Posted by rtmsf on October 17th, 2013
- As we mentioned yesterday, Wednesday was the day that four major basketball conferences, all of their own independent accord, decided, “hey, let’s dominate the news cycle for our basketball product by competing for attention with three other competitors, even though we could have easily chosen any of a number of other days during the month of October! Brilliant!” Sometimes the ruling parties of this sport really make you wonder. Alas, the ACC, AAC, Big East and SEC all held their media events yesterday, providing us with a steady stream of quotes, notes, predictions and controversy throughout the day. You’ll get better coverage of the details of each of those leagues at each of our microsites (excepting the SEC, which relaunches next week), but for now, here are some of the things we learned. ACC: Jim Boeheim says the only thing Syracuse fans will miss is the Big East Tournament; AAC: Commissioner Mike Aresco says no-way, no-how to paying players. Big East: Are the biggest celebrities in this league Bill Raftery and Gus Johnson? SEC: Kentucky’s best player is James Young? The SEC will continue with its two-day event in Birmingham today, and the Pac-12 will hold its one-day media event in San Francisco as well. The Big 12 and Big Ten will follow with theirs over the next couple of weeks.
- The best quote of the day, however, didn’t come from one of the roughly 50 coaches assembled yesterday at the various conference media days. It came from USC’s Andy Enfield, who exhorted his team during a recent practice by telling the Trojans, “We play up-tempo basketball here. If you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” Perhaps not since the days of Shaq and Kobe trashing each other through Jerry Buss has the City of Angels heard such a fine display of braggadoccio. Given that it’s coming from a brash young coach who quite literally was making a CPA’s salary somewhere on the gulf coast of Florida one year ago, even better. The two schools have never liked one another, but sometimes the crosstown rivalry got lost in the football vs. basketball focus of each. It would be nice to see the rivalry heat up with two cocky new coaches in town ready to trade barbs back and forth for the better part of the next decade. The Pac-12 microsite has a fantastic piece coming later today on this topic, and we highly encourage you to check it out in a few hours. Meanwhile, do you think the west coast media will bring up this quote to Steve Alford and his counterparts later today?
- Jumping back to the media days, all four leagues released their preseason choices to win the conference races and the standard other superlatives we typically expect this time of year. In the ACC, Duke was picked first with Syracuse’s CJ Fair chosen as the top player; over in the AAC, it was Louisville and Russ Smith. In the new-but-not-improved Big East, Marquette was the choice, with Creighton’s Doug McDermott as the player of the year. In the SEC, Kentucky and Julius Randle were the selections. From our perspective given what we know about these sorts of things, the media will be lucky if even half of these choices come in by March — there’s just too much variability and unpredictability at the conference level to make sterling predictions like these. The closest might be McDermott in the Big East, so long as he’s healthy all season, and Louisville to win the AAC. Beyond that? It’s hard to say anything is a lock.
- There was a period in the mid-1990s when Georgetown basketball, so feared and despised by so many in the 1980s, became the coolest thing around, in a retro sort of way. Sporting some of the best college basketball uniforms ever produced and an electrifying backcourt led by the unguardable Allen Iverson and his sidekick, Victor Page, the Hoyas became everything they hadn’t been during the previous era: fun, fast and perimeter-oriented. Bubba Chuck, of course, went on to an MVP award and great riches in the NBA, but Page, the Big East Tournament MVP in 1996 and Big East scoring champion in 1997, was never able to get there. As a result, Page has spent much of the last two decades in and out of correctional institutions for a series of petty and serious crimes, the most recent of which, a brutally violent assault against a Maryland woman, was described by Nathan Fenno in the Washington Times as the product of “one wasted opportunity after another.” Page has been charged with 33 crimes in the last 42 months (guilty of six, including the assault, for which he was sentences to 10 years in prison), but the clear lesson here is that young players with all the talent in the world still need to have realistic backup plans. Education, work, whatever. Because if there’s nothing else to live for, that allows the darkness to creep in.
- After that one, let’s finish today off with a good story. In an era of coaches working themselves to the bone with all the different CEO aspects of running a Division I college basketball program, the New York Times‘ Zach Schnobrun writes about the youngest D-I coach in the country, Wagner’s 29-year old Bashir Mason. Mason, it turns out, is finishing up a Master’s in elementary education at the school and the second-year head coach must complete 220 hours of classroom instruction to earn the degree. As a result, he spends five mornings and one afternoon a week at a local elementary school, working through reading comprehension and other practical exercises with kids who are too young to recognize that their teacher is a bit of a local celebrity. It’s a story about persistence and follow-through, and it’s one that Mason deserves to have heard. Here’s hoping that his team listens to him as intently as his six-year old students do — they’ll assuredly learn a thing or two about discipline and hard work.
Posted by Will Tucker on February 21st, 2013
- Well, just when everyone had become enchanted with the idea of Providence giving Syracuse a stiff challenge, the Orange came out and showed everyone why they hadn’t lost at home in 37 games. Boeheim’s defensive length sparked a 31-5 run to close the first half, and the Friars were run out of the gym, 84-59. CJ Fair logged his second consecutive double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and the Orange shot almost 57% on a Providence defense that had held Notre Dame to 39% last week. Most encouraging for Syracuse fans was the impeccable performance Michael Carter-Williams turned in after his tapering assist numbers had raised eyebrows. The sophomore ended with 12 assists and an absurd 6:1 assist to turnover ratio to go along with 15 points and five rebounds. Any doubts about Syracuse’s trajectory were erased as they moved back into a tie for first place in league play.
- In another Wednesday night blowout, Georgetown freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera played a career game as the Hoyas pounded DePaul, 90-66, to extend their winning streak to eight. Coming off the bench, the stocky Thompsonian guard racked up 33 points on 10-of-12 (83%) shooting, hit 5-of-6 threes and 8-of-10 free throws. It was the most points scored by a Georgetown freshman since Victor Page put up 34 in the 1996 Big East Tournament. It also warrants some further research to determine the last time anyone accumulated as many points shooting 80% or higher from both the field, three-point and free throw lines. We’ll look into it.
- Jamie Dixon’s emphasis on rebounding is well documented, but it’s even more important this season without a reliable scorer. Despite entering last weekend’s game tied for the best rebounding margin in the Big East, Pitt emerged bloodied from its Notre Dame embarrassment with a -22 margin between two straight losses. In fact, Pitt’s lost six of the last eight games in which it hasn’t earned an advantage on the glass. Dixon stresses the need for “rebounding from every position,” but Lamar Patterson had questioned the effort from his big men after last weekend’s Marquette loss: “We’ve got big guys, too. Steve [Adams] and Talib [Zanna] are big guys. It came down to who wanted it more.” The two performed even worse on the boards against the Irish, collecting four and two rebounds, respectively. Maybe it’s not the kind of criticism you’d pose publicly, but it appears to have some merit.
- Notre Dame forward Scott Martin is poised to return to full participation in practice this weekend after missing eight games with chronic knee issues. Despite the leadership and production Martin brings to the table, the Irish are 6-2 in his absence, as Tom Knight has ascended from obscurity to become a reliable starter. It’s not an unfamiliar situation for Mike Brey: “Luke Harangody came back to us at time we were rolling along with a different nucleus. Scott will have to work himself in and he and I talked about that. His attitude is great… I would love to have that body available down the stretch.” Brey also revealed he’s also contemplating inserting Martin at the three spot, which would alleviate the problematic numbers game in Notre Dame’s frontcourt. It’s hard to imagine a hobbled Martin having the lateral quickness to guard many Big East threes, though.
- Eric Crawford at the Louisville Courier-Journal juxtaposes the patchwork understanding of basketball Gorgui Dieng brought to Louisville with the astute mind for the game he’s developed in three seasons. He’s gone from not grasping that offensive and defensive fouls count toward one’s foul total, to becoming one of the team’s best passer, whom Rick Pitino compares to former point-center David Padgett for his passing ability and intellect. “He’s our coach on the floor,” says Pitino. While Dieng demurred when asked about his coach’s comments that he may encourage the 23-year-old junior to test the draft after this season, Crawford picks up on subtleties in Dieng’s speech that suggest he might be preparing for an exit. Responding to concerns about fatigue, Dieng said, “I will do whatever to help this team. I’m not worried if I play a lot of minutes or less minutes. I don’t know if I’m going to have this chance again, ever.”