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.
Share this story

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.
Share this story

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.
Share this story

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.
Share this story

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.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

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.
Share this story

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. 
Share this story

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.
Share this story

Morning Five: 09.25.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 25th, 2012

  1. If you’re in the market for an experienced scorer just a few weeks before practice begins and you missed out on the extremely late and unanticipated transfers of Xavier’s Dez Wells and Rice’s Arsalan Kazemi, you might still be in luck. Washington State shooting guard Reggie Moore was dismissed from his team on Monday for an undisclosed “violation of team rules,” effectively ending his career in Pullman and making him an immediate free agent for a team in need of some help. Even if Moore were able to find a school with an open scholarship at this late date, it’s unlikely he’d be eligible for the upcoming season anyway; but, Moore has shown flashes of offensive pop (10.7 PPG) and good play-making acumen (4.4 APG) in his three years at Wazzu. Whether Moore will be able to clean up his act (he was suspended in 2011 for marijuana possession) is another story, but sometimes the incentive of a last, best chance in a new environment is what it takes.
  2. On Monday ESPNU announced its television schedule for this year’s Midnight Madness whirlwind, scheduled to begin at 5 PM on October 12, which, if you’re scoring at home, is a shade over 17 days from now. The broadcast will begin at likely preseason #1 Indiana with an actual nuts-and-bolts practice rather than the fan frenzy Hoosier Hysteria (scheduled for one week later), and will be followed by a studio show peeking in on 12 other prominent programs including Kentucky, Missouri, Baylor, North Carolina, Georgetown, NC State, Syracuse, Murray State, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Florida State and Kansas. While we’re absolutely thrilled to have college basketball in any form coming back in two weeks and change, can we strongly encourage the producers at ESPNU to focus predominantly on the action on the floor at these schools rather than endlessly talking at us in the studio? There will be plenty of time for that as we get closer to the start of the season.
  3. In yesterday’s M5 we mentioned a piece by Gregg Doyel excoriating the NCAA for its presumed lack of interest in aggressively investigating the allegations involving Lance Thomas’ 2009 trip to a New York City jeweler. In the interest of equal time, today it’s North Carolina‘s turn. AOL Fanhouse‘s David Whitley doesn’t break any new ground in his scathing piece against the governing body (and his missive could be premature, depending on what the Martin Report shows), but the way in which he frames the NCAA’s lack of interest in the school’s academic scandal is amusing. Whitley’s best line: “The fact a basketball power like UConn got nailed shows that the NCAA is somewhat serious about putting the student in student-athlete. The fact UNC skated shows that the NCAA is still the NCAA. It wrote the manual on double standards and arbitrary justice. In fact, NCAA officials could teach a course on those subjects. If they taught it at North Carolina, it would be in front of an empty room.” The NCAA is an easy target to pile on — everyone knows that — but its weirdly inconsistent usage of precedent given very similar sets of facts is without question confounding.
  4. With rumors persisting that Class of 2014 superstar prep player Andrew Wiggins will reclassify to the Class of 2013 soon, one of his peers beat him to the idea. Noah Vonleh, a 6’8″ power forward who was considered a top five player in his class, has performed enough academic work at New Hampton School (NH) to reclassify as a senior for the current academic year. ESPN.com‘s Dave Telep reports on the move and says that Vonleh compares favorably with some of the elite players in his new class, rating him as ESPNU’s #7 overall player in the Class of 2013. This is actually the second reclassification for the 17-year old in that this move represents Vonleh’s return to his original class, so let’s hope that he’s finished moving around so that some lucky suitor — Indiana, Ohio State and UNC have recruited him the hardest — will have him in uniform just over a year from now.
  5. It’s nothing new that Butler’s Brad Stevens is a prominent user of advanced statistical metrics as a tool to understanding his team’s strengths and weaknesses. This article by WISH-TV in Indianapolis explains that one of Stevens’ directives for this offseason was for his staff (led by statistical wunderkind Drew Cannon) to determine what kind of RPI the Bulldogs will need heading into conference play to ensure an NCAA Tournament bid now that they’ve moved to the more competitive Atlantic 10. People game the system in all kinds of different ways — some ethical, some not — but we get the feeling that coaches like Stevens and Buzz Williams are so far ahead of their competitors in this regard that it’s astonishing to us that the rest of the coaching lemmings haven’t already fallen in line.
Share this story

Morning Five: 09.24.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 24th, 2012

  1. Andy Katz reported on Friday that the Saint Mary’s men’s basketball program is currently under investigation by the NCAA for potential recruiting violations of an as-yet unknown variety. Few additional details were forthcoming over the weekend, but what little smoke that there appears to exist is surrounding former assistant coach David Patrick (currently an assistant at LSU), an Australian who was instrumental in recruiting former star guard Patty Mills to the campus. The tiny school that is coached by Randy Bennett has become one of the pre-eminent mid-major programs in America in large part due to its Australian talent pipeline — defending WCC POY and Olympian Matthew Dellavedova is only the latest and greatest Gael product of Oz — it makes you wonder if the attraction to Moraga, California, involved incentives beyond a beautiful campus surrounded by verdant hills. We’ll have more on this topic later this morning.
  2. Now that the Billy Gillispie era has officially ended at Texas Tech, the university is left picking up the pieces of its reputation and trying to figure out what to do next. It’s not like there’s a lot of tradition or much fan support for the basketball program anyway, but the danger of making a poor decision now is that it could realistically embed the program at the bottom of the Big 12 for the next half-decade. Nevertheless, the school hopes to name an interim head coach for the upcoming season within the next two weeks, and assistant head coach Chris Walker by virtue of his association with Gillispie’s antics may not be the choice for the permanent job. Andy Katz suggested three viable candidates last week — Rob Evans, Doc Sadler, and Reggie Theus — all of whom have significant and successful head coaching experience along with ties to the region that would help the program transition to a new, and hopefully, better era.
  3. Oregon received great news over the weekend as Dana Altman’s program reportedly has received a transfer commitment from former Rice star Arsalan Kazemi, a double-double machine who will apply for a hardship waiver to play immediately. Kazemi is notable as the first Iranian to play Division I NCAA basketball, but the “Beast of the Middle East” is certainly more than a demographic footnote — the 6’7″, 220-pounder consistently pounds the glass as one of the best defensive rebounders in America, and his free throw rate is annually one of the best in the nation. We’re not sure the basis for Kazemi’s waiver request to play this season, but if approved, an all-senior front line of Tony Woods, EJ Singler, and Kazemi would be one of the best in the Pac-12, if not the nation.
  4. It’s not very often that you’ll read a piece from a national columnist encouraging his readers to rise up as one and not let an issue drop out of the collective consciousness. And yet, that’s exactly what CBSSports.com‘s Gregg Doyel does when he outlines what he calls the “hypocrisy of the NCAA” in predicting that absolutely nothing will happen to Duke as a result of the Lance Thomas jewelry loan situation. Doyel is a flashpoint writer — pretty much every major fan base thinks he has a specific beef with them, when in reality being critical is his style — but he has the status to make something his crusade if he chooses to do so. We’re guessing that many of the enemies he’s made over the years would turn on a dime and become his biggest fans if he actually was capable of nailing the Blue Devil program on this one.
  5. We’re willing to root for Northwestern to finally make the NCAA Tournament as much as the next guy, but the storyline gets a little tiresome when every piece of news surrounding the program is viewed through that particular prism. Still, the weekend news that junior guard JerShon Cobb has been suspended for the entire 2012-13 season because of a violation of team policy has to be disconcerting to Wildcat fans. Cobb has been a part-time starter who offers solid offensive production (career 7.3 PPG) in around 20 minutes per contest; his removal from the lineup changes the complexion of a team already anticipating the replacement of the offense of its former star, John Shurna. In a loaded Big Ten conference where a .500 record is a reasonable goal, Bill Carmody will need to find additional offense from unexpected places if his team is to have any shot at getting the NCAA albatross off its back.
Share this story

Morning Five: 09.20.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 20th, 2012

  1. Yesterday North Carolina announced that Roy Williams had undergone successful surgery at UNC Hospitals to remove a tumor from his right kidney, the likes of which was discovered last month during a routine physical of the 62-year old head coach. Although Williams’ prognosis is good and he is expected to be back on his feet and ready for the start of practice in just over three weeks, there is the possibility that he may need to undergo a second surgery to remove a different tumor on his left kidney. Although the news release didn’t mention the dreaded “c” word related to Williams’ health, it’s safe to assume that there is at least some cause for concern on that front. The NYT reported Wednesday that the severity of the removed tumor is currently unknown and his test results should be back within a week. Meanwhile, we’re all crossing our fingers for a coach who, as The Dagger reminded us, has spent the better part of his years at UNC pushing philanthropic causes related to fighting cancer. Good luck in this battle, coach.
  2. Former Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun is no stranger to health issues including cancer (a three-time survivor), so hopefully he won’t have to spend any of his golden years fighting that particular disease again. Now fully settled into retirement his new role as UConn basketball advisor/fund-raiser, he’ll certainly have more free time, and as the Hartford Courant reports, the financial resources by which to truly enjoy himself. Calhoun’s decision to make no decision on his retirement until after the payroll run on September 7 ensured that he would receive a lump sum payment of $1.3 million for speaking engagements and appearances this year, while his negotiation of another lump sum payment in January to $1.15 million and his biweekly salary going through next March means that the three-time national champion will receive in the neighborhood of $2.75 million for not coaching the Huskies this season. He also has an option to receive another lump sum $1 million retirement payment next spring, which would put his golden parachute year into elite territory, for sure.
  3. Kevin Ollie is the new top guy at UConn, and his first regular season game will make history in more ways than one — not only does his hiring represent a new era in Connecticut basketball, but he will stalk the sidelines for the very first time as a Husky some 4,000 miles away as part of the first college basketball game ever played in Europe. The Armed Forces Classic will feature Michigan State and Connecticut lacing them up at midnight local time in an airplane hangar at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. It will also serve as a nice homecoming game for German-born Huskies Niels Giffey, Enosch Wolf, and Leon Tolksdorf, none of whom probably never imagined they’d get a chance to play NCAA hoops on their home soil. One interesting caveat with this news release is that there are plans to move this event around in the future, potentially opening up the entire world to the beauty of early November college basketball.
  4. The nation’s top player in the Class of 2014, and some say the top player in the world’s prep ranks, Andrew Wiggins of Huntington (WV) Prep, is considering a reclassification (Nerlens Noel-style) into the Class of 2013 instead. According to his high school coach, Wiggins already has taken and passed most of the NCAA’s requisite core classes, meaning that he theoretically has the option if he and his parents feel that’s the best course of action for his development, and ultimately, NBA riches. Huntington is only two hours east of Lexington, and John Calipari has already made waves recruiting Wiggins, so you have to wonder if the Kentucky head coach has his eye set on making the Class of 2013 (including a reclassified Wiggins) his own personal Dream Team. UK is already on the list of every player in the top five of Rivals’ most recent rankings — Calipari might just redefine what college basketball recruiting is all about if he pulls this off.
  5. So… about that Harvard basketball bandwagon? Yeah, many Crimson students aren’t really feeling it much anymore. According to Bill Pennington’s Quad post at the New York Times, the campus euphoria that surrounded the team’s Ivy League championship and long-overdue appearance in the NCAA Tournament last season has largely dissipated in light of the recent academic scandal involving co-captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry. Even though the class in question where the cheating is alleged to have occurred (Government 1310: Introduction to Congress) involved over 125 students with varying interests and affiliations, the focus has largely been on the presumed guilt of Tommy Amaker’s players and what it says about the interplay between college athletics and academics as a whole. It’s an interesting read and well worth your time.
Share this story

Morning Five: 09.19.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 19th, 2012

  1. Is former Duke forward Lance Thomas destined to become the next Corey Maggette, or worse? For those of you not familiar with the one-and-done freak of an athlete who came off the bench for the 1998-99 national runner-up Blue Devils, Maggette admitted under oath in 2000 as part of a federal grand jury proceeding that he took cash payments in high school from an agent named Myron Piggie, (theoretically) putting his amateur eligibility at considerable risk. The NCAA chose to not vacate Duke’s 37 wins from that season nor did it ask the program to remove its banner — ever since then, Duke haters have pointed to this decision as Exhibit A of the NCAA’s selective enforcement process. Well. Get ready for part two. With the news Tuesday that Thomas had come to a settlement agreement with the New York City jeweler who floated him a $67,800 loan nearly three years ago, the NCAA will need a Deep Throat (or at least a James Carter, IV) if it has any inclination of properly investigating this case. The strong likelihood is that nobody — not Thomas, not the jeweler, not anyone who had a red hand in this transaction — will say anything to to governing body… which begs the question: Will the NCAA make a prima facie case against Thomas to rule him retroactively ineligible (see: Rose, Derrick); or, will they suffer the howling of the masses for what will appear to be Duke getting away with special treatment a second time around (see: Maggette, Corey). Gonna be interesting.
  2. Senior forward Julius Randle is the top player in the Class of 2013, depending on whom you consult with, and he’s gotten a lot of attention this week for taking an official visit to Kentucky (where he was photographed with Drake) and giving a review of each of his in-home visits with Eric Bossi at Rivals.com. The tea leaves with respect to Randle are all over the place at this point, as he still plans on doing another round of in-home visits with a number of other schools and plans on waiting until spring to make his final decision. Clearly this kid likes the attention. Still, with John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Self, and Roy Williams all vying for Randle’s services, this is already one of the most power-packed recruitments we’ve seen in some time. And it promises to only get better.
  3. While on the subject of recruiting elite players, SI.com‘s Luke Winn reported yesterday that surprise Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi plans on requesting a waiver from the NCAA so that he has an opportunity to play right away in the 2012-13 season. He didn’t give Winn additional detail on the basis of that waiver request, but it is notable that Oregon is the only school on his current list that hasn’t started classes for the fall term yet (September 24). He plans on making a final decision by the end of this week, and not coincidentally, Dana Altman’s program in addition to everybody’s possible destination, Kentucky, appear to be his “early leaders.”
  4. The Ed O’Bannon class action lawsuit against the NCAA for the use of his and other student-athletes’ likenesses continues to churn on in a federal courtroom in San Francisco, and a series of recently unsealed emails and depositions from the organization clearly reveals that school administrators and NCAA senior management have had serious and frank discussions about the legality of their strategies. One of the more interesting memoranda showed that a senior policy advisor at the NCAA suggested to incoming president Mark Emmert in 2010 that the organization ditch the term “student-athlete,” which if you recall from last fall’s The Atlantic piece from Taylor Branch, was an invention by former NCAA head honcho Walter Byers in the 1950s to explain away the notion that scholarships, room, and board were payment in kind. The article from ESPN.com cited above is worth the read, as there are a number of interesting quotes and anecdotes buried within it relating to how the NCAA does business.
  5. We didn’t have space for this one yesterday but it’s something we wanted to make sure we got up on the M5 this week anyway. Marquette is back in action with what’s becoming an annual tradition around those parts — a karaoke-inspired mash-up of clips from various Golden Eagles singing (or whatever you want to call it) pop tunes that will be used as timeout fodder during next season’s MU home games. If you can bear listening to the whole thing, you’re one step ahead of us…

Share this story