Morning Five: 05.08.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 8th, 2013

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  1. The biggest news of the day on Tuesday, and a subject on which we’ll have more later this afternoon, is that the NCAA Tournament’s marquee event, the Final Four, is headed to cable giant TBS beginning in 2014. CBS and Turner Sports have jointly held the broadcast rights to March Madness for three years now, and it was well-known that TBS would have the right to begin airing the Final Four next season, but the choice of Turner Sports to exercise that option shows just how valuable the company thinks the property has become. As to specifics, the two entities will split things next season, with each getting two games of the Elite Eight, Turner taking the Final Four, and CBS the national championship game. The same situation will apply in 2015, but in 2016 Turner will take the entire final weekend before rotating it back to CBS the next year and alternating each season after that (the Elite Eights will remain split). At first blush, this seismic broadcasting shift may appear to be a downgrade from network television, but as Mike DeCourcy writes, cable television is nearly as ubiquitous as the networks nowadays, and the additional revenue brought in from the partnership with Turner allowed the NCAA Tournament to avoid the nuclear option of a horrifying expansion to 96 teams.
  2. So the Final Four might be moving to a new broadcast format next year, what about some prominent players hoping to get there? A couple of rising seniors were on the move yesterday, with UNLV’s Mike Moser settling on a destination for his final collegiate season — Oregon — and Tennessee’s Trae Golden seemingly on the outs with his coaching staff as he has decided to leave Knoxville. Moser had been rumored to be considering Washington and Gonzaga, but the Portland product ultimately was swayed by the success that Dana Altman has shown with several of his transfers (most notably Arsalan Kazemi last season). Moser was a preseason All-American at UNLV last year who struggled with injuries and his role in a lineup that featured freshman wunderkind Anthony Bennett as well as a number of other talented players. The Moser transfer makes sense under the graduate exception, but Golden is a lot tougher to figure. After a successful junior season where he had made it publicly known he was pleased with the direction of the program (and why not, he was the only point guard on the team), he has decided to leave Knoxville; and if you read the tea leaves among some of his UT buddies, it may not have completely been his decision. He too will try to employ the graduate transfer option next season, but it’s at this point unknown where he is headed.
  3. From players on the move to programs, two more schools are jumping conferences in the timeless yet endless pursuit of greater glory somewhere up the food chain. Davidson‘s Stephen Curry may own the NBA Playoffs at this point, but he never owned the A-10! At least that’s the logic behind the tiny school’s jump from the SoCon (where it has been a member for the better part of 80 years) to the Atlantic 10 beginning in July 2014. The school has arguably had a move like this on its agenda for a while, because it turned down an invitation to the CAA last year, presumably expecting a bigger and better offer to come soon enough. One of the residual effects of all the football-driven conference realignment nonsense is that there has been a bit of an unanticipated pooling of talented mid-major basketball programs as a result. Along the same lines, Oakland University (remember, it’s in Michigan, not California) announced that it would be joining the Horizon League starting this summer. Even though Butler is now gone from the HL, Oakland brings a solid program to the fold led by Greg Kampe that has been to the NCAA Tournament in two of the last four seasons (2010, 2011).
  4. We missed this one yesterday, but it’s a fascinating piece published by David Steele that looks at the story behind one of this year’s 46 early entries into the NBA Draft — a guy by the name of Joshua Simmons. It’s not newsworthy in the sense that seemingly every year there are a few guys who forgo their eligibility who have no business doing so (and a few others who do so as a publicity stunt), but Simmons’ situation is really one of no other viable basketball options. It’s not that anyone he’s played for thinks he’s a bad apple or couldn’t potentially claw his way onto a professional roster someday, it’s that he simply ended up on a difficult path that led from a Division II school to a junior college to, well… nowhere. That’s why he’s on the early entries list, and that’s why he’s simply hoping for an invitation to the pre-draft camps and ultimately, the summer league. It’s certainly not a well-worn path to the NBA, but it’s the only one he has.
  5. By now we’re all sick of hearing about Andrew Wiggins, right? The precocious Canadian wing who has been compared to everyone from Michael Jordan to Kobe Bryant is the top player in the Class of 2013, and every major school on his list still thinks it has a great shot at landing him. His quartet of suitors are Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Florida State, but according to this article from the Louisville Courier-Journal, the wait should be ending soon. He expects to make his decision within the next “week or so,” which means that the message boards, blogs, and the commentariat at all four schools will be working overtime in the interim. In the meantime, he plans on moving back to Toronto, going to prom with his grade school friends, and generally trying to live the rest of his spring out as a normal teenager graduating high school would — in other words, an impossible feat for someone as closely watched as Wiggins.
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Morning Five: 03.07.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 7th, 2013

morning5

  1. The beauty of advanced quantitative analysis in sports is that, when done correctly, it can validate things that you already inherently know. Trey Burke as the best player in America? It sure felt like it while we were watching him lead Michigan past Kansas and Florida on the way to the Final Four. Rick Pitino as the best coach going right now? Considering how his Louisville Cardinals were essentially the same cast of characters from a surprise 2012 Final Four run and became recognizably better on the offensive end (especially out of timeouts) in 2013? Sure seems like it. Of course, there are limitations — Florida rated tops in KenPom’s efficiency ratings for most of the season, but the Gators were merely a good team filled with good players, not a great one. SI.com‘s Luke Winn keeps us interested by doing what only he has proven he can do — sifting through terabytes of efficiency data and video clips to come up with his second annual Data-Based Coaching/Player Awards. Lots of good information in the piece, but perhaps the neatest has to be his quantification of Oregon’s Arsalan Kazemi as the nation’s best all-around defender. 
  2. Speaking of Pitino, the guy continues to get a surplus of positive press in the wake of his second national title. Several outlets had a Pitino/Kentucky Derby story coming out of the weekend, but ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil wrote the quintessential story about the man she calls “the Derby King.” The crux of the story is that regardless of whether Pitino’s horse “Goldencents” finished first, 10th, 17th or somewhere behind the barns in Saturday’s Derby, the 60-year old tattooed grandfather owns the town of Louisville and everything in it. Including Millionaire’s Row. It’s not the kind of read you see much of anymore in the instant-gratification world of online writing, but that makes it even more worth your time.
  3. This news is circumstantial and ultimately may not mean anything at all, but the possibility that it could mean something is really disturbing given recent events. Dennis Dodd at CBSSports.com reported on Wednesday that Missouri head coach Frank Haith has filed a petition in federal court to determine how the NCAA got its hands on what appears to be microfiche copies of his personal bank records. According to the report, some of Haith’s Bank of America records were voluntarily turned over as part of the NCAA’s investigation into the Nevin Shapiro violations at his former school, Miami, but those records did not include the more detailed microfiche copies which Haith seems to believe that the NCAA has in its possession. The gigantic elephant in the room, of course, is that the NCAA already admitted missteps in this case by offering payment to certain witnesses for testimony, but an as-yet unfounded assertion that the organization may have illegally solicited bank records to bolster its case could set off yet another firestorm surrounding the organization. Stay tuned on this one.
  4. If there’s one thing we love about college sports, it’s when former stars come back into the fold as a coach at their alma mater. The Arizona Star-Republic reported on Monday that “Mighty Mouse,” former Arizona star and current Memphis assistant, Damon Stoudamire, is returning to Tucson to join Sean Miller’s staff as an assistant there. For those who don’t remember him at Arizona, he was a three-time all-Pac-10 guard, an All-American in 1995, and, along with backcourt mate Khalid Reeves, led the Wildcats to Lute Olson’s second Final Four in 1994. He’ll fit in great on Miller’s staff, focusing on work with the guards, a role he has fulfilled with Josh Pastner the last couple of seasons.
  5. One other significant coming and going from Monday was out of Florida, as the second Gator in a week announced his transfer out of the program. Last week it was freshman Braxton Ogbueze who say the writing on the wall with two top 10 recruits and Rutgers transfer Eli Carter entering the program; this week it is Devon Walker, a freshman wing who saw just a handful of minutes in 25 contests this season. The Gators are coming off three straight Elite Eight appearances, but none of those three teams were loaded with NBA talent (Bradley Beal’s freshman year was the lone exception). With Kasey Hill and Chris Walker both headed to Gainesville next season, though, the Gators could actually boast more elite talent in 2013-14 than it has the last several years.
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Morning Five: 05.06.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 6th, 2013

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  1. The NCAA approved legislation on Friday that will allow the first official practices to start two weeks earlier next fall, essentially meaning that we might see Midnight Madness events tipping off in late September rather than the usual mid-October commencement date. The rule allows for 30 days of team practices over a 42-day window, backing up from the date of the first regular season games of the season (next year: November 8). While we’re fully in support of more preseason practice time so that teams have sufficient opportunity to field a good product during the marquee early events, we’re not sold on the idea of having a bunch of Midnight Madnesses while college football is still getting under way, the NFL is only three weeks into its season and the MLB playoffs haven’t even begun yet. It’s not the worst thing in the world if college basketball fans are getting excited about Big Blue Madness, Late Night With Roy, and the rest, for a sliver of a crowded September sports schedule, but if we had been the NCAA, we may have written a clause into the draft that allows for the earlier practice time while mandating that public events cannot go off until the usual mid-October date. 
  2. This article from the LA Times‘ Bill Plaschke isn’t a college basketball piece, per se, but it does start and end with examples relating to the sport. The topic is the difficulty of head coaching positions in the Los Angeles sports scene, and UCLA men’s basketball in particular is featured prominently. He cites the fact that there’s already a Facebook page dedicated to firing new Bruins’ head coach Steve Alford, and of course he makes time to mention former head coach Ben Howland’s three Final Fours during his decade in Westwood. The restlessness that appears to infect the LA sports and entertainment scene is probably not much different than anywhere else — perhaps a bit more hyperactive there because of the importance of style over substance — but Plaschke is absolutely correct when he notes that a certain former head coach went a phenomenal 16 seasons before “finally” winning the first of his 10 national championships. No doubt if John Wooden had coached in today’s era of immediate expectations and returns, he may not have ever gotten the chance to make his unprecedented run.
  3. We’ll have more on this topic later today, but news from USA Today‘s Eric Prisbell over the weekend suggests that the former AAU coach of former Kansas star Ben McLemore took money and benefits from an agent named Rodney Blackstock in an effort to “deliver” the possible overall top draft pick to him. The report revealed three regular season KU games where Blackstock received a complimentary guest pass from McLemore, but as is so often true in these situations, it’s nearly impossible to prove the player or the school knew any such impropriety as alleged by the coach actually occurred. As Gary Parrish at CBSSports.com points out, the NCAA could use Bylaw 12.3.1.2 to declare McLemore ineligible based on what it already knows, but to do so flies in the face of what it just concluded in the Lance Thomas/Duke situation, and begs the tried-and-true question of whether schools should be held responsible for things it simply cannot control in this messed-up system that exists well outside the reach of the NCAA. Gregg Doyel makes a similar argument in this piece, taking the tack that whether we’re talking about the possible ineligibility of Marcus Camby, Derrick Rose or McLemore, the head coach shouldn’t be held responsible unless, you know, he actually had knowledge of, or should have had knowledge of, the events that caused the ineligibility in the first place. Makes sense, right?
  4. There was one notable transfer over the weekend, as Western Michigan’s Darius Paul, the MAC Freshman of the Year last season after averaging 10/6 for the Broncos, tweeted that he would transfer to Illinois after attending older brother Brandon’s postseason awards banquet. He had several high-major offers on the table, but it is becoming clear that John Groce’s fun playing style feeds into a recruiting strategy focused on bringing in a healthy mix of talented freshmen and successful mid-major transfers such as Paul, Illinois State’s Jon Ekey, Seton Hall’s Aaron Cosby, and several others. Paul will sit out next season per NCAA rules but will be ready to contribute in the post for the Illini beginning in 2014-15.
  5. Rick Pitino has had a pretty good spring, but he didn’t add Kentucky Derby champion to his list of 2013 accomplishments. The horse in which Pitino owns a five percent stake, Goldencents, had some trouble getting early traction in the Saturday evening race at Churchill Downs before easing up down the stretch to finish in 17th place. Still, we’re certain that simply having quite literally a horse in the race was good enough for Pitino in this event, as the 60-year old has spent his entire life chasing basketball rather than race track glory. SI.com‘s Pete Thamel interviewed Pitino in this piece that published Friday, and it’s abundantly clear that the two-time national championship head coach thinks he has a great shot at doing it again in 2014.d
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Morning Five: 05.02.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 2nd, 2013

morning5

  1. Over the past five years or so, the college basketball puppet-masters have made heroic if not completely successful attempts to spice up the early November opening of the season. Between the ESPN 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon, the Champions Classic, the Armed Forces Classic and the various aircraft carrier games, there have been some hits and some misses, but if nothing else these events suck a small percentage of the oxygen out of a sports media universe dominated by the pigskin at the time. According to ESPN.com‘s Jason King, there may be another entry into a crowded opening week on the horizon. bd Global is reportedly putting together the final touches on a multi-game event that would take place in Dallas’ American Airlines Arena, just 20 minutes away from Cowboys Stadium, the site of next year’s Final Four. The concept, of course, is that this event — which would include some prominent semi-local Big 12 schools and other national programs — would bookend the 2013-14 season in exciting fashion, while calling attention to the site of next year’s (and future years’) championship weekend. We’re all for it, but is it too much to ask that the event organizers hold this on the actual opening day of college basketball?
  2. There were a couple of prominent transfers Wednesday, with the announcements that Kansas State’s Angel Rodriguez will land at Miami (FL), and Arizona’s Angelo Chol is leaving Sean Miller’s program. There was some speculation originally that Rodriguez may follow his former coach Frank Martin to Columbia, South Carolina, but because of a family health issue, he sought a location relatively close to his home in Puerto Rico and Miami is about as close as he can get. Rodriguez also played his prep basketball in South Florida, so he’s already familiar with the area. If he manages to receive an NCAA family health waiver to suit up next season, he can step right in at the point guard slot vacated by Shane Larkin and would immediately become the team’s best player. Chol found himself in a big man logjam last season in Tucson, averaging a couple points and rebounds per game in only about nine minutes per outing. Even with Grant Jerrett’s decision to leave for the pros factored into next year’s playing time calculus, the addition of top five prospect Aaron Gordon meant that things were unlikely to improve much for Chol in that regard. The San Diego native is likely to give San Diego State a good, hard look as a possible destination.
  3. With everyone providing their post-draft deadline Top 25s for next season, CBSSports.com‘s Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman went one step further with their predictions of how the preseason All-America teams are likely to look in November. Keeping in mind that players who are consensus locks in the preseason sometimes have a tendency to fall completely off the list by March, their selections generally make good sense at this time. Marcus Smart, Doug McDermott and Russ Smith are easy selections, and Mitch McGary probably is a good choice for a fourth. Their wildcard selection, however, is where you just never know… Andrew Wiggins is everyone’s rising superstar du jour, but it wasn’t that long ago that Harrison Barnes was a two-time lock for First Team All-American (he made zero major AA teams at UNC) and Anthony Davis was on a clear track to become the next Bill Russell (Damian Lillard instead was the NBA’s consensus Rookie of the Year). We say this not to point out specific mistakes because everyone makes them, but really to highlight the extreme fallibility of predictions such as these (by anyone).
  4. If that’s not enough to get you hyped for next season, ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil backs these guys up with her argument that the 2013-14 season, with a tremendous group of returnees buttressed by an equally impressive group of newcomers, is shaping up to be something special. Frankly, it’s a really tough argument to make. The 2011-12 season trotted out the same argument with the returns of rising stars Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones and Terrence Jones, to name a few, but that season was mostly marked by a clear delineation that Kentucky and North Carolina, when fully healthy, were the best two teams in America. For our money, a season like 2012-13 was actually more exciting simply because there were more legitimate contenders to the crown — Indiana, Gonzaga, Michigan, Duke, Kansas, Florida and even Miami (FL) looked like they had the chops at one time or another — before Louisville crowned an exciting NCAA Tournament with a storybook run to the title with a likable group of players. Hey, we’re ready for next season right now — let’s tip it off regardless of who is around to play the games — but we for one don’t think parity in college hoops is at all a bad thing. It works for the NFL, why not us?
  5. When RTC was just getting started several years ago, we had a somewhat quaint notion that if we asked nicely and didn’t show up looking like Russell Brand on a 72-hour bender, we might be able to convince a few schools to allow us to cover games as members of the credentialed media. The first school that gave us such an opportunity was Boston College, and the SID who allowed it to occur was Dick Kelley. This week SI.com‘s Pete Thamel wrote a tremendous story describing the unbelievable depth of positive impact that Kelley has had on a school’s athletic department in so many more ways than simply handling media requests. For the last two years, Kelley has been battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and at the time of Thamel’s piece, he has lost the use of both his arms and legs and can no longer speak. Yet he still attended basketball practices and all but one of BC’s home games this season. The story is an inspirational one, and sometimes it’s difficult to get emotionally attached to someone most readers have never met. But for us, not only was he willing to give a couple of part-time bloggers a chance to become legit, he also helped open the door for RTC (and so many others in our wake) to cover high-level Division I games in a professional way. Literally hundreds of games, dozens of conference tourneys, and three full NCAA Tournaments later, we will always remember how we were initially treated by a class act in every sense of the phrase. Take care, Dick.
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Morning Five: 04.25.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 25th, 2013

morning5

  1. Wednesday was a big day on the NBA Draft early entry front, although perhaps in a few ways that we didn’t anticipate. First and foremost, two of the bigger stars of this season’s NCAA Tournament made their decisions, and — egads! — college basketball will definitely be the beneficiary in 2013-14 because of it. The Midwest Regional’s Most Outstanding Player, Russ Smith, has decided to return to Louisville for his senior season, stating in a press conference that it was time to get “back in the lab” over the summer to revamp his game yet again so that he’ll rise onto first round NBA Draft boards by this time next year (oh, and also graduate and potentially leave school as a Louisville legend). If this offseason’s improvement is anything like that of the last two for the mercurial Cardinal guard, then we’re excited to see what other wrinkles he’s added to his overall game. Put simply, his progression from an incredibly inefficient human cannon to that of a hybrid defensive dynamo/pure scorer has been nothing short of remarkable. It also makes the defending national champs extremely dangerous again next season, with enough talented holdovers to give Rick Pitino a legitimate shot at his third trophy.
  2. The other NCAA Tournament stud who made a decision on Wednesday to return to college is Syracuse’s leading scorer and rebounder, CJ Fair. According to the junior forward, he went back and forth on his decision “at least five teams” in the course of the last week before finally deciding that his draft standing (#22 to #40) was too uncertain to risk dropping to the second round. Fair was without question the Orange’s most consistent player this season, earning all-Big East second team honors in his first full year as a starter. Whether Fair can actually improve his draft stock on what appears to be a considerably weaker Syracuse team next season is open for debate, but he’ll need to continue to show that he has range in his outside shooting (30 threes at a 46.9% clip last year) and improve his finishing ability inside the paint in order to ensure himself a 2014 first round selection. As for Syracuse, his return prevents Jim Boeheim from facing a complete rebuild next season.
  3. A few other players were on the move around the nation Wednesday, with USC’s DeWayne Dedmon deciding to take his seven-foot frame and commensurate seven points and seven rebounds per game to the NBA, or whatever professional league in the world that will have him. Dedmon was already in trouble and had been suspended for his alleged role in a Spokane incident at the end of the season, so new head coach Andy Enfield may not have wanted him back anyway. Over at Indiana,  senior guard Maurice Creek will use the graduate transfer rule to attend another school next season. Creek started his Hoosier career like a house of fire, averaging 16.4 PPG over 12 games in 2009-10, but a series of injuries over the next few seasons steadily reduced his playing time to the point he was a complete afterthought on this year’s team. While on the subject of injuries, Penn State star Tim Frazier has been granted a fifth season of eligibility after rupturing his Achilles tendon four games into the season. Frazier is an all-Big Ten caliber guard who will join an already talented backcourt of DJ Newbill and Jermaine Marshall, the top two scorers returning in the league next season. Could the Nittany Lions be dangerous in 2013-14?
  4. The ACC’s long-term grant of rights (GOR) deal appears to have shored up its member institutions for a while, at least until the Internet becomes the major revenue stream supporting college sports and all these deals are torn up at some point. Still, we’re a fan. For the immediate future, there should be some stability among the power conferences after several years of insanity. The University of Maryland may also be quite the fan of this deal. As the Washington Post reported Wednesday, the improved strength of the league after adding Louisville and Notre Dame and approval of the GOR suggests that the ACC has become more stable in the months after Maryland’s departure. This line of thought could provide Terp attorneys a sliver of hope in arguing at court that the school should not be required to pay the entire $52 million exit fee that the league required upon its departure. Time will tell.
  5. We’ll finish up today with a neat story about a sixth grade teacher named Paul Nadeau from Garden City Elementary School in Cranston, Rhode Island. It turns out that his class had a unit on probability approaching earlier this year, so he took the opportunity to tie in the NCAA Tournament’s unpredictability by assigning his students bracket analyses based on mathematical probabilities and backed up by their persuasive writing. Not only did the students embrace the assignment and often forget that they were, you know, learning, but many of them also got excited for the idea of eventually attending college as well. Joey Brackets is probably safe for now, but he’d better watch himself in about 10 years!
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Morning Five: 04.24.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 24th, 2013

morning5

  1.  As we approach the only NBA Draft early entry deadline that actually matters — in other words, the Association’s draft deadline on Sunday, April 28 — several prominent underclassmen have yet to make their final decisions. With a couple of announcements expected later today, USA Today‘s Scott Gleeson gives a nice rundown of the pros and cons for five notable players — Louisville’s Russ Smith, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, Miami’s Shane Larkin, and Baylor’s Isaiah Austin. Smith, who met with his head coach to discuss his decision on Tuesday, says that he has been losing sleep over the choice to stay or leave Louisville, and that he’s been riding the fence on the topic for the two weeks since the Cardinals won the national title. None of this group is a certain lottery pick, so the question of improvement next season versus a deeper draft is surely weighing heavily on all of their minds. 
  2. There’s been quite a bit of chatter this week about shortening the length of the collegiate shot clock as a mechanism to improve the offensive ineptness that has infected the game in recent seasons — those oft-derided 39-38 games and such. Andy Katz polled a number of high-major Division I coaches and found widespread support for a 30-second shot clock, which makes sense at a certain level. Coaches with generally more talent on their rosters are always going to argue for a faster pace — when things break down, pure talent and athleticism take over (similar arguments were made when the clock was reduced from 45 seconds to its current 35 in 1993). As Mike DeCourcy correctly notes, scoring has plummeted to its current level as a result of numerous factors (Louisville coach Rick Pitino has his own ideas) but the shot clock likely isn’t one of them. In fact, when you mix inexperienced and, frankly, less talented players with improved defensive strategies as a result of advanced scouting techniques (Synergy and the like), what you’re likely to be left with is a devil’s concoction of even more sloppy play as college teams rush to get a shot at the basket. Reducing the shot clock to improve scoring sounds great in theory, but what the NCAA Rules Committee should be discussing are ways to clean up the same game that once regularly produced average team scoring in the 70s (1964-81 with no shot clock; 1987-2003 with a 45- and 35-second shot clock) rather than the 60s (2004-present).
  3. As everyone knows, it’s transfer season, and a few notable names came across the wires yesterday.Marshall’s DeAndre Kane is expected to finish his degree this summer and will use the one-year graduate transfer rule to find (presumably) a higher-major program to showcase his wares for a year. Whoever gets him will receive a high-volume shooter (26.3% of all possessions) who also brings a solid assist (42.0%) and steals (2.8%) rates to bear — quite the free agent pick-up if you ask us. Alabama’s Trevor Lacey, a two-year starter at the point guard position who led the Tide in assists and was second in scoring last year, is also moving on to another as-yet-undetermined program. And then there’s this story about Purdue’s Sandi Marcius, who planned to graduate this summer and himself take advantage of the graduate transfer rule — that is, before he realized that the school wasn’t going to pay for the $7,000 he’d need to actually finish that degree. Stay tuned on this one — it’s likely to get weird.
  4. Let’s all take a moment to welcome new Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan back to college basketball. The longtime NBA coach hasn’t really been around the sport in over two decades, but at least the former Scarlet Knight (Class of 1977) actually wants to be there in the wake of the Mike Rice fiasco. He was introduced at a news conference yesterday and seemed very excited to get started on his new five-year, $6.25 million contract. He’s going to need to earn every penny of it. With massive player defections, substandard facilities, a move to the best basketball conference in America, and the stink of an amateur hour coaching fiasco still fresh on everyone’s minds, the rebuild at Rutgers will be monumental.
  5. This is a neat story by Eric Prisbell at USA Today about recruiting wunderkind Alex Kline, the now-18-year old who goes by the handle @therecruitscoop on Twitter and who those of us who follow such things have known about for a few years now. As it turns out, Kline is now finishing up his freshman year at Syracuse and his life has become a whirlwind of tips, networking, writing, and homework assignments mixed in with a little bit of fun now and again. Perhaps the most compelling part of his story, though, is his founding of the Mary Kline Classic, a prep all-star event each spring that raises money for cancer research and honors the life of his mother, who passed away from a brain tumor when he was only 10 years old. Keep on keepin’ on, Alex, you’re already doing great things, but it’s obvious much, much more is coming.
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Morning Five: 01.24.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 24th, 2013

morning5

  1. With many observers expecting the NCAA to hand down its notice of allegations soon to Miami, the NCAA instead revealed that it was essentially putting its investigation from the Nevin Shapiro scandal on hold while it hires an external agency to look into a charge of improperly obtaining information for its investigation. The NCAA has retained the services of Kenneth Wainstein, who has previously served in the roles of Homeland Security Advisor, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and FBI General Counsel. It is a rather sudden turn of events and means that both Miami and other involved parties (see: Missouri’s Frank Haith) can breathe easy for a little while. It remains to be determined whether this will affect any punishments that are ultimately handed down or if in fact the NCAA will have to abandon the entire case, but if the latter is true, it’s safe to say that it will probably be the most embarrassing moment in the NCAA’s long history of rules enforcement.
  2. Leslie McDonald, who missed North Carolina‘s last three games with an injury to his right knee, will be out for another three games, but not because of his knee. Instead, he will miss the additional games because he did not take care of his “responsibilities as a student-athlete.” While this could mean a variety of things, we are assuming that the “student-athlete” bit means scholastic problems. In any event, the Tar Heels will need to overcome McDonald’s extended absence as they appear to have turned a corner (for now) but have games at home against Georgia Tech and on the road at North Carolina State and Boston College. With the weakness of the top teams in the power conferences so far this year, North Carolina would still be in the NCAA Tournament as of today, but they cannot afford too many more mistakes.
  3. After quite a bit of drama and instability in the first couple months of the season, UCLA has seemed to put the pieces back together in recent weeks but there are still some loose ends to tie up. Enigmatic former center Josh Smith has resurfaced at Georgetown, but until yesterday, it was still undetermined where former guard Tyler Lamb would end up. While Smith looked to get as far away from Westwood as possible, Lamb is simply moving about 30 miles southwest to the LBC. He will suit up for Dan Monson’s Long Beach State squad beginning in 2013-14, bringing a solid scoring punch and ability to distribute the ball to a team that appears to be following the Missouri template for adding talented high-major transfers in bulk (Keala King, Dan Jennings, and Tony Freeland). Lamb chose LBSU over San Diego State and began practicing with the team yesterday.
  4. Luke Winn‘s weekly Power Rankings came out prior to Wednesday night’s games, but as we all know, the real value in his column comes from the unique statistical analysis and sartorial commentary that Winn provides each week. Perhaps portending Duke’s struggles at Miami (FL) last night, Winn examines the Blue Devils without Ryan Kelly in the lineup while also making time to evaluate a disturbing trend in Nike uniforms adding a logo to the team’s chest (we completely agree, by the way). As always, you’ll learn more reading this column in 10 minutes that you will reviewing 95% of the college basketball coverage on the web, so get on over there and give it a try if it’s not part of your weekly routine.
  5. A final note about a quirky scheduling anomaly where the nation’s highest scoring team, Northwestern State (85.0 PPG), will face the nation’s lowest scoring defense, Stephen F. Austin (allowing 49.4 PPG), in a battle of contrasting Southland Conference tempos this coming weekend. According to a press release put out by the league on Wednesday, this is the first time that anyone can remember in college basketball history that such a game will occur. We can’t say that we’re going to set aside two hours to watch this one at 4:00 PM ET on Saturday, but we will keep an curious eye on the result to determine whether the old coaching adage is true that great defense is preferred over great offense.
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The SEC Freshman Report: A Look at the Newcomers in the West

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on January 14th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is a SEC Microsite Contributor and an editor at Nashville Sports Hub and Anchor of Gold. You can reach him on Twitter @TrainIsland.

SEC play is underway, and the group of teams once known as the SEC West has already churned out some big surprises. The division is home to four of the five teams that are undefeated in league play so far, and while it’s early, it looks like there might be more depth to this side of the conference than analysts had thought. In just one week, the West has produced upsets like Texas A&M’s defeat of Kentucky and Ole Miss’ beatdown of Missouri.

Shavon Coleman Has Been a Nice Addition For the Tigers

Shavon Coleman Has Been a Nice Addition For the Tigers

There are still a couple of months to go before the postseason starts, but this overlooked division may help change the perception of the SEC as a top-heavy league. Though the conference certainly has a big gap between Florida and Missouri and the rest of the conference, teams like Mississippi and A&M will be the key to sending four or more programs to the NCAA Tournament. Rebuilding teams like Auburn and LSU may find their way to postseason basketball earlier than expected if they can rally towards NIT or CBI invitations.

However, these teams are going to need help from their young players to get there. The West is full of talented freshmen and junior college transfers who are having a big impact for their teams. As we did three weeks ago in the East, let’s break down who the top first-year players in the SEC West have been in 2012-13 so far.

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The RTC Podcast: Episode Nine

Posted by rtmsf on January 8th, 2013

As we’re now back on a regular schedule with The RTC Podcast, we hope that those of you listening out there will continue to give us feedback in terms of some of the things you like and don’t like about our weekly venture. And definitely please feel free to continue to hit us up with commentary via Twitter and/or email if you have a good idea of something you’d like for us to discuss or add to the podcasts or end-of-week podblasts.

This week, as always, we’re hosted by Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114), where we took a hearty look back at the Big East’s blunderful weekend, talked over the new transfer rules and their possible downstream ramifications, and discuss some of the most indispensable players in college basketball. We’ll be back Friday afternoon with the shorter RTC Podblast, per the usual schedule. Thanks!

  • 0:00-8:58: Big East Blunders – Pitt, Georgetown and Cincinnati Lose
  • 8:58-15:22 Illinois Wins Big in Champaign Over Ohio State
  • 15:22-23:00 The Importance of Home Court Advantage
  • 23:00-31:50 What’s Right, What’s Wrong with the Proposed Transfer Rules
  • 31:50-37:21 Most Indispensable Players
  • 37:21-42:27 Is Kansas State as Good as Their Resume?
  • 42:27-45:18 UNLV Ranking Based Off Talent
  • 45:18-48:10 UNLV @ New Mexico Preview
  • 48:10-51:44 Minnesota @ Illinois Preview/Wrap

We welcome any and all feedback on these podcasts including topics for future discussion or if you want to send us any questions for our “May Not Be From Actual Listeners” segment. Hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com or @rushthecourt on Twitter.

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Oregon Basketball and The Season of New: Giving Thanks and Getting Transfers

Posted by Rockne Roll on November 27th, 2012

Welcome to Oregon Basketball and The Season of New, a weekly Pac-12 microsite column from Rockne Roll (@raroll). His column will focus on the various issues facing college basketball through the prism of the Oregon Ducks, a program ostensibly on the rise with top-notch facilities and coaching but still subject to many of the same problems suffered by many of the other high-major programs around the country.

Thanksgiving is a time to take a step back from the grind and routine of life and appreciate that which we often take for granted. Family, friends, employment, even simple things like food and shelter are worth thinking of on days like this in times like these, not to mention the opportunity we get to experience and chronicle something as exciting and beautiful as college basketball. In wet and soggy Eugene, Oregon, the Ducks have someone and something to be thankful for, too, as they wind through their early non-conference schedule. Arsalan Kazemi, who transferred from Rice just before the start of the season, put on an Oregon uniform for the first time just a day after his waiver request was approved by the NCAA.

Arsalan Kazemi starts off his second game as a Duck with a dunk against Jacksonville State. (Photo by Rockne Andrew Roll)

Once a rarity, the upper-class transfer has become as big of a part of the college basketball landscape as the one-and-done. According to CBS Sports, more than 400 Division I basketball players have transferred schools this year, and ESPN cites an NCAA report saying that 40 percent of all college freshman basketball players will eventually change schools.  Some of these players are taking advantage of the graduate transfer rule, some are exiting Division I to one of the lower tiers of college hoops, and some are either planning to sit out a year or hoping to receive the gift of a hardship waiver from the NCAA, relieving them and their new teams from the burden of an academic year in residence.

The process by which the NCAA approves and denies these requests is a mystery even to those who follow college ball religiously. Earlier this month, the NCAA published new guidelines on its granting of waivers for players who are changing schools to move closer to ailing family members, clearing up some nagging issues but making some language even more confusing. Currently, ESPN reports that about half of the waiver requests made in the last five years have been approved, a figure that is expected to rise under the new regulations.

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Morning Five: 11.16.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 16th, 2012

  1. While one prominent Pac-12 incomer awaits the NCAA’s decision on whether he’ll see the floor this year, another one received his eligibility papers on Thursday. Oregon’s Arsalen Kazemi, a Rice transfer and former all-CUSA forward, has been cleared to suit up for the Ducks effective immediately, which means that we’re likely to see him in uniform against Vanderbilt tonight. The addition of Kazemi to a talented Oregon front line consisting of Tony Woods, EJ Singler and Carlos Emery is a major coup for Dana Altman right at the start of the season. In a league already fighting hard to regain national relevance this season, this good news for Oregon puts the Ducks at the head of the list of about six Pac-12 teams in the second tier behind Arizona and UCLA who realistically have designs on an NCAA Tournament bid.
  2. So Kazemi is in, Shabazz Muhammad is still out, and a whole host of other players around the country are sidelined as well for a number of different reasons. Andy Glockner lists the most prominent of the group and you could probably make a decent run at the national title with several different iterations of the talent sitting on benches around the country right now. From Providence’s Kris Dunn (injury) to Missouri’s Michael Dixon (team suspension) to St. Louis’ Kwamain Mitchell (injury) to Texas’ Myck Kabongo (NCAA investigation) to Miami’s Durand Scott (impermissible benefits) and on and on, many teams around the nation cannot be fairly evaluated at this point in the season because they’re playing at significantly less than full strength. Injuries are an unfortunate byproduct of the game, but many of the players on the list are there because of their own mistakes — here’s hoping all of them make it back into lineups sooner than later.
  3. One player who at the time of this writing we’re crossing our fingers for is Oklahoma State’s JP Olukemi, who left the Cowboys’ game against Akron on Thursday afternoon with a left knee injury that his head coach Travis Ford characterized as not “look[ing] good.” Just two weeks ago Olukemi was given an eligibility waiver by the NCAA that allowed him to play a full season (rather than just the fall semester), and now if worst comes to worst, he might be forced to miss part or all of the entire season. Last year he played in only 13 games before suffering an ACL tear on New Year’s Eve against Virginia Tech, which begs the question whether the basketball gods just don’t want Olukemi to suit up in a Cowboys uniform for some reason.
  4. File this one under the strange intersection of pop culture and (college) basketball: Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon accused Lil’ Wayne of  cursing at him during Duke’s win over Kentucky at the Champions Classic on Tuesday night. In a tweet from the young guard after the game, Sulaimon said “Still a @LilTunechi fan but was shook when he cursed me out court side lol. Where the duke love at slime.” With an admission that Sulaimon — who shot 3-of-14 from the field — was “shook” by Weezy’s verbal bombs, ACC coaches from Coral Gables to Chestnut Hill no doubt have already started inviting Lil’ Wayne and his friends as honorary guests at some of their more prominent home games against a team in blue.
  5. The Charleston Classic, Puerto Rico Tip-Off and 2kSports Classic all got under way yesterday (the medal rounds, at least), and the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic will tip off tonight in Brooklyn. With so many brackets and games in far-flung places, you probably need a primer on the top contests to watch this weekend in these events. Ryan Fagan of the Sporting News has us covered, picking out five key games over the next few days that are most worth your time and energy to watch. Or, you could do us one better, and just watch them all — junkies of the world, unite. Have a great weekend, everyone.
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Considering the Highest Impact Transfers in 2012-13

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 23rd, 2012

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

There were few topics more thoroughly dissected and debated this offseason than transfers. The discourse began not one month after the coronation of last season’s National Champion Kentucky Wildcats with Jared Uthoff’s highly-publicized transfer tug-of-war with Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. It continued when the NCAA released word (via ESPN’s Outside the Lines program) of its intentions to review transfer guidelines as part of a larger concern over a the growing frequency of player movement, much of which – as quantified  by SI.com’s Luke Winn – is characterized by a nontraditional upward flow, whereby players seek to improve their competitive situations by jumping to better teams in high-major conferences. There is a growing fear, one that bears out in Winn’s numerical analysis, that coaches are using the pool of dissatisfied players in lesser conferences as a secondary recruiting market, that mid-major teams will increasingly suffer the possibility of having their players lost to a “poaching culture” of high-major powers plucking the lower ranks’ top talents.

After being overtaken by Kendall Marshall, Drew left UNC to reignite his career in Los Angeles (photo credit: US Presswire)

This is a legitimate concern. The NCAA will likely implement policies to cut down on the various loopholes and pathways in which players are allowed to relinquish their initial commitments in favor of joining a new program, or at least skew the cost-benefit analysis of making such a move towards staying put, but those changes may not come to bear for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, we’re left with a college hoops landscape where established players with proven track records can pack their bags for greener pastures. This year’s batch includes several players who could alter their new teams’ seasons in important ways. The list of newly-eligible transfers is long and varied, so I highlighted 10 newcomers whose first seasons in new locales should find immediate success. As is the case with all of these preseason lists, the qualifications for inclusion are at best fuzzy, and at worst, flawed. There are a lot of transfers, so narrowing the list wasn’t easy. So before you rage against your favorite team’s new hot shooting guard being left out of the group, remember to take into account the sheer numerical backdrop from which any selective transfer-based analysis is grounded.

Herewith, in random order, the list:

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