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.
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Around The Blogosphere: July 28, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on July 28th, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

General News

  • U of L basketball earns top academic honor: “The University of Louisville men’s basketball team has earned the 2010-11 BIG EAST Conference Team Academic Excellence Award, which recognizes the highest collective grade-point averages in each of the conference’s 26 sports.” (Card Chronicle)
  • Basketball Prospectus ranks Draymond Green the 14th best returning player in the country: The senior is expected to step up this year as the lone Spartan in the top 100. (The Only Colors)
  • Miller To Try Out For World University Games Team: “Kentucky forward Darius Miller is going to give international competition another try as the former U19 gold medalist will begin camp with Team USA Friday in hopes of making the World University Games roster. Miller is one of 22 players who accepted the invitations to the camp, which will be held in Colorado Springs and trimmed to the final playing roster August 8. The team will compete in China August 12-23 and will be coached by Purdue’s Matt Painter.” (Kentucky Sports Radio)
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Morning Five: 07.27.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 27th, 2011

  1. Most college players spend their summers trying to improve their games in one way or another.  Some kids shoot 500 jumpers a day, while others work on improving their lateral quickness or positioning and footwork.  Butler’s rising senior point guard Ronald Nored, the Bulldogs’ defensive dynamo who has lived in the shorts of the opposing team’s best perimeter players for the better of three seasons, spent some of his offseason prepping for what he figures will be his ultimate destiny: Coaching.  His AAU team, called The Truth, attempts to bring The Butler Way to amateur prep basketball, and to hear one of his players tell it, the difference Nored  provides as the head man is music to our ears: Greg Gardner says, “He’s not like most AAU coaches.  We run offense, we play tough defense. Most AAU coaches let the kids run up and down. We don’t do that – we actually play real basketball.”  Can we clone a thousand of these Noreds to start teaching basketball at the amateur level all around the country — please?
  2. An update to Salinas-gate…  SI’s Pablo Torre reported on Tuesday that a number of additional names have been added to the list of investors who have lost millions of dollars as a result of David Salinas‘ financial shenanigans prior to committing suicide last week.  The most notable newbies to us are former K-State player Cartier Martin ($375,000), former Baylor star Ekpe Udoh ($350,000) and former New Mexico athletic director and NCAA Selection Committee member Rudy Davalos ($83,000).  Perhaps the most interesting part of Torre’s article, though, was this line: “SI has also learned Salinas has numerous other sports-related clients — college basketball coaches included — whose names are not yet public, and whose money is not believed to be at risk in this particular case.”  We’re not sure exactly what that might mean, but our guess is that coaches around the country are keeping their accountants on speed dial.
  3. We made mention of the trials and tribulations of Mississippi State center Renardo Sidney and his ongoing weight problems earlier this week, but according to Gary Parrish at CBSSports.com, he’s not the only talented big man having troubles keeping the pounds off this summer.  UCLA head coach Ben Howland told Parrish that his rising sophomore center, Josh Smith, is “about 10 pounds over where he was last season,” a somewhat alarming statement given that the player checked in at a puffy 305 pounds last season.  There were times last year when Smith appeared to have All-American written all over him, but his conditioning issues and excessive weight resulted in him only playing about half the time (21.7 MPG) and finding himself in foul trouble way too often (15 times with four fouls or more).  Not good news for UCLA fans hoping to recapture the mojo of their school’s Final Four runs of 2006-08.
  4. Dana O’Neil caught up with Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun on Orlando on Tuesday and asked him point-blank if UConn president Susan Herbst’s review of the athletic department has anything to do with his icy relationship with athletic director Jeff Hathaway.  Perhaps predictably, Calhoun ducked any inference of himself as puppet-master: “I 100 percent do think that’s unfair.  I have nothing against anybody. Jeff and I, our relationship hasn’t always been all that it should have been. When he came back [in 2003], he seemed to have changed somewhat and they say when you move over six inches to the head coach’s chair, things change. But I don’t want to see anybody lose a job.”  Maybe we should re-visit this comment next month, because UConn sports under Hathaway is coming off one of its best years in history — what other reason could there be to get rid of the guy?
  5. Yesterday we made mention in the M5 of Basketball Prospectus’ thoughtful list of the top 100 returning players in college basketball for the 2011-12 season.  We didn’t have time to do our own vetting of the list, but The Big Lead did, and as he says in the title to his post, he has some “issues” with it.  He makes some good points (especially the complete omission of Mr. Photo-BBQ, Aaron Craft), but such lists are highly subjective and speculative as a matter of course.  Let us know if you, like TBL, had any issues with BP’s list in the comments below.
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Morning Five: 07.26.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 26th, 2011

  1. Amidst reports that the University of Connecticut was working on a buyout of embattled athletic director Jeff Hathaway, the school’s new president, Susan Herbst, confirmed that she has initiated a comprehensive evaluation of the school’s athletic department.  The evaluation, performed by an outside consulting firm, is clearly meant to provide cover for the ouster of Hathaway, or even better, just cause for an outright firing.  But as Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs writes in a scathing piece about the politics behind this situation, Hathaway never had a chance to survive at UConn with Jim Calhoun remaining “bitter Hathaway didn’t defend him vigorously enough in the Nate Miles case” with the NCAA.  According to Jacobs, the three-time national championship coach felt he did nothing wrong (even though the NCAA found him guilty of failure to monitor his program).  Interesting stuff, but assuming Hathaway is done at UConn, what is the back-up plan for the 2012 NCAA Selection Committee chair?
  2. We did this in  yesterday’s M5, right?  From Connecticut to Tennessee again with the release Monday of UT’s 190-page response to the NCAA’s notice of allegations on various violations including the infamous cookout photograph of Bruce Pearl at his home with Aaron Craft.  If you’re a fan of legalese and you have a couple hours to kill, feel free to read the entire thing, but if not, the key takeaway from our view of the world is that the Vol program is kidding itself if it believes that its remedial measures of firing the coaching staff responsible will somehow insulate the program from future restrictions.  There’s simply too much to account for here.
  3. Summer is high time for prep basketball camps around the country, with events like the adidas Super 64 in Las Vegas this week becoming the epicenter of elite high school talent for college coaches to do their one-stop shopping for the stars of tomorrow.  But today’s desert hoops, or the LeBron James Skills Academy, or the Peach Jam, weren’t always the shining stars of the summer circuit.  For much of the 1990s and 2000s, it was instead a tiny gymnasium on the campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey, and the Newark Star-Ledger over the weekend took a look back at those halcyon days.  The ABCD Camp, founded and run by the inimitable Sonny Vaccaro, had a certain panache that the others to this date still haven’t been able to live up to.  It was a place where the top stars from all around the country played against each other, and where reputations were made.  From Tracy McGrady exploding onto the scene in 1996 to LeBron James’ destruction of Lenny Cooke’s psyche in 2001, it all happened there.  Great stroll down memory lane.
  4. Regardless of  where the elite players play during the summer, people will watch and report on it.  Mike DeCourcy checked in with an interesting story about one of the most intriguing players in Las Vegas this week.  Andre Drummond might be listed as a member of the Class of 2012, but the 6’11″ center in the mold of Dwight Howard, has several options after the summer circuit ends which makes his situation particularly compelling.  Since his high school class graduated this year, he could potentially spend next season at prep school for a year, head off to college at the last minute, or even consider offers to play in Europe as he awaits the NBA’s lockout decision over the winter (to determine if he’ll be eligible to decleare in the summer of 2012 or 2013).  Personally, we’re rooting for him to just show up on a random campus on the first day of classes and walk into the head coach’s office with a declaration, “I’m ready to play.”
  5. We’ve been waiting to link this, but now that Basketball Prospectus‘ Drew Cannon has finished his list of the Top 100 returning players in college basketball, it’s ready for prime time.  Believe it or not, the SEC ended up with four players in the top nine of the list, and the only team with two guys in the top ten was none other than Vanderbilt.  And we’re betting dollars to doughnuts that you’ll be surprised at the Commodores player chosen who is not named John Jenkins.  An added bonus to this list: all-conference teams for each of the six major leagues and a preseason POY the top mid-major conferences.  Great stuff.
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Morning Five: 07.25.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 25th, 2011

  1. Perhaps never in the history of modern college basketball has such an inconsequential player (to this point of his career) caused so much message board speculation over where he might ultimately land (Makhtar Ndiaye?).  Former Wake Forest center Tony Woods, he of the misdemeanor assault plea for pushing and kicking his girlfriend last year, will finally re-surface at Oregon after months of rumors and endless chatter that he would end up at Louisville, then Kentucky, then Texas.  The situation took a turn in favor of Dana Altman’s Duck program when it was discovered that Woods could be eligible to play in Eugene immediately because UO utilizes a quarter system, whereas the other schools are on a semester calendar.  This quirk will allow Woods to finish up his associate’s degree coursework prior to school beginning in September, making it so that he can begin practicing with the team in October and suit up for games again in early November.  Oregon certainly has the need, as last year’s best interior player, Joevon Catron, was a senior and has moved on.  If Woods can tap into some of the promise that made him a Top 50 recruit in the class of 2008, Oregon may move more quickly up the Pac-12 standings than expected next season.
  2. Speaking of the topic of eligibility, it appears that St. John’s recruit Maurice Harkless will in fact be eligible to play for Steve Lavin next season.  Late last week the NCAA cleared Harkless to play for the Johnnies as a result of an investigation to determine if he had played for current SJU director of basketball operations, Moe Hicks, during his prep AAU career.  Call it the package deal rule, but the NCAA has a regulation to avoid situations where schools hire AAU coaches to get to their elite players (see: Michael Beasley), and since Harkless had played for the New York Gauchos a couple of times, there was some question as to whether his association with Hicks (an administrator with the Gauchos) violated that rule.  The NCAA ultimately ruled that Hicks never actually coached Harkless, a fine-line distinction no doubt making Lavin a very happy man over the weekend.  Harkless is the type of elite recruit based in the NYC area that St. John’s must attract in order to get back to upper echelon of the Big East conference on an annual basis.
  3. Act One of the Bruce Pearl aftermath came to light on Friday in Knoxville, as the News-Sentinel reported that Tennessee has imposed a two-year probation on itself as a result of NCAA wrongdoing under Pearl’s (and former football coach, Lane Kiffin’s) direction.  Here’s the key statement: UT believes that “the penalties imposed during the course of its investigation, coupled with its corrective measures, adequately address the violations that occurred.”  As such, the school’s “probation” levies only a very minor restriction on new head coach Cuonzo Martin’s program, removing an ability to feed players occasionally through off-campus meals.  Arguing that all of the principal bad actors have since been removed from the program, the school clearly believes that it has suffered enough as a result of the Pearl fiasco.  Of course, the NCAA Committee on Infractions has the final ruling on this, and we have to believe that UT basketball will lose more than the occasional pizza party when the ruling finally comes to pass in the next several weeks.
  4. Well, this is certainly interesting.  Over the weekend, Connecticut confirmed (and then denied) that it is in the process of negotiating a deal to oust current athletic director Jeff Hathaway from his position.  Normally, we may not have much of an interest in this administrative decision or non-decision, but according to UConn insiders, the departure of Hathaway may be just the thing to inspire three-time national champion Jim Calhoun to give another year (or two, or three) a shot.  The other intriguing angle to this power play against someone who presided over the basketball team’s latest national title and the football team’s bid to the Orange Bowl is that the Hathaway is scheduled to take over as the Selection Committee’s chairman next season.  This of course begs the question as to whether he might remain in that role if he is no longer affiliated with a Division I school.  Keep an eye on the UConn Blog for the latest on this story.
  5. It’s not very often that the mother of the nation’s top-rated recruit openly questions why a school she likes isn’t recruiting her son, and even less so when that school is a rather pedestrian mid-major, but that appears to be the case with respect to Class of 2012 superstar Shabazz Mohammed and his mom’s alma mater, Long Beach State.  Faye Mohammed starred in track and basketball at LBSU in the mid-1980s, but to hear her tell it, she “would have liked to see [head coach Dan Monson] come in and get involved and see what happened with that.”  Admittedly, the former Gonzaga and Minnesota coach would likely have faced a losing battle going up against schools like Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis, Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA and UNLV (his official list), but don’t you at least make a few calls and hope for a hail mary?  After all, other than that school over in Westwood, Long Beach is the only other local school.
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Connecticut Self-Sanctions, But Will It Be Enough?

Posted by jstevrtc on October 8th, 2010

Today, the Connecticut men’s basketball program made public its findings and response to the NCAA’s allegations of “major violations” from back in May. The report was submitted to the NCAA on September 7th. Here’s what UConn said that its investigation found:

  • Staff members made numerous impermissible text messages and phone calls to recruits,
  • The program provided tickets or free admission to games to friends, coaches and other persons associated with recruits, and
  • Head coach Jim Calhoun is not guilty of failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the program.

The university volunteered the following penalties to its program:

  • A period of probation encompassing the academic calendars of 2010-11 and 2011-12 — essentially from now until May 2012, a period of 19 months, and
  • Loss of a scholarship for each of those two academic periods.

Calhoun, Connecticut AD Jeff Hathaway, and several university officials will travel to Indianapolis to meet with the NCAA infractions committee. That meeting is scheduled for Friday, October 15th — the first official day of practice. UConn has asked that the meeting be moved to a later date.

Calhoun Didn't Appreciate Being Singled Out By the NCAA.

The NCAA will consider the discussions from that meeting in addition to the 700-page response that contained the above findings and offer a ruling in November or December. Given the NCAA’s recent pledge to supposedly crack down harder on rules violators, the obvious talking point here is whether or not the NCAA will see UConn’s self-imposed punishments as sufficient for the crimes. The early returns from some of the more astute followers of the game indicate that they don’t feel the auto-sanctions will cut it.

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Morning Five: 07.20.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 20th, 2010

  1. The biggest news yesterday came when the NCAA announced that UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway has been tabbed to take over as the chairman of the Men’s D1 Basketball Committee for the 2011-12 season.  He will succeed the current chairman, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, next summer.  This is a peculiar choice given the timing that UConn is currently facing eight major recruiting violations in its men’s basketball program (including a failure to monitor charge, and if you believe this report, a possible 2-3 year probation) and rumors that Hathaway has been considering a move to Maryland, his alma mater.  According to the NCAA, if Hathaway takes the Maryland job, this chairmanship will not follow him.
  2. Ask any middle-aged Duke fan if they remember the name Todd Leary, and without question you’ll get a knowing glance.  In the 1992 Final Four en route to Coach K’s back-to-back titles, Indiana’s Leary gave Blue Devil fans heart palpitations as he single-handedly brought Bob Knight’s Indiana team back from nine down in the final two minutes with three long-balls from all over the court.  Well, from that illustrious moment to this one — Leary pleaded guilty to fraud relating to a mortgage company scheme late last week in Ft. Wayne, and he is on the hook for $300,000 in restitution as well as possible prison time.  Nice.
  3. Did you see Gary Parrish’s summer all-americans?  With three Big 12 players on his first team, it’s going to be another fantastic season in the nation’s heartland.
  4. This is an interesting post from Bylaw Blog (“the unofficial blog of NCAA compliance” — awesome!) that suggests that the NCAA Infractions folks may be reaching a critical mass of knowledge in both football and basketball (about how “the system” actually works) to begin focusing on and targeting the volume cheaters.  We can only hope…
  5. What do Rick Barnes (Big 12), Jeff Bzdelik (ACC), Fran McCaffery (Big Ten), Buzz Williams (Big East), Rick Stansbury (SEC) and Kevin O’Neill (Pac-10) have in common?  These six coaches in the BCS leagues tend to play their starters more than any other coach in that league, according to statistics compiled by Dan Hanner over at YABB in his typically stellar analysis.   (ed. note — Bzdelik’s and McCaffery’s numbers were of course from previous schools)
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