Big Ten M5: 02.05.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 5th, 2014

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  1. Michigan head coach John Beilein made some interesting comments when asked about how strong the B1G is this season. The question of parity is not something that is easy to answer when discussing how the league stacks up against other conferences. This is especially true in the wake of how the first half of the conference season played out. Beilein seems to be in the camp that believes the league is stronger because of the fact that seemingly any team can beat any other team. Naysayers trumpet the notion that this just indicates that the league is mediocre.
  2. It appears as if Indiana fans are growing weary of head coach Tom Crean’s lineup shuffling. Audible boos were heard on Sunday against Michigan when at one point his lineup featured only one starter on the floor during a 6-0 Wolverines’ run. Crean was quoted as saying “we have to rest players… we’ve got to continue to build depth, and the only way to build depth is to get guys to be consistent.” Having depth is one thing, but playing 13 guys in a competitive game is a tad extreme. You have to wonder if the reason that players other than Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleh are so inconsistent in their play is because they never can get into the flow of the game with constant substitutions.
  3. Nebraska has taken some great strides in recent weeks, but the Huskers still have not won a true road game during the 2013-14 campaign and winning a couple of games away from Lincoln will go a long way toward securing some sort of postseason tournament berth for this team. Head coach Tim Miles has not brought the subject up with his squad, as he believes the key is will be playing solid defense and not turning the ball over. The team has clearly established that it will be really difficult to beat at Pinnacle Bank Arena, but they won’t truly be taken seriously as a legitimate basketball program until they knock a team off on the road.
  4. Branden Dawson proved by coming back from his 2012 ACL injury that he’s a quick healer, returning to the court in a mere seven-plus months. Because of his previous recovery, Michigan State’s leading rebounder returning to the team earlier than the one-month prognosis wouldn’t necessarily surprise anyone. And as it turns out, he might be able to do just that. According to head coach Tom Izzo, he thinks Dawson will be able to start running today, and a return at around the four-week mark when the Spartans play Purdue and Michigan could very well be in the cards.
  5. Penn State and its recent resurgence has gone slightly unnoticed with the simultaneous rise of Northwestern and its even more unexpected 5-5 conference record. The Nittany Lions have won three in a row, however, and one of the keys for the team has been the ability to close things out in the waning minutes. Head coach Pat Chambers credits the team’s ability to “play for each other,” especially when things earlier in the game didn’t go their way. Now they have a decent chance at playing in the NIT with a 5-5 or 6-4 record through the rest of conference play.
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Previewing the Holiday Tournaments: A Big Ten Perspective

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 21st, 2013

The holiday tournaments tip off today and college coaches are huge fans of their teams participating in these events. With the quick turnarounds and neutral court sites, the events give players a glimpse of what their conference and postseason tournaments will feel like. From the prestigious eight-team Maui Invitational to the four-team Barclays Center Classic, each tournament provides valuable experience for teams and coaches alike to prepare for a postseason atmosphere. Along with gaining that precious experience, teams can also improve their non-conference resumes just by showing up. A couple of good performances or a holiday tournament championship looks pretty attractive to the selection committee in March. This year, the Big Ten has nearly the entire league competing in some sort of holiday tournament (Illinois and Ohio State are the two absentees). Let’s break down each of them, starting with the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Charleston Classic and 2kSports Classic, beginning today.

NCAA Basketball: Maui Invitational-Butler vs Illinois

Illinois Jump Started its NCAA Tournament Season A Year Ago in Maui

Puerto Rico Tip off: November 21-24

  • Teams: Michigan vs. Long Beach State, VCU vs. Florida State, Georgetown vs. Northeastern, Charlotte vs. Kansas State
  • Favorite: VCU
  • Projected Michigan Finish: 3rd
  • Michigan Player to WatchDerrick Walton Jr.
  • The Skinny: In the eight-team field, Georgetown, VCU, and the Wolverines are the clear front-runners. Georgetown lucked out as they are on the opposite side of the bracket of both Michigan and VCU. This means that a match-up of last year’s NCAA Tournament third round game between the two schools is likely in the semifinals. Last year, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. shredded Shaka Smart’s “Havoc” defense on its way to a huge victory. Now, Walton is set to run the offense for Michigan and go up against a veteran VCU backcourt. This game could spell major trouble for John Beilein and his staff, but could also be an important teaching moment.

Charleston Classic: November 21-24

  • TeamsNebraska vs. UMass, UAB vs. New Mexico, Georgia vs. Davidson, Clemson vs. Temple
  • Favorite: New Mexico
  • Projected Nebraska Finish: 5th
  • Nebraska Player to WatchTai Webster
  • The Skinny:  The Cornhuskers play UMass and then either New Mexico or UTEP in the next round. New Mexico is a top 20 team while UMass is expected to compete for a NCAA bid out of the Atlantic 10. Chaz Williams for UMass is an explosively fast guard who can distribute the ball well and shoot lights out from three. Tim Miles will have his work cut out to try and stop Williams, and the freshman Webster will get a nice welcoming from the “Chaz Master.”

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Running Down Our Big Ten Preview Posts

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 8th, 2013

Folks, the season is finally here! With three ranked teams in the top-10 of the national polls, the Big Ten is ready to once again make its case as the deepest conference in college basketball. Over the next five months, our team of Big Ten writers – Jonathan Batuello, Brendan Brody, Deepak Jayanti, Max Jakubowski and Alex Moscoso — will provide our insights about the conference we love. To prepare you for the season, we’ve outlined all the posts we’ve written about each of the 12 teams in the league, listed below (sorry, Minnesota, we owe you one).

Which Big Ten Team Will Be Playing Into April Like Michigan Was Last Year?

Which Big Ten Team Will Be Playing Into April Like Michigan Was Last Year?

Overall League Coverage

Michigan State

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On The Mend: Big Ten Medical Roundup

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 1st, 2013

With the season rapidly approaching, the dreaded injury bug is something that coaches lose sleep over. Not only can an injury hurt a team’s chances of winning, but it also throws off rotations and can possibly lead to chemistry issues.

  • Big Ten teams have been fortunate enough to not have any serious injuries so far. Michigan State’s Gary Harris gave the country a scare when he hurt his ankle back in early September, and he was already recovering from a shoulder injury that nagged him for all of last season. He now looks to be fully recovered from the ankle injury as he poured in 15 points in an exhibition matchup on Tuesday. Harris is the only player on the Spartans’ roster who can create his own shot, so losing him for any time period would be a blow to Michigan State’s Big Ten conference title hopes.
  • The Spartans’ in-state rival Michigan also has one of its key players dealing with an injury. Back pains and big men never go well together, and in Mitch McGary’s situation, that is exactly the case. John Beilein recently gave an update on McGary’s health, and there is not definite timetable for McGary’s return to the court. The Wolverines have very little frontcourt depth behind him so this could spell trouble if he’s not 100 percent to start the year. Still, Beilein has to be careful to not rush his sophomore star back, as a nagging back problem all year would really hurt Michigan’s chances to get back to the Final Four. Michigan’s first real test is at Iowa State November 17 and then a major showdown with Duke a few weeks later. He should be ready to go for those contests, but Michigan has to be cautious with him (and his back).
Bringing back two key cogs like McGary and Robinson III gives Michigan enough firepower for a run at a Big Ten championship in 2013-14

Bringing back two key cogs like McGary and Robinson III gives Michigan enough firepower for a run at a Big Ten championship in 2013-14

  • Wisconsin starting forward Frank Kaminsky recently was cleared to return to practice after injuring his left foot earlier in the month. The Badgers can ill afford to lose him for an extended period of time, as they are one of the weakest teams in the league when it comes to frontcourt depth. Bo Ryan figures to trot out a three-guard lineup this season with Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and freshman Nigel Hayes seeing time. Kaminsky did a solid job backing up Jared Berggren last year, but this year he inherits the bulk of the minutes. Ryan will lean on “Frank the Tank” to try to slow down some of the Big Ten’s elite big men when the Badgers are on defense.

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Morning Five: 09.25.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 25th, 2013

morning5

  1. Yesterday we mentioned that SI.com‘s Andy Glockner was brewing up a firestorm with his series of articles ranking the top 20 current programs in college basketball. Such an endeavor has two verifiable truths: first, everyone loves lists; second, everyone loves to rip lists. With that in mind (and he’s well aware of those truths), his honorable mentions came out Monday, followed by his rankings of programs from #16 to #20 on Tuesday. In order, let’s welcome Gonzaga, Illinois, Michigan, Georgetown and Texas to the top 20. Of this group, we’re having the most trouble with the Illinois pick at #19. The Illini had a renaissance season under the tutelage of new head coach John Groce last year, but spent most of the previous five years struggling to regain its national relevance of the early-to-mid 2000s. We realize of course that Glockner is using historical and other qualitative metrics to make these determinations, but we probably would have had Pittsburgh, Marquette, Xavier and several others ahead of the Illini. Still, that’s nitpicky. What will really make or break this list will be how Glockner handles the top five (and the fans of the four runners-up will let him know it!). We’re excited to see the next group released later today.
  2. As more and more people marry themselves to the idea that college football and basketball players are being exploited by their schools and the NCAA, we’ll continue to see analyses like one from Business Insider published on Tuesday. Their methodology for determining the fair market value of players at the top 25 revenue-producing football schools is quite simple, probably overly simple — just multiply football revenue by 47 percent (per the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with its players), then divide by the number of scholarships (85). What BI found mimics the numbers we’ve seen elsewhere — at the richest athletic schools such as Texas, Alabama and Michigan, college football players are worth roughly a half-million dollars each annually in value. The same analysis is also easy enough to do for college basketball players. Louisville‘s hoops revenue of $42.4 million in 2012 is divided in half given the NBA’s rough 50/50 split with the players, leaving $21.2 million to be split 13 ways. The result: a Cardinals’ basketball player is worth $1.63 million to the university (if you buy into this methodology). This is the mistake that many of these gridiron-centric analyses don’t realize — while it’s definitely true that football provides more aggregate revenue to the schools, the players in college basketball are individually much more valuable. If you want to make the point most strongly, which is the better headline? Texas football players are worth a half-million each; or Louisville basketball players are worth three times that much?
  3. While on the subject of football powers, the NCAA announced yesterday that Penn State would regain some of the football scholarships it lost as a result of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. In announcing the removal of those sanctions, the NCAA recognized that the school had made great efforts to change its culture of abuse but NCAA president Mark Emmert made it clear that other schools shouldn’t expect a reduction in their own penalties. That’s too bad, writes The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg, who outlines four major recent (and fixable) misfires by the NCAA, two of which were focused on men’s basketball. The most well-known example, of course, was the NCAA’s “strict liability” punishment on Memphis for playing Derrick Rose in the 2007-08 season, even though the NCAA Clearinghouse had deemed him eligible to play before that season. The other is far less recognizable, involving the NCAA’s decision to rule that Old Dominion’s Donte Hill was ineligible for his senior season because he played eight minutes in a closed-door preseason scrimmage against Clemson back in 2010. We’re quite sure that we could probably come up with a dozen more of these if we spent the time on it, but Eisenberg’s list is a good place to start. It wouldn’t hurt the NCAA to consider more reductions (or commutation) of sentences based on additional facts, precedents and behaviors.
  4. What’s a Final Four appearance worth to an MVC school like Wichita State? We’ll have to wait for the Business Insider analysis on that one, but it’s at least worth around $600,000 to its head coach, Gregg Marshall. The university announced his new salary on Tuesday, with a base of $1.6 million that kicks in this November and another raise to $1.75 million that begins next April. The long-underrated head coach will move into the top 25 or so highest-paid college basketball coaches as a result of this raise, which is a substantial financial commitment for a school living outside the Power Six or Seven hoops leagues. But Final Four appearances at schools like Wichita State tend to result in ironclad job security.
  5. Believe it or not, but with the new practice rules in effect this season, schools will actually begin suiting up for real, live, full-on practices this Friday. As in 48 hours from now. One of the players who will definitely be there to play post-practice games of HORSE with his teammates is Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson. As reported by Gary Parrish at CBSSports.com, Andy Kennedy expects the all-SEC shooting guard to be on the floor Friday. The controversial shooting guard reportedly failed multiple drug tests and spent much of the offseason “suspended” from the team, whatever that means, but let’s be honest with ourselves here. There aren’t all that many name-brand players who pass through Oxford, Mississippi — especially in roundball — so there was not much of a question as to whether Henderson would suit up this year.
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Morning Five: 05.16.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 16th, 2013

morning5

  1. It’s now been nearly two days since the Andrew Wiggins Sweepstakes was won by Bill Self and Kansas. Reactions have run the gamut and we ran down a number of the better ones in yesterday’s M5. One we missed was this fantastic piece by Sam Mellinger at the Kansas City Star, who writes that everyone in the media and greater college basketball community needs to be very careful with the hyperbole when discussing Wiggins next season as the “Best High School Prospect Since Lebron.” Mellinger breaks down each of the best prep players in the last 10 years since Lebron, and the truth is that most of them can’t even sniff an NBA All-Star Game at this point. Some guys continue to progress, while others level off, and it’s a lesson worth remembering. Then he finishes things off with a fantastic anecdote about the humility of prep Lebron. Well worth a read.
  2. Once the ACC raided the Big East to lock up prized programs Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, it appeared inevitable that the league would eventually move its showcase event — the ACC Tournament — to Gotham in short order. Those premonitions seem to be coming true, as ESPN.com reported on Wednesday that the league is “thoroughly investigating” a move to the World’s Most Famous Arena at some point in the next several years. The ACC Tournament is scheduled to be in Greensboro in 2014 and 2015, but the options are open afterward, while the new Big East has contractually obligated MSG to hold its postseason tournament there until 2026. The crux of the matter is that the Big East will need to meet certain benchmarks to keep its deal with The Garden alive, and given just how shaky the league has become in the interim, many ACC insiders believe that the “legal ramifications” to move its own event will get worked out as a matter of course. Brooklyn’s Barclays Center is also an option too, of course, but make no mistake, the ACC Tournament will eventually reside at least part-time in NYC.
  3. While on the subject of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the league is holding its spring meetings in Amelia Island, Florida, this week and SI.com‘s Andy Staples caught up with commissioner John Swofford to get the inside scoop on how he pulled off “the most chaotic reorganization in the history of major college sports.” It’s somewhat wonky and process-oriented, but it gives a true insider’s perspective on the importance of the Maryland defection and how the perceived likelihood that the Big Ten would seek to continue moving south (Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia Tech) had Swofford failed to get his schools to agree to the media grant of rights deal in April. Although conference realignment has been disastrous to college basketball in some ways, we’re hoping like everyone else who loves the sport that this particular initiative holds steady and removes the incentive for continued raids for a good long while.
  4. Yesterday was a busy day on the transfer wire, as quite a few prominent names announced that they are on the move. The most surprising name was perhaps Penn State’s Jermaine Marshall, who was projected to be a key cog in the Nittany Lions’ resurgence next season but has instead decided to leave school to pursue professional options. The least surprising decision was that Arizona State’s Evan Gordon announced that he is headed to Indiana, where as a graduate transfer he will be eligible to play immediately for Tom Crean. A few other notables: Minnesota’s Joe Coleman is leaving the Gophers; Tulane’s Josh Davis will land at San Diego State; and, Florida’s Braxton Ogbueze will resurface at Charlotte. Davis will be eligible to play immediately at SDSU under the graduate transfer exception.
  5. Perhaps seeing a bit too much of Rick Pitino in the media lately, Kentucky head coach John Calipari held his own press conference yesterday to discuss the state of his program. And since we’ve already addressed the subject of hyperbole above, why not let Coach Cal bring us full circle: “We’re chasing perfection. We’re chasing greatness. We’re chasing things that have never been done before in the history of this game.” The perfection he refers to of course is the elusive-since-1976 undefeated season by a Division I men’s basketball team. Since Bobby Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers ran the table 37 years ago, no team has won the national title with fewer than two losses (including Calipari’s 38-2 championship squad in 2011-12). Look, we’re never going to say never because as soon as you do something like that, a Florida Gulf Coast goes to the Sweet Sixteen. But there have been an awful lot of great teams pass through the years without a sniff of a perfect season, and the concept that a team led by a bunch of freshmen — even freshmen as good as UK’s group will be — can bring the noise every single night for up to 40 games next year is nothing more than fantasy. Still, the players don’t know that, so it’s another great marketing/strategic ploy from the master salesman living in Lexington. For what it’s worth, the Wildcats sit as a 4:1 (20%) or 5:1 (17%) favorite in Vegas to win next year’s title.
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Morning Five: 04.25.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 25th, 2013

morning5

  1. Wednesday was a big day on the NBA Draft early entry front, although perhaps in a few ways that we didn’t anticipate. First and foremost, two of the bigger stars of this season’s NCAA Tournament made their decisions, and — egads! — college basketball will definitely be the beneficiary in 2013-14 because of it. The Midwest Regional’s Most Outstanding Player, Russ Smith, has decided to return to Louisville for his senior season, stating in a press conference that it was time to get “back in the lab” over the summer to revamp his game yet again so that he’ll rise onto first round NBA Draft boards by this time next year (oh, and also graduate and potentially leave school as a Louisville legend). If this offseason’s improvement is anything like that of the last two for the mercurial Cardinal guard, then we’re excited to see what other wrinkles he’s added to his overall game. Put simply, his progression from an incredibly inefficient human cannon to that of a hybrid defensive dynamo/pure scorer has been nothing short of remarkable. It also makes the defending national champs extremely dangerous again next season, with enough talented holdovers to give Rick Pitino a legitimate shot at his third trophy.
  2. The other NCAA Tournament stud who made a decision on Wednesday to return to college is Syracuse’s leading scorer and rebounder, CJ Fair. According to the junior forward, he went back and forth on his decision “at least five teams” in the course of the last week before finally deciding that his draft standing (#22 to #40) was too uncertain to risk dropping to the second round. Fair was without question the Orange’s most consistent player this season, earning all-Big East second team honors in his first full year as a starter. Whether Fair can actually improve his draft stock on what appears to be a considerably weaker Syracuse team next season is open for debate, but he’ll need to continue to show that he has range in his outside shooting (30 threes at a 46.9% clip last year) and improve his finishing ability inside the paint in order to ensure himself a 2014 first round selection. As for Syracuse, his return prevents Jim Boeheim from facing a complete rebuild next season.
  3. A few other players were on the move around the nation Wednesday, with USC’s DeWayne Dedmon deciding to take his seven-foot frame and commensurate seven points and seven rebounds per game to the NBA, or whatever professional league in the world that will have him. Dedmon was already in trouble and had been suspended for his alleged role in a Spokane incident at the end of the season, so new head coach Andy Enfield may not have wanted him back anyway. Over at Indiana,  senior guard Maurice Creek will use the graduate transfer rule to attend another school next season. Creek started his Hoosier career like a house of fire, averaging 16.4 PPG over 12 games in 2009-10, but a series of injuries over the next few seasons steadily reduced his playing time to the point he was a complete afterthought on this year’s team. While on the subject of injuries, Penn State star Tim Frazier has been granted a fifth season of eligibility after rupturing his Achilles tendon four games into the season. Frazier is an all-Big Ten caliber guard who will join an already talented backcourt of DJ Newbill and Jermaine Marshall, the top two scorers returning in the league next season. Could the Nittany Lions be dangerous in 2013-14?
  4. The ACC’s long-term grant of rights (GOR) deal appears to have shored up its member institutions for a while, at least until the Internet becomes the major revenue stream supporting college sports and all these deals are torn up at some point. Still, we’re a fan. For the immediate future, there should be some stability among the power conferences after several years of insanity. The University of Maryland may also be quite the fan of this deal. As the Washington Post reported Wednesday, the improved strength of the league after adding Louisville and Notre Dame and approval of the GOR suggests that the ACC has become more stable in the months after Maryland’s departure. This line of thought could provide Terp attorneys a sliver of hope in arguing at court that the school should not be required to pay the entire $52 million exit fee that the league required upon its departure. Time will tell.
  5. We’ll finish up today with a neat story about a sixth grade teacher named Paul Nadeau from Garden City Elementary School in Cranston, Rhode Island. It turns out that his class had a unit on probability approaching earlier this year, so he took the opportunity to tie in the NCAA Tournament’s unpredictability by assigning his students bracket analyses based on mathematical probabilities and backed up by their persuasive writing. Not only did the students embrace the assignment and often forget that they were, you know, learning, but many of them also got excited for the idea of eventually attending college as well. Joey Brackets is probably safe for now, but he’d better watch himself in about 10 years!
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Big Ten M5: 03.01.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on March 1st, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Penn State‘s win against Michigan takes the cake for easily the biggest upset and most puzzling game of the Big Ten season, and perhaps the single biggest upset in the nation this year. Much of the credit goes to the Nittany Lions, but some of the blame has to be directed toward Michigan guard Trey Burke, who committed a season-high six turnovers after playing exceptional basketball all year. Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said after the game that he had his team key on Burke, hoping it would slow down Michigan’s offense as a whole, and he was right. Michigan’s offense couldn’t generate enough to put the Nittany Lions away, and its defense faltered from the very start.
  2. We’ve been dissecting the Big Ten title race and even considering Trey Burke vs. Victor Oladipo for Big Ten Player of the Year, but there’s also an interesting race for Big Ten Coach of the Year brewing in these final weeks of conference play. Tom Crean certainly deserves to be in the running for keeping Indiana near the top of the polls and the conference all season, Michigan’s John Beilein has put forth one of the best Wolverine teams in recent memory, and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo has the Spartans primed once again for a March run. But certainly, no one expected Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin team to compete like this, especially considering the team’s early-season setbacks. Ian McCue makes the case that Ryan has never done so much at Wisconsin with so little, and it’s hard to disagree with him.
  3. Pete DiPrimio is convinced Indiana will not lose at Assembly Hall the rest of the way. “Ain’t gonna happen,” he writes. “Not with these stakes. Not with that crowd.” So, he says, the Big Ten race will come down to the Hoosiers’ season-finale date with Michigan in Ann Arbor. The Hoosiers still control their own fate in the Big Ten, leaving what many consider to be the conference’s best overall team with the chance to take home the title. Things could change for Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin along the way, but if the Hoosiers win out, nobody can stop them from hanging that banner in Bloomington.
  4. Things were probably going to be pretty difficult for Michigan State heading into Ann Arbor this weekend as soon as the Spartans blew out the Wolverines in East Lansing. Then Michigan went and lost to Penn State this weekend and the Spartans are guaranteed to run into an even angrier Michigan team this weekend. Tom Izzo knows he’s going to have some work to do to get his team prepared for the game. The Spartans are reeling a bit themselves, having dropped games against Indiana and Ohio State in somewhat disappointing fashion.
  5. It’s been a long road for Illinois’ Sam McLaurin, a fifth-year senior who earned his way on to the roster because of his ability to shoot the three-pointer. Now, the former Coastal Carolina player has the opportunity to realize his dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament. He was the first “recruit” of the John Groce era, and now Groce has the chance to help provide McLaurin with a memory he can hold on to for a lifetime.
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Big Ten M5: 11.06.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on November 6th, 2012

  1. According to Penn State star Tim Frazier, the Nittany Lions may have something in newcomer D.J. Newbill that the team hasn’t seen in some time — swagger. Frazier, an All-Big Ten player in his own right, has already come away with a strong impression of Newbill, who transferred from Southern Mississippi to Penn State. “He’s just got that Philly swagger in him,” Frazier said at Penn State’s media day on Monday. Second-year coach Pat Chambers echoed Frazier’s thoughts: “I’m going to use a very popular word right now: Swagger,” Chambers said, according to an Associated Press report. “He just has that ‘Philly chip.’ He’s got that toughness. He’s from the streets of Philly. He’s going to grind. He’s never going to give up.” Frazier could use a little help with the scoring load and it looks as if Newbill — who averaged 9.2 PPG and 6.2 RPG in 30 minutes per game as a freshman at Southern Miss two years ago — could be the man for the job.
  2. The Iowa basketball program hasn’t had much success in recent years and, as The Gazette‘s Mike Hlas points out, much of that has to do with the failed tenure of previous head coach Todd Lickliter. But if one good thing did come of those years, it was the recruitment of Devyn Marble, a player who appears poised to lead the Hawkeyes this year as a junior. “When I met him the first time I was really impressed with him,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “So much of being a great player is who you are as much as what you can do.” Of course, this young Marble has plenty of shoes to fill — namely those of his father, Roy, who is Iowa’s all-time leading scorer. Marble may not reach that level of play in his Hawkeye career, but if he can give Iowa what it needs this season — a vocal leader — then the Hawkeyes surely will be better off for it.
  3. In most cases, nobody likes to be called a pest. But sometimes, particularly if you’re playing for Bo Ryan, that can be a term of endearment. Forward Mike Bruesewitz has regularly fulfilled that role for the Badgers, but with the senior forward out 4-6 weeks with a leg injury, Wisconsin needs another player to step up. Enter Zach Bohannon. The scrappy junior guard impressed in the Badgers’ first exhibition, tallying 13 points but his six rebounds (four on the offensive end) may have been what stood out the most. Bohannon isn’t much of a scorer, but if he can scratch and claw his way onto the stat sheet, he could become a valuable player both before and after Bruesewitz returns. “He’s a digger,” Ryan said. “If you get lazy with a rebound, it’s gone around him.”
  4. Michigan State freshmen Matt Costello and Kenny Kaminski are paying tribute this season to their friend Dorian Dawkins, who died on the Michigan State campus three summers ago at the age of 14. From Diamond Leung’s poignant story for MLive.com, Kaminski wears No. 30 so as to say “3 and nobody else” in honor of Dawkins, who was an AAU teammate of the Spartan duo who also dreamed of one day playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State. Together now, Kaminski and Costello carry memories of Dawkins with them every time they take the floor.
  5. One of the most concerning aspects of Illinois‘ season last year were their inconsistencies, particularly with the knowledge that the Illini had so much potential and squandered it so often. There’s a new regime in Champaign under head coach John Groce, but there are still plenty of lingering concerns. Illinois was admittedly sloppy in an exhibition win against Division II West Chester (PA) on Sunday, and maybe the most troubling aspect were the 21 turnovers (five from senior Brandon Paul) to just seven assists. Paul has the potential to be one of the best players in the Big Ten this season, but brain lapses like those exhibited against West Chester will surely haunt Illinois again this year if not corrected soon.
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Morning Five: 10.01.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 1st, 2012

  1. October is finally here! That means the squeaking of sneakers on the college basketball hardwood is right around the corner. You can sense it in the silent roar of anticipation coming from college campuses in Bloomington, Omaha, Lexington, Westwood, Memphis, Tucson, Richmond, Lawrence, Louisville and the rest — take a look at their fan message boards and blogs and feel the palpable collective sense of another season of possibility and wonder. Read the local beat writers and note that even their tried-and-true cynicism with the whole production is relatively muted. Peruse a few schedules and start figuring out where you’re headed this season. With the turning of the calendar into the last quarter of the year , it’s time we stop referring to this season as next season. For those of us who live this sport year-round, next season is now.
  2. Kansas head coach Bill Self is widely recognized as one of the best tacticians and recruiters in the game right now, and with good reason. His Jayhawks have made the Big 12 their own personal punching bag on the way to eight straight conference titles, and the talent that Self regularly brings to Lawrence has kept the longstanding KU-to-NBA pipeline intact. Over the weekend, Kansas rewarded Self for his continuing excellence, extending the coach’s contract four more years (through the 2021-22 season) and increasing his average salary to $3.856 million per year. A number of retention and other performance incentives make the value of the entire contract just north of $53 million over the next decade. It’s phenomenal money, of course, but according to KUSports.com, Self’s new deal is still only the fourth richest in college basketball — behind larger-than-life icons John Calipari, Rick Pitino, and Mike Krzyzewski.
  3. Speaking of Pitino, his Louisville Cardinals will be in everyone’s preseason top five this season, and one of the reasons for that is the amount of quality depth he’ll have at his disposal. That depth took a minor hit on Friday when senior Mike Marra re-injured the same left ACL that had kept him off the court for most of last season. With the increase in Louisville’s overall talent over the course of his career, Marra wasn’t expected to play a major role in the Cardinal lineup this season, but he had contributed in the past (21 MPG in 2010-11, for example) and he was someone who always brought great energy to the floor. He’ll become a graduate assistant under Pitino this season as he prepares to pursue coaching after he leaves school.
  4. Matt Glover is another in a long line of summer transfers who hoped to receive a waiver from the NCAA so that he could play immediately after transferring from Penn State to San Francisco during the offseason. The junior college guard arrived at PSU just in time for last fall’s whirlwind surrounding Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky, suffering through a miserable year on campus playing for a different coach (Pat Chambers) than the one who had recruited him (Ed DeChellis). His mother suffered a heart attack in April, but apparently because Glover was already considering a transfer closer to her Los Angeles home at the time, the NCAA denied Glover’s request to play for USF this season. Glover’s family has dealt with a number of health issues over the years, so it’s certainly a shame that the NCAA wasn’t willing to budge on this one.
  5. Finally, Rutgers head coach Mike Rice may have raised the bar considerably in terms of what future coaches will do for their charitable organizations. Forget the tennis shoes, telethons, and all the other fund-raising strategies — Rice is more of a doer than a talker. On Friday morning in the middle of a rainstorm in Jersey City, the 43-year old daredevil rappelled down the side of a 470-foot office building with nothing but a few ropes and cords holding him aloft. His trek downward took nine minutes, a slow time in large part because he stoped at every floor to wave at people on the inside of the building. He did this as part of the American Cancer Society’s “Over the Edge” fundraising effort, and he ended up with a fantastic recruiting yarn that he can regale to players the world over: “Your coach is crazy enough to scale tall buildings for you,” he can now truthfully say.

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Morning Five: 08.02.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 2nd, 2012

  1. USA Today‘s Eric Prisbell published a piece on Tuesday with some rather inflammatory quotes about the status of big-time college basketball recruiting. Everybody already knows that agents and runners representing the interests of high school stars with their hands out is a big problem — but is it a 70%-of-the-elite-prospects problem? If you believe Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo‘s math, it is. “I am not saying that cheating is 80 percent of the game. It’s probably 20 percent. But it’s probably 70 percent of the top 20 percent [of player recruitments].” Izzo went on to say that he has “absolutely” lost recruits to other coaches because he was unwilling to play the agent/runner AAU game (which even Sonny Freakin’ Vaccaro says has gotten worse). In the same piece, North Carolina’s Roy Williams also made some interesting comments about stepping away from recruits who were ‘handled’ by AAU influences, saying, “Will I have a legitimate chance if I do it the right way?” There’s a lot of eyebrow-raising information in the article, and we highly suggest you read it — but the obvious question if Izzo’s numbers are anywhere near correct is… who exactly is landing all of these elite recruits if every major coach is on record blasting the system and doing it the right way? It’s not just Central Florida, that’s for sure.
  2. Team USA‘s men’s basketball squad is now 2-0 in round robin play with a game against always-dangerous Tunisia later this afternoon. Although there are no guarantees in a knockout tournament situation, we’re all too aware, it appears that the team led by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant are well on their way to another gold medal. Jeff Goodman writes that NBA owners are pushing so hard for a 23-year old age limit on the men’s team in future Olympiads that there is “little doubt” as to its eventuality [memo to owners: how about another age limit — one that limits inclusion in your league to players 20 years old and older]. If USA Basketball decides to go this route with the 2016 team, most of today’s elite high school and young college stars would be eligible — Goodman takes a stab at putting together a potential team, and would you believe that a player nobody outside of Columbus, Ohio, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, had heard of this time last year is designated as the starting point guard? Basketball can be a funny sport that way.
  3. While on the subject of Olympic teams, A Sea of Blue put together an interesting analysis reviewing what the six men’s basketball teams in the “Dream Team” era might have looked like if USA Basketball had never ditched the amateur model. The cream of the crop is very clearly the 1992 squad, a team filled with players on in an era on the cusp of moving to a prep-to-pro mentality (Kevin Garnett began the trend in 1995). A starting lineup of Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Chris Webber may have even crowded out 1992 NPOY and two-time NCAA champion Christian Laettner. In the backcourt, do you run with Penny Hardaway and Jim Jackson over the dominant Duke duo of Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill? It’s really an unbelievable team. Conversely, the 2000 team — led by Kenyon Martin? Shane Battier? — is a joke. That team, decimated by the prep-to-pro era, may have finished dead last in the Olympics that year. It’s an interesting thought experiment, and we encourage you to visit ASoB and check it out.
  4. Going back to 1992 — was it the greatest year of basketball in American history? — former Duke star Bobby Hurley raised some major burn late Tuesday night after tweeting the following in reference to the gold medal-winning USA women’s gymnastics team (dubbed a modern-day “Fab Five”): “Proud 2 watch the “Fab Five” perform & bring home the gold! Who would have thought that the “Fab Five” could it get it done.” Of course, the Michigan group of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson not only lost the 1992 national championship game to Hurley’s Blue Devils, but they also lost two other regular season games to Duke during that era, giving the point guard the easy upper hand when it comes to taking those shots.
  5. With the exception of a notable tweeter, the Penn State story has died down in the national media as a result of the Olympics. And even though the long moribund basketball program was not implicated in the scandal or penalized by the NCAA in any way, it’s incomprehensible that Pat Chambers’ program will not be negatively impacted among the collateral damage to the Nittany Lion brand. In response to this piece by Jeff Borzello at CBSSports.com, it may very well be true that a recent de-committed recruit was already on the fence about heading to State College and another Class of 2013 recruit says he has no intention of backing out, but the issue will become more apparent in future classes where the semi-permanent negative message about Penn State has had sufficient time to stick. An argument that PSU will continue to recruit non-elite talent in the same way as before is not really an argument at all — the point is that every aspect of that university, from the chemistry lab to the jai alai club team to the local Penn State chapter of PETA, will be associated with this horrific situation for years to come. Whatever each group had to do to earn recognition prior to this fiasco, they’ll have to do so that much more in the future. This goes for basketball too.
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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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