Morning Five: 10.17.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 17th, 2013

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  1. As we mentioned yesterday, Wednesday was the day that four major basketball conferences, all of their own independent accord, decided, “hey, let’s dominate the news cycle for our basketball product by competing for attention with three other competitors, even though we could have easily chosen any of a number of other days during the month of October! Brilliant!” Sometimes the ruling parties of this sport really make you wonder. Alas, the ACC, AAC, Big East and SEC all held their media events yesterday, providing us with a steady stream of quotes, notes, predictions and controversy throughout the day. You’ll get better coverage of the details of each of those leagues at each of our microsites (excepting the SEC, which relaunches next week), but for now, here are some of the things we learned. ACC: Jim Boeheim says the only thing Syracuse fans will miss is the Big East Tournament; AAC: Commissioner Mike Aresco says no-way, no-how to paying players. Big East: Are the biggest celebrities in this league Bill Raftery and Gus Johnson?  SEC: Kentucky’s best player is James Young? The SEC will continue with its two-day event in Birmingham today, and the Pac-12 will hold its one-day media event in San Francisco as well. The Big 12 and Big Ten will follow with theirs over the next couple of weeks.
  2. The best quote of the day, however, didn’t come from one of the roughly 50 coaches assembled yesterday at the various conference media days. It came from USC’s Andy Enfield, who exhorted his team during a recent practice by telling the Trojans, “We play up-tempo basketball here. If you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” Perhaps not since the days of Shaq and Kobe trashing each other through Jerry Buss has the City of Angels heard such a fine display of braggadoccio. Given that it’s coming from a brash young coach who quite literally was making a CPA’s salary somewhere on the gulf coast of Florida one year ago, even better. The two schools have never liked one another, but sometimes the crosstown rivalry got lost in the football vs. basketball focus of each. It would be nice to see the rivalry heat up with two cocky new coaches in town ready to trade barbs back and forth for the better part of the next decade. The Pac-12 microsite has a fantastic piece coming later today on this topic, and we highly encourage you to check it out in a few hours. Meanwhile, do you think the west coast media will bring up this quote to Steve Alford and his counterparts later today?
  3. Jumping back to the media days, all four leagues released their preseason choices to win the conference races and the standard other superlatives we typically expect this time of year. In the ACC, Duke was picked first with Syracuse’s CJ Fair chosen as the top player; over in the AAC, it was Louisville and Russ Smith. In the new-but-not-improved Big East, Marquette was the choice, with Creighton’s Doug McDermott as the player of the year. In the SEC, Kentucky and Julius Randle were the selections. From our perspective given what we know about these sorts of things, the media will be lucky if even half of these choices come in by March — there’s just too much variability and unpredictability at the conference level to make sterling predictions like these. The closest might be McDermott in the Big East, so long as he’s healthy all season, and Louisville to win the AAC. Beyond that? It’s hard to say anything is a lock.
  4. There was a period in the mid-1990s when Georgetown basketball, so feared and despised by so many in the 1980s, became the coolest thing around, in a retro sort of way. Sporting some of the best college basketball uniforms ever produced and an electrifying backcourt led by the unguardable Allen Iverson and his sidekick, Victor Page, the Hoyas became everything they hadn’t been during the previous era: fun, fast and perimeter-oriented. Bubba Chuck, of course, went on to an MVP award and great riches in the NBA, but Page, the Big East Tournament MVP in 1996 and Big East scoring champion in 1997, was never able to get there. As a result, Page has spent much of the last two decades in and out of correctional institutions for a series of petty and serious crimes, the most recent of which, a brutally violent assault against a Maryland woman, was described by Nathan Fenno in the Washington Times as the product of “one wasted opportunity after another.” Page has been charged with 33 crimes in the last 42 months (guilty of six, including the assault, for which he was sentences to 10 years in prison), but the clear lesson here is that young players with all the talent in the world still need to have realistic backup plans. Education, work, whatever. Because if there’s nothing else to live for, that allows the darkness to creep in.
  5. After that one, let’s finish today off with a good story. In an era of coaches working themselves to the bone with all the different CEO aspects of running a Division I college basketball program, the New York Times‘ Zach Schnobrun writes about the youngest D-I coach in the country, Wagner’s 29-year old Bashir Mason. Mason, it turns out, is finishing up a Master’s in elementary education at the school and the second-year head coach must complete 220 hours of classroom instruction to earn the degree. As a result, he spends five mornings and one afternoon a week at a local elementary school, working through reading comprehension and other practical exercises with kids who are too young to recognize that their teacher is a bit of a local celebrity. It’s a story about persistence and follow-through, and it’s one that Mason deserves to have heard. Here’s hoping that his team listens to him as intently as his six-year old students do — they’ll assuredly learn a thing or two about discipline and hard work.
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Morning Five: 10.16.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2013

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  1. Maybe we should just start calling this post the Wiggins Five, given how often Andrew Wiggins is finding his way into it without having played a single minute of college basketball. But yesterday’s news regarding the precocious Kansas freshman was more than just standard hyperbole and filler, as Bleacher Report‘s Jared Zwerling (yes, this is a first for this site; we’re just as astonished as you are) reported that the shoe giant adidas is already estimating a deal of $140-$180 million over 10 years to sign Wiggins to pitch its brand next spring (and that Nike is set to match it). By way of a comparison, Nike signed LeBron James to a then-ridiculous $93 million deal a decade ago, and that was without the benefit of ubiquitous social media tracking his every dunk, quip and Hummer purchase. Nor did James have a year of nationally-televised college basketball games to help build his overall branding — can you imagine how high the number could get if Wiggins dominates the season and leads Kansas to a national title next April — is a quarter-bill out of the question?
  2. A different class of 2013 prep star may not be looking at a nine-figure endorsement deal like Wiggins in several months, but he’s poised to make more money than the Kansas freshman (and every other freshman) for the duration of the 2013-14 season. Aquille Carr, a top 100 recruit at the point guard position, is reportedly taking David Stern’s “sage” and controversial advice about getting a better education in the NBA Development League than at one of America’s colleges by entering his name into next month’s NBADL Draft. The 5’7″ prospect from Baltimore originally committed to Seton Hall but decided to go pro before ever making it to campus, briefly entertaining the idea of playing in China before settling on his decision to come back home and settle into a year of long bus rides between Frisco, Texas and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. While we don’t know Carr’s specific issues with respect to skipping out on a subsidized education at Seton Hall, his dream of getting picked up in next year’s NBA Draft as a waterbug distributor is probably a significant long shot. For the next six months, though, he should take solace in all the pocket change that his pay scale of $13,000 to $25,500 (2013 numbers) will give him over the chumps playing for free in college.
  3. For some strange reason, four of the seven power basketball conferences have decided to have their annual media day on the same day, that is, today. The ACC (Charlotte), AAC (Memphis), Big East (New York) and SEC (Birmingham) will all introduce their coaches, players and teams at overblown events Wednesday, with the SEC taking an extraordinary two days (Wednesday and Thursday) to sell the world on its mediocre basketball product. The Pac-12 will have its annual event in San Francisco on Thursday, while the Big 12 and Big Ten had enough sense to space theirs out into later weeks. As ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil writes, this week’s events in Charlotte, Memphis and NYC should make for some world-class awkwardness as coaches try to size each other up and figure out who is staying and leaving. #awkwardconferencemeetups, anyone?
  4. Officiating is always going to be a point of contention among coaches, fans and media in large part because there are so many different leagues and organizations supporting the 838 Division I referees calling games across America. Inconsistency (along with its cousin, general incompetence) is the most common complaint, as people have trouble understanding how a touch foul in the ACC can be called while a mugging in the Big Ten is ignored. The NCAA has made some strides in trying to normalize the rules and criteria for calling fouls, for example, but it often seems as if the referees spend the non-conference season making calls the new way only to revert back to the old way by conference play. This year is no different. Preseason points of emphasis on hand-checking and the incomprehensible block/charge rule are the talk of coaches around the country, but as ESPN.com‘s Jeff Goodman writes, there remains a great deal of apprehension over the effect of the changes. One thing we suppose that most people can agree upon, though, is that it surely can’t get much worse?
  5. Let’s end things with some fun today. NBCSportsCollege Basketball Talk released its list of the top 20 dunkers in the game yesterday, and although you can nitpick around the edges of  any ranking like this, you’ll have a whole lot more enjoyment by just sitting back and watching the clips. It really must be the Year of the Freshman, as CBT selects two rookies among its top three (it’s not difficult figuring out who they might be). Our one quibble might be that they left out a transfer student who became infamous for perhaps the greatest missed airballed dunk layup of all-time last season — Georgetown’s Joshua Smith. But no worries — the 6’10″ jumping jack of a center will be tearing down rims at a DC-area arena near you soon.
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Big 12 Media Day: News and Notes

Posted by KoryCarpenter on October 18th, 2012

The Big 12 debuted its new basketball identity on Wednesday in Kansas City at its annual Media Day, and there was plenty of personality to go around. That was no more obvious than when West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins stepped up to the mic for his question and answer session. Huggins, who coached at Kansas State during the 2006-07 season, was asked if his one-year stint in the Big 12 would help West Virginia’s transition this season. ”I don’t know,” Huggins said. “I do know where to eat now, though.” On a more serious note, Huggins said he felt that West Virginia is a lot like the other schools in the Big 12. ”We’re the state university,” He said. “We’re a land grant institution, we’re in a college town. We have a great venue to play in. We’re very much similar.”

The Big 12 Welcomed Many New Faces at Media Day on Wednesday

Huggins added that road wins will be tougher to come by in the Big 12, whose more intimate venues are a far cry from the sometimes stale and large off campus arenas often found in the Big East. He was quick to add though, “I’ve always told my players, I’ve never seen a fan block a shot or score a goal. Some of them probably have committed fouls but they didn’t call them.”

One of those venues is Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, where Bruce Weber is also entering his first season in the Big 12 after accepting the head coaching job at Kansas State in the offseason. Weber was fired from Illinois after last season, where he incidentally had taken over for Kansas coach Bill Self in 2003. Self has dominated the Big 12 since his arrival at Kansas, so much that Kansas State Athletic Director John Currie asked Weber during his interview if he was up to the task of dealing with Self’s Jayhawks. ”As a coach, you want that challenge, that’s the exciting part of it,” Weber said. “I hope we make it a rivalry. It’s obviously a rivalry, but we hope we can compete and have a chance to really get them worried about us also. So it should be fun. He’s done a great job, and hopefully we can compete with them.”

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Morning Five: 10.18.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 18th, 2012

  1. Wednesday was a huge media day around the world of college basketball, with not one, not two, but three power conferences holding their Media Day yesterday. Why conferences don’t think to stagger these a little better to dominate the entire national spotlight seems like really poor planning to us, but nobody asked for our opinion on marketing best practices either. The ACC Media Day (“Operation Basketball”) took place in Charlotte; the Big East in New York; and, the Big 12 in Kansas City. Let’s take a brief look at some of the storylines from each one. In Charlotte, the ACC media cartel mimicked the coaches earlier this week in rating NC State as the preseason favorite to win the league, with 26 first-place votes. Duke followed in second place with 21 first-place votes, while North Carolina was picked third. The preseason all-ACC first team includes UNC’s James Michael McAdoo, Florida State’s Michael Snaer (unanimous), Duke’s Mason Plumlee, and NC State’s  Lorenzo Brown and CJ Leslie (unanimous, POY). The Wolfpack are certainly the school du jour this preseason in the ACC, but can a 9-7 team from last season really get over its losing tendencies to overtake Duke and North Carolina this season? We certainly shall see.
  2. A few hundred miles up the eastern seaboard, the Big East did its thing in NYC, with the media sniffing around for angles related to the last season for conference stalwarts Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Louisville made immediate headlines for its unanimous selection by conference coaches to win the league this season, but it was the Cardinals’ loquacious coach who caused the biggest stir with his comments that his team “could have the best 10 players in America” — including Big East preseason player of the year, Peyton Siva — and that, according to Zagsblog, he still truly believes that the additions of Temple and Memphis next season can adequately replace the losses of the Orange and Panthers. Jim Boeheim, quite naturally, vehemently disagreed with Pitino’s assessment (“I think he’s full of s–t.”). Boeheim’s team was picked to finish second in the league standings, with Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Georgetown and Pittsburgh following the Orange in the top six. Joining Siva on the preseason first team were Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick, Georgetown’s Otto Porter, Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley, Providence’s Vincent Council, and Siva’s Louisville teammate, Gorgui Dieng. Pitt’s Steven Adams was selected as the preseason Rookie of the Year. In one other significant announcement from Big East Media Day, the league announced an extension with Madison Square Garden that will keep the Big East Tournament there through 2026.
  3. Moving to the Midwest and Kansas City specifically, the Big 12 emphasized a league in transition with the additions of West Virginia and TCU replacing the dearly departed schools of Missouri and Texas A&M. Throw in new coaches at Kansas State and Texas Tech, and there were quite a few get-to-know-you introductions going around the Sprint Center on Wednesday. We plan on having a more detailed post on what happened there a little later today on our Big 12 microsite, but to whet your appetite, take a look at this quasi-live-blog from the Charleston Daily Mail‘s Mike Casazza. His descriptions of the day’s events have a definite “we’re not in the Big East anymore” feel to them, as the Mountaineers are a minimum of 870 miles from the nearest Big 12 school (Iowa State). Here’s hoping that WVU hedged on jet fuel when it was at its lowest market rate.
  4. And now to today’s Kentucky segment, as the defending national champion is pretty much a daily newsmaker for one thing or another. On Wednesday during an ESPN segment with Hannah Storm, head coach John Calipari said without reservation that superstar recruit Nerlens Noel is in fact eligible to practice and play this season (video clip here). Additionally, the Wildcats picked up their fourth commitment from a top 30 player in the Class of 2013 yesterday when power forward Marcus Lee picked UK over California. Calipari of course still has his eyes set on adding top 10 prospects Julius Randle, Andrew Wiggins and/or Aaron Gordon to his mix, a group of which — on paper at least — would represent the best recruiting class of all-time. Finally, on Wednesday evening ESPN played its first All-Access piece on Calipari’s Wildcats — which basically comes off as a half-hour infomercial promoting his program. Remember when UK fans once complained that Coach K’s AMEX commercials were an unfair advantage? We wonder what those people are saying now.
  5. We’re hoping that this is the last time we mention this player’s name in this space, but former UCLA malcontent Reeves Nelson‘s defamation lawsuit against Sports Illustrated was thrown out of a Los Angeles court on Wednesday. Defamation suits often turn on the status of the plaintiff as a public or private figure, and Nelson’s notoriety as a prominent college basketball player at one of the nation’s elite programs qualified him as a “limited public figure” that would require a clear showing of malice toward him by the magazine. In the absence of evidence that author George Dohrmann made up some of the anecdotes involving Nelson in the March story about UCLA’s out-of-control program, “Not the UCLA Way.”  Nelson’s case was destined for failure. The judge said that the story was well-sourced and that Dohrmann had “spent a lot of time” on it.
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Morning Five: 10.20.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 20th, 2011

  1. In yesterday’s M5 we mentioned that a poll of media facilitated by the Syracuse Post-Standard found that Syracuse and Connecticut were essentially viewed as equals at the top of the Big East this year.  Wednesday’s survey of Big East coaches at Media Day came to the same ultimate conclusion.  The Huskies had more first-place votes (seven) than the Orange (five), but more coaches chose SU second or third than UConn, which accounts for the difference.  Louisville received three first-place votes (Rick Pitino took shots at the votes too), while Pittsburgh received one.  The Panthers’ Ashton Gibbs was chosen as the preseason Big East POY, with UConn’s Jeremy Lamb, Syracuse’s Kris Joseph, Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom, WVU’s Kevin Jones, and Notre Dame’s Tim Abromaitis rounding out the first team.
  2. Down on Tobacco Road, the ACC was simultaneously holding its Media Day Operation Basketball, and the proceedings generally read like a Carolina love-fest.  UNC received 57 of the 59 first-place votes from the media, and the Heels’ Harrison Barnes was a unanimous selection on the preseason all-ACC first team along with teammates Tyler Zeller and John Henson (incidentally, Luke Winn breaks down Barnes’ 2010-11 progression here).  The last time that a single school had three selections on the preseason all-ACC team was a decade ago, when defending national champion Duke brought back Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer.  In no surprise whatsoever, Duke was picked to finish second, with Florida State third.  The remaining all-ACC choices were Duke’s Seth Curry, Miami’s Malcolm Grant, and Virginia’s Mike Scott, with Duke’s Austin Rivers selected as the preseason ROY.  More on Operation Basketball later this morning on our ACC microsite.
  3. We never contemplated a Wake Forest to USC pipeline developing, but if Jeff Bzdelik’s few talented players continue to get into trouble in Winston-Salem so that they ultimately transfer to Southern Cal, we’re sure that Kevin O’Neill will be happy to take them.  After Wake forward Ari Stewart transferred across the country in May to spend his final two years at USC, guard JT Terrell (whom Stewart hosted on his official visit to Troy) has also decided to re-surface as a Trojan.  Terrell is spending this season at a junior college in Washington, but the talented sophomore who averaged 11.1 PPG as a Demon Deacon frosh has announced that he will sign with O’Neill’s club during the early signing period in November.  Between Alex Stepheson (UNC to USC), Larry Drew II (UNC to UCLA), Travis and David Wear (UNC to UCLA), Stewart, and now Terrell, there’s something weird going on here.
  4. Is Billy Gillispie ready to turn around the basketball fortunes at his third Texas destination in his somewhat short collegiate coaching career?  After very successful stints at UTEP and Texas A&M, followed by a disastrous one at Kentucky, Gillispie says that he’s sober and back on track at his new school, Texas Tech.  What was lost amidst all the chaos that surrounded Gillispie in his two years in Lexington is that he had completely rebuilt moribund programs in both El Paso and College Station very quickly, his teams employing a hard-nosed, defensive style that mimicked the coach’s somewhat infamous and notorious work ethic.  Texas Tech seems like a great fit for him not only because he’s back in his home state surrounded by his people, but the expectations and pressures at a school like TTU are incredibly tame in comparison with one of the nation’s flagship basketball schools.  Even during the Bob Knight experiment, getting to the Sweet Sixteen was cause for celebration.  It says here that Gillispie will do well in Lubbock.
  5. We’ve already mentioned the heartbreaking story of Arizona’s Kevin Parrom in this space earlier this week.  Jeff Goodman caught up with him recently and the drive and fortitude that the Wildcat junior continues to show in the face of such adversity — losing his grandmother, his mother, and getting shot in the hand and leg in the span of several months — is nothing short of remarkable.  Rather than feeling sorry for himself, it’s clear in reading his quotes that he considers himself lucky to not only be alive, but also to have the opportunity to get an education on a basketball scholarship, something his mother made sure he put above all else.  And that, my friends, is what good parenting is all about.  Continued best of luck to Parrom as he works through these emotional and physical issues — we’re rooting for ya, kid.
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Floriani: Behind The Scenes At Big East & A-10 Media Days

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 25th, 2010

Ray Floriani of NBE Basketball Report and College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC, but he also covers many events and games in the NYC metropolitan area. He had the opportunity to attend the Big East and Atlantic 10 Media Days last week and snap a few photos.

Big East Media DayWednesday, October 20 – New York City

The media days are upon us, a sign as indicative of the first leaves falling that the opening tip is not far away. Last Wednesday, the Big East had their day at Madison Square Garden.

The media days often provide a host of scripted quotes. “We have a big challenge… our seniors must step up… there are no nights off in the (fill in your league) conference…” Despite their regularity, they serve a purpose of promoting the conference and they afford the chance to renew acquaintances. For us media types,  it is great to see friends you haven’t seen since March and to discuss the game with the coaches in a calm environment. All coaches are 0-0 and optimistic (for the most part) about the upcoming campaign. With games a few weeks away, you can actually get a chance to engage in some small talk if there isn’t a big media crush at that coach’s table.

The day started with everyone in a theater-type seating area. Commissioner John Marinatto gave a short “state of the conference.” Marinatto opened with a call to remember Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand, injured a few days ago, in everyone’s thoughts. Marinatto said renovations at MSG will make the “Big East postseason tournament the premier conference tourney in the country.” The commissioner also noted that since expanding to 16 teams, NCAA bids have increased by 20% for the Big East. Austin Freeman of Georgetown, the preseason Player of the Year choice, addressed the group on behalf of the players.

Marquette head coach Buzz Williams fields questions at the Big East’s Media Day at Madison Square Garden

The working media session was broken into two parts. Each school had its own table where the head coach and a few players were present to field questions. The first half saw eight coaches interviewed by electronic media as TV affiliates. The other half stayed at their tables with a few players from their team as print media ascended. After about 90 minutes, the procedure was reversed. Following the work session a luncheon was provided before everyone adjourned.

A few short notes from someone in attendance:

  • Buzz Williams’ methods of attention to detail and organization always intrigued me, as the Marquette leader is an advocate of maximizing each possession, even if it means limiting them. We discussed the concept of possessions and points per possession. As I discussed the four factors often seen on this site, which include free throw rate, offensive rebounding percentage, turnover percentage and effective field goal percentage, Williams dutifully made extremely meticulous notes in his book. Turnover rate is something of paramount importance to the Marquette mentor. “We have been outstanding in taking care of the ball,” Williams said. “It is something we emphasize.” Looking at the turnover rate (percentage of possessions ending in dreaded TOs) the last two seasons, Marquette’s TO rate has been 15.3% and 14.8%. I noted that 20% is the threshold that teams want to avoid; hitting it, or even worse, exceeding it, is unacceptable.  “If one-fifth of your possessions end in a turnover, your offense is not good,” Williams added. Amen.

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