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 during 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: 05.14.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 15th, 2013

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  1. Yesterday was Andrew Wiggins Day in college basketball, as the precocious Canadian wing who some have claimed is the best prep player since LeBron James came out of Akron in 2003, made his collegiate choice. You’ve undoubtedly heard by now that Wiggins is headed to Kansas to play for Bill Self, so let’s take a look at some of the reactions from around the country. The Kansas head coach himself was ecstatic, saying that Wiggins “brings athleticism, length, scoring ability and [...] an assassin, an alpha dog’s] mentality to his game. Mike DeCourcy emphasizes that not all #1 players are created equal (a true statement), and breaks down some of the most heated recruitments of the modern era (from Ewing to Oden), while also arguing that if Wiggins really sought to shun the glare of a white-hot spotlight, he probably should have gone elsewhere because the pressure will be on him in Lawrence. On the other hand, during the SVP & Rusillo radio show Tuesday, Andy Katz said that Wiggins is walking into a near-perfect situation where he join a team with enough talent around him to win but where there is no question who will be the top dog on campus. So where does this put the Jayhawks next season? The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg thinks that KU is now a title contender, while at least one writer believes the Jayhawks should be elevated into the post-recruitment top four of next year’s power rankings. Twitter of course weighed in as it tends to do in these situationswhile one national writer thinks Wiggins made a mistake in going to college at all. It’s all very exciting stuff, because Wiggins’ decision to join KU balances out the ridiculous incoming class at Kentucky along with the returning talent at places like North Carolina, Louisville, Duke and Arizona. The game is in solid shape for 2013-14, that’s for sure. What’s next for Wiggins? According to Self, perhaps a summer spent playing for Team Canada in some international events. Let’s just cross our fingers that he remains healthy.
  2. Lost amid all the Wiggins news yesterday was that the SEC and Big 12 announced a new basketball challenge in light of the transitions that hit the Big East which makes it no longer an attractive interconference option for something like this. The SEC/Big 12 Challenge will begin on November 14 with a yawner of a game between Alabama and Texas Tech, and will continue on for the next five weeks with highlighted contests including Baylor vs. Kentucky at Cowboys Stadium on December 6 and Kansas vs. Florida in Gainesville on December 10. Look, we love the idea conceptually. The SEC and Big 12 are very similar leagues and this sort of match-up makes a lot more sense than the Big East/SEC event ever did. But the Big 12 tried the same thing with the Pac-10 a few years ago and it was a failure because nobody knew when the games were happening — they were simply too spread out. For events like this to work, they must (capital MUST) be confined to a tight spacing of games so that fans can actually invest in the concept and keep up with how each league is doing. To have games literally spread out over more than a month like they’ve done here is incredibly short-sighted and incomprehensible. As an aside, Missouri will take part in the Challenge, but they’ll play West Virginia, the school that replaced them after leaving the Big 12 last year.
  3. Something ugly appears to be going down at Tennessee involving the bizarre Trae Golden dismissal/transfer that occurred last week. According to numerous published reports, the rumors of Golden’s academic issues in Knoxville may have involved more than originally met the eye after the school terminated its head of judicial student affairs, Jenny Wright, late last week. We’re not going to speculate as to what exactly may have happened here until more information is released, but as Andy Glockner notes in SI.com, the merging of possible academic impropriety with unprofessional relationships in the context of a judicial student affairs setting isn’t one to take lightly. And certainly nothing that the school needs after already suffering through the Bruce Pearl and Derek Dooley foibles in their two revenue sports.
  4. From the world is a strange and sometimes awful place department, Brown guard Joseph Sharkey, a sophomore who averaged about 12 minutes per game last season for the Bears, was approached and struck in the face by a random stranger over the weekend, putting him into the hospital where he is in critical condition. As CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Goodman writes, the attack appears to have been completely unprovoked and ultimately resulted in the young man’s head hitting concrete as he fell down. It sounds like a horrible story and one that we hope doesn’t have a lasting negative outcome for the player. We’re wishing him well on his recovery from this senseless crime.
  5. Finishing up with some comings and goings, Andrew Wiggins must be scaring the rest of the Big 12, as not one but two Baylor players are leaving the program — most notably, Deuce Bello, along with LJ Rose – and Texas’ Julien Lewis, the top returning scorer for the Longhorns, is also on his way out. Lewis is the most accomplished player of the three, averaging 11/3 APG in his sophomore season in Austin, but Bello probably has the most name-brand recognition from his prep days when he was considered the most athletic player in his class. Bello has only seen about 10 minutes per game of action in his two seasons in Waco, but perhaps a change of scenery will allow him to develop his game beyond occasional Highlight of the Night quality dunks. Already more than 400 players are on the transfer wire this offseason, averaging out to a little more than one player per D-I team. Wow. We hope these guys find what they’re looking for.
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