Morning Five: Columbus Day Edition

Posted by RTC on October 14th, 2013

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  1. The month of Midnight Madness celebrations continued over the weekend, with a number of schools choosing to reveal their 2013-14 teams to the public on Friday night. The most prominent basketball school of this weekend’s group was Marquette, entertaining some 4,000 fans at the Al McGuire Center for Marquette Madness. The event trotted out the tried-and-true Madness standards: a three-point shooting contest (won by Jake Thomas), a dunk contest (won by Deonte Burton), etc., but one unique aspect of this version was that the school also handed out a “Lifetime Achievement Award” as part of the proceedings. Chris Otule, a Golden Eagles center who has played a full season in only two of his five years in Milwaukee and was recently granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, was the recipient (see the tribute video here). Otule earned substantial national recognition in 2010 when it was learned that he was playing major college basketball with only one working eye (he’s been blind in his left eye since birth), but he also has become something of a hard-luck case due to the three significant injuries (two broken feet and a torn ACL) that he has suffered during his career at Marquette. By all accounts a genuinely nice guy, let’s hope that his final year in Marquette is productive and injury-free.
  2. News came out last week that longtime Texas athletic director, DeLoss Dodds, will retire from his post overseeing the wealthiest athletic department in all of college sports. The 76-year old’s decision to retire, though, comes at a time when the school’s revenue-producing programs — football, basketball and baseball — are all suffering through relatively tough times. Notwithstanding the football Longhorns’ upset of unbeaten Oklahoma on Saturday, the team had lost badly to BYU and Ole Miss earlier this season, and rumors are swirling about the security of Mack Brown’s head coaching job there. Similarly for basketball, Rick Barnes’ Longhorns were just picked to finish as the eighth-place team in a 10-team league (only ahead of the hoops disasters known as Texas Tech and TCU), raising significant questions as to how a program and coach who makes so much money and has access to so much local talent could have gotten itself in such a mess. Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News examines the political and operational realities of Dodds’ retirement, ultimately concluding that the new AD will certainly have some hurdles to overcome upon arrival at his new job. And apparently, Louisville’s Tom Jurich is not interested.
  3. While on the subject of athletic directors, the AP reported on Friday that a group of 65 ADs attached their names in support of a nine-page memorandum sent to a legal team convening in Chicago later this month to discuss updating the Uniform Athlete Agents Act (UAAA). Tired of dealing with agents, runners and other interested hangers-on associating with student-athletes in their revenue programs, the group requests that the penalties attached to violations of the UAAA contain higher fines and additional prison time. Specifically, they ask that changes to the law must “increase the incentives for and ease of prosecuting violators,” offering a number of recommendations to make it easier to catch the wrongdoers. Perhaps the strongest part of this proposed legislation is the idea of classifying someone as an agent for purposes of the law regardless of whether they are registered as one — although difficult to implement, this could help with the runner/go-between problem that has become all too familiar in recent years.
  4. Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie may have jumped the gun in revealing his school’s latest APR score on Friday, but who can blame him given that his team was forced to miss the NCAA Tournament last season because of prior years’ academic troubles. The second-year coach proudly told the media: ”We got a thousand. If you want to wait until May, you can find out in May. But it’s a thousand.” The “thousand” he mentions equates to a perfect score on the APR metric, which basically means that all of UConn’s student-athletes in the basketball program are in good academic standing and on track to graduate. According to Ollie, the program has emphasized the importance of education through accountability (i.e., players run if they miss class, etc.), which of course is all fine and well. But perhaps more than anything else, this improvement to a perfect score shows that the APR can be gamed like any other arbitrary metric if a school simply takes it seriously and correspondingly incents the players to do the bare minimum in the classroom.
  5. One of the interesting aspects to the NCAA’s new rule allowing practice to start in September is that coaches are limited to only 30 practice sessions in those 42 days between September 27 and November 8. Not only does the extra time between sessions let coaches ease into their practice plans and teaching points a little more thoughtfully, but it also allows teams to do some other character-building exercises that they simply wouldn’t have had time for under the old model. Case in point: Duke‘s four-day trip to New York over the weekend. On Saturday, Coach K transported his charges to West Point, his alma mater and site of his first head coaching job, allowing the Blue Devils to take in the pride and spectacle of the school responsible for educating the nation’s future military leaders. By all indications the players loved the experience, and one might suspect that if the Blue Devils go on to enjoy a great upcoming season, they’ll reflect often on this preseason trip to New York as the bonding experience where things started to come together. Have a great holiday, everyone.
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Morning Five: 06.06.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 6th, 2013

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  1. College basketball’s worst kept secret became official late Wednesday night, as Missouri’s Michael Dixon, apparently the Teflon Don of sexual assault allegations in Columbia, announced via Twitter that he was transferring to Memphis. As we discussed in yesterday’s piece addressing the rumors of his transfer, Dixon brings a very interesting combination of talent and experience to a Tigers team desperately in need of some heady play to supplement the occasional wildness of returnees Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford. The question of whether Dixon will ever suit up with those two rising seniors, though, will be for the NCAA to decide, as he plans to request a waiver after already sitting out last season at Missouri. His argument will hinge on the Dez Wells exception, a unique and slightly different scenario where Wells was expelled from Xavier over a sexual assault allegation that even local prosecutors found completely unsubstantiated. Of course, Wells was ultimately allowed to play last season at Maryland, where he blossomed into one of the ACC’s most dangerous wings, and whether Dixon will receive the same treatment from the sport’s governing body may involve determinations on guilt or innocence that it is simply unprepared or unwilling to make. If he is allowed to suit up as a Tiger of the Memphis variety next season, though, Josh Pastner’s team suddenly becomes a lot more interesting on the national stage. 
  2. Speaking of that stage, one of the biggest and best national events in the early weeks of the season is the Jimmy V Classic. Next season’s pair of match-ups have now been finalized, and Memphis in fact will be one of those teams featured. The Tigers will take on a top 10 outfit in Florida in the nightcap, while fellow AAC member Cincinnati will battle new ACC institution Pittsburgh in the undercard. Did you get all that? It’s AAC vs. ACC, and AAC vs. SEC. If Dixon is cleared to play next season, the backcourt battles between he and Crawford versus Kasey Hill and Scottie Wilbekin will be fun to watch.
  3. Remember Julie Roe Lach, the former VP of NCAA enforcement who was fired in February related to a series of missteps that occurred under her watch, but most notably the ethical misconduct stemming from the Nevin Shapiro case at Miami (FL)? She resurfaced on Wednesday with an op-ed piece published at Yahoo! Sports giving her take on how the NCAA should operate its enforcement initiatives. It reads lawyerly, but if you can get past the tone and dryness of it, she makes several good points. From her perspective, the NCAA needed to accomplish three primary things with respect to its enforcement process: 1) make penalties against schools harsh enough to deter the risk/reward mindset; 2) shorten the length of its investigations; 3) in revenue sports, instill a valid fear in personnel of getting caught. As she writes in the article, the organization was moving steadfastly in that direction when the Shapiro case and subsequent media firestorm it entailed derailed the focus of the organization. Unfortunately for her, the piece has something of an air of desperation about it — even though Lach’s points are well-sourced and make sense, she won’t be taken seriously by either the media or the NCAA at this point. It’s worth a read, but what the organization now needs is the next general — a Lach without a reputation — who will carry the flag forward without the taint of scandal enveloping his every word.
  4. One of the NCAA initiatives of the past several years that we’ve gotten fully behind is the Academic Progress Rate (APR). Notwithstanding the fact that schools can game the numbers with bogus classes and coursework to increase their APR scores — baby steps — it still provides some degree of academic accountability where there was little before. And it has some teeth, as Connecticut found out the very hard way last season. So kudos to 2013 national champion Louisville, which was one of only 35 men’s basketball teams to score in the top tier of schools (scoring 978 or above) in the most recent APR cycle (covering academic years 2009-12). The entire top 10 percent list that the NCAA highlights as part of its “Public Recognition Awards” is located here. The biggest surprise on the list this year? It has to be Memphis, although Alabama men’s basketball and football clearly show that the army of tutors and student-athlete assistants in Tuscaloosa are very good at their jobs.
  5. We didn’t mention Indiana in the previous blurb, but we easily could have, as Tom Crean has taken a program that was scoring in the 800s to one that is at the very top of Division I men’s basketball on the APR nowadays (Will the Hoosiers print up commemorative t-shirts? Too easy.). But one IU player is not only receiving academic accolades, he’s also still getting lauded for his work on the court last year. The Tulsa Sports Charities organization has named Hoosiers wing Victor Oladipo as its 2013 recipient of the Eddie Sutton Tustenegee Award, an honor “presented annually to a college basketball player who best exhibits the traits of tenacity and unselfishness that Sutton advocated during a coaching career that landed him in the College Basketball Hall of Fame.” In a year when the race was fairly wide open among a group of about five players, we like to see the love spread around a bit. Good for Oladipo, probably the best player on both ends of the floor last season.
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Big East M5: 02.15.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 15th, 2013

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  1. As expected, more details have emerged in the Jim Boeheim-Andy Katz “feud”, which came to a head last night when Boeheim called Katz an idiot and refused to answer his questions at the presser that followed Syracuse’s loss at Connecticut.  What was originally assumed by many to be an issue with Katz sharing some information about James Southerland’s academic issues now seems to be more about last year’s Bernie Fine fiasco.  Let’s hear from Boeheim: ”It’s really simple. I went to New York last year to play in the (NIT Pre-Season Tip-Off) Tournament in November and he (Katz) asked if he could interview me about the tournament. And I said, ‘Yeah, but I can’t talk about the (Bernie Fine) investigation.’ We got in the room and he put me on camera — there were several witnesses there — and he asked me what I’d told him I couldn’t answer. I kept telling him, ‘I can’t answer that.’ And he asked me, like, 10 times on camera. He never took the camera off me. Two or three people in the room were so disgusted they walked out of the room. The producer came over and apologized afterward. And I told Katz right then and there, ‘Don’t talk to me. Do not try to talk to me again.’” Katz issued a response following the Syracuse.com article: “There was no deal. I don’t cut deals. He might have thought there was a deal, but I have never, ever made a deal… The reason I did that is because with guys like Jim Boeheim, John Calipari, Jim Calhoun they’ll, say there’s a certain subject they don’t want to talk about and then they’ll talk about it. If I asked it one too many times, fine, criticize me. I was just trying to see if he’d answer the question.”
  2. On the brighter side for Syracuse fans… err, maybe not so much after Wednesday night in Hartford… Michael Carter-Williams continues to grab headlines for his play.  Mike DeCourcy of  Sporting News went into depth with MCW about his high-risk, high-reward play this season, and how his scant playing time last season has helped in his maturation process.  Carter-Williams, like Dion Waiters before him, is a fiery competitor, and is has gotten the best of him in games before, including one instance last season when he snapped at Jim Boeheim after being taken out of a game: “Definitely, there were a couple of times when it got the better of me and I lashed out at Coach. Those were mistakes I made. Coach told me if I wasn’t yelling at him, he wouldn’t know what to expect from me. I was a McDonald’s All-American and I wasn’t playing … he knew I wanted to be out there.”  Carter-Williams’ play has been up and down this Big East season, but few deny his talent, and the fact that if Syracuse has a chance at making a final four run this season, it will be in large part due to MCW’s play.
  3.  College basketball is wide open this season, and the Big East is no different. It seems like half of the league is still in contention for the conference crown, and no one knows what will happen once the Big East tournament kicks off at Madison Square Garden. UConn was never supposed to be in the discussion this season.  After being handed a full post-season ban due to APR issues, and losing a number of talented players from their NCAA tournament team last season, UConn was largely an afterthought in the league.  However, with the win over Syracuse, the Huskies sit just a game out of first place in the conference, and the team may be especially dangerous, as a regular season Big East title is all that they can play for this year.
  4. Cincinnati’s offensive woes have been well-documented, especially since Cashmere Wright’s injury in January.  Sean Kilpatrick has been a one man show for the Bearcats, and that hasn’t been a winning formula.  In their recent win over Villanova, Cincinnati was able to find offense from another sourceJaQuon Parker.  Parker averages 10.9 points per game for Cincy, but had been in a bit of a scoring drought before breaking out with 19 points against the Wildcats.  The significance of his contribution was not lost on Mick Cronin: “He’s got to stay aggressive and I’ve got to help him with that. Put him in situations to where he can be aggressive and he’s thinking offense.  He’s thinking attack. For us to win, he’s got to play that way. For us to be a high-level team, he’s got to be a double-figure guy.”
  5. The ballad of Todd Mayo at Marquette has hit frequent rough notes, but he is a rare talent that could become a major asset for Buzz Williams’ squad if kept in check.  Mayo spent the early part of this season on academic suspension, and he has had his playing time cut at points since his return for what many expect is disciplinary reasons.  When Mayo does suit up, he is a dangerous offensive weapon, averaging over 17.5 points per 40 minutes played.  The trouble is, for every double digit game he tallies, he only plays five minutes in another.  There are rumblings that Mayo may not be long for Marquette, but while he is still on the team, they can certainly use him in their race for the top of the Big East.
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Big East M5: 12.05.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 5th, 2012

  1. St. John’s 81-65 loss on the road at San Francisco may have seemed like just another non-conference game in preparation for the Big East gauntlet which kicks off in early January. To Steve Lavin, though, this game meant a whole lot more. Steve’s father Cap Lavin played guard at San Francisco in the early 1950s, and was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 1997. With his son’s trip out west, the school honored Lavin at halftime. San Francisco Chronicle writer Steve Kroner’s piece on this father-son relationship is an excellent read. Where many sporting parents may push their children towards athletics, Cap never put any pressure on Steve, but instead made sure that his career goal of becoming a basketball coach wasn’t him taking “the path of least resistance.” Steve’s relationship with Cap was also instrumental in helping him triumph in his recent bout with prostate cancer.
  2. The Big East Tournament has always been a big event for Connecticut faithful, and this spring’s tournament, with the impending departure of rivals Syracuse and Pittsburgh, promised to be even more meaningful… until, of course, UConn was banned from all postseason play for poor APR scores. School president Susan Herbst is still fighting the ruling, citing the school’s stronger, more recent APR scores as evidence that the program has learned and improved upon past academic failures. Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs theorizes that if UConn wants to overcome the “chaos” that has befallen the program and be readmitted to the Big East Tournament — and on a larger scale, be seen as having a strong athletic department again — they need to quiet Jim Calhoun. As we discussed in yesterday’s Big East M5, Calhoun recently stated that he would “never say never” in ruling out a return to coaching. Jacobs believes that Calhoun’s thirst for attention, which doesn’t seem to have dissipated even after his very public and odd retirement, is undermining the program.
  3. While the Syracuse low-post trio of Rakeem Christmas, Dajuan Coleman, and Baye Moussa Keita have combined for a solid 18.2 points, 15.6 rebounds, and nearly four blocks per game this season, Jim Boeheim still believes that this group is the one that must progress the most if the team wants to make a championship run this season. The Orange’s 2-3 zone has been especially active and long this season to the tune of 81 steals through six games, but their corresponding interior defense has been a bit weak at times. Boeheim is worried that a good mid-range jump shooter or a strong offensive big man could do some damage against his defense. Syracuse could also use a strong presence inside on offense when the shooting stroke from outside runs cold, as it did for stretches against Eastern Michigan on Monday.
  4. USF (the Big East one this time) seems to be gaining its sea legs after a rough few games to start the year, and are prepared to take on #23 Oklahoma State in Stillwater tonight. One can point to the improved health of Anthony Collins as one reason for the Bulls’ improved play. After missing a game against Stetson due to a lingering calf injury, Collins had one of his best games of the year against Georgia, scoring 17 points and adding 10 assists. A win in Stillwater would give USF a solid non-conference road win, and re-energize the thoughts of a second straight NCAA Tournament berth. After the Oklahoma State game, USF has a 13-day break to focus on practice and schoolwork, so look for the Bulls to come out with a very strong effort knowing that rest is on the way.
  5. Pittsburgh could get back junior swingman Trey Zeigler as early as tonight for the Panthers’ City Game against Duquesne. Zeigler, who transferred from Central Michigan after his father Ernie was fired as head coach, was charged with a DUI on November 26 and was suspended indefinitely from the team. The scoring guard was a highly recruited player coming out of high school and had averaged 6.2 points per game for Pitt before his suspension — during his two years with the Chippewas, he averaged around 16 points per game so he could provide a great offensive spark for the Panthers if he gets back into a rhythm.
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UAB Fines Athletes to Improve Academic Standards; Slippery Slope?

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 21st, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Earlier this year, Connecticut was one of 10 college basketball teams to receive a one-year postseason ban for not meeting the NCAA’s minimum four-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) threshold of 900. The Huskies filed an appeal, arguing that recent reforms had produced increased scores over the past two years. In the end, though, the NCAA stuck to its guns and reaffirmed its initial ruling. And so it was that UConn – a program that has experienced a rapid rise into the college hoops elite under coach Jim Calhoun – just one and a half years removed from winning a national championship, was banned from the sport’s pre-eminent postseason tournament. The Huskies probably won’t feel any measurable downturn in recruiting success or national cachet as a result, but the sentencing proved that even the sport’s marquee brands are vulnerable to the NCAA’s increased academic standards.

After struggling to keep up with the NCAA’s APR standards, UAB is going new lengths to improve its academic standing in the coming years.

A one-year postseason ban in men’s basketball doesn’t come close to the sort of multi-faceted, crippling atom bomb the NCAA dropped on Penn State.  Alabama-Birmingham is nonetheless determined to avoid a UConn-esque fate, and it’s adopting a unique approach to work toward that end. The program has endured a rough history of keeping up with the NCAA’s academic reforms. During the last measured four-year APR period (2003-07), UAB had six teams fail to meet the minimum mark and was the second-most penalized program in the nation for its academic shortcomings. With that spotty track record, it comes as no surprise that the Blazers are seeking new ways to enforce academic responsibility. In a formal Q & A with the Birmingham News, athletic director Brian Mackin outlined his plan to keep UAB’s various teams above the APR cutline. Along with increased academic support, study time and access to student-athlete advisors, UAB has laced its academic compliance code with monetary disincentives.

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Morning Five: 08.10.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 10th, 2012

  1. Years ago when things were still going well for Billy Gillispie at Kentucky, we took him and his supporters to task for the ridiculous and utterly embarrassing notion that offering scholarships to 8th graders was a good idea (Michael Avery, anyone?). Thankfully coaches are no longer allowed to sniff around the junior high schoolyards as much as they used to, but that doesn’t mean that young players still can’t make pie-in-the-sky commitments years before they can even drive. As Gary Parrish wrote Thursday, Indianapolis junior Trey Lyles‘ recent de-commitment from Tom Crean’s flagship state school exhibits exactly why it’s probably not a great idea to listen to what 13- or 14-year olds think they’re going to do four years from now. A top 10 player in the Class of 2014, Lyles no doubt wanted to see what other fish are in the sea, and who can blame him? There’s something to be said for the concept of being wanted — and we’ll give credit to Lyles for the realization that few opportunities in life are as good as the one he has in front of him right now.
  2. A little more recruiting talk today, as Michigan‘s Class of 2013 is shaping up as perhaps the best that the school has enjoyed since Ed Martin was sending bags of hundreds to Ann Arbor on his days off. With the quick ascent of 6’6″ wing Zak Irvin on ESPN.com’s latest top 100 list — he rose more than 20 spots to #21 after a great summer — the Wolverines currently have a three-player class that ranks second only to Florida on ESPN’s list. Keeping in mind that only four of the top 20 players in this class have yet committed, this class led by Irvin gives John Beilein a shot at putting one or even two recruits (depending on how Derrick Walton’s senior season goes) into the McDonald’s All-American game next year for the first time since 2002 (Mitch McGary as a fifth-year senior was ineligible last season). Michigan will start next season in the preseason Top 10 — get used to seeing the Wolverines at or near those lofty heights for many years to come.
  3. Marquette announced yesterday that it was investigating a possible NCAA rules violation involving its men’s basketball program. Very few details were released by the school, but the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that a source disclosed that the violation may be related to recruiting. It is perhaps unrelated, but already this summer the Golden Eagles have lost a junior college transfer named TJ Taylor after only two weeks on campus. Regardless of what the violation turns out to be, it sounds like a relatively minor violation where any punishment the school suffers will be completely irrelevant.
  4. Three months from now we’ll either have a brand-new president or another term from our existing one. If you listen to the talking heads on television, the decision from the American people on this important civic duty may come down to class warfare — the concept that the rich and poor are in conflict with each other in divvying up the pie. ESPN.com’s Myron Medcalf drills down to the bone on a similar issue: the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) has inspired an arms race of sorts on the academic side of the athletic shops. The wealthiest schools can afford to provide computer labs with the best equipment, traveling tutors, language labs, and so forth — anything to help keep academically marginal kids at those schools eligible. However, at a number of the poorer schools (such as, in his example, Mississippi Valley State), the idea of spending $2.6 million on academic support services for athletes (as Texas did in 2011-12) is laughable. If there’s one thing we know from several thousand years of world history, it’s that the poor never actually win the battle no matter how much the rich say that they ultimately will. Good piece by Medcalf, well worth the read.
  5. We mentioned in yesterday’s M5 that UNC’s Roy Williams was listed by his peers as the most “overrated” head coach in college basketball. We also scoffed at the idea that someone who has won two national titles in under a decade at the helm in Chapel Hill could ever be truthfully considered “overrated.” It appears we are not alone with this opinion, as Mike DeCourcy rips the results to shreds with a laundry list discussing all of Ol’ Roy’s achievements. If you can get past the bizarro world reference to Kelly Clarkson and Paula Abdul, DeCourcy’s argument is spot on. The easiest criticism in all of sports is to dismiss accomplishments because of “all the talent” available to a coach (nevermind how talent is determined at the time) — but the fallacy in that stance is that it ignores the countless coaches who also recruit great talent yet never actually produce with it. We pose the question again — if Roy Williams is an “overrated” coach, how many national titles should he have reasonably won by now?
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Morning Five: 07.16.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 16th, 2012

  1. It seemed like just another summer Friday to most of us around the college basketball universe, but Friday the 13th to Connecticut represented the school’s last chance at a reprieve from the NCAA regarding its postseason ban for next season. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the NCAA Committee on Academic Performance wrapped up its meeting last week with no change to its policies in calculating the Academic Progress Rate (APR), effectively shutting down UConn’s final hopes for a last-minute shift in its eligibility. The good news for the Husky program is that on the same day head coach Jim Calhoun, who has two years remaining on his contract, publicly stated that he would coach in Storrs for at least two more seasons. Even without the carrot of the NCAA Tournament motivating his team, Calhoun apparently believes that his squad will be pretty good next year. But of more importance to the program is whether he can rebuild through recruiting and player development so that, if 2013-14 is indeed his final season of a glorious career, the Huskies will be well positioned to remain among the elite for the next head coach.
  2. You recall last week that Class of 2013 superstar recruit Jabari Parker released his list of final 10 schools with many of the usual suspects on it. One notable wild card candidate was the appearance of local school DePaul on his list. As this article by the Chicago Tribune notes, Parker is in the unique position of potentially revitalizing a proud and historically relevant program that could springboard to a long-awaited renaissance even with only one season of the star forward on campus. Some 35 years ago, a silky smooth Chicagoan by the name of Mark Aguirre went through a similar selection process, ultimately deciding to stay home and lead the Blue Demons to the Final Four. Whether Parker follows the siren song of the national names such as Calipari, Krzyzewski and Williams or stays local remains to be seen, but the #1 player in his class projects out as a player in the mold of Paul Pierce who can make a difference immediately.
  3. Seth Davis took some time this week to profile Lehigh’s CJ McCollum, possibly the top returning mid-major guard in America next season. The clear theme of the piece is the chip on McCollum’s shoulder as a result of numerous schools, coaches, players, and others slighting him over the years. His experience at the recent LeBron James Skills Academy in front of a number of high profile scouts solidified his status as a likely first rounder in the 2013 NBA Draft, but it is his drive as someone who believes that he can play with anybody in America that has pushed his game beyond that of a normal Patriot Leaguer and into the upper echelon of college basketball talent. We cannot wait to see how he performs this coming season with (finally!) all eyes on him.
  4. Sports Media Watch recently listed the top 50 most-watched sports broadcasts of the first half of 2012, and college basketball managed to grab seven of those spots. The top game, of course, was the national title match-up between Kentucky and Kansas, grabbing the #15 overall position with 20.9 million viewers — two spots behind the BCS national title game between LSU and Alabama (#13, 24.2 million), with the NFL juggernaut claiming 13 of the other 14 above it. The two Final Four games between Ohio State-Kansas and Louisville-Kentucky came next, with a couple of Elite Eight games, a Sweet Sixteen game, and a Round of 32 game (UNC-Creighton) also ranked among the group. Just how much of a different ratings game is the NFL playing with the rest of American sports? The Pro Bowl, a meaningless hurrah that almost nobody on earth cares about, outdrew the Elite Eight extravaganza game between North Carolina and Kansas by 800,000 viewers. This fact would be hilarious if it weren’t so utterly ridiculous.
  5. We feel we’d be remiss if we didn’t provide a comment on last week’s Freeh Report outlining the depth and treachery of the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University. We’ve read reams of print on this subject over the weekend from sports writers and generalists alike, and aside from the fact that we continue to sense a sea change among the populace that the concept of a student-athlete is becoming increasingly impeachable and irrelevant, the best piece out there is this one by YahooSports’ Dan Wetzel. His article carefully and convincingly points out the shameless hypocrisy of former PSU president Graham Spanier for looking the other way when a molester was terrorizing children on his campus, while shooting off at the mouth about integrity when a player had the temerity to buy a new suit with an agent’s money. As he writes: “When Spanier didn’t report Jerry Sandusky, he said it was the “humane” way to go. When Ohio State coach Jim Tressel didn’t report that some of his players got free tattoos, Spanier believed a boiling point had been reached.” It’s well worth the read.
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ACC Weekly Five: 06.26.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on June 26th, 2012

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: Lorenzo Brown, arguably one of the top three point guards in the ACC last year, will be undergoing exploratory knee surgery Tuesday. Brown is one of the key cogs of a North Carolina State team that figures to be a major contender for the top spot in the conference next season. While coach Mark Gottfried’s worries are probably somewhat ameliorated by incoming freshman point guard, Tyler Lewis, losing an experienced point guard for even a few games can be fairly tough in the ACC.
  2. Durham Herald Sun: In news that is surprising no one, Mike Krzyzewski confirmed that Duke guardAndre Dawkins will be taking a redshirt in the coming season. Dawkins has been struggling with grief ever since his sister died in a tragic car accident in 2009.  I think that taking some time can only help Dawkins, and basketball can certainly wait.
  3. ZagsBlog: The Blue Devils in coming seasons certainly won’t be hurting for talent. Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood has winnowed his transfer decision to either Duke or Ohio State. Hood has great size at 6’7″ and talent in spades. In his one year as a Bulldog he made the Freshman All-SEC team. His great combination of size and skill would be very valuable to a Duke team that has been small on the wing for the past few seasons.
  4. Tetsudo Times: Listen, Maryland has a really cool flag. There’s no questioning that. It’s stylish, bold, and arresting whereas most state flags are really boring. I also understand that Under Armour wants to have the same relationship with the University of Maryland that Nike has with Oregon. I just don’t know about these uniforms though.
  5. CBS Sports: APR is going to be a hot topic in college basketball as long as postseason bans based on program academic performance are a potential punishment. If a rash of transfers and drop-outs can get a team banned from a shot at the NCAA Tournament in successive years, this odd number is one that’s worth following. The good news is that the ACC, as a conference, does really well in terms of APR.
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Besides UConn, Which Teams Were Most Significantly Hurt By APR Ban?

Posted by EJacoby on June 22nd, 2012

When news broke this week that 10 teams would receive postseason bans due to insufficient Academic Progress Reports, immediate reactions all centered around the one big name team on the list – Connecticut. Sadly, the National Champions of just two seasons ago won’t even have a chance to participate in March Madness next season. But there are nine other schools that also flunked the APR test and are therefore disallowed from the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Did any of these other teams have shots at the Big Dance next year? The answer: Three teams in particular lost out big time from the punishment, while the five others will find rebuilding that much more difficult.

Rian Pearson is a great player for Toledo, but he won’t get a chance at the Big Dance next season (The Blade/J. Wadsworth)

  • Toledo - The Rockets were just average in the MAC last season (7-9), but Toledo didn’t lose a single player to graduation. Rian Pearson, who averaged 16.4 points and 8.3 rebounds in his first year on campus last season, is a really good player who loses out on a shot at the Big Dance next year. The Rockets are not happy about the postseason ban, but it’s only a result of their own players’ inability to graduate or stay academically eligible at a strong enough rate over the past four years. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 06.22.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 22nd, 2012

  1. Last night marked the end of another season of basketball as the NBA crowned its newest champion, the Miami Heat, and we now head into a four-month dry spell without competitive hoops (the Summer Olympics next month will provide a brief respite). While the evening definitely belonged to LeBron James’ coronation as one of the all-time greats, a pair of his role player teammates joined the short list of players to have won both a national title in college as well as a world title in the NBA. With the Heat’s victory, Kansas’ Mario Chalmers (2008) and Duke’s Shane Battier (2001) have now pulled off the twin feat, increasing the the total number of NBA champs with at least one NCAA champion in its regular rotation to an astonishing 71 percent. Battier in particular has long been considered a more valuable player than his numbers might suggest, but it’s no great secret to suggest that winning players tend to find their ways onto winning teams. Congratulations to Battier, Chalmers, James and the rest of the Miami Heat for their 2012 world championship.
  2. While on the subject of the NBA, it appears that ESPN analyst Jalen Roseis set to become the Gameday replacement for Hubert Davis next season. We’ve said this before, but the metamorphosis of Rose from Fab Five hothead to a solid ESPN analyst is nothing short of phenomenal. Unlike Davis and most of the Gameday crew, Rose isn’t afraid to mix it up a bit — Digger Phelps taking ridiculous positions for the sake of comedy notwithstanding — and could serve to enliven a group that has a tendency to act non-confrontational. From the same article, TBL suggests that former Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg will become a college basketball analyst on the WWL next season as well, with an eye toward replacing Phelps when he finally decides to retire.
  3. We expect to have another post on this topic up later today, but Matt Norlander at CBSSports.com writes that the APR rule which will keep 10 programs out of the postseason in 2012-13 could have a significant deleterious effect on the future of the game if schools don’t take it seriously. The key point is that as many as 60 schools could have been kept out of next year’s postseason if the APR floor of 930 was already in effect (as it will be in 2015). Some of those schools include names like Oklahoma State, Providence, Oregon, Auburn, Arkansas and LSU, and while none of those carry the cachet of Connecticut, the reality of it suggests that a one- or two-year drop in significant academic performance could in fact knock big-time programs such as UCLA or Michigan State out of the NCAA Tournament in some future year. The NCAA has already shown through its refusal of UConn’s appeal that it has no interest in providing exceptions, so this is something everyone involved with college basketball at the ground level will have to carefully monitor.
  4. Louisville announced on Thursday that former rising star forward Rakeem Buckleswill transfer to play for Rick Pitino’s son, Richard, at FIU for his final season. The hard-luck player has suffered a conga line of injuries after a promising freshman year in 2009-10 that ended with him going for 20/9 in an NCAA Tournament loss to California. His sophomore and junior seasons were both cut short by ACL injuries, and he is expected to miss the entire 2012-13 season recovering from his latest ligament tear. Louisville appears to be loaded at his position going into the next two seasons, so we’re sure that Buckles viewed this transfer as an opportunity to head closer to home and find some playing time in a comfortable situation to finish his career.
  5. In clearly one of the great disappointments of this offseason, West Virginia’s hirsute Deniz Kiliclihas decided to shave off his trademark mountain man beard. Citing the summer heat in Morgantown as the primary reason for his shearing, we hope that he allows for plenty of time to bring it back next fall. Right around October 15 is fine with us. Only 112 days now…

A Beardless Kilicli: The Horror, The Horror…

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Morning Five: 04.23.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 23rd, 2012

  1. Last week, Wisconsin’s Jarrod Uthoff became perhaps the most well-known non-contributor in college basketball, as the redshirt freshman’s public fracas with head coach Bo Ryan over his transfer made headlines and sparked debate throughout the college basketball world. If you were vacationing in Bali last week, the long and short of it is that Uthoff ‘s request to transfer was met with a list of 26 schools (including the entire Big Ten and ACC) to which he was restricted. Bo Ryan’s version of events, as told to Seth Davis, suggests that he was merely minimizing the chance that Uthoff would play against Wisconsin in a future game and that he was doing nothing different than any other head coach would do in a similar situation (the list was later trimmed to include just the other 11 Big Ten schools). To that last point, ESPN Radio interviewed three prominent coaches on Friday about this — John Calipari, Mark Few, and Jim Boeheim — and if you can believe their hypotheticals, the trio generally think that they would have handled Uthoff’s transfer differently.
  2. As for Uthoff’s specific situation, Fox Sports Wisconsin reported over the weekend that the player disputes Bo Ryan’s contention that the head coach had offered to return early from vacation to meet with him about his transfer options. He also publicly wondered why Ryan had not reached out to him after his scheduled return from vacation on April 14, even going to so far as to offer up his phone records as proof that Ryan had never made an effort to talk to him. One thing is for sure — it’s clear that the relationship between coach and player is beyond repair at this point. Uthoff has visits to Creighton and Iowa State (one of the originally restricted schools) scheduled in the next few weeks, so let’s hope that things calm down and everyone ultimately gets what they want from this crazy situation.
  3. Transitioning to a transfer candidate that fans had actually heard of prior to last week, Connecticut’s Roscoe Smith announced on Saturday that he would become the fifth Husky to leave Jim Calhoun’s suddenly-sinking program in the last month. Recall that on the heels of the announcement that UConn would not be eligible for the 2013 NCAA Tournament because of a low APR rolling average, Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb announced they were going to the NBA while teammates Alex Oriakhi and Michael Bradley let everyone know they were transferring. This leaves the Huskies extremely thin up front next year, with only marginal contributors Tyler Olander (4/4 in 18 MPG), Niels Giffey (3/2 in 12 MPG) and DeAndre Daniels (3/2 in 12 MPG) returning on the front line. Call him overly optimistic, but head coach Jim Calhoun believes that his program will be just fine next season regardless of all the defections. As he put it, UConn has had 25 years without a losing season and he expects it to go to 26. He also notes that Bradley may be wavering on his decision to transfer now that Smith appears to be gone.
  4. Sticking to transfer-mania, Xavier’s Mark Lyons is being forced out of the program, according to a weekend report from CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman. Lyons is a fourth-year junior who is scheduled to graduate this year, so he could transfer without penalty to another program for his senior season, or he could opt to enter his name into the NBA Draft by next Sunday evening. Combined with the losses of Tu Holloway and Kenny Frease from a group that won three Atlantic 10 regular season titles and made three Sweet Sixteens in the last four years, Chris Mack will have some substantial rebuilding to do next season. The trio including Lyons averaged 42 PPG and 13 RPG last season, but if there’s any non-power conference program that makes replacing star players look easy, it’s Xavier.
  5. It’s the offseason so clearly it’s time for schools to haphazardly jump around again. And you thought this M5 would only focus on player transfers? A report by the New York Post’s Lenn Robbins on Friday afternoon claimed for the second time in a month that CAA stalwarts George Mason and VCU were preparing to move to the Atlantic 10 as soon as early May, and that Horizon League and national power Butler is also ready to join a new and improved A-10. At this point, all interested parties are publicly denying everything, but if we’ve learned anything in the past two years of conference realignment madness, such denials are virtually meaningless. Assuming that Xavier and St. Louis aren’t headed anywhere, the top of the Atlantic 10 could be poised to become one heck of a basketball league for years to come.
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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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