Morning Five: 10.15.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 15th, 2013

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  1. It’s October 15, the traditional date of Midnight Madness, and although nobody to our knowledge is honoring Lefty Driesell by meeting at the campus track and running a six-minute mile illuminated by car headlights at each turn, the feeling is still pretty much the same — college basketball is nearby. This Friday night will feature the annual ESPNU Midnight Madness coverage of a number of prominent schools holding their celebrations, and a mere 21 days later we’ll jump right into the opening games of the season. Despite all that, the unknown is still more interesting than the known to many people, which explains why recruiting chatter and hype dominate the headlines  and social media. The biggest news on this year’s Columbus Day? Class of 2015 superstar forward Ben Simmons, coveted by every major program in America including Duke and Kentucky, verbally committed to LSU. As The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg explains in his background piece, Simmons’ commitment to a school that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2009 makes more sense with the knowledge that Simmons’ godfather/LSU assistant coach, David Patrick, played overseas basketball with his father in Australia and the families are apparently quite close. Regardless of the reasons for the commitment, LSU’s Johnny Jones is loading up on talent, especially in the frontcourt.
  2. Patrick, an Australian himself, was the primary link to a number of Aussie stars (including Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova) that he recruited to play for his former employer, Saint Mary’s College, in Moraga, California. Although he was not personally implicated in any wrongdoing during his three years as an assistant coach there, the NCAA found that the program had committed several recruiting violations and slapped the school with a four-year “failure to monitor” probation last spring. As a result, the Gaels’ head coach, Randy Bennett, received a five-game suspension along with a one-year off-campus recruiting restriction, and those penalties were upheld on appeal Monday by the Infractions Committee. During Bennet’s nearly two-week layoff, which will begin in late December and include the first Gonzaga game in Spokane, he will not be allowed to perform any basketball-related activities whatsoever. Can you imagine a Type A personality like Bennett taking a midseason vacation? The NCAA should seriously consider putting an ankle monitor on him during those days.
  3. Wiggins, Wiggins, Wiggins. Remember the hype we mentioned above? Well, after a week that featured the precocious 18-year old as a Sports Illustrated cover boy in an effort to introduce him to America as the Next. Big. Thing., everybody else is now talking and writing about Andrew Wiggins. Even LeBron James got into the act, telling Rock Chalk Blog before a preseason game in Kansas City over the weekend that his best advice for Wiggins is simply to “live in the present.” For a far more thoughtful analysis of Wiggins’ identity and game, TSN‘s Mike DeCourcy has that covered. It’s a well-deserved read to better understand the young phenom, especially given the notion that Wiggins revealed “his true identity a half-dozen times or so each afternoon with a sequence that perhaps only three people on the planet are capable of executing.” Wow. Finally, Grantland chimes in with a piece from Corban Gable called “Livin’ for Wiggins,” a fan manifesto that attempts to outline how one excitable Jayhawker prone to hyperventilation is going to make it through this season. Hey, whatever works, so long as his boss Simmons stays away from college basketball.
  4. The next huge thing doesn’t just apply to teenagers in sports; it sometimes also figures in the management and administrative components of the games we love. Anybody who has marked the meteoric rises of successful young coaches like Brad Stevens, Shaka Smart and Josh Pastner knows that. Myron Medcalf from ESPN.com writes that with these coaches’ continued success, many administrators, especially at mid-major schools, are becoming less hesitant in pulling the trigger on 30-something candidates who show that they really know and can teach the game. It actually makes a good deal of sense. As he notes, recruiting 365 days a year takes a tremendous amount of attention and energy, something that younger coaches have in spades. But truthfully, this should surprise nobody who works in the business world, a similarly cutthroat environment where strong quantitative and analytical skills combined with greater sophistication with technology give the young guys a leg up on many of their older colleagues.
  5. The AP reported on Monday that the SEC will announce later today that it plans on making Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena its “primary” site for the annual SEC Tournament. The tourney will bounce back and forth between Nashville and several other cities (Atlanta, Tampa and Saint Louis) over the next seven years, but from 2021-26 the Music City will hold exclusive ownership over the event. We’ll have more on this later today, but there’s no question that Nashville’s geographic location nearest the five northern SEC schools that take basketball the most seriously has something to do with this decision. The Big Blue Behemoth is merely three hours to the northeast, and both Tennessee schools along with Missouri and Arkansas also do a good job supporting basketball. This is a win from both a competitive and financial standpoint.
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Morning Five: 09.25.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 25th, 2013

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  1. Yesterday we mentioned that SI.com‘s Andy Glockner was brewing up a firestorm with his series of articles ranking the top 20 current programs in college basketball. Such an endeavor has two verifiable truths: first, everyone loves lists; second, everyone loves to rip lists. With that in mind (and he’s well aware of those truths), his honorable mentions came out Monday, followed by his rankings of programs from #16 to #20 on Tuesday. In order, let’s welcome Gonzaga, Illinois, Michigan, Georgetown and Texas to the top 20. Of this group, we’re having the most trouble with the Illinois pick at #19. The Illini had a renaissance season under the tutelage of new head coach John Groce last year, but spent most of the previous five years struggling to regain its national relevance of the early-to-mid 2000s. We realize of course that Glockner is using historical and other qualitative metrics to make these determinations, but we probably would have had Pittsburgh, Marquette, Xavier and several others ahead of the Illini. Still, that’s nitpicky. What will really make or break this list will be how Glockner handles the top five (and the fans of the four runners-up will let him know it!). We’re excited to see the next group released later today.
  2. As more and more people marry themselves to the idea that college football and basketball players are being exploited by their schools and the NCAA, we’ll continue to see analyses like one from Business Insider published on Tuesday. Their methodology for determining the fair market value of players at the top 25 revenue-producing football schools is quite simple, probably overly simple — just multiply football revenue by 47 percent (per the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with its players), then divide by the number of scholarships (85). What BI found mimics the numbers we’ve seen elsewhere — at the richest athletic schools such as Texas, Alabama and Michigan, college football players are worth roughly a half-million dollars each annually in value. The same analysis is also easy enough to do for college basketball players. Louisville‘s hoops revenue of $42.4 million in 2012 is divided in half given the NBA’s rough 50/50 split with the players, leaving $21.2 million to be split 13 ways. The result: a Cardinals’ basketball player is worth $1.63 million to the university (if you buy into this methodology). This is the mistake that many of these gridiron-centric analyses don’t realize — while it’s definitely true that football provides more aggregate revenue to the schools, the players in college basketball are individually much more valuable. If you want to make the point most strongly, which is the better headline? Texas football players are worth a half-million each; or Louisville basketball players are worth three times that much?
  3. While on the subject of football powers, the NCAA announced yesterday that Penn State would regain some of the football scholarships it lost as a result of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. In announcing the removal of those sanctions, the NCAA recognized that the school had made great efforts to change its culture of abuse but NCAA president Mark Emmert made it clear that other schools shouldn’t expect a reduction in their own penalties. That’s too bad, writes The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg, who outlines four major recent (and fixable) misfires by the NCAA, two of which were focused on men’s basketball. The most well-known example, of course, was the NCAA’s “strict liability” punishment on Memphis for playing Derrick Rose in the 2007-08 season, even though the NCAA Clearinghouse had deemed him eligible to play before that season. The other is far less recognizable, involving the NCAA’s decision to rule that Old Dominion’s Donte Hill was ineligible for his senior season because he played eight minutes in a closed-door preseason scrimmage against Clemson back in 2010. We’re quite sure that we could probably come up with a dozen more of these if we spent the time on it, but Eisenberg’s list is a good place to start. It wouldn’t hurt the NCAA to consider more reductions (or commutation) of sentences based on additional facts, precedents and behaviors.
  4. What’s a Final Four appearance worth to an MVC school like Wichita State? We’ll have to wait for the Business Insider analysis on that one, but it’s at least worth around $600,000 to its head coach, Gregg Marshall. The university announced his new salary on Tuesday, with a base of $1.6 million that kicks in this November and another raise to $1.75 million that begins next April. The long-underrated head coach will move into the top 25 or so highest-paid college basketball coaches as a result of this raise, which is a substantial financial commitment for a school living outside the Power Six or Seven hoops leagues. But Final Four appearances at schools like Wichita State tend to result in ironclad job security.
  5. Believe it or not, but with the new practice rules in effect this season, schools will actually begin suiting up for real, live, full-on practices this Friday. As in 48 hours from now. One of the players who will definitely be there to play post-practice games of HORSE with his teammates is Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson. As reported by Gary Parrish at CBSSports.com, Andy Kennedy expects the all-SEC shooting guard to be on the floor Friday. The controversial shooting guard reportedly failed multiple drug tests and spent much of the offseason “suspended” from the team, whatever that means, but let’s be honest with ourselves here. There aren’t all that many name-brand players who pass through Oxford, Mississippi — especially in roundball — so there was not much of a question as to whether Henderson would suit up this year.
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The RTC Offseason Podcast: August Doldrums Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 19th, 2013

August is arguably the deadest month of the college basketball calendar, but that didn’t stop the crew from putting together an RTC Offseason Podcast to review the last six or seven weeks of news since the NBA Draft went down in late June. Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) came out of his summer hibernation to serve as our host, and the guys took on the topics of Division 4, what defines success for an NBA coach and whether summer basketball is roughly as relevant to future success as preseason football (full timeline below). We’ll be back in late September as we start to truly gear up for the 2013-14 season. See you then!

  • 0:00-12:25 – The Future of the NCAA
  • 12:25-20:07 – Butler sans Brad Stevens
  • 20:07-24:39 – Never-ending PJ Hairston Saga
  • 24:39-27:04 – Summer International Tournaments – News or Noise?
  • 27:04-32:48 – ESPN Tip Off Marathon
  • 32:48-43:08 – ESPN Gameday Schedule/wrap
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Morning Five: 06.06.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 6th, 2013

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  1. College basketball’s worst kept secret became official late Wednesday night, as Missouri’s Michael Dixon, apparently the Teflon Don of sexual assault allegations in Columbia, announced via Twitter that he was transferring to Memphis. As we discussed in yesterday’s piece addressing the rumors of his transfer, Dixon brings a very interesting combination of talent and experience to a Tigers team desperately in need of some heady play to supplement the occasional wildness of returnees Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford. The question of whether Dixon will ever suit up with those two rising seniors, though, will be for the NCAA to decide, as he plans to request a waiver after already sitting out last season at Missouri. His argument will hinge on the Dez Wells exception, a unique and slightly different scenario where Wells was expelled from Xavier over a sexual assault allegation that even local prosecutors found completely unsubstantiated. Of course, Wells was ultimately allowed to play last season at Maryland, where he blossomed into one of the ACC’s most dangerous wings, and whether Dixon will receive the same treatment from the sport’s governing body may involve determinations on guilt or innocence that it is simply unprepared or unwilling to make. If he is allowed to suit up as a Tiger of the Memphis variety next season, though, Josh Pastner’s team suddenly becomes a lot more interesting on the national stage. 
  2. Speaking of that stage, one of the biggest and best national events in the early weeks of the season is the Jimmy V Classic. Next season’s pair of match-ups have now been finalized, and Memphis in fact will be one of those teams featured. The Tigers will take on a top 10 outfit in Florida in the nightcap, while fellow AAC member Cincinnati will battle new ACC institution Pittsburgh in the undercard. Did you get all that? It’s AAC vs. ACC, and AAC vs. SEC. If Dixon is cleared to play next season, the backcourt battles between he and Crawford versus Kasey Hill and Scottie Wilbekin will be fun to watch.
  3. Remember Julie Roe Lach, the former VP of NCAA enforcement who was fired in February related to a series of missteps that occurred under her watch, but most notably the ethical misconduct stemming from the Nevin Shapiro case at Miami (FL)? She resurfaced on Wednesday with an op-ed piece published at Yahoo! Sports giving her take on how the NCAA should operate its enforcement initiatives. It reads lawyerly, but if you can get past the tone and dryness of it, she makes several good points. From her perspective, the NCAA needed to accomplish three primary things with respect to its enforcement process: 1) make penalties against schools harsh enough to deter the risk/reward mindset; 2) shorten the length of its investigations; 3) in revenue sports, instill a valid fear in personnel of getting caught. As she writes in the article, the organization was moving steadfastly in that direction when the Shapiro case and subsequent media firestorm it entailed derailed the focus of the organization. Unfortunately for her, the piece has something of an air of desperation about it — even though Lach’s points are well-sourced and make sense, she won’t be taken seriously by either the media or the NCAA at this point. It’s worth a read, but what the organization now needs is the next general — a Lach without a reputation — who will carry the flag forward without the taint of scandal enveloping his every word.
  4. One of the NCAA initiatives of the past several years that we’ve gotten fully behind is the Academic Progress Rate (APR). Notwithstanding the fact that schools can game the numbers with bogus classes and coursework to increase their APR scores — baby steps — it still provides some degree of academic accountability where there was little before. And it has some teeth, as Connecticut found out the very hard way last season. So kudos to 2013 national champion Louisville, which was one of only 35 men’s basketball teams to score in the top tier of schools (scoring 978 or above) in the most recent APR cycle (covering academic years 2009-12). The entire top 10 percent list that the NCAA highlights as part of its “Public Recognition Awards” is located here. The biggest surprise on the list this year? It has to be Memphis, although Alabama men’s basketball and football clearly show that the army of tutors and student-athlete assistants in Tuscaloosa are very good at their jobs.
  5. We didn’t mention Indiana in the previous blurb, but we easily could have, as Tom Crean has taken a program that was scoring in the 800s to one that is at the very top of Division I men’s basketball on the APR nowadays (Will the Hoosiers print up commemorative t-shirts? Too easy.). But one IU player is not only receiving academic accolades, he’s also still getting lauded for his work on the court last year. The Tulsa Sports Charities organization has named Hoosiers wing Victor Oladipo as its 2013 recipient of the Eddie Sutton Tustenegee Award, an honor “presented annually to a college basketball player who best exhibits the traits of tenacity and unselfishness that Sutton advocated during a coaching career that landed him in the College Basketball Hall of Fame.” In a year when the race was fairly wide open among a group of about five players, we like to see the love spread around a bit. Good for Oladipo, probably the best player on both ends of the floor last season.
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Morning Five: 05.09.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 9th, 2013

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  1. As CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Goodman reported yesterday, the NCAA Rules Committee is meeting in Indianapolis this week and as of now it appears unlikely that the governing body will recommend a change to the 35-second shot clock. Given that scoring has reached its lowest point in over a half-century of college hoops, many have been clamoring for the pace of the game to increase through a shortened clock. What those rabble-rousers of course fail to realize is that because of advanced scouting and technology, defensive strategies are vastly more robust than they were even 10, or certainly 20 or more years ago. The game is also significantly younger than it was when the shot clock was first introduced, which creates a likely devil’s potion of unintended consequences whereby a shortened clock will simply lead to more rushed (read: ugly) possessions that will not at all improve the overall level of play across the game. Good on the NCAA to recognize this and keep the wolves at bay. Some of the other anticipated rules changes are to mimic the NBA’s achievement in using the monitors at the end of games to get possession, time and score calls correct, while also placing a much-needed emphasis on the removal of hand-checking and bumping on cuts through the lane. Hopefully these measures will help to make the game a bit more free-flowing, because the NBA’s product right now in that regard is fantastic and the collegians could stand to learn from it.
  2. The match-ups for the 15th annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge were released yesterday and everyone is giving their takes on which games stand out as the best. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of next year’s event, of course, is that the three new ACC schools — Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame — will be a part of the action next December 3-4. The Orange will take on Indiana in a rematch game from this year’s Sweet Sixteen; the Panthers will host rising program Penn State in a Keystone State battle; and, Notre Dame will travel to Iowa to face another Big Ten team hoping for big things next season. As for longtime ACC teams Wake Forest, Clemson and Virginia Tech? Welcome to your new reality — there are three newer and prettier girls moving to town. For what it’s worth, the Big Ten has won three of the last four events, with last year ending up as a 6-6 tie.
  3. The national runner-up, Michigan, will travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium in the marquee game of the first night of the Challenge, which brings back great memories of the days when Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and the Fab Five would knock antlers with Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill and the rest down in Durham two decades ago. While on the subject of Michigan’s most famous player, Webber’s 10-year ban from association with UM as part of his punishment for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars while in school there, is now over. Technically, this means that if Michigan someday wants to honor him with a jersey retirement ceremony or some other shrine in Crisler Arena, they will be allowed to do so. Whether Webber ultimately wants something like that is open for debate — he’s reportedly remained very cool in his relationship with the university (and some argue that he’s right to be angry) — but it says here that Webber is a sensitive guy who was very hurt by many of the things said about him within the Michigan community, but as evidenced by his attendance at the National Championship game last month, he’ll never stop loving the school that made him famous. He’ll be honored there within the next five years.
  4. By now everyone knows and has an opinion on the mercurial rise of wunderkind head coach Andy Enfield from Florida Gulf Coast to USC. Now that he’s been on the job for a few weeks in Troy, the New York Times caught up with him to see how he’s handling the transition from the low-density glare of Fort Myers, Florida, to the red-hot limelight of Hollywood. No stranger to hard work, Enfield has been putting in 16-hour days getting organized in everything from recruiting strategies to travel plans, all from the relatively comfortable haven of his nearby Raddisson hotel room. As the article notes, the Fighting Enfields are already focusing very hard on dominating the Los Angeles talent scene, a sentiment that is going to be very interesting with Steve Alford just a few miles away in his new digs mapping out the very same plan. USC may not ever become a basketball school, but there’s really no excuse for it to be awful, either. Enfield might just be the guy to make USC basketball relevant again.
  5. SI.com‘s Andy Glockner has been beating this drum for a while now, but we’re not sure he’s ever done so outside the conversation-friendly auspices of Twitter. The idea? A college basketball Champions League arrangement, first espoused by Bylaw Blog‘s John Infante, which would essentially use the non-conference friendly months of November and December to create non-stop excitement by crafting big game after big game between talented teams before heading into the heart of conference season and, ultimately, March Madness. We’re not smart enough with respect to the nuances of the Champions League format to determine whether this sort of thing might be feasible, but if the ultimate goal is to improve the game as a whole through more compelling match-ups when most sports fans are generally only worried about football, then we’re all for it. Glockner does an excellent job explaining how the pairings would work as well as rebutting some of the arguments that are sure to arise — it’s well worth a read and some consideration.
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Morning Five: 03.07.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 7th, 2013

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  1. The beauty of advanced quantitative analysis in sports is that, when done correctly, it can validate things that you already inherently know. Trey Burke as the best player in America? It sure felt like it while we were watching him lead Michigan past Kansas and Florida on the way to the Final Four. Rick Pitino as the best coach going right now? Considering how his Louisville Cardinals were essentially the same cast of characters from a surprise 2012 Final Four run and became recognizably better on the offensive end (especially out of timeouts) in 2013? Sure seems like it. Of course, there are limitations — Florida rated tops in KenPom’s efficiency ratings for most of the season, but the Gators were merely a good team filled with good players, not a great one. SI.com‘s Luke Winn keeps us interested by doing what only he has proven he can do — sifting through terabytes of efficiency data and video clips to come up with his second annual Data-Based Coaching/Player Awards. Lots of good information in the piece, but perhaps the neatest has to be his quantification of Oregon’s Arsalan Kazemi as the nation’s best all-around defender. 
  2. Speaking of Pitino, the guy continues to get a surplus of positive press in the wake of his second national title. Several outlets had a Pitino/Kentucky Derby story coming out of the weekend, but ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil wrote the quintessential story about the man she calls “the Derby King.” The crux of the story is that regardless of whether Pitino’s horse “Goldencents” finished first, 10th, 17th or somewhere behind the barns in Saturday’s Derby, the 60-year old tattooed grandfather owns the town of Louisville and everything in it. Including Millionaire’s Row. It’s not the kind of read you see much of anymore in the instant-gratification world of online writing, but that makes it even more worth your time.
  3. This news is circumstantial and ultimately may not mean anything at all, but the possibility that it could mean something is really disturbing given recent events. Dennis Dodd at CBSSports.com reported on Wednesday that Missouri head coach Frank Haith has filed a petition in federal court to determine how the NCAA got its hands on what appears to be microfiche copies of his personal bank records. According to the report, some of Haith’s Bank of America records were voluntarily turned over as part of the NCAA’s investigation into the Nevin Shapiro violations at his former school, Miami, but those records did not include the more detailed microfiche copies which Haith seems to believe that the NCAA has in its possession. The gigantic elephant in the room, of course, is that the NCAA already admitted missteps in this case by offering payment to certain witnesses for testimony, but an as-yet unfounded assertion that the organization may have illegally solicited bank records to bolster its case could set off yet another firestorm surrounding the organization. Stay tuned on this one.
  4. If there’s one thing we love about college sports, it’s when former stars come back into the fold as a coach at their alma mater. The Arizona Star-Republic reported on Monday that “Mighty Mouse,” former Arizona star and current Memphis assistant, Damon Stoudamire, is returning to Tucson to join Sean Miller’s staff as an assistant there. For those who don’t remember him at Arizona, he was a three-time all-Pac-10 guard, an All-American in 1995, and, along with backcourt mate Khalid Reeves, led the Wildcats to Lute Olson’s second Final Four in 1994. He’ll fit in great on Miller’s staff, focusing on work with the guards, a role he has fulfilled with Josh Pastner the last couple of seasons.
  5. One other significant coming and going from Monday was out of Florida, as the second Gator in a week announced his transfer out of the program. Last week it was freshman Braxton Ogbueze who say the writing on the wall with two top 10 recruits and Rutgers transfer Eli Carter entering the program; this week it is Devon Walker, a freshman wing who saw just a handful of minutes in 25 contests this season. The Gators are coming off three straight Elite Eight appearances, but none of those three teams were loaded with NBA talent (Bradley Beal’s freshman year was the lone exception). With Kasey Hill and Chris Walker both headed to Gainesville next season, though, the Gators could actually boast more elite talent in 2013-14 than it has the last several years.
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Ben McLemore Allegations More Fodder For a Monotously Grating Debate

Posted by Chris Johnson on May 6th, 2013

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

Maybe the most important question is, “is anyone even the least bit surprised?”

That was the first thought that jostled around my frontal lobe after reading Eric Prisbell’s expose in Saturday’s USA Today detailing St. Louis-area AAU Coach Darius Cobb’s admission to receiving multi-thousand cash payments and free-expenses paid trips in exchange for perceived influence and access to Kansas star and likely top-three NBA draft pick Ben McLemore. Cobb reportedly met with various sports agents and financial advisers looking to steer McLemore to the professional ranks after his redshirt freshman season. Even a cursory knowledge of NCAA protocol would lead you to make the following conclusion without much in the way of deep introspective thought: An investigation of Kansas’, and by extension McLemore’s, alleged impropriety could result in the Jayhawks not only losing their Big 12 title and Sweet Sixteen appearance, but having its entire 2012-13 season expunged from NCAA historical accounting. Everything McLemore touched during his college career could be in danger of sheer obliteration. There would be protest and angst and complaints. It would get ugly.

The NCAA ultimately may not be able to find any wrongdoing on behalf of Kansas or McLemore (Getty Images).

The NCAA ultimately may not be able to find any wrongdoing on behalf of Kansas or McLemore (Getty Images).

Or maybe it won’t: thanks to some quick analysis on the matter at hand from John Infante, the internet’s resident NCAA bylaw expert and author of the famous Bylaw Blog, a completely blood-free resolution of the case seems entirely plausible, even historically prudent. Kansas can look through the superficial ugliness of its star freshman shooting guard and nefarious AAU-circuit go-betweens and financial impropriety, yearn for a punishment-free future and not feel totally nervous about the whole thing. The NCAA, as is all too often the case in high-profile impermissible benefits cases (and as was made glaringly evident in the resolution of the Lance Thomas jewelry fiasco), has no legal means by which to force Cobb, alleged McLemore-invested runner Rodney Blackstock or even McLemore himself, now that he’s declared for the NBA Draft, to discuss his muddy past. The only looming repercussion is if Cobb or Blackstock qualifies as an “agent,” which could very well be the case under the NCAA’s new expansive definition, or – as Infante details in much greater and clearer nuance – if McLemore is proven to have had knowledge and willing acceptance of Blackstock’s (or whoever else was involved) services.

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Morning Five: 05.06.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 6th, 2013

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  1. The NCAA approved legislation on Friday that will allow the first official practices to start two weeks earlier next fall, essentially meaning that we might see Midnight Madness events tipping off in late September rather than the usual mid-October commencement date. The rule allows for 30 days of team practices over a 42-day window, backing up from the date of the first regular season games of the season (next year: November 8). While we’re fully in support of more preseason practice time so that teams have sufficient opportunity to field a good product during the marquee early events, we’re not sold on the idea of having a bunch of Midnight Madnesses while college football is still getting under way, the NFL is only three weeks into its season and the MLB playoffs haven’t even begun yet. It’s not the worst thing in the world if college basketball fans are getting excited about Big Blue Madness, Late Night With Roy, and the rest, for a sliver of a crowded September sports schedule, but if we had been the NCAA, we may have written a clause into the draft that allows for the earlier practice time while mandating that public events cannot go off until the usual mid-October date. 
  2. This article from the LA Times‘ Bill Plaschke isn’t a college basketball piece, per se, but it does start and end with examples relating to the sport. The topic is the difficulty of head coaching positions in the Los Angeles sports scene, and UCLA men’s basketball in particular is featured prominently. He cites the fact that there’s already a Facebook page dedicated to firing new Bruins’ head coach Steve Alford, and of course he makes time to mention former head coach Ben Howland’s three Final Fours during his decade in Westwood. The restlessness that appears to infect the LA sports and entertainment scene is probably not much different than anywhere else — perhaps a bit more hyperactive there because of the importance of style over substance — but Plaschke is absolutely correct when he notes that a certain former head coach went a phenomenal 16 seasons before “finally” winning the first of his 10 national championships. No doubt if John Wooden had coached in today’s era of immediate expectations and returns, he may not have ever gotten the chance to make his unprecedented run.
  3. We’ll have more on this topic later today, but news from USA Today‘s Eric Prisbell over the weekend suggests that the former AAU coach of former Kansas star Ben McLemore took money and benefits from an agent named Rodney Blackstock in an effort to “deliver” the possible overall top draft pick to him. The report revealed three regular season KU games where Blackstock received a complimentary guest pass from McLemore, but as is so often true in these situations, it’s nearly impossible to prove the player or the school knew any such impropriety as alleged by the coach actually occurred. As Gary Parrish at CBSSports.com points out, the NCAA could use Bylaw 12.3.1.2 to declare McLemore ineligible based on what it already knows, but to do so flies in the face of what it just concluded in the Lance Thomas/Duke situation, and begs the tried-and-true question of whether schools should be held responsible for things it simply cannot control in this messed-up system that exists well outside the reach of the NCAA. Gregg Doyel makes a similar argument in this piece, taking the tack that whether we’re talking about the possible ineligibility of Marcus Camby, Derrick Rose or McLemore, the head coach shouldn’t be held responsible unless, you know, he actually had knowledge of, or should have had knowledge of, the events that caused the ineligibility in the first place. Makes sense, right?
  4. There was one notable transfer over the weekend, as Western Michigan’s Darius Paul, the MAC Freshman of the Year last season after averaging 10/6 for the Broncos, tweeted that he would transfer to Illinois after attending older brother Brandon’s postseason awards banquet. He had several high-major offers on the table, but it is becoming clear that John Groce’s fun playing style feeds into a recruiting strategy focused on bringing in a healthy mix of talented freshmen and successful mid-major transfers such as Paul, Illinois State’s Jon Ekey, Seton Hall’s Aaron Cosby, and several others. Paul will sit out next season per NCAA rules but will be ready to contribute in the post for the Illini beginning in 2014-15.
  5. Rick Pitino has had a pretty good spring, but he didn’t add Kentucky Derby champion to his list of 2013 accomplishments. The horse in which Pitino owns a five percent stake, Goldencents, had some trouble getting early traction in the Saturday evening race at Churchill Downs before easing up down the stretch to finish in 17th place. Still, we’re certain that simply having quite literally a horse in the race was good enough for Pitino in this event, as the 60-year old has spent his entire life chasing basketball rather than race track glory. SI.com‘s Pete Thamel interviewed Pitino in this piece that published Friday, and it’s abundantly clear that the two-time national championship head coach thinks he has a great shot at doing it again in 2014.d
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Morning Five: 05.01.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 1st, 2013

morning5

  1. One of the problems with the NCAA is its stark lack of investigative power. Sometimes what is obvious to everyone cannot be properly investigated and proven because the organization is a private entity, and as such, does not possess subpoena power. In short, they can’t make people do much of anything that would help punish wrongdoers. They pretty much have to depend on folks stepping forward of their own volition or some kind of whistleblower situation where they are provided clear evidence of illicit activity. Enter Duke and Lance Thomas. Even though it is abundantly clear that Thomas received a loan for jewelry where it was unclear how he could pay for it while still enrolled at Duke, the NCAA was unable to get anybody — Thomas, the jeweler, his dog — to talk about the situation. No proof equals no violation, and if you follow it out to its logical conclusion, that means no negative consequences for Duke — especially for the 2010 national championship team (of which Thomas was a starter). Is it fair that such a clear NCAA violation is unprovable? At what point is it acceptable to apply a standard of strict liability where the preponderance of the evidence is greater than what can be proven? These are the kinds of questions that the NCAA really needs to clarify if it ever wants to be taken seriously by the media and public at large when it comes to these situations. Until then, people will continue to assume an agenda-driven basis for how it metes out punishment, and that’s never a good thing.
  2. The NBA Draft deadline was Sunday night and we here at RTC found time to release our post-deadline Top 25 yesterday. We weren’t the only ones. SI.com‘s Luke Winn came up with his post-deadline Power Rankings, and go figure, but our top four is exactly the same as his. Of course, the big difference is that you’ll learn more about TJ McConnell, Shabazz Napier, and Luke Hancock than you ever knew was possible. As we start to hit the long, dry desert of college basketball news from now until October, make sure you read this one as one of your jumping-off points into the summer.
  3. While on the subject of next season, ESPN.com‘s Fran Fraschilla gives us his take on what some of the more prominent returnees can improve their overall effectiveness next season. From probable preseaseon NPOY Doug McDermott to All-America candidates Jahii Carson, Glenn Robinson III, and Gary Harris, the ex-coach evaluates what these players need to do to maximize their collegiate careers. If you said that Carson needs to figure out his left hand, Robinson should understand screens better, and Harris needs to work on ball control, then you’re well on your way to working for the WWL someday.
  4. The last time a prominent player headed south from Rutgers to Florida, it worked out pretty well for the Gators. Mike Rosario headed to Gainesville two summers ago, and in the interim, he learned the difference between scoring and shooting, found that the game works a little better when he passes the ball on occasion, and became a much more effective and efficient all-around player in fewer minutes per game. Can lightning strike twice from New Jersey to Gainesville? Rutgers’ Eli Carter announced on Tuesday that he too was transferring to Florida, and the current Scarlet Knights gunner (14.9 PPG on 31.0% usage) is hoping to find the same uptick in his game after the transfer. Carter will face a similar backlog in backcourt talent but Billy Donovan has shown that he’s more than willing to give players like him a chance to succeed.
  5. And then there’s this from Lexingtonia. Ships passing, man; ships passing. Next year is going to be some kind of awesome.
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College Basketball By The Tweets: Champions Classic, #FREE Shabazz & UNC Cheating

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2012

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Aside from a great night of hoops at the Champions Classic, week two of the college basketball season was fairly tame, as hungry fans await the always entertaining Feast Week. There’s been a of talk lately about how college basketball is an eroding sport, but don’t tell that to Tim Brando, who was giving his undivided attention to the Champions Classic on Tuesday night.

https://twitter.com/TimBrando/status/268512307582226433

And Brando couldn’t be any more spot on, as the now annual event did not disappoint last Tuesday. Michigan State snuck past Kansas due to great late game execution on offense, while Duke’s experience was too much for Kentucky’s youth. A fantastic four hours of hoops.

Calipari, Duke & Flopping

The incident that sparked the most witty tweets this week? That would unquestionably be John Calipari‘s public indictment of Duke’s uncanny ability to flop around the basket. Cal dropped the zinger to Andy Katz while heading into the locker room at half time, when the Wildcats trailed the Blue Devils by two.

The tweets came in droves…

https://twitter.com/Mengus22/status/268557963688570880

https://twitter.com/BH_Orange44/status/268560524336324608

https://twitter.com/DanWolken/status/268562089164034049

Never one to back down, Coach K did not shy away from offering a response to Calipari during his post-game press conference.

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Who Won the Week? Exotic Locales and Terrapins…

Posted by rtmsf on November 9th, 2012

wonweek

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), an Oregon-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive anywhere to watch a basketball game.

WINNER: College basketball where you’d least expect it

Hangar 5 on Ramstein Air Base Is Today’s Game Site

One year after playing North Carolina on the USS Carl Vinson, Michigan State has found an even crazier place to play: Ramstein Air Force Base in Kaiserslautern, Germany. The Spartans will face a UConn team without Jim Calhoun as (full-time) head coach for the first time since Dom Perno led the Huskies in 1985-86. Two other games are copying Michigan State’s lead, as Marquette and Ohio State will play on the deck of the USS Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina, and Georgetown heads to Jacksonville to take on Florida on the USS Bataan amphibious assault ship. Sunday, Syracuse takes on San Diego State on the USS Midway, in the Orange’s first regular-season game in the Pacific Time Zone in more than a decade. As long as there’s a few ingenious ideas about new locations — and some enterprising tournament hosts looking to make some cash — this could become the next scheduling trend to rush through college basketball, much as exempt tournaments have over the last half-decade.

(Related losers: Fans whose home openers get put off a little while longer.)

LOSER: Scotty Wilbekin

The junior at Florida was set to seize a starting role with the departures of Bradley Beal and Erving Walker, but instead managed to land himself in coach Billy Donovan’s doghouse for an undisclosed team rules violation on the eve of the season. In his stead, shooting guard Kenny Boynton will slide over to ballhandling duties — where his shot selection has been spotty in the past — and once-heralded Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario will likely start at off guard. Off the bench, Wilbekin led the Gators with a 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio last season on a team that led the Southeastern Conference in the statistic. With significant scoring talent elsewhere on the court, Wilbekin’s distribution skills will be necessary throughout the year, and the Gators are a worse team without him.

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Who Won the Week? All of Us, Each of Us…

Posted by rtmsf on November 2nd, 2012

wonweek

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week (note: this week’s edition is abridged because, well, nothing has happened yet). The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), an Oregon-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive anywhere to watch a basketball game. 

Excitement is different in November. Kind of like March, everyone thinks they still have a shot at the title, but it’s more pure and innocent because nobody’s expectations have been tempered yet. More than 300 schools’ fans are thinking “This is going to be our year,” and most of them even believe it. We’re a week away from real basketball, and it’s time to debut our Winners and Losers of the Week, which will appear every Friday (life willing).

WINNER: All of Us, Each of Us

College Hoops is Back, and It’s Spectacular…

It’s college basketball season again, you guys! We get to celebrate our teams, our conferences, our sport — and if you’re reading this, we get to get in on the ground floor of the season. Come this time next week, we’ll all be engrossed in the first non-conference games of 2012-13. At least for a night, it won’t matter that there’s only one Top 25 matchup going on. We have our sport back.

(Related losers: NBA fans, because they’re missing out.)

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