Back and Forth: Midnight Madness Edition

Posted by David Harten on October 17th, 2014

Each week, we’ll profile some of the week’s biggest upcoming games by taking a look back at some relevant history that relates to the match-ups. This is Back And Forth.

For our first entry, we will take a look at what’s right in front of us. The week of various Midnight Madness events are popping up in arenas across the country, with some naturally creating more of a buzz than others. Places like Lexington, Lawrence, East Lansing and Gainesville will pack fans and students into their respective arenas, domes and fieldhouses, lighting fireworks, putting on costumes and introducing this year’s roster with aplomb – at some point, they’ll also do some basketball stuff.

So what are some of the more memorable Midnight Madness moments for great teams in recent history? Glad you asked. Let’s review three recent champions to determine if there were any clues as to what was to come six months later:

Kentucky, Big Blue Madness – 2011-12

A few months removed from a run to John Calipari’s first Final Four as head coach of the Wildcats, a lot was expected from a semi-veteran team of Terrence Jones, Darius Miller and Doron Lamb pairing with the next loaded recruiting class coming to town, featuring future lottery picks Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Amid all the introductions, lights and pageantry, the Wildcats staged their customary Blue vs. White scrimmage.

National Title Moment: During the scrimmage, Big Blue Nation got to see the full talents of Davis on display. The 6’11” forward was a physical freak, swatting shots and throwing down dunks, taking off from outside the paint on the baseline. The future NPOY put it all on display from day one as a Wildcat.

UConn, First Night – 2010-11

No one was expecting what they saw out of UConn in 2010-11. It all started at “First Night,” UConn’s annual nightly open practice. Around 7,000 fans showed up for the player introductions and skills challenge. That was the night Kemba Walker started it all in motion. The rest is history.

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ACC M5: Midnight Madness Edition

Posted by @bradjenk on October 17th, 2014

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  1. TarHeelBlog: Once upon a time, the first Friday after the official start date of practice (October 15) was when almost every college basketball squad held their version of “Midnight Madness.” But now that the NCAA rules allow for limited practices to be conducted several weeks earlier, many schools have moved their season opening gala-style events to accommodate that change. North Carolina was one of the schools that decided to get their event out of the way early this year. “Late Night With Roy” was held in the Smith Center on Friday, October 3, and according to Brian Barbour, the heralded Tar Heels freshman class may be as good as advertised, especially wing scorer supreme, Justin Jackson. Another star of the scrimmage was sophomore big man Kennedy Meeks. Not only did he look to be in better shape on the court after significant weight loss over the summer, Meeks stole the show with a Whitney Houston lip-synching performance during the pre-scrimmage part of the evening.
  2. NBCSports: Clemson was another ACC school that decided to have its night of madness early. Last Friday, the Tigers held their annual “Rock The John” at Littlejohn Coliseum. As this post suggests, it could be that Brad Brownell has found a surprising new long-range shooting threat, and he certainly could use one. Last year the Tigers finished last in the ACC in three-point shooting at 29.4 percent in conference games. I won’t spoil the surprise of who that might be, but their new marksman is not currently on the team roster but could be asked to walk on.
  3. LocalSyr.com: A couple of ACC teams will be conducting “Madness” during the traditional Friday slot tonight. Syracuse is one of those schools, holding its “Orange Madness” this evening in the Carrier Dome. The listed schedule of events includes a legends scrimmage featuring numerous Orange alumni, including Pearl Washington. Syracuse coaches hope freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph is able to start his career as productively as “The Pearl” did back in the 80s and as well as Tyler Ennis did for the Orange last year.
  4. GoPack.com: N.C. State is one of six NCAA schools that will have its big event shown in its entirety on ESPN3 tonight. “Throwback With The Pack” will be held at historic Reynolds Coliseum, which will be undergoing a major renovation in 2015. While no longer the home of Wolfpack basketball other than an occasional early season non-conference game, Reynolds is one of the game’s classic old arenas with a rich tradition forged by some of the legends of Tobacco Road. Some of those legends will be returning for tonight’s event, including stars David Thompson and Tommy Burleson, a pair of whom led N.C. State to its first NCAA Championship in 1974.
  5. PittsburghPanthers.com: Pittsburgh deserves credit for putting on the event it will on Sunday. Jamie Dixon’s squad will be hosting the “Maggie Dixon Heart Health Fair/Fan Fest/Blue-Gold Scrimmage” at the Petersen Event Center, an event that combines health awareness and fan activities along with the basketball part of the day. The Health Fair is in honor of Dixon’s younger sister who tragically died at the age of 28 in 2006. Hats off to Pittsburgh for having an event that goes well beyond the notion of just exciting students, fans and recruits.
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Morning Five: 10.08.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 8th, 2014

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  1. Practices were allowed to formally begin on Friday of last week, and at least one powerhouse program kept the spirit of Midnight Madness alive by revealing its 2014-15 ball club to the fans at the earliest possible date (alas, the 7:30 start time remained intact). North Carolina held its annual “Late Night With Roy” event on October 3, replete with sophomore center Kennedy Meeks lip-synching the Whitney Houston classic, “I Will Always Love You” to his adoring throngs in Chapel Hill. For highlights of a bouncing ball variety, Inside Carolina has it covered with several of the best plays from the scrimmage. With another week-plus to go until most schools hold Midnight Madness, Kansas is planning on getting its fans riled up with “Late Night in the Phog” this Friday night. According to Adam Zagoria at Zagsblog, a large number of elite recruits are expected in attendance at Allen Field House, many of whom will spend the following Friday night in Lexington at Big Blue Madness. Tis the season for madness, which, after a long offseason, is certainly nice, but part of us still wishes we could drop the ball at midnight all across the country and enjoy a universal festival of college hoops to which everybody adheres.
  2. ESPN of course will be hosting its annual whirlwind tour of Madnesses around the nation next Friday night, and after announcing some of its College Gameday moves last week (including the much-needed flexible scheduling), it revealed on Tuesday that former Oregon State head coach and First Brother-in-Law Craig Robinson would be joining the team of analysts at ESPNU (both at games and in the studio). Per the terms of his termination agreement with Oregon State, Robinson is still owed over $4 million by the university, but his employment with ESPN reduces his annual take on that amount by the difference. Although Robinson surely will take some unnecessary criticism for his association with the lame duck president currently residing in Washington, it sure must be nice to be a losing head coach fired from a power conference school.
  3. Let’s talk about transfers for a bit. Memphis received great news earlier this week when the NCAA granted a waiver to Vanderbilt transfer Kedren Johnson, who was a nice player in 2012-13 (14/4/4 APG) but was forced to sit out last year by the school due to an undisclosed lapse in judgment. When it became clear that he would not return to the Commodores, he enrolled in Memphis and hoped for the best. His addition to Josh Pastner’s lineup will provide a great deal of stability in the Tigers’ backcourt, as the core of Joe Jackson, Michael Dixon, Geron Johnson and Chris Crawford have all moved on. Johnson brings two years of SEC-caliber experience to the table and can use his elite distribution abilities to integrate several new players into the rotation.
  4. While on the subject of transfers, Alabama has manage to create a hot mess out of a graduate transfer exception involving one of its women’s basketball players named Daisha Simmons. There’s a lot that’s been argued on this topic over the last couple of days, but the long and short of it is that Alabama blocked Simmons’ original request to transfer to Seton Hall (where she hoped to enter an MBA program in sports management) because the school claims that she did not provide the requested documentation of her brother’s kidney issues (he, along with her family, lives in New Jersey). Only after a firestorm fueled by social media basketball luminaries such as Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale ensued, as well as Simmons’ threat to file a Title IX lawsuit over the matter, has Alabama now backed down from its original stance. The takeaway for us here — again — is that way too much power rests in the hands of the schools on the subject of transfers. Coaches can come and go as they please, but players — grown adults, mind you — are imposed by a somewhat arbitrary set of rules designed to protect the coaches and universities. Simmons’ fate will now rest with the NCAA to make the final determination on whether she will be eligible to play immediately at Seton Hall.
  5. Sound familiar? The NCAA has certainly built a reputation for doing things to enrich its schools at the expense of the so-called “student-athletes,” and in light of the O’Bannon decision from earlier this summer, another group of former football and basketball players are taking the natural next step in this litigation. Ten former athletes — football players from Vanderbilt, Tennessee, UT-Chattanooga and Washington, as well as basketball players from Tennessee State and Maryland​-Eastern Shore — have brought a class-action suit against ESPN, the four major broadcast television networks, and eight major conferences along with their licensing partners for the illegal use of their likenesses. The lawsuit was brought in Tennessee, but we should expect more popping up around the country sooner than later. In other words, they’re following the money.
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Morning Five: 10.01.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 1st, 2014

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  1. Welcome to October. For many Americans, the 10th month of the calendar represents the leaves changing, the heart of the football season, the if you’re over 55, the World Series. For us, it means we’re talkin’ ’bout practice. Officially, college basketball practice won’t begin until two days from now — Friday, October 3 is this year’s earliest possible date for teams to start lacing them up — but with the preseason now basically here, you’ll be hit with a flurry of previews, prospectuses and all the rest of it in short order. Forty-four days until tipoff…
  2. And just over two weeks until Midnight Madness, or what the modern-day equivalent has become with all of its high-profile musical acts, firework shows, and cults of personality. ESPNU on Tuesday announced its complete lineup for the October 17 programming, which begins at 6:00 PM ET and will cycle between both of last season’s national finalists — Connecticut and Kentucky — along with Arizona, Gonzaga, Florida and San Diego State over the next three hours. ESPN3 will offer the entire proceedings that same night from Harvard, Mercer, Kentucky, Connecticut, NC State and Florida Gulf Coast, if you’re not interested in all of the studio time cutting into the Madness festivities. And if you can’t wait a mere two weeks, ESPN3 will carry Kansas’ “Late Night in the Phog” on October 10 at 7:30 PM ET, if you want to get a first look at Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre (unsolicited advice: you do).
  3. Speaking of ESPN’s wall-to-wall college basketball coverage, the organization also announced on Tuesday that Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg will replace Jalen Rose and Digger Phelps on this year’s version of College Gameday. As Matt Yoder describes in his writeup at Awful Announcing, Williams and Greenberg have both come on strong with their sharp studio analysis in recent years, and with the stale Phelps now retired and Rose focusing on his preferred NBA, this seems like a good crew to pair with host Rece Davis and Renaissance Man Jay Bilas. But the bigger news that came out of this report from our perspective is that ESPN is planning on finally, finally, finally moving to the College Gameday football model, where the group camps out at the campus site of the week’s biggest game, regardless of whether ESPN is carrying it on prime time. Certainly there will be some overlap — do we really believe that Duke-UNC won’t be one of those games? — but this is a long-awaited improvement.
  4. Let’s talk about prestigious public universities that play college basketball, shall we? Out west, the People’s Republic of California at Berkeley has decided that a descending APR score along with middling graduation rates does not befit a school that ranks among the top 10 universities in the world. An AP report stated that Cal is likely to adopt recommendations made by a task force that will raise admissions standards for its student-athletes. Let’s just call this what it is: the Stanford Envy Rule. Given that a certain rival school a bit south and across the San Francisco Bay from Berkeley has managed to figure out a way to win in both football and basketball while retaining high APR scores (1,000) and graduation rates (83%), it was inevitable that Golden Bears’ brass was going to try something to fix the problem. It may very well improve the academic side of the equation; the athletic side, however, may need new head coach Cuonzo Martin to find more diamonds in the rough.
  5. In the Southwest, the Behemoth Otherwise Known as the Athletic Department at the University of Texas at Austin has decided that its $165.7 million in annual revenue (FY13) isn’t enough to unilaterally fund the construction of a new basketball arena to replace the sterile on-campus Erwin Center. Speaking to a local civic group earlier this week, Texas athletic director Steve Patterson told the crowd that the cost of a new $500 million arena should, at least in part, be shouldered by the taxpaying citizens of the Lone Star State. His underlying argument: that the city of Austin has enjoyed the free services of a nice mid-sized arena for 35 years without having “invested a nickel” in its construction or operation. Wow. Of course, Patterson’s flaw here is that he’s asking for public funding for a basketball arena in an area that’s lukewarm at best about the sport. Why not just build another Godzillatron and be done with it?
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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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