AAC M5: 12.23.13 Edition

Posted by CD Bradley on December 23rd, 2013

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  1. The American had a pretty nice weekend, posting an 11-1 record with 11 straight wins over the past four days before South Florida dropped its Las Vegas match-up against Mississippi State on Sunday night. We will take a closer look once the non-conference slate wraps up (mostly) next weekend, but the AAC has posted only a so-so 79-31 overall record, fifth in winning percentage behind the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12 and Big East. Worse, it ranks ninth in conference RPI, indicative of the problems some AAC members might have come Selection Sunday.
  2. UConn coach Kevin Ollie suggested as much before Sunday’s match-up with Washington, and before tip-off it was announced that the Huskies’ starting lineup had indeed changed. Indeed, freshman Amida Brimah got the start in the Sunday win, with Phil Nolan losing his spot there. Both performed relatively well; Brimah managed four points, three rebounds, two blocks, an assist and a steal in 17 minutes, while Nolan ended up with eight points and five boards in 13 minutes. The Huskies have been a terrible rebounding team all year, ranking outside the top 200 in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, and it’s understandable why Ollie might want to mirror Louisville’s Rick Pitino in starting a raw freshman at center who might improve more quickly over a limited veteran. Still, Nolan’s only a sophomore, and he’s been a better rebounder than Brimah thus far.
  3. Sean Kilpatrick continued his move up Cincinnati’s all-time scoring list, sliding into eighth place with 23 points in Saturday’s win over Middle Tennessee. He now has scored 1,650 points in his career, 16 behind Ron Bonham for #7. If he stays on his current pace, he’ll finish with more than 2,000 points, only the second Bearcat in the history of the program to pass that threshold. The other guy who reached that milestone, the school’s all-time leading scorer, remains out of reach; it’s some guy named Oscar Robertson, who managed 2,973 points in his career and was the leading scorer in college hoops history when he graduated in 1960. Still, Kilpatrick, who’s off to a great start this season, has been a very important player for the program, and particularly for coach Mick Cronin, whose job was in some danger when Kilpatrick arrived.
  4. Louisville rolled over Florida International on Saturday night short a couple of reserves. Kevin Ware, whose gruesome leg injury in March made him a national celebrity, suffered a shin injury against Missouri State on Tuesday night and was wearing street clothes on the bench. Freshman forward Akoy Agau also missed the game after being suspended for not “acting the way a University of Louisville basketball player should,” as coach Rick Pitino put it. It was unclear if either will be available for Saturday’s massive tilt at Rupp Arena against hated rival Kentucky, but it also probably matters very little. Agau, a little-used reserve, is unlikely to see the floor in such a high-level contest anyway; and while Ware might have gotten some run, he’s been a pretty distant fourth in the Cardinals’ guard rotation behind Russ Smith, Chris Jones and Terry Rozier.
  5. Two AAC schools, Temple and Houston, have something major in common despite the differences inherent in being located more than 1,300 miles apart. They are both struggling to achieve relevance in their hometowns, where they not only face competition from other college programs but also professional squads in all major sports. Houston appears to be ahead of Temple in its local efforts, and may therefore offer a blueprint. “We’ve had to fight, scratch, and claw to become relevant, not just in this city but in the state,” Houston athletic director Mack Rhoades told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “By no means do I think we’ve conquered that. But we’ve made inroads.”
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Morning Five: 09.05.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 5th, 2013

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  1. Wednesday was a day of moves — some planned, others not — as we slowly but assuredly inch our way to the start of season practice at the end of the month. The biggest news, of course, was that former Missouri guard Michael Dixon had been cleared by the NCAA to play at Memphis this upcoming season. Dixon was dismissed from Missouri last fall after a pair of unrelated sexual assault allegations (no charges were ever filed against him), leaving the former Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year something of a free agent last season. Perhaps using the Dez Wells/Xavier incident as a related precedent, the NCAA decided to allow Dixon to play without sitting out the mandated transfer year, a good call considering that would have represented a 32-month layoff for the senior. His addition to a Memphis backcourt of Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson makes Josh Pastner’s group one of the most talented in America — the key question is whether there will be enough basketballs to go around. In Dixon’s final year in Columbia, he accounted for nearly a quarter of the available shots while he was on the floor, while the returning Memphis trio also likes to chuck in the 19-22 percent range. Still, there’s plenty of reason for Memphis players and fans to be excited now, as Johnson tweeted a picture of the “4Kings” soon after the news was released yesterday — Dixon is a player who can mean the difference between a Sweet Sixteen and a Final Four.
  2. Another player on the move is former Louisville, FIU and Minnesota (albeit ever so briefly) forward, Rakeem Buckles. According to ESPN.com‘s Jeff Goodman, Buckles was back on campus at FIU last week and plans on spending his final year of eligibility playing for the school where he sat out last season. He had originally intended to transfer for a second time to Richard Pitino’s club after FIU was put in APR jail (hey, Isiah), but the NCAA rejected his waiver request leaving him with few other viable options. Buckles has been a case study in hard luck over his career, suffering two ACL injuries at Louisville that never allowed him to find much momentum there, followed by a transfer to a school where he now has no shot at sniffing the NCAA Tournament. At a minimum, we hope that he has an injury-free 2013-14 season with the dangling carrot of a possible pro career awaiting him somewhere overseas.
  3. So about those transfers… Luke Winn from Sports Illustrated has been quiet lately, but now that we can see the finish line of the offseason, expect a lot of great new stuff from him. On Tuesday he published his second annual look at the phenomenon of up-transferring, the growing tendency of good players at small programs to transfer to bigger programs to finish out their careers (especially in the case of those using the graduate transfer exception). What he finds is that the trend that appears to have taken off during the last offseason has continued on its upward trajectory. A total of 30 up-transfers are at bigger programs heading into this season (with three others awaiting NCAA decisions), a slight increase over last year, with notable new talent at national contenders such as Florida, Duke, Kansas, Arizona and several others. Oregon by itself is hoping to have as many as three up-transfers in its lineup, one year after former transfers Arsalan Kazemi (Rice) and Tony Woods (Wake Forest) led the Ducks to the Sweet Sixteen. Winn digs into some of the theories and reasoning behind why this trend continues to grow, and as always, you’ll enjoy the thoughtful analysis that he puts forth.
  4. Rivals.com released its post-summer Top 150 of prep basketball prospects yesterday, and there were few surprises as Chicago’s Jahlil Okafor remained firmly planted at the top of the list. Emmanuel Mudiay, the most heralded recruit that Larry Brown has wooed since Danny and Ed Manning came to Lawrence, Kansas, has moved into the #2 overall position. The rest of the top 10 at this point only bears one other committed player, North Carolina’s Justin Jackson at the #10 slot, but as we know that will begin to change in earnest as we head into the official visit period and look forward to the November signing day. Speaking of package deals — the Mannings were of the most epic variety — Adam Zagoria from Zagsblog.com breaks down the likelihood that any of the rumored deals in this year’s senior class will actually attend school together next season. The most likely scenario remains the longest-running one, which is that Okafor and Minneapolis’ Tyus Jones will end up in the same place next year — most likely at Duke. While getting two top five players in the same class has become de riguer at Kentucky under John Calipari, it’s still nearly unprecedented elsewhere. So if Coach K pulls off this coupling of elite hoops talent at the ripe age of 66, it will prove perhaps once again that as long as Krzyzewski is still involved in this game, Duke isn’t going anywhere.
  5. Winn’s partner at SI.com, Andy Glockner, was also active this week. The resident master at crowd-sourcing his Twitter followers to develop interesting column ideas, he sought to answer the question of which of the major conferences was most likely to produce the 2013-14 national champion? Given that this isn’t the BCS and there’s a wider variety of talent diffused throughout more leagues in college basketball, Glockner writes that there was “absolutely zero consensus” to the answers (we’d have to imagine that “SEC” would carry three-quarters or more of the vote in college football). Breaking down the component parts of each conference viewed through the “title or bust” analysis, he ultimately settles on the Big Ten, SEC and ACC as the three leagues with the strongest possibilities. We’d have to agree — each of those conferences has at least two teams with national championship talent, and although coaching, seeding, injuries and a lot of luck has to do with who ends on on the crown in April, you’d want to hedge your bets as much as possible with teams carrying the most future pros.
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Morning Five: 07.18.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 18th, 2013

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  1. 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.
  2. While we’re on the subject of ESPN, the post-MLB All-Star Game hole in the calendar provides us with our annual opportunity to over-dramatize the strange mixture of sports and celebrity at the ESPYs. College basketball was once again well-represented, with two major awards among the few nominees. Louisville’s Rick Pitino received the ESPY for top coach/manager of the year, while everybody’s favorite underdog, Florida Gulf Coast, won the ESPY for the best upset of the year (over Georgetown). The full list is here, but the only other college basketball nominee was Trey Burke for best male college athlete (won by Johnny Manziel). Still, we’re more than willing to take a smidgen of credit for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, given this year to former Sportscenter anchor and Dickie V/Midnight Madness sidekick, Robin Roberts.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Some transfer/eligibility news from yesterday to finish off today’s M5. Former Kentucky problem child Ryan Harrow has 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.
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ATB: Crosstown Rivalry Plays Out With Minimal Fuss, The Pitino Family Tilt, and Texas\’ Misfortune…

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 20th, 2012

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Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. Normalcy Reigns In One Of College Hoops’ Best Rivalries. The organic hate developed as a historical byproduct of uninterrupted competition is what makes rivalry games hum. Those sentiments spilled out of bounds in last season’s rendition of the Crosstown Shootout, when Xavier and Cincinnati’s annual meeting erupted into a full-out brawl that led to multiple suspensions, a relocation of the series from campus gyms to a neutral site arena and a name change to diffuse violent tensions (Crosstown Classic). The repackaged form of the Crosstown whatever ensued Wednesday night, only without most of the protagonists from last year’s melee, and with each program in a completely different place than it was a year ago. This time around, Cincinnati – owners of the nation’s 6th-rated defense on a per-possession scale, a relentless backcourt trio and an undefeated record – had the upper hand; Xavier is still incorporating a host of young pieces and learning on the fly after losing five starters. The end result was pretty much what you might expect: Xavier mustered enough emotion and pride to hang around for most of the night, but was eventually outlasted by Mick Cronin’s team. The outcome was less important than the event itself. There were no punches thrown, no pre-game radio waves trashtalk, no nonsense in the postgame news conference. It was organically competitive basketball, with all the natural emotions of a rivalry contained to enhance, but not dominate, the actual game being played. The Crosstown Shootout is no more; the refurbished edition isn’t all that much different (the variations are cosmetic, much less inherently structural). And that’s good news.

Your Watercooler Moment. Father-Son Coaching Matchup Highlights Louisville-FIU.

The elder Pitino was all smiles after dispatching son Richard\'s FIU team (Photo credit: Getty Images)

The understudy didn’t have the manpower or the experience to spring the upset on his old man – not when Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals are playing some of the best basketball in the country, not when Peyton Siva connects on a career-high five three-pointers and sophomore Wayne Blackshear notches 18 points (also a career-high). This was an unfair fight from the start, both tactically and personnel-wise; the younger Pitino never really stood a chance. Louisville was expected to cruise to a win, and that’s exactly what happened. For Richard Pitino, this game wasn’t about making a statement by beating one of the nation’s best teams. It was about the younger Pitino getting his first real shot in the national spotlight, and despite the lopsided scoreline, there was nothing embarrassing about his first jab at the man that showed him the coaching ropes. Not all young coaches are instantaneously successful. The Brad Stevens’ and Shaka Smarts of the world are not how most coaches break into the profession. Richard Pitino has the bloodlines to be successful, and that’s as auspicious a natural advantage as any young coach could ask for. Who knows how long or how fruitful the younger Pitino’s career will be. As it stands, his development is an interesting storyline to keep tabs on. The longer he coaches and the more he learns, I suspect Richard Pitino to develop many of the same mannerisms and principles – the feet stomping, the sideline death stares, the trademark defense-first philosophy – as the future Hall of Famer who raised him.

Tonight\’s Quick Hits…

  • Signs Of Progress For Texas. The main story of Texas’ season thus far is the continued absence of point guard Myck Kabongo, which reached a climactic end Wednesday night with the Yahoo! Sports report that revealed sophomore point guard has been suspended for the season after lying to NCAA investigators. Another angle is the Longhorns’ youth, which is evident in large quantities all over the floor, albeit extremely talented. The undertold narrative of the Longhorns’ slow start is their remarkably stout defense, which ranks fourth in the country on a per-possession scale and first overall in effective field goal percentage. The Longhorns lived up to their statistical bona fides on the defensive end by stifling the one-dimensional UNC Tar Heels into 21-of-67 shooting, including 3-of-19 from beyond the arc. Throw in 15 points from sophomore forward Jonathan Holmes and 18 from freshman Cameron Ridley, and what you get is a dominating 18-point dismantling of Roy Williams’ team. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 12.18.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 18th, 2012

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  1.  Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim won his 900th game narrowly over Detroit last night and while the rest of the Internet is off celebrating his worthy and incredible milestone, the good folks over at Casual Hoya decided to celebrate the occasion in a much different way — by putting together an exhaustive list of all the issues and arrests involving the Syracuse basketball program since Boeheim has been in charge.  Of course every coach who has that many years under his belt is sure to have overseen his fair share of less-than-savory characters and many programs have similar legal issues, but it is still quite an impressive list of mischief, borderline criminal behavior, and outright criminal behavior displayed by the fine men who have worn the orange. I am sure plenty of folks from the righteous corners of the Internet will condemn a post of this nature in the wake of Boeheim’s big day, but in my opinion, the money he earns and his own candor in interviews make the head coach fair game for some excellent tongue-in-cheek ribbing like this. In fact, I wish we could see a list like this for every coach who has stayed with one program for more than two decades.
  2. Poor Kevin Ollie. The first-year Connecticut coach has almost no job security, a limited roster from a talent standpoint, and now he has to deal with the fallout of the crumbling of the Big East. This guy just can’t catch a break. When asked for his feelings on the sudden departures of the Catholic 7, Ollie basically said he didn’t have any, which is good, because worrying about conference realignment is not his job and he clearly has enough on his plate already. The Huskies are the clear losers in conference realignment, left for dead in the shell of the Big East with an unknown future, and as that situation grows murkier, the more you will hear calls for UConn athletic director Warde Manuel to give Ollie the job. Manuel seems set on waiting for a larger sample size of games before extending his rookie head coach, which is fine, but he just better hope that if Ollie isn’t the guy that he has someone else in mind, because selling a UConn job with stormy weather still ahead won’t be easy.
  3. This is a cool financial look at what’s ahead for members of the Catholic 7, involving a lot of rough math on whether these new schools will be able to stay afloat without the financial support of a football conference. Marquette, Villanova, and Providence were the only members of the seven to turn a profit from their basketball programs and concerns about NCAA Tournament units and TV deal revenues mean that the schools will need to find creative ways to make a buck or two from their hoops squads, which, as you might expect, spend a lot of money. There is a lot of good, in-depth information in this piece that the average fan might not be aware of, so be sure to read through the entire thing, even if it is quite lengthy.
  4. Tomorrow will be the first Crosstown Classic between intracity rivals Xavier and Cincinnati since last season’s infamous brawl, but while everyone in the media pretty much insists on using the brawl as their story peg, most of the players and coaches involved have moved on and are hoping that everyone else can do the same. Bearcats’ point guard Cashmere Wright‘s point about all the players actually involved in the brawl now gone is a fair one. Yancy Gates, Mark Lyons, Tu Holloway, and Octavius Ellis have all moved on and it seems unlikely that any of the current players will bring back any bad blood. These programs play tough, physical, hard-nosed basketball, and it would be a shame if that brand of basketball didn’t show up on Wednesday night for fear of inciting yet another fracas. The hope for everyone, fans included, is that the game can remain competitive and gritty without getting violent. If that happens, we will likely be treated to an excellent game and the first true test of the season for Mick Cronin’s undefeated Bearcats.
  5. Who is ready for a good ole fashioned family affair on Wednesday night when Rick Pitino and Louisville square off with son Richard Pitino and Florida International? You better believe that Pitino’s ever-quotable wife Joanne would have something to say on the matter (as a side note, Joanne Pitino is rapidly shattering records for most spousal mentions on a college basketball blog), and it sounds like everyone is predicting a Cardinals’ blowout. The younger Pitino inherited a depleted squad at FIU and is just beginning the rebuilding effort, with help from his overbearing father, who just can’t seem to stop coaching basketball even when his own team isn’t involved. This story doesn’t involve any earth-shattering information, but it is a chance for the entertaining Pitino family to get another chance to introduce themselves to the public and frankly, they don’t disappoint. I, for one, hope the elder Pitino never retires. College basketball just won’t be the same without him.
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Morning Five: 06.26.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 26th, 2012

  1. It’s NBA Draft week around the basketball world, the last blast of hoops hysteria of the year before we all wander off as wayward and lost souls into the hot summer months. We have a number of draft-related posts scheduled this week to supplement our ongoing series of draft profiles, but we started things off yesterday with a quick analysis of the unpredictability of the draft through the exercise of re-picking a few select drafts from the last decade. The moral to the story here is basically that it’s very difficult to project the careers of “can’t miss” prospects 10 years out, much less the marginal ones. A few of the notable names that scouts never saw coming were Stephen Jackson, Isaiah Thomas, DeAndre Jordan and Monta Ellis — CNNSI‘s Sam Amick takes a look at five collegians now projected as second rounders who he believes could exceed expectations in the long run. Stay tuned for a lot more NBA Draft coverage here on RTC this week.
  2. While on the subject of shaking hands with David Stern Thursday night, the presumptive #1 overall pick, Anthony Davis, is already making good use of his professional status. CNBC‘s Darren Rovell reported on Monday that The Unibrow has already trademarked the phrases “Fear the Brow” and “Raise the Brow,” ensuring that you’ll see brow-related t-shirts and other New Orleans Hornets attire on Bourbon Street in very short order. Davis said, “Me and my family decided to trademark it because it’s very unique,” and well, we can’t really argue with that.
  3. While on the subject of the Wildcats, Kentucky head coach John Calipari said on Monday during an SEC teleconference that he believes the additions of Missouri and Texas A&M to the league next season will result in the strongest SEC ever. Notwithstanding this classic bit of coachspeak — and several other head men, including Alabama’s Anthony Grant and Auburn’s Tony Barbee, were equally guilty of the hyperbole — SEC basketball has a long way to go before it becomes a top-level conference again. Adding Mizzou, a basketball-centric school coming off a great season, helps; adding Texas A&M could go either way depending on how things turn out with Billy Kennedy at the helm. The problem with the SEC is that the traditional football powers (outside of Florida) have too many years where they’re simply not competitive — we’re looking at you, LSU, Auburn, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee… Until a couple more programs beyond UK, UF, and Vanderbilt improve to a consistent Top 25 level, the league will remain behind the Big Ten, Big 12, the Big East (for now), and the future ACC in terms of basketball prowess.
  4. Not every amateur basketball player in America is prepping for the draft this week, although it may seem like it. At least one former collegian, FIU’s Nick Taylor, has been working out at the Minnesota Vikings mini-camp recently in an effort to earn a cornerback slot on the final 53-man roster. Taylor had a nondescript basketball career, averaging just under two points and two assists per game in three seasons with the Panthers, but the 5’9″, 165-pound waterbug who can run a sub-4.3 forty spent the last two years playing for the Fort Lauderdale Barracudas of the Stars Football League. After an All-Star year and a tryout where he exhibited his blazing speed in front of a gaggle of scouts, the Vikings signed Taylor to a non-guaranteed contract and brought him up north. He’s still a long shot to make the final roster, but Taylor is certainly undressing the concept that basketball players can only successfully transition to professional football as big and powerful tight ends.
  5. We’ll finish off with a thud, as another player nobody has ever heard of — former Baylor walk-on Richard Hurdis facing a federal extortion charge for allegedly threatening Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin, III, with “derogatory information.” We have no idea what dirt Hurd might have had (or thought he had) on the #2 overall pick in the NFL Draft, but unless it involved murder and mayhem… OK, we’ll stop right there. The larger point is that some of these things are completely out of Baylor’s control, but is there another school in the nation that has such strangely weird criminal enterprises attach to its athletes? It’s got to be some kind of karmic influence for making Ken Starr it’s president, right? Let’s go with that.
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Morning Five: 06.25.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 25th, 2012

  1. We’ve spent too much time on this site in the last five years lamenting a number of initiatives perpetrated against the game of college basketball in the name of dollar-chasing. The shamelessness of college administrators in discussing the welfare of student-athletes in one breath while simultaneously making decisions to further enrich themselves without regard for players and fans who put these folks in their positions of power continues to appall us. Interestingly, others outside our game (and our first cousin, college football) are starting to notice. Two articles published independently over the weekend get at the same point — that those who run college basketball have forgotten what made it so popular in the first place. John Supinie writes that “the integrity and traditions that made the game so great were lost in the money,” while Dick Jerardi says that “when your fans can’t follow what it is you are doing, you are in danger of losing those fans.” Both articles take different tacks but end up in the same place — college hoops cannot thrive if it remains the red-headed stepchild to college football and the NBA, a mere pawn to be tossed around in their pursuit of increasingly greater shares of the pie.
  2. While we’re in the mood for piling on this morning, a recent article about transfers by USA Today informed us that four of every 10 D-I recruits who enter as a freshman will have left that program by the end of his second year. That 40% attrition rate includes only two percent of players who leave halfway through their college careers to the NBA, meaning that fully 38% of incoming players are transferring or simply quitting school altogether by that time. Transfers have been a hot topic this offseason, with over 400 players already moving on to presumably sunnier situations and a couple of public (and thorny) battles between coaches and players over their right to head elsewhere. NCAA president Mark Emmert says that he plans on initiating a task force to study the issue, a step in the right direction, but we’re almost certain that any recommendations will benefit the coaches more than the players.
  3. One of those 400+ transfers is Connecticut’s Michael Bradley, as hard luck a player as you will find. A young man who grew up in an orphanage in Tennessee because he was estranged from his mother never saw action in his two years at UConn. He redshirted his freshman year and suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of Jim Calhoun’s rotation last year. After his grandmother in Chattanooga was recently diagnosed with cancer, Bradley decided to transfer to Western Kentucky to be closer to her, but over the weekend the NCAA denied Bradley’s waiver request to play immediately at WKU. This decision proves once again that the criteria for justified waivers does not appear to be consistently articulable, which would probably cut down on these requests if the NCAA would simply provide clearer guidelines.
  4. Prepare yourselves for three years of Pitino Bowl, as Louisville has agreed to play FIU for the next three seasons (two in Louisville; one in South Florida) now that Richard Pitino has settled in as the new head coach of the Panthers. Father/son matchups are often lopsided because of the superior position within the industry that the elder has over the younger, and this situation should be no different. But it’ll be interesting to see if Richard is more like a Pat Knight (Bob) or Tony Bennett (Dick) in his career, especially given that he’s starting out at a school that not even the coaching phenom Isiah Thomas could make work.
  5. A couple of key ACC players may not lace them up next season, depending on how the rest of the summer shakes out for each. NC State’s Lorenzo Brown, a rising junior who averaged a superb 13/6/5 RPG manning the point guard spot for Mark Gottfried’s surprising Wolfpack team, will have surgery on his right knee this week to determine what is causing him some discomfort. An early report suggested that he had a meniscus problem there, but that has not been confirmed, and there is no timetable for his return to action. On the other side of the Triangle, Duke’s Andre Dawkins appears to be redshirting next year, his senior season as a Blue Devil. Coach K announced that the redshirt was an official decision as of last Friday, but he also added that Dawkins needs time “to step away,” which might leave open the possibility that things could change if he chooses not to take that step. Dawkins contributed 8.4 PPG last season as a key member of Duke’s backcourt, but he disappeared down the stretch as Duke did likewise in the last several games of the season.
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Morning Five: 06.22.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 22nd, 2012

  1. Last night marked the end of another season of basketball as the NBA crowned its newest champion, the Miami Heat, and we now head into a four-month dry spell without competitive hoops (the Summer Olympics next month will provide a brief respite). While the evening definitely belonged to LeBron James’ coronation as one of the all-time greats, a pair of his role player teammates joined the short list of players to have won both a national title in college as well as a world title in the NBA. With the Heat’s victory, Kansas’ Mario Chalmers (2008) and Duke’s Shane Battier (2001) have now pulled off the twin feat, increasing the the total number of NBA champs with at least one NCAA champion in its regular rotation to an astonishing 71 percent. Battier in particular has long been considered a more valuable player than his numbers might suggest, but it’s no great secret to suggest that winning players tend to find their ways onto winning teams. Congratulations to Battier, Chalmers, James and the rest of the Miami Heat for their 2012 world championship.
  2. While on the subject of the NBA, it appears that ESPN analyst Jalen Roseis set to become the Gameday replacement for Hubert Davis next season. We’ve said this before, but the metamorphosis of Rose from Fab Five hothead to a solid ESPN analyst is nothing short of phenomenal. Unlike Davis and most of the Gameday crew, Rose isn’t afraid to mix it up a bit — Digger Phelps taking ridiculous positions for the sake of comedy notwithstanding — and could serve to enliven a group that has a tendency to act non-confrontational. From the same article, TBL suggests that former Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg will become a college basketball analyst on the WWL next season as well, with an eye toward replacing Phelps when he finally decides to retire.
  3. We expect to have another post on this topic up later today, but Matt Norlander at CBSSports.com writes that the APR rule which will keep 10 programs out of the postseason in 2012-13 could have a significant deleterious effect on the future of the game if schools don’t take it seriously. The key point is that as many as 60 schools could have been kept out of next year’s postseason if the APR floor of 930 was already in effect (as it will be in 2015). Some of those schools include names like Oklahoma State, Providence, Oregon, Auburn, Arkansas and LSU, and while none of those carry the cachet of Connecticut, the reality of it suggests that a one- or two-year drop in significant academic performance could in fact knock big-time programs such as UCLA or Michigan State out of the NCAA Tournament in some future year. The NCAA has already shown through its refusal of UConn’s appeal that it has no interest in providing exceptions, so this is something everyone involved with college basketball at the ground level will have to carefully monitor.
  4. Louisville announced on Thursday that former rising star forward Rakeem Buckleswill transfer to play for Rick Pitino’s son, Richard, at FIU for his final season. The hard-luck player has suffered a conga line of injuries after a promising freshman year in 2009-10 that ended with him going for 20/9 in an NCAA Tournament loss to California. His sophomore and junior seasons were both cut short by ACL injuries, and he is expected to miss the entire 2012-13 season recovering from his latest ligament tear. Louisville appears to be loaded at his position going into the next two seasons, so we’re sure that Buckles viewed this transfer as an opportunity to head closer to home and find some playing time in a comfortable situation to finish his career.
  5. In clearly one of the great disappointments of this offseason, West Virginia’s hirsute Deniz Kiliclihas decided to shave off his trademark mountain man beard. Citing the summer heat in Morgantown as the primary reason for his shearing, we hope that he allows for plenty of time to bring it back next fall. Right around October 15 is fine with us. Only 112 days now…

A Beardless Kilicli: The Horror, The Horror…

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Morning Five: 05.04.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 4th, 2012

  1. In just the last three days, the Atlantic 10 has added Butler, the Mountain West has eviscerated the WAC with its additions of San Jose State and Utah State, and now Conference USA has finished it off as a major conference by grabbing Louisiana Tech to go along with the A-10’s Charlotte and the Sun Belt’s North Texas and FIU. There will be a quiz on all of these moves in mid-August. What does this mean from a college basketball perspective? Probably not much. Neither Charlotte nor Louisiana Tech have been relevant in a long time, and although North Texas made the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and 2010, winning in the Sun Belt is less challenging than it will be dealing with UTEP, Tulsa, Southern Miss, and UAB in a revamped Conference USA.
  2. A little under two years ago we touched on an ESPN story about a high school basketball player named Jerry Joseph who may have actually been a 22-year old named Guerdwich Montimere. It was a bizarre story at the time, and it got only weirder as ultimately Joseph/Montimere was convicted and sent to prison for sexual assault on an underage high school student and tampering with government records. In a recent column for ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Wright Thompson attempted to connect all the dots of the saga in a meaningful way, putting a story behind the story of a wayward young man who no doubt got lost in the hype and fame of being the big man on campus. Great read.
  3. Illinois fans caught a glimpse into the mind of one of their incoming transfers when Sam McLaurin, a senior at Coastal Carolina who will take advantage of the one-year graduate school exception, announced (via Twitter, of course) “F— it im going to Illinois #illinination” on Thursday afternoon. McLaurin, a 6’10” power forward who averaged 10/8 last season, will provide some additional frontcourt depth in the wake of Meyers Leonard’s departure to the NBA. He later apologized for his choice of words (“Hey everyone sorry about my language last night. I was just extremely excited to be apart of #illinination”), but we doubt anyone from Waukegan to Carbondale will care much so long as he can bring his numbers every night next season.
  4. In one of the stupider bits of news to come out of our game this offseason (and there are plenty of candidates), Kentucky and Indiana have apparently decided to not renew its annual rivalry that dates back a half-century. The crux of the issue appears to be that UK wanted to move the series back to a rotating neutral site arrangement (likely splitting time between Indianapolis and Louisville, as it did from 1991-2005), while IU insisted on keeping the home-and-home series that had been in effect for the last seven years (and, of course, prior to 1991). If you read the tea leaves, and Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart suggests as much, it was John Calipari not “thrilled about going back to Bloomington” that appears to be driving this ridiculous decision. Look — we understand that a national championship coach typically gets what he wants when he wants it, but as Andy Glockner argues very well in this piece, that doesn’t mean that he’s right for wanting it. College basketball loses when rivalries like these end, and this is especially true now that IU under Tom Crean appears to finally be coming back around. Fix it.
  5. What’s this, a MAY version of Luke Winn‘s Power Rankings? That’s right, now that the NBA Draft deadline has passed and we have a better sense of where the top recruits are headed next season, Winn put together a list of 16 teams that mimics the RTC Top 25 (released Tuesday) at the very top, but has some significant differences with respect to where we ranked schools such as Syracuse, Michigan State, and Arizona. As always, you’ll learn quite a few things that you didn’t already know about people, places and things surrounding the game, so make sure to check it out before you head into the weekend.
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Morning Five: 04.25.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 25th, 2012

  1. Baylor’s Quincy Miller had a pretty good freshman season, but not good enough for him to believe he was ready for the NBA Draft after a single year in Waco. At least that was his decision two weeks ago, just prior to the NCAA’s draft entry deadline on April 10. Proving that such a deadline is in fact the complete and utter joke that nearly everyone already thinks, Miller on Tuesday reversed his decision prior to the NBA’s (the real) deadline this coming Sunday. He will become the tenth 1-and-done player who declared this offseason likely to be selected in the first round in June. The good news, of course, is that Scott Drew will now have additional time to prepare for life after Miller — somewhere down on Tobacco Road, an ACC coach or two must be very pleased about this development.
  2. Speaking of the NBA Draft and dovetailing with the incessant discussion of transfer players last week, FIU’s Dominique Ferguson also announced on Tuesday that he will head to the NBA in the wake of head coach Isiah Thomas’ firing at the school. According to Ferguson, who averaged 8/6 in his two seasons at the school, he preferred to stay in a basketball uniform in Miami but FIU refused to release him to any other institution. He felt this left him no choice other than to enter the professional ranks. We’d like to see a bit more evidence before completely buying his story here, but the power that schools hold over players in this manner is really just shy of unconscionable.
  3. Another ridiculous segue, but far be it from us to question someone’s veracity, especially someone as consistently open and transparent as new South Carolina head coach Frank Martin. In an AP report on Tuesday about how the fiery coach is handling Columbia in his first month on the job, he claims that there was no rift with the AD or other administrators leading to his departure from Kansas State. In the money quote, Martin said, “I’m just telling you, (Gamecocks AD) Eric Hyman put his arms around me and it was hard for me not to feel the passion that he had for building the men’s basketball program. I’ve never been through this before.” Mmmmkay.
  4. Indiana had quite the renaissance in the 2011-12 season, finally breaking through from one of its lowest periods in history to knock off several Top 5 teams in Bloomington and ride the momentum all the way to the Sweet Sixteen. Head coach Tom Crean intimated on Tuesday that IU may be bringing back one of its brightest stars to channel its glorious past with its highly anticipated future — former IU NPOY Calbert Cheaney may join Crean’s coaching staff as an associate after spending last season as its Director of Basketball Operations. This would be a nice promotion for the likable Cheaney, who could surely impart considerable wisdom on how to play with expectations given that the Hoosiers should be in everybody’s Top 5 themselves next year.
  5. Finally, the Cincinnati Reds welcomed national championship head coach John Calipari to its baseball game against the Giants Tuesday night, giving the loquacious coach a #1 jersey (pictured here) and displaying the Kentucky title trophy on the premises, but the gesture by the team based on the northern banks of the Ohio River (facing the Bluegrass State) was not without its detractors. Redleg Nation comprises a large geographic area that also includes the fan bases of Indiana, Louisville, Ohio State, Cincinnati, Xavier, Dayton, and several other Division I programs in addition to Kentucky, so some fans of those programs went on talk radio threatening to cancel their tickets with the baseball club. For what it’s worth, Calipari tossed a nice ball over to the catcher at home plate, as you can see below.

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Rick Pitino’s Massive Coaching Tree Adds Another Branch As Richard Becomes FIU’s Head Coach

Posted by EJacoby on April 17th, 2012

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

Florida International has never made any meaningful noise on the basketball court (one NCAA Tournament appearance in school history), yet the Golden Panthers continue to create plenty of buzz off of it. Over the weekend it was announced that Richard Pitino, the 29-year-old son of famed Louisville coach Rick Pitino, would be taking over as head coach at FIU. Richard Pitino was a Louisville assistant and replaces the recently fired Isiah Thomas, who of course is one of the NBA’s all-time great players as well as a former head coach and executive at the highest level in the NBA. Thomas’ buzzworthy hire did not equate to any success in three years with the program (26-65 record) so FIU will now give it a second shot with another big name. Pitino immediately becomes one of the youngest head coaches in Division I, taking up after his legendary father who got his start at Boston University at just 26 years old. Richard is just one of many Pitino assistants that have moved on to become head coaches, as we take a look at how widespread and successful the Rick Pitino coaching tree has become over the years.

Richard Pitino (Left) Looks to Continue Blossoming His Father's Enormous Coaching Tree (USA Today)

We start all the way back in 1985 with Pitino’s head coaching gig at Providence, the first of three schools he would eventually take to a Final Four. The 1987 Friars that advanced to the Final Four included three young assistants by the names of Stu Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy, and Herb Sendek. Jackson went on to become a head coach at Wisconsin and later for the New York Knicks, and he is now the Vice President of Basketball Operations for the NBA, one of the highest executive positions in the sport. Van Gundy, of course, also went on to become an NBA guy, coaching both the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets. Sendek, meanwhile, has become a longtime college coach with NC State and Arizona State, where he remains today. Sendek himself has helped groom some tremendous head coaches like Thad Matta, John Groce, Chris Mack, and Sean Miller. In addition to all of the coaches that sprung from the Providence years, Pitino also coached Billy Donovan, the starting point guard for the Friars at the time. Donovan has since gone on to win two National Championships for Florida with assistants-turned-coaches Anthony Grant and Shaka Smart, among others. Pitino’s three years at Providence produced an extensive history of coaching talent, and we are just getting started.

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Morning Five: 04.16.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 16th, 2012

  1. Even though there were a handful of players who could be considered potential early entry candidates after the April 10 soft deadline and before the April 29 hard deadline most of them were considered sure things to declare for the NBA Draft. Perhaps the most significant of those players who could have been realistically considered as being on the fence was Bradley Beal. On Friday, the Florida freshman ended any speculation as he announced that he would be declaring for the NBA Draft. Beal’s departure adds to the extra space in the once crowded Gator backcourt, but unlike some other individuals there really is no addition by subtraction as the Gator’s will miss Beal’s dynamic mix of talent. As for Beal, expect to see him gone in the first ten picks and more likely in the top five depending on what order teams are drafting in.
  2. The exodus from Storrs continued late last week as Alex Oriakhi announced that he would be transferring to Missouri from the imploding Connecticut program. Oriakhi, who will be able to play immediately next season for Missouri after Connecticut’s 2013 NCAA Tournament ban was upheld, will be part of an entirely different Tiger team than the one that you saw this season as a significant portion of the team graduated while they are bringing in a handful of talented newcomers. Oriakhi should be able to mitigate some of the problems that the Tigers had on the inside last season, but it will be up to Frank Haith to reinvent the team with its new pieces.
  3. With Trent Johnson headed to TCU, the administration at LSU did not waste much time finding his replacement as they hired Johnny Jones, the head coach at North Texas, to replace him. Although Jones was not LSU’s first choice he should appeal to many LSU fans as a former player and two Final Four appearances at the school (one as a player and another as an assistant under Dale Brown). Jones also lead North Texas to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances as a head coach. Jones does inherit a decent LSU team, but he also leaves behind a solid North Texas team including Tony Mitchell, who had stated his intent to come back to North Texas for his sophomore season, but that may change with a new coaching staff to play under next season.
  4. Florida International may not have had much success on the court recently, but they know how to move the needle with their coaching hires. After firing Isiah Thomas, the school has decided to name Richard Pitino as its next head coach. Richard, who is best known as the son of Rick and was acting as an assistant at Louisville, will be taking his first job as a head coach at the age of 29, which might seem young until you consider that his father got his start at the age of 26 at Boston University although that was a very different era. When Isiah left he claimed that the pieces were in place for the next coach to succeed so the onus on Richard now.
  5. It seems like every few months a rumor comes to life about Larry Brown taking over as the head coach at some destination whether it is in the NBA, college, or even high school. The latest rumor, and one that has been picking up a lot of steam, is that Brown might become the next head coach at Southern Methodist. On the surface it seems ludicrous having a Hall of Fame coach, one who has titles at both the NCAA and NBA levels and perhaps more importantly one who will be 72 before the season starts, take over at SMU, a school that lacks any recent basketball success. It is also a school that will be heading to the Big East in 2013. Given Brown’s age and his tendency to have relatively short stays, his coaching staff could be a big story and we have heard several prominent names mentioned as potential assistants. Still we are having a hard time getting our heads wrapped around Brown being the head coach at SMU and the likely media circus that would follow.
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