As we suggested yesterday, it turns out there was more to the story of the suspended UTEP players than was initially reported as they are accused of betting on at least one sporting event. The accused players include not only already suspended juniors Jalen Ragland and Justin Crosgile, but also McKenzie Moore, the team’s leading scorer. At this point, all the school is saying is that they are not aware of any evidence that implicates the players in point-shaving or even betting on games that involve UTEP. We suspect that this will become a bigger story moving forward.
It appeared that it would not take long for Notre Dame transfer Cameron Biedscheid to find a new home as news broke yesterday that he was headed to Missouri, but much like Biedscheid’s initial decision to leave Notre Dame now there is some question as to the veracity of the original report as Biedscheid came out later in the day and denied that he had made a decision yet. If Biedscheid does transfer to Missouri it would be a big pick-up for Haith as Biedscheid was a top-tier talent coming out of high school before his relatively disappointing freshman year in South Bend.
Biedscheid may still be deciding on where he is transferring to (or at least when he will publicly admit it), but Providence transfer Brandon Austin has decided and like so many other recent transfers is headed to Oregon. To call Austin a Providence transfer might be a little misleading because he along with fellow freshman Rodney Bullock were suspended indefinitely before the season started with the suspension extended to the entire season just a few weeks ago. While the addition of Austin, a top-50 recruit, could mean big things in the future for the Ducks it also might take them out of the running for Louisville transfer Chane Behanan.
It should not come as a surprise, but yesterday Fran McCafferyreceived a one-game suspension for his altercation with an official during Sunday’s game with Wisconsin that led to his ejection. McCaffery’s ejection came at a point in the game where the momentum swung in favor of Wisconsin so it would hardly be a stretch to call it a turning point in the game. For his part, McCaffery has publicly expressed remorse for his actions. Still given McCaffery’s history we doubt that this will be the last time we see his infamous temper on a public stage.
It turns out that Grinnell can do more than set ridiculous scoring records. It can also set ridiculous assist records as Pat Maher handed out a NCAA-record 37 assists on Monday night in Grinell’s 164-144 win over College of Faith. As you might expect the usual suspects are already out criticizing Grinell’s scheduling, which we can admit is questionable. To us, the most interesting aspects of the record (we haven’t seen video of the game so for all we know Maher was throwing passes to guys who were hitting half-court shots all night) is that Grinell did this without Jack Taylor, who holds the NCAA record with 138 points in a game and sat out last night, and Maher broke the record of David N. Arseneault, the team’s associate head coach, who happens to be the son of the head coach and is a former Pioneer himself.
Now that we are finally done with college football season we can welcome all of those people who spent the past few months rooting for teams that lost their chance at a national championship over a month before the final game of the season. The biggest celebration last night was undoubtedly from FSU fans we are sure that fans of college football (and sports in general) celebrated the death of the BCS, a ridiculous system that somehow survived sixteen seasons. Now that is finally dead we would like to welcome college football fans to the world of playoffs even if theirs looks like it will be somewhat limited for the next few years.
We have no idea why the FBI would be investigating suspended UTEP juniors McKenzie Moore and Jalen Ragland, but it probably goes without saying that it isn’t good. The two were suspended indefinitely by Tim Floyd in late December and nobody has commented on the suspensions, which were reportedly for a violation of team rules. As usual those team rules could be virtually anything, but the in our experience the only time that the FBI has really gotten involved with basketball players is when it involves point-shaving. Obviously, we are a long way away from that, but it is worth keeping an eye on even if UTEP’s original statement on the suspension would not appear to indicate anything that serious.
Most people who invest in the stock market rebalance their portfolios at the end of the year (or some pre-specified date). With that in mind Seth Davis has his Hoops Thoughts Stock Report where he assesses whether you should buy, sell, or hold on 63 teams. Overall, we agree with most of Seth’s ratings so we will not get into the details of his rankings of the individual teams (we might get into that later with the microsites), but it was interesting to see Seth leave Iowa off the list–a team that we called the most underrated in college basketball back in November.
As expected Duke‘s streak of 122 consecutive weeks in the AP Top 10 ended yesterday as the Blue Devils fell to 16th, which is their first time outside of the Top 10 since December 2007. Coming on the heels of their loss at Notre Dame on Saturday it leaves them 33 weeks shy of the record of 155 consecutive weeks in the AP Top 10 by UCLA from 1966 to 1976. Frankly, Duke probably should have been out of the Top 10 a few weeks, but remained in it for the same reason that Gary Parrish is able to do a weekly Poll Attack–voter inertia. Regardless of that it is an impressive feat and one that is unlikely to be duplicated any time soon.
We still have over half the season left, but with conference play just starting it seems like a good time to review how the top incoming freshmen have performed. Dan Hanner decided to take a look at the top 100 freshmen according to the RSCI rankings in a two-part post (part 1 and part 2 here). As you expect it is a fairly exhaustive statistical analysis of the top 100 incoming freshmen, but the one thing we would caution you on is remembering the level of competition these guys are playing against.
A Conference in Considerable Flux – Before Memphis, Houston, UCF, and SMU defect to the Big East – which officially makes a geographic mockery of the Big East’s name – C-USA will have one final season together as a full-fledged “upper-level” Division I conference. With only six NCAA Tournament teams and zero NCAA tournament victories in the past three seasons, however, can C-USA muster together a respectable showing for the 2012-13 campaign that doesn’t rival most mid-major conferences? Memphis is the only virtual lock to go dancing, yet several other programs (see Marshall, UTEP, and Tulane) are on the rise and could conceivably end up on the right side of the tournament bubble come March. Still, it may be overly optimistic to think C-USA will break the two-team NCAA bid barrier that has eluded the conference since 2005.
A Run Towards Perfection – In his fourth season as Memphis’ head coach, Josh Pastner has an opportunity to do something his predecessor, John Calipari, did with apparent ease for three straight seasons prior – have his Tigers run the table in C-USA. With the conference slightly weaker heading into this season (according to Ken Pomeroy), Memphis has a real opportunity to put up a perfect 16-0 regular season mark against their conference foes. It will still prove to be difficult, especially when facing UCF and Marshall twice as part of their unbalanced schedule, yet Memphis returns four starters and is sitting on a potential NBA lottery pick in Adonis Thomas if the 6’7” small forward can stay healthy for much of the season.
Josh Pastner leads a talented home-grown roster in Memphis’ final season in C-USA.
Welcoming Back a Legend – Anytime you can hire a head coach with a resume such as the 71-year old Larry Brown, I guess you have to do it, given SMU’s desperation to hire a big name. After all, you’re talking about a guy with an NCAA championship and an NBA championship on his resume. The problem is – aside from his age and inability to coach through the initial contract at his last three destinations – Brown has been away from the college game for nearly 25 years, when he won the 1988 NCAA championship coaching Danny Manning (who, interestingly, is a new C-USA coach himself) and the Kansas Jayhawks. How much can the Mustangs reasonably expect from Brown under these conditions? The cupboard is bare with the graduation of leading scorer and most efficient player, Robert Nyakundi, and the removal of four players including starting point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas, so you have to wonder if Brown will have the patience to stick around long enough to fully rebuild a SMU program that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1993. One benefit from Brown’s hiring is that he has assembled an impressive coaching staff, which includes the Mustangs possible head-coach-in-waiting in Tim Jankovich.
New Coaching Blood – Including Brown, there are four C-USA programs that hired new coaches this offseason, which makes up a whopping one third of the entire league. The most notable new hires are Brown and the aforementioned Danny Manning, who left his assistant post at Kansas in an attempt to push Tulsa out of complacency. Donnie Tyndall (Southern Miss) and Jerod Haase (UAB) complete the list of coaches. It will be an uphill battle in season one; research has shown head coaches typically struggle in their first season at their newest destination. Perhaps these men can buck the trend and adapt quickly, although the more likely scenario has some of the league taking advantage and pushing ahead of these rebuilding programs for the time being. Well, maybe except for Rice (more on that later)…
With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our first update is from the West Coast Conference and comes courtesy of Will Green, an editor and writer with The Slipper Still Fits.
Readers’ Take One
Brigham Young University Joins The Conference: When this story was first reported back in September, it was largely forgotten. BYU’s move was a football one with basketball repercussions, not the other way around. If anyone was talking about the Cougars, the dialogue was centered around how much money it would receive from it slew of nationally televised football contests this coming fall, and how many years the vaunted program would remain as an independent before choosing to join another league, securing even more lucrative contracts. The move, however, might make a greater impact on the collegiate basketball landscape than the football one, competitively speaking. For one thing, resident king Gonzaga’s streak of conference championships – which is older than most of your children – or at least its general reputation as the WCC’s top dog, is seriously endangered. With Jimmer Fredette seizing all available national attention like a Venus flytrap, lost on many fans last year was the fact BYU was not merely a fortuitous program enjoying an unusually good year. The Cougars have been a top 40 RPI team since 2006, with a pair of top 20 finishes. That’s not a second Gonzaga — that’s better than Gonzaga. They also bring by far the largest student body and largest fan base that the league has ever seen. Indeed, the league can leverage BYU’s prominence to grow its influence and scope (more on that later). Despite being a “football move,” BYU’s departure from the Mountain West Conference is not, as so many of the recent realignment moves have been, a casualty of circumstance. The aforementioned “repercussions” became a mutually beneficial improvement for both the Cougars and the league. Credit alert diplomacy and geographical convenience to why commissioner Jamie Zaninovichwas able to lure a team into his league that’s also, statistically speaking, better than any team in his current league.
Brandon Davies, if Reinstated by BYU, is an X-Factor for the Cougars in 2011-12 (Getty/E. Miller)
The League Gets A New TV contract: Over the course of the 2000s, the WCC did a remarkable thing: It became the most widely televised college basketball league of all the leagues in the West, while being only the fourth highest-rated league by RPI of the six in the region. Resident behemoth Pac-12 trusted its games to the insipid hands of Fox Sports’ cluster of regional networks. The Mountain West conference was largely marooned out on “The Mtn,” a network that truncated both its name and its audience by being available in a far more limited number of homes than the heavy-hitting Pac-12. The Western Athletic Conference enjoyed the occasional ESPNU game. The WCC, on the other hand, had its most intriguing matchups beamed into peoples’ living rooms in prime time on Thursday and Saturday nights (and for a time, on Big Monday) via ESPN or ESPN2. Both sides had such a good time putting the whole mess together that when their previous contract expired on June 1, it took exactly one week to renegotiate an eight-year extension. The new deal increases the amount of ESPN games featuring WCC teams by an average of at least five per year, possibly much more, and is spread across Thursday, Saturday and select Monday nights. While some critics contend the new ESPN contract isn’t much of an improvement over the previous one, their voices were provoked loudest during the rather dwarfing aftershock of the Pac-12’s mammoth deal with the same network. While this upcoming season could mark the first time in a long while that the WCC won’t be the most-watched west coast league, the league strengthened its relationship with ESPN and is poised to showcase what should be its most successful year ever in front of its widest audience to date. In an era of scrambling realignment and a fragile economic landscape, this is a still a huge win.
The University of San Diego Suffers A Bribery Scandal: In April, this story looked crippling. San Diego had just finished one of the worst seasons by any WCC team ever when news broke that Toreros’ all-time leading scorer and current Memphis Grizzlies protégé, Brandon Johnson, was allegedly used to solicit current USD player Ken Rancifer on behalf of a delinquent named Steven Goria and several others to fix a game against the University of Portland on February 24. Also revealed was the news that Johnson himself had allegedly fixed a game during his senior season one year earlier. The good news for USD is that the story is quickly losing momentum, due in large part to the recent news that the 2011 team has largely been cleared of wrongdoing (Rancifer turned down the bribe from those attempting to fix the game) Repercussions from the 2010 game will ensue once the FBI is done investigating the entire case, and could involve recruiting sanctions or a postseason ban. Frankly, the Toreros are so deep in the throes of rebuilding that they might not enjoy any such postseason for the NCAA to ban in the first place. All told, this could have been much, much worse for USD. The true damage of the scandal is neither physical nor fiscal, but is still potentially very heavy. While it’s growing steadily, the WCC is not yet a national brand and one dominant negative story can define the WCC and USD for a large group of fans who aren’t very familiar with a non-power six league that’s on TV after they go bed. Show-stealing years from perennial contenders like Gonzaga and BYU, as well as postseason disruptiveness by the likes of St. Mary’s and Santa Clara, would be a good first step toward taking casual fans’ focus off of the scandal. Of course, if USD itself can somehow bounce back from a 6-24 record and win a few games they’re not supposed to, they just might turn themselves into national feel-good story.