While the big news of the week was Kevin Ware’s return to the floor Wednesday evening, the question still remains exactly how Ware will fit into a loaded backcourt. Ware said he can play all three positions at point guard, shooting guard and small forward, but as of now, the starting backcourt looks to be Chris Jones at point, Russ Smith at the two, and Wayne Blackshear at the three. Terry Rozier, Anton Gill, and Tim Henderson — the walk-on who stepped up in Ware’s absence in last year’s Final Four — also figure to be in the mix. Ware brings a rebounding prowess that only Rozier can match at the guard position, and he also has length, quickness and jumping ability that will be impossible to ignore. Look for the recovered junior to play a vital roll in the Cardinals’ quest for an AAC championship and repeat National Championship.
Junior point guard Anthony Collins, arguably South Florida’s best player, may not be available for the season opener because of lingering effects from knee surgery. The removal of his inflamed bursa sac was expected to limit him for only a week of the preseason, but it has now been a month and there is no guarantee that he will play tomorrow against Tennessee Tech. The only good news is that head coach Stan Heath has quite a bit of depth compared to previous years, as was evident in an easy exhibition win over Division II Barry. JuCo transfer Corey Allen Jr. and freshman Josh Heath provided solid minutes, while veterans Vic Rudd and Martino Brock helped out in the backcourt. There’s no doubt that the Bulls will need a healthy Collins to make any sort of noise in the inaugural AAC season.
Louisville senior forward Luke Hancockwill miss the first three games of the season because of an Achilles tendon injury, Rick Pitino announced yesterday. Hancock, the 2013 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, averaged 8.1 points per game last season. The Cards’ first three games are all at home including the opener tomorrow against College of Charleston. The other two are Hofstra and Cornell. Louisville should be fine without Hancock until the fifth game of the season, which could be a top 10 match up with future ACC opponent North Carolina. The match-up will occur at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut if Louisville gets by Fairfield and North Carolina beats Richmond on November 23. The Cards and Tar Heels would then square off the next day at 1:00 PM.
Twenty ESPN analysts predicted Final Four participants and a national champion yesterday and the AAC didn’t receive much love at all. Not a single analyst predicted Louisville to defend its national title, although eight of the 20 said the Cardinals would return to the Final Four. The only other AAC team to be mentioned was Connecticut. Digger Phelps predicted the Huskies to make the Final Four. Nine predicted Kentucky would win it all, seven went with Michigan State, and two each for Kansas and Duke. A few odd Final Four choices included Harvard, VCU and Marquette.
With tomorrow the opening day in college basketball, six AAC teams will take to the floor this evening and three more play on Saturday. The best game of weekend featuring an AAC team will be Friday night at in Brooklyn when Connecticut faces Maryland. Anything less than a 9-0 weekend from the conference would be considered a disappointment, although a rebuilding Temple squad could have its hands full on the road at Penn. The defending national champion Louisville Cardinals will unfurl a new 2013 championship banner before tip-off against the College of Charleston. Another covered banner, presumably for Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino, will also be unveiled at the KFC Yum! Center.
Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2013-14 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. For the next three weeks, you’ll get two hits of excitement each weekday. We’ve captured what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. To see the entire released series so far, click here.
In an annual milestone promising that tip off looms ever closer, ESPN released its full TV schedule for the 2013-2014 college basketball season on Thursday. More than 1,500 games will be shown across the ESPN family networks, including ESPN3, and more than 100 of them will feature teams from the American. Among the highlights are three GameDay sites featuring AAC teams: an opening day doubleheader with the morning show emanating from Temple-LaSalle in Philadelphia and the evening edition from Louisville at UConn on January 18, as well as a visit to Memphis when the Tigers host Gonzaga on Febuary 8. ESPN2 will have an AAC triple-header on New Year’s Eve, the first day of conference play: Louisville at UCF at 5 PM., Memphis at USF at 7 PM., and UConn at Houston at 9 PM.
Jeff Borzello at CBSSports.com ranked the best backcourts in college basketball, and AAC teams dominated the list: Memphis was #1, Louisville was #2, and UConn was #4. It’s no coincidence that these three teams are the clear top echelon of the AAC in its first season. But the strength of the teams’ backcourts is in contrast to the issues each has up front. Memphis will rely on sophomore Shaq Goodwin, who showed flashes during an inconsistent freshman campaign, and freshman Austin Nichols.Both were highly touted recruits who the Tigers will need to live up to their billing. Louisville lost rim protector Gorgui Dieng to the NBA and Chane Behanan to his bad habits, at least temporarily. And UConn’s frontcourt woes are well documented; it was one of the nation’s worst rebounding teams a year ago, a problem which may well persist. Their great backcourts make it easier to paper over weaker frontcourts, but each will need their big men to step up to reach their goals this year.
One of the most important big men in the American this year promises to be Montrezl Harrell, who is taking on a leadership role in his sophomore season at Louisville. “He wouldn’t talk last year,” Rick Pitino joked to NBC Sports.”You thought he was just a shy kid from rural North Carolina, and now we can’t get him to shut up.” Pitino even named Harrell a co-captain, the first time he’s so honored a sophomore during his Louisville tenure. “I look around at these guys and they all really want to work and really get better,” Harrell told NBC Sports. “So looking at that and looking at myself and how I’m willing to do whatever role that Coach can think of, that’s kind of the overall feel for things. The way that Coach has a passion for the game, that’s something that really helped me out as a player.” Harrell showed flashes last season, particularly during a dominating performance in the Big East title game win over Syracuse and his frequently highlighted alley oop dunk in the national championship game. Harrell was a man among boys in Tuesday’s exhibition win over Kentucky Wesleyan, and will need to play up to his potential if the Cardinals are to achieve their lofty goals.
Hall of Famer Larry Brown faces an interesting challenge in his second season at SMU: all his starters return, and he added several highly touted newcomers. Brown says he’s still note sure what the starting lineup will look like, but that it will probably include incumbents Shawn Williams and Nick Russell as well as juco transfer Yanick Moreira. “We do have a different set of circumstances than last year,” Brown told the Dallas Morning News. “Last year anybody could have walked in our gym and picked the starting lineup.You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist. You could watch for five minutes. You could even watch us eat.” Times are very different in Dallas this year. “The biggest challenge we have is getting a group of kids to give up their egos and do everything they can to make the team better. … Right now we have 13 guys who think they’re one and done.” Figuring out how to balance playing time this season will be the key factor in whether the Mustangs can fulfill the dark horse (see what I did there) potential some analysts see in them.
Shaquille Thomas showed off some of the skills that excite Cincinnati fans about the youngster in the NCAA tournament in March, scoring 12 points (on 6-of-9 shooting) and grabbing four rebounds in a loss to Creighton. The nephew of former Villanova star Tim Thomas is hoping to build on that performance in his sophomore season as he moves into the starting lineup for Cincinnati. “Coming out of high school I was (considered) one of the best athletes in the country, so I knew coming in what I had to do,” Thomas told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s high standards, but I set high standards for myself to go out there and perform.” Coach Mick Cronin called Thomas a gifted athlete. “We need to let him get the ball to the paint and to the rim.”
If you love college athletics, you have little choice but to love ESPN. The “Worldwide Leader” has long dominated the broadcasting of college athletic events, especially in the two sports that matter most – football and basketball. Earlier in the week, the New York Timesreleased a three-part series of investigative reports that examined the central role ESPN has played in the rise of college sports programming. Many of their discoveries pertaining to the past, present, and future states of the industry fall very much outside the scope of common knowledge, and we came to find out that university athletic officials are actually not all that that different from fans when it comes to ESPN. The network’s value to the world of college athletics is so prodigious, and their monopolizing grasp sufficiently expansive, that whether they like it or not, conference representatives and university athletic departments have been forced to embrace and cater to the network and their needs. Just like us, there is no alternative: They must love ESPN. But in this age of ever-evolving broadcast media possibilities, where cable networks are suddenly finding themselves on perilous footing, the question of the day is whether ESPN will be able to maintain that firm grip on the college sports programming market moving forward.
Jay Bilas Is Just One Of The Many ESPN Personalities We Have Come To Know Well Over The Years; What Is The Network’s Future When It Comes To College Sports Programming? (Getty Images)
Through the 1990s and early 2000s, ESPN built a swath of broadcasting rights to football and basketball games in most of the major conferences. They had no real competition in the space, and were able to get away with accumulating rights for more games than they had time to broadcast. This sort of “warehousing” did not sit well with conference and university athletic officials, who naturally sought maximum television exposure for their conferences and teams. But with no other key players in the marketplace, they had no other option but to stick with the all-powerful ESPN. A 2004 Justice Department investigation into the practice of warehousing prompted the creation of ESPNU as an accommodation to some of those complaints, but while other networks have attempted to beef up their college sports programming volume – Fox, CBS, NBC most notable among them – ESPN still maintains a stranglehold strong enough to force schools to accede to their every demand.
On Wednesday ESPN finished its two-day unveiling of brackets for the 11 holiday season events that it more or less controls through its television rights, and the possibilities, as usual, are endless. For a comprehensive listing of those events along with the top storylines as they stand right now in the middle of July, here’s the thread. Be sure to remember that Jeff Goodman picked Boise State over Oregon State in the Diamond Head Classic so that you can mock him on Twitter in late December… but seriously, does anyone else find it more than a little odd that these brackets are released during the time of year when you couldn’t find more people who care less? Why not make this a part of the Midnight Madness/ESPN festivities in October — you know, when fans are actually paying attention to college basketball again. For what it’s worth, Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger and Andy Glockner at SI.com have pretty good rundowns of the events if ESPN.com’s marketing campaign isn’t to your liking. From our perspective, here’s what you need to know: North Carolina vs. Louisville (Hall of Fame Tip-off) and Arizona vs. Duke (Preseason NIT). Done.
We mentioned Seth Davis’ piece on Michigan’s Mitch McGary in yesterday’s M5, and clearly university brass must have also read about his head coach John Beilein‘s prescience in keeping the burly freshman on the bench as a secret postseason weapon last year. Why do we say this? Because on Wednesday Michigan rewarded the 60-year old coach with a three-year extension that will bump his salary up to $2.45 million per year, ninth-highest in the nation. The sometimes-irascible but always competent Beilein has come a long way in his itinerant career, but with another top 10 squad pending in Ann Arbor and a growing NBA pipeline to entice recruits, we’re thinking that he not only deserves the raise, but is well worth it.
The Pac-12 under Larry Scott’s leadership in the last few seasons has certainly been innovative in its approach to its branding and reach, and yesterday’s CBSSports.com report that the league recently sent a letter to the NCAA challenging the admission of Division II Grand Valley (AZ) State to play D-I basketball is certainly interesting. On one hand, why does the Pac-12 care about a low-budget for-profit school with some 40,000 to 45,000 online students? On the other, the business model and corresponding accountability for a school answering to public shareholders on financial matters is in fact a much different situation than that posed by a typical college or university (which are all non-profit entities in Division I). It’ll be interesting to see how the NCAA responds to this, and whether other leagues and/or universities get involved. Grand Valley has already begun transition to Division I, entering the WAC as a basketball school and becoming eligible for the NCAA Tournament in 2017-18.
Some transfer/eligibility news from yesterday to finish off today’s M5. Former Kentucky problem child Ryan Harrowhas received a transfer waiver from the NCAA to play at Georgia State next season. This move will allow him to remain near his ailing father, who suffered a stroke last year while Harrow was at Kentucky, averaging 10 PPG and shooting 29.6 percent from beyond the arc. By the same token, Minnesota’s Malik Smith, a senior guard who averaged 14/3 APG last season at FIU under Richard Pitino, also received a waiver to play immediately at his new school. The NCAA approved his waiver to follow his coach in part because FIU is not eligible for the 2014 NCAA Tournament (APR violations). This will be Smith’s fourth school in four seasons.
Because once-meaningful concepts like academic and cultural similarity, geographical proximity and longstanding tradition no longer control how or why college athletic conferences exist, and because television, you know, does – Thursday’s news out of SEC headquarters is a very big deal, both for league directly involved, the SEC, along with every other college sports conference. The South Eastern Conference announced a 20-year agreement with ESPN Thursday to air a 24/7 all-encompassing sports network beginning in 2014, with programming that includes 45 football games and more than 100 men’s basketball games annually, plus “selected events” from non-revenue sports and other important offseason dates such as football pro-days and national signing day.
An expansive new TV contract will grow the SEC’s already monumental annual financial take (AP Photo).
This is a very big deal. It is not mars-landing breaking news. Here’s why: the SEC exists in an entirely different plane of football competitiveness and import, stuffed to the hilt with NFL-bound talent and a fervent pigskin culture not seen in any other league across the country, but they were a step or two behind on this conference-specific television fad. The Big Ten and Pac-12 networks already have their own networks, which promise (alongside nonstop league-centric coverage) exorbitant annual sums, serve to expand the otherwise lesser profile of lower-tier programs and clearly represent the way of the future in a bountiful college sports television frontier.
The more subscribers there are in different regions of the country, the more fans that are eager to watch Washington State play Utah on a Thursday night, for example, the more money falls into league coffers and the more other schools – we’re looking at you, AAC – want a piece of the pie. These were the logistical league-hopping dynamics behind much of the recent conference realignment wave (go watch Maryland’s astonishingly candid introductory Big Ten press conference), and they will continue to drive the ship in league membership decisions, even if the ACC’s recent grant of rights deal appears to have ensured at least temporary realignment calm among the major conferences.
If nothing else, fans of the current Big East are going to have plenty of channels to catch their favorite schools on when the schools all go their separate ways. The ACC is taking over Big Monday and should have an increased presence on ESPN, the Big East (Catholic edition) will be on FOX, and the soon-to-be-the-conference-formerly-known-as-the-Big-East just inked a deal with CBS, which will get first dibs on the conference’s games through 2019-20. Oh, and West Virginia seemed to be on ESPN like every week this year… so good for the ‘Eers.
Louisville was the number one overall seed in 2009, much like it is this year. That team hoisted both the Big East regular season and tournament trophies, and made a run to the Elite Eight before falling to Michigan State. That team featured excellent former Cardinals like Terrence Williams, Andre McGee, and Earl Clark, and apparently those guys won’t stop talking about that season. Peyton Sivawould like to reclaim bragging rights over the 2009 squad with the one trophy they weren’t able to claim — a national title. “I don’t know a lot (about 2009), I just know T-Will and Dre were on it and they always brag about being the No. 1 overall seed… Our whole goal for the year — they had Andre’s picture on the wall from that ’09 team — is to take him off the wall.”
Otto Porter is a finalist for the Naismith Award this season, and for good reason. A very good argument can be made that there was no player more important to his team this season, and it showed in Georgetown‘s best games — Porter scored 33 points in front of over 35,000 raucous Syracuse fans to stun the Orange at the Carrier Dome — as well as their worst — Porter could only muster 13 points on 5-of-17 shooting in Georgetown’s shocking loss to Florida Gulf Coast last weekend. While Porter is up against stiff competition for the Naismith Award, he already has accolade in his back pocket as Basketball Times has named the forward its National Player of the year.
Expansion fever — catch the excitement! Today in schools moving conferences, the old Big East continues it’s mission to restore the halcyon days of mid-2000s Conference USA. Brett McMurphy reports that Tulsa will become the 12th member of the conference, calling the addition “imminent.” According to McMurphy, the Golden Hurricanes will join up in 2014 with Tulane and East Carolina, who will be elevated to full-member status to balance the conference numbers and fill the critical role of having basketball-playing Pirates in the league.
The Journal-Sentinelsat down with former Marquette great Brian Wardle, currently the head coach at Wisconsin-Green Bay, to discuss the state of Warriors basketball. Wardle was obviously thrilled with the success that the program has had under Buzz Williams, and before him, Tom Crean, stating that MU has entered the ranks of the elite in college ball. “The level that Marquette basketball is at now is an elite level that it has not been in for a long time… they’ve gone to three Sweet Sixteens in a row, a Final Four, everything takes time to build. Nothing happens overnight. You’ve got to go through some failures to succeed. You’re seeing Marquette in the Sweet Sixteen every year with the Michigan States, the Dukes, with Kansas.” There is no denying the success that Marquette has had recently, though dropping the ‘e’ word seems a bit strong. Until Marquette makes a few more Final Fours or captures a national title, they’re a rung or two below the nation’s elite schools, at least to me. However, they’re not far behind, and with the consistent success that Buzz Williams has had with the program, it may only be a matter of time until they break through.
The major institutional news around the league yesterday was that ESPN had elected to match a prior offer from NBC in an attempt to retain media rights to the Big East. ESPN’s bid of $130 million over seven years would shell out $10 million for men’s basketball in 2013-14 before doubling for the latter six years to incorporate football games as well. Should Mike Aresco and the league’s school presidents agree to the deal, each school would make $1.8 million annually in a 12-team format, which is less than they make in the current ESPN contract. Annually, each member would make $1.2 million less than Catholic Seven schools will reportedly fetch from FOX; about $18 million less than members of the other five power conferences; and about $12 million less than they would have made off the ESPN offer they torpedoed in 2011.
On the heels of the ESPN offer, Rumble in the Garden excerpts and interprets some substantial Catholic Seven logistical updates from the blog of writer Mark Blaudschun. The two developments that immediately jump off the page are speculations that the C7 won’t inherit the Big East name, and that it’s unlikely to secure a long-term commitment from Madison Square Garden to host its conference tournament. While the naming issue might seem trivial, RITG points out that its outcome could carry major implications on the matter of disbursing NCAA Tournament units and exit fees from schools departing to the ACC and Big Ten.
With Steve Lavin back on the sideline, St. John’s has three remaining NCAA Tournament-caliber opponents on the regular season schedule, and they each present prime opportunities to help the Johnnies build their own Tournament resume. Despite taking losses on the road to Syracuse and Louisville in Lavin’s absence, St. John’s RPI actually improved from #59 to #58 before defeating USF on Wednesday night. It’s not enough to earn an at-large bid yet, but at least they’re positioned to control their own destiny. Howard Megdal at Capital New York points out that a 2-2 split of the remaining schedule would bring St. John’s to 10-8 in the league, and that only twice since 2005-06 have 10-win Big East teams failed to earn an NCAA berth.
In anticipation of this weekend’s highly anticipated installment of the storied Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry, Mike Waters at the Syracuse Post-Standard breaks down his top 10 moments in the series. Some of the anecdotes recalled from the annals of this vitriolic feud put the relative civility of its recent history in perspective. Michael Graham’s punch of Andre Dawkins in 1984 (which didn’t result in ejection), followed by Patrick Ewing’s serendipitously misplaced haymaker thrown at Pearl Washington the following year highlight a more violent era in the rivalry.
UConn overcame unfavorable momentum and dismal rebounding among other things to overcome a slumping Cincinnati team in overtime last night, 73-66. Shabazz Napier’s 11 points in overtime helped the Huskies match the point total of their entire second half (18) in just five minutes. Napier finished with 29 points on 6-of-9 from beyond the arc, and Kevin Ollie credited him with architecting his team’s victory down the stretch: “The last three minutes of the game, and OT, it was just put it in Shabazz’s hands and let him make a play… there weren’t a lot of X’s and O’s.” Napier didn’t glamorize his performance either, telling reporters, “In overtime, I just want to get the game over with. I get tired of playing.”
Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.
Five Things I Loved This Week
I LOVED…. Minnesota coach Tubby Smith. Please watch this video, and tell me how anyone can not love Tubby as he breaks it down with moves that men his age should not be attempting. If he ever gets a miraculous title with the Golden Gophers, all will be right with the world.
I LOVED…. anunexpected dunk attempt. When North Carolina’s toothpick point guard Marcus Paige waltzed into the lane against Virginia on Saturday, an educated guess said he would be going for his normal finger roll. Instead, the freshman rose up with bad intentions and tried to throw down over the Cavaliers’ big men at the cup. Did he succeed? Of course not. He’s like 110 pounds and the ball went flying over the rim. But you have to like the kid who is willing to dream big.
I LOVED…. Mike Krzyzewski‘s succinct opinion on whether Duke will be scheduling an annual game with Maryland after the Terps flee the ACC for the Big Ten — in a word, nope. This is funny on a number of levels, but mainly because it brilliantly reinforces Duke’s opinion that Maryland is not a rival. This has driven Maryland fans nuts for years (much as NC State tries to paint UNC as its main rival, when the Duke rivalry is obviously much bigger). Coach K is nothing if not crafty, and he knew just how to throw a departing barb at the turtles as they plod out of the conference (though their win on Saturday will leave them with some fond memories, as well).
I LOVED…. Ben McLemore‘s nasty 360 dunk against Texas on Saturday. For a guy with a quiet, smooth demeanor on the court who thrives on sneakily dominating a game, this was a raw display of athleticism and power that we haven’t always seen. I always respect the 360 decision, because you’re willing to take the risk that you’ll be No. 1 on the “Not Top-10″ list if anything goes wrong. Read the rest of this entry »
Last night was the latest episode of one of my favorite reality TV shows, right up there with “Rick Pitino Making Jokes,” the always popular and unpredictable show, “Jim Boeheim In Front Of A Microphone Saying Things.” You thought 24 seasons of The Simpsons was a lot, well “Jim Boeheim In Front Of A Microphone Saying Things” is now in its 37th season and amazingly it still does not lack for high-quality original content. I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t truly understand the appeal of the show until around 2008 when the show aired the now-infamous episode in which Boeheim casually beat the ever-loving crap out of a malfunctioning microphone following a win against Long Beach State. After that I was hooked.
The show can make you laugh like the episode with the microphone, or it can make you cringe, like last season’s episode in which some felt Boeheim should have lost his job for insinuating that two men who had accused one of his assistant coaches of molesting them were only looking for money. Plenty have kept wondering whether the show will ever go off the air, but if this season, one which I have been watching devotedly, is any indication, “Jim Boeheim In Front Of A Microphone Saying Things” still has plenty of gas left in the tank. This season got off to a slow start as the Orange won a lot and didn’t encounter much adversity, but it started to pick up in December when the 900th career coaching victory episode took a surprise twist and ended with Boeheim publicly airing his unsolicited stance on gun control, and who could forget last week’s laugher when our ever-so-candid protagonist explained that he doesn’t read things on the Internet because he doesn’t “want to throw up everyday.”
DeAndre Daniels went off against DePaul in UConn’s 99-78 win last night, pouring in a career-high 26 points on 9-of-12 shooting. More importantly, the 6’8″ Daniels grabbed eight rebounds, marking the first time he’s collected more than five in a game since November. The Huskies rank #307 in the country in rebounds per game, and last night was their first dominant performance of the season on the boards, out-rebounding the Blue Demons by 20. In thumping DePaul, UConn scored its most points in a league game since the six-overtime battle with Syracuse in the 2009 Big East Tournament. After failing to eclipse 70 points in six of their first nine games this season, the Huskies have become more prolific since mid-December, scoring 80 in three of their last five.
DePaul certainly didn’t help its cause against UConn last night when news broke hours before tipoff that Donnavan Kirk and Charles McKinney had been suspended for a violation of team rules. Kirk is the Blue Demons’ tallest player at 6’9″, and appropriately leads the team in blocks at 1.9 BPG. The suspensions also left a combined 11.4 PPG on the bench. It’s unclear how long the players will be out, and it will be interesting to see who picks up the slack on both ends of the floor. DePaul returns home to face Cincinnati and St. John’s next week.
Just when it seemed as though Louisville had returned to full strength at the perfect time, we learned yesterday that Chane Behanan would miss seven to 10 days with a high ankle sprain he suffered in practice on Monday. He will be replaced in the starting lineup by freshman power forward Montrezl Harrell, who acquitted himself well in extensive play during Gorgui Dieng’s injury but lacks Behanan’s aggression on the boards and polished footwork in the low post. As Card Chronicle’s medical advisor points out, high ankle sprains require, on average, “three to six weeks” to fully heal, so there’s no guarantee we’ll see Behanan in the Syracuse game in 10 days.
After dropping its first two Big East games, Jamie Dixon’s Pittsburgh squad rebounded by traveling to D.C. and handing Georgetown its “worst loss of the JTIII era” last night. The 73-45 drubbing, which was statistically over with six minutes left, “exposed Georgetown’s limitations like none of its predecessors,” says Casual Hoya. The Hoyas have scored 46.5 PPG through two straight Big East losses, and it’s hard to visualize JTIII’s team as the contender we envisioned in the preseason given their many offensive handicaps.
The Big East reportedly hit up ESPN for $300 million in annual television rights during their exclusive negotiation window this past fall. This revelation was obviously met with derision and mockery across the Internet. Lost in the Big East’s implosion and subsequent media rubbernecking is the fact that the league was in the midst of negotiating a pretty lucrative television contract before the wheels finally came off. As TheUConn Blog pointed out on Twitter, such an exorbitant request would have only been made to force ESPN’s hand in closing its exclusive negotiation window with the Big East, allowing the league to shop around with other networks.
With the election now in the rear-view mirror, Matt Norlander over at CBSSports.comwondered if the presidential race was decided by states with the best basketball programs. Norlander’s sample size is comprised of his site’s preseason top 26 because he felt it wouldn’t be as compelling if states like Alaska, Hawaii or Wyoming were put on a level playing field with say, Indiana and Kentucky. It was a close “race” between the number of red states and blue states but the electoral vote count will remind you of the results from Tuesday. It is also worth noting that each of the Big 12 teams in their top 26 are in red states. I’m just saying.
USA Today Sports‘ Eric Prisbell and Nicole Auerbach give us a list of coaches with the most to prove this season and two of them are Kansas State’s Bruce Weber and Oklahoma State’s Travis Ford. While these coaches do have some work to do this year to justify their positions, they’re at different levels on the totem pole. Weber is in his first year of a new job while Ford is a bad season away from losing his job. The article also lists UConn’s Kevin Ollie as another coach with a lot of pressure this year, so if you’re going to list guys who have limited head coaching experience with limited time with which to work, Chris Walker of Texas Tech would be as good a candidate as any.
We now know how long Oklahoma State forward Michael Cobbins will be sidelined. Travis Ford announced he’ll be out “about a month” after suffering an injury in Monday’s exhibition victory versus Ottawa University. Le’Bryan Nash threw an alley-oop pass to Cobbins but the pass went over his head and he fell on an Ottawa player. This, of course, is bad news for a coach already without two key pieces in his rotation — Phillip Jurick who is still recovering from an Achilles injury and J.P. Olukemi who is dealing with a knee injury. Guard Brian Williams, of course,is also out for the season. Get well, Cowboys.
Tuesday night West Virginia dominated its exhibition game like any good program, beating Glenville State, 95-53, and head coach Bob Huggins isn’t happy. As a team the Mountaineers shot 50% from the floor, Deniz Kilicli dropped 19 in an efficient 8-for-10 shooting night, Aaric Murray had 13 points, nine boards, and two blocked shots, while Juwan Staten had 16 points, six dimes and zero turnovers. So what does Huggins think? “We’re going to look at how we didn’t run any offense.” Riiiight, coach. I see what you did there.
Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale are two of ESPN’s most visible college basketball personalities and while they have had moments of disagreement over the years, they have finally agreed on one thing: Oklahoma and Lon Kruger are on the rise this season. I don’t like the fact that Kruger doesn’t stay at places very long but what Vitale says is true: He can flat-out coach. Take a good coach like Kruger, the returns of Steven Pledger and Romero Osby, the arrival of Amath M’Baye, an emerging point guard in Sam Grooms,andI believe they will hear Greg Gumbel call their name out on Selection Sunday.