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 Orangebloods.com 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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Morning Five: 07.11.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 11th, 2011

  1. In a somewhat shocking turn of events at the FIBA Under-19 World Championships in Latvia, Team USA lost 79-74 Friday to Russia in a quarterfinal game where the Yanks simply could not throw the ball in the ocean from outside the arc (0-9).  Nor, apparently, could they defend it, as Russia dropped 12 threes on its end, making it virtually impossible for a team lacking much of an inside presence to win the game.  The American team regrouped to throttle Poland on Saturday before finishing the tournament by beating Australia, 78-77, Sunday to take the fifth place trophy (USA’s worst showing since 2003, also a fifth place finish).  Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb was the undisputed leader of this team, averaging 16/4 in taking 53 more shots than anyone else on the team, but the surprise of the squad may have been Creighton’s Doug McDermott, the 2010-11 MVC ROY but someone that most national fans haven’t yet heard of.  The rising sophomore went for averages of 11/6 in the tournament and proved the only player on the roster capable of reliably hitting threes (39.3%) — keep an eye out for this future March Madness hero in coming seasons.
  2. So what happened to cause a disappointing fifth place finish (Team USA was expected to win gold or silver) in Latvia this year?  Luke Winn writes that the hordes of A-list stars who opted to stay stateside this summer — from UNC’s Harrison Barnes to Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger — had an obvious impact; but he also mentions some of the chatter from NBA GMs and scouts who openly suggested that some of the players didn’t take the competition seriously enough.  Whether this is yet another indictment of the infernal AAU system in America, or simply a matter of players foolishly failing to recognize that the rest of the world can play too, we’re not sure.  But the fact remains that USA Basketball is nowhere near as fearsome of an entity as it once was — especially at the younger levels.
  3. We always talk about ranking the programs on the measure of how well they put players into the NBA, but that doesn’t always give us the entire picture.  For example, a school might have ten players in the League, but they may all ride the pine.  Another school might have half that many total players, but three or four of those could be All-Stars.  Dollars for Ballers took a stab at this problem by considering player salaries.  While @SportsGuy33 persuasively argues that NBA salaries are not always commensurate with talent and productivity (hello, Rashard Lewis!), it’s a better proxy than none at all.  So given this, would you believe that Michigan State’s five players — Jason Richardson, Zach Randolph, Morris Peterson, Shannon Brown, and Charlie Bell — had the highest salary average at $7.76M than any other school with at least three players?  Duke, with its 13 total pros, many of whom have been around for a while, collected nearly $90M in salaries last season.  Really, the only way to do this kind of analysis accurately is to tie programs to individual and team outcomes, but this is a decent start.
  4. Some players get tattoos and carve messages into their hair to rep for their families; incoming Kentucky freshman Michael Gilchrist decided to change his name.  According to his tweet on Friday afternoon, one of the best freshmen in the country has officially changed his name to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.  He chose to add Kidd to his existing surname to honor his deceased uncle, Darrin Kidd, a mentor who suffered a fatal heart attack on the same day MKG signed his letter of intent last year; and, of course, his father, Michael Gilchrist, Sr., was shot and killed fifteen years ago.
  5. On a sad note, former TCU head coach Neil Dougherty died last Tuesday during a jog in Indianapolis.  He wasn’t carrying identification and is not a local resident — he was in town as part of his current job with iHoops, an NBA/NCAA joint initiative — so after passing during the run, his body was kept as a “John Doe” until last Friday when his identity was revealed.  Dougherty was a long-time assistant throughout the 80s and 90s, most notably at his home-state school of Kansas under Roy Williams, and his age of only 50 years has many folks in Lawrence and Fort Worth shaking their heads.  He leaves a wife, Patti, and three children.  RIP, Coach Dougherty.
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Morning Five: 05.12.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 12th, 2011

  1. Well, this is certainly interesting.  According to this piece from wralsportsfan.com, the aircraft carrier on which public enemy #1 Osama bin Laden was buried at sea could be the same one used for the Veteran’s Day event featuring an outdoor game between North Carolina and Michigan State next November.  One of two ships will be used for the game — either the USS Ronald Reagan or the USS Carl Vinson — and the Vinson is the carrier which received  and disposed of the body of the world’s most wanted terrorist last week.  If we get to cover this game on November 11, we’ll definitely do some looking around for evidence of this — perhaps a marker of some kind, or a Kilroy Was Here insignia.  Oh, and ESPN will carry this game — no surprise there.
  2. Minnesota’s Tubby Smith on Tuesday announced that he has been dealing with prostate cancer for the last year, but his most recent check-up revealed that he is now 100% free of the disease and he is “feeling great” as a result.  This is great news, of course, and Tubby joins a number of prominent head coaches who have been treated for this illness in the past several years — names including Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, UConn’s Jim Calhoun, and most recently, St. John’s’ Steve Lavin.  We’re pretty sure that this is not something confined to Big East coaches and Tubby Smith, but it does prove again the necessity for men over the age of 50 to have regular testing in this area, as it could ultimately save your life.
  3. More on this later today, but the $200,000 raise that Rick Barnes received after his second straight disappointing season (and fourth in five years) proves that the Texas head coaching job is a plum position for someone who can simply tread the water of reasonableness year after year.  His new salary will be $2.4M per year now, but a 6-5 NCAA record in the last five years considering the number of top prospects that have passed through Austin is somewhat shameful.  At a basketball school, he would have already been run out of town for this level of performance; but at Texas, it’s worth a  9% raise.
  4. Now that rosters are mostly set for the 2011-12 season (knuckleheads over the summer notwithstanding), Luke Winn is ready to present us with his Power Rankings for next saeson.  How awesome is it that he dropped some Belmont on us in the #16 slot.  Keep workin’ it, Luke.  While on the topic of rankings for next season, Jeff Goodman also came out with his Top 25 yesterday.  He, however, shamefully did not rank the Bruins from Belmont.
  5. And now for something completely different.  Remember that Venoy Overton story from the latter half of the season that involved him being investigated and later exonerated for a sexual assault?  Seattle Weekly dishes the details from the 227-page police report that paints a somewhat different picture than the one bandied about the Seattle area for the better part of two months last season.  It’s well worth a read, especially with respect to holding our tongue the next time we roll our eyes when a player gets accused of some kind of sexual assault — you just never know.   Read it.
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Morning Five: 05.11.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 11th, 2011

  1. Might there be a Gus Johnson reprieve?  Yesterday we wrote about how incredibly disappointed we were that Gus had decided to take his talents to Fox Sports in coming years, effectively ending his career with CBS and seemingly eliminating any more future chances for Heartbreak City! Michael Hiestand of USA Today writes, though, that his new employer would have no problem with ‘loaning out’ Gus to CBS/Turner during future NCAA Tournaments should they want him for their wall-to-wall coverage (see: ESPN’s Jay Bilas, for example).  That last bit is the key part, right there.  As popular as Gus was among college basketball fans under the age of 40, his departure was in some ways political in nature, and we figure it would be tough for CBS to bring back someone who rejected their final offer and left for another network (jilted girlfriend theory).  Still, a glimmer of hope in what appeared to be cavernous darkness…
  2. Now that the Maryland job search is over, it’s Texas A&M’s turn.  Athletic Director Bill Byrne has quite a tough job ahead of him given the success of his two previous hires, Mark Turgeon and Billy Gillispie, but according to TSN, native Houstonian and Memphis head coach Josh Pastner is not available.  The Houston Chronicle reported on Tuesday that Marquette’s Buzz Williams was now A&M’s primary target, but his buyout and salary were probably too rich for TAMU to match.  This leaves a reported list of three intriguing names — Nebraska’s Doc Sadler, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, and Colorado’s Tad Boyle.  Of the three, Marshall would appear to be the kind of coach in the Gillispie/Turgeon vein to seem the best fit, with demonstrated success at the mid-major level and the requisite ambition to make it at the highest level.
  3. Luke Winn breaks down the somewhat embarrassing coaching searches that went on at four ACC schools so far this offseason — NC State, Miami (FL), Georgia Tech, and most recently, Maryland.  Among the four schools, roughly eight to ten candidates (depending on who you ask) turned these  programs down in favor of their current schools that, by and large, would have represented stepping stones to bigger things in the not-too-distant past.  Mark Few at Gonzaga began this trend last decade: an absurd notion that a coach could build an A-list program at a non-BCS school, short of the pressures of insane fan bases but with nearly as much exposure, recruiting penetration and success as many of the big boys.  More recently, Brad Stevens at Butler, Tommy Amaker at Harvard, Shaka Smart at VCU and Chris Mooney at Richmond have decided to stick with the devil they know rather than the one they don’t, and we can’t truly say we blame them.  This is especially true in a league like the ACC, where the twin titans of Duke and Carolina lord over the league nearly every year and it’s extremely difficult to challenge and (even temporarily) overcome them.  Gary Williams did it as well as it’s been done in the last twenty years, but we don’t blame coaches who think they’d be walking into situations where they’re mostly set up to fail.
  4. A bit of transfer news from Tuesday… Kansas State forward and overall disappointment Wally Judge has decided that he will play his final two seasons at Rutgers, ultimately betting on the future of Mike Rice’s program rather than to take a chance at Maryland with new head coach Mark Turgeon.  The 6’9, 248-lb former McDonald’s All-American averaged 6/4 in around fifteen minutes per game last year before leaving the K-State program in late January.  Meanwhile, NC State point guard Ryan Harrow has announced the schools he will visit in coming weeks, including Kentucky, Louisville, St. John’s, Georgia and Texas.  The odds-on favorite is SJU, as both of Harrow’s folks are products of Queens and consider the Johnnies their hometown school.  Whoever gets the freshman will be getting a talented floor leader, as Harrow averaged 9/3 in 23 minutes per game and started most of the Wolfpack’s contests at the end of last season.
  5. Love or hate the man as a comedian-cum-superstar center or lazy, out-of-shape impresario who wasted some of his best playing years getting involved in things other than basketball, but there can be no question that Shaquille O’Neal possesses a heart of pure gold when it comes to his generosity.  Anyone who has watched his Shaq-a-Claus bit each winter, or has heard the numerous off-record stories about his many random acts of incredible kindness to regular Joes, knows this truth.  So when we read that Shaq was resisting the placement of a life-sized statue of himself outside the new LSU practice facility that he helped pay for, consider us completely unsurprised.  It turns out that the Big Aristotle has been anonymously putting millions into LSU infrastructure for years, including to help pay for an on-campus hotel and an academic center, contributions to the point that two LSU Board of Supervisors members demanded that Shaq’s statue go up first — even ahead of the man whose name adorns the arena, Pete Maravich.  We’ve said for a long time that we’ve never seen another player at 19 years old who could do the things at his size that Shaq could do, but we were always referring to his athleticism and stature; it turns out we might have been unwittingly also referring to the big fella’s ticker, and we didn’t even know it.  Here’s what the statue will look like, if Shaq ever approves its completion.

Best Collegian We've Ever Seen At His Size

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Morning Five: 04.26.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 26th, 2011

  1. George Washington University fired longtime coach Karl Hobbs on Monday, and it appears to have been a complete surprise to him.  In ten seasons at the helm in Foggy Bottom, he went 166-129 (84-76 A-10), but after a nice run in the middle part of the decade where GW averaged 24 wins and made three straight NCAA Tournaments, his teams have been consistently mediocre for the last four years (averaging 13 wins and finishing near the bottom of the Atlantic 10 in three of the four years).  Given its academic and international focus in addition to its location in the heart of DC, GW isn’t the easiest school in the world at which to build a great basketball program, but Hobbs did as well as could be reasonably expected for a little while.  He eventually wore out his welcome, though, with a tendency to recruit academically questionable kids and a stubborn refusal to fix a strained relationship with both fans and the local media — it’ll be interesting to see who GW brass gets to replace him.
  2. Former San Diego star and current accused pointshaver Brandon Johnson made his first appearance in federal court yesterday as a result of his arrest for allegedly fixing a 2010 game and soliciting a former teammate to do the same in a 2011 contest.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, he pleaded not guilty to all charges and informed the judge that he could not afford his own counsel and would need an appointed one.  He will remain free on a $25,000 bond until trial is set for later this spring — he may want to spend his time in the next month or two prepping for routines.
  3. From players facing time to those who have already done it, Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery announced over the weekend that his team would add JuCo transfer player Anthony Hubbard to its roster next season.  The reason this is a little different than your typical offseason transfer is that Hubbard spent four years in prison as a result of a robbery conviction that he suffered as an 18-year old in Woodbridge, Virginia.  The 6’5 wing will start at small forward, but according to McCaffery, he has a versatile skill set that will allow him to play multiple positions as a Hawkeye.  From what Hubbard is saying, it appears that his head is on straight and is thankful for the opportunity he has to play Division I basketball — still, he should expect to hear all kinds of things on the road in places like West Lafayette and East Lansing next season.
  4. As we mentioned yesterday, the NBA Draft deadline came and went on Sunday night.  The early entrants who have not yet signed with an agent will have a grand total of two weeks to decide if they’re going to stick with the draft or head back to their college campuses for another year.  Luke Winn breaks down the ten schools with the most to lose in the next two weeks, and unsurprisingly, Kentucky with its possible loss of three starters is at the top of the list.  Mike DeCourcy names his four schools who have been hit hardest thus far (with players not returning), and it might surprise you the school he has listed at the top.
  5. This article by the Louisville Courier-Journal’s Rick Bozich takes a look at the NBA Playoffs from the perspective of a college hoops fan.  While we take issue with his choice of “top fifty playoff scorers” as the only metric to determine playoff performance, he still found some interesting results from the analysis.  For example, which school do you think has gotten the most scoring bang for its buck in this year’s playoffs so far?  Any clues?  Would you believe… UCLA, with Russell Westbrook, Trevor Ariza and Jrue Holiday?  Yeah, go figure…
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Morning Five: 04.19.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 19th, 2011

  1. The biggest news on Monday was that UNC’s Harrison Barnes announced that he would return to Chapel Hill for his sophomore season.  His decision makes UNC the presumptive #1 team in most prognosticators’ preseason top 25s, but the real winner of his and others’ (notably Perry Jones and Jared Sullinger) returns might just be the sport of college basketball in general.  With these stars joining a strong freshman group from the Class of 2011, many teams will be considerably stronger than they otherwise might normally be in a year without an NBA lockout looming, and if you’re not already excited for a possible blockbuster rematch of bluebloods UNC and UK  in Lexington next December, then you should have your motor checked.
  2. In keeping with the theme of Barnes return to the Research Triangle, Luke Winn goes one step further (when doesn’t he?) and analyzes the relative impact of the player who got progressively better as the year went on in 2010-11.  He points out that the Heels with Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson and James McAdoo in the lineup next season could join only 1999 Duke and 2005 UNC as two schools with four lottery picks on the roster — it says here that while an extremely impressive feat if it occurs, the 2012 Heels will be nowhere as good as either of those other two teams were (and he points out why in the later part of the column, weaknesses of their guard play).
  3. Over the weekend, Winthrop mascot Big Stuff — a bird representing the Winthrop Eagle — walked “basketball-mad” fan Johannes Schneider down the aisle of his wedding to marry bride-to-be Michelle Waters.  While mascots getting involved in superfan nuptials is nothing new, the best part of this story relates to the mascot asking a date to the wedding and how he tried to describe that he would be acting as Big Stuff in the proceedings.  Great stuff, Big Stuff.
  4. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive spoke in an informal Q&A on Monday about the logic behind the unprecedented eight-game suspension he placed on Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl last season as a result of NCAA and SEC violations.  He also said that the conference had no role in Pearl’s dismissal from UT (“sole purview of the institution”), and that he still keeps a good relationship intact with the now-unemployed coach.  Obviously, you can believe what you want, but a quick review of the comments at the bottom of that article certainly relates a general feeling that most UT fans do not particularly care for Mr. Slive nor his logic.
  5. As top dog at Indiana for three decades, Bob Knight was rarely on the Christmas list of the blue-and-white faithful living one state to the south.  But the Sweatered One has reserved a special place in hell for John Calipari, as he has used his bully pulpit as Crotchety Commentator in Chief to repeatedly goad and rip the current Kentucky head coach as pretty much a horrendous person with no ethical compass whatsoever.  The latest incident occurred during a speech over the weekend in Wabash, Indiana, where Knight referred to UK’s 2009-10 team as having “started five players…who had not been to class that semester.”  He’s referring in vague terms to the four one-and-done players (plus junior Patrick Patterson) whom Kentucky put into the NBA Draft last summer.  UK fired back almost immediately, stating that “every starter from the 2010 season finished the spring semester in good academic standing,” but the damage was once again already done.  Whether fair or not, Knight expressed the perception that many (most?) sports fans around the country have about Calipari, and it’s an open question to us if he or Kentucky can do anything to change that (erroneous?) sentiment.  Here’s the clip from the speech:

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Morning Five: 04.14.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 14th, 2011

  1. Add Illinois forward Jereme Richmond to the group of disappointing freshmen exhibiting their selfishness by skipping the year-end team banquet in favor of “preparing” for the NBA Draft.  As if spending two to three hours eating, laughing and commiserating with your teammates will derail that dream.  Kansas guard Josh Selby did the same thing last week, as he was “working out” in Las Vegas during the KU banquet and couldn’t be bothered with celebrating a 35-3 season with his team.  Interestingly, both players routinely found themselves in their head coach’s doghouse this season, and each at times seemed to think he was a lot better than he was actually performing — Richmond averaged 7/5 RPG in 22 MPG, while Selby went for 8/2 APG in roughly the same amount of time last season.  This is yet another reason why the one-and-done rule needs to go; it gives players like these two prima donnas a false sense of their talent based on high school rankings made not even a year ago.  Speaking of Selby in particular, Gary Parrish deconstructs the Rivals #1 recruit’s draft prospects (being compared to Willie Warren, ouch!) and how he got there — very instructive stuff.
  2. Of course, the biggest NBA Draft news of Wednesday was Arizona’s Derrick Williams taking his prodigious talents to the League.  Thanks to a great March including a game-saving plays against Memphis and Texas and a statement performance against Duke in the Sweet Sixteen, Williams has shot up most draft boards to the point where he’s considered one of the top two picks in the draft.  He will sign with an agent, leaving no doubt that his fantastic two-year career in Tucson is now over.  He will also undoubtedly go down as one of the players who led Arizona back into the national consciousness, something that probably didn’t seem possible so soon a couple of short  years ago.
  3. And a couple more…  Butler’s Shelvin Mack has decided to test the waters but will not sign with an agent, while Memphis’ Wesley Witherspoon announced that he will return for his senior year.  Mack in particular is an interesting case — he performed extremely well last summer against both professional players and his peers, and although he struggled with his shot for much of last season, he came on very strong in the Bulldogs’ run in this year’s NCAA Tournament.  He’s considered a late first round/early second round pick.  Witherspoon is making a good decision, as he had an injury-plagued junior year that didn’t allow him to show the true talent that he possesses — coming back healthy for a senior season will do him a lot of good.  One other note with respect to testing the waters, John Calipari is encouraging all three of his draftable players — Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and DeAndre Ligginsto explore their professional options over the next few weeks.
  4. Note we said “weeks” with respect to the UK players exploring their options above.  The actual deadline for a player to return to school is May 8 this year, which gives players some, but not a lot, of time to assess their prospects before making a final decision.  Yet with today’s shameful ruling by the NCAA Legislative Council to further reduce the amount of time players have to make such a life-altering decision, it begs the question as to who these people are actually working for — the student-athletes that need valid information about their prospects, or the coaches who want to get out onto the golf course (as Mike DeCourcy eloquently argues)?  MD is much more tactful than we’ll be here, but in case you’re wondering where this all came from, a certain ACC coach got very annoyed by having to wait until the very last day of the deadline in 2008 (which was then mid-June) to see what his players would do.  The irony is that Ty Lawson, Danny Green and Wayne Ellington ultimately stayed in school, and that coach won a national title the next season because of their late decisions.  Makes sense, right?
  5. Enough about that.  How about a little post-championship analysis from Luke Winn to finish things off?  The Brooklyn Bohemian comes strong as always with a put-it-to-rest analysis of whether Butler’s miserable shooting night in the title game was a result of an off night or great defense.  You’ll need to read it to see his conclusion, but you should open the link assured that he leaves very little room for debate about the correct one.
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