Morning Five: 07.11.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 11th, 2013


  1. A little more than a decade ago, a brash young rapper by the name of Marshall Mathers asked us if the “real Slim Shady” would please stand up and take responsibility for his actions. He could have easily been talking about another Marshall in present day — a bad boy Rebel from Ole Miss who plays the game with a certain, shall we say, modernist panache. The most polarizing figure in college basketball, Marshall Henderson, was reportedly suspended indefinitely by the school for a drug violation. According to Gary Parrish, there are legitimate concerns within the university whether he will be allowed to return to the team. Given that Henderson finds trouble nearly anywhere he travels both on and off the basketball court, it’s certainly no surprise that he’s finally run afoul of Andy Kennedy’s team rules. Could this mean that the gifted but certifiable shooting guard who averaged over 20 points per game last season could find himself at his fifth school in five years? Stay tuned on this one – like Mathers, Henderson isn’t one to stay quiet for very long.
  2. Trouble just seems to stick to certain people, and at least lately, North Carolina’s PJ Hairston appears to be one of those unfortunate souls. Yet his school, an institution that outwardly takes its integrity very seriously, has been up to this point largely quiet on the ramifications of his June 5 arrest and subsequent revelations that he apparently has some unknown association with convicted felon Haydn Thomas. Athletic director Bubba Cunningham went before the media on Wednesday to discuss the matter, and the tone and general theme of his comments echoed the tried-and-true of the Carolina Way in recent years: Nothing to see at this time. Parroting Roy Williams’ statements from last week, the school does not plan on discussing or doing anything until all the facts are learned. For those of you unfamiliar with organizational theory and messaging, the last part is silent: …until we figure out how to mitigate and manage any possible fallout so that the outcome puts us in the best possible light. Thank you. At least one prominent writer thinks this is the correct play, at least until Hairston is back at school and enrolled in classes a little more than a month from now.
  3. There are meaningful statistics and there are manufactured statistics. The difference between the two is sometimes difficult to discern, but the Wall Street Journal has provided us with a fantastic example of such a debate this week. We’ll have more on this later this afternoon, but the analytical premise in this article by Ben Cohen is that college teams with two top five NBA Draft picks in their lineups should be really, really good. Even accounting for the fact that the NBA Draft has moved from a model of demonstrated production three decades ago to one today of relative upside and potential, it’s a reasonably safe tenet. But to make the next logical leap and to assert that a team with those two draft picks has markedly underachieved relative to its peers (Cohen found 13 such two-high-draftee instances), well, that’s where Indiana found itself this week. The Hoosiers only made the Sweet Sixteen with Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo in this year’s lineup, which when compared with Cohen’s cohort, ties 2002 Duke and 1984 North Carolina as the biggest underachievers in college basketball history. At least that’s the assertion of the piece — and it couldn’t be more wrong. This is a manufactured statistic, because what the analysis fails to tell you here is that there are a number of other talented players on each of those 13 other teams that had a significant effect on their season outcomes. Cohen also glosses over the regular season dominance of those Duke and UNC teams by suggesting that their draft picks had won titles in a previous year — true, but not relevant to that year’s team. IU head coach Tom Crean fired back in reference to the article, tweeting that the duo won 54 games in two seasons and have left the program in great shape heading into the future. Although we’ve consistently argued that Indiana was never as good as its ranking last season, we don’t think that the Hoosiers significantly underachieved relative to the overall talent it had on the floor, or the rest of the nation at-large. More on this later.
  4. Kentucky’s Rupp Arena is without question one of the iconic buildings in all of college basketball, but its off-campus location, sheer size and affiliation with a downtown hotel and shopping mall has always felt a bit too sterile and dissociated when compared to the more intimate campus sites around the country. Regardless of that, the mid-70s building is vastly in need of an upgrade, and the Lexington Center Corporation board announced on Wednesday that it had finalized an architectural firm and a builder to provide a two-year facelift that will move the building into the 21st century, and essentially, make the place much cooler. The most interesting aspect from our eyes is that the building will become a stand-alone entity, no longer affixed to the hotel/mall complex, so we’re wondering what that will look like. UK fans, even in mid-July, wasted no time in offering up some advice on possible corporate naming partners (the “Rupp Arena” part isn’t going away). Our favorite: Makers Mark Rupp Arena, with the entire building dipped in blue wax (h/t Jen Smith of the LHL).
  5. Finally, the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports‘ annual report on collegiate sports was released on Wednesday, and the headline that was blasted all over the country is that college athletics received a gentleman’s B with respect to diversity in hiring. Digging a bit deeper, though, and some unsettling numbers come to light. Most notably, a “major area of concern” is the steady decrease of black head coaches in men’s Division I basketball, now at 18.6 percent of all positions. This number reflects the lowest percentage in the sport in nearly two decades (1995-96), and is down significantly from an all-time high of 25.2 percent of all head coaches just seven seasons ago (2005-06). Whether this downward trend simply reflects variance in the data or something more sinister is unclear, but it is definitely something that the NCAA should continue to track and take seriously. Given that over 60 percent of D-I men’s basketball student-athletes are black themselves, initiatives to ensure diversity in recruitment and hiring are definitely worth pursuing.
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