“We Ain’t Come Here To Play School”: Todd Mayo Edition

Posted by mlemaire on November 6th, 2012

Note: The hope is to turn this into a recurring feature that chronicles the academic troubles of Big East players that seemingly pop up every season. Of course if everyone in the conference hits the books and stays academically eligible, then this will be the only piece in this feature and I will feel foolish. Carry on.

The quote above came from Cardale Jones, the third-string quarterback for Ohio State who made waves on social media in early October when he tweeted out this opinion, letting the world know exactly how little he cared for academics. While Jones may have made for an easy target, he clearly is not the only elite athlete with disdain for schoolwork — just ask Marquette’s Todd Mayo, who will be academically ineligible until at least the end of the fall semester and won’t be allowed to practice or play with his team in the interim. Buzz Williams and the Golden Eagles were hoping the dynamic Mayo would make some strides offensively, become more consistent, and play a major role in Marquette’s attempt to reload following the departures of stars Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom. Unfortunately for Williams and the rest of his team, Mayo didn’t come to Marquette to “play school.”

Todd Mayo Has Been A Continuous Source Of Frustration For Buzz Williams

If this were Mayo’s first off-the-court incident, the Marquette faithful and his coaches might be more willing to cut him some slack. But Mayo, the younger brother of Dallas Mavericks’ guard O.J. Mayo, has been with the program for less than two seasons and has already earned his fair share of negative headlines. Mayo was suspended last season for a game against West Virginia and suspended again during the summer for violating team rules. His teammates complained that he was aloof and didn’t want to be a part of the team, so Williams sent him home during the second summer session in hopes of helping Mayo mature and become more responsible. Apparently that strategy only worked for a while and now the Golden Eagles will be without one of their best scorers for the first part of the season.

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Morning Five: 08.23.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 23rd, 2012

  1. It seems like all we talk about in these M5s are player eligibility issues, but something new is released almost every day. The latest release involves the other half of the top two players in the incoming freshman class (depending on whom you ask). With UCLA”s Shabazz Muhammad sitting in Westwood yesterday as his team flew off to China without him, SI.com‘s Pete Thamel published a piece revealing that the NCAA is taking a closer look at the recruitment of Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel, visiting his former high school for the second time in three months to inquire about some of the associations he has with various prep basketball hangers-on, and specifically, how Noel paid for some of his unofficial recruiting visits. As expected, Kentucky fans have been quick to play the victimization card by their media public enemy #1, Thamel, but the truth of the matter is that this is becoming NCAA standard operating procedure for elite recruits in today’s environment. Just this offseason, Noel, Muhammad, Providence’s Ricardo Ledo and NC State’s Rodney Purvis have been more carefully vetted by the NCAA, and in the era of players frequently jumping high schools, more and more powerful AAU basketball, and vast coteries of agents and runners looking for a piece of the action, these careful evaluations of elite recruits is going to continue.
  2. It was therefore superb timing on CBSSports.com to release another of their Critical Coaches series Wednesday asking a question along these lines. They asked their coaching contacts which player’s recruitment from the last decade was perceived (there’s that word again) to have been the dirtiest? Recall that a couple of weeks ago, John Calipari, Scott Drew and Ben Howland were perceived to be the biggest cheaters in the sport — among the group of players named in this follow-up question, the top four named and six of the top 10 were recruits under either Calipari or Howland. Interestingly, none of Drew’s guys — from Quincy Miller to Isaiah Austin to Perry Jones — were named in this poll. But boy, both Calipari and Howland’s guys sure were — the top four: Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Davis, John Wall, and Kyle Anderson. The next two on the list? OJ Mayo and Derrick Rose — two players who, you know, were proven to have committed serious violations during their recruitments. A number of other players received votes but it’s clear that, with nine of the 24 players named (Terrence Jones, DeMarcus Cousins, Enes Kanter, and J’Mison Morgan were also named), the Kentucky and UCLA head coaches are perceived to be playing a different game than everyone else.
  3. Sigh… While on the subject of the shamelessness of some of the questions in this Critical Coaches series, would it be too much to ask the CBSSports.com gentlemen — all of whom are good and capable dudes — to follow up with some of the hundreds of coaching contacts they have and do the proper journalistic legwork to prove (or disprove) these perceptions? If Shabazz Muhammad’s recruitment is perceived to be the dirtiest in the last 10 years of college basketball (or Anthony Davis’… or John Wall’s… or Kyle Anderson’s… you get the point), how about spending some of that energy nailing the people responsible; or, alternatively, clearing those mentioned from that perception? It all just feels a bit too US Weekly, which as John Clay suggests, is fine if that’s what the site wants to be — but unlike most college basketball portals, that group has the resources, the time, and quite clearly the contacts to find out where the bodies are buried. Instead of pure sensationalism, how about digging up a few bones here and there along the way?
  4. Let’s continue a theme with today’s M5 by mentioning that UNC has “quietly” moved its director of academic support services for athletes into another position at the university. Specifically, Robert Mercer, the department’s leader for 10 years, has become a “special assistant for operations” at the school’s Johnston Center for Academic Excellence (where everyone who wants an A, gets an A!). Sorry. UNC of course went to great pains to lay blame at the feet of Mercer for the problems that occurred under his watch, but it’s clear to anyone watching that he’s falling on the sword in return for an opportunity to keep his job (current salary: $81,900 + bennies). One note on this story — outside of Tobacco Road, it’s not well-known just how much vitriol exists between NC State and North Carolina. Take a read at some of the 15 pages of user comments under this Raleigh News & Observer article, and you’ll understand very quickly that the hatred between those two fan bases runs very, very deep.
  5. Back to basketball. One of the best ongoing columns if you’re looking for insightful information about the sport is Mike DeCourcy‘s Starting Five piece. If you can get past DeCourcy’s floating head at the top of each article, it’s really an excellent read, and this week was no different. He doesn’t get cute with it, but the insight is that the questions he answers are often a step or two beyond the typical “how do you see XYZ next year?” type. In this installment, he discusses the paucity of elite point guards in college basketball, Keith Clanton’s loyalty to UCF, and the possible upside for a number of non-power conference teams, among other things. There are few regular offseason columns that we’d describe as must-reads, but DeCourcy’s Q&A is definitely worth a few of your minutes each week.
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Big 12 Morning Five: Columbus Day Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 10th, 2011

  1. More proof the season has almost arrived: the Big 12 announced its preseason awards last week, and at first glance, there are only a few points of controversy. Keeping in mind that preseason speculation means essentially nothing, it’s worth debating whether or not Texas guard J’Covan Brown should make the All-Big 12 team after starting zero games for the Longhorns in 2010-11. Also, Baylor’s Pierre Jackson and KU forward Kevin Young have decent arguments for Newcomer of the Year over Royce White, and Texas guard Myck Kabongo could push LeBryan Nash for Freshman of the Year honors. In the end, though, it’s all meaningless. Wake us up when the real awards come out in March.
  2. In your Surprising Realignment News of the Day, it appears Air Force actually told the Big 12 it was not interested in joining the league. In one of the more candid quotes of the week, AFA athletic director Hans Mueh said he simply “can’t recruit against Texas, Oklahoma [and] Oklahoma State.” Mueh’s programs would probably have trouble recruiting in any power conference, but the Big 12 likely won’t shed any tears after losing out on Air Force. That is, unless the rest of the Big East leftovers turn it down.
  3. For now, it doesn’t look like the Miami firestorm surrounding Missouri coach Frank Haith has affected his staff’s recruiting efforts much. Haith’s Tigers picked up a verbal over the weekend from Negus Webster-Chan, a 6’7″ forward from Huntington, W.V., and most of the credit for this commitment goes to assistant coach Tim Fuller. Webster-Chan pledged to Louisville originally, but when Fuller left the Cardinals for Columbia, he backed out of his commitment. Webster-Chan is the fifth recruit to verbal to MU for the Class of 2012, and while none are traditional blue-chip recruits, it’s at least a sign that players aren’t terrified of Haith’s job status. By the way, may as well throw this out there: Webster-Chan attended the same high school as former USC superstar O.J. Mayo. Counts for something, right?
  4. SLAM magazine published an article on Friday about Baylor’s Perry Jones, and the sophomore stud made some interesting comments to the magazine. He addressed last season’s suspension from the NCAA and also discussed his future plans for the NBA, saying he wants to be a “superstar.” As the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year, he certainly has a chance to nab that title.
  5. All anyone ever wants to talk about with realignment is who may be joining; but what about how many should join? Tom Keegan at the Lawrence Journal-World has some advice: and that’s for the Big 12 to stay at 10 teams. After 15 years of having 12 schools, Keegan argues further expansion would disrupt the balance of the league and cause many of the same problems that have plagued the Big 12 since its inception: losing out on BCS bowls because of a league championship game (see: Missouri, 2007) and unbalanced basketball scheduling.  Interesting argument.
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Is The NCAA Taking On American Soldiers?

Posted by nvr1983 on November 27th, 2010

The media and fans have criticized the NCAA for years for the sheer ridiculousness of some of its rules and how it applies those rules. While everyone is aware of the NCAA’s decisions on players reportedly receiving payments before school like Enes Kanter or Josh Selby, and while in school like O.J. Mayo or Reggie Bush, there are also grey areas such as when recruits come as part of a package deal like that in which Michael Beasley was reportedly involved. Much has been made of the NCAA’s perceived uneven application of those rules and the glacial pace at which they have enforced them. The latest application of those rules that led Duquesne‘s men’s basketball program to report itself to the NCAA, however, should make even the NCAA’s staunchest defender cringe. 

So what exactly did Duquesne do that led it to turn itself into the NCAA? Donate shoes to American soldiers, according to Duquesne. Ok, maybe it is a little more complex than that. Technically, they donated shoes to a foundation run by Bob Starkman, the coach at Broward Community College, who then sent them to US troops in Afghanistan. So even though the shoes were sent to the US troops because they were sent to Starkman, a junior college coach, they were interpreted as a gift to Starkman, which would be a secondary NCAA violation. Here is the official statement from Duquesne via athletic director Greg Amodio: 

In an attempt to support our troops in Afghanistan through a program conducted by Bob Starkmann [sic], head basketball coach at Broward CC, the Duquesne University men’s basketball staff inadvertently violated an NCAA bylaw that prevents Division I institutions from sending athletic apparel/equipment directly to a junior-college coaching staff. Therefore, the Duquesne University athletic department has submitted a letter to the NCAA outlining the circumstances associated with this secondary violation. 

Seems like a straightforward case of the NCAA being ridiculously anal, right? It turns out the case might not be that simple. 

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Myron Strong Dismissed By UTEP, Leaves Behind Flaming Bridges

Posted by jstevrtc on August 13th, 2010

As if things weren’t already hot enough in Texas this summer, something boiled over at UTEP yesterday as rising senior guard Myron Strong was dismissed from the basketball team by head coach Tim Floyd for, in Strong’s words, “violating dorm rules.”  When Strong communicated with the UTEP blog Miner Rush later on Thursday, though, he mentioned something else that might have had something to do with it:

The coaching in college isn’t fair to me. You know the coaches are gonna bring in who they want to bring in.  I only failed one drug test at UTEP. The first couple days Tim Floyd came to UTEP he tested our squad and the majority of the team failed.

The website pressed him on this issue, and Strong continued his harangue:

As far as the drug test, I’m not giving any names but if I got kicked out because of that, that’s just plain out wrong because I wasn’t the only person who failed. He wanted me out so he did anything in his power to do so. My senior year at that. I never wanted to leave UTEP and plus I failed a drug test months ago, so why am I now all of a sudden off the team? I don’t get Tim Floyd at all. He’s trying to basically ruin my image…

Floyd dismisses Strong, and has some holes to fill at the guard spot.

Strong, who averaged 2.9 PPG, 1.5 RPG and 2.0 APG in 13.3 minutes per game last season as a transfer from the University of San Francisco, continued to slam Floyd and the UTEP staff in that discussion, claiming that Arnett Moutrie and Derrick Caracter were pressured not to even consider testing the NBA waters or they “would not have a scholarship,” and that college coaches “preach to us to do the right thing but they’re the ones breaking all the rules.”  We don’t want to just repeat the whole story from Miner Rush, so go check out the link above after you’re done here.  The blog notes at the end that they’ve asked the UTEP athletic department for a comment but had received nothing.

Unfortunately, that’s not the end of this.  Taking a page out of J.R. Inman’s book, Strong brought up on his Facebook page the relationship between Floyd and former USC guard O.J. Mayo, writing (among other things), “I’m hearing [Floyd] had a fake charity event to pay OJ Mayo $100,000 to play for him. How did the ncaa [sic] let that slide?”

UTEP has been all but silent on the matter, offering little comment other than to say that Strong was dismissed.  But Memphis Commercial-Appeal writer Dan Wolken tweeted yesterday that he had spoken with Floyd, who confirmed that the dismissal was due to the failed drug test.

Strong will attempt to play next season at either Azusa Pacific University in suburban Los Angeles or Victory University in Memphis, according to his comments to Miner Rush.  A comparatively minor (no homophonic pun intended) contributor in the UTEP system, Strong’s ouster nevertheless leaves Tim Floyd with only two returning officially-listed guards who played more than three minutes a game last season, specifically scoring leader Culpepper (17.9 PPG in 33.3 minutes) and fellow senior Christian Polk (9.3 PPG in 24.6 minutes), though junior forward Julyan Stone (6.1 PPG in 30.8 minutes) spent some time at both guard and forward last year.  With Derrick Caracter now a Laker, Arnett Moultrie’s transfer, and now Strong’s removal, Tim Floyd has a team to rebuild, let alone an image that needed repair long before Strong took his complaints to various public forums.

[h/t: VBTN]

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Morning Five: 07.26.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 26th, 2010

  1. We’re starting to become concerned about the fall that Bob Huggins endured on Friday that sent him to the hospital with four broken ribs.  Initially it was believed that he would released on Saturday, but as of late Sunday night, Huggins was still being held in a Las Vegas hospital for observation purposes.  Doctors were apparently concerned about bone fragments that could cause other problems, and anyone who has had such an injury says that there is a great deal of pain while breathing.  Regardless, we hope that Huggins can get out of the hospital soon and resume his normal activities of recruiting, coaching and scowling at people.
  2. This article at Fanhouse argues that USC basketball got off fairly easy in light of the OJ Mayo scandal and the subsequent penalties (or lack thereof) handed down by the NCAA.  Um, we guess?  What seems to be missing in this analysis is that the athletic department unsuccessfully threw Trojan basketball to the wolves in an effort to save the football program from harsher sanctions.  But at least they were proactive in getting in front of the problems and making the organization think that they were serious about self-policing in at least one sport.  If USC had been as cooperative with punishing themselves over Reggie Bush’s indiscretions as they were with OJ Mayo, the gridiron Trojans may not be facing a two-year ban from the postseason.
  3. The Pac-10 coaches are discussing how the league plans to handle dividing up the new twelve team conference and everyone seemingly agrees on one thing — they don’t want to lose out on the fertile recruiting grounds of Southern California.  And with good reason, as the ten teams last year had 33 players from SoCal on their rosters, nearly 25% of the entire league’s cache.
  4. This article on Dan Beebe, the “Savior of the Big 12,” paints a much different picture than the one that was being bandied about when it appeared the implosion of that league was imminent.  A good lesson learned here.
  5. Former Oklahoma all-american and jazz musician Wayman Tisdale, who passed away from cancer in 2009, will be honored in perpetuity as the namesake for an award handed out by the USBWA to the top freshman player in America.  Given that nowadays the top rookie is often the best collegiate player in America as well (John Wall, Kevin Durant), this is a great way to remember the gentle giant from Tulsa.
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Morning Five: 07.21.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 21st, 2010

  1. The biggest news in the world of college athletics came out of South Central today as USC announced that its longtime athletic director Mike Garrett will step down in the wake of probation for both the football and men’s basketball programs on his watch.  Pat Haden, another former USC quarterback, will take over for Garrett in that capacity.  New USC president Max Nikias, still weeks away from formally taking over, also decreed that the school will remove all athletic references (photos, murals and the like) to Reggie Bush and OJ Mayo prior to the arrival of incoming students next month.  They’re even sending Bush’s Heisman Trophy back!  Former head coach Tim Floyd, currently whiling his time away in El Paso, had little to say about the matter.
  2. Notre Dame’s Mike Brey to his irresponsible players Tim Abromaitis and Eric Atkins:  “A lot of sweating will be involved.”  Here’s hoping that they have to run a mile for every beer imbibed.  Y’know, because of the extra calories.
  3. Some coaching news from yesterday.  UIC’s Jimmy Collins announced his retirement effective at the end of August after fourteen seasons at the school — including three NCAA Tournament appearances and six other winning campaigns.  As Goodman reports, the timing of this is odd given that it’s currently the height of recruiting season, but Collins has had medical issues in the past.  We hope he’s ok.
  4. One piece of player news that slipped past us over the weekend — Gonzaga (ok, RTC) fan favorite Bol Kong is leaving Spokane for personal reasons.  Kong averaged 4.5 PPG in his only season for the Zags, but showed promise with a solid three-point stroke (43%) and a nose for the ball.  We hope to see him re-surface somewhere soon.
  5. Jeff Goodman and Matt Norlander did a cool thing to get ready for this weekend’s recruiting extravaganza in Vegas.  They polled the top recruits to see whom they would choose as the best in several categories, and the results were interesting.  Austin Rivers was named the top player, Michael Gilchrist the best defender and hardest worker, Brad Beal the best shooter, Marquis Teague the best shooter, and Anthony Davis the best rebounder.  Oh, and best trash-talker: Quincy Miller (no surprise if you read his tweets).  It should be a fun weekend sorting through all of these players out in the desert.
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Morning Five: 06.04.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 4th, 2010

Without question, the condition of John Wooden is the most important concern in the world of college basketball right now, and certainly beyond it, and we will be updating the site as needed on that issue.  Because that is obviously a subject that demands much greater reflection, today’s Morning Five links five other stories relevant to our sport.

  1. This has been a very busy week for college hoops news despite the calendar showing June.  We know that it won’t be today as we had all originally heard, but at some point in the near future USC will learn its NCAA-meted fate as a result of the Reggie Bush/OJ Mayo/Tim Floyd eras.  Should the Trojan faithful be worried?  Mike DeCourcy believes that the hoops program will come out relatively unscathed, but Floyd and the footballers?  Not so sure.
  2. Is the Big 12 seemingly disintegrating right before our very eyes?  It would certainly appear to be the case after yesterday’s report that the Pac-10 is looking to raid the southern half of the conference and a stalwart such as Missouri failing to calm the whispers about its imminent move to the Big Ten.
  3. Great story today by ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil about Bill Courtney, the new head honcho at Cornell, and his boundless optimism.  He definitely seems like the kind of guy for whom it would not just be fun to play, but maybe play hoops with, as O’Neil references in the article.  It’s tough taking over a program that just had one of its best seasons and just lost its key players, but it sounds like Courtney will enjoy and smile right through any weighty expectations.
  4. We know about DePaul not releasing Walter Pitchford from his LOI, and here we go again.  Joseph Young, son of former Houston star and Phi Slamma Jamma member Michael Young (who also happens to be Director of Basketball Operations at UH), had signed on to attend Providence, but wants out so he can be nearer to home and a sick aunt with whom he’s very close.  Providence is saying no dice, and the Youngs aren’t happy.
  5. This was posted a couple of days ago, but if you haven’t read Seth Davis’ article about Steve Lavin immersing himself in his new position as the caretaker at St. John’s, here’s another chance.  Evidently the guy’s been so busy with vital aspects of the job like, er, recruiting, fundraising, and finding some assistants, that the he hasn’t even found a permanent residence in NYC yet.
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NCAA To Announce USC Decision On Friday

Posted by nvr1983 on May 31st, 2010

Over the past two weeks three of the premier college basketball programs in the country had been hit by scandals (Kentucky with the ongoing Eric Bledsoe saga, Kansas with a ticket scam, and Connecticut with…we don’t even know where to begin). The latest college powerhouse — USC — may not be in the same realm of those schools  in terms of basketball heritage, but it may send bigger shock waves through the NCAA landscape than any decision by the NCAA in years  when the NCAA announces its decision on punishing the school on Friday. While the headlines of this proceeding will center around alleged improprieties involving Heisman Trophy-winning running back Reggie Bush, the case of O.J. Mayo and the infamous Rodney Guillory could also be be brought up. The Trojans have already self-imposed sanctions on themselves stemming from the Mayo case, but are continuing to contest the allegations against Bush and his family. Although any punishments levied would be against the football program as “repeat offenders” since they were sanctioned in 2001 and the Bush era (2003-2005) falls within the 5-year window the sanctions might have significant ramification for all Trojan programs. Beyond the obvious direct impact of taking back the 2004 BCS title, Bush’s 2005 Heisman trophy, and essentially erasing the highly-controversial USC dynasty from the record books, a harsh verdict would be a blow to all USC athletic programs and provide strong ammunition for every team recruiting against the Trojans in the coming years. While many readers are undoubtedly convinced that the NCAA will only impose superficial sanctions on the Trojans there is a chance that they may come down harder than expected particularly now that both USC programs have fallen on (relatively) hard times and the NCAA would not be losing as much of a cash cow as it would have had they sanctioned the Trojans two years ago.

They may not even have that one soon.

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In 1-and-Done Era, Experience Wins Championships

Posted by rtmsf on April 16th, 2010

(special h/t to Luke Winn for inspiring this analysis with his article here)

You may have heard  in recent days that Kentucky’s John Calipari has been filling up on the tasty nougat that has risen to the top of the Class of 2010 high school basketball recruiting lists.  Five-star prospect Brandon Knight followed an impressive chorus line of 1-and-done Calipari point guards (D. Rose, T. Evans, J. Wall) by committing to the Wildcats on Wednesday, and Doron Lamb,  another five-star combo guard ranked in the top 25, committed today.  Turkish stud Enes Kanter committed last week, and there are rumors that others, including versatile top 15 forwards Terrance Jones and CJ Leslie, could be next.  All this, and we haven’t even mentioned yet that Michael Gilchrist, the consensus top player in the Class of 2011, has already verballed to go to Kentucky after next season.

Knight is a Great Talent, But Will He Take UK to the Final Four?

The point here is as clear as Ben Roethlisberger’s analgesic salves — high school prospects with dreams of NBA riches a year from now view John Calipari as the pied piper of the NBA Draft.  Follow him down the primrose path, and you will end up playing in the League one year later.  John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton are the trailblazers here.  With all four projected as first rounders in June, the hype of Calipari’s flute-playing squares nicely with reality.  And Kentucky’s regal basketball program is the beneficiary.

Or is it?

We’re big believers that there are external benefits to programs who recruit and enroll 1-and-done players beyond wins, losses and NCAA Tournament success.  In fact, every year we do exactly such an evaluation that includes criteria beyond that scope.  For example, it is our view that the Texas program is still benefitting today from its one year of Kevin Durant on campus in 2007 even though UT only made the second round of the Tournament that season.  The same goes with Michael Beasley at Kansas State in 2008.  Call it the Jordan Effect.  Even if the players who are later inspired to follow Durant and Beasley to those campuses aren’t as good as those two were, there is a significant residual ‘coolness’ effect in recruiting those younger players who can help sustain the quality of the program over time.  To put it in terms of Kentucky, a 12-year old right now may spend the next few years idolizing John Wall in the NBA, and when it comes time for him to make his school choice in five years, the Wildcats and Calipari would have already have an inherent advantage over other schools.

With that said, we know what Kentucky fans hope to get from all of these 1-and-done types, and it’s not just a bunch of springtime recruiting victories.  Eventually it needs to translate to wins, most specifically those in March and April as Winn alludes to in his article.  The question then that we analyze here is whether a focus on recruiting 1-and-doners will get a team to that goal.  The available evidence we have, using admittedly a very small sample size, says that it will not.

Take a look at the table below, which lists all sixteen Final Four teams from the 1-and-done era (2007-10).

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Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on February 24th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 conferences.

Standings

  1. California    10-5       18-9
  2. Arizona State     9-5          19-8
  3. USC     8-6          16-10
  4. Washington     8-7          18-9
  5. Arizona      7-7          13-13
  6. UCLA      7-7          12-14
  7. Stanford      7-8          13-14
  8. Oregon State      6-8          12-14
  9. Washington State     6-9          16-11
  10. Oregon       4-10       12-14

We haven’t had a Pac-10 update ‘round these parts since the conference season began, but it is no secret that the one-word summation of the Pac-10 season to this point is “ugly.”  The only team with anything at all to say about potentially receiving an at-large bid is California, and it is increasingly likely that if Cal fails to win the Pac-10 tournament, they’ll be looking at an NIT bid. For the first time in as far back as I care to research, the only Pac-10 team that will be heading to the NCAA tournament is the team that wins the automatic bid as the Pac-10 tournament champion.

A quick rundown of the teams:

California – The Bears currently top the conference, and of all Pac-10 teams have the best chance at an at-large bid given their RPI in the low 20s and the fourth toughest schedule in the country, but every time it looks like this team is going to  reel off a string of victories, they drop a game like they did Thursday when eighth place Oregon State handled them easily in Corvalis, 80-64. The numbers look good for the senior quartet of Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin (60.2 ppg between the four, with all averaging double-figures on the season), but each has been inconsistent this season, such as when Randle went just 2-9 from the field, 0-5 from behind the arc and had four turnovers in the OSU game.

Arizona StateHerb Sendek’s squad sits just a half-game back of the Bears in the conference standings, a bit of business that will get sorted out on Saturday when they head to Haas Pavilion, but although they have a top-50 win (something Cal cannot boast) over San Diego State, there just isn’t enough there on the ASU resume to really warrant serious at-large consideration. The Sun Devils have gotten as far as they have on the strength of their guard play; senior point Derek Glasser leads the conference in assists, and he and junior point Jamelle McMillan are one-two in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio.

USC – The Trojans are a team that would be a very tough out in the Pac-10 tournament – that is if the Trojans were going to play in the Pac-10 tournament. In an attempt to throw the NCAA hounds off the trail a bit and to make some sort of restitution for the O.J. Mayo, Reggie Bush and how many other incidents, the USC athletic department decided to self-punish the basketball program, stripping them of their chance to play in the postseason this year. Head coach Kevin O’Neill has done a pretty strong job of keeping his kids together and when the Trojans have come out focused they have been very strong this year (they’ve split with Cal, taken their one matchup with ASU, and swept Washington and UCLA), but playing out the string has got to be hard for these kids and as a result, they’ve lost games to Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State, that they might not have lost had a possible NCAA tourney bid been waiting at the end.

Washington – In a season of conference-wide disappointment, the Huskies have got to take home the title of most disappointing Pac-10 team. At the start of the year, Washington was considered something of a co-favorite to win the conference, and seemed to be a team that could make some noise in March. But between then and now, the Huskies have struggled to gain any consistency. They did pull together a four-game win streak in late January/early February, then laid an egg in their big matchup at Cal. Senior forward Quincy Pondexter has likely been the player-of-the-year in the conference (20.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg), but highly-anticipated freshman guard Abdul Gaddy has yet to catch on, and the team has struggled mightily on the road, notching just a 1-6 record so far.

Arizona – At some point in April, right after Sean Miller had accepted the Arizona job, his roster consisted of little more than senior point Nic Wise, junior wing Jamelle Horne, a couple other returning pieces and a boatload of question marks. Miller took advantage of the meltdown at USC and grabbed some of their fleeing castoffs and wound up patching together a pretty strong recruiting class, and actually had this Wildcat team tied for the conference lead not too long ago. Freshman forward Derrick Williams has been the best of the new Cats (15.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and while there are growing pains in the future, especially with Wise getting fitted for cap and gown, folks around Tucson are pretty confident that Miller will be able to get this program back to the heights they are used to.

UCLA – The incongruous facts that the Bruins are 7-7 in conference and two games under .500 on the season and that Ben Howland has done a pretty strong job getting his team that far is a good indication of how bad this Bruin team is. As sophomore Jerime Anderson’s inability to handle the point guard position became apparent, Howland slid another sophomore, Malcolm Lee, over from the two to play out of position. While Lee is still not particularly well suited to the one, he is a definite improvement there. Likewise, as this group as a whole showed that they were incapable of playing the type of man defense that Howland demands, he switched over to run some zone. Still not a great defensive team, but an improvement. Those types of things sum up this season for UCLA. While you still can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear, Howland has at least managed to scrape this Bruin squad together to the point where they aren’t consistently getting embarrassed.

Stanford – Senior swingman Landry Fields and sophomore guard Jeremy Green have turned into quite a duo up on the farm. They are the highest scoring duo in the Pac-10 (nearly 40 points a game), and Fields is a serious conference Player of the Year candidate. Sophomore Jarrett Mann has also turned into a nice point guard, and between he and Green, head coach Johnny Dawkins doesn’t have a whole lot of question marks in the backcourt for next season. The problem for the Cardinal has been the interior game. They are one of the worst rebounding teams (and that despite Fields’ second-best in the Pac-10 8.7 rpg) and are the worst shotblocking team in the Pac-10, with only 45 blocks on the season. Dawkins does have some help coming, however, with four forwards already signed in next year’s recruiting class.

Oregon State – In Craig Robinson’s first season, the Beavers took a major step forward. Certainly another seven-win improvement this season would have been more than anyone could have hoped for, but given the return of much of their roster and the decrease in the overall talent level in the Pac-10, expectations had to be higher than a mere repeat of last season for the Beavers. And yet, that’s where they’re at now. At this point in 2008-09, the Beavers were 12-13 and 6-8 in the conference. The only difference this year is one additional non-conference loss. Junior guard Calvin Haynes is the OSU leading scorer with 13.2 ppg this year; last year he averaged 13.0. Senior center Roeland Schaftenaar’s point totals have dropped slightly, while senior swingman Seth Tarver’s are up slightly. In all, it is looking like a huge uptick from Robinson season one to season two followed by a season worth of reruns.

Washington State – Not a lot of fun being a Washington-state sports fan these days. The Sonics are something called a Thunder these days and they play in tornado country somewhere, the Seahawks are at the bottom of the barrel, college football is just about non-existent and their college basketball programs, which were at one point a combined 20-3 this season, have now combined to go 14-17 since then. For the Cougs, sophomore wing Klay Thompson’s production has taken a bit of a dive in conference play (he just scored 10 combined points in a homestand against the Southern California schools), although he is still averaging almost 21 ppg this season. But with freshman point Reggie Moore and sophomore bruiser DeAngelo Casto to pair up with Thompson, head coach Ken Bone has a young nucleus around which to build.

Oregon – There are two more Pac-10 conference games that will be played at McArthur Court. While some of Oregon’s early-season non-conference games will be played there next season, the Ducks homestand against the Washington schools the final week of the Pac-10 season will close the books on the meaningful games played in that phenomenal building. Some sparkling, brand new beauty of an abomination will “replace” it, but the best atmosphere in the Pac-10 is going away. That’s what I’ll remember from this Duck season. Beyond that, head coach Ernie Kent totters toward a termination, the roster is full of guys with talent who aren’t able to string it together for more than a weekend or two, and Tajuan Porter just missed another wild three. But none of it matters. They’re closing Mac Court.

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Morning Five: 01.15.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 15th, 2010

  1. Knowing what we know about NC State, this idea to use a real wolf as the team mascot will not end well.  Then again, maybe the wolf can “escape” and devour Sidney Lowe during a rampage — that might make some of their fans happy.
  2. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan pulled no punches in his address to the NCAA yesterday, stating that college basketball is tainted by ‘renegade’ coaches and that the one-and-done rule is essentially an academic sham.
  3. The hits keep coming for DePaul.  Just days after firing their coach Jerry Wainwright, the Blue Demons lost their best player Mac Koshwal 2-4 weeks with a foot injury.
  4. Luke Winn is back with his power rankings in the best read of the week, as usual.  It’s a little scary that we remember those LJ/Augmon t-shirts from the days when the high fade was still rockin like Marley Marl and De La Soul.
  5. OJ Mayo continues to hide behind his agent when it comes to substantive answers while maintaining that he loves USC and would have never done anything inappropriate like, oh, maybe take money to attend the school.  Look, we know he’s not legally obligated to say a word, but just once we’d like to see an athlete come out in his prime and say, “yeah, I did all that stuff and more.  So what?”  Maybe by thumbing his nose at the NCAA, it’ll help embarrass the organization into re-assessing how they do business.
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