Morning Five: 08.10.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 10th, 2012

  1. Years ago when things were still going well for Billy Gillispie at Kentucky, we took him and his supporters to task for the ridiculous and utterly embarrassing notion that offering scholarships to 8th graders was a good idea (Michael Avery, anyone?). Thankfully coaches are no longer allowed to sniff around the junior high schoolyards as much as they used to, but that doesn’t mean that young players still can’t make pie-in-the-sky commitments years before they can even drive. As Gary Parrish wrote Thursday, Indianapolis junior Trey Lyles‘ recent de-commitment from Tom Crean’s flagship state school exhibits exactly why it’s probably not a great idea to listen to what 13- or 14-year olds think they’re going to do four years from now. A top 10 player in the Class of 2014, Lyles no doubt wanted to see what other fish are in the sea, and who can blame him? There’s something to be said for the concept of being wanted — and we’ll give credit to Lyles for the realization that few opportunities in life are as good as the one he has in front of him right now.
  2. A little more recruiting talk today, as Michigan‘s Class of 2013 is shaping up as perhaps the best that the school has enjoyed since Ed Martin was sending bags of hundreds to Ann Arbor on his days off. With the quick ascent of 6’6″ wing Zak Irvin on’s latest top 100 list — he rose more than 20 spots to #21 after a great summer — the Wolverines currently have a three-player class that ranks second only to Florida on ESPN’s list. Keeping in mind that only four of the top 20 players in this class have yet committed, this class led by Irvin gives John Beilein a shot at putting one or even two recruits (depending on how Derrick Walton’s senior season goes) into the McDonald’s All-American game next year for the first time since 2002 (Mitch McGary as a fifth-year senior was ineligible last season). Michigan will start next season in the preseason Top 10 — get used to seeing the Wolverines at or near those lofty heights for many years to come.
  3. Marquette announced yesterday that it was investigating a possible NCAA rules violation involving its men’s basketball program. Very few details were released by the school, but the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that a source disclosed that the violation may be related to recruiting. It is perhaps unrelated, but already this summer the Golden Eagles have lost a junior college transfer named TJ Taylor after only two weeks on campus. Regardless of what the violation turns out to be, it sounds like a relatively minor violation where any punishment the school suffers will be completely irrelevant.
  4. Three months from now we’ll either have a brand-new president or another term from our existing one. If you listen to the talking heads on television, the decision from the American people on this important civic duty may come down to class warfare — the concept that the rich and poor are in conflict with each other in divvying up the pie.’s Myron Medcalf drills down to the bone on a similar issue: the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) has inspired an arms race of sorts on the academic side of the athletic shops. The wealthiest schools can afford to provide computer labs with the best equipment, traveling tutors, language labs, and so forth — anything to help keep academically marginal kids at those schools eligible. However, at a number of the poorer schools (such as, in his example, Mississippi Valley State), the idea of spending $2.6 million on academic support services for athletes (as Texas did in 2011-12) is laughable. If there’s one thing we know from several thousand years of world history, it’s that the poor never actually win the battle no matter how much the rich say that they ultimately will. Good piece by Medcalf, well worth the read.
  5. We mentioned in yesterday’s M5 that UNC’s Roy Williams was listed by his peers as the most “overrated” head coach in college basketball. We also scoffed at the idea that someone who has won two national titles in under a decade at the helm in Chapel Hill could ever be truthfully considered “overrated.” It appears we are not alone with this opinion, as Mike DeCourcy rips the results to shreds with a laundry list discussing all of Ol’ Roy’s achievements. If you can get past the bizarro world reference to Kelly Clarkson and Paula Abdul, DeCourcy’s argument is spot on. The easiest criticism in all of sports is to dismiss accomplishments because of “all the talent” available to a coach (nevermind how talent is determined at the time) — but the fallacy in that stance is that it ignores the countless coaches who also recruit great talent yet never actually produce with it. We pose the question again — if Roy Williams is an “overrated” coach, how many national titles should he have reasonably won by now?
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Morning Five: 07.20.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 20th, 2012

  1. The Big East may have officially lost some stalwart programs from its lineup this week, but not without taking its commensurate pound of flesh. After agreeing to exit settlements totaling $15 million with Pittsburgh and Syracuse earlier in the week, the league announced on Thursday that it has dropped its lawsuit against here-today, gone-tomorrow program TCU. TCU of course had agreed to become a member of the Big East before reneging on that commitment to accept a better (and more commonsensical) invitation to the Big 12. The Big East had sued the school for its $5 million entry fee, but according to this report, the two parties have agreed to dismiss the case and settle for the disputed sum. If you’re counting at home, that’s a grand total of $20 million that flowed into the coffers of Big East banks this week — that might almost be enough money to buy some future relevance.
  2. When you think of Big East basketball forever more, one of the first images that should come to mind is John Thompson standing on the sideline at Georgetown, towel draped over his shoulder, menacing look on his face, preaching tough-as-nails defense and the togetherness of team. He’s been a radio personality in the Washington, DC, area ever since, and although he has never shied away from making strong statements, he’s rarely been what we would call controversial. As DC Sports Bog‘s Dan Steinberg notes, Thompson may have stepped over that fine line with his comments Wednesday about Penn State’s Joe Paterno. In a number of rambling statements, Thompson ultimately concludes that Paterno was “a damn good man” who made a “terrible mistake.” If you read for the nuance of Thompson’s quotes — discussing  the fallibility of humans and the ‘false gods’ we as a society build up — you see where he was going. But the key question to us is whether anyone who fails to act on knowledge of a known child molester can be a damn good man, and at the end of the day, that’s an equally damn tough argument to make.
  3. We wonder what Big John would think of the Big Ten‘s latest proposal that would give its president Jim Delany “the power to terminate Big Ten coaches for actions that ‘significantly harm the league’s reputation.'” Call it the Paterno Principle if you like, but one thing is for sure — the Big Ten basketball coaches who were interviewed off the record by Gary Parrish are not fans of this proposal. The words “arrogance” and “stupid” were used by his interviewees, and we’re guessing, rather vociferously. While we certainly understand the desire by the Big Ten to protect its own interests, we’re not sure that this idea is in any way legal or even completely rational. Leagues have the ability to punish its member institutions for any number of transgressions, but to interfere with the employer-employee relationship at large state universities (all but one)? It seems like a considerable overreach.
  4. It appears that the decision by Class of 2013 superstar recruit Jabari Parker to shut down his summer activities at the various AAU camps around the country was a good one. His father reported that tests this week show that his right foot is fractured, with no specific timetable for the smooth wing’s return other than sometime before the high school season begins in the fall. Frankly, as Mason Plumlee noted in his quotes in yesterday’s M5, it might not be a terrible thing for a player like Parker to spend some time away from the rankings-obsessed summer circuit in favor of helping his high school team get better next season.
  5. Mike DeCourcy finishes us off this week with his Starting Five column, where presumably Fake Mike DeCourcy asks Mike DeCourcy insightful questions about interesting topics facing the game today. He riffs on Duke without Austin Rivers, Kansas without elite talent, Jabari Parker without summer basketball, Jim Boeheim without the Big East, and Seth Greenberg without the bubble. It’s well worth a read on a beautiful Friday morning.
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Morning Five: 07.11.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 11th, 2012

  1. Everyone feel free to let out a big sigh… Former Arizona malcontent and SMU transfer Josiah Turner has decided to follow his dream to play in the NBA by forgoing college basketball in favor of taking a shot with the D-League or spending next season in Europe to hone his game for next year’s draft. As he put it in an interview with Yahoo Sports‘ Jeff Eisenberg Tuesday, “In college, you get your degree and everything, but going pro is getting me closer to my dream and what I want to do in life.” Turner was set to become new head coach Larry Brown’s first big recruit at SMU, but for now it appears that he’s putting all of his eggs into a rather competitive basket. He admits that alcohol and marijuana contributed to his paltry stats (6.8 PPG; 2.4 APG) and disciplinary problems during his one year in Tucson, but he also says that his partying days are behind him and he’s matured from that experience. Will we ever hear from Turner again — is anyone willing to take the affirmative?
  2. It’s no secret that Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy is, much like us, a defender of the inherent value of the game of college basketball. His latest piece brings up an interesting fact that we weren’t aware of prior to reading it — of the 144 basketball players who will participate in the London Olympics later this month, no fewer than 46 of them (32%) spent time developing at US colleges. When you consider that the qualifiers range from Nigeria (Arizona State’s Ike Diogu) to Australia (St. Mary’s Patty Mills) to Great Britain (GW’s Pops Mensah-Bonsu) to Lithuania (Maryland’s Sarunas Jasikevicius) to the good ol’ USA (Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Chris Paul, and others), you quickly realize that for many countries the American college game has become an elite training ground for the world’s top amateur talent.
  3. We sadly mentioned in yesterday’s M5 the passing of Stanford’s Peter Sauer, which reportedly was caused by a condition associated with an enlarged heart. Today’s M5 brings even more bad news in that UCLA guard Kenny Heitz, a key member of John Wooden’s three-time national champions from 1967-69, passed away in Pacific Palisades at the age of 65. Heitz and Lew Alcindor were in the same class at UCLA (talk about fortuitous timing!) and their teams went a ridiculous 88-2 over their paired careers. Rather than pursuing a professional basketball career after graduation, the Academic All-American went on to Harvard Law School and became a top-drawer commercial litigation attorney in Southern California. Thoughts go out to his family, and we hope he rests in peace.
  4. Another member of the UCLA family, Josh Smith, is entering his junior season as a Bruin. His weight problem was a major distraction last season, as he often struggled to run the court two or three times without getting winded, and Ben Howland’s team suffered as a result. Peter Yoon of ESPNLosAngeles caught up with the talented but enigmatic center recently and discovered that Smith appears to finally be taking seriously the gifts of skill and size that have been given to him. Smith said that last summer he simply returned home to Washington state and goofed around with his free time, but this summer he has remained in Westwood and is working with a nutritionist who has helped him already lose 15 pounds and improve his conditioning. It certainly remains to be seen whether any of this will actually stick for Smith, as we feel like we’ve heard this before (not only from him but Renardo Sidney also comes to mind) and he needs to melt a lot more than 15 bills from his frame. But… and this is a big if… if Smith is in shape and the Wear twins are at all adequate, then Ben Howland will have the best frontcourt in America.
  5. It appears that the nation’s athletic directors are in a giving mood this month. Third year Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery received a revised seven-year contract that will pay him an average of between $1.6 to $1.9 million over that period, depending on whether he hits certain NCAA Tournament incentives. Keep in mind that, although McCaffery has certainly got the Hawkeye program heading in the right direction (from 11-20 his first year to 18-17 last season), he has yet to finish in the top half of the Big Ten nor done any damage nationally. This is a rather unbelievable deal for someone who has yet to even sniff the NCAAs in his time in Iowa City — but hey, we’re rooting for the guy to earn it. Good for him.
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Morning Five: 07.10.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 10th, 2012

  1. Fans of west coast basketball from the 90s were saddened on Monday with the news that former Stanford forward Peter Sauer collapsed and died on Sunday during a pickup basketball game in White Plains, New York. Sauer was a team captain who averaged 7.9 PPG for his career and played a significant role in leading the Cardinal to its second-ever Final Four in the 1997-98 season, where it lost in overtime to eventual national champion Kentucky in the semifinals. His graduating class of 1999 was one of the most successful in program history — in four seasons, it won 90 games, a Pac-10 title, attended four straight NCAA Tournaments, and was a large part of the renaissance of Stanford basketball by turning a historically woeful program into a national powerhouse. Sauer leaves behind a wife and three young daughters, a man in the prime of his life taken away far too soon. May he rest in peace.
  2. In an odd coincidence, Sauer’s college coach at Stanford, Mike Montgomery, also made news on Monday. The curmudgeonly California coach signed an extension that will keep him coaching until at least the 2015-16 season. In four seasons so far at Berkeley, Montgomery has fielded scrappy and competitive teams that have been invited to three NCAA Tournaments (no easy task in the Pac-10/12), but he has not yet achieved the national success that he did at Stanford in the latter part of his career across the bay (e.g., three 30-win seasons). Still, the Cal administration clearly appreciates the work that Montgomery has already put in, and he stands to keep the Golden Bears among the better basketball programs of the Pac-12 for years to come.
  3. We mentioned last week that Syracuse recently released an independent report that suggested its program and administration did not act to cover up allegations made against assistant coach Bernie Fine in 2005, but could have acted more promptly in notifying authorities of the charges made against him. The lawyer for one of Fine’s accusers (Bobby Davis) responded on Monday — it would be quite the understatement to suggest that Gloria Allred disagrees. After describing the university’s report as a “complete whitewash” of the relevant events seven years ago, she went on to say that the report’s contention that there was no cover up does not “pass the laugh test.” (hmm… where have we heard that phrase used before?) Allred went on to say that Syracuse’s investigation of the allegations against Fine in 2005 were done to protect the university rather than learn the truth — whether all of her claims here are true or not, she’s certainly rattling the cage and doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
  4. July has long been known in college basketball circles as the month when coaches jet around the country to sit in hot gyms and evaluate the stars of tomorrow at the various camps. Though the names and locations have changed, the song and dance is still largely the same. Mike DeCourcy gives us a thorough primer of some of the top storylines in this year’s summer circuit, set to begin on Wednesday from Indianapolis, Philadelphia and just outside of DC. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit is something that we noted in this space a couple of weeks ago — most of the top players in the Class of 2013 have held off on their commitments, which means that the summer evaluation period is likely to be more competitive as players angle to catch coaches’ eyes heading into the all-important fall signing period. DeCourcy also discusses the battle for the top player in the class, and how Jay Wright needs an impact player out on the Main Line sooner rather than later.
  5. While on the subject of recruiting,’s Myron Medcalf writes a fascinating article about the recent arrival and impact of Canadian recruits on college basketball’s landscape. As he notes early in the piece, five Canadians have been selected in the last two NBA Drafts, and the top overall player in the Class of 2014, Andrew Wiggins, is a native Canuck as well. Then there are the current collegians, such as Texas’ Myck Kabongo, UNLV’s Khem Birch and Anthony Bennett, Marquette’s Junior Cadougan, and Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos. Call it the Steve Nash Effect (unless you prefer Jamaal Magloire), but much of the talent pool derives from the large immigrant minority populations that have settled in the metropolises of Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal in the last 30 years — the children of those immigrants came up with the NBA in Canada and are now starting to find their way to the elite levels of American basketball. As the game of basketball continues its growth as the world’s second-favorite sport, we’re going to see college basketball take on an increasingly international flavor in much the same way that the NBA has over the last 15 years.
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Morning Five: 04.27.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 27th, 2012

  1. Yesterday we mentioned that Luke Winn had written a piece handing out eight different coaching awards based on efficiency metrics from the entire season. His follow-up article published on Thursday broke down six more awards based on the data from the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Several of the usual suspects populate this list, but you might be surprised at which head coach had the best after-timeout numbers in the Dance this year — he’s widely considered a very good coach, but probably not to the extent he deserves.
  2. Assistant coaches around the country must have thrown up in their mouths Thursday after it was reported that Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich would leave his position to become a “coach-in-waiting” at SMU under new top man Larry Brown. The reported salary that Jankovich will earn while he waits for the itinerant 71-year old to get bored and retire again is over $700,000 per year, nearly double his pay at ISU. Jankovich went 104-64 (.619) in five seasons as a Redbird but despite four 20-wins seasons, he never broke through to the NCAA Tournament there (settling for four NIT appearances instead). The sound that you now hear murmuring in the background is the collective scrum by the nation’s top assistants clamoring to renegotiate their compensation packages. Wow.
  3. It’s the offseason and although we’re still only about three weeks removed from the national championship game, some of the key questions heading into the 2012-13 season are already apparent. In this piece by Mike DeCourcy, you get a double-dip of the Cincinnati Kid (replete with goatee) through both his writing and a video clip discussion of some of those issues. Will UCLA improve its defense with their additions? Can Louisville find a reliable shot-maker? Can Thad Matta find someone to replace Jared Sullinger in the post? These and a couple other answers await if you click on over to TSN.
  4. Roy Williams did a Q&A with UNC fans in Charlotte on Wednesday night, leading to some interesting comments from the venerable coach who is heading into his 10th full season as the head coach of the Tar Heels. Of note: his team considered cutting down the nets in Cameron Indoor Stadium after winning the ACC regular season title, but thought that such a display “might cause a scene” (ya think?); recruiting the Wear Twins over Mason Plumlee was “one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done” (um…); and he has not completely bought into the 1-and-done methodology for winning a championship, making “some decisions over the last four or five years to not recruit certain kids, because it’s just going to be a one and done” (hey, John Wall).
  5. Finally, we’d be remiss as we close out this week if we didn’t at least mention the strong possibility that the BCS will move away from its incomprehensible system of choosing a football national champion and finally, inexorably, move toward a four-team playoff system beginning in 2014. There aren’t many policy decisions in public life that are complete no-brainers, but this is one of them. A decade from now people will mostly wonder why such an elementary solution to a complex problem took so long to implement. They’ll find the answer in the pocketbooks and vacation homes of bowl executives, but once January Madness takes hold and they realize that the real dollars lie in capturing casual fans (see: Bowl, Super), they too will realize the error of their ways. Congrats to our college football brethren for finally joining the 20th century.
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Morning Five: 04.24.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 24th, 2012

  1. The news of the day on Monday was without question the surprising firing of Virginia Tech’s Seth Greenberg. Our ACC Microsite covered the news yesterday, ultimately coming down on the side of this being a very dangerous move for the Hokie program, and we can’t say that we disagree. If this move were made a month ago, Virginia Tech may have been in a stronger position to make a run at a John Groce, Frank Martin, Trent Johnson, or even (gulp) Larry Brown. By pulling the trigger on Greenberg now, Athletic Director Jim Weaver has put himself in a position where a home run hire is just short of impossible — the objective now must be to not completely soil the bed with the next choice. Dana O’Neil writes that Weaver’s resolve broke when yet another Greenberg assistant, James Johnson, became the sixth to leave the staff in the last four years.
  2. One of the top unsigned players remaining in the Class of 2012, Tony Parker, a 6’9″ forward from Lithonia, Georgia, announced that he will join UCLA’s star-studded class in Westwood next season. Parker joins top five prospects Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson along with top 75 player Jordan Adams to form the nucleus of a group that will ultimately decide head coach Ben Howland’s fate as a Bruin. Recall that it was Howland’s top-rated Class of 2008 — full of transfers, headaches, and bad decision theater — that laid the groundwork for the disappointing string of seasons from 2009-12 after a run of three straight Final Four appearances. With a massive front line returning along with transfer Larry Drew and this incoming crew of elite prospects, expectations will be sky high in the a renovated Pauley Pavilion next season.
  3. Remember when Kentucky’s Terrence Jones went wide receiver on a long pass against Louisville in the Final Four, resulting in his plowing through a tiny Cardinal cheerleader in the end zone? After the UK victory, Jones went on record saying that he would find the girl later and bring her some flowers to apologize for the mishap. Showing his gentlemanly side, Jones on Monday kept to his word in bringing a bouquet of flowers to the young miss, Jerica Logue, and you can see their immediate interaction in this photograph taken by WHAS-11’s Maggie Ruper. We’ve noted this sort of strange bedfellows thing before on this site, but Kentucky and Louisville fans are sure making it hard to buy their bitterest rivalry meme when we keep seeing examples of class, mutual respect and decorum from both sides.
  4. It’s not every day you’ll read a college basketball column referencing the Stephen Sondheim Theater in New York City in addition to student-athletes and the 1-and-done rule, but Mike DeCourcy shows his range by doing just that in this piece examining NCAA president Mark Emmert‘s lack of clarity on the issue. Of course, we’ve grown long in the tooth arguing that Emmert and others who think eliminating 1-and-done is better for college basketball in the long run simply don’t see the big picture. It’s a bit disconcerting that, as DeCourcy points out, Emmert’s message has proven not only incapable of staying on point — what does he really believe? — but the hype and hysteria surrounding what amounts to a small handful of players leaving after one year each season shows that facts aren’t all that important to those decrying the rule. Everybody knows that 1-and-done is not an ideal situation for anyone involved — the players, coaches, programs, and the NBA — but if it’s the necessary rest stop on the way to a two-year rule that will satisfy both Emmert and the NBA Player’s Association (who is currently holding up the deal), we’ll take it.
  5. To close things out today, we’re a little less than a week from the official NBA Draft early entry deadline (April 29), so we won’t know the final list until then, but that didn’t stop Dick Vitale from dropping his latest Top 40 for the 2012-13 season. RTC will release its post-deadline Top 25 next Monday, but it says here that Louisville, Kentucky and NC State are overrated, while Michigan, Baylor and UCLA are underrated.
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Morning Five: 02.06.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 6th, 2012

  1. In case you were fixated on Super Bowl coverage for the entire weekend, news released Friday that Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun would take a leave of absence from the bench for an undetermined amount of time (possibly the remainder of the season?) to deal with spinal stenosis, a painful back ailment that can become debilitating. Although the general consensus from the national pundits was that a Huskies team already on the brink of self-destruction could find the edge of the falls, it’s probably not in the competitive coach’s character and disposition to walk away from the game after yet another health problem. For what it’s worth, UConn dispatched Seton Hall at home on Saturday afternoon, but they must travel to Louisville for a Big Monday game tonight and, as Mike DeCourcy notes in his above piece, the Huskies are only 9-9 in games after the first that Calhoun is not available to coach. We certainly wish him a speedy recovery and hope to see the three-time national champion back on the sideline soon.
  2. The ACC has released its plans for a new basketball schedule once Pittsburgh and Syracuse join the conference, pushing league membership up to 14 teams. The first significant change will be the addition of two games to the conference schedule to get to 18 games (ACC teams currently play 16 games), and the second major change will be a pairing of natural rivals to play home-and-home series every year (e.g., Duke-North Carolina; Pittsburgh-Syracuse; etc.). Several long-time rivalries, especially among the “Big Four” North Carolina schools, will be scaled back in that the remaining schools will play home-and-homes with each of the other ACC schools on a revolving three-year basis. The good news within this system, though, is that at least every school will play the other 13 at least once per season.
  3. With Frank Haith‘s Missouri team already owning huge wins over Kansas and Baylor this season, is it fair to say that he’s the early February favorite for National Coach of the Year? Considering just how obviously mediocre his teams were at Miami (FL), this season has been nothing short of eye-opening, especially in light of the fact that he walked into a less-than-welcoming environment in Columbia AND he lost his star forward, Laurence Bowers, to a season-ending injury prior to the start of the year. As Gary Parrish writes in his own mea culpa offering to Haith, nobody but nobody saw this coming. No matter how this season turns out for Mizzou and its coach, perhaps everyone (ourselves included) will think a little harder before rushing to judge a coaching hire based solely on his past performance. Sometimes a change of environment can make all the difference.
  4. Remember the weird incident last Thursday night involving Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez and Arizona assistant coach Joe Pasternack where the Bears guard thought that Pasternack kicked at him when he crashed into the Wildcats’ bench? He thought it because it appears from the video that Pasternack may have let the heat of a close game get the best of him in the situation, kicking out at Gutierrez in a showing of immediate anger. Regardless of whether it was intentional or not, Pasternack released a statement on Saturday about the incdient: “I would like to clarify that my actions last night were a reflex in response to a player falling on top of me while running at top speed toward our bench… In no way was I deliberately attempting to engage him. My hope is that this statement will clear up any misconceptions about the incident and that we can move on in a positive fashion.” Take that for what it’s worth.
  5. This week isn’t just the first week without any football nonsense to get in the way of college basketball, it also happens to be the best week of the regular season to date in terms of the games on the docket. As Mike DeCourcy writes in his Weekly Walkthrough, the coming week is an “embarrassment of basketball wealth,” with games like Duke-UNC, Florida-Kentucky, Baylor-Kansas, UNLV-SDSU and Ohio State-Michigan State on the menu. There are only five weeks left until Selection Sunday — let’s all enjoy the remainder of the ride.
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Morning Five: 01.12.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2012

  1. Vegas is a lot of things to a lot of people, but it also happens to currently be a recruiting hotspot for the Class of 2012. According to a published report from Five Star Basketball, the nation’s #1 and #8 recruiting targets (Shabazz Muhammad and Anthony Bennett) are both strongly considering Kentucky and UNLV, causing the hearts of many Wildcat and Rebel fans to flutter with the possibility of a package deal involving two of the very best talents the prep ranks have to offer. This is nothing more than wild speculation at this point, as the two players suit up for different high schools (Bishop Gorman and Findlay Prep, respectively) and have kept their cards close to the vest, but those two schools are the only overlaps on each player’s list of his final five candidates. The two will face off on January 21 in a nationally televised game — something tells us that ESPN’s ratings will spike in and around central Kentucky and southern Nevada on that particular evening.
  2. In the wake of the BCS National Championship snoozer on Monday night, several college basketball writers have put together their “half-year” awards, with the emphasis on half. Mike DeCourcy at TSN starts us off with several lists that may or may not surprise you with his current choice for NPOY (think Valley), Most Improved Player (think gunner), and Toughest Team to Judge (think #1). Jason King at takes it a few thousand words further with his analyses, but he details the teams that he feels you should hold on to and fold on to. Perhaps the most interesting piece of King’s article is where he lists a number of coaches who he feels deserves a raise at this point in the season. Rick Pitino? Really? We really hope that he wrote that prior to Louisville’s last two games.
  3. Regardless of losing a hard-fought game last night against Temple, St. Louis has been one of the feel-good stories of the season, as Rick Majerus’ Billikens have seemingly gotten past the rebuilding stage and moved into the era where they will regularly start competing for Atlantic 10 championships and NCAA Tournament bids. It didn’t start out so smoothly, though, as the Cleveland Cavaliers swooped in and, as Majerus puts it, “LeBron’d” him by grabbing one of his top assistants, Alex Jensen, a mere four days before practice was set to begin in October. According to the coach, the Cavs organization never so much as contacted him about their outreach to Jensen, but the Billikens have managed to put that behind them en route to a 13-4 start this season.
  4. It’s a rather light news week so we’ll throw this up for some mid-season levity. We don’t at all understand the context behind this website built about North Carolina (basketball? football?), but it was passed along to us, so here it is. A quick whois search shows that the owner of the site is someone named Matt Hisamoto, a programmer at McKinney in Durham, NC, and a 2008 graduate of NC State. Hatred runs deep in those parts, that’s for sure.
  5. This trailer debuted last week but we’d missed it to this point. For a period in the early-to-mid 1990s, Arkansas basketball — or more colloquially, Forty Minutes of Hell — was just as big a name as some of the other blue-bloods in the sport such as Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA. Nolan Richardson, the second black head coach to win a Division I men’s basketball championship in 1994, was a lightning rod with his outspoken demeanor and freewheeling style of play. But he was a winner at Arkansas, and he won big. This documentary about Richardson and the rise of his program, entitled Forty Minutes of Hell, will debut on February 11 on ESPNU as part of its “Storied” series. The film purports to delve into the makeup of the man that led him to such great heights, along with his inevitable downfall at the university after his teams stopped winning. For college basketball fans of all ages, it’s sure to be a must-watch.

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Scott Drew Correct in Comments to DeCourcy, Critics are Wrong

Posted by dnspewak on January 9th, 2012

It’s hard not to like Scott Drew on a personal level. Responsible for perhaps the most remarkable rebuilding job in college basketball history, the young, vibrant head coach at Baylor has transformed a scandal-ridden program into a Big 12 powerhouse since taking over in Waco in 2003.

In interviews, Drew speaks with a friendly, non-threatening tone. He hails from a famous basketball family as the son of Homer Drew and the brother of Bryce Drew, and he speaks openly about his faith as the face of a small, Baptist university. On the basketball court, Drew has shattered any previous notion of lowly Baylor basketball by recruiting elite talent to the school, resulting in two NCAA Tournaments, an Elite Eight appearance and, these days, a top-five ranking and a shot at a Big 12 title. He’s a nice man with a nice story. That’s the American Dream.

So why do so many people still criticize Scott Drew?

Scott Drew Has Revitalized Baylor Since Taking Over in 2003

As Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News explains, his doubters hate him for a lot of reasons. Among them, you’ll hear that his teams play undisciplined and unstructured offensively. They’ll say he’s not a basketball coach, but instead an amasser of talent who recruits as many McDonald’s All-Americans and NBA Draft picks as possible without any regard for team basketball. Other Big 12 coaches have called him out for negative recruiting, and every so often, somebody will accuse Drew of cheating — without any evidence, of course.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: Conference Tip-Off Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2011

  1. Picking up where we left off yesterday, we’re continuing to look ahead to tonight and the start of conference play (completely ignoring Colorado’s 92-34 demolition of New Orleans last night). We’ve got CBS’ Matt Norlander picking California and Stanford as the teams to beat (and give him credit for not putting the entire league under his “Still Unproven” category), while Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News also throws his support behind Mike Montgomery’s team. After browsing through all the Pac-12 picks coming from elsewhere and devising our own (which you’ll see later today), it is clear Cal, despite all its flaws, is the clear favorite in the conference.
  2. It’s the first year of unbalanced scheduling in the conference, as the beautiful home-and-away round robin of years’ past is no longer. And, taking into account that California is the favorite in the conference while Stanford and Oregon State are popular choices to challenge for the title, Arizona seems to be sitting in the (wild) catbird seat with regard to scheduling, skipping a trip to the Oregon schools while missing a visit from the Bay Area schools. The Washington schools also seem to be a little fortunate, as they get to skip the trip to the Bay Area, but miss out on a second chance at Utah and Colorado at home.
  3. USC has struggled to a 5-8 start to the season, they’ve got the 248th ranked offense in Division I (according to Ken Pomeroy) and their top five players have played 73.8% of their total minutes. But not to worry, Trojan fans, your intrepid head coach has a plan: try harder! Brilliant! Rather than install any type of coherent offense, Kevin O’Neill says “let’s just do a few more wind sprints.” Certainly USC’s got some incredibly raw parts offensively, but if I were to make a list of the Trojans top five problems in their first 13 games of the season, I’m quite sure effort would not be among them. For instance, tonight when USC travels to California to face the Human Floor Burn, Jorge Gutierrez, it’s a good bet that even he won’t outwork USC. Expect the conference opener between these two teams to be low-scoring, ugly and, well, won by the Golden Bears.
  4. Looking around the rest of the conference, let’s get a quick injury update in advance of opening night. Oregon senior forward Tyrone Nared is not quite ready to return to play after tearing an MCL a little more than two weeks ago, leaving the Ducks with just nine scholarship players for their trip to the Washington schools this weekend. Aziz N’Diaye is back for Washington, having played in their last game against Cal State Northridge, but his return to the starting lineup remains questionable. Richard Solomon still has not practiced for Cal following a stress fracture in his foot two weeks ago, and as a result, is unlikely tonight.  And UCLA’s Lazeric Jones and Norman Powell are expected to play tonight at Stanford after each sprained their ankles during Monday’s practice. Both have been able to practice the last two days and should be good to go.
  5. When Oregon State kicks off conference play tonight with a trip to Washington, they will do so with the most optimism surrounding their program since the days of Gary Payton a couple of decades ago. Their 10-2 record in non-conference play is their best start to a season since 1989-90, Payton’s senior season, and what’s more, this team is fun to watch: They lead the conference in scoring, assists, steals and shooting. The Beavers have never led the conference in scoring (with statistics going back more than 50 years), but with some highly efficient offensive play and a defensive game plan built around forcing turnovers through pressure, this could be their year to do so.
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