Big Ten M5: 10.11.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on October 11th, 2012

  1. Michigan State players rarely receive unanimous votes to be team captain, but that’s what Derrick Nix received this fall from his teammates, this coming even after a marijuana arrest last spring. Nix, the Spartans’ lone senior, was named one of two team captains along with redshirt sophomore Russell Byrd. Nix was a solid contributor for MSU last season, averaging 8.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in the shadow of star forward Draymond Green. Now, Nix will be called upon to step up in a young frontcourt. According to the Detroit Free Press, Tom Izzo was debating whether to allow Nix’s name on the ballot due to the arrest, saying, “It’s either going to be a huge, huge success story or egg on my face. I think it’s going to be a huge success story.” Nix won’t serve a suspension this year stemming from that arrest.
  2. As team practices are about to get start, Wisconsin has already lost star Mike Bruesewitz for the first four to six weeks of the year. Bruesewitz was injured during a team workout when he ran into the sharp part of the basket and was cut between the knee and the ankle. The Wisconsin State Journal reported that the cut was at least 12 inches long and that Bruesewitz’s bone was showing. This isn’t a common injury for athletes, so it’s tough to judge when Bruesewitz will be fully back, but he will be missing most of preseason practice and possibly the first couple weeks of the season. That’s not a huge blow for the Badgers, but it could take some time before Bruesewitz returns to form.
  3. Preseason rankings are meaningless, especially in a sport with such a big postseason, but they’re a fun way to pass the time in the offseason and they give a rough look of who could contend for a National Championship. Not only that, but they also show which leagues are the best. Fresh off a year in which the Big Ten was arguably the nation’s best conference, things look to be pointing in that direction again, as ESPN.com ranked four Big Ten teams in the top 10 of its preseason rankings — Indiana at No. 1 — and six teams in the top 25.  As the season goes along, the rankings will change. However, it’s clear heading into the season, that the Big Ten is once again the conference to beat.
  4. The Jabari Parker sweepstakes is heating up, as Parker narrowed his list to five schools — Michigan State, Duke, BYU, Florida and Stanford. Parker will reportedly take a visit to MSU next weekend — the weekend of October 20. Parker, of Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy — the same high school as Derrick Rose — is the No. 1 player in the country and has been dubbed by Sports Illustrated as the best high school player since Lebron James. While that might be a bit premature, Parker is undoubtedly a special talent and could singlehandedly vault the Spartans into the National Championship discussion once he arrives on campus. MSU has yet to secure a commitment for the class of 2013.
  5. Two decades after the “Fab Five,” Michigan has yet another vaunted recruiting class coming in for 2012. The Wolverines’ class ranks ninth in the Scout.com rankings and includes three four-star recruits, including center Mitch McGary, who is ranked No. 10 in the country at his position and held offers from Duke, Florida, Kentucky and North Carolina, among others. McGary is joined by four-star forwards Nick Stauskas and Glenn Robinson, three-star guard Caris LeVert and unranked point guard Spike Albrecht. However, according to M-Live, this group isn’t seeking the same attention the last “Fab Five” did. In fact, the article gave them a new nickname: The Modest Five. Regardless of what they’re called, this group has the potential to make Michigan a top 10 team this season, and it gives Michigan arguably its most talented team since the original “Fab Five.”
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Big East Commissioner: TV Deal with ESPN ‘Not Anywhere Near Done’

Posted by mlemaire on October 9th, 2012

When the Big East broke the trend of hiring experienced sports administrators and brought former CBS executive vice president Mike Aresco on board as its new commissioner, there was little doubt that Aresco’s experience in programming and negotiating large television played a large role. The conference didn’t have to wait very long to see its new hire in action as one of Aresco’s first responsibilities as commissioner was to secure a lucrative, long-term television deal with ESPN.

New Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco Has His Hands Full Trying To Land A Favorable Television Deal With ESPN (Photo credit: John P Filo/AP Photo)

But now, with little more than two weeks left before the two sides’ exclusive negotiating window closes, the deal doesn’t appear to be any closer to being done than it did when Aresco took over. The new commissioner told reporters that the deal between the two sides is ‘not anywhere near done’ and that there has been plenty of interest from rival networks as they sense an opportunity to capitalize.

Now, it should be clear to anyone with even the most minimal business sense that Aresco’s comments could be true, or they could just be a rather transparent negotiating ploy to create the aura of competition between ESPN and its rivals even if there isn’t one. It will be interesting to see whether ESPN eventually decides to get the deal done or whether they believe the price is just too steep for a conference that doesn’t have nationally-relevant football programs and is in the process of losing three of their best basketball programs.

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Where 2012-13 Happens: Reason #29 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 9th, 2012

And away we go, headfirst into another season heralded by our 2012-13 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured here what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back the goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head. Enjoy!

#29 – Where Love Him or Hate Him Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12 seasons.

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Is There A Method To The (Midnight) Madness? Reviewing the ACC Events This Season…

Posted by ARowe on October 8th, 2012

Every year in the middle of October, college basketball fans get their first sweet taste of honey — the first official practice of the upcoming season. This used to be an unceremonious start to the college basketball year until October 15, 1971. At 12:03 AM that morning, Maryland head basketball coach (and former Duke center) Lefty Driesell had his players report for a one and a half mile run around the track at Byrd Stadium that was watched by 3,000 rabid fans. In 1982, the University of Kentucky officially dubbed the event “Midnight Madness” and the tradition spread like wildfire around the never-ending Keeping Up With The Jones’ culture surrounding college athletics.

With a Clean Bill of Health, Roy Will Have More Reason to Dance This Year

In the past, these events were typically only attended by the most obsessed basketball fans around the country, willing to stay up past midnight to catch a glimpse of their favorite players. Layup lines (a boring, repetitive practice that no one even watches before real games), scrimmages (who do you root against?) and skits that dress up power forwards in tutus dominate the itinerary. In 2005, the NCAA allowed schools to move up the time of the first practice to 7 PM on the closest Friday to October 15. This allowed these made-for-primetime showcases to actually take place in prime time. ESPN now televises these glorified scrimmages across their family of networks, dispatching their TV analysts and color commentators to the blue blood programs and up-and-coming schools to hype up their viewers for the season to come. Schools use the events to showcase their program to recruits, who often schedule their visits to schools during this weekend.

Around the ACC, different schools have taken different approaches to the “Midnight Madness” festivities and often refer to the first public practice by a different name. This year, for the first time I can remember, schools are even spreading out the event on different days. This change may be due to the newer, relaxed practice time rules which took effect for the first time this offseason.

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Big East Fully Embraces Importance of TV In Hiring Mike Aresco as Its New Commissioner

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 15th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC  columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

For years the Big East has sat back and watched as conference realignment marginalized its position in the modern college athletics landscape. This realignment – driven almost entirely by football-oriented television rights contracts – prompted Syracuse and Pittsburgh, two league forerunners with longstanding rivalries and successful track records, to bolt for the ACC, a league that in May announced a restructured broadcasting rights deal with ESPN worth $3.6 billion over 15 years. Longtime affiliate West Virginia and near-member TCU also deserted the struggling league in favor of the Big 12 – another league cashing in on the recent power conference TV contract frenzy by agreeing to a $1.2 billion deal with Fox. The Big East in response embarked on a nationwide courtship to increase its membership before entering a crucial 60-day negotiating window with ESPN this September to secure a lucrative TV rights deal of its own. It has since added Houston, SMU, Memphis and Central Florida, with Navy, Boise State and San Diego State also joining as football-only members. Once a bastion of exemplary conference leadership and stability, the Big East has morphed itself into an amalgam of disparate parts with no geographical unity or identity. More importantly, its bargaining hand heading into the crucial negotiating period to determine its future status in the major conference pecking order lacks substance. And so the expectation was that the Big East, now a shell of it former self and withering at the expense of TV rights-motivated inter-league poaching, would muddle its discussions with ESPN and further diminish its standing within the power conference structure.

As the Big East prepares for its crucial TV rights negotiating period with ESPN, Aresco is the perfect leader. It remains to be seen how he will fare in his new position beyond this fall.

The floundering league took major strides Tuesday toward securing a far sweeter deal than it otherwise may have anticipated when it announced the hiring of Mike Aresco as its new conference commissioner. Aresco’s latest position comes on the heels of his stint as vice president of programming at CBS Sports, before which he worked in the programming department at ESPN. The Big East scrambled to fill the vacant position after former commissioner John Marinatto resigned in May amid concerns that he was ill-prepared to lead the league into its critical television negotiations period. The clear hope is that Aresco will work in conjunction with Evolution Media Capital (EMC) and Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures (a group that recently negotiated the Pac-12’s groundbreaking $3 billion TV rights deal) in striking a similarly advantageous package. If the Big East and ESPN cannot reach a deal within the exclusive 60-day negotiating window, then the league’s TV rights will be open to the highest bidder.

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Dissecting Joe Lunardi’s First Bracketology: Three Reaches and Three Underrateds

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 14th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn. 

A three-month chasm stands in the way before another new beginning to another college basketball season. The NCAA Tournament won’t take place for another four months on top of that. But even with that distant timetable, the world’s premier bracketologist, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, thought it pertinent to release his early projections for the 2013 Field of 68. From this faraway August vantage point, reasonable cases can be made for most every team’s inclusion. After all, no one has actually played any games; thus we have no hard evidence – beyond what our speculative eyes can gather from offseason work, recruiting hauls, summer practices and European tours – that any team actually deserves a Tournament berth. As such, it’s hard to find great fault with Lunardi’s summer projections, if only because we have no factual evidence to debunk their authority. In fewer than three months, teams will officially begin their RPI-building missions, hoping over the winter span to construct a Tournament-worthy resume. It’s a long and enduring process, but come March, Lunardi usually has a pretty decent sense of whose season-long body-of-work belongs and whose doesn’t make the cut.

It’s never too early to begin analyzing March Madness bracket projections

For such a subjective process, Lunardi has over years of trial-and-error deconstructed the Tournament selection procedure into a predictive science. Fans often take his word as fact, or at least to the point where their Selection Show expectations are tempered by Lunardi’s analysis. In that context, it’s not hard to figure out why, even during these late summer months, his brackets drive both positive and negative discussion. The Lunardi bracket craze has reached yours truly, and as a starved college hoops fan, I couldn’t help but pore over its contents. All in all, the entire field seems reasonable, though I did come upon quite a few intriguing placements. To convey my thoughts in coherent form, I’m laying out three teams whose positions seem to be overstating their talent and three others who were undersold by Lunardi’s layout (“Underrateds”). These impressions derive only from the superfluous knowledge we have of each team at this point in the offseason, and how those vague profiles fit within Lunardi’s bracket. When the season begins, my perceptions will no doubt change, as will Lunardi’s March projections, so understand the limited scope from which these interpretations stand. This is merely an avenue to analyze sports’ greatest postseason tournament in a detached and unbiased way, without much in the way of evidence… more than a half-year in advance.

Reaches

UCLA: one-seed (West)

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Ranking the 2012 ESPN “College Gameday” Match-ups

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 9th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

For college hoops fans, winter Saturdays are an overwhelming blur. With so many games spaced out throughout various networks, sitting down and selecting an optimal day-long viewing experience can be somewhat bewildering. When in doubt, the consensus gravitates towards ESPN, where the “College Gameday” crew doles out a constant flow of college hoops action, providing insightful commentary along the way. Starting at 10 AM ET with a studio show staged at that week’s featured game site, a raucous crowd howling in the backdrop, the panel lays out the day’s action, capped with a late-show pick ‘em segment which invariably has the effect of inciting the avid supporters on hand. Then it’s a day’s long succession of enticing fixtures, spanning different leagues, time zones and intrigue levels. The crew — Rece Davis, Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas and for the first time this year Jalen Rose, plus whoever else graces the courtside stage in any given week —  puts a bow on the day’s action with an hour-long recap show, which leads into that week’s marquee matchup. There are few things better than a “Gameday” Saturday: a highly entertaining and energetic crew of college hoops enthusiasts sandwiching a whirlwind of hoop with enlightening breakdowns and analysis about the day’s happenings.

Loved or Hated, Everyone Watches Gameday

In this early-August college hoops lull where the happenings on the gridiron seem to take precedent at most every power conference university, we long dearly for those delightful, couch-side Saturdays. Fortunately, ESPN provided a sneak peak of just how magnificent those Saturdays might be. The network released its “Gameday” schedule Wednesday, and the lineup – at least as far as I can tell from a rather distant August viewpoint – is the best I’ve seen in quite a long time. Maybe ever. The bad news is that January 19, the first Saturday of viewing, seems a pretty long ways away. Not to worry. Before you know it, Midnight Madness will arrive, November and December will slide by and the eight-week selection of action-packed Saturdays will commence. To pique your interest, I’ve put together a ranked list of the eight featured games. There’s no hard and fast criteria here; take this as a simple preferential ordering of which match-ups I feel carry the most appeal. Longstanding rivalries, interesting venues and conference/national title implications will all factor into this 100%-for-fun exercise. On paper, it’s hard to find fault with the selected games. But between now and January, a bad start or two could dampen the hype factor around some of these games. All we can hope is that the scheduled contests maintain their outwardly riveting stature throughout the winter months.

Note: All game times ET.

1. March 9: Syracuse at Georgetown (12 PM), Duke at North Carolina (9 PM)

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Morning Five: 08.01.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 1st, 2012

  1. The NCAA on Tuesday hammered Central Florida with a one-year postseason ban as a result of the dreaded “lack of institutional control” violation in both its football and men’s basketball programs. The penalty is effective next season, which means that UCF’s last round in Conference USA before moving to the Big East will not contain the possibility of a league championship. For all the nitty-gritty details of the findings and what the probation means to the program, individual players and coaches, read Jeff Goodman’s piece on the matter, but the nutshell is that the athletic department allowed at least one agent to run roughshod through the program even though only one of the players involved (AJ Rompza) ever suited up at UCF. Comically, and as the Orlando Sentinel‘s Mike Bianchi writes: “The most tragically comical part of the whole ordeal is this: The Knights were cheating to get recruits, but none of those recruits ended up playing for the school. It’s one thing to be a cheater; it’s another to be an incompetent cheater.” We’re sure that this makes Ohio State, USC, and all the rest feel much better.
  2. This has been quite a transitional week for a number of college basketball media personalities, as CBS Sports, ESPN, and Sports Illustrated all announced the signing of new talent on Tuesday. The biggest mover was perhaps ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb, who signed on with CBS to serve as a college hoops studio and game analyst, host his own drive-time radio show on CBS Sports Radio and a television show on CBS Sports Network, and provide exclusive online content for CBSSports.com. Gottlieb is one of our favorites in the business because his devotion to research is impeccable and, even when we disagree with his points (which is uncommon), he cuts through all the typical pandering you see on television to make them. This announcement came on the heels of ESPN’s Monday announcement of its own new hires, with former head coaches Bruce Pearl and Seth Greenberg joining the college basketball studio as analysts, and NBA analyst Jalen Rose slotted to replace the departed Hubert Davis on College Gameday. We don’t have much of an opinion on the coaches at this point, but generally feel like Rose’s transformation from Fab Five knucklehead to a solid NBA analyst is one of the greatest we’ve ever witnessed. Others are less impressed with these hires. Finally, SI announced internally on Monday night that the New York Times‘ rabble-rouser Pete Thamel is moving over to its writing lineup. For those wondering, your RTC editors have not yet been contacted by the Times for Thamel’s open position, but we expect the call at any moment.
  3. UNLV basketball has bounced in and out of the Top 25 the last few seasons under Lon Kruger and Dave Rice, but a jump into the national consciousness like the Runnin’ Rebels enjoyed two decades ago with Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Tark the Shark and the rest has remained elusive. But, as Jeff Goodman writes about Rice’s 2012-13 Rebs, the upcoming team will be the most talented that Vegas has seen just off strip since that monstrous team some 20 years ago. With elite talent such as Mike Moser, Anthony Bennett and Khem Birch available to him on the front line, and an athletic backcourt including Anthony Marshall, Bryce Jones and Katin Reinhardt, Rice is realistically talking about pushing tempo to put the “Runnin'” back in the Rebels nickname. If the pieces all come together and UNLV gets past its road woes, this team is a group worth watching all season long.
  4. Speaking of Sin City, Seth Davis is working hard this week, with a two-part piece he calls “Summer Springs Eternal” over on SI.com. The article breaks down his July trip to Las Vegas where he no doubt wore a nice white golf shirt and pow-wowed on the bleachers with the top coaches from around the nation. In the first installment published on Monday, he relates anecdotes from Harvard’s Tommy Amaker, Colorado’s Tad Boyle, Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, Illinois’ John Groce, UCLA’s Ben Howland, Memphis’ Josh Pastner, DePaul’s Oliver Purnell, and Butler’s Brad Stevens. Part two published on TuesdayVir includes stories and quotes from Virginia’s Tony Bennett, Gonzaga’s Mark Few, San Diego State’s Steve Fisher, USC’s Kevin O’Neill, Purdue’s Matt Painter, Kansas’ Bill Self, and Georgetown’s John Thompson, III. Even if your team’s coach isn’t on this list, it’s well worth the read to see which guys are willing to drop hints of truth about their players and teams, and those who are completely full of coachspeak.
  5. Lists like the one that Athlon Sports just released naming the top 30 coaches in college basketball are a bit of an exercise in futility because the topic is so completely subjective that everyone has a complaint. Still, you don’t release such a list without asking for attention, so here are the top three problems we have with it: 1) It’s very hard to believe that any list of best current college coaches would have anyone other than Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski at the very top. Four national titles, 11 Final Fours, countless wins and accolades… but perhaps most importantly, he saved USA Basketball from the abomination it had become. 2) Roy Williams at #7 is astonishing as well. He has his issues, but is he behind Jim Boeheim and John Calipari? 3) Even if Jim Calhoun retired today, there is no way on this earth that there are 21 better college basketball coaches than him. And definitely not Mike Montgomery, Tom Crean or Mike Brey. Get over there and leave your comments on their list.
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Morning Five: 07.27.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 27th, 2012

  1. The academic scandal at North Carolina does not appear to be going away anytime soon as a faculty panel has called for an outside review of the academic fraud scandal. A group of three professors released an internal report that found 54 courses in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies that essentially had little or no oversight and were not up to the academic rigor that you would expect from a college-level course. UNC says the investigation does not need to involve the NCAA because there were some non-athletes (read, very, very few) in the courses, which would allow the school to deny preferential treatment to athletes although anybody with any sense could notice a very strong pattern.
  2. Yesterday, ESPN released the brackets for many of its early season tournaments yesterday and to be quite frank they are for the most part they are uninspiring. A year after having a ridiculous field the Maui Invitational is much less impressive boasting only a few teams that we would be interested in watching. Conversely, the Legends Classic, which has traditionally been much weaker than some of its peer tournaments, has an excellent field including two teams — Indiana and UCLA — that are both legitimate NCAA title contenders.
  3. While on the subject of Indiana, some sad news out of Hoosier Nation as former IU guard Neil Reed, the player who arguably was the primary impetus for Bob Knight’s ouster in Bloomington, died at the tender age of 36 of a heart attack. Some of our younger readers may not remember the story well, but Reed was a hotshot young player in the mid-1990s when Knight notoriously grabbed him by the neck during an Indiana practice in 1997. In the era before ubiquitous camera phones and Youtube, someone later produced a video of the incident (shown here), which became Exhibit A of Knight’s longstanding and reported bullying ways with his players. Then-IU president Myles Brand placed Knight on a zero tolerance policy soon after the video’s release in 2000 (by that time, Reed had moved on to a flameout career at Southern Miss), and within a year of that, he was fired in the wake of a separate incident physical altercation involving another IU student. We always thought that Reed’s situation at Indiana may have been an issue of wrong player/wrong program, but we certainly wish his family and friends nothing but our condolences in this surprising turn of events. For a compelling story about Reed’s time interning at ESPN Magazine during graduate school, check out this piece — it’s a stark and somewhat humbling reminder that everyone has a story behind “their story.”
  4. Las Vegas may be known for the bright lights and glamour, but as Jeff Goodman points out sometimes what happens in Vegas during the July recruiting period stays in Vegas as many of the events are very poorly attended. As Goodman points out there are plenty of college coaches in Las Vegas at this time of the year, but most of them are focused in on a couple of events and often times only on a couple of key players staying to check out those games and then leaving. For more marginal recruits it can be a frustrating experience, but one that they undertake with the goal of earning a Division I basketball scholarship. One wonders if it wouldn’t be better for schools to send a secondary coach–an assistant or even a video coordinator–to some of these smaller events on the off-chance that they catch potential prospect who would probably be delighted to have any school not just the blue-bloods talking to them.
  5. Get used to hearing some of the same voices we’ve gotten used to hearing call basketball games on the various ESPN platforms over the years. In a group announcement, ESPN play-by-play stalwarts Mark Jones, Sean McDonough, Brad Nessler, Dave Pasch, Joe Tessitore and Bob Wischusen all received multi-year contract extensions this week. All but Tessitore has a regular gig involving college hoops, and certainly McDonough and Nessler have become standards within the industry. By the same token, one of the most recognizable college basketball play-by-play men, Jim Nantz, has been chosen to receive the NABC’s Court of Honor Award for this year. The award is given to someone who “has roots in college basketball, values those roots, and has gone on to distinguish himself in his profession, exhibiting the highest standards of leadership.” Aside from his ridiculous championship game colloquialisms (“Simon Says… Championship”), we’ve always enjoyed listening to Nantz’s commentary — 27 straight Final Fours is a rather impressive achievement.
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Unibrow & Other CBB Entrants Are Snubbed But Watford Wins at the ESPYs

Posted by EJacoby on July 12th, 2012

Last night were the ESPYs, and somehow, neither of the #15 over #2 shockers during last year’s NCAA Tournament won ESPN’s award for “Best Upset” of the year, and Anthony Davis‘ epic season wasn’t even enough to win over voters in the “Best NCAA Male” category. Not even legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was rewarded for breaking Bob Knight’s all-time wins record. In general, college hoops was vastly overlooked during Wednesday’s 2012 ESPY Awards, but one shining moment came in the form of Indiana forward Christian Watford‘s wild shot to beat Kentucky back in December. “Watford For The Win!” was crowned with the “Best Play” award from the past year in sports; a very deserving honor for one of the defining moments of the 2011-12 college hoops season. ESPN announcer Dan Shulman’s call on Watford’s game-winner over the top-ranked Wildcats sticks as one of the great broadcasting moments in recent memory, as does Dick Vitale’s incomparable reaction and IU head coach Tom Crean’s shocked celebration. It’s hard to find a singular more significant or lasting moment than that one, as Watford beat out a field of 31 other nominees through a lengthy tournament vote. Unfortunately, John Calipari, Anthony Davis, Kentucky, Coach K, the final Border War, Lehigh, and Norfolk State were unable to seize any hardware against their considerably thinner fields of competition.

Watford’s buzzer-beating three-point shot marked the official return of Hoosiers basketball. One of our sport’s bluebloods, Indiana had struggled at the bottom of the Big Ten for several years, and the victory over UK symbolized a resurgence. Indiana quickly jumped into the top 15 of the polls and stayed there much of the season, eventually making a run to the Sweet Sixteen before falling to those same Wildcats in a rematch not played in the friendly confines of Bloomington. But Watford’s shot isn’t forgotten for Hoosiers or Wildcats fans, both of whom were heavily invested in that December game as part of a longstanding border rivalry (which was sadly not renewed for 2012-13), nor the entire world of college hoops, which sent off an explosion of posts and tweets on social media across the country.

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Morning Five: 07.12.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 12th, 2012

  1. Last night featured the annual ESPYs in prime time, and although the host of the event, Rob Riggle, struggled through numerous cricket-chirping moments, we still managed to sit through it. College hoops had a number of good candidates as potential winners (as we handicapped last week), but the crowdsourcing style of the event ensured that few were were validated. The Unibrow was up for several awards, including Best Breakthrough Athlete (which went to Jeremy Lin), Best Male College Athlete (Robert Griffin III, which is reasonable even if we disagree), and Best Team (even Big Blue Nation couldn’t overcome the Miami Heat). Perhaps the two awards that bothered us most were Coach K’s snub in Best Record-Breaking Performance (sorry, but a single-season NFL passing record doesn’t trump 900+ wins over a career) and Best Upset (how do the LA Kings outdo Norfolk State, a MEAC team, downing a team in the conversation for a #1 seed? Ridiculous.). The one silver lining for our game was that Christian Watford’s game-winning three to lift Indiana over #1 Kentucky back in December was chosen as Best Play of the Year.  Oh well — that’s the nature of the event — fan voting. The women’s game, as an aside, cleaned up with Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award (well deserved) and Baylor’s Brittney Griner winning both Best Female Athlete and Best Female College Athlete of the Year.
  2. We know that Mike Krzyzewski may not have had a good enough year to win Best Record-Breaking Performance, but he’s more than good enough to lead Team USA into the 2012 Olympics in a matter of a few weeks from now. Interestingly enough, Team USA will scrimmage John Calipari’s Dominican Republic team tonight, but the real test for him and his charges is to come together as a team in the next few weeks so as to bring home another gold medal for USA Basketball. Dan Wolken writes that Coach K has had to take a different tack than he has at Duke in coaching the elite group of players he has on this team, and that, frankly, he’s a much more likable person in this setting than he is in Durham. It makes sense when you listen to Krzyzewski in any interview talk about his “kids” — his Blue Devils — but he also knows that the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and the rest are grown men who don’t need to be publicly protected or coddled. He’s not been so successful over these many years by not having a keen sense of that very thing — this is yet another example.
  3. It’s been a week of coaching extensions, and Wednesday kept the rally going with the news that Quinnipiac’s Tom Moore recently received a one-year extension to his deal that will keep him under contract until 2016-17. In five seasons in Hamden, his teams have performed admirably well, going 93-65 with three invitations to postseason tournaments. At a NEC school, any postseason appearance is a cause for celebration, so even thought there haven’t been any NCAA bids in that period, a series of NIT/CIT/CBI isn’t too bad. Of course, if or when Jim Calhoun over in Storrs ever retires, the former Connecticut assistant Moore would already have his vehicle GPS set with the directions.
  4. The nation’s top recruit in the Class of 2013 has narrowed his list down to only 10 schools. Jabari Parker used Twitter (what else?) to announce his revised list on Wednesday night, and here are the lucky suitors (he says they’re in no particular order): UK, Stanford, Michigan State, Kansas, Florida, Duke, BYU, Georgetown, DePaul, UNC. The Chicago native certainly has an interesting mix at play here, and perhaps most notably Illinois is no longer on his list. Aside from four of the top six programs of all-time (sorry, Indiana and UCLA), Michigan State, Florida and Georgetown are unsurprising choices. Stanford is clearly the academic choice, BYU is the religious one, and DePaul is throwing a bone to the homeys. If he really is the best high school prospect since LeBron (or Greg Oden), the school that gets him will have a tremendous shot at the Final Four during his only season on campus.
  5. Finally, ESPN announced its 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon lineup on Wednesday, and although the Champions Classic games involving Michigan State-Kansas and Duke-Kentucky are the monsters, there are as always a number of other interesting matchups. WVU visiting Spokane to tip things off, followed by a Davidson trip to The Pit will be fun, but Harvard going to Amherst to take on UMass and a battle of blue-blooded mid-majors in Cincinnati are also well worth skipping out on work. Maybe there’s more coming in the next few months, but in past years there were multiple games broadcast in the evening hour slot, so hopefully ESPN will fill in the blanks a little more just in case one of those Champions Classic games isn’t worth the time.

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College Hoops at the ESPYs: Handicapping Each Nominee

Posted by EJacoby on July 3rd, 2012

The 20th annual ESPY Awards take place on Wednesday, July 11, and college basketball is well represented at this year’s show. Eight different men’s college hoops players, coaches, teams, or moments are nominated in major awards categories, such as “Best NCAA Male” or “Best Record-Breaking Performance.” Winners are selected through fan voting, which is accessible by clicking here. Besides encouraging all our readers to ‘get out’ and vote for the college basketball nominees, we’d also like to break down why each selection was significant in the world of sports over the past year.

Anthony Davis is nominated for two ESPY Awards (AP Photo)

  • Best Breakthrough Athlete: Anthony Davis - It’s hard to argue against Davis in this category, as the Kentucky forward became the first basketball player since Lew Alcindor (later-to-be-named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) in 1969 to win a National Championship as the National Player of the Year and become the #1 overall NBA Draft selection in the same season. And Davis is the first to ever do it as a freshman. AD is also a true breakthrough performer since he wasn’t even on the radar as a major prospect until as recently as two years ago. Nonetheless, he faces stiff competition, mainly in the form of New York Knicks guard and worldwide phenomenon Jeremy Lin.
  • Best Record-Breaking Performance: Coach K’s Wins Milestone – Back in November, one of the great images of the sports year took place when Mike Krzyzewski passed his mentor and former coach, Bob Knight, for first on the all-time wins list.  Even better, he did so at Madison Square Garden with Coach Knight in attendance and awaiting Coach K with a congratulatory hug. Krzyzewski is widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all time in any sport, and the wins record confirms his spot in history. However, he’s up against Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in baseball history, who also broke a milestone mark this past year with the saves record. Read the rest of this entry »
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