Pac-12 Weekly Five: 06.08.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on June 8th, 2012

  1. A former Pac-12 great is back home, as 2000 Stanford graduate Mark Madsen is returning back to the Farm to become an assistant coach. Madsen was a member of the 1998 Cardinal team that made the Final Four (the first Stanford team to advance that far since the NCAA championship team of 1942), before going on to play nine seasons in the NBA. He’ll take over the spot vacated by Dick Davey, who retired in March. Madsen will work with post players and give current head coach Johnny Dawkins’ staff a tie to the most successful stretch of basketball in the modern history of the program. We’re just guessing that Madsen isn’t going to moonlight as a dance teacher at Stanford.
  2. Oregon fans got bad news yesterday when it was confirmed that sophomore guard Brett Kingma, a sharpshooter who saw limited minutes and limited success as a freshman, would be transferring out of the program. In the wake of the Ducks losing both starting backcourt players from last year, Kingma appeared set for a bump in minutes, but instead he’ll choose to sit out a year and likely take a step down in competition for the remainder of his college career. While it is certainly well within Kingma’s right to find a place more suited to him, this once again appears to be a case of a youngster making a rash decision early in his career as a result of limited playing time. With Kingma’s decision, now three out of four members of Dana Altman’s 2011 recruiting class have left the school before their sophomore seasons.
  3. Arizona’s 2012-13 schedule is rapidly rounding into shape, as they announced an agreement with UTEP this week for a home-and-home series that will begin on November 15 at the McKale Center. The second half of this series won’t take place until 2014-15 in El Paso. With this announcement, the Wildcats have just one remaining open spot on their 2012-13 schedule, which is expected to be another home-and-home series, this one with a power conference school that will begin on the road. With games at home against Long Beach State, Southern Miss, Florida and Oral Roberts already on the schedule, along with a trip to Clemson and visit to the Diamond Head Classic over Christmas weekend, the ‘Cats certainly shouldn’t be hurting for chances to pad their non-conference resume.
  4. Sticking around in Tucson a bit longer, Wildcat head coach Sean Miller won the “Shots From the Heart” championship, a free-throw-shooting contest between NCAA Division I head basketball coaches in support of the American Heart Association and the Skip Prosser Foundation. Miller won the final round of the competition by knocking down 24 of 25 attempts in the final round, defeating Detroit head coach Ray McCallum who made just 21 of his 25 attempts. Over the six rounds of the tournament, Miller made 145 of his 150 attempts, good for 96.7%, an absurd number. If you want to congratulate him, or see if he can drop some free throw shooting tips on you, hit him up on his new Twitter account which he just began a few weeks back.
  5. Lastly, this week ESPN unveiled its list of the most attractive coaching jobs in college basketball, broken down by conference. In the Pac-12, there certainly weren’t a ton of surprises, with UCLA, Arizona and Washington taking the top three spots, but there are definitely some areas to quibble with their rankings. First and foremost, the idea that Utah is the third-worst position in the conference is absurd. For a school in a basketball-crazy state with a sparkling reputation at lower levels, you have to think the Utes should be near the top half of the conference, certainly ahead of a USC job where, although there are plenty of recruits to choose from in the local area, the Trojan basketball team will always play second fiddle to the crosstown UCLA program, not to mention the Trojans’ storied football program.
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Morning Five: 06.08.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 8th, 2012

  1. released its list of the top 10 coaching jobs in college basketball yesterday. This article was a capstone piece to a week’s worth of solid analysis evaluating the best-to-worst coaching jobs in each of the six power conferences, and the overall best/worst mid-major positions as well. Just over a year ago we did a similar analysis here at RTC, ranking the top 20 coaching jobs at the time, using the general criteria of attractiveness of the position to potential suitors. This is a bit of a flash point to many fans of top programs who generally go through life with the attitude of ‘what’s not to like?’ without considering that choosing among the elite schools is a bit like dating Miss America candidates. To paraphrase a line from Garrison Keillor, everyone is above average — the differences are really at the margins. With that said, we believe that ESPN is seriously underrating Duke in terms of its job attractiveness. We understand the point about Coach K as the heart and soul of the program, but that doesn’t make the job any less enticing. What K has built there over three decades is a brand synonymous with elite college basketball — this indisputable fact alone makes the job better than the sixth best in the country. At worst, Duke should be listed as third behind Kentucky and North Carolina; but behind Indiana? Now, that’s just silly.
  2. Earlier this week we learned that Mark Madsen is headed back to the college basketball world to join Johnny Dawkins’ staff as a new assistant coach at Stanford. Mad Dog led the Cardinal to its last Final Four in 1998, and won two NBA titles as a benchwarmer with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001 and 2002. The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg caught up with Madsen on Wednesday and published this entertaining interview that discusses such disparate topics as his world championship dance moves, recruiting, and the Zen Master, Phil Jackson.
  3. Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes was one of the best surprises of the 2011-12 conference season, quite literally walking from high school on to the Volunteers’ roster at midseason and immediately becoming the team’s best player in a matter of weeks. This week, he and 22 of his fellow 18-and-under friends are competing for 12 spots on the Team USA Under-18 national team, and his experience of playing in a major collegiate environment for half a season gives him a distinct advantage over the others (all of whom are either still in high school or just graduating). Mike DeCourcy writes that the powerful young player is clearly a “star in the making” for Tennessee, and the additional experience he gains this summer will no doubt give him even more of a leg up on the rest of his contemporaries who have never seen the speed of high D-I basketball.
  4. Luke Winn had better step away from the excel spreadsheets for a while to get ready for the London Olympics next month, because when he starts writing columns about the Herfindahl Index (HHI) to explain trends in college basketball, we know that he’s gone certifiable. It’s certainly not that it doesn’t make any sense — it certainly does — it’s just that we’re worried about the guy. Regardless of his mental health, the HHI is a business analytical tool that typically measures market share concentration, but Winn uses it in his latest column to study offensive balance among national championship teams over the last 16 seasons. Perhaps the most interesting finding from his analysis was that the two Kentucky champions covered in this period (1998 and 2012) also happened to be the most balanced teams of the era — a quirky truth separated by 14 years, a couple of coaches, and quite a bit of talent and experience. Interesting post.
  5. Is NCAA head honcho Mark Emmert on the way out? Sports by Brooks reported on Thursday that it had information on good authority that Emmert was in discussions with LSU (where he served as their chancellor a decade ago) to become a combined president/chancellor with considerable power and prestige under the new position. Emmert, through a spokesman, called the report “complete nonsense,” but it brings up an interesting thought that the pull to become a president of a major state university could be considered a step up from the presidency of the NCAA. We have to admit some ignorance on this point, but LSU isn’t Michigan, and we would think that as president of an organization with a billion dollar budget the likes of the NCAA would be a better gig than whatever Baton Rouge might offer, but maybe we’re just admittedly out of touch on this point. It’ll be interesting to see regardless of whether there’s any fire with this smoke.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.26.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 26th, 2012

  1. The Pac-12 in the NCAA Tournament may be a distant memory, but conference teams continue to play on in lesser postseason tournaments. Washington State kicks off a three-game series for the championship of the CBI tournament tonight against Pittsburgh, but will likely have to do so without its most valuable player, Brock Motum. Motum sprained an ankle early in the Cougars’ semifinal game against Oregon State last week, but his teammates were able to step up and cover for him. While he is questionable for tonight’s game, head coach Ken Bone claims that there is a stronger chance that he’ll be able to return for Wednesday night’s game in Pittsburgh.
  2. Meanwhile, Washington heads back to Madison Square Garden for the third time this season as the Huskies face Minnesota in the NIT semifinals on Tuesday night. The first time UW played at MSG this season, freshman guard Tony Wroten put on a show for a national audience, scoring 24 points, including 14 in the final 10 minutes as he tried to will his team back into the game. Now, after a disappointing end to the Huskies’ NCAA Tournament chances when Wroten missed multiple free throws down the stretch of a Pac-12 tournament game, he is back to reprise his starring role in one of the nation’s best basketball arenas. And it is possible, given Wroten’s chances of becoming a high draft pick in June’s NBA Draft, that his time in the spotlight as a collegiate player will be book-ended by appearances in the World’s Most Famous Arena.
  3. Stanford is the other Pac-12 team still alive, also in the NIT semifinals, facing Massachusetts on Tuesday night. This will also be the Cardinal’s third appearance this season at Madison Square Garden too, after they beat Oklahoma State and dropped a tight game to Syracuse at the Garden in the Preseason NIT during Thanksgiving weekend. But Stanford is also in the news lately because head coach Johnny Dawkins is reportedly a possible candidate for the head coaching job at Illinois. Dawkins denies the reports, but with Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens having already turned down the Illini, Dawkins is supposed to be considered along with Leonard Hamilton, Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant for the position.
  4. Elsewhere around the Cardinal program, with associate head coach Dick Davey retiring at the end of the season, should Dawkins return (which, really, is to be expected, not only because Illinois can probably find someone better than him for their position, but also because he would probably rather be at Stanford that in Champaign), he’ll need to fill a spot on his staff. And, among the candidates for that seat is former Cardinal star Mark Madsen. Madsen has limited coaching experience, and Dawkins can certainly find somebody with a more solid resume, but the case can be made that snapping up Madsen now would be good for the Cardinal program in the future.
  5. Lastly, we missed this back at the start of March, but California will be among the eight teams playing in the 2013 Maui Invitational. The Golden Bears will join Syracuse, Baylor, Gonzaga, Arkansas, Dayton, Minnesota and, host Chaminade in Maui in November 2013. It’s too early to prognosticate the strength of any of those teams, but Syracuse, Baylor and Gonzaga have been consistently solid in recent years, while the Bears could feature Allen Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon as seniors, with David Kravish as a junior.
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Past Imperfect: The Tournament We Forgot

Posted by JWeill on March 18th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a series focusing on the history of the game. Each week, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBossEmail) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: the lost, great 1998 NCAA tournament.

The 1998 NCAA tournament is the most exciting, bracket busting, nerve-wracking, well-played tournament in the modern era. And yet, no one seems to remember it. It’s sandwiched right there between “Simon says, ‘Championship,’” and Khalid El-Amin atop the scorer’s table. Can you see it? Look closely, it’s there. It’s the one with the two weird teams in the Final Four, the North Carolina squad coached by the old guy (no, not Dean Smith, the other old guy) and the first-year black coach at Kentucky. Oh, I know what will help…it’s the one where the coach’s kid hits that shot. Oh, now you remember.

It’s a shame, too, that no one remembers the 1998 tourney in toto. From beginning to end, the tournament was riveting, nip-and-tuck, gut-twisting basketball. And it didn’t take long at all to shake things up. On the first day, before many people were probably even aware that games were afoot, an out-of-the-way locale provided fans with some of the tournament’s most in-your-face moments, courtesy of a few names fans would become very familiar with over the next decade but who at the time were little known outside of the basketball community. But strange things can happen in Boise.

Ben Howland, then coach of the 15th-seeded Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, had his team on the cusp of history, all even at 62 apiece with Bob Huggins’ two-seed Cincinnati with just seconds remaining. Northern Arizona was the nation’s best three-point shooting team that year, so it was doubly cruel when Cincinnati’s D’Juan Baker buried an open three to win the game with just 3.6 seconds left to save the Bearcats’ skin. But Cincinnati’s flirtation with late-game disaster would come back to bite them the next round when, this time against West Virginia, Baker again hit a deep three-pointer to give his team the lead and then strutted down the court, only to watch helplessly as Mountaineers guard Jarrod West – yes, Jarrie West — threw up a prayer that was answered with eight tenths of a second left. West’s tipped three-pointer hit the backboard and went through the net, turning Baker’s sideline strut into a slumped-over disbelief. Live by the buzzer beater, die by the buzzer beater.

Meanwhile, in Sacramento, Tennessee fans got their first glimpse of a coach they’d become all too familiar with in a few years, when Kevin Stallings-coached Illinois State ruined the Volunteers’ sunny trip West on a running layup with 1.8 seconds left in overtime. While the Redbirds would get blasted in the second round, that was small consolation for Tennessee fans. Because just a season later, Stallings would take the job at intra-state rival Vanderbilt.

Valparaiso guard Bryce Drew hit a classic buzzer beater in Round 1.

But the action wasn’t all left to the Left Coast. Back in D.C., President Bill Clinton wasn’t the only one issuing denials. Washington denied Xavier a spot in the second round on a Deon Luton game-winner, while three-seed South Carolina saw B.J. McKie’s last-gasp attempt fall short, keeping the Gamecocks on the outside looking in at upset king Richmond moving on. Oh, and for good measure, Indiana needed extra time to top Oklahoma as well. Had enough? Too bad. Because if Thursday seemed like enough excitement for any single round, things were just getting started.

All across the country, the tense moments and close games continued on Friday. In Lexington, a gruff Syracuse senior from Lithuania named Marius Janulis buried not one but two three-pointers to help the Orange squeak by Iona. Then Chicago turned into Boise, with Detroit Mercy upsetting St. John’s by two and Western Michigan sending Clemson packing by three. Meanwhile, in Atlanta, UCLA outlasted Miami (Fl.) on four straight free throws in the final seconds. And then, it happened.

It would be a shot for all time. It would be replayed so often it has become an indelible part of the very tournament itself. Like Christian Laettner’s turnaround jumper, like Jim Valvano running around looking for someone to hug, the miracle shot by Valparaiso guard, and son of his coach, Bryce Drew was the artistic flourish on a first round of gripping drama. Drew’s deep three, coming on a designed play whereby a half-court pass is touch passed to a streaking Drew, was the most memorable moment on a whole tournament’s worth of memorable moments.

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Past Imperfect: The Reign of Doughnut Man

Posted by JWeill on February 3rd, 2011

Past Imperfect is a new series focusing on the history of the game. Every Thursday, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBoss) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: the sine-wave career arc of Doughnut Man.

It’s still one of the NCAA tournament’s most indelible moments: disheveled Princeton coach Pete Carril grinning in disbelief moments after his backdoor-cutting Tigers stunned defending national champion UCLA in the first round of the 1996 NCAA tournament. Replayed over and over through the years, the moment resonates because it captures the essence of what college basketball’s great March tradition is all about: little guy beats big guy, Cinderella at the dance, etc. But lost in all those good vibes for the white-haired coaching legend is that the other side in that game, the losing coach seen congratulating Carril on his career-defining victory, in its own way represents college basketball, too. In many ways, perhaps more so.

Pete Carril and Sydney Johnson celebrate the win over UCLA.

No one fathomed at the time that the upset loss would be Jim Harrick’s last as head coach of the UCLA Bruins. A year removed from the school’s first national title in two decades, flush with a contract extension, with a bevy of blue chip recruits on the verge of replenishing his team’s talent level for years to come, Harrick looked to have it all working. Then, in the course of a few months, it was all over. Harrick was out. Assistant Steve Lavin, with no head coaching experience at all, was in as interim coach.

How did it all go south so quickly? The answer is a tale of two coaches, of lies and deception, of risks taken and undying myths writ large. It’s an ugly story, without much grace and lacking humility. It is, in short, the story of college basketball at the highest levels.

*      *      *

It is amusing now to go back and look at statements of outrage former coach Jim Harrick made about his abrupt dismissal by UCLA in 1996. At the time, Harrick was the man who’d brought UCLA back from the ether. The West Virginian had been all smiles hoisting the national championship trophy along with Ed O’Bannon, Tyus Edney and the victorious Bruins. And rightfully so. Harrick had taken a job a slew of previous coaches had tried to tame and done the only thing he’d been hired to do: win a national title again. Favorite sons Walt Hazzard, Gary Cunningham and Larry Farmer didn’t do it. Future coaching legends Gene Bartow and Larry Brown couldn’t do it, either. But the onetime UCLA assistant – the guy who never even played college basketball – did it. And he did it his own way, with style.

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