Morning Five: 10.09.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 9th, 2013

morning5

  1. The biggest news in the college hoops universe on Tuesday without a doubt sent a shudder through the spines of the rest of the country’s basketball powerhouses. Class of 2014 wing Kelly Oubre tweeted that he will be attending Kansas next season, which taken by itself may not be a remarkable piece of information. But the fact that the top-10 recruit chose KU after visiting Lawrence for Late Night in the Phog last weekend, and the additional fact that he cancelled his official visit to Kentucky next week for Big Blue Madness, and the third fact that Kansas head coach Bill Self has signed four top-20 prospects in the last 12 months… well, let’s just say that Self has never had trouble winning with good talent. What will he be able to do with great talent? Oubre is a great early pickup for the Jayhawks and his commitment may just be the tip of the iceberg in Lawrence — top-five prospects Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones are visiting soon and KU is reported as one of the purported “package deal’s” four finalists (along with Duke, Baylor and Kentucky). We’ll have more on the topic of Oubre and Bill Self’s hot hand in recruiting later today.
  2. That’s for next year, what about this season? The two highest-quality basketball leagues that are not members of the “power seven” conferences released their preseason polls and all-conference teams on Tuesday. The new-look Atlantic 10 features a 13-team field with high expectations for Shaka Smart’s VCU program, chosen as the #1 team (with 19 first-place votes) in its first year in the league. Jim Crews’ Saint Louis squad was the only other team to earn #1 votes (five), but we’re certain that this league will not be a cake walk for either team — the A-10 always produces one of the nuttiest regular season slates in college basketball. The conference’s five-member preseason first team features two VCU players, guard Treveon Graham and forward Juvonte Reddic. La Salle, sitting quietly in third place in the preseason poll, placed three players on the league’s three preseason teams, more than any other squad. Keep an eye on the Explorers this year.
  3. Across the country, the Mountain West released its preseason poll as well, and even with the loss of former head coach Steve Alford, New Mexico appears to be the team to beat (grabbing all but one #1 vote). The remaining #1 vote went to UNLV, tied for second with Boise State, with head coach Dave Rice looking to replace a whole lot of talent that didn’t quite mesh well together. The MW was sensible enough to pick only a single preseason team of six players, with New Mexico placing preseason POY Kendall Williams as well as center Alex Kirk on the squad. Boise had a couple selections as well, wing Anthony Drmic and guard Derrick Marks. UNLV’s Khem Birch and Nevada’s Deonte Burton filled out the group. The quiet team in this year’s Mountain West is San Diego State, picked fourth — Steve Fisher’s team has not finished below that spot in the regular season standings in nearly a decade (2004-05), so even though the Aztecs also lost a great deal of talent, we’d expect that they too will be heard from.
  4. We’re not going to be one of those schadenfreude types who takes great pleasure in the misfortune of others, but we heard more than a few snickers in the background earlier this week when news was released that Murray State’s Zay Jackson had torn both the ACL and LCL in his right knee during a recent practice and will miss the entire season. If the name sounds familiar to you, it should; Jackson made international headlines for all the wrong reasons a little over a year ago when he was videotaped running his car into another person after a verbal altercation in a Walmart parking lot. He served a total of 60 days in jail on assault and wanton endangerment charges, and at least from reports surrounding the Murray program this year, he had grown up and put the incident behind him. His father had also passed away recently, so we certainly wish him well going forward and hope that he uses his rehabilitation time wisely.
  5. We’ve written previously about the NFL’s recent trend in looking at some of college basketball’s better athletes to fill some out its roster spots, especially at the tight end position, and the world is starting to take notice. New Orleans’ tight end Jimmy Graham, an explosive but otherwise average forward on the Miami (FL) basketball teams of the late 2000s, just won the NFC Offensive Player of the Month award, the first ever given to a tight end in its nearly 3o-year history. His September of work resulted in 26 receptions and six touchdowns to help the Saints off to a quick 4-0 start, and as this article describes, guys like he, Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron are completely changing the concept of the position in NFL circles. We’ve known all along that college basketball’s best athletes are some of the most versatile and skilled in the world — it’s interesting that both homegrown and other sports around the globe are starting to take notice.
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Morning Five: 08.08.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 8th, 2013

morning5

  1. We mentioned in this space yesterday that Jahii Carson along with Marcus Smart were not only two of the best point guards in college basketball, but that they are also both rising sophomores who have already publicly stated that next season will be their last in the amateur ranks. Both players are likely to have All-America campaigns ahead of them, but Smart in particular is on everyone’s short list as a NPOY candidate, and with good reason. The latest published results of a poll of coaches from CBSSports.com staff shows that Smart is the most coveted player in all of the land, coming in with a bit more than one-third of the vote (34%). Next on the list was Creighton superstar Doug McDermott (24%), followed by wunderkind Andrew Wiggins at Kansas (15%). A number of other players received votes, including Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, Michigan’s Mitch McGary and Syracuse’s CJ Fair, but the naming of five other freshmen after Wiggins reveals just how strong this year’s incoming class is perceived to be. One notable omission from the list was Louisville’s Russ Smith (his teammate Montrezl Harrell actually received a vote instead), but as the article notes, the choices make clear that coaches value experience and sustained leadership over unproven (or sometimes unstable) commodities. While all this conjecture is great, it’s ultimately meaningless until we start the games in November.
  2. And what about those games, the reason we all watch these players in the first place? Wednesday was a good day for folks like us — fans of the sport who like to have concrete games on the schedule to sink our teeth into. ESPN released its Big Monday lineup for 2013-14, and the most notable thing about the 16-game set over eight weeks is that the new slot of ACC games at 7:00 PM ET considerably resembles vintage Big East offerings. The Big 12 still carries the 9:00 PM slot (Andrew Wiggins, anyone? Kansas is involved in half of the broadcasts), but half of the ACC Big Monday games will involve teams who were still Big East entities as recently as 40 days ago. One game in particular — Notre Dame vs. Syracuse on February 3 – comes straight from the old Big East rivalry playbook. Welcome to the new ACC, indeed. Now can we get a west coast flavor at Midnight ET to sweeten the deal even further, like we used to have with the Big West and UNLV slotted there once upon a time?
  3. Some other interesting scheduling news hit on Wednesday surrounding the build-up and planning for Super Bowl XLVIII in New York City, as it appears there will be a basketball extravaganza at the World’s Most Famous Arena on the Saturday before the NFL’s title bout. Madison Square Garden, in partnership with Fox Sports 1, will host a hoops triple-header to give people in town for the football game a little something to feast on beforehand. St. John’s will play an as-yet-undetermined Big East opponent in the early afternoon slot (Marquette is rumored to be that team), followed by a blockbuster Georgetown-Michigan State match-up in the late afternoon, and capped off with an NBA tilt between the Knicks and the Miami Heat in the evening. It’s an impressive lineup, for certain, and is suggestive that programmers of college basketball really need to learn to capitalize on those empty weekends starting in late January and through to mid-March… before March Madness hits in earnest and captures the attention of everyone else.
  4. Is it too early to already be looking forward to games the following season? We’re talking about 2014-15 here, but hey, it’s a light news cycle. It’s always, always, always a good thing when top 10 programs meet in non-conference match-ups during the regular season, and it appears we’re going to have a good one when regional rivals Louisville and Indiana will face off in the Jimmy V Classic on December 9, 2014. Although the two rosters are likely to look considerably different than they do even this coming season, both Tom Crean and Rick Pitino are recruiting so well that you can count on this being a fantastic game. Even if it won’t tip off until some 16 months from now.
  5. It must have been Pac-12 preview Wednesday around the interwebs yesterday, as both ESPN.com and SI.com featured the much-maligned basketball league with a summer update post. The WWL’s piece is more comprehensive in scope, but Andy Glockner’s writeup is the better read. They both have high hopes for Sean Miller’s Arizona Wildcats, while agreeing that the league as a whole is once again on the uptick after a period from 2010-12 that was as bad as many have ever seen. There’s a lot of good information in both pieces, though, so we suggest that you check it out lest you find yourself come November wondering why the league has three or maybe even four teams ranked in the preseason AP poll.
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Division I College Basketball Players Are Incredible Athletes; Not Even The Mighty NFL Can Deny It

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 30th, 2013

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

Height, size and speed are three of the most basic common denominators transcending the walls of sport-specific performances and, at levels as high as Division I and the professional ranks, allowing players to span their natural gifts across multiple athletic endeavors. Jim Brown is the archetypical multi-sport figure, by most accounts the most dominant running back in professional history and an unfairly fast and strong lacrosse player in his own right. He is the measuring stick by which multi-sport predecessors are, well, measured, and basically everything since — Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson are more recent highlights — has fallen well short of Brown’s tremendous accomplishments. Whether because of kids’ general rushed identification of single-sport priorities – and growing pressures, partially or fully imposed by parents, to devote Gladwellian 10,000-hour practice requirements to a specific sport – or a broader recognition that playing two sports professionally is just really hard, the days of Brown-like dominance appear to be behind us.

After averaging 14.5 points and 9.7 rebounds for Ole Miss this season, Murphy will try and make it in the NFL (AP Photo).

After averaging 14.5 points and 9.7 rebounds for Ole Miss this season, Murphy will try and make it in the NFL (AP Photo).

Plenty of others have tried to make the leap, and the latest evidence comes by way of former Ole Miss forward Murphy Holloway, who after not playing organized football since his sophomore year in high school signed a free agent contract this weekend with the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. The motivation is plainly evident: Holloway is a big (6’7’’, 240 lbs.), fast and explosive athlete. He spent four years honing his hoop skills – curiously enough, Holloway played for the Rebels for two seasons, transferred to South Carolina for a redshirt year, then returned to Ole Miss to play out the second half of his eligibility scorecard – and after helping lead Marshall Henderson and co. to their first NCAA Tournament in more than a decade, the avenues for a professional basketball career apparently didn’t match the opportunity to join the United States’ most lucrative and nationally unimpeachable sports enterprise.

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NCAA Joins Pro Leagues in Challenging NJ Gambling Law, But Why?

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 8th, 2012

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

Since 1992, thanks to the Federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, legal sports betting in any form has only existed in four states: Montana, Oregon and Delaware have sports lotteries, while Nevada as everyone knows enjoys an entire sports booking industry. New Jersey, home to one of the nation’s most popular casino hot spots in Atlantic City, was granted a one-year time frame between 1993-94 to opt into the exclusive group, but failed to act and thus missed out on the opportunity to become the fifth member state. Governor Chris Christie sought to make up for his state’s inaction last January when he spearheaded the passage of a new law that violated the 1992 Act by legalizing gambling in his state. Christie was essentially challenging a federal law with full knowledge that a long and enduring legal battle would be waged to prevent the new state legislation. He acknowledged as much in May at a press conference in Atlantic City, saying, “If someone wants to stop us, then let them try to stop us. Am I expecting there may be legal action taken against us to try to prevent it? Yes. But I have every confidence we’re going to be successful.”

The NCAA is one of five sports league governing bodies involved in a class-action lawsuit against the state of New Jersey and its groundbreaking gambling law (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Christie has met his day of reckoning. On Tuesday the NCAA and four governing bodies of North America’s major sports – the NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB – filed a lawsuit against New Jersey on the grounds that the state’s legislation legalizing sports gambling within its borders represents a direct threat to “the character and integrity” of sporting events and a “clear and flagrant” violation of federal law. This development comes as no surprise to Christie. He knew full well upon signing the state law of the inevitable flurry of lawsuits that would ensue, and so the governor reiterated his stance after catching word of the organizations’ actions. “I don’t believe that the federal government has the right to decide that only certain states can have sports gambling. On what basis?” he said.

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Kansas’ Tyshawn Taylor Gets In Fight, Dislocates Thumb, but Keeps His Rep

Posted by jstevrtc on September 23rd, 2009

For your Wednesday afternoon amusement, a tale from Lawrence, Kansas.

Via Ballin’ Is A Habit, news out of Jayhawkland is that the hoops’ team’s Tyshawn Taylor and one of the KU footballers — allegedly WR Dezmon Briscoe, though that is as yet unverified — both decided that it would be the right decision to jeopardize their health, their status on their respective teams, and maybe even their curb appeal in the eyes of the NBA and NFL, and get in a fight about a girl who reportedly chose to change teams — meaning she’s supposedly chosen to date a guy from one, then the other.  Taylor wound up with a dislocated thumb because of this and ended up going to the hospital.  I highly recommend you check out the piece from BIAH (linked above) that lists Taylor’s Twitter and Facebook updates about this whole situation.  My favorite:  “Never get outta character…I’m always a G about it.”  Yeah.  Because that matters.

Dont hurt your fighting thumb!

There are reports that this incident actually involved multiple players from each team, but Taylor was the only one injured.

ESPN is also reporting that Taylor, a vital component for KU’s hoops success this upcoming season and a definite NBA prospect who was the leading scorer on the USA Under-19 team that won the gold medal in New Zealand this summer, could miss around 4 weeks because of this nonsense.  If you behold our beautiful Midnight Madness Countdown Clock up in the top right portion of the RTC front page, you’ll notice that we are (thank God) well under a month until first official practices.  So, this means that because of a girl, and his aforementioned desire to be a G about it, Taylor could miss (or be less than 100% for) the first few official workouts with the rest of his squad, the almost consensus pre-season #1. 

Evidently, animosity between the basketball and football teams has existed for a long time at KU.  This piece by Tom Keegan at KUSports.com gives a few examples of great feuds in his lead sentence.  What would we call this one?  Gridirons vs Hardwoods?  Oblongs vs Roundballs?  Leathers vs Pigskins?  I invite you to leave your own suggestions in the comments section.  More on this as it develops.

 

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Greg Paulus Attempts to Take Teabagging to the NFL

Posted by rtmsf on April 14th, 2009

After four years as the recipient of regular teabagging (memo to neocons haters of federal government expansion who were curiously silent until Jan. 20, 2009: we’re not talking about your tea party nonsense), Duke’s Greg Paulus has readied himself for the next level.  Pro Football Talk reported yesterday that Paulus, a former Gatorade national HS player of the year on the gridiron, worked out for the Green Bay Packers over the weekend. 

There are a million great jokes that we could roll out here, but we’d be hard-pressed to overcome the job that Chris Mottram at the Sporting Blog has already done for us.   Pure brilliance.  (h/t Sporting Blog)

Paulus immediately drew three roughing the passer calls before running into the endzone, slapping the grass twice and then having this happen to him:

gonzalez-dunk-on-paulus

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It Happens More Than We Think

Posted by rtmsf on July 25th, 2007

Now that we’ve had a few days to mull over our thoughts with respect to this Tim Donaghy scandal, and after watching the Commish and High Priest of All Things Basketball grin and bear it through an excruciating (for him) press conference yesterday, we still find ourselves circling back to our initial thoughts when the news broke.

It happens more than we think.   

Sports Betting is Cool 

Yes, it’s horrible and it shows a lack of oversight of its refs by the L and it calls into question the very integrity of the game that Stern and his predecessors have worked so hard for so long to  ensure… 

And it raises valid questions about the possibility of other officials involved, other leagues involved, other (gasp) players involved, the plausibility of collusion, whether this is an isolated incident, and what, if anything, the lords of professional and amateur sports can do to contain it or snuff it out completely… 

And yet, the simple answer is that they can’t.

We like to imagine that this kind of thing can only happen in far-flung places in sports far inferior to ours, the kinds of places where officials have one foot on the field and one in the smoky backroom pub scene that gives rise to the incentive in the first place (are we talkin’ about this or are we talkin’ about this??).  The kinds of places where institutional shadiness is the rule for getting anything done.   The kinds of places where judges fix Olympic matches and sporting heroes are eliminated for their on-field transgressions.  After all, we live in the USA –  the land of internal controls and open transparency and due diligence and audit trails and CYA and watchers of the watchers of the watchers, right?  Right?

So how much are your Enron or Worldcom shares worth these days? 

So where are those shifty WMDs located after all?

So when does OJ come up for parole again at San Quentin?  

Sports Bookie  

Does Your Guy Offer Teasers?

This is not to say that we buy into the avalanche of conspiracy theories that were already surrounding the NBA prior to last Friday.  All those chirping Suns fans need to pipe down – Donaghy betting the Over didn’t make your team lose.  However, we also mustn’t keep our heads in the sand here.  Stern told us yesterday and he’s going to preach the mantra again and again that this was an isolated incident of a lone gunman referee.  But doesn’t your gut tell you that, while Donaghy probably acted alone here, there have been others in the past?  Maybe there are others now? 

When we heard that the ACC, attempting to capitalize on the NBA’s bad publicity to tout its own integrity, stated that they spend $135 on a background check of each of its officials, we couldn’t contain our hearty guffaws.  The Big Ten makes an identical claim.  While kudos are in order that these two leagues are doing something to show that its hired hands possess a modicum of integrity, we know for a fact that a simple background check revealing a very basic civil/criminal and credit history gives minimal information with respect to whether someone is a closet gambler or would become compromised to the point of taking money to impact spreads.  How do we know this?  Well, as we were formerly under the employ of a company specializing in “security consulting,” we understand that any deliverable under $1000 each for this type of work will be fraught with gaping holes in coverage and generally suspect as a useful tool – it’s simply not enough.

And what about the 29 other D1 leagues and their officials?  Is anyone doing background checks on these guys?  Is anyone evaluating their calls with the same gusto that the NBA and NFL does (and yet, Donaghy still slipped under the radar until the FBI overheard his name on its mob-related wiretaps).  According to Stern, Donaghy (a 13-year veteran) was making a hefty $260k/year (a first-year NBA official will make $85k).  MLB umpires start at $88k and range up to $300k/year.  As essentially part-timers, NFL referees make between $42k – $121k/year.  What about NCAA refs?  In college basketball, they work as independent contractors and get paid approximately $2000 per game – as an example, Ted Valentine worked 98 games last season, so his annual salary would have been $196k.  In college football, the requirement of more officials equals less pay, averaging around $1100 per game for each.

Referee with Bob Knight   

Is $100k-$200k Enough for NCAA Refs? 

Where there’s a vacuum, there is an incentive.  At the professional level, the officials on the floor/field make at best 10% of the league average of the players.  In college officialdom, the money isn’t as good as their professional peers and the oversight is accordingly weaker.  What this means is that, if done correctly selectively, by keeping it completely to yourself (read: online betting using false credentials and third-party transaction services – hello IRS audit!) or with one trusted associate, and appropriately obfuscating the winnings, it is virtually impossible to determine whether a Mountain West or Sun Belt or Big 12 or SEC official is influencing pointspreads and/or outcomes for personal enrichment.  He could earn several extra thousand dollars per week (not enough to move the Vegas lines) without so much as an eyebrow raised.       

The professional leagues like to claim that this never happens, but we already know that it does.  What about the Black Sox scandal of 1919, Pete Rose, Tim Donaghy and even perhaps the sacred cow of the NFL, who according to investigative writer Dan Moldea, at least seventy games were fixed throughout the 1950s-70s?  At least nowadays we can rest assured that these leagues are on notice for corruption, even if as in the case here with Donaghy, it is not outed earlier.   The NCAA environment, however, is more ripe for corruption of this type, with its witch’s brew of amateur players, not-as-well-compensated officials and an incredible lack of oversight from most leagues.  Can the Pac-10, for example, show how each official calling games in its league did ATS and O/U for the last four years to sniff out evidence of possible corruption?  Doubtful.   

Flamingl LV

Found in John Clougherty’s Pockets!

A recent statistical analysis from the Wharton School at Penn suggests that one percent (~500) of NCAA basketball games from 1989-2005 fell into an outlier that suggests gambling-related pointspread corruption.  This dovetails with a 2003 NCAA report that states that 1.1% of NCAA football players and 0.5% of NCAA basketball players accepted money to play poorly in a game (extrapolating from the sample suggests that this affects ~21 basketball and ~112 football players annually).  Somehow the math isn’t adding up (500 games/17 seasons = ~30 affected games/year in NCAA basketball) – what could possibly account for that difference? 

While we can’t find an example of an NCAA official becoming involved in a pointshaving scandal like what we’ve seen at Boston College, Arizona State and Northwestern in recent years, we have no doubt that it occurs – much like Donaghy until he got busted, they’re probably just better at hiding it.     

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