Not a lot of movement at the top of the polls this week as we move into the part of the schedule where schools generally lighten their loads around exams. This poll will likely look very much the same through the holiday season. Quick n’ dirty analysis after the jump…
Twelve is evidently enough for the Big Ten, for now. The conference’s higher-ups announced at their winter meeting that as a result of a lengthy study, after the addition of Nebraska next season, they do not “expect to be proactively seeking new members.” That’s fine, but we propose that if a conference’s membership changes through expansion/contraction so that its name subsequently becomes inaccurate by +/-2, they must change the name of the conference. In a few months, none of the four “numbered” conferences — Pac-10, Big 12, Big Ten, Atlantic 10 — will actually contain the number of teams their name indicates. The Big Ten and the A-10 have gotten away with this weirdness for a while, and now they’re all doing it. Get creative!
Because Purdue doesn’t have enough injury problems, news arrived late on Sunday that sophomore guard John Hart will miss a month with a stress fracture in his foot. Hart was averaging 17 minutes a game over the Boilermakers’ eight games this season, contributing 8.4 PPG. So that’s Hart with a bad foot, D.J. Byrd with a questionable shoulder, and some kid named Hummel out with a knee. Are we just lipsticking the pig by wondering if the minutes logged by Purdue’s reserves right now will translate to valuable experience later on in the season when (almost) everyone’s healthy? Matt Painter has nine players on his roster who play at least ten minutes a game right now, and you never know who could rise up and give you a boost come tournament time.
We’re on the lookout today for a statement from the NCAA as to whether or not they will consider the “new information” Kentucky has asked to submit in the ongoing eligibility saga of Enes Kanter. The case currently stands in appeal, and that appeal was heard last week. But after the Cam Newton decision came down, UK requested the chance to submit previously unconsidered information to the NCAA. If the NCAA agrees to consider it, the case goes back to square one, almost as if it were a new hearing. If they refuse, the case remains in appeal, and the appeals committee could render a final decision at any time. Got it? Whether it’s today or later in the week, we’ll have something up as events warrant, so just keep checking back here, or our Twitter feed.
Just seven games in, a specific problem for Bob Huggins‘ West Virginia squad is already evident, according to Jack Bogaczyk of the Charleston Daily Mail. Huggins has remarked on how his team “hasn’t finished games” and that he takes full responsibility for this as coach, but Bogaczyk writes that what the ‘Eers really lack in this early stage of these post-Da’Sean Butler days is a vocal floor leader.
It doesn’t take more than a few seconds of watching Jimmer Fredette play basketball to get a sense of how competitive this young man is. Ahead of BYU’s game against Vermont on Wednesday (which serves as a homecoming for Fredette), the Albany Times Union’s Pete Iorizzo pens an excellent article about how Fredette’s competitive drive was evident as early as age five, and how those fires were born — as they so often are — from that classic recipe of a basketball, a family member (in this case, an older brother), and a patch of asphalt in the back yard. We never played major college hoops, Jimmer, but your story is ours.
As part of our on-going attempt to bring you the best college basketball coverage on-line, we are introducing a new feature where we give your our thoughts after each set of games over the weekend. We’ll be back a couple more times today for some instant analysis/commentary:
8 PM for the 4-6 PM games
10 PM for the 7 PM and 8 PM games
Butler Looks More Like Butler. Billed as the rematch of the national title game, it hasn’t taken long this season to learn that Duke is probably better and Butler is probably worse than they were last season. But for much of the game today, Butler was competitive with Duke, and we were happy to see that. Butler didn’t look like Butler in losses against Louisville or Evansville, and the reason for that had to do with defense. It’s hard enough to beat Duke as it is, but you have literally zero chance if you let the guards get off from behind the arc. Butler held the Blue Devils to 31% on 8-26 shooting from deep, which when you consider their numerous options (Singler, Smith, Irving, Curry, Dawkins), is about as good as you can ask for. Still, it was Irving’s mini-explosion with consecutive treys in the second half that gave Duke some separation and allowed the Devils to hang on down the stretch to get the win. Ronald Nored’s return from a concussion was great to see as well, because his on-ball defense is absolutely essential to Butler’s success, and there was no better example of that than when he cleanly stripped Kyrie Irving on the wing when he exposed the ball. We’re not sure that anyone has ever done that to Irving in his entire life before, which shows just how good of a defender Nored is.
Duke Has So Many Weapons. Coaches preach that defense wins championships, but they privately know that defense only puts you in position to win. You still need to have a diverse set of offensive weapons to cut down the nets. What makes Duke so unique among the many contenders this season is that they have at least five players who can put the ball on the floor and beat you off the dribble in addition to the outside; when that’s combined with the serviceable interior offense of the Plumlees, it gives Coach K a ridiculous amount of effective options to get points when he needs them. No better example of this was when Duke found Kyle Singler, who calmly dribbled himself into a contested 18-footer from the right wing — all net. At the collegiate level, there’s nothing most teams can do about that shot, and Duke has multiple players capable of putting points on the board in those tough spots. Of course Kyrie Irving is the best example of this phenomenon — his 17 second-half points ultimately drove Duke to the win, and it is his God-given ability to switch gears and score the ball anywhere on the floor that makes him nearly impossible to guard.
Coach K’s 876th All-Time Win. It’s really not even up for debate that Coach K with his four national titles and countless Final Four appearances is the second-best college basketball coach of all-time. With today’s win over Butler, Krzyzewski tied the legendary and controversial Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp with 876 career wins, as he quickly marches toward his mentor/coach Bob Knight’s all-time record of 902 wins. In an early Christmas present for UNC fans, K will mostly likely tie Dean Smith, with 879 wins against Elon on December 20, and pass the legend a week later against UNC-Greensboro. If you want to project it out, given just how good this Duke team is, Kryzyewski will likely break the all-time record early in the NCAA Tournament. Our prediction: the Sweet Sixteen. Of course, the only number that matters to K is five, and we can’t blame him for that mentality — he has an excellent opportunity to win his fifth ring this year.
Amaker Close But No Cigar. It was a homecoming of sorts for Tommy Amaker at Harvard today as he visited his former school Michigan for a game that he had personally scheduled as the head coach there from 2001-07. For much of the game, it appeared that Amaker would have the last laugh, as he did in his first season when the Crimson beat Michigan 62-51 in Cambridge. However, despite a 12-point lead early in the second half, the Wolverines clamped down on defense and got sixteen second-half points from Stu Douglass (including four threes) to come back and win the game. This will still end up being a “good” loss for Harvard, but the other storyline from this game is that John Beilein’s team may turn out to be better than expected this year. Predicted at the bottom of the Big Ten, the Wolverines already have wins at Clemson, vs. Harvard and close losses to Syracuse and UTEP. We shouldn’t slot them into the Tourney yet, but they’re playing tremendous halfcourt defense and are showing some signs of life.
Pac-10 Finally Notches a Win. As of this morning, the Pac-10 had an 0-5 record in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. California ended the winless streak with a road win at Iowa State this afternoon. Neither team is really very good, but we’re fairly amazed that the Bears’ Mike Montgomery has figured out a way to beat anybody with a lineup that includes some of the players he has at his disposal. In two other B12/P10 games today, Washington put up 61 first-half points at home against Texas Tech, and Oregon State takes on Colorado (simulcast at RTC Live) later tonight. If OSU can eke out a road win tonight, with four games left in the series, things could be interesting. Of the remaining four games scheduled, only Texas’ visit to USC on Sunday would appear to be a game where the Big 12 was favored.
The Lede. It was billed as a probable blowout, but when you place two of the game’s regal programs on the same floor with two of the best coaches in the business standing opposite one another, we all knew better. Kansas and UCLA represent about a million wins, a couple hundred conference titles and several dozen national championships (Helms titles included!) — well, at least it feels that way. The point is that no matter the present rankings, so long as Bill Self and Ben Howland are patrolling the sidelines at these two schools, they’ll always be competitive. Tonight’s game personified that word, competitive. Too bad it got ruined by an egregious whistle made by an official who needs to remember to let the kids decide the game.
KU Got the Call It Wanted At This Moment (LJW/N. Krug)
Your Watercooler Moment. Foul or not a foul? Should a referee make the same call with 19:01 on the clock as he does with 00:01 on the clock? These questions were the biggest story in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series game between Kansas and UCLA this evening. After 39 minutes and 59 seconds of back-and-forth basketball between two of the sport’s bluest of bloods, the game balanced on a loose ball situation where a UCLA player bumped a Kansas player as both pursued the rock. Kansas guard Mario Little arrived at the ball a split-second prior to UCLA’s Malcolm Lee, and the referee on the near-side thought the ensuing bump with 0.7 seconds remaining on the clock was sufficient to justify blowing the whistle. From our view (and most of America’s, if Twitter is any indication), that’s a bit of contact that you don’t call at any point of the basketball game, but ESPECIALLY not in a tie game such as this one with under a second to play. Although ours appears to be the majority viewpoint, there are alternate ones: ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla, for instance, stated that he believed the bump was a foul at any point of the game, and it was in fact the correct call. Gary Parrish says that there’s something for everyone in that play — KU fans, UCLA fans, and the fence-sitters. UCLA head coach Ben Howland, however, only saw it one way, throwing down a water bottle in disgust before later saying that it was a poor way to end the game. Star of the night Tyler Honeycutt said afterward, “as refs, you’re supposed to just let that go.” If this were the NBA, both UCLA player and coach would be facing hefty fines from the league, but we think that the Pac-10 will cut them some slack here, because, well, they’re right. But don’t take our word for it, check it out for yourself.
We were also lucky enough to have our correspondent Brian Goodman at the game in Allen Fieldhouse tonight. He filed this report after the exciting 77-76 finish.
Your Watercooler Moment. The Pac-10 is once again finding new ways to embarrass itself. After what was arguably the league’s worst basketball season in decades in 2009-10, it seemed as if the western teams had perhaps turned a corner with a few more NCAA-caliber teams this year including the mothership program, UCLA. Coming into Tuesday night, the league had managed to avoid the embarrassingly ugly losses that had plagued it in the pre-conference last year. Then, Arizona State laid a foul 76-62 egg at the Pit versus New Mexico. Ok, that’s not terrible — even though ASU is a team that you can reasonably expect Herb Sendek to have competing for an NCAA berth, the Lobos are talented and very tough to beat at home. But tonight’s games once again exposed just how soft the underbelly of this league may be. First, USC got obliterated by Rider (yes, Rider) at home, 77-57. Think about that for a minute and wonder how on earth such a successful athletic program could lose a home basketball game to Rider. By twenty points! Then, in a game reminiscent of last year by winner and loser only, Oregon State traveled to Seattle and lost to the Redhawks again, this time 83-80. At least it wasn’t by 51 points this time around, but a loss to an Independent is still unacceptable for a team in a league with the resources that the Pac-10 has available. There will be a point in the very near future where Pac-10 coaches will need to realize that talking about NBA Draft losses in 2008 and 2009 no longer hold water, and that if they want to cease being held up as the national hoops laughingstock, then they need to recruit players who will be leaving early in 2012 and 2013. The same old excuses for these kinds of non-conference losses are getting tiresome. (aside: word-up to Cameron Dollar and his Seattle program — considering its lack of league affiliation and transition to D1, he’s doing a great job there).
Approval Rating Also Dropping (S-T/J. Bates)
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
Kemba Walker’s 42. The UConn point guard put his team on his back with 42/8/3 assts in a performance that makes you wonder why he hasn’t been able to put it all together yet in his career. He blew his old career-high of 29 out of the water, and even hit four threes on the night, a total he’s only reached one other time as a Husky. It worries us a little bit that Walker seems to be the entire offense, but he might just be good enough to win a few games on his own this year.
Tobias Harris. In a game that UT probably would have lost a week ago, the Vols gutted through a very tough game against Missouri State despite losing the battle of the boards and only hitting 64% from the line. Tobias Harris is quietly putting together an impressive start to the season, going for 16/7 on 60% shooting in UT’s first three games. He may not get tested Wednesday night by VCU’s front line in the PNIT semis, but either UCLA (Nelson, Smith, Honeycutt) or Villanova (Yarou, Pena) will be a formidable challenge for the 6’8 rookie.
Tim Abromaitis. The Notre Dame forward had a near triple-double (21/10/7 assts) tonight in a blowout win against Chicago State. Between he and Ben Hansbrough, the Irish are capable of putting some points on the board.
Perfect Game. Iowa State’s Scott Christopherson put up thirteen shots tonight and all thirteen hit the bottom of the net (11-11 FG, 2-2 FT for 29 pts). This guy has been all over the place this season. In his first game, he went 1-10 from the floor for five points; in the next game he was 6-11 for fifteen points; tonight he threw a perfect game. We’re not sure what he has in mind for the next game, but we’re pretty sure it will be nothing like the previous one.
Ole Miss & Nick Williams. The Indiana transfer dropped 21/6 in his second game back in action against Murray State tonight, but what was more impressive was the relative ease with which the Rebels handled the NCAA-worthy Racers. Even though the game looked like it was shot in daguerrotype in front of about twelve fans, Ole Miss looked like a much stronger team.
Memphis. Josh Pastner has proven he can recruit with anybody in the game. The question now is whether he can coach at that same elite level. As exhibited by the continuing problems and ultimate dismissal of Jelan Kendrick last weekend, coaching talent often has just as much to do with managing egos as it does drawing up plays. When we hear a player like star freshman Will Barton (22/8/3 stls) say that he relishes “when things are falling apart or we’re losing” so that he can “take over the game,” we wonder if there are more problems on the horizon. Memphis fell behind to Northwestern State midway through the second half before pulling away and winning 94-79 tonight.
The Mountain Broadcast Production Quality for the BYU-Utah State Game. See TOTD, below.
Alcorn State. Down 42 points at the half (59-17) is just unacceptable, we don’t care who you’re playing. Purdue is good, but they’re not the Lakers.
Letdown, Much? Two days after a program-defining win against local rival Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State turned around and dropped its first game of the season to Chattanooga, 73-69. Of course, avoiding letdowns like this is part of the maturation process.
Air Force. The Falcons may have hit a new low with its overtime loss tonight to Colorado… College, 60-57. As in, the Division III team, not the Buffaloes featuring two all-Big 12 players.
Dunk of the Night. This was the Sportscenter top play of the night, so we were able to find a clip of it… Marquette’s Darius-Johnson Odom says hello.
Last week we took a look at the Vegas odds for the 60 or so teams that sportsbooks offer futures wagers on to win the 2011 national championship. In a complete surprise to nobody, Duke was at the very top of the list, but there were several mild eyebrow-raisers in the slots after the Blue Devils — Kentucky at #2, Memphis at #5, UNC at #7. This week we thought it might be interesting to take a look at another futures bet that is offered: the odds for each team to win its conference regular season title. Again, these odds aren’t necessarily an indication of what Vegas “thinks” will happen; it’s more a combination of market forces and line shading toward the more popular teams. But these gambling establishments are not in the business of losing money, so there are some nuggets of information that we can draw from their established odds (e.g., if you think anyone but Duke will win the ACC this season, you’re a steaming hunk of moron). Let’s break it down. Each conference will have a few thoughts after its table.
Ed. note: keep in mind that Vegas doesn’t set its odds to add up to 100%; if they did that, they’d never be able to sucker people and make any money on long-term futures bets. So these percentages do not represent the “true” chances of winning the conference; rather, they represent what Vegas is willing to risk on those teams.
Quick ACC Thoughts.
Are there any surprises here? Not really. Duke is a prohibitive favorite for a reason — even if they have injuries, there’s not a lot of depth to this league right now. UNC, an NIT team last year who lost its top three scorers, getting love as a strong second tells you a lot about the uncertainty of this conference beyond the Blue Devils.
Vegas doesn’t like Virginia Tech nearly as much as the pundits — that clearly has something to do with its recent history as an underachiever.
Look at Maryland pretty far down the list — that’s not a typical position for the Terps to be in under Gary Williams. Given their “brand name” value-add, Vegas must really not be fond of Jordan Williams and company this coming season.
Quick Big 12 Thoughts.
This is a crazy grouping at the top, with four schools basically acting as co-favorites — Baylor, Kansas State, Kansas and Texas. Again we see another school (the Longhorns) living off its recruiting prowess and not its actual performance with such a high placement.
In our opinion, Missouri is a darkhorse candidate to not only win the Big 12 this season but also go to the Final Four. Yet there the Tigers sit at +800 and 11.1%. We’re not sure there’s a better value in this entire post if you’re so inclined.
There may not be a better duo in the Big 12 than Alec Burks and Cory Higgins at Colorado, but the Buffs aren’t getting any love from Vegas. The CU situation is an interesting comparison with Georgia in the SEC — both teams bring back two all-conference caliber players from a mediocre squad last year. Yet, while the experts seem to like the ‘Dawgs this year, Colorado hasn’t gotten the same traction. Is it a Big 12 vs. SEC thing; is it the coaching (Mark Fox vs. Tad Boyle)?
Things do not continue to improve for Baylor’s Scott Drew. Last week his star player LaceDarius Dunn’s basketball future was placed in question over allegations of aggravated assault against his girlfriend, while yesterday Jeff Goodman reported that the Bear program is being investigated by the NCAA concerning the recruitment of Hanner Perea, a 6’9 high school junior from Colombia (the country, not the phonetically-same Missouri/South Carolina city) currently playing in Indiana. The primary issue ONCE AGAIN COMES DOWN TO TEXT MESSAGES!!!! Baylor assistant coach Mark Morefield was already serving a suspension for text message-related violations, so what did he do during July’s quiet period? He of course sent multiple text messages to Perea’s high school and AAU coaches, a rather unbelievable example of Pavlovian conditioning if we’ve ever seen one. Baylor has already self-reported the latest violations, according to Goodman’s report, and we can only hope that Morefield’s SMS package was turned off on the latest cell plan provided by the university.
Are we getting closer to an NCAA decision on the eligibility of Kentucky star recruit Enes Kanter? Only the NCAA knows that for certain, but NYT’s Pete Thamel writes that the club team in Turkey is standing by its original assertion that it holds bank statements and documentation proving that Kanter was paid well beyond “reasonable and necessary expenses” during his time with the club. Their representative, Nedim Karakas, says that they promised not to show these documents, however, until the NCAA has made its final decision. It’s hard to know whom to believe here, but we’re having trouble understanding why the NCAA would care in the least what the Turkish club team does or does not do with its documentation, right? What are we missing here?
Tuesday was KU Media Day and Bill Self told the assembled scribes that he expects his star recruit Josh Selby’s eligibility decision to come sooner rather than later, and he expects it to be positive. Selby is currently practicing with the team and will be able to suit up on Friday night at Late Night in the Phog at Allen Fieldhouse. In our view, Selby is the difference between a Kansas team making another serious run at the Final Four and one that will be pleased with playing into the second weekend.
It’s looking more and more like the Pac-10 will go to a two-division system in both basketball and football starting in 2011-12. Final decisions have not yet been made, but this report from Andy Katz suggests that Stanford and Cal are the final hurdle for the league to split into six-team North and South divisions — the Washingtons, Oregons and NorCals in the North, and Utah/Colorado, the Arizonas and SoCals in the South. The hoops schedule would remain at eighteen games, with home-and-homes guaranteed against each team’s rival (UCLA vs. USC, for example) with six other home-and-homes and four one-games rotated on a yearly basis.
This dumbfounded us, but did you know that Arizona State’s Herb Sendek, himself a branch on the incredibly fecund tree of Rick Pitino (yes, we went there), has a total of eight former assistants who are now head coaches in Division 1 basketball, more than any other coach? The names on the Sendek tree: Thad Matta (Ohio State), Sean Miller (Arizona), Mark Phelps (Drake), John Groce (Ohio), Larry Hunter (Western Carolina), Ron Hunter (IUPUI), Jim Christian (TCU), Charlie Coles (Miami (OH)). Louisville’s Rick Pitino and Rice’s Ben Braun currently have six each.
As you know from last week’s news, Baylor guard LaceDarius Dunn was arrested for felony assault charges against his girlfriend, Lacharlesla Edwards, even though she later came out to say that she would not cooperate with authorities if they move forward with prosecuting him. The university then made the next logical move to suspend Dunn from classes, as they typically do with any student charged with a felony. As Gary Parrish wrote on Friday, no matter what blunt force Edwards (and her dad) say made impact with her jaw, it may not be enough to shield Dunn from legal redress and Baylor from losing out on what could have been another tremendous season. One Texas columnist, however, doesn’t believe that Baylor will have the stones to make the correct decision here — pointing out that UNLV’s Tre’Von Willis faces a mere three-game suspension for allegedly choking a woman last summer. An interesting wrinkle in the Dunn situation is that ultimately the school president will have to make the call on whether he ever sees time in a green/gold uniform again… and who is the new Baylor president? None other than Ken Starr, the former independent counsel/investigator of President Bill Clinton who uncovered the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and someone certainly no stranger to controversy or afraid of making unpopular decisions.
You may have missed the news on Friday afternoon, but UConnannounced its self-imposed sanctions relating to the Josh Nochimson/Nate Miles scandal from a couple of years ago, and the general consensus around the web is that a two-year probation involving a loss of one scholarship each year will not satisfy the NCAA. UConn choosing to stand behind its two-time national championship coach is unsurprising given the stakes, but ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil gets to the heart of the matter in her scathing characterization of Calhoun as simply another modern-day Sgt. Schulz (that’s a Hogan’s Heroes reference for our younger readers).
Pac-10 Commish Larry Scott says that a decision about how the league plans to divide into two divisions should be forthcoming very soon (perhaps by the end of this month). The question of whether to divide the four California schools up (Cal, Stanford, UCLA, USC) or keep them together has created considerable wrangling as both the top traditional basketball and football draws reside in Los Angeles. There’s also the issue as to whether a division format would work in basketball as the SEC has utilized for the last two decades; or whether a model like the ACC where basketball comprises a single twelve-team league would work better.
That didn’t take long. Kentucky head coach John Calipari is already making attempts to temper expectations about the 2010-11 version of his Wildcats. He’d better, as even if UK manages to get lottery pick Enes Kanter eligible, the losses of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and the guy everyone forgets, Patrick Patterson, will be more than the additions of Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb and company can make up for.
The common adage is that Times Square in Manhattan is the crossroads of the world, and that very well may be true; but the people who started that phrase certainly weren’t talking about the Manhattan (Kansas) that Frank Martin currently resides in. Thanks to some new direct flights out of the small Kansas airport that connects central Kansas to Dallas and Chicago, the K-State coaches can finally overcome the perception that their Manhattan is just short of impossible to get to. In the past, coaches typically had to drive two hours east to get to the Kansas City airport, but now they can fly their recruits directly into Manhattan, which makes for a huge recruiting advantage especially when you don’t have to endure the ignominy of driving them right past Lawrence (home of KU) on the way there.
Shaun Assael of ESPN’s The File Blog (Insider) published the complete 208-page transcript of Rick Pitino’s courtroom testimony from the trial of extortionist Karen Sypher back in July. Even if you don’t have time to read all of it (and really, who does?), he gives a nice rundown of what Pitino the Man faced in the spring of 2009 at the time he first received extortion demands from Sypher, while Pitino the Coach was trying to win the Cardinals’ first-ever Big East title on the court. Interesting primary source material there.
While we’re on the subject of litigation, Tubby Smithmay have saved himself a quarter-million bucks — well, the Hennepin County justice system may have — as the monetary damages awarded to Jimmy Williams from the trial against Smith and Minnesota was lowered from $1.25M to a cool $1.0M. You may recall that Williams successfully sued Smith and the University of Minnesota for misrepresentation based on Smith offering Williams an assistant coaching job that led him to resign from Oklahoma State. When UM athletic director got spooked by Williams’ association with prior NCAA violations at Minnesota, the school rescinded its offer. Williams was left high and dry, and thus, the verdict went in his favor. Minnesota isn’t satisfied yet, though, as the school plans to appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals in an effort to vacate the verdict completely.
The Big 12 took the initiative and announced monetary settlements with Colorado and Nebraska on Tuesday that will allow both schools to become members of their new conferences — the Pac-10 and Big Ten, respectively — on July 1, 2011. So what is the going rate for a conference buyout these days? Try $6.863M for the Buffs and $9.255M for the Huskers. Nebraska has a provision in its settlement that will allow it to reduce its penalty by $500k if the school is invited to a BCS bowl this football season. Initially both schools were taking the stance that they owed nothing because the league was on the verge of dissolution, but saner heads prevailed and ultimately the fans of both sides (schools and conferences) will be better off for it.
It’s down to Duke, UNC or Kansas for Rivals #1 player Austin Rivers. Just over two years ago Rivers committed to play for Billy Donovan at Florida, but the nearby Gators are now officially off of his list in favor of three of the biggest names in the game. He plans on visiting all of his finalists in October, including UNC (Oct. 8), Duke (Oct. 15 – Midnight Madness) and Kansas (Oct. 22). Carolina is so juiced for his visit to Chapel Hill that they’re already writing haikus about the kid.
In case you missed it, yesterday our very own columnist Andrew Murawa released the first of an eight-part series called In Their Words: Life at the Mid-Major Level, a tremendously informative overview of the difficulties that mid-major coaches and athletic staff face by virtue of limited resources and restricted budgets. It’s not often that we promote our own stuff (note: this is not true), but the insights Murawa weaves from the voices of those at the mid-major level is well worth a read. In Their Words will release every Tuesday morning for the next two months.
We can’t prove it statistically, but anecdotally it seems like every year at the start of the fall semester players just can’t help themselves from getting into all kinds of trouble. Wake Forest’s Tony Woodsis the latest knucklehead, as the 6’11, 250-lb. center was arrested late last week on charges of assault inflicting serious injury, assault on a female and assault with a minor present (his 1-year old child). According to the official statement from his girlfriend/victim, he allegedly pushed and kicked her on Labor Day, resulting in a fractured spine and a probable loss of his freedom if these claims are substantiated. Woods was once a highly-regarded (top 25) recruit of whom great things were expected, but he’s been relatively slow on the uptake, averaging only 5/3 in thirteen minutes per game last (sophomore) season. If these allegations are true, he’s slow in more ways than one, and we hope he doesn’t see a junior or senior campaign at Wake or anywhere else.
St. Mary’s is set to add a key transfer piece to its backcourt, as sources tell us that SMU transfer Paul McCoy is enrolled and already taking classes at the tiny school in Moraga, California. The 5’11 guard from Portland was an all-CUSA freshman two seasons ago, averaging 13/4/3 APG as a full-time starter, but tore his ACL in February last season and missed the remainder of his sophomore year. McCoy will be eligible to play in 2011-12, conveniently exactly when SMC will need a seasoned point guard to take over for the departing starter, Mickey McConnell.
According to Commissioner Larry Scott, the Pac-10does not expect Colorado to join Utah in its new twelve-team configuration for the 2011-12 academic year due to financial considerations. He gave the possibility a less than 50/50 chance, but said that if the league has eleven teams next year, they will retain the name Pac-10 until the twelfth team, CU, shows up in 2012-13. One other interesting note from this article: much like the Big Ten, the league does not anticipate a split into two divisions in sports other than football.
As we wrote about on Friday night when the news hit, Tennesseeannounced self-imposed sanctions on its basketball program, including specific restrictions on Bruce Pearl and his top assistants leaving campus to recruit and sizable givebacks (~$2M) from their salaries. The issue, of course, wasn’t as much the illegality of numerous phone calls to recruits as much as the fact that Pearl lied to NCAA investigators about something during the investigation. As Michael Rosenberg discusses in his article, that’s a serious transgression that could have gotten many less successful coaches fired. Pearl appears that he will survive, and two players in his 2011 recruiting class — Chris Jones and Kevin Ware — have already re-affirmed their commitments. This is understandable given they’re already sold on the program; the concern for UT fans will be what impact having Pearl out-of-sight/out-of-mind on the recruiting trail during the next year might bring. And then there’s the question of whether these sanctions could satisfy the NCAA — according to Gary Parrish, it could actually get worse.
For what it’s worth, at least one head coach (and undoubtedly many others) has no sympathy for Pearl’s current plight, especially given that he dropped dime on Illinois twenty years ago over the recruitment of hotshot high schooler Deon Thomas. In the late 1980s, recently retired Illinois-Chicago head coach Jimmy Collins was an assistant for Lou Henson’s Illini, and it was he who bore the brunt of Pearl’s allegations with the NCAA. Even though Collins was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing, he remained stigmatized by the incident, and he felt that Pearl’s holier-than-thou attitude was irresponsible and baseless. We’re certain that Collins watched Pearl’s mea culpa (below) with a certain amount of satisfaction.