It wouldn’t be the Morning Five without a John Calipari mention, as the sport’s biggest newsmaker spins the media like a top with his almost-daily appearances, interviews, and social media missives. Yesterday on his website the Kentucky head coach wrote that his new scheduling strategy — pushing for more neutral site appearances against marquee opponents — will result in a one-year hiatus in the Kentucky-North Carolina series, but the home-and-home battle between two of the best programs in the country will return in 2013-14. The purpose of this move according to Calipari is to alternate years where the Wildcats will have to travel to Chapel Hill and Louisville, meaning that UK will play at least one tough non-conference road game each year. The Wildcats have also picked up a home/neutral series with Baylor starting next season that will allow them to play in Cowboys Stadium in 2013-14, the site of that year’s Final Four. Perhaps most interestingly, though, is that Calipari says that he’s in negotiations with Duke to begin an annual rotating neutral site game that he says would be on the same weekend each year and become “THE GAME” to watch. We certainly can’t argue with that.
What we can argue with was a curious comment that Calipari made in his post explaining why he’s so gung ho on scheduling future neutral site games in football stadiums: “I’m convinced we would have won the title two seasons ago if we would have played in a dome during the regular season. Our guys weren’t prepared for it.” At first blush, this sounds reasonable on its face. But closer examination suggests that the head coach is tailoring the facts of his argument to justify what he wants. First of all, the Wildcats lost to West Virginia in the Elite Eight in Syracuse in 2010, which means of course that they had to win a Sweet Sixteen game in the Carrier Dome two days prior — on the same floor, in the same dome, only against a different team (Cornell). Did John Wall and company forget what they’d learned about playing in a dome environment just 48 hours before the loss to WVU? Next, the 2012 team that just won the national championship in the Superdome didn’t play in a dome environment at all in this year’s regular season or in the SEC Tournament. Still, without that ‘necessary’ experience, the Wildcats successively rolled through Indiana, Baylor, Louisville and Kansas to win it all. All in domes. If Calipari wants to play the lack of experience card to forgive the failure of the 2010 Wildcats, he probably should be looking at the ridiculously soft schedule that his Wildcats ran through on its way to a 35-3 record that year. When both teams matched up in the Elite Eight, the Mountaineers were by far the best team UK had faced all season. Kentucky’s lack of experience in playing good teams was the problem; it wasn’t that they hadn’t played in a dome. [Ed. Note: It is unclear which team Calipari was referring to, but the 2010 team was a far superior team if he was talking about winning a national championship.]
From a coach spewing nonsense to players doing likewise… Deadspinpublished a really interesting piece on Thursday examining in great detail documents from the cottage industry of companies who are tasked with monitoring college athletes’ social networking accounts. The article describes how it works: First, the schools get access to each player’s account through a special tracking mechanism that scans their pages regularly. Then, “once the computers gather all that data, the firms’ software searches it for trigger words and reports back to coaches and athletic department functionaries. This happens in near real-time.” It wouldn’t be Deadspin-worthy unless the examples were equal parts hilarious and horrifying, so we’d just suggest you set aside a few minutes of your time and get over there to poke around. Of particular interest is one company’s documentation and definition of many of the most common trigger words and phrases that could get players in trouble. Let’s just end this by saying that if you’re over 30 years old, you’re probably going to learn a few new slang words or acronyms to test on your buddies during the long weekend.
More conference realignment! And it doesn’t involve yet another rumor about Florida State, Clemson or Miami. No, UT-Arlington, a Southland school who is (we’re not kidding) joining the WAC on July 1, will spend one year in that league before movin’ on up to the Sun Belt, effective next summer. You read that correctly — in a span of 366 days (from June 30, 2012 to July 1, 2013), UT-Arlington will be a member of three different conferences. At the mid-major level, it’s just short of impossible to keep up with who is heading where, but we think that the Sun Belt will also pick up Georgia State and Texas State to replace the losses of FIU, Denver, and North Texas to the WAC and Conference USA. Whether the WAC survives all of this re-shuffling remains to be seen.
A couple of head coaching positions at the mid-major level were filled on Thursday, with Rider and Binghamton inextricably connected through the transition. Binghamton hired Rider head coach Tommy Dempseyto take over for Mark Macon, a former star player at Temple who was unable to dig out of the morass left by his predecessor, Kevin Broadus. Rider acted quickly to fill the vacuum, promoting assistant coach Kevin Baggett to the helm for purposes of continuity. Rider has averaged 18.5 wins per season in the six years that Baggett was an assistant for Dempsey, so it makes sense that the administration wants to keep the momentum moving forward.
Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this piece he’ll spend each week reviewing the five things he loved and hated about the previous week of college basketball.
The Five Things I Loved This Week
I LOVED…..a monster throwdown over a brave defender. Too often these days the defensive player gets out of the way, fearful of ending up on the wrong end of an ESPN Top Ten nominee. But not Georgetown sophomore Hollis Thompson. He stood tall in the paint and boldly said “Posterize me,” to Memphis’ D.J. Stephens, who replied, “As you wish” in rim-rocking fashion. Also, you have to love that “Blake Griffin-esque” was the first adjective used by the announcers on the slo-mo replay.
I LOVED…..how many players rotate through the “No. 1 draft prospect in America” slot during the college season. First it was UNC’s Harrison Barnes, before he even took a shot. Then it was Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger for a bit, followed by some rumblings about Baylor’s Perry Jones. Of course we haven’t even gotten to the NCAA Tournament yet, that wonderful showcase that tends to exponentially inflate or deflate draft projections (remember Joakim Noah’s rise to the top of the board after Florida’s first title?). Stay tuned – next week’s No. 1 pick could be coming to a court near you.
I LOVED…..that Western Kentucky coach Ken McDonald felt so bad about his team’s performance that he reimbursed fans for their gas mileage. How awesome is that in today’s coaching world, which has plenty of big egos and more than a hint of the “don’t blame me” philosophy. You have to wonder why some big-name coaches don’t do things like this. Obviously it’s harder with larger fan bases, but big-name coaches make big-time money, and creative PR moves like this can go a long way. My hat is off to the Hilltoppers.
I LOVED…..an awkward moment. And who doesn’t love awkward moments, if we’re truly honest with ourselves. This week we had a doozy. Roy Williams, he of Carolina upbringing and the understudy of legendary Dean Smith (synonymous with God in Tar Heel country), released his necessary statement of admiration for Mike Krzyzewski as the Duke coach gets set to pass Smith in all-time wins. Take a read – it’s a humorous mixture of, “Yes this is amazing that you broke this record and I’m congratulating you” and “but you’re also passing my idol which really really sucks.” Oh and PS, these two coach in the sport’s biggest rivalry and don’t really get along that well to start with. Wayda suck it up Roy.
I LOVED…..a feel-good story. This one comes from Presbyterian College, which has a unique group of players who thought they would get a shot to play in the NCAA Tournament, only for the school to be denied Division I status. The cool part? Their studs all decided to stay and finish what they started, even though they won’t get a chance to be on CBS in March. Give it a read for a nice, refreshing change from the big-time programs.
The Five Things I Hated This Week
I HATED…..Renardo Sidney’s ridiculousness in the stands in Hawaii. Maybe it brings back too many eerie memories of Ron Artest’s rampage into the crowd, but any fan of college basketball has to cringe at what this type of publicity does to the sport. Yeah, the first instinct might be to smile and shake your head, but it’s downright embarrassing for the Mississippi State program – and a poor reflection on college athletes.
Thoughts and prayers from the RTC family to Samford head coach Jimmy Tillette, who collapsed on the bench Saturday during a game versus UNC-Greensboro. He was in the process of being airlifted to UAB Hospital in Birmingham Sunday afternoon, and was in stable condition, so that’s good to hear.
You may have heard about this on Saturday, but Michigan’s Manny Harris was held out of the Wolverines’ game against Purdue by John Beilein for “unsportsmanlike conduct” during a practice last week. Of course, Michigan got rung up by the Boilermakers without Harris in the lineup on Saturday, but what did he do? Word out of Ann Arbor is that he may be held out of the Michigan State rivalry game on Tuesday night as well, which suggests a fairly serious offense (beyond throwing a wayward elbow, per a UM message board). For what it’s worth, Fab Fiver Jimmy King says that he doesn’t know the specifics, but that Harris needs “to understand that the coach is the man and ultimately you’re the player so you can’t go against the coach regardless if you feel you’re right.” That sounds fairly specific to us, and suggests a lot Harris did something more than throw a ‘bow.
Tyshawn Taylor got himself into more Facebook hot water last week after posting that he wanted to transfer out of Kansas last Wednesday night (if anyone has a screenshot of this, send it to us). His FB account was deleted soon thereafter, and Bill Self spent part of his Friday press conference refusing to talk about it. Whatever the case, Taylor put up numbers of 7/5 in thirteen minutes of action against Iowa State on Saturday.
So what’s wrong with North Carolina? BP says it comes down to their three-point shooting and defense. The three-point shooting is understandable, as Will Graves appears to be the only reliable threat from distance, but the defense is a little perplexing given all the size and length there is on that team. Maybe Roy should consider actually slowing the game down a bit to utilize his interior strength?
That rule about the invisible charge-restriction area under the basket? The NCAA Coordinator of Officiating, John Adams, thinks it’s working fine. We absolutely agree that the Shane Battier Rule is a great thing for the game, but we’re not still not clear on why we can’t just put a dotted line down there to make it clearer where the zone starts and ends.
Methinks someone is getting a liiiiiittle too specific with their social networking policy (such a thing exists?).
Indeed. The University of Oklahoma, still smarting from probation based on impermissible phone calls by Kelvin Sampson and a pay-for-play scandal involving bogus jobs (not to mention former Sooner Josh Jarboe’s profane riffs on existentialism), has released records of its new social networking policy, which endeavors to outline exactly the kinds of news feed updates, photo montages and tweets that, as student-athletes, are not in the best interests of the Sooner Nation. Specifically, from the AP:
[A]thletes are warned that their postings must comply with a code of conduct and can be punishable with education, counseling, suspension or expulsion and with the reduction or cancellation of financial aid. It warns athletes not to post pictures that would portray them negatively nor post contact information that agents or their runners could use to put the athletes’ eligibility in jeopardy. “‘Partying,’ ‘drinking,’ and ‘getting wasted’ do not qualify as real hobbies or interests,” the policy warns.
We’ve yet to see the entire document of prohibitions, but hopefully the OU compliance folks managed to capture some of the other necessary guidelines to avoid the ignominy of NCAA gumshoes once again sniffing around Norman:
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Former US olympian Karch Kiraly would even be impressed by this rejection from St. Louis’ Jordair Jett (talk about living up to your name)…