The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Charles Barkley

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2012

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

Hall of Fame power forward Charles Barkley has become without question one of the most entertaining analysts on sports television. TNT’s Inside the NBA has been must-watch television for over a decade now in large part because of his wit and wisdom, and Barkley’s recent foray into college basketball analysis with Turner Sports has helped pick up what had been a somewhat stuffy studio environment. For the past month, Rush the Court has been providing a weekly column  called What Would Charles Say? on Barkley’s website, and he was gracious enough to allow us to spend some time with him this week for a short Q&A. 

Charles Barkley Will Provide Analysis All March Long for the NCAA Tournament

Rush the Court: Charles, the big news early this week was the news that Fab Melo was ruled ineligible for the NCAA Tournament. I was hoping to get your take on how you feel that impacts the chances for Syracuse and Jim Boeheim to get to the Final Four and win a national championship this year?

Charles Barkley: Well, I think that they probably can’t win the championship, but they’re still deep enough to go deep into the Tournament. But I don’t think they can win it without him… but they’re still the deepest team in the Tournament, honestly, top to bottom.

RTC: So the news has come out that this relates to an academic issue for Melo, and with all the academic services that schools give these guys nowadays, how does that happen? How do you drop the ball so badly that you’re not even eligible for the Tournament?

CB: Well, to me it’s very frustrating, because if you get this deep in the season, you should already have all that stuff squared away. I mean… c’mon man. You’re really letting your team down at this point.

RTC: Certainly. Well let me ask you about last year, there was a little bit of criticism with you, Kenny [Smith], and Ernie [Johnson], as knowledgeable as you guys are about NBA stuff, coming in to the college basketball world and giving your takes with maybe not having watched games the whole season. But that ended very quickly with your take on the Big East — how it wasn’t as good as everybody thought — with nine out of the 11 teams gone by the end of the first weekend. Do you have any early takes this year on maybe a conference or teams that you’re just not buying?

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Connecticut Self-Sanctions, But Will It Be Enough?

Posted by jstevrtc on October 8th, 2010

Today, the Connecticut men’s basketball program made public its findings and response to the NCAA’s allegations of “major violations” from back in May. The report was submitted to the NCAA on September 7th. Here’s what UConn said that its investigation found:

  • Staff members made numerous impermissible text messages and phone calls to recruits,
  • The program provided tickets or free admission to games to friends, coaches and other persons associated with recruits, and
  • Head coach Jim Calhoun is not guilty of failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the program.

The university volunteered the following penalties to its program:

  • A period of probation encompassing the academic calendars of 2010-11 and 2011-12 — essentially from now until May 2012, a period of 19 months, and
  • Loss of a scholarship for each of those two academic periods.

Calhoun, Connecticut AD Jeff Hathaway, and several university officials will travel to Indianapolis to meet with the NCAA infractions committee. That meeting is scheduled for Friday, October 15th — the first official day of practice. UConn has asked that the meeting be moved to a later date.

Calhoun Didn't Appreciate Being Singled Out By the NCAA.

The NCAA will consider the discussions from that meeting in addition to the 700-page response that contained the above findings and offer a ruling in November or December. Given the NCAA’s recent pledge to supposedly crack down harder on rules violators, the obvious talking point here is whether or not the NCAA will see UConn’s self-imposed punishments as sufficient for the crimes. The early returns from some of the more astute followers of the game indicate that they don’t feel the auto-sanctions will cut it.

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Bledsoe, Kentucky, And The NCAA’s “Strict Liability”

Posted by jstevrtc on September 14th, 2010

The online arm of the Birmingham News, AL.com, reported earlier today that former Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe’s official high school transcript and the “grade reports” from two of his Algebra III courses showed differing final grades. Specifically, the transcript states that he earned a grade of A in both sections of two nine-week long Algebra III courses, but the grade reports from those sections of the course show that Bledsoe was credited with a C in the first section and a B in the second. The reason this is a problem is, as the AL.com article explains, if you calculate Bledsoe’s GPA using the grades on his official transcript (the A’s), you get a 2.5, which makes him NCAA-eligible. If you calculate it with the C and B from the grade reports, Bledsoe’s GPA comes out to a 2.4375 — just short of the minimum score required for qualification.

If this grade discrepancy is true, the NCAA will want to know who knew about it, and when.

This allegation evidently comes ahead of a report that’s supposed to surface soon from an independent law firm hired by the Birmingham school system to investigate Bledsoe’s eligibility, and specifically the documentation of his academic performance at two high schools in the area. We’ll obviously have a lot to say about that when it appears. For now, though, we feel this new information brings up a few interesting questions:

  1. What is a “grade report?”
  2. How and when could there be a discrepancy?
  3. Is Kentucky (or any other school) expected to go beyond looking at official school transcripts of players when assessing their eligibility, and should the school be punished if information later emerges that implicates the player?

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Hassan Whiteside

Posted by jstevrtc on June 22nd, 2010

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night.  There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Hassan Whiteside

School: Marshall

Height/Weight: 7’0/227

NBA Position: Center

Projected Draft Range: Mid First Round

Overview: Hassan Whiteside surprised a lot of people when he spurned several SEC schools to play his college basketball at Marshall University, but his attendance at a comparatively small school didn’t mean the NBA scouts wouldn’t find him.  They didn’t need to search very hard. Whiteside’s impact on the Conference USA landscape was immediate, posting a 14 point/17 rebound/9 block performance against eventual NCAA second-rounders Ohio University early in the season.  He’d end up with three triple-doubles on the year — the first three ever for Marshall — all with blocks as the third statistic.  His 12 other double-doubles helped propel the Thundering Herd to an overall 24-10 record and 11-5 in a very competitive CUSA.  His 182 blocked shots was tops in the nation, averaging out to an amazing 5.4 BPG.  And even though he was only there for the one year, he ended up as the all-time leader in blocked shots at Marshall.  Mind you, we don’t mean for a freshman — that’s for a career.

Defensively, he's ready. And it's funner to learn offense. (C. Jackson/Herald-Disptach)

Will Translate to the NBA: Obviously his shot-swatting prowess is his biggest asset, and will be the primary reason for any early minutes he gets in the league, but he’s no single-note player.  He’s not just a tall, thin, awkward shot-blocking specialist. He’s good at using his size to get in position for grabbing boards, and shows a knack for peeling off more than his share of offensive rebounds.  He has better hops than most players his size, and he gets off the floor quickly.  Hassan is one of those players who, when you see him play, you can tell how much fun he’s having and that will endear him to teammates and fans.  And he knows what it takes to be a professional athlete; his father played five seasons of professional football in the NFL and CFL.

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Is This What Calipari’s Detractors Have Been Waiting For?

Posted by jstevrtc on May 28th, 2010

In a story on the New York Times website, college basketball writer Pete Thamel and contributor Thayer Evans dropped a big Memorial weekend bomb on the Big Blue Nation, as the legions of University of Kentucky basketball fans around the world are known.  According to the article, the NCAA is looking into former UK shooting guard Eric Bledsoe possibly having received improper benefits while in high school, specifically having his rent paid by his senior-year high school coach, Maurice Ford.  The article also brings up the question as to whether or not Ford, in attempts to gather money to make such rent payments for Bledsoe and his mother, solicited money from at least one college coach in order for Bledsoe to sign with that coach’s school.  Also raised is the matter of Bledsoe’s academic improvement after his original high school had shut down and he transferred to a private school; evidently the NCAA is inquiring as to how Bledsoe’s high school GPA could have dramatically jumped from 1.9 to 2.5 during his senior year, thereby putting him over the minimum NCAA standard to be eligible for a scholarship.

There's been no comment from Bledsoe or UK as of yet.

Mr. Ford, as Thamel and Thayer note, has denied all of the accusations.  And according to Matt May of CatsPause.com, the folks at Kentucky haven’t even received a letter of inquiry about these issues.

If something actually comes from this, the bigger question will be how much the Kentucky program — and specifically John Calipari — actually knew about what was happening.  Fans of the UK coach will note how, regarding the “troubles” at his former jobs at Massachusetts and Memphis, Calipari was never specifically dinged with any wrongdoing, and that the mistakes made by Marcus Camby and Derrick Rose were out of the realm of what Calipari could realistically police.  On the other hand, Calipari-haters are about as giddy as Keith Olbermann watching George W. Bush fall down a flight of stairs.  They’ve already tried the man and handed down a guilty verdict long ago, and have just been waiting for something on which they could pin it.  Both sides would be well-advised to keep calm for now.

Unfortunately for Kentucky fans, it’s the program, and not necssarily the player or coach under investigation, that usually takes the hit if penalties are deemed necessary.  If something comes from this — and again, we don’t know if anything will — could Kentucky be stripped of its 35 wins from last year, which would put them back behind that 2,000-win mark?  Could those UK2K shirts become collector’s items?  Or would the NCAA rule that Bledsoe simply has to pay back whatever money was borrowed?  Since Bledsoe is no longer under the thumb of the NCAA, that might be tough to enforce.  To be sure, even if there is something to be found here, the accusations will be tough to prove.   Academic fraud at a high school is not as easy to verify as you’d think, and this matter of rent payments would be even tougher.  Again, unfortunately for Kentucky supporters, the NCAA is detective, judge, jury, and executioner, and they get to determine what constitutes good, hard, believable evidence.  And even if the NCAA finds something and says that the guilt lies totally with Eric Bledsoe and not with John Calipari or anyone at the University of Kentucky, it’s likely that the UK program would still feel the NCAA’s pimp slap while Bledsoe skates.  IF that happens, you can bet that the Calipari-to-NBA talk will heat up again, and you’d have to figure that the UK recruits who didn’t sign letters of intent would suddenly start to reconsider.

We’ll see what happens.  It’s still early days, yet.  Considering the recent news out of Kansas and Connecticut…it’s been a tough week for some of college basketball’s leviathan programs.

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #9 – Atlantic 10

Posted by nvr1983 on October 29th, 2009

seasonpreview

Joseph Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Dayton (14-2)
  2. Richmond (12-4)
  3. Xavier (11-5)
  4. La Salle (11-5)
  5. Duquesne (10-6)
  6. Charlotte (9-7)
  7. Temple (9-7)
  8. Massachusetts (8-8)
  9. Rhode Island (7-9)
  10. George Washington (6-10)
  11. St. Bonaventure (5-11)
  12. St. Louis (4-12)
  13. St. Joseph’s (4-12)
  14. Fordham (2-14)

All-Conference Team:

  • Kevin Anderson (G), Richmond (36.8 MPG, 16.6 PPG, 2.8 APG)
  • Rodney Green (G), La Salle (35.3 MPG, 17.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.4 APG)
  • Levoy Allen (F), Temple (31.3 MPG, 10.9 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.5 BPG)
  • Chris Wright (F), Dayton (26.1 MPG, 13.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.3 BPG)
  • Damian Saunders (F), Duquesne (34.6 MPG, 13.1 PPG, 7.6 rpg, 2.4 BPG)
  • 6th Man: Kenny Frease, Xavier (14.6 MPG, 5.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG)

Impact Newcomer/All-Conference Rookie Team:

  • Carl Jones (G), St. Joseph’s
  • Christian Salecich (G), St. Louis
  • Terrell Vinson (F), Massachusetts
  • Chris Braswell (F), Charlotte
  • Aaric Murray (C), La Salle – Rookie of the Year

Atlantic10

What You Need to Know. Over the past two seasons the A10 has earned 6 NCAA bids, sending four different teams to the D1 post-season party of 64 65. That is more teams over the same period than any other non-BCS conference. Those teams garnered a higher winning percentage (6-6 or 50%) than the SEC (5-9 or 35.7%). This season should track with previous seasons as the A10 will look for 2-3 teams with enough talent and success to earn 1-2 at-large bids in addition to the conference’s automatic bid. The A10 has become a showcase for ‘tweeners and front-court players lately. The A10’s last two POYs were a pair of  undersized (for the positions they played) frontcourt players. Gary Forbes, a 6-7 PF out of Massachusetts won in 2008, and Ahmad Nivins a 6-10 235 pound C out of St. Joseph’s, won last spring. This season is no different as fans will see Dayton’s Chris Wright (a preseason Wooden nominee), Xavier’s Jason Love, Rhode Island’s Delroy James, Duquesne’s Melquan Bolding and Richmond’s Kevin Smith play a position or two “up” from their size and weight. The conference will showcase a number of very well-regarded incoming freshmen as Charlotte’s Chris Braswell, Massachusetts’ Terrell Vinson and La Salle’s Aaric Murray held offers from high-major programs, but chose A10 schools.

Predicted Champion. Dayton (NCAA Seed:  #4) Returning 84.5% of the minutes and 85.6% of the points from a team that finished 2nd in the conference and sent the Big East’s West Virginia home in the 1st round of the NCAAs before bowing out to Kansas, it is no wonder that the Flyers are the strong favorite to take the conference title and return to the NCAAs again in 2010. Dayton took the top spot in the A10 Coaches preseason poll, announced on Media Day (10/22). The squad is deep and experienced as Coach Brian Gregory brings back seven seniors and four juniors including four starters and nine of the top eleven scorers from last year’s team. Led by 6-8, 225 pound forward Chris Wright, a 2009-10 preseason Wooden Award nominee, the Flyers will try to pick up where they left off in March of 2009. Wright led the team in points per game (13.3) and rebounds per game (6.6). Dayton, however, is not a one man show. The Flyers return senior London Warren (the “Jacksonville Jet”), a 6-0 point guard  who led the team in assists (154) last season while averaging 21.5 minutes and 4.1 points per game. Gregory can play 3 guards by bringing in two 6-3 senior guards, Marcus Johnson and Rob Lowry. Johnson was the second-leading scorer (behind Wright), averaging 11.8 points per game while playing an average of 28.3 minutes. Rob Lowry, who came to Dayton via Cecil Community College (and Chesapeake Community College), watched the team’s last ten games from the bench, as he tore a tendon in his right knee on February 12th. Lowry was the team’s leading scorer 5 times in 2009 and was second to Warren in assists. If the Flyers play like they did at the end of the 2009 season they should separate themselves from the A10 pack early and pick up a #3 or #4 seed in the NCAAs. Look for their performance in the Puerto Rican Tip-Off, where they will face up to 3 high-major teams, as a gauge for where they stand in the Top 25.

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Team of the 2000s: Wrap-Up and Honorable Mention

Posted by rtmsf on August 23rd, 2009

teamof2000(2)

Direct Links to the Top Ten.

1.  UNC
2.  Kansas
3.  Florida
4.  Duke
5.  Michigan St.
6.  UConn
7.  UCLA
8.  Memphis
9.  Syracuse
10.  Maryland

Intro.  Welcome back.  We wanted to use this post to wrap up the loose ends with an endeavor such as this one.  Let’s talk about our methodology, the teams who were easiest/most difficult to place, the Memphis quandary, and the teams who were on the outside of the top ten looking in.   As always, feel free to disagree in the comments.

Defending Our Methodology.  One of the more interesting things about releasing these rankings has been the reaction from various fan bases. Some have been very measured in their response and criticism (such as the people in Lawrence, Kansas) while others have been a little more vitriolic (fans of another program in the center of the country). Most of the criticism has been directed at our methodology. There seemed to be quite a bit of confusion on this, so let’s clear it up immediately.  Some people have misinterpreted our table (below) as if the listed criteria were all considered totally and equally in how we ranked teams. Nothing could be further from the truth – rather, the table  was intended to be used as a tool showing the universe of relevant statistics that our panel might find useful when making their decisions.  There was no formula that a panelist was obliged to follow – instead, each panelist had complete discretion to consider or ignore any statistic he deemed important (or irrelevant).  Once each panelist submitted his list, we then took a holistic view of the world when determining where to rank certain teams.  Obviously we all considered winning percentage, NCAA Tournament success, conference achievements, etc., but in varying degrees.  That’s what makes these debates work – while one panelist may think that the NCAA Tournament is all that really matters and wants to weight teams almost exclusively on that metric, another panelist may want to give more substantial weight to the regular season.  Here’s the thing, though – reasonable minds always differ, and both conclusions are completely ok.  We believe that this sort of subjective analysis – review the available stats, pre-rank a list, reconvene to discuss, finalize the rankings – gives such a ranking system more credibility than simply weighting and re-weighting a formula until everything “feels” right.  For those of you who wanted a completely “objective” ranking system… well, here’s an example we did last spring that shows how the BCS formula would have applied to the NCAA Tournament.   Hint: F4 participants Villanova and UConn wouldn’t have even been invited to the Ball. In sum, we think that our methodology resulted in a solid, defensible list of the top ten programs of the 2000s.  Not everyone can be happy, but we’re comfortable with the results.

team2000s final list

Hardest Teams to Peg.  There were three teams that the panel had the hardest time nailing down – #4 Duke, #5 Michigan St., and #8 Memphis.  Both Duke and MSU received a #1 vote in our initial analyses, although to be fair, those were outliers among the panel.  Memphis was equally contentious, with half of the panel initially placing the Tigers in the top seven, while the other half didn’t even have them ranked at all.  It probably makes sense that we’ve received the most criticism based on these difficult-to-peg teams.

Easiest Teams to Peg.  On the other hand, the top three teams – #1 UNC, #2 Kansas, #3 Florida – were unanimous in order (although not in ranking).  Every panelist rated those three in the same order relative to one another, and the lowest any of the four teams were rated was fourth.  Interestingly, criticism died down on the placement of these teams.  Perhaps our panel was representative of what Average College Basketball Fan would choose as well?

What About Memphis? After the news that the NCAA vacated Memphis’ 38 wins and title appearance from the 2008 season, there was some buzz about what we should do with our list.  By our estimation, Memphis was rated as the #8 program of the 2000s, but if we removed that year, they most undoubtedly would have dropped out of the top ten.    After some internal discussion, we’re unwilling to go there.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First and foremost, we don’t want to.  We watched Memphis play its way into the national finals, we saw Derrick Rose clang his first FT with nine seconds left, and we remember the shocked look on Calipari’s face in the interview room afterwards.  We also remember Michael Redd’s shooting in 99, Marcus Camby blocking everything in sight in 96, C-Webb calling timeout in 93, and several other vacated performances over the years.  Those games and moments happened.  They’re seared into our memory.  The NCAA can vacate whatever it wants, but we’re not going to join forces with them in their legal fiction.  Which brings us to our second point on this topic.  The NCAA’s application of these penalties is so wantonly inconsistent that if we gave credence to this one while ignoring such wholesale violations known to the general public – Sam Gilbert at UCLA and Reggie Bush at USC should immediately come to mind – that we’d be doing our readers a disservice.  We recognize that cheating at some level happens nearly everywhere, but our stance is that if the NCAA doesn’t catch it and punish the school prior to the games affected, then we’re not going to join them in their after-the-fact erasures.  Sorry.  Memphis stays at #8.

The Celebrated RTC Panel
The Celebrated RTC Panel

Honorable Mention (in no particular order).

  • Pittsburgh.  Pitt was an oddity when it came to evaluating them for our countdown.  There was considerable variance among the voters as to where the Pitt program landed, and because of that they were one of the first teams to whom we awarded this “honorable mention” status.  Still, after the votes had been submitted, in the ensuing discussion it wasn’t that hard to move Pittsburgh out of the Top 10.  Make no mistake, it’s been an excellent ten years for the Pitt program, but in order to make a decade’s-end Top 10 list there are certain things you simply HAVE to get done.  Of their eight trips to the NCAA tournament, six of those saw Pittsburgh with at least a 4-seed (five of them were #3 or better).  The result?  Zero trips to the Final Four and only one Elite Eight.  It’s not like the Panthers didn’t have their chances.  True, it’s not easy to lose a coach like Ben Howland (who took Pitt to the Dance in 2002 and 2003) and the program deserves credit for a hire like Jamie Dixon, who didn’t miss a beat. And it’s not easy to lose to a Howland-coached UCLA team in 2007 in a #2-vs-#3 seed Sweet 16 game when you’re playing them in San Jose.  But if you want to be considered among the elite, you HAVE to beat 10th-seeded Kent State in the Sweet 16 when you’re a #3 (2002).  You HAVE to beat Pacific in the first round of 2005, even if you are on the low side of an #8-vs-#9 game.  You CANNOT LOSE to 13th-seeded Bradley in the second round when you’re a 5-seed (2006).  And perhaps the most painful — when you’ve earned a 1-seed after an incredible 28-4 season playing in the Big East, when you’re playing in your first Elite Eight in 35 years, you MUST beat the 3-seed, even if it is an in-state rival in the form of a very tough-nosed Villanova squad.  Dixon faces a bit of a rebuilding task in the upcoming season, but they ended the 2000s strong.  It’s because of that strong finish, that trend of improvement, that people – especially Pittsburgh fans – may be surprised to not see the Panthers in the Top 10 for the last decade.  As we start the new decade with the upcoming season, Dixon has the Pittsburgh program poised to move into that elite category.  As far as the last decade, though, they came up just short.
  • Illinois. On three of our personal Team of the 2000s rankings, Illinois barely missed the cut, meaning if the Bruce Weber-led 2005 squad managed to topple North Carolina for a national championship, they’d likely be included in the top ten. Illinois has also flamed out a bit at the tail end of the decade, finishing with a losing record in 2007-08 (16-19) before rebounding to a 24-10 mark in 2008-09 and eventually falling victim to a 12-5 upset by Western Kentucky. Bill Self and Bruce Weber have built a phenomenal program throughout the decade, though. The 2004-05 team featuring Deron Williams, Luther Head, Dee Brown and James Augustine was one of the top teams of the 2000s, flirting with an undefeated mark until Ohio State knocked them off in Columbus, then pulling off one of the most sensational comebacks in NCAA Tournament history in the Elite 8 against Arizona. Illinois has tied or won the Big Ten three times in the 2000s and finished as high as second three more times. What holds Illinois back from garnering a spot on the list? They haven’t reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament or won a conference title since that special 2004-05 campaign. Borderline teams have experienced more success in March, both in the Big Dance and in conference tournament play, than Illinois. For example, Maryland has two Final Fours, a national title and never finished with a losing record in the decade. Illinois hasn’t won the Big Ten Tournament since 2004-05. With packed recruiting classes ahead and a top-notch leader in Weber, Illinois will look to turn around a program that hasn’t been nearly as feared since watching Carolina cut down the nets on that fateful April night four years ago.
  • Gonzaga. The Zags undoubtedly were the most successful mid-major of the decade (moreso than Xavier and Butler), but their overall profile simply didn’t have enough juice to vault Gonzaga into the top ten. They dominated the WCC, winning the league eight times en route to an average of 26+ wins per year, an outstanding 80% winning percentage, and ten straight NCAA appearances.  But when it came to the NCAAs, Mark Few’s squads were only able to make it to the Sweet Sixteen four times.  And how many times in the decade were they able to advance past the third round?  Um, try zero.    Nevertheless, we believe that Gonzaga rates a tick higher than other such notable programs as Louisville, Wisconsin, Arizona and Oklahoma (all of whom made one F4) because they were so consistently good despite their scheduling limitations.  The worst Zag team (2006-07) still had 23 wins, and as a result of the weaker schedule of the WCC, their average NCAA seed was easily one of the lowest on our list.  Yet, as we all know, Gonzaga has tried to load up on high-impact RPI games during the nonconference slate, and we give them credit for that.  Fans of the other programs may quibble with this selection, but we can live with including at least one mid-major for consideration as the Team of the 2000s, and Gonzaga is our choice.
  • Arizona.  The obvious question here for Wildcat fans is how can a team that made the NCAA tournament every year for the past decade (and 25 straight if you don’t take away their vacated 1999 appearance) not be considered one of the top ten programs of the 2000s behind four teams that failed to make the tournament twice, two teams that failed to make the tournament three times, and another team that failed to make the tournament four times?  While the answer probably won’t satisfy Wildcat fans, it comes down to a few key things for us:
  1. Barely having a winning percentage at 70% despite playing in the Pac-10. Save the whining, West Coast people. The Pac-10 has only been one of the best conferences in the nation once in the past decade (2008 comes immediately to mind).
  2. Averaging 1.7 wins per NCAA Tournament appearance, which is lower than any other team in the top 10. The only team that they are close to is Syracuse and the Orange have a national title (wouldn’t be in the top 10 without it).
  3. Mediocre performance in the Pac-10. The Wildcats had 2.5 regular season conference titles (one being a split title) and 1 postseason conference title (since it was started in 2002). Like we said before, the Pac-10 might have the most attractive co-eds in the nation (although the SEC has a strong case), but the Pac-10 pales in comparison to the ACC, Big East, Big 12, SEC, and the Big 10 over the past decade in terms of the quality of their basketball teams.
  4. You could argue that the Wildcats got lucky with many of those NCAA tournament bids, most notably two years ago when they got in ahead of an Arizona State team that had a very strong case for being in above their rival.
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Memphis: Vacate-ion’s All I Ever Wanted…

Posted by rtmsf on August 20th, 2009

It seems as if the Derrick Rose saga is about to come to end, as multiple reports are suggesting that the NCAA will vacate all 38 of Memphis’ wins from the 2007-08 season as a result of using an ineligible player (Rose) and allowing Rose’s brother to fly around the country for free on the team charter.  The report, which will be published Thursday, reportedly will not provide for additional sanctions against the Memphis program, leaving Josh Pastner and his gutted program a fighting chance to emerge from the Calipari era with some dignity intact.

calipari and rose

Speaking of Coach Cal (and UK fans will remind us that correlation isn’t causation), he now becomes the first head coach in the history of college basketball to have had NCAA-mandated removals of Final Four appearances at different schools.  You should recall that Calipari’s only other F4 appearance in 1996 was later vacated because of Marcus Camby’s prodigious affinity for cashmoney and bling.  This latest Derrick Rose situation makes Calipari programs two-for-two, and, interestingly, the Memphis Tiger program two-for-three on removed Final Four appearances.  Keep polishing that 1973 runner-up trophy, Tigers, it’ll be a while until the next one.

Here’s the list of F4 teams whose appearance was later vacated by the NCAA that 2007-08 Memphis joins.

  • Ohio St. (1999) – Jim O’Brien
  • Minnesota (1997) – Clem Haskins
  • UMass (1996) – John Calipari
  • Michigan (1992 & 1993) – Steve Fisher
  • Memphis (1985) – Dana Kirk
  • UCLA (1980) – Larry Brown
  • Villanova (1971) – Jack Kraft
  • St. Joseph’s (1961) – Jack Ramsay

Do you guys believe in karma?  This list is populated by four national runners-up and five other semifinalists, but the NCAA has to date still managed to avoid vacating a national championship team.  And without question, the Rose/Calipari Memphis team was the closest finalist on this list to actually cutting down the nets.  Maybe there was a little more magic to the Mario Miracle dagger than we understood at the time?

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Time to Bet Heavily Against FIU

Posted by nvr1983 on April 14th, 2009

According to Jeff Goodman at Fox Sports, Isiah Thomas has accepted an offer from Florida International University to become their head coach. We briefly discussed the situation yesterday, but now that it’s all but official it is probably a good time to review Isiah’s prior experience. As a basketball player, there is no question that he was an all-time great. As a basketball executive/coach? Not so much.

isiahthomas

Here is a quick recap of his prior stints in a managerial role:

  • Toronto Raptors (1994-1998): Serving as the GM and part-owner, he started by taking B.J. Armstrong with the #1 pick in the 1995 expansion draft. While Armstrong isn’t what you would consider #1 pick material, when you look at the other luminaries that were available it was probably a pretty good pick (at the very least he could show the young guys all the three championship rings Michael Jordan won for him that he won). Unfortunately, Armstrong refused to report to the team and was promptly traded. Even though the team was 67-179, Isiah did exhibit some draft acumen by taking Damon Stoudamire (turning the #7 pick into the Rookie of the Year), Marcus Camby (the #2 pick who might have won Rookie of the Year that year if it wasn’t for some guy named Allen Iverson), and Tracy McGrady (with #9 pick out of high school just 2 years after Isiah’s hilarious plan for Kevin Garnett). Sadly, this was probably the high point of Isiah’s managerial career.
  • NBC (1998): Briefly worked with Bob Costas and Doug Collins. Not particularly memorable, but it worked out better than his last appearance on NBC (see below).

  • CBA (1999-2000): Purchased the league for $10 million on October 7, 1999 and turned down an offer from the NBA to purchase it for $11 million and a percentage of the profits, which according to some sources would have been a $2 million profit (or a 20% ROI) in March 2000. Isiah then promptly proceeded to show everyone what a shrewd businessman he was for turning down the 20% ROI in 5 months by running the league into bankruptcy. [Ed. Note: The fact that the CBA Museum has a page for Isiah Thomas is amazing. Isn't that kind of like a Jewish charity museum starting an exhibit on Bernie Madoff?] Sadly, this was not the low point of Isiah’s managerial career.
  • Indiana Pacers (2000-2003): Took over a team that Larry Bird had coached to the Eastern Conference finals and decided to change directions with a youth movement by playing Jermaine O’Neal, Jamaal Tinsley, and Al Harrington more minutes. Even though he had a respectable 131-115 regular season record, his stint is largely considered a failure as his team’s lost in the first round in each of his 3 seasons as a coach. Heading into Isiah’s 4th year, Larry Bird came back as President of Basketball Operations. At his press conference, Bird assured the media that he would work with Isiah. He promptly fired Thomas and replaced him with Rick Carlisle. [Lesson: Don't mess with the Basketball Jesus.]
  • New York Knicks (2003-2008): I don’t know what can be said that hasn’t already been said. I’ll just refer you to Jeff Coplon’s article that says everything in its title “Absolutely, Positively the Worst Team in the History of Professional Sports”. Quick Cliff Notes style summary: Threw away two 1st round picks for Eddy Curry. Fired Larry Brown (his best move) and made himself coach (his worst move–on the court). Ordered his team to commit a hard foul against the Denver Nuggets resulting in a brawl. Despite having the highest paid team in the league and the pipe dream of landing LeBron James he continued to blow money/cap space on over-priced/under-performing players. “Reassigned” and forbidden to have any contact with the Knicks’ players. Charged in a sexual harassment lawsuit that led Madison Square Garden to pay $11.6 million to his accuser and offended multiple sponsors. Reportedly overdosed on Lunesta and was taken to the hospital, but afterwards tried to throw the entire thing on his 17 year-old daughter.

So, um yeah, good luck with that FIU.

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Sweetest NCAA Memories #16: 1996 UMass Minutemen

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2009

memories

RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament. 

Who knew that the 1996 UMass team would have such an effect on our correspondents?  We got two unique submissions relating to Coach Calipari’s plucky national semifinalist.

refuse-to-lose-2 

Refuse to Lose  (submitted by Obsessed with Sports)

A year after being knocked out of the Sweet 16 by “Big Country” Bryant Reeves and Oklahoma State, the Minutemen were back deep in the dance. I was only 11 years old but I had been a die hard Minuteman fan for all of a year at this point. If someone had asked me who my favorite athletes were, Marcus Camby would have been #2 right after Ken Griffey, Jr.

I thought it was so simple to make noise come March. To me it seemed that UMass was there every year. How wrong I was. Back then I didn’t know about how Marcus Camby got to Amherst, why he chose UMass or how much money he allegedly took fro magents while there. I didn’t understand the recruiting genius that was coach John Calipari. Regardless, right years later when I was accepted to the University of Massachusetts as an undergraduate, it was those great basketball memories that had stayed in my mind all these years. Coack Cal was long gone, that Final Four banner engulfed in controversy, but the memories remained.

March is about loyalty. Staying true to the team(s) that you represent for whatever reason. There are always new sweetheart teams that you fall for but it comes down to those perenial favorites that you live and die with.

Last year UMass was in the hunt. Although they did not make the tournament (after another A-10 tourney blow-up) they did make it to the finals of the NIT. The university had the most embarrassing shirts made: NIT Finalist… but still Massachusetts was again on the national stage.

Remember, come March; stay loyal and Refuse To Lose.

Solace in Geographic Solidarity  (submitted by Allen R of Houston Basketball Junkies)

My earliest distinct memory of watching college basketball and really getting into it is of John Calipari and his University of Massachusetts Minutemen went to the Final Four in 1996.

Yes, this was only 13 years ago and I’m still fairly young when it comes to being a college basketball historian.

But I can remember like it was yesterday being a wide-eyed 7 year old watching Marcus Camby reject shots by the minute and John Calipari strut the sidelines as the Minutemen’s young, up and coming coach. I admit, I thought that Calipari with his suits and slicked back hair was one of the coolest guys out there. Let me remind you, I was still 7 at this time.

They were also a team from the northern part of the country and at that age I still felt like an outsider, having just recently moved to Texas from the Northeast. That Minuteman team was somewhat of a surprise, although Camby won a slew of national awards that year, including the Naismith Trophy if I remember correctly.

But I didn’t just enjoy the Minutemen that spring of ’96, I fell in love with college basketball and March Madness. I discovered the joy of preparing a bracket and getting off of school early to watch the early tournament action. To this day, the 7 year old boy in me still longs to watch that #16 seed knock off the #1 in that most unlikely of upsets.

Things have come full circle for me, as I write about college basketball and John Calipari now coaches at the University of Memphis, which is the biggest obstacle to the tournament dreams of my college: the University of Houston.

It’s funny how life works out some times.

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