Fast Breaks 07.31.08

Posted by rtmsf on July 31st, 2008

As July leads into August, here are some tasty bits of knowledge for the summer heat…

  • Richmond’s top player Dan Geriot is expected to miss the 08-09 season with a knee injury.  Auburn’s best player, Josh Dollard, was simply kicked off the team for not getting his sh!t together.
  • Guess we know how Texas A&M-Corpus Christi made the Tourney two years ago. 
  • Thuggins, summertime, scofflaws.  Any questions?
  • It appears as if Illinois’ Jamar Smith violated the terms of his probation by drinking alcohol; he’ll learn his fate at a Sept. 17 hearing.  In other news, a 21-year old ball player recently had sex with a woman. 
  • Memphis could be in some hot water over an improper phone call made by the FedEx CEO to one of his employees (who also happens to be the mother of the #2 rated PG in the class of 2009, Abdul Gaddy). 
  • Baylor????  No, really, Baylor????
  • Gregg Doyel says he’ll bury the hatchet with Coach K if he brings home the gold medal next month.  The most interesting part of this piece is the story about Coach K torpedoing Doyel’s book deal in 1999.   
  • Yes, UK Fans are insane.  We mean that in a good way, of course.
  • Andy Katz takes a look at the Wake Forest program one year after the untimely death of head coach Skip Prosser.
  • We thought this article by Dana O’Neil about coaches working themselves too hard in light of Prosser’s heart attack was going to suck, but we really enjoyed it.  Coaches whine and complain about the summer circuit, but they really love it (poor headline, ESPN). 
  • Jeff Goodman breaks down his top ten prospects from the summer camps in Vegas.
  • Gary Parrish gives an interesting insight into how programs game the summer recruiting circuit by not hiring assistant coaches until after they’ve developed good relationships with top prospects (sidenote: why did Arizona fire Miles Simon – that guy won them a championship!).  He follow that up with another article on how coaches get creative but ethically suspect in getting recruits onto campus in a legal manner.
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04.25.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on April 25th, 2008

Some news on early entries as the deadline (Sunday at midnight) looms and some other flotsam we’ve been holding on to for your Friday…

  • UNC’s point guard Tywon Lawson will be testing the waters.  Reading the tea leaves, does this signal a pending domino effect for his teammates Wayne Ellington, Tyler Hansbrough and/or Danny Green? 
  • Speaking of the Heels, in light of KU’s title, ol’ Roy’s face was consequently removed from a bathroom in a Lawrence, KS, barber shop. 
  • Super Mario Chalmers will be testing the waters of the NBA Draft, joining teammates Brandon Rush and Darrell Arthur in the pool. 
  • Memphis juniors Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier joined Derrick Rose and CDR in declaring for the NBA Draft this week – both will test the waters.  With Joey Dorsey (ahem) graduating, Memphis could potentially lose its entire starting five.    
  • The Texas backcourt of DJ Augustin and AJ Abrams have also decided to declare for the draft.  Abrams is probably only testing the waters. 
  • Missouri’s DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons will be testing the waters this year as well. 
  • A returner!!!  Tennessee’s Tyler Smith will return to Knoxville, where he’ll likely lead the Vols to another SEC regular season title (and not much else). 
  • VCU’s Anthony Grant and UAB’s Mike Davis received contract extensions from their schools.
  • You’ve probably heard that the itinerant Larry Brown stepped down from his job as Executive VP with the Sixers yesterday.  At least one report thinks he might be going to Stanford to take over Trent Johnson’s old job. 
  • This is a neat article on which Tobacco Road players and coaches are supporting whom in the 2008 election.  Um, shouldn’t Grant Hill be supporting Billary, given that his mom roomed with her at Wellesley?  Or…  maybe that tells you all you need to know. 
  • From the leftovers department, YABB did a quick and dirty analysis of the final conference standings of the NCAA Tournament.  Big 12… good.  ACC and SEC… bad. 
  • This is something we found that shows the progression/regression of the top four programs in terms of total wins over the last ten years.  Carolina really took a hit during those Doherty years, didn’t they?
  • Turning to the NBA Playoffs, this is a nice article on the positive effects that the late Skip Prosser had on his players now in the postseason – CP3, David West and J-Ho. 
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ATB: It’s Baaaaaackk….

Posted by rtmsf on November 10th, 2007

ATB v.4

11.09.07

Story of the Night. 93 Games. 186 teams. Thank God college hoops is back, baby. We’re a little late, but this is why we care. We got to watch pieces of six games tonight, and while the games looked like Nov. 9, meaning sloppy, it was soooo refreshing to see and hear the sneakers squeaking on the hardwood again.

Things We Saw. Kansas is so loaded we can’t understand how they lose to anyone. Darnell Jackson (21/4/4 stls) off the bench, Sherron Collins (22/6 asts/4 stls), and so much more. UL-Monroe isn’t that bad either, but they were really never in the game (Kansas 107, UL-Monroe 78). In Florida, the Gators are (as expected) extremely young but talented – their freshmen scored 46 of their 75 pts and Nick Calathes looked great, leading the team with 21 pts. They were never threatened with an L by North Dakota St., but they could never really put them away either. That will likely come with experience (Florida 75, North Dakota St. 65). Staying in the SEC, Tennessee took a while to get going against Temple, and they didn’t shoot well from 3 (27%), but they still won comfortably. We still have trouble distinguishing between the 47 Smiths they have on the team (all of them are about 6’5 and wear headbands), but they combined for 38/9/6, while Lofton was otherwise limited (10 pts) (Tennessee 80, Temple 63). One question – will Temple ever be relevant again? The best game of the night that was televised was actually the Ohio-NMSU game. New Mexico St. played without stud freshman Herb Pope, but it was evened out because Ohio’s star forward Leon Williams spent most of the night on the bench in foul trouble anyway. The rest of the Ohio starters picked up for Williams, though (64/25/11), despite NMSU clearly having the more athletic team. Martin Iti (7’0, 240) has an NBA body, but why isn’t he more productive (8/9) (Ohio 80, New Mexico St. 72)?

Score of the Night. Stanford 111, the Tommy Amakers 56. None of the Stanford starters played more than 17 mins, and keep in mind they were w/o Brook Lopez in this game as well. The halftime score was 63-28. Good grief, man! Way to inspire confidence in your first game at Harvard, TA.

Upset Alert. UNC-Greensboro 83, Georgia Tech 74. Who said this yesterday – “upset alert if Ga Tech doesn’t come ready to play…” :-) It appears that mid-major all-american Kyle Hines absolutely shredded the Jackets’ front line (25/9/2 blks on 10-12 shooting). You never know what you’re going to get with Ga Tech, but UNCG is a team to watch as a potential at-large out of the SoCon next spring if they get a couple more of these. Belmont 86, Cincinnati 75. This really isn’t an upset, but Cincy was a 9-pt favorite at home. Wait… who said this yesterday also – “upset alert again – UC was horrid last year. Have they improved?” Now that we’re 2-0 this season on upset alerts, we’re quitting. Great BCS win for Belmont, who we perhaps foolishly did not pick to win the A-Sun again this year (gulp… we didn’t pick Gardner-Webb either). Belmont had 19 layups, 12 threes and 10 FTs, which amounted to 84 of their 86 points – now that’s efficiency. Wow. Other upsets: Tulane 77, Auburn 62 – maybe not the result, but the margin.

Line of the Night. There is no question about this one. Michael Beasley (Kansas St.) (34/24/4 assts/4 blks). 24 rebounds sets a new Big 12 conference record. Just sick numbers for a first game. Kansas St. 94, Sacramento St. 63.

Freshmen. Aside from Beasley at K-State, Kevin Love at UCLA also had an impressive debut (22/13) in a Bruin whomping (UCLA 69, Portland St. 48). The Duke trio of freshmen Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and Taylor King combined for 51/14 in a complete and utter destruction of NC Central (Duke 121, NC Central 56). The Devils even pulled out some zone defense, they say.

In Memoriam. Wake Forest honored Skip Prosser by hanging a banner in their arena recognizing his contributions to the school and athletic program. The Deacons played hard and honored his legacy by winning easily (Wake Forest 85, Fairfield 60).

Nov. Bracketbuster. George Mason already helped their at-large profile with tonight’s win over Vermont, one of the better teams in the America East this year. GMU’s Will Thomas (yes, he’s still around) blew up for 16/17, overcoming the Patriots’ abysmal 1-17 from the three point line (George Mason 60, Vermont 53).

Joey Dorsey Award. We like him, but tonight’s award goes to Chris Lofton (Tennessee), for shooting 1-8 (0-5 from three) from the field and only scoring 10 pts. With a stroke like that, we expect nearly all of them to go in.

On Tap Today (all times EST). Another pretty big day with 63 games, although not much on tv because of college football. Here are some of the games to keep an eye for along the bottom line while you watch pigskin.

  • Yale (NL) v. Sacred Heart 1pm – presumptive favorites from the Ivy and NEC play.
  • Texas Tech (-19.5) v. UC Riverside (ESPN FC) 2pm - we have no idea why this is FC worthy.
  • Minnesota (NL) v. Army 3pm – Tubby’s debut will probably go a little better than Billy G’s last game.
  • USC (NL) v. Mercer 4pm – we cannot wait to see the OJ highlights from this one.
  • Bucknell (NL) v. Albany 7pm – a game that could affect seedings (#14 or #15) next March.
  • Oregon (-26) v. Pepperdine (ESPN FC) 7:30pm – how will the Ducks look w/o Aaron Brooks?
  • Vanderbilt (-12) v. Austin Peay 8pm – beating the dead horse here, but this is the kind of game we wish FC would have instead.
  • Marquette (NL) v. IUPUI (ESPN FC) 8:30pm – we’re not completely sold on MU – this could be an interesting game.
  • Pacific v. W. Michigan (-4.5) 9:30pm – if Pacific is back this year, they need to win this game.
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10.22.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2007

The hits just keep on comin’…

  • Tough week at Pepperdine.  First, their top returning player Kingsley Costain was dismissed from the school; now they don’t have anywhere to practice due to the insane fires in Malibu.
  • Now that Maryland has instituted a new alcohol awareness program, what’s the over/under on some Terp like James Gist getting a DWI?  Or maybe it’ll be our favorite tool, Gus Gilchrist?  He committed to the Terps over the weekend and will play next season.
  • Maybe Purdue’s Gordon Watt should transfer to Maryland now – he was kicked out of Purdue for a DWI last week.
  • In a nice gesture, the ACC renamed its Scholar-Athlete award in honor of Skip Prosser.
  • BYU extended head coach Dave Rose‘s contract through 2011.
  • Bob Knight really hates cell phones.
  • Beginning next year, the Preseason NIT will guarantee each participant four games at on-campus sites, even for those teams that lose in the first two rounds.
  • We hadn’t seen this yet, but ESPN announced its College Gameday sites a week or two ago.  We cannot wait until Jan. 26 – Creighton at S. Illinois.
  • Thankfully, Myles Brand says there will be no expansion of the NCAA Tournament anytime soon.
  • Raymond Felton didn’t help Roy after all – Iman Shumpert chose Georgia Tech over UNC and Marquette.
  • Andy Katz has a really interesting article about Kevin Love asking the Wizard of Westwood (who turned 97 Sunday) for advice.  We like this kid already.
  • Thad Matta is hobbling around after back surgery this summer.
  • More Preseason Chatter –
    • ACC Media Days – the Research Triangle schools came in 1 (UNC), 2 (Duke), 3 (NC State) in the preseason conference poll.
    • Seth Davis breaks down Indiana‘s prospects.
    • Katz explains why Calipari opted to stay in Memphis over taking the NC State job two years ago.
    • DeCourcy gives USC some love for tough scheduling (even though they’re going to lose all those games), while he rates crosstown rival UCLA #1 in his poll.
    • STF gets us up to speed on what the mid-major conferences are bringing to the table this year.
    • SEC Hoops:TGTBTD chooses Jamont Gordon over Chris Lofton for SEC POY.   Interesting…
    • Final thought – believe it or not, the Colorado Lady Buffaloes actually have a Brittany Spears and a Whitney Houston on their squad this season.   Coke dealers in Boulder are already calculating their profits.
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10.16.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2007

An absolute ton of newsworthy stuff to catch up on from the weekend…

  • 2008 #1 player Greg Monroe committed to Georgetown after his visit there this weekend.  It couldn’t have had anything to do with that now-ubiquitous Jerry Rice dance, could it?  “Hoops” Weiss has the definitive take on how Monroe will impact the Hoyas.  Above the Rim writes that Duke (who was hot-n-heavy for Monroe) isn’t used to losing out on these guys. 
  • Making the Dance reports that after Georgetown (who obviously had the best MM weekend), Illinois (Bruce Weber can recruit after all?!?!), Indiana, Louisville and several others had good weekends. 
  • Lots of Midnight Madness and practice coverage from the weekend…
    • Huggins taking over the reins at his alma mater.  (there’s an amusing wmv file floating around where Huggins is giving a speech to some WVU booster club – it’s longwinded and rambling, but the DerMarr Johnson payoff is funny) 
    • A general roundup of MM from Lexington to Lawrence.
    • Catching up with Tubby in Minnesota. 
    • Pat Forde takes in the scene at UK with Billy Gillispie.  Apparently Goodman did the same.   
    • Andy Katz checks in on the hype surrounding Memphis. 
    • Goodman also took a road trip to Saluki country to report on the best mid-major not named Gonzaga, while en route to seeing Pitino in Louisville
    • Wake’s first practice without Skip Prosser
    • Dave Odom tries to save his job with transfers at South Carolina.
    • Pitt has XXXL expectations for DeJuan Blair
    • The defending champs (2x) start the rebuilding process.
  • Sad news that former Georgia star and current surgeon Alec Kessler died of a heart attack last weekend. 
  • Injuries, suspensions and dismissals:
    • Gonzaga’s Josh Heytvelt was reinstated on Friday but will miss the first week of practice due to shroom farming foot pain.
    • Louisville’s Juan Palacios injured his ankle and may have to redshirt his senior season. 
    • Brandon Rush reports that he’s on target for his Dec. 1 return to Kansas.
    • Georgia suspended three players for not attending classes, including top two scorers Takais Brown (9 games) and Mike Mercer (15 games).  Seriously, fellas?  SEC Hoops:TGTBTD has the take on how this will affect the Bulldogs.
    • Northwestern’s best player Kevin Coble is taking a leave of absence to be with his sick mother. 
    • Ball St. coach Billy Taylor booted two more players off the team, making a total of six since he was hired in August. 
  • More Preseason goodies:
    • Gary Parrish and Ben Howland converse about whether the Pac-10 will have the most first round picks ever this year.
    • Pitino bitches about the difficulty of the unbalanced league schedule Louisville is being forced to play. 
    • MMAS continues its comprehensive review with its non-BCS top 25
    • Seth Davis asks us 20 questions, then he answers them. 
    • Gary Parrish lists his start-of-practice top 26.  Memphis, eh?
    • The Fanhouse wonders if Memphis is even the best team in its own state.
    • Jeff Goodman takes a realistic look at Duke’s expectations for this season.
    • ESPN plans on showing a grand total of TWO Pac-10 games this year!  Up from zero last year. 
    • The Big 12 handed out its preseason awards – DJ Augustin is the projected POY. 
    • Shawn Siegel lists his top 25 Big 12 players and top 25 Big 10 players for 07-08. 
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Breaking Down the Preseason Mags… pt. 2

Posted by rtmsf on September 14th, 2007

So Wednesday we established that the Athlon Sports preseason magazine is one that you probably shouldn’t take home with you. Unless you’re the type of person who goes gaga over seeing your favorite team/player on the cover and must own them all in a Sisyphian quest to document every newsworthy event involving it throughout history. Consider this excitable Carolina fan’s tale we stumbled across today (re: the Athlon issue)…

Yep, arrived in Atlanta area stores last week, and every darn store I checked had the Georgia edition (one UGA player and one Ga Tech player on the cover). Same as last year. And the year before. Ad nauseum.

So I will do what I do every year – wait until all the mags are out, then drive up to visit my brother in NC and buy every mag with a Heel on the cover. That is always one of my most happy trips of the year.

Hey, we don’t judge. So here’s the second installment of our continuing series of reviews of the preseason magazines.

Next Up: Lindy’s.

Lindy’s

 

I. Covers (5 pts) - are they cool? inclusive?

  • 21 regional covers is a nice number, but the Rocky Mtn states aren’t represented in the least – Does Lindy’s realize that the Mountain West and WAC have fans too?
  • Coolest Cover – none – they’re pretty much all the same format, with multiple players photographically stacked on top of each other.
  • Say What? The Tennessee issue highlights UT, Memphis, Vandy and the Lady Vols?? The NE issue features UConn, BC and something called the “Lady Huskers,” which we assume is supposed to be “Huskies.” Either way, we have no tolerance for this.
  • Total Points = 2

II. Ease of Use (5 pts) – how hard is it to find confs/teams?

  • Somewhat difficult upon first glance. Eleven major conferences are arranged alphabetically, then by predicted order of finish of its teams. The rest of the conferences are shoved into the back of the mag with the teams arranged alphabetically within. Confusing.
  • Standard format otherwise – roundup, features & predictions; analysis of teams; recruiting, in that order.
  • Total Points = 2.5

III. Roundup (10 pts) – every mag has one – tell us something new!

  • Scoping the Nation dives into the one-and-done phenomenon, and pretty much makes the same assessment we made here back in May – that coaches at the elite programs recognize the necessity in assuming the risk of taking potential one-and-dones. The potential reward, as in the cases of Greg Oden and Mike Conley for Thad Matta at Ohio St., is simply too much to pass up. They also take a look at the ten most likely one-and-dones for this season and next.
  • The Nov/Dec Action to Check Out section is a bit of a copout by Lindy’s in the sense that its early publication resulted in not being able to review full schedules. Still, they make an attempt by reviewing the big pre-conference game possibilities in the holiday tournaments.
  • Lots of Lists – that’s ok, we like lists.
    • Top 10 “under the radar” players
    • Top 10 transfer players
    • Top 10 juco transfers
    • Top 10 jump shooters
    • Top 5 defenders
  • Lindy’s also provides a complete Top 25 (+15 fringe teams), a listing of the NCAA field of 65 by conference, as well as predictions of the Sweet 16 and Final Four.
  • There is also a complete list of coaching changes and the conferences are rated first (Pac-10) to worst (SWAC).
  • We also appreciated seeing deserving blurbs on Rick Majerus‘s return to college coaching at St. Louis, and Skip Prosser‘s passing at Wake.
  • They also rate the Top 25 players at each position…
    • PG – Drew Neitzel (Michigan St.)
    • SG – Chris Lofton (Tennessee)
    • SF – Brandon Rush (Kansas)
    • PF – Tyler Hansbrough (UNC)
    • C – Roy Hibbert (Georgetown)
  • …and the top frontcourt (UCLA) and backcourt (UNC).
  • Cool Stat Award. Utah St. guard Jaycee Carroll’s shooting numbers – .527 from the field, .432 on threes, and .888 from the foul line!
  • Total Points = 9

IV. Features (15 pts) – give us some insightful and unique storylines.

  • Kentucky-centric. Three of their feature articles relate to the UK head coaching position – Tubby’s leaving of the job (He’s Gone), Billy D’s courting of the job along with his about-face with Orlando (He Couldn’t Leave), and Gillispie’s acceptance of the job (Billy & the Believers).
  • What’s Good for the Zags… is a good article about the pressures that other mid-major programs (even the successful ones) now face in light of the Gonzaga Effect.
  • Embracing Kelvin is an insightful piece about the “my way or the highway” coaching style of Kelvin Sampson, and validates why we expect big things from IU this season.
  • Early and Often is a somewhat weaker article describing how coaches are faced with recruiting players earlier and earlier in high school (and sometimes back into junior high).
  • Total Points = 11

V. Predictions (20 pts) – how safe are their picks? do they take any chances? are they biased toward the big boys?

  • Lindy’s uses both the 65-team prediction model and the Top 25, as discussed above. Like Athlon, they too have UCLA defeating UNC in the final game, but we give them a little bit of credit for projecting first-timer Tennessee into the F4. They don’t predict an Elite Eight, but only half of their Sweet 16 made it there in 2007, which is realistic.
  • Big Conference Bias. Still, 14 of that Sweet 16 are from BCS conferences – Gonzaga and Memphis are the only exceptions. NCAA Bids – ACC (5), Big Ten (4), Big 12 (5), Big East (8), Pac-10 (7), SEC (7).
  • Mid-Major Watch. Mid-Major bids – 3 A10 (Xavier, St. Joe’s, St. Louis), 2 CAA (George Mason, VCU), 2 CUSA (Memphis, UAB), 1 Mountain West (BYU), 1 WAC (New Mexico St.), 1 MVC (S. Illinois).
  • Surprising Omissions. Florida loses everyone, but are there really seven better teams in the SEC this year? Billy D. has the #1 recruiting class coming into Gainesville. We also think Lorenzo Romar’s Washington squad is primed for a return to the NCAAs this year. Also, we gotta believe that the always-underrated MVC will manage to get another team in there, while seven (Georgia and Vandy??) from the SEC is a little ridiculous this year.
  • Boldest Prediction. Again, Lindy’s doesn’t go too far out on a limb with any of their picks, but Alabama winning the SEC West completely depends on Ronald Steele’s knees, and Cornell winning the Ivy League is also dubious.
  • Total Points = 14

VI. Conference Pages (5 pts) – as a primer for the conference, how much can we learn here?

  • The major and mid-major conferences get a predicted order of finish with brief analysis, a substantial recruiting roundup, three teams of all-conference selections, returning leaders in key categories, team stats and a fair superlatives section. While we appreciate a focus on acquainting readers with the newcomers, we would have liked to have seen less space used on this in favor of the returners.
  • The small conferences get a predicted order of finish, two teams of all-conference selections and a superlatives section.
  • Total Points = 3.5

VII. Team Pages (20 pts) – how in-depth is the analysis? where does it come from? is it timely and insightful given this year’s squad or is it just a rundown of last year’s achievements?

  • Lindy’s Top 40 teams get a full page of analysis, including player evaluations and team statistical rankings.
  • All other BCS and mid-major teams get a brief half-page of analysis with the same evaluations/rankings. Low major teams (even if predicted to make the NCAA Tourney) get a paragraph and a few key stats. Minimal info.
  • Again, similar to Athlon, analysis is lacking. Much of it is based on recapping last season’s accomplishments plus the obligatory coach’s quotes. For teams outside the Top 40, they barely get a mention.
  • Total Points = 12

VIII. Recruiting (5 pts) – we want to know who the top players are coming into college bball, where they’re going and who to watch for next year.

  • As mentioned above, each major conference page has a substantial section on newcomers and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
  • Six pages of recruiting information, featuring the top 25 recruiting classes with a brief description of each.
  • The top 50 of 2007 is provided by Rivals.com, but Lindy’s focuses on the future classes more than present, listing the top 100 for both 2008 and 2009, plus the top 10 for 2010.
  • They also provide some much-needed context and analysis from Justin Young at Rivals.
  • Total Points = 5

IX. Title IX Guilt (aka Chick Ball) (5 pts) – the less the better…

  • We already established that they’re putting some women’s players on the cover.
  • They also give it four pages in the front features section, with a detailed top 25 and fifteen All-Americans. Unacceptable.
  • Total Points = 1

X. Intangibles (15 pts) – what’s good and bad about the magazine as a whole?

  • Errors. We’re not sure if the cause is shoddy editing or what, but who and what are Reyshawn Green Terry (formerly of UNC) (p.9), David Lightly Lighty (Ohio St.) (p.18) and Gongzaga Gonzaga (p.28)? – these errors were found in the first few pages and seemed pervasive throughout, mitigating the mag’s credibility from the start.
  • Whereas Lindy’s provides far more interesting detail in almost every other area over Athlon, its writing (and clearly its editing) is weaker on the whole.
  • Again, no schedules due to the early publication date.
  • It takes some risks with its predictions (which we like), but its analysis really doesn’t explain why, e.g., Georgia is an NCAA Tournament team and Florida isn’t.
  • Total Points = 9

RTC Grade for Lindy’s = 69 pts

Basis: Lindy’s is a better magazine on the whole than Athlon, but it has serious weaknesses with respect to its team analyses. Where it excels is in the areas of roundup and recruiting information, but it needs better writing, editing and much more consideration of the smaller conferences. A little more attention to detail would make this magazine a legit value in future iterations.

Grading Scale:

  • 90-100 pts - exceptional quality in all areas – must buy and keep on-hand all season!
  • 80-89 pts - very good quality mag – worthy of purchasing and reading cover-to-cover
  • 70-79 pts - average, run of the mill magazine – some value in certain areas but weak in others – tough call as to whether to purchase it
  • 60-69 pts - magazine on the weaker side, but may still have some positive attributes – probably not worth the money, though
  • 0-59 pts - such a low quality magazine that it’s not worth any more than the five minutes you thumbed through it at the store
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Breaking Down the Preseason Mags…

Posted by rtmsf on September 12th, 2007

We’re heading into the middle of September already, literally thirty days until Midnight Madness, and the first batch of preseason mags are already proliferating on B&N shelves like West Virginians on crystal meth at a swap meet (no offense intended to the West Virginians not on crystal meth, of course). We know many of our readers are asking, “what’s a magazine?” To which we reply, “it’s what old people read while they’re on the toilet.” For our few readers here over 30 (present company excluded), we offer the first installment of our continuing series of reviews of the preseason magazines.

First in line: Athlon Sports.

Athlon Preseason Cover 07

I. Covers (5 pts) - are they cool? inclusive?

  • 34 regional covers seems like overkill, but we suppose having a Minnesota/Iowa/Iowa St. cover matters to someone.
  • Coolest Cover – for some reason, we particularly like the elated yet menacing look Patrick Beverly gives the camera on the Arkansas edition.
  • Say What? Athlon’s UCLA/USC cover (above) features Kevin Love and OJ Mayo in their Burger Boy unis – was it really too much trouble to shoot them with their correct jerseys on?
  • Total Points = 4

II. Ease of Use (5 pts) – how hard is it to find confs/teams?

  • Conferences and teams are arranged alphabetically, allowing for quick navigation assuming you know your conference.
  • Standard format otherwise – features & predictions; analysis of teams; recruiting, in that order.
  • Total Points = 4

III. Roundup (10 pts) – every mag has one – tell us something new!

  • 10 Things to Watch is ok, but we didn’t learn anything new (i.e., the Pac-10 is great, keep an eye on Love/Mayo/Gordon, etc.).
  • Hoops Madness is a little better, mostly because of its lists of emerging stars (hot sophs to watch), top transfers and coaches on the hot seat. Also enjoyed learning that Dayton’s band has become the band by proxy for the Niagara Purple Aces (since NU doesn’t have one).
  • Cool Stat Award. Memo to Adam Lonon (VMI) – shoot more! (31 starts, 26 FGs)
  • Total Points = 5

IV. Features (15 pts) – give us some insightful and unique storylines.

  • Next Generation is a decent article about the young brigade of coaches who have been successful so far (Donovan, Matta, JT3, Howland, etc.). It wasn’t unique, as we expect to see a lot of this in the rags this year.
  • The Fix relates the story of the Tulane pointshaving scandal two decades ago. Although the article briefly mentions the Tim Donaghy story, it focuses primarily (and misguidedly) on the people involved in the scandal. What we needed to see here was an article about the existence of gambling among college athletes and efforts to prevent it. Big swing & miss here.
  • The Scoop is three one-page interviews with Ronald Steele (Alabama), Bill Walker (Kansas St.) and Drew Neitzel (Michigan St.), none of which are very interesting.
  • Total Points = 5

V. Predictions (20 pts) – how safe are their picks? do they take any chances? are they biased toward the big boys?

  • Athlon uses the 65-team prediction model, eschewing the traditional Top 25 (they get pts for that). But Athlon goes waaaaaaaaay safe by predicting six of the elite eight the same as 2007 (Georgetown, Kansas, Memphis, UNC, Oregon, UCLA with Louisville and Tennessee added for good measure). UCLA defeats Carolina in the championship.
  • Big Conference Bias. 15 of its Sweet 16 are from BCS conferences – highly doubtful and incredibly LAME! NCAA Bids – ACC (5), Big Ten (5), Big 12 (5), Big East (9), Pac-10 (7), SEC (6).
  • Mid-Major Watch. Only Memphis from a mid-major conference (CUSA) into the Sweet 16. Mid-Major bids – 2 CAA (George Mason, VCU), 2 MVC (Bradley, S. Illinois), 1 A10 (Xavier), 1 Mountain West (BYU), 1 WAC (Nevada). We’ll bet anything Athlon’s editors choose that those six conferences will get more than eight bids next March.
  • All-Americans. Athlon really likes Drew Neitzel for some reason. He joins Psycho T, Chris Lofton, Roy Hibbert and Darren Collison (?) on their first team. They took a big flier on putting oft-injured Ronald Steele on the third team.
  • Boldest Prediction. It’s sad that we had to dig this deep to find it, but it’s probably their pick for Cornell to win the Ivy League over Penn & Princeton. The last time a team other than those two won the Ivy Championship was in 1988 with (guess who?) Cornell.
  • Total Points = 10

VI. Conference Pages (5 pts) – as a primer for the conference, how much can we learn here?

  • The major conferences get a predicted order of finish, a brief recruiting roundup, and three teams of all-conference selections plus a “superlatives” section, which is fairly weak compared to others we’ve seen (POY, DPOY, most underrated, newcomer).
  • The mid-major and small conferences only get a predicted order of finish, one team of all-conference selections and an all-time NCAA Tourney stat for the conference (which is interesting).
  • Total Points = 2.5

VII. Team Pages (20 pts) – how in-depth is the analysis? where does it come from? is it timely and insightful given this year’s squad or is it just a rundown of last year’s achievements?

  • All major conference and projected mid-major NCAA Tournament teams get a full page of analysis, including evaluations of the frontcourt and backcourt as well as a team roster (w/ stats) and a team-oriented stat.
  • Non-NCAA Tournament mid-majors and low majors get at most a half-page analysis and roster, but most only get a paragraph with a very brief synopsis.
  • Clearly much of the analysis is based on what coach’s interviews, which results in analyses from “glass half full” perspective. We would have liked to have seen more contrarian viewpoints.
  • The depth of analysis is solid if not spectacular for the major conference teams, but largely lacking for the others.
  • Total Points = 14

VIII. Recruiting (5 pts) – we want to know who the top players are coming into college bball, where they’re going and who to watch for next year.

  • Four pages of recruiting information, including the top 100 (Scout.com) of 2007, the next 200 players, and the top 20 by position. Solid raw data.
  • It also includes the top 25 classes, but only as a list, with no additional details.
  • The top 100 in the class of 2008, top 25 in 2009 and top 10 in 2010 are also listed.
  • Total Points = 3

IX. Title IX Guilt (aka Chick Ball) (5 pts) – the less the better…

  • Only two pages worth, and at the very back of the magazine.
  • Total Points = 5

X. Intangibles (15 pts) – what’s good and bad about the magazine as a whole?

  • In the past, Athlon’s mag hasn’t always looked as professional as some of the others. This is no longer the case. Its layout looks great, the photos and graphics are solid, and the writing has improved.
  • Because it comes out so early, the advantage it gains in being one of the first published is mitigated by other temporal factors. Most notably, there are no schedules within the magazine – for that reason alone, Athlon cannot be your “go-to” preview issue during the season.
  • Additionally, its early publish date means that it misses late summer news involving injuries, transfers and coaching changes. While they did get the Skip Prosser news in there, they did not, for example, consider how Andy Rautins’ knee injury will impact Syracuse.
  • As a nontraditional magazine (i.e., not Street & Smith or TSN), Athlon should have taken more risks with their predictions – going all chalk won’t separate it from the pack.
  • Total Points = 8

RTC Grade for Athlon = 60.5 pts

Basis: Athlon is on the lower side of quality with the preseason magazines, but they have gotten better, and there is some value in their analysis. Its best use (given its early arrival on the newstand) is simply to refamiliarize yourself with the names and faces of the upcoming season. We wouldn’t recognize purchasing it unless you simply cannot wait for the better ones to come out.

Grading Scale:

  • 90-100 pts - exceptional quality in all areas – must buy and keep on-hand all season!
  • 80-89 pts - very good quality mag – worthy of purchasing and reading cover-to-cover
  • 70-79 pts - average, run of the mill magazine – some value in certain areas but weak in others – tough call as to whether to purchase it
  • 60-69 pts - magazine on the weaker side, but may still have some positive attributes – probably not worth the money, though
  • 0-59 pts - such a low quality magazine that it’s not worth any more than the five minutes you thumbed through it at the store
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08.20.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on August 20th, 2007

Some random morsels on Michael Vick Day in America:

  • And now on to the next great great political debate, Swift Boat style.  Did Obama play ball at Occidental or not?  There appears to be some dispute on this story, with a blogger at the Fanhouse refuting the original story we linked to from last week, while someone else dug up an old Washington Post quote from his coach talking about his game.  This is so much more interesting than whether W showed up for air guard duty!
  • Aggiesports.com reports with an in-depth article on Billy G‘s first 100 days in Lexington.
  • Quick, what Big East team has the most wins in the Big East Tournament during the 2000s?  If you said Pittsburgh (15 wins, largely due to five runner-up finishes) give yourself a Dave Gavitt doll.
  • Andy Katz exonerated Roy Williams from the accusation that he was still recruiting Wake Forest commit 6’11 PF Ty Walker after the death of Skip Prosser several weeks ago.  There was apparently some misunderstanding over a letter of condolences sent by Williams to Walker regarding the incident (from Katz’s blog – subscriber only).
  • A small newspaper article in Missouri confirms what we’ve always known as true about the upcoming college football season (which, admittedly, we enjoy very much despite its fundamental flaws):
    • But that’s what we’re asked to do year after year during college football season, as the “best regular season” leads way to the “worst postseason” of any sport. Sure, the bowl games are great for TV viewing on New Year’s Day, but most of them are meaningless and the game we’re supposed to care the most about happened during the second week of January last season.

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wwWFd?

Posted by rtmsf on August 1st, 2007

As the Wake Forest community struggles to begin the healing process after the shocking death of Coach Skip Prosser last week, fans and alumni are left wondering what will happen next?  While there’s a standard protocol in place for when a coach retires, leaves for another program or simply gets fired, there really isn’t one for something like this.  Wake’s AD Ron Wellman is facing some tough internal conflicts:

When is the appropriate time to begin talking about replacing a man that was so dear to the campus community?

How do you strike a proper balance between respect for the man’s family and legacy while also working in the best long-term interests of the school?

What do you say to the players and recruits about the direction in which the program will be going, as their lives and futures are most impacted by your immediate decisions?

Ron Wellman 

Wellman Has a Difficult Road Ahead to Navigate

We don’t envy Wellman’s position, as he is facing an extremely precarious situation.  Any decision made too rashly or emotionally could negatively affect the basketball (and overall sports) program for the next decade.  Any decision made too callously or calculatingly could result in a negative undercurrent that could also tarnish the integrity of the school and program.  The key for Wellman, as when he hired Prosser and football coach Jim Grobe, is to find a situation that appropriately balances all factors to the greatest extent possible.  MUCH easier said than done.

The Wake Forest message boards have already been buzzing about possible replacements for Coach Prosser, and as expected, they have fallen into two camps.  As best we can ballpark it, from half to two-thirds of Wake fans would like to see Wellman promote from within, giving either of Prosser’s assistant coaches Dino Gaudio or Jeff Battle a chance to lead the program without the dreaded “interim” tag attached.  There are a couple of recent precedents for this course of action – Northwestern promoted its top assistant Pat Fitzgerald when its head football coach, Randy Walker, unexpectedly died in July 2006.  Indiana did likewise with Bill Lynch when its head football coach, Terry Hoeppner, died of a brain tumor in June 2007.  Wellman may feel less pressure to make this move with the announcement today that the vaunted “AT&T” class of 2008 are expected to keep their verbal commitments to the school.   

The remainder would like to see Wellman open up a national search for a new coach.  Despite the lateness of the season in the coaching carousel, there is a reasonable expectation that some coaches would leave their current programs mid-stream in order to have an opportunity at an ACC school with a top-rated recruiting class set to arrive.  The most commonly discussed names (with positives and negatives below) are:

  • Mike Montgomery – former head coach of Stanford (1986-2004) and the Golden State Warriors (2004-06)
    • Monty is the only former D1 coach out there who is currently available.
    • He fits the “profile” in that he ran a clean program in a strict academic environment at a small private school competing in a BCS conference.
    • Very successful at Stanford and Montana (25 winning seasons in 26 years), including a F4 appearance in 1998.
    • Would a long-time California guy want to move to the east coast?
    • He is sixty years old – would he have the requisite drive and/or interest at this point in his life?

Mike Montgomery

Can Wake Lure Monty out of Retirement?

  • Anthony Grant – current VCU head coach (2006-present) and former uber-recruiter under Billy Donovan at Florida (1996-2006)
    • Clearly he’s on the fast track to a major job – it’s simply a matter of when and where?
    • Plays an exciting uptempo style of ball honed while on staff with Billy D at Florida.
    • Has shown he can beat Duke in March.
    • Only one year of collegiate head coaching experience (although a very good year at VCU).
    • 41 years old – inexperienced, but potential to become Wake’s coach for the next 25 years. 

Anthony Grant

How About Anthony Grant?

  • Gregg Marshall – current Wichita St. head coach (2007) and former Winthrop head coach (1998-2007)
    • A (South) Carolina guy who is familiar with the ins and outs of recruiting in the area as well as the ACC.
    • Just took a job with Wichita St. in April 2007 after nine very successful seasons at Winthrop – too disruptive and unfair to WSU?
    • Style of play could be a problem – Wake fans tend to want to play uptempo basketball, and Marshall’s teams are slower than Xmas. 
    • 44 years old, but experienced and very successful considering he was at a Big South school for nine seasons (7 NCAA appearances)
  • Bob McKillop – current Davidson head coach (1989-present)
    • Another coach familiar with the landscape of the ACC, having worked and recruited in the area for nearly two decades.
    • Tremendous success at a small academically-oriented school (4 NCAA appearances and 3 NIT appearances in the last fourteen seasons).
  • Brad Brownell - current Wright St. head coach (2006-present) and former UNC-Wilmington head coach (2002-06)
    • Another young (38 years old) up-and-comer who has had oustanding success in five short years at UNC-Wilmington (2 NCAAs in 4 seasons) and Wright St. (1 NCAA in 1 season).
    • Roots are in the midwest although he spent four recent years in North Carolina, so he should understand the lay of the land.

 Bob McKillop

Or a Darkhorse Like McKillop?

Whichever direction Wellman chooses to go, he undoubtedly has his work cut out for him.  Stay tuned, as we’ll be all over the story if something breaks. 

 

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Monday Thoughts

Posted by rtmsf on July 30th, 2007

A few different thoughts today, but none enough for its own post:

  • Circling back to the Donaghy saga, TrueHoop uncovered an academic paper on the NBA by a Stanford undergrad  named Jonathan Gibbs that echoes the findings of the Wharton study on college basketball by Prof. Justin Wolfers that we mentioned last week.  In summary, Gibbs found that there are a number of statistical outlier NBA games each season where heavy favorites beat the spread less often than they should, which, when controlled for confounding factors, is suggestive of pointshaving.  This certainly comports with our prior stance that it happens more often than we all think.  It seems that the only way to truly combat this problem is for the NBA and college conferences to use rigorous statistical analyses such as these to isolate anamolous game performances with respect to the spread (something that neither is likely doing at present), and then systemically review the games isolated for any funny business on the part of the players and/or officials.  Freakonomics at work, baby!
  • As the Wake Forest Nation continues to mourn the tragic loss of Skip Prosser, preparations are being made to say goodbye:
    • A public viewing will be held on Monday, July 30 from 2 p.m. until 9 p.m. at Holy Family Catholic Church in Clemmons, N.C.
    • The funeral mass will be celebrated at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 31 at Holy Family Catholic Church.  The mass will be simultaneously televised in Wait Chapel. Members of the Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem communities are invited to view the mass live in Wait Chapel.
    • The Wake Forest assistant coaching staff will serve as pallbearers. The current and incoming members of the Demon Deacon basketball team will serve as honorary pallbearers.
    • Burial is tentatively scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, August 4 in Cincinnati.    
  • Finally, we’d also like to point out that the US Pan Am Team lost its first two games at the competition in Rio de Janeiro and was out of medal contention pretty much as soon as they stepped off the plane.  We’ll have a more detailed report later with respect to who played well and who didn’t, but for now, suffice it to say that fifth place with our best collegians is simply unacceptable and indicative of a much larger problem with USA hoops, as we discussed here.   
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TP for Skip

Posted by rtmsf on July 27th, 2007

We’ll Miss You Skip 

WFU Skip

As promised, and much to the surprise of the various scavengers and other denizens of the night, we went outside our apartment building at midnight and paid our respects to Coach Prosser by TPing the trees out front.  You can see above (h/t to Adam Dovico for the the great pic) some of the work done on campus last night as well.  We were only two people with limited rolls of spare TP, so the result looks a little sad, but the effect on our souls was cathartic and we ultimately felt that Skip would be proud of our efforts.  Here is our contribution:

Roll 4 Skip 1 

Roll 4 Skip 3

Roll 4 Skip 4

(apologies for the blurriness – we’re bloggers not photographers)…

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Skip Prosser – Forever a Deacon

Posted by rtmsf on July 26th, 2007

Skip RIP

With the news today of the passing of Skip Prosser, Deacon Nation and the rest of the college basketball world is coming to terms with what many people have described as a loss of “one of the good guys” in the game. This hits us a little harder than most, as although we’ve tried to keep our biases and fanship quiet for the sake of the objectivity of this blog, we too are a Demon Deacon (class of 1995). Today we drop our professional facade and give the man his proper dues and respects.

We’ve been no stranger to criticism of Skip as a coach over the last few years, but make no mistake, we always believed in our heart that Coach Prosser was an excellent teacher, person and family man in addition to being an exceptional coach. Not once have we ever heard anyone within the college basketball community question the man’s passion, his ethics, or his character. And most of all, in only six short years at Wake Forest he had completely morphed into a true Deacon, a fan of not only his own players but of the entire university’s sports program and, most of all, the student body.

Skip Coaching

A friend of ours reminded us that Skip never lost sight of the fact that he always, first and foremost, considered himself the same high school history teacher that he was back in his hometown of Pittsburgh. To that end, he graduated every one of his players who stayed all four years at Wake Forest. Always the academic, he would often sprinkle quotes from Tennyson and Shakespeare into his discussions of team defense and free throw shooting. There was a certain eloquence in the way he spoke that reminded you that he had more than just basketball on his brain twenty-four hours a day.

Despite that fact, Skip’s passion for the game could never be questioned. As a fellow Deac, we could read the pain on his face over the last couple of mediocre seasons as he struggled to keep the program afloat. But as if by cruel fate, last week it seemed as if he had once again turned the corner – just as he had at Xavier, and just as he had at Wake when he arrived – by receiving commitments from three players who would arguably form the #1 recruiting class of 2008. A recent cnnsi.com article revealed that Prosser was extremely excited about his recent coup, and why wouldn’t he be? Life as a coach in the ACC is hard enough with top talent – considering his haul, the future for Skip’s program could only be described as bright.

Roll the Quad 2

We had the good fortune to spend some time as an alumnus back on the Wake campus during Skip’s first two seasons (2001-02 and 2002-03), and the infusion with which he energized the campus was palpable. The previous administration under Dave Odom had left a dispirited pall over what had just years before been a basketball-crazy campus, dating back to the 1990s glory years of Rodney Rogers, Randolph Childress and Tim Duncan. Upon arrival, Skip immediately unleashed Josh Howard onto the rest of the ACC, recruited Chris Paul and Eric Williams, and once again the Joel was rocking. Over the next four seasons under the helm of Prosser, Wake ascended to its first-ever #1 ranking and the Tie Dye Nation at the Joel became a nightmare for most opponents, earning its rightful place among the toughest venues to play in America.

Skip with Students

But more importantly, Skip became the Campus Coach, often walking around meeting students, encouraging them to cheer throughout the games and generally making himself a fixture just as notorious as the magnolias on the quad or the noontime bells of Wait Chapel. As an indication of the campus hysteria, at one point the Screamin’ Demon basketball fan group numbered over 2000 kids, more than half of the student body – undoubtedly no other school in the nation can match that level of commitment. Skip engendered this relationship, as he would often email the student body the afternoon of a big game extolling them to “meet me on the quad at midnight,” representing the time-honored Deacon tradition of rolling the quad after a big victory. To that end, a grass-roots campaign has begun today to honor Skip with a quad-rolling tonight at midnight – and although we cannot be there in person, you can rest assured that the tall tree outside our building will turn white tonight.

Rest in Peace, Skip – you will always be a Deacon.

 

Update:  Katz, Decourcy, Seth Davis, Vitale, Parrish, and Wetzel weigh in with their thoughts.

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