Morning Five: 10.03.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 3rd, 2011

  1. Welcome to next year.  After six roiling months of will-he/won’t-he interspersed with typical summer drama and another session of non-apocalyptic conference realignment, it’s time to get back to basketball.  In a little over eleven days from now, official practices will commence around the country with Midnight Madness.  Three weeks after that, the first real games will tip off in Queens, Starkville and Tucson as the 2kSports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic gets under way.  Basketball season is just around the corner, and starting today, we’ll be unveiling our 2011-12 Season Preview with comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 31 auto-bid Division I leagues and a number of other features.  We’re also proud to announced that our first RTC Microsite, featuring the venerable and historic Atlantic Coast Conference, will officially roll out a little later this morning.  The calendar may only say it’s a few days into October, but as far as we here at RTC are concerned, the season starts today.
  2. Fifteen Big East presidents met in Washington, DC, on Sunday to discuss the future of that league in the aftermath of Syracuse and Pittsburgh’s sudden departure a couple short weeks ago.  According to this Andy Katz report, the league brass unanimously authorized commissioner John Marinotti to “aggressively pursue discussions” with targeted schools that the league hopes to add to its lineup.  Several of the schools being mentioned as possibilities include Army, Navy, Temple, Central Florida, Air Force and SMU, with two of the service academies rumored as the top targets for membership as football-only institutions.  Connecticut’s future conference status is the biggest wild card right now, as its president Susan Herbst re-affirmed the school’s commitment to the league after the meeting, but it is widely regarded that the Huskies would quickly take an ACC spot if offered one.  In other words, not much has truly changed.
  3. One Big East team that is fighting for its legitimacy to remain a major college program in both basketball and football is Louisville.  Despite a $68M sports budget that would rate second only to Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12 and the most profitable basketball program in America, the Cards are worried about being left out of the superconference picture if the Big East continues its degradation and the Big 12 eventually falls apart.  To put its athletic program in perspective, Eric Crawford at the Courier-Journal created three interesting tables showing the relative specs of the Big East, Big 12 and SEC (budgets, enrollments, expenditures, etc.).  He even adds an academic component (research and development) and each school’s Sears Cup placement from the 2010-11 academic year.  It’s worth a look.
  4. This is a somewhat dated story, but we hadn’t gotten around to mentioning it yet.  Last week Gary Parrish wrote about how two of Bruce Pearl‘s former assistants’ lives have been turned upside down in the intervening months since the whole house of cards came down at Tennessee.  We found the tone of the article to be somewhat sympathetic — perhaps too sympathetic — to the plight that the assistants now find themselves in, coaching at Northwest Florida State for salaries far below what they were making in Knoxville.  He makes the case that Steve Forbes and Jason Shay were in no-win situations where they faced punishment one way or another — either by ratting out their boss to the NCAA, or by failing to be forthright and going down with the ship as a collective.  Apparently a number of people took issue with Parrish’s stance, as he addressed it again in his Five For the Weekend column on Friday.  We’re of a similar mind with his critics — just because the assistants found themselves in a tough spot didn’t mean that both choices were equally meritorious, and Bruce Pearl’s own career trajectory should have taught them that.  He dropped dime on Illinois twenty years ago, and yet through his subsequent hard work and on-court success, he was able to become one of the highest-paid coaches in America despite for a long time suffering a reputation as a snitch.  Remember the tried-and-true lesson — the cover-up is always, always, always worse than the actual crime.
  5. Speaking of recruiting violations, this report by Pete Thamel at the NYT takes a look at one of the areas of college basketball recruiting that knowledgeable observers suggest is among the most abused: unofficial visits.  According to NCAA rules, an unofficial visit is one where a recruit visits a campus but pays his own way for all expenses related to travel, food, and lodging.  Using a Lane Kiffin allegation of a booster paying for a recruit’s unofficial visit at Tennessee as an example, the report suggests that there is little to no oversight or scrutiny focusing on how high school students are in fact paying for these visits.  Over half of this year’s top 100 seniors have already committed to schools without taking their official visits, so it’s clear that these players are getting to those campuses somehow.  Interesting piece.
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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume I

Posted by rtmsf on December 6th, 2010

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor.  In this piece he’ll spend each week reviewing the five things he loved and hated about the previous week of college basketball.

The Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED..…that the Big Ten announced Sunday it’s not looking to expand in the near future. This recent movement between conferences has been fine and dandy, but I’m all for reeling things in a little bit now rather than continuing to strengthen/expand the big boys. We like conferences in college basketball for a reason – their identities. Teams in the ACC get up and down, the Big East is super physical… etc. Let’s keep expansion under control and preserve that uniqueness.

Twelve is Apparently Enough

I LOVED…..a coach with no filter. Yes, Bruce Pearl, we’re talking about you. You were always one to let fly with a zinger once you got to UT. You spilled the beans about the rules you broke recently, and when given the chance, you had no problem lining up a zinger at a former UT employee.

“I’ve made mistakes, I clearly did, but what I was hoping for was that some other dumb%#& would get on the front page and take me off the hook,” Pearl said. “I miss Lane Kiffin.”

Thank heavens you’re still around Bruce, because we’d miss you.

I LOVED…..legacies getting into the act. On one hand we had Michael Jordan’s son, Marcus, making noise with his 18 points in a Central Florida upset over the freefalling Florida Gators. That sure beats making the headlines because you refuse to wear anything but Daddy’s shoes.

Then there’s Tyler Summit at Tennessee. The son of legendary UT women’s coach Pat Summit, baby-faced Tyler stepped onto the court — named after mom — during garbage time and promptly nailed a three. Sure he dipped his knees all the way and hoisted it up like he was ten years old (a distinct possibility), but you can’t argue with results.

I LOVED…..watching the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and all interconference challenges for that matter. It’s great for a number of reasons. One, it gives us monster matchups like Duke-Michigan State, and is great for the fans. Two, it tests teams early on and makes them play in hostile environments, even if their coach would prefer otherwise (yes, Coach K, we’re talking about you and your affinity for neutral court non-conference games). And three, it gives us a decent way to peg different conferences early in the year – like how the ACC is down again.

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Morning Five: 11.30.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 30th, 2010

  1. The biggest news of Monday was of course that in the interminable quest for more football dollars, Texas Christian University (TCU to most of us) will join the Big East starting in the 2012-13 season.  That makes seventeen Big East basketball schools if you’re counting at home.  Yes, the league that in large part made college basketball what it is today — with hundreds of ESPN games and the star-making powers all of it entails — is now chasing skirts in a region of the country over a thousand miles removed from its nearest member institution.  Presumably the league will now look into adding another school like Houston to lock up another major media market as the 18th hoops (and tenth football) school, and then there’s the possible addition of Villanova football should they choose to do so, but where does it end?  Does it go to twenty basketball schools by adding Memphis and Central Florida?  And what about the Big East Tournament — nobody was a fan of the double-bye system before; do we move to a triple-bye now?  How would you like to be the #20 seed in your conference tournament?  David Steele over at Fanhouse has a nice piece on how the ACC and Big East, two conferences that were to basketball what the SEC and old SWC were to football, have completely lost their hoops souls with football-driven expansion.  Luke Winn also breaks down what the addition of TCU will do (or won’t do) for the Big East from a hoops perspective — he makes an excellent point about Marquette’s recruiting prospects improving with a Texas team in tow.  Can’t say we disagree wither either’s takes at all.
  2. Condolences go out this morning to John Calipari and his family, as the Kentucky coach announced via Twitter that he lost his mother, Donna, to a battle with cancer on Monday.  Calipari does not expect to miss the Wildcats’ next game versus Boston University tonight, and we’ve heard rumors that Kentucky students will exhibit some unifying show of solidarity through the wearing of black shirts or something similar.  Nice touch.
  3. Seth Davis goes out on a shaky limb with his proclamation Monday that UConn’s Kemba Walker has been the best player in America through the first four weeks of the season.  Ok, not really, but as always, his Hoops Thoughts column is well worth the read.  Can we use this opportunity to say that having sat through three UConn games in Maui last week, we’re not as sold on the Huskies and Walker long-term as some others seem to be?  We think that UConn is a nice team — probably an NCAA Tournament team — but top ten?  We’re just not seeing it.
  4. Butler’s Ronald Nored will miss at least one game as a result of the concussion he suffered last weekend at Siena.  The Bulldogs’ next game is Wednesday in their Horizon League opener on the road against 7-0 Loyola (Chicago).  He’s questionable for Saturday’s game against top-ranked Duke as well.  With Butler not playing very well as it is, these next two games are fairly important, so it’s not a good time for Nored to be on the shelf.
  5. Bruce Pearl certainly knows how to play to an audience.  At a Knoxville Quarterback Club dinner on Monday night he mentioned former UT football coach Lane Kiffin in reference to having made mistakes and “hoping for… some other dumbass to take [me] off the front page.”  The dumbass in question, of course, was Kiffin.  Perhaps the funniest part of this series of quotes by Pearl was his reference to the “slippery rock theory,” which we suppose is a theory founded somewhere in central Pennsylvania (as opposed to its better-known but obstructionist cousin, the “slippery slope” theory).
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Morning Five: 02.22.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on February 22nd, 2010

  1. Appropriately, we begin with D2 Philadelphia University’s head coach Herb Magee winning his 902nd game on Saturday, which ties Bobby Knight for first place on the all-time NCAA victories list for a men’s basketball coach.  Magee, to whom the guys from our Backdoor Cuts feature devoted their column last week, has been at Philadelphia for 50 years — as a player from 1959-63, an assistant coach from 1963-67, and head coach since then — but his record-tying win wasn’t secured until the game’s very last second, when Philadelphia U.’s Jim Connolly hit a three-pointer to win it over Post University, 70-67.  Magee will go for win #903 at home against Goldey-Beacom College on Tuesday.
  2. Great stuff here from The Big Lead.  If you’re a college basketball player, it’s always important to listen to your coach, right?  Especially in a very important late-February game between a conference’s two best teams.  That can be tough, depending on what distractors are in the area.  In Saturday’s intense Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt game, while John Calipari was drawing up a play during a time out, the Wildcats’ DeMarcus Cousins was busted eyeballing an undeniably strong distractor in the form of a certain ESPN sideline reporter, not that we’re castin’ any stones…
  3. New York Times college sports reporter (and excellent tweeter) Pete Thamel had the privilege of spending his Saturday in Tempe, Arizona, the site of the secret little talks going on between USC and the NCAA’s infractions committee.  He logs an excellent summary here, with the reactions of two USC coaches (one current, one former) catching our eye:  1) we were moved to downright guffaws by the moral ascendancy Tim Floyd appears to be claming, as he opined that appearing before the committee was “the right thing to do,” and 2) we loved Lane Kiffin’s admission after the three-day hearings, proclaiming “I’ve never moved less in a 72-hour period,” which was only slightly shorter than his tenure in Knoxville.
  4. We also give Mr. Thamel an assist on this one, which we started checking out because of a tweet of his (seriously, he’s really good)…but it just keeps getting worse for Binghamton.  They’re now down to two coaches, now that assistant Marc Hsu has been placed on leave following a report by the school alleging that Hsu gave money to a player and did coursework for several members of the team.  Hsu hasn’t been on the bench for the last three games, and this suspension is indefinite.
  5. Oklahoma’s Willie Warren missed Saturday’s loss to Kansas State due to mononucleosis, a diagnosis that also caused him to sit out the Sooners’ loss to Oklahoma State two games ago.  Warren played in the loss at Colorado this past Wednesday, which struck us as odd, given the debilitating nature of mono and the fact that the older you are when you get it, the worse you usually feel.  If you’ve never had it, it causes flu-like symptoms but it absolutely drains you of energy.  What’s worse, in some cases it can cause enlargement of the spleen, an organ you don’t want to bust open, which is why kids and adolescents with mono are told to stay away from contact sports/ballet/wrestling with siblings/etc until further notice — usually at least a month.  You can also still spread it (through saliva) anywhere from six to 18 months after having it, and even though most people recover to full strength, the only treatments are the tinctures of time and rest.  The Sooners aren’t going dancing this year, and Warren’s health comes first, so we couldn’t blame the OU program if official word soon came down that Warren was going to miss the rest of the year.  Mononucleosis is no picnic, despite the fact that it gets glossed over quite frequently, so we hope Warren is back to his old self soon.
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That’s Debatable: Upset Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2010

Each week RTC will posit a That’s Debatable question or topic that is relevant to the world of college basketball.  Sometimes whimsical, sometimes serious, we’ll post the thoughts from our core editing crew (in 200 words or less), but we’ll also be expanding to include our contributors and correspondents as appropriate throughout the season.  We also invite you, the readers, to join us as we mull over some of the questions facing the game today.  Feel free to send us your takes and/or leave them in the comments below.

This Week’s Topic: It was Upset Weekend in college basketball, as more than half the ranked teams took a loss.  What was your favorite part of the weekend?

nvr1983 – editor/contributor

Without question the best part of the weekend was watching depleted Tennessee “shock the world” on Sunday afternoon against #1 Kansas while most of the country was focused in on the awful NFL wildcard games (ok, the Green Bay-Buzzsaw game was pretty entertaining). Although Tennessee has managed to continue to disgrace itself (first Lane Kiffin’s football players now Bruce Pearl’s carful of idiots) the university can take some pride in Bruce Pearl’s six scholarship players and the handful of walk-ons that did suit up and play. While the upset showed us some of Kansas’s weaknesses that most people saw in their narrow victory at home over Cornell, the game was more important for what it showed us about the Volunteers, which may be an appropriate name for a team using so many walk-ons. Right now there might not be a more difficult to read team in the nation. And isn’t that part of what we love about college sports?

john stevens – editor/contributor

Are you kidding me with this?  My favorite part of the weekend?  Did you not read about how I met Ashley Judd while on my assignment in Lexington for Kentucky/Georgia?  Please.  The woman shook my hand, looked me straight in the eye and spoke to me.  What, you expected me to write something about Tennessee/Kansas?  Get over yourself.  Fine, if you need more of a basketball answer, for me the best part of Upset Weekend was playing the waiting game.  Weekends like the one we just had occur once or maybe twice in a season.  One of the coolest things about it is wondering what the next upset’s going to be as you move through the day.  After a couple of early ones, you start wondering if you might have a true Upset Weekend on your hands, and then it happens.  Teams just start falling, one after the other, in exciting games that often have incredible finishes.  The trend spreads across the country like a virus and, as the upsets get bigger, the phone calls and text messages and tweets from friends and fellow hoop-lovers really start cranking up.  That’s why this version of Upset Weekend was special: it ended with the biggest surprise of them all, with everyone watching.  Hmmm.  I wonder if Ashley enjoyed Upset Weekend…

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Another Tennessee Coach Doesn’t Know When To Stop Talking

Posted by nvr1983 on September 25th, 2009

In just a few months we have all become familiar with Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin and his tendency to talk way too much especially when attacking their main rival Florida (I doubt the Gators feel the same way about the “rivalry”). Well it turns out that Lane isn’t the only Tennessee coach who doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut. Witness Bruce Pearl at a local charity fundraiser:

“I’ve got a tough job. I’ve got to put these guys from different worlds together, right? I’ve got guys from Chicago, Detroit. I’m talking about the hood! And I’ve got guys from Grainger County, where they wear the hood!”

(link to a news report with video of Pearl’s speech)

For those of you scoring at home Pearl just made fun of the living conditions of African-Americans and other groups that live in the inner city then implied that there is a strong KKK presence in rural Tennessee. So he’s being critical of African-Americans from the inner city and people from his own state. I’m not a recruiting expert, but that doesn’t seem like the best way to recruit especially when you are losing prized recruits while coaching overseas.

Pearl has since issued an apology for the statement:

This morning while speaking at a private kick-off event for a great organization that benefits many local charities, I made a statement in jest to describe the diverse group our staff recruits year-in and year-out. Unfortunately while I was trying to excite the crowd and encourage employees to give, I made an inappropriate joke. I certainly did not intend to offend anyone and I apologize to everyone, especially the people of Grainger County.

In no way am I trying to justify what I said, but I’m disappointed that the focus has been placed on me rather than the charities I was there to help. My only hope is that the visibility of this mistake will encourage those who can to give to those in need during these difficult times.

Judging by the reaction of Tennessee fans on the the local news site they don’t seem to think it is a big deal, but we’ll have to wait and see how opposing coaches try to use this against Pearl on the recruiting trail.

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