Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent for Sun Belt Conference. You can find him Twitter @dspewak.
The Week That Was
It wasn’t Ken McDonald‘s fault this his team lost in overtime to Louisiana earlier this month. The Ragin’ Cajuns, after all, scored the winning bucket with six players on the floor. After more than three years of McDonald’s frustrating tenure, though, the Sixth Man loss must have been the final straw for athletic director Ross Bjork. McDonald lost his job after the game, departing with a 67-49 record. Now, interim head coach Ray Harper must mold this young team into a competitor this winter, which should be a tall task for a team mired in a 1-7 free-fall since December 7.
Tony Mitchell‘s debut in Sun Belt play did not exactly make any headlines, as he fought foul trouble and scored just six points in each of his first two games. The third SBC contest with South Alabama was a charm, however. Mitchell went for 34 points and 16 rebounds, scoring in every way imaginable. He attacked the glass, fired from three-point range and finished 11-14 from the field. And last night, Mitchell’s hot streak continued with a 21-point effort in front of several NBA scouts in Denton. We knew this would be the case, but it’s starting to look like Mitchell is a sure one-and-done.
The Dynamic Tony Mitchell Hasn't Disappointed So Far (North Texas)
Middle Tennessee (16-2, 5-0): Here’s an easy formula to dominate a league: bully people on the glass and on the defensive end. That’s where MTSU makes its living. Averaging 11 offensive rebounds per game as a team, the frontcourt duo of LaRon Dendy and J.T. Sulton is simply unfair right now. Plus, with Bruce Massey playing well at the point and MTSU’s depth starting to round into shape, Kermit Davis doesn’t appear to have many weaknesses right now. Except, of course, for one big one: three-point shooting. Even though they do most of their damage in the paint, the Blue Raiders do not have an outside threat right now. Raymond Cintron is the only player really capable of getting hot from the perimeter, and even he shoots less than 40 percent from the field. Besides that, it’s hard to envision Davis’ team suffering a collapse after this 5-0 start. Saturday’s game at preseason favorite Florida Atlantic might be the most important game of the season. Read the rest of this entry »
Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent for Sun Belt Conference. You can also find his musings online at Sun Belt Basketball or on Twitter @dspewak.
The Week That Was
There’s not much excitement to report from the Sun Belt’s first night of conference play on Thursday, but UALR looks like the big winner with a road win at North Texas. The Trojans, who have struggled on the road under Steve Shields in recent years, had lost all six away contests during non-conference play, but a double-double from forward Will Neighbour and stellar guard play helped grind out the victory over the Mean Green. That will probably be a theme this year in the wide open West Division, where only Denver has established itself as a power. The Pioneers, by the way, handled Troy at home in their opener. East leader Middle Tennessee also held off a pesky Florida International team in Murfreesboro, and Western Kentucky escaped in overtime at Louisiana-Monroe.
With the second semester underway, the much anticipated debut of Tony Mitchell at North Texas hasn’t disappointed anybody. Although Mitchell struggled with foul trouble in the loss to UALR on Thursday, he has already showcased his freakish athleticism by throwing down dunk after dunk during his first four games. In wins over Jackson State, Grambling and New Orleans, Mitchell averaged more than 13 points per game and looked more than comfortable on the court. Even in a loss to LSU, Mitchell scored 11 points in 27 minutes after earning the start for Johnny Jones. He’s still improving at this point, but Mitchell should be a different player by early March.
Kermit Davis Has His Middle Tennessee Squad In Mid-Season Form (AP)
Middle Tennessee (12-2, 1-0) — Congratulations, Kermit Davis: you are now the winningest coach in MTSU history. Davis won his 165th game against FIU on Thursday, but more importantly, his team looks like the runaway favorite in the East after completing an impressive non-conference run. Two months ago, suggesting another division champ besides Florida Atlantic would have seemed insane, but Davis finally may have turned the corner with this program. This team is physical, nasty and downright intimidating, especially on the defensive end with LaRon Dendy and Shawn Jones as the shot-blockers. These forwards rebound well and they don’t give an inch in the paint, and on the other end — Dendy in particular has emerged as a back-to-the-basket scorer. There was never a question that MTSU would defend this season, but Bruce Massey, Marcos Knight and the rest of the guards have also answered every offensive concern Davis had in the pre-season. Middle Tennessee looks like a machine on offense right now, and that’s because it shares the ball as well as anybody in the Sun Belt.
Florida Atlantic (4-9, 0-0) — Don’t give up on the Owls. Sure, the record doesn’t look pretty, but Mike Jarvis challenged this team by taking his players to every city imaginable: Seattle, Washington D.C., Hempstead (N.Y.), Tampa, Lawrence, Starkville, Sunrise (Fla.) and Cambridge. That’s a lot of plane trips and bus rides, so it’s not surprising that the East Division favorite stumbled. It’s not encouraging that Jarvis’s squad could not pull even a single road upset over the likes of Kansas, Mississippi State, Miami or Harvard, but this team has not looked intimidated in any of those contests. It fought admirably in a double-overtime loss to the Hurricanes, using a frantic comeback late in regulation to shock UM. And the good news is, all-league point guard Ray Taylor is starting to play better after an early-season slump, and freshman Omari Grier has cracked into this loaded backcourt as the team’s best outside shooter. When FAU kicks off Sun Belt play on Saturday at Louisiana, don’t expect it to roll over and die. Read the rest of this entry »
Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent for Sun Belt Conference. You can also find his musings online at Sun Belt Basketball or on Twitter @dspewak.
The Week That Was
Middle Tennessee continues to roll. Despite a slip-up at UAB, the Blue Raiders got revenge on Belmont with a narrow three-point victory, offsetting a double-overtime loss earlier in the season to the Bruins. Behind a spirited home crowd at the Murphy Center, MTSU’s physicality and strength eventually wore down Belmont, who could not hold its own on the boards. With the victory, the Blue Raiders improved to 10-2, and they picked up what could prove to be the most important win of the season for coach Kermit Davis.
Speaking of important wins, Florida Atlantic has wasted several opportunities to claim them recently. Mike Jarvis scheduled a difficult slate to test his defending Sun Belt champion squad, but so far, the Owls have fallen flat against the likes of Washington, Kansas, South Florida and Mississippi State. But don’t give up hope for an upset just yet: FAU travels to Miami and Harvard during the next week.
A week after shocking the nation with a road win at Utah State, the Denver Pioneers dropped an overtime heartbreaker to MAAC favorites Iona. There’s no shame in losing to a team that has the talent to win 25 games this year, and the Gaels might be an at-large contender if they do not win their conference tournament. Still, in the end, it was Iona’s up-tempo style that sped up DU and forced it into 20 turnovers. The Pioneers actually held their own on the boards and shot reasonably well from beyond the arc, and had they held on to the ball, they could have picked up another quality victory in the non-conference.
Mike Jarvis and Floirda Atlantic Have Faced a Rugged Non-Conference Schedule (AP)
Middle Tennessee (10-2, 0-0): Kermit Davis may finally have the team his fan base has been waiting for all these years. Gone are the days that MTSU finished with a middling .500 record — these Blue Raiders look like NCAA Tournament contenders. With LaRon Dendy (14.4 PPG/6.7 RPG) leading the way, Middle Tennessee has the sort of size you might find in a power conference. Davis’s team rebounds with authority and dominates its opponents in the paint. The Blue Raiders are the best defensive team in the conference, and though they won’t wow you with perimeter shooting and an explosive offense, this team plays as hard as anybody around. Florida Atlantic has the guards we all love to talk about, but you won’t find any team with more intimidating size than MTSU.
Florida Atlantic (4-6, 0-0): It’s not time to panic yet, but we’re finding out early in this 2011-12 campaign that FAU is human. The consensus pick to repeat as East champs, the Owls’ undersized forwards have struggled against bigger post players. What’s more concerning, though, is the way FAU’s experienced guards have struggled. In particular, Ray Taylor (8.3 PPG/5.1 APG) hasn’t quite found his groove yet, and he’s even started coming off the bench. We’re talking about one of the league’s best players here, people — playing off the bench. He scored 20 points in a loss to Mississippi State, but coach Mike Jarvis even said he can still play better. He has to, or Florida Atlantic won’t go anywhere this season. Read the rest of this entry »
Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent for Sun Belt Conference. You can also find his musings online at Sun Belt Basketball or on Twitter @dspewak.
The Week That Was:
Pioneers Rolling:Denver looks like the best team in the Sun Belt Conference having knocked off both St. Mary’s and Utah State in the span of a week. And did we mention Denver is the first team since 2009 to beat the Aggies on their home floor? Nobody wins road games at Utah State—except for Denver, apparently. JoeScott’s team played flawlessly leading from start to finish. At one point, Denver led by 20 points eventually routing USU 67-54. And the game wasn’t even as close as that score would suggest.
Jags Pick Up Pace: South Alabama has quietly pieced together a couple of quality wins. Widely considered a bottom-feeder in the East Division, the Jaguars are now riding a two-game winning streak with wins against LSU and UAB. Not bad, huh?
Arkansas State In Neutral: The Red Wolves got a bit of national attention for their bizarre 54-27 loss at Louisville, simply because of the horrid offensive output. ASU rebounded with a blowout over Southeast Missouri State, however, but a 2-4 start isn’t what John Brady probably had in mind.
Denver's Chris Udofia Has The Denver Pioneers On The Rise After Quieting One Of College Basketball's Loudest Road Environments In Utah State. (AP/Tony Avelar)
1.Florida Atlantic (3-5, 0-0): Kansas was too much for FAU as the Owls fell by 23 points in Lawrence on Wednesday. Mike Jarvis probably hoped his team could compete a little better, but it simply did not have the size to slow down either Thomas Robinson or Jeff Withey. Florida Atlantic lost the rebounding battle by 20, and it missed an opportunity to gain a signature upset. It will have plenty of chances for that, though, later in the month: Jarvis brings his team to Mississippi State, Miami, and Harvard.
2. Middle Tennessee (6-1, 0-0): The only thing keeping MTSU from an undefeated record right now is a double-overtime slip-up against a good Belmont team a few weeks ago. That’s how well Kermit Davis has his team playing right now. LaRon Dendy has been a major factor in his first season in Murfreesboro after transferring from Iowa State, and the Blue Raiders have been stellar both defensively and on the boards. If this team can keep flexing its strength in those areas, the offense will come, especially now that Jason Jones is healthy.
3. South Alabama (3-2, 0-0): Something has clicked with this USA team, and a lot of that can be attributed to freshman guard Xavier Roberson’s play. Ronnie Arrow has zero returning guards from last year’s team so he needed somebody to step up quickly. Roberson has seized that role, and he scored 19 points in that overtime win at LSU. With Augustine Rubit doing his thing, Roberson’s emergence is great news for the Jaguars.
4. Florida International (2-3, 0-0): After a three-game losing streak, FIU salvaged the month of November with a victory over a solid Coastal Carolina team this weekend. The Golden Panthers have struggled to defend the three-point line at times this season, and they fell into old habits by dropping another nailbiter to Arkansas Pine Bluff. Last season, close losses killed Isiah Thomas’s squad. He’ll need to fix that as the year goes on.
5. Troy (3-3, 0-0): These sneaky Trojans may not be so bad after all. In coach Don Maestri’s 30th season at the helm, Troy is now at .500 after a victory over East Tennessee State. Mo Weathers continued his spectacular point guard play with seven assists and 14 points, and he’s picked up right where he left off last season. Weathers is a special player—the kind of guy who should make an All-Conference team at the end of the season—and he’s getting a lot of help from his teammates these days.
6. Western Kentucky (2-5, 0-0): They are young, inexperienced, playing under pressure, may have lost veteran guard Caden Dickerson for the rest of the year due to injury. We understand why WKU isn’t playing well right now, but those excuses won’t sit well with the demanding fan base. The Hilltoppers fell apart at home against VCU last week, just days after playing the Final Four participants to the wire in the Charleston Classic. WKU did finally get a victory over Southeast Lousiana, but this team has a long way to go.
1.Denver (5-1, 0-0): Hello, Pioneers. In typical Joe Scott fashion, Denver made Utah Statelook silly on Wednesday night by boring it with a well-oiled offensive machine. Denver coasted against the Aggies, snapping a 33-game home winning streak and stunning the nation. It’s not often you hear a buzz like this about a Sun Belt team, but you better believe Denver will get some national press for this victory. Chris Udofia is offering a new look at forward for this team, and the guards are shooting the ball well from beyond the arc. The most important thing, however, is that Denver isn’t relying on the three-point shot. It has offensive options in the frontcourt now—like Udofia—and it’s much less one-dimensional than a year ago.
2.Louisiana (3-5, 0-0): They haven’t played murderer’s row, but a decently competitive non-conference slate is wearing the Ragin’ Cajuns down. They battled MAC favorite Kent Statefor 40 minutes but ultimately lost this week without J.J. Thomas, and they also dropped a road contest at Duquense. Thomas, the star of the UL and a Sun Belt Player of the Year candidate, dealt with a knee injury during that Kent State game.
3.Arkansas State (2-4, 0-0): Although the West appeared to be the more competitive division in the pre-season, only Denver has overachieved to this point. ASU’s play has been disappointing after losing Martavius Adams, and it hit rock bottom when it scored 27 points in a loss to Louisville. The Cardinals are a terrific team. But 27 points? It’s tough to swallow at the Division I level. Rick Pitino’s pressure turned ASU over 23 times, and it made just 10 field goals on the night.
4.North Texas (1-4, 0-0): After a dominating victory over a Division II opponent, UNT has fallen flat lately. In four road losses—three to BCS-conference teams—the Mean Green have struggled to acclimate the large cast of newcomers. Freshman Jordan Williams, a heralded recruit, can’t find his shot right now, but it’ll come around. When Tony Mitchell joins this team in the second semester, things may turn around.
5.Arkansas Little Rock (2-5, 0-0): The defending Sun Belt tourney champs aren’t defending their title well so far, and like ASU, they also may have hit “rock bottom” in a blowout to Northwestern State. When UALR develops its primary scorers, it will be fine. Right now, though, the loss of reigning SBC Player of the Year Solomon Bozeman is evident.
6.ULM (1-6, 0-0): Keith Richard is in the W column. He’s battling through a difficult year with this team, considering it is not eligible for post-season play and a few key players have redshirted. Surprisingly, despite the 0-6 start, the Warhawks earned an easy road victory at Nicholls State this week by dominating the second half of play. Loyola transfer Charles Windborne came to play this year, as he’s scored in double figures four times already. That will help take the pressure off leading scorer Fred Brown, who took an absurd amount of shots for this team last year.
Denver vs. Iona, Dec. 7: The Pioneers have already defeated two mid-major powers in St. Mary’s and Utah State. Can they beat a third in Iona? Tim Cluess has a heck of a team here, complete with Arizona transfer Momo Jones, stud point guard Scott Machado, and Mike Glover, the man so ferocious they call him Optimus Prime. Iona loves to run, and it has athletes all over the floor. If Denver can slow the pace, it can control this game.
Florida Atlantic at Mississippi State, Dec. 13: It’d be nice for Jarvis’s program to at least notch one of these upset road wins. The Owls’ problem isn’t quickness or athleticism—it’s sheer size. They don’t have the bigs to play with teams like Mississippi State, who throw out the towering Arnette Moultrie and Renardo Sidney.
Middle Tennessee vs. Belmont, Dec. 13: It’s revenge time for MTSU, which lost the first meeting in double-overtime. That’s the only thing standing in the way of a 7-0 start for the Blue Raiders, and that’s got to weigh heavily on Kermit Davis’s mind. With a second chance at a victory, Middle Tennessee has a chance to pick up a quality non-conference win to add to its post-season resume.
Caught On Film
John Brady has had a difficult start to this season. After kicking off his best player, his Arkansas State squad has struggled to find a new scorer. You can see that frustration and hear it in his voice in the press conference below, which followed a blowout loss to Missouri State.
Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at email@example.com.
Lead Story: Jarnell Stokes Still Ineligible For His Senior Season
Jarnell Stokes Is Ineligible For His Senior Basketball Season. (Wildcat Blue Nation)
Top-20 Recruit Left Searching For Other Options. The TSSAA Board of Control, the body of people responsible for deciding whether Class of 2012 power forward Jarnell Stokes can play basketball his senior season, announced Monday that they denied his appeal to the August ruling that said he cannot play in the 2011-12 season. Stokes was initially ruled ineligible by Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association executive director Bernard Childress after transferring from Central High School (TN) to Southwind High School (TN). Stokes has lived in the same address for the past nine years in the Southwind district but was able to attend Central on an academic exemption as a freshman. However, Stokes’ academic record over the last three years doesn’t meet any of the ten TSSAA guidelines that would have allowed him to transfer and become eligible at Southwind this season. Despite the setback, Stokes and his family still have several other options. One option, something that Stokes’ father says is a possibility, is that Stokes can graduate early and enroll in college in January (keep in mind though that he is still uncommitted). Another option he has is to return back to Central, but his father says that almost certainly won’t happen. Stokes is a good enough player though that, even if he doesn’t player basketball this year, the likes of Arkansas, Memphis and Kentucky will still recruit him and his recruitment should be unaffected.
What They’re Saying
Senior standout Ricardo Ledo on who Providence is going after: “We’re trying to get [Class of 2012 power forward] Chris Obekpa, we’re trying to get [Class of 2013 center] Nerlens Noel, we’re going hard at him. We’re trying to get [Class of 2012 small forward] JaKarr Sampson.”
Ricardo Ledo Says Providence Is Going After Chris Obekpa, Nerlens Noel And JaKarr Sampson.
Danny Spewak of SunBeltBasketball.com is the RTC correspondent for the Sun Belt Conference and a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @dspewak.
Reader’s Take I
Restoring the Glory: In a mere three-year span, the Sun Belt has taken a discouraging tumble. During the 2007-08 season, the league’s RPI ranked 14th among the 31 Division I conferences. It placed two teams in the NCAA Tournament, including a Sweet 16 squad in Western Kentucky (thanks in part to this shot). Now, fast forward to present day: the SBC finished 23rd in the conference RPI in 2010-11, and the auto-bid winner (Arkansas-Little Rock) lost the play-in game as a 16-seed. Hoping to curb the trend, the commissioner’s office decided to take action, forcing every team to schedule a stronger non-conference slate starting this year. That tactic should help improve the league’s overall rating, but more importantly, it actually appears the league has upgraded its talent significantly. With every head coach returning and a wave of star recruits incoming (see below), the Sun Belt looks ready for a rebound.
The New Guys: Tony Mitchell, the five-star North Texas forward who originally signed with Missouri, headlines a brilliant crop of newcomers across the conference. In addition to Mitchell, UNT coach Johnny Jones inked all sorts of talent out of the state of Texas, including coveted shooting guard Jordan Williams. Western Kentucky will also rely on a highly-touted recruiting class to help rebound from a disappointing season, and Middle Tennessee welcomes Iowa State transfer LaRon Dendy. Florida International might have the most intriguing prospect in big man Joey De La Rosa, but his eligibility isn’t a given right now.
After Enrolling at North Texas, Tony Mitchell Is Finally Set To Take The Court. (USA Basketball)
Goodbye, Denver: The Pioneers will leave for the Western Athletic Conference after the season, but coach Joe Scott has a competitive roster in place to compete for the West division in DU’s final year in the Sun Belt. That’s the only realignment update to note with this league, although more moves at the top of college sports could eventually trickle down to the SBC.
Tough Luck, ULM: After failing to meet academic standards, the NCAA ruled the Warhawks ineligible for postseason play in 2012. Keith Richard is still in the process of rebuilding the program, so an appearance in even the CIT or CBI looked like a pipe dream. Still, the ruling also means the Warhawks cannot participate in the Sun Belt Tournament, and that’s a harsh way to end the careers of the five seniors on this squad.
Predicted Order of Finish (conference records in parentheses)
With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Sun Belt correspondent, Danny Spewak.
Staying Put: Not a single head coach in the Sun Belt changed jobs this summer. That fact is especially noteworthy in Bowling Green, a city that nearly chased Western Kentuckycoach Ken McDonald away during a mid-season losing streak. Athletic director Ross Bjork chose to retain McDonald, and he gave a fascinating interview to Nick Baumgardner about his decision. Down south in the state of Texas, Johnny Jones will return to North Texas after rumors linked his name to a few power-conference job openings. The folks over at ESPN Dallas saw asilver lining to UNT’s underachieving regular season and loss in the finals of the SBC Tourney. Jones interviewed at Auburn prior to last season, so although he’s in Denton for now, his name may keep popping up on the national radar.
They Don’t Count: Kentucky coach John Calipari made headlines this summer when NCAA officials asked him to apologize for holding a ceremony in February celebrating his 500th career victory. After all, due to vacated wins at Massachusetts and Memphis, some of Calipari’s wins don’t count in the formal record books. Turns out, Florida Atlantic’s Mike Jarvis is getting the same message from the NCAA—just without the media coverage. Reporters at FAUOwlAccess.com did some serious investigative reporting by obtaining a letter sent to FAU, telling the school not to count Jarvis’ vacated victories at St. John’s. School officials say they have no objections to the NCAA’s request.
Big-Time Transfer: Games between Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe just got a little more interesting. Vanderbilttransfer Darshawn McClellan announced in May he will transfer to ULL, and that means coach Bob Marlin picks up a 6’7″ forward who averaged more than 14 minutes per game during his first two years in the SEC. But more importantly, it means he’ll play against his brother, Steven McClellan, a sophomore forward who averaged 5.1 points per game last season. Who will the family root for?
Solomon Bozeman shot the UALR Trojans into the NCAA Tournament before falling to Akron in the first round (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images).
In Andy Katz’s latest update on the David Salinas situation, he reports that the University of Houston has found nothing that would suggest any compliance problems regarding their basketball program and the late investment advisor. Sticking to his guns, he also repeats that the NCAA has not launched a formal investigation into the matter because it lacks the evidence to do so right now (perhaps the corpus of the departed, the coaches talking to the media about their squandered money, and the federal investigation aren’t enough). Because we know people are being called about this — indeed, Katz notes as much in his article — as we alluded to in yesterday’s M5, maybe this is the difference between a formal and informal inquiry. When the NCAA calls and you’re on the other end of the phone, though, it probably feels formal enough. Also, do they have to ask the same questions a seond time when they investigation goes from informal to formal?
Remember Tony Mitchell? He was a top Class of 2010 prospect who initially signed with Missouri, but, after an investigation into his high school transcripts, it was found that he had attended an unaccredited prep school for a year on the advice of an AAU coach. Ruled ineligible at Missouri, he’s been at North Texas attempting to fulfill his academic obligations and get back on the court. SI‘s Luke Winn spent some time with Mitchell in Riga, Latvia during the latter’s service on the USA squad that just finished fifth in the FIBA U19 World Championships. The entire article is great, but the part that really got our attention was when Winn showed, through tempo-free stats gathered at the U19 tournament, how Mitchell compared pretty darn favorably to the best player in the competition, Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas…who just got taken 5th in the NBA Draft.
What is it with basketball, the state of Texas, and Ponzi schemes? Totally unrelated to the Salinas matter, a San Antonio businessman pleaded guilty yesterday and could face up to eight years in the big house due to his involvement in a false investment scheme once led by Travis Correll — a former Southeastern Conference referee! Correll is already in prison on a nine-year stretch and gets to pay $29 million in restitution when he gets out.
The July evaluation period(s) — big opportunity for previously unseen prospects, or teeming, swarming cesspool of corruption? Maybe that’s taking it a little too far, but one has to admit that in the past it’s always seemingly been these summer recruiting periods where so much naughtiness happens. John Wall says his life would be drastically different if he hadn’t had the July eval period to show his stuff. Everyone knows it needs an overhaul, but getting rid of it entirely might not be the way to go. Change is coming, though, and that right soon. What results may be a paradigm in which the traveling recruiting analysts become some very important (and therefore popular and probably very rich) dudes. Interesting stuff from the Washington Post, including takes from the likes of Messrs. Pastner, Calipari, and Izzo.
Excellent and difficult question by CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman: on the list of college basketball’s great accomplishments, where does Butler making consecutive title games rank? Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim both had pretty high praise, as you’d expect. We’re not going to tell you where Mr. Goodman listed it, so you’ll have click on the above link to find that out, but one thing we’re wondering is…what about next season? If Butler doesn’t have another great Tournament run (Bulldog fans, we’re not saying it won’t happen, this is a hypothetical), you know there will be people who will say that Brad Stevens should have cashed in and switched jobs when the gettin’ was good. If you hear such things, after you’ve rolled your eyes, please do it again on our behalf.
The Zeller family (of Luke, Tyler, and Cody fame) runs “DistinXion,” which is, as they call it, “a basketball/cheerleading and character training camp.” Yesterday, new Indiana signee Cody posted on the organization’s website his 10 favorite NCAA recruiting rules, with personal tidbits on how he and his family have dealt with them as coaches have made their cases to the boys over the years. It’s definitely worth a read, if only to hear Cody explain how programs can get around the phone-call restrictions, how some schools sent him empty envelopes in the mail, how Old Dominion made a great impression, and why everything he’s written for his family’s site has to be removed after he enrolls at IU.
The move that turned some heads yesterday was Ed DeChellis leaving Penn State and going to…Navy. Yes, that Navy. Why would a coach at a major-conference program that made the Big Ten Tournament title game and the NCAA Tournament last season leave his alma mater for a place that has virtually no hoops tradition, offers a smaller salary, and possesses admissions criteria that make it near impossible to put together a team that can win at the D1 level? Despite this past season’s “success,” next year was going to be another tough one for PSU, a place that barely acknowledges its basketball program, anyway, so perhaps DeChellis was just getting out a little early on his own terms to a place that genuinely wants him.
Maryland, it’s your tax dollars at work. The Baltimore Sun offered a breakdown of the highest-paid state employees yesterday, an interesting discussion for a couple of reasons. Most of the people who make more than the governor (who makes $150K) work for the university system, or are doctors employed by the state’s (rather alarmingly named) Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The highest-paid state employee in 2010? Gary Williams, who pocketed $2.3 million, though most of that came from endorsements/appearances, etc, added onto a base of over $450,ooo.
Let’s give a shout to Kenneth Lyons of the University of North Texas. Not familiar? Well, he’s the all-time leading scorer for the Mean Green and he’s in the school’s athletics hall of fame. He left the program after four years in 1983 without a degree, and the Philadelphia 76ers drafted him, but he never played a single game in the NBA. In 2000, he returned to UNT (it was North Texas State when he played hoops there) — not as a coach or a graduate assistant, but as a student. Tuition money has been hard to come by at times, but two weeks ago, 32 years after he started it, Lyons finished his degree in sociology. If you think college basketball has changed a lot in 32 years, just consider how different life in a classroom is now compared to then.
Congrats are in order for the following teams that locked up automatic NCAA berths this week: St. Peter’s (MAAC), Old Dominion (CAA), Wofford (SoCon), Gonzaga (WCC), Indiana State (MVC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun) and UNC-Asheville (Big South). It’s always fun watching these teams celebrate their conference championships because the excitement just feels more honest than, say, when an Ohio State or a Pittsburgh wins its conference tournament. Championship Week is great for television purposes because there are so many great games to watch, but there usually is less urgency among the teams from the major conferences. For them, conference tournaments are about posturing for seeds and surviving the weekend injury-free. Roy Williams once called the ACC Tournament a big cocktail party, and it’s not surprising that his two title teams both bowed out in the semifinals.
What We Learned
Davies Will Obviously Be Missed, But Charles Abouo's Emergence Has Mitigated the Sting
If you’re a big time recruit and have BYU in your top five, you might want to reconsider your stance on the Cougars. Seriously, why would a player with options want to go to BYU now that its draconian honor code system is in the national spotlight. By now, everyone knows BrandonDavies (BYU’s third leading scorer and leading rebounder) was suspended from the BYU basketball team for allegedly having premarital sex with his girlfriend. Davies’ suspension is a crushing blow for the Cougars, who have gone from a sexy popular national title pick to a team some think won’t make it out of the first weekend.