Morning Five: 03.07.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 7th, 2013

morning5

  1. The beauty of advanced quantitative analysis in sports is that, when done correctly, it can validate things that you already inherently know. Trey Burke as the best player in America? It sure felt like it while we were watching him lead Michigan past Kansas and Florida on the way to the Final Four. Rick Pitino as the best coach going right now? Considering how his Louisville Cardinals were essentially the same cast of characters from a surprise 2012 Final Four run and became recognizably better on the offensive end (especially out of timeouts) in 2013? Sure seems like it. Of course, there are limitations — Florida rated tops in KenPom’s efficiency ratings for most of the season, but the Gators were merely a good team filled with good players, not a great one. SI.com‘s Luke Winn keeps us interested by doing what only he has proven he can do — sifting through terabytes of efficiency data and video clips to come up with his second annual Data-Based Coaching/Player Awards. Lots of good information in the piece, but perhaps the neatest has to be his quantification of Oregon’s Arsalan Kazemi as the nation’s best all-around defender. 
  2. Speaking of Pitino, the guy continues to get a surplus of positive press in the wake of his second national title. Several outlets had a Pitino/Kentucky Derby story coming out of the weekend, but ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil wrote the quintessential story about the man she calls “the Derby King.” The crux of the story is that regardless of whether Pitino’s horse “Goldencents” finished first, 10th, 17th or somewhere behind the barns in Saturday’s Derby, the 60-year old tattooed grandfather owns the town of Louisville and everything in it. Including Millionaire’s Row. It’s not the kind of read you see much of anymore in the instant-gratification world of online writing, but that makes it even more worth your time.
  3. This news is circumstantial and ultimately may not mean anything at all, but the possibility that it could mean something is really disturbing given recent events. Dennis Dodd at CBSSports.com reported on Wednesday that Missouri head coach Frank Haith has filed a petition in federal court to determine how the NCAA got its hands on what appears to be microfiche copies of his personal bank records. According to the report, some of Haith’s Bank of America records were voluntarily turned over as part of the NCAA’s investigation into the Nevin Shapiro violations at his former school, Miami, but those records did not include the more detailed microfiche copies which Haith seems to believe that the NCAA has in its possession. The gigantic elephant in the room, of course, is that the NCAA already admitted missteps in this case by offering payment to certain witnesses for testimony, but an as-yet unfounded assertion that the organization may have illegally solicited bank records to bolster its case could set off yet another firestorm surrounding the organization. Stay tuned on this one.
  4. If there’s one thing we love about college sports, it’s when former stars come back into the fold as a coach at their alma mater. The Arizona Star-Republic reported on Monday that “Mighty Mouse,” former Arizona star and current Memphis assistant, Damon Stoudamire, is returning to Tucson to join Sean Miller’s staff as an assistant there. For those who don’t remember him at Arizona, he was a three-time all-Pac-10 guard, an All-American in 1995, and, along with backcourt mate Khalid Reeves, led the Wildcats to Lute Olson’s second Final Four in 1994. He’ll fit in great on Miller’s staff, focusing on work with the guards, a role he has fulfilled with Josh Pastner the last couple of seasons.
  5. One other significant coming and going from Monday was out of Florida, as the second Gator in a week announced his transfer out of the program. Last week it was freshman Braxton Ogbueze who say the writing on the wall with two top 10 recruits and Rutgers transfer Eli Carter entering the program; this week it is Devon Walker, a freshman wing who saw just a handful of minutes in 25 contests this season. The Gators are coming off three straight Elite Eight appearances, but none of those three teams were loaded with NBA talent (Bradley Beal’s freshman year was the lone exception). With Kasey Hill and Chris Walker both headed to Gainesville next season, though, the Gators could actually boast more elite talent in 2013-14 than it has the last several years.
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Pac-12 Basketball Fantasy League Voting: Semifinal #2

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 26th, 2012

Our last semifinal pits two seed Adam Butler (Pachoops) up against the fourth seed, Connor Pelton. Below are the rosters, followed by commentary from the respective owner:

Adam Butler

  • Head Coach – Ralph Miller, Oregon State
  • Guard – Damon Stoudamire, Arizona
  • Guard – Mike Bibby, Arizona
  • Guard – Michael Dickerson, Arizona
  • Guard – Salim Stoudamire, Arizona
  • Forward – Sean Elliott, Arizona
  • Forward – Ed O’Bannon, UCLA
  • Forward – Shareef Abdur-Rahim, California
  • Forward – Chris Mills, Arizona
  • Center – Todd MacCulloch, Washington
  • Center – Bison Dele, Arizona

Adam’s Take:

Oh, pardon me! I was still chuckling at Connor’s lineup. Allow me to explain.

Indeed, a team centered by Steve Johnson is a formidable one. Anyone who shoots 75% from the floor for a season must be taken seriously. Conversely, anyone who looks like Sideshow Bob should not. That’s Robin Lopez. Besides, Todd MacCulloch just set the high score on The Simpsons: Pinball in Springfield at six different Canadian bars, and somewhere a piece of Lopez dies.

Moving our way out of the deep frontcourt we can look at the forwards on Team Pelton. I’m inclined to dismiss Jon Brockman because hustle only counts in real basketball. In fantasy drafts, hustle is just cute. Which is why I suppose Klay Thompson gets a fantasy nod because numbers count in fantasy ball and softness is cute. Please, Chris Mills just sneezed to block a Thompson jumper. I of course have love for Richard Jefferson, but if you’re a forward from Arizona and your name isn’t Elliott, you’re still not going to win this one. The fourth opposing forward’s name is Kiki, in which I rest my case.

Guard play, as you noticed, is Team PacHoops’ strength and not Team Pelton’s. Sure, there’s some talent, but no rings. I thought college hoops was all about solid guard play. You’re telling me none of these guys could garner one championship? Wait, wait, between these four guards they mustered at best a Sweet Sixteen? Woof (not for you, IT). Reggie and Chauncey appeared in the NCAA Tournament just once each? Does Spike Lee know this? None of that sounds fun. Fun sounds more like never missing an NCAA Tournament and winning it all. That’s who I like on my team. Got ‘em.

At the helm, Ralph Miller Court sits inside of Gill Coliseum. I can give that and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s indisputably the most badass possible thing to have a coliseum with your name on it. But look, I know you saw Batman Begins and if you didn’t, well, you’re missing out. Point being, Bruce Wayne didn’t just become Batman. He needed mentorship to become the fearless defender of Gotham he would become. Enter Ra’s Al Ghul, the sensei who salvages Wayne from a Chinese prison. Protégé, meet mentor. But the relationship goes sour and the two part ways; Wayne to his seemingly playboy life, Al Ghul to what appeared to be his death (theme?). Alas, the end of the film gives us Al Ghul’s villainous return to Gotham and Batman’s heroic and final takedown of the mentor. In the ultimate flipping of the script, Al Ghul and all his wisdom and skill is no match for the noble monster he created.

So, what the hell am I getting at? I’m saying that if the greatest hero (or certainly superhero trilogy) of our time could defeat his mentor, so too can Ralph Miller and defeat his Oregon State predecessor, Slats Gill. Miller won more games and was twice National Coach of the Year. Goodness I love me some Ws.

Have I made a stretch here? Perhaps. But you also just got to read college hoops and Batman so you’re welcome. Vote PacHoops.

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Pac-12 Basketball Fantasy League Voting: Round One, Game Four

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 10th, 2012

Our final matchup of the first round pits the two seed, Adam Butler (Pachoops), up against seventh seeded Andrew Murawa. The winner of this one is off to the semifinals, where it will meet Connor Pelton’s team in the semifinals.  Below are the rosters, followed by some commentary from the respective owners:

Adam Butler

  • Head Coach – Ralph Miller, Oregon State
  • Guard – Damon Stoudamire, Arizona
  • Guard – Mike Bibby, Arizona
  • Guard – Michael Dickerson, Arizona
  • Guard – Salim Stoudamire, Arizona
  • Forward – Sean Elliott, Arizona
  • Forward – Ed O’Bannon, UCLA
  • Forward – Shareef Abdur-Rahim, California
  • Forward – Chris Mills, Arizona
  • Center – Todd MacCulloch, Washington
  • Center – Bison Dele, Arizona

Adam’s Take:

My team. Well they call it Point Guard U for a reason so I went ahead and gobbled up three of the great ones and one of the best off-guards they produced. Yes, I have an all Arizona backcourt and you can go ahead and call Team PacHoops a group of homers. Do it. And that backcourt is supplemented by three more Wildcats and a dallop of other insanely talented Pac-12 players. Know that Team PacHoops houses seven Pac-10 Player of the Year Awards; six NBA lottery picks, three NCAA titles; two Wooden Awards; and a HOFer.

Look at you, you’re impressed already and I haven’t even told you that Salim Stoudamire is practically at the end of my bench, or that Chris Mills is going to struggle to get minutes; or that the worst my starting forward could be is a ninth pick in an NBA Draft; or that our coach, Ralph Miller, is one of just 73 men to win more than 600 games on a college basketball bench.

Need more? Todd MacCulloch not only was twice named First Team All-Pac, but he’s also a pinball champion. That’s right, the big Canuck has long been a pinball wizard and last October he won his first tournament (the Pinball Expo in Chicago), earning his bad self $3,000. Sean Elliott – the two time Pac Player of the Year, Wooden Award winner, and the first golden child of Arizona – roundhouse kicked debilitating kidney disease right in the jaw and said, “Nah, bro. I’ma go ahead play again.” The first major athlete to return ever from a kidney transplant.

After all, this team wasn’t built on talent alone.

But there’s plenty of it. And so I’ll toss the rock to Mike Bibby or Damon Stoudamire – whoever coach Ralph feels is going to be better suited to start – and let them deliver it (or score) to the silky smooth likes of Michael Dickerson and Elliott or the power and grace of Mills, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, and Ed O’Bannon. Holding down the lane will be big Bison Dele right along with Todd the pinball maestro. All beautifully orchestrated by coach Ralph.

Vote for Team PacHoops because you know it’s the right team to vote for and it’s going to make you feel good to choose a winner.

A pinball champ.

(Note from Connor: To see Adam fully breakdown each position on his fantasy roster, click here for the guards, here for the forwards, here for the centers, and here for the head coach.)

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Morning Five: 06.01.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 1st, 2011

  1. Some of you younger folks may not know this, but in the first several years of its existence, ESPN actually was an acronym that stood for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network.  The guys in Bristol ultimately decided that the four letter “word” was such a strong brand in and of itself that they dumped the rest of it, and it appears that the Big Ten Network is thinking along the same lines two decades later.  Beginning this week, the network will go by BTN in an effort to re-brand their products, which includes associated logos for each Big Ten school (Michigan pictured here) and allows the company to expand into new ventures and opportunities that may not be television-related.
  2. It’s not every day that a Mighty Mouse joins a coaching staff, but former Arizona all-america point guard Damon Stoudamire has signed on to become an assistant on Josh Pastner’s staff at Memphis.  Stoudamire enjoyed a thirteen-year NBA career that included the 1995 Rookie of the Year award, but has spent the last three years in low-level positions at Rice University and the Memphis Grizzlies.  His hiring at Memphis is interesting from a player development perspective, as Stoudamire brings a wealth of experience as a 5’10 guard who had an uncanny ability to get shots off in a number of settings.  For a guy like Tiger sophomore point guard Joe Jackson, who committed a total of six more turnovers than assists last season, Stoudamire could be a tremendous positive influence.
  3. Can we send our correspondent to the pickup sessions at Memorial Coliseum this summer in Lexington?  We already knew that John Calipari was going to have a boatload of talent on his roster in the fall, but it now appears that most of his key players will be on campus over the summer too given the news that forward Terrence Jones will not try out for the Under-19 Team USA later this month.  The three big-time recruits that Calipari has coming in — Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague, and Michael Gilchrist — have also made similar decisions to stick around campus this summer.  Assuming that several of Cal’s former Cats such as John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Brandon Knight, Enes Kanter and Eric Bledsoe pass through Lexington for even a brief interlude to hoop, there might be more young talent during the hot months playing basketball in Lexington than anywhere else in America.
  4. Somehow we missed this over the long weekend, but Pat Forde late last week published a piece that takes a look at the top ten overachieving and underachieving programs in college basketball since 1985.  This is a great article, in theory, and one that we here at RTC talk about doing in depth frequently; but, even though Forde justifies his selections with a paragraph explaining each, something seems a little off when Duke is listed as the second-biggest overachiever (does a top six program truly overachieve?) and Northwestern as the top underachiever (with no expectations, how can it underachieve?).  It’s admittedly a strange list — maybe we would have preferred it if the title had been outstanding vs. disappointing programs?
  5. What’s this, a serious piece of opinion and commentary from Deadspin?  The venerable old blog’s Tommy Craggs uses the prism of the Jim Tressel scandal to nail the media to the wall for falling victim to the same dog-and-pony circus act of faux-outrage we see every time that something like this is unveiled.  His key statement: “What I can’t tolerate is the passel of excellent journalists who understand all the cockeyed incentives of big-time college sports, who know precisely where the big con lies, and who nonetheless write story after story after story after story in which they mistake the symptoms for the contagion.”  It’s an interesting point, but one with which we’re not sure we ultimately agree.  Depending on your perspective, either these investigations and subsequent stories are part of a long-term process to expose the hypocrisy he refers to layer by layer; or, they’re simply isolated instances that don’t amount to anything in the aggregate.  We tend toward the former, and until the NCAA recognizes and solves its own internal battle of enforcement versus self-interest, we’ll have to settle for the good, if piecemeal, work that these journos are doing to expose the seedy side.
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Time to Bet Heavily Against FIU

Posted by nvr1983 on April 14th, 2009

According to Jeff Goodman at Fox Sports, Isiah Thomas has accepted an offer from Florida International University to become their head coach. We briefly discussed the situation yesterday, but now that it’s all but official it is probably a good time to review Isiah’s prior experience. As a basketball player, there is no question that he was an all-time great. As a basketball executive/coach? Not so much.

isiahthomas

Here is a quick recap of his prior stints in a managerial role:

  • Toronto Raptors (1994-1998): Serving as the GM and part-owner, he started by taking B.J. Armstrong with the #1 pick in the 1995 expansion draft. While Armstrong isn’t what you would consider #1 pick material, when you look at the other luminaries that were available it was probably a pretty good pick (at the very least he could show the young guys all the three championship rings Michael Jordan won for him that he won). Unfortunately, Armstrong refused to report to the team and was promptly traded. Even though the team was 67-179, Isiah did exhibit some draft acumen by taking Damon Stoudamire (turning the #7 pick into the Rookie of the Year), Marcus Camby (the #2 pick who might have won Rookie of the Year that year if it wasn’t for some guy named Allen Iverson), and Tracy McGrady (with #9 pick out of high school just 2 years after Isiah’s hilarious plan for Kevin Garnett). Sadly, this was probably the high point of Isiah’s managerial career.
  • NBC (1998): Briefly worked with Bob Costas and Doug Collins. Not particularly memorable, but it worked out better than his last appearance on NBC (see below).

  • CBA (1999-2000): Purchased the league for $10 million on October 7, 1999 and turned down an offer from the NBA to purchase it for $11 million and a percentage of the profits, which according to some sources would have been a $2 million profit (or a 20% ROI) in March 2000. Isiah then promptly proceeded to show everyone what a shrewd businessman he was for turning down the 20% ROI in 5 months by running the league into bankruptcy. [Ed. Note: The fact that the CBA Museum has a page for Isiah Thomas is amazing. Isn't that kind of like a Jewish charity museum starting an exhibit on Bernie Madoff?] Sadly, this was not the low point of Isiah’s managerial career.
  • Indiana Pacers (2000-2003): Took over a team that Larry Bird had coached to the Eastern Conference finals and decided to change directions with a youth movement by playing Jermaine O’Neal, Jamaal Tinsley, and Al Harrington more minutes. Even though he had a respectable 131-115 regular season record, his stint is largely considered a failure as his team’s lost in the first round in each of his 3 seasons as a coach. Heading into Isiah’s 4th year, Larry Bird came back as President of Basketball Operations. At his press conference, Bird assured the media that he would work with Isiah. He promptly fired Thomas and replaced him with Rick Carlisle. [Lesson: Don't mess with the Basketball Jesus.]
  • New York Knicks (2003-2008): I don’t know what can be said that hasn’t already been said. I’ll just refer you to Jeff Coplon’s article that says everything in its title “Absolutely, Positively the Worst Team in the History of Professional Sports”. Quick Cliff Notes style summary: Threw away two 1st round picks for Eddy Curry. Fired Larry Brown (his best move) and made himself coach (his worst move–on the court). Ordered his team to commit a hard foul against the Denver Nuggets resulting in a brawl. Despite having the highest paid team in the league and the pipe dream of landing LeBron James he continued to blow money/cap space on over-priced/under-performing players. “Reassigned” and forbidden to have any contact with the Knicks’ players. Charged in a sexual harassment lawsuit that led Madison Square Garden to pay $11.6 million to his accuser and offended multiple sponsors. Reportedly overdosed on Lunesta and was taken to the hospital, but afterwards tried to throw the entire thing on his 17 year-old daughter.

So, um yeah, good luck with that FIU.

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Lute Olson’s Legacy

Posted by rtmsf on October 23rd, 2008

Now that we’ve had a little bit of time to digest the news of Lute Olson’s retirement from Arizona after 24 seasons, it’s time to take a look at his legacy.  Lute wore his humanity on his sleeve for the past year or so as he’s piloted the usually steady Arizona ship into some rough waters through a minefield of health issues, marital problems, leadership changes and various other snafus.  But for the previous 34 years of coaching, Olson has consistently fielded talented teams that were a threat to win it all.  Consider the following accomplishments of a first-ballot HOF career:

  • 781-280 (.736) in 34 seasons as a head coach
  • 3 losing seasons in 34 years
  • 1 National Championship (1997)
  • 5 Final Fours (1980 – Iowa; 1988, 1994, 1997, 2001 – Arizona)
  • 15 Sweet Sixteens
  • 45-27 (.625) NCAA Tournament record 
  • 23 consecutive NCAA appearances (1985-2007)
  • 11 Pac-10 titles
  • 2 National COY Awards (1988, 1990)

Photo Credit (Tucson Citizen)

Olson’s numbers place him in an elite group of one-title coaches, including contemporaries Jim Boeheim, Tubby Smith, Rick Pitino, Roy Williams, Tom Izzo, and Gary Williams.  The one thing, however, that separates him from those other names is that each of those coaches entered programs as new coaches where basketball was already an established way of life.  In Tucson, Lute Olson IS Arizona basketball. 

When Lute Olson stepped off the plane from the icy midwest in 1983, he encountered sunshine, babes and bikinis, but also an Arizona program that was so far off the map in terms of basketball success, you needed a magnifying glass to find it.  In the 78 previous years of its existence, the program had managed to make it to three NCAA Tournaments (1951, 1976, 1977) and three NITs (1946, 1950, 1951).  The combined NCAA record of those teams was 2-3, with both wins coming in the 1976 tournament (two upsets over Georgetown and UNLV to reach the Elite Eight).  The combined NIT record was 0-3, which meant that, upon Lute Olson’s arrival, the Wildcats had enjoyed only a single year (1976) in its basketball history with postseason wins of any kind.  To make matters worse, the team that Olson inherited was coming off the absolute worst year in the history of the program (4-24, 1-17 in the Pac-10). 

To say that Olson built the Arizona program up from the ashes insults the concept of fire.  After one mediocre year in 1983-84 (11-17), Olson found the mojo that he had utilized during previous stints at Long Beach St. (24-2) and Iowa ( 168-90), and set off onto the triumphant career in the desert that we’re talking about today.  The key, of course, was recruiting, and Lute mined the west coast hoops hotbeds (especially SoCal) on an annual basis, and it showed on the court.  Prior to Lute’s arrival in Tucson, Arizona had produced one first-round draft pick (Larry Demic in 1979).  Beginning in 1989 with the transcendental Sean Elliott, Olson put 13 first-rounders and 17 second-rounders into the NBA Draft, including such fantastic pros like Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire, Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Gilbert Arenas, Richard Jefferson, and Andre Iguodala.  By the time Lute got it really going in the mid-90s, Arizona had become a chic destination school for America’s blue chippers, and he was able to recruit nationally – Jason Gardner (Indianapolis) and Loren Woods (St. Louis via Wake Forest) from the 2001 runner-up team come to mind, but there were many others.  Let there be no question – Arizona basketball wouldn’t exist on the national stage were it not for Lute Olson.  Here’s his crowning moment. 

 

There’s no doubt that Lute was a tremendous program-builder, teacher and recruiter, but if we had to pick one criticism of his illustrious career, it would be that his teams sometimes appeared to lose focus and/or lack motivation.  Maybe it was the laid-back lifestyle of Tucson or simply something about the kids Olson tended to recruit, but in our view, it is somewhat telling that he won his sole national championship in 1997 with a #4 seed.  Don’t take that the wrong way – that was a SICK team that just hadn’t come together until very late in the season (and we had the privilege of watch cut down the nets).  But they were an underdog in each of their three games against #1 seeds Kentucky, UNC and Kansas, and we always felt that Lute relished and managed the underdog role a little more than he was able to do so as the favorite.  Let’s make the case statistically.

As stated above, Lute Olson has gone to five Final Fours.  Here are the NCAA Tournament seeds for those years – #5, #1, #2, #4, #2 (avg. = 2.8).  Arizona also received five #1 seeds during Olson’s tenure.  Here’s the result for those five Tourneys – F4, S16, E8, R32, E8 (avg. = 2.6 games won).  When Lute was expected to go to the F4, he went once; when he was not expected to go, he went four other times.  This quick examination of the numbers confirms what we wrote last year when we surveyed the top overachieving and underachieving programs of the 64/65-team era of the NCAA Tournament.  From 1985-2007, Arizona averaged a #4.1 seed in the NCAAs.  The historical model (above) suggests that Arizona should have won 44.1 NCAA contests over this period – the Cats won 39, which means they ‘underachieved’ by nearly five Ws, and therefore puts UA in terms of performance in the bottom third of schools with greater than eight appearances over the era.  The most obvious examples of this phenomenon were first-round upsets in 1992 (#3 UA loses to #14 ETSU), 1993 (#2 UA loses to #15 Santa Clara), and 1999 (#4 UA loses to #13 Oklahoma).  Even Olson’s most talented and decorated team, the 1998 #1 Wildcats led by Mike Bibby and Jason Terry, had a major letdown in the E8 against #3 Utah, getting run out of the gym by 25 points.  What were we saying about focus and motivation?

(Photo Credit: Tucson Citizen)

It’ll be sad to see Lute Olson go.  Even last year, when Kevin O’Neill was busily turning Arizona into Tennessee ca. 1998 (ugh), we still thought the Silver Fox would make his way back to the sidelines again.  You could always count on Olson teams to have athletes who made the game fun to watch.  If his medical problems are serious enough to warrant missing another season, then he probably is making the right decision in riding off into the desert sunset.  Best of luck to him and his family. 

Now, about that Bob Knight looking to get back into coaching thing…  what odds did we lay?  10:1?  Associate coach Mike Dunlap is expected to take over the reins on an interim basis. 

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