Morning Five: 05.14.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 15th, 2013

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  1. Yesterday was Andrew Wiggins Day in college basketball, as the precocious Canadian wing who some have claimed is the best prep player since LeBron James came out of Akron in 2003, made his collegiate choice. You’ve undoubtedly heard by now that Wiggins is headed to Kansas to play for Bill Self, so let’s take a look at some of the reactions from around the country. The Kansas head coach himself was ecstatic, saying that Wiggins “brings athleticism, length, scoring ability and […] an assassin, an alpha dog’s] mentality to his game. Mike DeCourcy emphasizes that not all #1 players are created equal (a true statement), and breaks down some of the most heated recruitments of the modern era (from Ewing to Oden), while also arguing that if Wiggins really sought to shun the glare of a white-hot spotlight, he probably should have gone elsewhere because the pressure will be on him in Lawrence. On the other hand, during the SVP & Rusillo radio show Tuesday, Andy Katz said that Wiggins is walking into a near-perfect situation where he join a team with enough talent around him to win but where there is no question who will be the top dog on campus. So where does this put the Jayhawks next season? The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg thinks that KU is now a title contender, while at least one writer believes the Jayhawks should be elevated into the post-recruitment top four of next year’s power rankings. Twitter of course weighed in as it tends to do in these situationswhile one national writer thinks Wiggins made a mistake in going to college at all. It’s all very exciting stuff, because Wiggins’ decision to join KU balances out the ridiculous incoming class at Kentucky along with the returning talent at places like North Carolina, Louisville, Duke and Arizona. The game is in solid shape for 2013-14, that’s for sure. What’s next for Wiggins? According to Self, perhaps a summer spent playing for Team Canada in some international events. Let’s just cross our fingers that he remains healthy.
  2. Lost amid all the Wiggins news yesterday was that the SEC and Big 12 announced a new basketball challenge in light of the transitions that hit the Big East which makes it no longer an attractive interconference option for something like this. The SEC/Big 12 Challenge will begin on November 14 with a yawner of a game between Alabama and Texas Tech, and will continue on for the next five weeks with highlighted contests including Baylor vs. Kentucky at Cowboys Stadium on December 6 and Kansas vs. Florida in Gainesville on December 10. Look, we love the idea conceptually. The SEC and Big 12 are very similar leagues and this sort of match-up makes a lot more sense than the Big East/SEC event ever did. But the Big 12 tried the same thing with the Pac-10 a few years ago and it was a failure because nobody knew when the games were happening — they were simply too spread out. For events like this to work, they must (capital MUST) be confined to a tight spacing of games so that fans can actually invest in the concept and keep up with how each league is doing. To have games literally spread out over more than a month like they’ve done here is incredibly short-sighted and incomprehensible. As an aside, Missouri will take part in the Challenge, but they’ll play West Virginia, the school that replaced them after leaving the Big 12 last year.
  3. Something ugly appears to be going down at Tennessee involving the bizarre Trae Golden dismissal/transfer that occurred last week. According to numerous published reports, the rumors of Golden’s academic issues in Knoxville may have involved more than originally met the eye after the school terminated its head of judicial student affairs, Jenny Wright, late last week. We’re not going to speculate as to what exactly may have happened here until more information is released, but as Andy Glockner notes in SI.com, the merging of possible academic impropriety with unprofessional relationships in the context of a judicial student affairs setting isn’t one to take lightly. And certainly nothing that the school needs after already suffering through the Bruce Pearl and Derek Dooley foibles in their two revenue sports.
  4. From the world is a strange and sometimes awful place department, Brown guard Joseph Sharkey, a sophomore who averaged about 12 minutes per game last season for the Bears, was approached and struck in the face by a random stranger over the weekend, putting him into the hospital where he is in critical condition. As CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Goodman writes, the attack appears to have been completely unprovoked and ultimately resulted in the young man’s head hitting concrete as he fell down. It sounds like a horrible story and one that we hope doesn’t have a lasting negative outcome for the player. We’re wishing him well on his recovery from this senseless crime.
  5. Finishing up with some comings and goings, Andrew Wiggins must be scaring the rest of the Big 12, as not one but two Baylor players are leaving the program — most notably, Deuce Bello, along with LJ Rose – and Texas’ Julien Lewis, the top returning scorer for the Longhorns, is also on his way out. Lewis is the most accomplished player of the three, averaging 11/3 APG in his sophomore season in Austin, but Bello probably has the most name-brand recognition from his prep days when he was considered the most athletic player in his class. Bello has only seen about 10 minutes per game of action in his two seasons in Waco, but perhaps a change of scenery will allow him to develop his game beyond occasional Highlight of the Night quality dunks. Already more than 400 players are on the transfer wire this offseason, averaging out to a little more than one player per D-I team. Wow. We hope these guys find what they’re looking for.
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Morning Five: 02.13.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 13th, 2013

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  1. The college basketball community was abuzz last night discussing the gruesome-looking knees injury suffered by Kentucky center Nerlens Noel during the second half of the Wildcats’ loss to Florida in Gainesville. At the time of this writing, no official news has been released as to the severity of the injury, but as you can see from this video and this photo, the star freshman’s knee buckled in a way that caused him quite a bit of pain. Afterward, head coach John Calipari said that he feared the worst but hoped for the best, but the collective mood around Big Blue Nation suggests that Noel may not be coming back this season. You hate to see a player of any kind suffer a serious injury, and this is especially so when it involves a player with the talent, skill and future of Noel. Let’s all hope that by the time you’re reading this on Wednesday morning that Calipari’s hopes for only a sprain have rendered true.
  2. From a potential season-ending injury to a definite one, Northwestern forward Jared Swopshire‘s career is officially over after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday. The Louisville transfer graduate student had hoped to spend his only year in Evanston contributing toward the Wildcats’ first-ever run to the NCAA Tournament, but the snake-bitten team that has suffered multiple key injuries this year now sits at 13-11 and 4-7 in the Big Ten with a Thursday trip to Ohio State looming. Without the team’s best rebounder available, Bill Carmody’s squad expects to now have only seven scholarship players available for that game. Ouch.
  3. While on the subject of bad news, a bizarre and sad story is developing in the Philadelphia area this week as Maria Reyes Garcia-Pellon, the wife of former Penn starting center and 1979 Final Four participant Matthew White, was arrested on charges of murdering her husband with a pair of kitchen knives. She claimed to police that she found White “looking at pornography, young girls,” which caused her to attack him as he slept, but it’s unclear whether White was actually doing so. According to a written statement from a spokesperson for the county attorney’s office, “there is no indication that [what White was looking at] was child pornography,” but we’re sure that the specific details will come out if such an accusation is true. The last Ivy League team to make the Final Four was White’s Quakers, who lost to eventual national champion Michigan State in the Final Four.
  4. You’re up three points with eight seconds left and the opponent heading your way — do you foul or choose to defend? This strategic discussion has been bandied about for the last several years among the punditocracy, with a data-driven cabal arguing that fouling is the proper decision — that the likelihood of the sequence of events that will cause your team to lose is even smaller than forcing a tough contested three. Ken Pomeroy begs to differ. Looking at three years worth of data, he found that defending the three results in a win 94.0% of the time, while putting your opponent on the line produces a victory 92.7% of the time — a minor difference, to be sure, but a difference over a data set of 804 instances nevertheless. Considering the margin of error, perhaps there’s no meaningful difference between the two strategies, but Pomeroy argues that the preponderance of game-tying threes (witness: Wisconsin’s buzzer-beater versus Michigan over the weekend) compared with instances of  successful fouling strategies gives a false impression of one solution preferred over the other. It’s a fair point — perception drives reality for most — but we also wonder if the answer here might be mostly driven by the personnel on the floor analyzed through a matrix of three-point shooting, foul shooting, and rebounding prowess.
  5. It’s the end of the Big East as we know it, and Grantland‘s Charles Pierce does not feel fine. In a wide-ranging piece that focuses on ancient Eastern basketball rivalries, anti-Catholic nativism in the South (read: Tobacco Road), and somehow, a sluggishly-paced game between Georgetown and Marquette, Pierce laments the loss of one of the great college basketball leagues there ever was. While we’re just as torn up as anybody with the implosion of the venerable conference, we also recognize that the league really did this to itself. And when given the opportunity to shore up its ranks by getting back to what made the Big East relevant in the first place — basketball — the conference instead made a mockery of itself by reaching near and wide to schools like TCU, Boise State and (egads) Tulane and expected everyone to keep a straight face. Well, there is that new NBC Sports television contract, we suppose.
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Morning Five: 01.31.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 31st, 2013

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  1. Basketball took a back seat at Ohio yesterday after an armed robbery (reportedly over $5) at 9:30 AM at an apartment complex near the campus led the school to suspend classes and cancel last night’s game against Eastern Michigan. Interestingly, the school remained open for another 2.5 hours with the suspect loose before the administration chose to close the campus. In the aftermath of the announcement there appears to have been quite a bit of confusion regarding the school’s intent, but fortunately it appears that nobody was harmed and no further incidents took place although the suspect was still at-large as of this writing. The school has announced that the game will be made up on February 20, which works well for both teams as they both have their preceding game on February 16 and next game on February 27.
  2. Much of the early part of this week in the blogosphere was spent discussing Marshall Henderson‘s various, shall we say, peculiarities, both on and off the court. After a rough shooting outing against Kentucky on Tuesday night, much of that talk has died down, but on Wednesday USA Today‘s Nicole Auerbach published an insightful piece about the life and history of the controversial Henderson that included a revelation that the junior college transfer once violated his probation in Texas for failing a drug test because he had cocaine (along with marijuana and alcohol) in his system. Both Henderson’s father and his head coach, Andy Kennedy, believe that the guard has moved past his personal demons at this point in his life, but with his on-court demeanor sure to set Twitter ablaze again soon, we’ll have to wait and see if the pressure and infamy carries over to the Oxford after-parties.
  3. The Wednesday news didn’t improve for Ole Miss fans, as the Rebels also learned that sophomore forward Aaron Jones will miss the rest of the season after injuring his ACL in Tuesday night’s game against Kentucky. The bouncy Jones was only averaging 4/4 in about 17 minutes per game this season, but his loss will be a shock to an Ole Miss lineup short on quality size. As if that weren’t enough, senior guard Nick Williams will be out an indefinite amount of time with a foot injury suffered in the same game. The timing on all of this misfortune is not the greatest, either — the Rebels on Saturday will visit a team, Florida, that is winning SEC contests so far by an average of 28.7 PPG. Good luck with that.
  4. The Big East will draw the curtains on what can only be described as a college basketball goliath in less than two months, but unlike some of the other bitterness that has infused divorcing programs in other leagues, Syracuse and St. John’s specifically are looking for an amicable split. It makes sense. Syracuse has been NYC’s flagship college basketball program for a long time now despite its location several hundred miles upstate, and without question the Orange wants to keep its presence in the New York market strong after joining the ACC. St. John’s certainly wants to keep a marquee opponent on its home schedule as Steve Lavin tries to rebuild that proud program as well. The contract begins next year at MSG with a return trip to the Carrier Dome in 2014-15, but for now the series is only scheduled for those two games. We’d expect that it will be extended indefinitely at a certain point.
  5. In this week’s edition of Luke Winn‘s Power Rankings he spends a lot of time focusing on teams in transition (literally, not figuratively). With the nerdtastic tool of Synergy Sports Technology at his disposal, Winn can find statistically enlightening nuances to explain the game in ways that both tease and titillate. In this week’s edition, he examines some of the best players in the country at shooting jumpers off the dribble (hint: two of them play each other Saturday night in a semi-important game), discusses the best transition guys in the game, and a mention of Kelly Olynyk’s “awesome hair.” Memo to Winn, though: It’s not Olynyk’s hair itself that creates the awesomeness — it’s the ropey-looking headband (color coordinated!) that he adds to the ensemble that truly elevates his look from simply Tim Lincecum cool to Andre Agassi spectacular (in his hirsute prime).
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How Will Ryan Kelly’s Absence Affect Duke? Examining the Alternatives at the PF Position…

Posted by EMann on January 12th, 2013

With Duke’s first big ACC road test against pre-season conference favorite NC State looming on Saturday, all eyes have turned to how the Blue Devils will function without stretch forward Ryan Kelly. Kelly, who has been red-hot in Duke’s last three games as teams have started to meet NPOY candidate Mason Plumlee with frequent double-teams, is a huge component of Duke’s offense. Kelly leads Duke in offensive rating and for the season is shooting over 50% from the arc.

Wake Forest v Duke Basketball

Ryan Kelly’s absence could provide Duke with the opportunity to develop some depth (Chicago Tribune)

While nothing seems certain, most people are estimating Kelly to be out for around a month, depending on how the foot (which is not fractured) responds to treatment. This opens up a phenomenal opportunity for Duke over this period to establish something that they have struggled with this season:  post depth. Duke has essentially used a 6.5 man rotation this year, with its bench consisting of Tyler Thornton (over 20 minutes per game), along with junior Josh Hairston, will start at Kelly’s position in his absence, who averages just over 11 minutes a game. Freshmen Alex Murphy (5.6 mpg)and Amile Jefferson (8.8 mpg) are also likely to see extended minutes at the 4 with Kelly being out with his injury.

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Morning Five: 11.16.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 16th, 2012

  1. While one prominent Pac-12 incomer awaits the NCAA’s decision on whether he’ll see the floor this year, another one received his eligibility papers on Thursday. Oregon’s Arsalen Kazemi, a Rice transfer and former all-CUSA forward, has been cleared to suit up for the Ducks effective immediately, which means that we’re likely to see him in uniform against Vanderbilt tonight. The addition of Kazemi to a talented Oregon front line consisting of Tony Woods, EJ Singler and Carlos Emery is a major coup for Dana Altman right at the start of the season. In a league already fighting hard to regain national relevance this season, this good news for Oregon puts the Ducks at the head of the list of about six Pac-12 teams in the second tier behind Arizona and UCLA who realistically have designs on an NCAA Tournament bid.
  2. So Kazemi is in, Shabazz Muhammad is still out, and a whole host of other players around the country are sidelined as well for a number of different reasons. Andy Glockner lists the most prominent of the group and you could probably make a decent run at the national title with several different iterations of the talent sitting on benches around the country right now. From Providence’s Kris Dunn (injury) to Missouri’s Michael Dixon (team suspension) to St. Louis’ Kwamain Mitchell (injury) to Texas’ Myck Kabongo (NCAA investigation) to Miami’s Durand Scott (impermissible benefits) and on and on, many teams around the nation cannot be fairly evaluated at this point in the season because they’re playing at significantly less than full strength. Injuries are an unfortunate byproduct of the game, but many of the players on the list are there because of their own mistakes — here’s hoping all of them make it back into lineups sooner than later.
  3. One player who at the time of this writing we’re crossing our fingers for is Oklahoma State’s JP Olukemi, who left the Cowboys’ game against Akron on Thursday afternoon with a left knee injury that his head coach Travis Ford characterized as not “look[ing] good.” Just two weeks ago Olukemi was given an eligibility waiver by the NCAA that allowed him to play a full season (rather than just the fall semester), and now if worst comes to worst, he might be forced to miss part or all of the entire season. Last year he played in only 13 games before suffering an ACL tear on New Year’s Eve against Virginia Tech, which begs the question whether the basketball gods just don’t want Olukemi to suit up in a Cowboys uniform for some reason.
  4. File this one under the strange intersection of pop culture and (college) basketball: Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon accused Lil’ Wayne of  cursing at him during Duke’s win over Kentucky at the Champions Classic on Tuesday night. In a tweet from the young guard after the game, Sulaimon said “Still a @LilTunechi fan but was shook when he cursed me out court side lol. Where the duke love at slime.” With an admission that Sulaimon — who shot 3-of-14 from the field — was “shook” by Weezy’s verbal bombs, ACC coaches from Coral Gables to Chestnut Hill no doubt have already started inviting Lil’ Wayne and his friends as honorary guests at some of their more prominent home games against a team in blue.
  5. The Charleston Classic, Puerto Rico Tip-Off and 2kSports Classic all got under way yesterday (the medal rounds, at least), and the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic will tip off tonight in Brooklyn. With so many brackets and games in far-flung places, you probably need a primer on the top contests to watch this weekend in these events. Ryan Fagan of the Sporting News has us covered, picking out five key games over the next few days that are most worth your time and energy to watch. Or, you could do us one better, and just watch them all — junkies of the world, unite. Have a great weekend, everyone.
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On November Rituals, Head-Scratchers, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 13th, 2012

Brian Otskey is a regular contributor for RTC. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. In what seems to have become an annual November ritual, fans and members of the media tend to overreact in making bold statements about teams and players after just one or two games have been played. While I recognize that is the nature of the “what have you done for me lately?” society we live in, fans and the media alike must take a step back. While some early season wins may appear to be huge and some losses head-scratching, we all must remember that the college basketball season is a long, evolving process. The NCAA Tournament doesn’t begin for another four months. Most teams will play 12 non-conference games before they begin 16 or 18-game conference schedules.  It’s OK to say something nice about a team that came up with a great early season win or to be skeptical of a school coming off a loss you might never have expected, but making statements such as “Florida State is a bust because it lost to South Alabama!” is just plain foolish. While a loss like that certainly gives you pause, we’ve seen this movie before time and time again in November, especially as the college season has started earlier and earlier over the years. A loss to South Alabama is hardly a definitive indicator of how Florida State will perform in 2012-13. It’s just one of 30+ games the Seminoles will play this season. With that said, I do have a couple of questions about FSU. One, does the team miss the steady point guard presence of Luke Loucks from a season ago (nine assists, 17 turnovers against USA)? Two, is Leonard Hamilton’s defense not as strong as we are accustomed to seeing? South Alabama shot 9-of-15 from deep and Buffalo shot 50% overall from the floor in FSU’s second game on Monday. Those are examples of legitimate concerns, but not affirmative statements about how Florida State’s season will turn out. The Seminoles have plenty of time to come together and fix their weaknesses. Just don’t bury Florida State, or any other team for that matter, before Thanksgiving for crying out loud.

    How Much is FSU Missing Luke Loucks Right Now? (Reuters)

  2. There were quite a few of those aforementioned head-scratchers over the first four days of the season. In addition to Florida State, teams such as Mississippi State, Virginia, Rutgers, South Florida, Purdue, Drexel and Georgia all started the season on the wrong foot. Other schools including Oklahoma State, Texas and Providence struggled with inferior opponents but managed to hang on and win. In some circumstances like those faced at Mississippi State, Virginia, Georgia and Purdue, these are teams rebuilding after critical personnel losses. While it’s unfair to blast their November performance, these losses could be a sign of things to come. On the other hand, you could say a team like Drexel just had a bad night. The Dragons are a talented bunch and the overwhelming favorites in the depleted Colonial Athletic Association. Above all, however, the worst loss of them all belongs to North Texas. The Sun Belt favorites, who boast the talented Tony Mitchell, lost to Division II Alabama-Huntsville on Monday night. What does this mean? Not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things but it underscores how important it is for teams to put forth maximum effort every time out. The instances in which a team can get away with an off night have shrunk over the years due to parity and better talent assembled on non-power six rosters. When trying to analyze a team at this early stage of the season, don’t dismiss a disappointing loss but don’t throw the team under the bus at the same time. There is a very long way to go. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 10.25.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 25th, 2012

  1. UCLA is lately starting to challenge Kentucky in terms of its news-making prowess as it seems like we’re discussing some new twist with Ben Howland’s team virtually every day in this space. The latest news out of Westwood is that still-ineligible superstar freshman Shabazz Muhammad injured his right shoulder in practice on Wednesday and underwent an MRI last evening to determine if there is any damage to the joint. He’ll be re-evaluated as a matter of course today, but at least so far, sources around the Bruins have been mum on the possible extent of his injury. This comes on the heels of an injury to David Wear’s ankle that has kept the big man out of practice for the last several days, not to mention the continuing dark cloud hovering over the program as a result of the ongoing NCAA investigations of Muhammad (the best wing in college basketball, according to CBSSports.com) and Kyle Anderson. Is there a turning point coming soon or are this year’s Bruins simply doomed from the start?
  2. One school that has found clarity on the eligibility of one of its key players is Murray State. School administrators have made the difficult but correct decision to suspend guard Zay Jackson for the entire 2012-13 season as a result of his dastardly actions last month in using his car as a human battering ram in a Wal-Mart parking lot. We wrote in this very space last week that athletic director Allen Ward had no reasonable choice other than to bring the hammer down on Jackson, and it appears that in light of the shocking video showing Jackson’s rage, he certainly acceded to public pressure. Ward stated that Jackson could earn his way back on to the team next season, but it would take a showing of steps “above and beyond… [those] of an exemplary citizen” to prove to Ward, head coach Steve Prohm, and his teammates that he deserves a second chance. We’ll say this — the legal system will have its pound of flesh (Jackson will be sentenced next week for wanton endangerment) and now the school will have its penance as well. If Jackson wants to atone for his sins, he’ll have what should be a one-time opportunity to make things good in the next 50 weeks until the start of the 2013-14 season.
  3. Don’t you hate when you read a piece that you wish you had already written? That’s exactly how we felt yesterday when we became aware of a fantastic article from The Atlantic‘s Stephen A. Miller that discusses an eminently reasonable solution to much of the perceived and actual inconsistencies in the NCAA‘s application of its rules. Outsource it. Miller argues that the NCAA carries so many inherent risks with its existing enforcement structure — conflicts of interest, inadequate funding, arbitrary and capricious rulings, a perception of playing favorites — that paying an outside entity to build a fair, transparent and consistent body of case law would result in growth in the one thing that the NCAA has trouble selling to the public right now: a strong perception of integrity. Miller’s piece is well worth the time for a read, but in the protect-your-own environment that we live in today, this has about as much chance of happening as Mark Emmert sprouting wings and delivering papers to Shabazz Muhammad’s dorm room.
  4. A really interesting bit of news was released as part of a SiriusXM show Wednesday hosted by Mike Krzyzewski (“Basketball and Beyond“) with Louisville head coach Rick Pitino giving some insight as to how he ended up back in the Bluegrass State after an unsuccessful stint with the Boston Celtics. According to Pitino, it was his wife, Joanne, who talked him out of his commitment to become the new Michigan head coach by — are you ready for this? — challenging him for being “afraid to go back to the state of Kentucky to coach at Louisville, his old school’s arch-rival.” Now, we don’t claim to listen to or read every single comment that the loquacious Pitino has made over the last 10 years, but we’re pretty sure about one thing — the Louisville coach has gone on record dozens of times stating that he expected those same Kentucky fans to embrace him after his return to collegiate coaching. If this is in fact true — and, of course, we know it is not — what would he possibly have been afraid of? As a side note, props to Coach K for his investigative reporting in getting such a jewel of honesty out of Pitino — maybe he has a career on 60 Minutes ahead of him, as even in his 70s, he’d certainly mesh with the median age of its reporters.
  5. Let’s close today with a list, as those are always fun for some debate no matter how ridiculous they turn out to be. Luckily, SI.com‘s Andy Glockner does his homework year-round, so his opinions are on the positive side of the cut line. He ranks all the Division I conferences from #1 to #33 with brief descriptions explaining why, for example, the Pac-12 ended up at #8 (ouch!) or the Big East shows at #2 in its last season as we typically think of it. Keeping in mind that people generally rate conferences based on the quality of their better teams — nobody really cares if your conference’s worst two teams would beat another league’s worst two teams — Glockner chooses the Big Ten as the top conference for the second year in a row. As we discussed on our Big Ten Preview Podblast yesterday, the top five teams in this league are legitimately good-to-great basketball teams. The four or five below that group are all good enough to threaten to make the NCAAs, although not all of them will do so; and so you’re left with just a couple of bottom-feeders whose fans are already thinking of next year. That’s an excellent and talented basketball league.
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Morning Five: 10.24.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 24th, 2012

  1. It’s now been about 10 days since the beginning of practices around the nation and you have to figure that coaches have started to get a sense as to what kind of team they’ll be able to put on the floor this season. But running against yourself only gets you so far by way of learning about your squad, so the NCAA allows coaches to set up so-called “secret scrimmages” between Division I schools so long as nobody other than the competitors are invited and nobody ever talks about them. CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Goodman has mined his sources to put together a list of non-games for the next week and there are a few of which we’d like to see some surreptitious 47%-style tape released afterward — a Xavier-West Virginia battle on Saturday; a Georgetown-North Carolina tilt as well as a Creighton-Iowa contest on Sunday; and, a Stanford-St. Mary’s game late next week. How about we just tip off the season this weekend instead — these are good games!
  2. One of the few teams in America who would probably be better off from a competitive perspective playing five-on-five in its own gym rather than schlepping around to find its match is Louisville. Seth Davis reports from his time spent observing the Cardinals, and after describing in detail why he thinks that Rick Pitino truly is having the most fun coaching that he’s had in years (perhaps decades), he believes that Louisville brings back enough heart, defensive scrap and offensive firepower to make a return trip to the Final Four in 2012-13. While it’s true that outside shooting is probably going to remain a problem area and the Cards are prone to injuries, we really can’t disagree with him. With a healthy Wayne Blackshear and the continued improvement of Chane Behanan, we feel that Pitino’s offense will be quite a bit more fluid than the train wreck they often put on the floor last season.
  3. If you had to pick one college basketball team that was the most influential — not necessarily the best, mind you — in the history of the game, who would it be? The 1966 Texas Western team that shocked all-white Kentucky and blew off the doors of the stereotype that black players were undisciplined and couldn’t play championship basketball? Perhaps the undefeated 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, the last team to run the table with an undefeated season and become the archetype for “perfect basketball” forever more? These teams and many others are considered in Alexander Wolff’s latest SI piece examining this very question. His choice: the 1964 UCLA Bruins, John Wooden’s first national championship team, a group that shocked the college basketball world in how it redefined how the very game was played (did you know that this unbeaten team wasn’t even ranked in the AP Top 20 to begin the season?). It’s an interesting read, and one frankly we find more compelling than the tired debates over which teams were “better,” an impossibly futile question to answer.
  4. If you’re a college basketball junkie who loves mid-major hoops, you may want to considering finding the NBC Sports Network on your cable or satellite package this season. The network will show more than 50 games this season, but the majority of those will involve teams from four non-power leagues — the Atlantic 10, the Mountain West, the CAA, and the Ivy League. It is also the only place to find realistic television coverage of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas (apparently something called AXS.tv will cover two quarterfinal games), which for our money is by far the best of the various preseason tournaments this year — VCU, Duke, Memphis, Louisville, Northern Iowa, Missouri, Stanford and Minnesota will all be there this year. The network will also show both semifinals and the championship game of the CAA Tournament next March.
  5. Finally, we’ll end with injury news. If you still have some college eligibility left and possess some semblance of a passing game and floor leadership at the point guard position, give Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard a phone call. His only legitimate point guard, sophomore Aaron Cosby, has sprained the PCL in his right knee and will be out of action for the next four to six weeks. Although the news could certainly be worse, entering the first month of the season and facing games against the likes of Washington, LSU and Wake Forest prior to the semester break isn’t exactly a recipe for winning without someone to run the offense.
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Where 2012-13 Happens: Reason #18 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2012

And away we go, headfirst into another season heralded by our 2012-13 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 here what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back the goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head. Enjoy!

#18 – Where Heartbreaking Injury Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12 seasons.

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Morning Five: 10.22.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2012

  1. Most schools held their Midnight Madness extravaganzas more than a week ago, but a couple prominent schools around college basketball nation didn’t get in on the act until this past weekend. At Indiana, Hoosier Hysteria on Saturday night was just that — a standing room only celebration of Indiana basketball past and present, replete with a three-point shooting Cody Zeller (he made 10 in one round of the contest) and even a Bob Knight sighting (in photo form, on the big screen). For a nice highlight reel from IU’s event, check out this video put together by CityLeagueHoopsTV from the event. Over in Durham, Duke‘s Countdown to Craziness began a festive on-campus weekend (Duke’s football team defeated UNC on Saturday night), as Coach K emphasized “togetherness” among his players and the fans while debuting his squad for the first time this season. For more Coach K hugs than you can possibly imagine, check out this video running along this theme played at the conclusion of the event. Jeff Goodman spent Friday with the Blue Devils, and reports back with 11 thoughts and observations about Coach K’s latest team (including who he thinks will take over for the all-time great upon his eventual retirement). At this point, most every school is finished with the pomp and circumstance and moving into the harsh realities of practice, but more on this in a moment.
  2. Practice makes perfect, so the saying goes, but it also provides opportunities for the imperfect to rear its ugly head in the form of injuries. Two prominent players on teams with high hopes for this season were hurt recently — Oklahoma State’s Brian Williams and UCLA’s David Wear. Williams is the more serious injury of the two, as he injured his left wrist in a fall after dunking in practice last week and needed to have surgery to repair the damage done. He’ll have to wear a cast for three months and go through rehabilitation after that, essentially rendering Williams unavailable to build upon a very promising freshman campaign this season. Wear, on the other hand, suffered an ankle sprain during practice on Sunday and will have an x-ray on his foot today. Hopefully this injury isn’t as serious as Williams’ and we’ll see Wear back on the court very soon.
  3. Wear might be sidelined with an injury, but his UCLA teammates Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad have now entered their second full week of practice with no timeline as to when the NCAA plans to make a decision on their eligibility. This report from the LA Times suggests that neither player may be close to becoming eligible as the governing body has not given the players any feedback on the status of its investigation nor a timetable for its resolution. According to the piece, Anderson’s issue relates to the relationship between his father and an NBA agent named Thad Foucher, while Muhammad’s problem involves money given to both himself and his AAU team from friends of the family. There’s nothing new here, obviously, but one caveat from the piece must irk UCLA fans hopeful that things are progressing at a reasonable pace — with only 35 days left for the duo to continue practicing with the team until they must sit out, the NCAA has yet to formally interview Muhammad’s parents about any of this.
  4. If you consider yourself at all versed in the analysis of college basketball, you are familiar with KenPom‘s numbers. What you may be less knowledgeable about are the occasional yet insightful blog posts that he publishes from time to time. On Sunday night he presented the results of his analysis of the validity of the preseason AP poll (which has yet to release this season). His finding is that, at least with respect to NCAA Tournament seeding in March, the top half of the AP poll is highly predictive. As he writes: “The chances of being a one-seed get really slim once you get past the top 12 or 13, while the chances of missing the tournament altogether are very real for the teams in the bottom half of the poll.” There’s a better than half chance that a preseason top 10 team in the AP poll will receive a top three seed at the end of the season — that makes sense. What we’d be interested in knowing, though, is what are the common factors that allow us to predict why the other half of teams fall from those original estimations. Great analysis by Pomeroy.
  5. Finally, today, let’s talk discipline. Tubby Smith’s son and Minnesota assistant coach, Saul Smith, has been placed on administrative leave by the school related to his Friday night arrest for suspicion of DWI. Meanwhile at Maryland, senior forward James Padgett pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving stemming from his arrest back in June for driving while impaired. Under the school’s code of conduct for alcohol-related driving arrests, he will not be suspended from the team since he is not guilty of a DWI — a true example of legal hair-splitting if ever there was one. Over at Louisville, Chane Behanan must sit out the Cardinals’ first exhibition game this season and has been banned from talking to the media (this is punishment?) for the rest of the semester. Head coach Rick Pitino didn’t specify what led to Behanan’s restrictions other than to say that there were “incidents” over the summer, but he did say that further slip-ups could cause the talented forward to miss more game action.
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Morning Five: 10.16.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2012

  1. From the we’ll-believe-it-when-we-see-it department, ACC coaches on Monday squarely put NC State’s Mark Gottfried right into the conference crosshairs with their decision to pick his Wolfpack as the front-runner for the 2012-13 league championship. Whew. NC State received eight of the 12 first-place votes, with second-place Duke receiving three, and North Carolina receiving the other top vote. Nobody will deny that Gottfried returns the most talent in the ACC from a Sweet Sixteen team — and adds quite possibly the best freshman in the league to boot — but still, the Wolfpack were a 9-7 conference team last season and Gottfried has never been a coach who has consistently gotten it done in the regular season. His best two teams at Alabama went 12-4 in the SEC (2001-02 and 2004-05) and he wasn’t facing the likes of Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams when he was cementing those records. From our perspective, the league belongs to Duke and North Carolina until it’s taken from them (the last team to win the ACC outright other than Duke/UNC occurred a decade ago).
  2. While on the subject of Duke, the Blue Devil program made quite a bit of news on Monday. While spending the day 90 miles south of Durham at Fort Bragg, going through physical training drills and holding an inspired open practice in front of a number of US Army troops — apparently Duke players applauded the soldiers as they entered the gym — the school also announced some less inspiring news. Redshirt freshman forward Marshall Plumlee has developed a stress fracture in his left foot and will miss the next 6-8 weeks of practice, putting significantly more pressure on older brother Mason and senior Ryan Kelly to man the boards and shore up the low blocks defensively. This is especially true given that the Blue Devils will face an early-season murderer’s row of Kentucky in the Champions Classic on November 13, the Battle 4 Atlantis (including a loaded field of Minnesota, VCU, Memphis, Louisville, Missouri, and Stanford) soon thereafter, and Ohio State at in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at the end of November.
  3. Coach K’s respect for the military of course comes from his time at West Point, where he played under a fiery disciplinarian named Bob Knight. The three-time national championship head coach, who has never struck us as much of a sentimentalist, is planning on auctioning his three Indiana championship rings, his Olympic gold medal (given to him by the LA Olympic Committee) as well as a sports coat and warmup jacket he received as the head coach for the 1984 US Men’s National Team (a squad that included Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing). With his regular speaking engagements plus his lucrative ESPN commentator gig, it’s unlikely that Knight is hurting for money — but, sensing that he could pay for his grandchildren’s college educations with one fell swoop through this auction — this was probably an easy decision for the 71-year old. The “Bob Knight Collection” will be auctioned off through Steiner Sports, ending on December 5 — if you have some money burning a hole in your pocket, that 1976 championship ring from the last undefeated team in college basketball would make for a great conversation starter.
  4. Harvard appeared to be on the verge of an Ivy League dynasty prior to a recent academic cheating scandal that has enveloped over 100 undergraduates including two of the basketball team’s best players, Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry. Still, there are hopes among Crimson faithful that Tommy Amaker’s team can bridge the gap this season while awaiting the return of its two stars in 2013-14 (both players withdrew from school this year, but plan on returning next season). Meanwhile, in coming off the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in over 65 years, the university is now backing a plan to build a brand-new basketball arena to replace its antiquated 1920s-era Lavietes Pavilion. The new arena will hold 2,700 people and be ready for the bouncing of balls some time between 2017-22. Whether Harvard will grow to become a regular NCAA Tournament participant by that date remains to be seen, but this next step in the progression of the program would not have been possible without the drive and vision for excellence that head coach Tommy Amaker had for Harvard basketball upon his arrival several years ago.
  5. Don’t expect any NCAA Tournament games in the great state of New Jersey anytime soon. The Meadowlands/Izod Center in East Rutherford has held multiple East Regionals (most recently in 2007), and the Prudential Center in Newark has taken that mantle more recently (hosting in 2011), but with the Monday’s publication of regulations licensing and outlining operating rules for Atlantic City casinos and racetracks so as to offer sports gambling, the NCAA’s long-running mandate of not offering its championships in states with such laws has gone into effect. Although there are currently no planned NCAA Tournament events scheduled in the Garden State, five other championships — including the Women’s NCAA Tournament East Regional in 2013 — have been pulled effective immediately. The natural outcome from this mandate is that the most prominent New York and Philadelphia arenas, including the Wells Fargo Center, the Barclays Arena, and Madison Square Garden, potentially stand to gain considerably in future bidding for NCAA Tournament sites. But hey, at least you can bet on the games in Jersey!
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Morning Five: 10.10.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 10th, 2012

  1. There was a scary moment Tuesday morning in Washington, DC, at a session of The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics when former Maryland star and current ESPN college basketball analyst Len Elmore collapsed in his chair during a Q&A session. Luckily, the 6o-year old Harvard Law graduate and resident hoops intellectual was back up on his feet after paramedics arrived and he shortly walked under his own power to his hotel room thereafter. According to the Washington Post, Elmore told SMU president Gerald Turner that this incident was related to a “longstanding health issue” of his and has happened before. We’re glad to hear that Elmore appears to be doing alright, but we sure hope that his ailment is manageable and doesn’t cause him additional and dangerous related problems.
  2. One thing we failed to mention from Monday’s fire hose of preseason information released by CBSSports.com was their article outlining the group’s selections for conference champions, Final Four teams/champions, and major postseason awards. Some of the more interesting choices were Gonzaga making the Final Four on two ballots (Goodman and Norlander), Arizona doing likewise (Goodman and Gottlieb), along with UNLV (Norlander and Borzello) and Michigan State (Parrish). None of the five writers chose the same national champion — Louisville, Arizona, Kentucky, Missouri, and Indiana — and they were equally disparate when it came to picking Freshman of the Year and Coach of the Year. When it comes to NPOY, though, the group was nearly uananimous — Cody Zeller showed up on four ballots, with Doug McDermott picking up the lone contrarian vote. One thing is for sure: The field is completely wide open this year and any number of schools will start practice on Friday with reasonable dreams of cutting down the nets next spring in Atlanta.
  3. Yesterday the WAC announced two new additions to its basketball-only league — and make sure you’re sitting down when you read that these titans of the sport are joining the once-venerable old conference — Utah Valley and Cal State Bakersfield. After all the recent defections, these two schools will join a ragtag group that now only includes Denver, Seattle, Idaho and New Mexico State. For the next two years, the league will keep its automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament under an exemption that allows it to do so without the requisite minimum of seven schools. For a conference that at one time or another boasted such notable basketball schools as Arizona, BYU, UNLV, San Diego State, Tulsa and Utah, this is a little bit like looking at a former supermodel in her 70s — it ain’t pretty anymore.
  4. The Battle of the Midway has been saved from liquidation, much to the relief of both Syracuse and San Diego State, the two schools set to face off on the retired ship come Veteran’s Day. But if you want to grab a ticket, make sure to bring your American Express platinum card — ducats for this outdoor game will start at $150 a pop and increase up to as much as $500 the closer you get to the court. Novelty plus scarcity is a certain way to increase demand for a product, but we’re not convinced that pricing a game like this in the rarefied neighborhood of courtside seats to an NBA game is the right way to handle it. Honestly, we’d have preferred that some deep-pocketed sponsor pick up the tab and let military personnel make up the entire audience, but nobody asked us.
  5. It’s not very often that we’ll mention a SWAC school in this space, but it’s also unusual that a school is hit by the NCAA with the dreaded “lack of institutional control” penalty. Texas Southern received just that news on Tuesday, as the NCAA in a statement said that the school was “responsible for booster involvement in recruiting, academic improprieties, ineligible student-athlete participation and exceeding scholarship limits” over the course of a number of years. As a result, the basketball program, now led by former Indiana and UAB head coach Mike Davis, will be banned from the postseason next season and lose two scholarships for the immediate future. The most surprising punishment is that the school must vacate all of its wins in every sport from 2006-10, one of the most egregious penalties we’ve ever seen the NCAA mete out to a school. Davis was certainly informed that he would be walking into a difficult situation at TSU, but we’re guessing that he’ll spend quite a few days clicking his heels together and hoping that he magically re-appears in Bloomington again.
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