As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Maryland has itself a new head coach. Mark Turgeon may not be the sexy name that many Terp fans were hoping for, but the fact of the matter is that the guy has throughout his career put a consistently solid product on the floor regardless of talent. His teams are tough-minded, they play sticky defense, and they win — he averaged 24 wins per year at Texas A&M and 22 wins in his last four seasons at Wichita State. Not everyone agrees, but the general consensus is that Maryland AD Kevin Anderson made a solid if not spectacular hire, but that Turgeon’s chops will ultimately be earned by how well he learns to recruit in the fecund DC/Baltimore prep basketball scene. We certainly won’t disagree with that, but if Turgeon’s recruiting matches his demonstrated competitiveness, the rest of the ACC is not going to enjoy visiting College Park any more than it did much of the last twenty years — the only difference is that instead of wondering how they scored 75 points and lost by double figures, visiting teams will come out perplexed in how they ended up with bloodied noses, bruises all over their bodies, and put up only 50.
CBS, CBS, CBS… what on earth are you doing? Last week it was prematurely reported that Gus Johnson was leaving CBS Sports (and by proxy, the NCAA Tournament), when in reality he had only received an offer from Fox Sports that CBS would have an opportunity to match. Many, ourselves included, presumed that CBS would make the smart decision and keep Gus, the vox populi of college basketball, on board. And this is why we weren’t business majors… because CBS did no such thing. The Blinking Eye network let him walk (apparently, politics, in addition to dollars, was involved), and Fox Sports and the NFL are the major beneficiaries. All we know is that Pac-12 games just got 1000% more interesting next season, and it’s not because Jorge Gutierrez and Trent Lockett are returning to school. For a very insightful piece examining the ins and outs of his employment situation, read Awful Announcing’s excellent analysis on the paradox of Gus Johnson here.
We stumbled across this interesting post from Rock Chalk Talk about the state of college basketball, at least as viewed from a partisan Kansas writer. While we understand where he’s coming from in terms of this statement: “We’re at a point now where the best teams still get the best talent, but they never become a team,” we have trouble seeing the natural consequence of parity as a bad thing. The beauty of the NCAA Tournament (along with the World Cup and the NFL Playoffs, to name two other worldwide favorites) is that top seeds can be beaten if they don’t bring their absolute best game every given night; underdogs and upsets are what keep the casual fans interested. He seems to fail to recognize that the transformation of the NCAA Tournament to March Madness began in the 1980s when NC State (1983), Villanova (1985) and his very own Kansas Jayhawks (1988) captured the imagination of American sports fans with their rags-to-riches Cinderella stories. While it’s true that the quality of college basketball has been hurt by the onslaught of early entries to the NBA Draft every single spring, that problem is not a recent phenomenon. It began nearly twenty years ago and accelerated throughout the 1990s to the point where the top 8-10 high school players each year were skipping college altogether by the middle of last decade, thereby hurting the overall product. The piece makes some good points, but it reads a bit like someone decrying parity and a bad product to explain his team’s #1 seed meltdowns to Cinderellas prior to the Final Four the last two years.
Robert Morris sophomore guard Karon Abrahamwas suspended for the entire 2011-12 season as a result of his second alcohol offense (underage drinking) in the last six months (he also had a DUI conviction last November). According to head coach Andy Toole, the Colonials’ best player was “shocked” by this decision, and given that he will not be allowed to work out with the team next season, we have to wonder if he’ll consider transferring to another school that will give him an opportunity to stay on the court (even as just a practice player in 2011-12). He definitely needs to get his head on straight here, but RMU’s decision is punitive enough to make us think that he might consider it.
VCU head coach Shaka Smart continues to live the dream, fresh off his first Final Four appearance and a nice contract extension, by throwing out the first pitch in a weekend game between the Cubs and Reds at Wrigley Field. Perhaps sensing that he hadn’t done enough, he also sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh inning stretch. Let’s hope he hangs on to his day job for a little longer, eh?