Morning Five: 11.20.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 20th, 2012

  1. The big news of the day happened off the court and likely behind closed doors in a room with paintings of men who have been dead for over 100 years as Maryland is headed to the Big Ten after its Board of Regents approved the move and Rutgers is expected to join suit later today. Obviously these moves are driven by football-generated television revenue, but it is unfortunate how this move will negatively affect some current college basketball rivalries, particularly Maryland-Duke. The decision to invite Rutgers, a school that has largely been irrelevant in revenue-generating sports, appears to be motivated by its proximity to New York City and the huge television market that comes with it. Our writers at the Big Ten microsite have already provided an overview of how these moves will affect the Big Ten, and the ACC microsite has chimed in as well, but for our part the loss of Maryland as a charter member of the ACC is one of the sadder stories of the entire conference realignment era and we wonder how Terps fans will take to their new conference.
  2. Nobody with half a brain these days still thinks that schools give much, if any, consideration to their student-athletes, fans or sentiment to longstanding and traditional rivalries when making these purely financial decisions to chase the highest possible payout. This mindset is perfectly laid out by ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil, who with a scathing edge to her pen, writes: “The landscape is a storm-ravaged mess and the last idealistic fan has left the building, seeing this entire enterprise for the sausage-making caper it is. College sports are gaining money and losing credibility, the sham of amateurism and purity reserved merely for the athletes and their vow of poverty.” Pat Forde follows her with a missive describing how Maryland and Rutgers’ incompetence both on the fields of play and in the boardroom are virtually meaningless in modern realignment calculus. What does matter: “Location, location, location [near major media markets]. That’s what this latest round of conference realignment is about.” Both are absolutely correct, of course — in just the last year we’ve lost (or will lose) Missouri-Kansas, Syracuse-Georgetown, and now Duke-Maryland. All in the name of more dollars. At what point do those dollars level off when fans realize that Rutgers-Michigan or Maryland-Iowa simply doesn’t have quite the same passion and intensity surrounding it?
  3. Wednesday’s game between Kentucky and Morehead State was supposed to be a nice homecoming for former Wildcat star Sean Woods (you may remember him as the guy who hit the shot before Laettner hit The Shot). It may not turn out to be so friendly, though, after a story was published in the Louisville Courier-Journal in which Woods criticized the current Wildcats for their sense of youthful entitlement. Perhaps as the result of some harsh local feedback, Woods backed off his earlier statements via his official Twitter account. We are guessing that Woods’ clarification will be enough for most Wildcat fans — his banner hangs in the Rupp Arena rafters, after all — but there will probably be a few of the less reasonable ones who use it as an excuse to create a minor scene on Wednesday night.
  4. While the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament has been able to bring in big name programs the past two years — Kentucky (2011) and Ohio State (2012) — it has failed to draw large crowds even when Big Blue Nation invaded Mohegan Sun last season with an absolutely loaded team. Now the organizers are trying to overcome that with a  2013 field that includes two powerhouses — North Carolina and Louisville — as well Richmond, Belmont, and a group of four local schools. Having been to the event once we would be surprised if even the presence of these two schools could make up for the odd atmosphere surrounding the arena and casino, but it should at least make for a better televised final. Along the same lines, the Maui Invitational announced its field for the 2014 tournament (two years from now), and it includes the following eight schools: Arizona, BYU, Missouri, Purdue, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Kansas State, Chaminade. It’s not the strongest Maui event we’ve ever seen, but we’d expect at least three of those teams to rank in the Top 25 that season, perhaps more.
  5. Speaking of the Garden Isle, we don’t typically discuss game results in this space, but on the 30th anniversary of Chaminade‘s historic upset over #1 Virginia in 1982, we thought it was too coincidental to fail to mention the Silverswords’ 86-73 victory over Texas on Monday night. Certainly there are failures in the comparison — first of all, Texas 2012 is not Virginia 1982. The Longhorns aren’t even ranked, and they are playing in Maui without their best player, Myck Kabongo, in the lineup. Secondly, the gap between Division I and Division II basketball isn’t what it was 30 years ago — better training methodologies and techniques at all levels of basketball have helped, but the regular gutting of high-D-I hoops by the NBA creates situations like at Texas where Rick Barnes faces a rebuild every couple of years (Ralph Sampson would have without question been one-and-one in today’s environment). Still, it’s pretty cool. Texas has by far the nation’s top athletic department budget (last check: over $150 million) and it’s unlikely that Chaminade even surpasses a cool million. Could the D-II darlings use a home court advantage to take down Illinois tonight — nobody knows the answer, but it’s stories like these that answers the question of why we watch the games.
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Pac-12 M5: 11.14.12 Edition

Posted by KDanna on November 14th, 2012

  1. First things first — more on the Shabazz Muhammad saga. Yesterday, the Muhammad family released a statement to the LA Times expressing their displeasure with the NCAA in this process. Probably the most interesting nugget out of this statement was the family’s claim that the NCAA previously promised the family it wouldn’t release a statement on the situation a week prior to ruling that Muhammad is ineligible for competition, and then saying that the NCAA’s accompanying statement on the matter was inaccurate in its portrayal of the investigation. Their main gripe is that they say Benjamin Lincoln (the financial advisor in question) received permission by the NCAA for Lincoln to pay for airline tickets and hotel rooms for Muhammad to take his unofficial visits to Duke and North Carolina. Allegations of shady activity on the NCAA’s part is nothing new, and it has been tough to decipher exactly what is going on for the most part, but it will be interesting to see what effect, if any, this latest Muhammad family statement will have on the situation. This is the first time we have heard from the Muhammad family, which did not want to face more repercussions from the NCAA. A direct response by to this statement is highly unlikely, but perhaps it will expedite things in terms of getting Muhammad cleared to play for UCLA.
  2. More good recruiting news came for the Pac-12 when Long Beach Poly prospect Jordan Bell verbally committed to Oregon over Auburn yesterday. Bell is a 6’7’’ three-star power forward who is known for his shot-blocking ability and overall freakish athleticism, but is considered to be very raw with a limited offensive skill set. Another way to judge a recruit, albeit completely unscientific and wholly superficial, is to see which other schools were vying for his services. Auburn isn’t a school that will impress anybody, but Connecdticut and Kansas State were also reportedly in the mix before Bell narrowed it down to the Ducks and Tigers. It could very well be the case where UConn and K-State have better prospects at the “4” and over-recruited the power forward position, but a quick check at their prospect lists reveal that neither team currently has a power forward commitment. Bell now joins twins Tyrell and Tyree Robinson (Tyree is a four-star prospect according to Scout) and unranked shooting guard Fred Richardson as part of the Class of 2013 for Dana Altman; the Robinson brothers also plan on playing football for Chip Kelly.
  3. An injury update in Corvallis: Oregon State sophomore forward Daniel Gomis is still not cleared to play after suffering an ankle injury a few weeks back, though the team should have a better idea on when he will be good to go once Oregon State returns from New York for the 2K Sports Classic. Although Craig Robinson cannot comment directly on the injury, the report suggests that things are looking up for Gomis. The article also mentioned that Gomis was walking around practice earlier this week and helping out in a drill, and it would be good to finally see this kid play after missing last year recovering from a broken leg. He was ranked the 22nd-best power forward and 95th-best player in the nation by Scout out of the famed Oak Hill Academy, so it will be interesting to see what the native Senegalese post can do at the collegiate level. However, it might be tough for him to immediately break into a frontcourt that features Angus Brandt, Eric Moreland and Joe Burton up front.
  4. Pat Forde recently released his 25 most interesting non-conference games to watch in November and December, and it featured a few games involving Pac-12 constituents: the Legends Classic final (which could be between UCLA and Indiana), Florida at Arizona, Missouri at UCLA and San Diego State vs. UCLA. It’s no shock that the non-conference games national writers are most interested in involve the teams that are predicted to go 1-2 in the Pac-12, but there are plenty of other huge non-conference games out there for the Pac-12, some of which we detailed on the Pac-12 microsite weeks ago. That said, it’s of the most benefit to the conference for UCLA and Arizona to win against the big boys of the other power conferences, because these are the games that most people around the country will be watching. As such, these are the games that will largely make or break the reputation of the Pac-12 in 2012-13.
  5. Well there goes the dream of a perfect November and December. It took five days of real competition, but the Pac-12 became the last conference to lose a game this year. It wasn’t a good loss either; Washington lost at home to Albany last night by one point. The Great Danes were picked to finish fourth in the America East, fresh off a 19-15 record as part of a league that finished 29th in conference RPI (out of 32). Granted, you can’t make too much out of one non-conference game — especially one in which Scott Suggs lasted just two minutes before leaving with an apparent head injury — but this certainly isn’t a good look for a league that is desperately trying to repair its national reputation. Our Adam Butler will have more on the story later today, but this isn’t the first time Washington has pulled this stunt.
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Morning Five: 07.18.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 18th, 2012

  1. This offseason has been unique in the sense that a newly promulgated NCAA rule has allowed coaches and their players to have considerably more in-person interaction than in previous years. While students (including new freshman) are on campus attending summer school, coaches can provide two hours per week of instruction and training. It may not sound like much on its face, but 24 hours of focused practice when compared with zero is a substantial difference. CBSSports.com’s Matt Norlander writes that without question, coaches around the country are 100% behind this new rule and are employing it to the best of their abilities. That is, except in the Ivy League. The wrinkle in the Ancient Eight is that Harvard and Princeton — academic titans though they are — do not offer summer school coursework. Without a level playing field among all eight schools, none of them can (or will) take advantage of the rule. And aside from that, summer courses cost money, a bit of a pinch for non-scholarship athletes. It’s an interesting insight into just how different the priorities are from the rest of Division I basketball, even at a successful time when the league is placing competitive teams (Cornell, Princeton and Harvard) into the NCAA Tournament.
  2. While on the subject of summer basketball, one of the great things about unofficial team pick-up games is that it makes for tremendous message board fodder: “Ivan Renko dropped 45 on Anthony Davis in a half! He’s going to be a first-team All-American!” You know how it goes. Players who are career bench-warmers or otherwise unfulfilled talents seemingly become hoops messiahs under the dim lights in the sweaty gyms of July and August. That isn’t to say that there aren’t clues to be found, though, especially in cases where players have never actually been seen in uniform before. One such storyline coming out of Kansas in the past week is that redshirt freshman Ben McLemore is drawing reasonable comparisons to former Jayhawk star Brandon Rush for his jaw-dropping athletic ability and shot-making prowess. Down on Tobacco Road, UNC’s Leslie McDonald and PJ Hairston may not be getting such a lofty comparison from a former player, but they are receiving lessons in how to play the game from former Tar Heel superstar Rasheed Wallace. So there’s that.
  3. While on the subject of the Heels, one of the slowly smoldering stories in the back rooms and dark alleys of the Internet this summer has related to the ongoing academic scandal involving a large number of football players at the school. Armed with the knowledge that some of UNC’s basketball players took the same tainted courses as the football team, Pat Forde in a piece Tuesday mentioned that UNC has not been as forthcoming as some would like with the release of exculpatory information. He doesn’t go as far as to make any accusations of wrongdoing other than to quote a history professor at UNC who remains skeptical, but it does bring up a question of transparency and whether UNC might be willing to throw football under the bus to save the basketball program.
  4. We’ve mentioned Jabari Parker quite a bit in the last week, as the Class of 2013 prospect made news for narrowing his list of schools down to a more manageable 10 suitors and his family’s decision to let him rest for the remainder of the summer camp period. At least one school that you may have heard of on the recruiting trail — it starts with a K and ends with a Y — may, according to an unnamed head coach “who has been involved” with Parker’s recruitment, be the clubhouse leader. Duke has been mentioned as Parker’s leader numerous times by people supposedly in the know, and BYU has always been in the mix because of the LDS connection. All any prognosticator worth his salt can do at this point is await announcements as to where Parker will take his official visits and work backwards from there.
  5. A number of college basketball head coaches are in North Augusta, South Carolina, this week for the Nike Peach Jam, an elite prep basketball event featuring many of the nation’s top uncommitted players. Local news station WJBF-TV interviewed a few of the attendees about the Penn State/Sandusky scandal, and at least Clemson’s Brad Brownell, Minnesota’s Tubby Smith, and Georgia Tech’s Brian Gregory appear to be “using Penn State’s mistakes as a lesson.” For the sake of the next generation of America’s overlooked children, let’s hope so.

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Morning Five: 01.25.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2012

  1. Kansas State received good news on Tuesday when center Jordan Henriquez was reinstated to the team after a brief suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team.” Frank Martin’s comments about Henriquez were particularly interesting, stating that the junior is “a big-time kid” who “lost sight of what he needed to do.” According to the coach, this was only the second time in his 27 years of coaching that he’d suspended a player, which makes us wonder if all the yelling and histrionics scares the kids so much that they generally toe the line. Regardless, K-State will have Henriquez back in the lineup for tonight’s game against Texas Tech in Lubbock.
  2. Connecticut is not as lucky today as it continues to await the decision on the eligibility of one of its key players, Ryan Boatright. His 12th day in limbo passed on Tuesday as the NCAA investigated banking records from his mother’s accounts, allegedly as a result of a felon ex-boyfriend of hers dropping dime about cash deposits made to her bank on behalf of Boatright. Whether true or not, the New York Times‘ Joey Nocera has taken the opportunity to skewer the NCAA in a two-part piece that published in the last several days. Part One focused on the impermissible benefit in the form of a plane ticket that Boatright’s mother received during her son’s recruitment from none other than Reggie Rose (what IS it with this guy and NCAA violations involving planes?) — this violation cost Boatright the first six games of the season. Part Two discusses the most recent possible violation, several cash deposits that Boatright’s mother claims were from friends so that she could buy Christmas presents for her family last year. In the meantime, Boatright has not been able to suit up for the Huskies in its last three games, two of which ended up as losses (vs. Cincinnati; @ Tennessee). Jim Calhoun’s team really needs the offensive and ball-handling duties that the freshman guard provides, but for now all they can do is wait.
  3. Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe has had a difficult college career filled with injuries, suspensions and even criminal charges filed against him. His latest disappointment came earlier this season when, only seven games into his senior year, he injured his knee and was forced to call it quits. The problem is that even though he was a freshman at Marquette in 2007-08, he’s only played one full season of college basketball — 2010-11 at Minnesota. His freshman year in Milwaukee was cut short because of another knee injury, and the next year was his mandatory redshirt year as a transfer to play for Tubby Smith. In 2009-10, he spent the entire season suspended as a result of assualt charges he faced in Miami, and of course this year he only played seven games. As a result of all this, Mbakwe is considering petitioning to the NCAA for a rare sixth season of eligiblity in 2012-13. His argument will revolve around his suspension year at Minnesota, which the NCAA will need to determine was a set of circumstances “beyond his control.” The Florida case against Mbakwe may be three years old now, but its adjudication is actually still pending, so if he can successfully beat the rap in the next few months, maybe he’ll be able to sell that factor on the NCAA when he asks for another year to play college basketball.
  4. As we wrote about on the ACC microsite yesterday, Gary Williams was commemorated by dedicating the floor of Maryland’s Comcast Center with his name on Monday night. But, as the Baltimore Sun‘s Jeff Barker writes, there was at least one other former Maryland coach very miffed by such a public display of affection. Lefty Driesell may not have won a national title in College Park, but he built the Terrapins program to heights not seen again until Williams’ arrival in the late 1980s, and he believes that such an honor is “a disservice to players such as Tom McMillen, John Lucas, Len Elmore, Brad Davis, Greg Manning, Adrian Branch and Steve Sheppard” and that he doesn’t believe any coach’s name should be on the floor at Maryland. For what it’s worth, the school is reportedly considering some kind of honor for Driesell, but it’s unknown what, if any, form that will take.
  5. Pat Forde and his Forde Minutes were back yesterday with more drops of knowledge than you could shake a Dragon at. He finds a way to tailor a column that examines in-conference strength of schedule (thanks, @kenpomeroy), the best programs to have never reached a Final Four (left unsaid: avoid playing Connecticut), and a re-examination of the three schools that he thought had potential for greatness this season (agree with one choice, still thinking on another, disagree on the third). As always, it’s a fun and enlightening read, and one well worth the time but shouldn’t take you nearly as long as the column name suggests.
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Big East Morning Five: 01.19.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 19th, 2012

  1. Although I think it still early to call Cincinnati “quite clearly” the conference’s second-best team, back-to-back road wins over Georgetown and Connecticut have the Bearcats riding high. Of course they will have to live with the continued aftermath of their fight against Xavier all season, but they have only lost once since that game and look like a completely different team and seem to be at peace with the whole ordeal. The road trip isn’t over yet though, as they travel to West Virginia Saturday.
  2. The story has moved far beyond the Big East at this point but we just figured we would throw it out there that former St. John‘s point guard Nurideen Lindsey is switching schools again. We mentioned yesterday that he was heading to Arkansas but now he is apparently set enroll at Rider instead. Lindsey is a Philadelphia native, so Little Rock did seem awfully far away, and honestly, Rider might be a better fit. The Broncos are scuffling this season, but Tommy Dempsey has built a consistently competitive program in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and Lindsey could blossom into a star there.
  3. Oh wherefore art thou Herb Pope? The senior forward had been a legitimate player of the year candidate for the first part of the season, but he was a non-factor in his fourth straight game as the Pirates lost to Villanova last night, its second loss since being ranked. Earlier this season, after a tough game against Syracuse, Pope said that he was going to put his struggles behind him, but now he might just be wearing down. Seton Hall still has plenty to play for this season, but they will need their big man to pick it back up if they are going to make the NCAA Tournament.
  4. With apologies to my colleague Pat, I sometimes forget about lowly Providence. No one expected much from first-year coach Ed Cooley this season and since conference play began, they haven’t provided much either. With the exception of that “Where In The World Did That Come From” 31-point blowout of Louisville at home, the Friars haven’t really sniffed another conference win. We still have no idea why star guard Vincent Council was held out against Syracuse, but it’s safe to say they will have no chance against Marquette if Council isn’t playing.
  5. I admit, this one is going to be kind of a throwaway because it is getting late and I am tired. Yahoo! columnist Pat Forde wrote his always-enjoyable Forde Minutes piece and his pressing question for the Big East was…”Who is the conference’s second-best team?” Granted this was before tonight’s loss to Cincinnati, but Forde still picked UConn and I agree in the long run. The Bearcats just beat the Huskies, so they deserve the edge right now, but Jim Calhoun’s team will ostensibly get Ryan Boatright back eventually and Andre Drummond continues to get better. Yes, even better than Cincinnati.
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Morning Five: 06.01.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 1st, 2011

  1. Some of you younger folks may not know this, but in the first several years of its existence, ESPN actually was an acronym that stood for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network.  The guys in Bristol ultimately decided that the four letter “word” was such a strong brand in and of itself that they dumped the rest of it, and it appears that the Big Ten Network is thinking along the same lines two decades later.  Beginning this week, the network will go by BTN in an effort to re-brand their products, which includes associated logos for each Big Ten school (Michigan pictured here) and allows the company to expand into new ventures and opportunities that may not be television-related.
  2. It’s not every day that a Mighty Mouse joins a coaching staff, but former Arizona all-america point guard Damon Stoudamire has signed on to become an assistant on Josh Pastner’s staff at Memphis.  Stoudamire enjoyed a thirteen-year NBA career that included the 1995 Rookie of the Year award, but has spent the last three years in low-level positions at Rice University and the Memphis Grizzlies.  His hiring at Memphis is interesting from a player development perspective, as Stoudamire brings a wealth of experience as a 5’10 guard who had an uncanny ability to get shots off in a number of settings.  For a guy like Tiger sophomore point guard Joe Jackson, who committed a total of six more turnovers than assists last season, Stoudamire could be a tremendous positive influence.
  3. Can we send our correspondent to the pickup sessions at Memorial Coliseum this summer in Lexington?  We already knew that John Calipari was going to have a boatload of talent on his roster in the fall, but it now appears that most of his key players will be on campus over the summer too given the news that forward Terrence Jones will not try out for the Under-19 Team USA later this month.  The three big-time recruits that Calipari has coming in — Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague, and Michael Gilchrist — have also made similar decisions to stick around campus this summer.  Assuming that several of Cal’s former Cats such as John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Brandon Knight, Enes Kanter and Eric Bledsoe pass through Lexington for even a brief interlude to hoop, there might be more young talent during the hot months playing basketball in Lexington than anywhere else in America.
  4. Somehow we missed this over the long weekend, but Pat Forde late last week published a piece that takes a look at the top ten overachieving and underachieving programs in college basketball since 1985.  This is a great article, in theory, and one that we here at RTC talk about doing in depth frequently; but, even though Forde justifies his selections with a paragraph explaining each, something seems a little off when Duke is listed as the second-biggest overachiever (does a top six program truly overachieve?) and Northwestern as the top underachiever (with no expectations, how can it underachieve?).  It’s admittedly a strange list — maybe we would have preferred it if the title had been outstanding vs. disappointing programs?
  5. What’s this, a serious piece of opinion and commentary from Deadspin?  The venerable old blog’s Tommy Craggs uses the prism of the Jim Tressel scandal to nail the media to the wall for falling victim to the same dog-and-pony circus act of faux-outrage we see every time that something like this is unveiled.  His key statement: “What I can’t tolerate is the passel of excellent journalists who understand all the cockeyed incentives of big-time college sports, who know precisely where the big con lies, and who nonetheless write story after story after story after story in which they mistake the symptoms for the contagion.”  It’s an interesting point, but one with which we’re not sure we ultimately agree.  Depending on your perspective, either these investigations and subsequent stories are part of a long-term process to expose the hypocrisy he refers to layer by layer; or, they’re simply isolated instances that don’t amount to anything in the aggregate.  We tend toward the former, and until the NCAA recognizes and solves its own internal battle of enforcement versus self-interest, we’ll have to settle for the good, if piecemeal, work that these journos are doing to expose the seedy side.
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Who’s Got Next? Updated Class of 2012 Rankings…

Posted by Josh Paunil on May 3rd, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Each week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com. 

Introduction

With another passing week, there is plenty of recruiting news including standout performances at AAU events, commitments and de-commitments, and the latest news on where high-profile prospects are likely to go to college. However, the biggest revelation by far in this past week was a recruiting scandal at a mid-major D1 school that has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game but somehow managed to land two elite prospects. Read on to see how a young man from Chicago, a head coach at a mid-major basketball program and a high-profile former felon created the biggest recruiting scandal in the past few years.

What We Learned

Kevin Ware's recruitment exposed ties between UCF head coach Donnie Jones and convicted felon Kenneth Caldwell.

Kevin Ware’s Recruitment and Central Florida’s Recruiting Scandal. After class of 2011 shooting guard Kevin Ware committed to the Knights two weeks ago, he backed out of the agreement Thursday when he learned of Kenneth Caldwell’s background, a Chicago man with a substantial criminal record and apparent ties to a prominent sports agency. Ware claims that Caldwell repeatedly called him to encourage him to attend Central Florida, traveled to meet with his family and even set up conversations between Ware, himself and head coach Donnie Jones and Jones’ staff – contact which is prohibited by the NCAA. Caldwell formally denied recruiting players for UCF and claimed he was simply impressed by UCF… a school that has never won an NCAA Tournament game.

When Ware and his family were asked about what coaches said their relationship with Caldwell was, they said the coaches claimed they had no direct affiliation with him but that they had known him for a year. This left the Ware family wondering exactly who Caldwell was and how he tied in with UCF.  On his LinkedIn page, Caldwell claimed to be a recruiter of potential NBA players for ASM Sports, which the company later confirmed. What was even more frightening about Caldwell’s background were his two felony convictions in 1991 and again in 1998. He also owes the IRS close to $250,000. After looking at his history and claims, Caldwell could fairly be labeled as a “runner,” someone who acts as a middle man to deliver players to universities and agents.

How current UCF commit Michael Chandler Ties In. Caldwell’s ties to the UCF program started a few years ago when a high school student whom he refers to as his “son” committed to the Knights. Then, two more players whom Caldwell likes to call his “nephews” also chose UCF for their collegiate careers, including one of the best class of 2011 centers in the country, Michael Chandler. Before becoming a Knight, Chandler had previously committed to Louisville and Xavier before he shocked many people by settling on Central Florida. Chandler’s high school coach said he’d never even heard of Central Florida before Chandler committed there. However, Chandler’s uncle said the prospect chose UCF on its merits. In Pat Forde’s column this week analyzing the odd recruitment, he said a source with knowledge of the situation claimed that Caldwell bragged about having inside information of where Chandler would be attending college well before he made his decision public.

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Who’s Got Next? Updating the Class of 2011 Rankings…

Posted by Josh Paunil on April 26th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Each week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Introduction

This week has been full of events ranging from my final class of 2011 rankings to high-profile commitments to big-time performances to much rumor mill chatter. Players being lost in their recruitment, underclassmen making names for themselves and conference champions rescinding scholarship offers from top-five recruits are just a few things that happened in a very eventful week in the world of college basketball recruiting.

What We Learned

Former class of 2012 top-15 prospect small forward Alex Murphy (#34 – Duke) decided to join the Blue Devils a year early.

Murphy Heads to Duke a Year Early. Former class of 2012 top-15 prospect small forward Alex Murphy (#34) decided to join the Blue Devils a year early (to see why, check out the “What They’re Saying” section below) as he has already passed the necessary courses to graduate and has been in high school for four years. There was speculation since he first committed to Duke that he would reclassify to the class of 2011 and the fact that he never denied it just added to the conjecture. The scouting report on Murphy is that he has a very nice shooting stroke from both the perimeter and mid-range game and is a superb slasher who finishes well around the basket. Given his length and athleticism, he is also versatile and will be able to play either forward position for Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. However, he needs to add strength to his frame and become a better rebounder, but there have been rumors that he will redshirt so if true he will have another year to develop both of those attributes.

Kevin Ware is a Knight… I think. Shooting guard Kevin Ware committed to Central Florida Monday joining an impressive class including center Michael Chandler, small forward Rod Days and power forwards Wayne Martin and Kasey Wilson. However, we don’t know whether Ware still wants to be a Knight. Since he already signed a letter of intent with Tennessee (which they released him from after Bruce Pearl was fired), NCAA rules prohibit him from signing another one in the same year with UCF, so Ware is free to do whatever he wants. The first thing that raised eyebrows about his future college choice was the fact that he was announced as “undecided” in the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic over the weekend (although his stepfather later said he filled out the forms before he committed and didn’t feel like changing it). The next thing that made people question his commitment was when a Louisville website reported that Ware told them his recruitment to UCF wasn’t a done deal and that he was “absolutely” still considering Louisville (see the “What They’re Saying” section for Ware’s quotes on this). Also, he reportedly told fans at the Derby Classic while signing autographs that he was still considering the Cardinals. The excuse for all of this that has been picking up steam lately is that Ware was simply afraid of potential backlash from Louisville fans at the event, which is plausible since Ware tweeted he was afraid of a backlash before he left for it. We still don’t know what is going on with him but hopefully by next week we will have a clearer picture of his college choice.

UNC Rescinds Shabazz Muhammad Scholarship Offer. In a surprising move, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams pulled the scholarship offer from junior small forward Shabazz Muhammad (#5) this week while at the same time offering his teammate, small forward Rosco Allen (#27). It has seemed as though Carolina was losing steam with Muhammad ever since he didn’t attend the North Carolina vs. Duke game at Chapel Hill (although a reason to why he missed it was never confirmed), and the rumor going around now is that he is close to making a commitment elsewhere. The other schools that he would be presumably choose between are Duke, Kentucky, Texas and UCLA. Muhammad is an impact player who will start from day one no matter the program he goes to since he is such a prolific scorer on the offensive end and is so athletic and versatile. He is a better scorer inside the arc than anyone else in the class of 2012 but needs to work on consistently rebounding and improving his ball-handling to become a complete player.

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume VI

Posted by jbaumgartner on January 11th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor.  In this piece he’ll spend each week reviewing the five things he loved and hated about the previous week of college basketball.

The Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..someone perfectly expressing everything that pissed me off about the Renardo Sidney decision. Here I was trying to figure out exactly how to denounce such a cowardly, selfish decision by the Mississippi State program, and ESPN.com’s Pat Forde took care of it in this exquisitely-worded blog post. This thing stinks like the three-week-old lettuce sitting in my fridge, and Forde captures each part of that repugnant scent.

I LOVED…..being re-convinced how talented Duke is in seven minutes. I sat down on my couch last week to watch them take on the usually scrappy UAB Blazers, hoping to figure out if the Kyrie-less Dukies still had it. Seven minutes later they were up 26-4, and I suddenly had a free evening to go to the gym. If Nolan Smith keeps playing like this and the outside shooters can make a few, they’ll still be the toughest out come March.

Smith's Excellence Sometimes Gets Lost in the Wake of All the Talk About Singler, Big Toes, the Twins...

I LOVED…..getting a different slice of college b-ball this week when I turned on the much-anticipated Montana State-Billings/Alaska-Anchorage matchup. There’s something exceptionally pure about watching two schools play hard in a gym that is definitely nowhere near the size of the one at my high school. The game was a rout with two minutes left, but guys were still flying all over the place. I only had one issue – really FSN, you really couldn’t find a better close-up shot on the Alaska campus than the sweatshirts being sold inside the student union? I hear there’s some scenic snow up there.

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Chatter From the Fourth Estate: NCAA 68

Posted by rtmsf on April 23rd, 2010

If you’re like us today, you’re probably feeling a little bit like you do when you realize that the blue lights in your rear view mirror weren’t intended for you even though you were about +15 over the speed limit.  As the friendly patrolman roars by on your left, that adrenaline-fueled fear of getting a ticket (or worse) melts into a somewhat euphoric state of well-being as you realize that you’ve dodged a terribly unpleasant situation.  We all spent the last two months lying hogtied on the tracks watching the 96-team locomotive steaming toward us, and the surprising (shocking?) news that the NCAA will instead move to only a 68-team scenario feels like Clint Eastwood or Rambo or freakin’ Michael Cera stepped in at the last moment to save the day.  Perspective is everything.

NCAA HQ Can Cancel That Security Detail Now

Yet imagine for a moment if we’d never heard about the 96-team debacle from the inner circles of the NCAA.  Without that particularly bilious perspective to abhor, excoriate, lambaste and dread for months leading up to today, the news that the NCAA was expanding to 68 teams would probably have been met with complete and utter derision across the board.  Four play-in games, pfshaw!  Yet when considered against the alternative, today’s news was met with guarded optimism and in some cases downright celebration.  Was this a brilliant strategem of managing expectations pulled off on us, the unsuspecting public, by the cunning NCAA (probably not), or simply a realization that the organization was treading ever so closely to killing off the goose that laid the golden egg (more likely)?  Either way, the decision is a reasonable and defensible one that we can all live with, so let’s get to the business of reviewing it now and analyzing it to death in coming weeks.

Here’s what some of the best in the business have to say…

Luke Winn, CNNSI – More importantly, it represents a major victory for college basketball. The NCAA did the right thing. While I’d prefer a pure, 64-team format without play-in games, 68 teams is immensely more palatable than 96. The sanctity of the NCAA tournament has been preserved for the time being, and that’s something to celebrate, even if Jim Isch, the NCAA’s interim president, admitted that 68 wasn’t guaranteed to be the format for the entire length of the new TV deal. […]  Public reaction had to have played at least some role in them settling on 68 rather than 96. The public’s response to the 96 idea was overwhelmingly negative, and I wonder if Isch, Shaheen, CBS and Turner didn’t want to be regarded as the villains who ruined college sports’ crown jewel.  […]  Eventually, we’ll get back to worrying about how Isch left the expansion door open by saying two words: “for now.” But for now, at least, we can rejoice. The NCAA tournament has been saved.

Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News – Turns out, they were listening. Nobody came out and said the public’s revulsion at the prospect of a 96-team field was a factor in settling on 68, but if you’d loved the idea like chocolate-chip cookies, we’d be talking about a far different NCAA Tournament next March.  It wasn’t at the start of negotiations that someone with CBS/Turner suggested a 68-team tournament would be workable with the dollar amounts being discussed. That came after the general public declared 96 teams to be a product no more appealing than the XFL.  […]  How should a 68-team tournament work?  That’s fairly obvious. Although it might be most fair to have the teams at the bottom of the field play for the right to be No. 16 seeds, it’s hard to imagine anyone at CBS or Turner Sports, the networks that just agreed to pay roughly $740 million annually to televise the tournament, being thrilled about showing four games that this year might have involved such matchups as Robert Morris-Winthrop or Morgan State-East Tennessee State.  The solution would be to have the last eightat-large teams play for the right to be seeded into the middle of the field—as No. 12s or No. 11s. This season, that might have meant Virginia Tech-Minnesota and Illinois-Florida.  People would watch those games. CBS and Turner saved us from the dread of a 96-team tournament. They deserve something for their money.

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Morning Five: 02.24.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 24th, 2010

  1. Funny how the landscape of college basketball could have been completely different had then-Lakers GM Jerry West not talked new Nets coach John Calipari out of drafting a 17-year old player from the suburbs of Philadelphia named Kobe Bean Bryant.  With one of the best young players in the world at his disposal in the late 90s, would Coach Cal have been fired in 1999 only to resurface back in the college game at Memphis in 2000 and eventually moving to the Bluegrass in 1999?  Unlikely.
  2. There should be more of this in college basketball.  Quincy Pondexter on Saturday pretty much guaranteed a victory over rival Washington State this coming weekend, and his teammate Isaiah Thomas backed him up in a radio interview on Tuesday morning.  While this game doesn’t mean a whole lot in the national picture, it’s clear that people in the Pacific Northwest are taking it seriously.
  3. Gary Parrish thinks that UConn should just go ahead and offer Jim Calhoun a lifetime contract for as long as he wants it after the last ten days where UConn thrust itself back into the NCAA Tournament picture.  We’ve gone on record showing that this UConn team both before and immediately after Calhoun’s medical leave of absence wasn’t appreciably different, but there can be no question about the post-Calhoun effect.
  4. Pat Forde offers this week’s Forde Minutes column, and we’d LOVE LOVE LOVE to know the number of nasty emails he’s going to get with the following statement near the top of the piece.  Referring to the terrible seasons going on in Westwood and Chapel Hill, he says, “We’ve never seen such simultaneous lousiness from what The Minutes believes are the top two programs in college basketball history.”  Can a whole state go apoplectic at exactly the same moment?  Forde will know soon enough.
  5. Ole Miss students came correct yesterday with their vote to add a new mascot to take over for, um, nothing, because the school hasn’t had Colonel Reb prancing around its games since 2003.  Administrators said that bringing the racially-charged former mascot back is not an option, but reportedly, Admiral Ackbar from Star Wars fame is one of the top candidates.  Love the ironic twist there, but we doubt the very traditional school or the SEC would ever allow it.

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A Shootout To Remember

Posted by jstevrtc on December 14th, 2009

This fall I’ve had the pleasure to travel around a little and attend several college basketball games as a media member, but as I walked by the loading docks and into the back of the Cintas Center on Sunday night, I felt it as soon as I got inside.  I’ve attended Xavier basketball games on a media credential in the past, but this time, the buzz, the sounds, the aura…

This was different.

I had expected a different experience, because this was my first Crosstown Shootout.  But this was beyond expectation.  I made a quick detour through the media room and, without being asked, one of the very helpful Xavier Sports Info workers showed me to my seat.  I was positioned just around the corner from the Cincinnati bench, a short bounce pass away from UC head coach Mick Cronin, himself.  If you’re familiar with the Cintas Center setup, you’ve probably already realized — I was right in front of the Xavier student section. 

Total.  Freaking.  Mayhem.

Now, that period-after-every-word emphasis thing you see above is an overused tool by everyone ranging from amateur tweeters (myself included) to professional sportswriters (myself not included), and it’s losing a little luster.  I use it here because…well, if I had to use it once in my life to get a point across, this is when I would choose to use it.  As I said, I’ve been to a number of games in this part of the country this season.  The only way I can think to describe this particular student section on this night is…”beautifully ridiculous.”  I turned around, saw their painted faces and myriad noise-producing implements, heard the unbelievable roar that flowed from them, and I honestly thought I’d see Mel Gibson as William Wallace riding around in front of them on a horse.  They were both exhilarating and horrifying.  And I mean that in the best way possible.  I didn’t grow up in Cincinnati, I didn’t go to either one of these schools, and I brought no allegiance with me for either program to this game.  I was there as an observer.  But they numbered in the hundreds and sounded like thousands.  They were already putting in a legendary performance — and the game hadn’t even tipped off.

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