Taking Stock of UConn’s Transfers: Who Ended Up Where?

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 27th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Between its poor chemistry, inconsistent performance in conference play and seemingly complacent disposition on the court, the 2011-12 UConn Huskies could never regain the competitive drive that propelled its National Championship effort one year earlier. Despite a wealth of returning talent – including small forward Jeremy Lamb, shooting guard Shabazz Napier and big men Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith, not to mention a highly-touted freshmen class featuring center Andre Drummond and point guard Ryan Boatwright – Jim Calhoun’s squad never developed the leadership dynamic it needed and failed to discover an effective way to mesh together the holdovers from the previous season’s title-winning team. The powerhouse program experienced an unexpected down season, but that was the least of its concerns. As penalty for failing to meet the NCAA’s minimum four-year and two-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) standards, UConn was ruled ineligible for the 2013 postseason. Despite an appeal for alternate penalties and a waiver request – filed under the claim that recently instituted reforms had led to improved academic performance over the past two years – the NCAA held firm on its verdict. The program that just one year earlier was riding an all-time high after winning its third national championship had bottomed out, but the lost hope of a 2013 postseason appearance wasn’t nearly as concerning as the resulting personnel departures it prompted.

NCAA rules prevent Smith from playing this season, but he should join a talented UNLV frontcourt in 2013-14 (Photo credit: Julio Cortez/AP Photo).

Following UConn’s first-round NCAA Tournament loss to eight-seed Iowa State, the quasi-exodus began in earnest. First Oriakhi announced his intention to transfer, a move that – according to an NCAA rule enabling Oriakhi to bypass the customary one-year wait period because of UConn’s ineligibility for postseason play – enabled him to find a school with a legitimate chance of participating in the 2013 postseason. Big man Michael Bradley followed suit soon thereafter. Smith was the third to leave the program, marking a severe depletion of frontcourt talent and depth. And that’s without mentioning Lamb and Drummond, who – whether motivated by the postseason ban or otherwise – declared for the NBA Draft. The NCAA on Friday issued a ruling on Smith’s eligibility for the upcoming season. The result was hardly surprising, but it nonetheless compelled me to delve into the whereabouts of the three UConn transfers and investigate their prospects for the upcoming season. Below you’ll find a brief summary of each player’s state of affairs as they prepare for life at their respective new programs.

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Morning Five: 07.05.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 5th, 2012

  1. Here’s hoping everyone had a safe and fun Independence Day yesterday. As we mentioned earlier in the week, holiday or not, this is a landmark week in the history of a number of schools that officially jumped conferences last weekend. Texas A&M in particular celebrated its admission to the SEC with a borderline embarrassing flag-raising ceremony, while Missouri, West Virginia, TCU, Butler, VCU and a few others joined with more modest showings. Much of the talk of course centers on the impact of conference realignment on the college football landscape, but Athlon Sports recently published a look at the winners and losers of all the moves from a basketball perspective. It’s not terribly in-depth but it gives a good overview of the situation as of today.
  2. Marshall received some excellent news this week as senior forward Dennis Tinnon was granted another year of eligibility with the Thundering Herd. Tinnon, a player who had multiple run-ins with the law before turning his life around at junior college, averaged a double-double (10/10) and was also selected to the CUSA All-Defensive team in his only season at Marshall. He’s already one of the best offensive rebounders in the country (4.0 per game), and his return along with DeAndre Kane’s to an NIT team gives head coach Tom Herrion high hopes for another successful year in Huntington.
  3. Tinnon successfully went from the junior college route to Division I, but it appears that Michael Bradley (formerly of Connecticut) will take the reverse course even if it’s only for a short period. Bradley, you certainly recall, never played in his two seasons in Storrs (due to a redshirt year and subsequent injuries) but the NCAA would not allow him to play immediately at his favored transfer school, Western Kentucky, so he has decided to attend a junior college rather than sitting out a third consecutive year. Assuming all goes well, his transfer to Vincennes (IN) University will allow him to play one year of competitive basketball before then seeking to move back into Division I with two years of eligibility still intact. For a player who has certainly had to deal with more than his fair share of turmoil in his personal and basketball life, we certainly wish him the best with this plan of action and hope to see him again about a year from now.
  4. The Fayetteville Observer caught up with Kentucky point guard Ryan Harrow, the NC State transfer whom John Calipari will entrust with his dribble-drive offense next season. Harrow’s parents still live in the Raleigh area, and the shadow of his single season as a member of the Wolfpack still hovers over them. Calipari certainly has an illustrious history of getting the most from his point guards, but Harrow is a little older than his freshman counterparts and he had an up-and-down season in his only year of basketball at the D-I level (9/3 on 39% shooting). That top five rating Kentucky has in the preseason polls will be largely dependent on Harrow’s improvement on those numbers.
  5. In five full seasons at Michigan, John Beilein has won a share of a Big Ten championship, taken the Wolverines to three NCAA Tournaments, and even beaten out none other than Duke and Florida for the services of an elite recruit. As the school’s basketball profile has risen, Beilein is finding that he has considerably more cachet to walk into the living rooms of top prep players across the country with a realistic chance of getting their attention and signing them. This is a somewhat newfound situation for Beilein to find himself in, as this AnnArbor.com profile explains, for a head coach who had previously made most of his career through finding recruiting diamonds in the rough (one word: Pittsnogle). With an elite class already committed for 2013 and a brand-new practice facility to sell on recruits,  there’s no reason to believe Michigan basketball is headed anywhere but up.
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Morning Five: 06.25.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 25th, 2012

  1. We’ve spent too much time on this site in the last five years lamenting a number of initiatives perpetrated against the game of college basketball in the name of dollar-chasing. The shamelessness of college administrators in discussing the welfare of student-athletes in one breath while simultaneously making decisions to further enrich themselves without regard for players and fans who put these folks in their positions of power continues to appall us. Interestingly, others outside our game (and our first cousin, college football) are starting to notice. Two articles published independently over the weekend get at the same point — that those who run college basketball have forgotten what made it so popular in the first place. John Supinie writes that “the integrity and traditions that made the game so great were lost in the money,” while Dick Jerardi says that “when your fans can’t follow what it is you are doing, you are in danger of losing those fans.” Both articles take different tacks but end up in the same place — college hoops cannot thrive if it remains the red-headed stepchild to college football and the NBA, a mere pawn to be tossed around in their pursuit of increasingly greater shares of the pie.
  2. While we’re in the mood for piling on this morning, a recent article about transfers by USA Today informed us that four of every 10 D-I recruits who enter as a freshman will have left that program by the end of his second year. That 40% attrition rate includes only two percent of players who leave halfway through their college careers to the NBA, meaning that fully 38% of incoming players are transferring or simply quitting school altogether by that time. Transfers have been a hot topic this offseason, with over 400 players already moving on to presumably sunnier situations and a couple of public (and thorny) battles between coaches and players over their right to head elsewhere. NCAA president Mark Emmert says that he plans on initiating a task force to study the issue, a step in the right direction, but we’re almost certain that any recommendations will benefit the coaches more than the players.
  3. One of those 400+ transfers is Connecticut’s Michael Bradley, as hard luck a player as you will find. A young man who grew up in an orphanage in Tennessee because he was estranged from his mother never saw action in his two years at UConn. He redshirted his freshman year and suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of Jim Calhoun’s rotation last year. After his grandmother in Chattanooga was recently diagnosed with cancer, Bradley decided to transfer to Western Kentucky to be closer to her, but over the weekend the NCAA denied Bradley’s waiver request to play immediately at WKU. This decision proves once again that the criteria for justified waivers does not appear to be consistently articulable, which would probably cut down on these requests if the NCAA would simply provide clearer guidelines.
  4. Prepare yourselves for three years of Pitino Bowl, as Louisville has agreed to play FIU for the next three seasons (two in Louisville; one in South Florida) now that Richard Pitino has settled in as the new head coach of the Panthers. Father/son matchups are often lopsided because of the superior position within the industry that the elder has over the younger, and this situation should be no different. But it’ll be interesting to see if Richard is more like a Pat Knight (Bob) or Tony Bennett (Dick) in his career, especially given that he’s starting out at a school that not even the coaching phenom Isiah Thomas could make work.
  5. A couple of key ACC players may not lace them up next season, depending on how the rest of the summer shakes out for each. NC State’s Lorenzo Brown, a rising junior who averaged a superb 13/6/5 RPG manning the point guard spot for Mark Gottfried’s surprising Wolfpack team, will have surgery on his right knee this week to determine what is causing him some discomfort. An early report suggested that he had a meniscus problem there, but that has not been confirmed, and there is no timetable for his return to action. On the other side of the Triangle, Duke’s Andre Dawkins appears to be redshirting next year, his senior season as a Blue Devil. Coach K announced that the redshirt was an official decision as of last Friday, but he also added that Dawkins needs time “to step away,” which might leave open the possibility that things could change if he chooses not to take that step. Dawkins contributed 8.4 PPG last season as a key member of Duke’s backcourt, but he disappeared down the stretch as Duke did likewise in the last several games of the season.
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Big East Weekly Five: 04.24.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on April 24th, 2012

  1. With three weeks having passed since Kentucky snipped the nets in victory we here at RTC Big East are officially in withdrawal and already cannot wait until the 2012-13 season tips off.  However, we understand that things tend to slow down a bit over the summer months and will just have to cope. That said there will continue to be plenty to discuss from week-to-week so we are happy to introduce the Big East Weekly Five.  Think of it as the Morning Five’s lazy cousin. You know, that cousin who doesn’t show up as much as some of the other relatives, but always seems to grace you with his presence if there is free beer?  The Weekly Five will continue throughout the summer and its goal is to provide similar content as the Big East Morning Fives that you have come know and cherish. In keeping with the desire of many to slim down for summer, there will just be less of us to love.  Still, just because we are getting lean and mean does not mean cutting back on the Fresca!
  2. Recruiting is the name of the game in the spring and summer, especially if you are St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin who coming into the weekend had five open scholarships for next year burning a hole in his pocket. What a difference a few days makes as Lavin and St. John’s scored three solid commitments when Harvard transfer Max Hooper joined Monroe (junior) College teammates Marco Bourgault and Orlando Sanchez in pledging for the Red Storm. All three players were on the Queens campus over the weekend — Lavin just needed to seal the deal. Bourgault and Hooper are shooters who will be tasked to help St. John’s stretch the floor with their ability to hit it from deep. The 6’6” Bourgault averaged 10.9 points per game for Monroe and made 42% of his three-point attempts. Hooper, also 6’6”, appeared in just two games while at Harvard and did not make the only shot he attempted. Fittingly both shooters will have three years of eligibility, although Hooper will have to first sit out a season under NCAA transfer rules. The 6’9″ Sanchez may represent Lavin’s biggest coup of the week as he fought off Big East rival Providence and the always persistent Ed Cooley in a battle for the big man. Sanchez will have two years of eligibility remaining.
  3. Seton Hall appears to have filled the significant void vacated by graduating star point guard Jordan Theodore as Texas transfer and Seton Hall Prep alum Sterling Gibbs will be coming home to suit up for the Pirates. The addition of Gibbs solidifies Seton Hall’s lead guard position, but the real kicker for head coachKevin Willard is that he may have Gibbs at the controls this coming season. Gibbs has applied for a hardship waiver that, if granted, would allow him to avoid sitting out next season per normal NCAA transfer rules.  The basis for the hardship waiver request is reported to be a family member’s illness. In Gibbs’ freshman season in Austin, he played in 30 games averaging 2.6 points and 0.7 assists in 7.5 minutes per game for the Longhorns.
  4. While players appear to be headed to St. John’s in droves, the exit door at Connecticut is getting an intense workout. Faced with the reality of not being allowed to play in next season’s Big East and NCAA Tournaments due to his program’s failure to meet NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) standards, sophomore forward Roscoe Smith became the latest to leave the program when he indicated he will transfer over the weekend. Smith, who averaged 4.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in 18.2 minutes per game this past season, joins fellow transfers Alex Oriakhi, who has since committed to Missouri, and Michael Bradley, along with Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb who declared for the NBA Draft.  Bradley, however, may ultimately opt to remain in Storrs as his primary reason for requesting a release from his scholarship is to explore options around moving closer to his ill grandmother.  The 6’10″ forward was scheduled to meet head coachJim Calhoun yesterday to discuss his future.
  5. The NCAA defended its position on Academic Progress Rate (APR) guidelines when it responded to a letter written by six members of Connecticut’s legislature that said banning the Huskies from NCAA Tournament play next year represented too harsh a penalty. The crux of the letter echoed the university’s appeal-losing position, stating that the APR calculations are not fair because they incorporate performance dating back four years when no one on the current roster was on the team. NCAA spokesman Bob Williams countered that the standards have been in place since 2006 and Connecticut knew the standard by which they and all other schools and teams were being measured.

You May Not Have College Hoops For Awhile, But You Can Always Have Fresca

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Morning Five: 04.19.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 19th, 2012

  1. The top of the ACC might look a little different next season after C.J. Leslie announced that he would will return for his junior season at North Carolina State. An argument can be made that the return of Leslie, who would have been a borderline first round pick this year, could shift the balance of power in the ACC next season. We will always assume that Duke and North Carolina will be up there too, but both teams lose significant pieces from their teams and frankly Duke overachieved last year. With Leslie returning and a very solid freshman class coming in it does not seem that far-fetched that the Wolfpack could be considered the favorites in the ACC next season, which is something that we have not seen for a very long time.
  2. With most of the top incoming recruits committed the battle for the few remaining top recruits is heated and that certainly is the case for Tony Parker. The 6’9″ 280-pound high school senior has narrowed his list to Duke, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio State, and UCLA. Although reports earlier this week indicated that Parker was headed to UCLA, but Parker’s high school coach denies that anything has been set and will announce his decision on Monday. If Parker is indeed headed to UCLA, it could give the Bruins a legitimate argument for the top class in the country. Of course, it would also lead to plenty of Josh Smith jokes (you can figure those ones out yourself).
  3. For much of the past year we have been keeping an eye on Connecticut‘s 2013 APR ban and their eventual failed appeal. For the most part we ignored the similar plight of Toledo, but now the Rockets will be joining the Huskies on the sideline as they will also be banned from the 2013 NCAA Tournament due to their low APR scores. Obviously Toledo’s absence will be much less noticeable than Connecticut’s (primarily because they probably would not have made it even if they were eligible). Toledo seems to be holding out hope that the NCAA will allow them to count their 2011-12 APR score which would allow them to sneak over the low threshold. UNC-Wilmington appears to be in a similar situation. Since the NCAA did not grant an exemption to Connecticut we are not sure how the NCAA would let them get away with that now.
  4. With Johnny Jones having left to take over at LSU the administration at North Texas has been looking for his replacement. However, unlike many schools they do not appear to be in a hurry to name his replacement. According to the school’s athletic director they are looking at a variety of potential replacements including a current assistant coach at the school, a few fairly big-name former coaches, and a few other assistants. The school claims that it plans on having made a decision within the next ten days so it should be not too long until they have a coach, but we would not expect anything in the next few days.
  5. Frequent readers of this site are aware that we rarely talk about women’s college basketball and when we do it is for a major issue. This one definitely qualifies. Just a year after she revealed that she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Pat Summitt has given up her title as head coach at Tennessee. Summitt will have the title of Head Coach Emeritus that allows her to come to practices and participate in on-campus recruiting, but the team’s actual head coach will be Holly Warlick. We are not a women’s college basketball site or we would have probably devoted the next week to posts about Summitt so we will sum it up with this: 1,098 wins, 38 seasons, 18 Final Fours, and 8 National Championships. Greatest women’s college basketball coach ever.
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Big East Morning Five: 12.22.11 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 22nd, 2011

  1. In honor of the holiday, our good friends at Ballin’ is a Habit put together a Christmas Wish List for Louisville and as is the norm with those guys, there is lots of good analysis to go around. I have no idea who Claire Bennett is because I don’t watch Heroes and personally I would have chosen Wolverine if I was looking for an example of the powers of regeneration, but the point is salient. The Cardinals need to get healthy and stay healthy. But perhaps the most intriguing bit of analysis was about the subtle decline in some of their key players’ three-point shooting percentage. I knew the Cardinals weren’t play as uptempo as last year, but I admit I didn’t realize so many players were struggling from beyond the arc. This is something that can probably be rectified as the season continues, and with the way Louisville plays defense, they will have a chance against whomever they play. But if they want to be considered legitimate title contenders, they will need to find some true scorers and having guys shoot the three-ball better will certainly help.
  2. Those same friends also tipped us to the short story of how Connecticut‘s star freshman Andre Drummond basically refused to take a scholarship away from redshirt freshman Michael Bradley when he enrolled early with the Huskies. The story is that, for now, Drummond counts as a walk-on as long as the financial aid he receives is non-institutional, and Bradley is back on scholarship. The school deferred to the wishes of Drummond and his family, who made the classy and selfless move to essentially pay his own way, although, as Ballin’ is a Habit pointed out, his future earnings will mean he probably won’t worry about student loans the same way most regular college students do. In a year where criticism of coddled freshmen and their handlers has run rampant, it is nice to hear that perhaps the most ballyhooed freshman in the entire class is staying grounded and refusing preferential treatment that a teammate so selflessly offered him. So Bradley gets to continue using an athletic scholarship he earned, and a future star who has had everything handed to him is showing maturity beyond his years. Great story all around.
  3. This note should cheer up some Villanova fans who are wondering whether their favorite program is on the verge of falling back to mediocrity. The Philadelphia Daily News wrote that despite their struggles this season, the Wildcats can basically pick and choose top local talent much to the dismay of other Big 5 programs like Temple and Saint Joseph’s. The reasons are pretty obvious: recent success, larger fan-base, and national media exposure. None of the other teams in the immediate area can boast of those traits and that’s why the article says the recruiting gap has widened in recent years. There have been rumbles from the fans about whether Jay Wright should be on the hot seat given the team’s last two seasons and to that I say pump the brakes folks. This guy has 12 NCAA Tournament wins since 2005 and his recruiting prowess in both Philadelphia and the rest of the Mid-Atlantic corridor is one of the primary reasons why. That said, the current team is underwhelming to say the least. Check back tomorrow for more in-depth analysis on why.
  4. A good quick hitter from the folks at CBS Sports on the development of Louisville sophomore Russ Smith, who helped spark the Cardinals comeback against College of Charleston last night. The most relevant point is hidden near the bottom and it is that star guard Peyton Siva still has not recovered fully from a bone bruise in his ankle and his play this season seems to indicate the bruise is affecting him more than anyone is letting on. Siva was 0-5 from the field last night and is averaging less than 10 points per game on the season, which would be a problem for any other team in the country that has a star suffering through a scoring drought. For Louisville it just means that Rick Pitino gets to look down the bench, find his next unheralded guard, plug him in, and expect consistent and solid play from him. Just like that. Smith was a three-star coming out of high school and now he is a sophomore with a big role on both ends of the floor for one of the ten best teams in the country.
  5. Did anyone else notice the building feud between West Virginia coach Bob Huggins and his second-leading rebounder Deniz Kilici? Okay so it isn’t exactly a building feud, it is more of a one-game disagreement between the junior and his coach, but I still love the brutally honest evaluations of his players that we have come to expect from Huggy Bear. It is also telling to see that no matter how badly Huggins lays into Kilici, the big man still loves his coach and wants his approval more than anything. Huggins is extracting the most out of Kilici, who has doubled his scoring average and has become a more consistent and physical interior presence. This only proves that with Huggins tough love is effective.
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Morning Five: 12.22.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 22nd, 2011

  1. Andre Drummond‘s arrival at Connecticut was met with quite a bit of fanfare, but there was also an element of unhappiness with how it was handled after the school took away a scholarship from another player (Michael Bradley, who literally spent time as a child in an orphanage) and gave it to Drummond citing a NCAA restriction against a recruited player coming in as a walk-on. It turns out that the school misinterpreted the rule and Drummond has been a walk-on since early November as the rule was actually that a player could walk-on as long as any financial aid was non-institutional. Drummond’s status as a walk-on only became public when Drummond mentioned that he was walk-on to the media. One other mildly interesting tidbit from the report is Drummond reportedly telling Bradley, “I’ll pay my way and take a scholarship next year.” We are not ready to buy into the hype that Connecticut fans are giving it as a sign that Drummond is coming back next year, but it is still amusing.
  2. Federal prosecutors have set up a phone and an e-mail hotline (both listed in the link) in an attempt to gather more information to build their case against former Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine. We don’t think this says anything about the state of the investigation despite claims by quite a few Syracuse fans (not the majority) that this move reeks of desperation. We have obviously seen this work on countless movies and TV shows, but we are not familiar with any data on its utility in real-life situations. Obviously, doing so allows for anonymous people to come forward with legitimate information that they might not otherwise report, but it also allows for anonymous people to come forward with false information that they might not otherwise report.
  3. Shabazz Muhammad, the #1 recruit in the class of 2012, has narrowed his list down to six schools: Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, UCLA, Arizona, and UNLV. In the video interview, Muhammad briefly discusses John Calipari being in the stands at a recent game, Sean Miller going to a practice, support from rabid UNLV fans, UCLA’s losses, and how he would fit into Duke’s system. As former Kentucky legend Rex Chapman notes, this announcement might be a little deceptive in its nature. We still have no idea when Muhammad intends on announcing his top choice, but with that list of schools we are certain that our little corner of the Internet universe will explode when he does announce.
  4. Jabari Bird, one of the top recruits in the class of 2013, has also narrowed his list and is reportedly considering just three schools: Arizona, California, and Washington. The latter two schools have apparently been very aggressive in their pursuit of Bird recently. While Bird isn’t quite the caliber of recruit that Muhammad is a commitment from Bird might be a bigger deal at the schools he is considering with the exception of Arizona than a commitment from Muhammad would mean for any of the schools that he is considering. Like Muhammad, Bird has not announced a date so theoretically this could drag on for more than a year before we know where Bird is headed.
  5. If there is one team that has been asking Santa for a win as a Christmas gift this holiday season it has to be Towson, who is on the verge of going a full calendar year without winning a game. The Tigers last won a game on December 29, 2010 when they beat La Salle 93-90 in overtime. Since that time they have lost 30 straight games and while they had a few close calls last year they have only had a shot at winning one game this season (a four-point loss to UMBC). To be fair, they did open up this season against an absolutely brutal schedule. At this point they have two games standing between them and 0-for-2011. On Friday, they play at home against Vermont and then the following Friday they head to Virginia for what would be their last shot at a win this season. Unfortunately, we don’t see them winning either of those games. In fact, according to Ken Pomeroy, who ranks the Tigers #343 out of 345 Division I schools, they won’t be favored in any of their remaining games (their best chance is January 11, 2012 at home against William & Mary) and have a 19.4% chance of a winless record this season. If it is any consolation, they are still a long way off New Jersey Institute of Techonology’s magical run, which ended at 51 games. However, if they were to lose all of their remaining games (including one conference tournament game), they would end the year with a 50-game losing streak, which would mean their 2012-13 season opener could be to tie the Division I record for futility.
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Trick or Treat: RTC Hands Out Halloween Goodies

Posted by rtmsf on October 31st, 2011

It’s Halloween night across college basketball nation and all the ghouls, goblins and ghosts are out trolling for sugary goodness. Whether Gary Williams shows up on your doorstep requesting a chicken wing or it’s an exasperated Jay Bilas wearing VCU garb from head to toe, Halloween is the only night of the year where everyone can act how they really want to act if there were no social mores, norms or YouTube. With the start of the season only one week away, RTC has put together a list of five tricks and treats for some of college basketball’s most notable people, places and things. Here’s our list of Halloween night goodies for all of college basketball’s kiddies, but don’t blame us if the bullies from over at Chapel Hill Street or Lexington Avenue jump out from behind a bush and steal all of your candy.

  • Treats to Purdue’s Robbie Hummel & Arizona’s Kevin Parrom— in the form of  confident minds and an even more explosive sets of wheels. The good-guy Hummel returns for his senior season after rehabilitating his knee from a second ACL injury last October. He’s taking it slowly, wearing a massive knee brace and practicing only on second days, but the obvious fear is that he’s one of those hard-luck cases who simply can’t get healthy (he has also experienced back issues in the past).  Parrom, on the other hand, found himself a victim of a shooting in September as he was home visiting his mother with terminal cancer (who has since passed). The versatile wing is projected to be back in the Arizona lineup in about a month, but despite his positive attitude and diligent rehabilitation of a leg pierced by a bullet, both he and Hummel will have to overcome the mental hurdles necessary to compete at the highest level of college basketball.  Let’s hope both players find all kinds of treats as two of the biggest success stories of the season.
  • Tricks to Connecticut Basketball – for using a wink-and-a-nod to find a scholarship at the last minute for superstar freshman Andre Drummond, while former orphan Michael Bradley volunteered to give his up for the good of the team.  No matter what the courageous Bradley says publicly, we still find the whole thing rather smelly. The NCAA may have stepped in and already provided a nasty little trick for the Huskies, though, in the form of an APR ban from participation in the 2013 NCAA Tournament — which, incidentally, is likely to impact Bradley rather than the one-and-done Drummond. Oy.

Treats to These Two For Finding Their Confidence in 11-12

  • Treats to Kansas’ Thomas Robinson — this kid more than any other deserves a breakout 2011-12 campaign. After a nightmarish year in Robinson’s personal life where he lost both of his maternal grandparents and his 37-year old mother in a span of a mere month, the talented big man is on the credit side of karma in a huge way and hopefully ready to cash it in. We’d like nothing more than to see Robinson become an All-American this year by leading Bill Self’s team to its eighth consecutive Big 12 regular season title, before heading off to the NBA Lottery as a superstar in the making. 
  • Tricks to the NCAA’s $2,000 Optional Stipend –– although we agree that football and basketball student-athletes are vastly underpaid relative to their value to the schools, making the stipend optional at the leisure of the conference only opens the door for even more of an inequitable distribution of talent than already exists. The power conferences can easily weather the extra couple million bucks such a measure will require, but as for the mid-majors… they’d best keep scouring those patches for the Great Pumpkin of Mid-Major hope to find their future stars.
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Morning Five: 10.19.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 19th, 2011

  1. Over the next couple of weeks conferences around the country will be having their annual basketball media days, over-hyped events where coaches prattle on in coachspeak, players try not to say anything too controversial, and the assembled media spends most of its time angling for the free doughnuts, coffee and sandwiches.  On the eve of the Big East’s event at Madison Square Garden in NYC, the Syracuse Post-Standard has released its annual survey of 16 writers from each of the conference’s 16 markets, resulting in the closest race for the preseason top spot in the poll’s 20-year history.  Your winner: Syracuse, by a single point.  Even though defending national champion Connecticut received 8 first-place votes (vs. 6 for SU), the Orange showed up on more second and third-place ballots to slightly edge out the Huskies at this point.  The writers picked Pittsburgh guard Ashton Gibbs as its conference POY (7 votes), with UConn’s Jeremy Lamb second (4 votes), and his teammate Andre Drummond (12 votes) the overwhelming choice for conference ROY.
  2. While we’re on the subject of Jim Calhoun’s team, freshman forward Michael Bradley — the player who gave up his scholarship so that Drummond could join the team — proved that karma bears no conscience when he received news that his right ankle was broken and will require surgery.  The former foster child who mentioned sacrifice for the team in recent weeks as the reason for choosing to walk on this year is looking at a best case scenario where he can return to the team in December.  Missing the first two months of the season is no way to get his legs and timing back, though — you’d have to figure that it will take him until January or February to completely recover from this unfortunate break.
  3. We promise that this M5 isn’t only going to only be about the Big East Conference, but an interesting piece by Gary Parrish on the status of Louisville basketball going into this season brings up several good questions.  Even when Rick Pitino’s Cardinals played team basketball all the way to a surprising third place finish in the conference last season, there was a faint sense among some that Louisville was an overrated team getting it done primarily with smoke and mirrors.  That illusion was shattered in the NCAA Tournament’s Second Round when Morehead State parlayed an injury to Preston Knowles into an upset victory, but few actually had the Cards doing much damage last year despite its #4 seed.  Parrish appears to buy into the concept of a team without stars (he ranks the Cards #8 nationally), but unless Peyton Siva has plans to turn into a 2012 version of Shelvin Mack, we’re going to remain unconvinced about the long-term viability of this squad.
  4. California head coach Mike Montgomery will have a minor surgical procedure today that will force him to take a short leave of absence away from his team.  Given that we’re in the first few days of the very first week of practice, it’s safe to presume that this medical problem came on rather quickly for the 64-year old Bears coach.  We trust the Cal athletic department when they inform us that the procedure is minor, but no surgery is completely risk-free, so we’re crossing our fingers for a totally successful intervention for Montgomery today and his subsequent recovery.
  5. No matter your political persuasion and accompanying feelings about the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests going on around the country, one enterprising Kansas fan and his son decided to have some fun with a camera at one of the recent events in Denver, Colorado.  Mr. Greenhaw (the dad), perhaps ironically a banker himself, started ranting and raving about KU basketball to the delight of his son’s camera, even finding the wherewithal to get a shot in at “Missourah” while he was parading around with his KU #1 sign (although don’t get us started on his claim of “5 natl. championships.” Grrrrrrr…) in tow.  Check out the video below, which is rather hilarious:

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Morning Five: 10.13.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 13th, 2011

  1. Coaches with pretty impressive pedigrees cannot seem to stop talking about conference realignment these days.  Yet with as much power and influence as these guys have at their respective universities, they wield very little leverage in the big-picture chess match being played by various college chancellors, presidents, and boards of directors.  Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun and Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski provided opposing viewpoints on the matter Wednesday, with the four-time national champion coming out strongly in favor of further expansion of the ACC from 14 to 16 teams, and the three-time national champion unequivocally stating that his preference is for the Huskies to stick with the Big East.  You have to believe that if John Swofford’s league eventually makes another move, one of the first inquiries will in fact be to the folks in Storrs, but maybe by that time both Calhoun and K will be in rocking chairs somewhere.
  2. Sticking with Connecticut, remember that Michael Bradley kid — you know, the one who UConn took a scholarship from to give it to a basketball phenom who likely will be there for one year?  Yeah, that kid.  He came out on the record Wednesday stating that he has since been given a financial aid package and that he was only one of several players who stepped forward for the good of the team when it became apparent that prep phenom Andre Drummond was prepared to enroll.  Even UConn president Susan Herbst got into the act, saying that Bradley has been “taken care of.”  The company line was apparently in full effect in Storrs on this day, but there’s one thing we absolutely want to see happen here — five years down the road when Drummond is off to the NBA and Bradley has moved on to whatever great things also await him, we truly hope that he receives a registered letter from his former teammate containing a certified check for the full amount of any student loan (plus interest) he might have taken out to make this happen.  Drummond says that he and Bradley have a “great relationship” and are “really cool” with each other — well,  if so, he’ll do the right thing and eventually pay the walk-on back in spades.
  3. This is a baseball story more than a college basketball story, but we don’t care.  TBS/TNT’s Ernie Johnson has entertained us for years as the host of still the very best sports show on television, Inside the NBA.  Last year with Turner Sports’ nascent involvement with the NCAA Tournament, Johnson played host for some of the studio coverage along with his good buddies Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and an assortment of others.  He’s also a huge baseball guy, calling games for TBS as his father (whom he lost in August at the age of 87) had before him.  In a normal year, he’d be doing the MLB playoffs right now before setting off to another hilarious NBA season in the studio with The Jet and Chuck — but this isn’t a normal year.  Rather, Johnson, his wife and family have been keeping vigil with their eldest adopted son, Michael (one of four adopted children they have), who is suffering from muscular dystrophy and pneumonia in an Atlanta hospital.  It’s a tragic story, but one that really shows just how good a guy Johnson is — we encourage everyone to read it.
  4. Because of that NBA lockout thing, college basketball fans from all over the country are getting a rare opportunity to see some of their former (but not too former) stars in action on their school’s hardwood again as players seek ways to fill their time when they otherwise would have been in training camps.  Syracuse will hold a scrimmage on Friday night at the Carrier Dome featuring two teams of ‘Orange Legends,’ and they’re really not kidding with that name — tentative rosters include Carmelo Anthony, John Wallace, Hakim Warrick, Wes Johnson and Gerry McNamara — or, in other words, most of the best SU players of the last 15 years.  We’ll definitely be tuning into the ESPNU special on Friday night for a taste of this.
  5. Is it just us, or did LSU head coach Trent Johnson get a little too brazen in his dodgeball attack on a Tiger cheerleader in this video taken Tuesday at the Maravich Maniacs dodgeball tournament in Baton Rouge?  Start at the 1:00 mark — the dude does not hold back!




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