Morning Five: 09.29.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 29th, 2014

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  1. Pittsburgh suffered a significant blow when it announced that fifth-year senior Cameron Wright would be out for ten weeks after undergoing surgery on his broken left foot on Friday. Wright averaged 10.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game last season and is the Panthers’ leading returning scorer after scoring just 4.3 points per game as a sophomore. Wright is expected to return just before Christmas meaning that he will miss the team’s Maui Invitational trip and their  ACC/Big Ten Challenge match-up against Indiana, but should be back in time for the start of ACC play.
  2. Ty Hudson, one of the top point guards in the class of 2015, committed to Clemson on Saturday giving Brad Brownell his first commitment in the class of 2015. Hudson committed while on his official visit at Clemson, but the bigger factor was probably the team’s new assistant–Ritchie Riley–who had recruited Hudson while he was an assistant at UAB and is widely attributed as the driving force behind Hudson’s decision to go to Clemson. Hudson had also been looking at Mississippi, Oklahoma State, and South Florida.
  3. ESPN will have a new voice on-air next season as Jim Calhoun will be working with the network. Calhoun, who has been promoting a documentary in advance of its premiere next week, has not finalize the details of what his work will entail, but he is expected to be doing studio work at ESPN. We never know how coaches will translate to television, but after the Bob Knight experience the past few years we are looking forward to seeing Calhoun on TV particularly when he is talking about that team from upstate New York.
  4. Carlton Bragg, a consensus top-20 player in the class of 2015, will take a visit to UCLA on October 31 after having an in-home visit with Steve Alford. Bragg, a 6’8″ power forward out of Ohio, has narrowed down his list to Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, and UCLA. He already has two visits set up at Kansas (October 10) and Kentucky (October 17) so this would be his third planned visit, but according to reports Bragg does not plan on committing until the late signing period so we would not expect an announcement any time soon.
  5. Former Louisville commit Antonio Blakeney has set-up visits at Missouri (October 17) and LSU (November 7). Blakeney as you may remember backed out of his commitment to Louisville less than two weeks after his initial commitment. As we have stated before, many suspect his recruitment is being influenced by Blakeney’s Nike AAU connections, which was obviously in conflict with Louisville’s adidas contract. The other two schools on Blakeney’s list–Kentucky and Oregon–are also Nike schools so you can figure that this will be followed closely by fans on all sides.
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Kevin Ollie at Home in a League of Journeymen

Posted by Will Tucker (@blrdswag) on April 15th, 2014

Kevin Ollie has come a long way since September 2012, when he was reluctantly handed the reins to a UConn program coming off a 14-loss season, a depleted roster, and an impending postseason ban. Facing high-stakes circumstances, athletic director Warde Manuel’s confidence in Jim Calhoun’s hand-picked successor was so tentative that he handed Ollie the title of interim head coach and gave him a seven-month contract worth about $385,000. Just a year-and-a-half later, he’s bested Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan and John Calipari, taken a scarred program to heights many doubted it could ever again reach without Calhoun, set himself up as the hottest young coaching prospect since Brad Stevens, and made Drake sad. He’s making appearances at the New York Stock Exchange and getting blogged about at Forbes and Vanity Fair. A few short years after concluding his itinerant pro career, the 41-year-old Ollie might even be well-positioned to return the NBA as a coach, if he so desires. And that once-skeptical AD is prepared to do everything within his budget to convince Ollie otherwise.

The Huskies' fourth title came in their first postseason with Ollie at the helm (Robert Deutsch / USA TODAY)

The Huskies’ fourth title came in their first postseason with Ollie at the helm. (Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY)

As Jeff Eisenberg recently pointed out, UConn’s unlikely, scrappy resurgence reflects Ollie’s own journeyman ethos. Thrust into such inauspicious circumstances, some coaches would have resigned themselves to fate, thrown their hands in the air and begun assigning blame, starting with the athletic department that seemed more interested in wrangling autonomy from Calhoun than sustaining the program he built. But Ollie really was – and here I’ll apologize for belaboring the narrative – the perfect man to overcome the odds. A trusted insider whose own sweat equity had helped build the program, he quickly got his players to buy in. Over two turbulent seasons, they responded with the dogged persistence of an undrafted point guard who carved a 13-year NBA career out of annual contracts. So whatever opportunities the offseason holds for Ollie, it’s in the best interest of college basketball fans that he sticks around. His presence at the top of the profession is a breath of fresh air in a guild whose upper echelon is overwhelmingly white, exceptionally well-paid, and sometimes out of touch. It’s even better for AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco, whose conference desperately needs an elite coach in its ranks after Louisville’s Rick Pitino departs this off-season.

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After Fourth Title Since 1999, UConn Has Proven Its Blood is Pure Blue

Posted by Bennet Hayes on April 8th, 2014

Elite societies are exclusive societies, and the true blue-bloods of college basketball have long been a part of a near-impenetrable coterie. They are the programs that need no introduction, the schools that we expect to see in preseason Top Tens, midseason games-of-the-week, and on the final lines of the bracket in March and April. With apologies to UCLA and Indiana (it has been too long since either school ended their season with a National Title), conventional wisdom would tell you that this dignified collection has included just four teams for quite some time now – Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas. It has been a nice run boys, but it’s time to welcome another member to your group. After winning its fourth national title in 15 years on Monday night — twice as many as any other school during that time — Connecticut deserves mention in any conversation of the elite college basketball programs in America. With Jim Calhoun watching from the stands and Kemba Walker on a television set far away from Dallas, Kevin Ollie, Shabazz Napier and the rest of the Huskies proved – against perennial power Kentucky, no less — that the UConn program is as elite as any in college hoops.

In Capturing Another National Title For The University Of Connecticut, Kevin Ollie's Huskies Proved That The UConn Program Is As Elite As Any College Basketball Has To Offer

Kevin Ollie’s Huskies Proved That The UConn Program — Now Winners Of Four Of The Last 15 National Championships — Is As Elite As Any In College Basketball  (Getty)

Jim Calhoun has long been synonymous with UConn basketball. After all, Calhoun took a program that was nearly devoid of basketball history when he got to Storrs in 1986 and turned it into a national power, winning 12 times as many NCAA Tournament games in his 26 years (48) as the program had in the 85 years that preceded his arrival. Among those four dozen Tournament victories were three national titles – a nearly unthinkable feat when viewed within the greater picture of Connecticut basketball history. Many even called the Hall of Famer’s work in Storrs underappreciated when he retired in 2012, citing that blank program history and the bleak winters in tiny Storrs as major obstacles to a perennially elite college basketball program. Yet, somehow Calhoun was able to create precisely that.

However, all good things must come to an end, and the Jim Calhoun era was most certainly a good thing. His departure in 2012 brought a fork in the road for the program. One route would have been a trip back to a quiet, defeat-ridden past, where three decades of sustained brilliance would have ultimately come to reveal little more than the immense proficiency of one fantastic head coach. The other fork was more intriguing, one where continued success might actually show that Calhoun had done more than just coach a bunch of great teams. If UConn continued their winning ways, Calhoun’s legacy would be that of a program builder; he would have taken a bad job and turned it into one of the sport’s best.

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AAC M5: 03.28.14 Edition

Posted by Ross Schulz on March 28th, 2014

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  1. When the next AAC Morning 5 is published, only four teams will remain to vie for a national championship. Will an AAC school be one of them? Both AAC squads still remaining, Louisville and Connecticut, will hit the floor in their respective regional semifinals tonight. While Louisville will face a familiar foe in Kentucky, Connecticut will experience some familiarity of its own by playing in Madison Square Garden. It will be a nostalgic night for the Connecticut faithful, especially for former coach Jim Calhoun. Calhoun built Connecticut into a basketball power after taking over the program in 1986 and had great success in the Garden.
  2. Last year on the way to a national championship, Louisville guard Russ Smith could lean on the play of big man Gorgui Dieng and backcourt mate Peyton Siva. Those two have since moved on to the NBA, but that doesn’t mean Smith isn’t getting help from them. Smith said he talks almost daily with the two, mainly asking for advice about leadership. “It’s been really tough not to have them on the court with me,” he said. “They helped me so much last year.” Siva took Smith under his wing from the moment he stepped on campus. Siva’s advice to Smith: Don’t stress what other people are saying and just play your game. Dieng said Smith needed to stand up if something was going bad and now he understands and does so.
  3. Louisville assistant coach Kevin Keatts will be the next head coach at UNC-Willmington, unless of course, he didn’t actually graduate from college. It marks the fourth assistant-to-head coach move in four years from Louisville. He is known as one of the best recruiters in the game and played a large role in signing Montrezl Harrell, Luke Hancock, Chris Jones and Terry Rozier, all players that will be a major part of the Cardinals’ Sweet 16 game tonight with Kentucky. Keatts was also instrumental in the landing of the Louisville 2014 recruiting class headlined by guard Quentin Snider.
  4. Sean Vinsel of cardsandcatsstats.com welcomes the Sweet Sixteen match-up between Kentucky and Louisville. The Indiana grad’s website breaks down both teams statistically using measures not usually seen in the college game such as NBA’s plus/minus system. Louisville’s most productive line-up according to Vinsel is Chris Jones, Russ Smith, Wayne Blackshear, Montrezl Harrell and Stephan Van Treese. Kentucky’s is the Harrison twins, James Young, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein. The X-factors, he said, will be Luke Hancock and Cauley-Stein.
  5. Larry Brown said SMU owes everything to its fans. The Mustangs faithful made NIT home games feel like regular season finales with a conference championship on the line. SMU won 12 out of 13 games at Moody Coliseum this season, including the third round NIT victory over California, securing a spot at Madison Square Garden. “I think it plays a big part,” Senior Shawn Williams said of the crowd. “Those five-or-six-point runs turn into 10-or-12-point runs with the crowd.” The Mustangs were hoping for an NCAA Tournament berth, but a chance to play three more games at home wasn’t a bad consolation prize.
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AAC M5: 03.27.14 Edition

Posted by Ross Schulz on March 27th, 2014

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  1. Connecticut should feel right at home in Madison Square Garden tomorrow night. Having played in the Big East for three decades, the Husky program has all kinds of history in the building. Under Jim Calhoun, Connecticut cut down the nets in the Garden a total of seven times after winning the Big East Championship. Calhoun’s squad also won an NIT title in the building in 1988. Perhaps most improbably, MSG was the start of its incredible NCAA Championship run in 2011. Throw in the 2009 six-overtime game, and you get the point. But even more recently than that, UConn secured two victories at the Garden in November versus Boston College and Indiana. With all of this history and recent familiarity, the advantage for UConn will extend well beyond having the most fans in the stands tomorrow night.
  2. While the Huskies may have the fan advantage at the East Regional at Madison Square Garden, attendees will have to pay a pretty penny to see the first NCAA tournament game in the Garden in 53 years. Nosebleed section tickets were going for around $435, while front row seats reached a total of between $3,000-$5,000. One site offered eight club sideline tickets in Section 6 for $12,500. That’s per ticket, not total. The average price for a ticket for tomorrow night’s double-header, according to Tiqiq.com, is $1,753. A ticket to Suite 11 on www.greatseats.com had an asking price of $61,600. “The Final Four is less expensive right now,” Jay Mullarkey, vice president at TicketNetwork, said. “This is really big.”
  3. Last year at this time Louisville’s Kevin Ware was preparing for what turned out to be one of his best games in the Sweet Sixteen in Indianapolis. We all know the story of the devastating injury that came next for him in the regional final two days later. One year removed from that emotionally draining day, the Cardinals are returning to Indianapolis for the Sweet Sixteen but Ware is nowhere to be found. According to his mother, Ware has trouble watching his teammates play as he sits out the rest of the season with a medical redshirt. But since the coaching staff and Ware himself have made few comments on the matter, it’s led to speculation that there’s more to the story and some fans question whether he, like his best pal Chane Behanan, has worn a Louisville uniform for the last time.
  4. Louisville may be the team better equipped to win a national title, but Tim Sullivan said Kentucky’s size will make a victory on Friday night a tall task for the Cardinals. In the first meeting, Kentucky hauled in eight more rebounds, scored 11 more second chance points, and drew 25 fouls on the Cardinals. And if anything, the Cardinals have gotten smaller since that game with the departure of Chane Behanan occurring after that game. Of the 16 teams remaining, UK ranks first in rebounding percentage and drawing fouls. The Wildcats left an impression on Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall. “These guys are like a total eclipse when you go in there,” he said. If it’s worth anything, at least Louisville won’t be surprised by anything they see.
  5. The key for a Louisville victory rests with Montrezl Harrell, who would be playing for Virginia Tech (or not playing, as it were) if it weren’t for the firing of former coach Seth Greenburg. His development in the wake of Chane Behanan’s departure has morphed the Cardinals from a nice team with limited potential into the second betting favorite to win the national championship. Harrell (along with many of the Louisville players) struggled in the team’s first two NCAA tournament games, but Louisville fans hope he will reawaken in a big way to hold serve against the massive Kentucky front line.
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ACC M5: 03.24.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 24th, 2014

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  1. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Where to begin? Since the last morning five, Buzz Williams (and Yahoo! Sports) shocked the world by taking the Virginia Tech job. And while it was clear he was unhappy at Marquette, most people expected him to hold out for a better opportunity. Even more shocking is that the Hokies will pay him less than Marquette when all is said and done. Some more details in this David Teel piece, but if nothing else the hire shows an unprecedented investment in basketball at Virginia Tech. This is a game-changer in the conference going forward.
  2. ESPN: Speaking of the coaching carousel, hall of famer Jim Calhoun (!) is reportedly interested in the Boston College (!!!) job. Now, I’d be shocked if this actually happened. For one, Calhoun will be 72 this summer and has a history of health problems; two, his public relationship with Boston College hasn’t exactly been rosy of late; and three, he had serious APR issues at Connecticut. But I’m on board with Kyle Egan that Gene Difilippo shouldn’t overlook Calhoun’s interest. At a minimum Calhoun would generate both media and fan buzz. Assuming he stayed two or three years (which seems like the maximum), he’d also probably bring a serious upgrade in talent to Chestnut Hill. Boston College needs both of those things and as quickly as possible.
  3. Winston Salem Journal: Dan Collins nails his coverage of the end of the Jeff Bzdelik tenure here (and has a great intro here). But now it’s time to look forward. And Virginia Tech juist raised the bar significantly both in terms of hype and money, which often go hand in hand. Ron Wellman needs to “win the press conference,” so to speak. A candidate who’s gaining (entirely rumored) steam–at least from my perspective — is North Carolina Central’s Levelle Moton. Moton is high energy, young and has success in the area. At a minimum you’re taking a shot on a guy who’s incredibly likable and should be able to recruit well (and might stay for a very long time). I think Wake Forest looks for a safer (more experienced) hire, but with the stakes high Wellman may need to take a risk.
  4. Backing the PackTar Heel Blog, and Duke Basketball Report: Whew boy it was the basketball apocalypse this week in the Triangle. First NC State blows a 99% lead (according to KenPom.com) to Saint Louis because it can’t buy a free throw. Then Duke‘s stars have poor games and Mercer upsets the Blue Devils in Raleigh. Then North Carolina coughs up an eight-point lead in the final four minutes to Iowa State. I’ll take these one at a time in another post, but suffice to say, it was brutal. To rub salt in the wound, North Carolina Central the best team out of the MEAC in years got demolished in the round of 64.
  5. Charlottesville Daily Progress: As expected, Virginia is the last ACC team standing (in the NCAA Tournament, at least). Tony Bennett’s team kept the ACC from missing its first second weekend since the NCAA Tournament expanded. The Cavaliers poleaxed a good Memphis team Sunday night to carry the ACC’s torch to the Sweet Sixteen in what looks to be a fascinating matchup with a very trendy Michigan State team. Truthfully, when Virginia is shooting like they were Sunday, they won’t lose. I like Virginia to go to the Final Four out of the East, but facing Izzo in March (for anyone not named Roy Williams) is nothing to sneeze at.
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AAC M5: 02.25.14 Edition

Posted by Ross Schulz on February 25th, 2014

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  1. It was easy to see Saturday that Cincinnati needs a third offensive threat behind Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson. Jackson found himself in early foul trouble and the Bearcats struggled to keep up with Louisville in the first half. In the second half, Kilpatrick played the role of superman and nearly pulled off a single-handed comeback with 22 second half points. He was the only Bearcat to reach double figures. The three starters not named Jackson or Kilpatrick combined for just seven points Saturday. Shaquille Thomas or Jermaine Sanders will have to be the ones to step up if Cincinnati wants to hold on to first place in the AAC or make a significant postseason run. Cincinnati not only has to worry about finding production offensive outside of Kilpatrick, they also need to be mindful of the possibility that he could wear down. Playing so many minutes and doing so much for the team may be too much for him to continue on the torrid pace he’s on. Will the Bearcats be able to survive in a one and done situation if Kilpatrick has an off night?
  2. If the defending national champion plans to make a serious run at defending their crown, free throw shooting is priority number one. Louisville is shooting just 65 percent from the line, good enough for 300th in the nation. “We’ve got a nice basketball team,” Pitino said. “If we make our free throws we’ve got a hell of a basketball team.” Of likely NCAA tournament teams, there’s less than a handful worse at the line than Louisville. Louisville’s woes are most evident with forward Montrezl Harrell. Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin made a point to foul Harrell and make him earn his points at the line. He’s only shooting 38 percent form the line in conference play. Louisville is flat-out not a contender to do much of anything if Harrell isn’t on the floor. From this point forward, look for teams to utilize Cronin’s philosophy and make Harrell toe-the-line.
  3. Larry Brown’s SMU team secured a statement win on the road Sunday beating Connecticut to most likely move on the right side of the bubble for good, as long as they take care of business in the games they should win from here on out. SMU has a couple of chances to boost their resume and potential seed even further with Louisville (home) and Memphis ( road) still on the schedule. SMU is firmly planted in the 10 slot in the majority of the national bracket predictions and are left out of only three out of 82 projections.
  4. Connecticut’s troubles begin early and never really stopped Sunday afternoon in the ugly loss at home to SMU. It took the Huskies more than six minutes to finally get on the scoreboard. Connecticut never led. Coach Kevin Ollie said his team just has to get tougher and even though it’s late in the season, he said his team can still learn from it. He also said his players have to get to a point where they trust each other, like SMU. With just four games remaining before the postseason, time is running out for the Huskies to figure it out.
  5. While the final result of the game Sunday didn’t go the way Connecticut fans hoped, the fans still had some good vibes coming out of Gampel Pavilion because the 1999 national championship team was honored. The team and guard Khalid El-Amin were inducted into the Huskies of Honor. It was also Richard Hamilton’s first stop back to a Connecticut game in the on-campus facility since his playing days. Hamilton was able to see the coach that led him to a national title, Jim Calhoun, and the head man from his NBA championship Detroit Pistons team, Larry Brown. Hamilton and El-Amin say they remind former Duke players and fans of the night they “shocked the world.”
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AAC M5: 11.21.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on November 21st, 2013

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  1. Sometimes, when you are afraid you won’t have enough news to fill the Morning Five, you have to pray to the College Basketball News Gods. They don’t always listen to your prayers, but when they do, they always answer them by sending Richard Andrew Pitino to save the day. After Louisville demolished Hartford on Tuesday night, Pitino could have just answered questions about the Kevin Ware speeding ticket by expressing his disappointment and moved on. Instead he took the time to make vague insinuations that the story only broke because a Kentucky fan tipped off the media outlets. It can’t be proven, but given the nature of this rivalry, absolutely no one would be surprised if Pitino’s suspicions were totally true. Ware’s suspension rumors from the summer were also supposedly started by someone in Big Blue Nation and let’s not pretend like Louisville fans are any nobler. They would be direct messaging every national college basketball writer in the country if they thought they could get Julius Randle suspended or even looked at by the NCAA. I’m not a proponent of trading in gossip but this is also partially what makes the rivalry between the teams so fun… so… uh… work those phones Cardinals’ and Wildcats’ fans!
  2. It’s a little bit surprising to hear that former Boston College coach Al Skinner never even bothered to call Shabazz Napier and at least feign interest just in case his preferred targets fell through. Napier wasn’t exactly a can’t-miss prospect coming out of prep school, but he did play in the Eagles’ backyard and was probably worth at least a phone call. Skinner’s loss (it is really Steve Donahue’s loss since he actually tried to recruit Napier but was too late) was Jim Calhoun’s gain as Napier has built himself into a conference player of the year candidate and the Huskies’ most important player. Napier gets a chance to indirectly exact his revenge tonight as the Huskies and Eagles square off at Madison Square Garden in the 2K Sports Classic. Donahue has a pair of solid sophomore guards in Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon, just don’t think for a second that either one of them is going to be able to stop Napier.
  3. The coronation of Troy Caupain as Cincinnati‘s point guard of the future will have to wait at least one more game after last night’s underwhelming performance. I won’t pick on the members of the media who were already starting to sing his praises because I was singing them just as loudly after his excellent all-around game against Appalachian State. But the beginning of the breakout that was supposed to happen against Campbell last night never materialized as Ge’Lawn Guyn played most of the minutes and Caupain missed the only two shots he took from the field to finish with one point, one rebound, one assist and one steal in just 14 minutes. I will readily admit that my itchy “breakout performer” trigger-finger got the best of me on this one, but I am not jumping of the Caupain bandwagon quite yet. Caupain is still more than a week away from his 18th birthday and he is already part of an AAC team’s rotation. He will undoubtedly have bouts of inconsistency throughout the season but he has a lot of room to grow and he is going to do that by playing a lot.
  4. The theme of the week for Temple is patience. Coach Fran Dunphy is preaching it. The student newspaper is preaching it; and star forward Anthony Lee is preaching it too. Although the Owls were picked to finish fifth in the preseason AAC coaches poll, it is now fair to wonder whether that prediction has more to do with the respect for Dunphy than it does with the Owls’ actual abilities. The outlook from KenPom is far less favorable (for those without the subscription, he is predicting the Owls finish 10-18) and the team is going to need to grow up in a hurry if they want to prove the prognosticators wrong. They have the pieces and a good amount of talent, but right now they aren’t particularly good in any facet of the game. They have been particularly bad from behind the three-point arc, shooting just over 26 percent from downtown, and they also rank near the bottom nationally when it comes to forcing turnovers. The hope is that some of this will improve as the team gets more comfortable and more experience, they just better hope that happens before its too late.
  5. I’m fine with giving Houston‘s TaShawn Thomas conference player of the week honors, as he has dominated in all four games this season. I am not fine with hyping Houston as a contender, however, not at least until they play someone even remotely worthwhile. They are still a bad defensive team, and while the offense is improving, it still isn’t that efficient and certainly not enough so to help them beat conference foes. The schedule doesn’t get any better against Howard, which rates as one of the worst teams in the country, so expect Thomas and Danuel House to get theirs in an easy win.  But the Cougars get a shot at Stanford at the Barclays Center on Monday and if they can beat the Cardinal, then I will consider to start to take the team seriously.
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AAC M5: 10.25.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on October 25th, 2013

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  1. At this point, the Chane Behanan saga has me feeling like Michael Corleone. After reporters in Louisville were able to extract Behanan’s side of things while he was in a downtown Starbucks, I figured that would be the last we would hear of Behanan and his suspension for at least a few weeks, maybe even a month if we were lucky. But no, Rick Pitino can’t stay away from publicity for long, so of course there were going to be media members at his book signing on Thursday and of course Pitino was going to open his mouth and gently walk back the harsh words he had uttered about Behanan at a press conference just one week before. When Pitino had first said it “was not probable” that Behanan would rejoin the team, most people called his bluff, but no one could have expected him to call his own bluff this quickly. Now Pitino is feeling better about Behanan’s chances of returning to the team because he told the truth or something and Pitino said Behanan would be back on the team “in a short period of time”. He tried to clarify that “short” was a relative word, but at this point, no one is even listening.  What a giant unnecessary charade. Behanan will be back on the team, his absence probably won’t affect Louisville much in the long run unless Hartford and Louisiana-Lafayette have some players none of us know about and this whole suspension nonsense will fade from everyone’s collective memory.
  2. In a story that is bound to make you say, “Wait…what?” and since not a day can go by without us talking about multiple stories involving Louisville, back in April some guy tried to extort Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich by claiming he had knowledge of a point-shaving scandal and threatening to go public if he was not paid $3.5 million. Apparently totally unfazed, Jurich basically called the bluff and immediately notified the NCAA and the state’s Attorney General, who then looped in the FBI. This was undoubtedly a smart move as the blackmailer was later found to be a guy who had previously been convicted of trying to extort Best Buy and the guy was promptly arrested again yesterday. I am no expert on extortion, but it’s probably more effective when you try to blackmail a team that didn’t just win the National Championship. It’s not a foolproof defense of point-shaving, but it’s a pretty good one. This story basically materialized out of thin air and is now about to disappear again. If only we could be so lucky with the Behanan suspension.
  3. Between 2003 and 2006, 12 players entered the Connecticut basketball program and only one of those players actually graduated. For the mathematically challenged, that is a graduation rate of roughly eight percent — the national average was 74 percent for this time period — which is confirmed by numbers the NCAA released Thursday. Now, to be fair to the Huskies and its former oach Jim Calhoun, the GSR is a flawed rating system and players that leave early for the professional ranks count against the school’s GSR.  The article doesn’t say who the one player who graduated is, but it is probably safe to assume that players like Marcus WilliamsCharlie VillanuevaRudy Gay, and A.J. Price all counted against the school’s graduation rate despite the fact that all four of them ended up playing in the NBA. This doesn’t absolve the Huskies and Calhoun from blame. According to the article, the program’s graduation rate got worse and worse before bottoming out at eight percent, and the NBA is only partially to blame as UConn is hardly the only program that deals with early departures and those schools didn’t make headlines for their embarrassingly low graduation rates. The good news is that Kevin Ollie seems to have stabilized the program and helped get the team on track academically, so hopefully the rating will start to return to respectability soon enough.
  4. Our first three stories have all been centered around less than savory topics, so let’s switch gears for a minute and talk about the remarkable story of Iowa State transfer and now Rutgers guard Kerwin Okoro. Last November, Okoro’s father died of a stroke in Nigeria and two months later his older brother Idiongo died from colon cancer. Okoro transferred home to be closer to his mother who apparently works 16 hours per day, but because the NCAA is the NCAA, they initially denied his waiver to play immediately. Luckily for everyone involved, the Internet exists and outrage quickly spread across the country as Okoro’s story became well-known and people called out the obvious hypocrisy in the NCAA’s decision. The NCAA finally caved to public pressure last month and now Okoro is eligible to play immediately and should be a key contributor in coach Eddie Jordan‘s backcourt. The more detailed version of the story is on Adam Zagoria’s blog and it is definitely worth the read.
  5. Veteran Cincinnati reporter Bill Koch mulls over some questions about this season’s Bearcats, a team with as much to prove as any in the conference. Mick Cronin has done an excellent job of bringing the program back to constant relevancy, but despite plenty of talent, none of Cronin’s teams have yet to make the leap from good to great. Unfortunately for Cronin and the Bearcats’ fanbase, this season looks more like a rebuilding year than a contending year as the team needs to replace starting point guard Cashmere Wright and needs to find a few live bodies to play in the frontcourt and maybe score a basket or two. They do return star guard Sean Kilpatrick and brought in highly touted freshman Jermaine Lawrence, and there is more talent and athleticism on the roster. But, as Koch pointed out, there are a lot of important questions that need to be answered and those questions may be too much to overcome.
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Morning Five: 09.17.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 17th, 2013

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  1. If the pressure was not already on Steve Alford to land a point guard at UCLA before, the announcement that Kyle Anderson was planning on declaring for the NBA Draft after this season certainly should. Coming after Anderson’s solid, but uninspiring freshman year the announcement (by his father) seems somewhat strange and we are not sure what purpose it serves. At this point he is a borderline first round pick at best and that is primarily based on his potential (length and skills). If Anderson shows significant improvement he could be a potential lottery pick because of that potential, but “declaring” this early serves no purpose other than to create disharmony within the Bruins locker room.
  2. There has been quite a bit of speculation that there is a growing movement that would bring about changes that would eventually lead to college athletes being paid. If you didn’t believe our warnings that it would not be happening any time soon, perhaps the comments made by NCAA President Mark Emmert yesterday stating that there was very little support behind the movement to pay college athletes from administrators. Emmert may be the public face of the NCAA and subsequently the target of most of the hatred directed at the organization, but he does raise some salient points. Whatever your opinion is on the subject of paying athletes, Emmert’s comments should further our previous statements that we are still a long way away from paying college athletes becomes a reality.
  3. Mike Krzyzewski‘s comments yesterday voicing his disapproval of transfer waivers has managed to create a fair amount of controversy. It should be pointed out that none of his comments are unique and appear to be the party line for the old school. As several people have noted Krzyzewski was never asked if a player should be granted a waiver if his coach leaves. Of course that would also encroach upon the third rail of the transfer discussion–coaches moving around freely and players being taken advantage of when it is time to sign with schools. We would also be interested to see how Krzyzewski would react if be were given the opportunity to get a high-impact transfer that could obtain a waiver, which is a position that we believe he has never been in.
  4. It has been a year since Jim Calhoun abruptly stepped down as head coach at Connecticut and as you would expect the local media reached out to him to discuss what he has been up to in the interim. The part of the article that will generate the most buzz is that “little itch” that Calhoun says he still to coach basketball. While we do find that interesting on some level, we doubt that he would ever come back to coach in any capacity at his age with his medical history. Having said that it is good to see that Calhoun is involved with the school and the players at some level.
  5. Many college basketball fans have been focusing on the reported recruiting package deal of Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones and for good reason as the are rated #1 and #3 overall in ESPN’s recruiting rankings. However, they should also keep an eye on reports that Cliff Alexander and Jaquan Lyle are now also a package deal. The reports are based on a tweet that Alexander, the #2 overall recruit according to those same ESPN rankings, sent out saying that he and Lyle< the #22 overall recruit, would be playing in college together. While there are several teams on both players “lists” it is worth noting that Lyle said said that he favored Kansas recently and Alexander is also believed to be a Kansas lean at this point.
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Season In Review: Connecticut Huskies

Posted by mlemaire on May 1st, 2013

Despite the fact that there was no postseason at the end of the tunnel thanks to the academic sins of those who came before them, UConn put together quite a remarkable season that should have Huskies’ fans excited about the future of their program. The year started with question marks on everything from who would play in the frontcourt to whether interim coach Kevin Ollie would become Jim Calhoun’s permanent successor. It ended with Ollie as the team’s head coach for the future and the squad winning a mildly surprising 20 games, including a 10-8 mark in Big East play, en route to somewhat of a feel-good story for coach and program. Let’s go deeper inside UConn’s season:

Preseason Expectations

The Huskies were one of the easier teams in the conference to predict but our scribes at the microsite proved at least slightly more accurate than the coaches as we pegged the Huskies to finish 8th, which is where they finished (the coaches pegged them 9th). The expectations were easy once it became clear that the team was going to play hard all season for Ollie. Many figured that their issues in the frontcourt and no prospect of the postseason would put the Huskies near the bottom of the conference. But they also understood that in Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, and DeAndre Daniels, there was enough talent in place for UConn to compete with most every team if things went well — which is pretty much exactly what they did.

Shabazz Napier Was A Big Reason UConn Stayed Competitive This Season

Shabazz Napier Was A Big Reason UConn Stayed Competitive This Season

The Good

First things first, this season could have just as easily gone off the rails if the Huskies couldn’t stay motivated, so head coach Kevin Ollie deserves major kudos for the job he did with his new team and apparently the school agreed because midway through the season UConn removed the interim tag from his position. Not only did Ollie keep the team motivated (they only lost two games by more than 10 points and one was to that Louisville buzzsaw), but he helped the squad become an above-average team on both ends that was truly only hampered by its inability to rebound and defend the post. He has also already proven his recruiting chops and should continue to be a more-than-capable replacement for Calhoun. Napier (17.1 PPG, 4.6 APG, 4.4 RPG, 44.1 FG%) became a more judicious shot-taker, an excellent free throw shooter and one of the best floor generals in the conference, setting the stage for what should be a tremendous senior season. Boatright (15.1 PPG, 4.4 APG, 42.9 FG%) also saw an uptick in his numbers, although that had something to do with his more prominent role in the offense and an increase in shots attempted. If he can cut down on turnovers and improve his three-point shooting a bit, there will be little doubt which team has the best backcourt in the conference next season. But the man who showed the most improvement was sophomore forward DeAndre Daniels. A non-factor in limited minutes as a freshman (3.0 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 34.1 FG%), the Huskies were counting on the uber-talented sophomore to make a leap and he didn’t disappoint, averaging 12.1 PPG and 5.5 RPG while shooting better than 46 percent from the field and turning into one of the better shot-blockers in the conference. Without Daniels, the Huskies would have been lucky to win 15 games this season.

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Big East M5: 02.15.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 15th, 2013

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  1. As expected, more details have emerged in the Jim Boeheim-Andy Katz “feud”, which came to a head last night when Boeheim called Katz an idiot and refused to answer his questions at the presser that followed Syracuse’s loss at Connecticut.  What was originally assumed by many to be an issue with Katz sharing some information about James Southerland’s academic issues now seems to be more about last year’s Bernie Fine fiasco.  Let’s hear from Boeheim: “It’s really simple. I went to New York last year to play in the (NIT Pre-Season Tip-Off) Tournament in November and he (Katz) asked if he could interview me about the tournament. And I said, ‘Yeah, but I can’t talk about the (Bernie Fine) investigation.’ We got in the room and he put me on camera — there were several witnesses there — and he asked me what I’d told him I couldn’t answer. I kept telling him, ‘I can’t answer that.’ And he asked me, like, 10 times on camera. He never took the camera off me. Two or three people in the room were so disgusted they walked out of the room. The producer came over and apologized afterward. And I told Katz right then and there, ‘Don’t talk to me. Do not try to talk to me again.'” Katz issued a response following the Syracuse.com article: “There was no deal. I don’t cut deals. He might have thought there was a deal, but I have never, ever made a deal… The reason I did that is because with guys like Jim Boeheim, John Calipari, Jim Calhoun they’ll, say there’s a certain subject they don’t want to talk about and then they’ll talk about it. If I asked it one too many times, fine, criticize me. I was just trying to see if he’d answer the question.”
  2. On the brighter side for Syracuse fans… err, maybe not so much after Wednesday night in Hartford… Michael Carter-Williams continues to grab headlines for his play.  Mike DeCourcy of  Sporting News went into depth with MCW about his high-risk, high-reward play this season, and how his scant playing time last season has helped in his maturation process.  Carter-Williams, like Dion Waiters before him, is a fiery competitor, and is has gotten the best of him in games before, including one instance last season when he snapped at Jim Boeheim after being taken out of a game: “Definitely, there were a couple of times when it got the better of me and I lashed out at Coach. Those were mistakes I made. Coach told me if I wasn’t yelling at him, he wouldn’t know what to expect from me. I was a McDonald’s All-American and I wasn’t playing … he knew I wanted to be out there.”  Carter-Williams’ play has been up and down this Big East season, but few deny his talent, and the fact that if Syracuse has a chance at making a final four run this season, it will be in large part due to MCW’s play.
  3.  College basketball is wide open this season, and the Big East is no different. It seems like half of the league is still in contention for the conference crown, and no one knows what will happen once the Big East tournament kicks off at Madison Square Garden. UConn was never supposed to be in the discussion this season.  After being handed a full post-season ban due to APR issues, and losing a number of talented players from their NCAA tournament team last season, UConn was largely an afterthought in the league.  However, with the win over Syracuse, the Huskies sit just a game out of first place in the conference, and the team may be especially dangerous, as a regular season Big East title is all that they can play for this year.
  4. Cincinnati’s offensive woes have been well-documented, especially since Cashmere Wright’s injury in January.  Sean Kilpatrick has been a one man show for the Bearcats, and that hasn’t been a winning formula.  In their recent win over Villanova, Cincinnati was able to find offense from another sourceJaQuon Parker.  Parker averages 10.9 points per game for Cincy, but had been in a bit of a scoring drought before breaking out with 19 points against the Wildcats.  The significance of his contribution was not lost on Mick Cronin: “He’s got to stay aggressive and I’ve got to help him with that. Put him in situations to where he can be aggressive and he’s thinking offense.  He’s thinking attack. For us to win, he’s got to play that way. For us to be a high-level team, he’s got to be a double-figure guy.”
  5. The ballad of Todd Mayo at Marquette has hit frequent rough notes, but he is a rare talent that could become a major asset for Buzz Williams’ squad if kept in check.  Mayo spent the early part of this season on academic suspension, and he has had his playing time cut at points since his return for what many expect is disciplinary reasons.  When Mayo does suit up, he is a dangerous offensive weapon, averaging over 17.5 points per 40 minutes played.  The trouble is, for every double digit game he tallies, he only plays five minutes in another.  There are rumblings that Mayo may not be long for Marquette, but while he is still on the team, they can certainly use him in their race for the top of the Big East.
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