Morning Five: 07.17.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 17th, 2013

morning5

  1. We’re more than officially in the dog days of summer but only the truly committed scribes work all summer covering the sport we love. Seth Davis is one national commentator who came out of his slumber this week to report from Las Vegas with a Hoops Thoughts column on Michigan’s Mitch McGary. The rising sophomore took the college basketball world by storm last March, going from a role player to a key cog for John Beilein’s national runners-up, but as McGary explained to Davis: “So far I’ve only cracked the glass. Next year I’m trying to break through it.” The piece delves into some of McGary’s lesser-known history, specifically his struggles with academics as a result of ADHD, his workout and diet regimen that he enabled midway through last season to give himself a shot at more mobility (and playing time), and his non-decision to enter his name into the NBA Draft because he simply enjoys college life. Great read, especially in mid-July.
  2. Another likely star returning to school for 2013-14 is Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, fresh off a FIBA world championship in the U-19 division. USA Basketball announced its National Team Mini-Roster on Tuesday, and the rising sophomore Cowboy was the only collegian of 29 players selected. The group of mostly young, rising NBA stars will meet in Las Vegas to compete next week, although no roster spots on Team USA are officially up for grabs. This is simply an opportunity for the players to prove themselves against their peers for future international events. Smart of course is unlikely to make the men’s national team roster for the Worlds in 2014 or the Olympics in 2016, but playing against the likes of Ty Lawson, Mike Conley, George Hill, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and John Wall at his point guard position cannot hurt his overall development. Watch out, Big 12.
  3. Louisville‘s visit to meet President Barack Obama will occur next week, on July 23 at the White House. The school waited a bit longer than normal to schedule the event, so that players Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock could attend the event after stints in summer international tournaments. While in The District, the team will also make time to tour the Capitol Building with senator and minority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY). When McConnell isn’t busy tormenting his Democratic opposition in the back rooms of DC, he spends quite a bit of time in Louisville taking in the Cardinals’ biggest games. Although as far as celebrity fans go, we’ll stick with Ashley Judd 70 miles down the road. Sorry, Mitch.
  4. Tuesday was the start of SEC Football Media Days, and why do we care? Well, in large part because South Carolina head coach and immodest rabble-rouser Steve Spurrier again went on record stating that the entire SEC — according to him, all 28 football and basketball coaches — is in favor of payments to their revenue-producing players. The stipend he mentioned yesterday amounts to approximately $3,600 per player per year and a little over a quarter-million dollars in annual costs — a relative pittance in a business that regularly deals with annual budgets in the eight- and nine-figure range. And why wouldn’t they want to pay players? It would give them yet another carrot in the recruiting wars against some of the smaller schools and conferences, while correspondingly eliminating much of the regulatory nonsense with monitoring and enforcing illegal benefits that amount to a night out for dinner and a movie.
  5. While on the subject of football crossing over with basketball, Colorado quarterback Shane Dillon announced on Tuesday that he is giving up the gridiron effective immediately so that he can pursue his passion on the hardwood at another school. A 6’5″ wing in high school where he averaged a robust 25/12 for Christian High School in southern California, Dillon suffered a shoulder injury and was looking at starting next season third on the depth chart for the Buffaloes. He asked Tad Boyle if he had room for him on his team, but all the scholarships were filled and Dillon isn’t willing to walk on. He’ll look to make his transfer decision in the next few weeks, with a school in the WCC and Big West perhaps his most likely destination.
Share this story

Morning Five: 05.23.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 23rd, 2013

morning5

  1. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Draft lottery for the second time in three years on Tuesday night, which means that the team that selected rising superstar Kyrie Irving #1 overall in 2011 will get a chance to pair another potential star next to him. Will it be Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, Kansas’ Ben McLemore, Georgetown’s Otto Porter, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, or some other prospect who hasn’t yet risen up the draft boards? Whoever it is, and this is a solid mock with explanations from NBADraft.net, keep one thing very much in mind. If you redrafted the 2010 NBA Draft right now — just three years later — the top overall pick would probably be an overlooked athlete from Fresno State who never so much as sniffed a winning season in two years in the Central Valley, Paul George. So no matter what anyone says between now and June 27 (including ourselves), take it with a healthy dose of NaCl. 
  2. While on the subject of George and his Indiana Pacers, his head coach Paul Vogel took quite a bit of heat last night for removing center Roy Hibbert from the game in the closing seconds, allowing the freight train known as LeBron James to power his way into the lane for an easy layup to win the game (beating George badly to his left, incidentally). Still, Vogel appears to be a rising star himself with the way he has developed this Pacers group, but we’re betting that you didn’t know that his dream job was actually to become a college basketball coach. He got his first start by basically begging then-Kentucky coach Rick Pitino for a spot on his staff as a student manager in the mid-1990s, eventually becoming UK’s video coordinator and alighting to the NBA ranks when Pitino left Lexington for the Boston Celtics. It’s a rags-to-riches underdog sort of story, and one well worth familiarizing yourself with. If Vogel continues to play his cards right in the NBA, he may find that elusive major college head coaching job available to a guy like him after all.
  3. It was open secret for most of the week, but SI.com confirmed on Wednesday that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski will in fact return as the captain of the Team USA men’s basketball ship for the next three years (which includes the 2014 World Championships and the 2016 Summer Olympics). We’ll have more on this decision later today in a separate post, but while on the topic of international basketball, USA Basketball invited 24 rising freshmen and sophomores to try out for its U-19 team that will compete later this summer in the World Championships in Prague. The most recognizable candidates who will battle for one of 12 roster spots next month are Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon, Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes, and Oregon’s Damyean Dotson. Notably missing from the two dozen players are any of Kentucky’s impressive haul from the Class of 2013, several of whom already have had international basketball experience. But John Calipari says that the group as a whole is itching to get to Lexington and would rather spend their summer months working out to prepare for what everyone believes could be a phenomenal year.
  4. Last week we mentioned that a Brown University player named Joseph Sharkey had been assaulted on the street and put in the hospital with critical head injuries as a result. As of yesterday he remained in a Providence hospital, but the better news is that local authorities have arrested a suspect for the brutal crime, a reserve Marine who served in Afghanistan named Tory Lussier. We’re in no way going to loft unfounded accusations at this “hero” without a full accounting of the details of the night in question, but it’s worth noting that Lussier was already under suspicion for assault of an elderly person from an incident in a Connecticut parking lot last fall. Whether this is the guy who committed such a senseless crime or it was someone else, we really hope that justice is served in one way or another.
  5. There were a couple of notable comings and goings yesterday. In some bad news, Florida’s Will Yuguete had his right knee scoped on Wednesday and is expected to miss the next four months of action. The French wing had suffered numerous injuries during his career in Gainesville, so the hope here is that this particular course of treatment and rehabilitation will allow him to have a strong, injury-free senior season in 2013-14. Up the coast a bit in Storrs, Connecticut announced on Wednesday that center Enosch Wolf‘s suspension for an on-campus domestic dispute has ended. He is cleared to return to the team if he likes, but here’s the catch — he no longer has a scholarship. With the school’s announcement this week of the transfer of GW’s Lasan Kromah, there simply isn’t an available spot left. Funny how things like this work themselves out. Wolf expects to make his decision in the coming weeks.
Share this story

Morning Five: 08.13.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 13th, 2012

  1. The buzz throughout the sport over the weekend was directly attributable to the Friday release of the latest in CBSSports.com‘s Critical Coaches series, this time squarely taking aim at the perception of the coaches responsible for the most wrongdoing within the game. In other words, who is perceived as the biggest cheater(s) in college basketball? The results at the top — Kentucky’s John Calipari (36%) and Baylor’s Scott Drew (34%) — are completely unsurprising in that fan perception in this regard probably isn’t markedly different than those of the coaches, but in reality you probably could have simply switched out the question with “Who is the best recruiter in the game today?” and gotten the same result. Proxies notwithstanding, the guys at CBS asked the question they did for a reason, and they’ve spent the intervening three days getting blasted by media and fans alike. A sampling: Mike DeCourcy lays into the coaches for answering the question in the first place (“disgraceful… tacky…”); Kentucky Sports Radio summarizes it succinctly as such, “Haters Gonna Hate”; BaylorFans.com commenter JXL sarcastically notes “if a school was bad and then becomes good, they are by definition cheating“; UCLA’s Bruins Nation calls the poll “ridiculous and insulting” for it’s choice of Ben Howland as the third-worst offender (12%). We could go on with this, but we’ll stop right there. The perception is the perception because once narratives are constructed in the public consciousness, they’re awfully difficult to change; while on the flip side, fans will defend their guy regardless of what comes out against them. Assuming they’re winning, of course — they have to keep winning.
  2. In much more uplifting news over the weekend, Team USA’s men’s basketball team won its second straight gold medal on Sunday by defeating a pesky Spanish team by the final score of 107-100. This team, led by the gleaming supernovas of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant , Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant, wasn’t as dominant as their Dream Team forebears two decades ago, but they were equally instrumental in rebuilding the American basketball brand after the colossal disappointment at the Athens Games in 2004. The other name that deserves as much credit as anyone in restoring USA basketball to the top over the last seven years since he came on board is someone who did not even receive a medal: head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K announced prior to the game against Spain that the gold medal match would be his last game as Team USA’s coach, and that proclamation perhaps inspired the 65-year old to jump for joy as the Americans wrapped up the championship in the waning moments yesterday. It’s back to Durham full-time for the Duke head coach as he tries to finish off a superlative career with a fifth national title, but as usual, he performed his job impeccably during his tenure as the man in charge. Thank you for helping to restore American pride in basketball, Coach K.
  3. It’s hard to believe now, but when Krzyzewski took the Team USA job in 2005, more than a few commentators who cover the sport thought that K might be making a mistake with respect to his Blue Devils. The theory then was that his involvement with USA Basketball (particularly during the summers) would take him away from the recruiting trail and allow other programs to make inroads on Duke while he was focused elsewhere. That seems somewhat silly after Duke cut the nets down in 2010 for K’s fourth national title and the top recruits keep rolling in, but is it possible that Krzyzewski could get enjoy even more of a halo effect from the ubiquitous images of him high-fiving and embracing the very best basketball players in the world? Mike Kline at DukeReport.com thinks so, and it’s hard to disagree. Elite recruits care about two things — 1) getting to the NBA, and 2) coolness. Coach K has always had a tremendous amount of the former, but with the association with the winning ways he instituted with Team USA, he also has plenty of the latter.
  4. It’s now only 60 days until Midnight Madness, which means coaches are already carefully examining their schedules to find any possible advantage heading into the 2012-13 season. Like Krzyzewski, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has been busy as an assistant coach for Team USA too, but he already has some ideas about how to prepare his Orange squad for its season opening game — the Battle of the Midway — against San Diego State. The Veterans Day tip-off for both teams will take place on the USS Midway in San Diego Bay (similar to last year’s Carrier Classic on the USS Carl Vinson), and Boeheim is determined to prepare for the possibility of wind and other elements by having his team practice and run some drills outdoors. We’re guessing that whatever weather conditions the Orange players face in October in upstate New York will more than prepare them for anything balmy San Diego has to offer.
  5. We’ll have more on this later today, but over the weekend brand new Villanova assistant coach Doug Martin was forced to resign based upon certain “inaccuracies” on his resume. The primary point of contention is that Martin had claimed that he played college basketball from 1991-95 under legendary coach Dick Bennett at Wisconsin-Green Bay. Dana O’Neil’s cursory fact-checking on the matter quickly revealed that neither UWGB nor Bennett had any record or recollection of Martin at the school, and in fact, he may have actually played limited minutes at a Wisconsin NAIA school called Viterbo instead. It begs the question, though. Surely Martin’s hiring at Villanova was not contingent on having played for Bennett at Green Bay, so why not correct the resume before submitting it — that’s a fairly impressive job to obtain only to lose it over something that seems so inconsequential.
Share this story

Morning Five: 08.09.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 9th, 2012

  1. International basketball has a number of differences from the US game, ranging from the legal goaltending rule to the trapezoidal lane to a much higher tolerance by officials of cheap shots during game action (see: Anthony, Carmelo vs. Argentina). While Team USA’s core group of players has gotten used to FIBA rules by now, Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks are learning on the fly while they’re touring around Switzerland and France. According to this Lawrence Journal-World report, in KU’s first game on Tuesday night, Swiss forward David Ramseier lost his s#&% after a technical foul call went against him in the second quarter. From Bill Self: “He went nuts. He went absolutely nuts. I’ve never seen that. I saw Bill Romanowski do it in football one time, and I saw Roberto Alomar do it in baseball one time. But this guy went and actually did it twice. He’s going after the official and did it twice.” A physical assault that may have resulted in expulsion from the team (or at least a suspension) in America apparently held no weight overseas — Ramseier was back in the Swiss lineup on Wednesday. For what it’s worth, KU won both exhibition games but not without working for it; the Jayhawks outlasted the Swiss team by three points on Tuesday and four points on Wednesday.
  2. Moving stateside to poor treatment of officials, the NCAA on Wednesday publicly reprimanded Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin for his “profane and abusive language toward a game official” during UC’s Sweet Sixteen loss against Ohio State last March. The NCAA had previously censured Cronin for this same incident, but UC had appealed it on his behalf — that appeal was denied. For the record, Ohio State was tallied with 11 total fouls in that game versus 21 for the Bearcats, resulting in 27 free throw attempts for OSU (making 19) against eight for UC (making five). That 14-point difference in foul shots made essentially accounts for the difference in the game (81-66) — no wonder Cronin was so hot. Does anyone know what he actually said to warrant such a strong reprimand?
  3. CBSSports.com has been crushing it this week with its series revealing what coaches really think about a number of topics. We learned Tuesday that Temple’s Fran Dunphy is considered the most underrated head coach in the land, a fact not too surprising considering how well his teams have done at both Pennsylvania and now Temple. On Wednesday, the most overrated head coaches were listed and the “winner” is a man who 98% of programs around the country would love to have on their sidelines — North Carolina’s Roy Williams. In nine years at UNC, he’s won two national titles and taken the Heels to three Final Fours and six Elite Eights. Everyone knows that he always has great talent at his disposal, but come on… should Williams have gone to six Final Fours and won four titles in the same period — would that make him accurately rated? Rick Barnes, the second-place “winner,” on the other hand…
  4. While on the subject of Roy’s alma mater, ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil wrote a piece Wednesday excoriating the NCAA for its seemingly (ok, definite) inconsistency in refusing to further investigate North Carolina for an academic scandal featuring athletes getting pushed into certain courses for easy As. As she clearly writes in the article, it’s certainly no secret that college athletes and students alike know where to find the easiest professors and courses, but there’s a clear distinction between “equal-opportunity baloney classes” and those that exist as fraudulent academic portals for athletes (Jim Harrick, Jr., on line two). She correctly points out that the NCAA would have no problem calling such grades into question at the high school level; but, when it involves its member institutions, it says it has no jurisdiction? It sounds like a really weird mandate, but Robbie Pickeral takes the time to explain in detail how the NCAA defines the issue: If players are clustering in certain classes as a result of academic-related counseling, then the NCAA defers to the university in handling it. If players end up in those courses as a result of the athletic department steering them there, then and only then does the NCAA get involved. What’s left unsaid here, of course, is what happens when there’s an unspoken pressure — even a wink/nod agreement, perhaps — for academic counselors to push players to those classes in the spirit of what’s best for the university (largely influenced by UNC sports).
  5. While we’re piling on the NCAA today, we may as well use this opportunity to check in on the Ed O’Bannon antitrust lawsuit against the organization and its licensees regarding the ongoing usage of his and other players’ names and likenesses in video games, published materials and so forth. The three-year old case is working its way through the system, but on Monday the O’Bannon group of plaintiffs convinced a judge to agree with them that the NCAA must “turn over information relating to revenue that its members receive from broadcast television, radio and Internet rights as well as reports tied to income from sponsorships, licensing, sales of advertising.” Clearly this sort of information is highly sensitive, but it’s a key victory for the athletes in that it shows that their case is meritorious enough for a federal judge to require the NCAA to release such documentation. In a nutshell, this case isn’t going away.
Share this story

Morning Five: 06.19.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 19th, 2012

  1. Mike Brey has built Notre Dame into an annual fixture in the Top 25 during his tenure in South Bend, and the three-time Big East COY who has led the Irish to six straight 20-win seasons will be rewarded with long term job security as a result. Reports indicate that the school on Tuesday will announce a 10-year extension to Brey’s contract, ostensibly keeping him at the school well into his 60s (he’s currently 53). It’s a proactive move by Notre Dame brass who are looking to shore up a winning program that has arguably been more successful than its football counterpart over the same period, while also signaling to potential poachers that Brey is going to cost quite a bit of coin to attract him away from northern Indiana.
  2. It’s June 19, so what better time than to debate the relative merits for three top contenders for next year’s national title? The gents from CBSSports.com — Jeff Goodman, Gary Parrish, and Matt Norlander — each chose a team on Monday and made their case. Goodman chose Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals; Parrish chose John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats; and Norlander chose Tom Crean’s Indiana Hoosiers. If you believe these guys, the Mesopatamia of college basketball in 2012-13 lies somewhere near Otisco, Indiana.
  3. In reading about the way friends, family and even recruiters treated high school star Khadeem Lattin‘s year spent in Spain at Canarias Basketball Academy, we weren’t sure whether to laugh or cry at the absurdity of it all. Despite going to a skills academy run by an American that has sent 41 Europeans to D-I schools over the years, the general consensus stateside was that Lattin was somehow hurting his career by taking the year to hone his skills in a European environment. He was removed from the ESPN rankings altogether per a policy regarding ranking only US players, and his rating was downgraded from four stars to three after a lackluster showing in the spring. And people wonder why the abominable AAU system of prep basketball in the US never improves — they hold all the cards, man.
  4. Sometimes we openly wonder whether the hardship waiver transfer rule has gotten completely out of hand, but in the case of Villanova’s Tony Chennault (a transfer from Wake Forest), we understand why the rule exists. The school announced on Monday that the NCAA had approved Chennault’s waiver request, making him eligible to take over a decimated VU backcourt effective in 2012-13. Chennault’s mother suffered some health issues recently, but more tragically than that, he lost his brother, Mike Jay, recently. Villanova is coming off its toughest season under Jay Wright’s stewardship, but with a solid interior crew surrounded by the talented Chennault and another promising player or two, maybe the Wildcats can find their typical game next season with a different cast of characters.
  5. Finally this morning, we’re about six weeks removed from the start of the 2012 Summer Olympics and players from around the world are preparing to compete in the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament to earn a spot in London. The Dagger took a look at seven college (or recently graduated) players who will play in that tournament, with a few notable names such as Creighton’s Gregory Echinique (Venezuela), Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim (Nigeria), and Florida State’s Deivydas Dulkys (Lithuania) leading the way. Of course, Kentucky’s Anthony Davis is one of the finalists for the US men’s national team, but his odds of making the final roster remain a long shot at best.
Share this story

Morning Five: 09.02.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on September 2nd, 2011

  1. Yesterday we mentioned the piece by SI.com’s Andy Glockner listing five teams that finished near the bottom of Ken Pomeroy’s luck statistic and why they should be in for some better fortune in the upcoming. Who, you may ask, finished dead last in that stat? Who was the unluckiest team in college hoops in 2010-11? The answer: the same team that finished last in luck in 2009-10! In fact, they did it under two different coaches. On Tuesday (not sure how it got by us), Mr. Glockner examined what exactly the luck statistic is and how this squad can avoid a three-peat of ill fate.
  2. Whatever happens, DeQuan Jones at least knows that his family and friends have his back. The mother, high school coach and AAU coach of the Miami (FL) senior swingman released an understandably spiky response to “friend of the program” Nevin Shapiro’s allegation that a family member of Jones’ asked for $10,000 to insure Jones’ commital to the Hurricanes from high school. The most compelling part of their story is the timeline; Jones had already verballed and signed his letter of intent to attend Miami a full seven months prior to the time Shapiro says the payola request was made. Certainly not the end of the matter, but the linked article by the Miami Herald‘s Michelle Kaufman will bring you up to speed.
  3. If you’re reading a college basketball blog, you’re likely aware that there are many players who are not just student-athletes but also innocents abroad from their foreign homes. There’s a pretty big international competition called the Summer Olympics in about a year, and a couple of fellows recently learned that they may find themselves in London playing for their respective national teams. Saint Louis’ Rob Loe was called up to New Zealand’s national side for a best-of-three series against Australia next week for the right to go to the Olympics, and College of Charleston’s Andrew Lawrence — a native Londoner – made the final cut for the national team from Great Britain, meaning he’ll get to play in the Olympics in his hometown. This seems like as good a time as any to remind you that, because of their uniforms, the formidable NZ national rugby team is called the All Blacks. Playing off that, New Zealanders call their basketball team…the Tall Blacks.
  4. College basketball fans have seen the occasional boon resulting from this whole NBA lockout nonsense, and another one just came to fruition. We didn’t get to see a Jimmer Fredette vs. Kemba Walker matchup last season, but the two have agreed to participate in a pair of games in Utah featuring two teams comprised of NBA rookies, presumably a bunch of guys trying to understandably stay in playing shape. BYU head coach Dave Rose will lead Fredette’s team, while San Diego State boss Steve Fisher will coach the Walker side. We don’t know who else will be involved, but we wouldn’t mind if Kemba and The Jimmer just ended up playing what would amount to a full-court 1-on-1 game while the others rebounded for them.
  5. The people who run Kelley Farms in Lexington, Kentucky undoubtedly love two things: John Calipari, and — evidently less so — corn. As basketball fans, it would be difficult for them to go all Ray Kinsella and clear out crop space for a court, since that wouldn’t make quite the economic impact as Kevin Costner’s character’s baseball field, and basketballs don’t bounce well on uneven dirt. Instead, they decided on a John Calipari corn maze, open for the public to get lost in on September 23. We’ll be waiting to hear if any ghosts from Kentucky’s glorious past emerge from the stalks. Perhaps farm owner John Kelley heard a voice telling him, “If he comes, you will build it.” Yeah, we know — enough with the Field Of Dreams references.
Share this story

Team USA Finishes Fifth at World University Games: Notes On Player Performances

Posted by rtmsf on August 22nd, 2011

Team USA came out of the World University Games in Shenzhen, China, with its pride intact after sporting a 7-1 overall record, but because of an untimely loss over the weekend in the quarterfinal round versus Lithuania, they will leave Asia without a medal.  The twelve-man roster comprised of some of the best returning players in the college game finished fifth in the tournament despite sporting a 28.2 PPG scoring margin over its eight opponents.  The Americans did not earn a chance to play the top two finishers — Serbia (gold) and Canada (silver) — although the team that knocked them out of contention, Lithuania, ultimately took home the bronze.  We’ve already established the weak predictive power of the WUG experience (e.g., 2009-10 NPOY Evan Turner hardly played in the 2009 WUG), but we still thought it would be worth a quick look to see which players rose to the top and which did not during the last two weeks of action.

Trevor Mbakwe Was USA's Best Interior Player

Some of our thoughts on player performances:

The All-American Backcourt Was Solid, If Not Spectacular.  Simply glancing at the roster going into the World University Games, the two names that immediately jumped out as the best players were in the backcourt — Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs and Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins.  Both players will be on the short list next season as NPOY types who should also land on several of the major All-American teams.  In China, they both played the most minutes and shot the ball considerably more than the rest of their teammates.  Jenkins alone attempted 57 threes, more shots than anyone but Gibbs (73) on the entire team.  They both made enough shots to keep defenses honest (Gibbs: 46.6%; Jenkins: 42.4%), and were automatic (90%+) from the line, but on a team sorely lacking in the point guard department, neither player truly stepped up and separated himself in that manner (only 28 assists between them, one for every combined 12 minutes they were on the floor).  In the loss against Lithuania, the two guards combined to shoot 4-13 from behind the arc and dished out only one assist (versus 5 TOs).  Clearly this team could have used a better floor leader.

Trevor Mbakwe Was a Monster.  If we had to pick one player who came out of the WUG experience with the most hype for the upcoming season, it has to be Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe.  In just under 20 minutes per contest, Mbakwe averaged a near-dub-dub of 11.4 PPG and 9.4 RPG (or, 23/19 per 40 minutes!).  What’s more impressive is that international players simply could not handle his quick feet balanced by a bulky frame, bullying his way to the foul line 61 times, or 7.6 times per game.  He only was able to convert 57.4% of those attempts, but his 60.9% field goal percentage on the interior more than made up for it.  Mbakwe averaged a double-double in the Big Ten last year, but his maturity and continued improvement may have him on target for a DeJuan Blair type of senior season in 2011-12.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 08.22.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 22nd, 2011

  1. The best Team USA can now finish at the World University Games in Shenzhen, China, is fifth place after a close weekend loss to Lithuania, 76-74, in the tournament quarterfinals.  We mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the Americans would have to produce from outside, given their lack of relative size on the interior, and through the round-robin, that’s exactly what they did (41.7% from the three-point line coming into the quarterfinals).  In the loss against Lithuania, though, Team USA combined to shoot an icy 5-30 from three (0-14 in the second half), and missed all five of its shots down the stretch of a tight game to ensure the loss.  The team recovered to handily beat Romania, 94-73, on Sunday, and will play Germany today for the right to claim fifth place this year in the WUG.  Without question, finishing fifth or sixth represents another disappointing finish for the Americans.  After winning six tournaments in a row from 1989-99, the squad has only won gold once more since then (2005).
  2. On Friday afternoon, Connecticut announced that its embattled athletic director, Jeff Hathaway, also the current chair of the 2011-12 NCAA D-I Men’s Basketball Committee, has retired.  As part of his separation agreement, he received a rather lucrative buyout of his contract that will pay him as much as $700,000 next year.  An early report suggested that Hathaway was presented with an all-or-nothing deal in that he would have been fired had he not accepted the terms of this buyout, but both he and UConn have since denied this claim.  Despite the unprecedented success of Husky sports since 2003 on his watch, particularly the men’s and women’s basketball programs but also including the football program, Hathaway has been under fire as a result of his management style, poor fundraising, and a chilly relationship with head coach Jim Calhoun.  UConn has named Paul Pendergast as the interim AD but is expected to perform a national search to find his successor in Storrs.  How this will impact his chairmanship is anyone’s guess, but the NCAA released a statement over the weekend that they would work with Hathaway to “determine the best approach regarding the balance of his term,” whatever that means.  For much more detailed coverage of this situation, we suggest you read this article by Jeff Jacobs in the Hartford Courant — he pretty much gets to the bottom of everything.
  3. By now, everyone has seen the wild and violent scene that unfolded in Beijing last week involving the Georgetown basketball team while on its overseas tour of China.  Hoya head coach John Thompson, III, said over the weekend that he met with the Chinese team’s coach and a few of its players on Friday to smooth things over, and that he felt that the melee did not have any particular political undertones.  A few commentators last week argued differently, as in this Fox News piece suggesting that the Bayi Rockets’ aggression represents a newfound China, one that is aggressively flexing its geopolitical clout by disavowing its previous “fighting without fighting” mantra.  Others were less political in their analysis, suggesting that the brawl was a result of game-long chippiness and nothing more, but the very best take coming out of all of this was from Sean Pendergast at the Houston Press, who hilariously wrote that the mythology of Hoya Paranoia abruptly ended during the brawl last week: “If this game took place in 1985, there would have been 15 bloody, mangled Chinese basketball players scattered unconscious on the floor with Patrick Ewing, Reggie Williams, David Wingate and Michael Graham all standing over them with their hands raised amidst a shower of jettisoned half full beers and sodas and debris.”  Priceless.
  4. Saint Mary’s rewarded its longtime head coach Randy Bennett with a 10-year deal to keep him in Moraga challenging for WCC championships with BYU and Gonzaga for years to come.  Prior to Bennett’s arrival in 2001, the school had won only 10 games in the previous two seasons and had only reached the NCAA Tournament three times in its history.  Bennett has rebuilt the program to the point where the Gaels have reached three more NCAAs during his tenure, including a run to the Sweet Sixteen in 2010, and have averaged 26.3 wins over the last four seasons.  A native of the west coast, his name regularly comes up when Pac-12 schools have job openings but so far the tiny Catholic school in the East Bay hills has been able to hang onto him.  This deal (and presumably a hefty buyout) will make it even more difficult when major conference schools come poaching (and they will).
  5. It’s been over a year since the Wizard of Westwood passed away, but for at least one man, John Wooden’s longtime caretaker Tony Spiro, the hollow feeling inside has not yet subsided.  Spiro looked after Wooden in a progressively greater capacity for nearly half of the 61-year old’s life, and it’s inarguable when you read this piece by the LA Times‘ TJ Simers that the man some 40 years Wooden’s junior eventually grew to became his best friend.  It’s a fascinating read, and one that reminds us all just how important it is to have people who care about you around in your later years — the heartbreak and loneliness of aging and dying alone is something that even one of the greatest coaches in all of sports may have suffered had it not been for the charity and good heart of Spiro.
Share this story

Georgetown Gets Shanghai’d in China

Posted by rtmsf on August 18th, 2011

Update:  with video!  WOW.

Crazy story from Beijing surfacing today involving the Georgetown basketball team while on an 11-day exhibition tour of China.  According to published reports, the Hoyas were playing a local team called the Bayi Rockets in a physically intense game that witnessed a total of 39 first half fouls.  Georgetown had been whistled for a ridiculous 28 of those, many of which had players from both sides jawing with each other and officials hustling to maintain control of the game.  At the 9:32 mark of the fourth quarter, forward Hu Ke committed a hard foul on Hoya senior Jason Clark.  The two started shoving each other, leading to total chaos on the floor.  From the Washington Post:

Malice in the Olympic Sports Arena? (sina.com)

What began as a goodwill trip to China for the Georgetown men’s basketball team turned violent Thursday night, when its exhibition game against the Bayi Rockets deteriorated into a melee during which players exchanged blows, chairs were thrown and spectators tossed full water bottles as Hoyas players and coaches headed to the locker room at Olympic Sports Center Stadium.

More photos here, courtesy of the DC Sports Bog.  This thing looks intense, and there are reports that those plastic chairs sitting on the left side of the above photo were tossed around.

This report from the HoyaSaxa message board from someone who was there describes the volatile scene.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 08.18.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 18th, 2011

  1. USC point guard and best returning player, Jio Fontan, flew back to Los Angeles on Wednesday due to an injury he suffered on Tuesday night during an exhibition game in Sao Paolo against a professional team, Mogi Das Cruzes.  According to reports, he landed awkwardly on his knee on a drive to the hoop and was removed from the game immediately thereafter.  X-rays taken in Brazil were negative, but the injury was deemed serious enough that Fontan was sent back to the US rather than try to get an MRI in Rio de Janeiro, the Trojans’ next stop on their international tour.  Needless to say, this seems very bad, and if Fontan did in fact do something  tragic like tear his ACL, Kevin O’Neill’s program will once again be facing an uphill battle toward respectability in both the Pac-12 and nationally next season.
  2. The Miami (FL)/Nevin Shapiro aftermath began in earnest yesterday, with opinions flying from all over the blogosphere as to what will happen next, what should happen next, and what can be done to fix it (if anything).  If you read nothing else on this topic and couldn’t care less whether the U ever suits up in the green and orange again, read this Dan Wetzel piece from Yahoo Sports Wednesday.  He poignantly and eloquently calls out this situation for what it is — nothing more than another slap-in-the-face example of student-athletes following the apparent lead (read: greed and avarice) of the administrators at their schools and at the NCAA.  He asks why should we expect anyone to act differently when the “people running college athletics are desperate for money – for themselves and their salaries and their facilities, for their private planes and their comped cars and their golf-course memberships. They want to avoid paying players and taxes as if they run a little league, then get paid and pampered like they run the NFL. Everyone is chasing the cash.”  Answer: they shouldn’t, we shouldn’t, and the whole damn system is rotten to the core.  Compelling stuff.
  3. As we noted yesterday, basketball is a relatively minor part of this scandal, but it probably doesn’t feel that way to Missouri administrators, fans and new head coach Frank Haith right now.  As Luke Winn writes, ‘character and integrity’ were the two attributes that Mizzou AD Mike Alden relied upon when he made the decision last spring to hire Haith, but if the allegations against him have any legs whatsoever, it will be difficult to to justify keeping him on board in Columbia.   Mike DeCourcy writes that Haith is harmed by the NCAA’s gag order policy on pending investigations, and it’s a good point.  The narrative involving Shapiro buying off DeQuan Jones on Haith’s behalf is already being told, written, and memorialized, and Haith has veritably no recourse to defend his position in the interim.  Whether Haith will survive the next month or longer at Missouri is anyone’s guess, but our best speculation suggests that if UM brass catches any whiff of impropriety related to this situation, he’ll be gone immediately.  (By the way, DeQuan Jones’ career total points at Miami:  372, or $26.88 per point, allegedly.)
  4. Things continue to improve down in the great state of Florida.  Didn’t we already refer to the Miami Hurricanes fiasco in the two spaces above?  Right, we did.  But it was a different Orange State school a few hours north that on Wednesday received an official notice of inquiry from the NCAA related to potential violations in both the basketball and football programs.  Central Florida is now feeling the heat over its association with booster Ken Caldwell, a Chicago native who has allegedly been involved in steering several basketball recruits and one football recruit to the school.  With all the shenanigans going on down there, maybe the NCAA should consider setting up a special Florida Task Force just to deal with its rampant NCAA lawlessness (and remember, Isiah is still at FIU).
  5. Some international hoops updates.  First, Team USA has rolled through its four games so far in the World University Games in Shenzhen, China, this week.  So far, the Yanks have defeated Mexico by 41 points, Hungary by 49 points, South Korea by 44 points, and most recently, Finland by 60.  The team has clinched the top seed in its group, and will play one more game against Israel before moving into the quarterfinal round on Saturday.  Five players are averaging double figures, led by Ashton Gibbs’ (Pittsburgh) 13.5 PPG, John Jenkins’ (Vanderbilt) 13.0 PPG, and JaMychal Green’s (Alabama) 12.3 PPG.  The team is shooting a very nice 51% from the field and 42% from three while holding its opponents to an icy 36% overall and 22% from outside the arc.  Impressive.  One other quick international note is that Rice junior Arsalam Kazemi will not be able to play for his native Iran in the upcoming FIBA Asia Championships in September because he’d have to miss two much coursework.
Share this story

Morning Five: 07.11.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 11th, 2011

  1. In a somewhat shocking turn of events at the FIBA Under-19 World Championships in Latvia, Team USA lost 79-74 Friday to Russia in a quarterfinal game where the Yanks simply could not throw the ball in the ocean from outside the arc (0-9).  Nor, apparently, could they defend it, as Russia dropped 12 threes on its end, making it virtually impossible for a team lacking much of an inside presence to win the game.  The American team regrouped to throttle Poland on Saturday before finishing the tournament by beating Australia, 78-77, Sunday to take the fifth place trophy (USA’s worst showing since 2003, also a fifth place finish).  Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb was the undisputed leader of this team, averaging 16/4 in taking 53 more shots than anyone else on the team, but the surprise of the squad may have been Creighton’s Doug McDermott, the 2010-11 MVC ROY but someone that most national fans haven’t yet heard of.  The rising sophomore went for averages of 11/6 in the tournament and proved the only player on the roster capable of reliably hitting threes (39.3%) — keep an eye out for this future March Madness hero in coming seasons.
  2. So what happened to cause a disappointing fifth place finish (Team USA was expected to win gold or silver) in Latvia this year?  Luke Winn writes that the hordes of A-list stars who opted to stay stateside this summer — from UNC’s Harrison Barnes to Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger — had an obvious impact; but he also mentions some of the chatter from NBA GMs and scouts who openly suggested that some of the players didn’t take the competition seriously enough.  Whether this is yet another indictment of the infernal AAU system in America, or simply a matter of players foolishly failing to recognize that the rest of the world can play too, we’re not sure.  But the fact remains that USA Basketball is nowhere near as fearsome of an entity as it once was — especially at the younger levels.
  3. We always talk about ranking the programs on the measure of how well they put players into the NBA, but that doesn’t always give us the entire picture.  For example, a school might have ten players in the League, but they may all ride the pine.  Another school might have half that many total players, but three or four of those could be All-Stars.  Dollars for Ballers took a stab at this problem by considering player salaries.  While @SportsGuy33 persuasively argues that NBA salaries are not always commensurate with talent and productivity (hello, Rashard Lewis!), it’s a better proxy than none at all.  So given this, would you believe that Michigan State’s five players — Jason Richardson, Zach Randolph, Morris Peterson, Shannon Brown, and Charlie Bell — had the highest salary average at $7.76M than any other school with at least three players?  Duke, with its 13 total pros, many of whom have been around for a while, collected nearly $90M in salaries last season.  Really, the only way to do this kind of analysis accurately is to tie programs to individual and team outcomes, but this is a decent start.
  4. Some players get tattoos and carve messages into their hair to rep for their families; incoming Kentucky freshman Michael Gilchrist decided to change his name.  According to his tweet on Friday afternoon, one of the best freshmen in the country has officially changed his name to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.  He chose to add Kidd to his existing surname to honor his deceased uncle, Darrin Kidd, a mentor who suffered a fatal heart attack on the same day MKG signed his letter of intent last year; and, of course, his father, Michael Gilchrist, Sr., was shot and killed fifteen years ago.
  5. On a sad note, former TCU head coach Neil Dougherty died last Tuesday during a jog in Indianapolis.  He wasn’t carrying identification and is not a local resident — he was in town as part of his current job with iHoops, an NBA/NCAA joint initiative — so after passing during the run, his body was kept as a “John Doe” until last Friday when his identity was revealed.  Dougherty was a long-time assistant throughout the 80s and 90s, most notably at his home-state school of Kansas under Roy Williams, and his age of only 50 years has many folks in Lawrence and Fort Worth shaking their heads.  He leaves a wife, Patti, and three children.  RIP, Coach Dougherty.
Share this story

Morning Five: 06.20.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 20th, 2011

  1. From the In Case You Missed It file, late last week we published a piece analyzing the weird NCAA/Kentucky/John Calipari love triangle that occurred as a result of the school honoring Cal’s 500th win last season.  If you were on vacation or otherwise pre-occupied last week, the synopsis goes like this: Everyone is aware that the NCAA has vacated  42  of Calipari’s wins at UMass and Memphis because of the use of ineligible players (Marcus Camby and Derrick Rose).  Recently,  though, the NCAA learned from a “rival fan” that Kentucky’s official media materials still included the 42 wins as a part of Calipari’s aggregate total, thereby resulting in a “500th win” celebration that occurred late last season after a game against Florida.  The NCAA requested that Kentucky make good on reconciling its win total with their own, and, after some lawyerly back-and-forth over the issue, Kentucky eventually acceded to the governing body’s request rather than face a hearing in front of the Committee of Infractions.  As we stated on Friday, this is all fine and well — the win total should be the one recognized by the NCAA — but we’re not sure that the NCAA recognized the bag of worms centipedes it was opening with this very issue.  In our analysis, we found three examples of active coaches who “boast” vacated wins themselves — Steve Fisher at San Diego State, Todd Bozeman at Morgan State, and Mike Jarvis at Florida Atlantic — as but three more situations where their schools’ media guides represent a picture different than one warranted by the NCAA.  Will the NCAA begin knocking on those schools’ virtual doors in coming weeks as well?  We can’t imagine that the NCAA really wanted to waste its scarce and valuable resources on something so fundamentally trivial, but if the organization doesn’t step up and take responsibility for the mess it’s created here, then what little credibility it might have had pertaining to accusations of selective enforcement will be completely lost amidst a pile of balloons and confetti.
  2. They all come home eventually.  Former Indiana superstar Calbert Cheaney, still the Big Ten’s all-time leading scorer nearly two decades after his graduation, will return to Bloomington to become Tom Crean’s Director of Basketball Operations next season.  Arguably the last great player Bob Knight coached, Cheaney was a three-time All-American at IU, culminating in becoming the consensus NPOY during the 1992-93 season.  When the old-timers talk about “Indiana Basketball,” Cheaney’s Hoosier teams are the most recent version of what they have in mind — during his junior and senior seasons at IU, Indiana went 58-11 while making a Final Four (1992) and Elite Eight (1993) under his on-floor direction.  Cheaney spent 13 seasons playing in the NBA and the last couple of years working as a special assistant in player development to the Golden State Warriors, but with a strong sense that the Tom Crean era in Bloomington is reaching a now-or-never point, Cheaney may be well-positioned to move up the ladder there quickly if he shows any coaching acumen at all.
  3. Bill Self picked up an impact player over the weekend who should be able to contribute to his Jayhawks immediately next season in the form of 6’7 Kevin Young, a former Loyola Marymount wing who spent last year getting his grades in order as a volunteer assistant coach at Barstow (KS) Community College.  The bouncy swingman is a great last-minute addition for Kansas, who even with its prolific depth of talent will still have some trouble absorbing the loss of seven players next season.  Young presumably could step right into a starting role next year, having performed at a high level (10/6 in two seasons) at LMU and possessing more experience than anyone else on the 2011-12 roster at his position.  KU fans are likely feeling considerably better today about their upcoming squad than they did just a few short days ago.
  4. We mentioned a little over a week ago that USA Basketball’s World University Games training camp roster included 22 current collegians in the hopes that next year’s NPOY wouldn’t end up riding the pine as former Ohio State superstar Evan Turner did on 2009′s team.   We’re still waiting to hear how those selections turn out, but the USA Under-19 three-day training camp concluded this weekend, and a lucky 13 rising freshmen and sophomores will represent the United States in international competition beginning in June 30 in Latvia.  The roster includes:  Keith Appling (Michigan State), James Bell (Villanova), Anthony Brown (Stanford), Jahii Carson (Arizona State), Tim Hardaway, Jr. (Michigan), Joe Jackson (Memphis), Jeremy Lamb (UConn), Meyers Leonard (Illinois), Khyle Marshall (Butler), Javon McCrea (Buffalo), Doug McDermott (Creighton), Tony Mitchell (North Texas), and Patric Young (Florida).  The two biggest surprise omissions were the reigning Pac-10 ROY, Allen Crabbe (California) and all-ACC rookie Travis McKi (Wake Forest).
  5. It now appears all but certain that the November 11 Veteran’s Day game between Michigan State and North Carolina will take place on the USS Carl Vinson, the same aircraft carrier that — how should we put this? — disposed of Osama bin Laden’s body a little over a month ago.  The game will take place on the flight deck, and since it’s usually 70 degrees and clear in San Diego regardless of the time of year, the odds are that this thing will go off without a weather hitch.  Still, it would be amusing if a few light breezes blew in during the second half to make the shooters adjust on the fly, a little like this.  We can always dream.
Share this story