Morning Five: 07.19.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 19th, 2012

  1. Breaking news from the absolutely-no-surprise department, but a couple of days after the Big East announced that it had reached a $7.5 million buyout deal with Syracuse to allow the Orange program to alight for the ACC in July 2013, Pittsburgh followed suit. Even better, the Panthers got the exact same buyout deal of $7.5 million to transfer its conference allegiance to Greensboro instead of Providence. The ACC and the Big East will certainly look very different as basketball leagues starting in 2013-14, but with a total of five schools consisting of two of its best football (Miami and Virginia Tech) and basketball programs (Syracuse and Pittsburgh) now having left, is it safe to say that the battle for east coast college sports dominance has finally been won?
  2. With the geographic and metaphysical heart of the Big East slowly moving south and west with its own expansion efforts, one of its new basketball-centric schools is in the midst of a local scheduling controversy. According to’s Gary Parrish, Ole Miss recently announced a combined football and basketball agreement to play regional rival Memphis, but Tigers head coach Josh Pastner apparently has not received that memo. According to the Memphis side of things, the agreement in place refers to a football series only, with the squishy caveat that the two schools will “talk” about resuming a basketball series. In terms of value-add, a home Memphis football game versus Ole Miss is worth considerably more (both financially as well as in perceived status) than a home Ole Miss basketball game versus Memphis, which is why despite Pastner’s protestations, we’d expect to see what should be an interesting series take place on the hardwood sometime soon.
  3. Back to the actual players rather than the legal and political wrangling of their schools, Duke’s Mason Plumlee certainly didn’t expect to be spending the summer after his junior year prepping for another season in Durham. Certainly not last offseason, when he told everyone around him that his 2011-12 year would be his last in Durham. And certainly not three years ago when he figured he was a surefire one-and-done candidate along with his peers John Wall, Derrick Favors, Xavier Henry, and the rest. As Jeff Goodman writes, the middle Plumlee who never thought he’d become a four-year Blue Devil is prepared for his senior season as the captain and leader of the team — we’re guessing in 30 years when he reflects back on this time at Duke he’ll have no regrets for sticking around campus four years.
  4. For those of us who follow the game closely, Northwestern‘s decades of futility in reaching the NCAA Tournament has become the standard by which all other failures is measured. If you need a reminder, the Wildcats are currently oh-for-74 in reaching the Big Dance, which is particularly astonishing when you consider that the Wildcats play in an elite basketball conference where more than half the teams in the league have a reasonable shot at the NCAAs in any given year. Dime Magazine has put together a nice piece discussing not only the ‘streak,’ but the chances for the 2012-13 team to finally break it in its 75th opportunity. It says here that next season is the year… and if you believe that, it’s also looking like a World Series on the North Shore in 2012.
  5. Luke Winn checks in this week with an analysis of something on which everyone in the industry seems to have an opinion — transfers. Winn is known for his columns heavily based on quantitative analysis, but in this article he shows his chops for a bit of qualitative work. He clearly shows that the phenomenon of what he calls “up-transfers” — players looking for opportunities at better schools — has risen significantly in the past few years. As an example, from 2007-11 there were 27 up-transfers in college basketball; in just 2012-13, there will be 25 more, and there are already 16 more pending in 2013-14. As Winn notes, the prospect of players bettering their situations isn’t necessarily a bad trend, but it also provides an increased likelihood of bigger programs tampering with and ultimately poaching disaffected players at lower-level schools. Something to keep an eye on.
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Morning Five: 06.08.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 8th, 2012

  1. released its list of the top 10 coaching jobs in college basketball yesterday. This article was a capstone piece to a week’s worth of solid analysis evaluating the best-to-worst coaching jobs in each of the six power conferences, and the overall best/worst mid-major positions as well. Just over a year ago we did a similar analysis here at RTC, ranking the top 20 coaching jobs at the time, using the general criteria of attractiveness of the position to potential suitors. This is a bit of a flash point to many fans of top programs who generally go through life with the attitude of ‘what’s not to like?’ without considering that choosing among the elite schools is a bit like dating Miss America candidates. To paraphrase a line from Garrison Keillor, everyone is above average — the differences are really at the margins. With that said, we believe that ESPN is seriously underrating Duke in terms of its job attractiveness. We understand the point about Coach K as the heart and soul of the program, but that doesn’t make the job any less enticing. What K has built there over three decades is a brand synonymous with elite college basketball — this indisputable fact alone makes the job better than the sixth best in the country. At worst, Duke should be listed as third behind Kentucky and North Carolina; but behind Indiana? Now, that’s just silly.
  2. Earlier this week we learned that Mark Madsen is headed back to the college basketball world to join Johnny Dawkins’ staff as a new assistant coach at Stanford. Mad Dog led the Cardinal to its last Final Four in 1998, and won two NBA titles as a benchwarmer with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001 and 2002. The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg caught up with Madsen on Wednesday and published this entertaining interview that discusses such disparate topics as his world championship dance moves, recruiting, and the Zen Master, Phil Jackson.
  3. Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes was one of the best surprises of the 2011-12 conference season, quite literally walking from high school on to the Volunteers’ roster at midseason and immediately becoming the team’s best player in a matter of weeks. This week, he and 22 of his fellow 18-and-under friends are competing for 12 spots on the Team USA Under-18 national team, and his experience of playing in a major collegiate environment for half a season gives him a distinct advantage over the others (all of whom are either still in high school or just graduating). Mike DeCourcy writes that the powerful young player is clearly a “star in the making” for Tennessee, and the additional experience he gains this summer will no doubt give him even more of a leg up on the rest of his contemporaries who have never seen the speed of high D-I basketball.
  4. Luke Winn had better step away from the excel spreadsheets for a while to get ready for the London Olympics next month, because when he starts writing columns about the Herfindahl Index (HHI) to explain trends in college basketball, we know that he’s gone certifiable. It’s certainly not that it doesn’t make any sense — it certainly does — it’s just that we’re worried about the guy. Regardless of his mental health, the HHI is a business analytical tool that typically measures market share concentration, but Winn uses it in his latest column to study offensive balance among national championship teams over the last 16 seasons. Perhaps the most interesting finding from his analysis was that the two Kentucky champions covered in this period (1998 and 2012) also happened to be the most balanced teams of the era — a quirky truth separated by 14 years, a couple of coaches, and quite a bit of talent and experience. Interesting post.
  5. Is NCAA head honcho Mark Emmert on the way out? Sports by Brooks reported on Thursday that it had information on good authority that Emmert was in discussions with LSU (where he served as their chancellor a decade ago) to become a combined president/chancellor with considerable power and prestige under the new position. Emmert, through a spokesman, called the report “complete nonsense,” but it brings up an interesting thought that the pull to become a president of a major state university could be considered a step up from the presidency of the NCAA. We have to admit some ignorance on this point, but LSU isn’t Michigan, and we would think that as president of an organization with a billion dollar budget the likes of the NCAA would be a better gig than whatever Baton Rouge might offer, but maybe we’re just admittedly out of touch on this point. It’ll be interesting to see regardless of whether there’s any fire with this smoke.
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Morning Five: 05.04.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 4th, 2012

  1. In just the last three days, the Atlantic 10 has added Butler, the Mountain West has eviscerated the WAC with its additions of San Jose State and Utah State, and now Conference USA has finished it off as a major conference by grabbing Louisiana Tech to go along with the A-10’s Charlotte and the Sun Belt’s North Texas and FIU. There will be a quiz on all of these moves in mid-August. What does this mean from a college basketball perspective? Probably not much. Neither Charlotte nor Louisiana Tech have been relevant in a long time, and although North Texas made the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and 2010, winning in the Sun Belt is less challenging than it will be dealing with UTEP, Tulsa, Southern Miss, and UAB in a revamped Conference USA.
  2. A little under two years ago we touched on an ESPN story about a high school basketball player named Jerry Joseph who may have actually been a 22-year old named Guerdwich Montimere. It was a bizarre story at the time, and it got only weirder as ultimately Joseph/Montimere was convicted and sent to prison for sexual assault on an underage high school student and tampering with government records. In a recent column for ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Wright Thompson attempted to connect all the dots of the saga in a meaningful way, putting a story behind the story of a wayward young man who no doubt got lost in the hype and fame of being the big man on campus. Great read.
  3. Illinois fans caught a glimpse into the mind of one of their incoming transfers when Sam McLaurin, a senior at Coastal Carolina who will take advantage of the one-year graduate school exception, announced (via Twitter, of course) “F— it im going to Illinois #illinination” on Thursday afternoon. McLaurin, a 6’10” power forward who averaged 10/8 last season, will provide some additional frontcourt depth in the wake of Meyers Leonard’s departure to the NBA. He later apologized for his choice of words (“Hey everyone sorry about my language last night. I was just extremely excited to be apart of #illinination”), but we doubt anyone from Waukegan to Carbondale will care much so long as he can bring his numbers every night next season.
  4. In one of the stupider bits of news to come out of our game this offseason (and there are plenty of candidates), Kentucky and Indiana have apparently decided to not renew its annual rivalry that dates back a half-century. The crux of the issue appears to be that UK wanted to move the series back to a rotating neutral site arrangement (likely splitting time between Indianapolis and Louisville, as it did from 1991-2005), while IU insisted on keeping the home-and-home series that had been in effect for the last seven years (and, of course, prior to 1991). If you read the tea leaves, and Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart suggests as much, it was John Calipari not “thrilled about going back to Bloomington” that appears to be driving this ridiculous decision. Look — we understand that a national championship coach typically gets what he wants when he wants it, but as Andy Glockner argues very well in this piece, that doesn’t mean that he’s right for wanting it. College basketball loses when rivalries like these end, and this is especially true now that IU under Tom Crean appears to finally be coming back around. Fix it.
  5. What’s this, a MAY version of Luke Winn‘s Power Rankings? That’s right, now that the NBA Draft deadline has passed and we have a better sense of where the top recruits are headed next season, Winn put together a list of 16 teams that mimics the RTC Top 25 (released Tuesday) at the very top, but has some significant differences with respect to where we ranked schools such as Syracuse, Michigan State, and Arizona. As always, you’ll learn quite a few things that you didn’t already know about people, places and things surrounding the game, so make sure to check it out before you head into the weekend.
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Morning Five: 05.03.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 3rd, 2012

  1. Round and round and round we go… coming on the heels of Tuesday’s announcement that Butler will join the Atlantic 10 beginning in the 2013-14 season, the Mountain West leaked on Wednesday that Utah State and San Jose State are set to join its ranks on Friday of this week. While bolstering the MW in light of its pending losses of TCU, San Diego State and Boise State, this move may effectively finish off the WAC, a high-mid major conference with just shy of 50 years of history behind it. The league may be left with only two football-playing members (New Mexico State and Idaho) and it appears that the remaining schools are likewise off to greener pastures. Such is the natural consequence of every school acting in its own self-interest.
  2. While on the subject of conference realignment, everyone has had a little time to digest the Butler move to the Atlantic 10 by now, and Luke Winn writes that much of the media got it wrong in suggesting that the “Butler Way” will need to change in order for the Bulldogs to find success in their new conference. His argument makes total sense — while the Atlantic 10 as a whole is a clearly better league than the Horizon, it’s really only better at the top. Now, instead of having to rely on non-conference play to build its overall NCAA resume, the Bulldogs will have enough games against the likes of Xavier, Dayton, Richmond, St. Louis, et al, by which to impress the selection committee. As Winn notes, efficiency metrics suggest that Butler would have finished in one of the top two positions of the A-10 standings in five of the last six years, and while those metrics don’t actually play the games, there’s not a compelling piece of evidence we’ve yet seen that would suggest Brad Stevens or Butler will have trouble in their new league.
  3. The 2012 Jimmy V Classic matchups were announced on Wednesday and the event will have a decidedly nostalgic feel next season in Madison Square Garden. The school where Jim Valvano became famous, NC State, will headline with its strong squad heading to New York to face Connecticut, while Texas and Georgetown will play in the other game. It’s only been 31 days since we last saw a college basketball game tip off, but simply reading about these matchups has already caused a marked increase in our heart rate and blood pressure.
  4. The 2012-13 version of ESPN Gameday will have a decidedly lower pitch next season, as the hyena-like laughter of Hubert Davis will no longer be a regular part of the show. Davis has agreed to take Jerod Haase’s open assistant coaching spot at his alma mater, North Carolina, after Haase decided to accept the head job at UAB last month. Roy Williams noted in previous comments about the position that a number of his former players were interested in the spot on his bench, and although Davis never played for the Kansas/UNC coach, his claim that the new assistant would have Carolina ties was clearly a factual statement. At the ripe age of 41, Davis is getting into the collegiate coaching game a bit late, but he’s certainly well connected and could use his seven years as an ESPN personality to help with recruiting and name recognition.
  5. Stanford’s basketball program may not be among the elite, but we’re becoming increasingly convinced that the university through its deep connections with tech giants such as Google and Facebook is well on its way to taking over the world, one terabyte at a time. In the Moneyball world of sports analytics, a Stanford senior named Muthu Alagappan recently developed an entirely new (and award-winning) way of looking at positions in basketball, based on the actual production of NBA players regardless of size or favored spots on the floor. Using data visualization techniques, he came up with 13 basketball positions with such descriptive names like the “Defensive Ball-Handler,” the “Paint Protector,” and the “One-of-a-Kind.” By grouping players into similar buckets and showing how they interact in a visual way, the concept is that value between similarly situated players will be easier to discern and effective balance between players on a team will be more easily achieved. It’s really interesting stuff — if you want to see the entire presentation, click over here.
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Morning Five: 04.27.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 27th, 2012

  1. Yesterday we mentioned that Luke Winn had written a piece handing out eight different coaching awards based on efficiency metrics from the entire season. His follow-up article published on Thursday broke down six more awards based on the data from the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Several of the usual suspects populate this list, but you might be surprised at which head coach had the best after-timeout numbers in the Dance this year — he’s widely considered a very good coach, but probably not to the extent he deserves.
  2. Assistant coaches around the country must have thrown up in their mouths Thursday after it was reported that Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich would leave his position to become a “coach-in-waiting” at SMU under new top man Larry Brown. The reported salary that Jankovich will earn while he waits for the itinerant 71-year old to get bored and retire again is over $700,000 per year, nearly double his pay at ISU. Jankovich went 104-64 (.619) in five seasons as a Redbird but despite four 20-wins seasons, he never broke through to the NCAA Tournament there (settling for four NIT appearances instead). The sound that you now hear murmuring in the background is the collective scrum by the nation’s top assistants clamoring to renegotiate their compensation packages. Wow.
  3. It’s the offseason and although we’re still only about three weeks removed from the national championship game, some of the key questions heading into the 2012-13 season are already apparent. In this piece by Mike DeCourcy, you get a double-dip of the Cincinnati Kid (replete with goatee) through both his writing and a video clip discussion of some of those issues. Will UCLA improve its defense with their additions? Can Louisville find a reliable shot-maker? Can Thad Matta find someone to replace Jared Sullinger in the post? These and a couple other answers await if you click on over to TSN.
  4. Roy Williams did a Q&A with UNC fans in Charlotte on Wednesday night, leading to some interesting comments from the venerable coach who is heading into his 10th full season as the head coach of the Tar Heels. Of note: his team considered cutting down the nets in Cameron Indoor Stadium after winning the ACC regular season title, but thought that such a display “might cause a scene” (ya think?); recruiting the Wear Twins over Mason Plumlee was “one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done” (um…); and he has not completely bought into the 1-and-done methodology for winning a championship, making “some decisions over the last four or five years to not recruit certain kids, because it’s just going to be a one and done” (hey, John Wall).
  5. Finally, we’d be remiss as we close out this week if we didn’t at least mention the strong possibility that the BCS will move away from its incomprehensible system of choosing a football national champion and finally, inexorably, move toward a four-team playoff system beginning in 2014. There aren’t many policy decisions in public life that are complete no-brainers, but this is one of them. A decade from now people will mostly wonder why such an elementary solution to a complex problem took so long to implement. They’ll find the answer in the pocketbooks and vacation homes of bowl executives, but once January Madness takes hold and they realize that the real dollars lie in capturing casual fans (see: Bowl, Super), they too will realize the error of their ways. Congrats to our college football brethren for finally joining the 20th century.
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Morning Five: 04.26.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 26th, 2012

  1. Kermit Davis, the head coach of Middle Tennessee State for the last decade, parlayed an offer to become the new top guy at Southern Miss into an opportunity to secure himself a nice extension at his current school. Proving the old adage that you’re only as valuable as what someone will pay for your services, Davis’ cachet on the MTSU campus increased significantly more in the last 24 hours than it did over the course of all 27 of those wins for the Blue Raiders last year. Middle Tennessee expects to return nine of its top 10 players from a team that won the Sun Belt regular season going away and reached the NIT quarterfinals in the postseason.
  2. In yesterday’s M5 we talked about the possibility of Indiana legend Calbert Cheaney joining Tom Crean’s staff as an associate coach if he decides to take the promotion. On Wednesday another college hoops legend from the early 1990s agreed to a promotion to the coaching ranks, as Wake Forest’s Randolph Childress will become the Demon Deacons’ new Director of Player Development. After a long career in the NBA and Europe that ended in 2011, Childress returned to his alma mater last year to work as AD Ron Wellman’s assistant. Perhaps this move will help head coach Jeff Bzdelik revive a moribund program that has never truly recovered from Skip Prosser’s tragic death in 2007.
  3. One of the hardest luck stories from Louisville’s surprising run to the Final Four last season was that redshirt junior forward Jared Swopshire was clearly nowhere near the player he was prior to groin surgery in early 2011. He played 13.4 minutes per game in all but one of Louisville’s 40 contests last year, but his averages of 3.3 PPG and 2.8 RPG were well off his numbers two years ago when he was a regular starter. With Swopshire due to graduate this year and Louisville choosing to move on, Northwestern formally announced on Wednesday that Swopshire will transfer there for his fourth and final season of eligibility. As the Wildcats make their annual attempt to sneak into the NCAA Tournament in 2012-13, having a still-athletic and experienced forward like Swopshire on the front line to battle Big Ten foes will come in quite handy.
  4. You don’t see many longer-form articles like this piece from Jason King at at this time of year, but his article discussing how coaches such as Brad Stevens, Shaka Smart, Gregg Marshall, Dan Monson and others have found happiness at their mid-major oases is a good one. One of the key differences of course is that those particular programs have made financial and resource commitments that — even if not apples-to-apples with power conference schools — at least make those programs competitive with the big boys. There’s a huge difference between a Butler and a Duke, for example, in terms of basketball facilities, fan base, and the rest; but is there that much of a competitive advantage for a school like Iowa over Butler by virtue of its membership in the Big Ten? Probably not.
  5. While on the subject of coaches in this heavily-themed M5, Luke Winn brings us his first-ever Data-Based Coaching Awards, a compendium of prizes given in a variety of efficiency-based categories. The categories range from such specific metrics as the “After-Timeout Efficiency King” to “Most Success With the Least Experience,” and there is a mishmash of predictable and interesting results. We won’t give it away here, but three of the eight awards listed in this piece went to the same guy and you probably already know who that is. Winn promises us even more data-based coaching awards later today with a focus on the NCAA Tournament alone. Can’t wait.
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Morning Five: 02.03.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 3rd, 2012

  1. We suppose that we should recognize that there’s a football game going on this weekend in Indianapolis that involves a couple of well-known quarterbacks. It should come as no surprise that Las Vegas sports gambling establishments are offering all kinds of ridiculous prop bets on the Sunday evening Super Bowl, but as The Dagger’s Ryan Greene writes in this piece, there are an interesting array of crossover props available that institute both this weekend’s college basketball action as well as the NFL championship. That’s right, if you are inclined to pick between Northwestern star John Shurna’s combined points and rebounds vs. Tom Brady’s number of completions or any number of other crazy wagers, Vegas invites you to come on down and give them some of your money.
  2. It’s not every day that you’ll read an article that compares the New York Times and Deadspin in the same sentence, but this piece by Dave Pickle at the NCAA does exactly such a thing. Feeling a need to respond to an onslaught of negative reporting from the Times’ Joe Nocera, the NCAA is fighting back using its own media platform. We read the original pieces that Nocera wrote regarding Connecticut’s Ryan Boatright, but he’s moved well beyond that criticism into other areas including the right to privacy and other associated injustices that he accuses the NCAA of perpetrating. The organization has responded in kind by accusing Nocera of an inherent conflict-of-interest (his fiancee’ is the communications director for a law firm suing the NCAA on the “likeness” issue) and bringing up a prior rebuke for calling Tea Party members “terrorists.” We certainly appreciate the interest that Nocera has taken in the inner workings of the NCAA, but we’d prefer if there were more news organizations asking similar questions on multiple fronts so that the one-man crusade aspect of this would disappear.
  3. A bit of recruiting news beyond Nerlens Noel on Thursday — the Jordan Brand Classic rosters were announced for the April 14 game in Charlotte, and seven of the top 10 players according to Rivals will be on the rosters. Noel himself will not be there because he did not reclassify to the Class of 2012 in time for consideration, but somehow we don’t think that will affect his hyper-recruitment in the next couple of months. The West team will be comprised of consensus #1 player Shabazz Muhammad (undecided) along with “forward Brandon Ashley (Arizona), center Isaiah Austin (Baylor), forward Anthony Bennett (undecided), wing Archie Goodwin (Kentucky), wing Danuel House (Houston), wing Grant Jerrett (Arizona), guard Marcus Paige (North Carolina), wing Alex Poythress (Kentucky) and guard Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke).” The East team will consist of UCLA recruit Kyle Anderson, “guard Kris Dunn (Providence), wing Jerami Grant (Syracuse), guard Garry Harris (Michigan State), forward Brice Johnson (North Carolina), wing Ricardo Ledo (Providence), center Tony Parker (undecided), guard Rodney Purvis (N.C. State), center Kaleb Tarczewski (Arizona) and wing J.P. Tokoto (North Carolina).”
  4. This story doesn’t involve Division I basketball, but it’s scary enough to be newsworthy. A charter bus from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, carrying the men’s and women’s basketball teams (the ‘Roos) caught fire during the trip to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday forcing both teams to evacuate the bus to get to safety. One athlete was provided medical treatment for smoke inhalation, but the remainder of the traveling party was able to transfer to another bus and move on to its road trip to Colorado. Still, a harrowing situation that luckily didn’t involve anything more serious than that.
  5. It’s Friday, which means that Luke Winn‘s latest and greatest Power Rankings came out yesterday. In this week’s column, you’ll learn which of the elite teams in America has the most balanced offense (hint: it’s not a school near Lake Oneida), Ricardo “Right Hook” Ratliffe’s offensive tendencies, a titillating teaser for more defensive charting on Syraucse, and even a reference to St. Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova’s mouthguard. Read it. In case that doesn’t provide you enough hoops analysis for one morning, Seth Davis also released a new Mailbag, which features an analysis of all the unbeaten conference teams’ chances for an at-large bid. Compelling stuff, as always.
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Morning Five: 01.27.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 27th, 2012

  1. We all love college basketball — otherwise, you’re not reading this sentence and we’re not writing it. But do you ever wonder how the game matches up against the rest of the major American sports in terms of its popularity? Luckily for us, the Harris Poll annually measures exactly that thing, publishing its results in Sports Business Daily.The methodology of this poll is not all that sophisticated — the one question asked of 2,237 adults was to name their favorite US sport — but if you buy what they’re selling, college hoops at 5% is roughly equal in popularity to the NBA (5%), but is far behind the sporting goliath known as the NFL (36%) and has some ground to make up on MLB (13%), college football (13%), and NASCAR (8%). Since Harris didn’t ask people to list, for example, their top five favorites in popularity, it’s not really a true approximation of the sport’s popularity, but it’s worth noting nevertheless.
  2. In this interview with Gene Wojciechowski about his new book, The Last Great Game: Duke vs. Kentucky and the 2.1 Seconds That Changed Basketball, here is his answer as to why the Elite Eight battle between the two titan programs was so epic: “Because it was Kentucky vs. Duke, Pitino vs. Krzyzewski, the soon-to-be-called Unforgettables vs. the virtually unbeatables of Duke. Because the game was played at an incredibly high level from start to finish. Because it went to overtime. Because you need a calculator to add all the great shots down the stretch and during OT. Because a Final Four was at stake. Because Kentucky was back from the near-dead and Duke was going for dynasty status.” Yep, that pretty much sums it up, with one additional caveat: David vs. Goliath — Kentucky wasn’t given a chance by anybody to win that game. Young folks, here’s your assignment: Read Wojciechowski’s book, then re-watch the game from start to finish. After that, if you can make an argument for a more compelling game in the last 35 years of college basketball, let us know.
  3. Player quote of the year? NC State got pummeled by North Carolina last night in Chapel Hill, the eleventh loss in a row for the Wolfpack to its hated rival a few miles up the road. After the game, NCSU junior Scott Wood (0-5 himself) expressed his frustration with continually losing to the Heels with a rather vivid analogy: “I don’t know. Has your wife ever cheated on you… (pause)… that’s probably how frustrated it would be.” We cannot speak from experience, but we’d imagine that Wood is suggesting a level of frustration suitable for medication. The Heels will pay NC State a return visit to Raleigh on February 21 — maybe by then Wood will have been re-educated by NC State brass to not actually speak his mind in public (although we appreciate the honesty, frankly).
  4. One of the chic picks for an upset this weekend is Iowa State hosting Kansas at Hilton Coliseum in Ames Saturday. With the Cyclones currently at 4-3 in the Big 12 race with wins at home already over Texas and Oklahoma State, it’s certainly a reasonable choice. If Iowa State manages to pull off the shocker, there’s no doubt that its big man, Royce White, will play a major role in the win. Myron Medcalf writes that the huge space-eater in the paint is dominating this season after a long layoff in large part because he’s learned to handle the anxiety that has at times caused him severe emotional problems in the past. It’s a very enlightening read, and for a player whose problems have inspired more ridicule than sympathy, perhaps provides some context to many of the negative stories surrounding this kid.
  5. It’s Friday which means that Luke Winn‘s power rankings are out for this week. A few of teaser jewels from this version: Kentucky may not be the best defensive team in the SEC, much less the nation; Missouri’s Ricardo Ratliffe is nothing if not consistent; Nike’s new uniforms are not only spacey but can elicit “super-sick dunks”; and, Vegas isn’t as smart as everybody thinks it is (well, at least when it comes to San Diego State’s travel woes). Enjoy.
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Big East Morning Five: 01.05.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 5th, 2012

  1. After some debate about who would start in place of injured center Chris Otule, Marquette coach Buzz Williams went with Jamil Wilson in lieu of Davante Gardner. But in the end, Gardner played 31 minutes and Wilson played just 14, and none of it mattered because neither made a big enough impact to stop Georgetown from rallying from a 14-point deficit at halftime to stun the Golden Eagles in a marquee early season conference match-up. Wilson finished with just four points and two rebounds while Gardner managed 11 points and four rebounds as Marquette lost its second straight game.  They did a good job containing the Hoyas’ underrated frontcourt, but it was Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson as usual who made the difference in the end. This would have been an excellent road win for the Golden Eagles, but alas, that will have to come from somewhere else.
  2. It isn’t every day that high-profile basketball coaches speak with true candor, but I guess when you are Villanova coach Jay Wright, and your team is 7-7 and in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in eight seasons, you don’t really have to worry about sugar-coating anything. Wright placed the blame for his team’s slow start squarely on himself and the rest of the Wildcats’ coaching staff, but he surprisingly lamented the loss of some of the team’s recent transfers, even going as far as to single out Taylor King and Malcolm Grant by name. The reason these players got their names in the newspaper was because Wright correctly thinks that his team is lacking leadership and toughness. They are also — at least according to KenPom — lacking in defense (#113 in Adjusted Defense ), creation of turnovers (#327 in defensive turnover percentage), and luck (#329), but who’s counting anyways? The point is, the program has fallen on hard times at least for the time being. There is no reason to believe that the Wildcats will stay down given Wright’s recruiting and coaching ability, but Villanova fans might want to start looking forward to next year rather than hoping for a miraculous turnaround in this one.
  3. One of Sports Illustrated‘s finest, Luke Winn, took the changing of the calendar to reflect on a few of his preseason predictions, including one that pegged Syracuse, Louisville, UConn, and Pittsburgh as the top four teams, and a severe drop-off after that. It’s hard not to agree with thoughts like Syracuse being the conference’s best team by a wide margin, and that the conference’s middle teams are as “soft” as they have been in a long time. I still think Louisville, despite its offensive struggles, will be a Top-10 team at the end of the year and UConn has a great chance to be in the mix as well. As for Pittsburgh, well, let’s just say that until they learn how to stop anybody, they look as soft as the rest.
  4. Yearning for more X’s and O’s links, well you are in luck, because The Mikan Drill broke down Pittsburgh‘s effective fast break and gave senior forward Nasir Robinson some high praise for his basketball IQ in the process. Much like Brad Wanamaker was last year for the Panthers, Robinson is a tough but versatile player who provides leadership, intelligence, and attitude for a team still finding its identity. I will leave the film breakdown to the more experienced, I just agreed that Robinson deserved some credit for his play and felt like highlighting it and probably will again in this space.
  5. Excellent piece recently in The Chicago Tribune about DePaul sophomore Cleveland Melvin and his journey to the Chicago after growing up on the rugged streets of East Baltimore. Melvin, the team’s leading scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker, was the lone bright spot (23 points and eight rebounds) for the Blue Demons in their conference-opening loss to Syracuse. He will likely play another big role tomorrow night when DePaul looks to upset Pitt. In fact, I am calling it here early, I think DePaul, playing at home, against a struggling team that still doesn’t have the services of a healthy Tray Woodall, will pull off the upset tomorrow night. Of course it is just as likely that Pitt’s offense is too much for DePaul’s bad defense, even without Woodall, and this game turns into a blowout. But I will take the Blue Demons in this one.
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Morning Five: 12.15.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2011

  1. In a recent interview with a local radio station, Purdue coach Matt Painter had some interesting things to say about last weekend’s Xavier-Cincinnati brawl. He laid a considerable amount of blame on the officials working the game for allowing things to escalate to the point of on-court mayhem (“experienced officials and guys who have control of games, they handle it, take care of it early and it’s not an issue […] to me, it was avoidable.”), but he also took some candid shots at XU’s players for their physical style of play and running mouths. “Right away, from watching film, they talk. They talk a lot. That was one of the first things we talked about in the scouting report (to our players) was don’t get caught up in that. In the game, I’m talking to officials about their guys coming running on the court and (bumping into, pushing) our guys coming off a time out and the referees look at me like I’m crazy. I go back and watch the film, and it’s easy to see and they just ignored it.” Cincinnati has rightfully taken the brunt of this week’s criticism for its role in the brawl, and much of the associated vitriol with UC well predates the Mick Cronin era, but if you listen to Painter, maybe fans and media should take a closer look at how the Musketeers are composing themselves on the court too.
  2. Well, at least he didn’t shove a guy to the ground, instigate a full-on brawl between two teams, and subsequently refer to his squad as a bunch of ‘gangstas’ and talk about ‘zip[ping] ’em up” when discussing the other team. No, New Mexico State guard Christian Kabongo (cousin of more-heralded Myck, at Texas), is guilty of grabbing his crotch area twice during a recent game against UTEP and has been suspended indefinitely as a result of his transgression. Kabongo is a significant loss to the Aggies, even in the short term, as he brings averages of 16/4/4 APG to the table for Marvin Menzies’ team. Just imagine how long he’d have to sit out if he was any better.
  3. With news Wednesday that the Hamilton County (OH) prosecutor will not pursue criminal charges stemming from last weekend’s brawl between Cincinnati and Xavier, it appears that we’re finally putting this ugly incident behind us. Had charges been filed, they would have most likely come against Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj for their respective punch and stomp to the face/head of Xavier center Kenny Frease. But prosecutor Joe Deters (a law enforcement name if ever there was one) said that he was satisfied that Frease’s recent outreach to Gates was met with a subsequent apology and, among other factors, his mea culpa contributed to Deters’ decision to not pursue the case. Historically speaking, US criminal law as a general rule has shied away from imposing jurisdiction on athletes during the bounds of competition, but there have been some precedents, particularly in the NHL, where that is not the case.
  4. While on the subject of legality, the NCAA‘s new rule allowing conferences to offer $2,000 stipends to next year’s recruits is in jeopardy after 97 of the 345 Division I institutions have signed a petition that will force the organization into a reconsideration of the measure at its upcoming January meetings. If 28 more schools sign the petition in the next 11 days to get to 125 institutions, then the legislation will be automatically suspended until further review or modification. Perhaps unsurprisingly, much of the support for rescission is reportedly coming from the non-BCS football schools whose budgets are far below its peers who can better afford up to a $2 million annual price tag for its scholarship athletes. As we wrote a couple of months ago when this news first came out, “this policy initiative could be another step toward the permanent stratification of college basketball between the haves and have-nots.” This petition to the NCAA from the have-nots clearly bears this out. If you’re interested in more analysis on this topic, USA Today‘s Christine Brennan skewers the idea in her commentary published Wednesday.
  5. SI writers Seth Davis and Luke Winn are going a little crazy with the “breakout” players angle this month. Recall that last week Davis published his list of 10 breakout sophomores; this week he’s decided to give us his list of eight breakout juniors (plus a mailbag). Not to be outdone, Winn comes correct with his list of five breakout seniors! If we see an article on breakout graduate students next week, we’re coming to the Sports Illustrated offices and with a sole intent of burning the place down. All kidding aside, we might have added juniors CJ Harris (Wake Forest), Chase Tapley (San Diego State) and Isaiah Canaan (Murray State) to Davis’ list, and Jae Crowder (Marquette) and Noah Hartsock (BYU) to the Winn’s. Give both pieces a read and see what you think.
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