It’s incumbent on the school to properly vet and limit contact with folks like Villareal as much and as early as possible. Otherwise, embarrassing public relations situations such as these are almost guaranteed to occur.
  4. For folks who work under academic calendars or mid-year fiscal calendars, Saturday night at midnight was an important moment as 2011-12 moved into 2012-13. While meaningless to most of us, Boise State was one entity who took the date very seriously — the reason is that the university was required to give the Mountain West at least one full year’s notice prior to leaving the conference or face a substantial $5 million penalty. The Broncos program gave notice on Saturday, meaning that its football program will compete in the Big East starting in the fall of 2013. But, as Andy Katz reported over the weekend, all of its other sports including basketball are currently hanging in limbo. The hoped-for outcomes is that the Big West chooses to accept Boise State for all other sports in the same way that it did for San Diego State, but given that it would be at least 500 miles to the nearest conference school (UC Davis), travel costs could be a big concern.
  5. To that end, Sunday at midnight also marked the exact point in time that the SEC became a 14-team league with the additions of Missouri and Texas A&M, while the Big 12 replaced its two lost members by adding West Virginia and TCU. For some interesting reads as to how fans reacted to the official transitions locally, check out the following writeups in their local papers: Missouri, Texas A&M, West Virginia, TCU. It may not be something we’re supportive of here at RTC HQ, but we, like everyone else, are going to have to learn to love it.
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