09.14.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on September 14th, 2009

In the last week or so, we’ve noticed that the days are distinctly shorter than they were, which means only one thing…  darkness.

  • What, no Matt Doherty?  Carolina celebrated its 100 years of basketball with a blowout extravaganza two Fridays ago featuring such UNC luminaries as Dean Smith, Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, Phil Ford, Larry Brown, Antawn Jamison, George Karl, Julius Peppers and a bunch of other dignitaries, both past and present.  The tribute video they presented at the beginning of the evening should be mandatory viewing for every recruit that steps into Chapel Hill (sidenote: 2010 #1 Harrison Barnes and several others were there), but the featured event was the scrimmage, nicknamed the “Professional Alumni Game,” where the White team (starters: Raymond Felton, Brendan Haywood, Marvin Williams, Antawn Jamison and Jerry Stackhouse) defeated the Blue team (Vince Carter, Jawad Williams, Dante Calabria, Sean May and Ed Cota) 113-92.  It sounds great and all, but it was the trotting out of that old Carolina/Dean Smith warhorse, the Four Corners offense, that just about made this writer puke.  Let’s sully one of the greatest collections of collegiate talent ever put together in a single place at a single time by reminiscing and celebrating one of the biggest abominations the game has ever witnessed.  For you youngsters, the 4C was largely responsible for the implementation of the 45-second shot clock in the mid-80s, and is widely ridiculed as one of the worst inventions of the modern game.  Bad, bad idea, Heels.  As another sidenote to this Carolina joyfest, did anyone else feel that MJ’s acceptance speech at the HOF induction last weekend was completely petty and mean-spirited?  From our cheap seats, it appears that more than one Jordan Myth was defused this weekend (h/t TBL).
  • Memphis Appeals.  Last week Memphis sent its timely notice of appeal to the NCAA based on the Derrick Rose Scandal, arguing that the Tigers’ 38 wins and NCAA Tournament runner-up appearance from 2007-08 should not be removed from the history books.  Among the findings that led to the penalties, the only one that Memphis is appealing is the violation involving Derrick Rose’s SAT score.  This is presumably because it is also the most difficult one to prove (cf. with Memphis getting cold-busted for providing illicit airfare and hotels to Reggie Rose).  The school, now represented by “NCAA defender to the stars” Mike Glazier, has thirty days to present its arguments to the NCAA Infractions Committee, and their argument is going to undoubtedly hinge on the seeming inconsistency of Derrick Rose being cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse prior to his freshman season only to be later deemed ineligible after the fact.  Sadly for Memphis, in this case and in the real world, what is an apparent inconsistency is incongruent with the fact that the justice system (and the NCAA) doesn’t work like that.  The bottom line is this: so long as the Clearinghouse made a good faith effort to determine the basis for Rose’s initial eligibility (and we presume it did), the revelation of later evidence indicting Rose’s SAT provenance has no bearing on the initial assessment.  The NCAA had no basis to believe that Rose had cheated on his SATs until the allegations surfaced after his freshman year.  The real-world analogy would be if the police did a cursory investigation of someone related to a crime and found no evidence to initially support their involvement, only to receive credible information a year later that the person investigated might have indeed committed the crime.  Rose was no more “cleared” than any of us are – there is no “get-out-of-jail-free” card that we can present in perpetuity; if additional information comes to light, it is entirely reasonable for conditions to change in response.  Furthermore, the fact that Rose then ignored three letters from ETS (who administers the SAT) questioning his score, and two other letters from the NCAA requesting an interview, does not help his case.  Unless he plans on showing up to the NCAA hearing on Memphis’ behalf with evidence to the contrary (LOLable), we’re afraid that Memphis is going to be forced to eat those 38 wins and the $600K they stand to lose here.  Maybe Josh Pastner could simply request that Rose write him a check?
  • Back To Renardo Sidney.  The NCAA stated last Friday that Mississippi St.’s Renardo Sidney is not certified to play this season because his family did not turn over the financial documentation that they requested as part of the investigation into how the Sidneys afforded to live in high-end homes in the LA area.  Or as they put it, Sidney is “not certified due to non response.”  The NCAA went on to say that if or when the Sidneys send the information requested (and not a stack of random papers they found in someone’s locker), then his certification will be re-evaluated.  What does all this mean?  Basically, the NCAA doesn’t want to get caught with its pants down again, as in the cases of OJ Mayo and Derrick Rose where they certified players as initially eligible only to watch as those same players danced on the NCAA Clearinghouse’s grave en route to the NBA.  Sidney’s attorney is threatening lawsuit, and we suspect that his argument “that the Sidney family has to establish the existence of non-violations” probably has some merit, but none of this may matter given we’re only two months from the first games and the justice system moves slower than molasses.  It’s unlikely that MSU will risk playing Sidney while the wheels of justice are turning simply because they don’t want a Rose giveback of all the Ws they’re anticipating this season.
  • Vegas Watch: Big Ten.  VW got his third installment of the major conference previews up today, and once again we were invited along for the peep show.  What’s interesting about the Big Ten ratings is that we all pretty much agreed that Purdue is the best team in the conference in 09-10, but (at least for our money) Michigan St. is the team more likely to do damage in the NCAA Tournament.  Another good exercise, and the league is looking at being way up – up to seven solid NCAA bids this season.  For the ACC and Big 12 ratings and discussion, see these posts.
  • Quick HitsSlam Magazine: finished its Top 25.  Arizona St.: more than just Harden and PendergraphParrish: why Butler is no Boise.   Goodman: 25 players you should know for 09-10, and his all-americans (John Wall for POY = bold).  Incredible Shrinking Center: Memphis’ Pierre Henderson-NilesJim Griffin: RIPJohn Pelphrey at Arkansas: agreedSeton Hall: extends Bobby Gonzalez to 2015Florida St.: haven’t we heard this song before?  Travis Ford: wow, how do you get a 10-year extension after one year on the job?  Larry Eustachy: Gillispie has a diseaseFreshmen: here’s the top 20 for 09-10Memphis: down to 8 scholarship playersBlue Ribbon: go ahead and order it.
Share this story

Team of the 2000s: #1 – North Carolina

Posted by rtmsf on August 21st, 2009

teamof2000(2)

Ed. Note: check the category team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

And so we reach the pinnacle.  Ladies and gentlemen, prep yourselves, as this will come as a complete shocker… but your #1 program of the last decade is the North Carolina Tar Heels.  We know that you were probably thinking it was Gonzaga or Pittsburgh, but alas, the fine programs from Washington and Pennsylvania will have to wait another decade for the RTC Good Hoopskeeping seal of approval.

Be sure to check back Monday as we’ll do some clean-up on the series, including a look at some of the programs who just missed the top ten.

#1 – North Carolina

team2000sunc2

Overview.  Maybe we should just call it the Decade of Roy Williams.  After all, most of Carolina’s success in the 2000s is directly attributable to Ol’ Roy.  If you consider his 111 more wins at Kansas, three more trips to the NCAA’s second weekend and two additional F4s in the decade, you’re looking at a coaching juggernaut.  But Roy isn’t North Carolina and UNC isn’t Roy – it only feels that way.  This is about UNC, and despite a one-season blip in 2001-02 that time has forgotten, mostly accounting for their relatively poor overall winning percentage, the Heels have the goods in almost every other way.  Were they as consistent as Duke or Michigan State?  Nope.  Were they as much of a conference titan as KU or their hated rival in Durham?  Nope again.  But their numbers stack up very well in all categories across the board, and they’ve utterly dominated the second half of the 2000s in much the same way that Duke/Kentucky lorded over their respective halves of the 90s.  From 2005-09, the Heels have won two national championships with completely different casts, went to another F4, lost in OT in an Elite Eight and lost in the second round against the biggest Cinderella of the last quarter-century.  Not.  Too.  Shab.  The Heels didn’t have as much success during the first half of the decade, but they still managed to tack on another F4 as an absurd #8 seed in 2000, as well as two other second round appearances and an NIT appearance.  All the while continuing to produce a slew of  all-americans and NBA draft picks.  What separates Carolina in our eyes is the second championship that Roy hung next to the others in 2009.  Florida’s 06/07 back-to-back was extremely impressive, because everyone knows just how difficult it is to repeat in college basketball.  But in our view, it’s even more impressive to endure massive defections of NBA talent the likes of which UNC had from 2005-07 and still be able to climb the mountaintop a mere four years later.  A reasonable argument could be made that UNC was the best team in the country in four of the last five seasons (2005, 2007, 2008, 2009), and it wouldn’t necessarily render you a nutjob to contemplate it.  So North Carolina is our choice for the top program of the 2000s, and with the second championship currently shimmering in the Chapel Hill sunlight, we’re not convinced that any other school should be higher.

unc title 2005

Pinnacle.  The 2005 national championship.  Just three short years removed from the worst Carolina season in modernity (more on this later), UNC was once again the king of the college basketball world.  What seemed a million and one miles away under Matt Doherty’s tenure felt like a natural outcome under the coolest of cats, Roy Williams.  One of the very proudest fanbases in America could once again claim basketball supremacy, and after what they had been through, it must have felt like raining gold coins from heaven.   Carolina’s fourth national championship team was led by Sean May, Rashad McCants and Ray Felton, but it was a long, lean freshman by the name of Marvin Williams who saved the Heels from a trademarked (at the time) Roy collapse when he rebounded a wild reverse layup from the sometimes-erratic McCants and punched it back in for a 72-70 lead.  A Felton steal later and several desperation three attempts by the Illini, and the monkey was most definitely off of Roy’s back.  His back is so light right now that he turned around and did it again in 2009 and looks primed to have several more shots at it before he retires a Carolina hero.

Tailspin.   Without question, the 2001-02 UNC team represents the worst season for a traditional powerhouse school in two decades.  But just as Duke was Team of the 1990s despite the Pete Gaudet Incident; UNC made up for its one bad year with plenty of success the rest of the decade.  In ACC circles, UNC’s record of 8-20 is still brought up as a euphemism for terrible.  And that team was terrible – eight of their twenty losses were of the 20+ point variety as teams who had long been pushed around by UNC wasted no time in returning the favor, if only for a year.  It began with three straight opening losses to the likes of Hampton, Davidson and Indiana, continued with a series of whippings by Kentucky, Maryland, Wake Forest, Duke and Ohio (at home), but the most embarrassing part of the entire season had to be the Heels’ last game of the year in the ACC Tournament.  Deciding that UNC simply couldn’t stack up talent-wise with the defending national champion Blue Devils (who had defeated them by a total of 54 pts in their regular season meetings), Matt Doherty decided to slow the game down to a veritable crawl, holding the ball until under-ten on the shot clock before running a play.  The typically entertaining and high-scoring Duke-Carolina showdown was bastardized into a 28-22 at the half Big Ten game.  Doherty got one more year to turn the ship around, but a near-mutiny at the end of the 2002-03 season led to the Roy Williams era.

wheresdook

Outlook for 2010s:  Grade: A+.   Roy Williams is 59 years old and is showing no signs of slowing down.  Unlike other coaches his age, he seems to embrace recruiting and it pays off year after year with NBA caliber talent coming through his program.  By our count, Williams has recruited an absurd THIRTY McDonald’s All-Americans in his twenty-one years of coaching (average: 1.4 per year) at Kansas and UNC, and there are no signs of this receding (14 at Carolina already, including four incoming freshman for 2009-10).  Duke is the only other program with thirty or more.  Furthermore, there’s absolutely no chance of Williams taking any other job, NBA or college – he’ll be at UNC until retirement.  We fully expect UNC to continue to make F4s and compete for championships throughout the next decade, and the Heels may be right here on top of this list again ten years from now.

Share this story

Gladwell’s Theory on Full Court Pressure is the Only Outlier Here

Posted by nvr1983 on May 5th, 2009

Everyone’s favorite contrarian and make-sense-of-the-world guru, Malcolm Gladwell, wrote a provocative piece in this week’s New Yorker that is making the rounds among the hoops blognoscenti today.  Gladwell, the author of such fantastic thinking-man’s books such as The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers, is one of our favorite writers, one of the few in the industry for whom we’ll actually make a specific trek to the book store and pay for a hardcover (!) edition shortly after his new material arrives.  So when we say we’re a major fan of his writing, thinking and (ahem) moral clarity, we’re not joking.  In RTC’s view of the world, Gladwell is Blake Griffin and the rest of us are merely the rim (or a hapless Michigan defender, take your pick).

Well, except for today.

gladwell-cartoon

Gladwell’s Argument

The article is long, but Gladwell’s thesis focuses on a story about a girls’ junior league basketball team located in Silicon Valley, filled with 12-yr olds who admittedly weren’t very good at the skillful parts of the game, but they could run and hustle and were able to win their local league and make the national tournament based upon their reliance and perfection of a strategy that any team can employ: the use of full-court pressure defense.  In his argument, Gladwell successfully interweaves the biblical story of David vs. Goliath with quantitative analyses of historical military strategy and modern basketball, ultimately concluding that the Davids in every facet of competition have a much better chance of winning by simply changing up how the game is played.

Using his typical mixture of anecdotal and statistical evidence, Gladwell argues that for a David to have a chance at beating Goliath, he must do two things.  The first thing – outwork Goliath – is a simple enough concept; but, more importantly,  the second requirement is that David must also be willing to do something that is “socially horrifying” in order to change the conventions of the battle.  For example, David knew he couldn’t defeat Goliath in a traditional swordfight; so he reconsidered his options and decided instead to pick up and throw the five stones by which his opponent fell.  Gladwell likens this strategy to the one implemented by the girls’ team’s coach, Vivek Ranadive, an Indian-born immigrant who had never before played the game of basketball.   Noting that his team wasn’t skilled enough to compete in the traditional half-court style of basketball played by most teams at that level, he instituted a full court pressure defense that truly confounded their opponents.  Using Gladwell’s model, the press was a socially horrifying construct that allowed Ranadive’s team a chance to compete with their more pysically talented contemporaries.  And compete they did, all the way to the national tournament.

Given the purported equalizing effect of the press, Gladwell asked why isn’t the use of full-court pressure defense more commonly used in organized basketball?  He cites Rick Pitino as one of the most successful adopters of the strategy, particularly with his 80s Providence and 90s Kentucky teams, but other than a few coaches here and there over the years, in his estimation the strategy remains largely underutilized (Mizzou’s Mike Anderson and Oklahoma St.’s Travis Ford, a Pitino protege, say “hi”).

malcolm-gladwell-for-harry-rosen

Why It’s Wrong

We’re somewhat concerned about a lightning bolt striking us when we say this, but Gladwell completely misses the mark on this one – the full court press as a strategy works great when you’re dealing with 12-yr old girls whose teams are generally all at roughly the same skill and confidence levels (i.e., not very good), but as you climb the ladder and start to see the filtration of elite talent develop in the high schools, it actually becomes a weapon that favors the really good teams, the Goliaths, more than that of the underdogs.  The reason for this disparity is simple – successful pressure defense is a function of phenomenal athleticism (quickness, activity and agility) more than any other single factor, and the best teams tend to have the best athletes (not always, but often).  That’s why the early 90s leviathans of UNLV, Arkansas and Kentucky were so unbelievably devastating – they each could send wave after wave of long, athletic players at their opponents, which were usually slower, less athletic and shallower teams.

Gladwell confirms this when he talks with Pitino at length about the 1996 Kentucky dismantling of LSU, when the Wildcats went into the locker room with an 86-42 lead as an example of the devastating consequences of a great full-court press.  No argument there, but where it breaks down is when he fails to recognize that 1996 UK team was one of the best and deepest teams in the last quarter century of college basketball.  Nine players saw time in the NBA from a team who steamrolled most everyone they came into contact with that season.  The LSU first half was Exhibit A of the destruction, but they were far from the only one, and for Gladwell to use this example to somehow make a case for full-court pressure defense assisting the Davids pull off an upset is borderline absurd!

The other factor that Gladwell doesn’t discuss in his piece is that teams at the highest levels of basketball usually have guards who can beat pressure by themselves (not typically found at the 12-yr old level).  There’s a very good reason that you almost never see a full-court press in the NBA, and it’s because point guards like Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo are nearly impossible to trap in the full-court.  Every NBA team has at least one player who can easily negotiate any backcourt trap, which will lead to an automatic fast break advantage and two points at the other end – a coach of an underdog employing this strategy on a consistent basis will soon be in the unemployment line if he tries this too often.  This is obviously less true at the collegiate level, but there are enough good guards at the top programs that similarly make full-court pressure a relatively futile effort.  Are you seriously going to trap Ty Lawson or Sherron Collins for an entire game?  Good luck with that strategy.

Not Even Matt Doherty Would Press Full Court as an Underdog

Not Even Matt Doherty Would Press Full Court as an Underdog

Conclusion

What’s particularly ironic about Gladwell’s conclusion that full-court pressure defense could act as the great equalizer in basketball is that a byproduct of this strategy is that it speeds up the game.  Yet, the tried-and-true method for less talented teams to have a shot to beat their more talented counterparts is to slow the game down.   Taking the air out of the ball became such a problem in the late 70s and early 80s that the NCAA instituted the shot clock to eliminate 24-11 abominations like this one.  Even former UNC coach Matt Doherty employed a modern shot-clock version of the strategy in a 60-48 loss against #1 Duke in the 2002 ACC Tournament.  We’d never say never about Doherty’s coaching acumen, but we would be seriously shocked if he had considered pressing Duke (and Jason Williams) as a viable strategy to pull off the major upset.  It is Doherty, though, so you never know.

Gladwell, as always, wrote a thought-provoking article that told a fascinating story about Vivek Ranadive’s team of twelve-year old “blonde girls.”  He failed, however, when he made a logical leap from youth league girls’ basketball to the elite levels on the assumption that such a strategy would work similarly for lesser talented teams.  It’s a fair assumption that was likely made by someone not as familiar with the intricacies of high-level basketball, but our job here of course is to set the record straight.  If we ever end up coaching youth league basketball, though, it’s now clear what our first practice will focus on.

Share this story

Conference USA Wrapup & Tourney Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2009

Memphis passed its last regular season road test and now only has a few games to go to return to the “promised land” that they’ve never really left.

While the Tigers’ dominance over the rest of CUSA is nearly unparalleled in the history of modern college basketball, it doesn’t mean that every other team is chopped liver. Basically anything can happen in a tournament setting and the Tigers have endured a few close calls this year.

2009-cusa-tourney-bracket

So here are the teams as they are seeded and some pertinent info:

#1: Memphis Tigers

Coach: John Calipari

Record: 28-3 overall (16-0 in CUSA)

Players to Watch: G Tyreke Evans, F Robert Dozier, F Shawn Taggart, G Antonio Anderson

Season Highlights: In a year that many thought would be fraught with ‘rebuilding’ and the like, the Tigers continue to look dominant. The arrival of the latest one-year wonder: Tyreke Evans, has allowed the blue and gray not miss a beat from last year’s final four squad. But the veteran leadership of guys like Antonio Anderson, Doneal Mack, Shawn Taggart and Robert Dozier has been a huge factor too. They suffered early-season setbacks against Xavier and Syracuse, but they’re currently riding 20+ game winning streak. There have been a few close calls and at the end of the day they’re still undefeated against the rest of the conference.

They Will Win If: They simply show up and play their game. I don’t want to imply that the Tigers will simply cream whomever they play, because they could well lose. But they’re playing an extremely favorable draw on their home court. This is a recipe for success and it also doesn’t hurt that they’ve won over 50 games in a row against CUSA teams.

First Game: vs. the winner of #8 Tulane/#9 East Carolina; Thursday at 8:30 pm.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on February 3rd, 2009

Allen R of Houston Basketball Junkies is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

  1. Memphis: 18-3 (7-0)
  2. UCF: 15-6 (5-2)
  3. Tulsa: 15-7 (5-2)
  4. UTEP: 13-8 (4-3)
  5. UAB: 14-8 (4-3)
  6. Houston: 12-7 (3-3)
  7. Southern Miss: 13-7 (3-3)
  8. Tulane: 9-11 (3-4)
  9. East Carolina: 10-10 (2-5)
  10. Marshall: 9-12 (2-5) 
  11. Rice: 7-14 (2-5)
  12. SMU: 6-13 (1-6)

“It’s the same old song…”

That isn’t just a line from a classic ‘Motown’ song, but the story of Conference USA basketball summed up in five choice words.

Some things change, but as last week proved, there are some things that always remain the same for a while.

1.) Don’t Boo the Aubrey: In his first game coming off the one game suspension by Conference USA, Houston guard Aubrey Coleman responded to boos and jeers from the Memphis student section by scoring 35 points. The only problem was none of Coleman’s teammates showed up and they combined for a total of 33 points, as the Tigers beat the Cougars 83-68 at the Fed Ex Forum. It was quite evident last Saturday that even in a down year, Memphis has far more talent than even the upper-tier CUSA teams like Houston.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on January 13th, 2009

Allen R. of Houston Basketball Junkies is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. 

CUSA Basketball Standings:

  1. Memphis  12-3 (2-0)
  2. Houston  10-3 (1-0)
  3. Tulsa  10-5 (1-0)
  4. UTEP  10-5 (1-0)
  5. East Carolina  9-6 (1-1)
  6. Marshall  8-7 (1-1)
  7. Tulane  7-8 (1-1)
  8. UCF  10-5 (0-1)
  9. Southern Miss  9-5 (0-1)
  10. UAB  9-6 (0-1)
  11. SMU  5-8 (0-1)
  12. Rice  5-10 (0-1)

Now that the proverbial dark cloud of non-conference play has passed, there’s the excitement of Conference USA basketball.  Everyone is now 0-0 and has their chances (some larger than others) to make a statement in the second half of the season. As this week started it didn’t matter if you were Memphis or SMU, a new season has begun for your team.

1.)  Same ‘Ol, Same ‘Ol in Memphis: There may be some surprises in conference play this season, but it doesn’t look the Tigers will be providing as many of them. In their conference opener at the FedEx Forum, Memphis dominated from start to finish in an 80-57 win over Marshall. The Tigers got a balanced scoring effort from Tyreke Evans and company. Things got scary in Orlando though as the Tigers got a stiff road test from UCF. Before last Saturday’s game, the athletic department encouraged all Knight fans to come to the arena “armored in black” to create a blackout effect. The Tigers ended up winning 73-66 due in large part to a 13 point effort from reserve Roburt Sallie. While this may be the season Memphis loses a conference game, it’s still been over 1000 days since that’s happened.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2008

Allen R of Houston Basketball Junkies is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

It was quite an eventful week for Conference USA basketball, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

The issues off the court practically overshadowed the actual games this week as the season has picked up after final exams.

  1. UAB loses four players: It has become a pattern that each year under coach Mike Davis the UAB basketball program loses players to academic, attitude and other off-the-court issues. This past week the Birmingham News reported that Ed Berrios, Armon Bassett, Jeremy Mayfield and Terrence Roderick all were booted off the team due to a failure to comply with team academic and conduct standards. Bassett was a transfer from the troubled Indiana program and was sitting out this season and Mayfield had not been eligible for the fall semester. Roderick had averaged 5.6 points and 5.5 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game, while Berrios averaged 1.1 points and 1.3 rebounds. While the Blazers do not lose any starters, they now have only 6 scholarship players available for the rest of the year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Who’s Driving the Ford Now?

Posted by rtmsf on August 26th, 2008

For Carolina basketball fans, the title of this post has significant meaning beyond the city of Motown and its crappy cars.   Some of our younger readers may recall that in 1996 Jeff McInnis was the hotheaded starting point guard for the Tar Heels.  That version of the Heels was decent, with a nascent Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter as freshmen, but the “star” of the show (at least in his mind) was clearly the junior McInnis.

According to rumors flying around the Triangle area that year, McInnis was more than just a star on the basketball court.  You couldn’t go a Harris Teeter in Cary or Hillsborough without hearing that he had procured some extra practice time with assistant coach and Carolina legend Phil Ford’s wife.  Duke fans, in all their ribald ingenuity, queried on signs whether Jeff had “driven a Ford lately?”  From Josh Levin at Slate:

Sometimes the whispers get so loud that one of the subjects goes public to defend his reputation. In 1996, practically everyone in North Carolina had heard the gossip that University of North Carolina point guard Jeff McInnis had been sleeping with Phil Ford’s wife. In his book A March to Madness, sportswriter John Feinstein delicately alludes to Duke fans razzing McInnis about “personal animosity between him and assistant coach Phil Ford.” As that year’s NBA draft neared, McInnis broke the official silence when he told the Charlotte Observer that Orlando Magic staffers had quizzed him about the allegations that he was leaving school early due to the fallout from an affair with Ford’s wife. His answer: “Nothing ever happened. She is often hugging players. … The Duke people blew the whole thing up.”

That was over a decade ago.  Since then Phil Ford had a couple of well-publicized DUIs and was released by the Fiasco Otherwise Known as Matt Doherty, and has spent the last couple of years working in an education fundraising capacity for UNC, and now, the Charlotte Bobcats.  So why is this all relevant today? 

Well, because now you too can purchase a piece of Phil Ford history (nagging not included)!  His 2000 Final Four ring earned as an assistant coach is on Ebay, and it costs five g’s.  Mewonders whether McInnis ever spent that much on Mrs. Ford (h/t AOL Fanhouse).   

Share this story

04.25.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on April 25th, 2008

Some news on early entries as the deadline (Sunday at midnight) looms and some other flotsam we’ve been holding on to for your Friday…

  • UNC’s point guard Tywon Lawson will be testing the waters.  Reading the tea leaves, does this signal a pending domino effect for his teammates Wayne Ellington, Tyler Hansbrough and/or Danny Green? 
  • Speaking of the Heels, in light of KU’s title, ol’ Roy’s face was consequently removed from a bathroom in a Lawrence, KS, barber shop. 
  • Super Mario Chalmers will be testing the waters of the NBA Draft, joining teammates Brandon Rush and Darrell Arthur in the pool. 
  • Memphis juniors Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier joined Derrick Rose and CDR in declaring for the NBA Draft this week – both will test the waters.  With Joey Dorsey (ahem) graduating, Memphis could potentially lose its entire starting five.    
  • The Texas backcourt of DJ Augustin and AJ Abrams have also decided to declare for the draft.  Abrams is probably only testing the waters. 
  • Missouri’s DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons will be testing the waters this year as well. 
  • A returner!!!  Tennessee’s Tyler Smith will return to Knoxville, where he’ll likely lead the Vols to another SEC regular season title (and not much else). 
  • VCU’s Anthony Grant and UAB’s Mike Davis received contract extensions from their schools.
  • You’ve probably heard that the itinerant Larry Brown stepped down from his job as Executive VP with the Sixers yesterday.  At least one report thinks he might be going to Stanford to take over Trent Johnson’s old job. 
  • This is a neat article on which Tobacco Road players and coaches are supporting whom in the 2008 election.  Um, shouldn’t Grant Hill be supporting Billary, given that his mom roomed with her at Wellesley?  Or…  maybe that tells you all you need to know. 
  • From the leftovers department, YABB did a quick and dirty analysis of the final conference standings of the NCAA Tournament.  Big 12… good.  ACC and SEC… bad. 
  • This is something we found that shows the progression/regression of the top four programs in terms of total wins over the last ten years.  Carolina really took a hit during those Doherty years, didn’t they?
  • Turning to the NBA Playoffs, this is a nice article on the positive effects that the late Skip Prosser had on his players now in the postseason – CP3, David West and J-Ho. 
Share this story

“I Could Give a Sh!t About North Carolina”

Posted by nvr1983 on March 31st, 2008

I know the topic has been written about ad nauseum before, but I haven’t seen anything substantial written in the major news sources about it after the Elite 8 so I’m going to pretend that I’m breaking this story. . .

As most of you know after the 2003 season, Matt Doherty of 8-20 in 2001-2002 fame “resigned” from his position as head coach at UNC. Because Doherty resigned before the Final 4, much of the talk in the week leading up to the Final 4 that year (along with a freshman phenom Carmelo Anthony) was about who would take over the prized position as coach of the Tar Heels. After Dean Smith retired, he was succeeded for a brief period by Bill Guthridge, but that was only viewed as a temporary fix as, well let’s just say that Guthridge had a lot of “experience” by the time he became a head coach. UNC hired Doherty who was fresh off a great run at Notre Dame where he won a Big East Coach of the Year award. After a strong start, Doherty’s team fell apart the next year before entering the 2002-2003 season with a talented group of freshman that you may remember (Sean May, Rashad McCants, and Raymond Felton). They got off to a hot start that year winning the Preseason NIT with wins over then #2 Kansas (and Roy Williams) and a very talented Stanford squad. However, they fell apart when Sean May was injured soon after. Doherty’s resignation sparked widespread rumors with potential coaches ranging from the absurd (Dean Smith returning) to the more realistic choices (Williams and Larry Brown). Even Dick Vitale chimed in with his thoughts on the candidates.

All of this led up to the championship game, where after a week of questions about their coach leaving, Kansas fell to Syracuse 81-78 when Hakim Warrick came out of nowhere to swat away Michael Lee’s attempt to tie the game. In the post-game aftermath, Roy Williams was interviewed by Bonnie Bernstein. What followed was one of the great moments in sports TV history. Watch and enjoy:

It turns out that in some ways this “interview” became more famous or infamous (depending on your point of view) than the game itself. Some media members were quick to defend Bernstein. As for Williams, who late on April 7th denied even thinking about the UNC job for a second, he ended up leaving Kansas and his recruits and signed with UNC on April 14th. We won’t get into all the details of the process because it ended up being really convoluted, but Joe Posnanski covered it fairly well in his interview with Roy Williams soon after Williams decided to go to UNC.

The domino effect of this saga is pretty interesting in its own right:
– UNC hires Roy Williams from Kansas.
– Kansas hires Bill Self from Illinois.
– Illinois hires Bruce Weber from Southern Illinois.
– In 2005, UNC (Williams) defeats Illinois (Weber) in the national championship game.
– On Saturday night, Kansas (Self) gets a shot at revenge against Williams.

I can’t wait to see what the Kansas fans have in store for Old Roy on Saturday night. . .

Share this story

Breaking Down the Preseason Mags… pt. 3

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2007

A month ago we gave you our reviews of the Athlon and Lindy’s preseason mags.

We’ve been busy plugging away at the conference previews, but in the interim, a few more mags have hit the shelves. So here’s the third installment of our continuing series of reviews of the preseason magazines.

Next Up: Sporting News/Street & Smith’s.

Note: Yes, TSN and S&S, two of the oldest and most respected preview issues, have joined forces this year on their college basketball preview. It remains to be seen whether this is a good idea.

TSN / S&S Cover 08

I. Covers (5 pts) - are they cool? inclusive?

  • 12 regional covers hitting only the BCS conferences. Definitely a major conference bias here.
  • Coolest Cover – see above – one thing we really like is that most of the covers are full-color action shots. The Roy Hibbert (getting serviced by Vandy’s Ross Neltner?) and Mario Chalmers shots are our favs after Richard Hendrix above. Great cover.
  • Oops. The Athlon, Lindy’s and TSN issues all use the exact same action shot for Brook Lopez of Stanford on their Pac-10 cover. Unfortunately for Cardinal fans, Lopez is not reaching for a textbook.
  • Total Points = 4

II. Ease of Use (5 pts) – how hard is it to find confs/teams?

  • Not a fan of their setup here. They divide the conferences into high, mid, and low-major categories, then list them alphabetically within each section. Quick – is the Big West a mid-major or low-major league? The MAC? How about the Southern Conference? TSN considers the MAC a high major (???) and the others as mid-majors, which means we were flipping all over the place to find these leagues. Difficult navigation.
  • Within the league, they then list each team by predicted order of finish. Typical fare here.
  • Standard format otherwise – roundup, features, analysis of teams, recruiting, stats and schedules in that order.
  • Total Points = 2.5

III. Roundup (10 pts) – every mag has one – tell us something new!

  • The Late, Late Show is a short article explaining the basis behind TSN’s pick of UCLA as the #1 team in America.
  • Decourcy’s Directives are short narratives on the following topics: Coach Calipari’s calculations; Don’t Cry for Duke; One-and-Outs to Watch; and, Recipe for a Championship. The only interesting information here is in the Recipe section, which explains that most national champions for the last 20 yrs have had at least one NBA-caliber big man and guard on their roster (exceptions: MSU-2000; Arkansas-1994; Syracuse-2003).
  • TSN also provides three teams of All-Americans, led by seven sophomores and two freshmen among the fifteen. We like that they took some chances, going with Eric Gordon (Indiana) and Chase Budinger (Arizona) on the first team over some of the better-known names.
  • There is also a Top 25 with a couple of sentences describing each team’s strengths, but it is notable that TSN doesn’t bother with predicting the NCAA field anywhere within the magazine.
  • There is one page devoted to listing the Top 100 freshmen, but rather than listing them #1-#100, they made a confounding decision to order them geographically (all-east, all-south, etc.) and then alphabetically. There’s no way to intelligently distinguish OJ Mayo (all-east) from Edwin Rios (all-south).
  • Another page lists transfers eligible this season and next, but again they’re not ranked in any discernible manner. This page also lists all the coaching changes from the offseason.
  • Overall, this section is incredibly weak compared to the other previewed magazines, and especially considering that TSN and S&S were once considered the bibles of this genre. We literally learned nothing new in this section.
  • Total Points = 3

IV. Features (15 pts) – give us some insightful and unique storylines.

  • Features – what features? There is only one feature article, which if we said was shocking would be severely understating our sentiment. So surely that one article has something to do with this season, right? Nah. Try Whatever Happened To… Teddy Dupay, JR Van Hoose and Dane Fife, three (white) players who were HS stars ten years ago but didn’t ultimately make it to the League. Don’t get us wrong, we actually appreciate the concept of an article like this. The problem is that it’s the only feature article TSN felt necessary to give us in the entire magazine. That’s beyond unacceptable, especially when you consider the cache of writers that TSN has at its disposal.
  • Cheerleaders. Ok, we enjoy a photo collage of college cheerleaders as much as the next guy, but the only other “feature” that TSN insults us with offers us is a five-page spread of various gals in tricky positions. Again, this just seem so beneath TSN and S&S to pull out the cheerleader photo section to try to increase sales. But it’s becoming increasingly apparent that they just don’t care anymore. Good grief – they even put the Duke cheerleaders in the spread (Doherty was right)!!
  • FWIW, the Texas gal on p. 21 is absolutely scorching hot, with nods to Miss UCLA and Miss Florida on p.19. Surprisingly, we found Miss Kentucky (p.20) to be one of the fugliest of the group, along with Miss Hawaii (p.19). And Miss Wichita St. (p.18) can bend in ways that aren’t quite believable.
  • Total Points = 3

V. Predictions (20 pts) – how safe are their picks? do they take any chances? are they biased toward the big boys?

  • TSN’s Top 25 is pretty standard issue big conference fodder. They do put Memphis at #2, Gonzaga at #12 and Xavier at #25, but every other team is a BCS school. Since there are no NCAA predictions, we can only assume their top 4 is their predicted F4, which would mean UCLA, Memphis, UNC and Kansas are their choices.
  • Big Conference Bias. Assuming top 16 = Sweet 16, then Gonzaga and Memphis are the only exceptions. As for the Top 25, here’s the conference breakdown – Pac-10 (5), Big 12 (4), Big East (4), ACC (3), SEC (3), Big 10 (3), CUSA (1), WCC (1), A10 (1).
  • Surprises. Some teams that are getting some preseason pub that TSN doesn’t think much of include: Syracuse (10th in the Big East, which presumably would mean not an NCAA team); UConn (7th); USC (7th in Pac-10) & Vanderbilt (5th in SEC East). On the flip side, teams that TSN values more than others include: Georgia (3d in SEC East); Penn St. (4th in Big 10) & NC State (3d in ACC).
  • Boldest Prediction. Not much in the way of excessively bold predictions, but we believe that a lot of these prognosticators are going to regret giving a 5-11 ACC team (NC State) so much preseason hype this year.
  • We’re really annoyed that TSN doesn’t give us a field of 65, at minimum.
  • Total Points = 12

VI. Conference Pages (5 pts) – as a primer for the conference, how much can we learn here?

  • High Majors. The twelve conferences TSN designates as high majors each gets a full page primer, and there’s a lot to like here. The predicted order of finish uses a cool feature with arrows that shows how the team is trending this year – up, down, or steady. There’s a five man all-conference team, a short narrative breakdown of the league, and the most inclusive list of superlatives we’ve yet seen (15-20 different superlatives). There is also a third of the page devoted to ranking the recruiting classes within the conference and short analyses of each incoming player.
  • Mid Majors. TSN anoints only six leagues as mid-major leagues, and each of these leagues gets a half-page of analysis, including the predicted order of finish, a short narrative, an all-conference team, recruiting rankings and three superlatives.
  • Low Majors. The remaining conferences receive one page each, nearly the same as the mid-majors with the exception that the narrative is really just a paragraph wrapup.
  • Total Points = 5

VII. Team Pages (20 pts) – how in-depth is the analysis? where does it come from? is it timely and insightful given this year’s squad or is it just a rundown of last year’s achievements?

  • Roughly the top 2/3 of the high major teams get a full page of analysis from TSN; the remainder get a half page. Again, there’s a lot to like here – the writing is solid, giving decent insight into the strengths and weaknesses of each team without merely another rundown of each player and his stats. There is also a section on power ratings by five categories, a five-year wins trend, an impact rookie blurb and a brief but useful team statistics table.
  • The mid-major conference projected champions get the same treatment as the lower third teams of the high majors – a half-page with much of the same information above. The remainder of mid-major teams simply get the one-paragraph rundown treatment.
  • The low-majors all get a single paragraph, whether they’re the projected champion or not.
  • For the top twelve conferences, the analysis is the best we’ve seen this year thus far. The writers clearly know these teams and do a good job at breaking down what to watch for this season. The remaining leagues get short shrift, but those fans are not the target audience.
  • Total Points = 16

VIII. Recruiting (5 pts) – we want to know who the top players are coming into college bball, where they’re going and who to watch for next year.

  • As mentioned above, each major conference page has a substantial section on recruits for each school and rankings within each league.
  • See above for our issue with their list of the top 100 incoming players.
  • There is no listing of the best incoming recruiting classes nationally anywhere in the magazine, which is incomprehensible to us.
  • Once upon a time, S&S was the best place to get recruiting information, but that time again seems to have passed. They have four pages of names of players without ranking any of them outside of their Boys All-America Team (top 20). It’s nice they give a paragraph describing the skill set of each of those twenty players, but there’s just no way to compare players outside of that grouping.
  • With that said, we continue to enjoy the All-Metro Teams of twenty or so HS basketball hotbeds around the country. It gives us something to look for in our local area.
  • We also enjoy that TSN lists the top 25 HS teams for 2007-08.
  • This magazine has more information on high school prospects than any other we’ve seen, and yet they muff it by not presenting the information in a way most people would want to see it. Lists are fine, but they have to be useful for comparison.
  • Total Points = 4

IX. Title IX Guilt (aka Chick Ball) (5 pts) – the less the better…

  • The women’s preview is a Top 25 with four pages of analysis, but thankfully they stuck it in the back of the magazine.
  • Where they really go wrong is by wasting five more pages in the back on girls’ HS All-Americans and a HS top 20. We cannot believe that anyone would buy this magazine to get this information.
  • Total Points = 2

X. Intangibles (15 pts) – what’s good and bad about the magazine as a whole?

  • This magazine is trying to be everything to everyone. You can easily tell which parts were the expertise of TSN and which were the responsibility of S&S, and as such, the magazine seems random and incomplete in parts. For example, in addition to the prep information in the back, the magazine also gives us a full page on D2, D3 and NAIA basketball (with top 10s and All-Americans). And if that’s not enough, it also has a juco section, complete with a Top 10 and an article explaining why juco talent is getting deeper.
  • There is also a full page of individual and team stats for D1, D2, D3 and NAIA, plus two pages of women’s stats. Wouldn’t it have made a lot more sense to give us six pages of D1 stats instead? Are a substantial number of NAIA fans really buying this magazine?
  • Schedules. By virtue of its release date, TSN has most every team’s schedules in complete form at the very back of the magazine. The back page also has a nice roundup of all the in-season tourneys and conference tournament information.
  • The writing of this magazine is better than Lindy’s and Athlon, but the only writing actually performed is in the conference and team previews. It was very disappointing there weren’t more features at the front.
  • Total Points = 10

RTC Grade for Sporting News/Street & Smith’s = 61.5 pts

Basis: We have to say that we were really disappointed with this magazine, largely because when we were growing up, the TSN and S&S previews were must-reads in our house. Wow, how the mighty have fallen. How can you not have feature articles or build an NCAA field? How can you not rank-order recruits? How can you add a cheerleader section and spend page after page giving us NAIA stats? At this point, and we never thought we’d say this, the TSN magazine is definitely worse than Lindy’s and no better than Athlon. This would have been unheard of a few short years ago. The only value of this magazine is in the quality of the writing of the analyses for the high major conferences and teams – that is the one (and only) area where TSN trumps the other two. What a disappointment.


Grading Scale:

  • 90-100 pts - exceptional quality in all areas – must buy and keep on-hand all season!
  • 80-89 pts - very good quality mag – worthy of purchasing and reading cover-to-cover
  • 70-79 pts - average, run of the mill magazine – some value in certain areas but weak in others – tough call as to whether to purchase it
  • 60-69 pts - magazine on the weaker side, but may still have some positive attributes – probably not worth the money, though
  • 0-59 pts - such a low quality magazine that it’s not worth any more than the five minutes you thumbed through it at the store
Share this story

09.26.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on September 26th, 2007

Some news flotsam and jetsam we’ve accumulated this week…

  • It was an expensive week for Ohio State paying its head coaches, as Thad Matta got a $500k raise (to $2.5M per annum) and contract extension through 2016.
  • Tennessee forward Duke Crews has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. How long is “indefintely?”
  • We mentioned it briefly above, but it deserves its own note. Former Hawg PG Corey Beck was shot Sunday morning during a robbery attempt – he is listed in good condition.
  • Free Shoes University is embroiled in another cheating scandal – the question is which sports are involved?
  • Porsches, Polo & Ponies. SMU basketball avoids NCAA sanctions – wait, SMU still has a basketball program? Oh, right. Matt Doherty. So the answer is no.
  • Plissken at the Buzzer gives a thorough and interesting breakdown of Memphis’ schedule (following up on Andy Katz’s top 10 last week) and how that will affect the Tigers’ NCAA seed next March.
  • Melo is giving back to Syracuse, as Jim Juli Boeheim convinced him to fork over $3M toward a new practice facility for the Orange.
  • Injury Report – Louisville freshman Clarence Holloway will miss the entire season after open heart surgery (!!), and NC State’s PG Javier Gonzalez will miss the next twelve weeks with a shooting thumb injury.
  • BC’s success in the ACC on the gridiron and hardwood have increased its applications from traditionally ACC country.
  • Construda still loves Luke Recker, oh these many years later…
  • We guess Shawn Stockton isn’t as good as his uncle John.
  • According to Jeff Goodman, 2008 #1 player Greg Monroe has narrowed his list to LSU, Kansas, Duke and Georgetown. Although Gary Parrish disputes this in a meandering article about Monroe’s eight finalists.
  • Speaking of Parrish and Goodman, the former riffs on Bama’s point guard situation after losing Ronald Steele, and the latter notes that Bruce Pearl is in search of outside shooters and Arizona is looking at possible successors for Lute Olson.
  • It’s NEVER too early for a projected field of 65.
  • MascotLove: College Hoops Heaven takes a look at the top 15 mascots.
Share this story