Morning Five: 03.17.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 17th, 2011

  1. There has been quite a bit of talk about the “Fab 5″ documentary that ESPN aired about the Michigan teams of the early ’90s in particular their inflammatory comments about Duke. One of the players that they went after was Grant Hill and talked about their dislike of him at the time and the perceived elitism of Duke and his traditional upbringing. Hill responded yesterday with a biting attack at Jalen Rose. To be fair to the Michigan players it seems like their statements were in reference to how they felt as teenagers about their opponents rather than the 30-/40-somethings that they are now. We are still somewhat amused that Michigan students would play the elitism card with anybody.
  2. We often laugh at the concept of a “vote of confidence” that administrations give to coaches in an attempt to convince the public that they aren’t going to fire the coach any time soon although they often do. Having said that the response that the Tennessee administration gave to a question about Bruce Pearl‘s job status should be considered ominous. We suspect that Pearl might be contacting a real estate agent in the Knoxville area pretty soon.
  3. Last year we were all impressed by the NCAA’s decision the create The Vault, which was a collection of full-length video of classic NCAA Tournament games. This year the NCAA has decided to build on that technology to create an interactive bracket pairing games against each other until they select the greatest game of the past 30 years (note: it looks like they are only missing the full-length video for the 1973 UCLA-Memphis State game). We have to say that the “First Four” games in this bracket are something we could definitely get behind.
  4. Speaking of great games. . .Most of you are probably going to be pretty busy today working watching the first round, but we highly recommend the recent piece by Time about Princeton‘s upset of defending national champion UCLA in 1996. It’s a rather long article, but definitely worth your time and if you get their early enough it should pump you up for the day’s games and the possibility of another historic upset.
  5. Yesterday we gave you what we provided you with a link to a bracket by LeBron James. It turns out that LeBron actually has two brackets, but the one on his personal site has Duke not Ohio State winning it all. Taking a quick glance at his bracket it looks like LeBron is a big fan of chalk for his brackets as well as pre-game routines.
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Morning Five: 03.16.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2011

  1. Every year there are a few lucky individuals who beat the odds and end up on top of national pools through a variety of reliable methods (based on team color, mascots, or personal allegiance) for picking their bracket. Other individuals get their brackets analyzed just because of who they are. Two individuals who fall in that latter category are LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Barack Obama. While James and Wade announced their brackets already (picking Ohio State and Marquette, respectively), President Obama will reveal his on the noon edition of SportsCenter today although it has already been revealed that he has gone with chalk again selecting all four #1 seeds to make it to Houston.
  2. If you are looking for a more intellectual way of filling out your bracket we highly suggest that you check out the latest from Luke Winn who goes through each region looking at the offensive and defensive efficiency stats for the top four seeds in each region with a particular focus on the top seed in each region.
  3. For nearly every event there is an individual who spends most of their time ripping apart the way things are because they prefer the way things were. Despite being one of the most beloved events in American sports the NCAA Tournament is not immune to this phenomenon as Michael Wilbon uses his new platform on ESPN.com to take plenty of shots at the NCAA and college basketball in general. Wilbon actually used the same exact argument(s) on both PTI and The Tony Kornheiser Showso much so that it feels like certain passages are lifted directly from one of those appearances. Or is it the other way around? While Wilbon makes a few valid points (who wouldn’t love to have had John Wall or Blake Griffinhang around for all four years?) he lacks any reasonable arguments for how to turn things “back to the way they were” without infringing on the liberties of the individual players that he defends so vigorously on-air. What drives us even more crazy is the argument by Jay Bilas that so many 11+ loss teams making the field is clear evidence that this is the weakest field ever. It seems pretty clear to us that Bilas hasn’t been spending much time in court (and if he has his clients probably haven’t been winning much) as that argument would fall apart in any Logic 101 class. Let’s just move on…
  4. Most of the news in the past few days has been about the NCAA Tournament and coaching firings, but we also expect to see quite a few fairly big names transfer schools. These are often hyped recruits who failed to live up to expectations and are looking for a fresh start. In other cases it is a player who performed well at a smaller school and is looking to try his talents at a higher level of college basketball. Sam Maniscalco appears to fall into the latter category. Although he will graduate from Bradley in May, the 6′ guard, who averaged 13.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game last season still has another year of eligibility left. Following the firing of coach Jim Les10 days earlier, Maniscalco opted to transfer to Illinois although he refused to explicitly state that as the reason. Maniscalco’s toughness and experience could be a big boon for Bruce Weber, who will enter next season without an experienced point guard following the graduation of the enigmatic Demetri McCamey. Maniscalco is expected to be eligible to play for the Illini next season because he will be transferring into a master’s program at Illinois.
  5. For those of you who have a few extra dollars, you may want to keep your eyes out for an upcoming auction that will feature the original round center section of Pauley Pavilionthat was used between 1965 and 1982. During that period UCLA won 8 men’s national championships. The section is currently owned by a UCLA alum and was signed in 1998 by John WoodenKareem Abdul-Jabbar Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton, Sidney WicksWalt Hazzard, and many other UCLA legends. The auction is expected to run between April 15th and 30th (likely found on the company’s website at that time) with the majority of the proceeds going towards medical research.
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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XII

Posted by jbaumgartner on February 22nd, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball. This week, Jesse is diggin’ the balance at the tops of the rankings, offers up some serious rule changes, wants respect for USU, and says UNC needs to tidy things up a bit.

The Five things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..Derrick Williams’ unbelievable block with 0.2 seconds left to save Arizona’s memorable win on Saturday. Yes, it was close to goaltending (I thought he just barely got it), but what an incredible I’m-an-All-American-and-we’re-not-going-to-lose-this-stinking-game kind of play. I mean the guy got up 12 feet, and did it by coming out of nowhere. We won’t see many bigger plays this year. Time to pay attention to Tucson, America.

I LOVED……the UA-Washington game for its larger impact. Of all the big conferences, the Pac-10 gets the least attention thanks in large part to their glaring lack of an ESPN contract. Not many people catch the FSN West channels (or the late start times), so when the league is also struggling a bit with quality, things can hit rock-bottom. Well, the Pac-10 had its chance on Saturday with a prime-time game between its two best teams – and they delivered. An up-and-down game with a thrilling finish was just the medicine the league needed. Maybe now they’ll think about, you know, pursuing a better contract with the Worldwide Leader.

A Close Call Ends a Close Game, But the Pac-10 Won (AZ Daily Star/M. Popat)

I LOVED……Tom Izzo going Good Samaritan and helping a stranded motorist out of the snow. Perhaps it’s sad that this is a story, since any decent person should be stopping. But let’s be honest, I’ve driven by people before – we all have. Especially after a bad day of work, and Izzo has now had about 80 of those in a row.

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The Week That Was: Jan. 17-Jan. 24

Posted by jstevrtc on January 25th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

Get ready college hoops fanatics. Get ready for the stampede of casual fans that are about to crash the sports bars once the NFL season comes to a close. They’ll have to find something for their sports fix and they’ll turn to college basketball. So be prepared for people asking things like, “Who’s that big guy for Ohio State? He looks pretty good.” Or “San Diego State’s in the top five? Really?!?” Just try to smile and nod at those fools. No need to let them ruin the season’s stretch run.

What We Learned

TWTW Loves Jimmer and Kawhi, But Prefers E'Twaun and the Boilers Traveling to Columbus This Week

Even with SDSU and BYU squaring off on Wednesday, TWTW feels that if there’s only one game you watch this week, make sure it’s Purdue at Ohio State, tonight at 9pm ET. Matt Painter’s squad is one of our favorites and TWTW thinks they’re a good bet to pull off the upset. Purdue rebounded from back-to-back losses at Minnesota and West Virginia to grind out a win over a plucky Penn State squad and then took care of business against reeling Michigan State. It would have been easy for the Boilermakers to fold at the first sign of trouble this season. They have the built-in excuse of Robbie Hummel’s injury, and no one really believed they could sustain their early-season success once they hit the meat of their schedule, but seniors JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore wouldn’t let that two-game losing streak turn into a prolonged swoon. Johnson scored 25 points in the win over PSU, while Moore poured in 26 against the Spartans.

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The Week That Was: November 27 – December 3

Posted by rtmsf on December 4th, 2010

David Ely is an RTC Contributor.

Introduction

LeBron James’ big return to Cleveland on Thursday night got TWTW thinking if something similar could ever happen in the college hoops world. Now obviously it would be tough/impossible to create the exact same circumstances surrounding James’ seven-year tenure in Cleveland, his love affair with the city and their subsequent breakup on national TV this past summer. First we’d have to end the NCAA’s policy that forces transfer players to sit out for a year, as that would let players move freely to and from teams in a manner similar to free agency in the NBA. Then we’d have to find the right player that could possibly inspire the right amount of anger/hatred if he just so happened to “take his talents” to the wrong team.

Imagine if Hansbrough Moved to Duke...

OK, ready? Imagine if Tyler Hansbrough announced after UNC’s Final Four loss to Kansas in 2008 that he was going to transfer to Duke for his senior season. Kinda the same situation. A ringless player jumps ship in search of a possible championship. Imagine the public outcry. Imagine the reaction in Chapel Hill. Imagine Hansbrough’s first trip to the Dean Dome in a Blue Devils’ jersey.  You think Cleveland hates James? Just think about hatred felt by Tar Heel Nation if the reigning player of the year jumped ship to play for its bitter rival. Cleveland fans harbored no ill-will toward the Heat before this year, UNC fans don’t need any reason to wish bad things upon Duke and Coach K.

I don’t know if the environment in our hypothetical Dean Dome would trump the Quicken Loans Area. But it would be a memorable night… one of the most epic evenings of hoops in college basketball history.

Anyway let’s get back to reality with our third installment of TWTW.

What We Learned

  • Despite its overtime win at Virginia Tech, I don’t like what I see from Purdue. While discrediting the Boilermakers’ chops as a national player was a popular thing to do in the immediate aftermath of Robbie Hummel’s season-ending ACL tear, there was still a small group that warned people not to overlook Matt Painter’s club.  “Hey! We’ve still got E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson!” There’s no debating Moore’s and Johnson’s basketball credentials, but the problem is there’s not much firepower apart from that inside-outside duo. Against Richmond and Virginia Tech, the Boilermakers put up some pretty dreadful offensive numbers. They only made four field goals in the first half against the Spiders en route to a 16-53 shooting night (30.2%). They improved slightly against the Hokies (36.2%), but Johnson and Moore combined for 43 of Purdue’s 58 points Wednesday night. To compete in a Big Ten that’s looking more and more loaded as the season progresses, the Boilermakers are going to have to find some offensive balance.
  • Even though it boasts the best team in the country, the ACC stinks. Thank god for Duke (how many times has that sentence been written?). The Blue Devils provide some much-needed respectability to a conference that views itself as the center of the college basketball universe. This year, though, the ACC shares more in common with the Atlantic 10 than the Big East. #1 Duke is the only squad ranked in RTC’s top 25. Let’s take it a step further. If you look at the AP poll, the ACC only boasts two teams outside of Durham, N.C., that received votes. North Carolina checks in at #29 and Virginia Tech at #32. The conference lost the ACC/Big Ten Challenge by a count of 6-5. And for every positive result like Duke’s 84-79 win over Michigan State or Virginia’s upset at Minnesota, there were disasters like Georgia Tech’s 20-point thumping at Northwestern, Clemson’s home loss to Michigan and N.C. State’s 87-43 loss to Wisconsin. Could Duke possibly go 15-1 or 16-0 in conference play this season? TWTW wouldn’t bet against it.
  • Maybe all of that talk about Florida’s return to national prominence was a little bit premature. The Gators began the season expecting to battle Kentucky and Tennessee for the SEC East title because they… ummm, they… why did everyone think this team would be great, again? Billy Donovan’s bunch definitely is going through some growing pains. Since its blowout loss at home to Ohio State on November 16, Florida struggled to beat the likes of Morehead State and Florida Atlantic and then got beaten by Central Florida on Wednesday. Like Purdue, the Gators aren’t performing on the offensive end. Florida has only topped 70 points once in the past four games, and its 75.3 points per game rank 94th overall as of Wednesday night. The most troubling stat for Florida is that it ranks 93rd in the nation in assists as only three players on the Gators’ roster (Erving Walker, Chandler Parsons and Kenny Boynton) average more than one dime a game.

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Morning Five: 11.01.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 1st, 2010

  1. Now that Halloween is over and done with (best costume we saw this weekend? definitely the couple who dressed up as the scene in American Gothic; well, that, or the random yet very sexy squirrel we saw walking around), we can officially say that we’ve moved into the college basketball season.  November 1 is a sort-of de facto calendar line where many slightly-more-casual fans around the country wake up and realize, “shoot, we have a game next week.”  We’ve been coming strong throughout the month of October with our season preview materials, and we still have a few more up our sleeves this week, but man we’re definitely ready for some game action.  Next Monday night cannot come quickly enough.
  2. Is the most hated man in professional basketball actually helping the South Florida schools, particularly Miami (FL), with their recruiting?  This article by Fanhouse suggests that LeBron James may be, although there’s been no direct evidence of it yet.  There was considerable buzz when King James went over to Coral Gables to play pickup ball on campus back in August, and the revered superstar (among South Floridians at least) showed up in no fewer than four photos in the team’s 2010-11 media guide this year.  Whether it will work for Frank Haith’s program remains to be seen, but there’s no question that the Hurricanes, looking for any possible advantage in a league full of heavyweights, are trying to leverage it.
  3. In a move we’re having trouble figuring out, the Pac-10 announced that it would be combining its men’s and women’s postseason tournaments in coming years, beginning in 2011 at the Staples Center.  Although our initial thought drifted toward some absurd hybrid of the three-ball competition at NBA All-Star Weekend, we immediately wondered how merging the semifinal and final rounds of the tournament into a single venue would actually increase fan interest?  Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott has done a solid job at marketing his oft-staid league in his six months on the job, but we’re not sure he realizes that putting a gimmicky thing together like this could actually disincentivize fans who are only interested in one sport (men’s), not the other (women’s).  In other news, the World Series, facing flagging television ratings as result of the Yankees or Red Sox not being involved this year, is looking into tagging along its Game Five tonight with Monday Night Football’s matchup between the Colts and Texans.
  4. There have been some open doubting Thomases around here with respect to the AP/Coaches poll rankings that UNC has received in the past week (#8/#9).  And with good reason — the Heels simply weren’t very good last year, and they lost their top three returning scorers.  Does the addition of super-frosh Harrison Barnes mean that suddenly Roy Williams’ team is not just better, but top 10 good?  Seth Davis spent some time in Chapel Hill last week watching practice and he came away from the experience believing that the Heels will indeed be as good as Barnes makes them.  Honestly, we’re thinking a fair comparison might be the Kevin Durant Texas team of 2006-07 — Durant was amazing, but that team was simply way too young and inexperienced to do much in March (they lost to USC in the Second Round).
  5. Some exhibition nonsense for your consideration over the weekend: #9 Florida 92, Florida Tech 58 (Kenny Boynton had 24 pts on 10-15 FG); #17 Butler 90, Florida Southern 70 (Matt Howard had 19/7); Louisville 83, Northern Kentucky 66 (UL opened its new KFC/Yum Center with newly-eligible Gorgui Dieng’s 14/11); Pittsburgh 104, Northwood 62 (Ashton Gibbs had 25 pts).  It seems like every year some ranked team ends up losing one of these games — wonder who it will be this year?
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The RTC Interview Series: One on One with Dave Telep

Posted by rtmsf on October 29th, 2010

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the year. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Scouting high school basketball players is a task that probably ranks just above weather prediction and winning trifectas at the track in terms of its certainty, but there are several folks out there who are among the best in the profession.  Dave Telep, former National Recruiting Director for Scout.com and current Senior Basketball Recruiting Analyst for ESPN, is one of those guys.  As a young college graduate in the mid-90s, he helped launch PrepStars before quickly rising up the ladder and developing his name at both Rivals and Scout, two of the pre-eminent recruiting services in existence today.  In the intervening decade, Telep built a sterling reputation for his workhorse approach to scouting, going from game to game in state after state to see players with his own eyes so as to fairly evaluate them.  He also founded Dave Telep’s Carolina Challenge in 2007, a one-day camp for 80 hand-picked North Carolina high school players in who want to learn what it takes to become a top college basketball player.  Some of the recruits who have attended this camp have been Duke’s Mason Plumlee and former Kentucky star John Wall.  The recruiting aficianado was in fact driving to a game in Virginia at the time of this interview — he never stops moving when there are players to be evaluated.  You can find Telep on both Facebook and Twitter — we’d recommend you friend/follow him to stay on top of all of the latest recruiting and scouting news.

Telep is a Scouting Mastermind

Rush the Court: Let’s start with the most newsworthy item in your life right now, the move from Scout.com to ESPN. Can you tell us a little bit about how this all came about and what the plan is for the immediate future there?

Dave Telep: Yeah, you know, I could not be more thankful and more grateful for the nine years I spent with Scout.com and Fox. My contract came up for renewal this summer and ESPN presented a really unique opportunity to do some things in the recruiting world on a bunch of different media platforms. It’s something where, to be honest, I’ve always wanted to work for ESPN. When I realized that I wasn’t going to be a professional athlete around the age of twelve, I realized one of the things I wanted to do with my life was to eventually work for ESPN. It’s really been a fun time for me and my family, and we’re having a great time with it. We have such a really neat team of guys there from the scouts to the guys who operate the database, that it’s really exciting to have so much support of a bunch of guys who are really woven into the fabric of college basketball. It’s awesome!

RTC: To many in this business, getting the call from ESPN is a dream come true. Is this the Dave Telep equivalent of seeing your name at the top of a recruiting list?

DT: The cool thing for me as the father of two boys is that I can someday look at those guys and say “if there’s something in your life that you really want to do, and you have the ability to, through hard work and luck and people helping you out, you can make that happen.” That’s been the neat thing for me with ESPN so far, just sharing and talking about it with my parents. You set these goals when you’re younger, and to see one of them come to fruition on a personal level is really cool. It’s not just a job for me. This is something I’ve always kinda had my eye on. I never knew what I would ever do at ESPN someday; I just knew that I always wanted to be around people who were excellent in their field. I knew from a young age that I would love to do that someday. This is definitely a dream come true for me.

RTC: Let’s move into some scouting questions.  Everyone has predictions from their career they’re proud of and a few they’re not quite as ready to shout from the hilltops. What are some of your most notable ones both ways?

DT: Great question. I was very excited the first time I saw Chris Paul, and I was happy to be one of the first people who spearheaded that charge. That worked out really well for me. You know, recently a couple of years ago we had DeJuan Blair in the top twenty, and the reason why I ranked Blair in the top twenty was because six or seven years before that I totally whiffed on Emeka Okafor by ranking him in the 80s. I was bound and determined that if a guy averaged as many rebounds as Blair did to not make the same mistake that we made with Okafor. I screwed up with Okafor but I’d like to think I learned something from it. Some others — I’ll never forget the day I saw Adam Morrison go for 30+ in a packed gym in Las Vegas, and I totally whiffed on that one. I learned a lot from the evaluation of Stephen Curry. I watched him all through high school. I evaluated him as a low-major player, a mid-major player, and at the end of his HS career, I rated him the highest level mid-major player possible. But if I could have stuck him into the top 100, that would probably be one of my bigger regrets in not doing so. My real job is to learn from all these mistakes and try to avoid them [in the future]. You see a situation like Emeka Okafor – he averaged 18-19 RPG in high school – that is a freaky number, to be frank. Then to see Blair come around and be that same kind of a rebounding force… they’re two different players, but although we screwed up Okafor it taught me a little more on the back end with Blair. When you see a guy with such a freakish skill set and such a knack for doing something extraordinary, your radar definitely goes up.

Telep Was Onto Chris Paul Before Anybody Else

RTC: You’ve talked in the past about ‘balancing potential with production’ when evaluating prospects. Which is harder – figuring out where a prospect can top out or figuring out where he will top out?

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Doc’s Kid to Duke: Austin Rivers Commits

Posted by rtmsf on September 30th, 2010

Big news on the recruiting front today, as the nation’s top player in the Class of 2011 according to Rivals.com has committed to Duke.  Austin Rivers, a 6’4 whirlwhind of a point guard and the son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc, made his decision on Wednesday night and informed coaches Bill Self and Roy Williams at his other two finalists, Kansas and UNC, this morning.  Rivers cancelled on-campus official visits with both schools, as UNC was set to welcome him with open arms this coming weekend and Kansas was scheduled for later in October.  If Rivers’ ranking holds through his senior season, he will be the first top overall recruit that Duke has inked since 2005 (Josh McRoberts) — let’s hope for Rivers’ sake that he turns out a little better in a Blue Devil uniform than McBob did. 

Nobody Should be Surprised at This Decision

It was an open secret that Coach K was considered the favorite to land Rivers, as he regularly was spotted sporting Duke gear in the last year or so (the above photo may or may not be real).  Krzyzewski certainly has plenty of success to hang his hat on, but we wonder if his “coolness” factor has translated better with the younger generation of recruits since he took on the reins as the head coach for the US National Team.  For better or worse, 16- and 17-year old basketball players are going to be more impressed by stories about coaching LeBron James and Kevin Durant in the Olympics than they are about seemingly-ancient tales regarding Christian Laettner and Grant Hill.  Rivers originally committed to home school Florida as a high school freshman when the Gators were still awash in the glow of back-to-back titles, but he re-opened his recruitment a year later and says that he fell in love with Duke during a visit there last fall.

Coach K’s greatest teams always have elite point guards, from Tommy Amaker in the 80s to Bobby Hurley in the early 90s to Jason Williams a decade ago.  While last year’s national champion Blue Devils assuredly had stellar point guard play from senior Jon Scheyer, he wasn’t the caliber of player of the others on this list.  This year’s incoming lead guard, Kyrie Irving, and presumably next year’s (Rivers), most certainly are.  In 1991, Duke won the national title somewhat accidentally; UNLV was far and away the best team (34-0 and defending champs), but the Devils caught the Runnin’ Rebs on the right night and ultimately cut down the nets “a year early.”  Their 1992 team was the dominant one, and it’s entirely possible that we could be looking at a similar situation for Coach K in 2011 and 2012.  So long as the Plumlees and Ryan Kelly can maintain the paint on defense and the boards, the next two years of Duke backcourts with Irving/Rivers, Nolan Smith (2011), Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins looks phenomenal.  Just imagine if Coach K can convince Irving that two seasons in Durham is a good thing — the 2011-12 backcourt of he and Rivers could be one of the most talented the game has ever seen.

Uber-recruiters Thad Matta, John Calipari, Roy Williams, Billy Donovan, Bill Self and others should be on notice — Coach K never really left the recruiting circuit, but with Irving and now Rivers coming to Durham, the 63-year old coach has once again served notice that he will continue to be reckoned with.

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Morning Five: 08.30.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 30th, 2010

  1. It’s been a rough summer for Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, and things haven’t gotten any better as we head into the upcoming Labor Day weekend.  Two players expected to contribute on the wing for the 2010-11 Cardinals will not be eligible.  The biggest hit comes in the form of Memphis transfer Roburt Sallie, who was attempting to take advantage of a transfer rule that allows a player to play immediately at his new school if he has already graduated and his school does not offer post-graduate training in his area of study (see: Alabama’s Justin Knox to UNC as but one example).  Well, Sallie failed to graduate from Memphis over the summer in time to enroll at Louisville, so he will not be allowed to utilize the rule.  Additionally, incoming freshman Justin Coleman, a top fifty scoring guard from Huntington, WV, is also ineligible.  Louisville clawed its way to a mediocre season by its lofty standards last year (20-13, 1st round NCAA loss), but frankly, we’re having trouble seeing how Pitino is going to coax his current roster back into the Big Dance.
  2. Meanwhile, a little farther east on the interstate, John Calipari continues to enjoy the Midas touch with his recruits.  Despite Mike Gilchrist’s tweeting about taking three official visits on Friday night, conventional wisdom is that he’s still strongly committed to Kentucky and will end up in Lexington a year from now.  On Saturday, UK received a commitment from another elite player in the Class of 2011, Kyle Wiltjer, a 6’9 forward from Oregon who proves that Calipari is keeping that Pacific Northwest pipeline greased and fertile.   Additionally, 6’11 transfer forward (and former Florida Gator) Eloy Vargas was declared eligible over the weekend and will have two seasons remaining with the Wildcats.  The only missing piece for Cal’s 2010-11 team remains the eligibility limbo that Enes Kanter is in over questions about his amateur status.  The way things are going in Lexington these days, expect him to be declared eligible by Midnight Madness.
  3. Ray Holloman at Fanhouse deconstructs the Big East’s decision to continue with the double-bye system for the top four seeds of the Big East Tournament.  The basic premise: the Big East is loaded in positions one through eight, much more so than any other conference.  No wonder the coaches unanimously voted for a sixteen-team bracket scenario — it gives those at the top an opportunity for an easy first-round win before getting down to serious business among the quarterfinal teams, most of whom are NCAA-caliber in a given year.  Great analysis.
  4. LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary (OH), Dru Joyce, stated late last week that Xavier University is now his “enemy,” and that the school would no longer be allowed to recruit his players after what he describes as the unnecessary pushing of one of his stars to a prep school for 2010-11.  JaKarr Sampson is a rising senior who shot up the summer recruiting rankings after a strong showing at LeBron’s Skills Academy, but according to his mother, it is she, not XU, who is responsible for sending her son to prep school Brewster Academy (NH) because of his lackluster academic record.  Weird situation, there.
  5. This BYU to the WAC or WCC thing is getting even more fascinating than we thought possible.  As the Salt Lake Tribune reported on Sunday, BYU is expected to announce complete independence in football and a move to one of the other “W” conferences in all other sports as soon as today.  The deadline that the school has to inform the Mountain West Conference if it plans to leave is Wednesday of this week, and all indications are that it will take that step despite the MWC’s counter-poach of two of the more valuable properties in the WAC, Fresno State and Nevada.  Open records requests revealed that “The Project” to target BYU was originally a WAC retaliatory measure for the MWC’s nabbing of Boise State during the early-summer conference realignment madness.  Ironically, Nevada president Milt Glick was the first person to use the code name to target BYU on the record, yet it was his school in Reno that jumped at the chance to join the MWC within mere hours of the offer.  Wild stuff going on out there in the Great Basin.
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Welcome, Dr. Emmert: Please Don’t Mess Up…

Posted by rtmsf on August 18th, 2010

Yesterday on Seattle radio station KJR, NCAA president-elect Mark Emmert gave an interview with host Mitch Levy where he discussed his thoughts on some of the hot-button topics impacting collegiate sports.  Dr. Emmert, who will assume his post on November 1 of this year, is currently the president of the University of Washington and the former Fulbright winner is widely recognized as one of the savviest up-and-comers in the world of academic administration.  His rise up the ranks from an assistant professor (Northern Illinois) to Vice-Chancellor (Colorado) to Provost (Montana State) to Chancellor (UConn and LSU) to President at UW is impressive on its face, and his skill at political maneuvering and fund-raising should be obvious.  The concern we have, however, in all situations where administrators move from an academic to an athletic environment is whether such a transition will be seamless — in other words, will that person “get it?”  The danger in the application of ivory tower customs and norms to the world of athletics is that you can find yourself in troublesome spots if you haven’t gauged the environment correctly, such as when Emmert badly overreached in asking for public funding for a new Husky Stadium in the midst of a massive nationwide recession.  While that example represents a single misstep in a career full of home runs, it gives us pause when taken in concert with the following quote he made on the KJR radio broadcast.  In discussing the much-maligned one-and-done rule in college basketball, Emmert said:

I much prefer the baseball model, for example, that allows a young person if they want to go play professional baseball, they can do it right out of high school, but once they start college they’ve got to play for three years or until they’re 21.  I like that a good deal.  But what you have to also recognize is that rule isn’t an NCAA rule.  That’s a rule of the NBA. And it’s not the NBA itself, but the NBA Players Association. So to change that rule will require me and others working with the NBA, working with the players association.  We’ll be having those conversations, because I think it would be good for young people and good for basketball.

Emmert Seems a Smart Fellow, But the MLB Model is a Mistake

Before we get to our argument against this idea, let’s briefly touch on the reality of this proposition.  You hear this frequently stated among coaches, fans and pundits, but what all of these folks fail to recognize is that the NBA wants nothing to do with this on either the management or the players’ side.  Commissioner David Stern and his owners do not want untested teenagers who are virtually complete unknowns coming into their league because they are unmarketable, while players do not want untested teenagers who are virtually complete unknowns coming into their league because they take away veterans’ jobs.  The NCAA acts as a veritable minor league for the NBA, providing a competitive environment to fully vet and scout players for at least a year before some 80-year old owner throws sixteen million dollars and the viable future of a franchise at them.  Think of it this way — were Washington Wizards fans more excited about #1 pick Kwame Brown (who nobody outside of rural Georgia had ever seen play) or #1 pick John Wall (who was on national television about 4,000 times last year)?  As a point of fact, the NBA powers-that-be seem more interested in extending the one-and-done rule by another year than rolling it back in any way.  And why not? — it’s better for business.

Now, as to Emmert’s proposal itself, we’re going to explain why this is not a preferred option without regard for what the NBA wants or will agree to.  The remainder of this post represents pure advocacy for the college game and the college game only.  We see three compelling reasons that the NCAA should not bother to explore this MLB model possibility, as tempting as it sounds to an educator/administrator such as Emmert.

What Say You, UK Fans? One Year of Wall or None of McGrady?

  1. The NCAA Needs Marketable Stars Nearly as Much as the NBA Does.  This is the dirty little secret of college basketball in the 21st century.  The hardcore fans of the elite programs at Duke, Kansas, UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana, et al, aren’t going anywhere.  These folks would watch their teams play if they suited up four skinny 12-year olds and a rented donkey.  But the casual fan won’t.  The casual fan wants to see star power, and he wants to learn who the next big basketball talents will be through the crucible of the best postseason in all of sports, the NCAA Tournament.  When players like Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, John Wall and many others are on college campuses building considerable buzz throughout the season and heading into March, this collective must-see component to the game takes on a much different meaning than when the player names are instead Jameer Nelson, JJ Redick, Adam Morrison and Tayshaun Prince.  All great collegians, but do you see the difference?   Who does Mr. Office Drone/Bracketeer tune in to watch more readily?  Furthermore, CBS/Turner Sports just signed a fourteen-year, $10.8B deal to broadcast the rights to the NCAA Tournament, in case you’d already forgotten, and there will be none-too-subtle pressure on the puppet-masters of the sport to ensure that the best possible product is placed on the floor.  For the maximum amount of interest to take hold, that product without question must include the top 18- and 19-year old basketball players in the world. 
  2. When High School Seniors Make Their Decisions, Coaches Bear the Brunt of It.  We talked about this back in June, and nothing has changed in the interim.  We saw what happened to recruiting from 1995-2005 when coaches had to compete not only against rival schools for the talents of a player, but also the siren call of the NBA.  Whether it was Kentucky and Tracy McGrady, Florida and Kwame Brown, Duke and Shaun Livingston, or North Carolina and JR Smith, the fans and (more directly) coaches of those programs where agonizingly forced to endure a late spring phone call to learn that, after many hours spent recruiting the player to their campuses, it was all for naught.  And those were the elite players!  Imagine the situations where the player was fully expected to go to college but still was lured away — Jackie Butler (Mississippi State), Ndubi Ebi (Arizona) and Louis Williams (Georgia) all come to mind.  How does a coach go about finding a suitable replacement for a star recruit so late into the signing period?  Short answer:  he can’t.  We certainly understand that it’s frustrating to a lot of people (coaches included) to have to lose a star player as a one-and-done, but to have spent the same amount of time recruiting him and not receive even a single season of his talents is far worse, isn’t it?  That’s what would happen if the MLB model were implemented — recruiting would once again become a two-phase process.   
  3. For Better or Worse, NCAA Basketball is the NBA’s Minor League.  It’s not the NBDL (although it has found a nice niche as a training ground for older players), and it’s not Europe (similarly).  Rather, college basketball remains the NBA’s minor league, and where the MLB example fails is that college baseball is not.  Each professional baseball franchise has several levels of minor league teams beneath it by which to develop its prospects, whether they come directly from high school or after three seasons of college.  This is a HUGE difference.  The reason is that, as Mark Stein notes in this article, the vast majority of prep-to-pros players during that ten-year period were nowhere near ready to impact the professional game on a regular basis, and there remains no true professional minor league in basketball available by which to develop them.  NCAA hoops is it.   The list of players who came right into the NBA and contributed immediately is much shorter (Dwight Howard, LeBron James) than the list of those who took a few years to develop (nearly everyone else, including superstars Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal and Amare’ Stoudemire).  If Mark Emmert is worried about the players (and his quote above seems to imply that he is), then he needs to push for an environment that will foster player development for the next level, in much the same way as he would inspire any student with soaring dreams.  This tact dovetails nicely with what we described above that college basketball should be selling — Watch the greatest sporting spectacle on earth — the NCAA Tournament — where the stars of tomorrow are on stage today. 

We obviously recognize that there are no easy answers here.  Any model implemented will have someone complaining.  But beginning in November, it will be the obligation of Emmert to push the game of college basketball forward in popularity and interest.  After all, NCAA Tournament dollars fund nearly the entire operation there in Indianapolis.  The way to do this is not to push college hoops down a path that makes it even more like college baseball, a sport that nobody cares about in large part because there is no direct connection between those players and the pros; but instead,  Emmert should work with the NBA to pursue a model more like college football, an incredibly popular sport where everyone knows that today’s Heisman Trophy candidates are tomorrow’s NFL all-Pros. 

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Adonis Thomas: Coming To A Couple Of Stations Near You

Posted by jstevrtc on August 16th, 2010

Remember MTV? It’s evidently still popular with the kids these days, not so much for the playing of actual music videos, but…wait a minute.  I’m getting ahead of myself.

Remember music videos?  Oh, forget it.  Suffice to say, there’s still this thing called MTV and they now play alleged reality shows as often as they used to play music videos (go look those up yourself), and have even made a few forays into the world of sports.  Soon, they’ll even have a hand in college basketball, or at least in the life one particular kid who will be playing it starting in the fall of 2011.

As reported by CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish last week, Melrose High School in Memphis — the high school of Adonis Thomas, a consensus top ten recruit in the class of 2011 — will be featured on an upcoming MTV reality series similar to the Two-A-Days series that chronicled the lives of those kids from high school football powerhouse Hoover High in Alabama. Shooting could begin as early as this week, and it’s said the show will focus on the battle of, as Parrish writes, “inner-city minorities trying to repeat as state champions.”

Hey, sounds good.  We’d tune in for that.  But we wonder if the upcoming MTV series might have also led to this:

That’s from Adonis’ Facebook page, as you can tell.  We’ve all seen kids announce final college choices on ESPN-U before, so that’s nothing new.  We enjoy those a lot — almost as much as we enjoyed the eloquent invitation on Thomas’ page for him to stay at home and play at Memphis by the inarguably well-dressed Charles Sims, Jr.  But an ESPN-U appearance to announce a final list of colleges?  Is this something we should all be getting behind?

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Morning Five: 08.12.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 12th, 2010

  1. Nothing is ever easy with this guy, who now may hold the honor for the longest short consultancy in the history of professional basketball.  Isiah Thomas announced on Wednesday that he would rescind his new contract with the New York Knicks, largely to avoid the conflict of interest inherent in coaching collegiate players while working for an NBA franchise.  Getting bored yet, Isiah?
  2. You may not be able to see LeBron James there anymore on a regular basis, but you can still see the MAC Tournament at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena.  The league announced yesterday that the tourney will be held there through 2017.  MAC faithful are no strangers to the venue, as the league has already held its marquee event there since 2000.  For a look at how the MAC looks heading into the 2010-11 season, check out our Summer School post on the league from this week.
  3. The UNC reclamation project began last night in Nassau, Bahamas, as Roy Williams’ team played its first of a two-game set in the Caribbean paradise.  The early return on #1 recruit Harrison Barnes — 21/8 on 8-15 shooting in 29 minutes of action.  He also fouled out of the game, so that’s something to watch in the coming months.
  4. Former Arkansas star Scotty Thurman joins his fellow Hawg All-American Corliss Williamson in taking up the coaching reins this summer.  Thurman is joining John Pelphrey’s staff at Arkansas just months after Williamson became the spanking-new head coach at Central Arkansas.  If either of those  nascent coaches can instill the all-out effort and tenacity in their kids that they both played with as Razorbacks, expect both to be very successful in this next step of their careers.
  5. Kansas State’s Frank Martin got philosophical yesterday during a motivational speech for Wichita-area teachers when talking about whether kids have changed from previous generations.  His essential take:  kids haven’t changed, but the expectations from adults for them has.  Check out the entire clip below…
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