Big 12 Morning Five: 10.25.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 25th, 2011

  1. Despite rumors that Missouri would withdraw from the Big 12 on Monday, the league’s Board of Directors meeting passed without an official decision last night. Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas told the AP that MU has not yet joined the SEC, but we’ll still keep an eye on this developing story over the next few days. For now, we’ll just have to deal with those top-secret sources and the rumor mill to keep us occupied.
  2. Speaking of that rumor mill, the Kansas City Star suggests that the Notre Dame/Big 12 talk may be heating up. That would be an interesting scenario, though more so from the Fighting Irish’s standpoint. Apparently, a move to the Big 12 would require ND to also bring its national football program into the league. The Star published this article just weeks after a document mentioned the Irish as a possible candidate for the Big 12. Again, this is all speculation, but it’s pretty juicy stuff.
  3. And finally, in your last realignment news of the day: West Virginia also appears to be a top target of the Big 12, and one league official is more than thrilled at that possibility. He’s so happy, in fact, that he issued the following quote, which deserves an entire block of text: “West Virginia has better football than Missouri, better basketball than Missouri, a better budget than Missouri and more passion among its fans than Missouri. They’re better, anyway you turn ‘em. The travel’s not good (to Morgantown, W. Va) but that’s it.” Tell us how you really feel, right?
  4. If you’re interested in hearing some expert opinion on the upcoming Big 12 hoops season, check out this interview with ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla. Even without Ron Franklin by his side, Fraschilla’s one of the best commentators in the business, and he’s covered the league extensively as a color man. He admits that Kansas and Texas are the two premier programs at this point in time, but he says the major graduations and NBA defections will open the door for the rest of the league this season. That’s hardly rocket science, of course, but Fraschilla’s got an interesting perspective on things. The interview is worth a look.
  5. Billy Gillispie has probably had enough of the public eye after his tenure at Kentucky, but he gave a candid interview to the Associated Press about his troubles. Regarding his much-publicized alcohol issue, Gillispie said he “made some stupid decisions,” but he said getting back into coaching at Texas Tech has helped him cope. One of the most interesting things about this hire for Tech is Gillispie’s roots in the state of Texas as a successful former coach at UTEP and Texas A&M, and the article touches on this aspect of his hiring as well.
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Morning Five: 01.05.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 5th, 2011

  1. Seth Davis published his annual Stock Report on Tuesday, and it’s full of interesting tidbits as usual.  His biggest on-a-limb prediction comes with Roy Williams’ North Carolina Tar Heels, who he has listed as a “buy-plus.”  While it’s looking more and more like the Heels are the second best team in the ACC, that’s not really something to hang one’s hat on this year — half of the Big East, Big Ten and Big 12 would also be the second best team in the ACC.  He’s certainly entitled to his opinion and he gets more of these predictions right than he does wrong, but we think he’s off on this one.  UNC, by virtue of the weak ACC, will end up back in the Top 25 polls with a reasonable record; but without a legitimate point guard threat and a Charmin-soft interior, Williams’ teams tend to sputter, and we see the Heels as no better than a Second Round team this year.  While on the subject of Davis… he, Luke Winn and Andy Glockner put together their mid-season Crystal Ball projections yesterday.  The biggest surprise there?  All three writers had Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger as their NPOY.  So why, again, was it so stupid for the AP writers to take a risk in putting UNC freshman Harrison Barnes on its preseason All-American first team?  The “freshman” part, as we all should know by now, isn’t the problem — the voters just got the wrong frosh.
  2. We discussed this Sunday night as part of our weekend After the Buzzer, but ESPN commentator Ron Franklin was let go by the company on Tuesday for his condescending run-in with sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards prior to last week’s Chick-Fil-A Bowl broadcast.  Franklin was never one of our favorite ESPN guys from an analytical perspective and his bias for the Big 12 was often astonishing in its transparency (although not to Mike Patrick/ACC proportions), but his smooth baritone voice was a calming and resonant one for us through many cold winter nights.  We hope that he’s learned some kind of a lesson from this embarrassing incident, but we doubt he has; rather, the only lesson learned here is that nobody in this industry should ever screw with Ms. Edwards.
  3. According to Connie Joseph, Devoe Joseph’s mother, the Minnesota guard who was reportedly “suspended” from the team is actually transferring out of the program.  She said that he made his decision after the New Year’s Eve loss to Michigan State, and did not attend practices over the weekend.  The Gophers struggled at home tonight against Indiana, but it’s unclear to some whether the Gophers will feel his absence.  We’re not sure you can ever completely survive the loss of a talented player like Joseph, but sometimes the headache just isn’t worth it.  With some young players as well as Blake Hoffarber and (currently) Al Nolen at his disposal, Tubby Smith still has a very talented team that will compete in the Big Ten.  He cannot afford any more suspensions or incidents, though.
  4. At some point schools are going to wise up and train players on the simple matter of tact and taste when giving quotes to reporters.  We know that some places already do this, but usually those trainings are focused on avoiding hot-button words, topics and answering with deflections in complete sentence form.  Earlier this week K-State star Jacob Pullen told 1350 KMAN in the Kansas City area that he felt “like Michael Vick in some ways” as a result of his three-game suspension for receiving impermissible benefits from a local department store.  Right.  It’s a good thing modern players have very little sense of world history or we’d probably hear a lot more Holocaust references made when referring to unfortunate group situations.  Memo to Pullen — no, you don’t feel like Michael Vick.  He went to prison and is universally reviled by most of America as a disgusting human being who hurt innocent animals for sport; you were suspended (not imprisoned) which meant you went back to your dorm for a few days and watched television.  These two things are in no way similar — stop the hyperbole.
  5. We knew that Georgetown and Syracuse are old Big East rivals who really don’t care for one another.  But we had no idea that it had gotten to this level of distaste for the other.  Georgetown has made an executive decision that it will not sell individual tickets to non-GU students and alumni for its February 9 game against SU at the Verizon Center in DC (ticketmaster site here).  Syracuse blog Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician believes that this is a direct and proximate cause of Orange fans filling up the Hoyas’ home arena with its strong alumni base located in the Washington area, and they make a convincing argument to that effect.  But like great fans always do, the Cuse faithful have already figured out the workaround, and let’s hope for the sake of anti-protectionism that SU fills half the building with orange on that day.
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ATB: New Year’s Weekend Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 3rd, 2011

The Lede.  Here’s hoping everyone had a very safe and happy New Year’s 2011.  Just typing those numbers makes it hard for us to believe that there are ten-year olds who never experienced the awesomeness of the 1990s.  Speaking of irrelevant references to timing, with the calendar change we’re now heading into the heart of the season.  Frankly, the first two months in some ways seemed interminable, with far too many mismatches merely acting as a prelude for the conference season where the contenders and pretenders will be inevitably ferreted out.  As a case in point, take a look at last year’s AP Top 10 from one year ago today.  Texas, a first-round NCAA loser, was #2; Kansas and Villanova, both second round losers, were #1 and #6, respectively; the #9 team, North Carolina, ended up in the NIT.  The lesson here is that there are no finished products yet — many teams have barely tested themselves, and it wouldn’t be the first time that a school with a lofty pre-conference record collapses after seeing its own blood on the road.  Who will those teams be?  We have some ideas but it’ll have to wait until later this week.

Your Watercooler MomentMemphis Fan Ejected From Game.  This is a no-brainer.  There weren’t all that many great games this weekend, but an incident that took place near the end of Memphis’ 91-86 win over Tennessee State on Sunday is what will be talked about on Monday morning.  After an on-court scrum where a prominent donor’s wife (is she really the spouse of the Lenny’s Sub Shop guy? — someone please confirm) got agitated from the front row and allegedly yelled at one of the TSU players to “choke on” his mouthpiece, the nearby referee Mark Whitehead threw her out of the game.  Yes, you read that correctly, a fan!  And not just any fan, but a middle-aged female fan who quite obviously presented a clear and present danger to the players on the floor, especially considering the way that she was pumping and waving around those blue pom-pons.  (h/t Chris Littman for the video)

Your Watercooler Moment, Vol. II. Dear Ron: Don’t Eff With Jeannine Edwards — Signed, Billy Gillispie.  This has absolutely nothing to do with college basketball per se, but it involves two media personalities who regularly cover the game and it’s hilarious nevertheless.  SportsByBrooks reported over the weekend that ESPN commentator Ron Franklin (he of the Big Twelve games, mostly) condescendingly called reporter Jeannine Edwards “sweetcakes” and “a-hole” during a production meeting prior to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on New Year’s Eve.  Franklin was allowed to work that game but he was then pulled from the Fiesta Bowl radio broadcast on Saturday night.  We’re not sure if this is a much more common occurrence with female reporters or what, but people seem to enjoy talking down to Jeannine Edwards.  Former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie of course was widely ridiculed for his treatment of the sideline reporter during an Ole Miss game in 2009, and many people in Wildcat country believe strongly that particular embarrassment was the straw that broke his back as the UK coach.  It’s undetermined what will happen to Franklin as a result of his latest comments, but it should be noted that he had a similar incident five years ago with Holly Rowe and he still remained with the company.  Will Jeannine go two-for-two in her latest battle of the sexes?  Let’s hope so.

This Weekend’s Quick Hits

  • Kansas: Best Team in America. So says Miami (OH) forward Antonio Ballard, whose team has had the privilege to play the top three teams in the polls so far this season.  The Red Hawks lost to Duke by 34, Ohio State by 21, and Kansas by 27, but it was the athleticism of the Morris twins who combined for 38/15 coming off the bench that seemed to make the biggest impression.
  • Illinois Starts off Big Ten 2-0.  The Illini got a key home win on Sunday with its victory over Wisconsin in Champaign.  Combined with a win at Iowa last week, and Bruce Weber’s team crystallizes just how important scheduling is in conference races.  A winnable road game followed by a home game against a team they’ll likely battle all year in the second tier of the conference race.  Contrast this with Minnesota who currently sits at 0-2 as a result of road games to Wisconsin and Michigan State.
  • Syracuse, Cincinnati & St. John’s Do Likewise.  With respect to SU and UC, again, scheduling.  Syracuse feasted on two more home meals with Seton Hall and Notre Dame visiting the Carrier Dome, while Cincy got DePaul and the Hall to visit the Queen City.  The anomaly of this group is Steve Lavin’s Johnnies.  Somehow the same team that lost to Fordham and St. Bonnie managed to get Big East road wins at WVU and Providence last week.  If his team is turning a corner, we’ll find out on Big Monday as they host Georgetown at MSG.
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Highlighters & Headsets: Reviewing the Marathon

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2010

Highlighters & Headsets is an occasional look at the coverage of college basketball – from television to print (they still make paper?), blogs to bracket busters, and Gus Johnson to Gameday – written by RTC contributor Steve Moore. He welcomes your comments, column ideas and Dickie (V) jokes at You can also follow him on Twitter @smoore1117.

Hoops Marathon Tests ESPN’s Bench Depth

ESPN catches a lot of flak from a lot of people – much of it deserved. But as almost any college basketball fan will tell you, the College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon is one of the best things on the ESPN calendar. It’s unique and quirky, without being overly gimmicky. We get to see teams and players we won’t see again all season, and have an excuse to stay up until all hours of the night.  For me (and I hope at least a few others, or else no one will be reading this), part of the allure is also keeping an eye (and ear) on how ESPN performs during its annual test of endurance and depth.

The WWL Nailed This Event

Personally, I think this is the kind of thing that proves why ESPN is the gold standard. Its resources (read: dollar bills, y’all) are endless, and, for the most part, its announcing crews are professional and entertaining. Unlike some people here at RTC, I couldn’t make it through the entire 24 hours without the help of Red Bull, Four Loko or some other delicious energy beverage. But I did catch enough to put together a quick rundown of the ups and downs of ESPN’s effort on what was, overall, an incredible day for hoops fans everywhere.


Nearly all of ESPN’s announcing teams on Tuesday – and the general attitude of the network’s promotion – seemed to understand the event. By that, I mean the network seemed to understand that the whole concept of playing basketball at 2, 4 and 6 a.m. is a little strange, and it’s OK to increase the off-beat goofiness and drop the life-or-death mindset that is more appropriate during Championship Week or UNC-Duke.

As the hours got later, the announcers seemed to adapt with the late-night viewers watching at home. Sean McDonough and Bill Raftery (Memphis-Miami, midnight) always sound like they’re sitting at the bar talking about the game, but Carter Blackburn/Mark Gottfried (St. Mary’s-St. John’s, 2 a.m.) and Todd Harris/Mark Adams (Hawaii/Central Michigan, 4 a.m.) lightened the mood and didn’t take themselves too seriously. We got much less in the way of X’s and O’s, and more basic information about teams and players we may not know too well.

The prize, however, goes to the duo of Rob Stone and Jay Williams, who called two games in two different states, 12 hours apart (Monmouth-Stony Brook, 6 a.m., and Villanova/Marist, 5:30 p.m.). Stone’s lighthearted style, and the fact that he’s not a college hoops specialist, just seemed to work well with a ridiculous 6 a.m. tip in a high school-sized gym at Monmouth. Part of the allure of the 6 a.m. game is wondering what the atmosphere is like and whether the players and coaches are into it. The duo kept me interested, and also seemed completely on board with their early wakeup call. It would have been easy to tell if the pair felt like it was forced into the ridiculous assignment. Stone and Williams seemed to embrace the absurdity of it all, and even filmed their trek from Monmouth to Villanova. The clip of Stone rocking out to Journey was one of the day’s highlights.

Jason Williams Has Really Improved Over the Years

In fact, I would even suggest a few more of these quirky announcing journeys during the marathon. Maybe let McDonough and Raftery start and finish the event, or send Dickie V to Monmouth or one of the smaller schools. God knows he sees the ACC enough.


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