Morning Five: 07.08.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on July 8th, 2010

  1. Behold, the power of KenPom. On his blog, Mr. Pomeroy lists the ten most unlikely wins of last season in a two-part post, but don’t be surprised if you don’t remember a lot of them.  It’s a great read, and the statistics add to the wonderment, but this is not necessarily a list of big upsets like Pennsylvania over Cornell, or Northern Iowa over Kansas. By “unlikely wins,” he means games in which one team got down by a large amount and had an incredibly low probability of coming back to win, but did.  Great stuff as usual.
  2. Somebody please explain to us why this isn’t being televised.  On September 18th, Bob Knight will be roasted by the likes of Steve Alford, Isiah Thomas, and a few rivals of Knight’s from his coaching days.  If this is going to be a real, honest roast and the speakers plan to get in some good licks on The General, we’d like to watch this for two reasons:  first, to watch Knight make mental notes of who’s saying what about him so he can keep it on file in his brain; second, because this thing is going down at a casino, to be privy to the conversations that would happen if these guys get good and lubricated around a blackjack table at three in the morning.
  3. In a story appearing on a blog of the Birmingham News, one of Eric Bledsoe’s relatives and a family friend claimed yesterday that they — and not Bledsoe’s high school coach, Maurice Ford — helped pay the rent for Bledsoe and his mother during Bledsoe’s senior year of high school.  Also, the landlady of that property is also disputing her account of the situation originally published by the New York Times, which broke the story over a month ago raising the possibility that Ford had injured Bledsoe’s amateur status by assisting Bledsoe and his mother by paying their rent on occasion.
  4. Two ex-Kansas athletic department officials have now been charged in the federal probe of the KU ticket-scalping debacle.  Last week, former assistant director of ticket operations Jason Jeffries was charged with “misprision of a felony” for his role in the scandal, and yesterday former assistant AD for sales and marketing Brandon Simmons received the same charge.
  5. The Pac-10 couldn’t be any worse next year than it was last year, could it?  It just has to be better…right?  Well, SI.com’s Ann Killion isn’t bullish that the conference’s final season in its ten-team form will be any better than the 2009-2010 edition.
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SEC Media Notes: 06.29.10

Posted by nvr1983 on June 29th, 2010

As part of our attempt to continue to provide you with the best independent college basketball information on the Internet we will periodically bring you information from conference media calls. Today’s entry comes from the SEC, which amazingly was not affected what could have been a massive conference shake-up.

Ed. Note: The conference call actually took place on Monday, but I had an ophthalmologist appointment and I’m pretty sure that they used just about the entire bottle of eye drops to dilate my eyes so I’m just starting to see straight again. The below entries are my some of the key points the coaches made, but are not direct quotes. If you want to listen to the coaches speak directly, click on the link next to their name.

Anthony Grant (Alabama)Audio
- Defense: Last year their defense gave them a chance to be in every game that they played, but they had to have that solid defense because their offense was not always there.
- Returning players: Senario Hillman one of elite athletes in the SEC and can guard multiple positions. He will need to improve shot selection and decision-making, but is making strides. JaMychal Green adds size and strength to the frontcourt, which is as good as any team in the SEC. Should improve with an extra year of experience. Tony Mitchell had a very good freshman year and being named to SEC All-Freshman team was an accomplishment. Grant is looking for the players to make a jump between their first and second year in the Alabama program.

Tony Barbee (Auburn)Audio / Key Quotes
- Lack of Experience: Starting over is exciting because you get to mold a new group of players. It will be hard to judge what he has until he sees the team together in the Fall.
- Plan: Focus on defense because they could be “offensively challenged” because they don’t know what they have outside of Frankie Sullivan. Given their lack of size on the inside they might have to focus on their offense around the 3-point line.

John Pelphrey (Arkansas)Audio
- Frontcourt: They have Marshawn Powell on the inside, but will need to develop more on the inside to help support him.
- APR: We’re all working very hard. We want to see these young men improve in the classroom and on the court. He isn’t sure statistics over the short-term can adequately reflect the academic performance of a program, but is open to more long-term measures.
- Andre Clark: Aware of the transfer to TCU and does talk with players who have transferred if they contact him about an issue.

Billy Donovan (Florida)Audio
- Backcourt: Didn’t know what to expect coming into last season having lost Nick Calathes. Irving Walker played his freshman year at 2 guard spot. Kenny Boynton came in with huge reputation out of high school, but you’re never sure with them making the jump. Limited depth in the backcourt meant those two played more minutes than they probably should have, which meant they couldn’t do some of the stuff they would have otherwise done such as press. Coming into this year with the experience should be helpful for those two coming into this season. Still some issues with depth in the backcourt this year although they are adding freshmen Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather to the backcourt.
- Alex Tyus: First UF player to put his name in the NBA Draft and return to UF. It was Alex’s decision. He worked out with a couple of NBA teams and listened to what NBA had to say about where he might go. No pressure from UF to come back. Donovan feels that process is only going to help the Gators going forward.
- Patric Young: Very physical and aggressive player, but needs some work on the inside. In the near term he will bring energy and a great rebounding presence to the Gators.

Mark Fox (Georgia)Audio
- Marcus Thornton: Really big boost after picking him up following his release from his letter of intent from Clemson. Gives Georgia a lot of options because of his versatility.
- Trey Thompkins: Had discussion with family and got info from NBA. Felt it wasn’t appropriate. Only would be able to work out for 1 or 2 days due to final exams and the new NBA Draft withdrawal deadlines.
- Turnovers: Feels they will take better care of the ball and they should also be able to create more turnovers on the defensive end, which should create more easy baskets.

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2010 NBA Draft Winners and Losers

Posted by zhayes9 on June 25th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

Now that the Draft is complete, time to look back at Thursday night’s winners and losers, from coaches to NBA teams to players to conferences and everything in between:

Paul George saw his stock skyrocket all the way to #10 and the Pacers, Al Bello/Getty Images

Winners:

Big 12 – One of the premier college basketball conferences has gained quite a surge of momentum in the last few weeks. Big 12 commish Dan Beebe convinced Texas it was in their best interests to keep the league in tact even after the defections of Colorado and Nebraska, two of the more downtrodden BCS-conference hoops programs in the country. After chopping off those two anchors, a ten-team, 18-game round robin format has been agreed to starting in 2012. The Big 12 momentum only continued at the draft on Thursday where an astonishing seven of the top 24 selections reside from the conference (and Kentucky isn’t even a member). Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh, Kansas’ Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry, Texas’ Avery Bradley and Damion James, Oklahoma State’s James Anderson and Iowa State’s Craig Brackins, not to mention Cyclone transfer Wes Johnson, were all nabbed in the first 24 picks. The Big 12 barely trailed the ACC in terms of overall conference strength last season and the results of the first round only confirmed those numbers.

John Calipari - As Fox Sports Jeff Goodman astutely pointed out, expect plenty of John Calipari mug shots in near future drafts unless he bolts for a dream NBA job. Five of his Kentucky Wildcats from one recruiting class were taken in the first round on Thursday, from John Wall at #1 overall to Daniel Orton at #29. Next year could see two more Kentucky players announced early in the draft in center Enes Kanter and point guard Brandon Knight with forward Terrence Jones another potential first rounder. In 2011-12 when Marquis Teague, Michael Gilchrist and another top ten recruit TBD join Big Blue Nation, it’ll be the same Calipari hugging his revolving door of players on a June night in NYC. Don’t think this is just Calipari doing this for his departing players or that recruits are not noticing. He’s fully aware of what his face constantly showing up on ESPN’ s cameras means: furthering his reputation of sending talented players to the riches of the NBA. And quickly.

Paul George - It’s been a quick ascension for George, a workout wonder who saw his draft stock shoot up in the last few weeks until he landed to Indiana at #10. It’s doubtful even George saw this coming after being lightly recruited out of Palmdale, Calif, and settling on Fresno State for his college choice. George saw both his FG% and 3pt% plummet from his freshman to sophomore seasons and he only upped his PPG by 2.5 and RPG by 1.0 along with very low assist totals. He also played for a 15-18 WAC team against far more inferior competition than, say, Kansas’ Xavier Henry, who went one pick later to Memphis. Henry averaged 13.5 PPG, shot 46% from two and 42% from three on a team filled with players who needed touches.

Greivis Vasquez’ reaction - I don’t think anyone who watched Greivis Vasquez play four years at Maryland was surprised when they saw the emotional Venezuelan surrounded by family and friends in the crowd at Radio City Music Hall waiting for his name to be chosen. Vasquez has been projected as an early-to-mid second round pick- a scorer, leader and improved floor general that simply lacks the lateral quickness to defend NBA guards. Yet rumblings surfaced that Memphis loved Vasquez at #28. Sure enough, when he was pegged at that exact spot, the only outward, raw emotion we saw Thursday night emerged as Vasquez pumped his fist, hugged his family and practically sprinted to shake David Stern’s hand on the draft stage. Congratulations to Greivis.

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Calipari: Draft Night = Championship? Is This What It’s Come To?

Posted by rtmsf on June 25th, 2010

Last night’s NBA Draft was pretty boring from start to finish (Wes Johnson’s pants generously excepted), but there was one moment that resulted in our jaws on the floor at the RTC West Coast Compound, and it didn’t even involve one of the players (or random “USA”  chants from drunken New Yorkers).  We’ve been unable to find the video of this yet (let us know if you have), but at some point during the middle of five Kentucky players being selected in the 1st Round, ESPN interviewed John Calipari, who had this to say about the grand evening:

This is the greatest night in the history of Kentucky basketball.

Seven Better Nights Than Last Night

Now, we’ll excuse Coach Cal’s uber-salesmanship and a bit of hyperbole while getting caught up in the moment, but c’mon Coach…  we can think of at least seven nights that were probably a tad better for the Big Blue faithful than June 24, 2010 (see above).  And if we’re being honest with ourselves, many more than that.  In fact, while UK fans as a whole seem genuinely happy for Wall, Cousins, Patterson, Bledsoe and Orton as individuals for fulfilling their lifelong dreams, there is still a lingering sense of what could or should have been for the team, especially if some of the players stuck around.  This sentiment is heavily anesthesized by the fact that another truckload of blue-chippers are already en route to Lexington for 2010-11, but rival blog Card Chronicle nails the reality underlying this situation:

If in the next two years Cal continues to dominate recruiting and continues to produce first round NBA Draft picks but doesn’t lead the Cats into the final week of the season, watch how drastically the tide will turn.  Success for Kentucky fans means national championships. This current wave of insanity excitement might seem to be the product of last year’s success or all the top-rated recruits or all the national attention, but really it’s all driven by the feeling that national title No. 8 is right around the corner. [...] On the flip side, you get the feeling that Calipari feels like this is succeeding. Kentucky basketball is back to being a mainstay in the top ten, they’re being talked about on the news on a regular basis, he’s got celebrities showing up at Rupp Arena, he’s getting the top prep talent in the country to come to Lexington and then he’s getting them in a position to make millions before they can drink legally. [...] But if Calipari isn’t able to turn status into championships within a reasonable (to Big Blue Nation) amount of time, watch the relationship disintegrate. Kentucky fans will start to debate whether or not all this glam is good for the program and Cal will become (understandably) bitter.

Which makes Calipari’s comments today on the Dan Patrick Show (audio link) all the more intriguing.  According to Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herald-Leader, when Patrick pointedly asked Calipari how last night’s draft could be the best moment in such a proud program’s history, Calipari answered that it “depends on your frame of reference” before explaining how UK is a players-first program.  When asked again whether a national title or a night like last evening was better, he similarly dodged the question by saying that you need the latter to win the former.  Fair enough, but these feints in the light of day certainly give credence to what CC was saying above.  No matter how much he may want it to be true, Calipari’s success at UK will ultimately not be measured by the number of draft picks he puts into the first round — it’ll be measured by the number of banners he puts in the rafters.  Surely he knows this.  Right?

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Official RTC 2010 NBA Mock Draft

Posted by zhayes9 on June 23rd, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

I love the NBA Draft.

The Stage Rarely Changes, but the Players Do

There’s something gratifying and enjoyable about seeing the college players that we discuss, watch and evaluate move on from the collegiate game and find a home at the next level. There are no cliffhangers when it comes to the NBA Draft. Barring late summer dealings or undrafted snubs, Thursday will be the day we’ll find out where each of our favorite elite college players are going to play pro ball next winter, almost like watching your kids go off to school for the first time. It’s a grand conclusion to a celebrated (albeit, in plenty of cases, very short) college career and a transition to the riches of the NBA.

We’re all prognosticators and experts on Draft night. Opinions are thrown around as David Stern announces each choice. Emotions are prevalent when your favorite NBA squad picks, those moments and heartbeats before the selection that could change the course of a franchise forever. Or it could be Renaldo Balkman. Either way, Draft night for us hoops nerds is one of intrigue and interest.

Here’s my best shot at forecasting how the first round will play out. As someone that has watched these players intensely at the college level, someone that pays attention to the strengths/weaknesses of each NBA club and has been soaking in all of the Draft info since the Final Four ended in April, I’m honored to bring you the official Rush the Court 2010 NBA Mock Draft (RTC draft profile linked to each name):

1) Washington Wizards – John Wall, PG, Kentucky

The Consensus #1 Pick (WaPo/J. Newton)

This was a lock the moment the Wizards won the Lottery in mid-May, a stroke of unexpected luck for a city on the sports rise and the perfect face of the franchise-type player to lead this team out of the cellar. Wall could pair with a focused Gilbert Arenas in a potent backcourt and the Wiz may even shell out some money to bring in an intriguing free agent wing. He may be a top-five point guard in the NBA in only three years time if the jump shot improves. He’s that skilled and talented.

2) Philadelphia 76ers – Evan Turner, SG, Ohio State

I’m hearing the Sixers front office is enamored with Turner while newly minted coach Doug Collins would prefer big man Derrick Favors. In the end, I see Turner as the surer prospect emerging as the pick, and even the Sixers website prepared for that very possibility last Friday. Philly won’t trade the pick unless some team agrees to take on Elton Brand’s contract, an unlikely scenario. Turner could be the next Brandon Roy, a prospect just too mouth-watering to pass up on.

3) New Jersey Nets – Wesley Johnson, SF, Syracuse

Nets fans were positively crushed on Lottery night when they lost a chance to nab Wall. An underwhelming workout for Derrick Favors, one in which he was thoroughly outplayed by DeMarcus Cousins, gave the Nets brass pause after it was assumed for months Favors would be the selection at #3. The Nets have needs at both forward spots, so it would make sense for them to peg Johnson here and go after one of the big free agent power forwards with new owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s checkbook- Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer or Chris Bosh.

4) Minnesota Timberwolves – Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech

This is a tricky situation for the Wolves. With Al Jefferson and Kevin Love already in the fold, the last thing Minnesota needs is another power forward. They covet both Turner and Johnson, so it’s extremely likely they try to persuade either Philly or New Jersey to let them move up a few spots in exchange for their pick at #16. It’s rumored the Minnesota brass isn’t too high on Favors, but Cousins has publicly expressed displeasure with playing in the Twin Cities.

5) Sacramento Kings – DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kentucky

Cousins has sent hinted messages that he wouldn’t be too thrilled if Sacramento (or Minnesota or Golden State) calls his name and he’d much prefer to end up in Detroit. The Pistons could very well move up a few spots to grab Cousins, but the workout Cousins just finished in SacTo apparently convinced ownership that his game outweighed any character concerns. I would take Cousins over Monroe (and maybe even Favors) in a heartbeat, and it’s my feeling that the Kings agree even with the recent Sam Dalembert acquisition.

6) Golden State Warriors – Greg Monroe, PF, Georgetown

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Eric Bledsoe

Posted by jstevrtc on June 21st, 2010

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night.  There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Eric Bledsoe

School: Kentucky

Height/Weight: 6’1/190

NBA Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard

Projected Draft Range: Late First Round

Overview: Even with high school phenoms like John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Daniel Orton headed to Lexington back in the fall of 2009, Eric Bledsoe was immediately liked by Kentucky fans.  He was going to give their beloved team something they hadn’t had in a while — a designated shooter.  Though Bledsoe was primarily a point guard in high school with reliable handle, he was also known as more than just a serviceable shooter from distance, a combination Wildcat fans craved at the time, especially considering the poor marksmanship and turnover-prone nature of Wildcat backcourts that preceded the Wall/Bledsoe duo.  As if that wasn’t enough, even though Wall didn’t commit until later, Bledsoe won over many card-carrying Big Blue Nation members by expressing his desire to return Kentucky to hoops prominence, proclaiming on his signing day that he and his fellow recruits were coming to Lexington to “get shit right.”  Playing out of position for almost every minute of his only college season, he gave the Wildcats what they expected — a good shooter who also provided a second point guard option, as well as a better-than-expected penetrator and creator.  He shot 38% from beyond the arc, but his streaky nature meant defenses had to stay close to him, which enabled him to utilize his blistering first step to rocket past defenders.

If he can motivate himself to improve on the defensive end, his value will increase during his early years in the league.

Will Translate to the NBA: Bledsoe’s a rock.  He has tremendous upper body strength and he’s great at using it to blaze a path to the hoop, absorb contact, and still score.  He’s quick in every direction, including straight up off the floor, and doesn’t lose much of that pace even when he has the ball.  He’s shown that he can play both point guard and shooting guard at the elite college level, so the team that drafts him will feel like they’re getting a skill set that spans the job descriptions of two different positions.  He definitely possesses a shooter’s mentality, and shows no fear in firing away even if he misses his first few attempts.

Needs Work: Bledsoe is streaky from long range, and on off-nights he would occasionally sulk, resulting in less production, more turnovers, and extended bench minutes.  Though he started the season as a capable defender, this is an aspect of his game that actually got worse as the year progressed.  His quickness should translate quite easily to the defensive side, so the fact that he went backwards in this area points to the fact that it’s a matter of motivation, and that won’t do in the NBA.  Despite his upper body strength, he’s still just 6’1, and that underscores the need for him to get his head right as far as defense is concerned and become a good close-up defender.  Finally, even though he’s got great springs, he doesn’t get a lot of elevation off the ground on his jumper, and he could use that at his height.

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A College Basketball Fan’s Guide To Watching The World Cup

Posted by jstevrtc on June 10th, 2010

In less than 48 hours, our televisions will be taken over by the biggest sporting event the world has to offer.  Your TweetDeck (or whatever Twitter application you use) will be lousy with friends, celebrities, and sportswriters tweeting about it.  Your Facebook friends will be centering their status updates about it.  And, for the next five weeks, when you walk into your favorite sports bars, as you peer at the flat-screens you’ll notice an increased presence of a game to which you might not be accustomed.

It’s World Cup time.

Like the Olympics and the Fields Medal, this is an every-four-year event.  It pits nation against nation in the sport that still stirs up the most passion among its fans on a worldwide scale.  Imagine if we only got one NCAA Tournament every four years.  Well, this is the one summer in four that soccer (the word we’ll use for this article, though we’re aware that most of the world calls it football) lovers get to enjoy their chance to crown a champion.  If you follow RTC on Twitter (if you don’t, shame on you, and go click our logo at right), you’ve probably been impressed by our occasional tweet about other sports or even current events.  It’s not exactly a long limb we’d be going out on for us to assume that if you’re a college basketball fan, you’ve probably got an interest in other sports, too — though international soccer might not be one of them.

Want to talk to her? Know your World Cup. Yeah, we thought that'd keep you reading.

Worry not, our fellow college hoopheads.  We’ve got you covered.  We want you to be able to hang in those conversations at those sports pubs.  We want you to be able to approach that lovely blonde bespectacled German girl wearing her Deutschland jersey in the supermarket (this actually happened to us a week ago).  We want you to impress your friends with your world vision and increased overall sports knowledge.  You think those kids in the stands at Duke or Xavier or Utah State are both well-prepared and berserk?  Wait until you hear the crowd at a World Cup soccer match.  We want you to enjoy that vital aspect of it all, as well.  We’re by no means experts on the subject, but to those ends, we give you — trumpet flourish — Rush The Court’s College Basketball Fan’s Guide to Watching the World Cup.

If this England squad is like Kentucky, then Wayne Rooney is their John Wall.

THE TEAMS

First, let’s list some of the participating  teams and define those squads in terms familiar to college hoop fans.  As you’ll see, by the way, national soccer teams have some of the best nicknames you’ll ever hear.  The best?  Cameroon.  The Indomitable Lions.  I mean, COME ON…

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Morning Five: 06.03.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 3rd, 2010

  1. Why do we keep talking about Coach K going to the NBA?  Recent rumors linked the Duke head coach to the opening with the Cleveland LeBrons, but as expected, K restated that he’s happy in Durham and isn’t going anywhere.  In our opinion, the tipping point for Krzyzewski came in the mid-2000s when he seriously considered leaving Duke for the Lakers job; his dalliance with the prospect of coaching Kobe Bryant in a marquee environment wasn’t enough to get him to leave.  Now, at 63 and with a realistic shot at passing Rupp for five national titles in his career, he’s settled on summering with the US men’s national team to satisfy his desire to work with the world’s best athletes while spending the remainder where he clearly belongs.  Good choice.
  2. The Kansas athletic department is looking more and more like a rogue actor, from top to bottom.  With new revelations coming out yesterday that AD Lew Perkins took gifts of thousands of dollars worth of athletic equipment from a local company, we have to wonder where the lines were drawn there, if they were at all.
  3. John Calipari has no comment about the Eric Bledsoe controversy, but Andy Staples believes that Calipari’s utilization of plausible deniability is phenomenal in its execution — even better than the dribble-drive offense of which the coach has been so successful in using.
  4. To that end, how great would it be if the NCAA finally got serious about regulating these programs and quit concerning itself nearly as much about the Alabama States and West Freakin’ Georgias of the world.  Creating a level playing field for everyone should be the goal, but how about we start with the 75-100 biggest schools and work down from there?
  5. We knew Memphis head coach Josh Pastner was an insane workaholic when it came to recruiting, but we didn’t know just how crazy until we read this.  For better or worse, we suppose.
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Morning Five: 06.01.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on June 1st, 2010

  1. Just ahead of the release of findings from the NCAA’s investigation of the USC basketball (and football) program, Tim Floyd says that he’s not too worried.  Of course, he has no reason to be, since he’s at UTEP now.
  2. If this whole Eric Bledsoe story regarding alleged rent payments and the question of “impermissible benefits” sounds a tad familiar, you may be remembering a story from ZagsBlog.com from a few days ago about Oklahoma’s Tiny Gallon and a similar situation.  The problem for Sooner supporters is…this happened while OU was already on probation.
  3. Speaking of Mr. Zagoria…a few days ago he provided further news about Herb Pope, who’s said to be on the road to a full recovery (from what, exactly, we’ve not been told) and more hoops at Seton Hall after that terrifying collapse back in late April, when it was said that his heart actually stopped during a workout.  A relative is supposedly going to hold a press conference soon to discuss exactly what happened. While we admit we’re intrigued by the diagnosis, when it’s revealed, we hope it will show this to be a one-time event and that the guy’s got nothing to worry about in the future.
  4. Mike Miller from MSNBC.com invites the Washington Wizards to consider using that top draft pick on DeMarcus Cousins ahead of John Wall or Evan Turner.
  5. We’ve ridden Bobby Knight pretty hard around these parts in the past, so it’s only fair that we mention the free clinic he held over the weekend for about 80 kids — and their parents — in Duncanville, TX at the new Bob Knight’s Fieldhouse, a project that The General truly cares about and to which he’s deservedly happy to have his name attached.

 

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NCAA To Announce USC Decision On Friday

Posted by nvr1983 on May 31st, 2010

Over the past two weeks three of the premier college basketball programs in the country had been hit by scandals (Kentucky with the ongoing Eric Bledsoe saga, Kansas with a ticket scam, and Connecticut with…we don’t even know where to begin). The latest college powerhouse — USC — may not be in the same realm of those schools  in terms of basketball heritage, but it may send bigger shock waves through the NCAA landscape than any decision by the NCAA in years  when the NCAA announces its decision on punishing the school on Friday. While the headlines of this proceeding will center around alleged improprieties involving Heisman Trophy-winning running back Reggie Bush, the case of O.J. Mayo and the infamous Rodney Guillory could also be be brought up. The Trojans have already self-imposed sanctions on themselves stemming from the Mayo case, but are continuing to contest the allegations against Bush and his family. Although any punishments levied would be against the football program as “repeat offenders” since they were sanctioned in 2001 and the Bush era (2003-2005) falls within the 5-year window the sanctions might have significant ramification for all Trojan programs. Beyond the obvious direct impact of taking back the 2004 BCS title, Bush’s 2005 Heisman trophy, and essentially erasing the highly-controversial USC dynasty from the record books, a harsh verdict would be a blow to all USC athletic programs and provide strong ammunition for every team recruiting against the Trojans in the coming years. While many readers are undoubtedly convinced that the NCAA will only impose superficial sanctions on the Trojans there is a chance that they may come down harder than expected particularly now that both USC programs have fallen on (relatively) hard times and the NCAA would not be losing as much of a cash cow as it would have had they sanctioned the Trojans two years ago.

They may not even have that one soon.

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Bledsoe May Take This To Court Of A Different Kind

Posted by jstevrtc on May 31st, 2010

Since the New York Times published its story on Friday about the NCAA checking into Eric Bledsoe, it’s been the top college basketball subject through this long holiday weekend.  True, that’s not saying much for this time of year, but, as usually happens with stories of this kind, the day-to-day evolution has been as interesting as expected.

The latest wrinkle is that, according to the boys (and girl) over at KentuckySportsRadio.com, Bledsoe might sue whoever let his high school transcript end up in the hands of the national media.  The NCAA has certainly had copies of the transcript for some time, since that’s something any prospective student-athlete at the NCAA level has to submit as part of the process.  But it seems like pretty much everyone’s now privy to what was supposed to be confidential as of three days ago, and — given what people would find on the college transcripts of a couple of the guys around here if they were ever made public — we can see how Bledsoe would be pretty ticked.  We doubt Bledsoe has family members who have copies of his high school transcript, and certainly none who would just hand it over to anyone, so if ESPN.com and the like all have copies of his transcript from both his junior and senior year high schools, it seems that documentation of that nature could have only come from either the senior-year school, the colleges to which Bledsoe applied (watch for this possibility to gain speed in the near future), or the NCAA itself — all entities he should be able to trust.  We can certainly understand Bledsoe’s anger.

Bledsoe back on his decision day.  (J. Songer/Birmingham News)

Whether or not Bledsoe moves forward with a lawsuit could tell us a lot about this situation, though, because whoever he names as a party in the suit could then subpoena his high school transcripts and any supporting documentation.  In other words, if — and yes, it’s still an “if” — there’s any impropriety there, it will come out in discovery.  If he and/or his handlers on this think that there’s something there that they don’t want to come to light, it would be better for Kentucky if Bledsoe didn’t go ahead with his lawsuit.  And let’s be honest, Eric Bledsoe is about to be a multi-millionaire.  He’s days away from being drafted into the NBA, and he has no reason to concern himself with any of this.  Assuming this isn’t a PR move of the Roger Clemens/Barry Bonds variety, if Bledose files his lawsuit against people who leaked his transcript or obtained them by suspect means, then he and his advisors must like the cards they’re holding.

The other aspect of this that we find interesting is that, no matter what websites, newspapers, or blogs you read, no matter whose Twitter feeds you follow, the lines on this are being drawn not so much by the details of the whole scenario, but rather by how each writer/blogger/tweeter feels about John Calipari, who hasn’t yet been implicated in any of this.  We’re not apologizing for the man, but the fact remains that he hasn’t been brought up in any of this so far.  There are many facets of this story that we find intriguing — how does a kid go from a 1.9 to a 2.5 in a year? How can the NCAA be investigating but not formally alert the school?  Who leaked the transcript? If this non-investigation has been going on since February, why has it dragged on until well after the season was over?  How will UK fans feel about their program if the NCAA wields the pimp hand? — but those are being largely ignored by all but a select few, with people seemingly letting their opinion of Calipari determine how they feel about a matter in which his name hasn’t surfaced.  If Bledsoe is ruled ineligible and the NCAA says that Kentucky has to forfeit its 35 wins from last season, that would be the time to examine how it might affect Calipari’s coaching career, because it would be one heck of a debate.  But, to be honest, there are other areas in this matter that are more compelling right now.

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Is This What Calipari’s Detractors Have Been Waiting For?

Posted by jstevrtc on May 28th, 2010

In a story on the New York Times website, college basketball writer Pete Thamel and contributor Thayer Evans dropped a big Memorial weekend bomb on the Big Blue Nation, as the legions of University of Kentucky basketball fans around the world are known.  According to the article, the NCAA is looking into former UK shooting guard Eric Bledsoe possibly having received improper benefits while in high school, specifically having his rent paid by his senior-year high school coach, Maurice Ford.  The article also brings up the question as to whether or not Ford, in attempts to gather money to make such rent payments for Bledsoe and his mother, solicited money from at least one college coach in order for Bledsoe to sign with that coach’s school.  Also raised is the matter of Bledsoe’s academic improvement after his original high school had shut down and he transferred to a private school; evidently the NCAA is inquiring as to how Bledsoe’s high school GPA could have dramatically jumped from 1.9 to 2.5 during his senior year, thereby putting him over the minimum NCAA standard to be eligible for a scholarship.

There's been no comment from Bledsoe or UK as of yet.

Mr. Ford, as Thamel and Thayer note, has denied all of the accusations.  And according to Matt May of CatsPause.com, the folks at Kentucky haven’t even received a letter of inquiry about these issues.

If something actually comes from this, the bigger question will be how much the Kentucky program — and specifically John Calipari — actually knew about what was happening.  Fans of the UK coach will note how, regarding the “troubles” at his former jobs at Massachusetts and Memphis, Calipari was never specifically dinged with any wrongdoing, and that the mistakes made by Marcus Camby and Derrick Rose were out of the realm of what Calipari could realistically police.  On the other hand, Calipari-haters are about as giddy as Keith Olbermann watching George W. Bush fall down a flight of stairs.  They’ve already tried the man and handed down a guilty verdict long ago, and have just been waiting for something on which they could pin it.  Both sides would be well-advised to keep calm for now.

Unfortunately for Kentucky fans, it’s the program, and not necssarily the player or coach under investigation, that usually takes the hit if penalties are deemed necessary.  If something comes from this — and again, we don’t know if anything will — could Kentucky be stripped of its 35 wins from last year, which would put them back behind that 2,000-win mark?  Could those UK2K shirts become collector’s items?  Or would the NCAA rule that Bledsoe simply has to pay back whatever money was borrowed?  Since Bledsoe is no longer under the thumb of the NCAA, that might be tough to enforce.  To be sure, even if there is something to be found here, the accusations will be tough to prove.   Academic fraud at a high school is not as easy to verify as you’d think, and this matter of rent payments would be even tougher.  Again, unfortunately for Kentucky supporters, the NCAA is detective, judge, jury, and executioner, and they get to determine what constitutes good, hard, believable evidence.  And even if the NCAA finds something and says that the guilt lies totally with Eric Bledsoe and not with John Calipari or anyone at the University of Kentucky, it’s likely that the UK program would still feel the NCAA’s pimp slap while Bledsoe skates.  IF that happens, you can bet that the Calipari-to-NBA talk will heat up again, and you’d have to figure that the UK recruits who didn’t sign letters of intent would suddenly start to reconsider.

We’ll see what happens.  It’s still early days, yet.  Considering the recent news out of Kansas and Connecticut…it’s been a tough week for some of college basketball’s leviathan programs.

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