Six months of commendation for SMU coach Larry Brown and optimism about the Mustangs’ 2014-15 season went out the window yesterday morning when superstar recruit Emmanuel Mudiay somewhat surprisingly made it known that he would be pursuing a professional career overseas instead of heading to campus next season.
Mudiay’s decision to skip college leaves SMU wondering what might have been.
For Mudiay, the decision makes sense on a number of levels. Although he claims that the decision is motivated by financial issues rather than eligibility concerns, there are plenty of pundits who wonder whether Mudiay would have been allowed to play as a collegian at all. Speculation aside, a financial motive is a legitimate one. Mudiay can make a lot of money playing professionally, even for one season – certainly more than he would have seen while suiting up as a freshman for the Mustangs. And while he may struggle to adjust to the professional ranks in a different country, he will still likely end up as a lottery pick based on his upside alone, so why not earn a very large paycheck in between? There aren’t many players who have an opportunity like this, especially American high school players, so it’s hard to find fault in Mudiay’s logic.
Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul, dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at email@example.com.
It’s that time again for college coaches to get out on the road. Over the next three weeks, coaches will criss-cross the country in search of elite high school recruits in the 2015, 2016, and 2017 classes. Last year college coaches had two weekends in April to view high school prospects in a competitive setting, while this year they only had one such week in April. With less time for viewing prospects, coaches will be in a virtual scramble mode throughout the month.
2. July Live Period #1 (July 9 – July 13)
The first live period kicked off on Wednesday. The main draw for the first viewing window is the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas. This Nike event features 80 of the top players in the country, including numerous five-star recruits. The who’s who of college coaches will all set foot in Vegas this week in addition to a plethora of NBA scouts. With so much talent there, some of the top recruits in the country will have a chance to try to establish themselves as the No. 1 recruit in the country. Players vying for this top spot include Ben Simmons (No. 2), Ivan Rabb (No. 3), Cheick Diallo (No. 5), and Malik Newman (No. 6).
Another top destination this week is Chicago for the Adidas Unrivaled camp which features a plethora of top players from the Adidas circuit. Several of the top players expected in Chicago include small forward Jaylen Brown (No. 4), point guard Dennis Smith (No. 6 – 2016), and forward Thon Maker (No. 4 – 2016). The camp consists of daily drill sessions with All-Star games occurring on Sunday.
Las Vegas and Chicago are the prime destinations for college coaches this week, but there are also a variety of other events throughout the country. The NY2LA Next Level Invitational takes place outside of Milwaukee and features some of the top talent in the Midwest as well. On the East Coast, the Reebok Breakout Classic is in action in Philadelphia and the Ty Lawson and Victor Oladipo Skills Academy are live in Maryland. With events taking place all over the country through the weekend, you can be sure that all of the head coaches and assistants will be earning their frequent flyer miles.
Coming into the season Georgia State was already going to be the favorite in the Sun Belt and they became an even bigger favorite last week when the NCAA granted Kevin Ware a transfer waiver enabling him to play for Georgia State next season. Ware, who transferred from Louisville and is best known for his gruesome compound fracture in their 2013 Elite Eight game against Duke, will have two years of eligibility remaining. Even Ware never regains the explosiveness that made him a key piece of that Louisville title team he could be an important piece in a Georgia State team that already had one of the better backcourts in the country with both R.J. Hunter and Ryan Harrow returning.
If you remember the uproar created by Taylor Branch’s opus in The Atlantic nearly three years ago (here’s our Cliff Notes summary and our interview with Branch), one of his major points of contention was that schools only offer student-athletes one-year renewable scholarships. So in the event that the student-athlete is injured, doesn’t perform up to expectations, or the program decides to move in a different direction, the student-athlete is out of luck. Southern California may have taken one of the first steps to ending that practice by deciding to offer four-year scholarships in its “revenue sports”. Those sports will include football and men’s and women’s basketball. We are not sure what the actual effect of this will be (basically what percentage of student-athletes have their scholarships pulled on a year-to-year basis), but it is great PR for the school.
The NCAA released its attendance figures for the 2013-14 season last week. Outside of the big numbers like over 25 million tickets being sold to watch Division I basketball there were some interesting figures. On the macro side of it, attendance was down slightly from previous years–overall attendance decreased slightly (by 104 per game or 356,532 total) and NCAA Tournament attendance decreased too (more than 61,000)–although both can be attributed to a degree by the venues that the games were played in particularly in the case of the NCAA where the regional games were for the most part not played in gigantic domes. If you want a more detailed, but still big picture overview, check out Jeff Eisenberg’s post highlighting eight other key figures from the report.
With the Ed O’Bannon case playing out in court, it was interesting to see Kentucky sign a 15-year, $210 million multimedia marketing rights deal with JMI Sports. Although the deal does not include TV rights, it does include just about everything else for the school and puts it in-line with Alabama as the richest such contract in NCAA history for a school not giving up TV rights. With schools signing these kinds of deals and looking at other potential revenue streams (such as entertaining the idea of selling alcohol at games) it will be increasingly difficult for schools (particularly bigger ones) to argue against providing athletes with a share of the revenue.
With the NBA Draft just two days away there have been a few big updates over the past week both of which you have probably heard by now. The biggest news was Joel Embiid requiring surgery on his broken foot, which will likely make him miss the first part of the season and drop out of the top 3 in the Draft. The other news was that Isaiah Austin withdrew from the NBA Draft and will end his basketball career after being diagnosed with Marfan’s syndrome through what has been described as pre-Draft testing. We are not sure what triggered the work-up (reports say an EKG abnormality, but testing for Marfan’s based on that seems a bit extreme) or what about Austin’s presentation led them to tell him to stop playing–an aortic root problem is the only thing that we can think of–but at least Austin will not go away empty-handed as he had a $1 million insurance policy.
We knew that the moment Eron Harris received his release from West Virginia he would be a hot commodity so it should be no surprise that most of the significant programs have already contacted him the same day that he received his release. According to reports, Butler, Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and UCLA contacted him within two hours of Harris receiving his release. Harris, who averaged 17.2 points while shooting 42 percent from three-point range as a sophomore, is from Indiana and according to his father being closer to home could be a major driving factor in his selection, but compatibility with a coach would be a bigger factor.
Jamal Jones might not be the same caliber of player as Harris, but his departure from Texas A&M is a big blow for their program. Jones led the Aggies in scoring last season with 13.4 points per game while adding 3.9 rebounds per game. He has not indicated which destinations he is considering, but this is not the first time that he has left a school as he played one year at Mississippi (ok, maybe the word play is overstating it since he only played 25 minutes all year) before moving on to Lee College for a year before moving to College Station. Jones’ production might make him an appealing transfer for some coaches, but we suspect that his tendency to move so frequently will make many coaches weary of pursuing him.
Nick Faust‘s announcement that he was longer committed to Oregon State after Craig Robinson should hardly be a surprise. What is surprising is that he committed to a school with such an unstable coach and that the school waited this long to fire Robinson with how much a late firing could affect recruiting. While Faust says he is “open to everyone” his most likely destinations would appear to be Richmond, Cleveland State, Siena, UCLA, George Mason, and George Washington, which were the other schools that he considered before committing to Oregon State. Out of those the only one that we would be surprised by him going to is UCLA because we can’t envision a scenario where a player of Faust’s caliber would decide to play at Oregon State instead of UCLA particularly with how poorly the Beavers played under Robinson. Faust also has not closed the door on going to Oregon State in the end depending on who Robinson’s replacement is.
They are not necessarily big-name positions, but two of the few remaining Division I coaching vacancies filled over the past two days. Coppin State took more than a month to find its new head coach before settling on Michael Grant. Although Grant is coming from Division II Stillman College he does have coaching experience at the Division I level going 26-31 in two seasons at Southern between 2003 and 2005. If going from Division II to Division I seems like a big jump that is nothing compared to what Bob Walsh is trying to do at Maine, which hired him from Division III Rhode Island College. Unlike Grant, Walsh has no coaching experience at the Division I level outside of serving as an assistant at Providence.
If you ever wondered why some assistants at top programs did not jump at any head coaching opportunity, we would direct you to the recently released information about the new contracts that Kentucky‘s assistant coaches received. One of the assistants, Kenny Payne, signed a two-year extension worth $500,000 annually. That figure puts him ahead of almost 1/4 of head coaches who led their team’s to NCAA Tournament bids last year. Coming in just behind Payne are assistants John Robic and Barry Rohrssen, who will be paid $375,000 per year. Those figures my pale in comparison to John Calipari’s annual salary of $5.5 million, but all of them should be quite comfortable and should keep them loyal to Kentucky unless a pretty big program comes after them.
Although we are less than a month removed from Connecticut’s win over Kentucky for the 2014 National Championship, it certainly is not too soon to gander ahead to the 2014-15 season. With Sunday’s deadline for underclassmen to declare for the June NBA Draft now past, we now have a much better idea of who the top teams should be once the ball is tipped again in November. Three weeks ago we released our Way Too Early Top 25; today we’re back with a much better version that accounts for (most of) next season’s returning rosters.
There is some consensus at the top, with three teams garnering 15 of the 18 top three votes from our pollsters. #1 Kentucky owns the top spot after John Calipari’s squad experienced far fewer NBA defections than was previously thought. While stars Julius Randle and James Young both decided to take their games to the next level, underclassmen Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Dakari Johnson, Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress all decided to return to Lexington. Coupling these returnees with another star-studded recruiting class (ranked second by most analysts), it is easy to see why expectations will once again be off the charts for next season’s Wildcats. As expected, #2 Arizona lost talented guard Nick Johnson and forward Aaron Gordon to the NBA Draft, but certainly not all is lost in Tucson. Guards T.J. McConnell and Gabe York along with interior behemoths Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Kaleb Tarczewski return to form an incredibly strong nucleus for the Wildcats. #3 Wisconsin looks like it will once again be a Final Four contender, as Bo Ryan’s squad returns seven of its eight rotation players from the 2013-14 campaign. The Badgers figure to be paced by what should be one of the strongest duos in the country in versatile wing Sam Dekker and skilled big man Frank Kaminsky. Wisconsin will also have a great deal of winning experience in the backcourt, as Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser both return to Madison. The usual Quick n’ Dirty analysis, with some other thoughts on this poll, follows after the jump….
Tennessee did not take very long to move on from Michael White after he decided to stay at Louisiana Tech. Just a few hours after that news came out Tennessee reached an agreement with Southern Miss coach Donnie Tyndall to make him the next coach of the Volunteers. Tyndall is only six years older than White (43 vs 37) and has more experience in Tennessee and the SEC than White does so he is not a bad fallback option for the Volunteers. A formal announcement is expected by the school later today.
Tennessee school in the state with a new coach as Tennessee State named Dana Ford to be its next coach. Ford has never served as a head coach, but was an assistant at Tennessee State for two years under John Cooper before Cooper left to take over at Miami (OH) and Ford went to serve as an assistant at Wichita State then Illinois State (his alma mater). Ford takes over for Travis Williams, who led the Tigers to a 5-25 record last season so at least Ford does not have a high bar to reach to match last season’s performance.
Elfrid Payton might not be a household name even to college basketball fans, but you will be hearing his name a lot in the coming months as the junior out of Louisiana-Lafayette announced that he will be entering the NBA Draft. Payton averaged 19.2 points, 6 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game last season while leading his team to a NCAA Tournament appearance, but perhaps more importantly for his draft stock he also started every game for the Under-19 team that won the gold medal at the World Championships. Payton is projected to be a late first round or early second round pick.
As crazy as it sounds out all of the early-entry decisions that we have been linking to in the Morning Five there are still several key decisions that we are waiting for. Jeff Eisenberg points out there are five schools that are particularly anxious as they await decisions. It goes without saying that Kentucky will be one of those schools almost every year, but Michigan, Connecticut, Colorado, and UNLV are also waiting on big decisions that will shape next season. So if you are following any of the way-too-early top 25s you should probably wait until after this deadline before taking any of them too seriously.
One of our bigger frustrations in college basketball is with administrators who try to limit local non-conference rivalries for political reasons. So we were very happy to see that Virginia and George Washington have agreed to a home-and-home series the next two years. Although this is not the biggest potential regional matchup it is still a fairly appealing one and Virginia only leads the series 25-23 with the last game being played in the 2004 NIT. Hopefully we will see more schools follow their lead and create some more interesting regional rivalries.
Within every 40 minutes of college basketball, there is a moment or two that sets a tone, shifts momentum, or otherwise dictates the game’s final result. If we think bigger picture, we’ll notice that the five-month college basketball season is also shaped by a number of similarly formative moments. We may not always know their full significance at the time, but these moments conspire to transform the course of a season. In 2013-14, these were those 10 moments – some occurring inside the lines, others far away from the hardwood – that proved most pivotal to the season’s final snapshot.
UConn Felled Florida Back In December In What Would Turn Out To Be The First Installment Of Many Napier Clutch Shots
10. Tyler Ennis Downs Pitt at the Horn (February 12). The Syracuse freshman’s memorable game-winner extended the Orange’s inspiring perfect start, but might it have ended up wounding both teams? Pitt would never really find its way over the hump, while Syracuse’s continued chase of perfection may have shielded a few critical flaws that would later cause its sharp downfall.
9.Scottie Wilbekin Returns From Five-Game Suspension (November 25). A solid performance (12 points, seven assists, three steals) in a rout of Atlantic Sun also-ran Jacksonville was just the beginning of a redemptive season for Wilbekin, who overcame offseason turmoil to become the unquestioned leader and MVP of a team that, for the better part of 2014, played at a far loftier level than any other squad in the country.
8. Wichita State Comes Back Against Missouri State (January 11). Shockermania hadn’t yet grown into the hysteria it would become, but Wichita State overcame a 19-point second half road deficit in the most improbable of their season-opening 35 victories. Read the rest of this entry »
As we continue to sift through the memories of the 2013-14 college basketball season, we take a look back at some of the best games of the season. In order, here are the five best games from 2013-14. We covered the five best stories of the season last week, if you’re interested.
November 12: Kansas 94, Duke 83 – Two of the most anticipated freshmen in recent college hoops history matched up in the Champions Classic nightcap, and neither Wiggins (22 points, eight rebounds) nor Parker (27 points, nine rebounds ) disappointed. Kansas broke open a close game behind a late push from Wiggins and Perry Ellis (24 points, nine rebounds), in the process earning one of the season’s first true statement victories. The young Jayhawks would go on to win 25 games and the Big 12 regular season title, but their finest (and most entertaining) win may have come in their second outing of the year.
Star Freshmen Jabari Parker And Andrew Wiggins Matched Up In What Was A Memorable Champions Classic Battle. (Getty)
March 29: Wisconsin 64, Arizona 63 (OT) – The low-possession game that everyone expected came to fruition, but both the Badgers (1.05 PPP) and Wildcats (1.03 PPP) managed solid offensive efforts in this Elite Eight battle. Neither team was able to build more than a three-point lead during the final 17 minutes of play (including overtime) in a tangibly tense seesaw battle, but it was the offensive clinic put on by the Badgers’ Frank Kaminsky (28 points, 11 rebounds) that proved to be the ultimate difference. After a controversial replay review in the final seconds that gave the ball back to Arizona, Nick Johnson was unable to get up a winning shot attempt in time, and Wisconsin was headed to the Final Four for the first time under Bo Ryan. Read the rest of this entry »
It just so happened that two of the biggest stories from the first night of this college basketball season happened to be the two most prominent narratives on the season’s final evening. Back on November 8, Shabazz Napier’s 18-point, seven-rebound, seven-assist effort propelled UConn to a one-point victory over Maryland, while some 700 miles away, the most decorated and anticipated freshman class in college hoops history debuted at Rupp Arena, blasting UNC-Asheville, 89-57. Almost exactly five months to that night, Napier was again dazzling and the microscope remained firmly fixed on those gifted Kentucky freshmen, except this time they shared the same court at AT&T Stadium – the season’s final stage. Both national title combatants will survive as integral pieces in the memory of this 2013-14 season, but in between opening night and Championship Monday, countless other teams, players, and storylines seized our attention. Below are the five stories (beyond the Wildcats and Huskies) that I will remember most from a college basketball season that was never, ever boring.
The Shockers Were Unable To Author An NCAA Tournament Ending Fit For Their Dream Season, But Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker And Co. Were Still The Story Of 2013-14
5. Pac-12 Revival. We missed you, Pac-12. It’d been a minute since the league summoned up a national title contender, much less a deep and balanced assemblage of teams to chase that front-runner, but the Pac-12 was able to do just that in 2013-14. Even with Brandon Ashley’s mid-January season-ending ACL tear muddying Arizona’s March forecast, the Wildcats put together a regular season worthy of a #1 seed, and entered the NCAA Tournament on the short list of favorites before falling a point short of the Final Four in an Elite Eight loss to Wisconsin. Five other teams from the conference made the field of 68, with both Stanford and a revived UCLA squad (that Steve Alford hiring doesn’t look so bad now) making the Sweet Sixteen. College hoops is officially back on the West Coast.
4. Marcus Smart. He began the season as a presumptive top-five pick and popular leader of a top-10 team, but found his national image devolve into that of a controversial hothead with a soft spot for flopping. On his way out, Smart claimed he still believes he made the right decision in returning to Stillwater for his sophomore season, but Oklahoma State’s disastrous campaign (despite a late-season surge to make the NCAA Tournament and save a tiny bit of face) and his plummeting draft stock should raise suspicions that, perhaps for old time’s sake, Smart staged this final act as a Poke in some place far from reality. It would only make sense, because in 2014, Marcus Smart was nothing if not drama.
After nearly six months of basketball, from practice to the podium, the 75th and final RTC Podcast of the 2013-14 season is here. It’s been quite a run, filled with analysis, wild predictions, #cheerfortheears, more analysis, numerous fantastic guests, a bunch of informative correspondents, and even a few t-shirts thrown in. While we exhausted ourselves in some respects by plowing through at least a couple pods per week, we feel like it was well worth the time and energy, and we certainly appreciate all of the listeners that tuned in along the way. For the offseason, we expect to check in at least once every few weeks, depending on when there are enough things to talk about, but we’ll definitely be back when the NBA Draft deadline has passed. In this week’s podcast, we break down the National Championship game, consider UConn’s future and talk about some of our memories from the preceding season. The full rundown is below. Give it a listen.
Coming off a postseason ban, UConn wasn’t exactly a hot pick to make noise this season. And even once the Huskies entered the NCAA Tournament as a #7 seed, it still seemed unlikely that they would go anywhere past the Sweet Sixteen, much less to the National Championship game. However, coach Kevin Ollieknew they had a shot the whole time. “Someone called us Cinderella,” Ollie said. “No. We’re UConn. This is what we do. We’re born for this. We’re bred to cut down nets.”
There’s no doubt Shabazz Napier was one of the premier players in college basketball this season, but what impact will he make at the next level? His lack of size and wealth of production will make him a very intriguing NBA Draft prospect.
Shabazz Napier had to learn how to be a leader, and once he did, he took his team, against all odds, all the way. For Napier, much of his leadership came from enduring the various hits that UConn took since he arrived in Storrs in 2010. “When you go through a lot it teaches you how to be a man,” Napier said. “Sometimes you go through the ups and sometimes you go through the downs. You’ve just got to learn from it.”
Much of what Kevin Ollie has learned has come from his mother, Dorothy. However, though watching his mother fight breast cancer, Ollie has gained even more from her. “She’s [Dorothy Ollie] a strong woman, he learned his resiliency from here,” [Kevin's wife] Stephanie Ollie said. “She and his father both raised a good husband for me. … She’s a very positive woman.”
Kentucky was surprisingly positive after losing Monday night’s National Championship game, calling this past season “surreal.” For the Wildcats, their resiliency is what made this season so special. “We just turned a lot of people’s heads,” [freshman] James Young said after Monday night’s defeat. “People that didn’t believe in us at first, they believe in us, now.”
Kentucky will always lose numerous players to the NBA Draft, but it will still usually be back among college basketball’s best every season. However, if coach John Calipari makes the jump to the NBA, the Wildcats could be in trouble.
Coach Calipari’s freshmen were able to come together for a big run, but soon, like in every season he’s had as Kentucky’s head coach, there will be the “inevitable breakup.” Knowing that much of the team won’t be in Lexington next year, many of the players are just trying to focus on the present. Freshman Aaron Harrison noted that he just wants to “enjoy the rest of the school year.”
Many believe that Kentucky will lose much of its rotation to the NBA Draft, but imagine what it could do next year if Calipari could get some of his guys to stay. Most of them aren’t thinking about the NBA right now, but sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein, a projected mid- to late-first round pick, is. He’s remains unsure about his decision, but stated, “I feel this emptiness in me like I’ve still got something to prove and I’ve still got so much stuff to work on in my game.”
If preseason Top 25s are an exercise in futility, polls the day after the national championship game are an exercise in imagination. We readily admit that we don’t know exactly what rosters are going to look like next season with early entry announcements, transfers (both in and out), late signees, and the inevitable summer run-ins with trouble still pending. So we will try to project, using the partial information that we have, which are the 25 teams most likely to win a national title next season. After the NBA Draft deadline has passed, we’ll do a more educated Top 25, but until then, this is what we came up with. The quick n’ dirty analysis of this way-too-early poll is after the jump.