The RTC Interview Series: ACC Preview with Len Elmore, Mike Gminski & Bret Strelow, Part I

Posted by Walker Carey on October 15th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview of the ACC, RTC Correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to several ACC experts in Maryland basketball legend and ESPN analyst, Len Elmore, Duke basketball legend and CBS analyst, Mike Gminski, and the ACC reporter for the Fayetteville Observer, Bret Strelow. (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

Rush the Court: What kind of impact do you think the additions of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse has on the ACC as a basketball conference?

Gminski, Elmore and Strelow Give Their Thoughts on the ACC This Season

Gminski, Elmore and Strelow Give RTC Their Thoughts on the ACC This Season

Len Elmore: It is clearly going to make a tough ACC even tougher. Adding those three established programs into an already tough conference – with Duke and North Carolina plus upstart Virginia and a Maryland team that seems primed to do some damage – is going to lead to a lot of jockeying up an down within the league standings.

Mike Gminski: I think it definitely strengthens the conference. The ACC is adding three established programs that are used to winning and going to the NCAA Tournament. They are coming to the ACC from the Big East, which was a great conference. Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse are all coming into the ACC looking to play in the upper half of the league immediately. From that standpoint, the addition of those three teams makes the ACC one of the top conferences in the country.

Bret Strelow: A lot of people have been very vocal about this. Mike Krzyzewski has probably been the first and foremost voice about it, as he believes that this will make the ACC the strongest league in, perhaps, history. I think the Big East had 11 teams make the NCAA Tournament a few years back and I think a lot of people are pretty optimistic that the ACC can at least push towards double-digit berths. I think a double-digit number would be on the high end with a baseline around seven or eight teams. Adding Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse is a big deal because those are three teams that win a lot of games year in and year out. I think the ACC had four teams in the Tournament last year, as the league had taken a step back a bit. But with the addition of those three teams, I think the league will be back to being a power league within college basketball.

RTC: Duke lost its three leading scorers from last season (Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, and Mason Plumlee), yet it is still projected to win the ACC. What is it about this year’s Duke squad that has expectations so high?

Elmore: They have blue-chippers coming into the fold. They have two of the best newcomers in the country – from what I have been told – in Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood and freshman Jabari Parker. These guys are coming in ready to play. Hood and Parker will have help from players like Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon. Duke might not have the biggest team in the country, but it has guys who will be able to compete all over the court. It certainly could be the most athletic team in the ACC.

Gminski: This is going to be a different team for Mike Krzyzewski. It is not going to have the bigs that it has had in the past, so the style of play will be different. I think this year’s squad will play a bit more like Krzyzewski has coached his Olympic teams. They are going to be very diverse, much more up-tempo, and will have some versatility. They have two great new guys in Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood and freshman Jabari Parker. A lot of people thought that even though Hood did not play last year, he might have been Duke’s best player in practice. Jabari Parker comes into the fold after being one of the best high school players in the nation. They will not have that big guy inside this season, but they will be much bigger and more athletic on the perimeter. I think they are going to be a very interesting team to watch.

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Morning Five: 10.07.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 7th, 2013

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  1. With Louisville set to begin their title defense in about a month, they got some more good news when it was announced that Kevin Ware, who suffered a horrific compound fracture in the team’s Elite 8 game versus Duke, had been cleared to practice with the team. Although we do not know what this means in terms of when Ware will actually start suiting up again for the Cardinals it does suggest that he is ahead of the timetable–a return to playing in games in 2014–that Rick Pitino had previously set for him. We have all seen the clips of Ware’s rehab including ones of him dunking, but it remains to be seen whether Ware will have his explosiveness back and if he will be able to play at full intensity or if the injury will continue to be in the back of his mind.
  2. Ware’s injury and his progress might make more headlines due to the high-profile way he sustained it, but the right ankle of Gary Harris is probably more significant to this season’s national title picture. According to Jeff Goodman, Harris is “about 75 percent” and expected to return to practice this week. The Spartans return four of their five starters from last season and should be aiming for nothing less than a national championship, but it is Harris who is their most dynamic player and if they are to win a title he will need to be healthy, which is not a given as he already spent much of last season nursing a right shoulder injury.
  3. If Larry Kryskowiak gets fired from his job at Utah and is unable to find a job in basketball again, it appears that he could have a career in law enforcement to fall back on. The third year Utah coach, who caught a bicycle thief about a week ago, helped catch a suspect who is believed to have stolen several thousand dollars worth of equipment from the Utah athletic department. According to reports, the basketball team’s video offices were among several offices in the athletic department that were targeted by the individual. When the campus police distributed a description of the suspect, Krystkowiak told his team to be on the lookout for the individual and when a former player took a photo of a suspicious individual other eyewitnesses confirmed it was the suspect. When a track coach notified Krystokowiak that he had seen the suspect on campus, Krystowiak and several of his assistants began to chase the suspect around campus before finally cornering him in a locker room and waiting for the cops to arrest him.
  4. It turns out that there are actually some people at North Carolina who are legitimately bothered by all of the ridiculous stuff going on at the school. Jack Halperin, a tutor at UNC for 23 years, resigned his post in an open letter to Roy Williams that was published in Friday’s Daily Tar Heel citing Williams’ decision to allow PJ Hairston to remain on the team. While we do feel that the way that Williams has handled the Hairston leaves something to be desired, the decision is far from the most embarassing thing that the school has been involved in (see the investigation into the school’s African and Afro-American Studies program). Still we guess that everybody reaches their breaking point and Hairston just happened to be Halperin’s.
  5. This year was already going to be a challenging one for Tom Crean, but now that the third of his three four-star freshmen–Stanford Robinson–is injured it might be time to adjust the expectations for Hoosier fans. Robinson, a guard out of Findlay College Prep, is out indefinitely after injuring his right knee during Hoosier Hysteria on Friday night. The type and extent of Robinson’s injury has not been disclosed at this point, but he is the third Hoosier freshman to sustain an injury with Troy Williams (right hand) and Luke Fischer (left shoulder) being the other two. Even Noah Vonleh, the Hoosiers’ top recruit, is getting over an ankle injury. While none of the injuries appear to be that significant on their own the string of injuries will only make it more difficult for the young team to get used to playing together and could lead to more early-season struggles for the Hoosiers.
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The RTC Offseason Podcast: August Doldrums Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 19th, 2013

August is arguably the deadest month of the college basketball calendar, but that didn’t stop the crew from putting together an RTC Offseason Podcast to review the last six or seven weeks of news since the NBA Draft went down in late June. Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) came out of his summer hibernation to serve as our host, and the guys took on the topics of Division 4, what defines success for an NBA coach and whether summer basketball is roughly as relevant to future success as preseason football (full timeline below). We’ll be back in late September as we start to truly gear up for the 2013-14 season. See you then!

  • 0:00-12:25 – The Future of the NCAA
  • 12:25-20:07 – Butler sans Brad Stevens
  • 20:07-24:39 – Never-ending PJ Hairston Saga
  • 24:39-27:04 – Summer International Tournaments – News or Noise?
  • 27:04-32:48 – ESPN Tip Off Marathon
  • 32:48-43:08 – ESPN Gameday Schedule/wrap
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Morning Five: 08.16.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 16th, 2013

morning5

  1. A day after Roy Williams declared that he was tired of talking about P.J. Hairston (news to us since he didn’t talk about it as much as many would have liked him to) Bubba Cunningham, the school’s athletic director, reportedly said that he expects Hairston to miss some time, but still play this season. We certainly understand that Cunningham would like to convey a hopeful message and probably expected that his comments (made at a faculty retreat) would not make national news, but it seems awfully optimistic to think that Hairston will play this season given the publicly available evidence against him.
  2. Losing your best player to an injury is never a good thing, but the staff at California has to be thankful that Justin Cobb sustained a fracture to his right fifth metatarsal during a Pro-Am game on Monday night rather than later in the year. Cobb, who averaged 15.1 points and 4.8 assists per game last season, will be out 6-8 weeks, which means that he will probably miss the start of practice, but should be back for the team’s first game. In a strange way Cobb’s absence during the early practices could be seen as a positive as it would allow the team to get his back-ups more practice and accelerate their learning with Cobb out of  way letting them work with the starters.
  3. When Robert Upshaw signed with Fresno State it was a surprise to many as the 7-footer passed on many more well-known programs. Now that Upshaw has been dismissed from the team for violating an unspecified athletic department policy for the third time we can see where Upshaw might have otherwise ended up going. Despite a mediocre season in which he averaged an uninspiring 4.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game Upshaw should have plenty of suitors and it appears that his family is already reaching out to potential destinations. The family has not offered any hints about where Upshaw is looking at, but it is worth noting that he originally committed to Kansas State before backing out when Frank Martin left the school to coach at South Carolina.
  4. We hate to be jaded about news that an athlete has gotten into legal trouble, but at this point it takes a lot of surprise. So when we heard that Marshall forward Elijah Pittman had been indicted on misdemeanor battery charges we were not exactly shocked (this isn’t a comment on Pittman since we don’t know anything about personally, but is instead reflective on the number of arrests we have written about in this space). What is surprising is the fact that we had not heard about the arrest yesterday when the indictment occurred on July 31 and the incident in question happened on October 10, 2012. According to the police report Pittman knocked another Marshall student unconscious at an off-campus apartment. Given the fact that Pittman was allowed to play last season–averaging 16.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game–we doubt that he will miss any playing ime unless it is the result of jail time.
  5. With all of the movement we have seen with conference realignment we have wondered what will happen to some of the notable conference challenges. Perhaps the most notable one is the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, which will be back in a similar format this year. While most of the 12 games have some interesting angle (sorry, we are having a hard time getting too excited about Boston College at Purdue), the three big-time games are clearly Indiana at Syracuse, Michigan at Duke, and North Carolina at Michigan State. Although we do think that winning these competitions is largely overrated we will be interested to see how the ACC’s newest members fare as the ACC has lost its grip on the Challenge going 0-3-1 in the past four years after winning it the first 10 years, which also coincides with the Big Ten becoming arguably the premier basketball conference in the country.
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Morning Five: 08.12.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 12th, 2013

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  1. Early August is certainly a strange time for a team to announce that a player is transferring, but that appears to be the case for Mount Saint Mary’s, which granted Shivaughn Wiggins a release to transfer. Wiggins, the NEC Rookie of the Year last season, averaged 9.6 points, 2.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game last season. We have no idea where Wiggins is looking at transferring or what his reasons for transferring are, but we imagine there will be quite a few mid-major programs that will be looking for a player of his talents particularly with three more seasons of eligibility remaining.
  2. The news that the rental car that was driven by P.J. Hairston had received 12 parking citations over a two-month period should not necessarily add any more weight to the case against Hairston, but given all of the evidence–circumstantial or otherwise–building up against Hairston it certainly does not help his case. It should be noted that it is unclear if Hairston was in possession of the car at this time and given the fact that the people handing over the keys to this car did not seem to be screening the drivers too closely it might be difficult ever finding that out. Still given the noise around Hairston somehow this has turned into another “major” story about him. We are assuming that North Carolina and Roy Williams will see through this (one of the few times that we can say that about a recent scandal at North Carolina) and wait for more evidence to come out. Of course, with the way things are going for Hairston this summer it might not be too long before that evidence comes out.
  3. For the third part of their Candid Coaches series, the writers at CBS Sports asked coaches whether it is realistic to assume that they can prevent a player from accepting impermissible benefits. It is not surprising that 96% said they did not think it was realistic. Some of our more cynical readers might point out that this is somewhat self-serving in the event that the coaches get embroiled in a scandal, but we were more interested in the 4% (maybe one coach out of 25 since they do not specify how many coaches they talked to) who thinks that a coaching staff can prevent a player from doing so. We have read the reasoning behind his vote, but it seems incredibly naive. Coaches and programs can certainly do things to reduce the likelihood of these infractions, but it is ridiculous to think that it can be prevented completely.
  4. The rest of the country may have football (or Breaking Bad) on their mind, but we are still counting down to the start of the college basketball season. With that in mind Seth Davis spoke with five prominent coaches–Travis Ford, Josh Pastner, Cuonzo Martin, Mark Few, and Steve Alford–to discuss their off-seasons and thoughts about the upcoming season. None of them gave any shocking quotes (or at least ones that Davis printed), but it was interesting to see how publicly confident they all seemed to be. We are particularly interested in seeing how Alford and Pastner react to their new school and conference over the next few months particularly since they are both in the most precarious situations of any of the five coaches interviewed.
  5. Last week we linked to a story about former Northern Colorado assistant Christopher Craig and warnings that police had issued to local churches about the threat he posed. On Thursday, he was arrested for an outstanding misdemeanor drug possession warrant. Craig, who had been labelled an “Islamic jihadist”, was found with marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and shotgun shells. While this certainly is not the ideal outcome for Craig it is certainly a better resolution (for the time being) that what could have been envisioned when he was at large after having made threats against members of churches and was being pursued by authorities. We have no idea what was going on in Craig’s life, but we hope that he can straighten himself out.
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Morning Five: 07.29.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 29th, 2013

morning5

  1. We have no idea what is going through P.J. Hairston‘s head these days, but whatever it is it is not good. The beleaguered (we can use that word at this point, right?) North Carolina guard was suspended indefinitely on Sunday night after receiving a citation for speeding and reckless driving on Saturday afternoon. Hairston was reportedly pulled over in a 2008 Acura TL driving 93 mph in a 65 mph zone. Hariston, who has been under public scrutiny since a June arrest for possession of marijuana with a gun assigned to nobody that the legal system in North Carolina is apparently comfortable sweeping under the rug, has been under “investigation” for his dealings with Haydn “Fats” Thomas, but has managed to escape any punishment until last night. Our definition of punishment may differ from what Roy Williams has in mind as Hairston still has until October for Midnight Madness and November when regular season games start. We keep on saying this, but at some point it would appear that Roy needs to cut ties with Hairston or risk incurring punishment for the program down the road. If he decides to keep Hairston it will be interesting to see how long he sits Hairston given their early-season schedule.
  2. TCU got a big boost on Friday when the NCAA cleared incoming freshman Karviar Shepherd to play this season. Shepherd had been waiting to hear from the NCAA regarding his eligibility because of questions regarding his academics at Prime Prep Academy, but apparently whatever paperwork was submitted was good enough for the NCAA to sign off on him. Shepherd may not be one of the nation’s elite incoming recruits (77th in ESPN’s rankings), but the addition of a 6’10″ center should be a welcome addition for a Horned Frog program that finished last in the Big 12 last season.
  3. Late July might seem like a strange time to rework a college basketball coach’s contract, but that is what Loyola (IL) did as it extended Porter Moser through the 2017-18 season. We typically are a little bit leery of extending young coaches who just finished their second season (particularly if we are not aware of them being hot names for coaching vacancies), but Moser has done a nice job helping turn around the Ramblers who went 15-16 last season after going 7-23 in his first season. Of course some of this could be due to the increased maturity of his squad, which still ranks among the youngest in Division I. However, with 10 players returning this season and a new contract extension the pressure will be on Moser to perform soon.
  4. When we heard that Indiana State was building an on-campus statue for Larry Bird our first reaction was to wonder what took so long. Bird, who led the Sycamores to the 1979 NCAA Championship Game, will reportedly be in attendance as he will be honored with a 15-foot statute before the team’s first game of the season against Ball State on November 9. While there are certainly more iconic college basketball players we doubt that there is anybody who is intimately associated with a school as Bird is with Indiana State. With the relative resurgence the Sycamore program has seen in recent years it should be a nice added boost for the team to have the greatest player in the program’s history return to kick off their home opener.
  5. It has been 10 years since Lefty Driesell officially coached, but he made a return to the sidelines on Saturday to coach a team of former Maryland players in what is essentially a legends basketball league. Over the years supporters of Driesell have expressed their displeasure with how the school has treated his legacy in comparison to that of Gary Williams so it was nice to hear that Driesell is still associating himself with the school even if some of his supporters are still angry. We are rapidly approaching 30 years since Driesell last coached at Maryland so we are not sure that he will ever get his due there, but those who have actually followed the game and do not have an agenda are well aware of his contributions to the game and the school.
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Morning Five: 07.23.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 23rd, 2013

morning5

  1. We are not quite sure what to make of the Division 4 idea that Dennis Dodd discussed in his column yesterday or how it would affect college basketball, but we are sure that it will be a significant one if it goes through. As much as we love college basketball, we know that college football (or more specifically the money from it) drives college athletics. As Dodd notes college athletics has become segregated into the haves and have-nots. If the haves are able to officially separate themselves they can function in their own sphere and make decisions as a group that they could not make under the NCAA (like paying athletes). We are not sure when this day is coming, but it is probably coming sooner than many people expect.
  2. Yesterday the legal system let P.J. Hairston off the hook for his June arrest, but he may have a much harsher judge waiting at North Carolina and the NCAA (seriously, try to read that with a straight face). After what has been an interesting month to put it mildly Hairston had the misdemeanor marijuana charges against him dropped. The real issue for Hairston becomes how Roy Williams and eventually the NCAA deal with his apparent interaction with Haydn “Fats” Thomas in. Hairston might be able to get by the NCAA given the glacial pace they move, but we have to imagine that Williams would not risk UNC’s season and also 20+ wins on his resume given the chance that Hairston could be declared ineligible at some point.
  3. Over the past few years we have had several coaches become the subject of national ridicule for their decision not to allow a player to transfer to certain schools. It appears that Tim Floyd is about to be the next such coach. Floyd, who developed a reputation for signing players early and managing to get out of the scholarship offers, is denying Isaac Hamilton a release from his National Letter of Intent. Hamilton, a 6’5″ shooting guard from Los Angeles, originally committed to UTEP, but now is looking for a release to play at either USC or UCLA and is reportedly basing his decision on his desire to be closer to his ailing grandmother. Floyd and UTEP are claiming that their reason for denying Hamilton’s release is that one or both of the schools tampered with him and convinced him to back out of his commitment to UTEP. We know all of you are thinking that a few of the details may have changed, but this sounds like a familiar story. At this point the NCAA needs to do something to prevent situations like this from happening. On one hand you have people who have not graduated from high school signing National Letters of Intent without any guidance under the coercion of big universities without fully understanding what they are getting into. On the other side you have coaches and universities who have plenty of tricks (and lawyers) available to get out of any contract they want without much difficulty. The situation is not fair to these teenagers and only serves to punish them for coming from a position of inferior bargaining power.
  4. Big Blue Nation has been accused of being many of things, but never of being disloyal. That could be put to the test with former Wildcat Jeff Sheppard speaking out against Kentucky’s current emperor John Calipari. Sheppard, who won two NCAA titles as a player at Kentucky (1996 and 1998), was speaking the annual UK convention in Franklin, Ohio and spoke out against the one-and-done culture at Kentucky and spoke more fondly of Rick Pitino (his former coach) than Calipari (gasp). Sheppard latter clarified his comments (see the linked article for details) where he clarified his stance. The entire thing is probably overblown, but if there is one thing we can confidently accuse Big Blue Nation of, it is of overreacting.
  5. We always felt that ESPN underutilized Fran Fraschilla in its telecasts, but there are few individuals as informed about the international basketball scene as he is and nobody who is as well-equipped to translate what it means to college basketball. With two major junior international competitions complete, Andy Glockner spoke with Fraschilla about the performance of the US National Teams at these events and how the international pipeline could transform college basketball. It seems clear that the NCAA needs to figure out how to handle these international players coming over here because they are going to be a bigger and bigger influence over time. With the semi-professional status of many of these players who compete on club teams there will inevitably be issues with eligibility. The NCAA will need to address this issue before it becomes too late and it misses out on a generation of players due to something that could have easily been foreseen.
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Morning Five: 07.16.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 16th, 2013

morning5

  1. We do not need to tell you that Butler is one of the premier programs in college basketball, but we have to admit we were pretty surprised to hear that Chris Holtmann was leaving his position as head coach at Gardner-Webb to become an assistant coach at Butler. Holtmann, who was named Southern Conference Coach of the Year as he led Gardner-Webb to 21 wins last season and signed an extension through 2018 in April, is just 41 so we are assuming this is a move that will eventually get him a higher level mid-major job. We do not have the contract information for Holtmann at either location, but it also would not be unreasonable to assume that his salary as an assistant at Butler might equal or even exceed his salary as a head coach at Gardner-Webb.
  2. With his dismissal from West Virginia yesterday Aaric Murray has now been kicked two teams in his college career. Murray, who averaged 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game at La Salle in 2011, averaged 8.8 points per game at West Virginia last season. Despite his fall off in production last season and his arrest for marijuana possession during the year he sat out, Murray should find a home soon as he graduated this spring and will be eligible to play this coming season. While Murray’s production (particularly at La Salle) will draw interest from many teams they should be weary of whatever issues have led him to be dismissed from two teams despite his considerable skill.
  3. It took over a month, but Roy Williams finally issued a statement about P.J. Hairston saying that Hairston “has made serious mistakes and there will be serious consequences as a result”. That statement may seem pretty strong, but Williams did not go so far as to say that Hairston would even be suspended instead pointing out that Hairston is only loosely affiliated with the school (not taking classes) or team (not practicing with the team) right now and is instead giving the legal system time to work itself out. This seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do and realistically Roy has until November before he has to make a decision. Given Roy’s statements and Hairston’s actions we have a tough time envisioning Hairston in the Tar Heel lineup to start the season.
  4. With the summer here some college basketball sites are taking some time off and others are focusing in on recruiting, but no site is doing what Big Apple Buckets did analyzing 32 of Jon Rothstein’s predictions from last season. The analysis is not particularly rigid in that it does not necessarily call Rothstein’s predictions right or wrong as there can be some grey area in interpretation, which you can see in the comments section where the author and reader debate Rothstein’s record. Personally we think making bold random predictions are essentially worthless, but it is nice to see someone called out for those predictions even if the outcome is not as bad as one might expect.
  5. Finally, we bring you this amazing video courtesy of the Wilt Chamberlain Archive featuring Wilt Chamberlain playing in the 1957 NCAA Tournament. We will let the video speak for itself, but should point out how amazingly athletic Chamberlain looks against opposition that he physically dominates. Looking at this footage should give you an idea of why Chamberlain was so dominant and put up such huge individual numbers.

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Morning Five: 07.15.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 15th, 2013

morning5

  1. Over the weekend much of the college basketball world was focused on Georgia for the well-known Peach Jam event but it is not the only significant recruiting event of the summer. As those who have followed the recruiting scene know there are a myriad of events over the summer. One of the newly created events called “The8″ will be played later this month and feature eight teams with top college recruits coached by current or former NBA players. We do not know who all of the coaches will be for the event, but it will include Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Anthony Davis, and Kenny Smith among others. We are all well-aware of how AAU coaches can steer players to certain program so we would not be surprised to see these coaches guide their players to their former school although it probably will not violate NCAA rules since the coaches as former NBA players probably would not care about the type of payments that get AAU coaches to break NCAA rules and steer their players to specific schools.
  2. It seems like with each new day another Marshall Henderson report surfaces that makes his return seem more unlikely. The most news that Henderson had clashed with police for various issues that would be considered minor–playing his music too loud and not wearing a seat belt–if it were not for his issues with more serious arrests. Obviously these are relatively minor issues that would get overlooked for the vast majority of college athletes. The issue with Henderson is one of his disregard for the law and the more incidents he has had (no matter how minor they might be) the worse it looks for him and the program. At this point we would surprised to see Henderson remain with the program and if he does he probably will be sitting out a significant portion of the season. Given all of Henderson’s problems it would probably be best for everybody involved if that was the case.
  3. The issues surrounding P.J. Hairston may not move the needle like they do with the Marshall Henderson story for a variety of reasons, but at this point it seems like North Carolina will have to part ways with Hairston as a police report from Hairston’s June arrest indicates among other things that Hairston knowingly accepted the rental vehicle from Haydn “Fats” Thomas. The UNC administration has remained quiet on the issue and we guess they technically can do so up until the season starts in November, but even for a school that is involved in an academic scandal that should be of far greater concern from an institutional level than anything any other program has seen (Penn State excepted) the optics of this no matter the excuse look bad for the school. The NCAA is notorious for dragging their heels before releasing a judgement on eligibility issues so the onus is on the UNC administration to step in and sever ties with Hairston before the NCAA is forced to step in.
  4. We still are several months away from the season starting, but we already are seeing signs of what might be one of the biggest stories of the 2013-2014 season: the 2014 NBA Draft. Obviously we love the college game for what it is, but this season will also attract a fairly new breed of college basketball fans–NBA fans checking out college basketball for the player who could be their franchise’s savior. Most of the attention leading into the season has been focused on Andrew Wiggins, but as fans will quickly realize there are quite a few more potential saviors out there. We just hope that the players themselves do not get caught up in the hype and let their games speak for themselves without feeling the need to show off for the scouts.
  5. We usually do not cover programs like Mississippi Valley State (honestly do not know anything about it other than Jerry Rice went there) so when it gets mentioned in this space it is almost certainly for a bad reason. That is the case here as the school suspended head coach Chico Potts indefinitely with pay after he was arrested earlier this month for domestic violence. Potts, who went 5-23 in his first season as a head coach, will be replaced on an interim basis by assistant coach Marcus Thomas. The school says that it will keep Potts under suspension until it completes its review of the case. We are not sure what kind of budget Mississippi Valley State has to investigate these type of cases, but we suspect that if they are following that thoroughly we will not see a decision until the case is adjudicated.
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Morning Five: 07.11.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 11th, 2013

morning5

  1. A little more than a decade ago, a brash young rapper by the name of Marshall Mathers asked us if the “real Slim Shady” would please stand up and take responsibility for his actions. He could have easily been talking about another Marshall in present day — a bad boy Rebel from Ole Miss who plays the game with a certain, shall we say, modernist panache. The most polarizing figure in college basketball, Marshall Henderson, was reportedly suspended indefinitely by the school for a drug violation. According to Gary Parrish, there are legitimate concerns within the university whether he will be allowed to return to the team. Given that Henderson finds trouble nearly anywhere he travels both on and off the basketball court, it’s certainly no surprise that he’s finally run afoul of Andy Kennedy’s team rules. Could this mean that the gifted but certifiable shooting guard who averaged over 20 points per game last season could find himself at his fifth school in five years? Stay tuned on this one – like Mathers, Henderson isn’t one to stay quiet for very long.
  2. Trouble just seems to stick to certain people, and at least lately, North Carolina’s PJ Hairston appears to be one of those unfortunate souls. Yet his school, an institution that outwardly takes its integrity very seriously, has been up to this point largely quiet on the ramifications of his June 5 arrest and subsequent revelations that he apparently has some unknown association with convicted felon Haydn Thomas. Athletic director Bubba Cunningham went before the media on Wednesday to discuss the matter, and the tone and general theme of his comments echoed the tried-and-true of the Carolina Way in recent years: Nothing to see at this time. Parroting Roy Williams’ statements from last week, the school does not plan on discussing or doing anything until all the facts are learned. For those of you unfamiliar with organizational theory and messaging, the last part is silent: …until we figure out how to mitigate and manage any possible fallout so that the outcome puts us in the best possible light. Thank you. At least one prominent writer thinks this is the correct play, at least until Hairston is back at school and enrolled in classes a little more than a month from now.
  3. There are meaningful statistics and there are manufactured statistics. The difference between the two is sometimes difficult to discern, but the Wall Street Journal has provided us with a fantastic example of such a debate this week. We’ll have more on this later this afternoon, but the analytical premise in this article by Ben Cohen is that college teams with two top five NBA Draft picks in their lineups should be really, really good. Even accounting for the fact that the NBA Draft has moved from a model of demonstrated production three decades ago to one today of relative upside and potential, it’s a reasonably safe tenet. But to make the next logical leap and to assert that a team with those two draft picks has markedly underachieved relative to its peers (Cohen found 13 such two-high-draftee instances), well, that’s where Indiana found itself this week. The Hoosiers only made the Sweet Sixteen with Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo in this year’s lineup, which when compared with Cohen’s cohort, ties 2002 Duke and 1984 North Carolina as the biggest underachievers in college basketball history. At least that’s the assertion of the piece — and it couldn’t be more wrong. This is a manufactured statistic, because what the analysis fails to tell you here is that there are a number of other talented players on each of those 13 other teams that had a significant effect on their season outcomes. Cohen also glosses over the regular season dominance of those Duke and UNC teams by suggesting that their draft picks had won titles in a previous year — true, but not relevant to that year’s team. IU head coach Tom Crean fired back in reference to the article, tweeting that the duo won 54 games in two seasons and have left the program in great shape heading into the future. Although we’ve consistently argued that Indiana was never as good as its ranking last season, we don’t think that the Hoosiers significantly underachieved relative to the overall talent it had on the floor, or the rest of the nation at-large. More on this later.
  4. Kentucky’s Rupp Arena is without question one of the iconic buildings in all of college basketball, but its off-campus location, sheer size and affiliation with a downtown hotel and shopping mall has always felt a bit too sterile and dissociated when compared to the more intimate campus sites around the country. Regardless of that, the mid-70s building is vastly in need of an upgrade, and the Lexington Center Corporation board announced on Wednesday that it had finalized an architectural firm and a builder to provide a two-year facelift that will move the building into the 21st century, and essentially, make the place much cooler. The most interesting aspect from our eyes is that the building will become a stand-alone entity, no longer affixed to the hotel/mall complex, so we’re wondering what that will look like. UK fans, even in mid-July, wasted no time in offering up some advice on possible corporate naming partners (the “Rupp Arena” part isn’t going away). Our favorite: Makers Mark Rupp Arena, with the entire building dipped in blue wax (h/t Jen Smith of the LHL).
  5. Finally, the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports‘ annual report on collegiate sports was released on Wednesday, and the headline that was blasted all over the country is that college athletics received a gentleman’s B with respect to diversity in hiring. Digging a bit deeper, though, and some unsettling numbers come to light. Most notably, a “major area of concern” is the steady decrease of black head coaches in men’s Division I basketball, now at 18.6 percent of all positions. This number reflects the lowest percentage in the sport in nearly two decades (1995-96), and is down significantly from an all-time high of 25.2 percent of all head coaches just seven seasons ago (2005-06). Whether this downward trend simply reflects variance in the data or something more sinister is unclear, but it is definitely something that the NCAA should continue to track and take seriously. Given that over 60 percent of D-I men’s basketball student-athletes are black themselves, initiatives to ensure diversity in recruitment and hiring are definitely worth pursuing.
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Morning Five: 07.08.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 8th, 2013

morning5

  1. The biggest news of the weekend was that Butler announced that Brandon Miller would be its next coach. The task of replacing Brad Stevens at Butler (or at least the idea of Brad Stevens) might be nothing short of Herculean so we hope that the administration at Butler will give Miller, who beat out former Butler star and current Michigan assistant LaVall Jordan for the job, some time to find his way. The Bulldogs will be returning plenty of talent, but will also be losing quite a bit with the departures of Rotnei Clarke and Andrew Smith. We would have expected Stevens to turn the team into a tough out by March, but that might be too much to ask for a new coach. So while many pundits may be quick to judge Miller we think he should at least be given a few years before judgement is passed.
  2. We still are not sure what to make of the continuing story surrounding P.J. Hairston and his arrests involving rental cars that were rented for long periods of time by individuals from the same address, but we are assuming it is not good for Hairston’s future at North Carolina. The arrest that everybody knows about is the one involving the possession of marijuana (and the mysterious gun that was never attributed to anybody). The news that the car had been rented by an individual with multiple aliases and prior arrests probably is not that bad by itself. The bigger issue comes from the fact Hairston had been arrested back in May for speeding while driving a car that had been rented by an individual with the same address as the individual who rented the car used by Hairston in his more publicized arrest. We are not sure if this will be enough for the NCAA to rule Hairston ineligible, but it should be enough for North Carolina to question whether it wants to continue to associate itself with Hairston.
  3. As we figured the case regarding the eligibility of Joseph Young was bound to get complicated. Young, who led Houston in scoring left the school after his father refused to accept a reassignment within the program. Now the Young family is seeking a hardship waiver enabling him to play at Oregon next season saying that Michael was essentially fired, but was forced to remain on contract while his son was still in school. We still are not sure how the NCAA will rule on this because it depends on how you define fired. From what we have been seen Michael was offered a comparable salary, but a different position within the program (one that he did not want). If that is true, we would have a hard time siding with the Young family here. If those are the facts and the NCAA sides with the Young family they should probably just get rid of the whole one-year transfer period. However, if Michael’s story is true then Houston should be facing some severe NCAA sanctions.
  4. Unlike some recent years this year’s NBA Draft Lottery featured players from 13 different schools (only Indiana had two players selected) so while no team was hit particularly hard by departures (see Kentucky in 2010 and 2012) many schools are trying to figure out how to replace key players. Jason King took a look at these 13 teams and what they have to do to make up for the loss of the departing players. Some teams like Indiana and Lehigh will have tough time figuring out how to make up for their losses in the next few seasons, but others like Kentucky and Kansas should have more than enough incoming talent to make their fans forgot about the departures within the first few months of the season.
  5. Most of the college basketball world will be focused on the Kentuckys and Dukes of the world when November rolls around, but for our money Rutgers might be one of the most interesting teams to follow this year as they try to recover from the fallout of the Mike Rice fiasco. The first step of that process came from Eddie Jordan trying to repair the damage that had been done when the news about Mike Rice’s abuse broke. Brendan Prunty took an in-depth look at the methods that Jordan used to help keep the program afloat once he took over. Jordan and the Scarlet Knights may struggle next season, but it will not be for a lack of work over the summer by Jordan.
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Morning Five: 06.24.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 24th, 2013

morning5

  1. North Carolina is not getting the headlines that other programs like Miami and Penn State have received for their respective scandals, but at some point we assume that the NCAA is going to step in on the various scandals surrounding the school. We all know about the academic scandal that the school continues to dig through, but now the school has to deal with the NCAA investigating the potential involvement of P.J. Hairston with an agent. The agent that they are investigating is Rodney Blackstock, the same agent who allegedly paid an AAU coach money to influence Ben McLemore. This only adds to a month that Hairston would like to forget as he was arrested earlier this month for misdemeanor marijuana possession. And of course there was the gun found outside of the car that we think still does not have an owner. Officials are investigating if the rental car Hairston was using at the time was paid for by Blackstock. Given the speed that the NCAA runs its investigations we would be surprised if Hairston was playing for the Tar Heels at the start of the season.
  2. Although his freshman season (0.9 points and 1.2 assists per game) was nothing to write home about (maybe to write home about transferring),the announcement that L.J. Rose was transferring from Baylor to Houston is a pretty big coup for the Cougars. Despite Rose’s meager production the fact remains that he was the #9 rated point guard in the class of 2012 and was stuck behind Pierre Jackson at Baylor, which limited his playing time and hence his numbers, but may also have taught him quite a bit about playing the position at the college level. With the pieces that Houston has put together they could be a dangerous NCAA Tournament team over the next few seasons.
  3. After a rough freshman season where he lost his starting job you would expect that Oklahoma point guard Isaiah Cousins would be working hard over the summer to prove that last season was a fluke. Instead, he was arrested on charges of public intoxication and interference on Saturday morning. For their part Oklahoma says “the matter will be handled internally”. If this is Cousins’ first brush with the law, we expect he will probably get nothing more than a slap on the wrist from the judicial system and the school. Still it cannot be comforting for Sooners fans to hand their team over to a guard. We also doubt that Cousins will be with the team on their European trip that starts on August 6.
  4. With all of the issues that the NCAA is going through some of the issues that their leadership debates continues to be a source of amusement for us. The latest example is the vote to overturn live scouting, which did not pass, meaning that live scouting will only be allowed under limited circumstances. We are not sure what those limited circumstances are (we are assuming teams and coaches can watch other teams play in tournament play before or after their games), but it appears that the original discussion was a question of resources and whether it created on unfair playing field where the more wealthy schools had access to better quality video while the other side argued for deregulation. In the end it seems like a big waste of time for an issue that isn’t nearly as important as many of the other ones the NCAA is dealing with at this time.
  5. In Friday’s Morning Five we mentioned the interesting potential case of the athlete (or athletes) who are involved in the Ed O’Bannon vs NCAA case. We briefly discussed the implications for the athlete and the extra scrutiny that they would be under. Andy Staples took a deeper look at the issue and compared it to the case of Curt Flood who was instrumental in leading a similar change in Major League Baseball and subsequently all professional sports in America. As Staples points out the athlete should ideally be one who is on television a lot to give greater publicity to the cause being championed.
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