Morning Five: 09.17.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 17th, 2012

  1. In the wake of last week’s announcement by Notre Dame that it was leaving the Big East to join the ACC in all sports except football, new Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said on Friday that his league is not dead, and as a matter of fact, is still “the strongest basketball conference in the country.” We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here and assume that when he made reference to conference strength he was talking about the upcoming season only — before he loses the likes of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame from his lineup of stalwart programs. At the end of the day, much will be written about the relative strength of the two leagues once all the realignment moves have propagated, but from our view a top eight of UNC, Duke, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Maryland, Florida State and NC State looks equal to or better than Connecticut, Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette, Memphis, Georgetown, Villanova and Temple. Of course, the bottom half of the Big East is where the ACC really increases its lead — UCF, SMU, Rutgers, DePaul and the rest have no business competing with programs like Virginia, Miami, Clemson and Wake Forest.
  2. Right on cue, Luke Winn last week analyzed a similar comment made by Aresco (“We’re still the strongest top-to-bottom basketball conference in the country.”) in his own inimitable way. Winn used KenPom efficiency data to compare leagues based on their current configuration and their new configurations, and with the caveat that past performance does not accurately predict future success, the Big East as a whole falls from the second-best basketball conference over the last 10 seasons to sixth. As he notes, “realignment has made the Big East the weakest top-to-bottom major conference, not the strongest.” He also shows a chart exhibiting that only four of the top 11 leagues have improved themselves on the hardwood through conference realignment — the WCC, ACC, Atlantic 10, and SEC. Each of these leagues has added at least one solid basketball school to its mix.
  3. Sam Cassell caused a commotion upon his entry to the ACC two decades ago with his brashness, outspoken demeanor, and his talent on the court. Late last week some of those same characteristics came to bear as the now-Washington Wizards assistant spoke to Jeff Goodman about the NCAA’s rejection of his son’s appeal to play as a freshman next season at Maryland. Comparing the organization to “neighborhood bullies” and accusing the governing body of wanting “kids to fail,” Cassell is clearly unhappy with the NCAA’s decision to invalidate courses his son took at Notre Dame Prep as a high school junior even though other players such as Pittsburgh’s Khem Birch and Marquette’s Todd Mayo took the exact same courses and were eligible to play last season. Cassell, Jr., has not made a decision on what his next step will be, but
  4. The other player hurt by the NCAA’s decision to invalidate those Notre Dame Prep courses may not have a famous father to speak on his behalf, but Myles Davis will sit out next year at Xavier — paying his own way — and he’ll have some additional company doing it. Jalen Reynolds, another member of Chris Mack’s incoming recruiting class, was deemed ineligible by the NCAA on Friday for a similar issue, and he too will have to sit out the entire 2012-13 season while paying his own tuition at XU. With these two losses and the recent expulsion of Dez Wells, Xavier is now down to only eight scholarship players — none of whom were significant contributors on last year’s Sweet Sixteen team. The Musketeers’ first season in a revamped Atlantic 10 boasting new instant impact programs Butler and VCU will certainly be interesting with such a young and inexperienced squad — Mack will need to find a way to work miracles on the banks of the Ohio River if he plans on keeping Xavier’s NCAA Tournament streak of seven straight seasons alive.
  5. College basketball is legitimately just around the corner, and what better way to get your juices flowing than to read an interview with Gus Johnson. Johnson, of course, is spending his time nowadays as the lead college football announcer on Fox while also doing some Big Ten Network work on the side. This Q&A with Johnson isn’t necessarily ground-breaking in its breadth, but there were two college basketball takeaways that came out of it. First, and perhaps unsurprisingly since Johnson is a Detroit guy and given his obvious enthusiasm during games, he said he has long admired Dick Vitale as a sportscaster. Next, out of all the great games he’s covered over the years, his favorite? The 1996 NCAA Tournament Princeton upset over the defending national champions, UCLA. Give us more Gus, anytime.
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Morning Five: 08.15.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 15th, 2012

  1. In what seems to be a summer rite of passage involving several of the top recruits entering college basketball, UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad is the latest and greatest elite prospect whose eligibility the NCAA is investigating. According to the LA Times — and unlike the inquiry into NC State’s Rodney Purvis (the organization is reviewing the credibility of his high school) — the NCAA ” is reportedly investigating financial dealings between Muhammad’s family and friends,” specifically involving Muhammad’s former high school assistant coach, Geoff Lincoln, and his brother, Benjamin Lincoln. Of course, an investigation like this wouldn’t be any fun without an AAU connection, so the NCAA is obliging by also looking into the funding of Muhammad’s summer team by a New York financial planner named Ken Kavanagh. What does all this mean? Probably not much — the financial dealings likely involved trips that Muhammad made to visit North Carolina and Duke during his recruitment (worst case: he repays the cost of the trips), and good luck getting anything concrete out of the financial planner. Still, it means that UCLA has chosen to hold Muhammad out of its upcoming trip to China, costing the Bruins valuable preseason time to get to know each other and build team chemistry. At least one commentator believes that Ben Howland might be cursed.
  2. From one piece of great news to another, the UNC academic scandal that not may or may not include former two-sport star Julius Peppers is getting uglier. And given what we’ve seen over and over and over again in this peculiar industry, it’s likely to get downright hideous. As an administrator you know that things are not going well when CBSSports.com’s Gregg Doyel focuses on your program, and his article on Tuesday blows up the entire athletic department with his description of UNC’s negligence as perhaps “the ugliest academic scandal in NCAA history,” and even suggests that the 200o Final Four banner should come down. Like Dana O’Neil before him, he also takes the NCAA to task for dragging its feet on a thorough investigation — perhaps they, like Doyel and most of the media, think that the revered Dean Smith is still running things in Chapel Hill? What we know is this: Public pressure is building on North Carolina to come clean with a comprehensive review of the entire department — basketball included — and as we’ve seen with the Peppers transcript (as bizarre a flub as we’ve ever seen), that means actually removing the veil of secrecy surrounding the program and allowing independent investigators to assess exactly what happened there. Louis Freeh is probably available.
  3. One day after announcing its partnership with Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures to handle its upcoming television negotiations, the Big East announced the hiring of CBS Sports executive Mike Aresco as its new commissioner heading into those talks. Conference realignment across the board has fostered an alarmingly shortsighted arms race environment where every actor involved seems to believe that pursuit of the almighty dollar is without question the only thing that matters. The Big East, with its recent loss of West Virginia and the pending exits of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, hopes that by highlighting its numerous large markets and continent-wide footprint, it will enable the league to secure a massive television deal that will rival other major conferences and provide some much-needed stability. Perhaps it will work, but we have to believe that eventually someone is going to figure out that market penetration — how many people are actually watching the games? — is far more important than the total size of it. Right?
  4. If you’re an unemployed head coach out there still fretting about the coaching carousel not holding a chair for you last spring, dust off that resume — Eastern Michigan’s position appears to be open as its head coach, Rob Murphy, is reportedly taking an assistant coaching job with the Orlando Magic. The 2012 MAC Coach of the Year led EMU to a 9-7 conference record in his only season, and with a couple of good transfers joining a strong returning core, bigger things were expected next season. No official sources have been cited, but Lehigh’s Brett Reed, Michigan State assistant Dane Fife, and former Utah head coach Jim Boylen were mentioned in the article as possible selections with Michigan ties.
  5. Two players who were not expected to play college basketball in 2012-13 appear to be heading back to school after all. BYU sophomore guard Damarcus Harrison was expected to begin his two-year Mormon mission this fall, but instead he has decided to transfer closer to home at Clemson. The 6’5″ guard had a solid freshman campaign in Dave Rose’s lineup, averaging 3/1 in nine minutes per game, but he contributed 14 points and five boards in two NCAA Tournament games and showed considerable promise. American University picked up some great news when former all-Patriot League forward Stephen Lumpkins announced that he was returning to school for a senior season after spending last year playing minor league baseball in the Royals organization. In his sophomore and junior seasons, Lumpkins averaged 13/8 and shot a healthy percentage from the field — the talented big man will be able to slide into a starting lineup that returns three key contributors from a team that contended for the PL title last season.
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Morning Five: 08.07.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 7th, 2012

  1. We mentioned in yesterday’s M5 that Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun was recovering well after surgery to repair his hip from a cycling accident suffered over the weekend. According to an orthopedic surgeon not affiliated with Calhoun’s treatment, the standard recovery time for this surgery ranges between eight to 12 weeks. Basketball practice begins in earnest in nine weeks, so there’s a strong possibility that the beginning of a rebuilding season in Storrs is already off to a rough start. As Mike Decourcy writes, Connecticut as a program faces a number of long-term issues with the 70-year old Calhoun undoubtedly reaching the end of his career soon — his latest health dust-up only serves to complicate those very important issues.
  2. It’s probably not often that we’ll choose a valuable M5 blurb to write about a player who only averaged a half-point and 1.8 rebounds per contest last season. But UCLA’s Anthony Stover dismissed from the team Monday for academic problems — is a statistical anomaly of sorts — the 6’10” rising junior only saw eight minutes a game in Ben Howland’s system, but he still managed to block shots at a higher rate in limited time (18.2%) than Kansas’ Jeff Withey (15.3%) and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis (13.8%). Of course, for every block Stover registered last season (38), he also recorded a foul (37), so there’s clearly a learning curve he must still conquer. Still, for a mid-major willing to work with the young man in the classroom, the potential (at least on the defensive end) is there.
  3. Quiet among all the other newsworthy things the NCAA has done lately, the governing body has implemented a number of new player eligibility standards that will be phased in by 2016. So why is this important now? As Dana O’Neil explains in this wide-ranging piece, high school freshmen for the Class of 2016 will report to their freshman years at high school in the next few weeks. The new requirements increase the number of core curriculum courses to 16 (10 of which must be completed in the player’s first three years of high school, and seven of those must be in math, science, or English classes), raise the minimum GPA from 2.0 to 2.3, and generally scare the bejeezus out of college coaches everywhere. According to the NCAA, 43 percent of players who entered college basketball in 2009-10 would not have been eligible to play as freshmen under these new standards. Well, that solves the fake coursework problem — now, on to the AAU problem.
  4. More on this later today, but the Legends Classic released its faux-bracket yesterday, and we could be in for quite an early season treat in the new Barclays Arena during Feast Week if things work out. This event is one of those preseason “tournaments” where the semifinal teams are prospectively placed regardless of what happens in the earlier rounds, but if both Indiana and UCLA beat their semifinal opponents (Georgia and Georgetown, respectively), we could be treated with an epic neutral site showdown between two of the nation’s top five teams. Both IU and UCLA boast talent aplenty, and if you believe CBSSports.com’s recent report that IU star Cody Zeller and UCLA star Shabazz Muhammad are the two most coveted players in college basketball by other coaches, then this potential match-up represents the best that November will likely have to offer.
  5. Next season cannot get here soon enough, but SI.com’s Andy Glockner is helping us fill the summer time off with his second annual Twitter-style State of the College Hoops Union piece where he breaks down 53 of the nation’s best teams in 140 characters or less. There’s some good stuff there, so we’d encourage you to stick with the article after reading Arizona’s blurb and his first of more than a dozen awful hoops-related puns. Out like a Lyons in March? Yeah, we meant awful as in good. Somewhere in a lair under a golf course, Jim Nantz is stealing many of Glockner’s better quips.
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Morning Five: 07.05.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 5th, 2012

  1. Here’s hoping everyone had a safe and fun Independence Day yesterday. As we mentioned earlier in the week, holiday or not, this is a landmark week in the history of a number of schools that officially jumped conferences last weekend. Texas A&M in particular celebrated its admission to the SEC with a borderline embarrassing flag-raising ceremony, while Missouri, West Virginia, TCU, Butler, VCU and a few others joined with more modest showings. Much of the talk of course centers on the impact of conference realignment on the college football landscape, but Athlon Sports recently published a look at the winners and losers of all the moves from a basketball perspective. It’s not terribly in-depth but it gives a good overview of the situation as of today.
  2. Marshall received some excellent news this week as senior forward Dennis Tinnon was granted another year of eligibility with the Thundering Herd. Tinnon, a player who had multiple run-ins with the law before turning his life around at junior college, averaged a double-double (10/10) and was also selected to the CUSA All-Defensive team in his only season at Marshall. He’s already one of the best offensive rebounders in the country (4.0 per game), and his return along with DeAndre Kane’s to an NIT team gives head coach Tom Herrion high hopes for another successful year in Huntington.
  3. Tinnon successfully went from the junior college route to Division I, but it appears that Michael Bradley (formerly of Connecticut) will take the reverse course even if it’s only for a short period. Bradley, you certainly recall, never played in his two seasons in Storrs (due to a redshirt year and subsequent injuries) but the NCAA would not allow him to play immediately at his favored transfer school, Western Kentucky, so he has decided to attend a junior college rather than sitting out a third consecutive year. Assuming all goes well, his transfer to Vincennes (IN) University will allow him to play one year of competitive basketball before then seeking to move back into Division I with two years of eligibility still intact. For a player who has certainly had to deal with more than his fair share of turmoil in his personal and basketball life, we certainly wish him the best with this plan of action and hope to see him again about a year from now.
  4. The Fayetteville Observer caught up with Kentucky point guard Ryan Harrow, the NC State transfer whom John Calipari will entrust with his dribble-drive offense next season. Harrow’s parents still live in the Raleigh area, and the shadow of his single season as a member of the Wolfpack still hovers over them. Calipari certainly has an illustrious history of getting the most from his point guards, but Harrow is a little older than his freshman counterparts and he had an up-and-down season in his only year of basketball at the D-I level (9/3 on 39% shooting). That top five rating Kentucky has in the preseason polls will be largely dependent on Harrow’s improvement on those numbers.
  5. In five full seasons at Michigan, John Beilein has won a share of a Big Ten championship, taken the Wolverines to three NCAA Tournaments, and even beaten out none other than Duke and Florida for the services of an elite recruit. As the school’s basketball profile has risen, Beilein is finding that he has considerably more cachet to walk into the living rooms of top prep players across the country with a realistic chance of getting their attention and signing them. This is a somewhat newfound situation for Beilein to find himself in, as this AnnArbor.com profile explains, for a head coach who had previously made most of his career through finding recruiting diamonds in the rough (one word: Pittsnogle). With an elite class already committed for 2013 and a brand-new practice facility to sell on recruits,  there’s no reason to believe Michigan basketball is headed anywhere but up.
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Morning Five: 11.03.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 3rd, 2011

  1. It’s a precipitous drop down the face of a monolith like El Capitan to go from the national championship game to losing to a D-II school at home, but Butler found itself in just that situation Wednesday night. The Northern State (SD) Wolves entered one of the most historic and difficult arenas in the nation in which to play — Hinkle Fieldhouse — and walked out with a 53-50 exhibition win after NSU’s Alex Thomas nailed a three at the buzzer to cap off a late 12-0 run. An image of the final shot can be found here (h/t @ryan_hilgemann), but nobody on the north side of Indy should go apoplectic just yet. After having lost three star players in the previous two seasons, the easy storyline is that Butler is going through a transition year, but the truth is that last season was a transition year too — all the way up until around March 15 when the Brad Stevens magic kicked back in. Butler is definitely going to have some growing pains as they figure out some things, but write off the Bulldogs at your own peril.
  2. Connecticut freshman guard and dunking machine Ryan Boatright is facing eligibility issues with the NCAA reportedly as a result of an issue involving his AAU team in his hometown of Chicago. Without knowing what the issue might be, it’s difficult to say how long this might drag out. But what we do know is that Boatright is expected to provide a backup role for starting point guard Shabazz Napier this season, and if he’s unable to do so, the Husky attack suddenly becomes much more tenuous. At that point, the depth chart moves into walk-on territory with freshman Brendan Allen next in line, although Jeremy Lamb would most likely be called upon to slide over from the shooting guard position and run the team — not an ideal situation, but one the Huskies may have to face.
  3. While on the subject of eligibility, Maryland freshman center Alex Len received a ruling from the NCAA on Wednesday that will allow him to resume practice immediately but will force him to miss the team’s first ten regular season games as penance for playing with an overseas club team. The seven-foot Ukranian will be eligible to rejoin the Terps’ seven other healthy scholarship players on December 28 against Albany, but Mark Turgeon’s team will have to tread water with limited personnel for the first few weeks of the season against a tough nonconference schedule that includes Alabama, Wichita State (possibly), Illinois and Notre Dame.
  4. Now this is the kind of news we like to read and put into the M5. Last week it appeared that Louisville freshman wing Wayne Blackshear was likely to miss the entire season due to a shoulder injury. Rick Pitino said on his radio show this week that surgeons found a better-than-expected situation when they opened him up, and with proper rehabilitation and a little luck, the star rookie could be back in action in as soon as 6-8 weeks. In case you’re doing the math, that’s right around the time that the Cards will make their biennial trip 60 miles east to play a certain game in Lexington. Welcome to college basketball, kid?
  5. Finally, Matt Norlander over at CBS Sports has put together a fairly interesting analysis prospectively looking at strength of schedule metrics for the upcoming season. As he says in the article, the gold is in the graphic that shows every power conference team (+ eight others, including Xavier, Memphis, Butler and Gonzaga) and how its 2011-12 schedule rates on a number of criteria. Long Beach State, for example is off the charts, playing a nonconference slate that features six true road games and a set of opponents who collectively averaged 26.2 wins a year ago. DePaul‘s opponents, on the other hand, averaged 12.8 wins last year. It would have been interesting to take another step with this data set and accounted for the personnel losses and incoming talent of the opponents (as Dan Hanner has done in the past), but there are still some interesting takeaways available here.
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That’s Debatable: Considering NCAA Consistency

Posted by rtmsf on January 14th, 2011

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This Week’s Topic: The NCAA has taken a lot of flak in the last week for its seeming inconsistency in recent rulings involving Cam Newton, the Ohio State football players and Enes Kanter, among others.  Give us your ideas on how the NCAA should handle an increasingly complex environment involving the eligibility issues of its student-athletes.  Can it be consistent?

Andrew Murawa, RTC contributor

If the NCAA can at least be consistent in attempting to look out for the best interests of student-athletes, while maintaining as near a level playing field as possible for all schools to compete upon, that should be enough. In the Kanter case, it seemed to me that Kanter didn’t do anything inherently “wrong.” He accepted money from a Turkish professional team above and beyond expenses for housing, education and the like, but Kanter never showed any real interest in becoming a professional. If he had wanted to be a professional, he could have been pulling a salary overseas for years now, but he made the commitment to come to the United States and try to compete at the college level. If the NCAA was going to rule with the best interests of the student-athlete in mind, Kanter would have been eligible at some point, after an appropriate penalty and his repayment of whatever additional funds he received. The NCAA is never going to be able to come up with a one-size-fits-all solution to these types of amateurism cases, and comparing the circumstances and motives behind each individual case will never be exact, but if they can consistently rule in a manner protective of its student-athletes – while still protecting the goal of amateurism – they’ll at least be serving their mission.

Tom Wolfmeyer, RTC contributor

Transparency, transparency, transparency.  The NCAA’s biggest problem in my eyes is that nobody seems to be able to predict how rules will be interpreted or penalties handed out in a given case.  And then when the organization is questioned, they have trouble articulating the nuance and distinguishing between decisions.  The only way to combat this is with complete transparency in how their enforcement system works and the decision-making matrix that the NCAA uses to establish guidelines for punishment.  If Cam Newton’s situation is indeed different than Enes Kanter’s, and his is different than Derrick Rose’s, et al., then the NCAA needs to inform us as to the specific criteria used to make decisions and then follow those same guidelines in future, similar cases.  The way it stands now is entirely too ambiguous, which ultimately creates an appearance of the NCAA enforcement folks playing favorites and impropriety.  And isn’t that the exact thing that the NCAA purports to be working for — a level playing field with a fair and just system?

Brian Otskey, RTC contributor

I think it’s impossible for the NCAA to be consistent when it comes to every student-athlete. I know Cam Newton was basically shopped around but I don’t follow college football and don’t know anything beyond that so it’s not my place to comment on that or the Ohio State football controversy. What I do know is that Enes Kanter is a professional athlete. He played for a professional team and received $33,000 above his necessary expenses, according to the university and the NCAA. The outrage from Dick Vitale and others that the NCAA declared him ineligible to get back at John Calipari is ludicrous. Kanter would be ineligible no matter what team he played for and teams knew he was a risk while recruiting him. I can’t blame Kentucky for taking a risk with a potentially great reward but let’s stop with the conspiracy theories about this. When it comes to Josh Selby, that money wasn’t even 15% of what Kanter was paid, though it does seem strange that he’s allowed to pay it back and play while Kanter cannot. The bottom line is that it’s impossible to create one rigid standard for everyone. Each situation should be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

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Morning Five: 11.17.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 17th, 2010

  1. Wow.  We know of quite a few writers, bloggers, television personalities, gadflies and ne’er-do-wells who are hurting in a big way this morning.  After a 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon that once again did not fail to disappoint, the hangover is here.  We’re guessing that #cbb on Twitter won’t be this quiet again until sometime in May, as everyone around the country comes off their hoops-gasm and starts calculating the actuarial ratios of all-nighters to lost months of life.  Still, seeing all the different schools and fans and courts and cheerleaders and announcers and studio hosts and analysts around the country all day yesterday was pretty awesome, wouldn’t you agree?  As much as we’ve ripped apart the opening week’s haphazard trickle-out of games, this made-for-television event is brilliant and is quickly becoming one of the best regular season must-sees that the sport has to offer.  God help us all during the random future year when the 24HoH mimics a day of the NCAA Tournament and 75% of the games come down to the last possession — the WWL suits had better already have ESPN Legal working on its tort defenses.  Oh, and our guy John Stevens?  Over 11,000 words and untold hallucinations in 25+ hours of BGTDing, without a single drop of caffeine in his system (perhaps crystal meth, but certainly no coffee/soda).
  2. The biggest non-ESPN 24HoH news from the day came from Turner Sports, as the cable network announced that it will provide some of its wildly popular NBA on-air talent such as play-by-play announcer Marv Albert and the brash-but-hilarious Charles Barkley as part of its joint coverage of the NCAA Tournament with CBS.  The general consensus is that this is going to be a very good thing, and given that we are intimately familiar with the chemistry of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Barkley on Inside the NBA (the best sports show on television by far), we think that they’ll pull it off.  Our only reservation — and admittedly, it’s a small one — is that we’ve watched (and listened) in horror to Fox when NFL announcers with their play-on-Sunday focus call college football games during the BCS bowls and it’s obvious they don’t even know or understand the key rule differences between the two sports.  We found this experience exceptionally painful.  Since none of the Turner channels (TBS, TNT, TruTV) are covering college hoops during the regular season, we’re a little concerned that even knowledgeable folks such as those listed above might have trouble making the transition.
  3. And this article is why NBA fans are different in many ways from college basketball fans.  Mr. Jeff Miller of the Orange County Register: in our sport, it actually IS about the names on the front of the jerseys.  Carolina fans will go crazy for their team whether they have a future lottery pick like Harrison Barnes or a four-year guy like Tyler Hansbrough leading the way; Kentucky fans showed as much passion for one-year man John Wall in the blue and white as they did for Tayshaun Prince; Michigan State fans loved consistently-tough guy Charlie Bell as much or more than Zach Randolph.  Here’s our suggestion.  Get out of the suburban and basketball wasteland known as the OC and high-tail it to a Missouri or K-State game at Phog Allen Fieldhouse.  While you’re in the Midwest, catch a game at Hinkle before heading over to Rupp for a Louisville or Florida game.  Detour down through Tobacco Road and venture into Cameron Indoor Stadium before your soul goes completely cold; then, since you’re on the east coast, head up to the Palestra for an epic Big Five battle.  Report back to us afterward if you gave a damn whether you actually knew the names of the players who you were watching — that is, assuming you actually enjoy the sport of basketball and not some bastardized version of star-watching.
  4. Gary Parrish takes a look at the oft-bizarre world of AP/Coaches poll ballots in his weekly column, The Poll Attacks.  Every time we read a column like this one, we thank our lucky stars that these flawed polls that reflect current perception are for entertainment purposes only.  Teams will get a chance to settle their real rankings on the court.  What some sportswriter in Eugene thinks about Villanova is about as important as what a Floridian believes concerning a local dogcatcher race in Wyoming — it’s irrelevant.  And we love it that way.
  5. Gregg Doyel examines the case of Enes Kanter and his eligibility through the prism of the NCAA rulebook and asks the question of when a pro is (or isn’t) a pro?  As he correctly points out, the NCAA has drawn a bright line with the apples/oranges comparison between sports, as in the cases of Josh Booty, Chris Weinke and current Clemson QB Kyle Parker, all of whom played professional baseball prior to becoming amateur NCAA football players.  But why have they drawn a distinction — what is the fundamental difference here?  It would be interesting to review the NCAA legislative history on this issue to see what the thinking was.
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Morning Five: 11.12.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 12th, 2010

  1. It’s Opening Night, part trois.  Yeah, we know that the “official” opening night was on Monday and then again on Wednesday with the 2kSports CvC games, but there are 135 games tonight that say quite differently.  Tonight is the first night that teams not in that exempted tournament are allowed to hold games, and the majority of D1 teams have chosen to do so.  Why they’re exempted we have no freaking idea, but that’s an argument for another time.  The point is that college basketball is back in earnest this evening, and we can formally agree that the season is underway.  For a list of each night’s biggest games around the country, be sure to check out the “Nightly Nonsense” box above.
  2. Hoosier Nation rejoiced as Tom Crean beat out North Carolina and local-sensation Brad Stevens and Butler for the services of 6’9 power forward recruit Cody Zeller yesterday.  Zeller was one of only two of the top 25 players left on the big board, so under normal circumstances this probably wouldn’t be so newsworthy.  But the takeaway here is that Zeller, while likely not a program-changing recruit, is the first major homegrown talent to sign with Indiana since Crean took over in Bloomington nearly three years ago.  There was a time not too long ago when every kid who grew up in the Hoosier State wanted to play for the Hoosiers, but the last decade-plus hasn’t been all that kind to the program as player after player left for other environs.  Re-building that pipeline of in-state talent is essential to IU becoming once again a player commensurate with its historical presence as a top-six program along with Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, UNC and UCLA.  This is the first step toward that end.
  3. Villanova’s JayVaughn Pinkston has been charged with two counts of assault and harassment and therefore will be held out of games until his legal situation is settled.  He will be allowed to continue with other team activitites, which includes practicing with the team.  VU has three games in the next eight days (vs. Bucknell, Lafayette & Marist), so we wouldn’t expect to see him in any of those.
  4. Sigh…  Minnesota’s Devoe Joseph is the latest and greatest player who has now been suspended indefinitely for “off the court issues” involving a violation of team rules.   According to the article, the issues are not academic nor injury-related, so that means it’s something he’s not doing up to Tubby’s standards of conduct.   He will not be playing in the Gophers’ season opener against Wofford nor next week’s game against Siena and traveling to the subsequent Puerto Rico Tipoff. Let’s hope he figures it out, because Minnesota needs him.
  5. You certainly now know that Kentucky’s Enes Kanter took $33K in salary as a member of a Turkish club team which the NCAA deemed makes him ineligible to play college basketball.  Jeff Goodman writes that it was a risk well worth taking for John Calipari, whose reputation wasn’t going to change regardless of the NCAA’s decision, and despite how unlikely it was that Kanter would ever have become eligible (not even Oak Hill Academy would take him).
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Morning Five: 09.27.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 27th, 2010

  1. You may have missed this news during a busy football weekend, but the Birmingham (Alabama) School Board decided late Friday to not change former Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe’s official transcript despite an independent law firm’s finding that justifications for grade changes thereon were “not credible.”  We covered this on Friday night, and people are generally falling into two camps.  On one side is the “Really?  WTF?” camp, as articulated by Gary Parrish in his piece on the matter; while on the other side, we have giddy UK fans who seem to believe that they got over on the NCAA, New York Times, jealous Calipari-haters and the liberal media, depending on whom you ask.  This ordeal is probably dead with respect to the NCAA and Kentucky, but Tom Arenberg of the Birmingham News believes that Birmingham schools should seek more answers with respect to what happened here, while we’re left wondering why we didn’t buddy up to a couple of amenable teachers in high school right before our applications to Stanford and MIT went into the mail.
  2. California’s 7’3 center Max Zhang will not be enrolled at Berkeley for the fall semester, as he is staying in his native China to play in the Asia Games this November.  He could be back for the spring semester, though, just in time for Pac-10 play and definitely needed after a mass exodus of players from Mike Montgomery’s team this offseason.  He only averaged 3/2 in his sophomore season for the Bears, but with a nice shooting touch and scouts keeping a watchful eye on his development, there is a sense that he is ready to break out and could one day play professionally.
  3. Kansas center Jeff Withey is on the shelf after breaking his right foot during individual workouts last week.  Withey played sparingly as a freshman last season in Lawrence, but he was a four-star recruit out of San Diego and is expected to get considerably more run this season.  He’ll be out four to six weeks, which will unfortunately somewhat hinder his development, as practice officially begins in less than three weeks.
  4. Late last week John Calipari stated to reporters that he thought Enes Kanter was going to be eligible to play for him this coming season.  Gary Parrish seems to think that Calipari has convinced himself of such a fiction, although he’s quick to say that he doesn’t have any proof to the contrary either (sounds a lot like #1).  Turns out that very few coaches Parrish knows and has talked to about this ever thought that Kanter would be eligible to play college ball (even before Kanter signed with UK).  That seems reasonable enough to us.
  5. What do you guys think — will UNC bounce back strong this year after a disastrous (for them) 20-17 NIT season?  Some of the problems the Heels had last year, such as spotty point guard play and a lot of tall but soft players inside, are still there.  Adding a superstar like Harrison Barnes to the lineup won’t solve those specific issues.  Will Roy Williams have the magic touch to get his team back to the NCAA Tournament as he’s done in every season he’s coached but one?  The smart money is that he’ll find a way, but unless Larry Drew II and/or Dexter Strickland suddenly transform into  reasonable facsimiles of Ed Cota, Ray Felton or Ty Lawson, we’re not sure that this team is any better than a borderline top 25 team.  Are we wrong?
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Morning Five: 08.19.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 19th, 2010

  1. A recent report by the AP determined that even though most states have laws on the books to prohibit unethical dealings between agents and athletes, enforcement in most places is almost nil.  Texas is the one state that seems serious about the problem, having taken disciplinary action against 31 agents in the last two years.  Twenty-four states, however, have yet to discipline a single agent in the decade since the Uniform Athletes Agent Act (UAAA) was passed in those jurisdictions.  We’d like to say that we’re surprised by this, but we’re not — local prosecutors are strapped enough in dealing with violent criminals and con artists to worry about the occasional dirty agent.  This is one reason why we’re pleasantly hopeful about the NCAA’s expansion of its basketball enforcement team.  It remains to be seen, though, if this will actually have an impact.
  2. Miami (FL) forward Adrian Thomas achieved the rarest of NCAA approvals yesterday, a sixth year of eligibility.  He suffered consecutive years of season-ending injuries in 2007 and 2008 after only four games each time, so the NCAA did the right thing here and will allow him to have a true senior campaign.  This is a pleasant occurrence for Frank Haith’s team, as Thomas is expected to be a key contributor again this season.  He averaged 7/3 and shot an ACC-best 42% from long range in 22 MPG last season.
  3. VCU head coach Shaka Smart received a two-year extension that will keep him at the school through the 2015-16 season.  Smart, one of the nation’s youngest head coaches (he’s 33), took the Rams to a 27-9 record and the championship of the CBI in his first season at the helm.  It helps to have had a first-rounder in Larry Sanders anchoring the post, but most everyone believes that Smart, an all-USA Today academic team award winner in 1999, will continue to live up to his name.
  4. UNC received some surprising recruiting news earlier this week when Jackson Simmons, a 6’7 forward from Sylva, NC, in the class of 2011, turned down scholarship offers from Davidson, Charlotte and Old Dominion to walk on at his dream school.  We have to give it up for the youngster in terms of his due diligence, as he cited as examples several previous Roy Williams walk-ons who worked their way up to scholarships at both UNC and Kansas (Jerod Haase, Wes Miller, CB McGrath).
  5. ESPN announced its Super Tuesday schedule for the 2010-11 season, and as always, with the release of more and more actual game matchups, our excitement meter ticks another notch upward.  Best ST of the season — we’re going with January 25.  A strong Florida team visits a surprising Georgia squad in Athens, followed by a top-five Purdue team going into Columbus to face an excellent Buckeye team.  Your schedule is below.

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Morning Five: 08.16.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 16th, 2010

  1. Former Oklahoma State head coach Sean Sutton pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors in Stillwater, Oklahoma, as a result of his February arrest for possession of painkillers without a prescription.  Sutton recently spent 115 days in a rehab program in Sundance, Utah, and will face no jail time for his three-year probation period so long as he stays clean, pays a $2,850 fine and performs 100 hours of community service.  In an interview prior to the hearing last week, Sutton stated that the down time in the two years since he was forced out at OSU contributed to his addiction: “Idle time is no good for anybody.”   Texas head coach Rick Barnes, for one, doesn’t think Sutton’s coaching days are over.  Of course, his father, 800-game winner Eddie Sutton, has had his own demons with alcohol addiction over the years.  Let’s hope both Suttons have put those days behind them.
  2. Kentucky fans filled a tiny gymnasium in Windsor, Ontario, on Sunday night, as John Calipari’s 2010-11 team played the first of a three-game set in Canada to break in the many new faces wearing Wildcat blue next season.  We mentioned UNC freshman Harrison Barnes blowing up in the Bahamas last week; well, Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight made sure that we remembered his prodigious talents as well.  Knight’s line:  31 pts, 9 rebs, 4 assts with ZERO turnovers in 29 minutes of action.  Let the hero-worship begin.
  3. Connecticut requested and received an additional two weeks to respond to the eight NCAA alleged rules violations meted out by the governing body in May.  The new deadline will be September 3, which means that the compliance folks in Storrs may actually get to enjoy Labor Day weekend.  The Hartford Courant interviewed several experts to give readers a sense as to how the school may respond.   The general consensus is that UConn should show that it takes the charges seriously and can police itself; anything short of that may give the NCAA cause to bring the hammer down.
  4. Ohio State center Zisis Sarikopoulos is reportedly on the verge of signing a professional contract with a team in his native Greece, which could impact Thad Matta’s inside depth next season.  Sarikopoulos was expected to provide spot minutes for returnee Dallas Lauderdale and incoming stud Jared Sullinger, but OSU may be without that option in a matter of days if this is true.
  5. Memphis is heading to the Bahamas this week, but three of their newcomers won’t be making the trip as a result of eligiblity issues with the NCAA.  According to Dan Wolken at the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, the trio of Will Barton, Hippolyte Tsafack and Chris Crawford still have to be cleared by the NCAA before they will be allowed to play.  Barton is appealing the NCAA’s denial of his eligibility, while Tsafack and Crawford are still waiting to hear on their initial review.   In an unrelated personal issue, Jelan Kendrick is also not making the trip because he needed to head home to Atlanta.  Not a good way to start the season for Josh Pastner’s crew.
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Memphis’ Barton Will Not Be Eligible Next Season

Posted by rtmsf on August 5th, 2010

Josh Pastner’s hopes in bringing Memphis back to national prominence in the 2010-11 season took a major hit with the reported news on Wednesday evening that  one of his first five-star recruits, 6’6 wing Will Barton from Baltimore, Maryland, is unlikely to be academically eligible this year.  According to several sources, the issue befalling Barton relates to the fact that he attended four high schools in four years (an automatic red-flag for the NCAA eligibility center) and may not have completed the NCAA-mandated eight semesters of coursework.  He plans to appeal the decision, but he’s going to have trouble meeting the criteria required by the NCAA as his transcript has been referred to as a “total mess” by Gary Parrish (based in Memphis).  Barton must see the writing on the wall, as he has already tweeted out his feelings on the matter:

The obvious answers to his question about where to go from here are threefold: the NBDL, Europe, or stick around Memphis in the Renardo Sidney mold and try to play in 2011-12.  Although few draft sites have Barton as a potential first or second-rounder in next year’s NBA Draft, there has been talk of him becoming a one-and-done player; but as Sidney well knows, scouts don’t like it much when they can’t see players in live-game conditions for a year.  The NBDL and Europe are fraught with their own specific risks.  We certainly wish him well, but it doesn’t appear that he will be playing college basketball at Memphis next year, or possibly ever.

As for the Tigers, the loss of Barton, expected to fill in at the shooting guard position for the departed Elliot Williams, is a significant blow to a team that returns only a handful of regulars from last year’s 24-10 NIT team.  Among last year’s starters, only forwards Wesley Witherspoon and Will Coleman return, so much was expected from a star-studded recruiting class (#2 behind Kentucky) that included Barton and other guards Jelan Kendrick, Chris Crawford and Joe Jackson.  Obviously the remaining freshmen will need to step up, but Pastner has a difficult job ahead of him putting the pieces together if he hopes to have his team dancing next March.  There is plenty of talent available to him, but will there be enough lace-em-up talent with the loss of Barton to get the Tigers past UTEP and Southern Miss in Conference USA?

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