The NCAA has been getting a lot of criticism lately. Ok, they always get a lot of criticism. Despite what some people thinks sometimes the NCAA gets things right. The case of Lionel Gomis is one example of that. Gomis, who is starting his freshman year at Siena, grew up in Senegal moving from house to house after his mother died when he was 14 and unable to go to school for two years due to financial hardship before he was brought to the US as sports development program enrolling in a school in the United States. Gomis was able to overcome his rough beginnings and receive a scholarship at Siena. However, a NCAA rule that was recently adopted that stated a student-athlete had to complete his or her core curriculum in a five-year period. Due to the two years that Gomis was not in school in Senegal he failed to meet these requirements so the NCAA said that he would have his eligibility reduced by three years (two years for the time he was not in school in Senegal and one year when he came to the United States and had to be reclassified due to his limited English proficiency). If the decision was upheld, Gomis would have only been able to play one year of college basketball. However, the NCAA ruled yesterday that Gomis would get two years of eligibility back for the time he missed in Senegal although they were sticking with their earlier ruling regarding his reclassification so as of right now he would not be eligible to play until next season. Siena is appealing that part of the ruling, but it looks like the NCAA may have gotten one right (at least partially)
Yesterday, we mentioned that the proposal to name the court after Gary Williams at the Comcast Center was facing significant resistance. It looks like it wasn’t that significant as Maryland announced yesterday that it was going to name the court after Williams. We all know what Williams has accomplished and his resume at Maryland stacks up well with any ACC coach of recent vintage outside of Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, and Roy Williams. Even though naming the court after Williams will cost the school the potential revenue for naming rights for the court it does open up a myriad of advertising opportunities for antiperspirant deodorant.
Normally, the hiring of a Division II coach without a major track record or a history of scandal wouldn’t merit an inclusion in our exclusive Morning Five. However, when the coach is Mark Prosser, the son of the late Skip Prosser, it qualifies. Yesterday, Prosser was named head coach of Brevard College after working as an assistant at Wofford since 2008. For Prosser, who had spent five years as an assistant at Bucknell before going to Wofford, this will be his first college head coaching position. Prosser has a tough task ahead of him as Brevard went 13-14 last year and only his predecessor, Mike Jones, had spent more than four seasons as a head coach at the school.
USC guard Jio Fontan underwent ACL surgery yesterday at a Los Angeles orthopedic center that deemed “successful” although we are not that certain about a claim this early well before many complications can occur. For his part, Fontan appeared upbeat heading into surgery and looking forward to rehab as he sent this tweet prior to his surgery and apparently responding to well-wishers after his surgery via his Twitter account. We wish Fontan the best in his rehab and hope to finally see him playing in a Trojan uniform in the near future.
The announcement out of Maryland that Gary Williams would be stepping down from his position as head coach to become a special assistant to the athletic director is one of the most stunning pieces of news we have come across this offseason. In any other offseason we would say it was the most stunning piece of news, but the Missouri coaching search saga probably trumps it due to its sheer lunacy. Still, the fact that Williams, who while not at the top of his game (that was back around 2000-02), would step down when he appeared to be building up the Terrapin program after a recent rough patch, is jarring.
Williams has been a large presence on the Maryland sideline
Much of the talk regarding retirement this off-season has centered around UConn coach Jim Calhoun, who also has more well-documented history of medical problems, an impending three-game suspension looming, and, of course, the ability to go out at the absolute top of the game having just won a national championship. Looking at the announcement in retrospect it does make some sense as Williams is 66 years old and has accomplished just about everything that a coach could imagine accomplishing at this point in his career, but it still seems strange. Although his numbers might not seem like much in the era of huge win totals like those amassed by Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, Calhoun, and Jim Boeheim, when you look at them in a larger historical perspective they are very impressive. While most fans associate Williams solely with Maryland, his career is more extensive. It includes stops at the following schools:
American: 72-42 including two trips to the NIT (at a time when the school couldn’t automatically qualify for the NCAA Tournament)
Boston College: 76-45 including two trips to the Sweet 16
Ohio State: 59-41 (the only blemish on his coaching resume)
Maryland: 461-248 (1 NCAA title, another Final Four appearance, and another five Sweet 16s along with two ACC Coach of the Year awards)
We realize that Jim Calhoun hasn’t decided to retire yet and there is still a pretty good chance that he will come back for at least one more season given his frequently stated desire to always look for a fight. Still we think that it is reasonable to suggest that even if he doesn’t retire during this off-season he will be retiring in the near future given his age (he will turn 69 in May) and well-documented medical history. So we ask the question that has been on the minds of many journalists during the past few days: where does he rank historically?
Calhoun already has quite a legacy
By almost any measure (ignoring the opinions of some rival fans) Calhoun would be considered a top 10 coach all-time putting him into a category that includes such luminaries as John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp, Bob Knight, Phog Allen, and others. That much is obvious, but once you get into that group the measures used to differentiate those coaches gets more subtle. Certainly a coach would need to have longevity and a consistent record of putting winning teams on the floor, which could be measured by the career wins. A good bar to set there would probably be 600 wins. If you want to argue for a higher standard be careful because the legendary John Wooden “only” had 664 career wins, a number that many current number-crunching analysts would deem paltry compared to others in this group. Winning championships is certainly important, but as this season clearly demonstrated it doesn’t necessarily reflect having the best team, which Northern Arizona coach Mike Adrus indicated with his vote in the final coaches’ poll. Still at some point that is what the sport boils down to. When we look back at this season we will remember UConn’s tournament run more than Pittsburgh‘s excellent regular season. Setting the bar at 2 NCAA titles narrows the group down to 13, but includes individuals like Billy Donovan, who picked up his championships in back-to-back years, and would have a hard time making a list of top 10 active coaches much less top 10 all-time. It also leaves much to be desired when you consider that highly successful coaches like Jim Boeheim and John Thompson only have one championship each despite having a much bigger historical impact on college basketball than Donovan (at least to this point). The next factor would probably be a coach’s impact on the program and the game, which is a more nebulous concept and consequently impossible to quantify. Still all other things being equal you would probably have to give the nod to someone who turned a program from an also-ran into a national power over someone who took over at a traditional power and continued to win even if that coach did bring the program up a notch or two. Others have undertaken the endeavor of trying to rank coaches in order with The Sporting News being the most notable among them, but that isn’t our objective (at least not for today). Instead we will focus on Calhoun, his legacy, and his place in the history of the game.
It’s that time of year again: Conference season. UConn and Pittsburgh opened up the Big East slate Monday night with the first of what will be many highly-anticipated conference matchups over the next couple of months. It won’t be much longer until we get Pitt-Georgetown, Duke-Maryland, Washington-WashingtonState, OhioState-Purdue and plenty over other mouth-watering games. It’s definitely a more appealing prospect than watching Kentucky pummel Winthrop or Texas beat down NorthFlorida.
What We Learned
Taylor & Pitt Easily Ripped UConn
It might have been wise for JimCalhoun to schedule some true road games for his young UConn squad before its Big East opener at Pittsburgh. The Huskies certainly played as though they weren’t prepared for what was waiting for them in the amped up Peterson Events Center. But honestly, there was little reason to think that this game was going to be anything other than a wakeup call for UConn. The Huskies boast seven freshmen, and only three players in its rotation that had ever played at that venue. No surprises here that the Panthers jumped out to an early double-digit lead and cruised to a 78-63 win. At least the Huskies can take solace in the fact that they don’t have to face Pittsburgh again until possibly the Big East Tournament. The Panthers’ length along the perimeter makes them a tough matchup for KembaWalker, who needed 27 shots and 11 free throws to score 31 points against the likes of AshtonGibbs and BradWanamaker.
After a less-than-stellar start to its season, in which Butler got smoked by Louisville and lost in overtime to Evansville en route to a 4-4 record through its first eight games, it now looks like BradStevens’ squad has righted the ship. The Bulldogs have won five in a row and just beat Washington State on Christmas Day to win the Diamond Head Classic. Key to the Bulldogs recent surge has been their improved play on the defensive end. Butler has not allowed more than 68 points since Mississippi Valley St. put up 71 on Dec. 11, and in their last four wins, the Bulldogs have allowed their opponents to shoot the following percentages: Stanford, 31.4%; Utah, 39.6%; Florida State, 38%; and Washington State, 40.7%. The Bulldogs’ defensive numbers still aren’t great, they rank 48th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings and they’re #272 in turnover %, but they’re on their way back to being a squad that can win games on the defensive end. As the schedule shifts to Horizon League play, the Bulldogs again are a safe bet to claim another conference championship.
When we last checked in with Tennessee, the Vols just had erased most of the momentum gained from a win over Pittsburgh with a home loss to Oakland (nothing to be embarrassed about, but not what we like to see from one of our top-10 teams). As it turns out, that loss to the Golden Grizzlies was a harbinger for what turned out to be a very unhappy holiday season for BrucePearl. The Vols lost their next two games, both to unranked opponents. Tennessee lost 49-48 to a Charlotte squad without leading scored ShamariSpears, who was kicked off the team a few days earlier. Then the Vols lost again by one point, this time to USC. To make matters worse, their win to halt the three-game skid did little to make people believe the Vols aren’t in the middle of a tailspin. Tennessee blew a 13-point lead to Belmont and needed a layup from ScottyHopson with 5.7 left to escape with a 66-65 win. Despite his last-second bucket, Hopson’s recent play has been a major reason for the Vols’ struggles. Hopson scored a combined 28 points his losses to Oakland, Charlotte and USC on 8-31 shooting. He rebounded to score 19 points against Belmont, but he’s still suffering from a shooting slump. Hopson is 2-14 from three in his last four games.
TWTW isn’t a huge fan of making sweeping proclamations before conference play begins, nor do we like to divulge its national championship favorite until the most opportune moment. (Personally, TWTW prefers to wait until about 10 seconds left in the title game to announce who we think will win it all). But if TWTW was forced to name a team it would be OhioState. UConn, Duke, Syracuse and Kansas are all fine choices, but there’s something about the Buckeyes that separates them from the pack. Everything starts with JaredSullinger, who is first on the team in points (17.5) and rebounds (10.1) and is the clubhouse leader for national freshman of the year. Sullinger has owned the paint from Day 1 and has shown a knack for dominating games like few other big men this year (see his 40/13 against IUPUI and his 30/19 against South Carolina). What’s remarkable about Sullinger, though, has been his ability to avoid foul trouble. Sullinger hasn’t fouled out of one game this season and only has one game (his first) in which he had four infractions. But OSU isn’t just limited to Sullinger. The Buckeyes boast five players who average at least 10 points a game. They can beat you just as easily outside as they can inside with shooters like DavidLighty and JonDiebler, who shoot 45.5% and 47.4% from three, respectively. And freshman DeshaunThomas is the kind of athletic wing that can score in bunches off the bench. Could Ohio State be better without EvanTurner? TWTW thinks so.
People wondered how Kansas would be able to integrate freshman phenom JoshSelby into its rotation once he returned from his NCAA-imposed nine-game suspension, the question being whether Selby’s presence would disrupt the Jayhawks’ chemistry from their 9-0 start. After two games, two wins and two electric performances by Selby, it’s obvious there was never a need to worry whether his addition would be anything but welcome. In his debut against USC, Selby scored 21 points and drilled a go-ahead three with 26 seconds ago to lead the Jayhawks to 70-68 win. There was no need for any late heroics in his second game, but Selby still made his presence felt, to the tune of 18 points and a 3-4 shooting night from beyond the arc. Selby’s already established himself as one of Kansas’ go-to scorers, and the fact that BillSelf had Selby not only on the court in the waning seconds against USC but shows how important Selby will be to any title run for KU.
The three pieces of news to know if you’ve been living in complete isolation all week.
Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this piece he’ll spend each week reviewing the five things he loved and hated about the previous week of college basketball.
The Five Things I Loved This Week
I LOVED…..a monster throwdown over a brave defender. Too often these days the defensive player gets out of the way, fearful of ending up on the wrong end of an ESPN Top Ten nominee. But not Georgetown sophomore Hollis Thompson. He stood tall in the paint and boldly said “Posterize me,” to Memphis’ D.J. Stephens, who replied, “As you wish” in rim-rocking fashion. Also, you have to love that “Blake Griffin-esque” was the first adjective used by the announcers on the slo-mo replay.
I LOVED…..how many players rotate through the “No. 1 draft prospect in America” slot during the college season. First it was UNC’s Harrison Barnes, before he even took a shot. Then it was Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger for a bit, followed by some rumblings about Baylor’s Perry Jones. Of course we haven’t even gotten to the NCAA Tournament yet, that wonderful showcase that tends to exponentially inflate or deflate draft projections (remember Joakim Noah’s rise to the top of the board after Florida’s first title?). Stay tuned – next week’s No. 1 pick could be coming to a court near you.
I LOVED…..that Western Kentucky coach Ken McDonald felt so bad about his team’s performance that he reimbursed fans for their gas mileage. How awesome is that in today’s coaching world, which has plenty of big egos and more than a hint of the “don’t blame me” philosophy. You have to wonder why some big-name coaches don’t do things like this. Obviously it’s harder with larger fan bases, but big-name coaches make big-time money, and creative PR moves like this can go a long way. My hat is off to the Hilltoppers.
I LOVED…..an awkward moment. And who doesn’t love awkward moments, if we’re truly honest with ourselves. This week we had a doozy. Roy Williams, he of Carolina upbringing and the understudy of legendary Dean Smith (synonymous with God in Tar Heel country), released his necessary statement of admiration for Mike Krzyzewski as the Duke coach gets set to pass Smith in all-time wins. Take a read – it’s a humorous mixture of, “Yes this is amazing that you broke this record and I’m congratulating you” and “but you’re also passing my idol which really really sucks.” Oh and PS, these two coach in the sport’s biggest rivalry and don’t really get along that well to start with. Wayda suck it up Roy.
I LOVED…..a feel-good story. This one comes from Presbyterian College, which has a unique group of players who thought they would get a shot to play in the NCAA Tournament, only for the school to be denied Division I status. The cool part? Their studs all decided to stay and finish what they started, even though they won’t get a chance to be on CBS in March. Give it a read for a nice, refreshing change from the big-time programs.
The Five Things I Hated This Week
I HATED…..Renardo Sidney’s ridiculousness in the stands in Hawaii. Maybe it brings back too many eerie memories of Ron Artest’s rampage into the crowd, but any fan of college basketball has to cringe at what this type of publicity does to the sport. Yeah, the first instinct might be to smile and shake your head, but it’s downright embarrassing for the Mississippi State program – and a poor reflection on college athletes.
The Lede. Happy Holidays, everyone. As we dive headfirst into Christmas week spent with our loved ones and hope that you’re doing the same wherever you live, the college basketball landscape looks a little peaked. After an unimpressive exams period of games last week, the bulk of this week’s games occur over the next three nights, and after that we’ll hit a four-day interregnum where most coaches allow players to take short breaks to enjoy the holiday season with their families. Tonight involved a very light slate of games but things will progressively improve until Wednesday when we’ll have a solid mid-week lineup to consider.
The Two Go Way Back, But K is the Legend Now (photo credit: RNO)
Your Watercooler Moment. Coach K Ties Dean at 879. With tonight’s blowout victory over Elon, Mike Krzyzewski tied his longtime rival eight miles away in Chapel Hill, Dean Smith, for the #2 spot on the all-time wins list in Division I basketball. There have been a lot of these lately; in fact, Coach K just tied and passed Kentucky legend Adolph Rupp a couple of short weeks ago, but if you ask anyone over thirty who has lived on Tobacco Road, you know that this one (and the next one where K will pass Smith) means a little more. Prior to Krzyzewski’s arrival at Duke in the early 80s, the Blue Devil program was a nice little place for basketball. They’d been to some Final Fours and had some very good teams over the years, but they were not considered an elite program anywhere near Smith’s Tar Heel program or even NC State a few more miles down I-40. K set his sights directly on matching and surpassing the talent level and existing success of the program in Chapel Hill, and within a little more than a decade he’d already been to a slew of Final Fours and won back-to-back titles (Smith matched K in 1993). Nobody in his right mind could have ever imagined that the midwesterner with the funny name at the private school in Durham could ever overtake the folksy Kansan at the public school in Chapel Hill in terms of success and stature, but Duke’s win over Elon tonight is just one more huge prong in an argument that’s long been settled: when it comes to K & Dean, Krzyzewski is the better coach, and history will quite possibly judge him as the second-best of all-time behind John Wooden. Sorry, Heels fans, but it’s true.
Upset of the Night. Jacksonville 71, Florida 68 (OT). A strange game scheduled at a strange time (1 PM) on a Monday afternoon after students have gone home, but a somewhat predictable result. Can we just go ahead and put Florida in as one of our first-round victims in the NCAA Tourney this coming March? This Gator team is a carbon copy of all the other underachievers that Billy Donovan has had in his decade-plus in Gainesville. Just switch out Kenny Boynton for Anthony Roberson and Chandler Parsons for Matt Bonner, and you’ll see what we’re talking about. Donovan has only had one class in his entire tenure at Florida who actually defended their tails off and had a legitimate post presence inside — the ballyhooed Oh-Four class that happened to win a couple of national titles in 2006 and 2007. Almost every other team has relied way too much on spotty guard play with questionable decision-making skills. You can go all the way back to White Chocolate in the late 90s if you want, but the style of players are the same. Bottom line for the 2010-11 Gators: Erving Walker and Boynton shoot way too much considering how inefficient they are with the ball, and there’s no single big man among Parsons, Alex Tyus or Vernon Macklin who can guarantee you points inside when you need them. Sorry, Gator fans, but we’ve seen this Florida team too many times before.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
John Shurna. It’s not often that someone shoots 60% in a game (9-15) and his conversion rate declines, but that’s what happened with Northwestern star John Shurna tonight as he came in dropping a 64.3% and ended the night at 63.6%. With another impressive 26/6/4 stls evening, the guy is just on fire right now. His season averages of 25/5/3 APG/3 SPG are all-american caliber numbers, and the only criticism that can be levied against the 6’8 forward is that he’s doing it against inferior competition (NW’s schedule has been delectably creampuffish so far). Tomorrow night’s game against the long, athletic players on St. John’s will be somewhat instructive with how he responds.
Kemba Watch. Kemba, you’re killing us. For the third straight game, the dynamic Husky point guard was well under the 30 PPG average he carried through the first month of the season. His 20/5/4 assts/3 stls was plenty enough for his team to beat Coppin State convincingly, but his season scoring average is now down to 27.2 PPG and we’re starting to fret. He needs to explode for forty against Harvard on Wednesday because we don’t think that next Monday’s game against Pittsburgh will be a great scoring game for him (in two games against the Panthers, he’s averaged only 10 PPG).
Everyone has a first memory as a fan. Mine came in 1997, the day before my seventh birthday. I’m sure I went to college basketball games before this, but none of them stand out. I was in first grade, headed to the ACC Tournament championship game. The game was between N.C. State and North Carolina. The Wolfpack were the electric underdogs, if you can call a team that runs a modified Princeton offense electric. They were the eighth seed in a nine-team conference, having put away Georgia Tech, Maryland and top seeded Duke in the process.
How Cool is This? (photo credit: SI.com)
My most vivid memories from the game were Ramses and Mr. Wuf (the mascots) getting into a fight ending with a one-horned sheep and a victorious wolf; N.C. State losing the game; and my younger brother switching his allegiances to the Tar Heels for the rest of the day much to the chagrin of my parents. A surprisingly thick head of hair topped Herb Sendek’s head, as he led a team of overachievers to the conference championship game in his first year of coaching. But the real history was held by the man coaching the Tar Heels. I’m embarrassed to say this, but until yesterday I never knew that was Dean Smith’s last ACC game. I had no idea.
This game, along with dozens of “full-length, classic Tournament and regular season men’s basketball games from all 12 ACC member institutions,” is now available online at the ACC Vault. You’ve likely seen the NCAA Vault (another must-visit site for any college hoops fan), and the ACC and Raycom Sports have followed suit. The site features games from 1983 through the present with some really cool features that make the viewing process more user-friendly. I’ll list some highlights for each school after the jump, but seriously, how cool is this?
The Lede. A Leader Who Happens To Coach Basketball. If you can’t stand Duke and/or Coach K you might want to stay off the Internet for a while because you are going to be hearing about them a lot over the next few months. While the Blue Devils picked up their 19th straight win and 27th in 28 games, this game will be remembered (particularly by those in The Bluegrass State) as the game where Coach K surpassed Adolph Rupp on the all-time Division I wins list. In Duke’s first game without Kyrie Irving, who could be out indefinitely with a toe injury, the Blue Devils relied on their superior athleticism, depth, and execution to crush a respectable Bradley team, 83-48. The Braves’ four losses this season coming in were by a combined 22 points, but they weren’t that fortunate tonight as the Blue Devils blew them out by 35 points. Playing in place of Irving, Andre Dawkins was more than adequate as he scored 28 points including 8 of 14 from beyond the arc. Duke may not be the same dynamic team without Irving, but they are still really, really good. As for Coach K, now that he has passed Rupp for third he only has two more coaches ahead of him (Dean Smith at 879 and Bobby Knight at 902). We don’t think we need to tell you about the type of hysteria that you will see when he approaches those two living legends in the coming weeks and months.
Coach K has his sights set on The General
Your Watercooler Moment. Playing with a women’s ball in Illinois. Coach K might have dominated the mainstream college basketball media’s attention tonight, but the Twitter-verse was dominated by the strange situation in Illinois where the Fighting Illini and Oakland Golden Grizzlies played the first seven minutes of their game with a women’s basketball before Mike Tisdale noticed that something felt wrong and pointed it out to the official who switched the ball. Having dealt with that the Fighting Illini rallied from down nine early to defeat a tough Golden Grizzlies team by a score of 74-63. Although we would like to be able to attribute the Golden Grizzlies early success to playing with a women’s ball (they outscored Illinois 15-6 while playing with the women’s ball and were outscored 68-48 with the men’s basketball) that would be selling their effort short as they led the #16 team in the country until there were 15 minutes left in the game. Demetri McCamey scored nine points in 62 seconds to give Bruce Weber’s squad a quick seven-point lead, which they never relinquished after that point.
Tonight’s Quick Hits...
Steve Fisher’s Quips. His team is now 9-0 after defeating California tonight, but the longtime coach of the San Diego State Aztecs thinks that his home folks might be going a little overboard with their support and faith of the team. As he put it, “they think we can play the Celtics… and if Kevin Garnett didn’t play, they think we’d have a chance.” In this clip, he also talks about how big of a deal it is for his squad to defeat a Pac-10 opponent on their own floor, as it hasn’t happened for a very long time (the answer: SDSU last did it in 1982 vs. Oregon in Eugene, well before Fisher could even spell Fab Five).
Glens Falls, New York. Seemingly an entire town came out to watch its prodigal son, Jimmer Fredette, return to play basketball. The star guard scored 26 points in variety of ways to thrill the beyond-capacity home crowd at the Glens Falls Civic Center tonight. Take a read through Tae Andrews’ RTC Live at the arena tonight — people were sitting or standing in every available space in this building. We love to see support like that — more teams should do this sort of thing for the local HS heroes that move on.
Hehehehehehe…….. see that date up there, folks? Yeah, it says “10,” meaning October. October means autumn, changing weather, falling leaves and Halloween. It also means we’re officially two weeks from Midnight Madness (we refuse to call it anything else even if it’s not at the witching hour anymore), and we’re just over a month from the first official games (November 8: Seattle @ Maryland; Rhode Island @ Pittsburgh; Navy @ Texas; UC Irvine @ Illinois). The 2010-11 RTC Season Preview will kick off in earnest on Monday, and we’re fully stocked around here with espresso beans and other stimulants to get us through it. Prepare yourselves.
We discussed the allegations made against two unnamed Michigan State players on Wednesday, ultimately concluding that something messy happened in Wonders Hall (yes, that’s the name) on the MSU campus on the night of August 29-30 even if the Ingham County District Attorney didn’t believe so. Today the source that originally reported the story, the Michigan Messenger, released a copy of the official police report with names redacted. If you’re the type of person who is creative in piecing together subtle clues from a document such as this, you can narrow down the list of possible suspects to only a few options. You can engage in that exercise on your own time, but we’re intrigued that much of the national media is treating this story as if it doesn’t exist. As far as we can tell, only USA Today and some local Michigan news stations and papers have reported this incident so far, but a police report where it clearly shows one player corroborating the testimony of a victim about not being “free to leave” during an alleged sexual assault (p.8) is worth wider consideration in our estimation. ESPN, quick to ramp up the 24/7 news cycle on a Ben Roethlisberger sexual assault story, is deafeningly silent on this one — but we’re not holding our breath.
Remember the story that class of 2011 uber-recruit Anthony Davis‘ father was requesting $200,000 for the services of his son for one year at the college of his “choice?” Two hundred large seemed like a hefty price tag to us at the time, that is, until we read this piece where a San Diego high school player named Chen Cai reportedly took over $30,000 in gifts from a Chinese marketing company called Zou Marketing. The 6’8 senior forward (who may actually be 20 years old instead of 17) averaged 26/17 last year and has led his team, Maranatha Christian, to three straight section runner-up finishes. As a result of documents showing that he took the gifts, though, Cai has already been declared ineligible to play this coming season, and you’d have to figure that he’s also going to be ineligible to play college ball as well.
We’re fairly certain that even if Wisconsin had gone 36-0 heading into Final Four weekend in 2011, most college basketball fans still wouldn’t be able to pick Jon Leuer out of a lineup. This shouldn’t stand, though. As Mike DeCourcy points out in his profile, Leuer is one of the most versatile big men in the entire country this year, and as difficult as it is to watch the Badgers on television, we certainly encourage you to do so. At least once. You might even enjoy it.
We were hoping to find this yesterday, but today will have to do. We mentioned that UNC legend Dean Smith made a visit to the Charlotte Bobcats’ training camp on Wednesday; he must have enjoyed it so much that he wanted to do it again because he made a return trip on Thursday. Who knows — maybe LB and MJ will make him an honorary assistant coach of the Bobcats this season? Good to see him out in the world doing the thing he loves most.
Two Coaching Legends Discussing Strategies (AP/C. Burton)
Jamie Dixon may have lassoed the highest-rated recruit in the history of Pittsburgh basketball yesterday, as 6’9, 200-pound junior forward Khem Birchverbally committed to his Panther program. The athletic player originally from Canada is rated in the top five in both the Rivals and Scout rankings for the class of 2012, and he will undoubtedly be a force in the Big East in a couple of years. Anyone expecting Pitt to “come back to earth” anytime soon is dreaming — so long as Dixon is there, the Panthers are going to remain a force not just in the conference but nationally. We shudder to think what Dixon will be able to do if he starts getting top ten players at Pitt on a regular basis.
Here’s a look at two coaches in vastly different situations at their respective schools who are using the art of recruiting blue-chip prospects to substantiate their coaching existences. John Pelphrey would appear to be on the hot seat at Arkansas after three lackluster seasons, but according to Gary Parrish, he’s bought himself at least two more years with a strong incoming class that will arrive in Fayetteville in 2011. On the flip side of things, Ohio State’s Thad Matta is in no danger of losing his job in large part because he continues to haul in fantastic players to his program year after year (Jared Sullinger only the latest stud of many).
Former UNC head coach and Hall of Famer Dean Smithmade an appearance at the Charlotte Bobcats’ training camp on Wednesday. One of his former pupils, Larry Brown, is currently the head coach of the team and, of course, His Airness is the majority owner of the club. This was the first public appearance for the legendary coach since the summer release of information from his family that he was suffering from a degenerative memory disease, but the 79-year old Smith was in good enough condition to keep up appearances — he made sure to wear a bright Carolina blue jacket to the camp (ed note: send us a photo if you’ve got one).
It’s not every day you wake up to a Twitter argument about John Wall’s grades (Eric Bledsoe’s were notably not discussed), but that’s what happened to Mike DeCourcy yesterday after writing the following tweet before bed Tuesday night: Tsnmike:So all the people squawking about one-and-dones not going to class in spring — how does that reconcile with John Wall on SEC honor roll? DeCourcy was attacked on several fronts but the most compelling line of inquiry was whether Wall academically represents the ‘typical’ one-and-doner. Those guys get up way too early for us to have joined the conversation in real time, but our uneducated sense is that Wall is an exception and the one-and-doners are probably no different than any other athlete who decides to leave school early.
The best piece on Dean Smith’s current condition that we have seen is by Joe Posnanski over at SI. The piece about Brian Reese potentially blowing a trip to the Final Four by not following Smith’s precise orders is phenomenal. Read it.
While we’re discussing Tobacco Road legends, we should mention this article by Dan Wiederer who discusses all the Duke fingerprints that are on the US national teams this summer. A great point by Coach K when he notes that many of the top high school prospects chose to play for the national teams rather than AAU ball, a development that will undoubtedly mature their games in ways they could not imagine on the summer circuit.
Andy Katz reports that the NCAA’s top official, John Adams, has spent much of the last month meeting with the four Final Four head coaches and listening to feedback as to how to improve his teams of zebras. We think Katz hits on the correct point in his piece when he points out that Adams only has limited control of officials, more specifically only during the NCAA Tournament. If any real change is to occur, he needs to get the leagues on board with it so that a foul in the Big Ten is the same thing as one in the ACC.
Over the past couple of weeks we’ve all heard about the memory loss to which former North Carolina coach Dean Smith has fallen victim. The subject was recently visited in an article that appeared in the Fayetteville Observer earlier this month, and John Feinsteinsoon followed up with a statement on his site regarding the matter, since he had worked with Smith on what now sounds like a abandoned project that was to be a book about the coach. The tragic irony — that Dean Smith, the very creator of so many college basketball memories for so many people, is now having trouble remembering parts of them — has been lost on nobody.
Then, over the weekend, Smith’s family sent a letter to his former players via current chief Roy Williams, a letter that served as an update on Smith’s condition, a note of appreciation, and a request for privacy. There are positives and negatives in the picture that’s painted, and the actual problem that Smith is having isn’t specifically named — on which more in a moment.
The living legend may have some memory problems, but the collective conscience of college basketball does not.
Smith is the second legendary coach we’ve seen in recent times who’s had to deal with a problem of this nature. Lute Olson, a man who’s face, voice, coaching style, and overall debonair still stand as symbols of Arizona Wildcat basketball, also dealt with issues of a neurological nature. Back in 2008, Olson underwent profound personality changes in a relatively short period of time, sometimes showing behaviors so inconsistent with his usual self that a subsequent MRI revealed a “previously undiagnosed” stroke as the causative factor.
Do not, however, make the mistake in assuming that Coach Smith’s situation is the same as Coach Olson’s, or that they will follow the same course. The scenarios are quite different. Olson’s behavioral change had a specific cause, but there doesn’t seem to be a specific reason cited to account for Smith’s spotty but evidently progressive memory loss. In Feinstein’s article, he mentions that both he and Coach Smith himself had noticed some changes in Smith in 2005, but that there was also a knee-replacement surgery in 2007 that had complications in the form of “neurological issues.” The words “Alzheimer’s Disease” have popped up in a couple of places (we are intentionally not linking them here), and while that would fit under the umbrella of what Smith’s family refers to as a “progressive neurocognitive disorder which affects his memory,” there are several other things that fit there, as well. We haven’t spoken directly to the family, haven’t examined Smith, and have no other data to use, so it might be a little early to make that diagnosis. There are at least 20 other disorders that could fall under that heading.
The MAAC conference tournament gave us another buzzer-beater last night. Saint Peter’s guard Desi Washington rushed down the court and nailed a trey to eliminate Fairfield 65-62 on Washington’s THIRD game-winning buzzer-beater against the Stags this season.
Clown, thy name is UCSB fan. Although players and coaches alike are expected to behave professionally, fans also have a responsibility to contain themselves. Incidents like last night’s approach by a rabid UCSB fan are dangerous for everyone involved.