Morning Five: 10.03.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 3rd, 2012

  1. It’s officially considered preseason when the various Top 25s start rolling out from the more reputable sources, and even though we’re still aghast that The Sporting News no longer publishes its college basketball annual (or any annual, for that matter), we’ll give them a break and assume that they still generally know what they’re talking about over there. TSN‘s Top 25 rankings were released Tuesday, and if you’re looking for any major surprises, this probably isn’t the place to start. Still, these rankings are bullish on the Big Ten (three teams in the top five), Duke (#6), and giving some love to the high-mids (seven teams on the list). On the flip side, the group is still a bit skeptical of UCLA (#11) and the Big 12 (only Kansas is represented). If you can’t handle the annoying slideshow format, check out Mike DeCourcy’s write-up on the logic of their selections here.
  2. Is the Atlantic 10 positioning itself to eventually become the pre-eminent basketball league with a predominantly east coast footprint? Obviously we’re excluding the ACC from this consideration, but with the news on Tuesday that the A-10 had signed a new eight-year television deal with ESPN, CBS Sports Network and the NBC Sports Group, you have to wonder if the conference could overcome the dwindling Big East during some of its down years, and especially if more moves (ahem, Louisville) are coming. According to‘s Jeff Goodman, the league will have roughly 150 annual games on those networks, and although financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, it’s reasonable to assume that the additions of Butler and VCU as mid-major basketball empires produced a significant uptick in the league’s overall marketability and value.
  3. That muffled groan you heard late Monday night emanating from Indianapolis had nothing to do with the Monday Night Football game but instead everything to do with a decision by a federal judge in San Francisco concerning its case versus Ed O’Bannon and his friends. The class action suit against the NCAA depends primarily on the plaintiffs proving that the organization has for decades knowingly exploited its “student-athletes” through the use and sale of their names, likenesses, and images. To show the financial incentives for such a scheme, the O’Bannon group filed a motion for the NCAA to release its licensing and television contracts with ESPN since 2005, and lo and behold, the judge sided with their request. As‘s Michael McCann writes, this information is invaluable for the plaintiffs, as it not only provides specific dollar figures for the ‘monetization’ of college sports but it also opens up other companies such as ESPN and EA Sports to lawsuits down the line for exactly the same thing. This is a substantial ruling, one that should be watched carefully.
  4. North Carolina continues to find itself under fire for its jock-friendly academic coursework, as the Raleigh News & Observer has repeatedly embarrassed the school with release after release of new information that only serves to further fuel a national sentiment that there needs to be a comprehensive NCAA investigation of the academic side of the basketball program. The latest news is that a number of Tar Heel hoops players (among other athletes) were surprisingly enrolled in a 2007 Naval Weapons Systems class, a course ostensibly designed to produce commissioned US Naval officers rather than eligible power forwards. A Twitter war erupted over the fact that every school has easy classes and majors of which many athletes are attracted to, but people omitting the other side of the story are missing the bigger point. There already is clear and convincing evidence that members of the football team committed academic fraud at the school, and there is significant circumstantial evidence that the university has been at best, incompetent, or at worst, obstructionist, in evaluating the basketball side of the equation — there’s enough smoke here to strongly suggest further scrutiny because it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the school either cannot or will not adequately police itself.
  5. It’s becoming a huge recruiting week for the Class of 2013, as the Harrison twins are due to announce their decisions on ESPNU this Thursday and a couple of other top five players are busily narrowing their lists. Let’s start with some pundits’ overall #1 player, Jabari Parker. The Chicago big man released a list of 10 finalists over the summer (Connecticut was added last week), but his reported favorites Duke and Michigan State will be the first two schools to receive his official visits this fall. He will soon add three more schools from a list including the Huskies, BYU, DePaul, Florida, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Stanford. Another player considered by some to be the top overall player, Julius Randle, has narrowed his final list to six schools: Kentucky, NC State, Florida, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. Interestingly, Tobacco Road powerhouses Duke and UNC were removed from Randle’s list, while Mark Gottfried’s Wolfpack remain. After this coming weekend, the pieces of this year’s recruiting class will start to really fall into place.
Share this story

Thoughts On The Sporting News’ Top 50 Coaches List…

Posted by jstevrtc on July 31st, 2009

By now you’ve probably seen the list published earlier this week by The Sporting News naming their Fifty Greatest Coaches of All Time, across all sports.  And most likely you’ve at least seen that the legendary John Wooden tops that list, a selection about which this blogger has not heard one single detractor, not even one with a bad argument.  What’s interesting to me is the names from the college basketball world that follow Wooden on that list.  Here they are; I added two coaches at the end who did not make the TSN list (though one would think they might) just for the discussion:

TSN all-time coaches

The first thing that strikes me is where John Wooden ranks on the all-time Division 1 wins list.  21st??!?  It’s always been obvious that in these lofty heights number of wins has never been a great indicator of coaching ability, since teams just didn’t play as many games until the 80s when that number really took off.  That would seem to make winning percentage a more important statistic.  But not on this list, it appears.  If that statistic mattered here, you wouldn’t expect Dean Smith to be quite as high, and you’d expect Adolph Rupp to be higher; you would certainly expect Roy Williams to at least make the list.  Final fours?  Nope.  Dean Smith would be appropriately stationed, but Mike Krzyzewski would be higher along with Rupp, and again you’d think Williams would get on.   And so on.  No single major statistic appears to have guided the thinking, here.

The question is, does this reduce the validity or credibility of the list?  According to TSN, their panel consisted of “seven World Series-winning managers, four Super Bowl champion coaches, and the winningest coaches in the NBA, NHL, and college basketball.”  I’m not saying they necessarily got anything wrong — who better to ask about coaches than players and other coaches?  It is at least obvious that there’s only one thing the panel considered, at least in terms of how the best coaches in college basketball fell on the list — reputation.

No contest.   (credit:

No contest. (credit:

The selection of Wooden at the top cannot be argued because he’s got the reputation, the aura, and too much of the overall look of the statistics on his side.  After that it’s a crapshoot depending on what you think is the most important determiner of coaching greatness.  To the TSN panel, it’s something akin to curb appeal that influenced them.  Would Bob Knight not have been higher than 16th on an all-time coaches list were it not for his acerbic nature?  Would Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith have been closer together were it not for Rupp’s reputation (whether you think he deserves it or not) as a bigot, and/or Smith having an image bordering on — dare I say it — holy?  Is Roy Williams still being punished for his inability to win the big one while at Kansas?  And what of Pat Summitt?  She’s the only one who could even challenge Wooden in terms of college basketball coaches; her numbers are barely conceivable, and then you throw in her 1oo% graduation rate (yes, that’s right, every Tennessee player on her watch who has completed their eligibility there has also graduated).  Should she be higher than 11th on the whole thing?  And if you want to talk about the effect of reputation on this list, there probably isn’t a better example than the appearance of the late great Pete Newell.  Only 357 games coached, a single title, only two Final Fours, and the lowest winning percentage on the coaches on the above list.  But he goes and forms the Big Man Camp — and eventually what he would call the Tall Women’s Basketball Camp (I guess “Big Woman’s Camp” wasn’t an appealing name for such a place) — and finds a way to coach players in a way that didn’t directly show up as wins and losses, and here he is, on the overall list ahead of people like Joe Torre, Tom Osborne, Toe Blake, and Chuck Daly.  In addition, if you ask any coach, they’ll tell you that, before he died, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a better coach and man than Mr. Newell.  Does he belong on the list?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know one thing — the list generates great discussion (especially in the summer lull), so come on…let’s hear from the Duke fans who think Coach K got screwed, let’s hear from the UNC fans who think Smith-Williams should be 1-2.  Let’s hear from the UK fans who think Rupp is too great to be even considered on such a list.  Knowing the passion of college hoop fans and the readers of this site, it should be good.

Share this story