Big East Summer Capsules: Connecticut Huskies

Posted by mlemaire on August 2nd, 2012

While most relish the onset of Summer, college basketball junkies do not. Most of the news surrounding the sport is recruiting rumors and commitments or injuries and transfer news. In order to help keep folks up-to-date on what their teams are doing during the summer, we put together these summer capsules for each team in the conference. Next up is Connecticut.

1. It’s official; there will be no postseason play for the Huskies in 2013.

There was only one truly major story that came out of Connecticut this summer but it was a doozy. The Huskies got into hot water with the NCAA because the program’s APR score wasn’t high enough to meet NCAA standards from 2008-11. The NCAA as a result dropped a postseason ban on the program because of its lackluster APR score and the university and the program have been fighting to appeal that ban ever since.  By the middle of July, they had run out of appeals and it became official that the UConn basketball program would not be participating in any postseason tournaments next season. The logic behind the ban makes sense, but it still seems unfortunate to punish the players directly, many of whom weren’t even on the team during the years in question. It also is truly unfortunate to punish the fans of the program. I am sure Storrs will still be rocking when big names roll through town,  but it is going to be tough to stay invested and motivated in your team’s success when you know no matter how well they do, there won’t be any pot of gold at the end of this proverbial rainbow.

2. A lot of pressure falls on the young shoulders of Omar Calhoun.

There Will Be No Postseason For Jim Calhoun And His Huskies Next Season

As if the postseason ban wasn’t enough of a stomach punch, the program also watched as its two most talented players – Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond – left for the NBA; one of its captains – Alex Oriakhi – transfer because he was unhappy; and another key contributor – Roscoe Smith – transfer out so he could play small forward. Needing to replace a lot of scoring and talent, the coaching staff brought in exactly three players. There is 6-foot-10 Philip Nolan who should provide defensive support in the post but is really raw offensively. There is Leon Tolksdorf, another German recruit who at the very least should provide much needed depth to a frontcourt sorely in need of it. And then there is 6-foot-3 combo guard and New York City native Omar Calhoun. Calhoun is strong enough psychically and multi-talented enough offensively to step into a contributing role immediately. After all, he hasn’t even been on campus for more than a few months and already has held his own against arguably the program’s best player ever in a game of one-on-one. But the Big East won’t be a one-on-one scrimmage, and Calhoun will need to learn quickly, because the Huskies need a lot of help across the board especially given the scoring exodus that took place during the offseason. Calhoun has all the tools to fill some of that scoring gap right away, so he should be ready to make the most of this opportunity.

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Re-Drafting the NBA Draft: Top 10 Players From Recent Years

Posted by EJacoby on June 25th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft takes place this Thursday, June 28 in Newark, and now that the NBA Finals has come to an early conclusion (just five games), New Jersey becomes the center of the basketball universe. No other professional sports amateur draft can have as much immediate impact as the NBA’s, witnessed by Oklahoma City’s rise to prominence with a core consisting of four first-round picks from the previous five years. While we await Thursday’s selections, the words ‘upside’ and ‘potential’ run rampant, as teams are selecting from a pool filled with unrefined prospects. Lottery picks (top 14 selections) are mainly underclassmen who scouts hope evolve into long term superstars, and that’s why the draft presents so many early busts and late sleepers that evaluators miss out on. The NBA Draft is more art than science, and that is no more evident than when you look back at many of the selections made in previous drafts.

After slipping on draft night, Tony Parker has led the Spurs to multiple championships (AP Photo)

Today we take a look at four recent NBA Drafts to give you a clear idea of how difficult it is to nail the top picks. We wanted to choose mostly older drafts whose players’ careers have longer sample sizes to evaluate, but also included a more recent draft since the implementation of the current ‘one-and-done’ rule that disallows high school players from the pool. Here are our revised top 10 picks from 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2006, with each player’s original selection in parentheses. Who ended up becoming the best players from drafts of the 2000s, and where were they selected?

2001

  1. Tony Parker (28, San Antonio)
  2. Pau Gasol (3, Memphis)
  3. Joe Johnson (10, Boston)
  4. Zach Randolph (19, Portland)
  5. Gilbert Arenas (31, Golden State)
  6. Gerald Wallace (25, Sacramento)
  7. Jason Richardson (5, Golden State)
  8. Tyson Chandler (2, LA Clippers)
  9. Shane Battier (6, Memphis)
  10. Richard Jefferson (13, Houston)

A fairly strong draft, 2001 is also scarred by the fact that #1 overall pick Kwame Brown was an enormous bust. Brown, selected first by Michael Jordan out of high school, is a great example of why it’s risky to draft young, unproven bigs. But that was also during the era when high school players were eligible for the draft, which is no longer the case today. Even though the current ‘one-and-done’ rule makes it difficult to assess young prospects, at least we get a full season to watch players compete at the highest level. The 2001 draft was full of quality sleepers late in the draft, highlighted by the three-time All-Star, Arenas, and three-time NBA champion and four-time All-Star, Parker, both falling past pick #27. Parker likely fell because he was such a young, foreign player; yet Gasol was a similar prospect who scouts nailed with the #3 overall selection. The 2001 draft proves how difficult it is to differentiate players of varying positions, ages, and levels of play.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Andre Drummond

Posted by EJacoby on June 24th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Andre Drummond

School: Connecticut

Height/Weight: 6’11” / 275 lbs.

NBA Position: Center

Projected Draft Range: High Lottery

Andre Drummond has elite athleticism for a center but must refine his offensive game (AP Photo)

Overview: Andre Drummond is an unreal athletic specimen whose NBA intrigue stems from his unique physical profile, but not so much from how he performed as a freshman at UConn. The second youngest player in this draft, Drummond was a last minute re-classification to the 2011 high school class and joined the Huskies late, taking awhile to mesh with the defending National Champions. The 18-year-old had a rollercoaster season, dominating certain games and showing extended flashes of greatness while at other times looking lost on the floor without much to contribute. He averaged 10.0 points and 7.6 rebounds for the year on 53.8% shooting, getting most of his points on dunks from lob passes, putbacks, or cuts into the paint. He shot an unfathomable 29.5% from the free-throw line and yet finds the 15-foot jumper as one of his potential go-to scoring moves because he lacks post skills. On defense, though, Drummond was a consistent game-changing force, evidenced by his 2.7 blocks per game. Not only is he huge (6’11”) and strong, but Drummond is agile on his feet with a quick second-jump, all adding up to an elite post defender. He could even get out to defend high pick-and-rolls well and close out on perimeter shooters, results of a truly one-of-a-kind athlete. Drummond runs the floor with the speed of a swingman, and he finished with the 10th-fastest score at the Combine’s agility test drill, finishing behind mainly small guards. He also has an insane 7’6.25” wingspan, the best of any prospect. It’s easy to see Drummond’s massive potential, but he’s a project that needs time to refine his offensive skills and find ways to score besides dunks. He showed some refreshing personality during Combine interviews, but his drive to be great remains in question based on his in-game body language and passive nature.

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Rough Offseason Has UConn Reeling, But Team Remains Hopeful in 2012-13

Posted by EJacoby on June 21st, 2012

Breaking news surfaced on Wednesday when the NCAA released its Academic Progress Report (APR) for all Division I athletic programs, and a whopping 10 men’s basketball teams are now banned from the 2012-13 NCAA Tournament after failing to reach the required APR average score of 900 over the last four years. The biggest name on the list, and the only power conference school to ever receive a postseason APR ban, is Connecticut, which recorded a four-year score of 889. But none of this was news to the Huskies, a school which had already lost an appeal this offseason for inclusion. The postseason ban is just one of many pieces of bad news that UConn has received this offseason, which has put the future of UConn basketball in serious doubt. Your 2011 National Champions have struggled on and off the court since that wild run two springs ago sparked by Kemba Walker and company. Transfers, violations, firings, underperformance, and bans have dominated the news cycle around Storrs and 70-year-old future Hall of Fame head coach Jim Calhoun remains on the fence about coaching his team for much longer. Where does UConn go from here, and what can we expect from the Huskies on the court next season?

Jim Calhoun’s future remains in doubt, but the Hall of Fame coach doesn’t want to leave the program in chaos (AP Photo)

Connecticut basketball has been nothing short of a disaster since hauling the National Championship trophy two seasons ago. While that year’s historic run of 11 straight postseason wins is forever engrained in Storrs lore and perhaps fans can accept a few years’ grace period after winning a title, it’s still hard to believe how quickly things have fallen. UConn entered 2011-12 as the Big East preseason favorites but struggled to a 20-14 finish, playing through multiple suspensions and the extended absence of Calhoun due to rules violations and health reasons. The team lost its first round NCAA Tournament game to Iowa State in convincing fashion, and things have only gotten worse since that game in March. Top talents Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond both declared for the NBA Draft, and forwards Roscoe Smith, Michael Bradley, and Alex Oriakhi all transferred out of the program, leaving major holes in the roster. The team is ineligible for both the 2013 Big East and NCAA Tournaments after poor academic performances in the past four years. Recruiting has been understandably difficult, as the school remains a questionable short term destination for prospects. There’s a brand new athletic director (Warde Manuel) on campus who has yet to implement his long-term strategy. And perhaps most importantly, Calhoun remains uncommitted to his future on campus. The 70-year-old has two more years left on his contract and certainly does not want to leave the program in chaos, but the future Hall of Famer will probably not stick around much longer no matter what situation the team is in.

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What Can We Learn From NBA Draft Combine Measurements?

Posted by EJacoby on June 11th, 2012

The top 60 prospects for the upcoming NBA Draft were invited to Chicago for the official NBA Draft Combine late last week, where players seek to impress the loads of pro scouts and executives in attendance in preparation for June 28. Before players even began competing in drills and scrimmages, they were first tested by the ‘tape’ in an extensive set of measurements. This year’s numbers were released on Friday, which include everything from height and weight to hand width and horizontal wingspan. But do these physical measurements really mean anything? Does the fact that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist measured a half-inch shorter than expected, or Jae Crowder’s hands are some of the widest of the group, have an impact on that player’s chances to succeed in the league? Adjusting to the elite size and speed of NBA competition is important for all incoming prospects, but a ball player is a ball player, regardless of his standing reach or hand size. History shows that some Combine measurements become useful in predicting future success while others bear no weight at all, making it a difficult data set to analyze.

Kevin Jones didn't measure out well at the Combine; does this mean anything for his NBA potential? (AP Photo/D. Smith)

This year’s athletic testing results (bench press, agility drill, vertical jump, etc.) are not yet released, so we’ll just take a look at the player measurements and what they mean. Some notable numbers from this year include Meyers Leonard’s massive height without shoes (6’11.75”), Andre Drummond’s ridiculous wingspan (7’6.25”), John Henson’s skyscraping standing reach (9’3.5”), Kevin Jones’ excessive body fat (11.2%), and Andrew Nicholson’s enormous hands (10” long, 10.75” wide). But didn’t we already know these things? We knew that Drummond was a freakish physical specimen, and Henson’s intrigue as a prospect stems from his elite length. We know Leonard is huge and Jones doesn’t look like much of an athlete. But that becomes the dilemma – should scouts put more stock in Kevin Jones’ physical measurements, or his versatile skill set that’s been on display at West Virginia for four years? The hard part is determining to what extent, if any, a player’s body will impact his ability to contribute in the NBA.

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Big East Weekly Five: 04.24.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on April 24th, 2012

  1. With three weeks having passed since Kentucky snipped the nets in victory we here at RTC Big East are officially in withdrawal and already cannot wait until the 2012-13 season tips off.  However, we understand that things tend to slow down a bit over the summer months and will just have to cope. That said there will continue to be plenty to discuss from week-to-week so we are happy to introduce the Big East Weekly Five.  Think of it as the Morning Five’s lazy cousin. You know, that cousin who doesn’t show up as much as some of the other relatives, but always seems to grace you with his presence if there is free beer?  The Weekly Five will continue throughout the summer and its goal is to provide similar content as the Big East Morning Fives that you have come know and cherish. In keeping with the desire of many to slim down for summer, there will just be less of us to love.  Still, just because we are getting lean and mean does not mean cutting back on the Fresca!
  2. Recruiting is the name of the game in the spring and summer, especially if you are St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin who coming into the weekend had five open scholarships for next year burning a hole in his pocket. What a difference a few days makes as Lavin and St. John’s scored three solid commitments when Harvard transfer Max Hooper joined Monroe (junior) College teammates Marco Bourgault and Orlando Sanchez in pledging for the Red Storm. All three players were on the Queens campus over the weekend — Lavin just needed to seal the deal. Bourgault and Hooper are shooters who will be tasked to help St. John’s stretch the floor with their ability to hit it from deep. The 6’6” Bourgault averaged 10.9 points per game for Monroe and made 42% of his three-point attempts. Hooper, also 6’6”, appeared in just two games while at Harvard and did not make the only shot he attempted. Fittingly both shooters will have three years of eligibility, although Hooper will have to first sit out a season under NCAA transfer rules. The 6’9″ Sanchez may represent Lavin’s biggest coup of the week as he fought off Big East rival Providence and the always persistent Ed Cooley in a battle for the big man. Sanchez will have two years of eligibility remaining.
  3. Seton Hall appears to have filled the significant void vacated by graduating star point guard Jordan Theodore as Texas transfer and Seton Hall Prep alum Sterling Gibbs will be coming home to suit up for the Pirates. The addition of Gibbs solidifies Seton Hall’s lead guard position, but the real kicker for head coachKevin Willard is that he may have Gibbs at the controls this coming season. Gibbs has applied for a hardship waiver that, if granted, would allow him to avoid sitting out next season per normal NCAA transfer rules.  The basis for the hardship waiver request is reported to be a family member’s illness. In Gibbs’ freshman season in Austin, he played in 30 games averaging 2.6 points and 0.7 assists in 7.5 minutes per game for the Longhorns.
  4. While players appear to be headed to St. John’s in droves, the exit door at Connecticut is getting an intense workout. Faced with the reality of not being allowed to play in next season’s Big East and NCAA Tournaments due to his program’s failure to meet NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) standards, sophomore forward Roscoe Smith became the latest to leave the program when he indicated he will transfer over the weekend. Smith, who averaged 4.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in 18.2 minutes per game this past season, joins fellow transfers Alex Oriakhi, who has since committed to Missouri, and Michael Bradley, along with Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb who declared for the NBA Draft.  Bradley, however, may ultimately opt to remain in Storrs as his primary reason for requesting a release from his scholarship is to explore options around moving closer to his ill grandmother.  The 6’10″ forward was scheduled to meet head coachJim Calhoun yesterday to discuss his future.
  5. The NCAA defended its position on Academic Progress Rate (APR) guidelines when it responded to a letter written by six members of Connecticut’s legislature that said banning the Huskies from NCAA Tournament play next year represented too harsh a penalty. The crux of the letter echoed the university’s appeal-losing position, stating that the APR calculations are not fair because they incorporate performance dating back four years when no one on the current roster was on the team. NCAA spokesman Bob Williams countered that the standards have been in place since 2006 and Connecticut knew the standard by which they and all other schools and teams were being measured.

You May Not Have College Hoops For Awhile, But You Can Always Have Fresca

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Complete NBA Draft List: After NCAA Deadline, Who’s Staying and Who’s Going?

Posted by EJacoby on April 10th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

In a rule that makes absolutely no sense, today (April 10) marks the new official date that college players had to withdraw their names from the NBA Draft pool if they wanted to return back to school with eligibility and had previously declared for draft entry. It’s the NCAA’s deadline. That means that all of the guys who declared since the end of the season (Kendall Marshall, Jared Sullinger, and Meyers Leonard to name a few) had to decide by today whether to forgo their NCAA eligibilities. But the NBA’s own deadline isn’t until April 29, meaning that players can still declare for the draft, but just can’t withdraw anymore and retain college eligibility. Essentially, it just means that “testing the waters” is now done, so if a player enters the draft from here then he is gone for good. Yes, it’s confusing and makes zero sense, but that’s an issue for another day. Today, we wrap up all of the players who are officially sticking in the NBA Draft, those who decided to return to school, and those that are still undecided until April 29. Here’s the status of all the top non-senior players of college basketball:

After Some Debate, Jared Sullinger Declared for the NBA Draft (AP Photo)

DECLARED - These players have entered their names into the NBA Draft and no longer have college eligibility.

  • Harrison Barnes, North Carolina (Sophomore) – The super-hyped prospect had a strong two seasons but perhaps underachieved in the eyes of many UNC fans. He is a surefire lottery pick and could go in the top five so it’s a smart decision to leave.
  • Jared Sullinger, Ohio State (Sophomore) – Dominant as a Buckeye from day one as a freshman, Sullinger’s NBA stock has slowly dropped over the course of two seasons. It’s his time to go now, but he may be slipping out of the top 10. Everyone seems torn on him, but Sully is too talented of a player to fall out of the lottery.
  • Thomas Robinson, Kansas (Junior) – No-brainer. Robinson was a NPOY candidate, accomplished great things in three years at Kansas and will be a top-five draft pick.
  • Kendall Marshall, North Carolina (Sophomore) – Despite being a stacked draft, this year’s pool severely lacks point guards. Marshall lacks athleticism at the position but is a solid height (6’4”) and has elite passing skills and floor awareness that will translate at the NBA level. Could be a surprise top ten pick, and will probably go in the lottery.
  • Austin Rivers, Duke (Freshman) – Another player that scouts are torn on, many believe that Rivers could have used another year of seasoning at Duke. But his scoring prowess is undeniable and someone will grab his talents likely between picks 10 and 20. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 04.06.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 6th, 2012

  1. After months of waiting Connecticut finally heard from the NCAA regarding its appeal against their 2013 NCAA Tournament ban for low APR scores. Unfortunately for the Huskies, the response was not the one they wanted to hear as the NCAA rejected the appeal so now the Huskies will be forced to sit out the NCAA Tournament. Outside of the immediate impact of the team not being able to play in the Big East and NCAA Tournament next year, this will likely have a significant influence on the NBA Draft decisions of Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond as well as the inevitable retirement of Jim Calhoun (he has to retire sometime, right?). And of course, as we have mentioned several times before this also means that Alex Oriakhi would be able to play for the school that he transfers to for next season without having to sit out a year. Although the Huskies do not have any other players who would appear to be in urgent need of going to a program that could play in the NCAA Tournament next year, it will be interesting to see if other players try to leave the program too.
  2. While some of Connecticut players may be leaving school early, there are at least a few notable names that will be staying in college. Yesterday, James Michael McAdoo, Isaiah Canaan, and Kenny Boynton all announced that they would be returning to their respective schools next season. McAdoo is perhaps the most interesting case as his playing time was limited by a loaded frontline in front of him at North Carolina, but he still would have been a first round pick. Now he will return to a Tar Heel team that has lost a lot of its minutes and McAdoo should be ready to showcase his skills for the nation and the NBA scouts. Canaan, who is coming off a spectacular junior year at Murray State, would not have been a first round pick so his return seems reasonable although we are not sure how much he can improve his stock unless he works on his point guard skills as the NBA is typically not in love with 6’0″ shooting guards. For us, the decision by Boynton to come back for his senior year at Florida seems like a no-brainer. While we have had issues with Boynton’s tendency to jack up shots (he will almost definitely end up as the school’s all-time leader in field goal attempts), his place in the Gator rotation should be more clear next season with the departure of at least one and probably two pieces from what was a crowded backcourt this season. Boynton will still probably end up playing overseas, but at least now he will have a chance to prove himself without a ton of other redundant options available to the coaching staff.
  3. Is this the beginning of the end for the ESPN BracketBusters event? One of the marquee conferences involved in the annual late February series of games, the CAA, has moved on to make an exclusive partnership deal with NBCSports Network starting in 2013, and therefore it will no longer participate in the event. In different-but-same news, the Mountain West’s television arm, The Mountain, will cease operations at the end of June as the league figures out its next step with a pending merger with Conference USA. This news undoubtedly will be received well far and wide for those of us who hated tuning into the fishbowl otherwise known as The Mtn’s production values every weekend. To whoever killed this network: Thank You.
  4. We’ve heard of a lot of crazy recruiting stories over the years — some true, most not — but we’re not sure that anything approaches what Nerlens Noel reported that a Kentucky fan offered him over Final Four weekend: the man’s wife. At this point, it’s just hearsay, but Noel seemed to have enough belief in the offer to state, “nah, [he's] good,” so we’re generally tending toward belief on this one. Regardless of whether the surely fine young Mrs. was offered to a 17-year old, this much is true: Noel will choose between Kentucky, Syracuse and Georgetown in the coming week.
  5. While on the subject of recruiting, and really, what else is there at this time of year… the nation’s #1 recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, is considered a must-get for Ben Howland’s UCLA program. His list of schools is down to UCLA, Kentucky, and Duke, but there hasn’t been more pressure on a single coach to get a single player in recruiting circles since Cody Zeller inked for Tom Crean’s Indiana program a year and a half ago. As the recruiting analysts all preach, it isn’t even about the single year that Muhammad would spend in Westwood as much as the future cachet that he would provide. John Calipari was able to lock down he likes of Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist through his work two and three years ago with John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
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NCAA Sticks to Its Guns: UConn Appeal Denied

Posted by rtmsf on April 5th, 2012

In news today that was only surprising to those who believe the NCAA has no spine, the organization denied Connecticut‘s final appeal over its eligibility for the 2013 NCAA Tournament based on its Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores. NCAA legislation enacted last October requires a four-year average APR of 900 or a two-year average of 930 in order to become eligible for next year’s Tournament — UConn’s APRs of 826 in 2009-10 and 978 in 2010-11 average out to a two-year score of 902 (well below the 930 cutoff), and its four-year average of 893 also comes up shy of the eligibility threshold (900). The Husky program argued that its proposed remedial measures, which included the possible forfeiture of NCAA Tournament revenue, greater academic support mechanisms and the existing loss of two scholarships, should be sufficient punishment for the school’s past academic failings. But that appeal was rejected, presumably on the grounds that the NCAA cannot afford to lose further credibility by backtracking on this mandate.

How Will the NCAA's Decision Impact Calhoun?

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy got involved on Thursday, telling the Hartford Courant:

It’s almost as if they’ve decided to get UConn one way or the other. [The NCAA] can’t get out of their own way. I think I have the same reaction a lot of people have when they understand what’s going on. For the first time in its history, the NCAA is making a retroactive application of a new rule. They modified a rule without modifying the time in which he comes into effect. … They changed the rule and didn’t give people time to adjust to it. … They are breaking their own precedents to bring this about. UConn has cleaned up its act, and now the NCAA is punishing a bunch of kids who have absolutely nothing or very little … to do with the failures of the past.

NCAA spokesperson Eric Christiansen responded to this criticism by saying that “schools have known since 2006 that APRs below 900 could result in serious penalties including postseason restrictions.” Of course, he’s right. UConn and other schools have known about the 900 threshold for a long time — they only started to take it seriously, though, when the NCAA gave it the necessary teeth to impact postseason eligibility through last year’s added legislation. And about the argument that the players from the 2009-10 team that caused so much of the APR problem are no longer around? No disrespect intended toward those former or current Huskies, but how is this different from other rules violations where a school is placed on probation for the actions of a former coach and/or players? The list is long of such situations on the other side of the rule-breaking fence — why should academic issues be treated any differently?

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Morning Five: 03.22.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 22nd, 2012

  1. This time the courtship did not last long as Shaka Smart announced yesterday that he would not become the next coach at Illinois and would remain the head coach at VCU. While Smart did not rule out moving on to another job we cannot imagine another opening much better than Illinois, which frankly is an overrated position, coming open during the offseason. Now Illinois will have to move onto another candidate. Two of the more interesting candidates we have heard mentioned are Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton and Duke assistant Chris Collins.
  2. If you watched Iowa State‘s brief NCAA Tournament appearance, Royce White‘s announcement that he will be entering the NBA Draft and hiring an agent should not be a surprise. Despite dealing with well-chronicled psychiatric problems, White emerged as a potential lottery pick who more than stood his own against four likely top ten picks in the first two rounds. We assume that with the millions invested in White by a NBA team they will also spend the requisite money to ensure that he continues to get the medical attention that he needs.
  3. The exodus may have started in Storrs where Alex Oriakhi announced yesterday that he will be transferring from Connecticut. Oriakhi, who struggled through much of the season after seeing his playing time cut drastically with the late arrival of Andre Drummond, had voiced his displeasure with how things were handled in Storrs earlier in the season. Now he will be looking for a new place to complete his college career. Oriakhi, who has one year of eligibility remaining, could be available to play next year if Connecticut’s NCAA Tournament ban is upheld, but would have to sit out a year if they are eligible to participate.
  4. After a brief hiatus while preparing for the opening week of the NCAA Tournament, Luke Winn is back with his weekly power rankings. As you might expect Winn’s analysis is more focused for the Sweet Sixteen with a look at how they match up with their opponent. The one figure that might be the most noteworthy is his analysis of fouls against Cody Zeller and Anthony Davis, which is particularly relevant because Indiana‘s 74-73 win is one of the few games this year where Davis was in foul trouble.
  5. According to reports Villanova junior Maalik Wayns will sign with an agent. When Wayns declared last week without signing with an agent we barely paid attention because we assumed that Wayns would learn that he was by no means guaranteed a spot on a NBA roster. While we cannot comment fully on the situation because we do not know if Wayns has an urgent financial/family reason for turning pro, but if he does not then all we can say is that it is a really bad decision.
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Big East Morning Five: 03.20.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on March 20th, 2012

  1. St. John’s freshman and reigning Big East Rookie of the Year Moe Harkless confirmed speculation and announced yesterday in a press conference held at Madison Square Garden that he will be leaving the Red Storm for the NBA. “It has been my lifelong dream to play in the NBA and I am excited to have that opportunity to make the jump,” said Harkless.  He also confirmed that he will hire an agent, which would prevent him from returning to school.  The 6’8” forward is currently projected as a mid-to-late first round pick.  Certainly his status can, and likely will, change as other early entrants make themselves eligible and overseas names emerge but should Harkless be selected in the first round he would be guaranteed an NBA contract.
  2. Moe Harkless’ declaration to turn pro made him the second Big East player to do so thus far, following Villanova’s Maalik Wayns who made his intentions known last week, but, unlike Harkless, he does not plan on retaining an agent. Players with early draft entry on their minds have until 11:59 pm ET on April 29 to decide and CBSSports.com has come up with a watch list of those most likely to be considering the move.  While this appears to be a link to Kentucky’s roster, if you look close enough among those cited you will see Connecticut’s Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb as well. While Drummond could use a bit more seasoning and Lamb’s stock has perhaps dropped some, with Connecticut currently banned from next year’s NCAA Tournament due to Academic Performance Rating (APR) issues, it feels like a foregone conclusion that they will both opt for the NBA.  However, if NCAA Tournament eligibility is a deciding factor, Drummond and Lamb may hold off on a decision until the last minute given Connecticut has an appeal in progress on which a ruling could come during April. The other apparent no-brainer on the list when it comes to Big East players is Syracuse’s Fab Melo.  On the heels of the academic ineligibility ruling that has forced Melo to sit out this year’s NCAA Tournament, it has been widely speculated that his Syracuse days are over. Melo’s Syracuse teammate Dion Waiters is the only other Big East player on the watch list.
  3. And then there were three.  Nerlens Noel, the number one prospect in the class of 2012, has narrowed his college choices to Kentucky, Syracuse and Georgetown. North Carolina and Connecticut are the latest schools to be cut.  Noel was scheduled to visit Tar Heel country this week but has since canceled. As for Noel’s interactions with the three finalists, the shot-blocking center took an official visit to Georgetown last week, was scheduled to have an in-home visit with Kentucky yesterday, and another with Syracuse tomorrow. A decision could come shortly thereafter as Noel’s official reclassification to the class of 2012, which had been pending, is now complete.
  4. They say success breeds success. Well Cincinnati is sitting pretty in the Sweet Sixteen and just picked up a commitment yesterday from junior college star Titus Rubles.  Rubles, a slashing 6’8” forward from Blinn Community College in Texas, averaged 16.0 points and 10.0 rebounds for the Buccaneers. This commitment does not come as much of a surprise to those who either follow the Bearcats closely or know how to operate Twitter, as Rubles’ Twitter handle is a somewhat revealing “@bearcatbound.” Even with Rubles in the fold, Cincinnati remains in hot pursuit of center Chris Obekpa, arguably the most sought-after recruit among Big East schools as he is also garnering significant interest from Connecticut, DePaul, Providence, Seton Hall and St. John’s.
  5. Speaking of Cincinnati, the Bearcats have certainly come quite far from what appeared to be a season on the brink following an embarrassing November loss to Presbyterian and that ugly brawl-marred loss to Xavier which led to multiple suspension.  As we wrote at the start of the season, Cincinnati carried with it perhaps the highest increase in expectations among Big East squads as the Bearcats returned their top four scorers from a 26-9 team that made it to the third round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. Playing through the suspensions seemed to unlock some individual potential and lineup combinations that may have otherwise been left untapped as head coach Mick Cronin has rallied his troops to another 26 wins and at least a round further in the Big Dance than last year to this point.
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Big East Afternoon Five: First Weekend Recap Edition

Posted by mlemaire on March 19th, 2012

  1. The dust has settled from what was another wild opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament and four Big East teams have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen — Syracuse, Marquette, Louisville, and Cincinnati. Only the Big Ten has as many teams still dancing. But there will be plenty of chances to hear about the teams still playing this week, so let’s dedicate this roundup to news about the teams that are done.
  2. Let’s give North Carolina State some credit, because they are playing good basketball right now, but Georgetown should be the most disappointed of the eliminated Big East teams today. Hampered by Henry Sims‘ foul trouble and a rough shooting day from Jason Clark, the Hoyas were never able to get all the way back into the game and exited the tournament early for the third straight season. As The Washington Post points out, Georgetown can take solace in the fact that they easily outperformed everyone’s expectations in the regular season and put together an impressive season given their inexperience. But somehow, I don’t think Clark and Sims and John Thompson III are giving that much thought right now.
  3. Are the referees kidding us by calling a technical when Jawanza Poland hung on the rim for an extra beat after throwing down an alley-oop to give his team a five-point lead? He wasn’t taunting; he wasn’t yelling; he wasn’t even showing any emotion. He just took a little extra swing on the rim, and the referees got all indignant, called the technical, and swung the momentum back in Ohio’s favor. It wasn’t the decisive reason that the Bulls ended up losing, but it was an unnecessary call, especially in a hard-fought tournament game. Looking on the bright side of things, no one expected Stan Heath‘s club to be playing for a Sweet Sixteen berth when this season started. After the game Heath said his team will be a “hungry group” next season, and with a solid returning cast as well as a recruiting class ready to make an impact, the Bulls could change from perennial league laughingstock to perennial tournament contender in no time.
  4. Since we are still on this overachiever kick, now feels like the right time to ask if anyone expected Notre Dame to be dancing earlier this season when star forward Tim Abromaitis was lost for the season because of a torn ACL. Unfortunately, that probably doesn’t do much to dull the sting that the Fighting Irish must feel after letting a double-digit second half lead slip away in their loss to Xavier. They don’t get to cry about the correctly called lane violation because they let the Musketeers shoot 50% from the field and were never able to clamp down defensively and stop the run. The good news for Mike Brey and company is that they will be a much better and more experienced team next season, especially if Scott Martin is granted a sixth year of eligibility. This team, at times, was too inconsistent and streaky which was due partially to their youth. But this season will be an excellent learning experience for guards like Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, so expect the Fighting Irish to be out for redemption next season.
  5. Connecticut barely made it onto anyone’s radar this March before they were summarily dispatched by Iowa State with ease. The defending national champions came out flat, like they have many other times this season, and the Cyclones took advantage and ran away with the win. While most Huskies’ fans will quickly forget about this season, there is still a lot to talk about for this program. UConn is facing a potential ban from next season’s NCAA Tournament because of previous players’ poor academic record; the possibility that their Hall of Fame coach will retire; and the possible defections of two of their best players in Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond. All of this drama will make for an interesting offseason in Storrs.
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