Morning Five: 09.18.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 18th, 2014

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  1. We mentioned on Tuesday that rising senior and five-star shooting guard Antonio Blakeney had backed out of his verbal commitment to Louisville, citing a “quick decision” as his reason for second thoughts, but also leaving the door open for a possible recommitment down the line. Now it seems that Rick Pitino’s program, bemused and bewildered by the young man’s waffling, has decided to take its ball and go home. According to the Courier-Journal‘s Steve Jones, Louisville has no plans to continue recruiting the bouncy Florida shooting guard, preferring instead to focus its resources on adding one more elite piece to its highly-rated 2015 recruiting class. For a composite listing of how the Class of 2015 is shaping up at this early point, take a look at this table of the ESPN, Rivals, Scout and 247 ratings as collated by SBNation.
  2. Another former Louisville recruit, Oregon’s JaQuan Lyle, was not on Oregon’s updated roster that was released on Tuesday night, and as Rivals.com reported yesterday, he has not been admitted to the university. The issue appears to be related to his completion of a summer course that would make him eligible, but Lyle, for one, doesn’t appear to be too concerned by it. Even if Lyle makes it into school and onto the Ducks’ lineup, this is going to be an interesting transition year for Dana Altman’s program, with four of last season’s five starters either graduated or booted from the team.
  3. Michigan‘s Fab Five basketball legacy, even 20 years later, remains a complicated one. Issues of class and race and media coverage and privacy and amateurism and professionalism and a whole slew of other interrelated variables have followed these guys along ever since they collective hit the national consciousness way back in 1991. One thing, however, that isn’t that complicated, was that notorious Wolverines’ booster Ed Martin paid the likes of Chris Webber and several others to matriculate and play for the blue and maize. There’s really no disputing it (Webber himself copped a plea for lying to a grand jury on that very issue in July 2003). Yet Webber has spent the better part of the last decade-plus holding a grudge against his alma mater for what he felt was unfair treatment — some of it arguably meritorious, some not — and refusing to come to terms with the notion that, setting aside all the other indignities, he still is responsible for some of the darkest days in program history along with the sunniest ones. HoopsHype recently interviewed former Fab Fiver and current NBA analyst Jalen Rose, who called out Webber for his simple failure to say “I’m sorry” to the fans of the program who were ultimately let down by those actions. We’ve said it in this space and on social media many times before, but it remains spectacularly impressive that the most thoughtful and mature member of the Fab Five turned out to be Rose — he remains completely on point.
  4. Once upon a time here at RTC, we wrote a silly but fun post evaluating the worst college basketball floor designs in America. It is still today the post that received the most traffic in the history of this site. ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil might be feeling similarly today after her recent post ranking the top 10 mascots in college basketball went viral all over the interwebs. Of course, the fun in these lists is that they’re eminently arguable, especially through social media, but we were pleased to see the likes of the Stanford Tree and the St. Joe’s flapping hawk on the list. We’re not sure how you leave out a walking banana slug, such as what is found at UC Santa Cruz, or a scare-the-bejeezus-out-of-you-with-a-stare friar, such as what they have at Providence.
  5. And then there is this. Madness is in 30 days.

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Morning Five: 10.28.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2013

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  1. For the fourth consecutive weekend (ugh), several schools around the country staged their Midnight Madness events. The headliner over the last three days was at North Carolina, where the Tar Heels’ annual Late Night With Roy event featured big cheers for troubled guard PJ Hairston. At Seton Hall, eating contest legend Takeru Kobayashi was brought in to wow the crowd as he went head-to-head in a hot dog eating contest with Pirates’ head coach Kevin Willard. Willard didn’t even try to get one down, preferring to spend the minute-long competition watching Kobayashi house a total of 10 without so much as an extra breath. Perhaps more impressively, Kobayashi then drained a gallon jug of milk in just 15 seconds. Over at Villanova, Nicki Minaj performed during its Hoops Mania event, while Kansas State created some buzz with its Fresh Prince of Manhattan skit. The most impressive item out of the weekend, though, may have come from Providence‘s Brandon Austin, who shut down the proceedings with a simply ridiculous between-the-legs, 360-degree windmill dunk. All good fun, but after literally a month of these Madnesses, can we get to some real basketball soon? Eleven days.
  2. With just over a week remaining before bona fide games tip off, the NCAA is releasing decisions on player eligibility with gusto. Last week it was Georgetown receiving the good (and astonishing) news that former UCLA center Josh Smith would be eligible to play immediately; Oregon got similar news on Friday when the NCAA cleared Houston transfer Joseph Young to play immediately for Dana Altman as well. Young is an exceptional scoring guard who averaged 18.0 PPG last season and brings to Eugene the 26th-best offensive rating in college basketball (124.1 last season). In a now-loaded backcourt featuring Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson and Young to go along with transfer Mike Moser in the frontcourt, the Ducks are suddenly looking like one of the top two or three teams in the Pac-12 again. Interestingly, transfers Young and Smith will face each other in their first game of the season between the Ducks and Hoyas in South Korea on November 8.
  3. Just a few days after Tim Floyd revealed that Kentucky and UTEP were exploring a 2016 game to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their Brown vs. Board of Education national championship match-up, word came out that John Calipari’s program is seeking to spearhead another Champions Classic-style event involving the nation’s top basketball schools. According to ESPN.com‘s Andy Katz, Kentucky, UCLA, North Carolina and Ohio State are negotiating a three-year event that would mimic the Champions Classic with each team rotating through the others in alternate years. The unnamed event would begin in 2014-15 and would move between Brooklyn, Indianapolis and Las Vegas during the first three-year window. When the Champions Classic was first developed, we wondered if some of the other all-time great basketball schools such as UNC and UCLA would ever have a chance to participate; with this new event now in the pipeline, we’ll just about have it covered. Serious question, though — with a combined 24 national titles among this group, shouldn’t the new event supersede the other for rights to the name “Champions Classic?” And what happened to Indiana (five titles compared with Ohio State’s one)?
  4. The Miami/Nevin Shapiro scandal has come and gone with Frank Haith getting off relatively easy (a five-game suspension) and the Hurricane basketball program moving forward in decent shape. But, as the Miami Herald reports, former assistant coach Jorge Fernandez’s professional life has been destroyed as a result of admitted violations relating to providing free airline tickets to players and later lying to the NCAA about it. The article correctly points out that it is often the low-level assistants in these scandals who suffer the brunt of the punishment, as Fernandez notes that a two-year ‘show cause’ penalty has shut him out of the coaching profession and caused the matter of providing basic needs for his family very difficult. Some coaches around the country have rallied around him throughout his ordeal, but many others have not, and it’s uncertain if or where he will be able to land after his penalty has ended. It’s another one of those stories that makes people shrug their shoulders at the stark inequities built into the NCAA’s byzantine system of enforcement and punishment.
  5. It got lost in the late week news cycle, but some big news relating to the Ed O’Bannon case against the NCAA was released on Friday afternoon. Federal district judge Claudia Wilken denied the NCAA’s motion for dismissal, paving the way for O’Bannon and the other plantiffs to move forward and eventually receive a trial on the merits of the case. The primary issue here was the relevance of language in a 1984 case from former Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens that, while not part of the holding of that lawsuit, has been relied upon by the NCAA to retain its amateur model: “In order to preserve the character and quality of the [NCAA's] ‘product,’ athletes must not be paid, must be required to attend class, and the like.” Wilken rejected the notion that Stevens’ language represented any particular binding precedent, and in so doing, has removed a major procedural barrier assuring that the plaintiffs will get their day in court. Wilken will next rule on class certification of the case, potentially allowing thousands more plaintiffs to sue the NCAA and correspondingly raising their potential liability well into the billions of dollars.
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Big East M5: 10.23.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 23rd, 2013

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  1. Just weeks before the start of the 2013-14 season, Marquette forward Jameel McKay has decided to leave the Golden Eagles to pursue his college basketball career elsewhere. Marquette Tribune writer Patrick Leary was especially taken aback by the announcement, based on a conversation he had with McKay just days earlier, when he “raved about how excited he was to play for Buzz and the Golden Eagles.” McKay, a junior college transfer who did not log any time for Marquette last season, was expected to be behind forwards Davante Gardner, Chris Otule, and Jamil Wilson at the forward spots. Leary speculates that playing time may have been a concern for the junior, although time would have opened up next season when all three of those players will have graduated. There do not seem to be any hard feelings between McKay and the program, at least based on his Twitter feed where he stated: ““I appreciate the coaching staff and fans no hard feeling at all GoodLuck to them this year!” shortly after announcing the transfer.
  2. Another day,another transfer player is being held up in the vortex that is the office where the NCAA clears up these matters. Today, Georgetown awaits the fate of UCLA transfer Josh Smith. Coach John Thompson III acknowledges that waiting is, in fact, the hardest part: “It’s the nature of the beast. It’s the nature of the system. Would I prefer it not be this way? Probably. But at the same time, I understand it takes time.” Smith would be a big addition to a Hoyas frontcourt that is already without forward Greg Whittington, who tore his ACL this spring after missing most of last season with academic concerns. Like Smith, Thompson doesn’t have a substantive update on Whittington’s status: “Only God knows when Greg’s going to be able to play. I have no idea when he will be able to get back on the court.”
  3.  Even within a largely new conference, DePaul‘s status remains the same. The Blue Demons have once again been voted to finish last in the league, but the players are excited for what the future holds in the Windy City. The team returns two stalwart seniors who have averaged double figure points in each of their first three years in forward Cleveland Melvin and guard Brandon Young, and adds an exciting freshman class highlighted by guard Billy Garrett Jr. To his credit, Garrett looks forward to playing on the big stage: “Playing with expectations is something I’ve gotten used to. It’s something I don’t pay that much attention to because you have to go out there and perform.” While many bemoan the loss of former conference rivals to the AAC and ACC, DePaul and other members of the Big East who struggled against the UConns and Syracuses of the world may welcome the change simply because it makes things a bit more manageable. The new league, combined with a roster that features both stars of years past and new players who are not used to all the losing years that DePaul has experienced, could make for a fresh start for a once proud program.
  4. A new league means a new court for Providence, who is set to unveil Dave Gavitt Court this season. The Friars’ new hardwood moves away from the old design, which heavily featured black, with a cleaner silver and gray look around the perimeter, and is adorned by former Providence coach, athletic director, and first Big East commissioner Dave Gavitt’s name at center court.  With so many other programs installing crazy court designs in recent years, this sleek, streamlined design is much appreciated. Now if they can just do something about the total nightmare-fuel giant inflated Friar near the tunnel at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center…
  5. As a Syracuse fan, it was hard to get excited about Hilby the German Juggle Boy as the main source of extracurricular entertainment at this year’s Midnight Madness in the Carrier Dome. Take note, Syracuse, as Seton Hall has this Midnight Madness entertainment thing figured out. During this Friday night’s event in South Orange, head men’s coach Kevin Willard and women’s coach Tony Bozzella will participate in a hot dog eating contest against the infamous Kobayashi.  If you’re a Seton Hall fan, you too can compete by entering an Instagram contest describing why you should be given a shot against Willard, Bozzella, and Kobayashi. So good luck to you, intrepid Pirates fans. I am incredibly jealous that Jim Boeheim is not participating in this one.
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Jabari Parker’s Skill Set Reminiscent of Versatile Past Duke Stars

Posted by Brad Jenkins on October 21st, 2013

Countdown to Craziness, Duke’s version of Midnight Madness, was held before a packed Cameron Indoor Stadium on Friday night. The evening featured a variety of entertainment, but the feature act was the much anticipated debut of Jabari Parker in a Duke uniform in front of a real crowd. Just two days prior, the ACC media had voted Parker to the 2013-14 preseason All-ACC team along with another new Blue Devil, transfer Rodney Hood. Parker was also the near-unanimous choice as preseason ACC Rookie of the Year. At least for now, the player may match the hype. The scrimmage part of the night consisted of two highly competitive 15-minute periods of play that were called halves but were in reality two mini-games. Some players played for the White team in the first session and switched to Blue for the second. Unlike some other schools, though, Duke chose to make these open scrimmages as game-like as possible. Real NCAA officials worked the games and the result was an intense scrimmage with fouls called at an alarming rate. The official box score reflects combined stats for both sessions and it shows that Parker was the star of the scrimmage with 24 points and 12 rebounds with zero turnovers. The unquestioned highlight of the night was Parker running down an offensive rebound, spinning and going baseline for a reverse slam right over and through Josh Hairston and Marshall Plumlee.

Jabari Parker Wowed Duke Fans at Countdown to Crazyness Friday Night

Jabari Parker Wowed Duke Fans at Countdown to Craziness Friday Night

As much as we like to make player comparisons within top programs, Duke hasn’t had anyone exactly like Parker — especially as a freshman — in a long time. Probably the closest match might be a mixture of the talents of Grant Hill and Luol Deng. Like Hill, Parker handles the ball like a guard and sees the court well, but he doesn’t quite have the two-time national champion’s outstanding athleticism. An area to watch with Parker’s offense will be shot selection; he missed all three of his attempts from deep and two of those were forced step-back jumpers that were not close. It was exactly 10 years ago that Deng arrived at Duke with the size and versatility to play both inside or out, and Parker already shows that same type of wing flexibility. Given Duke’s current roster, look for Parker to primarily be a post defender. He spent almost the entire scrimmage guarding 6’11” Marshall Plumlee, the only true post man that Duke has this year. When he did guard the wing he moved his feet well and made himself tough to beat. He already appears to have a good grasp of Duke’s help team defense, but that aggressiveness also exposed a possible crucial concern of foul trouble. Parker was whistled for four fouls in the first stanza, and after some adjustments in the second session,  he committed only one more foul on the night. But it is definitely something to keep an eye on.

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Midnight Madness in the ACC

Posted by Kellen Carpenter on October 18th, 2013

Once upon a time, Lefty Driesell, the head coach of the Maryland Terrapins, invented something he called Midnight Madness. To help build excitement for the coming basketball season, the team would have an open practice/scrimmage that would kick off at the first possible moment a team was allowed to practice. It was, honestly, kind of a weird idea. But sure enough, eventually students got on board with showing up late one night in October to watch their beloved Terrapins begin the season. This tradition quickly spread beyond Maryland to the rest of the ACC and, eventually, to much of the nation.

In 2013, the tradition is all but dead. This is Maryland’s last year in the ACC. Changes in NCAA rules now have allowed practice to begin much earlier in the season. Midnight Madness has gone from a near-universal tradition to  an afterthought on many campuses. Still, Maryland is in the conference one more year and not everyone has given up on the event, so let’s take a quick look at those who are keeping the faith.

Driesell pioneered Midnight Madness at Maryland

Driesell pioneered Midnight Madness at Maryland

Celebrating Tonight

Somewhat fittingly, Maryland has the biggest treat for hoops fans: a return to historic Cole Field House, the home of Maryland basketball for so many years. Duke and Syracuse are offering ESPNU-covered scrimmages while NC State offers up the goofiest subtitle for their event, though they lose goofiest title to Clemson’s “Rock the John.” Incidentally, “Rock the John” will apparently feature fire jugglers, but that’s nothing compared to “Orange Madness.” Although Syracuse canceled a performance by rapper Ace Hood for their festivities, the event still promises a performance by Hilby the Skinny German Juggle Boy. No, really.

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Morning Five: Columbus Day Edition

Posted by RTC on October 14th, 2013

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  1. The month of Midnight Madness celebrations continued over the weekend, with a number of schools choosing to reveal their 2013-14 teams to the public on Friday night. The most prominent basketball school of this weekend’s group was Marquette, entertaining some 4,000 fans at the Al McGuire Center for Marquette Madness. The event trotted out the tried-and-true Madness standards: a three-point shooting contest (won by Jake Thomas), a dunk contest (won by Deonte Burton), etc., but one unique aspect of this version was that the school also handed out a “Lifetime Achievement Award” as part of the proceedings. Chris Otule, a Golden Eagles center who has played a full season in only two of his five years in Milwaukee and was recently granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, was the recipient (see the tribute video here). Otule earned substantial national recognition in 2010 when it was learned that he was playing major college basketball with only one working eye (he’s been blind in his left eye since birth), but he also has become something of a hard-luck case due to the three significant injuries (two broken feet and a torn ACL) that he has suffered during his career at Marquette. By all accounts a genuinely nice guy, let’s hope that his final year in Marquette is productive and injury-free.
  2. News came out last week that longtime Texas athletic director, DeLoss Dodds, will retire from his post overseeing the wealthiest athletic department in all of college sports. The 76-year old’s decision to retire, though, comes at a time when the school’s revenue-producing programs — football, basketball and baseball — are all suffering through relatively tough times. Notwithstanding the football Longhorns’ upset of unbeaten Oklahoma on Saturday, the team had lost badly to BYU and Ole Miss earlier this season, and rumors are swirling about the security of Mack Brown’s head coaching job there. Similarly for basketball, Rick Barnes’ Longhorns were just picked to finish as the eighth-place team in a 10-team league (only ahead of the hoops disasters known as Texas Tech and TCU), raising significant questions as to how a program and coach who makes so much money and has access to so much local talent could have gotten itself in such a mess. Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News examines the political and operational realities of Dodds’ retirement, ultimately concluding that the new AD will certainly have some hurdles to overcome upon arrival at his new job. And apparently, Louisville’s Tom Jurich is not interested.
  3. While on the subject of athletic directors, the AP reported on Friday that a group of 65 ADs attached their names in support of a nine-page memorandum sent to a legal team convening in Chicago later this month to discuss updating the Uniform Athlete Agents Act (UAAA). Tired of dealing with agents, runners and other interested hangers-on associating with student-athletes in their revenue programs, the group requests that the penalties attached to violations of the UAAA contain higher fines and additional prison time. Specifically, they ask that changes to the law must “increase the incentives for and ease of prosecuting violators,” offering a number of recommendations to make it easier to catch the wrongdoers. Perhaps the strongest part of this proposed legislation is the idea of classifying someone as an agent for purposes of the law regardless of whether they are registered as one — although difficult to implement, this could help with the runner/go-between problem that has become all too familiar in recent years.
  4. Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie may have jumped the gun in revealing his school’s latest APR score on Friday, but who can blame him given that his team was forced to miss the NCAA Tournament last season because of prior years’ academic troubles. The second-year coach proudly told the media: “We got a thousand. If you want to wait until May, you can find out in May. But it’s a thousand.” The “thousand” he mentions equates to a perfect score on the APR metric, which basically means that all of UConn’s student-athletes in the basketball program are in good academic standing and on track to graduate. According to Ollie, the program has emphasized the importance of education through accountability (i.e., players run if they miss class, etc.), which of course is all fine and well. But perhaps more than anything else, this improvement to a perfect score shows that the APR can be gamed like any other arbitrary metric if a school simply takes it seriously and correspondingly incents the players to do the bare minimum in the classroom.
  5. One of the interesting aspects to the NCAA’s new rule allowing practice to start in September is that coaches are limited to only 30 practice sessions in those 42 days between September 27 and November 8. Not only does the extra time between sessions let coaches ease into their practice plans and teaching points a little more thoughtfully, but it also allows teams to do some other character-building exercises that they simply wouldn’t have had time for under the old model. Case in point: Duke‘s four-day trip to New York over the weekend. On Saturday, Coach K transported his charges to West Point, his alma mater and site of his first head coaching job, allowing the Blue Devils to take in the pride and spectacle of the school responsible for educating the nation’s future military leaders. By all indications the players loved the experience, and one might suspect that if the Blue Devils go on to enjoy a great upcoming season, they’ll reflect often on this preseason trip to New York as the bonding experience where things started to come together. Have a great holiday, everyone.
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Morning Five: 10.11.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 11th, 2013

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  1. In a week full of trash talk, hype machines and other nonsense, how about this for a heartwarming story of substance? ESPN.com‘s Andy Katz revealed the story of Robert Kirby, a 53-year assistant coach at Memphis who recently donated one of his kidneys to his sister, Virginia Kirk, as she gradually slid toward renal failure. It was similar to the conditions that took their mother’s life some 17 years ago, but she wouldn’t allow any of her 13 children to become a donor. Kirby wasn’t about to allow that to happen to his older sister this time around, so after become approved as a match, he underwent the procedure to remove the kidney on Tuesday and was went back home yesterday. He’ll be back on the sidelines at Memphis very soon, perhaps a few ounces lighter but no worse for the wear. Major props are due for the longtime assistant still looking for his first head coaching job, but if his selflessness in this situation is any indication of his integrity and loyalty, we hope some enterprising school in need of a head coach next April gives him a good look.
  2. While we’re on the subjects of perseverance and selflessness, America’s favorite bench-warmer in last year’s Final Four is well ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation. Kevin Ware, the Louisville guard who broke his leg so horrifically in last year’s Elite Eight contest against Duke, is, according to his head coach, going to be in uniform for the Cardinals’ first regular season game against College of Charleston on November 9. Rick Pitino stopped short of saying that Ware would play in that game, but considering that he’s already been practicing and still has several weeks left to prepare for his return, we’d have to believe that there’s a reasonably good chance that he’ll be play in that game. And while all anybody really wants is for Ware to find his fortitude so that he can contribute again, the fact is that Louisville is a better team when he can bring his energy, speed and defensive intensity off the bench.
  3. For years we’ve derided the fact that what we still call “Midnight Madness” really doesn’t have much in the way of midnight associated with it anymore. For those of you who may not remember how it was named in the first place, it had to do with the NCAA’s mandated start of practice, which for many years was at the stroke of midnight on October 15. In later years the NCAA moved the start date to the weekend closest to October 15, and of course now teams can have it in late September. All this maneuvering has taken some of the fun out of it, so we’re always looking for the new and creative ways that schools choose to celebrate the new season. Cincinnati is one school trying something different. The Bearcats will have their “Midday Madness” next Friday, October 17, at Noon in downtown’s Fountain Square. The event, featuring some light scrimmaging and fan-friendly competitions, will be open to the public and will provide a nice fall afternoon respite for the office drones working nearby. Sure, it’s a little hokey, but it is a creative way to reach fans in a way that UC otherwise wouldn’t. We like it, and wish more schools would follow their lead in coming up with interesting ideas.
  4. Over the last five seasons, Steve Fisher’s San Diego State program has averaged a total of 27 wins per year as he has built the program into one of the very best in the west. He’s done so on the backs of stars such as Kawhi Leonard, Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley and a host of others, but none of those players were exceptionally rated prospects when they arrived on campus. That may be changing, with news on Thursday that Rivals.com top-20 recruit Malik Pope (Elk Grove, CA) has committed to SDSU. Kansas and Gonzaga were also in the mix for Pope, but the 6’9″ wing (you read that correctly) was impressed with how Fisher’s program didn’t back off of him when he broke his leg twice in the last eight months (the injuries will cost him his senior year). San Diego State’s class is already among the best in program history, and if the Aztecs lock down their final target, Zylan Cheatham, it would be safe to call this group a top 25 class that would benefit the school for years to come.
  5. The last time Kansas did not win at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title was in 2003-04, Bill Self’s first season in Lawrence. The Jayhawks finished two games behind a Tony Allen and John Lucas III-led Final Four Oklahoma State team. Ten years later, Big 12 coaches are not about to make the mistake of leaving KU off the preseason top line in the league standings, even if the roster features zero returning starters. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, returns five starters to a young squad led by NPOY candidate Marcus Smart. So what did the coaches do? They split the difference. Kansas and Oklahoma State received the same number of votes (77 total, five first place votes each), ensuring that proper respect was given to both the team with the most returning talent and the team with the most incoming talent. It will be a mighty fun race in the Big 12 this season. Oh, and the Rick Barnes dead man walking watch? Eighth.
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With Little Pomp or Fanfare, Practice is Underway: Is Earlier Better?

Posted by BHayes on September 27th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.

Aaand we’re back. Sort of. Today marks the official return of practice for college basketball players across the country, but unlike in years past, there will be no festive Midnight Madness celebration to announce that we are underway – at least not yet. A new NCAA initiative to allow programs more practice time before their opening games was passed this offseason, and teams are now able to use their 30 days of preseason practice over the span of six weeks, instead of the four weeks it had been in preseasons past. Great, you say — perhaps we will have a cleaner, more efficient brand of basketball ready for opening tip? That has to be the hope, as the extra time should allow for a smoother transition into the year, at least on paper. But in a sport where tradition and ceremony often delivers much of the impact, will the extra weeks of practice improve the play on the floor enough to offset a potential depreciation to the meaning of Midnight Madness?

Will Midnight Madness Suffer As A Result Of The New Early Opening To Practice?

Will Midnight Madness Suffer As A Result Of The New Early Opening To Practice?

It’s hard to know how direct a response this rule change is to the game scores that are getting lower and lower and the accompanying grumblings that are getting louder and louder, but it feels like an effort by the NCAA to raise early-season quality of play. While the actual practice time (30 days) remains the same, stretching it out over the course of six weeks should help keep players from feeling overwhelmed, and also offer them the chance to recover and work on individual skills on off days. Nobody is claiming these two weeks will advance basketball 10 years worth of quality, but there’s no way the extra time can’t help improve the product of November and December basketball.

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Morning Five: 05.06.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 6th, 2013

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  1. The NCAA approved legislation on Friday that will allow the first official practices to start two weeks earlier next fall, essentially meaning that we might see Midnight Madness events tipping off in late September rather than the usual mid-October commencement date. The rule allows for 30 days of team practices over a 42-day window, backing up from the date of the first regular season games of the season (next year: November 8). While we’re fully in support of more preseason practice time so that teams have sufficient opportunity to field a good product during the marquee early events, we’re not sold on the idea of having a bunch of Midnight Madnesses while college football is still getting under way, the NFL is only three weeks into its season and the MLB playoffs haven’t even begun yet. It’s not the worst thing in the world if college basketball fans are getting excited about Big Blue Madness, Late Night With Roy, and the rest, for a sliver of a crowded September sports schedule, but if we had been the NCAA, we may have written a clause into the draft that allows for the earlier practice time while mandating that public events cannot go off until the usual mid-October date. 
  2. This article from the LA Times‘ Bill Plaschke isn’t a college basketball piece, per se, but it does start and end with examples relating to the sport. The topic is the difficulty of head coaching positions in the Los Angeles sports scene, and UCLA men’s basketball in particular is featured prominently. He cites the fact that there’s already a Facebook page dedicated to firing new Bruins’ head coach Steve Alford, and of course he makes time to mention former head coach Ben Howland’s three Final Fours during his decade in Westwood. The restlessness that appears to infect the LA sports and entertainment scene is probably not much different than anywhere else — perhaps a bit more hyperactive there because of the importance of style over substance — but Plaschke is absolutely correct when he notes that a certain former head coach went a phenomenal 16 seasons before “finally” winning the first of his 10 national championships. No doubt if John Wooden had coached in today’s era of immediate expectations and returns, he may not have ever gotten the chance to make his unprecedented run.
  3. We’ll have more on this topic later today, but news from USA Today‘s Eric Prisbell over the weekend suggests that the former AAU coach of former Kansas star Ben McLemore took money and benefits from an agent named Rodney Blackstock in an effort to “deliver” the possible overall top draft pick to him. The report revealed three regular season KU games where Blackstock received a complimentary guest pass from McLemore, but as is so often true in these situations, it’s nearly impossible to prove the player or the school knew any such impropriety as alleged by the coach actually occurred. As Gary Parrish at CBSSports.com points out, the NCAA could use Bylaw 12.3.1.2 to declare McLemore ineligible based on what it already knows, but to do so flies in the face of what it just concluded in the Lance Thomas/Duke situation, and begs the tried-and-true question of whether schools should be held responsible for things it simply cannot control in this messed-up system that exists well outside the reach of the NCAA. Gregg Doyel makes a similar argument in this piece, taking the tack that whether we’re talking about the possible ineligibility of Marcus Camby, Derrick Rose or McLemore, the head coach shouldn’t be held responsible unless, you know, he actually had knowledge of, or should have had knowledge of, the events that caused the ineligibility in the first place. Makes sense, right?
  4. There was one notable transfer over the weekend, as Western Michigan’s Darius Paul, the MAC Freshman of the Year last season after averaging 10/6 for the Broncos, tweeted that he would transfer to Illinois after attending older brother Brandon’s postseason awards banquet. He had several high-major offers on the table, but it is becoming clear that John Groce’s fun playing style feeds into a recruiting strategy focused on bringing in a healthy mix of talented freshmen and successful mid-major transfers such as Paul, Illinois State’s Jon Ekey, Seton Hall’s Aaron Cosby, and several others. Paul will sit out next season per NCAA rules but will be ready to contribute in the post for the Illini beginning in 2014-15.
  5. Rick Pitino has had a pretty good spring, but he didn’t add Kentucky Derby champion to his list of 2013 accomplishments. The horse in which Pitino owns a five percent stake, Goldencents, had some trouble getting early traction in the Saturday evening race at Churchill Downs before easing up down the stretch to finish in 17th place. Still, we’re certain that simply having quite literally a horse in the race was good enough for Pitino in this event, as the 60-year old has spent his entire life chasing basketball rather than race track glory. SI.com‘s Pete Thamel interviewed Pitino in this piece that published Friday, and it’s abundantly clear that the two-time national championship head coach thinks he has a great shot at doing it again in 2014.d
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We’re Talkin’ About Practices, Vol. II: Midnight Madness Stragglers

Posted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2012

Most of the prominent schools who were going to hold a Midnight Madness event already held it, with the majority coming on Friday night (highlights here) and a few others — Harvard and Louisville, for example — trickling out over the weekend. A good number of schools for one reason or another have held off on a celebration thus far, choosing instead to introduce this year’s team to the fans in the coming days and weeks.

UNC Celebrated More Than Just the Return of the Team Friday Night (credit: Jeffrey A. Camarati)

Here’s the list of Midnight Madness stragglers, for those of you still interested.

  • Arizona – Sunday, October 21 – Arizona’s McDonald’s Red-Blue game at 2 PM PT will feature a scrimmage as well as a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Arizona’s 1988 Final Four team.
  • BYU  – Wednesday, October 24 – Cougar Tipoff will begin at 7 PM MT and also run streaming on byutvsports.com.
  • Dayton – Saturday, October 20 – Dayton’s Red and Blue Scrimmage will begin at Noon ET and feature autographs and a meet-and-greet session prior to the football team’s game against Valparaiso.
  • Duke – Friday, October 19 – Countdown to Craziness is scheduled for 8 PM ET on Friday night and will be carried live on GoDuke.com. Several elite prospects in the Classes of 2014 and 2015 are expected to be there.
  • Gonzaga – Saturday, October 20 – Kraziness at the Kennel tips off at 4 PM PT. The event is also being held concurrently with Fall Family Weekend on the Gonzaga campus, and one fan will get to shoot a halfcourt shot for a chance at $10,000.
  • Ohio State – Monday, October 22 – The Agonis Club is again sponsoring a meet-and-greet with the players and bid through a silent auction for team gear and seats right behind the bench. This event, which costs $75 per person to attend, begins at 5:30 PM ET.
  • Stanford – Friday, October 19 – The Cardinal’s Friday Frenzy event, beginning at 6 PM PT, will feature a raffle for a fan to win an all-expenses paid trip to the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas next month.
  • UNLV – Thursday, October 18 – The Runnin’ Rebel Scarlet/Gray Showcase (that’s a mouthful) will begin at 7 PM PT and feature a Legends Game in addition to the standard fan-friendly dunk contest and scrimmage.
  • Villanova – Thursday, October 18 – Hoops on the Hudson will take place at 6:30 PM ET at The Lighthouse on Pier 61 in Manhattan so that NYC-area fans and alumni can meet the team in a relaxed environment. The price per person: $300.
  • Xavier – Saturday, October 20 – Musketeer Madness will tip off at 6 PM ET with introductions to the team and the standard fare of events.
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Big East M5: 10.15.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 15th, 2012

  1. Where many midnight madness events favor glitz and glamour over basketball substance, Louisville‘s event at the Yum! Center was all business. The Cardinals are a few months removed from a Final Four berth, and enter the 2012-13 season as one of the favorites to return, so it is little surprise that the team is taking their practice time seriously. Point guard Peyton Siva said as much about Louisville’s midnight madness event: “It’s definitely all business here,” Siva said. “I wish we could Midnight Madness and play around, but Coach P is a business-first type of guy. We have our fun after practice, but once we lace it up and step on the court, it’s all business and that’s how we play.” Don’t worry though, the Cardinals did find time to dance to “Gangnam Style”, because it is still in fact the fall of 2012.
  2. Pittsburgh’s Steven Adams continues to receive praise from various publications in their preseason lists and rankings. Today, it is Athlon Sports, who lists Adams at the top of its “Top Impact Freshman of 2012-13″ rankings heading into this season, noting that Adams is the highest-rated recruit to ever sign with Pittsburgh, and that though he is raw, his talent should allow him to be very productive for the Panthers this season.
  3. That whole “will he stay home in Syracuse or join Kentucky’s stellar 2012 recruiting class” thing?  Syracuse freshman big man DaJuan Coleman said that was never even much of a debate for him. “I wasn’t close at all,” Coleman told the Post-Standard’s Donna Ditota. “I had a feeling I was going to come here since my junior year. I just wanted to go through the recruitment and everything.” Coleman joins former high school teammate Brandon Triche at Syracuse this season, and unlike some other recent Syracuse freshman bigs, many believe that Coleman has the polish to be an effective player on both ends of the court immediately. If anything, the bulky Coleman should help shore up the major rebounding problems that plagued the Orange in 2011-12.
  4. It is no secret that this basketball season in Storrs is going to be a trying one for all involved. The players have no postseason to play for, Kevin Ollie is fighting for a multi-year contract, and the administrators who need to make decisions that will impact the program going forward will be doing so under the gaze of legendary head coach emeritus Jim Calhoun, who is expected to remain a major part of the program. With all of the pressure that is being heaped on the Connecticut program, Ollie’s utilization of a sports psychologist with the whole team may be a very wise move early in his tenure. UConn is working with Dr. Joe Carr, a psychologist who worked with UMass last year en route to a strong year for the Minutemen, to work through many of the chemistry issues that plagued the Huskies in 2011-12.  Carr is no stranger to helping teams come together, as noted in the Courant’s article, and he describes the positive effects of sports psychology further: “If we can get players to develop blind trust and buy into a principle, they are going to outplay a lot of people. They are playing for something else, and that’s each other. The teams that win are usually the ones that make the most sacrifices.”
  5. Prized recruit Tyler Roberson is on the radar of many Big East teams, but he chose to head to Rutgers for this year’s midnight madness.  Roberson would be an absolute recruiting coup for Mike Rice and company, as he holds offers from Big East rivals Syracuse, Villanova, and rival-to-be SMU, as well as perennial national power Kansas.  Kentucky is also involved, as Tyler Roberson is an elite high school basketball player, and that’s sort of their thing.
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Sights & Sounds From Midnight Madness, Vol. I

Posted by rtmsf on October 12th, 2012

We’ve been scouring around the web tonight to find some of the best sights and sounds submitted through various forms of social media. Much more will undoubtedly pop up in the next 24 hours, but this is what we’ve found so far…

Pittsburgh dusted off Midnight Madness for the first time in a number of years and seemed to have won the night with its outdoor court, Jamie Dixon’s impersonation of Jackie Moon, and a Bill Raftery re-enacting his iconic “SEND IT IN JEROME” call from the wayback machine. But Kentucky‘s Big Blue Madness was epic as usual, Syracuse brought in Wale to rock the house, and Mizzou fans gave us our first sorta-RTC of the nascent season. More to come over the weekend!

Pitt’s Outdoor Madness Was Certainly Unique (credit: @laurenwalheim)

Jamie Dixon’s Getup Was Ridiculous… and Awesome (credit: @andrew_salesi)

Remember This Guy? (credit: @brucepearl)

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