Morning Five: 08.16.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 16th, 2011

  1. Texas A&M‘s rather public flirtation with the SEC continued on Monday with the news that school president R. Bowen Loftin had received authority from the school’s board of regents to take whatever action he deems necessary to act in the long-term best interests of the university.  Whether this ultimately means that the school will make a formal overture to join the SEC remains to be seen, but it’s notable that the Texas House committee that had scheduled a meeting today to discuss this matter has postponed it indefinitely.  Right now it seems as if things are in a state of flux, but you’d better believe that whatever backroom political deals that need to resolved before A&M can move forward are in the process of being resolved.
  2. We’ve been rather vocal in our opinion that the NCAA had better get out in front of these conference realignment issues driven by football dollars before they lose control of the whole enchilada.  To that point, we were encouraged to read that the NCAA president, Mark Emmert, has started making calls at the behest of some of the conference commissioners in an attempt to smooth over some rankled egos and facilitate any conference realignment in a collegial way.  Regardless of what happens with Texas A&M in coming days or weeks, this is an important move for Emmert.  He is still in his first year on the job, and even though his authority only reaches so far on issues such as these, his reputation as a fair-minded and collaborative leader could be established (or ruined) based on how he handles this situation.
  3. We hope to have more on this up later today, but along with the imminent end of summer comes Scout’s new post-camp player ratings for the Class of 2012.  Wing player Shabazz Mohammed remains the top overall player in the class, followed by beefy centers Andre Drummond and Mitch McGary.  In fact, nine of the top 12 players in this class are big men (PFs or Cs), an amazing development considering the vanishing of the American big man over the last two decades.  Only five of the top 25 players are currently committed, which as always will make for an exciting fall on the recruiting trail as players head into their senior seasons.
  4. There’s never been a formal announcement one way or another, but does anyone on the planet actually believe that Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun won’t be back stalking the sidelines again in Storrs next season?  Former Husky great Ray Allen doesn’t believe it either, as he told a throng of assembled media at his charity golf tournament in Cromwell, Connecticut, on Monday.  He didn’t go so far as to say he believes his former coach will be back, but he did say that he feels Calhoun is “rejuvenated” and has two players in Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb who have “experience” well beyond their years.  Unless Calhoun has plans to pull a Dean Smith and retire just before the start of the practice so that his longtime assistant, George Blaney, would get an opportunity to steer the ship, we expect that his relative silence this offseason only means that he’ll be back stronger than ever in the 2011-12 season.
  5. Basketball in August?  Our SEC correspondent, Gerald Smith, attended Monday night’s Kentucky Pros vs. John Calipari’s Dominican Republic team, featuring  John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Tayshaun Prince, et al, going up against a Gator-chomping Al Horford and former Louisville stars Francisco Garcia and Edgar Sosa, among others.  Here’s his brief report.  On Monday a seminar on economics was held inside Rupp Arena. An exhibition brought to life by Dominican Republic/Kentucky Coach John Calipari was a logistical scramble that yielded widespread success: Over 23,000 spent an August evening watching Calipari’s Dominicans defeat (mostly) Calipari’s Pros sponsored by Calipari’s corporate partners, 106-88. T-shirt vendors and other Lexington businesses can thank Calipari for a bonus game day full of sales.   Incredible ticket demand prompted a second Pros vs. DR game  which will be held in Louisville’s Yum! Center tonight.  Even minor setbacks in exhibition planning were rewarded with national press exposure for the Kentucky basketball program and the exhibition. Calipari’s incredible talent for synergy separates him from nearly every other NCAA coach. (It helps that Big Blue Nation will invest heavily into most any product associated with the coach.) Instead of an NBA team owner knocking down the coach’s door, perhaps Kentucky fans should be worried that none other than Ben Bernanke will steal Calipari away from the Bluegrass State.
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Morning Five: 07.25.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 25th, 2011

  1. Perhaps never in the history of modern college basketball has such an inconsequential player (to this point of his career) caused so much message board speculation over where he might ultimately land (Makhtar Ndiaye?).  Former Wake Forest center Tony Woods, he of the misdemeanor assault plea for pushing and kicking his girlfriend last year, will finally re-surface at Oregon after months of rumors and endless chatter that he would end up at Louisville, then Kentucky, then Texas.  The situation took a turn in favor of Dana Altman’s Duck program when it was discovered that Woods could be eligible to play in Eugene immediately because UO utilizes a quarter system, whereas the other schools are on a semester calendar.  This quirk will allow Woods to finish up his associate’s degree coursework prior to school beginning in September, making it so that he can begin practicing with the team in October and suit up for games again in early November.  Oregon certainly has the need, as last year’s best interior player, Joevon Catron, was a senior and has moved on.  If Woods can tap into some of the promise that made him a Top 50 recruit in the class of 2008, Oregon may move more quickly up the Pac-12 standings than expected next season.
  2. Speaking of the topic of eligibility, it appears that St. John’s recruit Maurice Harkless will in fact be eligible to play for Steve Lavin next season.  Late last week the NCAA cleared Harkless to play for the Johnnies as a result of an investigation to determine if he had played for current SJU director of basketball operations, Moe Hicks, during his prep AAU career.  Call it the package deal rule, but the NCAA has a regulation to avoid situations where schools hire AAU coaches to get to their elite players (see: Michael Beasley), and since Harkless had played for the New York Gauchos a couple of times, there was some question as to whether his association with Hicks (an administrator with the Gauchos) violated that rule.  The NCAA ultimately ruled that Hicks never actually coached Harkless, a fine-line distinction no doubt making Lavin a very happy man over the weekend.  Harkless is the type of elite recruit based in the NYC area that St. John’s must attract in order to get back to upper echelon of the Big East conference on an annual basis.
  3. Act One of the Bruce Pearl aftermath came to light on Friday in Knoxville, as the News-Sentinel reported that Tennessee has imposed a two-year probation on itself as a result of NCAA wrongdoing under Pearl’s (and former football coach, Lane Kiffin’s) direction.  Here’s the key statement: UT believes that “the penalties imposed during the course of its investigation, coupled with its corrective measures, adequately address the violations that occurred.”  As such, the school’s “probation” levies only a very minor restriction on new head coach Cuonzo Martin’s program, removing an ability to feed players occasionally through off-campus meals.  Arguing that all of the principal bad actors have since been removed from the program, the school clearly believes that it has suffered enough as a result of the Pearl fiasco.  Of course, the NCAA Committee on Infractions has the final ruling on this, and we have to believe that UT basketball will lose more than the occasional pizza party when the ruling finally comes to pass in the next several weeks.
  4. Well, this is certainly interesting.  Over the weekend, Connecticut confirmed (and then denied) that it is in the process of negotiating a deal to oust current athletic director Jeff Hathaway from his position.  Normally, we may not have much of an interest in this administrative decision or non-decision, but according to UConn insiders, the departure of Hathaway may be just the thing to inspire three-time national champion Jim Calhoun to give another year (or two, or three) a shot.  The other intriguing angle to this power play against someone who presided over the basketball team’s latest national title and the football team’s bid to the Orange Bowl is that the Hathaway is scheduled to take over as the Selection Committee’s chairman next season.  This of course begs the question as to whether he might remain in that role if he is no longer affiliated with a Division I school.  Keep an eye on the UConn Blog for the latest on this story.
  5. It’s not very often that the mother of the nation’s top-rated recruit openly questions why a school she likes isn’t recruiting her son, and even less so when that school is a rather pedestrian mid-major, but that appears to be the case with respect to Class of 2012 superstar Shabazz Mohammed and his mom’s alma mater, Long Beach State.  Faye Mohammed starred in track and basketball at LBSU in the mid-1980s, but to hear her tell it, she “would have liked to see [head coach Dan Monson] come in and get involved and see what happened with that.”  Admittedly, the former Gonzaga and Minnesota coach would likely have faced a losing battle going up against schools like Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis, Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA and UNLV (his official list), but don’t you at least make a few calls and hope for a hail mary?  After all, other than that school over in Westwood, Long Beach is the only other local school.
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