Josh Smith’s Clearance a Game-Changer On and Off the Court

Posted by Bennet Hayes on October 26th, 2013

When news broke Wednesday of Josh Smith’s accepted waiver and immediate eligibility for Georgetown, the bulk of the media reaction constituted pure shock. After all, without any known medical issues or hardship concerns facilitating the transfer, there was no indication that Smith would recoup two full seasons of eligibility after playing in six games as a junior at UCLA. The decision marks the latest puzzling chapter in the transfer waiver saga that unfolded over the offseason, and has left nearly everyone (outside the NCAA offices – or maybe not?) as confused as ever about the process – including CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish. The folks at Georgetown may or may not be surprised by the news as well, but they are surely excited to have their big man ready for the season opener. As for the rest of us, the state of confusion we currently find ourselves in is understandable, but perhaps it’s time to give the NCAA the benefit of the doubt. They may have finally figured out that more leniency with the transfer policy benefits both the kids and the sport. Increased transparency from the governing body will be necessary at some point, but for now, I’ll take Smith’s immediate eligibility as a sign of changing times.

Thanks To A Generous NCAA Ruling, Josh Smith Will Be On The Court When Georgetown Kicks Off Their Season In Seoul, South Korea On Nov. 8 (Harry How/Getty Images)

Thanks To A Generous NCAA Ruling, Josh Smith Will Be On The Court When Georgetown Kicks Off Their Season In Seoul, South Korea On Nov. 8 (Harry How/Getty Images)

When the NCAA overturned its own decision to deny Kerwin Okoro’s waiver request a month ago, we had to know then that the organization was finally beginning to hear the vitriol of fans and media surrounding the transfer issue. The Smith ruling may be a more subtle version of that phenomenon. Jay Bilas tweeted that the Smith ruling was “not objectionable,” but that what is objectionable is that “the NCAA rejects so many others, with no coherent policy.” Agreed, and while we have no coherent policy in place, the Smith decision certainly feels like the waving of the white flag. If the NCAA is going to set such a clear precedent with a case like Smith’s – after all the discussion on the waiver issue this offseason – we have to assume enough self-awareness on the part of the NCAA to presume that they are going to be taking a far softer approach to the issue. We can hope for a definitive public stance on the issue before next offseason, but the blatant nature of this case should mean we are headed for fewer denied waiver requests, and eventually, perhaps none.

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Morning Five: 08.29.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 29th, 2013

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  1. It’s not very often that a piece of random news floors us, but the revelation that former Washington State, Iowa and USC head coach George Raveling has in his possession a copy of one of Martin Luther King’s original “I Have a Dream” speeches is nothing short of astonishing. CBS News reported on Tuesday that the 76-year old coach and media personality — then an assistant coach at Villanova — was one of the volunteer security marshals standing on the Mall near King 50 years ago when he delivered his rousing speech, and that King handed him a copy of it as he stepped off the podium. One expert on genuine historical documents estimated that Raveling’s copy could be worth as much as $20-25 million on the open market, given that King’s most famous speech was given at the height of the civil rights movement. It is sometimes so beautifully strange how life intersects with itself.
  2. And on that note, we move to eligibility issues. The NCAA ruled Wednesday on the case of former Louisville and Florida International forward Rakeem Buckles, a fifth-year senior who had applied for a transfer waiver (based on FIU’s postseason ban) to play at Minnesota this season. If his appeal is denied, Buckles will be forced into a precarious situation where if he stays at Minnesota he risks gambling that the NCAA will allow him a sixth year of eligibility in 2014-15 (no slam dunk), or he will have to return to FIU this season to play in a no-win situation there. For Minnesota, a team facing a significant rebuilding project inside after losing most of its frontcourt talent, Buckles was expected to help man the interior for new head coach Richard Pitino. Now all he can do is cross his fingers and hope for the best.
  3. We mentioned the Lindy’s top 10 rankings in yesterday’s M5, and that created a bit of a firestorm on Twitter as a result. But the truth is that in today’s college basketball environment there are no teams in any year that don’t come in with weaknesses. The most experienced teams are short on talent; and the most talented teams are short on experience. As a result, your preseason top 10 might look a good bit different than ours, and even splitting the difference, there’s a better than reasonable chance that both of us will be completely wrong. The Sporting News yesterday released its 16 regional magazine covers, in the process also unveiling its preseason top 10, and needless to say, there were fewer surprises than with Lindy’s. Mike DeCourcy took time to break down each team’s glaring weakness, and as we’ve said before, even using the dreaded slideshow format, he gives great analysis that makes it worth the click-throughs. Although we’re still not sold on North Carolina, fellas, just for the record.
  4. One of the teams we do believe in next season is Duke, and it goes without saying that Mike Krzyzewski will mold his personnel into a tightly-knit unit that maximizes the talent it can put on the floor. One of K’s all-time great point guards — and there have been several — was Bobby Hurley, and as the standard by which most of the others are measured, he is about to begin his first season as a Division I head coach at the University of Buffalo. ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil writes that Hurley the head coach is truthfully in no hurry to get his young charges started on their first season with him at the helm — in fact, he wants as much time as possible to set goals and expectations. Of course, there’s no telling whether the superb floor game and team leadership that Hurley possessed in spades at Duke can effectively translate to players two decades later who have barely heard of him, but if there’s any of the brand-new coaches we’d be willing on betting on, it would probably be this one. The guy has always been a winner.
  5. Where is Canada? We feel like there’s a South Park reference in that question somewhere, but that didn’t stop Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker from doing an ad lib Jaywalking-style Q&A with his teammates about all things above the border. It’s more cute than clever, but we will give it up for the #goodjobgoodeffort of somehow bringing Ryan Gosling into the mix.  But that’s enough from us, enjoy your Thursday, the starting date of the college football season, and feel free to start it off with the video.

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A Familiar Narrative: Xavier Rathan-Mayes of Florida State Snagged By Academic Issues

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 27th, 2013

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

Academic eligibility issues among high-level college basketball recruits are not a novel development. They are varied and wide-raging, stretching across the national prep landscape, from Dallas to New Hampshire to  and everywhere in between. Players leaving so-called “diploma mills,” schools devised to graduate high-level prospects by any means necessary to meet minimum eligibility requirements at the next level, often see their transitions to Division I interrupted once the NCAA looks into their shoddy academic credentials. Top 10 Florida signee Chris Walker is a recent high-profile example. Ben McLemore is another famous case. The accounts of academic negligence in high school coming back to bite players in college – whether by partial qualifier rulings or outright ineligibility – are too numerous to document in one post. Monday brought news of another highly-ranked recruit losing his college eligibility after not receiving academic clearance from the NCAA: Florida State recruit Xavier Rathan-Mayes, the No. 7-ranked shooting guard and No. 30-ranked player in the 2014 class, according to Rivals. Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton broke the news Monday afternoon.

Losing Rathan-Mayes is a huge blow for FSU (Getty Images).

“Following a review by the NCAA Eligibility Center, it was determined that some of the coursework Xavier completed during his high school enrollment could not be used to satisfy NCAA Division I initial-eligibility requirements,” the school released in a statement. “The NCAA has allowed Xavier to enroll immediately at Florida State and receive athletics scholarship. However, he will not be permitted to practice or compete during the first year of enrollment.” 

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The PJ Hairston Saga Is Not Finished

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 16th, 2013

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

The P.J. Hairston saga has all the makings of a classic amateurism bombshell. The shady third-party handler vaguely accused of providing money and/or gifts to a college athlete. A star player from one of the most esteemed college sports brands in the country. A drug charge. A loaded firearm and ammunition found outside of an obscurely rented vehicle. The evidence-based suspicion of broader corruption among program athletes. An apparent academic scandal simmering in the backdrop. The amateurism debate reaching flood stage in the public discourse. A high-profile lawsuit challenging amateurism’s very existence. The convenience of the Johnny Manziel saga. It’s all too timely and salacious and interesting, but here’s the thing: We haven’t even come close to reaching the finish line. Hairston was indefinitely suspended from UNC basketball after being ticketed for speeding on July 28, his third reported traffic citation of the summer, and all charges related to his July 5 traffic stop have been dropped. Hairston won’t be punished by the legal system, but that was never the biggest part of his summer saga, anyway.

The final outcome of the Hairston saga is still unclear (USA Today).

No, the most concerning aspect of Hairston’s malfeasance is the status of his eligibility heading into a season in which North Carolina is expected to compete for a conference championship with the junior expected to shoulder the bulk of the point-producing load and solidify UNC’s otherwise shaky defensive perimeter. He may not be able to do any of that if the NCAA finds the vehicles he drove this summer were rented out to Hairston impermissibly, or if any of his dealings with local party promoter and convicted felon Haydn ‘Fats’ Thomas are deemed in violation of the organization’s confusing (and highly controversial) amateurism rules. More than two months out from the start of the 2013-14 college hoops season, Hairston’s future with the Tar Heels hangs in the balance. His status for the upcoming season is just as mysterious as all the plot twists and legal nuance that brought us to this point.

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Morning Five: 07.03.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 3rd, 2013

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  1. It’s conference realignment absolution week around the land, with the ACC, Big East and AAC all welcoming new members in their own imitable ways. The ACC did so with considerable hoopla, unveiling Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame as new members at the NASDAQ headquarters in lower Manhattan on Monday. Everyone is toeing the party line at this point, of course, (“best basketball conference of all-time,” etc.) but the sticking point is going to eventually hit some of the old-timers in this league when the ACC Tournament is no longer always held/incarcerated in the friendly confines of the Tar Heel State. The new Big East just hired a commissioner last week, and was last seen traipsing through midtown Manhattan trying to find some office space. Regardless, Butler, Xavier and Creighton are now on board with the Catholic Seven, and at least one mammal is ready for the transition. In the meantime, here’s the top five storylines facing the basketball-centric league as it sets out on its own path. The AAC is a little further along, even if the conference has not yet changed the sign on the door in Providence or has a crystal clear notion of its ultimate direction in both the BCS and college basketball. Dan Wolken writes that the league’s advantage is that it is finally able to move forward with a “clean slate,” even if it is mocked at “Conference USA 2.0″ for a while. This is the world we now live in; we may as well get used to it. 
  2. One of the new Big East schools, Creighton, received some great news on Tuesday when guard Grant Gibbs was given a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA (his reaction to the news in this video is priceless). Gibbs applied for the sixth season based on the fact that he missed his true freshman season with an injury and his transfer season for a different injury. Next season will give him a full fourth year of action, and with teammate Doug McDermott’s return in lieu of heading to the NBA Draft, the Bluejays again look like a serious contender on the conference and national levels next season. And as for where the scholarship for next year will come from? Doug’s dad, of course. Head coach Greg McDermott will pony up the $38,000 tuition plus expenses for his future millionaire son next season, surely a small price to pay for a team with a reasonable shot at crashing the Final Four party in Arlington next April.
  3. One of the former Big East and new ACC schools (confused yet?), Syracuse, put one more piece of the Bernie Fine saga to bed yesterday with the news that the former Orange assistant was dropping his defamation suit against ESPN. You recall that Fine was investigated but never charged by federal authorities in response to allegations that he molested two former ball boys some time ago. He was fired regardless, and later brought suit against ESPN for airing the allegations that included a secret tape made of his wife, Laurie Fine, discussing the allegations with an accuser a decade ago. His wife still has a defamation suit pending over the release of that tape. ESPN says that no settlement was reached, so the elephant in the room question is why would Fine — who has maintained his innocence throughout — drop the case? The only reasonable explanation is that it simply wasn’t winnable on the merits, and in fact, could expose him to further embarrassment and/or damage to his reputation, right?
  4. This is an odd story, but let’s not make a federal case of it. The FAA is apparently investigating the practice of leasing the state of Michigan’s four passenger jets to Michigan State’s head football and basketball coaches for the purpose of recruiting visits. Of course, that means Spartan head coach Tom Izzo and his 55 recruiting trips in the last five years are also under scrutiny. The current reports are unclear on what the organization is looking for, specifically, but “it is known that the billing documents and receipts for many of these trips are being sought-out by investigators to determine whether the use of the planes violated any laws or incurs any cost to the common taxpayer.” MSU, like many major players in the college athletics world, pays for such costs from a self-sufficient fund separate from taxpayer dollars, so we’re not really sure what the objective is here. But it’s worth following at this point.
  5. This came out last week, but as we’re heading into the heart of the summer recruiting circuit, it’s worth mentioning here now. The Rivals150 recruiting rankings for the Class of 2014 have been updated, and Chicago center Jahlil Okafor remains at the top of the list. He and Rivals’ #2 prospect, Minneapolis’ Tyus Jones, are allegedly looking to become a package deal, which would make one of the group of  Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan State or Ohio State very, very happy. It appears to be a very strong year for the Midwest, with six of the top 11 players in the nation playing in the Big Ten footprint. For the complete list, check it out here.
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Morning Five: 06.13.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 13th, 2013

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  1. Another day, another mob with pitchforks standing outside the gates. ESPN.com‘s Darren Rovell reported yesterday that a group of former NCAA athletes has filed a $5 million suit in federal court against a company that sells photographs of college athletes without their express permission. Although the claim does not list the NCAA nor some 90 schools alleged to sell images to the defendant company, it wouldn’t be much of a leap to eventually go after them as well down the line. Under current NCAA rules, the schools have the right to promote their own games using player images, but the legal question will center around whether they also have the right to sell or transfer those images. This lawsuit is of course unrelated to the Ed O’Bannon likeness case also working its way through the system in federal court, but the underlying issue — that players are not compensated for their work and corresponding brand — is very similar.
  2. While on the subject of the mission of the NCAA and its member institutions, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a piece yesterday from a professor at Ohio State University named Steven Conn. Conn, an American history scholar, took his soon-to-be-former boss, OSU president Gordon Gee, to task not so much for his forced retirement based on a series of verbal gaffes; rather, for helping to create and propagate the “athletic-industrial beast that defines higher education now.” The point he’s ultimately making is that college presidents nowadays have to spend so much time dealing with their athletic programs because of the money and prestige associated with them, that they’ve completely lost sight of what the true mission of an institution of higher learning is supposed to represent. Interesting read.
  3. With all the pressure on programs to succeed in the revenue sports, it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that the average D-I men’s basketball coach has been at his current job for a total of 38 months — just over three years. This information and plenty of other coaching longevity tidbits comes courtesy of D1scourse, Patrick Stevens’ site examining college sports in the mid-Atlantic area. Although it was news to us that only one coach has survived at one school since the ’70s (Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, 1976), and only seven since the ’80s, the real takeaway from his analysis is that over 55 percent of true seniors who signed a letter of intent in November 2009 have experienced a coaching change in their careers. And yet we continue to penalize them for transferring, why, again?
  4. While on that topic, a really odd situation has developed involving DePaul forward Donnovan Kirk, a player who spent the first two years of his career at Miami (FL) before transferring to Chicago for the last two seasons. Given Miami’s success under Jim Larranaga especially relative to the train wreck at DePaul, Kirk has now decided to use his graduate transfer exception to head back to Miami for his final season. That’s right: a double-transfer where he is ending up at the same school where he originally started. He only averaged 6/4 last season for the Blue Demons, but he’s a great leaper and was among the Big East leaders in blocked shots per game (1.6 BPG). He’ll move right into a lineup in Coral Gables that is extremely lacking in experienced size, so this appears to be a win/win for both parties.
  5. The fortunes next season for another major basketball school in Florida — not FGCU, sorry — are still somewhat up in the air at this early summer point of the offseason. There are always a number of players finishing up coursework and dealing with standardized test scores to become eligible for next season, but in the case of Florida’s Chris Walker, there are serious concerns about his eventual eligibility. Not only does he still need to pass the ACT, which he has now taken three times, but he has to finish three core course requirements over the summer before he can enroll at the university in Gainesville. With most players these days getting themselves on campus for the early summer term to start prepping for next season, it doesn’t appear that will be an option for Walker very soon, if ever.
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Morning Five: 11.16.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 16th, 2012

  1. While one prominent Pac-12 incomer awaits the NCAA’s decision on whether he’ll see the floor this year, another one received his eligibility papers on Thursday. Oregon’s Arsalen Kazemi, a Rice transfer and former all-CUSA forward, has been cleared to suit up for the Ducks effective immediately, which means that we’re likely to see him in uniform against Vanderbilt tonight. The addition of Kazemi to a talented Oregon front line consisting of Tony Woods, EJ Singler and Carlos Emery is a major coup for Dana Altman right at the start of the season. In a league already fighting hard to regain national relevance this season, this good news for Oregon puts the Ducks at the head of the list of about six Pac-12 teams in the second tier behind Arizona and UCLA who realistically have designs on an NCAA Tournament bid.
  2. So Kazemi is in, Shabazz Muhammad is still out, and a whole host of other players around the country are sidelined as well for a number of different reasons. Andy Glockner lists the most prominent of the group and you could probably make a decent run at the national title with several different iterations of the talent sitting on benches around the country right now. From Providence’s Kris Dunn (injury) to Missouri’s Michael Dixon (team suspension) to St. Louis’ Kwamain Mitchell (injury) to Texas’ Myck Kabongo (NCAA investigation) to Miami’s Durand Scott (impermissible benefits) and on and on, many teams around the nation cannot be fairly evaluated at this point in the season because they’re playing at significantly less than full strength. Injuries are an unfortunate byproduct of the game, but many of the players on the list are there because of their own mistakes — here’s hoping all of them make it back into lineups sooner than later.
  3. One player who at the time of this writing we’re crossing our fingers for is Oklahoma State’s JP Olukemi, who left the Cowboys’ game against Akron on Thursday afternoon with a left knee injury that his head coach Travis Ford characterized as not “look[ing] good.” Just two weeks ago Olukemi was given an eligibility waiver by the NCAA that allowed him to play a full season (rather than just the fall semester), and now if worst comes to worst, he might be forced to miss part or all of the entire season. Last year he played in only 13 games before suffering an ACL tear on New Year’s Eve against Virginia Tech, which begs the question whether the basketball gods just don’t want Olukemi to suit up in a Cowboys uniform for some reason.
  4. File this one under the strange intersection of pop culture and (college) basketball: Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon accused Lil’ Wayne of  cursing at him during Duke’s win over Kentucky at the Champions Classic on Tuesday night. In a tweet from the young guard after the game, Sulaimon said “Still a @LilTunechi fan but was shook when he cursed me out court side lol. Where the duke love at slime.” With an admission that Sulaimon — who shot 3-of-14 from the field — was “shook” by Weezy’s verbal bombs, ACC coaches from Coral Gables to Chestnut Hill no doubt have already started inviting Lil’ Wayne and his friends as honorary guests at some of their more prominent home games against a team in blue.
  5. The Charleston Classic, Puerto Rico Tip-Off and 2kSports Classic all got under way yesterday (the medal rounds, at least), and the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic will tip off tonight in Brooklyn. With so many brackets and games in far-flung places, you probably need a primer on the top contests to watch this weekend in these events. Ryan Fagan of the Sporting News has us covered, picking out five key games over the next few days that are most worth your time and energy to watch. Or, you could do us one better, and just watch them all — junkies of the world, unite. Have a great weekend, everyone.
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Shabazz Muhammad Ineligible

Posted by AMurawa on November 9th, 2012

On a day of celebration for college basketball fans around the country, UCLA fans received a rude present just prior to the tip-off of their season opener. Seventy-five minutes before the Bruins were to tip-off against Indiana State, athletic director Dan Guerrero issued a statement indicating that the NCAA had declared prized recruit Shabazz Muhammad ineligible due to an amateurism violation. When or more ominously if Muhammad will be declared eligible for participation is unclear at this point. The full text of Guerrero’s statement:

Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA

Muhammad: Out For Now (Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

“The NCAA has finally determined that a violation of the NCAA amateurism rules has occurred involving UCLA freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad and his family. As a result, he is ineligible for competition at this time. We are extremely disappointed that the NCAA has made this determination. The University and our compliance staff have fully cooperated with the NCAA throughout this entire period, and we believe the decision is incorrect and unjust to Shabazz. UCLA will expeditiously pursue its options to challenge this determination. When a final resolution has been reached by the NCAA, we will swiftly communicate the news to the entire Bruin family.”

Really, when it comes right down to it, while the timing is awful, we all expected that Muhammad would miss some games. While Bruins fans hoped that Muhammad would be cleared immediately, they can take solace in the fact that at least Muhammad isn’t left hung out to dry with no ruling at this point. The NCAA has come to a preliminary determination, based on facts that we don’t know, and probably never will know, but at least the investigation is moving forward. UCLA will appeal the decision, but in the meantime, we wait to see if this ineligibility is a long-term thing, a mere blip on the radar, or somewhere in between.

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Morning Five: 10.23.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 23rd, 2012

  1. The SEC media on Monday released its preseason selections for the upcoming season and with the exception of some carpetbagging school called “Missouri” on this year’s list, it looks an awful lot like last year’s list. Kentucky came in as the choice for first place in the 2012-13 version of the SEC race with 17 first-place ballots, with Florida (five), Missouri (one) and Tennessee (one) following up the Wildcats. It appears that not much is expected from South Carolina (#11) or Mississippi State (#12) this season, which gives Frank Martin and Rick Ray an opportunity to immediately exceed expectations if they can put together some conference wins. Missouri’s Phil Pressey was chosen as the preseason SEC POY, another interesting choice given that he was a third-team selection in the Big 12 last year — clearly many pundits are predicting big things for the dynamic waterbug guard this season. Pressey was joined on the first team by Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, Arkansas’ BJ Young, Florida’s Kenny Boynton, and Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes.
  2. While on the subject of making preseason lists of elite players, CBSSports‘ Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman released their combined ballot for their top 50 Wooden Award candidates (which by rule cannot include transfers or freshmen). Forty-two players showed up on both of their lists, but the devil is always in the details, and where the pair differ is far more interesting and open for debate. Which writer left Ohio’s DJ Cooper off his list? Or Allen Crabbe? Or Elias Harris? The one thing missing here is the why/why not — we wish that the pair had taken the time to explain their differences, even if was only with a sentence or two at the end.
  3. NCAA president Mark Emmert gave a talk at Wright State University on Monday, and The Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy was there to report on the proceedings. In response to a question about the highly controversial NBA one-and-done rule, Emmert stuck to his previous position on the matter by stating that he “dislikes it enormously” and finds it “anathema to the collegiate model of academics.” When pressed for additional information afterward, Emmert appears to have once again punted to the NBA, stating only that he’s had “conversations” with the league and its players’ union about changing the rule. While we certainly recognize that Emmert has no authority over the NBA whatsoever, we’d like to see him take a more forceful stance on the issue that would satisfy fans and coaches alike. If the NBA refuses to cooperate in pursuit of its own self-interest, then Emmert should begin saber-rattling likewise — he has more leverage here than he’d like to admit if he’d only recognize it.
  4. With all the bad news coming out of the UCLA program recently — the ongoing sagas involving the eligibility of star recruits Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson and recent injuries to David Wear and Tyler Lamb — it was somewhat shocking to read this sunnier-than-SoCal headline from the LA Times on Monday:  UCLA basketball seems to be entering a bright new era. Mmmkay. Granted, the piece by Bill Dwyre focuses more on the long-term prospects of the Bruins program with a renovated Pauley Pavilion and a gleaming new statue of the Wizard of Westwood outside, but other than a brief mention of the NCAA’s investigation into the two freshmen, it more or less glosses over the fact that the program from the outside appears to be tottering. Maybe when Dwyre is walking around the tree-lined campus it’s easier to get lost in the Wooden mystique, but several things — not of all which are completely under Ben Howland’s control — need to come together for this program to get back on its blue-blooded track this season. It remains to be seen whether the planets and stars will indeed align.
  5. Finally, Luke Winn gets historical with us in his latest column where he enters the wayback machine and finds a slim but sturdy Shaquille O’Neal facing off in an “epic” battle between LSU and the running and gunning Loyola Marymount Paul Westheads some 22 years ago. The theme of his piece is that last season’s scoring across all of college basketball was the lowest it has ever been in the shot clock era (including when it a 45-second clock was in effect in the late ’80s and early ’90s). What was defined as uptempo two decades ago would look like a different game today — even then, nobody ran the ball like LMU, but teams regularly hit 80 possessions per game, whereas nowadays most teams never see the north side of 70 per game. There are a number of reasons for this trend, of course, but we’ll save that for the book that we’ll write someday — for now, just get over there and check out the data and a superb highlight clip of a young Shaq destroying everything in his path on the way to a 148-141 victory (you read that correctly).
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Morning Five: 10.18.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 18th, 2012

  1. Wednesday was a huge media day around the world of college basketball, with not one, not two, but three power conferences holding their Media Day yesterday. Why conferences don’t think to stagger these a little better to dominate the entire national spotlight seems like really poor planning to us, but nobody asked for our opinion on marketing best practices either. The ACC Media Day (“Operation Basketball”) took place in Charlotte; the Big East in New York; and, the Big 12 in Kansas City. Let’s take a brief look at some of the storylines from each one. In Charlotte, the ACC media cartel mimicked the coaches earlier this week in rating NC State as the preseason favorite to win the league, with 26 first-place votes. Duke followed in second place with 21 first-place votes, while North Carolina was picked third. The preseason all-ACC first team includes UNC’s James Michael McAdoo, Florida State’s Michael Snaer (unanimous), Duke’s Mason Plumlee, and NC State’s  Lorenzo Brown and CJ Leslie (unanimous, POY). The Wolfpack are certainly the school du jour this preseason in the ACC, but can a 9-7 team from last season really get over its losing tendencies to overtake Duke and North Carolina this season? We certainly shall see.
  2. A few hundred miles up the eastern seaboard, the Big East did its thing in NYC, with the media sniffing around for angles related to the last season for conference stalwarts Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Louisville made immediate headlines for its unanimous selection by conference coaches to win the league this season, but it was the Cardinals’ loquacious coach who caused the biggest stir with his comments that his team “could have the best 10 players in America” — including Big East preseason player of the year, Peyton Siva — and that, according to Zagsblog, he still truly believes that the additions of Temple and Memphis next season can adequately replace the losses of the Orange and Panthers. Jim Boeheim, quite naturally, vehemently disagreed with Pitino’s assessment (“I think he’s full of s–t.”). Boeheim’s team was picked to finish second in the league standings, with Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Georgetown and Pittsburgh following the Orange in the top six. Joining Siva on the preseason first team were Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick, Georgetown’s Otto Porter, Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley, Providence’s Vincent Council, and Siva’s Louisville teammate, Gorgui Dieng. Pitt’s Steven Adams was selected as the preseason Rookie of the Year. In one other significant announcement from Big East Media Day, the league announced an extension with Madison Square Garden that will keep the Big East Tournament there through 2026.
  3. Moving to the Midwest and Kansas City specifically, the Big 12 emphasized a league in transition with the additions of West Virginia and TCU replacing the dearly departed schools of Missouri and Texas A&M. Throw in new coaches at Kansas State and Texas Tech, and there were quite a few get-to-know-you introductions going around the Sprint Center on Wednesday. We plan on having a more detailed post on what happened there a little later today on our Big 12 microsite, but to whet your appetite, take a look at this quasi-live-blog from the Charleston Daily Mail‘s Mike Casazza. His descriptions of the day’s events have a definite “we’re not in the Big East anymore” feel to them, as the Mountaineers are a minimum of 870 miles from the nearest Big 12 school (Iowa State). Here’s hoping that WVU hedged on jet fuel when it was at its lowest market rate.
  4. And now to today’s Kentucky segment, as the defending national champion is pretty much a daily newsmaker for one thing or another. On Wednesday during an ESPN segment with Hannah Storm, head coach John Calipari said without reservation that superstar recruit Nerlens Noel is in fact eligible to practice and play this season (video clip here). Additionally, the Wildcats picked up their fourth commitment from a top 30 player in the Class of 2013 yesterday when power forward Marcus Lee picked UK over California. Calipari of course still has his eyes set on adding top 10 prospects Julius Randle, Andrew Wiggins and/or Aaron Gordon to his mix, a group of which — on paper at least — would represent the best recruiting class of all-time. Finally, on Wednesday evening ESPN played its first All-Access piece on Calipari’s Wildcats — which basically comes off as a half-hour infomercial promoting his program. Remember when UK fans once complained that Coach K’s AMEX commercials were an unfair advantage? We wonder what those people are saying now.
  5. We’re hoping that this is the last time we mention this player’s name in this space, but former UCLA malcontent Reeves Nelson‘s defamation lawsuit against Sports Illustrated was thrown out of a Los Angeles court on Wednesday. Defamation suits often turn on the status of the plaintiff as a public or private figure, and Nelson’s notoriety as a prominent college basketball player at one of the nation’s elite programs qualified him as a “limited public figure” that would require a clear showing of malice toward him by the magazine. In the absence of evidence that author George Dohrmann made up some of the anecdotes involving Nelson in the March story about UCLA’s out-of-control program, “Not the UCLA Way.”  Nelson’s case was destined for failure. The judge said that the story was well-sourced and that Dohrmann had “spent a lot of time” on it.
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Morning Five: 09.21.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 21st, 2012

  1. On Thursday afternoon, Billy Gillispie trumped the inevitable by submitting his resignation from the head coaching position at Texas Tech, citing health concerns. It’s been a wild three-week ride for Gillispie and his employer, beginning with a frantic 911 call made from the coach’s house followed by near-mutiny conditions among the players, two serious hospitalizations, a directive from the university to stay away from the program, and finally, yesterday’s very predictable conclusion. We’ll have more on the meteoric rise and tragic fall of Gillispie later today (Dan Wetzel has a great read in that vein too), but at least one national columnist writes that Texas Tech’s unwillingness to monitor the troubled head coach after his prior troubles places just as much culpability on its management as it does on Gillispie himself.
  2. From bad news to good on the coaching front, as just one day after UNC head coach Roy Williams successfully endured a three-and-a-half hour procedure to remove a tumor from his right kidney, he headed home. Three weeks to the day before practices open around the country, it’s still unclear whether Williams will need another procedure for a tumor on his left kidney or if there will be any follow-up work necessary related to Wednesday’s surgery. It’s difficult to speculate too much about Williams’ prognosis short of facts about his specific medical condition, but InsideCarolina.com reached out to a former practicing urologist for additional insight into the situation. In short, he thinks from what he’s read and heard that Williams should be fine — with the caveat that he’s simply reading what is publicy available like the rest of us. We certainly hope he’s right.
  3. Much has been made this summer and fall about all the eligibility issues facing star recruits such as Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, Providence’s Ricardo Ledo, UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad, and others. After the good news was released that NC State’s Rodney Purvis will be eligible to play this year, Thursday brought us a report from Adam Zagoria that UCLA’s Kyle Anderson is expected to be cleared by the NCAA prior to the start of practice in mid-October. Anderson was the best player on the Bruins’ recent trip to China (Muhammad did not play), and he will without question have a huge role in the height of the ceiling that Ben Howland’s team can reach next season. Hey, we want to see everyone play next season — the game suffers when the star talent doesn’t get a chance to suit up.
  4. It remains to be seen whether we’ll be having the same discussion with Jabari Parker this time next season, but let’s hope not. Regardless of that, the Class of 2013 superstar must really be a Kevin Ollie fan, as he recently added Connecticut to his list of 10 (now 11) schools. In fact, Ollie already has a home visit scheduled with the Parker family next week, following up on visits from Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski at the end of this week. According to the linked article, Parker may be looking at narrowing his list as soon as this weekend, and may be ready to make his decision by the fall signing period in November.
  5. With Notre Dame’s move to the ACC coming in the next couple of years, Irish head coach Mike Brey is already looking forward with scheduling and if his desires come to fruition, we should just go ahead and pencil in Notre Dame as the school with the #1 RPI rating for the foreseeable future. In addition to the mandated 18-game ACC schedule that his team will have to play, Brey would like to keep home-and-home series with several of the Catholic Big East schools in cities where the Notre Dame name still carries quite a bit of weight. The five he listed are: Marquette, DePaul, Georgetown, Villanova, and St. John’s. Presuming the Irish remain locked into the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis and the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, there won’t be much room left for the Savannah States of the world.
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Morning Five: 09.18.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 18th, 2012

  1. The NCAA eligibility train rolls on, and NC State’s Mark Gottfried was Monday’s recipient of the excellent news that superstar freshman Rodney Purvis is eligible to suit up in a Wolfpack uniform next season. The issue in Purvis’ case revolved around the legitimacy of his high school — Upper Room Christian Academy, in Raleigh, whose first-ever class to graduate included Purvis — but during an 80-minute deliberation on Monday, an NCAA core course subcommittee saw enough evidence that the big guard is adequately prepared for the rigors of a college education and made the right decision to let him play. We’ll have more on this later today, but the early buzz is that this makes NC State the favorite to win the ACC for the first time in… how long?
  2. Speaking of getting a college education, UNC chancellor Holden Thorp announced on Monday that this academic year would be his last at the university in that position. Even though the academic scandal that has rocked the university in recent months most likely started prior to his tenure as chancellor of the school in 2008, the most recent black eye involving fundraising director Matt Kupec and Tyler Hansbrough’s mother, Tami, taking personal trips on the university dime, happened on his watch. One member of the Board of Governors said that Thorp, as “captain of the ship” at UNC, had become “the face of damage control” and lauded him for sacrificing himself for the good of the school. It doesn’t take an insider to see the writing on the wall that more changes are likely to come in Chapel Hill as additional details about the academic scandal are revealed by the upcoming Martin Report, due to release next month.
  3. Everybody is well aware of the near-mutiny that occurred in Lubbock earlier this month at Texas Tech (side note: Billy Gillispie has been ordered by his doctors to avoid stress for the next 30 days), but what is going on on the other side of the state at Rice? Ben Braun’s team lost four transfers over the summer and followed that up by losing two more players in just the past week — notably, Omar Oraby (USC), and most importantly, Owls star Arsalan Kazemi. The 6’7″ senior who averaged 12/10 last season en route to all-CUSA honors, was roommates with Oraby and no doubt must have missed their nightly games on the PlayStation. Jeff Goodman reported Monday that Kazemi is looking at six schools including Texas, Oregon, Cincinnati, Florida, Ohio State and Kentucky. He will have to sit out the mandated transfer year per NCAA rules, but the talented Iranian would provide a very nice one-year punch to any of those schools in 2013-14.
  4. Louisville may have found its replacement for preseason All-American Peyton Siva in 2013-14 and perhaps beyond, as 5’11” waterbug Chris Jones committed to the Cardinals out of the junior college ranks on Monday. The rising sophomore, originally from Memphis, averaged 18/5/4 APG in leading his Northwest Florida State team to a 26-1 record and an appearance in the NJCAA Division I championship game last year. According to Jones, Rick Pitino does not want the reins of his offense in a freshman point guard’s hands, so if things work out properly he’ll have upperclassman leadership at that position for the next three seasons.
  5. Speaking of Pitino and in light of Jim Calhoun’s recent retirement, CBSSports.com‘s Matt Norlander took a look at the 11 current college basketball coaches with at least one national title and handicapped each one’s probable date of retirement. Be sure to take a look at his entire list, but he’s got more than half of those guys — six, to be exact — retiring within the next four years. The exercise here is one that depends on so many different and volatile factors (health, family, motivation, recruiting, etc.), but it says here that Pitino won’t hang up the whistle until he gets that elusive and self-validating second championship, while Krzyzewski is only likely to do so after he wins his fifth. Time will tell.
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