Ranking the Mountain West Coaches

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 30th, 2014

Any time you get around to comparing one coach to another, it’s a shaky situation. Isn’t the real decision about who is the better coach decided on the court? Sure, one coach may have more talent than another, but then again, isn’t pulling in talent part of the job description? So, prior to unveiling my rankings of the coaches in the Mountain West, lets offer up some criteria. For the most part, recruiting is excluded from this analysis. The question that we’ll attempt to answer instead is this: Pick any random team in the country — you don’t know its roster or its strengths and weaknesses — which Mountain West coach would give you the best chance over this and the next couple of seasons to get the most out of those players and leave the program in the best possible place at the end?

Well, here’s one man’s take, feel free to disagree.

Steve Fisher, San Diego State

The Dean Of Mountain West Coaches, Steve Fisher Is Among The Best In The Nation. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  1. Steve Fisher, San Diego State – The results speak for themselves. Not only are the Aztecs the best team in the conference this year, Fisher’s done the most unbelievable job of building a program in the conference. Seriously, his track record at SDSU may not deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as elite program-builders with national titles under their belts like Lute Olson and Jim Calhoun, but this trajectory is very, very close. Put it this way: There’s one sure-fire Hall-of-Famer in this conference and it is this man. He’s head and shoulders above the rest. The knock on him when he was at Michigan was that he could recruit well but wasn’t much of a teacher or a tactician. And earlier in his career at San Diego State, he struggled with some end-game scenarios (the 2006 NCAA Tournament First Round loss to Indiana still upsets me). But these days, his record in unimpeachable. He gets his players to improve from one season to the next and throughout their careers. Even while bringing in solid talent, he gets his team to exceed expectations. The team that he puts on the court is something that his supportive community can be proud of. Not only is Fisher far and away the best coach in the Mountain West, he’s on the very short list of the best in the nation. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 14th, 2014

Go home Mountain West, you’re drunk! How else to explain looking at the standings two weeks in and seeing Nevada – they of the eight non-conference losses, including to such luminaries as Pacific, Cal State Bakersfield, Morehead State, and New Orleans – alone atop the conference standings? How about Boise State and UNLV, two teams expected to contend for NCAA Tournament bids prior to the season, sitting back at 1-2? How about the worst team in the conference, San Jose State, giving New Mexico everything the Lobos can handle? How about the conference, home of terrific home court advantages up and down the West, sporting just a combined 10-9 record in league play so far? How about a San Diego State team in a rebuilding year with a work-in-progress offense carrying the banner for the conference with a top 15 ranking in the most recent RTC Top 25? Face it. Not a lot in this conference makes a ton of sense this year. And it is fascinating.

Deonte Burton Has Led A Wolf Pack Resurgence In Conference Play (US Presswire)

Deonte Burton Has Led A Wolf Pack Resurgence In Conference Play. (US Presswire)

Team of the Week

Nevada – This team was – not to put too fine a point on it – awful in the non-conference. They didn’t share they ball, they couldn’t rebound, they couldn’t defend. Less patient athletic directors may have begun their next coaching searches before Christmas. Now, while we’ve still no reason to suspect that the Wolf Pack are actually going to challenge for the conference title, much less an NCAA Tournament bid, these guys have turned into a real team. You actually want to find a way to watch them just to see what’s going on. They’ve got an NBA talent in Deonte Burton; they’ve got newcomer A.J. West providing some toughness up front; and they’ve got a handful of talented ancillary parts. And with sophomore Marqueze Coleman now back from injury, they’re starting to get back to whole. And – get this – they’re actually allowing less than a point per possession in four conference games. Maybe you can believe in this team, at least for a little while.

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Checking in On… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 8th, 2014

After the slowdown around the holidays, the Mountain West is back in full swing. Conference play is underway; everybody has played at least one game against a conference opponent; and San Diego State ended non-conference play on a big high, scoring a thoroughly impressive win at Kansas over the weekend. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s jump right in, after recognizing that right now we have Air Force and Nevada – two teams we have been making fun of all season – tied atop the conference standings with 2-0 records.

Team of the Week

Behind Player Of The Week Xavier Thames, The Aztecs Are Outperforming Their Expectations (Kent Horner, Getty Images)

Behind Player Of The Week Xavier Thames, The Aztecs Are Outperforming Their Expectations (Kent Horner, Getty Images)

San Diego State – The Aztecs got conference play underway well by going on the road to Colorado State, getting a good early start, and then maintaining a solid lead the rest of the way. Then on Sunday, they capped off a dream day for San Diego sports fans, backing up the Chargers’ playoff win with a win of their own at Allen Fieldhouse. They’re not a perfect team, but this squad likes each other, works exceedingly well together, and Steve Fisher is getting every last drop out of it in what is turning out to be yet another masterful coaching job. While we maybe have been a step behind on fully believing in this team, those days are over; the Aztecs are the clear favorite in the Mountain West.

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Checking in on… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 11th, 2013

We’ve talked about it a lot around these parts this year, since before the season even began — so many Mountain West teams putting all their eggs in a very small scheduling basket. For instance, Utah State’s only really quality non-conference game was its rivalry game with BYU. After losing that one, it was assured that their best win prior to the calendar flipping over to conference play would be at UC Santa Barbara – a good victory for sure, but not one to pin your NCAA Tournament hopes on. To make matters worse, Utah State backed up that BYU loss with a home loss to Pacific. So now the Aggies sit at 5-2; they’re lucky to have an RPI in the low 40s; and they face the prospect of needing a very strong run through the Mountain West on their first go-round in order to get themselves in the NCAA Tournament talk later this year.

Preston Medlin And Utah State Don't Have A Lot To Cheer About After Dropping A Home Game to Pacific (Rick Egan, Salt Lake Tribune)

Preston Medlin And Utah State Don’t Have A Lot To Cheer About After Dropping A Home Game to Pacific (Rick Egan/Salt Lake Tribune)

Likewise, Boise State went out and put together a schedule not befitting for a squad with borderline Top 25 talent and arguably the best team in school history. Certainly, they’re in the midst of the toughest stretch of their non-conference schedule, what with a trip to Kentucky on Tuesday night followed by a visit from an undefeated Saint Mary’s team on Saturday. But, as could have been expected, the Broncos struck out against the talented Wildcats, getting killed on the glass and at the rim and not being able to find enough good clean looks from deep against their long and athletic guards. Now all their hopes for a quality non-conference win get pinned on Saturday’s game against the Gaels. Again, on the basis of six wins in seven games, the Broncos are fortunate to have an RPI of #40, but with no resume wins in the non-conference, those four conference games against New Mexico and San Diego State in conference will loom large.

You see, it is only the Aztecs and the Lobos who have succeeded in coming away with some quality wins in the non-conference. SDSU has scalps from Creighton and Marquette, while New Mexico’s got UAB and Cincinnati on the wall already, with Kansas in Kansas City looming on Saturday and Marquette up the following Saturday. None of the victims of the Lobos or Aztecs are elite teams, but they’ve at least helped their teams to RPIs of #11 and #17, respectively. At the quarter-pole of the year, those two squads are alone among Mountain West teams on the good side of the resume ledger.

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Checking In On… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 3rd, 2013

Hooray! The Mountain West has its hero. November is in the books and the conference finally has a victory worth crowing about under its collective belt. In fact, San Diego State scored a couple really meaningful wins this week at the Wooden Legacy, knocking off both Creighton and Marquette to earn the tournament title. Still, I for one have yet to put a MW team in my weekly national Top 25. I’ve considered New Mexico previously and have kept them just on the outside looking in. Boise State also remains in the back of my mind, where they’ll stay until they play anybody of note. And the Aztecs were among my final cuts this week. So what leaves SDSU still needing to prove itself? I know they’re going to defend like nuts all year long and stay in games that way, but I just don’t believe that Xavier Thames is going to be able to knock down shots at his current rate forever, and aside from him, there aren’t a whole lot of polished offensive players on this team. Still, there is no denying that the Aztecs have looked awfully good so far this year and are beginning to earn the benefit of my doubt.

Xavier Thames and A Boisterous Crowd Helped San Diego State Capture The Wooden Legacy Title (USA Today Sports)

Xavier Thames and A Boisterous Crowd Helped San Diego State Capture The Wooden Legacy Title (USA Today Sports)

Team of the Week

San Diego State – We’ll get to Thames shortly, but there have been a lot of guys stepping up for this squad who deserve attention. J.J. O’Brien has been the most regular second option for the Aztecs, averaging nearly 14 points per game before a hand injury limited his production on Sunday. Matt Shrigley has emerged from his redshirt year to display not only a nice shooting touch but a good game off the bounce. Winston Shepard has clearly worked on his body and his game in the offseason, and he’s well on his way to becoming a great college player. And true freshman Dakarai Allen is out of the gates with a strong start to his college career. Even if Thames does slow down a bit, there are some options here who could pick up the slack.

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Checking In On… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 26th, 2013

We’re a little more than two weeks into the season and the best win among all 11 Mountain West conference teams is: what? New Mexico in a double-overtime miracle over a UAB team that was under .500 last season? Utah State over UC Santa Barbara without its best player? Colorado State over Weber State? Meanwhile, among the dregs of the conference, you’ve got losses to luminaries like Pacific (twice no less), Cal State Bakersfield, Morehead State, Santa Clara, Milwaukee, Northern Illinois, James Madison, VMI and Jackson State. Not exactly painting a pretty picture, am I? While the Lobos will have plenty of chances over the next three weeks to score some pretty nice non-conference victories, the other best hopes in this conference have pretty slim pickings on their non-conference slates. Outside of this weekend in Orange County at the Wooden Legacy, San Diego State will have to win at Kansas in order to garner a really solid non-conference win; good luck with that. Boise State has a road trip to Rupp Arena in a couple weeks to face Kentucky’s freshmen, otherwise its only “up” game non-conference game prior to the Diamond Head Classic over Christmas is a home game against Saint Mary’s. And Utah State’s only non-conference game of consequence is against BYU on Saturday. In other words, you can not only completely forget about any possibility of five bids to the NCAA Tournament come March, three may be significantly stretching the matter.

Team of the Week

Anthony Drmic And Boise State Are Off To An Impressive Offensive Start, But Haven't Played Anybody

Anthony Drmic And Boise State Are Off To An Impressive Offensive Start, But Haven’t Played Anybody.

Boise State – It is slim pickings out there, so we’ll go with the Broncos for their home win over Seattle and road win over New Orleans. Told you it was grim out there.

Player of the Week

Alex Kirk, Jr, New Mexico – Another week, another New Mexico big man. This time it is Kirk for his three double-doubles in the Charleston Classic. For the week, the native New Mexican averaged 21.3 points, 12 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game, and even threw in five three-pointers for good measure. Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking In On… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on November 19th, 2013

Last year about this time, the Mountain West’s record as a collective was 27-3. Sure, there wasn’t a large number of top shelf wins among those 27, but they were wins. This year the teams are a combined 19-12. UNLV lost by 21 at home to UC Santa Barbara. Colorado State got drilled by 32 at Gonzaga. Nevada lost at home to Pacific. Fresno State lost by 21 at Pitt. Air Force has lost to Jackson State and VMI. And newcomer San Jose State has lost to everybody it has faced, and that certainly hasn’t been a murderer’s row. Last year, the conference as a whole rode its strong RPI numbers, built up by a collection of a mostly good teams, to a best-ever five NCAA Tournament bids. This year, it remains to be seen just how good teams the teams at the top are, while the middle of the conference seems significantly weaker than it was last year, and the bottom of the conference even worse. Too long, didn’t read? The takeaway is there isn’t a chance in a million that the Mountain West sends five teams dancing this year.

Team of the Week

Utah State – The Aggies are one of the newcomers in the conference, but they’re off to a fine start, having won all three of their games including one over USC and another over that UCSB team that beat up on MW heavyweight UNLV. Behind veteran trio Spencer Butterfield, Preston Medlin and Jarred Shaw, Utah State looks like it will have an easy transition to its new conference.

Cameron Bairstow Has Been On Fire Out Of The Gate For the Lobos (Eric Draper, AP Photo)

Bairstow Has Been On Fire Out Of The Gate For the Lobos (Eric Draper, AP Photo)

Player of the Week

Cameron Bairstow, Sr, New Mexico – There may not be a player in the country who has improved as much as Bairstow in his four years in Albuquerque. As a freshman, he was notable only for his below-the-rim, scrappy style, as he averaged fewer than 10 minutes per game and fewer than three points per outing. But thus far this season, the 6’9” Aussie has been almost unstoppable, averaging 25.5 points, eight rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game, all while shooting 78.3 percent from the field. Oh, and not to be outdone, his frontcourt mate Alex Kirk has double-doubled in both his games on the way to 20 points and 12 rebounds per game averages.

Newcomer of the Week

Paul Watson, Fr, Fresno State – The 6’6” freshman out of Phoenix doesn’t have the type of body yet to lead you to believe he would succeed playing up front in major college basketball. But out of necessity, Watson has been forced to play the role of a big man for the Bulldogs. And, so far so good, as he’s averaged five rebounds a night, has scored both around the basket and from deep, and has eaten up minutes. There’s a big future for this Dog.

Power Rankings

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Morning Five: 11.05.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 5th, 2013

morning5

  1. UNLV got some good news yesterday as it was announced that Bryce Dejean-Jones, their leading returning scorer, had suffered a strained hamstring during Friday night’s exhibition loss and not something more significant. There is no timetable for Dejean-Jones’s return, but it appears that the staff is hopeful that he will be ready for the team’s opener on Friday against Portland State although we are not sure how much weight to put on their hope. With the loss of three double-digit scorers UNLV will need Dejean-Jones, a transfer from USC who averaged 10.3 points last year, to return quickly to give the team some stability and veteran leadership.
  2. Similar to UNLV, Providence got some good news on the injury front as they found out that starting point guard Kris Dunn did not suffer a significant injury to his surgically repaired right shoulder during their exhibition win on Friday night. This comes after the team got back the results of a MRI on that shoulder on Monday although they are not releasing more detailed results. Officially Dunn is listed as “day-to-day” and much like USC with Dejean-Jones the Providence staff is hopefully that Dunn will be available for their opener on Friday against Boston College and like Dejean-Jones they will be counting on Dunn to lead their team.
  3. UNLV also got some more good news from the NCAA yesterday. With all of the other hardship waivers being approved we have been somewhat confused as to why it took so long for the NCAA to approve Kevin Olekaibe‘s hardship waiver (likely due to timing of submission and the amount of NCAA staff available to review waivers), but yesterday the NCAA finally approved Olekaibe’s hardship waiver. Olekaibe, who 17.8 points per game two years ago at Fresno State before seeing his production decline sharply last season, applied for a hardship waiver due to his father’s illness (currently on hospice and is unable to speak or move his lower body according to reports. At this point Olekaibe and UNLV still have one more hurdle to get past before he can play for the Rebels as they need the Mountain West to approve the intra-conference transfer before Olekaibe can play. Unless Fresno State raises some objection we cannot imagine that the Mountain West will want the negative publicity that will fall upon it if it refuses Olekaibe’s waiver.
  4. With only a few days until the start of the season, plenty of groups are coming out with their preseason awards (ours will be up soon). Yesterday, two of the biggest groups released their picks as the Associated Press revealed its All-American picks and the USBWA released its Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award Preseason Watch List. Neither list had any particularly shocking picks, but the AP All-Americans will probably generate the most controversy with its picks. Marcus Smart was a unanimous selection and was joined by Doug McDermott, Mitch McGary, Andrew Wiggins, and Russ Smith.  Smart and McDermott seem like obvious choices and you will have a hard time finding anybody arguing against them. Wiggins is a near-consensus  pick too although you might find some questioning him since he has not played a college game yet. Smith will probably also garner quite a bit of support too coming off a national championship, but McGary might generate some criticism particularly from Kentucky where you could make a pretty solid case for Julius Randle over McGary particularly given McGary’s uneven play last season.
  5. It turns out that T. Boone Pickens is not the only person willing to buy every available ticket to produce a sell-out as Indiana Pacers star (and former Fresno State star) Paul George appears to have bought every remaining ticket for Fresno State’s home opener against Cal State Northridge on November 16 and is giving them away for free. While some reports are suggesting that George bought all 15,596 seats in the arena that seems unlikely for a couple of reasons: (1) it would imply that none of the seats had been sold, which seems unlikely given the boosters that every school has and (2) George said he “only” paid $7,000 for his allotment of tickets–even with a group discount less than 50 cents a ticket is difficult to fathom. Still it is nice gesture and we hope that Fresno State has a full house that night thanks to George’s gesture.
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Breaking Down Pac-12 Non-Conference Schedules: California and Stanford

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 4th, 2013

In order to prepare you for the first two months of the season, we’ve been breaking down all 12 non-conference slates over the last few weeks. Up next: the Bay Area schools.

Teams are listed in order of which they will be played. Last season’s RPI in parenthesis. Potential opponents (one round in advance) are italicized. All times listed are Pacific.

California

Three Games In The Maui Invitational And A Trip To Creighton Highlight Mike Montgomery And Company's Out Of Conference Slate (credit: Mark J. Terrill)

Three Games In The Maui Invitational And A Trip To Creighton Highlight Mike Montgomery And California’s Out-of-Conference Slate (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Cream of the Crop: vs. Syracuse (#14), vs. Minnesota (#34), @ Creighton (#24)

California will face two of those three teams. The Golden Bears play either Syracuse or Minnesota in the second round of the Maui Invitational on November 26. The Orange finished 2012-13 with a record of 30-10, which included six wins over ranked opponents as well as a six-point victory against Cal in the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Gophers started last season 15-1 but were handled by Florida in their second game of the NCAAs. The only known game on this list is a December 22 trip to Omaha to face Creighton, which will be Cal’s last game before Christmas break. The Bluejays topped Mike Montgomery’s team by a score of 74-64 last December in Berkeley, so they’ll look to return the favor this time around against the new Big East opponent. Creighton is loaded in the backcourt with both Doug McDermott and Grant Gibbs returning.

Solid Names: Denver (#66), Oakland (#152), vs Arkansas (#95), UC Irvine (#126), Nevada (#173), Fresno State (#135)

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New Memberships in the A-10 and Mountain West: Can These Leagues Sustain Success?

Posted by BHayes on October 10th, 2013

Bennet Hayes (@HoopsTraveler) is an RTC national columnist.

The tumult of conference realignment has hit few conferences harder than it has the Mountain West and Atlantic 10, but as we prepare to set sail on the 2013-14 season, both leagues again loom as the best college basketball has to offer outside the now “power seven” conferences. We touched on each league a little bit in yesterday’s Morning Five, but storylines abound in two leagues that have generated plenty of national buzz in recent years. Both are expected to maintain holds in the upper echelon of the mid-major hierarchy, but offseason membership changes have left things less certain than usual, especially in the A-10. The constant churn of programs jumping from conference to conference has left leagues in varying states of disarray, and 2013-14 finds both the Mountain West and Atlantic 10 at a crossroads. The challenges are different in each situation, but with the relatively uncertain future of today’s college basketball’s climate, another strong season in comparison with the high-majors would go a long ways towards stabilizing each of these traditionally strong conferences.

Kendall Williams And New Mexico Are Just One Of Many Teams With High Hopes In The Mountain West

Kendall Williams And New Mexico Are Just One Of Many Teams With High Hopes In The Mountain West

This season’s iteration of the Mountain West is bigger, but is it better? The preseason poll released Tuesday offered confirmation of the general consensus surrounding newcomers Utah State and San Jose State: Stew Morrill and the Aggies should be a factor in the top half of the conference, while the Spartans, despite their eye-catching new floor, are likely to be MW doormats. But even if Utah State matches or exceeds expectations in their conference debut, the conference as a whole will struggle to replicate the success of 2012-13 – those good old days when the MW was number one in conference RPI (no typo). The trio at the top of this year’s preseason poll all have a chance at replicating, or even improving upon, their successful campaigns of a year ago.

The return of preseason MW POY Kendall Williams and first teamer Alex Kirk has left New Mexico as the conference’s presumptive favorite: the Lobos earned all but one of 24 first place votes. A talented but overhauled UNLV squad scooped up that final first place vote, while Boise State’s return of nearly every key contributor earned the Broncos enough acclaim to tie for second with the Rebels in the poll. The Morning Five highlighted another talented San Diego State roster that sits behind those three teams in the eyes of the media, and let’s face it — it’s probably time we start giving Steve Fisher the benefit of the doubt – the Aztecs are an annual factor out west. But behind the Aztecs and Aggies (Utah State was picked to finish fifth) lies much of the intrigue in this year’s MW. A season ago, the four non-Tournament teams (Air Force, Wyoming, Fresno State and Nevada) were all extremely competitive, especially on their home floors. Their strength was a big reason for that heady conference RPI. This year’s bottom half again appears feisty, with a couple of teams – Nevada (#9) and Fresno State (#8) appearing especially undervalued in the preseason evaluations. Nobody – inside our outside the league — is expecting the MW to finish atop the conference RPI again this season. But another solid campaign, on the heels of that banner season of a year ago, would be awfully sound validation of a league unprepared to leave the national consciousness anytime soon.

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Morning Five: 09.09.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 9th, 2013

morning5

  1. A rough offseason just got a lot worse for Fresno State. The Bulldogs who already lost Kevin Olekaibe to transfer and dismissed Robert Upshaw now appear to have lost former Kansas commit Braeden Anderson for a significant amount of time after Anderson and walk-on Kyle Jackson were involved in what has been been described as a “serious car accident” that left one person dead. Information on Anderson is limited at this time, but according to reports he has a neck injury, but has movement in all of his extremities while Jackson escaped relatively unharmed. Obviously, basketball is a distant second to Anderson’s help at this time so we wish him and the other survivors involved in the accident a speedy recovery.
  2. It was not too long ago (or a very long time depending on your point of view) that the public and the sports media nearly lost its mind with Nevin Shapiro’s allegations about NCAA violations at Miami. So the lack of media attention given to the report that Sports Illustrated was set publish details of  widespread NCAA violations committed at Oklahoma State is somewhat interesting. On one hand the allegations all conveniently fall outside the NCAA’s statute of limitations so the NCAA cannot do anything about it (we think, but we thought the same think with Penn State). Still the reported violations are so widespread and the reaction to the Yahoo! Miami report was so over-the-top that the lack of media reaction here has been somewhat jarring. It may speak to way we have been desensitized to scandals after what happened at Penn State or perhaps the indignation will come once the actual report is released.
  3. Yesterday, the Naismith Hall of Fame held its annual induction ceremony and while nearly all of the inductees had significant college basketball careers the three that are most pertinent to us were the coaches–Rick PitinoJerry Tarkanian, and Guy Lewis. Pitino needs no introduction especially since he is still coaching and just won a national title earlier this year, but we have to say the moment must have been particularly sweet for Tarkanian and Lewis, both of whom many felt should have been inducted years ago. We went over the cases for both several months ago when the decisions regarding induction were still being debated by the Selection Committee. In any event, we would like to congratulate all of the inductees.
  4. Over the past few weeks we have seen the NCAA make several announcements regarding player eligibility that have raised eyebrows. Perhaps none have done so more than the ones regarding transfers with hardship waivers as many observers have been quick to point out the lack of consistency between some of the decisions that have been made. As expected several writers wrote about this topic, but if you want check out a few of the more nuanced takes we would suggest the following three takes: Andy Glockner, Dana O’Neil, and John Infante. All three writers offer slightly different takes, but they are all more thoughtful than what we have typically seen.
  5. The past six months have been interesting ones for Kevin Ware. He went from being a key cog in the NCAA title favorites to being one of the enduring memories of this year’s NCAA Tournament after he suffered a compound fracture during Louisville’s Elite Eight game against Duke. After that there were a series of rumors claiming that Ware had been suspended from the team (subsequently refuted). Now it appears that Ware’s return to the court will be delayed at least until early 2014 according to Rick Pitino. Given the depth the Cardinals have they should be able to withstand Ware’s absence early in the season although they will certainly need him when March rolls around.
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Morning Five: 06.12.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 12th, 2013

morning5

  1. As you probably already noticed yesterday was APR Day, the day that college administrators dread and one that spawns countless columns about inequities in the system. There were no major surprises in terms of which teams were ineligible and the biggest news of the day was probably the fact that Connecticut is eligible for the NCAA Tournament again despite having a four-year APR below 930 as they showed enough improvement that they were still able to qualify. The more interesting aspect of APR Day is that it led to several interesting articles such as those by Andy Glockner and Myron Medcalf that speak to issues beyond just educating/graduating athletes and are reflective of education in this country.
  2. The decisions on where conferences decide to play their conference tournament games has never been of particular interest to us since they are typically played at a neutral site and are based on purely financial reasons. Having said that the decision by the American Athletic Conference to play its first conference tournament in Memphis is an interesting one as it will essentially give Memphis a homecourt advantage with an automatic NCAA Tournament bid on the line. Typically conferences of the expected power of the AAC avoid playing at a non-neutral location for a variety of reasons including the benefit given to a team that is playing at home. It will be interesting to see where the conference decides to put its postseason tournament going forward if schools feel that Memphis is granted an unfair advantage.
  3. Yesterday we linked to an article about increasingly onerous transfer restrictions on players. We did not mention it specifically in our post, but as the article we linked to mentions players are able to get around this by opting not to tak e a scholarship at their new school. It happens infrequently, but in the case of a player like Kevin Olekaibe sometimes the circumstances are severe enough that the player is willing to pay his own way. In Olekaibe’s case the rising senior announced that he was transferring from Fresno State to UNLV even though he was not allowed to transfer within the Mountain West Conference if he accepted a scholarship. Olekaibe’s reason for transferring and hoping for a transfer waiver that would allow him to play right away is that he wants to be closer to his father who is paralyzed from the waist down and is unable to speak because of two strokes that he has had. The way that transfer waivers have been granted lately we would be surprised if the NCAA turned his request down.
  4. In the wake of San Antonio’s win over Miami last night, Seth Wickersham’s article on the Spurs success being a condemnation on the state of grassroots basketball in America will probably become a bigger talking point. While we can agree that American basketball has many issues to improve on (the outsized influence of certain individuals at the AAU level being one of the most prominent) it is worth noting that the US continues to be far and away the most prolific country in the world in terms of producing basketball talent and that goes beyond just the national teams we send out every year. The gap between the depth of our talent and that of other countries is probably more significant than you might appreciate from watching international competition. Another key point that the article conveniently glosses over is that Spurs star Tim Duncan is actually a product of the American basketball system that the article criticizes as he played four years of college.
  5. We are not sure if the Bernie Fine case will ever end. The former Syracuse assistant coach’s defamation lawsuit against ESPN is heading to federal court now and it appears that Fine and his lawyers are targeting the corporation at this time and no longer pursuing charges against the reporters involved in reporting the story. As anybody who has followed the case over the past two years knows the entire case has been extremely messy and Fine’s accusers have been questionable at best in terms of the reliability and consistency of their statements. At this point we imagine that Syracuse views this case the same way that many media members do in that we just wish it would end.
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