Morning Five: 07.24.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 24th, 2013

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  1. Tuesday was the day for the Louisville Cardinals to visit the White House to celebrate their 2013 national championship, and perhaps the very best part of the entire proceeding was the extremely lukewarm applause at the top that Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) received when introduced by the POTUS. Obama gave his standard spiel of light-hearted remarks during the 10-minute event, referencing how Rick Pitino’s motivational technique of promising to get a tattoo “busted” his bracket and avoiding mention of the “other” school where the head coach won his first of two national titles. Pitino, to his credit, exalted the president while hitting on the themes of loyalty and perseverance that have come to define his teams at Louisville — giving Obama a Louisville Slugger engraved with his name to handle any future disruptive press conferences. For a much more detailed description of the Cards’ visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, check out Eric Crawford’s report from WDRB.com; and The Dagger has some great pictures that the players and entourage took while there. The entire press conference is at the bottom of this post.
  2. While Barack Obama has certainly taken his share of sniping in accordance with his lofty geopolitical position, the NCAA’s Mark Emmert may have taken even more concentrated vitriol from a unilateral perspective  (at least the Democrats support Obama; few seem to like Emmert). “One misstep after another,” as one administrator in this ESPN.com piece from Mike Fish and Dana O’Neil describes his three-year tenure as president of the organization. The accusations against the NCAA boss are lengthy, including not only mishandling of both the Penn State and Miami (FL) investigations, but also a general misunderstanding of the desires of his membership and a combative, at best, relationship with the media. It’s a really interesting read about the travails of the organization under his direction, and points again to a burgeoning restlessness among everyone that the NCAA’s days as a serious player on the American sports scene are effectively numbered.
  3. One school that certainly has no love lost for Emmert is Connecticut, given that the NCAA banned the Huskies from last year’s postseason as a result of its low APR scores. But, as Adam Zagoria at Zagsblog writes, Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier are back in Storrs and ready to make up for a lost season with a major postseason run in 2013-14. Louisville has to be considered the favorite in the spanking-new AAC, but the Huskies are a very interesting second banana. Kevin Ollie returns most of his key pieces from a 20-10 (10-8 Big East) squad that will no doubt enter next season with a major chip on its shoulder. If the chips fall into place for Boatright and Napier next season, there may not be a better backcourt in America. Only time will tell.
  4. What’s good for Duke is good for Team USA? That seems to be the correlation, as SI.com‘s Ben Golliver relates that Mike Krzyzewski‘s original decision to retire as USA Basketball’s head coach was more about reaching another four-year milestone at Duke than it was about international hoops. Basically, Coach K asked himself at the end of the 2012 Olympics whether he felt that he’d still be coaching at Duke in 2016, and at the time, he wasn’t sure of the answer. Since he believes that Team USA’s head coach should be actively involved in the sport — as he put it, “on the firing line” — he thought it would be best to give up the gig. USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo may have sensed Krzyzewski’s eventual 180, as he kept the job in waiting until Coach K decided last spring to return (stating that he is “sure he’s going to coach for a while.”). Given K’s 62-1 record and uncanny ability to get multi-millionaires to play team basketball for the USA jersey, this is a great, great thing.
  5. In our sport, summer is the time for testing out new things and the statistical wizardry over at KenPom is no exception. Yesterday the vaunted statistician announced a new metric to his suite of team data points yesterday: average possession length (APL).  As always with KenPom, the beauty of this new metric lies in the detail. Tempo is a measure that tracks efficiency, but APL simply tracks how long you are either holding the basketball each possession, or defending the basketball each possession. The 2013 listing is here (subscription required), but as Pomeroy notes, the correlation is already clear in viewing the last four years of data. Great defenses tend to correlate well with high defensive APLs — it’s harder for an offense to find a good shot — which begs the question whether faster-paced offensive coaches may be incentivized to slow things down to make their teams better overall. An interesting intellectual exercise, no doubt.

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Morning Five: 07.17.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 17th, 2013

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  1. We’re more than officially in the dog days of summer but only the truly committed scribes work all summer covering the sport we love. Seth Davis is one national commentator who came out of his slumber this week to report from Las Vegas with a Hoops Thoughts column on Michigan’s Mitch McGary. The rising sophomore took the college basketball world by storm last March, going from a role player to a key cog for John Beilein’s national runners-up, but as McGary explained to Davis: “So far I’ve only cracked the glass. Next year I’m trying to break through it.” The piece delves into some of McGary’s lesser-known history, specifically his struggles with academics as a result of ADHD, his workout and diet regimen that he enabled midway through last season to give himself a shot at more mobility (and playing time), and his non-decision to enter his name into the NBA Draft because he simply enjoys college life. Great read, especially in mid-July.
  2. Another likely star returning to school for 2013-14 is Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, fresh off a FIBA world championship in the U-19 division. USA Basketball announced its National Team Mini-Roster on Tuesday, and the rising sophomore Cowboy was the only collegian of 29 players selected. The group of mostly young, rising NBA stars will meet in Las Vegas to compete next week, although no roster spots on Team USA are officially up for grabs. This is simply an opportunity for the players to prove themselves against their peers for future international events. Smart of course is unlikely to make the men’s national team roster for the Worlds in 2014 or the Olympics in 2016, but playing against the likes of Ty Lawson, Mike Conley, George Hill, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and John Wall at his point guard position cannot hurt his overall development. Watch out, Big 12.
  3. Louisville‘s visit to meet President Barack Obama will occur next week, on July 23 at the White House. The school waited a bit longer than normal to schedule the event, so that players Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock could attend the event after stints in summer international tournaments. While in The District, the team will also make time to tour the Capitol Building with senator and minority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY). When McConnell isn’t busy tormenting his Democratic opposition in the back rooms of DC, he spends quite a bit of time in Louisville taking in the Cardinals’ biggest games. Although as far as celebrity fans go, we’ll stick with Ashley Judd 70 miles down the road. Sorry, Mitch.
  4. Tuesday was the start of SEC Football Media Days, and why do we care? Well, in large part because South Carolina head coach and immodest rabble-rouser Steve Spurrier again went on record stating that the entire SEC — according to him, all 28 football and basketball coaches — is in favor of payments to their revenue-producing players. The stipend he mentioned yesterday amounts to approximately $3,600 per player per year and a little over a quarter-million dollars in annual costs — a relative pittance in a business that regularly deals with annual budgets in the eight- and nine-figure range. And why wouldn’t they want to pay players? It would give them yet another carrot in the recruiting wars against some of the smaller schools and conferences, while correspondingly eliminating much of the regulatory nonsense with monitoring and enforcing illegal benefits that amount to a night out for dinner and a movie.
  5. While on the subject of football crossing over with basketball, Colorado quarterback Shane Dillon announced on Tuesday that he is giving up the gridiron effective immediately so that he can pursue his passion on the hardwood at another school. A 6’5″ wing in high school where he averaged a robust 25/12 for Christian High School in southern California, Dillon suffered a shoulder injury and was looking at starting next season third on the depth chart for the Buffaloes. He asked Tad Boyle if he had room for him on his team, but all the scholarships were filled and Dillon isn’t willing to walk on. He’ll look to make his transfer decision in the next few weeks, with a school in the WCC and Big West perhaps his most likely destination.
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Morning Five: 07.10.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 10th, 2013

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  1. Summer is the season for college basketball players to improve themselves. Whether that means lonely nights in the gym getting up thousands of shots, long hours in the weight room fantasizing about drawing contact and-1, or organized games against real teams from other countries, the point is the same. Get better. The FIBA U-19 World Championships featured a number of players either entering or returning to our game next season, and Mike DeCourcy breaks down the top eight performers from the Prague, Czech Republic, event where Team USA won gold. The article is in the dreaded slideshow format, but we’ll offer an olive branch in that DeCourcy actually writes a good several-paragraph narrative about each player — in other words, the click-throughs are worthwhile. And that Aaron Gordon kid headed to Arizona? He’s going to cause quite a stir next season, even though he’s one of the few impact freshman who won’t be residing in Lawrence, Lexington or Durham. 
  2. So who’s got next? We’ll find out very soon, as the first of three separate key four-day recruiting windows for college coaches opens this afternoon at 5 PM ET. For a nice primer on the where, the who, and the when, as well as the key storylines and coaches feeling the most pressure to perform, CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Borzello hooks it up with a comprehensive analysis. The biggest thing we’re interested in over the next few weeks are any tells that the Class of 2014’s top two prospects — Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones — end up as a package deal somewhere. It’s extremely rare that the top two players in a single class view themselves as an inseparable and dynamic duo, but that very well could be the case with these two. He also touches on the difficulties that new Butler head coach Brandon Miller faces, as well as UCLA’s Steve Alford and Minnesota’s Richard Pitino. Fair points, all. (Side note from the get-off-my-lawn crowd: Can we lose the recruitnik notion of the shortened usage of the word “commit” to refer to “commitment?” Commit is a verb. Seriously, there’s no gray area here.)
  3. One of DeCourcy’s summer stars at the U-19 was Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell, and the defending national champions have managed to stay in the news in a variety of ways lately. The best news we’ve perhaps heard all summer is that Kevin Ware and His Broken Leg are rehabilitating at a phenomenal pace, so much so that head coach Rick Pitino believes that his rising junior will be ready to play basketball again in October. It turns out that the doctors who said the clean break of his femur was actually somehow a “good” thing compared to the alternatives were exactly on point. Pitino’s comments were made at a press conference announcing that Louisville’s 2013 Final Four floor will be auctioned off in pieces to raise money for pediatric cancer research and care. Kentucky did a similar thing last year — proving, once again, that these two programs will stop at nothing to one-up the other, even in causes of virtue — raising over $200,000 in the process.
  4. The old adage is to follow the money, and in the case of North Carolina’s PJ Hairston and his association with Haydn Thomas and his propensity for spending tens of thousands of dollars on rental cars (seriously, who does that?), the flow of cash keeps getting more interesting. USA Today Sports reported on Tuesday that four of Thomas’ (or his roommate Catinia Farrington’s) rental vehicles had received a total of nine unpaid parking tickets on the UNC campus between the dates of February 22 and May 28 of this year. And yet, Haydn in previous media reports said that he has no association with the school and doesn’t even like the Tar Heels. Roy Williams, for his part, is waiting until all “the facts are in,” and so is everyone else. But isn’t there really only one question that matters here — what is Hairston’s true relationship with Haydn and why is he driving around committing crimes in Haydn’s vehicles?
  5. Conference realignment has been largely viewed as a pox upon their houses by most of us in the college basketball community over the last several years, as traditional basketball leagues have been folded, spindled and mutilated into something resembling nothing like their former selves. But as ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil writes, “what if we were all wrong?” Her point is that the basketball armageddon that we all foresaw may not have actually come to fruition. The ACC, always and forever at its heart a basketball league, has improved its stock substantially with the addition of basketball schools Pittsburgh and Syracuse, not to mention a strong Notre Dame program (with Louisville to come). The new Big East is all about roundball, with Creighton, Butler and Xavier joining a strong group of the Catholic Seven headlined by stalwarts Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova. Even the national darling Mountain West added Utah State, a strong and well-supported program that will challenge the likes of San Diego State, New Mexico and the rest for wildest fan base. While we’re not completely sold that all these moves are for the greater benefit of the sport, what choice do we have? Let’s lace ‘em up and see what happens.
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Team USA’s U-19 Title Hints at an Awesome Upcoming Season

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 9th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The hype leading up to the 2013-14 college basketball season will be immense. It already sort of is, when you really think about it: Andrew Wiggins’ announcement to join Kansas set the college hoops world aflame. Duke’s Jabari Parker was plastered on the cover a Sports Illustrated magazine comparing him to LeBron James. Kentucky’s recruiting class is being described in the loftiest echelons of hyperbolic recruiting praise. A host of talented sophomores spurned probable NBA riches for another go with their respective college outfits. Everything about the upcoming season looks great. I can’t wait.

A championship run at the FIBA world championships is yet another testament to the quality and depth of the young talent college hoops will have on offer this season (Craig Miller, USA Today).

A championship run at the FIBA world championships is yet another testament to the quality and depth of the young talent college hoops will have on offer this season (Craig Miller, USA Today).

Over the weekend, some of the USA’s best players age 19 and under put those expectations on the line in international competition, and held serve in convincing fashion. Team USA beat Serbia Sunday, 82-68, to earn the gold medal at the FIBA U-19 World Championships. Taking home first prize was no guarantee for the Red, White, and Blue, who have won just three of the last eight U-19 FIBA crowns, including 2011’s lamentable fifth-place finish. International basketball – and all the well-coached, cohesively groomed, fundamentally-drilled international players, international rules, and international travel quirks compacted within – is an entirely different breed of hoops. Former US teams as high as the senior level have struggled to adapt to FIBA-regulated play, and this team, for all its massive talent advantages, was not immune to those very same issues. Basketball’s recent popularity worldwide – plus, you know, us not winning every single time we step on the floor – has made one fact exceedingly clear: There are no foregone conclusions in international basketball. Team USA’s U-19 group was not willing to make any.

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One Name Sticks Out On The Finalized U-19 Team USA Roster

Posted by Chris Johnson on June 19th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Most Team USA basketball gatherings come with a lulling standard disclaimer: we, the United States of America, produce the best basketball players in the world. We’re better than you. I like saying that today, because as the game sinks its teeth into burgeoning hoops hotbeds in far-flung locales across this here planet we call Earth, other nations are catching up. Before you know it, there will be Yao Mings and Dirk Nowitzkis and Tony Parkers sprouting up left and right, and my proclamation won’t sound so secure. Maybe we’ll actually enter international basketball events with serious doubts over our talent and athletic advantages. After all, hastily throwing a group of NBA superstars without a savvy coach to meld them into one consistent whole can, as we learned through humbling defeats at recent Pre-Coach K Team USA Tournament events, pose losing-sized problems and nation-sized freakouts. Not to worry: the day where Spain and Argentina and Russia become our competitive equals on the hardwood are a long way down the road. Our hegemony over Dr. Naismith’s game is safe for now.

Familiar names line the U-19 Team USA Roster. Elfrid Payton is not one of them (AP).

Familiar names line the U-19 Team USA Roster. Elfrid Payton is not one of them (AP Photo).

Ensuring that relative strength extends down on through the youth ranks is especially important, and if you’re interested in seeing at least a prospective few of the next generation of Dream Team legends – some players opted against participating in the Team USA festivities – Tuesday’s announcement of the final cuts on the U-19 Team USA roster might be something worth looking into. Check out that list. Depending on how closely you follow recruiting, most of these names should be familiar to you. The most recognizable name is Marcus Smart, and you definitely don’t need me to tell you why. Rasheed Sulaimon had a nice freshman season for Duke and looks ready to help the Jabari Parker-upgraded Blue Devils make a real run at the Final Four this season. Jerami Grant could be this year’s version of Michael Carter-Williams in that, much like MCW, he is a highly touted recruit who played backup minutes as a freshman (he started a few games while James Southerland was overcoming his mid-season academic eligibility roadblock), but will benefit from a massive spike in floor time his sophomore year. Montrezl Harrell is an electric frontcourt presence you probably remember best for doing this in the midst of the Spike Albrecht-spawned insanity of the first half of the national championship game. For the recruitniks, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow need no introduction. Across the board, even when you account for all the players who opted against participating, there are well-known, well-established, stars-in-waiting talents ready to compete –and hopefully, hammer home the idea that our international hoops dominance, so prominent under Coach K’s guidance, is birthed in the grassroots levels – for national pride against some of the best foreign amateurs in the world.

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Morning Five: 06.19.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 19th, 2013

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  1. You may just be wiping the epic Game 6 of the Spurs-Heat out of your blurry eyes this morning, but it turns out that all the stars and incredible plays by the professionals making plays in The Finals doesn’t represent the only wow-factor surrounding the basketball world this week. As CBSSports.com‘s Gary Parrish reported yesterday, Canadian wunderkind Andrew Wiggins showed up in Lawrence, Kansas, for the his year-in-residence earlier this week, and already the reviews of the superstar recruit’s work ethic and talent are off the charts. Good news for Jayhawks fans: According to this KUSports.com report, the school also announced on Tuesday that its new contract with Time Warner to broadcast its third-tier television rights will ensure that Kansas fans around the country (and general college basketball fans wanting to see Wiggins) have more access than ever before (you have to read through the comments to understand it, but it’s there).
  2. Georgetown basketball hasn’t had the best 2013 thus far, given the embarrassing defeat to Florida Gulf Coast in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament, the subsequent loss of superstar Otto Porter to the NBA, and Tuesday’s devastating news that rising star Greg Whittington — who was academically ineligible for the spring semester, missing the FCGU debacle — has torn the ACL in his left knee and could be out for all of next season. In 13 games last season, the lithe Whittington averaged 12/7 along the front line as he and Porter shored up John Thompson III’s lockdown defense. Even without the return of Porter, good things were predicted for next year’s Hoyas with Whittington joining returnees Markel Starks, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, and Nate Lubick as a talented and experienced core to compete in the new Big East. Without Whittington available, Georgetown appears to be a bit light on offensive ability unless someone unforeseen steps up.
  3. A couple of years ago, we wrote this piece about an “all-world junior” at UNC-Asheville who happened to be the high-rising son of Grammy-winning rock legend Bruce Hornsby. Keith Hornsby enjoyed a pedestrian but solid freshman campaign before exploding to become a second team all-Big South selection as a sophomore, where he averaged 15/4/3 APG while shooting 38 percent from deep and a ridiculous 92.5 percent (second nationally) from the foul line. With the resignation of his head coach Eddie Biedenbach after the season, Hornsby decided it was time to move on. He announced on Tuesday that he will transfer to LSU, choosing the Tigers over NC State and St. Mary’s. Although he must sit out the required transfer year, this is potentially a very nice transfer pickup for Tigers’ head coach Johnny Jones, who is accumulating a good amount of talent down in Baton Rouge.
  4. Stories like these are part of the reason we love college basketball. Meet Elfrid Payton, one of the 12 players to make the U-19 USA Basketball team. The rising junior at Louisiana-Lafayette had absurd all-around numbers last season — 16/6/6 APG/2 SPG as an all-Sun Belt second team selection — but it was his play in the Team USA tryouts that has been turning people’s heads. As Mike DeCourcy reports, Payton’s exceptional athletic ability on the defensive end allows him to guard three positions along the perimeter, and his offensive talents have ensured that he will find playing time on a group that includes Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon, and Washington’s Nigel Williams-Goss in the backcourt. We’re definitely excited to see this kid’s progression after this summer’s experience.
  5. Not everybody in this business was busy watching the the NBA last night, as Michigan head coach John Beilein made some time to visit Detroit’s Comerica Park to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the start of the Tigers-Orioles game. Wearing his college number (#35), he said that former Detroit great Al Kaline gave him a sage piece of advice to avoid embarrassing himself: “Throw it high.” His toss found the catcher’s mitt without issue, and he used the opportunity to share some of the thoughts he had on the Wolverines’ scintillating run to the national title game in April. His key takeaway: Enjoy it more. Wisdom, Beilein-style.
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Team USA Will Not Regret Its Decision to Keep Coach K For Another Olympic Run

Posted by Chris Johnson on May 23rd, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Coaching the biggest basketball superstars on planet earth into one cohesive group with a compacted practice schedule and unflinchingly mountainous expectations, among other obstacles, is not as easy as it seems. With minimal exceptions, every player is accustomed to being “the guy” on his own NBA team, where the frequency and type of shots taken are, for better or worse, monitored liberally – superstars are going to get their shots up whether you like it or not. When you mash these egos together on one, putatively dominant, practically unwieldy Team USA squad, vast philosophical and schematic adjustments melding is required. Ego-massaging is another part of the gig. Reduced shots and individual credit-basking glory is part of the cost of doing business. It’s an entirely different style and breed of basketball, this quirky thing we like to call international play, and without the right head coach in place, things can get out of hand pretty quickly. Matter of fact, Before Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski arrived on the scene, they did: In 2002, a George Karl-coached Team USA became the first American team composed of NBA players to lose in international competition when it fell to Argentina in the preliminary rounds and finished sixth at the FIBA World Championships in Indianapolis. Two years later, then under Larry Brown, team USA lost a convincing semifinal game to Argentina at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics. The days of Dream Team dominance and universal hoops royalty were slipping away. USA basketball needed a new face and culture and identity to offer a different spin on the stale and out-of-touch approach demonstrated by previous NBA coaches. It needed Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Making another run at Olympic glory, and picking up Coach K to lead the charge, is a wise move by Colangelo (Getty Images).

Making another run at Olympic glory, and picking up Coach K to lead the charge, is a wise move by USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo (Getty Images).

You know the rest: after an initial bronze medal toe-stub at the 2006 World Championships, USA polished off two Olympic gold medals and a 2010 FIBA World Championship with a second-tier layer of then-rising stars, not once losing a game over four years. Coach K has accomplished everything he set out to do during his reign as USA Basketball’s transformative leader – blend a group of ball-dominant stars into one functioning whole not once or twice but for three sizably important world events, restore the rightful preeminence of the red, white and blue’s international hardwood stature, forcefully remind the rest of the world that yes, there is good basketball being played in Europe and China and South America, but no, you don’t have Kevin Durant ripping threes on the wing, and LeBron James guarding centers and point guards on the same possession, and Chris Paul whipping cross-court passes with pinpoint accuracy. This is USA Basketball, unbeatable and dominant and good. Mostly just good. Beijing 2012 restored the customary USA-headed international hoops hierarchy, and Coach K – who still, in case you forgot, kind of has a pretty good thing going right now in Durham – had ground off every bit of tread on the international tires. It was time to move on. Pass the torch. Recruiting and leading Duke to annual national championship contention is prohibitively exhausting on its own; the added onus of Team USA must have been a terribly draining, but hugely fulfilling, experience. Enough was enough.

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Morning Five: 05.23.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 23rd, 2013

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  1. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Draft lottery for the second time in three years on Tuesday night, which means that the team that selected rising superstar Kyrie Irving #1 overall in 2011 will get a chance to pair another potential star next to him. Will it be Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, Kansas’ Ben McLemore, Georgetown’s Otto Porter, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, or some other prospect who hasn’t yet risen up the draft boards? Whoever it is, and this is a solid mock with explanations from NBADraft.net, keep one thing very much in mind. If you redrafted the 2010 NBA Draft right now — just three years later — the top overall pick would probably be an overlooked athlete from Fresno State who never so much as sniffed a winning season in two years in the Central Valley, Paul George. So no matter what anyone says between now and June 27 (including ourselves), take it with a healthy dose of NaCl. 
  2. While on the subject of George and his Indiana Pacers, his head coach Paul Vogel took quite a bit of heat last night for removing center Roy Hibbert from the game in the closing seconds, allowing the freight train known as LeBron James to power his way into the lane for an easy layup to win the game (beating George badly to his left, incidentally). Still, Vogel appears to be a rising star himself with the way he has developed this Pacers group, but we’re betting that you didn’t know that his dream job was actually to become a college basketball coach. He got his first start by basically begging then-Kentucky coach Rick Pitino for a spot on his staff as a student manager in the mid-1990s, eventually becoming UK’s video coordinator and alighting to the NBA ranks when Pitino left Lexington for the Boston Celtics. It’s a rags-to-riches underdog sort of story, and one well worth familiarizing yourself with. If Vogel continues to play his cards right in the NBA, he may find that elusive major college head coaching job available to a guy like him after all.
  3. It was open secret for most of the week, but SI.com confirmed on Wednesday that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski will in fact return as the captain of the Team USA men’s basketball ship for the next three years (which includes the 2014 World Championships and the 2016 Summer Olympics). We’ll have more on this decision later today in a separate post, but while on the topic of international basketball, USA Basketball invited 24 rising freshmen and sophomores to try out for its U-19 team that will compete later this summer in the World Championships in Prague. The most recognizable candidates who will battle for one of 12 roster spots next month are Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon, Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes, and Oregon’s Damyean Dotson. Notably missing from the two dozen players are any of Kentucky’s impressive haul from the Class of 2013, several of whom already have had international basketball experience. But John Calipari says that the group as a whole is itching to get to Lexington and would rather spend their summer months working out to prepare for what everyone believes could be a phenomenal year.
  4. Last week we mentioned that a Brown University player named Joseph Sharkey had been assaulted on the street and put in the hospital with critical head injuries as a result. As of yesterday he remained in a Providence hospital, but the better news is that local authorities have arrested a suspect for the brutal crime, a reserve Marine who served in Afghanistan named Tory Lussier. We’re in no way going to loft unfounded accusations at this “hero” without a full accounting of the details of the night in question, but it’s worth noting that Lussier was already under suspicion for assault of an elderly person from an incident in a Connecticut parking lot last fall. Whether this is the guy who committed such a senseless crime or it was someone else, we really hope that justice is served in one way or another.
  5. There were a couple of notable comings and goings yesterday. In some bad news, Florida’s Will Yuguete had his right knee scoped on Wednesday and is expected to miss the next four months of action. The French wing had suffered numerous injuries during his career in Gainesville, so the hope here is that this particular course of treatment and rehabilitation will allow him to have a strong, injury-free senior season in 2013-14. Up the coast a bit in Storrs, Connecticut announced on Wednesday that center Enosch Wolf‘s suspension for an on-campus domestic dispute has ended. He is cleared to return to the team if he likes, but here’s the catch — he no longer has a scholarship. With the school’s announcement this week of the transfer of GW’s Lasan Kromah, there simply isn’t an available spot left. Funny how things like this work themselves out. Wolf expects to make his decision in the coming weeks.
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Morning Five: 08.14.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 14th, 2012

  1. After making numerous people mad over the weekend with its ‘top perceived cheater’ query of a sample of the nation’s college basketball coaches, CBSSports.com kept the hits coming on Monday with its follow-up question asking those same coaches whether everyone’s favorite Team USA head honcho, Mike Krzyzewski, has “earned a recruiting advantage” by virtue of his association with the star-studded Olympic squad. Note for the record that the group of writers did not ask if Coach K has a perceived recruiting advantage here — nope, they wanted to know if this is an actual, real-deal, verified by Visa advantage. Accordingly, 71 percent of the respondents affirmed that there is a definite recruiting advantage as a result of Coach K’s association with the Olympic team. On its face, in terms of name recognition and marketing/branding of the Coach K/Duke product with the best basketball players on the planet, the answer should have been 100% — this part is without question. But in terms of actual production on the recruiting trail, Coach K’s last top-rated class (as calculated by RSCI) was in 2002 (Shelden Williams, JJ Redick); prior to that it was in 1999 (Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer); and before that in 1997 (Shane Battier, Elton Brand, William Avery, Chris Burgess). Since 2006, the first full recruiting year after Krzyewski took over for Team USA, his recruiting classes have been good to great (#3, #3, #11, #8, #9, #2, #10), but none have matched the pinnacle that the Duke head coach was regularly signing a little over a decade ago. So, does Team USA give Krzyzewski an actual recruiting advantage? The intuitive answer is assuredly yes, but the counter-intuitive one — that it makes no difference, or egads, could be a bit of a detriment — certainly has evidence supporting it as well.
  2. The Big East may be on shaky legs as a BCS league these days, but its announcement of its engagement with Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures, a sports media business that most recently negotiated a $3 billion multi-platform deal for the Pac-12, shows that the league doesn’t see it that way. Starting on September 1, the conference will retain an exclusive 60-day negotiating window with ESPN, and after that, it can field offers from other networks. Clearly the league believes that its new and unprecedented bi-coastal setup will be valuable to somebody — they’re already touting the fact that the new conference footprint resides in 13 of the 50 largest television markets holding a population base of 32 million people (reportedly twice that of any other league). Of course, there’s no mention made of penetration into those markets (does anyone in Orlando really care about UCF?), or if anyone will care to watch a San Diego State – Rutgers game, but that’s why the expensive firm was brought in — to deflect those questions. One thing is certain: The bubble of collegiate sports properties is still blowing up, so don’t be surprised if a few months from now we’re all sitting around scratching our heads wondering how the Big East is worth more than the ACC.
  3. The UNC football academic scandal appears to have finally crossed over to the basketball program, at least tangentially. Former two-sport star Julius Peppers‘ academic transcript was (mistakenly?) published on the school’s website Sunday night, where some enterprising NC State fans found it and passed it around like wildfire on the Internet. The transcript is no longer on the site, but assuming it is a legitimate document, it appears that Peppers would not have been eligible to play football or basketball during much of the three academic years when he suited up at UNC. Many of the courses that made him eligible were in the now-infamous African-American Studies major which has been the focus of NCAA investigators. The question that is on everyone’s minds — and frankly it has not yet been satisfactorily answered — is whether the holy grail of Tar Heel basketball was substantially involved in these academic shenanigans (apparently dating back over a decade), and if UNC’s obstinance in thoroughly (and publicly) reviewing this problem represents willful obstruction to protect the program or something much less sinister. Whatever the case, if Peppers turns out to have been an academically ineligible player from 1999-2002, would that mean UNC’s 2000 Final Four (of which Peppers was a key contributor) would be vacated? We’re certain that NC State and Duke fans in the Triangle will stop at nothing to make that happen.
  4. With more schools taking international trips during the summer to build team cohesiveness combined with the ubiquity of worldwide media access and coverage, we should expect to hear increasingly more bizarre stories like the one involving Missouri in The Netherlands over the weekend. According to a school release, during the third quarter of a physical game against the Dutch National Team on Saturday, Frank Haith was ejected for arguing with a referee on what he perceived to be a no-call elbow to the head of freshman Stefan Jankovic. Fearful “for the safety of his players,” and perhaps overreacting a bit, Haith decided to pull his team off the court and call the game over at that point. The Dutch head coach was diplomatic in his response, stating that he “understood” why Haith stopped the game because his technical foul “so suddenly came out of the blue” during game action. As a new league entrant to the SEC next season, we hope that Haith realizes that he’s unlikely to get a single favorable call from January to March 2013 — so he’d probably do well to get used to it.
  5. Jumping to news that will please Missouri fans a little more, Bill Self’s Kansas team just finished its European exhibition tour and to say it went poorly might be putting it a bit too mildly. The Jayhawks finished the trip by losing its last two games to a French professional team, but the second game was interesting in that Self chose to “rest” his upperclassmen for the game’s entirety. This gave his remaining extremely young group of players, led by Perry Ellis’ 16/12, to take center stage, but we also wonder if Self wasn’t using the opportunity to send his veterans — Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, and Travis Releford — a clear message that he expects more from them in this, their senior, seasons. As he states in the linked interview, he was willing to live with the second short-handed loss, but he felt that the first loss was “inexcusable” and that his team is “not any good right now.” If we know anything about Self, he’s probably right; but he’s also without a doubt going to have the Jayhawks whipped into shape by January so that they’ll be right at the top of the Big 12 standings once again.
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Morning Five: 08.13.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 13th, 2012

  1. The buzz throughout the sport over the weekend was directly attributable to the Friday release of the latest in CBSSports.com‘s Critical Coaches series, this time squarely taking aim at the perception of the coaches responsible for the most wrongdoing within the game. In other words, who is perceived as the biggest cheater(s) in college basketball? The results at the top — Kentucky’s John Calipari (36%) and Baylor’s Scott Drew (34%) — are completely unsurprising in that fan perception in this regard probably isn’t markedly different than those of the coaches, but in reality you probably could have simply switched out the question with “Who is the best recruiter in the game today?” and gotten the same result. Proxies notwithstanding, the guys at CBS asked the question they did for a reason, and they’ve spent the intervening three days getting blasted by media and fans alike. A sampling: Mike DeCourcy lays into the coaches for answering the question in the first place (“disgraceful… tacky…”); Kentucky Sports Radio summarizes it succinctly as such, “Haters Gonna Hate”; BaylorFans.com commenter JXL sarcastically notes “if a school was bad and then becomes good, they are by definition cheating“; UCLA’s Bruins Nation calls the poll “ridiculous and insulting” for it’s choice of Ben Howland as the third-worst offender (12%). We could go on with this, but we’ll stop right there. The perception is the perception because once narratives are constructed in the public consciousness, they’re awfully difficult to change; while on the flip side, fans will defend their guy regardless of what comes out against them. Assuming they’re winning, of course — they have to keep winning.
  2. In much more uplifting news over the weekend, Team USA’s men’s basketball team won its second straight gold medal on Sunday by defeating a pesky Spanish team by the final score of 107-100. This team, led by the gleaming supernovas of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant , Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant, wasn’t as dominant as their Dream Team forebears two decades ago, but they were equally instrumental in rebuilding the American basketball brand after the colossal disappointment at the Athens Games in 2004. The other name that deserves as much credit as anyone in restoring USA basketball to the top over the last seven years since he came on board is someone who did not even receive a medal: head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K announced prior to the game against Spain that the gold medal match would be his last game as Team USA’s coach, and that proclamation perhaps inspired the 65-year old to jump for joy as the Americans wrapped up the championship in the waning moments yesterday. It’s back to Durham full-time for the Duke head coach as he tries to finish off a superlative career with a fifth national title, but as usual, he performed his job impeccably during his tenure as the man in charge. Thank you for helping to restore American pride in basketball, Coach K.
  3. It’s hard to believe now, but when Krzyzewski took the Team USA job in 2005, more than a few commentators who cover the sport thought that K might be making a mistake with respect to his Blue Devils. The theory then was that his involvement with USA Basketball (particularly during the summers) would take him away from the recruiting trail and allow other programs to make inroads on Duke while he was focused elsewhere. That seems somewhat silly after Duke cut the nets down in 2010 for K’s fourth national title and the top recruits keep rolling in, but is it possible that Krzyzewski could get enjoy even more of a halo effect from the ubiquitous images of him high-fiving and embracing the very best basketball players in the world? Mike Kline at DukeReport.com thinks so, and it’s hard to disagree. Elite recruits care about two things — 1) getting to the NBA, and 2) coolness. Coach K has always had a tremendous amount of the former, but with the association with the winning ways he instituted with Team USA, he also has plenty of the latter.
  4. It’s now only 60 days until Midnight Madness, which means coaches are already carefully examining their schedules to find any possible advantage heading into the 2012-13 season. Like Krzyzewski, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has been busy as an assistant coach for Team USA too, but he already has some ideas about how to prepare his Orange squad for its season opening game — the Battle of the Midway — against San Diego State. The Veterans Day tip-off for both teams will take place on the USS Midway in San Diego Bay (similar to last year’s Carrier Classic on the USS Carl Vinson), and Boeheim is determined to prepare for the possibility of wind and other elements by having his team practice and run some drills outdoors. We’re guessing that whatever weather conditions the Orange players face in October in upstate New York will more than prepare them for anything balmy San Diego has to offer.
  5. We’ll have more on this later today, but over the weekend brand new Villanova assistant coach Doug Martin was forced to resign based upon certain “inaccuracies” on his resume. The primary point of contention is that Martin had claimed that he played college basketball from 1991-95 under legendary coach Dick Bennett at Wisconsin-Green Bay. Dana O’Neil’s cursory fact-checking on the matter quickly revealed that neither UWGB nor Bennett had any record or recollection of Martin at the school, and in fact, he may have actually played limited minutes at a Wisconsin NAIA school called Viterbo instead. It begs the question, though. Surely Martin’s hiring at Villanova was not contingent on having played for Bennett at Green Bay, so why not correct the resume before submitting it — that’s a fairly impressive job to obtain only to lose it over something that seems so inconsequential.
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Morning Five: 08.08.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 8th, 2012

  1. For college basketball fans over a certain age watching the Summer Olympics, an oft-repeated nickname uttered by the likes of Bob Costas, Mary Carillo, Ryan Seacrest and others probably grates a little more than it should. The gold medal-winning US women’s gymastics team, as we all now know, has been labeled by someone lacking any institutional sports memory with the nickname “The Fab Five.” The five girls aged between 15 and 18 didn’t memorialize themselves with the name, but others — most notably former Fab Five mouthpiece and current ESPN commentator Jalen Rose — may stand to make bank from the trademarked name as the team rides its 15 minutes of fame on a barnstorming tour throughout the US this fall. As we saw mentioned on Twitter last week, the Olympics are fundamentally sports for people who don’t typically like sports, and there is no better example of the two groups weirdly crossing paths than this one. If anyone’s wondering, nobody will be talking about this ‘new’ F5 two decades from now — we think the iconic maize and blue legacies of Webber, Howard, Rose, Jackson and King are still safe.
  2. It’s taken much of a couple of decades for Michigan basketball to get back to an elite status, as the Wolverines will be a preseason Top 10 team next season. Another local school, Oakland University, has as a matter of fact been to just as many NCAA Tournaments under head coach Greg Kampe in the last decade as Michigan. On Tuesday, Kampe started the first day of a fast where the longtime Golden Grizzlies coach will imbibe nothing but juice for an entire month in support of Coaches vs. Cancer. Um, we just drank a glass of orange juice over here, but, wow. Seriously, though, this is a herculean task for someone no doubt accustomed to eating solid, and undoubtedly, good food — Kampe tweeted last night that his first day of fasting was complete and that “even a yogurt commercial” makes him hungry. To donate to Kampe’s fast in support of CvC, make sure to hit this site. We always make sure to donate around the time of the Jimmy V Classic, but the CvC is getting a double dip from us this year.
  3. Team USA’s men’s basketball team will play Australia this afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament, which will allow one of the two college basketball players in the event to take a shot at a team he no doubt idolizes. As Jeff Goodman wrote yesterday, St. Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova is looking forward to the challenge of matching up against NBA All-Stars Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul. The rising senior and current WCC Player of the Year is one of the two SMC starters in the Aussie backcourt (playing off the ball with Patty Mills), and his 8.2 PPG and 4.6 APG have helped his country reach the medal round. For a complete look at his Olympic statistics, check out the FIBA page on the shaggy-haired star. The only other collegian in the basketball Games, College of Charleston’s Andrew Lawrence, played roughly 18 minutes per game for host Great Britain, but he was only able to convert 4-19 field goals and committed nearly as many fouls (15) as he scored points (16). His Olympic experience — engaging though we’re sure it was — is now over as the Brits did not advance to the medal round.
  4. While on the subject of Dellavedova, his college coach at St. Mary’s, Randy Bennett, was voted by his peers as the second most underrated head coach in college basketball. The most underrated was Temple’s Fran Dunphy, who garnered a commanding 14% of the votes (Bennett got 9%). A couple surprises on the list were two of the most prominent names in college basketball — Kentucky’s John Calipari (7%) and West Virginia’s Bob Huggins (5%). With tomorrow’s release of the most overrated coaches in the game, is it possible that one or both of those two will also show up on that list? Check in tomorrow at CBSSports.com to find out.
  5. Finally today, it is clear that Oklahoma State center Phillip Jurick has little to no interest in playing college basketball again. Just two months after an incident where he was cited for driving on a suspended license, the 6’10” player who was already dealing with recovery from an Achilles tendon tear was arrested over the weekend for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Predictably, he was suspended by head coach Travis Ford and will not accompany his team on a 10-day exhibition tour to Spain, which begins today. A transfer from Chattanooga State who averaged 17 MPG in 26 games prior to the injury, he’s certainly piling on the hurdles that he must overcome to ever see another day in an OSU uniform again.
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SEC Weekly Five: 06.08.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on June 8th, 2012

  1. Let’s talk scheduling, but enough about the soap opera between Kentucky and Indiana. There’s a new drama between Syracuse and Arkansas, and it turns out to be much ado about nothing. Syracuse originally refused to play in Fayetteville, but has relented to the powers that be and will play Mike Anderson‘s Razorbacks after all. “We discussed our concerns regarding Syracuse’s participation in the SEC/Big East Challenge with the conference and have come to an agreement on the logistics of the game,” Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross said in a statement. “The Big East Conference will work with us to assist in our on-conference scheduling for the 2012-13 season.” Not sure that Syracuse ever had a choice in the matter, but good to see everyone in agreement.
  2. Guards Jelan Kendrick and Maurice Aniefiok are leaving the Ole Miss program, according to a spokesman for the Rebels. Aniefiok averaged just 1.5 points and 0.8 rebounds per game in only 6.9 minutes per game. He struggled from the field shooting just 25.8 percent. Kendrick, a former McDonald’s All American, averaged 5.1 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game off the bench. Kendrick showed promise on the court, but struggled with off the court issues and with his relationship with coach Andy Kennedy.
  3. Welcome to the SEC, Missouri and Texas A&M. And how does the conference ensure a collegial  environment? By throwing a party, of course. However, the official welcome is set to expire soon. Missouri opens up football play with Georgia on September 8, and Tigers head football coach Gary Pinkel provided advice that could be relevant in college basketball this season as well. “I understand everyone is going to want to watch how A&M and Missouri do, coming from the Big 12 into this league. My big thing, when you’re new like we are, you’ve got to earn respect. That’s what we’re going to try to do.” Missouri instantly joins Kentucky and Florida at the top of the SEC power rankings this year in basketball, so the respect factor may come much quicker on the hardwood for the Tigers.
  4. Tennessee standout Jarnell Stokes has been named as a finalist for the U18 USA Men’s Basketball National Team. Committee chair Jim Boeheim spoke of the difficulty in making selections saying, “You had 23 guys who all are really good players, there wasn’t a bad player here. To get down to 12 is going to be difficult but I think we’re going to end up with a really good athletic team that is going to be very well coached. I think we’ve got an unbelievable coaching staff. I think we’ve got guys that have won, been winners, won state championships, and I think they’ll represent USA Basketball extremely well in this tournament.” Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan serves as the head coach for the team, which will make its final roster cuts on June 12.
  5. If you were a head basketball coach and every SEC head coaching position was open and available to you, which would you choose? Well, ESPN’s college basketball gurus made their choices and Kentucky, Florida, and Missouri top the list as desirable positions while Ole Miss, Auburn, and South Carolina finish out the bottom of the pack. No major gripes here on the order, but the placement of one school, in particular, was interesting. Mississippi State has been relatively successful recently, yet they rank number 11 on the list. I agree with the reasoning behind the placement, but if this is all true, why chase off Rick Stansbury? He enabled the Bulldogs to compete in the SEC and he recruited well for what we are now calling a bottom tier SEC basketball job. Sounds like Mississippi State was exceeding expectations with a coach at the level of Stansbury.
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