Morning Five: 08.14.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 14th, 2013

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  1. There’s perhaps nothing more frustrating (yet printable) than good ideas gone bad. Several years ago the Big 12 and Pac-10 tried to capitalize on the popularity of the ACC/Big East Challenge by staging its own “Hardwood Series” event. The only problem was that it started sometime in November and ended around Christmas. It was no more a real “event” than Congress is the voice of the people these days. That same year, the Big East and SEC got into the act, staging a somewhat better neutral-site series that at least took advantage of proximity in time (the games were usually on back-to-back days, but didn’t include enough teams). Still, it was tough to jazz big state school SEC fans up about playing small (mostly) Catholic schools like Villanova and St. John’s — the match-ups just didn’t make for a good fit. The SEC and Big 12, however, represent like upon like. Both leagues are full of mostly rural states that care a lot about college athletics, even if football will always trump basketball in most of those places. An SEC/Big 12 Challenge, at least on paper, had real promise. Alas. The 2013 schedule was released yesterday, and the powers-that-be have fallen into the same trap that the Pac-10 and Big 12 engineered back in 2007 — the games begin on November 14 (Texas Tech @ Alabama) and end December 21 (Oklahoma @ Texas A&M), some 37 days apart. Furthermore, the two best games — Kentucky at Baylor on December 6 and Kansas at Florida on December 10 — were already scheduled regardless of this event. Memo to SEC and Big 12 bigwigs — if you want people to really care, get it right next year.
  2. From a possible good idea gone bad to a possible bad idea gone good, Andy Glockner of SI.com used his Twitter cachet to put together a pretty phenomenal list of “rappers taking stage names that include small D-I basketball programs” last night. The derivation of the list came from a social media-fueled hubbub surrounding a rapper named Kendrick Lamar, who apparently decided to bring back some of the gangsta vibe of one-upmanship prevalent to the genre two decades ago, long before Jay-Z, Kanye and Dre completely monetized the industry. Our two favorites from the list were, without question, Big Daddy Duquesne and A Tribe Called Quinnipiac, although Florida Gulf Coastface Killah is damn good too. What, no Wichi2pac Shakurs? No Beastie Boise? Dayton La Soul? OK, we’ll stop now, but hey, it’s August.
  3. There was actually one piece of substantive news yesterday in the college hoops universe, and if this the entirety of this saga is any indication, absolutely no one will notice. The NCAA ruled on Tuesday that San Diego will not face any additional sanctions related to the Brandon Johnson game-fixing charges, and there’s no reason why it should have. The school had already admitted a secondary violation based on his efforts to point-shave and later solicit teammates to help him┬áduring the 2009-10 season, and there was no evidence that any additional staff members or other athletes had any knowledge of the criminal activity. Johnson is currently serving a six-month sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to a solicitation charge, while his former assistant coach TJ Brown is serving out a one-year sentence for his part in the scheme. Meanwhile, similar crimes are without a doubt being concocted and/or facilitated throughout the game, but all you’ll hear from the media and talking heads is a whole lot of crickets. It’s a very strange phenomenon.
  4. If you have unlimited funds lying around in an offshore account somewhere, you might want to take a look at this offering. Former Ohio State Hall of Famer Jerry Lucas is auctioning off all of his prized memorabilia, including his 1960 Olympic gold medal (considered one of the best basketball teams ever assembled), his 1960 OSU national championship ring, his 1973 New York Knicks championship ring, and his 1979 HOF induction ring. According to Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger, Lucas’ haul at the minimum auction prices along would total over $500,000 — and there’s no doubt that a collection of such rare pieces will fetch quite a bit more than that. If you do have money to burn, the items are located here, and we have to admit that the 1971 SF Warriors practice jersey for only $500 looks rather enticing.
  5. Let’s finish with some recruiting news, or quasi-news, as it were. The consensus top player in the 2014 class, Jahlil Okafor, and a top five player in his own right, Tyus Jones, have talked extensively about playing together in college. Many of the recruiting pundits seem to believe their package deal is a strong likelihood. On Tuesday, Jeff Borzello reported that Jones released his list of official visits, which included three crossover visits with Okafor at Baylor, Kansas and Duke, but visits at different times at Kentucky. Is there meaningfulness behind the shared visits — does it mean that Scott Drew, Bill Self and Coach K are the finalists for the duo’s services? Or is it all simply much ado about nothing, something to pass the time as we slowly slide toward fall. We’ll find out soon enough.
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Morning Five: 09.04.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 4th, 2012

  1. Here’s hoping everyone had a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend, wherever you may have spent it. By now, most colleges are back in session, and the weeks leading up to Midnight Madness (October 12 this year) are often fraught with tales of players getting into all sorts of trouble as the combination of free time and warm weather results in a devilish concoction — let’s cross our fingers that the next six weeks are clean. One player who recently found himself unjustifiably in hot water to the point of school expulsion (at least according to an Ohio grand jury) is Xavier’s Dez Wells. The rising sophomore star spent his holiday weekend flying around and visiting potential new schools — specifically, Oregon, Memphis and Maryland — according to several published reports. Earlier contenders Louisville, Ohio State and Kentucky had been removed from his list for various reasons, and it now appears that Mark Turgeon’s program may be the clubhouse leader as Wells is expected to make his decision in coming days. According to the Washington Post, Wells’ trip to College Park seemed to produce a level of excitement that he didn’t experience (or at least, share) while touring the others. Regardless of where he ends up, that program will receive an unexpected yet instant infusion of talent into its backcourt.
  2. This UCLA situation involving its top recruiting class remains interesting. We mentioned in yesterday’s M5 that the big news over the weekend involved the NCAA investigating potential violations in the recruitments of Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker. Athletic director Dan Guerrero fired back at this report on Monday, suggesting that such an investigation is “misleading and inaccurate” but offering little in the way of specific details beyond the simple statement that two Bruin players had yet to receive their amateur certification. A separate Monday report from Peter Yoon at ESPNLosAngeles stated that the two players not yet certified are Muhammad and Anderson (interestingly, Parker has been cleared, according to his source). Whether something substantive actually sticks to one or both of these elite recruits certainly must have UCLA fans nervous right now — the program’s resurgence depends almost entirely on the NBA-quality talent that these two are bringing to Westwood. If they are not available in 2012-13, UCLA likely drops from a top five team to a top 35 team, and Ben Howland’s job would correspondingly be in jeopardy.
  3. No doubt Howland’s blood pressure has risen over the last few days, and with good reason — acting as CEO of a major college basketball program is a stressful job. This is especially true in the midst of a crisis, such as the strong likelihood of a player mutiny that could threaten one’s reputation as well as his employment. Billy Gillispie, as we all now, has been hospitalized┬ásince Friday in a Lubbock hospital, and he is not expected to leave the premises soon as he receives ongoing treatment for high blood pressure. An early-morning episode Friday where his BP spiked to “dangerous” levels left the second-year head coach feeling the “worst” he’s ever felt. Presumably aware of what faces him once he returns to campus — to be certain, nothing short of a serious inquiry into how he runs his program — the salve for his long-term health might be to stay in the hospital for as long as possible. We certainly wish him the best in recovery on both his medical and professional counts.
  4. Some vacant assistant coaching positions were filled over the holiday weekend on both coasts, as Arizona State added two new members to Herb Sendek’s staff and Steve Lavin brought on a former one of his players to assist him at St. John’s. As Andy Katz notes on ESPN.com regarding ASU’s new hires, Sendek is clearly trying to make a bold statement in bringing former Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors head coach Eric Musselman in addition to Portland Trail Blazers assistant coach Larry Greer into his program. Three thousand miles away in Queens, Lavin hired former UCLA point guard Darrick Martin to help him with recruiting and coaching up their backcourt. Martin played under Lavin — then an assistant to Jim Harrick at UCLA — in the early 90s, leaving the program as the then-all-time leader in assists and steals before moving on to the NBA for 15 years. He also has ties to the NYC area, having played prep basketball across the Hudson River at Bob Hurley’s famed St. Anthony’s program in the mid-1980s.
  5. It’s not often that the media publishes an in-depth report essentially stating that nothing happened, but that appears to be the case with the bizarre yet compelling story that San Diego State‘s best-ever 34-3 season in 2010-11 was targeted by those involved with the University of San Diego point-shaving scandal as another viable option. FBI agents who at the time were monitoring the key individuals associated with the USD case were also keeping a very close eye on a number of SDSU players — and when we write “close eye,” try this on for size — several players were subjected to “physical and electronic surveillance, GPS tracking devices on cars, phone logs, infiltration of the team by an undercover agent, even recruitment of a player to be a confidential informant.” Uh, yeah — that’s serious stuff. Thankfully, the outcome of all of this surveillance was the aforementioned ‘nothing’ — whether because SDSU players from that illustrious season were never actually approached by point-shavers, or because they were smart enough to turn down those doing the asking — we’re not sure. Still, the FBI never accused any Aztec players of wrongdoing, and the school has been adamant in stating that none of its players were involved in any of the shenanigans that went on across town. Crazy story.
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