Big East M5: 01.02.14 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 2nd, 2014

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  1. There were definite ups and downs to be found during the marathon that was the first day of Big East play on Tuesday. While those within the conference will admit that the play on the court didn’t often set the basketball world on fire, there is still belief in the future of the league as a basketball power. Commissioner Val Ackerman cites past experience when discussing this topic: “When I was with WNBA, I remember saying it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. The same should be said about the Big East. There’s a long history here, but with a new conference, what we do in the first year or two isn’t necessarily going to be indicative.” While Big East fans hope that the league makes a splash here in year one, the 10 programs aren’t going anywhere, and there is plenty of time for this new-look conference to get its legs under it.
  2. Creighton wasn’t great offensively in its first ever Big East game, but the Bluejays’ defense was able to stifle a struggling Marquette offense, leading to a 67-49 win on New Year’s Eve. Creighton only shot 40 percent from the floor, but they were able to known down 13 threes and kept up with a bigger Golden Eagles’ squad in the paint, where they were only outscored by four. While this win was huge for Creighton — its first-ever in a power basketball conference — the performance is perhaps more telling about Marquette, whose well-publicized offensive struggles seem to be getting worse, not better. The Eagles were the preseason favorite to win the league, but without improvement soon, Marquette will struggle to punch a ticket to the Dance come March.
  3. Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery are going to become very familiar voices for Big East fans (if they weren’t already), especially those who watched the entirety of Tuesday’s basketball marathon.  The team called noon’s Xavier-St. John’s game in Cincinnati and then hightailed it to Indianapolis for Butler-Villanova at 7:30. The IndyStar spent time with Fox Sports 1’s top team on the bus between games, allowing the two to reminisce about some of their favorite Big East and NCAA Tournament memories. Spoiler alert: Butler fans are going to appreciate this far more than… say… Syracuse, Kansas State, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Florida, or Wisconsin fans.
  4. In anticipation of Tuesday’s Creighton/Marquette clash, Andy from Anonymous Eagle and Jacob Padilla from The Creightonian got together for an enlightening Q&A discussion. Among the topics covered: Bluejay fans’ excitement for this season and the Big East conference; the importance of the McDermotts to the Creighton program; Marquette’s early season struggles; and the best places to get a beer and a bite to eat in Omaha. Even though it predates the game won by Creighton, both pieces are still fun reads. Check out Jacob’s answers here and Andy’s here.
  5. To round out a very ‘Creighton vs. Marquette’ heavy M5 this morning, we have footage from a raucous CenturyLink Arena crowd.  On one play, the sold out crowd belted out Neil Diamond’s stadium staple “Sweet Caroline” after the arena speakers had already cut off the song, and it seemed to throw off the Golden Eagles, who promptly turned over the ball. You can judge for yourself, but NBC Sports‘ Rob Dauster seems to think the crowd played a part in the play.
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Big East M5: 10.30.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on October 30th, 2013

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  1. Renowned college basketball stats guru Ken Pomeroy released his preseason rankings for the upcoming season. The Big East comes in as the second best conference in the nation, behind the Big Ten. This is surprising after Louisville, Syracuse, and several other quality teams left, as well as seeing ESPN writer Dan Hanner have the Big East in the middle of the pack of the power seven conferences. Pomeroy has Creighton leading the league, ranked 13th, with Georgetown right behind them at 14. Marquette and Villanova follow at 24 and 26. Pomeroy’s rankings look fairly different than Hanner’s, which has Marquette as the top team in the league and ranks the bottom seven teams lower giving the Big East a much lower rating. Pomeroy admits that his predictions have the “simplest algorithm possible without being a complete joke.” This is not the best way to predict how well a team will play during the season, but it is fun to see what a respected statistician says about the upcoming season. The high ranking for the Big East should give fans optimism and reason to believe the Big East will compete to be one of the top conferences in the nation.
  2. CBS Sports writer Jeff Borzello wrote an interesting piece about the team outside his top 25 that he thinks has the most potential and St. John’s was his clear cut choice. With so much talent, it is easy to see why. The Red Storm return all five starters as well as Jamal Branch and God’s Gift Achiuwa, who will have major roles. He points out that the biggest addition is freshman Rysheed Jordan. Steve Lavin said “He has tremendous poise and makes good judgments on the court. He plays with a hard edge, which is an indication of his competitiveness and that’s why he has had success since a young age on the court.” Jordan was named Big East Preseason Rookie of the Year and his addition raises the potential even higher. Last year’s team also had talent, but a lot of inexperience. This year players like D’Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson will have to take a big step forward in becoming more complete and smarter basketball players. Lavin will also have to impress this year after having a reputation for being a great recruiter, but not being able to win with top talent. All the pieces are in place for this to be a big season in Queens.
  3. Last night, Butler scrimmaged against Nova Southeastern and won handily 101-64. Obviously it was an easy game for them, but it is still nice to see it wasn’t close, as opposed to DePaul‘s scrimmage against Lewis University, which saw the Blue Demons trail at halftime before using an early run in the second half to win by five. Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star took a look at Butler freshman Rene Castro. Castro is a point guard who looks like he could end up being a key contributor this season and possible starter by the end of the season, as Keefer predicts. Castro has a good bit of improving to do especially on the defensive side of the ball and needs to adjust to the college game, but he has impressed and is working hard on his outside shot. First-year coach Brandon Miller could use Castro’s physical abilities to bring another aspect to the team. If Castro is the real deal, he could make sophomore Kellen Dunham’s life much easier by using his quickness to get into the lane and kick it out to him for three’s. Castro has big goals, saying “Our goal is to make the NCAA Tournament and fight for a championship.”
  4. The Big East is benefiting from the thrilling World Series on Fox, as Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal points out. Fox is airing several commercials publicizing the upcoming season on Fox Sports 1 and is reaching millions as game 4 on Sunday night outdrew the NFL. The commercials are pushing it’s opening night games of Providence-Boston College and Lafayette-Villanova. Fox Sports also announced its lineup of announcers for the upcoming season. Besides the already announced star combo of Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery, Justin Kutcher, Dick Stockton, Thom Brennaman, Brian Anderson, Eric Collins and Kevin Kugler will have play-by-play duties and Kevin O’Neill, Gary Williams, Donny Marshall as well as several other former players and coaches will serve as analysts. FS1 has some big names announcing games with Stockton and Brennaman being well-known announcers who have plenty of experience. O’Neill and Williams should be interesting to have in the booth as they will be making their debuts, but have had great success coaching and will have interesting analysis.
  5. The Big East announced that it has hired Tom Jernstedt as senior adviser. He will be tasked with helping commissioner Val Ackerman on officiating, scheduling, postseason play and an entire strategic plan. Jernstedt worked for the NCAA for almost 40 years and Ackerman says that “few have as keen a grasp as he does of the intricacies of the NCAA and the college basketball world.” ESPN’s Dana O’Neill makes the point that the hiring is very important as it gives the Big East credibility from the start. His past experience will be key in getting the Big East through the tough early stages of establishing itself as a power conference. Their is a lot of work to be done and Ackerman will benefit from having someone who knows the ins and outs of the NCAA and the college basketball world.
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Media Day Launches New Era for Big East, Same As It Never Was

Posted by Todd Keryc on October 17th, 2013

The next generation of the Big East officially kicked off Wednesday with the conference’s annual basketball media day in New York. It was a day marked more by who was missing than who was in attendance. Gone was one of the faces (and mouths) the original Big East was built upon, Jim Boeheim. Gone were the defending national champions, Louisville and Rick Pitino. Gone was even a man who had never coached a game in the conference but whose arrival was expected to help the revamped league, Brad Stevens. Even the traditional Big Monday with Sean McDonough, Jay Bilas and Bill Raftery on ESPN is a thing of the past.

It's a New Era in the Big East Conference

It’s a New Era in the Big East Conference

Yes, there’s still a Thompson roaming the sidelines at Georgetown. There’s still Villanova, St. John’s, Providence and Seton Hall, schools bonded together by their Big East heritage and lack of high-level football. But the 2013-14 season will be decidedly different in the Big East. Marquette, always solid but not spectacular since the days of Dwyane Wade, was the media’s choice to win the league. The preseason player of the year, Doug McDermott, plays college hoops in Nebraska at Creighton. The team the closest removed from playing for the national title is Butler, which only has DePaul to thank for avoiding the cellar in the preseason poll.

New Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman vowed in her address to “make the Big East a force in college basketball.” The key word here is “make.” Yes, there’s clear talent this year but there are question marks everywhere. McDermott is a two-time All-American, but one who will face steeper competition night in and night out this season. Marquette returns the frontcourt of a team that was a win away from the Final Four, but must replace talented backcourt performers like Vander Blue and Junior Cadougan. Georgetown lost to Dunk City (Florida Gulf Coast) early in the NCAA Tournament last season and then lost Otto Porter to the NBA.  They were still picked to finish second.

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Bill Raftery and Gus Johnson Calling Games Together? Yes, Please…

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 1st, 2013

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

The college basketball viewing experience in enhanced by exciting play-by-play commentary. This is not a difficult concept to grasp: Watching games on TV is more fun when the people explaining the dynamics of those games, a) know what they’re talking about; b) don’t go off on too many Vitale-ian tangential rants; and c) employ proper diction and tone, using the inflection of their vocal cords, to accentuate the most thrilling moments. There are but a few commentators who have genuinely mastered their craft, and needless to say, Bill Raftery is one of them. This name should sound familiar; Raftery’s ties to Big East hoops run deep – he’s practically synonymous with ESPN’s “Big Monday” series. When the foundational core of the league’s membership broke off from its unglamorous Conference USA cohorts this season to form its own 10-team conference, taking the Big East league name out the door, it signed a new media rights deal with Fox and ended its long and fruitful connection with Big Monday. That left Raftery with a rather crucial decision to make: Stick with ESPN, where he became part of one of the sport’s best broadcast teams with Jay Bilas and Sean McDonough? Or follow his Big East roots to the upstart sports network Fox Sports 1 (set to debut on August 17)? Raftery wisely chose the latter, and college hoops fans will very much appreciate the implications of his decision.

Adding Raftery is a fantastic move for Fox Sports 1's college basketball broadcast team (AP).

Adding Raftery is a fantastic move for Fox Sports 1’s college basketball broadcast team (AP).

If Raftery is the most professional hoops announcer in the business, Gus Johnson is easily the most exciting. Johnson, one of Fox’s top play-by-play men across numerous sports (including college football and soccer), was already set to become a part of Fox Sports 1’s Big East coverage. Raftery joined Fox with the understanding he’d be allowed to continue calling Big East games. I’ve basically drawn the dots for you – now all you have to do is connect them. YES: Johnson and Raferty will be calling games together next season. Fox confirmed the dream pairing in a release last Thursday.

Adding a renowned, popular veteran like Bill Raftery to a family of announcers at FOX Sports that already includes many of sports television’s biggest names is an incredible coup,” said FOX Sports Executive Vice President and Executive Producer John Entz. “More importantly, in teaming Bill with Gus, we have reunited the most energized, entertaining college basketball broadcast team ever, and we can’t wait for them to work their first game.”

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The Other 26: This Is Not Mark Few’s Best Team… Yet

Posted by IRenko on February 16th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

After a 17-point win at St. Mary’s on Thursday night pushed Gonzaga’s record to 24-2 and cleared its biggest hurdle to a regular season record tainted with just two losses, some are wondering whether this is the best team that Mark Few has put together in his 14 years at the helm. It’s a fair question, given the way they’re playing. But the best ever? Sure, not since Adam Morrison was dragged off the court after a heartbreaking loss to UCLA ended his college career, have the Zags had a player with the combination of star power, All-American credentials, and curious hairstyle that Kelly Olynyk has brought this year. And, true, moreso than the Morrison-led team of 2006, this squad is a well-balanced offensive machine, with a multitude of frontcourt and backcourt options. They proved that on Thursday, when Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, who have deferred most of the scoring load this year to Olynyk and Elias Harris, dropped a combined 38 points on St. Mary’s.

This Gonzaga Team is Good, But Not Mark Few’s Best … Yet (James Snook / USA TODAY Sports)

This Gonzaga Team is Good, But Not Mark Few’s Best … Yet (James Snook / USA TODAY Sports)

But Few’s best team ever? They have a ways to go before they can claim such an honor. Take, for example, the 2004 team, which also dropped just two contests heading into the NCAA Tournament.  That squad was led by All-American senior guard Blake Stepp, and like Olynyk, he had lots of help. Junior Ronny Turiaf, sophomore Morrison, and senior Cory Violette shared the scoring load, with all four players averaging in double-digits. They coasted through league play undefeated, never winning a game by less than double digits, and ended the season on a 20-game win streak en route to a 2 seed in the Tournament, Gonzaga’s best ever. Their two pre-Tournament losses were to St. Joe’s and Stanford, both of which went on to earn 1 seeds that year. By contrast, this year’s Gonzaga team lost to Illinois, a bubble team, at home by 11 points.

Of course, this year’s squad could prove itself a superior to the 2004 team — or any team that Few has coached — if it can get past the Sweet Sixteen. Since Gonzaga burst onto the college hoops scene 14 years ago with a Cinderella run to the Elite Eight, they’ve yet to get reach the brink of a Final Four, much less a Final Four itself. The ballyhooed ’04 squad was upset by 10th-seeded Nevada in the second round, the ’05 team squandered a 3 seed with a second round loss to Texas Tech, and the ’06 Zags memorably collapsed against UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen (a game to which one cannot refer without remarking that it was perhaps the finest moment of Gus Johnson’s illustrious career). This Gonzaga team stacks up well with those predecessors, but unless it breaks through to the second game of the second weekend, it won’t prove to be their clear superior.

What’s undisputed, however, is that the Zags have been dominant enough to remain at the top of this year’s Top 10.  On to that, our Honor Roll, and this week’s games to watch  . . .

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Morning Five: 09.17.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 17th, 2012

  1. In the wake of last week’s announcement by Notre Dame that it was leaving the Big East to join the ACC in all sports except football, new Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said on Friday that his league is not dead, and as a matter of fact, is still “the strongest basketball conference in the country.” We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here and assume that when he made reference to conference strength he was talking about the upcoming season only — before he loses the likes of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame from his lineup of stalwart programs. At the end of the day, much will be written about the relative strength of the two leagues once all the realignment moves have propagated, but from our view a top eight of UNC, Duke, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Maryland, Florida State and NC State looks equal to or better than Connecticut, Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette, Memphis, Georgetown, Villanova and Temple. Of course, the bottom half of the Big East is where the ACC really increases its lead — UCF, SMU, Rutgers, DePaul and the rest have no business competing with programs like Virginia, Miami, Clemson and Wake Forest.
  2. Right on cue, Luke Winn last week analyzed a similar comment made by Aresco (“We’re still the strongest top-to-bottom basketball conference in the country.”) in his own inimitable way. Winn used KenPom efficiency data to compare leagues based on their current configuration and their new configurations, and with the caveat that past performance does not accurately predict future success, the Big East as a whole falls from the second-best basketball conference over the last 10 seasons to sixth. As he notes, “realignment has made the Big East the weakest top-to-bottom major conference, not the strongest.” He also shows a chart exhibiting that only four of the top 11 leagues have improved themselves on the hardwood through conference realignment — the WCC, ACC, Atlantic 10, and SEC. Each of these leagues has added at least one solid basketball school to its mix.
  3. Sam Cassell caused a commotion upon his entry to the ACC two decades ago with his brashness, outspoken demeanor, and his talent on the court. Late last week some of those same characteristics came to bear as the now-Washington Wizards assistant spoke to Jeff Goodman about the NCAA’s rejection of his son’s appeal to play as a freshman next season at Maryland. Comparing the organization to “neighborhood bullies” and accusing the governing body of wanting “kids to fail,” Cassell is clearly unhappy with the NCAA’s decision to invalidate courses his son took at Notre Dame Prep as a high school junior even though other players such as Pittsburgh’s Khem Birch and Marquette’s Todd Mayo took the exact same courses and were eligible to play last season. Cassell, Jr., has not made a decision on what his next step will be, but
  4. The other player hurt by the NCAA’s decision to invalidate those Notre Dame Prep courses may not have a famous father to speak on his behalf, but Myles Davis will sit out next year at Xavier — paying his own way — and he’ll have some additional company doing it. Jalen Reynolds, another member of Chris Mack’s incoming recruiting class, was deemed ineligible by the NCAA on Friday for a similar issue, and he too will have to sit out the entire 2012-13 season while paying his own tuition at XU. With these two losses and the recent expulsion of Dez Wells, Xavier is now down to only eight scholarship players — none of whom were significant contributors on last year’s Sweet Sixteen team. The Musketeers’ first season in a revamped Atlantic 10 boasting new instant impact programs Butler and VCU will certainly be interesting with such a young and inexperienced squad — Mack will need to find a way to work miracles on the banks of the Ohio River if he plans on keeping Xavier’s NCAA Tournament streak of seven straight seasons alive.
  5. College basketball is legitimately just around the corner, and what better way to get your juices flowing than to read an interview with Gus Johnson. Johnson, of course, is spending his time nowadays as the lead college football announcer on Fox while also doing some Big Ten Network work on the side. This Q&A with Johnson isn’t necessarily ground-breaking in its breadth, but there were two college basketball takeaways that came out of it. First, and perhaps unsurprisingly since Johnson is a Detroit guy and given his obvious enthusiasm during games, he said he has long admired Dick Vitale as a sportscaster. Next, out of all the great games he’s covered over the years, his favorite? The 1996 NCAA Tournament Princeton upset over the defending national champions, UCLA. Give us more Gus, anytime.
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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume I

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 21st, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish on Mondays throughout the season. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED….finding out answers on Opening Night. After last year, we all knew UConn’s Jeremy Lamb had the chance to be special, but weren’t sure exactly what we’d get with Kemba Walker gone and a new team in Storrs. It took all of 32 minutes and 11 seconds against Columbia for Lamb to go baseline and throw down a “Yeah-I’m-A-POY-frontrunner-and-don’t-you-forget it” posterization. I’ll be shocked if that’s still not a Top 10 play by year’s end, and take note – this is the kid to watch for the next six months.

I LOVED….that moment when you realize college basketball is back – not necessarily the first game, but the first time you jump halfway off the couch and let out a little Ohhh!!! For me it was Alabama/Maryland, when Bama’s Tony Mitchell timed a tip jam so perfectly that he had time to cock it back into a semi-tomahawk and absolutely rip the net apart. The best time of the year is here.

I LOVED….the uniqueness of the North Carolina/Michigan State Carrier Classic. Yes, it was a great matchup, great coaches, a great tribute to our veterans, etc. But more than that, for the first time I can remember the backdrop setting of the game truly overtook the importance of the matchup or the result. Organizers have tried to do that in the past by setting up courts in huge venues, but this trumped them all. Five years from now, I think far more people will remember pictures like this than the final score. OK, well, maybe they’ll remember Roy Williams in combat boots, too.

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Where 2011-12 Happens: Reason #20 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 15th, 2011

Another preseason preview gives us reason to roll out the 2011-12 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured the most compelling moments from the 2010-11 season, many of which will bring back the goosebumps and some of which will leave you shaking your head in frustration. For the complete list of this year’s reasons, click here. Enjoy!

#20 – Where How Can We Lose Gus? Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 seasons.

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Morning Five: 10.12.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on October 12th, 2011

  1. Indiana self-reported a violation to the NCAA yesterday, specifically the contacting of recruit Gary Harris by head coach Tom Crean on October 6 even though the period for allowable contact ended on October 5. The university report said that one of Crean’s assistants told the head coach that the contact was permitted and they didn’t realize the error until the communication had occurred. Self-imposed penalty: loss of two recruiting days, loss of an allowable contact, and no further contact with that recruit. That’s probably all that will be necessary to appease the NCAA, but this is just odd to us. We’re confident that in time Crean can bring the Hoosiers back to prominence, and we know that head coaches delegate so much to their assistants, but at a school with a recent history of improper contact with recruits like Indiana, it’s difficult to believe that the man who’s most responsible for what goes on there doesn’t know when the contact period ends.
  2. Notre Dame will be without fifth-year senior forward Tim Abromaitis for the first four games of the upcoming season as a penalty for playing two exhibition games before his sophomore season — yes, this happened three years ago — officially began. Abromaitis had taken that year off after the exhibitions to give himself an eventual fifth year of eligibility, but NCAA rules say that only freshmen are allowed to do this, not sophomores. Head coach Mike Brey took responsibility for the faux pas, and both he and Abromaitis knew this was coming, so it’s not like the team is caught off-guard on this one. According to the NCAA, Abromaitis’ fifth year is green-lighted because of a waiver that takes the program’s misunderstanding of the rule into account. An NCAA waiver that considers misunderstandings? Somewhere, Enes Kanter and his parents offer a bemused glower…
  3. Homer Drew was the designer of one of March Madness’ greatest upset moments. Actually, it’s just as accurate to eliminate the word “upset” in the previous sentence. The tip-pass play executed by Drew’s Valparaiso squad that resulted in Homer’s son Bryce drilling that jumper to beat Mississippi in the 1998 NCAA Tournament’s first round has become a lasting reminder of hope for all small-conference teams who find themselves in the Dance. Hope…is exactly what Drew and his wife now need, more than ever.  The school revealed yesterday that both Drew AND his wife were recently diagnosed with cancer. No further details. Awful, awful, awful news. Our best wishes and prayers go out to both of them and the entire Drew family.
  4. At a couple of spots on this site yesterday we covered  Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo’s comments about the ACC’s power grab in snagging Pittsburgh and Syracuse from the Big East a while back, as they appeared in an article in Sunday’s Boston Globe. Now DeFilippo has apologized, saying that he was wrong to have his personal feelings appear to come off as the stance of the entire department. That might work for the comment about blackballing Connecticut from the ACC, but that surprised few. As for the assertion that ESPN nudged the ACC into making the play for Syracuse and UConn, he said he spoke “inappropriately and erroneously” about that. So, now we’re to believe that ESPN didn’t have a hand in it after he brought it up without prompting? Because his denial is of the non-denial variety, this matter won’t be put to bed until Mr. DiFilippo specifically states that ESPN was not involved at all — if then. If you believe the prevailing mood among journalists, bloggers and fans on Twitter, his first takes are still considered as the truth, and there’s nothing inappropriate or erroneous about speaking the truth.
  5. Listen, we don’t like the lack of Gus Johnson on CBS any more than you do, and we’ve expressed our sorrow here and over our Twitter feed more than a lot of our readers/followers probably ever hoped we would. It might still come up from time to time (especially about five months from now), but it’s real and there’s nothing more that we can do about it. In the spirit of moving on, we give you, via Sports Media Journal, the entire CBS college basketball schedule. From December 3 (North Carolina at Kentucky) to February 26 (Big East/Big Ten doubleheader), here it is in all its glory.
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Gus And “Dynamite” Guy’s Tosh.0 Appearance

Posted by jstevrtc on June 3rd, 2011

In case you missed it last week, the great Gus Johnson made an appearance with the original “Boom Goes the Dynamite” guy — his real name is Brian Collins, by the way — on that Comedy Central show Tosh.0 that a lot of people seem to love:

Hmm. Those scrolling table adverts were overkill, and we’re not sure what’s funny about suicide bombing (we get it, it’s dynamite), but it was good of Gus to show up and play along. And full credit to Collins for not throwing the telemprompter operator from his infamous video under the bus, for being a good sport, and for gettin’ back up on the horse. Sort of.

One last thing: Daniel. Dude. When you’re standing there doing your studio bits, move your arms more. It’s weird.

 

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Morning Five: 05.13.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on May 13th, 2011

  1. Upon hearing that Tubby Smith had been dealing with prostate cancer and is now cancer-free, we were reminded of Steve Lavin’s announcement back in early April that he had the disease, and that he had received an OK from his doctors that it was cool to delay his treatment until the season had concluded. Well, here we are — the off-season. Lavin is collaborating with his docs on what form(s) his treatment will take, but when you read this article by Kieran Darcy from ESPNNewYork.com, you’ll note two important points: first, Lavin’s done his homework, which should surprise nobody; he talks about PSAs and Gleason scores, so he’s going into this very familiar with his enemy, and that bodes well. Second, and more importantly, he remarks that he has a father who had prostate cancer at age 61…who is now 80.
  2. Continuing on that theme, we think you should know that back in November a kid named Taylor Statham, who plays for a prep school called Westwind Academy in Phoenix, was guarding his man during a game and got kneed in the testicles. Good thing. If he hadn’t been, doctors wouldn’t have found Statham’s testicular cancer. Just like his hair during his three rounds of chemotherapy (and surgery), the basketball scholarship offers he was receiving just vanished. As of three weeks ago, Statham is cancer-free. Offers are returning. We suggest his eventual college coach use Statham for all last-second shots and game-winning free throws. After what this young man’s endured, we doubt he’ll be too intimidated by much at all.
  3. Seth Davis’ summary of his attendance at the NCAA Enforcement Experience — LOVE that name, by the way — is a must-read. The event, put on in the same spirit of glasnost as the mock NCAA Tournament selection media gathering every February, was constructed to give the media a little insight as to how the NCAA investigates and adjudicates the many incidences of naughty business that happen in the world of college athletics. They started the thing with a video of an investigator mock-interviewing someone in a bathroom stall. Seriously, check it out.
  4. We’re still sitting in the dark listening to The Cure songs following the announcement that Gus Johnson was not returning to CBS and therefore wouldn’t be calling NCAA Tournament games for a looooong time. At least — sigh — we’ll be able to see/hear him on Fox. And, according to the New York Daily News, you may have heard of the guy who CBS might have in line to take Gus’ place — Marv Albert. Fine. For that, we’ll at least open the blinds.
  5. Sporting News reports that Murray State’s Billy Kennedy has emerged as a leading candidate for the vacant head coaching spot at Texas A&M. He was an assistant under Kermit Davis (yes, A&M fans, that happened) for the 1990-91 season, but obviously he’s more than made his own mark since then. He’s taken both Southeast Louisiana and Murray State to the Tournament, his Racers have averaged 27 wins over the past two seasons, and he’s 107-53 overall there. It might not be as sexy a hire as Buzz or Pastner (two names mentioned in the linked article), but something about this possible union feels right.
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Morning Five: 05.11.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 11th, 2011

  1. Might there be a Gus Johnson reprieve?  Yesterday we wrote about how incredibly disappointed we were that Gus had decided to take his talents to Fox Sports in coming years, effectively ending his career with CBS and seemingly eliminating any more future chances for Heartbreak City! Michael Hiestand of USA Today writes, though, that his new employer would have no problem with ‘loaning out’ Gus to CBS/Turner during future NCAA Tournaments should they want him for their wall-to-wall coverage (see: ESPN’s Jay Bilas, for example).  That last bit is the key part, right there.  As popular as Gus was among college basketball fans under the age of 40, his departure was in some ways political in nature, and we figure it would be tough for CBS to bring back someone who rejected their final offer and left for another network (jilted girlfriend theory).  Still, a glimmer of hope in what appeared to be cavernous darkness…
  2. Now that the Maryland job search is over, it’s Texas A&M’s turn.  Athletic Director Bill Byrne has quite a tough job ahead of him given the success of his two previous hires, Mark Turgeon and Billy Gillispie, but according to TSN, native Houstonian and Memphis head coach Josh Pastner is not available.  The Houston Chronicle reported on Tuesday that Marquette’s Buzz Williams was now A&M’s primary target, but his buyout and salary were probably too rich for TAMU to match.  This leaves a reported list of three intriguing names — Nebraska’s Doc Sadler, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, and Colorado’s Tad Boyle.  Of the three, Marshall would appear to be the kind of coach in the Gillispie/Turgeon vein to seem the best fit, with demonstrated success at the mid-major level and the requisite ambition to make it at the highest level.
  3. Luke Winn breaks down the somewhat embarrassing coaching searches that went on at four ACC schools so far this offseason — NC State, Miami (FL), Georgia Tech, and most recently, Maryland.  Among the four schools, roughly eight to ten candidates (depending on who you ask) turned these  programs down in favor of their current schools that, by and large, would have represented stepping stones to bigger things in the not-too-distant past.  Mark Few at Gonzaga began this trend last decade: an absurd notion that a coach could build an A-list program at a non-BCS school, short of the pressures of insane fan bases but with nearly as much exposure, recruiting penetration and success as many of the big boys.  More recently, Brad Stevens at Butler, Tommy Amaker at Harvard, Shaka Smart at VCU and Chris Mooney at Richmond have decided to stick with the devil they know rather than the one they don’t, and we can’t truly say we blame them.  This is especially true in a league like the ACC, where the twin titans of Duke and Carolina lord over the league nearly every year and it’s extremely difficult to challenge and (even temporarily) overcome them.  Gary Williams did it as well as it’s been done in the last twenty years, but we don’t blame coaches who think they’d be walking into situations where they’re mostly set up to fail.
  4. A bit of transfer news from Tuesday… Kansas State forward and overall disappointment Wally Judge has decided that he will play his final two seasons at Rutgers, ultimately betting on the future of Mike Rice’s program rather than to take a chance at Maryland with new head coach Mark Turgeon.  The 6’9, 248-lb former McDonald’s All-American averaged 6/4 in around fifteen minutes per game last year before leaving the K-State program in late January.  Meanwhile, NC State point guard Ryan Harrow has announced the schools he will visit in coming weeks, including Kentucky, Louisville, St. John’s, Georgia and Texas.  The odds-on favorite is SJU, as both of Harrow’s folks are products of Queens and consider the Johnnies their hometown school.  Whoever gets the freshman will be getting a talented floor leader, as Harrow averaged 9/3 in 23 minutes per game and started most of the Wolfpack’s contests at the end of last season.
  5. Love or hate the man as a comedian-cum-superstar center or lazy, out-of-shape impresario who wasted some of his best playing years getting involved in things other than basketball, but there can be no question that Shaquille O’Neal possesses a heart of pure gold when it comes to his generosity.  Anyone who has watched his Shaq-a-Claus bit each winter, or has heard the numerous off-record stories about his many random acts of incredible kindness to regular Joes, knows this truth.  So when we read that Shaq was resisting the placement of a life-sized statue of himself outside the new LSU practice facility that he helped pay for, consider us completely unsurprised.  It turns out that the Big Aristotle has been anonymously putting millions into LSU infrastructure for years, including to help pay for an on-campus hotel and an academic center, contributions to the point that two LSU Board of Supervisors members demanded that Shaq’s statue go up first — even ahead of the man whose name adorns the arena, Pete Maravich.  We’ve said for a long time that we’ve never seen another player at 19 years old who could do the things at his size that Shaq could do, but we were always referring to his athleticism and stature; it turns out we might have been unwittingly also referring to the big fella’s ticker, and we didn’t even know it.  Here’s what the statue will look like, if Shaq ever approves its completion.

Best Collegian We've Ever Seen At His Size

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