ACC Morning Five: 11.22.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 22nd, 2011

The agony and the ecstasy. Not sure there’s a better quip to define the ACC’s night in the eyes of two fanbases. Boston College was absolutely dismantled — at home — by a team picked to finish twelfth in the A-10. The Eagles lost by 36 to Massachusetts. NC State, on the other hand, found itself looking at a tough spot down 18 with eight minutes left in the second half against a talented Texas team. The Wolfpack went on a 28-2 run to take the lead before earning the victory.

  1. ESPN – Grantland: Sebastian Pruiti breaks down Austin Rivers‘ flaws with meticulous detail. And while it’s true the freshman has struggled early, I think this article is a bit of an overreaction. Pruiti readily admits that Rivers has all the tools, he just isn’t consistently making the best decisions. This is to be expected. The college game is much quicker, taller and stronger than anything Rivers has ever played before. It’s still very interesting to look, via screen grabs, at Rivers’ tough transition to the college game, and I love that we’ve got NBA writers now covering college sports. For an example of the types of plays that define Duke’s offense (especially on set plays), check out this gem from The Mikan Drill.
  2. Washington Post – Opinion: In wake of major fiscal issues, Maryland has decided to cut eight varsity sports. Unfortunately, these teams all have incredibly high graduation rates and really represent what the NCAA is supposed to be about. Charles Lane takes a pretty hard stance, but I think his ire is well-grounded (even if I disagree). There’s still a chance the teams could be saved if enough money is raised to cover their costs.
  3. I mentioned the Boston College smackdown earlier, but points out a very interesting side note. Boston College opened as a 2.5 point favorite over the Minutemen, but so much money jumped on the Minutemen that the line was pushed to 4.5 points the other way by game time. Six points (and changing the winner) is a lot of ground to cover, and it should tell you that the betting public and sharps have very little faith in Steve Donahue’s Eagles.
  4. SI Vault: Curious where the Maui invitational got its start? Look no further than a mammoth upset of top-ranked Virginia by host Chaminade in 1982. “From now on, wherever athletes must face an impossible task, the cry will go out, ‘Remember Chaminade!’ Virginia will.” That’s not totally true, but it’s a mind-blowing upset. Since the invitational’s inception Chaminade has pulled off six more upsets, although none quite as astonishing and far-reaching as the victory over Ralph Sampson’s team three decades ago.
  5. Fox Sports Carolinas: Andrew Jones looks at the top coaches in NCAA basketball history. He narrows it down to Bobby Knight, John Wooden, Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski. Shockingly, that’s the order from fourth to first of his final rankings. I agree that Knight falls a cut below the other three. But I don’t agree with leaving Adolph Rupp off the list or placing John Wooden third because of Sam Gilbert’s slush fund and improper benefits. It’s tough to put a man with more than twice the national championships as anyone else at third; Wooden actually has more titles than the rest of Jones’ list combined.

EXTRA: Check out Seth Davis’ Hoop Thoughts to learn what tips he’s got for NBA fans trying out college basketball during the lockout. Also you should get pumped that more NBA writers will be using their brains to look at college basketball. ESPN stat guru John Hollinger is already at it with a look at at a modified version of his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and a breakdown of what the numbers mean in the long run.

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Morning Five: 11.21.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 21st, 2011

  1. The big story of the weekend was the ongoing Bernie Fine saga. As we mentioned on Friday, the case at Syracuse is more nuanced than the one at Penn State although there are plenty of strange things going on at both locations.  After Jim Boeheim basically called out the two individuals who accused Fine of sexual molestation, one of them issued a response that indicates this case will end up being a he said, he said controversy. For their part, the team responded by leaving Fine’s seat on the bench vacant during their first game since he had been put on administrative leave. Interestingly, it appears that the accusers may not be able to bring the case in front of a court due to how long ago the alleged crime happened. We have a feeling that this case will drag on for quite a long time.
  2. Connecticut received some good bad news when the NCAA announced that it would be suspending freshman Ryan Boatright for six games for improper benefits — a plane ticket he received while playing AAU basketball. Including yesterday’s game, Boatright has already missed four of the required six games so he will only need to sit out the first two games of the Battle4Atlantis Tournament this week. Boatright could potentially see his first action of the season in the final game of Battle4Atlantis if the Huskies are able to win their first two games. Boatright’s return could be a big boost for the defending champions, who have not posted a dominating win yet during the regular season while their primary competitors for this season’s championship have all done so at least once.
  3. We are not exactly sure what is happening at Oregon with Jabari Brown and it appears that neither does the Oregon staff. The most recent reports indicate that Brown is on his way out of Oregon, but earlier reports suggested that Brown’s name had been removed from the school’s online roster and that school officials, as well as head coach Dana Altman, were unaware of the reasons behind it. Now it appears that Altman will essentially be left to beg for the school’s one stud five-star recruit to come back to them, as the loss of such a hyped recruit so early in the season will certainly affect the decision of uncommitted prospects who now might be more weary of playing for Altman after this incident.
  4. Arkansas was dealt a significant setback at a practice last Thursday when Marshawn Powell suffered what is being called a “serious” knee injury that will sideline him indefinitely. The loss could be a huge one for the Razorbacks as Powell, a junior, led the team in scoring the first two games with 19.5 PPG on a team full of freshmen and sophomores and bereft of the services of Rotnei Clarke, last year’s leading scorer who decided to transfer. The Razorbacks are talented enough and their non-conference schedule is weak enough — with the exception of a game at Connecticut — that they should be able to survive until their SEC schedule starts. If Powell is not back by then, things could get ugly very quickly for the young Razorbacks.
  5. Former UCLA legend Walt Hazzard died on Friday from complications related to cardiac surgery at UCLA Medical Center. Many of our younger fans may not be as familiar with Hazzard as they are with other members of the UCLA dynasty, but Hazzard was the one who gave John Wooden his first national championship in 1964 when Hazzard was named the MOP of the 1964 NCAA Tournament. Hazzard teamed with Gail Goodrich to form one of the most devastating backcourts in NCAA history and help build the UCLA dynasty. Along with his contributions as a player at UCLA, Hazzard also won a gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, played 10 seasons in the NBA, and coached the Bruins for four seasons. There has been no word on when and where funeral services will be held, but we imagine that it will be a who’s who of basketball royalty at the event.
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Morning Five: K-903 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 16th, 2011

  1. The Tip-Off Marathon has come and gone, but it wasn’t without an envious spectacle at the Champions Classic last night at Madison Square Garden. We’ve known for months that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski‘s pursuit of his mentor Bob Knight’s career wins D-I wins record of 902 would be matched and surpassed in the first few weeks of this college basketball season. But that didn’t make it any less touching when the man known around the sports universe simply as “Coach K” went over to his former coach after the game and embraced him with a resounding thank you. We’ll have more on #903 later this morning, but if you missed the poignant moment between arguably two of the five greatest college coaches of all-time, you can view it here. If you would like to read how and why the two men became so successful teaching young men how to play this sport, Seth Davis’ masterful piece artfully gets to the core of their relationship. And if you simply want to see a worn-out but certifiably giddy Krzyzewski addressing the Duke student body after getting off the bus last night in Durham, that’s here too. No matter what you think of the man, no objective observer of this sport can make a reasonable argument that there’s anyone more deserving of this record. Nobody. Congratulations, Coach K — your contributions to this game are immeasurable — best of luck on your way to K1K.
  2. We made reference in Tuesday’s M5 to UCLA’s Reeves Nelson facing an indefinite team suspension as a result of what was termed “attitude” problems. Yesterday we learned that one of the best players in the mid-major ranks, Kennesaw State’s Markeith Cummings, has also been suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to his team. The preseason Atlantic Sun POY did not play at all in Monday night’s loss at Auburn, and there appears to be no timetable as to when the 6’7″ guard who consistently produces 18/6 nights may return.
  3. Perhaps it wasn’t the best day for UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero to announce such a thing, but on his weekly blog Tuesday he announced that the new Pauley Pavilion (currently under renovation) will have a statue of John Wooden constructed outside of it. The irony of UCLA announcing such a thing to honor the greatest of greats certainly isn’t lost on us at the same time Ben Howland’s current Bruin program appears to be coming apart at the seams. Not only has there been turmoil among players resulting in suspensions (Nelson) and public apologies (Josh Smith), but the primary issue is that UCLA is losing, and not only losing, but doing so badly. On the same day that Guerrero announced a terrific honor for a coach that once won 88 games in a row, his current coach’s team gave up 71% shooting (and 10-11 threes) at ‘home’ to Middle Tennessee State.  Wow.
  4. We complained about this in yesterday’s M5, and we’re happy that someone has finally taken the advertising overlords head on and decided that the safety of players on the basketball court supersedes the right of companies to peddle their products. During the Memphis-Belmont game yesterday, UM guard Chris Crawford slipped and fell awkwardly on one of the various EA Sports Maui Invitational stickers littering the FedEx Forum’s playing surface. The official’s crew of Rick Randall, Rick Hartzell and Bert Smith then made a unilateral decision that the plastic advertisements were a dangerous obstacle and ordered them removed for the rest of the game. It will be very interesting to see if the burgeoning groundswell of anti-sticker sentiment results in the NCAA making an injunctive decision to ban the ads in the name of player safety; or, if schools themselves begin threatening to sit their teams unless the stickers are removed. Regardless, this is a situation that has a feeling like change is imminent — we’d be surprised if these annoying ads make it through the rest of the pre-conference tournament season.
  5. The Kansas vs. Kentucky game last night wasn’t the prettiest sight to behold, but it did have the two programs with the most wins in college basketball history between them — Kentucky with (now) 2,054, Kansas with 2,039. This article by Brady McCullough at the KC Star (written before the game, incidentally) takes a look at the differing ways in which the two programs continue to rack up 30-win seasons year after year. The key takeaway from this piece is that recruiting, at the end of the day, is a zero-sum game. If there are only 20 five-star recruits in a given class, and one coach is harnessing three to five of them every year, that leaves a finite number for the rest. John Calipari’s move from Memphis to Lexington changed the recruiting game somewhat, and it appears that Bill Self and his Kansas program could be one of the resultant casualties of that shift.
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20 Questions: Is Coach K the Greatest Coach in NCAA History?

Posted by mpatton on October 31st, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference and an ACC microsite staffer.

Question: Coach K will become the all-time winningest coach soon. Is he the greatest coach in NCAA basketball history? If not, where does he rank?

Yes, but with a disclaimer. Mike Krzyzewski is the greatest coach of the modern era. You can define that era in many ways: the expansion of the NCAA Tournament (either when in 1975 it expanded to 32 teams, or when in 1985 it expanded to the truly modern 64 teams); the adoption of the shot clock (1985-86); the addition of the three-point line (nationally in 1986-87); or the advent of ESPN (1979 NCAA Tournament).

Truthfully, the best interpretation is somewhere in between, for all four of these events led to the game we know and love today. The expansion of the Big Dance made the NCAA Tournament more difficult both because more games separated teams from the championship and because at-larges increased the overall talent of the field. The shot clock redefined offenses and frankly made the game more exciting. The three-point field goal introduced statistical “noise” that created large swings in performance and allowed for more upsets (basically, a 40-minute game is a small enough sample size that even a horrendous shooting team like Florida State to go 9-19 from three and a good shooting Notre Dame team to go 7-30 from downtown). Finally, ESPN’s consistent coverage of college basketball symbiotically raised the popularity of both ESPN and men’s hoops.

Krzyzewski Will Pass Bob Knight for the Most Wins in Men's Division I History Early this Season

But to suggest that Coach K is a better coach than John Wooden would be too presumptive. There are plenty of arguments, but no sound logic can definitively put Krzyzewski over the Wizard of Westwood: Wooden won ten national championships in 12 years including an 88-game winning streak that is without a doubt the most dominant stretch of college basketball ever. If you still want to try to argue Coach K over John Wooden, read that one more time. I am not saying that Wooden would see that success now, but it is not like we are dealing with similar resumes. Wooden has as many titles as Coach K, Jim Calhoun, Roy Williams, and Tom Izzo (or Bill Self) combined.

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UCLA Will Take To The Road As Pauley Pavilion Gets a Facelift

Posted by AMurawa on October 25th, 2011

Something unique to keep an eye on this year is UCLA, one of the teams on the short list of conference favorites, playing all of its games away from the friendly confines of Pauley Pavilion this season as the venerable old place gets a much-needed facelift. The Bruins will play home games in three different Southern California arenas this year, including 14 home games just down the street from the campus of their crosstown rival, USC, in the Los Angeles Sports Arena. The Sports Arena was the old home of the Trojan basketball program before the Galen Center opened in 2006 (as well as the old home of the Los Angeles Clippers prior to the Staples Center) and it will most often be the Bruins’ home away from home this year, including a game on February 15 when they’ll host USC. UCLA will also play a game at the Citizen Business Bank Arena in beautiful downtown Ontario when they open the season with a trip inland to host Cal State San Bernardino in an exhibition game. They’ll also play four games at the Honda Center in Anaheim, including two conference games against Arizona and Arizona State. The game against Arizona will be played under the banner of the Wooden Classic, which has in the past been a two-game event on a December Saturday featuring two inter-conference games.

UCLA fans Will Have Plenty to Cheer About at the New Pauley Pavilion.

As for Pauley Pavilion, a college basketball landmark housing 11 national championship banners, it is badly in need of a facelift. Opened in 1965 on the heels of John Wooden’s first two championships at the school, the facility featured limited restrooms and concession stands, narrow concourses, and, perhaps worst of all, a large open area behind one of the baskets that kept fans in the end zone away from the action. The renovation will add a new entryway outside the arena, and inside there will be new concourses, restrooms, concession areas, a scoreboard, and a new LED ribbon board, not to mention a new section of seats behind the basket.

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20 Questions: What is the Best November Tournament This Season?

Posted by dnspewak on October 24th, 2011

Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent for the Sun Belt Conference and a Big 12 microsite writer.

Question: What is the Best November Tournament This Season?

The pick: Maui Invitational

Participants (with preseason rank): Island: Duke (#6), Memphis (#9), Kansas (#13), Michigan (#18), UCLA (#20), Tennessee, Georgetown, Chaminade; Regional: Belmont, Middle Tennessee, UNC Greensboro, Towson

The theme at the Maui Invitational this fall is history. Sure, it’s impressive that the field includes five teams ranked in the preseason Top 20 in the Coaches’ Poll, but the bracket will also provide us with all kinds of wonderful nostalgia. On one side of the bracket, Duke and Michigan might play a rematch of the 1992 National Championship in the semifinals; or, Memphis and Tennessee could battle for in-state supremacy once again (except the game is, you know, in Hawaii). The possibilities are endless — and that’s the case on the other side too. The winner of Georgetown/Kansas will likely face UCLA, and those three programs have 15 combined NCAA titles. And hey, if Memphis and Kansas keep winning, they could meet in a rematch of the 2008 title game. Mario Chalmers won’t be allowed in the building this time.

John Wooden is Just One Legend This Historic Tournament Will Remind Us Of

At this point, you may be physically shaking at some of these matchups. We don’t blame you. That’s how enticing these games are: they’ve got historical value, star power, legendary coaches and terrific fan bases. And you think that’s all the 2011 Maui Invitational has to offer? Take a look at the regional rounds, which also includes Belmont, widely considered one of the top non-BCS programs this season with the majority of an NCAA Tournament team returning. The Bruins dominated the Atlantic Sun in 2010-11, and it’ll face Duke in the regional round of this tournament at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The result of the game won’t determine who flies to Hawaii — Duke will automatically advance — but the Bruins are likely to put a scare into the Blue Devils (2008 NCAA tourney, anybody?).

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Morning Five: 08.22.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 22nd, 2011

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

Posted by nvr1983 on August 19th, 2011

Yesterday, Dick Vitale went on The Dan LeBatard Show to discuss the scandal at Miami and the implications it could have on college sports. After LeBatard started off the interview with a few fairly benign questions about the Miami scandal, to which Vitale gave the expected media-speak answers (other than his assertion that Donna Shalala must step down as president of the University of Miami), LeBatard asked him about John Calipari and the scandals that have followed him at Massachusetts and Memphis. Vitale brushed it aside, saying that the NCAA has never implicated Calipari. LeBatard’s co-host Jon Weiner (aka Stugotz) then chimed in with the statement/question: “Best guess, Dick. Best guess. I know you are friends with him, but best guess. John Calipari has cheated at some point in his life.” Vitale responded first with silence, then said “Alright, let’s go to the next point.” After some discussion where LeBatard cleared up the fact that it was his co-host who had asked the question, Vitale suggests that there should be laws against boosters like Nevin Shapiro.

When Vitale went on to state that none of the major coaches he knows would have tolerated what happened at Miami (citing Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, and Bob Knight as examples), Stugotz suggests that every coach or program has committed at least one NCAA infraction even if only unknowingly. After Vitale got upset at him and brought up the prostitutes, Stugotz clarified by saying that he never implied that other programs were using prostitutes or doing things as big as Miami is accused of doing. Despite this clarification, Vitale becomes increasingly infuriated at the radio hosts and hangs up. Partial clip below:

While Kentucky fans are widely applauding Vitale for defending Calipari, it seems more like Vitale is on a crusade to defend college basketball, or college sports as a whole, instead of a single coach or program. Although Stugotz’s initial question/statement about Calipari was indelicate, his follow-up questions about programs unknowingly violating rules are valid ones. Unfortunately, it seems that Vitale was so incensed by the earlier question or the storm surrounding the NCAA right now that he was unwilling to hear it. Perhaps if Vitale had stayed on the phone long enough to engage in a reasonable conversation, they could have discussed Krzyzewski’s “controversial” phone call to Alex Poythress or Sam Gilbert’s association with John Wooden‘s UCLA dynasty (OK, maybe that would have set him off). In any event, although many college basketball fans (particularly Kentucky fans) will support Vitale in this case, he does come off as petulant and condescending here.

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Around The Blogosphere: June 7, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on June 7th, 2011

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

General News

  • Big Ten tournament to rotate between Chicago, Indianapolis: “When Indianapolis’ five-year contract as the host of the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament expires in 2012, the event will begin rotating between the United Center in Chicago and Conseco Fieldhouse.” (Inside the Hall)
  • Pat Chambers: From Wildcat to Lion: The former Boston University coach and Villanova assistant takes over at Penn State. (VU Hoops)
  • Dre Winston Jr. Transferring From WSU, Ken Bone Searching For Backup Point Guard Tree: The rising sophomore guard has decided to transfer. (Coug Center)

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Morning Five: 06.06.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on June 6th, 2011

  1. The weekend started off with Penn State finding themselves a basketball coach. Pat Chambers will leave Boston University to take over the Nittany Lions, with Penn State AD Tim Curley announcing that Chambers brings “proven success, an appreciation of and commitment to Penn State ideals, and the energy and enthusiasm required to compete at the highest level” to the table. The third of those is true. We’ll take his word on the second. But the first? “Proven success?” We suppose it’s technically true, since in his two seasons as a head coach at BU, Chambers posted a 42-28 record and took the Terriers to two postseasons (CBI in 2010, NCAA in 2011). It’s just strange hearing someone at Penn State described as having “proven success” after two seasons as a head coach, considering the old guy who’s currently got his feet propped up over in the football coach’s office.
  2. What’s this? Bill Self in a shiny silk green shirt and a gold chain? His wife in a rainbow dress and go-go boots? Fear not, Jayhawks, your coach and his wife haven’t lost their minds nor their fashion sense. The occasion for such sartorial splendor was Bill’s Basketball Boogie, a charity event co-chaired by Mrs. Self that offers attendees the chance to break out their disco-era garb. Sounds like it was hoppin’, with around 700 guests, but the one who stood out the most was not in costume at all. Rather, he donned his customary shirt-and-tie, just like he did on his recruiting visit (this is rare) to Kansas. Naadir Tharpe sounds like one of those kids for whom it’s easy to root.
  3. Can you believe it’s been nearly 25 years since Indiana won its last national title? Upon his arrival in Bloomington, Tom Crean was handed the keys to a Hindenberg-esque pile of wreckage and was asked to make it fly again. If you’re around the guy for even a few seconds, you can tell how much he cares about his players as individuals and about reviving the winning tradition at IU. And with a nice little recruiting class coming in, maybe this is the year that things start to turn for the Hoosiers. If it doesn’t, we’ll bet that Crean’s/IU’s detractors and rivals will throughout the year be repeating a quote that operates as part of the headline to this story from a Louisville television station: “All that’s left is the winning.”
  4. As the basketball world knows, Shaquille O’Neal formally retired from hoops on Friday with a legacy as one of the greatest big men to ever play the game.  We’ve been on record as saying we’ve never before or since seen a combined package of power, agility and athleticism as canned in one player at 17 years old as we did in 1989 when Shaq hit the LSU campus.  This piece from the Monroe (LA) News-Star gave a brief glimpse into the player Shaq was to become at the LSU media days event when O’Neal was still an unknown freshman — some 22 years later, we can’ t say that we’re surprised that Shaq was already commanding the center of attention.
  5. It’s been one year since the great John Wooden passed, and as Victoria Sun writes in this piece, UCLA’s Black Alumni Association hosted a private fundraiser on Saturday to commemorate the Wizard’s progressive view on race relations.  Even at this point, we’re still learning about the greatness of this man’s life.  It turns out that in 1946, nearly two decades before the national civil rights movement resulted in the banishment of Jim Crow, Wooden stood up for one of his players — a black player — named Clarence Jackson whom NAIA officials would not let play in their national tournament in Kansas City.  He was a bench player — not a star by any stretch — and yet Wooden, cognizant of the injustice of such racism decades before most of his peers, pulled his team from the tournament.  This may just seem trite to some of our readers too young to know the difference, but let’s be explicit about this — as hard as it was to take a stand like this in the mid-60s at the height of the civil rights movement, it was nearly unheard of in the 1940s.  Most people simply didn’t think that way at that time, and the fact that Wooden not only sensed the unfairness but did something about it speaks volumes about the character of this man.  A national treasure, he.
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