Morning Five: 12.09.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2011

  1.  We were very afraid of this when we saw it happen live on Tuesday night, and sure enough, the results came back yesterday. Marquette center Chris Otule has torn his left ACL and may miss the rest of the season depending on the severity of the tear and the treatment decision between he and his doctors. As we mentioned in that night’s After the Buzzer, we really hate this for the 6’11” junior. Not only is he playing with the severe disadvantage of only having vision in one eye, but he’s suffered broken bones in both his left and right foot during his time in Milwaukee. Despite his best efforts, the guy has seemingly never been able to stay healthy. No matter his decision on a treatment plan, he’s only been able to play in 57 games in four seasons, so we’re crossing our fingers that he’ll get at least one more injury-free season of basketball at Marquette.
  2. How about some better injury news? Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton is expected to officially return to his team for Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Monroe after spending the better part of the last month rehabilitating a hamstring injury suffered in the first game of the season. His loss hasn’t impacted A&M’s fortunes terribly against a light schedule, as the Aggies have only one loss against Mississippi State so far, but he will be needed on the floor for an upcoming game against Florida and of course the 18-game Big 12 schedule. In other good news, Ohio State sounds like it expects to have its NPOY candidate, Jared Sullinger, back in action for Saturday’s monster game versus Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. Although Thad Matta played coy with his answers in the article, if Sullinger is “dancing around” his dorm room, he’ll be ready to play this weekend.
  3. In a somewhat odd turn of events, St. John’s sophomore point guard Nurideen Lindsey has decided to transfer out of the program. What makes it peculiar is that the starter has averaged nearly 30 minutes per game and is putting up good numbers in the first month of the season — 12.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG. His statements about leaving are even more confounding: “I came to St. John’s for a couple of reasons. One was to be close to my mom, whose health has been up and down due to some past experiences. The second was to play for Coach Lav. In both instances, it has not worked out how I envisioned.” He surely isn’t holding Lavin’s own health issues against him, so there has to be something else going on here. More on this later today on RTC’s Big East microsite.
  4. The number of D-I schools is apparently set to grow again, as Northern Kentucky will join the Atlantic Sun Conference and start playing a full conference slate as soon as next season. Even though the school will not be eligible for league championships and revenue sharing for a few years while going through a probationary period, NKU preferred to join the much-farther geographic footprint of the A-Sun rather than the closer-to-home OVC because it was willing to let them play games next season. The A-Sun is generally located in the deep South — Georgia, South Carolina, Florida — although it does have two schools in Tennessee and as we’ve learned in conference realignment theater, geography rarely matters anymore. The article reports that the average road trip within the league will be around 580 miles, though, which can seriously add up for mid-major school budgets.
  5. You’ve been waiting patiently for it, well here it is: Luke Winn‘s weekly power rankings. Per usual, there’s more graphs, still frame images, and thoughtful analysis than you can shake Seth Davis’ stick at, but if you look carefully, you’ll find his All-Americans after one month, his analysis as to why Louisville fails to impress us, and an rundown of why Saturday’s delightful stack of games without the annoyance of football is something worth carving your day around.  Enjoy.
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Morning Five: 12.02.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2011

  1. Luke Winn‘s Power Rankings are back this week with a bit of a surprise team at the top. Ok, not really, but his choice for the #1 spot is different than the pollsters have anointed this week, including our very own RTC Top 25 released on Monday. His rankings release on Thursday, though, and can anyone blame him after the beatdown that Ohio State put on Duke in Columbus Tuesday night? That is, until we see how Saturday’s little tilt between Kentucky and North Carolina goes. From our view of the world after three-plus weeks of action — Ohio State and Kentucky are the only two teams this year that have a chance to be great, while UNC, Syracuse, Duke, Wisconsin, Connecticut and a few others have a chance to be very, very good. Whether any will actually reach their potential is quite another story, but that’s why we do what we do.
  2. A new Rupp, same as the old Rupp? Apparently not, suggests a preliminary study from a Lexington task force that pushes a $110-$130M renovation of Kentucky’s venerable old barn, Rupp Arena, as the appropriate course of action over building an entirely new arena at a cost of three times that amount. The size and noise in that building is second to none in college basketball when at its peak, but even including some recent fan-friendly renovations in the last decade, the place isn’t as instantly gratifying to outside observers as some of the other venues around the country. Maybe these proposed renovations would help to eliminate some of the multi-purpose 70s feel of the place, which is probably what it needs to truly become a college basketball cathedral for the next 50 years.
  3. If the reports are accurate (and PJ Hairston himself would seem the best source), the freshman shooting guard for North Carolina who injured his wrist during the Heels’ hard-fought victory over Wisconsin Wednesday night will not play against Kentucky this weekend. This presents an issue with the perimeter shooting of the Tar Heels, who will come in to Lexington with only three players who have connected on four or more treys this season. Hairston, a 6’5″ wing with a nice stroke, has 14 of UNC’s 37 makes this year, which leaves Reggie Bullock (11-25) and Harrison Barnes (7-18) as the only other realistic perimeter threats. If UK goes long defensively on the perimeter and shuts down UNC’s three-point shooting Saturday, the Heels will need to have monster games from Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Barnes inside to have a good chance to win.
  4. While we’re on the subject of the biggest early-season game of the year (and perhaps the season), Kentucky’s Anthony Davis dropped a ridiculous line of 15/15/8 blks against St. John’s last night. After the game, he told Adam Zagoria that he’s “looking forward” to facing up against John Henson from North Carolina. He added that Henson “plays just like [him]” and no doubt believes that he will create just as much defensive havoc against the Heels as he has with everyone else this season. An NBA scout told Zagoria that he expects ten first round picks to be in uniform at Noon ET Saturday, with a couple more second rounders in the mix as well. While we’re resistant to the excessive hype machine of the modern 24/7 media environment, there’s no question that this game will be a doozy. Must-watch television for any sports fan this weekend, regardless of other obligations.
  5. Everyone feel free to rest their heads. There will be no third Plumlee taking the court for Duke this season, which means the gravitational pull that would no doubt result from nearly 21 feet and 7o0 pounds of Plumlee on the floor at one time will be averted. At least this season. Freshman Marshall Plumlee, equally as tall but a bit slighter than his older brothers Mason and Miles, will take a redshirt year and still have four years of eligibility remaining beginning next fall. Coach K already said in the preseason that he had no intention of playing “three 6’10” guys” for the sake of a novelty, but maybe the Plumlee dream will come through for us at some future point in the NBA next season.
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Morning Five: Veteran’s Day Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 11th, 2011

SPONSORED: Rush the Court is pleased to bring you a one-day fantasy college basketball league courtesy of to tip off the season. The league, which is completely free to enter, starts on Tuesday, Nov. 15, and features $200 in prizes. Even better, if you beat our trained monkey that we’ve assigned to make our picks (username: RTCmonkey), you’ll win even more. Test your college hoops knowledge to win! Click here to enter.

  1. Happy Veteran’s Day, everyone. If you have a family member, friend or acquaintance who has given their time and energy during their lives to help this nation stay safe, shake their hand or give them a pat on the back — trust us, they’ll appreciate it. This year’s Veteran’s Day has a particularly deep meaning for our purposes, as it also doubles as the official ‘unofficial’ opening night of the college basketball season. Several teams have already gotten under way in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, but most everyone else begins this weekend. One hundred thirty-one games dot the schedule this evening, including 19 of the RTC Top 25 teams in America. The headliner game on this holiday is that curious little aircraft carrier game down in San Diego involving the consensus #1 team, North Carolina, and a perplexing but always-dangerous Michigan State squad. But there are several other noteworthy games tonight, including a talented Belmont squad visiting Duke at 9 PM on ESPNU and a rising Oregon team visiting a Vanderbilt program harboring massive expectations in Nashville. For a complete list of view-worthy games, be sure to click on our Nightly Nonsense tab above here, and check back this afternoon for our weekend version of Set Your TiVo, which will outline all the interesting games for the next three days.  As of tonight, we can say it without qualifying language — college hoops is back, baby…
  2. And what about that game on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson? The temperature will be in the mid-60s and winds are expected to be in the 10-15 MPH range this evening in San Diego, but the one thing everyone seems to be forgetting about the players is that every one of them has played outdoor pickup ball at one time or another. Sure, it’s not the same as playing in the controlled environment of a gym, but who hasn’t experienced the unique situation of having to slightly adjust your jumper to account for the breeze? Many of these players probably developed their games on the playgrounds across America. The players will probably be more jittery because President Obama will be there rather than dealing with the sun and wind.
  3. The NBA could be on the verge of a return with a 72-game season, or none at all, but if you’re at all interested in reading about the 2011-12 college basketball season as written for NBA fans, Kevin Pelton at Basketball Prospectus is your man. It’s an intriguing look at the collegiate game in that the perspective changes when one’s only use for NCAA hoops is as a finishing school before the big time. While we’re on the subject of the pros, the current deal offered by the owners to the players has not yet addressed the ‘ancillary’ issue of a minimum draft age. We wonder that if the players cave here on the revenue split whether that will embolden them to ask for and receive concessions with respect to the draft age (among other things). From the perspective that a two-year minimum is better for the game of college basketball, it might actually be better in the long run if the players refuse the owners’ latest offer.
  4. Miami’s DeQuan Jones has been suspended by the university for the entire 2011-12 season as a result of his alleged involvement with improprieties relating to his recruitment by Frank Haith, as uncovered by Yahoo! Sports during the Nevin Shapiro scandal. Shapiro stated in interviews that Haith arranged for $10,000 to be paid to Jones’ family to secure his commitment in 2008. Given that the Hurricanes could potentially lose a number of wins if Jim Larranaga now played Jones and it was later determined that he was an ineligible player, this is a smart move. Still, it doesn’t help with the Hurricanes’ current glaring lack of depth, as UM will now have only seven scholarship players available heading into tonight’s opening game against Tennessee Tech.
  5. Finally, it’s time for the SI Crystal Ball, where Seth Davis, Luke Winn and Andy Glockner make their preseason picks on the 2011-12 Final Four, NPOY, surprise team, flops, and so on. Would you believe that the only category of consensus among the trio came when picking their Best Mid-Major team? We’ll give you three guesses to see if you can get it right… As always, it’s a good read, but even the best in the business (as these guys are) are lucky to bat just above the Mendoza line with their predictions — in last year’s Crystal Ball, for example, the three picked a grand total of zero Final Four teams (including darkhorses). College basketball prognostication is more art than science, we’ll readily admit, but we’re totally on board with Davis and Glockner’s darkhorse team this season (hint: it starts with an “X”).
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SEC Morning Five: 11.10.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 10th, 2011

  1.  Yesterday was 2012 National Signing Day, and unfortunately the SEC didn’t fare well as it did last year. The league only landed one five-star recruit, Kentucky’s Archie Goodwin, according to Scout’s Evan Daniels. In Daniels’ conference breakdown, the SEC finished last out of the six power conferences one year after bringing in the most talent. Kentucky landed an additional top 30 prospect in Willie Cauley, while Florida was the other big winner grabbing two top 100 guards — #39 Braxton Ogbueze and #87 Michael Frazier. Auburn hauled in a surprising four-man class, good enough for third place so far in the conference rankings. There are still plenty of unsigned prospects available, so most teams will continue rounding out their classes during this signing period.
  2. Mississippi State played another hard-fought game against a mid-major team, but went down 68-58 to Akron. The Dogs shot 34.5% from the field, and failed to get much production from Renardo Sidney. Sidney seemed winded throughout the game, and most troubling for Bulldog fans, he again sat on the bench during crunch time. Head coach Rick Stansbury did not play Sidney in the final four and a half minutes of last night’s game. “We were trying to fight from behind defensively,” Stansbury said. “They went small. You knew the answer to that.” Sidney’s production is a big key to the Bulldogs’ success, but it looks like he is coming undone at the seams well before even his biggest critics would have predicted.
  3. Tennessee Volunteers head coach Cuonzo Martin has not only been impressed with his team’s hard work on the court, but praised their behavior off the court in his latest press conference. “They’ve done a good job, especially from the first day until now of just taking care of business on and off the court,” said Martin. “Doing the right things in the classroom, being consistent in going to class — which shouldn’t be an option, but just making sure guys go to class every day, with their tutor assignments — making sure they’ve been better.” Win/loss records are ultimately what head coaches are measured on, but it is refreshing to see a head coach who seems to genuinely care about his players’ well-being and success off the court.
  4. We all love statistics. Admit it. There’s nothing better for basketball-crazed fans like ourselves than to sit down and analyze graphs and charts of tempo-free statistics. Luke Winn at Sports Illustrated (with the help of David Hess from Audacity of Hoops) noticed a gap in the statistics for defensive rankings for players and teams, and they have taken on the monumental task of measuring five championship contender’s possession by possession defensive prowess. Great stuff here, and one of the five teams analyzed happen to be the SEC’s Vanderbilt. The gist of the article is that Vandy needs to step up its’ defense with a need for “turnover creators and defensive rebounders. Vanderbilt ranked 308th nationally in turnover percentage last season (17.5), and 168th at protecting the defensive glass (67.9 defensive rebound percentage).” If the Commodores are to make a run at the SEC title or anything past the round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament, improvement will have to take place on the defensive end of the court for Kevin Stallings‘ club.
  5. The SEC announced its 2012 SEC Men’s Basketball Preseason Awards on Wednesday. Thirty-two different players received votes, while seventeen players were honored. Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and Vanderbilt each had three players named to the First or Second Team. Vanderbilt led the way with three All-SEC first team selections with reigning SEC Player of the Year John Jenkins along with teammates Jeffery Taylor and Festus Ezeli.
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Morning Five: 11.02.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 2nd, 2011

  1. Last night was supposed to be the start of the NBA’s 2011-12 season, but because of that lockout thing, doors were shuttered and the lights were off at the nation’s largest multi-purpose arenas. You know how we could tell? In the span of 30 minutes during last night’s Sportscenter, we saw not one, not two, but THREE separate highlight packages involving Top 25 teams playing in games of exhibition nonsense.  Yes, the WWL is just as starved for live hoops as we are, and they’re willing to show it in the form of exhibition nonsense.  For those of you wondering, the three teams involved were Syracuse, Kansas, and Arizona. All three won handily.
  2. If this really had been the NBA’s debut evening, none of those games would have been on anyone’s radar in Bristol, but it begs the question whether NBA fans will make room for college basketball during their winter of discontent. In a piece assessing the possibility, Dana O’Neil argues that the impact on attendance was virtually nil when the league was last locked out in the 1998-99 season . While true, she doesn’t address the likeliest area where NBA-turned-temporary-college fans would see any increase: television ratings. Interest in a sport can take many forms, but from our view, John Q. NBA is more likely to start watching marquee college matchups in November and December than he is to travel through the cold to catch a garbage game at Local State U. Whereas in previous years he may have been busy watching the Lakers vs. the Nuggets on his flat screen the week of Thanksgiving, he might instead this year be satisfied watching Duke vs. Michigan in Maui.
  3. Grantland is back this week with what they’re calling their Preseason All-America awards (shameless plug: our preseason AAs went live yesterday). Their writer, Jay Caspian Kang, seems to have a sufficient grasp of the sport and its key players (even if he runs a little UNCentric), but we need to put in a call to Gary Parrish this morning, because Kang did the unthinkable in choosing the Carolina floor general, Kendall Marshall, for a spot on the 1st team over the more heralded star of the Tar Heels, Harrison Barnes (2d team). If you want to get technical about it, he actually chose four players — Marshall, Jeremy Lamb (Connecticut), Anthony Davis (Kentucky), and John Jenkins (Vanderbilt) — over the smooth-as-silk Barnes (Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger is the only true post on his first team). Again, it doesn’t bother us all that much — if someone had left Shaq off the 1992 or Duncan off the 1997 teams, we’d be more outraged — but it is peculiar given what he writes about Barnes as someone lacking in “elite-level skills.” Worth watching…
  4. It’s not every day that a Congressman makes news for trashing the NCAA (that’s usually left to the likes of people like us), but Illinois representative Bobby Rush (D-IL) went on record Tuesday at a congressional forum of college sports in comparing the NCAA to “Al Capone and the Mafia.” The 64-year old who represents the largest majority-minority district in the House of Representatives (the South Side of Chicago) also holds the distinction as the only elected official to have defeated Barack Obama in an election (the Democratic primary for his seat in 2000). He infamously said at the time that the now-president “went to Harvard and became an educated fool,” and it’s clear that the irascible politician has not learned to better hold his tongue from controversial statements in the intervening decade. The context of his comments related to injuries sustained by athletes while playing college sports and his anger with how the NCAA handles its medical hardship cases.
  5. He’s baaaaaack. Luke Winn‘s first edition of the Power Rankings is back, just in time for you to enjoy over your morning latte. Winn once told us that he sometimes spends upwards of 20 hours on these articles, which we all know is a complete and utter lie (he has most of it in his head already). Still, his weekly PR is something that you need to spend some time with, so put your office phone ringer on mute, close out any instant messages you have going, and get to work figuring out what he’s talking about when he refers to such elusive yet fascinating concepts as possession poundage or Marcus Camby with a unibrow. When you’re done with that, spend the next half hour trying to come up with a name for his Thomas Robinson comparison at #12 — we have one name in mind ourselves, but aren’t sure about its validity. You?
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Big 12 Morning Five: 10.12.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 12th, 2011

  1. The news of retired Valparaiso coach Homer Drew’s cancer diagnosis spread across the Internet thanks to a tweet by former Valpo player and current Michigan State guard Brandon Wood yesterday evening. And yes, you did read that right — both Drew and his wife have cancer, which CBS Sports later confirmed. The Big 12 twist here, of course, is that Homer is the father of Baylor coach Scott Drew, as well as current Valpo coach Bryce Drew, who took over for his father this spring. It’s unclear how serious the diagnosis is for either Homer Drew or his wife, but that word “cancer” is always a shocker. From the entire college basketball community to the Drews: get well soon.
  2. Now, on to realignment again: Chip Brown of says that BYU is not a candidate for the Big 12 anymore. Those rumblings had softened over the past few weeks, but it’s at least interesting to hear an insider dig up this sort of information.  The WCC is no doubt counting its lucky stars that the Cougars no longer have that option on the table.  BYU fans, however, may not be feeling quite the same way.
  3. The league also welcomed TCU yesterday, and athletic director Chris Del Conte apparently got a little emotional during the announcement. Who can blame him, though? It’s a big move for the Horned Frogs, and a few league coaches had some kind words for their new member.  In a little more than a year, TCU has gone from the Mountain West to the Big East to the Big 12.  Where will it end up if the conference dissolves in coming years?
  4. Want a laugh for the day? Look at this chart, which pretty much puts Missouri‘s potential move to the SEC in perspective. Funny how a simple graph like that can make you rethink the conference realignment situation.  Of course, $12M may not be a huge amount for the overall university budget, but it’s still more than $11M or $10M or whatever other number below it the school is currently receiving.
  5. You’ll need to use your scrolling skills to find it, but SI’s Luke Winn ranked both Missouri and Kansas in the top-15 of his backcourt rankings. He placed them back-to-back, of course, almost as if he’s intentionally fueling the bitter rivalry. No other Big 12 teams appear on the list, but at this point, we’re just happy to read about basketball in October.
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Morning Five: 10.06.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 6th, 2011

  1. Is UCLA on the verge of being back?  Ben Howland rebuilt the west coast’s premier program in the mid-2000s with strong recruiting in his home state, culminating in three straight Final Four appearances from 2006-08.  But in the last few years, the talent pool in the Golden State has dropped a bit and Sean Miller at Arizona has aggressively entered the picture for the best of the rest, leaving Howland to look elsewhere to fill his roster.  With Kyle Anderson’s decision to leave New Jersey for the fairer weather of SoCal combined with the distinct possibility that UCLA will also pull #1 prospect Shabazz Muhammad out of Las Vegas, the Bruins program may be on the verge of re-joining the elite and doing it by recruiting as a nationally relevant program should — nationally.  Luke Winn examines this recent phenomenon in addition to NC State, Kentucky, Houston, and Providence’s recruiting prowess in a compelling analysis this week.
  2. Speaking of Anderson, the overall #4 player in the Class of 2012 according to RSCI, his high school coach, Bob Hurley, Sr., told Adam Zagoria recently that the 6’8″ guard might be the best player he’s ever had at powerhouse St. Anthony’s.  Hurley’s alumni include a number of high-profile prep players dating back to the 80s, so this is very high praise indeed.  He even goes so far to call Anderson a “modern-day Magic Johnson” with his ability to see the floor and direct his team from the perimeter with the size of a big man.  These sorts of comparisons almost always seem lacking in some way, but if Anderson can bring even a smidge of Showtime back to LA over at the new and improved Pauley Pavilion next season, Bruins fans will certainly let us know.
  3. In conference realignment’s worst kept secret, Missouri is prepared to accept an offer from an unstated conference to the south and east of its geographic base that may or may not start with the letter “S” and end with the letter “C.”  Like a jilted bridesmaid, Mizzou brass would have much rather received an offer from a certain midwestern conference (last year, this year, or any year), but such an offer does not appear to be forthcoming, so as a Missouri official put it on Wednesday, the S[…]C is “what’s left.”  Mike DeCourcy points out that even if Missouri ultimately joins that league, the conference could face a dilemma where its lack of a buyout could end up biting it if that other league comes calling.  Quite the chess game that is going on behind the scenes here, we imagine.
  4. As for the practical effects on Missouri’s presumed move, Kansas head coach Bill Self had quite a bit to say on the matter Wednesday.  He told the KC Star that he, and by proxy, Kansas fans, would hate to see the Border War basketball games between Missouri and KU come to an end.  “I don’t want them to leave. I think it’s too good. What we have, what we have going is one of the best five basketball rivalries in all of America, and I’d hate to see that go away.”  He went on to implicitly suggest that if Mizzou in fact leaves the Big 12, the resulting frayed relationship may in effect make it impossible for the schools to play each other again for a while.  It’s a well-taken point, actually, but unfortunately not one that schools seem to be giving much thought to these days.  Syracuse-Georgetown, Texas A&M-Texas, Syracuse-Connecticut… all traditional rivalries that arguably are finished for some time unless school administrators are more forgiving than we think they are.
  5. Hall of Famer Bill Russell filed a lawsuit in Oakland on Wednesday accusing the NCAA and EA of using his likeness without his consent or compensation.  Russell’s case joins former NPOY Ed O’Bannon’s in claiming that both parties violate antitrust laws by selling game footage and video games with players’ images as a material component of the content while getting nothing in return.  For a greater discussion of the legal doctrines and likely positions from both sides, click here, but numerous legal experts have stated that the NCAA and EA could face a disastrous financial burden here (possibly a ten figure judgment).  Russell provides another powerful name to add to this lawsuit as it winds its way through the courts.
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Morning Five: 09.09.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 9th, 2011

  1. We’re all well aware that this coming Sunday, September 11, is a notable and infamous anniversary in the historical annals of this country. It’s a day for reflection of the memory of those who were tragically taken from us that unforgettable morning ten years ago, and each and every American will surely do his and her part to commemorate and remember.  The juxtaposition between the harsh and brutal reality of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the fun we have watching, discussing and obsessing over our favorite teams has perhaps never been so poignantly described as ESPN’s Kieran Darcy does in a heartbreaking open letter to his father, Dwight.  Darcy’s dad was a senior attorney at the New York Port Authority, and his office was located on the 66th floor of the north tower of the WTC.  According to the 2,996 Project, a list of biographies of each of the nearly three thousand lives lost, he had recently experienced foot surgery and was still hobbling around in a cast on that fateful day.  There is so much pain and suffering seared into our national consciousness from that Tuesday morning a decade ago, especially among those families like the Darcys who endured such a profound emptiness in the intervening years, but the underlying beauty in what Darcy wrote is that he and his family have been able to pick up the pieces and successfully move on.  Kudos to him and all the other 9/11 families who have survived ten years later.
  2. To that end, Dana O’Neil writes about how Rick Pitino and his family have rebuilt their lives after his brother-in-law (wife Joanne’s brother), Billy Minardi, was killed on September 11.  This story of Minardi is much more well-known than Darcy’s but no less touching — ten years ago on Labor Day weekend, Pitino and his brother-in-law had spent an unforgettable weekend at Pebble Beach, enjoying the golf, the natural beauty of the Monterey Peninsula, and each other’s company.  They were the best kind of best friends — the kind where you’re not afraid to tell the hard and honest truth — and it’s taken every bit of the decade since then for his family to move on to the point where Pitino and his three sons re-enacted the same trip this past Labor Day weekend.  Another great story, and we’re sure there are approximately 3,000 of them out there this week.
  3. On a lighter note, Luke Winn checks in with his third and final installment this week about the most efficient players of the last decade of college basketball.  Thursday’s piece focused on the best big men of the era, and many of the top seasons are what you might expect — for example, Kevin Love and Michael Beasley’s 1-and-done years in 2007-08.  But how about some love for former Oregon forward, Maarty Leunen in 2007-08 (#4 on the list) and everyone’s favorite floppy-haired Catamount, Taylor Coppenrath in 2004-05 (#3 on the list).  Winn also takes the time to break out players by their 1-and-done status and by national championship teams.  As always, it’s an interesting piece and well worth a few minutes looking through it.
  4. Shabazz Muhammed is widely considered the top player in the Class of 2012, but it appears that at least one fanbase is going to exorbitant lengths to get the 6’6″ wing to stay in Las Vegas and play for the hometown UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.  According to this interview with Muhammad on ESPN’s high school basketball blog, he says that one enterprising UNLV fan has offered to name his baby after the rising senior.  We have no clue whether such a thing would qualify as a booster providing undue influence, but we’re fairly certain that there’s some legal intern in Indianapolis right now looking at case precedents.
  5. On Thursday evening, LSU unveiled its 900-pound statue of one of the most dominant players in the history of the game, Shaquille O’Neal.  The bronze rendering of Shaq with both knees raised while straining the rim, backboard and stanchion with the force of his massive frame after a dunk is an exact doppelganger of what the mind’s eye sees when remembering O’Neal at LSU.  An absolute freak of nature, there simply hasn’t been another player with his combination of size, strength, athleticism and skill in the last two decades of basketball.  He averaged 22/14 in three seasons as a Tiger, but his legacy as a collegian is somewhat spoiled by a 2-3 NCAA record that didn’t include even a single Sweet Sixteen trip.  Still, his individual dominance in college inspired fear in coaches worried that his team might eventually figure out that he was mostly unstoppable in the post.  Don’t believe us?  Feast your eyes on this highlight package from his time in Baton Rouge.

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Morning Five: 09.08.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 8th, 2011

  1. This Texas A&M to the SEC thing has certainly gotten interesting.  Despite previous assurances from the Big 12 that none of its ten institutions would create a legal barrier to TAMU leaving the conference, Baylor, perhaps seeing the CUSA or WAC writing on the wall, has other thoughts in mind.  Mike DeCourcy is correct in writing that Big 12 schools (and really, all of the schools around the country) are being extremely shortsighted in their our-time, right-now mentality, but the SEC has been clear in that it will only take a school into its league if it is free and clear of any legal liabilities.  Texas A&M was all set to join the SEC on Wednesday, but Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe stated in an email to the SEC on Tuesday night that previous conversations in fact only referred to conference obligations, and that individual schools would still need to waive their rights in order for A&M to move to the new league. Apparently eight of the nine remaining conference members, with Oklahoma as the lone exception, are currently unwilling to waive their rights. “We are being held hostage right now,” TAMU president R. Bowen Loftin said on Wednesday.  So what next?  Our best guess is that Texas A&M will negotiate some kind of settlement agreement with Baylor that will ultimately destroy the Big 12, but the truth is that nobody really knows at that point.
  2. Washington announced that its junior point guard and former McDonald’s All-American, Abdul Gaddy, has been cleared by his doctors to go 100% back on the court in practices.  The much-maligned player tore his ACL on January 4 last season during a Husky practice, and after 13 games at 21 MPG, he appeared to be slowly adjusting to his role as a pass-first point guard on a deep and athletic Washington team.  His 3.1 assist to one turnover ratio was very promising, though, on the heels of a freshman season where it was much closer to even (1.3 to 1).  Lorenzo Romar’s team lost a huge amount of its production from last season’s NCAA Third Round squad, but big things are expected from sophomores CJ Wilcox and Terrence Ross so the Huskies will need Gaddy at full strength to get them the ball on the wings in the right spots.  Most every analyst believes that the 19-year old Gaddy has some talent, his problem has been simply a matter of harnessing it.
  3. Yesterday Luke Winn brought us a list of the top ten most efficient guards of the so-called ‘efficiency era.’  Today he moves on to the wings.  If you are in the business of guessing who the top players are in the last decade from an efficiency standpoint, you probably won’t do a lot better than JJ Redick, Adam Morrison and Brandon Roy in 2005-06 season.  These three players in that single year represent three of the top five seasons from the wing in the last ten years — perhaps you’re not surprised by Redick and Morrison as a college hoops fan, but Roy’s 2006-07 NBA ROY season perhaps was a clue to just how good he was in college too.
  4. Unfortunate news from the WCC, but Santa Clara senior star Marc Trasolini will miss his senior season after tearing his ACL in an exhibition game in his hometown, Vancouver, British Columbia, on Tuesday night.  He came down awkwardly just a mere two minutes into the game and doctors diagnosed his injury soon thereafter.  Trasolini was the second leading returning scorer for the Broncos at 13/6 and his absence in 2011-12 definitely puts a crimp in plans for Kerry Keating’s team to make a run at Gonzaga and St. Mary’s in the league next season.
  5. There’s been a lot of discussion about how schools might try to game the APR/930 system now that they can actually lose scholarships, and eventually, postseason opportunities, as a result.  This article from the off-the-beaten-path of the Dakotas suggests that even at that level, schools might use their last few scholarships to load up on high GPA students in order to make sure they reach the written threshold.  As South Dakota head coach Dave Boots states, “all three of the [international] kids that we signed are really good students.”   Mid-major games but big-time grades — is that what we’re heading toward?  Rest assured that if a marginal couple of D-I schools like South Dakota and South Dakota State are already doing this, the power conference schools have institutionalized it.  As we wrote several weeks ago, this is not a good thing.
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Morning Five: 09.07.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 7th, 2011

  1. Word leaked Tuesday night that the worst-kept current secret in college athletics will finally see the light — Texas A&M has been invited to formally join the SEC beginning in the 2012-13 academic year.  The school plans to announce its acceptance of the invitation later today, but the question on everyone’s minds from California to New York is what happens next.  Will the SEC now seek to add a 14th team like Missouri or West Virginia?  Will the Big 12 quartet of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech migrate en masse to the Pac-12?  Will the Big East move to swallow up Mizzou, Kansas and Kansas State?   Does the Big Ten convince Maryland to jump ship?  Or will the ACC raid the Big East for Syracuse, Connecticut, Rutgers and Pittsburgh?  The possibilities are seemingly endless and nobody knows how all of this will eventually play out.  Our conference realignment expert, Andrew Murawa, will be posting his thoughts on the myriad possibilities later this morning.
  2. One of the more intriguing possibilities from a basketball standpoint was reported by the New York Post‘s Lenn Robbins on Tuesday.  If the Big 12 implodes, the 17-team basketball version of the Big East is considering adding Kansas, Missouri and Kansas State to create a ridiculous 20-team hoops juggernaut that would include as many as 14 NCAA quality teams in a given year (last season’s 11 plus the additional three).  The format would divide the 20 teams into four five-team divisions, with each team playing home-and-homes within its division and rotating games among the other teams on a yearly basis.  It’s been said a million times that all of this conference realignment stuff is driven by football, but if the Big East expands as proposed here or if the ACC raids the power players in the Big East, we’re going to end up with one hell of a basketball league as a byproduct of all this madness.
  3. Luke Winn loves his efficiency stats, and we can’t really blame him. The rise of KenPom-like statistics in college basketball has helped us more deeply understand how to measure and quantify the hidden parts of players’ games who we know are really good despite perhaps only marginal numbers when it comes to the traditional metrics of basketball performance (PPG, RPG, APG).  In the first of a three-part series running this week, Winn takes a look at the top ten most valuable point guards of the efficiency era, and you might be surprised with the relatively unheralded player who ends up at the top of the list.  It’ll be interesting to compare the lead guards against the other players later this week, but three of the top ten single-season performances by those players were as a part of national championship teams, lending credence to the theory that superb play at the position is almost essential to winning a title.
  4. About that NBA lockout thing.  In case you haven’t yet noticed, the NBA has now been locked out of its facilities for over two months and there are no indications of the ongoing labor problems between players and management subsiding soon.  The New York Post reported on Monday that Madison Avenue firms who are accustomed to putting nearly a billion dollars worth of  annual advertising into the marketplace during the NBA season are looking for other options, and college basketball (along with the NFL) might be one of those beneficiaries.  Although college hoops and the NBA generally attract different fans, there are some demographic similarities: for example, both groups skew younger and male than they do among professional football fans, an extremely coveted group of eyeballs among the creative class.
  5. It’s never too early for a preseason All-American team, and in that spirit The Sporting News released its fifteen-member group on Tuesday.  Your first-teamers: UNC’s Harrison Barnes, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Baylor’s Perry Jones, Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb, and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis.  That’s right — one year after Barnes was prematurely selected as the first AP preseason All-American in the history of the organization, TSN is staking its reputation on the extremely talented but oh-so-young Davis.  Of course, there have been seven freshmen first-teamers in the last five years, but the hard part is picking the right one.  Duke’s Austin Rivers and UConn’s Andre Drummond, for example, might end up being just as worthy as UK’s Davis.
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