Big East Burning Question: Are Syracuse And Jim Boeheim Really Overrated?

Posted by mlemaire on January 15th, 2013

We are admittedly well late to the party with this question, but amidst all of the fawning articles and celebratory columns remarking on the incredible 900 wins that Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has amassed, there was one turd in the punch bowl – CBS Sports college basketball analyst and noted Syracuse agitator Doug Gottlieb. Gottlieb has contended for quite some time that Boeheim is a great coach, but not an “elite” coach, especially when compared to some of his contemporaries who have had more success in the NCAA Tournament such as Tom Izzo and Jim Calhoun. Now its true that Gottlieb has a rather testy history with Syracuse, its fans, and its famed head coach, but for the sake of this argument, we will ignore the suspicions of personal bias and just take his argument on its face. So without further delay, we posed the question to the three microsite writers and here is what they came up with.

Will Tucker: It’s hard to pass up an opportunity to lampoon Doug Gottlieb, especially when his subject is a coach with whom he seemingly has an ax to grind. But it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater here. As Mike points out, when you compare Jim Boeheim’s postseason accomplishments to those of his peers, his 900+ wins––amassed disproportionately early in the season––serve as an indictment in their distribution as much as a milestone in their volume. And Gottlieb’s accusation that Boeheim’s soft nonconference schedules have been a disservice to his team’s toughness is a fair criticism that merits further investigation. But Doug’s aversion to nuance is on full display, and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. While Boeheim’s nonconference scheduling is and should be fair game, Gottlieb further attributes Syracuse’s postseason stumbles to feasting on an overrated Big East schedule. This seems more ad hominem than intellectually honest, and Doug conveniently ignores the 2010-11 UConn and 2011-12 Louisville teams that reached Final Fours with nearly ten Big East losses apiece. He also summarily mocks Boeheim’s zone defense as an inferior system nobody else uses with any success. In doing so, he ignores that Boeheim’s protégé Rick Pitino took an offensively stunted group to a Final Four with a variation of that zone last season, and the Cards retain the most efficient defense in the country again this year (Syracuse is hot on their heels at #3). Rhetoric notwithstanding, at the crux of this discussion is a fan’s aesthetic preference between regular season success and tournament success. Sure, the two aren’t mutually exclusive (paging Mike Kryzyzewski), but most coaches fall somewhere toward either end of the spectrum. Knowing all too well how a team’s struggles in the winter can exacerbate my seasonal affective disorder, I’m philosophical about the whole thing. I’ll take a Sweet 16 preceded by four months of big wins, high rankings, and conference championships over an agonizing regular season capped off by an Elite Eight––every time. Gottlieb subscribes to the notion that tournament success supersedes any other measuring stick, and the rigidness of his assumptions leaves little room for us to meet in the middle. Ultimately, I think it detracts from the salient questions his raises about what makes a coach great.

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The 10 Biggest CBB Stories of 2012 — #4: Jim Calhoun Retires

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 30th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

College basketball gave us plenty of memorable moments and stories in 2012. After sorting through the main headlines, we’ve come up with the 10 most consequential items and, for the sake of maintaining publishing sequence symmetry, releasing two per-day over the next five days to lead into the New Year. It was an excellent year for the sport, though I can’t promise you won’t regret reliving at least one or two of the choices. In any case, here’s to summing up a great year and to hoping that 2013 is better than the 365 days that preceded it.

Few programs are tied as strongly to one coach as UConn is to Jim Calhoun. The 70-year old legend not only won three national championships, nine Big East regular season titles and three conference tournament titles, but Calhoun built the program from scratch and cultivated the UConn brand in his own image. Any discussion of Huskies basketball inevitably reverts to Calhoun’s architectural imprint. The coach and program are inextricably linked.

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Big East M5: Temporal Symmetry Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on December 12th, 2012

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  1. Happy 12.12.12, everyone. By the time another one of these rolls around, the Big East will be dead and so will we. Fittingly, talk of a possible mass exodus of the league’s non-football contingent dominated yesterday’s college hoops community. In an interview Steve True of ESPN Wisconsin conducted with Marquette AD Larry Williams yesterday, Williams distilled the frustrations of the Catholic basketball schools with startling candor, which certainly doesn’t bode well for reconciliation. He identified August as a nebulous deadline for decision-making, and when asked whether Marquette would be in the Big East next year, responded, “The assumption is yes, but everything is on the table. Let me just put it that way. We’re evaluating everything.” Other highlights include Williams bluntly dismissing the A-10 as an inferior option, referring to Big East football as “second or third tier,” and relating Tulane to an ugly lamp in a remodeled conference (“Now that home has been sort of changed, and somebody came and put new furniture in, and boy, do we still fit here is what everyone is sort of thinking about”).
  2. There had been some rumblings the other day that the non-football schools were disturbed by the highly public overtures football counterparts had made to the ACC before Louisville scored an invite. Emails obtained by the Cincinnati Enquirer among university leadership at Cincinnati revealed a highly orchestrated and urgent effort to court both the ACC and Big 12 during that audition period. The university president’s office sought guidance from a D.C. lobbying firm and tried to arrange campus visits for ACC presidents. Urban Meyer’s sister, a vice provost at the school, even enlisted the iconic coach to lobby the ACC on Cincinnati’s behalf, before he ultimately demurred.
  3. Though Connecticut’s 57-49 win over Harvard last weekend doesn’t look particularly sexy on paper, Huskies fans were encouraged by the confident performance of sophomore forward DeAndre Daniels, who shot 9-of-12 and ended with 23 points. Despite huge expectations for the former 4/5-star recruit, Daniels was an enigma last season, averaging only three points and two rebounds in 12 minutes per contest; tentative in attacking the rim despite his superlative athleticism. Now, he’s focusing on fundamentals rather than dwelling on his limitations: “I understand my role better. I’m boxing out better, and I’m going to get the ball better. I have to do that because I’m not as big and strong as some of the [frontcourt] guys we’re going to face.”
  4. Rutgers survived a scare from a 4-6 George Washington team at home last night, despite playing some of its best basketball of the season in the first 18 minutes. Mike Rice apparently persisted in applying his 2-2-1 press a little too long after the Colonials had deciphered it, forcing his team to plant their heels and endure a dogfight in the second half. Though not as decisive as Rutgers fans would have hoped, On The Banks calls the win “another game they would have lost last year. And, likely, the year before.” Considering we picked them to finish last in the conference this season, 6-2 in mid-December and two games ahead of Villanova in the loss column feels like solid progress.
  5. As Jim Boeheim approaches his 900th win, The Juice Online meditates on whether his steely countenance would grace a college basketball Mount Rushmore of coaching greats. Sacrilegiously, the author argues that the Syracuse legend would be the seventh choice, behind Adolph Rupp, John Wooden, Coach K, Bobby Knight, Dean Smith, and –– brace yourselves –– Jim Calhoun. He also draws a compelling analogy between Boeheim and Karl Malone: “Much like Malone did, Boeheim puts up very good numbers every season (he has more 20-win seasons than any other coach) and much like Malone, there have been a lot of seasons…While Boeheim has consistently been very very good, he’s never really had a stretch where he established himself as truly dominant coach, just like Malone never established himself as a truly dominant player.”
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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume V

Posted by jbaumgartner on December 11th, 2012

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED… another strong week from Michigan. I’ve always gotten a kick out of subtly rooting for the Wolverines, but have never quite been able to put my finger on why. I guess that while most people enjoy stirring up images of tradition and excellence when programs like Indiana get back on track, with Michigan it’s more about stirring up those memories of just how stinking COOL the program was in the early 90s with the Fab Five. This is a fun team to watch, and it doesn’t hurt that they have two sons of former NBA stars leading the way, either.

Tim Hardaway Jr. and Friends Have Been Outstanding This Season

I LOVED… Illinois putting up one of the true statement wins of the young season and perhaps emptying out the Gonzaga bandwagon already. What an incredible start for John Groce, and what a performance from Brandon Paul. That’s probably as encouraging as anything for the Illini, that they had a closer to ride down the stretch of a tight game. That’ll bode well for a Big Ten that is sure to have plenty of nailbiters all year long.

I LOVED…. laughing at this show of solidarity from the ACC presidents about no more schools leaving the conference. I’d say it’s safe to say at this point that potentially 80 percent of all major conference schools are at least entertaining hypothetical scenarios or potential TV deals at the moment. With switches happening almost every other week, it’s fairly comical to deny it.

I LOVED… and by loved, I mean lovvvvvvvvvved App State center Brian Okam’s hysterical blooper-reel free throw, as his charity toss slipped off his hands and literally went 10 feet vertically and maybe three feet horizontally (and that’s generous). But I also loved that Okam could see the humor and took the time to give a statement about the shot. Just remember big man – the next one is always going in.

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Big East M5: 12.05.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 5th, 2012

  1. St. John’s 81-65 loss on the road at San Francisco may have seemed like just another non-conference game in preparation for the Big East gauntlet which kicks off in early January. To Steve Lavin, though, this game meant a whole lot more. Steve’s father Cap Lavin played guard at San Francisco in the early 1950s, and was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 1997. With his son’s trip out west, the school honored Lavin at halftime. San Francisco Chronicle writer Steve Kroner’s piece on this father-son relationship is an excellent read. Where many sporting parents may push their children towards athletics, Cap never put any pressure on Steve, but instead made sure that his career goal of becoming a basketball coach wasn’t him taking “the path of least resistance.” Steve’s relationship with Cap was also instrumental in helping him triumph in his recent bout with prostate cancer.
  2. The Big East Tournament has always been a big event for Connecticut faithful, and this spring’s tournament, with the impending departure of rivals Syracuse and Pittsburgh, promised to be even more meaningful… until, of course, UConn was banned from all postseason play for poor APR scores. School president Susan Herbst is still fighting the ruling, citing the school’s stronger, more recent APR scores as evidence that the program has learned and improved upon past academic failures. Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs theorizes that if UConn wants to overcome the “chaos” that has befallen the program and be readmitted to the Big East Tournament — and on a larger scale, be seen as having a strong athletic department again — they need to quiet Jim Calhoun. As we discussed in yesterday’s Big East M5, Calhoun recently stated that he would “never say never” in ruling out a return to coaching. Jacobs believes that Calhoun’s thirst for attention, which doesn’t seem to have dissipated even after his very public and odd retirement, is undermining the program.
  3. While the Syracuse low-post trio of Rakeem Christmas, Dajuan Coleman, and Baye Moussa Keita have combined for a solid 18.2 points, 15.6 rebounds, and nearly four blocks per game this season, Jim Boeheim still believes that this group is the one that must progress the most if the team wants to make a championship run this season. The Orange’s 2-3 zone has been especially active and long this season to the tune of 81 steals through six games, but their corresponding interior defense has been a bit weak at times. Boeheim is worried that a good mid-range jump shooter or a strong offensive big man could do some damage against his defense. Syracuse could also use a strong presence inside on offense when the shooting stroke from outside runs cold, as it did for stretches against Eastern Michigan on Monday.
  4. USF (the Big East one this time) seems to be gaining its sea legs after a rough few games to start the year, and are prepared to take on #23 Oklahoma State in Stillwater tonight. One can point to the improved health of Anthony Collins as one reason for the Bulls’ improved play. After missing a game against Stetson due to a lingering calf injury, Collins had one of his best games of the year against Georgia, scoring 17 points and adding 10 assists. A win in Stillwater would give USF a solid non-conference road win, and re-energize the thoughts of a second straight NCAA Tournament berth. After the Oklahoma State game, USF has a 13-day break to focus on practice and schoolwork, so look for the Bulls to come out with a very strong effort knowing that rest is on the way.
  5. Pittsburgh could get back junior swingman Trey Zeigler as early as tonight for the Panthers’ City Game against Duquesne. Zeigler, who transferred from Central Michigan after his father Ernie was fired as head coach, was charged with a DUI on November 26 and was suspended indefinitely from the team. The scoring guard was a highly recruited player coming out of high school and had averaged 6.2 points per game for Pitt before his suspension — during his two years with the Chippewas, he averaged around 16 points per game so he could provide a great offensive spark for the Panthers if he gets back into a rhythm.
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Big East M5: 12.04.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 4th, 2012

  1. Under Mike Brey, Notre Dame has developed a reputation for early NCAA Tournament flame outs. The Irish have reached the Dance eight times, but have only advanced past the round of 32 once. One of the reasons that has been cited is the tendency for Notre Dame teams to be predicated on jump shooting and finesse play. Brey thinks that this Notre Dame squad may be the one to break that mold and achieve “it,” although he seems to be very wary of angering the basketball jinx gods by revealing what “it” is.  This season’s Fighting Irish are flying high after a win over Kentucky, and the group seems to have a different makeup than the teams before them. They have a legitimate post presence in Jack Cooley, guards who can break down the defense in Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins, and the requisite shooters in Scott Martin and Cameron Biedscheid. This may not end up being the Notre Dame team that does “it,” but they certainly look the part at this early juncture.
  2. UConn’s season has been about as weird as one would expect so far. After what seemed to be a statement win in the opener against Michigan State in Germany, the Huskies dropped a game to New Mexico and have struggled recently against the likes of Stony Brook and New Hampshire. Kevin Ollie’s team is looking forward to the return of senior guard R.J. Evans, who is the normal sixth man in the team’s rotation. Evans, who missed the last two games with an injured sternoclavicular joint, may be ready to go in tonight’s match-up with a very talented NC State team. Evans’ presence and leadership off the bench should take some of the pressure off of starting guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. Napier has stressed the impact that Evans brings to the flow of UConn’s offense: “Against New Hampshire we played a little selfish… We missed R.J.”
  3. In other UConn news, Jim Calhoun recently unveiled some interesting information about his health while on the YES Network’s Centerstage. On top of the February spinal surgery and the summer hip surgery that Calhoun underwent, he also had a “cancer-related” growth removed in May. Calhoun had previously received treatment for skin cancer in 2008, and doctors feared that the growth may be related to that incident. Calhoun also stated that he would “never say never” with regards to a coaching comeback. This seems like incredibly strange timing for such a statement, given his abrupt retirement which allowed his chosen successor Kevin Ollie to take over the job at Connecticut.
  4. Rick Pitino has competed against almost every notable coach you can think of at the highest levels of basketball, so when he is seemingly awe-struck by a young coach, it is noteworthy. After his Louisville Cardinals escaped an upset at the hands of Illinois State with a 69-66 win on Saturday, Pitino couldn’t heap enough praise on the Redbirds’ first-year head man, 36 year old Dan Muller: “We’ve all seen Brad Stevens (of Butler) and Shaka (Smart of VCU) the past couple years. That’s one of the brightest first-year coaches I’ve witnessed in a long, long time… I’m happy for him. He’s been very patient waiting for a job. That’s one of the bright young stars in our game.”
  5. When one thinks of Jim Boeheim, basketball is likely one of the first things to come to mind, along with Syracuse, central New York, zone defense, and epic post-game rants. However, Boeheim is also an avid golfer, and at one time, the Syracuse golf coach, which makes a three-foot tall golf ball painted in his likeness a little less… peculiar. The ball was painted by local artist Phillip Burke and will be auctioned off in the spring, with proceeds going to the Jim & Juli Boeheim Foundation. The Boeheims host an annual “Basket Ball” gala every spring, which has raised over $4 million dollars in the last dozen years for cancer research.

sternoclavicular

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Big East M5: 11.16.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 16th, 2012

  1. ESPNU’s National Signing Day Special airs tonight, and features two top-30 players who may select Big East schools. Four-star center Kennedy Meeks will reportedly decide between Georgetown and North Carolina. Meeks is a big-bodied post player who should be able to dominate the glass at the next level.  Four-star Tyler Roberson will choose between SyracuseVillanova, and Kansas. Roberson would fit well in both Jim Boeheim’s and Jay Wright’s up-tempo systems.  He has range out to the NBA three-point line, and his coach Dave Boff from Roselle Catholic in New Jersey calls him the best rebounder in the state.
  2. Following a big win in Germany over Michigan State, UConn fans are pretty excited about their prospects this season, with a pair of student writers debating the possibility of the Huskies claiming the one title they can win this year – a Big East regular season crown. While the Huskies are certainly a talented team, they lack the depth and experience of the top-tier Big East teams, and the grind of the conference season does not bode well for teams in that situation. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright are both talented scorers, but neither is a tremendously efficient player, and if one has a really off night it will be interesting to see what other players are capable of picking up the slack. The Huskies are talented, but choosing them to win the Big East is an aggressive prediction.
  3. In other news about a wiser monetary investment in Connecticut basketball, interim coach Kevin Ollie further demonstrated his loyalty to the program with a $100,000 donation to the new UConn Basketball Developmental Center. Combined with his big first win over Tom Izzo and the blessing of his mentor Jim Calhoun, Ollie seems to be doing all the right things in order to have his coaching contract extended at UConn. He really needs to just focus on his team improving every day in practice so that they can compete in every game where they lace them up.
  4. One of the major themes of this early season seems to be the growth of many big players in the conference.  Yesterday’s M5 touched on the evolution of Eric Atkins, and today we learn about Louisville’s Russ Smith‘s own maturity as a player.  Smith spent last year as a sparkplug off the bench for the Cardinals, and while he had a penchant for the big play, his usage rate was incredibly high and he was prone to big mistakes as well. Going into this year, Rick Pitino tasked Russ with improving his consistency and becoming a more reliable basketball player. Eamonn Brennan’s ESPN article also delves into the etymology of Smith’s nickname “Russdiculous.” I’m not sure if it’ll ever catch on outside of Louisville, but if it’s good enough for one of Pitino’s horses, it’s good enough for me.
  5. This early signing period has been a joyous occasion for Marquetteas the school looks to bring in one of the best classes in school history. The Golden Eagles, who in the past have built the program on the backs of underrated players and junior college prospects from all over the nation, focused on higher-rated high school talent this time around, and were able to keep a few Milwaukee-area stars at home. Scout has Marquette’s 2013 class ranked seventh in the nation, with four top-100 players committed to Buzz Williams. If this class can pan out for the school, we may see the Golden Eagles’ ascendance from conference contender to top-flight program.
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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume I

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 5th, 2012

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED….Tom Crean getting his due. After stepping into a situation that fits right into a Halloween house of horrors, Crean should rightfully take a full, oh, 20 minutes and bask in the satisfaction of planting Hoosierville right back on top of the college basketball world. Seriously, this is pretty remarkable. It’s not like Indiana had just been down for a few years before he stepped onto the scene – other than the freak run to the NCAA finals in 2002, this program hadn’t made the Sweet Sixteen since 1994. And to deal with sanctions and penalties on top of everything else…. soak it up Tommy, because they’re coming for you now.

Tom Crean Has the Nation’s #1 Team in the Preseason Polls (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images).

I LOVED…. finding about this awesome tradition at John Brown University, as the fans pelt the court with toilet paper following the team’s first home basket of the year. For all hype that fan bases at the big schools get, this might top them all in the originality column.

I LOVED…. how John Calipari continues to make us learn at least five new names every year. His latest freshmen class looked fine in its debut, and I’m excited for another season to see how sustainable his one-and-done championship model really is. Maybe he’s figured it out and will see more vindication this season. Or maybe we’ll be left wondering again how realistic it is to build chemistry and tourney success in six months. Chalk me up as one guy hoping for the latter.

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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #8 Connecticut

Posted by mlemaire on October 30th, 2012

Few new coaches in the country will have a more difficult job this season than new Connecticut head honcho Kevin Ollie. Not only does Ollie has the unenviable task of following the most popular and successful coach in the program’s history, but he also has to find a way to overcome the departure of some of the team’s most talented and productive players and he has to find a way to motivate his team because previous academic issues forced the NCAA to bar his team from the Big East and NCAA Tournament. Oh and did we mention that Ollie is on a one-year contract and will be under heavy scrutiny all season as the athletic department decides whether to keep him around or chase a bigger name? Needless to say, Ollie has his work cut out for him. The good news is that Ollie’s staff is chock-full of former Division I head coaches and there is still plenty of talent leftover from last season’s tumultuous run. Depth will become a problem and struggles could turn into a freefall without any postseason to play for, but there are certainly enough pieces in place to at least give Huskies’ fans a glimmer of hope heading into a new era of UConn basketball.

2011-12 Record: 20-14, 8-10

2011-12 Postseason: NCAA Tournament Second Round, lost to Iowa State 77-64.

Point Guard Shabazz Napier Is The Unquestion Leader Of One Of The Conference’s Youngest Teams.

Schedule

Ollie’s career on the bench will start with a bang when the Huskies kick off the college basketball season by playing a very talented Michigan State team on board on active aircraft carrier, and the rest of the non-conference slate won’t be much easier. Last year’s America East champion, Vermont, lies in wait immediately following the opener and the Paradise Jam Tournament with a first game against Wake Forest follows that. Don’t forget about the Jimmy V Classic where they will square off with a very talented North Carolina State squad.

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Big East M5: 10.26.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 26th, 2012

  1. Connecticut’s basketball’s academic woes have reared their ugly head once again, this time in the form of the team’s graduation success rate (GSR). The Huskies’ GSR dropped from 36% to 11% this year, representing the lowest such mark in all of Division I basketball.  The score, which reflects how many of the team’s players were able to graduate within six years of their enrollment at school, is different from the APR, the Academic Progress Rating that is currently preventing UConn from participating in the 2013 postseason. On the bright side for the Huskies, their APR is on the rise. Academic success is one of the major black marks on the end of the Jim Calhoun era at Connecticut, and as the NCAA’s APR requirements continue to increase every year, it needs to be a major focus for Kevin Ollie or whoever has control of the program in the long term.
  2. Big time non-conference series are always fun, and yesterday we learned that Georgetown and Kansas have agreed to play four games starting next season.  The series will open at Allen Fieldhouse on December 31, 2013 and continue on for three successive seasons home-and-home until 2016-17. Georgetown and Kansas have only faced each other twice, including last year in the Maui Invitational, a 67-63 Kansas victory. The all-time series is tied at one win apiece.
  3. Pitt’s J.J. Moore may be a bit rusty on the court after missing months of basketball from an April surgery to repair his fifth metatarsal, but he spent his summer wisely. After living in the weight room during his rehabiliation, Moore put on around 15 pounds of muscle, and is now a stout 6’6″ and 215 pounds. Moore was not a major part of Jamie Dixon’s rotation last season, sitting behind Lamar Patterson and Nasir Robinson at the forward slots, but with his added size and strength he should factor in at both small forward and power forward this year. Moore adds some added quickness and versatility at the four when Dixon wants to go with a smaller, more athletic line-up: “I’m definitely ready to make that transition and play power forward,” Moore said. “We’ve been practicing right now with me being the power forward. It’s looking good. I think it’s looking good for the team, as a matter of fact. With me as a power forward, the guys can get open because we can space the floor.”
  4. Marquette blog Anonymous Eagle is running a player preview series for the start of the 2012-13 season. Today featured “silky” freshman forward Steve Taylor, whom Buzz Williams has called the best freshman he’s ever signed at Marquette. While Taylor has a ton of potential, he is going to start behind Jamil Wilson and Juan Anderson in the rotation, and the AE guys don’t foresee him seeing a lot come Big East play, especially with Williams’ penchant for leaning on experienced players down the stretch.  There is also an excellent photoshop done involving Taylor, Williams, and a 1995 Chevy Chase film, so the full profile is definitely worth your time.
  5. Having spent four years in Syracuse, I can verify that there are a number of notable food spots in town. Dinosaur BBQ is the first place to roll off of most tongues, but Jim Boeheim’s favorite hot dog joint Heid’s and the nearly-90 year old Varsity on the SU hill both deserve all the recognition that they receive as well.  However, there is one particular Syracuse food item that is particularly legendary – the Mother’s Cupboard frittata.  This six-pound heap of egg, pepperoni, home fries, sausage, and vegetables has been finished by few and has conquered many, but another brave soul was able to put down the entire dish on Monday: Syracuse basketball walk-on Russ DeRemer. DeRemer utilized a strategy that allowed “Man vs. Food” host Adam Richman to overcome the mighty frittata, and he was able to put away the entire plate in 25 minutes. DeRemer was quite humble about the accomplishment, but fellow walk-on Albert Nassar was more candid about his teammate’s impressive feat: “Honestly, he didn’t even struggle,’’ Nassar said. “Until the last bowl, he didn’t pause once. He just kept going. Then on the last bottom, he paused for like a minute and then knocked it out.’’
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Morning Five: 10.26.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2012

  1. Ignorance is no longer a defense. That’s the message that the NCAA is sending to its head basketball and football coaches around the country with its latest proposed legislation that requires much more accountability with respect to rules violations. The new regulations will go in place immediately, contingent upon its expected passage by the NCAA Board of Directors next Tuesday. In a nutshell, the key clause reads as such: “A head coach is presumed responsible for major/Level I and Level II violations (e.g., academic fraud, recruiting inducements) occurring within his or her program unless the coach can show that he or she promoted an atmosphere of compliance and monitored his or her staff.” Suspensions up to and including a full season are punitive options under these new guidelines. By this standard, Jim Calhoun could have (theoretically) been suspended for the improprieties that occurred on his watch in the Nate Miles fiasco a few years ago; or, John Calipari could have (theoretically) been suspended for Marcus Camby’s association with agents. It’s a rather powerful tool that places much more of the burden on the program CEOs to keep their houses in order, and although we haven’t seen the detail yet, it sounds like a step in the right direction.
  2. Recruiting is a bit of a blood sport, but if there’s one hard and fast truth that stands the test of time, it is this. Hot schools and coaches come and go like the tides, but no matter who is blowing up the recruiting trail at a given time, there are about 300 other coaches complaining about that coach’s tactics and/or unfair advantages. At yesterday’s SEC Media Day, Florida head coach Billy Donovan openly questioned whether ESPN’s All-Access show featuring rival Kentucky was acting as a “recruiting tool” and added that he didn’t think such an arrangement is “right.” By way of superb irony, it wasn’t all that long ago that coaches used to getting all the recruits were themselves wondering whether Billy the Kid’s recruiting tactics pushed beyond the norm. And you don’t have to scan the Internet very long to determine that other coaching perks that come with success — such as the ubiquitous Coach K/Amex commercials in March or his relationships with LeBron, Kobe and Durant on Team USA — are an unfair advantage. Sometimes we just wish the coaches would focus on improving their own teams and avoid the sewing circle nonsense, fun as it can be.
  3. Tubby Smith has made his decision on Trevor Mbakwe and it will certainly be met with considerable skepticism regardless of how it plays out this season. At Big Ten Media Day on Thursday in Chicago, the Minnesota head coach told reporters that he felt that the legal system, by placing two additional years of probation on Mbakwe, was a sufficient punishment given that the sixth-year senior had met all of his other responsibilities up to that point (community service and AA meetings). We’ll spare you our personal outrage here other than to suggest that schools always fall over themselves to preach to us that they endeavor to hold their student-athletes to higher standards than the rest of the world at-large; yet, even a one-game slap on the wrist to show Mbakwe that there are consequences beyond what the law requires would have been better than this.
  4. We’re all for creative tie-ins on preseason pieces, and yesterday’s article from SI.com‘s Andy Staples is a great one for anyone who likes to eat. Probably written as much for the media as for the fans (there’t not a lot of road-tripping in college hoops), Staples uses his vast base of travel knowledge to offer up some of the best diners, dives and greasy spoons to grab great food while you’re in town to watch some of the nation’s top college basketball teams. In just reading through some of these places, we’re about to finally put together that long-time-coming November-to-March road trip that we’ve always talked about doing… sigh.
  5. The early practice injuries are unfortunately coming fast and furious now, and several top teams are being affected. UCLA wing Shabazz Muhammad suffered a strained shoulder injury in practice Wednesday and will be forced to sit out the next 2-4 weeks as a result. This could be something of a blessing in disguise if the NCAA ultimately decides to suspend Muhammad for the first several games of his Bruin career anyway. Over at Tennessee, preseason all-SEC forward Jeronne Maymon has reportedly suffered a “setback” in his recovery from separate offseason knee scopes and will not be expected to be ready for the Vols’ season opener on November 9. At Indiana, reserve forward Derek Elston has torn his meniscus and is likely to miss the next 6-8 weeks of action, meaning that the Hoosiers’ frontcourt depth will need to rely on freshmen for a while to support Cody Zeller on the inside. Next, Connecticut forward Enosch Wolf has experienced a third concussion in the last year and will be held out of practice for an indefinite period of time as a result. This is particulary disappointing news for the German native as the Huskies are heading overseas in two weeks to play the first college basketball game in Deutschland and he may have to miss it. Ugh. Let’s cross our fingers that there are fewer of these updates as we get closer to the start of the season.
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Let Them Play: A Case For UConn’s Big East Tournament Eligibility

Posted by mlemaire on October 19th, 2012

When the NCAA denied Connecticut‘s final appeal and ruled the Huskies ineligible for the 2013 NCAA Tournament, it seemingly slammed the door on any postseason opportunities for the team as the conference presidents ruled in March to bar any ineligible teams from the conference tournament. In fact, there can’t have been too many people who were even aware that UConn has one last card to play until New Haven Register reporter David Borges just casually dropped this  revelatory nugget in the middle of a recent blog post.

Of course, UConn won’t be able to participate in this year’s event. Or will it? While the chances are extremely slim, UConn is holding out a bit of hope that the league presidents change their mind on their decision last March to bar any postseason-ineligible teams from its conference tourney. The presidents meet again in a couple of weeks in Chicago for what would appear to be the Huskies’ last chance. UConn is hoping that, since the players responsible for the poor APR scores are long-gone (and, now, Jim Calhoun is gone, too), that the presidents may reconsider.

Now it should be noted that Borges immediately noted that this was extremely unlikely and quoted Big East commissioner Mike Aresco as saying that UConn had notified the presidents about making one final plea, but still, why the heck didn’t more people know about this last-ditch opportunity?

Jim Calhoun and the roster of the 2009-10 team are gone, so why can’t Connecticut play in its conference tournament? (AP Photo)

At any rate, UConn may not have told the league presidents whether it wants them to reconsider their decision, but we will gladly make their case for them. The program should not go unpunished for its academic shortcomings, but its current players and head coach — whom had no part in what caused the ineligibility in the first place — deserve something to play for.

In order to build a successful case, we need to examine how we even got here in the first place. In October of last year, the NCAA passed a new set of academic standards that stated that schools must have a two-year APR average of 930 or a four-year APR average score of 900. APR stands for Academic Progress Rate which the NCAA uses to determine the continued academic success of the players within a specific program. Unfortunately for UConn, the school’s APR for the 2009-10 school year was just 826, and even though the program’s APR bounced back to 978 for the 2010-11 season, the damage was done and the averages weren’t going to be up to snuff. Now feels like a good time to point out there is nothing wrong with the NCAA punishing schools that don’t graduate enough of their players. The NCAA may just be trying to prop up their claims of “academics first” but they are at least trying to hold schools accountable for the players in their care and under their direction.

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