Morning Five: 08.02.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 2nd, 2012

  1. USA Today‘s Eric Prisbell published a piece on Tuesday with some rather inflammatory quotes about the status of big-time college basketball recruiting. Everybody already knows that agents and runners representing the interests of high school stars with their hands out is a big problem — but is it a 70%-of-the-elite-prospects problem? If you believe Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo‘s math, it is. “I am not saying that cheating is 80 percent of the game. It’s probably 20 percent. But it’s probably 70 percent of the top 20 percent [of player recruitments].” Izzo went on to say that he has “absolutely” lost recruits to other coaches because he was unwilling to play the agent/runner AAU game (which even Sonny Freakin’ Vaccaro says has gotten worse). In the same piece, North Carolina’s Roy Williams also made some interesting comments about stepping away from recruits who were ‘handled’ by AAU influences, saying, “Will I have a legitimate chance if I do it the right way?” There’s a lot of eyebrow-raising information in the article, and we highly suggest you read it — but the obvious question if Izzo’s numbers are anywhere near correct is… who exactly is landing all of these elite recruits if every major coach is on record blasting the system and doing it the right way? It’s not just Central Florida, that’s for sure.
  2. Team USA‘s men’s basketball squad is now 2-0 in round robin play with a game against always-dangerous Tunisia later this afternoon. Although there are no guarantees in a knockout tournament situation, we’re all too aware, it appears that the team led by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant are well on their way to another gold medal. Jeff Goodman writes that NBA owners are pushing so hard for a 23-year old age limit on the men’s team in future Olympiads that there is “little doubt” as to its eventuality [memo to owners: how about another age limit -- one that limits inclusion in your league to players 20 years old and older]. If USA Basketball decides to go this route with the 2016 team, most of today’s elite high school and young college stars would be eligible — Goodman takes a stab at putting together a potential team, and would you believe that a player nobody outside of Columbus, Ohio, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, had heard of this time last year is designated as the starting point guard? Basketball can be a funny sport that way.
  3. While on the subject of Olympic teams, A Sea of Blue put together an interesting analysis reviewing what the six men’s basketball teams in the “Dream Team” era might have looked like if USA Basketball had never ditched the amateur model. The cream of the crop is very clearly the 1992 squad, a team filled with players on in an era on the cusp of moving to a prep-to-pro mentality (Kevin Garnett began the trend in 1995). A starting lineup of Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Chris Webber may have even crowded out 1992 NPOY and two-time NCAA champion Christian Laettner. In the backcourt, do you run with Penny Hardaway and Jim Jackson over the dominant Duke duo of Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill? It’s really an unbelievable team. Conversely, the 2000 team — led by Kenyon Martin? Shane Battier? — is a joke. That team, decimated by the prep-to-pro era, may have finished dead last in the Olympics that year. It’s an interesting thought experiment, and we encourage you to visit ASoB and check it out.
  4. Going back to 1992 — was it the greatest year of basketball in American history? — former Duke star Bobby Hurley raised some major burn late Tuesday night after tweeting the following in reference to the gold medal-winning USA women’s gymnastics team (dubbed a modern-day “Fab Five”): “Proud 2 watch the “Fab Five” perform & bring home the gold! Who would have thought that the “Fab Five” could it get it done.” Of course, the Michigan group of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson not only lost the 1992 national championship game to Hurley’s Blue Devils, but they also lost two other regular season games to Duke during that era, giving the point guard the easy upper hand when it comes to taking those shots.
  5. With the exception of a notable tweeter, the Penn State story has died down in the national media as a result of the Olympics. And even though the long moribund basketball program was not implicated in the scandal or penalized by the NCAA in any way, it’s incomprehensible that Pat Chambers’ program will not be negatively impacted among the collateral damage to the Nittany Lion brand. In response to this piece by Jeff Borzello at CBSSports.com, it may very well be true that a recent de-committed recruit was already on the fence about heading to State College and another Class of 2013 recruit says he has no intention of backing out, but the issue will become more apparent in future classes where the semi-permanent negative message about Penn State has had sufficient time to stick. An argument that PSU will continue to recruit non-elite talent in the same way as before is not really an argument at all — the point is that every aspect of that university, from the chemistry lab to the jai alai club team to the local Penn State chapter of PETA, will be associated with this horrific situation for years to come. Whatever each group had to do to earn recognition prior to this fiasco, they’ll have to do so that much more in the future. This goes for basketball too.
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Morning Five: 07.18.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 18th, 2012

  1. This offseason has been unique in the sense that a newly promulgated NCAA rule has allowed coaches and their players to have considerably more in-person interaction than in previous years. While students (including new freshman) are on campus attending summer school, coaches can provide two hours per week of instruction and training. It may not sound like much on its face, but 24 hours of focused practice when compared with zero is a substantial difference. CBSSports.com’s Matt Norlander writes that without question, coaches around the country are 100% behind this new rule and are employing it to the best of their abilities. That is, except in the Ivy League. The wrinkle in the Ancient Eight is that Harvard and Princeton — academic titans though they are — do not offer summer school coursework. Without a level playing field among all eight schools, none of them can (or will) take advantage of the rule. And aside from that, summer courses cost money, a bit of a pinch for non-scholarship athletes. It’s an interesting insight into just how different the priorities are from the rest of Division I basketball, even at a successful time when the league is placing competitive teams (Cornell, Princeton and Harvard) into the NCAA Tournament.
  2. While on the subject of summer basketball, one of the great things about unofficial team pick-up games is that it makes for tremendous message board fodder: “Ivan Renko dropped 45 on Anthony Davis in a half! He’s going to be a first-team All-American!” You know how it goes. Players who are career bench-warmers or otherwise unfulfilled talents seemingly become hoops messiahs under the dim lights in the sweaty gyms of July and August. That isn’t to say that there aren’t clues to be found, though, especially in cases where players have never actually been seen in uniform before. One such storyline coming out of Kansas in the past week is that redshirt freshman Ben McLemore is drawing reasonable comparisons to former Jayhawk star Brandon Rush for his jaw-dropping athletic ability and shot-making prowess. Down on Tobacco Road, UNC’s Leslie McDonald and PJ Hairston may not be getting such a lofty comparison from a former player, but they are receiving lessons in how to play the game from former Tar Heel superstar Rasheed Wallace. So there’s that.
  3. While on the subject of the Heels, one of the slowly smoldering stories in the back rooms and dark alleys of the Internet this summer has related to the ongoing academic scandal involving a large number of football players at the school. Armed with the knowledge that some of UNC’s basketball players took the same tainted courses as the football team, Pat Forde in a piece Tuesday mentioned that UNC has not been as forthcoming as some would like with the release of exculpatory information. He doesn’t go as far as to make any accusations of wrongdoing other than to quote a history professor at UNC who remains skeptical, but it does bring up a question of transparency and whether UNC might be willing to throw football under the bus to save the basketball program.
  4. We’ve mentioned Jabari Parker quite a bit in the last week, as the Class of 2013 prospect made news for narrowing his list of schools down to a more manageable 10 suitors and his family’s decision to let him rest for the remainder of the summer camp period. At least one school that you may have heard of on the recruiting trail — it starts with a K and ends with a Y — may, according to an unnamed head coach “who has been involved” with Parker’s recruitment, be the clubhouse leader. Duke has been mentioned as Parker’s leader numerous times by people supposedly in the know, and BYU has always been in the mix because of the LDS connection. All any prognosticator worth his salt can do at this point is await announcements as to where Parker will take his official visits and work backwards from there.
  5. A number of college basketball head coaches are in North Augusta, South Carolina, this week for the Nike Peach Jam, an elite prep basketball event featuring many of the nation’s top uncommitted players. Local news station WJBF-TV interviewed a few of the attendees about the Penn State/Sandusky scandal, and at least Clemson’s Brad Brownell, Minnesota’s Tubby Smith, and Georgia Tech’s Brian Gregory appear to be “using Penn State’s mistakes as a lesson.” For the sake of the next generation of America’s overlooked children, let’s hope so.

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ACC Morning Five: 11.07.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 7th, 2011

  1. Fox Sports Carolinas: Fox Sports‘ Andrew Jones offers a throwback list of the top ten players “capable of significantly enhancing their team’s fortunes.” I only call the list throwback because Jones ignores the two extreme geographic points of the ACC (Boston College and Miami) when constructing his list. In general I agree with all of his selections, though I possibly would’ve substituted Miles Plumlee for Ryan Kelly based on recent reports. For Boston College, I would’ve chosen Danny Rubin (the most productive of the Eagles’ only three returning players), and I would choose sophomore Rion Brown for Miami.
  2. Boston Globe: Speaking of Boston College, Patrick Heckmann is hoping to make an impact on the Eagles this year, coming by way of Germany. This Globe piece gives a little insight into the recruiting world for international prospects, and Heckmann is a frosh out of Germany with a pretty unique story. He’s also a 6’6″ slasher who will get plenty of playing time for a young team. The story offers an especially interesting look at Heckmann’s decision in choosing Boston College over playing for a club team in Germany.
  3. Fayetteville Observer: Looking for more lists? Bret Strelow and Sammy Batten compiled a pretty interesting list of superlatives for ACC basketball that will definitelybe good for starting debates. Sure, Milton Jennings is a great breakout candidate and Staats Battle definitely has the coolest name in the conference, but is Andre Dawkins really the most underrated dunker? He dunks almost rarely, which makes each time feel special, but we need to see more frequency in order to garner a superlative. Also, I wonder why they chose to ask a freshman (Wake Forest’s Travis McKie) about the toughest arena. For the record he chose Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum, though this coming year will be McKie’s first trip to the unfriendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium.
  4. TarHeelBlue.com: North Carolina and NBA legend James Worthy will be elected into the college hoops hall of fame alongside of Virginia’s Ralph Sampson. Worthy was the first overall pick of the 1982 NBA Draft, led the Tar Heels to Dean Smith’s first NCAA Championship that same year (scoring 28 points on 13-17 shooting in the championship game), and is already a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
  5. Searching For Billy Edelin and Fayetteville Observer: A couple of ACC previews and predictions with more “controversial” picks. For Nick Fasulo at Searching For Billy Edelin, the conference is down. Fasulo’s most interesting predictions come in his individual accolades, where he picked Jim Larranaga as Coach of the Year and Tyler Zeller as Player of the Year. Personally, I see Zeller as more of a complement (as he was at the end of last season), but “everything is in place for this guy. Assuming he stays healthy, there should be no [...] unexpected things to limit his production,” Fasulo tweeted. The Fayetteville Observer‘s contrary nature shows up in its projected finish: Unlike the media, the newspaper projects Virginia to finish eighth in the conference (NIT-bound), while Miami takes the fourth place spot and earns an eight-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Around the greater world of college sports, one of the most sickening alleged scandals in the history of college athletics came to light over the weekend. In a story that will turn your stomach, former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been accused of 40 crimes (21 felonies and 19 misdemeanors) involving eight sexual abuse victims who were minors at the time. The worst part is that the PSU athletic department reportedly knew about some of the crimes and never reported them to the proper authorities despite extensive discussions internally. While the article is tough to read, Sara Ganim of The Patriot News does a great job breaking down the details of the case. As of today, Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley has been placed on administrative leave and Senior Vice President for business and finance Gary Schultz has stepped down (both have been accused of perjury), but I’d be surprised if the punishments end here based on the heinous nature of these allegations.

Picture of the Day:

Len Bias Posts Up Michael Jordan in 1984. (Manny Millan/SI) h/t SI Photo Blog

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