Morning Five: 01.21.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 21st, 2014

morning5

  1. Coming into the season we would have thought that a prolonged absence for DaJuan Coleman would be a significant blow to Syracuse and it still might be, but after their performance in the past six games (five of which Coleman has missed) we are not so sure. We will find out over the rest of the season if we were right initially as Coleman will undergo surgery on an injured leg and miss the rest of the season. Fortunately the Orange already have five games of experience without Coleman this season and they have a potentially serviceable three-man rotation on the inside (Christmas, Keita, and Roberson), but Coleman’s absence will cost them some depth on the inside as the season goes along particularly if one of the other three is injured or gets in early foul trouble.
  2. Despite battling injury issues lately Michigan State has been able to reel off 10 straight wins since their surprising loss at home against North Carolina. It appears that they will have to wait at least one more game before they can get their full team back on the court as the school has said that it is doubtful that Adreian Payne will play in tonight’s game against Indiana. Tonight’s meeting is actually the second meeting between these two teams this season as they already played in Bloomington on January 4 in a game that the Spartans won 73-56. Payne is currently recovering from a sprained foot and is “sort of day-to-day” according to Tom Izzo, but as you would expect they will not be taking any chances on Payne at this point unless he is 100%.
  3. Over the weekend (and coinciding with the 40th anniversary of its historic upset of UCLA to end the latter’s 88-game winning streak), Notre Dame inducted Digger Phelps into its Ring of Honor. Phelps, who is best known to this generation for coordinating his highlighter and tie on ESPN GameDay, went 393-197 in his 20 seasons at South Bend including seven wins against #1-ranked teams. Phelps, who spent part of this off-season being treated for bladder cancer (unrelated to his prior prostate cancer) and has reportedly been given a clean bill of health, was introduced by his longtime GameDay colleague Rece Davis.
  4. Although there are a lot of issues around how the NCAA determines eligibility that need to be worked on, but as Myron Medcalf points out the one safeguard that is available is the junior college route, which many current Division I players have found to be very useful. It goes without saying that many players who go through this system tend to have some red flags that scare off some programs just based on the fact that they have to go the junior college route. Those coaches who avoid players from this route do so at their own peril because although the high school recruiting battles win the headlines before the season many times a seasoned junior college player can make a significant contribution too.
  5. One of the challenges in using traditional advanced metrics is that they can make it difficult to truly assess a team when it loses a key player. Standard ranking systems are not perfect either, but they usually adapt more quickly by raising or dropping a team in the rankings based on their more recent performance. There is a way around this with advanced metrics, but it requires a quite a bit of additional groundwork. Fortunately, Dan Hanner is up to the task with his two-part post (part 1 and part 2) looking at how various teams have reacted to the losses of top players. In general the results are about what you would expect, but in a few cases teams have actually performed better. Now a lot of those surprises can be attributed to small sample sizes, but they are worth following.
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College Gameday Lineup Sizzles, But Can Show Stand To Improve?

Posted by BHayes on August 15th, 2013

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

During these trying summer months away from the hardwood, a favorite pastime of college basketball fans is putting together the jigsaw puzzle that is the schedule for the season ahead. We still don’t have all the pieces in hand here in mid-August, but over the past few weeks we have heard announcements regarding in-season tournaments, multi-conference challenges, and select non-conference match-ups. The next shoe to drop in the schedule release process came Wednesday, when ESPN unveiled its 2013-14 College Gameday schedule. This new delivery of hoops action to come is a mouth-watering series of match-ups with a pretty comprehensive geographic blueprint (games in seven different conferences are included, plus a Gonzaga vs. Memphis non-conference tilt), and in all likelihood, even more complete coverage of the top of the preseason polls. There is a distinct possibility that every single team in this season’s preseason Top 10 will make an appearance on Gameday. Excited for Saturday nights in 2014 yet? It’ll be hard for that slate to disappoint, but if you will allow for a little nit-picking, we have a few good ideas on how to make Gameday – already a great thing – even greater.

The College Gameday Crew Has A Winter Of Titanic College Hoops Matchups Ahead Of Them, But No Return Trip To Hinkle Fieldhouse Means We Are Probably Safe To Avoid The Crew's Hickory High Jerseys This Season

The College Gameday Crew Has A Winter Of Titanic College Hoops Matchups Ahead Of Them, But No Return Trip To Hinkle Fieldhouse Means We Are Probably Safe To Avoid Davis, Rose, Phelps And Bilas In Their “Memorable” Hickory High Jerseys 

With the original and (still) most popular version of College Gameday coming to you from college football’s most famed venues each fall Saturday, there are a few things we wish the hoops variety would steal from their gridiron counterparts. For one, what’s the rush with scheduling? My Wednesday afternoon may have been a little less exciting yesterday, but why not wait until a couple weeks out (like the football guys do) to set the games? That way we avoid providing disappointing teams a national stage (for example, Southern Illinois entered its January 2008 Gameday spot against Creighton with a losing record), and also potentially allow fans to enjoy games featuring surprise teams that may not have been on the preseason radar. Plus, if nothing better materializes, these brilliant original match-ups can stand. Michigan will still be visiting Sparty on January 25, Duke and UNC will still be facing off at Cameron on March 8, and life cannot be any worse!

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Morning Five: 07.05.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 5th, 2013

morning5

  1. Brad Stevens, Brad Stevens, Brad Stevens. The talk of the college basketball world has been centered on the Wednesday afternoon announcement that the Butler head coach was leaving his post for the glamour and riches of the NBA’s Boston Celtics. Everyone, of course, has an opinion on this bold and very surprising move, so let’s sum up what folks are saying. First, from the Brad Stevens/Celtics side: Adrian Wojnarowski writes that Stevens represents the “changing face of [NBA] coaches” in its new era of statistical analytics; the Indy Star‘s Bob Kravitz says that he can’t blame Stevens for jumping to the league; Fox Sports‘ Reid Forgrave calls the move a “gutsy” one on the part of Danny Ainge and the Celtics; while SI.com‘s Ben Golliver argues that the Celtics’ decision to pluck a successful college head coach with no NBA experience is a worthwhile risk. As we tweeted when we heard the news on Wednesday, the move makes sense from a logical standpoint, but it just doesn’t feel right. Stevens embodied our perhaps romantic notion of a college lifer, and in the NBA, coaches are hired to be fired. It’s hard to see him not coming back to our game sooner rather than later.
  2. The other angle in this story is what will happen to Butler without Stevens now leading the program? As our own Chris Johnson writes, the loss of a superstar like Stevens cannot be overstated — the program will absolutely take a hit, regardless of who is chosen to replace him. The most recent report suggests that either Butler assistant Brandon Miller or Michigan assistant Lavall Jordan will get the job, with Miller presumably holding the inside track given the school’s 24-year run of promoting coaches from within the program (although Jordan has more Butler experience). The general sentiment among the hoops cognoscenti is that Butler will figure out a way to still be Butler. SI.com‘s Andy Glockner writes that Butler is in great position to remain relevant and successful, regardless of who they hire to take over for Stevens. The Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy thinks that the program may have a bit of a rude awakening with a new head coach suffering the indignities of a brutal Big East round-robin schedule next winter. But both Pat Forde and Matt Norlander move beyond that angle, arguing that college basketball as a whole is the real loser in Stevens’ move to the Celtics. Can’t disagree with that at all.
  3. From a coach on the way out of the college game to one sticking around, Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton received an extension through 2016-17 (and a $750,000 raise, to boot) to remain in Tallahassee as the head coach of the Seminoles. The timing is somewhat surprising given that FSU last year suffered its worst season (18-16) in nearly a decade under Hamilton’s tutelage, but his previous four years of NCAA Tournament appearances and an ACC Championship certainly show that Hamilton has his program in overall good shape. His new salary of $2.25 million annually puts him second behind only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in terms of salaries among ACC coaches.
  4. We’re 51 weeks away from next season’s NBA Draft, but Mike DeCourcy took time during his Starting Five column this week to break down how he sees the top five picks going for 2014 (let’s just say that one-and-done is prominently featured). He also takes time to rip both FIBA — for its appalling lack of television broadcast options for the U-19 team — and Georgetown recruit LJ Peak, whose “psyche-out” trick using the school hats of suitors South Carolina and the Hoyas left a really bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths (ourselves included).
  5. Let’s finish the holiday week with some really good news on the health front: ESPN’s highlighter aficianado Digger Phelps has been declared cancer-free related to his bladder cancer diagnosis earlier this year. In just over one 12-month period, Phelps had survived both prostate and now bladder cancer, so it’s been a wild but ultimately successful year for the 72-year old television personality and former head coach. Phelps takes a lot of heat for some of his takes on ESPN’s Gameday show, but he’s always entertaining and we certainly hope that these health problems will remain behind him so that we can all enjoy many more years of green tie/highlighter pairings from January to March each season.
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Morning Five: 04.26.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 26th, 2013

morning5

  1. We will start off today by offering our best wishes to ESPN analyst Digger Phelps who revealed that he had surgery and will be treated for bladder cancer. Most of America knows Digger for his work on ESPN including his matching tie and highlighter combinations, but he was also an outstanding coach at Notre Dame from 1971 to 1991 as he was able to knock off the #1 team in the nation seven times during that stretch (a record he shares with Gary Williams) including ending UCLA’s record 88-game winning streak. We do not know much about the stage of the cancer and subsequently the prognosis, but we wish Digger the best as he continues to undergo treatment.
  2. In what might end up being the biggest early-entry decision this year, Doug McDermott announced that he will be returning to Creighton for his senior year. There have been several players with more NBA-level talent than McDermott who made early-entry decisions over the past few weeks, but none of them will have as profound an impact on their school, conference, and the national landscape as McDermott will. The Bluejays will be losing some key pieces (Grant Gibbs and Greg Echenique), but McDermott’s return should make them competitive in the new Big East and a dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament. We are not sure how much McDermott will help his NBA Draft stock by returning, but as Andy Glockner points out the move to the new Big East should give McDermott the ability to showcase his skills against more high-level talent than he had in the Missouri Valley Conference.
  3. The other notable early-entry announcement yesterday came from Baylor where Cory Jefferson announced that he would be returning for his senior year. Jefferson, who showed a dramatic improvement last season, is essentially the polar opposite of McDermott as a NBA prospect in that he is a ridiculous NBA-level athlete, but his offensive game is very limited. We are not sure that Scott Drew is the best person to work on that–at least based on what we have seen from him in terms of in-game adjustments–but an extra year of college basketball should give Jefferson enough time to round out his game to make him a better NBA prospect and a probable first-round pick although with how deep next year’s NBA Draft could be Jefferson needs to continue his upward trajectory to ensure himself a first-round spot.
  4. One of the things that we always have a hard time understanding is the hype surrounding transfers. One example of this is Hunter Mickelson, who is transferring from Arkansas to Kansas. Mickelson was a highly recruited 6’10” Arkansas native who tried to get out of his letter of intent when the coaching change at Arkansas occurred, but was not released by the school only averaged 5.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game last season in just 16.6 minutes per game. His 2.3 blocks in 17.1 minutes per game as a freshman was impressive, but we are not quite buying the hype on Mickelson yet even if his block per minute numbers compare favorably with what Jeff Withey was able to do (see Jesse Newell’s excellent analysis for a more detailed breakdown of what Mickelson brings to Lawrence). Like Mickelson, Jabari Hinds was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school, but struggled during his two seasons at West Virginia before eventually finding himself on the bench late last season. Now Hinds appears to be headed for Massachusetts where as Jeff Eisenberg points out he could benefit from playing against lower-level talent. Perhaps the most perplexing case of all is Tarik Black, the Memphis big man who put up unremarkable numbers–8.1 points and 4.8 rebounds–last season yet finds himself being heavily recruited by Duke among others. As Gary Parrish points out some of this is supply and demand. At this point there are not many big men who have proven they can play at a high-major level so now there are “at least 20 other high-major programs are all lined up and working like they’re the last 25 dudes in a bar with just one moderately attractive girl”. The part that Parrish leaves out is that the one “lucky” dude/program has to wake up the following morning next to the moderately attractive girl.
  5. With all the movement in the coaching carousel there will inevitably be a few recruits who change their minds about where they want to go to school (see Mickelson above). Two of the bigger moves in the coaching carousel this season were at UCLA and Rutgers both of whom were involved in some recruit movement yesterday. In the case of UCLA they released Allerik Freeman from the national letter of intent he signed last November when Ben Howland was still the coach at UCLA. We are not sure if this decision was mutual or if Freeman was the sole driving force, but given how quickly this went down we would be surprised if Steve Alford was not ok with having an extra scholarship available. On the other end of the country and spectrum was Rutgers who picked up its first recruit of the Eddie Jordan era when junior college guard Craig Brown committed to the school. Rutgers obviously has a very long way to go to be a national-level program again and picking up a junior college guard will not turn many heads in New Jersey, but the speed with which Jordan picked up the commitment is impressive.
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Jimmer Tries Life as a Duffer, Finds Basketball Easier

Posted by rtmsf on July 18th, 2011

We now know one thing that 2010-11 National Player of the Year Jimmer Fredette won’t be doing to supplement his income while locked out by his Sacramento employers this coming year: Hitting the links.  The phrase Jimmer for three took on a whole new meaning over the weekend in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, as the tenth pick in the NBA Draft spent more time hacking around in the rough and serpentining around the greens of the American Century Championship than finding the sweet spot at the bottom of the cup.  How bad was the nation’s best college basketball player?  Gulp… even worse than Barkley.  From the Salt Lake Tribune:

Make Sure to Duck if You See These Two Behind You

Fredette finished dead last (83rd place) at the American Century Championship golf tournament on Sunday afternoon, ending up with minus-88 points. Fredette had minus-30 on Friday, minus-28 on Saturday and minus-30 on Sunday. The worst he could have gotten each day was minus-36. Jay DeMarcus of the country music group Rascal Flatts finished second-to-last at minus-83, and Charles Barkley was third-to-last at minus-68.

Basketball players with their lanky frames and inability to stand still as a general rule didn’t perform well in this tournament, with Shane Battier (#77), Digger Phelps (#72), Jason Kidd (#56), Deron Williams (#46) and Penny Hardaway (#41) joining Chuck and Jimmer in lighting up the Edgewood Golf Club with high degree of difficulty shots from every nook and cranny in the Tahoe basin.  The highest placing hoopster was former NC State star and current LA Clippers head coach, Vinny del Negro (#11), with His Airness and Jesus Shuttlesworth also placing modestly (tied at #23).

In typical good-natured Jimmer fashion, he tweeted out after his final round that he’ll be “much improved” next year.  Given the look and feel of an NBA work stoppage that will likely leak well into next calendar year, The Jimmer will certainly have plenty of time to work on his golf game.  Whether anyone will remember who he is depends on a bunch of other factors, but for at least this one year, he gave Sir Charles a reason to feel good about himself.   

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The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Tom Brennan, Part II

Posted by rtmsf on June 30th, 2011

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the year. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Yesterday we brought you Part I of our One on One interview with the always-entertaining Tom BrennanIn addition to learning that integration helped knock him out of a starting spot at Georgia and that his athletic director at Yale all but pushed him out the door to Vermont, we re-discovered that the man simply loves to tell stories.  Whether it involves him telling his new boss that he’s already fulfilled all his career goals or thinking he had coaching all figured out at the tender age of 27, he had us riveted to each and every word.  Part II is only better.

Ed. Note: Brennan uses some colorful language during this interview, so if you’re sensitive to such things, you may want to skip past this one.

Rush the Court: Guys like us who study the sport knew you were pretty good in ’03 and ’04, but most of America, though, didn’t know about you guys until that ’05 season.  The ESPN program helped with that, but then of course the NCAA Tournament run built upon it.  You guys really caught lightning in a bottle in terms of national coverage, and with Taylor Coppenrath, TJ Sorrentine, and yourself, you all became national names almost overnight.  What was that like?

Tom Brennan: We were pretty.  We really were pretty.  I had this radio show every morning during morning drive-time.  It was like something out of a novel.  Sorrentine was the little street kid from Pawtucket [RI], you know, who was the leader and had his hat on sideways.  And Coppenrath was like Lil’ Abner; he was from a town of 200 people, and they loved him.  They loved him!  He never complained; he was really a treat.  And then I had three or four other guys that just really blended in.  I always say this — like, David Hehn — the first year we won [in 2003], we won at BU, and he made a jumper with about five seconds to go to win the game.  So now, it’s Vermont’s first championship, we win it on the road.  Everybody’s nuts, but then we had Coppenrath and Sorrentine.  You know, Sorrentine was out that year, and he’s coming back and he’d been the MVP.  And the year he was out, Coppenrath was the MVP.  So now I got these two studs, and they’re both really good, but I also have to manage all this sh– to make sure everybody is on the same page.  Like Hehn went from a superhero to A Chorus Line — he went back, “just let me guard the other team’s best player.”  But if any of those kids had ego problems, I think we could have blown up.  They were just so good about it, and everybody really was into the idea that we’re all better if we’re together, and we’re all better if we don’t care who gets the credit and that kind of stuff.  As cliched as it sounds, it really was the truth.  Coppenrath and Sorrentine were both ultimate teammates, and the other three guys were as well.  And we were tough!  We’d been around — all the same guys — for three years, then ESPN got interested.  ESPN The Magazine did a big story on us, and Sports Illustrated.  It was off the hook, and it’s such a little state and we’re the only Division I school, and people just went crazy about it.  Really, those guys were like the Beatles — they really were.

The Vermont Rock Stars Knowns as Brennan's Catamounts (Getty/J. McIsaac)

RTC:  So let me ask you about those three NCAA Tournaments.  In succession, you went up against Lute Olson, Jim Calhoun, Jim Boeheim and Tom Izzo.  [laughter]  There’s no break there, right?  What was that like?  Olson’s now retired — he coached until he was about 150, but these other guys continue to get it done even as they advance well into their coaching careers.  What is it about these coaches that makes them so successful?

TB:  I always said, “if God had another son, he would look like Lute Olson.”  It was remarkable what Calhoun did last year — he finished ninth in their league!  And it’s not like he’s going to rally them — he’s a bad-ass.  You know, he gets in those kids’ faces; he doesn’t take no for an answer.  I mean, he’s just ruthless, and yet, man, they did it.  They did it.  I was always impressed with that, and what happened was… it was funny.  I was so in awe of Lute Olson — it was just unbelievable, because, again, the guy was like a god to me — and I didn’t know him, but I just knew of him, and what he’d done and what he’d accomplished and how he looked and he was always so gracious.  And so I’m walking down, we’re getting ready to play them, and what happened was that his wife had died a while back, and then he ended up with this woman from Pennsylvania [Christine Olson] — I don’t even know how the hell it happened, but she was like a Republican leader, some big deal from Pennsylvania — and I read this thing where he was very happy.  That he’d met this woman and she’d really made him happy, so I didn’t think much of it, but when I was walking down to say hello to him, I was so nervous.  Honest to God, I wasn’t even nervous about the game, I was nervous about him!  Because I knew, they’re a #1, we’re a #16 — I mean, they had [Andre] Iguodala, they had all kinds of players on that team.  We had been stuck in the snow, we didn’t get to Salt Lake until 1:30 in the morning, and we played at 11.  It was crazy.  It was just crazy.  Our kids were like, “f—, look where we are.”  And that’s the thing, by the time the second year came around [against UConn in 2004], we really weren’t that shook, and by the time the third year came around [against Syracuse in 2005], we knew that we could win.  We really knew we were good enough.  So, anyway, I go up to Lute Olson, and he said, “Coach, how are you?”  And I said, “Coach, I just wanna say that I’m just so happy that you’ve found peace in your personal life.”  I’m thinking to myself, “what the f— are you saying?!?!”  I’m hearing these words come out, and I’m thinking, “you a–hole!”  I didn’t even know what to say to him; I was so awestruck, honest to God.  So he said, “well, thank you.”  And I just turned and ran like a rabbit, and thought “jeezus… good first impression, there.”  But you know what, when I retired, he wrote me the nicest letter.  He wrote me a beautiful letter, and so it was nice.  But you know, we never had a chance.  [Vermont lost 80-51.]  I have a picture on my cell and we were up, like 7-6, got it blown up and put it on my wall.  But then, and this is a cute story too.  We got stuck in the snow, and I went on [Tony] Kornheiser’s show, PTI or whatever it was — I guess it was his radio show at the time — and I said, “you know, this is ridiculous.”  I said, “they make billions of dollars on this thing, and they can’t get us from Denver to Salt Lake City?  If you think this was Duke in this hotel, we’d still be here.”  I wasn’t even finished, and the AD knocked on the door: “hey, yo, that’s enough about that.”  [laughter]  So that was enough about that.  So then anyway, but what happened was, we did get tapped out, and to take us home, the NCAA felt so bad and I guess my rant had a little bit to do with it, they sent us a plane that [Bruce] Springsteen uses, the Rolling Stones use, and you couldn’t even tell it was a plane.  So now, my wife and I are standing at the back, and the captain comes down, and he says, “are you the coach?”  I said, “yes, sir.  I’m the coach.”  He said, “well, you come with me, I’m going to take you to Mick Jagger’s suite.”  So I turned to Lynn [Brennan, his wife], I said, “hey, you gotta turn into a Brazilian model by the time we get to the top of the stairs.”  [laughter]  It was wild.  But it was a great experience; it was a great experience for our kids.  And I knew that we had a chance to keep going, that we had this group that was good.  So then the next year we played UConn, played them tougher than anybody as I recall, on their march to the championship.  [Vermont lost 70-53.]  I think they beat us less than anybody else, and then the next year we got Syracuse.     

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Highlighters & Headsets: Critiquing College Gameday

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2010

Highlighters and Headsets is an occasional look at the coverage of college basketball – from television to print (they still make paper?), blogs to bracket busters, and Gus Johnson to Gameday – written by RTC contributor Steve Moore. He welcomes your comments, column ideas and Dickie (V) jokes at smoore71@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter @smoore1117.

Taking a Look at College Gameday

ESPN has yet to start this season’s edition of Gameday for basketball, but for me, it seems interesting to discuss just how uninteresting the hoops edition has turned out to be.  Each Saturday in the fall, I make it a point to watch some or all of the football version of Gameday. Why? It’s not any sort of college football obsession – heck, my alma mater cut its football program 13 years ago, and the closest I come to rooting interest is hating on Penn State.

Hoops Gameday Needs to Broaden Its Horizons

It’s not the insightful “analysis” of Lee Corso or Kirk Herbstreit, and it’s not even to look at Erin Andrews (although that’s not a bad way to start your weekend). Sure, there’s the occasional funny feature, or heartfelt story about a player or program you never knew existed. But that’s not really it, either.  To be honest, the main reason I watch is because I like to feel like I’m a part of the “event” that is a college football Saturday. The signs, the cheerleaders, the massive sea of fans behind the stage. Just the feel of it all makes me, at least for one fleeting instant, wish I had a big-time program to root for. Heck, I’d even take a 1-AA team (and no, NCAA, I’m not calling it FCS – so take that).

My point is that college football Saturdays are an event, whether you’re in Tuscaloosa or Towson. College basketball doesn’t have that “big day” of action, and there’s nothing the sport can do about that. Yet one of the main reasons we all love college basketball is the atmosphere that surrounds a big game, inside and outside of the gym. And there is plenty ESPN could do to improve on that aspect.

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Highlighters & Headsets: Reviewing the Marathon

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2010

Highlighters & Headsets is an occasional look at the coverage of college basketball – from television to print (they still make paper?), blogs to bracket busters, and Gus Johnson to Gameday – written by RTC contributor Steve Moore. He welcomes your comments, column ideas and Dickie (V) jokes at smoore71@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @smoore1117.

Hoops Marathon Tests ESPN’s Bench Depth

ESPN catches a lot of flak from a lot of people – much of it deserved. But as almost any college basketball fan will tell you, the College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon is one of the best things on the ESPN calendar. It’s unique and quirky, without being overly gimmicky. We get to see teams and players we won’t see again all season, and have an excuse to stay up until all hours of the night.  For me (and I hope at least a few others, or else no one will be reading this), part of the allure is also keeping an eye (and ear) on how ESPN performs during its annual test of endurance and depth.

The WWL Nailed This Event

Personally, I think this is the kind of thing that proves why ESPN is the gold standard. Its resources (read: dollar bills, y’all) are endless, and, for the most part, its announcing crews are professional and entertaining. Unlike some people here at RTC, I couldn’t make it through the entire 24 hours without the help of Red Bull, Four Loko or some other delicious energy beverage. But I did catch enough to put together a quick rundown of the ups and downs of ESPN’s effort on what was, overall, an incredible day for hoops fans everywhere.

THE PERFECT ATTITUDE

Nearly all of ESPN’s announcing teams on Tuesday – and the general attitude of the network’s promotion – seemed to understand the event. By that, I mean the network seemed to understand that the whole concept of playing basketball at 2, 4 and 6 a.m. is a little strange, and it’s OK to increase the off-beat goofiness and drop the life-or-death mindset that is more appropriate during Championship Week or UNC-Duke.

As the hours got later, the announcers seemed to adapt with the late-night viewers watching at home. Sean McDonough and Bill Raftery (Memphis-Miami, midnight) always sound like they’re sitting at the bar talking about the game, but Carter Blackburn/Mark Gottfried (St. Mary’s-St. John’s, 2 a.m.) and Todd Harris/Mark Adams (Hawaii/Central Michigan, 4 a.m.) lightened the mood and didn’t take themselves too seriously. We got much less in the way of X’s and O’s, and more basic information about teams and players we may not know too well.

The prize, however, goes to the duo of Rob Stone and Jay Williams, who called two games in two different states, 12 hours apart (Monmouth-Stony Brook, 6 a.m., and Villanova/Marist, 5:30 p.m.). Stone’s lighthearted style, and the fact that he’s not a college hoops specialist, just seemed to work well with a ridiculous 6 a.m. tip in a high school-sized gym at Monmouth. Part of the allure of the 6 a.m. game is wondering what the atmosphere is like and whether the players and coaches are into it. The duo kept me interested, and also seemed completely on board with their early wakeup call. It would have been easy to tell if the pair felt like it was forced into the ridiculous assignment. Stone and Williams seemed to embrace the absurdity of it all, and even filmed their trek from Monmouth to Villanova. The clip of Stone rocking out to Journey was one of the day’s highlights.

Jason Williams Has Really Improved Over the Years

In fact, I would even suggest a few more of these quirky announcing journeys during the marathon. Maybe let McDonough and Raftery start and finish the event, or send Dickie V to Monmouth or one of the smaller schools. God knows he sees the ACC enough.

GREAT NEW VOICES, AND GRATING FAMILIAR FACES

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Morning Five: 09.24.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 24th, 2010

  1. Put.  The.  Phones.  Down.  UT-Chattanooga was placed on two years probation by the NCAA for “major” violations that AGAIN included a situation where the head coach John Shulman was busily texting recruits during a no-contact period.  The Mocs will not suffer a postseason ban as a result of these violations, but we simply cannot understand why coaches continue to fall victim to such an easily traceable mistake.  Every husband in the entire world knows that you don’t text or call your mistress using the phone that your wife can access — yet coaches seem oblivious to this codified man-law, so time and time again we see problems arise in this area.  Gary Parrish discussed this last week, but coaches have proven to be slow on the uptick here.  Get some burners, fellas — hell, use Skype — just stop this nonsense already.
  2. Speaking of Parrish, his latest article captures John Wooden’s mantra of “don’t mistake activity for achievement” really well.  Too many coaches waste too much time trying to recruit prospects that they never had a shot with to begin with.  To continue with the analogies, it’s like the guy who sadly yet consistently shoots for 9s when everyone in the bar knows that he should be focusing on the 6s.  Finishing second or third in recruiting is like hearing the click with five more bullets in the barrel — you end up in the same place regardless.
  3. Scathing.  That’s how we’d describe the latest piece by Fanhouse’s Ray Holloman about the Bruce Pearl/Tennessee recruiting violations that were exposed last week.  Better than any other article we’ve seen written on this situation, Holloman perfectly exposes the true underlying motives of the “executive officers of a multi-million dollar athletic program.”  The lesson here, and we sorta already knew it: treat these guys like politicians or CEOs by assuming that everything that comes out of their mouths is a half-truth or outright lie.  Start there, and then figure out the rest.
  4. We rarely mention women’s college basketball here but this was too bizarre to ignoreUNC-Wilmington head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke (this is not a joke) apologized for a punishment that her assistant Johnetta Hayes put junior guard Julia Finlay through during practice on Monday.  Apparently Hayes forced Finlay to ‘log roll’ up and down the court at least twelve times in a row during a half-hour period as a penalty for getting booted from practice last week.  She’s suffering from plantar fasciitis, so incredulously, Hayes believed this would be an appropriate punishment in place of the normal sprints a player gets as punishment.  Finlay vomited several times during the “puke-and-roll”, and we’re pretty certain that a little piece of America died as a result of this story.
  5. “Dumb Catholic boys.”  Oh, Bob Knight, always making friends.  Just days after enjoying his roast in Hammond, Indiana, Knight took shots at both the NCAA and Notre Dame during a speaking engagement at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana yesterday.  In reference to whether Notre Dame should join the Big Ten, Knight ripped the ND brass, suggesting that being in the Big East in all sports other than football hurts their recruiting.  Surely this will come up at some point during Gameday with Digger Phelps this coming season, although we think we already know how this ends, right?  Do we even need to say it?
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Hey Knight, Wanna Roast?

Posted by rtmsf on September 20th, 2010

Former Indiana/Texas Tech head coach and current ESPN curmudgeon Bob Knight was back in Indiana over the weekend (Hammond, in the NW corner of the state, to be specific) for a roast in his honor to raise money for Westchester Saint Joseph, the suburban Chicago-area high school that produced such IU notables as Isiah Thomas and Daryl Thomas (not to mention William Gates from Hoop Dreams fame).

"Hey, Knight" Wasn't Part of the Proceedings

These roasts of coaches done of and by other coaches are always a little awkward and very unintentionally funny, and from the videos we’ve seen so far, this roast was no different.  Nevertheless, we’d be doing our readers here a disservice if we didn’t at least mention it and show some clips.  So here are a few from the Bob Knight Roast & Toast on Friday night from the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana.  The level of hilarity increases the closer to fifty years old that you are.  (h/t Elliott Harris for the YouTube clips)

Knight tells a biblical parable here… sorta.

Knight commandeers the show from emcee Jay Bilas in his own inimitable way…

Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 06.10.10

Posted by rtmsf on June 10th, 2010

  1. Is it just us, or does this feel like the busiest June in college basketball history?  Between Wooden’s passing, every college coach of note contemplating a chance to coach LeBron James, the insanity of conference realignment, and the endless discussion of violations and sanctions, you’d think that we were in the middle of January.  Whew.
  2. The good news: Kansas cleared its AD Lew Perkins of any wrongdoing amidst allegations of trading tickets for athletic equipment.  The much, much worse news: he may no longer have a BCS conference in which to sell or trade those tickets.
  3. Would Tom Izzo realistically leave his successful program at Michigan State to take a shot at coaching LeBron James in the NBA?  According to various reports last night, the answer is yes.  The MSU coach will visit Cleveland Thursday and his Spartan players already have a sense that he might be leaving for this opportunity, the latest of many in his career.  Reportedly Cleveland is offering Izzo twice his current salary of $3M per year, and of course, the opportunity to coach the player widely regarded as the greatest of his generation for the next decade.  This is a very interesting dilemma for the fiery Michigander.
  4. Get excited now, kids — the SEC/Big East Invitational matchups were announced yesterday.  The headliner is that Kentucky will play Notre Dame in Louisville’s Freedom Hall after Seton Hall and Arkansas tip it off in the first game on December 8.  Three days later, Rutgers will face Auburn and Pitt will host Tennessee in the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.  Contain yourselves.
  5. As much as we like to poke fun at Digger Phelps in his role as ‘analyst’ on ESPN, we’re happy to hear that he’s recovering nicely after having prostate cancer surgery in recent days.  Quick question, though — why did Digger choose to have this surgery at the University of Washington in Seattle?  We thought he was pretty much an east coast guy.
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Big East Tourney Daily Diary: Finals

Posted by rtmsf on March 14th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is spending the week as the RTC correspondent at the Big East Tournament.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, he will post a nightly diary with his thoughts on each day’s action. Here is his submission for the championship game.

West Virginia 60, Georgetown 58

  • Everyone is going to have their own preference about which conference is the best in the country. If you live in Kansas, you may have a different opinion that someone living un upstate New York. I will say this — there is not more competitive of a league in the country, and there is no tournament that matches a league title won in Madison Square Garden. This final pitted an eight seed and a three seed. The semis saw a five seed and a seven seed lose. Don’t bet against the league getting two No. 1 seeds and more than one team in the Final Four. As Huggy Bear said: “If this league isn’t the best in the country, than I need to quit coaching because I don’t know anything.”
  • Is there a player you would rather have take a final shot than Da’Sean Butler? For the second time in three days and the sixth time this season, Butler won a game by scoring a basket in the last 15 seconds. He is the most clutch player in the country, and I don’t think it is even close.
  • Its pretty clear that Chris Wright didn’t know what the score was when he committed that foul on Joe Mazzulla. After the play, Austin Freeman came up to him and said “its a tie game.” In the press conference, an extremely disappointed Wright said “I made a mistake.” That was all he said. His play to tie the game essentially nullified it, however.
  • West Virginia’s length along their perimeter helps them make up for the fact that they lack some quickness. Guys like Jason Clark and a Chris Wright have to be hesitant to shoot it from three simply because they know a guy like Devin Ebanks or Wellington Smith — players with fantastic length who can really get up in the air — are running at them.
  • Are the Mountaineers a No. 1 seed? I’ll let Bob Huggins explain: “We have 18 top 100 wins. We have nine top 50 wins. The 18 is the most of any team in the country. Our non-league RPI was second. Our strength of schedule is going to be one. We’re going to end up in the top two or three in the RPI. They say do those things, we’ve done those things.” I’m not one to argue.
  • Georgetown should end up a three or four seed. While they do have some great wins, and their run through this tournament is commendable — and perhaps even more impressive than what WVU did — they still struggled quite a bit in the middle of the season. They may end up a three depending on how some things shake out tomorrow and the way that locations, conferences and so on break down, but if the Hoyas do end up a four, I don’t think they have a gripe.
  • I’ve written enough about Greg Monroe this week, but good lord is he a talented player. It takes seeing him in person to truly appreciate it.
  • For the third straight game, someone walked away with $10,000 for rolling an oversized die.
  • Tonight was one of the most incredible sports experiences of my life. I was at the 6OT game. I as at game 2 of the 2004 ALCS when Yankee Stadium was chanting “Who’s your daddy?” at Pedro Martinez. I was at the first Redskins game played after Sean Taylor died. Tonight was up there with those three. The atmosphere in MSG tonight was unreal, as both Georgetown and West Virginia fans were loud and into the game from the tip. The game was hard fought and intense. We had great plays down the stretch, a game-winner, and nearly a buzzer beater. But the part that got to me the most was after the game, when all of the Mountaineer fans were still in the arena and sang “Take me home country roads” by Mr. Sunshine on my damn shoulder John Denver. Chills up my spine doesn’t begin to describe it.
  • At some point, Digger Phelps did something to bash West Virginia, because both Huggins and Butler commented on it after the game. In the press conference, Huggins addressed it, criticizing Digger but saying “I like Digger. Digger and I friends.” Butler, on the other hand, made eye contact with Jay Bilas from the podium after the game and pointed at him. Bilas laughed. I asked Bilas what that was about, and as he was saying “Digger said something they didn’t like in the pregame, and…” Butler came up and said to Jay “I told you, I told you.”
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