Morning Five: 06.25.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 25th, 2013

morning5

  1. The news that Kyle Wiltjer is transferring probably should not be that much of a surprise given the high expectations for him coming out of high school and his relatively paltry output, which was due in large part due to be stuck behind more talented players at Kentucky. With next year’s class of NBA Lottery picks coming through Kentucky, Wiltjer decided enough was enough and announced that he is looking at transferring to “play a more significant role”. With the announcement coming as Wiltjer is playing internationally for Canada now some will speculate that someone got in his ear and told him that he could showcase his skills more prominently at another school. Without trying to rile up Big Blue Nation that would probably be true. The speculation we have seen for where Wiltjer is headed seems to suggest Gonzaga as a likely destination, but Wiltjer has not named his top choices although we suspect he will have his choice in where he wants to go.
  2. With more and more coaches utilizing social media John Templon decided to take a look at the tweeting habits of major college basketball coaches. Some of the numbers are not too surprising like the fact that John Calipari has 10 times the number of followers as any other coach (to be fair the average Kentucky fan probably has multiple accounts to yell at the Jeff Goodmans of the world), but the some of the analysis like the most commonly used words is amusing and shows how inane most coaches Twitter accounts are. We would love to see a similar analysis of players although we would assume the most common words/phrases would involve retweeting who said that a retweet would be the best thing that ever happened to them.
  3. We can all get our fill of coach-speak on Twitter, but very few of us will ever be privy to the sales pitch that coaches use in the family rooms of recruits. As Dana O’Neil points out those conversations have changed significantly over the years to the point where coaches have to be careful about how they mention a player getting a college degree because some parties feel that staying in school to get a college degree is not the point of going to college as they are looking for a route to the NBA. This might be true in some cases, but the vast majority will never play in the NBA as the NCAA says they will “go pro in something other than sports”. We would be interested in hearing how parents who had been recruited years ago feel about the way that their sons are being pitched by the same coaches using very different approaches.
  4. One of the interesting aspects of getting to go to games is picking the brains of NBA scouts who often times are seated fairly close to us. Some of the scouts are fairly knowledgeable and seem to have a grasp of the best college players with an understanding of what they do and do not bring to the table. On the other hand we have all seen the scouts that are just there for an easy paycheck and the ability to sit courtside at games for free. Our personal favorite was one who we sat next to at a fairly big game a few years ago on New Year’s Eve and spent the entire game on his phone texting his friends about going to a club in New York City that night and then proceeded to tell us all about his plans. Seth Davis appears to have found a few of the former and put together an interesting breakdown of some of the top prospects in this year’s NBA Draft. The comments are pretty direct as you would expect from someone speaking anonymously, but for the most part they seem to be in line with what we would say.
  5. We have discussed the Ed O’Bannon case much more than we ever wanted to, but we never expected it to affect the NCAA’s credit rating. However that appears to be the case as Moody’s revised the NCAA’s credit outlook to negative in light of its ongoing litigation. It should be noted that the credit rating agencies are a lot less well-respected than they were before the financial crisis. Having said that if the NCAA “only” is taking out $40 million in debt to finance ongoing operations we don’t expect a downgrade would have a material impact on the sustainability of the NCAA as a financial entity.
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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Alex Len

Posted by BHayes on June 24th, 2013

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The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of a number of the top collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards and work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation. This post was contributed by RTC’s Bennet Hayes. He can be found on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Alex Len

School: Maryland

Height/Weight: 7’1” / 255 lbs.

NBA Position: Center

Projected Draft Range: Top Ten

In his signature performance of 2013, Alex Len dominated Mason Plumlee during Maryland's upset of Duke

In his signature performance of 2013, Alex Len dominated Mason Plumlee during Maryland’s upset of Duke

Overview: Alex Len put together a very impressive sophomore season in College Park. His freshman year may have included (relatively) limited individual production, but it offered plenty of glimpses at the massive upside of the Ukrainian-born seven-footer, and we began to see Len cash in on that potential in year two. He played 26 minutes per game as part of Mark Turgeon’s 10-man rotation and averaged 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per contest. Free throw shooting improved (both percentage and attempts), assist-to-turnover ratio elevated, and offensive-rebounding percentage shot through the roof for Len as a sophomore. All wonderful strides, but the development went well beyond the stat sheet for Len, as anyone consistently watching the Terps this season witnessed a more complete, confident player manning the middle. Len was tougher and more aggressive down low (on both ends) and also more skilled offensively — both with his back to the basket and when roaming the high-post area. Len’s improvement was best highlighted in dominant performances against fellow potential lottery picks Nerlens Noel and Mason Plumlee. In the season opener against Kentucky, Len went for 23/12 versus Noel in a narrow loss. Then, in the February win over Duke, he dominated Plumlee (four points, three rebounds, five fouls) in scoring 19 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Those two performances were as vital to Len’s draft stock as anything, for as far as he came skill-wise in year two at Maryland, he also made it quite clear that he was not ready to back down to anyone – a fearlessness that NBA GMs have to have begun to appreciate.

Will Translate to the NBA: First things first: when it comes to size and athleticism, Len is already working with above-average NBA levels of both. Will he use that raw ability as efficiently as possible? No, but the pure existence of it means he will be prepared to get on the court and not be overwhelmed by the athleticism of NBA opponents. Aside from his frame and athleticism, Len really doesn’t have any other signature attributes that you would term “NBA-ready.” The closest we can come here is probably commenting that his overall offensive game is much further along than that of many of his draft-mates, and unlike most rookie big men, Len may be able to enter the league and flash a little of that offensive skill right off the bat. He has a soft touch down low, an improving mid-range game, and is also a good passer who will move the ball when doubled. None of these traits may be “NBA-ready” on their own, but the overall offensive package is in pretty good shape as Len makes the transition from college to the pros.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Cody Zeller

Posted by BHayes on June 24th, 2013

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of a number of the top collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards and work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation. This post was contributed by RTC’s Bennet Hayes. He can be found on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Cody Zeller

School: Indiana

Height/Weight: 7’0”/230 lbs.

NBA Position: Power Forward/Center

Projected Draft Range: Lottery

After an up and down season, Cody Zeller's stock is on the rise again

After an up and down season, Cody Zeller’s stock is on the rise again

Overview: Cody Zeller’s draft stock took a pretty solid beating in February and March, but a head-turning performance at the combine has him rising up draft boards again. Zeller is the perfect example of a player who so many once considered overrated that he has now become underrated. IU’s big man was a presumptive top-five pick if he had entered the draft a year ago, but opted to return for another year of college. He hoped his sophomore year would see his draft stock improve and his team flourish, but despite posting season averages of 16.5 PPG and 8.1 RPG, the latter came to fruition without the former. Teammate Victor Oladipo would become the real beneficiary of the Indiana revival, as the Hoosiers’ 29-win season launched Oladipo from the second round bubble into the top five. Zeller was not so fortunate. A real candidate to be the top pick in the draft back before the season, Zeller rarely dominated (his supporters would tell you he never needed to for IU to be successful) and often looked overwhelmed when playing deep in the post. In what would prove to be his final collegiate game against Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen, Zeller’s performance was a microcosm of the growing concerns scouts have had about him, as he looked very timid down low in a 3-of-11 shooting outing against the Orange’s long, NBA-esque front line. The days after the IU tournament exit marked the nadir of Zeller’s draft stock, but the combine and interviews have helped his stock rebound immensely. He will not be the top pick in this draft, and likely won’t fall within the top five – a different reality than he expected to find here a year ago, but Cody Zeller enters the draft with good momentum and a real ability to immediately help whichever franchise selects him.

Will Translate to the NBA: Let’s take Zeller’s primary strength a step further than “NBA-ready” – he very well could enter the league and immediately be the fastest end-to-end big man in the league. That top spot can surely be debated, but the point is that most NBA post players will find keeping up with Zeller in the fullcourt to be quite a chore. Zeller’s end-to-end speed is truly elite and we have known this for awhile, but the extent of his athletic ability came to light at the combine. Nobody benefited more from the combine than Miami’s Shane Larkin and Zeller, with the former Indiana star testing out like a guard in Chicago. His vertical leap was 37.5”, and both his ¾ and lane agility times beat out most wings and a number of guards. That explosiveness wasn’t always on display in college, and Zeller will definitely need to continue to learn how to best apply it on the court, but the physical tools are clearly there. Furthermore, Zeller is a high-character guy who has shown a willingness to get better, so consider him NBA-ready from a personal maturity standpoint as well.

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Morning Five: 05.24.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 24th, 2013

morning5

  1. With the news coming out at mid-week that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski has agreed to coach the men’s basketball national team for three more years, the inevitable corollary question was how much longer is he planning to remain on the sidelines in Durham. Armed with his “lifetime” contract at Duke, he can presumably stay for as long as he wants, but the 66-year old legend said on Thursday that he won’t retire before the Olympics run is over in Summer 2016. That means he’s got a minimum of three more full seasons at Duke left, and the truth is that he probably will stick around even longer than that. His reasoning is that in order to stay sharp with the demands of the Team USA job, he needs to be coaching full-time the rest of the year. It’s a fair point. There’s also these little things called 1,000 wins (he’s 43 away) and five national titles (which would put him alone in second place all-time), which are without question drivers for the uber-accomplished coach who embraces competition (as a side note, he thinks the new and improved ACC will be the “best ever.”) 
  2. While on the subject of K and his ongoing role with Team USA, SI.com‘s Andy Glockner must have been working with the FBI to mine the RTC email boxes yesterday, as the very subject of “Duke: Better or Worse Off?” came up and was bandied about throughout the day. Glockner lays out a solid analysis that pretty much comes to the same conclusion that we had internally: Duke’s overall performance has dropped a notch in the period since Krzyzewski took over as the head coach of Team USA, but it’s specious at best to argue that the downtick has been a result of his focus on that team. Rather, our stance mirrors Glockner’s somewhat in that the corresponding one-and-done era (which began in 2006 as well) hasn’t helped Duke quite as much as it has some other schools, and to put it frankly, Duke’s recruiting (like everyone else’s) has taken a hit over the last five years in large part because of the Calipari Effect. While it’s certainly true that Duke’s 2010 national championship takes a lot of the sting out of a number of other earlier-than-anticipated exits from the NCAA Tournament, the fact of that matter from our view is that K by and large isn’t getting quite the quality of depth of talent as he was recruiting 15 years ago. A single Final Four in the last nine seasons is the longest such drought of his career, but it’s not because of USA Basketball — it’s because there have been too many Jon Scheyers and not enough Kyrie Irvings.
  3. The NBA Draft has been on everyone’s minds lately, with the lottery going off in favor of Cleveland earlier this week and a number of talented collegians vying for the #1 overall pick on June 27. Yesterday CBSSports.com produced an interesting historical perspective of how each team in the Western Conference has drafted over the last 15 years. For example, the San Antonio Spurs have tended to go with foreign players (48% of selections), while the Los Angeles Lakers have used more than a quarter of its selections (28%) on mid-major picks. The analysis comes replete with colorful pie charts, which shows that the guys over there have finally figured out how to use Tableau. For your Memorial Day weekend pleasure, they’ll be releasing the Eastern Conference rundowns later today. Check it out.
  4. Hopefully we’re at a point of stasis with respect to major conference realignment, but the mids are still actively crawling up the ladder at every available opportunity. Yesterday Elon University, a rising star in the academic world, announced that its athletic programs will leave the Southern Conference to join the CAA beginning next summer. The Phoenix have only been Division I participants since 1997, and this is already the school’s third conference affiliation — it was originally with the Big South followed by the SoCon and now the CAA — at this rate, Elon will be joining the ACC sometime around 2025. The men’s basketball program has enjoyed only two winning seasons since joining the big leagues, but one of those was last year when Mike Matheny’s squad went 13-5 in conference play and 21-12 overall. With a heavy emphasis on placement of alumni in the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern corridor, this is a very good move for the profile of the school.
  5. The last time we saw Eric Devendorf, he was standing on a press row table at Madison Square Garden after hitting  a “game-winning” buzzer-beater in the Big East Tournamant Game That Would Never End, also known as the six-overtime Big East quarterfinals thriller between the Orange and UConn Huskies. Of course, that’s not completely true, as Devo played in five more games that season; but the indelible image of the Orange’s 14th-leading all-time scorer was that moment. He was brash, loud-mouthed, cocky, but wildly entertaining — sorta like the SU version of Marshall Henderson. Well, if you’ve missed him after he headed overseas to play professionally after that season, you’re in luck — Devendorf is back in the Syracuse area doing a Friday night radio show with popular local ESPN affiliate host Mike Bristol. We can’t say that we’re going to be taking time out of our schedules to find him on the dial tonight, but maybe you will. Have a safe Memorial Day weekend, everyone.
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Morning Five: 05.23.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 23rd, 2013

morning5

  1. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Draft lottery for the second time in three years on Tuesday night, which means that the team that selected rising superstar Kyrie Irving #1 overall in 2011 will get a chance to pair another potential star next to him. Will it be Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, Kansas’ Ben McLemore, Georgetown’s Otto Porter, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, or some other prospect who hasn’t yet risen up the draft boards? Whoever it is, and this is a solid mock with explanations from NBADraft.net, keep one thing very much in mind. If you redrafted the 2010 NBA Draft right now — just three years later — the top overall pick would probably be an overlooked athlete from Fresno State who never so much as sniffed a winning season in two years in the Central Valley, Paul George. So no matter what anyone says between now and June 27 (including ourselves), take it with a healthy dose of NaCl. 
  2. While on the subject of George and his Indiana Pacers, his head coach Paul Vogel took quite a bit of heat last night for removing center Roy Hibbert from the game in the closing seconds, allowing the freight train known as LeBron James to power his way into the lane for an easy layup to win the game (beating George badly to his left, incidentally). Still, Vogel appears to be a rising star himself with the way he has developed this Pacers group, but we’re betting that you didn’t know that his dream job was actually to become a college basketball coach. He got his first start by basically begging then-Kentucky coach Rick Pitino for a spot on his staff as a student manager in the mid-1990s, eventually becoming UK’s video coordinator and alighting to the NBA ranks when Pitino left Lexington for the Boston Celtics. It’s a rags-to-riches underdog sort of story, and one well worth familiarizing yourself with. If Vogel continues to play his cards right in the NBA, he may find that elusive major college head coaching job available to a guy like him after all.
  3. It was open secret for most of the week, but SI.com confirmed on Wednesday that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski will in fact return as the captain of the Team USA men’s basketball ship for the next three years (which includes the 2014 World Championships and the 2016 Summer Olympics). We’ll have more on this decision later today in a separate post, but while on the topic of international basketball, USA Basketball invited 24 rising freshmen and sophomores to try out for its U-19 team that will compete later this summer in the World Championships in Prague. The most recognizable candidates who will battle for one of 12 roster spots next month are Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon, Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes, and Oregon’s Damyean Dotson. Notably missing from the two dozen players are any of Kentucky’s impressive haul from the Class of 2013, several of whom already have had international basketball experience. But John Calipari says that the group as a whole is itching to get to Lexington and would rather spend their summer months working out to prepare for what everyone believes could be a phenomenal year.
  4. Last week we mentioned that a Brown University player named Joseph Sharkey had been assaulted on the street and put in the hospital with critical head injuries as a result. As of yesterday he remained in a Providence hospital, but the better news is that local authorities have arrested a suspect for the brutal crime, a reserve Marine who served in Afghanistan named Tory Lussier. We’re in no way going to loft unfounded accusations at this “hero” without a full accounting of the details of the night in question, but it’s worth noting that Lussier was already under suspicion for assault of an elderly person from an incident in a Connecticut parking lot last fall. Whether this is the guy who committed such a senseless crime or it was someone else, we really hope that justice is served in one way or another.
  5. There were a couple of notable comings and goings yesterday. In some bad news, Florida’s Will Yuguete had his right knee scoped on Wednesday and is expected to miss the next four months of action. The French wing had suffered numerous injuries during his career in Gainesville, so the hope here is that this particular course of treatment and rehabilitation will allow him to have a strong, injury-free senior season in 2013-14. Up the coast a bit in Storrs, Connecticut announced on Wednesday that center Enosch Wolf‘s suspension for an on-campus domestic dispute has ended. He is cleared to return to the team if he likes, but here’s the catch — he no longer has a scholarship. With the school’s announcement this week of the transfer of GW’s Lasan Kromah, there simply isn’t an available spot left. Funny how things like this work themselves out. Wolf expects to make his decision in the coming weeks.
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Breaking Down This Year’s Five Biggest NBA Draft Refusals

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 29th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The NBA Draft deadline can be a harrowing time for programs, coaches and their ever-vigilant fan bases. Player defections – particularly those of the lottery breed – not only control the fates of specific teams, they create massive rippling effects on college basketball writ large. Based on who does or doesn’t make their talents available to the most exclusively competitive sports league in North America, college basketball takes on a certain median composite talent distinction. Last season, that measure was low, and fans of all kinds made sure to scream and wail and cry foul about the dearth of “elite talent” and the oncoming barrenness of prospective upside on this year’s draft boards. “No dominant team” was a meme raised just as frequently, and by the end of the season, when two of the nation’s most talented teams navigated the predicted upset-laden waters of the NCAA Tournament and staged an epic final game – and when the nation’s “dominant team,” Louisville, actually won the whole thing – the conversation quickly turned to 2013-14.

With McDermott back, Creighton has every reason to be excited about its move into the Big East (Getty Images).

With McDermott back, Creighton has every reason to be excited about its move into the Big East (Getty Images).

That brings us to Sunday’s NBA Draft deadline, the real draft deadline, the one that actually forces players to make decisions about their professional futures, rather than the teethless NCAA-imposed early date created for the supposed benefit of coaches’ scholarship and recruiting calculations during the recruiting spring signing period. There were some notable departures this year, National Player of the Year award-sweeping point guard Trey Burke chief among them, but all in all the final count leaves college basketball with an immensely intriguing selection of returning players that – when mixed with one of the most highest-touted recruiting classes of the past 10 or so years – should produce a general quality of play that far exceeds last season’s occasionally-ugly level. I’ve come up with five players (or pairs of players) whose reappearance in the college ranks will contribute most directly to making this season not only hugely appealing for its freshmen stars – as is often the case in the one-and-done era – but experienced and deep and seasoned enough to produce a boundlessly exciting pool of players and teams. We are going to see a host of really good returning players in college basketball next season, and unlike last year, many of these guys won’t come off as totally unfamiliar. There’s some star power here – as in not in the NBA. Rejoice.

Doug McDermott – Creighton. The end of last season, brought upon by a Round of 32 NCAA Tournament loss to Duke, ushered Creighton into a programmatic transition: Beginning this season, the Bluejays will become members of the new Big East. They leave behind a good but measurably inferior Missouri Valley Conference, and the step up in competition promises to be fierce. It would have been a completely reasonable move for McDermott to stare down the present, understand the rigors of a more challenging conference schedule, the increased defensive attention from better athletes across a larger number of quality teams, and cut loose with program and father-coach after a successful three-year career. It would have made the most possible sense.

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Russ Smith’s Return to Louisville Inspires National Title Repeat Potential

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 25th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Most of college basketball’s truly elite programs annually grit their teeth and devise creative scholarship and recruiting stratagems to deal with an extremely unfortunate fact of roster life. The very best and most aspirational players usually aren’t in this here amateur basketball thing purely for the fun of it. They have their professional lives, their financial well-being, and that of their family’s, as overriding motivations to have the best and most NBA-translatable college career possible. They want to not only make it to the next level, but survive and enjoy the same unwavering fan support available at the college level (which, let’s just say professional fan bases are… blah) while earning the salary their talents rightfully warrant. Whereas in some cases the money and professional fame and draft stock considerations recommend a player’s departure after two or even one season, others elect to finish out their four years of eligibility in an uninterrupted cycle. These decisions – stay or go; money and bright lights or infectious fan bases and genuine campus pride; David Stern or Mark Emmert – are never easy, and if there ever were a case to illustrate the inner mental tug-of-war wrought in advance of a player’s draft decision, Louisville’s Russ Smith was an A-List prototype.

A return run to the Final Four, and possibly beyond, was made much more likely with Smith's announcement Wednesday (AP Photo).

A return run to the Final Four, and possibly beyond, was made much more likely with Smith’s announcement Wednesday (AP Photo).

Having already banked a Final Four appearance and national championship in consecutive seasons, won over the affection of his previously irascible head coach (to the point of influencing his racehorse naming rights), and scored boundless national media love over an endearingly reckless two years of mercurial point guard play, Russ Smith finished his national championship season with an utterly brutal decision to make: leave or stay? His erratic shooting and often-horrifying decision-making no doubt gave NBA scouts pause, as did his miniature stature and riverboat-gambler approach on the defensive end, but was it even reasonably possible that an eternally unrestrained Smith would boost his draft stock to any measurable degree in a potential return season? What were the chances Smith just was what he was, and anything he did next season wasn’t going to affect his status in such a way as to greatly improve his fortunes at the next level? Smith put the matter to rest Wednesday, and whether you agree with his decision on principle – whether you think it was in Smith’s best interest to cash in on a season that, in Ken Pomeroy’s wonky efficiency world, ranked better than any other last season – the upside for college hoops itself is tough to deny. Smith is back, and with the possible exception of Kentucky and its relentless fan base, everyone can come together in unison: This is a good thing.

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Morning Five: 04.25.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 25th, 2013

morning5

  1. Wednesday was a big day on the NBA Draft early entry front, although perhaps in a few ways that we didn’t anticipate. First and foremost, two of the bigger stars of this season’s NCAA Tournament made their decisions, and — egads! — college basketball will definitely be the beneficiary in 2013-14 because of it. The Midwest Regional’s Most Outstanding Player, Russ Smith, has decided to return to Louisville for his senior season, stating in a press conference that it was time to get “back in the lab” over the summer to revamp his game yet again so that he’ll rise onto first round NBA Draft boards by this time next year (oh, and also graduate and potentially leave school as a Louisville legend). If this offseason’s improvement is anything like that of the last two for the mercurial Cardinal guard, then we’re excited to see what other wrinkles he’s added to his overall game. Put simply, his progression from an incredibly inefficient human cannon to that of a hybrid defensive dynamo/pure scorer has been nothing short of remarkable. It also makes the defending national champs extremely dangerous again next season, with enough talented holdovers to give Rick Pitino a legitimate shot at his third trophy.
  2. The other NCAA Tournament stud who made a decision on Wednesday to return to college is Syracuse’s leading scorer and rebounder, CJ Fair. According to the junior forward, he went back and forth on his decision “at least five teams” in the course of the last week before finally deciding that his draft standing (#22 to #40) was too uncertain to risk dropping to the second round. Fair was without question the Orange’s most consistent player this season, earning all-Big East second team honors in his first full year as a starter. Whether Fair can actually improve his draft stock on what appears to be a considerably weaker Syracuse team next season is open for debate, but he’ll need to continue to show that he has range in his outside shooting (30 threes at a 46.9% clip last year) and improve his finishing ability inside the paint in order to ensure himself a 2014 first round selection. As for Syracuse, his return prevents Jim Boeheim from facing a complete rebuild next season.
  3. A few other players were on the move around the nation Wednesday, with USC’s DeWayne Dedmon deciding to take his seven-foot frame and commensurate seven points and seven rebounds per game to the NBA, or whatever professional league in the world that will have him. Dedmon was already in trouble and had been suspended for his alleged role in a Spokane incident at the end of the season, so new head coach Andy Enfield may not have wanted him back anyway. Over at Indiana,  senior guard Maurice Creek will use the graduate transfer rule to attend another school next season. Creek started his Hoosier career like a house of fire, averaging 16.4 PPG over 12 games in 2009-10, but a series of injuries over the next few seasons steadily reduced his playing time to the point he was a complete afterthought on this year’s team. While on the subject of injuries, Penn State star Tim Frazier has been granted a fifth season of eligibility after rupturing his Achilles tendon four games into the season. Frazier is an all-Big Ten caliber guard who will join an already talented backcourt of DJ Newbill and Jermaine Marshall, the top two scorers returning in the league next season. Could the Nittany Lions be dangerous in 2013-14?
  4. The ACC’s long-term grant of rights (GOR) deal appears to have shored up its member institutions for a while, at least until the Internet becomes the major revenue stream supporting college sports and all these deals are torn up at some point. Still, we’re a fan. For the immediate future, there should be some stability among the power conferences after several years of insanity. The University of Maryland may also be quite the fan of this deal. As the Washington Post reported Wednesday, the improved strength of the league after adding Louisville and Notre Dame and approval of the GOR suggests that the ACC has become more stable in the months after Maryland’s departure. This line of thought could provide Terp attorneys a sliver of hope in arguing at court that the school should not be required to pay the entire $52 million exit fee that the league required upon its departure. Time will tell.
  5. We’ll finish up today with a neat story about a sixth grade teacher named Paul Nadeau from Garden City Elementary School in Cranston, Rhode Island. It turns out that his class had a unit on probability approaching earlier this year, so he took the opportunity to tie in the NCAA Tournament’s unpredictability by assigning his students bracket analyses based on mathematical probabilities and backed up by their persuasive writing. Not only did the students embrace the assignment and often forget that they were, you know, learning, but many of them also got excited for the idea of eventually attending college as well. Joey Brackets is probably safe for now, but he’d better watch himself in about 10 years!
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Morning Five: 04.24.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 24th, 2013

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  1.  As we approach the only NBA Draft early entry deadline that actually matters — in other words, the Association’s draft deadline on Sunday, April 28 — several prominent underclassmen have yet to make their final decisions. With a couple of announcements expected later today, USA Today‘s Scott Gleeson gives a nice rundown of the pros and cons for five notable players — Louisville’s Russ Smith, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, Miami’s Shane Larkin, and Baylor’s Isaiah Austin. Smith, who met with his head coach to discuss his decision on Tuesday, says that he has been losing sleep over the choice to stay or leave Louisville, and that he’s been riding the fence on the topic for the two weeks since the Cardinals won the national title. None of this group is a certain lottery pick, so the question of improvement next season versus a deeper draft is surely weighing heavily on all of their minds. 
  2. There’s been quite a bit of chatter this week about shortening the length of the collegiate shot clock as a mechanism to improve the offensive ineptness that has infected the game in recent seasons — those oft-derided 39-38 games and such. Andy Katz polled a number of high-major Division I coaches and found widespread support for a 30-second shot clock, which makes sense at a certain level. Coaches with generally more talent on their rosters are always going to argue for a faster pace — when things break down, pure talent and athleticism take over (similar arguments were made when the clock was reduced from 45 seconds to its current 35 in 1993). As Mike DeCourcy correctly notes, scoring has plummeted to its current level as a result of numerous factors (Louisville coach Rick Pitino has his own ideas) but the shot clock likely isn’t one of them. In fact, when you mix inexperienced and, frankly, less talented players with improved defensive strategies as a result of advanced scouting techniques (Synergy and the like), what you’re likely to be left with is a devil’s concoction of even more sloppy play as college teams rush to get a shot at the basket. Reducing the shot clock to improve scoring sounds great in theory, but what the NCAA Rules Committee should be discussing are ways to clean up the same game that once regularly produced average team scoring in the 70s (1964-81 with no shot clock; 1987-2003 with a 45- and 35-second shot clock) rather than the 60s (2004-present).
  3. As everyone knows, it’s transfer season, and a few notable names came across the wires yesterday.Marshall’s DeAndre Kane is expected to finish his degree this summer and will use the one-year graduate transfer rule to find (presumably) a higher-major program to showcase his wares for a year. Whoever gets him will receive a high-volume shooter (26.3% of all possessions) who also brings a solid assist (42.0%) and steals (2.8%) rates to bear — quite the free agent pick-up if you ask us. Alabama’s Trevor Lacey, a two-year starter at the point guard position who led the Tide in assists and was second in scoring last year, is also moving on to another as-yet-undetermined program. And then there’s this story about Purdue’s Sandi Marcius, who planned to graduate this summer and himself take advantage of the graduate transfer rule — that is, before he realized that the school wasn’t going to pay for the $7,000 he’d need to actually finish that degree. Stay tuned on this one — it’s likely to get weird.
  4. Let’s all take a moment to welcome new Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan back to college basketball. The longtime NBA coach hasn’t really been around the sport in over two decades, but at least the former Scarlet Knight (Class of 1977) actually wants to be there in the wake of the Mike Rice fiasco. He was introduced at a news conference yesterday and seemed very excited to get started on his new five-year, $6.25 million contract. He’s going to need to earn every penny of it. With massive player defections, substandard facilities, a move to the best basketball conference in America, and the stink of an amateur hour coaching fiasco still fresh on everyone’s minds, the rebuild at Rutgers will be monumental.
  5. This is a neat story by Eric Prisbell at USA Today about recruiting wunderkind Alex Kline, the now-18-year old who goes by the handle @therecruitscoop on Twitter and who those of us who follow such things have known about for a few years now. As it turns out, Kline is now finishing up his freshman year at Syracuse and his life has become a whirlwind of tips, networking, writing, and homework assignments mixed in with a little bit of fun now and again. Perhaps the most compelling part of his story, though, is his founding of the Mary Kline Classic, a prep all-star event each spring that raises money for cancer research and honors the life of his mother, who passed away from a brain tumor when he was only 10 years old. Keep on keepin’ on, Alex, you’re already doing great things, but it’s obvious much, much more is coming.
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The NBA Draft Is a Complicated Beast; Let’s Just Stay Out of It

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 18th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Every year brings its share of puzzling NBA Draft decisions, and most of the frustration is typically captured by one underlying theme: he left too early. This year’s draft enigma was confusing for an entirely different reason. It was confusing because Marcus Smart, a consensus top-five pick in next month’s draft, elected to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season. The commentary on Smart’s decision has been a disconcerting mix of perplexity, misunderstood motives and an unexpected dose of condescending admonishment, with almost no reactive excitement – the best freshman in college basketball, and one of the best players overall, is returning next season, and no one has anything positive to say about it?! Isn’t this the exact development we spend countless words and digital ink groaning about each and every summer?!

No decision has generated more Buzz than Smart's choice to play another year at Oklahoma State (AP Photo).

No decision has generated more Buzz than Smart’s choice to play another year at Oklahoma State (AP Photo).

The early draft decision headlines have served as collective petri dish dissection of Smart’s purportedly misguided decision. But guess what? Other players are making very important decisions about their professional futures, too, and not all of them are as procedural and predictable and academic as Smart’s relative draft-media monopoly might lead you to believe. I’ll offer you two recent decisions (or non-decisions) that, while nothing close to Smart-level Big 12 rippling waves, will change the ways their respective teams are evaluated entering next season.

First up is James Michael McAdoo, who announced Tuesday he plans to return to North Carolina for his junior season. It’s difficult to fathom now, but McAdoo was once considered among the very best players in the country last summer. He was supposed to help bridge the gap between the Kendall Marshall-Tyler Zeller super team and a new and customarily talented re-tooled Tar Heels group. You probably didn’t hear much about McAdoo last season, for reasons good and not, but as UNC picked up steam in February and into March, and the true latent potential of Marcus Paige and P.J. Hairston began to turn a mediocre transition season into a legitimately scary Third Round proposition, North Carolina offered an entertaining preview of the high-win outfit it can and should rightfully become next season. McAdoo was a major collaborator in coach Williams’ midseason small-ball transformation – wherein UNC eschewed a traditional two-big lineup in favor of using McAdoo at the five and Hairston as a “power forward” – and UNC can rekindle that dynamic next season with a highly touted recruiting class, more experience and a better collective comprehension of the system. The upshot for McAdoo is more wins, a bigger national spotlight and another chance to round out his game for NBA scouts. Good deal.

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Grant Jerrett’s Surprise Decision Could Leave Arizona Short From Deep

Posted by AMurawa on April 17th, 2013

After years of regularly losing underclassmen to the NBA Draft, it looked like this was the year that the Pac-12 was going to by and large dodge that particular bullet. Yeah, Shabazz Muhammad is gone after just one season, but we all knew that even before he announced that he’d be attending a Pac-12 school. And Player of the Year Allen Crabbe will leave a season of eligibility on the table as he enters the NBA Draft, but he has paid his dues and earned his spot after three stellar seasons in Berkeley. But everywhere else, it seemed that the decision around the conference had come down on the side of returning to school. Jahii Carson, Kyle Anderson, C.J. Wilcox, Andre Roberson, and more – all returning. Even Oregon State’s Eric Moreland, who had made something of a splash earlier this season by announcing that he would test the waters, decided that it would be in his best interests to return to Corvallis.

Grant Jerrett Bucked The Trend, Opting To Leave Early For The Next Level (Christian Petersen, Getty Images North America)

Grant Jerrett Bucked The Trend, Opting To Leave Early For The Next Level (Christian Petersen, Getty Images North America)

But then on Wednesday night, news came down of a surprise early-entrant, someone who really hadn’t even been on the radar to leave early: Arizona’s freshman forward Grant Jerrett, he of 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds in fewer than 20 minutes per game. Early expectations are that Jerrett is a serious candidate to be left undrafted, and even a best-case scenario probably has him picked in the second round where he would be without a guaranteed contract. Yes, he is a 6’10”, 235-pound skilled big man who shot better than 40% from three in his lone season in Tucson, but he has yet to prove his ability to compete with the big boys in the paint at the collegiate level, much less the NBA. He’s definitely still got a future playing basketball, likely for a lot of years, but odds are that he’ll be spending the next few years playing in the D-League rather than in McKale Center — a perfectly fine decision if he has decided that college is not for him, but could be a disappointment if he has designs on slipping right into an NBA rotation. Still, expect to see Jerrett pop up in the future when you flip on NBA games down the road. In a league that has proven time and time again to have roster spots available for specialists, a 6’10” player who can knock down threes at a productive rate will almost certainly find a home somewhere. Read the rest of this entry »

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On the Injustice That Is the Way-Too-Soon NBA Draft Deadline

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 15th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Just last week, Louisville and Michigan were playing one of the most entertaining NCAA Tournament championship games in years. Luke Hancock was scorching threes, Kevin Ware was blissfully crutching his way around a confetti-drenched Georgia Dome, and Spike Albrecht was tweeting at Kate Upton. College basketball was just wrapping up another fantastic season. And now, just a week after the final game of the year, some of the nation’s top players have an utterly crucial decision to make: Stay in school or declare for the NBA Draft?

Players deserve more time to conduct research and solicit outside opinions on this pivotal decision (AP Photo).

Players deserve more time to conduct research and solicit outside opinions on this pivotal decision (AP Photo).

Decisions like this – decisions that could have lasting implications on a player’s earning power and academic and professional futures – are not trivial matters to be pushed aside. Other than maybe choosing a college, deciding when to leave college and pursue one’s athletic dreams at the professional level is probably the biggest decision any of these kids have ever made. It requires calculated reasoning and a thorough investigation of the potential costs and benefits. This isn’t the case for everyone; some guys have it easy. For Shabazz Muhammad, leaving UCLA after one season will go down as one of the least surprising one-and-done jumps of all-time. Others face competing interests, unwavering loyalties and strong ties to teammates and coaches. Some just love being in college, particularly at “basketball schools” where the hardwood practitioners are afforded demi-god levels of celebrity. What’s so bad about unrivaled popularity and social stature, anyway?

The real process is a lot more complicated than that. Financial hardship often forces players to leave school earlier than they otherwise would have. A hot shooting streak during the NCAA Tournament sends them flying up draft boards, rapidly and prominently enough that not entering the draft could leave a prospect regretting a major missed opportunity after the fact.

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