Once North Carolina released the findings of the independent investigation into the widespread academic fraud at its institution the next obvious step was to hear from Roy Williams, who spoke about the issue at a press conference on Friday. Williams stated he “thought we were doing the right thing” at the time and noted his reported initial concerns about the high number of players from his 2005 title team that were so many African and Afro-American Studies majors. We aren’t sure whether we believe that Roy (or any other coach involved in this type of scandal) actually cared to know about what was going on or just preferred not to worry about the details of how the sausage was made in his program. The next step in this process is what the NCAA will do with the school. Dennis Dodd has already come out in favor of the death penalty, but acknowledges that it won’t happen. Given the widespread nature of the scandal we understand the sentiment, but find it unlikely that the NCAA would touch one of its sacred (cash) cows. Not to be outdone by their new ACC rivals, Syracuse already has its day(s) in (NCAA) court set for October 30 and 31. These allegations go back 10 years and involve both the men’s basketball and football programs with the biggest charges revolving around extra benefits and academic issues with the basketball team. We can’t wait for the weekly ACC conference calls.
We knew that we would have to deal with teams losing players to the professional ranks at some point this season we just figured that it would be after the season actually started. Charlotte junior shooting guard Shawn Lester is leaving the program to pursue a professional basketball career. Carter, who was second on the team in scoring last year at 11.9 points per game, is reportedly looking for an agent with a plan on signing overseas. Even with the loss, the 49ers will still have four returning starters and ad Florida transfer Braxton Ogbueze as well as freshmen Keyshawn Woods and Torin Dorn Jr. Although Lester’s reasons for leaving are unclear (reportedly under the pretense of supporting his family financially), he is the fifth player to leave the program early since the end of the 2012-13 season.
We are just a few weeks away from the start of college basketball season so we can only imagine the panic in Madison when it was reported that Sam Dekkersprained his left ankle at a Friday practice. Dekker, who averaged 12.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season and is a potential All-American, sprained his ankle during a 4-on-4 drill and is only expected to miss one to two weeks as he recovers. Fortunately Wisconsin has a relatively easy start to the season before they play Green Bay on November 19 at which point we would expect Dekker would be back at full strength based on the information that Wisconsin is providing.
It won’t make up for the loss of Emmanuel Mudiay or (possibly) Markus Kennedy, but Southern Methodist got a boost when the NCAA ruled that Virginia Tech transfer Ben Emelogu had been granted a transfer waiver and would be eligible to play this season. Emelogu, who is from Dallas, averaged 10.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists as a freshman last season. Emelogu could also provide some stability to the team, which has been in flux the past few month as he actually was a team captain last season despite being only a freshman. If they can get Kennedy back, the Mustangs have the potential to be a dangerous team even if the person who was going to save them is on the other side of the planet.
With all the crying about the rivalries lost with conference realignment a number of schools have figured out ways to keep those rivalries intact at least temporarily. The latest two school to do so are Connecticut and Georgetown, which will renew their rivalry for at least two years beginning with the 2015-16 season. The first game will be played on January 23, 2016 at the XL Center with the return date at the Verizon Center on January 21, 2017. While the rivalry might lack the history of others (remember Connecticut was nothing before Jim Calhoun got there), the Hoyas only lead the series 35-29 with the two schools each having a record seven Big East Tournament titles (something the Hoyas should be able to reclaim now that Connecticut is in the AAC). We are sure that we will be seeing plenty of clips of Allen Iverson and Ray Allen going at it in the lead up to these games.
Three weeks until games start for real and it’s time to dig into the upcoming college basketball season. The RTC Podcast is back in earnest, with Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) hosting, and the guys spend nearly an hour discussing the key storylines on teams, players and the game as a whole for the upcoming year. There’s also a brief introductory interlude on the shenanigans that went on in Chapel Hill for the better part of a generation, but the majority of this podcast puts that aside and looks forward. The complete rundown is below, so feel free to bounce around as needed to get the spots you’re most interested in, and make sure to listen toward the end to win a free RTC t-shirt if you can get the right answer to the question we posed. Over the coming weeks we’ll be releasing conference preview podblasts for each of the seven major leagues as well as the Other 26, so keep an ear out for those as well.
It seems like every time we are almost about to forget about North Carolina‘s academic scandal another report comes out. The latest comes from a report commissioned by the school that alleges that the school’s academic counselors directed “student”-athletes to the sham courses. The courses, which have already been well-described in this space and many others like it, were designed to keep players eligible with a minimal amount of work. According to the report (all 136 pages of it), the classes were available to all students, but 48% of those enrolled were athletes in what has been described as an 18-year scheme that dates back to 1993. The school and the independent report appear to be shielding the coaches from this (you can figure out who the coach was back in 1993), but it seems like this would certainly fall under the “lack of institutional oversight” that the NCAA has used to nail schools to the wall in the past. It remains to be seen whether the NCAA will actually go after the school, but it would seem like they have plenty of ammunition to do so.
Social media is great for making viral, but it is not very effective in correcting errors that have gone viral. One prime example of that were reports that Texas had decided to give its student-athletes a $10,000 stipend to cover their cost of attendance and for using their likeness. That was based on many people misreading an article from The Dallas Morning News that referenced a conversation the school’s athletic director had speaking hypothetically about the possibility of it if the NCAA lost its appeal on the Ed O’Bannon case. Some publications were cognizant enough to temper their reports of it, but many essentially wrote that the school was already set to begin the payments. The school has subsequently clarified the reports to say that those were just hypothetical plans, but we wouldn’t be surprised if you woke up today believing that Texas was going to give its student-athletes a $10,000 stipend.
It doesn’t seem like that long ago when there were reports that opposing coaches were using Billy Kennedy’s reported early-stage Parkinson’s as a tool to convince recruits not to go to Texas A&M. Now it appears that he has put together what will likely be a top-five recruiting class for 2015. With Elijah Thomas‘ announcement that he was committing to play at Texas A&M, the Aggies now have three players in Rivals.com”s top 35 recruits (Thomas, D.J. Hogg, and Tyler Davis) with a fourth who is ranked #64 (Admon Gilder). It is a rather remarkable accomplishment when you consider that Kennedy is barely above .500 overall at Texas A&M (49-47) and an abysmal 19-35 in the conference play. Despite his poor on-court record at Texas A&M, Kennedy’s job is likely safe as long as this class still plans on matriculating.
There was quite a bit of news in the past few days on the injury front. Wyoming got a big piece back earlier this week when Larry Nance Jr was cleared to begin practicing again. Nance, who tore his ACL on February 18, led the Cowboys in scoring (15.4), rebounding (8.4), blocks (2.1), and steals (1.4) so his impact was obvious even before you consider that the team was 17-9 with him and 1-6 after his injury. Wyoming does return four starters so they should be competitive in the Mountain West if Nance can stay healthy. As for Nance, who was first-team All-Mountain West and All-Defensive team despite missing the last month of the season, it appears that the Mountain West media certainly believes he will come back at full strength as they named him the Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year. Memphis sophomore Austin Nichols suffered a shoulder sprain (confirmed by a MRI yesterday) that is expected to keep him out of practice for a week. Nichols, who averaged 9.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season while picking up American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year honors, is expected to be 100% for the team’s season-opener against Wichita State. Houston guard L.J. Rose was not as fortunate as he will be out for two months as he continues to recover from surgery for a broken foot. Rose (8.9 points and 5.5 assists as a sophomore) broke his foot in the summer and underwent surgery in early July, but his recovery has not gone according to plan and instead of being ready to play at the start of the season he will likely miss the team’s first 11 non-conference games. The Cougars are expected to start junior college transfer Cavon Baker in Rose’s place until he returns. Meanwhile, Oregon continues to wait on the return of junior college transfer Michael Chandler from a nagging knee injury. Chandler, a top-50 recruit coming out of high school, has yet to be cleared to practice even after having an arthroscopic procedure on his knee back in July.
New York’s Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s ruling to dismiss a lawsuit by Bobby Davis and Mike Lang against Jim Boeheim. Davis and Lang, two former Syracuse ball boys who accused former Syracuse assistant Bernie Fine of molestation, had sued Boeheim for slander after he accused them of being liars out for money (comments he subsequently backed off of) when their allegations against Fine were made public. The lower courts had ruled that Boeheim’s comments did not assertions of fact, but were instead a matter of opinion, which would not be subject to defamation laws. The Court of Appeals ruled that the lower courts erred in that assumption. It is unclear if and when the lawsuit will be brought back to court or if Boeheim and the school might try to settle out of court.
EXTRA: Make sure to check out rushthecourtTV on Youtube for video M5s as well as plenty of other coverage throughout the season.
Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul, dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at email@example.com.
It’s October and that means teams are tipping off the season with their editions of Midnight Madness. Last week UNC got things started with “Late Night with Roy” and tonight Kansas takes center stage with “Late Night at the Phog.” The Jayhawks are bringing in a plethora of top-notch talent for both official and unofficial visits. Last year KU hosted Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander, both of whom eventually selected Bill Self’s program. Some of the top five-star seniors who will be in attendance are small forward Jaylen Brown, considered the No. 1 player in the country, 7’0″ center Stephen Zimmerman (No. 14 – 2014), fresh off a scintillating performance at the USA Developmental Camp, small forward Brandon Ingram (No. 26 – overall), and power forward Carlton Bragg (No. 11 – 2014). A few of the other visitors include the No. 1 junior recruit in Jayson Tatum and the No. 2 sophomore recruit in Troy Brown. Which players will make their pledge to Kansas as a result of this weekend’s festivities?
2. Ivan Rabb Looking to Trim List
Five-star 6’10” power forward Ivan Rabb is getting ready to trim his list. He is scheduled to have his last in-home visit at an unscheduled date with Roy Williams before making a decision on the schools he plans to officially visits. The Bay Area native has programs from all over the country in pursuit of his services, including schools close to home in California, UCLA, and Arizona, in addition to Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, UNC, and Georgetown. Due to his connection with the Oakland Soldiers AAU program, it was long thought that Arizona was the school to beat for Rabb’s services. Sean Miller has used that pipeline over the years to establish Arizona as the premier school on the West Coast, with players such as Nick Johnson, Brandon Ashley, Aaron Gordon, and Stanley Johnson arriving in Tucson over the last few years. While Arizona has been recruiting Rabb the longest, it might be a school located in his own backyard that is getting the most buzz. As soon as Cuonzo Martin got the head coaching job at California, he took a visit to Rabb’s high school to establish a relationship — he has since been recruiting Rabb hard, and the Bears could be the surprise school in a list of blue-blood basketball programs.
3. Kentucky’s Scouting Combine
This weekend, while schools such as Kansas and Missouri are having their Midnight Madness, Kentucky will instead host a two-day scouting combine where 90 NBA scouts are scheduled to watch John Calipari’s nine McDonald’s All-Americans go through drills and tests. ESPNU is set to televise this event, where freshman center Karl Anthony Towns will be the main attraction. Some consider Calipari’s latest marketing idea as brilliant, while others see it as another shameless plug, but either way, Kentucky is set to host its Big Blue Madness even next Friday, which is expected to rival Kansas in terms of sheer talent visiting campus. One thing is for sure, Calipari will be able to tell all of the recruits and their families about his first ever basketball scouting combine and the exposure that Kentucky provides to all those NBA teams.
Practices were allowed to formally begin on Friday of last week, and at least one powerhouse program kept the spirit of Midnight Madness alive by revealing its 2014-15 ball club to the fans at the earliest possible date (alas, the 7:30 start time remained intact). North Carolina held its annual “Late Night With Roy” event on October 3, replete with sophomore center Kennedy Meeks lip-synching the Whitney Houston classic, “I Will Always Love You” to his adoring throngs in Chapel Hill. For highlights of a bouncing ball variety, Inside Carolinahas it covered with several of the best plays from the scrimmage. With another week-plus to go until most schools hold Midnight Madness, Kansas is planning on getting its fans riled up with “Late Night in the Phog” this Friday night. According to Adam Zagoria at Zagsblog, a large number of elite recruits are expected in attendance at Allen Field House, many of whom will spend the following Friday night in Lexington at Big Blue Madness. Tis the season for madness, which, after a long offseason, is certainly nice, but part of us still wishes we could drop the ball at midnight all across the country and enjoy a universal festival of college hoops to which everybody adheres.
ESPN of course will be hosting its annual whirlwind tour of Madnesses around the nation next Friday night, and after announcing some of its College Gameday moves last week (including the much-needed flexible scheduling), it revealed on Tuesday that former Oregon State head coach and First Brother-in-Law Craig Robinson would be joining the team of analysts at ESPNU (both at games and in the studio). Per the terms of his termination agreement with Oregon State, Robinson is still owed over $4 million by the university, but his employment with ESPN reduces his annual take on that amount by the difference. Although Robinson surely will take some unnecessary criticism for his association with the lame duck president currently residing in Washington, it sure must be nice to be a losing head coach fired from a power conference school.
Let’s talk about transfers for a bit. Memphis received great news earlier this week when the NCAA granted a waiver to Vanderbilt transfer Kedren Johnson, whowas a nice player in 2012-13 (14/4/4 APG) but was forced to sit out last year by the school due to an undisclosed lapse in judgment. When it became clear that he would not return to the Commodores, he enrolled in Memphis and hoped for the best. His addition to Josh Pastner’s lineup will provide a great deal of stability in the Tigers’ backcourt, as the core of Joe Jackson, Michael Dixon, Geron Johnson and Chris Crawford have all moved on. Johnson brings two years of SEC-caliber experience to the table and can use his elite distribution abilities to integrate several new players into the rotation.
While on the subject of transfers, Alabama has manage to create a hot mess out of a graduate transfer exception involving one of its women’s basketball players named Daisha Simmons. There’s a lot that’s been argued on this topic over the last couple of days, but the long and short of it is that Alabama blocked Simmons’ original request to transfer to Seton Hall (where she hoped to enter an MBA program in sports management) because the school claims that she did not provide the requested documentation of her brother’s kidney issues (he, along with her family, lives in New Jersey). Only after a firestorm fueled by social media basketball luminaries such as Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale ensued, as well as Simmons’ threat to file a Title IX lawsuit over the matter, has Alabama now backed down from its original stance. The takeaway for us here — again — is that way too much power rests in the hands of the schools on the subject of transfers. Coaches can come and go as they please, but players — grown adults, mind you — are imposed by a somewhat arbitrary set of rules designed to protect the coaches and universities. Simmons’ fate will now rest with the NCAA to make the final determination on whether she will be eligible to play immediately at Seton Hall.
Sound familiar? The NCAA has certainly built a reputation for doing things to enrich its schools at the expense of the so-called “student-athletes,” and in light of the O’Bannon decision from earlier this summer, another group of former football and basketball players are taking the natural next step in this litigation. Ten former athletes — football players from Vanderbilt, Tennessee, UT-Chattanooga and Washington, as well as basketball players from Tennessee State and Maryland-Eastern Shore — have brought a class-action suit against ESPN, the four major broadcast television networks, and eight major conferences along with their licensing partners for the illegal use of their likenesses. The lawsuit was brought in Tennessee, but we should expect more popping up around the country sooner than later. In other words, they’re following the money.
It seems like just yesterday that Pauley Pavilion was being renovated (ok, maybe two years ago), but the court that has been home to more men’s Division I national championship teams that any other might need a little touch-up. A flood on Tuesday at UCLA‘s campus may have caused serious damage to the floor and other areas of the arena not to mention other buildings on the campus. While the flooding has stopped it will probably be several more days before the school has a better understanding of how much work will be needed to fix whatever damage has been done.
The decision by Chad Frazier to leave UAB following his domestic violence arrest should not be completely unexpected, but is still a significant loss for the team. Frazier, who transferred from Gulf Coast Community College, was first-team All-Conference-USA last season and the conference’s Newcomer of the Year. Frazier averaged 17.7 points and 4.3 assists per game last season putting him fifth and third in the conference respectively. Frazier was arrested following a domestic violence incident in April in which he reportedly threw a woman into a bookshelf. It is unclear where Frazier will end up, but with his production we wouldn’t be surprised to see him back at the Division I level in the near-future.
Nobody ever said John Calipari’s methods of building a #1 recruiting class and it turns out that they aren’t, but probably not in the way that you were thinking. According to work done by Kyle Tucker, Kentuckyspent $342,713.91 on Calipari’s private jet costs last year for recruiting and nearly $450,000 between the basketball and football programs for private jets for recruiting. There are plenty of people who have made comments critical of these types of expenditures on something as relatively unimportant as college athletics, but that money is more than worth it for the school with the publicity that they get from the program’s accomplishments (well, at least the basketball program).
Some people might consider it an admission of guilt, but North Carolina is offering student-athletes who left the school before they completed their undergraduate degree the opportunity to return to complete that degree with financial support similar to what they received under their original scholarship. The program (“Complete Carolina”) will go into effect beginning with the 2015-16 school year. The school claims that it has informally had this program for years, but now is making it a formal program like many other schools already have. We still aren’t sure if they will offer this program to student-athletes, who received diplomas, but feel that they might not have been taught enough or done enough to earn the credits that they received.
The NCAA might not allow alcohol sales at its championship events, but that does not stop from doing so at games outside of the NCAA Tournament. According to reports, Southern Methodistsold more than $350,000 in alcohol at 13 home basketball games last season. That money is divided between the school and the vendor (no idea on the percent breakdown), but it gives you an idea of how much money alcohol can bring in at these games even with students pre-gaming (of course, all of them being 21 or older) if SMU can bring in that much money at 13 home games for a good, but not great team.
On a more serious note, however, UNC fans have been quick to character assassinate McCants, who very well may be in some strange way attempting to shake down the school for what he perceives to have been a lack of ongoing support. At the same time, whistleblowers and other informants rarely come without motive or personality flaws, so the question needs to remain focused on whether McCants (and possibly other members of the basketball program) were recipients of the benefits of sham African-American Studies classes at UNC rather than whether he alone is a reliable source. His unofficial transcript — which shows that all of the As and Bs he earned in Chapel Hill were within the beleaguered department — are enough to call into question the integrity of those courses. And that is presumably what the NCAA is doing with the news last week that it has decided to reopen its previously-closed case into academic misconduct at North Carolina. Also keep in mind here that, in light of the undressing over the concept of “student-athletes” that the NCAA suffered last month at the Ed O’Bannon trial, the organization needs a public “win” that supports the notion that it takes academics seriously. Coming down hard on one of the true blue-bloods of one of its primary revenue sports to set an example wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility in this climate. We’ll all have to wait to see how it shakes out.
To that very point, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation at 2:30 PM later today is expected to tackle the topic of “Promoting the Well-Being and Academic Success of College Athletes.” Chaired by Sen. Jay Rockefeller IV (D-W. Va) and supported by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), the committee will explore the NCAA’s stated mission to integrate college sports and academics, and whether the commercial enterprise unfairly exploits athletes. Sound familiar? The NCAA is taking hits on all sides, with interested parties from the political to the business to the legal to the educational sectors all clamoring to understand the justifications for a lucrative business model that doesn’t share the wealth with its labor source. If the NCAA is lucky, Mark Emmert won’t be asked to testify if for no other reason than to avoid another jaw-dropping Freudian slip.
The reason that everyone is getting so chummy with the NCAA’s operations, of course, is that there’s a ton of money involved. The crazy realignment of a few summers ago has calmed down (for now), but as Boise State‘s recent financial settlement with the AAC illustrates, organizations tend to lose their damn minds when there’s a windfall to be grabbed (even if said windfall never actually materialized because it wasn’t thought through). That’s right, Boise State has agreed to pay a total of $2.3 million to the AAC (formerly the Big East) as a penalty for joining and then leaving a league that none of its teams ever actually played for. The Big West, another league that never suited up a single Broncos team, has already received $1.8 million in exit fees, meaning that the final tally in penalties for never actually leaving the Mountain West is $4.1 million. Congratulations to everyone involved, and let there be a lesson learned somewhere within this.
This has been a fun M5, so let’s end it by continuing the theme of poor behavior with some coaching news. College of Charleston head coach Doug Wojcikhit the news late last week with the release of a 50-page report (on a late afternoon heading into a holiday weekend, no less) summarizing a pattern of verbally abusive behavior levied toward his players. Among the details released were that Wojcik had used a homophobic slur on one of his players and generally made a habit of degrading and humiliating them during practice sessions. CofC’s athletic director, Joe Hull, initially wanted to fire Wojcik for his transgressions, but he was overruled by school president George Benson, who instead decided to give Wojcik a one-month suspension without pay (meaning he will miss July’s key recruiting window) and instituting a zero-tolerance policy for any future abuse. Personalities are difficult to change overnight, especially in such stressful positions, so it’ll be interesting to watch how well Wojcik does under these new constraints.
The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.
Player Name:P.J. Hairston
NBA Position:Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Projected Draft Range:Late First Round
It’s Been Over A Year Since P.J. Hairston Donned The Carolina Blue. Can He Use His D-League Experience To Boost His Draft Stock?
Overview: Thirteen months ago, everything was looking up for PJ Hairston. He had announced his return to a North Carolina team that was poised to build off a strong second half of the ACC season, a surge catalyzed largely by Hairston’s insertion into the Tar Heels’ starting lineup. He was to be the leader and primary scoring option for a preseason top-10 team, a tough, physical wing who could score the ball in a variety of ways. Last season looked to be a big year for both Hairston and the Heels… and then the summer happened. Camp and popsicles on the summer vacation was not for Hairston, as a series of violations — speeding tickets, marijuana possession, impermissible benefits received – would wind up costing the senior his final year of college eligibility. Hairston’s loss was a major blow for a UNC team that would struggle to find perimeter scoring options all season, but the suspension may not have injured Hairston’s basketball future as significantly. Sure, PJ was probably disappointed to not be a part of this Carolina season, but Hairston quickly moved on to the professional ranks after being ruled ineligible, latching on with the Texas Legends of the D-League in short order. Once in the Lone Star State, Hairston displayed the scoring touch that had made him one of the ACC’s most lethal offensive players, averaging 21.8 PPG (in just 32 MPG) in 26 contests with the Legends. Game to game consistency is still a major concern with the mercurial ex-Heel, but the diversity of Hairston’s D-league scoring (55% 2FG, 2.8 3FG per game, 87% FT) solidified his status as a likely first-round pick in this June’s draft. Hairston’s road to the NBA will have been far more circuitous than it appeared to be a year ago, but PJ is still right on time in arriving at his destination.
Just when you thought that the coaching carousel was done, Mike D’Antoni announced that he was resigning as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night. Although there are reports that the Lakers are interviewing Tom Thibodeau there are other reports that they have expressed interest in both John Calipari and Kevin Ollie. While we have not heard anything to suggest that either is actively looking for this job (Calipari actually tweeted that he was committed to his Kentucky team) it would not be shocking if a college coach (even a Hall of Famer) jumped at this job if offered. You may remember that Mike Krzyzewski seriously considered the Lakers offer back in 2004. Obviously, the Lakers were in much better position then than they are now, but it is still one of the most prominent positions in sports so it would be hard for some to turn down.
Naadir Tharpe may never have been the type of point guard that Kansas needed to put itself over the top and win a national title, but his departure for Kansas will leave a void in their backcourt that they will need to fill. Tharpe’s time in Lawrence was marked by inconsistent play and culminated in a very-NSFW tweet, but his stated reason for leaving is to be closer to his daughter who he says has been dealing with medical issues that requires her to have regular office visits. Tharpe will likely be headed to somewhere close to Massachusetts and his departure should mean that the starting job should be Frank Mason’s to lose and it does theoretically increase the likelihood that they land Devonte Graham.
The schedule for this year’s Big Ten- ACC Challenge was released yesterday. The marquee game is clearly Duke at Wisconsin in what should be a matchup of top five teams. Outside of that there are a handful of interesting games–Syracuse at Michigan, Ohio State at Louisville, and Iowa at North Carolina–but the overall quality might be down because the ACC is so much better at the top of the conference. This will probably correct itself in a few years and the Big Ten might even win the event this year because of their depth, but in our eyes the main appeal of this event in its ability to pair up top teams in non-conference matchups that we might otherwise not see.
Washington transfer Desmond Simmons announced that he was transferring to Saint Mary’s yesterday. Simmons averaged 5.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game this season after coming back from a knee injury, which forced him to miss the first ten games of this past season. Simmons is set to graduate so he will be able to play for Saint Mary’s next season, which will be a sort of homecoming for him as he grew up about 30 miles away from the school. Although Simmons headed to Washington after high school he reports having had a good relationship with Randy Bennett during his initial recruitment and actually had the Gaels in his final three coming out of high school.
Former North Carolina State guard Tyler Lewis has found a new home at Butler. The sophomore point guard averaged 4.4 points and 3.8 assists per game this past season and his move into the starting lineup late in the season was cited as one of the reasons that NC State made the NCAA Tournament. However, Lewis never lived up to his McDonald’s All-American pedigree and with Trevor Lacey coming in we are sure that Lewis could see the writing on the wall. At Butler, Lewis will have to help rebuild a program that fell off hard with Brad Stevens’ departure, which was compounded by a loss of a lot of talent. In the end, this will probably be a better situation for Lewis in terms of playing time and level of his opposition.
Within every 40 minutes of college basketball, there is a moment or two that sets a tone, shifts momentum, or otherwise dictates the game’s final result. If we think bigger picture, we’ll notice that the five-month college basketball season is also shaped by a number of similarly formative moments. We may not always know their full significance at the time, but these moments conspire to transform the course of a season. In 2013-14, these were those 10 moments – some occurring inside the lines, others far away from the hardwood – that proved most pivotal to the season’s final snapshot.
UConn Felled Florida Back In December In What Would Turn Out To Be The First Installment Of Many Napier Clutch Shots
10. Tyler Ennis Downs Pitt at the Horn (February 12). The Syracuse freshman’s memorable game-winner extended the Orange’s inspiring perfect start, but might it have ended up wounding both teams? Pitt would never really find its way over the hump, while Syracuse’s continued chase of perfection may have shielded a few critical flaws that would later cause its sharp downfall.
9.Scottie Wilbekin Returns From Five-Game Suspension (November 25). A solid performance (12 points, seven assists, three steals) in a rout of Atlantic Sun also-ran Jacksonville was just the beginning of a redemptive season for Wilbekin, who overcame offseason turmoil to become the unquestioned leader and MVP of a team that, for the better part of 2014, played at a far loftier level than any other squad in the country.
8. Wichita State Comes Back Against Missouri State (January 11). Shockermania hadn’t yet grown into the hysteria it would become, but Wichita State overcame a 19-point second half road deficit in the most improbable of their season-opening 35 victories. Read the rest of this entry »
Prior to the beginning of the college basketball season, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski infamously proclaimed that the ACC had the potential to be the greatest college basketball conference of all-time. That was a bold proclamation at the time, as we covered here, and with the 2013-14 season now drawing to a close, it’s become painfully apparent that the conference this year did nothing to stake such a claim. So the question then becomes, what does the ACC need to do in coming years to proudly proclaim itself the best basketball conference ever assembled? Here’s a road map for the league’s coaches and administrators.
Virginia’s ascendance will only help the ACC’s argument that it’s the premier basketball conference. (USA Today Sports)
The conference’s elite have to dominate the non-conference slate and enjoy copious postseason success. While there were a handful of marquee wins spread around prior to ACC play (North Carolina’s defeats of Michigan State, Kentucky, and Louisville; Duke’s defeat of Michigan; Syracuse handling Villanova), the league’s postseason results were anything but stellar. The conference managed to get six teams into the NCAA Tournament, but the upper tier didn’t produce much success when they got there. Duke lost in the opening round; North Carolina and Syracuse fell in the round of 32. Virginia, the regular-season and ACC Tournament champion, may have drawn a rough match-up in the Sweet Sixteen with Michigan State, but it could not advance (and UConn was able to handle the Spartans in the nexts round). The embarrassing result was that there was no ACC teams in the Elite Eight. These teams have to produce in postseason play in addition to their non-conference victories to help the perception of the conference return to an elite level.
While the ACC took a beating in its reputation over the course of the season, the league ended up with four very good teams (regardless of their early exits in the NCAA Tournament) that all spent some time in the Top 25. The league was top-heavy with a clear upper quadrant this year, but that didn’t stop the bottom from occasionally feeding on the weaknesses of some of the top teams, as Wake Forest beat Duke, Boston College and Georgia Tech beat Syracuse, and UNC lost to Wake and Miami. The ACC has traditionally run through Tobacco Road, but with the inclusion of powerhouses Syracuse and Louisville, the league will have a much more diverse, East Coast feel to it. The new rivalries that will develop among those schools are practically bred for prime time, with some of the sport’s most magnetic and well-known coaching personalities clashing on the sidelines, Hall of Famers with thousands of combined wins at this level. Their players aren’t halfway bad, either.
Louisville’s Rick Pitino has to be pleased (contrary to his facial expressions above) with his well-rounded six-man recruiting class(Getty Images).
Most other basketball conferences will be hard pressed to match the star power and coaching prowess that programs like Syracuse, Duke, UNC, and Louisville will bring to an already tradition-rich ACC. Much of the the league’s success can be laid on the shoulders of the incoming recruits that will provide these future made-for-TV moments. The 2014 recruiting class among the league’s programs seems to be fertile and deep, full of stars and instant impact performers who will enhance the collegiate landscape during their time on campus. The McDonald’s All-American game, played on Wednesday night in Chciago, featured seven future ACC players, all headed to Tobacco Road. While Duke’s top-ranked class has received much of the early accolades, North Carolina also is bringing in a potent blend of athleticism and shooting ability.