Aaric Murray is Slippery Ground For Interested Coaches

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 16th, 2013

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

The details surrounding the departure of former West Virginia forward Aaric Murray were encapsulated in two words by Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins: “mutual agreement.” Seems simple enough, only it’s really not – not when you look back at the marijuana charge Murray was assessed with while sitting out the 2011-12 season following his transfer from La Salle, or the disciplinary issues Murray ran into that forced him to miss a game in December 2012. There is a clear history of crossing the line with college hoops’ now-most high profile free agent forward, and while the offenses themselves don’t condemn Murray’s future in college (or even professional) basketball, the more important question is, will any team be willing to take a chance on him?

Coaches must proceed cautiously before bringing Hairston in (AP).

Coaches must proceed cautiously before bringing Hairston in (AP).

This question wouldn’t be as pressing as it is, were Murray not already graduated from and finished with his coursework at WVU, checkpoints that will allow Murray to play for another school this fall per the NCAA’s graduate transfer exemption (provided Murray enrolls in a graduate program not offered at WVU). West Virginia was brutal to watch last season. This was surprising for a couple of reasons: 1) Bob Huggins almost never coaches bad teams; 2012-13 was a glaring exception. 2) And this is more comedic than surprising, but as the Mountaineers toiled away in the lower half of the Big 12 last season, I kept coming back to the comments Huggins made after learning his team had been picked to finish sixth in the Big 12’s preseason coaches poll. “If we’re the sixth-best team in that league then it’s a hell of a league,” the head coach said in October. Part of the reason that placement baffled Huggins, and came off as a slightly pessimistic evaluation for most other observers, was because Murray promised to give WVU some of the hard-nosed Hugginsian grit his teams so routinely infuse into their collective DNA – the stuff that typically makes his teams so physically demanding and brutal to match up with. At La Salle, Murray was a force on both ends: His 106.1 offensive rating on 26.2 percent usage, 11.0 offensive rebounding percentage, 19.0 defensive rebounding percentage and 7.6 block rate in 2011 underscore that basic description.

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Morning Five: 06.26.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 26th, 2013

morning5

  1. A Bronx cheer rose up throughout the land on Tuesday as the NCAA approved changes with two of the most confounding rules in college basketball. Perhaps the one that caused the most consternation among pundits and fans on social media last year was the “elbow above the shoulders” rule. Originally intended to cut down on dirty play, the rule mandated that a flagrant foul had to be called in any such instance; this predictably led to numerous situations where not-dirty but standard basketball plays were ruled flagrant fouls simply because a defender stuck his nose too close to the body of his man. The new rule, revealed Tuesday, will allow officials considerably more discretion in making the call, giving them an opportunity to review the video monitor to determine both the blow’s severity and inadvertence, presumably resulting in a much more equitable interpretation of the rule. The rules committee also changed the block/charge rule yet again, now mandating that a defensive player must already be in good position before the offensive player starts his upward motion with the ball. Like the Euro step and jump stop before them, expect an entirely new offensive move to become predicated on starting the ball on its upward trajectory as soon as possible in an effort to catch the defender off balance and earn that elusive whistle.
  2. Will he or won’t he? On Monday Kentucky’s Kyle Wiltjer and John Calipari both announced in separate UK media posts that the rising junior forward is planning to transfer for the remainder of his collegiate career. It seemed as if he was already out the door, but somewhat peculiarly, neither explicitly said that he was leaving. On Tuesday, his head coach said that he does in fact plan to leave Lexington, but he’d be welcomed back if he ultimately decided to change his mind. ESPN.com is now reporting that the top suitors for the sharp-shooting stretch four are Gonzaga, Portland, Texas, Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State — the heavily-Pacific Northwestern flavor derives, of course, from proximity to Wiltjer’s hometown of Portland, Oregon. With an abundance of high-level talent coming into Lexington next season — not to mention two significant frontcourt returnees in Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein — it makes a lot of sense for Wiltjer to consider a transfer for more playing time. Still, 6’10″ players who shoot a legitimate 39 percent from distance are tough to find, so even with all that superstar talent Calipari has at his disposal next season, it wouldn’t hurt to offer Wiltjer a redshirt season to get stronger in 2013-14 and a much bigger role on the following year’s squad.
  3. This news was hinted at in last week’s announcement about Kansas‘ expansion of its third-tier media rights, and yesterday the second part of the deal was unveiled. Depending on whom you ask among Jayhawks faithful in the comments of this Lawrence Journal-World article, this is either a “as bad as I expected” or a complete “travesty.” Although KU officials are lauding its deal to provide 70 live events on ESPN3 as only the second of its kind between a Big 12 school and ESPN (the Longhorn Network being the other), the reality is that only six men’s basketball games will be shown as part of the agreement, and many fans of a nationally-relevant program like Kansas do not belong to a cable network that offers ESPN3 as part of its package. For a decent metric of the temperature of the fan base, take a look at that comment thread (189 and going strong at the time of this writing) — this isn’t a group that suffers fools lightly.
  4. Despite the mood of Jayhawks fans about this newfangled streaming deal with ESPN3, SI.com‘s Andy Staples makes some excellent points in his feature analysis suggesting that such deals may in fact be the tip of the next iceberg that changes how college sports is packaged and sold. Admittedly, we’re still a number of years away from an Internet-dominant model becoming completely mainstream, but as Netflix, Google and Apple continue to redefine how we consume media, and as the non-sports fan public pushed back against astronomical bundled rights fees for cable sports (see: Time Warner’s lawsuit about the Lakers/Dodgers), it’s worth consideration. And as we remarked frequently when the ‘number of local eyeballs’ metric worked to justify nonsensical conclusions such as Rutgers joining the Big Ten, it will eventually come to pass that the a la carte penetration of a market (i.e., the number of people who actually care and watch the games) will matter far more than the overall size of it. Then much of this latest round of conference realignment will look somewhat silly; that is, to everyone who didn’t line their much deeper pockets in the color of green.
  5. How’s that for a prelude? While on the subject of the conference realignment, the new Big East is set to open its doors for business five days from now. Except that there are no doors to actually open. Nor is there an address, a commissioner or even a fancy new logo. As Dana O’Neil writes, the new league is getting directed by its nine university priests and one president, and nobody can seemingly come to an easy decision on anything. Or any decision. Paralysis by analysis, she terms it, and quite unsurprisingly, the athletic departments at Providence, Georgetown, Butler, Creighton and the rest are wondering what exactly they’ve all signed on to here. Hopefully once a commissioner is named — Val Ackerman has been suggested, via Andy Katz and other media reports — but until then, this new basketball-centric league is floating rudderless with a captain. Our email address, in case they need it: rushthecourt@yahoo.com.
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Morning Five: 06.19.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 19th, 2013

morning5

  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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Morning Five: 06.13.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 13th, 2013

morning5

  1. Another day, another mob with pitchforks standing outside the gates. ESPN.com‘s Darren Rovell reported yesterday that a group of former NCAA athletes has filed a $5 million suit in federal court against a company that sells photographs of college athletes without their express permission. Although the claim does not list the NCAA nor some 90 schools alleged to sell images to the defendant company, it wouldn’t be much of a leap to eventually go after them as well down the line. Under current NCAA rules, the schools have the right to promote their own games using player images, but the legal question will center around whether they also have the right to sell or transfer those images. This lawsuit is of course unrelated to the Ed O’Bannon likeness case also working its way through the system in federal court, but the underlying issue — that players are not compensated for their work and corresponding brand — is very similar.
  2. While on the subject of the mission of the NCAA and its member institutions, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a piece yesterday from a professor at Ohio State University named Steven Conn. Conn, an American history scholar, took his soon-to-be-former boss, OSU president Gordon Gee, to task not so much for his forced retirement based on a series of verbal gaffes; rather, for helping to create and propagate the ”athletic-industrial beast that defines higher education now.” The point he’s ultimately making is that college presidents nowadays have to spend so much time dealing with their athletic programs because of the money and prestige associated with them, that they’ve completely lost sight of what the true mission of an institution of higher learning is supposed to represent. Interesting read.
  3. With all the pressure on programs to succeed in the revenue sports, it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that the average D-I men’s basketball coach has been at his current job for a total of 38 months — just over three years. This information and plenty of other coaching longevity tidbits comes courtesy of D1scourse, Patrick Stevens’ site examining college sports in the mid-Atlantic area. Although it was news to us that only one coach has survived at one school since the ’70s (Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, 1976), and only seven since the ’80s, the real takeaway from his analysis is that over 55 percent of true seniors who signed a letter of intent in November 2009 have experienced a coaching change in their careers. And yet we continue to penalize them for transferring, why, again?
  4. While on that topic, a really odd situation has developed involving DePaul forward Donnovan Kirk, a player who spent the first two years of his career at Miami (FL) before transferring to Chicago for the last two seasons. Given Miami’s success under Jim Larranaga especially relative to the train wreck at DePaul, Kirk has now decided to use his graduate transfer exception to head back to Miami for his final season. That’s right: a double-transfer where he is ending up at the same school where he originally started. He only averaged 6/4 last season for the Blue Demons, but he’s a great leaper and was among the Big East leaders in blocked shots per game (1.6 BPG). He’ll move right into a lineup in Coral Gables that is extremely lacking in experienced size, so this appears to be a win/win for both parties.
  5. The fortunes next season for another major basketball school in Florida — not FGCU, sorry — are still somewhat up in the air at this early summer point of the offseason. There are always a number of players finishing up coursework and dealing with standardized test scores to become eligible for next season, but in the case of Florida’s Chris Walker, there are serious concerns about his eventual eligibility. Not only does he still need to pass the ACT, which he has now taken three times, but he has to finish three core course requirements over the summer before he can enroll at the university in Gainesville. With most players these days getting themselves on campus for the early summer term to start prepping for next season, it doesn’t appear that will be an option for Walker very soon, if ever.
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Morning Five: 06.10.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 10th, 2013

morning5

  1. The biggest news impacting college basketball over the weekend came from Tobacco Road, as the Raleigh News & Observer‘s Dan Kane has continued to push forward in his dogged pursuit of the truth involving to the North Carolina athletic department’s relationship with a decade-plus history of fraudulent courses involving many of its student-athletes. We plan on having more commentary available later today, but as Kane continues to show with his persistence, there doesn’t appear to be any question that the academic support people charged with assisting student-athletes in their coursework were entirely too cozy with the administrators – Julius Nyang’oro and Deborah Crowder — who were ultimately proven responsible for the no-show courses and other academically fraudulent activities. These recently released emails exhibit that Nyang’oro received perks and benefits that were ethically improper (i.e., sideline passes to UNC football games) given that athletes may have been steered to the bogus classes under his watch. This latest reveal gets Kane one step closer to a direct connection with the athletic department, as the academic support staff who appear to have been nudging athletes to these courses and providing Nyang’oro with perks are under the employ and direction of the athletic department. Are we to take at face value that these staff members were acting on their own in a rogue manner; or was there a wink-and-a-nudge agreement in existence here, from the top down? Credit to Kane to continue rattling the cage in Chapel Hill — apparently there are a number of possibly instructive emails that were not released because of student privacy and/or personnel concerns. We’ve said it before, but the University of North Carolina really needs to take more responsibility over this entire situation. 
  2. UNC, of course, has a ridiculously successful basketball program to protect, and keeping that brand viable and competitive is one of the cornerstones of the new ACC as it moves into a basketball environment that Mike Krzyzewski has already called the “best ever.” ESPN’s senior VP of college sports programming, Burke Magnus, did an interview with Al.com last last week, where he described college hoops programming as very important to ESPN’s continued success in the sports broadcasting marketplace, but also focused specifically on the new-and-improved Atlantic Coast Conference as the key to higher (even approaching college football) television ratings going forward. SI.com‘s Andy Glockner took the time to evaluate his statements — could ACC basketball become SEC football, in other words? — finding that Magnus’ hoped-for ratings may be a bit ambitious, but ESPN’s move of the ACC to Big Monday and the congregation of so many nationally-relevant programs in the same league will without question have a positive impact on viewer interest.
  3. Later today the sportscaster who probably had more influence than any other in making college basketball a name-brand, marquee American sport, will be inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame. Dick Vitale, long before he was Dookie V. or some kind of embellished caricature of himself, was must-see viewing along with the teams of the 1980s and 1990s — if you listen to some of those broadcasts now on ESPN Classic, a keen observer will note that Vitale’s analysis was often spot on, making his more muted schtick considerably more appealing as an exciting conversational tool. At some point around the turn of the last decade when Vitale lost interest in providing thoughtful analysis and instead became synonymous with cheerleading for certain blue-blooded programs (ahem), many of the younger generation of fans turned on him and have rightfully viewed him as an anachronistic dinosaur ever since. Still, his influence on the sport as a whole is far beyond what any other national college hoops broadcaster has ever reached, and Vitale deserves all the accolades he is now receiving, in this, the twilight, of his long and illustrious career.
  4. There was some transfer news over the weekend, as former Indiana guard Maurice Creek announced that he will spend his graduate transfer year at George Washington, and Illinois forward Myke Henry announced that he will spend his final two seasons at DePaul. Both players are transferring back home, as Henry is a Chicago native and Creek grew up in the suburbs just outside Washington, DC. The new Colonial, Creek, represents a very intriguing situation — a one-time rising star whose career was sidetracked by multiple injuries, he could provide an immediate lift on the perimeter to a young team desperately in need of some senior leadership and scoring punch. Henry will have to sit out next season, but he will join a talented recruiting class in 2014-15 with a year of action under its belt that can probably use the versatility on the wing that Henry can provide.
  5. There was some very sad news over the weekend, as colorful longtime Miami (OH) head coach Charlie Coles passed away at the age of 71. As the Athens Messenger writes in a column about his life, Coles was “one of a kind,” the kind of old school coach who “always had a minute; always had a story.” He retired from basketball in 2012 after enduring years of health issues, but his teams at Miami were generally known as very tough outs — he took the Red Hawks to three NCAA Tournaments including a Sweet Sixteen in 1999, a couple of NITs and CBIs, and was regularly competitive in the even-steven environment of the MAC. Twitter reaction around the college hoops universe about Coles‘ passing was proper and respectful, but this video of his press conference after a close-but-no-cigar loss at Kentucky in the 2009-10 season is perhaps more revealing (and fun). You can leave his family a note on his Legacy page here; he certainly will be missed.
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Morning Five: 06.06.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 6th, 2013

morning5

  1. College basketball’s worst kept secret became official late Wednesday night, as Missouri’s Michael Dixon, apparently the Teflon Don of sexual assault allegations in Columbia, announced via Twitter that he was transferring to Memphis. As we discussed in yesterday’s piece addressing the rumors of his transfer, Dixon brings a very interesting combination of talent and experience to a Tigers team desperately in need of some heady play to supplement the occasional wildness of returnees Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford. The question of whether Dixon will ever suit up with those two rising seniors, though, will be for the NCAA to decide, as he plans to request a waiver after already sitting out last season at Missouri. His argument will hinge on the Dez Wells exception, a unique and slightly different scenario where Wells was expelled from Xavier over a sexual assault allegation that even local prosecutors found completely unsubstantiated. Of course, Wells was ultimately allowed to play last season at Maryland, where he blossomed into one of the ACC’s most dangerous wings, and whether Dixon will receive the same treatment from the sport’s governing body may involve determinations on guilt or innocence that it is simply unprepared or unwilling to make. If he is allowed to suit up as a Tiger of the Memphis variety next season, though, Josh Pastner’s team suddenly becomes a lot more interesting on the national stage. 
  2. Speaking of that stage, one of the biggest and best national events in the early weeks of the season is the Jimmy V Classic. Next season’s pair of match-ups have now been finalized, and Memphis in fact will be one of those teams featured. The Tigers will take on a top 10 outfit in Florida in the nightcap, while fellow AAC member Cincinnati will battle new ACC institution Pittsburgh in the undercard. Did you get all that? It’s AAC vs. ACC, and AAC vs. SEC. If Dixon is cleared to play next season, the backcourt battles between he and Crawford versus Kasey Hill and Scottie Wilbekin will be fun to watch.
  3. Remember Julie Roe Lach, the former VP of NCAA enforcement who was fired in February related to a series of missteps that occurred under her watch, but most notably the ethical misconduct stemming from the Nevin Shapiro case at Miami (FL)? She resurfaced on Wednesday with an op-ed piece published at Yahoo! Sports giving her take on how the NCAA should operate its enforcement initiatives. It reads lawyerly, but if you can get past the tone and dryness of it, she makes several good points. From her perspective, the NCAA needed to accomplish three primary things with respect to its enforcement process: 1) make penalties against schools harsh enough to deter the risk/reward mindset; 2) shorten the length of its investigations; 3) in revenue sports, instill a valid fear in personnel of getting caught. As she writes in the article, the organization was moving steadfastly in that direction when the Shapiro case and subsequent media firestorm it entailed derailed the focus of the organization. Unfortunately for her, the piece has something of an air of desperation about it — even though Lach’s points are well-sourced and make sense, she won’t be taken seriously by either the media or the NCAA at this point. It’s worth a read, but what the organization now needs is the next general — a Lach without a reputation — who will carry the flag forward without the taint of scandal enveloping his every word.
  4. One of the NCAA initiatives of the past several years that we’ve gotten fully behind is the Academic Progress Rate (APR). Notwithstanding the fact that schools can game the numbers with bogus classes and coursework to increase their APR scores — baby steps — it still provides some degree of academic accountability where there was little before. And it has some teeth, as Connecticut found out the very hard way last season. So kudos to 2013 national champion Louisville, which was one of only 35 men’s basketball teams to score in the top tier of schools (scoring 978 or above) in the most recent APR cycle (covering academic years 2009-12). The entire top 10 percent list that the NCAA highlights as part of its “Public Recognition Awards” is located here. The biggest surprise on the list this year? It has to be Memphis, although Alabama men’s basketball and football clearly show that the army of tutors and student-athlete assistants in Tuscaloosa are very good at their jobs.
  5. We didn’t mention Indiana in the previous blurb, but we easily could have, as Tom Crean has taken a program that was scoring in the 800s to one that is at the very top of Division I men’s basketball on the APR nowadays (Will the Hoosiers print up commemorative t-shirts? Too easy.). But one IU player is not only receiving academic accolades, he’s also still getting lauded for his work on the court last year. The Tulsa Sports Charities organization has named Hoosiers wing Victor Oladipo as its 2013 recipient of the Eddie Sutton Tustenegee Award, an honor “presented annually to a college basketball player who best exhibits the traits of tenacity and unselfishness that Sutton advocated during a coaching career that landed him in the College Basketball Hall of Fame.” In a year when the race was fairly wide open among a group of about five players, we like to see the love spread around a bit. Good for Oladipo, probably the best player on both ends of the floor last season.
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Morning Five: 05.29.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 29th, 2013

morning5

  1. If you threw a dart at a map of the United States and it landed somewhere in the hills of Eastern Kentucky or Southwestern Virginia, then drew a circle around that location with a radius of roughly 500 miles in distance, you’d pretty much have nailed down the ‘fertile crescent’ of college basketball. With powerful and tradition-rich programs like North Carolina, Duke, NC State, Kentucky, Louisville, Indiana, Cincinnati, and Ohio State, along with other well-supported programs like Tennessee, Xavier, Dayton and Wake Forest all within that circle, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that nine of ESPN‘s top 10 rated television markets for college basketball fall within its boundaries. The top 10: Louisville, Greensboro, Raleigh/Durham, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Columbus, Charlotte, Knoxville and Nashville. KC, with Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State, Creighton and Wichita State all somewhat nearby is the only outlier among this group.
  2. You know it’s gotten out of hand if politicians are getting involved, and that appears to now be the case at Rutgers in the latest scandal enveloping the school’s athletic department. Or not getting involved. Or getting involved to say that they’re not getting involved. Whatever. New Jersey governor Chris Christie told listeners on his “Ask the Governor” radio show Tuesday night that he has no plans to intervene in the hiring of new athletic director Julie Hermann. While it’s no doubt true that Christie has much bigger fish to fry than micromanaging every hiring decision at the state university, it’s worth asking whether any senior athletic department staff is paying attention at all (certainly Christie’s political opponents are doing so). The Mike Rice situation followed by the flub with Eddie Jordan’s resume and now this debacle is highly suggestive of an environment where leadership can’t see what they don’t want to see. It’s incumbent on university president Bob Barchi to get this problem fixed, and soon.
  3. The SEC Tournament may seek to reproduce the success that its football and baseball championships have had at permanent sites — Atlanta and Hoover, Alabama, respectively — by moving to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena for good following the 2014 event in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. Commissioner Mike Slive was careful to avoid saying the word “permanent,” opting instead to call Music City the “primary” site, but the point is that SEC puppet-masters feel that the relatively central geographic location and easy access for large traveling basketball fan bases such as Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and home team Vanderbilt would merit this (as yet unofficial) decision. Can’t say we disagree. The best conference tournaments are generally in a city that really embraces the event every year, and Nashville seems to enjoy its status as a big-time basketball stronghold during the few times it has gotten to hold the event there.
  4. It’s not often we dig into Division II basketball on this site, but it’s also not common for there to be a formal indictment by a grand jury against a player for murder either. San Francisco State wing Decensae White – formerly of Texas Tech and Santa Clara in 2006-09 — was indicted in Georgia on Tuesday for his alleged role in gunning down a rapper named Lil Phat (nee‘ Melvin Vernell III) as he sat outside a hospital where his girlfriend underwent labor in Atlanta. White gained some degree of national notoriety for hitting a half-court game winner against Cal Poly back in February of this season, as the clip was featured on ESPN’s Sportscenter. White and four other men are due for presentment on these charges later this week.
  5. There was one notable bit of transfer news from Tuesday, as Oregon State’s Ahmad Starks has announced that he will spend the last year of his career at Illinois. He will apply for a family illness waiver to play immediately, as his grandmother is reported to be sick in Chicago. This is a good pickup for John Groce’s squad, as the Illini could use some experienced talent — Starks averaged 10.4 PPG and hit 62 threes last season for the Beavers — to pair in the backcourt with returnees Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand as part of a three-guard set. It may not be a group as talented as last year’s Paul/Richardson/Abrams trio, but it should work well within Groce’s trey-happy system.
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The RTC Offseason Podcast: Andrew Wiggins Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 23rd, 2013

It’s been a bit over six weeks since the Louisville Cardinals cut down the nets in Atlanta, but we here at RTC never fully transition into hibernation for the summer. We’re always thinking and reflecting on college hoops in one way or another, so we figured why not throw out a few more RTC Podcasts while we’re at it. In this, the first of several offseason editions, host Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) walks us through a few of the hotter topics that have arisen since Rick Pitino got tatted up. We’ll be back with another edition probably sometime in mid-June. Until then, the full lineup of topics for this time is below.

  • 0:00-8:51 – Kansas Wins the Wiggins Sweepstakes
  • 8:51-13:01 – Big Returnees in the Big 12
  • 13:01-15:52 – Doug McDermott Headlines Other Returning Stars
  • 15:52-17:43 – Returning Stars from the National Championship Game
  • 17:43-20:44 – Adreian Payne vs. James Michael McAdoo
  • 20:44-23:52 – Transfers That Could Affect the 2013-14 Season
  • 23:52-34:53 – Transfer Culture
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Morning Five: 05.22.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 22nd, 2013

morning5

  1. Perhaps feeling green with envy that Louisville’s Rick Pitino (championship, tattoo, Derby) and Kentucky’s John Calipari (recruiting, NCAA) were receiving all the offseason college basketball attention, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski got himself back into the conversation this week with his comment to SI.com‘s Pete Thamel that he is considering a return to coach USA Basketball’s men’s national team again in 2014 (Worlds) and 2016 (Olympics). We’re kidding about the jealousy bit — sorta — but coaches gotta coach, and everyone has trouble stepping away from doing the thing they love most. Mike DeCourcy writes that the numerous Duke haters who simply cannot endure anything associated with the four-time national championship head coach miss the point — Coach K (and certainly Jerry Colangelo) made the concept of preparing and competing for Team USA cool again. Prior to their involvement, players showed up and expected to win simply because, well, because they thought they could. Miserable performances in the 2002 Worlds (sixth) and 2004 Olympics (third) led to the system we now have in place, and for that Krzyzewski should absolutely be lauded and celebrated by every American who cares about USA basketball.
  2. It certainly doesn’t have the ring or cachet of its predecessor at the Garden, but the inaugural AAC Tournament is beginning to look a lot like the old Conference USA Tournament (and the old Great Midwest Tournament; and the old Metro Tournament) in that it may be headed to Memphis. Don’t get us wrong, the city of Memphis has a tremendous local fan base that loves college basketball and will fill the FedEx Forum with their beloved Tigers now in the new league. But can we liven this thing up a little bit in its first go-round — how about slotting in the top four seeds into the conference semifinals and leaving it at that? A semifinal round of Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis and Connecticut next March wouldn’t be awful, and we’ll even allow you to throw in Temple in place of Cincy if the Bearcats falter. Deal?
  3. We’re a big believer in second chances, especially when someone who has done wrong can show that they’ve learned from their previous mistakes. Still, we believe there should be limitations to those reprisals, and we’re having a little trouble swallowing the Zay Jackson story at Murray State. You remember Jackson — he was the Racer guard who rather infamously ran over a man with his car in a Walmart parking lot last September – according to Andy Katz’s report earlier this week, after serving 49 days in jail for hit-and-run, MSU’s athletic department has decided to allow him back on the team. The school apparently (?) did not have a protocol to deal with situations like these, but how about a protocol of redemption and common sense? Again, we support the concept of a second chance. The young man served his time and by all indications hasn’t caused any problems since his release. But wouldn’t this be a situation where both parties would be better served by shaking hands with each other and walking away? Wouldn’t Jackson want to have a fresh start at another school? Does Steve Prohm really want to endure the endless mocking and jeering his team will suffer as a result of this decision? At a minimum, how about ensuring that Jackson can keep his nose clean for an entire year (just school and practice) before allowing him the privilege of playing college basketball again? Poor form here, we’re afraid.
  4. Depending on whom you ask, the voluminous and growing number of transfers is destroying the integrity of the collegiate game or finally shifting the balance of power back to the producers of all that money flowing to the schools — the players. But the coaches still have several dirty tricks up their sleeve when needed, and the power to “block” transfers from alighting to certain schools is one of the more nefarious ones. Sometimes the notion derives from a misguided but legitimate attempt to protect “trade secrets,” but more often it just seems that the coaches are vindictively limiting the players simply because they can. Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings’ blockage of freshman Sheldon Jeter from transferring closer to his hometown school of Pittsburgh has the look and feel of exactly that. Pitt and Vandy are not in the same league, nor are they scheduled to play next season; in fact, they haven’t played in over two decades. So what’s the deal here? Why on earth would Vanderbilt care if a mediocre freshman wanted to play closer to home for the rest of his career — what possible reason could Stallings have other than “because he can.” Remember, college athletics is about the student-athletes.
  5. Remember the San Diego/Brandon Johnson bribery incident a couple of years ago? That’s OK, nobody else does either. For something that supposedly destroys the very integrity of a sport by its very existence, it sure seems as if incidents like these are quickly reported and summarily swept right on under the rug so as to not get in the way of moving right along. As this FBI narrative reports, Johnson was convicted of point shaving during four games in the 2009-10 season, and he was ultimately outed when the criminal enterprise that had recruited him was investigated for drug trafficking. The FBI report states that “tampering with sports events strikes at the integrity of the games; this kind of betrayal is not merely disappointing—it is criminal and worthy of prosecution,” but the greater public has largely not seemed to care all that much. They still attend and watch games, fill out brackets, and enjoy all the other accessories of being a college sports fan. Maybe we’re all so ambivalent to scandal that we’ve become accustomed to it — as a sort of new normalcy. Oh hey, IRS. How’s it going?
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Morning Five: 05.14.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 15th, 2013

morning5

  1. Yesterday was Andrew Wiggins Day in college basketball, as the precocious Canadian wing who some have claimed is the best prep player since LeBron James came out of Akron in 2003, made his collegiate choice. You’ve undoubtedly heard by now that Wiggins is headed to Kansas to play for Bill Self, so let’s take a look at some of the reactions from around the country. The Kansas head coach himself was ecstatic, saying that Wiggins “brings athleticism, length, scoring ability and [...] an assassin, an alpha dog’s] mentality to his game. Mike DeCourcy emphasizes that not all #1 players are created equal (a true statement), and breaks down some of the most heated recruitments of the modern era (from Ewing to Oden), while also arguing that if Wiggins really sought to shun the glare of a white-hot spotlight, he probably should have gone elsewhere because the pressure will be on him in Lawrence. On the other hand, during the SVP & Rusillo radio show Tuesday, Andy Katz said that Wiggins is walking into a near-perfect situation where he join a team with enough talent around him to win but where there is no question who will be the top dog on campus. So where does this put the Jayhawks next season? The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg thinks that KU is now a title contender, while at least one writer believes the Jayhawks should be elevated into the post-recruitment top four of next year’s power rankings. Twitter of course weighed in as it tends to do in these situationswhile one national writer thinks Wiggins made a mistake in going to college at all. It’s all very exciting stuff, because Wiggins’ decision to join KU balances out the ridiculous incoming class at Kentucky along with the returning talent at places like North Carolina, Louisville, Duke and Arizona. The game is in solid shape for 2013-14, that’s for sure. What’s next for Wiggins? According to Self, perhaps a summer spent playing for Team Canada in some international events. Let’s just cross our fingers that he remains healthy.
  2. Lost amid all the Wiggins news yesterday was that the SEC and Big 12 announced a new basketball challenge in light of the transitions that hit the Big East which makes it no longer an attractive interconference option for something like this. The SEC/Big 12 Challenge will begin on November 14 with a yawner of a game between Alabama and Texas Tech, and will continue on for the next five weeks with highlighted contests including Baylor vs. Kentucky at Cowboys Stadium on December 6 and Kansas vs. Florida in Gainesville on December 10. Look, we love the idea conceptually. The SEC and Big 12 are very similar leagues and this sort of match-up makes a lot more sense than the Big East/SEC event ever did. But the Big 12 tried the same thing with the Pac-10 a few years ago and it was a failure because nobody knew when the games were happening — they were simply too spread out. For events like this to work, they must (capital MUST) be confined to a tight spacing of games so that fans can actually invest in the concept and keep up with how each league is doing. To have games literally spread out over more than a month like they’ve done here is incredibly short-sighted and incomprehensible. As an aside, Missouri will take part in the Challenge, but they’ll play West Virginia, the school that replaced them after leaving the Big 12 last year.
  3. Something ugly appears to be going down at Tennessee involving the bizarre Trae Golden dismissal/transfer that occurred last week. According to numerous published reports, the rumors of Golden’s academic issues in Knoxville may have involved more than originally met the eye after the school terminated its head of judicial student affairs, Jenny Wright, late last week. We’re not going to speculate as to what exactly may have happened here until more information is released, but as Andy Glockner notes in SI.com, the merging of possible academic impropriety with unprofessional relationships in the context of a judicial student affairs setting isn’t one to take lightly. And certainly nothing that the school needs after already suffering through the Bruce Pearl and Derek Dooley foibles in their two revenue sports.
  4. From the world is a strange and sometimes awful place department, Brown guard Joseph Sharkey, a sophomore who averaged about 12 minutes per game last season for the Bears, was approached and struck in the face by a random stranger over the weekend, putting him into the hospital where he is in critical condition. As CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Goodman writes, the attack appears to have been completely unprovoked and ultimately resulted in the young man’s head hitting concrete as he fell down. It sounds like a horrible story and one that we hope doesn’t have a lasting negative outcome for the player. We’re wishing him well on his recovery from this senseless crime.
  5. Finishing up with some comings and goings, Andrew Wiggins must be scaring the rest of the Big 12, as not one but two Baylor players are leaving the program — most notably, Deuce Bello, along with LJ Rose – and Texas’ Julien Lewis, the top returning scorer for the Longhorns, is also on his way out. Lewis is the most accomplished player of the three, averaging 11/3 APG in his sophomore season in Austin, but Bello probably has the most name-brand recognition from his prep days when he was considered the most athletic player in his class. Bello has only seen about 10 minutes per game of action in his two seasons in Waco, but perhaps a change of scenery will allow him to develop his game beyond occasional Highlight of the Night quality dunks. Already more than 400 players are on the transfer wire this offseason, averaging out to a little more than one player per D-I team. Wow. We hope these guys find what they’re looking for.
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Morning Five: 05.10.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 10th, 2013

morning5

  1. In yesterday’s M5, we linked to an LA Times article exploring how new USC head coach Andy Enfield is taking to his new environs in Hollywood. What’s been forgotten amid all the buzz surrounding Enfield is the school that allowed him to become a household name in the first place — Florida Gulf Coast. According to the Fort Myers (FL) News-Press, new head coach Joe Dooley has been adjusting to the job through a whirlwind of recruiting trips, a national search for an assistant coach, and getting to know his returning players. One interesting idea put forth in the article is that Dooley appears to be looking at graduating seniors with another year of eligibility as a quick solution to gather some quick elite-level talent. It’s not a bad thought, especially considering that the brand recognition of FGCU is likely to give the program a number of marquee non-conference games next season, a nice selling point for players at bigger schools who might be looking to trade down for one year.
  2. Mike DeCourcy is back with his Starting Five column this week, and he took some time out from his trip to the British Isles to tackle several interesting subjects: notably, Andrew Wiggins, Andy Enfield, and our favorite, RTCing. On the subject of Wiggins and where he thinks he’s headed (or should head) next season, he couldn’t have been more politically savvy, writing 200 words on the “prediction” without actually answering his own question! With respect to Enfield, he gives the new USC head coach a puncher’s chance at making Trojans basketball a hot ticket, but we’re in agreement with him that the focus of the school on football makes it a very tough place to become truly relevant. Finally, he also attacks the practice of RTCing as a “massive potential liability,” and of course he’s right on that point — but it’s also incredibly fun for the students involved, and love it or hate it — ahem, we fall in the love category — it’s one of the few unique traditions that college basketball can claim as its very own, and we hope that it remains part of that fabric of the sport for as long as we’re around.
  3. Yesterday’s transfer news includes a couple of good players looking to take advantage of the graduate exception to play their final season immediately at their new location. Florida State forward Terrence Shannon announced that he will enroll at VCU for his last campaign, giving Shaka Smart’s already-talented Rams a big and athletic post player who can team up with Juvonte Reddic and Treveon Graham in an outstanding frontcourt next season. Out west, Arizona State’s Evan Gordon has been granted his release and is rumored to be considering a transfer closer to his home in Indiana for his last season. The obvious choice for Gordon would be Tom Crean’s Hoosiers, given that older brother Eric played in Bloomington a few years ago, and the personnel losses that IU faces this offseason. As players around the country move toward graduation and recognize the immediate value of this exception, we expect to see quite a few more of these free agency situations before the month is out. Somewhere up in Wisconsin, Bo Ryan just kicked his dog.
  4. One of the best movies of all-time is the documentary Hoop Dreams, a Chicago prep basketball saga that follows the high school careers of William Gates and Arthur Agee through their many ups and downs. Both Gates and Agee have reached middle age by now, but they remain quasi-celebrities by virtue of their affiliation with the movie and the raw reality of the stories they told. The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg tells the story of William Gates, Jr., Gates’ son, who as a high school senior at Samuel Clemens High School in San Antonio, just recently accepted a scholarship offer to play Division I basketball at Furman. Anyone who struggled with the disappointments that the elder Gates suffered after blowing out his knee in Chicago two decades ago has to love this story of a family’s redemption. Great piece of work here.
  5. Finally, in a sad testimony of just how far the industry of journalism has fallen (and the end seemingly nowhere in sight), the New York Daily News laid off longtime college basketball scribe Dick “Hoops” Weiss. A mentor to many in the business and a true gentleman admired by everyone privileged to have met him at MSG or one of his 40+ trips to the NCAA Tournament, we surely hope that he will find a comfortable landing spot somewhere else. It’s a shame that someone so influential to the game of college basketball for nearly a half-century can be thrown out like yesterday’s news, but as we’ve said many times before, the modern era of reporting and sports writing seemingly will not stop itself in its vulgar race to the very bottom.
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Another Important Transfer Pick Up For Oregon: Can Mike Moser Re-Emerge In Eugene?

Posted by Chris Johnson on May 9th, 2013

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

The transfer market didn’t betray the Oregon Ducks last season, so they gave it another shot this week. They went after coveted former UNLV forward Mike Moser, who instantly became one of the hottest transfer pieces on the market this offseason following his release from the Rebels. Moser could play right away thanks to the graduate transfer exemption, and he could have chosen any number of teams — who wouldn’t want to add an athletic and imposing 6’8” power forward to bolster their frontcourt? Washington, Oregon and Gonzaga had emerged as Moser’s most likely landing spots in recent weeks, and on Tuesday, Moser finally settled on his home state school.

Adding Moser is not an unfamiliar move for the Ducks, who have liberally welcomed transfers in the past (Getty Images).

Adding Moser is not an unfamiliar move for the Ducks, who have liberally welcomed transfers in the past (Getty Images).

The Portland native instantly raises Oregon’s chances of competing in a winnable Pac-12. That is the most conspicuously plain reaction to Moser’s news, and it’s probably right. Moser makes Oregon better. Elucidating the scope of that description – how much better? – requires a quick revisiting of Moser’s two-year career to date. In 2011-12, Moser was an absolute force. He played 77.1 percent of the available minutes, posted a top-10 defensive rebounding rate, a top-100 steal percentage, and showed promise on the offensive end. Moser’s athletic skills and instinctual defensive and rebounding work made him an obvious All-America candidate heading into last season. He was big and athletic and skilled, and just beginning to scratch the surface of his immense potential – Moser seemed like one of safest bargains on the table. Not only would he shine individually, Moser would power a talented UNLV group, built on the back of a highly-ranked freshman class that included likely lottery pick Anthony Bennett, to an easy MW title. Moser’s monster season was pre-scripted. He was a virtual lock for stardom.

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