Morning Five: 09.18.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 18th, 2014

morning5

  1. We mentioned on Tuesday that rising senior and five-star shooting guard Antonio Blakeney had backed out of his verbal commitment to Louisville, citing a “quick decision” as his reason for second thoughts, but also leaving the door open for a possible recommitment down the line. Now it seems that Rick Pitino’s program, bemused and bewildered by the young man’s waffling, has decided to take its ball and go home. According to the Courier-Journal‘s Steve Jones, Louisville has no plans to continue recruiting the bouncy Florida shooting guard, preferring instead to focus its resources on adding one more elite piece to its highly-rated 2015 recruiting class. For a composite listing of how the Class of 2015 is shaping up at this early point, take a look at this table of the ESPN, Rivals, Scout and 247 ratings as collated by SBNation.
  2. Another former Louisville recruit, Oregon’s JaQuan Lyle, was not on Oregon’s updated roster that was released on Tuesday night, and as Rivals.com reported yesterday, he has not been admitted to the university. The issue appears to be related to his completion of a summer course that would make him eligible, but Lyle, for one, doesn’t appear to be too concerned by it. Even if Lyle makes it into school and onto the Ducks’ lineup, this is going to be an interesting transition year for Dana Altman’s program, with four of last season’s five starters either graduated or booted from the team.
  3. Michigan‘s Fab Five basketball legacy, even 20 years later, remains a complicated one. Issues of class and race and media coverage and privacy and amateurism and professionalism and a whole slew of other interrelated variables have followed these guys along ever since they collective hit the national consciousness way back in 1991. One thing, however, that isn’t that complicated, was that notorious Wolverines’ booster Ed Martin paid the likes of Chris Webber and several others to matriculate and play for the blue and maize. There’s really no disputing it (Webber himself copped a plea for lying to a grand jury on that very issue in July 2003). Yet Webber has spent the better part of the last decade-plus holding a grudge against his alma mater for what he felt was unfair treatment — some of it arguably meritorious, some not — and refusing to come to terms with the notion that, setting aside all the other indignities, he still is responsible for some of the darkest days in program history along with the sunniest ones. HoopsHype recently interviewed former Fab Fiver and current NBA analyst Jalen Rose, who called out Webber for his simple failure to say “I’m sorry” to the fans of the program who were ultimately let down by those actions. We’ve said it in this space and on social media many times before, but it remains spectacularly impressive that the most thoughtful and mature member of the Fab Five turned out to be Rose — he remains completely on point.
  4. Once upon a time here at RTC, we wrote a silly but fun post evaluating the worst college basketball floor designs in America. It is still today the post that received the most traffic in the history of this site. ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil might be feeling similarly today after her recent post ranking the top 10 mascots in college basketball went viral all over the interwebs. Of course, the fun in these lists is that they’re eminently arguable, especially through social media, but we were pleased to see the likes of the Stanford Tree and the St. Joe’s flapping hawk on the list. We’re not sure how you leave out a walking banana slug, such as what is found at UC Santa Cruz, or a scare-the-bejeezus-out-of-you-with-a-stare friar, such as what they have at Providence.
  5. And then there is this. Madness is in 30 days.

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Mitch McGary Has Finally Found His Role in the Michigan Offense

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 12th, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

Two weeks ago when the pollsters voted the Michigan Wolverines as the top-ranked team in college hoops, there were several references made to the “Fab Five” because some 20 years ago that talented group of Wolverines represented the last time the school had achieved the top spot. In that era of the early 1990s, freshmen were not typically expected to contribute immediately but instead were supposed to gradually develop their understanding of the college game. But over the intervening years as the NBA has gutted talent from the pool of upperclassmen, programs have learned to rely more on freshmen, and in some cases, demand that 18-year-olds assume a leadership role from day one. Due to these lofty expectations, we may tend to sometimes overlook freshmen who start out slowly but gradually show improvement over the course of the season. One of the best reasons to follow college basketball is to see the progression of young men who may struggle to adjust to the game during some stretches but will work their way out of that slump and eventually contribute to their teams. It has been a joy, for example, to watch Michigan freshman forward Mitch McGary add value and figure out how to play his game at the collegiate level over the past few weeks.

Mitch McGary continues to improve as the season progresses.

Mitch McGary continues to improve with every Big Ten game.

McGary received some well-deserved hype during the preseason because he along with Glenn Robinson III spearheaded a top 15 recruiting class heading to Ann Arbor. He was rated as one of the best forwards in the country and was a consensus top 30 recruit among the recruitiniks. Combine his bulky 6’10″ frame to the need for an inside presence for John Beilein and expectations were set fairly high for him before the season began. But the forward struggled to find his place in a guard-oriented Beilein offense, and he was quickly overshadowed by his fellow freshmen – Nik Stauskas and Robinson – over the first two months. While that pair benefited from open looks because the defense focused on Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., McGary had to adjust to defending the paint without getting into foul trouble. Even though it took him a while to get a feel for the pace of the game, he has been very effective since the middle of January and will continue to be an integral part of the Wolverines’ success down the stretch.

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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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Morning Five: 08.08.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 8th, 2012

  1. For college basketball fans over a certain age watching the Summer Olympics, an oft-repeated nickname uttered by the likes of Bob Costas, Mary Carillo, Ryan Seacrest and others probably grates a little more than it should. The gold medal-winning US women’s gymastics team, as we all now know, has been labeled by someone lacking any institutional sports memory with the nickname “The Fab Five.” The five girls aged between 15 and 18 didn’t memorialize themselves with the name, but others — most notably former Fab Five mouthpiece and current ESPN commentator Jalen Rose — may stand to make bank from the trademarked name as the team rides its 15 minutes of fame on a barnstorming tour throughout the US this fall. As we saw mentioned on Twitter last week, the Olympics are fundamentally sports for people who don’t typically like sports, and there is no better example of the two groups weirdly crossing paths than this one. If anyone’s wondering, nobody will be talking about this ‘new’ F5 two decades from now — we think the iconic maize and blue legacies of Webber, Howard, Rose, Jackson and King are still safe.
  2. It’s taken much of a couple of decades for Michigan basketball to get back to an elite status, as the Wolverines will be a preseason Top 10 team next season. Another local school, Oakland University, has as a matter of fact been to just as many NCAA Tournaments under head coach Greg Kampe in the last decade as Michigan. On Tuesday, Kampe started the first day of a fast where the longtime Golden Grizzlies coach will imbibe nothing but juice for an entire month in support of Coaches vs. Cancer. Um, we just drank a glass of orange juice over here, but, wow. Seriously, though, this is a herculean task for someone no doubt accustomed to eating solid, and undoubtedly, good food — Kampe tweeted last night that his first day of fasting was complete and that “even a yogurt commercial” makes him hungry. To donate to Kampe’s fast in support of CvC, make sure to hit this site. We always make sure to donate around the time of the Jimmy V Classic, but the CvC is getting a double dip from us this year.
  3. Team USA’s men’s basketball team will play Australia this afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament, which will allow one of the two college basketball players in the event to take a shot at a team he no doubt idolizes. As Jeff Goodman wrote yesterday, St. Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova is looking forward to the challenge of matching up against NBA All-Stars Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul. The rising senior and current WCC Player of the Year is one of the two SMC starters in the Aussie backcourt (playing off the ball with Patty Mills), and his 8.2 PPG and 4.6 APG have helped his country reach the medal round. For a complete look at his Olympic statistics, check out the FIBA page on the shaggy-haired star. The only other collegian in the basketball Games, College of Charleston’s Andrew Lawrence, played roughly 18 minutes per game for host Great Britain, but he was only able to convert 4-19 field goals and committed nearly as many fouls (15) as he scored points (16). His Olympic experience — engaging though we’re sure it was — is now over as the Brits did not advance to the medal round.
  4. While on the subject of Dellavedova, his college coach at St. Mary’s, Randy Bennett, was voted by his peers as the second most underrated head coach in college basketball. The most underrated was Temple’s Fran Dunphy, who garnered a commanding 14% of the votes (Bennett got 9%). A couple surprises on the list were two of the most prominent names in college basketball — Kentucky’s John Calipari (7%) and West Virginia’s Bob Huggins (5%). With tomorrow’s release of the most overrated coaches in the game, is it possible that one or both of those two will also show up on that list? Check in tomorrow at CBSSports.com to find out.
  5. Finally today, it is clear that Oklahoma State center Phillip Jurick has little to no interest in playing college basketball again. Just two months after an incident where he was cited for driving on a suspended license, the 6’10” player who was already dealing with recovery from an Achilles tendon tear was arrested over the weekend for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Predictably, he was suspended by head coach Travis Ford and will not accompany his team on a 10-day exhibition tour to Spain, which begins today. A transfer from Chattanooga State who averaged 17 MPG in 26 games prior to the injury, he’s certainly piling on the hurdles that he must overcome to ever see another day in an OSU uniform again.
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Morning Five: 08.02.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 2nd, 2012

  1. USA Today‘s Eric Prisbell published a piece on Tuesday with some rather inflammatory quotes about the status of big-time college basketball recruiting. Everybody already knows that agents and runners representing the interests of high school stars with their hands out is a big problem — but is it a 70%-of-the-elite-prospects problem? If you believe Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo‘s math, it is. “I am not saying that cheating is 80 percent of the game. It’s probably 20 percent. But it’s probably 70 percent of the top 20 percent [of player recruitments].” Izzo went on to say that he has “absolutely” lost recruits to other coaches because he was unwilling to play the agent/runner AAU game (which even Sonny Freakin’ Vaccaro says has gotten worse). In the same piece, North Carolina’s Roy Williams also made some interesting comments about stepping away from recruits who were ‘handled’ by AAU influences, saying, “Will I have a legitimate chance if I do it the right way?” There’s a lot of eyebrow-raising information in the article, and we highly suggest you read it — but the obvious question if Izzo’s numbers are anywhere near correct is… who exactly is landing all of these elite recruits if every major coach is on record blasting the system and doing it the right way? It’s not just Central Florida, that’s for sure.
  2. Team USA‘s men’s basketball squad is now 2-0 in round robin play with a game against always-dangerous Tunisia later this afternoon. Although there are no guarantees in a knockout tournament situation, we’re all too aware, it appears that the team led by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant are well on their way to another gold medal. Jeff Goodman writes that NBA owners are pushing so hard for a 23-year old age limit on the men’s team in future Olympiads that there is “little doubt” as to its eventuality [memo to owners: how about another age limit -- one that limits inclusion in your league to players 20 years old and older]. If USA Basketball decides to go this route with the 2016 team, most of today’s elite high school and young college stars would be eligible — Goodman takes a stab at putting together a potential team, and would you believe that a player nobody outside of Columbus, Ohio, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, had heard of this time last year is designated as the starting point guard? Basketball can be a funny sport that way.
  3. While on the subject of Olympic teams, A Sea of Blue put together an interesting analysis reviewing what the six men’s basketball teams in the “Dream Team” era might have looked like if USA Basketball had never ditched the amateur model. The cream of the crop is very clearly the 1992 squad, a team filled with players on in an era on the cusp of moving to a prep-to-pro mentality (Kevin Garnett began the trend in 1995). A starting lineup of Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Chris Webber may have even crowded out 1992 NPOY and two-time NCAA champion Christian Laettner. In the backcourt, do you run with Penny Hardaway and Jim Jackson over the dominant Duke duo of Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill? It’s really an unbelievable team. Conversely, the 2000 team — led by Kenyon Martin? Shane Battier? — is a joke. That team, decimated by the prep-to-pro era, may have finished dead last in the Olympics that year. It’s an interesting thought experiment, and we encourage you to visit ASoB and check it out.
  4. Going back to 1992 — was it the greatest year of basketball in American history? — former Duke star Bobby Hurley raised some major burn late Tuesday night after tweeting the following in reference to the gold medal-winning USA women’s gymnastics team (dubbed a modern-day “Fab Five”): “Proud 2 watch the “Fab Five” perform & bring home the gold! Who would have thought that the “Fab Five” could it get it done.” Of course, the Michigan group of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson not only lost the 1992 national championship game to Hurley’s Blue Devils, but they also lost two other regular season games to Duke during that era, giving the point guard the easy upper hand when it comes to taking those shots.
  5. With the exception of a notable tweeter, the Penn State story has died down in the national media as a result of the Olympics. And even though the long moribund basketball program was not implicated in the scandal or penalized by the NCAA in any way, it’s incomprehensible that Pat Chambers’ program will not be negatively impacted among the collateral damage to the Nittany Lion brand. In response to this piece by Jeff Borzello at CBSSports.com, it may very well be true that a recent de-committed recruit was already on the fence about heading to State College and another Class of 2013 recruit says he has no intention of backing out, but the issue will become more apparent in future classes where the semi-permanent negative message about Penn State has had sufficient time to stick. An argument that PSU will continue to recruit non-elite talent in the same way as before is not really an argument at all — the point is that every aspect of that university, from the chemistry lab to the jai alai club team to the local Penn State chapter of PETA, will be associated with this horrific situation for years to come. Whatever each group had to do to earn recognition prior to this fiasco, they’ll have to do so that much more in the future. This goes for basketball too.
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Michigan Will Not Re-Hang Its Vacated ‘Fab Five’ Final Four Banners: Why It Makes Sense

Posted by EJacoby on May 22nd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

Sports fans worldwide recognize The Michigan ‘Fab Five’ team from 1992 and 1993 as one of the most talented and fascinating teams in college hoops history, but 20 years later, the Ann Arbor university wants no part of the infamy. The Fab Five comprised a starting lineup of all freshmen (before it was in vogue) and became famous in equal parts for its revolutionary style, brashness and incomprehensible talent.  Those two, along with four other Wolverines teams in the 90s, were erased from the NCAA history books thanks to admissions of players accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from recruiting booster Ed Martin. In addition, Michigan received a 10-year penalty from the NCAA requiring disassociation from the guilty players and teams, leading to the removal of the ’92 and ’93 Final Four banners from the Crisler Center. That ban will end in 2013, but the news from over the weekend is that the university doesn’t plan on doing anything about it. Despite an upswell of support, there are currently no plans to re-hang the Final Four banners or recognize anything from the Fab Five era, a decision that’s clearly irked the former players but one that makes a lot of sense from a publicity standpoint. The stance taken by UM upholds the school’s integrity, and it knows that all sports fans will regardless still remember the Fab Five.

The Fab Five Will be Remembered Forever, Even if Michigan's Crisler Center Says Otherwise (Detroit Free Press photo)

No vacation of wins, removal of banners, or lack of contact with former players is going to cause college basketball fans to forget about the Fab Five era. Even Wolverine recruits who were not yet born when Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, and company changed the college game in the fall of 1991 are aware of the Fab Five and its legacy. This is something that UM administrators fully understand and can take advantage of when handling the issue of historical recognition. Continuing to withhold association with the Fab Five teams on campus in Ann Arbor sends a strong message, and yet it will never erase the great memories from those teams in the eyes of fans worldwide. “What happened was not good, and I don’t think they’ll ever go back up. I don’t,” said Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman in reference to the vacated banners. And why should she feel any differently?

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Night Line: Reloaded San Diego State Has Picked Up Where Last Season Left Off

Posted by EJacoby on January 24th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor and correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

When you lose four starters, 73% of your scoring production, and one NBA lottery pick from the season before, it usually means that a year of rebuilding awaits your basketball program. But for San Diego State, a fresh slate of players who mainly watched and waited their turns last season have picked up where Kawhi Leonard, D.J. Gay, Billy White, and Malcolm Thomas left off. Tuesday night’s road victory over Wyoming improved No. 15 SDSU to 18-2 on the season and 3-0 in Mountain West conference play as one of the most surprising teams in the country. Veteran coach Steve Fisher and the new-look Aztecs have wildly exceeded expectations and are looking to match or surpass last season’s run to the Sweet Sixteen.

Steve Fisher is Leading This Year's Aztecs to Unexpected Success (Getty Images/K. Horner)

Junior guards Chase Tapley and James Rahon are the only current Aztecs who played significant minutes on last year’s outstanding 34-3 team that won the MWC and advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament before falling to the eventual National Champion UConn Huskies. Tapley was a starter and averaged 8.6 PPG a year ago, but this season has taken his game to a whole new level. The shooting guard leads the Mountain West in scoring (16.4 PPG) and steals (2.05 SPG) while hitting a tremendous 46.7% from behind the arc on over five attempts per game. His growth from role player to star guard, however, is not even the biggest improvement on the team. That distinction goes to sophomore Jamaal Franklin, who hardly rose off the bench last season (8.1 MPG), but who’s now developed into one of the most talented players in the conference. He didn’t start the first 10 games of this season, but Fisher has had him in the lineup in the past 10 after he flashed tremendous skills and strength at the small forward position. He’s now averaging 15.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.4 steals per game as a versatile threat for the Aztecs.

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Past Imperfect: When the Fab Five Changed the World

Posted by JWeill on March 11th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a series focusing on the history of the game. Each week, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBossEmail) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: Michigan’s revolutionary Fab Five.

We fear change. Change can be unannounced, even unwelcome. Or, sure, sometimes we may ask for it, beg for it, look to the heavens for it. But however it comes, when it actually does come, change straight freaks us out. Whether it’s something as small as a job change, as defining as a new child or as big as the first black president, change is maybe the most aggravating salvation there is. Because we curse and are disappointed by that which we once sought and rue the day we begged for what we now fear. So we then ask for change from our change.

In 1991, college basketball was ascendant. Fans were tuning into the annual tournament in record numbers, new modes of media were creating a whole new spectacle out of the Final Four and it was a age before the annual exodus of underclassmen to the pros. This meant that teams were both NBA talented and upperclassmen experienced, and the play on the floor showed that. The tournaments in the last half-decade of the 1980s seemed ever-increasingly better. It was a Golden Age for college hoops. No one was particularly asking for things to get shuffled around.

But you can’t always predict when things will change. And in the fall of 1991, change came to college basketball in the form of five supremely talented freshmen. In particular, five supremely talented freshmen came to the same place at the same time. And with them came change without ever being asked for. Or, rather, it snuck up on everyone. All Michigan coach Steve Fisher was looking for was a change in the fortunes of his basketball team. Two years removed from redefining “interim coach” by winning six straight games and the 1989 national title, Fisher’s team had struggled its way to a losing mark, lacking star power. Michigan needed players, so Fisher went out and got the five best he could get. They just so happened to also be five of the best in the whole country.

Chris Webber was the jewel of the golden ’91 Fab Five class.

Two of them were no brainers, local wunderkinds Fisher  — or whomever would have been the Michigan coach — had to lock in. Chris Webber was the nation’s best high school senior: the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game and a three-time Michigan state champion at Detroit Country Day. Webber was the biggest of the big-time. Michigan had to make sure he was heading to Michigan. There was nothing wrong with Webber; he was the kid everyone wanted. You don’t touch that kid’s game, you just turn him loose and watch.

Jalen Rose was also playing in Fisher’s backyard. Himself a Burger Boy All-American at Southwestern High in Detroit, Rose was as loquacious as Webber was brooding. Rose would be Fisher’s floor general, a tall Magic-like playmaker with moxie coming out his ears. Rose had bloodlines, too, being the kid of Jimmy Walker, a former #1 pick. But Rose didn’t know his father, and besides, Rose wasn’t going to be just someone’s kid. He wouldn’t play in anyone’s shadow, and he wasn’t going to change for anyone. No, you’ll be the one to adapt to him. He was the kind of kid who’d tell you that straight up. Proof? When he was being recruited by Temple he asked John Chaney to change the time of Chaney’s notorious 5 a.m. practices. Chaney, unsurprisingly, said no. Rose ended up at Michigan.

But recruiting kids in your neighborhood, even the ones everyone else is recruiting, is one thing. Going into other people’s territory and landing big fish is a real task. And diving into Chicago to nab the best player there, too? Well, that was quite a feat indeed. But that’s what Fisher and his staff did when they got Juwan Howard, a 6’9” beast with quick feet, soft hands and a sharp mind. Howard was everyone’s top target, particularly Illinois, who had grabbed four of the last five Chicago Players of the Year. But Howard had other plans. His main rival, the one he measured himself against, was now Illinois’ star freshman Deon Thomas, a year older than Howard. Going head-to-head with Thomas twice a year was how Howard would show everyone that he was the best player to come out of Chicago in years, not Thomas. Howard was going to change the way people thought about him. And he was going to do that at Michigan.

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Is Calipari’s Three-Year Recruiting Run the Best Ever?

Posted by rtmsf on August 16th, 2010

An interesting question came up among the Twitterati over the weekend when it was learned that Rivals #8 (and rising) recruit in the Class of 2011, Anthony Davishad formally committed to Kentucky.  Davis’ commitment marks the third top ten recruit in that class to have committed to John Calipari’s Wildcats, and the seventh in the 2009-11 recruiting cycles, a ridiculous feat. 

  • John Wall (#2, 2009)
  • DeMarcus Cousins (#3 , 2009)
  • Brandon Knight (#4, 2010)
  • Enes Kanter (#7, 2010)
  • Michael Gilchrist (#1, 2011)
  • Marquis Teague (#5, 2011)
  • Anthony Davis (#8, 2011)

Throw in a few other high-level recruits such as Daniel Orton (#19, 2009), Eric Bledsoe (#52, 2009), Terrence Jones (#11, 2010), Doron Lamb (#26, 2010), and an unnamed superstar or two to be named later (Quincy MillerLeBryan Nash?), and suddenly there is a realization that we could be in the midst of the single greatest run of recruiting prowess since the Wizard of Westwood had every blue-chipper from coast to coast lining up to play for him.

Calipari Continues to Rack Up Blue-Chippers (LHL/M. Cornelison)

This is what Calipari was referring to when he infamously said on draft night in June that having five UK players selected was the greatest night in the program’s history.  It’s all marketing.  As Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue notes when referring to Anthony Davis’ quotes about the commitment, Calipari isn’t selling the Wildcat program of all hoops-all the time as much as the dream; the dream, of course, being a fast-track to the League. 

But notice what is not mentioned — Kentucky tradition, the facilities at UK, playing in front of 24,000 every game, being on TV all the time — none of these things are mentioned.  Recruiting has changed.  Calipari has taken the NBA one-and-done rule and used it like the Pied Piper, tempting players to Kentucky not with cash to families or under-the-table deals, but with a short path to all the riches they desire.

Whether you believe the last sentence or not, the truth remains that players are beelining for Lexington, which brings us to the point of this article.  We have to dig pretty deep in our memory banks to remember a recruiting run that even begins to approach this concentration of elite talent.  Granted, there’s a bit of an apples/oranges confounder here — much of the reason that Calipari can load up on talent every single year is because there’s a reasonable expectation that the previous year’s competition for minutes will be gone (see: Wall begets Knight begets Teague, for example).  Still, we’ve come up with one strong comparison in the modern era (we hope you add your own in the comments below): Duke 1997-99.  As a brief aside, UNC from 1990-93, Michigan from 1991-94 and Duke from 1999-2002 were also very strong periods of recruiting at those schools, but over four recruiting cycles rather than three. 

Duke 1997-99 (recruited by Mike Krzyzewski)

  • Elton Brand (#1, 1997)
  • Chris Burgess (#7, 1997)
  • Shane Battier (#8, 1997)
  • William Avery (#14, 1997)
  • Corey Maggette (#16, 1998)
  • Jason Williams (#3, 1999)
  • Carlos Boozer (#8, 1999)
  • Casey Sanders (#16, 1999)
  • Mike Dunleavy, Jr. (#26, 1999)

The recruiting rankings alone are nasty, but when you consider the actual accomplishments of this group, it takes on a whole new meaning.  Six lottery picks, three NPOYs, two title game appearances and a national championship (2001).  In two of the years where they didn’t cut the nets down, (1999 and 2002), Duke was the prohibitive favorite to win the title (finishing #1 in the final AP poll every year from 1999-2002) in large part because they had more talent than anybody else.  They actually won it all in 2001, but we’re still trying to figure out how Jim Calhoun’s vastly underrated (but also undermanned) Huskies were able to slay the Duke dragon in 1999 (oh, right, Trajan Langdon).  It was an amazing run of talent acquisition, and we haven’t seen anything like it for at least a decade.

Duke Had Three NPOYs in Four Seasons (SI)

Therein lies the rub.  With boatloads of talent comes expectations, and winning the press conference is great for tone-setting, but getting to and winning Final Fours is what matters most in Lexington.  Again, the Duke era was different in that with the exception of Corey Maggette in 1999, Coach K did not lose any players as 1-and-dones; but that won’t deter the vultures from ripping Calipari if he continues to sign elite talent without bringing back the accompanying hardware to support it.  The biggest case in point of this thinking is how Michigan’s Fab Five class of 1991 is often considered a failure for merely going to two straight NCAA championship games and losing.  It remains to be seen how this era of Kentucky basketball will play out (so far, one Elite Eight appearance), but we already know that the level of recruiting enjoyed by Calipari in his first three classes there rivals anything experienced in the modern era.  Coach K’s classes from 1997-99 set the bar very high — it’s now up to the individual players — from Knight/Kanter/Jones to Gilchrist/Teague/Davis — to match or exceed their accomplishments.   

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Meltdown in Lawrence Imminent?

Posted by rtmsf on June 30th, 2009

12am Update: 610 Sports in Kansas City is reporting that the Henrys are sticking with their commitment to KU.  Bill Self must have brought in the heavy hitters for this one.  Breathe a sigh of relief, KU fans.

8pm Update: Bill Self and Danny Manning are reportedly meeting with the Henry family in OKC tonight to make presumably a last ditch effort to keep them at Kansas.  We should have this all sorted out by tomorrow.

Honestly, we read some buzz about this yesterday, but it sounded so ridiculous we simply continued on down our reader.  Then we read Andy Katz’s report this afternoon and suddenly it appears that what we thought was a cockamamie rumor (see: Coach K to Lakers) has some serious legs.  If the reports are true that Xavier Henry and his brother, CJ, are waffling on their commitments to Kansas for the 2009-10 season, and instead are going to end up in Lexington as part of John Calipari’s GCOAT (greatest class of all-time), then the torches and pitchforks in Kansas may already be en route to the Bluegrass.  According to the Henrys’ father, it appears to be a done deal.  From a similar Gary Parrish report:

“If it wasn’t for his momma saying that ‘I would not go to Kentucky, I would not move down to Kentucky,’ Xavier would have been at Kentucky,'” Carl Henry said during the radio interview. “He would have been at Kentucky. So Xavier says, ‘I’m going to go to Kansas,’ even though … what he wanted to do is go to Kentucky, play under Coach Cal. That’s what he wanted to do. I expressed this to [Kansas] coach [Bill] Self. I told him.”  Carl Henry said his wife no longer wants to influence her son’s decision.  “So guess what? Kid might have a change of mind,” Carl Henry said. “That’s what I [told] coach Self.”

henry bros

Notwithstanding what his mother thinks of moving a couple of states away, the only reasonable explanation for this (since the Henrys have been re-assessing their situation for two weeks) is that Kentucky’s Jodie Meeks somewhat unexpectedly opted to stay in the NBA Draft.  Given that Xavier Henry is a shooting guard, he likely didn’t want to go to UK to play behind Meeks for one season, but with Meeks out of the picture, he would now have the opportunity to play for the coach he originally committed to.

If this ends up happening, John Calipari would have an embarrassment of riches in his first season at the helm at UK – quite possibly on paper the greatest incoming class of all-time, eclipsing the 1991 Michigan quintet of Webber, Howard, Rose, Jackson and King.  Of course, this group of young Cats will be measured by their accomplishments in college and not their paper rankings, but Wildcat fans must be multi-orgasmic at the potential of this group – three of the top six and four of the top twenty players in America.

John Wall – PG (#2 overall)
DeMarcus Cousins – C (#3 overall)
Xavier Henry – SG (#6 overall)
Daniel Orton – C (#19 overall)
Eric Bledsoe – PG (#52 overall)
Jon Hood – SF (#66 overall)
CJ Henry – PG (walk-on)
Darnell Dodson – SF (juco)

As for KU fans, they’ll still have plenty of returning talent in Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich, Tyshawn Taylor and the Morris brothers, but they could have really used the explosive scoring from the wing that they currently lack.  Their message boards are already apoplectic, but as one guarded commenter noted, ‘you think this is bad… check back tomorrow.’  Oh we will.

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NCAA Preview: Michigan Wolverines

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2009

Michigan (#10, South, Kansas City pod)

vs. Clemson (#7)

Thurs. 3/19 @ 7:10pm
Vegas Line:  Michigan +5

General Profile
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Conference: Big 10, at-large
Coach: John Beilein, 30-34
08-09 Record: 20-13, 10-10
Last 12 Games: 6-6
Best Win: vs. Duke, 81-73, 12/06
Worst Loss: @ Iowa, 60-70, 2/22
Off. Efficiency Rating: 111.4, 41st
Def. Efficiency Rating: 95.5, 67th

Nuts ‘n Bolts
Star Player(s): Manny Harris (17/7/4 assts); DeShawn Sims (16/7)
Unsung Hero: The freshmen corps of Laval Lucas-Perry, Zach Novak and Stu Perry
Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): None
Key Injuries: None
Depth: 35.3%, 72nd nationally (Percentage of minutes played by reserves)
Achilles Heel: The really good Beilein teams can shoot it from deep.  This team can’t (33%, 10th in the Big 10).
Will Make a Deep Run if…: Harris and Sims both play well and getting help from their freshman teammates.
Will Make an Early Exit if…: Either of the two has an off game and the threes aren’t dropping.

NCAA History
Last Year Invited: 1998, lost 2d round to UCLA 85-82
Streak: 1
Best NCAA Finish: 1989, National Champions
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): +0.38 Ws per appearance

Other
Six Degrees to Detroit: Umm… other than the fact that Ford Field is only 38 miles away, both Harris and Sims are from the Motor City.
Distance to First Round Site: 751 miles to Kansas City.
School’s Claim to Fame: UM is a world-class academic institution and, of course, the Fab Five.
School Wishes It Could Forget: The whole sordid Ed Martin scandal surrounding the aforementioned F5.
Prediction: Befitting a young team, Michigan has been terrible on the road (3-8); there’s really no reason to believe that they’re going to win a neutral site game against a more experienced team like Clemson.
Major RTC stories: The Fraud Five or Fab 5?

Preview written by Rush the Court

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The Fraud 5 or Fab 5?

Posted by rtmsf on October 15th, 2007

The Detroit Free-Press reported today that Jalen Rose is responsible for the following monstrosity memorial to the Fraud 5 Fab 5, Michigan’s controversial, engaging, frustrating, overachieving and underachieving teams of the early 90s. 

Fab Five billboard

We’re no Mitch Albom, so you won’t see a treatise on five people you meet in Michigan or basketball played in heaven here today, but we do recognize that the team represented on the billboard above was probably the most widely discussed yet schizophrenic college hoops team of the past two decades.  When focused, the team was without question one of the best conglomerations of talent in one class ever assembled; when not, they were as maddeningly frustrating as they were enticing.   

Were Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson the Fab 5 or the Fraud 5?  Ultimately, it depends on your perspective.  We took a shot at comparing the two below. 

Fab 5 or Fraud 5

For a recap of the group and their effects on the game at large, check the below ESPN clip: 

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