Michigan‘s Fab Five basketball legacy, even 20 years later, remains a complicated one. Issues of class and race and media coverage and privacy and amateurism and professionalism and a whole slew of other interrelated variables have followed these guys along ever since they collective hit the national consciousness way back in 1991. One thing, however, that isn’t that complicated, was that notorious Wolverines’ booster Ed Martin paid the likes of Chris Webber and several others to matriculate and play for the blue and maize. There’s really no disputing it (Webber himself copped a plea for lying to a grand jury on that very issue in July 2003). Yet Webber has spent the better part of the last decade-plus holding a grudge against his alma mater for what he felt was unfair treatment — some of it arguably meritorious, some not — and refusing to come to terms with the notion that, setting aside all the other indignities, he still is responsible for some of the darkest days in program history along with the sunniest ones. HoopsHype recently interviewed former Fab Fiver and current NBA analyst Jalen Rose, who called out Webber for his simple failure to say “I’m sorry” to the fans of the program who were ultimately let down by those actions. We’ve said it in this space and on social media many times before, but it remains spectacularly impressive that the most thoughtful and mature member of the Fab Five turned out to be Rose — he remains completely on point.
The 2014-15 college basketball season may be creeping ever closer, but the folks over at ESPN are already thinking well beyond Indianapolis and the 2015 Final Four. Last week, ESPN’s group of college basketball insiders released their take on what Top 25 polls could look like over the next three seasons in a column entitled “Future Power Rankings.” The panel evaluated and rated programs on a 1-10 scale in five different categories — Coaching, Current Talent, Recruiting, Program Power, and Stability — then pooled the results to extract a singular score (out of 100) for each program. Coaching, Current Talent and Recruiting each counted for 25% of that final tally, while Program Power made up another 15%. Stability counted for just 10%.
Rankings and lists may seem particularly interesting on the slog through these college basketball-less months, but the exercise in responding is the same now as it will be in January, February and March: We will always have our gripes. Highlighted below are a few of the more controversial decisions — some method-based, others result-oriented — that ESPN’s committee of experts produced.
Coach K Should Have Plenty Of Reason To Keep Smiling, As His Program Graded Out On Top In ESPN’s Future Power Rankings
Redundancy Within Formula: In many ways, this list would have wound up more accurate, honest and interesting if the esteemed panel hadn’t been forced to break down each program into five components. The gimmicky, algorithmic path that they followed may offer more individual points of discussion (Is John Thompson III really that bad a coach? Is the power of Xavier’s program ACTUALLY significantly stronger than Villanova?) , but there’s significant overlap across many of the categories. The delineation between coaching and recruiting is often a difficult one — as Mike Francesa and John Calipari recently discussed — and stability also strongly correlates with a successful, entrenched head coach. In fact, save for Kentucky, every team in the top 10 of the rankings had a stability score that measured within four points of their coaching score (UK received a 98 for coaching and an 88 for stability). Looking elsewhere, recruiting and program power are another pair of categories with predictable overlap, as growth in either category inevitably fuels the other.
As we descend the back end of the calendar year, slowly but certainly inching toward cooler weather and the magical return of college basketball, the 24/7/365 behemoth that is Kentucky Basketball continues to play chess while the rest of its competition is playing checkers. John Calipari announced on Tuesday that he plans to offer a first-of-its-kind scouting combine for NBA personnel to assess his boatload of prep All-Americans in a structured environment (and in lieu of endless in-season scouting visits to practice). Several college football programs do something similar for their future professionals, but these so-called “pro days” typically come after the season has completed but before April’s NFL Draft. And if you think there won’t be a recruiting component to this October 10-11 event in Lexington, keep dreaming. Coach Cal continues to think creatively, and his success is to show for it.
The rest of the SEC‘s basketball programs have enough trouble keeping up with the Caliparis on the recruiting trail as it is, but as CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish notes in this article, a little-known league rule about junior college transfers further limits the SEC’s 13 other schools from attracting local players who could have been good fits. Marquette’s Jae Crowder — originally from Georgia — is his prime example, citing that the Peach State native and 2012 Big East Player of the Year was precluded from enrolling at any SEC school (including the one in Athens) because he had not spent at least three semesters at his junior college prior to matriculation. It’s an exceptionally odd rule — especially in the loosey-goosey SEC — but it is one that limits the talent pool by a sliver and gives other leagues a bit of a competitive advantage in certain instances.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie hasn’t had the best year-plus in his role as the chief executive of the nation’s favorite drive-through state, but he may have turned the corner in many sports fans’ minds with his announcement this week that the Garden State would allow sports gambling in its race tracks and casinos. This is an obvious last-ditch response to the ongoing implosion of the Atlantic City gaming industry, but the timing of this initiative with the NFL and college football getting under way couldn’t be any better from a quick revenue perspective. The NCAA is on record as very much against this, and it’s unclear as to the ultimate legality of the directive, but Christie is willing to take a shot at it. Could Jersey finally be on a path to become the East Coast’s Vegas through sports gambling? Stay tuned on this one over the next few weeks and as we push on toward the start of college hoops in November.
While in the legal realm — hey, it’s the offseason — the plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon name and likeness case announced earlier this week that they would not seek an appeal of any part of district court judge Claudia Wilken’s decision that mostly fell in their favor. The NCAA, of course, is appealing the antitrust holding of the decision — the core issue that will require schools to compensate players for the use of their images — so you may be wondering why the winners would even consider an appeal. The reason is because the O’Bannon plaintiffs didn’t get everything they were hoping for, but they got enough. Now on to the appellate court…
Finally, we’d like to once again put out a feeler to any of our readers — long-timers or newbies — who might want to give a shot at writing about college basketball this upcoming season. We need national columnists in addition to knowledgeable writers for each of the major basketball leagues — the ACC, American, Big Ten, Big East, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, along with the Other 26 — to fill out our roster. We invite anybody with an interest to send us some information about yourself and a writing sample to email@example.com. Thanks for your interest.
It seems like just yesterday that Pauley Pavilion was being renovated (ok, maybe two years ago), but the court that has been home to more men’s Division I national championship teams that any other might need a little touch-up. A flood on Tuesday at UCLA‘s campus may have caused serious damage to the floor and other areas of the arena not to mention other buildings on the campus. While the flooding has stopped it will probably be several more days before the school has a better understanding of how much work will be needed to fix whatever damage has been done.
The decision by Chad Frazier to leave UAB following his domestic violence arrest should not be completely unexpected, but is still a significant loss for the team. Frazier, who transferred from Gulf Coast Community College, was first-team All-Conference-USA last season and the conference’s Newcomer of the Year. Frazier averaged 17.7 points and 4.3 assists per game last season putting him fifth and third in the conference respectively. Frazier was arrested following a domestic violence incident in April in which he reportedly threw a woman into a bookshelf. It is unclear where Frazier will end up, but with his production we wouldn’t be surprised to see him back at the Division I level in the near-future.
Nobody ever said John Calipari’s methods of building a #1 recruiting class and it turns out that they aren’t, but probably not in the way that you were thinking. According to work done by Kyle Tucker, Kentuckyspent $342,713.91 on Calipari’s private jet costs last year for recruiting and nearly $450,000 between the basketball and football programs for private jets for recruiting. There are plenty of people who have made comments critical of these types of expenditures on something as relatively unimportant as college athletics, but that money is more than worth it for the school with the publicity that they get from the program’s accomplishments (well, at least the basketball program).
Some people might consider it an admission of guilt, but North Carolina is offering student-athletes who left the school before they completed their undergraduate degree the opportunity to return to complete that degree with financial support similar to what they received under their original scholarship. The program (“Complete Carolina”) will go into effect beginning with the 2015-16 school year. The school claims that it has informally had this program for years, but now is making it a formal program like many other schools already have. We still aren’t sure if they will offer this program to student-athletes, who received diplomas, but feel that they might not have been taught enough or done enough to earn the credits that they received.
The NCAA might not allow alcohol sales at its championship events, but that does not stop from doing so at games outside of the NCAA Tournament. According to reports, Southern Methodistsold more than $350,000 in alcohol at 13 home basketball games last season. That money is divided between the school and the vendor (no idea on the percent breakdown), but it gives you an idea of how much money alcohol can bring in at these games even with students pre-gaming (of course, all of them being 21 or older) if SMU can bring in that much money at 13 home games for a good, but not great team.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 »