Who Won the Week? Exotic Locales and Terrapins…

Posted by rtmsf on November 9th, 2012


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


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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Morning Five: Halloween Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 31st, 2012

  1. Today is the last day of the 10th month of the year, so that means it’s time to dust off your Mike Krzyzewski wig, grab your Jim Boeheim spectacles, and throw on your Bob Huggins track suit to head out into the sinister world of All Hallows’ Eve for tricks and treats. It also means, quite obviously, that tomorrow — the , not nearly as fun All Saint’s Day — is the first day of November, and that month is when we finally stop messing around and get down to the business of for-real college basketball again. Exhibition games and secret scrimmages are coming fast and furious right now, with Opening Night (live from Germany?) only nine days away now.
  2. Here’s a treat for your Halloween morn. For anyone who considers himself a student of the game-behind-the-game world of advanced metrics, Ken Pomeroy on Tuesday released his preseason rankings of all 347 Division I basketball teams. Much like Dan Hanner’s efficiency-driven rankings that we discussed in this space yesterday, Pomeroy throws some combination of returning talent plus incoming talent into the sausage maker to determine what comes out the other end (he explains his methodology here). He quite clearly states that he recognizes the weaknesses in his system at this point of the year, so he also wrote an article explaining the various outliers — teams that might appear too high (Kentucky, Ohio State, Wisconsin, etc.) or too low (NC State, Maryland, etc.) — in his initial rankings. Perhaps the biggest outlier left unexplained in the piece is Lousville — #8 in Pomeroy but #1 or #2 in most other human polls — it’s clear that his model isn’t ready to entrust the Cardinal offense with such rarefied status just yet (he ranks it #34 nationally in offensive efficiency).
  3. While on the subject of the Cards, how about some news about college basketball’s ultimate coaching trickster, Rick Pitino? The Louisville head coach has hinted at retirement for a number of years before backing off of that sentiment recently, but news Tuesday revealed that Pitino has agreed to a five-year contract extension that will ostensibly keep him on the sidelines of the school through the 2021-22 season. Can you imagine that the wandering-eye coach whom none other than Sports Illustrated once called ‘itinerant’ because of his frequent career moves is not only entering his 11th full season in the River City, but could potentially stay there for another nine years after that? In our mind’s eye, we’ll always associate Pitino as the Boy Wonder who resurrected Kentucky from the depths of probation, but he was only in Lexington for eight seasons before alighting to the riches of the NBA. It says here that Pitino will not rest until he gets another national title so that he can permanently disassociate from his rivals down the road in Lexington — this extension gives him at least 10 more shots at it.
  4. Here’s a treat to fans everywhere tired of the seemingly endless cat-and-mouse game between coaches performing illicit activities and the NCAA’s attempts to catch them. On Tuesday, despite hell or high water, one of Mark Emmert’s key initiatives was unanimously passed by the NCAA Board of Directors — the sweeping changes to the NCAA’s enforcement and punishment structure that will go into effect on August 1, 2013, are designed to hit programs and coaches directly where it hurts — by hurting their prestige and their bank accounts. Details are too numerous to list here, but the essential premise to the changes mimics a captain-of-the-ship liability theory. A head coach will be presumed to know (or should know) what’s going on in his program, and simply sticking his head in the sand and only popping up for practices and media appearances will not be enough to protect his skin or that of his program if illicit activity (boosters, impermissible benefits, academic fraud, etc.) is happening. On paper, this sounds great — but coaches will find the gray areas and the loopholes in short order, so strong enforcement techniques are absolutely essential to this initiative’s long-term success.
  5. Finally, let’s end the month with everyone’s favorite college basketball bogeyman. We mentioned a while back that Duke has implemented iPads into its practice and training protocols by loading up playbooks, scouting report information, video footage, and a number of other relevant items on each player’s device. The school on Tuesday announced that it had taken the next step in its data automation by contracting with a company that will provide each player with his individual PER (player efficiency rating) score immediately after each practice and game. Why does this matter? Well, one of the basic tenets of active learning is to provide immediate and direct feedback in real-time — while coaches can see a lot of things, they’re going to still miss quite a bit as 10 active bodies fly around the court. This mechanism, if it works as anticipated, will allow players to know precisely the areas where they did or did not excel immediately after leaving the court. Over time, the argument goes, their efficiency should improve, which begs the question for Pomeroy and Hanner, is there a bias for schools trying to teach for the so-called test? Good grief, Charlie Brown. Happy Halloween, everyone.
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Morning Five: 10.26.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2012

  1. Ignorance is no longer a defense. That’s the message that the NCAA is sending to its head basketball and football coaches around the country with its latest proposed legislation that requires much more accountability with respect to rules violations. The new regulations will go in place immediately, contingent upon its expected passage by the NCAA Board of Directors next Tuesday. In a nutshell, the key clause reads as such: “A head coach is presumed responsible for major/Level I and Level II violations (e.g., academic fraud, recruiting inducements) occurring within his or her program unless the coach can show that he or she promoted an atmosphere of compliance and monitored his or her staff.” Suspensions up to and including a full season are punitive options under these new guidelines. By this standard, Jim Calhoun could have (theoretically) been suspended for the improprieties that occurred on his watch in the Nate Miles fiasco a few years ago; or, John Calipari could have (theoretically) been suspended for Marcus Camby’s association with agents. It’s a rather powerful tool that places much more of the burden on the program CEOs to keep their houses in order, and although we haven’t seen the detail yet, it sounds like a step in the right direction.
  2. Recruiting is a bit of a blood sport, but if there’s one hard and fast truth that stands the test of time, it is this. Hot schools and coaches come and go like the tides, but no matter who is blowing up the recruiting trail at a given time, there are about 300 other coaches complaining about that coach’s tactics and/or unfair advantages. At yesterday’s SEC Media Day, Florida head coach Billy Donovan openly questioned whether ESPN’s All-Access show featuring rival Kentucky was acting as a “recruiting tool” and added that he didn’t think such an arrangement is “right.” By way of superb irony, it wasn’t all that long ago that coaches used to getting all the recruits were themselves wondering whether Billy the Kid’s recruiting tactics pushed beyond the norm. And you don’t have to scan the Internet very long to determine that other coaching perks that come with success — such as the ubiquitous Coach K/Amex commercials in March or his relationships with LeBron, Kobe and Durant on Team USA — are an unfair advantage. Sometimes we just wish the coaches would focus on improving their own teams and avoid the sewing circle nonsense, fun as it can be.
  3. Tubby Smith has made his decision on Trevor Mbakwe and it will certainly be met with considerable skepticism regardless of how it plays out this season. At Big Ten Media Day on Thursday in Chicago, the Minnesota head coach told reporters that he felt that the legal system, by placing two additional years of probation on Mbakwe, was a sufficient punishment given that the sixth-year senior had met all of his other responsibilities up to that point (community service and AA meetings). We’ll spare you our personal outrage here other than to suggest that schools always fall over themselves to preach to us that they endeavor to hold their student-athletes to higher standards than the rest of the world at-large; yet, even a one-game slap on the wrist to show Mbakwe that there are consequences beyond what the law requires would have been better than this.
  4. We’re all for creative tie-ins on preseason pieces, and yesterday’s article from SI.com‘s Andy Staples is a great one for anyone who likes to eat. Probably written as much for the media as for the fans (there’t not a lot of road-tripping in college hoops), Staples uses his vast base of travel knowledge to offer up some of the best diners, dives and greasy spoons to grab great food while you’re in town to watch some of the nation’s top college basketball teams. In just reading through some of these places, we’re about to finally put together that long-time-coming November-to-March road trip that we’ve always talked about doing… sigh.
  5. The early practice injuries are unfortunately coming fast and furious now, and several top teams are being affected. UCLA wing Shabazz Muhammad suffered a strained shoulder injury in practice Wednesday and will be forced to sit out the next 2-4 weeks as a result. This could be something of a blessing in disguise if the NCAA ultimately decides to suspend Muhammad for the first several games of his Bruin career anyway. Over at Tennessee, preseason all-SEC forward Jeronne Maymon has reportedly suffered a “setback” in his recovery from separate offseason knee scopes and will not be expected to be ready for the Vols’ season opener on November 9. At Indiana, reserve forward Derek Elston has torn his meniscus and is likely to miss the next 6-8 weeks of action, meaning that the Hoosiers’ frontcourt depth will need to rely on freshmen for a while to support Cody Zeller on the inside. Next, Connecticut forward Enosch Wolf has experienced a third concussion in the last year and will be held out of practice for an indefinite period of time as a result. This is particulary disappointing news for the German native as the Huskies are heading overseas in two weeks to play the first college basketball game in Deutschland and he may have to miss it. Ugh. Let’s cross our fingers that there are fewer of these updates as we get closer to the start of the season.
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Morning Five: 10.25.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 25th, 2012

  1. UCLA is lately starting to challenge Kentucky in terms of its news-making prowess as it seems like we’re discussing some new twist with Ben Howland’s team virtually every day in this space. The latest news out of Westwood is that still-ineligible superstar freshman Shabazz Muhammad injured his right shoulder in practice on Wednesday and underwent an MRI last evening to determine if there is any damage to the joint. He’ll be re-evaluated as a matter of course today, but at least so far, sources around the Bruins have been mum on the possible extent of his injury. This comes on the heels of an injury to David Wear’s ankle that has kept the big man out of practice for the last several days, not to mention the continuing dark cloud hovering over the program as a result of the ongoing NCAA investigations of Muhammad (the best wing in college basketball, according to CBSSports.com) and Kyle Anderson. Is there a turning point coming soon or are this year’s Bruins simply doomed from the start?
  2. One school that has found clarity on the eligibility of one of its key players is Murray State. School administrators have made the difficult but correct decision to suspend guard Zay Jackson for the entire 2012-13 season as a result of his dastardly actions last month in using his car as a human battering ram in a Wal-Mart parking lot. We wrote in this very space last week that athletic director Allen Ward had no reasonable choice other than to bring the hammer down on Jackson, and it appears that in light of the shocking video showing Jackson’s rage, he certainly acceded to public pressure. Ward stated that Jackson could earn his way back on to the team next season, but it would take a showing of steps “above and beyond… [those] of an exemplary citizen” to prove to Ward, head coach Steve Prohm, and his teammates that he deserves a second chance. We’ll say this — the legal system will have its pound of flesh (Jackson will be sentenced next week for wanton endangerment) and now the school will have its penance as well. If Jackson wants to atone for his sins, he’ll have what should be a one-time opportunity to make things good in the next 50 weeks until the start of the 2013-14 season.
  3. Don’t you hate when you read a piece that you wish you had already written? That’s exactly how we felt yesterday when we became aware of a fantastic article from The Atlantic‘s Stephen A. Miller that discusses an eminently reasonable solution to much of the perceived and actual inconsistencies in the NCAA‘s application of its rules. Outsource it. Miller argues that the NCAA carries so many inherent risks with its existing enforcement structure — conflicts of interest, inadequate funding, arbitrary and capricious rulings, a perception of playing favorites — that paying an outside entity to build a fair, transparent and consistent body of case law would result in growth in the one thing that the NCAA has trouble selling to the public right now: a strong perception of integrity. Miller’s piece is well worth the time for a read, but in the protect-your-own environment that we live in today, this has about as much chance of happening as Mark Emmert sprouting wings and delivering papers to Shabazz Muhammad’s dorm room.
  4. A really interesting bit of news was released as part of a SiriusXM show Wednesday hosted by Mike Krzyzewski (“Basketball and Beyond“) with Louisville head coach Rick Pitino giving some insight as to how he ended up back in the Bluegrass State after an unsuccessful stint with the Boston Celtics. According to Pitino, it was his wife, Joanne, who talked him out of his commitment to become the new Michigan head coach by — are you ready for this? — challenging him for being “afraid to go back to the state of Kentucky to coach at Louisville, his old school’s arch-rival.” Now, we don’t claim to listen to or read every single comment that the loquacious Pitino has made over the last 10 years, but we’re pretty sure about one thing — the Louisville coach has gone on record dozens of times stating that he expected those same Kentucky fans to embrace him after his return to collegiate coaching. If this is in fact true — and, of course, we know it is not — what would he possibly have been afraid of? As a side note, props to Coach K for his investigative reporting in getting such a jewel of honesty out of Pitino — maybe he has a career on 60 Minutes ahead of him, as even in his 70s, he’d certainly mesh with the median age of its reporters.
  5. Let’s close today with a list, as those are always fun for some debate no matter how ridiculous they turn out to be. Luckily, SI.com‘s Andy Glockner does his homework year-round, so his opinions are on the positive side of the cut line. He ranks all the Division I conferences from #1 to #33 with brief descriptions explaining why, for example, the Pac-12 ended up at #8 (ouch!) or the Big East shows at #2 in its last season as we typically think of it. Keeping in mind that people generally rate conferences based on the quality of their better teams — nobody really cares if your conference’s worst two teams would beat another league’s worst two teams — Glockner chooses the Big Ten as the top conference for the second year in a row. As we discussed on our Big Ten Preview Podblast yesterday, the top five teams in this league are legitimately good-to-great basketball teams. The four or five below that group are all good enough to threaten to make the NCAAs, although not all of them will do so; and so you’re left with just a couple of bottom-feeders whose fans are already thinking of next year. That’s an excellent and talented basketball league.
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Morning Five: 10.22.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2012

  1. Most schools held their Midnight Madness extravaganzas more than a week ago, but a couple prominent schools around college basketball nation didn’t get in on the act until this past weekend. At Indiana, Hoosier Hysteria on Saturday night was just that — a standing room only celebration of Indiana basketball past and present, replete with a three-point shooting Cody Zeller (he made 10 in one round of the contest) and even a Bob Knight sighting (in photo form, on the big screen). For a nice highlight reel from IU’s event, check out this video put together by CityLeagueHoopsTV from the event. Over in Durham, Duke‘s Countdown to Craziness began a festive on-campus weekend (Duke’s football team defeated UNC on Saturday night), as Coach K emphasized “togetherness” among his players and the fans while debuting his squad for the first time this season. For more Coach K hugs than you can possibly imagine, check out this video running along this theme played at the conclusion of the event. Jeff Goodman spent Friday with the Blue Devils, and reports back with 11 thoughts and observations about Coach K’s latest team (including who he thinks will take over for the all-time great upon his eventual retirement). At this point, most every school is finished with the pomp and circumstance and moving into the harsh realities of practice, but more on this in a moment.
  2. Practice makes perfect, so the saying goes, but it also provides opportunities for the imperfect to rear its ugly head in the form of injuries. Two prominent players on teams with high hopes for this season were hurt recently — Oklahoma State’s Brian Williams and UCLA’s David Wear. Williams is the more serious injury of the two, as he injured his left wrist in a fall after dunking in practice last week and needed to have surgery to repair the damage done. He’ll have to wear a cast for three months and go through rehabilitation after that, essentially rendering Williams unavailable to build upon a very promising freshman campaign this season. Wear, on the other hand, suffered an ankle sprain during practice on Sunday and will have an x-ray on his foot today. Hopefully this injury isn’t as serious as Williams’ and we’ll see Wear back on the court very soon.
  3. Wear might be sidelined with an injury, but his UCLA teammates Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad have now entered their second full week of practice with no timeline as to when the NCAA plans to make a decision on their eligibility. This report from the LA Times suggests that neither player may be close to becoming eligible as the governing body has not given the players any feedback on the status of its investigation nor a timetable for its resolution. According to the piece, Anderson’s issue relates to the relationship between his father and an NBA agent named Thad Foucher, while Muhammad’s problem involves money given to both himself and his AAU team from friends of the family. There’s nothing new here, obviously, but one caveat from the piece must irk UCLA fans hopeful that things are progressing at a reasonable pace — with only 35 days left for the duo to continue practicing with the team until they must sit out, the NCAA has yet to formally interview Muhammad’s parents about any of this.
  4. If you consider yourself at all versed in the analysis of college basketball, you are familiar with KenPom‘s numbers. What you may be less knowledgeable about are the occasional yet insightful blog posts that he publishes from time to time. On Sunday night he presented the results of his analysis of the validity of the preseason AP poll (which has yet to release this season). His finding is that, at least with respect to NCAA Tournament seeding in March, the top half of the AP poll is highly predictive. As he writes: “The chances of being a one-seed get really slim once you get past the top 12 or 13, while the chances of missing the tournament altogether are very real for the teams in the bottom half of the poll.” There’s a better than half chance that a preseason top 10 team in the AP poll will receive a top three seed at the end of the season — that makes sense. What we’d be interested in knowing, though, is what are the common factors that allow us to predict why the other half of teams fall from those original estimations. Great analysis by Pomeroy.
  5. Finally, today, let’s talk discipline. Tubby Smith’s son and Minnesota assistant coach, Saul Smith, has been placed on administrative leave by the school related to his Friday night arrest for suspicion of DWI. Meanwhile at Maryland, senior forward James Padgett pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving stemming from his arrest back in June for driving while impaired. Under the school’s code of conduct for alcohol-related driving arrests, he will not be suspended from the team since he is not guilty of a DWI — a true example of legal hair-splitting if ever there was one. Over at Louisville, Chane Behanan must sit out the Cardinals’ first exhibition game this season and has been banned from talking to the media (this is punishment?) for the rest of the semester. Head coach Rick Pitino didn’t specify what led to Behanan’s restrictions other than to say that there were “incidents” over the summer, but he did say that further slip-ups could cause the talented forward to miss more game action.
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NCAA’s Position on Instagram Marks a Regression in Liberalization of Digital Recruiting Practices

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 12th, 2012

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

The age of smartphone-based communication is upon us. There’s no denying it. From pre-pubescent pre-teens to middle-aged parents to retired folks, the instant communication trend has slowly seeped its way into every technological aspect of our lives. For the purposes of college basketball recruiting, this created something of a problem. The NCAA’s previous restrictions on messaging and calling frequency forced coaches to monitor their phone habits with painstaking consistency. On principle, the limitations made absolute sense – messaging fees could get out of hand pretty easily, not every player can afford smart phones, and the risk of players being overwhelmed by a deluge of calls and texts from overeager coaches was very real – but enforcement was tricky and often ineffective. A handful of coaches were slapped with secondary violations for exceeding contact limits, the most notable being Kelvin Sampson, whose profligate recruiting tactics (part of which hinged on his negligence of restricted cellphone use) touched off a precipitous decline for Indiana. The Hoosiers have very much recovered, but it may have been avoided, or at least mitigated, had the NCAA’s bylaws adjusted to the blossoming digital communications market at the time. For better or worse, the restraints on smartphone-tethered communications were officially lifted this past summer, meaning coaches could call or text recruits who have completed their sophomore year in high school.

The NCAA’s blackballing of Instagram is a decided step back after embracing technological growth this summer (Photo credit: businessinsider.com)

Not only did the rule change help coaches by unlocking a new world of streamlined contact – not to mention the stronger recruiting ties forged by more frequent communication – it allowed the NCAA to stop wasting time policing nonsensical secondary infractions and start focusing on violations that actually, you know, matter. The NCAA had finally embraced the modern age. It was a progressive move, all things considered. As is the case with most outwardly positive NCAA rule changes, there’s a caveat. Only this one isn’t prohibitive as much as it is petty. Instagram – the in-vogue photo-sharing application that turns virtually any smartphone owner into a proficient photography aesthete – has officially been outlawed from college coaches’ growing list of technological recruiting mechanisms. The NCAA outlined its position in a Q&A-style educational column earlier this week, and you might be surprised to learn the motives behind this puzzling regulation. The issue stems not from the actual sending of photographs to prospective recruits — the NCAA sent out a clarifying message Thursday detailing the nuances of its prohibitive policy — but from coaches altering or enhancing photos for a “recruiting purpose.”

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Morning Five: 10.12.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 12th, 2012

  1. Several years ago we posted a column talking about the remarkable recruiting run that John Calipari was putting together in his first year at Kentucky. At the time we questioned if a group including John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe represented the greatest recruiting run in modern history. Now we are beginning to think that the debate is over as Calipari has redefined the entire concept of recruiting with his one-and-done program. On Thursday Calipari added top 10 prospect James Young to a class that is shaping up to be among the best classes ever — the Wildcats already have commitments from three of the top seven players in the Class of 2013, according to RSCI Hoops. If he grabs another player or two at the top of this class, there won’t be much to question — what Calipari has managed to do over the past few years in Lexington on the recruiting front is truly extraordinary.
  2. The NCAA has received quite a bit of criticism over the years for a variety of inane rules including the infamous ban of cream cheese on bagels. Yesterday, John Infante appeared to uncover another addition to that list of inane rules with an apparent ban on the use of Instagram filters based on a posting on the NCAA’s site. The rule appears to have been intended to prevent schools from creating images where the player was in their uniform or anything of that nature, but after a public outcry over the absurdity of the rule, the NCAA released a statement clarifying its position by saying that Instagram’s filters were not banned. We still are not sure why this rule needed to be implemented unless the NCAA was worried about schools trying to create a false impression of their student body or something along those lines.
  3. The start of the season is just around the corner and Luke Winn is here to get you ready with his preseason Power Rankings, which for our money is the best nationally-focused column out there. This version is a little light on statistics — likely related to the fact that no games have been played yet — but there are still a few valuable nuggets in the article. His top two teams won’t surprise anyone, but his third choice is likely to cause fits of apoplexy in the Research Triangle Park area. Frankly the offseason has been so devoid of this type of analysis that we will gladly take it and look forward to seeing Winn’s work again this season as the numbers come in for him to compile and put into an easily understandable format.
  4. It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who follows this sport that Big 12 coaches on Thursday almost unanimously chose Kansas to win the Big 12 championship again. The only reason the Jayhawks didn’t get all 10 votes is because Bill Self wasn’t allowed to select his own team — he chose Baylor instead. KU and the Bears were followed on the list by Oklahoma State, Texas, Kansas State, and West Virginia. Picking against Kansas in the Big 12 is a little bit like picking against Usain Bolt in the 100 meters sprint, but even with the heart-and-soul losses that the Jayhawks took this offseason, the rest of the league still doesn’t look better. Maybe if Missouri was still around — a big maybe — but with the even more significant losses at Baylor and the uncertainty surrounding Myck Kabongo at Texas, we really can’t blame any of the voters in this instance.
  5. This season carries a lot of weight for the UCLA basketball program. The roster is talented, Pauley Pavilion is renovated, and expectations are through the roof. In an attempt to tie things completely together right before what Bruins fans hope is a dream season, the school plans on unveiling a John Wooden statue in front of Pauley Pavilion on October 26. The bronze statue of the Wizard of Westwood was made possible through a large donation from benefactors Jim and Carol Collins, and was constructed by Blair Buswell, a Utah sculptor who has created numerous busts of famous sports figures over the years. The unveiling will occur as part of UCLA’s “Welcome Back Pauley Week,” a week-long celebration of the re-opening of the historic on-campus arena, and we can think of no better way to honor the 10-time national champion than this.
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Morning Five: 10.11.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 11th, 2012

  1. The NCAA this week released its annual financial report on on the spending patterns of its member institutions’ athletic departments, and the results, while not groundbreaking, are certainly interesting. The report (found in its entirety here) deals in aggregate numbers — meaning individual schools are not named — but the data from 2011 is still valuable. For example, among FBS (I-A) schools, the median revenue for a basketball program approached $5 million with profits of $812,000. By comparison, football programs created over $15 million of revenue with profits of around $3.5 million each. Because every other collegiate program from rifle (-$26,000) to women’s basketball (-$1.26 million) operates at a significant loss, only 23 of 120 FBS schools had a net positive revenue stream in 2011 (one more than 2010, but nine more than 2009). You don’t have to see their names on a report to more or less guess who the lucky ones are. 
  2. ESPNU’s Recruiting Nation may end up with its highest rated October ever if it keeps this up. According to the Detroit News, elite Class of 2013 wing James Young will announce his college decision on the 5 PM episode this evening, and his choice will once again make for a very happy weekend in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Young has been considered a UK lock for some time, especially after his home state Michigan State program discontinued his recruitment when a trip to East Lansing never materialized. Young is in everybody’s top 10 and is rated as the overall #7 player in his class, according to RSCIHoops. Along with the top five Harrison twins, John Calipari is well on his way to grabbing an entirely new starting five quite possibly filled with only top 10 prospects (Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, and Andrew Wiggins if he reclassifies are still possibilities). Like him or not, the man has quite simply redefined college basketball recruiting. 
  3. Down the road an hour in Louisville, the Cardinals’ head coach Rick Pitino would be wise to push his loaded squad to the Final Four in Atlanta and cut the nets down this year. But even if Louisville falters along the way, it appears that the 60-year old Pitino will have several more opportunities as he is now backing off his previous statements that he expects to retire in 2017. On a SiriusXM radio show with Jeff Goodman on Wednesday night, Pitino said that he expects to sign a contract extension and plans on staying on board as a head coach “for as long as [he’s] healthy.” We’ll say this, from personal experience — the Pitino we saw during last year’s Final Four run was as light-hearted and as happy as we’ve ever seen from the guy. He seemed to actually enjoy what he was doing again.
  4. From the top of the heap to the bottom… only two days before the start of practice, UMBC head coach Randy Monroe resigned his position, effective immediately. It was no secret that Monroe had struggled there in recent years — going a disastrous 13-77 in his last three seasons — but the timing of his resignation is incredibly odd. Monroe was the head coach at UMBC for eight seasons, taking the Retrievers to the NCAA Tournament in the 2007-08 season. His top assistant coach, 33-year old Aki Thomas, will take over this season on an interim basis. We’ll not speculate further as to the precipitating cause for such a weirdly-timed resignation, but we figure that if there’s a story here it’ll come out eventually.
  5. Finally, we have fresh news of an NCAA investigation of a player and it doesn’t involve an incoming recruit! CBSSports.com reported on Wednesday night that Texas point guard Myck Kabongo may have accepted impermissible benefits while working out in Ohio over the summer. You may be wondering what Kabongo, a Canadian who goes to school in Austin, Texas, was doing in the Buckeye State, but the answer relates to his former teammate (and countryman) Tristan Thompson, a current employee of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The question is whether Kabongo paid his own way for his travel and stay there, or if Thompson’s agent, someone by the name of Rich Paul (also LeBron’s agent) may have chipped in on his expenses. It’s probably not a huge problem even if Kabongo dipped into the pool a bit, as the preseason all-Big 12 selection likely would have to pay the money back and miss a handful of games as a result. But we’ll have to wait to see where this goes. 
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Morning Five: 10.10.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 10th, 2012

  1. There was a scary moment Tuesday morning in Washington, DC, at a session of The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics when former Maryland star and current ESPN college basketball analyst Len Elmore collapsed in his chair during a Q&A session. Luckily, the 6o-year old Harvard Law graduate and resident hoops intellectual was back up on his feet after paramedics arrived and he shortly walked under his own power to his hotel room thereafter. According to the Washington Post, Elmore told SMU president Gerald Turner that this incident was related to a “longstanding health issue” of his and has happened before. We’re glad to hear that Elmore appears to be doing alright, but we sure hope that his ailment is manageable and doesn’t cause him additional and dangerous related problems.
  2. One thing we failed to mention from Monday’s fire hose of preseason information released by CBSSports.com was their article outlining the group’s selections for conference champions, Final Four teams/champions, and major postseason awards. Some of the more interesting choices were Gonzaga making the Final Four on two ballots (Goodman and Norlander), Arizona doing likewise (Goodman and Gottlieb), along with UNLV (Norlander and Borzello) and Michigan State (Parrish). None of the five writers chose the same national champion — Louisville, Arizona, Kentucky, Missouri, and Indiana — and they were equally disparate when it came to picking Freshman of the Year and Coach of the Year. When it comes to NPOY, though, the group was nearly uananimous — Cody Zeller showed up on four ballots, with Doug McDermott picking up the lone contrarian vote. One thing is for sure: The field is completely wide open this year and any number of schools will start practice on Friday with reasonable dreams of cutting down the nets next spring in Atlanta.
  3. Yesterday the WAC announced two new additions to its basketball-only league — and make sure you’re sitting down when you read that these titans of the sport are joining the once-venerable old conference — Utah Valley and Cal State Bakersfield. After all the recent defections, these two schools will join a ragtag group that now only includes Denver, Seattle, Idaho and New Mexico State. For the next two years, the league will keep its automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament under an exemption that allows it to do so without the requisite minimum of seven schools. For a conference that at one time or another boasted such notable basketball schools as Arizona, BYU, UNLV, San Diego State, Tulsa and Utah, this is a little bit like looking at a former supermodel in her 70s — it ain’t pretty anymore.
  4. The Battle of the Midway has been saved from liquidation, much to the relief of both Syracuse and San Diego State, the two schools set to face off on the retired ship come Veteran’s Day. But if you want to grab a ticket, make sure to bring your American Express platinum card — ducats for this outdoor game will start at $150 a pop and increase up to as much as $500 the closer you get to the court. Novelty plus scarcity is a certain way to increase demand for a product, but we’re not convinced that pricing a game like this in the rarefied neighborhood of courtside seats to an NBA game is the right way to handle it. Honestly, we’d have preferred that some deep-pocketed sponsor pick up the tab and let military personnel make up the entire audience, but nobody asked us.
  5. It’s not very often that we’ll mention a SWAC school in this space, but it’s also unusual that a school is hit by the NCAA with the dreaded “lack of institutional control” penalty. Texas Southern received just that news on Tuesday, as the NCAA in a statement said that the school was “responsible for booster involvement in recruiting, academic improprieties, ineligible student-athlete participation and exceeding scholarship limits” over the course of a number of years. As a result, the basketball program, now led by former Indiana and UAB head coach Mike Davis, will be banned from the postseason next season and lose two scholarships for the immediate future. The most surprising punishment is that the school must vacate all of its wins in every sport from 2006-10, one of the most egregious penalties we’ve ever seen the NCAA mete out to a school. Davis was certainly informed that he would be walking into a difficult situation at TSU, but we’re guessing that he’ll spend quite a few days clicking his heels together and hoping that he magically re-appears in Bloomington again.
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