Morning Five: 12.30.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 30th, 2011

  1. For a freshman who had minimal impact in his one semester on the court Khem Birch is making quite a bit of news. Birch, who decided to transfer from Pittsburgh at the end of the fall semester, has released the list of the schools that he is consideringFlorida, UNLV, Gonzaga, Washington, Xavier, and New Mexico State. Birch also attempted to clear the air on his departure saying that he “didn’t think it was the best place” for him and that his departure was not due to disagreements with Jamie Dixon or what people around him were telling him to do. One school that is noticeably absent from Birch’s list is Missouri after there were rumors circulating that the school had “tampered with” Birch before obtaining a release based on tweets from Jeff Goodman (#1 and #2) earlier in the day. Frank Haith denied these allegations, but it is interesting that Missouri was mentioned as a leader for Birch on December 19 and now they are not even on his list.
  2. Pat Forde published an excellent column yesterday on St. Louis coach Rick Majerus discussing the program he inherited and how he helped build it up into the borderline top 25 team that it is today as well as his difficulties dealing with the declining health of his mother. Surprisingly one thing that Forde did not touch upon was Majerus’ health including the cardiac surgery he had over the summer in Salt Lake City. Outside of that missing element this is a good review on Majerus and the St. Louis program in case you have not been paying close attention to Majerus after his stint at ESPN. If the Billikens continue to perform at the level they have so far this season, this will be the first of many pieces on Majerus that you will be seeing in the coming months.
  3. Those of you who remember the 1994-95 Duke season will remember the name Pete Gaudet. A long-time assistant to Mike Krzyzewski, Gaudet took over midway through the regular season when Krzyzewski took a temporary leave of absence to deal with back issues. Gaudet guided the Blue Devils to a 4-15 record, which included the memorable double overtime loss to North Carolina, during his temporary stint as head coach. Duke eventually had the NCAA assign these wins and losses (mostly the latter) to Gaudet. St. John’s appears to be taking the opposite approach with Mike Dunlap, who is acting as an interim coach while Steve Lavin, as the NCAA and Big East have advised the school to continue adding the victories and losses under Lavin’s name even if Dunlap is coaching. We are not sure how the NCAA will handle this at the end of the season, but we imagine that there are large groups of people in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Lexington, Kentucky, who will not view this favorably even if it is only temporary.
  4. It is a little late for Christmas, but we think that Connecticut will be happy with a belated $4.5 million gift from Peter and Paula Werth towards the construction of a new basketball practice facility. The donation puts the school halfway to its goal of raising $30 million for the new facility. This isn’t the first major donation that the school has received as you may remember the Burton family donating several million dollars to the school then sending a scathing letter to the school demanding their money back before eventually agreeing to let the school keep the previously donated money. The Werths made their family fortune through Chemwerth, which manufactures active pharmaceutical ingredients that are sold to pharmaceutical companies worldwide. Interestingly, neither Peter nor Paula attended UConn, but all three of their children did and the Werths have been season ticket holders for football and both men’s and women’s basketball. We are assuming that they will get their season tickets comped by the school from now on.
  5. Since this is the last Morning Five of 2011 it is a good time to look back at the past calendar year and look forward to the coming year. Luke Winn recaps the past year by ranking the top 10 stories of 2011 and as usual is right on the money. We are sure several people will argue that “Jimmertime!” should be higher on the list, but when we believe that when we look back on this year in 20 years at least three of the four stories above it will definitely be more memorable (perhaps not #3). While Winn is looking back, Seth Davis is looking forward to the new year and offers up 10 bold predictions for 2012. As you would expect these are not as detailed as Winn’s recap stories since they are basically just educated guesses, but Davis does make some predictions that will certainly get a few fan bases worked up.
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September 15th Will Be “Mike Krzyzewski Day”

Posted by nvr1983 on August 24th, 2010

The past two years have been very good for Mike Krzyzewski. In addition to taking Duke back to the top of the college basketball world last April, he also led Team USA back to the top of the international basketball world (not that there was any doubt as long as we brought the “A team”) in Beijing. An inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001, he has won almost every title (four NCAA championships, 12 ACC championships in both the regular season and conference tournament, and an Olympic gold medal) and received almost every award (three Naismith College Cach of the Year Awards, two Basketball Times National Coach of the Year Awards, a NABC National Coach of the Year Award, and five ACC Coach of the Year Awards) that he could be expected to win.

K: Best in the Business

To add to that, earlier today the city of Chicago announced that it would make this September 15th into “Mike Krzyzewski Day” (over/under on misspelled signs and posters: 130) on the same day that he will be inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame and receive the Ray Meyer College Coach of the Year Award. [Ed. Note: We aren't expecting Chicago great and Duke-hater Michael Jordan to be in attendance.] Coach K, a native of Chicago, graduated from Archbishop Weber High School before matriculating to the Army where he played under a fairly decent coach named Bob Knight. A solid but unspectacular guard at Army, he served in the Army for three years and coached at a prep school for two years before joining Knight as an assistant at Indiana where he left just before the 1975-76 season (the last undefeated Division I team) to take over as the head coach at Army. Although he compiled a 73-59 record at Army, he went 9-17 in his last season before getting an offer from Duke to become their head coach (a classic case of failing upwards). His first three years at Duke were not much more successful as after a merely mediocre rookie campaign he went a combined 21-34 over his second and third seasons. At that point many critics suspected Krzyzewski’s days in Durham were numbered, but little did they know that the freshman class that season (Johnny DawkinsMark AlarieDavid Henderson, and Jay Bilas) would wind up being one of the greatest classes in the school’s history. After that group made it to the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament in their sophomore and junior campaigns they took off as seniors in what is widely considered one of the finest seasons in college basketball history. That group entered the championship game with a 37-2 record against a Denny Crum-led Louisville team before falling by three points to freshman sensation “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison and the Cardinals.

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Breaking Down ESPN’s Prestige Rankings

Posted by nvr1983 on August 4th, 2008

Ed. Note:  Don’t like ESPN’s Prestige Rankings?  Provide your comment on how to improve them here.  We’re going to take this information and create a new set of rankings based on additional factors (and getting rid of the moronic NIT appearance = NCAA appearance (1 point) criterion). 

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that ESPN was trying to fill the dead space between the NBA Finals and the Olympics with yet another list. Normally I wouldn’t have even bothered to look at it because ESPN’s lists have been getting progressively more ludicrous (hitting its peak–or nadir–when John Hollinger put Dwayne Wade’s 2006 “Fall down 7 times, shoot 14 free throws” performance above every single one of Michael Jordan’s masterpieces). However, when I noticed that ESPN was trying to rank the most prestigious programs for college basketball in the 64-/65-team era, I was intrigued and figured it was worth some analysis.

Your #1 team of the era
Your #1 team of the era

The first thing I always do when looking at any list is to see the scoring system used and ESPN sure picked an interesting system. I’ll break it into segments with some analysis:

• National title … 25
• Title game loss … 20
• National semifinal loss … 15
• Elite Eight loss … 10

- All four of these things seems pretty reasonable. I think that most fans would value the post-season performances in a way that is pretty close to the points awarded although it seems like a Final 4 berth is considered a great accomplishment for any program (even for the Duke’s and North Carolina’s of the college basketball world). I probably would have bumped up the national title, title game loss, and national semifinal loss by 5 points to give a 10 point spread between an Elite 8 loss and a national semifinal loss.

• Best W-L record in conference’s regular season … 5
• 30-plus wins in a season … 5
• Sweet 16 loss … 5

- This is where the scoring starts to get questionable. I’m assuming the “Best W-L record in conference’s regular season” is lawyerspeak for regular season conference champion. I’m glad that ESPN has decided that the America East regular season champion deserves more points for their in-conference performance than the regular season runner-ups in the ACC, Big East, and SEC. The 5 points for the 30-plus win season may seem like a lot, but in fact they are very rare (Duke leads with 9 such seasons and I could only count/remember 16 programs with any 30-win seasons since the start of the 1984-85 season) so that seems reasonable (as does the 5 points for a Sweet 16 loss although 16 programs achieve are awarded this each season while approximately the same number have achieved it for a 30-win season during the entire era). My main question with the 5-point awards is if they really consider all regular season conference titles the same as it is easier to win certain titles than others. One interesting note about this methodology is that Princeton with 10 regular season Ivy League titles is awarded 50 points with this methodology while Duke with 9 30-plus win seasons is only awarded 45 points for that feat (ignoring the fact that Duke probably won the regular season conference title most of those years).

• Conference tournament title … 3
• AP first-team All-American … 3
• Losing in NCAA second round … 3

- I’m assuming that the Ivy League regular season champ automatically gets the 3 points for winning the conference tournament title since they don’t have a post-season tournament. This only further skews the points Princeton and UPenn get in this system as they receive 80 points and 96 points respectively for their Ivy League titles not to mention the 20-win seasons they racked up beating up on Cornell, Columbia, Harvard, and Brown. I’m perfectly fine with the AP 1st-team AA points as at most 5 teams a year will have a player earn that distinction. Perhaps they should have thrown in a National POY bonus as that player is the one who usually defines the season (Ralph Sampson, Christian Laettner, etc.). Likewise, I’m in agreement with the 3 points for the 2nd round NCAA tournament loss.

• Player in top 10 of NBA draft … 2
• NCAA first-round win as a 12-16 seed … 2
• NIT title … 2
• AP second-team All-American … 2

- This is where it starts to get really weird. Let’s get the reasonable things out of the way first. Top 10 pick worth 2 points? Ok. That seems fine even if the draft was dominated by high schoolers and Euros for a few years. In the future, the one-and-done rule might make this benefit the schools that are willing to take the one-and-done guys even if it does hurt their APR. That is unless those guys start going to Europe. Cinderella getting 2 points for a 1st-round upset? Fine with this too even if we will all remember the Hampton upset of Iowa State more than we will remember the annual 5-12 upsets. AP second-team AA worth 2 points? Ok with this one too even if I think once you start getting to the 2nd team the players selected start getting more dependent on the voters. I’m too lazy to check this out (perhaps rtmsf can do it), but I’d be willing to venture there is a lot more variation in the guys selected to the 2nd team by various publications/groups than there is with the 1st team. Now for the crazy one. . .Awarding 2 points for a NIT title? Maybe in the 1950s, but today winning the NIT only makes you the butt-end of every more successful team in your conference. How many message board threads have trolls made mocking the 65th (now 66th) best team in country? I’ll admit that the NIT champs would probably beat the 13-16 seeds most of the time, but is there really any pride in being the small fish (mediocre team) in the big ponds (power conference) that can beat up on the plankton (13-16 seeds)? I’d give the NIT champ 1 point overall, which leads into the next big problem. . .

• 20-29 wins in a season … 1
• NCAA tournament berth … 1
• Postseason NIT berth … 1
• AP third-team All-American … 1

- Let’s get the easy ones out of the way. No problems here with the 20-29 wins or AP 3rd team AA getting 1 point. I would probably differentiate between 20-24 wins, which is usually a solid season, and 25-29 wins, which usually will put you into consideration for a top 4 seed if you’re from a power conference. Like I said before the further down the AA list you go, the more variation you will have by publication/group, but it’s not really worth arguing about for 1 point. The thing worth arguing about is giving the same number of points for a NCAA tournament berth and a postseason NIT berth. To borrow an over-used phrase from John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious!” While I recognize that in this system the NIT team can only receive 2 points from the tournament (if they win), it is ridiculous to even consider invitations to the 2 tournament similar when the entire selection special is based on camera crews camping out in rooms with bubble teams to see if they got into the NCAA tournament. Maybe the ESPN stat whizzes have access to different camera feeds than I do, but it seems like the players, coaches, and families are happier when they get into the NCAA tournament than when they find out they are going to the NIT (even if Madison Square Garden is a slight upgrade from Boise, Idaho–unless we’re talking NBA). That’s just one man’s interpretation of the reactions I see although I could probably point out that a few years ago Georgetown declined an invitation to the NIT because they wanted to give their players more time to study for exams. . .in March. I wonder why Georgetown didn’t turn down its #2 seed this year. Do John Thompson III and the Georgetown AD not care about those same exams any more?

• NCAA first-round loss to a 12-16 seed … -2
• Losing season … -3
• Ban from NCAA tournament … -3

- No problem with the first two although I wonder if a losing season is counted against you if you have it expunged from your record and throw your long-time assistant coach under the bus? Also, I’d consider a 15-16 season a disappointment while I would consider 8-20 a complete embarrassment, so I’d probably make the less than 10-win season a significantly bigger penalty. I think the NCAA tournament ban should be a much larger penalty in this scoring system as the public (and press) reaction tends to be pretty bad (see below).

This is only a 3 point deduction per year?
This is only a 3 point deduction per year?

>> Minimum 15 seasons in Division I
** Ties are broken by overall winning percentage since the 1984-85 season

- After all the issues with the scoring system, I’m not going to complain about these minor qualifiers and tiebreakers. Both of them seem reasonable and none of the top 50 teams were tied.

Now that we’ve looked the methodology it’s time to pick apart the rankings to see what ESPN got right and what they screwed up. Duke is the run-away winner as even the most ardent Duke-hater (feel free to chime in here rtmsf) would agree that Coach K’s Blue Devils have been the most dominant program of the era even if their results have been underwhelming the past few years. The Blue Devils are followed by the Jayhawks in 2nd and the Tar Heels in 3rd. I’m not going to argue much with this although I would have UNC in 2nd just because I consider Kansas a team that historically underperforms in the tournament (Mario Chalmers’ shot and Danny and the Miracles not withstanding). Now onto the rankings I am utterly confused by.

Overated:
UNLV: 8th?!? I loved Jerry Tarkanian’s Runnin’ Rebs, who may have been one of the best college teams ever even if they lost/threw the 1991 national semifinal against Duke, but there is no way this has been the 8th most prestigious program in the country over the past 20+ years just like Memphis isn’t in that category. ESPN provides a pretty clear summary of why UNLV shouldn’t be in the top 10: “2 NCAA sanctions; 10 coaches since 1984-85; 0 NCAA tourney wins between 1992 and 2007″. I’d keep UNLV in the top 20, but they definitely don’t belong in the top 10 with that track record.
Xavier: The Muskeeters (at #17) have a nice Atlantic-10 program, but the fact that they have never made a Final 4 should automatically keep them out of the top 25. The Musketeers are buoyed by 21 combined conference titles, but have not really been a threat in the NCAA tournament having only racked up 15 NCAA tournament wins. Interestingly, Xavier came in 2 spots ahead of Cincinnati even though Xavier is widely considered the red-headed stepchild in the city.
Temple: I don’t mean to sound like Billy Packer ripping on the mid-majors (sorry, if you’re not a BCS conference, you’re a mid-major in my eyes), but the Owls never made the Final 4 despite five trips there under John Chaney. I think they’re a very good program, but like Xavier, Temple shouldn’t be in the Top 25 without a Final 4 appearance.
Murray State: Now this is the point where I rip the little guy. I was absolutely stunned when I saw this one. The Racers always seem to be one of those teams you see at the bottom of the bracket and maybe every once in a while you decide to take a chance on them to pull off the huge upset. Unfortunately, if you’re one of those people, you’ve only been rewarded once (1988 against 3rd-seeded NC State). The Racers piled up the points by dominating the Ohio Valley Conference racking up 22 (or 24 depending on your addition skills) conference titles and twelve 20+ win seasons (thanks to an easy conference schedule). Somehow this manages to put them above Villanova, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest.

Underrated:
Maryland: The Terps (28th) are killed by the fact that they play in the ACC and have lost out on a ton of points thanks to playing in the same conference as Duke and UNC. Although Gary Williams hasn’t had good teams the past few years, the Terps run especially in the Juan Dixon era should have been enough to propel them into the top 20. How does this program only rank 2 spots ahead of Murray State?
Utah: I don’t think the Utes would be able to move up much higher, but it would be interesting to see how high they would be on this list if they didn’t have the misfortune of playing Kentucky so many times in the 1990s. While the Utes benefited playing in a softer conference than some of their peers on the list (SEC and ACC), the Mountain West has been a fairly strong conference in recent years.
Florida: I’m not sure how much higher the Gators could move up because of their relative lack of success (not counting Lon Kruger’s 1994 Final 4 run) before Joakim Noah and company ran off back-to-back titles, but it seems like that alone should be enough to crack the top 20 especially when programs like Xavier and Temple are ranked ahead of them despite not making a single Final 4 appearance. The Gators probably belong in the top 15 although that may be more of a recency effect, but it just seems that there recent run puts them at a level that isn’t that much different than UNLV with its run with Larry Johnson.

Other points of interest:
– Coach K’s current program (Duke) ranks #1. The program he left (Army) comes in tied for 298th, or as it is more commonly referred to “DFL”. Hopefully the Duke athletic department program has a better succession plan in place than Army did when Coach K decides to leave the sidelines.
– I found this rather amusing from personal experience. Boston University comes in at 108th ahead of programs such as Clemson, Providence (with a Final 4 appearance), Washington, and USC.
– In the current SportsNation voting, Kentucky is in the lead (good work out of the Sea of Blue crowd) with Duke in 4th even though they have the most #1 votes (something tells me they were left off a lot of ballots or voted 25th). The three teams I singled out as being overrated in the top 25 were moved down quite a bit. Note: I thought they were overrated even before I saw the online voting.

No bonus points for Dream Teamers?
No bonus points for Dream Teamers?
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Tommy Amaker: Coach and Savior

Posted by rtmsf on September 24th, 2007

In one of the more shocking developments of our nascent blog’s young life, we’ve noticed that a mid-April entry deriding Tommy Amaker‘s arrival at Harvard as some sort of savior is regularly in the blog’s Top 10 posts every month.  Now, we don’t know who is behind this peculiar phenomenon, but we can posit a few guesses.

  1. Are Michigan fans so disgusted with Amaker that they’re still spitefully searching for him only to piss on his virtual grave?

  2. Are Harvard fans so enamored with him…  wait a minute, there are Harvard fans?

  3. Are Duke fans so unapologetically overzealous for Coach K to sprout a successful coaching tree that they’re driving the hits?  Hmm, perhaps a Quin Snyder/Pete Gaudet/Jeff Capel post would answer that question.

Amaker Harvard 

Frankly, we think it’s Amaker himself.  After all, he hasn’t had much to do all summer other than prep for his Promise Keepers revival coaching clinic.   Yes, friends, for only $65 per person you too can learn how to walk around with a cool halo effect surrounding your head and torso.  (major h/t to The Realests for this find

So what’s the o/u on number of glowing (sorry, that was rancid) articles we’ll see about Amaker succeeding at Harvard this preseason?  We’ll set the number at four.  Any takers?   

 

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Is Duke losing its cachet?

Posted by rtmsf on May 18th, 2007

With the news Wednesday that Duke whiffed on PF Patrick Patterson (who opted for Kentucky over Duke and Florida), combined with yesterday’s news that Roy Williams has extended his contract with UNC through the 2014-15 season, we started to wonder if we’re seeing an unusual blip in Durham, or if last season and the presumed immediate future signal a larger problem there.

Duke logo

Be-Deviled?

The last time Duke had such a blip was in the mid-90s. In 1995, with Coach K’s back hurting and Pete Gaudet at the helm for two-thirds of the season, Duke went 13-18 (2-14) and did not make the NCAA Tournament. There has been considerable harping over the years about whose record (K’s or Gaudet’s) all those losses should fall on, but at the time, it wasn’t a leap to see that even when Duke was 9-3 in early January 1995, a team led by the likes of Cherokee Parks and Jeff Capel (as opposed to Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley or Christian Laettner) was flawed. This was especially true in light of a stacked ACC that season (Each of Duncan, Wallace, Stackhouse, Childress and Joe Smith were all-americans in 1995).

The next season, when K was back on the bench, shows just how far the talent level at Duke had fallen. The 1995-96 team only performed five games better than its predecessor, going 18-13 (8-8) and losing both its first round ACC Tourney game and its first round NCAA game (by 15 pts) to… Eastern Michigan? The following year, 1996-97, Duke only got marginally back on track. The Devils finished with a 24-9 (12-4) record and won the ACC regular season, but they flamed out early again in the postseason, inexplicably losing to #8 seed NC State in the quarters of the ACC Tourney and barely scraping by Murray St. in the first round before losing to #10 seed Providence (by 11 pts) in the second round of the NCAAs. Does this sound familiar at all? It should, as Duke just finished its 2006-07 campaign with a 22-11 (8-8) record, culminating in a first round ACC Tourney loss and a first round NCAA loss to… VCU.

Is there cause for concern among Devil faithful, or is last year’s mediocre regular season and short-lived postseason just an anomaly?

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