Morning Five: 06.10.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 10th, 2013

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  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: 10.03.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 3rd, 2012

  1. It’s officially considered preseason when the various Top 25s start rolling out from the more reputable sources, and even though we’re still aghast that The Sporting News no longer publishes its college basketball annual (or any annual, for that matter), we’ll give them a break and assume that they still generally know what they’re talking about over there. TSN‘s Top 25 rankings were released Tuesday, and if you’re looking for any major surprises, this probably isn’t the place to start. Still, these rankings are bullish on the Big Ten (three teams in the top five), Duke (#6), and giving some love to the high-mids (seven teams on the list). On the flip side, the group is still a bit skeptical of UCLA (#11) and the Big 12 (only Kansas is represented). If you can’t handle the annoying slideshow format, check out Mike DeCourcy’s write-up on the logic of their selections here.
  2. Is the Atlantic 10 positioning itself to eventually become the pre-eminent basketball league with a predominantly east coast footprint? Obviously we’re excluding the ACC from this consideration, but with the news on Tuesday that the A-10 had signed a new eight-year television deal with ESPN, CBS Sports Network and the NBC Sports Group, you have to wonder if the conference could overcome the dwindling Big East during some of its down years, and especially if more moves (ahem, Louisville) are coming. According to CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Goodman, the league will have roughly 150 annual games on those networks, and although financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, it’s reasonable to assume that the additions of Butler and VCU as mid-major basketball empires produced a significant uptick in the league’s overall marketability and value.
  3. That muffled groan you heard late Monday night emanating from Indianapolis had nothing to do with the Monday Night Football game but instead everything to do with a decision by a federal judge in San Francisco concerning its case versus Ed O’Bannon and his friends. The class action suit against the NCAA depends primarily on the plaintiffs proving that the organization has for decades knowingly exploited its “student-athletes” through the use and sale of their names, likenesses, and images. To show the financial incentives for such a scheme, the O’Bannon group filed a motion for the NCAA to release its licensing and television contracts with ESPN since 2005, and lo and behold, the judge sided with their request. As SI.com‘s Michael McCann writes, this information is invaluable for the plaintiffs, as it not only provides specific dollar figures for the ‘monetization’ of college sports but it also opens up other companies such as ESPN and EA Sports to lawsuits down the line for exactly the same thing. This is a substantial ruling, one that should be watched carefully.
  4. North Carolina continues to find itself under fire for its jock-friendly academic coursework, as the Raleigh News & Observer has repeatedly embarrassed the school with release after release of new information that only serves to further fuel a national sentiment that there needs to be a comprehensive NCAA investigation of the academic side of the basketball program. The latest news is that a number of Tar Heel hoops players (among other athletes) were surprisingly enrolled in a 2007 Naval Weapons Systems class, a course ostensibly designed to produce commissioned US Naval officers rather than eligible power forwards. A Twitter war erupted over the fact that every school has easy classes and majors of which many athletes are attracted to, but people omitting the other side of the story are missing the bigger point. There already is clear and convincing evidence that members of the football team committed academic fraud at the school, and there is significant circumstantial evidence that the university has been at best, incompetent, or at worst, obstructionist, in evaluating the basketball side of the equation — there’s enough smoke here to strongly suggest further scrutiny because it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the school either cannot or will not adequately police itself.
  5. It’s becoming a huge recruiting week for the Class of 2013, as the Harrison twins are due to announce their decisions on ESPNU this Thursday and a couple of other top five players are busily narrowing their lists. Let’s start with some pundits’ overall #1 player, Jabari Parker. The Chicago big man released a list of 10 finalists over the summer (Connecticut was added last week), but his reported favorites Duke and Michigan State will be the first two schools to receive his official visits this fall. He will soon add three more schools from a list including the Huskies, BYU, DePaul, Florida, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Stanford. Another player considered by some to be the top overall player, Julius Randle, has narrowed his final list to six schools: Kentucky, NC State, Florida, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. Interestingly, Tobacco Road powerhouses Duke and UNC were removed from Randle’s list, while Mark Gottfried’s Wolfpack remain. After this coming weekend, the pieces of this year’s recruiting class will start to really fall into place.
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Morning Five: 09.25.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 25th, 2012

  1. If you’re in the market for an experienced scorer just a few weeks before practice begins and you missed out on the extremely late and unanticipated transfers of Xavier’s Dez Wells and Rice’s Arsalan Kazemi, you might still be in luck. Washington State shooting guard Reggie Moore was dismissed from his team on Monday for an undisclosed “violation of team rules,” effectively ending his career in Pullman and making him an immediate free agent for a team in need of some help. Even if Moore were able to find a school with an open scholarship at this late date, it’s unlikely he’d be eligible for the upcoming season anyway; but, Moore has shown flashes of offensive pop (10.7 PPG) and good play-making acumen (4.4 APG) in his three years at Wazzu. Whether Moore will be able to clean up his act (he was suspended in 2011 for marijuana possession) is another story, but sometimes the incentive of a last, best chance in a new environment is what it takes.
  2. On Monday ESPNU announced its television schedule for this year’s Midnight Madness whirlwind, scheduled to begin at 5 PM on October 12, which, if you’re scoring at home, is a shade over 17 days from now. The broadcast will begin at likely preseason #1 Indiana with an actual nuts-and-bolts practice rather than the fan frenzy Hoosier Hysteria (scheduled for one week later), and will be followed by a studio show peeking in on 12 other prominent programs including Kentucky, Missouri, Baylor, North Carolina, Georgetown, NC State, Syracuse, Murray State, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Florida State and Kansas. While we’re absolutely thrilled to have college basketball in any form coming back in two weeks and change, can we strongly encourage the producers at ESPNU to focus predominantly on the action on the floor at these schools rather than endlessly talking at us in the studio? There will be plenty of time for that as we get closer to the start of the season.
  3. In yesterday’s M5 we mentioned a piece by Gregg Doyel excoriating the NCAA for its presumed lack of interest in aggressively investigating the allegations involving Lance Thomas’ 2009 trip to a New York City jeweler. In the interest of equal time, today it’s North Carolina‘s turn. AOL Fanhouse‘s David Whitley doesn’t break any new ground in his scathing piece against the governing body (and his missive could be premature, depending on what the Martin Report shows), but the way in which he frames the NCAA’s lack of interest in the school’s academic scandal is amusing. Whitley’s best line: “The fact a basketball power like UConn got nailed shows that the NCAA is somewhat serious about putting the student in student-athlete. The fact UNC skated shows that the NCAA is still the NCAA. It wrote the manual on double standards and arbitrary justice. In fact, NCAA officials could teach a course on those subjects. If they taught it at North Carolina, it would be in front of an empty room.” The NCAA is an easy target to pile on — everyone knows that — but its weirdly inconsistent usage of precedent given very similar sets of facts is without question confounding.
  4. With rumors persisting that Class of 2014 superstar prep player Andrew Wiggins will reclassify to the Class of 2013 soon, one of his peers beat him to the idea. Noah Vonleh, a 6’8″ power forward who was considered a top five player in his class, has performed enough academic work at New Hampton School (NH) to reclassify as a senior for the current academic year. ESPN.com‘s Dave Telep reports on the move and says that Vonleh compares favorably with some of the elite players in his new class, rating him as ESPNU’s #7 overall player in the Class of 2013. This is actually the second reclassification for the 17-year old in that this move represents Vonleh’s return to his original class, so let’s hope that he’s finished moving around so that some lucky suitor — Indiana, Ohio State and UNC have recruited him the hardest — will have him in uniform just over a year from now.
  5. It’s nothing new that Butler’s Brad Stevens is a prominent user of advanced statistical metrics as a tool to understanding his team’s strengths and weaknesses. This article by WISH-TV in Indianapolis explains that one of Stevens’ directives for this offseason was for his staff (led by statistical wunderkind Drew Cannon) to determine what kind of RPI the Bulldogs will need heading into conference play to ensure an NCAA Tournament bid now that they’ve moved to the more competitive Atlantic 10. People game the system in all kinds of different ways — some ethical, some not — but we get the feeling that coaches like Stevens and Buzz Williams are so far ahead of their competitors in this regard that it’s astonishing to us that the rest of the coaching lemmings haven’t already fallen in line.
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Morning Five: 09.18.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 18th, 2012

  1. The NCAA eligibility train rolls on, and NC State’s Mark Gottfried was Monday’s recipient of the excellent news that superstar freshman Rodney Purvis is eligible to suit up in a Wolfpack uniform next season. The issue in Purvis’ case revolved around the legitimacy of his high school — Upper Room Christian Academy, in Raleigh, whose first-ever class to graduate included Purvis — but during an 80-minute deliberation on Monday, an NCAA core course subcommittee saw enough evidence that the big guard is adequately prepared for the rigors of a college education and made the right decision to let him play. We’ll have more on this later today, but the early buzz is that this makes NC State the favorite to win the ACC for the first time in… how long?
  2. Speaking of getting a college education, UNC chancellor Holden Thorp announced on Monday that this academic year would be his last at the university in that position. Even though the academic scandal that has rocked the university in recent months most likely started prior to his tenure as chancellor of the school in 2008, the most recent black eye involving fundraising director Matt Kupec and Tyler Hansbrough’s mother, Tami, taking personal trips on the university dime, happened on his watch. One member of the Board of Governors said that Thorp, as “captain of the ship” at UNC, had become “the face of damage control” and lauded him for sacrificing himself for the good of the school. It doesn’t take an insider to see the writing on the wall that more changes are likely to come in Chapel Hill as additional details about the academic scandal are revealed by the upcoming Martin Report, due to release next month.
  3. Everybody is well aware of the near-mutiny that occurred in Lubbock earlier this month at Texas Tech (side note: Billy Gillispie has been ordered by his doctors to avoid stress for the next 30 days), but what is going on on the other side of the state at Rice? Ben Braun’s team lost four transfers over the summer and followed that up by losing two more players in just the past week — notably, Omar Oraby (USC), and most importantly, Owls star Arsalan Kazemi. The 6’7″ senior who averaged 12/10 last season en route to all-CUSA honors, was roommates with Oraby and no doubt must have missed their nightly games on the PlayStation. Jeff Goodman reported Monday that Kazemi is looking at six schools including Texas, Oregon, Cincinnati, Florida, Ohio State and Kentucky. He will have to sit out the mandated transfer year per NCAA rules, but the talented Iranian would provide a very nice one-year punch to any of those schools in 2013-14.
  4. Louisville may have found its replacement for preseason All-American Peyton Siva in 2013-14 and perhaps beyond, as 5’11″ waterbug Chris Jones committed to the Cardinals out of the junior college ranks on Monday. The rising sophomore, originally from Memphis, averaged 18/5/4 APG in leading his Northwest Florida State team to a 26-1 record and an appearance in the NJCAA Division I championship game last year. According to Jones, Rick Pitino does not want the reins of his offense in a freshman point guard’s hands, so if things work out properly he’ll have upperclassman leadership at that position for the next three seasons.
  5. Speaking of Pitino and in light of Jim Calhoun’s recent retirement, CBSSports.com‘s Matt Norlander took a look at the 11 current college basketball coaches with at least one national title and handicapped each one’s probable date of retirement. Be sure to take a look at his entire list, but he’s got more than half of those guys — six, to be exact — retiring within the next four years. The exercise here is one that depends on so many different and volatile factors (health, family, motivation, recruiting, etc.), but it says here that Pitino won’t hang up the whistle until he gets that elusive and self-validating second championship, while Krzyzewski is only likely to do so after he wins his fifth. Time will tell.
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