O26 Storylines: On Harvard, Atlantic 10, #dunkcity Again…

Posted by Adam Stillman on February 14th, 2014

We are a little more than four weeks away from Selection Sunday. And the bubble picture is as muddled as ever. Let’s check out this week’s O26 storylines:

Is Harvard in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament?

Is it possible Harvard might miss the NCAA Tournament? (Robert F. Worley)

Is it possible Harvard might miss the NCAA Tournament? (Robert F. Worley)

Harvard was basically penciled into the NCAA Tournament before the season began. If the Crimson weren’t able to secure an at-large bid, certainly they’d run away with the Ivy League. Right? Well, all of the sudden Harvard isn’t looking like such a sure thing. You can thank Yale and its shocking 74-67 win AT Harvard last Saturday for that. Now those two sit atop the Ivy League standings with a 5-1 conference record. Furthermore, Yale boasts a more favorable schedule the rest of the way. The Bulldogs close out the season with a combination of four home games and four road games, including the return home game with Harvard. The Crimson, on the other hand, hit the road for six of their final eight contests. Is it time to hit the panic button for Harvard? Not quite yet, but the Ivy favorite is making things much harder than they should be. It still wouldn’t be a surprise to see Harvard win the league by a few games and earn the conference’s automatic bid without much trouble. But this storyline definitely can’t be overlooked for now. Ken Pomeroy projects Harvard as the favorite in all eight of its games, and predicts the Crimson will win the league with a 9-3 final record. Pomeroy projects Yale as the favorite in five of its last eight games, predicting the Bulldogs will finish with a 10-4 conference mark. It would be a travesty to see such a talented team miss the Big Dance, but the possibility of that happening isn’t all that far-fetched.

Can VCU keep pace in the Atlantic 10 race?

Saint Louis is on the verge of running away with the A-10 regular-season title. The Billikens (9-0 in league play) host VCU (7-2 in league play) on Saturday with a chance to move three games ahead of the second-place Rams. That would be a lot of ground to make up with just six games left on the docket. SLU, the defending regular season and tournament champions, can go a long way toward a repeat with a win Saturday at a sold-out Chaifetz Arena. Sure, there’s a return game at VCU on March 1, the only game the Billikens aren’t favored to win the rest of the way, per Ken Pomeroy. And that includes a season-ending trip to Massachusetts. Pomeroy projects the Billikens to finish 14-2 to take the title, with VCU coming in second at 12-4. The Rams need to steal a win Saturday, otherwise it’s looking like two straight A-10 titles for SLU. For more insight on Saturday’s game, read Tommy Lemoine’s excellent preview.

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AAC M5: 12.20.13 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 20th, 2013


  1. We have yet to write about what will undoubtedly be the biggest story that South Florida is involved in all season, but now seems like as good a time as any. If you are a college basketball fan or just watch a lot of SportsCenter, you probably already know what happened. On Tuesday night South Florida beat Florida Gulf Coast in overtime when officials ruled that the Eagles’ Chase Fieler had possessed the ball before his last-second shot dropped, despite the fact that replays clearly showed Fieler releasing his shot before the red backboard light went on. The NCAA rule book states that once a player “possesses” the ball with 0.3 seconds or fewer remaining on the clock, the play is over, which is different from the NBA’s rule of 0.2 seconds. Fieler pretty much proved that this rule needs to be changed downward, but don’t blame the referees, they were doing their jobs correctly. Instead blame the NCAA rules committee, which, as CBSSports.com points out, won’t be able to change this rule until at least the 2015-16 season. That said, why does the NCAA even have this rule on the books — couldn’t the referees just rely on instant replay to see if he got the shot off in time? We are AAC bloggers, so we have an interest in seeing the teams in the conference win more than they lose, but even we can admit that the Eagles got jobbed on this one. The Bulls are now 8-2 and keep winning, but they didn’t inspire much confidence last night in a three-point victory over 2-9 Florida A&M.
  2. SMU won’t officially begin moving into the newly renovated Moody Coliseum until the team returns home to play Connecticut in early January, but this is nice timing for a Mustangs squad that will be looking to generate excitement for the start of conference play. The uneven play of conference members has only served to bolster opinion of SMU’s dark horse status, but they first need to prove they can beat a team that’s better than Texas A&M. The Mustangs plunked down $47 million for this new arena and it is a big reason why the program appears to be on the upswing and looking to move up in the world. With no major college basketball teams in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, one gets the sense that this is a fan base ready to swell if the the Mustangs win, so now it is on the team and go out and earn that local admiration.
  3. Former Rutgers head coach Kevin Bannon probably thought he was flying off the radar until the Mike Rice scandal broke and all of sudden his name was back in the news as a point of reference. He is now back in the news again, although this time under much friendlier circumstances. This story is a few days old, but The Star-Ledger went down memory lane to a time when men were men and coaches held strip free-throwing shooting contests. For the most part, the now infamous Bannon seems to have mellowed out and is even the Executive Director of the Mercer County Parks Commission. He admits he was “pretty intense” as a coach, which is probably an understatement given the circumstances, but he and his family seem to be at peace with their lives now. This story doesn’t really have a point, I just felt like pointing out that strip free-throw shooting contests have got to be one of the weirdest ways anyone has been fired, because I had nearly forgotten about the strange story altogether.
  4. Although he will remain trapped behind Chris Jones at the point guard position this season, it is only a good thing for Louisville that freshman point guard Terry Rozier is starting to get his sea legs. The 6’1″ Rozier was a beast on the boards against an inferior Missouri State team, corralling eight rebounds and acting as a key contributor in the Cardinals’ win. It would be nice if Rozier was eight inches taller and played power forward, because Louisville is already plenty deep in the backcourt this year. But regardless of where he plays, Rozier’s athleticism will be a major asset for Rick Pitino this year and into the future.
  5. People equate Joe Lunardi‘s name with bracketology, but people outside of the Northeast rarely know that he is also something of a college basketball staple in Philadelphia, where he does radio commentary for Saint Joseph’s. He dropped some quick truth bombs recently when he was asked about Temple, telling Philly.com that the Owls “weakened its best sport, basketball, to a degree, to once again feed a football beast that has been largely unloved for 30 years.” I won’t pretend I understand the ins and outs of what is going on at Temple and its athletic department, but I know enough and trust Lunardi enough to be ticked off by what he is saying. Why does Temple care so much about football? They will never be better than mediocre; they play in a terrible conference; and theywill never be worth all the money the school has sunk into it. Lunardi even points out that the Owls have a golden opportunity to return to basketball glory in a conference with arguably less talent (especially next year), but a much higher profile. Let’s be smart about this and focus on that instead here, guys.
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AAC M5: 12.17.13 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 17th, 2013


  1. Tonight is a big one for the AAC as two of the name-brand programs that will actually still be in the conference next season are playing in New York as part of the Jimmy V Classic. There are few stages at this point in the season that are bigger than the Jimmy V Classic and to represent half of this year’s field is a big deal. Both games are big tests for Memphis and Cincinnati but there is one team with a lot more at stake at Madison Square Garden — Mick Cronin’s Bearcats. Cincinnati hasn’t beaten anybody worth talking about and they were mildly embarrassed in the Crosstown Classic by Xavier over the weekend. We have harped on the Bearcats’ offensive struggles, but perhaps surprisingly, the team’s biggest issue is an apparent lack of toughness. I am still putting the finishing touches on my white paper Advanced Methods of Quantifying Toughness, so it’s easier to just say they weren’t great on either end of the floor against the Musketeers. Still, toughness is ostensibly supposed to be one of the Bearcats’ hallmark competencies and they didn’t do a great job on the glass or defending the three-point line, so it would probably help if they toughened up in those areas.
  2. As a college basketball fan, it would have been awesome to see Florida’s much-hyped freshman Chris Walker suit up for the Gators tonight, but I bet Memphis fans are breathing a sigh of relief. Well okay, so it wasn’t likely that Walker was going to light the world on fire, but Memphis only plays two real big men in Austin Nichols and Shaq Goodwin (and Florida already had a size and athleticism advantage to begin with). The game will obviously be competitive, but it will be especially interesting to see how the personnel decisions on both sides shake out. Memphis will want to play three guards and the Gators will probably want to rotate Casey Prather and Dorian Finney-Smith at small forward — both of whom are too big and athletic for the Tigers’ guards. Josh Pastner is going to have to bring his A-Game to face a coach as good as Billy Donovan, and it will be fun to watch them match wits tonight.
  3. Although it will have no effect on the 2013-14 season, the news of UConn guard Rodney Purvis‘ shoulder surgery still made headlines on a slow news day. Purvis transferred from North Carolina State and is sitting out this year anyway, so it makes sense to fix a torn labrum in his left shoulder now so he can be ready for next season. I know… fascinating stuff. But it gives us an excuse to talk about Purvis, a former McDonald’s All-American who started 23 games as a freshman for the Wolfpack. He transferred without much fanfare but he is an athletic 6’4″, 200-pounder, who scored in double figures in 12 games last season. Granted, most of those games came before conference play and he was a bit more inconsistent as the competition improved, but he will be expected to take on the lion’s share of the load Shabazz Napier leaves behind. I don’t really know how what I just wrote has anything to do with his impending surgery, but that’s fine. Just log those few sentences away for now and call me out when I self-plagiarize for an impact transfer preview for next season.
  4. The conference’s banner program will also be in action tonight as Louisville hosts Missouri State. The Bears aren’t the same mid-major headache they once were, but they are 8-1 on the season and their only loss was on a neutral floor to Virginia, so they will be dangerous. Head coach Rick Pitino is especially worried about their potent three-point shooting ability, and while he is overstating their offensive brilliance a bit, he would be wise to make sure his team defends the three-point line. In the end, there is little chance that Missouri State has enough defensive ability to hang with the Cardinals on the road, even if Louisville is still missing scoring point guard Chris Jones. The bottom line is that the Bears will probably make it interesting in the first half but Louisville has more than enough horses to pull away in the second 20 minutes.
  5. The South Florida Bulls play host to Dunk City tonight as Brett Comer, Chase Fieler and the rest of the Florida Gulf Coast will be in town for an intrastate match-up. Although they are probably the less recognizable team, the Bulls will play as the favorites as the Eagles are struggling to recapture the magic from last season and have lost three of their last four games. Of course they are still the more compelling storyline for ESPN.com and thus Myron Medcalf wrote a worthy profile of life after last season’s NCAA Tournament run that is worth reading. It’s not AAC news necessarily… or like …at all. But we are equal-opportunity providers and when we see a good story with some connection to the league, you better believe we are posting it.
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Where 2013-14 Happens: Reason #3 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 7th, 2013


Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2013-14 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. For the next three weeks, you’ll get two hits of excitement each weekday. We’ve captured what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. To see the entire released series so far, click here.

#3 – Where Dunk City Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-12, and 2012-13 preseasons.

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Morning Five: 10.22.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 22nd, 2013


  1. It will have a bigger effect on the college football landscape than the college basketball landscape, but we will be interested to see what kind of punishment (if any) the NCAA hands down to Miami later today. It has been over two years since Yahoo! released what was considered a bombshell report at the time detailing how convicted Ponzi scheme artist Nevin Shapiro reportedly provided Miami athletes (more football than basketball) with impermissible benefits. The most notable reported violation from the basketball side of things was $10,000 that he reportedly provided to steer DeQuan Jones to the school (Jones had to sit 10 games as a result) while the football program has self-imposed numerous penalties including bowl bans the past two seasons. Over the past two years the story has largely been eclipsed by bigger college program controversies (most notably Penn State) and numerous missteps by the NCAA’s investigators. Given the self-imposed penalties and the NCAA’s poor handling of the investigation we would be surprised if the NCAA hands down any more substantial penalties.
  2. Dunk City was already going to have a tough time living up to the exceedingly high expectations as the result of last season’s Sweet 16 run even considering they are doing so with a new head coach. Now that task will be even tougher as they will start the season without Eric McKnight, their starting center from last season, after he was suspended for the first six games of this season for violating an undisclosed team/school policy. McKnight averaged 6.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season while splitting time, but was expected to have a bigger role this year. This length of the suspension is particularly unfortunate for McKnight as in addition to missing the opener against Nebraska he will also miss a game at North Carolina State, which would have served as a homecoming game for him.
  3. We are always amazed when we hear about big-time recruits still waiting on word regarding their eligibility with the season approaching. Obviously there are times when there need to be investigations into amateur status (see the Shabazz Muhammad fiasco last season), but most cases revolve around academic eligibility. The latest example of this is happening at West Virginia where they are awaiting word on the NCAA’s decision on the eligibility of Elijah Macon. Macon, a 6’8″ forward who was a top-100 recruit, spent last year at a prep school, but still might only be a partial qualifier. If he is deemed to be a partial qualifier, he would not be able to practice until next semester and would not be able to play until the 2014-15 season. It should be noted that Macon is still dealing with a wrist injury and would not be able to play now anyways so the NCAA’ s ruling might not even affect the Mountaineers plans for this season.
  4. It is not often that we get to see tweaks being made to a computer rating system so we are interested to see how the latest changes in Ken Pomeroy’s ranking algorithm will affect some of the more questionable rankings we have seen in his system. According to Pomeroy, the changes will essentially give greater weight to big upsets and less weight to expected blowouts. The few examples that he offers in his post (big jumps for mid-majors that eventually made deep NCAA Tournament runs and a drop for his beloved Wisconsin team) might provide some clue. If you are interested in seeing how this affected his analysis on a larger scale (and have a lot of free time on your hands), his entire database has been updated to reflect his new formula.
  5. Speaking of having a lot of time on your hands, Syracuse.com put together a game-by-game database of every Syracuse game since 1900. We are assuming this was the task of some poor intern who had the unenviable task of cataloging 2,709 Syracuse basketball games. This is not the first massive database that we have seen, but it might be the first that is so easily searchable. The one catch with the database is that it lacks box scores, which is understandable for many of the early games, but should not be that hard to do for games in the past 40 years (perhaps the next group of interns can take care of that). Still it is worth checking out if you have some time to kill today.
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Morning Five: 07.18.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 18th, 2013


  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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Morning Five: 05.10.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 10th, 2013


  1. In yesterday’s M5, we linked to an LA Times article exploring how new USC head coach Andy Enfield is taking to his new environs in Hollywood. What’s been forgotten amid all the buzz surrounding Enfield is the school that allowed him to become a household name in the first place — Florida Gulf Coast. According to the Fort Myers (FL) News-Press, new head coach Joe Dooley has been adjusting to the job through a whirlwind of recruiting trips, a national search for an assistant coach, and getting to know his returning players. One interesting idea put forth in the article is that Dooley appears to be looking at graduating seniors with another year of eligibility as a quick solution to gather some quick elite-level talent. It’s not a bad thought, especially considering that the brand recognition of FGCU is likely to give the program a number of marquee non-conference games next season, a nice selling point for players at bigger schools who might be looking to trade down for one year.
  2. Mike DeCourcy is back with his Starting Five column this week, and he took some time out from his trip to the British Isles to tackle several interesting subjects: notably, Andrew Wiggins, Andy Enfield, and our favorite, RTCing. On the subject of Wiggins and where he thinks he’s headed (or should head) next season, he couldn’t have been more politically savvy, writing 200 words on the “prediction” without actually answering his own question! With respect to Enfield, he gives the new USC head coach a puncher’s chance at making Trojans basketball a hot ticket, but we’re in agreement with him that the focus of the school on football makes it a very tough place to become truly relevant. Finally, he also attacks the practice of RTCing as a “massive potential liability,” and of course he’s right on that point — but it’s also incredibly fun for the students involved, and love it or hate it — ahem, we fall in the love category — it’s one of the few unique traditions that college basketball can claim as its very own, and we hope that it remains part of that fabric of the sport for as long as we’re around.
  3. Yesterday’s transfer news includes a couple of good players looking to take advantage of the graduate exception to play their final season immediately at their new location. Florida State forward Terrence Shannon announced that he will enroll at VCU for his last campaign, giving Shaka Smart’s already-talented Rams a big and athletic post player who can team up with Juvonte Reddic and Treveon Graham in an outstanding frontcourt next season. Out west, Arizona State’s Evan Gordon has been granted his release and is rumored to be considering a transfer closer to his home in Indiana for his last season. The obvious choice for Gordon would be Tom Crean’s Hoosiers, given that older brother Eric played in Bloomington a few years ago, and the personnel losses that IU faces this offseason. As players around the country move toward graduation and recognize the immediate value of this exception, we expect to see quite a few more of these free agency situations before the month is out. Somewhere up in Wisconsin, Bo Ryan just kicked his dog.
  4. One of the best movies of all-time is the documentary Hoop Dreams, a Chicago prep basketball saga that follows the high school careers of William Gates and Arthur Agee through their many ups and downs. Both Gates and Agee have reached middle age by now, but they remain quasi-celebrities by virtue of their affiliation with the movie and the raw reality of the stories they told. The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg tells the story of William Gates, Jr., Gates’ son, who as a high school senior at Samuel Clemens High School in San Antonio, just recently accepted a scholarship offer to play Division I basketball at Furman. Anyone who struggled with the disappointments that the elder Gates suffered after blowing out his knee in Chicago two decades ago has to love this story of a family’s redemption. Great piece of work here.
  5. Finally, in a sad testimony of just how far the industry of journalism has fallen (and the end seemingly nowhere in sight), the New York Daily News laid off longtime college basketball scribe Dick “Hoops” Weiss. A mentor to many in the business and a true gentleman admired by everyone privileged to have met him at MSG or one of his 40+ trips to the NCAA Tournament, we surely hope that he will find a comfortable landing spot somewhere else. It’s a shame that someone so influential to the game of college basketball for nearly a half-century can be thrown out like yesterday’s news, but as we’ve said many times before, the modern era of reporting and sports writing seemingly will not stop itself in its vulgar race to the very bottom.
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Morning Five: 04.18.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 18th, 2013


  1. As we mentioned yesterday Marcus Smart announced that he would return to Oklahoma State and now he will have some company as Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown also announced that they will be returning to Stillwater. We has won’t get into the debate about whether or not Smart should have left because every writer has either chimed in for it, against it, or (our personal favorite) railed against those who were for it or against it. Although they did not rise from a stage in a ridiculous ceremony held in Miami three summers ago it should be cause for celebration as the Cowboys are now legitimate Big 12 contenders. We still would not bet against Bill Self, but the Big 12 race just got a lot more interesting.
  2. The mood in Ann Arbor was not quite as festive, but the decision by Tim Hardaway Jr. to leave Michigan a year early was expected by many. We are not completely sold on Hardaway Jr. ever becoming a NBA starter, but he certainly has the requisite physical skills and a good enough outside shot that he will get some looks from NBA teams. One of the more interesting things about his game is how little it has progressed (at least in terms of his statistics) over his three years at Michigan. We don’t normally advocate players leaving school early unless they think they are guaranteed a NBA roster spot (read: are assured of being a first round pick), but Hardaway Jr. has not shown as much progression from one season to the next as you would hope and this year’s class is weak (and his family should be financially secure) so we think it is a reasonable decision.
  3. If Hardaway Jr or any other Michigan players need any advice they can always turn to team captain Josh Bartelstein, the son of NBA agent Mark Bartelstein who has a fairly impressive list of clients, Based on the advice that Josh offered for the article it sounds like he would be a pretty good place for these players to start. We are sure that plenty of other schools have alumni that offer advice to players about whether or not they should or should not go, but probably very few are able to do so through current players. It will be interesting to see if the Michigan players decide to sign with Josh’s father.
  4. Florida Gulf Coast has had one of the more unique coaching searches for a mid-major given the sudden popularity of “Dunk City”, which the city is still calling itself in press releases. Yesterday the school announced that Kansas assistant coach Joe Dooley would be the school’s head coach. Dooley may not be the huge name that some people thought the school could get, but realistically an assistant at one of the top programs in the country who also has head coaching experience (with a winning record) is a solid get for a school that most people did not know existed two months ago. Dooley has a reputation as a great recruiter although you can argue that being at Kansas helps a lot in doing that, but he should have some advantages (location and a style of play that appeals to recruits if he chooses to keep it) that could help him be successful in his new job.
  5. Yesterday Cincinnati announced that it would be extending Mick Cronin‘s contract, which should not be a surprise, but we have to say we are somewhat surprised by the length of the extension: one year with the possibility of three more years. Cronin, who already has four years left on his contact, can have the extension go from one year to three years if the Bearcats in either of the next two years. Cronin certainly is deserving of an extension given his team’s performance, but we have to wonder why the school would give him such a short extension with the understanding it is planning on keeping him for at least five more years. We just don’t see the point in adding on one year at this point.
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Forget Dunk City, Andy Enfield Is Off to a Great Start at USC

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 17th, 2013

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

For all the high-flying showmanship and unexpected brilliance of Florida Gulf Coast’s NCAA Tournament run, and the commensurately growing coaching legend of Eagles head man Andy Enfield, there were skeptics, and most of those skeptics brought forth the same boring but altogether legitimate grievance. Are we really supposed to believe a one-week wonder from Fort Myers, Florida has all of a sudden, by virtue of a fluky Cinderella run, morphed into a prime candidate for a high-profile power conference job? Who made Enfield the next great on-court tactician, something more than a laissez faire personality who unleashed a group of young and brash and under-recruited athletes on an unsuspecting NCAA Tournament? Wasn’t Dunk City more about Brett Comer and company than Enfield himself?

If there are any misgivings about USC hiring Enfield, he's on the right track toward proving why the Trojans made the right choice (Getty Images).

If there are any misgivings about USC hiring Enfield, he’s on the right track toward proving why the Trojans made the right choice (Getty Images).

It is easy to see how Enfield could get tabbed with the “one-week wonder” label. The NCAA Tournament can accomplish many things. One of the most timelessly pervasive is the elevation of otherwise lesser-known coaches into consideration for more prominent jobs. Steve Alford’s No. 3 seed New Mexico lost to Harvard in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament; UCLA paved the way (forcing Alford to renege on his 10-year contract extension almost immediately) for his arrival. Florida Gulf Coast beat Georgetown and San Diego State; Enfield got a pay raise, a basketball program with promise (if not actual historical success) and a new California lifestyle to boot. March is a magical time.

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Wrapping Up the 2012-13 Season: The 10 Biggest Stories

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 12th, 2013

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

The awesomeness of the national title game almost makes you wish the season had another five months of games to offer us. It doesn’t, of course, which means it’s about time we start glaring into the blank expanse of another long offseason. But before we move ahead, before we start counting down the months, weeks and days until tip-off 2013 (Midnight Madness!), let us go back and review the stories that defined the 2012-13 season. I’m talking about the headlines with the most resounding impact – not always the rosiest or most enjoyable developments. That means good and bad, but hopefully more good. If you kept a pulse on the game this year, the following tropes will strike a familiar note, positive or otherwise; if not, then where exactly have you been since November? In the interest of not dragging out this preamble, let’s turn to the matter at hand and count off 10 of the 2012-13 season’s biggest storylines.

(* in no particular order)

Kentucky. The domination and instant stardom of Kentucky circa 2012 had the poll voters convinced: the Wildcats had perpetually solved the one-and-done riddle, and everything that happened during that Anthony Davis-led title season would become something like a yearly occurrence for John Calipari’s team. Calipari would recruit the best players, mold them into a national champion-caliber outfit, and repeat the whole process again the next year. Clockwork. So Kentucky entered the reason ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll. This seemed like a reasonably fair assessment at the time; another loaded recruiting class, the residual winning momentum of the previous season, a once-recruiter turned excellent head coach who seemed to have this recruit, develop and draft thing figured out was evidence enough that the Wildcats would turn in another deep-Tournament run with the same freshmen-lead constitution that had brought the BBN so many good memories during the first few years of Calipari’s tenure. Kentucky needed to get to the Tournament first, and as the season wore on and the flaws of UK’s roster construction – almost zero experience to speak of, the absence of a true leader, the realization that not all highly-recruited freshmen are Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – became evidently obvious, reality sunk in: Kentucky wasn’t going to make it.

One year after winning a national title, Kentucky missed out on the NCAA Tournament (Getty Images).

One year after winning a national title, Kentucky missed out on the NCAA Tournament (Getty Images).

A season-ending ACL injury to star center Nerlens Noel in February doomed the Wildcats’ chances, but the speculation hung right up until Selection Sunday, and when the Wildcats were passed over by the likes of Middle Tennessee, La Salle and Saint Mary’s, the only question remaining (a minor one, to be sure) was how motivated John Calipari’s team would be in a prospective NIT matchup at eight-seed Robert Morris. Yes, Kentucky, college hoops royalty at its purest, was being asked to finish its season on the road in Moon Township, PA., Calipari’s home town. And yes, Kentucky fell to the Colonials, prompting a rare NIT court storm from a packed Charles L. Sewall Center, a fitting end to a season that never lived up to the one preceding it. The backdrop to UK’s sudden plunge was that Calipari, seemingly undeterred by the chaos of the regular season, was assembling a recruiting class for the ages, built on six five-star commitments and still waiting word on the player many consider to be the best high school product since LeBron James, Andrew Wiggins. The BBN will be back in 2013, rest assured, but their dramatic fall from grace this year is not lost.

The Big Ten Was Awesome. We began the season with the highest of expectations about the Big Ten. Five of its teams (Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin) began the season in the top 25, Indiana was a unanimous pick for preseason No. 1 and the top-to-bottom depth, just as much as the upper-tier quality, were huge selling points for a league many billed to not only outclass every other major conference this season, but also go down as one of the most dominant versions of any league in recent memory. The Big Ten didn’t disappoint us. Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin waged intense wars in blaring campus gyms on a weekly basis, shocking upsets were sprung (Penn State over Michigan, Northwestern over Minnesota, Wisconsin at Indiana, etc.) and the league grew to corner the market on the most exciting brand of high-powered, tense, must-watch hoops in the country. It was good from start to finish, all the way up to the NCAA Tournament, where four teams survived the first weekend to land a spot in each of the four regional sites.

In the end, only one made it to the Final Four – ironically, of the four Big Ten teams left standing, Michigan was probably the biggest surprise of them all; they were widely pegged to lost their round-of-32 bout with VCU – and after fending off a nightmarish Syracuse 2-3 zone no one else had managed to decode during Tournament play, the Wolverines lost a close but thrilling national championship game. The lasting memory from the 2012 Big Ten, beyond all the consistent regular season drama and Victor Oladipo’s star turn and Trey Burke’s brilliance and Wisconsin’s remarkable year-to-year consistency, will be Spike Albrecht – for the sheer fact that Albrecht, on the last and most important date of the season, not only scored an unfathomable 17 points in 16 minutes while NPOY-sweeping Burke, hit with two early fouls, was fixed to the bench. It was awesome because Albrecht followed up his once-in-a-lifetime night by milking every last drip of his newfound celebrity: Spike tweeted at international modeling icon Kate Upton after learning of Upton’s attendance at the national championship game. Like I said, Big Ten: Awesome. There’s no confusion here.

Officiating Controversies. There is no escaping one lamentable truism about the 2012-13 season: the referees were not very good. Overall, on a composite game-by-game measure, the quality and consistency of officiating was rather low. Even if that’s just an arbitrary and fuzzy subjective measure, I can take it one step further. Just off the top of my head, I can point out three calls that directly affected the outcomes of important game. The first happened in Colorado’s January 3 road game at Arizona. The Buffaloes took the No. 3 Wildcats to the wire, and on the final possession, with the game knotted at 83, Colorado reserve guard Sabatino Chen banked in a wild three at the buzzer. GIFS and close-ups slowly made the rounds on Twitter, and most every angle confirmed what the real-time game tape appeared to say: Chen’s shot was good. The zebras thought otherwise – the shot was discounted. We later learned that standard definition replay monitors (the Pac 12 doesn’t use HD screens as a cost-saving measure) may have impaired the referees’ ability to clearly determine whether Chen’s shot went off before the buzzer. Like, Really? Incident No. 2: Kansas’ road win at Iowa State, wherein guard Elijah Johnson’s drive into Cyclones forward Georges Niang, resulting in an objectively false block call, actually merited an independent review from the Big 12 conference. Or, even better, we can talk about the national championship game, where Trey Burke’s perfectly clean block on Peyton Siva with just over five minutes remaining put the game seemingly out of reach for the Wolverines.


I’ve never felt comfortable pinning the outcomes of games entirely on the backs of officials; teams decide the games, referees impartially monitor the proceedings and anything that gets in the way is but another challenge in a game full of them. Everything evens out in the end, on balance. But then you get calls like Burke’s block and Niang’s blocking foul and the countless gaffes I failed to mention above, and it gets to a point where the competence and on-sight decision making of the most important third-party in sports is called into serious question. The Ed Rush Pac-12 officiating scandal only added more stink to the skeptical aura surrounding the entire profession. Officials are going to make mistakes. Judgments will be misguided. The human element of the game is not infallible. True. True. True. When the neutrality of those officials becomes a topic of debate, and we can’t wholeheartedly confide in those officials to respect the integrity of the game, the problem transcends mere block-charge minutiae or ticky-tack holding calls. The whole premise of a level playing field in college athletics is thrown into sharp scrutiny.

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