RTC Conference Primers: #13 – Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 23rd, 2010

Jimmy Lemke is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Butler (15-3)
  2. Cleveland State (12-6)
  3. Detroit (12-6)
  4. Milwaukee (11-7)
  5. Valparaiso (9-9)
  6. Wright State (9-9)
  7. Green Bay (8-10)
  8. UIC (7-11)
  9. Loyola (5-13)
  10. Youngstown State (2-16)

All-Conference Team

  • G: Shelvin Mack, Butler
  • G: Norris Cole, Cleveland State
  • F: Cory Johnson, Valparaiso
  • F: Matt Howard, Butler
  • C: Eli Holman, Detroit

6th Man

G: Brandon Wood, Valparaiso

Impact Newcomer

Paul Carter (F), UIC

What does Brad Stevens and Butler have in mind for an encore after their run to the title game?

What You Need To Know

  • All Horizon League games and most non-conference home games will be streamed live at HorizonLeague.org, the conference’s website.  All games are free and the feed is television quality in most arenas.  It’s a service that has been around since 2007, and has expanded every year to be an all-encompassing athletics powerhouse for information, features and interviews on Horizon League basketball.  By now, if you haven’t heard about Butler‘s run through the NCAA Tournament, you’re probably still counting your hours of free America Online.
  • What most people don’t realize is how strong the conference is behind Butler. Yes, the Bulldogs ran roughshod over the conference, going 18-0 and paving their way to the title game in dominant fashion, but they had victories against the seventh and eighth place teams by a combined three points.  It’s a deep league through the top seven programs, and even UIC, who finished ninth last year, looks to be strong this season.  The Detroit Titans were seventh place despite posting a 20-win season, one of five Horizon League programs to do so.
  • It is a guard-oriented league, but post players like Matt Howard, Eli Holman, Anthony Hill and Andy Polka have proven that they can bang with the big boys.

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On the Record: 10.21.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 21st, 2010

In addition to our ongoing RTC Interview series there are plenty of other interviews going on across the country and as a way to get you ready for the season and into the minds of the coaches and players we will be bringing you a few of those interviews each week. If you know of any interviews that should be included in the next installment, please send them to rushthecourt@gmail.com.

  • ACC Media Day Chat – ESPN with an interesting idea of having various coaches and players from the ACC stop by and answer user-submitted questions.
  • Q & A with Vernon Macklin - A personal look at the Florida senior center where he talks about stealing Erving Walker‘s car and scooter and also mentions playing on a four-on-four team with Chandler Parson, Nolan Smith, and Shelvin Mack that went undefeated at a LeBron James camp this summer.
  • One-On-Two with Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith – A banal interview with fairly boring answers from the two Duke co-captains. The only somewhat interesting thing is when Singler is asked about his favorite artists and he lists David Garibaldi and Salvador Dali (an artist, but probably not the type that the interviewer expected) as well as Tupac (not the answer that anybody expected from Singler). We also might raise an issue with Smith who lists Jennifer Hudson as his favorite singer “especially when she sang ‘One Shining Moment'” unless he is referring to the fact that his team was celebrating when it was being played.
  • David Glenn Chats With Chris Collins – Has a link to a radio interview of the Duke assistant coach where he talks about the whirlwind off-season including the World Championships in Turkey, Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, and Coach K‘s legacy.
  • Pullen his weight at K-State – Jeff Goodman talks to Jacob Pullen, the Kansas State star, about the upcoming season. A solid interview and since we are friends with Jeff we’ll assume that it was his editor that came up with the title.
  • Selby speaks out – Goodman stops by Kansas where he talks to Josh Selby about being stuck in NCAA eligibility limbo. Read the rest of this entry »
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Gus Johnson Wants to Do a Final Four — Please Let Him

Posted by rtmsf on September 29th, 2010

Gus Johnson, doing his best to look like Fifty Cent’s dad in this video clip from Dime Magazine, riffs on numerous items including college basketball in this interview.

You can see the excitement beaming like laser beams from Johnson’s eyes when he mentions the unbelievable near-make by Butler’s Gordon Hayward at last year’s Final Four.  Can you imagine all the CBS suits checking their work-site insurance policies to make sure that massive strokes by on-air talent are covered if Johnson had gotten the call to do that game?  Maybe that’s why they will continue to stick us with the exceptionally pleasant but soporific Jim Nantz as the play-by-play man — they want to keep Johnson around for a few more years to continue analyzing games in numerous sports in his unique and entertaining way.

We can’t really blame them — cost-effectiveness and all that — but man-oh-man, just to hear Gus make the call in one epic championship battle would be well worth the risk.

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The RTC Interview Series: One On One With Brad Stevens

Posted by jstevrtc on September 10th, 2010

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we hope to publish weekly on Friday mornings throughout the year. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

It used to be that the first thing that people thought when they saw Butler head coach Brad Stevens was something along the lines of, “He’s a head coach? How old is he?” That changed on April 5th. By saying things changed for him after the title-game loss to Duke, we’re not saying that Stevens looks any older. We’re saying that now people will think of him primarily as one of the best coaches in our game instead of just a young-looking basketball coach, though Stevens would be the first to deflect such praise. When you talk with Brad Stevens (whose three teams have produced three perfect academic ratings, by the way), you are immediately aware of what seems to be an innate professionalism, and the fact that this man is much more comfortable talking about his team than himself, making sure that any incoming credit goes to everyone, not just him. Most of all, though, you recognize his absolutely inflexible belief in the abstract concept known as The Butler Way, that it’s, in fact, the best way for him to grow as a coach and for his players to function as the best team possible. RTC’s John Stevens (no relation) spoke with Coach Stevens earlier this week.

Rush The Court: Coach, as the current guardian of it, in your own words, what is “The Butler Way?”

Brad Stevens: You know, I don’t think it has anything to do with basketball, technically, first of all. I think it’s just about embracing a culture of (hopefully) unselfishness and accountability, and that doing the right things will lead to the results you ultimately want from a statistical and measurable standpoint. The definition we have online is probably the best it gets. Right when you go to ButlerSports.com, it pops up. But that’s the bottom line. If you’re going to define it, that’s as good as it gets. I think it’s a really hard thing to define, and it’s more about feeling and seeing that you’re moving in a positive direction.

After Only Three Seasons as Head Coach at Butler, In Our Opinion Stevens Is Already Part of the Coaching Elite.

RTC: Last year was in so many ways a dream season, and even though you didn’t quite achieve the ultimate goal for which you set out, it was obviously a phenomenal run. Was there any particular aspect of your squad’s play that showed up as the year progressed that even you hadn’t expected, something that pleasantly surprised even you, as coach?

BS: No particular individual did, and not really from a team standpoint, either, from how we were playing. I think from a results standpoint the thing that stood out to me, the thing I thought was the best accomplishment of the year was going undefeated in the league. I’ve never been a part of that and never dreamed that I would be, and I know how hard it is to do. You know, like everybody else, I’m listening to talk shows and everybody’s talking about Boise State’s schedule and everything else, and I’ve been in those shoes from the standpoint of…boy, the pressure that they play with in their league AND the fact that, everybody they’re playing against, that’s their super bowl. You can’t quantify that. That should add points to their strength of schedule. So I think that that’s something I’ll look back at fondly from last year. Obviously you’re excited about the run to the final game. But is it better to beat five really good teams that don’t know much about you, or is it better to beat every team on your league schedule twice, teams that know you inside and out? For me, it was the latter.

RTC: The Horizon League seems to be adding better recruits each season, players who are then developed over several years by their coaches; it seems the quality of that particular conference has improved each year over the past few…

BS: I think that’s the case. I agree with you that it’s getting better, but at the same time I think it’s been really good all along. When we do what we’ve done in the tournament, and when other teams win games here or there I think that always helps the perception [of the conference].

RTC: How long did it take you to get over the championship game, the Duke game?

BS: I’ll never get over it! I don’t know if I’ll ever get over that, I wish I could. I think obviously that you always move on, but it’s a hard pill to swallow.

Stevens' Bulldogs Held Their First Five NCAA Tourney Opponents (Including Syracuse, Kansas State, and Michigan State) to Under 60 Points. Duke Scored 61.

RTC: I remember that the Sports Science guys broke it down and found that, looking at where it hit the backboard, the last shot by Gordon Hayward would have gone in but for a mere 2.5 inches. I assumed you’d still be seeing that shot in your sleep.

BS: (Laughs) There’s no doubt, I see it in my sleep. But, that’s part of it. We were so fortunate to be there in a lot of ways.

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Summer School in the Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 3rd, 2010

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.

Around The Horizon League:

  • NBA Draft: The Horizon League doesn’t always pop up on the NBA’s radar, but Gordon Hayward shot up the draft boards last season and ended up being drafted ninth overall by the Utah Jazz. Haywardof course led Butler to the NCAA Tournament title game before going pro.
  • Coaching Changes: It took until the middle of July, but the UIC Flames officially announced the retirement of long-time head coach and all-time wins leader Jimmy Collins. The move is effective August 31 and the coaching search is already on. The Flames are conducting a nationwide hunt for someone who can bring them out of basement of the Horizon League.
  • Keeping It In The Family: Ray McCallum, Jr. is considered one of the top players in the 2010 freshman class. The fact that he chose the Detroit Titans stunned no one. McCallum is going to play for his father, and will help make Detroit one of the favorites in the Horizon League.
  • Brownout: The other big head coaching change in the league was the departure of Brad Brownell from Wright State. Brownell had finished 12-6 in conference each of the past three seasons with the Raiders. He took over at Clemson for the departed Oliver Purnell in a classic game of coaching musical chairs. Brownell’s replacement, Billy Donlon, will be expected to maintain the high level of play the program has reached recently and maybe even make an NCAA Tournament. Donlon was the team’s associate head coach under Brownell, so there is a lot of continuity in the program.
  • Going Young: When head coach Todd Kowalczyk left Green Bay for a bigger payday at Toledo, not many people expected the Phoenix to hire one of the youngest coaches in all of Division I basketball. Green Bay made the intriguing decided to stay in house and hire Brian Wardle. Wardle had been an assistant with the Phoenix before the hire.

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Official RTC 2010 NBA Mock Draft

Posted by zhayes9 on June 23rd, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

I love the NBA Draft.

The Stage Rarely Changes, but the Players Do

There’s something gratifying and enjoyable about seeing the college players that we discuss, watch and evaluate move on from the collegiate game and find a home at the next level. There are no cliffhangers when it comes to the NBA Draft. Barring late summer dealings or undrafted snubs, Thursday will be the day we’ll find out where each of our favorite elite college players are going to play pro ball next winter, almost like watching your kids go off to school for the first time. It’s a grand conclusion to a celebrated (albeit, in plenty of cases, very short) college career and a transition to the riches of the NBA.

We’re all prognosticators and experts on Draft night. Opinions are thrown around as David Stern announces each choice. Emotions are prevalent when your favorite NBA squad picks, those moments and heartbeats before the selection that could change the course of a franchise forever. Or it could be Renaldo Balkman. Either way, Draft night for us hoops nerds is one of intrigue and interest.

Here’s my best shot at forecasting how the first round will play out. As someone that has watched these players intensely at the college level, someone that pays attention to the strengths/weaknesses of each NBA club and has been soaking in all of the Draft info since the Final Four ended in April, I’m honored to bring you the official Rush the Court 2010 NBA Mock Draft (RTC draft profile linked to each name):

1) Washington Wizards – John Wall, PG, Kentucky

The Consensus #1 Pick (WaPo/J. Newton)

This was a lock the moment the Wizards won the Lottery in mid-May, a stroke of unexpected luck for a city on the sports rise and the perfect face of the franchise-type player to lead this team out of the cellar. Wall could pair with a focused Gilbert Arenas in a potent backcourt and the Wiz may even shell out some money to bring in an intriguing free agent wing. He may be a top-five point guard in the NBA in only three years time if the jump shot improves. He’s that skilled and talented.

2) Philadelphia 76ers – Evan Turner, SG, Ohio State

I’m hearing the Sixers front office is enamored with Turner while newly minted coach Doug Collins would prefer big man Derrick Favors. In the end, I see Turner as the surer prospect emerging as the pick, and even the Sixers website prepared for that very possibility last Friday. Philly won’t trade the pick unless some team agrees to take on Elton Brand’s contract, an unlikely scenario. Turner could be the next Brandon Roy, a prospect just too mouth-watering to pass up on.

3) New Jersey Nets – Wesley Johnson, SF, Syracuse

Nets fans were positively crushed on Lottery night when they lost a chance to nab Wall. An underwhelming workout for Derrick Favors, one in which he was thoroughly outplayed by DeMarcus Cousins, gave the Nets brass pause after it was assumed for months Favors would be the selection at #3. The Nets have needs at both forward spots, so it would make sense for them to peg Johnson here and go after one of the big free agent power forwards with new owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s checkbook- Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer or Chris Bosh.

4) Minnesota Timberwolves – Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech

This is a tricky situation for the Wolves. With Al Jefferson and Kevin Love already in the fold, the last thing Minnesota needs is another power forward. They covet both Turner and Johnson, so it’s extremely likely they try to persuade either Philly or New Jersey to let them move up a few spots in exchange for their pick at #16. It’s rumored the Minnesota brass isn’t too high on Favors, but Cousins has publicly expressed displeasure with playing in the Twin Cities.

5) Sacramento Kings – DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kentucky

Cousins has sent hinted messages that he wouldn’t be too thrilled if Sacramento (or Minnesota or Golden State) calls his name and he’d much prefer to end up in Detroit. The Pistons could very well move up a few spots to grab Cousins, but the workout Cousins just finished in SacTo apparently convinced ownership that his game outweighed any character concerns. I would take Cousins over Monroe (and maybe even Favors) in a heartbeat, and it’s my feeling that the Kings agree even with the recent Sam Dalembert acquisition.

6) Golden State Warriors – Greg Monroe, PF, Georgetown

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Gordon Hayward

Posted by rtmsf on June 1st, 2010

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night.  There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Gordon Hayward

School: Butler

Height/Weight: 6’8, 211

NBA Position: Small Forward

Projected Draft Range: Mid-1st round

Overview: Gordon Hayward emerged as the leader and go-to scorer in just his sophomore season playing on the hallowed hardwood of Hinkle Fieldhouse, garnering conference player of the year honors and playing an integral role in Butler’s unfathomable run to the National Championship game. Prior to last year’s breakout campaign on a national level, most draft prognosticators didn’t expect Hayward to reach first round status until after his junior or senior seasons. With a flurry of outstanding performances against quality opponents, scouts began to realize more and more how the baby-faced assassin could positively impact their NBA squads. Hayward notched 20+ point performances against Georgetown, Ohio State and Xavier in three straight games, scored 20+ in their two most difficult road conference games at Wright State and at Milwaukee, and dropped 22 points in their tough Elite Eight victory over Kansas State. Hayward’s presence and importance for Brad Stevens’ crew was never more evident than during his one game sidelined due to injury when Butler nearly fell to Valparaiso in their final Horizon League contest. Throughout the 2009-10 season, Hayward showed a fantastic pull-up shooting quality, an inherent ability to be in perfect position for rebounds (8.2 RPG as a sophomore) and the length to defend either small forwards or power forwards at the collegiate level.

Hayward Drives to the Hole vs. UCLA

Will Translate to the NBA: Hayward experienced a growth spurt late in his high school playing career, meaning he developed guard skills that translated smoothly to his current 6’8 frame. His ball-handling and shooting stroke are as strong as any small forward in the draft. Most scouts are not concerned about the precipitous drop in three-point percentage from his freshman to sophomore seasons. Hayward was the centerpiece of any defensive game plan against Butler last season, while at the next level the percentage of open shots from long range that Hayward will attempt should jump considerably. It wouldn’t shock us if Hayward shot 40% from three as a rookie. The Indiana native has also improved dramatically on his mid-range shooting game and utilizes a patented crossover to create space and knock down jumpers. Hayward has always been a reliable shooter from the charity stripe, knocking down 80%+ in both collegiate campaigns.

Needs Work: Hayward is very comfortable coming off screens and popping from mid-range, but there’s some question regarding whether he can get to the rim on penetration at the next level. While Hayward periodically could draw fouls by attacking the basket off the dribble at Butler, his lack of speed, strength and explosiveness could prevent this from translating. This lack of speed and explosiveness could also hurt Hayward when he’s trying to defend quicker small forwards in the NBA, even if he does show a consistent work ethic and intensity on that end of the floor. Scouts also question his lack of post moves and periodic lapses of aggression as negative signs, but as someone who will likely be playing the part of a role player on a successful team, those concerns don’t worry us.

Comparison Players: Former Duke small forward Mike Dunleavy seems like an accurate comparison for Hayward. Both players are intelligent, savvy, boast a smooth shooting stroke and can hold their own on the glass and on the defensive end, although Dunleavy is slightly bigger. Another more recent comparison is Arizona’s Chase Budinger. While Budinger is more athletic, Hayward has superior playmaking skills and a higher basketball IQ. We could envision Hayward’s career playing out similarly to Dunleavy: 26-28 MPG, 11-12 PPG, capable three-point shooter and a weapon off the bench on a team with playoff aspirations.

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Re-assessing the Early Entry Withdrawal Deadline

Posted by rtmsf on May 5th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West conferences and an occasional contributor.

Just over a year ago, the NCAA Legislative Committee voted to scale back the amount of time that players who apply for early entry to the NBA Draft have to withdraw their names from the draft and retain their college eligibility, a change that went into effect this season. Where last year undergraduates who had not hired agents had until June 15 to pull back out of the NBA draft, this year the limit for such a decision is May 8, a deadline that, among other things, also conflicts with academic responsibilities (including finals) for many of those 80 U.S. collegiate undergraduates who have declared for the draft. With NBA teams only allowed to begin working out draft prospects beginning on April 29 and with undergraduates needing to come up with a final decision by May 8, many of the benefits of “testing the waters” rule have been eliminated.

Yes, Let's Make It Harder for Players to Get Informed

The theory behind the rule that allows for undergraduates to declare for the draft and then reconsider and return to school has been that the players will get a chance to work out for NBA teams, talk to general managers and scouts and get a feel for how the NBA perceives their game — what are their strength and weaknesses, what can they work on, and, perhaps most importantly, where they might get drafted. However, with the window for these players to get input from NBA teams reduced to just over a week, players may only get a chance or two to meet with NBA teams, if at all. According to an ESPN poll released last week, of the 19 NBA teams that responded, only two – the Lakers and the Blazers – had any plans to hold workouts for potential draftees prior to the May 8 deadline. And according to BYU head coach Dave Rose, whose star guard Jimmer Fredette is among those still weighing his draft options, “A lot of teams told us they’re going to start working out guys on the ninth of May,” the day after the deadline. Quite simply, for the players among the list of early entrants who have not yet hired agents and who are looking for a little guidance from NBA scouts on their decision, there is little or no help coming.

So, why was this rule even put in place? According to the NCAA, the extension of the deadline into June was “intrusive on academic performance during the spring and increased the potential for outside individuals to have a negative influence on the well-being of student-athletes.” However, for a player like Butler forward Gordon Hayward, who took final exams on Friday, Saturday and Monday, he had exactly four days to gauge the level of interest of NBA scouts. His plans: meet with a couple of agents to figure out the whole process and work out with a trainer in Indianapolis to get a little stronger. For Hayward, he is likely a first-round lock regardless of whether he does or does not work out for any NBA teams, but the point of the rule in the first place is to give guys like him an opportunity to gather as much information as possible in order to make his decision. Giving the kid four days directly after his finals wrap up neither eliminates the potential intrusion on his academics nor decreases outside influences from having a negative impact on his decision. In fact, it would seem that the limit on the amount of interaction that these players have with NBA talent evaluators would be more likely to have a negative impact, giving them less of a realistic look at their NBA chances and perhaps allowing them to fall back on the accolades of less-established talent evaluators (i.e., their family and friends) telling them that they are superstars.

We Thought the NCAA Wants Student-Athletes to Graduate?

The change in the rule began with a recommendation from ACC coaches last year, and coaches are the ones who this rule change benefits the most (although, frankly, it doesn’t really even benefit them much). The theory goes that if coaches can get a definite answer from players on the fence about going to the NBA, they can better plan for the next year, possibly recruiting additional players to take the place of early departees.  However,  even by May 8, the pickings for coaches that lose players early to the draft are slim at best. At this point, just five of the Scout’s Top 100 recruits for the 2010-11 season are still unsigned (two of whom, Terrence Jones and Luke Cothron have verbal commitments elsewhere, and at least one of the remainders, Kadeem Jack, now appears headed to prep school). Even if a coach gets bad news in late May that an undergraduate will indeed be staying in the draft, they’re not typically going to be able to replace a player with that kind of talent so late in the game. Andy Kennedy, the Ole Miss head coach whose Terrico White is among the early entry candidates, confirmed such a notion, saying “the shortened window isn’t going to help regardless” of whether he remains in the draft or not.

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Morning Five: 05.06.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 5th, 2010

  1. Butler will have to deal with the ghoulish specter of Expectations next year without star forward Gordon Hayward, who has decided to remain in the NBA Draft pool.  The Bulldogs should still be very good in 2010-11, but it’s unlikely to expect another run at the national title without the versatile Hayward back on campus.  Ole Miss guard Terrico White has also decided to stay in the draft, forgoing his final two years of eligibility.  This is a questionable decision, as some prognosticators think White may sneak into the bottom of the first round, while others think he’ll be lucky to be drafted.  With the withdrawal deadline looming on Saturday, there will be a number of these over the next few days (we hope) and Northern Arizona’s Cam Jones is one of the first to announce a return to school.
  2. Some coaching news from yesterday as Temple’s Fran Dunphy was rewarded for another NCAA campaign with an extension that will keep him secure through the 2018 season.  At Kentucky, John Calipari responded to the Chicago Bull rumors with an audio tweet stating that he’s only interested in an extension at UK, not a raise.  After the Tim Welsh debacle at Hofstra, the university wasted no time in hiring Mo Cassara, an assistant that Welsh had hired from Boston College, for the top spot.  A month ago he didn’t even have a job — now he’s the head coach.
  3. How about some transfer news today to round out things?  Memphis added New Orleans transfer Charles Carmouche, a scoring guard who will be eligible immediately for his final two seasons as a result of UNO’s self-demotion to Division 3.  Alabama is restricting rising senior Justin Knox’s transfer bid to UAB as a result of what they think is tampering.  Bizarre situation for the 2008-09 SEC men’s basketball scholar-athlete of the year who will have already graduated from the school this year.
  4. Oklahoma State forward Matt Pilgrim has been served with a protective order by a woman who is claiming that he raped her on April 12.  Pilgrim was an integral part of the inside game for the Pokes last season (8/7) and undoubtedly was expected to be even more prominent next year.  He posted this on his Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon: “I can’t take it no more… I always play the victim. (All) I’ve done was work hard to prove people wrong… People lie and every one that know(s) me know(s) my passion to become somebody, but Satan is working overtime on me…. But I’m (going to) let God handle this… I will still work hard to provide for me and the ones I love. Please do (not believe what’s) going on. I just want peace… Sorry to everyone that is affected by this.”  You never know what the details will show in situations like these, so let’s just hope that justice (whatever its form) is served in the end.
  5. Testing the waters is a sham now that the NCAA caved in to several prominent whiners coaches and gives prospective NBA players a mere two weeks during  many schools’ exam period to gauge their stock.  We have a piece up on this today, and Gary Parrish chimed in as well with some of his own research from the NBA side of the ledger (result: most NBA teams aren’t interested in this right now).  If the NCAA has any interest in actually helping its student-athletes make educated decisions, then they’ll admit they flubbed this one and create a more realistic window for kids to get evaluated.  Well, at least they got the important stuff, y’know, like throwing ‘bows, figured out.
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Impact Of Undecided Early Entries On The College Hoops Landscape

Posted by zhayes9 on April 30th, 2010

With the NBA Draft deadline moved up to May 8 this year, we’ll be able to formulate next year’s college basketball landscape sooner than ever before. The decision of many on the fence could dramatically alter the style, roster and makeup of everyone from Kentucky to Richmond. For many of these super-talents such as North Carolina’s Ed Davis, the decision was probably made a long time ago. But for those like fellow ACC foe Malcolm Delaney of Virginia Tech, their status is very much up in the air for 2010-11. He’s just one of many upcoming decisions that could change the outlook of an entire conference.

Many columns dealing with early entries dissect whether the decision was smart or short-sighted, whether the choice to enter their name was the proper call for their careers. Personally, I don’t care so much about their personal career paths, but about how their decision affects college basketball. Instead, the focus of this column will be on how each early entry to put their name in the draft changes their respective schools’ chances when winter approaches.

Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe (Kentucky)- Many around the Kentucky program believe Orton and Bledsoe are history, but refraining from signing with an agent leaves the door slightly ajar. If one or both return to Lexington, the Wildcats vault ahead of Tennessee as the SEC favorites. Returning to school would be even more beneficial to Orton, a player that didn’t establish himself playing behind Cousins and Patterson, but only showed glimpses of his superb athleticism, defensive prowess and developing low-post moves. Pair Orton in the post with Swiss import Enes Kanter and John Calipari is in business. Put Bledsoe with Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb or Darius Miller and the same holds true. Calipari’s loaded class certainly screams reload rather than rebuild, but the returns of Bledsoe and/or Orton would vault expectations even higher.

Gordon Hayward (Butler)- The “babyfaced assassin” (h/t Gus Johnson) might have the toughest call of any early entry this spring. A relative unknown to casual fans just one year ago, Hayward burst onto the scene with a stellar NCAA Tournament, leading the charge behind Butler’s miraculous run to the national title game. Thanks to a late growth spurt, Hayward possesses guard skills in a 6’9 frame and may even go in the latter half of the lottery should he keep his name in the field. Butler would also drop to a ranking similar to the one they enjoyed in October last year. If Hayward returns, it would be a crying shame if Butler isn’t the #2 team ranked preseason behind Duke. The only starter departing is glue guy Willie Veasley. That’s right: Hayward, Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored and Matt Howard would all return to school for another March push.

Avery Bradley (Texas)- Sources told Fox Sports’ Jeff Goodman that Bradley was likely to stay in the Draft, and quite honestly I can see why. Teams that are looking for a backup point guard with the ability to defend and attack the basket will be flocking towards Bradley near the mid-first round. Findlay Prep point guard Cory Joseph committing to Texas last week takes some pressure off of Rick Barnes if Bradley should opt to stay in the draft. The Longhorns grossly underachieved with Bradley, Dexter Pittman and Damion James; with all three departing, expectations can’t possibly be sky high for Texas, although Kansas, Texas A&M and Baylor should all take steps back this season. Texas is a top-15 team regardless of last season should Bradley, Joseph, Dogus Balbay, J’Covan Brown and Jai Lucas round out a loaded backcourt. I suspect Bradley has played his last game in burnt orange, though.

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The Effect of a Potential NBA Lockout on NCAA Basketball

Posted by nvr1983 on April 18th, 2010

Since Gordon Hayward‘s half-court heave bounced off the rim in Indianapolis just two weeks ago there has been a spate of early entries. While it is not shocking to see a number of underclassmen enter the NBA Draft before they are probably ready to leave the college ranks, the sheer number of early entries is surprising. As Chad Ford recently pointed out, all 18 of the top-rated prospects on ESPN’s “Big Board” have declared for the first time [Ed. Note: Patrick Patterson has not officially declared, but signs are pointing towards an announcement this week] and all of them still have eligibility left to come back to college (Jan Vesely and Donatas Motiejunas are international players who could have gone to college, but the fact that they opted to enter the draft is not the least bit surprising). Is this just a random occurrence (I mean some year had to have the most underclassman ever declare) or is there something more behind it? It’s true that many of these guys could come back for an extra year or two (or three in some cases), but we have a sneaking suspicion that most of them will keep their names in the draft especially since nearly two-thirds of that group has already signed with an agent or is expected to in the near future.

Cole may or may not be living here next year (Credit: AldrichMansion.com)

The big question for college basketball fans is what caused this mass exodus from campuses across America. College life certainly has not gotten any tougher for these athletes (and that’s for a guy who averaged 2.7 PPG so you can imagine what kind of perks an All-American gets) and while next season’s NBA salary cap is higher than it was expected to be, it is still $1.6 million less than this season’s salary cap. The real reason behind the exodus may have less to do with the college game than a rumor that has been gaining steam over the past six months — there might be a NBA lockout after the 2010-11 season. We would normally dismiss this as purely speculative message board talk, but there have been numerous major media outlets that have published articles recently about the possibility of a lockout:

At this point all of this could just be idle speculation although with the numerous prominent media voices chiming in on it the possibility of a NBA lockout has to be considered. Even though many of these players will have NBA careers that will exceed a decade we can understand their apprehension at having to wait two more years (coming back to college for one year followed by a potential NBA lockout season) before getting an NBA contract. On top of that, there is a good chance that a lockout would result in a significant restructuring of contracts in a way that would not be favorable to the players. Billy Hunter can posture all he wants about the strength and unity of the players, but the owners have much bigger bankrolls than the players do to live off of during a lockout (see Antoine Walker‘s case for a little background on the financial sensibilities of some NBA players) and they also have streams of income coming in from sources outside of basketball. We would not be surprised to see the owners force the players to accept contracts that are more like what NFL players have to deal with — guaranteed up to a certain point with bonuses up front, but the owners having the opportunity to cut the cord at the first sign of a drop-off in a player’s ability.

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Comings & Goings: Hayward, Purdue Stars Test Waters; Oregon Whiffs Again

Posted by rtmsf on April 14th, 2010

Lots of comings on the first day of the spring signing period, but this post will focus on the goings…

Starting with the daily NBA Draft exodus, Butler fans are today experiencing life as a top-tier program, as star forward Gordon Hayward announced that he will be testing the waters to determine just how much his game translates to the next level.  6’9 forwards with three-point range and guard-like skills aren’t growing on trees these days, so there’s a strong likelihood that Hayward — a probable lottery pick — has seen his last minute as a Bulldog.  But he will not sign with an agent, and there’s a good possibility that he could return for another run at the Final Four next year in Houston.

We already knew about Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson’s pending announcement for the NBA Draft, but teammate E’Twaun Moore’s caught us a little by surprise.  Moore is not projected as a draftee on either of the two major NBA Draft projection sites, but apparently he recognizes that fact because he will not sign with an agent this year.  Losing both of these players would devastate the Final Four chances for the Boilermakers next year, but there’s a better than reasonable chance that both could return to Matt Painter’s team in 2010-11.

DePaul’s Mac Koshwal is joining the crowd and leaving school for the NBA Draft as well.  He is gone for good, as he tested the waters last year and you only get a single shot in that regard.  At 6’10 and 240 pounds, Koshwal is an intriguing prospect inside and he will get a strong look among teams needing frontcourt depth in the second round.  He averaged 16/10 on a terrible Blue Demon team in 2009-10, but apparently didn’t want to deal with a brand-new coach coming into the program for what would have been his senior campaign.

Things continue to improve at Rutgers as their star player Mike Rosario has received permission to transfer out of the program.  He must not believe that he is draft-ready or we’d probably see his name coming out along with all the rest.  Rosario is a volume shooter, averaging 17/4 while putting up a third of the shots in Fred Hill’s offense last season (#38 nationally).  The school has agreed to release him conditionally, which means that Rutgers must approve the school to which he wants to transfer.  Presumably that would mean no Big East teams or other local rivals.

After several whiffs with elite name coaches, Oregon reportedly focused on a much  more realistic target — Missouri’s Mike Anderson — offering him a salary of $3M per year to move to Eugene (double his current salary).  Our first impression was that this was a solid strategy, as Anderson is one of the most underrated coaches in America, and his system is very tough to prepare for.  But he’s already turned down offers in recent years from SEC schools and Memphis, so the only true attraction would have been the dollar-value of the contract and the new facilities available to him in Eugene.  Needless to say, he denied interest later this evening.

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