Morning Five: 07.24.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 24th, 2013

morning5

  1. Tuesday was the day for the Louisville Cardinals to visit the White House to celebrate their 2013 national championship, and perhaps the very best part of the entire proceeding was the extremely lukewarm applause at the top that Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) received when introduced by the POTUS. Obama gave his standard spiel of light-hearted remarks during the 10-minute event, referencing how Rick Pitino’s motivational technique of promising to get a tattoo “busted” his bracket and avoiding mention of the “other” school where the head coach won his first of two national titles. Pitino, to his credit, exalted the president while hitting on the themes of loyalty and perseverance that have come to define his teams at Louisville — giving Obama a Louisville Slugger engraved with his name to handle any future disruptive press conferences. For a much more detailed description of the Cards’ visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, check out Eric Crawford’s report from WDRB.com; and The Dagger has some great pictures that the players and entourage took while there. The entire press conference is at the bottom of this post.
  2. While Barack Obama has certainly taken his share of sniping in accordance with his lofty geopolitical position, the NCAA’s Mark Emmert may have taken even more concentrated vitriol from a unilateral perspective  (at least the Democrats support Obama; few seem to like Emmert). “One misstep after another,” as one administrator in this ESPN.com piece from Mike Fish and Dana O’Neil describes his three-year tenure as president of the organization. The accusations against the NCAA boss are lengthy, including not only mishandling of both the Penn State and Miami (FL) investigations, but also a general misunderstanding of the desires of his membership and a combative, at best, relationship with the media. It’s a really interesting read about the travails of the organization under his direction, and points again to a burgeoning restlessness among everyone that the NCAA’s days as a serious player on the American sports scene are effectively numbered.
  3. One school that certainly has no love lost for Emmert is Connecticut, given that the NCAA banned the Huskies from last year’s postseason as a result of its low APR scores. But, as Adam Zagoria at Zagsblog writes, Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier are back in Storrs and ready to make up for a lost season with a major postseason run in 2013-14. Louisville has to be considered the favorite in the spanking-new AAC, but the Huskies are a very interesting second banana. Kevin Ollie returns most of his key pieces from a 20-10 (10-8 Big East) squad that will no doubt enter next season with a major chip on its shoulder. If the chips fall into place for Boatright and Napier next season, there may not be a better backcourt in America. Only time will tell.
  4. What’s good for Duke is good for Team USA? That seems to be the correlation, as SI.com‘s Ben Golliver relates that Mike Krzyzewski‘s original decision to retire as USA Basketball’s head coach was more about reaching another four-year milestone at Duke than it was about international hoops. Basically, Coach K asked himself at the end of the 2012 Olympics whether he felt that he’d still be coaching at Duke in 2016, and at the time, he wasn’t sure of the answer. Since he believes that Team USA’s head coach should be actively involved in the sport — as he put it, “on the firing line” — he thought it would be best to give up the gig. USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo may have sensed Krzyzewski’s eventual 180, as he kept the job in waiting until Coach K decided last spring to return (stating that he is “sure he’s going to coach for a while.”). Given K’s 62-1 record and uncanny ability to get multi-millionaires to play team basketball for the USA jersey, this is a great, great thing.
  5. In our sport, summer is the time for testing out new things and the statistical wizardry over at KenPom is no exception. Yesterday the vaunted statistician announced a new metric to his suite of team data points yesterday: average possession length (APL).  As always with KenPom, the beauty of this new metric lies in the detail. Tempo is a measure that tracks efficiency, but APL simply tracks how long you are either holding the basketball each possession, or defending the basketball each possession. The 2013 listing is here (subscription required), but as Pomeroy notes, the correlation is already clear in viewing the last four years of data. Great defenses tend to correlate well with high defensive APLs — it’s harder for an offense to find a good shot — which begs the question whether faster-paced offensive coaches may be incentivized to slow things down to make their teams better overall. An interesting intellectual exercise, no doubt.

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Morning Five: 10.16.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2012

  1. From the we’ll-believe-it-when-we-see-it department, ACC coaches on Monday squarely put NC State’s Mark Gottfried right into the conference crosshairs with their decision to pick his Wolfpack as the front-runner for the 2012-13 league championship. Whew. NC State received eight of the 12 first-place votes, with second-place Duke receiving three, and North Carolina receiving the other top vote. Nobody will deny that Gottfried returns the most talent in the ACC from a Sweet Sixteen team — and adds quite possibly the best freshman in the league to boot — but still, the Wolfpack were a 9-7 conference team last season and Gottfried has never been a coach who has consistently gotten it done in the regular season. His best two teams at Alabama went 12-4 in the SEC (2001-02 and 2004-05) and he wasn’t facing the likes of Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams when he was cementing those records. From our perspective, the league belongs to Duke and North Carolina until it’s taken from them (the last team to win the ACC outright other than Duke/UNC occurred a decade ago).
  2. While on the subject of Duke, the Blue Devil program made quite a bit of news on Monday. While spending the day 90 miles south of Durham at Fort Bragg, going through physical training drills and holding an inspired open practice in front of a number of US Army troops — apparently Duke players applauded the soldiers as they entered the gym – the school also announced some less inspiring news. Redshirt freshman forward Marshall Plumlee has developed a stress fracture in his left foot and will miss the next 6-8 weeks of practice, putting significantly more pressure on older brother Mason and senior Ryan Kelly to man the boards and shore up the low blocks defensively. This is especially true given that the Blue Devils will face an early-season murderer’s row of Kentucky in the Champions Classic on November 13, the Battle 4 Atlantis (including a loaded field of Minnesota, VCU, Memphis, Louisville, Missouri, and Stanford) soon thereafter, and Ohio State at in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at the end of November.
  3. Coach K’s respect for the military of course comes from his time at West Point, where he played under a fiery disciplinarian named Bob Knight. The three-time national championship head coach, who has never struck us as much of a sentimentalist, is planning on auctioning his three Indiana championship rings, his Olympic gold medal (given to him by the LA Olympic Committee) as well as a sports coat and warmup jacket he received as the head coach for the 1984 US Men’s National Team (a squad that included Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing). With his regular speaking engagements plus his lucrative ESPN commentator gig, it’s unlikely that Knight is hurting for money — but, sensing that he could pay for his grandchildren’s college educations with one fell swoop through this auction — this was probably an easy decision for the 71-year old. The “Bob Knight Collection” will be auctioned off through Steiner Sports, ending on December 5 – if you have some money burning a hole in your pocket, that 1976 championship ring from the last undefeated team in college basketball would make for a great conversation starter.
  4. Harvard appeared to be on the verge of an Ivy League dynasty prior to a recent academic cheating scandal that has enveloped over 100 undergraduates including two of the basketball team’s best players, Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry. Still, there are hopes among Crimson faithful that Tommy Amaker’s team can bridge the gap this season while awaiting the return of its two stars in 2013-14 (both players withdrew from school this year, but plan on returning next season). Meanwhile, in coming off the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in over 65 years, the university is now backing a plan to build a brand-new basketball arena to replace its antiquated 1920s-era Lavietes Pavilion. The new arena will hold 2,700 people and be ready for the bouncing of balls some time between 2017-22. Whether Harvard will grow to become a regular NCAA Tournament participant by that date remains to be seen, but this next step in the progression of the program would not have been possible without the drive and vision for excellence that head coach Tommy Amaker had for Harvard basketball upon his arrival several years ago.
  5. Don’t expect any NCAA Tournament games in the great state of New Jersey anytime soon. The Meadowlands/Izod Center in East Rutherford has held multiple East Regionals (most recently in 2007), and the Prudential Center in Newark has taken that mantle more recently (hosting in 2011), but with the Monday’s publication of regulations licensing and outlining operating rules for Atlantic City casinos and racetracks so as to offer sports gambling, the NCAA’s long-running mandate of not offering its championships in states with such laws has gone into effect. Although there are currently no planned NCAA Tournament events scheduled in the Garden State, five other championships — including the Women’s NCAA Tournament East Regional in 2013 — have been pulled effective immediately. The natural outcome from this mandate is that the most prominent New York and Philadelphia arenas, including the Wells Fargo Center, the Barclays Arena, and Madison Square Garden, potentially stand to gain considerably in future bidding for NCAA Tournament sites. But hey, at least you can bet on the games in Jersey!
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Morning Five: 08.08.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 8th, 2012

  1. For college basketball fans over a certain age watching the Summer Olympics, an oft-repeated nickname uttered by the likes of Bob Costas, Mary Carillo, Ryan Seacrest and others probably grates a little more than it should. The gold medal-winning US women’s gymastics team, as we all now know, has been labeled by someone lacking any institutional sports memory with the nickname “The Fab Five.” The five girls aged between 15 and 18 didn’t memorialize themselves with the name, but others — most notably former Fab Five mouthpiece and current ESPN commentator Jalen Rose — may stand to make bank from the trademarked name as the team rides its 15 minutes of fame on a barnstorming tour throughout the US this fall. As we saw mentioned on Twitter last week, the Olympics are fundamentally sports for people who don’t typically like sports, and there is no better example of the two groups weirdly crossing paths than this one. If anyone’s wondering, nobody will be talking about this ‘new’ F5 two decades from now — we think the iconic maize and blue legacies of Webber, Howard, Rose, Jackson and King are still safe.
  2. It’s taken much of a couple of decades for Michigan basketball to get back to an elite status, as the Wolverines will be a preseason Top 10 team next season. Another local school, Oakland University, has as a matter of fact been to just as many NCAA Tournaments under head coach Greg Kampe in the last decade as Michigan. On Tuesday, Kampe started the first day of a fast where the longtime Golden Grizzlies coach will imbibe nothing but juice for an entire month in support of Coaches vs. Cancer. Um, we just drank a glass of orange juice over here, but, wow. Seriously, though, this is a herculean task for someone no doubt accustomed to eating solid, and undoubtedly, good food — Kampe tweeted last night that his first day of fasting was complete and that “even a yogurt commercial” makes him hungry. To donate to Kampe’s fast in support of CvC, make sure to hit this site. We always make sure to donate around the time of the Jimmy V Classic, but the CvC is getting a double dip from us this year.
  3. Team USA’s men’s basketball team will play Australia this afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament, which will allow one of the two college basketball players in the event to take a shot at a team he no doubt idolizes. As Jeff Goodman wrote yesterday, St. Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova is looking forward to the challenge of matching up against NBA All-Stars Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul. The rising senior and current WCC Player of the Year is one of the two SMC starters in the Aussie backcourt (playing off the ball with Patty Mills), and his 8.2 PPG and 4.6 APG have helped his country reach the medal round. For a complete look at his Olympic statistics, check out the FIBA page on the shaggy-haired star. The only other collegian in the basketball Games, College of Charleston’s Andrew Lawrence, played roughly 18 minutes per game for host Great Britain, but he was only able to convert 4-19 field goals and committed nearly as many fouls (15) as he scored points (16). His Olympic experience — engaging though we’re sure it was — is now over as the Brits did not advance to the medal round.
  4. While on the subject of Dellavedova, his college coach at St. Mary’s, Randy Bennett, was voted by his peers as the second most underrated head coach in college basketball. The most underrated was Temple’s Fran Dunphy, who garnered a commanding 14% of the votes (Bennett got 9%). A couple surprises on the list were two of the most prominent names in college basketball — Kentucky’s John Calipari (7%) and West Virginia’s Bob Huggins (5%). With tomorrow’s release of the most overrated coaches in the game, is it possible that one or both of those two will also show up on that list? Check in tomorrow at CBSSports.com to find out.
  5. Finally today, it is clear that Oklahoma State center Phillip Jurick has little to no interest in playing college basketball again. Just two months after an incident where he was cited for driving on a suspended license, the 6’10″ player who was already dealing with recovery from an Achilles tendon tear was arrested over the weekend for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Predictably, he was suspended by head coach Travis Ford and will not accompany his team on a 10-day exhibition tour to Spain, which begins today. A transfer from Chattanooga State who averaged 17 MPG in 26 games prior to the injury, he’s certainly piling on the hurdles that he must overcome to ever see another day in an OSU uniform again.
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Morning Five: 07.13.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 13th, 2012

  1. The Carrier Classic and its descendents have received a fair amount of media coverage heading into next season, but hey, at least someone is trying to make the opening of the college basketball season interesting. Is it a cool grand worth of interesting? Our answer is… let’s just say that we’re banking on the free press pass. One of the new events scheduled for 2012-13 is the Navy/Marine Corps Classic in Jacksonville, Florida, which will feature Georgetown vs. Florida as part of a two-day event involving the hometown Jacksonville Jaguars (playing the Indianapolis Colts). Tying a college hoops game to the supernova of the NFL is probably never a bad idea, but we’re not sure that people will be lining up to watch a 5-11 team tacked on to an early regular season hoops game between two teams that have little to do with the other. All we can say is that we wish the promoters well with this idea.
  2. It’s not official yet, but it appears the NPOY Kentucky center Anthony Davis has all but locked up a spot on the men’s national basketball team with the news that Team USA forward Blake Griffin has a torn meniscus. Last night in Las Vegas, Team USA played an exhibition scrimmage against John Calipari’s Dominican Republic team, annihilating a group led by Edgar Sosa, Al Horford and Francisco Garcia by a score of 113-59. Davis contributed nine points in 10 minutes of action late in the game, including a four-point play where he knocked down a three that he said Calipari wouldn’t let him take at Kentucky. With all the national discussion about whether the 2012 team could defeat the original 1992 Dream Team (answer: they could not), it’s still very cool that this year’s version of Christian Laettner might actually make a significant contribution to the fortunes of the Olympic team.
  3. It’s somewhat hard to believe, but perennial sad sack athletic loser Caltech is in trouble with the NCAA. The Division III school which has more or less made a name for itself in these circles for its perennial athletic futility faces sanctions for playing 30 ineligible athletes in 12 sports. Although the basketball team finally broke through with a victory after a 26-year streak that ended in February 2011, that win will not be vacated as part of the NCAA sanctions. Still, the problem with the NCAA derived from an institutional process that allows students to shop for classes at the beginning of the semester — essentially making choices between Space Optical Aeronautic Engineering and Stochastic System Analysis and Bayesian Updating something that precludes athletic eligibility. Um, yeah.
  4. What’s this? A pair of elite prep twins that are not already slotted to enroll at Stanford? Despite the historical precedent of the Collins twins (Jarron and Jason) and the Lopez twins (Brook and Robin) playing college basketball on the Farm (not to mention the Morris (Kansas) or Wear (UNC/UCLA) twins), it appears that the next generation of phenomenal hoops twins are headed elsewhere. Andrew and Aaron Harrison are a pair of Texas-based top five prospects within the Class of 2013, and recruiters are rightfully treating them as a package deal to the Final Four and beyond. As Matt Norlander notes, Kentucky, Villanova, Maryland and Baylor are the schools on the leaderboard, but whoever gets the duo will certainly have to consider their combo fashion tastes as well as Aaron’s proclivity for skateboarding.
  5. Finally today, we end with yet another unintended consequence of conference realignment reaching down into the mid-major level. Boston University star Jake O’Brien, a senior forward who was once the America East ROY and an all-conference performer before suffering two years worth of injuries. He’s already graduated from BU, so given that his school is no longer allowed to compete in the America East Tournament, he’s looking for greener pastures for his senior season. In his last fully healthy year in 2009-10, he averaged 14/6 per game and will no doubt be able to provide some front court depth for a high-major team willing to take him on for a year.
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Morning Five: 07.12.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 12th, 2012

  1. Last night featured the annual ESPYs in prime time, and although the host of the event, Rob Riggle, struggled through numerous cricket-chirping moments, we still managed to sit through it. College hoops had a number of good candidates as potential winners (as we handicapped last week), but the crowdsourcing style of the event ensured that few were were validated. The Unibrow was up for several awards, including Best Breakthrough Athlete (which went to Jeremy Lin), Best Male College Athlete (Robert Griffin III, which is reasonable even if we disagree), and Best Team (even Big Blue Nation couldn’t overcome the Miami Heat). Perhaps the two awards that bothered us most were Coach K’s snub in Best Record-Breaking Performance (sorry, but a single-season NFL passing record doesn’t trump 900+ wins over a career) and Best Upset (how do the LA Kings outdo Norfolk State, a MEAC team, downing a team in the conversation for a #1 seed? Ridiculous.). The one silver lining for our game was that Christian Watford’s game-winning three to lift Indiana over #1 Kentucky back in December was chosen as Best Play of the Year.  Oh well — that’s the nature of the event — fan voting. The women’s game, as an aside, cleaned up with Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award (well deserved) and Baylor’s Brittney Griner winning both Best Female Athlete and Best Female College Athlete of the Year.
  2. We know that Mike Krzyzewski may not have had a good enough year to win Best Record-Breaking Performance, but he’s more than good enough to lead Team USA into the 2012 Olympics in a matter of a few weeks from now. Interestingly enough, Team USA will scrimmage John Calipari’s Dominican Republic team tonight, but the real test for him and his charges is to come together as a team in the next few weeks so as to bring home another gold medal for USA Basketball. Dan Wolken writes that Coach K has had to take a different tack than he has at Duke in coaching the elite group of players he has on this team, and that, frankly, he’s a much more likable person in this setting than he is in Durham. It makes sense when you listen to Krzyzewski in any interview talk about his “kids” — his Blue Devils — but he also knows that the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and the rest are grown men who don’t need to be publicly protected or coddled. He’s not been so successful over these many years by not having a keen sense of that very thing — this is yet another example.
  3. It’s been a week of coaching extensions, and Wednesday kept the rally going with the news that Quinnipiac’s Tom Moore recently received a one-year extension to his deal that will keep him under contract until 2016-17. In five seasons in Hamden, his teams have performed admirably well, going 93-65 with three invitations to postseason tournaments. At a NEC school, any postseason appearance is a cause for celebration, so even thought there haven’t been any NCAA bids in that period, a series of NIT/CIT/CBI isn’t too bad. Of course, if or when Jim Calhoun over in Storrs ever retires, the former Connecticut assistant Moore would already have his vehicle GPS set with the directions.
  4. The nation’s top recruit in the Class of 2013 has narrowed his list down to only 10 schools. Jabari Parker used Twitter (what else?) to announce his revised list on Wednesday night, and here are the lucky suitors (he says they’re in no particular order): UK, Stanford, Michigan State, Kansas, Florida, Duke, BYU, Georgetown, DePaul, UNC. The Chicago native certainly has an interesting mix at play here, and perhaps most notably Illinois is no longer on his list. Aside from four of the top six programs of all-time (sorry, Indiana and UCLA), Michigan State, Florida and Georgetown are unsurprising choices. Stanford is clearly the academic choice, BYU is the religious one, and DePaul is throwing a bone to the homeys. If he really is the best high school prospect since LeBron (or Greg Oden), the school that gets him will have a tremendous shot at the Final Four during his only season on campus.
  5. Finally, ESPN announced its 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon lineup on Wednesday, and although the Champions Classic games involving Michigan State-Kansas and Duke-Kentucky are the monsters, there are as always a number of other interesting matchups. WVU visiting Spokane to tip things off, followed by a Davidson trip to The Pit will be fun, but Harvard going to Amherst to take on UMass and a battle of blue-blooded mid-majors in Cincinnati are also well worth skipping out on work. Maybe there’s more coming in the next few months, but in past years there were multiple games broadcast in the evening hour slot, so hopefully ESPN will fill in the blanks a little more just in case one of those Champions Classic games isn’t worth the time.

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Morning Five: 07.11.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 11th, 2012

  1. Everyone feel free to let out a big sigh… Former Arizona malcontent and SMU transfer Josiah Turner has decided to follow his dream to play in the NBA by forgoing college basketball in favor of taking a shot with the D-League or spending next season in Europe to hone his game for next year’s draft. As he put it in an interview with Yahoo Sports‘ Jeff Eisenberg Tuesday, “In college, you get your degree and everything, but going pro is getting me closer to my dream and what I want to do in life.” Turner was set to become new head coach Larry Brown’s first big recruit at SMU, but for now it appears that he’s putting all of his eggs into a rather competitive basket. He admits that alcohol and marijuana contributed to his paltry stats (6.8 PPG; 2.4 APG) and disciplinary problems during his one year in Tucson, but he also says that his partying days are behind him and he’s matured from that experience. Will we ever hear from Turner again — is anyone willing to take the affirmative?
  2. It’s no secret that Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy is, much like us, a defender of the inherent value of the game of college basketball. His latest piece brings up an interesting fact that we weren’t aware of prior to reading it — of the 144 basketball players who will participate in the London Olympics later this month, no fewer than 46 of them (32%) spent time developing at US colleges. When you consider that the qualifiers range from Nigeria (Arizona State’s Ike Diogu) to Australia (St. Mary’s Patty Mills) to Great Britain (GW’s Pops Mensah-Bonsu) to Lithuania (Maryland’s Sarunas Jasikevicius) to the good ol’ USA (Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Chris Paul, and others), you quickly realize that for many countries the American college game has become an elite training ground for the world’s top amateur talent.
  3. We sadly mentioned in yesterday’s M5 the passing of Stanford’s Peter Sauer, which reportedly was caused by a condition associated with an enlarged heart. Today’s M5 brings even more bad news in that UCLA guard Kenny Heitz, a key member of John Wooden’s three-time national champions from 1967-69, passed away in Pacific Palisades at the age of 65. Heitz and Lew Alcindor were in the same class at UCLA (talk about fortuitous timing!) and their teams went a ridiculous 88-2 over their paired careers. Rather than pursuing a professional basketball career after graduation, the Academic All-American went on to Harvard Law School and became a top-drawer commercial litigation attorney in Southern California. Thoughts go out to his family, and we hope he rests in peace.
  4. Another member of the UCLA family, Josh Smith, is entering his junior season as a Bruin. His weight problem was a major distraction last season, as he often struggled to run the court two or three times without getting winded, and Ben Howland’s team suffered as a result. Peter Yoon of ESPNLosAngeles caught up with the talented but enigmatic center recently and discovered that Smith appears to finally be taking seriously the gifts of skill and size that have been given to him. Smith said that last summer he simply returned home to Washington state and goofed around with his free time, but this summer he has remained in Westwood and is working with a nutritionist who has helped him already lose 15 pounds and improve his conditioning. It certainly remains to be seen whether any of this will actually stick for Smith, as we feel like we’ve heard this before (not only from him but Renardo Sidney also comes to mind) and he needs to melt a lot more than 15 bills from his frame. But… and this is a big if… if Smith is in shape and the Wear twins are at all adequate, then Ben Howland will have the best frontcourt in America.
  5. It appears that the nation’s athletic directors are in a giving mood this month. Third year Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery received a revised seven-year contract that will pay him an average of between $1.6 to $1.9 million over that period, depending on whether he hits certain NCAA Tournament incentives. Keep in mind that, although McCaffery has certainly got the Hawkeye program heading in the right direction (from 11-20 his first year to 18-17 last season), he has yet to finish in the top half of the Big Ten nor done any damage nationally. This is a rather unbelievable deal for someone who has yet to even sniff the NCAAs in his time in Iowa City — but hey, we’re rooting for the guy to earn it. Good for him.
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Morning Five: 07.09.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 9th, 2012

  1. Kentucky head coach John Calipari will not be adding an Olympic medal to his trophy case in London this year after his Dominican Republic team lost to Nigeria at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Caracas, Venezuela, over the weekend. Interestingly enough, it was former Arizona State All-American Ike Diogu who pushed the Nigerians past the Dominicans, scoring 25 points including some key threes to earn the most valuable player award in the tournament. Although we can’t envision a scenario where Calipari could actually improve his recruiting pitch, UK fans are no doubt privately happy that Coach Cal will now have the next month available to get out on the road and evaluate future prospects. Louisville an former Puerto Rico head coach Rick Pitino, on the other hand, is quite clearly enjoying his summer vacation.
  2. While on the subject of the Louisville coach, WDRB’s Eric Crawford and Rick Bozich recently published a March interview transcript with the Cardinals’ talented-and-getting-better center Gorgui Dieng. The article — a notebook style commentary on area schools — also revealed that Indiana NPOY candidate Cody Zeller doesn’t think it’s a “big deal” that the UK-IU series has ended, and some discussion about the most indispensable players in college basketball next season. Worth a read if you have a few minutes.
  3. Missouri is a team that seemingly lost several indispensables in the forms of Marcus Denmon, Kim English and Ricardo Ratliffe. But with a number of key contributors returning, several elite transfers, and the return of Laurence Bowers from injury, Missouri insiders think that next year’s squad might be in even better position to make a run at the Final Four. Prior to last October’s injury, Bowers was widely considered the Tigers’ best returning player — if he returns his confidence and game from the latter part of 2010-11 and all the newcomers mesh with waterbug Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon, the SEC might get taken by storm in much the same way Arkansas entered the league some 20 years ago.
  4. It didn’t take long for South Florida head coach Stan Heath to cash in on his program’s success last season, where the Bulls won 22 games including the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament wins (over California and Temple). Heath’s contract was extended by the school for three more years to 2017-18, and he now takes home a crisp $1.19 million annually (representing a 32% raise). Without question, Heath entered last season at USF on the hot seat, but with a number of returnees expected from one of the most efficient lockdown defensive teams in America, the Bulls could be on the verge of a sustained multi-year run of success. This is especially true with the overall downgrade in basketball talent that the Big East losses of West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh will enable — some program will happily fill that void.
  5. Old Dominion received some good news late last week when NC State transfer DeShawn Painter was ruled eligible by the NCAA to compete for the Monarchs next season. The rising senior moved back to the Hampton Roads area to be closer to his family and ailing great-grandmother, the woman who essentially raised him. ODU is in a tough spot next year as it has been banned from competing in the CAA Tournament, meaning that it will have to perform exceptionally well throughout the regular season to ensure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Monarchs have been involved in the NCAAs in four of the last seven seasons, and the addition of Painter as a beast on the low blocks will help toward that end. Last season on NC State’s Sweet Sixteen team, he averaged 6/4 in about 20 minutes per game, and his size and maturity will be a tremendous boon for Blaine Taylor’s team on the inside next year.
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Olympic Basketball as an Under-23 Affair: Who Are the Top Candidates for 2016?

Posted by EJacoby on June 22nd, 2012

In the 20th anniversary year of the original 1992 ‘Dream Team,’ USA Basketball is once again sending a team of elite NBA players in search of the 2012 gold medal. But could this become the final time we see such a collection of professional stars? Rumblings over the past few weeks from all corners of college, pro, and international basketball suggest that Team USA will instead send younger players to the Olympics, perhaps through the old school method of all amateurs or rather in a new combination of college and young pros. The most likely scenario includes an all Under-23 squad, resembling the way the USA selects for its Olympic soccer teams. CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander, among others, has highlighted what Team USA would look like this year if it was an Under-23 team. But any new method would not take place until the next Summer Olympics in 2016, so what would that team potentially look like? In order to qualify for the Under-23 team four years from now, only players who are 19 or younger right now could be under consideration. Today we take a look at some of the best candidates, considering both current accomplishments and potential future growth.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would qualify for the 2016 Olympics if Team USA goes with an Under 23 approach (AP Photo)

A quick 15-man list of the top 19-or-younger players goes as follows:

  1. Anthony Davis
  2. Tony Wroten
  3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
  4. Bradley Beal
  5. Andre Drummond
  6. Quincy Miller
  7. Nerlens Noel
  8. Shabazz Muhammad
  9. Cody Zeller
  10. James Michael McAdoo
  11. Kyle Anderson
  12. Jabari Parker
  13. Julius Randle
  14. Andrew Harrison
  15. Andrew Wiggins

Read the rest of this entry »

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Calipari Continues To Creatively Separate Himself As the Nation’s Top Recruiter

Posted by EJacoby on June 12th, 2012

At this point, it’s impossible to argue for anybody other than John Calipari as the top recruiter in college basketball. Since Coach Cal joined the Big Blue Nation as Kentucky‘s head coach in 2009, he’s brought in the top recruiting class to Lexington every single season. Next year and depending on whom you ask, the Wildcats once again rank as the #1 or #2 class (behind UCLA). So how does he do it — what makes Calipari such a dominant figure in the recruiting game? It helps to coach at one of the premier hoops schools in the country, but it’s also the specific tactics that Calipari uses which helps make him the single best recruiter in the country. Instead of relaxing to enjoy his first National Championship this summer, Calipari will coach the Dominican Republic national team as it attempts to qualify for the July Summer Olympics in London, which in the process also gives him a chance to scout and recruit a top US prospect with Dominican lineage for the class of 2015 (Karl Towns). “We sit down and just say, `How can we keep separating,’” says Calipari, and he simply never stops working on more creative ways to push the envelope as a recruiter.

Coach Cal has the entire Big Blue Nation smiling with his recent success both on and off the court (AP Photo)

Coaching a potential Olympic team isn’t the only busy endeavor of Cal’s summer plans. He’ll also host the John Calipari Fantasy Basketball Experience in Rupp Arena that will allow participants to practice and play on the Wildcats’ home floor during several sessions – all for the convenient cost of $7,500. Proceeds go to his personal charity, the Calipari Family Foundation, which ‘invests in policies and programs that make a positive, measurable impact on communities across the country.’ How many other coaches at top schools are willing and able to devote this much planning and effort for off-court community causes? It’s all part of the grand scheme to keep distinguishing himself as the most dedicated recruiting figure in the country.

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Morning Five: 05.17.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 17th, 2012

  1. Keep moving along. Nothing to see here. That was the stance of ACC commissioner John Swofford on Wednesday in reference to the earth-rumblings regarding Florida State’s rather public dalliance with the Big 12. Taking part in the ACC spring meetings in Amelia Island, Florida, this week, Swofford said that he had spoken with FSU president Eric Barron there and had enjoyed several “positive” conversations which clearly leads him to believe that the Tallahassee school is sticking around. Public statements from officials in positions of power are virtually meaningless these days — especially when it comes to this topic — but we really don’t see Florida State leaving the ACC for a few million dollars when they’d be ceding so much of their existing power to Texas as a result.
  2. Better late than never, but the NCAA announced yesterday that Washington, DC, would become the site of the 2013 East Regional during next year’s NCAA Tournament. Usually the regionals are well settled at this point in time, but reports suggest that the NCAA ran into contractual issues trying to lock up Madison Square Garden (or another NYC-area site) for next year’s tournament. The Verizon Center in downtown DC has served as an NCAA Tournament site several times in the previous decade, and its convenient location built on top of a Metro station makes getting to and from the venue a snap. The other three regional sites in 2013, which have been settled for some time now, are the Staples Center in Los Angeles (West), Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas (South), and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis (Midwest). Where are you headed?
  3. How much is an elite college basketball head coach worth? USA Today reported on Wednesday that Duke legend Mike Krzyzewski was paid $7.2 million by the university for his work in the calendar year 2010. According to their research, Coach K’s total compensation that year represents the second-highest total by a head coach (basketball or football) since the publication started tracking the figures in 2006 (Rick Pitino earned $8.9 million in 2010-11). K’s total in 2010, where he no doubt met a number of incentives for winning the national championship, blew his $2.0 million base salary up to nearly four times that amount. When you add in Krzyzewski’s corporate sponsorships to that total, you begin to see that the Duke head coach is competitive with some of the sport’s best-paid athletes in terms of compensation.
  4. While on the subject of Krzyzewski, he announced earlier this week that this summer’s Olympic Games in London would be his last as the head coach of Team USA. There’s no question that Coach K has accomplished a couple of important things as the CEO of the men’s national team. First and foremost, he used his otherworldly player management and motivational skills to encourage (at the time) very young players like LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul to play together and win a gold medal as a selfless unit (both in the Beijing Olympics and the 2010 World Championships). This was no easy task, as the 2008 Redeem Team earned its name after the disastrous bronze medal performance in Athens from the 2004 team. The second thing he was able to do was to satisfy his appetite for coaching the very best players in the world, something that he had flirted with a couple of times previously. This allowed him to stay in his rightful place in college basketball at Duke where he belongs, rather than moving to the NBA for a certainly less-fulfilling experience. Gregg Doyel writes that Coach K was able to do something that not even NCAA/NBA champion Larry Brown could do — keep world-class professional athletes hungry and motivated — and he questions whether the next guy is likely to do the same in 2016.
  5. Former Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine’s wife, Laurie Fine, announced at a press conference on Wednesday that she will sue ESPN for libel based on the organization’s reporting that (she claims) made her appear as a monster who allowed her husband to molest children. Fine said during the presser that her life has been “ruined” by these allegations to the point where she can no longer go out in public anywhere in central New York. ESPN came out with a response immediately afterward stating that they stand by their reporting. One of the interesting questions that will help define the course of this claim is whether Fine is considered a “public” personality as the wife of the former SU assistant coach. Public figures face a much more difficult threshold to prove libelous claims against them, whereas private figures stand a much better chance. We won’t speculate on how this case might turn out, but the validity of her entire claim may turn on that argument.
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The Week That Was: December 11-17

Posted by rtmsf on December 17th, 2010

David Ely is an RTC contributor.

It’s the holiday season, and this past week teams in the top 25 definitely got into the spirit of giving. Now these squads weren’t giving away toys to needy girls and boys. Instead #4 Tennessee, #20 Louisville and #21 UNLV gave the gift of an RPI-boosting upset, and in the college hoops world that’s a pretty nice present. TWTW hopes that Oakland, Drexel and UC Santa Barbara enjoyed their gifts this week, they certainly came at a hefty price — a chance to be the last undefeated squad standing. But hey, it’s the thought that counts, and we’re sure that deep down our ranked friends knew they did the right thing given the season.

Now if only #22 Memphis wasn’t such a Grinch …

Is the Presumptive Puerto Rican Olympic Coach's Louisville Team Legit?

What We Learned

  • Last week we openly wondered if Notre Dame’s hot start was an aberration or the start of a strong season for the Irish, and their loss to Kentucky made TWTW more inclined to label them a fraud rather than a legit power. This week we get to dissect another Big East squad that just suffered its first loss of the season — Louisville. The Cardinals’ eight-game winning streak to open the season came ended in disastrous fashion Tuesday night when Louisville fell 52-46 to Drexel. Yes, you read that correctly. The Cardinals could only muster 46 points against Drexel of all teams. Louisville connected on only 15 of 47 shots from the floor and struggled to adjust once it was apparently the Dragons weren’t going to let the Cardinals get out and run up and down the court. While shooting 33.3% is bad, what’s more troubling is Louisville’s 12-25 effort at the free throw line, and its -20 rebound loss on the boards. Those two things could haunt the Cardinals in Big East play and make TWTW hesitant to think they’re dramatically better than last year’s team that lost to Cal in the first round of the NCAAs.
  • What a week for Tennessee. On Saturday the Vols scored arguably the best win of the young season when they traveled to Pittsburgh and beat Jamie Dixon’s squad at the “neutral” Consol Energy Center. TWTW was ready to join the rest of the nation in singing Bruce Pearl’s praises and declaring the Vols the team to beat in a down SEC. While UT still may be the top dog down South, TWTW can’t fully endorse Tennessee right now. Not after the Vols lost at home to Oakland 89-82 on Tuesday night. That’s no knock against the Golden Grizzlies, who made the NCAA Tournament out of the Summit League last year and fell one point short of beating Michigan State this past weekend. Oakland is good, but we expect more from Tennessee. And we at least expect better defense. The Vols shouldn’t give up 89 points to any squad, especially not at home, and Oakland hit 54% of its shots (30-56) led by Keith Benson’s 26. Pearl better hope this loss refocuses his squad. Tennessee will definitely need all the mental strength it can muster when he begins his eight-game suspension at the start of conference play.
  • Gonzaga just might have overextended itself with its scheduling. Mark Few at least is entertaining that idea after his Bulldogs’ 4-5 start to the season, the worst record in Few’s 12-year tenure at Gonzaga. Four of Gonzaga’s five losses came in games against teams currently ranked in RTC’s top 25 (San Diego State, Kansas State, Illinois and Notre Dame), and the Bulldogs still have to play Baylor on Saturday and Memphis in February. TWTW wonders why that kind of scheduling is necessary for a team with Gonzaga’s cache. It’s tough to think of the Zags as a mid-major anymore based on their 12 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, and their consistent presence in the top 25 (at least until this year). Gonzaga doesn’t need to prove itself with a murderers’ row schedule. Sure, schedule a couple of games against elite competition, but there’s no need to have a slate of games that could shatter a team’s confidence. Gonzaga isn’t a program that’s used to struggling in December, it will be interesting to see how the Zags respond to this adversity once play begins in the WCC.
  • Think you know all there is about Coach K? Think all of your hate is justified? Well you should do yourself a favor and sit down and read the first two parts of Dan Wiederer’s mega-feature in the Fayetteville Observer. Part one delves into K off the court and his family life. It includes this incredible anecdote of the Duke coach at the beach during a family vacation and declaring that he’s the “Black Mamba of Beach Bocce” after pulling off a game-winning bocce toss. The second part discusses all the hate Coach K and the Duke program endures from the rest of the nation. While that angle has been written before, Wiederer’s piece comes off fresh because of all of his great tidbits and inside access. And there’s more to come with Part 3 scheduled to run this Sunday. So check it out. TWTW guarantees you’ll learn something new about K, and maybe it will open your mind to the notion that he’s not that bad of a guy. After all, with Krzyzewski likely to become college basketball’s all-time wins leader either this season or early next year, it’s the perfect time to dissect one of the most polarizing characters in the sport.

Media Blackout

The three pieces of news to know if you’ve been living in complete isolation all week.

  • Like many of you out there, TWTW watched the basketball competition during 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and thought, “Boy this is great. But you know what’s missing? Rick Pitino.” We kid, we kid. But it looks like there’s a real possibility Pitino will coach the Puerto Rican nation team during next summer’s pre-Olympic qualifying tournament in Argentina. Carlos J. Beltran, president of the Puerto Rican Basketball Federation, said the national team is in “very advanced talks” with Pitino, and J.J. Barea of the Dallas Mavericks told ESPNDallas.com that he and fellow nation team member Carlos Arroyo would meet with Pitino on Sunday if any deal with the Louisville coach is finalized. With Pitino on board, Puerto Rico would instantly become one of the most compelling squads in the Olympics should it qualify. That’s a big if, though. Puerto Rico failed to qualify for the 2008 Games and was eliminated in the first round during this summer’s World Championships in Turkey. Should a Pitino-led Puerto Rico squad make the Olympics, TWTW has but one request. Puerto Rico must face Team USA (and Coach K) at some point in round-robin play.
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08.04.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on August 4th, 2009

News has slowed to a barely discernible trickle, but we here at RTC have a few things coming down the pike, so stay tuned…

  • Renardo Sidney Saga.  So… the NCAA gumshoes had their meeting with the Sidney family last week, if you haven’t heard, and they’re asking for tax returns.  Most everyone in basketball believes that the Sidney family is dirtier than Roberto Alomar’s toilet seat, but they are entitled to a reasonable right to privacy with respect to their bank records and such.  Of course, the Sidney family has lawyered up and their representative, Donald Jackson, has already burned his race card lifeline in efforts to resist the NCAA request.  (ed. note: if that’s his only strategy, the Sidneys may want to look into alternative representation)  The problem with this whole situation is that the Sidneys appear willing to turn this into a high-profile civil lawsuit and, according to Gary Parrish, the NCAA would like to avoid that particular boondoggle at all costs.  Apparently the NCAA doesn’t want to have to defend its practices of selective enforcement, and we don’t blame them in the least on that.  So how will this end?  Probably the only way the NCAA knows how to deal with these cases – slap a relatively minor suspension (8-10 games) on Sidney, thereby leaving him eligible at Mississippi St. for the meat of the regular season and the postseason in 2009-10.  MSU is happy, the Sidneys are happy, and the NCAA crawls back to its lair once again with its tail tucked squarely between its legs, waiting on the next Andrelei Dravovic to declare ineligible. 
  • D1 Athletic Revenue.  The Orlando Sentinel has been doing an analysis of college athletics and the recession, and they came up with an interesting list of all D1-A schools ranked by athletic revenue.  It’s no secret that football continues to drive revenue, as Kansas is the only basketball school in the top twelve of the list.  Still, of that same top twelve,  nine schools have shown a serious commitment to basketball and it’s probably no coincidence that the revenue derived from both major sports is putting them at the top of this list (Penn St., Auburn and Alabama need to get with it).  Our only problem with these lists is that they never break things down further by individual sports so we can actually see how much money, for example, the Florida basketball program generates! 
  • Maui Invitational Matchups.  In one of the weakest Maui Invitational brackets we’ve seen in years, the following matchups are scheduled for early Thanksgiving week in beautiful Lahaina, Hawaii.  
    • Chaminade vs. Maryland
    • Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt
    • Colorado vs. Gonzaga
    • Arizona vs. Wisconsin 
  • We’ll take Maryland vs. Cincy in one semifinal and Gonzaga vs. Wisconsin in the other, with the Terps and Badgers meeting in the finals.  Although we think Maryland has better talent, we’ll go with UW to win its first Maui title in the mild upset on the islands.
  • Quick HitsFab Melo: going to SyracuseETSU: RIP, Seth CoyIsiah Thomas: on the recruiting trailTwo-and-Done: gaining tractionCoach K: firing up the Olympic trial poolGoodman: 10 things he learned in July.  Jordan Crawford: more than a dunk over Lebron.   Parrish: why July evaluation camps need to stayVegas Watchthis could be very interesting. 
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